Title: 221C Baker Street
Word Count: 3000
Prompt: #360 labyrinth
Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all related characters are copyright of Joss Whedon and ME. Sherlock and all related characters are copyright of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat and BBC. No infringement intended.
Synopsis: Stinging cheeks and dry lips were currently Buffy Summers only reward for walking the streets of London in search of a flat that was close to her team of Slayers and within her budget.
Stinging cheeks and dry lips were currently Buffy Summers only reward for walking the streets of London in search of a flat that was close to her team of Slayers and within her budget. Most of the girls were lucky—or unlucky depending on the point of view—enough to be to still living with their parents. Though Charlotte, the oldest of her five Slayers, was currently in college and thus sequestered to her dorm. The pension Buffy was receiving was substantial, but it was also quickly eaten up by Dawn’s tuition and the thought of requesting more money from Giles chafed just a bit.
Buffy didn’t want the paperwork or desk job that came with that higher pay grade and there was still the small, minuscule really, issue of the old Watchers Council’s accounts being levied or whatever the British equivalent was called. In the years since the fall of Sunnydale they’d only managed to commandeer a quarter of the previous Council’s assets. Granted a quarter was several million pounds, but most of those funds were tied up in properties rather than actual cash which left the heads of the new International Watchers Council—IWC for short—consistently in talks with lawyers and, honestly, Buffy was happiest in the field.
So instead of turning to Giles for monetary support Buffy now relied more heavily on her reimbursement from the missions she assisted Riley and his team on. She was finally charging for slaying—Anya would be proud. Though she did have to admit that military consultant sounded just as conspiracy theory inducing as being one of the heads of an international conglomerate whose previous board perished under not so mysterious, bomb-type, circumstances. A sigh escaped her as she realized a part time job might not be too terrible an idea if only to keep up appearances.
Ms. Secret Identity was once again at the world’s service and this time she wasn’t going to suck at it. Buffy could only hope, but with her shiny new Tier 1 visa and a worn passport she thought she might be up to the task. Giles had assured her that this visa would be worth the nearly two year wait and all the paperwork and hoops she’d jumped through to obtain it—regardless or not of her exceptional talent.
Buffy crossed the alley in front of, ducking her chin when the wind flowing between buildings played havoc on her bangs. They fluffed up considerably and Buffy muttered a curse beneath her breath and finished the last few feet at a jog. She didn’t bother to adjust her hair until she reached the relative safety of the next section of buildings and a downward combing of her fingers fixed the wind damage as she used her left hand to free her cellphone from the pocket of her coat.
The wool-blend, satin-lined masterpiece had been a gift from Charlotte and the girls her first night in London. Apparently they were thrilled to have her as their assigned senior Slayer and while Buffy’s reputation wasn’t nearly as fun as Faith’s it was nice to be welcomed. The coat, however, was even nicer and nearly a requirement for London. She’d recently flown in from a three week jaunt—jaunt, battle, same diff—in New Zealand and a part of her still mourned the loss of those beaches even with their slight case of monster.
She directed the screen on her phone to the map highlighting the locations she’d found on Zoopla and the few Charlotte had found in the Times for her. Buffy frowned at the trek she’d taken, thankful for the mini-slayers’ sage advice to wear her most comfortable boots, and flicked green eyes to the time before tapping on the one of Charlotte’s suggestions that she’d made an appointment for Buffy to be able to check out. Her nose wrinkled at the path that lit up her screen, but she lengthened her stride as she made the next left and then an immediate right.
Passing under an awning, porch-like structure had her smiling at its ability to simply sprout off from the side of a building and reminded her of New Orleans architecture. Though, she supposed, technically it would be New Orleans mimicking London rather than the other way around. Her smile spread at that thought before she continued following the path on her phone in the hopes of not being lost—again—in the labyrinth that was central London.
Two more rights and another left had her passing a Chinese restaurant, that had hours to rival a New York style joint, and brought her closer, but not exactly on top of her destination as her took another left. Buffy paused to glance behind her and marvel a moment at the wonders of technology because she was certain she’d be lost at this point if Buffy was merely relying on a map and her lack of an internal compass. There was a reason Riley didn’t allow her to be navigator while on missions.
Buffy raised her brows at the convoluted trail she’d left behind her before she shook her head and stepped onto the cut stone walkway of Baker Street. A quick text to Charlotte took her up on the tour she’d suggested for that night. Buffy now knew she’d need it if she ever wanted to patrol on her own without the aid of a taxi. London wasn’t a demonic hotspot which she assumed was due to the presence of the Council and aside from the occasional vampire the streets tended to be quieter here than most other metropolitan cities across the globe.
That quiet was what allowed Buffy the ability to be partially retired—hence the pension—and yet still readily available to help out Riley when needed. She liked being a liaison to the Armed Forces; it gave her an outlet her for her ‘exceptional talent’ and let her see the world. Wanderlust? Who her?
Buffy passed several doors and a few barred windows before reaching a café and paused when the path on her screen ended. She glanced to right, head inclining until she could see around the entrance of the café and smiled at the wooden door directly next to it. The gold plated address declaring she’d arrived at 221B brought her closer and she slipped her phone back into her coat pocket before using a knuckle to ring the bell. The chimes inside were faint and Buffy took that as a good sign that the walls were thicker here than the last place she’d inspected or, possibly, the doorbell was broken.
She stepped back from the door, a hand rising to adjust her bangs once more and Buffy found herself glad she’d decided to pull back the rest of hair into a ponytail. She’d straightened it before dinner with Dawn the previous night and the flatiron’s magic was still holding strong this afternoon. Her hair hung in a straight line past the raised collar of her coat and was currently tugged beneath her scarf. A scarf her sister had shown her how to properly tie to keep her warm rather than fashion forward the night before when her teeth had eased towards chattering while she walked Dawn back to her dorm.
There was a slightly raised voice from behind the door before it opened and Buffy found herself greeted by a pleasant faced woman with a warm smile. Pale green eyes gathered around the corners as her smile grew and she questioned, “Miss Summers?”
“Buffy,” she replied with a nod and offered her a hand as she questioned, “Mrs. Hudson?”
“Yes, dear,” a small frown appeared between her brows even as she accepted Buffy’s offered hand and clarified, “You’re American?”
“I am,” Buffy nodded and quickly extracted her much colder hand from Mrs. Hudson’s warm one as she explained, “Charlotte, a friend of mine, inquired about the flat for me. I just arrived a few days ago.”
“Ah, that explains it.” She stepped back; opening the door with her as she did so and Buffy used that as her invitation and crossed the threshold. “The stairs leading to the flat for rent are just down the hall,” she turned leaving Buffy to close the front door, “This way.”
A smile tugged at the corner of her mouth as Buffy complied with the silent order before she turned and took in the odd wallpaper lining the area surrounding her. There were stairs directly across from her, leading up towards an open door which Buffy supposed was the entrance to the upstairs flat that was currently occupied. She followed Mrs. Hudson past those stairs and down a narrow hallway, resisting the urge to run her fingers along the textured wallpaper, as they headed towards a door labeled 221A.
The older woman stopped, turning just before her door and Buffy inclined her head when she caught sight of another door, similar to 221A with frosted glass panels. 221C was the basement flat and Buffy slipped a hand into her coat pocket to retrieve her cell phone and the list of things to look for and the questions Charlotte had advised her to ask when seeing those particular spaces as Mrs. Hudson unlocked the door. She followed her down, glancing up from time to time as she retrieved the conversation from her texts. She took in the worn paint along the stairwell walls and the dents and score marks around the knob of the door leading into the flat.
Buffy paused, looking behind them to take in the steep flight of stairs and judging the chances of getting a comfortable bed down them. The paint was faded, but not dirty and Buffy turned at the sound of the door opening and followed Mrs. Hudson inside, gaze sweeping over all the corners she could see. The air was cool and damp, but Charlotte had already warned her about that and about the low ceilings, but with her stature that was a nonissue. The carpet looked well maintained, but in the need of a cleaning and the wallpaper would definitely need to be replaced—and possibly burned—before she moved in.
“How’s the drainage?” Buffy questioned as she stepped further into the flat and searched each wall for signs of mold. Charlotte had warned her to be on the lookout for it and she spoke the worry out loud, “Have you had an issue with mold?”
“No, no mold, but it is damp. That’s the curse of basements.”
“There are worse curses,” Buffy assured her with a smile before questioning, “So no flooding issues?”
Mrs. Hudson returned the smile as if pleased by Buffy’s assessment before she replied, “The drainage does well enough. I have it check each October.” She nodded, as if more to herself than Buffy and added, “Before winter.”
Buffy smiled and moved further into the flat, taking in the fire place and the electrical hook up hanging from the ceiling before she headed for the two doors set up along the wall farthest away from the entrance. Behind the first was a small bathroom with a shower, sink and toilet and little else. To be fair though, not that much else was needed. Buffy took in the cleanliness of the bathroom and guessed Mrs. Hudson had given it a thorough scrubbing before she came.
The second led into a bedroom with a window set high in the ceiling that let in very little natural light, but since her nights tended to be longer than her days that wasn’t necessarily a deal breaker. Buffy made her way further into the bedroom, taking note that it was definitely large enough to fit the wardrobe she’d picked up while in Scotland. That was a substantial plus, but the bedroom alone—the first flat she’d seen that day in her budget with an actual bedroom—was the largest plus of them all. The odd floral wallpaper wasn’t even squashing her delight with the space of the room and the definite potential of this flat.
She turned, sharing a smile with Mrs. Hudson before heading back into the living area and then towards the kitchen. It was small, but functional and reminded her of the apartment Kennedy and Willow shared in New York. Space, just like New York, appeared to be an expensive commodity in London, but it had a pantry and a rather large refrigerator which were definite points. She also liked the tiled backsplash behind the stove since she wasn’t the neatest of cooks.
Buffy exited the kitchen and gave the living room area one last sweep of her gaze before stating, “There are some improvements that’d need to be addressed before I moved in.”
Mrs. Hudson seemed to hesitate, confused by Buffy’s words before her smile turned beaming. “You’re interested?” Her smile melted as if it’d never been as she further questioned, “Improvements? What do you mean improvements?”
Her brows rose beneath her bangs, but she resisted the urge to look around the room as if were the most obvious thing as she hazard the reply of, “The walls could use a fresh coat of paint.”
“Oh!” Mrs. Hudson turned, taking in the state of them as for the first time, “Right. Quite right. Perhaps we should go upstairs and discuss the details over a cup of tea?”
“I’d like that.” Buffy exited the conversation in her cell and slipped it back into her pocket as she added, “Something warm would be a thing of beauty right now.”
Mrs. Hudson smile stretched even wider as she offered, “Well then; follow me,” and Buffy followed her from the flat and up the stairs, pausing as she locked the door. She glanced towards the stairs before looking to Buffy and explaining, “The boys are out, but I suppose you’ll be meeting them soon enough.”
“I’d like that,” Buffy assured her as Mrs. Hudson unlocked the door to her own flat.
“They’re sweet boys. Take odd hours though,” she hesitated in the entryway and hastily added, “but that shouldn’t bother you. You’ve got the whole ground floor between you and them. ”
“If I can sleep through the noise of downtown Los Angeles I can sleep through anything.”
“Is that where you’re from? Los Angeles?” Mrs. Hudson questioned, looking back at Buffy as she led her down a hallway and further explained, “I’ve only ever been to Florida.”
“Born and raised in California,” Buffy replied before commenting, “Florida has similar weather to southern California, but not nearly the same beaches.”
“Didn’t get to see the beaches much,” Mrs. Hudson offered and Buffy frowned, but before she could question the statement Mrs. Hudson asked, “So what brings you to London then?”
“Family,” Buffy offered, noticing that this flat was larger, which was to be expected since she was the owner, and her walls were covered in the same array of interesting wallpaper choices. The décor was homey and everything seemed to have its own place and placed thus so which brought her smile back as she continued, “My sister goes to Brunel.”
“Here in London? That’s wonderful!”
“She seems to think so,” Buffy followed her into a kitchen that was similarly set up like the one downstairs and took a seat at the dinette table Mrs. Hudson motioned her to and began to remove her scarf. “I just want to see where my money’s going.”
“Your money?” She questioned, turning away from the stove to raise eyebrows at her.
Buffy’s smile turned down at the corners; realizing her slip before offering, voice quiet, “I pay her tuition.”
“You pay…” Mrs. Hudson trailed off and a hand hovered just over her mouth before she hesitantly questioned, “Your parents?”
“Our father, well, he isn’t really what you’d call in the picture and our mother passed away when Dawn was younger.” Buffy finished removing her scarf and laid it across her lap, taking a moment to fold the fabric and gather her thoughts before finishing, “I’ve raised Dawn since then.”
“It’s a lovely thing you’re doing for your sister. Simply lovely.” Mrs. Hudson stated with such conviction that Buffy was caught off guard. There was a fierceness behind that quiet exterior and suddenly, painfully Buffy was reminded of her mother in the best of ways. As if sensing her sudden unease with the conversation Mrs. Hudson announced, “I’ll just get to work making you that cuppa.”
She turned back to the stove and Buffy watched her retrieve a kettle from the back burner. She moved towards the sink and filled it as Buffy offered, “We should talk about the painting that needs done.”
“We should,” Mrs. Hudson agreed as she turned off the water and turned back to Buffy, leaning her hip against the sink before ordering, “Once the tea is ready.”
Buffy smiled and relaxed into the chair as her hands rose to release the buttons beneath the concealed front fastening of her coat. Mrs. Hudson’s flat was comfortable when compared to the outside which meant Buffy was warming up nicely and in no need of the layers of clothing currently on her person. She’d perfected her winter, not that it was winter yet in London, layering skills after she’d spent two of them in Cleveland. Demons seemed to like the cold months at that particular Hellmouth, but had the same world ending intentions.
The next hour was spent in pleasant company, hashing and rehashing plans to clean up the downstairs flat before she’d take up residence. Buffy had agreed to do the removal of the wallpaper and the painting, Mrs. Hudson had final say on all colors, for a discount on her monthly—not weekly as she’d first feared—rent and by the end of the conversation Buffy had agreed to drop off her check and a dehumidifier later that evening.
She doubted Charlotte would mind and, perhaps, she’d catch her first glimpse of the boys Mrs. Hudson seemed to adore so very much.