Adora isn’t surprised when they get called into Spinnerella’s office after school. They kissed like half a dozen times throughout the day. Catra kept asking – silently, with those big eyes that make Adora want to give her anything – and Adora didn’t want to resist. During fourth period Glimmer watched them part with a raised eyebrow.
“One, you’re disgusting, and two, what is up with you two? Are you dating now?” she asked, while Micah coughed pointedly in the background. Catra’s grin had been borderline feral when she replied yes.
Spinnerella looks caught between amusement and exasperation when they walk into her office, hand in hand. She doesn’t so much as raise an eyebrow, gesturing to the seats in front of her desk with a wave of her hand. Catra narrows her eyes at Spinnerella, tugging on Adora’s hand to lead her over to the bean bag instead. Adora lets herself be led, sending Catra a fond look as she pushes her down into the bean bag and climbs into her lap. Adora just raises her arms around Catra to hold her as Spinnerella settles firmly on amused.
“Anything you want to tell me, girls?” she prompts. Catra immediately hisses, but her ears hardly even twitch back. She is fooling exactly no one in the room. Adora leans forward to kiss her cheek, delighting in the blush that immediately overtakes Catra’s face as she grumbles slightly and tucks herself in against Adora’s chest.
“She’s mine,” Catra declares, causing Adora to flush. Spinnerella coughs, a smile playing at the edge of her lips she is clearly trying to suppress.
“You two talked last night?” she asks. Adora is still blushing, but she nods as Catra purrs, looking smug about it for some reason. Spinnerella looks an unreasonable amount of relieved. “Good. Now, Catra – are you finally ready to talk about college?” Spinnerella asks. Two days ago, Adora would have had no clue how those two statements are linked. Now she understands, but she is still startled when Catra growls, cutting off with a sigh.
“Fine,” she agrees.
Netossa wins the betting pool. Of course she fucking does.
“You cheated. You made Spinnerella talk to Adora,” Catra accuses Netossa when she comes knocking on the door to her art room. She is here to gloat, even if she is pretending to be humble about it. Netossa just smirks and tosses herself down onto the couch.
“Adora asked for the meeting. Just accept that you two have been pining for a ridiculously long time,” Netossa shoots back. Catra scowls as she turns back to her canvas. Netossa laughs at her displeasure. “If it makes you feel any better, I had more faith in you. I picked a date last year. After it passed they let me pick a new one,” Netossa tells her.
That doesn’t help, so Catra just grumbles as she continues to work on her first foray into expressionism that she actually likes. Painting has been weird. She likes it, she likes it a lot, but the whole red colourblindness thing means she knows her pieces look different to others. Her paints are labeled, and she uses a combination of that, her own eye, and Adora’s opinion when picking colours. She also just avoids reds and pinks in general, but they felt right for this piece.
She can’t see anything but shades of grey on the canvas before her – that is part of the point. She sees something completely different from other people when she looks at it.
“How much did you win?” she asks, a bit distracted, as she selects a shade she knows is closer to purple, even if she can’t see it. She manages to get several strokes in before she realizes that Netossa hasn’t responded. She twitches her ears, listening, but Netossa is just sitting there and watching her. After a moment, Catra sighs and turns to her, shooting her a questioning look.
“I’m proud of you, you know. I was worried you two were never going to figure it out,” Netossa tells her, and she does look it, her gaze shining from where she is settled back on the couch. Catra flushes. She shoots Netossa an annoyed glare, mostly for show, and Netossa just grins in response, entirely unbothered.
“Not enough that I didn’t spend it already,” Netossa finally admits. Catra scoffs and turns back to her painting.
“Glad you’re profiting off my misery,” she shoots back, picking back up her brush. Netossa snorts.
“It’s your happiness. You aren’t fooling anyone.”
Adora hesitates – of course she does, she has been hesitating for years – but by the time she has finished washing her hair she has made up her mind. She shut off her shower and turns, a little relieved to find Catra still working on her mane. Showers were awkward as hell for a while between them. Once they had the remodel, it really wasn’t a big deal anymore, but Adora kind of misses how they used to do this.
Cautiously, she slips up behind Catra, clearing her throat as she goes. Catra’s hearing is good, and normally she wouldn’t bother announcing her presence, but she knows one of the reasons Catra dislikes showers is because the water messes with her hearing. Predictably, Catra’s ears twitch back to listen for her as she approaches, but Catra doesn’t stop combing her fingers through her hair.
Adora lets herself press against Catra’s back, dropping a kiss to her shoulder and earning a startled trill out of her girlfriend. Adora can’t help but grin into her fur, pressing another kiss there before she takes a step back and swipes Catra’s coat brush from the shelf.
“Can I help? I miss it,” Adora admits, bringing the brush up to run it down Catra’s back. Catra arches into the touch, making Adora smile as she sets to work. Catra’s tail is already swaying and sending water flying from the long tufts. Catra seems happy to soak in the attention, a low purr starting as Adora quickly co-opts her entire fur routine.
She really missed this. She likes petting Catra, brushing her, getting to snuggle in against her. Wet fur isn’t as nice as her dry fur will be after this, but it is just another part of Catra, and Adora missed it during the self-imposed distance. Eventually, Adora is done, and she sets aside the brush reluctantly as Catra shuts off the shower.
Catra presses back into her arms like she used to when they were kids. Adora wraps her up happily, pulling them out onto Catra’s fur dryer and turning it on. Catra shivers a little, pressing back against Adora as she hugs her close.
“I thought you didn’t like my fur when it was wet,” Catra whispers, the words barely audible over the roaring dryer. Adora draws in a sharp breath. It has been a few weeks since that incident – nearly three months – and no matter how Adora tried to assure Catra, she didn’t think the other girl believed her.
“I just didn’t feel like I should keep touching you when I felt like I did. It was a bad excuse,” she explains, dropping a light kiss to the side of Catra’s neck. She knew how badly she fucked that up, but it hurts to know Catra is still thinking about it.
Catra lets out a breath Adora didn’t realize she was holding, twisting around in her arms and kissing her firmly.
Catra stares, her ears and tail twitching. Her breath feels a bit short, but she sniffs the air cautiously. There aren’t any foreign scents in her art room, but Netossa hasn’t been in here for three weeks. Her scent is far too fresh to be from when she dropped by to gloat about her winnings.
Her winnings. Catra swallows as she stares at the invasion of privacy sitting in the middle of the room. No one but her and Adora are supposed to come in here without an invitation. Catra instated the rule as soon as the room transitioned from hangout space to home studio. She didn’t want to risk anyone getting around her paintings and ruining them.
Netossa broke the rule, and Catra’s fur is definitely bristling a little, but she isn’t mad. Cautiously, she edges into the room, swinging the door shut with her tail. The new easel is set up in front of her usual A-frame easel, still sporting the painting that Catra had been working on. Despite Netossa entering the space, she clearly knew better than to actually touch one of Catra’s paintings without permission.
The new easel is huge – at least comparatively. Her current easel was metal and expandable, but she won’t need to expand shit with this one. Catra lightly trails her fingers along the wooden H-frame of the new centerpiece in the room, her fur still on end as her fingers reach the tray and skate along the smooth surface. She doesn’t know why, but it is almost like the easel has a physical presence in the room, pressing down on her.
She does know why. It only takes a moment of glancing around the room to find the rest of Netossa’s transgression. The pamphlets are set on the couch where Netossa last sat, set out in a fan display. Catra crosses the room slowly, swallowing before she finally forces herself to bend down and pick up one.
Spinnerella asked, and Catra agreed to start thinking about college, but she still hasn’t said much, too cautious and worried to really say what she wants and then lose it. Apparently Netossa isn’t taking silence for an answer.
In that first meeting, Spinnerella asked them about how they wish to approach the documentary when it comes to their relationship. Catra hissed and declared she’s mine and that’s all anyone needs to know, which prompted Spinnerella to muse that they need to have a talk about possessiveness, but she accepted it – at first.
It turns out, after a few months, that it is impossible to edit out. George looks a bit exasperated when Catra tosses aside her fifth art school pamphlet to crawl into Adora’s lap and make out with her instead. Spinnerella pointedly coughs and Catra just keeps going, thoroughly ignoring Spinnerella as she begins to purr into the kiss.
They keep trying at least - until Catra’s seventeenth birthday. They go to an art gallery this time, during a private event, with other attendees and everything. People have grown more accepting – or at least more apathetic – towards them over the years. They get stared at, and whispered about, but people also come up to them and actually try to talk. Most of them seemed weirdly impressed, like they didn’t expect them to be able to hold conversation or something. Maybe it is just Catra’s level of artistic knowledge – whenever someone mentions an artist or painting Catra is quick to give her opinion.
“I know the overloaded-style is DT’s thing, but they went way too heavy on this one. It crossed from artistic and expressive into just sloppy. It looks like something I would have made in my first few attempts,” Catra sniffs when an older woman sidles up to them while they are standing in front of said painting and tries to strike up a conversation by complimenting the piece.
Adora isn’t nervous about the strangers talking to them, really – they have six bodyguards within a few feet of them, after all, they’ll be fine if one of them turns out to be dangerous – but she also doesn’t really know what to say to these new people who are clearly only talking to them due to their curiosity. Maybe Catra doesn’t know either – she does default to addressing the painting directly in front of them instead of really acknowledging the strangers. Said stranger raises her brow.
“It is purposeful-“ she starts to say. Catra cuts her off with a scoff, ears pinning back as she turns her head to narrow her eyes at the woman over Adora’s shoulder.
“It isn’t, actually. It is a compensative technique they developed. Look at their early pieces – they are just as messy with half as much paint. DT lacks any technical skill, which is fine if emotion is the goal, but then stay away from still-life. I could reproduce a better barren landscape in this style in under an hour,” Catra dismisses. The woman stares in a heated way that Adora takes to mean she has a DT original at home.
She quickly excuses them and hurries them away from the silently-seething woman. Catra seems a bit smug about upsetting the rich lady.
“I’m right,” she assures Adora as she hurries them away. Adora can’t help but roll her eyes, entirely fond as she presses a kiss to Catra’s temple. She knows. Catra may have only been at this for a year now, but she does her research, and her photographic memory comes in handy. She looked into every artist on the bill for this show.
“I know. I believe you,” she assures. It isn’t until she watches Catra’s ears twitch that she realizes a wave of whispers has radiated out from around them. Adora is so used to kissing her she didn’t think twice when she did it. She makes eye contact with Catra, sending her an apologetic look. Catra sighs, glancing around the gallery, but after a moment she just shrugs and leans forward to kiss Adora properly.
The news they are together hits the internet before they even make it out of the gallery, reporters shouting questions about their relationship at them as they leave. Despite their secret being out – and the terrible headlines that follow, like “Cat’s OUT of the Bag!” – Catra enjoys the trip to the gallery. She likes being able to see current art up close, and despite the gallery mostly being full of rich elite, which are exactly as snobbish as TV assured her they would be, she did enjoy talking shop with a few of them.
It is still her best birthday so far, and she is only partially saying that because she and Adora get to make out in the backseat as they drive away from the gallery. The rest of the reason she says it is because of the absolutely decadent sea food they get to have for dinner. Adora is happy to eat most anything, but Catra has expensive taste, and the pufferfish dinner she gets to indulge in that night has her purring the moment it hits her tongue.
“Good day?” Adora asks as they pile in the car again to finally embark on the three hour drive back to the facility. It will be past midnight by the time they arrive, but the trip was definitely worth it. Catra purrs in response, buckling her seat belt and immediately curling into Adora’s side in the back seat.
“Didn’t expect to see stuff worse than my own at the gallery,” Catra says around a yawn as she rests her head on Adora’s shoulder. It is more of a casual observation than anything else, but Adora releases an indignant sound in response.
“Catra, that’s because your stuff is good. You’ve improved so much in the last year,” Adora promises her. Catra purrs again, nuzzling against her neck, but she can’t help and point out-
“And yet no one pays me thousands of dollars for my work,” she says, with a slight scoff. Adora is silent for a long moment.
“They will one day. After you get into school and have your first show, they’ll all see that you knew what you are talking about,” she says, her voice quiet but loaded with absolute conviction.
“BMU,” Adora echoes, staring at Glimmer. Glimmer shrugs, seeming unbothered by Adora’s surprise as she continues to browse her collection of nail polishes.
“My father is an alum. It is a prestigious university. I already know two of its students,” she lists off. In the vanity mirror, Adora can see that Glimmer is sporting that smug smile she gets sometimes. Adora just continues to blink at her. It isn’t certain that she and Catra are going to Bright Moon University – but it pretty much is. The university is one of Etheria’s oldest, prestigious but not Ivy League, and it is a state university. It is under the direction of the government, so the Greys program can impose any requirements they need to on it to ensure she and Catra can safely attend.
It also has both an extensive intercultural studies program for Adora and a respected art college. Catra could get to be in gallery shows as early as her second year, and though Adora still isn’t certain what the hell she is doing in life, she knows that Catra is set on the path she has found. If Adora gets her fill of learning about the world, she can always switch majors to one of GEU’s many other offerings.
“There are a dozen more reputable schools you could afford for political science,” Adora points out, raising an eyebrow at Glimmer’s reflection in the mirror. She and Catra both assumed Glimmer would be going Ivy League, like her mom – maybe even to the university her father used to teach at. Glimmer wants to go into politics like her mother, so Ivy League just made sense.
Bow has been taking a gap year to stay with his dads at the base, but he has started to look at colleges as well now. He has more options than them – he can go anywhere that his parents can afford, without having to worry if there is a military base nearby he can be locked down at. He has been looking at dedicated technical colleges, his experience with film equipment sparking an interest in engineering.
Basically, she and Catra expected to go it alone at college. Catra has gone from semi-combative with Glimmer to friendly combative, and the two get on well now that Adora and Catra have been working out their own issues for the better part of a year. Catra will be glad to hear that Glimmer is accompanying them, Adora doesn’t doubt it, but she is still surprised.
Glimmer just shrugs, turning away from her vanity where she is selecting the right polish to paint Adora’s nails. Adora doesn’t really give a shit about makeup, but the nail polish looked fun, and she wanted dark nails to match Catra’s claws. Glimmer had been happy to help while Catra was fixed in front of her easel.
“Remember when I flew out for that Presidential Press Night dinner with Mom?” Glimmer asks, seemingly randomly, as she holds up a dark red bottle of nail polish and waves it in Adora’s face. Adora tilts her head, considering it. To Catra, it will probably look like the same shade as her claws, but Adora likes the red. She nods to Glimmer.
“Sure,” she agrees, causing Glimmer to squeal and immediately settle down in front of her, where Adora already has her hands splayed out according to Glimmer’s direction. “But what does that have to do with school?” Adora questions. Glimmer huffs as she uncaps the bottle and a terrible chemical smell hits the air.
“I ran into three of my old prep school friends at the dinner. All they wanted to know about was how weird it must be to be in school with two aliens. They made jokes about Etheria’s daughter falling from grace right in front of me. It made me realize how miserable I would be to go back to the kind of school where everyone is entitled like that,” Glimmer tells her, readjusting Adora’s hands as she begins to paint. Adora draws in a sharp breath, but she nods.
Glimmer is a little entitled, Adora won’t lie that she isn’t. When she first arrived, she had about a third of the rich girl stereotypes Adora has seen on TV. She has gotten better over her time at the base though – she is nice, and she is their friend. Adora should have known better than to just assume she would go off on her own without them.
For Adora’s eighteenth birthday, they do a campus visit to BMU with Glimmer and Bow in tow. Once Bow found out Glimmer would be going to BMU too, his fate was sealed. He was looking at technical colleges, but the benefit of a liberal arts university like BMU is that all their majors are offered at it. Bow and Glimmer have been dancing around each other for a while now – Catra didn’t see it until she was already with Adora, a little blinded by her jealousy, but then it became glaringly obvious – and even if neither of them will man up and do anything about it, they also aren’t going to separate.
“I didn’t expect it to be so pretty,” Adora muses as they walk down a path through campus lined with trees. It is only the second week of school and the campus is bustling. A lot of students turn their heads to watch them as they walk by, but thanks to either the campus-wide alerts warning of their visit and proper behaviour, or just the small security team at their back, no one tries to approach. Catra rolls her eyes in response to Adora’s comment.
“Adora, there was a photo of this walkway in one of the pamphlets,” Catra points out. Adora sends her the school look – the one she makes to remind Catra she is the only one who remembers every little thing she sees. Catra would argue you don’t need a photographic memory to figure out there are trees on campus, but whatever.
“It isn’t just that. The buildings are so old, all brick and– okay, I don’t know architectural styles, but it’s cool. And the art center! The entire lobby looks like it could be a sculpture,” Adora rambles, gesturing at the Victorian clock tower near the center of campus. Catra rolls her eyes, but she is smiling.
“You’re an idiot,” she tells Adora, but it is entirely affectionate. Adora huffs, tugging a little on Catra’s hand to pull her off balance, but unlike Adora, Catra has balance and she doesn’t even stumble, raising an eyebrow at her girlfriend.
“You’re both idiots. Can you look where you’re going?” Glimmer asks, looking back at them over her shoulder. Catra responds by sticking her tongue out at her.
Moving out is – weird. Adora knows most people move before they turn eighteen, but this single room has been all she has ever known. It is the place she met Catra – where she befriended her, fell in love with her, kissed her for the first time.
“It will always be here, waiting for you should you need it,” Spinnerella assures her from the doorway as Adora stares at the largely empty room. It’s actually rather full, the bed and other furniture firmly in place. It is still empty of life. The shelves are part of the walls, as are the closets, but they are all empty now, their knickknacks and plants packaged up and ready for transport to their new place.
Roughly twenty bean bags have been crammed into the otherwise-empty room, and Adora knows there are another twenty or so still being gathered up. The space will be waiting for them should the outside ever grow too dangerous and they need to return, but in the meantime, it will store the dozens of bean bags that used to be scattered around the facility for Catra.
Catra is out at the car with Netossa by now, likely. She was overseeing the packing up of her art room while she trusted their bedroom to Adora, but there was less to pack there than in their bedroom, so she should have finished.
“I don’t want to see our room empty. I want to believe it is exactly as we left it if the outside gets to be too much,” Catra had admitted, a week ago when they were deciding the plan for their move out day. Adora sends one last look around the room before taking a breath and turning to face Spinnerella, offering her a small smile.
“I know. It will always be our first home,” she tells her. Spinnerella’s expression is soft, a little bittersweet as she raises her arm. Adora takes a deep breath and then gives in, hurrying forward to hug the closest thing she has to a mom.
“I’ll be with you every step of the way,” Spinnerella promises her. Adora doesn’t quite know why, but she cries a little as she nods into her shoulder.
Catra has packed up most of her art supplies, but one thing she leaves behind on purpose – two things, really.
There is still furniture in their old playroom, a few chairs and tables, a sofa, the TV and the bookshelf beside it. A dozen bean bags have been shoved into the back of the room over the course of their move out, and Catra knows there are still more to be gathered from around the facility. She also knows, even in their absence, no one will fuck with her display in the center of the room.
It is an easel – her first easel, the one she hasn’t used once since Netossa’s gorgeous gift. Set up on it is her all-red painting – more pink than red, according to Adora, who had looked sad when she first saw it. The expression had taken Catra’s breath away. She didn’t like seeing Adora sad like that, but it was also the first time she saw true, raw emotion produced in someone else from one of her paintings. After Adora just breathed for a moment, she turned to Catra with shining eyes.
“Anger,” she guessed. Catra swallowed and shrugged. It wasn’t – it was uncertainty, but that was just what it was to her. Adora saw anger, so that is what it was to her. It didn’t matter that Adora’s reaction was “wrong” – it was real. After the piece’s initial tour around the facility, Catra put it away so it wouldn’t torment Adora, but now-
Now it is the exact right one to leave behind. Catra stares at the miasma of grey for a long moment before letting out a slow breath and turning away from the room. The door slides shut behind her. Out of her sight, the lights automatically shut off. The painting is left behind in the darkness.
Catra is still plenty uncertain, but she no longer has to wonder. Now, she has to face her future head on.