“Of course I’m going with you dummy.” Catra holds Adora’s waist and she feels Bow’s arm tightening around her shoulders.
Her eyes shut tightly and she wants to be in this moment forever.
So she commits it to memory, the weight of Bow’s arm on her shoulder, the sound of Glimmer laughing in relief, the feeling of her head nestled on Adora’s shoulder.
She doesn’t know how long the four of them stay like that. She knows they’re trying to preserve the moment too. It feels so fragile. Like it could be taken from them at any second.
But it won’t.
For once in their lives, they can look forward to a brighter future. A future that they no longer have to hope for but one that is fixed in certainty.
After a while, Glimmer mumbles something about wanting to catch up with her dad and reluctantly removes herself from their embrace. Bow takes hold of her hand and leaves with her.
Adora collapses back onto the ground and runs a hand through her hair. She yanks the elastic from her ponytail and lets her hair sprawl around her. Catra feels her heart clench at the sight.
Adora lets out a sigh. Of tiredness or relief, Catra can’t tell.
Catra lowers herself to the ground and sits beside her. Adora lifts herself onto her elbows and sits up. All traces of contentment have disappeared from her face.
“Adora?” Catra’s face contorts with worry as she hesitantly reaches out for her.
She cups Adora’s cheek and turns her face towards her. Adora’s eyes glisten with tears and she tries to blink them away to no avail.
As tears begin to stream down her face, Adora removes Catra’s hand and draws her knees to her chest. She buries her face into her hands and tries to stifle a sob.
“Adora!” Catra cries out, alarmed. She grips Adora’s wrists and tries to pry them from her face but Adora doesn’t budge, so she reaches for Adora’s waist and guides her onto her lap and holds her.
Eventually, Adora stops trying to conceal her tears and sobs violently, tucking her face into Catra’s neck. Her entire body trembles in Catra’s arms.
“Hey. Hey. What’s wrong?” She rubs Adora’s back. “Adora, come on. Talk to me,” her grip on Adora tightens after receiving no response. “ Please .” She pleads, her voice full of fear and desperation.
Adora has never been the small one. Adora has never been the one to be held. Catra wonders if anyone has ever comforted Adora, if she has ever let anyone see her this way.
“I’m just- I don’t- I don’t know,” her voice stutters as she tries to breathe. “Nothing. Nothing’s wrong.”
Catra stays silent, hoping that she will elaborate. She holds Adora closer to her chest, acutely aware of the way her body is shuddering. Adora grabs the front of Catra’s shirt and clenches it tightly in her fists. She keeps shaking.
She lifts her head from Catra’s neck to look at her. Her eyes are puffy and swollen.
She lets out a strained laugh.
Catra’s even more confused than before. Adora cups her face. “Catra,” she gasps out in between breaths, “I’m- I’m okay . Everything’s okay.”
She’s still trying to figure out the mess of emotions she just witnessed Adora go through but then it finally clicks. Winning a tireless war. Shadow Weaver. Catra telling her she always loved her. Believing that she wouldn’t have even been alive to see this moment.
“Aw. Did I make you cry too?” Adora chuckles softly and wipes the tears cascading down Catra’s face.
“Shut up, dummy,” her voice comes out hushed and broken. “You scared me.” It’s a loaded comment. Adora smiles knowingly and whispers an apology.
She presses their foreheads together. “I was scared too.”
Adora positions her knees on either side of Catra’s hips so she can bring her closer. Catra pulls her in. She still can’t believe she’s able to hold the woman she loves most in this world. She combs her fingers through Adora’s hair.
“I love you, Adora,” her voice is strained and tired, but sincere.
“I know,” Adora laughs giddily.
“Don’t ruin it.” Catra frowns.
Adora presses a gentle kiss to Catra’s jaw. “I love you too,” she whispers, kissing along her jawline before finally reaching her lips.
It’s more tender than their first. There’s no urgency or desperation. Adora doesn’t kiss Catra because she’s dying and it’s the end of the universe but simply because she wants to. She feels Catra smiling against her lips.
“I love you,” Catra says again, more firmly this time, as if she’s trying to get herself accustomed to saying it. She wants Adora to get used to it. She wants Adora to know she’s loved, not because she’s an 8-foot-tall magical warrior who just saved the world but because she’s Adora.
Catra drops her head on Adora’s chest and Adora gently cradles her head. She can feel the erratic beat of Adora’s heart. Adora cards her fingers through Catra’s hair, it soothes her, the same way it used to when they were children. It’s familiar but at the same time entirely different. Adora places a kiss on top of Catra’s head and continues to stroke her hair. She finds herself missing the length of Catra’s hair, so wild and free. The hair that she constantly found her face buried under all those mornings in the Fright Zone.
Catra can feel her legs numbing under Adora’s weight but she continues to hold her close.
Before they even notice it, the skies have darkened but they don’t really care. It’s only until Glimmer goes outside to fetch that they reluctantly pull away from each other. She looks pointedly away from them as Adora pulls Catra to her feet and she feels a twinge of guilt for interrupting them. Whatever it was that was happening, Glimmer knows she is intruding.
“Come on, let’s go home.” Glimmer beams.
Catra clasps Adora’s hand, she knows she’s already there.
As they head towards the castle Catra becomes hyper-aware of every detail around her. Just a few months ago her goal was to see Bright Moon in ruins. She figured that if she ever ended up here, it’d be as a prisoner, not a guest.
Glimmer guides them down a hallway. “I’ll show you to your room.” Catra blinks in surprise. She knew Glimmer would let her stay at Bright Moon but she had always assumed it would be temporary, that she’d be shown to a guest room and not her room.
“Of course, it’s not like you want your own room,” Glimmer glances at their joined hands, Adora rubs the back of her neck shyly and Catra blushes, “but I didn’t wanna assume anything in case you wanted your own space.”
She opens the door to Catra’s room. “My room is just a few rooms to the left. Tell me if you need anything okay?”
“Any time, Horde scum,” Glimmer chuckles. “Goodnight you two! Try not to keep each other up too late.” she teleports to her room.
There’s a long beat of silence as the two of them stand at the door to Catra’s room. Suddenly the wall is a lot more interesting to Catra, and has resolved to look at anywhere but Adora. Her cheeks start to warm. Catra finds it almost comical how hours ago she had begged Adora to stay only to find herself embarrassed to ask it again. In her defence, she only discovered emotional vulnerability that same day. And it sucks.
“My room?” Adora finally breaks the silence.
“Yeah.” Catra says, relieved.
Catra wraps a pillow around her ears to block out the shrill yell outside Adora’s bedroom.
“How is she so loud in the mornings?” Catra grumbles.
Adora gently pulls the pillow away from her head and smiles against Catra’s nape. Mornings. Catra says it so easily, like waking up in Bright Moon in Adora’s arms is something she’s always done and will always do. But it’s only been four mornings since they settled back in Bright Moon. Adora then wonders if Catra’s complaint might solely be rooted in the familiarity of being annoyed at Glimmer. Either way, Catra is settling into a routine.
Adora wraps her arms tighter around Catra’s bare torso. She nuzzles her face in Catra’s back and presses a kiss to her shoulder. She purrs and melts in Adora’s tight embrace. They feel the weight of Melog’s body press closer to them. They hear another shout. “Guys!” There’s more annoyance this time and a banging sound at their door.
“If we pretend we’re asleep maybe she’ll leave us alone.” Adora whispers.
“Since when do you wanna sleep in, Adora?” Catra laughs, her tail wrapping around the tangle of their legs.
“I want to enjoy this a bit longer.”
Catra hums in agreement and lets the steady rhythm of Adora’s breathing lull her back to sleep, only to be rudely interrupted a second later.
Glimmer teleports her and Bow into Adora’s room.
“Guys!” Glimmer huffs, stomping her foot repeatedly, “It’s already noon! The meeting starts in ten minutes!”
Adora pushes herself onto her elbow. “Come on Glimmer, can’t you postpone so we all just sleep in a little longer?” Adora pleads, “You are queen, remember?”
“Ok Glim, you know something’s wrong when it’s Adora who’s asking to relax.” Bow says. Not that Adora needs to relax anymore, she’s been awake a few hours already but couldn’t bring herself to leave a sleeping Catra. It’s been three years since she’s gotten to see Catra relax and she’s decided she’ll relish it. Besides, the others were always pestering her to learn how to enjoy things for herself.
“She wasn’t like this before you, you know.” Glimmer glares at Catra, with no real malice. Catra pokes out her tongue as Glimmer flips her off. “Don’t make me rip off your blankets,” Glimmer takes a few threatening steps forward, “I’ve already seen Adora naked,” Catra sputters a bewildered ‘What?’, “And I don’t care if I see you either, so get your asses up.” Melog hops off the bed, approaching Glimmer and nudging her hand with their head. Glimmer pets them affectionately.
“I always knew you were undressing me with your eyes.” Catra winks at her. Adora laughs and shoves Catra’s back.
Blood rushes to Glimmer’s face. “Shut up!”
Adora snorts, “Glimmer remember when that time we were planning battle strategies and you imagined Catra in this really tight dress and—“
“Okay! You two—“
She’s cut off when Bow lets out a loud yawn, his eyes are still puffy from tiredness. She scrunches her nose and he shoots her an apologetic look.
She sighs and places a hand on Bow’s shoulder, giving it a comforting squeeze. “Look, I know we’re all tired, and deserve rest,” she pinches the bridge of her nose, “I sure need some.”
“But the people,” she pauses, running a hand through her hair, “they need quick decisive action. She-ra was able to heal some of the damage done by that ugly bastard,” Adora smiles, ”but Etheria still has a long way to go in being fixed. A lot of homes are still gone and we have more displaced people than ever especially a lot of former Horde soldiers.” Catra shifts in Adora’s arms to meet her gaze, neither yet fully comprehending the implications of this. “Salineas is still in worse shape than ever,” Catra stiffens at that, “And that’s not even counting the Prime clones! What the fuck-“
“Language,” Bow chides instinctively but smiling anyway.
Glimmer continues and starts pacing back and forth, “What the FUCK are we meant to do with those? The last thing I would’ve predicted from this war is dealing with more of him. And they’re not even him! They’re like weird—“
“Sparkles, calm down. Save the enthusiasm for the meeting.” And despite the cold indifference of her words, Glimmer understands the intent, she knows Catra well enough for that.
“Besides Glim, we should rest, it’s not like the people of Etheria are going anywhere. They’ll understand.”
“They don’t,” Glimmer’s eyes are downcast, “They shouldn’t. You guys don’t understand, I’m- “ she presses her palms into her eyes, Melog paws gently at her thigh, “I’m the one who led Prime here. I- I activated the Heart. The people, they don’t trust me. I’m the queen who let her people down. We- I need—“
“-to fix this.” Adora finishes.
“C’mon, Sparkles. Look at who you’re talking to,” Catra gestures between her and Adora, “I think we’re the only ones who do understand. We’ll be at the meeting.”
Glimmer peels her hands from her face and glances at her friends, a small grateful smile graces her lips.
“Thank you, guys.”
“This would be the perfect time for a group hug if you guys weren’t naked right now.” Bow wraps an arm around Glimmer’s shoulders.
“Yeah, yeah we’ll get dressed.”
Adora and Catra make their way to the reparations meeting. Adora takes her usual seat and pulls out a chair beside her for Catra. “Milady,” Adora snorts and gives an exaggerated bow.
Catra flushes in embarrassment and shoves Adora’s shoulder who only laughs louder, “Stop, you dork.”
Melog curls up at Adora’s feet. Under the table, Catra reaches for Adora’s hand and intertwines their fingers.
She looks around the room, for years this has been the room where the Rebellion drew up battle strategies, for years these have been the people Adora fought beside, the people Catra fought against.
For the most part, the princesses were accustomed to Catra’s presence. Other than Entrapta and Scorpia, some of the other princesses had even begun to like Catra. Maybe it isn’t saying much when the princesses in question were Perfuma, the embodiment of sunshine and joy, and Netossa, who started liking Catra immediately after spraying her with water and trapping her in a net. It’s a start, and Catra’s satisfied enough with that for now.
Perhaps her only major problem is that she hasn’t officially met Mermista yet. The only princess who she hurt maybe almost as much as Scorpia. But Scorpia, bless her heart, is a very forgiving soul. Too forgiving.
Speaking of, Scorpia is deep in conversation with Perfuma, who catches Catra’s eye from across the table and waves a quick hello. Scorpia follows suit.
Catra responds with a small hesitant smile that somehow makes Perfuma and Scorpia’s smiles bigger than Catra thought was physically possible.
The smile falls from Catra’s face when she notices Mermista staring at the interaction.
Mermista crosses her arms, her steely eyes meet Catra’s and holds her gaze. Her face is impassive. Catra is stunned, she’s both unnerved and slightly impressed. Every princess she has met has only ever worn their own emotions and never a mask.
As she continues to study Mermista’s glare, she grows increasingly annoyed. She doesn’t know how to read this princess, how to decipher her indifferent expression. She doesn’t know if this stare is Mermista studying her or if it’s a game of chicken.
“Okay everyone,” at the sound of Glimmer’s voice, Catra breaks her stare with Mermista, “welcome to the first reparations meeting. I think it’s important that we address the most pressing issue.” The other princesses looked at Glimmer’s announcement in anticipation. She projects a hologram of the Fright Zone on the table.
She continues, “Reclaiming the Fright Zone is our main priority. I know there are a lot of villages--”
“And kingdoms.” Everyone’s head snaps towards Mermista’s direction, her face is still impossible to decipher. Catra swallows. She barely registers Adora’s hand squeezing hers gently, it offers some relief.
“Kingdoms! Yes.” Glimmer grins uncomfortably. “We will discuss Salineas of course.” she placates, ever the diplomat. “But the Horde first.”
“Shouldn’t it be easier to reclaim the Fright Zone now that Scorpia is officially a princess?” Perfuma asks and she gazes at Scorpia lovingly and rests a hand on her arm.
Catra scoffs. “It’s the Horde, flower girl.” She offers no extra explanation, she doesn’t need to. Perfuma frowns.
Glimmer nods in agreement. “Like Catra said. It’s the Horde.” Catra smiles. “The people aren’t exactly going to follow a princess just because she used to be one of them. If they did then they would’ve followed Adora. That would’ve saved us all so much grief.” Tense laughter fills the room.
“But, even if there will be a little resistance, I still think Scorpia should be the one to lead the Fright Zone-”
“Wait, what?” Bow interjects.
“Her runestone is there and it is technically her family’s kingdom.” Glimmer explains.
“Wow!” Scorpia exclaims enthusiastically, “I’ve only been a princess for a few months, you really trust me to lead a kingdom?”
Bow’s brows furrow. “Glimmer, is that really a good idea?” He says skeptically. “No offence Scorpia,” Bow presses his palms together, “but you don’t seem like the kind of leader a bunch of hardened soldiers will want to follow. Especially since you, you know, defected.”
Not that anyone wanted to bring it up but was certainly thinking it, Scorpia also didn’t exactly have an authoritative bone in her body.
“I’ve thought about it from every angle. We need someone to lead the Fright Zone. The people of our own kingdoms won’t exactly be welcoming to a bunch of former Horde soldiers. The soldiers need to stay there and there has to be some sort of authority before it all turns to chaos.”
“That’s assuming it hasn’t already gone to shit.” Catra said.
Glimmer perks up. “Which is why you’re going with Scorpia.”
Catra gapes. “Sparkles, are you sure?”
“A lot of questioning my decisions here and we’re not even ten minutes in.”
“A new record for us.” Adora chuckles.
“Catra is obviously the perfect choice to help Scorpia.” Glimmer turns to Catra. “The Horde doesn’t view you as a traitor. None of those soldiers would know anything about what happened between the time we were taken on Horde Prime’s ship until he was defeated.”
Adora nods in understanding. “They still think she’s second in command.”
A collective ‘oh’ fills the room. Perfuma and Frosta are voicing their agreement and Scorpia exclaims enthusiastically about a ‘Super Pal Duo’ reunion mission. Adora clasps Catra’s shoulder and leans closer to her, whispering affirmations.
“I’m sorry,” Mermista huffs and everyone falls silent, “but am I the only one who sees the issue with this?”
Everyone exchanges looks. Melog starts to fidget under the table.
“Catra. You’re telling Catra to lead the Horde. Did you guys forget that her leading the Horde was what led to all this shit in the first place?”
“Mermista, that’s not fair—“
Mermista silences Adora with an icy glare. She stands up, slamming her palms on the table and leans towards Catra’s direction.
“Listen here, I don’t care what you suffered through, I don’t care that you’re Adora’s girlfriend and I don’t care that you think you’ve changed . Nothing you do can change what you did to my people.”
The room goes still. Catra can feel the thumping of her heart in her ears.
“I- I’m sorry. About Salineas. I know—“ Catra stammers.
Mermista scoffs dismissively. “I don’t care.”
“Hey,” Glimmer approaches Mermista and places a soothing hand on her shoulder, “ you don’t have to forgive Catra for what she did but she can really help—“ Mermista slaps Glimmer’s hand away.
“How can you defend her?!” she yells angrily. “Adora, I understand,” she says contemptuously. “But you?”
Glimmer reaches out for her again.
“She‘s the reason Angella’s dead!”
Glimmer flinches and retracts her hand.
A tense silence hangs over the room. Mermista surveys everyone, mouths gaping in shock. When no one speaks up to support her, she scowls.
“Whatever.” She turns and leaves. No one follows her.