It's nearly the end of his shift when Joe walks into the captain's office, a sheaf of papers a half an inch thick in his hand. "Got those fives for you, Captain," he says, approaching the desk and handing them to the other man.
Singh stands to accept them, flicks through them with narrowed eyes and Joe holds his breath. Not that he thinks there's anything wrong with them apart from being a little overdue, but in his experience, the brass checking your work closely usually doesn't mean anything good. "Snow's are here too," he notes and Joe nods, not sure where this is going but knowing instinctively that letting it play out is the best strategy here. Singh's gaze moves over his shoulder to the squad room beyond the open door. "There are a reason why she's not handing them in herself?"
In truth, there are many reasons and none that Singh is privy to. Ever since Cisco and Barry got back from Earth 2, told them what they'd seen there, Caitlin's been rattled, like she's just waiting for her implant to fail, for her to become a slave to her powers. She's lost both sleep and her appetite to it and no matter how much Joe reminds her that she and Killer Frost are not the same person, she can't seem to shake herself out of it. In his more frustrated moments, Joe wishes that they'd never opened their mouths even if he knew she'd have wormed it out of them eventually; he's seen Caitlin in an interrogation room, the words "blood from a stone" don't even come close. But he just wishes she'd had more time to prepare herself for it.
Still he can't say any of that to Singh so he settles for, "She's taking some lost time."
Singh's brow creases into a full blown frown. "Did I authorise that?"
Knowing it to be a genuine question, Joe nods. "She told you last week," he says. "Doctor's appointment."
It happens to be the truth too: once a month, Caitlin heads to STAR Labs to get blood work done by Patty, to have Cisco monitor her implant. This month, more than ever, she hadn't wanted to miss it and for Joe, having extra paperwork to do was a small price to pay for her sanity.
Except Singh is now staring at him like he's a suspect in a line up and the hairs on the back of Joe's neck begin to prickle. "A doctor's appointment?" he echoes and when Joe nods once more, Singh jerks his head towards the squad room. "Close the door," he says and there's no doubt it's an order. "And sit down."
Frowning, Joe does the former but since Singh is still standing, he does too. "Everything ok, Captain?"
Singh chuckles without any real humour. "You tell me. I've got Snow walking around like she's got the weight of the world on her shoulders; I've got you looking at her like you're afraid she's going to crack at any moment, not to mention that you could power the damn city for a month with the tension between the two of you." The last is news to Joe and he must look as surprised as he feels because Singh stares at him for a long moment before leaning forward, bracing his palms on his desk, shoulder width apart. He takes a deep breath before he says, "Please, please, tell me you haven't got her pregnant."
Joe can't help his reaction. His mouth drops open and he knows his eyebrows are climbing equally fast in the opposite direction. "Excuse me?" is all he can manage but it still turns out to be the wrong thing to say because Singh's lips set in a thin line.
"Don't do me like that, Joseph," he says and Joe's suddenly put in mind of his daddy using that exact tone. "Let's forget for a moment that I'm your captain and pretend that I'm just a guy who was your beat partner back in the day, a guy who knows your tells." The last was said with great intent, his eyes never moving from Joe's. Shaking his head then, he drops down into his chair. "You two work well together, you're a good team, professional on the clock so I've had no problems letting you away with whatever the hell it is you two do when you're off the clock. But if you two end up with a love child crawling around the squad room, that's going be harder to ignore."
Joe can just about make out a vague shadow of Singh's sense of humour as he finishes speaking. He doesn't push his luck though, and he certainly doesn't try to shine him on. Singh's been blunt with him, he figures a little honesty is the least he owes him in return. "Caitlin's not pregnant," he says, surprised to find that he's only about ninety-nine per cent sure of that. He assumes she's not anyway, because that's the kind of worry she would have shared with him and in all the time they've been seeing one another, the subject of kids has never actually come up.
Singh leans back in his chair, lifts one eyebrow. "Then whatever you've done wrong, I suggest you suck it up, buy her flowers and chocolates and grovel for forgiveness."
This time, there is no humour in his face, just a wry smile that he doesn't even try to hide. Once again, Joe's jaw drops slightly. "What makes you think I did something?"
Singh chuckles. "Well, I can't very well have this conversation with her, can I?"
"Because she's a woman?"
"Because I've known you for fifteen years and her for about fifteen minutes," Singh counters. He blows a long stream of air out between his lips, his gaze falling to the framed picture on his desk. Joe can't see it but he knows what it is, a picture of the Captain and his husband on their wedding day. "Look... Still speaking as your friend here, not your captain... I know you, Joe. I know what you're like when you're happy. And speaking as someone who knows a little about love that dare not speak its name..." His lips quirk up in a smile. "I can tell you that if it's worth it? It's worth it."
Singh's words are still ringing in Joe's head when he makes his way to Caitlin's place later on that evening. Traffic's heavy for some reason and he has to park further down the block than usual. He passes a little corner shop selling ratty bunches of flowers that, frankly, look like they've seen better days but acting purely on impulse he buys a bunch. Actually, he buys two because they're really ratty and incredibly overpriced for what he gets but when Caitlin sees them, the smile on her face makes them worth every cent.
"To what do I owe the pleasure?" she asks after she kisses him, bustling into the kitchen in search of a vase.
Joe hangs up his coat, follows her into the kitchen, shrugs although her back is to him. "Just thought you could use a little pick me up is all."
She's bending over, reaching to the back of one of the cupboards to retrieve a vase and he takes a moment to enjoy the view. He gets caught doing it when she looks back over her shoulder at him. Her smile turns knowing even as her cheeks darken and he holds her gaze, doesn't blink.
Her cheeks darken even further as she turns back to her search.
He stands and watches as she arranges the flowers in the vase, setting them on the kitchen table when she's finished. Only then does he go over to her, places his hands on her hips and his cheek against hers. She accepts his unspoken invitation, leaning back against him with a sigh. He slides his arms around her, palms resting flat against her stomach and Singh's initial question rings his ears.
"How did the check up go?" he asks her, pressing a kiss to her temple.
She doesn't tense in his arms so he decides to take that as a good thing. "All good news," she told him and a weight he hadn't known was there lifts from his shoulders. "My blood work is normal... well, normal for me, anyway. And Cisco's diagnostics show the implant is fine."
Joe tightens his grip on her waist, just for a second before turning her to face him. Her arms go around his neck and she smiles when he says, "Good."
"What, no 'I told you so?'"
"Never," he replies as his hands slide lower. "Even if I did." She laughs then and he kisses her and they lose track of time for a little while.
When she pulls back, she's looking more relaxed, more like his Caitlin, than she has for weeks. "Thank you," she says, continuing off his questioning look, "for the flowers... for everything. I mean, I know I haven't been the easiest person to be around these past few weeks..."
Joe shakes his head. "You've had a lot on your plate," he reminds her.
"That's no excuse." There's only a tiny frown on Caitlin's forehead. "It just freaked me out... that there's a universe out there where things are so different..." She shudders and Joe's hands move to her shoulders, then to her cheeks.
"Not gonna lie, it freaks me out too. But we live in this universe, Caitlin. And in this universe, you're one of the best people I know."
Her cheeks darken under his palms and her eyeline drops down as he feels her throat work furiously. When she looks up to him again, her eyes are shiny but she's smiling. "I don't deserve you," she whispers and he shrugs.
"Sure you do."
Once again, she laughs, slips her arms around his waist and squeezes for a moment before stepping back and heading to the counter where a bottle of wine is standing beside two glasses. She fills both and turns back to him, hands him one. "Did you give all the fives to Singh?" She raises her glass to her lips, blinks at whatever she sees on his face. Slowly, she lowers the glass. "Don't tell me he found something I missed."
"Not as such." He takes a sip of his own wine, buying himself a second or two to figure out how to approach this. Seeing her take a sip from her own glass, he smiles inwardly : that, at least, answers Singh's initial question. "You might want to put the wine down." Once she's done that, he bites the bullet. "He asked where you were, I told him you had a doctor's appointment... Which is when he asked me if you were pregnant."
Her reaction is the same as his - eyes wide, jaw agape, spluttering sentences. "He what?" she finally got out.
Joe nods, takes a far larger sip of his wine. "And in case you were wondering? He knows exactly who your baby daddy would be."
Caitlin looks as if she's torn between laughter and tears. Luckily, laughter seems to be winning out and even if it's only from shock, Joe will take that. "Singh knows?"
"Oh, he knows. Has for months, apparently. And he was suspicious because lately you've been going through something and I'm worried about you, he put two and two together..." He waves a hand. "For what it's worth, he's happy to ignore it as long as we're professional on the clock and we don't have, and I quote, a little love child crawling around the squad room."
"I'd ask if you're joking but I know you wouldn't." Caitlin knocks back a large gulp of wine. "Singh knows?"
"And has more or less told us to keep on going." Joe lays down his glass, crosses to her in a couple of steps. "And I don't know about you, Detective Snow... but I always follow my boss's orders."
Just before he kisses her, he can see Caitlin's lips widen in a smile he hasn't seen in far too long and he grins as he shows her just how precisely he follows instructions.