Party of Two - 28 and 26

She and Cisco had to gang up to keep Barry and Iris from helping with the cleanup. "Not for your own party, you idiots!" Caitlin said, shoving her sister-in-law-to-be out the door.

"Go home, dude," Cisco said, poking Barry in the shoulder until he laughed and followed Iris. "We got this. It's cool."

"Mom, you too." Caitlin hugged her. "I absolutely forbid you to even think of washing a single glass. Cisco and I will handle this."

"But you've been handling it all night!"

"And you've spent a month planning. Bask in your successful party, and go to bed."

"Okay, if you're sure."

"I'm sure. I'll see you in the morning."

Her mom kissed Cisco on the cheek. "Thank you, honey."

He gave her a smile and a return kiss. "Anytime. You know that."

They cleaned in companionable silence, broken by the swish of the dishwasher and the faint clink of Cisco placing the wet glasses in the drying rack and Caitlin drying them and putting them away.

"I'm sorry I was such a jerk about Jay," he said as he ran the last of the highball glasses under the water.

"When?"

"Tonight. I mean, I never liked him, but I really hated that he wasn't here for this. For you."

She felt herself flush and concentrated on the wineglass she was wiping dry. "It wasn't my party. It was Barry's."

"He's important to you. Your family's important to you. I thought you were pissed at Jay for not coming and wanted to get a little of your own back."

Putting the wineglass away, she turned to him, crossed her arms, and gave him a primmed-mouth, raised-brow look.

"Well! I didn't know!"

"You could've asked."

"Yeah. I could've." He reached in the sink and pulled the plug. The water gurgled as it started to drain. "I'm sorry for that, too."

She took up the towel again and started drying the last of the glasses in the rack. "You're right, we did have a pattern there for a few years. But all I wanted tonight was to talk to you again. We hadn't talked."

"No," he said. "We hadn't. I missed talking to you, too. A couple of likes on Facebook every now and then really isn't the same."

She felt warmth creep up her cheeks and said brightly, "Besides, we were at the same party, the whole night, and we didn't make out in here even once."

He dried his hands and started rolling his sleeves back down. "Good point, and we spent some quality time in here."

"Right, and all we did was talk."

"Wow. I feel like this is a mark of maturity, or something."

"I think it is. Go us," she said.

"Go us," he echoed, grinning at her, and held his hand up.

She high-fived him, but instead of the quick slap it usually was, her fingers wrapped around his, and his wrapped around hers and -

And -

They stood, holding hands in the air, staring at each other. She watched the smile fade off his face, and his eyes go dark in a way that made lightning dart under her skin.

He said in a low, hoarse voice, "You wanna come home with me?"

"Yes, please," she whispered.


Caitlin moaned when she felt Cisco throw his arm over her. "Nnnnnooooo," she whimpered into his pillow. "Don't touch me."

"Why not?"

"Because then I'll have to fuck you for the fourth time in an hour and we'll both die."

He locked his arm around her waist and pressed sloppy kisses to her shoulder blade. "What a way to go, though."

"Yeah," she said.

"Anyway, the spirit is willing but the flesh is totally weak. All I've got in me is some snuggles."

"Okay," she said. "That's good. Maybe we won't die yet." She felt him smile against her skin.

He got up about half an hour later - "Too hungry to be sleepy, you?"

"Too sleepy to be hungry," she mumbled and snuggled into his pillow. He laughed and kissed her until she reached up to hold his face and kiss him back.

She lay dozing, but thoughts kept intruding, as if he'd taken some kind of buffer away with him that blocked out reason and good sense.

After about ten minutes, she got up, rooted in one of his drawers for a shirt, and went into the kitchen, the cotton hem flicking over her thighs.

He was leaning on the counter, wearing only Captain America boxers, drinking a glass of water, and scrolling through GrubHub on his tablet. He looked up and smiled when he saw "Accio Coffee" stretched across her breasts, and smiled wider when he saw her bare legs.

"Hey," he said, handing her the water. "Nice shirt. I have three beers and half a tray of ice in my fridge, and a quarter of a jar of peanut butter and two stale tortillas in my cabinets." He returned to his search. "I'm thinking delivery but most places are closed so this might get really interesting." He scrolled some more. "What would you think of sneaking back to your mom's place and grabbing the leftover stuffed mushrooms?"

She took a drink, studying him. When she swallowed, she said, "Where do you see this going?"

His hand went still.

"I mean, is this a one night stand, or a weekend fling, or will we just agree to see each other when I'm in town . . . "

He straightened up and considered her carefully. "Well," he said. "I've been in love with you since your high school graduation party, so, no. Being part of your occasional visit home isn't gonna work for me."

"My graduation party," she said faintly.

He nodded.

"That was ten years ago," she said. "You were sixteen ."

"Yeah, I know. I was there," he said.

She gaped at him.

"Look, it's not like I've been pining or anything," he told her. "I've been with other people. I've loved other people. I didn't even really know what was going on until I went back to Central City for that one conference and I was just so damn excited to see you that I was like, huh. Wow."

Several things about that whole interaction started to come into focus. "And I'd just started dating Jay. And I made such a stinking point of telling you that - "

"It was over," he said. "This crazy, weird, sexy thing we'd been doing for actually years, that it was over."

She winced. "I'm sorry. I - I don't know how to explain, except that I felt so adult that night, after my presentation. So sophisticated. I was so high on my mature boyfriend and my mature career and my mature drink choices and my mature . . . maturity. And I thought that it was only right to - "

"To break that immature hookup habit."

"I can't believe you had any feelings for me after that."

"If you were just some girl I periodically macked on at parties, then yeah, that would've done the trick. But you were rooted deeper than that." He smiled ruefully. "And I tried to get over you. I really did. It's just that every time I thought my feelings for you were gone, I saw you or heard about you and boop!" He splayed his hands. "There they were again. It's like those microscopic animals."

"What?"

"You know the ones. You can burn 'em or freeze 'em or shoot 'em into space and when you get them back - boop! They're fine."

"Water bears," she said. "Tardigrades."

He pointed at her. "Those." He dropped his hand. "We're amazing together. I kind of always knew we would be. Which is why - " He swallowed. "Which is I'm honestly not willing to settle for a casual kind of whenever thing anymore."

She took a deep breath and let it out. "Okay," she said. "Okay. Well. My schedule at work is a little strange at the moment. This really was the last weekend for awhile that I could get away. But the project we're working on is slated to be done by the end of July, so after that it should be easier for me to take a weekend, or even a few days, and come down here. And of course, the train runs both ways so as long as you don't mind me having to work a lot, I want to see you whenever you can come to Central City. In the meantime, there's texting and email and Skype and - "

His mouth had been hanging open since the beginning of her speech. He finally managed to get himself together enough to say, "This - you thought this out? Just now? How to do this long-distance?"

"Yes." She twisted her hands. "If. If you're willling."

"You hate long distance. You think it just draws out the breakup into a horrible agonizing endurance contest. You will never, ever do it again, ever. I've heard it a few times from you."

She dropped her head and played with the hem of her shirt. "I was eighteen," she said. "Ronnie was nineteen. And it was more than the distance that broke us up. He'd gone away to college and I was still in high school, and we might as well have been in different universes. But I thought true love was forever, so it was easier to blame the distance than it was to admit that we were both changing and growing away from each other. I'm older now. I've had other relationships. So have you. We've learned from them. I think we can do this."

His mouth opened and shut a few times, and he shook his head like a dog coming out of water. "Jesus, Caitlin," he said quietly. "I was gearing up to talk you into it. I had all these great arguments and everything. But you - you just already thought it all out and got okay with it in like ten minutes."

She bit her lip. "I don't know if 'okay' is the word. Honestly, it scares me. But if long-distance is the price of admission, then I'll pay it. Because you're right. We're too special together to be casual."

"For me," he said. "You'd do that for me?"

She nodded. "I - I don't know when it started. I can't point at a moment like you can. But I love you, too."

He pulled her into his arms and kissed her, a deep, slow, tender kiss that melted her from the inside out. She wrapped her arms around his neck and leaned into the kiss, soaking in the sweetness of it, the take-your-time of it.

Maybe it hadn't been ten years for her, but it hadn't been ten minutes, either.

He rested his forehead on hers and they both sighed at the same time, breaths mingling. After a moment or two, he said, "Okay, I feel like it's only fair and right at this moment to tell you I had a phone interview with Mercury Labs last week."

She jerked back to stare at him. "Wait. My Mercury Labs? Where I work?"

"Unless there's another one in Central City."

"Why am I just now hearing about this?"

"I told Barry not to say anything because I wanted to tell you myself and then - " He looked sheepish. "I didn't really know how to tell you."

She was pretty sure she goggled. "Did you apply there because of me?"

"No," he said. "Well, not that I admitted to myself. I like what they're doing, I like what they're offering, and it's not exactly a tick in the con column that it'll take me back to the CC."

"You mean I thought that all through, and I got scared of us drifting apart, and I made that whole speech, when you might be moving to my city anyway?"

He grabbed her hand and kissed it. "I'm sorry. I know. The speech was adorable. It was so, so sweet. And now I know how far you're willing to go for us." He grinned. "Literally."

She swatted him in the chest. He laughed.

"Anyway, they haven't offered me anything yet. I just cleared the first hurdle. This could wind up being a long-distance relationship after all."

"They'll offer you a job," she said. "You're amazing."


They found a Chinese place open for another twenty minutes. With some fast talking and the discovery that Cisco knew the order-taker's younger brother from tutoring him at SCU and apparently saving his bacon - Cisco disavowed any memory of any such thing and Caitlin smiled at him - they had a delivery of sweet and sour chicken, beef and mushrooms, and steamed rice sitting on the table in half an hour, with extra crab puffs and fortune cookies thrown in.

Apparently, Cisco had seriously saved the kid's bacon.

They devoured the food. "Did you eat anything at the party?" she asked him, with her mouth full. "I felt like I didn't eat at all tonight. I was running around so much."

"You ate a cream puff," he said. "Right in front of me. I about died on the spot. I never wanted to be a pastry so bad in my life."

She raised her brow.

"There was, like, licking. "

"They were good," she said, filing the information away for future reference.

"Anyway, I got some finger food. I think the reason we're both so hungry is we did kinda - you know - "

"Fuck each other through the mattress?"

He froze, with a piece of chicken half into his mouth. "God, I love it when you're crude."

She giggled and applied herself to the food.

"How were you planning to convince me to try a long-distance relationship?" she asked him when they were throwing the empty containers away.

"I didn't exactly have it planned out or anything," he admitted. "I definitely would have led with that thing about the Mercury Labs interview, though. And probably then a lot more of what we both said already, pretty much. How we're adults and we've had relationships before and this is just too special to let go and there's all sorts of ways to keep in touch . . ."

"And if that didn't work?"

He licked a patch of sweet and sour sauce off the back of his hand. "Sexual wiles."

"Oh, really?"

He grinned at her. "And in the morning, I was gonna make waffles."

"With what? Tortillas and beer?"

"Well, I would've had to go to the store," he admitted.

She hooked her fingers in the waistband of his Captain America boxers and tugged him close. "We can do that later. I'll take the sexual wiles now."

FINIS