(A/N) Written for Killervibe Week on Tumblr, for the theme "Pre-Particle Accelerator"
Cisco eased open the door to the auditorium and slid in, feeling like a kid late to class. From the looks of things up front, they hadn't gotten started yet, but almost every seat was filled anyway. His labmates had warned him that Wells frowned on anyone being late to one of his all-staff first-thing-in-the-morning meetings, and the last thing Cisco wanted was a frown from Wells.
Stinking buses. The minute his first paycheck hit the bank, he was getting a car. It could be fifteen years old and have a steering wheel held on by duct tape, but it couldn't possibly be as unreliable as CityTran.
He peered around and found one open seat at the end of a row about halfway up. He strolled through, like, hey, yo, I'm not late, just ducked out to go to the bathroom.
"Hey," he whispered to the pretty doctor he'd met on his first day. "This seat taken?"
Caitlin Snow looked up. "Oh! No. Go ahead."
"Cool. Hey again, by the way. Remember me? Cisco?"
"Of course I do. Hi." She nudged the man on her other side. "And this is Ronnie. Honey, this is Cisco Ramon. I told you about him."
He looked over and broke into a big smile, extending his hand across Caitlin's lap. "Hey there! Wells's find, right? I've heard a lot about your work, man, we should talk after."
Cisco shook it, liking him immediately in spite of his frat-boy looks. There was a bright openness about his smile and an honesty about his offer that was refreshing after working next to Hartley and all his veiled jabs for the past few days. And of course, anyone Caitlin liked couldn't be too bad. She had the good taste to despise Hartley, after all.
"Yeah, we should," he said. "So how was your guys' anniversary getaway? That's where you were off to when we met, right?"
She nodded. "It was - good," she said, blushing and shooting Ronnie a soft look.
Ronnie beamed at her. "Really good."
She turned back to Cisco. "How have your first few days at STAR Labs been?"
"Oh, you know. Finding all the bathrooms, fighting with IT to get my email set up. New-job stuff. It's been good, though. Every time I thought I found the coolest project they're working on, there's another one."
Ronnie laughed. "Yeah, you're not wrong."
Cisco glanced up at the front. They seemed to be having some technical difficulties or something. "So you guys know all about this place, huh?"
"Yep," Ronnie said cheerfully.
"Can you fill me in on all the secrets?"
"Sure, like what?"
"Like, the best lunch places. No shade to the cafeteria, but I'm kinda done with chicken salad sandwiches."
"Oh, his favorite topic," Caitlin said, laughing.
"Top ten at least," Ronnie acknowledged cheerfully. "Okay, so right around here there's a Burger King and a Carl's Jr. and a sub shop." He shrugged, subtly indicating that they would do in a pinch. "In non-fast food, there's a place that used to be a food truck specializing in grilled cheese. I haven't tried that yet. There's a pizza place that owns my ass. Oh, there's this Indian place around the corner. They do a lunch buffet for ten bucks."
Oooh, that sound interesting. He hadn't had decent Indian food since Delhi Palace closed down and got replaced by an Applebee's. "They any good?"
"Well, white dude talking, but I like it. I even got Caitlin to eat there." He grinned at her. She rolled her eyes back at him. Cisco guessed that trying new things wasn't exactly her forte.
He laughed. "Well, those all sound like a good start. Oh, here's something else you might know. Who's this biotech ice queen I'm supposed to be avoiding?"
"The what?" Ronnie said, his expression going curiously flat. Caitlin's smile had dissolved into thin air.
"The guys in my lab were telling me, there's somebody in biotech who's a total nightmare and … to … " Cisco trailed off, feeling like he'd done something wrong, but unsure what. Suddenly all the air had gone out of their convivial bubble.
"You know I'm in biotech, right?" Caitlin asked.
"Uh - no, I guess I didn't catch that. So you know who it is?"
She stared at him. "Ice queen? Snow?"
It took a moment. "Wait," he said. "What, they meant you?"
"Are you joking?"
"No, I'm not joking. For real? You?"
"I'm surprised Hartley didn't jump at the chance to tell you about my nickname."
"Oh jeez," he said under his breath, realizing the trap he'd stepped right into. "Actually, Hartley was the one who suggested I should ask you."
"What a surprise," she said.
"He's such a turd," Ronnie muttered. He'd put his arm around Caitlin's tight shoulders. Cisco wondered how much grief she'd gotten for the ice queen moniker.
"Hey," Cisco said. "He's a tool. They're all tools. From what I've seen so far, you're not icy at all."
She crossed her arms. "You haven't been on my bad side yet."
"Well, if we're gonna be friends, I probably will at some point, because nobody's perfect. But I still don't see it, and they're still tools."
Her shoulders softened up, and she gave him a little smile.
"Hey, looks like they're getting started," Ronnie said, smiling at Cisco, too.
The buzz of conversation was dying down around them, and Wells had stepped up to the podium.
Cisco thought of something, and nudged Caitlin as Wells started talking. "Indian for lunch?" he whispered. "Like say, twelve-thirty?"
She considered it, glanced at Ronnie, then gave a little nod. "That sounds great," she whispered back.