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Vi emerged from the cell, her gauntlets covered in blood. With her pretty pink hair and devilish grin, she was more like a drawing on a satchel than a real person. Caitlyn imagined a glum teenage boy in eyeliner sketching murderous schoolgirls. What subculture had all the frills, candy and skull-jewellery? "Alternative"? "Goth"? "Emo"? She had no idea.

Vi swaggered, arms out, owning the space. The peons duly scattered. 'Got an address, Cait. Perp's going down.'

Caitlyn nodded her approval. She would recognise the positive before playing killjoy. 'The witness?'

'He'll live.'

'Don't avoid the question.'

Vi swallowed a bark of rage. An accusation of cowardice, when she was the one with blood on her hands? That totally wrecked her vibe. 'What do you want from me? Yeah, I bust some limbs and some teeth. Get a doctor if you want a real answer.'

Caitlyn refused to give Vi the pleasure of eye contact. 'Two paces, Vi.' A ground rule, if Caitlyn had to stamp her foot, she would not let Vi enjoy the argument.

Vi blew out her cheeks and retreated with slow, theatrical steps, as if to persuade their audience of Caitlyn's pettiness. 'Huh.'

Caitlyn was unperturbed. 'I'll see to his welfare. Get the bike. We're ending this.'

They released the witness in a terrible state. The local doctor was on vacation for a week, determined to recoup his loss after an unpaid thirty-hour stint dealing with Jinx and Vi's collateral damage. His junior partner was in hospital after suggesting that the authorities placate Jinx by trussing up Vi, naked and covered in motor oil.

The witness worked as a courier. He could not drive with two broken thumbs, a smashed kneecap and head trauma. It served him right for hiding a brother that murdered drunk women. Caitlyn had seen enough twisted, old-world morality within her caste. She was grateful to come from fairly liberal stock who allowed their little girl to roam the streets with an oversized rifle.

Vi needlessly revved the engine of their bike, filling the garage with smoke. Caitlyn wondered why she let Vi modify the handlebars to fit those absurd gauntlets. The official reason was that Caitlyn would have her hands free to shoot from the back. The unofficial reason was that Vi really wanted to drive and made her case by "accidentally" heaving Caitlyn's breasts at every turn, stoplight and pothole. Whenever Caitlyn tried to confront Vi, the latter would feign ignorance and joke about Caitlyn's dirty mind.

'Come on, cowgirl.' Vi yelled over the noise. 'I'm getting itchy.'

Caitlyn strutted near the bike and pushed out her hip as if waiting for a better offer. 'Really? When was the last time you bathed?'

'I'm waiting for you to scrub my back with your enormous rack.'

'If you're game, the riot squad need a dummy for water cannon training.'

Vi purred like a tiger. 'I love it when you're a bitch. Let's find this asshole and get your claws wet.'

Caitlyn lifted up her leg farther than she really needed, daring Vi to sneak a glimpse of underwear. This had become a guilty little dance before any bust. Caitlyn would whip her attack dog into a frenzy then unleash hell on criminal scum. As she mounted the bike, she deliberately leant back, clutching the saddle with both hands.

When the expected contact didn't happen, Vi grunted with frustration. 'You're gonna fall.'

'Ride fast enough and I may hold on to something else.' Caitlyn smiled. She may not be the one driving but she was definitely in control.

'Like I need a reason.'

They tore through the streets of Piltover. The sirens on Vi's gauntlets blared loud enough to wake the dead, not that the dead ever slept easy. Caitlyn's strong thighs ensured that she stayed upright without recourse to Vi until the bike span full-circle and drove the wrong way down a slip road. When Caitlyn finally pressed up against Vi they both sighed with relief. Caitlyn ached horribly from the exertion. It may not have been wise to burn her energy before a takedown.

Luckily, Vi had enough ardour for both of them. Upon reaching their destination, she vaulted over the handlebars, charged up her gauntlets and launched through the door of a well-kept suburban house. Caitlyn followed, her legs threatening to cramp as she primed her net. The report of a shotgun nearly stopped her heart. Forcing her body to co-operate, she ploughed through the wreckage and saw Vi looming over their target, sticky blood all over her uniform. The murderer scrambled across the floor to retrieve his weapon but Caitlyn's net pinned him to the floor. He howled like a baby.

Caitlyn wrinkled her nose, grateful that her privilege had not ruined her so. She gave the murderer a hard kick before checking Vi's wounds. A gauntlet brushed Caitlyn's hair.

'It's cool,' said Vi. 'Blast shield got most of it. I'll dig out the shrapnel and be right as rain.'

'There's a lot of blood, Vi. Sit down before you pass out.'

'Please, cupcake. I've taken shot before. I know what it feels like.' Vi clenched her teeth. 'This ain't that bad.'

'I don't want you bumping your head and losing what little sense you have.' Caitlyn smacked Vi's hip. 'Behave.' This did the trick. Vi could obey and soothe her ego by insulting Caitlyn's honour, something to do with playing a school nurse behind closed doors.

The murderer was an upwardly mobile slumlord who had bought some good houses. In his head, this new-found wealth had lent moral clout to his misogyny. He had spun a vast web of creative tenancy agreements in which to hide but his blue collar brother had no such protection.

Caitlyn delivered the murderer's rights with dramatic affect. She had to squeeze some enjoyment from bureaucracy. Their pickup would arrive soon.

Back at the cop shop, Vi rolled away to lick her wounds while Caitlyn logged the day's events. After processing the new inmate, Caitlyn moved the rest of her files to her data-stick. She intended to spare the night watch her company and work from home.

Heading to the locker room to change, Caitlyn saw Vi before the mirror, stripped to the waist. Pieces of bloody shot and a pair of tweezers lined the sink. Vi bit down on her lip as she sewed up the holes in her skin. Her long, muscular back tensed with each stab of pain. Caitlyn watched admiringly. Growing up on the wrong side of the law had taught Vi to be self-sufficient in many ways. They were both comfortably silent as Vi finished her work.

Breathing a little heavier with the fresh discomfort of her stitches, Vi grinned like a wolf. 'Enjoy the show?' She slid her thumbs down the grooves of her pelvic bone and under her waistband.

It was apparently cold in the locker room. Caitlyn observed that Vi's nipples were the same pink as the hair on her head but not the hair beneath her arms. 'I don't like to see you hurt.'

'You can't hire me as your muscle and wring your hands when I get a booboo. If I were scared of my own blood, I'd have told you to stick your job.'

'I don't recall giving you a choice. It was either this or jail.'

'Good luck with that.'

'Seriously, Vi...'

'Seriously, Cait, shut the fuck up. I'm happy, you're... never happy... whatever.' Vi waved her tweezers as if she could pluck the words from the air. 'I'm going downtown. A few beers'll take the edge off.' She stretched, popping her joints and checking her mobility. 'You game?'

'I've got work to do.' Caitlyn worried those stitches could tear at any moment. Her eyes darted across Vi's torso.

'What a surprise.' Vi rinsed the first-aid gear under a cold tap and dumped the shrapnel in a basket with the paper towels.

Caitlyn winced. 'Medical waste goes in the yellow bin.'

'What difference does it make? I'm clean now.' Vi's first check-up had passed into legend, dead nerves, strep throat, an impressive tapeworm that allowed her to inhale doughnuts without consequence… and hepatitis C. The treatments had been successful though some of the nerve damage was permanent. 'Have fun, cupcake.'

Vi walked down the high street alone. No one at the station had agreed to come as they had homes or families to attend. Vi knew they would just watch lifestyle shows or play video games. The "City of Progress" could be so lame.

She felt aroused to distraction. Caitlyn had been turning Vi's crank all day but that exchange in the locker room had moved things up a gear. Despite her refinement, Caitlyn sought attention. That wasn't new. However, she seldom returned it.

Vi was sure that Caitlyn was some flavour of not-entirely-straight, even when rounded down for wishful thinking. The jury was out on whether she was merely flexible enough to indulge in a bit of spicy friction with a convenient admirer… or trapped in a deep closet, sobbing on an empty bed that was torturously cold without the warmth and love of a good woman.

Despite Vi's eagerness to party, she grew maudlin. She could have gone on the prowl but hadn't been to a gay bar in months. She either got scolded for betraying the counter-culture and working for "the man" — a term so loaded that Vi's brain struggled to process it — or she got sympathy. She would be plied with alcohol, nestled into the bosom of a liberal arts student with long brown hair and glasses then urged to leak snot and poetry about her beloved Caitlyn. If Vi got lucky, she would then be pity-fucked by either an emotional vampire or another lovesick basket case.

Vi guffawed, earning a few strange glances. The scenario was so tragic, it made her laugh. That was so not her. She would stop moping, find a dive, make some friends in low places and get drunk on cheap Zaun lager. Result.

Vi found a bar that was large, full and generic enough to impede any unwelcome intimacy. She was having fun, in that she could isolate little details and savour them, the feel of the bottle in her hand, the taste of hops, the buzz of alcohol. The air was rich with sweat and smoke. She leant over the counter and stubbed out her cigarette, taking the chance to ogle a barmaid in a low-cut top who seemed weary of the attention. Vi wondered if the barmaid had a husband or boyfriend who would survive an arm-wrestling match.

Feeling bold, Vi reached back to adjust her hair, really just feigning a reason to flex her exposed "guns". Her tight white vest nicely showed off her bust and muscles. Vi's only regret was that she didn't have snazzier tattoos. She'd never had the money or contacts for a really flashy piece of art. A sleeve like Jinx's smoking rocket design would do the trick.

Perhaps the reason for Jinx's continued freedom was a police tattoo deficit. Vi laughed as she imagined Caitlyn getting a nice big tramp stamp above her nice big ass. That was one for the suggestion box.

The bar felt a bit "meh" despite its popularity. The clientele were too civilised. Wanting to improve the ambience and spread her good cheer, Vi loudly announced her intention to buy a round. The customer on the adjacent bar stool turned and glared with pure hatred.

It was the witness from before. He had gelled his hair and cleaned up since his interrogation, so Vi hadn't clocked him, and he was sufficiently drunk and woolly-headed that he hadn't recognised Vi out of her police uniform. Now he was looking straight at her, the pink hair and tattoo were unmistakable. 'You bitch!' he yelled. 'Aren't you done? Leave us be and go back to your fucking pigsty.'

'I'm off-duty and I'm here to party. You got a problem with that?'

'You damn near left me for dead and now you spit in my face! Ain't I suffered enough?'

'Not as much as your brother's victims.' She gulped back the dregs of her bottle. 'Don't be such a drama queen. All I did was soften you up. I didn't "leave you for dead". If you're that fragile, you should have spilt your guts.'

'My brother's an asshole and I hate what he did... but I couldn't just rat him out.'

'You cover an asshole murderer, you get treated like shit. Looks simple enough to me.'

'Is it? You got family of your own?'

'None of your business.'

'Thought as much. I got a kid and a grandpa to look after.' The witness showed his broken hands. 'Now I can't work thanks to you.'

'Thanks to me? If you took some responsibility, maybe you wouldn't be pissing their bread up a wall.'

'I couldn't stay home without feeling like a failure but I got friends paying my way and a wife who understands. She even called them up to fetch me.'

Vi knew her next words were a bad idea before they left her mouth but she couldn't help it. They were just... obligatory. 'Yeah? She just wants you out the house so I can sit on her face.'

The witness trembled with fury. He weakly gripped his bottle and swung it at Vi's head. The blow was nothing more than a heavy tap but it was the abuse that really stung. 'Fuck off, you dyke slut!'

Up until now, Vi had no reason to beat the witness other than her own enjoyment. However, no woman alive should be chastened for being gay or libidinous. Whipping her arm like a corkscrew, she smartly punched the witness off his stool. Vi rolled her shoulders, expecting the juicy mayhem of a saloon brawl.

The witness had a lot of friends with him. About ten of them formed a half-circle around Vi. This was not going to be mutual catharsis, just a vengeful beat-down. Vi was oddly disheartened but put up her dukes. She might as well get some practice in.

Vi lost the fight. She was the toughest person in the room but she had only two fists and there were over a dozen faces. She staggered into the road, trying to maintain her posture. The mob stayed by the entrance and taunted her but none were willing to step within range. The pig had been removed. No need to risk life and limb for more. Vi spat blood and pointed at the crowd. 'This ain't over. I got your numbers. Next time, I'll bring my gauntlets and a world of pain!'

There were many worried glances. The threat was real and the patrons were savvy enough to be frightened. Speaking through blood, the witness staunched his nose. 'Just leave us alone! Stick to your kind and let us normal folk be starving and miserable. Is that too much to ask?'

'My kind?' Vi snarled. 'What's that supposed to mean?'

'I don't know, cops, queers? I ain't bothered by any of that. Just get off my case!'

Vi laughed loudly and bitterly. 'You think they'd have me? Any more than you would?' Her body convulsed with pain. 'Ugh... the devil himself wouldn't have me. I'm... nowhere.' She staggered away, pointing one last time. 'I got your numbers.'

Although Vi was not crippled, she was painted with bruises and maddeningly sore. Pounding the sidewalk as if she was on patrol, Vi weighed her options. She could go home to her squalid little flat and lie awake until the morning, growling in agony and watching the ceiling or... well, that was her only option. She could buy a six-pack and drink more but adding a thumping hangover to her beating sounded hellish.

Vi loathed to admit it but her personal life was not worth anything. Despite her overt rejection of banality, she had become another one of those sad fucks whose life revolved around work. Her identity, fulfilment and social life had withered away until there was nothing left but the "Piltover Enforcer". She had no friends, peers or lover. All she really had was Caitlyn. No one else in the police or wider administration had anything to do with Vi.

Caitlyn was probably awake. She didn't get much beauty sleep these days, judging by how often she re-applied her makeup. Vi figured she might as well stop by and doze on the couch. She didn't want to be alone.

Very few people knew where Caitlyn lived. She was a high-value target with dangerous enemies. Her apartment was on the top floor of a mid-market high-rise. The roof was one of her favourite vantage points though she took care not to use it too often. Some of her foes were clever and observed facts like area, trajectory and frequency.

Vi hobbled through the porch and rang the intercom. A dome whirred as the camera inside turned her way.

A minute later, footsteps padded through the lobby. Caitlyn approached, wearing a short silk kimono. Her bare face was heavy with sleep and worry. Vi melted at the sight. Caitlyn could have disengaged the lock from her condo but had come down in person after seeing Vi's injuries.

With an emphatic sigh, Caitlyn helped Vi to the elevator. Once the door shut, Caitlyn lifted Vi's top and examined the stitches. They were still intact. 'Oh, Vi,' Caitlyn shook her head, 'what am I going to do with you?'

'I can think of a few things.'

'No doubt.' Caitlyn ran her fingers through Vi's hair, checking for dents. 'Have you made more work for me?'

'Shouldn't be any fallout, just a Saturday night thing.'

'It's Thursday.'

'Yeah, because I totally weren't using a figure of speech.'

'And you never forget what day it is.' The elevator doors opened. Caitlyn's apartment was at the end of the hallway, secured by two locks and one code. This was the only place that Vi could truly relax. Her own digs made her restless if she weren't in the shower.

Caitlyn's home was plain but well-equipped. It was not perfectly tidy. Documents littered the coffee table. Long-dry clothing hung from radiators. A few surfaces were dusty. Caitlyn was organised but didn't have time to make her lifestyle a part-time job. Certain things had to slide. Vi fell onto the sofa with a loud grunt and put her feet on the armrest.

Caitlyn tapped Vi's legs. 'Will you not put your filthy boots on my furniture?'

'They're not touching.' Vi wriggled her feet. True enough, they dangled over the edge.

'I don't care,' said Caitlyn. She promptly undid Vi's laces and slid off the boots. 'Your socks are going in the wash. There's not enough perfume in the world to mask that.' For the life of her, Caitlyn could not fathom why Vi forewent boots so often. Granted, the absurd heels masked the length of Vi's flippers but she never seemed embarrassed enough to tolerate the inconvenience. Perhaps Vi just liked to feel pretty.

What Vi did feel was giddiness at her dirty laundry sharing a basket with Caitlyn's. However, if Vi were being honest with her hopes, Caitlyn was uptight enough to keep separate loads.

'Would you like me to run a bath?' Caitlyn said as she peeled off Vi's socks. Vi wondered if there was a better feeling than those hands brushing the soles of her feet.

'Ugh, no... I'll have a shower in the morning.' If Vi had to fall asleep in her own filth, she'd rather do it in a gutter.

'I don't recall letting you stay over.'

'You would never kick me out like this.' Vi did a poor mockery of Caitlyn's accent. '"I may have concussion! I may choke on my own sick!"'

'Remind me never to show concern for your well-being.' Caitlyn put on the kettle. While the water boiled, she fetched a pack of frozen peas and some wet wipes. Vi scrubbed the blood from her face and held the peas to her swollen brow. One of the punches had nearly given her a black eye. Caitlyn brought a cup of tea for herself and a glass of water for Vi. 'Take sips when you can. I want to make sure you can keep that down before giving you anything else.'

'Water's gross.'

Caitlyn ignored Vi's complaint. 'Would you please move over? I have work to do.' On the table was a netbook opposite Vi's head.

'Can't you take it somewhere else?'

'Power cable won't stretch and the battery's dead. Move.' Vi grumbled and lifted her upper body just enough to plonk her head in Caitlyn's lap. 'Vi!'

Vi exhaled happily. 'Why are your legs so nice and cool?'

'I'm not indulging your silly questions.' Caitlyn was mortified. She was not wearing underwear and her kimono did not stretch terribly far. Any kind of struggle to dislodge Vi could reveal far too much.

Vi rubbed her cheek on the material. 'I like your robe.'

'Yes, I thought you would.' Trying to ignore the movement in her lap, Caitlyn propped her computer above stacked binders so she could reach over Vi's head and work without discomfort. It proved difficult as Caitlyn was preoccupied with the fear of unwilling but detectable arousal, a fidget or pheromone, caused by the proximity of Vi's mouth. However, numbers and spreadsheets proved a welcome distraction and Caitlyn put a dent in her work before her tea cooled.

She leant back with her cup, enjoying the taste while Vi dozed underneath. Caitlyn was surprised to feel so content. Small pleasures were well-earned after a hard day minding both a city and a Vi, and having company made her apartment less remote. Caitlyn liked her solitude and privacy but they grew old when Vi left the morning after one of her burnouts. More and more, Caitlyn found herself doing silly little things, like unplugging the air fresheners so Vi's scent lingered, and washing her clothes to keep them around. Caitlyn figured she could adopt a stray cat instead of treating Vi like one.

Wanting to luxuriate more, Caitlyn lit a cigarette. She had many reasons for living apart from her family. Their safety was her priority. However, Caitlyn also wanted independence and the freedom to smoke openly. While her parents were liberal enough to suffer her provocative dress, they would not tolerate her nicotine habit, which was far too common. She suspected they knew but said nothing. At the police station, it was an open secret. Detectives caught many tells even if they never saw her light up.

Vi watched with unguarded happiness, her wide, grateful eyes absorbing every detail. It was a privilege to see this hidden part of Caitlyn, to be so intimate with her. Vi often remarked on Caitlyn's desirability but right now, all Vi could see was Caitlyn's beauty, the naked, tired eyes, heavy and sensual, pale lips that would taste of skin, saliva and tobacco rather than glossy denial. Caitlyn took the cigarette and, smiling charitably, passed it to Vi. They both knew this was a stronger hit than nicotine. Vi pulled hungrily and took Caitlyn's gift into her lungs, blood and heart.

Vi lolled back. 'You're good to me, Caitlyn.' She returned the cigarette.

'Yes... I am.' Caitlyn took another drag. 'Remember that the next time you keep me up all night with your antics.'

'Huh, I wish. You'd be out for the count when I'm done with you.'

'And you'll be out on the streets if I have to count any higher.' Caitlyn flipped a few cells on her database. 'Every month I have to justify your employment, prove that you save more than you cost.'

'We're not working for that Sivir bitch. You can't say what people's lives are worth.'

'Bitch? I do recall you complimenting our greedy friend as you jumped on her.'

'She has nice tits. She's still a bitch.'

'It was her "booty" you coveted.'

'You remember that? You got problems, Cait.'

'Yes, I have.' Caitlyn tapped a few keys and scrolled down the table to a cluster of red. 'I don't like this any more than you but it's a game I have to play. Piltover's not so barbaric that they put a price on life... but material damage, lost work hours, callout charges. These can be measured. At one point they considered putting Jinx on your tab as her vendetta seems personal.'

Vi snorted. 'Ain't my fault she's mad as all hell.'

'No, and everyone in law enforcement makes an enemy or two. It didn't take much to shoot that down.' Caitlyn gave a wry smile. 'A few politicians would be in hot water if you became a precedent.'

Vi strained to interpret the numbers on the screen. 'Uh... you got this, right?'

'Just about,' said Caitlyn, 'if tonight's revelry isn't logged and waste disposal don't fine us for commingling.'

'The fuck is that?' Vi imagined having wild sex with Caitlyn in a dumpster.

'You put medical waste in the...' Caitlyn waved her cigarette, looking revolted. 'They won't fine us. I fixed it personally.'

'You stuck your hand in...?'

'Don't press the subject or I will regret helping you.'

Vi felt drained. 'They... no one wants me here... do they?'

'I want you here,' Caitlyn passed Vi the cigarette again, 'and I'm the law. The rest can go to hell.' Vi didn't respond. She merely finished the cigarette, tossed the stub into an ashtray then rolled over so her face was buried in Caitlyn's robe. Caitlyn writhed and had to turn away before her arousal emboldened Vi. 'Do you... hmph... mind?' This was not going well. Caitlyn's body was pleading for a cold shower.

'Chill out, Cait, that screen's giving me a headache,' Vi said. Her words tickled Caitlyn's skin through the kimono. 'I'm not an animal.'

'Fine...' Caitlyn did her best to compose her thoughts and resumed her work. She teased Vi enough. It was only fair that the tables were turned.

The subject of balance and equilibrium helped and Caitlyn soon got back into accounting. When the "Vi column" changed from red to black, she sank into the cushions, absentmindedly petting Vi who was too sleepy to react. Caitlyn briefly wondered if Vi had dressed to go courting. The black combat trousers did a sterling job of showcasing Vi's taut, muscular bottom. Caitlyn watched for far longer than was decent and had to laugh. She couldn't dismiss that as "enjoying the attention". When the next census was conducted, she resolved not to tick the "heterosexual" box. Arousal and admin were strange bedfellows.

Caitlyn yawned. The day was starting to catch up with her. She had to be up in five hours. Lifting Vi's head as gently as possible, Caitlyn made to leave. Vi rolled over and mumbled sleepily at Caitlyn's thighs. 'Off to bed?'

'Yes. Help yourself to anything you need. Goodnight.'


Caitlyn would not sleep. She was having intense dreams that were stubbornly vague. At one point, she had to reprogram her alarm clock after swatting it from her bedside table. The bright display and required focus bombed any chance of rest. Her eyes stung. Even though she slept naked under a thin duvet, she was sweating buckets. Guzzling water soothed her dry throat but dehydration wasn't the real problem.

She should have manually quenched her desire. However, a part of her psyche revelled in frustration. The idea of having Vi was so delectably wrong. She was a lewd, ham-fisted reprobate. Caitlyn could not write a more scandalous tryst. The Piltover gentry would despair of her involvement with an employee of the wrong class, gender, manner... everything.

Then there was the anticipation. She had long conceded that, one day, she would fuck Vi. There were too many scenarios, getting drunk after a bust, a near-death experience, Vi creeping in right now and tipping Caitlyn's velvet into next week…

Okay, that last scene was unlikely. Vi was bold and tactile but never went beyond a vulgar comment or playful grope. Caitlyn was losing her mind. Had she planned her course of action when Vi rang the intercom? There was no doubting that Vi would weaken before Caitlyn's personal escort and skimpy attire... but why do it? Vi had suffered. She deserved a break and Caitlyn deserved to run her hands all over that impossibly hot body and feel those muscles grind vigorously in all the right places…

Before she knew it, Caitlyn had slipped out of bed and into her kimono. It would not do to appear naked. There had to be ceremony. She moved between pools of light as if crossing a stage. Even in the dead of night, Piltover was a bright city. The long shadows made Vi look even taller, legs protruding from the sofa. Despite Vi's claim that she slept anywhere, she never seemed comfortable. It came as no surprise when she stirred.

Vi was called simple by rivals and allies but, like everyone, she wore a mask. With no time to compose her snarl, her eyes viewed the world as if powerful jaws would snap shut, chew her up and spit her out. She didn't even say anything to acknowledge Caitlyn's presence. Maybe Vi's nascent police faculty read something new in Caitlyn's walk. Maybe there was something in the air, something more primal. Caitlyn took both of Vi's hands and swayed back. Their arms stretched across the air like a tightrope. Vi watched with trepidation and longing until Caitlyn gave a short tug and Vi obeyed, shuffling like a child.

Caitlyn led them to her bed. She reclined, willing Vi to read the cues and pin her to the mattress. When Vi did not respond, Caitlyn released her grip, sidled over and turned the cover in invitation. 'You'll be far more comfortable here.' She tugged at her belt and followed Vi's gaze with satisfaction as the kimono glided to the floor. There was something positively divine about that first moment her nipples were exposed before a lover, the cool kiss of electric air.

Vi had cheerfully molested Caitlyn before. Now the time was right, Vi was strangely docile. Guessing that Vi was too bleary-eyed for subtlety, Caitlyn advanced like a snake, running her breasts up Vi's body. Vi caught her breath and held Caitlyn's shoulders as if fighting the urge to explore the rest. Trying to send the message that exploration was definitely on the menu, Caitlyn stroked Vi's hard abdomen with one hand, marvelling at how the muscles tightened sexily with each spark of arousal, while popping the button of Vi's combats with the other. 'It gets hot in here. You'll have to take these off.' Hoping to provide a jumpstart, Caitlyn thrust her hand through Vi's pubic hair, slowly tracing her labia from fork to hood.

Vi gawped with stunned, opaque madness. Just as Caitlyn thought Vi would finally seize her reward, Vi growled through her teeth and threw Caitlyn away. 'The fuck, Caitlyn! What the fuck are you doing?'

Caitlyn shook with anger and rejection. She covered her ugly scowl with her hand. The smell of Vi's body stoked her disappointment. 'All your big talk and you want me to draw a fucking map? I should have known you'd go soft.' Vi returned the abuse with a wild cross to the jaw. Caitlyn wiped the blood from her mouth. 'You're pathetic.'

Vi raised her fist. This time, she harnessed her fury and dented the wall rather than Caitlyn's skull. 'Tell me...' Vi gasped, the words were like sandpaper, 'tell me something I don't know.' Her eyes smarted. 'I'm beat to fuck and you spend the whole night telling me that I'm your bitch,. That you're the only reason I eat, drink, have a roof over my head?' Guilt and umbrage kept them reticent and apart. Eventually, Vi spoke. 'I… I should go, right?'

'If you like.'

'I...' Vi reached for her pants, 'is that what you...'

'No, what I wanted was you! Was it not bloody obvious?'

Vi felt a twinge of grief at that simple declaration. She toyed with her belt loops, not wanting to symbolically raise her drawbridge or stay awkwardly half-dressed. Eventually, she stepped out of her pants, a conciliatory gesture.

Caitlyn had suspected the reveal after her amorous incursion but it was still a shock to see Vi wearing a thong. The flawless curve of Vi's rear, in that outfit, was apparently by design.

Although Caitlyn was unhappy, she accepted the peace-offering and shifted the duvet, mollified that Vi hadn't simply run away. Vi slipped under the covers and sat bolt upright, her knees pulled close to her chest. 'Cait... babe, I...' she stared at the wall, 'I know I come on a bit strong but... if a man thought your dress was an open invite you'd knee him in the balls and cap his ass.'

'Should I do that the next time you proposition me in the locker room or drool in my lap?'

'I'm just playing, cupcake.'

'So now I'm "playing" you want to take your ball home?'

'It's...' Vi clutched her head, trying to find the words, 'it's not a level field.'

'On that we agree, "Fathands". You're twice my size.'

Vi bristled. 'You were the one pawing at my crotch like a bull at a gate! You call me pathetic but you suck at this. You learn to fuck by watching Alistar?'

'So instead of "punching first", you want me to send flowers and request permission from daddy?'

'Fine. Embarrass yourself when another woman gets you wet. See if I care.'

Caitlyn folded her arms beneath her bust, underscoring what Vi had passed up. 'I was more than willing to receive the mysteries of Sappho but my mistress came up empty-handed.' Despite the provocation, Vi still paid more attention to the wall. 'Come on then. Tell me. I'll play along. Pretend you have the slightest clue what you want.'

Vi's gaze flickered. 'You...' she rubbed the back of her neck, 'you could have... kissed me.'

Though she would not say it out loud, Caitlyn felt quite foolish. 'I'll… keep that in mind.'

'Yeah.' Vi took no pleasure from the acknowledgement.

They sat quietly. There was only the sound of their breathing, the hum of hextech, and the distant murmur of street life. It was Caitlyn who finally spoke. 'What did you mean by "level field"? Are you still sore or am I... out of your league?' She spread her palms.

'Nah, it ain't your fault. You're fancy, you...' Vi closed her eyes, 'you won't get it unless I spell it out.'

'Then would you please do that before scolding me for my ignorance?'

'You could lose everything and still be all right, your job, your flat, your legs. Your folks would take care of it... you could lose me… I can't lose you.' Vi played with her hands, ashamed of her own weakness. 'If you stepped aside, Piltover would shitcan me. I'd end up on the streets. The gangs would spit-roast me and stick an apple in my mouth.'

'You overstate my agency. I only gave you the chance, Vi. You proved yourself.'

'According to what... your figures? No way. You set me up to win. It's all... all you, cupcake.' Vi's throat constricted. She tried to sniff back each new tear. Her cheeks and bloodshot eyes hurt with emotion. 'You swept me off my feet, turned me around, gave me a life... I had no choice!' She turned on Caitlyn. 'Tell me what choice I had but to... lo...' Vi could not speak the word. It was barely a whisper, ' you.'

Caitlyn had never been so weak. All feeling went from her limbs. Each of those heavy words struck her chest like a ram. 'Vi...' With herculean effort, she laid her hand on Vi's back, trying to offer support without inflicting any more pain.

'That's why I couldn't let you just... have me.'

'Oh, Vi...' Caitlyn bowed from the weight of her deeds. Unwitting, she had done something irrevocable. 'I didn't realise. I thought you just... wanted me behind the bike sheds.'

'Why? Because I didn't "send flowers or get permission from daddy"? Just 'cause I don't express it by playing your stupid repressed mind games, don't mean I can't love you.'

'Why would I even think that? How could you love me if I hold you in such contempt?'

'I told you, I had no choice!'

'Because I... bought you? You can't buy true love with material goods.'

Vi pulled away from Caitlyn's touch. 'I knew you wouldn't understand. Forget it.'

'Evidently, I'm too callow.' With a loud sigh, Caitlyn dropped her head on the pillow. 'Only you could reject me, declare your...' the word stuck in her chest, 'love then expect me to forget.' She rubbed her tired eyes. 'I thought I'd... treat us both and we're quarrelling until sunrise.'

'We're gonna feel like shit tomorrow.'


Vi slid her legs out from under the duvet. 'I'll go back to the couch.'

'Don't you dare.' Vi looked at Caitlyn with surprise. 'I hate it when you sleep there. It's painful to watch and I feel like an awful host. Just stay here and be comfortable for once.'

'Are you...?'

'Don't second guess me, Vi. Please.' Caitlyn thumped the mattress.

'All right.' Vi bit her lip. 'I might have to use your shower first.'

'At this time? I...' Caitlyn groaned with realisation. 'That cabinet.'


Caitlyn waved her arm so generally that it was less help than doing nothing. 'Bottom drawer. That's where I keep my toys, condoms... go wild.' Vi was stunned. She looked as though she would topple over in a slight breeze. 'Don't gawk at me like that. You're sneaking off to masturbate.'

'Well, yeah but...' Vi knew all about Caitlyn's well-bred candour. It separated the truly privileged from the aspiring. Even so, this threw Vi for a loop. 'Little Miss Hygiene wants to share?'

'I was planning to share everything.'

'Don't remind me.'

Caitlyn rolled over, showing her back to Vi. 'You had your chance.'

Vi felt cold and hollow. 'Whatever. I'll just go to sleep.' It came mercifully soon. Her failing energy could not sustain her angst throughout the night.

Vi refused Caitlyn's offer to make breakfast and walked the long way home. Despite the round trip, Vi got to work on time by neglecting her appearance. She did not wash, apply makeup or style her hair. She stormed into the office and, out of spite, cleared a tower of paperwork from a colleague's desk. Caitlyn heard the noise and came to investigate. Vi watched like a hawk. Without eyeliner, there was something hostile in her gaze. It was naked, raw and angry.

Caitlyn had to stay objective, no payback, no indulgence. 'There are other ways to get my attention.'

'Ain't all about you, cupcake.' Vi sneered. 'You look like shit.'

'My heart breaks. I thought beer goggles made women more attractive.' The audience tittered. Vi launched her coffee cup at the nearest head. It struck hard enough to draw blood and shattered on the floor. 'Could you save your disruption for when it's needed?'

'You'll be glad to know I'm heading out. More cops on corners, yeah? Pigs on patrol. Make everyone feel safe.'

'You're not due until midday.'

'So what? Double the rounds!' Vi cackled. 'Boost the numbers on your fucking spreadsheet!'

'Are you in any fit state?'

Vi threw out her arms. 'Why wouldn't I be?' She tried to stare Caitlyn down.

'You were shot yesterday.'

'Flesh wound.' Vi drew near. 'You reckoned I was fit last night.'

Caitlyn would not be threatened. She stood on the balls of her feet and got right in Vi's face. Vi stank of sweat. Her breath was thick with dead bacteria and cigarettes. The sheer... physicality was overwhelming. 'If you're going to sulk then do it before I chain you to a desk.'

'Is that how you like it?'

'I'd only hurt your precious feelings.'

Vi caught her breath. She took an instant to regain her composure. 'What happened to your "two paces" rule? Do you want me here?'

Caitlyn seethed with frustration. Why couldn't Vi be this predatory behind closed doors? Instead of being vulnerable and sensitive and... Caitlyn felt her ears burn. Now that she had acted on her latent desire, she could not ignore how much she craved this hot, filthy mess. Reflexively, Caitlyn grazed the back of Vi's hand. 'We can't let this affect our work.' The contact shut down Vi's brain. Her heart beat in her throat. 'I've got enough on my plate without excusing your behaviour.'

For a moment, Vi looked as though she would spit in Caitlyn's face. 'Yeah... 'cause you're entirely without fault.' Vi turned on her heel and left. Caitlyn would allow that point.

The onlookers were amused but suspected nothing. Caitlyn and Vi's "domestics" were a regular occurrence. Luckily, both women were fearsome enough to discourage open gossip.

The fatigue and stress were good for Caitlyn's productivity. With no energy for daydreaming, she robotically ploughed through the grey mist. She was doubtless making all kinds of errors but she had no way of checking without an assistant. Part of her clerical budget was the "Vi contingency fund". Caitlyn wondered if she had any medication that would sharpen her thoughts. Her beta blockers weren't suitable.

More tea? Any excuse.

She was worried about Vi. Caitlyn should not have let an impaired officer patrol by herself, even if it were to avoid conflict. With any luck, Vi would be too preoccupied to do anything but lumber through the streets in a lovelorn fugue.

The day was uneventful. Just as Caitlyn was directing the night watch, her phone rang. 'Sheriff!' yelled the caller. 'Vi's gone berserk. It's like Jinx mark two!'

The caller had exaggerated. Vi wasn't liked, so the staff took any chance to bring her down. Caitlyn rode solo this time, driving an unmarked van that had been used for everything from surveillance to holding felons to moving house.

Upon reaching the disturbance, Caitlyn gathered she was at the bar where Vi had got into that scrap. It wasn't a Jinx demolition job, more of a "refurbishment". The windows had been smashed and several chairs littered the street.

Like any good sniper, Caitlyn knew patience. She set her rifle on a tripod, having loaded the ultra-strength net she kept for Vi-related emergencies. Bystanders implored her to act immediately but she dismissed them with an imperious wave. She was hardly going to risk tangling with Vi up close.

The prospect of wrestling Vi sent Caitlyn's mind on a shameful trip that ended in passionate coupling. She almost barked in annoyance. Against all reason, she was falling victim to a destructive crush. Granted, it was enlightening. She had never felt this way for another woman... but why did it have to be Vi?

A chair sailed through a window. Caitlyn held the trigger. Maybe this was her cue.

After all the mayhem, it was an easy shot. Vi lurched out the front door, fit to collapse of her own accord. Caitlyn fired her net and Vi hit the ground like a sack of potatoes.

As Caitlyn approached, Vi swore loudly, furious at her own lack of attention. Caitlyn shouldered her rifle. 'Are we done?' Vi didn't respond. 'I'm taking you off duty. Count yourself lucky that it's for health reasons. Get up.' Vi pawed at the net like a dog trying to escape its collar. She tried to stand but her foot caught in a knot, sending her head over heels. 'I'm not carrying you.'

'You can't spend daddy's fortune on a weapon then complain when it works.'

'Do you mean yourself or the net?' Caitlyn hated herself just then. She was twisting Vi's words to bait her into psychic disclosure. It felt more devious than flashing a bit of leg to quicken Vi's blood.

'The net but... whatever.' Vi got up. 'I taught them a lesson. You want to throw me in a cell then do it.'

Caitlyn used her gun to herd Vi. It looked better to the community if the police received no special treatment. 'I'd rather you just had a wash and got some sleep.'

Vi hopped into the van. The back was empty but she sat on the floor without complaint. Caitlyn hammered the ignition. The engine rattled. 'That don't sound right,' said Vi.

'Hmph.' Caitlyn would have to add some padding to this jury-rigged "seatbelt". The narrow plastic spiralled down at a lethal angle that disagreed with her breasts. 'The clutch is going too.'

'You can drive stick?'

'Why wouldn't I?' It was normal in Caitlyn's part of the world.

'I don't know. I just wish you'd stop doing things that make you hotter.' Vi was drawling like she was stoned or drunk. Caitlyn wished that was the problem rather than heartache and exhaustion. 'Why don't you take it to Heimer?'

'Because he dismantled the last car and built Vel'koz.'

'Huh? I thought eyeball was from the void.'

'It was a joke, Vi.'


'He made a portable radio station to keep the delinquents happy.'

Vi hesitated. 'Was that a joke?'

'No but don't make me say the name.'

'Is it "Bendover FM"?'


Vi snorted with laughter. 'They do sound about twelve. When I heard the name, I thought it'd be "DJ Fabswag's Backstage Tour" not "K-Boom Dubstep Ignite".'

'I really wouldn't know.'

'Ooh... I could just kiss you on that toffee nose, cupcake.'

'Not now, Vi.' Caitlyn's eyes flickered between her mirrors and the road. She couldn't navigate her personal maze and drive at the same time.

'Where are you taking me?'

'You can either stay at mine or in a cell. I'm not leaving you unsupervised.'

'If you're going to arrest me then you make the decision. You don't get to wash your hands of it.' Caitlyn didn't answer. 'Well?'

'You're staying at mine. You won't suffer the indignity of a night in the drunk-tank and I won't get the political fallout.'

'So I've more dignity when I'm cuffed to your bed?'

'Save it!' Caitlyn struggled to merge into lane. The traffic was thick and she wasn't used to the van's length. 'Once we're back you may subject me to all the abuse, criticism and innuendo I deserve. Until then, hold your peace.'

They reached Caitlyn's apartment. After hauling Vi to the shower, Caitlyn got straight on her netbook and cell phone. Vi kept the door ajar and the pressure low so she could hear the conversation. She felt obliged to know the politics and arm-twisting that followed in her wake.

'I've sent the patrol routes... no nothing's changed... are you sure everything's on schedule? I was planning to go back for an hour... yes, she's with me... we have... issues to discuss... hmph, everything's personal with Vi, you know that... her grievances are valid. I can't just slap her down... no, but she would enjoy returning the favour... okay, I'll see you tomorrow. Good hunting.'

Vi drifted into her own little world as she applied Caitlyn's shampoo. Grapefruit! So that was the smell of Caitlyn's hair. Vi always bought eucalyptus...

It sounded like Caitlyn was on another line. Her tone was clipped and defensive. 'I am aware, yes. Vi was attacked by a prisoner's family. Instead of reporting the crime, she retaliated... I know the proprietor did nothing wrong... okay but we'll monitor the crime in that district. If it falls, we'll be spending less money and everything will balance... unethical? If something good arises then we should log it for honesty's sake... I don't see the conflict. The situation resolved without due process. We need fewer people with criminal records not more... yes, I do take my job seriously!'

Caitlyn was silent for a very long time.

'I know that Vi is gay. How is that relevant...? Nothing has changed. You have no right to press that subject... How am I responsible for anyone's fevered imagination? Good night!'

When Vi emerged from the bathroom with just a towel covering her modesty, she was dismayed by the sight. The proud, tough Caitlyn looked as though she would cry. Bent double with her head in her hands, she was besieged within and without.

Vi sat close, fighting the urge to hug Caitlyn. 'They should let us do our job.'

Caitlyn snapped. 'They do but you can't run riot without cause!' She fumbled for a cigarette. 'Now we have districts under control, we can't stampede through them like queens of the wild frontier.' Her lighter failed to spark. 'Why would Piltover allow such behaviour if there's no need for it?'

'If we step off the gas, the gangbangers'll think they're safe. I've already got Jinx hurting my rep.'

'And you're not helping mine.' Caitlyn finally lit her cigarette and offered Vi one before their row spiralled out of control. 'I know you're angry but you can't wantonly trade grudges when you're on duty. We're meant to keep the peace.'

'You keep the peace and I bust heads. Everyone's happy, right?'

'Yes but I help you with the latter.'

'I just stick to what I'm good at.'

'You're capable of so much more...' Caitlyn sank into the couch as the nicotine evened out all the little troughs in her mood. 'I'm truly sorry, Vi. I was arrogant, insensitive and presumptuous. I made a terrible mistake last night and I should have confronted it, not swept it under the rug.'

Vi ducked her eyes, feeling apprehensive as Caitlyn closed the emotional space. Even if their sparring were a drain, it had grown familiar. Anything else would break the pattern and Vi was broken enough. 'Nah… people have done worse. After hearing that phone call, I don't know what you see in me. I get you in trouble. I wind you up. Anyone else would have thrown me out by now.'

'That's their loss.' Caitlyn held Vi's hand. They had touched many times but now there was a spark. Each avoided the other's gaze as their fingers performed a slow dance, probing and offering microns of intimacy, nails, tips, palms, the tiny sensitive hairs on the backs. Caitlyn was almost numb with feeling. She had never felt so much from so little contact. Eventually, their fingers intertwined.

Vi's thoughts were a manic jumble. This was a fantasy. You found companionship through bars, dating agencies and rational, tortured negotiation. Your flame never took your hand, met your eyes and fell under the same spell. Vi was hyperventilating. She must have looked a right state, some nerd being seduced by the school prom queen. Vi, stands for virgin. She could resist Caitlyn's naked body but not her tenderness.

Caitlyn knew this was reckless but she was battle-weary, needing something other than endless conflict. She wanted love and this raw, passionate woman held it in abundance. Caitlyn lifted her head and brushed Vi's lips with her own. The touch was fearful, leagues removed from Caitlyn's first attempt. Every nerve in Vi's body came alive. She hated herself for weeping but the duelling emotions were too strong. There was need, anger at her own weakness, and despair that this was the happiest moment of her life. Maybe the future was all downhill. All Vi could do was engrave Caitlyn's slow, exploratory kiss to memory.

When Caitlyn felt tears on the end of her nose, she broke the kiss and looked with wonder. No one had reacted so strongly to her. 'Vi... I'm so sorry. Are you all right?'

'Yeah but… don't look,' said Vi, trying to laugh away her response. 'Pretend this ain't happening.'

'You are gorgeous...' Caitlyn held Vi's face and kissed her again. The air grew heady and Caitlyn had to stop before she crossed a line. 'I... I shouldn't be doing this... I don't want to hurt you... I don't want to reward your... thoughtless behaviour,' she tousled Vi's hair to show the word was meant kindly, 'but if I drive you away, you lash out harder. If I try to make amends, I can't keep my hands off you. I don't know what to do any more.' Caitlyn shook her head. 'Help me. Give me something. Make us work again because I'm doing a bloody awful job.'

Vi suspected Caitlyn did not know the answer to her next question. 'What do you want from me? Am I something to get out of your system, a chance to walk on the wild side?'

'Perhaps,' said Caitlyn frankly, 'you are most definitely in my "system". I can't think with you there.'

'Oh, it happens to us all, cupcake.' Vi grew nostalgic for her old crushes and protective of Caitlyn for enduring the same. Caitlyn read the sentiment on Vi's face and suddenly wanted to trace the curve of Vi's cheek from those misty eyes, along the tattoo of her name, to her full lips. Vi spoke boldly. 'I could... help you with that.'

Caitlyn shifted her legs onto the couch and encircled Vi's body. As Caitlyn drifted near, she glimpsed Vi's trepidation. 'If you need to stop at any time, I will take it in good grace.' Vi nodded her gratitude and pulled them close.

For a while, they made out like teenagers, exploring one another's boundaries while basking in the thrill and comfort of physical acceptance. Caitlyn lay on top of the heavier Vi. In her own heart, Caitlyn could hear an echo of Vi's dread. While Caitlyn could rationalise her first approach as animal need - Vi was irresistible with that long, powerful Amazonian body - this was lovemaking. Caitlyn was wilfully entangling more than limbs with her unruly subordinate.

Vi's caress grew more braver until she was groping beneath Caitlyn's skirt, while Caitlyn repaid the attention to Vi's exposed breasts. Their eyes met and they silently concurred to move on. Heading to the bedroom, Vi dropped her towel and they both laughed as Vi was stark naked and Caitlyn was fully dressed. It lightened the mood.

'This is hardly fair,' said Vi, pawing at Caitlyn's top.

Caitlyn escaped, grasping Vi's firm buttock in retaliation. Before Caitlyn could think of a retort, her mind went blank with lust. Vi felt even better than she looked. Finally Caitlyn said, 'It's perfectly fair,' and danced away, heaving her bust in invitation.

Truly, Caitlyn had wanted Vi to straddle her and grind them both to orgasm with those celestial hips but Vi was too sore for anything boisterous. Instead, Caitlyn lay on her back while Vi worshipped every rise and bow of Piltover's most renowned curves. If Caitlyn's thighs hadn't been in the law's armoury, Vi would have them criminalised to protect society... then confiscate them. She could gorge forever on such lavish womanhood.

When Vi's hunger reached its peak, she nestled between Caitlyn's legs and lapped with sensual expertise. It didn't take long for Caitlyn to vocally reach orgasm. She rested for a moment then resolved to go down on Vi with all the enthusiasm she could muster. Vi was grateful for the commitment but guided Caitlyn to use her hand instead.

Caitlyn was disappointed. 'You want me to get a vibe or…?'

'No, I want you inside me.' Vi moved Caitlyn's fingers towards her core.

'But my nails…'

'I believe in your trigger finger, Miss Headshot.'

Caitlyn draped her leg over Vi's and put her head in the little crook between Vi's shoulder and chest. Vi kneaded Caitlyn's hip and squeezed with approval as Caitlyn worked deeper inside.

Finally, Caitlyn pushed two fingers beyond the magic spot and Vi yelled so loud that everyone in the corridor and the flat below knew what was happening.

'Oh, Caitlyn! Fuck, yes!' Vi drove her tongue into Caitlyn's mouth with feral hunger. Caitlyn tried to maintain a strong but careful rhythm, occasionally prompting a yelp when one of her nails drove too hard. Vi released her kiss only when she was near-paralysed by imminent orgasm. Caitlyn watched as Vi's face twisted beautifully, her jaw moving and lips curling every time she tightened below.

Vi collapsed into the pillows with a big, happy sigh. For a moment, it looked as though she had fallen asleep but then she stirred and planted a kiss on Caitlyn's forehead. 'Thank you, cupcake.' This earned Vi a little grunt of appreciation as Caitlyn drew circles on Vi's labia. 'Uh… sensitive.' Caitlyn stopped her movements but didn't remove her hand. 'Hmmm.' Vi smiled. 'You trying to say that's yours now?'

'Maybe… it's nice and… a bit new. Interesting.'

'You've got one of your own.'

'Not the same,' said Caitlyn, nuzzling Vi's neck. 'I… I want you to know I like you as a woman, not a substitute for a bloke.'

'I'm not trying to recruit you for the cause.'

'You're a worrywart. I want you to feel secure.'

Vi looked at the ceiling. 'True…' she played with Caitlyn's hair, 'is this going anywhere, Cait?'

'I'm happy to do this again, if that's what you meant.'

'Okay,' said Vi, flatly.

'That's not what you meant though, is it?'

'I can... try to ignore my feelings and enjoy what I can... but I can't ignore that you're my boss.'

'You normally do.'

'Well, yeah, but... if this gets messy, you got two sticks to beat me with. If I upset you at work, you can deny me love and if I upset you in bed, you could get me sacked.'

'And you have nothing on me? I'm sleeping with a subordinate.'

'I wouldn't tell anyone, no matter how pissed I got. You know that.'

'...I know.'

'It'd be your word against mine, anyway.'

'They'd believe you, Vi.'

'No way.'

'You heard me on the phone. I've already been questioned on our relationship. I labour over the reports because I was caught out one month. They asked if I were guarding you for personal reasons.'

Vi rolled over and hugged Caitlyn. 'Sorry, I thought it was just a mean comment.'

'You don't have to apologise.' Caitlyn squeezed Vi back. 'It's not your fight.'

'It could be.'

'What would you do? Behave in public as if I'm wearing thornmail? That would raise even more eyebrows.'

Vi locked gazes with Caitlyn. 'If we were open…'

'We're not in a relationship, Vi.'

This turned Vi's plea into a growl. 'Last time I checked, I'm still your bitch.' Caitlyn pulled away. 'This is what I mean. I say something you don't like and you got a hundred ways to punish me.'

Caitlyn reasserted her embrace. 'I don't want to but you're hard to cuddle when you're all prickly.'

'It's not about what you want. Punishment just comes natural… the way fear and resentment come natural to me.'

'Fear, resentment… and also love.' Caitlyn's words disarmed Vi. 'I envy you.'

'I… guess this was better for me than you.'

'Certainly not. Look in a mirror next time you come. You won't see a more beautiful sight.'

Vi rewarded the compliment with a passionate kiss. She heard and felt some tell-tale signs when she grabbed Caitlyn's breast. Walking her hand downwards, Vi smiled when she received a nod of consent. Caitlyn relaxed as the first wave of pleasure rippled out from the leisurely strokes. Vi nibbled on Caitlyn's ear and said, 'let me know if you ain't feeling it.'

Caitlyn rolled her shoulders. 'That won't be a problem. I've worked up a lot of frustration.' Vi saw lines of discolouration where Caitlyn's rifle had left its mark. 'I know that life has hurt you in ways I will never understand. You have grown where I have stalled. That's why I envy you. I feel… pointless.'

'I get that. I had no purpose either.'

'At least hunger woke you up in the morning. I didn't even have that. I was coddled. I had no duties but my own pleasure.'

Vi grinned. 'Pleasing yourself gets old.'

'Hmmm... I agree.' Caitlyn let out a deep, ragged breath. 'I sought revenge at first… then I was hooked on the thrill of putting the world to rights. Now I want to... uh... lift people from misery, not use it for my own fulfilment.'

'Is that why...?' There was no need for Vi to finish the question.

'Yes...' said Caitlyn, 'I saw your big gauntlets and your big heart and I wanted you to have the same chances I did.' She touched Vi's face. 'I... it's easy to catch a murderer and save someone's life. Sharing it afterwards is the tough part. I wanted to do more than... uh, fire a bullet, write a report and leave the... long… hard... grind to someone else.' Vi chuckled at Caitlyn's word choice. 'Don't laugh at me when I'm baring my all.'

'Sorry, cupcake,' Vi murmured into Caitlyn's neck.

As if seeking reparations for the mockery, Caitlyn pushed Vi's hand inwards. Upon adjusting to the new sensation, Caitlyn licked her fingers and worked her own clit. 'You can... oh, that's nice... you can make up for it by... ooh...' Caitlyn arched her back. 'I don't mean to take over but I need...'

'I know how it is. Not that watching you get yourself off isn't a personal fantasy but I have got an opposable thumb and a second hand if…'

'No, I want you to... feel when I... ah... not be distracted.' Vi claimed Caitlyn's lips in gratitude and their kisses grew deeper and more frequent as Caitlyn drew nearer to orgasm. 'When I saw you... I saw someone who was lost where I was found and... strong...' Caitlyn ran her free hand up Vi's body, 'where I was... weak.' Vi was hypnotised by the small, rhythmic motions of Caitlyn's bruised shoulder. 'Someone who could... complete...' Caitlyn's mouth opened wide as a pulse rocked her body. 'Ah! I...' she couldn't bear to be coy any longer, 'I'm close! Vi, my boobs… please!'

That was one order Vi would gladly obey. She promptly ran her tongue up the underside of Caitlyn's breast and sucked on the nipple. This sent Caitlyn over the edge and she gaped like a drowning woman as she came. The fireworks ended and Vi lay on top of her. While Caitlyn recovered, she enjoyed the comforting pressure, the feel of skin on skin, the brush of Vi's hair.

Vi spoke into the pillow. 'Caitlyn, if you need me and want me… then why won't you accept me?'

'What would you have me do, Vi?' said Caitlyn. She should have been annoyed but felt reassured at Vi's plea. 'With all the scrutiny I'd endure, it could spell the end for both of us. I have enemies backward enough to use any so-called deviance against me.'

'I can't be your dirty little secret, something you can deny when it becomes a problem.' They both knew there was no painless resolution. 'You… don't have to say anything now...'

Caitlyn watched the ceiling as she pondered their troubles. She couldn't believe how much… better her apartment looked when it smelt of Vi. It resembled a home rather than a cell. 'I've been thinking...' Vi raised her head, 'that we shouldn't live alone. We're targets. Anything could happen.'

'You want me to...'

'Move in.'

Vi swallowed. The mere suggestion made her falter. Waking up to Caitlyn each morning would be heavenly. 'Do you rent or...?'

'I own.'

Vi wrinkled her nose. 'Thought you might. That just leaves me at your mercy.'

Caitlyn played with Vi's hair. 'There are things called "Tenancy agreements", you know?'

'I don't trust those things. You're better at that game than me.'

'Do you want me to propose marriage?'

Vi would never admit this for as long as she lived but, for an instant, her soul leapt at the thought of marrying Caitlyn. The most embarrassing part was that Vi imagined herself in a voluminous white dress, peering shyly at Caitlyn from behind a veil. Caitlyn would look positively dashing in a top hat and tailcoat and… oh God, the ring, Vi could see the ring. This had to stop, now. 'Huh, like I'd ever do that.'

Caitlyn heard the obligatory tone. She pecked Vi on the lips and held her close to spare her that brief moment of supposed weakness. 'No, I didn't think you were the marrying kind.'


'Then what do you want?'

Vi spoke quickly. 'I want people to know. I want people to know that I'm your woman.'

'I can't...'

'Because it's inconvenient? Because you can only love someone who's acceptable? Who won't hurt your standing or your career?'

'How can I protect you without those things?'

'It don't matter what they think. They need you… even if they won't look you in the eye. Even if they ignore you at cocktail parties, they still need you.'

'I'd... like to think that.' Caitlyn was silent for a long time. 'Vi?'


'I can't promise anything but... until I can give you an answer, I won't see anyone else and I won't turn you away.' Vi seemed torn between hope and doubt. 'You're asking a lot and I wasn't prepared for any of this.'

'Am I on my best behaviour until then?'

'No, I'd rather you were just your belligerent beautiful self.'

Vi looked searchingly into Caitlyn's eyes. Leaning in, Vi explored Caitlyn's heart with long, soft kisses, and Caitlyn replied with anxious sincerity. After learning what she could, Vi relaxed. 'Okay.'

'Good.' Caitlyn stepped out of the bed and tucked Vi into the duvet. 'Get some sleep. I've got some bridges to mend.'

Caitlyn stayed up far past midnight. Her game plan was to drink this much tea, put on this much foundation and send Vi ahead so they wouldn't arrive together. Unfortunately, Caitlyn had forgotten how hard it was to disentangle from an overly affectionate and sleepy lover. She had to give Vi the morning off, which was no real hardship. Vi was due a thirteen hour crash and the force could deal with injury and sickness.

After a dispiriting slog through rush hour traffic, Caitlyn staggered into work, late, grumpy and with conspicuously bad hair and makeup. Her face looked as though a child had splattered paint on sand. People already liked to spread rumours about her sex life. Fortunately, Vi was in the dog house after last night's rampage so no one joined the dots.

Caitlyn was briefly grateful that the rumours were only semi-accurate but then Vi showed up and ruined everything. Vi was markedly subdued and co-operative. She watched with big, sad panda eyes and would touch Caitlyn's arms and back with clear affection when they were near. The stress meant that Caitlyn got through twice the number of cigarettes. She was caught smoking on the roof by a contractor hired to fix an air-conditioning unit but she gave him a look of such pure evil that he dared not even mention it to his wife.

Things did settle down and Vi grew wilful again, though the sexual banter was absent. Caitlyn grew depressed. It was easy to find stimulation when playing games and treating Vi as a project or a vice. Relating to someone as another human being was so much harder.

They didn't have sex. Caitlyn had no idea how to initiate given her past failures and Vi was far too respectful and cagey.

One day, they were both in Caitlyn's office. Vi wouldn't even put her boots on the desk. They sat wordlessly until Caitlyn laid her hand on Vi's gauntlet. 'I miss the old Vi.'

'I'm still the same, cupcake.'

'You haven't made one inappropriate move since we slept together.'

'Why would I do that?'

'It's what you do!'

'For someone so much smarter than me, you can be really dumb.' Vi leant back in the chair. The gauntlets hit the ground with a thump. 'You're a classy, remote ice queen. I'm a trashy, two-fisted dyke. Me chatting you up and you rolling your eyes is exactly how it should go down. It's what people expect.'

'Then why stop? You seemed happier than you are now.'

'I wasn't "happy". Unrequited love for your only real friend is a bitch. It was a release valve and... I had nothing to lose. Now I can actually screw up our... whatever, I don't know where I am.'

'You don't feel that you have more to win?'

'I don't want to play games, Cait. I don't want to climb a big tower to rescue the princess who built it in the first place. It wears me out.' Vi was looking rather drawn. She hadn't been eating properly for a while, getting most her scant energy from doughnuts and beer. 'You want me to play all these roles, a pursuer, a kid, a thug... a crazy dream girl to open your birdcage.'

'I can escape my own birdcage, thank you very much.'

'In your own words, you wanted someone to "complete" you.'

Caitlyn glared. 'That's low, Vi.'

'Then I should go deaf when you fuck me? Everything we share doesn't happen?'

Caitlyn didn't know whether she was treating their affair as something to regret, or dividing her soul into neat little compartments, a perfect life and an inner life. 'No, just... don't use those moments as ammunition when we fight.'

Vi looked sheepish. 'I don't want to fight you, Caitlyn.'

'I know.' Caitlyn walked around the desk and wrapped her arms around Vi's neck. 'I just need you to be yourself, Vi. That's more than I deserve.'

Vi nestled into Caitlyn's embrace. 'This is me. I've been a rebel, a criminal, a cop... you put all that together and you get a mess.'

'A beautiful one.'

This earned Caitlyn a kiss on the cheek. 'You old rogue,' said Vi.

'Excuse me?'

'You ever come out of your closet, you'll end up one of those smooth-talking old femmes, seducing every pretty young thing that had a crush on her teacher.'

'Fine, see if I pay you another compliment.' Caitlyn chuckled. 'You stopping over tonight?'


Vi had considered finding a courtship gift, following the spirit of "more to win". However, roses would seem contrived and impersonal coming from her. They would likely die when Caitlyn neglected them. Chocolates would be met with grumbling about calories, even if Vi had no objections to more sumptuous Caitlyn. A dress? Vi had no idea where Caitlyn bought her clothes.

The more Vi thought, the more she reached the same conclusion. She misses the "old Vi". That first night, she expected me to pin her down and fuck her like an animal. For all Vi's angst about their relationship, there was nothing wrong with Caitlyn wanting that. Hell, Vi had fond memories of getting bent over in a restroom stall by a bequiffed drag king after a messy night.

One of Vi's gremlins was that she was tall, powerful and aggressive so people expected her to fill a certain role in bed, even if it stifled the breadth of her need and personality. Still, Vi could take the lead very well when needed. She could do it for Caitlyn.

So Vi climbed the stairs to Caitlyn's flat. They greeted each other as friends. Vi waited for Caitlyn to shut the door then pinned her against the wall, kissing with deep, animal ferocity. Vi drove her thigh between Caitlyn's legs. Just as Vi was doubting herself, Caitlyn's arms drifted up in acceptance.

Vi assailed Caitlyn's neck and ears with tongue, lips and teeth. 'Is this what you want?' Vi murmured. She sucked hard enough on Caitlyn's flushed skin to leave a pronounced love bite. Caitlyn moaned in ecstasy. She did not have the will to complain about the mark. 'Your dog breaking her leash and fucking your brains out? You rich whore, I bet you wanted this in the locker room or the janitor's closet, didn't you?' Vi stared directly into Caitlyn's eyes. For an instant, the spell broke. 'Is this what you want?'

Caitlyn nodded her consent then slipped into character. 'I have my pick of the finest men in the land. What could I possibly want from a filthy invert like you...? Ah!'

Vi ripped open Caitlyn's blouse, scattering buttons and thread, then unhooked the exposed bra. While kissing and kneading Caitlyn's magnificent breasts, Vi's free hand reached under Caitlyn's skirt and peeled down her underwear. 'Tell me...' said Vi, teasing Caitlyn with long, gliding strokes between her legs. Caitlyn whimpered and pushed towards Vi in frustration. 'Can any of your pen-pushing playboys do this?' Vi ducked her shoulders beneath Caitlyn's thighs.

Caitlyn gasped, retaining just enough presence of mind to bow her head before she hit the ceiling. She was giddy and helpless and then Vi was eating her out and everything turned white. Her palms flew out either side and struck the wall. Her body swayed precariously but her hips were nailed in place by Vi's weight and strength. Caitlyn was already getting close and it angered her. She wanted to control and savour this wonderful vertigo but any attempt to deny her orgasm just made it worse.

Vi showed no mercy. Expertly releasing one hand, she skirted Caitlyn's labia and perineum. Once Vi's fingers were wet — and she had received no objections to where they lingered — she thrust two digits into Caitlyn's sheath and one into her butt. Caitlyn screamed. Her muscles clenched so hard with pleasure she thought something would tear. After Caitlyn rode the last few aftershocks, Vi safely lowered her treasure to the floor. Caitlyn lunged, wrapping her arms around Vi's waist. 'Oh Vi,' Caitlyn said into Vi's abdomen. 'You are good. You are so, so good...'

Vi played with Caitlyn's hair. It was nice just being held. Vi really wanted another kiss but before she could say, Caitlyn grabbed Vi's hips and lavished attention on the fabric of her pants. Vi didn't have the heart to quibble as Caitlyn popped the button, zip and exposed Vi's underwear. Because Vi hadn't removed her boots, she couldn't kick off the garments bunched around her ankles. Feeling a bit ridiculous, she twisted around and leant back into the wall before she toppled over. Vi's brain tied itself in a Gordian knot when Caitlyn began using her teeth to remove Vi's underwear. Vi didn't know whether to laugh at Caitlyn's amateur enthusiasm or be madly aroused that this classy, righteous beauty was getting down so readily.

Caitlyn directly assaulted Vi's clitoris with speed and force, causing Vi to yelp and twitch. Vi had never really enjoyed oral as the main course. She was extremely sensitive and could come very quickly but it was like eating raw sugar instead of candy, sweet, but not so pleasant that she would actively do it. Also, Vi couldn't open her legs as far as she would like. After getting too much negative feedback, Caitlyn looked up with concern. Vi came over all fluttery. That aristocratic pout could look so soft and… "maternal"? There had to be a better word.

'Caitlyn, babe…' a realisation hit Vi. Last time, Caitlyn had dived at the first opportunity. She must really want to do this. Vi thought to herself as she stroked Caitlyn's hair. She's keen to flatter what's between my legs. I don't know if she's trying to convince me or herself but… either way, I should let her set the pace, find her own level. 'You're doing swell, just slow down and work everything, not just my clit, all right?'

'I understand,' said Caitlyn. 'I feel good doing this. I want you to feel the same.'

'I know, cupcake.' At that moment, Vi would have agreed to anything. Caitlyn was a bit ham-fisted, not terribly good at setting the mood or pleasing a woman but she was so eager. It was unbearably sweet. 'If you do what I say then it will help, okay?' Caitlyn nodded and drifted back in. Caitlyn's tongue slowly lapped. Oh, thought Vi, she is being gentle. This is nice. Vi's hand followed the tiny movements of Caitlyn's jaw. 'That's awesome, just that speed. I'm going to melt.' Vi wasn't being driven anywhere, she was just floating, floating, floating...

Vi yelled and bucked off the wall. She had forgotten how... savagely and quickly she came from such direct attention. It nearly hurt. With her feet locked together, she couldn't keep her balance and engulfed Caitlyn in a massive bear hug. Caitlyn laughed as she rubbed Vi's back. 'Ooh, my big, clumsy, sexy Vi.' Despite the unbecoming terms, Vi's brain had so far gone that she could not object. All she could do was sigh with contentment and mumble stupidly in Caitlyn's arms. 'You're so cute with your pants around your ankles.'


Vi dozed happily in Caitlyn's lap. They had both showered and Vi was wearing a sparkling white bathrobe that Caitlyn had bought especially. Vi had helped herself to Caitlyn's makeup despite having nowhere to go. It was simple curiosity. Vi wanted to know more about Caitlyn, her taste, her routine.

Caitlyn was absently leafing through some dossiers when Vi stirred. Putting aside her work, Caitlyn smiled, grateful for the distraction. 'You still there, sleepyhead?'


'Thank you for tonight. I appreciate the effort.'

'Yeah,' said Vi. 'Thought I should forget my cares and step up.' She brushed the sleep from her eyes and rolled onto her back. 'I don't blame anyone for knowing their limits too late… but props for not being one of those curious women who won't go down.'

'I fear I enjoyed that more than you.'

'It was fun, cupcake. I'm not keeping score. You really don't have to try so hard.'

'Do you think I'm overcompensating for my straight history?'

'No,' said Vi, 'if anything, it's for being secret... hell, according to you, we're not even that… so you're paying me off with intimacy… like this bathrobe.'

Caitlyn was about to reprimand Vi for spoiling the mood but her expression was too endearing. Vi had such pretty, waifish looks. Those big eyes and pout made her seem vulnerable without the context of her body. And there was that tattoo, the Roman numeral that suggested many possible pasts, few of them pleasant. Vi had joked about her police number matching but any suggestion that her name was "Six" and not "Vi" was met with cold, ugly rage.

Caitlyn cupped Vi's face. 'I'm sorry. You're not the only mess. I thought I knew who I was and where I was going until I met you.'

'I could say the same. Like, I was in a bad place before but at least it was a place. I don't know... where this is...'

'Nowhere,' said Caitlyn, 'the void?'

'It ain't that bad.'

'At least we have each other.'

'Yeah,' Vi smacked her lips. 'I could do with a smoke.'

'Me too,' Caitlyn tapped Vi's nose. 'I fear we may encourage each other's worst habits.'

'If you have a worse habit than me, it's over.'

Caitlyn laughed and went for her handbag. As she fished about for her cigarettes, the phone rang. She looked daggers at the number and answered curtly. Her grumpiness blossomed into resolve. 'On my way. Stay calm. Don't let her bait you.'

By the time Caitlyn hung up, Vi was already getting dressed. 'Jinx,' she growled.

It ended how it always did. The building, a dense tenement-cum-market full of independent traders, was barely rubble. Jinx tore a smoking gash in the night sky as she made her escape. This had been another blow against Vi. The market had been one of her favourite haunts throughout her dog days. In particular, there was a café and a clothes store. Both had offered respite and acceptance in a hostile world. Now they were gone.

Caitlyn was in the middle of it all, directing her officers to keep roads clear for the paramedics and fire-fighters. Just as she was starting to worry, Vi came limping through the dust, gauntlets folded across her chest and head hung low. After losing Jinx for the umpteenth time, it was no wonder that Vi looked miserable. Caitlyn wished that Vi could go a week without some injury. In the future, Vi's ageing body would remember all of the abuse. Caitlyn made a mental note. No matter what comes, you will be there for her. At this rate, she won't survive on her own.

When Vi drew near, she didn't just seem upset but utterly distraught. She knelt and released three children, one yordle and two humans. 'I...' she sniffed, 'there were more. I saw them... I could only save...' her words were lost in a fit of coughing. The smoke and dust were enough to kill.

Caitlyn recalled their first meeting. Before that night, she had only known Vi through reputation. Most of the footage had been clear enough to show only the broadest strokes, pink hair, tall, strong. Witness reports disagreed about her face, age and manner.

So when word arrived that the legendary Vi was in custody after sacrificing her freedom for another's life, Caitlyn rushed to attend. She arrived at the cell and asked the reluctant duty officer to leave.

The footage undersold Vi's raw presence. The hair was very pink and Vi was oppressively tall, even when accounting for those incongruously dainty heels. She had been staring at the far wall but turned upon hearing the clunk and creak of the cell door. Vi's face was blood-stained and dirty but it could not hide her youth. She must have begun her "career" at an early age.

Vi's gaze lifted from the floor and took in Caitlyn's body. Caitlyn felt her whole being tense, those eyes! Caitlyn had never known eyes with such human intensity. There was rage, lust, pain, the world in those eyes. And when Vi parted her lips, they snarled, pouted, caught on her teeth, always moving… conveying thoughts, life... an invitation.

Vi finally spoke. 'You shouldn't come on your own, cupcake.' The accent contained as much precocious brat as gutter snipe. With her engineering flair, a pinch of geeky sarcasm was only fitting. 'I could do anything to you.'

There was underclass fury in those words, a threat to topple Caitlyn and degrade her. They were half a pace and a mountain apart. Caitlyn excelled at holding her nerve in close-quarters but this was... different. Usually, the hard part was keeping eye-contact. Right now, she could not break it. 'You could,' she said, 'but you won't.'

'You think I'm scared?'

'Not of me,' said Caitlyn softly, 'but yes... I think you are. It's a dangerous world out there. I'm scared... and you've seen more than me.'

Something broke in Vi's expression and Caitlyn could see loneliness, paranoia... and a frantic hope that someone understood.

From then on, Vi's future was sealed. Caitlyn had many valid reasons for offering Vi work but they were irrelevant. The simple truth was that Caitlyn could not bear to glimpse that face and never see it again, not learn every configuration and hidden emotion, not know every line and scar that time would etch upon Vi's skin. There was more truth in this coarse garnet than in all the pearls of Caitlyn's wealth. Vi spoke and Caitlyn soared at the revelation of more Vi. 'Huh... I bet.'

Caitlyn offered her hand. 'I'm Caitlyn, Sheriff of Piltover, pleased to make your acquaintance.'

Vi smirked at the formality. 'I know who you are.' She twisted the handshake into a strong thumb-breaker. 'I'm Vi, buster of heads.'

'Charmed. If I may be so bold, what does Vi stand for?'

'Vi? Stands for...'

Virtuous... vivacious... vital.

Caitlyn needed this woman, this hungry, lonesome, courageous wolf. Reputation be damned.

Once the children were whisked away, Caitlyn helped Vi to stand. Vi was spluttering quite badly and eyeliner ran down her cheeks. Caitlyn licked her thumb and wiped away the streaks. 'You really are Piltover's finest,' she said.

Vi brightened, relishing the feel of Caitlyn's saliva. 'Tell me something I don't know.'

Everyone was watching. Caitlyn was always the centre of attention and Vi's dramatic rescue had intensified the scrutiny. No doubt their overt familiarity was already feeding the rumour mill. A few lenses caught the moment that Caitlyn's wet thumb touched Vi's face. Caitlyn gathered her courage. It was time to put this to rest.

Caitlyn stood on her tiptoes and kissed Vi on the lips, a simple gesture, no different from a married couple parting for work in the morning. 'I love you,' said Caitlyn. Vi gawked in stunned silence, an expression shared by the gathered crowd. Caitlyn gulped. There was no going back from this. 'You should...' Caitlyn was starting to go faint with the realisation, 'find an ambulance. I'll... handle things from here.'

Vi just had the presence of mind to support Caitlyn's body weight. 'I can set my own broken leg! I'm not leaving you to...'

'No! I...' Caitlyn was gasping as if she were the one with smoke in her lungs, 'I'm not confessing what I've always felt just so you can... drop dead! If you love me, you'll find an ambulance and get some oxygen!'

Vi was feeling sick, battered and drowsy, ready to collapse even without the confession turning windmills in her mind. However, the desperation in Caitlyn's voice gave Vi strength. 'Okay,' said Vi. They needed unity. She had to work with Caitlyn, not against her. Just to confirm that this was real, Vi returned Caitlyn's kiss. It was gratefully received. 'I love you too.'

As Vi limped away, all eyes were on Caitlyn, standing alone amidst the wreckage. She was the celebrity. Few regarded Vi as anything but a dangerous sideshow. Vi could defend Caitlyn physically but not socially. It hurt.

So Vi resolved to do what she could. She would find a medic, stay alive and be with Caitlyn at the first opportunity. The crowds parted as Vi passed. Few dared to look at her.

Caitlyn's advice had been prudent. Vi had hobbled away only to collapse thirty yards from the nearest medic. Fortunately, she awoke without complication in the hospital and checked herself out at dawn, helping herself to a pair of crutches to support her fractured leg. She caught a ride to the cop shop, knowing that Caitlyn often spent twenty-four hours just processing the Jinx fallout. Vi stormed into the lobby, scattering colleagues who were likely gossiping.

'Hey! Turns out the pink rebel was fucking the boss all along!'

Vi bounced the heckler off the wall. He might not walk for a while but cops that stupid were a liability.

In the sheriff's office, Caitlyn was sprawled over the desk, her tangled, dust-clogged hair spread out like a mop. Vi dragged a chair to Caitlyn's side and held her tight, laying kisses on her head. Caitlyn's eyes were dark and furrowed. Though Vi hated herself for thinking it, Caitlyn was rarely more beautiful than when under duress.

Caitlyn fell into Vi's arms. 'I'm so glad you're here.'

'How's it been?'

'Murder.' Caitlyn sat up and tried to fix her hair. 'Apparently, I'm "irresponsible", "dishonest", "immature", "questionable"...'

'Just give me their names and I'll...'

'No, Vi,' Caitlyn smiled wearily, 'that's very sweet but... they're right, you know? I've been lying to people and... I get to pay the price. My job's on the line. I hope the flurry will settle down and the threats grow less dramatic but it looks bad.'

'You didn't lie. They've no right to say that!'

'Vi...' Caitlyn covered her face. 'I've been lying from the start... to myself, to you...'


'I felt something the moment I laid eyes on you, Vi. I just... didn't know what it was.'


'I did say!' Caitlyn had to laugh. Vi looked like a guppy fish. 'Even if that weren't the case, it doesn't change the fact that I denied personal involvement one week and declared my love the next. It looks bad, Vi.'

'I'm pissed, cupcake. You've done so much for them and now they turn on you because you took a chance on a reject like me.'

'I can't prove my worth if they don't trust my reports, and relationships at work can lead to harassment, abuse, corruption... you said yourself that I'd have two sticks to beat you with.' Vi looked glum at being proved right. 'I wouldn't change a thing, Vi, but I've got a real bout on my hands.'

'I should have guessed no one would approve of me. If I really cared I should have talked you out of...'

'Hush!' Caitlyn fiercely kissed Vi. 'Don't say that. You'd be surprised. Some people are delighted.'


'My parents?'

'You're kidding.'

'They stay glued to the news coverage when there's an incident. They can't sleep if I'm in danger,' said Caitlyn, 'They knew all along, of course. Apparently, you're all I talk about. Mother said that I'd always been a distant child...' Caitlyn's voice broke with regret, 'and that she never really knew me until I found you.' She could feel herself growing red. 'They keep newspaper clippings and there's a picture of us both. Apparently, you have 'soulful eyes' and you're a big bear that will protect me from harm.'


Caitlyn giggled. 'That's not the best part. She's going to research, day and night, so you can be a "wonderful mother" to her grandchildren.'

'Yeah?' Vi would not be ruffled by the teasing. 'Bring it on. I'm not scared of a little pain.' She threw back her head. 'You'd better knock me up quick if you want the energy to deal with my kids.'

'I'll tell her you can't wait.' Caitlyn hugged Vi. 'Also, and this is a big help, Jayce has offered his full support.'

'For all his bull, he's a stand-up guy. Wasn't sure if he'd put his image first. Even then he wouldn't diss you in public.'

'Jayce would never be caught on the wrong side of history. It's not his style,' Caitlyn wagged her finger. 'Just to warn you, he most certainly plans to take you aside and lecture you on how to treat a woman... and you are going to play along because we need his influence.'

'Ain't it you who needs bringing up to speed?'

'Feel free to take notes. I may read them if they're legible.'

Vi grinned. After all the stress and shock, the simple joy of being with Caitlyn filled her heart. This felt right. It felt possible. 'You need anything, cupcake?'

'Hmm… you could get out there and do all the audits so I know what's going on outside my office. You know how the clocking machine works?'

'Sort of. I can wing it.'

'Just don't wreck it.' Caitlyn offered a key-ring. Her hand was shaking a little. 'I'd also be grateful if you can sort out lunch. I'll finish up at about twelve.'

'No probs...' Vi took the key-ring, 'are these?'

'The keys to my flat. Treat it as your own.' Caitlyn looked shy. 'I'm not asking you to move in. I just want you to know that... you'll always have somewhere. No matter what happens.'

Vi wept openly. She threw her arms around Caitlyn. 'You... you can't promise that. No one can promise that!'

'I can.'

Even if Vi could not believe, she wanted to... and that was enough.