Author's note: This may be considered an alternate ending for the Quirk of Fate series, especially as so many readers found much to justifiably criticize in the mainstream ending.

Chapter 7: Defeat of the Pretender

"I'm the voice inside your head

You refuse to hear

I'm the face that you have to face

Mirrored in your stare

I'm what's left

I'm what's right

I'm the enemy

I'm the hand that will take you down

And bring you to your knees.

So who--are you?

Who--are you?"

Foo Fighters, "The Pretender"

"Now you'll pay for what you've done—" Venom started, slamming Spidey's head into the ground.

Spidey craned her neck up to the sky, desperately hoping for some sign of Johnny, some sign of anyone who could help--

We were under the impression that you were a superhero.

What's that in my head? Spidey wondered at the startlingly foreign voice echoing in her head. But she decided to ignore it and think about the question another time, as the situation was definitely not conducive to problem-solving or deductive reasoning. Venom put her right foot on her head, webbing her to the ground.

By putting on the harness, you asked for Our help.

You can't be a superhero and a damsel in distress, you know.

There's something in my head, something talking...

We were once Our Father's assistants. We made him who he was.

A flood of uninvited memories entered her mind--

A small, chubby boy curls up in a corner as a dark-haired bear of a man took his belt out of his pant loops--

A short, chubby teenager dejectedly slouches as a tall, chestnut-haired woman shouts at him. Her voice echoes in MJ's head. "I suppose she touches you, does she? Like all the dirty little sluts I always kept you from? Does she do dirty things with you, Otto? Do you touch her back?"--

A short, chubby teenager slouches behind a tree, head bowed, watching as a petite blonde in a white lab coat is escorted out of a fenced compound by uniformed military, tears leaking from behind his thick glasses--

A short, chubby young man, chestnut hair falling in curls over his thick glasses, tries to explain the theory of relativity to an auburn-haired beauty on the steps of a graduate school--

A short chubby middle-aged man puts the finishing touches on four robotic tentacles as the auburn-haired woman watches. "Are you sure you can stabilize the reaction?" she asks--

Ock's tentacles! They're talking!

You figured this fact out already. Good for you, the voice replied, dripping with more sarcasm than she'd previously thought a computer was capable of.

With only a slight effort, the tentacles ripped through the web, springing Spidey to her feet.

Let Us help, Spider-Woman. Don't over-think what We are about to do.

The decision was made. She was never going to defeat Venom alone. Besides, she thought, a wave a nausea hitting on her, I killed their master. If I say no, they could turn on me and kill me in turn for it.

One of the tentacles shot out towards Venom, a small secondary tentacle winding around her enemy. Another bound her further, while two raised Spidey up as if on stilts, quickly crawling up three blocks to an electronics store. The tentacles snaked through a nearby open window, unlocked the door, walked Spidey into the store, shutting the door behind her.

We would suggest that you now cover your ears.

Spidey kneeled down and covered her ears.

The tentacles ejected Venom, and almost instantaneously, all the stereos, car radios, and televisions turned on, top volume.

Venom--or more properly, her alien half--started to screech in pain as the White Stripes blared from seventy-five sets of speakers. It decided, to express it in human terms, to hell with this. It started to peel off and crawl, weakening with every second, towards the door, revealing a pretty blonde girl wearing black.

Gwendolyn Stacy crawled towards the door on her knees and chased after the symbiote, covering her ears as well. "Hey where the fuck are you going!" she shouted. "I need you!" She shouted defiance at her adversary. "I don't need that stupid goo anyway! I'll find a way to kill you, because I know who you are..."

Gwen paused. "Your real name is, uh..." Then she realized, with utmost chagrin, that when the symbiote left, it took all its knowledge with its power.

"This is for your own good, Gwen!" Spidey shouted above the din. "No one can control the symbiote! It was twisting you for its own purposes!"

And then Gwen laughed. "It was a gift from God, Spider-Woman! I prayed for you to die at my father's memorial service! God granted my prayer by giving me the power I needed to defeat you! 'Twisted me?' I twisted it for my purposes!" She reached frantically for the symbiote, but it slipped underneath the door, lost to her forever.

"Gwen--" Spidey breathed. "I'm sorry for your father's death. I was just so lost in the battle with Doctor Octopus--I was reckless."

"Nice sentiment, Web-Spinner, but it won't give me my father back."

Completely of its own accord, a tentacle shot out towards Gwen, a blade popping out of its pincer. Gwen's eyes widened as the blade pierced her through.

"But I--I forgive you," Gwen whispered, and fell to the floor.

Horrified, Spidey whispered, "What the fuck did you do that for?"

She was a threat, Miss Mary Jane. If she ever acquired superhuman powers again, she would have attempted to kill you again.

I suppose I should thank you for your help. Even though it still sounds weird to talk to computer systems.

This is only the beginning, Miss Mary Jane. We have so much to offer you in your "career". Lead Us, Mary Jane Watson. Guide Us. Love Us.

You will be Our Mother. We will be your children.

After all, We are orphans. We have no Father anymore.

Underneath her mask, Spidey gaped at the suggestion.

With Our power bonded to yours, anyone foolish enough to challenge Us will fall at Our feet. They will be as Gwendolyn Stacy, as that interfering photographer who dared to document on a memory card Our Father's humiliation--

Spidey gasped in horror. "That interfering photographer had a name! He had a family! He had a girlfriend!"

We know this, Miss Mary Jane. You have shared your memories with Us, just as We shared Our Father's memories with you.

But those facts are irrelevant. He was weak, and failed due to the stupidity of attempting to interfere with Our Father's noble work.

But We are strong, and We shall take Our rightful place in this pitiful world. Just say the word, Mother, and we shall make it happen.

Glorious images took the place of Otto's memories in her head. She saw herself in a red bathing suit, doing laps in a swimming pool of money--

She saw herself in a glittering red dress, walking a red carpet on the arm of Johnny Storm as the cameras of a dozen paparazzi flashed--

She saw herself starring in a blockbuster movie with Tom Cruise as the lead--

She saw herself clasping Peter Parker, somehow, impossibly returned from the dead--

"No!" Spidey shouted. "I hated Doctor Octopus for so long because--not only did he kill Peter and Captain Stacy, but because of his actions sent Green Goblin and Venom after me for revenge! I can't risk that victory, only to become who I hate!"

Tears leaked out from her mask. "I have to forgive him...I have to reject his choices..."

She shouted at the tentacles. "I reject your offer! I disown you! And I'm sure as hell not your mother!"

The tentacles screeched in what Spidey interpreted as anger, and the pincers turned to face her. The blade popped out.

"Listen to me!" she cried, grasping the tentacle with the blade, using all her extraordinary strength to push it away. "You listen to me now! Go away! Just get away!"

The tentacles obediently flopped down, the harness snapping open, the nerve center loosening its hold over her spine.

Spidey panted with the effort involved in imposing her will over her tentacles, eventually rising to her feet and webbing the tentacles securely together.

I told Gwen that no one could control the symbiote's power. Well, I was definitely in no position to throw stones.

God, this whole superhero business totally bites.

But Peter Parker's loving smile flashed in front of her, more real than any holographic illusions the tentacles' artificial intelligence could offer her, even more real than reality itself.

I never asked for these powers. I never asked to be bitten by that spider. But I have this power now, and it comes with certain responsibilities to society, neglected at my peril and the peril of those I love.

Jameson's snarl briefly replaced Peter's smile. Mary Jane waved it away with a thought.

So what if no one's throwing me a parade? That's their fucking problem.

the end

There is not much more of this story to tell; shortly after the defeat of Venom, Mary Jane Watson would graduate from high school, accepting the valedictorian's honors for the late Peter Parker and reading the speech he would have given had he lived. "Every one of you has a power inside," she would advise her class. "But with every great power must come great responsibility. Your power, whatever it is, will take a lot out of you but will give much in return." She would continue her education as a drama major at Empire State University and continue her acting. The Broadway musical Heroes and Villains would win a Tony Award.

The Amazing Spider-Woman would continue to fight new menaces to humanity—supervillains with names like Sandman and Scorpion, Vulture and Mysterio, Electro and Kraven, Shocker and Doctor Doom, Lizard and Morlun. But now she had the confidence of her convictions she needed to fulfill her destiny and face all challenges her life would throw her way.

I do not pretend that the story of Mary Jane Watson has a happy ending. Happy endings are for fairy tales and movies. But we may safely say our heroine found her destiny and her true role in life, no longer plauged by the insecurity that had haunted her before.

You see, then, dear reader, how the destiny of an entire world can be changed by one simple action. For it is my task to observe all the Spider-People, on any alternate reality they may exist, by whatever name they may be called. Thus it must ever be, for what else should be the duty of one bound to witness and record all that may happen in this infinite cosmos, one called...the Watcher?

Finis

"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end..." —Semisonic"Closing Time"


Well, go ahead and tell me which ending you prefer! What are you waiting for? There's the review button!