Adora is unable to pinpoint the exact time she started falling in love with Catra, but she knows when she realized it.
For some reason, Adora always thought that realizing you’re in love should be different. She always hoped for some sort of big revelation, a hot and cold sensation blooming in her chest along with wild butterflies in her stomach. She believes that it’s like that for some people, but for her?
Catra and her are inside Adora’s apartment to study together — more or less. They have different majors, so it’s more like each girl is slumped over their respective laptop, reading and typing away. Adora annoyed Catra into making her company because despite having too much to do, the blonde didn’t want to be alone. So Catra is there and Adora feels warm and comfortable all over.
Adora watches when Catra gets up from her place by Adora’s bed and stretches. The movement is enticing so Adora’s eyes follow — as they always do. Next thing, Catra is approaching the blonde and in a mixture of gentle and firm, the woman closes and pushes Adora’s laptop out of the way.
The exchange happens in silence and Adora lets it. Catra pushes her own body onto the bed and finally places her head on top of Adora’s legs. She squirms and hums much like a kitten until she finds herself comfortable and she looks up at her friend.
Adora smiles, she can’t help it.
“Tired?” Adora asks, softly. Catra groans.
“So tired,” the woman sighs. “Can we be done? And order some food?”
But Adora doesn’t move right away. The pads of her fingers gently caress the sides of Catra’s face and her hair, careful not to mess her waves. She observes the freckles dotting her friend’s nose and cheeks and her smile grows wider because Catra is so beautiful and she just loves her so much.
Wait, what —
“Uh, Adora? You okay there?” Catra interrupts her panicked thoughts and Adora feels her face growing red. “Don’t tell me you just remembered an assignment, I swear to fuck—”
“No, no, no,” the blonde says, too quickly, shaking her head. Her fingers also shake, just slightly, as Adora attempts to touch Catra again. “Just… nothing, I was wondering if I had some coupons and I uh… let them expire…”
Catra doesn’t buy it, but she lets it slide. Adora is thankful.
Body and mind equally exhausted, the blonde crawls into her bed and hopes for a quick and undisturbed slumber. Yet, this doesn’t happen. Adora groans onto her pillow when sleep eludes her and the only thing she can do is think of Catra.
The blue and golden eyes are nearly intrusive in the way they jump to the forefront of her thoughts. She rolls to the side in an attempt of running away from them but there they are all again — fiery eyes, soft eyes, eyes crinkled on the corners from laughing, eyes rolling affectionately.
When Adora can stop thinking of eyes, she thinks of Catra’s hair, delightfully wavy and messy, always smelling so good and feeling so soft when Adora has the privilege of touching it. She thinks of her friend’s tan skin and the freckles peppered across it like kisses from tiny stars. She thinks of Catra’s mouth, too — how it curves so prettily, how it catches on her canines and the little dimple on her cheek when she smiles —
And how Adora would like to kiss her.
This desire hurts, somewhere in her body. She wants to cry a little thinking about it because there are few things she wanted so much for herself in her life. It doesn’t help that she is absolutely drained and she would also enjoy cuddles right now. Cuddles from Catra, specifically. She would love to bury her nose on the crook of her neck for once, drape her arm and leg over her as Catra giggles and complains about how Adora’s breath tickles.
Adora rarely swears but she just knows she is thoroughly fucked.
There are so many variables in this, so many chances for it to go wrong. Adora would never want to see her friendship with Catra tainted by the awkwardness of one sided romance, and yet— The blonde knows she is a terrible actress and now that she knows just how much she adores Catra, she doubts she will be able to hide it for too long.
Hope also sneaks around the corners of her heart, swelling on her chest. Because yeah, what if Catra doesn’t see her that way? But, but… what if she does?
Besides, scanning her moral code, Adora finds that honesty is very high on her list of values to uphold. She is rarely completely honest with herself, she admits, but she tries to be when it comes to the other people in her life. Especially people who she cares about. So, above hope and fear, Adora thinks that Catra deserves to know.
The blonde has seen too much of her friend’s distorted sense of worth to believe otherwise. Even if the feelings aren’t reciprocated, Adora wants to make sure that Catra knows that she is not only lovable, but deserving of love. She hopes that, if anything, this helps to change the view Catra has of herself. The woman spent far too many years looking at herself through the glasses of cruelty and Adora very much believes she deserves to be looked at tenderly.
Adora bites her lip and her stomach does flips. She is resolute, she thinks. She is confessing to Catra.
Granted, they don’t have demonic midterms to go through anymore but spring break plans roll in way too quickly. And by spring break plans, Adora means her internship on top of her volleyball practices which, truly, doesn’t lend her much time. Again.
Catra is busy, too, albeit she’s doing better than Adora herself. She goes on a short vacation with her other friends — Scorpia and Entrapta, and Adora is not jealous at all — on her first day of vacation. And yeah, Adora doesn’t want to disrupt her peace and rest with a rushed confession. She also doesn’t want to do it over their facetime sessions. It feels like something that she should do in person.
Adora congratulates herself on being very… well, very normal, given her realization. She doesn’t think she is any more flustered than she used to be before coming to terms with her feelings for Catra. Banter still flows — until it becomes too much like flirting and Adora stumbles over herself and changes the course of the conversation.
Her friend catches her during facetime once and Adora glows scarlet when it happens. Catra finally has a bit more time for her and she is talking excitedly about the location, complaining and complimenting in a dazzling cycle and Adora is smiling bright and appropriately oohing and aahing to make Catra go on.
Adora loves it. She is positive she can listen to Catra talk for the whole eternity. Her lips are stretched in what is probably the dumbest smile she has ever worn and she finds it hard to care. She is confident she is navigating this properly until the hitch occurs.
The hitch which starts on her breath and ends on a parted mouth. Her friend is showing the little bedroom she got for herself during her vacation and finally ends up in front of the mirror. A full body mirror.
“And that’s me!” It sure is, Adora thinks. In a bikini top and shorts, looking tanned and gorgeous and making Adora’s panic set in as her mouth goes dry. “Hey, Adora.”
Adora is pretty sure she dies, right then. Her soul leaves her body and goes straight to gay heaven. The tone and the sentence are so familiar but now that she is very much aware of her attraction towards Catra… it’s awfully wonderful and her chest hurts and oh gods how can Catra be so—
“Adora!” Again, the blonde snaps out of it. She blushes, embarrassed and her guard is stripped so low she scrambles to put it back up. “What’s going on, lately? You’re like, more of a dummy than usual.”
So Catra noticed. Adora’s brain shrinks to the size of a pea as she stares now into mismatched eyes and okay, find answers, find an excuse, say something —
“Sorry,” she replies with a nervous chuckle. Her hand goes to the back of her neck and she scratches and shit, Catra knows she does that when she’s nervous about something. “Not sure, I think I’m just tired. This internship at the Light Hope Clinic is draining everything out of me. I wish I—” I wish I could be with you. “I should’ve gone on a vacation, too.”
“Duh,” Catra rolls her eyes, seemingly to accept Adora’s excuse. “Half of your personality is being a workaholic, so like, I wasn’t even surprised when I had to tell Scorpia you wouldn’t be coming—”
“What?” Adora interrupts then. Her eyebrows knit together. “Why did you have to tell Scorpia that?”
“Oh Adora, you really are such an idiot, you know that?” The woman sighs. “I told ‘Trapta and Scorpia I was gonna invite you, obviously, but you got the internship before I could ask.”
“You…” Adora is dumbfounded. This doesn’t make sense. Does it? “You wanted me to go with you? And your friends?”
“Adora.” Catra uses the tone that says that Adora is being utterly dumb. “You’re like, my best friend. Of course I wanted you here.”
“Wait,” The blonde then replies, schooling a smirk on her lips in a moment of clarity. “Your best friend?” She raises her eyebrows. “Catra… do you like me? How embarrassing.”
“You know what? I changed my mind!” Catra says quickly and Adora thinks she is blushing beneath the attitude. “I hate you. Entrapta is my best friend.”
“Nuh-uh, you can’t take it back!” Adora giggles and snorts. She sings songs childishly. “Catra likes meeee, she wishes I was thereeeee.”
Catra groans and tells her to shut up. It makes Adora giddy that she doesn’t deny it.
Adora has no idea that Catra is going to be there when she exits the gym, looking more disheveled than she’d like to be. Her hair is down,wet and messy, and her cheeks are still colored from exertion. She looks down at her joggers and old tank top and… yeah, not the ideal look she’d go for when meeting her crush, but Catra is there!
She jogs towards the woman — who dressed in skinny jeans which holes reveal fishnets and a way too tantalizing crop top — with another huge smile. She is beyond delighted to see Catra so soon after her vacation and her friend glows with her rested expression, leaning against her bike.
“Catra!” Adora exclaims.
“Hey Adora,” Catra smiles and it’s… it’s sweet and tender and Adora adores her. “Took you long enough to show up.”
Adora giggles. It’s humiliating.
“Yeah, yeah. Sorry, got caught up with the practice,” she gestures vaguely towards the field. “I would’ve come out sooner if I knew you’d be here.”
“Oh, am I your gay awakening, Adora?”
It takes a moment for Adora to process this. She opens her mouth then closes it and then — “Ah, come out, haha,” Adora rolls her eyes now. “Oh my god, Catra, you’re sooooo funny.”
“Uh, excuse me?” Catra raises her eyebrows. She shouldn’t be this attractive. “Do you want me to leave?”
“Oh no, nooo, please don’t leave me,” Adora giggles again. It’s all-around a terrible blow to her ego.
“Such an idiot,” Catra says through a smile. She offers a helmet to Adora in a way that is supposedly violent but widens the blonde’s smile. She’s always had a thing for mean girls anyway. Or maybe it’s always has been Catra. “Now come on, before you annoy me into changing my mind.”
“May I know where you’re taking me?” She asks while dutifully putting on her helmet.
“Mmhmm… no,” the woman replies, a smirk playing on her lips. “But don’t get high hopes. I’m just kidnapping you before Sparkles and Arrow Boy can do it first.”
“You can use their names, you know, it’s been years.” Adora says, rolling her eyes and awaiting for Catra to straddle her motorcycle which… is not a distracting sight at all.
“Nah, I like Sparkles and Arrow Boy better,” Catra just shrugs. “Now c’mon, you dumb jock.”
“Hey, you love that I’m a jock!”
“Whatever you say, princess.”
“Get on the damn bike, Adora, for fuck’s sake.”
Adora shuts up then, but her grin is still present. It falls quickly though, when she realizes she needs to get on the back — and specifically, she needs to hold onto Catra.
She feels goosebumps climb her spine at the mere thought. The blonde gives herself a quick, internal pep talk to move towards Catra. Her hands shake, just a little, and butterflies rage inside her stomach. She hopes she isn’t blushing, but she feels the heat across her cheeks and knows her hopes are all in vain.
“Did you forget how to do this?” Catra asks in a mocking tone when Adora finally gets onto the bike. “You’re gonna fall if you don’t grab me tighter, princess.”
It prompts a response, Adora thinks, but she can’t think of anything while her brain short circuits, so instead of rebutting Catra’s tease, she just scoots closer. Her hands circle her friend’s waist tighter and Adora feels the rumble of Catra’s chuckle against her hands. It’s a foreign lovely feeling and Adora smiles through the nervousness.
They drive for a while and it’s good — wonderful, even. It gives Adora the chance to be close and content and since Catra is looking forward, she can let her expression melt into what is likely her rendition of a lovesick puppy. The blonde squeezes the woman a little and it probably feels a lot like a back hug and Adora decides that it is.
While Catra still doesn’t know about a good chunk of her feelings, one thing is obvious: Adora missed her. Terribly. Facetime is fine but nothing compares to having Catra around. A huge part of her hopes that this, Catra picking her up from practice, means that she missed her, too. The idea makes her a little dizzy with happiness.
The motorcycle finally stops at a diner, just shy away from the Whispering Woods. Adora smiles as she takes off her helmet, feeling her heart swelling on her chest. During their senior year of high school, Catra and Adora would come to this very diner when things would be too much at their foster home. Of course, Catra didn’t have a motorcycle then and they’d have to come in actual bicycles. They stopped coming as much when college life started piling responsibilities on them and their time together became divided.
Or rather, Adora’s. She feels a twinge of guilt, knowing that she turned Catra down several times in favor of her new college friends. Catra was angry at first and more than a little hurt and that motivated her to not room with Adora when the chance arrived. The blonde doesn’t like thinking of their time apart and she definitely hates the fights they had.
It’s a relief when she looks back at Catra smiling sheepishly. She’s grateful that they are on good terms again. She just hopes that this, this thunderous warmth inside her chest, doesn’t ruin the peace they have in their relationship now.
“Who would’ve thought,” Adora starts, smiling so hard that the teasing tone on her voice is overshadowed. “are you going soft on me, kitten?”
Catra is definitely blushing. “Why do you always have to ruin it, Grayskull?” She rolls her eyes. “And don’t call me kitten!”
“Oh c’mon,” the blonde giggles while following Catra down the familiar path. “So Scorpia gets to call you kitten but your oldest friend can’t?”
Yeah, maybe she is still jealous. And, shit, did she friendzone herself? Good one, Adora.
“Scorpia doesn’t get to call me kitten. She’s just another dumb jock,” Catra says, rolling her eyes. Then she completes, barely audible, “guess I have a type.”
Adora blinks. She decides to not say anything about that because, yeah, she can’t unpack that with Catra without admitting her feelings. And is this really how she wants to do it? While asking Catra what she means by that? If that’s her type, Catra and Scorpia… but no, right? Because Catra said another, which includes Adora. Is she Catra’s type?
“Hey Adora! I’d like a burger and a milkshake, thank you.” Catra calls her back, standing by the counter of the diner.
“And why am I paying again?” Adora says, though she hardly cares.
“I provided transportation, it’s only fair.”
It’s not lost on Adora the twinkle on Catra’s eye when she complies. For good measure, besides the burgers and milkshakes, she orders a big portion of fries as well. She knows full well her friend will be stealing some from her despite telling Adora she doesn’t want any.
They decide to eat outside, taking a short trail towards the woods and finding a seat beneath one of the trees on the border. It’s so peaceful and familiar that the smile on Adora’s face grows on its own accord. She looks at her friend and she recognizes the dimple on her cheek that appears only when she tries to bite back a smile of her own. Adora chuckles softly as she sits down.
“What are you laughing about?” Catra asks with a small huff.
“Nothin,” Adora shakes her head and starts peeling the paper from her burger. “I’m just happy, that’s all. Thanks for kidnapping me, Catra.”
“Uh—” Her friend blushes beneath the freckles and Adora chuckles again. She can see how Catra struggles to find anything to cover the vulnerability and sweetness of the moment. It kind of makes her proud that she gets Catra this flustered. “Whatever. It’s not like I… like you, or anything. I just knew you’d pay.”
“Yeah, sure,” the blonde wants to say it with a roll of her eyes but she feels too soft. She plucks a fry and tosses it in Catra’s direction as to not completely ruin their banter. “Liar.”
“Hey! Not the food, Adora!” The woman complains, and Adora just laughs.
They only eat for some time. Adora devours her burger and Catra rolls her eyes. The blonde shares about her internship and her eagerness to do more than the mundane tasks they put her up to. Catra makes fun of her for wanting to do more work than necessary but listens attentively. Eventually, she shares her own stories about her trip and, despite being jealous, Adora is enchanted by how much fun her friend had.
Growing up with so little, they rarely had the opportunity to do anything they truly desired. This trip to the diner would be the farthest they could get from their foster home with the few bucks they had in their pockets. Adora feels her heart swelling inside her chest as Catra talks about the places she’s seen and she is folded over her stomach with laughter when Catra talks about Entrapta’s experiments with drinks.
“I missed coming here,” Adora says eventually when their food is gone and they’re sipping their milkshakes.
“Yeah, it’s been a while since we’ve been here together,” Catra smiles. “You remember when we found this place for the first time?”
“Of course,” the blonde laughs. “It was incredible. Totally worth making Mrs. Weaver angry at us for staying out too long.”
“Mhmm. I can’t believe she let us get away with it.” She pauses. “You’ve always been such a suck up.”
“I’m not complaining, Adora! At least you got us out of a punishment that time.” Catra shrugs.
“I was just…” Adora starts but shakes her head. There’s no point. She’d rather forget about Mrs. Weaver altogether. “Anyway, we should start coming here more often, again. I like it.”
“I’d like that.” Catra says, softly, almost shyly. The woman lets the silence rest for a while before she speaks again. “I never stopped coming, y’know. I still come here like, at least once a month. I did even more when we… during freshman year.”
“Catra…” Adora starts, but she’s a little lost for words. It’s not always that Catra allows herself to be vulnerable, despite knowing each other forever. Even now, her friend is looking away, avoiding Adora’s eyes. “I’m so sorry.”
“Yeah, I know.” Catra sighs. “I’m… sorry, too. At some point, I gave you no choice anyway, and I know it— that I hurt you.” Adora is still looking for words to say before she groans. “Ugh, did I mention that Scorpia has a girlfriend now?” Oh. “And she was with us? And she’s like, a psychology major and into all that holistic stuff — she made me meditate.”
The blonde snorts. She recognizes her friend’s strategy to diffuse the weight of her words and truly, Adora understands. She reaches for her Catra’s forearm, resting her hand warm and soft.
“Thanks for telling me,” she says and smiles. “And introduce me to Scorpia’s girlfriend, I might need to pay her back for this.”
Catra laughs affectionately and it’s a pretty look on her. Adora can see the nervousness seeping out of her posture as her shoulders relax and she glows beneath the golden light seeping from the trees. She doesn’t make any move to get out of Adora’s touch.
“You’re such an idiot.” Catra says.
“I know.” Adora smiles wider.
For a while, they stay like this and Adora’s world shrinks. Her world is only of mismatched eyes and soft smiles and her hand on Catra’s skin. It’s so comfortable and yet it makes the blonde feel heavy with emotion. This isn’t how she planned on confessing, not at all, but Adora feels as if she might as well explode if she doesn’t tell Catra that she loves her.
“Catra?” She asks.
A beat. A second to think over the words tumbling out of her mouth so they’re at least half as pretty as Catra deserves them and—
It effectively spooks Adora and the pair of them scramble to their feet. Adrenaline rushes through her veins and the blonde already has her fists out.
“What? What is it?”
That makes Adora pause. She blinks once, then twice, then looks towards their abandoned milkshakes, and for sure, there is a bee circling one of the straws. The blonde looks back to Catra — who still has her hands tightly wound up around Adora’s bicep — and she is sure that she is wearing an incredulous expression.
“Shut up,” Catra says as she starts blushing. “I’m allergic.”
“No, you’re not.”
“You can’t know, Adora! What if I developed an allergy!” She exclaims back, exasperated. “Anyway, what were you gonna say?”
“Oh, right,” well, she can’t say anything now. “I was just gonna suggest we go back before it gets too dark.”
Adora pretends she doesn’t see the disappointment that drags Catra’s expression down. She takes it upon herself to gather both of their trash and take it to the bin since Catra is so decidedly against bees. She only talks again when they’re putting their helmets on.
“You know what this reminded me of?” She pauses, stifling a laugh. “The mouse incident.”
“Oh my God,” Catra groans. “Are you ever going to let that go?”
No, Adora doesn’t think she is.
It turns out, Adora does know Scorpia’s girlfriend and she is a very welcome addition to their weird little group of friends. Adora can’t help but feel somewhat relieved, too. If Scorpia has a girlfriend, it means she isn’t crushing on Catra, which also means there’s not a chance that they’re a thing. It’s a very selfish thought, she knows, but sue her. She is pining. Hopelessly so.
It doesn’t help her case when a tipsy and content Catra leans against her shoulder by the end of the night. She is completely relaxed and laughing at some absurdity Entrapta is saying and Adora can’t hear a single word because she is entirely bewitched by the scene. She decides to reach her arm around Catra so she’s comfortably leaning onto her chest and smiles at her softly.
Her eye catches Bow’s stare and suddenly she is blushing very much. Her best friend turns to Glimmer and Adora is trying to convey through panicked eye contact that no, no, no, that’s not a good idea.
Glimmer looks towards her and Adora now wants a hole to swallow her whole. They just won’t let it slide, she knows this much. She wiggles her eyebrows at Adora and the blonde tries her very best to not shake her head at Glimmer. Her friend’s look clearly says, oh, this is new and while yeah, Glimmer and Bow know she likes Catra, they’re not supposed to embarrass her publicly about it.
Thankfully, Catra yawns and stirs in Adora’s embrace and it gives the blonde a chance to ignore Glimmer and Bow without offending them too much.
“Adora?” She asks, quietly.
“I know this is your celebration and all but,” she pauses. “Do you mind walking me to my dorm? I have an early class tomorrow.”
“Sure,” Adora says, no hesitation at all. “I should be going, anyway, I’ve got to be up early, too.”
They say their goodbyes to the table and Adora ignores the looks on Bow and Glimmer’s faces because… she doesn’t have the time to deal with that
. It takes Adora a little longer to go through everyone and by the time she is done, Catra is already by the door, waiting on her.
“Okay, I’m done, let’s go,” as a dumb reflex, Adora offers her hand to Catra. Which is positively ridiculous because they never hold hands. There’s no reason for them to hold hands. So as quickly as she extends her hand, she pulls it back and makes an awkward gesture towards the door. Luckily, Catra only looks at her like she is being weird — which she is — but decides not to comment on Adora’s cognitive failure.
They walk in comfortable silence for a while and Adora only breaks it when she notices Catra is shivering slightly. While winter is behind them, the night is still chilly enough and Adora spots how the hair on Catra’s arms is raised. It’s not surprising, given how the woman seemed to take a page out of Bow’s book and is favoring crop tops.
“Hey, here,” Adora says as she shrugs off her jacket and offers it to Catra. Her friend only stares at it for a moment.
“Aren’t you gonna be cold, dummy?” Catra asks, but Adora knows her well enough to know her efforts to deny the jacket are half-hearted.
“Nah, I’m pretty warm,” the blonde pushes the jacket onto her friend’s hands. “It’s all the muscles.” She completes, flexing her arms for good measure.
“Oh, shut up,” she rolls her eyes and Adora thinks she sees the faintest blush on her face. Catra slips her arms through the sleeves and it’s slightly big on her and wow. Adora is that smitten, huh?
“It looks cute on you,” Adora says, taking on the moment to be bolder than she normally would.
“Don’t make me take it off out of spite.” Catra warns but she snuggles into the jacket regardless. Adora wouldn’t want to miss the sight, so she just giggles. Catra huffs in response.
They talk quietly as they walk towards the dorms and every time their arms brush, Adora thinks she might combust. Butterflies make her tummy hurt and she considers confessing then to Catra. Especially after seeing how Catra smiles when Adora refuses to take her jacket back when they arrive at Catra’s door.
She looks impossibly pretty and cozy as she leans against the doorway and stares up at Adora. The blonde realizes how helpless she’s always been when it comes to Catra, as if her fate was always to fall in love with her. Not that Adora would ever run away from such a destiny.
Her mouth falls open, words trying to make way through her throat. Adora wants to say them, but they’ve been drinking and she doesn’t want Catra to think it’s the alcohol talking. So she closes her mouth again and scratches the back of her neck.
“Uh, yeah, so… I should be going. Night, Catra.” She smiles. “See you tomorrow?”
Catra has a strange look on her face.
“Not if I see you first, princess.”
Adora is just coming back from her first whole day of classes. She unlocks the dorm door with some difficulty while she tries to balance the pile of books and papers she has in her arms. If only Glimmer was back from her classes, she would’ve knocked, but alas she has no choice but to struggle.
Once she finally gets it unlocked, Adora cheers to herself and pushes the door open. Then immediately drops all her books.
“Fuck!” She grabs her chest as if to make her heart go back into its place while she stares at the woman rummaging through her cupboards. “Catra?”
“Oh, hey, Adora,” she says in an infuriatingly calm tone as if she didn’t cause Adora to nearly damn collapse at the ripe age of twenty-two.
“You scared me to death,” Adora says, bending down to pick up her books. “How did you even get into here?”
The other woman shrugs. “I stole Sparkles’ keys,” she sees Adora opening up her mouth and quickly says, “relax. I already told her. She is just a little pissy.” Catra then goes back to the cupboards as Adora continues staring. “Where the fuck do you keep snacks?”
Adora peels her eyes from her friend’s form to what she holds in her hands and… yep, Catra won’t like the answer.
“Those are my snacks.”
“Adora?” Catra replies in a serious tone. “These are protein bars.”
Catra just stares at her, disappointment written all over those gorgeous eyes. “What did I even expect?” she sighs. “Does Sparkles have decent snacks?”
“Are you gonna steal her keys and her snacks?”
“Well Adora, this could’ve been avoided,” Catra shrugs, finding a package of chips and m&m’s at Glimmer’s side of the cupboards. “If you had real food here.” She sighs, going towards the tiny living room and settling on the couch. “Now go take a shower. This day sucks and I want to watch cartoons.”
This spurs Adora into action. Sure, her own day wasn’t great, however, she knows Catra rarely seeks comfort so directly if she isn’t feeling awful. She showers quickly, mind reeling with concern and before stepping back into the living room, she grabs a thin blanket so they’re more comfortable.
Catra is already stretched across the couch and she merely lifts her legs as Adora approaches. She sits down, pulling the woman’s legs back onto her lap and covers the both of them with the blanket. One of her hands rests on top of Catra’s knees and she tries to scan her friend’s face — which is focused forward to the colorful display on the screen. Adora sighs.
“You wanna talk about it?” she asks with her it’s-okay-if-you-don’t tone. Adora only knows Catra is considering it because her brow is furrowed.
“Not really,” Catra finally turns to look at Adora. “It’s just… I fucking hate egocentric professors, that’s all. The dumbass thought it was funny to humiliate me in front of all the students.” She looks down and picks on the blanket. Adora has to resist the urge of immediately pulling her into a hug. “Reminded me of Weaver, y’know? So I had to go hide a panic attack in the bathroom.”
“Oh, Catra,” Adora says and she lifts the blanket, just a little, to usher Catra to come towards her. The other woman hesitates, bites her lip, before giving in and switching sides on the couch. She lays against Adora in a twisted hug and the blonde allows Catra to hide her face on her shoulder. “You could’ve texted me, you know that, right? I could’ve come to help you.”
“Didn’t want you to,” Catra replies and it stings. She must’ve felt Adora’s change because she quickly amends, “You’re busy. I didn’t want you to worry and like, ruin your whole day for me.”
“You wouldn’t have ruined my day, dummy. I wouldn’t have minded.”
“Regardless,” Catra says and Adora knows that she is done talking about this. “I survived. And this is pretty good.” She squeezes Adora just a little and the fond smile on the blonde’s face is a confession in itself. “This and knowing that Sparkles will be fuming that I stole her keys and her snacks and your attention.”
“You know that’s not a competition, right?” Adora asks. Catra shrugs.
“If it isn’t, at least it’s a coping mechanism.”
Catra turns to look at Adora then. There are tears on the corner of her eyes and Adora wipes them tenderly before brushing the wisps of baby hair away from her face. Her friend smiles back at her and it feels so intimate, so fragile and special that Catra allows herself to be this vulnerable around Adora. She wants to thank her for this trust, wants to treasure this connection, and hold it close to her heart for as long as she is alive. She wants to lean in and kiss Catra, wants to whisper I love you reverently against her lips, she wants —
“Where is she?” the door opens, so violently that Adora pities the hinges, and Glimmer’s voice echoes like thunder around both women. They jump in place and there’s a slight panic in Catra’s eyes before she melts onto Adora’s lap and her usual demeanor.
“Aww, Sparkles, did you miss me?” Catra coos and Adora gives her a look. It earns her a smirk.
“You!” Adora hears more than sees Glimmer marching towards the couch. “What kind of psycho goes through other people’s stuff and steals their keys? And what? Do you think that a text letting me know just makes it all better? What if I needed to come here earlier and—”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Catra interrupts, looking like a bored puddle against Adora’s legs.
“Adora, tell her!” Glimmer looks at her and Adora cringes. She really doesn’t like to be put in the middle of their fights, even if this one is mostly petty.
“Glimmer, I’m sorry, yeah? Catra won’t do it again,” the blonde looks at Catra who rolls her eyes dramatically. “right, Catra?”
Instead of replying, however, Catra pulls herself up — and if Adora already misses the warmth on her lap, that’s nobody else’s business. “Won’t you look at the time!” She says, getting up completely, stretching, and then staring down at a non-existent watch on her wrist. “It’s Catra is getting the fuck out of here o’clock!” She gives a condescending smirk to Glimmer but it melts to something fond when she turns to Adora. “See you around, princess?”
“Wait, Catra—” Adora springs to her feet and reaches for her forearm. “You can stay? If you want?”
Adora watches as Catra thinks about it, looking first at the hand on her arm, then at Adora’s eyes. There is something there but it’s too fleeting for the blonde to be able to decipher. Finally, she looks at the unhappy figure of Glimmer and deflates a little.
“Nah, it’s alright. I got Sparkles mad enough, my job here is done.” She ignores Glimmer’s huff.
“Oh, okay,” the blonde nods and pulls her hand back. “Text me later?”
“You’re so clingy,” Catra rolls her eyes but her smile is fond. “But yeah, sure, princess.”
A kicked puppy version of Adora watches as Catra exits the door and as soon as the woman is gone, Adora collapses on the couch with a loud groan. She closes her eyes but it doesn’t feel enough, so she presses the heels of her hands to her eyes as well.
“Sorry Glimmer, I’ll replace the snacks Catra took,” she mumbles and she can feel her friend’s energy shift from irritated to worried.
“No, don’t—” Adora hears Glimmer sigh. “Okay. We gotta talk. I’m calling Bow, too.”
Adora downright whines at this. It’s the tone that sounds too close to Angella, the one that says that Adora has no choice but to comply. The blonde sighs and pulls her feet to rest on top of the couch while Glimmer pulls her phone and immediately clicks Bow’s contact.
“Hi Glimmer!” The boy says, chirp and all too endearing. It makes Adora feel kind of guilty that all she wants is to avoid this conversation. “Hi Adora! What’s up with my favorite girls?”
She waves at the boy on the little screen and watches her friend’s face collapse onto a puzzled expression. That bad, huh?
“We’re talking about Catra, Bow. Adora and Catra.” Glimmer clarifies and it pulls another undignified whine from Adora.
“There’s not much to talk about,” Adora says, not a little crestfallen.
“Adora,” Glimmer starts. “Sorry I got this angry. But why— Does this mean anything? That Catra is stealing my keys to get to you?”
“Honestly?” Adora looks at her. “I have no idea.” She pauses. “As I told you both, I… I realized I lo— like Catra. Like, not as a friend.” She sees her friends prepare to say something and Adora knows that duh probably sums it up but her demeanor stops them. “And… I don’t know, it seems like we’re having all these little moments,”
“Like when she cuddled you at the bar yesterday!” Bow interjects.
“Yeah and asked you, specifically, to walk her home.”
Adora blushes scarlet. “She kept my jacket, too.”
“What!” The both of them say and Adora has to control the little smile trying to appear on her face.
“Mhm,” she looks down. “I offered my jacket because she was cold and then I, uh— told her she should keep it. And she did.” Adora bites her lip. “And today she came here, to me because she was upset and wanted me to comfort her…” She sighs then and lets her head fall back against the cushion. “And I almost did it. I almost confessed. Yesterday, too. And when she took me to the diner.”
“And why didn’t you do it today?” Bow asks from the phone.
“Uh—” Adora looks at Glimmer.
“Oh no!” Glimmer exclaims, looking genuinely apologetic. “Was it when I came in? Adora, I’m so sorry...”
“It’s alright, Glimmer, Catra was being an asshole on purpose,” she sighs. “It was just poor timing. Every time is just poor timing. It’s like something doesn’t want it to happen.” Adora pauses then. “Maybe… do you think it’s a sign? That I’m not supposed to say anything and mess things up?”
Adora has scarcely allowed herself to think this way. She has been so sure as she digested her feelings, so secure in her choice to tell Catra about her feelings, yet every time she’s interrupted she feels her resolve chipping away. She fidgets anxiously, avoiding eye contact.
“Maybe it’s just not meant to be.” She nearly whispers.
“Adora, c’mon…” Glimmer rubs her arm. It’s nice. “Bow, tell her.”
“Adora, anyone can see that you’d be great together,” Bow says and Adora sniffles looking at him. She kind of wishes he was there in person. “Don’t let these interruptions discourage you.”
“Plus, Catra has been very touchy lately!” Glimmer adds, enthusiastically. “Catra was literally on Adora’s lap when I arrived, Bow.”
“Glimmer!” Adora exclaims as Bow gasps. She blushes. “It’s not… it’s not like that. Her head was on my lap, she wasn’t…” straddling me, she wants to say, but Adora quickly chases away the imagery from her mind. She does not need it right now. “She had a rough day and I was comforting her. She doesn’t have many people she trusts to open up.”
“And yet, she always trusts you.” Glimmer offers. It’s helpful and not at the same time.
“It’s because I’m her oldest friend!”
“Yeah, keep telling yourself it’s just that.” Bow adds too and he is smiling, now.
Adora bites her lip. Maybe they’re right. Maybe it’s not hopeless — not yet, at least.
“We can help you plan it!” Glimmer says.
“Yes!” Bow joins in. “The Best Friend Squad starts Operation Catradora!”
Adora is about to cry in frustration, truly. She wants to do things right, just as Glimmer and Bow advised her to. They pointed her towards a romantic gesture, towards forging a special moment to capture Adora’s adoration for her longest friend. And Adora, sincerely, desperately desires such a scenario. Everything just seems to work against her.
The few times Adora and Catra managed to be together by themselves in the last two weeks were just too short. Every time one or both of them had something to do, be it class or work or any other appointment. No matter if she is being rejected or if the confession goes well, Adora doesn’t feel that they should be rushing out of the door minutes after it happens.
When Adora finally gets to take Catra out for a picnic, her friends don’t seem to get the memo because they’re unexpectedly joined by Mermista and Sea Hawk. Allegedly, Mermista was trying to get away from the man, but clearly, all she managed was to pour the metaphorical ice bucket on top of Adora’s plans.
It’s a whole week before they get to see each other — just each other. Adora plans a movie night and it all seems to be going smoothly enough to make her very confident. Unfortunately, as soon as Adora is able to push the butterflies down her throat and back into her stomach, Catra is snoring softly on her lap. And really, how is she supposed to wake Catra up for this?
The next week, Catra reaches a very delicate point during her therapy sessions and she comes to Adora practically falling apart. Adora holds her through it and helps her breathe when she forgets how. Miraculously, the blonde manages to keep her own heart from shattering at the sight of Catra — her strong, wilful Catra — so fragile.
So she decides to push her confession for a time when Catra is feeling better. Adora just knows it would be entirely unfair for her to expect the other woman to be capable of processing Adora’s feelings on top of her own.
It takes about three weeks for Adora to deem that time enough has passed. Bow and Glimmer try to keep encouragement coming, but Adora feels more disheartened each passing day.
Love shouldn’t be this difficult, she thinks, even though she knows it’s a dishonest thought. Love isn’t difficult, not really. Through it all, loving Catra has been the easy part. It comes as second nature to her, as familiar as breathing. She catches herself thinking of Catra and only notices she has been smiling when her cheeks start hurting.
Every time Catra is near, Adora’s entire orbit rearranges so she’s moving towards her. Even through texts, the woman is capable of affecting her in ways that she recognizes, but that didn’t have a name up until now.
Love isn’t difficult. Talking about it to your best friend and possibly the love of your life seems to be.
Now they’re already approaching finals which means, of course, that their time will be cut even shorter. Adora feels at her limit, constantly worried about showing too much and too little affection to Catra; worried about the future for them, second-guessing each step she takes. She decides to try once more and if that’s not it then she swears she will give up, no matter how much Glimmer and Bow nag her about it.
On a few occasions, it feels as if Catra is trying to run away from her but - it couldn’t be, Adora doesn’t think. She has been pretty discrete as far as her failed confessions go. Fear washes over her, paralyzing and cold. Because, if Catra is running away from her because she figured out that Adora likes her, then… then it means she doesn’t want to hear about it.
The thought nearly destroys her bravado. It never occurred to her that, perhaps, Catra doesn’t want to hear it; that her friend might not go through the mortifying process of rejecting Adora.
The whole theory is thrown off, however, when Adora’s phone lights up with a text from Catra. She jumps at it, completely disregarding when the woman points out how quickly she texts back. They decide to have lunch together after their morning classes and it’s enough to quell some of her anxieties. If Catra is inviting her to have lunch, certainly she isn’t running away. Right?
Her morning is too slow for her excited brain. Her lectures are fine, really, but she is excited to finally have some time with Catra. Alone. Adora can’t reckon how she let them drift apart that much during their freshman year, how the yearning for Catra’s company hasn’t swallowed her whole. But then again, Adora has never allowed herself to be so in tune with her emotions up until her realization.
When her class is finally over, Adora bolts from her place to find the cafe she and Catra are supposed to meet at. She is pretty sure that she dodges some of her classmates but it’s fine — she will apologize later. Now, she is focused on finding a good spot for them. Adora knows that it’s most likely going to be crowded and she wants to snatch a table on a corner, knowing that Catra will be much more comfortable that way.
Thankfully, she is there in time and she texts Catra a bunch of pictures so the woman knows how to find her. For a second she becomes self-conscious, wonders if she looks at least a little attractive in those. Adora cringes and decides not to look back at them — she thinks she doesn’t need any more blows to her self-esteem.
Adora makes the big mistake of texting the Best Friend Squad groupchat about the impromptu meet-up (which Glimmer and Bow very deliberately call a date). They flood her with texts that are a grateful distraction but also have her blushing down to her neck.
It certainly doesn’t help her to already have a thrumming heart when Catra walks in, looking entirely too beautiful and infuriatingly casual about it. Because you see, it means that Adora has to act casual and not at all like she is one smirk away from a heart attack.
“Hey, Adora,” Catra greets her and Adora swallows the lump in her throat as Catra gives her a look down. “Do I wanna know what you were looking at on your phone?”
Oh. Oh. Because Adora is about as red as she’ll ever be. Right. “Uh,” she stammers. “No?”
“Wow, I’m impressed,” the woman says as she slinks onto the seat in front of Adora and the teasing color to her eyes and voice pushes the blonde’s blush down to her shoulders. “At college? In broad daylight? Naugh-ty.” She separates the syllables and clicks her tongue before smirking and it takes Adora a full second for it to click.
“N-No! It’s nothing like that.” The blonde nearly damn yelps and she covers her face with her hands. That’s it. There’s no dignity. Only suffering in the hands of the girl you’re in love with.
Catra’s laugh is loud and delighted and she pulls on Adora’s arm. “C’mon, it’s alright.” She snickers, it’s not really comforting. “I won’t make you share with the class. Though I am curious.”
“Maybe another day,” Adora replies in a defeated manner and lets Catra reposition her arms to lay flat on the table. At least that’s nice.
“I’ll take you up on that, Princess.” Catra winks. Everything is horrible again. “Now let’s order, I’m definitely hungry and you seem thirsty.”
Adora groans audibly and Catra giggles. The sound is the only reason she isn’t running away to splash some water on her face right now. It’s a dangerous sort of banter, one that Adora has been careful to not step into ever since… well, ever since midterms. She is just certain that her face will never lose the pink if they keep it up.
“You’re in an awful good mood for finals,” the blonde grumbles and Catra rolls her eyes.
“It’s not finals yet,” she shrugs. “And I’m trying not to think about it, thank you very much.”
“That makes two of us,” Adora sighs.
The conversation steers into safer directions then, thankfully. Of course, Adora is still sometimes distracted by the smallest of things — Catra’s faint touch to her wrist, a devilish smile when she steals a sip from Adora’s drink — but it goes smoothly. As it usually does. Because, again, loving Catra is easy. Adoring her and having her heart ache for her is the only path Adora can see herself taking.
“You should come over to mine to study for finals,” Catra suggests as they exit the cafe side by side. Adora holds the door for her. “I know you hate studying alone.”
“Yeah! Sure, I’d love that,” the blonde replies, a big smile on her lips. They take the long path around the campus — as they usually do. “Promise to even bring snacks.”
Something mellows between them. Catra looks up and she looks… soft, for lack of a better word. It reminds Adora of all the times that she nearly confessed and it makes the same familiar feeling twist inside her gut.
“You promise?” Catra asks so gently as she stops and looks up at Adora that the blonde feels her knees turning into jelly.
There’s something unspoken behind her words — something Adora doesn’t want to be unspoken anymore. The moment is all wrong, she thinks. They have classes later, they have finals next week and it’s selfish and impulsive, but—
“Catra,” she says, soft but urgent. The afternoon sun’s warmth competes with the warmth spreading all over her face. “I love you.”
Adora watches as waves of emotion rise and crash behind Catra’s eyes. The woman literally takes a step back with surprise and it instills panic inside of Adora’s heart. She blushes, the deepest tone of red Adora has ever seen on her cheeks and her forehead creases with confusion. “Adora, what?”
“I love you,” Adora repeats, breathless and more scared than she’s ever been in her entire life now that the moment is catching up to her. “In a very non-platonic way, too. In a… I love being your friend but I’d love to be something more, too.” She explains, hoping that she is making some sense. “You’re… You’re everything, Catra. And I know this is awful and rushed and I’m sorry. I’m trying to tell you for so long but the timing is always off and I… I guess the timing is off now, too.” Catra doesn’t interrupt her rambling and somehow it’s worse so the blonde just keeps going. “And… I also know this is so sudden and probably… confusing and oh, you gotta go but uh—” Adora breathes. Think. “I’m gonna go run off and… Listen, take all the time you want to think over this. If you want to, we can pretend this never happened.”
“Adora, I…” Catra finally talks. Adora tries to control her eagerness twisting her hands. She bites her lip too in case any more words threaten to spill. “You… you sure?”
“So sure.” Adora doesn’t even hesitate.
“Okay, I…” her phone chirps. “Gotta go, fuck. Uh— horrible timing, Adora.”
Adora deflates, but of course, forces herself to understand. The rejection bites at her yet she nods, takes a step back.
“Yeah, I, uh… of course.” She tries to smile. “Take your time to… to think about it.” She scratches the back of her neck. “I… I will be going. Text me or find me if you… want to talk.”
Eventually, Adora just decides on going back to her dorm earlier. Her mind is far too scattered to deal with classes right now and she feels she needs the privacy of her bedroom to mope. That is, until Glimmer arrives and inevitably forces comfort on her. Not that the prospect isn’t good and that she won’t thank Glimmer for it later on, but right now? Adora really just wants to fit in a good cry before she has to hear about how everything will be alright. Because truly, she isn’t quite sure it will be.
Her backpack is slung miserably over her shoulder as she pushes the door open. She swallows the lump on her throat and sighs, barely registering that it was already unlocked.
“Hey Catra,” she says as a reflex when she recognizes the figure waiting by her couch.
“Hey, Adora,” the woman waves and Adora stares.
“W-wha…” Adora stutters, stumbling upon her words and herself.
“I gotta be honest, I was expecting a warmer welcome,” Catra says as she comes near and she has a very distinct smirk on her face which tells Adora that she is mocking. In another situation, maybe Adora would’ve indulged in banter, but right now, she is just surprised Catra is here.
“Stole Sparkles keys.” Catra interrupts, shrugs and Adora just nods. She is getting closer and Adora feels her lungs struggling for oxygen already.
“Oh, okay,” she bites her lip. “Catra, about… about earlier, I- I’m sorry if I ruined everything. I’m sorry if this changes our relationship. I’ve been thinking and-”
“Adora,” her friend says in a serious tone which effectively shuts Adora up. “You think too much.” Catra is close enough now that she taps on the backpack strap on the blonde’s shoulder and, unwilling to step away, Adora just puts it on the ground.
Catra shakes her head. “Nah, no need. It turns out, I like that about you, too.”
“You… like that? Me?” Adora parrots, dumbly. Catra shoots her a shy smile.
“I love you, Adora. I always have.” She says and Adora feels weak on her legs. She might collapse. Catra is fond when she stretches her arms to wrap them around Adora’s neck. It’s a bit too much. “For someone who thinks so much, I thought you’d have noticed it by now,” Adora’s brain short-circuits. Catra laughs. “All this time, I thought you were going to confront me about it. Tell me that you knew— but I didn’t… your confession took me by surprise.”
It takes a few moments for Adora to process this. She looks at Catra and the snark has fallen. Her eyes are unguarded and trusting and again, somewhere inside Adora hurts but it’s in a good way now. Catra looks at her tender, a shy blush kissing her cheeks and Adora feels delirious with love and happiness.
“You love me?” Adora backtracks to this, hands gingerly looking for a place on Catra’s hips. She is a little scared Catra will hear the thunderous beat of her heart, yet again, it might not matter anymore.
“You’re such an idiot,” Catra chuckles. She leans in, the tip of her nose tracing Adora’s cheek and the blonde’s breath hitches. “Of course, I do.”
“I love you, so much.” Adora whispers. Then, “uh, but I’m… confused?” Adora pulls back and the sense of loss is terrible but she needs to look at Catra for this. “Why… I mean, I thought you had rejected me earlier.”
“Yeah, sorry about that,” the woman says and it’s a little difficult for Adora to focus on the apology because right now, Catra is raking her nails through the back of her neck. “You know I’m not good with surprises. Even the good ones,” she sighs. “I don’t think I processed what you said until you walked out. I almost ran after you,” a chuckle. “but I decided I’d come here instead.”
Adora nods. While still confused, she figures they’ll have time to talk it out later. Because Adora didn’t ruin things. Because Catra actually loves her back. The smile that is born on her lips makes her cheeks hurt and a laugh bubble up her throat. Catra joins her and shakes her head.
“You love me back.” Adora repeats, dizzy and love drunk.
“You got that now?” Catra says, clearly aiming to tease Adora but her voice is so gentle it ruins the effort.
“Mhmm,” she hums proudly, happier than she remembers ever being. Her hands get tighter around Catra’s hips and her eyes flick to her lips. The woman catches it, if the smirk she sports is anything to go by. “Can I kiss you?”
It’s so soft yet when Catra nods and leans in, it’s softer. Adora forgets to be nervous when her lips cover Catra’s and again, it’s so easy. It comforts Adora where it used to hurt and it feels so right and so good that she almost wants to cry a little. It gives her the most distinct feeling that this is where she was supposed to end up her whole life — with Catra in her arms and her content sounds against her mouth.
She slows the kiss down with a series of sweet, short pecks. They start on the corner of Catra’s lips, making a way to her dimple and the cute freckles splayed over her cheeks and nose until Catra is groaning and giggling.
“You’re so cheesy, wow,” Catra points out.
“Yeah well, that’s your girlfriend now.” Adora replies and Catra’s eyebrows shoot up.
“Nu-uh,” she says and Adora frowns. “You better take me out and ask me properly. Out of the campus, too.”
Adora laughs because of course. She rolls her eyes and kisses Catra again, until she is breathless and boneless against her body. “I can do that.”