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So, I finished getting dressed and headed back to the service station.

By the time I got there, Jim-Bob had managed to get in touch with his brother and they were both sitting in his office waiting for me to show up.

"You must be Xander," the man acknowledged me, rising to shake my hand. "William Joseph Perkins," he introduced as we shook hands. I saw it coming even before he continued. "People around here call me Billy-Joe." He was a lot more refined than his brother, but there were enough little things in his mannerisms that told me that he and his brother had the same small-town-back-woods-or-whatever background.

"Alexander Harris," I replied, keeping my suspicion of hillbilly-ism to myself. "Call me Xander."

"Jim-Bob tells me you're looking for a job for a few months?" he asked, sizing me up.

I nod, slightly nervous from the visual scrutiny he was giving me. "Really just until I can afford to replace my car," I admitted.

Billy-Joe smiled. "Well, Xander, I could definitely use your help in the kitchen at the club. We're really short handed these days. Our last bus-boy decided to start dancing and we haven't had any luck replacing him yet."

Dancing? What did that have to do with him not washing dishes? Unless of course he headed off to New York or something to get into the shows or something. Or maybe he worried that dish-pan hands would hurt his chances at hooking up with a partner. Didn't really matter, I supposed.

"Do you have any experience?"

I flushed. Somehow I didn't think that I could count being an assistant-to-the-Slayer on my resume. "Not really," I admitted. "I wash the dishes at home and everything…"

Billy-Joe waved his hand to silence me. "No matter. It's not a difficult job. You'll be fine, I'm sure."

"Sounds good. When can I start?"

"Well, we can head over there now and start filling out some paper work. I can start getting things processed this evening and you could start as early as tomorrow night if you'd like."

"Sign me up."

"I was hoping you'd say that. Let's go over and get you started."

A few minutes later I was highly regretting my decision to take the job without getting a few more details about the place. I stared at the name on the door of the club. The Fabulous Ladies' Night Club. A strip club. For ladies. Somehow that just wasn't as appealing as the sort of club I had in mind. Maybe I'd spend tomorrow during the day looking for something a little different...but I decided that I may as well fill out the paperwork just in case. It wouldn't hurt to have this place as a backup.

After I finished with the paperwork, Billy-Joe handed me a paper bag. Peeking inside revealed a pair of black pants and a bow-tie-ish sort of elasticy thing. "Uh…Billy-Joe?" I queried. "What sort of shirt do I wear?"

His eyes gleamed as he grinned. "Actually, son, when you're out in the club that's your uniform. In the kitchen you'll have an apron."

Oh good. I was so going to go right out and search for a different job as soon as I left.

"You are okay with that, aren't you son?"

I forced myself to smile. "Sure. No problem." Why hadn't I spent more time at the gym lately?

"Terrific. I'll see you here tomorrow afternoon at 4 to get you acquainted with the place and help set things up, then."

I shook his hand again and headed out to find a job that was a little more my style.

As luck would have it there were two other places in walking distance that were hiring. A restaurant looking for a fully-dressed bus-boy and way better yet, a comic book shop. Now there's a dream job for me. I mean if there's anything I know a lot about it's comics. I could do that job in my sleep. As luck would further have it, I was able to get appointments for interviews for both places the following morning.

But as you know, my luck has never been that good.

I had a lot of trouble getting to sleep that night. I was just too restless. My first night out of Sunnydale, my first real job-hunting experience, two job interviews in the morning…I was too pumped up to sleep. Of course going to job interviews after having gotten no sleep was not exactly a good idea. So I went out and ran a few miles to work off some of my extra energy. By the time I got home it was nearly three in the morning and I was exhausted. I pretty much collapsed into bed and was asleep before my head even hit the pillow.

Which led to the fact that I forgot to set the alarm.

When I woke up, I saw that I only had about twenty minutes to get up, take a shower, get dressed, and get to the restaurant for my interview. There was little chance that I was going to make it. Great. One job blown before I can even interview for it. I could have skipped the shower and probably gotten there in time, but I hadn't showered after my midnight run and I suspected that if I showed up as is, that I probably wouldn't make a terribly good impression. Not exactly the sort of hygiene that was desired in someone working around food. Besides, I really wanted the job at the comic shop, not the one bussing tables. That would be so much better. I decided to blow off the restaurant interview and take my time getting ready for the second appointment.

Besides, a nice long hot shower sounded really nice.

And it was. At least it was right up until I remembered that the door had swollen during my quick shower the afternoon before.

I bolted from the shower and lunged for the door. To my horror it was completely stuck. It wouldn't budge even a little. I pulled at it for several minutes, trying to get the door open, but it wasn't making any bit of difference. It was just as stuck as it had been when I'd first gotten out of the shower. Of course, it probably didn't help that the hot water was still running and filling the room with still more steam.

The damage was already done, but I dove for the knobs and tried to shut the water off. Except the knob for the hot water came off in my hand.

Damn! I tried to snap it back into place, but the pin had actually broken off. I hadn't even pulled it that hard! I had to find a way to shut off the water. And quick. I didn't have my watch on as I'd left it out in the other room, but by my estimation I had only about an hour to get to my interview at the comic shop.

I had to think. Just a little problem solving. What do I do when I have a problem that needs solving? I stop and think what anyone with half-a-brain would think. What would Willow do? She was always good at coming up with ingenious plans with limited resources. Okay, the trick would be to think like Willow.

I quickly scoured the room for something that could help me. Soap. Two towels. Complementary packets of shampoo and conditioner. Little plastic drinking cups. Nothing!

I tried to grab the pin to turn it using my bare hands, but it was too hot and I couldn't get a grasp. I grabbed the towel off the rack and wrapped my hand so that maybe could get a hold if I could use the towel to absorb the heat. Unfortunately it was no good. When I was able to get the towel thick enough to absorb the heat, it became too thick to get a hold of the small pin.

I stared at the pin, hoping that it would somehow give me another idea. There was a very slight notch in the side of the pin. Maybe there was something that I could wedge into the notch and use as kind of a lever or something to turn the pin and shut the water off. But what could I possibly use?

I stepped back and looked around again. It was getting really hot in the room. It didn't help that the lights were those high-wattage ones that let off a lot of heat. And the switch was on the other side of the door. I threw the wet towel into the tub and grabbed the dry one. Using that, I unscrewed the bulbs. It didn't help with the steam, but at least it wasn't quite as hot. One small problem solved. Two major problems to go.

I pulled open the drawer in hopes that someone may have left behind something useful. Fingernail clippers! I snatched them up and hurried back over to the shower. I snapped the fingernail file arm out of the clippers and slid it into the notch. It fit snugly. I was really getting somewhere! Now all I had to do was turn it…

I screamed in frustration as the fingernail file bent. It was too weak to budge the pin. Damn it! Wait. There was merit in screaming. "HEEEEELLLLLPPPP!" I screamed, hoping that the walls of the hotel were thin enough that someone would be able to hear me. I began pounding on the walls and on the door and bellowing.

Unfortunately, it seemed that someone had spared no expense in the hotel walls. I spent a good twenty minutes screaming myself silly before I finally accepted that either no one could hear me or no one was willing to help me. And I'd pre-paid for an entire month's rent. At which point the woman had indicated that if I requested maid service I should call the front desk. There was absolutely no one who would come looking for me. Maybe Jim-Bob or Billy-Joe, but somehow I suspected that they would probably just assume that I'd found a way to get out of town or something.

I still had half an hour to get out and still make it to my interview. It wasn't a total write off…yet.

There had to be something I could do! If I could find something to use to pry the door open…obviously the fingernail file would be way too weak. I glanced around the room again. The towel rack. Metal. I grabbed hold of the rack and pulled as hard as I could, yanking it off the wall. HAH! Take that!

Okay, so now I had a broken towel rack.

Okay, I had a broken towel rack, a wet towel, a dry towel, soap, shampoo…wait a moment. It was a long shot, but it was worth a try. I slid the metal bar out of the brackets of the towel rack. Then I just needed to flatten the end of it somehow. I tested the strength of it. It didn't feel like it would be too hard to bend. I needed something to help me do so I looked around the small bathroom again. Perfect!

I held the bar upright with the tip at the edge of the open drawer. Okay, one…two…SLAM! The end of the bar crumpled. HA! Now I had a pry bar!

I tried to wedge the pry bar between the frame and the door. I just wasn't going to happen. There was absolutely no leeway. And trying was only bending the tip of the bar.

I flattened it in the drawer again. Maybe I could use it to pop the pins out of the hinges and just take the door off.

After about fifteen minutes attempting to do that I realized that it was futile. On closer inspection I noticed that the bolts were actually welded to the door. Apparently the hotel didn't want anyone stealing their doors.

There had to be a way out and I needed to find it soon. I was still roasting even with the lights out. Maybe I'd luck out and the hotel would run out of hot water. It had been running full blast for over forty minutes. Of course I could imagine that it being a hotel, they'd have to have a pretty big reserve. Please let the reserve run out soon! Of course even then I'd still have to wait for the swelling to go down before I'd be able to budge the door. At this rate there was absolutely no way I would get to the interview on time even if I were able to just walk out of the bathroom. Damn it! Maybe they wouldn't be mad if I were only a couple minutes late. There had to be a way to get the door to open!

My mind began racing again. There had to be something I hadn't thought of yet. I've had to get out of tight spots before…That was it! Once when we were little I'd gotten my head stuck between two rungs of the Rosenberg's staircase. They'd used soap to make the banister rungs slick. Okay, so maybe I could make the door a little bit slick. Except there was no way to get at it at all with soap.

I grabbed the packet of shampoo. Perfect. I ripped open the packet and began pouring the contents down the edge of the door and watched as it rolled down, collecting in a puddle on the floor.

I slid to the ground, laughing and not really knowing why. I should be crying and tearing my hair out.

I could imagine the headline already: Naked Man Wrecks Hotel Bathroom, Starves to Death.


Screaming wasn't helping. I had to calm down.


Great. And now I had voices ringing in my head.

"Sir, are you okay in there?"

No, that was distinctly a voice coming from the other side of the door!

"Help?" I asked whoever it was.

"What's going on in there, Honey?" a woman with a gravelly voice called from the other side. She sounded like she'd been smoking about six packs a day for the past 20 years.

"The door's stuck. I can't open it!" I informed her.

"Well, Honey, the doors swell when the room steams up. You should leave the door open when you take a shower. Just turn off the hot water and let the room cool down, okay, Doll?"

"I can't turn off the water. The knob fell off."

"Okay I'll try and open it from this side." After a few moments listening to her pounding on the door I heard her curse. "Well, I'll be damned. That door just don't want to open." I heard her laughing. Oh sure, it's probably funny if it's not you. "You hang in there, Honey, I'll go get some help…"

It was about twenty minutes after that that I heard several more people in the next room. Oh great. An audience. And nudity!

I grabbed the dry towel and wrapped it around myself and waited for them to break through to my side of the door.

"We're going to try and force the door open," the gravel lady called. "You should probably stand in the shower, Sugar." I obeyed not even thinking about the fact that I was now getting the only dry towel sopping wet until it was too late. Great.

It took about fifteen minutes of them working, but finally they managed to get the door open. Two rather large men burst into the room and turned to look at me. And then they burst out laughing.

"Tough day, kid?" one of them asked, as he looked around the tiny bathroom.

"You have no idea."

The men turned and left the room, allowing me to get out of the tub and head into the main room.

The gravel lady smiled as I emerged from the bathroom relatively unscathed. "You okay, Sugar?" she asked.

"Nothing hurt but my pride." She laughed appreciatively, then looked me over again. I became fully aware of the fact that I was now standing before her wearing only soaking wet towel that was clinging to my skin. "If you'll excuse me I have to…get dressed now." I grabbed a clean shirt and my jeans.

"You don't by chance dance do you, Dollface?" she asked.

I turned and stared at her for a moment. "Your last name wouldn't be Perkins, would it?"

She extended her hand. "Elizabeth Jean Starkey." Betty-Jean. Fitting. "Maiden name, Perkins."

Interlude II

By now Buffy is laughing. "That really happened?"

"No. I made it up to humble myself to you," I lie.

Buffy frowns, but her eyes are still sparkling. "Thank you, Xander. I feel a little better now."

"I'm off the hook? I hadn't even gotten to the really humiliating part yet!" Me and my big mouth.

"Oh, really," Buffy eyes me. "I never said you were forgiven."

Heh. Okay, she has me there. "But I am, right?"

Her frown deepens. "You could have really ruined things with Riley."

"Does the fact that I didn't score me any points?"

"A few, but not enough. Now spill."

"Okay, fine. So, I shooed Betty-Jean out of my room and got dressed. Unfortunately by then I was late for my interview at the comic shop. I went anyway, but the manager wouldn't talk to me. He said that he needed someone who would be responsible, and he wasn't convinced that I was that man.

"So I went over to the restaurant, but they'd hired someone else after I'd missed my appointment there, too."

"So, you got stuck working at the Fabulous Ladies' Night," Buffy finishes, her mouth forming that same slight smile again.

"Oh, but it doesn't end there…"

Buffy grins. "The night the dancer called in sick?"


"I thought you said no power on this earth would ever make you tell what happened."

And I really hadn't thought there was one. Until I'd seen her so upset with me. So maybe there was one I'd overlooked. "Well…maybe one power," look at her in total seriousness. "But you have to promise me that what I tell you does not leave this room."

She nods, still grinning. "No power on this earth will ever make me tell."

I roll my eyes. "Okay, so I'd been working there about a week and a half and it--"

"A week and a half? I thought you told me it was a couple months!" She laughs. "You were a dancer the whole summer?"

"Yet again, do you want me to tell this not?"

She forces the grin off her face and apologizes. "I'll be quiet."

"Thank you. Now where was I…? Oh yes. I'd been working there about a week and a half…"