A/N: Hello! I have not been in the Buffy-verse fandom for ages. But my love has been rekindled, and I present to you all a crack!Xander!gen!fic. Set during the summer between Season 3 and 4. Inspired by that oh-so-infamous quote by Xander: "...until one night when one of the male strippers called in sick and no power on this earth will make me tell you the rest of that story."
It had not been a good day.
No, it had not been a good day at all, thought Xander, as he reflected upon the day's events, the ones that had made it such a not-good day. In fact, it was verging precariously close to being a flat-out bad day. And coming from a Sunnydale citizen, that meant something, he noted wryly.
The day had begun decently enough. He'd been driving a while, and pulled up at a diner for some late-morning coffee and eggs. There'd been a fairly-pretty waitress, one with bouncy blonde hair and a big smile that made him think of both Buffy and Cordelia. She'd leant far over the counter, letting him have a very good morning view of the local hills, as she poured his coffee, and smiled at him when he tipped her way too much of his gas money.
Come to think of it, that's probably when he should have taken notice and fled. Because when things are going smoothly, or God forbid even well in the life of Xander Harris, that has to stop, and there has to be destruction and chaos and mayhem. Perhaps even an Apocalypse.
Sunnydale native, remember?
But he'd stupidly thought that hey, things were looking good, and then he'd gotten into his car and pulled onto the Interstate. He'd made it about half a mile out, when suddenly there was a very loud and worrying noise.
And then there was smoke rising from under the hood.
He'd sworn, loudly and earnestly, as he got out of the car to examine the damage.
When he popped the hood, the engine fell out. Literally. Along with a couple of other kinda important bits, like the radiator and the tank.
It was probably around here that things had started to go downhill.
He'd managed to push his car back to the town he'd just left – not exactly a hard task, seeing as how there wasn't actually much of a car left to push. The big cheerful sign that read 'Thank you for visiting OXNARD! We hope to see you again soon!' seemed to be mocking him with its overtones of irony, and he tried his best to ignore it while looking for the garage that he knew he'd passed on the way out.
When he found it, there was only one mechanic, dressed in nothing but unbuttoned overalls and clutching a rifle. Xander very quickly found himself at the business end of said rifle, but he did what he did best – he babbled. Somehow, whatever he'd said must have gotten through to old Joe, because Joe was soon exposing parts of himself that Xander really hadn't needed to see, bending over the half-empty front of the car.
"Sorry, sonny, it's dead," Joe had said, lighting up a cigarette.
Xander cursed again. Not like he hadn't already figured out the car was a goner, because, well, hello: no-longer-existent engine? But still, he felt it merited another round of words that made even Joe raise his eyebrows.
"So how am I supposed to get anywhere without a car or money?" Xander had wondered aloud.
When Joe gave him a speculative look, the things that were going downhill seemed to pick up speed.
About an hour and a half later, Xander found himself surrounded by women and elbow-high in suds. It really could have been a nice fantasy setting, he mused, if only the women were from any time after the Cretaceous era and the suds weren't made of grimy dishwater.
But at least it was a little bit cooler indoors. And he would be getting paid, even if it was barely over minimum wage and he'd signed some contract that seemed to have stated something about possessing his soul, or other body parts.
As he scrubbed at a pot that, much like himself, had definitely seen better days – probably also back in the Cretaceous age, when the only problem was dinosaurs – he couldn't help it. He tried not to, because being from Sunnydale, he was only too aware of the consequences, but he couldn't help it.
He figured things couldn't possibly get any worse.
And predictably, they did.
Xander had never prided himself on being a particularly observant person, but really – who could possibly have missed that gigantic neon sign proclaiming 'The Fabulous Ladies Night Club – Come for the men, then come for the men!'?
Well, apparently he could, because that was exactly what he had done and now he was staring at some very private – and impressive - goods of a rather handsome man, and oh dear God he had really just thought another guy was good-looking – not that he hadn't done so with Angel, or – no, no, that was enough.
But Dick – nice guy, horribly too-appropriate name - hadn't seemed to mind Xander's tiny little aneurysm, or swift return journey from over the border into experimental thoughts. He'd just continued exposing himself, and asked, "Hey new guy. Mind giving me a hand with this?"
And oh sweet merciful mother, Xander made another trip. This time he lingered a little longer. "Um. I'm sorry, I must be going deaf from the blood vessels exploding in my brain. You want me to what?"
"The laces, dude. I can't quite reach under – it was the old guy's job, but since he's not around, I figured that you'd -" Dick made a gesture.
"Oh. Oh! Laces, yes, I can do laces. Well, not do them, because I havent ventured that far out, and I'd rather stick to just doing...nothing! Doing nothing. But I can – lace," Xander babbled, and reached for said laces. It required him to kneel and him to come face to – well, not face – with certain parts of Dick, and then there was the touching. But Xander was only touching the laces, the laces, the laces, and that was really honestly all he wanted to be touching, the laces.
He tried to imagine Buffy, or Cordelia, or Anya, or even Willow in place or Dick – man, with a name like that, what else could he have been? It was all his mother's fault – but that just left him feeling rather scarred for life.
And that was saying a lot, for a Sunnydale guy.
But somehow, he'd done it, without further aneurysms, and Dick had smiled and thanked him and left. And then he'd returned to his ancient pot, decidedly not thinking about what had happened.
He'd remained in a daze for the rest of the evening, even amidst the bad retro music, and then the stripper music, and then the strippers, until it was closing time, and the manager, a Cretaceous lady herself, but one well-preserved by the layers of make-up and possibly the cigarette constantly in her mouth and oh God why couldn't he stop with the innuendoes – handed him a small wad of bills, winked lasciviously at him and said she'd see him again tomorrow. And then he'd trudged out to the nearest cheap motel and flung himself atop the rickety bed.
It gave an ominous creak, then the legs gave way and Xander found himself a little further from the ceiling.
It might have been the flinging, he mused, or maybe just the fact that life hates me.
Because it really had not been a good day.
But he'd been through worse – giant praying mantis seducing him, for one – so he managed to get to sleep, absently wondering what the gang was up to.
When he woke up, things were depressingly the same. But Xander was nothing if not optimistic in the face of doom and gloom, so he stretched out, got himself together, then made his way back to the nightclub. By his calculations – even though math so was not his forte sans Willow – he figured he just needed to work, oh say, for the rest of his youth, and then he'd be out of there.
It was a good goal, even if Xander had the vague suspicion he would somehow end up a person of Oxnard, three hundred million years from now, with overalls and a rifle, and still washing dishes.
And so he spent day after day after day in the same manner: waking up in the afternoon and heading into the club until late the next morning; scrubbing at the pots he had affectionately names Stego and Tricero and Ptero, coincidentally the same nicknames he had secretly given his co-workers; tying laces for Dick, and occasionally Harry and Little Johnny and Big Johnny; and questioning his sexuality; before returning to the dinky motel and his broken bed.
He'd begun to fall into a routine of sorts, one that was decent enough, even though there was all the touching! of half-naked men, and was starting to get comfortable.
Which was why, of course, he found himself, now a month and a half into the job, gaping at the manager.
"I'm sorry, there I go having an aneurysm again. You want me to what?"
"Little Johnny's called in sick. And its Ten-Men night, which it can't be with only nine. Lace up, sonny." She reached out her cold, wrinkly hands of death and pat him on the cheek. "Don't look so horrified. The ladies'll eat a tasty young thing like you right up."
"And that's supposed to make me less horrified how?"
She was the devil, the devil, Xander thought, as she cackled hoarsely and pattered off, after handing him one of those horribly complicated leather outfits that he had helped to lace countless times. But on other people! It was an outfit for other people! Even he had been intrigued by it – it was for other people! Like Dick, who was watching him puzzle out said outifit for other people.
"Hey, you want a hand with that?"
"It's alright. No offense, but this is a defining moment for me, and I'd really rather not constantly have to grapple with the fact that a man named Dick touched my bad-touching places when I look back upon this moment thirty years from now."
Dick laughed. "You say a lot of weird stuff sometimes, dude. But you're alright."
"Thank you," Xander smiled tightly. "Now, defining moment going on here."
The weeks of helping other people into their outfits now served him well, even if bending over in that manner left him even more confused and worryingly excited. But he was all too quickly distracted by the sounds of loud cheering, and loud music, and then his name being called out, also loudly.
"Go on, dude," Dick urged, and then pushed him out past the curtains into the spotlight.
Xander had never paid attention to the stage when the strippers were on – oh alright, he knew the layout and he knew what his routine, as replacement for Little Johnny, ought to be. But it had all been idle viewing, and not as if he'd been staring at other men's muscular – legs. Toes. Muscular toes.
"Take it off, hot stuff!" A lady with way more bosom than her shirt could contain bounced in her chair.
"Now, I realize that I am at times, in a certain light, somewhat desirable, but lady, that's almost degrading, for I am a man with feelings, feelings and whoa there! Bad touching!" Xander yelped.
"You're cute, for a talker," said another woman, the one who had done the bad touching. "Now shake it!"
"Just a little tip, dude – watch the mouth. I mean, some of us wouldn't mind seeing it open wide, but these ladies are more for the seen-not-heard deal," Dick whispered loudly. "Just find your groove."
"Yeah, I noticed – wait, what did you say?" Xander whirled around, leaving himself way too exposed to the vulture-like women and finding out just exactly how many places bills could chafe.
But Dick just grinned and winked, and shimmied to another group of women.
This was way too surreal, even for a Sunnydale boy who had once found himself the object of obsession of every single woman in town.
But hell if it wasnt just as disturbingly thrilling.
And Xander found his groove.
"Three hundred seventy-four, three hundred seventy-five, ooh, three hundred eighty-five..." Xander counted his spoils. "Man, I can see why you guys do this for a living."
"The money's not the only perk," Dick grinned, and Harry laughed. It was kind of a dirty laugh, Xander noted, but then Harry usually was. It was hard not to be, in this job.
"What are you talking ab – oh." Xander's eyes widened as he watched Dick and Harry do something that he refused to admit he'd be thinking about later, alone and lonely in his bed.
"So, seeing as you're the new guy, we really ought to – initiate you."
"Would this initiation by any chance involve bad touching? Because there's been quite a bit of that already, and -"
"Don't worry. The touching's all good."
"Oh. Well. Well then. Could I just have a drink – or two, or ten – before we begin? I've had enough moments today to last my lifetime."
"If a drink is all it takes..."
"I'm going to ignore the innuendo behind that statement."
"You won't for much longer. Here, have some of this beer."
It wasn't looking to be a very promising day.
He'd woken up not in his motel room, on his broken bed, but on the bartop of The Fabulous Ladies Night Club. And he had been wearing not his favourite pair of sheep pajamas, but not very much at all.
And to top it off, there was the dinosaur she-devil herself, staring at him with unabashed interest.
"Y'see, I told you it wouldn't be so bad." And she cackled. "Now get up, we have to clean up for tonight."
"You are the devil," Xander said accusingly. "The devil of male nakedness."
"Why thank you, honey. But tell me, how much did you make last night?"
"Four hundred ninety-six dollars," Xander replied, then paused to do a quick recount in his head. "Oh sweet merciful Zeus, four hundred ninety-six dollars!"
"How much d'ya need to keep going on your trip?"
"Well, more than this, but I can go home. Go home and never leave the good old Hellmouth."
"Make sure you say goodbye to the boys before you do. They took a liking to you." And then she turned around, exhaling a trail of smoke.
Xander sat up, seeing Dick, Harry, Big Johnny and a few of the others sprawled in various positions all across the bar. "Well, this is something I won't relish."
But he would feel bad if he just left, so he woke them all up, and said his goodbyes. Who knew male strippers were such clingy folk?
"Well, look, guys, its really not that bad. I wont be that far – just Sunnydale. You can visit me anytime you like!" A thought suddenly occurred to him. "Ah, thinking about it, actually, maybe I'll just come back for visits, no need to trouble you or give my friends more ammunition than necessary."
"Absolutely. Except for when I wont, because I'm not really great with correspondance. But I'll try."
That seemed to appease them, and tearfully they let Xander escape into the daylight, over to the garage. Joe was there, in those overalls that Xander was beginning to suspect never ever saw the inside of a washing machine.
"Hey there sonny boy," Joe said. "Your car's still dead."
"That's okay, because today I have enough to bring her back to life! Or, well, at least enough to trade her in."
Joe narrowed his eyes, then grinned a mostly-toothless grin. "I knew you'd do well there."
"You knew I'd be a good dishwasher turned replacement stripper?"
Joe laughed, and pointed to a beat-up looking, but obviously still serviable car. "That there's been waiting for you for a while. Been wondering when you'd finally make things easy for yourself, 'stead of getting dishwater in your ears."
"You," Xander said with grudging respect, "are a very socially inappropriate man."
"Here you go, sonny," Joe said, laughing again and tossed him a set of keys. "You go on home, now. Be seeing you."
"Hopefully not when I only have suspenders on."
With that, Xander got into the car, breathing a sigh of relief when it started smoothly. Then he pointed it to the interstate, back towards Sunnydale.
It would be good to be back home, in the loving arms of his friends and family, he thought.
He really should have known better.