Catherine decided to go see her old self-defense teacher, Isaac Stubbs, to see if she could persuade him to train with Vincent. When she entered his gym she found him in the midst of instructing a class. Catching sight of her he gestured to her to go to his office where she sat down to wait for him. At the conclusion of the class he grabbed a towel and mopping the sweat off his face he greeted her with a huge grin.

"Cathy, my prize pupil. What are you doing here? Have you come for a refresher course?" he asked as she stood to give him a hug, he returned the hug and hitched his hip up on the desk.

"No actually I was wondering if you made house calls?"

"That depends," he countered, "on what exactly you want me to do?"

"Do you remember a few years ago when I asked you to help me find someone that had been injured in an explosion?" To her he nodded, to himself he thought how could I ever forget, that face still haunts my dreams.

"I married that someone a few weeks ago." She paused taking in his shocked expression then going on. "Heís been learning Bata, do you know what that is?"

He nodded again. "Yeah itís Irish stick fighting, itís been around for years. Why would someone like him need to learn that?"

"Heís trying to overcome his natural way of fighting with a less, shall we say, deadly method. A friend of ours has been teaching him, but heís up in years and canít spar with him, he needs someone who knows enough about it to help him and young enough to spare with. Would you be interested?"

He took in Catherineís pleading eyes, this was evidently important to her and what the heck, if she could love this guy enough to marry him he mustnít be all that bad.

"I can understand why he canít come here, do you have a place where we can practice?"

"Yes, we bought a house and weíve turned the basement into a gym where the two of you could work out. When do you think you could start?" she asked excitedly.

He was pretty intrigued. "Howís tomorrow night? I donít have anything scheduled, let me have the address and Iíll see you around 7:00. Does that work for you?"

"Perfectly." She stood, offering her hand, " Isaac thank you, it means a lot to me."

"Wait till you get my bill," he quipped. "You might not be thanking me."


Isaac showed up at their doorstep promptly at 7:00 the next evening. After giving him a warm greeting Catherine led the way down to the basement. Not counting a few boxes and some cinder blocks the entire place had been turned into a well-equipped gym. He looked around with some trepidation for his new pupil. Catherine caught his glance.

"Vincent will be down in a moment, heís changing into some sweats."

Moments later the door opened and a figure appeared at the top of the stairs. Isaac stared in amazement, he had only seen that face for a few seconds over two years ago, but he hadnít forgotten it, it was just as he remembered and just as startling. He caught himself and looked down at the floor embarrassed.

"Itís all right, you know, . Iím used to being stared at." Vincent extended his hand.

Isaac looked up, taking the offered hand, staring at the fur and the deadly claws. Looking back up to the face he saw the merriment in the blue eyes that stared back at him. Ok Isaac, he mentally shook himself, heís just another student l! Letís get on with it. Letting go of the hand and clearing his throat he began.

"Cathy said youíve been learning Bata l. Letís see what youíve learned so far and weíll take it from there."

Vincent went over to the wall where his Bata was and picking it up went into the basic stance. holding the stick in both hands just above shoulder height parallel to the ground; his hands a third of the way down from either end of the stick. Walking around Vincent, Isaac saw that he had a natural grace and balanced himself well, when he tried to push him off balance it was like he was cemented to the floor, he didnít move.

"Good, good n! Now show me a punch."

Vincent put his weight on his forward leg and moved the stick in a jab to the left, quickly returning to his original position. They went through all the basic movements, Isaac calling them out and Vincent complying. Catherine had stayed and watched for a while, but when she saw that Isaac was regarding Vincent as just another student she went up stairs to leave them to it. When Isaac was satisfied with Vincentís basics he took out his own stick and they began sparing. Vincent was quick, agile and powerful, but lacked experience, giving Isaac the edge. By the time they were done they were both sweating and breathing heavily.

Isaac clapped Vincent on the shoulder, "mMan, youíre good, Cathy said you wanted to learn to do this instead of your normal way of fighting. Whyís that?"

"My instinct is to slash," he Vincent answered, extending his deadly claws, "sSo my opponents usually donít live. I donít want any more blood on my hands." Vincent replied, adding, ". I need a new instinct."

"Thatís understandable." Isaac nodded, "and I guess having a weapon for your hands to grip sort of stops you from the slashing thing."

"I hope so, I havenít had the occasion to test that theory out yet, hopefully I never will, but Iíd rather be prepared. Catherineís previous work use to put her in harmís way all too frequently."

Vincent threw Isaac a towel and indicated the stairs. As they went up Isaac asked what work Catherine was doing now. They spoke about her new position in the trial division of the DAís office as they moved into the kitchen where Catherine had set out refreshments.

"So how did it go?" she asked hesitantly.

After downing a glass of iced tea Isaac replied, "fFine h. Heís a natural, but Iíve been thinking," he pointed a finger at Vincent, "youíd be better off with a staff instead of a Bata, y. You know, like the monks in China use to walk around with."

Vincent tilted his head. "It was hard enough getting use to walking around with that stick, I donít know about something bigger."

"Whatís the difference small, big, itís still the same thing itís just that the staff will give you a longer reach, and itís much more useful. Itíll give you more moves like flying kicks and if you ever have to cross a river," he laughed, "you can use it to vault over. Iíll bring a couple with me next week and weíll try it out to see how you like it."

"Next week? Then youíll be back?" Catherine asked excitedly.

"Sure, how many self-defense instructors can say they spar with a lion." Looking quickly at Vincent, "nNo offense."

Vincent smiled, "nNone taken."

Isaac hesitated before asking, "dDo you mind a personal question?" When Vincent shook his head, he went on. "Howíd you get like this?"

Vincent liked this man, he was very straightforward, so he figured he should do the same and told the story of his birth. Then Catherine picked it up explaining how they met. When she was done Isaac shook his head, "yYou know, if you wrote a book nobodyíd believe it." He left, promising to be back the same time next week with the staves.

As he walked out to his car his mind was in a whirl, i. It had been an interesting night to say the least. Heíd never given UFO sightings much thought; he figured people who said theyíd seen them were kooks. Now heíd met an alien, least wise half an alien, but if aliens were all like Vincent he could definitely deal with that. Heck if there was a planet full of lions walking around on two feet there could very well be little green men living on Mars. The future was going to be very interesting.

The following week Isaac brought the staves with him as promised, he spent their practice time showing Vincent the basic movements then drilled him over and over again. The next few training sessions were spent in learning applications and distancing through blocking and sparring drills. The staff was far different than the Bata, for one thing it had a much greater reach, you didnít have to get real close to your opponent to deliver a blow. For another it could be used to anchor the fighter for a hell of a roundhouse kick.

This was something that was completely new to Vincent who had never used his feet in an offensive move. In time he became comfortable with it and as they began free form sparring he used the kick more and more frequently. As time progressed the sparring got to a point where they were moving so fast there was no time to think, it became instinct to block and evade.

And that was the problem, s. So far all Vincentís moves were defensive,; Isaac had a very hard time getting him on the offensive. This was the night, thought Isaac as he drove to the brownstone, that he was going to get Vincent to attack, no matter what it took. Vincent had to see for himself that he could keep his head in a fight and that Isaac was perfectly capable of handling anything Vincent threw at him. Isaac knew Vincent had been holding back, never really fighting to his capacity, too worried about hurting him. So tonight, no bullshit n. No matter what it took he was going to give it an all out fight.

When he reached the house he let himself in with the key Cathy had given him and called out his presence. Catherineís voice reached him from below, "weíre in the kitchen Isaac."

They were putting away the groceries Catherine had picked up on the way home from work. He gave her a peck on the cheek and shook Vincentís hand. "Are you ready, big guy?" he asked.

Vincent led the way down. picking his staff up out of the rack where it was kept. Isaac grabbed his and they began warming up, going through some of the drills. Catherine had come down with a mug of tea and perched on a stool to watch.

After they had sufficiently warmed up Isaac took a deep breath and began fighting in earnest. Vincent was caught by surprise at the vehemence of his attacks and had received a stunning blow to his thigh.

"Come on Vincent letís see what youíve got." Isaac challenged, dancing around.

Vincent merely blocked the blows as always never initiating an attack of his own.

Isaac began taunting him. "Come on hit me, try and hit me, youíll never touch me I guarantee you, youíre too damn slow."

Vincent was mystified at his behavior. What had gotten into the man? Heíd never spoken to him like this before.

"Come on you big pussy letís get something started here, youíre fighting like my old grandma," Isaac shouted at him.

Vincent merely continued blocking, Isaac was stymied h. How the hell was he going to get under this guyís skin, t? Then an idea struck him.

"Cathy what do you see in this guy, heís got no gutís. I bet he doesnít even start anything in bed right? He waits for you to do it all."

Vincent growled low. So thatís what he I needed to do, Isaac thought, go after Cathy.!

"Cathy, maybe Iíll show you what a real man can do, give you some good loving." He crooned to her, moving closer to her.

Catherine had been as stunned as Vincent when Isaac started his verbal torrent, but suddenly realized that he was trying to goad Vincent into the blood rage. She jumped down off her stool ready to insert herself between the two combatants. She felt the rage rise like a red curtain through the bond. As Isaac circled he found himself between Vincent and Catherine, he saw that his tactics were working and gave one more push.

"Come on Cathy wh. What do you say we go upstairs and get it on?" He reached out to put his hand on her.

Vincent enraged was a sight to behold; his eyes had turned an icy blue, the pupils constricted into pinpoints. The roar he let out was deafening, his canines gleaming white and sharp as he snarled at his opponent. He planted the end of the staff firmly on the ground and vaulted putting himself between Isaac and Catherine.

With Catherine at his back he began fighting in earnest, slashing at Isaac with the staff, raining blow after blow at him. The staffs connected with deafening cracks, sounding like gunshots. As the battle raged Isaac noted with pride that Vincent never let go of the staff to resort to his natural way of fighting. He fought beautifully. every move simple and effective, made with economy of motion and grace. It took all Isaacís skill and experience to keep from being smashed to a pulp.

Finally Isaac aimed a blow at Vincentís head expecting it to be blocked, but Vincent ducked under it instead, sending and unbalanced Isaac spinning. Vincent crouched lower and using his staff in a sweeping motion knockinged Isaacís legs out from under him. He hit the ground hard, his breath leaving his lungs in a whoosh. Vincent towered above him, the staff raised over his head like a club.

Catherine was about to scream when Isaacís glance stopped her. Here was the crucial moment of truth. Isaacís trust in his pupil was rewarded a moment later when he saw the gleam of sanity finally return to Vincentís eyes. Vincent lowered his staff, leaning on it as he helped Isaac to his feet.

Both men were breathing hard and sweating profusely. Isaac doubled over putting his hands on his thighs, sucking in huge gulps of air.

"Man you ainít kidding about losing it, are you, y? You fight like a damn demon."

Vincent was appalled at himself. "Isaac, Iím sorry I justÖ"

Isaac stopped him. "I did it on purpose man,. I was sick and tired of you pussy footing around me, thinking that you were going to hurt me if you went all out. It was the only thing I could think of to get you to attack." He turned towards Catherine, straightening up. "Cathy, Iím sorry for what I said, you know I didnít mean any of it; I just wanted to get this lunk head of a husband of yours to see how far heís come."

Catherine was far from disturbed about Isaacís words to her, she understood why he did it and she hugged him in gratitude. Then she walked over to Vincent gripping his arms.

"You did it, you got through the rage." She smiled happily.

Vincent stood stunned, he had gotten through it and he had used the staff; he felt as if the weight of the world had been lifted from his shoulders. Catherine embraced him and Isaac gave him a clap on the shoulder.

"Well if you two donít mind Iím going to head off home, Iíve had enough fun for one night. I think Iím gonna just soak in a nice hot tub and get all the kinks out." He cocked his head to one side. "I think next week Iíll bring some practice swords."

Vincent was startled. "Now you want me to walk around with a sword?"

"No but didnít you tell me that your mama said youíre old man was a sword fighter?"

Vincent nodded.

"Well if he ever comes back for a visit he might want to play with his kid." He laughed, then shrugged his shoulders. "Whatís the difference? Itíll be something else for you to learn and you never know it may come in handy someday."

He turned and went up the stairs, letting himself out. Catherine looked at Vincent, shaking her head, "What comes after swords I wonder?"

revised 5/3/06