Coffee or a Lack Thereof

The staple diet of every hard-working copper is coffee. Working late on a difficult case? Here, have some coffee. Arrived at work too early? Have a coffee. Arrived at work on time and had a hearty breakfast? Well, the coffee's ready for you anyway, sir, so... coffee?

It is the same routine in all of the offices under Chief Superintendent Jean Innocent's care. One such office is that of Detective Inspector Robert Lewis and Detective Sergeant James Hathaway. Hathaway isn't in the office when Lewis turns up at five-to-nine in the morning so he assumes his sergeant has gone for a morning cigarette. This isn't unusual, but what is unusual is the lack of a steaming cardboard cup of coffee on Lewis' desk. He glances at Hathaway's desk but there is no coffee there either.

Well, it is quite a hot morning, I suppose, Lewis thinks to himself though this explanation isn't satisfactory. I'll get meself a coffee, then. Having spent less than thirty seconds in his office, Lewis pulls on his jacket again and makes a bee-line for the nearest vending machine in the corridor. The movements of colleagues he passes are sluggish and everyone has shadows under their eyes. He greets a few but instead of a chipper 'Morning, sir!' he gets incoherent grunts. Odd. The reason for everybody's lack of energy soon becomes apparent; he tilts the sheet of A4 taped to the vending machine up to the light. 'OUT OF ORDER,' it reads.

Lewis sighs and retreats to his office, throwing his jacket over the back of his chair. He has a quiet day planned if the murderers of Oxford let him have it. He has a pile of paperwork an inch high to read and sign but after that he might drag Hathaway to the pub. He picks up a pen and pulls the first sheet off the pile.

He has had time to read and sign several others before Hathaway finally makes an appearance. He looks a little rumpled and is holding a plastic bag. "Where on earth have you been?" Lewis asks his dishevelled sergeant, then he takes in his appearance. "What happened to ya?"

Hathaway says, "It's bedlam out there, sir." He reaches into the bag and pulls out two plastic bottles, placing one on Lewis' desk and the other on his own. He then flops into his own chair and taps his password into his computer. This appears to be the only explanation that Lewis is going to get. Both bottles are filled to the brim with a bright blue liquid. Lewis feels the need to prod it with his pen.

"What the hell is this?" Lewis points with his pen at the bottle. Hathaway looks up at him.

"Energy drink, sir," he replies with a momentary smirk. As if to demonstrate what to do, he pops up the small part of the lid and tips his head back, holding the bottle high and aiming for his mouth with the stream of blue liquid. He doesn't miss.

Lewis watches with just a hint of awe showing on his face. "Why did you get me one? I would'a been happier with some coffee, you know. That looks too... artificial for me."

Hathaway is typing out one of those e-mail things that he always writes, but is it just Lewis or are Hathaway's fingers moving faster than usual? He doesn't voice this observation aloud. "The machine's broken," says his sergeant, eyes still on the computer.

"I know, but—"

"I noticed it earlier," Hathaway continues quickly as if Lewis hasn't just spoken, "so I said to myself – well, not out loud, obviously, that would be like something you'd do, sir – 'I'll go to the café across the road then.' Did you know that that shop has been open for four years, seven months, three weeks and six days? I counted cos I got bored while I was in the queue. But anyway, there were people all over the place asking for coffees and teas and hot chocolate. All of them turned away. Even me. So I said to myself, 'I'll try that petrol station. People get drinks there.' And off I trudged. Had a smoke on the way since I had the time to spare. Only then do I look at my watch see that I didn't have time to spare at all. So I ran, sir."

Hathaway finally pauses for a breath and has another drink. Lewis can do nothing but gape at the splurge of words coming at such a frantic pace. "Same story at the petrol station so I tried the supermarket. It was a longer walk then. But when I got there the machine wasn't working. Turns out that everyone's water is off. So I had to bring you back something, sir, or you'll start the day grumpy. Everyone was buying these energy drinks. Bottled water: gone. Thought I fill the machine with it. Nah..." He trails off as his attention is captured by something outside the office window.

Lewis glances out of the window too despite himself. Movement out of the corner of his eye makes him notice that other people are milling about the station with drinks of various colours. None of them look appetising. Not like a nice cup of brown and bland-looking coffee. Hathaway is almost finished with his bottle of blue stuff and is currently drawing stick men onto the surface of the desk with a pencil. Thank God it's not permanent marker, Lewis thinks to himself, or Innocent will eat us both alive.

Lewis watches him for a moment before rolling his eyes at the sergeant's obvious hyperactivity. He goes back to his work and doesn't look up for a full five minutes. Which is quite impressive considering that Hathaway keeps breaking into song. Lewis wants to concentrate since the earlier he gets this paperwork done the quicker he can get out of here. At some point between ten o'clock and half-past – Lewis didn't check so he isn't certain – Hathaway makes a lasso out of elastic bands and steals Lewis' untouched energy drink as well.

By twelve Lewis has had just about enough. He's halfway through his pile of pages when he should have them all signed and delivered to the chief super. Workers in the corridor outside are doing cartwheels – or trying to. When he stands and pulls on his jacket he tucks the remaining paperwork under his arm.

Hathaway's bouncing in his chair, two empty bottles on his desk. "Where are you off to, sir?" he questions, before throwing the most recent of several paper aeroplanes across the office. The music from Angry Birds has played on a loop for twenty minutes from Hathaway's phone.

Lewis turns to his sergeant and says bluntly, "To drink something brown and bland-looking at the pub and finish me paperwork while I'm at it."

The expression on Hathaway's face turns petulant. "There's all this... this stuff that I have to tell you about string. And the differences between all the different types. I drew you a diagram. It's on the wall beside the Ten Commandments that I wrote for future reference." Lewis closes his eyes; permanent marker. "Commandment one has nothing to do with string but the others are all totally relatable—" Lewis puts up a hand to cut him off. He is surprised that it works.

"You can tell me later when the sugar rush has worn off, okay?" I have to get out of here before Innocent shows, he adds in his head.

Hathaway salutes him enthusiastically. "Yes, sir!" He waits until Lewis is halfway out of the door before he starts again: "But I want to tell you about Shakespeare while I wait for later..."

"Bye, sergeant!" Lewis calls, interrupting him before he can get into full-flow, and he is gone. He practically runs to the pub. If he was in a cartoon he would have left in a puff of smoke.

Hathaway doesn't notice that his boss is gone. Or if he has, then he simply doesn't care. "And then – you'll love this, sir – Shakespeare says to this bloke Hamlet—Oh, hello, ma'am..."

Author's Note: Inspector Morse and Lewis have become my two latest obsessions at the moment. This is my first attempt at a fanfic for Lewis and I wanted to start with something fun. I hope you enjoyed it. :)