Xander runs into an old enemy in Oxnard between seasons three and four.
As the name would suggest, most of the customers at the Fabulous Ladies' Night Club were women. Raucous bachelorette parties, bound and determined to out-outrageous one another; groups of women whose boyfriends or husbands were out whistling at female strippers; hard-eyed middle-aged women who looked like they were comparing the performers to a butcher's poster and wondering whether Leg of Xander was really worth $3.99 a pound.
There were men, too - fewer, quieter, and they didn't give him the willies nearly as much as the older women did. Which had initially given him the willies. But he'd gotten used to them, and he certainly appreciated their tips.
"Dear Lord in Heaven," Kevin the Cop groaned, dropping into the chair next to Xander's in the Fabulous Ladies' Night Club's less-than-fabulous dressing room.
"I warned you," Ted replied with a laugh. He was picking at the masking tape on his hard hat, which had CHUCK emblazoned across it in black magic marker.
"Yeah, but - /Christ/. I had no idea."
"Warned him about what? What didn't you have an idea about?" Xander demanded. He was up next, and if there was a customer who needed to be avoided, he sure as hell wanted to know.
"Oh, nothing you need to be worried about, Al. There's an absolutely gorgeous guy in the front row."
"Absolutely gorgeous. I think half the girls were watching him, rather than me - it's gonna be a slow night, so long as he's there." Lance - which was Kevin's real name - sighed and shook his head. "But I don't think I can make myself care."
Xander stood up with a sigh. "I'm glad you guys got some profit out of it. But since I can't appreciate him, maybe he'll be gone when I get out there."
"Oh, I think even you can appreciate him, Al. Aesthetically speaking."
"We'll see." Xander left the small cement room and headed down the damp cement hall. Just in time, because "Steve" was picking the last of his tips up off the stage.
"All yours, Paco," he said, coming through the curtain. "Got 'em nice and warm for ya."
"Thanks, Steve. The hot guy still there?"
"Oh, yeah. Foot of the stage. Don't trip on him."
On the stage, Marilyn was in the middle of his introduction. "...and here he is... the fabuloso... Paolo!"
Xander leapt through the curtain with what he hoped was an authentic-sounding Spanish screech. Ricky Martin began cajoling the audience to shake their bon-bons, and Xander became quite busy shaking /his/. He managed to pull most of the eyes away from the hot guy at the foot of the stage with his yell, and it was up to him to keep the attention - and the cash, thank you very much - headed in his direction.
He was halfway through his set, pants down to shorts, when he actually looked over at the foot of the stage - and nearly froze. Only the shouted encouragements from the bachelorette party at the right side of the stage kept him moving, body on autopilot, eyes riveted on the fellow who was causing all the fuss backstage.
It was Spike.
He seemed untouched and unbothered by the swarms of screaming women surrounding him - and only marginally aware of the fact that not a few of them were staring at him with all the lust they were supposed to be heaping on Xander and his red G-string. One hand held a cigarette, the other was lightly wrapped around a glass. And he was watching Xander.
Maybe he doesn't recognize me, he thought, he's probably just hunting... I'll just wait backstage until he's picked out a nice entrÃ©e... someone other than me. He felt a stab of guilt at that, but he was so not Buffy it wasn't even funny. Buffy would fight him, or at least lead him away from the unsuspecting. Maybe I should tell everybody to be careful. Oh, yeah, Xander, yell, "Look out! Vampire!" at the end of your set. That'll make you real popular around here.
Then Spike smiled at him, a slow curving of his mouth that sent a hell of a lot of blood rushing away from his brain in a hurry. The song ended. Xander scrambled to pick up the bills on the stage, putting off the end of the stage near Spike for last. "You dropped one, pet," that silky British voice intruded on his consciousness.
"Uh - thanks." Flushing hotly, he took the bill from between cool fingers and fled.
"He SPOKE to you!" Ted had apparently wandered into the backstage area to watch him, which Xander found vaguely flattering in a disturbing kind of way, and seized him as soon as he passed through the curtain. "What did he say? Does he sound as hot as he looks? He can't, it's not possible. Tell me! Come on, Alex...."
"Maybe if you'd shut up long enough for him to get a word in edgewise," was Kevin's ironic comment.
"I know him," came out of his mouth, leaving him with no real idea of how it'd gotten there.
"You don't! You do. Can you introduce us? Please?"
"You really don't want to meet him, Ted."
"Oh, yeah, I do."
"He's -" uh...a vampire? - "bad news."
"I don't care. Come on, Alex."
Xander sighed. I'll think of something. "Let me get dressed."
He dawdled over his dressing until Steve commented, "If I didn't know better, I'd think you were meeting an old boyfriend!"
"He's not, is he?" Ted asked, anxious. "You said...."
"No, he's not a boyfriend, old or otherwise. Straight, remember? He - tried to kill me once." More than once, really.
"Kill you?" Steve gasped. "Are you serious? Should we call the police?"
Xander spent a moment trying to figure out exactly what calling the police would accomplish, then said, "No, no, that's not necessary. Just - let me deal with him."
The others agreed, reluctantly. "But we'll be waiting in here, Alex. Just yell, if you need help."
He gave the other man a smile. "Thanks, Steve." Xander, unarmed and ordinary, went to face down the vampire.
Not quite unarmed, he thought, grabbing a broom as he walked by the open janitor's closet. At least I can stake him from a distance. As he expected, Spike was waiting outside the employees' entrance, smoking, nonchalant. "What do you want, Spike?" he demanded, tightening his hold on the broom.
Unsurprisingly, Spike ignored both the challenge and the implied threat of Xander's weapon. "Slayer throw you out, 'Paolo?' Decide that too many donuts were bad for her figure?"
"No," he snarled, "not that it's any of your business."
"Is that any way to treat a paying customer?" Spike asked, bringing his hands to his chest in mock-horror. "And after I gave you such a nice big tip, too."
"Which I'm sure you stole off somebody before you killed them."
He shrugged. "He doesn't need it any more."
"What are you doing here, Spike?"
"I could ask you the same question. Male stripper? Definitely a step up from Slayer-puppy, but not a career choice I expected you to make."
"For your information," Xander replied in precise, ringing tones, "I'm seeing America."
"And you started in /Oxnard/?"
"I'm saving up for a car."
"Isn't it a tradition to have a car before you start your trip? Or are you commuting from Sunnyhell? Bit of a walk, for somebody what doesn't have a car."
"I live here. For now. I - had a car, but it died. Here. So I'm saving up to replace it." Which means you just admitted that the Slayer's in Sunnydale, and there's no cavalry to save your ass from the evil undead - just a scared guy with a broom, backed by a bunch of gay strippers who think Spike and I used to go steady. Good one, Harris.
Spike took in the dingy parking lot and the dingier building they stood beside. "Here?"
"No, not /here/. Over there." He gestured toward the long-term motel he currently called home. It was a step up from Faith's, anyway.
"Oh, that's much better." The vampire took a step closer to him. "Stripper gig working out for you, then?"
"It beats washing dishes," he admitted.
Spike shook his head and laughed. "You're rather more than I thought you were, Paolo."
"Come on, boy. Let me buy you a decent meal and a bed." He started away from him. When Xander didn't follow, he stopped and turned back. "Well?"
"You expect me to just come with you? Get in the car with - you?"
"Of course I do." He frowned. "I'm not going to eat you, ducks. I'm going to feed you. What's the best place to get a meal in this dump? That's still open, of course."
"Just the IHOP," he said. Okay, we've reached all new levels of surreal here.
"Fine. You can get some of those chocolate-chip pancakes. I'm sure you haven't had a decent meal in ages."
"Well, not really." Xander followed him, because he didn't seem to have much of a choice. That, and he'd never been in the habit of turning down free meals. There was a bit of awkwardness when he got to Spike's car and was still holding the broom, but Spike took it from him, broke off a foot-long piece, and handed it to him with a half-bow, dropping the cleaning implement on the ground.
The vampire gave me a stake. Ladies and gentlemen, I have not yet begun to be weirded out. "Uh - thanks."
"You're welcome." And he was in an aged DeSoto with blacked-out windows and a surprisingly nice sound system, going to have breakfast with a mortal enemy. An enemy who had made certain he, Xander, was armed. An enemy who tipped you fifty bucks, he reminded himself, thinking about the bill Spike had handed him.
"So what are you doing in Oxnard?" he asked, if only to break the silence after their orders had been placed and the menus were no longer there to pour over. Spike had ordered a Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity with an absolutely straight face and a wink to the waitress. Xander had ordered the chocolate-chip pancakes, almost out of obligation. Not that he had any objection to junk food on principle, and he'd ordered the very same thing plenty of other times, but Spike had suggested it.
"Just passing through."
"And passing through involved a stint at the Fabulous Ladies' Night?"
"The what? Oh, the club? I was hunting."
It confirmed his suspicions, but Xander's testicles were desperately trying to crawl back home. Hunting and he picked up ME!
"Still not going to eat you, pet." His voice was low and amused.
"Then why? Why are you buying me breakfast instead of finding someone to eat?" Vampires took pleasure in causing pain. Killing was a thrill. Eating greasy bacon was not.
He shrugged. "You were a familiar face in a town of strangers. A pleasant surprise, let's say."
My God - I think the vampire is lonely. Eep. "Where's Dru?" he asked, and then his brain tardily suggested that perhaps that wasn't the best thing to ask a psychotic killer, even one playing with strawberry syrup.
Spike didn't - quite - look stricken. "Brazil," he said harshly, and they lapsed into a painful silence that was only broken by the waitress arriving with their food.
"Tell me about America," Xander suggested, cutting up his pancakes. "Somewhere beyond Oxnard."
Spike grinned. "Ever been to Seattle?"
"Never. I've never been any further than L.A., to be honest."
"Seattle's fantastic." And he was off, telling wild stories about the West Coast, using bits of food to illustrate. At one point, he recreated a sort-of epic battle between demon gangs using fifteen packets of sugar substitute and a shredded napkin. Strawberry syrup substituted handily for blood.
"Better leave a big tip," Xander suggested as they were leaving, looking at the sticky disaster that once was their table. "That's going to be a huge mess for the busboy to clean up."
"He should be grateful I'm leaving him around to clean it up," Spike grumbled, but did so.
Outside, the night was thinking about becoming morning. It was cool but not cold as they walked to the car. Spike gave him another smile. "You're not half bad, boy. Mildly amusing, anyway. Want a traveling companion, for your tour of America?"
"A traveling companion?"
"I even have my own car." He patted it.
Xander paused. Escape, in one casual offer. Who knew how many more nights on the dingy stage it would take before he had enough to buy his way out of Oxnard? On the other hand, he's probably mentally unstable, has absolutely no scruples, and kills for fun. Not exactly a safe kind of traveling companion. "What if you get tired of me?"
He shrugged, simple beauty in the movement. "I'll leave you somewhere better than here."
It went against every deliberate bone in his body, but he got in the car. "What the hell. Could be fun."
Spike grinned. "Where shall we begin?"