Disclaimer: How many times do I have to tell you I own nothing?

Summary: Xander's roadtrip. No extra-dimensional adventures or new powers-- just the Zeppo on a roadtrip.

1.

Xander sat behind the wheel of the car, staring at the descending sun, a far-off red disc.

Road trip.

What an innocuous two words. Depending, of course, on what innocuous meant. He thought it meant something like innocent, and that's what it was. It seemed innocent. But it wasn't. It really, really wasn't.

Because then you ended up with the engine dropped out of your car sitting a million miles from your friends staring at the setting sun and waiting for night when the monsters came out to play.

Xander kind of wished he'd stayed home.

Well, no, he didn't. He kind of wished he could have stayed at Willow's home, actually, as he usually did for most of the summer.

But he couldn't. He'd screwed up his friendship with Willow, like everything else he'd ever had. And managed to alienate his girlfriend at the same time, in one stroke. Now he couldn't stay with her, and had to find somewhere to spend his summer. Hopefully somewhere other than home.

And here he was, in the middle of nowhere, in uncle Rory's car.

Uncle Rory's bum, useless, stupid, unmoving car.

Stranded.

He let out a sigh, climbing out of the car. He retrieved his duffle bag out of the car and put on the necklace Willow had given him, the one with the cross hanging on the end.

Which was kind of a weird gift from a nice Jewish girl, but there it was.

Protection against some of the things that went bump in the night.

He put the keys in his pocket and locked the doors, even though there was no chance of anybody stealing a car that wouldn't start. Then he started walking, whistling a little bit.

It didn't help much.

He'd loved Cordelia with a passion. They had started as enemies, but had turned into a happy couple without ever once stopping to be friends. That had been the happiest time of his life.

And he'd blown it, of course. He'd known he would blow it.

He blew everything.

Well, except for saving the school that once. That had been pretty good.

But, still, genetics were an important part of life. With a family like his, how could he be anything else? And what if he had stayed with her? What if he had married her? Then he would have blown it then, and it would have been worse for her.

All things considered, he thought he'd done pretty well by her. Sure, her heart had been broken, and she'd been skewered by rebar. But she was still alive, and she seemed kind of happy, last time he'd seen her.

He could see a building up ahead, a truck stop from the looks of it. The neon light was out, and in the fading light he couldn't read it. He headed inside.

As he entered he realized instantly the place was closed for the evening. There was one woman there, and she was scrubbing a place on the floor that stained with something too gritty to be blood and not nasty enough to be vomit.

She looked up at him. "Not hiring." She said, rubbing a hand across her mouth. She was middle aged, and a little pudgy. He simply nodded, glancing around quickly.

"My car broke down back that way." He said apologetically, motioning with his thumb back the way he'd come. "Uh," and he stopped talking. He hadn't planned this far. Who was he going to call? He doubted he could repair it with the few hundred dollars in his pocket, and he didn't want to call his friends in Sunnydale.

Because then he'd be the friend who was so worthless he couldn't even get a hundred miles out of Sunnydale.

"Want a phone?" Asked the woman.

"I, uh, really didn't plan that far into the conversation." He said with a shrug. "I don't really have anybody to call. How far am I from town?"

"Well, if you'd made it over the hill you'd have been in Oxnard central." She said. "I'm Claire, by the by."

"Oh! Xander. Xander Harris." He said.

"And just why did you wander into the Ladies Night Club, Xander Harris?" Asked Claire, a smile starting on her mouth.

His mouth dropped, and then he carefully closed it. "Your sign was out." He said. "And, uh, it was the first place I saw."

"Right." She said, nodding. "Well, I have a phone. We can call Joe. He's got a shop where he can park your car."

**

An hour later Xander was sitting at one of the tables with Joe. "Seven hundred dollars?!" He squeaked.

Joe shrugged. "You can leave it parked at my garage till you got either the money or wanna sell it or whatever." He said.

Xander nodded. "Thanks, Joe." He said, doing his best to keep his misery out of his voice.

Claire stomped back, hands on her hips. "Either of you seen Eddie?"

"I don't know." Said Xander. "What's he look like?"

"Big fat fella." Said Claire.

"He left town yest'day." Said Joe.

Claire sighed. "You see him, 'remind' him that he owes me two hundred bucks still."

"Sure." Said Joe. He glanced at Xander. "I gotta get back to work. You can call me at 7342."

"Sure." Said Xander. Joe got up and left and Xander rubbed his eyes wearily.

Claire eyed him. "You wanna job?" She asked him, not a hint of her previous friendliness in her eyes.

"What's it pay?" Asked Xander dryly.

"Minimum wage." She said. "Maybe I can find you a place to stay with one of the boys."

"One of the boys?" Asked Xander.

"The strippers." Said Claire.

"They get minimum wage?" Asked Xander, confused.

She laughed. "No, they get twenty bucks and hour and all the tips they can make. Nah, dishwashers make minimum. I can't seem to keep anybody for dishwashing duty."

Xander shrugged. Why not? Looked like the Ladies Night Club was all the adventure he was going to get. "Sure, why not?" He said.

**

A/N: Mostly a bit of teaser before the main show. This is not the tacky, full-out XANDERHERO fic you might have expected. I don't write those. This, however, a short, thoughtful look at a summer Xander spent away from his friends. Away from those he thought he was a burden on, away from the leeching he was always doing. Away from the Zeppo status. Let's see where it goes, eh?