Catra couldn’t remember the last time she’d been this comfortable. Her bed felt softer than usual, her blanket warmer, and the annoying, ever-present metallic scent of her quarters had lessened to the point that she couldn’t even smell it. It was like she’d been sedated, but without the accompanying pain or confusion.
She tucked her chin a little closer to her shoulder, dimly aware of the purr humming through her chest. Whatever. If she was drugged or something, she’d deal with it later. She was way too comfortable to investigate. Let Adora worry about it.
Okay, so if this was how all the beds in Bright Moon were, she could kind of see why Adora put up with the rest of its… everything.
She swept her tail out and back as a probe, an exploratory mission. Adora was in fact in this bed, half-curled on her side and probably drooling everywhere, Catra scant inches from her calves.
Catra had stolen the blanket at some point, cocooned in warmth and Adora’s scent. It was a wonder that hadn’t been the first thing she registered on waking, but it had been natural, not so long ago, to wake up to the smell of sleep and fabric and Adora.
“Hey Adora, have you seen C--oh.”
Catra leapt out of bed, hissing, still tangled in her pilfered blanket, as Glimmer appeared in a shower of magic sparkles with no warning.
“Mmn?” said Adora, having sat up as abruptly as Catra had hurled herself from the bed but apparently relaxing much quicker, squinting her eyes against the afternoon light. “Glimmer?”
“Yeah, sorry,” said Glimmer, grinning at Catra over the edge of the mattress. She narrowed her eyes in response. “I was looking for Catra, I didn’t realize you guys were both in here. Did you fall asleep?”
“I was haunted by the ghost of bullshit yet to come all night,” said Catra, unlatching her claws from the bedframe. “I’m allowed to nap.”
“And I got haunted--uh--okay, I was trying to break into the prison all night, but I’m also allowed to nap,” said Adora, rubbing her eyes. “Why do you need Catra?”
“Well I need both of you, but I started with her in case she’d decided to escape.”
“Escape? Am I a prisoner?” asked Catra, shucking the blanket and stretching luxuriously as she climbed back onto the bed. “Thought you learned that lesson the hard way, Sparkles.”
“Really? You want to remind me of that right now?” Glimmer asked flatly. “Kidnapping you was literally worse than being kidnapped by you.”
“Glimmer, you were cursed,” said Adora.
“Please,” said Catra, pressing a hand dramatically to her heart. “You don’t think I could be worse than a Shadow Weaver curse? Have a little faith, Adora.”
“You’re not a prisoner,” said Glimmer, glaring at her. “Yet. Just because my mom agreed doesn’t mean you’re getting off that easy. I’ve got my eye on you, Catra.”
“Well hey, enjoy the view,” she purred, slumping backwards onto Adora, who groaned and shifted so that she slid off her torso, though she still landed half in Adora’s lap. Victory.
“What did you need us for?” Adora asked Glimmer, pointedly ignoring Catra.
“Right, okay. Mom wants to convene in the war room and work out a plan.”
“What, now?” drawled Catra. “I dunno, my schedule is packed.”
“Not optional,” said Glimmer, scowling. “On your feet, Horde scum.”
She considered staying there, or planting her feet on the ground without standing from the bed, but Adora made the decision for her when she got up, dumping Catra from her lap.
She landed in a crouch, scoffing as she straightened up as if she’d known it would happen all along, and crossed her arms over her chest in a deliberate show of nonchalance.
Glimmer clapped a hand on her shoulder and teleported them.
“Hoaugh,” said Catra, swaying dangerously as they rematerialized in an enormous room dominated by a war table. Huge murals adorned the walls, doubtless princess propaganda, but she couldn’t really look at them; everything was blurry.
“Sorry,” said Glimmer, audibly smug.
Catra batted Adora’s hands from her arms, where they’d caught her on some instinct she would have thought buried by now. She didn’t want support right now, not in a war room. Not in this war room.
The other princesses, at least, seemed to be absent. It was just them, the queen, Bow, and what Catra was pretty sure was their general. The chairs had been pushed back, making space for them to circle the table as needed.
“Your Majesty,” said the probably-general, staring straight at Catra, “I understand that this is a lot to take in, but should we really just allow Catra of all people to wander the halls like this? No guards?”
“Glimmer has vouched for her,” said Angella, also turning to look at Catra. She, at least, seemed more contemplative than openly hostile. “And I can’t pretend I wasn’t moved by the morning’s… revelations. I believe we should extend her an opportunity to prove herself.”
Catra’s ears flicked forward before she could stop them. She could prove herself--she would prove herself. There was no precedent here, no Shadow Weaver to insist she’d failed despite matching Adora’s scores. There probably weren’t even scores. If she was going to be stuck in the Rebellion, she was not going to be doing grunt work like some kind of Kyle.
“Okay, well, I didn’t vouch for her,” said Glimmer. “I just--future-Adora did, and I trust Adora, so…”
“I trust her, Your Majesty,” said Adora. Catra glanced at her, surprised in spite of herself. She was smiling softly back.
“Adora, she tried to kill you!” Glimmer protested.
“Oh, did not,” said Catra, making a face at her. “Come on, if I wanted her dead, she’d be dead. Now, maimed a little...”
“Catra, you’re not helping,” Adora sighed. “And Glimmer… look, I haven’t just forgiven her for everything. But that doesn’t mean I don’t trust her. I know Catra, and I know she wouldn’t do all this just to capture us or spy or whatever.”
Catra smirked at Glimmer, standing up a little straighter. Take that, Sparkles.
“Let’s not think of it as trusting Catra,” said Bow, though he smiled at her reassuringly as he said it. She narrowed her eyes. “Let’s think of it as trusting Adora, okay?”
“Ugh, fine,” Glimmer groaned. “Can we get to planning already?”
“The other princesses have been notified,” said Angella, apparently used to the ‘Best Friend Squad’’s digressions. “But we cannot afford to wait for them. The most pressing issue is that we don’t actually know the location of this ‘Beast Island’. We need to determine it before we can mount a rescue mission of any size, but our only leads are whispers in old legends.”
“My dads may have some theories,” Bow suggested eagerly. “They have lots of stuff on First Ones’ legends. Some of their research is uh, theoretical, but with Adora translating we might be able to figure something out.”
“Hm,” said Catra, leaning over the table. She trailed her claws through the hologram, disrupting the projections of mountains. “You’re all ignoring the obvious solution.”
“And what would that be?” asked the probably-general, voice icy.
“We make a pit stop in the Fright Zone.”
“Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa,” said Glimmer. “Come on, Catra! You just got here, you can’t seriously expect us to trust you to--what? Stop in and ask directions?”
Catra rolled her eyes. “Please. I won’t need to. You heard old-me this morning: Beast Island is covered in First Ones’ tech. Hordak’s been sending us out after it so he can build his little pet project--or portal, I guess. Even if old-me talked him out of that, he’s not going to say no to an island’s worth of tech; it’s how Entrapta powers all the weapons.”
“Wait, so, you want--you want to lie to Hordak?” asked Adora, gesturing like she was trying to slow Catra down. Catra scowled at her.
“Oh, come on Adora. It’d hardly be the first time. And he was going to send me to the Crimson fucking Waste yesterday--I am not letting that shut-in get the better of me. Just give me ten minutes with the guy and I’ll get us directions, transport, and Entrapta and Scorpia. Two more princesses for your little ‘Alliance’.”
“So you want to rescue my dad alone?” Glimmer demanded, like an idiot.
“That’s not happening,” said Adora, before Catra even opened her mouth. “You want us to wait outside the Fright Zone while you get things squared away, right? Not happening.”
Catra groaned. “Adora, come on. If anyone sees any of you--”
“Then we’ll wear disguises,” said Adora, her jaw tightening. Great. She was putting her foot down. “I--look, I just got you back. I can’t--I don’t want you to lie to Hordak without backup. It isn’t safe.”
“I’m inclined to agree,” said Angella, looking between them with concern. “You girls are too young to have seen the things Hordak accomplished in the field, but he isn’t simply a ‘shut-in’. You will not face him alone, and that’s final.”
“Oh, whatever, that was forever ago. I won’t even have to fight him! He still thinks I’m going to aid his return to glory or whatever the fuck,” said Catra, waving her hand dismissively. “And your crack team here sucks at disguises. Even if I give them all the access codes, they can’t act for shit. It’s safer if it’s just me.”
“Where are you going to tell him you’ve been?” Adora pressed. “Where your badge went? If he saw your location before it was destroyed, he’ll think you’re in league with us.”
Catra paused. That… was a good point.
“Take me in,” Adora went on, “as a prisoner. Glimmer can get me out of a cell without arousing any suspicions that you’re a traitor, at least for long enough to extract whoever you think will come with us.”
“Adora, no,” said Bow, face creased with concern. “What if he doesn’t want to take you prisoner? What if he just kills you?”
“I’ll have the sword,” said Adora, patting her vambrace, the runestone glowing slightly at the contact. “And besides, he’s way too showy for that. He’ll make it a big public execution. Right, Catra?”
“Ugh, probably. He’ll be like ‘it doesn’t matter how strong or magic you are, a defector is a defector’ or some shit,” she grumbled. “I don’t like it. Bow’s right, it’s risky. If I can just come up with a cover story--”
“You’re not going in there alone,” Adora interrupted. “I’m not--I won’t leave you again. If he hurt you, I...”
Catra looked at her, breath catching in her throat as Adora stared her down, the picture of determination. It was stupid, she knew it was stupid, she knew it would be better for everyone if she went in there by herself. There were fewer variables, fewer steps that could go wrong, but…
She could still remember gasping breaths with no relief, her vision darkening at the edges as she slipped nearer to unconsciousness. Hordak looming over her, calling her pathetic.
“I wouldn’t forgive myself,” Adora finished, breaking eye contact to look down at her own hands. “I couldn’t. I need to be there. Please, Catra.”
It just felt so fucking nice to hear that she didn’t have to face it by herself. Not because Adora thought she was weak, but because Adora was weak, and scared, and needed to assure herself of Catra’s safety.
Old-Catra had said that Adora had always tried to protect them, growing up, but part of Catra hadn’t believed it until this moment. She’d never protected Catra in a way that mattered, that would get her on Shadow Weaver’s bad side, but…
She’d been so angry at Shadow Weaver, that morning. Angrier than Catra had ever seen her, even when they’d been actively fighting. Maybe she could do it this time. Maybe it was enough that she was willing to try.
“Whatever,” she said finally. “But we’re gagging you. You can’t lie for shit either.”
Adora laughed as she relaxed, tension flooding from her shoulders. “I know.”
“So you take Adora to the Fright Zone--as a prisoner--” said Glimmer, rubbing her temples with both hands, “you walk right up to Hordak, lie to his face, throw Adora in prison, and walk out. Then I get Adora out of there and we all rescue my dad?”
“I don’t like it,” said Angella, frowning down at the hologram. “There are too many pieces, too many factors. If Glimmer were captured, we’d lose her and Adora at the least. We need contingencies.”
“This is already way more developed than our usual plans!” Bow pointed out unhelpfully, smiling up at her. “Improvisation is our specialty.”
“That’s not going to cut it,” Catra said sharply. “Not if you want to just waltz into the Fright Zone. Or have you forgotten what happened last time you tried?”
Bow winced, shrinking in on himself.
“Having me on your side is a huge advantage,” she said, watching the hologram shift as Angella zoomed in on the Fright Zone, “but with only one-and-a-half princesses, we’re outgunned and outnumbered. If any of you are discovered, we’re screwed.”
“All the more reason for Adora to be ‘captured’,” said Glimmer.
“Hey!” said Adora. “I can be stealthy!”
“Much as I hate to admit it, she’s right,” said Catra. “Adora and I spent our whole lives sneaking around the Fright Zone. Not that any of those skills transferred to the real world, in her case, but if it were just a matter of busting in and out she could pull it off.”
“Maybe Glimmer should be the hostage instead,” said Bow, frowning. “I’m next stealthiest, and Glimmer could get you out just as easily if something goes wrong.”
“No way,” Adora cut in immediately. “Hordak wouldn’t believe it. Does he even know you need to recharge your powers?”
“Ooh. Yeah. My bad,” said Catra, wincing. “Kind of had to include it in the report to explain why I let myself be captured.”
“Adora is also more familiar with Horde tactics,” said Angella, countering Glimmer’s swelling outrage with a flat stare. “She’d know better when to intervene in a meeting between Hordak and a Force Captain, and Glimmer, we all know you wouldn’t be able to resist attacking him outright.”
“If we take him out now, we could dismantle the entire Horde!” she protested.
“No, we’d create a power vacuum,” said Adora, though she looked just as unhappy about it. “The Horde is all about hierarchy. If we could end this by just killing Hordak, we’d be leading way more assaults.”
“But we have Catra,” Glimmer argued. “If the second-in-command stages a coup, the rest of the Horde would follow, right?”
Catra laughed in spite of herself. “As if! I’m not exactly a beloved figurehead, Sparkles. Even with backup, I’d have to fight my way through most of the soldiers and every other Force Captain just to make it out of there alive.”
“Surely they can recognize your contributions?” asked Angella, raising an eyebrow. “The Horde has never done so much damage to our cause in so short a time before, even with She-Ra’s aid.”
Catra’s laugh grew a little darker, a little quieter. “We’re four times more efficient, according to Entrapta. We’ve gained new territory, built bigger and badder bots, hell, we staged an invasion of Bright Moon itself! But…”
But it didn’t matter what she’d done, what she was capable of. Hordak was going to throw her away to die in the Crimson Waste. The other soldiers hated her, the Force Captains resented her, Shadow Weaver… Shadow Weaver.
“Morale is down,” she said finally, rubbing her wrist with one hand. “Nobody cares if the Horde would be stronger with me in charge. They hate me way more than they care about winning.”
“I’m--I’m sure they don’t all hate you,” Bow said awkwardly.
“Yeah,” said Catra. “Scorpia doesn’t. And Entrapta--well, okay, she’s too busy with her tech shit most of the time to have an opinion on anybody, but she doesn’t actively hate my guts so I’m counting it. That’s why we’re getting them out, too.”
“Aw, Catra, do you care about people?” asked Glimmer, smirking.
“No. Shut up.”
“You do! You made two whole friends!”
“Allies. Useful pawns,” Catra insisted.
“Wait… does that mean all three of your friends are princesses?” asked Bow, glancing speculatively at Adora.
“They’re not my friends!”
“Come on Catra, you’re gonna hurt Adora’s feelings,” he said, pouting. He propped his chin up on Adora’s shoulder, hiding behind her to escape Catra’s glare. “Don’t you want to be besties again?”
“Shut up!” she hissed again. She was definitely blushing. Ugh.
“If you please,” Angella said, mercifully cutting the interaction short. “Catra, how certain are you that they’ll be willing to defect? Entrapta has refused us before.”
“Granted, her I’m iffy on,” said Catra, making a seesaw motion with her hand. “We’re gonna need to bribe her with something, which is why I think this Beast Island shit could be our ace in the hole. Why else would old-me have mentioned it?”
“And Scorpia?” asked Glimmer.
“Scorpia will come,” she said confidently. She was… pretty sure. “She’s all about loyalty, and not the ‘to the cause’ kind. If I ask her to go, she’ll go.”
Adora shifted uncomfortably beside her.
“What?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Well--I thought the same thing about you,” Adora said, clearly uncomfortable. “And I mean--I get it, now, I just--are you sure sure, or…?”
“I’m sure enough,” she said, shaking her head. “At the very least she wouldn’t stop me from leaving again or tell on me or whatever. I’m not planning on ditching her and joining up with the--oh fuck, I ditched her and joined the enemy.”
“At least you’re not magic?” said Adora, with a smile that was mostly grimace.
At least she wasn’t covering for Catra to Shadow Weaver. At least Catra was aware of the basic realities of being in the Horde. At least Catra was going back for her. She shook her head again.
“She’ll understand. It’s not like I’ll be treating her like shit next time I see her, anyway.”
Adora winced, rubbing the back of her neck. Self-conscious. Defensive. Good. It meant she knew what she’d done wrong for once.
Catra let her tail brush against Adora’s leg as a reward for realizing it, and from the warm smile she got in return, she thought Adora understood.
“Are you sure you’re okay waiting here?” Glimmer asked her mother.
“I don’t really have a choice,” said Angella, staring at the table with a far-off look in her eyes. “We can’t both go, and loath as I am to admit it, your powers are far more useful in the field than mine.”
“Not to mention, you’re like, eight feet tall,” Catra pointed out. “Kind of hard to hide if we’re going into the Fright Zone.”
Angella didn’t respond, but her face tightened into something… yearning.
“But why can’t we both go?” asked Glimmer, practically whining. “We should--we should be together.”
“The queen and the heir apparent can’t run off on the word of a Horde soldier,” said the general, scowling at Catra. “Just because she happens to have a kid in the future--”
“Two kids!” Bow interjected.
“--doesn’t mean we should trust her. Not with the fate of all of Bright Moon, and probably the Rebellion itself. Even with She-Ra willing to accept responsibility for her--look, Adora, I know you trust her, but your track record isn’t great with figuring things like this out.”
Adora flushed, starting to stammer something, but Catra cut her off.
“She-Ra isn’t responsible for me, asswipe. I’m responsible for myself. And Adora’s better at seeing through my bullshit than any of you bozos.”
“Really? Because she lets herself get separated from the bulk of the fighting every time you show up,” she shot back, bridling. “If I didn’t know her personally, I’d think it was on purpose!”
“I’m--Juliet, I’m sorry--” Adora tried, but Catra stepped in front of her, creating a physical barrier between her and the probably-general.
“Spare me the rationalizations,” she hissed. “If you hate me, hate me. Don’t try and pretend like Adora should have known better or whatever the fuck you’re trying to suggest. And leave old-me’s kids out of it! Don’t fucking--don’t judge me based on her, because I’m never going to be her, okay?”
“Catra,” said Adora, stepping closer but not reaching out.
“What? I’m not,” said Catra, desperately tamping down on the hurt and disappointment it made her feel. “You heard them. It’s already too late--we’ve diverged from their timeline. I’ll never--I won’t be--”
“You could be even happier,” said Bow, surprisingly steady from behind Adora. “She brought you here so you could do the right thing before she would’ve been ready to, right?”
Catra shrugged, then nodded, looking away. Right. She had to be ‘good’. That probably meant not chewing out high-ranking members of her own side for having stupid opinions.
“It doesn’t even matter,” she said, sheathing and unsheathing her claws. “Whether it’s true or not, the queen’s right. Beast Island is dangerous, and teleportation is way more versatile than… what is it you do, exactly?”
Angella huffed a little, stretching her wings out in demonstration. “I can create and manipulate light through my connection to the Moonstone,” she explained. “I don’t share Glimmer’s ability to teleport, but my control is more precise.”
“How precise?” asked Catra, leaning back towards the table. “Can you manipulate the light feeding people’s eyes?”
“Can I blind someone, you mean? Or create illusions?” asked Angella. “Yes, temporarily. It requires an active effort on my part to maintain, but it is possible.”
“So you’re like a non-evil Shadow Weaver,” said Catra. Angella scowled at the comparison, but didn’t disagree. “Without the lightning. Okay. Can these illusions do voices or anything?”
“No. It’s purely visual,” said Angella. “Well--I can solidify them to a degree, but textures present a bit of a challenge. It’s more like touching stone; I tend to reserve that for shields or wards.”
“Good to know,” said Catra, eyes darting over the projection of the Fright Zone. “No, we’re definitely better off with teleportation. Especially since Sparkles has experience working with this group.”
“Yeah, but if we both went we’d be twice as strong,” said Glimmer, outright pouting.
“If we all die in a horrible explosion or some shit, better it only be one of you,” said Catra.
“What?” asked Catra, raising an eyebrow. “Not ready for a little risk? A little danger? Your wife’s out there all by himself, Your Majesty. Either trust your kid won’t get herself blown up or leave him there.”
“My--wife?” asked Angella.
“You’re married, right?” asked Catra, glancing to Bow and Glimmer for confirmation. “You promised to look out for him.”
“No, I understood the sentiment, I just--wife is for a married woman. Men are called husbands.”
“Oh,” said Catra, blinking. “What the fuck? Why?”
“They just are,” said Bow, shrugging.
“That’s stupid. What if you’re not a man or a woman? Or what if you’re talking about more than one?”
“Then the word is ‘spouse’,” said Glimmer.
Catra threw her hands in the air. “What the fuck? Why do you need so many words for the same thing? They don’t even sound alike!”
“Wait, so that means you marry a woman,” said Adora, grabbing her elbow excitedly, like they were discovering some fascinating new piece of information and Catra hadn’t only been attracted to one person in her entire life.
“Yeah, no shit,” she huffed, unable to keep some of the fondness from leaking out. Ugh. This place was already making her go soft. She had to bring this back on track. “We need to talk logistics. We probably want a way to signal you that Adora’s in place, because it would be suspicious as all fuck if you didn’t bust in until after I left. Do you know where the prison is, or should I draw you a map?”
“The place Shadow Weaver kept us?” Glimmer asked uncertainly, rubbing her arms.
“No,” Adora said quickly, shaking her head. “No, that’s--that was her room. They’ll probably just put me in a regular cell.”
“Well, since Shadow Weaver busted loose he might not be too keen on putting a full-on princess in one,” said Catra, grimacing. “Maybe the signal should be verbal, so we can confirm she’s in the expected location.”
“I have some portable communication devices that could work!” said Bow. “They operate on a different frequency than the Horde’s, although Entrapta could probably detect that there was a signal. And crack it, knowing her.”
“How long do you think it would take her?” asked Glimmer.
“She’d need a few transmissions for a sample size, so at least ten minutes if we keep things brief,” said Bow, shrugging. “And that’s only if she notices.”
“Fine, good, whatever,” said Catra. “If things go wrong on our end, we’ll signal you to extract us. If things go wrong on your end, run. We aren’t there to fight anybody, and we can’t risk Glimmer getting captured.”
“I must say, this is a refreshing change of pace from our usual meetings,” said Angella, smiling down at her. “I’m impressed.”
Catra started, her claws disrupting the image of the foundry as she flexed them unconsciously. She stared up at Angella in shock she hadn’t the wherewithal to disguise.
“Impressed?” she echoed incredulously.
“You’re prioritizing individuals’ capabilities in a way that supports the mission, without letting yourself be biased by… shall we say, interpersonal relationships,” Angella explained, still smiling. “And you agreed to accept help within minutes! It took Adora weeks to even hear of it.”
“I accept help all the time!” Adora protested, flushing.
“Adora, you may be the most determined person I’ve ever met,” said Angella, chuckling. “You care so deeply for your friends, but your resolve to keep them safe more often than not has you taking on more responsibility than any one person should bear.”
Adora hesitated, and Catra knew her well enough to distinguish the confusion from the instinctive denial. She wasn’t going to just accept this; in Adora’s mind, she’d already been granted way too much help.
“It’s been a privilege to watch you become more comfortable here,” Angella went on, “with us. To see you let Glimmer and Bow grow closer to you, to share some of that burden. I only hope you continue on that path, and allow yourself to rely on others, to trust in their abilities. I know it can be difficult to relinquish control, but as I’m sure Glimmer can attest, our efforts to protect the ones we love can become… stifling.”
“Mom,” said Glimmer, looking ready to argue, but Angella silenced her with a raised hand.
“Our approach to things is very different, Adora,” she said gently, “but I hope you know that I understand some of what you’re feeling. As, I’m sure, does Catra.”
Catra blinked as the queen’s gaze returned to her, not quite recovered from the unexpected praise. “Me?”
“Of course. You two grew up together, after all; I imagine there are few who know Adora better than you, if any. Your future self was very attentive to her needs this morning,” said Angella. A knowing little smile curved the corners of her mouth, and Catra’s back went ramrod straight, her ears flattening against her head.
Angella totally knew.
Her eyes darted nervously to the other four members of their meeting, but none of them had that little twinkle in their eye, so maybe--maybe it was just her.
Just the queen, who was immortal and super tall and had magic fucking powers--
“Uh-huh,” Catra squeaked. “Yep. She’s always been like this, you know, classic Adora.”
“It makes me feel a little better about the situation, knowing you’ll be able to keep each other safe,” said Angella, like it was obvious. Catra’s tail lashed nervously behind her.
That was weird, right? That was a weird fucking thing to say to her. She shouldn’t give a shit about Catra, not this Catra. Not the one who’d been breaking her shit and terrorizing her countryside for months and months.
Was it pity? Because of what old-Catra had revealed? Or some kind of attempt at controlling her, luring her in with--with praise, and concern, and looking at her like she’d always wished Shadow Weaver would?
Maybe it wasn’t even about her. Maybe Angella was banking on Catra and Adora ending up together in this timeline too, and she wanted to curry favor. Catra’s stomach swam with anxiety, but she didn’t let it show beyond folding her arms around herself, pretending to be engrossed in the hologram.
She just had to be on her guard, that was all. If Angella was a threat, old-Catra would have said something.
Unless Angella had successfully ingratiated herself to old-Catra, and simply hadn’t struck yet. Or had decided not to, when the war ended. But the war wasn’t over yet, and Catra was in Bright Moon, under Angella’s watchful eye, and she had this one golden chance to prove herself, to not fuck things up--
A hand closed on her shoulder. She startled violently, barely biting back a hiss, but it was only Adora, trying to catch her eye. There had been a time Catra had thought she’d lost that sense for Adora’s emotions, when Adora was closed off behind a wall of disappointment and anger and… She-Ra-ness, but with Catra’s change in allegiance, it seemed to have melted away. She could see the feelings flickering across Adora’s face, hear the unspoken questions, plain as day.
Concern. Reassurance. Support. Are you okay? and I’m here, and I’ve got you.
Catra let the hand stay on her shoulder, which was answer enough. It was all she could bring herself to offer in front of the others.
“I think we should head out first thing tomorrow,” Adora told Angella, looking away from Catra. “None of us have slept very well, and it will give us time to iron out the wrinkles.”
“We took a skiff to get here, so we won’t need any teleportation to get us to the Fright Zone,” said Catra, glancing at Glimmer. “Leave a little after morning moonrise?”
“Sounds like a plan,” said Bow, nodding. Glimmer groaned, rubbing a gloved hand over her face like she was already exhausted.
“Very well,” Angella agreed. “You’re all dismissed. I expect you to have covered a few more contingencies by dinner.”
Adora turned on her heel, grinning at Catra. “Come on!” she said excitedly, grabbing her wrist and towing her from the room. “I’ll give you a tour!”
“I wanna come!” said Bow, chasing after them.
“Bow, you basically live here!” Glimmer protested, materializing a few feet ahead of them. “And Adora, you barely do. If anyone should be giving tours, it’s me.”
“Uh,” said Catra. “I mean, full offense Sparkles, but I don’t really want to be alone with you. Adora’s barely enough of a buffer as it is.”
“Clearly all three of us should take you,” said Bow, grinning. Catra’s ears folded back. “The full Best Friend Squad treatment!”
“Can’t I just, like, go to jail?” she groaned.
“Okay, well, you can, but Shadow Weaver is in there and I don’t want to talk to her,” said Glimmer, “so have fun being alone with her.”
“Oh, awesome. Hey, completely unrelated, can I borrow some weapons?”
“No torture!” said Bow, frowning.
“Nobody said torture!” said Glimmer, grinning a little too innocently.
“This whole tour is going to be torture if you assholes have anything to say about it,” Catra grumbled. Adora bumped her shoulder in reprimand, staring at her disapprovingly. “Ugh, fine. Best Friend Squad treatment. I guess the punishment fits the war crime.”
“Let’s start with the kitchens!” Adora said, lighting up. “I’ve been waiting to show you real food for forever, come on--”
Catra stumbled after her, dragged by the arm. Bow and Glimmer were hot on their heels, laughing at Adora’s eagerness but clearly just as excited.
It was weird. It was all so weird, there was no reason for any of them to be putting up with her, to care about watching her eat or whether she was safe or any of that. Why were they doing this? Adora she could almost understand; Adora was the most forgiving person she’d ever met. It was how she’d put up with Catra for so long.
But the rest of them? It didn’t make any sense.
She let herself be pulled along, waiting for someone to yank it all out from under her, to clap her in irons and say ‘haha, you thought anyone could care about you?’ or some similarly cutting remark. She’d sure been hearing a lot of them lately.