(A/N) written for my AU prompt series on Tumblr, "childhood best friends AU"
Caitlin staggered into the closet, knocked off balance by the hands shoving at her upper back. Cisco crashed into her from behind and then the closet door snapped shut, plunging them both into darkness.
She almost fell into the coats before her best friend's hands caught her shoulders and steadied her. "Thanks. I swear she rigged that."
"Of course she rigged that." Cisco's hands disappeared. "You know Iris. She's been talking about what a cute couple we'd make since our freshman year of college."
Caitlin rolled her eyes in the dark. "Is there a light in here? I left my phone next to the vodka."
"Yeah, but the switch is outside, and you know she isn't going to turn it on. That would ruin the game. I've got mine, it's okay." Cloth rustled.
"I haven't played Seven Minutes in Heaven since Hunt -"
"He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named's thirteenth birthday party," she amended. "Really, Cisco, he was my horrific boyfriend. Why are you the one who refuses to hear his name?"
"After the way he treated you? As your best friend, I'm contractually obligated to loathe his name forever. I don't make the rules."
She rolled her eyes again, this time at him, and returned to what she'd been saying. "I can't believe she got everyone to go along with it."
"They're probably in on her nefarious plan." The cool blue light of a phone screen lit up the interior of the closet. Cisco made a wry face at her. "Well, it's only seven minutes. We'll hang out and then tell her nice try, but her Cupid gambit failed."
"Exactly," she said. She glanced down at their feet and kicked a few sets of winter boots aside to clear a spot on the carpeted floor. "Seat?"
"Don't mind if I do."
They made themselves comfortable, shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip, leaning against the back of the closet "Why do you think Iris is so fixated on us hooking up?" Caitlin asked.
The light of the screen dimmed slightly, throwing shadows up his face and chest as he shrugged. "I dunno. Neatness? She hates to see anyone single? She's genuinely convinced that we've been covertly lusting after each other for the past sixteen years? Who knows."
She nudged him. "You could never keep that from me. I know you too well."
The screen shut off, and dropped them into darkness.
"Wellllll …" he said.
"In the interest of full disclosure, I did kind of have a crush on you at one point."
She felt her mouth fall open. "What? When?"
"When we first met."
"In Mrs. Simpson's class?"
"You didn't know? Wow, I was better at hiding than I thought."
"Or maybe I was just oblivious," she said. "Also, way to be be precocious. We were, what, eight?" Oh my god, that really had been sixteen years ago. She'd been friends with this boy next to her - this man next to her - for two-thirds of her life.
"Come on! You were a pretty girl who was willing to talk to me. Of course I crushed on you."
"When did that end?"
"When we got to be friends."
"Oh, wow, thanks."
"Nooo," he laughed. "You dork. I meant, I got to know you as a person and not just as the angel with the pretty hair who sat in front of me. Kid crushes are more about fantasy than reality."
"Mmm," she said, wondering if she should ask him to turn the phone on again. She decided against it, given what she was about to say. "Well, since you were honest with me … "
"Caitlin Esther Snow, you didn't."
"Not in second grade, I didn't! But I did crush on you for a short time in high school."
"Sophomore year. About the time you started dating Michael."
"Michael," he said. "Wow. I haven't thought of him in years. He hated you."
"Oh, I noticed."
"You really had a thing for me back then?"
"Well - yes. But I was too scared to say anything, because I was pretty sure you didn't feel the same way, what with you being in a relationship and all. I'd've lost the crush and I might've lost you as a friend."
"I'd've still been your friend," he objected.
"But it would have been weird and you know it." She shook her head, even though he couldn't see it in the dark. "No, I'm glad I didn't say anything."
He made a humming noise in his throat. "These words are going to physically pain me, but this means Michael was right."
She went hot and cold all over. "Michael knew?"
"He said things a few times, but I sort of dismissed them because he was jealous of every girl I ever talked to, and he especially had a hate-on for you. He seemed to think that you'd seduce me in twenty seconds flat if he let me hang out with you alone even once."
"Is that why you dropped me?"
"I'm not proud. And you always knew it was because of Michael."
"Right, but I thought it was because I didn't watch the right TV shows and he wanted you paying attention to him 24/7."
"Well, there was that. So when did this thing of yours end?"
"I was mad at you for the aforementioned droppage. And then you were so miserable. I'd've been a monster if I'd hit on you right after Michael dumped you."
"Did I ever thank you for that? Turning up on my doorstep with a gallon of Rocky Road and The Princess Bride when I texted you? Considering I hadn't said anything more in-depth than 'what'd you get for number eight' to you in like two months, that's sainthood material right there."
"What are best friends for?" She toyed with the hem of her shirt. "Did you ever, um, think about it again?"
He shifted. "There was this one time. You remember how we were going to go to senior prom together?"
She gasped. "Wait, I thought we were going as friends!"
"Yes, as friends! I just kind of started thinking about the dance and dinner and to be perfectly honest, it was getting a little Sixteen Candles in my head - without the racist stereotype comic relief, obvs."
"But I wasn't pining or anything. I was just like, hey, what would happen if we maybe kissed or something? Just sort of curious."
"And then Ronnie asked me," she said. "And I went with him instead. I'm sorry."
His arm came around her shoulders. "Nothing to be sorry about. I knew you really wanted a big, romantic prom experience, and there was the boy of your dreams asking you out. I wasn't gonna hold you to our goofy plans."
"You did wear the powder-blue tux."
"I did. And we all had a really good time."
"We really did! Ronnie was so nice to join our group."
"Was that really what you wanted? I mean, really."
"Yes! I told you that then, and I was telling the truth. Even if you weren't my date, I'd been looking forward to hanging out with you at prom. I was so worried we were going to drift apart when we went to college."
"We didn't," he reminded her.
"Yes, but I was worried we would."
He hugged her close. They hadn't always stayed as close during college. Being at different schools meant they had to make the effort to stay in touch. She would retreat when she was stressed academically. He would retreat when he was hurting about something. They'd both been good and bad by turns at keeping their friendship up.
But when they saw each other, it was always like no time had gone by at all - except for how much they had to catch each other up on.
She said softly, "What do you think would've happened? If I'd gone to prom with you? If we'd slow-danced and kissed?"
From the way he drew in his breath and let it out, she knew he was thinking about that. "I don't know," he said thoughtfully. "Maybe we would have decided to date. But I kind of have the feeling it wouldn't have lasted. We were both so ready to get out of there."
"And we wouldn't have visited each other at school like we did," she said. "Going to see your best friend is perfectly reasonable. Going to see your ex - not so much."
"Yeah. It's like my kid crush, or your thing for me sophomore year. The timing was wrong. And if we'd ever, like, gotten drunk at some college party together, and fallen into bed - "
"That wouldn't have lasted either." She sighed. "I'm glad we stayed friends. I don't ever want to lose you."
"Me too. If we were to ever get together, I'd want to make sure it was forever."
She swallowed, her scalp prickling. She felt like she was blushing beet-red, and was glad of the dark. Her voice trembled a little as she said, "How long have we been in here?"
He turned his phone on again. "About … six minutes or so? Not much longer."
Cuddled as close as they were, she could pick out the shadows of each individual eyelash, the curve of his mouth and the angle of his chin.
I'd want to make sure it was forever.
It was uncanny how he'd echoed the way she'd thought about it for the past few years.
He turned his head to look at her, his face cut into strange portions by the light from the phone screen, and she wondered if he'd just been saying that. Or if he'd meant he wanted to be friends forever, because something romantic wouldn't last.
His eyes dropped to her mouth, then lifted again to lock onto hers. Her heart hammered in her throat.
The screen dimmed.
She leaned forward, and maybe he did too, because their noses bumped. She overcorrected and got his cheek, smooth and smelling lightly of his aftershave. They both laughed a little, and his hand settled on her cheek, and finally, finally their lips touched -
The blue light of the phone disappeared, leaving them in the dark, their lips moving together. His hand slipped down her back, pulling her closer. She hooked one arm around his neck and pressed against him - warm and solid, strong.
What if this was the moment that the timing was actually right?
"Caitlin," he murmured.
She panted, feeling the warmth of his breath whispering over her lips. "Yes?"
"You wanna do this?"
He meant more than kissing in the dark during a silly party game. A lot more.
Forever wasn't guaranteed for anybody. But when you both knew that was what you wanted and you were both willing to work for it - didn't you have a better chance of getting it?
"Yes," she sighed. "You?"
"Oh, god, yeah."
She smiled and pulled his head down to hers again.
A few moments later, the overhead light snapped on, and Iris's voice caroled, "Seven minutes is up!"
They pulled apart and yelled in unison, "Go away!"
A chorus of raucous laughter met their twin bellow, and the light snapped off again. In the middle of the riot of glee, Iris yelled, "Pay up, Allen! I told you so!"