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A Series of Jams

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When Catra opened her eyes, she didn’t recognize the scenery around her. There was a short table with a half-empty glass of water waiting on a cork coaster. A small armchair and a floor lamp sat beside a small window across from her. The sunlight beaming in through the window was boring into her eyes, which must be what woke her up to begin with. She was still extremely tired. The next thing the woman noticed was that she was actually lying on a couch rather than in a bed. There was a crick in her neck from being wedged against the armrest for so long.

Slowly, because it made her feel sick to move any faster, she rose into a vertical position to better take in her surroundings. There was a hall and a doorway that seemed to lead to a kitchen. She saw tiled floor and some cabinets with possibly the edge of a card table peeking out.

The place seemed peaceful enough. A few birds chirped outside, which gave her hope it was still early enough for her to get to work on time; otherwise Lucia would murder her. What worried her was that she had no recollection of where this was or how she’d gotten here.

Next she took inventory of her own body. She still had all her clothes on, which she was extremely relieved to confirm. Had she called somebody to come get her? She patted her various pockets until she found her phone. The battery was barely clinging to life, a low charge icon flashing in the top right corner of the screen. The clock read 6:26AM – there was still over an hour until she was expected at work. She checked her text and call history.

Scorpia had sent a few texts asking about her general well-being and confirming that she was nervously taking Catra at her word that she didn’t need help. A couple hours after that, there was a final text stating she was going to bed but would call for help if she didn’t hear from Catra by morning. Before moving on to the next portion of her search, she shot off a quick text to her roommate.

Alive and okay for now. I think.

She hadn’t made any calls all night. There were no charges to any of her accounts, other than the couple of drinks she’d ordered before a stranger started buying her shots. Oh shit. Was this his home? She wracked her brain for any clues of what happened, her anxiety mounting again. The rest of the night was a complete blank.

Just when she was considering her options for how to get out of this place immediately, she heard the faint beeping of an alarm coming from down the hall. Now she was in full panic mode. She leapt from the couch – and immediately coiled over from the pain reverberating through her head. An involuntary groan escaped from her throat while she willed her body to recover.

Quick footsteps padded up the hall towards her.

“Oh, Catra, are you alright?” a young woman’s voice asked worriedly.

She recognized that voice. Managing to turn towards the direction of that sound, she found a girl in a loose tank top and pajama pants with a nest of tousled blonde hair spilling over her shoulders. How the fuck was Adora here? Slowly panning her eyes over the room again, she spotted a small framed picture she hadn’t noticed before. The photo featured Adora and her two annoying friends at some beach. They were laughing and soaking wet in their swimsuits. This was Adora’s apartment. But how and why was she here?

The blonde was kneeling beside her by then, a gentle grip on her closest arm. She gingerly guided Catra back up to the couch to sit.

“Is the hangover pretty bad?” she asked sympathetically, grabbing the glass of water from the table. “Take this while I get you some ibuprofen. Do you drink orange juice?”

Catra’s hand grasped the glass while the rest of her brain sputtered to catch up with what was happening. None of this made sense. The last time she’d seen Adora was at the board meeting, and she had made it pretty clear she never wanted to see Catra again. Only later did the Horde employee discover the blonde’s previously unnoticed message and realize how badly she’d screwed up. That note should still be sitting on a table next to her bed. She hadn’t even entered it in her phone so far. She couldn’t have called Adora – she knew she didn’t from the call history. She was still puzzling when the taller girl returned with a couple red pills and a fresh glass filled with orange juice.

The hungover skater felt too flustered to say anything in response. Instead she mutely took the pills from the other woman’s outstretched hand and swallowed them in one large gulp. When Adora remained sitting next to her – she could feel her watching – Catra grew increasingly more uncomfortable. After an excruciating minute, her hostess broke the silence that was hanging in the air.

“I’m, um, not sure how much you remember from last night. I found you out on the sidewalk, pretty drunk; and you couldn’t tell me how to get you home. So, um, I couldn’t leave you out there, of course.”

She scratched the back of her head nervously and kept her eyes pointed away from the dark-haired woman.

“Oh,” was all Catra could manage at first.

That made as much sense as anything could. She’d hopped that bus from practice to an unfamiliar bar in a random neighborhood. Actually, she had no idea what part of town she was in anymore. She was riding the bus line a long time while she brooded about that humiliating practice. Just thinking about it, the way Lucia demeaned her in front of her entire team, made her lips curl angrily. She clenched her hands into fists at her sides. Damn her wicked sister.

A rustle to her left suddenly reminded her that she wasn’t alone. Embarrassed, she felt obligated to offer some partial explanation at least.

“Sorry,” she began. “And, uh, thank you. For helping me.”

That was when the light blue eyes tilted up to lock with hers. Her words caught in her throat for a moment. Was it normally this overwhelming to have Adora truly look at you? Pretending to cough so she could recover and make it seem like she hadn’t just gotten flustered, she caught her train of thought again.

“I had a pretty bad day yesterday, and it led to some…less than smart choices. I’m not really sure where I ended up, or how much I drank.” She sighed. “Not my best move, to be honest.”

Adora’s face was soft and compassionate. “Bad days bring that out in us sometimes,” she offered kindly.

“Yeah. I guess they do.”

Catra looked down at her hands in her lap. Then she remembered the responsibilities that still waited for her.

“Actually, where are we? I probably need to leave for work.”

The blonde almost looked disappointed, in the same way a child is when they find out their playmate has to go home. “We’re in the Alwyn neighborhood, near the Pink subway line.”

Catra’s head spun. They were all the way on the north side of Etheria. Not the northernmost area but still probably 40 minutes by train from her apartment. And traffic would be unbearable by now to order a rideshare instead.

“Shit,” she muttered. “I don’t think I’m gonna make it on time.”

“Could you take some sick time?” Adora offered.

The shorter woman shook her head. “There’s too much I have to get done today. I’m just going to get my ass chewed for being late. There’s no way I can make it home and back to the office in under an hour. Fuck.”

“Do you need something specific from home?”

“Seriously?” Catra looked at her quizzically and gestured at her dirty Fright Zone uniform. “This isn’t exactly business attire, Princess.”

The blonde actually rolled her eyes at her. “So nothing besides clothes?”

Catra raised an eyebrow. “I could survive at work from what I have saved in the Cloud. So I guess mainly clothes.”

“Hang on,” the other responded, getting up and walking down the hall. She called out to continue the conversation. “I have some clothes I was going to donate because I outgrew them. There might be something your size.”

She returned with a cream-colored dress and light brown sweater. Her expression actually seemed embarrassed as she held them out towards her guest.

“These don’t seem like your usual style, but it’s all I have that isn’t t-shirts or sweats. Better than getting in trouble at work?”

The hair on the back of Catra’s neck bristled. She had got to be kidding. A dress?! Cheeks flushed, she seized the clothes out of the other girl’s hands.

“Where’s your bathroom?” she grumbled.

“Down the hall on the left,” the blonde responded with a suppressed chuckle.

Catra reappeared wearing the light-colored dress. It did fit her well and trickled down to her knees. At this point, she was sure her cheeks were fire engine red from embarrassment. She hadn’t worn a dress since she could put clothes on by herself. It wasn’t exactly uncomfortable, but she felt strangely exposed in the garment – and in front of her rival, no less. Her rival who’d rescued her last night. She was going to die; she knew it.

“You look really good!” Adora encouraged. “I knew it would fit.”

“Yea, thanks a lot,” Catra muttered irritably. “You just saved my ass, but now I gotta go before this humiliation ends up being all for nothing.”

“Alright,” the other said, still smirking appreciatively. “You know the way?”

“Yea, I know the trains. I’ll get by. See you around, I guess.”

“Yea. See you.”

***

Double Trouble was cackling uncontrollably in Catra’s cubicle. They’d doubled over her desk and pounded it with their hands. There might even be tears in their eyes? The woman groaned and buried her face in her arms on the desk.

“Oh, ha ha, you have got to tell me the story behind this,” they roared. “Please. I’ve never seen you dressed so Spring Picnic Chic before.”

Catra growled, still refusing to look at them. “I got really drunk after practice last night and didn’t go home. I had to borrow clothes or I’d be late.”

“So you stayed with the owner of these clothes?” Catra kicked herself at how perceptive the legal advisor could be. “Delicious. Is this somebody I should know more about?”

“There’s nothing to know,” she screeched.

“If you say so, Kitten. But look up for a second.”

Wondering why, she looked at her friend. Trouble’s phone was out, and it made a shutter click sound.

“For whenever I’m feeling blue,” they said triumphantly.

“Hey!” she swiped at the phone, but the attorney pulled it away in time. “I can’t believe you!”

“Gotta run, Kitten. But I’ll be back to savor this again live as soon as possible!”

***

Finally back in her own room, Catra wasted no time stripping out of the borrowed clothing. She tossed the unfamiliar dress into the farthest corner possible with a huff. Pulling on an old band tee and some shorts, she plopped onto her bed and released a long sigh. What a fucking day. Nearby she noticed Adora’s note, still sitting where she’d left it on her table. She stared at it in contemplation a long moment, then finally took it in hand and began typing the number into her phone contacts. Then she stared at the new name in her phone for an equally long time. After an unknown passage of time, she typed out a message and hit send before she could change her mind.

***

Adora had just gotten home from work and was scanning her kitchen for something to eat. She wasn’t really a cooking type of person, but she rarely ate out either. It wasn’t in the budget. The empty glasses from that morning sat rinsed inside the sink. They prompted her to wonder whether Catra had made it to work in time after all. She was also silently kicking herself for not sneaking a photo of the woman in her dress, blushing and bothered and completely adorable. She chuckled at the memory though.

Her cell phone vibrated in her pocket. There was a new message from an unknown number. Confused, she opened it to get answers.

Unknown

Hey, everything worked out today. Guess I owe you one.

This is Catra btw

Adora’s eyes widened. Catra had saved her number. And was messaging her. And was acting relatively nice?

She responded quickly.

Adora

Hi! Glad to hear you made it on time. No worries, it’s what anyone would’ve done, right? I bet your coworkers really enjoyed seeing you today (tongue-sticking-out emoji)

Unknown (Possibly Catra)

It was a riot…

There was a pause.

I’m not sure everyone would help an enemy, and especially bring them home with them

You’re probably a special kind of princess

Adora stared at that word: enemy. It told her how the other woman viewed their relationship. It hurt a little to see it stated that way. She had a feeling that she was going against her better judgment, but she decided to try one more time with her derby rival.

Adora

Aw, you think I’m special?

Catra

What?

Ugh

Special as in a weirdo, duh

The blonde laughed when she read the messages that came in quick succession. She could tell she’d broken the girl’s cool façade with that comment.

Adora

Suuurrrreeeee

Catra

UGH you are such an IDIOT

They continued chatting back and forth throughout the rest of the evening. The Fright Zone captain kept up her abrasive attitude, but Adora was starting to pick up on the soft edges around what she said. They didn’t talk about anything serious. The blonde didn’t want to put on too much pressure and drive the other girl away. Instead, she enjoyed the banter consisting mostly of insults and teasing. It was fun talking to Catra.

She tried to shield herself from getting too attached after one chat, though. There had been a lot of negative experiences directly caused by her new conversation partner. It felt like she’d met so many different sides of Catra at this point, and she was still trying to figure out how they all fit into one complete person. Still, she picked up her phone the moment it vibrated every time, and she smiled more that night than she had any of the others that she’d spent alone in her apartment.