Adora wakes up in cold sweat, sitting up on her bed, her breathing shallow and fast. She looks around the room frantically—jacket haphazardly thrown over a desk chair, the alarm clock on her desk that reads 3:00 a.m., her journal, the blanket she’s gripping way too tightly, the motivational poster of a unicorn she hasn’t had the heart to get rid of just yet. As she lists every item she finds, her breathing gradually normalizes, and she tries to take deeper breaths.
She screws her eyes shut and lets herself fall back onto her pillows. She runs a hand over fleece blanket, trying to get her bearings. When she feels a weight lifted off her chest, she opens her eyes again, staring up at her ceiling that’s filled with glow-in-the-dark stars.
It’s the fifth night in a row. She’s almost used to it by now. The fifth night she wakes up from a nightmare that she forgets as soon as she wakes up, only remembering the sound of that voice. It’s a girl’s voice, she knows, something about it so incredibly familiar; but she can’t figure out why that is.
She sighs, heavy, and settles more into her bed, trying to keep that voice out of her head.
It doesn’t work, of course. But she finds that running does. It’s 6:00 a.m. the next day, and she’s grateful for being able to concentrate on getting through the laps their soccer coach makes them run every practice. She’s leading by a mile—because she’s the captain and also because her teammates just don’t have the energy for this this early in the morning.
She should be tired too; she hadn’t slept after the rude awakening. But there’s something about running and exercise that just calms her, as always. It’s part of why she’s been the captain of the team for two years running even though she’s just a junior.
She takes a look back and takes in her team: Frosta, the new recruit who’s so eager to please, almost catching up to her in speed; Perfuma and the others keeping a steady pace; and Mermista bringing up the rear, walking, not even trying to look like she’s trying. But even that’s better than Entrapta, who she spies disappearing behind the bleachers.
Adora huffs and turns back, heading toward Entrapta.
“Great work, guys! Keep going!” she shouts to her teammates as she passes them by, and she grins at Bow and Seahawk, who are power walking alongside Mermista. They smile and wave at her before continuing to talk to a bored-looking Mermista.
“Entrapta!” she calls out, rounding the back of the bleachers. “What are you—”
“Hey, Adora,” a voice purrs out.
Adora takes in the sight before her. Catra, the new transfer student and Entrapta’s friend, is leaning against a pole, her arms crossed as she tilts her head and smirks at her. Entrapta, standing beside her, is cheerfully waving.
She shakes her head and focuses on her teammate. “Entrapta, what are you doing here? We’re supposed to be doing laps.”
“Oh, I just got a text from Catra! She told me she needed to see me.”
Adora’s brows furrow. “Wait, do you have your phone on you? We’re not supposed to have phones during practice.”
“I don’t have my phone on me.”
“Then how—” She’s cut off when Entrapta simply points at her watch, remembering how she excitedly demonstrated her invention in the locker room the other day. She wasn’t about to let Apple get any more of her money when she could just make things herself. “Oh, well, we’re supposed to be running, remember?”
“Chill out, princess,” Catra speaks up, taking a step toward her. “I just wanted to show her something, and then you can go back to bossing her around.”
“Don’t call me princess.” Adora huffs and crosses her arms. “Just show her what she needs to see and go.”
Catra holds her hands up, still smirking. “Okay, okay.” She takes off her backpack and rummages through it before holding something up.
Entrapta lets out a huge gasp, and her eyes widen. “Where did you get that!”
Catra’s holding out a diamond-shaped purple object that doesn’t look like anything a highschooler should have. There even seems to be a glow emitting from it. “It’s better if you don’t know.”
Entrapta, ignoring the ominous comment, makes a grab for the object, expertly handling it. “This is am-a-zing!” she exclaims.
Catra shrugs. “No big deal. I remembered you had robotics after homeroom, so I just got here early for it.”
“Oh, all the things I could do with this.” There’s a glint in her eyes that Adora has seen a million times before. It usually ends up with someone hurt, and Adora winces at the thought. She’s gonna have to warn the robotics teacher after practice is done.
Catra reaches out to take the object back. “I’ll hold on to it for you. Until you’re done here.”
Entrapta pouts. “Can’t I just go to the lab with this now?”
Catra darts her eyes to Adora. “I don’t think Adora would like that very much.”
Adora uncrosses her arms and says, “No, uh, we should get back.” Entrapta pouts further. “But look, if we get through practice now, Coach won’t make us run any more laps after school and you can spend more time in the lab after classes.”
Entrapta brightens up at that and nods, already heading back to the field. “Okay!”
When she turns back, Catra is shoving the thing into her bag, closing it, slinging it over her shoulder, and turning to walk away. Inexplicably, her heart clenches at the sight of leaving, suddenly wanting her to stay here. Which makes no sense at all.
And this is where Adora’s body betrays her.
Before her brain can stop it, her hand reaches out to grab Catra’s, effectively stopping them both in their tracks. Catra stares wide-eyed, looking back and forth between their joined hands and Adora’s rapidly coloring face. She hastily lets go. Why did she do that? She doesn’t even know this girl!
Blushing and ducking her head, she asks, suddenly shy, “Are you leaving?”
Catra’s face is carefully blank. And after an agonizing minute, she replies slowly, “Nah. I think I’ll just hang out here.” She points up to the bleachers.
Adora nods and turns on her heel toward the field as Catra settles on a seat, leaning back with her arms on the next level’s seat and stretching her legs out. She closes her eyes and throws her head back, seemingly basking in the sun’s heat, a small smile gracing her lips. Adora feels her cheeks color once again, and she forces herself to look away.
For the rest of the practice, she feels Catra’s gaze on her the entire time.