(A/N) For a prostitute/client AU prompt on Tumblr
The bed springs creaked as Caitlin sat up, shaking out her wild hair. She snagged a silky robe from a hook and wrapped it around her body as she moved around the bed, running the tips of her fingers over the naked shoulders and side of the man in her bed.
Cisco rolled to his back and put his arms behind his head, smiling at her. "So what's this I hear about you getting a telephone installed?"
She sat at her dressing table, picking up a comb to work it through the disordered waves. "Where did you hear that?"
"A little bird told me."
She rolled her eyes, smiling. "Would that little bird be the sheriff's deputy, by any chance?"
Of course it was. She'd talked to Dr. Allen about the telephone line, and the Allen man wasn't born who could keep a secret for more than five minutes. He'd told his son, of course, and Barry had naturally passed it on to his best friend.
Cisco sat up, unashamed of his nudity, propping his elbows on his knees. She eyed him in the mirror, then checked the time.
Unfortunately, there wasn't enough left of his hour to do much of anything. He was one of the few clients she charged by time rather than by the acts that they wanted, and she didn't feel right letting him go into a second hour when it was so close to house curfew.
Of course, his mind was still stuck on gadgets. "Why do you need a telephone? Are fellas going to call in an appointment with one of your girls from the next train station down the track?"
She paused, comb halfway down her hair. "Actually, that's not a bad idea. I'll consider it. But do you know the amount of business correspondence I have to keep up with? And how long it takes? A telephone could cut that down to nothing."
"Seriously, you're going to pay all that money to run a line from Starling City, knock holes in your walls, install and learn new machinery, just so you can terrorize your suppliers more efficiently?"
She arched her brow at him. "I saw how much of your whiskey you left behind downstairs. It's swill, and that new liquor supplier thinks he can pawn that stuff off on me? He doesn't know who he's dealing with."
Cisco snorted. "Not that you're wrong about the whiskey," he said. "But is that the only reason?"
She scowled. His eyes were entirely too knowing. He always thought he had her all figured out, and the hell of it was, he was usually right.
"Look," she said, swiveling on the padded bench. "It's 1895. In five short years we'll be in a brand-new century, but you'd never know it by this town. The modern world will leave Central City behind if we don't at least make the attempt to keep up. Now, we could put it to the town council, and they could argue and debate and levy taxes and hire cronies and all in all, it'd be ten years before we got 'phone service out there. Or - " She pointed at her chest. "One of the town's wealthiest businesswomen could just get it done. I know which one I'd prefer."
He grinned at her. "And once a line gets run out here, it's that much easier for, say, the doctor to get a 'phone. And the sheriff's office. And the reverend - "
"- and anybody that people need to get ahold of. Not to mention if enough people sign up for telephone service, we might have our own switchboard in a few years."
"And a switchboard will bring jobs with it."
She eyed him. "Stop that."
"Stop what?" To her regret, he reached over to the chair next to the bed and picked up his underwear and his pants.
"Looking at me like that."
"Like what?" he asked, buttoning his pants. "Like that whole ice queen act is a front? Like the so-terrifying Madam Frost is really just Caitlin Snow, civic-minded marshmallow?"
"It's my home too." She tossed her head and twisted around to face the mirror again. "And it makes good business sense."
"Sure, yeah, business sense." He nudged her aside and sat down next to her on the bench. "I gotcha."
Her comb hit a snag, and she growled. "Dammit, Cisco, why do you always play with my hair so much? I have a knot the size of Montana in here."
"But it's so pretty," he said, dropping his head to nuzzle her shoulder. "You're so pretty."
All the work she put into it, she'd better be.
He brushed his lips over her neck, creeping up her throat toward her lips. He paused with his mouth against her cheek. "How much longer?"
She checked the clock that sat prominently on her dressing table. "Five minutes," she said.
He sighed against her skin and lifted his head. Though he respected it, she knew he thought it was an arbitrary boundary. But the line had to be drawn somewhere, and she didn't kiss for pay.
"So when is it getting installed?" he asked, taking the comb from her and gently working at the stubborn knot.
"Still working out the details," she said, letting herself soften into his touch. He was far gentler than she was, and it was nice having anybody do these kinds of things for her. She'd spent so long on her own. "The company rep seems to think he should get a few perks." She gave a daintily contemptuous snort.
"Boy, he really doesn't know you, does he?"
"The House of Frost only accepts cash for sex," she said. "It's a very simple rule." And one she broke for nobody.
He ran the comb from her scalp to the ends of her hair, then smoothed his hand over the waves. "I'd like to see that."
She gave him a look over her shoulder. "My, I didn't know you were interested in that. I'll have to set something up."
He laughed and bumped her shoulder with his. "You know I meant the telephone."
She leaned into him, smiling. "I know. And you'll be the first one I tell. I couldn't let you miss it."
The clock on her vanity chimed softly, and they both glanced over at it. She looked back at him, feeling her heart flutter. "Three o'clock," she said. "Your hour's up."
He reached in his pocket and handed her a few bills, already ready for her. With any other client, she would have counted them and then tucked the roll into her bosom or her pocket before walking him to the door.
With Cisco, she just took the folded bills and went to her wardrobe to slip them into the slotted safe on the high shelf. He was the only client who knew where it was. Although not the combination. She wasn't completely a fool.
She shut the closet door, turned back, and took his face in her hands to kiss him. His arms slid around her waist, pulling her down onto his lap. She put her arms around his neck, luxuriating in his mouth on hers, in the softness of his touch, in his skin under her palms.
This little pocket of time every week was the only thing in her life that wasn't about business. It was just for her, and him. She'd fucked near every man in Central City, but she only ever kissed Cisco.
When the clock chimed the quarter-hour, they were leaning together, foreheads touching, breathing each other's air. "I guess it's time," he said regretfully.
She nodded and got off his lap. She found a pair of feathered mules to slip her feet into while he put on his shirt, suspenders, and jacket, and took his hand to lead him out of the room. They walked down the stairs like that, fingers entwined, pausing on the landing to kiss a few more times, whispering to each other.
At the door, he kissed her one last time, soft as duckling down. "I almost forgot. Iris wants an interview about the telephone for this week's front page."
"She should ask her father-in-law. The town doctor reads much better in that respectable paper of hers."
"She wants to talk to you."
Caitlin tipped her head to one side, considering. Iris Allen, nee West, seemed much more willing to acknowledge Caitlin's existence, both in print and in person, than most women were.
But all the same, Iris was a respectable married lady, and she was already plenty scandalous for being a colored woman married to a white man and running the town newspaper. Interviewing the town madam would be bad enough without it getting out she'd gone to the actual brothel.
"Let her know I'll be at the telegraph office at three this afternoon, if she'd like to catch up with me."
"I'll do that." He kissed her again. "Next Tuesday?"
"As always," she said.
He kissed her one last time and let her hand go, settling his hat on his head. "Gideon," he said to the doorman.
"Mr. Ramon," he said. "You have a nice night."
"You as well." His eyes flicked over Gideon's broad shoulder to meet hers, and he gave her one last smile before heading down the steps to the street. She watched until he turned the corner, heading for the junk shop he ran, fixing everything that could be fixed and disassembling anything that couldn't. He lived in two small rooms above the shop, which she'd never seen.
She shut the door.
"We're all clear?" she asked Gideon, who was her doorman, her bartender, her bouncer, and kept the appointment book.
"Yes, ma'am. Mr. Ramon was the last."
She nodded in satisfaction, glancing at the grandfather clock that was just starting to chime the half-hour. The House of Frost operated on a strict schedule. On weeknights, the kitchen closed at midnight, the bar closed at two, and anyone not employed by the house had to be gone by three-thirty. "Do I need to see to any of the girls?"
"No, ma'am. Dr. Allen stopped by. He says hey, and that he'll need to push back the checkup. Mrs. Queen is having her baby, it seems, and he doesn't know how long it'll be."
She pursed her lips, considering. The girls' monthly checkup was important to her, but as she knew full well, babies waited for no man. "Tomorrow will be fine." She could use the time later today to get caught up on some things, like giving that liquor distributor what-for.
"Oh, and that Vandal Savage fellow came around."
She whirled. "After what he did to Maisie last week? The gall. Why didn't you come get me?"
"I ran him off," he said. "It was all right."
"Still," she said.
"Ma'am, the girls and I try our best not to disturb you when you're with Mr. Ramon."
She stood still, feeling her cheeks heat. She averted her eyes for a moment. "Yes, well. That's very kind of you, I'm sure. Go ahead and lock up, and you have a nice night."
She climbed the stairs, listening to the soft noises of Gideon doing his last checks.
In her room, she washed and cleaned herself. She took out her sponge, rinsing it well with vinegar before putting it away until her first client tomorrow. She braided her hair to keep it from tangling in her sleep and put on her face cream for the night. All that done, she peeled off the silky robe and kicked off her shoes. She considered putting on a nightgown, but opted to climb into her bed naked. She nuzzled her face into the pillow, breathing in Cisco's scent, and pulled the blankets up around her.
It was why she always saved the last hour on Tuesday nights for Cisco, so that once a week, she could go to sleep in a bed that smelled kindly and sweetly of the man she loved.