There are 2 Imposters among us.
Winters were brutal on Polus.
Well, everything was brutal on Polus. It had already been three Etherian years since Catra had made her way to this outpost, one scientist out of a handful sent to study the planet and its strange resources, and it was still painful to acclimate to each change in climate. The summers were chilly but bright, the planet’s twin suns high in the sky for half of the year. The rest of the year brought inky darkness and heavy snows. Catra still wasn’t sure which was worse.
The entire crew had gathered together for the final — and only — sunset of the year just the night before, bringing it in with the same revelry they always did. When Catra woke up that morning and peered out the window, a small circle more aptly described as a porthole, darkness stared back at her. She resisted the urge to flop back onto the bed.
Someone else did that for her.
A warm arm snaked around her waist, dragging her back down into the nest of standard-issue blankets that had been amassed on her bed.
“Mmm,” murmured Adora incoherently into Catra’s neck. “Stay.”
Catra let out a sigh. “I can’t, Adora,” she said, voice soft. “We have tasks to do.” Completely at odds with her own words, she slipped an arm around Adora’s bare shoulders, pulling her tighter.
“They can wait.”
Burrowing into the blankets, Catra gave a light snort. She was usually the one groggy with sleep and begging for just five more minutes while her lover was out of bed for morning exercise as soon as their alarm clock (something she resolutely vowed to destroy the second she was back on Etheria for good) let out its shrill ring. The first day of darkness was one of the most important, though — Catra had energy readings to do, specimens to examine, data to transmit back to the base...
All of that was forgotten when Adora’s leg slipped between hers. Instinctively, Catra curled her tail around Adora’s calf. She closed her eyes, basking in the comfort of Adora pressed against her side, the scent of her shampoo lingering against their shared pillowcases.
When she opened her eyes, Adora was watching her.
“What are you staring at, weirdo?”
“I — you,” Adora said, face flushed. “You look beautiful.”
“I look like nine shots of space moonshine.”
“I still like you when you look like nine shots of space moonshine,” Adora said bluntly, pulling Catra closer against the curve of her body.
Catra relented, allowing herself to take comfort in the moment. It was probably the last time she would feel warm all day — not even the spacesuit she and her crewmates wore when traveling between buildings was enough to completely ward off the chill of Polus’ winter. She couldn’t be blamed for wanting to linger with her lover for a few moments longer.
She was surprised at Adora, though. She could count the number of times she had seen Adora skip her morning training routine on one hand.
Catra tried to sit up. Adora’s arm tightened around her.
“Stay,” she said again.
“Okay,” Catra said, eyebrows raised. “What has gotten into you?”
Adora looked up at her, eyebrows drawn together. Her loose hair streamed across the pillow, gold as the suns Catra wouldn’t see for months. Her fingers tensed against Catra’s side when she said, “It’s dumb. I just… I have a bad feeling.”
Lifting one hand to Adora’s forehead, Catra smoothed a lock of blonde hair back from her face, tucking it behind her ear. “Yeah, me too. It’s called a hangover. And four hours of sleep considering that… stunt you pulled last night,” Catra said, face flushing at the memory.
Adora rolled her eyes. “You weren’t complaining.”
“And I wouldn’t complain this morning,” Catra said, pushing herself up on her elbows, “if we didn’t have shit to do.” Softer, she continued, “Hey. I know things are always a little stressful after the sun sets. But remember what we used to say? As long as we stick together—”
“— nothing really bad can happen to us,” Adora finished quietly. “You’re right.”
“My two favorite words,” Catra said with a smug smile. She leaned forward and brushed a light kiss against Adora’s forehead.
For the first time all morning, Adora sat up. She delicately took Catra’s face in her hands and pulled her in for an actual kiss. Catra half expected the same ferocity as the previous night, but the peck Adora pressed to her lips was gentle, reverent.
When Catra forced herself to pull away, she didn’t know which she hated more — herself, her job, or this damn planet.
One hand still anchored to the side of Catra’s face, Adora said, “I love you.”
“I love you too,” Catra replied, leaning into the touch. “Now help me get into this stupid suit. You’re good enough at taking it off.”
“It’s fucking cold.”
“Wow, Catra, is it fucking cold?” Glimmer asked, rolling her eyes. “You’ve only said it’s fucking cold fifteen times today.”
“Yeah, maybe because it’s fucking cold.”
“It’s not even that cold by Polus standards,” supplied Entrapta entirely unhelpfully from across the lab. She looked up at the two of them, pushing her giant goggles up into her purple hair. “And if the meteorology reports from the satellite are any indication, it’s only going to be colder this year based on the—”
Catra dropped her head down against the desk, praying that the concussion she induced in doing so would block out the rest of Entrapta’s spiel. She instantly regretted not letting Adora drag her back into their bed to waste away the entire morning. Early winter may have been the best time to do energy readings for the strange, magnetic field blanketing most of Polus, but it was also the most stressful time to be in the lab. Too many people running their own tests and scans stacked on top of one another.
She had spent the whole morning jockeying for space between Glimmer, Bow, and Entrapta. She could handle all of them individually — but the combination was quickly sinking her resolve not to murder any of her own crewmates. All she wanted was to do enough research that she could justify slinking off for an early lunch and maybe a quick rendezvous with Adora in a supply closet. The lunch wasn’t even the important piece in that equation.
Something in Entrapta’s spiel was enough to set Glimmer off. While the two of them argued in the background, Catra’s hand crept toward the command hub, flipping it to open a line to the dropship and racking her brain for a good excuse to bug Adora in the middle of the workday.
Catra flipped it again.
And then again.
Catra’s tail bristled with a sudden sense of anxiety. “Um. Is the comm system… down?”
All three of the other people in the room looked up at her.
“Is it?” Asked Bow, a confused line drawn between his eyes.
Catra toggled the controls a few times, trying to establish a connection to any of the other bases. Nothing.
“Huh,” Bow said. He set the tablet in his hand down on the counter. “I’ll go take a look at it.”
Glimmer looked up at him. “Do you want me to come with?”
Yes. Please, one less person in this closet of a room.
“No,” Bow said, and leaned forward to press a nauseatingly sweet kiss to her forehead. “Stay here. I’ll be back in a moment.”
Bow was not back in a moment.
In fact, the better part of an hour had passed until Glimmer finally gave up on her failed attempt to not come across as anxious. Throwing her hands in the air like the toddler she often reminded Catra of, she huffed, “That is it,” and slid the face window of her helmet closed. “How long does it take to fix a comm system?”
Catra looked up. “What are you — your readings—”
“—I forgot to run the fuel this morning anyway” Glimmer said. “I’ll just — it’s close to the comm system. I’ll drop by after hitting the storage room.”
“You forgot to run the—”
“Bye! I’ll be back soon!”
When the comm system finally came back online, it did so with a familiar chorus of tinny beeps. Catra was knee deep in a reading and didn’t notice as it flickered back to life.
She did notice the sudden, familiar siren of an emergency meeting blaring over the intercom.
Slowly, Catra pushed her goggles up to her forehead and turned to share a brief, stunned gaze with Entrapta.
“We need to find out who did this.”
As she spoke, Mermista brought her hands down so hard that the table in front of her shook. The sudden movement was enough to make Catra jerk back in surprise, the legs of her chair skidding back against the dark blue tile of the communal office. She couldn’t even roll her eyes at Mermista’s antics, her whole being still hollow with shock.
The office, like all of the buildings on the base, was shielded from the elements and pumped full of manufactured oxygen — the climate of Polus was breathable on its own, but too much exposure to its strange atmosphere tended to make the crewmates lightheaded. Catra was grateful for the chance to take her helmet off; it was much easier to breathe and communicate like this, even if it did give her an unsettling view of her colleagues' pale, frightened faces.
“Anyone among us could be this... imposter,” said Mermista, pushing herself off of the table and sizing up the group before her. “We need answers.”
A familiar pair of hands descended onto Catra’s shoulders, giving them a light squeeze. Catra’s eyes fluttered closed and she leaned into the touch. Adora couldn’t do too much through the layers of her spacesuit, but the gesture was appreciated — even more so when one hand settled against Catra’s skull, fingers carding soothingly at the place between her ears.
“It’s going to be okay,” Adora said softly. She sounded like she meant it, too.
“Um, hello, ground control to Adora and Catra,” said Mermista, waving a hand close enough to Catra’s face that for a second Catra considered snapping her teeth and biting it. “If you two could stop flirting for a moment, that would be great. People are dead.”
“Technically just one person,” Entrapta supplied helpfully.
It wasn’t the right thing to say. Across the table, Glimmer dropped her hands into her face and let out a muffled sob.
“For now,” Mermista supplied cryptically. She had also opted to remove her helmet and the dark blue of her hair spilled like a wave over her cyan space-suit. “And more, if we don’t figure out who was behind it, soon. So.” She turned her gaze out to the pale faces of her crewmates and said bluntly, “Any guesses?”
Catra looked up, gaze skating around the room at the faces of her crewmates. Not just her crewmates — her friends.
They used this same office for morning briefings. They used this same office for morning breakfast; Catra could still smell the familiar scent of stale coffee wafting from the counter. The walls were littered with photographs of the nine of them
The oldest of the pictures showed baby-faced cadets back when each of them were fairly new to Polus, former crewmates dotted here and there amongst them. In the most recent of the photos, their eyes were bright and their faces were flushed red with alcohol. It was from the night before last year’s sunrise — if they held a celebration for the sunset, the sunrise was a full out bacchanalia. The day after was the only day of the year truly dedicated to rest and relaxation (or, more accurately: hangover recovery).
It seemed so long ago now.
“No one?” Mermista asked. She looked around the room again. When nobody met her eye, she said, “Fine, I’ll start. You, girlfriend. Where were you when he died?”
The room went silent.
Slowly, Glimmer raised her head from the table. Her eyes were wide, voice trembling as she said, “Me?”
“Uh, yeah, black widow,” said Mermista. “You found the body.”
“You think I killed Bow?” Glimmer asked in disbelief. Her face flushed, cheeks going as pink as her space suit.
It was with reluctance that Catra tried to parse the blush spreading across Glimmer’s tear-stained face. Indignation? Anger? Catra felt sick to her stomach to even consider it, but guilt? It was all too confusing. Nobody was safe. Nobody was innocent.
“I love Bow,” Glimmer objected. She scrambled to her feet so quickly that the chair toppled over behind her. “I — I would never—”
“But you found his body!” Mermista insisted. “You were supposed to be fueling the engines — what were you doing in the communication center?”
“I — it was sabotaged!” Glimmer shouted back. “We were all trying to figure out when wrong in communications!”
“But you got there first.”
“Because I was in the storage facility filling the fuel tanks.” Catra had never heard Glimmer’s voice so… fraught. Which was quite the achievement, considering the two of them had engaged in screaming matches on the daily at the beginning of their assignment together. (Not to mention one or two memorable occasions since.)
With bare entreaty on her face, Glimmer looked around at the assembled group. “You have to believe me,” she whispered. “Bow, of all people — I would never…”
“But Glimmer,” Perfuma said, her voice soft as a petal, “Mermista is right… You were the only one there.”
“Adora—” Glimmer’s head whipped around. She honed in on Catra and Adora pressed against one another, her pleading gaze flitting between their two faces. “Catra, both of you, you have to believe me!"
Catra didn't know what to believe.
glim: We were just in the lab together!!
catra: yeah and
catra: you left lmao
she-ra: um….. i mean
she-ra: mermista why are you so focused on glimmer???
she-ra: you were in the office……
she-ra: not far…….
sea-ra: ugh adoraaaa
sea-ra: adora whyyy
she-ra: u are the only one making suggestions!!
she-ra: why are u picking on glimmer….unless…...
sea-ra: bc it's OBVIOUS
glim: I would NEVER
flower power: but mermista…... why were you in the office?
sea-ra: i was omw to communications
sea-ra: bc it was
glim: THATS WHAT I SAID
catra: can we please just vote
catra: the timer is almost up
scorpia: wait….so….it’s not glimmer??
scorpia: this is so hard guys!
sea-ra: IT. IS. GLIMMERRRRRRR.
sea-ra has voted. 7 remaining.
glim has voted. 6 remaining.
she-ra has voted. 5 remaining
scorpia: tHIS IS SO HARD GUYS
catra has voted. 4 remaining.
flower power has voted. 3 remaining.
entrapta has voted. 2 remaining.
catra: scorpia, hurry up.
sea hawk has voted. 1 remaining.
scorpia: this is so hard!
scorpia has voted.
Nobody was ejected. (Tie)
When she first came to Polus, Catra had found the snow beautiful.
It didn’t snow much on Etheria — not in the Fright Zone, anyway, the flower carpeted seat of a former empire that she had grown up in. She had always planned to see the Kingdom of Snows, one day. It had been on her and Adora’s list, the one they had kept pinned above their shared bunk while in training at the academy. As young girls, that list had mostly consisted of the various kingdoms of Etheria. Bright Moon, Plumaria, even the Red Wastes. The older they got, the more they mapped the stars and learned to navigate them, the more that number grew. They used to whisper together in bed, speculating about all the amazing worlds they would see after they graduated.
Instead, they landed on Polus, a half frozen shithole in a forgotten galaxy with energy readings so off the charts that it was amazing the First Ones had never set up camp and wrung as much of the resource — magic, Glimmer called it jokingly — out of the earth.
Catra watched the snowflakes dance beneath the humming floodlights. Against her better judgement, she still found Polus beautiful.
A shiver raced down Catra’s spine, and not from the cold. She looked both directions at the small avenue between the buildings. She could still see the near-frozen dirt beneath her feet. The walkways were mostly free of snow now, but in a few months it would require daily, grueling shoveling to keep them clear. Too bad — she would have felt a little bit better if she could have seen the tracks of others through the snow underfoot.
She knew she shouldn’t have been running around alone, but she couldn’t help it. Entrapta — the only person other than Adora that Catra could truly trust in all of this, having been in the same room at the time of Bow’s murder — had taken her energy readings and run off to spend the rest of the day in the specimen room. The Polus project was still too early for a full excavation, but over the years they had managed to encounter a number of artifacts, potential devices that could have been used by the planet’s former inhabitants to channel the so-called “magic”. Not even a murderer was going to keep Entrapta from puzzling that out.
Catra had intended to hole herself up in the laboratory all day. It had worked for about an hour. Left alone with her own thoughts, her mind had raced. Fear for herself, for her friends, and most importantly, fear for Adora had flooded all of her systems. Now, she was busying herself with menial tasks — filling oxygen canisters, logging the daily temperature and conditions outside, checking the finicky water system. She found new purpose in all of the boring daily tasks needed to keep the station running.
Polus was a creepy place. She was used to it. Today, though, it felt creepier than ever.
As she wandered past the great tree dominating the oxygen center, she tried to focus on anything else but Bow’s death and the evidence of a traitor in their midst as she wandered through the encampment. Anything. Her energy readings. The path that she had and Glimmer had been charting for their return to Etheria after the next change of season. Taking the garbage out. That thing Adora had done last night.
It worked — until the emergency siren went off again.
It was with a sense of hollow security that they piled back into the office. It hurt Catra even more with the discovery of this new body to sit among her ever dwindling companions and know that one of them was capable of murder. Murder and sabotage; the deliberate destruction of years of hard work.
Catra drummed her gloved fingers against the table. To what end was this all for? That’s what Catra couldn’t figure out. Money? Useless out here. A cause? The only competitor they had was the Horde, and as far as anybody knew they were still clueless about the existence of Polus.
What could posssibly justify cold blooded murder? Had there always been a traitor — possibly even more than one — in their midst, hiding in plain sight among them and collecting their secrets, the whole time waiting for the moment to strike?
“It was Mermista,” Glimmer said immediately.
“What?!” Mermista squawked.
“Who else had motive to murder Sea Hawk! Everybody knows how you two… are,” finished Glimmer abruptly. “How you, er. Burned each other’s ships.”
“It’s not like that,” Mermista insisted, brown skin flushed at the insinuation. Her and Sea Hawk’s on and off again relationship was an open secret among the crew, but they had seemed… stable lately. Just that morning, Mermista had almost shown the vaguest possibility of a hint of a potential smile at one of his jokes, rather than trying to suplex him into the table for commiting the crime of speaking to her. “You can’t — just because Bow—”
“Don’t you dare bring Bow into this!” Glimmer snapped, eyes shining with unshed tears. She took a step toward Mermista.
Before she could make another move, Perfuma cut her off. The buttery blonde of her sideswept hair was a stark contrast to the green of her spacesuit. “Glimmer — Glimmer, no!” Perfuma’s hands flew to Glimmer’s shoulders, pushing her back. “Hey — look at me. We don’t attack our friends—”
“—yeah, well, somebody is!—”
“— we just… look, I know this is hard,” said Perfuma, voice cracking. “But Glimmer — think about what Bow would want.”
She looked down at Glimmer with huge, pleading eyes. Her thumbs traced small circles against Glimmer’s shoulders, the comforting touch a weak balm for an untreatable wound.
Glimmer deflated. With a sigh she nodded and said, voice achingly quiet, “Bow would have wanted us to talk it out.”
“Ugh, Bow isn’t the only one who died,” muttered Mermista. “What about what Sea Hawk would have wanted?”
Sea Hawk would have wanted them to settle the dispute with the accompaniment of a poorly tuned guitar until the murder was warranted. Catra refrained from pointing that out. Instead, she squeezed Adora’s hand, gaze flitting to where her partner was seated next to her. Adora glanced back, and the two shared a knowing look.
Slowly, Adora brought their joined hands to her mouth, pressing a gentle kiss to the back of Catra’s knuckles. Catra shivered at the touch. She couldn’t imagine what Glimmer and Mermista were going through. She hoped she never had to.
“Look,” she said, chin lifted, voice taking on that authoritative tone that made Catra shine with pride. They had no leader out here — the base was a tightly wound unit, their team an interconnected whole that only functioned due to the hard work of every single crewmate — but there was something about Adora that commanded not only respect but trust. “We’ve already lost two. We have no idea who else among us could be traitors, we have to act quickly. Who found the body?”
“I did,” said Scorpia immediately.
All eyes turned to Scorpia. She looked worse than the corpses, face pale, expression exhausted. She had clearly been crying, if the red of her nose and the tower of tissues threatening to topple out of the wastebin next to her was any indication.
Adora raised an eyebrow. “Oh,” she said. And then, more gently, “I’m so sorry, Scorpia. What… how did it happen?”
“It — it all happened so fast,” said Scorpia in a waterlogged voice. She gave a choked sob and then grabbed another tissue. The sight of the small scrap of tissue in her giant claw would have been hilarious in any other context. “I — I came out of the vent, and there he was, I—”
Catra’s jaw dropped. The room went unnaturally still, so silent one could have heard a pin drop.
“Scorpia,” said Catra in disbelief. “… what did you just say?”
sea-ra: omg you did NOT
sea-ra has voted. 6 remaining.
catra has voted. 5 remaining.
glim has voted. 4 remaining.
she-ra has voted. 3 remaining.
entrapta has voted. 2 remaining.
flower power has voted. 1 remaining.
catra: S C O R P I A
flower power: oh...sweetie…
she-ra: oh my god i’m crying
catra: she literally is
scorpia: why are you crying??
entrapta: Only imposters are able to travel in the vents
entrapta: Though really it seems like a functioning tunnel system would be extremely useful for the entire base… if it were even possible, that is, which I highly doubt given the conditions of Polus…
sea-ra: ughhhh entrapta
sea-ra: how do you even type like that on this keyboard……..
she-ra: scorpia you have to vote!
catra: it doesn’t matter she’s fucked anyway
scorpia has voted.
Mermista’s expression was stoic as she watched the scene unfolding across the room. It hadn’t taken much to subdue a shame-faced Scorpia, but Catra and Adora still flanked her on either side, making a half-assed show of containing her.
“This can only mean one thing,” Mermista said.
The uproar of shock and horror at Scorpia’s admission fell into a background din of whispers at Mermista’s words. Catra felt as if the bottom had dropped out of her stomach. Aside from Adora, Scorpia was her oldest friend. A war of confusion raged within her. One half of her clamored for justice for her fallen crewmates, while the other wanted nothing more than step in front of Scorpia and protect her from the verdict she knew was coming.
“To the lava.”
scorpia was An Imposter. (1 Imposter remaining.)
“Stay in the lab,” Adora said, voice breaking in the middle. She was clearly just as shaken as Catra was.
The two of them were hidden away in the medical bay. The sound of the others, their voices still climbing steadily higher in arbitration, was muffled through the wall. Any moment now they would dispurse -- no matter what, the base couldn't stop functioning. There were too many tasks vital to keeping the entire base operating.
Adora stepped forward, pulling Catra to into a tight embrace. Catra felt warm at the touch— not quite as warm as she had been in the cocoon of their bed that morning, but it was still a relief.
God, had that really been just that morning? It felt so long ago.
“Stay in the lab,” Adora repeated. “Stay out of sight, Catra. I can’t— I can’t see you get hurt.”
Catra looked up at Adora, eyes wide and ears pressed flat against her head. She could still hear the sizzle of lava, could hear the sound of Scorpia’s pained screams.
She raged against the pain of those memories, though, focusing instead on a brewing sense of frustration at Adora’s words. “What? Are you crazy? How could you ask me that?
“I’m not going anywhere, I’m staying with you—”
“I’ll be fine, Catra,” said Adora. Her gentle hands slid to cup the base of Catra’s skull, carefully peeling Catra’s head back from where it was pressed against her neck. Her eyes were blue, so blue, blue as an Etherian sky. It had been so long since Catra had seen her home planet. “Just — please, Catra. Promise me you’ll stay out of sight. Promise.”
Catra wanted to argue. She wanted to thrash and scream, she wanted to demand Adora tell her what the hell she was playing at, why she thought it was acceptable to just — to just leave Catra behind like this. She didn’t know why she agreed — maybe because Adora was crying and Adora almost never cried, or maybe because Adora had asked and Catra would do almost anything Adora asked of her.
In a shaky voice, she said, “Fine. I promise.”
Catra should have kept her promise.
Even with the bright floodlights, there was an inescapable blackness to the sky looming over Polus. It was worse, in fact, with the floodlights — cut the electricity, and one could still see the stars blinking overhead, promises of galaxies far away, places that Catra and Adora had long dreamt of traversing together. With the lights of the base on, they were completely washed out.
Sometimes, the two of them would take oxygen tanks and sit together in the craggy expanse just beyond their base, eyes soaking in the sea of stars above. They would lay on the ground, a shock blanket spread out beneath them, and talk about the places they had been and the places they wanted to go.
Catra took a deep breath. Her entire body was wracked with anxious shivers as she closed her eyes against the body before her, against the sight of red blood bleeding pink into the freshly fallen slow. Even worse was the sight of the blood-smeared helmet laying beside her, the color completely different from the purple of Entrapta’s suit.
When she closed her eyes, she thought of her and Adora, saw their path through the stars pricked against the backs of her eyelids. She could only pray that they would make it.
“Entrapta,” she said weakly, tracing the long locks of aubergine hair tangled into the dirty snow with her gaze, “Entrapta.”
She needed — Catra didn’t know what she needed. To tell somebody? Probably. To get off this godforsaken planet? Definitely. To check the body for evidence, any indication that might tell her who the murderer was? With a wet laugh, she realized she could practically hear Entrapta ranting at her to not contaminate the crime scene.
Catra stumbled back. She felt raw as an exposed nerve. It seemed so cold, suddenly, despite the insulation of her suit. The lights flickered — once, twice, then rebounded back to life. She turned on numb legs to see if there was anybody nearby, anybody she could tell...
And there she was.
“Hey — Adora.”
She looked like an angel, the floodlights creating a soft glow around her sunny hair— no helmet. That was important, for some reason, but Catra couldn’t put the pieces together. Her eyes were wide in shock, her mouth slack as her gaze shifted from Catra to Entrapta’s limp body.
“Catra,” she breathed.
Catra followed the line of Adora’s sight. It only took a moment for realization to strike — when it did, she shook her head. She crossed the open expanse of the alley on shaking legs, “Adora — I didn’t—”
She stumbled, slipping on a patch of icy gravel. Before she could fall any further, a pair of arms circled around her waist, familiar even through the layers of their space suits. When she looked up, Adora’s soft eyes were trained on her face, her sandy eyelashes glittering with tears.
“I know,” Adora said quietly. She used one hand to pull Catra closer to her, a comforting weight settled at the small of Catra’s back. The other one slipped to Catra’s neck, gently resting against the point where her helmet was joined to her suit. One finger brushed the release clasp, and Catra felt the sudden absence of tension as it unclicked. “You should have stayed out of sight.”
Catra raised an eyebrow, unease raising the fur along her spine. “Adora, what are you—”
“I’m so sorry, Catra.”
It happened so quickly, so painlessly, that Catra hardly even felt it — all she registered was a sudden pressure at her side and a strange, tingling sensation. Pulling her gaze from Adora’s face hurt more than the wound did, but she dazedly tilted her head anyway. The knife jutted angrily from her side, a clear Horde insignia emblazoned on its hilt. It must have been coated with a numbing agent, because Catra could feel nothing of the puncture, just the slick of hot blood matting her underclothing to her hip and thigh.
“What…?” Catra’s own voice sounded far away. Her knees buckled. “Adora. Adora…”
When her legs gave out, Adora shouldered her weight. One hand fumbled with the helmet; it hit the ground with a wet crunch and rolled across the ice. The other was still looped around Catra’s back, holding her aloft in a protective embrace. Unable to control her slowly weakening body, Catra let her head roll back, glassy eyes staring in shock up at Adora’s face.
She tried to say Adora’s name again again, only to be quieted by gentle fingers brushing at the side of her face.
“Shh, Catra,” Adora whispered. Her gloved fingers against Catra’s face were unbearably tender as she brushed a lock of short hair out of her eyes.“It’s okay. I’m here.” She leaned down, touching their foreheads together and whispered, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I love you.”
Her hair fell like a curtain shielding them from the outside world, damp with clumps of falling snow. The lights flickered again, briefly casting Adora in shadow before illuminating her once more with that heavenly glow. Catra stared uncomprehendingly up at her, marveling at the familiar planes of her grief-contorted face.
There was a strange sense of comfort in this, in bleeding out Adora’s arms. Adora was her home, after all — more of a home than any planet had ever been. Her fingers were tight against Catra’s side yet delicate where they carded through her hair, gentle as the soft reassurances falling from her mouth. She pressed a kiss, hot and wet with tears, to Catra’s forehead.
Her eyelids were heavy, so heavy. All she wanted to do was let them drift shut, to lay her tired body down until it was covered by the blanket of Polus’ snows. She struggled against that imperative as much as she could, eyes focusing up on Adora, drinking her in for the final time. To die in Adora’s arms, the face of the person she loved the most in the entire universe the last sight she ever saw? Catra could have had many other deaths. This one wasn’t so bad.
“I love you,” Catra breathed out.
Adora’s fingers clutched tighter against her. Overhead, the flood lights flickered again, just once, then gave out entirely.
Catra did not see the brilliant net of stars strung across the winter sky — only darkness.
she-ra was An Imposter.
“Wait, did you just kill me? You killed me?!”
Catra didn’t give Adora a chance to answer. The only thing she could say to plead her case was an indignant squawk as she received a pillow directly to her face. The force pushed her deep into the cloud of other pillows at the head of the bed.
“I had to!” Adora exclaimed, peeling the pillow from her face. She propped herself up on her elbows. “You saw me kill Entrapta!”
“You traitor,” said Catra with a roll of her eyes. Before Adora could retaliate, she swung a leg around her hips, straddling her on their shared bed. She didn’t wait until Adora tried to waggle her eyebrows or make some other kind of insinuation; using the pillow as a weapon once more, she shoved Adora down again. “You imposter. You dick!”
Adora laughed, a stupid, self-satisfied little laugh. “That’s how the game is played!” she said, voice muffled through the pillow.
Catra rolled her eyes. She let up after a moment, batting the pillow to the side so that she didn’t completely suffocate her girlfriend. She regretted it the instant she saw the smug expression on Adora’s face. Her cheeks were red with laughter (and near suffocation) and her messy hair spilled across the white pillows. Her bright eyes shone with mirth.
“You’re sleeping on the couch tonight,” said Catra. Despite her words she leaned forward, caging Adora in with her hands on either side of her head. “What happened to you being bad at this game?”
“You practiced?” Catra repeated. “Okay, nerd. Is that why you’ve been on your phone so much? Were you running around on freeplay for hours?.”
“Of course you did. No wonder you were so good at the card slot. I hate you so much.”
“Why? Because I won?” asked Adora smugly. One hand came up to wrap around one of Catra’s wrists, thumb stroking up and down the tender inner flesh just above Catra’s pulse point. Her other hand drifted instinctively to her side, a warm weight even through the thin tank top Catra had worn to sleep.
Well, they were supposed to be sleeping. That had been their intention nearly two hours ago. It had been ruined when a bored Mermita had dropped “European server” and a six letter code into their group chat. The game was oddly addicting, especially strung out across the country as they and their friends were at the moment. They had spent most of the night curled up—together but separate — their faces illuminated by the glow of their smartphones as they tilted so that the other couldn’t see their screen.
“Because you killed me, you monster,” said Catra. “How can I ever trust you again?”
“I don’t know,” Adora said, her fingers tracing a light trail up the length of Catra’s spine. “Maybe I can make it up to you?”
“Oh, yeah? And how are you planning on doing that?”
Adora was more than happy to demonstrate. Her fingers dug into the short hair at the base of Catra’s skull, using the grip as leverage so she could drag Catra down to where she lay, lost in the depression between a pile of pillows. Catra followed easily, allowing Adora to guide her down into a sweet kiss that was soon deepened by the brush of Adora’s tongue against Catra’s lower lip.
Catra acquiesced. She dropped down, using her forearms and elbows rather than her wrists to keep her aloft. Her hands now somewhat free, Catra was able to dig them into the spray of Adora’s hair, fingertips stroking lightly against her skull as she pushed the kiss deeper, deeper still. The “A” necklace she always wore, a compliment to the “C” on Adora’s bracelet, fell between the two of them, the delicate gold chain pooling against Adora’s collarbone.
They had to pull away for air eventually. When Catra did, she said in a voice completely at odds with her words, “You think that’s a good enough apology for murder?”
“Yeah, kinda,” said Adora truthfully. In the heat of the kiss, her hands had shifted; they now rested lightly against Catra’s hips. She swiped her index finger up, the tip moving thoughtfully just under the hem of Catra’s shirt and said. “Or…”
Catra arched an eyebrow. “Or?”
“Or I could do that thing you like?”
“What about the game?”
Adora raised an eyebrow. She worried the fabric of Catra’s shirt between two fingers. She used her other arm to blindly bat against the bed until there came the tell-tale thump of two smartphones falling to the carpeted floor below.
“What about the game?” Adora said, already leaning up for another kiss.
sea-ra: ugh. they’re NOT Ïcoming back.
glim: i hate them
flower power: should we end it here? Or do u want to keep going?
entrapta: Keep going. I think I’ve finally figured out the best way to deal with the Weather Node, I just need to test it one more time…
bow: i was dead the whole time :’( hope u guys had fun
scorpia: maybe they fell asleep?
glim: no they didn’t
bow: no they didn’t
flower power: not those two
sea hawk: my sweet sea anemone
sea hawk: perhaps we
bow: let’s just start another game
bow: theyre obviously not coming back
scorpia: ooooh i call red this time!!!