On the two occasions on which Catra had come within a finger’s width of conquering Bright Moon, she’d never imagined that when she finally stood before the castle gate, it would be with the Queen of Bright Moon at her side.
‘Third time lucky,’ she whispered.
Bow and Adora were already halfway across the courtyard, laughing at a joke Catra was too far away to have heard, but still she found herself rooted to the spot. Right on the threshold: neither in nor out.
Glimmer placed a hand on her shoulder. Her grip was firmer than Adora’s, Catra noted idly.
‘None of this would be here without you. I wouldn’t be here without you. I asked you for one good thing and you gave me more than I ever expected.’ Glimmer didn’t look at her, but Catra knew her well enough by now to know when she had tears in her eyes. ‘Bright Moon is my home. Come on. Let me show you around?’
The tour concluded in Adora’s room. Their room, now. That was a strange thought. They’d never had a room before. Only a bed. What else might they have? Would Adora want to live in Bright Moon forever? Maybe they could get a house. Or a castle. A bigger, less sparkly one than Glimmer’s.
‘Hey, kittycat,’ Adora whispered in Catra’s ear, not quite as quietly as Catra might have liked. ‘Welcome home.’
Catra winced. ‘Don’t you dare,’ she said, pointing a claw at Bow and regretting her other hand was otherwise engaged around Adora’s waist and could not be deployed to forestall Glimmer. ‘Don’t you dare.’
‘That is adorable!’ Glimmer winked at her. ‘You’re adorable. Kittycat?’
Catra extricated herself from Adora and took a step towards Glimmer. ‘What of it, Sparkles?’
‘Oh no,’ Adora said, deadpan. Out of the corner of her eye, Catra could see her throwing her hands up theatrically and staring at the ceiling. ‘It’s been less than a week and my girlfriend is already flirting with my best friend. What did I do to deserve this?’
The ceiling didn’t reply. Glimmer, meanwhile, looked confused. ‘I wasn’t—I didn’t—’
‘No,’ Bow chimed in, ‘you totally were.’ He placed a hand on his heart and made his voice melodramatic. ‘I cannot tie you down, my love, for I know you will always return to my side when all is said and done.’
‘I dunno,’ Catra said. ‘You might want to ask Double Trouble for some lessons.’
‘Alright,’ Glimmer said, only partially hiding her blush, ‘I think the two of you need some time to settle in. What do you think, Bow, are we moving into my room or yours?’
Adora shut the door on their voices echoing down the hallway. ‘Oh no,’ she said when she turned to face Catra again. This time her tone was normal. ‘I don’t like that look.’
‘Don’t you see? A whole new way to torment Glimmer.’ Catra bounced on her heels. ‘Is it my birthday?’
Adora groaned. ‘Flirting with my friends is better than threatening to kill them, I guess.’
‘And so much more fun.’
‘You’re exhausting. I’m exhausted. I’m going to take a nap.’
‘Aww, don’t be like that—’ Catra froze mid-sentence, at last taking in the whole of Adora’s—of their—bedroom. ‘This is where you sleep? All of this? You had all of this for one person?’
‘You get used to it.’
‘I bet you do!’ Catra threw herself on the bed and rolled over three times. She was still a foot from the edge. ‘I apologise in advance. Pillows this soft are not going to get along with my claws.’
Adora sat down next to her. ‘I’d rather share a torn-up bed with you then have a pristine one all to myself.’
Catra’s pulse quickened. Would she ever get used to it? The way they could simply say those things to each other now? Probably. She couldn’t imagine it, but probably. Still: that didn’t mean she ever had to take it for granted.
‘Tell me more.’ It came out as a whisper, her playfulness mingling with the softness she now felt whenever she was alone with Adora. It was embarrassing. But in a good way. But not so good she could admit it was embarrassing? Whatever. She was working on it.
‘About—sharing a bed?’
Adora looked down at her. There was distant sadness in her expression but she was smiling, too, and she reached out and ran a hand along Catra’s ears as she spoke.
‘I was so lonely when I first got here. I couldn’t sleep properly for weeks. I kept dreaming—imagining—that you’d turn up. Appear in my bed overnight. Climb in through a window. Show up at the castle gates. Anything. Eventually I got used to it, but…’ Adora’s breathing was ragged. ‘Giving up on that dream was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.’
‘Hey,’ Catra said gently. ‘It’s okay. You got me in the end. I can even leave and climb back in through the window, if you want.’
Adora snorted. ‘It has to be late at night.’
‘Oh, I see—’
‘You were lonely—'
‘Anyway,’ Adora said. ‘We don’t have to talk about this stuff yet if you don’t want, but… I think it helps? A little?’
It did. It did, because now it was real. Because they knew how it ended. The promise of a happy ending made even the darkest memories palatable.
More palatable, at least.
Catra sat up and wrapped her arms around Adora’s shoulders. One of her hands slipped beneath Adora’s shirt, settling on the soft-hard of her collarbone. She undid Adora’s ponytail. Her hair looked better down, anyway, and it was easier to rest her cheek on it that way.
‘Are you done?’ Adora said, amused.
‘Just making myself comfortable.’
‘Well...’ Adora sounded nervous. ‘There’s something I've been wanting to ask.’
Catra nipped at the exposed skin of Adora’s neck. ‘I don't mind. Go on.’
‘When did you... When did it start, you know, turning around? For you.’
It wasn’t the clearest question. Catra considered making fun of her for it. But she knew what Adora meant.
‘Do you remember when we used to say we’d rule the Horde together one day?’
Adora laughed under her breath. ‘Yeah. You were always so keen on it.’
‘Well. Turns out, ruling the Horde sucked.’
‘I could have told you that—hey! That’s gross.’
Catra licked the back of Adora’s neck again for good measure, making her squirm. ‘Deal with it. It's how I show affection. Besides, you don’t mind so much when it's in your mouth.’
‘Ooh, two “Catras" in five minutes. I'm on a roll.’
‘You were saying?’
Catra closed her eyes. How long had she wanted to hear Adora make those indignant noises again? To watch Adora pretending she didn’t want Catra to climb into her lap and tickle her face with her tail? That was the question.
‘Once I took ruling the Horde out of the equation,’ she said softly, ‘it was pretty obvious what was left. With an assist from Double Trouble. Admittedly.’
‘Double Trouble? Really?’
‘They made a frustratingly good me.’ Catra frowned. ‘Less good at you, though. Not like the real thing.’ She poked Adora in the stomach.
‘I almost wish I was Double Trouble, just to see the look on your face.’
‘Knowing them, they probably recorded it at the time. Anyway, you know the rest.’ Catra had no desire to relive her time on Horde Prime’s ship. It was too fresh. ‘How about you?’
Adora huffed out a breath, the way she did before attempting something she wasn’t entirely sure she could accomplish. It was achingly familiar. Adora never let uncertainty stop her from accomplishing things.
‘I think I always knew I wanted you. The hard part was... letting myself want something like that. Something selfish.’
‘I could have told you that. Wait, I did tell you that.’
‘Ugh, I know, I know, you were right. But when has that ever stopped me?’
‘I'll say,’ Catra muttered.
‘And then, in the Heart, I... saw things.’
Catra stiffened. ‘Like with Light Hope?’
‘No. I don’t think so. I think it must have been the magic. They weren’t memories. They were… true things.’
‘You,’ Adora said. ‘Obviously. Just... you, soft and gentle and right there, and you disappeared the moment before I’d have kissed you, and—ugh, why am I crying now? You're literally right here, I—’
Catra shut her up with a kiss. ‘It's okay. I’m not going to disappear. It's okay.’ She licked the tears away, revelling in the way Adora grimaced but did not recoil. ‘You don’t have to go on. If you don’t want.’
‘No, it's okay. Tears are okay.’ Adora laughed raggedly. ‘Then I saw Mara, and she said exactly the same thing. Asked what I wanted. Told me I was allowed to want it. And when I finally—when I finally let myself answer the question... I saw the future. A future? The future I wanted.’
Catra’s ears perked up. ‘Is this where the ponytail comes in?’
‘You,’ Adora said, shoving her away playfully, ‘are way too smart for your own good.’
‘Yep. Tell me more?’
‘It was... Scorpia was hosting Princess Prom, I think. We were getting ready. Glimmer and Bow were there, too. It was nothing special. But we were happy. It was like... I'd never let myself imagine, before, because I thought it would be too painful. Better to stay in the present than imagine a future that could never happen. You know?’
‘Next thing I knew, there you were. Giving it to me.’
‘Giving you the future? I like the sound of that.’
Adora smiled. ‘Giving me exactly what I wanted.’
This part, Catra didn’t mind remembering. ‘I didn’t know, you know.’
‘I know. I could see it in your face.’
‘There was a point where I—where it just didn’t matter anymore, whether you loved me back. Telling you was more important. There’s probably a lesson in that.’ Catra frowned. ‘Nope, it’s gone. Oh well. When was I any good at lessons?’
‘Ask Glimmer. She seems to have taught you quite a few.’ Adora ran her fingers through Catra’s hair, close to the scalp. ‘Not how to brush your hair, though, if the magic was any good at predicting the future.’
The stroking made Catra shiver. Would she ever get used to it? In all her memories of Adora’s tenderness, Catra’s hair was wild and untamed. That had been nice, too. Having someone to work out the tangles. But this was different. Intimate. Catra’s memories of Horde Prime’s ship were hazy towards the end, but she remembered Adora’s fingers right on her skin, tracing the contours of her skull. She remembered Adora’s gentleness like a barrier between her and the sharp angles of the clones.
Maybe growing out her hair could wait.
‘Seven years,’ Catra said slowly. ‘Right?’
Adora sounded like she was coming out of a haze. She had a smile on her face, one of those dopey ones Catra had once teased her mercilessly about. I did that, Catra thought. I made her that happy, and all I did was lie here and let her stroke me. And: I’m enough.
‘The next Princess Prom.’
‘Oh! Yeah. I think so.’
Seven years. How long had they been together? Less than a week. Less than seven days.
‘We’re going to go together,’ Catra said. She felt like she was floating. Like the words were forming in the air around her, and all she had to do was pluck them one by one. ‘You’re going to look gorgeous. A dress, I think. Maybe something other than red for once. Hair down, obviously. I’ll be in a suit. Something totally over the top. Do you think I could pull off a cape? Doesn’t matter. There’s time. The important thing is, we’re going to break every heart in the building. We’re going to dance, right at the peak of the ball when everyone’s watching. They’ll talk about it for years. And at the end, I’m going to dip you, and then I’m going to kiss you. Just like I wanted to the first time. In front of everyone. And they’ll know that you’re still mine. And I’m still yours. And nothing, nothing will tear us apart. I know. I know because the universe has done its worst and failed. I love you, Adora, I love you, I love you.
‘Is it weird,’ Catra whispered into the stunned silence that followed, ‘how sure I am?’
Adora hands were reverent around Catra's shoulders. She pulled Catra into a sitting position, wrapped her arms around her, and hugged her, fierce and tight. Her voice when she spoke in Catra’s ear was the same voice with which she’d defied the conquerors of a thousand thousand worlds: the same determination; the same utter certainty.
‘No,’ she said. ‘No, I don’t think that’s weird at all.’