Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy is the sole property of Joss Whedon, Kuzui Enterprises, and Mutant Enemy Productions. I think if I owned Buffy I would ruin the campy charm, so don't sue me. Really. REALLY. I'm having a hard enough time with car insurance and student loan payments.

Notes: Er – I really wanted to read some Larry/Xander for a change, since I spend a LOT of time reading Spander and the clichés were getting tired. So I went digging for some Larry/Xander, Xander/Larry (whatever, who cares) that was cute and light hearted and just something I tend to be interested in, and found about 4 stories, two of which I was interested in reading. So I said 'fuck it' and wrote my own. Just so you know – it hasn't been beta'd (none of my stuff has), and there may be mistakes. Anyway – enjoy!

God he hates Harris. Well, that may be a little harsh, he doesn't Hate Harris, at least not with a capital H. He just… is frustrated, constantly, by Xander, who is in his opinion, a scrawny, underfed little twerp that always has something to say. He can justify to himself that he's jealous, because he's never been much of a quick wit, or he can admit to himself that his friends aren't quite as loyal as Harris' seem to be given the bruise he sported after that strange Buffy chick slammed him into a vending machine. But he can't actually Hate Harris, certainly not with a capital H, because Xander was just one of those people that… was difficult to hate. He had his faults, at best he was mouthy, in reality he was an opinionated little jerk that needed to learn to shut up every once in a while to save his ass from a lot of pounding, but he was impossible to hate.

It was a subject that Larry gave a lot of thought to. Probably a subject he gives too much thought too, but Larry never thought about it that way, or thought about it at all, it was just something that was there – how much Harris got on his nerves, or didn't, or how jealous he was, or wasn't. Because he knows there are things in Harris' life he wouldn't wish on his worst enemy – things worse than his fashion sense, and he doesn't stop to question why he considers Xander's fashion sense, he only intrinsically understands that grunge-style looseness in clothing should never be combined with Hawaiian prints. The prints and the loud colors distract the eye, and in spite of himself Larry intrinsically knows this too, he's seen bruises that can't be described by typical clumsiness, even if Harris did have the irritating habit of skate boarding into railings.

It bothers him especially that he can see the fading edges of bruises and scrapes, and once a gash on Xander's forearm under the vibrant greens, purples, and oranges, bothers him because he wants to know and maybe if he knew he could stop it because he was the only one allowed to bruise Harris. He doesn't know where that thought came from, nor does he particularly care; the kid's had bruises all his life, even when Eric Shrendt yanked his pants down in the third grade in the cafeteria there was a whopper of a bruise on his thigh and Larry was there to see it, and he was curious for the first time. Not knowing only added to the urge, made him twitchy every time he saw a new bruise, it made him irritable, made him do things like threaten black eyes and book-check the little red-head that came attached at Xander's hip. He knows, from experience, because he was curious, that Xander doesn't bruise easily, he's tested the theory time and time again looking for potassium deficiencies or just girly-man traits and he hasn't actually found them.

He has looked. For anything remotely girly, he watches a lot of people for gender non-specific traits. Larry has always watched men for traits that he deems 'unmanly', and he sees a surprising amount of both genders in various people, he's not sure why he does this, but he's hoping that if he manages his football scholarship to UCSD he can study psychology and sexual behavior – not for the typical testosterone-fueled reasons, but simply because he's interested. He watches Xander closely, completely unnoticed, which he suspects is a good thing, asks him questions about the girl he's obviously crazy about because it will get under his skin, and teases little Rosenberg mercilessly. It's like an experiment, or Larry justifies it to himself as an experiment and doesn't mention it to any of his football friends because he knows they wouldn't understand it. There are a lot of things he doesn't mention, his family is one of those functionally silent ones where his mother and father leave each other completely platonic notes on the kitchen counter and hardly say two words in passing, his father is a business type – clean shaven, narrow shoulders, a bit of a pencil neck and Larry secretly resents him and he has no idea why. His mother was different, years ago when he couldn't fend for himself, but now she's always rushing off to work, returning just after sunset to pat him on the head, ask him about his school day, and fall into the tired routine of stripping off her shoes and getting in to the bath with a glass of chardonnay. Mike meets him every day after practice and they walk home together, he's fairly certain he loves her, but every time he sees her he can't help laughing at her in ugly jeans, makeup so dark she turns into a raccoon every time it rains, and a pair of boots so big and clompy it's a wonder she can walk.

Larry suspects he's a bit of an anomaly in Sunnydale – he's the only person he knows with a sibling, even if she is an irritating and pretentious freshman. None of his friends have sibs, except for the one from out of town, but his brother was in his late twenties and didn't move to Sunnydale with them. Harris doesn't have any brothers or sisters, as far as Larry knows, Harris doesn't even have parents because he's known him since second grade and has never once seen his parents at a school function or anywhere else. Neither does Rosenberg or their newish friend, for that matter, their older friend, the one who disappeared sometime during their sophomore year didn't have siblings either; he's jealous of those people. His parents were deeply upset at the whole 'parent teacher night' fiasco, they'd apparently been locked up in the same room as Snyder, and had a week-long panic attack about the safety of their children, especially Mike, since she was so young, and so female, and very much the perfect material for gangs on PCP to attack.

Late at night, very very late at night so he can be assured that his parents are asleep and Mike is happily ensconced on the couch eating cereal and watching late-night cartoons Larry wonders about things like that. How concerned his parents are for his little sister, and what it would be like to be a girl with strangely flat genitalia and protruding breasts, how awkward and unbalancing – it too would be an interesting psychological study, but mostly when he's thinking late at night it's more interesting as a physical study. He runs his hands over his body, skin soft and muscles tense from agonizing practice which is harder in 40 pounds of protective gear than it is in sweats, and he just lets himself think. What it would be like to be female, and he decides he likes his body better, what it would be like to be touched by hands that aren't small and delicate, but broader and stronger like his own, and how strange women really are – and how the first time he had sex was so utterly unsatisfying because he didn't know what the hell he was doing and the girl he'd slept with was bulky in all the wrong places.

It's during those late nights, when he's completely alone, that Harris starts to bother him. Pops unbidden into his head and refuses to leave through the most intimate acts, the frustration he feels and the utter embarrassment when the Xander in his head shoots him one of those utterly wicked grins that reveals perfect teeth – nearly lascivious and absolutely addicting, and he comes across his hand before time. It makes him feel guilty and strange, masturbating while he's thinking about Harris, and not taking the time to properly think because he only gets to the smile. Then Xander in his head gives him a different sort of smile, shy and self effacing, showing none of his teeth but it's sweet and equally addicting, which makes Larry hate himself more than he ever hated Harris. But he's never really hated Harris, which he suspects is part of the problem. He doesn't hate Harris, and in his most secret fantasies wants to know what his hands feel like, what his skin tastes like, how many interesting purposes he could put that quick-wit to, and exactly what that mouth could be saying in the right circumstances. In his less-hidden desires, he's desperate to gag Harris, just to see what it looks like, and will pretty much tell anyone that asks.

Secrets, jealousy, the occasional bizarre and not-thought-about male fantasy, he doesn't say anything. There's a lot that Larry doesn't say, and it's given him an edge with women, something he appreciates and something he's terrified of, without big black coats or a uni-brow he's managed to give himself a 'strong silent type' reputation, and at one time he would've given anything for that sort of notoriety. Everybody notices the strong silent types, and everybody notices the dumb jock, he wishes, hopes beyond hope, that nobody will think to examine why he's either, because he couldn't explain it, and he would probably get his ass kicked on a regular basis for the rest of his life. He couldn't even explain it to himself, couldn't think it without desperate fear of exposure because in Sunnydale – who knew.

The edge with women, however, had not gone amiss. They appreciated men that treated them poorly and Larry couldn't fathom why, probably another one of those psychological mysteries that had been locked up until he could escape godforsaken high-school, and football, and he could get into the extraordinary psychological program at UCSD. Women liked it, and he wanted to like women, so he treated them as sexual objects, and felt strange about that as well, somehow off-kilter to the rest of the world, and guilty – but he was a man's man, and he acted the part, pinching posteriors and making lewd comments that even he didn't really appreciate. The formula worked incredibly well, probably too well because sex with women was something he'd become adept at despite his utter non-enjoyment of it – it was a warm place for his dick to be and that was enough to fool everyone, even himself eventually. He got off – maybe sex was just overrated, or he was strange, but it was not to be discussed.

At least it worked until he asked Cordelia Chase on a date – the infamous and beautiful Cordelia, who was powerful, and opinionated, and she had a spectacular mouth, but Cordelia turned him down. Larry was confused and attracted to her until two weeks later she officially announced herself as the girlfriend of Xander Harris and fuck-all who question it, and then he was only angry. Though he wasn't sure whether he was angry at Harris for stealing a chance at Cordelia, or whether he was angry at Cordelia for monopolizing Xander's time and making his efforts at observation significantly more difficult. He was jealous, and he wasn't sure of whom. Seeing Harris stumble into history late every Tuesday with a kiss-bruised mouth elicited a throb of lust and rage so powerful he assumed everybody must know, and his football buddies consoled him over the loss of Cordelia.

Then Harris cornered him in the locker room one day after class – he was always the last to leave, because Mike liked plenty of time to catch up with her silly grunge-goth posse to chat about music and how absolutely tragic the death of Kurt Cobain (three years stale) was. Larry was indulging in an idle daydream about things far removed from fluffy kittens, and when he turned around Xander was suddenly there, in his face, real, and sporting an intelligent look that thrilled and terrified him. "Harris!" He said, startled, and moved to hide behind the open door of his locker, cool as a cucumber, "Sheesh, next time wear a bell."

Larry regretted saying that as it drummed up a rather hazy and appealing image of Harris in said bell and not much else. Then Harris was talking – something he was far too good at – and Larry lost his cool, threatening to literally bury his fist in a variety of places, and hauling Harris by his shirt, so close he could feel the heat radiating off of him. Larry thought it was unfair that Harris of all people, the worst person, the person he hated and watched constantly, a person he very much desired to simultaneously bruise and heal should discover this about him, completely unfair, and he couldn't keep his mouth from admitting it. To himself, and to Harris of all people, that thing that he never said, never even thought loud enough to warrant a word, "I'm gay!" And all he felt was sick relief that someone knew, and a little self-loathing because he'd said it to the curiosity-cum-obsession that had to remain at a distance. Still, glorious relief, and the strangest urge to cry, and to say his life story, or to ask his father about college applications and course schedules, glorious relief, like he could breathe again, the world hadn't exploded, and he was breathing Xander. "Oh wow. I said it. And it felt okay. I'm gay…"

"I heard you the first time."

"I can't believe it."

Harris was almost speechless, gaping at him in shock and fulfilling an untold number of Larry's idle fantasies – shocking him into silence, mouth open slightly, backing away because Larry wanted to touch. After that, his staring started to bother Harris – which was something that he enjoyed immensely. He still studied him, in quiet moments or during math when no one was actually paying attention to the teacher he would look up and stare because Harris' neck was right there, and after about three minutes of running his eyes over the tanned curve, Xander would start to rub it irritably as though he could sense Larry's eyes, and Larry liked that. After their conversation in the locker room, Larry knew that he was just tall enough to sling his arm across Xander's shoulders comfortably, could estimate exactly how wide those shoulders were, and they fueled the midnight fantasies he was no longer terrified of having. He could imagine how it would feel to run his tongue across the surprisingly sculpted muscles of Harris' stomach, around his pectorals, and he did it without guilt because everyone in the school was doing the same thing – a school swim team was a beautiful thing.

For the rest of the year Larry found himself staring at Harris, not because he was necessarily attracted, but because he knew it bothered the hell out of Harris, made him fidget, and twitch, and he loved that. He watched other men too, allowed to do it since he'd admitted something so incredible to himself, and he'd developed a passing fancy with Freddy Iverson before he realized that Freddy was a too-skinny, self-important prick who was friends with his little sister. Any ideas of attraction had definitely died out, and he went back to Xander watching before the school year ended. That summer was possibly the longest and most boring of his life – Mike accused him of being completely whipped by some girl he was crushing on, because all he did was sit in his room and mope – Larry made it a point to ruin the budding relationship with her new 'boyfriend' after that. He didn't have a crush, or he told himself that he didn't have a crush, because he couldn't quite remember what having a crush was like – it had been so long since he'd thought about anyone in a romantic capacity, and he suspected it was pretty much normal for someone his age to think of nothing but sex. He spent that summer listening to a lot of Pink Floyd and avoiding his parents.

He couldn't have another conversation about getting a summer job, about having something other than his abysmal GPA to put on his college applications, and the long hot afternoons stretched away until the days got marginally shorter and the school year started up again. It was a relief, because he never did as well out of school as he did in – Larry was a social animal, he admitted it to himself, he needed people around him, the noise and the occasional chaos, he needed things to do, otherwise he wasted away in his room. School was good for him, it was time away where he could do pretty much as he pleased and the only pressure in his life was to do well at football, which came naturally. He was almost ecstatic his first day back, relieved, and happy, with a decent collection of people in his classes and Mike as a less-embarrassing sophomore.

Walking by a few weeks into the year he knocked Harris on the shoulder, the first physical contact he'd made, delighted to see him jerked like a startled cat, and he wondered if there were more bruises. If he'd started defending himself, or if he was still getting pounded on, and he watched Harris every day in gym-enforced shorts and t-shirts as they'd both opted for 4th hour gym instead of having to take a foreign language. Larry was gay, he'd admitted it, at least to himself and for some strange reason Harris, who happened to be there when it most wanted to come out, but he didn't act on it, didn't think about it – only assimilated the information into his life and went about his routines, being a little nicer to women and killing men on the field. He didn't think about Harris, at least not consciously, didn't think about why he thought so much, and didn't succumb to the all-too-feminine need to doodle little "X"s in his notebooks, he didn't think about anybody.

Later, some time in late November there was another official announcement from Cordelia Chase because she and Xander were apparently no longer an item for some very obvious reasons. He watched Oz and Xander be miserable, one guilty, one betrayed, and he enjoyed that too. Larry didn't think he was a sadist, he just liked to watch people, watch Xander – Oz had his sympathy because Rosenberg (despite her incredible geekiness) had managed to cheat on him, but Xander he just liked to watch. Pinched, drawn, and hurt because he'd fucked up and he knew it – Larry loved it, and it was about that time he finally labeled his obsession as it was. Embarrassing, and strange, he had a crush or something like it – because he wasn't picturing white picket fences and eternal happiness, he wanted what he always wanted where Harris was concerned, skin, and sweat, and that wicked smile, even if hurt and the beautiful crushed look followed.

In January, when the college applications were in and football season was really picking up and Sunnydale was moving towards the state championship for the first time in a decade, Xander Harris showed up tugging awkwardly at the neck of his hideous shirts and wearing a jacket with a high collar, trying to hide the ring of bruises from around his neck. Larry stared at them through all of Trig. and history – that afternoon during football practice he'd tackled a running back so hard his forearm snapped and Larry rode with him in the ambulance to the hospital, apologizing over and over until the paramedics looked at him sideways. Larry decided then that something was wrong with him, and he didn't know how to fix it. His parents were non-entities, and the act of talking to his father still incited rage in him, every time they had a 'conversation' about his future or the necessity of keeping his grades up Larry found himself in his room with a locked door silently fuming until after dinner where he could retreat to his fantasies. Something particularly violent, with bruising, tears, and the cruel impact that football had taught him, and when he came he bit into his thumb so hard it bled.

He suspected he was frustrated with life, possibly the only gay student in all of Sunnydale high, and at a point in his life where everything was confusing, an entire future ahead of him and he could think of nothing but football practice, and how goddamned irritating Mike could be, blasting Marilyn Manson from the ugliest head-phones known to man. Larry felt… constrained, like he was a very big dog on a short chain where all he wanted was to run around in the back yard, be free, run to the tallest hill in Sunnydale at midnight and scream his lungs out like a crazed barbarian. It was the heat, and being so close to graduation, being so close to other things it made him ache. He hated that Xander was dating the strange new exchange student, though he wasn't technically dating her, only taking her to prom and listening to her strange stories of how evil a race men were – Larry was inclined to agree with her, or would be if he ever got around to dating one. His frustration had only grown as Xander appeared to have forgotten him, no longer twitching so often; Larry deliberately ran his hand across Harris' elbow last Tuesday and there was barely a flinch. He thought, at the end of the year, supposing they all survived graduation, he would yank Harris behind one of the mobiles and kiss him, just once, so he'd know what it was like before he moved off to college and left Sunnydale for good.

Larry had that feeling of relief again, perfect and happy because he'd snagged his mail from the kitchen table this morning with plans to open it at lunch and included were two acceptance letters to his favorite colleges. Sick sweet relief and a little bit of apprehension because he had to choose, and there was a big world outside of Sunnydale high school. He was happy, and relieved, and then Xander Harris did something absolutely remarkable then, beyond turning beet red or accidentally falling over backwards and landing upside down in the bleachers before picking himself up again. "Hey, Larry, can we talk?"

It was almost embarrassing, how fast he hopped to his feet, and how very willing he was to accommodate Xander's needs, whether the kid was coming out of the closet or… saving the world. He knew, he actually knew, for the first time in his life, realized, as Xander talked, where a lot of his bruises came from – how Buffy was this tiny little power house, and how unsurprising it was that she'd hauled him over her shoulder and shocked the hell out of him. He knew now that Harris hadn't been looking for a gay man, he was looking for a werewolf – and it actually made sense. He resisted the urge to laugh, and resisted the urge to stare and make Harris uncomfortable again while he asked his favor, and tried like the apparent good Samaritan he was to save the small and unfortunate town of Sunnydale from it's imminent doom. Larry couldn't help himself, spent the entire conversation staring at Xander's neck, wanting to lick and suck on it now that he was up close, and having an actual conversation. "Think you can help with that?"

"Of course I can Harris, but if I'm gonna help you out with the Mayor, you've gotta do me a favor."

"What's that Larry?"

Larry watched that word carefully as it came out of Xander's mouth, his name clicking out around perfect teeth and a mouth that looked sincere and open to a number of things, a mouth Larry daydreams about frequently and always has. Then later how frequently he imagined his name on those lips, and for a moment he almost asked Xander to say it again before he got control of himself. "Date me. Or, go out with me, just once, when graduation is over, we'll grab some coffee and a movie – that's my condition."

"Wha?" Xander looked a little stunned for a moment, and Larry was thrilled, having put that expression on his face, having silenced him, having affected him at all. He wants to do it more often, wants to see Xander gobsmacked, a little slack-jawed, wouldn't mind seeing laughter in his eyes or frank admiration instead of the usual wariness, wouldn't mind that at all. It was a long moment, a very long moment before Xander spoke again, time where Larry really considered what he'd said, that he'd actually asked Xander Harris out on something like a date, and had absolute intentions of following through on it – coming out of the closet to all and sundry, and maybe it was just short of blackmail, but if it worked, Larry wasn't going to complain. He'd been nicer lately, to everyone, but he had never claimed to be a saint. Then Xander said, "Um… I… uh… Jesus Christ I just got asked out by a guy, and you know it's hell-week in Sunnydale when that doesn't even register on the 'strange' scale. I guess, after graduation, assuming we're alive and we don't have to resort to Oz's hummus plan, I'll go to the movies with you."

Larry had the strangest urge to say thank you, or to dance an Irish jig because it was going to be a fantastic week, no matter what happened with the Mayor. He'd been accepted to the school of his choice, his grades had improved dramatically over the last semester, and he'd asked Xander Harris on a date and not been shot down with an Uzi. But instead of thanking him, which would have been beyond embarrassing, Larry did what he'd wanted to do all year; he swept Xander up by his slightly-narrower-than-his shoulders, planted a smacking kiss on his stunned mouth, and said "Deal."

When the dust settled, eighty percent of the 1999 graduating class had made it out alive. Sometimes, very late at night, when he was absolutely sure his parents weren't around and he had both basement doors locked so Anya couldn't pop by unexpectedly, Xander Harris would run an almost-casual hand over his mouth and think about Larry.


Comments and criticism welcome – remember this hasn't been beta'd because… well, I don't actually have friends that like Buffy. If anyone wants the position let me know!