Title: Coffee
Author: aethre
Fandom: Sanctuary
Characters/pairing: Helen, James, Barney
Word Count: ~750
Rating: G
Challenge: First Times
Summary: Exhausted from days of straight research, Helen tries coffee. It goes as well as could be expected.
Notes/Thanks: Thanks must be given to puffandruffle on twitter for promptly answering my question as to where that scene with Will and Henry (though it was actually Ashley) watching the video with the protégé before Will was. Say what you will about twitter, but it, and hashtags, make for an excellent source of ungoogleable information. Written for the Sanctuary flashfic comm and, as I'm just using this comm as a writing exercise (ostensibly to write the Sanctuary characters I'm not as obsessed over, which I clearly just failed at), this is completely unbeta'd. Feel free to point out anything wrong with it!


For over a century, Helen Magnus proudly avoided coffee. She was quite derisive of the dark drink too, and was rather vocal about her distaste, initially much to the annoyance of her second protégé. He was quite happily addicted to the swill and, in response to Helen's unsubtle barbs, his intake had vastly increased. He quickly took pleasure in tormenting his occasionally stuffy boss by going about the Sanctuary with a large coffee mug perpetually in hand and gleefully kept at for more than twenty years. It had led to frequent debate between the two with Helen provoking Barney by stating that the smell of the bitter liquid was enough to give her a headache, and he would quickly reply with a snarky one liner and then the two would be off.

James, long used to their squabbling, simply blocked it out. In two decades he had not heard a new argument from either party and, after unsuccessfully attempting to join in the first time he caught them bickering, he just sighed and carried on. Clearly it was just one of their things and the detective was not one to begrudge Barney for staking that claim on Helen; he and her had an intimidating amount of shared history and quirks as it was. From day one, it had been difficult, if not impossible, for outsiders to squirm their way into The Five's circle and James was impressed at how deeply Barney had integrated himself into their lives. Especially since it started with something as mundane, and loathed, as coffee.

So the time James and Barney caught Helen in the kitchen with a coffee mug at her lips came as a great surprise to all parties.

"This isn't what it looks like!" Helen exclaimed, heavily shadowed blue eyes wide over the steaming mug of coffee. James just tiredly leaned back against the doorframe with an amused smile stretching his face as Barney stepped into Helen's personal space. This, James mused, was going to make for a great show.

"Really?" Barney said gleefully as he nudged his boss with his shoulder. "To me, it looks like you're drinking coffee."

"I've had one sip! One!" Helen could feel a blush forming and ruthlessly tamped down on her embarrassment.

"And how many cups?" Barney crowed. "Are you the reason why my pot is depleting faster than usual?"

"Hardly!" Helen scoffed. "This is my first cup of coffee. Ever. Which I only poured because I've completely ran out of tea and I am in desperate need of caffeine."

Barney looked at her suspiciously and then nodded in acceptance of Helen's claim. "So, what do you think?" His shit-eating grin got wider. Helen just looked at him flatly.

"It tastes like swill," she said succinctly. "Burnt swill, in fact." Barney looked horrified until he turned to the twin coffee makers and his expression relaxed as he took in two pots, one full and one empty.

"Of course it tastes burnt," Barney said. "You took last cup of coffee out of an hours old pot. Here, let me fix you a new cup – it'll be marvellous and you will love it!"

James winced as Helen's jaw clenched and her eyes hardened minutely. Never a good sign. He was amused to notice that Barney hadn't picked up on that particular tell. Either that or was blissfully unaware of Helen's state of mind in his over-caffeinated exhaustion.

Barney chatted enthusiastically as he poured a new cup of coffee from his second coffee machine, oblivious to Helen deliberately pouring the burned coffee down the sink with narrowed eyes. He didn't look up until Helen slapped the ceramic mug down in front of him.

"That," she said, "will not be necessary. I am going back to work." She swept an imperious gaze over the two men. "And we shall never speak of this again."

With that, Helen stalked out of the room, her back ramrod straight and her head high. Barney looked at James and slumped sheepishly with his eyes pleading mercy. James laughed.

"I see some things never change," James said between chuckles. "Helen would always get a bit moody in Oxford when things didn't go quite her way, especially when she began forsaking sleep for science."

Barney laughed. "I bet she never went as far as to drink coffee back then."

"Well, no." James admitted as he swung an arm around Barney's neck and led him out of the kitchen. "But there was that time where I convinced her to try cocaine. Now that, my friend, is quite the tale. I'll tell it to you sometime, perhaps after we catch Helen's latest prize. For now, we've got work to do."