Catra wakes up to Mara whimpering in her sleep. Blearily, Catra reaches out, finding her kitten’s scruff and lifting her middle child up, pulling her close and dropping her back down again tucked into her chest. Mara quiets immediately, beginning to knead against Catra’s side. Catra purrs, warm and content despite the early hour. Milo is draped over her hip, while Cyra is tangled up in her legs.
All three of her kittens are sound asleep at the same time for once. Unfortunately, Catra has work. She’s a single mom and she can’t really afford any repercussions from not clocking in on time. It’s not like she even has to leave her cuddle pile for that long to go get her laptop, but she doesn’t want to disturb any of the kittens. It’s rare that all three are asleep at once, and they’re hard to wrangle.
Besides, nothing makes Catra happier than when she has all three sleeping soundly in her bed with her. It still feels like a shock some days how much love the kittens have brought into her life. It seems impossible that something so important, so utterly lifechanging, could be an accident. Catra can’t believe there was a time when she considered not going through with this.
She can, though. She and Adora were idiots and their shitty foster home never gave them much in the way of sex ed. It was one ill-advised hookup. Adora had never bought condoms because she had never needed them before and she was terrified of the cashier looking at her and knowing they were for her. She didn’t see the point in outing herself to a stranger when she wasn’t sexually active anyway.
Catra thought there was no way that Adora, three years on HRT and a human, could get her pregnant. She was wrong. The moment that Catra realized, she felt like the world had ended. At that moment, she couldn’t even contemplate keeping it. When she went to the doctor and got the ultrasound though – when she saw the heartbeat and three of them – everything changed. She had told Adora she was getting an abortion, but she couldn’t go through with it.
As Catra sits up, looking down at Cyra sprawled over her hip, she can’t help but see her best friend in her. Cyra turned out blonde, her eyes the same steely blue as Adora’s. Milo got them too. Mara has Catra’s mismatched pair, but Catra sees Adora in all of them regardless of their eyes and tabby colouring. She is grateful for it.
She misses Adora with every inch of her body, but she can’t see her. The instant Adora found out, she told Catra she would drop out so she could get a job and support Catra through it. Catra assured her she had no intention of keeping it. They were in their senior year, so close to their degrees and everything they had dreamed about. Once Catra realized that she was going to keep the kittens, she couldn’t risk walking back into their old apartment and letting Adora throw away her own life over a mistake.
Catra’s old dreams are shit now. She doesn’t care about financial independence, or freedom, or traveling the world anymore. Everything she cares about is in this bed with her. She never thought that she would be a mother or want to, but now she can’t imagine a life without her kittens. She misses Adora – she thinks about trying to reach out to her again often, but what would she fucking say – but the kittens are her whole world.
Catra tries to silently lift the kittens off of her. She manages to get Cyra and Mara curled up together, but the instant she tries to put Milo down, he wakes and starts mewling. Catra quickly tucks him against her chest, petting his little tuft of fur and hoping to quiet him. The kittens are only a year old, but Milo is already a mama’s boy. He’s the runt, happy to cling to Catra as Cyra and Mara tumble around together. Catra sighs, tucking him in against her chest as he blinks up at her with Adora’s eyes.
“Hi there, darling. Sleep well?” she asks him, her voice soft as she carefully scratches beneath his chin. Milo chirrups happily, cuddling up against her chest and laying his tiny ear over her heart. Catra resigns herself to a morning with the baby sling. It hurts her back, but not nearly as bad as carrying all three of them had by the end.
She slips from the bed, heading into the bathroom after she has arranged Milo in the sling. She keeps the door open so she can keep an eye on the girls, but they sleep soundly. Catra is able to settle down into her corner office and log into work without rousing any of the kittens. Milo fell back asleep while she was brushing her teeth. She’ll need to feed them all soon, but she is going to take advantage of the quiet while she can.
Adora checks her phone and groans. Late – again. It isn’t her fault there isn’t an alarm clock in the world that she can’t sleep through. She is used to someone else shaking her awake to turn it off. It doesn’t matter how long it has been since Catra walked out of her life, Adora spent her entire life sleeping and waking up with her, and she can’t adjust to life without her.
She doesn’t blame Catra for leaving, even if it caused her to have a full-scale breakdown at the time. She barely managed to make it through her final year of college, but she doesn’t know if Catra even managed that. Adora’s idiocy and personal discomfort over a one-time interaction with a stranger left them with no condoms when, after a lifetime of tension between them that Adora never knew if it was real or imagined, they broke and hooked up.
A single hookup and Catra could never talk to her again. She couldn’t look Adora in the eye after she decided to get an abortion. Adora knows how hard the choice must have been and she understands that she must remind Catra of what almost was and could never be, but fuck, she still wakes up every morning thinking about her ex-best friend.
She hauls herself out of bed and finds Glimmer already in the bathroom. Adora slumps against the wall, too tired to stand upright on her own despite getting too much sleep. Bow says the exhaustion is the depression. Adora isn’t depressed – at least, not most days, not anymore – she has just always overslept like this. Glimmer and Bow don’t know, though. Adora only moved into their apartment after Catra split during senior year. They met freshmen year, but they were never witness to Adora being woken up by Catra every day.
“Up and at ‘em,” Glimmer says, sarcastically, when she opens the bathroom door to find Adora slumped against the wall. Adora waves her off. She’ll start waking up on her drive to work. “I swear, you’re going to fall asleep brushing your teeth one day and choke,” Glimmer tells her, rolling her eyes. That actually makes Adora snort as she heads into the bathroom.
“I don’t have a gag reflex,” she returns. After a moment of silence, she registers what she said. She cringes, glancing to Glimmer and finding her face an interesting shade of red. Well. Her roommate has that information now.
“Thanks for sharing,” Glimmer tells her, voice a bit strangled, before she turns on her heel and heads down the hall. Adora sighs, closing the bathroom door behind her. She really needs to find an alarm clock that will slap her awake. She was always wake and ready to face the day when she slept with Catra in her arms.
“Are you sure you have everything you need?” Catra asks, despite how there has never been a problem with Scorpia watching the kittens. Scorpia is fantastic babysitter. The kittens all love her and, despite her pincers, she is gentle. Catra knows what it is like to be discriminated against for being a hybrid. Growing up in the system, no one wanted to adopt a magicat with claws. Many people are equally cautious of a scorpioni babysitter.
“Yep! All ready to spend the day with my three favourite kittens,” Scorpia assures her, steadying Cyra with one pincer as she digs in her tiny claws and climbs up Scorpia’s clothes. Milo is curled up in Catra’s arms, clingy and reluctant to part. Catra used to be like that as a kitten too, only she never knew her mother. She clung to Adora, unwilling to be separated from her pack.
“I’ll be back by seven,” Catra promises, despite how Scorpia knows that. Catra can work from home three days a week, her company allowing flexible hours, but she has to come into the office two days a week. It’s Thursday, so she is going to run errands afterwards. She’ll be back late, like always.
She doesn’t know what she would do if it wasn’t for Scorpia. She found her through a care service. She couldn’t help but notice Scorpia only had two reviews. Both were five stars, from families who had hired her long term. No one else was willing to give her a chance, not even for a date-night outing.
Milo starts crying when Catra tries to put him down. He always does. Of all the kittens, Catra swears he’s the one who knows that there’s something missing. He clings to Catra like he’s afraid she’ll vanish, like he knows he is supposed to be getting double the love. Catra will give him everything she has, but she can’t give him that. She can only give him what she has, not what his other parent should be providing.
She hasn’t seen Adora in almost two years. As she is forced to leave Scorpia to shush a crying Milo, she can’t help but wonder for the hundredth time: What would she think?
“Perfuma, nothing has helped me destress in my life. Yoga isn’t a solution for everybody,” Adora sighs, rolling her shoulders and wincing. Perfuma looks vaguely offended by her statement. Adora did therapy – she had to, after Catra and her potential kid were gone – and even the psychiatrist didn’t think there was much that could help her outside of medication and a long-term therapy plan. Adora could afford neither.
“Adora, I’m not trying to treat the root cause of your stress, just release the muscle tension it causes in your body,” Perfuma tells her, gesturing her fork in the air. They’re in the breakroom. Perfuma doesn’t have any appointments until this afternoon and the therapy center’s social media can go an hour without Adora around. She is their one and only social media manager and PR personnel, but she doesn’t make posts in the middle of her lunch break.
Adora’s shoulders ache from tension, but she sits at a computer for a living. They’re just going to be like that. Adora has already resigned herself to it. She pointedly ignores Perfuma, stabbing her fork into her tofu and taking a bite with a raised eyebrow.
“You’ll release it for an hour before it’s back,” she responds. Perfuma gives her a look – it’s the I’m begging you to go back to therapy look. Tough luck. Perfuma doesn’t know what Adora’s issue is and Adora isn’t sharing. It hurts way too much to talk about. All she ever wanted for her entire life was to be with Catra. Sometimes she would fantasize about calling them a family together.
She almost had that, but it was the wrong time, wrong place. Now she has an Instagram following. It has to be enough to fill the hole in her heart. It isn’t. She is lucky that Perfuma gets distracted by her phone chiming. Adora watches a smile spread across Perfuma’s face and knows that it is a text from her girlfriend. Adora could have had that. Instead she has a tofu salad and florescent breakroom lighting.
“Scorpia working today?” Adora asks, changing the subject as Perfuma texts back. Perfuma glances up, beaming, and nods. Adora has never been able to figure out Scorpia’s work schedule. She knows she is split between two families and works two full days and two half days a week, but remembering which days are which is difficult.
“She just sent me a photo of all the kids sleeping together,” Perfuma replies, putting her phone back down on the table. Adora hums. Scorpia does that a lot. Adora likes kids – obviously, you kind of have to working at a pediatric center – but she never asks to see the pictures. It feels weird when it’s someone else’s kids, and it always makes her think about what could have been.
Perfuma’s phone rings again. Adora finishes her lunch as Perfuma picks it up. She is just about to stand when she registers purring. Her heart stops as she blinks across the table the table at Perfuma, happily smiling down at the video she is watching on her phone. Adora swallows, her mouth suddenly feeling dry.
“Are they kittens?” she asks before she can stop herself. She is so fucking lucky that a magicat family has never come through the center. They’re rare around here and it would break her. Perfuma startles, blinking across at her. She nods hesitantly, no doubt confused by the way that Adora has suddenly gone misty-eyed. “Can I see?” she asks, her voice soft. Perfuma looks confused, but she turns her phone screen around and presses play again.
The air leaves Adora’s lungs at the sight before her. Two tabby kittens and one solid blonde, all curled together in the traditional pillow mattress that kittens stay in with their mom when they are little. Purring and soft breaths filter through the phone speaker, with the occasional gentle sound from sleep mixed in, as the paler tabby twitches their hands in their sleep, their little pink-and-black claws flexing as they grab at nothing.
What utterly undoes Adora, pushing her from misty-eyed to crying, is when they release a soft mrrp and twitch, their eyes rolling open and revealing blue eyes.
Catra gets a text from Perfuma asking if she can come over to see the kittens at five. Catra agrees and goes about her errands. Perfuma always comes over to pick up her girlfriend at the end of the day, but sometimes she doesn’t feel like going home between work and picking Scorpia up, so she just comes and plays with the kittens. She and Scorpia both want kids, but they aren’t in the place to have them financially.
Neither is Catra, really, but she’s making it work. She isn’t struggling to put food on the table or anything, but she has no idea what she is going to do once they get older and all want their own rooms. She is just doing her best to provide her kittens with everything she is able to. If she had the choice to go back in time and stop it, she doesn’t think she would, not when it would mean losing what she cares most about in the world, but she certainly would never have decided to have kids.
Catra picks out enough food at the grocery store to keep her little zoo going – the kittens inherited Adora’s appetite, it seems – and heads back home to find Perfuma helping Scorpia disentangle Cyra from the TV wires. The TV is a piece of shit that Catra got from a thrift store and she doesn’t really care if the cord gets damaged. She just smiles at her most adventurous child, wrapped up and blinking slowly at her before she chirrups for attention.
“Have fun, darling?” Catra asks, reaching down and carefully lifting Cyra out of the wires. Cyra chirrups again, happy and content as she grabs onto Catra and digs in with her tiny but sharp claws. Milo is already wrapped around Catra’s ankle. She’s used to it. It makes her heart burst when her kittens cling to her. Sometimes she still marvels at how these tiny, vulnerable creatures love her. They trust her to take care of them. Before all this, Catra could hardly be trusted to keep herself going.
Out of the corner of her eye, Catra watches Scorpia and Perfuma exchange a glance. It is loaded. Catra frowns as Scorpia stands, clearing her throat.
“I got caught up with Perfuma and forgot to take them for their walk. You mind if Perfuma sticks around while I take them? No extra charge for the time, it’s on me,” Scorpia says. She is a terrible liar, fidgeting and glancing around the room. The stroller is already set up, waiting by the front door. Catra narrows her eyes at Scorpia.
“If it were anyone else, I’d accuse you of trying to steal my kid,” Catra tells her. It’s supposed to be a joke, but her tail is twitching and she tightens her arms around Cyra. She trusts Scorpia, she really does, but these are her kittens. None of Catra’s emotions run low when it comes it them. She loves them with all her heart and she protects them fiercely. Scorpia blows out a breath it seems like she has been holding for several minutes and looks to Perfuma a bit desperately. Perfuma sighs, turning to Catra.
“Something happened at work today that I wanted to talk about with you. I was telling Scorpia about it and she didn’t get the chance to take the kids for their stroll,” Perfuma explains. Catra frowns, but she nods. It’s concerning – Catra would guess that Perfuma got laid off and Scorpia may need to change jobs to support them, which would kind of fuck Catra when it comes to a sitter – but the honesty eases her paranoia.
Catra helps Scorpia put the kids in their stroller, but Milo refuses to let go. Catra gives up, carrying him and settling at the kitchen table across from Perfuma. Scorpia waves a nervous goodbye to them and heads out the front door of the apartment. Catra settles Milo into her lap as Perfuma sips from her tea-infuser bottle for a moment, looking trepidatious.
“I would never poke into business like this if it weren’t a friend. I’ve never asked about the kittens’ father and I won’t again after this,” Perfuma tells her. Catra feels her heart stop, staring at the woman across her. Perfuma must see the anger rising in her expression because she leans forward, scrambling to continue. “Adora,” she says.
The anger dies as Catra’s heart stops. A tiny spark of warmth lights in her chest and then is buried in an avalanche of ice. Catra wraps her arms around Milo, happy to have one of their kittens in her arms at least. She hugs him tight, her chest feeling raw and ripped open. Perfuma blows out a breath, her expression softening as she watches Catra.
“She doesn’t know. I showed her a picture of the kittens that Scorpia sent me and she started crying. She told me that there used to be a magicat in her life who she almost started a family with - and that the kittens looked how she always imagined her and Catra’s kid would have,” Perfuma says. Catra’s heart restarts, but she still can’t breathe.
She lied to Adora’s face, even if she didn’t know it then. If Adora knew that Catra actually went through with the pregnancy, Catra knows there is no way in hell she wouldn’t be knocking down her door right now. Catra squeezes Milo close, her chest painfully tight. Something happened at work, Perfuma said. Which means Adora has a job. Which means she graduated – probably.
It at least means that Adora’s entire future isn’t going to be any more ruined than it already is if Catra tells her the truth now. She has thought about unblocking Adora’s old number so many times. Her logic was sound back when they were in school. Adora was so ready to drop everything to support Catra and their theoretical kid that Catra didn’t even think she wanted back then. Catra couldn’t let her do that.
Adora was the product of a teen pregnancy. Her mom wrote her a letter for when she was older and wondering why she had been given away. It didn’t include much of the details, just assurances that her mother loved her and would have kept her if she were older and able to support a baby. That’s how Adora ended up in the foster system, flung into the shitty group home that she and Catra were raised in.
Her life was already ruined by an unplanned pregnancy once. Adora deserved to have a family who loved and could take care of her, but instead she got verbal abuse. Catra wasn’t about to be the one to ruin Adora’s shot at happiness with a baby neither of them wanted or planned. Getting an abortion just seemed right until the moment that Catra was watching the ultrasound through tears, finally connecting with the three kittens growing in her stomach.
She didn’t set out to lie to Adora and hide the kids from her, but she couldn’t go back to her then either. She had already decided that she would deal with this on her own and the next time Adora saw her, the pregnancy would be nothing more than a dark spot in her past. Changing her mind on the kittens didn’t change her mind on that. She hated ducking around campus for the rest of the year, avoiding any flash of blonde, but she felt like she had to. She cut her hair short just to be less recognizable.
She went into labor during her last final. She was already planning to skip graduation just in case Adora was there, but it turns out that she had three newborns to hold her back from it. Catra was wildly unstable throughout her pregnancy, but having the kittens – and having her hormones start regulate some again as a result – changed everything.
Over the last year, she has thought a lot about reaching out to Adora. Sometimes it is from guilt. She looks into Milo’s blue eyes, or brushes through Cyra’s blonde hair, or just feels her heart drop at the way Milo clings to her, and she thinks Adora should be here. Adora would be here if Catra hadn’t been so determined not to ruin her life. The kittens made her life better in the end, but there was no guarantee that it would be the same for Adora.
Catra’s hand shakes as she reaches down into her pocket. Perfuma watches curiously as Catra pulls out her phone. Catra has Adora’s number blocked just in case, but she also knows it by heart. She used to have to call Adora from the payphone outside her part-time job to be picked up. Catra swallows, staring down at the numbers. This isn’t a phone call she can take back. This isn’t something she can undo.
She just has to hope she never wants to.
It’s Best Friend Squad movie night, by which Adora means that Glimmer and Bow threw a pity party for her when she came home depressed. It took minimal prodding for Adora to mutter out the words magicat kittens and her two friends to descend on her. She didn’t tell Perfuma much. She and Perfuma have bonded over conspicuously being the only able-bodied staff to always use the handicap – and gender neutral – bathroom, but at the end of the day, they are just coworkers.
Adora isn’t about to say the words I accidentally knocked up my best friend who I was in love with and she couldn’t stand the sight of me after the abortion. It’s a bit much for the workplace. She had to say something when she burst into tears at the sight of kittens with blue eyes, but she kept it as brief as she could. Bow and Glimmer know the full story. They were there.
They all settle on the couch together, watching shitty horror movies together as a distraction. Adora already knows she is going to stay up late and miss her alarm tomorrow. Luckily it’s a Friday and she likely won’t be the only one a few minutes late. They are well into what might very well be the worst horror movie Adora has ever seen – there have been three killers so far, and every time one kills a few people it then falls victim to the next, newer villain – when Adora’s phone rings.
Adora frowns, pulling it out and staring at the unknown number. It’s a local area code, so she unfortunately has to answer it, but she isn’t really thinking about it when she hits accept and raises it to her ear. She expects a robo call, but it could be a call actually intended for her. She doesn’t say anything – mostly because she is certain it is spam – and to her surprise she just hears breathing on the other end for a long moment. A prank call, probably-
“Adora?” a voice on the other end asks, small and unsure. Adora’s chest clenches like her lungs have imploded as she shoots up from the couch, startling Glimmer and Bow. Glimmer squawks and Bow has to scramble for the remote so he can pause the movie.
“Catra?” Adora returns, her voice wobbling. It can’t be. It can’t. Has Catra finally healed enough from what Adora put her through to talk again? Everything is deadly quiet for a moment as Bow pauses the TV, neither him nor Glimmer daring to say a word. Catra’s breathing is a bit unsteady on the other end of the line.
“I- uh, shit, the phone isn’t the way to do this,” Catra stutters out. Adora’s heart is in her throat.
“No! I mean, it could be. Don’t hang up. However you’re ready to do this, I’m okay with,” Adora rushes to assure her, reaching out with her hand like Catra is there to physically stop from walking away. On the other end of the line, Catra hiccups slightly.
“No, I mean- I want to meet. We need to- talk,” Catra manages to get out. Adora’s entire body is flushed – she’s pretty sure she is sweating – as her hands shake. She drops down to the floor a bit too fast, but if she doesn’t sit, she is going to pass out. She has been trying to pick her life up for nearly two years, trying to find meaning again without the one person she considered family.
She has been happy. She has had friends, and a decent job, but she hasn’t had purpose. Adora’s purpose was always Catra. Making sure she was happy, supported, safe. Adora’s mouth is dry as she nods numbly. She has been happy, but it is nothing compared to the way her heart used to feel when she and Catra were curled up together on their shitty shared mattress in their one-bedroom apartment.
“Please,” she breathes. Catra releases a soft sound on the other end of the line. Adora vaguely registers a strong hand on her shoulder, Bow squeezing and offering her some support. Adora doesn’t doubt that he and Glimmer are exchanging looks behind her head, but she doesn’t care. Nothing matters except that Catra wants to come back.
“I, uh, I’m really not sure I’m ready for this, but- this weekend?” Catra asks. She is fighting back tears, Adora can tell. Adora’s heart hammers. She can’t let Catra slip through her fingers, not again. She’s so scared of her changing her mind.
“Tomorrow?” she asks instead. Glimmer’s hand lands on her other shoulder, squeezing as well. There’s a moment of silence.
“Let me check,” Catra whispers, and then the line goes silent. Catra must have put her on mute. Her labored breath was coming through clearly a moment ago. Adora’s hands shake as she waits, every inch of her just hoping that Catra will come back. After what feels like minutes, the background sound of the call cuts back in. “Seven tomorrow? I- have work,” Catra stutters out. Adora nods, feeling breathless.
“Okay. Where, uh, where do you want to meet?” Adora asks. Catra blows out a slow breath. Adora knows that sound. She heard it through the bathroom door of their old apartment one morning. It’s reality sinking in as Catra goes through a fundamental shift. Back then, Adora just thought she wasn’t feeling well.
“Is yours okay? This is- a lot,” Catra asks her. Adora nods empathetically.
“Whatever’s easiest,” Adora promises her. On the other end of the line, Catra actually chuckles, though it is rueful and dark.
“None of this is easy. I- I have to go. Give me five minutes, then text the address. I’ll be there,” Catra promises her. Adora’s heart falls out of her chest.
“Wait,” she begs. On the other end of the line, she hears Catra hold her breath. Adora is panicking. She wants to say everything, so afraid she may go another two years without hearing from Catra again. At the same time, she doesn’t want to scare her away if she really is coming tomorrow. The silent stretches for a long moment as Adora searches for words.
A commotion in the background cuts her off, the sound of movement and a voice. She hears Catra startle a little and a weird, hiccupping noise.
“I have to go. Send me the address. I’ll be there,” Catra promises, her voice hurried, and then the line goes dead.