I'm just having one of those moods in which I'm fed up of being regarded purely as a comedy and fluff writer, and I'm going to do something angsty. Not that I'm really as fluffy as everybody supposes - three or four of the Roxyverse stories are so angsty I can't re-read them myself without crying and at least one makes my flesh crawl - but nobody reads the Roxyverse so I suppose that doesn't count, and there's only "Smells Like Teen Spirit" to represent me in the non-Fluffy stakes as far as the audience is concerned. (I can't read Chapter 11 of "Pandora's Boxer" without choking up either but the dreadful things don't happen to a core Scooby so somehow they don't count, apparently)
However, I'm not going to let this new project distract me from my existing commitments, so I'm going to delay starting it until next year, probably February - March. I'm posting the first section now partly as a teaser, and partly because there are two S5 rewrites reaching their ends right now - kallysten's excellent "Heaven's Key" and enigmaticblues' more than excellent "All the Graces of the Dawn" - and I'm worried in case they've thought of the same simple one of the 147 possible ways of saving Dawn that I have, and I'm staking a claim so that even if they have I can still use it when I complete the fic. That problem doesn't exist with "Pandora's Boxer"; that's going to go completely differently and Spike isn't even going to be up the tower when we reach the end of S5 in that.
Spike rushed forward too quickly, too heedless of his own safety, and Doc sidestepped and stabbed him in the back. The knife penetrated deeply, doing damage that would have been almost immediately fatal to a human, and it was severe even to the vampire. Spike pulled away, and the knife came free and fell to the floor of the platform.
Spike turned to face the mild-looking demon. “You don’t come near the girl, Doc,” he snarled.
“I don’t smell a soul anywhere on you. Why do you even care?” Doc wondered.
“I made a promise to a lady,” Spike growled. He saw the knife lying on the platform and kicked out, sending it flying over the edge to plummet to the ground far below.
“Oh?” Doc struck out at Spike with his prehensile tongue, and as Spike ducked the demon followed up quickly, dropped under the vampire’s punch, and seized Spike by the legs. Doc wrestled Spike to the ground, pinned him in an arm lock, and then stood up dragging Spike with him.
“Then I’ll send the lady your regrets,” Doc said in a mild tone, and pushed Spike towards the edge. As Dawn screamed in horror, the dapper old man thrust hard and sent Spike off the platform.
Spike twisted desperately in mid-air, lashed out an arm, and caught the hem of Doc’s pants. The demon stumbled and was dragged towards the edge. Frantically he bent down and wrenched at Spike’s fingers. The tenuous grip slipped and gave way. Spike’s hold broke, and he dropped away and hurtled to the ground.
‘I’ve failed,’ he thought despairingly as he fell helplessly through space. ‘Fucked up again. He’s got Dawn. My fault. I’ve failed them.’ He smashed into a pile of bricks with shattering force, and felt bones break. Pain seared through him, agonizing, crippling; but it was nothing compared to the emotional torment of his failure.
“So much for that irritating interruption,” Doc remarked with satisfaction evident on his face. “Now, where were we? Ah yes, I was about to bleed you. Where did my knife go?” He looked around. The knife was nowhere to be seen. “It fell just about here.” He frowned, scanned the area, and eventually shrugged. “Oh well. I have a spare.” He patted his pockets. “He’s only gained you a moment, child.”
“Spike, Spike,” Dawn sobbed. She saw something behind Doc but this time did not repeat the mistake she had made earlier, when she had called out and given away Spike’s approach to the demon. “You bastard! You won’t get away with this.”
“Tut, tut, language, you rude infant,” Doc scolded, pulling another large knife from a pocket. “I’ll have to punish you for that. Shallow – oof!” He broke off in mid-speech as something hit him with tremendous force across the side of the head. His reserve knife flew off into the distance, and he reeled towards the platform edge. Buffy hit him again as he tried to regain his balance, and he toppled over and plunged earthwards.
“Buffy!” Dawn cried out with relief.
“Here.” The Slayer tore at her sister’s bonds. “You’re gonna be okay.” She led Dawn along the platform towards the rickety tower. “I’ve got you. You’re safe.”
“Buffy, Buffy,” Dawn sobbed. “He stabbed Spike and threw him over the edge.”
“Spike’ll be okay,” Buffy soothed her. “Vampire, remember? Okay, he’ll be hurt, but we’ll patch him up and he’ll be as good as new.”
“He saved me, you know?” Dawn went on. “He kicked the old man’s knife off the edge, and it took a minute for him to find another one. You would have been too late otherwise. And he nearly took the creepy old guy with him over the edge anyway, just couldn’t quite hold on long enough. He saved me and he got really hurt. You’re sure he’s gonna be okay?”
“Sure he’ll be okay,” Buffy repeated, “and hey, not gonna forget what he did for you. Hot chocolate and marshmallows for Spike, any night he likes, just as soon as he’s healed up enough. He’ll like that.”
“Yeah,” Dawn’s tears stopped and she began to grin. “I just hope he’s not hurt too bad.”
Spike crawled for a few yards, and then managed to stagger to his feet. He limped to where Doc lay stunned. “Oi, wanker,” Spike growled. “Here’s your knife back.” The knife descended again and again, driving deep into the demon’s chest; and then, remembering how the creature had survived being impaled by Xander, Spike changed over to using the edge and sawed away at the neck until Doc’s head came free of his body. Still not satisfied, the vampire picked up a brick and bashed at the skull until it cracked and collapsed. There was a hissing sound and the body began to smoke and dissolve. Spike stepped back hastily, but his leg gave way under him and he sprawled in an ungainly heap. He was clawing inelegantly at the ground, trying to push himself up and regain his feet, when Buffy and Dawn reached the bottom of the tower.
Buffy looked radiant. Triumphant, serene in victory. She’d saved the day again. Beaten Glory. Thrown down Doc. Rescued Dawn. Bloody marvel, that’s what she was, Spike thought. And himself? He was a pitiful failure. She’d asked him to do one simple thing and he’d fucked up totally. Couldn’t even beat one miserable old git. He was beneath her, right enough. Not fit to be in the same bleeding world as Buffy.
As the Scoobies rushed to greet Buffy and Dawn, Spike got to his feet, turned, and hobbled away as fast as he could. By the time all the Scooby Gang had hugged and been hugged by Dawn, and she’d begun to ask anxiously after Spike, the vampire was well out of sight.
The rest will follow once my other stories have reached the next planned break points.