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trying to find a way to say what needs saying

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"You ok, man?" 

Cisco blinked as Barry's words registered with him, blinked again as he considered his next words. His silence must have alarmed Barry because he stopped doing up his shirt mid-button, brow crinkling in concern as he looked across the dressing room at Cisco. "Cisco?" 

Cisco thought about it for a minute more then swung his legs off the dressing table, sitting upright in his chair. Getting right to the point, he asked, "Have you noticed anything about Joe and Caitlin?"

Barry's brow crinkled still further and it was a measure of how perturbed Cisco was that he merely noticed it instead of giving him shit about it. "Nah, man," Barry said. When Cisco said nothing, just raised one eyebrow, Barry shook his head and continued,  "Look, I know Joe was all 'we don't need another singer' but he's over that now. He and Caitlin get along great together. He even lets her keep him company on his coffee walks." He shrugged his shoulders exaggeratedly. "He won't even let me do that." 

Cisco pressed his lips into a thin line, his mind's eye conjuring all too easily an image of Joe and Caitlin walking in and out of numerous rehearsal spaces, fathoms deep in conversations that had barely begun. "That's what I mean." 

"I don't get you." Barry tilted his head, a puzzled expression on his face and Cisco leaned forward in his chair, rested his elbows on his knees, put his chin on his balled up fists. 

"I know they're getting along well," he heard himself saying. "Too well." Barry's eyebrows shot towards his hairline as the meaning registered. "And you didn't see them tonight during the piano set when you and Iris were backstage, christening the girls' dressing room." 

Barry blinked rapidly, mouth opening and closing like a fish gasping for air. "We didn't... I mean, we wouldn't... I don't know why you would think..."

"Barry." Cisco's tone was flat and he fixed his friend with his best dead eyed stare. "I hate to break it to you? But you're not that subtle." Barry looked comically affronted and Cisco couldn't resist needling him a little. "You ran off that stage like you were Seabiscuit at Santa Anita." He waggled his eyebrows. "Definitely hot to trot." 

Barry's cheeks were crimson red but his lips twitched and he suddenly became very interested in doing up the buttons of his shirt. When he was finished, he looked at Cisco with one eyebrow aloft. "So fill me in. What did I miss?"

"Ok, so the first thing you have to remember is, I get these vibes, right? From people, from things, it's kinda like my super power." Barry rolled his eyes; Cisco ignored him. "It's how I knew Caitlin would sing well with Joe and Iris, it's how I knew she'd fit in here. And I was right, right? Tell me I was wrong." 

He spread his hands wide in entreaty and Barry shook his head. "You were not wrong," he allowed. 

"So there we are, me and Joe, onstage, doing the piano set. And it was awesome. I mean, he had the crowd right here." He held out on hand, palm up, tapped the fingers of his other hand right in the centre of it. "Then, right near the end of A Song for You, the vibe Joe was giving off completely changed... it's like all he was singing out to the crowd and then all of a sudden it was like the air molecules shifted in the room and he was looking at the side of the stage like..." He threw up his hands as words failed him, a most unusual occurrence. Eventually, he came up with, "Like the greatest thing he'd ever seen in his life was standing there." He blinked, tilted his head. "And for once, it wasn't Iris." 

Barry shook his head, dropped down into the chair beside Cisco's. "You know Joe loves that song," he reminded him. "He always smiles his way through it. You usually berate him for it."

Which was true: in Cisco's opinion, smiling was totally the antithesis of what that song was about. Tonight, however, he wasn't worried about the interpretation of the music. "I could see Caitlin," he said. "From where I was? She was smiling back at him the same way." He shook his head, a pang of grief he'd thought he'd long since buried rising up in his throat for the man who'd been like a brother to him. "I haven't seen her smile like that since Ronnie." 

"Is that a bad thing?" Barry shrugged one shoulder, looking thoughtful. "I mean, Joe's a great guy... he won't do anything to hurt her." 

He didn't mention any names, but then again, he didn't have to. The image of Caitlin's face when she saw Jay in that club, wrapped around a pneumatic blonde, danced across Cisco's memory and a surge of anger rose in his throat. "Not intentionally," he heard himself say and just like that, Barry was comically offended all over again. 

"Cisco, man, I know you worry about her," he said, "but Caitlin's a big girl. She can take care of herself. And you know..." He leaned forward as if he was afraid Cisco wasn't hearing him. "You know you can trust Joe."

Cisco nodded as he ran his hands over his face, pushed back his hair and held it there. "She's just in such a good place right now," he said. "If you'd seen her... right after..." He shuddered at the memory of the wraith like creature that had inherited Caitlin's body, so at odds with the way she'd smiled at Joe tonight, the way she'd shone on that stage as they closed the show with Tennessee Whiskey, everyone's new favourite song of theirs. 

"That was then. This is now." Barry held his gaze and didn't blink. "They're grown adults, Cisco... and if something's happening between them, you can't stop it." 

There was something in his tone that Cisco didn't get at first, but when he did, his eyes went wide and it took everything he had not to shout. He settled for pointing a finger and asking - well, demanding really - "What do you know?" 

"Nothing!" Barry held up his hands, his denial too fast to be anything but the truth. Besides, he wasn't that good an actor. "But... Ok, you're not the only one who's noticed." 

And since Barry was pretty clueless when it came to matters of the heart, there was only one conclusion Cisco could draw. "Iris."

It was a measure of how serious this conversation was that Barry didn't grin like an idiot at her name. "She's got the same vibe you have. And she's ok with it."

Considering Iris's past reactions to some of Joe's admirers, that was something to think about - if Joe was protective of Iris, she was equally as protective of him. "You don't think it's gonna mess up the band?" 

"What, because you're the fifth wheel all of a sudden?" Barry laughed, stood up and clapped Cisco on the shoulder. "Besides, think of all the chemistry you get to shamelessly exploit." 

Which Cisco had already been doing in his songwriting and they all knew it - he hadn't been wrong about how good Joe and Caitlin would sound together. "You know if he hurts her, I'll kick his ass."

Again, Barry chuckled. "Good luck with that." He grabbed his bag from the floor. "Come on... We have a night in a very nice hotel ahead of us, I don't intend to waste it." 

Cisco rolled his eyes. "If my room is beside yours and Iris's again, I have earplugs, so we're good." Barry's face turned predictably brick red and he spluttered but didn't otherwise say anything as they walked out towards stage door and the cars.