Blinking back another round of tears, Willow continued to set up the spell. She studied the diagram in the book that she had snuck out of Giles' private collection and compared it to the drawing that she had made on the floor of her parent's basement storage room. Satisfied that she hadn't missed or forgotten any detail, she then carefully stepped over the design and began to pick up an armful of candles that had been anointed in a specially brewed oil.
Hopefully, this spell would work as she planned and then both she and Xander could start to get their lives back to normal. Well, what passed for normal on the Hellmouth, anyway. As she turned and began to carefully set the candles down in each of the proscribed spots a tiny part of her wanted to shout out in denial that it wasn't her fault, that she didn't mean for things to turn out the way they did.
Her guilty conscience, on the other hand, poked and prodded her until she could admit, if only to herself, that it really was her fault. Of course, she really *hadn't* expected things to end up this way but events had quickly spiraled out of control around her. No one knew that it was her fault, but that didn't ease her guilt at all.
It had been a silly idea. She could admit that now. Silly and petty and trite. It was just that she had spent *years* yearning for Xander, longing for him and loving him from afar while being there for him as a friend. And as long as he hadn't dated anyone she had been able to kid herself into thinking that it was just because he hadn't realized how good it could be in a romantic relationship, that he was too young to appreciate any girl. Xander had torn that illusion down around her ears when he first began to pant after Buffy and then turned around and began dating Cordelia Chase.
Of all of the people that he could have chosen over *her*, Xander had picked the one girl in the entire school that Willow actively hated. That had hurt almost as much as the realization that even though Xander *had* discovered girls...he still hadn't discovered Willow. All of her careful fantasies of waking up one day to finally find Xander declaring his undying love for her had crumpled up like a dead leaf and then blew away to be scattered by the harsh winds of reality.
The love spell wasn't meant to hurt anyone. No one should have found out. Down deep, she still harbored a childish love for Xander, but that daydream couldn't stand up in comparison to the real love she had with Oz. She just...she was jealous and hurt and angry. Years of being snubbed had risen up in her and she just wanted Xander to know what he was missing, to finally understand how she had felt when he had rejected her over and over again. The love spell was supposed to make Xander want her so that she could finally turn the tables around and reject him instead.
But that hadn't happened. Oh, sure enough, Xander had suddenly found her charming and mysterious and desirable. At first, she had enjoyed a sense of satisfaction at knowing that he was finally beginning to see her as a woman and not just a childhood friend. Unfortunately, that small part of her that still loved Xander began to get all caught up in it and she had pushed the fact that his feelings weren't real out of her mind. By the time that she began to feel guilty over what she was doing, cheating on Oz, she had almost panicked. She made up some excuse to Xander about casting an anti-love spell, but that was only to cover the fact that she had already cast a love spell on him in the first place. He had agreed and she was relieved, but then drunken Spike happened and one thing led to another.
Getting caught kissing Xander had destroyed Xander's relationship with Cordelia and had come damn close to destroying her own relationship with Oz. Even now her boyfriend was a bit distant and less than happy with the idea of Xander being around. It made her sad to know that she was continuing to hurt Xander by pushing him away, but she did it anyway out of her own sense of guilt and because it made Oz a bit more relaxed and happy.
Now though? Things were once again spiraling out of all control and Willow was determined to do something about it.
The last candle in place, she grabbed up an iron brazier filled with sweet scented herbs and a long wooden match. Carefully, she stepped into the center of her drawing and sat down and then placed the brazier on the ground before her.
This spell would help. She knew it. It just *had* to. She wasn't sure who started those awful rumors about Xander, but she was certain that the only reason that Xander hadn't denied it was just to hurt Cordelia. While she was all for hurting the bitchy May Queen, she didn't want Xander to face an entire school full of Cordy's stuck-up sheep picking on him and calling him names. However, she knew Xander and she knew that when his back was to the wall and all he had left was his pride that he would stick to his guns no matter how stupid it was. Even if it meant lying.
And she was sure that the whole thing about being on a date with a guy *was* a lie. Xander had lied to her and Buffy about having plans because he was upset about them not letting him help with the Jhe Demons and the Hellmouth. Somehow, that lie had gotten around and been warped until the rumors were saying he had gone on a date with another boy. Now, trapped in a lie and trying to upset Cordelia, Xander had confirmed the rumors of his being gay.
Not that being gay was a bad thing, but it wasn't true. She *knew* that. It was also an untruth that might get him beaten up by some poopy-head friend of Cordelia's.
That thought led her back to her spell. A truth spell. When she cast this, it would compel Xander to speak the truth. He wouldn't let anyone kick him around and he would stand up for himself. He would finally be able to admit that he had stayed at home last night and sulked because he was upset at not being included in the Scooby gang's latest adventure. They would all share a bonding moment inwhich she and Buffy explained that they weren't trying to hurt him, Xander would apologize for lying and everyone else would leave him alone and stop calling him dirty names.
Her guilty conscience prodded at her about the fact that she herself had told a lie about the whole love spell episode, but she firmly squashed that thought down with the firm belief that she was right and that the ends justified the means. Convinced that she was doing the correct thing, Willow lit the long wooden match and touched it to the brazier of herbs and began to chant. A boiling cloud of energy rose up around her in a shimmering green mist and all of her carefully placed candles burst into flame. Smiling slightly, she continued to chant and cast her truth spell.
END: Gradual Corruption