“Morning, princess!” Bow shouted from behind the counter the moment she opened the door to Cafe Etheria. “Slept in, did you?”
“Yeah,” Adora admitted, grinning sheepishly as she leaped over the counter, tossing her gym bag down. “Don’t tell Hordak!”
“It’s your lucky day - the big boss is in a good mood,” her other friend Glimmer told her as she poured another coffee shot. “I wouldn’t worry too much.”
“Rogelio, my compadre!” Bow shouted, beaming at their next customer. “How are you?”
The hulk of a boy grunted.
“Coming right up!” Bow grinned, starting to juggle cups and coffee syrups. “How’s Kyle?”
“That time of year, am I right or am I right?!”
Adora laughed, tying her hair up in her signature ponytail and pulling her apron on. Bow somehow always managed to get a conversation - and a smile - out of even their quietest customers. She turned to the next person in line. “Hi, what can I get -?”
It was the prettiest girl she had ever seen.
Tan skin, a wild mane of hair, piercing eyes - one blue and one a golden brown, she noted - and a jawline that just about took Adora down where she stood.
“Give me your strongest coffee,” the girl said.
Dragged from her thoughts, Adora blinked. “That kind of day, huh?” she commented, grinning dumbly at her.
The girl rolled her eyes. “Got an assignment due,” she muttered.
It was then that Adora noticed the dark circles under her eyes.
The girl looked away. “Just, make me a coffee, will you!” She winced. “Please,” she added, her voice softening. “Anything at this point. You decide.”
Swallowing back her hesitation, Adora nodded determinedly. “Coming right up!”
As she poured coffee shots and began to steam the milk, Adora chanced another glance at her. The girl didn’t look in the mood for friendly chatter - in fact, her entire demeanour screamed shuck off.
And hell, if that wasn’t like a siren call for Adora.
“How much do I owe you?” the girl asked tiredly as she was handed her drink a few minutes later.
“It’s on the house,” Adora told her firmly. She grinned weakly. “Good luck with your studies. Assignments. Papers.” She threw the girl an awkward set of finger guns. “Yeah. Those.”
There was a long pause. “Thanks.” She cracked the lid and gave the coffee a sniff, frowning. “Is that -?”
“Caramel,” Adora finished. “My favourite. But, I mean, it doesn’t have to be your favourite. I can make you a new one if -”
“No,” the other girl blurted. There was an even longer pause. “Thanks,” she muttered again.
With that, she turned and strode out the door - and Adora definitely wasn’t staring after her, eyeing the sway of her hips. Nope. Absolutely not.
A whistle next to her ear made her jump. “Agh! Bow -!”
“Smitten by a kitten,” he laughed, playfully elbowing her.
Adora glared at him.
“What?” Glimmer asked, wandering over with someone’s takeaway coffee in hand. “She did look a bit like a cat. Minus the ears, and the tail. Vanilla latte with two sugars for Scorpia!” she shouted, plonking the drink down on the counter.
“Thank you, ma’am! Have a lovely day -”
“Adora,” Bow began, “you are the most useless lesbian I know.”
“I am not!”
Bow was still grinning. “You’re falling over backwards and sideways any time a half pretty girl walks in here. Don’t get me started on Huntara -”
“You saw her arm muscles, right?” Adora asked.
“That’s what we mean!” both Glimmer and Bow shouted, laughing.
Adora couldn’t get the girl out of her mind.
Two days passed, then another, and another. And still there was no sign of her.
“Maybe we were a last resort,” Bow said with a shrug, sitting on the padded floor beneath the coffee machine. “Maybe she gets her coffee at some other place. Or she was in earlier, and we missed her.”
“Yeah, I know,” Adora agreed with a sigh. “But still -”
The bell above the door rang as it opened yet again.
Adora’s expression lit up. “It’s you!”
The girl stared at her.
“I - I mean, of course it’s you, haha!” Adora grinned awkwardly. “You’re back, I - well - how did your assignment go?”
The girl’s eyes gleamed. “Good.”
“Good. Okay.” You have one job. “Right, what can I get you?”
A smirk. “Surprise me.”
Adora’s brain suddenly struggled to work.
She paused, her marker pen poised above the cup. “Hey, uh, can I get a name for your drink?”
“Suppose you want my number too?”
Adora’s jaw went slack. The girl’s smirk was devilish as she drummed her long black nails on the countertop.
“Well - I -” Adora floundered.
“Relax, dummy. It’s Catra.”
Catra frowned, glancing down. “What was -?”
“Nothing!” Adora shouted, grinning as she leaned against the counter. “Just this old coffee machine, you know!” She reached out and slapped the top of it. “It’s really - making noises! Overworked, I say!”
She aimed another kick at Bow, who was still on the floor but now with his hands clamped over his mouth to stop himself laughing.
Catra raised her eyebrows, but shrugged. “Sure.”
Clearing her throat, Adora finished writing Catra’s name on the cup and spun around. “One Best Friends Squad Supreme coming right up!”
A snigger. “Best friends squad?”
“Yeah, we came up with it after being stuck on shift together for so long,” Adora explained, ingredients flying. “It’s usually the three of us. Then there’s Mermista, and Perfuma -”
“The one with all the flowers?” Catra asked suddenly.
“So you have been here before!”
Catra yelped, jumping backwards as Bow rocketed into view. “Do you mind?”
“Hey, got cramp in my foot.”
Focussing on the drink, Adora rolled her eyes.
Catra spluttered. “Why were you sitting on the floor?”
“Comfiest spot in the house.” He walked off, shaking his leg. “Which you would know if you had been here before!” he called over his shoulder.
“Hey, I’ve only been here one other time,” Catra retorted. “I’m new to the area.” She glanced at Adora. “God, your friends are weird. No offence.”
Adora shrugged. “Part of their charm.”
“Irresistible,” Catra added, a smile tugging at her mouth.
Adora laughed. “Speaking of which -”
Catra frowned, peering at the clear cup Adora handed her, crammed full with a lilac shade frappe, rainbow whipped cream and a sprinkle of edible glitter atop. “It looks like a unicorn barfed in it.”
“His name is Swift Wind,” Bow said as he went past again, striding through the staff door, “and now he’s offended, thank you very much!”
As the door closed, Catra sniggered. “Apologies to his benevolence.”
Laughing, Adora rubbed the back of her neck, her smile turning shy. “I hope you like it. The drink,” she clarified.
Catra shrugged, swiping her payment card. “Whatever. I trust you.”
She started to turn away, but stopped. “Thank you -” She paused, peering at her name tag, “Adora.”
With that, she strode towards the door with long, confident strides.
“My next shift is Tuesday,” Adora blurted. “Will I see you then?”
Her words came out softer, smaller than she had intended. She could feel her heart racing, fluttering within her ribcage. There was something about the way Catra looked at her that she couldn’t quite figure out, something that made her curious and excited and nervous all at once.
Adora knew she was a goner the moment a sly smile crept across Catra’s face. “My caffeine addiction depends on it.”
“So, you’re new to this part of town?” Adora asked.
Three days after their last conversation, she had arrived at the cafe for her shift to find Catra already waiting at the counter - and hell, wearing a leather jacket - with the request that Adora make “the Magical Best Friends whatever the hell it was you made me last time.”
Frantically throwing on her apron, Adora had been more than happy to oblige.
“Yeah, I just moved,” Catra said. “Closer for studying. So, what’s your story then?”
“Well,” Adora started. “I make coffee -”
A smirk. “Duh.”
“Aaaand I maaaay be an art major. The Academy of Historic Enterprises,” Adora added.
Catra stared at her. “Are you kidding me? That’s where I go!”
Adora nearly dropped the drink she was making.
“Hey, the more the merrier!” Glimmer shouted, dancing past with a tray full of steaming drinks. She threw a salute. “Physics major, at your service!”
Catra peered at Adora. “So, an artsy one, huh?”
“With a side of linguistics,” Adora added, grinning sheepishly. “I’m a bit of a nerd, right?”
A smirk. “The sword on your arm was kiiiiinda a giveaway.”
Adora glanced at the gorgeous, ethereal weapon tattooed on her forearm. She laughed. “What, this old thing?”
Catra was frowning in thought. “That’s She-Ra’s sword, right?”
Adora stared in surprise.
At the far end of the counter as she swept up coffee grinds, Glimmer thrust her broom up high in the air. “For the honour of Grayskull!” she cried.
Adora ignored her. “Yeah,” she said, smiling as she rubbed the back of her neck. “She’s been my favourite legend since I was a kid. I mean, shout a few words to turn into a drop-dead gorgeous eight-foot tall warrior princess with magical powers? Sign me up. Like, right now. Please.”
Catra laughed. “You know, I can kinda see it. Especially with your hair.”
Adora felt her cheeks redden. She bit down on her lip to lessen her grin a little. “A girl can dream.”
“Hey, you make a pretty wicked cup of coffee.” Catra shrugged. “It’s basically magic to we sleep deprived souls.”
“That’s going to be me in a few weeks,” Adora laughed, handing Catra her drink and ringing up her total on the register. “Who’s going to save me?”
Catra sighed dramatically as she finished paying. “I guess I can step in. You know, if I must.”
The bored look on her face was completely at odds with the mischievous glint in her eyes. By Prime, Adora needed to pull herself together. Fast. “Appreciated,” she grinned.
“I might accidentally poison you,” Catra warned.
Adora shrugged. “As long as it’s quick and painless.”
“Knowing my luck, it’ll probably be slow torture.”
As if that wasn’t already happening to Adora.
“I’ll take my chances,” she decided, grinning as she reached across the countertop again. “And here’s an extra napkin, just in case.” She dropped her hands; she needed to stop doing finger guns. “You know what they say, right? No mess, less stress!”
But she fumbled, and she caught the moment Catra’s eyes landed on the numbers scribbled on the underside of the serviette.
Oh no, oh no - abort mission, abort mission -!
Finally, Catra smiled. “See you around, Adora.”
The moment the door closed behind her, Glimmer practically screeched. “Did you really give her your number on a napkin?!”
Adora winced. “… Yes?”
“Forget useless!” Bow announced, barging through the staff door to rejoin them. “You’re the most cliche lesbian ever to walk this planet.”
Adora’s anxiety started to kick in.
As she threw her clothes in her laundry basket and collapsed onto her bed, she wondered if she had been too forward, if she had made a mistake.
She had never been very good at her impulse control.
Adora groaned loudly, burying her face in the mountain of pillows around her.
Her phone buzzed. Groaning again, she rolled over, wondering if it was Hordak asking her to cover another shift -
Adora stared as another text came through, then another, and another.
it’s me, catra. the girl from etheria??
want to grab coffee or something tomorrow?
whatever you want. it’s cool.
Smiling so hard she felt her cheeks start to hurt, Adora slammed through a reply, her heart suddenly hammering.
Well, I don’t know about coffee, but I know a place down the road that makes GREAT dumplings …