The kids had been standing just out of earshot, whispering to each other, for ten minutes. Every now and again, Catra would catch them looking at her out of the corner of her eye. Probably trying to decide who would sneak up on her and pull her tail or something. Or if they could get water to throw at her. Catra really hoped that wasn’t it – someone had already done that, and Bow had to restrain Adora while Glimmer tried to talk Catra down from a panic attack.
She’d eventually explained, in short, clipped sentences, that it had caught her by surprise, and the suddenness had reminded her of Horde Prime’s brainwashing pool. They’d let it go after that.
Water was the worst thing a bunch of kids could do, though. She put it out of her mind, waiting for whatever little prank they decided they were going to pull. She’d deal with it when she had to.
A small finger tapping her leg was not what she had been expecting. “Um… s’cuse me?” They had sent over one of the girls – a little redhead with bright green eyes.
“Yeah?” Catra asked warily. Maybe she was a distraction.
“Me and my friends…” She gestured to the group of whisperers. They all seemed to be accounted for. “We were wondering why your eyes are different colors.”
Oh. Okay, that was a little easier. Maybe Glimmer had a point about Catra being too paranoid all the time. “It’s called heterochromia,” she said, kneeling so she was on the girl’s level. She tilted her head, fascinated.
“Did you do something to get them like that?” The girl gasped. “Could I have two different eye colors? I want a blue eye!”
Catra chuckled. “It’s something I was born with. Kind of like a genetic mutation, ya know?”
“Is it because you have cat ears and a tail?”
“Probably?” She’d never met a human or human-adjacent person with heterochromia. Maybe it was unique to whatever she was.
“That’s so cool.” The girl was clearly mesmerized. “Is it okay if my friends come look too?”
“Um…” She wasn’t sure how much joy kids could get out of looking at her eyes, but whatever made them happy, she supposed. “Yeah, sure.”
The girl looked back at the gathered group and called, “She said it’s okay!”
The kids were immediately gathering around Catra, all cooing and asking questions. Most of the questions were variations on, “How do I get my eyes to be like that?!”
Catra smiled and put on her best patient voice, explaining again that it was something she was born with and she wasn’t sure how to get two different colored eyes, maybe with magic, no please don’t try and use magic to change your eye color…
A smaller, shier boy eventually caught her attention among the clattering. She watched him for a minute – the way he shifted and fidgeted with his shirt, the way he stared at the ground – and eventually asked, “You okay?”
He jumped and looked up, surprised at being addressed. “Um, yeah, I was just… um… is it rude to ask to pet your ears?”
All eyes turned to Catra, wide and waiting for the answer. “Go on,” she said with a faint smile, lowering her head. “Just be gentle.”
And that was how she ended up with twelve kids shoving each other to get to her head. It was… nice, kind of. Nice to get attention that wasn’t former Horde force captain, keep an eye on her.
“Oooooooh my gosh.”
Adora set down the pile of wood she’d brought over to the house Bow and Glimmer were working on. They’d both stopped and were staring at… something.
“What?” Adora followed their gazes, and nearly burst out laughing. There was absolutely no way Catra would have sat there and let those kids pet her if she didn’t want to.
“It’s so cute,” Bow whispered, slowly raising his trackerpad to get a picture.
“Do not tell her about that. She’ll kill you in your sleep.”
The Best Friend Squad was comprised of four very competent people. The queen of Bright Moon, the master tech expert of the kingdom, the actual savior of the universe, and the youngest Horde Force Captain who broke a twenty-year stalemate and almost won the war (plus whatever mysterious part she had played in saving the universe; they never did tell anyone what happened in the Heart).
And they were meeting their demise at the hands of a baby.
He’s Mermista’s kid,” Glimmer lamented as she tried once again to shush him. “Of course he’s going to be impossible to please.”
“Take the day off, you said,” Catra started sarcastically, “we’ll watch Calder, you said. How hard could one baby be, you said–”
“Catra, please shut up.”
“Let me try again,” Bow said with a sigh, reaching for the screaming child. There was no way anything was going to change – they had tried singing to him, feeding him, playing with him, showing him shiny things – Adora had even summoned the sword for him to play with, against literally everyone’s better judgment. But nothing. He wasn’t having it.
“How long until Mermista and Sea Hawk get back?”
They all groaned.
“Hang on,” Adora said suddenly. “Catra, you haven’t tried holding him yet.”
Catra immediately took two long steps back. “Uh yeah, and we’re going to keep it that way. I am not – nuh uh. No way.”
“Please?” Bow begged.
“Have we tried letting him play with the sword again?’ The others just stared. Catra sighed. “Fine.”
She shuffled forward uncertainly, holding her arms out. Bow gratefully passed the crying child over; Catra grimaced, ears twitching as she rocked him gently. And then, to everyone’s amazement, she started purring.
They’d heard her purr, of course. In the presence of anyone but Adora, it was immediately cut off with a scowl, a silent look daring anyone to call it cute.
Now, she didn’t even seem to notice. She leaned back against the wall, sliding to sit down, completely focused on the baby. The baby who was slowly but surely calming with his ear pressed against Catra’s vibrating chest.
The sight filled Adora with… something. Her chest was suddenly very warm, her entire sense of self floaty, almost dream-like, at the sight of her girlfriend rocking the baby. Catra’s gaze was fixed on Calder, soft in a way Adora had never seen it.
They had never talked about having kids. But now it was all Adora could think about.
Mermista and Sea Hawk returned six hours later, as promised, and were utterly baffled by the silent palace. “Wait you like… actually got him to sleep?” Mermista asked in disbelief. “How?”
Glimmer was doing her best not to giggle as she led the couple to the guest room. Calder had refused to move, deciding he was quite happy on Catra’s chest, thank you very much. He’d fallen asleep, effectively trapping Catra, until she’d decided to just lie down and sleep as well. Adora was sitting beside them on the bed, awestruck by it all.
“Wow,” Mermista whispered. “Can we keep her?”
“Perfuma is going to kill me!” Scorpia groaned, cradling her head in her claws. “No, worse, she’s going to divorce me!”
“I… very highly doubt that’s going to happen,” Catra assured Scorpia. “Come on, let’s just… keep looking. Her legs are short, how far could she have gotten?”
“What if she falls out a window?!”
“I don’t think she’s going to fall out a window.”
It was hard, being married and the rulers of two separate kingdoms. Plumeria and the Scorpion Kingdom had formed an alliance of sorts, but there were still times when Scorpia and Perfuma needed to be in separate places. Today it was Perfuma’s turn, handling an emergency in Plumeria while Scorpia watched their almost year-old daughter and Catra went through a century’s worth of paperwork back log (because somehow she had become the on-loan advisor to every single kingdom. Fucking Glimmer).
“She can’t have gotten down any stairs,” Catra said reasonably. “You go left, I’ll go right, one of us is bound to find her.”
“Right, right.” Scorpia nodded, bounding off and yelling, “Lilyyyyyyyyyyyy!” completely unaware she was going in the wrong direction. Catra shrugged and went left. She sniffed the air a bit as she walked. Lily had a very distinct, floral scent, but thanks to Perfuma, so did most of the castle.
Thankfully, her ears still worked, and the castle was quiet. It wasn’t long before she heard the tiny giggling, following it to the plant room. Lily was plopped down on the floor with a pot, trying to make a flower grow. Her powers weren’t quite strong enough for that, but there were definitely a few sparks as she waved her hand.
“Excuse me young lady,” Catra said with a smile, walking over and scooping Lily up. “Do you know how worried your mother is?”
“Cat!” Lily exclaimed happily, chubby arms reaching for a hug. She didn’t quite have second syllables down yet, but Catra thought she had it better than Dor.
“Yeah, Aunt Catra had to look for you because your mom is losing her mind.” Catra smiled, tickling Lily a little. She shrieked and giggled. “Do you have anything to say for yourself?”
She blew a raspberry and laughed. Catra rolled her eyes. “Great defense. Come on, let’s find Mama before she sends out a search party.”
That had been a joke, but somehow, Catra wasn’t surprised to find Scorpia talking to the guard captain, gesturing frantically as she spoke about organizing the guards.
“Call off the troops,” Catra called. “Imagine starting a war because you accidentally sent guards to the North to find your kid and Frosta saw it as an attack.”
Scorpia whirled, worry fading to delight when she saw her daughter. “You found her!” Lily was scooped from Catra’s arms, and Catra was pulled into a one-armed hugged. “You’re the best, Wildcat.”
“Yup, that’s me. The child whisperer.”
It was an open secret among the Alliance that Catra had a natural way with kids. Calder had become so used to the sound of her purring that he needed her to help him sleep sometimes (and Mermista was shameless about calling and asking. Lingering guilt from destroying Salineas was the only reason Catra kept saying yes, and she suspected the princess knew that). Lily was a naturally bubbly and happy child, but Perfuma kept saying she seemed happier in a way when Catra held her. Well, the exact words had been “her aura gets brighter”, but Catra tried to translate into normal language. Glimmer’s and Bow’s son Hunter had a clear preference between his aunts (which Adora tried not to take offense to). Kids tended to flock to She-Ra because she was big and bright and could lift five of them at once, but they stayed with Catra.
“Have you and Adora thought about having kids?” Scorpia asked curiously as they returned to the makeshift office Catra had created for herself.
“What?” Catra snorted. “No, absolutely not. Can you imagine how much of a disaster that would be?”
“Why?” Scorpia deposited Lily into her playpen, turning to look at Catra and tilting her head. “You really are great with kids.”
“Yeah, kids I can give back to parents after a few hours. Could you imagine me with a kid? Like, a full-time one?”
“Yes… that’s why I asked.”
“Okay, let me rephrase that – can you imagine me raising a kid when my only parental role model was a narcissistic, abusive, sociopathic megalomaniac?”
Scorpia’s shoulders dropped slightly. “I know Shadow Weaver hurt you.” That was a massive understatement. “But you’re not automatically doomed to repeat her actions just because she raised you. You can make your own choices. You already broke the cycle once. Who says you can’t do it again?”
Catra was suddenly very interested in an old shipping log. “Who says I can? Being good with other people’s kids doesn’t mean I could pull off actually being a good mom. Trial and error-ing that on an innocent baby would be cruel.”
“I guess.” Scorpia didn’t sound completely convinced. “But you should still think about it. And talk to Adora.”
She didn’t have to talk to Adora. She already knew exactly how her wife felt; she saw it on her face every time there was a child in her arms. Adora was entranced by the idea of having a baby and being a mother. Of course she was, parenthood was all about choosing what was best for the kid over your own wants. Adora had been born for that. And she even knew how to handle it in a healthy way (more or less) now. She would be a great mother.
Catra wasn’t like that. The insecurities built into her were different. While Adora had been raised with you’ll be the best if you do better, Catra had been raised with, your hardest is never going to be enough. And that had been proven over and over and over again. Even at her lowest, trying to do one good thing, she hadn’t been able to stop Adora from walking her dumb ass onto Prime’s ship to save her. She had spent every day since then trying to prove she was someone worth that risk, that Adora hadn’t gambled and made a huge mistake. And she wasn’t entirely sure she ever had, or ever would.
So no, she wouldn’t be a good mother. She was already working overtime to be a good person. Bringing a helpless baby into the mix would just be a disaster.
Hunter squealed with laughter as he landed on top of Catra, abruptly waking her up. “Have I mentioned how thrilled I am that Sparkles Junior has learned to teleport?” she mumbled, grasping for the toddler and lifting him into the air. “Whaddya want, you little gremlin?”
“Aunt Catraaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Down!” Hunter demanded, still laughing.
“At least he hasn’t learned how to take passengers yet?” Adora asked, voice muffled by her face still being half-buried in her pillow. Catra could tell she was smiling, though.
“That’ll be the day the world really ends.”
Melog raised their head to stare at Catra and Hunter, clearly unamused by being woken up. “Hey, don’t look at me like that. I definitely didn’t ask for this.” A light knock at the door interrupted the stare-off. “Come get your kid!” Catra called. Glimmer appeared in the room a moment later, smiling fondly. She and Bow knew to check Adora’s and Catra’s room first. If Hunter wasn’t there, then they started worrying.
“I wish I knew what makes him love you so much,” Glimmer said as she collected her son. “It might be nice to see that part of you once in awhile.”
“Sorry Sparkles, that part of me is strictly for children under twelve.”
“Most people would call that maternal instinct, you know.”
Catra threw a pillow at Glimmer’s legs – the only part she could hit without also hitting Hunter. The queen simply laughed and disappeared.
“Stupid Glimmer,” she grumbled, dropping back on the bed and staring at the ceiling. Adora lifted her head, cracking one eye open to look at Catra.
“Yeah, I’m great.”
Catra sighed, closing her eyes. “You want kids, don’t you?” The tone was quiet and non-accusing, but the question still caught Adora by surprise.
“I… can’t say I haven’t thought about it,” she said slowly. “It’s just… watching you… you’re so great with them, you know? Remember that planet where all the politicians’ kids just followed you around for half the day?”
Catra rolled abruptly out of bed, walking to the window nook. “Being good with other people’s kids doesn’t mean I’d be able to raise them on my own.”
“I mean, I’d be here too,” Adora pointed out. “We do everything together, remember?”
“Yeah, but would you be able to stop me?”
The question made no sense. Adora frowned, slowly climbing out of bed. “Stop you from what?”
“Completely fucking up our kid.”
She should have expected that. Adora wrapped her arms around Catra from behind, hugging her tight. “I don’t think you’d do that,” she said simply.
“How do you know?”
“Because you’re too aware of yourself and everything around you.” Catra tilted her head slightly to look at Adora, confused. “Being good isn’t just one choice, remember? It’s a series of choices that we make every day, and a lot of people do it without thinking, but you think about everything. Even in meetings I can see the gears in your head turning before you start talking. You’re careful, and gentle, and yeah, sometimes you slip up, but we all do that. Remember when Glimmer told two diplomats to shut the fuck up?” Catra coughed, trying to cover her laugh. Adora smiled. “You’re good with kids because you are good. And you’re good because you’re always making the choices to keep you on the right path. I don’t think that would suddenly stop if the kid was ours.”
Catra stared blankly out the window for a moment, ears twitching idly. “Shadow Weaver told me once that I reminded her of herself.”
“Shadow Weaver was a lying bitch who would’ve sold out her own flesh-and-blood kid for another hit off the Black Garnet,” Adora said fiercely and immediately. “She never had to make a choice to be good because she never tried. She never wanted to try. The only good choice she ever made was saving us, and that was only because she wanted to die a hero instead of living as a villain.” And they had certainly done everything in their power to make sure that never happened. “If you reminded her of herself, it’s only because she raised you to be that way, and you rejected all of it. You made yourself a better person. Her lies can’t control you forever.”
They took turns reminding each other of that. Catra was grateful. She closed her eyes to hide the tears, blowing out a long breath.
“Yeah. You’re right.”
“Aren’t I always?” Adora asked with a cocky grin. Catra shoved her away.
“I hate you.”
It was another year before Catra decided she was ready to talk about the idea of having kids. Glimmer and Bow announcing they were pregnant again might’ve had something to do with it. She brought it up the night Artemis was born.
“If we had a baby…” The words shook Adora out of her almost sleep. “Who would carry it?”
“I mean… I guess that’s something we’d have to talk about.” Adora had already assumed it would be her. Catra had far too many understandable issues about bodily autonomy, and pregnancy was basically the equivalent of giving that up for nine months, as they’d witnessed multiple times now.
“I think… I’d want to, if that’s okay.” Catra rolled over to face her shocked wife. “I don’t want to fight about it or anything, but I… I don’t know. It’s stupid.”
“It’s not.” Adora cupped Catra’s cheek, kissing her gently. “Tell me.”
Catra blew out a long breath, trying to think. “I know you think I’m good and I’m capable of loving a kid if we have one, but I… I need to know it. Spending nine months watching you pregnant and not being able to do anything about the worry sounds like torture. At least this way I’d have a little control. I could prove it to myself.”
Adora nodded, resting her forehead against Catra’s. “Okay. Let’s get some sleep, and we can talk more in the morning. I’m sure Glimmer will have some very colorful things to say about it after sixteen hours of labor.”
Catra snorted, letting out that raspy laugh that Adora loved so much. She could already picture a tiny baby with Catra’s twitching ears and lively tail, and itty bitty claws that would feel like pin needles until they got old enough to be sharp. And when that time came, there would be no angry witch to yell and threaten to declaw them. Just a loving mother who would teach them how much their little claws could hurt. Two mothers to remind them how loved they were, no matter what mistakes they made. An entire family of aunts and uncles and cousins who would ensure they were never lonely. They’d grow up with good food and blue skies and fresh air and they would never flinch when someone reached a hand toward them. They would be happy.
And another cycle would be broken.