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Heretical

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Declan entertained brief fantasies of sneaking into the kitchen and decanting the contents of his paper cup into a travel mug, but there was never any escaping Watson's notice. He'd smell the coffee and identify the microclimate the beans had been grown in or something, and then he'd be at an even bigger disadvantage. Instead he strolled into the lab and set his paper cup down nonchalantly at his elbow.

It took all of three seconds for Watson to look up from the glass tank he was observing to focus on Declan's cup. "Starbucks?" From his tone, he might have been asking if Declan had contracted a particularly virulent plague.

"Caramel macchiato," Declan said. "Want some?" He offered the cup just to see Watson's expression.

Watson took it, to Declan's surprise. He tugged the lid off, dipped one finger into Declan's coffee, and tasted it. "That's not a macchiato."

"It's the drink you get when you order one. If I grant you that it's a horrible American thing that's probably contributing to the decline and fall of civilization, can I get back to drinking it?"

Watson handed the drink back, shaking his head. There was still whipped cream clinging to his finger, and he licked it off without appearing to notice he was doing it. Declan hid his smile behind the cup as he drank.

"It's like drinking caramel syrup."

"Says the man who puts three sugars in his tea."

"A luxury I learned to appreciate when sugar was still rationed."

Back when we had to walk to the Sanctuary uphill through the snow ... "And many's the time when I was creeping through the woods under enemy fire that I would have appreciated one of these."

Watson raised an amused eyebrow. "To drink while creeping through the woods under enemy fire?"

"Best to keep your strength up," Declan said.

"Well, if you feel properly fortified for the day's exertions ..."

"I do, thanks for asking."

"There are real coffee shops in the city, you know."

"But not as convenient," Declan said, draining his cup and tossing it into the bin where it would cease to offend. "The day's exertions?" he prompted, and Watson reached for the morning's list of tasks.

The espresso machine appeared in the Sanctuary kitchen while Declan was in Berlin for the weekend. Declan investigated it carefully upon his return, having learned that random button-pushing on any device in the Sanctuary was unwise. The main body of it looked like an antique, all shining copper and brass with elaborately curved handles, but a large array of gauges, dials, and pressure valves had been added in a style that was recognizably James Watson.

The additions grew more intricate and more than a bit weirder toward the edges, including one dial marked bass and treble. Declan felt that his personal powers of detection suggested that Watson had been sampling the results as he worked, and that apparently it was possible to achieve a stimulant-induced creative fugue using only shots of espresso.

He consulted the instructions, written out in Watson's crabbed hand, and then assembled coffee grounds and milk and built himself a drink. He considered adding sugar and went with golden syrup instead, and let it cool a moment before he tasted the result.

He wasn't surprised to find that it was good. Watson never did anything by half-measures. It was also considerably more trouble than picking up a cup of coffee at the nearest Starbucks, and the question of how much steam pressure was built up behind all those valves added more of an element of danger to drinking coffee than Declan was used to in civilian life. He wasn't sure what actually went in a caramel macchiato, and he wasn't sure he cared enough to find out.

Still, it was a useful thing to have around the house. Watson appeared in the doorway of the kitchen at that moment, having drunk his morning tea and in search of his mid-morning tea, and Declan nodded, feeling abruptly awkward. It wasn't actually a gift for him, surely, it was just that Watson had suddenly been seized with the desire to possess an antique Italian espresso machine--

The more sensible parts of his brain took charge from the parts that were currently dithering. "Thanks," he said, raising his cup appreciatively.

"Nonsense," Watson said, busying himself with his tea with a determination that Declan would have put down to awkwardness on Watson's part if that weren't so hard to imagine in a man so self-possessed.

"If I buy caramel syrup, will you consider it a plague on society?"

"The end of the world as we know it," Watson said, his mouth quirking sideways as he spooned a generous measure of sugar into his tea.

"Bass or treble, really?"

"Mmm, yes." Watson looked thoughtful. "I wouldn't advise using that dial until I've worked a few of the kinks out."

"Understood," Declan said. He made a mental note to add very dangerous: do not touch if you value your eardrums to the instruction manual.

Watson raised his cup of tea. "Well, then. If you feel properly fortified now ..."

"Bring on the day's exertions," Declan said, and drained his cup.