Adora had lost a bet. It was a stupid bet, and one that she should have easily won, because she can normally eat way more tacos than Glimmer and Bow combined but she’d had a big lunch that day, okay? So she’d lost the bet and now she was paying the price.
The price was her costume. A bright pink, full length, frilly, sparkly, completely ridiculous princess costume. It might have looked cute on a three year old but a twenty-four year old woman has no business looking this magical, especially when they have a whole night of bar hopping and dancing and drinking planned. Plus it’s Halloween.
She stands in front of the mirror wondering whether the terms of the bet are up for renegotiation. Maybe she won’t have to wear the pointy cone hat all night. Maybe she can just wear it for the first bar and change into something less horrific. She starts mentally scrolling through potential costume changes based on the clothes in her closet but is quickly interrupted by the absolute cackling coming from the hallway.
Bow and Glimmer are peeking around the door in their matching vintage silver spacesuits. They look cute. Glimmer’s includes a miniskirt and stiletto boots and Bow has somehow crafted an ab window into his, and they’re both cradling bulbous fish-bowl style head pieces with intricate antennae affixed to the top. They look like they’re ready for a night of gogo dancing at a mid-century space station with Judy Jetson.
“I hate both of you,” Adora says, for the fifteenth time. She notices that Glimmer’s holding an extra-sparkly makeup kit and she’ll die before Glimmer smears any of that on her face.
“I look profoundly stupid,” she adds. “It’s bad enough that I’m your third wheel. Wearing this absolutely guarantees that I’m coming home alone tonight.”
“Oh please, Adora. You can go one stupid night without looking hot. And if you don’t wear it tonight, you’re going to have to wear it some other time. At least it’s Halloween and you won’t be the only person in a costume.”
“I don’t even care about looking hot, I just want to look normal! And I hate this dress SO MUCH.”
“Bow and I will buy all your drinks tonight AND take you to brunch tomorrow. Plus, it’s Halloween, everyone at the bars will be drunk, nobody will even notice.”
So Adora lets her friends drag her out to the bars in the Brightmoon District, cursing that stupid bet the whole walk there.
The first bar they hit up is dead and has a terrible DJ so they end up hopping until they find themselves in a tiny dive bar called Etheria that they’ve never been to before. Bow spots the rainbow flags hanging next to the bar’s alleyway entrance and drags the trio inside before Glimmer or Adora can protest.
“Can you believe there’s a gay bar in town that we didn’t know about?!” he squeals. “Maybe it’s new!”
From the looks of it, it is not new.
The barroom is long and narrow, with a row of dark leather booths running along one wall and the bar itself along the other. There is a small open space near the back that seems to be reserved for the dangerous combination of dancing and darts, though Adora notes that nobody seems to be chucking darts through the air at the moment. The bar is crowded and some people are dancing but the crowd seems fairly subdued for a gay bar on Halloween.
“Are you sure this is a gay bar?” Glimmer blurts, loudly enough that the people closest to the entrance all turn and look at the trio standing in the doorway.
Adora starts to realize that it actually might be possible for her to feel even more conspicuous and embarrassed in her costume than she had at the other gay bar that they had just come from. She tries to shrink behind her friends but unfortunately the floofy pink ruffles of her skirt make hiding impossible.
Glimmer is already drunk and doesn’t care a bit about the attention she’s receiving.
“I mean, I think so?” Bow says, pointing to a wall of photos next to the door. They’re old, from the 50’s and 60’s, and faded, but they clearly depict gay couples, drag queens and kings, all taken in that very bar.
“Maybe we should just go somewhere else,” Glimmer replies, still much too loudly. Halloween is a high holy day in Glimmer’s calendar and it is only 11pm. She is not about to waste precious time in a dive when she could be pressed between sweaty bodies on a dancefloor.
It still feels like everybody in the bar is staring and Adora is starting to sweat.
Adora hates making a scene.
She glances around the room, trying desperately to assess how much of a spectacle they are currently making. A level 1-2 scene and they can probably sneak out, no problemo. Anything around a 5 and she will feel compelled to loudly announce a plausible reason for leaving so quickly. From the look they are getting from the distinguished elder butch seated at the bar, Adora figures they are somewhere up around an 8.5 and that point, they are obligated to have a drink before they leave or else Adora will feel guilty and anxious for the rest of the night.
“Come on,” she says, pulling her friends towards the bar. “Let’s just have a drink before we go, since we’re already here.” By the time they slide onto barstools, Glimmer and Bow are laughing at some joke that Adora must have missed so she sits awkwardly and waits for the bartender.
She skims the bar menu, weighing the pros and cons of another drink, considering the consequences of a beer versus a cocktail, wondering if she should maybe just get a seltzer instead, until she feels Bow elbow her sharply. She glances up and finds herself staring into the most incredible pair of feline eyes she’s ever seen. One teal, one a rich amber, both seemingly glowing in the dim lighting of the bar. She’s so transfixed that she doesn’t even register that she is gawking at the bartender, who is clearly waiting for her to order.
Adora opens her mouth to say something, but the lethal combination of a night of drinking and the gorgeous pair of eyes seems to have short circuited her brain. No sound comes out. The bartender’s face twists into a lopsided smirk, exposing one small fang in the corner of her mouth, and Adora thinks that she might as well just lay down and die on the floor of the bar because this woman’s whole thing is devastating.
Glimmer, thankfully, steps in to rescue the damsel in distress.
“Three vodka crans,” she shouts across Adora’s nonfunctional body. She slaps Adora lightly on the back of the head in an attempt to reboot her. The bartender laughs and turns to make the drinks.
“Wait!” Adora yelps, finally regaining the ability to speak. The bartender turns and waits, her tail lashing just enough to betray her impatience. “Just make mine a beer, whatever’s on tap.”
The bartender nods again, laughing a little bit to herself, as if she’s made some private joke.
“Get it together, Adora,” Glimmer hisses once the bartender is out of earshot. “You looked like an idiot and she’s totally hot.”
“Okay Glim, I am not going to hit on the bartender. So tacky,” Adora replies. “Plus, you’re the reason I look like an idiot in this stupid costume.”
“Yeah, no. Your costume has nothing to do with you acting like a whole dummy. You can’t even talk to her, let alone flirt with her. I’m just trying to help you salvage whatever scraps of dignity you still have.”
Adora turns to Bow. “Was it that bad?”
“Uh, yeah. It was bad. She was literally laughing at how much of a disaster you are.”
Adora groans and slumps down on the bar. With her forehead planted on the bartop, her pointy princess hat stretches the whole width of the bar and the ribbon at the end is dangling down on the other side. Once again, she considers just giving up the ghost right there. RIP Adora Grayskull. Cause of Death: Gay Panic.
Soon enough the bartender returns and sets their drinks down with a satisfying thunk right next to Adora’s head.
“Two vodka crans and a pint,” she announces, “and a little something extra from the princess.”
Adora lifts her head. The bartender is sliding a bright pink shot topped with whipped cream across the bar towards her. She has the biggest shit eating grin plastered across her face and Adora can feel herself rapidly turning the same color as the shot and her costume.
Bow gasps. Glimmer squeals. Adora continues to blush.
“For me?” she asks, like an idiot. It’s obviously for her.
“Do you see any other princesses here?” the bartender replies, performatively scanning the room, her clawed hand shading her eyes and her large fuzzy ears pointing forward at attention.
Adora, like the whole dummy Glimmer insisted she was, lifts the shot and sniffs it. It smells like candy. It’s probably disgusting.
Adora is not a shots kind of girl. She’s somehow avoided every round of shots from earlier this evening but there was no conceivable way she is going to get out of shooting the bright pink mystery shot that the sexy bartender has gifted her. She decides she might as well just commit so she tosses the shot back, her eyes locked onto the bartender the whole time.
The shot goes down like children’s cough syrup and Adora nearly chokes.
“Holy fuck that was digusting,” she blurts. She downs a huge slug of her beer to try to erase the taste of surgery imitation watermelon from her mouth. “Was that supposed to be good?”
The bartender just laughs and hands her seltzer. “No, but I couldn’t resist. A pretty princess shot for a pretty princess”
Adora takes a big swig of the seltzer. Bow and Glimmer are cackling behind her. She spins around and gives them her dirtiest glare and by the time she turns back around, the bartender is down at the other end of the bar serving someone else.
When their drinks are finished, the trio has crossed the line from pleasantly buzzed to properly drunk and Glimmer has decided to make the most out of the tiny bar. It’s raining outside now anyway, so they might as well just stick it out here. She hauls her friends out to the little dance floor and they get down to business.
Adora is actually having a really good time. It’s probably due to the shot and the beer downed in rapid succession, followed by another round, combined with her friends’ big Halloween energy and the decade-old pop songs pumping through the bar’s small speaker system. She practically forgets how absurd she looks and when Bow appears with yet another round of drinks, she happily grabs hers and downs it.
By the time they are drunk enough to have claimed the entire dancefloor for themselves, Adora has started making eyes at the sexy bartender. It’s obvious and something that sober Adora would never do in a million years, but drunk Adora is certain that if she makes the right kind of eye contact, the bartender will end up joining her on the dancefloor. The logic is not there but nobody, especially Adora, seems to care. The bartender is smirking every time Adora looks in her direction but Adora never manages to mesmerize her into dancing with her.
At some point, the bar has almost completely cleared out and the sexy bartender is sweeping through the room picking up empties and trash. Adora, Bow and Glimmer and still dancing and laughing, too drunk to notice it’s probably closing time. They’re shocked when overhead lights flicker on and the bartender shouts that they’re closing up.
Adora starts to head for the door but Glimmer grabs the back of her dress and pulls to a stop.
“You HAVE to ask for her number,” Glimmer declares, clearly and loudly enough that the bartender definitely hears.
“You’ve been staring at her all night,” Bow adds.
Adora sneaks a glance behind her friends at the bartender who is watching the whole drunken debate unfold. When she makes eye contact with Adora, she raises an eyebrow, daring her to take her friends up on their suggestion.
Adora does not. She can’t. It’s too much. She grabs her friends hands and pulls them out into the alleyway and decides she’ll probably never come back to the Etheria bar again. No, scratch that, she’s definitely never coming back. RIP Adora Grayskull’s game. As if she ever had any to start.
Since it first opened in 1952, Etheria has been open every single night of the year. The original owners, a lesbian couple named Mara and Hope, had intended the bar to be a space for queers to go when nowhere else would have them. They’d run the bar successfully for four decades, through countless raids, through the AIDS crisis, through the ups and downs of queer nightlife, until they finally turned the keys over to the next generation in the late 90’s. The bar’s new owners, another lesbian couple named Spinnerella and Netossa, strive to uphold Mara and Hope’s original vision and have even gotten the bar on the National Register of Historic Markers.
This rich queer history is how Catra finds herself polishing an empty bar at 8:30 on Thanksgiving night. The chances of anybody drifting in at this point was vanishingly slim but she has to stay open until at least midnight.
Catra sighs and pours herself a beer. She flips on the small TV behind the bar, parks in a booth and chucks darts half-heartedly across the dancefloor.
She’s just hit a bullseye when the door swings open and a woman pokes her head through the door.
“You open?” the woman calls. She immediately slaps herself on the forehead, apparently realizing that the bar is obviously open since she was able to open the door. “Ugh, duh, yeah, obviously you are.”
Catra turns in the booth and gives the woman a once over. It takes Catra a moment but she recognizes the woman as the princess from last Halloween. She looks different in her regular clothes. She’s wearing jeans and a red bomber jacket and has her blonde hair tied up in a ponytail. She would almost be unrecognizable except for those blue eyes. She was cute on Halloween but now she looks kinda hot. And maybe a little sad.
“Yep, come on in,” Catra replies, sliding out the booth and heading around to the other side of the bar.
The woman smiles nervously as she sits on a stool.
“So princess, what can I get you tonight.”
The woman’s eyes go wide at the nickname. She groans and throws her head back in faux agony.
“Oh gods, I was hoping you wouldn’t recognize me.”
Catra grins, pleased that she’s made an impression on the woman.
“How could I forget? We get a lot of queens in here, but princesses are rare.” Catra winks and the woman flushes.
“Not that it matters, but I was only wearing that costume because I lost a bet. I would never have chosen that for myself.”
“Sure, princess. For the record, you looked pretty cute. The glittery ribbons were a nice touch.”
“Please just call me Adora. Every time you say princess I remember another embarrassing thing from that night.”
Catra just laughs and makes no promises.
Adora ends up ordering a beer and they chat a little bit about the bar’s history.
Catra glances at the clock eventually and decides that new customers are unlikely enough at this point that she can pour herself something a little stronger than a beer. She grabs a bottle of mescal and a couple other things and mixes herself something smokey and simple and invites Adora to join her in one of the booths.
She notes that Adora seems to have loosened up a little but still seems down. She decides to dig a little.
“So,” she starts, after they’ve settled in. “Maybe this is too personal, but as a bartender, I’m legally obligated to allow you to dump your troubles on me. How’d you end up here alone tonight?”
Adora seems a little surprised but not put off by the question. She takes another sip of her beer and looks at Catra like she was sizing up her. Deciding how she is going to answer.
Catra clicks her claws rhythmically along the side of her glass and waits for Adora to answer. She’s starting to wonder if she shouldn’t have asked when Adora finally starts talking.
“I was at my friend’s family’s house earlier for dinner, but...I don’t know.” She pauses and sighs. “Thanksgiving can be such a family thing and I felt awkward there, so I ducked out early. I was just going to go home, but then the thought of sitting at home alone seemed even worse than being surrounded by Glimmer’s family. I was literally driving past the entrance to this bar when I thought that, and I saw you were open, so here I am.”
She takes another swig of beer before adding, “I guess that probably makes me the loneliest person in the city.”
“Nah,” Catra replies. “I locked that title down years ago. You might be feeling lonely but I’m the sad motherfucker who volunteered to work tonight, knowing full well that there wouldn’t be any customers. At least you were trying to have a normal holiday.”
That gets Adora to smile. Catra notices her beer is empty, and her own drink is nearly gone.
“You want another?” she asks.
“Make me something fun,” Adora replies. Catra’s not exactly sure what fun means in this context but she bets on whiskey and something classic and mixes Adora a manhattan.
“I can light something on fire if this isn’t fun enough,” she jokes as she slides back into the booth with their new drinks.
Adora laughs hard enough to snort a little. Catra thinks it’s probably the cutest thing she’s heard all month.
“Oh gods, no thank you. My friend’s boyfriend is always lighting things on fire and I’ve had enough near death experiences in bars already.” She laughs some more and sips her drink.
Catra thinks she’s finally gotten Adora to actually relax when she notices the woman suddenly get nervous again. It’s not a flirtatious nervousness.
“What’s up?” she asks, hoping to make it clear she can tell that Adora is being weird.
“I feel like I should acknowledge the fact that I made a complete idiot out of myself last time I was here.”
Now it’s Catra’s turn to laugh. Adora looks horrified so Catra quickly tries to ease her anxiety.
“Adora, I’m a bartender. You getting a little drunk and doing what that was on the dancefloor doesn’t even register as idiotic.”
Adora seems relieved. She relaxes into the booth but keeps glancing at the tv. So maybe she’s still a little nervous.
“You probably get women in here trying to dance with you all the time,” she mumbles.
“Uh…” Catra’s not sure how to answer that. “Not every night. Honestly, the crowd we get in here isn’t really my demographic, if you know what I mean.”
From the look on Adora’s face, she doesn't know what Catra means. Shit, maybe she thinks Catra meant she was straight. Catra quickly follows up with an explanation that Etheria is the oldest gay bar in the city and that means that they also serve the oldest gays in the city.
“I could probably get down with a cougar if the right one walked in the door but I guess my time just hasn’t come yet,” Catra jokes. Adora looks like she doesn’t know what to do with that information.
“You know,” Catra continues. “You could try again.”
Adora continues to look confused. She cocks her head in an absolutely unfairly adorable way and knits her eyebrows together and Catra almost can’t handle how cute she looks. Catra huffs an exasperated sigh and rolls her eyes.
“Keep up with me, princess,” she says, as she gets up from the booth and heads towards an old jukebox in the back corner of the bar. She digs a quarter out of her pocket and slips it into the machine, punches a few buttons and soon there’s a Smokey Robinson song playing. Catra holds her hand out to Adora, inviting her dance.
Adora stays frozen in the booth for a few beats and Catra starts to worry that she has badly misread the situation, but then Adora is up and in her arms. The song is fairly upbeat but Catra wraps one arm around Adora’s waist and grasps her other hand and they begin to move.
Catra is looking Adora directly in the eye as she guides her around the little dancefloor. She’s worried she might kiss her so she talks to break the spell a little.
“I think they filled this jukebox full of 45’s the day they bought it and never changed a single one out. I hope you like Motown.”
“It’s perfect,” Adora replies, a little breathlessly. She allows Catra to pull her in a little closer.
Another song starts. This time it’s the Supremes and it’s much faster so they separate to dance a little more freely. Catra is laughing at what a bad dancer Adora is, but it doesn’t matter because Adora is laughing too and doesn’t seem to care that she can’t find the beat. It’s five plays for a quarter, so they’ve got plenty of time left for Catra to help her find it.
Adora sings along to the song, her voice as terrible as her dancing, and Catra joins in during the chorus and in no time they’re belting along with Martha Reeves and the Vandellas and love truly is like a heatwave.
Catra’s no dummy and she chose a couple of slower songs to close out the set. So when Aretha starts crooning that if you should lose me, you’ll lose a good thing , Catra pulls Adora back into her arms and they dance close. Adora is smiling and leaning her head against Catra’s shoulder and it feels unreal. She’s warm and soft and she still smells like gravy and cranberries from her earlier Thanksgiving dinner and that’s somehow a good thing? Catra doesn’t question it.
“You probably pull this move all the time, huh?” Adora says, softly as they sway.
“I haven’t, but it’s working so well that now I’m thinking I probably should,” Catra jokes. Adora laughs and punches playfully in the shoulder.
The next and final song in the set is the Marvelette’s Forever and they’re somehow dancing even more closely than they were before and Catra is absentmindedly wondering how her evening managed to take such a surprising left turn when she realizes they they’re actually leaning into each other, forehead to forehead, and Adora’s hand has migrated from the back of her neck to her cheek.
She looks into Adora's eyes and takes a long, deep breath. Adora is smiling and she closes her eyes, absorbed in the moment. Catra slides her hand around the back of Adora’s neck and pulls her in and meets her for a kiss. At first it’s light, a test, but soon it’s deeper, with more heat. Adora tastes good. She feels amazing. She backs Catra against the jukebox. The music has ended but neither woman notices as their kisses become more desperate.
Catra’s hands are on Adora’s belt buckle when the bar door swings open with a chilly whoosh that causes Adora to jump away in a panic. Catra’s eyes snap to the door to see who could possibly have interrupted them this late on a holiday and sees Scorpia and her girlfriend standing awkwardly in the entryway.
“Oh wow, jeez,” Scorpia is stammering. “We, uh, we didn’t think you’d be...busy...and, um, maybe you might want some company?” Scorpia’s face is nearly as red as her carapace.
Catra takes a deep breath, runs her hand through her hair, and glances at Adora, who looks like she might pass out from embarrassment at any moment.
“We can just go,” Scorpia continues. “Perfuma and I were on our way home anyway, and so, yeah, I guess we’ll just see you later?”
“No, no, it’s okay, I was just heading out,” Adora blurts. She gives Catra a panicked look and starts to put on her jacket.
“Adora, no, you don’t have to go.”
“No, it’s late. I should go. I’ll, uh...I’ll just talk to you later.”
She is out the door faster than Catra can process what is happening. Definitely gone before Catra can even think to ask for her number.
Adora spends Christmas with Glimmer and Bow at Glimmer’s family’s house. They spend Christmas Eve baking seven different types of cookies and getting drunk on boozy eggnog.
Glimmer suggests that Adora take a plate of cookies to the bartender as an offering of forgiveness for ghosting her for the past month but Adora can’t bear to show her face after acting like such an asshole.
It’s not like she meant to ghost Catra. At first she panicked. She worried that the whole thing was a one-off, that they only had that connection because they were both feeling sad and lonely on a holiday and had one too many drinks together.
Bow had convinced her that there was a decent chance that isn't the case, and it’s definitely worth the risk of rejection to check back in with Catra. But by the time he got the message through, Adora had gotten really busy at work and wasn’t able to carve out a night to go back to the bar until a full three weeks after Thanksgiving. When she finally showed up, Catra wasn’t even working. That big scorpion lady was behind the bar and when Adora asked about Catra, she got the feeling Catra wasn’t really interested.
Glimmer is outraged at how badly Adora has handled the whole thing, thus the please forgive me cookies, but Adora is still not sure if she should do it.
“Even if she was interested before, I’m sure she’s over it by now,” Adora argues, even as Glimmer is packing up a plate of cookies for her.
“Adora! Just do it. If she really doesn’t want to see you again, it’s still a nice and cool thing to give someone a plate of Christmas cookies. She’d be a monster to turn them down, and then, worst case scenario, you just end up with more cookies for yourself.”
Adora does like the prospect of having more cookies for herself. She begrudgingly agrees to take the cookies by the bar the next evening, which is Christmas evening and a fitting night given her and Catra’s history with holidays.
* * *
Catra has agreed to work Christmas evening only because her bosses Spinny and Netossa promise to bring her a home cooked dinner. She knows that almost nobody will come by the bar but she also knows there’s a Christmas rom com marathon on TV so why not get paid to watch TV all night?
Her bosses drop off a plate of food from their own Christmas dinner early in the evening and leave Catra alone with her mug of mulled wine. A couple of middle aged men come in after seeing a movie and Catra eavesdrops on their analysis. Sounds like it was bad, she’ll have to skip that one. A couple group drifts in for a round of drinks but the night is quiet.
She’s on her second movie when Adora sneaks in through the door. She’s practically tiptoeing up to the bar and she has something hidden behind her back. Catra noticed her the second the door opened but she has yet to actually turn her head and look directly at her.
What was she even doing here anyway? Catra had received her message loud and clear, the Thanksgiving thing was just a steamy make out session that clearly didn’t mean anything. They had both had a couple and Adora had obviously regretted it, Catra could tell that the second she recoiled when Scorpia had walked in on them. So yes, Catra was surprised to see her. On Christmas, of all nights, too.
She finally turns and looks at Adora when Adora has seated herself at the bar. Adora looks profoundly nervous, plus she’s wearing an oversized, obviously hand-knit Christmas sweater with a...unicorn on it? So she looks a little ridiculous.
Catra tries to keep her face neutral when she greets her with an even, “Hey, Adora.”
Adora seems relieved that she remembers her name. She lets out a breath that she must have been holding and pulls a heaping plate of Christmas out from behind her back.
“Hi Catra,” she says, quietly. “I brought you some Christmas cookies. They’re kinda like ‘I’m sorry’ cookies too. They’re doing double duty.”
Catra eyes the cookies. They do look good. But she doesn’t want to give Adora that particular satisfaction. Not yet at least.
“Yeah? What exactly are you sorry for?”
“For being an asshole and ghosting you after Thanksgiving. I, uh...I didn’t mean to. I just freaked out a little bit because I never do stuff like that and also because you’re like, you know, you, and I’m me, and well…” She makes an expression like obviously Catra should understand what the hell she’s talking about but Catra does not. Catra can feel her tail starting to lash and one of her flicks back and forth in annoyance but Adora doesn’t seem to notice. She just keeps talking.
“Anyway, I freaked out for about a week, and I wanted to come back and see you but I got super busy and I wasn’t able to come for a while, but then I did! But you weren’t working. You friend was here, the one who, uh, we saw on Thanksgiving.”
Catra nods and lets Adora keep talking.
“Anyway, I asked her when you’d be working next and she said she didn’t feel comfortable telling me, so I kinda took that as a sign that you didn’t want to see me, which is probably, obviously, true. But then my friends thought I was giving up to easily and they talked me into this. We made all the cookies last night. They’re really good. You can keep them no matter what. I can just leave them here and go. Yeah, you know, I’m just going to go.”
Adora shoves the cookie plate across the bar and leaps up off her barstool and starts heading towards the door before Catra can even process everything she’d said. That woman sure does know how to make a quick exit.
When she reaches the door, she pauses and turns back. Catra is just watching her, kind of stunned at the whole thing.
“I left my number there, under the cookies. If you ever wanna text me anything.”
Catra looks down at the pile of cookies and sees a small slip of paper poking out from under the bottom layer. When she looks back up, Adora is gone.
NEW YEARS EVE
Bow and Glimmer have scored four tickets to a super swanky New Years Eve party at a club in the Brightmoon District. They invite Adora, obviously, and when Adora refuses to ask Catra to be her date, they arrange for her to take Mermista instead. It’s not a date date, just a friend thing, because Mermista’s relationship is currently on the rocks and she and Adora could both use a fun night out.
Catra actually had texted Adora after the great cookie offensive, but Adora has yet to drop by the bar again and she definitely isn’t ready to ask Catra out on a New Years Eve date. That would be WAY too much for her. And probably for Catra, who still seems a little dubious about Adora’s level of interest. Which is frankly insane because Adora is super interested, but she figures that kind of thing doesn’t really come through in text messages. Their texts have definitely been flirty and frequent, but neither has asked the other to meet up or anything. Adora feels like things are a little up in the air. She decides she’s going to bite the bullet and ask Catra out in person, when she can drop by the bar sometime after New Years. It’s kind of like the only New Years resolution she makes. Ask Catra out on a date.
They all gather at Bow and Glimmer’s place, which is walking distance from the club. Glimmer is literally sparkling in her sequined mini dress and Bow has on a gold lamé tux jacket and they obviously look fabulous. Mermista has gone with a more subtle look, a dark teal suit with gold embellishes. Adora, as usual, had nothing to wear and forgot to go shopping and so she’s wearing some basic and boring black suit, but when she takes the jacket off and unbuttons a button or two more than she’d normally consider decent, Glimmer acquiesces and says it looks fine. She begs Adora to at least do something interesting with her hair and wear some decent shoes.
The party is actually really fun. There’s a live band and so many hors d'oeuvres and the champagne is flowing , but Adora is not going to get drunk tonight. Though nobody asked her, she’s appointed herself the group’s babysitter and promises to get them all home in one piece.
About an hour before midnight, a man bursts onto the stage and grabs a microphone and calls for everybody's attention. At first Adora thinks it must be some kind of performance but she quickly recognizes him as Sea Hawk, Mermista’s on again, off again boyfriend.
It takes a moment before everybody in the room realizes that he’s making an impassioned declaration of love for Mermista. Adora is horrified. This type of scene is her worst nightmare and if she were Mermista, she would have fled the room within seconds.
But Mermista seems to be eating it up. She’s walking up towards the stage, hearts in her eyes, like a sailor enchanted by a siren’s call. By the time Sea Hawk finishes his declaration, she’s on stage next to him and then they’re kissing and the whole room is cheering.
So there is Adora, alone in a room full of couples on New Years Eve. Her “date” has been swept away by her true love. Bow and Glimmer and wrapped up in each other. Plus Adora is practically sober. She grabs the nearest flute of champagne and downs it in one go.
She glances at her phone to check the time and sees that there’s still forty five minutes until midnight. She can’t bear the thought of standing alone in the club while everybody in the room counts down and gets their midnight kiss. Not that she’s overly romantic about the whole thing, it’s just annoying.
She finds Glimmer and as soon as her friend sees the look on her face she assures Adora that it’s totally fine if she heads home early. It’s a predictably Adora thing to do, even under normal circumstances. Adora’s not too worried about her friends figuring out how to get themselves home but assures Glimmer that she’s more than welcome to call if they need a ride later, and then she leaves the club.
She doesn’t plan it this way, but she ends up walking past Etheria on her way home. She wonders if Catra’s working. It wouldn’t hurt to pop in and see, right?
To her surprise, the bar is pretty busy. The crowd, like Catra had explained, is definitely older and it seems like they’ve probably spent many many New Years Eves at Etheria. Adora slips in unnoticed and scans the bar for Catra. She spots her before Catra sees her, so Adora finds an open barstool and waits for service. The other bartender, Catra’s friend, is also working but she seems to be working the table service. Adora fiddles with a cardboard coaster while she waits.
“Hey, Adora,” she hears after a couple of minutes. It’s warmer than the last time. Adora can’t help but laugh at Catra’s outfit, which is one of those t-shirts with a tuxedo screen printed on the front. Catra’s ripped the sleeves and the bottom third of the shirt off, so she’s kind of wearing a combo crop top muscle T tuxedo shirt. The visible sliver of Catra’s stomach sends an involuntary shiver through Adora but she forces herself to ignore it.
“Hi Catra, happy new year. I hoped you’d be working tonight.”
“Why, you get stood up or something?” She’s clearly cracking a joke but Adora can’t quite get a read on her tone. Catra rests a hand on her hip and waits for Adora’s response.
“Actually, funny story…” Adora gives a quick recap of her evening and, to her shock and amazement, actually gets Catra to laugh. Adora is laughing too.
“I can’t even get through a friend date without some kind of horrible disaster!”
Catra laughs at Adora’s horrible night and serves her a glass of champagne. Things are looking up for Adora.
Catra’s busy mixing drinks for other customers but she swings by Adora every few minutes and drops another glass of champagne off a few minutes before midnight. Adora knows that Catra isn’t her date, but she’s kind of pretending that she is. She enjoys her private joke and appreciates that her New Years Eve date is smoking hot. Too bad her date doesn’t know she’s her date. Too bad she’s working.
Even though Adora is just as alone at this bar as she was at the club, she feels better. Less awkward. Maybe because the bar seems more full of groups than couples, and maybe because nobody in the room is really paying attention to her. Except Catra, who winks at Adora from the other end of the bar when somebody announces that it’s a minute to go until midnight.
The countdown starts and the whole bar joins in. Adora has her glass of champagne ready and is hoping to catch Catra’s eye right at midnight but she’s disappeared from behind the bar. As everybody shouts “SIX!” Adora feels a tap on her shoulder. She spins around and finds Catra grinning and holding her own glass of champagne, counting down just as enthusiastically as the rest of the crowd.
Catra steps a little closer to Adora and wraps a hand around her neck.
Adora slides her hand around Catra’s waist.
Catra lets Adora pull her in closer so she’s slotted between Adora’s legs.
Adora sets her glass down so she can cup Catra’s cheek as she leans in close.
They kiss and Adora can feel Catra smiling against her lips as the crowd shouts Happy New Year . For just a few moments they both forget that Catra is still working and that they’re surrounded by tipsy elder queers and just enjoy the feeling of their lips against each other, a little bit of tongue, a small nip of a lip.
Catra pulls away. She’s smiling and she looks stunning and Adora feels slightly dazed. Catra leans back in and mummers a “Happy New Year, dummy. I have to keep working, so don’t leave yet.”
Adora is obviously not leaving.
She’s suddenly glad for the older crowd, who all seem committed to heading home as soon after midnight as possible. She stays while the rest of the bar finishes their drinks and closes their tabs.
When just a few customers remain, Scorpia tells Catra that she’s got closing handled and Catra returns to Adora. She’s got half a bottle of champagne that either needs to be finished off or tossed out, so they retreat together to one of the booths. This time Catra sits on the same side as Adora. She pours them each glass and clinks their glasses together.
“So,” she says, staring Adora directly in the eye. Adora is lost in her gaze and feels like Catra could say anything at this point and she’d just nod and agree. She tries to concentrate. She knows that she can’t screw this up a second time.
“Are you going to ghost me again?”
Adora smiles and shakes her head and mouths no, no way.
“Yeah. I promise,” she nods.
Catra and Adora have been dating since New Years. It’s kind of a surprise for Catra because she was certain that she wasn’t going to bother giving the blonde dummy another chance after Thanksgiving but she’d seemed so sincere when she had shown up at the bar with that goddamn plate of cookies on Christmas. And then Adora’s texts, which trended more extremely dorky than clever and flirty, helped convince Catra to give her another shot. By the time midnight rolled around on New Years Eve, Catra was in a good enough mood to just go ahead and go for it.
Now it was Valentine’s Day and Catra definitively, absolutely does not believe that this holiday deserved the hype. Adora, on the other hand, had been dropping hints that she wanted to do something special. Catra would have tried, because Adora is cute and sweet and totally deserves it, but unfortunately for Adora, Catra had to work.
The bar probably won’t be too busy but she’s the only one working tonight because Scorpia has been planning some kind of romance extravaganza for Perfuma for weeks and none of the other bartenders are willing to come in.
Adora shows up with dinner right when she said she would. It’s an incredible spread of take out from a Lebanese place down the street. Catra wonders if Adora accidentally ordered the meze feast for, like, six people instead of two but then she remembers just how much Adora can put away when she’s hungry.
Adora spreads the whole situation out on the bartop, taking up at least three barstools’ worth of real estate and demands a kiss and a top shelf cocktail before they dig in. The rest of the bar looks a little jealous and Catra assumes it’s probably because of the food but she also thinks it might be because her date is gorgeous.
It’s too early for Catra to be feeling the way she’s feeling. It’s too early on several scales. It’s still too early in the evening for her to already be counting the minutes until the bar’s closed and they’re back at her place tearing their clothes off each other. It’s also too early in their relationship, or whatever it is they’re doing (they haven’t defined anything yet) for Catra to be daydreaming about a future. Maybe one where they’re back at their place tearing their clothes off each other and also taking care of each other and making plans for the future and, ugh, it’s really too early. The L-word (like, the actual word, not the tv show, obviously) is lurking somewhere in Catra’s brain and she hates it.
The bar is slow enough that Catra accepts Adora’s darts challenge.
“You know I’m going to kick your ass, right?” Catra declares, as Adora painstakingly aims and then misses the dartboard completely.
“Shut up, I’m just getting warmed up.” Her next toss gets dangerously close to a bullseye but Catra isn’t worried. She’s played more darts out of sheer boredom than the entire bar combined.
They go a few rounds and Catra is definitely kicking Adora’s ass when Adora finally admits that she doesn’t actually know the rules of whatever the hell they’re doing.
“I’ve just been aiming at the bullseye every time,” she admits.
“You’re lucky we didn’t bet anything on this. Gods, I’m like 300 points ahead of you.”
“Well you know my history with losing bets.”
Catra laughs at the memory of Adora dressed in that stupid princess costume.
“What was that Halloween bet even about anyway? You never told me.”
“It was over tacos.”
“I’m going to need a little more explanation than that.”
“I bet Bow and Glimmer that I could eat more tacos than them combined. At first it was a joke, then it got out of hand and things escalated.”
“Okay weirdo.” She tosses a dart and it lands in the inner ring of number 14, exactly where she is aiming. “For the record, princess,” she adds, because she’s feeling sappy, “I’m glad you lost that bet.”
Later, when the bar has emptied out and Catra has queued up a dollar’s worth of songs on the jukebox, she’s sitting in Adora’s lap, laughing because Adora just admitted that she was a horse girl until way too late in life despite the fact that she’s never even ridden a horse. The image of Adora on a horse leaves Catra in tears, she’s laughing so hard.
“You know, for a fake holiday, this is pretty perfect,” Catra admits, before she even realizes what she’s saying.
Adora’s eyes go wide and a huge grin spreads across her face. “Aww,” she coos, half sarcastically, “are you going soft on me, kitten?”
Catra practically hisses at the nickname and tries to spring out of Adora’s lap. Yeah, she’s gotten a little sappy tonight but Adora’s audacity at calling her out for it! Before she can actually move, Adora wraps her arms around her and holds her in place. She plans a kiss on her neck and laughs.
“You act so tough,” she teases. At this point, the only way Catra can get her to shut up is to kiss her, so she does. And though they’ve done that at least a million times in the past month and half, it leaves Adora breathless, so mission accomplished.
After an appropriate amount of romantic gazing, Adora kisses her again, a little more slowly and more intensely. Catra gets a little lost in the whole thing and when they come up for air, Adora is looking at her with possibly the softest expression she’s ever seen.
Adora lets a deep, satisfied sigh and says, “Wow, I really love --”
And before Adora even finishes, Catra lets it slip. “I love you too,” she whispers.
“ -- hanging...wait, what?!” Adora’s eyes go wide and she looks shocked. Catra, who literally cannot remember the last time she blushed, turns a deep shade of red and buries her face in Adora’s shoulder.
“Shit,” Catra groans.
“You love me?” Adora asks quietly.
Catra lifts her head just an inch or two so she can see what kind of expression Adora has. She’s expecting horror or embarrassment or something terrible but she actually has the cockiest grin Catra’s ever seen. Catra leans back to really look at her and Adora keeps grinning.
“I mean, I was just going to say that I love hanging out at your work,” she says. Catra can feel Adora chuckling in her arms and thinks she might die of embarrassment, but then Adora keeps talking. “But, I love you too.”
The words wash over Catra and she relaxes just enough to burrow her head back into Adora’s shoulder. “You’re such an idiot, I take it back. I hate you,” she groans.
“Nah, you love me,” Adora replies. She tilts Catra’s head up off her shoulder and kisses her again. “Happy Valentine’s Day, babe.”