This story is very tangentially related to a challenge based on the McSweeney’s lists. One of the lists was titled “Seven Actual Tai Chi Moves and Some I Made Up”, and somehow my brain decided that I needed to write a series of 100 (+/-) word drabbles based on the actual names of the Yang 64 Tai Chi form.
Grief should be ugly. It should pull all the beauty out of people and leave them withered and ugly and deflated. That’s what it did to Giles. It made him old. It made Anya brittle and cold and unreachable. It made Willow and Tara drawn and hollow. It made Dawn small and faded.
But it made Spike beautiful. It softened his hard lines and made dead eyes alive with pain. Grief made him shine, and it made me want to soak it up like the heat from a raging bonfire, made me want to stand too close and get burned.
2. Slanting Fly
The only time I miss Anya is when I go to bed. Most nights I sleep on the sofa, because the big, soft empty bed is too much to face. I don’t want to be alone. I don’t want a stranger there with me. That thought doesn’t appeal. I tell myself that there’s no one I want there. I lie. When I close my eyes, hands beneath the blanket, there’s a face I see – all sharp angles and burning blue eyes. After, I clean up and then I lie to myself some more.
3. Four Essential Actions: Ward Off
“Hey, Harris – you want to grab a beer? Maybe shoot a game of pool?”
The question catches me off guard and I gawk, my mouth gaping like a fish when it sucks in a big face full of not-water. My mind’s eye sees the bobbing of his Adam’s apple when he drinks, his long fingers wrapped around the glossy, two-toned wood of a pool cue, a lean hip snapping forward to propel the winning shot. I shrug it off, take a breath, turn my head away and shake it.
“With you?” I ask scornfully. And instantly regret it.
4. Four Essential Actions: Roll Back
“Never mind, forget it.”
He’s gone and I’m an ass. His eyes, oh God, his eyes. Pain renewed, narrowed and focused and shot at me for a tiny second before it was shuttered away inside. Some of it must have hit me, because I can feel it burrowing into my chest and constricting my ribs. I suck in a breath and let it out with a noise halfway between a grunt and a sigh.
He can’t have gotten far. I throw my book carelessly onto the table and rise. Rushing out the door, I nearly trip over him.
5. Four Essential Actions: Press
Wow. See my scorn and raise me a bunch of anger. My hand falls onto his shoulder and he flicks it away in a gesture equal parts economy and distaste.
“I’m a dick.”
The shocked surprise on his face is worth the price of the admission.
“Agreed. What’s your point?”
“That was it.”
I hesitate. Take a breath. Let it out.
“Sorry. I… fuck. I’m just… sorry, OK?”
He just looks at me, his eyes a wall.
“You wanna get that beer?”
He stares at me, and I’d actually forgotten how crappy he can make me feel.
6. Four Essential Actions: Push
I deserved that. Funny part was, he didn’t even look mad, just resigned – like he was following a script. Like he was doing what was supposed to come next. I’ll give him credit where due – he knows how to make an exit. One terse word, an economical spin on his heel and he stalked off with his duster flapping like some shiny, blond British vulture in a snit. Big Bad my ass.
He’ll be back. He can’t help it. Since Buffy died none of us are very good at being alone. We may sit in silence, each lost in thought, but we can’t stay apart for long. So he’ll be back.
7. Single Whip
He came in with Dawn, on her way back from Janice’s. They were laughing in that subdued way we laugh now. We don’t shriek with it, we don’t howl. We chuckle, sometimes a guffaw breaks through, but it always stops with a bitten lip or a hand over a mouth – and those things come with eyes that dart around apologetically and count faces and always come up with a number that equals one too few. There must have been something in my look, because Dawnie slides onto my lap and pets my hair for a minute. It feels good.
8. Raise the Hand, Lower the Hand
I can’t help but lean into her touch. Her fingers are warm and her bony ass digs into my thighs when she shifts. She pulls my head down onto her shoulder and it’s everything I can do to not cry. I bang my head lightly on the point of bone, then turn my face into her neck and bite playfully. She hugs me and laughs softly, sadly.
The girls are getting ready to go. Dawn joins them. Anya’s gone, Giles has returned to book and Scotch. It’s late. I look at Spike.
He nods. We leave in silence.
9. White Crane Spreads Its Wings
Luckily, we get attacked on the way to the Bronze. It breaks the tension – staking a pair of fledges. It gives us something to talk about, something that doesn’t make us lapse into pensive silence and study our shoes.
By the time we enter the bar, we’re arguing over who should pay and why. I pay, because I want to.
“Thanks,” he says.
“For the beer?”
A pause. A look. “That, too.”
We play pool and he wins. I lose gracefully – buying rounds and racking ‘em up.
“You’re getting better.”
He looks at me, smiling slowly. “I do.”
10. Brush the Knee
Passing behind me at the pool table, he touches my shoulder lightly. I close my eyes. When I open them, he’s leaning over the table in a position calculated to make my head explode. The line of his back, the stark relief of his tricep against his tight t-shirt, the angle of his knee, braced against the mahogany of the table – none of it could be accidental. This is something else. This is seduction.
If it’s for me, I’ll take it.
He makes the shot and looks at me over his shoulder, still draped across the felt.
11. Hands Play the Guitar
“It’s not so hard; you can make shots like that.”
Both of us know I wasn’t talking about the shot.
“Show me?” I’m all big eyes and innocence, and he plays along, standing up and pulling me in front of him. He holds the cue in front of me and I take it. His hands are dry and cool, positioning mine. He nudges me with a hip, and for a second I don’t move, prolonging the contact.
His hands walk mine through the shot, his body telegraphing the weight shift with gentle pressure. I press back against him, holding my breath.
12. Step Deflect, Step Punch
After a moment of stillness, of warmth, contact, comfort – he steps back. He picks up his beer and drains it, then gestures with the empty bottle as he heads to the bar.
I realize that I’m holding myself up with one hand on the edge of the pool table. When exactly did my knees decide that supporting me was too much trouble?
I straighten up and get in two deep breaths before he’s back with fresh beers for both of us.
Our eyes meet, and his are guarded and cool.
“One more game?” I ask.
“Nah. I’ll walk you home, though, if you want.”
13. As if Sealed, As if Closed
The walk to my apartment is uneventful. It’s also almost unbearably awkward. We both keep our heads down and our hands in our pockets. We stop under the streetlight outside my building.
“Thanks for walking me home.”
He blows out a plume of cigarette smoke. “Wouldn’t do for you to get hurt.”
“I didn’t know you cared.” It comes out harsher than intended, and he blinks at me before his eyes narrow.
“Lost enough, haven’t we?”
“Yeah. Too much.” I hope my smile is apology enough.
“I’m off, then.” He shrugs, turns to go.
“Hang on a sec.”
14. Crosshands Posture
He leans on the wall and crosses his arms over his chest. His chin is tilted up at an aggressive angle.
“You were flirting with me at the Bronze.” It isn’t a question.
His eyes flash, and he opens his mouth to speak. I cut him off, glancing up from under my lashes, coyly.
“Why’d you stop?” It works. He’s dumbstruck. Score!
He looks down, then meets my eyes, and there’s heat and power in the space between us.
“Anya?” he says.
“That’s so over.” I pause. “Buffy?”
“Still dead, mate.” His voice is sad.
“So?” A question.
15. Embrace the Tiger, Return to the Mountain
I don’t know how I got here; if I stepped or was pulled, if I went to him or we met in the middle. I don’t know if my arms curled around him first or if his mouth brushed mine first. But ‘here’ is glorious. It’s warm and cool, safe and dangerous, soft and hard, comforting and exciting.
My vision is filled with porcelain white and supernova blue and inky black for a long second until my eyes drift shut and I sink into the kiss. His fingers are feather-light on my jaw, my neck. I smile into his mouth.
16. Hammer Under the Elbow
I wasn’t scared as we stumbled up the stairs and into the apartment. I wasn’t scared when he pushed me down onto the sofa and fell atop me, lips and tongue and teeth and fingertips wandering all over my face and chest.
I wasn’t scared when I returned the kisses and touches, when I licked his neck and gasped his name, when I felt him shudder against me as my nails dragged down the back of his shirt.
He said my name. Quietly, desperately. His eyes met mine, and the need there was raw and naked.
And then I got scared.
17. Repulse the Monkey
The concern in his voice made my chest hurt, made it impossible for me to hold his gaze. He sighed and petted my hair and I thought fleetingly of Dawn.
It’s awkward, breaking a clinch. Hands have to come out from under clothing, limbs sealed together must be pulled apart, sweat and spit must be wiped away with embarrassed fingers as bodies separate and move to neutral positions on the sofa – side by side, looking at anything else.
“Spike… It’s not…” I flap my hands uselessly.
“Yeah, Xan – it is.”
He never looks back as he walks away.
18. Hands Wave the Clouds
Hottest. Thing. Ever. And I screwed it up royally.
I got scared. He looked at me with those… those fucking Victorian china doll eyes, and my heart wanted to break open and wrap him up and fall head over heels in love with a 120 year old undead serial killer. So, yeah – I got scared.
The last person I felt that way about was Buffy. I can’t go there again. I can’t. I won’t. It hurts too much and I’ve got more hurt than I can stand right now.
I wish I wasn’t so stupid.
I wish he hadn’t left.
19. Low Single Whip
The next day at the Box, I drag Dawn onto my lap, and she automatically pulls me close. This time I allow the tears to fall. She misunderstands and I let her. I need the words too badly.
“It’ll be OK,” she murmurs, and I want to believe it’s true.
A handkerchief appears and I know it’s from Giles, but when I wipe my face and look up, he’s nowhere in sight. The shop is conspicuously empty. Dawn takes my hand and leads me a few doors down to the ice cream shop. She orders. I pay. She lets me.
20. Golden Cock Stands on One Leg
I’m driving by the Bronze when I see him. All I really see is a flash of pale hair and black leather under the streetlight, but I know it’s him.
I park the car and go inside. I get a beer and slink over to the pool tables. He’s not there. I walk up to the balcony and search the Saturday night crowd.
The band is playing something that makes the floor thrum. Spotlights crawl over the crowd and I wait for the flash of platinum.
I don’t have to wait long. He’s dancing. With a petite girl with blonde hair.
21. Separate the Foot
They move together. His jeans-clad thigh is pressed between hers, her slim, bare arms loop around his neck. She’s looking at him, but he’s scanning the room restlessly. His divided attention doesn’t affect his ability to dance at all, hips and shoulders effortlessly keep the beat.
She unbuttons his red shirt and slips a hand inside, curving it around his ribs. He slides a hand from her hip to her ass and pulls her hard against him. But he never looks into her face. She whispers in his ear. He nods and leads her off the dance floor.
22. Separate the Heel
By the time I make it down the stairs, they’ve reached their table and Spike has downed his drink. He looks at the girl and she throws a handful of bills onto the table. He grabs her hand and pulls he along in his wake, not noticing when she stumbles a little on her too-high heels.
There’s a crush of people at the door, and the girl takes the opportunity to seal her front against Spike’s back. I can guess where her hands have gone from the way he throws his head back, eyes clenched shut. They push through the crowd.
23. Plant the Hammer
I follow them into the alley. I can’t help it. I’m not angry, because I know how this ends. I don’t know how to get there, but I know exactly where I’m going.
His back is against the brick wall and she’s wrapped in his arms. She’s crushed between his spread legs. They’re kissing and the look on his face is akin to pain. They look amazing in the filtered moonlight and shadow - hands roaming, mouths locked.
His mouth moves to her neck and I shudder, seeing another time, another place – where he’s an animal and she’s dinner.
24. Fair Lady Works the Shuttles
He sees me then, or senses me and looks up from her neck. His eyes are an eerie combination of blue and gold and suddenly, for just a second, I understand the forces that war in him. He holds my eyes with his and stands as still as a statue.
I step closer and realize that my hand has risen from my side, reaching toward them.
“What do you want, Harris?” he snarls.
I don’t stop to think; I just speak - and my voice is full of strength and conviction that I’m not sure I feel.
“You,” I say.
25. Face the Seven Stars
He whispers something in the girl’s ear, and whatever it is, it makes her leave with only a scorching glance for the two of us. My hand is still up, reaching and I drop it.
I nod, not trusting my voice.
“You’re sure? Not gonna chicken out on me this time?” There’s no humor in his voice – he is cold, watching.
I nod again, his eyes narrow.
“Say it,” he says, and his tone is slippery and dark. He tilts his head to the side, slips his hands into his pockets. Waits.
“Want you.” I say.
His eyes close.
26. Move Back and Ride the Tiger
He storms past me, out of the mouth of the alley. I’m standing there like an idiot when he turns and pins me with a look.
I take a step forward, and then another and another. He walks to my car and waits, leaning indolently, but I can see the tension in his shoulders.
I press my body against his. Neither of us moves to hold the other; we just stand in the dark, bodies together, my jaw resting against his hair. I breathe harshly. He does not.
“Get in the car,” I say, and feel his small smile.
27. Turn the Body, Hang the Lotus
It begins simply, with an aborted attempt at small talk that turns into a fiery kiss. Clothing is peeled off and flung carelessly away. There are no words, just soft sounds and airy moans and both of us are breathing now.
I don’t know what I’m doing, but he does, and I cry out when he touches me inside. He shushes me and turns the cry of surprise into something entirely different with his sure touch and demanding kisses.
I’m lost in the feel of his skin on mine; barely noticing that he’s holding back, not looking at me, tense.
28. Bend the Bo, Shoot the Tiger
He tries to turn me onto my stomach with an impatient hand at my hip.
“No. This way.”
He shrugs and avoids my eyes, then returns to readying me. I try to keep my eyes open, but the sensations are too much.
I want to see.
I want the china doll eyes – the hurt, the fear, the lust, and whatever else is in there. Will he give me that?
He’s right there, hands shaking, ready.
I open my eyes. His are closed, a deep furrow between them.
“Look at me.”
He shakes his head no.
29. Closing Bow
He’s lying there with his back to me, and I want nothing more than to run my hand down that taut, cool flesh, but I don’t know if I’m allowed.
He doesn’t move, but his shoulders stiffen. “Yeah?”
“Can I…” My hand is hovering.
I draw my fingertips down the long trough of his spine. He moves infinitesimally toward the touch.
I rub the flat of my hand over his hip and slide closer. My chest brushes his back and my hand settles over his navel. He relaxes into the embrace and curls his fingers over mine.