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Bittersweet

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Charmain is staring at that mug from what it seems to be ages. She blinks a couple of times, stiff body and mouth open in disbelief. Then she decides to hold it up, carefully. It looks like coffee, one of the many she prepares for the whole police station on regular basis, almost every hour or so.
Black, hot and appearently innocent. Perfect way to start a monday morning.

Thing is, Charmain's the only one providing for it herself, always been since she's been hired, and she's kinda sure nobody wants to take her place.
Detective Hodiak is late on his duty, probably recovering from a hangover somewhere, ruleing himself out of the potential givers, and that's what makes Charmain a little more cautious than before.

It definitely must be a prank, one those cruel ones that Ed Cutler and his jerk squad love to pull on her just because, well, she doesn't own a penis.

 

Her nostrils involuntarily dilate, breathing in a most familiar and intense aroma. Of course it smells good. God, it actually smells amazing. But who knows, maybe they spit into it, or put some rubbish like castor oil, or whatever. They're capable of worse, Charmain's been there in person to witness it, thanks very much.
Looking around suspiciously, making sure nobody pays attention to her, she put her lips close to the mug. She feels the steam caressing her mouth seductively and she's about to give in.
Still, in the end she doesn't drink it, putting it back on the table mechanically, like she's heard some kind of call to order from a smartass voice in her brain – a voice who sounds so similar to Hodiak's.

 

What if it's spoiled, Charmain?

What if everyone's waiting for you to drink it, exposing you to shame again?

Be careful, honey.

 

One last wary glance around, then. Just to be sure.
No sniggers, no bad puns in the air, no sly mocking eyes upon her.

As usual, when she's not the target of ruthless sexism, she's confined to be as relevant as a pretty cardboard cutout.
Fair enough.

So, the coffee – which by now it's getting cold - must be there by mistake. Otherwise why would anybody--

 

“Are you gonna drink that or what?”

 

Charmain almost jumps, letting out a little gasp while she raises up her eyes to meet the quiet amusement on Brian Shafe's face. She didn't notice him sneaking up on her, or even hitting the office, for that matter.

He can be stealthy and silent as a cat burglar when he wants, all low-profile and as invisible as she feels all the time in that place.

 

“Sorry, I-I thought it was... “

 

She struggles with words, suddenly aware and flattered, unable to say nothing more.

Brian pretends not to notice it, accepting the gratefulness that shines all over her.

 

“You always make it for everybody in here.” he explains, shoving hands in the back pockets of his flared Levi's.

“I felt like making it for ya as a change.”

 

“Thanks, really.” she simply whispers at last, both hands tightening on the mug as if she's afraid to accidentally drop it.

 

There's some sort of coy shyness in the way he hesitates, scratching his scruffy beard, swapping his own weight from one foot to the other awkwardly, like he'd like to say more. They've just started to be work buddies on cover, but they're not that close, probably he's not even used to do such things. That's why everything feels more adorable that it should – and Charmain hopes this thought doesn't reflect upon the smile she couldn't hold anymore.

 

“It ain't got no sugar, anyway.”

 

“It's fine. I like it bitter.” it's her sincere answer, before finally having a good sip.

 

Brian smirks smugly, adding some unexpected sweetness Charmain wasn't prepared to handle.

 

“I thought so.”

 

Coffee never tasted better.