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A Series of Jams

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“Yea, Glimmer, I promise I’m not hurt too badly. But my concussion feels like it’s back, and I don’t think I could be much use at work today. I’m really sorry.”

Adora hadn’t had time to leave Catra’s the next morning before she realized it was nearly time for her shift to begin. Seeing that she was in no fit state, she at least made the decision to report the absence to her best friend.

Catra watched the phone conversation with only Adora’s side for context. Much to her amusement, she didn’t miss the flush that crossed Adora’s cheeks, accompanied with, “oh, um, don’t worry. I knew somebody who lived nearby and kept an eye on me,” before glancing shyly in Catra’s direction. The blonde couldn’t hide her feelings to save her life. Meanwhile Catra fought back her own chuckle as the show played out. There was no denying that mutual attraction existed between the two of them, despite the rockiness of their previous interaction. But the fact that the air still hadn’t been cleared from that incident was definitely one contributing factor to Catra’s attempts to keep her guard up around the other woman. Only Catra was acutely aware how fragile those attempts actually were whenever Adora smiled or met her eyes.

After a few failed tries, Adora finally managed to end the phone conversation with Glimmer. “Heh, sorry about that. Downside to working for your best friend is that your boss is very concerned when you call in sick.”

“Strange concept,” Catra muttered back with a little more bite than she intended.

Adora’s expression darkened as she no doubt remembered what Catra had shared about working for her own blood sister. She felt guilty that her sharp edges had yet again pricked somebody she actually cared about protecting. The best she could offer in apology was a change of subject.

“Both my roommates are gonna be out most of the day, and it’s time for me to head to work too. Are you sure you’ll be okay here for a few hours?”

When Adora’s nod seemed suspicious she added, “I should be able to give you a ride to your place around lunchtime. So promise you won’t try something stupid like taking the bus by yourself.”

Adora squirmed from her position on the bed. “Damnit, okay,” she grumbled stubbornly.

Catra rolled her eyes to avoid smiling. “Channel being an actual princess for a few hours until I can chauffer your sorry ass home.”

She placed her index finger to the other woman’s forehead and gently pushed her back down into the pillow. “You should be sleeping anyways. You just said yourself you have another concussion.”

The blonde sighed but closed her eyes compliantly.

“Back before you know it.”

***

The morning dragged by at the Horde office. Catra managed to avoid any direct interactions with Lucia, which kept her mood lighter than usual. That also left her with plenty of available focus to be completely distracted by the thought of the Alliance captain sleeping in her bed right now. She did her best to stay busy – which, honestly, wasn’t too difficult – but frequently checked the clock in between tasks.

When she entered the apartment she found Adora somewhat prepared to leave. She was still in the large faded band t-shirt and shorts that Catra had offered during her more coherent moment that morning. She wasn’t too concerned about lending them out, considering she knew where to find them later. Instead, she found it endearing to see the blonde so comfortable in her clothing. It felt more personal getting to see her outside of official work or sports attire.

“How are you feeling, Princess?”

Adora glowed under the question. “A lot better from before, but taking the day off was the right move. I can’t stand looking at my phone longer than a few minutes.”

Catra shuffled awkwardly for a moment before continuing. “Well, if you’re ready, I guess I should get you home before they miss me at work.”

“Oh! Of course, sorry.”

Catra discreetly watched how Adora handled the walk to the elevator and out to the motorcycle. She was taking everything much slower and bit back a wince here and there, but she did seem alert for the time being.

“Are you sleepy?” she inquired seriously.

“I think I’m awake for now, but I’ll tell you if that changes,” Adora answered earnestly. Her nose crinkled in an endearing way. “This thing should be enough excitement for me to last the ride home.”

“So no seatbelt this time?” Catra mocked playfully, hand on her hip.

“Ha, we can go wild and seatbelt-free today,” Adora laughed and gave her a cheesy wink.

Catra snorted and mounted the Rebel, making sure she had stable footing on both sides. “Hop on, Your Highness.”

The motorbike shifted as the second woman cautiously climbed onto the seat behind her. The limited space naturally forced their bodies to press together, and a moment later two arms curled warmly around her waist. It still surprised her how comfortable Adora’s touch felt, considering how rarely she let others get close to her – both physically and emotionally. Roller derby was different because it was competitive and didn’t have any other implications attached.

She threw the Rebel into gear and set off for the north side of town.

***

For what seemed like the first time, Catra accompanied a fully mobile Adora up the staircase to her unit. She’d survived the ride without passing out or bouncing off the back, with only an occasional squeal or death grip around Catra’s ribs.

As they plodded along, the door to the unit below burst open.

“Adora, is that you?”

“Hey, Bow,” Adora called back in embarrassment.

He bounded up the stairs after them. “Glimmer told me what happened. You should have let me pick you up!”

Adora looked guiltily toward Catra first, then to Bow. “Sorry,” was all she managed in a sort of all-encompassing apology to everyone present. “I don’t think my brain is working at full power yet.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. Can I help with anything now?” That was about when he seemed to notice his friend’s escort. “Oh hi. Catra, right? I don’t think we were ever properly introduced. I’m Bow.”

“You’re the one who wears crop tops,” she retorted, skeptically shaking his outstretched hand.

“Ha, that’s right. They just feel less restrictive.” He grimaced down at his current semi-formal attire. “Sadly, I have to disguise myself as a put-together business owner today.”

“You are a put-together business owner,” Adora corrected warmly.

The compliment seemed to make him radiate with his usual positivity again.

“Anyways, Adora, should you be moving around like this?”

Ugh, I’m literally headed inside to rest!”

A quiet snicker escaped the Horde liaison as she watched their soap-opera-like performance unfold in the middle of the stairwell. These people were overly boisterous. In some ways, it reminded her of living with Scorpia. Bow seemed like somebody who was as upbeat and genuine as her friend, albeit a lot more focused from what she could tell.

Her lapse in silence brought both their attentions back to her, much to her sudden discomfort.

“Catra, did you get to eat yet?” Adora asked meekly.

The question caught her off-guard at first. “Uh, no, I didn’t. I figured it’d take the whole hour to do this.”

“I was afraid of that.” The blonde seemed troubled to know she was the cause of Catra’s sacrificed lunch.

“I was just going to grab something on my way back,” she added quickly, in an effort to lighten Adora’s cloudy expression.

That’s when Bow cut in. “Excuse me, but the least I can do to thank you for helping my friend is send you off with a proper meal.” He gestured comically towards Adora and added, “Unless you want a can of soup, I don’t think Adora can offer you much in the way of edible food.”

“Hey,” she started defensively before dissolving into laughter. “He’s right though. Bow owns the café where we dan- uh, ran into each other that one time.” Her cheeks reddened, and she looked away shyly. “He’s the best cook I know.”

“How kind of you to say, Adora.” Bow declared approvingly. With a grin, he gave a sweeping bow as though he had just been showered with applause. “Give me five minutes, and you won’t regret it,” he added with a wink at Catra before rushing back downstairs.

Catra’s attention turned back to the woman now leaning weakly against the handrail. She looked much paler than a couple minutes ago. How long had she been struggling without saying anything?

“Come on, idiot,” she said, holding out her hand. “We don’t have to keep waiting around out here.”

Adora grasped the offered hand gratefully, and this time she did let Catra carry some of her weight.

Quieter so there was no chance of Bow overhearing, she added, “If you need help, speak up. Quit trying to do everything by yourself. It’s just stupid.”

Adora’s fingers squeezed tighter around hers, letting her know the message had been received. She smiled to herself and left it at that.

***

The claims of Bow’s unmatched abilities in the kitchen were not empty promises, Catra learned. She hung around Adora’s living room long enough to inhale the sandwich that gave Rogelio’s special a run for its money. The two flatmates chatted animatedly as she ate, mostly Bow sharing random stories about things that had happened at the Historian in the past 24 hours. Adora did more listening, considering the way she occasionally winced from the sunlight, but she chimed in with appropriate surprise or humor at various moments in Bow’s storytelling. Catra was more interested in quietly observing their interaction but did throw in a couple well-timed snide remarks here and there.

When she finished eating it was unfortunately past time for her to make the drive back to work. As she was swinging her leg over the motorcycle seat, her phone rang. She didn’t recognize the number but had been working with a myriad of contractors and permit offices by this point. She answered just to be sure.

“Catra Capitán speaking.”

Hello, this is Janice from Bright Moon calling in regards to your application for our PR Director position. We’d like you to meet with us tomorrow for an interview, if that’s okay.

Her mouth hung open while her brain processed the words that had come through the other end. The application that Scorpia had sent without her permission had just landed her a job interview. She found herself irrationally glancing up at the two-flat to make sure Bow or Adora weren’t listening in on her conversation. The lunch she’d just shared with those two unnaturally wholesome people couldn’t have been timed better. If these were presumably the people closest to Sparkles, maybe she wasn’t as unbearable as she’d always seemed.

Taking a deep breath against all the pressure and potential repercussions waiting for her under her sister’s authority, she managed to answer lightly, “That works fine. What time would you like me to come?”