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So Close

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So close. They had come so close to losing it all.

Not a day went by without such thoughts crossing Adora’s mind, even now, almost a month after Horde Prime’s defeat and Etheria’s restoration. With the war won, Adora had everything she had ever wanted: a home, a family, and a future free of destinies and obligations forced upon her by others. Even the world she looked upon, the world she had saved, was one of renewed hope and beauty, an old world made new again, glistening with opportunities for any and all willing to venture forth and seek them out.

It was a happy ending, and one that Adora and her friends had earned, through and through.

And yet…it almost hadn’t been. They had come so close, so dangerously close, to having never achieved any of this. Not just once, but many times, too many for Adora’s liking. But despite their odds, despite everything, they had done it; they had won.

But they had come so close.

Adora couldn’t help but ponder such unfortunate possibilities as she looked down upon the gardens of Bright Moon from her personal balcony, dressed in a gown of white and gold nearly identical to the one she had envisioned when she collapsed before the Heart of Ethereia. Friends and strangers alike were busily putting everything together for that evening’s celebration below, a tribute to She-Ra and the Rebellion and everyone who had fought to end the menace of the Horde once and for all. There had already been much celebrating, not only in Bright Moon, but across all of Etheria – across the entire universe, undoubtedly – but this was to be the grandest of them all.

Despite Adora’s initial desire for a Best Friends Squad Roadtrip, there was still much to do on their own world before they ventured off into space in hope of restoring magic to others. Kingdoms were being rebuilt, refugees were returning home, and leadership was still sorely needed. As such, she and her friends had reluctantly postponed their trip in order to help Etheria rebuild; it wasn’t as though the rest of the universe was going anywhere, after all. Not with the Heart of Etheria disarmed, anyway.

Yet even now, working all day rebuilding towns and restoring life to all four corners of Etheria instead of journeying through the stars with her friends as she had envisioned, Adora was still happy. She liked helping others – loved it, even – and it was well-known that she was easily bored if she didn’t have something to keep her busy. Even when she did grow weary or begin to long for the freedom of outer space, all it took was the twinkle in a child’s eye or the smile of a grateful citizen to restore Adora to her usually optimistic self.

When she was alone, however…that was a different story.

The sun was beginning to set over the horizon, and Adora began to see some of her friends and allies make their way to the gardens for the beginning of the celebration. She felt no urgency to join them, not yet, and instead took joy in watching as they arrived either individually or in pairs, all of them dressed in their finest and with smiles on their faces.

Perfuma was the first to arrive, her kingdom being the closest to Bright Moon, her usual pink dress replaced by a flowing gown of colorful flowers she had no doubt put together herself. Scorpia arrived soon after, and Adora wasn’t the least bit surprised to see she how she immediately made a beeline for Perfuma. There were already rumors about the two of them, and Adora was fairly confident it was only a matter of time before such gossip was proven correct.

Adora smiled, glad to see them happy, and fully aware of how close both had come to never experiencing such happiness. Had she and the others failed, Scorpia would have remained under Horde Prime’s thrall for perhaps the rest of her life, doomed to live as a mindless drone instead of the endlessly cheerful and compassionate princess she had always meant to be. Perfuma, on the other hand, would have almost certainly been executed had Horde Prime been victorious.

Thankfully, Horde Prime hadn’t been victorious. But still. They had come so close…

Mermista and Sea Hawk arrived next, and they arrived together, arm-in-arm, to the surprise of absolutely no one. The Princess of Salineas had been smiling more, recently, a far cry from her usually dour and sarcastic demeanor, and Adora was sure this was due in no small part to the near constant presence of the mustachioed swashbuckler in her court. Though still in the midst of reconstruction, Salineas was recovering admirably from its conquest and subjugation under the Horde, and there was little doubt it would emerge stronger and more beautiful than ever before, give or take a few burning ships here or there.

Had Horde Prime won the war…there wouldn’t be a Salineas left. There wouldn’t have been anything left. Like Scorpia, Mermista would likely have remained under the dictator’s control, never again to see Sea Hawk or the rest of her kingdom. Had Sea Hawk not saved her during the final battle, or Bow failed to hack into Horde Prime’s network…who knows what might have happened?

Adora shuddered to think of it. Yet, neither could she stop.

When Entrapta arrived, she arrived with a veritable entourage of chefs and robots. Wrong Hordak accompanied her but, notably, Hordak himself did not. Despite everything, most of Etheria – and particularly many in Bright Moon – still hesitated to trust or even share proximity with the former warlord, his crimes against the planet still fresh in their minds. Hordak, thankfully, seemed to understand this without argument, and so spent most of his time in Dryl working alongside Entrapta, having all but abandoned the Fright Zone. How, exactly, the kingdom of Dryl managed to survive being ruled by the tech-obsessed Entrapta and somehow house both Hordak and Wrong Hordak at the same time was a mystery none of the kingdoms had yet to solve. The three were happy together, though, and that was what was important.

Of all of them, they, perhaps, had come the closest to not experiencing their happy ending. Entrapta had told everyone how close Hordak had come to killing her, only gathering the strength to turn against his evil ‘brother’ at the very last moment. Even then, Horde Prime had possessed him, stripped him of his individuality in the worst way possible. It was thanks to She-Ra that Hordak was alive at all, Horde Prime having been exorcised from his body and eradicated before the possession became permanent.

Had she not been there, had she not been able to drive out Horde Prime and restore Hordak to his original personality…it may have been too late for them all.

Others arrived, even as Adora watched, waving from her balcony occasionally but with little urge to join them just yet. Frosta came from the Kingdom of Snows, Huntara arrived with a posse of banditos from the Crimson Waste, and even Double Trouble made an appearance – or, rather, several appearances, each time as a different person. More people came, some Adora knew, others she didn’t, but all of them adding to the joyful atmosphere of the celebration.

It wasn’t until Glimmer and Bow made their appearance that Adora knew she would be expected to show up, but still allowed herself a smile as she looked upon her best friends. Even with King Micah returned from Beast Island, Glimmer was still the rightful Queen of Bright Moon, and looked every bit as radiant now as she had during her coronation. Holding her hand was none other than Bow, the two of them having grown practically inseparable, even more so than when Adora had first met them. Their relationship had become less and less discreet over the last couple weeks, and now Adora was all but expecting a marriage proposal before the end of the evening. Honestly, she couldn’t have been happier for them.

They deserve to be happy, both of them, Adora thought to herself as she smiled and lifted a hand in greeting, one which both Bow and Glimmer returned before gesturing for her to come down and join the celebration. They’ve fought so hard, been through so much. If anyone in Etheria deserves a happy ending, it’s Glimmer and Bow.

Yet still she could not help but imagine what would have become of them had they lost. Just as with everyone else, they had come so close to losing, Glimmer in heated combat with her father and Bow struggling to bring down Horde Prime’s network while a brainwashed Scorpia attempted to subdue him. Glimmer had used the memory of her mother to overcome her father, reminding herself who she was and who she came from before overpowering Micah and freeing the rest of the Princesses. Bow, on the other hand, had relied on trust to save himself from Scorpia, using her momentarily lapse to finish his task and free all those chipped by Horde Prime. Had even one thing gone wrong for either of them – had Micah proven too powerful, or Prime’s control over Scorpia too complete – their happy ending might well have been nothing more than a fantasy.

And then, of course…there was her. There was Adora.

There was She-Ra.

What would have become of her had she been unable to save the day? What if she hadn’t been strong enough to defeat Horde Prime? What if she hadn’t activated the failsafe and freed the magic trapped within the Heart of Etheria? What is she hadn’t managed to transform into She-Ra just in time to save the world?

It had been close, Adora knew, far too close for comfort. She still remembered lying on the cold steel floor deep beneath the Crystal Castle, Horde Prime’s virus raging through her veins. She remembered the feeling of helplessness that consumed her as she fell deeper and deeper into the darkest recesses of her own mind, pulled down by doubt and insecurity and Prime’s overwhelming power. She remembered it all.

It would have been so easy to simply give up. To give in. To allow Horde Prime to take control of the Heart of Etheria and use it destroy all life in the Universe. To fall into the darkness and wait for the end. She had come close.

She had come so close…

“Hey, Adora.”

It was the voice of another that finally pulled Adora out of her own mind, and she felt both a gentle smile and a light blush cross her face as she turned to face the speaker behind her, already knowing exactly who it was.

Catra.

Dressed in black pants, a red button-down shirt, and a white-and-gold short cape that perfectly matched Adora’s dress, Catra stood only a few feet behind Adora, her dark hair pulled back into a ponytail. The young woman smiled as she looked at Adora – not smirking, but genuinely smiling – as though she already knew exactly what was on Adora’s mind. She very often did.

Though Adora hadn’t even heard her approach, neither was she surprised to find Catra standing behind her; after all, they shared the room just as surely as they shared everything else. There had never been a discussion about whether Catra would have her own room when she finally moved into Bright Moon; she had simply followed Adora to her room that first evening, and had proceeded to do so every evening since.

Of the many aspects of her happy ending that Adora cherished, there was little doubt that the one she cherished above all others was Catra.

“You’re doing it again, aren’t you?” Catra asked, still smiling gently, not cruelly, but with concern. She could read Adora as easily as ever. “You’re brooding. You’re thinking about what would have happened if we lost.”

Adora nodded. “We almost did. We came so close.”

“But we didn’t,” Catra insisted, walking up and taking hold of Adora’s hands so she could look her lover in the eye. “We didn’t lose, Adora. We won. All of us.”

But still, Adora could only think of how close they had come, so dangerously close.

She thought of Catra running away in the middle of the night, leaving Adora alone with her backpack in the middle of the Whispering Woods with tears in her eyes as she watched her friend disappear into the darkness…

She thought of being forced by Shadow Weaver to journey deeper and deeper into the Crystal Castle even as Catra remained behind to fight the guardian serpent awakened by Horde Prime, her mind on the task at hand but her heart still yearning for something else entirely…

She thought of telling Catra to go as she prepared to sacrifice herself to use the failsafe and disarm the Heart of Etheria, pleading with her to get as far away as she could, only for Catra to refuse and grab hold of her tighter than ever before…

She thought of Horde Prime taking control of the Heart just as she attempted to disarm it, binding her and plunging her into a darkness without end, a darkness that would have no doubt claimed her had Catra not been there to save her…

Even then, Catra had been there for her. Just as she was there now.

“Adora! Please! You have to wake up!

Adora remembered opening her eyes to her friend’s voice, looking up as darkness consumed her on every side to find Catra standing before her, clinging to the last light of escape, reaching out to Adora with the last of her strength and with no regard as to her own safety.

“You can’t give up,” Catra told her, emotion heavy in her voice as she begged for Adora to hang on. “You have never given up on anything in your life. Not even on me. So, don’t you dare start now!”

Adora reached out to her, then, breaking through Horde Prime’s bonds and stretching her fingers as far as she could. But it was no use; Catra was too far away. Too far…and yet so close.

So close…

“It’s too late,” Adora insisted, tears in her eyes as she gave in. “I’ve failed.”

“No! No!” Catra exclaimed. She was crying now, too, her voice cracking as she continued to reach out to Adora. There was a desperation in her words, a fear that this truly was the end. And yet, she didn’t stop. “I’ve got you. I’m not letting go. Don’t you get it? I love you. I always have! So, please, just this once…stay!”

Adora reached out. Catra was so close. So close…

And then…their hands met. Their fingers intertwined. And they were together.

“It’s over,” Catra reminded her back in their room in Bright Moon, Adora’s hands still in her own. Her heterochromatic eyes gleamed in the twilight, and Adora had to fight to keep herself from becoming lost in them for the rest of the evening. “There’s no more war. No more Horde. Just you and me. Just us.”

But still, the doubt remained.

“You promise?” Adora asked, tears at the edges of her eyes as she met Catra’s gaze, wanting nothing more than to be sure this wasn’t a dream.

Catra simply smiled back. “Promise.”

And, despite herself, Adora smiled. A moment later, Catra lifted up a clawed finger to wipe the tears from her face before leaning in and capturing her lips in a kiss just as passionate and just as powerful as their first. It wasn’t until Adora felt Catra’s lips upon hers that she finally allowed herself to remember the rest of their struggle at the Heart, after she had come so close to losing, to giving in, and yet managed to fight on…

“You…love me?” she asked as she looked up at Catra, Horde Prime’s virus still flowing through her veins. She was weak – exhausted, even – but she had to know.

“You’re such an idiot,” Catra responded, laughing a little and blushing despite herself before looking back down to find Adora smiling right back up at her.

“I love you, too.”

And so, when Catra finally pulled back from their kiss and opened her eyes, she was glad to find Adora finally smiling back at her. The young woman’s cheeks were still red from the kiss, but she cared not, and simply leaned in once again, this time to wrap her arms around the feline and pull Catra into a loving embrace.

“Thank you,” Adora said softly, holding Catra close and all but burying her face into her lover’s neck. “For staying. For saving me. For loving me.”

“You, too,” Catra replied, just as softly, smiling as she returned Adora’s embrace. She offered Adora her hand after they finally pulled apart, knowing they were both expected at the celebration down below. “You coming?”

Adora didn’t say anything, but merely accepted Catra’s hand. They made their way out of the bedroom together, closing the door behind them before joining the rest of their friends and allies in the gardens for a celebration that would last the rest of the evening. It was a celebration Adora would always look back upon fondly, not least because it seemed to serve as the greatest reminder that, despite everything, she had earned her happy ending after all.

Yes, it was true she and her friends had come so close to losing. But Catra was right; they hadn’t lost. They had won. Horde Prime was defeated, Etheria was restored, and Adora knew she and Catra would be together for the rest of their lives.

They had come so close to losing…but, in the end, they had won.

In the end, that was all that mattered.