Midori desperately hoped that the disgust and horror she felt at this moment did not appear on her face. "This is certainly interesting," she said, peering into her cup. "What is it again?"
Tamaki laughed his sparkling laugh, pushing his blond hair back from his face. "It's coffee, princess. Surely it's obvious?" Midori took another cautious sip, and, seeing her expression, he elaborated. "Instant coffee is now the official drink of the Host Club."
"Yes. Some people call it commoner coffee. Haruhi introduced us to it."
Midori looked over at Haruhi. She had recently returned from a semester in France, and discovered upon her return that a new boy had joined the complement of delightful male company offered by the Host Club. Midori thought the boy charmingly sweet, and found that she had no objection at all to his bishonen aesthetic. Still … "Has he never had real coffee?"
Tamaki fell into a stance of deep thought, chin propped in his hand. "Haruhi's life has been difficult, sweet princess. He has known deprivation on a level that we may not be able to fully comprehend." Midori could have sworn she saw Haruhi roll his eyes upon overhearing this (Tamaki's voice would carry so). "We've tried to expose him to the finer things, of course, but we must respect his common ways. Besides," and his voice took on a note of boyish exuberance, "it's so much fun to watch the coffee crystals dissolve in the hot water. Let me fix you another cup so you can see."
"Oh, that's quite all right!" Midori said hastily as Tamaki tried to take her cup. He frowned as he noticed it was well over three-quarters full. "I'm trying to savor the … the … the interesting flavor." What she in fact was trying to do was to sort out in her mind how anything could be both bitter and insipid at the same time.
By this point Tamaki had obviously caught on to her dilemma. He couldn't quite keep the disappointment from his voice as he handed her a small bone china pitcher. "Maybe some cream will develop the flavor. After all, princess, we can't expect everything to be as sweet as you are."
Midori bit her tongue. What she wanted to say was "Coffee isn't supposed to be sweet. It's supposed to be strong, yet subtle. Maybe faint overtones of chocolate or blueberry or honey. Bright, but not sharp. It's supposed to taste like birdsong right before the dawn, like everything might go right with the day, and even if everything goes wrong, at least one has the comfort of the genial beverage, the delightful brew." But what she said instead was "Yes, cream would be lovely, thank you."
The next day, Kyoya met her at the door to Music Room 3. "I know you usually request our King, but I had the strangest feeling you might want a little change today."
"I was hoping to sit with Haruhi, if he's available," Midori admitted. She fished around in her bag, bringing out a small package. "And if it's not too much trouble, might I ask a favor?"
"No trouble is too great for the sake of our dear princesses' happiness, and your favor is no trouble at all," he said smoothly. Then, his voice growing just the slightest bit plaintive, "I suppose this is meant for you and Haruhi to share?"
Midori laughed. "There's plenty. I'd be delighted if you'd have a cup for yourself." She handed Kyoya the pack of beans, and went into the room.
Midori could tell Haruhi was a little put out at the idea of changing coffee today. He had dropped a couple subtle hints indicating that he had always found his usual coffee good enough, and maybe his tastes were just much simpler than those of his guests. "But Haruhi, have you ever had Kona coffee?"
"Well, no. But usually I don't have very much time in the mornings, so instant coffee works out much better. And Tamaki really likes it."
That, Midori did not doubt. It had not escaped anyone's attention that anything that Haruhi enjoyed, Tamaki enthusiastically embraced. The friendship between the two young men was touching.
"Your coffee, princess," Kyoya approached with a silver tray, handing her a delicate cup patterned with seashells. Her gave a matching cup to Haruhi.
"I'm surprised to see you serving us, Kyoya," Haruhi said.
Kyoya took the third and final cup for himself, handing the tray to Haruhi. "In order to be certain a thing is done correctly, sometimes one must handle the task oneself," he said pleasantly. Midori privately agreed; she had insisted on brewing the coffee herself, not entirely trusting anyone who professed to enjoy instant coffee would be capable of the careful attention to detail required to brew the perfect cup.
"I think you just wanted to be sure you got a cup of this expensive coffee," Haruhi grumbled. Kyoya didn't offer a reply, instead closing his eyes in pleasure at the first sip.
"Haruhi, you must try this." Midori bent her head to catch the aroma of the coffee as steam wafted up from the cup.
"Yeah, Kona coffee is some of the best coffee in the whole world," Honey said enthusiastically. Midori looked around, somehow not surprised to see that the entire Host Club, and no small number of their guests, were gathered around, eyes wide with anticipation.
Haruhi sniffed at the cup. "Well, it does smell really nice," he said.
"He's going to drink it!" someone in the crowd squealed. "This is so exciting!" Midori had to agree.
He took a small sip. Then another.
"Hold it in your mouth a minute," Midori urged. "Let the flavor really unfold."
Haruhi followed her suggestion. His eyes closed, and a blissful smile spread across his face. "It's good," he admitted. "It's very good."
The crowd cheered. Midori felt the thrill of victory. Another convert, she thought smugly.
Haruhi took another sip. "But this is really expensive, right?"
"Well," Midori hedged, trying to remember how much the coffee did actually cost. "Well, I don't know about really expensive."
"By your standards, Haruhi, that's a yes." Kyoya interjected, eyes still closed in enjoyment.
"I thought so." Haruhi took yet another thoughtful sip. "It's delicious, but I think on the whole I'll stick with instant coffee. It doesn't taste that much worse, especially when you consider the price." He set the cup down on the table.
"Daddy's precious girl!" Tamaki gushed, rushing to embrace him. "I'll buy you all the Kona you want!"
"Senpai, it's not that big a deal," Haruhi said, pushing the overenthusiastic blond off him.
Midori felt like crying. True, she didn't love coffee best in the world. That spot was taken by her parents and her little sister. But coffee ranked in a close second. Very, very close. To have it so summarily dismissed was a blow to her heart.
"Oh well," Kyoya said sunnily. "More for the rest of us. Shall we finish off the pot?"
Midori smiled bravely, grateful that at least one person understood her greatest passion. "Yes. Yes we shall."