Chapter: 1: This Cherry Pie Is a Miracle
Rating: R. Warnings for cartoon violence, bloody violence and naughty words.
Summary: Hell, as it turns out, serves a great cherry pie.
Words: ~ 17,500 for the story
Disclaimer: Characters belong to Joss Whedon and Eric Kripke. Sadly, I can’t blame the “plot” on “anyone” “else.”
A/N: This is crack. Pure crack. Crack with pie. Please, please don’t think about it too hard. YOU WILL HURT YOURSELF. Thanks (I think) to diamondtook862 and ever_neutral for all of their help and encouragement. This was written faster than I've written anything ever. Any remaining mistakes are from my post-beta panicked fiddling.
Buffy didn’t like Hell all that much.
Well, duh. No one liked Hell. That was sorta the point. It was just that Buffy had expected demons and fire and Iron Maiden albums, and she’d ended up with a scratchy polyester uniform and Keds.
Buffy popped her gum – she always had gum in her mouth – no matter how often she spat it out, and rolled out a piece of dough. The dough was cold and smooth and embedded with bits of butter. Buffy whacked it with the rolling pin. It instantly formed into a perfect, even circle, exactly an eighth of an inch thick.
The dough in Hell was indestructible. Buffy had tried kneading it until her arms ached, because she’d heard somewhere that kneading was bad for shortcrust. She’d rolled the dough unevenly, or into wiggly shapes that didn’t fit the pan. One time, she’d balled the dough and plopped it straight on top of the filling, making cherry juice splatter all over white counter top.
But the pies came out perfectly. Every. freaking. time.
The crusts – half Crisco, half butter – were the best possible combination of flavor and flake. The apple pie tasted how apple pie was always supposed to taste. Only it had always fallen short before, and now it never did. The cherry pie tasted so supremely of cherries that, upon eating it, you wondered what bland red goop you’d been eating all your life. The chocolate cream was the ultimate in chocolatey and creamy. And so on and so on.
Hell was home to the best pies in the universe. It really was.
Stupid Spike. Buffy would have been saved all this aggravation if he had given her a phone call after he’d recorporealized or whatever. Instead, he went on some suicide mission with Angel, which landed him in a special, special Hell, courtesy of Wolfram & Hart. Hence the rescue mission.
Buffy had expected to jump through Will’s portal, beat up a few demons and drag Spike out by the ear. Instead, she had landed in some stupid, old-fashioned diner.
Buffy’s day always started out in the kitchen. In another life, she might have called it quaint. The kitchen had the same black and white-checkered floor as the dining room, and the cabinets were painted red. The counters and gas range were white. Two refrigerators lay to the right of the stove. One was white; the other avocado (a sure sign that this was Hell).
Buffy’s station was on the counter between the range and the refrigerators. There was just enough room to roll out two pie crusts; the top and the bottom. Buffy sometimes piled the fillings to her right, but then she had to watch her elbows ,or she’d knock them over and spend the rest of the day covered in banana pudding.
On the opposite side of the room, there was a window with a ticket carousel hanging in its frame. A long cooking surfac-y thing lined the wall perpendicular to the window. On the left side of the cooking thing, there was a workstation covered with bowls and a pyramid of Wonderbread. Buffy never had to do anything with that stuff, which was maybe good, maybe bad. She had no real urge to spend all day making toast, but a change – any change – would be nice.
Actually, a change of clothes would be super duper. Buffy always wore a bright yellow, polyester dress with bell sleeves and a Peter Pan collar. The stitching tucked in at her waist and flared around her hips, courtesy of a stiff petticoat. A yellow ribbon tied back her hair and a skirt apron wrapped around her waist and ended in a bow. The apron bore a cheap cherry print. It had a pocket, in which Buffy kept a notebook and a pencil stub. White Keds and whiter ankle socks completed the ensemble.
Buffy would have preferred Iron Maiden.
Buffy pressed the dough into to the pan, then used a fork to poke it full of holes. She didn’t know how she knew how to do all this stuff, having only baked a pumpkin pie that one Thanksgiving, but she did.
Buffy poured in the sliced apples, which were mixed with flour, sugar and cinnamon. She had tried destroying the pie fillings, too. She’d burnt them, left out the thickener and mixed in black pepper and bleach. If anything, the flavors had improved. After a week, she’d given up on producing inedible pies.
Buffy rolled out a second ball of flour, this one for the top crust. She took a knife and started cutting strips for the lattice. She didn’t know why she bothered doing it right, since she could throw the whole thing on the wall and still end up with a freshly baked, cinnamon-laced apple pie an hour later. It was a concession on her part, she guessed. And it was kinda soothing to be alone in the kitchen before facing the hard part of her day. Not that she was done fighting, because she so totally wasn’t.
She finished pinching the top and bottom crusts together and popped the pie into the oven. She set the temperature to 700 degrees Fahrenheit. The pie would still come out wonderful, but little acts of defiance made Buffy feel better.
She cleaned up her station, using a metal scraper to get dough and flour off the counter. She got some dough stuck to her wedding ring. Hell had put a ring on her finger, because Hell was the most insane place not-on-Earth. Buffy had tried to get it off using soap, Crisco, butter and canola oil. No dice. She’d have an easier time removing a tattoo.
Buffy looked over her shoulder as Thursday came in through the back door.
Thursday, the short order cook, arrived at six. He arrived at six every morning, just like Buffy always arrived at four. The diner was open from 6:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.. Most of the diners Buffy knew on Earth stayed open from breakfast to dinner, if not all night, but Hell didn’t seem to worry too much about cash flow.
Thursday hadn’t always been a short order cook. He hadn’t said anything about his old life – no one did – but he looked like he’d been an accountant or something. Buffy supposed he could have been a lawyer, but he looked awfully rumpled for a Wolfram & Hart employee. He always wore a wrinkled trench coat and a tie. Hell had decided he could go without a uniform, probably just to be unfair. Then again, wearing a suit and tie in front of a grill didn’t look too comfy.
“Hello Anne.” Thursday spoke in a formal deadpan. His voice was deep and a little rough, like he gargled gravel every morning.
Everyone called her Anne, here. Buffy tried to correct them, but her tongue always fumbled and blurted out something about Mort and the kids.
“Hiya, Thursday. How’s Amelia?”
Buffy suspected that Amelia was about as real as Mort, but she always asked anyway.
“Amelia is fine. I hope this morning finds you well?”
“I’m peachy keen.” Buffy snapped her gum and watched as Thursday tied a white bib apron over his trench coat and began organizing his station. It wouldn’t take long. The diner served four things and four things only: eggs, toast, coffee and pie. People mostly ordered pie.
That was a good thing, because while the pies always came out heavenly, the eggs and toast were inedible. Whatever he had been in life, Thursday made a terrible fry cook.
He was just ... weird. He always looked stiff and uncomfortable. He had probably been in Hell for awhile, but he acted like everything was completely alien. He spent a lot of time just blinking at the grill. Sometimes, Buffy caught him staring at the eggs with his head tilted, like he was communing with their little yellow yolks.
Whatever he said to them, it didn’t help. The scrambled eggs always ran. The fried eggs always scrambled. Nothing would go sunny side up or sunny side down. Egg shells landed in everything. And the toast ... the toast was charcoal. It was more charcoal than charcoal. It was charcoal dust.
“I should get the front of the house ready,” Buffy said. Thursday didn’t blip too hard on Buffy’s demon-radar, but his presence was unsettling. And she really did need to make the coffee and stuff.
Thursday frowned. “I don’t believe the building requires maintenance at this time.”
Uh, yeah. Thursday had definitely been in Hell too long.
“Just make the eggs.” Buffy rolled her eyes.
Getting the front of the house ready meant moving the pies she’d already finished from the kitchen to the glass display counter. The display counter was near the front entrance to the diner. The old-fashioned cash register sat on the counter right next to it, so people could take a moment to drool and then open their wallets. At least, that’s how it would work in a normal, non-Hellish diner. Behind the display case, there was enough room for one or two people to stand, as well as nook for the coffee station and a door that led back into the kitchen.
The diner didn’t contain chairs or tables. Just shiny red booths lined up on either wall, twelve on each side. There was a bell above the door, but it never rang, because customers never came in. They just ... appeared.
Buffy grabbed the cream pies from the avocado fridge. She carried them to the display case and set them inside. Her first customer – an elderly lady with a dead bird on her hat – had already arrived. She sat in Booth Three. Buffy sighed and pulled out her notepad.
It didn’t matter if she carried out the rest of the pies; they would materialize in the display case before she’d finished taking Three’s order.
Things didn’t change in Hell. Even if you did everything different.
The morning blurred as the mornings always blurred. People ordered inedible coffee and eggs, which Thursday set in the window. Customers called her Anne. Buffy didn’t care about her mornings, really, because Spike wouldn’t show up until noon.
Hell wasn’t much for free speech. Buffy had tried yelling at customers before. Only her words got all twisted on the way out, so she ended up asking about so-and-so’s grandbaby and saying that her own kids were growing up too fast.
Luckily, Buffy had a trick. On her third day in Hell and every day thereafter, Buffy found a single, pink birthday candle in the second smallest mixing bowl.
Every day, Buffy poked the candle into a piece of pie, carried it to Booth Eight and sat down across from Spike. As long as the candle burned, Buffy could say whatever she wanted. She would’ve preferred a candle that made Spike listen, but whatever.
Buffy checked the clock. It was a quarter to twelve. Time had gotten away from her. It always did.
Buffy grabbed a slice of cherry pie and carried it to the kitchen. She took her candle out of her apron pocket and lit it with the gas flame from the stove. She plunged the candle into the pie’s shiny red innards and carried it into the diner. She set it down to pour two cups of hot coffee. By the time she finished, Spike was sitting in his regular booth.
Buffy carried the pie and coffee to the table. She held both mugs in one hand; the cheap ceramic burned her knuckles.
She set the plate and one cup of coffee in front of Spike.
Buffy sat down on the opposite side of the booth. She had fifteen – make that thirteen – minutes to get through to him.
“Spike, we need to get out of here. Like, now. I’m going crazy. I mean, I’m wearing Keds! With white socks! This is wrong!”
Spike took a sip of his coffee. He ordered a cup of coffee every day. Well, he didn’t really order it. Buffy just brought it over. But he drank it!
“Think you need to relax, love. Have some pie.”
Buffy ground her molars so hard it hurt. “I don’t need pie!”
“You need this pie. Everyone needs this pie.” Spike broke off a bit with his fork. He raised it to his mouth and groaned. “Haven’t been able to taste pie properly since I was turned, but this – it’s a bloody marvel!”
“It’s this place. You can’t screw up the pie. Trust me, I’ve tried.” Buffy sipped some coffee to steady herself. It was dark and sour and tasted bad with her gum. “I hate pie. I hate it! You know what would be nice? Cake. Or bagels. Or pink cocktails with miniature umbrellas in them. PB&J. Anything but pie!”
Spike took another bite. “This might be the best thing I’ve ever tasted. It’s got to be magic. Seriously. You sell your soul for this?”
God, why couldn’t he just shut up about the damn pie and listen to her!? Oh, right. Because this was Hell. And also, this was Spike.
Buffy banged her head on the table. It went like this every freaking day. She’d try to tell him they needed to leave post haste, and he’d swoon over the pie until Buffy had run out of time. The pie was pretty darn swoon-able, but still.
“You gotta tell me your secret, Slayer.” Spike had wolfed down all of his pie except for the tiny square supporting the birthday candle. He looked about two seconds away from licking the plate. “You use some top-secret spice or something?”
“It’s love, you moron. I bake love into every stupid bite."
Spike nodded seriously, eyes round with awe. Since when did Spike not understand sarcasm?
"Spike, I swear to God, if you don’t put down that pie and help me get out of here, I’m going to – I don’t know what I’m going to do. But it will hurt you. A lot.”
Only the candle had already burnt down to a stub, so Buffy ended up babbling something about Mort’s back injury while Spike glanced at her wedding ring.
By then, it was 12:15.
So, naturally, the display case broke, and the pies attacked.
TAKE ME TO THE NEXT CHAPTER!!!