“Weight of the World,” by Doug Petrie
“Weight of the World” is about those moments when our faith breaks, just enough to give us an excuse to beat on ourselves forever after. Like a lot of BtVS storylines, its heart is a very common experience, made more intense because it’s delivered in a high-stakes, supernatural, universe-ending wrapper.
The story picks up just after Dawn gets grabbed by Glory. As you’ll probably recall, our Slayer went into total shutdown mode once the two of them were gone. Those Scoobies still on their feet are left scrambling—and arguing about what to do.
One small upside is the gang hasn’t been left to fight off the Knights of Byzantium, because Glory has extinguished those guys entirely. But with no army to fend off and the overall situation headed for the toilet, Spander fall to bickering. Their snarking is on the verge of devolving into fisticuffs until Willow uses magic to give the battling boys a big cut-it-the-Hellmouth-out! shove.
While she’s got everyone scared, she assumes command in Buffy’s stead. (I always love it when Willow starts ordering the gang around. Alyson Hannigan always pulls out the extra-cute for this.) She dispatches Xander to the hospital with Giles, tells Spike to find Glory, and puts Anya on Tara-watching duty. Finally, she settles in for a magical mystery tour of Buffy’s catatonia.
Elsewhere, Glory is trying to revel in the nearness of her total victory. She’s got Dawn, her scabby minions are dressing up for the big ceremonial destruction of the universe, and everything’s coming together. But something is harshing her happy. She’d kinda been hoping to be free of Ben by now. He’s scraping away just about as well as gum on her shoe. In a sense, Glory is absorbing him—his thoughts, memories, and feelings. Especially inconvenient in the feelings department is his unwillingness to hurt Dawn.
As they struggle, Ben assumes control of their shared body and helps spirit Dawn away, or at least as far as a nearby alley. Dawn tries klonking him on the head—go Dawn!—but this just triggers a back and forth multiple personality fight between Ben and Glory. He briefly threatens to kill Dawn for the good of the universe and himself. Glory offers to let him continue to exist once she goes home.
It’s a considerable bribe, especially as Ben’s big weakness is his persistent, whiny refusal to give up on the idea of having a life of his very own.
Willow’s entry into Buffy’s catatonic dream state is a showcase of things mostly sad: we see little Buffy reliving the monk-constructed moment when Joyce and Hank brought baby Dawn home from the hospital, and see Buffy passing Joyce’s grave. There’s a quick glimpse of the First Slayer with her upbeat prophetic offering—“Death is your gift, honey, enjoy!”—and a shot of Buffy smothering Dawn. Most of all, though, we see a recurring shot of Buffy putting a book away in the Magic Box.
When Willow finally grills Buffy about this last bit, she confesses: this was the point where she realized she was going to lose—and where she let herself surrender to that feeling. She feels terrible, of course. Anyone would. All Willow can do is essentially tell her, “Yeah, you’re human, it sucks. Now come on back to work before Dawn actually gets killed.”
After a second, Buffy does what she must—pulls herself together and comes back to the fight. What choice does she have?
“Weight of the World” is the eye of the S5 hurricane. With Buffy temporarily out of the picture, the gang can’t go plunging headlong into rescuing Dawn. Instead, everyone shuffles around a little. There is a series of small moves, a setting of the board for the final confrontation.
This happens, in some form or another, shortly before most of the BtVS season wrap-ups: there’s some lull before the big fight. In this breather, we find out Doc the demon is on team Glorificus when Spike and Xander go to pump him for info. Ben, unlike Buffy, gives up on trying to do the right thing. Darn it all, he wants to live!
Dawn displays backbone by trying to escape her fate, and it’s a pretty admirable attempt, considering the odds against her.
And, as all of this is happening and the Glory/Ben boundary fades, the Scoobies come to realize that Ben’s the guy to kill if they want to solve their Deity problems. This is a fun transition—really, the only fun to be had here—as we watch Spike fruitlessly trying to clue in the others. (Really? Ben is Glory? Oh, cool. Wait, what?)
The Glory-is-Ben connection isn’t the only discovery they make. Giles finds out that the ritual involving Dawn involves bleeding her dry. Once the blood starts flowing, he tells the gang, the only way to stop the dissolution of the bonds between the various Hellverses is to kill Dawn.
And on that happy note, they all start racing for the finish line.
Next: A Gift? But it’s not even my Birthday!
A.M. Dellamonica has tons of fiction up here on Tor.com! Her ‘baby werewolf has two mommies,’ story, “The Cage,” made the Locus Recommended Reading List for 2010. There’s also “Among the Silvering Herd,” the first of a series of stories called The Gales. (Watch for the second Gale, too—“The Ugly Woman of Castello di Putti”!)