Adora releases a held breath. She’s not sure what to say. “Perfuma, that’s…” She waves her hands, grasping for words in the air. “That’s amazing! I had no idea you went through all that, but...”
Perfuma cocks her head, her forehead bunching up with a hint of worry.
“But… what was it that you really wanted?”
Perfuma’s look of concern dissolves as she giggles, kind-heartedly. “Well, I wanted to be a princess! To live the rest of my life as a woman!” Her smile is as bright as the stars in the sky over the Woods.
Adora can’t help but smile back at her. She’s always been warm and forgiving, and knowing some of what she went through to get there just makes her gentleness and kind advice all the more meaningful. But something about Perfuma’s story still just isn’t clicking. “How did that help you learn your magic?”
The older princess composes herself, and folds her hands in her lap. “When I realized what I wanted more broadly in life, it became much easier to focus on what I wanted in the moment. Once I admitted that I wanted to be a girl, it gave me a concrete reason to connect with the Heart-Blossom and save my father, a specific outcome that I desired.” She places both her hands on Adora’s muscular shoulders. “And so, I think, if you can find that thing you really want from life, that can be your reason to fight. Not because you have to, or because you want it to be over, but because you have a vision for the future — something or some one to fight for.”
She’s right, of course. Adora knows what she wants — who she wants. She’s almost let herself picture that perfect future before. Catra, the only person she’s ever felt this way about. Spending the rest of their lives together, all the scars, healed; all the wedges that the world drove between them, burned away.
Adora knows what she wants, but there’s always more important things to consider than just her own desires. Adora has been told over and over again, first by Shadow Weaver and then by Light Hope, what her purpose in life is. The words echo in her head whenever she feels her heart straining at its cage. This is what I raised you for, Adora. Do not disappoint me… You are She-Ra, Etheria’s champion, appointed by the First Ones… She may not belong to the Horde or to the First Ones anymore, but that doesn’t change the facts of what they made her into. She’s a soldier. A weapon. She’s not worth anything to anyone unless she can fight.
And when she tries to imagine what her life with Catra might look like after this is over, all she can see is what their lives have looked like so far. She sees Shadow Weaver, deliberately hurting Catra just for being near her. She sees her best friend walking away through the smoke at Thaymor, becoming her enemy. She sees her enemy attacking her and the people she cares about, all because she left. And she sees Catra with her hair chopped off, surrounded by faceless clones, lying in her arms and breathing what could have been her last breath. It’s abundantly clear to Adora that all she has done for her whole life is endanger the only person she ever wanted to be with. She knows that, if she and Catra get to be together at all, it will be far from perfect.
Adora can’t fix everything. The damage is done. But she can still protect the people she loves and the planet she calls home. She has to; there’s nobody else who stands a chance. And if she has to give her life, then so be it. It would be worth it just to know in her final moments that she saved them all — that she did her job.
Perfuma watches Adora’s tired eyes turn back to the camp. “Thanks for the story, Perfuma. I should probably try to get some sleep now.”
“Goodnight, Adora. Take care of yourself.” She looks on as the young warrior slides off of their shared perch and walks back through the leafy curtain.
Perfuma notices how Adora carries herself: strong, sturdy, upright. Yet there’s still something that’s making her doubt herself, something that she’s denying. She may hold her head high, but her heart is still heavy. It’s a feeling Perfuma thought she understood, but she’s starting to see the differences. It’s one thing to be raised as a prince in a happy place, told that you always have a choice and you can shape your own life, but kept from happiness by expectations of gender and responsibilities of status. But it’s another thing to be raised as a soldier, told over and over that the only way forward for you is to fight for a cause that you never chose.
The princess stares into the Whispering Woods again and sees the familiar magical auras darting around through the inky shadows. She imagines her mother and father there, watching from just beyond and lending their support as she realizes the weight of all the burdens, past and present, that Adora carries. Under her breath, Perfuma gives thanks to her mother and father, to Willow, to the whole village, and to the magic of Etheria for giving her what she needed to find her peace. She prays that Adora finds some way to share her burdens with the only other person who might really understand.