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Vi brought down the axe with a vengeance, slicing clean through the log. The blade of the axe embedded itself into the much thicker and larger log beneath. Vi grunted as she yanked it free, panting as she did so.

 

She fought and chased after criminals for a living, yet she was panting like a dog over a bit of firewood. Shameful, really.

 

Looking around, Vi took in the sights. She was standing in the logging station near the Kiramman Manor. The staff who usually cut the firewood, Rodger, had gone into town that day with the rest of the staff not needed tonight. He took his hound and her pups with him, too.

 

The only dog that remained on the property was Princess. She was currently nestled at Caitlyn’s feet as she slept. Vi envied her: it was warm this afternoon and she was sweating down her back from the heat. A nap sounded wonderful right now.

 

Caitlyn was sitting on a stool surrounded by various tools from her cleaning kit. She was meticulously cleaning every nook and cranny of her rifle. She had taken Vi out for some shooting drills that morning. Sure enough, she had plenty to say about Vi’s “atrocious form” and her accuracy as a marksman.

 

Vi didn’t take it to heart: she knew Caitlyn had exacting standards and it was difficult to measure up to them. Most of the time, she was distracted by how attractive the sheriff looked as she handled a firearm.

 

Princess hadn’t come with them, of course. No pup would enjoy frequent gunfire. She stayed home with Caitlyn’s parents while they were out.

 

That pup had been glued to Caitlyn’s side since they returned.

 

Vi wiped her brow and said, “This feels weird.”

 

Caitlyn glanced up at her, taking a pause in her cleaning process.

 

“What does?” Caitlyn asked.

 

“Killing trees.” Vi said, pointing at the split log at her feet.

 

“You aren’t killing them, dear,” Caitlyn said with a small smile, “the logs can’t feel and we’re using them for a good reason.”

 

Vi huffed, saying, “Still feels weird. Like I don’t even feel this bad about eating meat and I’ve been to a slaughterhouse before.”

 

It didn’t help that they were surrounded by trees. Vi felt guilty as they loomed overhead and seemed to berate her for killing one of their own. Trees were as creepy as they were pretty. Vi missed the cold steel of undercity architecture more than ever.

 

“Please place your feelings aside just for this afternoon. Judging by the dark clouds, we’ll be having a rainy night and I’d appreciate the extra logs in the fire,” Caitlyn said.

 

Vi’s eyes drifted to the fingers running along the rifle. She always loved Caitlyn’s hands: she loved the long, slender fingers and the calloused palms. The first time she ever saw Caitlyn wear rings, she hadn’t been able to look away the whole night.

 

Tearing her eyes away, Vi asked, “Why am I the one logging?”

 

“Because you’re terrible at gun maintenance,” Caitlyn said, gesturing to the rifle in her lap.

 

“Or is it because you enjoy watching me use an axe?” Vi teased.

 

Caitlyn sat up a little straighter at this. She slowly raked her eyes up and down Vi’s body, appraising her like one would with a valuable jewel. Vi puffed her chest out a little and hoped her efforts with the axe made her biceps look a little bigger. What? A pretty woman was looking at her, of course she wanted her arms to look good.

 

“Bit of both, I suppose.” Caitlyn finally settled on, returning to her rifle.

 

Vi grinned before grabbing another log from the pile.

 

“Easy, sheriff,” she said, “a girl might get the wrong idea if you look at her like that.”

 

Caitlyn hummed, asking, “What if I want her to get the wrong idea?”

 

Vi ignored the way she flushed throughout her whole body, saying, “I’d say you’re a cruel woman. A real heartbreaker.”

 

She brought the axe down. Hard. She swung it so hard that she managed to split the log and break the axe. The blade of the axe was embedded into the slab of wood beneath while the broken handle was in her hands. Shit. Rodger was going to need a replacement for that.

 

Princess barked at the sudden movement and sound of wood being split so violently. Looking back, Vi found the sheriff soothing the pup and looking at her with a flat expression.

 

Caitlyn said, “You’re just showing off now.”

 

Vi winked at her, saying, “It’s not my fault I’m hot, cupcake.”

 

Caitlyn only rolled her eyes at her. Vi turned back to the slab and broken axe, wondering how to salvage this. An idea popped into her head. She yanked the axe out of the slab of wood and tossed it aside. Then, she squatted down and held the slab to her chest. She stood up and felt her thighs burn from the weight of it.

 

“Lemme just…” Vi murmured to herself.

 

She adjusted her hands until they dipped into the shallow groove made by the axe. With a bit of effort, Vi ripped the slab apart with her bare hands into two pieces. A few splinters flung out but Vi was unscathed. She's more proud of her strength that allowed her to do that.

 

Turning back to look at Caitlyn, she found the woman watching her with eyes so dark they were nearly black.

 

Vi straightened up and asked, “You alright, love?”

 

Caitlyn made a small noise that Vi almost missed before looking back down at her gun. It was then that Vi realised exactly what was going on with her.

 

“Are you blushing?” Vi asked with an impossibly large smile.

 

Immediately after this, Vi found a rifle being pointed directly at her face. A reasonable response to light teasing.

 

“I don’t think I’ve had enough target practice today.” Caitlyn grumbled.

 

Vi let out a bark of laughter before walking over to her. Despite her face being tucked close to her gun, Vi could still see the sheriff’s flushed cheeks. It was adorable, really. When Vi stood right in front of her, she crouched down and held onto Caitlyn’s thighs for balance. Caitlyn’s blush grew even darker and the rifle was nestled against Vi's shoulder.

 

Caitlyn’s finger was nowhere near the trigger.

 

Vi quirked her brow, asking, “Feeling trigger shy, sheriff?”

 

“I don’t want to waste bullets.” Caitlyn retorted, “They’re quite expensive these days.”

 

Vi’s knees hit the ground. She didn’t move her hands from Caitlyn’s thighs. The muscles underneath tensed up before relaxing.

 

“That’s what happens when a competent sheriff cracks down on crime,” Vi said, a little softer this time.

 

“Flattery?” Caitlyn said, “I didn’t know you had it in you.”

 

For a moment, Vi considered deflecting by flirting with her. Instead, she decided to be honest and allow this conversation to matter.

 

Shaking her head, Vi said, “It’s not flattery. You do good work, Cait, and you know it. We all do.”

 

At this, Caitlyn sighed and lowered the rifle. Princess was looking up at them from her spot near Caitlyn’s feet. Vi found herself smiling as she reached up and scratched the pup’s back.

 

Setting the gun aside, Caitlyn said, “You should save the charm for tonight. You’ll need to be your most charming if you want to survive.”

 

Vi groaned. She had completely forgotten about the party tonight for a good hour. She turned and slumped against the tree trunk Caitlyn was sitting on. With her back towards Caitlyn, her wide shoulders forced Caitlyn to spread her legs wider to accommodate. Caitlyn’s hands found the large muscles of Vi’s shoulders and she began to massage them to keep her hands busy. Vi melted into her touch.

 

“Do we have to go?” Vi asked, “We could just hide in the woods for a few hours. I’ve never gone camping before but I’m sure we’ll manage.”

 

Caitlyn let out a small laugh, asking, “And have my mother hunt us down once the guests leave?”

 

Vi shuddered. She had already had Mrs Kiramman point a gun at her before; once was enough, thank you very much.

 

“You’ll be fine. All you have to do is be your handsome self, smile and nod when I tell you to,” Caitlyn said as her fingers worked out the knots in Vi’s shoulders.

 

Vi tilted her head back until she was gazing up at Caitlyn. The sheriff smiled down at her, bathed in the patches of sunlight that snuck through the canopy around them. Was it possible to look this beautiful? Was Caitlyn Kiramman even real?

 

“Is that what I am to you, Kiramman? A bit of eye candy to distract the guests?” Vi asked, topping her whining off with a pout.

 

Caitlyn’s hands cupped Vi’s jaw as she said, “The finest eye candy I could get my hands on.”

 

Vi smiled at this. She let the woman run her thumbs along her cheekbones, a sensation that soothed Vi down to her core. Why should she ever feel stressed when such wonderful fingers were trailing along her skin?

 

“You ready for all the questions?” Vi asked.

 

“You mean all the intrustive questions about our sex life and if I’m actually having an affair with Jayce.” Caitlyn said before scoffing, “I can’t wait.”

 

Vi’s face scrunched up into a slight frown at the mention of his name. After their falling out, Vi and Jayce had always been at odds with each other. They would remain civil for Caitlyn's sake, considering they both loved the sheriff deeply. Jayce had been a staple in Caitlyn's life long before Vi ever had. He was still the older brother in Caitlyn's eyes and nothing Vi did would ever change that. She didn't want to change that, either. Caitlyn was allowed to be friends with whoever she wanted to. But Vi was never able to reconcile with him after that day in the shimmer factory and refused to.

 

“Is Pretty Boy coming tonight?” Vi asked.

 

Caitlyn nodded, saying, “Yup. Jayce can't weasel his way out of this one. He's skipped out of too many parties recently.”

 

Vi understood that. If these parties were anything like Caitlyn described, Vi would skip out too. Vi asked, “How is he coming if tonight is couples only? Is he bringing Mel?”

 

Caitlyn shrugged, saying, "I really don't know what's going on with those two after all these years. They just kind of... dance around each other in a will-they, won't they situation. It's frustrating to watch, honestly."

 

Vi hummed and rubbed at the callouses on her palm. She asked, "Do I have any specific job tonight them? Besides being my usual handsome self?"

 

Caitlyn scoffed.

 

"Probably bat away suitors that my mother has invited." Caitlyn replied, a hint of venom in her voice.

 

Vi was struggling to not swallow. Instead, she asked, “Why would people approach you… for that reason, if you’re with me?”

 

Caitlyn hummed, saying, “You’d be surprised at the lengths people go to taste the Kiramman fortune. I’m apparently the most eligible bachelorette in Piltover, and Piltovans aren’t above adultery and cheating to get ahead in life.”

 

Vi felt a flare of possessiveness. She knew it was wrong to feel possessive over someone she didn’t actually have, but her heart didn’t care for logic or ethics. Her hands clenched into fists in her lap. They remained that way for some time until Princess rolled over in her sleep. The pup was now resting against Vi’s large thigh. Vi softened at the sight of her and unclenched her fists to stroke the soft fur.

 

“You're worth a lot more than your family’s money,” Vi eventually said.

 

Caitlyn dipped her head forward and placed a kiss against Vi’s forehead. She smelled nice. What was that, lavender?

 

“That’s nice of you to say, darling.” Caitlyn murmured, “But I’m not concerned with their opinion of me. As long as you keep them away from me, we’ll have a good night.”

 

Vi nodded.

 

“Keep the sump-rats away from you.” She murmured, “You sure I can’t wear my gauntlets tonight?”

 

At this little remark, Caitlyn tilted Vi’s head back until they were looking at each other. Caitlyn’s lap was so warm. Vi wished she could sit there for a little bit longer. Especially with those thin fingers tracing along her jaw.

 

With a fond look, Caitlyn asked, “Are you planning on concussing our guests?”

 

“Maiming, too, if possible,” Vi said with a matching expression.

 

Caitlyn let out a small laugh and Vi felt her heart flutter. Was she even aware of how beautiful she was? Whenever she smiled, Vi could see that tiny gap in her front teeth and it always made her swoon to see it. Caitlyn’s fingers trailed up until they were combing through her hair.

 

“You’ll be on your best behaviour, I’m sure,” Caitlyn said.

 

Vi did not respond. While she would definitely try to behave tonight, she didn’t want to promise anything. Instead she just let her eyes slide closed. The sun warmed her skin and the feeling of Caitlyn’s fingers running through her hair was euphoric.

 

She never wanted to leave.

 

later that day.

 

Vi was currently pacing inside Caitlyn’s room. Agitation didn’t even cover it. How long was Caitlyn planning on getting ready? At this rate, they’d never make it to their train tomorrow, let alone the bloody party tonight.

 

“We’re not getting married, cupcake,” Vi called out, “I wanna see the dress.”

 

From inside the locked bathroom, Caitlyn’s muffled voice replied: “Don’t be a child, you can wait until I’m done.”

 

Vi groaned and threw herself back against the bed. Saint Janna, this woman was strange. She had no idea why Caitlyn didn’t want her to see whatever outfit she had on. Was it to surprise Vi? Despite their many years of friendship, Vi had never actually seen her partner dressed to the nines before. Caitlyn was the kind of person who didn’t really attend parties because she was too busy with work and didn’t care for socialising. The fanciest Vi ever saw her dressed was in her sheriff ceremonial regalia.

 

And as for the outfit Vi had on…

 

She sighed. Mr Kiramman had gone all out for her custom-made suit. This was definitely the most expensive outfit she had ever worn -- hell, it probably cost more than several months of her rent. She wore a pin-striped suit made of the softest material Vi had ever felt (with a name she couldn’t pronounce). The fabric was something from Ionia, apparently. It was fitted to Vi’s exact measurements and showed off every dip and curve of her body, highlighting her muscular physique. The suit was composed of trousers, a button-up shirt, a double-breasted vest and a long coat -- a coat which Vi was eager to strip off before rolling up her sleeves. it was all-black with the exception of the vest, which was a dark reddish colour. Not to mention the belt wrapped around her rib cage and nestled just under her breasts. That was an... interesting creative decision.

 

According to Mrs Kiramman, it was supposed to match Caitlyn’s dress. The dress that Vi had yet to even see.

 

“Are you done yet?” Vi asked again.

 

There was a muffled sigh. Then: “So impatient.”

 

Vi grabbed the pillow and hugged it to her chest as she stared up at the ceiling. She was so anxious to get a glimpse of Caitlyn in that dress but it was easier to pretend she was just bored and itching to get to the party.

 

“I wanna see if our outfits actually match. Your mother stressed that they had to match perfectly and I want to keep my skin attached to my body, you know.” Vi said.

 

“She wouldn’t skin you.” Caitlyn said, “She’d put so many bullet holes in you that you’d look like that special cheese my father is fond of.”

 

“Thanks, love, I feel so much better now,” Vi deadpanned.

 

Caitlyn deadpanned right back, “You’re welcome. Now shut up.”

 

Vi huffed but did as she was told. There was no point trying to convince someone as bull-headed as Caitlyn to do something she didn’t want to do. Instead, Vi decided to try and relax while she waited. Because why not? Who knew how long this party would go on for? With a pillow nestled to her chest that smelled like her partner, Vi closed her eyes and tried to take deep breaths.

 

As it turned out, Vi had done a little more than relax. She had managed to fall asleep while she waited. She only realised she had fallen asleep when she was woken up to the feeling of someone rubbing their thumb along her cheekbone. She could hear the sound of her name being called.

 

She knew it was Caitlyn before she understood what was happening. She always knew. She could pick out Caitlyn’s face in a sea of people with ease.

 

Caitlyn was smiling down at her. When Vi’s eyes finally adjusted, she watched as Caitlyn laughed quietly and she began fixing Vi’s hair.

 

“Good morning, sleepyhead.” Caitlyn murmured, “We’re late for the party.”

 

Vi sat up and rubbed the sleep from her eyes, murmuring, “Fashionably late, then.”

 

Caitlyn snorted.

 

“My mother is going to kill us.”

 

Vi’s eyes flew open and she leapt to her feet in a panic.

 

“Shit, we better…” Vi trailed off.

 

In her haste to get up, Vi had turned around and noticed something. Caitlyn. She was finally dressed and ready and…

 

Oh sweet Janna.

 

Caitlyn looked beyond stunning. Vi never believed in a creator god but the woman standing before her had to be evidence of the divine. She felt her heart swell up in her chest at the sight of Caitlyn sitting on the bed, smiling up at her.

 

And yes, the dress matched. Her dress was the same dark red as Vi’s vest and covered Caitlyn from head to toe. The only bit of skin on display was her back, showing off those toned muscles from years of physical labour and handling firearms. The dress was mostly lace with a thicker and darker material underneath that covered her body from view. The sleeves and neck, however, were only lace. The dress ran from her neck down to her ankles, and she wore simple heels of a matching colour. 

 

Vi didn’t know much about clothes, but she did know why her heart was racing so badly.

 

“Holy shit, Cait…” she breathed out, unable to look away.

 

Caitlyn winked at her, saying, “Told you it matches.”

 

Realising that she had yet to actually compliment her date, Vi quickly said, “You look… really good. Amazing. Gorgeous .”

 

Vi changed her mind. While the view from the train overlooking the horizon had been life-changing, it wasn’t the most beautiful thing Vi had ever seen anymore. Caitlyn Kiramman was more beautiful than a thousand sunsets or any glittering oceans.

 

The sight of Caitlyn’s smile widening even further and the twinkle in her eyes was so worth it. Vi would compliment her every moment if that’s what she was rewarded with.

 

“You don’t look half-bad yourself.” Caitlyn said, adding, “You clean up rather nice. Very handsome.”

 

Vi smiled sheepishly and scratched the back of her head. She looked down at herself and the fancy clothes before picking at them. Quietly, she asked, “You don’t think I look out of place?”

 

She was going to be surrounded be aristocratic idiots for an entire night with Caitlyn fucking Kiramman on her arm. They were going to pick her apart with snide comments and backhanded compliments. She just hoped she looked good enough to stand by Caitlyn’s side.

 

Caitlyn hummed before rising to her feet. Vi felt the sudden urge to rush to her side just to be near her. She probably smelled incredible, too. 

 

She gave Vi a once-over and said, “Something’s wrong.”

 

Vi’’s heart dropped into her stomach. Had she worn something wrong? She wore the suit exactly how Mr Kiramman told her to. Was it her body? Or did she--

 

Caitlyn held out her hand. Vi’s brain stopped.

 

“Come here.” Caitlyn said, smiling.

 

Like a sailor seduced by a siren’s song, Vi made her way to Caitlyn’s side. The moment she stood within reach, Caitlyn’s hand shot out and she pulled Vi towards her. Vi let out a yelp as a hand snuck itself into the crook of her elbow. She had not been prepared for such forwardness. She was blushing profusely as she looked down at Caitlyn. The sheriff was smiling up at her like a fox that found a chicken coop. The dark red lipstick painted on her lips was doing dangerous things to Vi’s heart.

 

Despite her hulking frame, Vi was very much in danger from the Cheshire cat beside her.

 

“That’s better. Now you’re exactly where you’re meant to be,” Caitlyn murmured.

 

Vi understood the implication immediately.

 

By my side.

 

Vi grabbed the long coat and mustered as much courage as possible. She squared her shoulders, saying, “Let’s go before your mother sics the hounds on us.”

 

Caitlyn smirked.

 

“Coward.”

 

soon after.

 

There they were. They stood just outside the closed doors to the manor’s ballroom. Stationed beside the doors were two armed guards dressed in suits under a tactical vest. They were pretending like Caitlyn and Vi weren’t there and that they weren’t watching them.

 

Caitlyn paused. Vi, who was attached to her by the arm, also came to a stop and looked down at her.

 

“You alright?” Vi asked with a tilt of her head.

 

Caitlyn looked up at her with a furrowed brow. She stared for so long that Vi wondered if she was feeling ill or faint. Then she murmured, “Bend down a little for me.”

 

Vi did so without question. When she was a few inches from Caitlyn’s face, the sheriff cupped the side of her face and placed a warm kiss on her cheek. Vi was on the verge of a heart attack and squeaked at the feeling. Sweet Janna above, her lips were so soft.

 

Caitlyn allowed the kiss to go on for far too long. After lingering for a little bit, she pulled back to admire her handiwork: an obvious, dark lipstick stain on Vi’s cheek.

 

Vi held the cheek in question and said, “W- I thought you didn’t want people to gossip!”

 

Caitlyn rubbed her lips together and there was a twinkle of mischief in her eyes. Definitely a Cheshire cat.

 

“I changed my mind,” she murmured, “my lipstick looks nice on you.”

 

And with that, Caitlyn led them through the doors with a wide grin on her face. Vi felt like she had jumped into the deep end with this woman. How on earth was she supposed to survive this night if this was how Caitlyn was going to behave?

 

The doors were opened for them. All eyes were on them when they walked in, arm in arm and dressed to the nines. Vi was used to people staring at her from a young age. Usually they would be looking at her with suspicion and distrust. As she grew older, the stares didn’t change, they just grew more subtle. But for the first time, Vi had to admit that it felt good to have so many eyes on her. It felt good because she had Caitlyn on her arm. They saw Vi beside her and they realised that they were together. Romantically. Vi couldn’t help but smirk and puff out her chest as she led Caitlyn through the crowd. This time, people looked at Vi with envy .

 

“They can look but they can’t touch, hm?” Vi murmured to her partner.

 

Caitlyn smiled conspiratorially up at her.

 

“Presenting Lady Caitlyn Kiramman and her…” the announcer hesitated, “girlfriend, Violet Doe.”

 

Damn fucking right.

 

Vi towered over the guests as she walked through them. As far as the eye could see, they were people whispering to each other and others were just blatantly staring. She felt Caitlyn squeeze her bicep as they walked through the crowd. They were apparently making a beeline for Caitlyn’s parents.

 

Ah, shit.

 

The Kiramman couple were standing by the staircase as the people they had been talking to walked away, giving them some privacy. When the couple saw them, there was visible relief on their faces. How late were they exactly?

 

Mrs Kiramman looked a little annoyed with that pinched expression she wore. Vi was getting used to that being her default face so she didn’t take it to heart. Meanwhile her husband looked excited to see them. Elated, really.

 

The moment they walked within earshot of the couple, Caitlyn drawled, “Vi fell asleep.”

 

“Caitlyn!” Vi hissed, flushing red.

 

“You two look incredible together,” Mr Kiramman said, adding, “I told you my tailor has quite the eye for these things.”

 

Mrs Kiramman hummed and gave the two of them a once-over. Finally, she nodded and said, “You do look quite fetching together.”

 

Vi’s eyes nearly popped out of her skull. Did she just get a compliment from her? Were pigs flying? Was this the same woman who pointed a gun at her face when she snuck into Caitlyn’s room once?

 

Beside her, Caitlyn scoffed and said, “Fetching? Really, mother?”

 

“Stop fishing for compliments and go mingle with the guests. They’re still scraping their jaws off the floor,” the Kiramman matriarch gestured to the crowd behind them.

 

Caitlyn rolled her eyes before leading Vi away by her arm. In all honesty, Vi was still a little dazed from that compliment. Was there hope for her after all?

 

The guests that Caitlyn introduced her to were… interesting. They were still vultures who valued money more than their morals, but at least they’d be donating an exorbitant amount of money for this charity ball. The money would go towards funding schools and hospitals in Zaun, with construction already planned for the summer next year. Caitlyn had been the one to choose the charity, of course.

 

But for once when Vi spoke to wealthy aristocrats, she wasn’t interrogating them about tax evasion or extortion. Instead, they were the ones interrogating her and Caitlyn.

 

When someone asked how long the two of them had been dating, Caitlyn had pushed her hair over her shoulder and leaned into Vi’s chest. Even with those heels, she was just so damn small. Vi was worried she might break her at this proximity.

 

“A few months now,” Caitlyn said before adding with a grin, “after this one confessed.”

 

Oh, right. She had a job to do.

 

Vi held onto her partner’s waist a little tighter as she said, “It’s been a long time coming, really. I’m surprised I even waited this long.”

 

“And why did you?” Another guest asked.

 

Vi glanced at the group watching them. They seemed to be hanging onto their every word, eager to absorb all the gossip they could possibly extract from them.

 

Vultures.

 

Sighing, Vi said, “Quite honestly, I didn’t think I stood a chance.”

 

Caitlyn pulled away to look up at her in concern. This reaction was genuine and that somehow made it worse.

 

“Darling,” she murmured.

 

Vi turned to look down at her. After being someone’s partner for some many years, you learn to communicate silently with them. Vi scrunched her nose ever-so slightly and she saw the recognition in Caitlyn’s eyes: she didn’t want to talk about this in front of these people.

 

Now the ball was in Caitlyn’s court to divert the topic without making it obvious.

 

Caitlyn reached up to wipe her thumb across the expanse of Vi’s cheek with her thumb. As she did so, she smiled and said, “It seems I’ve left a mark on your pretty face.”

 

Subtle. Vi always admired how easily Caitlyn was able to do that.

 

She rolled her eyes but grabbed Caitlyn’s hand. She was well aware that they had an audience and that they had to really sell this doting couple act they had going on. If Vi happened to enjoy herself while she did so, who could blame her? She kissed the inside of Caitlyn’s palm and watched as her pupils expanded so large that her eyes went black.

 

Caitlyn was the subtle one between them; Vi preferred to take a more direct approach.

 

Another conservation that cropped up that night as they travelled from guest to guest was regarding why they had not spoken about their relationship prior to announcing it tonight.

 

This time it was Vi’s turn to lead.

 

“It’s my own fault.” Vi said, “I wanted to keep us private for a while, keep her all to myself.”

 

As she pressed a kiss to Caitlyn’s head, her partner said, “And you had a healthy dose of fear for my mother.”

 

This earned a great deal of laughter from their audience. Vi’s ears burned from embarrassment but she knew that this was just harmless teasing on Caitlyn’s part. She decided to play along and said, “I think she’s warming up to me. She hasn’t threatened to bury me in the woods today.”

 

“You exaggerate. You’ve taken down some of the most violent criminals Piltover has ever seen and you’re scared of a councillor,” Caitlyn teased with a grin.

 

If Caitlyn wanted to tease, Vi could play that game, too.

 

Smirking, Vi looked off into the distance and said, “She’s not just any councillor, she’s potentially my future mother in law.”

 

She felt Caitlyn freeze against her chest. Checkmate. Glancing down, she caught Caitlyn’s wide-eyed gaze and her slightly parted mouth. Vi winked at her as the audience began to whisper even more amongst themselves.

 

If Caitlyn wanted people to gossip, she’d give them something to gossip about.

 

later.

 

They had spent the better part of an hour now mingling with the guests. Vi thought she was going to hate tonight but she was pleasantly surprised so far. She hadn’t realised that dealing with these people meant she could tease Caitlyn endlessly. She had made a game of seeing how far Caitlyn’s blush could go: the current record was just above collarbones.

 

Vi was enjoying herself because she was with Caitlyn.

 

It had just been Vi and Caitlyn for some time now, relaxing on the balcony together. Sometimes it was about work or about this vacation. Usually it was just the usual ribbing between friends. It was only about twenty minutes into their private conversation that they were interrupted by a voice calling out, "Cait!"

 

The two of them looked back to see who the owner of the voice was. Sure enough, Jayce was walking towards them with a big grin on his face directed at Caitlyn. At the sight of him, Caitlyn slipped away from Vi to step forward and embrace him. Vi immediately missed the warmth from Caitlyn's body and her chest felt a little hollow as she watched Caitlyn go.

 

Mid-embrace, Jayce seemed to notice Vi behind her. There was a bit of awkward silence and tension when their eyes met. When Jayce pulled away, he nodded at Vi and said, "Vi."

 

Vi just nodded back at him and sipped at her flute of champagne. Saint Janna, didn't Caitlyn say this stuff was the non-alcoholic version? Why did it still taste terrible?

 

Caitlyn gave him a warm smile, saying, “Glad you came, Jayce.”

 

Jayce shrugged and returned her smile. He said, "Couldn't skip this one. Mel twisted my arm to get me out of the city."

 

"Out of the city or out of your lab?" Caitlyn asked with a quirked brow.

 

Jayce let out a breathy laugh and scratched the back of his head. Sometimes Vi forgot that he was a scientist before he ever became a socialite. He wasn't always the politically savvy, smooth-talking man he was today.

 

Vi pushed herself off of the balcony rail and rose to her feet. It would look bad for Caitlyn if she just sulked during this whole conversation. She slowly approached them and asked, "Did you bring Mel, then?"

 

"I did," Jayce said with a nod, "but I think she's gone off socialising now. Last time I saw her she was gossiping about the council."

 

Caitlyn turned to look back at Vi and leaned into her chest, before placing a kiss to her cheek. Vi was going to explode. She looked down at Caitlyn with a questioning look and a head tilt.

 

"I'm going to go find Mel," Caitlyn said, "play nice while I'm gone."

 

Vi rolled her eyes but held onto Caitlyn's hand for as long as she could before Caitlyn walked away. Vi watched her go with a racing heart and an empty chest. She had indulged herself for too long in this illusion of dating Caitlyn, of having her feelings returned, of being able to have Caitlyn on her arm in front of everyone. Watching Caitlyn walk away reminded her of the reality of the situation.

 

And now she was stuck with Jayce.

 

"You guys aren't actually together, are you?" Jayce said. It didn't feel like a question.

 

Vi sighed and began massaging her temples. Of course Caitlyn's big brother would figure out this rouse. Vi said, "Nope."

 

Jayce nodded.

 

"Let me guess. Caitlyn's mom?"

 

Vi sighed, "Yup."

 

Jayce nodded again.

 

There was a bout of silence between them. The two of them had so little in common and there was nothing Vi could latch onto to make this less awkward. Actually, she didn't even have the urge to make it less awkward, anyway. She sipped the champagne again and immediately regretted it. In the undercity, if your drink felt sharp or bubbly it was probably poisonous and you should throw it out. But in Piltover, they called it "refined beverages".

 

Beside her, Jayce sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. He turned to Vi and said, "Well, if it makes you feel any better, you're not the only one who's having romantic issues tonight."

 

Vi scoffed, saying, "There's no issues. I'm just... helping her out. She needed a date and I was available."

 

Jayce looked at her for a moment.

 

"You're joking, right?" He asked.

 

Vi ignored him.

 

"Vi, you don't seriously think Cait is doing this as a friend, right?" Jayce asked again, stepping towards her.

 

Vi glared at him and said, "Just drop it, Jayce. This isn't like you and Mel. We aren't..."

 

She trailed off. She couldn't even get the words out of her mouth. It made her feel sick to realise that Caitlyn did not, in fact, feel the same way about her. Wouldn't something have happened by now if she did? Wouldn't Caitlyn have read the signals by now and acted on them?

 

Vi walked back towards the balcony and placed her palms against the rails. As she looked out into the elm forest surrounding the manor, she tried not to think of her roiling stomach or wounded heart. It would just be a quick monorail ride back to Piltover and back to her little, rat-infested apartment. Away from all the noise in this party and away from the source of her happiness and angst: Caitlyn Kiramman. Oh, how easy life would be if Vi could run from her problems.

 

"Listen."

 

Jayce took another step behind her. The party was so muffled out here. Vi ignored him.

 

"I know we aren't friends. But I do know Caitlyn." Jayce said, "She's crazy about you. Has been for years. I've known her since she was a kid and she's had plenty of girlfriends. But she's never cared about anyone like she cares about you."

 

Vi's grip on the railing grew so tight that she was sure it was going to crumble under her hands. Still, she refused to look at him as his words stabbed at her core. She didn't want to believe him. Believing him meant opening up her heart again, leaving it open to harm and disappointment.

 

Jayce took another step forward.

 

"Don't make the same mistake I did. Tell her how you feel."

 

The marble railing cracked. Vi clenched her jaw. She still refused to look at him.

 

A moment of silence went by. Then, Jayce sighed.

 

"I'll see you in there."

 

With that, Vi heard his footsteps fade away as he walked back into the party. She ignored her wet cheeks and the split marble under her hands. Most of all, she ignored the fear she felt that gripped at her heart.

 

Was there a chance?

 

later.

 

It had been a good night, all things considered. Vi had tried her best to be as charming as possible. Caitlyn had shown Vi a side of her that she found insanely attractive: her dancing circles around these vipers and vultures and their miserable attempts to take chunks out of them.

 

Vi hadn’t been able to take her eyes off of Caitlyn tonight. She couldn’t help it and she didn’t think anyone would blame her: the sheriff looked absolutely gorgeous in that dress as she clung onto Vi. And while she was sure that Caitlyn had caught her watching a few times, she couldn’t bring herself to care -- she was allowed to look, even if it was just for tonight.

 

That’s what had been eating at her. It was the one thing ruining tonight. Vi didn’t want this night to end. Actually, no. That wasn’t right. She did want this night to end because she wanted to fall asleep in Caitlyn’s arms tonight. She wanted to wake up the next morning and find that nothing had changed. She wanted to continue calling Caitlyn her girlfriend long after tonight. She wanted to flirt with her in public, to hold her close, to press a kiss to Caitlyn’s head and feel her sink into Vi’s chest.

 

Vi wanted to continue dating Caitlyn. For real, this time. But how the fuck was she supposed to bring this up?

 

Hey Caitlyn, sorry for being such a coward about this but I’m arse over tit for you. Like, completely in love with you, and have been for years. I know you flirt with me sometimes and love me as a friend, but do you think you can give someone like me a chance?

 

It sounded so stupid in Vi’s head, let alone out loud.

 

Vi knew that Caitlyn found her attractive and that she would never let Vi’s feelings drive a wedge between them if voiced. But there was a small part of Vi that worried endlessly. What if she was reading these signals wrong? What if she was just seeing what she wanted to see in Caitlyn’s eyes? What if this was all in her head and Caitlyn was eager to return to normal after tonight?

 

Janna, Vi needed a drink. A bit of liquid courage for… whatever game plan she settled on.

 

She pressed a kiss to Caitlyn’s head and murmured, “I’m getting a drink, babe, you want a gin and tonic?”

 

Caitlyn flashed her a smile, showing off those pearly-white teeth and said, “You know me too well, love.”

 

Vi just gave her a small smile. If only she knew what was going on in Caitlyn’s mind. Then maybe she wouldn’t be sick with anxiety.

 

She left Caitlyn with the group of people they were talking to. Vi practically skipped over to the bar: despite her nerves, the sight of Caitlyn’s smile directed at her and only her made Vi feel as light as a feather.

 

When she made her way to the bar, Vi caught the bartender’s eyes and flagged him down. There weren’t many people sitting at the bar so the bartender looked quite bored all by his lonesome.

 

“A scotch and coke, and a gin and tonic,” Vi said.

 

The bartender smiled at her and began preparing the drinks. As he did so, he asked, “Is that second one for Miss Kiramman?”

 

Of course everyone knew about her and Caitlyn. Vi felt a swell of pride within her chest and she grinned wide, saying, “You betcha.”

 

“You’re a lucky woman,” the bartender said, seeming genuine.

 

At this, Vi let out a dreamy sigh and began to ramble, “I really am. She’s an incredible woman. I don’t know how I got this lucky but here we are, huh? I’m hoping some liquor might calm my nerves. Look at me, I’m already rambling. But you would too if you had Caitlyn fucking Kiramman on your arm. And don’t get me started on her dress tonight.”

 

The second she finished speaking, the bartender set the drinks down and nudged his head in the direction of Caitlyn.

 

He gave her an awkward look, saying, “Looks like someone else is appreciating your lady’s dress.”

 

Vi whipped her head around her so fast she was shocked it was still attached to her shoulders. Sure enough, a man was entirely too close to Caitlyn and wearing a smug expression as he spoke. Now, Caitlyn was great at hiding her true emotions and keeping a poker face but Vi knew her too well: Caitlyn was incredibly uncomfortable around this man. No, because of this man.

 

She downed her drink and rasped out, “He won’t be able to after I rip his eyes out.”

 

She left her date alone for a minute and the vultures descended with a vengeance.

 

Vi grabbed the gin and marched over to Caitlyn. Perhaps it was the hard liquor that she had just gulped down but all Vi could hear was the blood roaring in her ears. Not the best idea she’s ever had, admittedly.

 

When Caitlyn spotted Vi returning with her drink in hand, the relief on her face was visible. She immediately stepped forward to meet Vi halfway and ignored the man speaking to her.

 

Vi was operating on auto-pilot at this point. Pure instinct. She slipped her arm around Caitlyn’s waist, pressed a kiss to her temple and said, “One gin and tonic for you.”

 

“Thank you, darling.” Caitlyn said, taking a sip just to keep her mouth busy.

 

With her lady busy, Vi turned to look down at the man. He was definitely dressed to impress if all that gold jewellery and fine silks was any indication. Too bad for him, Caitlyn hated people who dressed like him. Not to mention she preferred women -- actually, it was more of a requirement than a preference. He was looking at her with a sour expression, as if she was the one being rude by talking to her girlfriend. Pretend-girlfriend. Partner. Whatever.

 

“Who’s this?” Vi asked, raising an eyebrow at him.

 

Caitlyn hummed and said, “This is Florence Blackwood. He’s a business partner of my mother’s.”

 

The man, Florence, let out a strained laugh. He said, “So formal, Cait . We’ve been friends since we were children, surely you can address me as such.”

 

Vi hated the way he was looking at her. She hated the way he used that nickname. She hated him.

 

The only thing kerbing her anger was Caitlyn’s hand on her chest and her own hand trailing across the smooth expanse of Caitlyn’s back. No one else was allowed to do this. Not him or anyone else. Just her.

 

Vi gave him a flat look, saying, “I believe my girlfriend’s description of you is accurate. We’ve spent six years of our lives together and you’ve never come up once. Sucks for you.”

 

She ignored whatever nonsense he was about to spew. Instead, she gently took the glass Caitlyn was holding from her before shoving it into Florence’s chest. She pulled away and he had no choice but to hold the glass. She hoped he stunk of alcohol for the rest of the night.

 

Instead of voicing this, Vi turned to her partner and said, “I love this song. Shall we?”

 

She silently led Caitlyn onto the dance floor to join the rest of the couples dancing. And it was only when she was standing right in front of Caitlyn and staring at her that she realised something. Something gravely important.

 

This was a slow dance. Which meant gentle swaying and being pressed up against Caitlyn’s body. Holding the woman she was in love with and pretending like her heart wasn’t going to collapse from stress.

 

Shit.

 

Caitlyn blinked at her, asking, “Vi?”

 

She looked down at Caitlyn with a stricken expression. The embarrassment she felt seeped into her cheeks, staining them red. Softly, Vi said, “I…I don’t know how to dance.”

 

Where the fuck was she supposed to learn how to slow dance? Prison? Zaun? There was just never the opportunity to do so. And compared to Caitlyn who was probably taught ballroom dance amongst her aristocratic etiquette classes, she was just going to embarrass both of them. Why had she been so stupid to let her jealous lead them to this point?

 

Before she could suggest returning to the crowd, Vi watched as Caitlyn’s expression softened. She smiled at her and said, “Let me show you.”

 

Vi’s heart soared. Caitlyn guided Vi’s hands to her hips and she placed her own hands on Vi's shoulders before curling around her neck. She treated Vi so gently and with so much patience. Caitlyn leaned forward until they’re pressed flush against each other. They’re so close that Vi can make out the flecks of grey in Caitlyn’s eyes.

 

“All you’ve got to do is go back,” Caitlyn murmured, “and forth. Just like that.”

 

Vi tilted her head, asking, “That’s it?”

 

Caitlyn smiled.

 

“That’s it.”

 

They danced together for the first time and Vi couldn’t be happier. The world around them seemed to disappear and all Vi could think of was the woman in her arms. Any thoughts about this party, about Caitlyn’s parents, about rude guests, about the reason they were even there -- all of it was gone. Only Caitlyn.

 

She was definitely wearing lavender perfume. Or maybe lavender shampoo. The latter made more sense, considering Caitlyn’s face was tucked into her neck and her hair was right under Vi’s nose.

 

Quietly, Vi murmured, “This is kinda nice.”

 

Even if her heart was about to burst.

 

“I’m glad you agree,” Caitlyn replied, smiling against Vi’s neck.

 

They continued to sway. Vi was sure that her hands were sweating profusely and now she was paranoid that Caitlyn could feel it through her dress. And she was also worried that Caitlyn’s hands were going to get tired from resting so high up on--

 

“Ow!” Vi yelped.

 

Caitlyn shook her head at her and pulled her hand away. She had apparently flicked Vi’s forehead while she was agonising over all her worries.

 

“You’re thinking too much.” Caitlyn said, “What’s going on, Vi?”

 

Vi let out a nervous laugh at this. She said, “Where to start? I’m slow dancing with a very pretty woman when I’ve never danced before. My breath reeks of alcohol and I know you can smell it, I’m sweating up a storm in this suit, guys keep staring at you in this dress, and time is passing way too fast.”

 

Vi had said all of this so fast she was almost winded when she was done. Another thought popped into her head: what if she stomped on Caitlyn’s foot in these stupid boots and broke her foot?

 

While this new worry marinated, Caitlyn smiled and said, “You’re just fine to me. I told you, you look very handsome in this suit. And you think I’m not sweating too? Lace isn’t exactly comfortable. And there are plenty of people staring at you in that suit.”

 

Vi huffed. While Caitlyn’s words were comforting, they weren’t eased completely. She argued, “They’re probably just looking at my offensively neon hair, Cait.”

 

Caitlyn pouted at this and began running her fingers through Vi’s hair. Vi loved when she did that. She never let anyone touch her hair. Only Caitlyn.

 

“I like your hair. Fuck them.” Caitlyn said, as if commenting on the weather.

 

Vi frowned and said, “I’d rather not.”

 

Caitlyn shot her a radiant smile, saying, “Well, that’s a relief. You are my date for this evening.”

 

“I know. That’s the problem,” Vi said with a sigh.

 

Caitlyn stopped swaying. Vi was about to ask her what was wrong when she noticed the look on Caitlyn’s face: it was completely heartbroken.

 

“Oh,” Caitlyn murmured.

 

Vi’s heart broke as she realised what her words had sounded like. It was like Vi didn’t want to be with Caitlyn, even just for a week and just for pretend. That was so, so far from the truth that Vi hadn’t even considered it.

 

Before Caitlyn could move, Vi held her in place and gazed down at her in earnest. She said, “It’s a problem because I don’t wanna just be your date tonight. I don’t wanna stop being your girlfriend once we board that stupid train tomorrow. I don’t wanna stop being your girlfriend.”

 

Vi was breathing hard now.

 

Caitlyn blinked. And blinked again.

 

“Oh.”

 

Vi breathed out, “Yeah.”

 

There’s a long stretch of silence where the two of them just stare at each other. They both seem to be waiting for the other to make a move. They’re both frozen at this point. Vi’s heart was in her throat. Was this a good or bad silence?

 

“Did I mess this up?” Vi asked, swallowing down the lump in her throat.

 

Caitlyn shook her head quickly, saying, “Not even slightly.”

 

It was then that she watched Caitlyn’s eyes drift down to her lips. And didn’t move. Vi was blushing from head to toe as she realised what Caitlyn was thinking. She nearly screamed when she thought Caitlyn was leaning closer. If there was even the slightest chance that Caitlyn was thinking of kissing her...

 

Vi held her back by the arms.

 

“I…” Vi was stuttering now, “D-Don’t kiss me.”

 

Caitlyn was blinking again, clearly confused.

 

Vi quickly said, “I don’t wanna kiss you for the first time in front of all these people. Please.”

 

She could see the gleam in Caitlyn’s eyes as she said this. It was like someone had lit a fire within her. In the blink of an eye, Caitlyn was dragging her out of the ballroom as fast as she could without sprinting in those heels. People were whispering to each other and watching the two of them leave but Vi didn’t even glance at them. She just allowed herself to be dragged around, hoping her heart didn’t leap out of her chest.

 

Did this mean that Caitlyn liked her back? How much? Was she just humouring Vi? Giving Vi a test drive before she committed to anything? Did she even want something more?

 

Before Vi could catch her breath, she found herself standing in Caitlyn’s room. She had no idea how she blacked out the long trip from the ballroom to here. One moment she was being pulled through a crowd, the next she was staring at Caitlyn who was giving her bedroom eyes.

 

She watched as Caitlyn locked the door behind them and turned on the bedside lamp. When she straightened up, they locked eyes.

 

They were watching each other now. Vi was going to die. Her heart couldn’t handle this.

 

Quietly, Vi said, “You don’t have to kiss me.”

 

Caitlyn frowned, saying, “What?”

 

“If you don’t want to, you don’t have to kiss me.” Vi clarified, hoping that her voice didn’t sound as shaky as it felt.

 

Was this actually happening?

 

Caitlyn blinked. Then she tilted her head.

 

“Who said I don’t want to kiss you?” She asked.

 

Vi’s breath hitched in her throat.

 

“I…” Vi paused before asking, “Do you?”

 

Caitlyn buried her face into her hands and let out a loud groan. When she peaked at Vi through her fingers, her voice came out muffled as she said, “I’ve wanted to kiss you for a few years now but thanks for noticing.”

 

Vi was floored. Bamboozled. Flabbergasted. Discombobulated, really.

 

Finally, she settled on yelling back: “ Years ?!”

 

Caitlyn was gesturing with her hands as she said, “Vi, please tell me you didn’t think this whole time that arrangement was strictly platonic. That I was just asking my best friend to date me for platonic, not-gay reasons.”

 

“I… I…” Vi trailed off.

 

Her mouth was opening and closing like a fish. Honestly, yes, she had thought that. Was that… not the case? Oh, please tell her that Jayce wasn't right about this,

 

Before Vi could find the words, she watched Caitlyn throw her hands up and march towards her like a woman on a mission. Vi didn’t know if she was going to hit her or kiss her. Thankfully, it was the latter.

 

Caitlyn tasted like sweet gin and cherries. Sweet like a cupcake. The cherries must be from that lipstick. Vi couldn’t get enough of it.

 

She sighed into the kiss, into the taste and feeling of Caitlyn, and wrapped her arms around her smaller frame. Caitlyn allowed herself to be picked up and proceeded to wrap her legs around Vi’s waist.

 

Vi was in heaven. She could die happy right now. This was better than any dream her mind could’ve conjured up. She could feel Caitlyn smiling into the kiss and felt her own heart explode at the feeling.

 

Without thinking, Vi sank to her knees while still holding Caitlyn. She set the woman gently onto the bed and when she was sure Caitlyn was secure, she dipped her back onto the bed. Without breaking the kiss, Vi had Caitlyn sprawled out on her back and still clinging onto her.

 

She couldn’t believe that she was actually kissing Caitlyn. That her hands were actually running down Caitlyn’s body, that Caitlyn was kissing her back, that she apparently liked Vi too.

 

Judging by the way she was pulling on Vi’s hair and biting her bottom lip, she liked Vi a lot.

 

With Vi’s mind distracted with such thoughts, Caitlyn flipped them and Vi yelped at the sudden movement. Now Vi was the one sprawled out on her back while Caitlyn straddled her stomach. Caitlyn’s cheeks were flushed, she was breathing hard, her lipstick was smudged and she was holding Vi down with one hand.

 

Vi was a goner. And she realised that she quite liked being under Caitlyn like this.

 

“Hold your horses,” Caitlyn breathed out, “I’m not sleeping with you tonight.”

 

Vi blinked.

 

“Oh. That’s cool. Why?” Vi asked, tilting her head to the side.

 

Caitlyn didn’t owe her sex. Just because they kissed and realised they like each other didn’t mean they had to fall into bed together, too. But Vi was curious as to why Caitlyn wasn’t interested. Did her breath smell too much like alcohol?

 

“I grew up in this room. And I don’t want my childhood plushies watching me while we…” Caitlyn trailed off, suddenly shy.

 

Vi glanced around the room. Sure enough, she spotted a few plushies staring at them and some childish drawings in crayon taped to the walls. This was definitely a child’s room at one point.

 

She nodded, saying, “Right.”

 

They're both breathing hard at the point. Vi was sure that Caitlyn’s lipstick was all over her own mouth and she was proven right when Caitlyn giggled and began to clean it off.

 

She murmured, “Here, let me get that.”

 

Vi enjoyed the feeling of Caitlyn’s fingers near her mouth entirely too much. She let her hands drop until they rested on top of Caitlyn’s thighs. She was sure her brain was fried. Not once did she look away from Caitlyn’s smiling face.

 

Not even for a moment.

 

Every time she had imagined kissing Caitlyn for the first time, she had thought that she would be the suave and charming one that would lead the kiss. Never did she consider that Caitlyn might be the one on top like this as she cleaned up Vi’s mouth.

 

Vi decided she preferred this dynamic much more.

 

“So do you like me?” Vi asked quietly, “Like I like you.”

 

Caitlyn raised an eyebrow at her. She said, “Vi. I do like you. I’m also in love with you. Does that answer your question?”

 

Vi sat up in shock, causing Caitlyn to let out a squeal and grab onto her shoulders. Vi made sure to hold her steady and allow her to fall back gently onto Vi’s lap. She held Caitlyn by the waist as her fingertips pressed into the bare skin of Caitlyn’s back. Caitlyn looked quite comfortable as she settled onto Vi’s lap.

 

“Since when?” Vi asked, “Why didn’t you say anything?”

 

“Why didn’t you?” Caitlyn countered.

 

Vi scrunched up her face, saying, “I asked you first.”

 

Caitlyn smiled at her childish words before leaning down to peck Vi’s lips. She could get used to this.

 

“Cute.”

 

Vi refused to pout. But the urge was definitely there.

 

With her fingers nestled in Vi’s hair, Caitlyn sighed and said, “There’s always been an attraction between us. I’ve liked you probably for as long as you’ve liked me. I just assumed that you probably didn’t want something serious because you never brought it up. You’ve always been the kind of person to go out and get what they wanted, so I assumed you didn’t want that from me.”

 

Vi shook her head almost violently in protest. She had it all wrong!

 

“I did! I do!” Vi said, “I just, I didn’t think you wanted me like that. You’re like the most amazing woman I’ve ever met and I didn’t know if I measured up to your standards.”

 

Caitlyn frowned and repeated, “My standards?”

 

Vi said, “Perfection. Nothing less than you deserve.”

 

Caitlyn’s gaze softened.

 

“Flatterer.”

 

“I mean it,” Vi murmured, her thumbs rubbing circles into Caitlyn’s back.

 

“I know.”

 

Caitlyn pulled her in for a kiss again. Vi never wanted to stop. She was in love with the way Caitlyn took charge like this, the way she made Vi pliant in her hands and eager to please. Vi could’ve sat there for hours just getting lost in her.

 

Thankfully Caitlyn still had her head screwed on right and she pulled away. Now Vi did pout.

 

She fixed Vi’s hair and murmured, “Perfect is overrated. I love you, I admire you and you make me happy. What more could I ask for?”

 

Vi’s heart soared at her words. Softly, she asked, “You love me?”

 

“I thought I made that clear.” Caitlyn said.

 

There was a faint blush on her cheeks now. Vi was enchanted by the sight of it, bewitched by her words, ensnared in her grasp.

 

“I went deaf. Say it again. Please.” Vi breathed out as she pulled her close.

 

Caitlyn sighed but her gaze was dripping with honey. Her eyes were for Vi and only Vi. Just as it should be.

 

“I love you, Vi. I want to be your girlfriend for real, too.” Caitlyn said, smiling.

 

Vi’s smile threatened to split her face in half. She said, “I love you, too.”

 

That’s when Caitlyn gently hit Vi on the head and scrunched up her face in mock-anger.

 

“You know, for a would-be detective, you’re kind of dense.” Caitlyn said, “Do you really think anyone can make me do something I don’t want to, my mother included? If I didn’t want to bring a date to this party, I wouldn’t.”

 

“But you brought me. Because you wanna date me.” Vi said, wearing a big dopey smile as all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place.

 

Caitlyn rolled her eyes, saying, “I brought you because you’re an idiot that needed an extra push.”

 

“Yeah, but I’m your idiot now.” Vi said as she wiggled her eyebrows, “And you can’t get rid of me.”

 

“I don’t want to. We kind of share joint custody of a dog now, anyway,” Caitlyn remarked.

 

Said dog was currently in town with her mother, siblings and Rodger for the night. She’d be back in the morning to terrorise Vi’s ankles and to beg for scraps from Mrs Kiramman.

 

Vi frowned, asking, “Where is she gonna stay back home?”

 

“My apartment, of course,” Caitlyn said.

 

“What’s wrong with mine?” Vi asked.

 

Caitlyn deadpanned, “We have had a cold war with the rats that live in your apartment complex’s walls for the last year. Need I say more?”

 

All Vi had to say was: “Hmph.”

 

Caitlyn tossed her head over her shoulder and said, “It doesn’t matter since you’ll be moving into mine, anyway.”

 

Vi blinked rapidly, saying, “What? Why?”

 

“The rats, Vi, the rats .” Caitlyn said with a sigh, “Besides, you practically live with me already. I think my pillow is still stained with drool.”

 

Vi gave Caitlyn’s hips a small squeeze in protest and asked, “Is this your way of asking me to move in with you?”

 

Caitlyn smirked down at her.

 

“You think it’s a request?”

 

That… was much more attractive than it should’ve been. In order to diffuse the charged air around them, Vi murmured, “Damn, lesbians do move quick.”

 

“I mean, if you don’t want to sleep in my bed, watch me get changed every morning, dip into the bath--” Caitlyn began saying but was cut off.

 

Vi deadpanned, “I will be packing my stuff as soon as we get back.”

 

Caitlyn pecked her nose and said, “You’re too cute.”

 

To cover up her embarrassment, Vi moved Caitlyn until they were both lying on their side, facing each other on the bed. Vi felt warm all over. And she couldn’t seem to keep her hands off of Caitlyn who had squirreled herself into Vi’s chest. She was looking up at Vi with such warm eyes that she was mesmerised at the sight of them.

 

Vi ran her fingers through Caitlyn’s dark hair, enjoying the feeling of silky strands sliding through the gaps. Caitlyn let her do so without a word.

 

After some time of them laying down like that, Vi asked, “You think your mum is mad that we left?”

 

Caitlyn snorted.

 

“Probably not. She knows that we were bound to sneak away at some point. She likes you, you know?” Caitlyn murmured.

 

Vi frowned down at her, asking, “She does?”

 

Caitlyn nodded and said, “She's just protective. You’re my first serious girlfriend so she wanted to make sure you were dedicated to me and not my family’s money. That’s happened before. She knows you aren’t like that.”

 

“I am serious about you.” Vi murmured, holding her just a little bit tighter.

 

Caitlyn could go broke right this minute and Vi’s feelings wouldn’t change one bit. She loved Caitlyn for her personality, her morals, her ambition -- Vi never cared for money and that didn’t change when she met her.

 

“I know,” Caitlyn murmured with a smile, “Now get off of me, I need to get dressed and pee.”

 

It was at that very moment that Vi realised she hadn’t been to the bathroom all night and she was busting to go.

 

“You won’t beat me in heels,” Vi said before pushing Caitlyn back.

 

She took off towards the bathroom, ignoring Caitlyn’s squawks of protest and laughing all the way.

 

All was fair in love and war, right?

 


 

The night went by quickly after that. Caitlyn removed her makeup, they both got dressed into their sleepwear and then wrapped themselves around each other. There was an atmosphere of serenity between them that Vi had never experienced before. Perhaps it was the fact that now there were no hidden feelings between the two of them. And while she did feel incredibly content, Vi was sure her heart would beat out of her chest.

 

“You smell like makeup remover.” Vi grumbled, “It stinks.”

 

Caitlyn pinched her shoulder, saying, “You don’t have to stick your nose into my cheek, you know.”

 

“No, I do. It’s my legal obligation as your girlfriend,” Vi argued.

 

“As sheriff of Piltover, I am familiar with most laws and that definitely isn’t one.” Caitlyn said into her pillow. The exhaustion in her voice was clear as day.

 

Vi grinned against her skin, saying, “You said most laws.”

 

Caitlyn sighed and said, “You’re so heavy, I can’t even push you off.”

 

She let out a small bout of laughter at this. She said, “Yes, you can, and we both know you like my weight on top of you.”

 

She heard the muffled sigh into the pillow and laughed once more.

 

“I miss when you were a stuttering mess earlier,” Caitlyn whined.

 

Vi began to pepper kisses slowly along Caitlyn’s skin now. It was so soft and tasted sweet from the moisturiser she used. Judging by the soft sighs coming from her girlfriend (!!), she was doing just fine. In between kisses, Vi murmured, “I’m still a mess, I’m just too tired to stutter.”

 

Caitlyn’s fingers had returned to combing through Vi’s hair as she said, “Exhausted from a bit of kissing? Oh, you poor thing.”

 

It was Vi’s turn to pinch Caitlyn on the arm, saying, “Keep teasing me and you can carry your own luggage tomorrow.”

 

Caitlyn only wrapped herself tighter around Vi in response. If this was a dream, it was such a wonderful one that Vi hoped she never woke up from it. Not when so much happiness threatened to spill out from inside her.

 

After a moment, she heard Caitlyn’s voice say: “Hey, Vi.”

 

Sleep was already claiming Vi at this point. Any minute now she would collapse into a dreamless sleep. She couldn’t even open her eyes because they were so heavy. Still, Vi said, “Hm?”

 

“I love you.”

 

Vi smiled against Caitlyn’s neck.

 

“I love you too, cupcake.”

 

A pause.

 

“Don’t drool on me.”

 

“It’s my right to mark my territory.”

 

“I’ll shoot you.”

 

“Whatever you say, love.”

 

Vi passed out to the feeling of Caitlyn’s fingernails scratching along her scalp and the scent of lavender clouding her mind.

 

EPILOGUE: THE MORNING AFTER

 

“Violet!” Mrs Kiramman called out, “Stop eating the cookies and come here!”

 

Vi jogged from the kitchen while furiously munching on the cookies in question. Dammit, those were good cookies. The maids had made them fresh as a going-away gift for the family. They had an early train to catch this morning, unfortunately.

 

When she entered the parlour room, she found the entire Kiramman clan waiting for her. Caitlyn was standing up while her parents sat on chairs next to each other. This family scene included Princess who was dutifully sitting by Mrs Kiramman’s feet. Clearly the pup knew who was in charge around her. Vi glanced curiously at the camera on top of a tripod sitting in the middle of the room.

 

Caitlyn made a grabbing motion with her hand, saying, “Come, we’re going to take a family photo.”

 

Vi frowned and pointed at herself, asking, “With me?”

 

Mr Kiramman was quick to say, “Of course, you’re family, too!”

 

Vi’s heart fluttered at this. How long had it been since she had been around family? Been considered family? How long had it been since she had eaten at the dining table or shared stories with a family? Did she even remember?

 

“Tobias is right,” Mrs Kiramman said, setting her teacup down.

 

Her eyes met Vi’s and did not waiver. Was… Vi’s throat began to close up and her eyes stung. For some reason, getting the approval of both of Caitlyn’s parents was… surreal and overwhelming. Like she had finally done something right.

 

When Vi didn’t move, Mrs Kiramman said, “Now can you all hurry up and pose? We’re going to miss our train at this rate.”

 

“Such a worry-wart.” He said, squeezing his wife’s hand, “We’ll be just fine.”

 

As Vi made her way over to Caitlyn, she looked around and asked, “Uh, where should I stand?”

 

“Beside me,” Caitlyn said, “we’ll stand behind these chairs and my parents will sit there.”

 

The three of them looked quite comfortable with this whole process. Unlike Vi who couldn’t remember the last time she had a photograph taken for something besides a mugshot.

 

“Do you guys do this kinda thing often?” Vi asked.

 

Caitlyn smiled, saying, “Every time we stay in Holdrum and every Progress Day, yes.”

 

Mr Kiramman turned to look back at Vi and said, “I have a whole photo album at home, Violet, I can’t wait to show you.”

 

Vi’s eyes lit up.

 

“Baby photos included?” She asked.

 

Mrs Kiramman smiled and said, “Of course. We used to dress up our little Caitlyn in these adorable little dresses that she hated.”

 

At the mention of cute baby photos of her girlfriend, Vi was filled with energy and determination as she said, “Alright, everyone get into position, let’s get this show on the road!”

 

Caitlyn only laughed at her behaviour.

 

They took their spots behind Caitlyn’s parents with Vi behind her mother and Caitlyn behind her father. All of them were in front of the cobblestone fireplace. Princess sat up a little taller between the two chairs, proudly showing off her new red collar with an engraved tag. Vi had her arm wrapped around Caitlyn’s waist and pulled her close, giggling with her girlfriend as she did so.

 

They all posed for the camera and waited for the flash. When it did, Vi relaxed before pulling away from Caitlyn and already moving.

 

Vi was practically bouncing with excitement as she said, “I wanna see.”

 

Caitlyn swiftly grabbed her by the arm. Mr Kiramman turned around in his seat and was staring at Vi with his mouth open and wide eyes.

 

“Babe, the camera takes multiple--” Caitlyn tried saying but was cut off.

 

Click!

 

Vi’s gaze snapped to the camera with sudden alarm. The realisation sunk in.

 

“Shit.”

 

Mrs Kiramman gasped and said, “Violet!”

 

Click!

 

Vi slapped a hand over her mouth. Did she really just swear in front of Caitlyn’s parents? Mrs Kiramman was looking at her with a scathing gaze now. However, Caitlyn and her father were pissing themselves laughing at the whole thing. Princess began barking at the sudden laughter and stood up on her hind legs to rest against the chair and investigate.

 

Click!

 

Vi yelled, “How many pictures is it gonna take?!”

 

Through giggles, Caitlyn said, “Five!”

 

In a split second decision and to get back at her giggling girlfriend, Vi grabbed Caitlyn and placed a kiss on her cheek. Caitlyn squeaked in surprise just as the camera clicked for a final time. Mrs Kiramman buried her face in her hands and sighed while her husband was laughing even harder at the two women.

 

Still giggling and wrapped up in Vi’s arms, Caitlyn said, “I can’t believe you messed up the photos.”

 

“It’s your fault, how was I supposed to know?” Vi grumbled.

 

Mr Kiramman got up to collect the photographs while his wife turned back to say, “She has a point, dear. You should’ve told her before we started.”

 

Vi puffed out her chest and sniffed, entirely too smug as she said, “Thanks, Mrs Kiramman.”

 

“Call me Cassandra,” she waved her off, adding, “Mrs Kiramman is a bloody mouthful at this point.

 

Vi didn’t even have time to process this new information as Caitlyn pretended to faint against Vi, rasping out, “Betrayed by my own flesh and blood.”

 

From where he stood by the tripod, Mr Kiramman said, “I quite like how these turned out, actually.”

 

The four of them gathered around to inspect the photographs together. Vi had to agree: while the moment had been chaotic as it was happening, these photos really captured the joy and antics well.

 

“Can I keep this one?” Vi asked as she pointed to the one of her kissing Caitlyn’s cheek.

 

Caitlyn said, “I wanted it for my office.”

 

“Why can’t we just keep it at home?” Vi asked, “That way we both get to keep it.”

 

“You’re moving in together? Before marriage?” Mrs Kiramman asked, looking positively scandalised at the thought of it.

 

As Vi began stuttering out of fear, Caitlyn shrugged and said, “I mean, technically, Vi is moving in with me.”

 

Mrs Kiramman shook her head, saying, “At least the rat stories will finally come to an end.”

 

Vi gasped and turned to her girlfriend who was suddenly looking away and suppressing her laughter. She yelled, “You told her about the rats?!”

 

“Actually, she told both of us about the rats,” he chimed in.

 

Caitlyn glanced at the clock and said, “Oh, would you look at the time, we’re late.”

 

They looked at the clock. There was a pause. Then a flurry of movement as everyone scrambled to get out of the house with their luggage.

 


 

In the end, Vi had been the one to keep that photograph. She kept it tucked into her jacket’s inner pocket and only took it out when she was sitting inside the train on the way back home. Beside her, Caitlyn had fallen asleep on her shoulder and was drooling on her jacket. Vi had her arm draped across her shoulders while she rubbed her arm gently to not rouse her. In her lap sat Princess who was curled up and snoring as she slept. Like owner, like pet Vi supposed. Opposite her, Caitlyn’s parents were quietly chatting to each other.

 

Mrs Kiramman caught Vi staring at them. For the first time, she did not merely look away. She gave Vi a small smile and then looked away. It was progress. It was proof that she was trying. It was more than enough for Vi.

 

As Vi looked out the window, she found the sun rising over the ocean and bathing the world in a warm orange. It was almost as beautiful as the woman snoring beside her.

 

Vi finally felt truly at ease.