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With Abandon Or Not At All

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Barry steals Cisco’s food, and it starts with the tostones.

“Are those bananas?”

Cisco jumps, Caitlin had banned any food in the lab that could make crumbs.  Technically the list had only included potato chips.  Cisco spun around to face Barry, hiding the bag behind his back, wincing when it crinkled.

“Relax,” Barry says, a grin lighting up his face and Cisco fights an urge to swoon.  No matter how much time he spent around Barry that grin was still something else.  “I won’t turn you in to Caitlin,” Barry continues.  “What are you eating?  Banana chips?”

No longer fearing the wrath of Caitlin Cisco offers the bag to Barry.  “No way, man, you’ve never had plantain chips?”  When Barry hesitates Cisco shakes the bag like he’s trying to bribe a cat with treats.  “That’s a crime and I won’t stand for it.”

Barry grabs a single chip from the bag, pausing only slightly before he pops it in his mouth.  His eyebrows shoot up.  “It just tastes like a chip.”

“That’s because bananas and plantains are entirely different animals my friend.  Welcome to your first taste of the food of my people.”  Cisco gestures to the bag like Vanna White and Barry laughs, making Cisco feel quietly pleased with himself.  He invites Barry to split the bag with him as they go over possible improvements to their suit.  He doesn’t say a word when Barry ends up eating more than Cisco, and it could just be his super metabolism at work, but Cisco suspects he’s gotten Barry hooked on plantain chips.  He makes a mental note to bring them to work more often, at least until Caitlin catches him.

 

“Green tamales?” Barry asks when he walks in on Cisco eating lunch in his workshop a few weeks after the plantain chip incident.

“Wrong country, nice try though,” Cisco says, not bothering to finish chewing before he speaks.  It wasn’t the first time Barry had seen him talk with his mouth full.  That sounds like an innuendo in Cisco’s head and his thoughts stutter for a second.

Barry laughs before Cisco has a chance to get caught in a spiral of his own thoughts.  “Sorry, didn’t mean to be the ignorant white guy.”

“It’s cool,” Cisco shrugs, still trying not think about what other things his mouth could be full of in connection to Barry.  “Pasteles are sort of a very very very distant cousin to tamales.  They’re kind of a lot of work to make so I only get them on special occasions.  I’m down to the last few I froze after my titi’s fiftieth birthday.  Want a bite?”  He cuts a piece with his fork and holds the fork out to Barry.  Cisco expects him to take the entire fork, but instead Barry zips over and takes the bite off the fork while Cisco is still holding it.  Something vital feeling in Cisco’s chest seizes.

He registers that Barry is making a weird face as he chews.  “Not good?” Cisco asks, hoping he doesn’t sound that breathless.

Barry swallows and Cisco watches his throat work.  “No, it’s good, I just think my brain was still telling me ‘tamale’ so I wasn’t expecting the taste.”

Cisco tears his gaze away from Barry’s throat and forces a laugh.  “I had the same problem when I ate a tamale for the first time.  I’m not a hater though, I’ll eat pretty much anything covered in any kind of masa.”  Cisco is saved from having to think of anything else when their police scanner beeps, the computer in his workshop is linked to the bigger array.  “Multi-car accident on the highway, looks like a truck carrying hazardous chemicals was involved.”  Cisco feels a whoosh of air before he’s even done speaking, and when turns around Barry and the rest of Cisco’s pastele are gone.

 

Barry keeps stealing his food over the next few weeks as October turns into November.  Cisco notices he only does it at certain times though.  Barry completely ignores it when he brings in lasagna or regular chips, but bacalaitos and alcapurrias disappear almost before Cisco has a chance to taste them himself and Barry gets the largest portion of the arroz con gondules Cisco brings to the non-traditional Friendsgiving Thanksgiving Caitlin had suggested they have at the lab (away from vital equipment.)  

Cisco can only come to one conclusion: Barry is hooked on Puerto Rican food.  Cisco totally understands and sympathizes.  He wants to invite Barry over to his house for an entire meal, but can’t think of a way to ask that doesn’t sound a little like a date, so he decides to just plow right through it and hope he speeds past any awkwardness before Barry notices.

He pounces when he spots Barry looking disappointed when he sees that Cisco brought leftover pizza for lunch.  “Come over to my apartment tonight and I’ll cook arroz con pollo for you,” Cisco blurts and then tries to keep his body language casual like this is all totally normal.

Barry pauses and Cisco prepares himself for rejection as he watches Barry think.  Instead all Barry says is, “You can cook?”

Cisco blinks.  “Yeeeah?  Where did you think all my food was coming from?”

Barry shrugs and looks sheepish and Cisco tries to convince himself he’s no more than half in love with Barry already.  51% at most.  “I don’t know,” Barry says.  “I guess I thought you were getting it from your family?”

“You know I don’t see my family that much.”  Barry starts to get the kicked puppy look on his face like he’s about to apologize for mentioning them.  “But,” Cisco continues, blithely plowing past the awkward conversational detour he can see coming.  “My grandma taught me how to cook when I was little.  She told me a man shouldn’t expect a woman to cook for him and practically threw a Puerto Rican cookbook at me when I left for college.  Be at my house at 7.”

Barry gives a small smile and Cisco’s heart maybe does a flippy over thing.  “Alright, I’ll be there.  Metahumans permitting.”

Cisco groans.  “If you just jinxed us, man, I am going to be like, so mad.”

 

Fortunately, or unfortunately if you ask Cisco’s nerves, the rest of the day is quiet and Barry only has routine work to do with the CCPD.  Cisco thinks about taking some of his action figures and nerdy science posters out of the living room before Barry comes over, but he knows Barry knows he’s a nerd, and Barry kind of is, too, so he just straightens up and sprays everything down with Febreze chanting,“Not a date not a date not a date” in his head in an effort to calm his pounding heart.

The knock on his door at exactly 7 o’clock makes him jump, he expected Barry to be late as usual.  He runs his hands through his hair and straightens out his shirt as he walks to the door.  Not a date not a date not a date.

When the door swings open Cisco immediately notices that Barry isn’t dressed in anything much different than what he usually wears.  Although he always kind of dresses nice so maybe that’s not a good measure.  Not a date not a date not a date, his brain reminds him.  He also notices that Barry is holding a bottle of wine.  Not a date? his brain asks feebly.

“Hi,” Barry says, his stupid life ruining smile firmly in place.

“Hi.” Cisco replies.

Barry gestures with the wine bottle.  “I, uh, brought this.  Joe always told me to never show up to someone’s house empty handed.  Someone at the store said this goes well with chicken?  I hope it’s okay.”

“Oh, yeah, I’m sure it’s great!” Cisco says, still standing in the doorway.

“Can I come in?” Barry asks.

“Oh my god!  Yeah, of course.”  Cisco tries to get out of Barry’s way so fast he trips over his own feet a little.

“You okay?” Barry asks, making an abortive move to reach for Cisco.

“Yep, fine!” Cisco did not yelp, that is not what just happened.  He takes the wine from Barry and leads him into the kitchen.  As soon as they step through the doorway Cisco feels calmer.  Cooking is something he’s good at and likes to do.  He doesn’t have to worry about the consequences like he does when he builds a new gadget, and it helps him feel connected to his family without actually having to talk to them.  He catches Barry looking surprised when he notices that all the ingredients are laid out but nothing is actually cooking yet.

“Oh yeah, my friend,” Cisco says, “Today is teach a man to fish day.  Arroz con pollo is actually pretty easy.”

Barry looks uncertain and rubs the back of his neck.  “I actually don’t really know how to cook.”

“Anyone who passed chemistry in college can cook, Barry.  Besides, I’m only putting you in charge of the sofrito today, you can just watch me do the chicken.”  He gestures to a pile of ingredients next to a cutting board.  “Just chop everything there and put it in the food processor, and bam, best sofrito ever.”

Barry still looks dubious.  “What’s sofrito?”

“The secret ingredient to any Puerto Rican dish.  It’s in everything, I mean everything.  It’s actually the first thing my grandma taught me to make.  And because I’m such a good friend I’m going to let you take whatever is left tonight home with you.  You can put it in anything, trust me, this stuff is magic.  I’ll just start the- oh come on!”  In the space of his sentence Barry has already chopped every ingredient and is pushing it into the food processor.  Cisco had not thought this through.  This is supposed to be the nice introductory easing into it period that would give Cisco time to think about things to talk about.  “That is totally cheating,” Cisco whines.

Barry smirks and Cisco feels a little more comfortable, cocky Barry was familiar territory.  “Is it really though?  I mean, I could say you’re cheating by already knowing how to cook better than I do.  I’m just utilizing a skill I have and you don’t.”

Cisco nods, smirking to himself.  “Okay, I see how it is.  See I was going to be nice and invite you to my grandma’s house for Christmas Eve, you haven’t lived until you’ve had my grandma’s pernil.  And coquito? So much better than eggnog.  Way better.  You’ll never drink eggnog again.”

Barry smiles and looks at the ground and shoots Cisco a look.  “Wow, inviting me to meet the family after one date?”

Cisco accidentally drops a piece of chicken into the hot oil and yelps when the splatter burns him.  “Date?” he asks a little frantically, sticking the burned part of his hand into his mouth.

Barry’s eyes go wide with panic.  “Oh my god is that not what this is?”

All Cisco does is stare at Barry, thinking he should probably say something soon but the not a date not a date not a date mantra has come screeching off the rails and left only fiery wreckage in its path and Cisco can’t remember how to speak English.

Barry covers his hands with his face.  “Oh my god, I totally messed up.  I’m so sorry, I’m just gonna go.”

That finally pushes Cisco’s brain into action.  “No!  Don’t!  I mean, it’s totally a date if you want it to be  date.  I want it to be a date.  I didn’t think you wanted it to be a date.  But this can totally be a date.”  He sticks his hand back in his mouth to shut himself up.

Barry’s grin and his eyes are crinkled nearly shut and Cisco feels a little woozy.  “I want it to be a date,” Barry says.

Cisco nods and takes his hand out of his mouth again. “Okay.”

“Okay,” Barry replies.

“Okay,” Cisco says again and for a moment the only sound in the kitchen is the chicken in the caldero.  “I...if this is a date can I kiss you?  Or are you a no kisses on the first date kind of guy, or only at the end of the date?  I can wait.  I mean, if you want to kiss me.  If you don’t that’s cool, too.”  He winces and turns away from Barry, poking the chicken to make sure it doesn’t burn.  He jumps  when Barry’s hand touches his chin, urging Cisco to look at him again.

“I want to kiss you,” Barry says, and wow his eyes are really pretty close up.

“Okay,” Cisco says dumbly.

Barry laughs a little.  “Okay,” he says, and presses his lips softly to Cisco’s.  Cisco drops the spoon he’s poking the chicken with and grips Barry’s waist lightly, pushing into the kiss a little.  They stay like that until Cisco smells something start to burn.

Cisco breaks the kiss to look at the chicken, which looks only slightly burnt but salvageable.  He turns the heat down and sets the chicken aside.  He’s grinning like an idiot and he knows it, but a covert glance at Barry shows him an identical grin on Barry’s face so he doesn’t feel too bad about it.

“I guess you’re reinvited to Christmas Eve,” Cisco says.  “But if you try to steal any of my pernil, I don’t care how fast you are, I’m putting a fork through your hand.  Steal any other food you want but pernil is sacred.”

There is fake outrage in Barry’s voice when he says, “I don’t steal your food!”

Cisco looks at him and raises an eyebrow.  “Barry, the only reason I had you over tonight was to get you to stop stealing my food.

Barry grins.  “And because you want to date me.”

Cisco pretends to consider this.  “Eh, it’s mostly because I want you to stop stealing my food.” Barry laughs, and Cisco is definitely at least 52% in love.