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Plus One

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Vi hated the morning shift. Being born down in the fissures, her body was more attuned to nightlife. Unless you travelled further up the Alcove District, sunlight rarely ever warmed up the undercity. Working a night shift was far easier for her but because she was partnered with an early bird like Caitlyn, she had no choice.

 

Which is why Vi, groggy and yawning, made her way through the police department. It still felt weird to Vi that she now worked in the same district that she used to case for balconies to rob as a child. The department was abuzz with life as officers walked around and chatted to each other. A few nodded and greeted Vi, some shot her a dirty look or gave her the cold-shoulder. Such was the life of a Zaunite police officer operating in Piltover.

 

Because she had been promoted to undersheriff and detective a few years ago, Vi was able to ditch the police uniform and rock up to work in casual clothes. Today she wore a turtleneck, pin-stripe pants, boots and an overcoat. Unlike the undercity where the temperature rarely changed from humid and warm, Piltover was actually affected by the seasons. It was currently winter if the biting wind was any indication.

 

Vi’s hands were freezing even with the warm cup in her hands.

 

She opened the door to the sheriff’s office. It was tucked away at the very back of the floor so that the rest of the room wrapped around it. Anyone could peer into the windowed room considering Caitlyn never closed the damn blinds.

 

Swinging the door open, Vi drawled, “ Goood morning, partner.”

 

Caitlyn was sat at her desk, surrounded by documents and folders. For a woman as meticulous as Caitlyn, her workspace was always a pigsty. She claimed that there was a method to her madness but Vi had yet to figure it out.

 

With a weary smile, Caitlyn said, “Good morning, Vi.”

 

The fatigue was clear in her voice. For a brief moment, Vi wanted to scold her for cooping herself up in this office. It wasn’t good for her health. But Vi knew better than to try and lecture to deaf ears.

 

“Please, don’t sound so excited, cupcake.” Vi said with a wide grin, “Wouldn’t want the other officers to think you had a favourite.”

 

“If I had favourites, I certainly wouldn’t place you over Williams. Unlike you he doesn’t bring me decaf coffee.” Caitlyn grumbled as she reached for the cup in Vi’s hand.

 

Vi scoffed and said, “I promise, this one isn’t decaf.”

 

Caitlyn shot her a suspicious look but took a sip. Vi watched with a smirk as Caitlyn froze the second the liquid hit her tongue. Vi received a severe glare from her partner.

 

“I said it wasn’t decaf, not that it was coffee.” Vi said.

 

“You’re evil.” Caitlyn said with a huff, “That stuff keeps me sharp.”

 

Vi shrugged, saying, “Coffee’s a bad vice to have, Cait.”

 

Caitlyn argued, “Plenty of people have worse vices than coffee.”

 

She took the time to lean herself against Caitlyn’s desk and pluck one of the files from the pile near her. Vi skimmed over the contents, vaguely flicking through the pages.

 

“True, there’s shit like shimmer, drugs and alcohol that will fuck you up for life in more visible ways. But there are laws in place to limit and restrict it, making it at least a bit difficult to get access to it.” Vi said, “But coffee? Every cop in this department is addicted to caffeine because of the damn coffee machine your mother generously donated. I know a few who start to shake if they don’t get their morning coffee. They shake, Cait.”

 

When she was done, she glanced over at Caitlyn. The sheriff was watching her with a small smile on her face. The sight of it made Vi’s chest bloom with warmth.

 

“I admire your restraint. No caffeine, no drugs - hell, you only drink when we convince you to and even then you hold your liquor well. You’re a bona fide saint,” Caitlyn teased.

 

Vi let out a small laugh.

 

“The only saint I believe in is Janna,” Vi said, “I just know better than to get hooked onto anything. My old man taught me that.”

 

Now Caitlyn’s attention was completely on her, her papers and things forgotten. Vi had heard from other officers that garnering Caitlyn’s attention for longer than half a minute was a difficult task. The sheriff always had some case on her mind and wouldn’t waste precious time on chit-chat. However, Vi never had any trouble distracting Caitlyn from whatever was going on in her head. Perhaps it was because she had been Caitlyn’s partner long before she had become sheriff and because they had been friends for even longer.

 

Tilting her head, Caitlyn asked, “Saint Janna? The saviour of Zaun, yes?”

 

Vi grinned and said, “Bingo. I’ve even got a tattoo of her right here.”

 

She proceeded to lift up her shirt to reveal the tapestry of tattoos adorning her stomach and sternum. The tattoo she was talking about was the one of Janna inked along the middle of her stomach with her legs together, white dress wrapped around her and arms spread out along Vi’s ribcage. It started from her bellybutton and disappeared up into her sternum. The woman was looking up as if she was being lifted into the sky, an interesting creative decision. Vi knew that there were several other tattoos accompanying this centrepiece, some coloured and others more obviously part of a set. All clearly of an undercity style and doing little to conceal the taut muscles underneath.

 

And judging by the way Caitlyn’s eyes flickered over her stomach, she was clearly interested in more than just Saint Janna.

 

“If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were flirting with me.” Caitlyn said, grinning salaciously at her.

 

Vi hoped that her cheeks weren’t as red as she felt they were. She grinned through this and tucked her shirt back into her pants, saying, “You’d know if I was flirting with you, cupcake. Besides, I can’t help being hot enough to catch the sheriff’s eye.”

 

Caitlyn let out a small laugh, saying, “You’re terrible.”

 

“Uh-huh, enjoy your coco.”

 

Caitlyn chucked a scrunched-up ball of paper at her. Vi dodged it easily before walking around the room.

 

That’s what they did. Vi teased Caitlyn, she teased back, they went back to work and didn't mention it again. It had been their dynamic for years now. And while Vi was sure that whatever was brewing between them was threatening to bubble over any day now, she was content to let things happen at its own pace.

 

Glancing at the assortment of files set up across Caitlyn’s office, Vi asked, “So what’s all this then?”

 

This earned her a sigh from the sheriff.

 

“Honestly, it’s not that interesting.” Caitlyn said, “It’s your usual Piltover nonsense: tax evasion, workers being exploited or injured on the job, some intellectual property being stolen.”

 

“Intellectual property?” Vi asked.

 

Caitlyn waved her off, saying, “I made a thing, that guy took the thing I made from me and is claiming he made it. I want him fined, reprimanded and my name put back on the thing I made.”

 

God, Piltovans were an odd bunch. All this fuss over a simple matter. Theft was theft.

 

Vi drawled, “Fissure-folk would just beat the shit out of him and take it back. You people are strange.”

 

“Piltovans are an insidious bunch. They prefer to stain their enemies’ criminal record to make a public embarrassment out of them. Assaulting your rival will only get you a court date and a few days of jail, and lots of jobs require a clean criminal record to be considered for employment. The crime up here is more sinister than violent.” Caitlyn said, sinking into her chair.

 

Vi said, “No less of a headache though.”

 

Caitlyn scoffed, saying, “Right you are.”

 

Vi took a brief moment to rifle through some of the files near Caitlyn. She flicked through the pages, words like “chem-baron”, “extortion” and “organised crime” jumping out at her.

 

She was so fucking bored already. Who knew how long Caitlyn had been reading this shit?

 

“This is so boring, Cait. We should go on patrol.” Vi said, tossing the file aside.

 

Caitlyn huffed at this, saying, “I can’t, I have to deal with all of this.”

 

“I’m not asking. Pick one of these places and we’ll take a cable-car there. Might even get a nutritious meal in you for once.” Vi said with a snicker.

 

“I can’t just leave, Vi,” Caitlyn whined.

 

Vi raised an eyebrow at her, saying, “Uh, yeah you can. You’re the sheriff: you can do whatever you want.”

 

Caitlyn frowned at her as she said, “I didn’t become the youngest sheriff in Piltover’s history by shirking my duties.”

 

“I mean, if you don’t come with me I might just visit…” Vi’s eyes landed on a location highlighted on a document nearby, “Sidereal Avenue all by myself. And you know me: I punch first, ask questions later while punching.”

 

There was a moment of silence. The two partners stared at each other for some time, neither backing down and Vi entirely too smug.

 

It was Caitlyn who sighed and grumbled, “You’re a bloody menace.”

 

All that Vi cared about was that Caitlyn was now reaching for her coat and rifle tossed on the table behind her. It was a fairly new rifle that cost a pretty penny: Vi would know because she bought Caitlyn the damn thing for her birthday. It had the Kiramman crest engraved in silver along the hilt of the rifle: two back-to-back "K" letters that looked like keys. A hint to the Kiramman's being referred to as the key to Piltover in many ways. The Kiramman's were the oldest house in Piltover and the most powerful of all the higher houses. That included the newly elevated higher house of Talis. Caitlyn's shiny sheriff badge couldn't compare to the prestige of her family name.

 

Clapping Caitlyn on the shoulder, Vi said, “Yeah, yeah, get your ass in gear, sheriff.”

 

Caitlyn’s only response was to whack her on the arm and drag them out. Vi stands for victory.

 


 

Vi actually did manage to get some food with Caitlyn later on that day. They bought some Ionian fire noodles -- it was one of Caitlyn’s favourites, second only to her father’s homemade version. And while Caitlyn handled spicy foods like a champ, Vi needed milk and ice to get through it.

 

Caitlyn had shown mercy and bought them both some cold tea, despite the winter wind. Vi didn’t care too much for her burning lips because she was busy watching her partner. For the first time in a while, Caitlyn looked much more relaxed. That crinkle in her brow was finally gone.

 

Their “patrol” on Sidereal Avenue was going well. No crime to attend to, no wanted criminals, nothing even remotely suspicious to be found. There were a few people who recognised the two of them, waving at them or coming up to greet them. The people who are genuine are refreshing for Vi but most of these people are vultures. They just want to bask in the Kiramman glow then they’d badmouth her once she’s gone. They’re the same people who call Vi “gutter trash” when they think she can’t hear them.

 

But it would reflect badly on Caitlyn if she were to turn them away. So Vi swallowed the venom in her mouth and let her partner lead the interactions.

 

For now, they are blessedly alone. No one had come up to greet them in some time. Which meant that Vi could engage in her favourite pastime: bickering with Caitlyn.

 

“I don’t know why you insist on eating that stuff.” Caitlyn said, “You clearly can’t handle it.”

 

Vi shrugged, saying, “I only eat it when I go out with you.”

 

Caitlyn stopped walking in shock, turning to look at her as she asked, “What? Why?”

 

She paused for a moment. Eventually, she said, “Because you like it.”

 

“Why don’t you just order something else on the menu? The congee has a milder flavour.” Caitlyn asked, that adorable frown still in place.

 

Vi just couldn’t admit that she loved the way Caitlyn would fuss over her when she ate spicy food. How she ordered cold foods to soothe her, and how she pressed the napkins against her mouth sometimes. To have those gorgeous eyes trained solely on her and filled with so much concern…

 

Instead of voicing all of this, Vi laughed and slung her arm across her partner’s shoulders to pull her into her chest.

 

“My old man didn’t raise a little bitch, that’s why,” Vi said as she ruffled Caitlyn’s hair.

 

Caitlyn let out a small squeal of laughter at this brutish behaviour. Vi knew how privileged she was to be able to act this way with her partner. Rarely did people ever approach the Kiramman sheriff, let alone act so familiar with her. But with Vi, Caitlyn would let so much of her behaviour slide. Every unprofessional joke or unprompted contact -- no matter what it was, Caitlyn never turned away from Vi’s touch.

 

And it didn’t slip Vi’s notice that Caitlyn allowed her arm to remain slung across her shoulders. Vi tried not to puff out her chest too much but the pride and excitement she felt was overwhelming.

 

Only to have that excitement die in her chest moments later.

 

Why?

 

Because the two of them were now staring at Caitlyn’s parents’ approaching forms.

 

The two couples spotted each other at the exact same time, it seemed. The shock was apparent on all of their faces. Vi could see that Caitlyn’s mother had her hand resting in the dip of her husband’s elbow. She didn’t fail to remember that her own arm was resting on Caitlyn’s shoulders, much like a lover would do so.

 

Vi immediately retracted her arm and Caitlyn stood up straighter.

 

Fuck.

 

“Why are your parents here?” Vi hissed.

 

“I don’t know!” Caitlyn hissed back.

 

The couples began making their way over to each other. Vi was completely shitting herself: Mrs Kiramman always scared her and now she felt like she had been caught red-handed. Doing what? Nothing really, but that look in Mrs Kiramman’s eyes made her feel like she had just defiled her daughter.

 

Mr Kiramman on the other hand...

 

“Violet!”

 

Vi was suddenly swept up into a warm embrace. She let out a bark of laughter as she patted Caitlyn’s father on the back, genuinely happy to see him. This was the thing that Vi liked about the Ionian man: he was a very friendly and kind man, even to riff-raff like Vi. He preferred to call Vi by her full name but it always felt more fatherly than condescending. Unlike someone .

 

“Good to see you, too, Mr Kiramman,” Vi said as she pulled away.

 

He squeezed her arms, saying, “I told you to call me Tobias!”

 

“That’s way too casual, sir,” Vi said, shaking her head frantically.

 

Caitlyn placed her hand on the small of Vi’s back, smiling as she said, “You’re going to give her a heart attack, father, ease up.”

 

He did ease up after this. It was when Mr Kiramman looked over at his wife that Vi remembered why she was so scared a few moments ago. His wife was looking at her with those piercing blue eyes that always made Vi feel like a scolded child. Of all the councillors that Vi ever met, Cassandra Kiramman was the most severe of them.

 

Thankfully she turned her attention to her daughter and said, “I thought you were at the office today, Caitlyn.”

 

Vi let out a tiny sigh of relief.

 

“I was but we decided to do some patrolling around Sidereal Avenue.” Caitlyn said.

 

There was a hint of steel in her voice. Vi’s hands twitched in response. That tone of voice always made Vi want to reach for her gauntlets: it always meant a fight was brewing.

 

“Oh?” Mrs Kiramman said, “Whatever for?”

 

Caitlyn gave her a tight smile, saying, “Classified information. You know how it is.”

 

More than a hint now. Another twitch.

 

Mrs Kiramman merely hummed in response.

 

It’s incredibly awkward. Caitlyn had curled her hand around Vi’s bicep and held on like a lifeline. The two of them were glancing between the parents in front of them, not sure what to say or if they should speak. Vi sure as hell wouldn’t speak unless spoken to.

 

Thankfully (or perhaps not), Mrs Kiramman broke the silence and spoke directly to Vi this time.

 

“I must say, Violet,” she said, “it was quite generous of you to cover shifts for Caitlyn next week.”

 

Vi blinked. What? What shifts?

 

“Sorry?” Vi asked.

 

Caitlyn glanced between them, squinting her eyes as she tried to decipher what trap her mother had just lain out for them.

 

Caitlyn’s father piped up, all smiles as he said, “We’re having a charity ball at our winter home next week. It will take about a week to get it all set up but the actual party will happen on the Saturday.”

 

“I thought I told you two that I wasn’t going. Vi and I are too busy at the station right now.” Caitlyn said as she squeezed Vi’s arm.

 

Vi nodded along and kept her mouth shut.

 

Her mother cut in, saying, “I beg to differ. Piltover is celebrating a year of historically low crime.”

 

Vi clenched her jaw. Typical Piltovan.

 

“Unfortunately, ma’am, the undercity is not. Crime doesn’t sleep where I’m from.” Vi said and squared her shoulders, "We might've gotten rid of Silco and his chem-barons but their run-offs still stain my streets. Caitlyn knows this better than anyone."

 

She might be afraid of Caitlyn’s mother but she wouldn’t allow a bloody Piltie to drag her city through the mud. Not when they had the money to lift a significant percentage of people out of poverty and chose not to. Not when the Kiramman wealth could build schools and hospitals through the undercity, but never left the Clockwork Vaults.

 

“True. Which is why I would be eternally grateful if you take charge as her undersheriff. The current crime wave would be within your area of expertise, no?” Mrs Kiramman asked with a tilt of her head.

 

Vi curled her hand into fists but said nothing. She would not embarrass Caitlyn by getting into an argument with her mother, especially not in public.

 

“Actually, mother,” Caitly slipped her hand down and interlaced it with Vi’s, saying, “Vi is going to be my date to the ball.”

 

Vi’s hands went slack. Mrs Kiramman froze where she stood but her husband looked downright ecstatic.

 

Wait, what? Date? Caitlyn?

 

Mr Kiramman smiled from ear to ear, saying, “That’s wonderful news! We’d love to have you, Violet.”

 

Vi smiled sheepishly at him, still dazed. The feeling of Caitlyn’s soft hand in her own was frying her brain. Did her hands feel as nice as Caitlyn’s did? Definitely not, they were so large and calloused, sweet Janna, when was the last time she moisturised them?

 

“Unfortunately, plus ones can only be romantic partners.” Mrs Kiramman said with an edge to her tone, “Not friends or… partners of a platonic nature.”

 

Before Vi could even speak, Caitlyn said, “Oh, if that’s that case, then we’ll definitely be there.”

 

That’s when she felt it. Two squeezes from Caitlyn’s hand. The moment that Vi felt this, her mind went quiet and the only thing she could focus on was the task at hand.

 

After doing fieldwork with Caitlyn for so many years, they had developed some tricks to get them out of sticky situations. When Caitlyn wanted Vi to play along with whatever act she was performing, she would signal to Vi with her pinky or hand two consecutive movements.

 

Two squeezes. Play along.

 

Vi did as she was told.

 

“I don’t know if I have a suit to wear, love.” Vi murmured as she looked down at Caitlyn.

 

Caitlyn smiled and nudged her with her shoulder, saying, “You can just borrow one of my father's.”

 

“Nonsense, they’ll never fit such a strapping young lass as our Violet.” He grabbed Vi as he continued, saying, “We’ll take you to Ka’mar, she’ll make you a custom suit. Have you ever been to Holdrum during the winter?”

 

As Mr Kiramman pulled her along, Vi glanced back to look at Caitlyn who was arguing quietly with her mother. When she caught Vi’s eyes, she shot her a small smile filled with gratitude. Her hair was tousled by the wind and she watched Caitlyn tuck the hair behind her ear.

 

Without looking away, Vi murmured, “I’m sure it’s beautiful, sir.”

 

Fuck.

 

Fuck .