“Thank you so much. This is going to mean a lot to the community,” Adora gratefully assured the couple standing in the doorway to their apartment.
With Bow’s direction, she’d done some research and learned that she could petition the neighborhood’s board to take control of the private property. They would exercise a power called eminent domain, which argues that it benefits the community more to convert the land for public use. That would prevent the property from being bulldozed for residential housing. But she needed a minimum of 500 signatures to even bring it up for a vote. The determined young woman had been traversing the entire area since, knocking on doors and stopping strangers for signatures.
Most of the responses had been fairly positive. Once she explained the ramifications of a luxury condominium high-rise moving into their multi-generational community, people were quick to sign anything that would help prevent it. After a day and a half of pounding concrete all over the city blocks, she had nearly gotten the number of signatures she needed. She was desperate to submit the petition as soon as possible because she had already received a courtesy call from Nevan at Thaymor Real Estate. She knew the owner was planning to meet with Catra again today to learn more about the Horde’s purchase offer. What if he accepted, and she was too late? She pushed the worry from her mind. She didn’t have time to fixate on possible disasters today. She had to keep working – for the residents, for Bright Moon, and for Glimmer.
Her phone buzzed in her pocket. She saw a new text message from Perfuma.
Just got 10 more at this hot dog stand.
A flicker of hope arose in Adora. She was so grateful to have such good friends on her team. A few of the Alliance skaters had volunteered their help on their days off from their own jobs. She wasn’t the only one gathering signatures – which was how she was so close to their goal already. She really owed them.
Amazing! We might make it today! she hastily typed back before walking up the stairs to the next stranger’s door.
A bell jingled as Adora pushed open the door to The Historian, Bow’s café bookstore near the center of town. It was a popular location in the evenings and was across the street from a subway stop. At 1:30PM on a weekday it was quiet and solitary. Bow looked up from a display he was busy setting on one of the sales counters.
“Adora!” he exclaimed cheerfully. “I didn’t expect you this early. Were you in the neighborhood?”
“I was close enough,” she replied breezily. “I’ve been out trying to get these signatures. Luckily, some of the team’s been helping too. We’re nearly there.”
“Are you hungry?”
He chuckled. “Sit down, I’ll hook you up.”
“Thanks, Bow,” she said gratefully.
The blonde slumped into a plaid armchair not far away. The shop was full of plush cushions and seats for patrons to hang out and read the books while they snacked or drank coffee. It really was the perfect hangout, she thought. Bow was good at making people feel comfortable, included. He was meant to own a business like this where people gathered and enjoyed themselves.
Not too much later, Bow reappeared with a panini and some baked potato chips. There was a glass of iced tea on the tray next to them.
“My hero,” Adora sighed and dug into the meal.
The taller man ruffled his curly black fauxhawk away from his forehead and eyed her thoughtfully.
“Adora, I know this project means a lot to you, but I hope you’re taking care of yourself too. You look pretty exhausted.”
She paused before taking the next bite of this absolutely phenomenal sandwich and frowned in consideration.
“It has been busy the last few days,” she admitted. “But we’re on a time limit for this. It won’t take too much longer to get past this hurdle. Then I should be able to slow down.”
She scratched the back of her head and chuckled a little. “At least, that’s what I hope!”
Bow wasn’t completely reassured by her statement. “Well, you’re not off the hook for tonight. We both know Glimmer would have a fit.”
“Tonight? Oh! The concert,” she registered. “Of course I’ll be at your event, Bow. I wouldn’t miss it.”
His hands nested on his hips and he smirked. “It’ll be good for you to relax and have fun.”
“Right,” Adora echoed, her attention drifting.
An event surrounded by strangers, flashing lights, and competing noises wasn’t exactly what she would classify as relaxing, but she couldn’t imagine letting down her sweetest friend. Even though she met him through Glimmer – like all the rest of her friends, now that she thought about it – Bow had quickly become one of her closest confidantes. He was encouraging, insightful, and tried not to judge anybody else. He was the perfect match to Glimmer, who could sometimes be stubborn and impulsive. Her heart was pure, though; and she was a loyal friend. She had definitely proved that to Adora throughout their lives. She loved both her best friends so much.
As the woman finished up her late lunch, Bow reminded her when they were leaving their apartment that night if she wanted to carpool to the show. She assured him she wouldn’t forget and set back to her duty of collecting signatures.
Just before the council’s public office space closed for the day at 5PM, she submitted all 500 signatures and heaved a huge sigh of relief. Maybe she could actually enjoy the evening after all.
Catra was about to shut down her work computer for the day when her cell rang. It was Nevan from Thaymor Real Estate, but she wasn’t expecting his call until tomorrow. Something wasn’t right.
“This is Catra,” she answered promptly.
“Catra, glad I caught you,” Nevan said. “There’s something new I wanted to warn you about.”
That word. Warn. Her stomach did a somersault, but she waited for him to continue.
“Bright Moon just dropped off a petition to convert the property to public land. All sales have been put on hold until the residential board can review the case and make a decision. You’ll want to present your side of the situation. Have your legal team reach out to us and the board’s office directly.”
Catra inhaled with a shocked hiss.
“It surprised me too. Somehow they managed to scrape together the 500 signatures needed to bring a petition to the table – in only two days. Can you believe that?”
Considering who was behind a move like this, Catra was starting to think she could. Her nails dug into her leg. She was squeezing her knee with all her strength to prevent her fury from spilling out of her lips instead. This wasn’t the time or place. Nevan was still trying to be her ally in this situation.
“Thanks for the heads up,” she replied once she felt she had enough control over her emotions to speak. “I’ll get our people on this tonight.”
“Any time. You’re one of our best clients, after all.”
After the line clicked, she furiously typed a text to Double Trouble.
Looks like I need you, after all.
Her phone rang a few breaths later.
“What’s wrong, Kit Cat?”
“They filled out a fucking petition. I need you to take them down in front of the neighborhood board.”
“Juicy,” they replied silkily. “That definitely throws a wrench in your sister’s schedule, but don’t worry, Kitten. This will be child’s play for my team. We’ll still get our prize. Let me get a few balls rolling tonight so Sissy Meanest doesn’t blow her top in the morning.”
“Thanks, I owe you,” Catra sighed with some relief.
“Don’t wait up for me,” Double Trouble sang before ending the call.
It still took her a while to will her legs to carry her out of her cubicle and go home. This was way more than she needed to deal with right now. Fuck that damned Bright Moon. Fuck Sparkles. Fuck Adora.
“You mean the same week the Alliance and their captain beat you in derby they also interfered with your work at the Horde? Fascinating.”
Scorpia noticed Catra’s anger bubbling under the surface and cut off Entrapta before she could continue making oblivious commentary about their friend’s difficulties.
“That’s okay, Wildcat!” she interrupted nervously. “You already said Double Trouble’s handing it, and they’re the best lawyer money can buy!”
The shorter woman’s shoulders lowered a bit at the reassurance. That was Scorpia’s cue to plow forward.
“You know what? We should do something fun tonight, as the Super Pal Trio! The three of us haven’t been out in ages!”
“Scorpia, we go out three times a week,” Catra cut in dryly.
“Oh, practice doesn’t count, silly,” the red-haired woman retorted. “Look. There’s a band playing at this coffee shop. Let’s go to that. It’ll be nice!”
“An opportunity to observe new social interactions,” Entrapta mused from behind her laptop across the room. “Perhaps this would be a beneficial experience.”
“That’s the spirit,” said a bolstered Scorpia. “There should also be free snacks!”
The purple-haired girl squealed in delight. “Do you think there’ll be tiny snacks?!”
“Ha ha, maybe,” the other woman chuckled. “So what do you say, Catra?”
The shorter woman groaned plaintively. “Do I have a choice?” she finally muttered.
“Absolutely not!” her friend shouted gleefully and lifted her off her feet in a crushing hug. Catra hissed in response.
Adora stood shuffling her weight from one foot to another in the bookstore. A small stage was set up over on the café portion of the business, and a modest group of people had already gathered. They made conversation with drinks in hand as they waited for the set to begin. She felt a little nervous in the unfamiliar setting. She’d been to a few shows with Glimmer and Bow over the past few months, and she usually enjoyed them once the music started. She just hadn’t figured out what to do during the time before when she was expected to contribute to the entertainment by talking.
For an added layer of awkwardness, Glimmer had insisted on helping dress her for the event. They’d compromised in the end. Adora agreed to wear a dress as long as Glimmer found one that wasn’t too over-the-top. The result was a loose linen dress that dipped in a modest v-shaped neckline but had fluttery sleeves that let her arms wave freely. The burgundy garment billowed over the belt cinching her waist before the rest flowed easily to her knees. It did feel pretty without drawing unwanted attention, and it was comfortable to move in. She drew a hard line at high heels and instead wore a pair of her own worn-in boots that hadn’t clashed too horribly with the rest of the ensemble. And nobody could negotiate the ponytail.
Glimmer hurried up to her with two drinks in hand. The low lights in the room bounced off the sparkling beads that were stitched all over her purple crop top and matching skirt. She handed one glass to Adora excitedly.
“Let’s move closer,” she gestured. “Bow said they’re about to start.”
Adora followed her shorter friend and took a few deep draws of her mixed drink. Finally, she convinced her body and mind to relax a bit. The lights dimmed, and the crowd gave an eager cheer.
The “Super Pal Trio” arrived late to the concert. A local electro-pop group that had a decent following was on stage at the back of the coffee shop that was apparently also a bookstore. The shelves had been cordoned off so the concert-goers couldn’t wander around the merchandise. Catra regretted choosing the leather jacket when she felt how warm it was inside the venue. At least it was sleeveless, but it still made her chest feel somewhat restricted. She’d paired the jacket with ripped leggings and some combat boots. Scorpia hadn’t really told her what sort of band they were going to see, but it was what she felt comfortable in.
Entrapta immediately cackled and raced to the tables lined with food samples, which earned another eyeroll from Catra. She accompanied Scorpia to the drinks line, which was short because most people were by the active stage at this point. Her eyes wandered the crowd casually, but then she spotted them.
“You have got to be kidding me,” she growled.
“What’s that, Wildcat? Here’s your drink.”
Catra snatched the glass that was handed to her and chugged it down.
“Uh, you alright, Catra?”
“That fucking girl’s here!” Catra shouted over the music.
Her taller friend followed Catra’s outstretched finger and started. “Oh, wow! This is getting a little too crazy, don’t you think?”
The other woman’s shoulders shook with annoyance.
“Hey,” Scorpia interjected. “Maybe this is like a sign or something.”
When her friend looked more confused than irritated, she continued. “Maybe the universe or whatever is saying you should get to know this girl. I mean, you did run into her like three times this week. Maybe she’s not as bad as you think! Ooo, you should talk to her here!”
“What?!” Catra screeched. “I’d rather die.”
She turned and ordered another drink. “Come on, let’s just watch the stupid show already,” she muttered.
Scorpia shrugged about her rejected suggestion and followed. Entrapta checked in a couple times to ask the one who planned their outing various questions about the band or the crowd’s behavior. Then she would vanish again, no doubt to line her overalls pockets with more tiny food. Catra had emptied the second drink and was feeling much livelier. Her body subconsciously bounced along to the music, and eventually a mischievous grin spread across her face.
“You know what, Scorpia?” she said over the current song. “I think I’ll try your little plan after all. Maybe I can use this to my advantage to win that property. Like you said, it’s fate, right?”
“That’s not what I-” her friend tried to intervene, but Catra had already walked away. “Oh dear.”
“Hey, Adora,” Catra purred close enough for the Alliance jammer to hear over the music, which was louder over here than where she’d been watching with Scorpia.
The blonde woman jumped and turned to see who’d spoken her name.
“Catra?” she asked incredulously.
Hm, it seemed she bothered to remember Catra’s name when they crossed paths the other day too. Why did that fact send a tiny surge of warmth through her? Shaking the thought aside, she leaned closer.
“Care to dance, Princess?” she offered her hand with a smirk.
Adora eyed her a moment. “You’re teasing me, right?”
“So rude,” the dark-haired woman replied airily. “I guess I should have just asked somebody else.”
When she pretended to scan the room for another dance partner, she heard the blonde girl growl before grabbing her hand and leading her away. The casual touch sent a spark up Catra’s arm and made her stomach do a quick flip. The woman from her rival team firmly took hold of her shoulders and forced their eyes to meet.
“It’s hard to read you,” she began, then deliberately unfurrowed her brows. “I’d like to dance, but it didn’t seem like you would want to.”
Her honesty slapped Catra out of her train of thought, which had been plotting the best way to manipulate this girl to stop fucking up her whole life. Looking away nervously, she struggled to put together a snarky response.
“It’s not polite to make assumptions,” she settled on saying.
Adora’s penetrating gaze didn’t waver. It was as if she was trying to literally read Catra’s mind. What was up with her? Searching for anything else to look at, the Fright Zone player took in her rival’s current attire. She was dressy but not in an overly flashy way. The dress looked comfortable and hinted at the toned shoulders that barely peaked out from its open neck. Her arms were firm and smooth – her legs even more so. The boots…didn’t quite match the rest but humorously seemed like the one piece that actually reflected the girl’s personality. She seemed a little stiff in the probably borrowed clothing. Catra had liked the dress – it was flattering – but she found she liked the broken-in boots more.
“I thought you might’ve already assumed something about me that you didn’t like,” Adora finally interrupted her wandering thoughts. The girl bit her lip nervously.
Wait, Catra was supposed to be strategizing, not daydreaming about stupid boots. Hold on. Adora said Catra made assumptions? Having a conversation was a little trickier with alcohol.
“Like what, Princess?” she blurted instead of choosing her words carefully.
“Like that I’m a princess,” the blonde woman frowned. “I’ve never been that.”
“Could’ve fooled me. You’re the star player of the elite Alliance team. What’s with your name anyways?”
“What’s with ‘Adora’?”
“No, no. The derby name: She-ra.”
“Oh.” Realization set in. The taller girl paused and considered whether it was safe to divulge her reason to her would-be enemy. Wishful thinking won out. “As a kid I always loved super heroes. It was my biggest dream to become like them someday. They always find the right thing to do, and people can depend on them to help. Since I’m a woman, I decided to do a feminine play on the word ‘Hero.’ Instead of He-ro, I’m She-ra.”
She fidgeted as if bracing for Catra to make fun of her, which made the taunt fade before it reached her lips. Adora risked a glance and visibly relaxed when she discovered Catra wasn’t even suppressing a snicker. It was like seeing the real, honest Adora for the first time. She was innocent and beautiful. Without noticing earlier, Catra realized they were already swaying slightly to the song she completely forgot was playing. It felt nice, just her and this kind-of-silly but endearing stranger.
It took a moment, but Catra’s real brain finally kicked back in. She was supposed to be fixing her property buying situation.
“Hey,” she cut in bluntly. “Why are you trying to get me fired?”
The other woman looked stunned. “Get you fired?”
“Duh. You blocked my sale with a petition?”
Adora seemed genuinely remorseful, which only annoyed Catra more. “I didn’t – obviously I couldn’t have known your job would be at risk. I was just doing my job, helping the community and my friend.”
The shorter girl snorted. “Princess She-ra saving the day by giving kids a painting class.”
“Hey!” Adora’s voice hardened with indignation. “That center would be a huge resource for children who don’t have anywhere else to go. And I couldn’t let all those people get bullied out of their homes by some condo!”
What sucked was she wasn’t wrong – about any of it. But Catra was too stubborn to back down from her accusations.
“Sure, whatever you say.”
Catra turned to leave, but a strong hand grabbed hold of her wrist. It was gentle enough to avoid hurting her, though. There was only enough power behind the grip to request that she stay. She looked back into those flashing blue eyes, and the air caught in her throat.
“Please,” Adora began mildly. “Let’s talk about something else.”
Catra shifted awkwardly, but her opportunity to make a grand exit had already passed.
“Or less talking, if you want,” the girl offered quickly. It was annoying how much she was trying.
With a sigh, Catra spun back to face her apparent dance partner. She was too frustrated to push any other topics; so they danced silently a while. Her brain got fuzzier as her drinks from earlier were coaxing her towards sleeping soon. She had never been a heavyweight when it came to alcohol, which could be inconvenient at times. This was definitely one of those times.
Catra’s fuzzy brain liked the way those powerful arms lightly circled her neck with their warmth. Her fuzzy brain also edged closer because Adora’s perfume smelled nice. Her fuzzy brain even reached out and brushed a stray wisp of blonde hair out of the girl’s face with a smile. And it wasn’t the cocky smirk that sober Catra would have chosen to stay in control of the situation. She wasn’t sure what Fuzzy Brain was up to anymore, but luckily Scorpia came over to say they needed to go since she taught a morning class at the gym on Saturdays. Fuzzy Brain tried not to leave, but Scorpia wouldn’t be beaten that easily. Her beautiful blonde enemy faded farther and farther away as they left.