The gym was mostly empty when she came down, with only a handful of regulars scattered around the cardio area and free weights. Catra made her way straight to the back where cleaning supplies were kept, picking up a couple of hand towels and a spray bottle, along with gloves and a mask. She didn’t think she needed the protection but her bosses insisted.
It wasn’t easy, living the way she did. Balancing two jobs with time at school, still adapting to life on her own. She counted herself lucky that she had experience with self-reliance because of her former guardian’s negligence. Catra was used to cooking her own food, doing her own laundry, buying her own groceries. She taught herself how to drive, how to pay bills, everything she needed to be independent. She proved she could take care of herself better than Sharon ever did, proved she could be emancipated.
Catra proved she was more than anyone thought of her.
Now here she was a little over a year later, wiping down the treadmills at LIFTED, earbuds blasting her worries away. She’d really come to enjoy working at this little gym, and not just because the owners were so kind to her. The job was simple enough, all she really had to do was keep the place clean and answer the occasional question from visitors, and that was it. People left her alone for the most part, which she was grateful for. She preferred the solitude. Time and time again people only let her down, left her jaded and broken. The only person who hadn’t let her down was--
Scorpia. Probably the only person loud enough for Catra to hear past the intensity of Bear Ghost. She pulled out an earbud and faced the taller woman with a playful salute. “Yo!”
“Did you know there’s a new drink place around the corner? They’ve got so many cool things, like,” Scorpia squinted at one of the cups in her hands, “spee-ru-lee-nah? It makes it such a pretty blue!”
And Catra would admit, it was a very nice sky blue. But both drinks were also dripping water on the floor and it was just a little frustrating. She cleared her throat and pointed to Scorpia’s feet, drawing her gaze to the growing puddle on the floor. Scorpia gasped, looking around frantically for something to clean it with.
“ Ohmygosh I’m so sorry! I’ll, uh, I’ll clean that up, um, let me just--”
Catra tossed a towel down, wiping the spot with her foot. “Scorpia, chill, it’s just a little water. No big deal.”
“Oh, right right right, yeah, um, here!” She held out both drinks for Catra. “I wasn’t sure what you’d like so you pick! The blue one is supposed to be some sort of almond vanilla thing I think? And I think this one’s a mango coconut smoothie?”
Oh hell yeah.
She pointed to the mango. “I’ll take this one. Could you put it in the fridge, though? I can’t carry it around here.”
“Yeah no problem! Be right back!”
Scorpia bounded away, disappearing into the staff room. The gym belonged to her mothers, that was how Catra had come to work there in the first place. Not long after Catra had run away from Sharon Weaver’s shithole and become emancipated, she found herself homeless and low on options. Scorpia and her moms helped her out of that pit. Without an ounce of hesitation and with no ulterior motives they offered her the loft above the gym that they used for storage. Catra, not wanting to feel like a freeloader, and not wanting to feel like she’d owe them anything for the place, negotiated with them to work at the gym in exchange for staying there.
If she were being honest, she didn’t think she deserved it. When Scorpia first tried to befriend her in their freshman year of high school Catra met her with nothing but scorn and skepticism. She didn’t believe in people, didn’t believe in good will, or friendship. Ever since Adora left the only person she could count on was herself. Even now she still had a hard time trusting. Scorpia and her moms became rare exceptions to that.
Catra returned to cleaning, wiping down the last of the treadmills to move on to the free weights. She started sanitizing the medicine balls when several voices reached her ears. A small group of women - about her age if not a little older - had come in together, and settled in at the far end of the free weights section. She could see one of them donning the colors of Bright Moon High, with their flashy golden logo on the back of their windbreaker.
Nothing against the school, but they were supposed to be her school’s rivals, so she couldn’t help but sneer. Even if she wasn’t into the sports or wild school pride, there was just something about the Brightmooners that put her off.
There was only one person she recognized as a regular among the group. Everyone else seemed like first time visitors, and hovered around the one as they tried to figure out what to do. Catra tuned out their banter after hearing something about the school gym having shit equipment compared to what was offered here. She felt a little pride swell in her chest at that.
The group of girls got loud again, and Catra over to see what the commotion was. Another person had arrived, and the girls greeted her with great enthusiasm. Catra couldn’t care less what was going on so long as they didn’t make a big mess. Business was business, and she was glad that LIFTED was getting plenty.
There was a problem with this new person though.
Catra first realized when she saw the blonde hair, already tied up in a ponytail with a ridiculous hair poof at the front. Then she saw blue eyes, bright and shining like a pair of gems, crinkled at the edges with her smile. And the smile itself, sparkly white, a bit lopsided and brimming with confidence.
Adora Grayskull. Adora fucking Grayskull.
Catra’s stomach was roiling, heart pounding in her chest as she watched her greet her friends. Her new friends. She looked good. She looked happy. And it pissed Catra off.
Adora left her behind. It was supposed to be the two of them together against the world, always. She promised she’d stay, promised she’d always be there, and then in a blink she was just gone . Barely any words spoken. A ten second goodbye. Then years, years of silence, save for a couple of rare letters. The last time Catra heard from her was a couple of months before she ran away from Weaver’s house. Adora had sent her a postcard from some place called the Whispering Woods, with three simple words scrawled on the back.
“I miss you ”
Catra never responded, not to any of them. She was too angry over the situation, too bitter that Adora had been whisked away by some mystery woman. Too hurt over how she’d been left behind. Too heartbroken to care. She didn’t think Adora deserved anything from her, not her time, or attention. Nothing. She wanted Adora to hurt just as much as she’d been all this time, so she shut her out and gave her silence.
But god damn it hurt to see her again. She hadn’t physically seen Adora since she got adopted. Her heart ached when she realized how quickly she’d forgotten her face.
She shouldn’t be upset. She didn’t want to be. Catra didn’t want to dwell on their shared past, or mourn their lost friendship. She’d done plenty of that already. Things were finally good, life was getting better for her and Catra didn’t want that momentum to stop over this . She needed to move on, and she needed to get away from Adora.
And in trying to subtly back away, Catra tripped over a stray barbell and fell over a bench.
Now at least half the group was looking her way, and she was sure Adora was one of them. How fortunate that she was wearing a mask. Maybe she could still slip away without Adora recognizing her.
Oh dammit .
Scorpia rushed over in a blind panic and immediately picked her up, drilling her with countless questions that she could hardly follow. No, Catra was too preoccupied with the blue eyes staring at her.
Their eyes locked.
Ducking behind Scorpia, Catra nodded towards the back. “Hey, I think I hit my head when I fell. Can we go to the break room?”
She didn’t wait for an answer. Catra turned and started walking away with wounded pride and a slight limp, Scorpia hovering around her like a helicopter mom. She tried not to think about the shock on Adora’s face, or the longing. She tried not to hope that Adora’s gaze was still following her retreating form.
When they got to the staff room, Catra hobbled over to the table and sagged into a chair, wincing as her whole right side throbbed. She definitely landed on her shoulder wrong, and her right ankle must have bent or twisted on the way down. She’d be feeling this for a few days.
“Alright Wildcat, tell me what hurts! I’ll see what I can do about it.”
Catra pointed out the main problem areas and Scorpia set to work. Ankle wrap and elevation for her foot, ice pack for her shoulder after a gentle massage, and lastly a quick round of questions to check for a concussion. Scorpia wasn’t a professional, of course, but she was pretty sure Catra was in the clear. She grabbed her smoothie from the fridge and sat with her, sipping at her drink as she fidgeted in her seat.
“So… you’ve uh… been looking at the door. Like a lot. Is something wrong?”
Catra would’ve snapped and told her she wasn’t, if only she weren’t looking at the door right then . She sighed and propped her head up with a bent elbow on the table, still glaring at the doorknob. A deep, repressed part of her wanted Adora to follow with all her stubborn nosiness. A larger part of her brain was dedicated to quelling that want and telling herself that she did not, in fact, want Adora to bust through the door and check in on her.
She definitely didn’t miss her dumb face or her dumb hair poof or--
“Did someone in that group give you problems? Do you want me to kick them out?”
“What? No! No, don’t… they’re fine, Scorps, they didn’t do anything. It’s just...” Catra drummed her fingers on the table. “There’s… one of the girls out there… I know her-- used to know her. We grew up together, but, I haven’t seen her in a long time and now it’s just… really weird. That’s all.”
Scorpia brought her chair closer, and placed a hand on Catra’s knee. “Do you want to talk about it?”
Catra looked at the door again. Her anger had subsided for the time being, as did her embarrassment, but she really didn’t want to dwell on the subject. “Another time, maybe. Right now I just… I’m gonna go upstairs, try to sleep this off. Can you cover for me?”
“Yeah of course! Do you need help getting up there?”
Catra stood and tested her leg. Good enough.
“I’ve got it, thanks. Just cover for me down here.”
“Sure thing! I’ll let my moms know what happened. Man, good thing it’s the weekend huh? You won’t have to limp around school like that.”
“No kidding…” Catra stood and gathered her things, making her way to the door.
Scorpia followed her out, bringing the cleaning supplies to take over Catra’s shift. As they parted ways Catra kept her head down, trying to avoid being noticed by any of the gym patrons, especially a certain blonde who she knew might be looking for her. Catra was almost at the front entrance, almost home free. She could leave and hopefully never see Adora again. She could move on with her life and forget.
“Excuse me ma’am, I’d like to sign up for a membership.”
Catra turned her head toward the front desk just a few feet away, where Adora was speaking with one of Scorpia’s moms. The woman met her with equal enthusiasm, already giving her the whole spiel about the gym’s many features and offerings.
This was fine. Catra could totally avoid her. I mean, she couldn’t come around that often, right?
“Yeah, I’m on the basketball team over at Brightmoon High so I might be in here 3… 4 times a week to work out?”
This was going to be harder than she thought.