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The Art of Caffeine

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You’d think contracting for the police Will would know something about coffee. All those “cop, a doughnut, and coffee” jokes. Admittedly it’s always bad coffee in the jokes. Still, the truth is, before the Sanctuary the most Will knew about coffee was Folgers instant. That or whatever was put in front of him. Will had survived on coke in college, for all the nights he stayed up past dawn, which were surprisingly few except for the semester with the roommate from hell freshman year.

His short time at the FBI he’d been quitting caffeine, no smoking, drinking, or coffee. He was going to be the perfect agent. Will’s fairly certain the wires that got crossed somewhere in there were the same ones that dropped him on the rainy street, at night with the woman in the big hat. Magnus knew caffeine, well not coffee, there were some things on which she wouldn’t compromise. After living at the Sanctuary Will was beginning to recognize the subtle aroma of Magnus’ favorite Jasmine tea. Coffee, that was all Henry.  Henry had one of those earth friendly, washable, two-cup-sized travel coffee mugs in striking cobalt blue. It was the first thing you looked for in the lab. If the cup was there, Henry would be too. Henry also drank gallons of “alien juice” or so he’d call Mountain Dew. When Will had commented, Henry had smiled, shooting a finger at him, “Just be glad I don’t mix it in my coffee anymore.” Such indiscretions had ended after defending his thesis Henry assured. Now Henry makes good coffee. It seems a shame to Will that Henry’s the only one who drinks it.

Henry makes one pot every morning and Will’s taken to dropping by, an empty mug in hand and pouring himself a cup of that first batch. By the time he gets there, Henry usually has half the pot left, still warm, and is booting up the last o the computers that don’t run 24 hours a day. Henry doesn’t talk much that early, stubbly, and messy-haired. He tends not to change out of his soft grey pajama pants and sleeping shirts before his second batch of coffee.

Will remembers the morning he dropped in to see Henry in pajama pants covered in rainbow colored teddy bears. He couldn’t help laughing. Henry had turned to him, brows drawn down in annoyance, that coffee cup in one hand, and had grouchily explained that they were a gag gift from Ashley. It was laundry day and all that. Ashley had popped in just as Will was leaving, a wide grin on her face and Henry hadn’t said anything, just handed her an empty cup.

Ashley drank coffee, though she tended to wander in at odd hours, her “morning” starting anywhere from four am to two pm. She would often be seen with a cup of Starbucks, much to her mother’s consternation. But most mornings it’s just Henry when Will comes by. He fills his cup, the computers come to life, and they share the silence.

When his cup is half empty and all the computers are awake, he tops himself up with the last of the first batch. Henry will already be grinding the beans for the second and in the haze of sound Will slips out. He takes the elevator up to where Helen will be finishing her breakfast, the Big Guy seated nearby with his own cup of Earl Grey.

They never have breakfast at a table. Helen enjoys her mornings leisurely in her office, admiring the Old City, or working one handed, scone in the other, tea growing cold in the face of an idea or inspiration. And so, Will’s glad he’s learned something about coffee, about how Henry grinds his beans, and that Ashley takes hers without milk. Too he’s learned how Magnus drinks loose-leaf tea from it’s own special kettle with a strainer, how her first batch and Henry’s never coincide. Will has learned a morning routine. The Sanctuary isn’t just where he lives, and these people aren’t just housemates or coworkers. They’re people with whom he shares the finest, most minute details of his life.

He shares the things that matter most, and if Henry’s added a can of creamer that tends to show up by the coffee pot just as Will arrives, then Will knows to take Magnus’ cup and rinse it, pouring her another one, straight and hot and then one cube of sugar, to be pressed into her hands on those working mornings. The harried smile she gives him, grateful and distracted as she thanks him is worth more than any spoken word. Inhaling deeply, she’ll ask his opinion on a recent police report, a news story, a letter from a contact, or an old case on which she’s had a new idea, a break through, or any of many things with which he’s come to help. And yet, Will feels it’s the tea that does the most, the coffee, the small acknowledgement of companionship, of family.