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The Devil Is In (The Details)

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It’s loud.

She knows that it’s loud.

Not because she can hear it (although she can, just a little bit), but because the rhythm of the bass is beating in her chest. She can feel the music pumping like it’s taken up residence in place of her heart.

It’s nice. But it’s also a little distracting. And right now she needs to be focused.

She leans against the edge of a balcony, staring down at the throng of bodies packed onto the dance floor of the Triple Six. Up here in the VIP section there’s a little more room to breathe. She sips her margarita. Idly she licks at the salt on the rim of her glass. Her body might be turned towards the activity below, but her attention is focused on the black door marked “employees only” located behind her.

Adora sighs and pulls her phone out of her purse (again) and reads her text message ( again ).

Micah : Heard that Sweet and Skater are doing a secret show tonight at Hellfire. I got tickets but I can’t go. Do you want to see them?

Translated, it means that

  1. Shadow Weaver and Skeletor are having a meeting at the 666
  2. It’s a surveillance only job (DO NOT engage, DO NOT do anything to compromise your identity
  3. (this is her favorite) Angella has no idea when the meeting is.

So guess who has been hanging out at this stupid club for the past five hours?

Stake outs are actually the worst. And she isn’t even being paid for this! I must be an idiot to be suckered into doing this. She shakes her head, willing the negative thoughts away. No… no. This is important. Angella needs all of the information that I can get.

She glances at the door. Still shut. Still guarded by a meaty bouncer. Still totally inaccessible to her. All she can do is wait for them to come out.

She scrolls back in her texts, desperate for something to do.


Micah : Heard that Sweet and Skater are doing a secret show tonight at Hellfire. I got tickets but I can’t go. Do you want to see them?
A:Yeah sure!

Micah : Great! I’ll e-mail them to you. And keep in touch so I know you’re safe, yeah? I know their shows can be kinda rowdy. (Send me regular status updates on the mission)

A: ok, will do!

A (8:42 PM): Why is this line so long. This place isn’t even that good. (...Okay there isn’t any code behind this one. She just hates waiting.)

M (8:43 PM): I have a VIP pass you can use.

A (8:43 PM): You do?

M (8:47 PM): Check your e-mail.

A (8:58 PM): Thanks!

A (10:02 PM) When’s this show supposed to start again?

M (10: 53 PM) I don’t know, I’m sorry!

A (11:12 PM) Secret shows are cool but you think they’d at least put the time down...they don’t have to be THAT mysterious… (still no sign and also I’m bored)

M (11: 31 PM) You know you could always go home if you’re not feeling up to it.

A (11:41 PM) No it’s okay. It might start at midnight.

M (11:42 PM) Ok, just let me know.

A (12:21 AM) Show STILL hasn’t started...typical. I’ve seen some of the openers doing a sound check though. (No sign of Shadow Weaver or Skeletor, but I recognize a few other Horde goons who’re coming through)

M (12:30 AM) I’m sure it can’t be too much longer.

A (12:45 AM) They’re here!

M (12:50 AM) Finally! I’m glad that ticket wasn’t a fake.

A (12:52 AM) Me, too.

A (1:02 AM) Ugh, there’s someone standing in front of me and I can’t see the show.

M (1:07 AM) Can you see around them?

A (1:07 AM) Not without speaking to them or doing something drastic.

M (1:07 AM) That happens a lot. It sucks but at least it’s better than nothing.

A (1:08 AM) I want a better view! My brain is melting out of my head in boredom.

M (1:09 AM) Adora, don’t. I know it’s rude of them, but I don’t want you taking any unnecessary risks.

A (1:09 AM) I’m dying

M (1:09 AM) I’m calling an ambulance

A (1:09 AM) NO I WAS JOKING

M (1:11 AM) They’re on their way, they’ll be there in 10 minutes tops. I called the club security line and let them know to get ready and to apply first aid until you can be transported to North Land General.

A (1:11 AM) Seriously???

M (1:12 AM) No.

A (1:12 AM) Har, har.

M (1:13 AM) Msg me when the show’s over, I’ll get you a Lyft.

A (1:13 AM) Okay.

M (1:14 AM) And don’t drink too much.

A (1:14 AM) I am painfully sober.

M (1:18 AM) Let’s keep it that way.

She glances at her wrist watch.

1:23 AM. She turns around and glances at the “Employees Only” door. Forty minutes ago she had seen Shadow Weaver and Skeletor slip behind it. It figures that mobsters would hold a meeting at one in the morning.

Something in her peripheral catches her attention. It’s some guy. Objectively, he’s beautiful. He’s covered in vibrant scales, orange around his eyes and gradating into teal and then cyan as they progress down his neck. Some of the scales are thicker and sharper at the back of his head, and he’s wearing a snappy black dress shirt. Hands down the best looking reptile she’s seen. And he’s looking right at her.

Oh, no.

He must not hear her unspoken plea because he comes up to her anyway.

“Hey.” He says. “Someone stand you up?”

Adora, despite reading his lips perfectly, smiles politely and makes the sign for ‘deaf’.

“Can you read lips?” Not for you I can't. She continues smiling like she has no idea what he said.

“Oh.” He mutters, visibly deflating. “Only one (something) woman in (something something) club and she (something something).” Adora tosses her hair out of her face, one hand on her glass, completely ignoring the guy. The last thing she needs is some gross straight man grinding on her. To her immense relief he accepts her dismissal and goes to sulk in a distant corner of the VIP lounge.

Adora refocuses her attention. She’s seen a few other people come and go from the same door she saw Shadow Weaver and Skeletor disappear into, but most have had their faces hidden. She’s done her best to keep track of them regardless. She needs all the info she can get on these people.

If only there were some way that she could get back there to record their conversation...

She downs the rest of her drink, trying to curb the urge to crawl out of her own skin. Stake Outs. Are. The. Worst.

The initial excitement of seeing Shadow Weaver and Skeletor wore off about twenty minutes ago, and now she’s back to feeling stifled and cramped. Her feet are aching from the heels she’s wearing and the slim maroon cocktail dress she’s in isn’t particularly conducive to physical activity.

Adora wonders if it might be worth sneaking into that back room despite Angella’s explicit instructions to do nothing that might arouse suspicion. She crosses the floor of the lounge towards the bar, deep in thought, when--

crrrrkkbOOM! There’s a rush of air and particulates on the back of her neck, and she turns to see that the wall to the back room has exploded outwards. There’s snarling, and screaming, and she thinks maybe the guy who hit on her has been crushed underneath the rubble. There are people fighting, but she can’t tell how many because of the club lights and terrified VIPs.

Now this is more like it!

She reaches down to her side and meets empty air. It takes another beat before she remembers she had to turn her piece in along with her badge when the department fired her.

Pop! Popopop! Someone’s firing a gun. Without pausing to think about it she leaps over the bar counter.

Adora takes a moment to breathe.

She’s itching to get into the fight, but fight who ? This is Horde on Horde. And fight with what ? Her heels? Not to mention Angella would kill her if she found out Adora had even entertained the idea of getting involved.

Fighting the feeling of disappointment, Adora realizes there’s only one thing left to do: Get out of here.

She peeks over the edge of the bar counter. There’s a large orange humanoid she recognizes as Beast Man, one of Skeletor’s officers, squaring off with none other than the orange scaled dude from earlier. Snake guy dislocates his jaw to reveal massive fangs glittering with venom. Good thing he’s Beast Man’s problem, now.

To her left are the stairs. They’re clear. She doesn’t give doubt a chance to take root in her mind; she runs.

Adora has one foot on the top step when things start to go really wrong.

Someone launches themself from the rafters onto the steps beside Adora, knocking her off balance. They’re leaping down the steps at an inhuman speed when suddenly someone lobs a massive slab of debris right into their path. It’s immediately clear that the stairs are no longer a viable path.

Before Adora has a chance to reroute herself to another exit, there’s a heavy pressure on the back of her neck. Off balance and in heels, there’s no time to react as she’s lifted into the air. She hears a guttural scream, and then is viciously launched towards the nearest wall. She knows instinctively that she is going to die.

Fear (which had been on a low broil in her belly up until this point) comes to life with a howl. Her adrenaline spikes and blood surges. The world goes white.

 

Chapter Text

A vicious ache explodes in her chest and Adora snaps back into reality.

She gasps like she’s surfacing from a long dive under water. Her knees give out and she stumbles down onto her hands, stomach rolling. She only just-- just-- manages to avoid throwing up all over the unconscious woman lying in front of her.

Oh, Gods.

How long has it been? Since the last time? She reaches, desperately, for the number. She doesn't know why she needs to know but she does, she needs to know.

She counted this morning. She counts every morning.

2 years,  4 months, 22 days.

It feels like it was yesterday. It feels like it was a thousand years ago.

Back to zero.

0 years, 0 months, 0 days, 0 minutes. Zero.

She wipes her mouth with the back of her hand, trying to quell the shivering that’s wracking her muscles.

What has she done? What the hell happened ?

Adora turns to the woman. Octavia ? Oh please don’t be dead, please, please, she prays as she reaches out for Octavia’s jugular. Her neck is slick from sweat and gritty with debris. There’s a deep gash on one cheek. Did I do that?

She manages to find a pulse. It’s strong.

Adora releases a wet noise that’s halfway between a sob and a laugh.

The club is in ruins. The balcony that supported the VIP lounge is completely collapsed. It’s dark, except for an ethereal white glow--an ethereal white glow coming from her.

In the dim light she notices a few bodies scattered around. She can’t determine whether or not they’re Horde members or innocent patrons. Whether they're alive or merely unconscious. She wants to help them. She has to help them.

One thing at a time. One person at a time. She turns back to Octavia.

Adora pats her down, looking for any injuries that could require immediate attention.

A passing light reflects something blue and yellow from the shadows. She jumps up into a defensive position, brandishing her sword. The blade feels like it’s humming in her hands, pouring energy into her flagging limbs.

Everything is still.

Then out of the corner of her eye she sees something flash--

Red and blue lights.

Panic flares bright and hot in her chest.

She isn't supposed to be here.

She was publicly instructed to stay away from the Hordak case and everything and anything involving the Horde.

But that isn’t even the worst of it.

The dim light she's emitting suddenly feels painfully bright.

She’s unregistered.

Frantic, she takes off. She drops her sword. When it hits the ground it vanishes into a puff of smoke, back to wherever it was summoned from. Her ethereal glow fades. The magic ebbs out of her and every ache feels like it has been multiplied by ten. But she can’t give in. Not yet. Not yet.

She has to play a brief game of cat and mouse with some of the officers who come in through the back door of the club, but Adora manages to use some exposed rebar to climb up and out through a window and into the night.

She shivers against the cold--her jacket’s still at coat check. Assuming coat check wasn’t annihilated like the VIP lounge was. At least she has her purse. Her dress is covered in dirt, ripped in more than a few places. She glances down at her watch. 1:45 AM. Subtracting the time she took getting out of the Triple 6, she’s lost… 11 minutes.

A heavy hand on the back of her neck, the rush of air as she sailed towards concrete-- no, don’t think about it. One thing at a time. Get home.

Her taxi driver doesn’t say anything about her disheveled appearance and Adora thinks she could marry him for this small kindness.

She sits in the back of dark cab and watches the city streets pass in a blur.

Fangs flashing, one bright yellow eye, a blue beam of light cutting through the dark, her muscles coiled tight with magical energy-- No, not here. Not here. Not yet.

Another 10 minutes and she’s stumbling through the door to her apartment. She drops her purse and then triple checks all of her locks. She had extra security installed a few years ago.

Once that’s done she calmly walks into the bathroom, kneels on the tile, lifts the lid of the toilet, and dry heaves like she’s trying to expel her very stomach. Her throat burns and her abdomen aches but she can’t make herself stop .

She can’t stop seeing Octavia’s face. She can’t stop seeing the collapsed balcony. She can’t stop feeling the pressure on the back of her neck, the concrete rushing towards her, the bright red blood on the snow, the screaming--

No, no you don’t know that’s what happened. Think. Think about it.




There was a hand on the back of her neck. She was thrown towards the wall. A millisecond before she hit it, she transformed into She-Ra. The impact threw dust everywhere. Her sword appeared in her hand, still covered in condensation from the summon.

She pushed off of the wall and took a step forward, dust showering down from her shoulders. She locked her eyes on the back of her attacker’s head--it’s Octavia.

She walked past She-Ra without bothering to look at her. Just tossed her aside without a second thought. Adora was merely an obstacle between Octavia and her goal.

All of Octavia’s attention was focused on the woman trapped between the wall and the slab of rubble, the one who had pushed past Adora on the stairs. Light falls across her face for a moment. Adora catches blue and yellow eyes staring out at her from the dark.

She recognizes her.
Her name is Catra; she’s one of the highest ranking officials in Shadow Weaver’s faction.

But Catra doesn’t mean anything to She-Ra.

The only thing that She-Ra cares about is cold justice.

So she reaches out one massive hand and grabs Octavia’s shoulder.

Octavia twists, trying to slam a right hook into She Ra’s belly. She Ra catches her hand and looks her in the eye. The startled look on Octavia’s face brings her no joy. She-Ra tosses her to a wall. Just like she tossed Adora. Octavia is built like a tank, and although she doesn’t roll away from the impact like She-Ra did, she’s still on her feet. She-Ra watches impassively.

Then there’s a rush of air behind her. Instinctively she darts out of the way, a pair of massive fists slamming into the ground where she was a moment ago. It’s Beast Man. He opens his blue lips to yell something at her, but his tusks make it hard to read the words. All she hears is the baritone droll of his voice.

She reaches out and grabs the fur hanging down off of his chin and pulls his face into her fist. Blood bursts over her knuckles, spattering against her stony face. And then it’s not an orange beast she’s attacking, it’s a young woman, blood drenching her neck from a cut on the side of her head, staring defiantly back at her.

No, no, not this, this isn’t what-- this--

She notices then that her arms are held up by thick ropes, that her hand is tied to her sword, the sword that she’s slowly sinking into this woman’s gut, and she screams as it happens, and Adora can hear it, she swears she can hear it--

 


 

BAMBAMBAM!

The vibrations of someone slamming something against her front door startle her out of a hazy half-sleep.

For what must be the hundredth time on this incredibly crappy night she feels her heart leap in her chest. Is it the police? Did someone recognize her as she was sneaking out of the club? Or what if it’s someone from the Horde? Did they see what she did--? Do they know she has magic?
Her head is pounding .

She really wishes she still had her gun.

Instead, she grabs the taser hidden in her dresser drawer, and darts back to the front door. Whoever it is is still pounding. She won’t look in the peephole; someone could be waiting, watching, ready to shoot her through the door. Instead she waits just to the left, ready to strike at whoever comes in. Which they’re going to, from the way the locks are turning right now. She breathes deeply, flicking the taser on, ready to fight for her life--

The door opens and light from the hallway spills into her living room. A man wearing a thick jacket takes a step inside.

“Bow ? ” She exclaims.

He jumps what must be ten feet in the air.

You scared me! ” He signs. “ What happened? You okay? ” His signs are pretty rigid, but between scaring him and his lack of experience she’ll cut him some slack.

Fine. ” She replies as he goes to flip the light switch.

You do not look fine. ” He grimaces at her. “ Why is your face red? You have a… M-A-R-K .” He points, and she reaches up to feel the groove in her skin. She must have fallen asleep with her cheek pressed against the toilet seat.

“Fell asleep at my desk .”

He looks her up and down as if to say, ‘are you kidding me?’. She’s still wearing her ragged cocktail dress.
Okay so it wasn’t a very good lie, she’s exhausted alright?

She closes and locks the door behind him while he hangs his coat up on a hook.

I’m glad you’re here. ” He signs, then pulls her into a hug. Pain flares up in her chest at the pressure, but she manages to keep from whimpering out loud. Just barely. The pain fades back to a dull ache when he lets her go.

“Seriously, what happened? I got a call from Angella saying she lost C-O-N-T-A-C-T with you.

Adora hits herself on the head (which, ow, bad choice).

I forgot. ” She retrieves her phone from her purse. It’s 5:49 AM. She has (32) unread messages, (9) missed calls and (5) voice mail messages.

 “ R-E-P-O-R-T-S say explosion at 666?”  

It wasn’t an explosion, it was a fight. Skeletor and Shadow Weaver’s factions were meeting for--I guess some kind of negotiation, and--”

Bow waves his hands frantically.

Slow! Slow!

I’ll write it down.

I am making you food.

But-- ” He smacks her hands to keep her from signing anything else.

No ‘but’s! Type! ” He waves her off and gets busy with the kitchen. She sighs, and leaves him to it. He knows the kitchen better than she ever could, anyway.

Once she's in her bedroom she turns to her mirror and lifts up her dress. Her chest is covered in an array of blooming bruises. She grimaces. She's only pretty sure that nothing is broken.

Her dress is pretty much ruined. Which is a shame, too, because she really did like it. Her arms twinge as she pulls it off and over her head. There's a scattering of bruises on her arms and surface scratches on her knees. Her knuckles are ragged. Minor injuries.

She dresses in some soft sweatpants and a long sleeve t shirt in order to hide the scrapes from Bow. She quickly washes her hands and wraps them in soft bandages from under her sink, then grabs her laptop and heads back out to the kitchen.

“Smells delicious!” she calls out to Bow. She takes a seat at the counter and sets down her laptop. Bow is looking at her expectantly.

A pause.

Bow smacks his forehead.

Sorry! I asked, do you want J-A-M, or P-E-A-N-U-T butter on your toast?”

P-E-A-N-U-T butter. Did you ask me V-E-R-B-A-L-L-Y?”

He has her repeat her signs again and fingerspell some words.

Yes .” He blushes. “ You can talk, so sometimes I forget you can't hear, too .”

“You mean the egregious deaf accent doesn't constantly remind you?” She says out loud.

It is not E-G-R-E-G-I-O-U-S. You have a lovely voice.

“Sure, Bow.” He sets a mug of tea next to her as she flips open her laptop.

Adora munches on the toast while she types.

She leaves out the part about transforming, instead saying she hid at the bar until she could escape out of a window.

Bow dishes out some eggs from the skillet.

She exchanges her laptop for a plate of scrambled eggs. Bow sits down at the counter opposite from her, turning the laptop so he can see the screen. She watches his brows crease together the more he reads.

Adora .” he signs, but before he can say anything else he suddenly looks around and pats his pockets. She chews her food and watches with curiosity as he hops off the barstool and over to the entryway where his coat hangs. He pulls his phone out of his pocket.

“Hey! Angella!”

Adora feels a rush of guilt turn the eggs in her stomach.

Bow walks back over to his seat. There's a deep wrinkle set between his brows.

“No, **********  ****** ***********  ******** *******--” Lip reading half a conversation adds a layer of difficulty to an already challenging task.

“White ******* ? Wait--Angella--she's here. Yes! **** ** ********** ****.” He looks down and scratches the back of his neck. Adora watches him like a hawk, trying to pick up as much of the conversation as she can.

Mostly though it's Bow listening. At the end, he tells Angella to get some sleep.

As soon as he hits the ‘end call button on his phone he gives Adora THE most exasperated look. The one he used to reserve for--

He types out something on his phone and then hands it to her.

‘You left out the part where you transformed into She Ra.’

She grimaces.

Yeah.

How did you know ?” She signs.

‘Angella told me the officers investigating the incident at 666 saw white light, and that some witnesses reported seeing a ‘tall woman with white blonde hair and glowing blue eyes’ hit Beast Man right in the face.’ He types his answer on her laptop beneath the lie she attempted to sell him. She doesn’t look at him.

He waves at her, unsuccessfully trying to get her attention. Finally he gets out of his seat and walks over to her, gently wrapping his arms around her. Good old Bow.

She exhales, her breath coming out as a shudder of barely contained emotion. Her throat feels thick.

‘Maybe this whole thing is too soon.’ He types on his phone. She blinks past the tears in the corners of her eyes to glare at him.

‘2 and a half years. It was 2 and half years ago.’ She leans over to type it out on her computer. She pounds the keys so hard part of her thinks they might get stuck.

‘There is no time limit on recovery.’ His face is full of concern.

She balls her hands into fists and looks him right in the eye.

I’m fine .” She is not weak. She is not weak. She is not weak .

‘No one would think less of you--’ she stops reading halfway through his next message.

I would think less of me! ” she signs, but the anger she’s trying to convey loses some of its bite when he has to ask her to sign it again.

They stew in silence for a few moments.

‘Nobody saw your face… right?’

Her arms are folded tightly across her body. She chews her lip, slowly shakes her head no.

He pushes his pointer finger outwards from his chin, the sign for ‘sure’, his brows pulled together in a question. You sure?

She thinks about it.

Octavia...maybe? But unlikely. She grabbed Adora from behind when she threw her. It was dark and chaotic. Everyone was busy running or fighting each other.

Everyone except for Catra.



Chapter Text

After she assures Bow that she’s okay and promising to update Angella as soon as she can, she ushers him out the door.

She showers, washing dust and dirt and traces of someone else’s blood down the drain.

When she finally climbs into bed the clock reads 7:12 AM.

She dreams of dark places and flashing neon lights and blurry faces and voices , murmuring to her, words she can’t decipher, but she can feel their urgency seeping into her skin, embedding itself in her bones, they want to talk and she wants to listen but she can’t.

Next time she wakes it’s 11:00 PM. She slept for 16 hours.

Adora rubs her eyes and picks up her phone, scrolling thru her messages. They’re all from Angella or Bow, asking where she is, how she’s doing, what happened, or variations on that. There are a few more from when she was asleep, but they don’t contain the same sense of urgency as the others ‘just checking in to make sure you’re okay.’ ‘You still sleeping? Good. Message me when you’re up.’

She messages Angella to let her know that she’s okay.

Almost immediately, she gets a text back.

M : Call me.

Translation: Get on the private line.

Translation: Now that I’m not worried about you, I’m angry.

Translation: You screwed up.

Adora pinches the bridge of her nose, fighting back the headache that’s creeping up on her. There’s no point in delaying the inevitable, so with a sigh Adora pads out into the living room/kitchen to retrieve her laptop.

She pulls up their private chat log.

Adora: ‘I’m here.’

Angella: ‘What happened?’

So Bow didn’t tell her, then. Adora doesn’t know whether to be relieved or not.

Adora: ‘Skeletor and Shadow Weaver’s factions started a fight. I was caught in the middle.’

Angella: ‘And you transformed?’

Adora winces.

Angella: ‘Bow told me you were okay but stopped short of real details. Are you really okay?’

Adora: ‘Yes, I am fine. I was caught in the crossfire, an adrenaline spike made me transform.’

Angella: ‘Did you black out again?’

Adora balls her hands into fists. She closes her eyes and counts her breaths.

Adora: ‘Yes.’

Angella: ‘Do you remember anything?’

Blue and yellow eyes. The flash of teeth. A spatter of blood. Her knuckles splitting from impact.

Adora: ‘Bits and pieces.’

Angella: ‘Did anyone see you?’

She bites her lip, weighs the pros and cons.

Finally,

Adora: ‘Yes.’

Angella: ‘We have to end this operation immediately. I have to do damage control. I have a friend in the Tracking department I can ask for a favor.

Adora: ‘No, Angella, I can do this.’

Angella: ‘I won’t let you continue with this operation if it serves such a risk to your personal health and safety.’

Adora resists the urge to throw the laptop across the room.

I am not weak!

She can’t let Angella see her get mad.

Adora: ‘I knew what I was getting into when I agreed to do this. Please don’t stop me now. I’m okay, really. I promise.’

She flashes back to dry heaving into the toilet bowl.

Angella: ‘If someone saw you, it’s only a matter of time before the Department of Unregistered Magical Practitioners finds you.’

Adora: ‘I think they’re going to have a hard time with this one.’

Angella: ‘Why?’

Adora: ‘Only one person saw me.’

Angella: ‘One person is all the Department needs.’

Adora: ‘This person isn’t interested in making life easy for the Department.’

Angella: ‘Who are they, Adora?’

Adora: ‘It’s Catra.’

They wrap up the conversation with Angella begrudgingly agreeing to allow the operation to continue at least a little while longer, if only so Adora can find out how much of the incident Catra knows.

Just as they’re saying their goodbyes Adora spots an unopened letter on her countertop from her apartment complex. There’s a pink sticker attached to it. She grimaces.

Adora: ‘One last thing’

Angella: ‘Yes?’

Adora: ‘Do you know if there’s any way I can take some cash out of the money you’re setting aside for me…?’

Angella: ‘I’m afraid not. It’s risky enough as it is, putting aside funding like this. Once you’re back on the Force we can explain it, but in the meantime if someone finds you are receiving money from an anonymous source it will draw questions. It could be linked back to me. That would ruin all of our chances of this operation being a success.’

Adora: ‘You’re right.’

Of course she is.

But her bills don’t care about who is right or wrong.

Angella: ‘Are you already out of your savings?’

Adora winces.

That was another lie she’d told, in order to get Angella to agree to this job.

Adora: ‘There’s some left before I get desperate.’

She says, like she isn’t already.

Angella: ‘That’s good to hear. I’m sure if you really need, Bow will be able to help you out.’

Angella: ‘I’m sorry that I can’t do more.’

Adora: ‘It’s okay, you’re already doing plenty.’

Angella: ‘Take care of yourself, now. Don’t be afraid to take a few days off if you need them. I know that transforming into She-Ra is hard on you.’

Adora: ‘I’ll see if I can get in contact with Catra and get back to you as soon as I can. Tomorrow of the next day.’

It’ll be a cold day in hell before Adora takes time off.

She jumps into a pair of skinny jeans and a cute top, applies some light makeup, grabs a protein bar, throws on her jacket, and exits the apartment.

She has a very specific destination in mind.


 

The Alibi Bar is Horde owned and operated and has been for years now. It was originally part of a metal welding factory, but was trashed during the Hybrid Riots. It lay empty for a time, and was eventually purchased by up and coming Industrial tycoon, Hordak. The rest is history.

It smells of smoke and something acrid, but Adora doesn’t have to cover her nose the way she used to. Her head is held high as she pushes through the front doors.

She slides into her usual seat. Smiles at the bartender.

Adora has been haunting this place for the past four months. She is waiting for her chance to get friendly enough with one of the Horde members to breach the organization. Four months, no dice.

But tonight is going to be different.

Adora is playing on her phone when feels the counter top vibrate near her hand. She looks up to see the bartender, Scorpia, sliding a cosmopolitan over to her. The drink is her usual.
Except that Adora hasn’t ordered anything yet.

She looks down at it, her brow furrowed in confusion. She looks back at Scorpia and puts her thumb to her chin, and then wiggles her pointer finger in the sign for “who?”

Scorpia smiles and shrugs.


Adora makes the sign for “house”. Scorpia shakes her head. So it’s not on the house, then. She wants to ask another question but Scorpia’s attending to another customer. Adora sighs and sucks the juice from the lime that came with the drink. Scorpia’s a sweetheart and Adora loves her, but sometimes being unable to communicate with her is frustrating. Not that Scorpia doesn’t try. It’s just that having claws instead of fingers makes sign language somewhat tricky.

A sudden motion in Adora’s peripheral causes her to look over.

And there she is.

Catra.

She’s dressed in a form fitting black t-shirt, a red leather jacket, and ripped maroon skinny jeans.

Oh no. She’s hotter than I remember.

Oh.

This.

This is…

Well.

Despite coming to this location with the very specific intention of speaking to Catra, Adora is caught off guard. It’s 1:00 on a Monday morning. She didn’t actually expect to run into anyone. Oh Gods, what’s she going to say? Okay, just relax--

While Adora is mentally scrambling, Catra takes a seat on the stool next to her. Her blue and yellow eyes are half lidded.

 

Her lips start to move and Adora instinctually zeroes in on them. Her brain snaps into gear, honed by years of training.
Catra says something that looks like “You come here pretty often.”

The Alibi is Horde owned and operated.

Adora knew who Catra was at the club in part because of the many nights she spent in this very bar.

“Don’t pretend you haven’t noticed me.” Adora replies, turning back to the bar to sip the Cosmopolitan.

She’s been coming here almost every night for four months. Surely Catra isn’t so unobservant as to have never noticed her before.

There’s a rapid motion in her periphery again. She tilts her head to see Catra waving.

“Don’t ****** me, I *** *** *** bought **** ***** drink.”

Adora rolls her eyes.

Catra says something else but Adora isn’t even trying to pay attention this time.

Then Catra does something that surprises her.

Why did you save me?” The signs are a little slow, but their meaning can hardly be confused. Adora blinks rapidly a few times, trying to process.

Saved her…? Adora didn’t do anything to save her--did she?


 

A hand on the back of her neck, the grey slab of oncoming concrete--

Stepping forward, shaking off the dust. Octavia, ignoring her, striding towards the ruined steps, striding towards the rubble, striding towards the figure pinned beneath.

She-Ra violently changes her trajectory.

Hitting Beast Man’s face, breaking his nose, blood spurting forth.

Octavia grabbing her from behind-- again-- and throwing her down the steps. Her back hits the rubble, hard. She barely registers the pain. A movement to the side. She looks. Locks gazes with mistmatched eyes.

She-Ra ducks out of the way just as Octavia slams into the rubble with a massive broken pole.

The impact sends cracks across the piece of debris, breaking off chunks.

It’s enough for Catra to wiggle out.

She’s halfway free when Octavia grabs her, yanking her out of the hole. Catra reaches forth and swipes viciously, claws raking the skin across Octavia’s eye. She cries out in pain, but to her credit, she does not let go.

At least, not until She-Ra sweeps her feet out from beneath her.

Catra springs free of Octavia’s grasp and leaps off of the railing of the stairs, disappearing into a panicked crowd.


 

She-Ra didn’t act to save Catra.

She-Ra did it to punish Octavia.

I didn’t do it to save you. I did it because I hate that bitch Octavia. ” Catra’s teal and yellow eyes blink rapidly a few times, and then she taps her palm with the tips of her other fingers several times in rapid succession.

Again ?"
Adora sighs, then turns to face Catra and repeats her signs.

Where do you know  Octavia from, anyway?

She was a sergeant at the Police Academy for years.” Adora has to finger spell ‘sergeant’ out a few times, but Catra gets it.

Right, ” she snaps her finger in indication of understanding. “ I forgot she used to work there, before she came to us.

Catra looks at her carefully, one arm resting on the bar counter top. The look in her eyes is so intense Adora feels like she’s being taken apart and examined, layer by layer. It makes her whole body tingle. She manages to keep the blush from her face, but just barely.
She stares back at Catra, determined to give as good as she gets.

A Horde bar is a strange place to find BMPD’s prodigal daughter. ” Catra signs out every word, and the ones she doesn’t know she finger spells.

I haven’t been with the Force for four months. ” She replies hotly, but this time she’s turned in her seat to face Catra properly

Adora, right?”

And you’re Catra.

Looks like we’ve both done our homework.

When Adora doesn’t immediately reply, Catra adds,

You’ve fallen pretty far.

Are you calling your own bar a dive? ” Adora asks, but the smile on her face gives away the tease. She can’t believe it. She’s actually enjoying banter with one of the Horde’s most important operatives.

“Just because I’m Horde doesn’t mean I own this bar .” Catra answers, her signs sharp and fast. “ But I do know the owners… which means I get as many free drinks as I want.” Her grin reveals two rows of sharp white teeth. “ Do you want another Cosmo?”

“Not right now…” She notices Catra is staring at her again, still grinning . “Why are you looking at me like that?

“Because,” Catra signs, then she leans in close, and when she speaks she does so slowly and with wide movements so that there will be no mistaking her words, “I have always wanted to fuck a cop.”

Adora blinks rapidly, pulling away in shock. Her stomach absolutely did not just flutter with butterflies. She did not feel those words go straight to her core. Her face. Is not. Red.

(It did. They did. It is.)

The catwoman throws her head back and laughs. It’s the first time Adora’s been able to get a good look at the rows of sharp teeth lining her gums.

She composes herself.

Picks up her drink.

Leaves the counter.

Catra stops laughing suddenly, perhaps surprised by her reaction. Adora doesn’t look back. She moves over to a corner near the bathrooms where a classic jukebox sits. She mindlessly flips through song labels. Does this thing even work, or is just for show?

A moment later Catra appears, moving to lean against the jukebox. Adora doesn’t look at her.

Are you--

Adora glares at her.

“If you wanna screw a cop, go screw Octavia.”

Catra grins. Adora notices that her nose crinkles when she smiles.

Someone has a smart mouth.

I could say the same about you.

Adora returns to thumbing through the jukebox tracks.

Can you hear anything at all? ” Catra signs.

“A little.” She says, sipping her cosmo. Catra taps one claw against the side of the juke. Adora ignores her staring.

You have magic.

There it is.

What she’s been waiting for.

Adora glances over her shoulder quickly.

Who have you told ?”

Catra licks her bottom lip, her eyes half hooded, looking very satisfied with herself.

So far… nobody.

Adora silently thanks the Gods and the Stars.

But you… you are a hot topic of conversation right now , baby. ” Adora rolls her eyes.

That’s the sign for a literal, actual baby.

Would you prefer sweetheart? ” Adora smacks Catra’s hands to make her stop signing, and wishes with all her might that looks could kill.

But the deities aren’t listening to her right now it seems, because Catra does not in fact drop dead.

Why haven’t you reported me yet? ” Adora questions.

Catra examines the back of her claws, her tail sways casually back and forth behind her.

And let the DUMP have you?

The DU--oh, right. For a moment she forgot that’s what most folks call the Department of Unregistered Magical Practitioners. They really should’ve put more thought into their name.

It would be pretty ironic, if DUMP’s number one wanted criminal turned out to be their very own rising star Adora Grayskull-- sorry. FORMER rising star.

Adora bites her lip, eyeing Catra. If she were going to report her, she would’ve done it already.

But I think… you will be much more useful out here than in the House of Darkness*.

So you’re blackmailing me.

Blackmail is such a harsh term. ” Catra tuts. “ I was actually hoping it wouldn’t come to that.

How do you mean?

Well, you’ve been coming here for a while… ” So she has noticed her. “ And after the way the Fuzz kicked you out… seems to me like you’re harboring a grudge. Seems to me like maybe you’ve been looking for a way to get back at them.”

Adora grabs Catra by the front of her jacket and slams her against the back wall.

You think you know me? She wants to say; she hopes her actions convey her words (she can’t make this too easy, or it will arouse suspicion).

Catra, cool as ever, smiles up at her.

Genuine frustration grips her. Will nothing phase her? Adora wants to wipe that stupid smirk off of her face.

Without pausing to think about it, she leans in and kisses her.

This, at last, seems to get a reaction. Catra goes stiff as a board. Adora can’t help but smile against her lips. She starts to pull back, but Catra, it seems, is determined to have the last word.

She feels the sharp prick of Catra’s claws as she winds her fingers into Adora’s hair, pulling her down against her. Her fangs graze Adora’s bottom lip for a moment, the threat hanging unspoken, before pulling her into her mouth and sucking gently and oh, she had forgotten. How good this could be.

She keeps her hands fisted in Catra’s shirt, but presses her hips forward a fraction, firmly sandwiching Catra against the wall. The butterflies in her stomach riot so aggressively she swears she can feel them all the way up to her throat. She can feel Catra’s breasts against her forearms. She pulls back to angle her head and dive in once more when a a low rumbling vibrates against her arms. Staccato breath slide over Adora’s lips. Catra...she’s laughing.

Adora pulls back. Catra swipes her tongue over her teeth. Somehow the blush gracing her cheeks doesn’t make her look any less composed. Adora has a feeling she can’t say the same about herself.

Catra grins.

Was that a ‘yes’?

 

Chapter Text

Was that a ‘yes’?

Catra’s grin is completely shameless.

The nerve .

She thinks she’s in control? Think again. Adora pulls Catra forward a fraction only to slam her back against the wall.

Just wait until you’re looking at me from through the window of your cell. We’ll see who’s laughing then.

A sudden vibration between her legs (just a little too far up to provide the satisfaction that she’s craving) brings the realization that Catra’s hip is slotted between Adora’s thighs. She pulls back in surprise at the sudden powerful rush of desire.

Excuse me. ” Catra signs, reaching into her pants pocket to withdraw the device.

“Hello?” Catra’s eyes remain glued to Adora’s, so she sees it immediately when her irises contract.

“What?” Catra diverts her gaze. For a moment it looks like she’s going to try to pull away from Adora’s grip, so she tugs Catra upwards onto the balls of her feet to remind her who is in charge.

Catra’s eyes widen. Adora smirks, enjoying a moment of pride, before she realizes that Catra (more dexterous than Adora anticipated) managed to lift a leg to wedge a foot between them and is now using her unsheathed back claws to dig lightly into Adora’s belly.

“****** **** ******* **.” Catra speaks into her phone. Her face is cold and hard.

Adora narrows her eyes. Catra gives her look that just says ‘ Seriously?’ And yeah, she kinda does, but… she’s supposed to be getting on Catra’s good side. Slowly, Adora lowers her to the ground.

Catra pulls away from Adora’s grip and starts to pace the bar.

Adora picks what remains of her cosmopolitan off of the jukebox and watches Catra. Her tail is flicking back and forth rapidly. Her lips curl up over her teeth as she speaks to the other person on the line, a snarl wrinkling her nose.

“******* ***** ********.... No… ******* ****** ….. **** …… ***** ****** **** *** me! **** *** hate me!” As Adora finishes her drink she wonders who might be calling Catra at 2:00 AM on a Monday morning. She doesn’t look too happy… her boss, maybe? A coworker? It must be. It’s not like Catra has any friends or family. At least, not that Adora’s heard of… could it be a girlfriend? It’s a credible theory. Catra’s been known to have them. Not that they ever last long.

Catra stops pacing and puts a hand on her hip, tail still twitching. She looks right at Adora once more.

“***** **** ***....... Okay…. **** *****. ********  ****** ***** ***** **. *******. Bye.” She hits the ‘end call’ button.

Scorned lover? ” Adora signs.
Catra glares at her, and then pulls back her lips and… ? Adora isn’t really sure.. What…

Did you just hiss at me ?”

Catra crosses her arms in front of her chest.

No. ” Her ears are pinned back.

You did.” Adora cackles. “ You tried to hiss at me!

I DID hiss at you.
If a tree falls in the forest without anyone to hear it, does it still make noise ?”

Of course it does. Shut up.

O-K.” She smirks.

Come on. Let’s get out of here. ” Catra signs, padded palms sweeping out in the gesture for ‘here’.

Wait--

No time. ” Catra turns and strides towards the bar’s exit.

“****** *** ***** **** ****?” Scorpia asks. Adora is too busy scrambling to pick up any of their conversation. Catra’s angry and in a hurry-- probably not looking to take Adora home for a one night stand. She hopes. Not that Catra isn’t hot-- Literally stop thinking. Right now.

She makes her feet follow Catra towards the exit, pausing only to wave goodbye at Scorpia.


 

They don’t make it.

The door glides open, silhouetting a slim figure. They pause only for a moment before crossing over the threshold. As they do the bar lighting shimmers over planes of interlocking red scales. He’s dressed in a finely pressed three piece suit. He’s tall, but slim.

Adora recognizes him immediately.

Rattlor.*
He’s one of the leaders of the very creatively named Snake Men.

“*******. ***** ******* ******* you.” Catra says.

While her face is as impassive as ever, the fur at the base of her tail has started to rise ever so slightly. The tip twitches back and forth.

“****************************************.” It’s almost impossible to lip read Snake Men. Too much hissing. She can’t even tell where one word begins or the other one ends.

Rattlor is flanked by two other Snake Men, and though they are somewhat larger in stature, they’re also wearing expensive business suits.

One of the two has on a black shirt with a white vest, exposing his arms which end in literal snakes.
That must be Squeeze.
She’s heard about him at the precinct before. He’s disliked even more than most of the more humanoid snake men.

The trio look past Catra. Adora glances over her shoulder. The bar is pretty much dead.

“****************************?” Rattlor looks back at Catra. “********.” He starts to turn around.

“********** change ***** ****** ****.”

Rattlor stops. His tongue flickers out, but otherwise he remains motionless.

“*****.” Catra reaches into her jacket pocket and withdraws a tiny baggy of white crystals.

Stallos.

He turns back to her. After a long moment, he holds out a hand, palm up.

Catra places the baggy in it.

He pockets the drug.
Rattlor’s emerald green eyes land on Adora.

“*******************************?”

“****************... *********?” Squeeze. He narrows his eyes and stares at Adora, watching her closely.

Suddenly Catra slides a hand down to the small of Adora’s back.

“*****************. ***** ******* *************.” Catra smirks. Adora can feel her warmth through her jacket. Rattlor and Squeeze’s posture relax slightly, and the sudden tension in the room evaporates.

“**********!” Catra yells over her shoulder at Scorpia. The bartender nods, and the three snakemen push into the bar.

“***** ******* ********** ******.” Catra says to the group. Then, her hand still on Adora’s back, she steers her towards the bathrooms. She hates not knowing what’s going on.

What--

Go. Go. ” If she wants any chance of finding out what’s going on she has to follow instructions. So she lets Catra guide her.  

Adora is ushered into the bathroom. She crosses her arms over her chest and watches, unconcerned, as Catra bolts the door behind them. Catra’s claws are lethal, but Adora is still confident she could take her in a fight.

When she turns around Catra doesn’t bother beating around the bush.

They want details about The White Woman from the club.

Adora moves her arm horizontally, touching all of her fingers together in the sign for “ And?

And they might figure out it’s you. Did you see how S-Q-U-E-E-Z-E looked at you?”

You’re the only person who saw my face.

If they see these?” Catra grabs Adora’s wrist and she instinctively wrenches it away.

...Sorry.” Adora grimaces, rubbing her elbow and feeling awkward. “ But so what if they do see them? ”  
If Catra is bothered by the way Adora flinches away, she doesn’t show it.
Your knuckles are bloody. There was a big fight last night. They could make the connection.

Maybe I burned them on the oven.

Do you take out your brownies with the BACKS OF YOUR HANDS ?” Okay, she has a point. The bandages very clearly envelope her knuckles. But that doesn’t change the fact that she wants-- needs -- to be in the loop on this.

I’m staying.

Why?!

They’re here about me. I want to know what’s going on.

You can’t wait for me to tell you later?

Adora catches Catra’s gaze.

You would do that…?

Catra looks down to the side, one ear twitching.

I mean. Maybe.

That’s--no. No. Even if she can’t understand what they’re saying, Adora feels so anxious and bottled up, it would kill her to have to go home and sit on her hands while she knows this meeting is happening.

She points at herself, then makes a ‘Y’ with her one hand and thrusts it downwards in the sign for ‘stay’.

You’re really going to---?” She uses a sign Adora isn’t familiar with. Adora makes her finger spell it.

Insist. ” She demonstrates the correct sign, but Catra just waves her off with ‘ whatever!’

Yes. I insist.

Fine.Take off your shirt.

Take off her---?

“Excuse me!?” Adora yelps. This is not the direction she expected this conversation to go.

I have to make sure you don’t have a bug. A W-I-R-E.”

Seriously?

No not seriously. I just want you to flash me your tits. ” Catra rolls her eyes.

As if you would be so lucky. ” Adora retorts.

Listen, the only thing worse than R-A-T-T-L-O-R finding out that you’re the White Woman is him finding out a cop is bugging his conversation.

I’m not a cop anymore!

Yeah, sure. Start getting naked, baby.

Will you PLEASE stop using that sign.

No.

You look like an idiot. ” Adora signs in frustration and she shucks off her jacket.

My specialty.

Furious, she throws her jacket right at Catra’s face. The feline picks it off and uses one hand to comb through her ruffled hair. Adora crosses her arms over her chest as Catra pokes through her pockets.

“Hey!” Adora shouts when she sees one shiny black claw cutting open a seam in the lining. Catra’s ears turn her way but otherwise she makes no notice of the protest.

Jacket is clean. ” Catra tosses it over one shoulder. “ Shirt time.

I hate you.

You could just leave, if this is really so terrible for you. ” Catra shrugs.

Adora glares with as much righteous indignation as she can muster, and then she crosses her arms in front of herself and grabs the hem of her shirt.

She throws the garment right at Catra, who doesn’t seem to mind that she has to take it off of her face. She is shameless in her search. Blue and yellow eyes rake over her skin and Adora feels goosebumps rise. She stares back defiantly. She forces down the feelings of anxiety and self consciousness that threaten to crawl up her throat like so many spiders. She holds them back.

Adora can feel Catra’s eyes on her skin. On the bright purple bruises kissing her ribs. On the group of freckles near her left hip. On the scars she doesn’t remember getting, cutting a sharp white line directly down her sternum, on the scars she does remember getting, chewed up tissue on her shoulder from a blast of acid, countless tiny nicks from teeth and claws and blades and bullets.

Catra stands with her weight on one leg, hip cocked, one arm tucked under the other. She makes a swirling gesture with her finger, indicating for Adora to turn around. Hate burning in her heart, Adora does so. She’s seriously doing this. Turning her back on the enemy.

At least she still has her bra on.

Fists clenched at her sides, she rotates, forcing herself to go slowly. She refuses to show Catra how uncomfortable she’s made her.

The sudden sensation of something at the back of her neck makes her jump what must be 6 feet into the air. She twists, smacking Catra’s hand away and following through with a sharp cross punch to the woman’s face, which she just barely ducks away from in time.

Jumpy much? ” Catra scoffs. Adora glares daggers.

If you EVER touch me again--

You didn’t seem to mind it so much earlier. ” She flashes back to the sliding of lips, the soft sigh of breath, the quietly building need--

Don’t. ” She thrusts her thumb away from her chin repeatedly. Don’t, don’t, don’t. She feels like crawling out of her skin.

Calm down, will you? ” Catra doesn’t look at her. She holds out Adora’s shirt.

“You’re clean.” She says. Or it could be ‘glee’. Or ‘Orleans’. But the first interpretation makes the most sense.

Adora snatches back her shirt. She’s cool. She’s calm. She’s collected. And if she almost puts her shirt on inside out in her haste, nobody has to know. She is. Calm.

“Jacket.” Adora says.

Catra glances at her, but doesn’t hold her gaze. She hands it over. Once she’s fully dressed again Adora lets out a long breath.

Catra taps her claws against the glass of a painting that’s hanging against a wall. An idea hits her.

“Your gloves.” She says. Catra’s ears swivel and she looks at Adora.

She’s wearing fingerless leather gloves. The leather gloves will hide the scrapes on Adora’s knuckles. It takes half a second, but Catra catches on quick.

Not a bad idea.

Would it kill you to give a proper compliment? It’s good. It’s a good idea.

I have no idea what you just signed.

Adora isn’t sure if that’s true or if Catra simply can’t give a straight compliment. Whatever. She accepts the fingerless gloves that Catra hands over. She sits down on the toilet lid and peels off the bandages. She doesn’t wince when she accidentally rips off some of the scabs and causes the wounds to bleed anew.

She tosses out the old bandages and washes her hands in the sink.

Hurry up.

I am going as fast as I can. ” I could go faster if I didn’t have to pause to sign at you, Adora thinks. “ They can’t wait a few minutes?

They can, but only because they think I’m fucking your brains out.

Adora throws one of her wadded up, bloody bandages at Catra.

Gross.

I’m gross?” Adora scoffs.

Whatever… Are you seriously going to stick your bloody hands in my gloves?

Do you want me to sign, or do you want me to put these on?

Catra crosses her arms and leans back against the wall, her tail tip twitching.

The gloves wouldn’t fit on Adora’s hands if she still had the bandages on. In fact the gloves barely fit without the bandages on. She can feel the leather squeaking as it struggles to stretch over her palms.

I’m going back out. ” Catra signs. Before Adora can respond, she’s slipped out the door. That woman is infuriating.

Adora kinda loves it.

She finishes putting on the gloves. They’re uncomfortably tight. Her hands aren’t that big, are they…? Whatever. She glances in the mirror and grimaces at the sight. Flyaways halo her face. Her shirt is a bit lopsided, her face is still bright red high on her cheeks. She certainly looks like she was just well fucked.

She takes a moment to tidy herself, then walks out the bathroom with her head held high.


 

The Snake Men are tearing bloody strips off of a carcass laid on their table. The stench reeks . Adora has to bite her bottom lip to keep from gagging. Whenever a fly shows up Lashor snaps it out of the air with his long green tongue. Gross.

It makes an interesting picture, the three large reptilian soldiers huddled around the table. None of them is shorter than 6’. Rattlor sits between Tongue Lashor and Squeeze, giving them the appearance of two meaty bookends. They have napkins tucked into their collars and they eat with their hands. Catra is leaning back in her chair, hands in her pockets, one leg folded across the other. She sits impassive, lightly amused, uncowed by the clear physical imbalance of the table.

Adora tries not to feel impressed.

It doesn’t work.

When Catra catches sight of Adora she grins wide. She turns in her seat and pats her lap. Adora wants nothing more than to wrap her hands around her neck and choke the life out of her. Instead, she walks over and perches herself awkwardly on Catra’s thigh.

“*************************,” Rattlor’s forked tongue flicks in and out.

Adora can't even read Catra's lips. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all.

 


 

The discussion goes on for at least half an hour.

It’s indescribably boring.

For the most part, everyone ignores her.

One of Catra's clawed hands rests on top of Adora's thigh. She feels her skin crawl beneath her jeans, but she doesn’t dare remove it while the Snake Men are still watching.

Scorpia comes by at one point to clear off the table, smiling the entire time. Adora uses the distraction to push Catra’s hand away. Her arm swings from the back of the chair. To Adora’s relief, she doesn’t try to touch her again.

Finally things are looking like they’re wrapping up. The Snake men are standing and gathering their jackets. Adora jumps up as well, eager to be free of Catra’s lap.

The moment she does, Lashor’s green and yellow tongue jumps out at her. She reflexively snatches her hand out of his shot, but it puts her immediately within Squeeze’s reach. His weird snake arms loop around her shoulders and haul her back. Her heart jumps into fifth gear and she aims a vicious donkey kick for his shin. There’s a rush of air beside her head as he gasps. She doesn’t pause to celebrate the victory; instead, she sinks her teeth into his flesh. Warm blood fills her mouth and gushes past her lips. Instead of releasing her, the snake arms tighten their grip until she can barely breathe. Her ribs are a blinding white pain. She ignores them. She bites down with more pressure, trying to twist in his embrace to deliver another donkey kick--

A gentle touch on her cheek draws her attention. Catra pulls her hand back, then hits the edge of one flat palm against the other.

Stop.

She can’t sign properly on account of the bindings, but her fingers are still visible beneath the coils of green snakes. She finger spells instead.

“W-H-Y”

I am making… agree. A D-E-A-L.”

“I C-A-N E-S-C-A-P-E.”

“I’m sure you can, but if we do this my way it won’t start another gang war.”

Her jaw muscles burn from sustaining her bite. She glances at Rattlor, who is standing to the side, adjusting his cufflinks. Tung Lashor glares at her, but makes no move to interfere.

Adora lets go.

She spits wads of red blood onto the bar floor beside her. Blood rushes to fill the wound. It spills hot onto her neck. She doesn’t care.

“You can’t have her.” Catra signs while she speaks. CAN’T HAVE.

Seriously? Adora isn’t some toy to be traded around. She’s more than a little tempted to bite Squeeze again, just to prove her independence. Somehow, her desire to maintain peace wins out over her stubborn pride.

“She is not part of our deal.” NOT PART OUR D-E-A-L.

“******************************************” Rattlor hisses. Adora can feel Squeeze’s blood soaking into her jacket.

Slippery fucks are twisting my words. ” THAT SLIP-SLIP FUCK TWIST MY WORD. Catra’s eyes narrow but she doesn’t say anything out loud.

“The deal is off the table if you take her.” is what she does say, simultaneously signing: D-E-A-L OFF TABLE IF (point) TAKE.

“*****************************.”

“We both know it’s not about the girl.” WE BOTH KNOW THIS NOT ABOUT GIRL.

“**************************************”

“I won’t give you something for nothing.” I WON’T GIVE YOU SOMETHING FOR NOTHING.

“**********************************************************************************.”

“You’ll get the spell after you send our lab a sample. You’ll also have Basillia.” She says, translating while she speaks.

“*************************”

“You don’t have to trust my word. You can trust my sense of self preservation.”

“************”

“Offer me something.”

“***************************”

“For the girl? That’s hardly a fair deal. I’ll tell you what.” Catra’s tail sways back and forth almost lazily. “I’ll call in some debts. Get you the fresh meat you need. Give me 24 hours.”

“**********************?”

“Close enough.” She shrugs. “Better than your usual, at any rate.”

Finally, Rattlor looks to Squeeze. He nods his head once. The thick coils slowly release their iron grip. Adora lands on her feet, mouth bloody, fists clenched, ready to fight. She inhales and her ribs crackcrackcrack in her chest as they settle back into place. She doesn’t wince; she won’t let the Snake Men see her vulnerable. She won’t let Catra.

Rattlor shakes hands with Catra.

“********* doing ******** ***** you.” Catra’s toothy grin is anything but friendly.

The trio turns towards the exit. Adora feels a surge of satisfaction when she notices Squeeze is still bleeding heavily.

Catra walks up beside Adora.

That wasn’t so bad--

Adora twists on her foot and decks her.

Catra stumbles back a few paces, knocking into a table. She touches a hand to her lip; it comes away bloody.

Was that entirely necessary?

Adora doesn’t deign to answer. The fire in her eyes will have to be enough.

Catra spits blood onto the floor.

Adora turns on her heel and walks over to the bar. Scorpia’s face is creased with concern. Adora gives her a weak smile and shrugs. She splays her fingers and holds her hand out flat, thumb pressed against her chest. ‘Fine’. I’m fine. It’s fine.

She steals a pen from by the register and writes a note. She hands it over to Scorpia, and then, without looking back, heads out into the night.

The note:

Scorpia: Give this to Catra. Also tell her she’s impossible.

(202) 456-1111



Chapter Text

A whole week passes before she hears from Catra.

 

(Unknown Number): u busy 2morro?

(A): That depends who's asking

(Unknown Number): Catra.

(A): Catra who?

(C): Adora I will find you and murder you

(A): I don't know any Adora

(C): Suck my dick

(A): You don't have a dick

(A): Wait do you?

(A): No don't answer that I shouldn't have asked oh my gods

(C): How about you come over and find out?


(A): I can’t uh


(A): I don’t have a phone

(C) : ...Smooth.

(C): Listen. You want to find out who killed Hordak.

 

Adora, previously slouching on her sofa, sits up.

 

(C): So do I.

(C): We can talk more in person.


(C): Be at this address tomorrow at 12:00PM. (Location attached)


(A): Ok


(A): ...Are you going to tell me what happened with the Snakemen

 

(Read: 3:23 PM)

 

...Well fine.

 

---

 

She considers not showing up.

She really does.

She doesn’t want Catra to think that she can be yanked around.

 

She goes.

 

At 12:00 PM she’s standing at the entrance to a small cafe in upper Bright Moon. It’s… cute. Clean. There are flowers out front. A little wrought iron gate. Dainty outdoor glass ornaments hanging from wires that shine in the sun.

She thinks back to the rusted metal walls and single flickering fluorescent light of the Alibi.

What a difference.

 

“Can I help you?” One of the waitresses asks.

 

“Table for two?” Adora replies, holding up two fingers.

 

“**** ******* ***********.... **** *****.” Oh Gods. Just because she can talk doesn’t mean she can hear.

 

“Sorry, I’m…” she makes the sign for deaf, moving her pointer finger from her ear to her mouth.

 

“****?”

 

“I’m deaf.” Ugh.

 

Understanding washes over the waitress’s face. She pulls a pen and pad of paper out of her apron.

 

OUTSIDE OR INSIDE?

 

“Outside.” Why not? It’s a nice day.

 

The waitress shows her to a seat and hands over a menu. Adora glances at the time. 12:03. Catra should be here any minute.


A group of fauns with brightly colored hair settle down at a table across from hers. One with curling ram horns flashes her a warm smile.

 

The restaurant is buzzing with the lunch hour rush.

 

The waitress comes back a few minutes later but Adora waves her off. She’s waiting for Catra before she orders.

 

Adora drums her fingers on the table. Watches the restaurant patrons laugh and talk. Wonders what kinds of lives they live that they can come out to an expensive restaurant for lunch on a Monday like this.

 

The group of fauns orders their meal. The appetizers come and go. Another group finishes eating and leaves. A new one takes their place. Food is carried in on plastic trays, wafting through the courtyard. Adora’s stomach rumbles.

 

It’s not until almost 12:30 that she finally gets a text.

 

C: Running late. Order me anything with fish in it. Skip the greens, my digestion system can only handle meat. thx

 

A: how late?

 

It's already half past.

 

Her phone doesn't buzz again.

 

She shakes her head. The next time her waitress stops by, Adora orders their meals.

 

15 minutes later their food is brought out to the table. 5 minutes after that, Catra finally slides into her seat.

 

I am starving. ” She signs, picking up a fork and immediately attacking her salmon.

 

I almost left. ” Adora signs, annoyed. It’s 12:50.

 

Yeah but you didn’t. ” Catra grins cheekily and Adora wants to punch her.

 

One of the fauns casts Catra a look that could sour milk.

 

Why here? ” Adora questions.

 

Why here what? ” Catra scowls, using one hand to hold her fork.

 

Why pick here to eat lunch.

 

Because we won’t run into anyone I know.

 

They eat without signing for a few minutes. It's strange, Adora thinks. She doesn't feel pressed to make awkward small talk with Catra. It feels comfortable.

 

Careful, a voice in her head warns. She's a criminal.

 

Hordak. Do you know who killed him?”

 

Catra’s brows stitch together and she taps her fingers against her opposite palm for ‘again?’

 

Who killed him?

 

Catra shakes her head.

 

Adora fingerspells it out. M-U-R-D-E-R-E-D.

 

“M-H-X-D-E-X-E-D?”

 

Killed. Ended. Iced.” Catra’s face remains scrunched. Adora sighs and draws her finger over her neck in a last ditch effort to communicate ‘murdered’.

 

Nothing.

 

The lightbulb in Adora’s head finally goes off.

 

“... You’re messing with me.

 

Catra has to hold up a hand to her mouth to hide her smile, but there's nothing to mask the crinkle of her eyes or shake of her shoulders.

 

Don't laugh at me.

It's cute to watch how hard you try.

 

I don't have to put up with this.

 

You won't leave. ” Catra smiles.

 

Why wouldn't I?”

 

Because you're curious .”

 

Adora hates how right she is.

 

You were fired for refusing to drop the investigation. You're clearly invested.

 

Adora crosses her arms and leans on the tabletop. The gesture says, ‘Well? I’m waiting.’

 

There’s a pointed pause while Catra languidly licks her fingers.

 

No. I don’t know who killed Hordak. But I want to find out. And I want you to help me.

 

Adora is formulating her response when their waitress returns suddenly. She holds out her paper pad to Adora .

 

SORRY, YOU NEED TO LEAVE. SOMEONE ELSE NEEDS THIS TABLE.

 

“******? ****** *******.” Catra asks, sitting up straight in her seat. The waitress is clearing away Catra’s half finished meal.

 

“I’m sorry, **** ********* ****** people.”

 

One of the fauns at the other table catches Adora’s eye and then quickly looks away.

 

Adora fishes in her purse for her wallet and hands the waitress a 20 mark chip to pay for her salad.

 

Catra is still in her chair, one arm thrown over the back.

 

“****** ******** a right ******* ****.” What is she arguing with the waitress for?

 

Come on .” She signs at her. Catra's heterochromatic eyes dart from her to the woman.

Finally she stands up. Grabs her jacket off of the back of the chair. Looks right and the waitress and says,

“Keep the change.” And throws down a crumpled 100 mark chip.

Like it's nothing.

Like that's not groceries for a week for Adora.

 

Come on. ” Catra is still glaring at the frazzled waitress when Adora gently takes her arm and guides her towards the exit.

 

---

 

Racist bastards.

 

Excuse me? ” Catra is making a very big stink about being asked to leave the restaurant.

 

You heard me. ” Catra signs, the corner of one lip curled up in a snarl.

 

They were full, Catra. They needed the table.

 

They let you sit there for nearly an hour without bothering you. Then I show up at 2 seconds later, we're being thrown out. She didn't even let me finish my damn meal.

 

Adora thinks back to the side long glances the fauns cast her as soon as Catra sat down.

 

I'm sure that it wasn't--

 

It was.

 

Adora isn't going to bother arguing with someone who refuses to listen.

 

They walk in silence for a few minutes before Catra pulls them into another cafe.

 

She collapses into a chair, all long limbs and bent joints, unapologetic in the prickly way she fills more space than necessary.

 

They order coffee.

 

Well, Catra does. Adora asks for a cup of water.

 

The stillness stretches between them. She closes her eyes. Embraces the lack of sensation. The darkness. The silence. Enjoys the warmth from the sun on her face as it shines through the window. Inhales deeply; the ache in her ribs is almost gone.

 

The table vibrates.

 

Catra’s fingers are tapping at the table top, her eyes focused on Adora.

 

They stare at each other for a few moments.

 

The Snake Men wanted to eat you.

 

She scoffs.

 

Honest. ” Catra sips her coffee.

 

That’s just a racist rumor.

 

Except it isn’t. Not with these guys.

 

Sure.

 

It’s part of some ritual they do, I guess. Usually they use animals, but they prefer people. Well, humans.

 

...Right.

 

I guess they saw you hanging out with a disaster like me at a dump like the Alibi and figured hey, nobody’s gonna miss this one.

 

She thinks of Bow, with his big smile and dark eyes. She thinks of his two dads. She thinks of the soft way Angella signs, how Adora would catch her up late at night mimicking Etherian Sign Language vids. She thinks of Angella’s husband. She thinks of Angella’s daughter. She thinks of people who are missed.

 

Of people who should be missed, but aren't. Of people the Snake Men have taken without anyone noticing. She wishes she bit Squeeze a second time.

 

You didn’t kick their asses though, that was good. ” Catra states, like she's on the same wavelength but on the opposite end. She's up while Adora is down. They move in mirrored harmony.

 

Relations with them and the Horde are tense, then ?” She questions. It would be bad if a war with the Snake Men broke out on top of the one between Shadow Weaver and Skeletor.

 

Shadow Weaver wants to get in bed with them before Skeletor has the chance. The Snake Men are supremacists. Shadow Weaver gave them the impression that they would be meeting with Rogelio--he’s one of ours, reptilian blood-- and she told ME I would be meeting with our Borg ambassadors.” Catra’s claws elongate as she flexes her fingers, signs becoming sharper. “Bitch set me up for failure. But I worked out an agreement anyway. So for now they’re tentatively giving Shadow Weaver their support. Happy?”

 

No, but she doesn’t expect Catra will give her much more than that.

 

Ok. ” She signs. “ Why do you want me to investigate Hordak?”

 

I want US to investigate, you and me. And because I think either Shadow Weaver or Skeletor finished him...or were responsible for his end, at any rate. And if they were….well. There’s this rule in the Horde, see. If you kill a high ranking officer without permission from On High, you will be executed.

 

Wait--there’s a power higher than Hordak?

 

Yeah but it’s not well known.

 

Why are you telling me about it ?”

 

Well, for one who would believe you? For two, I trust your curiosity to keep you in check long enough to help me solve this case.

 

You’re really putting a lot of stock into my desire to know the truth, aren’t you ?”

 

I’m good at reading people. ” Catra grins. Hopefully not TOO good , Adora thinks.

 

How would this work? Between you and me.

 

Well first we go back to my place, open a bottle of the finest Faun wine money can buy, put on a little music--

 

Stop that. ” Adora chastises. Gods. If the circumstances were just a little different…

 

We pool our shared resources and skills. We visit locations and interrogate suspects together.

 

And give Adora the chance to meet more crime bosses and gather the evidence she needs in court to convict them? Hell yes.

 

She sticks out her hand.

 

I’m in.

 

Catra’s fangs gleam as she smiles. She claps Adora's hand between hers and shakes.

 

Welcome to the squad, partner.

 

---

 

“T he first thing we need to do is prove that it was a murder. If Hordak just overdosed on Stallos, game over .”

 

We need to get the autopsy file .” Adora signs.

 

Do you know where it is?

 

Yeah. That’s not the problem. But getting to it…it’s not in the most convenient of locations.

 

Catra immediately understands what Adora is alluding to.

 

Then I guess it’s time to break into the Bright Moon Police Department.


Chapter Text

A behemoth of corrugated metal and rust looms over cracked concrete and decaying iron. More than half of the windows are shattered. Chain links and scraps of barbed wire litter the ground like confetti long after a party has concluded.
A door on the side is marked with “EMERGENCY EXIT ONLY” in faded text. Catra pushes it open without trouble.

 The interior of the warehouse is as large as it is filthy. Junk is scattered all over the floor. There's an kitchen table covered in countless nicks and scars from abuse over the years. The same can be said for everything else in the warehouse, including the people.

 Lonnie, Rogelio, and Kyle sit on stained sofas and yellowed lawn chairs around an empty barrel, laughing.

 “Sup shitdicks.” Catra greets.

 “Where the hell have you been?” Lonnie snaps.

 “Out.” Catra tosses back. She doesn’t bother gauging Lonnie’s reaction as she passes. She’s halfway up the metal stairs when she realizes.

 

The door to her room. It’s open.

Fucking shit.

 

“Alright, confession time.” Catra barely manages the keep the snarl from her voice. “Who went into my room?”

 She stares over the railing and is met by a sea of blank faces.

 “Why would any of us even want to go in your stupid room?” Lonnie scoffs and Catra wants to tear out her throat.

 “How the hell should I know? But my door is open now and it was locked when I left it!”

 “Catra.”

 Lonnie, Rogelio, and Kyle go stiff and still.

 It’s like all of the heat is sucked out of the room.

 She turns.

 Standing in the open door to her room is Catra’s least favorite person. 

“What do you want, Shadow Weaver?” Her tail flicks back and forth. 

“Is that really how you treat your superior officer?”

“Apparently.”

“I thought I raised you better than this.”

“I guess not. Did you need something?”

Shadow Weaver inhales slowly, like she’s mentally counting down from ten. Finally:

“I received a call from Rattlor.”

“Whoop dee fucking doo, good for you.”

Mind your tongue, Force Captain. ” Red lightning crackles briefly across Shadow Weaver's knuckles. Guess the counting thing didn’t work.

“I got a call from Rattlor.” She repeats again. “Notifying me that the requested sample was forwarded from their lab...You haven't been making promises you can't keep, have you, Force Captain?”

Catra presses her lips into a line.

“No.”

“And have you been making promises on the behalf of others?”

“I spoke with the authority Hordak granted me with my promotion to Force Captain.”

“Do you have magic, Catra?”

No. She doesn't. And shadow Weaver knows that. Catra doesn't want to answer, but as the silence stretches out to the point of pain she caves.

“No.”

“Then why, pray tell, would you offer to send them a spell…? Is there someone else with magic you know…?”

She doesn't say anything but she doesn't shy away from Shadow Weaver's gaze, either.

“No…? Oh, so then you were expecting ME to do this work…?”

Yes.

But she doesn't say that.

They wouldn’t even be having this fucking conversation if she were Lonnie, or Rogelio, or even fucking Kyle. 

Shadow Weaver gives up on waiting for a response.

“Rattlor tells me there is a celebration taking place at the Taipan in two weeks. Unfortunately, they refuse to enter negotiations without you there. ” She sneers. Catra doesn’t bother to hide her smug delight.

Instead of commenting further, Shadow Weaver says,
“Remember your dues are to be paid at the end of this week.” And with that, she glides down the stairs and out of the warehouse.

The trio on the ruined furniture visibly relax.

“She gives me the willies…” Kyle murmurs.

“I’ll be in my room. Don’t bother me.” Catra slams the door closed behind herself. She collapses into her bed, stares at the ceiling, and tries not to text Adora.


 

Log Entry 1

Detective Adora Grayskull
(Date stamp)

Monday morning, approximately 2.06AM. 3 members of a violent supremacist group known as the “Snake Men” entered the Alibi bar.

Names: unknown

Aliases: Rattlor, Squeeze, and Tongue Lashor.

(descriptions as follows)

Trio were greeted by Catra and Scorpia in addition to myself.

Committed crimes as follows:

1 count of possession of illegal narcotics

1 count of sale of illegal narcotics.

 

No video or audio surveillance is available, but any of the witnesses could be subpoenaed for testimony.

 

Additional notes:

Snake Men responsible for number of missing persons cases? Claims from Catra they kill and consume the flesh of humans as part of some ritual. Worth directing Netossa towards.

 


 

Angella is cooking.

Or more specifically, Bow is cooking in Angella’s kitchen while she and Adora sit and talk at the counter, pretending to help with prep.

Over the past week Adora has been working with Catra on a plan to get Hordak’s morgue file from the precinct. It’s been...more fun than she’s willing to admit. But she doesn’t tell Angella that part.

It’s a risky plan, ” Angella signs when Adora’s done laying out all the details. In the background Bow slides chopped basta roots into a boiling pot of water.

Any plan designed around breaking into the Police Department is risky. ” Adora shrugs. “ But this is our best bet.

I’m sorry there isn’t more I can do to help. ” As if she wouldn’t be risking her job (as if she isn’t already risking her job) by sticking her neck out for Adora (again).

No, no, don’t worry about it. ” Adora waves her off. “ You’ve already done so much for me.

More than she deserves.

Angella smiles tenderly and there’s something about the softness in it that reminds her of--

I want you to know that I'm proud of you.

Oh, gosh. That’s. It’s a lot. It’s one thing when Bow gets all mushy with her but Angella...Adora looks away uneasily. She hasn’t done anything to warrant such praise. Perhaps sensing her discomfort, Angella shifts the subject.

You’ve been sleeping alright? And I am sure with Bow around that you are eating well.

Yes, yes, I’m fine! ” She says it like it’s a reflex. It is.

“****** pass me ***** *****?” Bow asks, brows furrowed as he leans over a cookbook. Angella gets up from the counter to hand him a bowl filled with a mix of ingredients.

And you’re still working out? It’s good to get out of the house.

Yes, yes, I still go running in the mornings. ” And at night, when the nightmares won’t let her sleep.

Alright. Good. It’s important to maintain a healthy routine.

They have a nice meal together. Bow tells them about how things are going at the shop his dads are running, shows them a new design for a compound bow he’s working on, answers all of Angella’s questions about how things are going with Perfuma. Angella tells them a funny story about one of the rookies mixing up the coffee at the station.

Afterwards while Bow is clearing away their dishes Angella pulls Adora aside.

Would you come with me for a moment? ” Adora obeys.

She follows Angella through her huge mansion of a house, a huge empty house filled with the quiet echoes of life. Shadows. Reflections. Memories. It is too much space for one woman.

Here we are. ” Angella pulls open a drawer from a mahogany box. From within its depth she withdraws an elegant golden bracelet studded with small moon stones.

It’s imbued with a passive protection charm. A powerful one. It protects its wearer from manipulative magicks."

My mother gave this to me. ” She signs in that floaty, elegant way of hers. “ I was going to give this to-- to my own daughter, when it was time. Now...I want you to have it.

Panic flares in Adora’s chest.

No, no, I couldn’t possibly--no. ” Take it? Take that heirloom and replace-- ? No. She couldn’t possibly. Not after what she did.

There’s a look on Angella’s face that Adora can’t quite place. Disappointment, maybe. Relief, perhaps?

Either way, she does not offer Adora the bracelet again.



Chapter Text

You ready to do this thing?

Do you even have to ask? ” Catra grins.

They push through the double doors of the precinct as a single unit.

Adora is halfway across the lobby when Catra grabs her arm.

“******** *** ******.” She's turned her body towards the front desk Clerk.

“Stop.” She says. Her scowl lifts when she recognizes Adora, but she does not smile. You….here? She signs. Poorly. Her hair is in an impeccable bun and her uniform is sharp enough to cut.

I got a call from you guys. You found some of my old things, I'm supposed to pick them up .” The woman tightens her jaw. Adora tries to remember her name. Jessica? Jocelyn? Jennifer?

“. ..Again, slow . ” the clerk signs. Adora repeats her message. Catra examines the back of her claws.

It takes way longer than should be necessary but finally, FINALLY she understands.

...writing...in… The woman points at Catra, then at a clipboard. She wants Catra to sign a visitors form.

But-- She scrambles for an excuse, but Catra swats her hands down and moves to accept the proffered clipboard.

You. Write .” The clerk signs, tapping another clipboard insistently.

Adora walks over and accepts it with a sigh. It's policy to sign in all visitors, and she doesn't exactly work here any more. But she does still have friends here, and most of them would’ve waved her through without question. Will the clerk recognize Catra’s name…?

She glances over to Catra's form.

Name: McKhynleigh Khayrily

DOB: 6/9/96

Occupation: Professional Dancer

Employer: Pussy Palace

Address: 69 Cougar Lane
Purpose of visit: I came with Adora.

Time In: 1:10 PM

Time Out: Only if I’m naughty ;)

Catra notices Adora looking and smirks.

You can’t turn that in. What is-- Adora glances at the officer’s name badge--Amelia? What? For real? No J? ...Amelia going to think?

She’s going to think you’re hooking up with a pole dancer .”

Oh, good. For a moment I was worried maybe you didn’t realize how much suspicion you’re arousing .”

Suspicion isn’t the only thing I’m arousing .”

I hate you so much .”

No you don’t .”

Rather than respond, Adora rapidly finishes filling out her own form and hands it off.

Catra leans against the counter top, chest pushed forward, ass stuck out, tail tip flipping casually back and forth as she chews on the end of a pen. Does she HAVE to stand like that?

“**** ***** ******.” Catra says as she hands off the clipboard. Amelia accepts it with only a brief glance.

I-D? Amelia signs. Adora fishes hers out of her pocket. Catra does the same. Adora is shocked to see that it actually states ‘McKhynleigh Khayrily’ across the top.

Amelia scans over both of their badges for a few moments. She hands them two badges printed with their names and pictures across the front.

“*** ***** ***** ****** badges *** **** leave.” Right. They won’t get their IDs back until after they’re checked out. Well, nothing can be done about it right now. Adora clips on her badge and turns to go.

As Catra reaches over to take hers she accidentally brushes Officer Amelia’s coffee cup.

“*****!” Amelia exclaims, jumping up as hot liquid sloshes all over her desk.

“****, ***** SO SORRY,” Catra exclaims. “ Help her. She signs. Adora glares at her but obediently walks behind the counter to help dab at the coffee with tissues and some napkins stolen from the nearby coffee machine.

They manage to soak up the worst of it.

“It’s fine, it’s fine,” Amelia keeps saying. “Really, don’t worry about it.” She seems annoyed but there’s no real anger. “**** **** ***** *********. Don’t worry ****** ****. It’s fine.”

“**** ****? *** I am so sorry!”

Amelia waves her hand half heartedly.

“It’s fine. You can go. **** **** ***.”

“***** ****.”

Amelia sits back in her chair, flyaway hairs sticking out of her bun, dark coffee staining her formerly impeccable suit.

Adora grimaces. Why does she get the feeling that’s how most people look after an encounter with Catra?

Catra keeps apologizing over her shoulder until they’re finally around a corner and out of sight.

“Was that entirely necessary?” Adora signs.

“Yes. Did you see the look on her face?” Catra bites her lip to hold back a smile. It's … frankly it's infectious. Adora can’t help it. She smiles too. And then Catra’s shoulders jerk with a chuckle. And then Catra is bracing herself against Adora as the two of them shake with full body howling laughter.

And she’s laughing because it’s funny, but… also because it feels good. It feels so good.When was the last time she laughed like this? Really laughed? And what’s more than that, when she shared it with someone else…?

Ok, ok ,” Catra signs, her shoulders still shaking. “ Ok. We should get a move on.

You started it. Adora chastises, but she’s still grinning.

I sure did. Now come on. Let’s get this show on the road.

Adora leads them to a janitorial closet.

Adora I’m flattered, but I’m not sure we’re at the ‘fucking in a closet’ stage of our relationship--

YOU suggested this! This is your part of the plan!” But she’s smiling, even as she elbows Catra in the ribs.

Catra keeps a lookout in the hall while Adora withdraws a cleaning cart. Adora tosses her a cap, which she promptly pulls down low over her face.

Meet you there. ” Adora signs, and then takes off for the locker room.

She arrives to find it almost empty, save for three women.

“Adora?” It’s Layla. Adora smiles. Layla would hold the door for her, or split the last doughnut, or get her coffee if it was on her way. Sometimes she would interpret a tricky conversation with a coworker. They would chat in the break room together.

“Hi.” Adora says with a wave. “ How are you?

“Oh my Gods.” Layla laughs, turning to her friends Flora and Lavelle. “*** **** ****** ***?” The other two grin at each other, then at Adora. She smiles uneasily. Layla used to sign whatever she was speaking so that Adora wouldn’t be left out.

What’s funny?” She asks.

Oh, don’t worry about it.

Lavelle leans over and murmurs something to Layla. Flora says something in return that looks an awful lot like, ‘she’s deaf, you don’t have to whisper.’ But she could be wrong. She must be wrong. Why would Flora say that?

How’s work been?” Layla asks.

I actually haven’t found anything yet.

Aw, that’s really too bad. Have you considered applying for a security job at the Bimbo Mall?

No, but that’s a great idea! I’ve never heard of that mall before. Where is it? ” The women start laughing again and the uneasy feeling in Adora’s stomach increases. Then suddenly the trio turn their heads, snapping to attention. When Adora follows their gazes she sees Catra strolling into the restroom.

“******* ***** *****. **** ***.” Catra says, pushing her cart and wielding a mop.

“**** **** …. ****.” Layla turns to Adora. It was really great to see you again! We’ll have to get coffee sometime so we can finish catching up.

Yeah, okay. ” Adora nods and flashes her a brief smile. “ See you later.

Layla and the others pack up their things. When they head for the exit they glance over their shoulders at Adora, leaning in and giggling to one another as they disappear out of the exit.

I thought I said I would text you when it was clear to come in. What if they recognized you?

I got tired of waiting. ” Catra shrugs.

Did you put up the ‘Closed for cleaning’ sign out front?” Adora asks.

No, I actually put it in one of the toilet stalls, where I knew everyone would see it. I assumed that was the most effective location.”

Oh good, because I told every woman I saw that I’m here to steal secret documents and sell Stallos. ” If Catra’s going to be flippant about this then so is Adora.

Catra kicks out at Adora’s shin.

“Hey!” She yelps.

You deserved it.

You started it!

That is absolutely a lie.

Is not...hey, what are you doing? That’s not the right locker. ” Catra’s made a beeline for Layla’s locker. She gives the lock a tug. It refuses to give.

This one. Flutterina always forgets to use her lock. ” Adora points, but Catra is ignoring her. Instead, she’s pulling a thin tool from her waistband and sticking it into the keyhole.

That’s a police grade lock. It’s never going to-- The lock springs open. Catra looks at Adora.

...Shut up. ” Adora signs.

I didn’t say anything.

No, but you were THINKING it.

Which one was Flutterina’s? ” Adora’s not entirely sure where Catra is going with this, but she points out the locker anyway. “Open it. Catra instructs. Adora tugs at the lock and it falls off without any difficulty. Careless as ever, that Flutterina. When she looks up Adora notices that Catra is poking around at the janitorial cart. Seriously? Is now the time for...whatever it is she’s doing? Adora reaches into Flutterina’s locker and withdraws the blue beat cop uniform. She throws it right at Catra.

You are certainly making a habit of throwing clothing at me. ” Catra signs, leaning down to pick up the articles of clothing. Adora just crosses her arm. Then, without any sort of premptive, Catra gets to work shucking off her clothes. Adora turns hastily. She doesn’t look. She definitely doesn't. She doesn't notice the lines of muscle along Catra's stomach. She doesn't notice the way Catra's hair falls in front of her face, or how her tendons flex in her arms as she pulls up her pants. She doesn't look at the line of fur that trails down Catra's chest and disappears beneath her waistband. Adora doesn't see the black bra that--

Enjoying the show? ” Catra signs.

No. I mean. I didn't see anything. What show? Shut up.

She turns 180 degrees so her back is to Catra. She's trying to think about anything other than how physically attractive the damn woman is. Adora’s coworkers are always saying that Hybrids are gross. Greasy and unhygienic and sallow and unhealthy. But Catra--her fur has this healthy shine to it. She isn't gaunt. She might not be built, alright, but she looks lean. Compact. Powerful. No rashes or missing patches of fur or fleas or anything that people are always claiming that Hybrids have. She's--she's gorgeous--? Is it wrong to have that thought--?

Something hits the back of her head and she whips around.

Ready. ” Catra signs. There's a pen on the floor near where it landed after it bounced off Adora.

She looks good in a uniform, but her tail and ears are tucked away. With them gone and Catra’s toes tucked away into shoes, she can pass for human at a distance. Get too close and you notice the fine layer of fur over her skin. And the fangs. And the eyes. Her eyes are so striking. Not that humans can’t have heterochromatic eyes, but even so there is something about Catra’s--

Anything sticking out?” Catra signs. Adora jerks herself back to the current task. Disguising Catra. Right. Adora circles her. There is a bit of a bulge in the back of her pants where her tail goes.

Your tail… ” Catra reaches back to adjust it to no avail. “ Nope.” She tries again. She simply displaces it.

Here...may I?” After she receives a nod in consent, Adora reaches over and pushes at the appendage, shifting the waistline down. It forces the base tighter against her backside.

Are you checking out my ass?”

Yes, I am. You literally asked me to. ” Adora shoots back.

...Alright, I’ll give you that one, Grayskull. ” Adora smiles to herself as she finishes circling Catra, reaching over briefly to sweep off some lint from the uniform.

You could almost be a real officer. ” She states when she’s satisfied with the transformation.

“I would make an EXCELLENT police officer.

“Absolutely not. ” Adora laughs. Catra doesn’t seem like the type who would appreciate the militant rules and regulations that accompany officer status. “ Alright. Let’s go.

Hang on, there’s one more thing.

May I remind you we are on a schedule?”

You may. ” Catra replies, but does absolutely nothing to harry her pace. What is she doing ? Okay she’s grabbing a can of something from the janitor cart, but to what end…? To...spray it on Layla’s locker, apparently.

What are you doing?”

Gluing your friend Layla’s locker shut.

“Hey!” Adora yelps. “ You can’t do that!

Why? You gonna stop me?”

She thinks back to the way Layla turned and laughed. The shared sidelong glances.

Catra’s waiting for a response, blue-yellow eyes burning into her. It’s somehow so different from how the other women were looking at her. Finally Adora waves her hand dismissively, and pretends to busy herself with replacing Flutterina’s lock.

Once she’s finished, Catra strolls over to the janitorial cart and replaces the glue.

Let’s blow this popsicle stand. ” She holds her fist out. Adora reaches over and bumps her own fist against it, unable to help the smile that springs to her face.

Let’s.