29 Linear Moves
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.
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.
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
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
Four Essential Actions: Ward Off
Harris – you want to grab a beer? Maybe shoot a game of pool?”
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
you?” I ask scornfully. And instantly regret it.
Four Essential Actions: Roll Back
mind, forget it.”
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.
can’t have gotten far. I throw my book carelessly onto the table and rise.
Rushing out the door, I nearly trip over him.
Four Essential Actions: Press
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.
shocked surprise on his face is worth the price of the admission.
What’s your point?”
hesitate. Take a breath. Let it out.
I… fuck. I’m just… sorry, OK?”
just looks at me, his eyes a wall.
wanna get that beer?”
stares at me, and I’d actually forgotten how crappy he can make me feel.
Four Essential Actions: Push
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.
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.
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.
Raise the Hand, Lower the Hand
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.
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.
nods. We leave in silence.
White Crane Spreads Its Wings
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.
the time we enter the bar, we’re arguing over who should pay and why. I
pay, because I want to.
pause. A look. “That, too.”
play pool and he wins. I lose gracefully – buying rounds and racking ‘em
looks at me, smiling slowly. “I do.”
Brush the Knee
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.
it’s for me, I’ll take it.
makes the shot and looks at me over his shoulder, still draped across the
Hands Play the Guitar
not so hard; you can make shots like that.”
of us know I wasn’t talking about the shot.
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.
hands walk mine through the shot, his body telegraphing the weight shift
with gentle pressure. I press back against him, holding my breath.
Step Deflect, Step Punch
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.
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
straighten up and get in two deep breaths before he’s back with fresh beers
for both of us.
eyes meet, and his are guarded and cool.
more game?” I ask.
I’ll walk you home, though, if you want.”
As if Sealed, As if Closed
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.
for walking me home.”
blows out a plume of cigarette smoke. “Wouldn’t do for you to get hurt.”
didn’t know you cared.” It comes out harsher than intended, and he blinks
at me before his eyes narrow.
enough, haven’t we?”
Too much.” I hope my smile is apology enough.
off, then.” He shrugs, turns to go.
on a sec.”
leans on the wall and crosses his arms over his chest. His chin is tilted
up at an aggressive angle.
were flirting with me at the Bronze.” It isn’t a question.
eyes flash, and he opens his mouth to speak. I cut him off, glancing up
from under my lashes, coyly.
you stop?” It works. He’s dumbstruck. Score!
looks down, then meets my eyes, and there’s heat and power in the space
so over.” I pause. “Buffy?”
dead, mate.” His voice is sad.
Embrace the Tiger, Return to the Mountain
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.
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.
Hammer Under the Elbow
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.
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.
said my name. Quietly, desperately. His eyes met mine, and the need there
was raw and naked.
then I got scared.
Repulse the Monkey
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.
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.
It’s not…” I flap my hands uselessly.
Xan – it is.”
never looks back as he walks away.
Hands Wave the Clouds
Thing. Ever. And I screwed it up royally.
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
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
wish I wasn’t so stupid.
wish he hadn’t left.
Low Single Whip
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.
be OK,” she murmurs, and I want to believe it’s true.
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.
Golden Cock Stands on One Leg
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.
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
band is playing something that makes the floor thrum. Spotlights crawl
over the crowd and I wait for the flash of platinum.
don’t have to wait long. He’s dancing. With a petite girl with blonde hair.
Separate the Foot
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.
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.
Separate the Heel
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.
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
Plant the Hammer
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
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.
mouth moves to her neck and I shudder, seeing another time, another place
– where he’s an animal and she’s dinner.
Fair Lady Works the Shuttles
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.
step closer and realize that my hand has risen from my side, reaching toward
do you want, Harris?” he snarls.
don’t stop to think; I just speak - and my voice is full of strength and
conviction that I’m not sure I feel.
Face the Seven Stars
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.
nod, not trusting my voice.
sure? Not gonna chicken out on me this time?” There’s no humor in his voice
– he is cold, watching.
nod again, his eyes narrow.
it,” he says, and his tone is slippery and dark. He tilts his head to the
side, slips his hands into his pockets. Waits.
you.” I say.
Move Back and Ride the Tiger
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.
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.
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.
in the car,” I say, and feel his small smile.
Turn the Body, Hang the Lotus
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
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.
lost in the feel of his skin on mine; barely noticing that he’s holding
back, not looking at me, tense.
Bend the Bo, Shoot the Tiger
tries to turn me onto my stomach with an impatient hand at my hip.
shrugs and avoids my eyes, then returns to readying me. I try to keep my
eyes open, but the sensations are too much.
want to see.
want the china doll eyes – the hurt, the fear, the lust, and whatever else
is in there. Will he give me that?
right there, hands shaking, ready.
open my eyes. His are closed, a deep furrow between them.
shakes his head no.
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.
doesn’t move, but his shoulders stiffen. “Yeah?”
I…” My hand is hovering.
draw my fingertips down the long trough of his spine. He moves infinitesimally
toward the touch.
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.