“In all these years, you never believed I loved you. And I did. I did so much.
I did love you. I even loved your hate and your hardness.”
— Tennessee Williams
"I still can't believe that Bow is going to prom with Perfuma!" Glimmer tells Adora, possibly for the twelfth time this afternoon.
"Uh huh," Adora says, looking carefully at one of her charts in-progress, holding in her breath as if that will prevent her from being overwhelmed.
The good news is, there's a lot more paper available to her in Bright Moon than in the Fright Zone. She doesn't have to hoard leftover paper from her courses in her locker or ask Catra if she could borrow some empty pages from her notebook to help her study.
("It's not borrowing," Catra would remind her, ripping out more sheets than Adora had asked for, "but by all means, Adora, keep it.")
So maybe she goes a little overboard preparing for Princess Prom, but it's not her fault the invitation is this extensive. There's dancing etiquette, dining etiquette, and stairs etiquette. There are specific greetings for the host, appropriate greetings for other princesses, separate greetings for their plus ones, and polite greetings for non-royal guests. Adora has marked the titles reserved for people she's yet to meet.
And then there's the matter of attire. Adora's never really cared much for fashion. (The only reason Adora has her jacket in the first place is because Catra stole it from the cadets a year above them, but it was too big and "puffy" for her tastes.)
Adora's eyes gloss over the pages. She has to have this entire invitation memorized by tonight. So yes, she's going to take advantage of all the paper at her disposal.
"Adora, are you even listening to me?" Glimmer asks.
Truthfully, no. It's a little hard to pay attention when she's obligated to memorize all these rules. Glimmer's known about Princess Prom her whole life, Adora just heard about it two hours ago. The concept of a last-minute event is still a little strange to her; back in the Fright Zone, everything had a tight schedule, minus random training sessions. What Adora wouldn't give for a spontaneous sparring session with Catra right now, instead of whatever princess lesson Glimmer is about to give her.
Adora glances at Glimmer: her arms are crossed and she's pouting, but Adora still can't figure out why Glimmer is so bothered. So what if Bow is going with Perfuma? Glimmer's friends with her, too, and they're all going to the same place. Bow promised Glimmer that he'll see her there.
"Uh, yes," Adora lies feebly. "I still don't get what the big deal is, if I'm being honest."
"He's going as her plus one, Adora."
As far as Adora knows, that follows the rules: each princess is granted a plus one. Bow isn't a princess, Perfuma is. Therefore, Bow is granted entry into the Kingdom of Snows. It makes sense. Adora scans her charts until she finds the section regarding plus ones for some visual confirmation.
"Well, you and I are going together, right? How is that any different?" Adora asks, not taking her eyes off the chart.
Glimmer groans. "Because we're not going together, together."
Adora looks at the strings connecting the Star Sisters to Prince Peekablue to Sweet Bee. Frenemies. Friends. Dates.
"Wait, are plus ones the same as dates?"
"Basically," Glimmer intones.
That clears things up a bit. Adora had wondered briefly, if there was something between Glimmer and Bow. She saw the way they touched each other absentmindedly. Turns out people outside of the Horde show physical affection on a daily basis. Who knew.
She had once imagined how Catra would react to this information. If she'd be thrilled or embarrassed to know they could just lean on each other and not have to reserve it for the privacy of their rooftop.
Adora supposes it's Catra's rooftop now.
But she doesn't have to think about that right this second.
Adora mirrors Glimmer's crossed arms. "You're jealous," she says playfully, and smirks.
"What?" The word nearly comes out as a shriek. Glimmer scoffs. "I am not jealous. I'm just upset he's breaking our tradition. Years of tradition, Adora."
Adora laughs. "Sure," she says with pointed emphasis. "Sounds like something a jealous person would say."
Flustered, Glimmer flops onto Adora's bed, buries her face into her blankets. "You would be jealous too if someone you liked was going to prom with someone else." Her words are muffled, but Adora can still understand her.
"Yeah, I probably would be," Adora admits. But that's an abstract concept, liking someone. "I'm a little more concerned with familiarizing myself with this invitation, thank you very much."
It's Glimmer's turn to laugh at Adora now. "Please," Glimmer says. She sits up, and Adora turns around to re-examine her larger chart.
Adora hears the sparkling sound of Glimmer's magic, and she's met with Glimmer's elbow jabbing her side. "Be honest with me. If you were still with the Horde, and the Horde had a prom, is there someone you'd want to go with?"
It's completely inconceivable. There would never, ever, be an event like prom in the Horde. (Though that one dancing simulation course would have proved useful.) And if there were, there’d be no question of who she would go with. She and Catra did everything together. It’s a simple answer.
But Adora has a feeling telling Glimmer wouldn't be so simple. “And if there was a person?” she asks, her throat strangely dry and tense.
“How would you feel if that person went with someone else?”
Adora holds back a laugh. Catra wouldn’t want to go with anyone else. Adora's confident in this, because she wouldn't want to go with anyone but Catra, either.
She supposes it couldn't hurt if she tried to express this to Glimmer. She meets Glimmer's eyes, parts open her mouth and—
"I didn't mean to press," Glimmer says. "I know things were different there, but it's Princess Prom! You and I will still have fun, and maybe there will be someone you'd want to dance with! I mean, who wouldn't want to dance with She-Ra?"
Glimmer's eyes are bright with the thought of possibility. Adora suspects she's trying to keep her mind off of Bow, more than anything.
"Right," Adora says, making her best attempt to sound cheerful. She can name one person who would never dance with She-Ra. But it's not like she's going to make her way to the Kingdom of Snows.
They're fifteen, and dancing is dumb.
"What's the point of this anyway?" Catra asks, making a face as Adora accidentally steps on her foot again. When Adora had suggested Catra wear shoes for this, Catra told Adora to take her shoes off instead. Catra might have been right.
"Uh, espionage?" Adora asks.
The instructor said they needed to learn to dance on the off chance they had to infiltrate a princess’s kingdom during something called a “ball.”
Catra laughs and moves Adora's hand off her waist and onto her shoulder. Catra then reaches for Adora’s waist and moves their bodies closer. It vaguely occurs to Adora that Catra is trying to take the lead, even though Shadow Weaver made it very clear that the taller person is supposed to lead. The taller person is also supposed to be a guy. Catra and Adora weren’t assigned as dancing partners in the first place, but Catra was assigned to Kyle, who she refused to touch. Adora got Rogelio to switch places with her, but he didn’t seem to mind.
It works better with Catra in charge in anyway, Adora reasons. She's more confident with her movements. She doesn't seem to be nearly as embarrassed, and Catra’s always moved with a natural grace. The advantage of having a tail, Adora supposes. Catra is nothing but balanced.
"Like we're going to be doing this to defeat princesses," Catra says, lifting her arm for Adora to twirl underneath it.
"You never know," Adora counters. Dancing is kind of fun. Or maybe it’s just that she’s dancing with Catra. It's a nice break from all the sparring. And Adora thinks she could get used to the music playing, too.
Catra raises an eyebrow. "Seems like you're actually enjoying yourself there, Adora."
Her cheeks burn. "It's kind of fun, don't you think?"
"Yeah, it's a total blast," Catra drawls, darting her eyes over to where Kyle and Rogelio are constantly tripping over each other's feet. "I guess it's not so bad, with you," she says quietly.
Adora hopes that if Catra notices the sweat on her hands, she thinks it's just from exertion. "Better than dancing with Kyle?" she jokes.
Catra rolls her eyes. "Latrine duty with you is exponentially better than dancing with Kyle."
Adora snorts at that, and carefully looks around. "Don't say that too loudly, I haven't been assigned latrine duty in months."
"Oh, well, you're definitely overdue."
"Catra," Adora chides, wrinkling her nose.
Catra giggles unabashedly at the face she makes. Something in the music changes, and Catra stops moving. "I think this is the part where I'm supposed to lean you over for, you know, the dip."
"Oh," Adora says.
To their right, Lonnie falls onto the ground. "You just dropped me?" Lonnie asks her partner in disbelief. "What's the big idea here?"
Adora glances back to Catra. Her brow is furrowed.
"Or we could skip that part?" Adora suggests. "I don't want a big bruise on my butt."
"Skipping it sounds good to me," Catra agrees. “I think if I dropped you Shadow Weaver might actually kill me."
"No, she wouldn't," Adora says, frowning. Shadow Weaver is tough on Catra, sure. But that's pretty extreme, for a joke.
Catra shrugs. “I'd rather not risk it.”
"So, Sea Hawk's your plus one," Adora teases Mermista. She knows what a plus one is, now. She is great at Princess Prom.
Mermista’s blush confirms it.
Maybe Princess Prom isn’t so bad. Adora doesn’t have to talk to as many strangers as she thought, the food is amazing, and there's something kind of magical about the flickering pink and blue lights. She's not used to the vibrance. Bright Moon is, well, bright, and the Fright Zone is mostly comprised of deep greens and musty grays. Frosta's castle feels almost enchanted.
But Glimmer isn’t having a good time. Adora tries to reassure her, but she falters.
Because Catra’s here, even though she should be miles away, doing whatever it is Force Captains actually do anyway. The irony is not lost on Adora when she spots Catra seconds after promising Glimmer she wouldn’t abandon her friends. Is it abandonment when the person chose not to come with?
Catra probably has a different answer.
Catra, who is wearing a suit. Adora had no clue that suits were an option for girls. She's tried more than her fair share of dresses today, but now that she sees Catra looking like that—radiant and aware of it—she’s going to talk to Glimmer about this later. Because Catra looks good. It’s the first time Adora has seen her wear something other than her Horde uniform or Horde-issued sleepwear in forever, possibly. Where did Catra even find a suit?
And where did Catra find a girl even taller and more muscular than Adora, even in her She-Ra form? Adora thought she was pretty well acquainted with most of her fellow cadets, but this girl must be a few years older. Her chest tightens and no, she's not jealous. That's not what this is. She exhales, willing this feeling to drop. She can't call Glimmer jealous without admitting that she is, too. Adora doesn't do jealous.
Besides, Catra made it clear she doesn’t even want to be Adora's friend anymore.
Adora shouldn’t want to be her friend, either. Catra is a Force Captain of the Horde, she shouldn’t be in the Kingdom of Snows anyway.
She tries to tell Frosta as much, but Frosta doesn’t listen. That stupidly long invite conveniently neglected to exclude guests who are enemies. Even in the name of neutrality, Adora thinks it's absurd.
“Didn’t you read the invitation?” Catra asks.
It's a pointed question, Catra looks over at her smugly, the same expression she'd make seconds before the two of them would pull a prank on Kyle.
Because Catra knows perfectly well that Adora has read that invite a million times. In another life, Catra would have sat on Adora’s bed listening as Adora read all the rules out loud. Catra would have called the rules dumb. She would have made fun of everyone’s names. Is that what she did with Scorpia? Adora can’t let herself think about it.
When they're on the dancefloor, Catra catches Adora off guard. True to the invitation’s rules: Catra’s form is perfect, her arm up gracefully, her expectant hand waiting for Adora's touch.
Adora did not plan on dancing this evening. Guests aren't required to dance. While preparing for the ball, Adora scheduled this time to go back to where the food was.
But here Catra is, confident that Adora will accept her offer.
(Adora made sure to underline this: rejecting someone’s offer to dance is allowed. There are three customary ways to do this. Part of Adora wants to give one of them a try, to wipe that stupid smirk off Catra’s stupid face.)
But Adora reasons the best way to keep an eye on Catra will be to dance with her, so she accepts. Solely for protecting the Kingdom of Snows from the Horde, Adora takes Catra’s hand.
Dancing involves a lot of touch. Adora had almost forgotten.
Just like she had forgotten how much she lived for the sound of Catra’s voice.
It's almost like they're in the Fright Zone again, in the simulation, but they're absent of their adolescent clumsiness, and there are worlds between them. There's no question of who leads this time. Catra guides Adora through the violet haze, as if dancing in ballrooms is a regular thing for her. She doesn't look out of place at all.
"I don't know about you, but I am having a blast," Catra says charmingly.
Adora doesn't doubt it, considering it seems like her new favorite pastime is messing with Adora. So she glares at Catra, determined to show her that she doesn't trust her for a second. Catra is here on a Horde mission, and she won't let her succeed.
Catra’s too cocky. And she’s free—Adora realizes with a pang. Catra doesn’t have to be careful around her now that they’re outside of the Fright Zone. Adora wonders if Catra is taking the opportunity to be close to her, too. And when Catra dips her—she doesn’t let go. She doesn’t even threaten to drop her. She revels as if this exactly where she wants to be, her arms around Adora’s waist, Adora’s leg between hers.
If Catra hadn’t just threatened Bow's safety, this might have been all Adora wanted too.
"Seriously, Adora, I don't know how you put up with Catra all those years, she's terrible!"
Adora tries not to get defensive, Glimmer and Bow don’t know. She never told them about how much fun she had when they sparred together in secret, how they had a perfect day just gathering rocks in creek beds, and ended it by watching the Fright Zone's polluted glow at sunset. Joy in the Fright Zone came from little moments in passing when they could just breathe. When Catra would call her charts dumb just to trick Adora into making fun ones, like what ration bars were actually made out of, and every razor monster on Beast Island.
She hasn't told Glimmer and Bow about these good memories because they still hurt too much to think about. Part of her doesn’t know if they’d believe her anyway, it's difficult enough for Adora to reconcile that Force Captain Catra is still Adora's oldest friend Catra.
Catra was someone who was there when Adora had nightmares about faulty machinery and shadows and Hordak's red eyes, even when Adora thought she was too old to be getting bad dreams.
Catra was prone to similar nightmares too, and Adora would be there for her.
Adora still wakes up reaching for her sometimes. Catra didn't always sleep by her feet. Sometimes Adora slept in Catra’s bunk. Pressed up in the middle because Adora was worried they’d fall off the top in their sleep.
"Glimmer," Bow warns her.
"It's the truth!" Glimmer insists. "Adora," she says, pink eyes wide with terror, "she licked me!"
This news undoes Adora. She tries to suppress her inevitable snort, she really does, but it comes out even louder. It makes her laugh with her whole body. No, it's worse than that, she's giggling uncontrollably. She catches the worried way Bow and Glimmer stare at each other.
"Trust me, that was a lot worse for Catra than it was for you," Adora finally says, after her laughing fit ends. She's met with empty glances. "She's a little more sensitive. You must have really riled her up for her to lick you."
“Well, it didn’t take much for her to decide to push me off a cliff,” Bow says. “Adora, Catra didn’t even hesitate. She threw herself down with me. If Glimmer didn't teleport us in time, well, you get the picture."
“Oh,” Adora ends up saying. Her whole stomach feels like it's filled with ice. She feels guilty for laughing about the whole licking thing now.
What Bow's saying is alarming—Catra was never prone to making decisions recklessly. Back when they were cadets, if she actually put in the effort, she was careful with her calculations. Now that she has power, she moves methodically. The problem with Catra is that she's not afraid to use everything she knows about Adora against her. It's why her plans work. Sometimes Adora thinks that in spite of the animosity between them, Catra knows Adora better than she knows herself.
“I’m sorry,” Adora ends up saying.
“For what?” Bow asks. “It’s not like you were there. You’re not responsible for Catra’s actions.”
“I know that,” Adora says. But she used to be. Shadow Weaver made her all too aware of that when she was five. It never felt right, that Catra's existence was tethered to Adora's fondness towards her. “I just—if I could have reached her, maybe she wouldn’t still be fighting for the Horde.”
“I’m sorry to say it, Adora, but I sincerely doubt that,” Glimmer says. “It seems like winning is the only thing that matters to her.”
“Yeah,” Adora says half-heartedly. “I guess it is.”
During a rooftop sunset-watch, at seventeen, Adora asks, “How good do you think it’s going to feel when we win the war?"
“Someone’s confident,” Catra jokes. “For all you know, the war's gonna end before you and I ever get sent out on a single scouting mission.”
Adora gasps. That’s a possibility she's never prepared for. She’s trained so hard every day for years, she doesn’t know what she’d do with herself if that were to end so suddenly. “Do you really think that could happen?”
Catra laughs at her newfound misery. “The war’s been going on for years, Adora. I don’t think it’s going to end anytime soon. Once you’re a Force Captain, you’re going to show those princesses what you’re made of.”
“And what am I made out of?” Adora asks. If Shadow Weaver is in a generous mood, she'll call her special. But Adora would much rather hear Catra's opinion.
Catra sits with that. “Ration bars,” she answers with a grin, “and sheer stupidity.”
“Gee, thanks,” Adora says.
Catra pokes her side. “You know I’m kidding. You’re obviously built out of natural leadership, determination, strength. Oh, and discipline.”
“Are you just reciting words from the Force Captain handout?”
“So what if I am?”
Adora snorts. “You’re ridiculous.”
Catra shrugs. “Whatever,” she says.
Adora bites the inside of her cheek. Catra lies down on cool steel roof, closes her eyes and sighs contently. She's smiling. Adora smiles back at her, even though she can't see it. Maybe it would be a good thing if the war ended before they saw any action. Maybe it could even end tomorrow.
Adora lies down next to Catra. The crimson sky above them feels a little warmer. She asks, "What are we going to do when the war ends?"
"We?" Catra's blue eye opens and for a split-second, Adora's heart skips. "Hilarious you think we'd have a choice. The Horde will probably assign us new stations. I don't think much would change for us. As long as there are princesses on Etheria, they'll always be a threat. Even if we beat them."
"What if we did have a choice? What would you want to do?"
Both of Catra's eyes are open now. "I haven't thought that far ahead."
Catra's gaze is fierce. "Seriously." She takes Adora's hand and shuts her eyes again, intertwining their fingers. "Guess I just figured we'll have each other, so we'll be okay."
"Like we promised?"
Adora swears that the curve of Catra's smile is the softest thing to exist in the Fright Zone. It's probably the most beautiful, too. Adora glances back at the clouds. She can't afford to get distracted by what Catra's smile means until one of them is a Force Captain. That's when they can register for a shared room, and request to go on the same missions. At that point in time, it will be safe for Adora to let herself fantasize about when they're both Force Captains, so they can move into their own private unit, consisting of three rooms.
"Yeah, just like we promised," Catra confirms. "Whether the world ends tomorrow, or you're Force Captain—"
"When we're both Force Captains, you mean." That's Adora's plan. Once they're both Force Captains, they're going to be invincible. They can be together.
"Details, details. You know I don't care about rank."
"Don't you want to be a Force Captain?"
"Sounds like too much work. I think I'll leave that up to you."
“Come on, Catra, I know you’re not that lazy.” Catra aces every test and completes every mission. She’s the only person Adora would want to be a Force Captain with.
Catra sits up. She gives in. "Okay, fine. When we're both Force Captains, we're gonna take over the world. You happy now?"
Adora slinks down a little to rest her head on Catra's shoulder. "Very," she says.
That night, Bright Moon's kitchen floor is sticky and covered with cake crumbs.
“You’re ridiculous,” Bow tells Glimmer, laughing as she grabs another slice with her bare hands.
Glimmer gives Bow an impressive eye roll and says, "Whatever." But she can't contain herself from smiling, when Bow's around. She beams at him. "You know it's a lot more fun this way. Adora agrees with me."
"Mhmm," Adora says, mouth full of frosting and dyed sugar crystals. It is way more fun to eat cake fork-free. She likes to think Catra would agree.
And maybe that’s what Bow and Glimmer can't comprehend.
Adora can’t just erase all the good times with Catra just because they’re opposite sides. But she can choose to tuck them away, keep them secret, maybe even from herself, on days like today. She can’t let herself wonder if Catra’s done the same. She doesn’t know which is worse: remembering every sunset they spent on that roof or choosing to forget each one.
Glimmer is sitting on her alcove with Bow's head in her lap. His eyes are closed, but Adora can tell he's not asleep. Adora almost feels like looking at him is too intimate: he’s completely content, and strangely at peace for someone who nearly died hours ago.
Adora lingers in the doorway, unsure if she should enter or not, but Glimmer notices her presence. She doesn’t shift.
“Hey,” Glimmer says. It’s weighted. It’s reluctant. If Adora steps forward, there’s a good chance they’ll get into another fight, and Adora really doesn’t want that after everything that's happened today.
But maybe since Bow’s okay, Glimmer's mood will be better. Her hand rests on Bow’s arm protectively.
"Catra's the one who was sending out the bots," Glimmer tells Adora.
Of course she was. That's not exactly news, the pulse bots screamed Catra: big, dangerous, prepared to ruin Adora's life in seconds. Adora still can't imagine how Entrapta is comfortable sending weapons after people who used to be her friends, but she should be used to that, considering everything Catra has orchestrated.
"But I don't think we're going to have to deal with Catra anytime soon," Glimmer says smugly. There's a dark pride in her eyes. It reminds Adora of the way Catra looked at her when they fought each other at the Battle of Bright Moon. It’s unsettling, coming from Glimmer.
"How do you mean?" Adora asks.
"Catra was hiding in a cave with one of the prototypes. But she made the mistake of setting off the bot thinking it would stop me from getting to her first," Glimmer pauses, tracing her fingers over Bow's arm before glancing back at Adora. "The cave had already started to collapse in on itself and Catra got herself trapped underneath a column. I think she knows better than to mess with me now."
With the mental image of Catra being stuck inside a cave with an explosion, Adora asks, “Wait, you just left her there?”
"I mean, yeah, what was I supposed to do, Adora? Help her out? Catra would never do the same for me."
Glimmer's not wrong, but it's not an easy truth to process. Adora clenches her fist, and glares at Glimmer's window, so she's not glaring at Glimmer herself.
"Hey, it's not like I left the pulse bot in the cave with her, I teleported it out." Glimmer lets out an exasperated sigh. "You can't tell me you're actually worried about her, after everything she's done?"
"I didn't say I was worried," Adora counters. But Adora is worried. She shouldn't be. Catra made it out of the trap Adora left her in back when they last saw each other in the Crimson Waste, she probably made it out of the cave okay, too. "But—"
"But what? Catra's not your friend anymore, Adora. She chose her side."
Bow sits up. "Glimmer—"
"Are you serious, Bow? Here I was thinking you guys would be happy that we actually defeated Catra for the first time in months. She had this coming.”
Bow momentarily concedes. “Well, you’re not wrong about—”
“Do you know if she got out okay?” Adora interrupts.
Glimmer, apparently, has no problem with glaring at Adora. “Catra always seems to make it out of things unscathed.”
Catra hasn’t. She's good at acting tough, she's had to learn to fake it, to survive growing up in the Fright Zone. She tried so hard to hide any sign of weakness, especially around Adora, who was bigger, taller, tougher. But Adora could always recognize when Catra tried to conceal her pain. She'd talk less, and eat quicker, as if that would heal her faster.
(“You can have some of mine,” Adora said, nudging her plate towards her.
Through gritted teeth, Catra replied, “No, I’m fine.”
“You’re hurt,” Adora said.
Catra gaped at her like she had announced it to the whole world, exposing her.
Adora wasn't deterred. “Please, just eat it.”
“You know we're not supposed to let anyone know about minor injuries, right?”
“I know, but we look out for each other. Even when one of us is hurt.”
Catra’s shoulders relaxed, and she almost swallowed Adora’s ration bar whole.)
Glimmer doesn't know about any of it. It'd be impossible for her to be remotely aware; ever since the portal, Adora's refused to bring up Catra unless she was prompted to, and even then, she only came up when they tried to strategize her defeat.
Something in Adora snaps anyway. “You took it too far. First you tried to interrogate a Horde soldier with dark magic, and now you’re leaving people to die in collapsing caves?”
"I already told you, it's not dark magic," Glimmer says. She looks at Bow expectantly for back up. His mouth stays shut, and that’s enough betrayal for Glimmer. Realizing she's outnumbered, Glimmer says, "I don't believe you guys." Even though Glimmer is the Queen of Bright Moon, she teleports out of her own bedroom, instead of demanding her friends leave.
Adora wonders where she goes. She hopes it's not the gardens, where Shadow Weaver seems to spend most of her time.
Bow sighs. "I know we disagree with the whole, magic thing," he says carefully. As if the "magic thing" is unrelated to the woman who manipulated Adora her entire life. "But we should probably both be a little more careful, with Glimmer," he pauses, knowing how mad Glimmer would be if she heard him say this. "She's in mourning."
Adora had never truly understood the concept of mourning until Angella chose to stay between realities. She knew Glimmer had grieved for her dad for years, but Adora had never experienced this for herself. This absence, this loss has Adora questioning if it's possible to mourn someone who's still alive, who's out of touch. Who can only reappear in false realities and dreams and memories.
"And I'm not in mourning?" Adora ends up blurting. Whatever she's feeling for Catra, it's different from losing someone to a vortex, or a parent to a war. Adora knows that. It feels selfish to compare the two when one is still breathing. She can feel the tears start to build, betraying her to Bow.
"You're not just talking about Angella, are you?" Bow asks gently. His voice is free of judgement, but she can sense his concern.
"I miss her, too, Bow. Of course I do. But Catra—" Adora can barely say her name. She tries to swallow back the tears. It doesn't work. She has to wipe them away with her sleeve. "She was my best friend. She was my lifeline in the Horde. She was everything to me before I joined the rebellion." Adora closes her eyes tightly. Everything in the portal felt so real, so natural. As if she woke up in the past. Adora had tried to push all her fondness towards Catra into a closed chamber in her brain. But it spilled out in the portal. Illusory as it was, losing that connection again was worse than finding out she was ripped away from the place she was born.
"Adora, did something happen to you and Catra in the portal?"
Adora didn't know how to tell Bow and Glimmer the whole truth. All they know is that Adora was in the Fright Zone and had to make her way back to them before everything else disappeared.
It was everything between a nightmare and a dream. Adora was close to Catra again, she could touch Catra again. She could make Catra laugh again. Not the fake one she puts on for show, when she’s trying to make Adora mad. But a genuine laugh. The one that would make up for a whole day of training exercises. The one that would make up for eating nothing but brown ration bars for a week.
Adora had Catra there with her. It was in a world she thought Catra wanted. It was in a world Adora had secretly wanted, too.
"It doesn't matter what happened in the portal," Adora says dismissively. But it did matter, it still does. They were bound to each other again, and when reality shattered, Catra chose oblivion. Adora couldn't save her, and she still carries that weight, even though Catra is still here, unharmed, unfathomably far away. "It wasn't enough. I wasn't enough. I couldn't reach her. She wouldn't let me."
"I'm sorry. You know you can always talk to me about Catra, right?”
Adora knows this, well, maybe in the back of her mind she does. But it's easier to bury this hatchet deep inside of her. She's She-Ra, and she has a responsibility. If she can balance the planet, maybe she'll be able to keep her feelings level as well.
“Thanks, Bow.” She pulls him into a hug, and squeezes him tightly, hoping that maybe some of his optimism will rub off on her.
They're thirteen, and Shadow Weaver won't let Adora take Catra to the infirmary after she accidentally burned her tail in the incinerator.
"She brought this on herself," Shadow Weaver says.
Catra doesn't speak, probably from the pain. She doesn't even cry. Adora blinks back tears.
Shadow Weaver sighs. "I suppose she can take the rest of the day off. If you choose to skip out on this afternoon's training, that is your choice, Adora." She doesn't need to say that she'll be disappointed with her, that she disapproves entirely.
"I'm going to take Catra back to the barracks," Adora says.
When they get to their bunk, they both still, unsure. Adora knows Catra could probably climb up to her bunk but she doesn’t want Catra to over-exert herself.
"Here," Adora says, patting her bunk, "you can stay in my bed. I'll be right back."
"Training lasts an hour, Adora," Catra reminds her quietly.
Adora shakes her head. "I'm not going to train when you're hurt, Catra. I'm going to get you some supplies."
"But Shadow Weaver said—"
"I don't care what Shadow Weaver said," Adora insists. It's a lie. She does care. She hates knowing that Shadow Weaver will be upset with her for skipping, but she hates that Shadow Weaver said the burn wasn't severe enough for professional medical attention even more. "You stay here, okay?"
"Like I have anywhere else to go," Catra quips, making herself comfortable on the foot of Adora's bed.
"I'll be quick," Adora promises.
She is. She jogs through the hallways, unable to forget the sickening way Catra's burning fur and skin smelled.
The infirmary is empty and dark. Adora got lucky, she wouldn't have known how to ask their current nurse-in-training for what she needs. But she grabs gauze, ointment, and takes out a single painkiller from a bottle. Catra probably needs two, but two missing painkillers would be noticeable. One could pass as a more practical slip.
Once Catra's wound is treated and her tail is bandaged, Catra thanks her. Her ears are flat, and she won't meet Adora's eyes.
They're both sitting on Adora's bed. But Catra doesn't stay curled up by Adora's feet, she puts her head in Adora's lap.
"Of course," Adora says. "You would have done the same for me."
"You don't have a tail, dummy," she says.
Adora laughs. "You know what I mean."
Catra stays silent. It's not like her to be so vulnerable, even around Adora. But Adora resigns to be strong enough for both of them. It’s not like they’re in the wild, or on a battleground, but Adora can’t help it. She feels overly protective. And she can’t let her guard down.
Still, for Catra's sake, she rambles on. Catra's letting Adora take care of her, she figures keeping Catra distracted is the least she can do.
Eventually, Adora runs out of things Catra might find amusing in this state. She stops talking.
Adora starts absentmindedly running her fingers through Catra's hair. Even though she knows to avoid her ears, Catra still tenses if her hands get too close.
Not for the first time, Adora doesn’t feel like she’s enough. For every scrape and scratch Adora's gotten, Catra gets them worse. Adora doesn’t have a tail to burn, so when it motioned close to the flames, Adora wasn't quick enough to realize what was about to happen.
The door to the barracks opens, and Adora notices the way Catra's whole body tenses. But it's just Lonnie. Training must have already ended. Catra closes her eyes and covers her face with her arm.
Lonnie gives them a look, parting her mouth probably to ask why neither of them were where they were supposed to be. Adora gestures towards the bandages on Catra's tail, and Lonnie just shakes her head, climbing up to her own bunk to squeeze a nap in before dinner.
Years later, Adora will call the Horde evil. Catra will reply with, "Well duh!"
And years after that, Adora will realize Catra was never okay with it all. And she'll feel like the world's worst person. The Horde has been hurting innocent people, their own people, from the beginning. And Catra must have thought her pain never mattered to Adora. And Adora will think it's too late to apologize. She'll go months without seeing her and believe that's what Catra wants.
She’ll tell herself it’s for the best.
With a voice crack, Bow says, "I can't reach her," meaning Glimmer.
There has been a rift between the three of them for weeks. Adora thought she could fix it, but that's not an option, now. They have to go to Beast Island for Entrapta, despite the fact that Glimmer forbade them.
Adora knows Bow has taken it harder. It had hurt Adora to be shut out by another best friend, one who fights on the same side of the war as her. But Bow’s known Glimmer for longer, and somehow, knowing that Bow of all people can’t get through to Glimmer hurts her even more.
Adora takes Bow in her arms, and he shakes fervently. Out of sadness, out of frustration, Adora can't tell. She pulls him closer. She understands.
Adora can't stop thinking about how worried she is for Catra. Catra, who risked her life to save Glimmer. Catra, who is on Prime's ship this very second. Adora hadn't even known Catra wasn't on Etheria anymore, and now she's in the one place in the universe Adora can't reach her.
Jewelstar said there's no hope. But Adora’s not prone to give up so easily. Not if there's a chance. It might be the slightest chance, but if Catra’s still alive—no—Adora can't let herself think that way. The possibility that Catra’s already gone, that she has no idea how Adora—
Bow takes both of Glimmer's hands.
Adora gapes. Bow wouldn't even look at Glimmer for more than a bitter secret glance five hours ago. Something must’ve happened while Adora was separated from them, the underground caverns shifted more than crystal covered caves. There’s a tenderness between the two of them, again. It fills Adora with pure relief.
But Adora feels as if she’s overstepping, watching the way they hold each other. So she turns away, looks up at the stars. Despite all her time in space, she's still in disbelief that the stars exist. When Razz first showed them to her, Adora felt drawn to them, the same way she felt drawn to Catra when she was younger. Bow and Glimmer's entwined hands brought back a memory, or lack of one. Had she ever just stood still and held Catra's hand? Sure, they held hands when they were running across the Fright Zone together, as kids. Sometimes when they were older, Catra would take her hand if she was leading her somewhere. She did so in their portal world, does that count? Had they ever just been able to sit still and hold hands? Adora can't remember anymore.
"I can't just leave her there," Adora eventually tells Glimmer. If Glimmer doesn't think rescuing Catra is worth it, Adora will have to risk jeopardizing their friendship again. She's not sure she can handle losing Glimmer a second time. Adora's not sure she can handle losing anyone ever again. She'll trek across the stars on her own, if she has to. With She-Ra gone, there's only so much Adora can do to help protect Etheria anyway.
But Glimmer is full of surprises. She's receptive, she's supportive. Adora could cry as she hugs her and Bow again, at the same time. It's their longest group hug they've had in months. Glimmer is back, Glimmer is safe. Adora can only hope soon Catra will be, too.
It’s then Entrapta walks in. “The crystals have been successfully replaced!" she announces. Her excitement is almost infectious. "The new crystals will give us more than enough fuel to make it to Etheria."
“That’s good news,” Adora says. She bites her lip. It was hard enough to tell Glimmer and Bow what she wanted to do, that she’s choosing to save Catra before helping all their friends and family back on Etheria. Now she has to tell Entrapta. She has no idea what Entrapta will say in response.
Glimmer nods at her encouragingly. Bow gives her a thumbs up.
Slowly, Adora says, “But there’s something we need to do before we head back.”
Entrapta doesn’t say anything. She doesn’t even blink. Those vibrant purple irises of hers just look at Adora anxiously.
"We're going back to Prime’s ship to rescue Catra first.”
Entrapta considers this. "That took you longer than I expected," she says. "Catra sounded very distressed."
Adora can't help it, she gawks at her. "You knew we'd want to go back for her?"
Entrapta's right pigtail takes the shape of a hand, stroking her chin. "You went to Beast Island for me," Entrapta explains, pressing her own hand against her chest. "I’m someone you've only known for two and a half years. You've known Catra your whole life."
Adora's cut off from the sensation of Entrapta's left pigtail patting her shoulder. She thinks it's Entrapta’s way of comforting her. She'll let her believe it.
“If you think we should get Catra, we should get Catra,” Entrapta tells her. "The crystals have given us plenty of fuel, if that's what you're worried about."
"I'm not worried about that," Adora says.
Entrapta eyes her as if she can see all the inner workings of her brain. “Ah, now I think I’m starting to understand the behavior I saw at Princess Prom. I should go back to my recordings from that night.”
“What behavior?” Bow asks.
Adora can't believe Entrapta of all people is bringing that up. Adora's going to have to get the ship back into orbit herself at this rate.
"You don't remember?" Entrapta asks Bow. "Adora wouldn't leave Catra alone all night—"
“Entrapta?” Adora asks, trying to make this seem like a smaller deal than it is. “Can we please just focus on the mission?” The only thing that matters right now, is focusing on this mission. They can think about Princess Prom a different time. Adora can think about her non-existent feelings for Catra a different time.
Entrapta shrugs. "I guess everyone processes things differently." She then eyes Glimmer, who is trying to conceal her giggles. “I should probably finish making your space suit in the meantime. Do you want a heart symbol anywhere, to match Bow's suit?”
“Uh," Glimmer stammers. Her cheeks are flushed. "Why would I want to match with Bow, specifically?”
Adora has to hide her own laughter, wondering just how much Entrapta knows.
Wrong Hordak says he doesn't understand why they would make such a mess in his kitchen. Technically, it's not his kitchen, but Adora still doesn't see the ship as hers, she can only refer to it as Mara's. After Entrapta had taken the liberty of naming the ship (or the AI of the ship? Adora's not too sure where they differentiate) Darla, Adora especially doesn't want to be possessive of it.
"Don't worry, we'll clean it up," she assures him. "Right, guys?"
Glimmer looks betrayed, Catra looks like she wishes she was back on Prime's ship, but thankfully, Bow sides with her.
"Of course we'll clean it! Don't worry, W.H., we've got this."
"Thank you, brothers," Wrong Hordak says, exiting the kitchen.
"W.H.?" Adora asks, handing Bow a broom.
He shrugs. "I kind of don't like calling him Hordak. And Wrong feels a little mean."
"Aren't you the one who named him?" Catra asks.
Bow shrugs. "I had to improvise," he said.
Since the dumplings Glimmer made last night were so good, everyone insisted on having more tonight. Wrong Hordak made the mistake of leaving four twenty-something year olds in the kitchen unsupervised.
Cleaning the mess of flour and traces of protein slaw takes longer than it should. If Adora weren't having so much fun laughing with the three of them, she'd complain. Until she spots Catra intentionally sprinkling some flour onto the floor.
"Seriously, Catra?" Adora asks.
"It's not my fault you took too long to notice."
"I—you—" Adora is just baffled. But it's such a Catra move, she should have suspected something was up after she swept the same corner two times. She and Catra end up-play wrestling with each other, like they're still kids. At the sound of an exceptionally bubbly laugh from Glimmer, Adora stills. Bow's leaning against the counter, arms crossed, grinning at her.
Adora watches as they talk to each other like Adora and Catra aren't even there. She's them do this countless times, she didn't mind before, she would just politely leave the room. But now that Catra's at her side, she flushes. Her brain helpfully flashes back to all the times she'd lean against the locker as Catra was telling her a joke.
"Hey, Adora?" It's question, Catra’s nervous. Catra’s not supposed to be nervous, it only makes Adora more antsy. "Maybe we should leave, give them space."
Adora turns to face Catra and nearly startles—Catra's face is only inches away from her own.
"Yeah, let's slip out," Adora says. She takes a step towards Glimmer and Bow to say goodnight, but they're too enthralled with each other to notice.
The floor still isn't perfect, but Adora figures they can finish cleaning it after breakfast in the morning.
It's easy for her and Catra to sneak out of the kitchen. The door automatically shuts behind them.
But now they're in a tight hallway of the ship, alone.
"Glimmer and Bow are... close," Catra says.
Knowing Catra, it's not an observation. It's an implication. Has it always been so obvious between the two of them?
"Yeah, they are," Adora agrees.
"Close like... we used to be." Catra’s ears are flat. She's rubs her arm.
Adora stares at her, dumbfounded. "Hey," she says, grabbing Catra's hand on instinct. Because it feels right. "I meant it, you know. Back when we were kids. When I told you I'd always be your friend? That hasn't changed."
Catra's eyes are wide, like she can't believe what she's hearing. As if she's not sure why Adora just brought up such an old memory. And then she smiles softly. Brilliantly. Like starlight.
"You remember that?" Catra asks.
"I'm the one who said it, aren't I?"
And then suddenly Catra's arms are wrapped around her, their bodies are pressed against each other. This is their second hug in the past forty-eight hours. Adora could get used to this, if Catra would allow her.
"I gave up trying to reach you," Adora says quietly. "After the portal." Catra tenses, but when Adora holds her tighter, Catra breathes out evenly. "But I never gave up on you, on the hope that eventually, something might change. I never wanted you out of my life, Catra," she clarifies. She's still haunted by the way Prime described her, full of rage and grief and pain. Adora felt blindsided, for years she only saw Catra's anger, but she should have known better. She should have known how much Catra was hurting, because she was hurting too. "I'm sorry."
Catra laughs gently. "What are you apologizing for?"
"For leaving, for not trying harder to reach you. For not seeing how hurt you were."
As Catra pulls away, her hand lingers on Adora's waist for half a second, and then she rubs the back of her neck. Adora wonders if she's touching the spot the chip used to be. "Adora, you already apologized for leaving, I wasn't in the space to understand why you did it back then. And I didn't want you to know how hurt I was."
"But you wanted me to feel it," Adora says. She remembers the claws in her back. She also remembers the way Catra's back sounded as Adora slammed her into a cliff. They had both needed a minute to breathe, after that.
Adora thinks they might each need a minute to breathe right now.
Catra's brow is furrowed, she stares at her feet. "I wanted you to feel it because I didn’t want to feel it.”
“I did feel it,” Adora says, unsure if that's helpful or not.
“I did, too,” Catra admits, meeting her eyes again.
At least they're both being honest.
“Where does that leave us now?” Adora asks.
“Where do you want us to be?”
Adora traces her hand up Catra’s arm, up to her stripes. Her skin is scarred.
“Right now?" Adora asks, mulling it over. "Somewhere private. Entrapta is probably in a vent nearby.”
There's a creaking sound, and then, “Affirmative,” Entrapta says, her voice comes from directly above them.
And even after what feels like a lifetime apart, Adora recognizes the way Catra creases her nose when she's trying to suppress a laugh. "Typical Entrapta," she says.
“Come on,” Adora says, taking Catra’s hand and guiding her to Mara's old quarters. They're significantly more spacious than the room they had designated for Catra.
"Wait, all of this is your room?" Catra asks, dropping her hand to walk around the room. Aside from the bed and what Adora assumes is supposed to be a dresser slash desk, it's pretty empty. The private bathroom is the same size. Mara's room glows a light blue, shrouding Catra in it. "We could have been sleeping in here the whole time?"
Adora smiles at the way Catra says, "We." She almost teases Catra for assuming they'd still be sharing a bed, but Catra's right. Mara's old bed is a lot comfier than the cot they put in Catra's room.
Catra then has a serious look on her face. "Wait, where is everybody else sleeping?"
"Don't worry, this is the best room," Adora says. "It was Mara's. She was the uh, She-Ra before me."
"I see," Catra says solemnly.
There's so much Adora wants to catch Catra up on. How good it feels to be She-Ra, how awful it was when she lost that part of her, how good it feels to have She-Ra back, to have Catra back. That even though Catra lost her mask, She-Ra wears it now. Adora wants to tell Catra about cake and ice cream and how there are fountains in her bedroom.
And there’s so much Adora wants to ask Catra. What happened in the Fright Zone, why the sudden change in heart? Why she suddenly cared about doing “good things,” and what does that really mean anyway?
It’s not the first time Catra had tried to save her.
Did save her.
Adora can only hope Catra never has to put her life on the line for her again. Adora's supposed to be the one to looking out for her friends, not the other way around.
They could stay up all night and not get through a quarter of what they've missed out on. But they can get a good start. It’s not like nighttime really matters when they’re out in space anyway.
They end up whispering, out of habit, even though there's no one else around.
"Remember that one time I tried sleeping at your feet instead?" Adora asks, earning a laugh from Catra.
“I remember you complaining at how bad your back hurt, after.”
“Does it hurt your back to sleep like this?” Adora gestures to their pillows, side by side.
“No, but my eyes hurt looking at you sleep in that stupid ponytail.”
“It’s dumb. It’s dangerous.”
Adora snorts. “The ponytail is more dangerous than being next to Hordak’s ex-second in command?”
Catra rolls her eyes. “Obviously,” she sighs. “Would pre-mature baldness make She-Ra bald, too?”
Adora pats her hair poof. “Well, I guess we’ll find out eventually.”
“No we won’t,” Catra says, leaning over to reach for Adora’s ponytail.
Adora shrieks, tries to push Catra away. Catra ends up half-straddling her. It’s not the first time they’ve ended up in this position, but it’s the first time Adora realizes how badly she wants to stay in this position, and what it means.
Meeting Catra’s eyes, she watches as this realization hits Catra, too. It's not innocent, like it used to be.
“Sorry,” Catra says, carefully moving off.
And as much as she wants to be this close right now, Adora can’t be thinking about this. But it’s so easy, now that they’re so far away from the war, from Etheria, from Shadow Weaver. Space is theirs.
“Hey, it’s okay.” Adora removes the band, lets her hair fall onto her shoulders. “I’ll have hair for one more day now,” she says.
“I don't think that's how it works,” Catra replies fondly. “I’m tired,” she adds.
“Me too,” Adora says, even though it’s a lie. She doesn’t think she’s felt this alive in years.
Her heart still races when she dims the lights, and she wonders if Catra can hear it.
"We'll do it together," Adora says, underneath their dazzlingly colorful sky. It's magical. Adora can feel it, not even as She-Ra, she can feel it. Judging from the brightness in everyone's eyes, they can feel it too.
When the four of them pull apart, Catra's arm is still around her waist. She slides her right arm around Catra's shoulders. And then she sees that Bow and Glimmer are holding hands. They're holding hands!
She can't contain her joy as she practically screams, "You guys!"
Both of them blush, but they don't let go of each other's hands.
“You guys!” Bow repeats right back.
Raising an eyebrow, Glimmer asks, “What happened in the Heart of Etheria?”
“None of your business, Sparkles,” Catra says light heartedly.
Glimmer looks at Adora quizzically. "Well, Adora?"
She squeezes Catra’s shoulder. “Oh, you know, a little She-Ra magic. Nothing that big.”
“Right,” Glimmer says, disbelievingly.
Catra leans closer to her. She laughs softly, unafraid. There's nothing to be afraid of anymore.
Bow and Glimmer make their way join the others.
"Should we follow them?" Catra asks. "You know, celebrate with everyone else?"
"In a minute," Adora staring at her lips, then glancing back to her eyes.
Catra grins at her. “Everyone’s going to see,” she points out.
“So what? Don’t tell me you’re getting shy on me now, Catra.”
"Absolutely not," Catra says. “I’m just trying to be considerate. Public displays of affection, and all that.”
She says it as a joke, but Adora understands. Even if they had a relationship when they were in the Horde, they wouldn’t have been able to express it like this.
And Catra still has yet meet the princesses who were chipped as allies, not enemies. It makes sense for Catra to be nervous, Adora is too. But she's excited for everyone to know Catra as Catra, someone Adora loves, not someone who's on the opposite side of the war.
“It’s okay,” Adora says. “I’m a little nervous too.”
“I am not nervous," Catra half-scoffs. "I just—are you sure about this?”
“Am I sure?” Adora asks. “Catra, I—” and what is she supposed to tell her, that she dreamed of a potential future of theirs together? One where they’re married and Glimmer and Bow are too and—Catra’s eyes are wide and bright. She’ll tell Catra one day, maybe even tonight. But not right now. “Can I kiss you again?”
“If I recall correctly, I’m the one who kissed you.”
Adora sputters. “It’s not like I didn’t kiss you back.”
Catra shrugs. “Remind me, then.”
So Adora does kiss her, savoring Catra’s initial surprise and the warmth of her mouth. She can hear laughter, and some cheering probably twenty feet away from them, but it won’t deter her. She pretends they’re still in the Heart, and that they’re alone.
When they part, Catra stares at her glossy-eyed.
"You coming?" Adora asks, tilting her head towards where everyone else has gathered.
Catra's breath hitches, and Adora realizes it's the same thing Catra had told her in the dream. Adora parts her lips to ask if it was possible she saw the dream too, but Swift Wind flies over to them.
"I hate to interrupt whatever this is, but we're going back to Bright Moon now," Swift Wind says. "Glimmer says Micah can help teleport us all at once."
“Great,” Adora half-grumbles.
Catra laughs out at her. “Come on, I guess it’s time I see what’s so great about Bright Moon.”
“I can’t wait for you to see it,” Adora says, grinning.
Rosy-cheeked, the two make their way to the rest of their friends. Adora refuses to let go of Catra’s hand. If Catra’s overwhelmed by being surrounded from all her friends, she does a good job at hiding it.
It had been months since they had to leave their posts, though. Bright Moon isn’t completely trashed, but it is a mess: furniture has been toppled over, decorative pieces have been stolen, and there isn’t much edible food in the kitchen.
With Micah’s help, Glimmer helps return all the princesses to their kingdoms. They’ll all be gathering at Bright Moon tonight to debrief and figure out what comes next. Adora has a headache just thinking about how much work needs to be done, but Prime’s gone and Catra’s here. That's what matters.
Adora guides Catra to her room. The fountain is still running, but her clothes are scattered across the room in disarray, and her bed is on its side. The bed, Adora realizes, will be far too small for both of them, she’ll have to ask Glimmer if there’s a larger one handy later.
“It usually looks nicer than this,” Adora says.
Catra laughs. “It’s plenty nice.”
The two of them end up napping on the cushioned bench on Adora’s balcony, even in the sunlight. Adora doesn’t know the last time she got sleep.
Adora wakes up with her head on Catra’s lap. Without moving she asks, “What time is it?”
“Not sure, but there’s going to be a meeting in an hour. Plus dinner.”
Food. When was her last meal? “Dinner sounds amazing.”
And it is.
Glimmer and Micah were able to whip up a lot of food with what was salvageable from the kitchen, and magic.
Glimmer sits between Micah and Bow, Adora sits between Bow and Catra. Scorpia and Perfuma are sitting close to each other, which Adora thinks is a little strange, but she’s happy to see the two of them happy. Entrapta is here and, thankfully, Hordak and Wrong Hordak are out there gathering the other clones, together. Mermista is smiling more than usual, next to Sea Hawk. Spinnerella, Netossa, and Huntara keep staring at Adora like they know exactly what happened in the Heart.
Everyone recounts what happened, Micah and Glimmer had fought each other, Bow’s the one who saved Scorpia and cleared the signal to reach other Etherians. Adora stuffs her face, and well, it’s hard for her to focus. The adrenaline of impending war is gone. Catra’s sitting right next to her idly fidgeting with her hand. Or rather, Catra is letting Adora fidget with her hand.
“So ladies,” Micah says. “What did happen in the Heart of Etheria?”
Adora feels her cheeks heat up, and she catches both Glimmer and Bow facepalming.
“Adora was dying, Prime’s virus infected her,” Catra explains calmly. “I was able to convince Shadow Weaver to help me find her. But then she—” her voice comes out strangled. Adora squeezes her hand. She's not sure the best way to explain what happened to Shadow Weaver either.
“Ah. So that’s where she went,” Micah says, wearing the same grim expression as Catra.
Adora speaks so Catra doesn't have to. “Shadow Weaver took out an old First Ones’ guardian. Catra helped me get back to the heart—”
“Get back?” Glimmer asks.
Adora ignores her. “Then the virus took over but Catra…” she pauses to look at her, Catra nods encouragingly, “Catra was able to save me. And then I was able to turn into She-Ra and stop Prime.”
“That’s it?” Glimmer asks.
“How exactly was Catra able to save you from the virus?” Bow asks.
Mermista says, “Uh, it’s pretty obvious.” She’s met with empty stares from the whole table. “Look, I know I read a lot of mystery novels, but I definitely read some romance ones from time to time. Love is like, the most powerful thing in the universe or whatever. Catra clearly declared her feelings and then these two were like, definitely making out the whole time."
Adora’s sure she’s completely scarlet. Catra looks nothing but amused.
“Well, not the whole time, exactly,” Catra says.
Adora glares at her.
When the meeting ends with promises for upcoming meetings, Frosta loudly demands that it's time for a big princess sleepover.
Adora panics and looks at Glimmer, who’s giving Bow a look, and when Adora meets Catra’s eyes, she’s met with the same expression.
“Actually, Frosta, I think we’re all exhausted. We should probably save the sleepover for when we have more energy," Adora says.
“I have plenty of energy,” Frosta insists.
“We’ll do a princess sleepover tomorrow,” Perfuma suggests.
“Fine,” Frosta whines.
Bow and Glimmer give her grateful smiles. Perfuma shrugs, and blushes when she looks at Scorpia.
Catra smirks at Adora. “Well, that was subtle,” Catra teases.
“Like you could have done a better job,” Adora says.
Adora's not sure if Glimmer found a double bed from storage, or if she magically summoned one. “Hope you two sleep well,” she says, as she drops it off. With an indiscrete wink, she teleports out.
Adora flushes. Catra does, too. Catra, who is currently in her bedroom, borrowing a pair of her pajamas. They look cute on her.
They make the bed together, using the same technique they were taught in the Horde, only, these sheets and blankets are pastel colors, and smell like lavender. When they get into bed, Adora lies flat on her back, staring up at the ceiling. Her room is brighter now, with the starlight. They listen to the fountain.
"You ever get used to that?" Catra asks.
"Yeah, it helps me sleep, now. I kind of missed it." A beat passes. "I uh, couldn't sleep well when I first came here. It was all too soft and quiet. And it wasn't the same without you."
"I had wondered," Catra says quietly.
Adora shifts on her side to stare at her.
“Not that I thought about you that often,” Catra says defensively. “When I got my own quarters as a Force Captain, I wondered. It was too quiet, not being in the same room as anyone.”
"Too quiet," Adora agrees. "I missed you," she confesses. She then leans over, kisses her cheek. She's about to pull back, but Catra's lips meet hers, slow, deep.
They part breathlessly.
"You know how we used to think getting out of the Fright Zone was everything we wanted?" Adora asks. “Now we have the whole universe to discover.”
Catra laughs. “The universe is too big, you might want to narrow that down to a few specific planets.”
“Are you excited? To go back to space?”
After a careful pause, Catra says, “You know, I really am.”
“Yeah?” Adora asks, grinning at her.
“Yeah,” Catra says, kissing her again. “I liked it, when we were in space.”
“It’s where we found each other again,” Adora says. It’s also where I almost lost you, she thinks, but she doesn’t voice it out loud. Catra presses a kiss on her temple, as if she knows what she’s thinking.
“Space is where She-Ra came back,” Catra says.
“You’re the reason She-Ra came back.”
“Well, you’re the reason Prime is gone.”
“Only because you saved me first.”
“If you didn’t save me from Prime’s ship, I wouldn’t have been able to save you in the Heart.”
Adora sits with that. “Did you see it?” she whispers.
“Back in the Heart, when I was unconscious, I was somewhere else.” It was here, in this room. Catra waltzed in, older, happier. As Adora looks at her Catra in this moment, those kind, knowing eyes soften.
“I think I was there, too. It was like, when we saw those projections of ourselves as kids. I couldn’t control anything. It felt like... I was reliving a memory, only it was one that hadn’t happened yet.” Catra covers her face with her pillow. “When you reached for my hand I woke up. I was afraid you were going to get stuck in some sort of dream land."
Adora carefully moves the pillow, so she can meet Catra's eyes. “That’s when Prime came in, took your place. The whole… projection went dark without you.”
“What do you think it was?” Catra asks.
“A beautiful wish,” Prime had called it. But it felt deeper than that.
“What do you want, when this is all over?” Mara had asked her.
“You asked me what I wanted, in the woods the other night,” Adora says. She frowns. She had thought she was going to die, inside the Heart. “I think the projection was showing me what I thought I would never live to see. I think it was showing you, too. So you could know how I felt if I was never able to—”
“Adora,” Catra whispers. “Why couldn’t you tell me then, in the woods?”
“Because it wouldn’t have been fair to you,” she admits, “when I knew what I had to do.”
Catra stays silent.
Adora realizes she’s crying. They both are.
“Hey, Adora,” Catra says tenderly. “It’s okay. You’re here. With me.”
She kisses her. Slow, and then open-mouthed. Adora takes a chance, bites her bottom lip. Catra moans slightly, nips at Adora’s jaw as she repositions herself on top of her. Catra tastes like salt and stardust.
“I love you,” Adora says when they part.
“Yeah,” Catra says, with the hint of a purr. Adora can hear the smile in her voice as she says, “I know.”