Title: Bitter If Steeped To Long (The Broken Orange Pekoe Remix)
Summary: Buffy makes tea. The real kind of tea, just the way she learned to do it.
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Spoilers: General Spoiler for Season 8
Title, Author and URL of original story: Genuine Old British Guy Tea by snickfic
She's a California girl. Starbucks generation. Child of mochas and lattes and flavored sirups. And yet her hands rinse out the teapot and she waits until the water is cold to fill the kettle with fresh cold water.
"You start with cold water," Spike had said. Her stare must have conveyed all the appropriate sarcasm, because he continued immediately. "Cold water is important. Don't use the luke warm stuff that's left in the kettle, it doesn't taste right."
You know what? He was right. So fresh, cold water it is. And good water too. The Scottish Highlands may not have much, but they certainly have good water. She switches the kettle on. She has a tiny kitchenette in her apartment, the perks of being Big Boss Slayer. She even has an espresso machine. And she uses it too. But in the lonely hours tea is just better. She knows exactly when tea became the comfort drink.
That night when Giles was sick.
"When the water is almost boiling, put some in the pot," Spike had said. "The pot needs to warm up," he answered her unspoken question. "So swirl it around and let it sit in the pot a bit. "
The kettle is close to boiling, so she does as she learned so long ago. She likes that stage. She holds the pot in both hands while she slowly rotates it. She feels it warming up, while the kettle starts wheezing. She ponders a bit then takes one of the tins. A simple Assam, nothing fancy, and how weird is it that she can tell sorts of tea apart? Giles probably can tell the mountain it was grown on and whether the guys harvesting it wash their hands daily.
"One spoon per cup. And don't be wimpy with the tea," Spike had said. "And one spoon for the pot. And don't forget to put the infuser in, before you add the tea. That's the cup with holes in the side. You put that into the pot, and the tea into the infuser."
One spoon per cup. She pours out the water and measures the loose leaf tea. And one for the pot.
Giles was sick. Probably not the first time and it really wasn't something serious. But for some reason it was the first time she was there, being college girl without curfew and mom-wants-me-home obligations. So she came by and found him sleeping on the couch looking thoroughly miserable.
"When the water is really boiling, that's when you pour it in," Spike had said. "Don't be timid, the tea leaves need to be stirred up at first. Then let it rest. It does the rest of the work itself."
The fist splash of water on the tea leaves is her favorite moment. The clear water splashes into the almost black gritty stuff. Then it's just pouring. But that moment is special.
She had tiptoed through the apartment then, checking whether he was set for chicken soup. She didn't actually know how to make chicken soup then, that came later, with Dawn's first real cold and a lot of help by Willow. That day she just knew that chicken soup was good when her mom made it. And it was just a part of being sick. A small noise had her hesitating. Spike. He was probably tied up in the bathtub again. So she went to check up on him.
"You put the lid on the pot and then put the tea cozy on it," Spike had said. "The what?" had escaped her before she could stop it. Spike had looked at her like you look at the slightly retarded neighbor's child. "It's a felt or knitted cover to keep the pot warm. Looks like a woolen hat. If you can't find it, just wrap a towel around the pot."
She has a silly castle-shaped tea cozy. She. has. a. tea cozy. And she covers the pot. Silly little felt castle in her kitchen in a not-so-silly big real castle.
Spike was watching TV. Quiet for once. He told her that Giles had been sick the whole day. He told her that sometime in the afternoon the fun of tormenting a sick man had worn of. And hey, he had stopped, so no need for the threatening with sticks. They had fallen silent for a moment. And then she had asked him if he knew how to make chicken soup. And Spike had just looked at her and told her vampire here and how should he know. And besides, the watcher, so he told her, the watcher didn't need american chicken soup, he needed a good cuppa. Because that was what Englishmen needed when they were sick. And when she had asked then, if it was one or two tea bags per cup, he had ranted at her and then told her how to make tea.
"Then let it steep. Don't move the pot," Spike had said. "Leave it for five minutes, then take the infuser out. Slowly. If you leave it longer, it turns bitter."
She watches the dawn slowly creep over the hills while she waits. The real dawn. Her sister doesn't creep over the hills. Not at that time anyway. Even when she's awake, she stomps more than she creeps. Attack of the fifty-foot sister. She could use Giles right now. Sit with him over a cup of tea and just talk sisters and friends and being called Ma'am.
She had left Spike, threatening to gag him if he made noise, and he said that he would gladly eat them all, but he wasn't going to be cruel to the watcher, because he was in said watcher's bathtub and slight case of dependency here. She had tried hard to be silent in the kitchen, gathering all the needed stuff, so she would not have to bang cupboard doors looking for essentials. And then she had made old British guy tea for the first time.
"You still need a strainer for pouring," Spike had said. "The infuser doesn't catch everything."
The first rays hit her window and she turns to carefully take the leaves out. She's seen the modern paper infuser holders and they work well and it's less of a mess when washing up, but she keeps the ceramic. People usually stay with things the way they learned them. Just like suffering alone. Giles knows all about that. And she does, too. If you're miserable, crawl into your hole and shut out everybody. She knows that one really well. Did it often. Still does it. And yet. At least she drinks tea.
When Giles woke up, she had just finished making the tea. Maybe the smell had roused him. He had looked miserable and when he had said her name, there was a lot of unspoken 'leave me alone' in there. So she had called him on it and put on her cheery face and gave him tea. At first he had been suspicious, but his face had lost a ton of wrinkles at the smell.
"The watcher takes one spoon of sugar," Spike had said. "Vampire, not blind. Been here long enough to know how he likes his tea."
She likes her tea a little sweeter and with milk, so she puts milk and sugar in her cup and then pours the tea. Carrying the cup, she sits on the windowsill again and watches the red glow. She takes her first sip. The tea helps, but what she really needs is company she can't send away.
When Giles had taken his first sip he had looked so much better. She had made up a story about tricking it out of Spike. Somehow she had thought that Spike didn't want Giles to know he had volunteered. Tea and quiet company. It had helped.
As soon as normal breakfast time rolls around, she is going to find Willow. Willow has his number. And then she's going to call Giles. Suffering alone is something she really wants to stop.