It was Mike Stamford who first brought John to the café. "You've been wandering around like a zombie all week. The caffeine will do you some good. Besides," John wasn't sure, but there did seem to be a bit of an unholy gleam to Mike's eyes as he added, "You look like you could do with a laugh."
"A laugh?" John asked, confused.
"You'll see," was all Mike would say in response, but, since Mike had offered to pay and John wasn't one to turn down free coffee, John soon found himself outside a trendy looking coffee shop called 'Rationcination staring at the line of customers in front of them a little warily.
"Wouldn't think this many people would queue up for coffee this time of day. Must be amazing stuff or something, yeah?"
Mike just laughed. "You'll see."
As they moved slowly up to the register John began looking around for a menu, but didn't spot one. He was about to ask Mike about it when an argument between the barista and a customer distracted him.
"I will serve you no such thing, that order is utterly nonsensical!" the barista yelled.
The customer, an older woman wearing far too much makeup and terribly uncomfortable looking tight clothes, slammed her purse against the counter. "There is nothing wrong with my order!"
"If you fail to see the problem with it then you must be stupider than I first imagined. Congratulations! I'm actually impressed that someone with your mental acuity is capable of dressing, albeit poorly, all by themselves and attempting to blend in with the rest of London's dreary excuse for a population."
John raised his eyebrow at that and turned to Mike who whispered, "That's Sherlock. Yeah, he's always like that," in his ear.
The woman fluttered her hands, clutching her chest like Sherlock had wounded her somehow. "Well, I never-"
"No, obviously you haven't," Sherlock interrupted, "Or else you would know that a 'cappuccino, hold the milk' is impossible, considered that, by definition, a cappuccino is a carefully prepared combination of espresso, steamed milk and the correct amount of foam. Here." Sherlock plunked a cup down in front of the woman. "The dark roast of the day with a sprinkle of cinnamon."
She opened her mouth to protest but Sherlock cut her off with a shake of his head. "Just take it and go. And try to use that tiny brain of yours for something other than the gossip columns every once in a while. Next!"
The next order turned out to be two caffè lattes, then a macchiato (which Sherlock tsked at but made no further comment), then an iced chocolate followed by an abortive attempt of an order of decaf. John couldn't help but snicker at Sherlock's "not in my café! Unadulterated piss has more flavor!" before sending the customer out the door empty handed.
"Somehow I have a feeling he isn't kidding, he probably knows what unadulterated piss tastes like," Mike whispered to John, a big grin on his face.
"Do you think he's experimented then? After all, unadulterated implies..."
"No," Mike held up his hand, "Just stop right there."
"Well, it does."
"No. There are certain places my brain is happier not going to."
"No. Be nice to me, I'm buying you a coffee, remember?"
John laughed, but nodded and held his tongue.
The next customer in the queue didn't even place an order, he merely handed his credit card over and stood there quietly as Sherlock gave him a long look before spinning around and going to work. "A flat white with an extra shot," Sherlock said as he held out the drink. "And you may want to take a cab instead of the tube tonight. Just a thought."
"How does he," John started to ask Mike before realizing the woman in front of them had just received her drink, the light roast of the day, and now Sherlock was right ithere/i, staring at them, waiting for their order.
"Simply put," Sherlock explained, "I am amazingly good at what I do. I may not present you with the drink that you would have ordered, thinking you wanted it, but rather with the drink that you need. Mike, still on that diet I see, not that it's doing much good, your typical skinny mocha with whipped cream then I assume?"
"Erm, yeah, thanks. That'll be great. This here's an old mate of mine, John Watson. Never been in here before."
"And you thought you'd subject him to my notable charms, how kind of you." Sherlock's tone of voice made it quite clear that he was being facetious, although not unkind. "Well, John Watson, would you like to place an order or would you rather take a chance and see what drink I have in store for you?"
John looked at Mike who gave him a 'go on then' motion and then turned back to Sherlock. "Surprise me."
Sherlock slapped the bar, a grin on his face. "A risk taker, excellent." His eyes narrowed as he stared at John for a few moments. "Oh! Of course!" he shouted before grabbing a cup. "Don't worry. You'll love it. I guarantee it." He turned, his back blocking what he was doing, preventing John from seeing what he was preparing. "Well, not so much guarantee then simply be quite sure about it. Mostly sure, anyway. You'll like it. At least I think so." With a flourish he spun back around, handing Mike his mocha with a ridiculous amount of whipped cream precariously perched on top and then handed John a cup. "Take a sip. Tell me what you think."
John took the proffered cup a little warily, not knowing what to expect. It was smooth and strong with a velvety finish that seemed to explode in his mouth. "I. Wow. Yes, this is exactly what I needed. What is it?"
"A long black." Sherlock's grin lit up his face making him look for all the world like a kid in a candy store. "Similar to an Americano, but with the espresso added to the water rather than the other way around. I knew you were the type that was capable of appreciating the difference."
"Yeah, it's grand. Thanks."
Mike cleared his throat loudly at that.
"Right, thanks for the coffee, Mike. You were right. This place is just what I needed."
Before Mike could respond the customer behind them elbowed his way up to the counter. "Excuse me, I'd like to get out of here sometime today."
Sherlock's lips quirked at that and he made the exaggerated motion of lifting his wrist to look at his watch. "Since it is only 1:53 in the afternoon, it is very likely that it would still be today when you left this establishment, even if you had not chosen to rudely interrupt the transaction I am currently in the middle of."
John shifted to the side a little, to be a bit further out of the way of the flow of traffic. "No, Sherlock, it's okay, we're done here, I suppose. You go ahead and help this gentleman," he said, taking another sip.
The man's gaze raked over Mike and John and he sniffed derisively before addressing Sherlock. "I require a coffee. And not one of those," he gestured to the drink in Mike's hand, giving the whipped cream that was dripping down the side a haughty look, "sort of drinks. A simple, normal coffee, if you please."
Sherlock cleared his throat, his expression icy. "I somehow think my definition of normal deviates vastly from yours. Would you care to be more specific?"
As John turned to follow Mike out the door he snickered, not only at the disdainful tone Sherlock was using, but also at the way the man blustered in response and puffed out his chest. "Coffee. Basic, black coffee. Or is this café too pretentious to serve something like that?"
"I'm serving you, aren't I?"
The customer's reply was lost when the door swung shut behind them. Ratiocination was an interesting café, and Sherlock truly an... unusual proprietor. There was something compelling about the place, and the man who ran it, and when combining that with John's nearly continual need to caffeinate he expected there would be many visits here in his future. Many visits indeed.