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it's the little things that count.

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In Zaun, Vi blended into crowds as easily as a shadow. Even her shockingly bright hair would melt into the background and mesh with the neon colours that lit up the undercity. She was a rather large woman, over six feet tall and built like a brick shithouse. Her body was littered with scars both old and new, scrapes and bruises adorning her like jewellery and a generous amount of tattoos and piercings.

 

At first glance, Vi was the kind of person Caitlyn would profile as a criminal with a single glance. And technically, she would be right.

 

It had been a long time since Vi had been the gruff inmate that viewed the law with the utmost contempt. Today, Vi worked within the bounds of the law and with the police rather than running from them.

 

In the police force, Vi stuck out like a sore thumb. Like today.

 

Caitlyn stood in front of her department, her eyes glancing over the faces of the officers standing before her. The majority of the men had the same look about them: clean-shaved, hair trimmed short and uniform kept neat. The few women who were there had longer hair that was pulled into tight buns and their uniforms were similarly neat and orderly. No tattoos, no additional piercings and no odd hair colours.

 

None except Vi, pink-haired and guzzling down a cup of coffee as Caitlyn spoke.

 

“...Finally, I would like to remind you all not to antagonise the citizens of Zaun.” Caitlyn drawled, an obvious edge to her voice, “If I have to hear one more complaint of police misconduct because a Zauntite looked at an officer in the wrong way, I will make life difficult for each and every one of you. Am I understood?”

 

The resounding reply of “yes, sheriff” was sufficient for Caitlyn. She huffed before flicking her wrist, dismissing the lot of them.

 

They all shuffled away back to their desks or to whatever they were doing before the morning address. All except one, of course.

 

“Careful, cupcake.” Vi drawled, “Someone might accuse you of being too fond of us Zaunites.”

 

Vi walked towards her with her usual swagger and a familiar smirk in place. Caitlyn let out a small laugh at her partner’s words, asking, “Haven’t you heard? A journalist referred to me as Zaun’s lapdog in an article last week.”

 

The smile dropped from Vi’s face instantly. Her large, calloused hands curled into fists as she asked, “Which journalist? Want me to rearrange his face for ya’?”

 

“Don’t, you’d only be proving him right.” Caitlyn said with a roll of her eyes.

 

She turned around and walked towards her office, knowing that Vi would trail behind her like she always did. Caitlyn’s mind was already drifting towards the mountain of paperwork on her desk. Being the sheriff was exhausting and sometimes the perks didn’t outweigh the downsides.

 

How often did her fingers itch to trade the pen with the heavy steel of her rifle.

 

From behind her, Vi said, “Don’t tell me you’re gonna coop yourself up in your office again.”

 

Caitlyn sighed, saying, “I have no choice, Vi. I’m not a rookie anymore, stakeouts and patrols aren’t my tasks to complete anymore.”

 

They stood inside Caitlyn’s office now. Vi shut the door behind her and the ambience of the department was muffled, a faint sound that barely reached them. The way this floor was designed made it so that the department was wrapped around Caitlyn’s office. They were seperated by glass walls and blinds that were rarely closed, but no one cared to look inside: they were busy with the upcoming Progress Day. Big events like this meant foreigners would pour into Piltover, which meant more crime to crack down on and patrols to be arranged and security to be posted--

 

“Cupcake. You’re getting in your head again.”

 

Caitlyn blinked. Looking back, she found Vi watching her with a small grin. She sighed.

 

“Sorry.” Caitlyn murmured, “Have I mentioned how much I hate Progress Day?”

 

Vi snickered, saying, “Only a few dozen times this week. Don’t let Jayce hear you say that, you’ll break the Golden Boy’s heart.”

 

“He’s a big boy, I’m sure he can handle it.” Caitlyn replied as she sunk into her chair. It was a dark leather chair Caitlyn had bought the moment she became sheriff of Piltover a few years ago. The previous sheriff had been many things but an interior designer was not one of them.

 

Vi let out a bark of laughter, saying, “There’s that sense of humour I’ve been missing.”

 

Caitlyn shot her a sad smile.

 

“I know I’ve been… distant lately.” Caitlyn admitted, “It’s this Progress Day that’s been keeping me busy. You know how it gets every year.”

 

“I remember how it was when I was a kid. Any big celebration topside meant a day of looting for us down in Zaun. All that money being spent was too big a temptation for us, y’know?” Vi said, grinning as she walked around the room.

 

Caitlyn raised an eyebrow, saying, “Exactly. Criminals like to take advantage of the chaos events like this can cause.”

 

Vi clicked her tongue, saying, “You’re not paying attention, Cait. I said when I was a kid . Criminals have a much harder time taking advantage of these events because of the new sheriff. I’ve heard she’s a real hardass and cracks down on crime with an iron fist.”

 

Caitlyn shot her a playful smile, asking, “Oh really? Just the one iron fist?”

 

“Maybe two,” Vi replied with an equally playful grin.

 

She hummed to herself, pleased. Vi had always been a soothing balm for Caitlyn despite her loud, aggressive nature. Around Caitlyn, Vi was the one to help her unwind and destress when she needed it most. In turn, Caitlyn kerbed Vi’s more eccentric urges and reined her in. They had made a good team for years now after finding the right balance in each other.

 

“Come on, cupcake,” Vi said, “you’re too good to be stuck in a stuffy ol’ office like this. You should be out there taking shots at the bad guys, not writing reports about them.”

 

Caitlyn sunk back into her chair and groaned, saying, “I know, I know. But I have responsibilities here and I can’t just abandon them because I miss field work.”

 

Vi gestured with her hands, saying, “Just blame it on me. Everybody already thinks I’m a terrible influence on you, just tell them that I dragged you outta here.”

 

“You’re not a bad influence, Vi.” Caitlyn said, frowning at the thought, “Don’t let them convince you that you are. You’re my partner and my opinion about you is the only one that matters.”

 

“Easy killer,” Vi murmured.

 

She shot Caitlyn a bashful smile and the vibrant blush on her face matched her pink hair. It was adorable, even for such an intimidating person like Vi.

 

Caitlyn huffed and said, “You’ve been an officer for so many years now, you’d think that would mean something to them. But no, they still look at you and see a criminal from Zaun.”

 

Vi laughed easily at this and rubbed at her jaw, saying, “That’s because I am a criminal. That’s what makes me so good at my job, y’know? Topsiders don’t know how to think like a criminal or a Zaunite, and that’s why they never catch ‘em. Then again, the giant gauntlets might help a bit.”

 

Caitlyn barely heard the words coming out of her partner’s mouth. Her focus was entirely on Vi’s hand currently at her jaw. It was littered with scratches and bruises, and some blood had been smeared along the knuckles.

 

“For goodness’ sake, Vi, look at your hand.” Caitlyn growled as she jumped to her feet.

 

Vi glanced down at her hand in surprise. As Caitlyn pulled out the first aid kit from the cabinet behind her, Vi said, “Oh, jeez. I didn’t even notice. It’s not that bad, though.”

 

“Shut up and sit down.” Caitlyn said, seething just a bit as she gestured to the stool next to Vi’s leg.

 

Vi shot her a grin, saying, “Yes, ma’am.”

 

With that, the Zaunite pulled the stool under her hulking frame and sat down. She looked up at Caitlyn with those piercing blue eyes and a shit-eating grin.

 

Caitlyn flushed. There was something… empowering about making a woman as strong and tall as Vi submit to her so easily. Caitlyn was aware of the chemistry between the two of them: it had been brewing for years now. She saw the way that Vi looked at her both when she knew Caitlyn was watching and when she thought Caitlyn wasn’t aware. And Caitlyn was completely enamoured with the roguish woman before her.

 

But neither of them acted on this attraction. She didn’t know exactly why Vi held back. All she knew was that she believed Vi deserved someone who could commit to her entirely, not a woman already married to her work.

 

“Earth to Caitlyn.”

 

Caitlyn nearly jumped out of her skin. Right.

 

She knelt down on one knee in front of Vi and popped open the first aid kit. She made quick work of cleaning the tiny wounds on Vi’s hands with disinfectant, earning small noises and complaints of pain.

 

“Hush, you big baby,” Caitlyn murmured, “This wouldn’t be happening if you just took care of your hands.”

 

“I fight with giant gauntlets made of iron, Cait,” Vi deadpanned, “a few cuts and bruises are mandatory. Sometimes I forget.”

 

Caitlyn looked up at her and quirked her brow, saying, “That’s nonsense, you have an excellent memory.”

 

Vi laughed.

 

“I really don’t. I can’t even remember what I ate for breakfast yesterday.”

 

“Where did I study to become an officer?” Caitlyn asked, her eyes now trained on the cuts she was bandaging.

 

Vi replied instantly, saying, “The University of Piltover, 99 to 02 AN. You were a little overachiever and graduated at the top of your class.”

 

“And what was the last rifle model that I bought?” Caitlyn asked as her lips twitched up.

 

“Uh, a peacekeeper from Nelson and Co,” Vi said, “but you bought a new scope from Overton last week because it had some special glass shit in it.”

 

Caitlyn deftly taped the bandages down and leaned back to admire her handiwork. Vi’s knuckles and fingers were disinfected and had a light layer of cloth bandages wrapped around them, leaving the tips of her fingers bare. She watched Vi flex her hands to test out the mobility.

 

“Spot on. Like I said, you have an excellent memory.” Caitlyn said as she rose to her feet, kit in hand.

 

“That’s different, cupcake.” Vi drawled, a small smile on her face.

 

“Oh?” Caitlyn asked, “And how is that, Vi?”

 

“I remember stuff when it’s about you. I would never forget.”

 

Caitlyn flushed all the way down to her neck. Stupid Vi and her stupid words. She quickly turned around and stashed the kit back into the cabinet, putting some much needed distance between her and her menace of a partner.

 

She tried to ignore Vi’s soft laughter and the way her stomach flipped at the sound.

 

“You’re a terrible flirt, you know that?” Caitlyn rasped out, hating how shaky her voice had become.

 

Vi said, “So I’ve been told.”

 

Caitlyn’s stomach churned with envy. She was well aware that Vi had paramours of her choosing at any given moment. She didn’t even blame them: who wouldn’t want to climb that tree? Vi had that rogue charm doing wonders for her, and not even Caitlyn was immune to it. But she couldn’t help the false sense of possessiveness she felt at the thought of someone else being with Vi in that way. In any way, really.

 

“Don’t sound too smug,” Caitlyn said, turning back to look at her, “you still have patrol to get to. You’re already late.”

 

“Aw, shit. I forgot.” Vi yelped as she jumped to her feet, “I’ll see you tonight for drinks.”

 

“I’ll be staying late tonight, Vi,” Caitlyn practically whined.

 

Vi swooped Caitlyn up into a tight hug like she always did. Caitlyn made a valiant effort not to swoon at the feeling of well-muscled arms wrapping around her body. She smelled like coffee and soap, and she was so warm.

 

Pressing a quick kiss to Caitlyn’s head, Vi said, “I know, I’ll be bringing the drinks to you. God knows you need it.”

 

And before Caitlyn could even try to refuse her, Vi was racing out of the room like a wild storm. Caitlyn watched her go with a mixture of fondness and frustration.

 

Caitlyn sighed and walked towards her desk once she collected herself. She sunk down into her chair, feeling the beginnings of a migraine forming at the sight of her desk. The smell of disinfectant still lingered in the air and Caitlyn’s mind drifted from the paperwork to her partner.

 

Vi was wonderful. She was a fiercely loyal friend and an upstanding officer, no matter what anyone thought about her. Caitlyn had watched her grow from the angry young woman she first met into the confident officer she knew today who had dedicated her life to protecting the innocent and eradicating injustice. If Vi broke a few skulls along the way, Caitlyn couldn’t find it in her to fault the woman.

 

But as far as those pesky feelings went…

 

What Caitlyn didn’t have was the nerve to tell Vi was that she remembered things about Vi, too. She remembered how her life in Zaun and in prison made her form habits like wolfing down food when it was presented to her. Other people thought Vi just had bad manners but Caitlyn knew better: for someone like Vi who didn’t know when she would get food again, eating food as quickly as possible meant it wouldn’t get stolen before you had the chance to finish it. And that meant one less day you didn’t go hungry. Caitlyn remembered every tattoo: where Vi got them tattooed, what they meant and each of the parlours she got them from. Caitlyn remembered that Vi preferred her food salty rather than sweet and that she couldn’t eat spicy food. Caitlyn remembered that the best thing she could do for Vi when she had panic attacks was to just watch her and keep her hands to herself, and that Vi always wanted someone to hold her after it was over.

 

There was so much about Vi that Caitlyn remembered and kept in the back of her mind, ready to be of use when needed. There was so much about Vi that Caitlyn treasured and loved so deeply that it hurt to think of.

 

But Caitlyn was a coward when it came to the matters of the heart. So she would remember all of this in silence, never to be voiced to the object of her affections.

 

After all, Vi deserved so much more than Caitlyn could give her. And she’d never keep Vi from true happiness if she found it in the arms of another. Even if it made her heart falter to think of.