Rating: If you can watch it, you can read it.
Disclaimer: I don't own Willow. Joss does. I hope that this isn't what he's going to do with her.
Summary: Willow. We all hope it doesn't come to this.
Notes: Damn. Already Jossed.
I can feel them. Buffy. Angel. The last two. All that remains of the Scooby Gang.
If you had told me, all those years ago--when I was that shy, quiet computer nerd that Buffy chose over Cordelia--that I would become their Final Test, the last Apocalypse, the ultimate Double-or-Nothing, Banish-the-Dark-or-the-World-Burns battle, I never would have believed you. But then, I didn't know magic back then.
How did it get so bad? I mean, it's not like it snuck up on me. Even Xander was being the voice of Reason and Restraint. Maybe that's why I ignored it.
They're coming closer. Their minds are like beacons of grief and rage. I think they're both weeping; weeping over what's happened, and what they have to do. At least they'll be spared the Angelus/Angel mind game. I no longer look like I used to, so they'll be able to disassociate me now, with me then. Maybe they'll even be able to think of me as two separate beings.
When did that happen? How? First, my eyes turned black. Just the irises first, so only Tara noticed. But then it spread to the whites. I had to wear sunglasses all the time, but that didn't really matter. I could see perfectly in the dark. Which should probably have been another hint.
We got frantic when it spread to the skin around my eyes. The doctors couldn't find any physical infection, and our frantic search of our reference books at the Magic Shop didn't find any magical ones.
Of all the others, only Giles and maybe Tara had even a clue, any idea that my Taint was showing on my face. They didn't bring it up, though. Giles had known many Black Magicians in his time, including Ethan and himself, and none of them had shown any physical signs.
None of them were as powerful as me, though.
Before long, I looked like a night sky. It was like each of the freckles I used to have had turned into a star. Except that they acted like real stars. They flickered. They moved. And as I started to do…things…they would wink out.
There are no more stars left now. I look like a walking black hole. A hole in reality. A void.
When did it all go wrong? I know when I stepped over the line. That's easy to pinpoint. Last year, when I grabbed that book full of "Darkest Magick" so I could run a useless, pointless banzai charge on a god. It was stupid. It was doomed. And it accomplished nothing but tainting me. Good deal, huh? Selling a piece of my soul just so I could make her hurt. A little bit. For a moment.
That was the moment I crossed over the line, but it wasn't too late yet. That was just the off-ramp. There were other signposts on the downhill road-signs that should have told me where I was going . Chances to turn back that I ignored.
Christian theologians think that Pride is the worst of the Seven Deadly Sins. Not because of what it makes you do, though that's bad enough: making other people's decisions for them, taking away their freedom of choice, remaking them to fit what you think they should be, all because you're sure that you're better than everybody else and thus know better than they do. No, it's because Pride makes repentance impossible. How can you repent if you refuse to admit that what you've done is wrong? And I never did. Not when Giles yelled at me for raising Buffy. Not when Buffy told me that she'd actually been in Heaven. Not even when Tara left me for raping her mind.
I hadn't meant to do anything wrong. Why didn't they understand that?
I didn't even get it when they staged an intervention. Now I know why Buffy never responded very well when we did that. Having everyone you care about gang up on you and tell you how awful you are isn't fun. I stomped out in the middle of Xander telling me how I used to be plenty helpful back before I knew magic. I said they were just jealous of my power, and they wanted the old helpless Willow back. When they tried to stop me, I just telekinetically shoved them away and kept walking.
I decided to show them how useful and important my magic really was. I decided to proactively take out some threats before they came back at us. Again.
Faith had a fatal seizure in her prison cell that night. Angel said that she was trying to reform, but I knew better. I could have stopped her heart in her sleep, but I decided that she didn't deserve a quiet, painless death after all the pain she had caused.
That was the "You Are Now Entering the Town of Evil. Population: You." Road sign. But maybe I could have turned back even then.
But the news of Faith's death spread through the Scooby Gang the next day. Xander was sad, Buffy was satisfied, but Giles and Tara both recognized the signs. They knew what I had done. I think Giles was on his way over to yell at me. Maybe slap me around a bit, I don't know. I think he was that desperate. Not that it would have made any difference.
Tara decided to fight fire with fire. She tried to Bind me. But I sensed it, and I counterattacked.
It was then that I damned myself.
I made sure that she would never betray, or reject, or leave me again. I traced the thread of the spell back to her, and I drew her spirit in and incorporated it into my own. Goddess forgive me, I ate her soul.
She was just the first.
They're all in there now. Tara. Giles. Xander. Anya. Dawn. Cordelia. Wesley. Oz. Ms. Burkle. Mr. Gunn. Even Spike. They're all in me, now. Sometimes I even think…
I forgot that Dawn was the Key. There was so much power when I devoured her. It almost burned me away, but I held on. I swallowed it down, and I kept it down, and my power skyrocketed. Power is the kind of thing that makes you hungrier for more, the more you eat. So I…I incorporated the greatest source of power available.
I am the Hellmouth now.
They're coming. They're practically at my door now. I could vaporize them with a thought if I wanted to. But I'm not going to. I already know I'm going to lose. How do I know that? How do I know I'm going to lose when I'm a goddess and they're just barely more than human?
Let me tell you a secret.
In the human world, evil people convince themselves that they're actually good. They say that God wants them to do it, or that the person they want to hurt somehow deserves it. Rapists and wife beaters say 'she was asking for it', while terrorists declare Holy War. That's how the Osama bin Ladens of the world manage to carry out their atrocities so effectively. They really believe that they're doing the right thing.
Demons and especially dark gods are more self-aware. We know better. We know that we're evil. We know that we're not supposed to win, and that the world will only become a worse place if we do. Some of us try to hide it from ourselves, but we know. That's why it never happens.
Don't believe me? Why do you think that the Master dropped Buffy in a pool to drown, rather than drinking all of her blood, or tearing her head off? Why did Angelus never take one of the many opportunities he had to kill Buffy? Why didn't he just turn Giles so he would give the information willingly? Why did he talk so much? Why didn't the Mayor just hire some hit men to pick us off? The closest he came was 'Slayer Fest '98, and even that was mostly demons. Just what Buffy was ready for, in other words. Why didn't Glory kill us all once she had Dawn in hand? Why do supervillains keep making stupid mistakes and giving the hero chances until they lose?
Because, deep down, we know we're not supposed to win. So we don't. Only humans can convince themselves that the evil they do is actually good. Or maybe not even them: Hitler attacked the Allies on two fronts, sending the larger part of his army into the Russian winter, even though his advisors told him not to. Most serial killers that get caught, get caught because they leave clues and taunt the police until they all but ensure their own capture.
So I'm going to fire energy blasts that are only the tiniest fraction of what I'm capable of, and I'm going to keep missing, and keep talking until they get close enough to use the secret weapon I was careless enough to let them find out about, and they kill me. The Hellmouth will be destroyed with me, along with a good portion of the world's malevolent magic. Angel's demon will get sucked into the mystic undertow. Any other vampire would be destroyed, but he has his soul there to animate his body, so he will Shanshu instead. The two of them will live out their lives in peace, and the forces of darkness will take centuries to recover from such a crippling defeat.
It's the least I can do.
Don't worry about me backing out and doing something effective at the last second. The last lost, hopeless shred of the girl I used to be is still in there. The girl who didn't go to an Ivy league school as she could have, because she wanted to help. The girl who stood up for Buffy when the bullies picked on her in the computer room, when she wouldn't even stand up for herself. That girl is so much better than me, and I don't think she'll let me back out. I hope she gets another chance.
I wonder when it all went so terribly wrong. I remember when I crossed over the line, and I remember when I passed the point of no return, but I think it all started to go wrong even before that. Maybe when I used stolen Magic Box supplies to accidentally release Olaf the Troll, and never felt even a twinge of guilt for the people who got hurt. After all, it was just an accident, wasn't it?
No, I think it was before even that. Wasn't Tara-and Oz before her-worried about how fast I was going? And rightly so. Was that when it happened? When Oz left and I plunged into my magic to ease my pain? I sure didn't learn any lessons from my "Will It So" spell. I make some cookies and everything's all better. That can't be right. I didn't learn anything from the Halloween of Gachnar the Itty-Bitty Fear Demon, either.
Or the time I accidentally summoned my Bad Self. Merciful Goddess, people got killed that time, and I didn't learn.
I think I understand now. This goes back to High School. All the way back. To the Beginning.
They say that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Is it, though? Maybe we just find ourselves in Hell, and convince ourselves that we had good intentions. But is it true? All along the downward path I've walked, I've said that I'm trying to help people. At the end, it became obvious that it was a weak rationalization. Was it ever true? Back in high school, I said that I was learning magic so I could help Buffy. And everyone believed it, because I was pure, innocent, well-intentioned Willow. But I think it may have been something else.
Back then, I was utterly powerless. I couldn't stop the rich and pretty girls from picking on me. I gave up my seat when it was demanded of me, I got out of the way when I was told to, and I fell silent when they said so. My parents only noticed I was alive when my grades dipped below an A+. I couldn't even get Xander to notice me, not the way I wanted to. Although, if I'm honest with myself, I'd have to admit that I never tried directness when subtlety failed. I just stood on the sidelines and was nice while I waited for him to notice, then blamed him when he kept thinking of me as he had his whole life-as a friend. Maybe if I'd said something, maybe if I'd tried, I wouldn't be where I am now. Because I really think, looking back, that the reason I started magic, the reason I consumed it so fast and so greedily, is because I was a person who used to have no power at all, and I was digging for as much power as I could get.
And if the French Revolution, Nazi Germany, and every abusive parent who ever lived prove anything, they prove that people who once had no power at all tend to be really awful at handling power once they get it.
They're here. Time to take that last step into Hell, with my one, true, Good Intention. I turn to meet them with the screams of everyone I ever loved and the girl I used to be burning in my ears, and I hope that the last time really can pay for all.
And there's only one thought in my mind. Two words, years too late and far too little. Weak and useless and in the end they really count for nothing. But they're all I can think of, because it was never supposed to end this way.