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The Official "Willow's Ex-Boyfriends" Club, Membership 2

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In a well-run universe--which Xander knows this isn't, because, hey, hellmouth--no way would Xander and Oz be friends. That's not supposed to happen when you steal a guy's girlfriend. Big breakage to the laws of guydom, there.

It's part of how weird Oz is. Oz can commit high treason to guydom and just not care. Oz can be short and skinny and bored by sports. Oz can catch another guy kissing his girlfriend and not once threaten beating the crap out of him. Xander figures it's the werewolf. Every month when Oz goes hairy and scary, he gets all that macho stuff out, and all that's left is the cool and mellow.

Oz, the one time Xander asked, said you can't actually steal somebody's girlfriend anyway. Girls aren't like CDs or dollar bills. They've got free will. And legs. If your girlfriend walks away, chances are nobody's carrying her.

This almost led to a big argument about how Xander knew just as well as Oz that girls (especially Willow) aren't things, and how "steal" was just an expression and how come nobody ever got it that Xander could use metaphors too? But it was right after Willow broke up with him, which made it just over three weeks after they started going out in the first place, and Xander's ears were still ringing and his head still hurting from the supersonic speed of it all.

So instead of complaining, he just took another hit off Oz's joint. His first time getting high, and thank god Oz's parents were up in Alaska watching whales, because by the time Oz stubbed out the roach Xander had been laughing for ten minutes straight at the pattern of cracks on Oz's bedroom ceiling.

Sometime that evening, between the Twinkies and the popcorn, Xander found big sheets of drawing paper under Oz's bed and made a sign in purple marker: The Official "Willow's Ex-Boyfriends" Club, Membership 2. Oz put in the quotation marks, because he said it didn't make sense without them, and also drew little cartoon faces in the o's of the two of them looking sad.

Xander took the sign home and it hung in his bedroom for a month of good righteous sulking, until he decided that losing Willow as a friend was a lot worse than losing her as a girlfriend. Then he started speaking to her again, and after that he had to take it down in case she came over.

And now, waiting for Oz, he's trying to find it again. He's gone through all his old posters in their cardboard tubes--they won't stick to the walls down here in the basement, and he's realizing now how much he misses Tony Hawk and Sharon Stone and even ET--but no luck. When his mom went out to the AM/PM for smokes he even snuck up to his old room, just in case it was hiding in the back of his closet, but all he got for his trouble was really dusty hands from feeling along the closet shelf. (Closet, he thinks, and he can't help snickering enough to do Beavis and Butthead proud.)

The poster's gone. But it's hard to stop looking for something. Plus he's got a lot of nervous energy at the moment, like if he keeps moving he can dodge the major freakout that's chasing him. So Xander's half-lying on top of the washer and dryer, poking a broom around behind them, when he hears the door swing shut and Oz's voice saying, "Hey, Xander. Um, spring cleaning? From the way you sounded, I was kinda figuring big slimy demons."

"No demons," Xander says, trying to slide off the machines in as not-uncool a way as possible and getting his pants leg caught on one of the dials. "At least -- god damn it -- I don't think so." Crap, he'll have to ask his mom to sew up the hem on these jeans, and she'll probably charge him by the minute. Free at last, he eases his leg to the ground and tries to morph into a James Dean stance against the machines, one that'll erase the image of him humping the washer while he tried to jerk his leg loose. "It could be a demon, I guess. It's the sort of thing a demon might do. Not that that's the only reason it could happen, I don't mean that, because that would be really stupid and, and patriarchistic or something. These things happen all the time, perfectly natural, no reason to think it's anything weird. Or demony."

From the edge of the bed, where he's already rolling a joint (another term in the e=mc2 of Oz mellow), Oz says, "Deep breath, Xan."

The problem with having Silent Oz as his best guy friend, Xander knows, is that there's too much room to babble. Sometimes it can feel almost like an obligation, like there have to be a certain number of words between two people and if Xander's got to say nine-tenths of them, he will.

A couple of deep breaths later, Xander sits down next to Oz on the orange-and-brown crocheted afghan and says, "Willow's dating. A person. A girl person." Maybe one more deep breath. "Willow's dating a girl."

"I know," Oz says.

Just for a second, Xander really wants to trade Oz in for a normal guy, somebody who'd be surprised. Who wouldn't already know that the girlfriend Xander stole from him is now a possible girlfriend-stealer herself. Xander grabs the joint and the lighter away and manages to fire up the doobie without coughing, for once. "There was gonna be a moment, Oz. I was gonna make my announcement, you were gonna be startled and amazed. We'd bond. You know. A moment."

"Sorry, bro." Oz kicks off his docs and lies down, snagging the joint on the way. His face gets kind of pinched when he inhales, like he might suck his whole head into his lungs. Xander's always tempted to tickle him while he holds his breath, but Oz lifts a warning boot the second Xander's hand moves. "She called me yesterday," he says, squeakily, on the exhale.

"I'm the last to hear?" Xander takes another deep hit. Too deep, probably--he's got work tonight, and wearing the Harold's Happy Hot Dog Hut uniform while stoned is just asking for trouble. "Figures." Maybe being gay's like all those college classes Will doesn't talk about anymore. Maybe she thinks he wouldn't get it.

Another long drag, another pause. Oz's face is always interesting when they're high. All screwed up and funny on the inhale, and then really blissed-out meditative one-with-the-universe the rest of the time, like some kind of guru. "Nah, man," Oz says at last. "Last to know'll be Giles."

That puts a stake in the heart of Xander's freakout, because you can't freak out while you're laughing your guts into strange new places. Still laughing, Xander flops back onto the other pillow and shakes his head when Oz offers the rest of the joint. "God, poor Giles. We should cover his ears or something. Or else he'll have a really polite, British stroke."

Oz is frowning. Xander's not sure how he can tell, exactly, but that's a frown. Something about the left corner of his mouth.

"Maybe. But people . . ." This silence is longer than Oz's usual ones--he inhales again, stubs out the rest of the joint, fans the smoky air, rubs one shoulder, and finally lies back with his hands behind his head and one elbow poking the top of Xander's ear. "People are layered. Not like onions, though."

Xander understands, or he's pretty sure he does, but he says, "Huh?" anyway, to see how many words in a row he can make Oz say.

"Okay," Oz says. "It's more like . . . you know those satellite pictures? You can see the whole earth, and then you zoom in to America, and then California, and Sunnydale, and each time the picture changes? Not just more detail--it changes."

Xander nods at the ceiling. It's hard to picture Giles actually having streets and parks and backyards and dingy little alleys, but he probably does. Just like everybody else. And blind corners and unexpected forks in the road, too. "Do you think Will knew all along? Were we dating a lesbian? 'Cause, every guy's fantasy. Except for the part where if she wasn't a lesbian all along then I probably turned her gay."

"You -"

"Maybe that's my mystical power, huh? Buffy slays vampires, I slay heterosexuality. Get within three feet of me and you'll need a Gay Pride t-shirt and a DVD of The Wizard of Oz. Or plaid flannel and some K. D. Lang, depending."

Oz props himself up on one elbow and says, really seriously, "You're the secret gay kryptonite, Xander."

"Mock away, but I wouldn't be surprised. Look at Larry! One awkward conversation in the locker room and hello, PFLAG." Xander pokes Oz in the arm for emphasis. "I am the fountain of gay. Fear my powers! And, hey, all of a sudden I'm realizing that we're lying on my bed and talking about how I turn people gay, and god, back in the locker room with Larry doesn't sound nearly so embarrassing."

If Oz followed the laws of guydom, there'd be some dirty jokes right now, and a couple of friendly punches, and then they'd never talk about this ever again. And couldn't he just do the easy, simple, guy thing for once?

But no. Oz is just looking at him, and he's right there, and he's looking at him, and this is not the moment to be thinking about how he likes Oz more than any girl he's ever known except Will. Oz has green eyes and long eyelashes and a big nose and cool hair, and when they hang out, Xander's always a little proud to be seen with him. Oz has bracelets and earrings and wide shoulders and dark-purple nail polish and a pink shirt, and Oz does not follow all those laws that tell guys what to do.

And Oz leans, and Xander leans, and without even bumping noses, they're kissing. Dry and a little bitter at first from the weed, but then Oz opens his mouth and holy crap, they're really, really, really kissing, with tongues and spit. Xander's got a handful of Oz's rough hair and he's going for it, pushing Oz's head around, testing all the angles, letting Oz push him too.

It's not like kissing a girl, but it's not different either. Not better, not worse, maybe a little buzzier from the weed, definitely surprising when he slides his mouth along and hits stubble and the smell of Irish Spring instead of makeup and perfume.

It's Oz, and that's the important thing. It's not about kissing girls or kissing boys, Xander decides with the one-twentieth of his brain that's thinking, just kissing somebody you like.

Kissing down Oz's neck, licking the soft place where the stubble ends, licking along the top of his t-shirt, licking his ear, sucking on the warm tip of it and kissing behind it and making him shiver. Kissing goodbye to all the laws of guydom.

Maybe it's the weed, maybe it's the kissing, but it seems like centuries have gone by when Oz grabs on to Xander's shoulders and holds him still, panting. He smiles, though, before Xander can start dying of humiliation. Smiles with a really sexy mouth, and says, "Maybe Willow turned us gay, huh?"

Now's not the time for Xander to explain that he sometimes used to jerk off thinking about Eddie Vedder (also Flea, Michael Stipe, Keanu Reeves, and Sean Connery as James Bond), that today's freakout was only the caboose of a long, long freakout train, so he just says, "She's a trendsetter, that Willow."

Back to kissing, slower now, with more rolling back and forth and a lot more hands, and everything dreamy and aimless, even though Xander's been hard for ever, or almost. "You know the good thing about Willow dating girls?" he asks eventually.

Oz fights his way out from under Xander's t-shirt, where he's been kissing Xander's ribs one by one, and grins. "You mean aside from this?"

His mouth's red, his lips as fat as a pouting kid's. Xander strains up to him, climbing into the kiss. "Yeah, okay. The other good thing about Willow dating girls is, we'll never have to let anyone else into the ex-boyfriends' club."

"Cool. We can get a treehouse."

"And pirate hats."

"And -" But whatever Oz was about to say, he never gets to it, because Xander kisses him again.