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Title: In Their Quilted Coats ch. 4
Author: Pip
Pairing: None yet, but yes, it will be Richard/Pip eventually.
Warning: Umm, AU, obvs. Richard's wife and family don't exist, because I refuse to break up a home. :D He did, however, have his accident in this universe. Also, contains a suggestion of who the Stig might be.

A massive thank you to [livejournal.com profile] tigertale7 for the beta, encouragement, and excellent enabling. This fandom wouldn't be nearly as much fun without you, hon. ♥ ♥ ♥

Chapter 1, 2, 3

First posted Dec, 2008



Pip shouldered her way into the portakabin, relieved to find she was the first one there. Richard had stopped by Andy's office first to pick up the revised scripts, so she quickly put the kettle on and began to unpack her backpack. She heard the door open behind her. "Did you see what I did with my notebook this morning?"

"I thought I told you to bin the useless thing?" Jeremy asked.

"Oh!" She jumped. "Good morning, Jeremy. Sorry, I thought you were Richard."

"Not a mistake very many people make. You might want to get your specs checked."

"I'll get right on that," she said dryly. "And the notebook is just until I know how to use all the features on the BlackBerry with my eyes closed. I'm getting better with it, but I'm not quite there yet."

He hung up his jacket and crossed to look at an article about the Chinese MG 7 that James had tacked on the wall the day before. "Rubbish," he declared. "An absolute cock-up from start to finish. What do you think, Flip?"

She walked over to look, and made a face. "That's an MG? It looks like a boring old Pontiac! What a rip-off."

"Not precisely the argument I would have used, but a valid point nonetheless."

"What argument would you have used?"

"It only has one hundred and seventy brake horsepower!" he complained loudly.

She looked up at him. "That doesn't sound like much. How much does a Chevy Cavalier have? That was my last car."

Jeremy rolled his eyes. "I've tried to block that useless piece of dross from my memory."

Pip grinned at him. "You mean you don't know. And by the way, for the cost of it, that Chev was my best car." She picked up her BlackBerry and, a few minutes later, exclaimed, "My Cavalier had one-fifty! You can't give something a sports car name like MG and then only give it twenty more horsepower than a ruddy Cavalier!"

Richard walked in on the last sentence. "What are you two arguing about?" he asked, shedding his coat.

"We're not, we're agreeing," Pip said.

"Oh, god. Why does that scare me?"

"Because you're feeble?" Jeremy suggested.

"Cockface."

"Sleep well with Flip last night?" he asked archly.

"Hey!" Pip protested. "Don't drag me into this."

Richard waved two fingers under Jeremy's nose, then slapped him on the stomach with his script. "Run-through?"

"Yeah." Jeremy sat at the table and patted his pockets down until he came up with his reading glasses. "Flip, you be May until he drags his sorry arse in."

"Do you want me to call him?" she asked, fetching the tea to set on the table between the two men.

"No, give him another ten minutes. If he's not here by then, I'll bloody well shoot him with a very large gun. We must, I repeat must, be on schedule today, or Dame Helen's people will have our guts for garters."

Pip froze. "Dame Helen?"

"Mirren," Richard added. "She's been in--"

"I know who she is!" Pip's voice was slightly squeaky. "Are you telling me your Star In A Reasonably Priced Car is Dame Helen bloody Mirren?"

Jeremy looked at Richard with one eyebrow raised.

"Pip," Richard said, grinning, "Would you like to meet her?"

"Oh my god, no," she said quickly, sitting down and shaking her head. "I'd just make an utter ass out of myself."

Jeremy opened his mouth but, rather astoundingly, closed it again when Richard shot him a look.

"You could take her in some biscuits while she's waiting," Richard suggested. "No pressure, just, you know, 'hello, Dame, would you like a Hob Nob'?"

"Hello, Dame?" Pip repeated weakly, then dropped her head on her arms with a long groan.

James chose that moment to walk in, and took in the scene at a glance as he closed the door. "All right, Clarkson, what did you say to her this time?"

"I didn't say a thing!" Jeremy protested, putting on a hurt face. "Why do you automatically assume everything to be my fault?"

James shrugged. "Because it usually is. What's going on, then, chaps? And chapess?" he added.

Pip lifted her head and looked at him, her forehead scrunched. "Chapess? That's not actually a real word, is it?"

"Ah, no. Not actually."

"Well, that's a relief, at least."

Richard leaned back in his chair. "I'm just trying to convince Pip that she can meet Helen Mirren this afternoon if she wants. She doesn't seem keen on the idea."

Jeremy held up his script. "Can we get on with it?"

"I'm coming, don't get your undergarments in a twist," James complained, crossing to get himself a mug from the cupboard. "Not a fan of Dame Helen, Pip?" he asked.

"I love her," Pip said fervently.

He glanced over his shoulder at her, puzzled. "Then why on earth wouldn't you want to meet her?"

"Because I would act like an absolute moron, just like I did my first time meeting you three. Only worse."

Richard said, "Oh, you did not," just as Jeremy chimed in with, "That would be humiliating."

Pip glared at Jeremy as James chuckled, "Good to know we're not as intimidating as Helen Mirren, then."

"That's not it," Pip shook her head, then added, "Well, not entirely, anyway. But she's a real actor's actor, and you guys are just--" She stopped short.

Richard raised one eyebrow, suppressing a grin. "I'm curious to hear how that sentence ends."

"I like that," Jeremy complained. "We're just. No, lads, I'm terribly sorry, but we don't want you hosting Top Gear anymore. You're just."

"No, no, no," Pip said quickly. "You guys aren't just anything, and you know it. But it's different, you know? I mean, I'd love to be an actor, where I take someone else's script and be that character, live inside that character, like Helen Mirren does. You guys are out there being yourselves, script or no. You don't have that safe distance, that ability to say 'no, that's not what I'm really like, I was just acting'. You're more...I don't know. Real. And that's something I could never do." She looked at them earnestly, and a bit nervously. "You know what I mean?"

James walked over and took a seat at the table. "It's not that hard, really. You just do your research, decide what you're talking about, and then talk about it. I should think it takes a fair bit more work to learn to be someone else."

"More work, maybe, but I don't have to come up with the words. I don't have to try and think of what to say; I'm just not quick enough for that. You guys are really good at it, though." She smiled at them lopsidedly. "So why don't you show me how it's done. It is read-through time, after all."

"About bloody time, too," Jeremy declared. "Page one; intro. 'Hello, and welcome to Top Gear,'" he began in a monotone. "'In the current climate, it's important to reassure you all that everything you see on this show is for real.' Richard climbs on box."

"Another bloody height joke," Richard complained. "Haven't we had enough of those yet? Honestly, it's aging about as well as you are, Clarkson, and that's not saying much--"

"We've already been through this," Jeremy pointed out, annoyed. "It's just a visual gag."

"At my expense."

"Well, yes," James said, as if that explained everything. "Don't worry, Richard, we'll get to my hair and Jeremy's paunch later."

"Promise?"

"Do shut up, Hammond," Jeremy said despairingly.

"Right. Sorry. 'Nothing on this show is faked in any way.'" He said his line with utter insincerity.

Pip grinned. It was going to be a great day.




"What do you think?" Andy asked her. She was following his previous instructions and shadowing the boys, who were currently doing a run-through of the script on set, a rehearsal for all the techies and camera men as well as a blocking walk-through for the presenters themselves.

Pip watched as the three men in question burst into gales of laughter. Richard threw back his head in one of his true belly laughs, James was leaning over with his hands on his thighs, and Jeremy staggered sideways to sit on the edge of the platform stage, wiping his eyes. She cocked her head. "I think that I don't quite see how this show ever makes it to air, let alone as a top quality product."

Andy couldn't quite repress a smug smile. "Because we have the best fucking team in the whole of the BBC. Think you can live up to that?"

Pip felt her stomach knot up, but calmly said, "Soon, yes."

"Soon." Andy nodded. "Good answer. Don't be afraid to say you don't know something, unless it's out of laziness. In which case, be very afraid." He grinned wolfishly and moved off, shouting at the three presenters to get back to work.

Pip swallowed, wiping damp palms on the hips of her trousers, and watched the rest of the rehearsal extra carefully.

After it was over, there was a general retreat to the portakabin for a quick lunch followed by several energy drinks for Richard, James and Jeremy, who then changed into the clothes they'd chosen to wear for the day's filming. Jeremy insisted that Pip join him in the tiny corner of the wardrobe room where their make-up was done, one at a time.

"What if Hannah here gets hit by a bus?" he demanded. Hannah, in the process of powdering his forehead, rolled her eyes. "Someone will have to fill in temporarily, won't they? Richard's worn enough make-up in the past to be a fucking expert, but he says he won't do it, the lazy ponce. And I need someone to make me look not-undead."

"You need an embalmer," Richard said, only his head poking through the open doorway. "Pip, can I borrow you for a second?"

"No, you can't," Jeremy objected. "She's learning how to do my make-up."

Richard looked sceptical. "Why?"

"Apparently I'm going to be hit by a bus," Hannah said, unconcerned.

"What?"

"Not going to," Jeremy said with an air of long-suffering. "I said 'what if'. If. Does nobody fucking listen anymore?"

"Not to you," Richard said cheerfully. "And if karma exists, you'll get hit by the bus. A solar-powered bus. Full of environmentalists. On their way to a bicycle race."

"Could I be hit by the bus whilst driving a fully-fueled Ford Pinto that explodes in a fiery death-ball of automotive destruction?" Jeremy asked hopefully.

"No. Come on, Pip, I've got someone for you to meet." Richard made sure she was following, then led her out to the hallway. "Pip, this is--"

"The Stig!" she squeaked, stopping short at the sight of the iconic white racing suit and black-visored white helmet.

Richard grinned. "You did sign a confidentiality clause in your contract, right?"

"Well, yes--"

"Excellent. Stig, this is Pip, our new assistant. Pip, this is..." He paused as the Stig removed his helmet, revealing matted brown hair, grey eyes, and a dimpled smile. "...Ben Collins, our tame racing driver."

"You are the Stig!" Pip exclaimed, shaking Ben's hand when he held it out to her. "It's so nice to meet you!"

"Pleasure's all mine," he said with a smile. "You've heard the speculation, then?"

"On several different people. I always thought you made the most sense, though."

Richard snorted. "You're the only one, then. He's mad as a hatter, he is."

Ben laughed. "Only on alternate Tuesdays. The rest of the time I'm perfectly sane. Mostly."

"Sanity isn't all it's cracked up to be," Pip dead-panned.

"Ah-ha, someone who shares your philosophy, Rich," Ben grinned.

"Prat. How did it go with Dame Helen?"

"Good," Ben nodded. "She did all right, for one of the older girls we've had on. I think she had more fun than she let on."

"What's she like?" Pip asked, curiosity and awe mingled on her face.

"She's lovely," Ben smiled. "Friendly, easy to chat with, and can swear like a bloody navvy. I'd love to buy her a pint, I would."

"I knew it," Pip beamed. "I knew she'd be absolutely marvellous."

"Pip, for God's sake, just introduce yourself to her already," Richard grumbled good-naturedly. "You heard him, she's friendly and easy to chat with. You'll be fine."

She shook her head back and forth quickly. "No. No, no. I've only been here three days, I'm not used to famous people yet."

Ben tried to stifle a snigger and failed.

"What?" After a moment, her face fell. "Oh, shit. I'm just buggering everything up today. I didn't mean--" She looked pleadingly at Richard. "I didn't mean that you guys aren't famous. But she's a movie star, and you're--"

"Just?" Richard teased.

"No! No, dammit! You're television stars, but we don't get much BBC at home, so all I've ever seen of you guys is Top Gear. I didn't know--" She flushed and, much to her vexation, her eyes began to prickle. "I'm sorry. Please don't fire me."

"Fire you?" Richard was genuinely surprised. "Why on earth would we do that?"

"Because I keep horribly insulting you guys when I'm trying to be complimentary! I'm so sorry!" she wailed.

Ben looked sympathetic, but also amused. "Have you even met Jeremy Clarkson?"

"But--"

"He's right," Richard cut her off. "We are not going to fire you just because you may occasionally catch foot-in-mouth disease. Hell, that's how half of Jeremy's scripts get started. Pip, Jez and James are both irascible, grumpy old bastards, and I'm a ratty, much, much younger bastard." He grinned. "The odd insult, intentional or otherwise, won't even show up on the radar, let alone knock us off our stride. All right?"

She gave him a little nod and feebly said, "All right. I'm sorry."

"You must be Canadian," Ben teased.

Richard laughed. "You noticed too, then?"

Pip looked at each of the men in turn. "Sorry, what?"

Ben pretended to be amazed, but couldn't keep a straight face. "Is she for real?" he asked Richard.

Richard was grinning widely. "Believe it or not, yes. Right, Pip?"

Her forehead wrinkling, she said, "I'm sorry, but I don't know--"

Both men burst out laughing.

She glared at them, slowly starting to find her footing again. "I don't think I like you anymore."

"Richard, or me?" Ben asked, still chuckling.

"Either of you." She folded her arms across her chest.

"But you've only just met me!"

"And you've spent an inordinate amount of that time laughing at me."

"Well," Richard said with one of his well-practised sheepish smiles, "You do say 'sorry' quite a bit."

"I do not--" At that precise moment, James, trying to get past, bumped her from behind. She looked over her shoulder and automatically said, "Sorry," before taking a step out of the way. She turned back to Richard and Ben to find them once again laughing at her.

Pip sighed. "I totally just busted myself, didn't I?"

"A bit, yeah," Richard snickered.

"Do you say 'eh' a lot, too?" Ben asked, dimples very much in evidence.

She debated denying it, but decided to come clean. "All the time. I might as well walk around with a maple leaf tattooed on my forehead, eh, Ben?"

"Stig," Ben and Richard both corrected her at the same time.

"Always call him Stig," Richard explained. "That way you'll not slip up and let his identity out, or be overheard by people hiding behind the shrubbery, or something."

Pip cocked her head. "Do people often hide behind the shrubbery here?"

"You'd be surprised," Richard said wryly.

She made a face, but nodded. "Stig it is, then."

"Right. On that note," Ben said cheerfully, "I must be off. Pip, it was nice to meet you, and I'll see you both next week."

"It was nice to meet you too, ehm, Stig," she replied, stumbling a bit over the name.

"Don't worry," he laughed. "You'll get used to it." He pulled his helmet back on, sketched a wordless salute, and left.



The taping of the News of the Week in front of the studio audience went fairly smoothly. Pip kept to the back of the studio, listening to Jeremy, James and Richard mock Fifth Gear, James's comfort level with their 'new' furniture, and Bentley's ability to put wheel nuts on their cars. When they started going on about wanking behind the wheel of a car, she laughed out loud right along with the audience. The whole time, though, she also kept an eye on the technical aspects of filming in order to try and understand the whole process, whilst being careful not to get in the way of any actual audience members.

After the segment was finished, Pip was surprised to see Jeremy threading his way through the thinnest point of the crowd, making straight for her.

"Flip," he said quietly yet urgently. "I've left my phone in the green room, and I'll need it in a bit. Can you run and fetch it for me?"

"Of course. Be right back."

"Brilliant, thanks." He hurried back toward the set.

Pip exited through an unobtrusive door behind her, traversing the length of the corridor to the green room, which she had been shown earlier. She took three steps in and stopped cold.

Seated on the sofa, a cup of tea in her hand, was Dame Helen Mirren.

Pip swallowed, her cheeks suddenly pink. "Ehm--hello," she said weakly.

Dame Helen smiled. "Hello." When Pip said nothing else for a long moment, she inquired, "Are they ready for me?"

"No. I mean--not yet. I don't think it will be long, though," Pip managed, and then fell silent again, racking her brain for something halfway intelligent to say.

"That's fine," Dame Helen said. After another long pause, she politely said, "Would you care to sit down?"

"Oh!" Pip started. "No, thank you. I just came to get Jeremy's phone, he said he left it in here. Although I'm starting to think he set me up." She flushed even more.

"What a curious thing to say," Dame Helen smiled again, intrigued. "Set you up for what?"

"Complete and total embarrassment, most likely. Possibly utter humiliation, although I'm not sure. I've only been here three days, I haven't got everyone figured out yet, but it wouldn't surprise me if he enjoyed a little bit of friendly humiliation." She clenched her fists at her side. "I'm sorry, I'm babbling."

"You are, somewhat, but do go on. And please, sit down for just a moment."

Pip sat, perched on the edge of the sofa. "Th-thank you."

"What's your name?" Dame Helen asked as she leaned forward to pour another cup of tea from the small pot on the table, her hair swinging across her face.

"I'm sorry, my name is Pip. It's a huge pleasure to meet you, Dame Helen, I absolutely love your work," she said in a rush.

"Thank you, that's very kind. And do call me Helen," she said, handing the tea to Pip. "'Dame' makes me feel a hundred years old. Now, what did Jeremy set you up for? Meeting me, I presume, since I'm the only thing in here other than his phone and that rather disappointing pot of tea."

"Yes," Pip said, turning bright red. "I told him--all of them--that I didn't want to meet you because--well, as you can see, I'm not very good at this." She looked down at her tea and nervously took a sip even though it lacked her usual milk and sugar.

"Not very good at what?" Helen asked.

"Meeting someone I admire without making a complete idiot out of myself," she weakly admitted.

"Nonsense, you're charming. What do you do here, Pip?"

"I--I'm personal assistant to James, Jeremy and Richard."

Helen's lips quirked. "You poor child. And where are you from?"

"Near Toronto in Ontario, Canada," Pip replied, taking a deep breath to try and calm the butterflies in her stomach. "Have you ever been there?"

"Toronto? Oh, yes, several times," Helen said easily, relaxing against the arm of the sofa. "A bit too cold for my tastes, but not nearly as weird," she made a face as she said it, "as Los Angeles. I'm used to Americans--my husband is American, you know--but they're a breed apart in L.A."

"They're a breed apart here, too, believe me," Pip blurted.

Helen laughed. "One does get that impression."

The door opened just then, and Adrian, the assistant floor manager, poked his head in. "We're ready for you, ma'am. I'll show you where to stand while Jeremy introduces you."

"Coming." Helen set down her cup of tea and rose. "Pip, it was lovely to meet you."

Pip leaped to her feet. "It was wonderful to meet you, too, Dame--I mean, Helen. Ehm--thank you. For being so kind."

"Not at all. And don't worry, you'll have Jeremy sorted out soon, I feel quite sure of it." With a quick, warm smile, she followed Adrian down the hall to the studio.

With a whoosh of breath, Pip sank down onto the sofa, bewildered, embarrassed, and elated all at once. She had just spent time talking to an Oscar winner. Maybe--just maybe--she wouldn't kill Jeremy after all.

Remembering her errand, she picked up Jeremy's mobile and hurried back to the studio on the off chance that it hadn't been a complete set-up and he really did need his phone.

As things were being readied to film the Star In A Reasonably Priced Car segment in which they weren't needed, James and Richard had disappeared. Jeremy stood in the middle of the set, talking to the floor director. Glancing up to see Dame Helen being ushered into the audience to make her way forward, Jeremy raised his head and began scanning the back of the studio. Pip could tell the exact moment his eyes alighted on her. He grinned and hopped down off the stage.

Pip waited, expecting this time to see Jeremy making his way towards her. She held out his phone as he approached.

"Ah, you found it all right, then?" he asked gleefully, pocketing the mobile without a second glance, confirming Pip's suspicion.

"Yes, I did, you sneaky, conniving, traitorous, devious..." she spluttered to a halt, unable to think of any more adjectives.

"Don't forget altruistic and brilliantly sly," he laughed, pleased with himself, before turning away to stride back to the stage.

Shaking her head, Pip resigned herself to the fact that her professional life was shaping up to be filled with a lot of juvenile humour, embarrassment, and--not necessarily unpleasant--surprises.




"So?" Richard asked with a grin, having heard about the plot from Jeremy after filming was over. "Was she lovely and easy to chat with?"

Pip hoisted her backpack up onto her shoulders and snorted. "Yes, of course she was. I, however, was most definitely not." She glared at Jeremy, who was entirely unconcerned about it.

"Well, at least you've learned an important lesson," James said. "You can't trust Clarkson as far as you can throw him."

"Pish tosh," Jeremy denied.

Richard stared at him in disbelief. "'Pish tosh'? Yes, thank you, Bertie Wooster."

"Pillock."

"Cockface."

"Short-arse." Jeremy shot back.

"Bastard!"

"Teeth-whitener."

"I have not had my teeth whitened!" Richard shouted.

Jeremy looked triumphant. "Flip, you will thank me for my machinations later, trust me. Because you are now in charge of tea for the Star every week."

Pip gaped at him. "I'm what?"

James frowned. "What if we need her?"

"It's just tea, you plonk. She'll still be underfoot."

"Underfoot?" she said hotly.

Richard began to laugh. "Don't worry, Pip. They say the first Star is always the hardest."

"That doesn't even make sense!" she wailed, throwing her hands up in the air. "You don't understand, I was a complete twit in there! I sounded like an idiot!"

Jeremy opened his mouth to say something, but James cut him off. "Are you saying you can't do it, Pip?" He crossed his arms on his chest.

All three of them looked at her.

Pip stood straighter. "Well--I mean, of course I can, but--"

"Good, problem solved," Jeremy said loudly. "Wrap at the pub?"

"Yes," James said, turning away to put his coat on.

"Bloody stupid question," Richard said, rubbing his hands together. "Pip, I brought the Rover today, so both you and your bike are coming with me."

"But--"

"Part of the job, Flip," Jeremy rode over her objection in his bulldozer-ish way. "We discuss the filming and start cooking up ideas for next week over a few pints."

"Oh. Well, okay, then. But I--"

Richard grinned at her. "You might as well just smile and nod."

Pip sighed, her good humour beginning to win out. "You three are the proverbial immovable objects, aren't you?"

"Best you learn that early, my girl," Jeremy said sagely. "Now move your arse. I could murder a pint right now." He opened the door and practically shoved James through it.

Shaking her head, she followed Richard out the door, unlocking her bike from the post at the bottom of the steps. "Are you parked in the same place as yesterday?" she asked.

"Yeah, behind the warehouse." He started rooting through his bag for his car keys.

"Good. See you there, then." With a grin, she hopped on her bike and sped off.

"Hey!" Richard yelled. "That's entirely unfair!"

"Move your arse," she called back over her shoulder with a laugh. "Jeremy could murder a pint right now."


Chapter 5

Date: 2010-01-14 06:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tommyboybbi.livejournal.com
I'm loving this. Came across your journal. Looking forward to more of this story line.

MAkes me want to type up the story I have in a notebook a month ago.

Love the friendship to the whole thing.

Date: 2011-01-31 09:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cocking-about.livejournal.com
Thank you so much! I'm pleased you enjoyed it. :D

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