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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.”

Chapter Text

Angella brushed a lock of hair out of Micah’s face, watching him sleep. She reveled in his peaceful expression, having heard by then of his nightmares and whimpered “Angie”s during the invasion. After hours of just him and Glimmer, then a few hours more of just Micah, the newly-reinstated queen had insisted that he sleep

In all honesty, it hadn’t taken long, she mused. He was still tired – years on Beast Island fighting to survive, then months fighting against (and then for) Horde Prime, had taken their toll. He’s just so – careworn. Angella let in her hatred for Shadow Weaver and Hordak, then tried to let it go. It was more successful than she expected. All the same, a small part of me will probably still hate them when Hordak’s bones are dust.

Her mind wandered, for the first time since her family had made time for itself, back to Adora and Catra. Castriska, whom Shadow Weaver had violated in more ways than Angella could have imagined in her nightmares. Catra, the most brilliant and determined foe the Rebellion had ever faced. Catra, who had literally saved the entire universe by climbing out of the pit of her grief and pain to admit her love at the end of all things. Catra, who had nearly died saving Angella herself.

(Catra, who pulled the lever where Shadow Weaver had held Glimmer’s hand and abused both children. Let go, Angella commanded herself, but she still imagined pummelling Shadow Weaver flat.)

The queen wrote a quick note to Micah in case he woke to find her missing, and wandered the halls as she had on so many nights thinking him lost. Hordak, not only defeated but an ally. Shadow Weaver, dead for good and all. The Stars, returned at last. You do have trouble with sudden change, Angella. She paused when she realized where her feet were taking her. Stars, I’m headed for his mural, Angella realized, chuckling. Even away from him, she sought her husband’s comfort. I do believe it is time for me to return to my actual husband’s–

“What am I doing here?” Catra muttered just before she came into view.

In a few moments, Angella amended, well aware the coming conversation could take much longer. “That,” she offered gently – which didn’t stop Catra from leaping back and yelping – “is a rather broad question. Can you narrow it down, perhaps?”

“Y-Your Majesty!” Catra blurted, doing something Angella imagined was an attempt at a bow, yet also included a salute of some kind. It looked so familiar in its earnest clumsiness, the queen’s heart ached.

Oh. Of course. It was a near-exact replica of Adora’s attempt at etiquette when they had first run into each other before this very mural. “I did say that right, right? I mean – Bow coached me on titles, but not the...curtsying thing, since you’re supposed to do that in a dress or something? I–” Catra babbled.

“Commander Catra. Stop. Breathe,” Angella commanded. Catra obeyed, her deep breath almost comical. Angella remembered threatening Adora during a similar encounter. I will do better this time, she promised herself. “What is troubling you?”

Catra’s ears shot upright. “Me? I’m fine.” The last word stuck in the magicat’s throat for an instant. Ah. A deflection too well worn to deceive her friends, but she hoped it might work with me. “I’m just, y’know, not used to someplace this sparkly. I mean, I’ve never been to Brightmoon – i mean, inside,” she trailed off, eyes darting down, head lowering. “sorry.”

The last word, whispered as it was, echoed through the queen’s heart. “First, let me say that I accept your apology for all its implied...misjudgments.” Catra sighed, shaking her head. “That said. Micah determined, during the time you planned my rescue, that Shadow Weaver erased your memory of Halfmoon. Brightmoon law is clear that in any case where magic is used to tamper with the mind, any crimes committed by the victim are the responsibility of the sorceress.”

Catra stared, jaw slack for a moment. “But, wait, Shadow Weaver always bragged that she didn’t need mind control,” she objected.

“And yet she attempted the same thing with Adora,” Angella reminded her. “Catra, had you remembered a past of love and family, the Horde could not have turned you into the person you were for a time.”

“I was five! At the most!” Catra blurted. “I still did those things, chose to do them, hurt Adora’s friends, hurt Adora, I can’t, I can’t–” Catra’s knees buckled. Angella was grateful for experience in catching an exhausted Glimmer, holding the girl before she could collapse. “I...I found a letter.”

Angella helped Catra sit, leaning against the mural, then sat beside her. “I beg your pardon?”

Catra sighed. “A letter. From Adora. To me. I was looking for a snack.” Her smile looked broken, like a reflection of the Horde Prime...thing that had worn Catra’s folly. “When Adora found out Shadow Weaver liked cutting my rations as punishment, she turned into a stash fiend. She’d hide little slices of ration bar everywhere. She liked reminding me that I’d give her half of mine when she was sick.”

Angella kept her face carefully neutral. She imagined tearing Shadow Weaver’s mask off and pummeling her with it. Unhealthy, that’s unhealthy, she told herself. “What did the letter say, Catra?”

“That she knew we were enemies now – then. That...we’d always be enemies. How much she missed the parts of me that weren’t horrible. That she...wouldn’t change anything she’d done, even if she could.” Catra hugged herself. “That’s the part that hurts the most. It just dragged out all the...messed-up, stupid, angry, everything, inside me.”

“Have you talked to her about it?” Angella asked, rubbing circles in Catra’s back.

“She’s asleep,” Catra muttered. “Adora’s exhausted, it’s been nine days since the end and she still works herself half to death if I’m not paying attention.”

Angella offered the kindest smile she could muster. “And you have not?”

Catra huffed and looked away. “That was different,” she insisted. “We had no idea how much time you had left. Besides, I was right, wasn’t I?” Angella raised an eyebrow. “You were helpless and alone with Horde Prime, for crying out loud.”

Angella briefly considered correcting Catra’s model of her experience in the gap-realm. Later, she decided. “Time flowed differently there. To me, Horde Prime only had me bound for a few moments before your arrival,” she settled on instead. Catra relaxed a fraction. “Very well, you want to wait until Adora has rested. Fair enough.” Catra looked at her in surprise. Has this child received so little respect for her own agency? Angella wondered. “Are you willing to talk to me about it?”

“You?” Catra blurted. “But you’re the queen! And...important!” She slapped her forehead. “Ugh, the stupid’s contagious. Look, I get that you’re grateful for the rescue, but it was my fault you were in there in the first place. I’m just– ” She lifted her head slightly, eyes sliding towards Adora’s door. “I’m such a coward,” she mumbled, slumping back down.

Angella couldn’t help smiling again. “‘Coward?’ Did you not sacrifice yourself to Horde Prime for my daughter? Or fight a First Ones monster, alone, to save Adora?” Catra’s blush grew with each reminder. “Or bare your heart to her to save the universe? Or risk everything after finding happiness at last to rescue one obsolete queen? Twelve years has nothing on your courage, Catriska.”

Catra blinked. “‘Obsolete?’ You know what, never mind. How long have you known who I am?” she asked.

“Since yesterday,” Angella replied, smile vanishing, “though I should have sooner. By the Stars, Shadow Weaver named you ‘Catra,’ It wasn’t exactly a Mer-Mystery.”

Catra’s mouth fell open, then closed. Angella chuckled, remembering Mermista’s father. He was a handful. Or ten. She remembered him wrestling with a squid to impress Mermista’s mother. Angella blinked. I can’t remember their names, she quailed. After a moment, she shook it off. Catra took a breath. “Okay. So, you’re as bad about beating yourself up as Adora. Got it.” Angella chuckled. “Do you think that was really Horde Prime?”

Angella sighed, letting herself smile again. “I could not guess, though I hope he was. I would rather the war ended with exile rather than execution. To think you tried to forgive that monstrosity.” Her smile broadened. “Are you the same girl who nearly toppled Brightmoon? Surely not.”

Catra’s ears shot upright as she blushed. “Sh-shut up!” she blurted, looking away. Angella giggled, feeling a thousand years younger. “I mean – gah! Sorry!” The magicat buried her face in her hands.

With as much gentle care as she could muster, Angella drew Catra closer, curling one wing around her. “Are you quite done deflecting, dear, or have you other questions?”

The magicat spluttered, then curled in on herself. In spite of all the normal cats she’d cared for, Angella was still amazed at how small Catra could become. “She gave up on me,” Catra whispered. “And I – deserved it.”

“Catra. There is blame, and there is responsibility. You have chosen to take responsibility for your actions, which is all to the good,” Angella explained. “Have you thought, however, that perhaps you are overcompensating?”

Again, Catra spluttered. “Overcompensating? I blew up the world!” she pointed out. “You almost died!”

Angella put a hand on Catra’s shoulder, willing it to be kind. “Yes. It takes great skill to overdo remorse in your case.” Catra tried to speak, but aside from a tiny mew, no sound came out. “Catra, in my experience, people want to believe that we either have absolute control over our fates, or none at all. It is never that simple. Context matters. You were kidnapped as a child, mind-wiped, abused, denigrated, indoctrinated, discriminated against, expertly manipulated, and literally tortured for most of your childhood. I suspect you made sacrifices for Adora that she is not aware of to this day.” Catra huffed – and leaned into Angella’s arm. “Your countless traumas do not make your worst actions right, but to me, those actions are both understandable and forgivable, especially given your extraordinary efforts to atone for them.” Again, Catra mewed, somehow curling further into herself. “You’re angry with her, aren’t you?”

Catra gasped and looked up at Angella. “How – agh!” The magicat’s hands shook. “Yes! Yes, I am, but I’m even angrier that I don’t have the right.”

By the Stars. Angella took care in moving to hug Catra. “Yes you do.” The queen felt Catra’s gasp as much as heard it. “Catra, emotions happen. They are neither right nor wrong, save love, which is never wrong. It is our actions that we must direct, and you have learned the importance of this.”

Catra snorted. “Yeah, the hard way. The really hard way.”

“Yet the pain others have caused you played its part,” Angella insisted. “Further, if I might hazard a guess, you are struggling with how to deal with Adora’s stubborn streak.” Catra chuckled while Angella continued. “While capable of admitting error, she must clearly be confronted with overwhelming evidence.”

Catra growled, ears pivoting back. “I – I’m not blaming her for that again. I can’t.”

Angella blinked; while not as exhausted as the magicat, she had not slept much herself since her ordeal. “Blame? For–” Angella gasped. Shadow Weaver literally tortured Catra. But not Adora. That was more – subtle. She indulged in making a fist with her free hand. “Oh. Oh.” The queen unclenched her fist and rubbed her face. “Catra, have you spoken to Adora about this?”

Catra looked up at her in alarm. “What? No! No, and I’m never going to! You know what Adora’s like, she’ll never forgive herself if she knows that witch was hurting me right in front of–”

“Catra?” Adora’s sleepy voice echoed along the hall. “You there?”

Catra turned pleading eyes on Angella. “Please. You can’t tell her, not now. Even – even at my worst, when I burned the whole world because Shadow Weaver left me for her, there was still enough love left in me to protect her from that.” Angella grimaced, and Catra’s eyes widened. “Please.”

“I understand, Catra, but you are not protecting her,” Angella pointed out. “Adora deserves to know the truth.”

“Catra?” Adora tried again. Angella stroked Catra’s hair as the woman – Stars, barely more than a girl, really, the queen thought – shivered.“If you’re looking for something to eat, we can just go to the kitchen.”

“I will not tell her,” Angella conceded, and Catra gave a surprising hug, “but you should. Talk to one another, Catra. Trust her.”

“Told you. Coward,” Catra said.

“Oh, no,” Adora gasped.

Catra’s ears and tail shot up in alarm. “Crap. I forgot to put the letter back!” she gasped.

“Catra! Catra, where are you?” Adora cried, bursting through the door. Melog bounded towards them. “For the Honor–”

“Over here, Adora,” Catra replied. Quickly.

“I have her, dear,” Angella added. Adora practically appeared before them, Melog mewing and rubbing against Catra’s hip. “You two really should talk, Adora. I would suggest sleep, but I rather doubt either of you will get much tonight.”

Adora’s eyes were wide and shaken, already rimmed with tears. “Catra, I’m so sorry–”

“For what?” Catra snapped, turning further into Angella’s embrace. “Being right? Again?”

“I was wrong!” Adora blurted, and Catra looked up with such desperate hope that Angella had to suppress the urge to hold them both. “I shouldn’t have given up on you. I should never have – and I would, I’d do so many things differently if I could, I’d talk, I’d listen–”

“Adora!” Catra cried, flinging herself into the heroine’s arms. They held each other, shaking in silent communion.

“Well, that appears to be my cue,” Angella noted, standing. “Still, I think I must elaborate on what I thought my last request.” Both young women looked up at her. “Adora, let Catra take care of you. Catra, let Adora take care of you.” Angella smiled. “Take care of each other.” Then she scooped them up in a cushion made of light, both yelping in alarm. “Now. To bed with you both.” Indulging in a mother’s prerogative, she carried them back to Adora’s room and gently deposited them on her cot. “I will be up for a time if you need me.” With that, she showed herself out.

-SR- -SR- -SR-

Catra and Adora looked at each other and laughed, the magicat collapsing onto the cot. Melog put her paws by Catra’s shoulder and licked her cheek. “Okay, okay, I’m better, Melog.”

Melog huffed and dropped back to the floor, curling up and staring. Her eyes and mane turned orange. Adora smirked. “Busted.” Catra glared. Traitor, she thought. Melog huffed again and looked away. “Melog’s a tell the size of Brightmoon.” The smirk vanished, and Adora sat beside Catra, taking her hand. “Talk to me? Please?”

Catra closed her eyes, too exhausted to even turn over. “Sparkles’ mom is kinda awesome.”

Adora paused. “I know,” she replied, giving Catra’s hand a gentle squeeze. “Did she help?”

“Yeah.” Catra shuddered, remembering too much all at once. “I think. She said it was okay for me to be mad at you, if I didn’t do anything bad.” She managed a faint smirk of her own. “Well, she was way more speechy about it, but hey, queen.”

Adora sighed, and Catra opened her eyes again. The sorrow on her face broke Catra’s heart. “Catra, I’m glad you understand that you hurt people, but that doesn’t make it okay that other people hurt you. It’s not okay that I hurt you, or that I let Shadow Weaver hurt you–”

“You didn’t let her hurt me, Adora!” Catra snapped, failing to sit up. “We were kids, what were you supposed to do?” Then she froze, eyes wide. “Wait, you knew?” Catra whispered. “You knew what she was doing to me?”

Adora’s eyes mirrored Catra’s. “I – I thought I did. I mean, the paralysis, the threats, cruel words every day – Catra, was there more?”

Stupid! Stupid stupid STUPID! Catra howled at herself, curling up as tight as she could. “That was enough,” she whispered. Don’t ask, please don’t ask–

Adora didn’t ask. When Catra felt Adora’s hand quivering in hers, she realized Adora didn’t have to. “I’m such an idiot,” she breathed.

Catra uncurled. Adora’s eyes were wide, and she’d gone pale enough to rival Hordak. “Adora, no, please,” Catra begged.

“The nights you never came to bed, the mornings you could barely move, all the times you were on half-rations, you always flinched at Garnet lightning, you barely had a mark after Scorpia – oh Stars, when we were sixteen, you crawled into bed and begged me to run away with you,” Adora remembered. Nonono not like this! Catra tried to sit up, but collapsed, too exhausted after nine days of pushing herself way too hard. “It was her, wasn’t it? All of it.”

“Now? Seriously?” Catra tried to bare her fangs, in voice and in truth, but neither worked. “You figured it out now?”

Adora took a deep, shuddering breath, then let it go. “Catra? May – may I hold you?” Catra sighed and nodded. The cot was hardly wide enough for one person, but somehow Adora managed to curl around her. “I...I get why you didn’t tell me before. She’s gone now. Please don’t let anyone hurt you again without telling me. Please.”

Catra released a thoroughly catlike whine, then surrendered. “Fine. Okay.”

Adora shuddered against the magicat. “I get why you were so mad in Thaymor, now. I saw it with strangers, but not–” A tear dropped onto Catra’s shoulder. “I’m such an idiot.”

“Adora, please, enough,” Catra sighed. “I kinda overreacted. A lot. And it was still me not wanting to share you, and feeling like second best, I didn’t make those up–” Catra froze. Oh. Oh, WOW. This is exactly what I deserve, isn’t it?

Catra laughed, stopping when Adora stiffened and looked her in the eyes. “Catra, that sounded like a bad laugh,” Adora said.

“Nah. I just realized, I did all those horrible things to prove I’m worth something without you.” Catra smirked and shook her head. “And oh look, all I proved is, I’m not.” Adora gasped. “Everything I’m good for is about you. Isn’t that just the perfect punishment?” Melog whimpered. Catra’s smirk vanished at the horror on Adora’s face. Oh. Crap. “Well, except that I love you and I’m still happy with you but–”

Adora uncurled from around her and stood. “Okay, no.” She reached into the air. “For the Honor of Grayskull!”

Before Catra’s eyes had adjusted to the blinding flash, She-Ra had scooped her up in her arms and carried her out into the hall. “Adora! Did you turn into She-Ra or Scorpia?” Catra tried to squirm out of Adora’s arms, but even though Adora wasn’t pinning her down, she lacked the strength to pull herself out.

In moments, they were in front of Glimmer’s door. “Glimmer? I need your–” Adora began.

They vanished and reappeared in a burst of shimmering light. Catra’s stomach was too tired to overload, settling for a nasty lurch and one gulp. “Sorry, Catra,” Glimmer looked her over with a gasp. “Stars, are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Catra muttered before she could stop herself. She tried to facepalm – and missed, covering her mouth instead.

Glimmer stared for a moment. “I’m getting Bow,” she announced, vanishing and reappearing with a pajama-clad, teeth-brushing Bow before either of them could react.

Bow dropped his toothbrush, jaw following. “Catra?” he gasped. “Have you been eating?”

“Aagh – of course I’ve been eating!” she objected, clenching fists. Her stomach didn’t so much growl as roar. Adora glared. Catra looked away. “I’ve been eating light, so what?”

“Catra thinks she’s not worth anything without me,” Adora explained to the Best Friends Squad. “Help?”

Glimmer looked at Bow with a pleading gaze that stunned Catra, whose attempt at a growl came out as a mewl. How did this sparkly princess end up caring about me of all people? she wondered.

Bow grinned. “Actually, I was going to do this in a few days anyway–” he began.

“Wait, what?” Catra blurted.

Bow sighed. “Look, Catra, it took me a while to get past – you know,” Bow began.

“You know, it took me a while, but I finally figured out your character.” Catra shook it off. “Yeah.”

“But I finally realized that all you ever wanted was for people to accept and appreciate you for the person you are. I really get that,” Bow continued, briefly subdued. “So, since you need food and rest, first thing is, we’re gonna have a sleepover!”

Glimmer lit up. “Bow, that’s a great idea!” she gushed, teleporting a mass of blankets and pillows to the floor.

“We’re gonna talk about all the amazing things you’ve done,” Bow continued, Adora smiling like a star and Melog purring like an engine, “and when you’re rested, you’re gonna lead a mission to remind you how awesome you are.”

Catra scoffed. “The only good I’ve done is fixing my own mistakes,” she muttered.

“Ugh!” Glimmer threw her hands up. “Look, Catra, no one’s gonna say you didn’t do anything wrong, but you didn’t build the portal, kidnap children, or create the Horde. You’re doing way more good now than any bad you did.”

“You’re also wrong about the mistakes thing,” Adora added. “You didn’t have anything to do with the First Ones, but you saved me from that monster, and then again in the Heart.” She chuckled. “Besides, you took down Shadow Weaver and Hordak! As a bad guy, you were a better hero than I was.”

Catra’s ears shot upright. What?! “Are you crazy?” Catra snapped. “Queen Angella–”

“Home,” Glimmer retorted.

“Salineas–” Catra tried again.

“Completely restored,” Bow pointed out, waving a Galactic Horde control pad Catra recognized. He pulled it out of her reach before she could grab it. “Funny how the Horde’s bots fixed the place up like new. But you’d know all about that, huh?”

“Only you could conquer an entire kingdom without killing anyone, Horde scum,” Glimmer quipped, her smile gentle.

“Aagh,” Catra groaned, curling up in Adora’s arms. “Don’t sleepovers have sleep? Princesses don’t make sense.”

The other three laughed, then Adora lowered Catra into a nest of bedding. “Everyone deserves love, Catra,” Bow continued. “Love’s not about earning.”

Glimmer’s smile vanished. “No matter what Shadow Weaver taught you.”

“And we’ll be here to prove it to you,” Adora insisted. Catra couldn’t help mewing and curling up against She-Ra when she dropped down behind her. “As long as it takes.”

“...thanks,” Catra murmured, already drifting off. Bow’s eyes sparkled like his girlfriend. She was too tired to let it bother her.

For the first time in her life, Catra felt completely safe, letting herself rest at long last.

-SR- -SR- -SR-

Adora watched, pretending not to be terrified, as Catra marched towards the renegade Horde company, walking into the kill-box of a valley apparently alone. She’ll be fine. We found their commander’s snipers. Netossa, Spinerella, Perfuma, and – Angella, of all people – are ready to take them out. Glimmer’s overhead with Swift Wind for a fast rescue if we need one. Melog has me and Bow cloaked if she needs us. Entrapta and Hordak are in Darla if things get really messy. Adora took a long, deep breath. She’ll be fine. Breathe.

A smile crept across Adora’s face when she remembered Catra explaining why she wanted to bring Angella along. “The lady who wanted to stay trapped in a void with Horde Prime to protect me thinks she’s a coward. I’m not gonna let that slide.” All the same, she imagined the Sword in her hand as a vanguard strode out to meet her love. “Commander Catra,” the leader said. Adora didn’t recognize the voice, but from the way Catra’s ears swiveled up, she did. “So good to see you again.”

“Hey, Dreer,” Catra replied, and their leader slid off his helmet. He looked like a male Light Spinner, his smirk on an azure face, pointed ears as long as Catra’s. “You’re good, but you were one of Shadow Weaver’s. This isn’t your show. Where’s Vultak?”

Dreer’s smirk vanished. “How–” he stopped, then snarled a curse. “Sneaky. You’ve always been sneaky. Doesn’t matter. General Vultak is beyond you. He’s rebuilding the Horde, and he has an entire terrified galaxy ready to obey someone who can lead them.” He glared at Catra, one finger pointed out, glowing with dark power. “It could have been you. The Horde would have followed you into the void, but you went back to her. Shadow Weaver’s golden child – she gave Adora everything, while she took even your magic!”

Adora’s heart lurched, tears forming – until Catra laughed. She drew a magic circle in the air, then shattered it with her claws. “Please. I’ve got magic, but we both know I never needed it. Stand down.” Her smirk vanished. “The Horde was a lie.” Dreer’s soldiers murmured behind her. “The princesses were never evil. We didn’t bring peace. Prime literally stuck Hordak’s dream in his head, and it was a boot stamping on every face, forever. I never cared about any of that crap. All I wanted was to prove myself to someone. I chose the wrong people.”

“We believe in you!” one of the other soldiers cried, and Adora’s heart started again.

The one voice turned into a torrent, Catra’s eyes growing wider with each addition. “You destroyed the Box!” “You ended rationing punishment!” “You fixed requisitions!” Adora gasped as one voice after another cried out the things she’d done, not to them, but for them.

“Enough!” Catra roared, holding up her hands. Dreer turned, jaw dropping at the sight of his soldiers obeying her. “If you believe in me, go home. The war is over! No one is going to attack the Fright – Scorpion Hill. Queen Angella has declared an amnesty for everyone in the Horde, if we can just live in peace.” The soldiers stared for a moment, then murmured among each other.

Dreer gulped. “E-enough of this farce! Fire!” he ordered.

Nothing happened. Dreer gasped. A bear-woman tore off her helmet and glared at him. “Do you think we’re going to attack Commander Catra, you traitor?”

Catra laughed. “Nah. He just means the snipers my team took out five minutes ago.” At those words, Netossa and Spinnerella stood, revealing one windblown group caught in blue strands, while Perfuma and Angella emerged with half their captives bound in vines and half sealed in jeweled light. “You really want to give up now, Dreer.”

“Feckless child!” Dreer snapped, magic glowing around one hand and a stun baton flying into the other. “I challenge you for leadership of the Horde!”

Catra shrugged, her smirk growing. “Okay.” Adora gasped, leaping forward and reaching for the Sword, magic words on her lips–

It was over in a flash. Before Dreer could fire his baton, let alone form a spell, Catra had dashed into his face, leaped, slashed his baton into diced metal with one hand, kicked his spell hand, and driven a knuckle-punch into the gap between breastplate and belt. Dreer folded like Bow playing Bridge. Catra tossed the fringe of hair that had grown back aside while Dreer groaned at her feet. Oh, Stars, Adora thought, staring as she licked her lips. Catra looks amazing like that.

Bow chuckled. “Come on,” he said, waving as Melog turned them visible and he headed over to help get the former soldiers home. “You can ogle your girlfriend later.”

Adora’s face went blazing hot. “I – I wasn’t ogling!” Melog chuckled and padded after Bow. Adora wondered if sinking into the ground might be one of She-Ra’s powers.

It wasn’t, so she had to endure more than a few chuckles – even from the Horde soldiers! – as she jogged over to Catra’s side. Adora watched, glowing with pride, while Catra moved through the group, assuring them that the Princess Alliance wouldn’t harm them. “Skiffs are on the way,” she told one fire team. “Scorpia’s got the Zone running. You’ll be fine.”

“So, you’re not good for anything besides me, huh?” Adora asked. Catra yelped, leaped, and whirled on Adora. The soldiers spun, hands on baton holsters. She-Ra put up her hands. “Hey, her words, not mine. This operation’s secondary goal was proving her wrong.”

Adora bit down on a squee when even the team of random Horde soldiers turned “really?” looks on Catra. Catra’s blush was the most exquisite thing Adora had ever seen. “ADORA!” Catra wailed. Melog leaped to her side, and the two vanished. The Alliance members laughed.

It didn’t take long for Adora to find Angella, Catra and Melog under a tree, looking towards the distant Fright Zone. “It is good to see Scorpion Hill recovering,” Angella explained, Catra scratching Melog’s head while the big cat licked her arm. “I’ve petitioned the Alliance to hold the next Princess Prom in Scorpia’s realm.”

Catra laughed. It was the most beautiful sound in the universe. “And I promise 100% less Heat Bombs this time.” She finally saw Adora standing there. “Hey, Adora. Enjoying the view?”

“Yep. Best in the world,” Adora replied, looking at Catra. The magicat looked away, blushing.

“I should check on Glimmer,” Angella said, spreading her wings and soaring off.

“Subtle,” Catra chuckled. She gave Adora that smile. “Thanks, Adora. For trusting me.”

“Of course,” Adora replied, hugging Catra. “I have faith in you.”

“You never did have much faith in me.” The old memory seemed to glitch into oblivion as Catra returned the hug. “So,” Catra said. “Still want that road trip?”

“Only if you’re ready,” Adora insisted.

Catra laughed again. “Come on. What would you dorks do without me?”

Adora joined her laugh. “Good thing we’ll never have to find out,” she replied, sliding out of the hug to hold Catra’s hand. Side by side, they walked together toward the future.