The Weight of Responsibility(Vi short story)
Had the urge to write something for Vi. srs business ahead.
This fic can also be found on FanFiction.net.
"Right then," Caitlyn clasped her hands behind her back and looked over the officers standing before her one last time. Her officers. She somehow managed to remember each of them by name and face, always did her best to ensure that everyone was able to get home safe to their family each day. In return, they trusted her with their lives and carried her orders out to the last letter. "Is everyone clear on what the plan is?"
"Yes ma'am," the alley that made for their makeshift meeting room echoed with the officers' replies. They had only managed to locate this particular band of crooks within the past few hours, and Caitlyn wanted the operation to be one decisive clean sweep. No loose ends. No crooks slipping through the cracks to threaten Piltover someday in the future. This particular group was suspected as being responsible for several bombings that had rocked the city of Piltover in recent months, it was easy to see why Caitlyn wanted things kept so tidy.
"Good. Move to your positions," Caitlyn gave the company a nod of dismissal and watched as they dispersed. The normal officers left in all due haste, and then there was the special case just standing there looking bored. Caitlyn gave a small sigh and slight roll of her eyes as she walked over to the woman.
Piltover's police department was extremely accepting in the way of diversity—as long as you did the job and did it well you could count on long term employment—but this woman was definitely one of the strangest to ever be taken into its ranks. Shocking pink hair cut short save for the bangs and a few braids trailing off the back, a large tattoo on the left cheek that read "VI", armor that looked like it was cobbled together from the odds and ends of a mechanic's workshop... Her body was lean with muscles like steel cords, conditioned from many years spent fighting on the move. However, the single most remarkable thing about this woman was the massive set of hextech gauntlets she wore. Each palm was larger than her own head, the fingers fully-functional and just itching to curl into a fist so she could deck someone with it. This was Vi, former criminal and the Piltover police force's newest recruit.
"Vi," the sound of Caitlyn's voice snapped Vi out of her boredom, and she focused her bright blue eyes on her new boss. "Do you understand what you need to do?"
"Yeah yeah," Vi's careless tone revealed what little respect she actually had for Caitlyn and what the Sheriff did. All Vi really cared about at the moment was trying out the new modifications she'd made to her gauntlets on the nearest criminal gang she could get her fists on; she would go into the hideout when she pleased, Caitlyn's plans be damned. "Wait for the signal and then go in, whatever you say Sheriff," in truth Vi had decided to go in as soon as Caitlyn had moved a sufficient distance away, preferably enroute to her sniping position in one of the surrounding buildings.
Caitlyn saved her grumbling over Vi's lack of respect for the time being and closed her eyes for a few moments. "Fine, good. Just do your best," she was so tired of Vi's attitude. Just plain tired, now that she thought of it. She couldn’t remember the last time she felt so constantly worn out. Caitlyn turned her back to Vi and started toward the building that would provide her sniper's perch. To think she'd agreed to taking Vi as a “partner” to help reduce her workload, at this rate she'd be run into the ground within the month.
Vi watched Caitlyn as the Sheriff made her way to the designated building. She was good with a gun and all, really fond of making plans, but Vi just couldn't bring herself to take the woman seriously. Now that she thought about it, that was the same with most people. She didn't respect them and in turn they didn't respect her, it was just the way of the world for Vi, no point changing it.
Thirty seconds. One minute... That was enough time. Vi grinned; the crooks wouldn't know what hit them. She made her way to the hidden police line, sauntered right through it, broke into a run as those on the line called for her to stop.
The wall of the criminal gang's hideout rushed up to meet her, and Vi drew back one fist to knock a hole clean through it. One fist, that was all it took. Pure simplicity, artistically so, even. Flying debris from the blow knocked out one of the guards inside, and the other four raised their guns to fire as they shouted various threats or desperate orders. Vi was among them before they could fire. One, two punches to send a pair of them sailing out the hole she’d made in the wall, another two for the pair unlucky enough to have solid concrete behind them. That left just one.
Vi’s head snapped around to where the last guard was as he half stood, half cowered in the hallway. The sight of a grown man in such a state was enough to get a laugh out of Vi as she advanced on him. Unlike his now-unconscious comrades, this guard had the good sense to know when he was outmatched and promptly turned to run. Running or fighting, didn’t matter to Vi what the crooks did. It was funny when they thought they could escape, though.
“Hey buddy,” the false friendliness was just as terrifying to hear as the constant jeering; it meant Vi was preparing to do something painful. Vi threw her right gauntlet forward, and a long tether with a weighted end shot out of a compartment in the gauntlet’s palm to wrap itself around the man’s waist. “We’re not done ‘til I’ve given you your lumps for the day,” she jerked the tether, hauling the hapless guard back toward her as she sprang forward. The man had just enough time to cast a fearful glance over one shoulder before one of Vi’s fists struck him in the lower back.
The absence of tensile force signaled the tether to release, and the rope slid back into its hidden compartment as the man let out a strangled cry of pain and flew into the opposite wall. He slid down a few inches and pushed off, causing Vi to start forward in the hopes that he would be dumb enough to resist her. To Vi’s disappointment, he did this only to stumble down the hall a few steps and collapse in a bruised heap with a whimpering groan.
“Tsch,” Vi gave an arrogant toss of her head and started past the unconscious guard.
Above, in one of the adjacent buildings, Caitlyn's handheld radio crackled to life: "Sheriff! It's—" The rest of the correspondence dissolved into unintelligible static. Caitlyn smacked the radio against the palm of her upturned hand and raised it to the window in attempt to get better reception. Nothing worked, either someone was jamming their channels or Caitlyn's handheld was malfunctioning. Neither situation was good, and Caitlyn got to her feet as she flipped through the other radio channels. Even the backup channels weren't working.
Caitlyn dashed toward the stairs; she had to get down to the ground, it sounded like something was wrong from the almost-frantic tone of the officer who had tried to contact her. She was so distracted trying to think of what had gone wrong that she failed to notice the high-pitch ringing that echoed through the stairway. The sound intensified two floors down, and Caitlyn stopped to listen when she finally noticed it, trying to figure out what its cause could be. As she flipped through the mental list of things it might be, the sound suddenly ceased.
Silence swept in to take its place, broken only by Caitlyn's pounding heart. Realization leaped to the front of her mind, but it was already too late. The gasp of apprehension that escaped her lips was immediately lost in the roar of the explosion.
The fourth floor of every building that stood adjacent to the gang's hideout exploded simultaneously. Debris and dust showered the streets and alleys as every officer still outside dove for cover. Something flew out of the explosion, leading a trail of fine dust and smoke, and landed on the cobblestone street with a muffled thump. It was Caitlyn's purple top hat, the fabric tattered and burned, and the once-shining and polished scopes now reduced to bits of twisted metal tarnished by fire.
A large piece of concrete walling shaken loose in the explosion crushed the truck that Caitlyn had planned to smoke the gang out with. Its single massive tank contained sleeping gas that was meant to be pumped into the hideout’s ventilation system, either incapacitating all inside or forcing them to flee where her officers could easily pick them up. Those manning the truck only just managed to scramble out of the way and avoid being crushed.
The keening screech and baritone groan of stressed metal could be heard amid the intense roar of the flames. The structural integrity of the damaged floors had been seriously compromised, and they would soon collapse down on themselves. All nearby officers rushed toward the building Caitlyn had been in when the explosions took place, hopeful that she survived the blast and willing to risk their own lives to find and save her.
Vi had been in the process of breaking down a reinforced door when the series of explosions rocked the hideout. She staggered slightly, then swung her fist and leveled the door in one shot. A shrill scream sounded from inside, and a small figure scampered to the farthest corner of the room.
"A kid?" Vi was surprised, to say the least. What was a kid doing in a place like this? A sudden chill ran down her spine as she looked around at the curiously short worktables and benches, strewn with high-quality materials and equipment used for bomb-making. She looked to the young girl of seven or eight years who sat curled in the corner, hands still dirtied from her work. The situation felt so familiar. Surely the girl didn't know what her stuff was being used for...
“Hey kid,” Vi took a step forward, and the girl looked up. “You with them?” she jerked her thumb in the direction of the rest of the compound, where the sounds of gunfire could be heard echoing through the halls. Apparently Caitlyn’s officers finally decided to move in.
“Y-yeah,” the girl stared up at Vi with big brown eyes, following the woman’s gauntlets with no small amount of fear.
“That’s too bad, ‘cause they’re in for the asskicking of their lives,” Vi said with a smirk and a careless shrug. “So, you wanna be with them, or with me?” she pointed one large metal thumb at herself.
“You,” this time the girl didn’t hesitate at all.
“Smart kid,” Vi smirked and put her hands on her hips. “Anyway, I’m off to brutalize some terrorists, so you better get yer tiny butt in gear and leave while you still can. Later, squirt!” Vi turned, gave the girl a half-wave from over her shoulder and made her way out of the room and down the hall.
The central rooms were just ten feet away now. Vi would get to deliver her special brand of justice to the men who'd orchestrated the bombings, and now all that stood between her and these soon-to-be punching bags was one heavily reinforced door. She knocked on the door with one knuckle, more to listen to the metal's resonance than request permission to enter. The tone sounded solid, and Vi smiled; all the more fun to smash it. The smile widened as she drew back both fists.
Inside, the men who were standing directly behind the door drew their guns as they prepared for Caitlyn's officers to enter. The door exploded inward as if propelled by a rocket, trailing hinges and twisted pieces of its frame as it bowled the two unlucky men over and pinned them beneath its considerable weight. It took a few moments for the rest of them to get over their initial shock, and they answered with a salvo of rifle fire into the gaping hole that once held the door.
"Oh no, bullets," Vi's sarcastic mocking could be heard even over the sound of the gunfire. "I've never seen those before!" She appeared in the dust of the pulverized concrete like a tsunami come to sweep them away, the single glove she held up to shield herself glowing yellow as it deflected the incoming bullets.
The gunmen continued firing, but ultimately it was futile; the kinetic distortion field projected around Vi's gauntlet simply deflected everything. Stray bullets flew everywhere, some burying themselves in the walls while others ricochet and struck a few of the gunmen. Once close enough, Vi knocked out each man with a single swing of her free fist. It was almost pathetic how weak they were once she got in close, though the fact didn’t stop her from enjoying the experience immensely. Soon the only person left standing in the room was Vi herself, and she casually made her way to the office of the gang's leader. She felt invincible, totally alive and still raring to go.
“Knock knock,” Vi quipped as she leveled the door with a single punch, same as all the rest. She entered to find the leader hiding behind his desk, revolver in hand.
The man stood and took aim, but Vi was much faster. She accelerated her gauntlets and let their huge momentum carry her fist into the man’s face. His nose broke with a loud crack as he was flung backward into a bookshelf. Vi landed on his desktop with a grin and a hearty chuckle, pleased with how smoothly she’d carried out the maneuver. Now to drag the man’s sorry ass back to the officers waiting outside.
Vi was just leaving the inner rooms when she spotted someone standing in the hall; the girl she’d met earlier in the workshop, her gaze fixed on Vi as she clutched a large journal to her chest. “Hey kid,” Vi tromped over, the limp body of the crime boss held in one gauntlet and dragged carelessly behind her. “I told you to get outta here.”
“My name is Holly,” the girl gave Vi a small glare and clutched the journal more tightly, unwilling to say what her body language so clearly stated. She was afraid to leave everything she’d known and go alone into the hands of complete strangers.
“Fine,” Vi sighed, annoyed but at the same time relieved the girl hadn’t followed her into the inner rooms. “We’ll go together back the way I came in,” she nodded down the hallway with her head and started off. Holly trailed a foot behind Vi and did her best to keep up with the woman’s longer legs.
The sounds of gunfire that had echoed through the compound since Vi broke into the workshop grew louder as she and her little party neared the entrance, and they arrived to find a group of Caitlyn’s officers engaged in a brutal shootout with the remaining criminals. Several officers lay sprawled on the stone floor, violet uniforms stained wet black from their own blood. Vi took an angry breath and lifted the crime boss’s unconscious body; she might not respect them, but these officers were Vi’s people too, and nobody hurt her people while she was around to do something about it.
“Stay here,” Vi turned to look Holly in the eye, and the girl nodded and huddled in the hallway. It was time to get to work.
Vi activated the kinetic disruptor on one of her gauntlets and picked out her first targets. The criminals had made barricades for themselves with tables and other furniture, and though they were mostly protected from the attacking officers, this left them wide open for Vi. She swung, and hurled the body of the crime boss into a group of the gunmen. The man made a surprisingly good projectile, as he bowled all three of the men over with one shot.
This sudden attack from behind drew the attention of the gunmen away from Caitlyn’s officers as they addressed the new threat. Even with one hand occupied Vi swept through them like a metal-fisted hurricane, and any who escaped her gauntlets did so only to be picked off by one of Caitlyn’s officers. Vi thought it was some great teamwork. She knocked them down or scared them out and the officers took care of the rest. Just like that, the stalemate was over in under a minute, and Vi hadn’t suffered so much as a scratch through it all.
“Hah, piece ‘a cake,” Vi grinned as she deactivated the disruptor and looked up at the officers who were even now making their way into the hall.
The faces of the approaching officers were grim as they took the weapons from the unconscious criminals or carried their fallen comrades away. They all seemed to be avoiding Vi’s gaze, and some even looked... Angry.
Vi rolled her eyes. Everyone was such a stickler for the tiniest little detail. Hadn’t she cleaned everything up just fine? She dusted a bit of grit off her shoulder and returned to the hallway where Holly was supposed to be.
Holly lay face-down on the cold stone floor, arms pinned awkwardly beneath her body and still wrapped around her precious journal. A growing pool of blood spread from beneath her small head and stained her pale blonde locks dark red. Vi choked on her own breath and coughed as all color drained from her face, unable to believe what she saw. She rushed to the girl, hoping against hope that she was still alive.
The cherished journal fell from Holly’s limp arms and landed in the pool of blood with a loud spat as Vi took her in her hands. “Holly, Holly!” Vi shook her, as if the girl had merely fallen asleep or passed out from fright. But Holly was gone. Struck by a stray bullet during the battle, perhaps even by one that Vi had deflected herself. This little girl who had been caught in the same situation Vi had experienced as a child was gone, just like that.
A commotion erupted behind Vi as she knelt there with Holly’s body in her arms, struggling to breathe and still unable to fully comprehend what had taken place. A deep and horrible pain shuddered through her throat, choked her and made her jaw ache, but the tears did not come. She just couldn’t believe—
The loud report of gunfire sounded behind her, and a sudden intense pain blossomed in her abdomen. Fresh blood stained Holly’s dirtied overalls and shirt. Vi’s blood. She turned to find that the crime boss had regained consciousness and used her temporary distraction to his advantage.
Before he could fire again, before the few remaining officers could move to restrain the man, Vi was on her feet and thundering toward him. With Holly still held in one hand, she used the other to crush the man’s fingers against the handle of his revolver. He screamed in agony as the bones of his fingers and hand broke under the immense pressure and desperately tried to pull away from Vi’s unyielding grip. She released his hand, flung the gun against a distant wall, and took his head in her gauntlet instead.
Now she was angry. Angry at the criminals for taking in Holly and dirtying her gift with their own wretched deeds, angry at herself for being so reckless and allowing Holly to die, all for nothing. This man who took the lives of others so lightly, killed others for his personal gain, she wanted to crush his miserable face into mush just for existing. Her fingers tightened with excruciating slowness as the man screamed and clawed at her gauntlet with his good hand, she wanted him to feel every second of his pathetic skull being crushed into oblivion.
“Vi stop it!” one of the officers moved forward and tried to pry Vi’s gauntlet off the crime boss’s face. “We need him for questioning! They were hired by someone else to do the bombings, Piltover won’t be safe until we know!”
Vi gave him a rough kick that knocked him back a few feet. “The job isn’t done ‘til this *******’s dead! There’s plenty of goons for questioning in here, take your pick!” She could feel everything now. Holly’s dead weight in her left hand, the slow and rhythmic throb of her wound as it spilled warm blood down her legs, the horrible wracking pain in her neck and face at the intense grief that somehow refused to come... And the feel of the man’s skull in her grip, the sound of his pathetic weeping. She wanted nothing more than to see him die slowly and painfully for what he’d done.
“Dammit Vi stand down!” other officers rushed in, too many to shake off at once. But even their combined strength could not budge Vi’s vice-like grip. “Haven’t you done enough?”
“Done enough?” Vi’s voice broke, sounding much more shrill than she meant it to. “I practically did the whole damn job!”
“Idiot! The Sheriff could be dead because you rushed in!” the officer at her elbow sounded distraught, almost close to tears, even. “Why couldn’t you listen to her just this once?”
“The hell are you talking about?” Vi kicked the man in the shin for using such a low tactic to get her to let go. “She’s up in her perch, just like she’s supposed to be!” She was still furious, but her fingers had ceased to tighten and only held the crime boss now. Please don’t let it be true...
“Every damn building surrounding this place exploded a minute after you went in,” another officer took the man’s place, her own voice hoarse and low with anger. “We can’t even get to the floors above the ones that were blasted out. They didn’t know when we’d come and you told them we were here when you barged in!”
Slowly, Vi’s gauntlet loosened its grip until its fingers were wide enough for the man to slide down to the floor with a relieved sob. The gauntlet shook for a moment, then dropped limply to Vi’s side. Even the hand that held Holly slackened a bit. All feeling, save for pain, dropped from beneath her. It couldn’t be real. This wasn’t how it was supposed to work, everyone was supposed to get out okay in the end. It was all a nightmare.
For the first time in her life, Vi could do nothing, say nothing, and stood frozen on the spot as the officers moved around her to take the crime boss away. Some looked close to tears, others like they wanted to punch Vi themselves for her foolishness, all of them thoroughly miserable for the fact that their beloved Sheriff might be dead.
How could this happen?
END OF PART 1
Also many thanks to Grand Viper for reviewing this for inconsistencies and bouncing ideas, it was a marvelous help! You can find his story about Vi and Jayce here.
This is good. Shows what potential character growth for Vi could come in the future. So, thanks for sharing and I hope more is upcoming.
More is on the way, about halfway done with part 2 now.
Part 2 is finally complete!
No. She refused to die like this.
The pain was excruciating, more agonizing than anything she’d ever experienced before, but she had to keep moving. She had to find a way out. Smoke stung her eyes, fire blocked her path, but there, a gap in the rubble, a way to climb down. This would not be the end. She would see to it.
Loose concrete slipped beneath her blood-slicked boots, her leg caught on twisted metal that had been hidden inside the wall when it was whole. More pain, but she couldn’t pay any mind to that now. She had to get out first, make sure her officers were okay, make sure no one else had been harmed.
To free herself from the metal catch took but a moment, and she was off again. It was hard to hear, her ears felt like they were stuffed full of cotton. That couldn’t be right... She lifted a hand to her right ear. It was covered in blood. She checked her right eye next, it was swollen and bloody as well. So, that was why the world seemed strangely flat, like a moving picture.
No matter, just keep moving. It felt so hot, too hot, she had to get out before she could bear it no longer. The smoke thinned, a fresh breath of air struck her exposed skin, startled her with more pain. But the new air was good, it meant she was closer to... A place away from the flames and destruction.
It was so hard to think. She had to collect herself, had to show them that she was stronger than any criminal who dared to set foot in her precious city. She had defeated every adversary, every cocky newcomer who tried to take advantage of the city’s people, all save for the man she had sworn to catch. No, this would not be the way she died.
There, unbroken floor, with only a few cinders and loose pieces of debris. She was out of the fire. Now to make her way down to the ground...
One flight of stairs, two... An officer had spotted her, ran for her with an expression of breathless relief. He tried to talk to her, but she still couldn’t hear properly. She waved a hand around her ear to tell him. He seemed to understand and tried to hold the elbow of her unburnt arm. She pushed him away.
They had to see her strength. They had to know that neither debris nor fiery inferno could keep her from her duty.
Two more officers joined her, each tried to help only to be brushed away. They were nearing the exit now. How long had she been walking? It didn’t matter now. She would know soon enough.
Mist from the fire engines that were even now trying to extinguish the blaze above covered the front of the building for a moment. Those waiting outside, numb and in despair, snapped to abrupt attention and relief as Caitlyn emerged from the mist with the search party trailing behind her. She was alive, but in terrible shape. Vicious burns covered the right side of her body, where she had taken the brunt of the explosion, save for her face which had been shielded by her raised arms. Her left forearm was burned too as a result of shielding her face, and the unburned parts of her body showed bruises, cuts and abrasions from the violent force that had knocked her down. Caitlyn’s head was bloody from a few gashes suffered above her hairline, and her right eye had suffered injury as well and refused to open.
It was a miracle that she had survived, but she should not have been conscious, let alone standing on her own two feet. The rest of her officers swarmed in, begged her to lay down and allow herself to be taken to the hospital. Ah, she could hear them, so her ears were back to normal. She raised her left hand for silence, and their clamour died down immediately.
“Someone tell me what happened,” Caitlyn’s voice was strong despite the immense pain she was in, her clear eye was hard and focused with determination, and its smooth dark brow drawn down in a frown as she addressed her officers.
“It was Vi,” a woman officer, stout and muscular, stepped forward to give the account. “She went in about a minute after you left, on the far side of the building where you wouldn’t be able to see her, then a minute after that all the buildings around us exploded,” she swept a hand around at the buildings with their gutted or collapsed fourth floors. “We moved in to back her up, suffered a few casualties... She’s been shot too.”
Caitlyn sighed and nodded. She was disappointed, but the sentiment did not fall only on Vi. No, it was also Caitlyn’s fault for bringing her in the first place, for trusting her to help. “So where is she now?”
“In the front hall of the hideout. Last I heard she was in shock, they’re trying to get her to move.”
“Right, I’ll go see her,” Caitlyn’s good eye closed a moment longer than it should have for a normal blink, and opened again to focus on the officer who had been speaking to her. “Show me.”
From the look of intense worry on the officer’s face it was obvious that she would rather have Caitlyn taken to the hospital immediately, but she obeyed her wish regardless. The officer started toward the other side of the building as Caitlyn followed, her strides carefully controlled and even. Once she was out of sight she could collapse she reminded herself, just finish things here and rest would come.
They found Vi walking slowly from the entrance of the hideout, in her arms a young girl, cradled with surprising gentleness by the massive gauntlets. Caitlyn’s brow dropped down over her good eye in a worried frown and she picked up the pace. Something was definitely wrong, how badly had Vi been hurt?
“Vi,” Caitlyn said the woman’s name a bit louder than she had intended to, but to her surprise Vi said nothing in reply and only continued moving forward. It was as if Caitlyn had not spoken at all and was not even present. Caitlyn tried again, this time grabbing Vi’s shoulder with her left hand. “Vi!”
The touch got a reaction out of Vi, who slowly turned her head to look at whoever had touched her shoulder. Tension that had nested around her eyes as wrinkles and crow’s feet made her face look several years older, a result of the harrowing situation she’d experienced in the hideout. Her mouth, which had been set in a grim grief-stricken line, slackened at the sight of Caitlyn standing alive and injured just behind her. “You’re...” Vi broke into a fit of dry coughs as the tension in her neck was partially released. She shook as if from a high fever, though in truth it was due to blood loss and sheer nerves; no one had seen to her wound just yet and she had been dreading any news that might point to Caitlyn’s demise. But at least Caitlyn wasn’t dead too...
“Sheriff please,” another officer came to plead with her, a young man who had joined the police force only recently. “We have everything handled now. The injured are enroute to the hospital, the fire crews are seeing to the blaze, and we have cleanup crews coming in to assess the structural damage. Go rest, we have an ambulance waiting for you.”
Caitlyn locked eyes with him for a moment, then lowered her gaze. It was hard to yield control after things had gone so wrong, but there was nothing for it. Her injuries needed attention, and soon if she were to return to service as quickly as possible. She turned to her partner again, “Vi.”
Vi’s own gaze had sunk to the pavement a few feet in front of her boots as she stood in numb silence. This time it was only the sound of Caitlyn’s voice that roused her, and she looked up.
“Come on. The ambulance waiting,” Caitlyn gestured for her to follow, her arm noticeably shaking as she made the movement. She wouldn’t be able to stand much longer anyway, her body was screaming for relief of some sort, even if it had to make her collapse in the street.
The Sheriff of Piltover strode toward the ambulance, her gait becoming noticeably more sloppy and uneven as she walked. Behind her followed the woman with the hextech gloves, cradling the corpse of a young girl in her hands. A pair of medics opened the back doors of the ambulance for the two and one helped Caitlyn avoid bumping her injuries as she climbed in. The other turned to Vi and waited for her to climb aboard as well, then took a seat himself and told the driver to take the fastest route to the hospital.
Many hours later, after a team of Piltover’s best medics and healers had cleaned her wounds and lessened the severity of her burns, Caitlyn lay in a hospital bed with the boredness of a busybody who has suddenly found herself with nothing to do. Her right eye was clean and working again, much to her relief. She still wanted to slap herself for bringing Vi along; she knew what Vi was like and that she would likely just charge in, plans be damned... Why had she brought her? It was like using a sledgehammer to do a scalpel’s job.
Caitlyn took a deep breath and pulled the covers more tightly around herself with the arm that had not been attached to an IV drip. The burns were much less serious now and she could at least tolerate the feeling of the covers touching them for the sake of warmth. No use thinking about it right now. She was too tired, drugged to reduce the pain of her injuries. Now it would be best to sleep.
Several rooms down the hall, Vi lay in her own hospital bed with Holly's bloodstained journal in her hands; some kind-hearted officer had taken pity on her and brought it to the hospital after they'd copied each page back at the station. Holly's body had been taken to the hospital morgue after their arrival. It had been hard to let her go, she'd hoped the doctors could do something, but they'd told her repeatedly that Holly could not be saved. It had been far too late to help her, and the damage too severe. To see that tiny figure draped in a single white cloth and wheeled away on a stretcher, it'd felt like someone had torn Vi’s heart out and stomped on it.
Vi reached up with an ungloved hand and scrubbed at her eyes, which were red and puffy from the tears that had finally caught up just as they arrived at the hospital. It was so difficult to come to terms with what had happened, she still found it hard to believe everything that had taken place. Her gloves and backpack had been set against her bedside table, more to keep them in sight than to give her the opportunity to use them.
Strangely Vi had not spoken at all after being put in her room, not even to harass the nurses who came to check on her. After regaining consciousness following her operation, she had laid in her bed and just stared up at the ceiling. The doctors had been unnerved by this and ordered that she be kept overnight, just in case. Her apparent emotional distress had them worried. Three hours after Vi regained consciousness, an officer had arrived with the journal and she had been thumbing through it ever since. She had to know this girl. She had to remember Holly and who she was, even if that was all she could do.
As Vi had been brilliant with machinery as a young girl, Holly had been a prodigy when it came to explosives and the properties of flame. Perhaps she’d possessed some latent talent for fire magic that allowed her to see flame as others did not, and Vi felt another twinge of intense guilt at having been unable to save her. If only Holly had lived, she would have been able to enjoy a brighter future. If only Vi had been more careful, told her to run farther down the hall before charging in.
The handwriting that filled the journal was surprisingly neat for such a young girl and easily legible. Her primary dream had been to light up the sky with fireworks, but what would have been Holly’s crowning achievement was an invention the girl had named “fire flowers”. They were to be constructions of “cool flame” that would rain down from fireworks displays where spectators below could catch and hold them in their hands before they faded away a few minutes later. The concept sounded remarkable, but the science and magical theory behind making such a thing were still lacking, as Holly had been unable to perfect it before her untimely death.
Vi’s eyelids drooped, and she set the journal on her bedside table for later reading. She felt too tired to absorb it now anyway. With a long sigh, Vi slid herself farther under the covers and closed her eyes. She hoped there would be no nightmares, that was the last thing she needed on top of all this.
The doctors began to allow visitors in to see Caitlyn the next day. Among the first were her mother and father, who stayed to speak with her for a good hour. Her father was then reluctantly called away on business, leaving Caitlyn and her mother alone together. The family resemblance ran strong between mother and daughter, as Ashley had passed down her dark hair and shapely body to Caitlyn. She possessed an air of aging beauty, her face already showing slight wrinkles as the corners of her eyes and mouth and the monotony of her dark hair broken by a generous number of steel gray streaks.
Silence reigned for a few moments, and Ashley took her daughter's hand in her own. “Caitlyn, luv, I...” she fell silent, temporarily at a loss for words. Her fingers tightened slightly around Caitlyn's hand as she drew a shuddering breath. “I’ve always wanted what was best for you, tried to keep you safe without smothering your freedom... I never meant for—” Ashley stopped as she was overcome by the fact that she had nearly lost her precious daughter. Her face reddened and wrinkled as tears flowed from her eyes. It took her a few moments to recover, and only once she had relaxed her face did she speak to Caitlyn again. “I only asked that you find a partner so you would stop overworking yourself. I couldn’t bear to see you destroy yourself like that, duty or no.”
“Mum,” Caitlyn squeezed her mother’s hand in return and sat up, but Ashley waved it away.
“It’s just, I feel that I never should have suggested it, to think it nearly killed you...” Ashley unfolded a handkerchief with her free hand and dabbed at the corners of her eyes with it. “I never should have suggested it. I’m so sorry, Caitlyn.”
“It’s not your fault for suggesting it, mum,” Caitlyn took her mothers hand in both of hers. “Please don’t blame yourself,” she held one arm out to her mother, and the two shared an embrace. “You’ve actually helped me, by bringing up the overworking part when you suggested it. I know what I need to do now.”
Ashley clung to Caitlyn with the tight embrace of a mother who never wanted to let go. This close call and all that had happened before, each had terrified Ashley to her very core and made her wish she had discouraged Caitlyn from taking up crime fighting in the first place. But another part of her would chime in to ask what use safety was if Caitlyn was not happy, and how safe they would truly be if things had continued as they were in those days. Ashley had done what she could to protect her daughter by inventing every piece of gear Caitlyn used with safety and efficiency in mind, but in the end all that separated her from a parent’s worst fear was Caitlyn herself. She had to trust Caitlyn to make it through.
“What are you planning to do?” Ashley finally released Caitlyn and sat back in her chair, hands still trembling ever so slightly from emotion.
Caitlyn leaned back in her pillows, still tired from the events that had taken place just a day ago. “Reorganize the chain of command, make everything more efficient, from myself down to the newest officer. It’ll take time, but I’m confident that I can make it work.”
Ashley smiled and gave Caitlyn a light pinch on the cheek. “That’s my girl,” her voice was warm and full of relief, as Caitlyn’s plans held hope for better health and a safer city. It was more than she could have asked for, a step up from simply getting Caitlyn a partner. “I’ll leave so others can come in for a visit,” she stood, leaned over and gave Caitlyn a quick peck on the cheek. “I love you, Caitlyn. Get better soon.”
“I will. And don’t worry, mum,” Caitlyn returned the small kiss with one of her own. “I’ll find a way.”
A nurse bearing Caitlyn’s lunch entered just after Ashley left and set it on a bedside tray. “Excuse me,” Caitlyn lifted a hand as she called out to the nurse, who had just been leaving. “Someone else was admitted the same time I was, could you ask her to speak with me? Her name is Vi.”
“I’m sorry,” the nurse looked genuinely apologetic for not being able to fulfill Caitlyn’s request. “She was checked out just this morning.”
“Could you ask one of my officers to deliver a message to her? There should be one or two standing in the hall outside my door.”
“Of course,” the nurse waited patiently as Caitlyn took paper and pen from her bedside table and wrote down her message. Once the folded paper was in her hand, she let herself out of Caitlyn’s room and handed it to one of the waiting officers with the request that it be taken to Vi.
The officer took the paper and nodded. “I’ll see that she gets it,” he tipped his cap to his partner and the nurse, then made his way down the hall. Hopefully Vi would be at her apartment now, and not in some old haunt where it would be difficult to find her.
Other visitors passed through Caitlyn’s room that day, and all left with the distinct feeling that Caitlyn had only been giving them half of her attention. It was obvious to see that her mind was elsewhere, but none really paid it much thought; to think and plan was Caitlyn’s nature, and it only made sense she would do so much of it following the fiasco with Vi. A clipboard with paper had been close by Caitlyn’s side through it all, and she would often pick it up to jot down some note or thought, even in the middle of a conversation with one of her guests.
Caitlyn’s final visitor for the day was a man she had known since the two of them were children, a brilliant inventor who had only recently received his big break in being allowed to head a research team that was investigating a new form of energy. He was of an average build with a clean-cut chin and short, carefully combed brown hair. The simple suit he wore was wrinkled from how hastily he had put it on, and small specks of dark soil flecked his hard leather shoes, suggesting that he’d recently walked through someone’s garden in them.
“Jayce,” Caitlyn gave the man a small smile as he seated himself by her bedside. “Finally got your head out of your books I see,” her eyes held a faraway look to them for a moment, as she remembered some part of their shared past. “Used to be so hard to get you into them in the first place, remember?” She chuckled at the irony.
“Hah, yeah,” Jayce’s laugh was half-hearted, as if he felt ashamed for that fact. “I was always messing around back then, wasn’t I?”
“Oh...” Caitlyn pressed the palm of her hand against her forehead with a sigh. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to...” She had gone and said something hurtful to him without meaning it in the slightest. It was still a sensitive wound even after years had passed, and she’d just gone and poured salt on it.
“It’s alright,” Jayce waved the comment away with a false smile that seemed as painful to Caitlyn as a look of hurt would have been. “You look pretty distracted, don’t worry about it.”
An uncomfortable silence fell between the two as each retreated into their own thoughts and reflections. Caitlyn was the first to speak up as her eyes found their way back to Jayce’s face. “Do you still bring the sunflowers to him?”
Jayce closed his eyes and nodded. “Every other week,” he laced his fingers before his face and rested his lips against them.
“Have you made any progress with—”
“No,” equal parts frustration and guilt could he heard in that simple word. He extended his thumbs and pressed them to either side of the bridge of his nose. “It was hard enough leaving the lab just to visit you. There’s just not enough time, his ideas are just too far ahead...” Jayce emptied his lungs with a long sigh and fell silent.
Caitlyn turned back to the wall directly in front of her bed and folded her hands in her lap. “I’m sure you’ll get it eventually. A breakthrough will come, or you’ll get more time to yourself.”
“Right,” Jayce raised his head and unclasped his hands. “I haven’t been able to ask how you’re doing yet. I didn’t hear anything about it until it was all over, but it had me worried when they told me how bad you were hurt,” he reached down and retrieved the bouquet of assorted flowers he had hidden by his chair.
“They’re lovely,” Caitlyn had turned to face him again while he spoke, and she accepted the flowers with a grateful smile. “Are they from your mother’s garden?” she took a freesia stem between two of her fingers and pulled its yellow blooms toward her nose so she could smell their strong, sweet scent. Once finished admiring the bouquet, Caitlyn passed the flowers back to Jayce so he could add them to those that had already been placed on her bedside table.
“Yeah, she had me bring you some, said she’d come by to visit tomorrow,” Jayce adjusted the flowers in their new vase one last time and turned back to Caitlyn just as she picked up the clipboard to scribble something else down. “What’s that you’re working on?”
“Notes for what I plan to do once I’m out of here,” Caitlyn kept her eyes on the paper until she had finished her thought, then turned back to Jayce and massaged her writing hand, which was hurting a bit from how much use it had gotten that day. “I have a lot to do, might as well work out what I can while I’m stuck here.”
“May I see?” Jayce was much more at ease now that the conversation had moved onto a less painful subject. He leaned forward slightly in his chair and held his hand out to receive the clipboard.
Caitlyn passed it over, along with the pen. “Sure, you could even help me out a bit if you feel like it.”
“Well, I think I can delay my return for a bit,” Jayce twiddled the pen between his fingers and sat back in the chair, clipboard balanced on one knee. “Ready when you are.”
Vi dragged her feet as she made her way back to the apartment she now called home. She’d walked to the Blue Avenue Park after being released from the hospital, and had spent the entire day out and alone with her thoughts. A quaint little sandwich place that she’d never been to before had provided a late lunch when she finally felt hungry enough. She hadn’t felt like talking to anyone she knew, and avoiding her old haunts would guarantee that more than anything else.
Fatigue and aching feet had finally lead her home in the early evening, her gloves hung from their power pack and Holly’s journal held in one hand. A shadow detached itself from the darkness beneath the stoop of her apartment building, and Vi stopped short as one of Caitlyn’s officers made his way toward her. She prepared for the worst as he called to her.
“Officer Vi,” he stopped once he’d reached her, folded piece of paper in hand. “The Sheriff sent this.” He shoved the paper at her, which she took with some hesitation.
“Right,” Vi’s voice was raspy and somewhat dry from lack of use, and she unfolded the paper as the officer continued on down the street and out of sight.
Rest up and be ready to meet me once I get back to headquarters, I’ll need you in the coming weeks.
~ Sheriff Caitlyn
Vi was surprised. She’d fully expected to be fired and incarcerated for how badly she’d screwed up, but this letter made it sound like Caitlyn was willing to give her a second chance. It was so unexpected that Vi didn’t know what to make of it just yet, and her mind buzzed over the letter as she dragged herself up to her apartment.
The landing was empty as she reached her floor, and her apartment seemed strange to her after all that had happened, like someone else lived there. The power pack and gloves were propped against the couch as she plopped herself down on it, with Holly’s journal set on Vi’s coffee table. It was so generous of Caitlyn to give her another chance after what happened. Did she dare to show her face at headquarters again after what she’d caused? Vi stared at the wall for a few moments, and her eyes fell on Holly’s journal.
Of course she did.
Many thanks to Grand Viper for reviewing and editing once again. Be sure to check out his stuff!
Could I use your story as material to create an audiobook on youtube?
(Also please be sure to give me the appropriate credit and all.)
my skype name is jnforlife if u'd like to add me there
ofcourse every piece of credit will be given
Very good story, I'd like to see more.
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