Ignore the edges, burnt black. Ignore the metal aftertaste, lingering at the back of your throat. Pick the bone-shards carefully from your mouth and place them politely at the edge of your plate.
Life is sweet.
Welcome to Night Vale.
According to several witnesses, the grim-visaged Outsider in the ominous black vehicle is continuing to accost Night Vale citizens, pulling them over and roughly demanding their culinary secrets. I think I speak for us all when I say, this is disturbing news. I mean, who does this guy think he is? You can't just drag citizens off the street and subject them to unexpected and potentially violent interrogations about wheat and wheat by-products. That is an activity that clearly falls under the jurisdiction of the Sheriff's Secret Police.
Who is the Outsider? If he is a representative of a vague yet menacing government agency, why isn't he wearing a tie? And if not, well-- who does he think he is, anyway? Is the Outsider familiar with the extensive secret training that Night Vale's nameless paramilitary guardians are not strictly known, but at least generally assumed to have perhaps undergone? I mean, he probably isn't even qualified to operate the Dark Box, which creates a shadowy "unperson" where a person should have been and yet never was--
-- oh, sorry, listeners. I've just been informed by Station Management that I'm really not supposed to talk about the off-books mind-rending procedures of the Sheriff's Secret Police. Which is fair. I mean, rumors get started so easily, and some of them are pretty outrageous. Like, we've all heard this one, but I'm pretty sure the Sheriff's Secret Police aren't actually made to strangle the half-alive spirits of their childhood stuffed animals before being promoted from the nameless ranks to the nameless officer class.
Uh, I'm getting another note from Station Management.
They want to see me right away. Okay, well... hopefully I'll be back soon, listeners. Please enjoy this pre-recorded message.
the (next) greatest cake
"Greg! Load up the van!" Kiefer ordered as he stalked into the garage. "We're moving out! Any questions?"
"Yes! How did the FBI--"
"I said no questions!"
Greg sighed and started loading cupcakes. This social media internship would look great on his resume-- he just kept telling himself that, over and over.
"But why does the FBI even have a party planner on call? How many crimes could possibly require a convenient party planner?" he finally burst out.
Kiefer narrowed his eyes and stared. "It's very common with white collar crime."
"Very common," Greg said disbelievingly.
"VERY COMMON," Kiefer repeated.
"REALLY?" Greg said. Kiefer narrowed his eyes even further and just kept staring. Greg knew he wasn't going to win this one. He gave up, waved his hands around in what he hoped was a decisively fed-up manner, and ran up the steps to the kitchen entrance for more cupcake trays.
"Wait a minute," he said, turning around, "I thought the FBI wanted to arrest you for blowing up a van and a building and some of those hedge animals..."
"My artistic and culinary inspiration!" Kiefer began, but Greg waved his arms again. He was at the top of the stairs, and Kiefer was still at garage level, and Greg was kind of enjoying being the more imposing one, just for a second. He leaned in.
"No no!" he said. "My point is..." Kiefer fixed him with his gaze and Greg faltered. The sound of sirens in the distance jolted him back on track. "How is blowing things up with explosives a white collar crime? Isn't that exactly the opposite of a white collar crime? That's pretty much just crime!"
"The FBI's White Collar division does a lot of stuff!" Kiefer said. He said it so forcefully and intensely, it was pretty hard to take in how ridiculous it was. Or maybe that was just the high level of backround ridiculousness in Greg's life lately. "Now come on, Greg! Those cupcakes won't load themselves!"
Greg sighed and helped with the getaway.
"Oh my gosh," El said, examining the mostly-empty cabinets. "Look at these little frosting bits that got dropped! They're in the shape of little plastic explosive bombs! Wow, the detailing on these--!"
Then of course everybody made a huge fuss and evacuated the building, which was ridiculous. As if Elizabeth couldn't tell the difference between frosting and plastique! She hadn't been the White Collar division's semi-official event planner consultant for all this time for nothing.
She still didn't get how this was a white-collar crime, either... but a gig was a gig. And of course it was always nice to spend more time with Peter and Neal.
And she was definitely going to make a copy of the perp's technique for perfect cake pops.
i'll give YOU silver balls
Dear Yuletide Recipient,
I was going to write a Ghost Soup Infidel Blue fusion here b/c I vaguely remembered seeing a post on your blog talking about how much you liked Blue??? And I was like OMG because there's so few people who actually remember the REAL Ghost Soup Infidel Blue. Like, I don't count dub or reboot fans, or people who only got into it after S3, or people who just followed one of the actors in, or people from Minnesota (like, obviously). And anyone who likes Purple... Well, for obvious reasons which I don't even want to get into, because Yuletide isn't really the time or place, they do not count. DO NOT LEAVE WANK IN THE COMMENTS OK READERS, I can't believe I even have to say that, Yuletide is SO NOT the time or the place.
(But just google, "It is totes key to Captain Allonius' character that he is a DUDE and making him a woman in Ghost Soup Infidel Purple is just MISANDRY" if you want to get to my blog and read my posts about it.)
ANYWAY, we all know that in the original GSIB doujinshi by that Brazilian fan, what's her name, the one who wrote that comic that the Polish fan film was based on? The one that Hollywood is TOTALLY COPYING for the upcoming Purple movie? (I've read the script, it's NOT A FAKE ONE THIS TIME.) Anyway, you know, she's the one that draws that super sexy Ryan of Toestaron? And she says Kiefer Sutherland was totes her model for Ryan. Which got me thinking, the Kiefer/Greg relationship is basically Ryan of Toestaron/Josh of Maktarish if you think about it? Right?
Because Ryan is all tough and gritty and blond and Josh is all cute and hipster-y (in an alien prophet sort of way) and they have a loft in their spaceship JUST LIKE KIEFER AND GREG'S LOFT and if two dudes live in a loft you have to slash them, IT'S A RULE.
SO I was like 18,000 words into this fusion called GHOST CUPCAKE DYNAMITE BLUE where Kiefer was the warrior prince and Greg was the peaceful prophet. AND I MADE CUPCAKES FOR EACH CHAPTER and I was going to take pictures of them. Like, there was one for Ryan's big death scene, with crossed lightsabers on a black chocolate cupcake with crimson fondant for blood.
(I mean, I don't care if the dub version recolored it to be purple, IT WAS BLOOD, omg, just GROW UP, DUB FANS!)
And then I had this great idea for making a beryllium sphere out of sugar dragees, you know, those silver ball things. MAN, those are expensive. So I went back to re-read your post about GSIB to see if you had seen the minisode between season 4 and 9.5 (I was assuming you were watching them in the RIGHT order) to make sure you KNEW about the beryllium sphere in GSIB and I realized YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT THE DUB VERSION ALL ALONG. So I was like whatever, I'm not even gonna take any pictures of these cupcakes, and I ate all the cupcakes by myself.
As it turns out, you're not supposed to eat those silver dragees. SO LITERALLY A DUB FAN TRIED TO POISON ME. I already posted about it on the wiki of terrible people in GSIB fandom. (Don't go and look at it until after Jan 1 though, so Yuletide secrecy is maintained. IF YOU DO GO AND LOOK it's not my fault and basically proves my point about dub fans.)
tastes like burning
Eliot froze as they entered the ballroom, staring at the table of snacks and drinks set up by the wall. Hardison bumped into him, then stepped back, smoothing out the lapels of his tuxedo.
"We gotta go," Eliot said, already loosening his tie. And not in a sexy way. Well, sort of in a sexy way. But not in a way that was relevant to a current sexy situation. Unless-- No. Probably not.
"Why? What's up?" Parker said, reaching for a fork. Hardison frowned, but decided that with Eliot bristling like that, maybe it was an okay day for Parker to stab someone with a fork.
"Those cupcakes..." Eliot said, low and gritty. "It's a double-cross. Larsson is working for the trust-- he's the one who hired those assassins to take out Romero."
"How can you know that just by looking at cupcakes?" Hardison stared at Eliot. Unfortunately this meant he had to take his eyes off Parker for three whole seconds, which was about two seconds longer than it took her to grab one of the cupcakes, stuff the frosting top in her mouth, and drop the actual cake part back on the table.
"Kinna tas' like fire," she reported through a mouthful of sugar.
"...So, Eliot?" Hardison prompted after a moment. He waved a hand in front of Eliot's eyes, and Eliot batted it away with a growl.
"Wait, not fire," Parker said. Ignoring the frosting already smeared across her face, she picked up another cupcake, tilted her head, and tried to maneuver as much of the carefully sculpted frosting into her mouth as possible. Closing her mouth around the frosting payload, she thrashed her tongue around in glee. Frozen, Hardison watched with mingled horror and... something else. There was definitely some mingling of emotions going on.
"EXPLODING!" Parker finally burst out. Somewhat literally. Hardison dabbed delicatedly at his lapel.
"Can we not--!" Hardison quickly closed his mouth. Parker was holding up a cupcake, raising her eyebrows as if to say "all the cool kids are doing it!" (Parker had always had unusually eloquent eyebrows.)
Hardison opened his mouth, then quickly closed it and backed up out of cupcake range before he opened it again. "No. Just... no thanks. How 'bout I take your word for it."
Parker shrugged and licked the cupcake. Eliot grumbled.
Hardison sighed. "So what is it again about the cupcakes?"
"It's a very distinctive frosting style!"
live and let pie can you phyllo the love tonight?
IT'S THE FINAL CAKEDOWN
Greg was in the spacious kitchen of their new loft, putting away a few measuring cups, when a shadow fell over his shoulder. He jumped, pressing a hand against his cotton-clad chest as he turned around. "Kiefer! Whoa, you startled me! Oh, man. I thought you were going to be at the Farmers' Market all day--"
He trailed off, seeing an odd, super-intense look in Kiefer's eyes.
"We've worked together for a while now, Greg."
"Yeah?" Greg said. Was Kiefer maybe going to promote him from being Social Media Intern to some other, more impressive kind of intern? That would definitely look good on his resume.
"Hm," Kiefer mused. "Put your hands behind your head and interlock your fingers."
"What?" Greg said, but automatically obeyed. Kiefer stepped closer, maintaining an eye contact that would have been uncomfortably intense from... well, anyone but Kiefer, really.
"Good," Kiefer said. He didn't exactly smile, but something like approval brightened in his eyes. Greg blinked at him helplessly, noticing just now that Kiefer had one hand behind his back.
"Now, open your mouth," Kiefer said. Greg started to protest, and from behind his back, Kiefer produced a plate of little cake samples, each one impaled on a toothpick. He picked one up and lifted it towards Greg's face.
"Where did you even get--" Greg started, then sighed and stopped talking so Kiefer could stick the cake sample in his mouth.
Hands still locked behind his head, Greg closed his eyes, hoping he didn't look too silly as he carefully tasted and chewed. It was-- a pink velvet cake mix? Kiefer had been experimenting with different mixes of sugar and pureed strawberries, which were hard to come by these days, especially on the coast. These were a definite improvement on the last couple batches. He could almost taste the work that had gone into the process-- all the refinements, the weird but pure obsession Kiefer was pouring into the project. It was pretty impressive.
"Sweet... but not too sweet," he reported, then realized Kiefer hadn't actually told him to keep his eyes closed. He opened them, and bizarrely, wasn't freaked out by the fact that Kiefer's face was about four inches away from his. Greg stared, unable to keep from smiling at the pleased, triumphant look in Kiefer's eyes.
"You felt it too, didn't you," Kiefer said, and his voice was actually-- kind of soft? Not really grim?
Greg had still been chasing the last few soft, sweet strawberry-tasting crumbs around the inside of his mouth with his tongue. Suddenly his tongue felt a little too big for that job.
"You and me-- we're drift compatible!"
"Come on," Kiefer said, grabbing Greg's hand and tugging him towards the door. "There's a Pan-Pacific Defense Corps recruitment station just down the block, and I know a gal at the Beverly Hills Shatterdome..."
"No, seriously, what?"
As it turned out, one of the strangest but most effective tests they'd ever run on early Jaeger pilot test pairs had been whether the potential teams could work well together in the kitchen. Skill at a complex and creative task like cooking actually turned out to be highly associated with drift compatibility.
"So wait," Greg said as he and Kiefer followed Marshall Horowitz (surprisingly young and blonde) and her second-in-command, Ms. Davenport, on a tour through the Jaeger docking bay. "Did you start a bakery just to find a compatible drift pilot? Is that why you went through so many interns before me?"
"Yes and no," Kiefer said.
"What I mean is, those explosion themed cupcakes," Greg said, laughing, "those were just-- a test, right? To see if we could actually do something so ridiculous and pull it off? You weren't serious about selling those. Right?"
Kiefer swung around and stared him in the face. Greg's stomach flipped, but... not actually in a bad way. Not bad at all.
"I believe in those cupcakes," Kiefer said. "I believe in following my passion. Even if it's weird. The fact that you and I are drift compatible is a cherry on the cupcake. But now that we've found each other--"
Greg's eyes got wider and wider. He wasn't sure if he was relieved or disappointed with Marshall Horowitz interrupted, waving at a gleaming, angular black Jaeger. "And voila! She's all yours, Kiefer! I mean, she will be when she's done." Horowitz sighed. "She's no Total Betty, but, well, not everyone can be as great as Dionne and me."
"We're used to people being jealous of us," Ms. Davenport added with a smile.
Everything seemed to go really quickly after that. Greg was assigned Shatterdome quarters across from Kiefer's. He had to sign up for martial arts classes, and as soon as he started making progress, he and Kiefer were scheduled to spend some time in the Shatterdome's virtual kaiju attack simulator. A few days a month they made public appearances to promote the Pan Pacific Defense Corps... and whenever Greg had any free time, he would wander down to the cafeteria and help Kiefer make Jaeger-themed cupcakes.
After a while he noticed that the usual cooks would kind of nudge each other and clear out of the room when he and Kiefer started cooking. And it wasn't just because they were Jaeger pilots now, and basically the coolest celebrities in the world. Bizarrely, Greg was kind of getting used to that. No, this was definitely a different kind of nudging and giggling.
He had to wonder if they thought he and Kiefer were... well.. drift compatible in more ways than one. It wouldn't be totally unheard of. (Greg had only met a handful of Jaeger pilot teams so far, but he was pretty sure nobody's relationship was as weird as Baldwin and Krasinski's unless they were actually doing it because of a bizarre robot mind-meld.)
But Kiefer never said anything, so Greg just made a lot of batter and practiced icing things with the piping bag. Until one day Horowitz and Davenport actually brought down a kaiju, and a couple of scientists arrived to study its attack...
"Wait a minute," Kiefer shouted at the short visiting scientist, "you're telling me this kaiju brain is alive? Why haven't we tried to interrogate it?"
"SEE, EXACTLY!" said the short one, the one with the cool leather jacket. Greg drifted off for a second wondering where he could get one like that. Or one with cool silver zippers and snaps, to match Kiefer's. He was a Jaeger pilot now, after all. And... everyone was staring at him and Kiefer, suddenly. Had he said any of that out loud? Greg tuned back into the conversation.
"I'll shoot it in the kneecap," Kiefer was repeating grimly.
"Haha, he's kidding!" Greg said hopefully.
"I'm not kidding."
"It doesn't have a kneecap!" the tall, uptight scientist protested. "It's only a brain! Not even a whole one!"
"Fine," Kiefer said, pointing at the short scientist, "then let him drift with it like he wants to, and I'll shoot HIM in the kneecap."
"Yeah, let me drift with it like I want to! Wait, what?"
Miraculously no one ended up drifting with a kaiju or getting shot, not even in the kneecap. But that just meant that the next time a kaiju started heading for the coast, Kiefer and Greg had to suit up in the Devil's Food and took it on. (Even after the long weeks of training and practice, the Jaeger suit looked a little better on Kiefer than on Greg. Greg chose to blame all the cupcakes he'd had to taste while interning at Kiefer's bakery.) The Drift was strange, but Kiefer was so focused, so intense, that it was easy for Greg to just be swept up in the fight. They worked well in the Jaeger, just as they had in the simulations, and just as they had in the kitchen of their loft, all those long weeks ago. Greg's heart swelled with a strange feeling. He was pretty sure it was panic.
"We're gonna die," he said.
"No!" Kiefer said, "there's one thing left!"
A red button lit up on the console suspended in the air in front of them. It had a little icon of flames, and below that it said: FLAMBE.
It turned out that kaiju were really flammable. Really, REALLY flammable. Especially when you sprayed them with cooking oil first.
"Really?" Greg said, following Kiefer into the command room. "Really??" Everyone was clapping for them-- Cher and Dionne, Anthony and Chiara, John and Alec, Harvey and Mike. "No one tried that before. Really."
"Don't ask questions, Greg."
"But I have questions!" Greg protested. "You couldn't have told me there was a secret flambe weapon built into our Jaeger? I'm the co-pilot! How did I not know that?"
Above their heads, the war clock stopped, all the digits flipping back to zero. Everybody cheered, cutting off the rest of Greg's questions. He sighed.
Kiefer turned to Greg and hugged him hard, lifting him slightly off the ground. His blond stubble scraped against Greg's cheek. He smelled like sweat and strawberries. Greg clung to him, suddenly realizing how shaky he was-- how shaky they both were. People clapped him on the back and tousled his hair, and he hung on tight to Kiefer.
After a while, Kiefer put him down, but didn't let go.
"Um," Greg said. Kiefer still wasn't letting go. Greg wasn't sure he wanted him to. "Now I have more questions."
"We saved the world," Kiefer said. "Now we make cake, and you blog about it." He pulled back just slightly, just enough to lock that laser-intense stare on Greg again. "Any more questions?"
"Well..." Greg thought about it. He opened his mouth. He closed it again. He started to smile. "No," he said, "I guess not."
there's no problem that cannot be solved by (more) chocolate
...And that was traffic.
Welcome back, listeners. We have updates on this week's hottest story-- the grim Outsider, his intern Greg, and their dark quest for the hidden knowledge embedded in the skin of our fair town, scarred over but pulsing. Pulsing. Growing.
According to John Peters-- you know, the farmer-- he was setting up his produce stand at Night Vale's newly re-opened Green Market when the grim Outsider appeared and began to interrogate him about his crops. Peters attempted to interest the Outsider in purchasing some of his finest imaginary corn, but the outsider was soon distracted by Joanne Lizarraga's so-called gluten-free cake pops, which she usually sells out of the Confectionery Concoctions shop in Old Town Night Vale.
Did you hear that, listeners? That's right, I said so-called gluten-free cake pops. When subjected to the fierce whispering of the Outsider, Joanne Lizarraga soon confessed to using flour, a known wheat by-product. We send our thanks to this civic-minded Outsider for revealing this flouting of the City Council's wheat and wheat by-products ban-- which, of course, exists to protect us from unscheduled, unapproved infestations of venomous snakes and malevolent spirits.
And of course, we send our sympathy, along with a wry and knowing shake of the head, to whatever survivors may remain after the Confectionery Concoctions purge. And to those we are about to lose so completely and finally that we will not even be allowed to retain the memory of their existence... thanks for the potentially demon-infested cake pops, jerks.
Whoever's still out there, whoever's listening... there's a vacant booth at the Green Market. There's an empty shop in Old Town. Come to us now. Sell us your cupcakes still hot from the fire of their creation, tasting of mysterious sweetness and inevitable destruction. Fix us with your narrow eyes and pierce us with your whisper. Maybe offer a Groupon. It seems to work for the Pinkberry near the station-- they are always busy when I send Intern Stacey over there. Just a thought.
And now, the weather.