“Hello?” Buffy called out as she came home, hearing noise in the kitchen. For a moment, nothing happened, but then quite suddenly Spike came barrelling into the hall, right in front of her with a cookie in his hand and a grin of victory on his face. Victory which quickly turned to guilt when he realised she was there.
It wasn’t a look Buffy was used to seeing, not for the last few years. “What’s going on?” she asked, a little worried.
The worry only turned into stress when Dawn yelled from the kitchen, but yell she did. Loudly. “Spike! I told you...” She came rushing out too, stopping only when she realised Buffy was home. Spike had long smooshed the cookie into his mouth, but he seemed to be looking at her as well. “Buffy,” Dawn said, relieved, proving the point as she offloaded the problem, “Spike’s eating all my Diwali cookies!”
Squeezing her eyes shut, Buffy took a breath, feeling the stress. She realised she had been dreading something like this - not the cookie eating, obviously, but the part where she reverted to being the grown up of the house. Dawn had only officially moved back home a few weeks ago, in time to start researching towards her Watcher’s degree, but Buffy wasn’t sure if she could adjust. To be honest, even if it was a worrying thought, she kind of missed coming home to Spike in the living room, his bathrobe and his dictionaries, the TV bantering inanely as he scribbled away in his notebooks. (Asking why he wasn’t dressed. Sitting with him anyway, comfy on faux-leather. Playing with his toes while he finished work...)
She was not used to the mediating, not anymore. She didn’t want to be.
Yet Dawn insisted on pushing her case, looking flustered with her apron all floury. “It’s our seminar tomorrow and Jindy and Paresh said they were bringing stuff,” she explained, in something that sounded very close to a whine, “so I said I’d help out so we had enough for everyone - but Spike’s, like, eating them all! And I spent ages icing all the lamps and stuff and...”
“Now, hang on, Bit,” Spike cut in at last, his mouth now empty and his fingers surreptitiously licked clean. (He really was way too clothed for five o’clock.) “You’ve got enough to feed an army in there; your mates are hardly gonna miss a couple.”
“It’s the principle!” Dawn insisted, nonetheless starting to blush. “I promised I’d make cookies and I can’t show up with, like... Buffy!” She was looking a little desperate now, which made Buffy think this was possibly less about Diwali spirit and more about Dawn having a crush on this Paresh guy. Or Jindy, she supposed she had to think after that awkward conversation that had happened and been awkward. But that didn’t need bringing up now. Especially since Buffy had taught Jindy once upon a time and - and when did this all get so complicated?
“OK!” Buffy held up her hands for silence, sick of the worry in her head. Really, she decided, anyone who could talk sexuality with their sister was old enough to fight their own cookie battles. And so she addressed Dawn: “Screen-wipe, as you would say.” Oh yeah, and anyone who used phrases she didn’t understand was definitely independent. “This is not my house.” Didn’t they all share the bills? “I am not Mom.” Didn’t she get to stay being young, after only recently rediscovering she was?. “I hereby abdicate all Mom duties. You’re an adult and Spike -” He was slouching diffidently against the wall now, amused by her. Whatever; she knew he’d paint over any marks. “I’m pretty sure you count as adult too. If you wanna have an argument, go ahead, but I’m gonna watch Come Dine with Me.”
And with that she left them to it.
The discussion returned to the kitchen, remaining heated - but Buffy blocked it out, heading to the back of the house and turning on Spike’s beloved plasma-screen. Five minutes later, however, the vampire himself appeared, looking perversely cheery with what she supposed was one last cookie. He had another for her as well, and she accepted it wordlessly as he settled by her side.
“Is that it?” she asked eventually, trying to gauge his mood. “I figured there’d be shouting for a while.”
He laughed, implying that she may have overreacted, but it was reassuring anyway. “Nah, love,” he said, one arm around her shoulders. “It was only a little tiff. Nothing to worry about.”
His response made her frown, refocus on her show as the bubbly credits music started up. She wasn’t sure she even wanted little tiffs, but she couldn’t think of anything to actually say about it.
All the same, Spike noticed. “Don’t fret about it, eh?” he said, dropping a kiss to her hair before he whispered confidentially, “She’s easy to live with, your sis, when you’re on a level. You’ve never got to see before.”
She shrugged, not really feeling placated. “I guess it’s a new start, huh? Gotta get used to it.”
The TV babble was awkward for a moment after that, until Spike finally came up with, “You know, you only have to say if you miss having me in my undress. I know it was a highlight.”
Buffy kicked him with a heel, amused despite herself. Damn him. If only she knew how to deflate his ego...
Thankfully, however, that was when Dawn came in. “Eww, Spike,” she commented, crinkling up her nose as she took a seat the mismatched armchair (with a cookie for herself, Buffy saw). “No way am I sitting on that couch anymore.”
That made Buffy laugh, mostly because of Spike’s expression. Yeah, this was a new vibe to the house. But, actually - maybe she could get used to it after all.