Learning Something New About Old Friends

By Saber ShadowKitten
And Now For Something Completely Different 13

August 15, 2000

With a final odd look at Spike, Xander pulled away from the curb and headed for Cordelia's apartment. The Hawk's engine purred its familiar tune and the vibration of the powerful engine between Xander's thighs was comforting, as he made his way through the late night traffic at a fast clip.

The arms clutching his waist, however, weren't the ones he was used to feeling. Spike had a tendency to hook his thumbs through the belt loops on Xander's trousers. The fingers wrapped tightly in the material of his shirt also had a much nicer manicure.

"Left up here," Cordelia instructed loudly.

Xander nodded to let her know he heard her and checked over his shoulder. Despite the hour, there was a vast number of cars on the street, heading from work to home, or party to party, all at an impatiently rapid pace.

Xander loved driving at night, but not in the city. The high number of bright headlights were quite irritating, as if cars came equipped with twin lasers specifically designed to hurt his sensitive eyes. Normally when he and Spike reach a city he let Spike take control of the bike.

Xander arrived at a clean, well-kept apartment complex and parked the Hawk. He surreptitiously eyed the wind-blown brunette as she straightened her clothing after climbing off the motorcycle.

Even with her hair sticking in several directions, Cordelia Chase was still a fine specimen of femininity, Xander thought. The rush of blood southward indicated his body agreed with him.

"Are you going to sit there all night or what?" Cordelia said in a tone of voice that Xander, just then, realized he'd missed.

Xander smiled at her, climbed off the Hawk, retrieved the gear tied to the back of the bike, and followed her out of the parking lot.

"I'd better warn you that I have a roommate. His name is Dennis," Cordelia began as she opened the door to her apartment.

Xander followed her inside and came to an abrupt stop when he saw a bright white figure standing just inside the door. He was instantly on alert. There were only two beings he knew of that looked completely white -- himself and Spike.

"And this must be him," Xander said, offering his hand for a handshake. He wanted to touch the other man to see if that would help identify what he was. "Hello, Dennis. I'm Xander."

Both Cordelia and Dennis stared at him in shock. Xander dropped his hand and looked back and forth between the two of them, then glanced over his shoulder. "What? Is there a monster standing behind me?"

"You can see Dennis?" Cordelia squeaked.

"Uh, yeah, it's pretty easy, considering he's standing right there," Xander replied, gesturing towards Dennis.

"Xander, Dennis is a ghost," Cordelia said. "He's invisible."

Xander frowned at her, then at Dennis. He pulled his sunglasses slightly down and squinted at the figure standing in Cordelia's entryway. Oh hell, he thought, noticing the haziness where Dennis's feet should have been. Ghosts, he suddenly remembered from his Scooby Gang research parties, were comprised entirely of energy, which was why Dennis appeared all white to him.

Cordelia had a ghost for a roommate. And Xander said he could see Dennis. How in the hell was he going to explain that?

"Oh!" Xander exclaimed, shoving his sunglasses back into place. "Spell!"

Cordelia gave him a combination skeptical and freaked look. "Spell?"

"Yeah." Xander thought fast. "I, uh, was messing with magick and now," he lowered his voice and whispered, "I see dead people."

She slugged him on the shoulder. "Not funny."

"I thought it was pretty good," Xander said with a lopsided grin.

"Well, you're wrong." Cordelia studied him a moment. "You can really see Dennis?"

"'Fraid so," he replied.

"Is he cute?"

Xander saw Dennis primp himself and chuckled. "Passably decent," he answered, earning him a glare from the ghost in question. "So, Dennis, how do you like living with Cordy?"

The glare became a purely male smile, rendering the thumbs up sign Dennis gave Xander unnecessary. Xander grinned back.

"Can you hear him, too?" Cordelia asked with slight irritation in her tone. "And what did he say?"

"No, I can't hear him," Xander told her, but said nothing further. Dennis winked at him.

"Oh. Well, okay." Cordelia put a hostess smile on her face. "Let me show you the couch."

Cordelia's showing him the couch ended up becoming a tour of her spacious apartment. Xander was impressed and a bit envious, even more than a bit if he was honest with himself. Cordelia had only left Sunnydale a year and a half ago, and she had a steady job, a great apartment, good friends -- although he wouldn't brag about having Angel, the Souled Ass and Wesley, the Wuss as friends -- and she still looked fantastic.

And what did he have? Spike. Somehow the trade-off didn't seem to be in Xander's favor.

Okay, yes, he had a kick-ass motorcycle, a nice wad of cash from a stint of stripping during their stopover in San Francisco, he was almost invincible, and he got laid regularly. But he still had to put up with freaky vision, lightning storms, and draining the power from every room.

And don't forget Spike.

Which Xander couldn't do, no matter how hard he tried.

Cordelia laughed and a pleased feeling curled in Xander's stomach. They were sitting on opposite corners the couch that would be doubling as Xander's bed, chatting like a couple of old friends. Which, Xander guessed, they were.

Cordelia had shared about her life since she'd left Sunnydale, and Xander realized he'd known nothing about the brooding vampire he'd hated from the get-go. His ex-girlfriend spoke of Angel with obvious fondness, as if he were an older brother that she couldn't help but love.

Maybe he'd been wrong, Xander thought, as Cordelia waxed poetic about Angel, the Brave, Strong, Manly-Vamp with the Heart of Gold and his Dorky but Stalwart Sidekick Wesley the Wise. Perhaps he'd hadn't given Deadboy a fair chance. Or the Giles Wannabe.

"So, what about you?" Cordelia said, taking a sip of her diet soda. "What have you been doing since high school?"

"Traveling, mostly," Xander replied. He propped his elbow on the arm of the couch and leaned his head against his hand. "Did you know there are eighty-seven cities named Montgomery on the west coast alone?"

"I did not know that." Cordelia grinned.

"Now you do," Xander said, smiling in return.

"I take it you were odd-job boy to finance your Lewis and Clarkness," she surmised, taking another sip.

"Here and there," Xander agreed. "It got much easier to make some quick cash once I got my stripper's license."

Cordelia almost choked on her drink. "S-stripper's license?"

"Wild, huh?" Xander said, fiddling with the stem of his sunglasses. "They have licenses for pretty much everything now."

She gave him a skeptical look. "You're a stripper."

"When we're broke, yeah," Xander said. "All the bigger cities have clubs or services, so it's just a matter of flashing my license and I get a gig."

"Right." The disbelief was heavy in Cordelia's voice. "And how much does taking off your clothes to music get you?"

Xander half-shrugged. "Around twenty-five if it's a job, less if it's a show."

"Twenty-five dollars?" Cordelia scoffed.

"Hundred, Cordy," Xander corrected. "Twenty-five hundred."

Cordelia's jaw dropped. "You've got to be kidding me."

Xander tucked his sunglasses in his shirt, arched up and pulled his wallet from the front pocket. He removed the laminated, complete-with-godawful-picture professional stripper's license and passed it to her. "With a job -- that's when I strip for a party or another hired entertainment event -- there's a base pay of $500, plus whatever tips you can get. And the drunker the customers, the higher the tips."

"Uh-huh." Cordelia closely examined the license, comparing the photo to Xander. She scratched at it with her thumb.

"I usually just grab a show whenever we're low on funds," Xander continued. "Almost all male strip clubs will let a Licensed grab a five minute spot. I only get paid by tips for those gigs, though, and I have to provide my own music."

Cordelia handed back his licensed and smiled widely. "I think you're lying through your teeth."

"You find it so hard to believe?" Xander said, tucking his wallet away.

"In a word: yes!"

"Glad to see you still know how to grind up a male's ego into powder, Cord," Xander commented with a shake of his head.

"If you're a stripper, prove it." Cordelia gestured towards the open area of her living room. "Shake that groove thang for me, baby."

Xander quirked a brow. "Are you challenging me?"

"I think there's a quarter or two in the couch cushions for a tip," Cordelia said with a mocking smile.

If there was one thing Xander had learned from traveling with Spike, it was never to let Spike use you for a pillow, because he drooled.

The other thing he learned was never to let a challenge you know you can win pass you by.

"All right, Queen C," Xander rose and handed her his sunglasses, "you're on."