BBC Sherlock fic: "The Broken Cup" aka "The coffee shop au" Story Two: "On Any Rain Day" 2/2
While on one of his daily walks around London John Watson ducks into a coffee shop to avoid the rain. A coffee shop owned and run by former DS Greg Lestrade, and the home of Sherlock Holmes' 'Science of Deduction' specialty drinks.
It's not hard to say his life will never be the same. Especially once he gets hired on as the newest employee.
( Part one )
Regardless of what most people would call common sense- not that John always listened to that voice in his head- the next morning John returned to the cafe.
He’d woken up early with the sunset- one habit that had stayed with him- and couldn’t fall back asleep. It had been one of his rare nights without nightmares, luckily enough (or not so), but he’d still been restless.
John was glad to have somewhere to go, and something to do instead of sitting inside all day or wandering around London avoiding people and being avoided. Even despite how, well crazy, really, the cafe had been. And whatever that had been with Sherlock.
He was returning to the cafe because, despite how strange it had been, he was also intrigued. A cafe where the owner, even though he had no reason to, had offered him a job of all things. To a wounded- traumatized if his therapist knew what she was talking about- ex-army doctor who had no purpose now he was back in London.
In the early hours of the morning John was walking along the mostly empty streets on his way to the cafe. He arrived with his leg only giving him occasional trouble, and opened the door to the cafe with a hard shove.
A bell jingled with the movement just as it had before, but no one called out or looked up.
John took several steps inside until he was beside the table closest to the door. Then he paused and took in the cafe.
Sherlock was behind the counter, his back to the rest of the cafe. John couldn’t tell exactly what he was doing but Sherlock was busy with something; occasionally darting over to different areas of the counter. He seemed to be completely focused and not paying anyone, or anything, any attention.
At the part of the counter closest to the kitchen Greg- Lestrade- was leaning casually over the counter, propped on one elbow. He was smiling, grinning was maybe a better word for it, at the man sitting on the other side of the counter. The man was sitting rather carefully, as if he weren’t used to stools; but even with how uncomfortable he looked, he was being very friendly towards Greg. They clearly knew each other well.
John started walking forward again, skirting around tables on his way to the counter. He stopped at the other end from Greg and the stranger, not wanting to bother them.
John rested his hands on the counter and cleared his throat.
Sherlock stilled with one hand wrapped around the handle of a mug and the other poised to pour from a jar. He turned his head and intoned, “Good morning, John.”
John smiled and greeted in return, “Good morning.”
Sherlock’s shoulders visibly relaxed; a second later there was a soft ‘clink’ as he set the jar down on the counter.
John straightened again, just as Sherlock turned completely around to face him.
There was a brief flicker of what could possibly have been surprise; but why, because John had actually come back? He hadn’t been absolutely sure he would, but had Sherlock doubted him too?
Then Sherlock blinked once, twice; and said, his voice perhaps just the slightest bit warmer, “Morning.”
John laughed, caught himself, and said again, “Morning.”
The two of them stared at each other for a few seconds, John not sure what he wanted to say and Sherlock, well he wasn’t saying anything either.
Finally Sherlock coughed and said in a rush, “Would, would you like something to drink? Anything you want.”
John frowned, brows drawn together. “Sure, yeah. I’d love a drink.” He agreed quickly, in desperate need of caffeine.
Sudden, frantic energy seemed to overtake Sherlock. He bounced once on the balls of his feet and said, words running over themselves, “Excellent! What would you like? No, don’t tell me-” Sherlock held up his hand, stopping anything John might have said. “I’ll make something to suit your tastes, on the house.”
Before John could tell Sherlock what he liked, the man quickly turned back towards the machine and opened a cupboard above his head. He took down a mug then did something with the machine until it started making noise. He slid the mug under the top of the machine, and bent down to take something out of a small refrigerator under the counter. Sherlock slowly poured what he took from the fridge into the jar and mixed it with a spoon, and suddenly the air smelled like spice (like his grandma’s old spice cupboard).
John had thought Sherlock was done after he poured the mixture into the mug he’d placed under the machine. But instead Sherlock opened the door to the cupboard to his left to reveal shelves full of jars. John leaned over the counter but as far as he could tell the jars didn’t have labels or names on them. Yet Sherlock easily glanced over them briefly before picking out a certain squat jar with a red lid. He unscrewed the lid, and shook whatever was inside into the mug twice.
Sherlock hummed loudly, interrupting him, and started slowly stirring again. John waited until Sherlock finally stopped- ruling it was finally ready for consumption- and turned back to face him.
“Drink,” Sherlock ordered, setting the mug down on the counter in front of John with an impatient ‘clink.’
John gave him a suspicious look, but slowly reached out and wrapped his hand around the mug. He lifted it towards his mouth, only breaking eye contact to take his first careful sip hoping he wouldn’t burn his tongue.
A wave of flavors rushed over his tongue: a mixture of spices that made his tongue tingle, smoothness from what was possibly milk, and just a little hint of something sweet.
It was unusual, but mostly, “Delicious,” John exclaimed. He set the mug down and looked at Sherlock. “That’s absolutely delicious,” he enthused. “What’s in this?”
Sherlock’s lips twitched in a not quite smile. “Trade secret.”
John smiled. “Ah, huh. Well,” he said, taking another sip, “It’s delicious. Whatever’s in it.”
Out of the corner of his eye John saw Sherlock’s mouth twitch upward even further.
“Yet another fan of your... drinks, I see, Sherlock,” a smooth voice called over. “Well done.”
The beginnings of a smile on Sherlock’s face quickly vanished, twisting into displeasure. “Shut up, Mycroft,” he snapped, breaking eye contact with John as he took a step backward.
John blinked, surprised by the change. He hadn’t liked the dripping condescension in the other man’s voice either, but Sherlock sounded honestly upset.
“Leave him be, Mycroft,” Greg’s familiar voice scolded. “You know Sherlock’s drinks bring in business”; a pause, “or at least a few regulars.”
Sherlock scoffed loudly. “I am accountable for at least eighty percent of your business, Lestrade. Likely even more given how slow it has been lately. People enjoy beverages specialized to their own specific tastes.”
“Not everyone,” the smooth voice corrected smugly. “Some people do still enjoy black coffee and properly made tea.”
“Yes, well, good thing we offer both then,” Greg added dryly.
“Isn’t it just.”
John decided he should jump in before the three of them went for another’s throats, or the friendly- supposedly- sniping became more. He said lightly, “Well, I know I’ll definitely come back for more of this.” John raised his mug. “Whatever it is.”
The annoyance in Sherlock’s expression faded minimally. “Something unusual.”
“Needlessly complicated,” the other man countered.
“Specialized for its orderer,” Sherlock returned sharply, not looking away from John again.
John smiled and took another long drink from the mug. Once he swallowed he added gratefully, “Thank you.”
Greg spoke again. “He has an entire spreadsheet of drinks he’s come up with. Crazy combinations you’d think would never work but people actually like them.” Greg shot him an approving smile. “Including you apparently, John.”
“Sometimes its not so bad to try new things.” John commented, taking another draught of his drink.
The man who’d been talking to Greg made a polite scoffing noise. But he didn’t say anything else.
For some reason Greg seemed amused by this reaction. “Just because you drink nothing but straight black coffee, Mycroft,” he teased with a small smile. His eyes flickered to Sherlock. “Some people do like more exotic flavors.”
Sherlock loudly cleared his throat and turned so his back was completely to Greg and ‘Mycroft.’ “Come over here, John. I may as well try to teach you to make beverages.” He tilted his head. “It would probably be best to start with the simpler ones.”
John frowned disapprovingly at him. “I can remember how to make drinks. I do have a fairly good memory.”
“Mm,” Sherlock said in a close approximation of his doubtful scoff. “We’ll see.”
John clenched his hand at his side before quickly walking towards the end of the counter. He was determined to prove Sherlock wrong. And to prove to himself that even though he wasn’t in the army any longer, or working as a doctor, he could still be useful. He could still accomplish things.
Before he could slip behind the counter the stranger, ‘Mycroft,’ spoke again. “Do you really need another employee, Gregory? I would imagine Ms. Donovan and my brother are enough of a handful for you to manage, on top of everything else.” His voice turned wry. “Do try not to do too much Gregory.”
“Sally can’t work every shift,” Greg countered, sounding argumentative for the first time. “And I wasn’t actually the one to think of hiring him, that was all Sherlock.”
John didn’t look, but he could hear the clear surprise in the man’s voice. “Sherlock thought to hire him. I wasn’t aware you looked to my brother for hiring decisions. Or for anything more than a supplier of your more, specialized beverages.”
“I don’t,” Greg quickly replied. “But he did make a few good points, and convinced me John was worth a chance.” After a wry laugh he added, “And as you know, Sherlock is nearly always almost completely right.”
“Wrong.” Sherlock intoned. “I am always right.”
“Except for when you miss something during your deductions,” ‘Mycroft’ intoned darkly, as if reminding Sherlock.
Sherlock shot him a dark look, but instead of replying he said to John, “Come along, John. I don’t have all day; there’s a new drink I am very near to perfecting.”
“Well I don’t want to take up your precious time,” John drawled a little sarcastically. He walked over to Sherlock and stopped beside him. “I’m sure with a little guidance I can learn them on my own.”
“Nonsense,” Sherlock declared before promptly turning his focus to the machine.
The man with Greg- was his name really Mycroft?- cleared his throat. “I believe it is up to Gregory to make the management decisions, Sherlock. You do not have any say over such things, no matter what you might think.”
“Yet Lestrade seconded my decision,” Sherlock replied smartly, taking yet another mug down. “I’ve heard change can be good at times, Mycroft. Perhaps you should look into it.”
“Sir? We should be going.”
John started at the new voice and turned to look, while Sherlock continued gathering things from the cupboards and refrigerator.
There was a tall woman, even taller in heels, standing next to the man with Greg. She was stunning, and in a very nicely fitting dress suit, and tapping away on the mobile in her hands.
“Just a minute please, Anthea.” The man said, only briefly glancing at her.
“The PM will be waiting, sir.”
“I’m sure he’s used to waiting,” Greg commented, resting more of his weight against the counter. “A few minutes more can’t hurt.” He didn’t say anything about the strange noises Sherlock was causing the machine to make.
“Apologies, Gregory, but I really should be going,” Mycroft said as he rose from the stool. “It was good to see you. We must see each other again soon.”
“We’ll spend time together soon, Gregory. I plan to stay in the country for the foreseeable future.” Mycroft promised. After a moment he reached out and placed his hand over Greg’s. “We will spend more time together, I promise.”
“Oh go away already,” Sherlock snarled, with an audible eyeroll. “You’re making me ill.”
“An unintentional benefit,” the man commented with a slight smile. He turned away from the counter, taking the coat the woman held out to him. “Take care, Gregory,” he said as he pulled it on. “And John, I do hope Sherlock doesn’t manage to run you off before the days end. You do seem to be a pleasant, normal fellow.”
“Go away, Mycroft,” Sherlock snapped yet again, harsher.
“Yes, I think it is time to go, Anthea,” he announced, and they both started for the door. “Good day.”
“‘Bye Mycroft!” Greg called cheerfully.
As soon as the door clicked shut behind them, Greg turned on Sherlock. “I don’t understand why you just can’t get along with your brother. You two always have to be so difficult.”
Sherlock remained silent, continuing to tinker with the machine.
“That was your brother?” John asked, surprised. Now that he thought about it, their sniping did sound a lot like what most conversations between him and Harry dissolved into.
“Surprised I have a brother?” Sherlock asked, ice to the edge of his words.
“No, no it’s not that,” John quickly replied. “Well it is a bit, but I have a sister who I don’t get on with either.”
Sherlock suddenly froze, one hand on the mug and the other on the machine. A second later he spun to look intently at John. “Sister, you have a sister,” he hissed. “There’s always something.”
“Didn’t you just say you’re always right?” Greg reminded Sherlock as he carried the two mugs he and Mycroft had been using to the sink.
“Not a word,” Sherlock bit out, quickly resuming his drink-making.
John relaxed his posture slightly so he wasn’t quite so defensive. He turned to rest against the counter yet still see the rest of the shop. “So that was your brother.”
“He seems...” John paused, searching for the right word and having trouble. ‘Nice’ was definitely not right. “Interesting,” he finally settled on.
Sherlock laughed sharply.
“Sorry John, but you can’t understand the sibling rivalry between Sherlock and his brother,” Greg called over the sound of the water running.
“He’s not my brother, he’s my archenemy!” Sherlock corrected loudly, setting the now full mug down a little roughly.
John now had an insight into Sherlock as a young boy. “Your... archenemy.”
“Don’t ask John,” Greg advised, drying the mugs with a rag. “It’s really better if you don’t ask.”
“Yes, my archenemy,” Sherlock confirmed. Then he turned to John, holding out the mug. The liquid inside sloshed a little. “Here, taste this.”
John stared down at the mug suddenly thrust under his nose. After only a brief hesitation he took the mug from Sherlock. He didn’t think Sherlock would try to poison him- not just yet- and he was eager to try more of Sherlock’s specialties.
Closing his eyes John slowly lifted the mug to his lips and took a long sip. As soon as he lowered the mug again Sherlock demanded impatiently, “Well? What do you taste?”
What? “Uhm, well... chocolate? Or cocoa. Some kind of chocolate definitely.”
“You need to be more precise. Dark chocolate with a little white chocolate,” Sherlock corrected, only a little patronizingly. “Continue.”
He could really tell that? John was new to this, he didn’t really know much about making drinks. Especially not to the point of being able to tell exactly what was in something.
John scrambled to identify what he’d tasted. Just to be sure he took another long sip, closing his eyes again. “Some kind of fruit? Just a little. Cherry? Or.... raspberry.”
“Raspberry.” Sherlock confirmed. “What else?”
“Mm,” John thought hard for a long second before finally shaking his head. “That’s it.”
Sherlock gave a rather loud, put-upon sigh. “Well, I suppose you’re not entirely an idiot.” He looked appraisingly at John. “You do have the ability to learn.”
John laughed. “Thanks, I think.” He went to take another sip of the delicious drink, but Sherlock snatched the mug out of his hands. “Hey!”
“No time for that,” Sherlock admonished. He set the mug to his right on the counter. “You’re here to learn how to make drinks, as easy as they are. Not to drink everything.”
“I can’t even enjoy what I make?” John asked hopefully, eyeing the mug.
Sherlock turned to frown at him. “Why would you do that?”
“I-” John ended up shaking his head instead of trying to answer. “Never mind. I wouldn’t.”
Sherlock hummed and turned his attention to taking yet another mug down. At this rate they were going to use all of them before the customers even started coming in.
As if reading John’s mind, Greg called from near the kitchen door, “You’re cleaning all those mugs when you’re done Sherlock!”
“Isn’t that what you have Sally for?” Sherlock returned, peering inside the mug suspiciously. But the doors to the kitchen were already swinging shut behind Greg. “Irritating,” he muttered.
“I’ll wash if you want to dry,” John offered. “Since I was using them too.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Sherlock said, waving a hand in the air. “They’ll get done anyways.”
“Still, it would-”
Sherlock talked completely over him. “Now, I will show you how to make this once, and only once. Then it will be up to you to use that supposedly excellent memory of yours to remember. Most of the population don’t use nearly as much of their brain as they can, so prove to me you’re different.”
This was his chance to prove to Sherlock that he was worth the risk of his sudden hiring, and to thank him for believing in him. It was thanks to Sherlock that he even had this opportunity to feel useful to society again. “All right,” John said with a determined nod, “Show me.”
After Sherlock went through the steps of making his least complicated drink (John soon forgot the strange name) he let John try on his own. Sherlock turned out to be a rather... impatient teacher. He barked at John if he did something wrong, and liked to correct him at every step. John knew Sherlock was just trying to make him do his best, probably, but by the end his jaw hurt from gritting his teeth. He was ready to snap at Sherlock but didn’t, didn’t even have time before Sherlock took the mug from him and handed him another.
“Again,” Sherlock commanded.
John took a deep breath then exhaled through his nose, a technique he’d learned years ago. Once he didn’t feel like strangling the other man, John took the mug and started the process all over again.
By the time there were nearly a half dozen mugs sitting on the counter with varying levels of liquid in them, John’s head was pounding. For the first in a long time his leg wasn’t bothering him and he could put equal weight on both. It wasn’t the same as being a doctor, especially over in Afghanistan, but it was a start. It was using his brain, and his memory.
By the time Sherlock had deemed his most recent attempt, ‘Adequate, but can still be vastly improved upon,’ the sun was shining in through the glass windows and outside the city looked to be waking up.
Greg had been going in and out of the kitchen during Sherlock and John’s lesson, bringing out trays of sandwiches, pastries, and other goods, and sliding them into the display under the counter. He also brought out new mugs, shooting an annoyed glance at the dirty ones on the counter, and put them in the cupboard.
It took John a few minutes to realize Greg was getting ready for the day, ready for customers to come in.
He took a quick sip of his last attempt before Sherlock could take the mug away. John thought it tasted better than ‘adequate,’ but Sherlock obviously expected nothing less than perfection. Then he suggested, “Maybe we should stop, Sherlock. People will be coming in soon-”
“Irrelevant,” Sherlock said, not appearing to listen. He handed John a new mug.
“Sherlock, time to wrap it up,” Greg called, sweeping one last look over the counter. “It’s almost time to open.”
Sherlock set the mug down loudly, and turned to look accusingly at Greg. “But he hasn’t learned anything yet!”
“Yes I have!” John protested. “Well, I nearly have. The last one was ‘adequate.’”
Greg laughed. “‘Adequate’ is a good accomplishment, John. But we’ll just start you on the food and register for now. Tomorrow Sherlock can keep teaching you, if you want.”
“All right,” John agreed. It wasn’t like he’d expected to be making drinks his first day.
Greg gave him a grateful smile before turning his attention on Sherlock. “Will you behave today? No being smart with the customers?”
“It’s not my fault if-”
“Sherlock,” Greg said sternly.
Sherlock glowered at him before finally sighing heavily. “I will do my best to behave with the customers,” he promised, enunciating each word and sounding as if he were reciting a line he’d memorized.
Greg gave him a critical look, checking how genuine he was, before nodding. “All right, then.” He grinned at them both. “Let’s start the day.”