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If she thinks about it logically - and Caitlin is nothing if not logical - it's not surprising that she's developed a crush on Joe West.

Let's face it, he's not the first older man to turn her head - she and Ronnie may have been the same age, but Ronnie had been the exception, rather than the rule. Most of her previous dates, not that there had been many, had been a good five to ten years older than she was and, in the case of one college relationship that had been as short lived as it had been satisfying, closer to fifteen.

And he's nice. She only had to talk to him over a couple of nights at Barry's bedside to know that. Worried as he might be, he asks her questions in a calm and polite tone, listens carefully to her answers, never takes his fears or anxieties out on her. There were nights when he'd arrive after a long shift, half dead with tiredness so she'd bring him a cup of coffee to perk him up and the next night he'd arrive with a cup of whatever Jitters blend he thought she might like. Kind, then, thoughtful too. And, when they got more comfortable with each other and he started to tell her stories about Barry growing up, or about the day that he'd had, she learned he was a good storyteller too.

So he was an easy man to fall for, especially in her emotionally compromised state - alone, grief stricken, lonely.

But even though she knows she's fallen for Joe, she knows nothing can ever come of it, for so many reasons. First, and probably most important, she's not over Ronnie, not even close. Not when she thought he was dead and certainly not now that she knows he's alive. Second, he's her friend's father - she really likes Iris, the more time she spends with her, and she and Barry have become fast friends since he became The Flash and there are some lines you just don't cross. The age difference is the last thing that worries her, and it's all moot anyway because there's no way Joe West thinks of her like that.

So her secret will remain a secret, will never come to anything else, and that's fine with her.

Caitlin's good at telling herself that.

She almost makes herself believe it too, right up until the time that she's sitting in an abandoned warehouse, tied up on a chair, courtesy of Captain Cold and Heatwave. Joe and Cisco come to her rescue and Cisco's so happy to see her alive, so happy not to have to bury another friend, that he rushes to her without a second thought. She tries to warn him and Joe must see her reaction because she sees the knowledge flash across his face and he's moving before Cisco's feet hit the tripwire she can't warn him about.

The explosion is loud enough to make her ears ring and the floor is hard against her body as she hits it at speed, teeth rattling, bones aching with the force of it. But there's a warm weight on top of her and when she opens her eyes, she sees Joe West's face looking down at her. He's breathing hard, eyes dark and serious as he looks down at her and she can feel his heart pounding in his chest.

If Caitlin's honest with herself, she's imagined that scenario, once or twice in the darkness of her bedroom.

This is not quite what she had in mind.

Joe's hands move across her body as he gets her sitting up and he takes her hands in his, begins to untie them. "I thought I was going to die," she hears herself whisper and Cisco is there, telling her he'd never let that happen as long as he was around. Joe gives him a look and he admits that Joe also had a part to play in saving her and she laughs, a little hysterically before he pulls her into a hug.

Joe's hand rests on her back for a long moment before he moves away and it's probably shock but she swears she can feel that touch long after he's gone.

It's the only thing that holds her together as she sits in the police precinct, giving her statement to the officers. When she's done, Captain Singh promises her a patrol car to take her home but Joe appears beside them. "I can do that, Captain."

Singh looks surprised but doesn't say anything, just nods and extends one hand towards the door before heading back to his office. Caitlin, meanwhile, feels the hairs stand up on the back of her neck as her eyes meet Joe's and she sees something in there that she'd never dreamed she'd see. She stands stiffly, hours of sitting in the cold warehouse taking their toll and as her body almost gives out on her, she reaches out quickly, grabs the desk for support. Joe's arm is on her elbow in an instant, supporting her, his quiet voice saying, "Easy," the only sound that registers over the sudden drumming of her heart.

She stares at him and she knows her eyes are wide, knows everything she's feeling is written all over her face.

She's waiting for him to look away, to call a uniformed officer over, to get Cisco on the phone, to call her a cab, anything to avoid taking her home.

He doesn't do any of that.

"Ready?" he says and all she can do is nod.

They drive back to her place in silence and he walks her right to her front door. Her hands have been trembling since the explosion but it gets worse when she has to put her key in the door and she misses the first couple of times, swearing softly under her breath. "Let me," he says, the first words he's spoken since the precinct and she actually jumps, almost dropping the keys but saving them at the last minute. His fingers are warm when they take the keys from her hands and he opens the door easily, holding it open for her. She steps inside and he follows her, closing it firmly behind him and tossing the keys on the hall table.

She hangs up her coat, waves at him to do the same and walks into her living room. The sight of familiar surroundings suddenly brings it home to her what a close call today had been and she feels tears spring into her eyes. She sucks in a deep breath, wraps her arms around herself and, as if from very far away, she hears his voice saying her name.

She turns to him and their eyes meet and the next thing she knows, her arms are wrapped around his neck, her head buried in the crook where his neck meets his shoulder. She can feel one of his hands splayed across her back while the other cups the back of her head and she can't remember the last time she felt this safe.

Caitlin doesn't know how long they stand there like that but when she finally lifts her head, he's looking at her with more worry in his gaze than she can stand. But there's something else there too, something besides worry, something that she just can't put her finger on. Then he raises his hand, wipes away the tracks of her tears with the pad of his thumb and the moment he makes contact, she understands what it is because it flares to the forefront, is written all over his face and, she knows, all over hers.

Desire, pure and simple.

So, for once in her life, the very logical and reasonable Caitlin Snow does something without thinking it through, without going through all the possible ramifications. Rising up on her tiptoes, she brings her lips to his and while he's initially surprised, he gets with the program quickly, kisses her back as he pulls her closer against him, running his tongue along the seam of her lips, deepening the kiss with a groan when she opens her mouth to him.

She acts on instinct, guides him towards her bedroom and when he realises what she's doing, he lifts his head, although he keeps one hand firmly on her hip, the other resting on her ass. "Caitlin," he says, his voice rough, sending shivers of desire through her, "we shouldn't-"

He stops talking when she kisses him again. "I want this," she tells him firmly when she draws away, her forehead resting against his, holding his face in her hands. "I need this." He swallows hard, flexes his fingers against her and it very nearly makes her lose her train of thought entirely. "Even if it's just for tonight." He's staring into her eyes and she thinks he's trying to tell if she's lying. She sees him wavering, adds a whisper of his name and she sees the moment he makes the decision because his eyes close for the briefest of moments and then he is kissing her again, walking her to the bedroom as much as she's guiding him in the right direction.

From there, it's a blur of motion and sensation, a few moments standing out in high relief. The gentleness of his touch as he undresses her, the naked admiration in his gaze as it travels over his body. The surprise of discovering he's ticklish as she moves her hands under his shirt. The way his eyes flutter shut and his breath hitches as she unbuttons his shirt, kissing each new piece of exposed skin. The weight of his body on hers, so much nicer than back in the warehouse, his warm skin moving against hers in a perfect rhythm. How he kisses her as he moves inside her, how his fingers trail down her body to the exact right spot to have stars exploding behind her eyes. What her name sounds like on his lips as he comes to his own release and how he gathers her close to him, holds her tightly as the sweat cools on their skin and they're both breathing hard.

She falls asleep with his heartbeat in her ear.

When she wakes up, the morning sun is streaming through the cracks in the blinds and she is alone. The bed is cold beside her and she almost thinks she dreamed the whole thing. But there is a pleasant ache between her legs, fresh coffee in the pot and a note beside it with three simple words.

"Thank you. Joe."

She doesn't know why he's thanking her when she should be thanking him, but in the cold light of day, she knows that she'll never ask him about it. The memory of last night though... well, it makes her smile, all through that day and well beyond it.