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Better Angels Of Our Nature

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Catra wandered the camp in a daze, watching in amazement as the rebels packed up to return to Brightmoon. The overwhelming cheer, enough to drive her mad not long ago, put a reluctant smile on her face. They’re crazy, she thought, her own presence the irrefutable proof of her position. She and Adora had split up for the first time since the end, She-Ra helping with the heaviest furnishings while Catra sorted through Entrapta’s most delicate gear. Trusting me not to break stuff. They’re all crazy! In defiance of her objections, Catra placed Entrapta’s equipment in storage with precision and care.

“Glimmer, I don’t think this is a good idea,” King Micah said. Catra blinked and looked up.

“Don’t be silly, Dad!” Glimmer insisted, entering Entrapta’s tent and guiding her father in after by one hand. “Catra, this is my father, King Micah.” Micah’s eyes widened at the sight of her. Catra gulped and straightened, ears darting up. “Dad, this is Catra. She rescued me right out from under Horde Prime’s...” she giggled. “Well, hole where a nose should be.”

“Stars,” Micah breathed. “Those eyes...do you remember anything from before the Horde, Catra?”

Catra gulped. “No sir. Your, um, Majesty.”

Glimmer snickered behind one hand. “Are you seriously the Horde scum who almost won the war, like, five times?”

Seriously? Catra wonders, crushing old rage with strength to rival She-Ra’s. She needed that strength. “Didn’t think you’d miss her, Sparkles.”

Glimmer’s eyes widen, so much like her father’s, and her brain starts working again. “Don’t! I don’t. I just...you know, don’t mind you being smart and funny and cute. That’s all!”

The tension vanished, replaced by an almost enjoyable annoyance. “I. Am. Not. Cute!” Catra snapped, bristling.

Glimmer snickered. Again. “You should’ve seen yourself putting away Entrapta’s stuff. It was,” she put a fist on her chest and smirked, “ahem – Adora–ble.”

Catra’s ears went flat. “I hate you.”

“Magicat,” Micah blurted. Both women looked at him, eyes widening. “You’re a magicat.” Catra’s jaw dropped. “You didn’t know, did you? Shadow Weaver...”

I am not. Gonna cry. Catra swallowed, blinking back tears. “No. I...thank you, King Micah. She told me I could never learn magic.”

Micah scowled a fraction. “I’m sure she wanted you to believe that, but I’d wager my best grimoire that she only implied it.” Catra glanced away, trying to remember when Shadow Weaver had told her straight out. “No talent for sorcery”...“too foolish and lazy”...“you wouldn’t last a week in Mystacor”... He sighed, straightened, and forced a smile. “I can recommend you to Mystacor when you return, if you like.”

“Really? Thank you!” Catra gasped. Then she smiled without mirth. “Heh, one of the few places I haven’t messed up. Besides, I always wanted to prove her wrong.”

Micah nodded. “I’ll speak to Casta after you leave. Glimmer, I’ll let you talk to your – friend.” He slipped his hand from Glimmer’s hand and disappeared before the princess – no, queen, Catra remembered – could catch him.

“Wait. Dad!” Glimmer’s sigh was as explosive as ever. “I’m sorry about that,” she continued. “I really hoped he’d be okay with you. And, wow, magicat, huh?” Her smirk returned, though at a less absurd angle. “Melog picked the right partner.”

Catra nodded, mind wandering. “Hey, Sparkles, does he not like me for my general evil and horribleness, or did I do something specific?”

For a moment, Glimmer shook. Glimmer was shook. Before Catra could do anything about it though, the queen turned a sad look on her. “You...you don’t know, do you?”

Catra’s blood froze. Not princess. Queen. “No. No, I can’t have.” She quivered, ears pivoting back and lashing tail gone bushy. “No one died at the Battle of Brightmoon. I was careful.” Glimmer gasped at that. “She wasn’t anywhere near our fights after that.” The look Glimmer gave her then – it wasn’t fury, or hatred, or judgment, it was sorrow. “Even you couldn’t forgive me for – for – no...”

The world blurred through tears Catra couldn’t even slow. “When you opened the portal,” Glimmer explained, and Catra felt stabbed, “the sword powered it. Someone had to pull it out, but they had to stay behind. Adora was going to, but...Mom...”

Catra ran, cursing herself a coward with every step. “Catra!” Glimmer cried.

“You made your choice. Now live with it!” Adora’s condemnation hunted Catra, inescapable. Etheria became a blur of green, She-Ra’s triumph all around them. Somehow, that made it hurt more. The words echoed in her skull until she thought it would explode. I killed her, Catra finally realized, collapsing into a sobbing heap. Glimmer’s mom. I...I... She threw back her head and screamed, wishing she’d died a thousand fights ago.

Melog appeared at her side, nuzzling her cheek. “They should have killed me,” Catra whispered.

”Catra!” Adora cried, Swift Wind soaring overhead. Catra looked up to discover night had fallen, then glanced at Melog. I could disappear, she thought, curling around her companion. Just...go away, and they could forget about me– “Catra, come back! Just talk to me! Please!” Catra’s enhanced hearing picked up a single sob. “Please...”

With a sigh very near another sob, Catra stood, Melog glowing beside her. She-Ra leaped from Swift Wind, landing by Catra’s side, changing back and holding her tight. “Catra. Please. Stay,” Adora begged.

Catra might have been able to handle any other words. Those shattered her, and she wept into Adora’s shoulder. “How can they forgive me?” Catra asked between sobs. “How can you?”

“That’s who they are,” Adora explained. “Me...I love you.”

After a minute, they sat in the grass, still holding onto one another. Catra found the courage to look Adora in the eye. “Adora. Please. Tell me what happened.”

Adora swallowed. “Are...are you sure? You don’t have to...”

“Yes. I do,” Catra insisted, holding Adora’s hand. “I have to live with it.” Adora flinched.

Then Adora told her.

-SR- -SR- -SR-

Adora followed Catra into the camp, staring at her fiercely marching girlfriend in confusion. What happened? the blonde wondered. When I started explaining, Catra looked like she was going to her execution, but now – the only time I’ve ever seen her this determined was in the Heart.

Glimmer appeared beside them in an explosion of glitter. “Catra! Thank the Stars. Adora, is she okay?”

“No. I’m not,” Catra admitted. Adora and Glimmer shared a look of alarm. “But that’s okay. I don’t deserve to be.”

“Catra!” both princesses objected.

Bow ran up, panting. “What...the heck...is going...on?” he wheezed. “Your dad’s doing some kind of crazy tracking spell with seven circles. Aunt Casta can’t decide whether to stop him or take notes.”

“Tell him I’m back,” Catra said, running claws through her hair. “Where’s Entrapta?”

“Entrapta? She’s with Hordak, which is super-weird to say,” Bow explained.

Catra nodded. “Good. That’ll save me some time.” She marched towards Hordak’s tent, one of the few still standing. Melog followed.

Glimmer slapped her forehead. “Ugh. Adora, make her make sense!”

“Not a word, Adora,” Catra snapped, quickening her pace.

Huh? Adora stared after Catra. “How am I supposed to know what to say when I don’t have any idea what you’re doing?”

“Good,” Catra said, not slowing.

“It’s okay,” Bow said, almost jogging to catch up. “I think I know.”

That froze Catra solid. “Bow,” she whispered.

“I won’t say anything,” Bow agreed.

“Oh, come on!” Glimmer erupted, throwing her hands in the air.

“Glimmer.” Adora shuddered at Catra’s broken voice, a sound she’d hoped she would never hear again. “Please. Let me do this.”

Glimmer crossed her arms and glared. “Catra–”

Catra turned and fell to her knees. Adora’s eyes went wide enough to hurt. Glimmer gasped. “Please, Glimmer.” Catra looked shattered, ears and jaw quivering, eyes wavering, arms limp.

Glimmer sighed. “Fine. I’ll tell Dad to call off the Spell of Doom or whatever.” She vanished again.

Catra leaped to her feet and resumed her march on Hordak’s tent. If she hadn’t known Catra so well, Adora might have thought her begging an act. “Now will you tell me what’s going on?” Adora blurted.

“We’re almost there,” Catra said, indicating the tent with a wave. “I...don’t want to have to do this twice.

Adora sighed and relented. The trio reached Hordak’s tent without further drama. Hordak sighed while Entrapta cackled. Adora almost smiled. Catra knocked on the frame. “Entrapta? Can I come in?” Catra asked.

“Of course!” Entrapta exulted. They entered to find Hordak standing with his arms out, as if for a suit fitting, while Entrapta rebuilt his exoskeleton around him. “Shape-changing circuits need some work, but everything else seems to be operating efficiently. Your physiology appears restored, as well.” She rubbed her chin with one hair tendril. “I wonder if your exile was based on something other than scientific data.” Adora couldn’t say whether the scene was more sweet or creepy. About even, she decided.

“Politics, probably,” Catra offered. Hordak raised an eyebrow. “I’d bet you were too...‘person-y’ for him.” Bow snickered. Adora elbowed him. Hordak, for his part, merely nodded. “Hey, Entrapta, I...really need your help with something.”

“If it’s science, I’m in!” Entrapta gushed.

Hordak groaned. “Can we learn Catra’s intent first, Entrapta? Do not rush to trust her,” he objected.

Catra glared at him. “You are literally the one person on Etheria who doesn’t get to say that,” she snapped. Adora gulped. Entrapta’s smile vanished, and she made a nervous sound. Hordak snorted and looked away. Catra sighed. “First part’s fair, though. I want to rescue Queen Angella.”

Adora’s jaw dropped. “What?!” she blurted.

Bow grinned. “Called it!”

-SR- -SR- -SR-

Three days later, Bow wasn’t grinning. Entrapta and Hordak were both asleep, snuggled in the curls of her hair in a way that would have been terrifying – well, three days ago. Bow yawned. Adora snored in the corner of the tent. Most of the others had returned to Brightmoon, though they got regular visits.

Catra was working on her fifth magic circle of the evening, pretending she had slept the night before. Melog mewed at her side, earning an ear-scritch, but she kept working. “Is there any point in telling you to get some rest?” Bow asked.

“No,” Catra replied with all the emotion of a Horde clone. She turned to Shadow Weaver’s spell book, flipped a few pages, and began a sixth magic circle. The one she’d been working on hung in the air with two others, each glowing a different color (silver, lavender, and red). She frowned. “This has to be it. ‘The gap between dimensions.’ Still not sure how that works. Why can’t I find anything?” She shook her head, beads of sweat and tears darting from her fur. “It’s fine. Like Entrapta said, there’s no Mara safeguards and no Despondos sinkhole. I can do this.”

Bow groaned and shook his head. “Catra, you became a sorceress in, like, two days. Castaspella is freaking out, and Shadow Weaver didn’t freak her out.” Catra froze. Aargh! Bow shook his head. “Not like that! I mean, you’re picking up magic faster than King Micah, and he was the best student Mystacor ever had.”

“He was a kid,” Catra retorted, “I’m after one specific thing, and I have Melog.” She scratched Melog’s head, and the enormous cat purred. “She says thanks for the treats, by the way.”

“Aw. You’re welcome, Melog.” Bow crouched and gave Melog a head rub. The alien cat pushed into Bow’s hand, but returned her attention to Catra after a few moments. “Look, Catra, my point is, you’re doing amazing. Really, we should have thought of this weeks ago.”

Catra huffed and ran claws through her growing mane. “You were a little busy, dealing with a psycho magicat, then, y’know, saving the universe. Plus, it wasn’t safe before.” She turned her attention back to the book, blinking. Catra rubbed her eyes. “We couldn’t really do anything until now.” She yawned, Melog following suit.

Bow sighed again. “Catra, either Queen Angella is still alive, and you resting won’t hurt anything, or...or she’s not, and it still won’t hurt anything.”

Catra whirled on him. Bow gasped at the bags under her eyes, the droop of her ears, the matting of her fur. “You don’t know that!” she wailed, trembling. All three sleepers stirred. Catra clamped her hands over her mouth for a moment, then exhaled in relief when they remained asleep. “Maybe she dehydrates slowly, or her air supply could be running out, or the dimension gap drains magic, or – or something.” She grabbed Bow’s arms, all pretense of control vanishing as she wobbled in front of him. “I have to save her, Bow!”

Bow hugged her. Catra held onto him, shaking and sniffling back tears. She’s not even complaining. This is bad. He pulled back and looked her in the eyes. “Catra, listen to me. If Angella is still alive, we’ll rescue her. But you need to rest. Please.” He turned her to look at Adora, who whimpered in her sleep and reached for something that wasn’t there. For someone. “If you won’t do it for me, do it for Adora.”

“Cheater,” Catra muttered. Bow gently nudged the magicat towards Adora, and when she stumbled, unable to resist, Catra relented and let Bow guide her to the mat. When the still-sleeping Adora threw an arm around Catra and welded them together, both stopped shaking. Catra smirked in spite of herself. “Means you’re...doing it right.”

Bow watched with a smile as Catra’s eyes fell closed. He thought about her fierce desperation as she mewed with gentle peace in Adora’s arms. I can’t believe this is the same woman who fought so hard to beat us. His smile grew as he headed towards his cot. I guess that’s because...she isn’t really, any more.

-SR- -SR- -SR-

Eight days after the Battle of Etheria, Hordak watched as Entrapta pieced the final sections of the mini-portal together, Catra using her newfound telekinesis both to assist with construction and empower the device. I should hate Catra, as she should me, Hordak mused. Perhaps Entrapta is correct. There may be a place for me here after all – particularly if this project is successful. Still, a question nagged at him. “Why have we not enlisted King Micah or Queen Glimmer in this endeavor? They are both powerful sorcerers, and have a vested interest in our success.”

Catra pointed at the modified portal device with a glowing hand. “I don’t want to give them hope then take it away, Right Hordak,” she explained. Entrapta giggled at the ‘nickname,’ so Hordak tolerated it. “I’ve done enough to them.”

“Besides, Castaspella’s checking our sorcery work, and she’s the queen of Mystacor,” Bow added, the boy’s odd enthusiasm eliciting faint smiles from the others.

“Seriously, you just thought of that question now?” Adora asked, grinning at him. “Even I asked about it, like, a week ago.”

Catra mumbled something about Adora “quipping at” Hordak before she did, then returned her focus to the portal device. Hm. No matter how I – care for – Entrapta, it would likely be wise to find an expert in Etherian culture. His eyes pivoted to Bow. Later. He turned his attention back to his readings. “Resonance match at 87%. I recommend a minimum safe match of 98%.”

“How close do we need to be to open the gateway?” Catra asked. Adora’s hands both formed fists.

”93%, but I agree with Hordak,” Entrapta insisted. “It’s too unstable to risk a jump in that range.”

“How about a scanner?” Catra continued, tail lashing. “Bow could fire one in on an arrow.”

“Huh. That might work,” Bow agreed, “and there’s no danger to anyone."

“Then let’s do it.” Gritting her teeth, Catra carved another magic circle in the air, Melog glowing as she did. The dimensional resonance jumped to 94% in three seconds. Hm. Impressive. The magicat shuddered and staggered in place.

“Catra!” Adora objected, rushing to hold her. “You’ve got to be more careful!”

Catra, oddly, snickered. “Look who’s talking.” Adora scowled.

Glimmer and Micah appeared in a burst of absurd sparkles. “Wait!” Glimmer blurted.

“Aah!” Catra, Bow, and Entrapta gasped as one. Bow rushed to lean on the portal device at an odd angle, while Entrapta tried to cover it with her hair. Hordak and Adora facepalmed in nearly-perfect synch. “Gli-Sparkles!” Catra babbled. “Just helping Entrapta with one of her experiments.” Her laugh was weak.

Micah half-smiled. “Catra, we’ve known what you’re planning for two days. Casta’s the best teacher Mystacor’s ever had, but she can’t keep a secret to save her life.”

“And Dad’s great with magic theory,” Glimmer added. “This is sweet, really, but we’ll be okay.”

Bow lowered his head. “It...wasn’t just her idea, Glimmer. I was worried too.”

“We’re losing resonance,” Hordak pointed out. “If we’re going to send a probe, we must do it now.”

“Activating portal!” Entrapta cheered, throwing the switch. The yawning void opened, naught save floating stone visible beyond.

Bow prepared an arrow while Catra shuffled to Glimmer’s side, appearing uncertain. “Glimmer? You...never answered, about...why don’t you hate me?”

Glimmer sighed, shrinking a centimeter. “I did for a while. It turned me into the jerk who blew off her friends and almost destroyed the world.” Her smile at Catra was...shy? “Then, y’know, you sacrificed yourself to rescue me. And got us home, helped us free Erelandia, and saved Adora. You’re a good friend when you give yourself a chance.” Her smile broadened. “Horde scum.”

Catra chuckled sadly as Bow fired. “Y’know, I have a nickname.”

“Huh? Oh, right, ‘Wildcat!’ It is kinda perfect for you,” Glimmer noted.

Catra swallowed. “You’re...not such a bad friend yourself, you know.”

“We have data!” Entrapta cheered. They all rushed to the wondrous scientist’s side. Hordak and Adora nearly bumped into each other, and the former conqueror realized she’d been listening to Catra as well. She blushed and looked away. “Hordak, is that a magic reading?”

Cursing himself for permitting social interaction to distract him, Hordak returned to his screen. “Yes, Entrapta. More than that – it is optical energy.”

“Light?” Micah breathed, wide eyes tinged with tears.

Catra and Glimmer hugged. “She’s alive!” they cheered as one.

“Yes, but I am detecting an increase in void fluctuation,” Hordak reported. A reaction to reality’s presence, he realized. “The subject is weakening.”

“What?” Adora gasped, rushing to the portal.

“Contact appears to have caused pattern degradation,” Hordak explained.

“Will closing the portal help?” Catra asked, already climbing into her spacesuit. Entrapta clasped hands of flesh and hair.

Hordak glowered at the screen. “Unknown.”

“Then we’re out of time,” Catra said. “Micah, Glimmer, keep that gate open, whatever it takes. Adora, anchor me.”

“No! No, you’re not going without me!” Adora cried.

“Weren’t you paying attention? The gap is eating magic now! It’s like anti-She-Ra in there! Everyone else here is magic, it has to be me!” Catra retorted. Melog whined

“And me,” Bow added, already halfway into his suit. “I’ll go too.” Catra bristled. “You’re already a sorceress, Catra. You should have backup.” She sighed, putting on her helmet in lieu of argument.

Hordak looked at Entrapta. “Sorry,” she said. “The First Ones tech in your exoskeleton is powered by magic. You shouldn’t go either.”

Adora trembled. “Promise me you’ll be careful,” she pleaded, taking Catra’s hand.

Catra’s face moved through multiple expressions before settling on something Hordak could only describe as “gentle.” She cupped Adora’s cheek in one hand. “I promise.” She turned to Bow. “Let’s do this.”

Bow nodded as Entrapta typed with her hands and attached cables to their belts with her hair. Adora transformed into She-Ra and grabbed both cables. Then the pair leaped into the void.

-SR- -SR- -SR-

Catra shivered in the empty world, leaping from stone to stone with Bow at her side. Melog pulled most of her newfound magic out from her, but even with her meager new ability, she felt the place pulling life from her bones. “Hey, Catra, you okay?” Bow asked, putting a hand on her shoulder when she paused on a table-sized rock.

She grinned at him. “Yeah. Doing great. Just don’t call me cute.”

Bow frowned. “Catra, you were panting. The only person I’ve ever known with more stamina than you is Adora.” Her tail puffed out for a moment. Bow flinched. “Sorry, but you get my point, right? This place is hurting you.”

“It’s hurting Glimmer’s mom worse. I hated Shadow Weaver – I had the right to hate Shadow Weaver – and losing her still tore me apart,” Catra explained. “We are not losing Angella now, not when we’re so close!” Gritting her teeth, she leaped to a large platform above them. She froze and stared.

One of the few stories from Catra’s childhood that didn’t involve Adora revolved around Catra and Rogelio finding a butterfly in a spider web. Catra bragged to Ro that she’d watch the spider eat the butterfly, but as soon as he turned his back, horrified, she’d tried to free it.

Catra had been seven. She’d accidentally killed not only the butterfly, but the spider as well.

The moment she reached the platform, Catra saw Angella in a great storm ring, splayed out like the butterfly, caught in gray tendrils. The queen looked up, eyes shaking in terror. The tendrils – Be honest, Catra, it’s webbing, she told herself – sealed Angella’s mouth shut, leaving her to shake her head and beg through whimpers. “I’m with the Alliance now!” Catra cried, pointing to Bow. “We’re here to bring you home!” She leaped again, just one stone away from the queen.

The corrupted half of Catra’s head peered out from the cloud funnel, one hand clawing towards the real thing. “hEeEy, cAaAtRa,” the thing said. Catra’s fur stood on end, suit or no suit, when two voices echoed in the distortion.

Bow turned to fire, but hesitated at the sight of Catra’s former self. “Catra? Was that other voice what I think it was?” he gasped, arrow wavering.

Then the rest of the torso emerged, and Catra recoiled. A Horde Prime made of toxic green fire was wearing the shell of her corruption, with two left arms grasping the edge of Angella’s prison. “CaSt oUT tHe shAdOWs,” it mocked. “AlL beiNGs must SUFFer tO beCOMe PURE.” The rest of it rounded the stormcloud...with eight legs. Its lower half was that of an enormous spider.

Catra never blamed herself for screaming. The sight of Angella weeping and using one finger to point toward their gateway stiffened Catra’s spine. “Catra!” Bow called, firing a goop arrow at Spider-Prime. The glue burned away instantly. “What do we do?”

“You free Angella!” Catra ordered, crouching and punching her claws through her suit.

“What are you going to do?” Bow asked, staring.

“The one thing I’m good at,” Catra explained. Then she leaped at Spider-Prime, screaming and raking her old self – along with as much webbing as she could get her claws through.

“LITtLE SiSTEr,” Spider-Prime called, its voice becoming more like his, “WHy dO YoU STRUGgLE? YOU CANnOT WiN WIThOUT ShE-RA.”

“Will you shut up?!” Catra howled, slashing wildly at the monster. A blow from one of its legs sent her sprawling into the web, where Bow was using a – buzzsaw arrow? – to cut Angella loose. “Bow! Rescue faster!” Spider-Prime skittered towards her, its legs leaving burn marks in its wake.

“I’m trying!” Bow objected.

“Catra! Resonance at 93.7% and dropping!” Entrapta warned. Great. As if this fight wasn’t enough of a mess. Catra pulled herself up on the webbing, getting a fraction more stuck. Angella shook her head again, crying. She’s thin. Pale. We have to finish this fast. Spider-Prime laughed and jabbed at her with one burning leg.

Catra smirked. Finally. She thrust out a perfect claw-hand strike into the hip joint, severing the leg. Spider-Prime screamed and recoiled, the leg falling into the web and burning it away. “Melog, less magic! Bow, grab the queen!”

She forced herself not to choke up when both partners obeyed without question. “Okay, now what?” Bow asked.

Catra braced herself, then stabbed her claws into the leg again. Had worse, she insisted, pushing aside Shadow Weaver memories and the burning pain, then sliced Angella the rest of the way free.

Angella immediately ripped off the webbing on her mouth, wincing for a moment. “Leave me and go! That’s an order!”

Catra smirked at her. “Uh, you do know who I am, right?” she asked. “Bow, move!”

Bow fired a grapple arrow several rocks away and headed down towards the portal, one arm around Angella’s waist. “Catriska!” Angella cried.

Catra froze. “Who was she, mama?” Catriska asked, squirming in her mother’s arms as she looked up at the statue. The heroine had eyes like hers...

”Resonance at 93.5%,” Hordak reported.

Catra shook her head, driving off the alien memory. “I’m Catra! I’m the worst enemy the Alliance ever had! Now GO!” She turned to face Spider-Prime. It wasn’t smiling any longer, the dark-Catra parts burning away in Prime’s monstrous light.

“You’re Catriska of Halfmoon, the daughter of my husband’s dearest friend!” Angella insisted. Catra barely dodged another leg stabbing at her, grateful beyond measure that the way back was down. “And if I weren’t a coward, you wouldn’t have belonged to Shadow Weaver!”

For a moment, Angella’s confession tore up half-healed wounds, the old Catra threatening to leak out. No, Catra told herself. “Coward? When every other princess ran away, you were the Rebellion, alone, for twelve years!” She leaped back again. “Adora! Get Bow and the queen out of here!”

Catra’s retort stunned Angella so completely that Adora was able to pull them free before the queen could object again. The magicat indulged in a genuine smile. We did it. Maybe now I can face them– Spider-Prime slashed at her with two more legs, then lashed out with gray webbing. –but I kinda have to survive first! “Adora! Three meters – PULL!”

Her obsessive, determined love pulled Catra back within a centimeter of exact, yanking her away in time. Spider-Prime roared. “LITTLE SiSTER,” it snapped, her voice almost gone from the monster. “YOU WiLL NEVER BE FREE oF YOUR SiNS.”

“Catra, we’re at 93.2% – you’ve gotta get out!” Entrapta pleaded.

Catra remembered breaking. She could still feel the instant, in the Crimson Waste, when Adora told her about Shadow Weaver, and she thought she’d learned how stupid kindness was. I was wasting it on the wrong person, she realized. No one moment could heal a lifetime of abuse and cruelty, but this – it felt like the exact opposite of that moment, like something precious had snapped back into place, something good, something Catra, a part of her that was right even without Adora. “Four meters!” Catra shouted, and Adora pulled again. Once more, she evaded Spider-Prime by a whisker. “You’re right,” she admitted.

Spider-Prime froze, staring with too many eyes. “I’ll always have sent Angella here, always left Adora in that pit, always conquered Salineas. But I’ll always have done this, too.” She hopped back, falling under a swing from its burning, stolen claws. Catra smirked. “I’ll always have rescued Glimmer from you. I’ll always have made friends with Melog.” Spider-Prime roared again.

Her smirk melted into a gentle smile. “And I’ll always have told Adora that I love her. That’s what beat you, you know. Not a weapon, not an army, and definitely not sorcery. Love.” She reached into a pouch and held out her hand. Spider-Prime stared at the stick-figure drawing of Scorpia, Entrapta, and Catra holding hands. “You can change too, you know. Just go into this. We can find you a body if you stop trying to conquer the universe. No matter how deep this hole might be,” she said, waving at the nothing around them, “there’s always a way out. All you have to do is take the right hand.”

Catra’s smile died as Prime laughed, the last of her old self burning away. “‘THOUGH ALL IS REDUCED TO RUBBLE, PRIME SHALL RISE AGAIN.’ TELL SHE-RA THAT.”

Catra shook her head “Sorry. I don’t offer as many chances as Adora. NOW!”

Prime screamed as She-Ra pulled Catra from the void just as the gateway began to close. Catra’s smirk returned. “You miscalculated,” she said, watching Prime scramble impotently in the emptiness as the opening vanished.

The desperate hugs that consumed the magicat were so wonderful, even Catra couldn’t complain.

-SR- -SR- -SR-

“That. Was. Awesome!” Adora gushed, leading the train of rebel heroes marching along the Whispering Woods’ one trail.

The other princesses laughed as Catra facepalmed. “Put me back in,” she groaned.

“No,” Brightmoon’s royal family insisted as one. Adora’s heart felt like it would explode with joy at the growing laughter.

“‘You were the Rebellion for twelve years’? I’m putting that over the gates to Brightmoon,” Micah quipped.

Angella’s laughter froze in her throat. “Absolutely not!” she quailed. Glimmer laughed.

Scorpia turned heart-eyes on Catra. “You kept it,” she gushed.

“What? No! I just found it!” Catra objected. She looked away, tail lashing behind her. “Then...I kept it.” More laughter. Catra was as red as her old uniform.

“I can’t believe he fell for the ‘clumsy Catra’ bit,” Adora laughed, mimicking her claw-stab. “I mean, I never fell for that one.”

Catra looked down, hands twisting. Melog purred. “Y-you know you’re not really an idiot, right?” she muttered. Adora’s eyes bulged. Did – did that just happen? she wondered.

Too overwhelmed to stop herself, Adora swooped Catra around Netossa-style to dip her into a kiss. She grinned at the dazed look Catra gave her afterwards. “I love you, you know.”

Catra blinked and started to nod – then froze again when they rounded the last corner and emerged before Brightmoon. She looked up and stared. Glimmer teleported over and hugged them both. “Welcome home,” Glimmer said.

Catra blinked back tears and smiled again. “Yeah. Home.”