quinara: Why Bird from Playdays with tea in front of the Whytech. (Why Bird tea and tech)
[personal profile] quinara
It's probably about time I posted something fannish again. So have a fic! This grew out of certain pressure from [personal profile] bogwitch and [personal profile] shapinglight when we were discussing this month's Baking-ish theme at [livejournal.com profile] sb_fag_ends. It's too long for the comm, but it does involve a glimpse into the life of domestic Spuffy (set around now, I suppose, and linked to Getting across the River and my Long Distance series), as well as The Great British Bake Off (which is an excellent baking competition programme thing) and Sue Perkins (who is an excellent comedian, broadcaster and person - as you obviously already knew).

~2200 words; PG; nothing needing an AO3 warning, but quite a lot of cake. And gingerbread.

Making the most out of her retirement, Buffy has made it to the final of The Great British Bake Off. Now Sue Perkins has come to interview her at home, but gets a little more than she bargained for.

A Quirk of Perkins.

Being Sue Perkins was a lot harder than some people realised.

There was all the time she had to spend with Giles Coren, for a start – but outside of that, outside of the corsets and silly hats and squeamish restaurant critics, there were the all the other irritating practicalities that came with TV comediennry, such as the long hours. And the countless attempts to deliver an off-the-cuff witticism with the same serendipitous tone and phrasing for repeated shots and pick-ups. It was tricky business.

Today, for example, she had been up and travelling since dawn in order to invade the Bake-Off finalists’ various homes and families. It was all in the name of entertainment, but nonetheless it was quite unnerving to see contestants surrounded by their umpteen children and Cath Kidston accessories. There was something private in that, Sue thought. Private, or else the feeling that all the matching casserole dishes were about to launch them into some sort of suburban horror film.

“Right, well, I’m here, chez Summers,” she told Mel down the phone, as her taxi pulled up outside the small but perfectly-formed terrace in Maida Vale. The crew would be here soon, but there was no point running up a bill. They’d best get on with the afternoon tea. “My waistline bids you a fond adieu.”

“I think it’s your throat that’s more at risk, don’t you?” Mel replied before they rang off. She had a point, it had to be said. For some reason, no matter what vagaries of scones and breads and pastries they pushed the bakers towards, Ms Buffy Summers always found a way to add in that little spark of heat. Not that Sue was complaining; the peach and habanero crumble had been filling her dreams for weeks. And she'd barely slept last night at the prospect there might be another batch of the wasabi gingerbread on offer today…

After she’d paid the cabbie, Sue turned to the house’s façade. It wasn’t the Cornish coast, but then not many places were, and even if it was London, there was a welcoming absence of a gas-guzzling Chelsea tractor outside the front gate. Not that that didn’t mean there wasn’t something parked in a garage nearby, but the resident’s parking bay was occupied by a modest, black sedan. That boded well.

Of course, it didn’t matter, because she was going in anyway, but Sue had realised before this trip that they actually knew very little about Buffy, so she wasn’t sure what to expect. Her entry form had been engaging, but for the most part enigmatic, just like she was on location – and now there was this house, completely indistinguishable from any other on the street.

Its doorbell rang easily enough, after a brief climb up the front steps, but an answer didn’t seem immediately forthcoming. Another ring, however, and a snoop at the basement part of the house was accompanied by the sound of loud footsteps clomping down stairs. This unexpected development was followed by an incautious yank on the latch.

“Yeah’llo?” said the man standing on the doormat, now blinking at her blearily in the non-light of the grey afternoon. His hair was platinum white, standing up in ways it wasn’t meant to – at least going by the way he ran his fingers through it. He was wearing jeans with an open red dressing gown. His waxed chest was quite impressively pale; the sort of paleness she usually associated with…

Behind him, she realised then, was the loud noise of an electric whisk. Quickly Sue took it all in; she’d charmed Alaskan truckers in her time, so she was sure she could handle the odd poseur-slob hipster, no matter the surprise he was. “Hello,” she said cheerily. “I’m here to interview Buffy – there’s a camera crew coming in a moment. I suppose you must be…?”

“Spike?” came Buffy’s much more familiar voice, along with a clunkingly dramatic end to the whisking. “What are you – ohmygod, Sue!” she suddenly interrupted herself, coming into view in the house’s narrow hallway. “Is it three already? I was gonna… I need you and Mel with the countdown and, um…” Tiny, flustered, covered in flour but saved by a ‘Kiss the Cook’ apron that looked too big to have been bought for her; yep, that much was the Buffy Sue knew from Ilford. She was charming – but more than a force to be reckoned with, which became clear again as she turned on the other person in the doorway. “Spike!” she exclaimed, slapping messy knuckles against pristine oxblood satin. “I can’t believe you answered the door without a goddamn shirt – again.”

The man, whom before this Sue had only known from Mel’s voice over script as ‘Buffy’s partner William’, cast a sleepy but assessing eye to the doorstep. One winsome grin from her, however, and Sue was watching him shrug, before he wandered off behind Buffy towards the kitchen. “I’m not her type,” he said nonchalantly, gown tails rippling in his wake. “What’s that smell?”

Well, Sue thought. This was certainly different from the usual chubby six year olds. “You know,” she mused, “Mel and I have always said that the show needs more half-naked men. I’ve asked Paul several times, but he always graciously declines.”

Buffy laughed – then sighed, shaking her head and smudging her hands on her apron. “I shouldn’t let him out of the house,” she said, before glancing down at where they were. “I mean, I should keep him in the house. Locked up or something – somewhere.”

One eyebrow raised, Sue let the silence speak for itself on that one.

“Uh…” Buffy looked like she wished she could take that last thought back and out of existence. “Or I could just say ‘come in’! Come in, come in…”

Ushered into the hallway, Sue took the chance to work out what she could from the décor. It was fair to say that the people they had on the show tended towards the comfy cardigan genre of style, or else the practical yet snuggly fleece. At first, no one had especially noticed Buffy’s tendency to wear heels, even while the cameras took an hour’s break in the showstopper challenge, but the dressed-up, slightly Patsy Stone attire was certainly remarked on. If only because of Buffy’s propensity to spill things.

Her house, however – well, the shi-shi vibe was present to a certain extent, in the waxed floorboards and off-white walls, but it was offset, most intriguingly, by the heavy whiff of Victoriana. Floorboards very quickly gave way to Persian rug, which swept through the hallway and clashed with the runner up the stairs. There was a coat and umbrella stand in dark, curlicued wood and iron, long folds of batwing leather most prominently displayed. Line drawings of ice skaters and continental postcards clustered in small frames, while the side table held a vase that was ever so slightly too large.

She was getting disconcerting flashbacks to the Supersizers’ calf’s head. What that meant, she didn’t know.

“I was gonna throw some cupcakes in the oven,” Buffy continued as they went through to the small but practical-looking kitchen. The free-standing cooker looked sturdy – and the fridge was of the enormous American-style genus, with two doors and an ice dispenser. “If you wanna stand by while I… Spike! Get your fingers outta there!” The kitchen also contained one gothic lothario, poking an index finger into a bright yellow mixing bowl.

The finger quickly found his mouth. “Needs more chilli,” was all he offered as a reply.

“It does not need more chilli.” Brandishing a spoon, Buffy ducked between any destructive hands and her mixture, before she started dividing what promised to be another spicy delight into the simple cream paper cases. “This is where you learn all my secrets, Sue,” she added, scooping and dropping with the blinding efficiency that only occasionally let her down. “But, seriously, if he can taste enough chilli to work out he wants more, that’s the time to stop.”

“If it works, then it works,” Sue encouraged – even as Spike pouted. It was becoming rapidly clearer the reason why so much of Buffy’s repertoire tended towards capsaicin. That was at least one mystery solved.

“He’s helpful sometimes, though – aren’t you, Spike?” Buffy asked for confirmation, tossing an authoritative glance over her shoulder, still spooning and dropping. “As in getting dressed and being a proper host helpful, right?”

Apparently still not awake, Spike turned behind him to flick the switch on an already full kettle. “Make yourself at home,” he grumbled as he passed by, replete with the lacking scent of cologne. “I’ll be back in a few.” And then he was gone, though Sue was sure she could her him muttering, “Too bloody early in the afternoon…”

There wasn’t much Sue could do but laugh, but she did offer to make the tea.

“So, do you bake much for friends? Family?” Sue asked later, munching her way through a divine red velvet-chilli cupcake. This was cream cheese icing like cheese had never creamed before. She was still trying to work out how this pair fit together, how Buffy’s life did generally, but it wasn’t going especially well. “Do they support you?”

Slouched beside Buffy on the sofa, drinking a mug of something that looked suspiciously as red as the cake, the mysterious, now black-clad William snorted. Buffy shushed him with a look. “Sure,” she contradicted. “I have a load of hungry friends in town and they all wanna – a, um, piece of the action, you know?” That came with a smile, always adorable, and Sue smirked in acknowledgement of the pun. “My sister – she’s away at the moment, but she got into baking before I did, was kind of my inspiration, but she’s more of –“ Uncertain how to continue, Buffy wrinkled her nose, but Sue let her go on, relaxing back into her heavily patterned armchair. “I mean, she’d never go on something like Bake Off, as if she wanted Paul and Mary’s or anyone’s approval. She’s more like an artist, I guess, while I’m more…”

“Less eccentric,” Spike supplied, dipping red cake into dripping red. What was that? Liquid icing? There was a faint smell… “An artisan.”

You had to give it to him, though; he knew his way around cognate vocabulary.

Buffy looked pleased, poking a toe into the fluffy rug under the coffee table between them. That wasn’t expensive; did that indicate the money was new? “As for my other friends, they like the baking, but not so much the – they weren’t into my great TV debut,” Buffy explained, gesturing towards the excessively nice flatscreen on the wall. “I’m technically retired, but… There was a thing about keeping my face off the airwaves. I may have done this a little, uh, secretly.”

Now that was something. But then… What in heaven’s name was Buffy’s previous profession that she could be retired at whatever age she was – thirty? Mid-thirties? Investment banker was a possibility, but quite a boring one, and it didn’t quite fit. Spy covered the secrecy, but didn’t explain why she was willing to bake for the BBC.

“Shouldn’t you be getting this lot recorded, anyway?” Spike interrupted, staring. “Where’s your camera?”

“Well, I hate to end on that sort of cliffhanger,” Sue distracted herself, remembering. Possibly because her cupcake had somehow vanished. “But – yes, you’re right. I don’t know where the crew have got to…” It was dark outside; had she really been there this long? “We should probably save this for –” She pulled her phone out of her pocket. No missed calls. “Bear with me a moment,” she apologised, standing up.

Taking herself back into the hallway, Sue continued to muse as she typed in ‘Steve’. With a name like Buffy and a taste for high heels… Well, there were options that weren’t polite to suggest, but maybe she’d been some sort of Japanese teen pop sensation. “Hi, Steve?” she asked absently. She might have had action figures and an arcade game. A complete unknown in the UK, but nonetheless not supposed to make TV appearances without a six-figure sum behind them. “Are you all right, my lovely? You haven’t broken down, have you?” Some googling was definitely –

“Sue? Sue? Is that you? Fuck, it’s… We were about to get onto Edgware Road and it came out of nowhere. I don’t even know what… It’s not a dog, I know that; more like a bear, bloody… Right in broad daylight! Sue can you –”

Oh – joy. Sue sighed as Steve panicked on, dragging her mind away from its curiosity. No time to worry about that now. This was what made her life difficult, after all, always interrupting her work and demanding her attention. And she couldn’t ignore it.

Reaching to check she had her stake and her switchblade, Sue let Steve know she’d be there ASAP and hung up, readying herself to make excuses. And then she sighed, turning back to the living room. Everything she’d have to come back to later.

Whatever Buffy’s secret career, Sue decided, no doubt it was far more glamorous than hers.

Or at least so she thought, until she’d made it three steps and had a vampire handing her a crossbow. At that point everything made a lot more sense.

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quinara: Sheep on a hillside with a smiley face. (Default)

December 2015

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