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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 .

Chapter Text

The Talis Express was a monorail powered by a giant hextech-powered engine and named after the Man of Progress himself, Jayce Talis. While Vi had her own personal gripes with him, she had to admit that his inventions were nothing short of wonderous. She had to wonder, though, how much of his inventions were his own and had nothing to do with his ex-partner: Viktor, the undercity scientist that Piltover seemed to gloss over or conveniently forgot about while crediting everything to Jayce.

 

Such was the Piltovan way, really.

 

The seats Vi sat on were wonderfully plush. They were red and made of this thick velvet material Vi had been palming for a few minutes now. She was wondering if she could take a nap sometime between now and whenever they arrived at the Kiramman Manor in Holdrum. That’s where they were headed, apparently. Caitlyn’s parents were seated in a seperate carriage ahead of the one Vi was sitting in. In order to maintain the ruse of Vi and Caitlyn being hopelessly in love with each other, the two of them managed to acquire a private carriage all on their own. Caitlyn had helped Vi pack her luggage the night prior.

 

(“You cannot bring your case notes.” Vi argued.

 

Caitlyn huffed, saying, “They’re important, Vi, I-”

 

“You can bring your gun or your notes,” Vi said as she crossed her arms, “pick one.”

 

Caitlyn grumbled under her breath but tucked her notes back into a pile on her desk. Vi heard something about “responsibility” and someone being “pig-headed”. She just snickered.)

 

So Caitlyn had helped her pack some fancy clothes (courtesy of her father), her gauntlets, and some miscellaneous items like the pack of playing cards they were currently using. They were the expensive kind that Vi swiped from some dram-dealer, claiming it for “inventory”.

 

Flashing the cards in her hand, Caitlyn grinned and said, “Looks like I win again.”

 

Sure enough, she held a winning hand by all accounts. The luck this woman had was insane. Vi was ready to chuck her bowl of cashews at her.

 

“Oh for fuck’s sake.” Vi huffed and pointed a finger at her, “There’s no way you aren’t cheating.”

 

Caitlyn laughed as she placed her cards onto the deck. Vi was practically pouting as she began organising the deck and shuffling the cards for the next game. There would always be a next game if Vi lost.

 

So she was a bit of a sore loser. So what?

 

“Don’t be so gauche, Vi. Just admit that I’m a better player and hold onto what little dignity you have left.” Caitlyn said, sticking her nose in the air.

 

Vi raised an eyebrow at this, saying, “You sound like your mother when you say that.”

 

Caitlyn laughed, saying, “Arse.”

 

As Vi began shuffling the deck, she felt her freeze when the train was engulfed in darkness. The only reason she didn’t abandon the cards and grab her gauntlets was because of the woman in front of her. Caitlyn reached over and flipped the switch for the lamp, illuminating the carriage. She did this so calmly that Vi wondered if this darkness was planned.

 

Vi’s eyes flickered between the blackened windows and Caitlyn as she asked, “Uh, is that supposed to happen?”

 

Caitlyn was completely aware that Vi had never been on a train before. Unlike many people Vi had known, the sheriff had yet to mock Vi or pity her for not experiencing this. If she noticed Vi’s sudden anxiety, she did not point it out. Instead she said, “We’ve just gone through a tunnel. It’s perfectly safe. We should end up outside the city after this.”

 

Vi nodded and turned back to the blackened window. In a few minutes, she would be able to see the outside world. It wouldn’t just be in pictures or paintings, it would be the real thing. She had lived in the undercity her whole life and yet never saw the outside world with her own eyes.

 

“Holdrum is widely known for it’s elm forests. I grew up learning how to shoot a rifle in the woods outside the manor. My mother and my mentor, Grayson, they were my first teachers well before I ever attended the police academy.” Caitlyn said with a fond smile on her face.

 

Grayson. That name still stung. Sometimes it made Vi reel to think about all the ways she and Caitlyn had been linked: Grayson, the balcony, every little moment in between. Vi never knew Grayson personally but she knew of the woman because of her relationship with Vander. He respected her and their tentative peace treaty was what kept the undercity afloat for many years. After their deaths, the chaos truly began.

 

In addition, Vi had an inkling as to the nature of Caitlyn's relationship with her old mentor. The twinkle in Caitlyn's eyes as she spoke of the late marksman was... fond. In a way Vi recognised. Grayson may have been her mentor, but she was probably Caitlyn's first crush, too. Vi wasn't sure what to think of that, really.

 

“Your mother with a weapon is an image I'm happy to never see again,” Vi said, “I still get nightmares about that one time in your bedroom.”

 

Vi shuddered at the memory. Caitlyn waved her off.

 

“I don’t know why you’re so scared of her.” Caitlyn said, “She’s a frail old woman, really.”

 

“Her rifle isn't frail,” Vi grumbled.

 

Caitlyn let out a small laugh but didn’t say more. There was a small bout of silence between them. Vi’s eyes still lingered on the window. She wondered what she would see when they left the tunnel. The ocean? Forests? Filled with trees like the one that Ekko cultivated down in the fissures, for the Firelight community? Vi had seen plenty of stray trees growing in Piltover or in the cultivairs in the undercity -- granted, the latter was usually poisonous or carnivorous. But Ekko's tree was the first that Vi looked at and was filled with awe. According to Caitlyn, Holdrum was filled with trees like that.

 

She glanced back up at Caitlyn. The sheriff was watching her with a keen gaze. Damn those blue eyes.

 

“When we get out of this tunnel, will…” Vi licked at her lips, asking, “will there be forests?”

 

Caitlyn slightly cocked her head. There was a moment of silence as Vi’s emotions swirled around in her stomach like a storm. She knew she was insecure about this, and she was angry because she was insecure. It was stupid to feel like this. Caitlyn would never judge her or pity her, so why would she feel insecure?

 

When Caitlyn finally spoke, she said, “The second we get out of the tunnel, you’ll get to see a stretch of land connected to the River Pilt. There’s a coast of white sand we’ll visit before we leave this week. And you’ll be able to see the sun rise over the mountains near Trannit. It makes the river look like it’s filled with diamonds.”

 

The way Caitlyn spoke was so… it was as if she was trying to paint a picture in Vi’s mind with words alone. Caitlyn was trying to help Vi, in her own small way.

 

Vi’s chest tightened at the thought of this.

 

“I… I can’t imagine that.” Vi confessed, looking away.

 

She could hear the smile in Caitlyn’s voice as she said, “You don’t have to. Just watch.”

 

Sure enough, Vi waited. Caitlyn’s eyes never left Vi the entire time.

 

The moment they exited the tunnel, Vi was nearly blinded with how bright it was outside. When her eyes recovered, they settled on the landscape beyond the window and Vi went still. It was exactly like Caitlyn said it would be. The ocean under the sun, the forests, the beaches, the mountains, all of it. Vi had always known that the world was bigger than just Piltover and Zaun combined but… to see mountains and forests and oceans for the first time, seeing the endless horizon…

 

“Gorgeous, isn’t it?” Caitlyn asked.

 

Vi only realised why her cheek was wet when she heard Caitlyn speak. She wiped the tear away and avoided the sheriff’s gaze. Caitlyn did not comment on it.

 

“I’ll take you out into the woods when we arrive. I think you’ll enjoy the wildlife out there.” Caitlyn said, adding, “Besides, it’s time I taught you how to shoot properly.”

 

That’s what Caitlyn always did: whenever Vi felt emotional and didn’t want to talk about it, Caitlyn would find a way to make her laugh. She always knew what to do and say when it came to Vi. Perhaps that was a perk of being partners for so long: you just knew each other after a while.

 

“I know how to shoot, Cait,” Vi said with a frown.

 

Enforcers were required to be competent marksmen in order to pass training. And while Vi had a special occupation in that she neither worked for Piltover’s police department nor was separated from it, she was still required to pass it.

 

Caitlyn grinned, saying, “Not well.”

 

“Oh, that’s what we’re doing, huh? You can’t fight for shit, Miss Kiramman,” Vi said.

 

“Just because I don’t attack people who look at me strangely doesn’t mean I can’t fight, Miss Doe.” Caitlyn countered.

 

Vi gasped, saying, “Do not bring up my government name.”

 

“Our own Jane Doe,” Caitlyn couldn’t stop the laughter bubbling out of her as she said, “you have to admit it’s funny.”

 

“The department said I needed it for the stupid paperwork.” Vi said, practically pouting now.

 

Caitlyn wiped a tear from her eye, saying, “That doesn’t make it any less fitting for you. You’re less doe and more ravenous wolf.”

 

At this, Vi smirked and leaned forward on her elbows.

 

“Perhaps I should’ve chosen a name with my bite to it. How about Kiramman?” Vi asked.

 

Caitlyn rolled her eyes. Still, there was a tiny bit of red on her cheeks if you squinted.

 

“Subtle.” Caitlyn said, “I was wondering when you were going to bring that up.”

 

Vi scoffed, saying, “ That being the entire reason I’m sitting in this death machine on wheels?”

 

“You owed me a favour anyway -- several favours. Do you know how many times I had to cover for you for property damage and civilian hazard complaints?” Caitlyn asked.

 

Grinning, Vi said, “You do that because you wouldn’t last a day without my pretty face.”

 

“I do it because I can’t afford you starting another prison riot.” Caitlyn said, adding, “I read those warden’s reports, you were quite the menace back then.”

 

Vi grinned as she remembered what she was like back at Stillwater. She missed when she was just “Pink”. Instead of mentioning this, she said, “I was a kid, cupcake. Not much I could do in prison besides beating the shit out of Silco’s goons.”

 

As Caitlyn examined her nails, she asked, “Knitting might’ve sufficed, no?”

 

“For the dainty Kiramman heiress, maybe.” Vi said, her smile growing even wider.

 

At this, Caitlyn threw a scrunched napkin at her. Vi caught it and tossed it aside, laughing all the while.

 

Now seemed like the perfect time for them to discuss the purpose of this whole trip. It had been eating away at Vi this whole time but since Caitlyn had been so nonchalant about the whole thing, Vi assured herself that the sheriff had some sort of plan.

 

Leaning back into her seat, Vi asked, “Alright, sheriff, what’s the game plan?”

 

Caitlyn understood almost instantly, saying, “We’ve been dating for a few months. You confessed your feelings for me--”

 

“Wait, why do I have to be the one to confess?” Vi asked, cutting her off, “Why can’t you pursue me?”

 

Caitlyn shot her a salacious smile, asking, “Do you enjoy being pursued?”

 

“By a beautiful woman? Who wouldn’t?” Vi flirted back, all teeth when she smiled.

 

Caitlyn rolled her eyes at this.

 

“Charmer,” she said, “but you being the pursuitant fits our narrative. You’ve always been the one to rush into trouble head-first.”

 

Vi huffed but couldn’t find any convincing arguments against this. The easiest narrative would suit their needs for this trip, anyway.

 

“Fine. Boundaries?” Vi asked.

 

Caitlyn tilted her head, asking, “Meaning?”

 

Vi gestured with her hands and said, “Physical contact, pet names, how private are we, that sort of thing.”

 

The sheriff hummed as she thought of an answer for these questions. She finally said, “You can be as physically affectionate as you dare in front of my mother.”

 

Vi swallowed, saying, “I’m keeping my hands to myself, then.”

 

“Coward.” Caitlyn said.

 

That look on Caitlyn’s face...

 

“Are you… goading me into touching you?” Vi asked, bewildered.

 

“I don’t know.” Caitlyn said, her eyes drifting up and down Vi’s frame, “Am I?”

 

Vi groaned into her hands. Caitlyn wasn’t the type to give her a straight answer so she’d be here all night if she probed for more.

 

“Pet names… surprise me.” Caitlyn continued, “And I’ll surprise you in return. Just try not to make it obvious that it’s the first time you’ve heard me address you like that.”

 

Vi scoffed, saying, “I’ve acted my way out of plenty of situations, you know.”

 

“Oh, I know. Which is why I bring that up.” Caitlyn teased.

 

She threw a cashew at Caitlyn who giggled.

 

“Now, as far as privacy goes…” Caitlyn trailed off, saying, “Leave them guessing. No mention of marriage or moving in, and certainly don’t bring anything sexual. The people who attend these events are vultures and whatever you say will be printed verbatim in Piltover by the next day.”

 

“Sounds like a fun bunch.” Vi said.

 

Caitlyn shrugged and said, “You’ve been to prison. This won’t be too different.”

 

She had a point. Stillwater was filled with cliques and gangs who stuck to an established status quo. They gossiped and stirred up drama just like these nobles did. And the bullying would be the same, just less violence than Stillwater had. Well... at least not any visible violence.

 

“Next question. What’s the food like?” Vi asked.

 

If she had to eat those stupid tiny “meals” that Mel had introduced them to, Vi would take a train back to Zaun. It was insulting how small the portion sizes were, even for someone raised on scraps and slop.

 

Caitlyn raised an eyebrow at her, saying, “Well, the food we eat on a daily basis is much different to what will be served at the ball. Stews, Ionian food, roasts -- my father loves to cook our meals himself when he gets the chance and I think he wants to impress you tonight, too.”

 

Vi sprawled herself out on the booth seat below her, saying, “I love your Dad.”

 

“The feeling is mutual.” Caitlyn said with a smile, “I’ll remind him about your problem with spicy food.”

 

Vi shot her a wounded look as she said, “I feel bad, though.”

 

“Nonsense. Spice and chillis can be added after the food is served, it can’t be taken out after the fact. Just let me handle it.” Caitlyn said with the dismissive wave of her hand.

 

“Oh, so you’re that kind of girlfriend, huh?” Vi said as she wriggled her eyebrows at the sheriff.

 

Caitlyn squinted at her.

 

“What do you mean?” She asked.

 

Vi grinned, saying, “Taking charge.”

 

That filthy grin on Caitlyn’s face had returned. No, not filthy. Sinful.

 

“Wouldn’t you like to know?”

 

Vi let out a small laugh and turned her attention to the scenery outside. As she watched the clouds pass by, she pretended like her cheeks weren’t as pink as her hair. Definitely not.

 


 

Nothing could have compared Vi for how… not over-the-top the Kiramman Manor was. They had just arrived a few moments ago after being dropped off via engine-powered carriage from the train station. Vi was carrying both her and Caitlyn’s luggage in her arms but had frozen when she saw the manor.

 

It was a giant building with multiple wings and there was definitely enough space for a ballroom somewhere inside. The Kiramman crest was embossed on the banner above the tall gates surrounding the property. The manor was painted with whites and blues, and there was a clear lack of “luxury”: no valuable metals like gold, no exotic animals, no erroneous displays of wealth. Whatever Vi was expecting, this wasn’t it.

 

There was also a host of staff ready to greet them when they arrived. Vi knew there was a nearby town where many of the staff would relocate their families for the evening of the ball, but for the rest of the week the staff and their family would remain in their homes on the property. The staff were friendly and clearly respected the Kiramman’s. They bowed and greeted Mr and Mrs Kiramman like they would an old friend, and Caitlyn was doted on the moment they arrived.

 

One staff member embraced Caitlyn, saying, “Cait! Oh, my goodness, look at you! You’ve gotten so thin!”

 

Vi let out a bark of laughter and said, “That’s because she likes to skip meals.”

 

Caitlyn proceeded to whack Vi on the stomach, which earned a yelp from the Zaunite. 

 

“I can’t skip meals if you never let me.” Caitlyn hissed, rosy-cheeked.

 

Vi said, “I apologise for keeping you nourished. Next time I’ll just let you drink a gallon of black coffee.”

 

Some of the staff laughed at this.

 

The blush on Caitlyn’s face deepened and she said, “Shut up.”

 

The staff had clearly caught on to their bickering and there was a buzz of excitement in the air. A chef asked, “Is this her?”

 

“The girlfriend?” Another murmured.

 

Vi could feel everyone’s eyes on her now. She usually hated the feeling of someone watching her: it always meant she was in danger or being scrutinised. It never meant anything good for her. But this time… they were looking at her because she was the one dating Caitlyn. That was a good feeling. A very good feeling, actually.

 

Puffing out her chest, she grinned and said, “That’s me. I’m Vi.”

 

The staff began gushing over her. Some commented on her hair or her tattoos, others on her height and muscular physique. All of the words were kind in nature, if a bit foreign for Vi to experience. Vi towered over them at her height, and still felt a bit overwhelmed. While this was going on, Caitlyn was watching her with a fond expression that made Vi shy to look at.

 

From behind them, Mrs Kiramman said, “This is Violet Doe. She’s Caitlyn’s partner and a contracted enforcer in Piltover.”

 

“I prefer Vi,” she quickly clarified, “I like it so much I got it tattooed on my face.”

 

She jabbed a thumb to indicate where the tattoo in question was. There were a few “oohs” and “ahhs” at this, which Vi grinned at.

 

One of the staff said, “I didn’t even know enforcers could have tattoos. Or piercings!”

 

Before Vi could explain that she wasn't actually an enforcer, she felt a hand slap against her back and she yelped again. Turning back, she found Mr Kiramman grinning as he said, “They made an exception for our Violet. She’s pretty famous back home.”

 

“I wouldn’t say famous--” Vi said but was cut off.

 

Caitlyn said, “Infamous, perhaps.”

 

Vi tousled her partner’s hair up for that comment.

 

“It’s so nice to meet you!” A chef said, adding, “We’ve known Cait here since she was a little girl. You know, she always talked about becoming a cop like Grayson and marrying a big, strong woman who--”

 

“No, no, no. That’s enough of that, let’s go, Vi.” Caitlyn said, bright-red as she grabbed Vi’s arm to drag her away. Vi had to wonder if the "big, strong woman" that Caitlyn wanted to marry was in fact, Grayson.

 

“Wait, wait!”

 

A maid grabbed Caitlyn by the arm and effectively stopped her from running away. Caitlyn looked at her curiously.

 

“We have something to show you.” The maid said, adding, “You might want to bring your lady with you.”

 

Vi quite enjoyed being referred to as Caitlyn’s “lady”. And she would certainly bring up Caitlyn’s childhood dream of a strong and tall woman at a later date. But now she, along with Caitlyn, were curious about this topic at hand.

 

“Go on. We’ll handle the luggage and preparations for the evening.” Mrs Kiramman said from her spot next to her daughter.

 

Mr Kiramman spoke to Vi directly as he said, “I’m making Ionian stew tonight.”

 

Vi could feel the drool threaten to slip out of the corner of her mouth.

 

“Alright, but father, please go easy on the spice.” Caitlyn said, “Vi has a delicate stomach and she doesn’t have the heart to tell you if it’s too hot.”

 

“Cait!” Vi shrieked, her cheeks red from embarrassment, “You don’t have to say it like that.”

 

It was then that Mr Kiramman pulled Vi in for a bruising hug, saying, “My poor Violet! You should’ve told me! There’s plenty of dishes I can make that don't have a lick of spice. You go on ahead and rest assured that your stomach will be safe tonight.”

 

Vi was all too ready to wave this off and assure him she would eat whatever he was willing to make her, until Caitlyn began dragging her away with the rest of the staff. She waved goodbye to him just before he turned away with his wife.

 

As they walked along the side of the manor, Caitlyn asked, “So what are you going to show us, Nancy?”

 

The maid, Nancy, said, “Do you remember the logger, Old Man--”

 

Caitlyn quickly finished for her, saying, “Rodger? Yeah, of course, his daughter goes to the University of Piltover now.”

 

“And you remember the old hound that used to follow him everywhere, don’t you?” The chef asked.

 

Caitlyn nodded and said, “He used to call her Little Lady because she was so dainty.”

 

Vi had seen several hounds while working with the Piltover police department. Those large hounds that wore police vests were the furthest thing Vi would call “dainty”. Monstrous and intimidating were more accurate. There were the Noxian hounds that could rip a man's arm off, or the Demacian shepherds who could outrun even shimmer-afflicted criminals at top speeds. So Vi was very curious about what this hound called Little Lady looked like.

 

They were approaching a cabin surrounded by a logging station and a shed where the cut firewood was clearly stored. 

 

As Vi took in the sights around her, one of the staff laughed and said, “Well, our Little Lady isn’t so little anymore.”

 

“What does that...” Caitlyn attempt to ask but trailed off as the door to the cabin was opened.

 

The staff, Caitlyn and Vi all flooded into the cabin. Sitting inside was an older gentleman who wore a flannel jacket, had a thick beard and looked old enough to be Caitlyn’s grandfather. He sat forward on his elbows in his chair. Vi only briefly registered his presence. Her eyes, like Caitlyn’s, were focused solely on the blanket near his feet.

 

The blanket that was currently being laid on by a tiny dog and even tinier puppies. Lots and lots of puppies.

 

“Puppies!” Caitlyn squealed as she fell to her knees.

 

Vi blinked down at the animals, saying, “What is that thing?”

 

Caitlyn scratched the mother behind the ear as she said, “It’s a dog, Vi.”

 

“You mean like the K9 units back at the department?” Vi asked, “This doesn’t look anything like them.”

 

The puppies were chubby and seemed to have boundless energy as they danced around Caitlyn. The sheriff seemed to be enamoured by all of the puppies as she spoke to them as if they were babies, cooing occasionally.

 

“There are different breeds of dogs,” Caitlyn explained as she held up one of the pups to Vi, “these guys are beagle puppies. They're a Piltovan breed made for tracking scents.”

 

Vi blinked. The words just went straight over her head. She said, “I mean, I don’t really get how they’re the same species. But they’re pretty cute.”

 

Patting the floor beside her, Caitlyn said, “C’mere, I’ll show you how to handle them.”

 

Part of Vi wanted to refuse her. She felt like she was too large and too awkward to handle animals so young and delicate like these puppies. But she could never refuse Caitlyn when it mattered so she found herself crouching down awkwardly.

 

Caitlyn turned to the older man, smiling at him as she said, “Rodger, it’s good to see you again.”

 

“And you, girl.” Rodger said with a smile, “This your lady?”

 

As Vi nodded at him, Caitlyn placed a hand on Vi’s knee and said, “She is. This is Vi, we work together in Piltover.”

 

Rodger let out a small laugh, saying, “No offence, lady, but you look like one of the people Cait here rounds up.”

 

Vi had to laugh at his honesty. Not many people would be brave enough to voice these thoughts in front of her, but she sensed no malice from this man. She said, “I’m no topsider, if that’s what you mean.”

 

“Aye, right you are.” Rodger said, his eyes twinkling with recognition.

 

Caitlyn brought her attention back to the puppy curled up in her lap. He had these round, adorable eyes and droopy ears. Vi could feel the strange, maternal urge to scoop him into her arms and coo at him but resisted it. She has never held a baby before, let alone a baby dog. Puppy. Whatever.

 

Vi glanced at the mother of these puppies. Little Lady, right? The beagle looked at Vi and curiously sniffed Vi’s hand when she offered it to her. After a small lick, the mother went back to checking on her children. Vi wondered why she would even let a stranger so close to her pups.

 

“Lady won’t mind you holding her babies, she’s friendly.” Caitlyn assured her, saying, “If you aren’t confident with holding this one, you can play with the other ones on the ground.”

 

The other puppies were quite shy in the presence of all the strangers around them. The only pup who didn’t shy away was the one currently licking Caitlyn’s palm.

 

Vi frowned, asking, “How? Are they like poros?”

 

Caitlyn smiled and said, “Not really. You can scratch them gently behind the ears and on the back. Or you can pet them. Just do what feels natural. You won’t hurt them, trust me.”

 

“There’s a reason why Jinx calls me fat hands, y’know.” Vi tried to joke, knowing the joke would fall flat.

 

Still, she accepted the puppy being placed onto her lap by Caitlyn without a word. The puppy began to sniff at her pants before looking up at her with a wagging tail. Vi, in a moment of bravery, reached down and picked it up like how Caitlyn had before. It smelled like milk and something else Vi wasn’t familiar with.

 

She brought him closer to her face, trying to get a better look. She was not ready for the puppy licking her nose the second it could reach. Vi let out a surprised giggle but didn’t pull away.

 

Beside her, Caitlyn said, “See? She likes you already.”

 

Vi snapped her head around, asking, “This is a girl?”

 

Caitlyn let out a bark of laughter as Vi went to check the underside of the pup again. Vi brought the pup back down and settled it on her right shoulder as she said, “This is both terrifying and fun.”

 

Rodger rubbed his jaw, saying, “We’re looking to sell the pups in town next week. All but the one with a collar on over here.”

 

He then pointed at the puppy with a blue collar on. Vi wasn’t too interested in their conversation and continued playing with the puppy in her lap.

 

Caitlyn was quiet for a moment, then asked, “Could I buy one?”

 

Vi glanced at her in surprise.

 

“Really?” Vi asked.

 

“Why not? Beagles are incredibly good hunting dogs: their nose is incredibly keen and they can catch scents like no other dog. They’ve been used as sniffer dogs by enforcers for centuries.” Caitlyn listed off, tickling one of the pups as she said so.

 

Vi glanced at the one in her lap, saying, “I can’t imagine her in a police vest.”

 

It would be an adorable sight, though, Vi could admit that.

 

“I’m sorry, Cait, but I can’t sell any of these pups to you,” Rodger said in a solemn voice.

 

“Oh.” Caitlyn said, a little deflated, “Have they already been sold?”

 

Rodger smiled down at her, saying, “No. I just can’t sell anything to my family. Take your pick and forget about payment.”

 

“Rodger…” Caitlyn trailed off, sounding both fond and ready to argue.

 

He waved her off, saying, “Hush, child. Go on and take your pick.”

 

Caitlyn reached over and squeezed his hand. Vi wondered what Caitlyn’s childhood must have been like with so many adults doting on her. Were these the perks of being the sole heir to such a wealthy family as the Kiramman’s? No wonder Caitlyn was such a pampered prat when they first met.

 

When Caitlyn looked away, she didn't even glance at the puppies still playing on the blanket in front of them. Her eyes settled solely on the pup currently treating Vi’s earlobe like a chew toy.

 

“I think she’s already picked Vi,” Caitlyn said, giggling at the sight before her.

 

Vi yelped as the tiny teeth pinched her skin. She said, “Help me, she’s gonna tear it off.”

 

Caitlyn rolled her eyes, saying, “Oh, don’t be a big baby.”

 

She then proceeded to gently take the pup from Vi’s hands and pull her away from the tasty earlobe. The second that she was settled in Caitlyn’s lap, the fearsome and rabid animal that just attacked Vi’s ear was gone. Now she was docile and downright adorable as the pup gazed up at Caitlyn.

 

Vi scoffed.

 

“Oh, now she acts like a dainty princess,” Vi grumbled as she held her ear, “after she was just chewing on me.”

 

Caitlyn laughed at her, saying, “She probably just sensed who was the weaker between the two of us. Must be why she was biting you, hm?”

 

Vi knew that she was pouting as she said, “I hope she pees on your nice silk shirt.”

 

“She’d never do that.” Caitlyn cooed as she held up the puppy, “She’s a princess, like you said.”

 

Only a few minutes and Caitlyn was already in love with the little monster. Go figure.

 

“Is that what we’re naming her then?” Vi asked.

 

Caitlyn raised an eyebrow at her, asking, “Princess?”

 

Beside her, Rodger said, “I like it. And I’ll do anything to get you two lovebirds to stop bickering and leave.”

 

Caitlyn shoved his leg as he let out a bout of laughter. Vi smiled as she watched the two of them.

 

Turning to Vi, she said, “Princess it is.”

 

Princess. The sheriff’s new police dog would be named Princess. Did they even have police dog vests that would fit a dog of this size? Oh well. She just hoped that Mrs Kiramman didn't kill them for coming back to the manor with a pup in hand.

 


 

Dinner that evening was… awkward but not unbearable.

 

Surprisingly, Mrs Kiramman had refused to accept Princess as a new addition to the family for all of two minutes. She was firm in her position that a dog’s place was outside with the rest of the animals. All it took was for Princess to let out a pitiful whine when she wasn’t allowed to follow Caitlyn into the house for her to be let in by Mrs Kiramman herself. The matriarch claimed that she simply couldn’t stand the sound of whining and would allow it until Caitlyn trained the pup properly.

 

And judging by the smirk on Caitlyn’s face after this, that had been her plan the entire time.

 

Mr Kiramman on the other hand had fallen in love the moment he saw Princess. He started speaking to the pup in Ionian and in a baby voice. He almost burned the food he was cooking because he was so distracted.

 

The food in question was a savoury chicken stew with ingrediants imported straight from Ionia. The best part for Vi was that there was not a hint of spice in this dish. Not even a reddish hue to be seen. She had been tearing into the stew the moment it was set in front of her. Actually, she was currently going through her second bowl.

 

Vi was seated beside Caitlyn while they were facing Mr and Mrs Kiramman. Princess was given a bowl of scraps, meat shreddings and broth -- courtesy of Mr Kiramman.

 

“The stew was lovely as always, darling.” Mrs Kiramman said, wiping her mouth on a napkin.

 

“It’s great, father.” Caitlyn said, glancing at her date, “I think we can all tell that Vi agrees.”

 

Vi momentarily paused her eating to swallow, nod and give the man a thumbs up.

 

Mr Kiramman said, “Caitlyn, I hope you keep this one. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone eat my food like this since your mother all those years ago.”

 

At this, Vi was floored to see Mrs Kiramman sputtering and blushing like a schoolgirl. She had always been so unflappable and yet her husband reduced her to this with a few words. It was… kind of sweet, actually.

 

“Tobias, we were children.” Mrs Kiramman said, sniffing, “My table manners weren’t as… refined as they are now.”

 

Mr Kiramman waved her off, saying, “I still remember the glob of congee stuck to the corner of her mouth. She was bright red when I told her it was there.”

 

Tobias.”

 

Caitlyn turned to stage-whisper to Vi, “I still have the love letters they used to send to each other when Dad had to go back and forth from Ionia.”

 

Caitlyn .”

 

Caitlyn giggled, saying, “What? I think it was sweet.”

 

Vi’s heart raced at this. Raising an eyebrow, she asked, “Shall I start sending you love letters?”

 

“I prefer gift-giving as a love language.” Caitlyn said as she fluttered her eyebrows at Vi, “Preferably in the form of coffee. Caffeinated coffee.”

 

Vi snorted.

 

“Not while I’m your partner.”

 

Mr Kiramman sighed with a smile, saying, “Ah, young love.”

 

“That’s a bit of a stretch, dear.” Mrs Kiramman said.

 

The tension was palpable. Mrs Kiramman’s blue eyes drifted between the couple in front of her as she appraised them. Vi guessed that Caitlyn got her severe stare from her mother then, despite being the spitting image of her father.

 

Vi shrugged, saying, “True. We’ve only been dating for a few months now.”

 

Caitlyn side-eyed her and said, “If I recall correctly, you confessed your feelings to me. Not the other way around.”

 

“If I left it up to you, we’d still be pining over each other like schoolgirls with a crush.” Vi argued as she remembered all those stolen looks and subtle comments she received over the years.

 

Nudging her with her shoulder, Caitlyn said, “Oh hush, you just have no patience.”

 

This happy, little bubble they were in was pierced by Mrs Kiramman’s voice.

 

“Since you’re in a talkative mood, Violet,” she said, “let me ask you what your intentions are with our daughter.”

 

Vi swallowed.

 

“Mother.” Caitlyn said, already going on the defensive.

 

Mrs Kiramman did not look away from Vi as she told her daughter to be quiet. Vi reached over and squeezed Caitlyn’s knee. When Caitlyn looked at her, Vi smiled and said, “It’s alright, babe. I don’t mind answering.”

 

Caitlyn blinked at her in surprise. Vi wasn’t sure if she was surprised at the nickname or her willingness to answer alone. There was a moment of silence as everyone waited for Vi’s answer with bated breath.

 

No pressure or anything.

 

Vi tried to hold Mrs Kiramman’s gaze as best she could, saying, “I’m not good with putting my feelings into words. Even right now I’m not sure what’s the right answer or what you want to hear.”

 

Mrs Kiramman’s expression did not change. She simply watched. Waited.

 

Vi squared her shoulders, saying, “But what I do know is that I care about your daughter. This relationship we have… I value it more than anything. Being around Caitlyn… she makes me feel like I can do better. Be better. I know I can talk to her about anything and my whole day is better when she’s around. She’s an incredible woman. I don’t need to tell you this.”

 

“I’d like to hear more.” Mrs Kiramman said, “What exactly do you like about her?”

 

Vi understood what she meant. It was all well and good for Vi to say what Caitlyn did for her. But what did Vi value outside of how Caitlyn made her feel? What did Vi value about Caitlyn as a person?

 

“She’s crazy smart. She can pick out details from a case that I would’ve never been able to think of. She’s a damned good sheriff. I can’t count how many crooked cops she’s exposed and how many chem-barons she’s thrown into Stillwater. Cait’s never minced her words or given up when things get hard. She’s got a good heart and she cares about people like me. She’s the best damn person Piltover has to offer and I’m glad to be the one by her side, romantically and otherwise.”

 

Vi never waivered once. She never would. Her praises for Caitlyn weren’t fabricated or for show, they were the truth. She just hoped that she could convey this to her partner’s parents. She hoped they believed her.

 

Beside her, she knew that Caitlyn was staring right into her soul but Vi refused to look at her. She would not look away from Mr and Mrs Kiramman who were watching her closely. She would not back down. Not when she was bearing her soul to these people.

 

Then, Mrs Kiramman’s face relaxed. And Mr Kiramman gave her a wide, joyful smile that stretched from ear to ear.

 

“I think it’s time we retire for the night,” she murmured.

 

Vi had no idea if she passed Mrs Kiramman’s test or not, even though her husband had smiled. All she knew was that she spoke honestly and from the heart, and that was all she could do really. She turned to give Caitlyn a sheepish smile and paused when she saw the awed look on Caitlyn’s face. It was as if she was looking at Vi for the first time.

 

Before she could question Caitlyn, Mr Kiramman said, “Violet, your luggage is in Cait’s room.”

 

She watched as he began grabbing the used cutlery and dishes. Realising he was going to bring them to the sink, Vi leapt to her feet and began grabbing her own pile.

 

“Let me do that, sir,” Vi said, moving quickly.

 

“Don’t you dare,” Mr Kiramman said before gesturing to the staircase, “go make yourself at home.”

 

Vi huffed when she realised he wouldn’t back down from this. She felt even worse when she realised Mrs Kiramman was allowed to help him, but not her. Vi almost wanted to pout.

 

That’s when she felt two tiny paws stand on top of her shoes. When she looked down, Princess was looking up at her with a panting mouth and wagging tail. Vi grinned down at her as her troubles melted away.

 

Mrs Kiramman glanced at the dog before turning to her daughter and saying, “Do not let that dog sleep on your bed or so help me, Caitlyn.”

 

“I know, I know.” Caitlyn waved her off, saying “I’ll let her sleep on some blankets.”

 

She felt Caitlyn’s arms coil themselves around her own before she was gently tugged towards the staircase. Oh. She had completely forgotten that they would be sleeping in the same bed for a week.

 

After all the goodnights were said, the couple trudged up the stairs while Princess chased after them as fast as her little legs could carry her. Vi just felt bloated from the meal and tired from stress at this point. Caitlyn could lead her off a cliff and she’d just go with it.

 

Caitlyn’s childhood room was cozy. Vi wasn’t sure what she had been expecting but this was nice. The room was painted several shades of green and white, with a queen-sized, four-poster bed in the middle. There was a large collection of books from her childhood, a reading space by the window, a bathroom connected to the bedroom, a walk-in wardrobe attached and many odd things placed around the room. Such as the rifle cleaning kit opened up on a desk.

 

Vi looked around with a grin, saying, “Cute. Always knew you were a bookworm.”

 

Caitlyn rolled her eyes and said, “Shut up and get dressed. Running around with Princess today tired me out.”

 

She was referring to the voluntary sprinting session she engaged in while playing with Princess in the garden this afternoon. Caitlyn had tired herself out while Princess was still bouncing off the walls, brimming with energy. Vi had been too scared of stepping on the pup to join but she had been content to watch them.

 

While Vi unpacked her luggage and got dressed for bed, Caitlyn set up a pile of blankets for Princess to sleep on. She decided on a simple shirt and short pants considering how cold it was here during the winter. The undercity was always a bit warm and humid due to the cramped design and the heat from the pipes and engines, not to mention the fissures.

 

Vi already missed Zaun. She flopped down onto Caitlyn’s bed face-down and groaned. The bed did not smell like her partner. Yet. The woman hadn’t slept here in months.

 

Caitlyn walked around as she said, “So. You survived one day under my mother’s watchful gaze. Congratulations.”

 

“That woman scares the…” Vi trailed off.

 

She had turned to look back at Caitlyn, only to find the sheriff standing at the foot of the bed in her smallclothes. Vi’s brain short-circuited. Had Caitlyn always been that toned? And had that mole always been there?

 

Caitlyn had noticed the look on her face. She grinned at Vi and asked, “Something wrong?”

 

Vi rolled her eyes and ignored this question. Whatever, she had seen Caitlyn in her smallclothes plenty of times in the locker room over the years. She instead crawled under the covers and curled up. Caitlyn donned some loose sleepwear, pressed a few kisses to Princess’ head and then climbed into bed with Vi.

 

As the bed dipped beside her, Vi heard Caitlyn say, “Try not to grope me in my sleep.”

 

Vi scoffed and said, “Try not to drool on me. Again.”

 

That’s when she felt a pinching sensation on her arm. She was so close to putting Caitlyn in a headlock for that. “Listen. You don’t let me drink caffeine during stakeouts, expect me to fall asleep. The drool is just punishment for your decisions.”

 

“Yeah, yeah, whatever you say,” Vi said as she snickered.

 

There was a lull of silence between the two of them. This wasn't the first time the two of them had slept in the same bed. Sometimes they would collapse in bed after a particularly long shift when neither of them wanted to move or go to their own home. Sometimes one of them would fall asleep in the car during a stake out, while the other would watch over them. There were even times when they had to sleep under the same roof because the other was being targeted -- it always felt safer when they slept beside each other during those nights.

 

This was nothing new to Vi. So why was her heart beating out of her chest right now?

 

When Vi was sure her heart was going to burst out of her chest, Caitlyn whispered, “Did you really mean that?”

 

With eyebrows drawn together in confusion, Vi turned to look at Caitlyn. The sheriff looked so small and vulnerable beside her. Those damn eyes.

 

Caitlyn murmured, “What you said to my parents tonight.”

 

Oh. That.

 

Vi sighed before rolling over and draping her arm over Caitlyn’s stomach. A few years ago, Vi had asked Caitlyn why she didn’t just push Vi’s heavy body off of her in the mornings. She had assumed that Caitlyn was just too polite to tell her to move, even if she was being crushed.

 

In reality, Caitlyn had told her something that stuck with her till this very day.

 

(“I like it when you get clingy in your sleep, dummy.” Caitlyn had said, “I feel safe. Protected. And why would I move you when you look so at ease?”)

 

The moment her arm snaked around Caitlyn’s waist, the sheriff sighed against her. They laid there curled around each other.

 

Vi murmured against Caitlyn’s shoulder, “Course I did. You think I can lie that well?”

 

Caitlyn let out a small laugh and said, “No. You’re a terrible liar.”

 

“Are you pouting?” Vi asked.

 

Caitlyn pinched her arm. It didn’t hurt. It never did.

 

“Shut up and sleep.”

 

There was another pause. This time Vi was sure that they were going to go to sleep. Finally.

 

Just as her heart rate had slowed down, Caitlyn murmured, “If you fart in this blanket, I will kill you.”

 

Vi was going to kill her.

 

“If I fart in this blanket, I will trap you inside it.”

 

“I will murder you.”

 

Vi only smiled as she drifted off to sleep. And judging by the soft snores coming from Caitlyn, they’d both sleep well tonight.

Chapter Text

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.