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Adora trudged up to the room she shared with two other girls, dragging her bag behind her as her arms were too tired to carry it anymore. Falling back into the door, feeling it give under her weight as she stumbles inside, finally able to dump the bag and fall gracelessly onto her, thankfully close, bed. She groaned into her pillow, feeling every second of practice deep in her bones as she struggled to simply roll over. She wasn’t surprised to hear muffled footsteps beside her and the door pushed softly closed with a click.

She was surprised when the footsteps retreated and no words were uttered by her companion. She knew it was Catra in the room with her, the familiar groan of the younger girl’s bed across the room as she laid down told her as much. By now she should have been hit with a sarcastic comment, or the jostling of her own bed, maybe a soft punch to the shoulder as she was manhandled onto her back to look up at a grinning face. Yet there was only silence.

Maybe not silence; straining her ears she could just make out soft breaths coming out jaggedly from across the room. Almost afraid to move now, lest she spook her clearly distressed friend, Adora moved as gracefully as her aching body would allow. For long moment she laid on her side just looking. Catra had her back to the room and was curled into a defensive ball, her tail wrapped so tightly around herself that it could not give her away. Adora was pretty sure she wasn’t crying, her body was statue still but the breaths were still strained.

Unsure what she should do, even with a lifetime of interactions between them, Adora went through the options in her head. She knew how to deal with sad Catra, angry Catra, battered and bruised Catra (that one she saw more than any other) but this didn’t have the marks of any of those. She had never seen the live wire of a girl so still before. Almost certain that her touch would not be welcomed, she chose to stay on her own bed and call out softly over the chasm between them.

“Catra, hey! You awake?” She knew she was. She knew Adora knew she was too.

“Yeah.” Her voice was rougher than usual, cracking at the edges even on that single word.

“Do you want to talk?” It seemed better to ask than ‘you ok?’ Because of course she wasn’t and Adora may not have always been the most emotionally literate girl but she really wasn’t a dummy.

“Not today, Adora.” There was none of her usual bite. There was nothing. It sent a shiver up the blond’s spine and she couldn’t say why.

“You gonna come down for dinner later?” She knew the answer.

“No.”

“Was it... was it Weaver? Did she do something?” Adora knew she shouldn’t ask, Catra had said she didn’t want to talk, but she had to know. Things with their ‘guardian’, she couldn’t even think the word without derision, had been growing more heated between her and the cat-girl recently if that were possible. It was why the future terrified the blond so much, not for herself but for Catra. Next year she would be off to college but her feline friend had a year to go before she could join her and Adora wasn’t sure she could make it.

An angry growl that was rarely directed at the human girl rose from the bed and she knew that she needed to stop. Whispering an apology Adora rose from the bed and headed for the bathroom to shower and change out of her uniform before heading down to a tense dinner with the rest of the kids. She hoped that Catra would be more inclined to talk when she got back.

________________

Dinner had gone on for longer than usual. Shadow Weaver had joined them, accompanied as she sometimes was by Hordak and his older brother Prime. They were long time friends of her foster mother who haunted the house like pale spectres. Hordak was so much a fixture that one time at school a teacher had asked if he was her father. She had very firmly put the teacher in his place. She might not be sure exactly what Hordak’s relationship to Shadow Weaver was, but it certainly was not that.

Prime was a different story. He visited infrequently and almost seemed disgusted when he had to step into the home, she could count the times that he had sat down and eaten with them over the years on one hand, which was why it felt so unusual tonight. He was an older, distinguished looking man always dressed in sleek, conservative suits in pale colours. Completely put together unlike his younger brother whose suits were ill fitting and hair a blue tinged mess. Adora was even less sure of his role in their lives than Hordak’s.

The two men had decided to have dinner with the children and Shadow Weaver had made t her mission this evening to pull up all their achievements and make them recount them. She was clearly determined to show off her prowess as a parent.

Rogelio was made to recount his successes during his wrestling bouts as Kyle translated for him. This gained smiles and nods from both men. Kyle’s recent win at the state spelling bee was also applauded. It was one of the first times the skinny boy had won anything and his own pride shone out of his face. Lonnie may be brash, but a sudden shyness seemed to take her as she explained how she had secured an internship with the local paper that would start in the summer. Prime had several questions about this, even pulling out a case from his breast pocket and passing Lonnie a clean crisp business card tell her to give him a call when her position began.

Then all eyes were on Adora. She knew that the others were sometimes jealous of the care and attention that she was given in her house. Adora had been called favourite, golden child and suck up more than once as they all grew up in the house. The young athlete wouldn’t let that stop her though, she was proud of her own hard work and accomplishments. She explained that she had received scholarship offers to play soccer at several prominent colleges and that she and Shadow Weaver were exploring her options. She also proudly revealed that she would be valedictorian for her graduating class later in the year.

Nobody brought up Catra; not her absence or her accomplishments. It was like she didn’t exist in the house. As conversation carried on around her, Adora looked around the familiar dining room and almost for the first time she realised that none of the pictures on the walls contained the furred girl.

Finally, hours after that had sat down, the teens were dismissed to complete homework before bed. It was getting late and none of them were sure how much they would get done. Adora traipsed to the study to log into one of the computers in there and finish her lit essay that was due the next day. It took less than half an hour and she was finally heading up to her room tired all the way to her marrow.

Entering her bedroom for the second time that evening she saw that Lonnie was propped up on her own bed, math book sprawled out before her. Her pencil was gripped between her teeth, brows scrunched as she worked on calculations. Smiling at her friend, and getting a wink in return before brown eyes returned to the page, she turned her eyes to the other bed.

The empty bed.

_________________

 

Adora looked around her new classroom, the desks bunched in tiny clusters surrounded by the cutest little red, green and blue chairs she had ever seen. The ladybug carpet sat in the corner, waiting patiently for story times and show and tell, each red bug proudly sporting a number. The poster board at the back of the room neatly covered in backing paper with white and blue accents, waving for crudely drawn pictures and the first stumbling of creative minds writing stories. This was everything she had worked for, the culmination of a hope and a desire to help other children as she had been helped and to make a difference in their lives.

She was lucky to have snagged a place at Brightmoon, it was a sought after teaching destination even for the most experienced teachers and here she was just starting out from college with her own first grade class about to descend. Doing a final check for pens in pots and glues where they needed to be, Adora ran her hands nervously down her pants to make sure they were wrinkle free and tugged her shirt back into place. She walked out and met Perfuma in the corridor outside her classroom.

The pair had met in college, the hippie-chick her TA for her Lit class. They had hit it off, even though they could couldn’t seem more different from the outside. Adora was a jock, getting through school on a soccer scholarship, perpetually decked out in her athletic gear and as adorably dorky as could be. She was also a ball of nervous energy and hardly ever seemed to be still. Perfuma was a calming influence that she had needed. Whereas her roommate Glimmer and bow were the closest friends in the world to her, they tended to spiral with her even when they were helping, often causing as much chaos in her life as they helped to solve. Perfuma had taught her techniques to focus and got her into meditation and yoga, explaining that she had struggled with anger in high school and a therapist had got her hooked. Adora, for the first time, had ways to manage her nervous energy and the yoga even improved her agility and flexibility on the field.

It was Perfuma who had helped Adora get into Brightmoon, like the athlete she had snagged a place out of college (with help from some well placed nepotism from Glimmer and her mother, which had assuredly helped Adora as well), and had helped her plan out her first term while sitting together over many cups of camomile tea and hot chocolate they had made the best curriculum plan anyone had ever seen (at least according to the younger blond - Perfuma had laughed). Adora would teach first grade in the classroom two doors down from her own third grade class, which is how they rendezvoused, ready to make their way to the assembly and to pick up their charges for the year.

“Excited?” Perfuma looked down at her as they walked with kind eyes.

“God yes! Also really nervous - what if they all hate me? What if I’m the mean teacher?” She knew she shouldn’t start spiralling, they’d discussed this already, but it was hard not to.

“You know they’ll love your lessons, and it’s not a popularity contest.”

Adora hoped so.

They became silent as they walked through the doors at the end of the large room full of small children and stood with the other assembled teachers waiting to pick up their class once the head teacher had finished welcoming them.

_____

As first days go it had been really good fun; the children had exchanged names and stories, some not having been in the same kindergarten class as others, and she had told them a little about herself. She thought it was important that the children knew her a little bit in the same way that they had shared with her.

The children were uniformly cute; a little girl in braids here, a boy with freckles there, horns poking through curly hair, scales a beautiful golden shade, some tall, some short. There were 22 children in the class and it would take her a week or so to nail down their names, so for now she’d fallen back on ‘sport’ as her preferred address.

One kid in particular had stood out though. A little boy with a shaggy main of brown hair that reached his collar with elegantly pointed ears the same colour as his skin yet with a furry tail that flickered behind him. That had sent an unexpected pang through her chest. He was tall for 6 and extremely polite and eager to participate. Not so different from the other children then. Except… His eyes were hidden behind a par of sunglasses. Before she had approached him she had checked and double checked her files to make sure that none of the children were visually impaired, and none were. So what should she do?

Nobody at the assembly had asked him to remove them, and the other children seemed used to it and hadn’t mentioned his eyewear. She had taken particular note of his name and decided that she would talk to Perfuma about it after classes ended for the day.

The pair met in the parking lot, ready to head out for the day. Adora had been there to watch the children be picked up by doting parents, excited to hear about their little ones first day in a new class. She had seen parents crouch down and receive their children into open arms, smiles stretched across their faces. Adora hadn’t grown up like that, well not at first. Mara hadn’t come and scooped her up until she was eight.

“Good day?” Perfuma asked as she put her bag in the back of the bright yellow jeep.

“Yeah, I loved it!” They both settled into the vehicle, fastening their belts. Before they set off Adora turned to her friend. “I do have one question though. There’s a little boy in my class with sunglasses on all the time. Do I let him keep them on? Should I say something?”

“Oh, you’ve got Javier! He’s such a sweet boy. He’s allowed to wear the glasses, some of the older kids gave him a hard time in the playground last year and he refused to come to school if he couldn’t wear them.” The indicator began to click as they took a right into the busy main street. “Actually, he’s Scorpia’s god-son.”

“He’s the kid you’re always talking about?” Adora was surprised, she couldn’t recall ever hearing a name and its not like she spent a lot of time with Perfuma and Scorpia together.

“Yeah, I thought that he was in the other class though.”

Tomorrow it would be Adora’s turn to drive.

_______

Stepping into the house she shared with her two best friends, Adora dropped her bag and coat to the floor before kicking off her shoes and stretching expansively. She could hear footsteps padding down the hallway carpet and was grinning even as she stood from having scooped up her discarded items. Looking up and seeing a matching smile adorning Glimmer’s face, her eyes flickered down to the bundle in her hands.

“Glad you’re not leaving them in the hall for Bow to fall over today,” and yes, it had been funny to see the usually calm and well put together man almost cartwheel down the hall, but Adora I’d felt bad and decided she’d make the small amends.

“Can’t have Ms Grey not set a good example, can I?” That was the other part of it.

One of Adora’s small rebellions against her upbringing, once she had a place to call her own, had been to leave clothes where they fell - only gathering them up into the hamper to wash them. So often she felt the spectre of Shadow Weaver breathing down her, demanding compliance because ‘good children’ did not make a mess.

Now she was an adult, responsible for the shaping of tiny minds and helping them grow into amazing people, it felt silly. She’d felt so selfish when Bow had stumbled; her selfishness and obliviousness hurting somebody again. No, she wouldn’t let her thoughts go there. What she would do is lead by example; hang up your coat Kalvin, Adora’s coat went in the hallway closet. Put your bag into your cubby Toolah; Adora stowed her bag on the shelf inside. Finally her shoes joined the neat rows of Bow and Glimmer’s on the wrack tucked away before the door was closed.

It all happened in an instant, followed by the cheeky clapping coming from the purple clad girl. They had roomed together in college and she knew that the other girl had hated her messy ways, but after a tearful talk one half drunk night, had understood and never asked her to change.

“Come on Adora, you can help me set the table so we’re ready when Bow gets home,” she glanced down at the sparkly watch on her wrist. “That gives me just enough time to grill you about your day and then we can tell Bow all about it.”

Her arm was unceremoniously grabbed by the smaller girl and hauled, laughing, towards the kitchen.
______

 

After a month things had really settled down. Lessons were going well and other than the teething trouble you would expect from a group of unruly six year olds things were pretty much going to plan. She had needed to break up a few tussles among the children over toys and one boy was proving to be something of a junior bully, trying to corner other children in the bathroom. She hadn’t enjoyed having to call his parents in for a ‘chat’; even though she was one, often adults made her uncomfortably babble which she worked hard to contain.

The thing was, she was still fascinated by little Javier; he was well behaved, worked hard and always had new projects to show the class. It was clear that he had some very engaged adults in his life who were there to support his interests and encourage him but she had only seen him be picked up by Scorpia. In fact, other than the white haired woman, and occasionally Perfuma, there was no sign of the child’s parents. She knew she shouldn’t judge, shouldn’t assume she knew more than she did about the situation but she couldn’t help it. He was obviously such a special kid.

She’d thought about asking Perfuma, but she seemed to think everything was fine and was actually friends with the boys mother. It seemed wrong to pry too much.

Then came the day that the children had been asked to tell the class about a job that they thought was interesting or that they wanted to do when they grew up. They were even allowed to talk about the job that someday in their life had, if they wanted to. The children were going to make posters and then talk to the class. There were the firemen and doctors she expected, a child who looked like a goat wanted to be a superhero while another hoped that they would work at a zoo.

She moved around the class, helping children with glue and glitter, making them think of the right words and putting up important vocabulary on the board at the front of the brightly lit room. She had a couple of class parents in the room with her today helping small groups of children so she was excited to see what those children were going to say.

After lunch it was time for the children to share their ideas. The time sped by and each child excitedly jabbered about their jobs and showed their furiously crafted posters which they were then invited to pin to the wall at the end of their talk. Everything was quite pedestrian, a couple of influencers, one who wanted to be an actuary (how did a six year old know what that even was?) And the smattering of nurses, vets, astronauts.

And then came Javier.

He stood tall at the front of the class, tail confidently swishing behind him and head held high. His poster was covered in items related to film and words like ‘acting’, ‘movie’, ‘action’. Did he want to be an actor? She would never have thought that this little boy would want to do that. In fact, hadn’t she heard him say more than once he wanted to be a ‘domino artist’?

Then he opened his mouth.

“My mommy is a stunt performer. She works on films that have lots of stunts. She can do the things that the actors can’t, so she’s really important. Sometimes on movies they used computers to make people do stuff, but my mommy can really do it and she said that she is less spensive. The most exciting stunt she has ever done is when she had to pretend to be in an splosion and then jump high and the air and grab onto a helicopter.

My mommy can do fighting and back-flips and sometimes she has to drive cars really fast and then they flip over. I think that sometimes they set people on fire but not mommy because she has fur. Being a stunt performer is really exciting but sometimes it means mommy can’t come get me from school but that’s ok because she tells me exiting stories.” He gave a big toothy grin as he finished, clearly very enamoured with his mother. His sharp teeth caught the light and Adora felt that strange sadness in her chest again.

“Thank you Javier. I can’t wait to meet your mom and find out more about it. Why don’t you go and put your poster up.” She called up the next child.

__________

Feet thumping on the street, arms pumping and breath coming out in jagged gasps, Adora was pleased to see her house grow closer by the footfall. She loved Saturday mornings, just being able to stretch all those muscles that she couldn’t when she was inside a classroom. Of course, every morning she woke up and did stretches and push ups, but what she could fit in before class was not what she was sued to. It had taken her several weeks not to be guilty that she hadn’t had a big workout in the morning, a long legacy of training to be the best in the various sports that had littered her childhood that was hard to break. Now she looked forward to a long run on the weekends and a trip to the gym, a normal amount of exercise for a woman no longer chained to somebody else’s idea of perfection.

As she finally reached the door, sweaty hands fumbling to fit the key into the lock, she thought that perhaps she had finally left her past behind. It made her smile, face becoming even more rosy as she let herself enjoy that moment of personal growth. She didn’t need to be the MVP any more, just the best teacher for the children whose lives she would be able to mould.

Noisily entering the house, she could see a fresh bunch of flowers and a bottle of wine sitting on the table where they left their keys. Taking a long pull from her waning water bottle, she listened to the familiar hustle and bustle of her housemates going about their various routines. Today was a little different, there was no aroma of French toast and bacon wafting from the kitchen; no, today they were going to have brunch with Perfuma and her illusive beau.

As Adora ran up to her room, sure that Bow and Glimmer could hear the thud of her footsteps as she did, she considered Perfuma and Scorpia. It wasn’t really that the older woman was illusive, so much that she was already embedded in an adult life and responsibilities that they, including Perfuma, were just at the start of. At almost thirty, Scorpia was running the offices of a large tech business and was often unavailable for spur of the moment fun and games, or at least that was what Adora had always assumed.

Having met Scorpia a handful of times, Adora was always surprised that the sweet natured, effusive woman could be part of a world that seemed like it could be so cut-throat. Sure, she was physically intimidating with her tall stature and scorpion claws and tail, but she was more likely to wrap you in a hug and apologies than be menacing in any way. It would be good to spend more time with her, Adora told herself it was Perfuma but she knew a lot of it was curiosity about a certain little boy and his elusive mother.

Throwing herself into the shower and then from the shower into her clothes, Adora was ready for brunch, her stomach growled as she pulled her hair back into its regular weekend ponytail to match. Trotting back to the hall she was relieved to find both her housemates waiting for her, Bow tossing the keys from hand to hand until she cheekily reached out and snagged them from him, snorting in delighted laughter as she dashed out to the car, the young man hot on her heals as Glimmer let out a long suffering sigh and locked up the house.

It wasn’t until they’d been in the car a few minutes that Adora passed the address over to her still disgruntled passenger, he really was the best driver of the three of them to put into the Nav system. Brown eyes grew wide as he looked at the piece of paper even as his fingers deftly inputted the informations and the map appeared leading the way for her.

“Dryl?” Bow’s voice was incredulous as Adora started to follow the instructions with care.

“Yeah? Why?” Adora wasn’t the most knowledgable about Brightmoon, unlike her friends she hadn’t grown up in the vibrant and lively city, only moving there after college. She had wanted to stay with these friends who had over the course of their time together had become her family. She’d been more than happy to leave her past behind.

Glimmer looked between the two of them from where she sat in the back seat, waiting for her boyfriend to fill the blond in. When he continued to just sit and look at the hastily scrawled address on the paper in his hands, the bubblegum haired girl huffed and took charge. She frequently had to in their group for her own sanity.

“Adora, Dryl is a tech company. You’ve just put in the address of their HQ. It’s, like, a twelve story research and development facility.”

“Why would Perfuma tell me we should meet her and Scorpia there?” The driver was perplexed, maybe this was where Scorpia worked and they were all meeting there before heading somewhere else for brunch? That sounded plausible at least, more so than Perfuma, a fellow new arrival (but with twelve months on her) giving the wrong information. “And why’s Bow gone catatonic?” It was true, the usually exuberant man had gone very still.

“Oh, that’s easy, he worships Entrapta, the owner of Dryl. If he gets to talk to her he just might explode!” That at least squeezed a ‘hey’ out of him. “Maybe we’re just picking them up there?”

Adora hadn’t had any idea what to expect when they got to their destination, it certainly wasn’t an embossing, squat building sitting menacingly before them as they entered the business district. It wasn’t far from where they lived, yet in the four months since she had made the place her home there had been no occasion for her to visit. Now she was wishing she had!

Dryl was only one of several impressive structures surrounded by fountains and manicured lawns, by far the most ominous with its reflective onyx walls and the appearance of being windowless. It made strange bedfellows with the delicate all glass structures that bracketed it on all sides. Each of the buildings were emblazoned with a company name. She now knew that Dryl was a tech company, while Crimson Waste Management seemed an off business to have such an elegant building. The last place immediately in front of her was Immortal, one at least she had heard of as even her youngest students played their games.

Pulling the car into a fire space in front of the squat, sprawling building, the Best Friend Squad saw no sign of their friend. Piling out, they made their way through the tall automatic doors hadn’tinto Dryl’s foyer. It was a cavernous space dominated by a large desk with diamond shaped edges. Behind it sat a large, purple skinned woman with a shock of long white hair. She eyed them, clearly taking in Bow’s bare stomach and Adora’s worn jeans.

“Can I help you?” Her voice was low and imperious, they’d clearly been found wanting.

Bow and Adora looked at each other, neither sure what to say or whether they hadn’t made a big mistake. Glimmer had no such doubts and marched forward to the desk, glowering lavender eyes glaring up at the woman who had risen to her feet behind the desk to loom over her. Though, she did seem to be wilting a little under the smaller woman’s glare.

“Hi,” and how could Glimmer make that one word sound like ‘fuck you’ and ‘how dare you’ all in one breath. From the audibly swallow that came out of the white haired woman’s throat she wasn’t sure either. “We were invited here by Perfuma and Scorpia. You might want to check your list. It’s Glimmer, Bow and Adora.” A short finger tapped impatiently on the top of the desk as the woman glanced down to check for their information.

Adora always marvelled when she watched her friend operate in situations like this. Adora always felt like she had done something wrong, in almost all circumstances, her sense of self worth always tottering on a knife edge if she wasn’t doing something useful. Her friend had no such doubts; raised in a wealthy home by doting parents she was the picture of privilege that she wasn’t afraid to wield like a weapon when it served them, though she was never one to abuse it or make her friends feel like she was better than them.

“I see, here you are. You need to go up to level 10.” A shiny platinum key card was thrust at the sparkly girl as the security guard once again lost interest and folded into the desk chair.

Brandishing the card high like a trophy with a loud ‘hah’ Glimmer led the trio to the elevators and pushed the button with a flourish. The car came quickly, opening with a ding to reveal an empty, glass walled interior which they quickly hustled into. Adora watched her friend put the key card against the sensor until it flashed green, before pressing the large 10 on the key pad. The button illuminated and they were off.

As the elevator ascended they were able to see what the building was all about through the walls. Once they moved on from the lobby area they moved through what was clearly a restaurant level, before it flashed away they saw elegant tables and what looked like various areas for casual and fine dining. It was the last thing Bow had expected from Dryl, which he was quick to mention. As they moved up they travelled through three levels of offices, all open plan and filled with cubicles and in the corners glass walled offices. The next two floors had steel walls surrounding them, blocking view of anything; Bow hypothesised this was where the labs were hence the need for secrecy.

The next level was a large gym filled with every piece of equipment that could be hoped for, as well as wide open shapes covered in mats. Adora had to fight herself from pressing her face up against the glass as she coveted the amazing space. As they hit the 9th level the walls once again became impenetrable but this time with warm wood tones; the 10th floor was the same and the car stopped smoothly as the doors opened into what was clearly the opening of a living area.

As the three of them walked out each set of eyes grew wide. They were clearly in an apartment area except they were standing in a lobby with only one door. The place must cover the entire floor but it seemed like only one person lived here. Bow took the initiative to walk to the door and press the bell. He turned back to his friends and grinned, taking not of how odd it seemed to ring a doorbell that was opposite a bank of three state of the art elevators. He didn’t ponder for long before the large mahogany door was opened.

“Hi guys, so glad you could make it!” Scorpia was standing in the open doorway, light from within haloing her in a very flattering way. The giant of a woman was wearing a soft sleeveless sweater and pair of jeans, looking anything but a captain of industry. “Come on in, Perfuma’s just finishing the vegetables.”

As they walked in, shucking coats and shoes as they did, a voice echoed through the large open expanse of the living area.

“Is she here?” The childish voice was full of excitement and enthusiasm as the owner dashed around a corner from where Adora assumed the kitchen was and barrelled towards the group.

Scorpia dropped to one knee and delicately gabbed the speeding little boy with her claws, she was so gentle he could have been made of glass. He giggled in her embrace and his thin, pointed ears twitched as she rose with him now perched on her shoulders, legs dangling over her shoulders and tail wrapping around her neck. Cheekily he crossed his arms on top of her head, resting his own chin there as he looked at the new arrivals with a broad, sharp grin and large laughing eyes.

Heterochromatic eyes. One luminous green, the other sky blue.

Adora gasped as best another part of the child in front of her tore at her heart. But it didn’t mean anything, she’d looked once and it wasn’t unusual for cat hybrids to have the trait. And still…

“Hey Miss Greyson!” He lifted a hand to wave enthusiastically.

“Hey Javier, I didn’t know we’d be seeing you today?” She spoke to the boy but sent a quizzical look at the large woman. Scorpia looked a little unsettled by the probing look.

“Javi and his mum live on the level below, so we all spend a lot of time together. She got called away this morning for some reshoots, so she popped this little guy up here. He was very excited that you’d be here,” at her words the boy blushed to the tips of his ears and tried to hide his face in the cloud of white hair.

“I’m happy to see you too Javier! These are my friends Bow and Glimmer,” they both waved at the embarrassed child. “They know Perfuma too.”

“Cool!” Suddenly the boy was in motion, leaping from his place perched on the tall woman’s shoulders and landing soundlessly on the floor in front of Adora. If there had been any doubt in anyone’s mind that he was part cat, that allayed it at once by his liquid movements. Then his clawed hand was grasping Adora’s a tugging her behind him. “I can show you everything! Scorpia and Perfuma’s floor is amazing!” His high, happy voice made her smile.

“Can my friends come too?” She caught Glimmer and Bow smirking at each other.

“Yep!” They all laughed at his excitement and the whole group, Javier in the lead and Scorpia bringing up the rear, made their way for the grand tour.

Grand it was, the floor itself more than big enough to accommodate 4 two bed apartments. Massive glass windows covered one entire wall, letting light spill in and warm the place. Plants grew everywhere in pots so that one half of the living area looked like a greenhouse. The furnishing and layout was minimalist, but was accented with a throw here or cushion there. It was an odd mix of the two women who lived here.

The morning and early afternoon were filled with laughter and board games to keep the whole group entertained. Bow’s head all but exploded when, a little after mid-day the purple haired owner of the company, and the whole building, let her self in. She’d been working on a handheld computer as her hair opened the door and on hearing the jolly sounds had finally looked up, seeming confused for a moment.

“I did it again, didn’t I?” Her voice had a strange lilt like excitement and self deprecation.

“Yep-yep Aunt Trap.” Javier had walked over to her and been lifted in the nest of her hair so he could kiss her on the cheek and be set down again.

“Afternoon Entrapta; do you want something to eat?” Perfuma approached the smaller woman, obviously knowing the answer as she carried with her one of the smoothies in a lidded cup with a straw and handed it over.

The overall clad woman docilely followed her back to the sofa and took up residence on one of the large leather bean bags that were scattered around. Scorpia, who had disappeared into the kitchen, came back with a plate filled with tiny hors-d’oeuvres which she handed to the still distracted woman. She muttered a ‘thank you’ as she continued to furiously work on her pad, occasionally popping food into her mouth with her hair and humming enthusiastically.

“Don’t worry about Entrapta,” Perfuma said noticing them all watching her, “she’ll come back to the room as soon as she’s done.”

Bow did eventually get to talk to his tech idle and they spent half an hour using words that may as well have been in an alien dialect for how little sense they made to the other five people in the room. While they talked, Javier taught all the adults a lesson in how to be beaten by a six year old at Monopoly. He was a shark, it turned out.

Adora learned that Entrapta owned the entire building and as Scorpia and Javier’s mother were her close friends, had insisted that they live here. Turned out that she knew she was a workaholic, and only by having her friends close by could she ensure that she did anything outside the lab. Adora was a little jealous, her shared apartment was nice but this was something else!

Before any of them knew it was time to head home, chores to do and lessons to plan. There were promises to come again when the weather was better and barbecue on the roof terrace. Each adult got a cheery goodbye and a very grown up hand shake from the child, though Adora got pulled down into a hug. He hesitated before deciding to press a kiss to her cheek before dropping back to hug Scorpia’s side, a blush covering his face.

“Bye Miss Greyson!”

“Bye-Bye, Javier.” She hoped that soon he would feel confident enough to leave his shades off at school.

__________

Then, almost out of nowhere it was time to meet the parents. Adora and Perfuma were both unsure where the time had gone, but here they were facing down the first parent-teacher conference of the year and, in Adora’s case, their first ever on the teacher side of the table. Adora had furiously made sure that the classroom was neat and tidy, children’s work arranged for doting parents to explore. Two chairs, adult sized, sat facing her desk ready for the one-to-one conversations.

She was dreading those a little, her anxiety when talking to other adults was high but she had worked on it over the years and as long as she had a game plan everything should be fine. She planned the conversations with military precision she knew every students record, every students name and interest. She felt confident that she could address any issue that came up. So far she had been lucky enough not to have any child stand out as a problem, so there shouldn’t be any angry or defensive parents. Adora wasn’t a fan of confrontation, Glimmer always joked that she was a people pleaser and as much as it wrinkled the blond she couldn’t deny the truth of it. Too many years spent trying to fly under the radar in homes that were not her own and to not cause trouble had led to it.

Parent after parent passed through the doors, smiling and nodding as she showed them pictures painted and stories penned. Questions were asked about how little Summer was doing? What Icelyn was like at math? Was Rosksta making plenty of friends? What about Nate’s verbal skills? After the first hour Adora’s confidence was bolstered. Everything was going better than she could have hoped for, the parents had been universally warmer to her than she was used to.

During a brief lull, a 10 minute break where she got a drink and shot a smile at Perfuma through her open door, she ran her eyes down the remaining parents. Beside each child’s name was the name of the carer who would be coming to talk about them, with one exception. Alongside Javier’s name it simply said ‘mother’ at the latest possible appointment time. Her curiosity was certainly piqued by this enigmatic ‘mother’ of the wonderful little boy. A woman who seemed almost absent from the boy’s life but who was obviously the centre of his world. Having met and spent time with Scorpia and Entrapta, she had become even more intrigued. Their comments about her being ‘prickly’ and ‘not a people person’ didn’t seem to jive with how goofy endearing the pair was or how sweet Javier was.

Time ticked by, Adora’s back began to ache a little, she knew that she’d have to do stretches before bed tonight and work on her back at the gym in the morning. It was the one thing about teaching that she didn’t love, the sitting still. Fortunately there wasn’t a lot of that teaching first grade, they kept her on her toes. She shook hands and shared smiles and stories with the remaining parents until only one remained. The clock ticked as she waited. And waited. She got up from her desk, stretching her back until it popped and poking her head into the hallway only to see that the chairs outside the room for people to wait was empty. She noticed that further down the hall only one of two sets of parents remained, milling about and waiting for their turn.

Adora felt oddly disappointed. How could the parent of a child as wonderful as Javier not care enough to come and talk about how he was doing? To meet the person who spent almost every day with him? As the ticking of the brightly coloured clock on the wall echoed on and on in the room, she found herself getting angrier and angrier at this woman. Just as her blood reached boiling point she heard the slapping of feet against linoleum as somebody ran down the hallway, coming to a skidding halt in her doorway.

The humanoid blur flew into the room, throwing themselves into the seat opposite her desk in an almost boneless heap, legs splayed and spine slouched. It took the school teacher a moment for her brain to catch up with her eyes as she took in the rumpled clothes, stained with browning splotches that could have been blood and the large gashes in jeans. It was then that she took note of the swishing tail, so like Javier’s and then the short, tousled hair, furred skin and drooping cat ears.

Cat ears.

It had been a long time since Adora had seen anyone with cat ears. She had taken note of Javier’s tail the first day she saw him, reminding her so much of the past, but his almost bat-like little ears were nothing like this woman’s, his mother she assumed, who had yet to say a word. As Adora studied the sprawled figure she got the distinct impression that she too was being scrutinised by the eye hidden beside sunglasses that matched her son’s. Adora felt a lump form in her throat and her heart begin to beat faster as she considered what might lay behind those glasses and just who might be sitting so casually opposite her, somebody who had vanished from her life almost seven years before.

As if reading her thoughts the other woman straightened in her seat and removed her glasses, folding them and hooking them into the vee of her stained shirt, looking up to fix mismatched eyes to blue and give a rueful, toothy, smile.

“Hey, Adora.”

“Oh my god! Catra?” Adora was floored, she had suspected as soon as the women sat down, but to have that suspicion confirmed short circuited her brain.

“Yeah, been a long time. Never thought the teacher that Javier can’t stop talking about was you though. He said you were a blonde called Miss Greyson,” she shrugged, looking more than a little uncomfortable all of a sudden.

“Oh…oh! After you…left, I guess… I found my real birth certificate and that was my mothers name so I took it. I didn’t want to be a Weaver for the rest of my life.” She knew that she was rambling but she couldn’t believe that the person who had been the most important part of her life for most of the first seventeen years of her life was suddenly right there in front of her. When Catra had vanished when she was 17 she had imagined that one day she would see her again, but as one year became two, became six she had lost hope.

“I get that, I’ve been a Reyes since Javier was born. I didn’t want him to be a Weaver.” Her voice was grave and her eyes stony as she spoke the name. “Anyway, I’m here to talk about my cub, not the ‘old days’,” she almost spat the last words. “He seems happy and likes you, and he’s got friends - which is a step up from kindergarten.”

“Javier is wonderful! Perfuma told me he had a tough time last year but he’s great in class and the other kids love him. He’s always keen to help out and ask questions. His presentation about your job was excellent.” Catra snorted a laugh and muttered something like ‘I’ll bet’ under her breath. Adora brought his work onto the table. “You can see he’s making real progress with his writing and his pictures of people have all of their limbs in the right place.”

Their conversation focused around Javier for several more minutes, Adora explaining what the expectations of the rest of the upcoming year were and how his progress would be monitored. She suggested ideas for what Catra could do at home to advance his progress in particular areas and the other woman volunteered some of the home learning that she already did with him... It had been obvious from the start that Javier had a very engaged parent, but on hearing about all of the activities that the feline woman did with her son around her work it became obvious that she had not had the first idea of how engaged his mother was.

As the duo were wrapping up, Catra preparing to stand, Adora didn’t want her to leave. Other than their brief talk of names they hadn’t caught up at all, in fact it seemed like the other woman was completely disinterested in reconnecting. The blond blurted, “Why does Javier wear those glasses?”

Catra snorted softly, “You remember how mean kid’s would be to me about my eyes when we were little? Same for my cub.” She shook her head ruefully, “Guess some things don’t change. Javier came home crying so many times about it that I just told the school we’d do whatever we could to make him feel better. He’ll take them off when he’s ready.” She locked eyes with her childhood confidant, “At least his ears are more like other people’s and not too big for his head like mine used to be.” She twitched the body part in question, which now fit her perfectly, sticking out of her short rumpled mane.

Adora thought back to be Javier’s age and hugging Catra while she cried about somebody calling her eyes weird, or trying to pull on her furry ears. As they’d got older the cat-girl had grown out of sorrow and into rage when it happened, more often than not throwing a punch or slashing a claw and receiving the same back.

“Well, I hope that he feels happy enough soon, the other children love him,” Adora did too but she didn’t think that would be appropriate to say.

“Cool, I’m glad he really is happy,” Catra looked at the chunky watch that adorned her right wrist and strode towards the door.

Realising that the other woman was about to walk out of her life again, Adora called out, “It was good to see you again, Catra.” Even to her own ears it sounded too disconnected, not carrying any of the weight of what they had been to each other for so long.

“See you around, Adora.” It was a dismissal, like they had nothing left to talk about. Maybe they didn't.

Then she was gone, padding down the now empty hallway, bare feet softly slapping on the hard floor, claws clicking distantly. If she was somebody else, somebody more prone to grand emotional gestures or following her own desires, Adora wood have chased after her and asked her for a catch up drink or whether she could call her. But she wasn’t; Adora did what people expected her to, no matter how much it opened an old wound in her heart.