The first thing Catra feels is gold. Her eyes are closed, her muscles ache, the back of her neck burns with pain, but golden-warm energy flows through her veins, flows all around her, bright and comforting. There are strong arms holding her, supporting her back, cradling her head. Her hair is pressed against cold metal- her hair , her hair doesn't tickle the back of her neck, isn't heavy against her back.
Everything is bright and warm and suddenly soft , her head, her ears, her hair, pressed against soft fabric rather than hard metal. The light begins to fade, everything dimming down to a calming dark. Water drips onto her cheek- whoever is holding her is… crying?
She opens her eyes.
Adora, golden light dripping from her hair, flowing down her shoulders and arms. It hangs in the air for a moment before dissipating into bright particles that dance around her face. There are traces of electric-blue glowing in Adora's eyes, otherworldly bright and shining with unshed tears. Catra coughs, squinting up at Adora.
Is… is this real? What happened? How did she-
Pain pulses at the back of her neck, with it a cascade of images. Long, white hallways, glowing green eyes…
She remembers, all so suddenly, what had happened. She remembers the chip forced into the back of her neck, she remembers brief flashes of reality, she remembers warm, concerned, panicked grey eyes and messy goldish hair and… she remembers Adora .
She came back. She came back for her!
Dumbass. Catra told Adora not to come back for her! It was too dangerous! But clearly, Adora ignored that. Stupid, reckless, heroic Adora, with her stupid hero complex.
Catra smiles. She smiles and leans into the soft red fabric, pressing her head against Adora’s chest. It’s bright, too bright, wherever this is, but the girl cradling her shines even brighter.
“Hey… Adora,” she chokes out. Speaking hurts, her words are scratchy and quiet. But it is worth it to see bright blue eyes widen, to see pink lips curl into a smile as Adora pulls Catra’s head to her shoulder, running a hand through her short hair and letting tears fall, soaking the white fabric of the Horde uniform.
It feels so strange. Back before, this would have been easy, comfortable. But now, the pressure of Adora’s arms around her shoulders is unfamiliar- Catra can’t help but notice how strong the other’s hold is, but how delicately Adora holds her anyway. It’s not uncomfortable. Not at all. Just… strange.
She is tense in Adora’s hold for a moment, stiff as a board, shocked , honestly. Then she loosens, tucks her face into the red fabric of her coat and pulls the girl closer.
The world is so small, right now. Catra barely feels the cold of the floor, the chill of the air, the pain in her neck. The world is just her and Adora, holding each other tight. She doesn’t think she ever wants to let go again.
The second time that Catra wakes up, it is panicked. Her breathing is frantic as she clutches at the blanket, then raises her hands up to press against her skull, raking through short locks of hair, soft but short, too short.
Then light. Bright light, far too bright , burns into her eyes and she jumps, sitting straight up and staring forward, blinded for a moment before her vision clears into-
Adora. Adora giving her a ridiculously warm, trusting look, her expression gentle, open. Her eyes are grey, her hair it’s normal goldish-blond, there is no golden light, no glowing electric blue. There is no She-Ra, just normal old Adora, standing, illuminated by the ship’s cold, sharp lights.
“Catra!” she says, and her voice is so loud, why is she so loud - Catra presses a hand against one of her ears and glares in Adora’s direction. “Oh- sorry.” Her voice drops to a whisper, and her expression turns apologetic, a sheepish smile gracing her lips.
(her smile is a bit lopsided. there’s a dimple in her left cheek. some things never change, and adora has always smiled the same. catra would be lying to herself if she said she hadn’t missed that stupid smile.)
Adora perches on the edge of the mattress, pulls her legs to her chest and rests her chin on her knees. She moves a hand as if to place it on Catra’s arm, then pulls away.
“How do you feel?” she asks. Catra scoffs.
“How do you think I feel? Like shit.” Adora looks away, tucking her arms up around her face.
“‘s not your fault,” Catra mutters, pushing herself up into a more comfortable position. “But it would be nice if you didn’t open the door and ruin my attempt at sleeping with the stupid bright light .”
“Oh! I- sorry, Catra, I can go. I didn’t mean to wake you up, I just wanted to make sure you’re okay, because- yeah, I’ll go, sorry about that-” Adora stands up, straightens her jacket and heads for the door.
“W-wait,” she mutters, turning away. “I- can you stay?”
“Of course,” Adora whispers. “Of course I can stay.” The door closes, the burning light finally dimmed down to the comforting dark, and the pressure on the mattress returns as Adora sits back down, this time curling up fully on the bed. Catra lays back down, pressing her face into the pillow and letting Adora press up against her, throwing an arm over her back and squishing her head against her shoulder. Catra, in return, lets her tail rest against Adora’s legs. They lay there, intertwined in the darkness. It feels familiar yet unfamiliar and so, so warm.
The next time Catra wakes up, it is warm and dark and comfortable, but for Adora kicking around in her sleep. She laughs, as quiet as she can, before tucking her arms around the taller girl’s shoulders, pulling her closer and feeling her relax, slowly, leaning into Catra’s chest.
She falls back asleep with a smile on her face and Adora in her arms, and that, if not a bit strange, is familiar.