Reason to Celebrate

Xander told everyone he was driving to Oxnard to pick up some supplies for his bosses. He got noises of sympathy, but no offers of company.

Spike would have offered, but for two points: pesky Old Man Sun, and all those badly hidden booklets and practice tests labeled Study Guide for the State of California General Contractor's License. The nearest test center was in Oxnard, and Spike knew Xander was trying to avoid distractions and jinxes by not telling anyone the truth.

It was after dark when Xander returned. Spike heard the car pull in and he hit the second button on the speed dial. One standard order to the pizza parlor later, and Spike had the phone hung up by the time Xander reached the door.

Spike paused in opening the refrigerator to watch Xander come in. He was quiet and looked a little lost. Spike swore and got out two bottles of beer, then carried them over to the Xander-occupied couch.

"How did it go?" he asked carefully.

Xander paused in opening his bottle to glare at him. "How did what go?"

Spike nodded at the dining room table and its pile of papers. "Never underestimate a bored, snooping vampire roommate."

"Damn." Xander's shoulders slumped.

"I didn't tell anybody else."

"Thanks."

"So how did it go?" Spike braced for a tale of botched answers and broken pencils.

"I passed," Xander whispered.

"By how much?" Maybe he'd barely squeaked by on pity grading.

"Highest score of the day."

"So why do you look like you ran over somebody's puppy!"

"I've never been smart before. I don't know how to be smart."

"Bollocks." Spike yanked the cap off his bottle of beer and half-drained it. "You've always been smart."

"Tell that to my SAT scores."

"Git. Just last week you sat there and explained why Terminators couldn't travel through time unless they were buck naked, and it wasn't just because Arnold likes showing off his ass."

"That's not smart, that's--geekery."

"And that test today, what was that?"

"A fluke. Or a mistake."

Spike glared at him. "So what would make you celebrate?"

"When the actual license shows up in the mail, that's when I'll believe it."

A week later, when Xander got home and opened the refrigerator, he found a legal-sized envelope from the Board of Licensing laying on top of a Baskin-Robbins ice cream cake. The cold had undone Spike's efforts at resealing the steamed-open envelope.

"How'd you get the cake?" he asked the vampire he knew was within earshot.

"Sewers. Now can we celebrate you being smart?"

Xander didn't try very hard to hide wiping his eyes. "Yeah."