“Attention everyone,” the Alliance coach called, beckoning the players to come off the track for a huddle. “We’ve got a new game to potentially add to our schedule. I just heard from the Fright Zone this afternoon. They want a rematch in 2 weeks. They offered to provide the venue; so we’d just need to be available that Saturday.”
The players murmured, some out of excitement and some to brag about their past two victories over the rival team. However, both games had been close - down to the last jam.
“How many of you would be available that short-notice?” their trainer continued over them.
A majority of the skaters raised their hands. Adora tried not to be the first arm to shoot up or seem too eager. She could already feel Glimmer and Bow’s eyes on her back. To her relief, Netossa and her wife, Spinnerella, rolled over to claim her for their group in the next practice drill. She could avoid her friends’ teasing a while longer.
A fringe of the lawyer’s wavy white hair draped down from her helmet. Her much taller wife had her long hair tied in a ponytail under her lavender helmet. Spinny usually blocked in the lineup when Netossa was out jamming as Thrash Action Lawsuit. Whenever Adora had to jam against Spinnerella in practices, the other attorney was one of her toughest adversaries. If the blonde wasn’t careful, she’d be knocked flying with a well-executed hip check.
“Hey, She-ra,” Netossa said in a laidback tone. “I heard from Glimmer that you guys are gonna be needing help with another property?”
Oh, of course, they had work-related business. “Yea, that’s right. The Horde is trying to buy another site out from under us, same as last time.”
Meanwhile, Adora lined up alongside Spinnerella to block against Netossa for their first rotation of the warmup. Even jammers needed some blocking practice for the moments they pass their star helmet cover to the pivot. From that point the jammer becomes a blocker, and the pivot takes over jamming. Luckily, Adora had a lot of power in her body and could receive hits almost as well as she gave them.
“Got it,” Netossa replied from behind the other two while she darted side to side and attempted to slip past them. “Well, now that I know the kind of tricks their legal team has up their sleeves, I can be better prepared this time around.”
“And you have me to help, Darling,” Spinnerella added from beside Adora. She whispered in her teammate’s ear too quietly for her spouse to hear, “Last time she supposedly thought I was too busy to ask me.”
“Too true, Spinny. Everything works out better when we’re together,” the jammer replied with a flirtatious wink. “I really am sorry about the way things went last time, though. They have a lot of resources at their disposal.”
The jammer remembered all too well how masterfully the Horde attorney crushed their previous defenses. “It wasn’t your fault. Not that I know anything about law, but you sounded pretty convincing to me. If there’s anything I can do to help more this time, just tell me what to do!”
The older woman chuckled and wedged her thigh between their tightly seamed hips. “Girl, you’re doing plenty. Let the rest of us share some of the burden now and then. I’ll get in touch for details tomorrow.”
They rotated positions every couple minutes when the coach gave them a whistle signal. Netossa was not as muscular as Adora but challenged her with high-precision footwork at lightning speeds. She and Spinnerella had been playing longer, and she knew exactly how to position her body to neutralize Adora’s strong impacts. Each iteration was closely matched and left the trio breathing heavily by the time they were dismissed for a water break.
Practice was enjoyably rigorous and the perfect distraction to keep the blonde’s thoughts off her work conflicts for a couple hours. It wasn’t until she was discarding her sweat-laden gear in her quiet apartment that her thoughts circled back to the approaching legal battle. First, she would need to hustle to get yet another petition to bring to a completely new neighborhood board. Then she would need to rely on Netossa to help them from there. Mildly admonishing herself, she couldn’t help drifting by the thought of seeing Catra at another board meeting. The last one had been a sour experience for the Bright Moon representative, but now she felt she’d been chipping away at the rival liaison’s negative attitude towards her. Perhaps this time they would have a friendlier exchange – which meant a better opportunity to scope out that well-fitted suit she vaguely remembered with appreciation.
Then again, seeing Catra at the meeting would mean one of them would once again part having lost something meaningful. That was tension she could gladly do without. Instead, there was a derby rematch to look forward to. That was a battlefield where nobody needed to feel guilty or worry about the outcome of their careers. Not to mention low-cut jerseys, short shorts, and feats of agility.
Yes, some things were better than an expensive outfit. Plus, both teams would be invited to the same after party, and the best after parties led to dancing. Pleasantly, Adora’s final thoughts before sleep claimed her were visions of a pair of stunning legs and sharp eyes guiding her through a crowded room filled with flashing lights and rhythmic beats.
Any positive feelings Adora had the night before were soon squashed during the next workday. Once again, she was out gathering signatures to file a petition for eminent domain of the new building Bright Moon wanted to purchase. However, she was in a different neighborhood and did not have as many people available to help her with the door-to-door visits. She was quickly realizing that many of the people in this sector of Etheria were not as open to speaking with strangers. It was a struggle to get half as many signatures in the same amount of time. After what felt like her hundredth unanswered doorbell, she dejectedly opted for a lunch break at a nearby deli. It was connected to some sort of convenience store. They really called it ‘Quicky’? she thought with a snort.
A bell tinkled over the door as she entered the humid sandwich shop. A couple other people were seated at various metal tables and chairs eating their own lunches. A quiet murmur of chatter joined the chorus of creaking ceiling fans in the room. There was a burly man running the register and also ducking into the back to prepare the food; so Adora had to wait behind the current customer before she could order. Deciding on the Italian sub from the menu, her eyes wandered the room while she waited her turn. She started to pick up on snippets of random conversations until her ears locked onto a voice that seemed familiar for some reason. Following the sound, her eyes landed on a messy bun that was floating above a black blazer. The woman in question was waving an arm with swagger as she chatted with a sweaty blonde man who looked like an overly nervous traveling salesman. Since he was sporting a crooked nametag across his chest, she assumed he might work at the attached “Quicky Convenience.”
But could it really be her? Here, of all places? She couldn’t just approach a total stranger when she hadn’t even seen their face. Anxious, she remained silently queued in the order line. At last, it was her turn to order, and she could focus on something other than that silvery voice a few feet away. She was slightly surprised when the cook merely gestured at the total displayed on the register rather than tell her how much she owed. When she finished paying, she couldn’t resist the urge to glance over at that occupied table one more time in an attempt to identify the back of the stranger’s head again. Except, she didn’t find the dark messy bun. Two mismatched-color eyes stared back at her critically. There was no longer any doubt that she’d once again bumped into Catra at such an unlikely location.
“How in the fucking world,” the woman stated distantly as she remained half-turned in her seat.
The man she’d been speaking with by default stared up at the Bright Moon employee with confusion. Actually, he looked vaguely familiar. Had he been the Fright Zone blocker she frequently targeted for weaknesses in their defense? Oh, and then the deli cook was the one who had strong hits she tried to avoid at all costs. That explained a few things. Apparently two of Catra’s teammates happened to work here.
“Wow, ‘how’ is right,” Adora finally sputtered back.
The Horde representative recovered first. A smirk played across her face as she twisted the rest of her body around to face the newcomer. She crossed her legs and leaned back in her seat as though she was perched atop an impressive throne rather than a rickety deli chair.
“It’s starting to look like you’re following me, Princess.”
Adora scratched behind her head nervously. “I was out here for work and just stopped at the closest place for something to eat, and –”
Catra rolled her eyes and gestured across the table at her companion. “Have a seat, dummy. Kyle, here, was just leaving anyways.”
“I was? Oh, right, I was. Time to get back to work,” he adjusted quickly when his teammate shot him a pointed glare. “See you tonight, Catra.”
Hesitantly, the Bright Moon worker shuffled into the newly vacated chair. An empty tray sat in front of the other woman, confirming that she had been there a while already.
“Hey there,” Adora offered weakly.
Catra leaned over the table to eye her more closely. “I happen to know we’re ridiculously close to the property I’m about to buy. Does that mean you’re meddling in my plans again?”
Adora’s eyes fled her gaze and focused on a napkin holder instead. “I don’t think you have much to worry about, since it hasn’t been going very well so far,” she muttered before glancing back up to add, “not that it was ever my goal to make you worry.”
She sighed and buried her face in her hands, elbows propped up on the same table that Catra was still leaning over. The more confident woman studied her quizzically. This wasn’t usual Adora behavior.
“Hey,” she started in more softly this time but made an effort to keep a disinterested expression on her face. “You might as well talk about it if it’s clearly fucking with you so badly.”
A blue eye peaked out from between two splayed fingers. Slowly, the blonde extricated herself from her self-made hiding place. It was surprising to hear a hint of concern in the Horde liaison’s voice – especially when the topic in question was the building both their companies were fighting over. The yellow and blue eyes didn’t give off their usual leer.
Adora gave in to the invitation. “I’ve been out all morning trying to get signatures for another petition, but people out here aren’t very interested in strangers in suits coming to their door. And if I don’t get enough signatures, then I’m letting everybody down again. And even if I do and everything goes exactly right and we win the decision and the land, then you’ll be in trouble. And you already barely want to talk to me as it is, and –” She finally paused to inhale, but instead of continuing she groaned and buried her face again. “It’s just impossible to make everything right.”
The shorter woman watched silently from across the table. The blonde was really losing it. Who would have thought she’d be so intense about all this work drama? Sure, Catra was taking the legal battle pretty seriously as well. After all, her life would be pretty fucked if she failed. Was Adora in the same boat?
“Hey, um,” she started in cautiously. “I get it. Everybody counting on you, no good choice to make. It’s rough.”
The Bright Moon employee shifted to listen, and Catra’s eyes darted away to stare fixedly at some unimportant object. She could barely force the words out without meeting the other girl’s eyes. That would be too much.
“There’s a lot at stake here. For both of us, I guess. But, uh,” her hands betrayed her by fidgeting with some of the trash on her discarded tray. “I can tell you don’t want to fuck up my life. So that’s one less problem for you to worry about. I guess.”
Now it was Adora’s turn to stare at the person sitting across from her. She replayed the conversation in her head, back to the part where she vomited everything that had been on her mind in about fifteen seconds. With some warmth in her cheeks, she realized she’d included her fear that Catra wouldn’t want to talk to her anymore. That definitely wasn’t something she meant to say out loud. What a mortifying way to admit how she felt. Shit.
But Catra just told her she wouldn’t need to worry about her no longer speaking to her. Wow. Okay. Maybe the Fright Zone captain actually was starting to like her to some degree – enough to know she wasn’t an enemy anymore. That was definitely encouraging.
The Horde representative watched as the blonde’s expression lightened with comprehension. The comprehension part took a while, she thought with some amusement. What an idiot, but she found it more endearing than obnoxious. She took that opportunity to stand and grab her empty tray. At the same moment Rogelio emerged from the kitchen with Adora’s food and nodded a polite request for his teammate to make the delivery so he could see to the next customer in line. Catra obliged casually.
“Well, here’s your lunch, Princess,” she transitioned, hoping the teasing nickname would lighten the mood a bit. “I’ve actually gotta get back to work now, or else things won’t get done on time.”
The taller woman looked disappointed but quickly shoved the expression down to replace it with a cheerful smile.
“Yes, we all know you’re a very busy woman,” she quipped back.
It concerned the Horde liaison how Adora’s default response to negative feelings was to feign happiness. Then she also felt surprised when she recognized her concern. Still, she wondered how often her rival had to use that defense. Sure, Catra had caught the slip of real emotion, but that was because she was actually fucked up and knew it. She’d been guarding her feelings and carefully reading those of others in order to survive for most of her life. She wasn’t so sure an unbroken person like any of Adora’s perfect little rich friends would have even noticed the brief reveal.
Her tone was soft but serious. “And maybe you’re too busy. It’s not worth killing yourself over some dumb building. It’s not the end of the world. And your boss Sparkles is supposed to be your friend. She should get that, too.”
“Sparkles?” Adora’s expression morphed from awestruck to confused.
“You know, the pink glittery one. Short, annoying –”
“Oh, Glimmer! She’s not annoying though.” They both raised an eyebrow towards the other but for differing reasons.
Catra turned her back and headed for the exit. “I said what I said. See you on the track, Princess.”
Adora watched the other woman disappear through the glass door, the bell tinkling behind her. Insulting Glimmer had definitely been in character for the Fright Zone captain, but she’d also tried to console Adora about work stress. The effort alone was enough to lift her spirits because it seemed that Catra actually cared about her feelings. This was exactly what she needed after the difficult morning. As she bit into the delicious fresh ingredients of her deli sandwich, she hoped her opponent-turning-friend would continue to deliver pleasant surprises.