So when Adora sat on the bench right behind their school’s main building, the last thing she expected was to end up in Principal Bright-Moon’s office. Or outside it, for the matter of fact.
Which she did.
To make matters worse, her mom was currently inside the very same office talking to the principal. There were, surely, a few disadvantages to your mom taking up the PE coach position at the same school you’ve transferred to not but a month ago. Like, calling your parent to the principal's office has never been easier.
The other sneaked on her while Adora was too lost in her thoughts. Too confused over what has just happened.
Yeah, turns out Catra was there as well. Right next to Adora, her sister sprawled on the chair. Took some time to knead the cushion under her, sneakers kicked under the chair long ago.
Catra has never been really fond of any shoes, the whole idea of wearing shoes actually. Adora has always remembered her that way, so the habit to pick those up, untie the laces and neatly put the snickers down by the side kicked in without a second thought.
Which, yet again, she did.
“Uh-huh,” Catra let out a sigh and yawned. “I’m so bo-o-ored. How much longer could it even take?”
“Mom is talking to principal Bright-Moon,” suggested Adora quite peacefully.
“Duh, it never takes this lo-ong,” complained Catra and fidgeted in her place a little bit.
“Never? Huh?” Adora blinked several times before it finally clicked to her. “Wait, how many times have you already been here?”
“Uh, like I’d know. Do you think I’d count?” Catra leaned to her side and plumped herself on Adora’s lap, tucking her hands under her head and crossing her legs mid-air. “Shadow’d count it for me anyways.”
Adora stared at the door with the large sign saying “Principal” on it. The lids were shut yet she could’ve sworn she’s noticed at least some movement inside.
“Yeah, you call her that,” drawled out Catra and reached out to mess with a lock of Adora’s hair. “It’s not like she’s our real mom or anything.”
“She’d like you to call her that,” pointed out Adora.
She wasn’t even very least trying to sound convincing. Gave that up several years ago.
“Duh, the joke’s on he–“
The door slammed open followed but an exasperated huff from the principal. She muttered something about school property but Adora couldn’t be all that sure.
“We are awfully sorry, principal Bright-Moon” Adora whisper-shouted just in case as Catra jerked to sit up and nearly knocked the breath out of her.
Also, Adora was probably the only one to listen to the principal complaining.
The back of Catra’s head struck right into Adora’s chin.
And a highly amused Catra sprang to her feet. Hands on her hips, she leaned a bit in and squinted up. Adora knew too well mom hated that one stare.
“So-o? What does she have to say about me, you didn’t know, Shadow?”
Adora almost jumped to her feet and tugged on Catra’s hand. Yet was cut short – the other just brushed her hand away without even sparing a glance.
“Catra,” their mom, on the other hand, was already hovering over. A step away. “I don’t want you influencing your sister in any–”
Principal Bright-Moon must’ve gotten annoyed by their flaming quarrel-to-be at that point. It was the movement behind her mom’s back and the slam of that door to the principal’s office that distracted her. And Adora’s almost missed the next blow.
“Duh.” Catra hissed and then as if nothing had happened waved her hand dismissively. “It always has to be about Adora, doesn’t it?” she stated calmly once again. “Because she’s your favourite, perfect. And me, a walking catastrophe, you should’ve never adopt– Mphf!”
Adora dashed to her side and cut Catra off pressing her palms to Catra’s face. Perhaps too roughly. Maybe not very careful: she ended up squishing Catra’s nose more than clamping her mouth shut. Adora wasn’t looking that much what exactly she was doing but rather trying to tug Catra a few steps back and away from their now perfectly seething mom.
“Well, Adora’s always been the good one whereas you are only causing trouble!” huffed Shadow Weaver in one breath and stepped closer. Her darkened expression hover over both. Adora yanked Catra back. “So maybe I shouldn’t have, had I only known–“
“Mom, please!” Adora pleaded as she eased her hold on Catra’s frame and tucked her behind her back. Or tried to, the elbow hold might have proven effective in a fight yet not against the one who was taught the very same thing. “It was all my fault! My idea as well, Catra, she– ouch!“
“Let go of me!”
“Did you bite me?” Adora whispered back.
Confused, she let go, yet Catra only had time to dash back to their mom. Something thorny already forming on her lips, Adora recognised that expression too well.
Shadow Weaver, somehow, was starting to calm down. She adjusted the collar of her scarlet sports jacket and brushed her knuckles along the two white lines down one sleeve. There was nothing there, Adora could clearly see that even from where she was standing. Still their mother acted as if she’s just noticed a sport. Rubbed on that spot but the corner of her eye darted over Catra’s shoulder and to Adora.
“So tell me, Adora, why would you secure a bucket of water over the History classroom’s door?” she prompted calmly, even if sounding a little bit amused. “With such a looped knot to make matters worse. So that it wouldn’t turn over on just any person but rather on poor Mr Greenshrub who would always open the door wide?”
“She did wha–?!” Adora cut herself off shortly. “Oh, I mean– I mean– yeah, mom, we– oh, wait, I– I did that!”
Catra hissed as she was gently, or not very much so, brushed to the side for Shadow Weaver approached Adora. She squatted right in front of her and took Adora’s hand in between hers. Looked up and gently gave it a light squeeze.
“A-dora,” Shadow Weaver almost cooed and Adora over her mom’s head, which was now lower than her own chest, noticed Catra curling her lips. “How perfectly noble it is of you to step in to protect your sister–”
“I need no one to protect me!” hissed Catra and clutched her fists to her sides.
Adora pulled on a smile but for some reason that only made Catra angrier.
“–I know that you would’ve never done something that foolish,” meantime continued their mom.
She noticed none of the looks and grimaces exchanges. Or at least pretended she didn’t. Adora scratched the back of her neck and looked around the hall. She wasn’t quite sure what to do or what was better to say.
“Well,” Adora trailed off for a moment and added quieter, “Principal Bright-Moon did call me into her office, too.”
“Tut.” Shadow Weaver raised to her feet and waved the remark off. “That.” She sounded somewhere between annoyed and slightly amused. “You’ve apparently sat on her favourite bench. Or something. Never mind, not a big deal. Just don’t sit there again, Angelica can see the bench from her window.”
“It’s Principal Angella Bright-Moon,” Adora corrected under her breath but it seemed mom didn’t hear that.
Instead, Shadow Weaver patted Adora on the shoulder and then turned around to give Catra a stern look.
“I’ll deal with you at home,” the voice was darkly low and cold once again. “Remember, I have classes to teach and not run around to hear all about your foolish errands.”
“Duh, like you’d–“
The sharp cold glare would always do the trick. A mental blow, Adora’s been given that only once in her life. Proved quite enough though, never again did she want to end up on the other end of that particular look.
It always meant an end to any discussion possible. Catra would act bold, yet this time the stance slightly weakened and gave it away.
With that Shadow Weaver turned on her heels and walked off without saying a word.
Catra kept silent for some time while Adora clenched her own elbow and would occasionally rub her thumb over the scarlet sleeve.
Finally, Catra huffed, snatched up her snickers and scowled.
“Who’s asked you?” And giving Adora enough time to form an answer yet not give that very same answer, Catra added, “You do everything better! Uh, why need to bother and prove it every damn time?” She tied the laces together and threw that over her shoulder, holding by the know. “And when did I even ask you to protect me?”
“But we promised–“
“To look out for each other? Uh-huh, that was back at the orphanage, ages ago.”
An obscure wave and Catra darted the same way their mom’s just left.
She stopped right before the turn though. Tapped her nails on the wall, then turned back at Adora and scratched an invisible trail across the pale paint.
“Two lost kids whose parents have abandoned them! Now you’ve got yourself this new mom so enjoy being mom’s pet while you can.” She slammed her palm open against the wall. “And leave. Me. Alone! Ugh.”
Blinking several times didn’t help much. Perfectly more confused than ever before, Adora scratched the back of her neck but else didn’t move. She had no idea what she was to do about it all.
“Oh, there you are!” Down the corridor, Bow rushed towards her and shouted to somebody behind him. “I’ve found her, still here!”
“They don’t do the tour to the principal’s office, do they?”
Adora watched Glimmer run over to her as well. With Bow to her left and Glimmer to her right, she somehow felt so much better.
“In freshmen orientation.” Bow tapped her on the shoulder. “Wait, don’t tell me nobody’s shown you around the school when you transferred? How are even alive in this maze?”
Adora trailed off, not exactly sure what that orientation was supposed to involve. If some student council member waving at several corridors, then yes. Direct coordinates were never given out though, so she spent the first week making a building plan of her own. But the last thing she wanted was to make somebody end up in trouble because of her. Maybe they were to show her around better after all.
“No, that they did.” And Adora gave them both an awkward smile. “Sure. Just not the principal’s office.”
“Erm. Good? Yeah, good.”
Glimmer flushed a little bit, probably from all the running around and looking for her. Adora felt a guilty flame lighting up in her chest.
“You’re ok?” She leaned in and looked over Glimmer’s face. She other grew a shade of crimson darker, so Adora reached out to touch her forehead. “Seems fine. You sure you’re not feeling sick?
“Your face’s all red.”
“Yeah!” Glimmer darted back.
Why was Bow snickering somewhere behind her, Adora couldn’t possibly imagine.
- - - - - -
“... my dad’s memorial bench. She gets kinda grumpy about it.” For a split second Glimmer touched Adora’s shoulder. “Er– sorry.”
She waved her hand around as if nothing has happened. Adora raised her eyebrow as Bow cough-chuckled into his fist. Doing his not very best to hide a smile that Adora couldn’t quite place. Teasing? Happy? Gleeful?
Well, his eyes were almost shining with mischief.
“Should’ve told you about the bench. I mean, it’s right behind our school, and we agreed to meet up there. You must’ve been really tired, no wonder you tried sitting down.” Glimmer motioned as they entered the cafeteria. “And mom guards that like a hawk. Her windows open exactly over it, she was the one to put it there after all.”
To Adora it did make some sense, yet the reason why nobody was supposed to sit down kept slipping her mind. If it’s a bench, it’s meant for people to sit on. Full stop. Perfect logic.
As Bow was glancing around to find them a free table, Glimmer stepped closer. Their arms almost brushing. Almost. Bare tanned skin against the plush scarlet sleeve.
Suddenly Glimmer grew very interested in the said material. She pinched some and rubbed it in between her fingers.
“Why you and your mom have the same jackets?”
Adora shrugged her shoulders. Before, it’s never occurred to her.
“They’re sports jackets?” She was nowhere near sure. “And they’re comfy. We’re good. Erm, Glimmer?” Adora leaned in and whispered, not too particularly fond of the idea since it, surely, made her look kinda stupid, “What’s a memorial bench?”
“Um, like a memorial?” Glimmer looked away and tucked a lock of her short hair behind her ear. It didn’t stay there for long so absentmindedly she repeated the motion once again. “Mom put that up to mark dad’s passing.”
“Well,” Glimmer scoffed, “he went west.”
No matter how hard Adora thought about it, she couldn’t make out a thing. She could almost swear she felt the gears turning inside her head, the overall typical lunch break cafeteria buzzing not helping her think. Strongly, it smelt of ketchup and something over-fried.
“Er– like on foot? Were there no planes flying?” Concerns growing in her chest, Adora simply watched as Glimmer clutched her fists to her sides until her knuckles coloured. Glimmer’s lips also tightened into a thin line, her jaws tightly shut. “You’ve never talked about your dad–“
“He’s gone,” gritted the other through her teeth.
“Gone where? West?” Adora looked around as if expecting to see Glimmer’s dad walk out towards them out of nowhere. “You mean like the west coast?”
“Like dead,” whispered Bow appearing behind Adora’s back.
At that she jumped. No, a fencing champion she was, Adora did notice him coming. Heard his steps and expected Bow to appear right at the spot. What he said, however, she couldn’t have foreseen.
“Oh...” It dawned upon Adora yet not fast enough for her to react at the spot. “Oh–! I am so sorry, Glimmer! I didn’t mean it! I didn’t know! You’ve said he– And I– And... and–”
“It’s ok,” Glimmer squeezed her hand assuringly. “I don’t remember him much, was still a kid. He was in the military too. Never came home, they sent him back.”
That was it. Adora tugged her in for a bear hug.
“Best friend squad hugs!” cheered Bow and hugged the two.
“You-u’re skuishin’ me-e–“
“I’m so-o sorry! I had no idea about your dad, I swear.” Adora gave it some thought and added, “And never heard those, erm, expressions. You know how I am–“
“Right, let’s go!” Without loosening the hug, Bow ushered them forward. “Found us a table, quick before somebody snatches it from under our noses.”
Bow turned them around so that now he was waking with his back first. Adora still held Glimmer to her chest while Bow hugged them both.
“Wha-at ff we fall?” mumbled Glimmer and tried to wriggle free for the last time.
Because of their height difference, Glimmer’s face was pressed exactly into Adora’s chest. To Adora all the struggling tickled, and why Glimmer was so desperate to break free she had no idea.
“Best friend squad pile?” suggested Bow. He surely sounded too amused by the idea.
No, they didn’t fall. Merely got to the table that Bow had in mind as he finally let go and turned around. Knocking down a juice box from a tray.
“Oops, sorry.” It also appeared the table was already taken by some pale skinny boy in a grey sweater. “Didn’t see you there.”
“I’m-m Kyle,” blurted out the boy and sprang to his feet, his face turning pink. “And I’m-m leaving already,” hurriedly he snatched the still full tray from the table. “Thanks for not sitting on me, people usually don’t notice me. And don’t talk to me. My name’s Kyle.”
And with that, he shadowed crimson and ran off. Kyle didn’t really bother whether the food on his tray would mix or even stay on its plates or not.
Glimmer was the first to plump herself down, while Adora stayed behind for a moment as she watched Bow craning his neck to see where to Kyle has just dashed. Yet, the small figure seemed nowhere to be seen, the pale boy in his oversized grey sweater was swallowed by the buzzing crowd.
“He’s weird,” pointed out Glimmer as she crossed her legs.
Adora shrugged and sat next to her.
“Heard about the schedule change?” suggested Bow as he joined them.
“ 'Cause of the grad student?” Adora quirked her eyebrow.
She’s caught some of the gossips she did. In the locker rooms, yet it made little sense. Other than some grad student is to teach them a class while somebody's in the hospital. Could've been anyone on the faculty.
“Think I saw her name among the pile of mom’s papers,” Glimmer trailed off and hummed. “It started with... with... Scorpia–, or something like that.”
Bow clapped his hands together and smiled widely.
“So what do you think that new grad student teaches?”