Title: Xander's Best Effort
Warning: SLASH! All human AU (but really just barely AU)
Summary: Xander's trying to get along with Willow's new love interest. He's really, really trying.
Disclaimer: BtVS characters belong to Joss Whedon / Mutant Enemy. I claim no rights to any copyrighted material.
AN#1: This is dedicated to entrenous88
, for her Ats/BtVS AU Teen Boys Kissing Meme
. And because she wrote an awesome S/X story along those lines that rocked my world.
AN#2: This is my first piece of BtVS slash, so any and all feedback would be cherished.Xander Makes an Effort
Xander wanted to like Oz, he really did, especially since Willow had started to make hungry eyes in his direction. Oz didn't say much, so Xander couldn't really understand the why of Willow's hungry eyes, but he figured there had to be personality somewhere. So Xander was Making an Effort. He would get to know this new boy who had suddenly dropped into their circle, if for no other reason than to make sure that Oz knew that Willow was not to be messed with. Not that Willow couldn't take care of herself - Xander knew from experience that her pout could overthrow nations. But still, he was her best friend, and therefore self-appointed protector from all things that could hurt her.
Xander's effort was currently taking the form of male bonding, or something like it. He hadn't had much of an opportunity to do male bonding since Jesse died, and after two years it didn't even hurt to think those words. And he wasn't afraid that Jesse would think he was being replaced - he and Willow were down to two musketeers, and nothing was ever going to change that. But Xander thought it was okay to do the guy friend thing, and so he was making an effort to bond. With Oz. Which somehow wasn't working out so well, as the last eight minutes (and really, the clock was right there
) had been completely silent. Maybe he didn't know how to do male bonding. He didn't remember doing it with Jesse. The day they met had involved squashing Cordelia's sand castle and running away, and maybe that was all the bonding they needed.
Xander found, to his horror, that he had actually started to hope that Cordelia might show up and move things along a bit. Because this male bonding thing - not his best idea. He was about ready to stuff it into the box holding trigonometry and drawing ("Things I Wish I Could Do") when Oz spoke. "Huh," he said.
It wasn't much. It wasn't anything, but after nine minutes of silence Xander grabbed it. "Yeah."
And that was useless. Were they bonded now? Xander's pretty sure he's about as bonded as he ever wanted to be, and for the first time in two years was delighted he didn't have a girlfriend. Double-dating with this guy - and Xander knew without a doubt that it was in his future somewhere, unless he opted for the priesthood, and after eleven minutes at least he's now ready for that "vow of silence" bit - would be fun in a way that wasn't. Ever.
Why was he still here? For Willow. Right. For Willow. Half the things in his life could only be explained as "For Willow", and this was going to be right up there with letting her drag him to Titanic
and allowing his fingernails to be painted black with purple sparkles. Which, come to think of it, was one thing that he and Oz had in common. Not that Oz had much in the way of black going on, but he seemed to have embraced the notion of purple, if his hair was anything to go by. Xander had noticed that the fingernails matched, but Willow swore she was had nothing to do with it. And then Xander'd had to endure 40 minutes on the wonder that was Oz, and suppress joke after joke about the cowardly lion.
Thirteen minutes, and maybe it was time to go. Time to go do something, somewhere, at high volume. Oz was still staring at the ceiling, looking like the answers to the universe's ills were up in the swirl of popcorn. Just as Xander was about to ostentatiously look at his watch and exclaim the time, Oz looked straight at him. "So," he asked, "wanna play a game?
A question, a direct question. And many syllables! Xander had to force his mouth from falling open, and did such a good job that he then had to force it to unclench in order to answer. Which he finally did, after he realized his dead silence was probably taken as camaraderie. He was so busy trying to make all the pieces of his head work as they were supposed to that he didn't realize his brain had already gone on ahead, and his mouth was busy saying, "Sure."
The great "Oh, look at the time!" escape was shot to the gills, but that that didn't really matter when Oz opened a cabinet in the wall next to the television and pulled out two Nintendo controllers. And it turned out that conversation wasn't really important when you're busy killing flesh-eating zombies.Willow Effuses
"So did you like him? You liked him, right? I mean, you were there for hours - you were even there when I called to say hi after dinner. You must have liked him. Did you have a good time? I'm so glad you guys are hanging out, I really want you to be friends. Did you have a good time? Isn't he great? Did you talk about anything cool? Did he talk about me, or, you know, ask about me at all? It's okay if you don't want to tell me, I respect that. Well, you don't have to tell me what he said, just tell me, did he say anything about me at all? I promise, Xan, I won't tell him what you tell me, I just need to know. Do you think he likes me? I really want him to like me, he's just so... oh, so... wow.
"Xander? Are you still there? I'm babbling, aren't I? I know I'm babbling, I just, I'm having trouble dealing with this, with someone as totally cool as Oz actually liking me! At least, I think he likes me, it can be hard to tell some times. He can be kinda quiet, did you notice? But not like a mime quiet, 'cause that would be stupid and creepy, but like one of those really deep always-thinking people kinda quiet, which I think he is. Do you think so? Did you like him? I really want you to like him, and we can all hang out, and maybe go on double dates, if you get a girlfriend - which you will, I know you totally will - and I'm so totally getting ahead of myself, aren't I? It's not like he actually asked me out. I hope he will, do you think he will? You were with him for hours, he must have said something? Didn't he? Xander!"Fiesta Time
They called it a party. They always called it a party, even if it was just the bunch of them sitting around in Buffy's living room watching a video. "Party" made it sound so much less lame for a Friday night. At least Angel and Buffy were in one of their off-again stages, so Xander wouldn't spend the night feeling like the fifth wheel, or the seventh, depending on whether or not Faith and Spike decided to show. Angel was passing out the beer, still at home in Buffy's house no matter how often they off-again'd. Of those there, it was only Oz, still too new to this, who declined. He clearly hadn't realized what it meant that it was Willow's turn to choose the movie. At this point Xander wasn't sure what he feared most, something with Julia Roberts or something subtitled. Tonight she promised it was neither, and Buffy spoke for them all when she groaned, "Artsy."
Willow's face fell, and Xander jumped in, "Hey, I kinda liked that one with the guy, and the chess, and death..." he trailed off as his friends stared at him.
Oz was nodding, though, and said, "Seventh Seal. Good flick," and everybody in the room pretended to ignore that Willow glowed at his approval.
"This one's not like that at all. It's got Keanu Reeves in it. And River Phoenix!"
"Wait, isn't he dead?"
"You know, Buffy," Xander drawled, "there's this incredible thing called film. It actually records images of people from long ago, and.." he ducked to avoid a pillow in the face.
The popcorn was distributed, the lights were off, and Buffy was in full control of the remote, which meant they could actually get started. The movie started with a shot of a gritty city, zooming in on a porn store. Xander actually grinned, until it moved on to a certain part of the bookstore, and then -
"What the hell is this?" Yup, there was Angel, right on cue.
"What? I told you Keanu Reeves was in it!" He sure was. A very non-Matrix-y Keanu Reeves, mostly undressed, and apparently mostly gay.
"Is this movie about porn? Gay porn? I don't want to watch a movie about gay porn!" Xander was glad Angel was saying it, because Angel never worried about the way Willow's bottom lip protruded and quivered when her feelings were hurt.
"It's not about gay porn. It's about street hustlers."
"Gay street hustlers!" Angel said, standing up and heading toward the VCR.
"Male street hustlers! And so what? You made us watch that stupid Bound
movie last time, and you didn't hear us complaining about the lesbian sex." Somewhere in the middle of that sentence, Willow had hopped out of her seat and gotten into Angel's face, unhindered by the fact that her face only actually reached his chin. A not terribly unusual occurrence, which surprised almost everyone who didn't know them.
"So? It's lesbian sex. Hot lesbian sex! Who's going to complain about that?"
"Oh, I don't know. People who aren't lesbians, maybe?"
As Angel was busy proclaiming his lack of lesbianism, Oz scooted down the couch until he was next to Xander. "She's quite the firebrand, isn't she?" He seemed quite unperturbed by the argument that had taken over as the night's entertainment.
"Oh, yeah. Always has been. You should have seen her when her Barbies were threatened." Xander lost himself in the memory of a seven year old Willow, facing down a rather determined Jesse who had paint in one hand and scissors in the others. She had always been shorter than they were, which was probably why Xander knew that Angel never stood a chance. Jesse hadn't either, which was why Barbie's hair had stayed long and blond. He mused on the fact that neither of them had ever gotten good at saying no to Willow, and she knew it.
He was still musing when her voice called him back, "Isn't that right Xander? Xander! Is that right?"
"What? Yes." The yes was an early habit, an easy habit. Willow was normally right. Why argue?
"Thank you!" Her voice was victorious, and from the looks he was getting, maybe Willow was possibly wrong.
"Wait, what? What'd I say yes to?"
"Nothing important," she practically sang, raising his paranoia to defcon three. She plunked down in an empty chair, arms crossed, feet up on the coffee table. The pose could have been titled, "Willow Triumphant," and it scared the hell out of her best friend. Defcon two initiated.
"You agreed," Buffy was clearly choking back laughter, and swallowed hard. "You agreed that if guys could find two girls making out to be sexy, then girls could find two boys making out to be sexy."
He had? Of course he had, Willow told him to. But he thought about it, while Angel stared at him and Oz made small "hmm" noises. "Yeah, okay. That makes sense. I mean, if you like girls, two girls is just extra goodness. Goodness, and yumminess, and hotness..." He ducked another flying pillow. "So I guess it would be the same for girls, right?"
And Willow was staring at him like he had done something wonderful, the same look she'd worn when he wrote that paper about Frankenstein and mistakes and outcasts and forgiveness, the same look he'd gotten when he'd traded a broken yellow crayon for the one fresh out of his box. Only this time, he wasn't sure what he'd done to deserve it, not to mention the looks that everyone else was giving him, which weren't nearly as pride-inspiring. "What? I mean, it makes sense, right?"
"So you don't think there's anything particularly gross about two guys doing it?" Xander was suddenly overjoyed that Faith and Spike hadn't made it, because Buffy's bluntness was enough to set him squirming. Faith's would have been... pure Faith.
"The thought of it doesn't, you know, make me happy or anything. And I'm trying - really, really, really-really trying! - not to think bad naked thoughts here, because I don't think we have enough beer for me to cope. But, I mean, people can do what they want. Why should I care?" He paused a minute, and then shuddered. "Anyway, it's not like we all haven't seen it, after last year's Larry-Andrew smoochfest."
The shudders traveled around the room, and Angel said, "I'm glad I'm not the only one who was totally disturbed by those two. I mean, it wasn't the guys kissing, but Larry and Andrew..."
"Ugh," Willow agreed, but then turned back to Angel. "So you have no problem seeing two guys kiss?"
"Hey, like Xander said, why should I care?"
"So if two guys were going to start kissing right in front of you, you'd be okay with it?"
"I suppose.... Not that that's going to happen. I don't go to those kind of parties."
"And you wouldn't freak out, wouldn't be grossed out, wouldn't become Mr. Sudden Homophobia?"
"Willow?" There was something in her tone Xander recognized, something just slightly short of terrifying. And maybe if he'd never heard that tone before, he wouldn't have ended up taking trigonometry. "Willow, what are you doing?"
"Nothing! Just making a point!"
"No," Xander said, shaking his head to the point of dizziness, "no, no point-making, no proving things, no object lessons. No objects! None, none here!"
Buffy and Angel looked like he had started speaking in tongues. Oz had his, "I am Oz," face on, and that didn't particularly help. Xander didn't know why everybody failed to understand what was coming, why he jumped up and said, "Oh, look at the time. Gotta go, getting late. My dad'll be... out, okay, he's probably not home, so I should be there first. Bye now!"
He almost made it to the door when the voice hit him, the 'I love you' voice, the voice that said, 'you know I'm about to manipulate you and you're going to let me,' the 'Can you push me on the swing, you're stronger, please please please?' voice - and he always did, always. But not this time. He was determined. He was out the door. He wasn't going to look, wasn't going to listen, he turned to wave one final time and that was the fatal mistake. Because there was the lip, doing its thing.
"Fine," he stomped back over to the couch.
"What just happened?" Angel asked Buffy.
"Hell if I know. The two of them wig me out something fierce sometimes."
Xander looked at Willow, who was smiling her 'please let me keep this puppy' smile, and said, "No."
"He would have."
"Oh, that's low."
"You know he would have."
"Well, with him, I would have, too."
"Yes," he said, and smiled. And then, "No." And then, "Besides, who'd do it?"
"Do what?" Angel asked, exasperated, at the same time that Oz said quietly, "I'll do it."
"Do what?" Angel repeated.
Buffy, meanwhile, was staring at Oz. "You understood that?"Negotiations
Willow had considered Oz's offer for all of five seconds before agreeing. Xander was still fervently repeating the word "no", and Buffy and Angel had finally clued in when Willow said, "But Keanu Reeves, he's straight. And he macks on River Phoenix this whole movie. It's just acting. C'mon Xan, it's just acting."
Finally, she pulled out the big gun, the one none of the others could even imagine. She leaned down and whispered to him, "Think how much this is going to freak out Angel. If he overreacts, maybe, just maybe, Buffy will finally see the truth." The truth being that he wasn't a bad guy, but he was bad for her. She kept herself in a tiny little box for him, and he liked her just that way. All of her friends saw how much happier she was after she declared it over, despite the misery of it being over. But he begged, and she cried, and they resumed, and she started closing in on herself. It had happened too many times for Willow and Xander to believe it would ever stop happening, but if this is what it took...
"Fine," he said, ungraciously.
"Seriously?" asked Angel, looking slightly stunned.
"Cool!" Buffy said, and ignored the look Angel shot her.
Heartened by that, Xander smiled at her. "Yeah, really. Willow's right. It's just acting. Besides," he added with a much-exaggerated leer, "maybe this means I'll get to see my two favorite gals kiss one day."
"Eww!" Buffy said without thinking, and then, "Oops." After a moment, she hesitantly added, "Maybe, ya know. One day. If it's just acting."
Xander winked at her, and she relaxed. He turned to speak to Oz for the first time since his startling agreement. "You sure about this? You don't have to. Willow won't make you."
"But she'll make you?" he asked, and Xander damned his perceptive eyes.
"Make me? She never would, not really. I'm just a sucker when it comes to Willow."
"I hadn't noticed," Oz said, deadpan, and for half a moment Xander really believed his dignity was still intact. "Are you
sure?" Oz asked. "I know you agreed, but it you don't want to..."
"Nah, it's ok. It'll be ok."A Kiss is Just a Kiss
Two minutes, Willow had decreed, and by that point Xander had just nodded. Two minutes seemed like an awfully long time to kiss someone you didn't know, didn't particularly like that way, and that was even without mentioning the whole 'I'm a guy and he's a guy and we're not gay!' thing, but Willow had figured it would take two minutes to get Angel to break, so Xander just nodded.
They started out on the couch next to each other, which is where they'd been practically the whole time anyway, so that was ok, that was fine. Oz laid a hand on Xander's shoulder, at which point Xander started mentally chanting, "It's just acting, it's just acting."
And that must have been obvious, or something must have, because Oz said, soft and low, "How about a hug? We'll just start out with a hug. Guys hug, right?" At Xander's slow nod, Oz moved toward him and pulled Xander close. Xander thought it would be strange being hugged by someone so much smaller, but it turned out that Oz was perfectly Willow-sized, and he fit against all of Xander's nooks and crannies in the same way she did. He tucked his head next to Xander's shoulder, and that must be the natural spot for Willow-sized people, because it was nothing but comfort and cozy and home.
Long habit had Xander returning the hug. His arms went around Oz, his face went into went into Oz's hair, and even with his eyes closed he knew this was not Willow. But still, how long had it been since he'd touched someone other than her? How long had it been since he'd touched another guy like this?
Two years, he knew, two such very long years. Xander started to shake, or shudder just a little, and felt Oz's arms moving up and down on his back, heard his voice murmuring, "Shh, it's okay. Let it out, it's ok."
Xander was vaguely aware of Angel's voice saying, "What's going on?", vaguely aware of Willow shushing him, and supremely aware of the small, tight body tucked next to his, holding him, not letting go. So Xander held on, pulled him closer, felt the warmth and heard the whispers and slowly, slowly relaxed into the embrace. He moved his hand up and down Oz's back, feeling the curve of the spine, the strength of the body that held him. He moved his cheek against the head still tucked in next to his, and almost laughed when the soft fuzz of it rubbed against his neck. He pulled away, pulled back enough to see Oz's eyes, and what he saw there made him place a kiss on Oz's cheek. His next kiss was aimed for the small mouth, but Oz shook his head.
"No, Xan. We don't have to do this. It's enough, it's ok. No one's going to make you."
Maybe it was because his nickname, the one that only Willow and Jesse had ever been allowed to use, sounded so precious coming from Oz, maybe it was because the arms around him hadn't given one single indication that they ever were letting go, maybe it was because Xander felt so suddenly warm, but all he could say was, "I want to." And he did, so when Oz didn't object he moved toward those lips, met them briefly with his own. The arms around him tightened, and Xander relaxed into the hold, relaxed into the lips under his, and didn't hesitate when Oz's mouth opened.
And this was kissing. God, this was kissing. Warm and wet and the tongue moving next to his, bodies close and closer and Oz was sucking his tongue, letting it go to take the lower lip instead. Xander wanted it, wanted it back, met him with lip and tongue and hands not moving rhythmically but hungrily, trying to touch, to take, to grab. Xander slid his hands under Oz's shirt, felt his first touch of that soft, smooth skin, and realized a moment too late that Oz had done the same thing, and there were hands on his arms, sliding up and down while the mouth on his moved and sucked and offered him the world.
Xander wanted more, wanted closer, and pulled Oz's body up, onto his lap. Finally, for the first time, Oz was taller, looking down on Xander with hungry, hungry eyes, and Xander was about to whimper when their mouths met again, sliding together like they had never done anything else. Xander was barely aware that he had more body to touch, barely aware that he actually was touching hip and thigh and lower back. He felt hard heat on his thigh, slid a hand to confirm, to greet, to welcome, but didn't stay long. His whole world was in his lips, and Oz's lips, and the ways their lips met and met and devoured and adored. Willow's Best Effort
"You knew, didn't you?" Xander's voice should have sounded accusing, but he was too busy remembering the previous night to sound anything other than absolutely languid. Fortunately, the phone didn't carry his goofy smile.
"I wasn't sure, but I suspected," she admitted. "Suspected enough."
"Nothing ever happened, you know."
"Between you and Jesse? I know. That boy was even worse at keeping secrets than you are."
"It's only from you, Wills. Everyone else, they see what they want."
"No, not Oz," Xander agreed with a smile. "And - hey! How come you aren't upset with me having smoochies with your wanna-be-honey? Shouldn't there be yelling, or ranting, or..." he trailed off, and the realization dawned like a growing gradual slow Saturday morning cartoons and hot chocolate Willow smile. "You set me up!"
"Oh, do you think he likes me?" Xander mimicked. "I like him, he's so cool, I really like him, do you think he likes me?"
"I think he does, Xan. I really think he does."
Xander sighed, and it was a good one, full of memories of lips and arms holding him while he shook. "Yeah," he smiled, "I think he does too."