Rehearsal was dragging on. And on and on and on. The band members were getting cranky, and Oz had just managed to break not one but three strings. "Okay, that's it. We need food before I kill someone." Devon stretched. "Who wants to go with me? Xander?"

The teen glanced at Oz, face scrunched up in frustration as he searched through his bag for replacement strings. "That's probably a good idea. He's going to be grumpy for a while, isn't he?"

"Yeah. So if we leave him alone while we get him something to eat, he should be better when we get back. He'll worship you if you give him food when he's in this condition." Now Devon moved around the room, gathering cash from band members to fund the excursion. "Any preferences?" As each person named a different cuisine, Devon rolled his eyes. "Okay, we'll surprise you." He turned to Xander. "Let's move."


The Mexican take-out place was crowded and insanely busy as was usual on Saturday afternoons, so Devon and Xander had a nice wait after they ordered before their food would be ready. Fortunately for the growing boys, they were given a basket of chips and salsa to snack on while they waited.

They leaned against the dining counter, chatting about movies and crunching their way through tortilla chips. Although Xander knew Oz hadn't formally told the rest of the guys that the two of them were a couple, it was clear that everyone knew -- and accepted this fact. If he and Oz were together talking quietly, they were left alone until Oz was needed, and snide remarks about them were never, ever uttered. The comfort level Xander felt around them was incredibly strange for the brunette. He felt like he could do or say anything, and they would actually take him seriously. Although the girls the rest of the guys dated were not much more than groupies, Xander felt more like a roadie -- someone that the band relied on to help, not just stand around waiting for someone to pay attention to him. Even though he had a similar role with the so-called Scooby Gang, he still felt inferior around them. But not around the band.

Speak of the devil, and he appears. A very familiar female voice broke into their conversation. "Xander! Hey!"

He turned to face Buffy and Willow. "Oh, hi." He shifted uncomfortably. "Do you know Devon? He's in that band..."

Buffy nodded. "Yeah. Hi." She turned back to Xander, dismissing the singer. "So what are you doing here? I mean, we haven't seen much of you lately. Did you get some new friends you aren't telling us about?"

Xander's eyes flicked guiltily to Devon's for a fraction of a second. It wasn't long enough for a casual observer to notice, but it was enough for Willow. "Xander? You and... Devon? What..."

Somehow, he resisted the urge to smirk. "It's not what you think." A lame objection, but it was the truth. Even if they didn't believe it. "Yeah, I've been hanging out with Devon's band a lot lately. It's been a rough rehearsal for the guys today, and we're getting food because everyone's having blood sugar issues." At that moment, a rather shady- looking brunette sidled up to Devon, breathing something inane about the band's next show. Xander couldn't remember that last time he had been that happy to see Devon flirting with a girl. Not even the singer -- who spent as much time as possible in such situations -- would hit on someone while his current 'romantic' interest was standing nearby. Xander stifled his desire to flash a 'told you so' look at Buffy and Willow.

To Xander's relief, the cashier called Xander's name, and the guys both stepped to the counter, gathering bags of food. Devon nodded at the redhead and blonde. "Nice to meet you." He turned back to Xander. "Okay, let's go before this stuff gets cold. You know how Oz gets when his chips get soggy."

"No kidding." Xander glanced back at the pair watching the guys with very wide eyes. "See you guys around. Tell Giles hi for me."

Back at the van, Devon examined the contents of the bags. "Oh, great. They forgot the salsa and sour cream."

Xander sighed. "We can't go back without that. I can't eat this stuff without it. I'll go back in." And so he returned to the take-out joint.

As soon as he walked through the door, he noticed Buffy and Willow, speaking in normal voices but carefully ignoring everyone around them. Willow's voice was the first he heard. "But don't you think it's weird? I mean, not talking to us, hanging out with some band? Do you think he has a girlfriend we don't know about, too?"

Buffy shook her head. "We'd know. I mean, we're his friends. We know everything there is to know about him. Who would he tell if not us?"

"True. I mean, it's not like those guys in the band could really be his friends, right?"

Xander stood, shocked. Even though they weren't aware of what they were doing, they made it perfectly clear that they found it impossible to believe that he could have any other friends. He somehow managed to quietly move to the cashier window and explain the missing condiments, and he just as quietly left the restaurant with food in hand and climbed into the van.

"Xander? Are you okay?"

He would later wonder if he would have stopped to analyze Devon's tone of voice if he hadn't overheard Buffy and Willow, but he would decide that it didn't matter. Devon was truly concerned -- the sort of concern that you did not have for a mere acquaintance or a friend's boyfriend that would be out of the picture in a few days or weeks. They had managed to become friends when Xander hadn't been looking. Maybe not particularly close friends, but friends all the same. End of story. "Yeah. I'm fine." He turned his attention to the bags of food around him. "Do you think we could get going before I eat all of the nachos?"