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When you’re away (losing sleep)

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She can't remember when it started ; just like she can't remember taking her first breath, her first step, her first bite of ration bar. Adora has always been there, and Catra has always slept at the foot of her bed. She wishes she could remember it, wishes this memory was within her grasp and she could know what it felt like the first time, curling at her feet. She only knows what it's like now ; the warmth, the steady breathing and the occasional kick when Adora sleep-fights some unknown foe. Adora moves a lot in her sleep and sometimes they wake up face to face, too close yet not close enough and the only thing Catra can do is snicker, push her away and curse her morning breath. It's easier to squash each and everyone of her inadequate feelings when she's insulting her.

Adora thrashes, groans and Catra does what she's taken to doing lately when training has kicked her butt and she needs to rest so Shadow Weaver won't take it out on her, again ; she puts her hand on Adora's leg, the only thing she can reach from where she is, and waits until she calms down so they can both sleep.

***

Catra doesn't miss her. She doesn't. Adora is a disloyal eight feet tall jerk who defected and thinks she's better than anyone.

She doesn't miss her.

She hates her.

But also can't sleep without her. And she hates that more than she hates her.

The dorm is too quiet since Adora left ; the bed is too empty.

There's no one to sneak around with in the middle of the night, no one to whisper with when she's scared and she can't sleep because she can still feel Shadow Weaver's magic coursing through her body from the day's punishment ; there's no one she can admit that to either.

She doesn't miss Adora.

She hates her.

She can't sleep without her.

***

Catra stops sleeping in Adora's bed. She gets private Force Captain's quarters that don't mean anything without her and she doesn't sleep there either. Instead, she takes cat-naps here and there ; her time is better utilised rising to power, spreading her own shadow over the Horde, and proving, finally, that she's worth something, that she's strong, important, better than all of them. That Adora shouldn't have left her behind.

Cat-naps allow her to control herself. She doesn't fall asleep from exhaustion but also never sleeps long enough to get nightmares, to dream of Adora. She sleeps enough to function, but never twice in the same place so Shadow Weaver won't find her. Now that Adora isn't here, there's no telling what she could do to her and it's best not to give her any opportunity. Not that Adora was ever efficient at protecting her from their guardian to begin with ; it's just worse now that she isn't here to act as a buffer. Not that Catra ever needed to be protected.

And not that she ever needed Adora.

***

Shadow Weaver leaves. Like Adora. Because that's what they all do in the end ; leave her behind, like the person who dropped her on the Horde's doorstep in a cardboard box when she was too young to know what was happening. But Adora was there to pick her up then, and she isn't here now.

With Shadow Weaver gone there's no one to stop her from rising anymore ; there's no one to stop her from falling either. And the more she trips, the less she falls back on her feet. Each time she curls up in a corner to nap, she can feel Hordak suffocating her the very moment she closes her eyes.

She stops seeking sleep entirely.

Shadow Weaver comes back. She comes back for Adora. Because it’s always Adora isn’t it ?

Catra hates Adora and she hates that she hates her and yet can't forget that she had to force this feeling, had to teach herself how to hate her to the point of nausea.

She's not stupid, never has been, Adora was the one with only half a brain cell in their duo. She's not stupid and so she knows she will die if she opens the portal. She does it anyway ; she's so so tired.

***

Catra wakes up at Adora's feet ; like she always has. It's quiet in the private room and to everyone who wants to know, that's the only reason Catra sleeps here. The truth is that Catra hasn't once slept without Adora and doesn't intend to ever do so. She keeps a facade out of habit but she doesn't really care anymore. They're on top of the world, careless rumours won't bring them down now ; plus, their own night time whispers are enough protection against anything anyone could ever say.

Adora is still asleep because she's dumb and apparently intends on missing her first Force Captain briefing. Catra stares at her for a minute or so ; Adora may be an idiot, but she's a beautiful one. Right before she jumps on her to startle her out of sleep, she gets the very intense feeling that she will regret waking her up ; but she pushes it away, it's just a baseless anxious thought, everything is perfect.

Right ? Everything is perfect ?

***

She makes the mistake of going to bed. It's because of this dumb portal, this idiotic alternate reality in which Adora was still there and she could still sleep next to her and everything was perfect.

Now Adora hates her and she doesn't hate Adora.

She makes the mistake of going to bed, but it won't happen again because she wakes up with Adora's and Entrapta's faces still superimposed in front of her eyes, their reproaches still ringing in her ears, their words looping in her mind to the point that she almost believes that they're right and this is all her fault.

But it can't be her fault, because if it is, it means that everything she's done, everything she's built here is wrong, and if it is, she will have nothing to strive for anymore.

It’s her fault, isn’t it ?

She doesn't sleep again, not at all. She just slips in and out of consciousness, blacking out occasionally then pushing again because at this point there's nothing more she can do. She's too far gone to turn back now, she will be the last one standing and she will prove to Adora that she shouldn't have left her behind. Even if it’s the last thing she does.

***

There's no sleep in the hive mind. There’s no need for it ; she’s strong and safe now, in Prime’s light.

Days are a constant stream of cold wakefulness and thousands of voices that would prevent her to sleep if she were to try.

There’s no need for sleep in the hive mind ; she’s safe now, she can rest as a sister of Horde Prime.

***

It's too quiet on the ship, and too loud. Catra is too cold, and too warm. She's sweating, and shivering. She's linked to thousands of mindless brains, and she's alone. Prime is here, and he isn't. Adora isn't here, and she is. For the first time in forever, Catra wants to sleep, but she can't. She's exhausted, yet thrumming with restless energy.

The door slides open for the hundredth time since she was dragged on board (rescued) by Adora and she forces her eyes shut, unwilling to confront whoever doesn't understand the concept of privacy. Prime's face flashes in front of her and before she can do anything about it, a dangerous hiss escapes her mouth and she recoils, her fur bristling. When her eyes shut open, she's already standing, ready to fight back someone who isn't here. Instead she finds Adora, perfectly framed in the light that trickles in from the corridor and with a timid smile on her face.

"It's okay," she says her voice a balm to Catra’s ears despite herself. "It's only me. I brought you an extra blanket."

She takes a couple of steps forward, smiles again and drops the blanket on the bed before retreating to the door. She doesn't leave though, but hovers hesitantly on the threshold her eyes jumping all over until Catra allows herself to move and settles back on the bed. She does it quickly, to avoid feeling Adora's gaze on her, and then curls under the blanket so she won't have to see her. It smells faintly of Adora and it's so like her, to give up her own comfort, that for a split second in makes her unreasonably angry. She can hear Adora shuffling awkwardly at the door.

"I'll go. Let you rest."

Catra hisses again, involuntarily, her sharp teeth bared in brief annoyance. Her hands twitch at her side ; she remembers her claws sinking into Adora's back, clenches her fists painfully like Prime is about to make her hurt her again. She doesn't want to hurt Adora, doesn't think she's ever wanted to, even when it's what she was trying to do.

"Stay. Please."

For the first time maybe ever, she doesn't care that she sounds like she's begging. She doesn't care because Adora came back for her, because in spite of everything Adora cares, because she sits at the foot of the bed and Catra sleeps better than she has since Adora joined the Rebellion.

She does wake up once, kicking and screaming, her claws narrowly missing Adora's face when she stupidly comes closer to calm her down because Horde Prime was here, in her head again.

Wasn’t he ?

And then against all odds, she falls back asleep in a loose embrace, one that gives both of them room to heal.

***

It's weird to be on solid ground again, to have something concrete to support her body and not simply "the crushing void of space" ; as Entrapta kindly put it. It's even weirder to be surrounded by the sounds of animals and insects treading around and not the hum of the ventilation. None of that though compares to having Adora sleeping right next to her, the small gap between their mattress both insignificant and insurmountable. It wouldn't take much for Catra to reach out and grab her hand, or even just for her to let her tail casually drift to the other side ; but she won't do it. Not after everything that’s happened, and not when they're surrounded by so many people, stacked together in the last stronghold of the Rebellion. It’s a miracle she’s even allowed to be here.

She shifts for the thirty-seventh time since she’s heard Adora's breathing even out ; not that she's counting. She's been tossing and turning all night, periodically arching away from the thin mattress and pushing away the thread bare blanket until she's cold again and buries under it reluctantly. She didn't use to be so picky about sleep, but she supposes it's a consequence of hanging out with princesses.

Melog is asleep at her feet, their mane casting a glowing blue light all around them in a way that is slowly becoming familiar and comforting. Catra stares at the sleeping creature, trying, to no avail, to time her breathing on them instead of on Adora. Adora who is shifting increasingly closer, her limbs already colonising the gap between the beds. Catra wants to give in. She wouldn't have to move much for their bodies to touch, to intertwine. But she won't. She doesn't see an outcome in which she deserves something like that, can't picture a path that leads her to deserving Adora ; she missed that opportunity several world ending plots ago. Instead, she rolls out of the way and goes to curl against Melog, at Adora's feet.

***

Bright Moon is, different. Yes, Catra thinks -different- is the right word. It's all windows and pastel colours and cheerfulness in a way that is so radically opposite to the Fright Zone that it would make Catra laugh if she weren't dead on her feet, exhausted beyond comprehension after accidentally saving the universe with a kiss. A "true love kiss" that Sparkles has been snickering about for hours now. Catra would be embarrassed if she weren't in love, and really really tired.

She lets Adora tugs her by the hand, trailing after her as they walk through the castle and for the first time in her life, she's not fully aware of her surroundings ; she just trusts Adora to take her somewhere safe. They come to a stop in front of disproportionate double doors, large enough to fit a tank.

"So," Adora says, "this is my room. I thought you could stay with me tonight and tomorrow we can work on finding you your own space here. If you want. I just," she stops, averts her eyes and rubs her neck sheepishly. The mindless gesture makes Catra's neck burn where the chip used to be and she clutches Adora's hand tighter to prevent herself from scratching her skin. "The first night here was hard for me, I don't want you to feel alone."

Catra is aware that she's supposed to produce coherent words to reply to Adora's offer, but all she can produce is a stupid "uh," followed by an awkward "thanks, I'd like that."

It seems to be enough for Adora though who tugs on her hand gently so they can slip into the most lavish room Catra has ever seen. It's pink, and big enough to fit their entire former dormitory and a couple of extra bunks, but it houses only one bed, and for some reason both a bathtub and a waterfall which makes her fur bristle on her back.

They turn away from each other to change into sleepwear, which is ridiculous because they grew up together and used to share a locker room with a dozen other cadets, but it seems important this time, to not look. Catra strips off her clothes in favour of a shirt and shorts that smell so much like Adora that it makes her blush enough to power a small village.

She's done changing before Adora and quickly jumps to perch at the foot of the bed, revelling in what could be her life now if she lets it happen. Adora bustles around the room for a couple more minutes. Catra curls up on herself, still not looking, and she listens as Adora brushes her hair and gulps down two glasses of water. Before long, the bed dips slightly and Adora shuffles under the covers, filling Catra's ears with a rustle that soon disappears to make space for their quiet breathing and the disturbing sound of the waterfall.

"You don't have to sleep here," Adora whispers after a moment. "You could, um, come here next to me." She punctuates her sentence with a nervous laugh, one that is like music to Catra, not that she's ready to admit that.

"Fine. Don't make it weird," she grumbles in turn, unfurling to slip under the cover next to Adora.

The bed is not nearly wide enough to really accommodate the both of them and there's no way for them to fit without touching in one way or another. Catra breathes in and out and takes a leap of faith, jumping into unknown familiarity. She shuffles closer to Adora until she's folded against her chest, the top of her head coming to rest just under her chin and her tail wrapping around her legs. Adora's heart stutter under her ear and Catra gets ready to draw back, already schooling her features into indifference when a strong arm comes circling her body and a deep content sigh fills the air around her.

"I'm so happy you're here," Adora whispers, her voice warm and a little hoarse. "I’m never letting you go again."

"Works for me," Catra replies flimsily. Adora doesn't seem to mind her ineloquence but something pushes Catra to keep talking. She's not ready to bare her soul, isn't even sure she knows how to do that, but Adora deserves for her to at least try. "I never learned how to sleep without you," she admits clumsily.

"Now you don’t have to." Adora tightens her embrace and Catra wonders how she's gone so long without knowing what this feels like.

"You’ll stay ?"

"I promise."

The moment is somehow both easy and light, deep and inconsequential, only the first in what Catra knows with an uncanny certainty will be a sea of other moments just like this one. So of course, she has to ruin it. "Can we get rid of the dumb waterfall ?"

Adora laughs sharply and perfectly, the sound rumbling deep in Catra's body. She adjusts her hold on her, dips to lay a kiss between her ears. "Anything for you."

Catra does end up falling asleep to the sound of that idiotic waterfall, and when she wakes up the next morning, sprawled on top of a snoring Adora, it's the best sleep she's had in her entire life, one she knows she will remember, one that comes perfectly fill all the nooks and crannies of her pain until she can say with the utmost certainty that she's happier than she's ever been.

Adora shifts under her, snorts adorably in her slumber ; Catra decides to close her eyes for a while longer, she's got some sleep to catch up on.