The sunlight streaming through the drapes and falling down on her eyelids wakes her up. She turns her face and rubs her eyes with her hands, then half opens them. She looks at her surroundings and dawns on the weight on her waist.
It’s a strange feeling.
A part of her thinks she will never get used to this. To this bed of immaculate sheets, with feather pillows and the most comfortable mattress her body has ever touched. To this grand room, three times the size of the room she once shared with Claggor, Mylo, and… Powder. To the sun in the mornings, to the stars and the moon at night. To the sound of birds chirping when waking up, to the silence at nighttime. To the warmth of Caitlyn’s body against hers, surrounding hers, protecting.
The other part, though, has already gotten used to this. It’s the part that doesn't believe she could ever go back, leaving these comforts behind —living without Caitlyn.
It’s a strange feeling because she doesn’t know how to feel about it.
Caitlyn’s arm on her waist moves, letting Vi know that she’s waking up. Vi turns around to watch her slowly blink awake. Her half-lidded blue eyes focus on Vi’s, and cracks a little smile.
“Good morning,” Caitlyn murmurs, sleepily.
“...mornin’,” Vi says breathily, voice raspy.
Caitlyn’s smile widens and closes her eyes, burrowing her face against the pillow. The image is so adorable that Vi wishes she could burn it into her memory forever. The sun rays, brighter now, lazily rest over them, stealing bluish highlights from Caitlyn’s dark hair, and illuminating her sharp features, softening them. Her pale skin, golden.
If Vi had to see only one thing for the rest of her life, it would be Caitlyn like this: Just waking up with a sleepy carefree smile, the early morning light highlighting her beauty.
Then Caitlyn opens up one of her eyes, much more awake, and Vi thinks this is the missing piece to the previous image. Those blue eyes, just as deep as the ocean, in which she could easily lose herself with no resistance.
Vi reaches out her hand and, carefully, brushes dark strands of hair behind one of Caitlyn’s ears. Gently runs the hair behind her ear, down along the edge of her jaw to stop at her chin. Caitlyn hasn’t stopped smiling and Vi hasn’t stopped looking into her eyes.
It’s these minutes, brief and precious minutes, that Vi treasures the most. The minutes before the cold shower of reality decides to pour over them, reminding them who and where they are, how they met, what they’ve lived, and what they must do.
Caitlyn’s smile falters and Vi knows that this golden moment has come to an end.
“Are you okay?” Caitlyn whispers, her brows slightly furrowing in concern.
She brings her hand to Vi’s face to caress her cheek with her fingers, the same gesture from some days ago, in that same bed, in a situation that’s just as different as the same. Her fingertips over her skin, already familiar to the touch, cause flutters inside her.
“Dunno,” Vi answers, also whispering. “You?”
The bags under Caitlyn’s eyes are enough to know that despite sleeping, she isn’t resting, not fully.
‘At least we’re sleeping,’ Vi thinks. Took them three days to understand that sleep comes easier if they are together, hugging or snuggling, close enough to feel each other’s heartbeats or hear each other’s breathing. Nightmares continue to haunt them, but are more bearable with company.
Caitlyn gets closer, resting her forehead on Vi’s, closing her eyes, and releasing a sigh. Vi closes hers, senses amplified.
“I don’t know either.”
Vi hugs Caitlyn, pressing herself against the woman, their legs intertwining. Even with her eyes closed, Vi can see the light with more intensity, illuminating the room, reminding them that soon they will have to get up and start the day.
Caitlyn accommodates, burrowing her face in Vi’s neck, her breathing warm and eyelashes tickling Vi’s skin. It’s almost imperceptible, but Caitlyn’s body shakes in what Vi knows is a half sob. She knows the reason behind it too.
She squeezes her arm tighter, holding Caitlyn, letting her cry before having to get up, before having to take their designated roles, the ones that don't allow them to appear weak or fragile.
With the sun high up in the sky, they pull away and get out of bed.
The hardest part was picking her up. Her body, dead weight. Either adrenaline or guilt helped Vi carry her, one of Caitlyn’s arms over her shoulders, one of her own arms holding her up by the waist.
She doesn’t know how she managed to reach and cross the bridge with the other woman’s weight on her. The streets of Piltover were empty and the silence was deafening. She looked up. Her chest tightened with the image of the smoke contrasting against the sky, fouling the air, rising up from the Council’s tower.
She swallowed, looked down, and continued on her way. She had to take Caitlyn home, had to try to heal her wounds, to make up for the shit that she put her through, for the shit that was sure to come…
Remembering where to make a turn and recognizing the corners and mansions, they arrived after endless minutes at the Kiramman residence. The red moon, bigger, as if mocking the city, was starting to disappear. Night was coming to an end.
As soon as they reached the entrance, the gates moved, opening the way and welcoming them with a metallic screech. Using the last bit of energy left, she dragged them to the front door. Someone, an older woman—perhaps a maid—ushered them in, and helped Vi carry Caitlyn.
As they went up the stairs, making their way towards Caitlyn’s room, Vi dared to look at her for the first time since they left the cannery. Bright pink paint against the pale skin of her face. Her face, expressionless, clashed with her eyes full of bewilderment, fear, concern, and so many other emotions whose names Vi didn’t know.
Without speaking, when they got to the door to the room, the maid looked questioningly at Vi.
“Thanks,” Vi said. Voice weak, broken. “I can take it from-”
The maid shook her head, cutting her off. She opened the door and helped Vi move Caitlyn onto her bed. Once the tall woman was lying in bed and sure she wouldn’t fall off, the maid took Vi by the elbow and pulled her aside.
“Mrs. and Mr. Kiramman- they…” she murmured. She had cried. Her eyes were red and, at closer range, the traces of dried tears were evident.
“They?” Vi repeated, her heart tight.
She had thought that only… only Mrs. Kiramman… but the two of them?
“What happened?” She asked, grabbing the older woman by the shoulder with more strength than she had meant to. The maid made a face but didn’t complain.
“At the hospital,” she said with a small voice, her eyes watering. “I don’t know if they are still alive.”
Shocked, Vi thanked her, and told her to rest, that if she needed to go see someone, to do so. Nobody knew what was going to happen and family comes first.
Watching the maid leave the room, her own words echoed in Vi’s mind.
Family comes first.
A groan behind her caught her attention. She ran towards Caitlyn and kneeled beside the bed. The sun, breaking the last vestiges of darkness, peeked out, spilling everywhere. Another celestial body mocking the attacked city.
The dark-haired woman lay as they had left her, her eyes opened. Vi cupped Caitlyn’s face with both hands, caressing her icy skin with her thumbs, trying to warm it with her touch.
“Cait,” Vi sighed. “Stay awake, please? I’m- I’m gonna check if you have wounds, okay? I’ll have to take this off. And- and then-”
“Are they dead?” Caitlyn asked, cutting Vi’s mumbling off.
The sound of her voice torn with pain was devastating. Still, her eyes were steady and fixed on Vi’s, ready for the worst news.
Vi shook her head slowly, pressing her lips together and fighting back the tears she had no right to shed.
“I don’t know.”
They have a routine in the mornings.
If it weren’t for Caitlyn, Vi wouldn’t know how many things a person can do after waking up and before breakfast. Caitlyn, so sweet and patient with Vi, teaches her all the steps that she follows. From taking a shower, applying products on her skin and face, stretching to prepare for the long day, to choosing clothes according to the weather and plans.
Vi imitates Caitlyn. She joins her in the shower, the aroma of Caitlyn’s products mixing with hers. She lets Caitlyn apply creams to her face while Vi asks what they are and what they’re for, so she can enjoy hearing Caitlyn talk in her teacher’s voice, answering as gently as possible, as if they were important questions.
“This will help your wounds scar better. This is to avoid wrinkles. This, to erase skin blemishes. This one…”
Vi allows Caitlyn to send her clothes for cleaning and helps her to get dressed if there’s a zipper out of reach or a button in an uncomfortable place.
And then, they have breakfast. The mansion’s huge dining room seems even bigger without the Kirammans. Spacious and empty, too silent. So Vi, every morning, tries to strike up a conversation, something, anything to try to make Caitlyn smile and, maybe, catch a glimpse of her tooth gap.
“Vi, the cereal is not going to run away if you eat slower,” Caitlyn chides her fondly, staring at her devouring her breakfast.
Vi stops her movements. Looks up and smiles with her cheeks full of milk and cereal. Caitlyn laughs, shaking her head, and nice flutters tickle Vi’s gut, who swallows with difficulty.
She also likes these moments before going to the precinct or the Council, before visiting the hospital, or venturing out to the undercity. They are short, more fleeting than when Caitlyn lies on bed next to her, completely at ease. But they are moments she treasures in her memory nonetheless, moments she does not want to forget and that she constantly thinks about.
So many moments.
Caitlyn helping her wash her hair. Caitlyn leaning over, her face close to Vi’s, delicately spreading her creams and products on her face. Caitlyn brushing aside her dark hair that falls down her back to allow Vi close the zipper. Caitlyn sitting next to Vi, reading the newspaper with a cup of tea in her hand, her pinky finger slightly extended.
Caitlyn and her bright blue eyes locked on her gray ones, and Vi wonders what the hell she did to deserve this.
She thinks that no, she doesn’t deserve it, that she only had absurd luck. And so she fears that her luck will run out, that, like the rest of the people close to her heart, Caitlyn will also leave her life, wrecking her soul, leaving an empty hole behind.
She blinks, back to earth.
“If you don’t eat that quickly, I assure you it’ll disappear,” Vi replies teasingly, pointing at Caitlyn’s eggs, trying to ignore her intrusive thoughts.
Caitlyn huffs, amused, rolling her eyes and gets her attention back on the newspaper.
Vi hadn’t felt real embarrassment until she found herself stripping naked sharing the same air as Caitlyn.
She didn’t dare to ask what happened between her and Pow- Jinx before the dinner party, but she could get an idea. She knew Jinx had kidnapped Caitlyn. If her assumptions were correct, it had been in the bathroom. And judging by how Caitlyn trembled every time she heard Jinx’s name, her sister had…
That was when she decided not to think about it anymore if she didn’t want to go crazy.
Caitlyn, Vi didn’t want to know why—even though she couldn’t quite stop her imagination—, couldn’t go to the bathroom alone. Vi realized this when the other woman spent the whole next day after the attack holding it, stubbornly stating that she didn’t need to go, that she was fine, until it was evident that she did need to go and she was far from feeling fine.
At Vi’s insistence, late at night, Caitlyn mumbled brokenly.
“I- I can’t.”
Vi blinked, surprised. Caitlyn was sitting on the edge of the bed, hugging herself, her thumbs drumming nervously against her arms.
“You can’t… go into the bathroom?”
The silence that followed was all the answer she needed. Vi walked over to Caitlyn and sat down next to her. She didn’t know what to say, too afraid to know the reason.
“C- Could you come with me?” Caitlyn whispered, avoiding her gaze.
Vi took a few moments to understand what she was asking.
“You mean inside the bathroom?” Vi asked.
Caitlyn bit her lip and looked down to the ground, frowning.
“Nothing, don’t worry about it,” she said, shaking her head. “It was a stupid idea, I-”
Vi’s heart skipped a beat.
“I can do it,” Vi cut her off. “I don’t mind. For seven years I shared bathrooms with no doors with very dangerous people.” Seeing the pity in Caitlyn’s eyes, she added, “A cupcake like you isn’t a problem for me.”
So, she sat down at the edge of the tub, turning her back to Caitlyn for privacy, focused on her thoughts and brooding over her concerns, never predicting that Caitlyn would ask for more later.
Vi had been naked with a mixed gang of criminals under the cold water in the open shared showers and she had never been so embarrassed as when a blushing Caitlyn asked her if she could join her in the shower.
Although Vi had many reasons to say yes (such as that she would do anything for Caitlyn if it was to make up for how everything bad that had happened to her because of Vi, and for other less innocent reasons), it was the unsolved question of how Jinx found Caitlyn that made her accept. It felt like a debt to be paid.
Controlling her breathing, feeling her heart race and her skin burn, Vi removed layers of clothing, watching out of the corner of her eye how Caitlyn, who had her back to Vi, shed hers. When she caught a glimpse of skin on Caitlyn’s lower body, she looked away. She cursed herself and her stupid blush. She shouldn't think of Caitlyn that way. They were… were… what were they?
Caitlyn cleared her throat, drawing her attention. Vi, completely undressed, turned to the woman, not daring to look up.
She thought she could hear Caitlyn swallow.
“I’m going to… turn on the faucet,” Caitlyn said, voice high. “Do you prefer hot or cold water?”
Vi had only had hot water in foods or drinks. Washing with it was a luxury far from her possibilities.
“Whichever you want, Cupcake.”
Caitlyn nodded and went back to the shower. The bath soon filled with steam and the air grew hot. Hot water it was, then.
“You can come if- if you want.” Caitlyn’s voice was still high.
Vi dared to look up. Caitlyn was getting into the shower, the water falling from a good height, like rain. She felt her breath catch in her throat at the image. The woman in front of her seemed to have been delicately carved by the most talented angels. Vi wasn’t blind and she had quickly noticed that, in addition to being tall, Caitlyn had pronounced but not exaggerated curves, and legs for days.
She had to remind herself that she was there to keep Caitlyn company, to help her with her fear of being alone in the bathroom. She walked over the shower and got in, careful not to slip. From closer, it was even harder to keep her breathing normal. Caitlyn had her back to her, her dark and wet hair stuck to her skin. The water droplets slid down easily, running down her curves as if taunting Vi.
Her hands shook with the urge to touch Caitlyn, but she held herself back. They barely knew each other. How long since Caitlyn got her out of Stillwater? Four, five days? And they spent three of them running through the undercity. They hadn’t even kissed, not like that was going to happen. What right did Vi have to touch Caitlyn like that, to find herself in such an intimate situation with her?
“Can you help me?” Caitlyn interrupted her thoughts, holding out her hand and offering the soap.
Vi took it without question. Caitlyn, with both hands, took her hair and brushed it aside, revealing her back.
“You don’t know how to wash your own back?” Vi teased, trying to hide her nervousness.
“I do, I just prefer someone else to do it.”
Vi took a step, coming only a few centimeters from Caitlyn’s body. This is something the taller woman has done before. And it isn’t Vi’s first time either, it’s just that she’s pretty sure the situations were different. Vi had to bathe her sister and other kids from the undercity, doing the impossible to remove the stains and dirt that only a toxic place like that could cause. Caitlyn, on the other hand, surely had done this with a lucky woman, as a prelude or end to some encounter.
Slowly, Vi moved her hand with the soap to Caitlyn’s back. She stopped her movements for a second the moment she made contact, but forced herself to continue, pushing any lewd thoughts away, focusing on how the woman’s muscles relaxed under her touch. She placed her free hand on Caitlyn’s waist, her thumb, every now and then, involuntarily moving and caressing her skin.
Although Vi had already cleaned Caitlyn’s wounds, some blood had remained. Looking down to the ground, she watched the little bit of blood mix with the hot water and remembered what she said to Caitlyn after storming out of their meeting with the Council.
Oil and water.
Oil and blood.
Once she was done—the water finally ran clear—, Caitlyn asked her if she would let her wash Vi’s hair. Unable to deny her anything, her face burning, Vi nodded and turned her back to Caitlyn, allowing the woman to run her hands and fingers through her pink hair, massaging her scalp, lathering the shampoo all over her head. It felt so good that Vi thought she might fall asleep like that, standing up, surrounded by steam, with Caitlyn behind her and her ministrations focused on washing her hair.
Even after getting out of the shower, drying off, and dressing in silence, Vi couldn’t stop thinking about Caitlyn’s hands, her touch and her caressing. About her back and all over her body. Or her scent and gentleness.
Vi wasn’t that dense. She knew that what she felt for Caitlyn was reciprocated. That this absurd and immediate attraction wasn’t one-sided. But she didn’t dare to do anything with it. She was afraid of crossing one more unforgivable line. After all, Vi was the one responsible for ruining Caitlyn’s life. If Caitlyn kept inviting her to stay at her mansion, was it because… because of Jinx? So she could, in the least expected moment, use Vi to stop her sister? To get revenge? To give her hope and then break her heart?
She didn’t know.
So Vi decided not to take that step, not to cross that line, no matter how many showers she had to endure, even after so many almost unbearable ones.
Vi wonders what would have happened to Piltover if it wasn’t for Medarda’s shield as she walks with Caitlyn through the hospital corridors.
They are so close to each other that the palms of their hands touch. Aware of her movements, Vi tries to make these accidents more frequent, bringing her hand closer to Caitlyn’s.
Then, out of the corner of her eye, she sees Caitlyn confidently move her arm and take Vi’s hand, lacing their fingers together. With a squeeze, she looks up, searching for Vi’s eyes, who doesn’t take a moment to look back at Caitlyn.
Blue and gray, and the flutter in her stomach comes back, wreaking havoc inside her.
But she remembers where they are and why they are here. Caitlyn’s parents. They are not dead. However, the situation is still serious, very serious, enough so that, although their lives aren’t in danger, their quality of life will considerably deteriorate. If things had been different, if Mrs. Kiramman hadn’t been in the Council when the attack happened, if Mr. Kiramman hadn’t been in the surrounding area of the Council when the missile hit…
Vi and Caitlyn are here to stay up to date on the progress of their recovery, to try to find them conscious and be able to talk to them. Or more like, for Caitlyn to find them awake for a chat. Vi is just here for the ride.
She’s so caught up in autopilot mode that she barely hears Caitlyn talking with the lady at the front desk. Indications are unnecessary. They know exactly where to go. And yet Caitlyn listens to the receptionist like it’s her first time here. So sweet. Only, unlike her first time here, she now talks calmly and shows off her courteous manners. No screaming or crying.
After they let them through, they make their way through the well-traversed corridors to the room where the Kirammans are. Inside, the doctor on duty is waiting.
With one last squeeze before entering, Caitlyn lets go of Vi’s hand. Vi stares at the door for a few seconds and then leans against the wall to the side, throwing her head back and exhaling. She puts her hands in her pockets and balls them into fists.
She shouldn’t be here. She finds it hard to comprehend why Caitlyn brings her to the hospital when Vi’s sister is the person who hurt Caitlyn’s parents, who’s sent them to those stretchers. She would never dare decline Caitlyn’s invitations, which sound more like begging, but she still doesn’t understand the woman.
While she waits, she listens to the hospital sounds. It’s a bit sickening. Doctors, nurses, auxiliaries and other service personnel go from one place to another. The sound of their steps blend with the sound of people crying or complaining in the background. Vi can compare the first days with this one. At least today, every now and then, laughter or a normal conversation can be heard. Things, slowly, go back to normal, moving forward despite the tragedy.
This doesn’t make Vi feel any better. Caitlyn is still inside the room behind her, on the other side of the wall, and the Kirammans are still in grave danger.
Things may continue to return to normal, but her life has never been and, now, Caitlyn’s isn’t either.
Vi allows herself to think about the other Council members, those that didn’t survive, or the people who, like Mr. Kiramman, had the misfortune to find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. She hates herself enough to let those intrusive thoughts haunt her even during the day.
A little girl—maybe around seven years old—passes in front of her hand in hand with a man, probably her father. The little girl looks at Vi curiously and smiles at her in greeting. Vi instinctively smiles back with a nod. The girl smiles more, showing her teeth, and looks away from Vi, continuing on her way. Her braids, that barely touch her shoulders, sway to the rhythm of her footsteps.
She couldn’t look less like Powder but she reminds Vi of her. She reminds her of her little sister, with wide and innocent eyes, an easy and loud laugh, enviable creativity, and wit. So small that it makes you want to hug her and protect her from anything that could hurt her. That was the promise that Vi had made to herself: don’t let Powder get hurt.
That’s the promise that pains her the most to have broken.
Powder’s pink eyes—Jinx’s—haunt her dreams, her nightmares. Sometimes, even during the day, in the silence and solitary moments when her mind doesn’t have anywhere else to go.
Vi still can’t fathom how damaged her sister is and that terrifies her.
Sheesh, I’m not that crazy.
But she believed the impossible. She had thought that her sister had…
The minutes tick by, dragging, and Vi feels the air too heavy, overwhelming. The need to get out of there becomes unbearable.
With one last glance at the door to the Kiramman’s room, she pushes herself away and strides to the hospital exit, barely looking where she’s going.
Caitlyn will understand. She always does. Although she shouldn’t.
Jinx, Jinx, Jinx, where are you? What are you doing? Are you okay? A stupid question. Will I be able to take you back? Will you ever forgive me? Do you still love me like I love you? A heartbreaking one.
How she wishes Caitlyn was her only concern, the only thing on her mind. Caitlyn’s voice, her eyes, her touch, her gentleness, her thirst for justice, her enthusiasm translated into hands moving when she recounts something she’s excited about or her frown when something bothers her, or her blush when Vi dares to say something suggestive.
However, before being Caitlyn’s… whatever she is to Caitlyn, Vi is a sister.
Pulling up her hood and stuffing her clenched fists in her pockets, she heads for the undercity.
The bathroom floor was as cold as the salve Caitlyn was applying to her. Her whole face ached horribly and, as much as she didn’t like the humiliating position in which she found herself in, Vi had to admit that whatever Caitlyn was doing, it was working.
Caitlyn pressed a little harder on a wound in her cheek and Vi winced.
“Why did you go alone? You didn’t even warn me,” Caitlyn said, her voice full of worry and anger.
Her frown was adorable to Vi. But it wasn’t the moment to think about that.
“Would you have let me go if I’d told you before?” Vi replied, biting back a groan when Caitlyn shifted her attention to another injury.
“Yes, but I would have gone with you. I want to go with you, I want to help you,” the woman said firmly, beginning to cover Vi’s cuts with gauze.
“Wouldn’t it be easier for you to go alone?” Vi let out.
After all, she was the one who stopped Caitlyn from shooting Jinx. If it weren’t for her, maybe…
“Vi, you know if I go after your sister alone, one of us comes back in a box,” Caitlyn shot back. Her tone sent a chill through Vi’s body. However, Caitlyn didn’t let her think too much about it. “And we are talking about you.”
She let a sigh out, tired. She just wanted to lie down and try to rest. As pathetic as it was, Vi wished Caitlyn would invite her into her bed and hold her close, her back against her chest, where she would feel safe.
She had good reasons not to warn Caitlyn about her mission, to leave her out of her plans. One of those was that Caitlyn already had too much on her plate and issues to attend to, corruption to remove and chaos to sort. Another more important reason was…
“I can do this myself,” Vi whispered, her voice breaking. “No one else needs to get hurt.”
It was Caitlyn’s turn to sigh. She finished tending Vi’s wounds and put aside the first aid kit. With an expression of regret, she turned to Vi and, meeting her eyes, took one of her hands. Vi instinctively squeezed her hand.
“I know it can be hard for you to trust someone else after everything you have gone through, but-”
“I trust you,” Vi cut her off.
“Then prove it and let me help you,” Caitlyn asked, taking her other hand and bringing them to her mouth. “I need you to trust that I can do this. Show me that you think I’m capable of fending for myself and let me lend you a hand. Let’s work together. I don’t want to think what could happen the next time you arrive with worse injuries and…”
Vi shook her head.
“Don’t worry about me, Cupcake.”
Caitlyn snorted, looking at her seriously.
“How can you ask me something like that?” She replied, almost a plea. “I worry about you, a lot! Can’t you see that?”
She couldn’t avoid the slight blush on her cheeks. She watched her bandaged hands in Caitlyn’s, which held hers tightly but gently. Vi looked up and met Caitlyn’s eyes. With time, it’d become easier to read them. And she knew her words rang true.
“I also worry about you,” Vi whispered.
That was cutting it short. She did much more than only worry about Caitlyn. She…
“Will you let me go with you next time?” Caitlyn asked. The woman brought her hands even closer to her mouth, her lips brushing Vi’s knuckles.
Next time. Caitlyn knew her enough to know that Vi wouldn’t give up that easily. She wouldn’t give up until she found her sister, no matter how many fights she had to get into. And Vi knew Caitlyn enough to know that she wouldn’t give up either until she got what she wanted. A shortcoming or an attribute of being an only child, she still hadn’t decided.
“You won’t let me say no, will you?” Vi said, shrugging.
Caitlyn smiled slightly and, in a slow movement, kissed Vi’s palms, stealing her breath.
Vi crosses the bridge with firm steps, no haste. She doesn’t want to attract anyone’s attention, so she keeps her head down, avoiding meeting anyone’s eyes.
Ruling out the bathysphere, she descends by her own means, sliding down, climbing, and jumping buildings, pipes, and corners of the undercity. She knows every step more than the back of her hand and it’s a relief being able to roam the place. It’s incredible to think that only a ten-minute walk separates such different places: Piltover and… Zaun?
However, she moves more carefully than when she was a teenager, or when she was just released from prison. The atmosphere in the undercity, after Jinx’s attack, is tense. With no leader to follow, small groups of criminals have formed, gangs taking advantage of the chaos for their benefit.
Today Vi descends to the Sump. Her childhood home is destroyed but maybe she is there, nearby. Haunted by the wails of Shimmer addicts hidden in the dark, she scours as far as she can, trying to find something, a clue, a flash of blue hair or pink eyes.
She spends hours in the shadows of the abandoned mines, the cold seeping into her bones and the toxic smell beginning to be concerning. Regretfully, she accepts that she must return and, as she heads back, wonders where else to look next, tomorrow and forever.
And what to do when she finally finds her. Face her? Hug her? Run away with her?
Caitlyn’s face appears in her mind. She wonders if she would be able to truly escape, leave the woman behind. The thought hurts her as if leaving Caitlyn was akin to taking off a body part. The thought also tempts her, thinking that, by staying away from Caitlyn, then she can protect her.
Does she not understand that all the people who have been close to her end up hurt?
But Vi tried to stay away from Caitlyn. She lied to her, rather told her half-truths, to keep her away.
Oil and water. Wasn’t meant to be.
You’re just saying that.
Without realizing, her footsteps have led her to Ekko and the Firelights. She knocks with the rhythm they taught her and waits patiently until the Vastaya guard opens the door. She enters, greeting him with a nod, and heads to the tree. On one of the floors, she sees Ekko talking with a girl. Letting herself enjoy the fresh air, she goes up to meet the boy.
“Vi,” Ekko greets, surprised.
“What’s up, Little Man?”
The boy frowns at the nickname, but says nothing and smiles fondly anyway.
“Wasn’t expecting to see you today, and alone at that,” he says. He looks at the other firelight girl. She nods and leaves after greeting Vi with a wave.
“Wasn’t thinking about coming, but-” She thinks for a moment how to continue, without success.
“You still don’t want to go back,” Ekko finishes for her, leaning on the railing with an elbow.
The day is drawing to a close, but the descending sunlight perfectly illuminates the shelter, making the air look slightly golden.
Vi nods and walks over to Ekko’s side and mimics his position, resting her hip against the wood.
“How are the Pilties treating you?” the boy inquires.
“I only talk with Caitlyn,” Vi says, shrugging. “I don’t care about the rest.”
“That’s not true.”
“Well, I care about her parents because she cares about them.”
“That isn’t true either.”
Vi lets a huff out mixed with a not so sincere laugh. They stay silent for a moment. And Vi is again surprised by the differences. A few meters away, everything is regret, misery, misfortune and disease. In Ekko’s shelter, children’s laughter, happy conversations between adults, the buzzing of insects, and the noise of a gentle wind swaying the leaves of the huge tree are heard.
“How’s Heimerdinger?” Vi asks.
She feels the other boy’s eyes on her.
“Fine,” Ekkos says, shrugging. “He doesn’t know yet if he will try to retake a seat on the Council. How’s the princess?”
“Her name’s Caitlyn.”
“I know her name,” he says, playfully.
Maybe that’s why Vi came here. It’s easy to forget the bad with Ekko. It’s easy to just joke around, even if it’s once in a while.
Maybe this isn’t one of those times.
“Why is she not with you? Did you run away again?” he asks with a funny smile. Vi purses her lips and frowns, thinking that, yes, she did run away and she’s stupid to have done so. “Vi?”
She blinks and looks at Ekko.
“I left her at the hospital with her parents,” she answers quietly. “And yes, I guess you can say I ran away.”
The boy is silent for a few moments before letting out a whistle.
“She’s gonna be mad,” he says, looking down towards a few kids playing with a hoverboard, taking turns with each other.
She doesn’t believe Cait will get angry, but she does think she might feel hurt. She will definitely feel hurt. Not only did she leave Caitlyn alone at the hospital, but Vi went to the undercity to follow her mission alone. It’s something she’s done a handful of times, so Caitlyn is probably used to it. That doesn’t stop it from feeling like she fucking betrayed Caitlyn.
“You haven’t told her yet?”
“Haven’t told her what?” Vi inquires, frowning deeper.
Ekko raises an eyebrow and stares at her. And, oh, Vi understands.
“You know what I’m talking about,” he says.
Vi breaks eye contact and shakes her head, snorting.
“Don’t start, Ekko.”
“So now I’m Ekko,” he notes, his tone as teasing as it is serious. “Good, better. But I insist. I take it you haven’t told her yet?”
Vi glances at him sideways, meeting a softer gaze. That only makes it harder.
“And say what exactly, huh, smart boy?” she asks in an attempt to avoid Ekko making his point.
He rolls his eyes and fully turns towards Vi. There’s no trace of mockery in his face.
“Vi, I’m sure she feels the same.”
The woman sighs and shrugs.
“Yeah, me too,” she admits.
And by Janna, she’s sure. She’d bet her life that Caitlyn won’t last much longer without outright telling her. The chemistry between them it’s out of this world. But as much as Vi likes it, as tempting as it is to give in, she can’t help but feel that it’s not the right thing to do. That she shouldn’t be feeling these things for Caitlyn, just as Caitlyn shouldn’t be reciprocating these feelings.
“So?” Ekko asks. At Vi’s silence, he shakes his head, hugging in disbelief. “Please don't tell me you don’t deserve it or something.”
Vi looks down and swallows.
“Don’t, Vi,” Ekko interrupts her. “There are so few good things right now and with everything so uncertain, it’d be stupid to deny yourself some happiness because you believe you don’t deserve it. Especially when you do.”
The woman purses her lips, speechless. After a few moments, she straightens up.
“You don’t care she’s a Piltie?” Vi tries.
“You don’t seem to care,” Ekko says, as if that solves everything.
That makes her smile. The fact only bothered her for a day or so, overshadowed by many other things that make Caitlyn the woman she is. Vi doesn’t care about where she comes from, her surname and her career choice. Caitlyn is so much more than that to Vi. She is proof that there are people in the world who are still worth fighting for. Proof that kindness exists even in the worst of places. That light can be found in the dark.
Vi spent so many years in darkness, and Caitlyn is her light.
“She’s not like the others,” Vi simply says, with a smile on her lips at the cheesy line of thinking, a bit embarrassed. Fortunately, Ekko can’t hear her thoughts.
“And I trust your judgment,” Ekko nods, coming closer and resting a hand on Vi's shoulder. “Plus she tried to save you. Still does. I guess I can give her my blessing,” he says with a smirk.
That makes Vi laugh. She rests her hand atop Ekko’s and gives it a squeeze before playfully slapping it away.
“As if I needed it.”
Ekko laughs and clicks his tongue.
“Alright, go see your girlfriend, it’s getting late,” the boy says, backing away from the railing.
Vi’s heart skips a beat.
“She’s not my girlfriend,” she retorts quickly, blushing.
“Yet,” Ekko adds with a wink. “C’mon, don’t leave her alone,” he says and with a wave asks Vi to follow him. “I’m sure she needs you as much as you need her.”
She doesn’t bother to complain and follows him down the tree.
The thought of needing Caitlyn pleases her and scares her in equal parts. It means one more reason to live. Vi knows she doesn’t need Caitlyn, not literally. She could live without her. She can breathe, eat, move around and do anything a living being does without Caitlyn by her side.
She doesn’t need Caitlyn as something vital, she needs her as a reason, as an anchor, something to tie her down, something to give her purpose, as a reason to be. Ekko no longer needs Vi. He’s shown he can get by on his own. Jinx refuses to be with her and she’s pretty sure her sister hates her. Everyone else… is gone.
And the thing is that Caitlyn doesn’t need her as something vital either nor as a reason. Caitlyn just… chose her. That’s what she cannot comprehend.
But maybe she doesn't have to.
As she returns to Piltover, on her way to the Kiramman mansion, Vi realizes that it’s up to her to choose Caitlyn as well. It’s up to her to choose the light that has been given to her in the midst of so much darkness. She only has to overcome the fears and doubts that torment her. Let go and accept.
It’d be stupid to deny yourself some happiness because you believe you don’t deserve it.
She quickens her pace, hoping to arrive and find her before sunset.
She woke up with a shiver. She wasn’t sure if it was hers or Caitlyn’s, but it didn’t matter now they were both awake.
From the light in the room, she guessed it was about to dawn. Her own wet face clued her in on who had woken whom.
“Vi?” Caitlyn’s voice was barely a murmur.
She was grateful that the woman was on her side, hugging her. Little by little, she remembered the nightmare. The dinner table, every seat with an object representing a member of her family. Jinx saying someone was missing. A silver platter with an oval lid on top, falling in front of her, reflecting the horror back on her face.
I paid your girlfriend a visit this morning.
A flash. Caitlyn’s head. It was fleeting. An illusion. But it’d felt too real.
Blinking, she tried to erase those images from her mind and focused on the woman beside her, who was looking at her with concern. With her fingertips, Vi caressed Caitlyn’s cheek, traced the length of her eyebrows, and brushed her thumb between her brows, pressing into it to stop her frowning.
“Why am I here?” Vi asked.
Caitlyn didn’t change her expression. It wasn’t the first time Vi asked that, but the answer had never satisfied her, so she asked it over and over again.
“Because I want you here,” was Caitlyn’s answer.
Vi pressed her lips together for a second before opening them again. She didn’t understand. She couldn’t understand why Caitlyn would want her here, lying next to her, sharing her bed, eating her food, inhabiting her house. She, who had dragged her to hell, who had made her suffer.
If she hadn’t gone on her own it was because of the memory of the last time she had tried to leave. She did it thinking that it’d protect Caitlyn, and the result was the exact opposite.
“What’s the matter?” Caitlyn asked, noticing her silence.
Vi tried searching for the words to express herself without sounding too pathetic.
“Why do you want me here?”
It made her want to bury her face in the pillow, too embarrassed at how stupid that sounded. Caitlyn leaned closer, her breath caressing Vi’s skin, who swallowed and felt her heart beating a mile a minute.
“Why do you think?” Caitlyn inquired, searching her eyes.
Vi looked back at her, meeting dilated pupils, bright blue, and a blush painting her cheeks. Unable to say another word, she just shook her head.
Caitlyn leaned in a little more until their noses brushed. An electric current ran through Vi’s entire body. Then, she felt one of Caitlyn’s hands touch her arm, running from her wrist to her shoulder. She followed Vi’s neck and stopped at her face, cupping her cheek. Vi, in an unconscious move, leaned into Caitlyn’s palm. She was oddly cool to the touch, comforting.
“You’ve saved me so many times, Vi,” Caitlyn whispered, and Vi was so focused on the woman’s hand on her skin that, for a moment, she forgot how close her lips were to hers.
“You got me out of prison,” she let out.
Caitlyn’s thumb moved, caressing and sending tingles through Vi’s body.
“And you took my investigation seriously. You helped me, showed me what I so badly wanted to see. Brought me here and-,” Caitlyn stopped. Vi, noticing she closed her eyes, followed her lead, closing them too. The proximity of Caitlyn’s body to hers grew more intense and found herself bringing her hands to the woman’s waist, drawing her closer until there was no space between them. “And you stayed.”
“Just because you-”
“You’re my hero,” Caitlyn concluded. She was so close to Vi that she could feel her lips millimeters from touching hers.
She knew, if it hadn’t been for the maid knocking the door, interrupting them, she wouldn't have resisted the temptation to close the gap.
“You went without me.”
Caitlyn’s voice makes Vi turn her head and look back. The woman has half her body leaning out of the window. In a fluid, practiced motion, Caitlyn bounds out of the room, walks carefully, and sits cross-legged next to her.
They are on the roof—one of many—atop the mansion. A few days after moving in together, Caitlyn showed it to her, telling her it was one of her secret spots. Vi teased her then telling her that surely this is where she took her dates. Caitlyn, without falling for the game, told her with certainty that, yes, this was a good place for dates.
Vi has wondered if they were dates all the times they’ve been here. Sitting, chatting about everything and nothing, watching the sun go down or rise—saying goodbye or welcoming the day.
“But I didn’t come up without you,” Vi answers, bumping her shoulder with Caitlyn’s.
Caitlyn answers the bump with a smile. She isn’t angry. Maybe she isnt’t hurt, either.
“Vi, I just got here.”
“Yeah, but I knew that you’d come up and find me here,” she replies with a confident smile. “I had it down to a tee.”
Caitlyn’s smile lasts a few more moments and then becomes serious. She turns to the horizon, breaking eye contact and, mimicking Vi, folds her legs up against her chest, wrapping her arms around them, and rests her chin on her knees.
“I have good news.”
“About your parents?”
Caitlyn nods, her eyes fixed on the landscape in front of them. The sun’s about to disappear, coloring the sky orange, pink, purple, and dark blue.
Not knowing how to ask, Vi moves closer to Caitlyn and wraps one arm around Caitlyn’s shoulders. Caitlyn reacts instantly to the touch, leaning against her, and resting her head against Vi’s shoulder.
“What did they tell you?”
She can hear Caitlyn sniff her nose and she realizes that good news don’t necessarily mean a good thing. It’s just not the worst.
“My mom will be half deaf in one ear and, eventually, will stop hearing,” Caitlyn starts, her voice weak. “That, unless someone invents something to heal her.”
Vi knows what she’s thinking. Hextech and Shimmer. One more dangerous than the other and no one knows how to control them.
Caitlyn huddles closer to Vi, and she responds by squeezing her arm and caressing her shoulder with her thumb.
“Aside from that, she will be fine,” Caitlyn says. Vi patiently waits for her to say something about her father, concentrating on the small hint of sun that remains. “My dad- it’s very possible that he won’t be able to walk again. The doctors say that the debris impacted in too compromising parts, nerves that are almost impossible to heal without causing further damage. But, just like my mother, other than that…”
Vi stops looking at the sky and turns her face towards Caitlyn. The movement causes her nose and mouth to meet the woman’s dark hair. Closing her eyes, she kisses and keeps her lips pressed against Caitlyn’s head.
They stay in silence for a few minutes. The sun’s going down and it’s getting colder. As if possible they huddle closer, trying to keep their body heat against each other.
“Why did you leave?”
She was expecting Caitlyn to ask her that. Not that she has an answer that will please her.
“I needed to get out of there.”
“You could have come home instead of going there alone again.”
Vi presses her lips shut. She did feel hurt.
“I’m sorry,” Vi murmurs.
Caitlyn releases herself from her embrace and turns to face her. Vi can read sadness in her face. Maybe a hint of disappointment. And that breaks her heart.
“You don’t have to apologize to me,” Caitlyn says. “I just want to understand.”
She’s about to say that she would also like to understand. Understand herself. However, it seems unfair not to try. For Caitlyn, she must.
“It’s hard for me to understand why you want me here,” Vi says, frowning. “Or accept it. I dunno, Cait. I just-,” she hesitates, afraid of scaring the other woman if she says what’s on her mind. “I feel like I hate so many things. Most of the time, I hate myself.” She buries her face against her knees, hugging her legs tighter. “I’ve done so many stupid things, I’ve ruined your life-”
“Violet, no,” Caitlyn cuts her off. “Look at me.” Her commanding voice is impossible to disobey, and she turns her face towards Caitlyn, resting the side of her face against her knees. “You’re one of the best things that have happened to me. I mean it,” she adds, seeing the disbelief in Vi’s face.
“But your parents-”
“It’s not your fault, Vi. Please, understand that it’s not your fault,” she begs, her blue eyes locked on gray ones. “If I have to tell you that a hundred times more, I will.”
The pressure in Vi’s chest eases a bit. It feels like every time Caitlyn reminds her of this, she moves forward. A grain of sand. She sighs and feels the icy wind ruffle her hair.
Caitlyn straightens her legs, turning her torso towards Vi. Vi raises her head, and their faces are level.
“So I’ll say it again,” Caitlyn says. There’s so much love in her voice that Vi’s eyes start to water just listening to her. “You are not responsible for what your sister has done. You were wrongfully incarcerated for seven years. I witnessed how much you did to try to prevent all this from happening. Nobody carries the weight of such a responsibility. Least of all you. And I know telling you won’t convince you, not so quickly. But promise me you’ll try.” They stare at each other and Caitlyn leans in, bringing her hand to Vi’s cheek and caresing it. “Will you?”
“Yes,” Vi mutters, leaning into Caitlyn’s touch.
“Good girl,” says the woman, teasingly, making Vi smile. “And, darling, you don’t define yourself by the things you hate. You are what you love, and you may not realize it, but you love so much. You wouldn’t feel the way you feel now if you didn’t. After all, you still love your-”
“I love you,” Vi says, unable to stop herself. Not wanting to stop.
A moment and Caitlyn smiles. Vi can even see between her lips the tiny gap between her teeth.
“What?” Caitlyn asks in a exhale.
“I love you,” Vi repeats. “I’m in love with you. I think… I’ve been for a long time. Is it too soon?” She asks nervously.
Caitlyn shakes her head, leaning closer. Suddenly, both of her hands are cupping Vi’s face. They are so close to each other that their noses are one breath away.
“Does it matter?” Caitlyn says playfully.
“...don’t know,” Vi replies, shrugging.
Heart pounding, goosebumps on her skin and mouth dry, Vi watches as Caitlyn’s smile dwindles as she gazes down at her lips.
“I love you, too,” the woman whispers.
“You don’t have to-”
Caitlyn’s mouth on hers cuts her off. Vi closes her eyes, losing herself in the feel of Caitlyn’s lips on hers. They move clumsily at first but quickly discover a slow, soft rhythm.
“I love you, Vi,” Caitlyn says, still kissing her.
Vi sighs and hugs the woman by the waist, drawing her closer. Caitlyn settles in next to her, swinging a leg over her, placing it between Vi’s.
“I love you, Cait. Cupcake,” she answers against her mouth, opening it to let Caitlyn slip her tongue inside.
Caitlyn laughs and pulls back a bit.
“You will never stop calling me that, will you?” she asks, resting her forehead against Vi’s.
“I couldn’t,” Vi says, gently rubbing her forehead against the woman’s. “I know you love it.”
Caitlyn snorts in amusement.
“I don’t… hate it,” she confesses with resignation.
It’s Vi’s turn to laugh before closing the gap to kiss her once more.
Wrapped in Caitlyn’s scent, warmth, and softness, she tells herself this is okay. That Ekko’s right. This is something good and it would be stupid not to accept it. That, by whatever reason, she deserves it, even if she doesn’t understand it. And since Caitlyn chose her, Vi will choose Caitlyn. Even if she fails many times more, she won’t leave her side, not as long as Caitlyn wants her.
Let go and accept.
And so, even in the darkness of early evening, all Vi sees is daylight.