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Worthy of Love

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1.
His armies were closing in on the rebels with every passing minute. It didn’t matter what their princesses did. Soon, no one, not even their precious She-Ra, could prevent the inevitable.

He was Horde Prime. He saw all. He knew all. His light shall cast out the shadows and purify the Universe. And, this super weapon was the key.

Horde Prime knew it would be simple to manipulate Queen Glimmer into giving him all the answers he needed. The worry she expressed for her rebel friends was almost humorous. He had come across many species in his conquest across the galaxy. Etherians proved to be one of the more emotional ones. So predictable.

“Ah,” Horde Prime presented, “here she is. Your beacon of hope, Adora. She-Ra. A nuisance that must be purged in order to bring peace to Etheria.”

A faint, high-pitched squeak registered over the sounds of chaos and destruction. Horde Prime, the superior being in every way, swiveled his peripheral eyes to his other dinner guest.

Little Sister, the one the Queen called Catra, had her claws embedded in the table, which now sported four lines raked into it. Interesting.

His conniving Little Sister reminded him of a viper, biding her time, playing the long game, until it was time to strike. No doubt, she whispered poison into the ear of his defective Little Brother back on Etheria to get what she wanted. No doubt, that’s what she planned to do here. But, Horde Prime could not be fooled by a creature as lowly as she.

He granted her freedom to roam the ship for the sake of luring her into a false assurance of power. Little Sister was indeed a fascinating specimen to observe, but he knew to keep a watchful eye on her. She didn’t seem the type to be so easily satisfied. A power-hungry survivalist who quite literally clawed her way to the top after a lifetime of wading through the muck of the masses, yes. A willing member of his hive-minded brothers, not so much. She was too smart for her own good. Which was why such a visceral reaction piqued his curiosity.

As the footage of Adora continued, Horde Prime took notice of the minute quickening of breath, the dilation of pupils, the slight clench in her jaw. When the screens showed Adora defenseless on the ground, surrounded by his troops, Little Sister stopped breathing all together.

“Stop! Don’t hurt her!”

Horde Prime’s attention was drawn to the Queen’s outburst. In a nauseatingly tearful fashion, she told him exactly how the Heart worked. All to save Adora. That was her weakness. Both of theirs, actually.

Little Sister only reacted when he spoke Adora’s name, not She-Ra’s.

They valued her as a mortal being, rather than as a powerful warrior. It was obvious Little Sister still saw her that way, despite her efforts to hide it.

She must care for Adora, but it was different from the Queen. While Horde Prime was above the silly notions of emotional ties, he could recognize them well enough. Little Sister’s attachment would have to run deep in order to cause a crack in that aloof facade she so expertly wore. This could be of future use.

The three of them spent the rest of dinner in silence. Horde Prime reveled in the Queen’s guilt and Little Sister’s discomfort. One way or another, he would obtain that weapon. He was this close to bringing peace to the Universe, and he wasn’t about to let one girl with a magic sword get in his way.

Little Sister might still prove herself useful, as there was one thing he was certain about. Adora meant something to her.

 

2.
Glimmer was really starting to hate her cell. Not that she ever enjoyed being locked up in the first place, but the pristine white walls and furniture were unnerving. Too perfect. Everything was bright, glaringly so, nothing like the warmly illuminated halls of Bright Moon.

How she longed for her home and her friends, for a time before she fell to Shadow Weaver’s dark ways and her own hubris. This was all her fault. If she hadn’t tried to use the Heart, then Horde Prime wouldn’t have found them, and her friends wouldn’t be in danger. And, now that she told him how the Heart works…

She really missed home.

Instead, Glimmer was trapped with Catra of all people in a spaceship hovering above Horde Prime's latest planetary conquest. Everything about her current situation was weird.

Speaking of which, she heard footsteps approaching on the other side of the green force field (also, a blinding neon). Catra had been visiting her more frequently ever since their first talk. She could tell Catra was feeling lonely among all the Hordak look-alikes. Glimmer couldn’t help but point it out with no small amount of smugness. Of course, Catra brushed it off with a snippy defense.

As with her previous visits, they found themselves at a tentative truce, sitting back-to-back, or as well as they could with the force field in the way, the closest thing to physical contact.

“So,” Catra spoke up, “What would you be doing if you were back on Etheria right now and not, y’know, a prisoner on an alien ship?”

Glimmer was surprised. Typically, Catra would show up, take her spot on the floor, and then sit there silently. Glimmer was the one to initiate conversation.

“I guess maybe…” Glimmer trailed off.

She thought about the void she felt within herself where her connection to her runestone would normally be. Bow once asked what it felt like, and the best way Glimmer could describe it was as a constant humming. It was a warm comfort. Now, everything was quiet. Another thing she hated about space: no magic. Everything up here was cold and dead. She just hoped she wouldn’t face the same fate.

“I’d go teleporting all around Etheria, visiting the other princesses in their kingdoms,” she finally replied.

Glimmer’s heart ached at the thought of her two best friends, both of whom she brushed aside and cut with her harmful words.

“If it were a really perfect day, Bow, Adora, and I would be having a sleepover. We’d raid Bright Moon’s kitchen for cake, and then we’d eat it with our hands right off the platter,” chuckled Glimmer.

The fond memory came out without thinking, and despite not facing Catra, she could sense the magicat tense at the mention of Adora. Adora was always a sensitive subject with Catra. Glimmer remembered the time she threw their friendship in Catra’s face all those years ago when she and Bow had managed to capture her, albeit for less than a day. What she would give to go back to simpler times.

“We used to have those,” Catra said, bringing Glimmer out of her reverie.

“What?” For a second time that day, Glimmer was surprised Catra didn’t immediately lash out.

“Sleepovers, me and Adora, when we were cadets in the Horde.” Catra’s voice took on a wistful tone. “We’d play tricks on Kyle, stay up all night whispering about–” She cut herself off and mumbled, “Y’know, whatever.”

Well, if Adora was a safe topic now, then Glimmer would latch onto the common ground. “Did Adora still thrash around all night and, like, sleep-fight? What was that about?”

Catra released a raspy laugh, and the tension drained away.

“She always did that. Adora can’t even relax when she’s asleep.”

Both of them were laughing now, thinking of brave, sweet Adora, who was filled with a vibrant energy and a need to always give, give, give. Adora, who took on the responsibility of the planet and blamed herself for every bad thing that happened, even if it wasn’t her fault.

Glimmer sighed, “I miss them. I was so awful to them the last time we saw each other. I’d do anything to go back and make it right.”

There was a lull in the conversation as they became caught up in past mistakes. Oh, look. Yet another thing Glimmer and Catra had in common.

She didn’t know how to feel about that.

Glimmer wanted to move on. “What about you? What would you be doing if you were back on Etheria?”

Catra was clearly taken aback. “I’d… Uh, nothing. There’s nothing for me on Etheria.”

Glimmer frowned at the tragic response and turned her head at the sound of Catra standing up. Without looking back, she went back the way she came – her shoulders a little more slumped, her footsteps a little heavier, her tail dragging on the floor. Glimmer watched her go with a pitiable look and sighed.

That was another thing she began to learn about Catra ever since she had found her in the ruins of the Fright Zone, utterly defeated in soul and body. She hadn’t even cared that Glimmer could easily strike her down. She had wanted her to do it. Something had clearly gotten through to her. While Glimmer thought it was definitely an improvement that Catra realized her horrible deeds, she also didn’t like this depressing state the former Horde captain seemed to have fallen into. It was unnerving. Catra believed herself beyond help, unworthy of love.

Glimmer understood her to some extent. She’s had a lot of time with her own thoughts lately and spent the first week overwhelmed with guilt and self-loathing. But, she knew that even after everything she did, her friends would rescue her. Even if Adora and Bow never forgave her, they would never give up. Just as she knew Adora would never give up on Catra, despite everyone else trying to convince her otherwise. To be honest, Glimmer didn’t completely grasp Adora and Catra’s fixations with each other.

Adora’s stories of her past in the Horde were few and far between, not a lot of happy memories. But, the majority of the ones she told involved Catra. Even after all the times they clashed on the battlefield, Adora would speak about Catra with a fond determination. After the incident with the portal, the stories had stopped all together. Adora’s priorities had shifted to defeating the Horde, but Glimmer knew she would still welcome Catra back if she so chose.

After her little talks with the party in question, Glimmer inferred Catra reciprocated the sentiment. After all, Glimmer remembered the early days when Catra so desperately attempted to bring Adora back to the Fright Zone. And, even today, she spoke of Adora with a softness Glimmer had never heard before. Perhaps, the loneliness got through to her too.

Great, now she was empathizing with Catra. Yeah, this whole situation couldn’t get any weirder.

Glimmer ate her words just a few days later when her cell opened to reveal Catra standing above an unconscious clone. It appeared she decided to grow a conscience and do that one good thing in her life.

“Wait. Are you saving me?” Glimmer couldn’t believe it.

“Not you,” Catra spit out. “Adora.”

Glimmer should’ve guessed.

She watched, again from behind a force field, as Catra fended off the clones. For a third time, Catra surprised her, as the last choked words Glimmer heard before being beamed off into space were “Adora, I’m sorry! For everything!”

Suddenly, Glimmer’s vision was a blur of darkness and stars and Bow, Bow, and the creeping chill of space as the energy field surrounding her began to fade and it was getting harder to breathe now and the gaping door of Mara’s ship and–

BANG

Glimmer would be feeling that impact tomorrow. She opened her eyes to look into the faces of her two best friends. It felt like a weight lifted from her chest.

She saw Bow’s look of relief. She saw Adora’s face fall as she explained what Catra did.

“She said she was doing it for you,” whispered Glimmer.

Adora’s eyes widened in shock. Her gaze shifted downward, deep in thought, until her expression changed to one of anger, then to pained and conflicted. Finally, she closed her eyes and slid her back down the wall to join Glimmer on the ground. It was then that Glimmer knew it wasn’t the last time she would be aboard Horde Prime’s ship.

It clicked.

The back-and-forth nature of Adora and Catra’s relationship – at each other’s throats one moment and reminiscing on sentimental memories the next. The hatred Catra clinged to was a defense against the way she really felt. Nothing could erase the long history the two shared. Catra tried to hide it, but she would do anything to ensure Adora’s survival, even assist an enemy princess escape.

Catra still cared about Adora. She probably never stopped.

And, Adora felt the same way.

“All I do is hurt people. There’s no one left in the entire Universe who cares about me,” Catra had said with a sad resignation.

A month ago – hell, probably a week ago, Glimmer would’ve agreed, but now, she wasn’t so sure.

 

3.
Bow preferred to see the best in people. It’s how his dads raised him to be. He was the designated friendship guy, which he gladly embraced. He loved to expand his circle of friends, the more the merrier!

So, Bow couldn’t help but remind himself of his dads teachings every time Catra acted like, well, Catra. This was the same person who threw him off a cliff once, but that shouldn’t be a high standard considering Adora’s track record with any sort of ledge.

Now that Catra had been de-chipped, she was falling back into her mischievous ways. Though, she tended to only direct it toward Adora. Catra avoided being caught alone in a room with him. Surprisingly, Catra tolerated Glimmer. Turned out spending weeks captive on a galactic dictator’s spaceship formed a mutual respect.

Any time Bow and Catra found themselves alone together, there would be an awkward silence until one of them left first. He was already sorting through his complicated feelings with Glimmer (and, they were working on it! He just needed time); he didn’t need this, too, but, always the optimist, he was willing to try. For Adora.

Catra’s experience with Horde Prime had really shaken her, and Adora told them all to give her space. Adora told them her little witticisms were a coping mechanism. Everyone else was a little skeptical, but Bow could tell Catra was the type of person who needed to come to you first. She even spent some time with Entrapta whenever the scientist wasn’t preoccupied with Darla or Wrong Hordak or both.

Krytis was a desolate planet, scattered with the remains of Horde Prime’s spires. It was definitely creepy, not that Entrapta noticed, taking glee in all the alien tech lying about. Meanwhile, Wrong Hordak looked ready to run away at any moment. Poor guy.

“Good news, my readings show that the atmosphere is safe!” Entrapta declared while using her hair to remove her helmet. Why both she and Adora had holes in their helmets for their hair didn’t make any sense to him, but who was he to judge?

Bow, Glimmer, and Adora removed their helmets. He glanced behind him to see Catra standing with her arms crossed, and he had to smother a laugh.

Catra glared at him. “What? She’s been wrong before. A lot, actually.”

Bow gasped, “If my helmet were that adorable, I’d leave it on too. Those ears!”

He had to admit it was hard to see her as a menacing adversary while wearing a helmet with specially designed ear pockets that poked out the top.

“It is not!” Catra exclaimed, a red flush spreading across her cheeks.

She immediately scrambled to pry the helmet off. It got stuck.

Bow also had to admit it was hilarious to watch her struggle at this. His laughter was joined by Glimmer and Adora’s. It was nice to hear his friends so care-free. The hiss of decompressed air releasing indicated Catra finally managed to free her head.

Bow watched the insult on the tip of her tongue fizzle out. Her look of embarrassed annoyance transformed into an affectionate one. Her gaze had shifted to Adora. The blush remained, but her ears perked up, and a small smile appeared. This was new. He didn’t even know Catra was capable of expressing such kindness. Adora’s airy laugh tapered off into a content exhale. Catra continued to stare at her as though the other four members of the team weren’t there. (Although with Entrapta engrossed in the data logs, she might as well have been.) It was as if Catra was only seeing Adora for the first time.

Bow didn’t know what to think. He looked at Catra, who was looking at Adora, who was being looked at by Glimmer. He whipped his head around to make eye contact with the latter. They shared a look, similar to when She-Ra healed Catra after her rescue, appearing in a rainbow light, holding a wounded Catra in her arms like a fairytale come to life. Back then, Bow and Glimmer had also made questioning eye contact, as She-Ra pressed her forehead to Catra’s in a tender embrace. The intimacy in that moment made Bow feel like he was intruding on something private.

It felt like that now, too.

Are they…? Bow conveyed to Glimmer with a meaningful look.

I think so. Do we mention it? She seemed to reply.

Bow just shrugged.

Entrapta’s shout of victory startled them, and the moment ended.

Bow has seen that look before. With his dads. Lance was the more openly-affectionate of the two, so he always viewed the people he loved with stars in his eyes. George, on the other hand, was a bit more reserved. But, anyone could see from their interactions that George held just as much love for his husband. Bow would catch them gazing into each other’s eyes with pure adoration.

That emotion was reflected in Catra’s eyes just then. Bow’s eyebrows raised in realization. This wasn’t a simple crush.

Catra... she loved Adora. Catra was in love with Adora.

Honestly, he was ashamed for not noticing it earlier. In hindsight, Catra has been pretty obvious the whole trip here. She only allowed Adora in her room, hissing at anyone else to encroach on her territory. Catra, the laziest person Bow has ever met, willingly assisted in cooking dinner only when it was Adora’s turn. Not to mention she tended to plop herself down in Adora’s lap whenever the opportunity presented itself… and purred while doing so, though no one dared point it out.

Wrong Hordak did once (“It appears you are vibrating, my feline brother. Is that normal?”). Catra had flushed a deep red and stormed out. No one saw her for hours, and she had only reluctantly emerged with some coaxing from Adora.

The romantic in Bow wanted to prance around from the giddiness of it all.

The logical side of him paused to consider what this entailed for the future.

Up until a few weeks ago, Catra was the enemy. There was the slight issue of dealing with all that, but they had bigger things to worry about at the moment. Namely, the fact that Horde Prime was chipping (heh, blame his dads’ puns) his way through the population of Etheria. However, seeing this side of Catra gave Bow hope. He felt a little more at ease around her. Comfortable enough to march her around chanting about the Best Friend Squad and to gush over her little sneezes and her poofed up tail.

Next thing he knew, they found her petting an alien cat that imitated her little sneezes? Cuteness overload. She was becoming cuter the more he spent time with her. Maybe, that’s where Adora saw the appeal. Of course, he knew it was much more than that. This mission may have given them the key to defeating Horde Prime, but it also confirmed his suspicions of Catra’s feelings. And, Bow knew Adora too well to deny that she also valued Catra even after everything she put them through. Whatever they were to each other, he would support his friend.

The return to Etheria was a bumpy ride, all bracing upon reentry.

If Bow noticed Catra instinctively grabbed Adora’s hand, then he just smiled to himself and hugged Catra extra tight when they landed.

 

4.
Perfuma hasn’t had many interactions with Catra. Always one to avoid harming living beings, she wasn’t constantly running into her during battle unlike Adora, Glimmer, and Bow. Her first impression of Catra came from Princess Prom. Although Perfuma didn’t talk with her directly, she was there to witness the destruction that ensued. Those heat bombs were not a fun experience. And, Catra had kidnapped her plus one!

That incident immediately put the Horde captain at the top of her “Negative People” list.

Not that she actually had a written list. That would just be rude.

The rest of what Perfuma knew about Catra came from Scorpia. Those first few weeks had been a rough adjustment. Perfuma was usually the one to comfort her. She learned that underneath that hard exoskeleton was the kindest soul Perfuma had ever seen.

Scorpia was a sunflower – big, bold, and beautiful.

She was also a naturally chatty person, and Perfuma was more than willing to help sort through her conflicting emotions about leaving the Horde, leaving Catra. Perfuma couldn’t help but fall into moments of anger on behalf of her new friend as she heard how Catra had treated her. But, ever since Adora and the others returned from space with a hesitant Catra in tow, Perfuma noticed a change in behavior. Her overall energy wasn’t exactly positiver, per se, but it was less negative for sure. Less chaotic. More tamed.

For one, Catra wasn’t actively trying to kill them anymore! She was still curt with the other princesses, inserting snide remarks when she could, and she stuck to the shadows of their hideout. It probably didn’t help that Frosta kept glaring at her. Also, wherever Adora was, Catra – and subsequently, Melog – wasn’t far behind. It appeared she had a soft spot for the blonde. It was a sight to see: their fearless leader walking around with two felines trailing after her.

The first night back, the Best Friend Squad were relegated to setting up their sleeping pads in the corner of a sideroom used for storage. No one commented on the way Catra had immediately placed her mattress barely a foot from Adora’s. Nor the way Catra, dare she say, mellowed out whenever Adora was around.

It was the little things.

If Adora was close enough, then Catra would subconsciously brush her tail against an arm or a leg. The thing seemed to have a mind of its own. Often, Perfuma would find Adora scrambling around the main area, busy making plans or searching for supplies. From across the room, Catra would track her movements with those heterochromic eyes of hers, casually leaning against Melog. The rest of her body would remain still, but her attention was laser-focused on Adora as though she may fade from existence at any moment.

Perfuma also quickly caught on that Melog reflected Catra’s mood, so it became much easier to read her. For example, Melog’s mane and tail would change from their rounded light blue to a spiked red if anyone other than Adora touched Catra unexpectedly. Catra herself would recoil as though burned, and that softer side would retreat within herself. There was obviously a lot of past trauma there, with which Perfuma would be happy to assist her. If Catra ever gave her the chance, that is.

Catra reminded her of a stinging nettle. It had a bad rap. Most people stayed away from its tiny, painful barbs, but any experienced herbalist knew the plant held many nutritional and medicinal qualities underneath. Perfuma wanted to give this new and improved Catra a chance. Take away the claws that could scratch your eyes out and the temper to match, and she wasn’t that awful. Perfuma hoped to make the world a more positive place, and the way to do so was one person at a time.

Then, they ventured into the Fright Zone… right into a trap. In between preventing She-Ra from hurling tanks and avoiding hurled tanks, Perfuma reached through to Scorpia, even if it was for an instant.

As soon as Glimmer teleported Perfuma and Adora back to base, the latter immediately ran over to Catra, whose fur was soaked and starting to smell. Adora frantically searched her for any serious harm.

All the while, Catra teased, “What? Is it because you like me or something?” But, her words lacked any real bite.

Perfuma even ventured to guess Catra enjoyed being Adora’s object of concern.

A sparkly whoosh indicated Glimmer’s return with Netossa… and Spinnerella! Going for the ankle must have worked then. Adora next went to check on them, leaving Catra looking a little happier than before. Again, Catra tracked Adora’s movements with rapt attention.

Oh… Oh. Oh!

Perfuma suddenly understood.

Netossa had called her weak for holding back against her friends. Now, as Perfuma saw Entrapta in the process of removing Spinnerella’s chip while her wife kept vigil, she had to disagree. It was her faith in her friends that had gotten them out of this mess, and she would stick by it.

Currently, Perfuma was sitting cross-legged in a light meditation as she centered herself after such an emotionally-draining battle. She was surprised when Catra approached her. Of course, she hid her nerves behind a snippy comment, but Perfuma appreciated the effort.

So, she was overjoyed when Catra actually gave her a compliment.

“Scorpia’s really lucky to have a friend like you.”

Perfuma smiled. She might as well share some advice to hopefully cause Catra to act on her now-obvious crush. Anyone who let love into their life was bound to become more positive. She stood and placed her hands on the magicat’s shoulders, and to Catra’s credit, she only looked at her with cautious confusion.

“It’s hard keeping your heart open. It makes you vulnerable, but it doesn’t make you weak,” said Perfuma. Her gaze took on a knowing look. “And, I have to believe it’s worth it.”

With those last words, Perfuma pointedly shifted her gaze to Adora across the room. Catra turned to watch her slowly pacing the floor, hands planted on her hips in thought. From this angle, Perfuma could only see Catra's profile, but she didn’t miss the inkling of hope appear in her yellow eye. It was endearingly sweet.

Perfuma let out a giggle and wrapped Catra in one of her signature hugs before stepping back.

Onto serious business, Perfuma added, “If you want, we can work through some guided meditation to begin to unblock your abandonment issues and your negativity.”

Catra’s expression alone said she’d rather fight sewer water again.

“Nuh uh, one thing at a time. Okay?”

Maybe, one day. Perfuma giggled to herself, Stinging nettle, indeed.

 

5.
Shadow Weaver was not a good person.

Contrary to popular belief, she was well aware of this fact. She had joined the Horde after the botched Spell of Obtainment in a petty attempt to get revenge. It didn’t hurt that she had a runestone to draw from. She obeyed Hordak’s commands for decades, sustaining herself on the Black Garnet’s magic and keeping unruly cadets in line.

Now, the game has changed.

For all the atrocities she had committed over the years, Shadow Weaver still wanted Etheria’s magic to survive. Even the most amateur of sorcerers could sense the raw power pulsating throughout the planet. Which she later learned was actually the Heart.

That was how Shadow Weaver found herself in her current situation: leading what was left of the rebellion into Mystacor in the hopes of obtaining the failsafe.

She was willing to put aside past grudges in such a crisis. She already put up with Micah, who thought it was a good decision to abandon Bright Moon. She already suffered through Castaspella’s shrill complaints and Mermista’s groaning. She could handle this.

But, Catra was getting on her last nerve.

Shadow Weaver’s disdain for the girl was evident. Ever since she was a child, Catra was disrespectful, disinterested, and disobedient. Everything Shadow Weaver did not want to deal with. If it weren’t for Adora latching onto her from such a young age, then she would have disposed of the beast long ago.

Shadow Weaver was definitely not expecting to see Catra sitting around the fire with the other princesses. Apparently, she was turning over a new leaf, and while everyone else seemed wary, Adora – and, surprisingly, Glimmer and Bow – defended Catra’s right to be there. Shadow Weaver was not amused. She thought it was unwise to let someone so volatile into their midst. She was right.

Catra just had blow their cover, and now, it was only a matter of time before Micah and the other chipped sorcerors became aware of their presence.

If it were up to Shadow Weaver, she would have left Catra behind, but Adora insisted. And, she had to admit the alien’s invisibility made things easier. At least, until Catra messed it up. Once again, Adora stood up for her.

Shadow Weaver wasn’t blind. She knew Catra has been enamoured with the blonde since they were ten. Despite all her efforts, they only grew closer with time. What started as a silly childhood crush turned into an obsessive infatuation, which seemed to fester after Adora defected. Then, Shadow Weaver herself defected. No use in sticking near her magic source if she was dead.

Last she heard, Catra had moved up in the world and was the one pulling Hordak’s strings. It almost impressed her. Almost. Without Shadow Weaver around, there was no one to curb the girl’s ambition. She kept taking and taking and taking, and that included Adora. Shadow Weaver could see the emotional turmoil Adora was in. She could sense the magic of She-Ra fluctuating. And, Catra was the cause of it. Shadow Weaver pondered the best way to approach this problem, as she led the group farther into the depths of Mystacor’s secret passageways.

Adora, who could harness a being of unimaginable power, was not the most aware of her surroundings. Even with Shadow Weaver’s warning, she triggered the booby trap, and flames engulfed her. After the initial shock, Shadow Weaver sensed they were but an illusion. The others did not.

“Adora!” Catra didn’t hesitate to leap into the blaze.

A moment later, they tumbled out, Catra landing atop Adora, who was quick to reassure her. That soon devolved into teasing that Shadow Weaver has not witnessed since the two were young cadets.

That didn’t bode well.

Shadow Weaver knew She-Ra was the only one powerful enough to receive the failsafe and hope to survive absorbing the Heart’s magic. There was zero room for mistakes. Catra’s… attraction, Shadow Weaver grimaced, to Adora could prove to be an inconvenience. She stayed back and stopped Adora in her tracks.

“Catra, she…” Shadow Weaver tried to put it delicately, placing a hand on Adora’s cheek like she used to do when she was a child, “distracts you, confuses you. Haven’t you hurt each other enough?”

Adora’s eyes widened with the sting of memories past.

Shadow Weaver continued, “If you care about her, focus on protecting her. The world needs you as She-Ra right now, not Adora. And, if She-Ra can’t stop Prime, then we are all doomed.”

Adora wrenched herself away. She straightened her posture and said, “I will stop Prime. No matter what.”

Shadow Weaver neglected to tell Adora about an eavesdropping Catra down the hall.

After some minor setbacks, Adora accepted the failsafe, and Catra ran like the heartbroken fool she was. Shadow Weaver thought everything would turn out fine.

Instead, she got Adora’s brutal pushback: “I will never forgive you. You ruin people. You ruin any chance they could ever be happy. Haven’t you done enough?”

“I did what I had to do.”

Why didn’t anyone see that? She needed to push Adora to reach her full potential if any of them hoped to win this war.

“Keep telling yourself that,” Adora scoffed before storming off.

Shadow Weaver initially believed everything would still work out as it was. Adora didn’t need to forgive her, didn’t need to like her. She just needed to focus on the mission at hand, and Catra needed to stay away.

But, then Catra and her alien pet returned and decided to grow a spine at the worst moment. She grabbed Shadow Weaver by the collar of her robes and demanded she transport them to Adora with tears in her eyes. Shadow Weaver paused and, for the first time, actually looked at this girl who has been a thorn in her side for so long. Catra’s hands were trembling with raw emotion. Despite her pleading words, her gaze held a steely determination.

Maybe, there was validity in the saying “distance makes the heart grow fonder.”

Adora did need to be warned about Horde Prime’s latest plan. Reluctantly, Shadow Weaver withdrew her last vial of crystal dust and brought them to Glimmer and Bow, deep in a First Ones’ ruin. A hollow ringing resounded throughout her body from expelling so much magic. Shadow Weaver gasped for breath, as she heard how Catra insisted on resuming Glimmer and Bow’s search. Her voice trembled with worry at the very thought of losing Adora, bringing up childhood promises steeped in regret that could only come from years of fighting your best friend turned arch-nemesis.

Then, Catra threw herself at that monster of a security system. Then, Adora weakly pushed Shadow Weaver away and stumbled back the way they came. Then, Shadow Weaver realized the bond between them had been reforged stronger than ever.

She could feel the immense pull of the Heart’s magic at the end of the corridor. She could practically taste it. It was almost in her grasp. The only problem was she needed Adora to get it. And, Adora wasn’t going to do so until Catra was safe.

Shadow Weaver sighed to herself. Maybe, this was the Universe’s sick joke. She was so close to achieving everything she ever wanted, and these children who were salient to her plans refused to cooperate. First, Micah and now, Adora and Catra. Even if Adora kept her from the Heart, no one would win if Horde Prime got there first. That was for sure. She would rather see the magic set free than let it fall into his hands. Shadow Weaver knew what she had to do.

She turned and ran, easily surpassing Adora, who was turning paler by the second. At the end of the hall, Catra was hanging upside down about to be swallowed whole. Shadow Weaver fired a blast right into the monster’s gaping jaw. Catra dropped. The foolish girl tried to stay and help. Shadow Weaver threw up a barrier to seal them off. Just as she told Adora, she had to do what was necessary. Shadow Weaver knew Catra would see Adora through to the end. After all, she loved her.

She said the words that would keep Catra away. The words she always wanted to hear.

“It’s too late for me. But, you? This is only the beginning for you. I’m so proud of you Catra.”

Shadow Weaver felt what remained of her power swell inside her. She would have to make this last one count. At this point, Adora had limped her way to Catra’s side. Where she has always been drawn to.

Warding the monster off with one hand, she reached up with the other to remove her mask. Unobstructed, she got one last good look at the girls, the young women, she raised. Who, against all odds, found their way back to each other.

“You’re welcome.”

The magic within her burst into a raging inferno. And, Shadow Weaver knew no more.

 

1.
Everything hurt.

There was a time back in the Horde when the cadets were learning how to drive a skiff. Adora had been paired with Rogelio since Catra decided to ditch. At thirteen, Rogelio was all lanky limbs and had the grace of Octavia after one too many contraband drinks. While driving at full speed, his tail had whipped around and knocked Adora off the side. She fell right in the path of Lonnie and Kyle’s skiff. They jumped off instead of, y’know, braking, and Adora barely managed to dive out of the way before their skiff crashed into the side of a building and exploded. Adora had awakened in the infirmary with Catra staring down at her.

“Only you could manage to blow yourself up on the first day,” her best friend had teased.

“At least, I was there for the first day,” Adora had shot back.

Her concussion had made her see double, and her body had ached for days. That felt like a stroll through the Whispering Woods compared to this.

Horde Prime’s virus mixed with the First Ones’ security system was spreading liquid fire through her veins. Adora could barely move without making it ten times worse. She felt a sharp pain in her chest, right under the failsafe that flickered white and green. Through it all, she could somehow hear her heartbeat thundering in her head. A heartbeat that was slowing.

Adora was dying.

Vaguely, she registered the warmth of Catra’s arms cradling her in her lap. The Heart erratically crackled with energy above them.

Her brave, stubborn Catra.

When Catra left her on that forest floor in tears, hugging her backpack as though it were Catra herself, Adora felt a piece of her soul rip away. They were just beginning to fall back into that comfortable place they had growing up. Adora hadn’t felt that light in years. She blamed herself for allowing Shadow Weaver to drive them apart. Again. But, it was okay now because Catra came back.

Catra ordered her to stay awake, but her limbs were so heavy. The pain in her chest started fading into a dull pressure. Was she getting numb? That couldn’t be good.

“I’m sorry,” she shakily breathed.

Despite the razor-sharp claws, Catra’s hand was gentle on her cheek. Adora used what was left of her strength to raise her own hand to cover the one that once scratched and gouged at her but was now featherlight.

Shadows appeared on the edges of her vision, but she could make out Catra’s blue and yellow eyes swimming with concern and barely restrained tears. Her ears, even more prominent against her short haircut, were pressed flat against her head in fear. Her tail curled and uncurled nervously. Adora thought she looked beautiful.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad way to go.

Adora’s eyes fell shut, deaf to the other girl’s pleas. She saw her life flash before her eyes. She saw a flash of what could have been. She saw Horde Prime banishing her to the darkness. She saw what was left of her consciousness dissolving into the nether.

She saw...

Nothing.

.
.
.

“Adora, please! You have to wake up!”

.
.
.

Catra.

.
.
.

She saw Catra.

Haloed in a bright light above her, Catra was leaning through a doorway, one arm stretched toward her.

“You can’t give up!” she shouted, “You have never given up on anything in your life. Not even on me. So, don’t you dare start now!”

Adora reached out but couldn’t quite touch her.

Resigned to her fate, she said, “It’s too late. I’ve failed.”

Catra frantically replied, “No! No! I’ve got you. I’m not letting go.”

Somewhere in the back of her mind, Adora laughed. Letting go? Catra wasn’t holding her yet. Their hands barely out of reach. Maybe, it was in a metaphorical sense, but what did Adora know? She was on the brink of death and hallucinating her best friend.

Then, with total conviction and desperation, Catra bared her soul: “Don’t you get it? I love you. I always have. So please, just this once, stay! Stay!”

Suddenly, Adora couldn’t breathe for a whole other reason.

Catra loved her.

Love.

You’re worth more than what you can give to other people. You deserve love, too.

Mara’s words echoed in her mind. Adora had been groomed to take the lead, to throw everything she had into the mission at hand. She had pushed aside her own desires because that wasn’t what the world needed from her.

Whether it had been the temple projecting Adora’s subconscious or an actual remnant of Mara, those words had been a punch to the gut. Tears had gathered in the corners of her eyes, and she could finally release a breath that she had held for the past nineteen years.

It wasn’t wrong to want. It wasn’t wrong to be wanted.

Catra wanted her.

And, Adora wanted Catra.

With a frustrated yell, Adora stretched her arm farther and farther and farther. The distance between their hands closed. She linked their fingers together. They fit perfectly. A surge of renewed strength pulled her through the doorway.

Adora returned to the physical world, sensing the Heart’s magic violently striking the entire chamber. Instinctively, she summoned a shield to protect Catra hovering over her.

Adora opened her eyes and stared into Catra’s, shining with disbelief. For a couple seconds, she struggled to catch her breath. (She just came back to life, okay!)

She had to make sure she heard correctly. “You love me?”

Catra’s face broke out into a relieved smile, and a pretty blush rose to her cheeks. “You’re such an idiot.” It lacked any heat.

Adora could imagine how she looked right now, pale and sweaty with green veins all over her face. Catra was looking at her like she was the most precious thing in the Universe. Adora smiled, hoping it expressed all she was feeling in that moment. Caught off guard, Catra’s lackluster teasing expression gave way to open curiosity.

“I love you, too,” Adora spoke with all the joy and sureness that this was the woman she wanted to spend forever with.

Her best friend since they could walk. Her something more. They’ve been through thick and thin, and yet, here they were. A war, a galactic dictator, death itself couldn’t keep them apart. She guessed they were just too stubborn.

Adora watched as Catra processed the information. It didn’t take long. Catra’s lips turned up into a tender smile. No snark, no bite but pure love. Once again, Adora felt a soft touch on her cheek. Catra closed her eyes. She was leaning in.

Oh.

Adora let her eyes shut too, as she felt Catra’s lips on hers. In Adora’s very humble opinion, it was the best kiss of all time.

 

Bonus:
Catra awakened to blonde strands tickling her nose and the first light of morning in her eyes. It took all her willpower not to sneeze.

Achoo!

She failed.

Adora startled awake with a snort, jostling Catra who was lying on her chest. And, was that drool? Savior of the Universe, everyone.

“Did you just sneeze on me?” Adora blearily asked, while rubbing the sleep from her eyes.

Catra poked her forehead. “Hey, your hair made me do it. It’s definitely getting longer.”

Adora had been starting to wear it down more often now that there were no more battles to fight, but that also meant her hair was usually a rat’s nest by the end of the day… and by the end of the night. Ever since that the Best Friend Squad (Catra still cringed every time someone said it out loud) returned from their bring-magic-back-to-the-Universe mission, she and Adora were making the most of their time… doing nothing.

It took one year to rebuild Etheria and integrate the remaining Hordak clones into society (and Catra embarked on her own personal Princess Apology Tour with the help of Perfuma’s meditation sessions). It took almost two years to traverse the stars and establish a proper galactic council to distribute the Heart’s magic to desolate planets. Now, three years after declaring her love for her childhood best friend, Catra found herself lounging peacefully with her beloved girlfriend in their ridiculously large Bright Moon bedroom. Who knew this was how her life would turn out?

A content hum drew her attention back to said beloved girlfriend.

“Look who’s talking,” Adora countered and brought a hand to brush Catra’s bangs out of her face.

Adora wasn’t the only one who decided to grow out her hair. Catra had maintained her short haircut for some time because, while the circumstances under which she received it were less than favorable, she had to admit she looked hot. (And, it had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Adora found it hot, too.) Recently, Catra’s hair had grown to a length where she could wear it in a bushy ponytail. Sparkles would tease them and say they swapped hairstyles.

Adora’s hand moved slightly lower and scratched behind her ear. Catra leaned into the touch, and a low rumbling emanated from her chest. She resettled on Adora’s, listening to her steady heartbeat. She could stay here all day.

Catra was on the verges of sleep when a robotic mew rang through the air. Melog hopped onto the bed and nuzzled the underside of Adora’s chin. Catra’s constant companion, Melog slept in their own cat bed on the floor, but they tended to move to the foot of her and Adora’s during the night.

“Attention hog,” Catra grumbled.

But, any minor frustration disappeared with Adora’s laugh. She affectionately petted their head.

“Good morning, Melog.”

“You didn’t say good morning to me.”

“Melog didn’t wake me up with spit.”

Catra used her arms to prop herself up, so she could look Adora in her grey-blue eyes. She feigned offense.

“I did not wake you up with spit!”

Adora raised an eyebrow in challenge. Catra matched her. Melog lost interest and went to curl up in the corner of the room.

Catra smirked, “Besides, even if I had, you do realize my tongue has literally been inside your mouth, right? This isn’t very new for you.”

“Catra!” Adora’s voice went up an octave, and her face turned the color of Scorpia’s pincers.

Wow, the gall. Catra couldn’t believe she was playing the blushing virgin right now, especially considering that trick Adora did the other night with her–

“Hey,” Adora interrupted the very pleasant memory. “I know that look. My eyes are up here.”

She had a cute, little pout that Catra couldn’t resist.

“Hmm, yes, they are,” Catra said before leaning down to brush her lips against both eyelids.

Adora let out a happy noise and wrapped her arms around Catra’s waist. Catra trailed kisses across her cheeks, down her neck, leaving little nips across her clavicle, up the other side of her neck, and, finally, sealed their lips together in a soft, but passionate, kiss.

It never got old. Adora’s kisses always left her lightheaded and gave her a floaty feeling inside.

A hand rose to grip Catra’s hair, pulling her closer. The kiss deepened. Catra’s hands traced down her girlfriend’s muscular frame. She was just hooking Adora’s leg around her waist when a loud knock thundered through the room.

“Catradora! I know you’re awake! You better be outside in ten minutes! We have a lot of preparations to get done today,” Bow shouted.

He didn’t dare walk in. Not after Glimmer learned the hard way not to spontaneously teleport into a room inhabited by a newly-formed couple full of energy that stemmed from years of pining and repressed emotions.

Catra mentally rolled her eyes at the term of address. Netossa had jokingly made a couple name for them, and, by the end of the day, the whole Princess Alliance was referring to them as “Catradora,” much to her chagrin. It never went away. Adora found it cute, though, so Catra let it slide.

Adora reluctantly broke the kiss, breathing heavily, pupils wide. Catra swooped down to reconnect their lips, but Adora turned her head.

“You know he’s right,” she sighed.

It was Catra’s turn to pout. “We don’t need to be there all day.”

You don’t, but She-Ra does. They need me for the heavy lifting and opening ceremony. Don’t pretend you won’t be there to ogle at my muscles.”

Touché.

Bright Moon was hosting a week-long festival to mark the third anniversary of the end of the war. All hands on deck.

Catra relented with a cheeky grin, “Fine. But, this is not because I like you.”

Adora chuckled at their old joke and gently extracted herself from underneath Catra with a quick peck. She missed her warmth immediately.

“Yup! It’s because you love me,” Adora sing-songed cheerfully.

Catra watched her girlfriend walk around their room, preparing for the long day ahead of them. Her hair was a knotted mess, and her clothes were rumpled, but she held herself with a confident levity that took years of hard, emotionally-draining labor. Her shoulders no longer bore the weight of the Universe. Catra, too, had painstakingly untangled the traumas of her messy past. It was rare for either of them to have nightmares anymore.

Together, they had worked through their scars – visible and invisible – with complete honesty. Sometimes these discussions had ended in tears, sometimes in yelling, sometimes in laughter, sometimes in more tears. Through it all, they had the support of their friends, their found family.

Catra’s mind wandered to the ring resting at the bottom of her suit jacket pocket, ready for tonight’s celebration. She planned everything down to the last detail. There was a balcony just outside the main ballroom decorated with delicate white roses (thank you, Perfuma). It looked out over the lake, shimmering with the reflection of the Moonstone.

After a night of dancing and festivities, Catra would lead Adora there under the light of the full moon. She would give a speech she had spent the past month perfecting. Adora would probably cry. She would convey how much Adora meant to her, only restrained by the limitations of language itself. She would get down on one knee and… well, that remained to be determined.

Catra smiled at the love of her life currently losing to a hairbrush.

“Yeah, yeah, I do.”