Light from the early morning sunrise streamed through the apartment windows. A small brown Whiffling, standing on a dresser, held up a square of cloth to the light. “Which bandana today?” Siobhán asked, thumbing through a collection of napkin-sized bandanas perfect for her Whiffling frame. The bandanas were in a rainbow of colors and prints, all lovingly folded and without a wrinkle.
“It’s so hard to choose, you look great in everything,” Morgan said fondly. “Oh - how about!” The Xenopus Paralogos stopped Siobhán on a colorful bandana featuring cows in various pride flag colors. “It is June, after all. OH! I’ll wear my pride frog shirt, and we can match.”
“Sounds great!” Siobhán said, bouncing slightly on the balls of her feet as she tied the bandana around her neck.
“You’re chipper this morning,” Morgan remarked as Siobhán finished dressing and continued to bustle about. It was early in the morning, even for the black coffee Whiffling.
Siobhán nodded. “The siphon coffee maker Dr. Gringoire ordered for me finally arrived last night,” she said, departing from the dresser mirror and throwing all manner of coffee-making paraphernalia into her bag. “The one with the built-in bean grinder and thirty-six different combinations of settings!”
Morgan gave a low whistle. “I still can’t believe they let Dr. Gringoire use federal grant money for that thing.”
“Oh, you know her. I’m sure it didn’t take her much to convince them what a boon it will be for research and productivity.” Siobhán said, tapping her head with one finger. “If anything, I’m surprised she didn’t get two.”
At the institute, Siobhán was practically bursting with excitement. In public, she tried to keep her cool, but Morgan could tell by the way her bovine ears waggled slightly at the least provocation. The boxes containing the coffee maker had been rescued from the loading dock, and Morgan had taken the solemn duty of carefully unpacking each one. She handed each piece to her partner, who accepted them with a gentleness bordering on reverence.
Soon, Siobhán had the whole thing up and running, having discarded the instruction manual in favor of her own intuition. The little cow set about adjusting the buttons and nozzles, while Morgan sat back and admired her partner’s diligence where her work was concerned. The little Whiffling had sensed a need (of everyone there, for caffeine), and did her best day by day to fulfill it. Her pride in her craft was clear. The beans were freshly roasted and ground to the ideal size for the method; the water was triple-filtered and heated to the perfect temperature; the first few batches of coffee had all been ‘discarded’ (aka, to be drunk by Siobhán herself later) for not being “good enough” for the rest of the team. Privately, they all kind of tasted the same to Morgan, but the aroma of roasting coffee was heavenly.
“Alright, are you ready?” Siobhán asked, wiping a bit of sweat out of her fur. Her efforts had thus far produced a single pot of coffee, the color of deep mahogany wood.
“Ready!” Morgan said, flexing her webbed feet, ready for her part of the equation.
Some time later, Morgan was rattling a cart full of coffee mugs and freshly brewed pots in the labyrinthine basement of the Institute. She knew the halls like the spots on the back of her hand, and soon came to a worn-down door of one of the older labs. A sign on the front said “Keep out! Plague-carrying rat!,” a warning somewhat diminished by a scrawl of an angry, pointy-faced, ratlike-Paralogos right under it.
“Hello, is the lab manager around?” Morgan said, pitching her voice higher. “I want to ask if you need any pipettes calibrated.” There was a scuffling from within, and the door to the lab opened the barest fraction, with a small, whiskered nose peeking from behind, twitching agitatedly.
“No! No we don’t, please go awa - oh. Morgan! Don’t scare me like that!”
Morgan laughed as Dawley flung open the door fully, still shuddering a little at the thought of having to interact with a sales rep. “Sorry, couldn’t resist. Here, take this as a peace offering,” she said, proffering the coffee mug to Dawley. “Fresh from Siobhán.” They snatched the mug, nose twitching, and took a long drink.
“Scalding and black as night, just how I like it,” they said, eyes closed in a private, caffeinated reverie.
Suddenly, small, round Logos peeked around the corner, attracted by the commotion. “Tory! I didn’t expect you all the way over here so early in the morning,” Morgan said.
“Well, you know, I finished cleaning the vivarium early today, and I can always make some time for gossip,” xe said. “You wouldn’t happen to have one for me, would you?” Xe asked hopefully.
“Of course,” Morgan said, pulling another mug from the cardboard box on her cart. She poured Tory a cup. Xe took it gratefully, but looked around conspiratorially, fidgeting slightly with the handle of the mug.
“You wouldn’t happen to have... the goods, would you?” Xe asked. Morgan looked over her shoulder, then, carefully, opened a nondescript shelf in her cart. “Don’t let Siobhán know,” she said. “I have heavy cream, half and half, sugar, a handheld milk frother, and even some whipped cream.”
Tory gave a happy squeak, hurried to the cart, and began to dump sugar into xyr coffee cup.
“Disgusting,” Dawley said, eyeing Tory as they placed their now-empty mug back on the cart. “Ruining a perfectly good cup of caffeine.”
“Oh you spoilsport, you’re sounding more like Siobhán every day,” Torva said, swirling xyr beige-colored drink and taking a sip.
“Thanks Morgan! It’s time for us to get back to work.” Just as quickly as they had appeared, Dawley melted back into the shadows of their lab, Tory waddling a few paces behind.
Morgan smiled as she watched them depart, then headed off with her cart. Soon, she was traveling down the elevator to an even lower floor of the basement, deep in the guts of the institute. It was a lot darker that far down, and housed the boilers, long-term equipment storage, and... the archives.
She stepped quickly now, the rattle of her cart and the squelch of her webbed feet echoing eerily through the empty halls. She slowed upon approaching an imposing, but unmarked door, hands shaking just a little as she grabbed one of the 500 mL mugs and poured in a few shots of espresso. Reaching into her “hidden drawer,” she frothed some milk and, with a flourish of her wrist, created a small heart on the surface of the drink. Morgan set the mug down adjacent to the door and gave it a loud, clear rap, before hurrying back down the hall to the nearest elevator.
After her rounds were finished, Morgan stretched. Though it couldn’t be far past noon, she was already a bit sore and looking forward to the worn-in couch in her quiet office. The now-empty cart rattled as she pushed it back down the hall and towards the lounge.
She pushed open the door to the lounge, about to call out a greeting - but stopped. Siobhán was fast asleep, curled with her hand still on one of the levers of her new coffee machine.
Smiling a little to herself, Morgan took off her shirt and draped it over the sleeping Whiffling. Siobhán had to get her rest - Morgan knew how upset she would be if she missed the afternoon coffee run!
Siobhán was able to turn her hobby of brewing the perfect black coffee (her scent) into a job - she supplies Dr. Gringoire's research institute with caffeine! Not to worry though, for those who don't like intensely bitter bean juice, Morgan will sneak you some milk and cream.
The two have a partnership of some kind, and there's a lot of gossip among the researchers whether it's platonic or romantic in nature. They seem to get by just fine without any explicit labels on it, though, and they make a great team!
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