Kiss me and see how important I am.
She turned to face him and tried to casually lean against the table. "It's fine," she responded brightly. Too brightly.
He clenched his teeth in a quick flash of frustration. "No, it's not fine. I shouldn't have said what I said. It was stupid. I'm sorry."
His hands were his pockets and his eyes darting between hers and the ground. He was contrite, she realized.
He continued softly, "You must know, you have to know that I didn't mean it that way."
She gulped. Did she know? Did she believe him? Yes, she realized, yes, he was sorry. But that was almost worse, because if it wasn't calculated and cold, then it was something much more dangerous. The truth was pressing on her, and yet it was a stronger force than needed.
"Yes, I know," she explained. He visibly relaxed. She felt relieved too; she didn't want to see him upset. It screwed up his face in strange, unnatural ways. Barry, who had suffered so much pain, should always be happy. If it was in her power to grant it, she would.
But she couldn't delve any further into this. She didn't have enough emotional energy saved up to deal with the fallout. It was too dangerous. He was too dangerous; his sadness, his apology, his pain, his proximity. It was more potent and terrible to her than anything else. "You're forgiven."
He looked skeptical, so she continued, "Really, Barry. We're fine. It's fine." When he still frowned, she smiled despite herself. "I mean it. Really."
"So we're ok?" he asked, shuffling a bit closer.
There was something in his voice that she didn't quite understand. We're ok? Well, of course, the two people here were ok. Was there more? Surely he didn't think there was more. What could he mean? No, no, no, she couldn't delve deeper into this. That was a promise. NO misreading. No interpreting. No further introspection of any kind. She'd already forgiven; now they must forget. For both their sakes.
"Yes. Now we can forget the entire thing happened."
There was a long pause.
"Forget it?"he replied as if the words were poison in his mouth.
The light smile slipped from her face. "Yes. Forget it. Obviously." Nonchalance was her friend. Her motto. Her desperate prayer. This wouldn't affect them; it couldn't. Surely he didn't want that. It was only a moment of weakness. Only a kiss. A simple kiss. A simple, passionate, mind-blowing kiss that made her toes curl and her skin sing. But it was a kiss. Just a kiss. Oh. God. It was right?
But she should've known Barry wouldn't let it go. He was too dogged, too stubborn for a simple word of forgiveness and a quick dismissal. Abruptly, she straightened and made for the door. Run, run, run: the Caitlin Snow tactic for dealing with awkward encounters.
She didn't get more than two steps away from the table before he stepped closer, all green eyes and open expression. She knew what he planned to say. Oh God. She knew already. How was it that she always knew?
"Cait…Cait," he rasped, putting his hand on her stiff arm. "I don't think I'll ever be able to forget."
"Barry…"she started, closing her eyes in pleasureable frustration.
"I mean it, Cait. We kissed. It meant something."
"Barry, it was a mistake…"she mustered in response. This was what she practiced. And it was a mistake. Logic dictated that kissing one's collegues was always a terrible idea.
"Was it? Because I've made a lot of mistakes in my life, and that was definitely not one of them."
She took a step back, removing herself from his touch and putting some much needed distance between them. "It wasn't real, Barry. It was just lust and loneliness. We got caught up in the moment."
She repeated the arguments that she'd constructed over and over in her head. It was wrong. They were lonely. Adults had…sexual needs. They kissed, so what? So what? So WHAT? It was easier to pretend it was something else. If she made him believe it, maybe she'd believe it herself.
He looked wounded. She wanted to wound him. Just a little. Just enough for him to let her leave this room with her pride and mind unscathed.
But Barry was a fighter; he wouldn't let her go that easily. "I've experienced both lust and loneliness before, Cait. And that's not what it was. Admit that. Admit it to yourself, at least."
She shook her head with eyes closed.
He continued, "There is something between us. I feel it and I think you feel it too."
She couldn't. She wouldn't. She didn't want to. Because that meant opening up her heart to endless, deep lashes of pain. Barry Allen would kill her. Loving him, wanting him would destroy her. She was vulnerable. She wanted to be strong. Not weak, never weak for another man's love.
"Caitlin, I can't stop thinking about you. About kissing you. About touching you." A thrill shot through her, too quickly for her to squelch. But his next words startled her. "What are you so afraid of? Why are you holding back?"
She turned away to face the table, hands braced apart as she leaned slightly forward on it. "I just…I can't. You won't understand."
"I want to understand."
"I can't, Barry, I just can't," she responded dejectedly. He wouldn't understand. He couldn't. He might know loss and heartbreak and pain, but he wouldn't understand. He saw only possibility; she saw the practicality. They worked together. They were friends. It couldn't work.
There was a long pause. One part of her wanted him to walk…or streak out the door. The other wanted him to never leave. Ever.
Please go. Please go. Please go, her mind repeated.
He sighed. Another pause.
Please stay. Please stay. Please go. Stay. Go. Now. Before I turn around.
"Then I want you to understand me," he responded softly.
Understand him? What? How? Why?
Abruptly, he spun her into his arms. And he kissed her. Hard and swift. Surprising her. Consuming her. Thrilling her. It was nothing like their passionate kiss in the garage.
She was done fighting the attraction for the moment. She wasn't capable of resisting him. Not anymore.
This was hot and heavy.
It's been a while. You're amazing for sticking with me. I hate that I'm unable to finish these two off right now.
Also, I got a tenure-track professor job, which about as likely in my field as turning from a regular person into a unicorn. It's been a wild few months.