“Come on, stupid heater.” Adora smacked her palm on the dashboard a few times. She wasn’t really sure why, it never seemed to do anything - but it made her feel better.
The only good thing about Adora’s car was that it was hers. Beyond that, it was garbage. Brown, the ultimate essence of the word brown. The paint was brown, the interior was brown, the seats were brown, even the steering wheel was wrapped in a brown cover.
She was freezing, Bright Moon winters could be brutal, and considering it was only October, she knew it would get worse. The snow hadn’t started falling yet, but it was coming, it always did. That was a fair warning she’d taken to heart when making her choice to come here. Razz made sure Adora knew everything she was getting herself into, but this was what she wanted - what she’d worked towards.
To most people, it probably wouldn’t seem like much, but for Adora, this was the biggest day of her life so far.
She was anxious and freezing and because of this she pounded on her stupid brown dashboard a little bit harder.
The parking lot was fairly empty, which was not surprising at eleven PM on a Wednesday, but Adora still enjoyed people watching.
At least, from the safety of her freezer box brown car.
She watched the doors, people moving in and out occasionally, most of them pushing carts or carrying bags.
The store was small, much like the town of Bright Moon. A mountain town more known for tourism than the people that actually lived here. For the most part, Bright Moon was a town to be visited - passed through on the way to bigger and better things. That was a big reason why Adora chose it. This place was just a stop on the road, before she moved on to, hopefully, bigger and better things.
Still, it had plenty of perks. The views were beautiful , the whole town was surrounded by mountains. The skies were clear and blue, none of them clouded in smog and tall buildings. There were trees on the sides of every road and only three traffic lights in the whole town.
It had a vintage feel. Main street was a string of shops all lined together like something you’d see out of the thirties. One movie theater, with a movie that came out in the city two months ago. On the other side of downtown was a river that ran alongside main street. In the summer, people would show up with their kids and their friends and ride inner-tubes down it.
Adora knew it was a risk, for someone who’d spent so much of her life being rather sheltered, to want to go off on her own. But she was so ready to stop being shy. She wanted a life of her own. As much as she loved Razz and Mara and the way they looked out for her - she couldn’t rely on them forever. She had to find her place in the world, even if that wasn’t going to be Bright Moon forever, it felt like a safe place to start.
That ride couldn’t be free though, Razz had helped her earn money, doing chores and odd jobs all around the neighborhood. She saved and saved, for almost two years while she finished her homeschooling with Mara. When she was ready, she had enough for a first and last month’s rent on an apartment.
But that wasn’t enough to keep her afloat for long, so she had to work - any job she could take.
The night shift at a grocery store seemed simple enough. At least she wouldn’t have to deal with customers or crowds.
Just her co-workers, and they couldn’t be too bad...right? Probably just like her. Young adults transitioning from school and into the next stages of their lives.
Okay, so they probably weren’t exactly like her - but nobody really was. Adora had...a story - a hell of a story. Not a very happy one either, but she was here and she was ready and she couldn’t hide in her freezing brown car any longer.
Stepping outside was a bit of a shock. The wind was chilly and steady, but Adora wrapped her big red coat tighter around herself and started walking towards the entrance. The air was crisp, she could see her breath in front of her and the last customer to make their way out was practically running to try and reach their car.
As she stepped to the door, Adora’s eyes glanced towards someone standing entrance, a few feet away from the sliding glass door.
A girl, leaning against the wall with one foot kicked back behind her for balance, she had thick, dark hair that puffed wildly around her head. She was only wearing a leather jacket over a red shirt and black pants. She had a lanyard hanging from her pocket with the store logo on it.
This one was one of her co-workers.
She slowed her steps down, hoping that she might get the girl’s attention to let her make a pleasant greeting. She wanted her first interaction to be a good one, with everyone.
When the girl did finally look up, after Adora had practically stopped walking, their eyes met and Adora lost all train of thought.
Her eyes were two different colors, and somehow they were both absolutely beautiful. A mixture of green and blue that Adora had never seen before. She didn’t have the most pleasant look on her face, but she didn’t seem angry either.
Regardless, whatever attempted greeting Adora had in her mind burned away like ash in the fire because this girl was so pretty. Instead, Adora tried to take another step, completely missing the elevated curb and nearly fell on her face.
Cracking her skull open on the concrete would have been an outstanding way to start her new life, but thankfully her years of yard work and competitive sports gave her enough hand eye coordination to catch herself from falling.
She regained her balance gracefully enough. Her eyes immediately sought out the girl again, who hadn’t seemed to move a bit. Except, there was the smallest smile on her face.
Adora wanted to turn around and run back to her car.
“Hi,” Adora said, not even sure why she was talking at all.
Fortunately, she managed to earn a head nod and Adora counted that as a victory.
As she stepped inside, the warmth of the store was like being rescued from the sinking Titanic. Adora felt her frozen fingers start to come back to life as the warm air hit them. She reached up and plucked off her white and gold beanie and tucked it away in her jacket pocket.
The store was pretty empty, there were only a few customers left in the checkout aisles - of which only two still had lights on. The store was closing and her shift was about to begin. Whatever that might mean, she had no idea.
They’d asked her about her strength and stamina. They asked if she could follow directions and keep track of numbers and locations. They asked if she could maintain a neat and clear work space.
Every single one of those things fit her perfectly. She was strong, she was organized (to a fault at times) and she could definitely stay clean.
They also asked her if she worked well with other people.
Of course she said she did, but that was the only lie she gave in her interview, and it wasn’t even a lie really - she just hadn’t had the chance to try.
Mostly of her own doing.
People were scary.
“Adora?” A voice called out to her, she really had no idea that anyone in Bright Moon knew her name.
Turning, she saw a shorter girl with purple hair that literally sparkled. “Me? Yes!” She took a breath. “I’m Adora,” she nodded.
“Great! You’re right on time. Good start. My name’s Glimmer, it looks like I’m gonna be showing you around tonight.”
“Oh, okay! I’m glad because I really have no idea what I’m doing.” Adora wanted to be honest up front, she was clueless. She knew better than to pretend she knew anything. She didn’t want to mess this up, she couldn’t. If they’d just give her a few days to learn, she knew she could do it well. The best shelf stocker in the store.
“Makes sense,” Glimmer started walking and Adora dutifully followed. “We’re a few minutes from closing, but some people have already started. They're unloading the trucks now, we’ll start bringing stuff in.” Adora followed Glimmer down a much wider aisle than the others, she could see double doors at the back of it. “We’ve got box cutters and knee pads if you want, you’ll help unload the truck and bring in the low velocity stock. The manager said you were strong, so I hope you’re ready to do some lifting.”
Adora flexed, despite her huge jacket. “I’m ready!” She needed to calm down. “Are we going back outside?”
Glimmer laughed. “The back doors are open so yeah, it’s freezing cold out there.”
“Ugh,” Adora groaned.
“Must be your first fall in Bright Moon.” Adora nodded. “Well I won’t tell you you’ll get used to it cause that’s a damn lie.” Glimmer turned around to push the door open with her back. When she did, a rush of cold air hit Adora right in the face.
She couldn’t dig her beanie back out fast enough.
“Holy crap!” She cried, her hands once again shaking. She could see three trucks all lined up side by side. The doors were only open on one and two guys were busy carrying large boxes off of them with electrical trolley
“Bow! We got our new girl!” Glimmer said and Adora saw one of the guys, a broad shoulder ball of energy with a bright smile on his face, turn and meet her eyes.
“Hey! I heard a lot about you! What’s your name?”
“Adora.” She said, her teeth chattering. How the hell was he not wearing a jacket? Or a shirt with sleeves?!
He moved his trolly off the ramp and sat down his load before giving Adora his full attention. “The pleasure is all mine, Adora. I’m Bow - you’ve met Glimmer,” Adora smiled when Glimmer waved at her again. “The guy on the truck is Sea Hawk. Hawk! Say hello to the new girl!”
“Ahoy!” He shouted, his voice echoing off the concrete walls around them. “I hope you’ve brought muscle because we’ve got two more trucks to go!”
God they were going to make her stay out here and freeze to death. On her first day!
“No, no, she doesn’t even have gloves.” Glimmer said, shaking her head. “Do you have gloves?” She asked quietly, Adora shook her head. “See! No loading tonight, not without gloves. We’re not traumatizing the new girl on night one and losing another hand. I have enough work cut out for me tonight making sure Catra doesn't scare her away!”
Adora didn’t like the sound of that.
“Wh-what d-do we do now?” Adora really needed to adjust to this cold weather like...right now.
“Okay, let’s get you a box and get started. Tomorrow, you’ll start on your unloading out here, so find gloves and bring a jacket that’s both warm and flexible. We’ll go with something easy for your first night though - ah!” Glimmer walked over and patted her hand on a large box. “Think you can handle this?”
“Toilet paper?” She asked and Glimmer nodded.
“A shit load of it!” She said with a giggle.
“That joke still isn’t funny!” Bow chimed in from the back of the truck.
“It is!” Glimmer argued. “Every time, it is funny!” Glimmer looked at Adora. “You thought it was funny, right?”
“I did!” She didn’t, but she wanted to get along with her co-workers.
“Ha! Told you!” Glimmer stepped out of the way and Adora moved towards the box.
It wasn’t heavy, just big and a little hard to get a handle on, but when she did, she picked it up easily.
Glimmer’s eyes went a little wide. “Oh, okay...my dad wasn’t wrong, you are strong.”
“Your dad?” Adora asked as she followed Glimmer back inside, box in hand.
“You met him during your interview, he’s the manager. And yes, before you ask, he did help me get this job. And no, before you ask, he doesn’t give me preferential treatment.”
Adora followed Glimmer, box in hand, and decided to try a little small talk. “I didn’t think that. I don’t know what parents do - I never really had any.” She said and nearly ran into Glimmer when she stopped suddenly in front of her. “Wh - what?” She asked as Glimmer gave her a look. One she didn’t expect, almost...sympathy?
“Sorry, I - I didn’t know…”
Adora frowned. “Of course you didn’t, how could you?” She just wanted to make small talk. “It’s cool, Glimmer. I promise.” She smiled with as much enthusiasm as she could, hoping to climb out of this conversation.
Thankfully, it seemed to work. “Okay, well I am sorry for assuming. You’d be amazed how many people find out you work for your parents and assume you never have to do anything. My dad certainly isn’t that way.” Glimmer rolled her eyes as she showed Adora where to set her box down. “So you want to make sure you pay attention to the UPC codes so you know where everything goes. When you finish a box, break it down and put it out of the way. You don’t have to be perfect, but just keep your area clean. When you’re done, go fetch another box and start on it.”
Adora nodded, her mind already sorting out the plan of attack. “Is it possible for me to bring more than one box at a time? So I don’t have to make a bunch of trips back and forth?”
“If you want, usually with the aisles we do it this way because of space. You won’t always have an aisle to yourself so we can’t crowd. If there’s room and you’re up for carrying a heavy load, go for it.” She was so ready. “You’ll want to go to the back first, put your jacket away and grab a box cutter and some knee pads if you want. Then you can meet some of the others!”
That was the part of the job Adora was not super thrilled about. She was so bad with new people, with people - the talking and the interacting.
Even if that was her top selling point to Razz about why she needed to do this - that didn’t mean she was excited about it.
“Right, of course,” Adora started to unzip her jacket as she, once again, followed Glimmer.
The break room was wide, with one sad little table in the middle of it. There were four narrow lockers lining the far wall and a few vending machines that had more empty spaces than full. There were only a few people here. Two girls, one who looked like she could pick up a truck with her bare hands and hold it over her head - with short, white colored hair and a young face. She was sitting with a smile, listening as another girl, with long, wavy blonde hair and the most glowingly perfect skin Adora had ever seen.
“Then the beat drops and I swear, Scorpia, it’s like the world stands still.”
“Wow, I can’t believe I’ve never heard them before! And I listen to a lot of music. It’s always on in the apartment, sometimes too loud and the neighbors yell at me.”
“This has to change. They’re going to be in concert in Fright City in a few weeks. We should definitely go. It’s an experience you need to feel .”
Scorpia’s eyes lit up, Adora couldn’t tell if it was at the prospect of the concert or a night out with the pretty girl with flowers in her hair, but if she had to guess she’d go with the latter.
“Guys, our new girl is here,” Glimmer cut in as she moved towards the lockers.
Adora was left standing in the doorway as the other two looked her way. “Hello,” she said, with a full wave and everything.
“Hi!” Scorpia stood up from her chair, at full height she was even more impressive. Adora, as she was apt to do, immediately started to consider if she could take her in a fight. “I’m Scorpia, it’s great to meet you.”
“Adora!” She extended her hand and it engulfed Adora’s. “This is Perfuma, she was just telling me about this new band 21 Guns. Have you ever heard of them?”
It was a very polite way to start a conversation, unfortunately, Adora had no idea. “Afraid not,” she tried to laugh off her embarrassment. Adora knew so little about music. “I’ll have to check them out.”
“I’d be happy to show them to you on break later,” Perfuma said from her seat, flipping her hair back with a genuine smile.
“That’d be great,” Adora siad, even though she really had no interest, she didn’t want to be rude. “I...I like your hair,” she practically had to force the words out, they caught on her throat but dammit she just wanted to be able to do more than answer questions and say hello.
Perfuma grinned. “Thank you, it’s nice that someone appreciates it. If I have to hear Mermista yell at me one more time about wilted flowers in the aisles I’m gonna scream. They don’t fall out that much and even when they do it’s not that hard to clean them up. You’d think I was throwing them in her coffee.”
Oh wow, that was a whole thing, she just wanted to try a compliment.
“Mermista’s just been a little grouchy since she started dating Sea Hawk.”
“They’ve been dating for three years.”
“I stand by my point,” Scorpia shrugged. “I’m just saying, he’s a bit much.”
Glimmer snorted from the lockers. “Pot and kettle, Scorpia.”
She said and Scorpia rolled her eyes and smiled. “Anyway, I should get back to it. It was nice to meet you, Adora. Look forward to seeing how many boxes you can carry.” With that, she squeezed Adora’s bicep and Adora instantly flexed for absolutely no reason. “Oh, hiding a lot under the poofy jacket.”
Suddenly, Perfuma was right behind Scorpia, pushing her out the door. “You can’t just randomly grab people’s arms, Scorp.”
“Hey she didn’t have anything to be ashamed -” the door closed behind them.
“You hanging in there?” Glimmer’s voice drew Adora from her wandering mind.
She sighed. “I’m not super great with stuff like this.” She admitted, she felt like she needed to. If she was awkward and uncomfortable, she wanted them to know it wasn’t because she was mean.
“You’ll figure it out, and if not, just work hard and be polite and you’ll do fine.” Glimmer opened one of the lockers. “You can put your stuff in here. We don’t have many lockers so you’ll have to share.” Adora stepped up to the locker, examining the few things inside. A bandana, with little skulls on it that hung from a hook, and a notebook that looked like it had seen a lot of use.
Adora quickly took off her jacket, it was so much hotter in the store than it was outside. Which wasn’t surprising considering it was so damn cold outside.
She hung up her coat and checked the pocket for her keys. They would be safe enough in there, she didn't think the person she was sharing a locker with would steal her car - even if the skull bandana was a little unusual.
“Glad to see you made it in safely.” Adora turned just in time to see Glimmer exiting the break room and the girl from outside coming in.
Under the fluorescent lights, she was much prettier than Adora noticed the first time. Her mismatched eyes somehow shined brighter indoors and as she took off her jacket, Adora caught sight of her thin frame and confident walk.
“I - I’m sorry?” Adora realized she’d forgotten what the girl said to her.
For some reason, this made her smirk, which only added to the cloudiness in Adora’s head. “Last time I saw you it looked like your first time with those legs.”
“Oh,” Adora painfully remembered her near fall outside.
“I wasn’t too worried though, I figured that big hair poof would have saved you from any brain damage if you fell.”
“You’re one to talk about poofy hair,” Adora said, with absolutely no idea where that had come from.
Strangely enough, the girl laughed. “Fair point.” She pulled out a chair and put her foot on it to tie her shoe lace. “You can move my stuff out of the way if you need room for your big ass jacket.”
Adora looked back at the locker, this was hers. “I can leave you room for yours, too.”
“It’s cool,” she said before tying the jacket around her waist. Adora had never felt the urge to just...watch someone before. The way this girl moved and how she kept looking at Adora was a bit overwhelming. “You must be the new girl that’s got Sparkles all wound up.”
“Purple hair, bouncy.”
“Sure,” She gestured for the door Glimmer left through. “She’s been driving us all nuts about it. The way she talked I half expected Captain Marvel to walk through the door.”
Adora frowned. “Sorry to disappoint.”
The girl strode up right beside her, she smelled like lavender and coffee. It was a surprisingly deadly combination. “Never said that,” she grabbed her bandana, tied it around her head to hold her hair back and started for the exit. “Names Catra, by the way. I’ll see you out there…” she let the opening hang in the air but didn’t stop walking.
“Adora!” She practically shouted her own name as Catra left.
Once she was alone, Adora let out a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding.
That could have gone worse, not by much, but it still could have.
Adora was on fire. She’d already taken down four boxes. Stacked them perfectly, label forward and all of her boxes were broken down and neatly stacked.
This job wasn’t so bad, her station was quiet and nobody really said anything when she kept going back to the store room and grabbing boxes.
When she finished with toilet paper, she moved onto paper towels and wet wipes. The wet wipes boxes were obnoxiously heavy, but she managed to bring them in on her own, even when Scorpia offered to help.
Adora couldn’t ask for help when she’d seen Scorpia carrying two stacked boxes marked ‘canned vegetables’. She was too competitive for that.
It wasn’t until around one in the morning when Glimmer found her again and forced her to take a break. She was hesitant, not really sure what she was going to do for the forty-five minutes she was given for ‘lunch’. She’d made sure to eat before going - that’s what the article she found online said to do when starting the night shift. Eat before you go, snack when hungry and try not to eat anything too heavy or else you’ll have trouble sleeping.
So far, Adora had been fine, only grabbing a few rice crisps she’d had tucked away in a little baggie for when she felt peckish.
When she made her way back to the storage room, there were three people in there.
Bow and Sea Hawk were on the right side of the room, each standing about ten feet about and facing one another. They had a little pink ball that they were passing back and forth to one another.
The other person was...Catra.
Catra was not playing ball, instead she was literally sprawled out on the table that Adora was pretty sure wasn’t meant for sleeping. She had her leather jacket balled up and tucked away under her head like a pillow and her bandana pulled over her eyes.
“Adora!” Bow called her name and when she looked, he was holding up the ball at her like he was going to throw it.
Before she could tell him anything, he tossed it her way and she was quick to reach up and snag it out of the air with one hand.
“The reflexes of a cat!” Sea Hawk said, throwing his hand in the air. “How’s the arm?”
Adora flipped the ball into the air a little, catching it in a better throwing position and put a little extra behind it when she sent it his way.
He caught it, but the sound of it clapping against his hands was sharp and his eyes went wide. “Goodness!” He laughed. “You seem to have a rocket attached to your right shoulder!”
“Adora, you should totally sign up for our baseball league!”
Bow seemed like the kind of person that was hard to say no to. “They have leagues around here?”
“It’s nothing too crazy, we just put together teams to play other teams in town and in a few of the surrounding towns. We get together every weekend, with a little travel here and there and play. It’s a lot of fun.”
“If I do say so myself, I am the best catcher in the tri-state area!” Sea Hawk pounded his chest for good measure. “You must have played with an arm like that.”
Adora smiled. “No, just football.”
That drew some eyebrows up, it always did. “You played football?”
“Quarterback and linebacker.” She shrugged. When she was homeschooled, it was important to Mara that she play some kind of sport - have some kind of interaction with people. Because it was suggested by Mara, Razz was quick to get on board.
Adora really didn’t know anything about sports, but she knew she liked to run and hit things - she didn’t discover she could throw well until she was in her sophomore season.
Mara had a lot of pull in the town she grew up in, so when she suggested Adora be on the team, it was met with very little resistance from the school board.
Quite a bit more resistance from the rest of the team. They all kind of hated her, but she was good and when she started playing quarterback she was suddenly the favorite.
Until she wasn’t.
“You played linebacker?” The question came from the lounge room table.
Adora glanced down to see Catra peeking out from under her bandana. “For a couple years, yeah,” she smiled. Even if her run on the football team ended badly, she was proud of it.
A small smile tugged at the corner of Catra’s mouth. “Badass,” she said before slipping the bandana back down over her eyes.
“So what do you say?” Bow asked, tossing her the ball again. “We could always use a pitcher, and you might not be able to hit people, but you can hit a ball with a bad and that’s always fun.”
Make friends, that’s why you delayed your future a year, you wanted to make friends.
“Sounds like fun, where do I go to...do...that?”
“Well it’s almost winter so we won’t be playing any time soon, but if you sign up now I’ll be able to set it up so you’re on our team in spring.”
“The Bright Moon Bombers will be lucky to have you!” Sea Hawk practically shouted.
Adora couldn’t help but smile a little, she liked the boys’ enthusiasm. They were easy to talk to. “I love anything outdoors. The hiking trails here are definitely a part of why I decided to move here.”
“So where are you from?” Bow asked, tossing the ball her way.
She caught it and decided to join in their game. “I grew up in Crystal Castle. Go Stargazers.”
“Ooh, northwestern girl. Decided to trade in the rain for the snow, huh?”
Adora shuddered. “I think I really underestimated how cold it was here.”
“It certainly adds to the adventure! Just wait until you’re snowed in, call me and I’ll bring Dragon’s Daughter III over and clear you a path!”
“Dragon’s Daughter III?”
“It’s a shitty snow plow he’s attached to his equally shitty truck.” Catra chmed in again, Adora still wasn’t sure what she was doing. She clearly wasn’t sleeping, how could she with all the noise? But she hadn’t complained once.
“It’s the third shitty snow plow I’ve attached to my magnificent truck! We’ll see what you think is shitty when I’m rescuing damsels and clearing the road for the good citizens of Bright Moon!”
With a groan, Catra sat up, lifting her bandana. “You two need to get back to work,” she said and when the ball suddenly stopped being thrown, Adora was surprised to see them actually leaving.
“Adora, hit me up about those hikes if you’re looking for someone to go with,” Bow smiled at her, one that made her chest flutter with happiness - people usually didn’t reach out to spend time with her like this.
“Of course!” She said, her voice way too high, but it didn’t seem to deter him at all.
Once they left, Adora was suddenly left alone with Catra, again. She was sitting on the table still. One knee pulled up to her chest, her other leg fully extended. Adora had decided that Catra was one of those naturally attractive people that always looked cool.
A lot of the comfort she’d had when the boys were around suddenly vanished when she was one on one with Catra. It wasn’t that Catra scared her or upset her, she was just really intimidating.
Adora couldn’t explain it, but there was this strange pull to get to know her. “That table doesn’t look very comfortable?”
“I’ve slept on worse,” she said, lifting her arms over her head to stretch her back. “You really played football?”
“Yeah,” she said simply.
“Don’t think they’d let anything like that happen here. Not that it matters, local sports here are shit anyway. Still, that’s...pretty cool. You ever make anyone cry?”
Adora laughed. “Not that I remember. Broke a guy's shoulder once.”
“Not really, he was on our team.”
Catra’s brows furrowed. “You get confused?”
“No, I knew what I was doing.”
Suddenly, Catra swung her legs off the table and sat staring at Adora. “Gonna need you to elaborate on that, princess.”
Catra shrugged. “Blonde hair, blue eyes and I imagine you fill out a dress pretty well.” Adora glanced down at her chest. “Not that, shoulders, arms...you clearly know your way around a weight room.”
“I guess so,” she didn’t want to nerd out completely and tell Catra about her twenty page workout and dietary plan.
Thankfully, Catra didn’t push. “So, why break your teammate’s shoulder?”
“They really weren’t happy when I joined the team.” Adora hoped that would be enough, but Catra kept looking at her. “That first year was hard. They stole my clothes, they targeted me in practice. Called me names - it was even worse when they found out I was a lesbian.”
Catra’s brow arched. “You being on the football team didn’t set off any alarms?”
Adora found herself laughing, that was the tamest reaction she’d ever had to that part of herself. “They were football players. A girl that didn’t want them just didn’t register.”
“So what changed?”
This was Adora’s favorite part of the story. “I was better than them and they eventually figured it out.”
Catra grinned like a cheshire cat. “Like I said before, badass.”
With that, Catra hopped off the table and made to leave the break room. On her way out, she gave Adora a quick wink and bumped her shoulder before exiting.
Adora only had a minor freakout before Glimmer found her again.