“You made your choice, now live with it!”
Catra wakes with those words ringing in her head, the taste of blood in her mouth, and a cry of pain on her tongue.
Ugh. Damn, she’s sore.
She groans, shifting on whatever strange surface she’s lying on, and frowns. Something’s off. Her mind is foggy, though, and she feels like she can’t form half of a coherent thought to explain what exactly is wrong. She tries to think back, to orient herself, but ultimately gives up, sinking back into the pleasant, soft plane below her.
“Catra! You’re awake!”
A voice. It instinctively puts her on edge, even though she can’t immediately place it. Catra’s eyes blink open—bright light shines down from above, searing her sight and blinding her to her surroundings. She groans and clutches at her head, sitting up. Her aching body whimpers at the motion.
Where is she?
Slowly but surely, her eyes adjust to the light. She surveys her unfamiliar surroundings—a softer-than-normal bed beneath her, clean white sheets draped over her body, and a set of large glass windows across the room.
“How are you feeling?”
The voice again. It’s coming from her right, Catra realizes. She turns and sees—Sparkles?
… Well, not quite the Sparkles she remembers. Her hair and clothing are different, for one, and Catra has definitely never heard the princess address her in such a… soft manner.
Wait a second. What the hell?
In an instant, Catra is awake, the foggy haze leaving her mind. She shoots out of the bed, hissing.
Glimmer’s eyes widen. “Catra?”
“Where the fuck are we, Princess?”
Glimmer’s mouth opens and closes a few times. Her brow furrows. “Princess?”
Catra unsheathes her claws and rushes forward. She tackles Glimmer to the ground, pinning her with one hand and brandishing the other threateningly in the air. “Tell me where we are right now, or I swear I’ll—”
“Catra! What are you doing?”
It’s another familiar voice. Catra cranes her head to see the archer, Bow, standing in the doorway behind her, his arms postured placatingly in front of him. She snarls at him, righteous fury racing through her veins as she regards one of her captors.
A burst of magic suddenly strikes Catra squarely in the chest. Catra’s body is flung backward, sending her crashing into the wooden frame of the bed she’d been sleeping on moments before. Catra cries out, her tired body protesting the sudden impact. A few steps away from her, Glimmer rises to her feet, panting; her hands are glowing with magical energy. Catra squints at her. She doesn’t remember the princess being this powerful. Dammit—she’d underestimated her.
The archer crosses the room, positioning himself shoulder-to-shoulder with Glimmer. The two of them loom over her—penning her in. Catra squirms uncomfortably under their gazes, her eyes flickering frantically around the room for an escape.
“Where’ve you taken me?” she asks. She tries to sound strong, in control, but even to her own ears she sounds pitiful. Raspy. Weak.
The princess and the archer exchange a long look. Some strange emotion passes over their faces. Is it pity? Pain?
It’s the archer who speaks first, turning back to her with a cautious glint in his eyes. “Catra,” he says, the name coming off his lips with a practiced familiarity that makes her fur bristle and her tail lash because he doesn’t know her, no one knows her or ever knew her, and the one person she ever thought did left her the second she got a chance—“You’re in Bright Moon, okay? You’re safe.”
Bright Moon? Safe? Catra would laugh if she wasn’t so confused—how did she get here? And why isn’t she in a cage?
The two others are looking at her with such genuine concern that, for a second, Catra wonders if this is the Portal’s doing; obviously, this can’t be real. At the thought of the Portal, she winces, remembering the burning pain of bits and pieces of herself crumbling and shattering away as she and Adora fought in a familiar forest. She remembers letting go—surrendering herself to a hungry, all-consuming void. Maybe this is what comes after. A punishment of sorts. Maybe that’s what she’s at Bright Moon for, for the worst thing she can imagine—to be forced to take Adora’s place. Catra’s lips twitch in a sad, twisted smile at the thought, then she pushes it away.
No. No, this isn’t the Portal’s doing. Catra remembers what it was like back there. Even before she’d regained her memories, she’d felt the undeniable undercurrent of wrong humming deep in her bones. That feeling is conspicuously absent now, despite how clearly bizarre the circumstances are.
No, this isn’t the Portal—it’s real.
Then what is it, then? A trick? Some kind of bizarre ruse to get Catra to let her guard down?
Catra nods at the two of them, purposefully flattening her ears submissively. She lowers her arms from her fighting stance, but keeps the muscles of her haunches coiled tight. “Okay. Okay.”
The archer breathes a sigh of relief.
Glimmer hesitates, searching Catra’s gaze, then smiles. “Thank goodness. You really had us going there for a second, Catr—”
The second the glowing magical energy dissipates from around the princess’ hands, Catra springs forward, her eyes fixed on the open window on the other end of the room. She bowls through the both of them, knocking them to the ground, and scrabbles frantically across the stone brick floor.
The archer is calling out after her, but Catra pays him no mind. She crashes through the windows, plummets off the edge of the castle, and hurtles towards the green grass below.
Thankfully, it isn’t too far of a drop; at least, not for her. Maybe a story or two. She tucks and rolls as she lands, cushioned somewhat by the lush grass below. In an instant, she’s back up on her feet, and from there she runs—she runs deep, deep into the Whispering Woods.
Catra stumbles around the woods for what feels like ages. She’s trying to get back to the Fright Zone, but it isn’t going well for her. It seems like there are more trees than usual—tall and thick and blocking her path at every turn.
A loud animal cry echoes in the distance. Catra jumps, her tail sticking straight in the air. She waits, poised on the balls of her feet, for some hulking creature to come barging out of the trees, roaring and spitting, but nothing ever does.
Catra takes a deep breath and forces herself to relax. She’s a Force Captain. She can handle this.
Suddenly, there’s a shimmer of light in front of her, and something knocks her off her feet.
Catra lets out a startled yelp. The sound is cut off when she crashes to the ground, something big and heavy knocking the wind out of her lungs. Catra squirms under the weight. She does her best to claw and scratch at whatever’s on top of her, but her arms are pinned to the ground, useless. “Hey! Get off!”
Catra blinks as the weight shifts, then pulls away completely. She takes in the sight of the creature before her—some kind of large cat, red with a translucent blue mane. She narrows her eyes, a growl rumbling deep in her throat, and flexes her claws menacingly.
The cat looks her up and down. Its tail sways pensively behind it.
The two of them regard each other silently for a few moments. The only sound is the eerie whistling of the wind through the leaves. Catra swallows and stands up, falling into a defensive stance, her feet planted firmly into the ground. If this thing wants a fight, it’s sure as hell found one.
You… do not remember me. The creature’s mouth doesn’t move, but the voice echoes in Catra’s mind—a strange sensation, not unlike the feeling of getting water trapped in her ear.
I am Melog.
“That doesn’t answer my question,” she says, low and suspicious.
I suppose not. Melog rises, and shakes its mane. Where are you going, Catra?
“Why should I tell you?”
I can guide you.
“Right.” Catra straightens and brushes herself off. She glances from side to side, searching the trees for the rebel soldiers that must be after her.
I can feel your emotions. You are going somewhere… Bad. Somewhere you don’t want to be.
Catra clenches her jaw.
Melog stares at her, cocking its head. Why are you going somewhere you don’t want to?
“What does it matter to you what I want?”
Why aren’t you going to Adora?
Catra stiffens suddenly. Her ears flatten against her head and she bares her teeth at Melog. “Adora?”
Is that not where you want to be?
“Okay, I don’t know who, or what the fuck you are,” Catra begins. “But you have thirty seconds to get lost before I show you what I really want to do right now.”
Melog cocks its head once more, shimmers, and disappears right in front of her.
Catra continues on through the forest.
When Catra finally does reach the Fright Zone, she almost doesn’t recognize it.
What the fuck happened to this place?
The buildings and skyline are still recognizable, but everything is so bright and green and fresh, nothing like the sweltering, choking red hellscape she’d grown up in. Catra slinks around its outskirts, avoiding all detection, as people— laughing, smiling people —mill around, looking every bit like the naive, carefree dopes of the Princess Alliance
Where’s Hordak? Scorpia? Entrap—
Oh. Oh, Catra knows where Entrapta is—probably a pile of bones on Beast Island right now. She swallows heavily, guilt flooding her chest and crushing her lungs with its pressure. Her claws dig into her palms hard enough to draw pinpricks of blood. The pain brings her back into focus. She shakes her head and continues on, weaving through the dark, narrow nooks and crannies of the Fright Zone that still remain, despite everything.
She eventually reaches the Fright Zone’s main compound and slips in through a side door, expertly weaving through the labyrinthine corridors. The interior is just as alien as the exterior, full of windows, natural light, and bright paint.
She checks the barracks first, and finds them totally empty—no beds, no cadets, nothing.
She moves onto the throne room next. There’s still a throne there—there’s two, actually—but neither of them look anything like Hordak’s throne. They’re simple and elegant, rather than gaudy and domineering. They look straight out of a princess’s castle.
Catra’s hackles rise. Is that what’s happened here? Has the Horde been conquered in her absence, invaded by the princesses and twisted to their liking?
Even though she’s in an enormous, empty room, Catra suddenly feels like she’s suffocating. She falls to her knees, angry tears welling up in her eyes.
No, no, no. After everything she’s done, everything she sacrificed, she can’t let her—them win. She can’t have lost.
Catra shoots to her feet, wheels around, and sees Scorpia standing behind her.
It’s not the Scorpia Catra knows, though.
She isn’t wearing her old Force Captain uniform, for one; she’s wearing some important, official-looking robes. For another, she isn’t acting anything like Catra’s Scorpia. She’s not fawning at Catra’s feet, or stumbling over her words, or aggressively manhandling Catra. No—she’s giving Catra a measured, restrained, and ultimately concerned gaze, looking her straight in the eye.
“Catra,” Scorpia repeats, a little more forcefully. “Are you okay? What are you doing here? Why aren’t you in Bright Moon?”
Bright Moon, again. And this time coming from Scorpia. Catra stumbles back and clutches at her head, the room spinning. Has she finally snapped? Lost it? She sinks to the floor, shaking.
Scorpia moves towards her hesitantly. At the same time, a bright flash fills the room.
Oh, great. It’s Sparkles again. Catra unsheathes her claws and rises on unsteady legs, ready to fight her way through anyone, including Scorpia, to get out of this nightmare. She growls and turns to face her enemies—
Her vision tunnels.
It’s Adora. It’s Adora, looking at her with big, doleful eyes that are welling up with tender emotion, so unlike the last time Catra had seen her (That steely glare will be etched into the back of her eyelids forever.)
Catra’s mouth opens and shuts uselessly. Her arms fall to her sides as Adora lunges forward, throwing her arms around Catra and burying her face in the crook of her neck.
Catra stiffens in her embrace.
Adora turns her head and murmurs against Catra’s temple: “It’s okay, baby. You’re safe.”
In a heartbeat, Adora pulls back and brings her warm, calloused hands up to cradle the sides of Catra’s face. Then, without a moment’s hesitation, like she’s done it a million times before, she pulls Catra in for a soft kiss.
Catra’s tail bristles with a mix of shock and anger. Her mind goes numb at the gentle press of Adora’s lips to hers. It’s such a stark difference from what she’s come to associate with Adora—stinging pain, wounds, and hurt pride—that she can’t reconcile what’s happening now with what’s come before. She feels her entire world tilt off-kilter, going black and hazy around the edges. She brings a hand up to her stomach, suddenly feeling nauseous.
Adora breaks off the kiss, her grey eyes wide and shining and just inches from Catra’s face. “Baby—”
When she wakes up, she’s back in the same room in Bright Moon. She’s lying in the same bed, with the same bright light and the same soft sheets.
Some things are different, though. The windows across the room are boarded shut now. Her wrists are bound with rope. And she’s ringed by a row of concerned faces, all staring down at her.
Catra jolts and sits up, struggling fruitlessly at her restraints. “Let me go,” she rasps. “I’m not gonna be a prisoner here.”
Adora steps forward, reaching a hand towards Catra’s shoulder, and Catra recoils, hissing and spitting. The hand is hastily withdrawn, a flash of hurt crossing Adora’s face.
“Catra,” one of the people begins, a blonde with a billowy dress—the flower princess?— “Catra, it’s okay.”
Catra laughs, high and strained. “Okay? Okay? You all keep fucking saying that; what do you mean ‘okay?’ Of course you’re okay, you won, you beat us, whatever, but why haven’t you thrown me in a dungeon to rot with your other prisoners? What’s your game?”
All of the people hovering over her—Adora, Glimmer, Bow, Scorpia, and the flower princess—exchange worried looks with each other, having some sort of silent conversation. Catra huffs and grinds her teeth, frustrated by their mysterious demeanor.
Finally, Scorpia takes a deep breath. She lays a pincer on Catra’s shoulder. “Wildcat,” she says. “What’s the last thing you remember?”
Catra stares at her with narrowed eyes. She isn’t sure she can trust her, or anything, at this point. At the same time, though, she feels like she doesn’t have any other options. The Fright Zone is conquered. She has nowhere to go. “... Activating the Portal. And then I woke up here.”
Adora sucks in a quick breath. Catra’s eyes dart over to her—she looks like she’s about to be sick, white-knuckled and pale.
Scorpia’s brows knit together. “Catra, that happened over five years ago.”
Catra’s train of thought screeches to a halt. “What?”
The flowery princess leans over Catra and presses a hand to her forehead. “The damage must have been worse than we thought.”
“Hey!” Catra jerks away from the princess’s touch. “What do you mean by that? What damage?”
“There was an accident about a week back,” Scorpia says, scratching the back of her neck with a pincer. “Whole bunch of old bots got reactivated. Headed for a bridge you were repairing, blew the whole thing up while you were on it! It was bad. Would’ve had Adora or Glimmer heal you, but they were a couple planets away on a mission—”
“—The healers from Mystacor did their best, but I guess it wasn’t good enough. Anyways, do you really not remember anything about the last five years?”
Catra hesitates, then shakes her head. She watches the reactions of the others in the room carefully. They all look wary of her, which she understands. What she understands less is the downcast sadness in their gazes.
A tense silence settles over the room. The others are looking at each other again. The flower princess rests her hand on one of Scorpia’s pincers, and Scorpia leans into her touch—Catra watches them, transfixed. They seem so comfortable and in tune with one another, possessing the kind of easy chemistry that Catra knows from experience only comes from years of familiarity. What the fuck.
It’s the kind of detail she doesn’t think anyone—not even Shadow Weaver with all her twisted magic—could put into a trick or illusion. It’s enough to just maybe almost convince her that whatever Scorpia’s telling her is true.
She frowns contemplatively and shifts on the bed. The ropes around her wrists dig into her skin, and she winces.
Adora notices. She and Catra make fleeting eye contact before Catra averts her gaze, strange and confusing feelings writhing in her chest.
The last thing she remembers is hate. Hate and contempt for Adora. The willingness to watch the entire world as she knew it crumble away before her just to keep Adora from winning.
But then… the kiss Adora has just given her flashes in her mind, pulling at the corners of her memory in a way she doesn’t fully understand.
Catra grasps her white bedsheets tightly in her fists.
Adora steps forward and Catra straightens up with a suspicious glance. The two of them watch each other carefully, negotiating some kind of tense cease-fire.
Catra ultimately allows Adora to approach. Adora takes the bindings in her fingers and swiftly undoes the knots, letting the rope fall loose and limp onto Catra’s legs.
Catra looks up at her. “What are you doing?”
Adora shrugs, a defeated slump in her posture.
Catra rubs her freed wrists. She swings her legs over the edge of the bed, waiting for someone to stop her, but no one does. Glimmer and Bow move out of the way, making space for her to get up and walk.
Catra stands. She stretches with performed nonchalance, every muscle in her body taught and ready for a fight she thinks must be coming. Finally, she starts walking towards the doorway.
One step. Another. The others just watch her go. Catra makes it all the way to the door before she stops and turns around. “So, where should I be going?” she asks. “Where do I live these days?”
“You live here in the castle.” Glimmer says.
“Oh.” Catra frowns. “Okay. Where’s my room?”
“Oh, Adora can take you, it’s—”
“—Really close to mine!” Adora interrupts, a little high-pitched and manic, her eyes wide.
Adora nods. “Yep! Really!”
Catra’s tail curls uneasily at her suspicious behavior. But it can’t be helped. “Okay then. Lead the way.”
Whatever room Adora ends up taking her to, it’s definitely not actually her room.
It smells absolutely nothing like her. Being in an infirmary bed for a week wouldn’t be long enough for her scent to dissipate, not if this was actually where she lived.
Catra huffs and and paces the length of the (exorbitantly) large room. She has more important things to worry about than Adora being cagey and weird about it.
She doesn’t think the others are lying to her. That’s a hard conclusion to accept. But the things she’s seen—they just couldn’t be faked. The complete transformation of the Fright Zone isn’t something that could happen overnight, or even within a few months. And not even Shadow Weaver has the magical power to create that big of an illusion. Not to mention the slight signs of aging everyone displayed: more stubble on the archer’s chin, and Glimmer and Scorpia’s new outfits. It’s certainly plausible, at least, in Catra’s mind that they really are the people she knows—just five years older.
That doesn’t explain much, though. Accepting that she’s really lost five years of her memory raises more questions for Catra than it answers. What happened in those five years? Why is she—friendly with? allied to?—Bright Moon now?
Catra tries to sleep for a while, but then realizes that there’s no way she can rest while these questions are swirling around in her mind. She quietly slips out of her room to wander the halls instead.
Catra shrieks and almost falls backwards in surprise when a familiar voice rings out in her ear.
Entrapta pushes up her visor, beaming at Catra toothily. “That is my name, yes.”
Catra marvels at her—at the woman she thought she’d given a death sentence just hours earlier—her mouth agape. She shakes herself, wondering if she’s fallen asleep and this is all a dream. Apparently not. Entrapta remains in front of her, flesh and blood and hair.
“What are you doing here?” Catra finally asks, breathless and shaky.
“Oh, just some routine upgrades. Nothing too fancy! Glimmer doesn’t want me messing too much with the place.” With that, she flips down her visor and kneels by one of the corridor walls, opening a hatch and pulling out a mass of wires.
“Entrapta?” Catra says, her voice high and strained.
“Could you… Could you tell me about Beast Island?”
“Huh? Oh!” Entrapta snaps and flips her visor up again. “That’s right! They told me you lost your memory! And Scorpia said one of your last memories would be you sending me to Beast Island!”
Catra winces and takes a step back, crossing an arm over her chest. “... Right.”
“Well, sure, I can tell you about it.” Entrapta rubs her chin with her thumb and forefinger. “It was cold. And dark. And full of First Ones tech! It’s been a while since I went there, though. Adora and Bow saved me a long time ago.”
Catra swallows. Of course. Typical Adora—always cleaning up all of Catra’s mistakes, no matter how bad. She clenches her fists tightly. “Well,” she says, lamely. “I’m glad you made it off.”
Catra isn’t really sure why Entrapta isn’t furious with her right now. She isn’t sure why everyone in the palace isn’t furious with her, for that matter. She leaves Entrapta behind not long after, and when she finally slips back into bed an hour or so later, she’s no closer to any answers.
She’s woken up a few hours later to loud knocking and a voice calling her name.
She’s up and crossing the room in a second, opening the door to see the archer, Bow, armed with a large silver platter in each hand, standing outside her room.
“Good morning, Catra,” he says, entirely too chipper for her liking. “I didn’t think you knew where to find breakfast, so I brought breakfast to you!”
At the mention of food, Catra begrudgingly lets him into her room. He sits the two trays down on her desk and uncovers them with a dramatic flourish, revealing what’s inside.
Oh man. The smell alone is enough to make Catra’s mouth water. She eyes the food hungrily, waiting for Bow to leave the room so she can pounce on it, but he doesn’t. He just stands there, a big, dopey smile on his face, watching her gawk at the food like she hasn’t eaten in months.
“Uh… Thank you,” she says, the words foreign on her tongue—she hopes they’ll make him leave.
His smile grows wider. “You’re welcome!” He still doesn’t budge.
Catra narrows her eyes at him. She reaches out one hand, pulling a roll of bread off the platter and bringing it slowly towards her mouth. He watches its journey attentively. Catra’s expression turns into a full-on glare, and still, his smile doesn’t waver.
The roll inches closer to her lips. Catra opens her mouth. She considers taking a bite, it smells so fucking good, but she can’t when his eyes are still on her, burning into her soul.
“Okay, why the hell are you looking at me like that?”
That’s enough to finally make his face fall. He steps back and rubs the back of his neck, sheepish. “What, me? I wasn’t, I wasn’t looking at you, I…”
Catra raises an unimpressed eyebrow at him.
Bow sighs and slumps in defeat. “I just… wanted to see you try it, that’s all.”
“Because,” Bow gestures wildly. “Bright Moon food is so good! And Adora was the only one who got to see you try it for the first time last time, so I wanted to see your reaction!”
“Adora, huh?” Catra hums. She contemplates the roll in her hand. “What, she told you I went ga-ga over some breakfast?”
“Uh-huh! Man, after all these years I still can’t believe I missed something so cute.”
“I am not cute,” Catra snaps. Because she isn’t—she is (or was) Force Captain Catra of the Horde, second in command to Hordak, tactical genius and fierce opponent. “Now get out of my room.”
At her icy tone, Bow’s demeanor shifts from playful to cautious. He slowly backs towards the door with his hands raised reassuringly. “Okay. Okay. I’ll get out of your hair.” He reaches the threshold, goes to leave, then turns back to tell her something: “By the way, there’s gonna be a meeting in the war room in an hour or so to talk about getting you back to normal, if you’d like to come.” With that, he shuts the door. Catra listens carefully as his footsteps retreat down the hall.
When she’s sure he’s gone, Catra sighs, grabs one of the platters, and brings it over to her bed. She sits, crossing her legs, and digs in, wolfing down every scrap of food on the plate until it shines likes it was just washed. When she’s finished, she tosses it onto her nightstand and settles on the bed. Damn. She’s so full—she can’t remember the last time she had this much to eat. And it was a hell of a lot better than ration bars, too.
No wonder Adora deserted, some masochistic corner of her brain jokes. Catra snarls at the thought, a fresh wave of anger rushing through her and disturbing her rest. She glares at her room’s high ceiling.
Adora. Bright Moon. Questions, answers. Meeting.
She doesn’t have any idea where this “war room” the archer was talking about is. She doesn’t exactly want to look like an idiot wandering around the palace, but at the same time, she can’t stand the thought of all those princesses sitting around in a circle, determining her fate, without her being there to see it.
She can’t not go.
Reluctantly, Catra rolls out of the soft bed and stands up in the middle of the room, her hands placed defiantly on her hips.
She needs fresh clothes.
Catra heads over to the wardrobe in the corner, flinging open its doors to find… nothing. Right—this isn’t actually her room, and it has none of her things. No clothes to change into. Catra wrinkles her nose in displeasure. Dammit Adora.
Well, if she can’t change, she can at least make herself presentable. She crosses the room again, this time heading for the magnificent adjoining bathroom that she’d gotten a quick look at the night before.
It’s blindingly bright, like everything at the palace—white and shiny and spotless. A far cry from the grimy communal showers of the Fright Zone. Catra steps gingerly over the smooth, cold tile, padding over the shower. She passes by a mirror, and she can’t resist pausing for a moment to give herself a good up-and-down.
She looks. Hm. Well, she still looks like herself. Her hair is as wild and untamed as ever, though pulled back in a small ponytail and a little bit shorter than she’s used to. She isn’t dressed in weird, princess-y pastels or anything; she’s wearing a simple red and charcoal grey bodysuit, not unlike what she’s used to wearing in the Horde.
Maybe the biggest difference is how soft she looks. Gone are the hard, rough edges of Horde life—her cheeks are filled out, rather than sunken, and her fur is sleek and shiny. Catra rubs her face pensively, almost disbelievingly, feeling the differences for herself under her fingertips.
Still, reminders of what has come before, whether she remembers it or not, remain. Scars litter every inch of her visible body, large and small, familiar and new. She sees wounds she remembers—a slash across her cheek from one of Rogelio’s stray claws; old, raised marks from Shadow Weaver’s magic—and wounds she doesn’t—a notch in one of her ears from a fight she can’t recall; a jagged scar over the back of her neck that sends shivers down her spine when she twists her head to look at it, though she doesn’t know why.
Disturbed, Catra turns away from the mirror and begins stripping. She walks over to the shower and fiddles with the knobs for a few minutes until she figures out how to work them properly. A warm, steamy stream of water sprays from the showerhead; she steps underneath it, cringing at the feeling of her fur becoming heavy and water-logged.
She releases a deep breath and uncoils her tightly-wound tail.
Relax, she tells herself. This might be water, but at least it’s nice, warm, clean water—not ice-cold and metallic smelling.
Water. Water, all around her, in her mouth, in her nose, in her lungs—Choking, spluttering.
Catra gasps and slams her eyes shut, curling in on herself. Water pounds down on her back, running over her face and eyelids.
“All beings must suffer to become pure.”
Catra tears out of the shower blindly, clawing frantically at the curtain, whimpers building in her throat. No. No.
One of her feet catches on the tub’s edge and she falls forward, crashing onto the cold, unforgiving tile. She groans, rolling on her side, and stares up at the ceiling, panting.
What the hell was that? Who the hell was that?
She presses the palms of her hands to her eyes, trying to recall something more about the flashes she just had, but it’s useless. The moment has passed, and she’s sure as hell not getting back in that shower again to try and trigger it again.
Catra heaves herself upright, standing on shaky legs and shutting off the knobs. The rushing sound of water stops, leaving Catra wet and shivering, alone.
The palace is like a maze, and Catra is starting to get very pissed off.
She’d left her room early so she wouldn’t be late for the meeting, but, at the rate she’s making circles through the winding halls, she might never reach her destination.
It probably doesn’t help that whenever she hears a group of guards chatting up ahead, she throws herself into the nearest plant or supply closet to avoid them. They’d probably be able to give her directions.
Whatever. She doesn’t need help—and definitely not from any filthy, dumb Bright Moon guards.
Catra jumps and whirls around, coming face-to-face with that cat-creature again—Melog. “You,” she says, low and threatening. “What are you doing here?”
I live here.
“You live here?”
Yes. I live here because you live here. The creature takes a pause to groom one of its forelegs, lapping at a stray patch of fur. Is that difficult for you to believe?
“A little, yeah,” Catra says. “What the hell do you care about where I live?”
We’re friends. I go where you go.
“Friends, huh.” Catra spits out the word venomously. “Well, sorry, pal. You must have me mixed up with somebody else. I don’t have friends.”
You do. You have me and Glimmer and Bow, and many others.
Catra’s stomach roils at the thought. She wrinkles her nose. “That can’t be right.”
They are good friends.
For a second, she almost asks Melog why it didn’t name Adora as one of her friends. But thoughts of Adora turn to thoughts of the Portal, turn to thoughts of that kiss, and she is definitely not interested in unpacking any of that right now. Instead, she turns away with a huff. “Whatever. I don’t care what you think, or what happened before. As of right now, I don’t know you, and we aren’t friends. Got it?”
The creature’s ears flatten against its head. It mews softly.
Catra crosses her arms defensively. “Anyways, now that we’ve got cleared up, can you show me to the war room?”
Melog reluctantly leads her through the halls, downcast and silent. Catra fidgets uncomfortably as she follows—she feels… bad?
When they reach the war room, the doors are already open wide, Bright Moon guards and princesses streaming in and out of the hallway. Catra slips in behind Melog, somewhat shielding herself behind its large form. She sees Adora across the room, standing next to Glimmer, who’s already seated.
Adora looks up and locks eyes with Catra. Catra’s breath catches in her chest and she freezes, pinned under the weight of Adora’s burning gaze.
“Catra!” It’s the archer. Catra breaks out of her trance, turning to face him as he jogs towards her. “Hey,” he greets her. “You made it!”
Catra coughs, clearing her throat. “Uh, yeah.”
The meeting looks like it’s about to start. Everyone is taking their seats, the lively conversation in the room slowly pittering out. Catra looks for a chair, standing awkwardly off to the side.
“Your spot’s over there,” Bow says, nodding towards the empty seat next to Adora. Catra swallows—that’s what she was afraid of.
It doesn’t look like she has much of a choice, though. The only other spot left is quickly taken by Bow—right next to Glimmer’s side.
Catra reluctantly walks over and slips into the chair next to Adora. They’re so close together that, when Catra rests her arms on the table, one almost brushes against Adora’s.
“Morning,” Adora says, stiff and formal like she’s never been with Catra. “How did you sleep?”
“Fine,” Catra replies. She considers making a snarky comment about her room to let Adora know she was lying to her. She almost does, and she turns to face Adora fully, the words on her tongue—they die in her throat at the expression on Adora’s face. It’s almost like the look Adora gave her yesterday, in the Fright Zone, except today, the light is gone out of her eyes. She’s looking at Catra with something akin to mournful resignation.
Catra can’t help but recoil, shifting back and scooting her chair away from Adora’s. She doesn’t understand what Adora’s gaze is trying to tell her. Adora looks down at the table, her mouth set in a hard line.
“Alright, let’s get started.” Glimmer’s voice rings out a couple feet away.
Catra frowns. Something isn’t right. “Wait a second, where’s the Queen?”
Immediately, the air is sucked out of the room. Everyone’s attention is laser-focused on her, deathly quiet. Catra drums her fingers on the table, her unsheathed claws tip-tapping on the hard surface. She knows she’s said something wrong, but she needs something to fill the silence.
Finally, Glimmer takes a deep breath. “I’m the queen now, Catra,” she says softly.
Catra blinks, her eyes widening. Things click into place—Angella’s absence, Glimmer’s new outfit, how powerful she’s become. “Oh.”
Glimmer looks at her, long and hard, then turns back to address the room. “Now, as you all can see, I wasn’t kidding with you last night. Catra’s really lost her memories.”
The other princesses nod. The water princess is the first to speak up. “No kidding. If she thought Angella was still here, she must’ve really lost her marbles.”
“I haven’t lost my marbles,” Catra snarls, crossing her arms.
“Riiight,” the water princess drawls. “So, how do we fix her?”
Glimmer shrugs. “We aren’t sure. For now, we’re calling the healers from Mystacor back to Bright Moon so they can examine her.”
“Um, couldn’t She-ra heal her?” It’s the pipsqueak, Frosta, who speaks up next—though Catra’s shocked to realize that she isn’t exactly a pipsqueak anymore. She seems to have had a significant growth spurt, maybe even rivaling Scorpia in her height.
All attention shifts to Adora. Adora winces, scratching the back of her neck. “Maybe?” she offers.
The room groans.
“Listen, I haven’t ever had to heal someone’s mind before,” Adora says. “And it’s too risky to just wing it. I say we wait for the healers from Mystacor to look at her, see what they have to say, and then maybe use She-ra as a last resort.”
“Woah, woah, woah. Hold up.” Catra shakes her head. “You’ve never done this before? I don’t want She-ra using my brain as a guinea pig, thank you very much. She isn’t healing me.”
“We might not have a choice,” Glimmer chides her. “If we can’t find another way to heal your memories—”
“Then don’t heal them.”
Glimmer, Bow, and Adora all gape at her.
Catra puts her hands in the air. “I’m just saying. It’s better than getting my mind scrambled by weird, ancient magic or whatever.”
“Catra,” Glimmer says. “You can’t be—”
“—No, Glimmer.” Adora interrupts her. She’s staring off into space, looking at nothing in particular. “Catra’s right. It isn’t worth the risk.”
Glimmer looks at Adora, shocked. “Adora—”
“—We’ll talk later,” Adora says. She casts Glimmer a pleading look. “Please?”
Catra wants to be smug about her victory, but finds that, for whatever reason, she can’t.
“... Fine,” Glimmer finally responds. “No She-ra.”
The meeting adjourns shortly thereafter. There isn’t much to do except wait for the healers from Mystacor to come, which will apparently take a couple of days. Adora practically runs from the room the minute she can, off to do… whatever it is She-ra is doing these days. It’s not entirely clear to Catra.
It’s frustrating that no one has bothered to sit her down and explain to her what happened in those last five years to turn her world upside-down. At the same time, Catra can’t bring herself to ask any of them outright.
She gathers that the war is (probably) over. Queen Angella is dead, judging by everyone’s reaction to her earlier faux-pas. She’s on the Rebellion’s side, for some reason. She’s friends with Glimmer and Bow, and she’s… something. To Adora. Whatever the thing is where you kiss someone when you see them. Catra doesn’t have a word for it, but thinking about it makes her stomach turn uncomfortably.
Catra leaves without another word to anyone, somehow finds her way back to her room, and tumbles back into bed, exhausted.
When she wakes up, it’s dark outside her window. She’s not sure how late it is, but, from the rumbling of her stomach, she knows it’s been many, many hours since she last ate.
She vaguely remembers Bow bringing her two trays of food this morning, but it looks like the second one has been cleared away—earlier, when she’d come back from the meeting, she’d noticed that her bed had been made for her. Must’ve been the palace staff.
Fuck the palace staff. Wasting food like that…
Catra is left with no other choice than to venture out of her room once more, creeping through the dark hallways in search of something to eat. She doesn’t think it’ll be too hard—come on, this is a palace, they probably have a kitchen on every floor.
Still, she doesn’t seem to have gotten any better at navigating the twisting corridors since earlier that morning, and, this time, she doesn’t have Melog with her to guide her. Catra grumbles about the stupid cat under her breath as she rounds the same corner the fifth time in a row, wondering how she’s managed to get turned around again.
Catra turns at the sudden voice, her claws outstretched defensively. She comes face-to-face with the princess—queen, rather. She blinks and slowly lowers her stance. “Oh. Hey.”
“What are you doing up?”
“I was hungry.”
“Oh.” Glimmer frowns, lowering her gaze, and laces her hands together behind her back. “Do you know where the kitchen is?”
Glimmer smiles—it doesn’t quite reach her eyes. “I figured. Well, if you want me to take you there—” She gestures with her head. “—walk with me.”
Catra hesitates, then nods silently in agreement.
The two of them weave through Bright Moon’s halls, Glimmer the bold leader and Catra trailing behind her awkwardly.
After a few minutes, Catra sniffs the air—food. Kitchens. She starts walking ahead of Glimmer, her stomach rumbling loudly.
“Just a second, Catra.”
Catra stops in her tracks and turns to see Glimmer standing outside a different doorway. She sniffs again, and doesn’t smell any food in that room. “What?”
“Come here for just a little bit. I promise it won’t take long.”
A low, annoyed growl rumbles in Catra’s throat, but she pushes it down in favor of not pissing off a literal fucking monarch. “Fine.”
She walks over to Glimmer, and, together, the two of them cross the doorway’s threshold and enter a vast, echoey chamber. Catra gapes, taking in the intricate decor and artwork lining the walls, and, above all, taking in the enormous statue that sits in the middle of the room—a statue of Queen Angella.
Glimmer walks ahead of her, sitting herself down on a velvety chaise across the room. Catra follows her, but stays standing.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Glimmer asks.
“I’m glad you think so.” Glimmer crosses her arms, reclining in her seat. “You know, after the war, you helped design this place.”
“I know, it’s hard to believe Force Captain Catra would have such an eye for decor,” Glimmer jokes. “But it’s true! You’re quite the artist.”
Catra flushes, her tail lashing behind her. Her? An artist? Sure, she likes to make the occasional doodle here and there, but those have been getting less and less frequent the longer the war wages on.
“Anyways,” Glimmer continues. “What do you think about her?” She juts her chin toward the statue of Angella.
“It’s… well-made, I guess,” Catra says. She doesn’t know what kind of answer Glimmer’s looking for.
“I don't mean the artwork,” Glimmer clarifies. “I mean the woman. What do you think of her?”
There’s a lot Catra could say about the queen—there’s a lot she’s heard said about the queen, being the leader of the Rebellion and all. She doesn’t think any of it would be appreciated within Bright Moon’s walls.
She settles on a diplomatic: “I think she’s—was... very committed to her ideals.”
Glimmer hums and nods in response, smoothing out the fabric of her night robe.
Catra tilts her head. “Why did you bring me here? Just to ask me that?”
“You don't know how she left us,” Glimmer says. “You wouldn’t remember.”
Catra brow furrows in confusion. She’s sick of people being so cryptic with her. “Well, duh, Sparkles, I think we kinda established that already.”
“It was because of the Portal.”
The rest of Catra’s snark dies on her tongue. She stares at Glimmer, dumbfounded.
“Someone needed to stay behind to close it. She sacrificed herself for the rest of us.” Glimmer’s tone is even and soft. It doesn’t quiver with emotion, but holds an undercurrent of undeniable sadness. “You took her from me.”
Catra suddenly can’t bear to look at the statue, or anything in the room, for that matter. Her eyes slip shut.
She and the queen stay there together for several more minutes. There are no words—just the occasional sounds of rustling fabric and breathing.
Shaking her head, Catra breaks the silence first. “Why?”
“Why are we, y’know—” Catra gestures between herself and Glimmer “—friends? After what I did?”
Glimmer laughs. “Well, it didn’t happen overnight, you know.” Her face sobers. “I hated you. For a long time. It took me to a dark place, and I… I did some things I’m not proud of. I hurt people. I hurt Adora and Bow.” She shrugs. “And then, I got to know you. Horde Prime found us, thanks to me, and you and I ended up together on his ship. We were alone up there, and we talked a lot. And one day you saved me. You betrayed the Horde to get me off the ship.”
Catra blinks. “I betrayed the Horde for you?”
“No. Not for me,” Glimmer responds, smiling. “Adora.”
Catra gasps and clutches her chest. Words—her own words?—echo in her head.
“Catra? What’s wrong?”
Catra wipes a hand over her face and finds her fur damp with sweat. “I—I don’t know,” she says. “I think I just remembered something.”
“Really?” Glimmer is wide-eyed and excited now, a far cry from the somber grief she’d displayed just moments before. “Catra, that’s great!” With that, she stands up and flings her arms around her, hugging her close.
“Woah, woah,” Catra says, stiffening. “Lotta touching going on.”
“Sorry, sorry.” Glimmer backs off. ‘I’m just—that’s good news, Catra. I’ll have to tell Adora first thing tomorrow.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Catra says. “It wasn’t that big, so don’t get her hopes up too much. Just… something small, is all.”
“‘Don’t get her hopes up too much?’ What, you worried about her or something?”
Catra’s eyes meet Glimmer’s and it’s clear the queen is teasing her, a mischievous glint in her eyes. Catra goes hot under her fur. “Am not,” she says. “I just don’t want her to get all annoying and whiny if I don’t go back to normal.”
“Whatever you say.”
Catra turns away, equally confused by and enjoying their back-and-forth. It reminds her of her banter with Adora, back in the Horde, all those years ago.
Maybe her being friends with Glimmer isn’t so far fetched as she’d thought.
“Whatever, Sparkles. Just let me go eat something already.”
“Like what? Cake?” Glimmer cocks her eyebrow.
Catra pauses, confused. “Uh, no? I was thinking more like....” She trails off, realizing she doesn’t know enough about Bright Moon food to come up with an example.
Glimmer’s grin falters and turns wistful. “Right. Well, I’m sure we’ll find you something. Come on, let’s go.”
Catra spends the next several days staying in her room during the daytime and roaming the halls at night. It’s mostly to avoid Adora—she guesses that with Adora’s regimented schedule, which probably hasn’t changed much in the past few years, she has a very slim chance of running into her at those hours.
It doesn’t mean she doesn’t talk to anyone. She continues to have nightly run-ins with the other residents of the palace, including Entrapta, Glimmer, and, once, an entertaining encounter with the apparently still alive King Micah, who had been very intrigued by her tail—he said it reminded her of “ the Pookas,” whoever they hell they were.
The next time she sees Adora is during her examination by the healers from Mystacor.
They’re back in the infirmary. Adora, Bow, Glimmer, Scorpia, and the flower princess—Perfuma, apparently—are all with her when the examination begins.
“Can’t I get a little more privacy?” Catra hisses.
“Don’t worry, Miss,” one of the sorcerers says. “The procedure is entirely non-invasive. You won’t need to change out of your clothing.”
Catra shifts uncomfortably in her seat, not completely reassured.
“We’ll take a look at your brain’s injuries now,” another sorcerer says, stepping behind her. “Please stay as still as possible so we can get a good reading.” With that, she’s drawing a circle of crackling magical energy around Catra’s head. It fills the air with its metallic, burning stench, and Catra digs her claws into the examination table.
“Don’t touch me!”
Catra suddenly vaults off the table, breaking out of the healer’s magic, and sprints towards the door as familiar panic fills her chest.
No, no, no. Not her.
“Catra!” Someone grabs her by the wrist, pulling her back.
Catra twists in their grip, shouting: “No, get off me! Get away from me!”
“Catra,” the voice repeats, firmer. The grasp on her wrist turns into an embrace—something she’d never given Catra. Catra blinks, her nose filled with a familiar, comforting scent. “Catra, it’s okay.”
“But she—Shadow Weaver—”
“—is gone, Catra. She’s dead.”
Catra stops struggling, going limp in Adora’s arms. “Dead?”
Adora’s arms tighten around Catra’s middle. Her lips hover over Catra’s forehead, like she’s going to kiss her there. Catra can’t keep her breath from catching, and it must break Adora out of whatever trance she’s in—she drops her arms like she’s been burned and stumbles back, looking at Catra like a guilty puppy. Catra stumbles forward at the sudden movement, catching herself just in time to keep from losing her balance.
“Are you okay, Miss?”
Catra sighs. “Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine.” Her tail lashes behind her—she does her best to still it. “I’ve just been getting these flashes lately. I think I’m remembering some stuff.”
“I see.” One of the healers strokes their chin thoughtfully. “Well, that’s certainly promising. We’ll still need to finish the examination, though.”
Catra nods hesitantly and jumps back up on the examination table. She looks over at Adora—she’s as red as her shitty old jacket, flushed all the way down her neck. Catra has the sudden thought that she wants to beckon Adora over and ask her to… hold her hand? Put an arm around her? She pushes the idea away the second she becomes conscious of it.
Absolutely not. She is—or was—Force Captain Catra. She can handle a little bit of magic without running crying to Adora’s side. She’s been doing it since Adora left her, and she’ll do it now.
The healer draws another circle around Catra’s head. Catra grits her teeth, a barrage of painful memories tugging at her mind, but stays still. The procedure is done in maybe two minutes—the second the magic dissipates from the room, Catra lets out a shaky breath she didn’t realize she was holding.
“Well,” the healer says, drawing back. “I have good news and bad news.”
“What is it?” Glimmer asks.
“Well, thankfully, it looks like your friend’s mind is already in the process of mending itself. The bad news is that, well, that process is rather delicate. We don’t like to interfere with it once it’s begun, you understand?”
“So, what does that mean?”
“Afraid it means we’ll be waiting for a while. And I have no idea how much of her memory she’ll regain. There might be gaps that never fill. You’ll just have to be patient.”
Right. Patience. Catra’s strong suit.
This’ll be fine.
Catra struggles to keep herself occupied in the weeks following the sorcerers’ visit.
She keeps getting flashes, but they’re few and far between, not to mention insubstantial—maybe a single sentence or image in her head. It’s not enough to keep her attention all day long.
Her late-night wanderings continue. She familiarizes herself with the layout of the castle, exploring it high and low, until she can navigate it with practiced ease.
She feels herself going more and more stir-crazy with every day that passes.
Maybe it’s because she’s used to the life of a soldier—moving, planning, fighting, and all the exhilaration that comes with that life—that she feels so pent-up now. Her claws itch for battle, but there aren’t any enemies. Not anymore. Catra often wonders how, in the five years she’s lost, she adjusted from life on the battlefield to the life of a, well, a housecat.
To be fair, from what she’s heard, it seems like she’s been keeping herself busy. She was repairing a bridge, apparently, when she lost her memory in the first place. Plus she helped design the statue room for Angella, which is something. It’s not as if she’s been loafing around.
But Catra isn’t repairing bridges or designing rooms right now. Right now, she’s waiting around, hoping she might one day remember doing those things.
At least it seems she’s not the only one who’s a little frustrated.
One night, Catra is wandering the halls yet again, when she passes close to the training room—a large space filled with mats and weapons and dummies. It seems like it’s normally used by the Bright Moon guards for practice, but Catra has never seen it in use after dark. Until tonight.
She can hear someone going to town in there from all the way down the hall. Frowning, she makes her way towards the door to investigate.
As she nears, she’s hit with a familiar scent.
Catra hesitates for a moment, then peeks inside.
Sure as shit, there’s Adora. She’s standing in the middle of the room, brandishing a wooden staff, ringed by a row of sad-looking dummies. She takes a deep breath and wipes her red, sweaty face.
“Working hard, princess?”
Adora starts and turns to face her. “Catra?”
“Don’t sound so happy to see me.” Catra walks into the room, her hands behind her back. She examines Adora’s victims with exaggerated interest. “Damn, Adora, what did those dummies ever do to you?”
Adora doesn’t laugh, or even smile. She just purses her lips and walks over to the far side of the room, hanging the staff up on some hooks. “What are you doing up?”
“I was bored. Wanted to take a little walk.”
Adora nods. “Cool. Cool.”
The air goes painfully dead between them. Adora won’t even look at Catra—her gaze darts between the floor and the doorway just beyond Catra’s shoulder.
Catra narrows her eyes. She’s been avoiding Adora for a while, it’s true—it still hurts her head to try to reconcile the Adora who despises her with the Adora who kissed her, held her, called her baby (that might be the most confusing thing—she’s unsure why Adora would refer to her as an infant, under any circumstances.)
But, she’s bored, and itching for a fight, and fights with Adora have always been anything but boring—even back before they were trying to kill each other. “Spar with me?”
Adora’s gaze finally snaps up to meet Catra’s. “Huh? What’d you say?”
“What, did you lose your hearing in the last five years? Spar with me.”
“Oh, I’m… I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”
Catra can tell that Adora is blushing, even beneath the sweat she’s already worked up. She doesn’t know why she’d be embarrassed, though—is she out of practice or something? That would be hilarious. She-ra, the legendary warrior, out of shape once the war is over. Catra grins, showing off her fangs, and continues needling her. “Why not? Afraid you’ll lose? Don’t tell me that you and I don’t spar these days, princess.”
Adora gulps. Her blush becomes a deep crimson. “Oh, no, we spar in here. Uh, sometimes.” Her voice is at least an octave higher than normal.
“Then what are you waiting for? Come on, humor me.”
Adora eventually agrees, though only reluctantly. She grabs two staffs off the wall and tosses one over to Catra, who catches it easily. The two of them make their way over to one of the training mats and stand on opposite sides, assuming defensive stances.
“Ready?” Adora asks.
The two begin circling each other, each examining their opponent and looking for an opening.
Catra watches Adora’s face closely. There are differences to Adora—in her eyes, in her posture—that Catra attributes to the passage of five years and to the end of the war. She doesn’t look as alert as she used to. She seems more relaxed, both confident and less rigidly guarded. Catra isn’t sure what to make of her new demeanor—does it just mean she’s assured in her abilities, or that she’s gone soft?
Catra decides to hedge her bets on the latter, rushing Adora and hoping her reflexes aren’t as sharp as they used to be.
She raises her staff to strike and Adora easily parries, pushing Catra back and rushing her in kind. Catra growls and blocks her strikes, moving back to get out of Adora’s range. She hopes Adora will try again, opening herself up to attack, but Adora follows suit and the two of them fall back into circling.
Great. It seems like Adora’s as quick as ever, but has also learned to bide her time instead of taking bait and getting sloppy. Catra narrows her eyes and tightens her grip on her staff. Just because Adora has five years of experience on her doesn’t mean she’s not a force to be reckoned with.
Adora stares her down impassively.
Catra growls. She rushes forward again. Adora moves to block, but Catra feints at the last second, darting behind Adora and striking her on the back of her knee. Adora grunts and falls forward, but also twists and hits Catra in turn, swinging her staff backwards and bowling Catra off her feet. Catra falls on her ass, hissing, and pops back up in an instant, both she and Adora straightening and resuming their stances.
There’s a flurry of blows exchanged after that, neither of them interested in waiting now that they’ve each landed a hit. They’re both going to start getting tired soon, and they know it—now is the deciding moment.
They end up in a contest of strength, Adora bearing down on Catra while Catra tries to hold her off, their bodies separated by nothing but their staffs. Catra grits her teeth and digs in while Adora smirks at her. Adora’s always been bulkier than Catra, and this isn’t an exchange she should be able to win.
While Catra glares at Adora, she sees Adora’s smug expression suddenly give way. Her blow weakens, and Catra takes the opportunity to force her back so violently that Adora tumbles to the ground, gasping at the impact.
Catra smiles and plants a foot on Adora’s stomach, lightly pressing down. “Looks like I win.”
“Yep,” Adora wheezes. “You win.”
Catra drinks in the sight of her victory—Adora, sweaty and out of breath, beneath her, her ponytail fanning out over the shiny blue mat.
“Fuck, Catra,” Adora gasps.
Catra presses a hand over her mouth, muffling her noises. “Quiet, princess,” she purrs, then drags her rough tongue up the column of Adora’s neck, humming at the pleasant tang of salt on her skin. “We wouldn’t want anyone waking up and coming to see what’s going on, would we?” She shifts her weight, pinning Adora more firmly into the training mat below.
Adora shakes her head, squirming beneath her.
“That’s what I thought.”
Catra blinks, her heart pounding in her chest. “Yeah?”
“You okay?” Adora is frowning up at her.
Catra scrambles away, quickly taking her foot off Adora’s chest so she’s no longer pinned to the ground. “Yeah,” she says. “Great. I just.... remembered something. I think.”
Adora makes a weird choking sound. “Oh. Yeah?” She’s back to not making eye contact with Catra.
Catra stops avoiding Adora so much after that night. She’s embarrassed and confused by that memory (and she can’t stop thinking about it,) but her curiosity has been piqued. She can’t find in it herself to stop thinking about her, Adora, and what they’ve become.
It turns out the days of She-ra after the end of a war are pretty uneventful. Adora tells her that she used to be busier, making repairs around Etheria, helping local towns settle land disputes after the Horde was no longer occupying their territory, visiting other planets—that sort of thing.
It sounds pretty impressive, even though Catra would never admit it out loud.
“You did all those things too, you know,” Adora says one day, bumping her shoulder against Catra’s.
Catra flicks one of her ears. “Really?” she asks, her voice carefully measured with forced nonchalance. “Seems kinda out of the paygrade of a former… I don’t know. Agent of destruction?”
Adora just smiles. “You’re a better diplomat than you give yourself credit for. Do you remember that you’re actually Glimmer’s head royal advisor now?”
“Now you’re just messing with me.”
Now that Adora finally has some free time on her hands, she’s apparently taken to charting the stars in the Etherian night sky. Catra can’t blame her—they’re gorgeous, and both novel and familiar at the same time, like they were always meant to be there (which is true, in a sense, Catra supposes.)
Late one night, she shows up outside of Catra’s door, thrumming with eager energy.
“What’re you doing here?”
“Come with me,” Adora says. “I want to show you something.”
The two of them leave Catra’s room and tip-toe through the quiet halls of Bright Moon. Catra yawns and rubs her eyes. “This better be good.”
“I promise you it’ll be worth it,” Adora whispers back, then snaps. “Shoot! I forgot the blankets.”
They take a detour to Adora’s room so Adora can root around in a closet, muttering something about the cold.
Catra, meanwhile, takes the opportunity to explore the place Adora’s been living for the past several years.
She hasn’t been in Adora’s room yet in the couple months she’s been here. Somehow, though, it feels familiar. She sniffs the air thoughtfully.
Huh. That’s her scent. Old and faint, but unmistakable.
Catra frowns. That can’t be right. She hasn’t been in here for weeks, at the very least—there’s no way her scent would still be detectable.
Unless… she used to spend a lot of time here.
Like, a lot of time here.
Catra meanders over to a bureau, where her scent is strongest. Curious, she opens one of the drawers. It’s full of clothes, carefully folded and put away, that smell a lot like her. Her clothes. On top of her clothes, there’s a little golden pin—Adora’s golden pin, from all the way back when they were in the Fright Zone. Catra blinks and picks it up. She’d figured Adora had gotten rid of it, but here it is, freshly polished and tucked away safely.
Adora emerges from the closet, two blankets in hand. Catra turns to face her, and sees the exact moment Adora realizes what she’s holding—Adora freezes in her tracks, her face falling, and drops the blankets. “Catra—”
“—Did I live here?” Catra asks, gesturing to the room. “Did I live here with you?”
Adora swallows and nods.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Catra isn’t angry, not really—she’s known Adora’s been lying about this since the beginning. She just wants answers.
Adora shuts her eyes and shifts her weight back and forth. She takes a few deep breaths before answering. “I… I guess I panicked. Once we figured out you’d lost your memory, and that you wouldn’t remember… some things. I just didn’t want you living here with me. I didn’t think I could take it. Not without doing something stupid, anyways,” she mutters, trailing off.
Catra frowns, a twinge of hurt flashing in her chest at Adora’s words. “You didn’t want me here?”
Adora laughs mirthlessly. “Wanted you too much,” she mutters. “That was the problem.” Her eyes flutter open and she crosses the room. Her hand comes up to take the pin from Catra’s grip. She goes to tell her something, but hesitates, opening and closing her mouth a few times, her gaze burning into Catra’s. “This is yours now,” she finally says, like it answers all Catra’s questions.
Catra cocks her head. “Okay?”
“Do you know what it means?” Adora asks flatly, even though she clearly knows the answer.
Adora chews on her bottom lip. Catra’s eyes are drawn to the movement, and she suddenly realizes how close they are—so close she can feel the warmth of Adora breath ghosting over her face.
“It means—” Adore begins, then stops, her tone thick and pained. She clears her throat. “It’s an Etherian tradition they don’t have in the Fright Zone. When two people—when two people are in love with each other,” she explains. “They give each other a token. Something important to them. I gave you that pin. You gave me your mask—in a roundabout way.”
“Oh,” Catra says. There’s a long pause. “We were in love?”
Adora takes a step back, nodding. Her eyes are glassy with unshed tears—she wipes at them with the back of her arm. “Yep. We were in love”
Catra doesn’t know what to say. Her and Adora? In love with each other? After everything that had happened between them… It seems too good to be true. But, stars, does Catra want it to be true, she realizes.
She makes up her mind, steps forward, and plucks the pin out of Adora’s hand. “Give that back, dummy,” she says. “Didn’t you say it was mine?”
Adora looks at her, speechless, her eyes wide and (maybe) a little hopeful.
Catra doesn’t put the pin on. It wouldn’t feel right. She feels like she’s stuck in a strange limbo, somewhere in between the person Adora hates and the person Adora loves, and she knows she’s not the person Adora wanted to give her pin to yet. Instead, she just slips it into her pocket for safekeeping. “Now let’s go wherever it is you’re taking me.”
They end up on top of the palace roof, watching the night sky. Apparently, there’s a meteor shower happening, and Adora wants Catra to see it.
They sit a good distance apart, each under their own blanket. Catra sneaks furtive looks at Adora, her mind still stuck on their conversation from earlier, and she feels Adora return them when she isn’t looking.
Maybe if Catra hadn’t lost her memory they’d be sharing one blanket, pressed up against each other to shield themselves from the nipping chill of the night. Maybe Adora would wrap an arm around Catra’s shoulder, molding their bodies together as one. Maybe Catra would tuck her head under Adora’s chin and purr, for once not annoyed by the height difference between them.
For now, Catra rests her head on her knees. The golden pin burns in her pocket, taunting her.
She isn’t the person Adora gave the pin to. She isn’t the person who fixes bridges, goes on diplomatic missions, or advises the queen.
But she wants to be.
You’re more anxious than usual, Melog observes, lounging on Catra’s bed while she paces around the room Why?
Catra rakes a hand through her hair—she’d pulled it out of its typical ponytail for that exact purpose. She stops in her tracks and lets out a heaving sigh. “I want to ask Adora to heal me.”
Melog blinks at her. Oh. Good.
“Is that all you’re gonna say?” Catra asks, waving her arms wildly. “‘Good?’ This could kill me! This could fry my brain!”
I don’t think it will.
“But it could.” Catra crosses her arms and taps a finger on one of her biceps.
Then why are you considering it? Why not follow the healers’ orders?
“The healers’ orders are bullshit,” Catra says. “They don’t even know if I’ll get all my memories back, and I don’t feel like sitting here waiting for another six months or however long it’ll take to find out.”
She really wouldn’t be able to handle that. She can’t keep living in this middle stage anymore—not quite Force Captain Catra, and not quite Catra, mate (at least, that’s what Melog calls her) to She-ra either. She needs to take the plunge, for better or worse.
Okay, Melog says. Are you going to ask her now?
Catra bites her lip. “Should I?”
Melog sits up, shaking itself. No time like the present, as you Etherians say.
No time like the present. Right. Catra can do this. Whoever she is right now, she’s bold. She’s brave. She can face the unknown. All she has to do is ask Adora to heal her.
“Absolutely not,” Adora says when she asks. They’re standing in Adora’s—their?—room together, and Adora’s shaking her head resolutely.
“What? Adora,” Catra says. “This might be our only shot to get my memories back! We have to take it.”
“You said it yourself, it’s too dangerous. I’m not gonna risk destroying your mind.”
“How do you know that?”
“Hey,” Catra says, stepping forward. She brings a hand up to cup Adora’s face and noses Adora’s jaw comfortingly. “It’ll be okay. You’re She-ra—you’ve done way crazier shit than fixing someone’s memory.”
Adora makes a small sound in the back of her throat and covers Catra’s hand with her own, leaning into her touch. “I’ve already lost so much of you,” she whispers, searching Catra’s gaze. “I can’t lose the rest.”
Catra hums and reaches into her pocket. She pulls out the pin—she’s been carrying it with her every day since Adora gave it to her. “I need you to try, Adora,” she pleads. “I need to come home. I need to be your mate again. I can’t keep waiting to turn into the person you love. I need to be her.”
Adora smiles softly. “‘My mate?’” she parrots. “Did Melog tell you that that’s what you are?”
Catra flushes. “Is that not right?”
“I’ll tell you later.” Adora traces a thumb over the back of Catra’s hand. She leans her forehead against Catra’s. “Okay,” she says. “I’ll do it. But you need to know something, Catra.” She pulls away to look her straight in the eye. “I’ve always loved you. That’s nothing new.”
With that, she transforms into She-ra—not the She-ra Catra knows, though. Her get-up is different—gone is the billowy skirt, replaced with form-fitting pants—and her hair is pulled back in a ponytail, rather than loose around her shoulders.
Catra gapes openly and Adora grins. “You always did tell me you liked my updated look,” she teases.
Catra recovers the ability to speak. “Yeah, yeah. Just get on with it.”
Adora leans down and cradles Catra face in her large hands. She begins glowing, her eyes lighting up with what Catra assumes is magical energy. Her touch becomes a warm tingle that shoots down Catra’s spine, making her shift in nervous anticipation.
Then, Catra’s vision goes white, and everything burns.
It hurts. A lot. Not just physically—emotionally, too. Painful images and memories rush through her head. Her downward spiral. Double Trouble’s speech. Horde Prime “cleansing” her. Adora insisting on sacrificing herself for everyone else, threatening to leave Catra alone again.
Then—a moment of respite.
“Don’t you get it? I love you! I always have. So please, just this once—stay!”
“I love you too.”
Catra gasps. The pain subsides, and calm settles over her.
She blinks open her eyes and realizes she’s on the floor. Adora is standing over her, detransformed, her eyebrows knit together in concern.
“Catra?” Her voice is shaking. “Are you okay?”
Catra sits up and takes a deep breath. She licks her lips, staring up at Adora. “Wife,” she replies, her face breaking into a grin. “I’m your wife.”
Adora sinks to the floor and pulls her into a bone-crushing hug, burying her face in the crook of Catra’s neck. Catra responds in kind, wrapping her arms around Adora’s middle, tears pricking at her eyes.
“Does that mean it worked?”
“Yes, it worked, dummy!” Catra pulls back, grabs Adora by her shirt, and yanks her into a bruising kiss, one hand sliding up to fist itself in her hair. Adora squeaks, then melts against her lips, returning it with just as much eagerness.
When they finally pull apart, they’re both crying. They hold each other, rubbing each other’s backs in mutual comfort, for a long time, until Catra’s knees start aching and she stands up. She looks down at Adora, offers her a hand, then laughs wetly.
“I can’t believe you lost that sparring match with me ‘cause you were too busy thinking about me fucking you on the mat.”
(She puts the pin back on her shirt not long after that. Adora almost bursts into tears again at the sight, but manages to hold them back so they can go tell Bow and Glimmer the good news.)