Although Felicity was, ostensibly, keeping her eyes trained on her computer monitor, working out the kinks in the new program she was writing to better track Oliver when out on missions, she would be lying, she knew, if she said that anything less than half of her mind was actually on the task. She was far more interested in the sight across the room, something that was even more distracting than Oliver on the salmon ladder and before now she would have said that such a thing was impossible.
And yet, the moment Caitlin's phone had chimed, the moment her friend had looked up away from Oliver's bio data and seen whose name came up on the screen, the moment Felicity had seen the smile on her lips, the flash of - and there was no other word for it - pure joy on her face, she'd been intrigued. And seeing Caitlin's body language as she talked, how relaxed she was, hearing her muffled laughter, she'd only become more so.
She knew who it was on the phone of course - Barry had clued her in on the latest goings on before Caitlin had come out to Star City - and she was honest enough to admit that she'd found it hard to believe at first. Now, having witnessed it with her own eyes, she was able to say that seeing was definitely not always believing.
"Sorry." Caitlin's arrival back at the work station distracted her from her thoughts. "Joe was just calling to touch base." She even smiled when she said his name and Felicity wondered for a moment of she'd been like that when she and Oliver first got together.
"No problem," she said, waving her hand expansively, dismissively. "It's cool."
Caitlin nodded, sat down with a little bounce that Felicity had never seen before. They worked in silence for a long moment and Felicity intended for that to be that.
"So... just out of curiosity... how does that work, exactly?"
The second the words were out of her mouth, she wanted to take them back, if only because she'd never sounded so much like her mother in her life. She closed her eyes for a second, hardly able to believe she'd actually asked it and when she opened them again, Caitlin was blinking in what looked like surprise, two spots of colour flaming high in her cheeks. "Work?" she echoed dumbly and Felicity waved a hand in the air, this time a lot less expansively.
"You. And Joe. I mean, you and Joe." She ran the last together, making them sound like one big word instead of three smaller ones. "He's Barry's foster dad. Iris's actual dad." Caitlin looked down, her lips pressed together and those two spots of colour burned higher, hotter. "You don't find it... I don't know, weird?"
Caitlin looked up then, met her gaze and held it. "No," she said simply and she didn't look annoyed, or upset. She just said it like she was stating a fact, like she was talking about the weather or something.
Which, if anything, confused Felicity more. Not that she'd had any practice with her friends dating her dad - and thank goodness for that - but thinking back to the days when her mom had first started dating Quentin Lance, she remembered the weird all too clearly. "But they're your friends," she said. "And he's their dad..."
Caitlin sighed, suddenly very interested in the computer screen before her, in the figures there. "They were surprised," she finally admitted. "And I'm not going to lie to you and say it was all smooth sailing. And it's still a little rough at times. But..." She shrugged, looked up at Felicity and gave her a small smile. "It works for us."
Felicity couldn't help it. She knew Caitlin meant it innocently enough but the turn of phrase was close enough to a double entendre that her eyebrows rose almost of their own accord and she had to press her lips together tightly to keep back a stream of giggles.
Caitlin frowned at her reaction which didn't help Felicity's giggles at all and she knew the exact moment that Caitlin realised what she'd said and how it could be interpreted. Her own eyes grew wide, her mouth forming into a perfect circle and the two spots of colour on her cheeks erupted to engulf her entire face. "No... no, I didn't mean it like that..." she hastily demurred, then shook her head. "I mean, not that I have any complaints, but..." Felicity's jaw dropped at that and Caitlin's hands flew to her cheeks. "No, OK, I need to stop talking now."
"On the contrary." Felicity stood up from the stool, crossing the room to Caitlin and taking her by the arm. "I know a place near here that not only does food, but also bottomless margaritas. Both of which we will need if you're going to give me all the dirty details."
"There's nothing dirty to tell-" Caitlin's protest was cut short when her eyes took on a faraway look and she bit her lip, as much, Felicity thought, to keep back a smile as to stop her talking.
That settled it. "Bottomless margaritas, Caitlin... Let's go."
Less than twenty minutes later, each with a margarita in hand, Felicity leaned across the table and narrowed her eyes. "So. You and Joe."
Caitlin looked down but not quickly enough to hide her smile. "Yes. Me and Joe."
"Barry's hot foster dad." Caitlin's eyes widened at the description and Felicity fixed her with a dead eyed stare. "Oh please, I have eyes. I have noticed." She raised her glass to her lips. "Though obviously not as much as you have..." she drawled as she took an elegant sip.
Caitlin shook her head but she was giggling as she did so. Felicity didn't think she'd ever seen her do that before this trip. She didn't know if that was really great or really sad. "It wasn't like that," she protested and Felicity seized the opening.
"So how was it?" This time, she was definitely channelling her mother, she was doing it on purpose and she didn't give a damn.
Caitlin opened her mouth to reply then closed it quickly as she caught Felicity's other meaning. Her cheeks flushed crimson, the blush spreading from the collar of her dress all the way up her neck but that smile didn't budge from her face. "Amazing." Even she looked surprised at that and she covered her lips with her hand. "Sorry," she said after a moment. "I just haven't been able to talk to anyone about this..."
Which made sense, because Barry and Iris wouldn't want to hear about it and Felicity didn't figure Cisco for a girl talk kind of guy. And while Caitlin surely had other friends, since not one of them would have known about Team Flash, they'd never know the whole story. "So," she said, making a gimme gesture with her hands, "hit me. First kiss, go."
"His kitchen." That made Felicity blink because as far as romantic venues went, that would not have been on her list. "Cisco and I were there for dinner and afterwards, he and Wally were playing video games, Barry and Iris were..."
"...Being Barry and Iris..."
"Exactly." Another sip of margarita and Caitlin was definitely looking more relaxed. "I was fed up of being ignored and Joe had said he was going to clean up the kitchen..."
"Please." Felicity held up her hand, a sudden thought occurring to her. "Please don't tell me this all came about as a result of some real life version of the 'pair the spare' trope. Because I hate it in fan fiction, I really don't want my friend's love life depending on it."
Caitlin ignored her. "We just talked. He washed the dishes, I dried them and after we were finished..." She shrugged. "I realised I liked talking to him. That I didn't want to stop talking to him." Her cheeks grew very pink all of a sudden and Felicity didn't think it was just because of the margarita. "And I kissed him."
Felicity knew her eyes were as wide as saucers and she tempered her impulse to blurt out something highly inappropriate. All things considered, "Just like that?" was fairly tame and when Caitlin just sipped her drink and smiled serenely, she knew her friend hadn't taken offence.
"Just like that," she confirmed. "For a second, I thought I'd made a horrible mistake but then..." Her voice trailed off and close as she was sitting to her, Felicity couldn't miss the shiver that coursed through Caitlin, or the gooseflesh that erupted on her arms.
"Fireworks?" she guessed and from the way Caitlin lit up like the Fourth of July, she was right on the money.
"Next thing I know, there's some video game related screaming come from the living room which reminded us where we were and that we weren't alone... And we went right back to talking like nothing had happened." Caitlin laughed and Felicity knew her disappointment must have shown on her face. "But the next night, he came to my apartment..."
She let her voice trail off and Felicity didn't need a map to fill in the blanks. "And the rest is history?"
Caitlin giggled, sipping her drink. "Thankfully not." Another sip and as she replaced it on the table, one of the servers came around with a jug and topped it up. One he'd left, Caitlin continued, "We didn't tell anyone at first... I think we both were afraid the other one would think of all the reasons why we shouldn't be doing this... Except the longer it goes on, the harder it is to remember all the reasons." She giggled again. "And my name sometimes."
Felicity choked on her margarita, considered for a moment cutting Caitlin off. Then she mentally said, "What the hell" and downed a good swig of her own drink. "Well, I guess I don't have to ask if you're happy," she said, "which is good because then I don't have to threaten a law enforcement officer with the many ways I can ruin his life if he hurts my friend..." She tilted her head, considered. "It's my experience they don't take kindly to that."
"Joe would never hurt me." Caitlin said it like she didn't know whether to be offended on Joe's behalf or shocked that Felicity would entertain such a notion. "He's a good man, Felicity..." Her eyes darkened. "After Jay, I never thought I'd want to let another man near me." Her knuckles were white as she raised her glass to her lips and Felicity looked down so she couldn't see her hand shaking. "Joe... he makes me think that maybe happy endings really are possible."
"Well then..." Felicity raised her glass high in the air. "I'll drink to that."
It was much later that night when Felicity and Caitlin made it back to Felicity and Oliver's apartment - no matter what their intentions had been, the Arrowcave hadn't even been a consideration in their movements. Caitlin grabbed a bottle of water as she made her way to the spare room, took off her makeup and brushed out her hair, changed into her pyjamas before flopping onto the bed, taking out her phone and video calling Joe.
"Hey." Like her, he was in his bedroom, unlike her he was sitting up in bed. She could see the headboard behind him, could picture him with the phone on the bedside cabinet, reading his book, patiently waiting for her to call. A wave of homesickness threatened to rise up and choke her and she wished she hadn't had that last refill. She'd always been a maudlin drunk at the end of the night. "It's late... everything ok out there?" She could see a slight frown on his face to go along with the concern in his voice.
"Everything's fine," she told him and he must have been able to see something in her face, hear it in her voice because his frown deepened and he tilted his head.
"Caitlin Snow..." His voice sounded very amused suddenly. "Are you a little tipsy?"
"No...." She tried for innocence, knew she missed it by a mile. He raised one eyebrow and she amended, "I'm completely tipsy." He chucked and she closed her eyes, tried not to notice the room swimming around her until she opened them again, fixed on his face and that made everything better. "There were bottomless margaritas involved."
There was another chuckle, accompanied by the smile that made her glad video calls were an actual thing. "Drink some water before you go to sleep."
"On it." She held up the bottle of water to the camera, took a long sip to put his mind at ease. He was still smiling when she put it back on the bedside cabinet and looked back to the screen. Not the full toothed grin of moments earlier, but a softer smile, the one he kept for when they were alone together. Another pang of longing swept through her, a wish for closer contact than a cell phone could provide. "I miss you."
His lips twitched. "That you talking or those bottomless margaritas?" He was teasing and she pouted a little, leading him to add, "I miss you too. Hurry up and run your tests and come home."
A thought occurred to her and she brightened up quickly. "And when I do, guess who's my slave for a day?"
Joe blinked in confusion but then his face cleared and he shook his head, looking up to the ceiling. "Damn, she caved? Already?"
"Yep." Caitlin was highly satisfied and didn't see any point in hiding that fact.
"Damn." Joe rubbed his hand over his face. "I really thought she'd hang in until your last night."
"I told you." She didn't care of her sing-song voice was slightly juvenile - ok, majorly juvenile - because she was already thinking of all the ways she was going to use this win to her advantage. "I'm just surprised it took her this long to ask me about us... you know Felicity doesn't do curiosity."
Joe opened his mouth but then something flickered in his expression, some realisation occurring to him. "You're tipsy... bottomless margaritas..." He glanced at his watch. "This curiosity didn't happen to arise right after you texted me to ask if I was busy and I called you right after, did it?" A rush of heat warmed Caitlin's cheeks and she bit her lip, knowing she was caught. "Cheater," Joe accused and she laughed, gave him what she hoped was her best sultry look, although she could barely pull that off sober so she wasn't quite sure what it would come out like tonight.
"I promise to make it up to you," she told him and maybe she wasn't as far off the mark as she thought with the eyes and the look and the voice because he pursed his lips in a rueful chuckle, shifted in a way she knew very well indeed.
"I'm gonna hold you to that." His own voice had dropped at least an octave and gooseflesh rippled along Caitlin's arms, recalling other nights when he'd sounded like that and what it had lead to.
"I'd rather you just hold me," she whispered and he didn't miss a beat with his response.
"Trust me." A shiver ran down her spine and she resolved to get the tests done as soon as she could so she could get back to Central City. "If you were here, I'd be doing a lot more than that."
A sly smile spread across Caitlin's lips and she blamed the bottomless margaritas and Felicity's curiosity entirely for her next suggestion.
Curiously, though, when he took her up on it, they didn't seem like such a bad thing.