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Integrity in Motion

Chapter Text

 Matchmaker, matchmaker

 

If Catra killed her, that would be one less payroll expense. Use the funds to pay some bills. The temptation lingered under her claws as Catra swatted down her papers and banged the wall. Violence was always her catharsis.

 

                         Make me a match

                                                    Find me a find

                         Catch me a catch

                                                    Matchmaker, matchmaker

                         Look through your book,

                                                    And make me a perfect match.

 

“Turn it off, Scorpia! You’re upsetting the animals!”

“But, it’s Sophie Milman! And the gryphons seem to like—”

“You’re upsetting me!” There’s shuffling and Scorpia talking to herself as she fiddles with the knobs. The claws don’t make for finesse or handling small machinery, though practice and necessity help make it work. That and Entrapta tinkered with it so now it was voice activated and electrocuted people when tuned to the local country music station. Catra sighed into the silence.

 

                                    I'm not surprised

                                              Not everything lasts

                              I've broken my heart so many times I've stopped keepin' track.

 

It’s quick reflexes, albeit mostly height differences, that enabled Scorpia to save her desktop jukebox. “Doc! Doc! Why such scorn for the sentiment? Do you need a hug?” Her superior hissed and swatted away the claw that tried to one-arm hug her. 

“No, I do not need a hug. What I need is peace and quiet to get some damn work done. We need to generate some revenue this week or I won’t be able to pay my vendors. I’ve already gotten three calls and we can’t run this place if no one will sell us syringes or heart worm medication.” Catra stomped back to her desk, door ajar, and Scorpia slowly lowered her radio. 

Scorpia put a thoughtful claw tip to her chin. “I thought we were in the black this month?”

“Late night visitors,” Catra ground out. She didn’t have to look up from her bills to know Scorpia was juggling worry and pity. Catra cut off the suggestion before she could form it. “Drop the thought. It’s not happening.” Dutifully, Scorpia did and retreated to the front desk. Soon it’s a lyric-less soundtrack to a big ticket movie Cara can’t name and it’s the white noise she needed to finish her inventory accounting. She’s short the usual suspects—gauze, entire multipacks of paper towels, syringes, painkillers and a loose assortment of miscellaneous drugs—and her secret cookie stash depleted. “Fucking Marc,” she grumbles.

Work was her go-to distraction. Always has been. Sutures. Snapping a broken bone back into place. Refilling the nuts in the birdcages. Painkillers for the strained ligaments in the senior bulldog who thinks he’s a puppy. Coffee delivered by Emily. Twice. Checking the special goggles for the basilisk; checked the leather, tightened the straps. Kibble with a splash of chicken fat for the orthros. Laid traps for the pixies. Vicious little fuckers. Slipped on Emily’s spill. Swore at Emily. Swore at Entrapta. Apologized to Emily. Sort of. Cuddled a kitten and a german shephard puppy. Stared down an indifferent cat. Won. 

And so the day passed. 

Lunch was normally a late affair for Catra—office workers tended to schedule appointments between eleven and two—and she didn’t even have the benefit of an elevated blood sugar to enjoy it. Catra cursed Marc again and then Scorpia, too, because when she said anything from the food truck, she meant anything greasy, meaty, slathered in cheese, full of carbs. This was none of those things. At least there was sriracha to dress up the bibimbap. Catra set herself up at the front desk and stretched her spine into a semicircle. Chores done, customers gone until the end of day rush, Scorpia and Entrapta out buying supplies on credit, now it was just quiet and Catra and this stupidly healthy—

The door banged open with such force the door knob dented the wall behind it. Great. Another expense. Blood and feathers dribbled over her lobby floor. “Please,” the woman begged. “I need a doctor.”

Catra didn’t know what was worse: the chimera cub cradled in her arms, that the woman carrying it was the most beautiful creature she had ever seen, or the certainty that she was not going to get a lunch hour today. Catra had words for scenarios like this.

“Fucking hell.”

Chapter Text

 

Catra jerked out of her reverie when the blonde stepped close enough for her to see where the specks of grey influenced the blue in her eyes. “Hold on! No. That’s a chimera cub. Not only are they notorious for being feral, but this one is badly hurt. Look, the only thing you can do is take it to a shelter. They’ll, they’ll handle it.” 

Chimeras were infamous for their reputation and it was a stereotype half-deserved. They were bred for underground fighting and the breeders knew that they were doing, taking an already aggressive breed and condensing and amplifying their violent characteristics. Larger back talons. More venomous snake tails. Saber paws and tiger claws. Nasty tempers. Leaner. Meaner. Horrible, unfortunate creatures tainted by the gladiators’ touch. Plenty of scare stories out there about runaway  chimeras tearing up luckless passersby and showing up on the six o’clock news as the Creature Control Division hunted them down. Tranquilized if lucky. Almost none were. 

Weak, wheezy, rapid breaths filled the lobby. Probably fractured ribs, some internal bruising. Bones were flexible at that young an age; it took significant more force to break them or snap a femur unlike their brittle, aged counterparts. Catra pushed her analytical mind aside. Now wasn’t the time. “Here, I can write down the addre—"

“They’ll put him down. He’s just a baby. Please. He can still be saved…can’t he?” She came closer. Close enough for Catra to smell the blood and see the stains—all chimera blood?—and recognize the scratch marks for what they were. Catra drew in a rough breath.

“If it’s money, I can pay it.”

And stopped. “What?”

“Whatever his operation costs, I can, I can pay it. I swear.” She looked earnest if nothing else. Whoever she was. It was enough of a bait to get Catra out from behind the counter. The cub hissed at her and wiggled trying to get out of the blonde’s hold. Her grip remained steadfast. It bared its fangs at her. 

“Aftercare will be expensive. It has to be kept separate from the others. Special food and training and one of my people will have to change it’s bandages and will get hurt, every time, in the process. And it might still get put down. Could be rabid. You telling me you can pay for all of that? Care doesn’t mean slapping a bandaid on a wound and walking away. It doesn’t work like that.”

The blonde never faltered. “Please.”

Catra raked a hand through her mane and swore under her breath. “Bring ‘em ‘round.”

It went as she expected. The cub hissed and fought and really, really did not like needles, but Catra managed to sedate it with the stranger’s help. She noted how her hands didn’t stray from the cub until Catra pointed out the scratches and blood all over her. That Catra needed a sterile environment for surgery. The blonde flushed. Stepped away. Mumbled about having a spare set of clothes in her bag and left to go get them. Catra watched her go.

Yeah, she’s never coming back to pay. Catra sighed and got back to work. By the end of it, her neck ached, her soles were sore, and Catra slapped Scorpia’s pincer’s away from her sutures when she came into the back asking questions and offering help. 

“I’m stitching up a chimera cub. Surprised you’re not as white as your hair right now,” Catra said. She didn’t have to see to know Scorpia was shrugging. 

“Came back and there a a touch of chaos. The jackalopes got out and helped them selves to your lunch apparently. Herded them back to their pens. Then the woman in the lobby filled me in on our newest resident,” she said.

“The what?” 

The stranger was sprawled in a chair, fighting what looked like sleep and a bad crick in her spine. She looked adorable when sleepy. When she saw Catra, she jumped to attention. “Is he okay? Is he going to be okay?” 

“Yeah, stitched ‘em up and set a few splints. Getting the damn cub to rest will be the hard part, but a recovery isn’t impossible. Guess the blood made it look worse than—woah!” She picked Catra up in a hug and spun her round, laughing and smiling, and gods, Catra felt more than a few muscles flex when she gripped for purchase. Blondie was strong. A light pink flushed under her freckles as the blonde spoke of gratitude and still had yet to put her down.

“Can I see him?” she asked. 

“Sure. Still have to bandage them up anyway. Back here.” Catra led her back to the room. The cub had sections of shaved fur and neon green stitches along its belly, but it slept soundly. No more rattling ribs. Her fingers were gentle along the cub’s ears and scruff. Catra busied herself selecting gauze and tape to secure it.

“Could I, maybe,” one of her ears cocked back, listening, “if it’s okay with you, could I, visit him? See how he’s doing? You could teach me how to change his bandages. I could help.”   

Catra snorted. “Like I’m putting a novice anywhere near a chimera.” Her shoulders drooped. “But, since they’re staying at my clinic, apparently, guess you could come around and see them if I’m here. Least until they get transferred wherever.”

“So, tomorrow?”

Catra shrugged. “Sure.”

“Great. It’s a date.” The vet startled, looked down at the outstretched hand like it had six fingers instead of five. “I’m Adora, by the way.” Catra was slow to take it. 

“Catra.” Gods, that smile. Did she know what it did to her eyes? She had to know.

“Nice to meet you, Catra. So, see you around one tomorrow?”

“My afternoon appointments don’t die down until two.”

“—But one will work because Catra has me! Nice to meet you again, Adora. Scorpia’s the name. I’m Catra’s assistant.”

“Scorpia? What are you—?”

“And as Catra’s assistant, I can tell you her calendar is free all tomorrow. Please feel free to stay as long as you like.”

“Scorpia! If you’re here, who’s watching the front?”

“I left it in good hands. So to speak. Emily’s up there.”

“That octopod? How, why—”

“So that was one o’clock, Adora? I’ll pencil you in for Catra’s afternoon.”

“Uh, yeah. I feel kinda bad that I interrupted Catra’s lunch today.”

“I see, I see. So I should schedule you and Catra for lunch tomorrow followed by an appointment. Shall we stick to the one o’clock? Yes? Perfect. You’re on the books now. Here’s our card. Office number is down below.” Scorpia waved good-bye enthusiastically next to Catra, who stood arms crossed and scowling though an elbow from her assistant got her to give a quick, cursory wave. Catra waited until Adora walked out of sight to aim a kick at Scorpia’s kneecaps. 

“The hell, Scorp? What was that all about?” 

Her friend turned large doe eyes on her. “I. Heard. Everything. You have a date! And she’s so pretty!”

Catra scoffed and willed the burning in her cheeks away. “Do not. She’s just checking in on the cub.”

“And taking you to lunch.”

“No one’s taking anyone to lunch.”

“She ticks all your boxes. Definitely pretty.” Beautiful. “Accidentally walked into her changing in the back. Super fit. Like woah.” Good to kno—no. Focus, Catra. “And she’s fiscally sound. Pays her bills on time.”

“Fiscally sound? That’s not one of my…hang on. What bill? I haven’t even made the invoice yet.”

“Well, she gave me three grand. In cash.” 

A beat.

“Who the hell carries that kind of cash around?”

“Ask her what line of work she’s in at the lunch date.”

“There is no lunch date,” Catra huffed as they re-entered the office.

 

Pretty woman, walkin' down the street

           Pretty woman the kind I like to meet

Pretty woman I don't believe you, you're not the truth

           No one could look as good as you, 

                                            ~MeRcY

 

“Emily! Get the fuck off Spotify or I’m chopping you into sushi,” Catra threatened. 

 

Chapter Text

 

Summer meant kushiyaki feasts on the grill and extra loads of laundry. Technically, Glimmer was on grill duty, but there had been a phone call from The Queen, so Bow was doing laundry, keeping dinner from burning, and humming affirmations of moral support. 

“—I just don’t get what she’s upset about, y’know? We won. How is that not the focus of our conversation? Does congratulations not exist in her vocabulary? ‘Good job, daughter, for winning that match at Elberon Stadium. Against shit odds, against those fucking cheaters at Horde, you still kicked ass.’”

“Your mother swears?”

“Rumor has it she once muttered a deity’s name when she banged her elbow. Focus, Bow.”

“Right, right,” he said, turning the skewers over and brushing them with more sauce. Another batch done, he wrapped them in foil and set them on the warming rack. A rice cooker and tea pot percolated on the table. The vegetables would have to wait until Adora returned from her run, though the bell pepper and beef skewers could sit. Bow took out the pork belly skewers from the cooler and set them on the grill upon where they hissed and spit as their fat met heat. From that same cooler, he took a fresh ice pack and handed it to Glimmer. “Here, fan the hibachi. I don’t want our sheets to smell like smoke, and I want to do another load of whites.” Glimmer grumbled albeit obliged, fanning more vigorously than the circumstances warranted. Bow fished around the laundry basket and the downstairs couch to find enough socks for a load. Still short. May as well wait for Adora’s clothes. He came back up to find Glimmer’s glare searing the meat as much as the grill. 

“At least one ref was paid off,” she huffed. “You should have seen the calls he let slide. But my rookies didn’t flinch. Seven-four, Bow. Seven. Four. We won fair and square.”

“I think Angella was more upset over the parking lot brawl than that.”

“Which we also won!”

“It’s a brawl, Glim. How do you even ‘termine a victor?”

“Cops arrest more of the other team.”

“Our rookies were arrested?”

“Of course not! …though Adora may have to pull double shifts as trainer because Borzak fractured some toe bones and whatever the shin one is called. And Tierra has a concussion. Felix definitely did something to his hand. Don’t give me that look, Yuri is practicing to be a nurse. It was good hands on practice for the boy, and yes, we stopped by the clinic. More importantly, none of them cancelled their membership. Plus, you know I have them do laps up and down the shrine not just because I’m sadistic. Those cops really should do more regular cardio. Let’s send them our business cards. We can promise a group discount if enough of their payroll signs up.” Bow chuffed. Leave it to his childhood friend to calculate a profit margin out of a Pyrrhic victory from a brawl.  

“Glim. Pork’s burning.” Glimmer swore and turned the skewers to show streaks of char. Bow sighed. “Look, next time, take Adora with you. I know, I know,” Bow placated as he stepped in close to rest the ice pack more firmly on her black eye. “You’re a tough as rawhide princess who can wrestle a bull into a submission hold. But, you know how Adora is. She’ll probably do some drastic counter measures once Angella tells her exactly how you got this shiner.”

Quick, squeaky sneaker steps up the stairs meant Adora was close to the roof. Glimmer groaned to her feet, pouting and mulish, but her edges soften under Bow’s silent plea. She threw one hand up in surrender. “Fine, fine. Adora gets to play my silent killer shadow, happy?” Bow beamed. Door hinges sawed open, sneakers scuffed the landing she always forgot to step over, and the soft ph-thump of Adora’s gym bag to the floor approached at their usual pace. Stealth was not in Adora’s deck of cards.

“Hey guys, smells good. ‘Cept, thought it was my turn to cook?” Adora came through the door smelling raw and salty and not wearing her normal running clothes. 

“It is,” Glimmer nodded sagely, “which is why Bow is cooking. You better hope your next lover has a tongue carved from asbestos the way you cook.” Glimmer laughed as Adora stuck out her tongue and went to help Bow set the table. Glimmer took her bag to find any of Adora’s usual white shirts and screamed.

Yakitori flew from Bow’s plate and Adora pivoted hard into a fight stance. Only Adora relaxed when she saw what Glimmer held aloft. “Glim,” she began, “let me explain…”

“It was just a black eye, Adora! You didn’t have to kill him!”

“I, what? No, I didn’t—”

“Ohmygosh ohmygosh—OHMY—guh. Gonna be sick.” Bow dry-heaved. Swallowed. His voice went penny whistle thin. “Is that blood?”

“Yes, but I can e—"

“What did you do with the body?” Glimmer demanded, a hard look in her eye. “We can fix this. We just need a plausible alibi. Were there any cameras? Witnesses?”

“No, guys, this happened in an intersection, there was a car—”

“So there were witnesses? Dammit, Adora, have I taught you nothing? How about forensic evidence? Did you flee a crime scene?”

“No, it was a hit and run—”

“Oh my god, Adora, is this your blood?” 

“No! Bow. Breathe. Now, listen—”

“So they were in a car? How many? Did they come at you first? Because that’s self-defense, nothing they can legally hold against you. In fact, we can take the fight to them. Did you already smash the car? I’ll be impressed because you didn’t take your—”

“I’m calling Adam.” Bow reached for his cell phone.

There is no body. It’s chimera blood. A cub got hit by a car. I took it to a vet. Do NOT call my brother.

Silence. 

Glimmer lowered the bloody t-shirt, her words and movements slow. “Adora, if I go downstairs, will I find a chimera cub in my apartment?”

“I left it at the vet, guys,” Adora groused. Two sighs of relief echoed each other. “But we are going to be late with rent; I kinda, ah, spent it all…”

“What the fuck, Adora!”

Bow sagged in his chair. “That’s it, you are calling Adam.”

Chapter Text

Log: Day 103, 104? No, definitely 103. 09:47 

Catra is conscious and in the office before ten. Based on the mess of papers, clean kennels, and decibels of her swearing, she’s been here long enough to drink 4.63 cups of coffee. Reasons for the one standard deviation from routine require further study.

 

Day 103 10:08  

Scorpia took the creamer away from break room. Interesting. 

 

Day 103 10:13

Catra is a 3.77 on the Catra-Ritcher scale. Noticeably nervous. Why is she nervous?

 

Day 103 10:21

WE HAVE A CHIMERA CUB ON THE PREMISES!

 

[Static. Screaming. Scorpia.]

 

THEY TRIED TO EAT EMILY!

 

Day 103 10:49  

We have retreated to the safety of the Workroom. Catra will not entertain my reasonable suggestion to drop them off at the proper authorities and refuses to tell me why.

Hypothesis: This is a request made from…Management.

 

Day 103 10:58

The reality is worse. Catra’s libido is now calling the shots. No way Catra’s date—[Protests out of earshot]—no way Catra’s not-date is worth the inevitable lacerations to our limbs and soft underbellies. Her unsatisfied sexual urges must stop mixing business with pleasure. It went poorly last time, I do not see how a repeat—[Voices. Shuffling.]—Scorpia has taken Tone with me. A social line was crossed. I will analyze my actions and see if apologies are required.

 

Edit Log

Scorpia says apologies are unnecessary, but, quote, :click: “friends should hug it out.”

 

Edit to Edit log

Catra's tail did the Thing, followed by a, quote, :click: “Hard pass.” 

 

Day 103 11:42

3-D Printer Scan No. 546. I have made modifications to the joint and calculated for the wear and tear as simulated by skeletal structure and estimated movement range. Add in compounded pressure from constant use and the results should see improvement. Drawbacks? Cartilage substitutes wear out faster than organic counterparts. I assume this is from exposure to the elements. If I sealed prosthetic limb, could extend useful life but what are my logical consequences? More material required for product, which increases my costs. Fixes would require surgical removal of the faux epidermal layer. Benefits include shielding delicate machine parts from elements, debris, dust, and yields a limited regulation of internal temperature. Constructing cartilage a lab setting is a scientific possibility. Hyaline cartilage specifically needed. I would need type II collagen and chondroitin sulphate—can I farm that from elasmobranch fish skeletons or is it possible to incubate artificially? How then to diffuse nutrients to supplement growth? 

This requires coffee. Mini-muffins. Blueberry. 

 

Day 103 12:33

Emily and I watch the front while Scorpia gets us lunch. After this, Emily will recuperate in the kiddy pool out back. —[gurgling sound]— Emily will recuperate in the kiddy pool out back, in the shade, watching Finding Dory. —[gurgling agreement]— Catra currently has client. This provides opportunity for Social Science observations. Catra signed off so long as I do not cost us paying customers.

Observation, Catalogue 300.16: Median age in our lobby is…geriatric. The outlier of the group is a little girl with a sulphur-crested cockatoo. I think she’s just here to refill medication. Emily, see if she’s here for a refill and get her out the door quickly. That bird will be the first to go if the chimera gets loose. —[gurgling, grumbling]—

  The girl and cockatoo are now safe, which cannot be said for the elderly couple with the puppies. I am sure they’ve lived a satisfactory life. 

Concomitant: Sunshine is out and need to adjust cycle on opening kennels to allow residents to enjoy the outdoors. Make sure chimera’s domain requires manual override only. 

Do not send Emily.  

Observation, Catalogue 305.23: An objectively stunning specimen entered our lobby. Those biceps imply a most impressive grip strength. Could she beat Scorpia in arm wrestling? They should have a match. For science. I will inquire about her willingness to participate in a scientific study with several control factors put into place. 

Specimen caught sight of basset hound puppies. Science thwarted.

Continuing observation for Catalogue 305.23. Based on current actions, Specimen is a social creature and popular amongst her species. Elderly couple is trying to set up Specimen with the vague promise of a grandson. Deducing from laughs, head shakes, and body posture that the offer was declined. Female elder mentions they have fetching granddaughter, too. Comes with a puppy.

Ah. Specimen hesitated. 

Oh, here comes Catra. I will give her the…or not. 

Catra…Catra is conversing with Specimen. Specimen, reluctantly, parts with puppies, but I see Elder Female has slipped a phone number into Specimen’s pocket. Fascinating. Catra still talking. Specimen is a client then? But I have basset hounds listed next on the docket for…Ooohhhhh…Catra’s tail is doing the Other Thing.

But, what about Specimen? Does she reciprocate? Oh no, I don’t think Specimen is showing interest. Perhaps she doesn’t understand. Does she need outside motivation, interpretation? Given Specimen’s friendly nature, she could miss Catra’s interest as interest. I should subtitle Catra’s actions. 

Day 103 13:04

I, technically Catra, owe Scorpia a new iPod.