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the roots that sleep

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grayskull city, january 2030

 

“There you guys are,” Adora says as she approaches Glimmer and Bow. “I didn’t realize how crowded this place is.”

“It’s nuts,” Bow agrees, glancing around. The gallery is packed with people—men in suits, women in fancy dresses. The three of them stick out a bit, between Adora’s white suit, Glimmer’s sparkly pink hair, and Bow’s cropped tuxedo shirt and jacket.

“Yeah.” Adora can’t stop the proud grin that spreads across her face as she takes in the crowded room, and she doesn’t bother trying. “Have you guys seen Catra?”

“I think she got pulled down that way,” Glimmer says, nodding off to her left. “Some rich guy wanted a personal tour.”

“Can you blame him?” Adora says, glancing around the gallery again, eyes skimming over the paintings on the walls. She’s seen them all before, of course, in various stages of completion, but that doesn’t mean she’s any less impressed now.

“Yeah, yeah,” Glimmer says, rolling her eyes. “Your wife is amazing and talented and shit. Go tell her about it.”

“Okay,” Adora agrees, thoroughly satisfied with that plan. “I’ll see you guys later.” Bow and Glimmer echo the sentiment, and Adora heads off in the direction Glimmer had indicated, still smiling a little bit.

Her wife is amazing and talented, and she can’t wait to tell her about it.

It doesn’t take Adora long to find Catra. She sticks out from the crowd, too—for a lot of reasons, actually, but partially because she’s dressed a little less formally than the rest of the people in the gallery. Catra is wearing a dark red dress shirt tucked into black pants, her long hair up in a ponytail. She’s wearing boots instead of dress shoes, and her sleeves are rolled up just below her elbows. The faded scars on her right forearm are a muted pink in the dim light of the gallery.

She looks beautiful, and Adora stops to stare for a moment before she approaches.

Catra is talking a tall man in a suit, gesturing at the painting in front of them. It’s one of Adora’s favorites, actually. To most people, it’s probably less impressive than some of the other pieces around it: it depicts the inside of a room and an open window. Some furniture, a set of bunk beds with the top bunk unmade. Pieces of paper tacked to the walls, their details almost impossible to see. Dust floating in the sunbeam from the window, casting a haze over the floor. It’s a beautiful painting, of course, but it’s one among many that Catra has made.

Adora, though, remembers that room. She remembers the papers on the walls, because half of them were hers. The bottom bunk is made neatly because that’s the way she always left it when they were kids.

Catra finally notices Adora staring and grins at her, gesturing her over.

“Hey,” Adora says as she approaches.

“Hey.” Catra slips her arm into Adora’s. “Adora, this is Eric. He’s thinking of buying some of my pieces. Eric, this is my wife, Adora.”

“Pleased to meet you,” Eric says, nodding at her. He has a slight accent that Adora can’t quite place. “It must be an honor to be the muse of such a talented artist.” It takes Adora a moment to decipher his meaning, but once she does, she shakes her head.

“I’m not,” she says, and gestures around the gallery with her free arm. “This is all Catra. I just make sure she doesn’t work herself to death.” She glances over at Catra, who has a small, grateful smile on her face. “It’s still an honor to be with her, though.” An honor to be with her, to take care of her, to stand here beside her and see all the incredible things Catra has made with her hands.

“Of course,” Eric says, seeming a bit puzzled. He checks his watch and frowns. “I have to be going, but Catra, I’ll be in touch regarding purchasing some of your work.”

“I’m looking forward to it,” Catra says, smiling. “It was nice to meet you, Eric.” He returns the pleasantries and walks away. The minute he disappears into the crowd, Catra’s polite smile slips, and she sighs deeply as she turns to face Adora.

“I am so sick of being nice to people,” she says. Adora laughs.

“Aw, but you’re so good at it,” she says. Catra just groans. “He seemed nice, at least.”

“He was fine,” Catra says. “But the last guy kept trying to talk to me about football, and the lady before that asked me if my lesbianism had biased me against celebrating the male form.” She gives Adora an imploring look. “I want to go home. Or at least back to the hotel.” Adora blinks several times, gives up on making sense of either of those lines of questioning, and instead focuses on Catra’s request.

“Are you allowed to do that?” she asks. “Just leave your own show early?”

Allowed?” Catra snorts. “Who’s gonna stop me, the art gallery police?” Adora rolls her eyes.

“No one’s going to stop you,” she says. “I just figured that since you’re getting so many interested buyers, you might want to stay for awhile longer.”

“Nah.” Catra grins at her. “They can email me. And if they don’t, I can just freeload off your fancy physical therapist salary forever.”

“I don’t know if that’s a good idea,” Adora says. “You’d make a terrible housewife.”

“I didn’t say housewife, I said freeload,” Catra corrects. “I’ll cook, but I’m not cleaning.” Adora shakes her head, smiling fondly.

“I’ll call us an Uber,” she says, pulling them back on topic. “If you want to go hand out business cards one more time, I can say good night to Glimmer and Bow.”

“Yeah, guess I better network or whatever.” Catra sighs heavily. “Alright, meet you out front in five?” Adora nods, and kisses Catra’s cheek before she walks away. They’re not as obnoxious about PDA as they once were—those first few months after they’d gotten together in college had been unbearable, according to Glimmer—but Adora refuses to let any little goodbye like this one pass without something to mark it.

Adora calls an Uber, then finds Glimmer and Bow again. She says both her and Catra’s goodbyes. Glimmer and Bow plan to stay at the gallery awhile longer. Catra doesn’t really show anyone except Adora her works in progress, so most of the paintings are brand new to them. Adora hugs them both before she heads out to the front of the building, slipping out the glass doors and into the darkness of the city streets, where she’s greeted by a blast of freezing air.

Catra is already outside. She’s standing at the edge of the curb, hands jammed in her pockets, silhouetted by the light coming from the streetlamp across the road. Adora approaches her, a familiar strange feeling in the pit of her stomach. It’s always there when they come back to Grayskull. There’s just too much history in this city for either of them to quite sleep easy.

Adora’s really looking forward to the flight back to Bright Moon tomorrow night.

“Hey,” Adora says, stepping up beside Catra. Catra glances up at her.

“Hey, Adora,” she says, and immediately shivers. Adora takes off her white and gold suit jacket, slipping it around Catra’s shoulders. “You’re gonna be cold now,” Catra says, rolling her eyes. She pulls the jacket tighter around her body.

“Uber’ll be here soon,” Adora says. She’s tired, suddenly, and when she checks her phone she realizes it’s almost ten o’clock. They’ve both been up since early that morning, Catra preparing for the show and Adora making sure she ate food and sat down for at least a few minutes every hour.

“Did you have a good time?” Catra asks. She leans into Adora’s side, and Adora takes the hint, wrapping an arm around her shoulders.

“I did,” Adora says, and kisses the top of Catra’s head. “I’m really, really proud of you, Catra. That was amazing.” Catra hums quietly, and Adora can’t see her face, but she knows what’s there. She memorized the little smile Catra gets when Adora makes her happy years ago.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m cool, I know,” Catra mutters. Adora smiles, but doesn’t respond. Neither of them are awake or warm enough for banter.

They stand like that for a few more minutes until their Uber shows up, arms wrapped around each other, staying warm in the freezing Grayskull winter air.


grayskull city, january 2030

 

“Ugh,” Catra says as she collapses onto the hotel bed, her feet hanging off the end with her shoes still on. Adora laughs at the dramatics and shakes her head. She kicks off her own shoes and undresses quickly, leaving on her underwear and the tank top she’d worn under her button-up. She’s way too tired to keep wearing pants.

“You planning to sleep like that?” Adora asks. Catra just groans again, pressing her face into the pillows. Adora smiles fondly and wanders over to the foot of the bed. She tugs Catra’s boots off for her, dropping them to the floor, and Catra rolls onto her side, pulling her feet up onto the bed. Adora lies down beside her, facing her, still smiling.

“Hey,” Catra says after a moment. Adora shifts forward and kisses her. Catra’s fingers find the hem of Adora’s tank top, tangling in it, one hand slipping around and under to press against Adora’s bare back.

“Hey,” Adora responds when she pulls back. Catra smiles, but there’s a hesitance to it that makes Adora’s eyes narrow.

“Can we talk?” Catra asks. Adora slips an arm around Catra’s waist and tugs her closer.

“Of course,” she whispers. “What’s up?” Catra nods and closes her eyes briefly.

“I think…” She opens her eyes, and her gaze flickers back and forth between each of Adora’s. “I think I might be ready to get rid of the bed in the studio.” Adora inhales sharply.

“Catra…”

Catra has had a bed in the studio since the two of them moved in together after Catra finished school. They pay rent on a second apartment back in Bright Moon, a rundown shoebox of a place, so that Catra has somewhere to work—and, when she needs space, somewhere to sleep without Adora beside her or on the couch in the other room. She doesn’t use it when they fight; most of the time, Adora doesn’t know what makes her wife need a night or two alone. Catra always comes home in the morning and kisses Adora in the kitchen until she forgets how to breathe, just to make sure Adora knows she hasn’t done anything wrong.

It isn’t the most financially sound solution, but it’s worked for them. Every year, Catra spends less and less time sleeping in the studio. It’s been months since the last time she needed that kind of space. But Adora hasn’t thought about getting rid of it.

“Are you sure?” Adora asks, searching Catra’s face carefully. She’s determined, jaw set and eyes narrowed, but something about her expression is making Adora hesitate.

“I’m sure,” Catra says, and Adora knows her wife well enough to know that she doesn’t completely mean that. “I don’t need it anymore.”

“Okay.” Adora shifts, reaching behind Catra and gently tugging her hair free of the ponytail. It falls loose across the pillows, and Adora takes a moment to roll over and put the hair tie on the nightstand before she turns back to Catra. “But do you still want it?”

Catra’s resolve crumbles.

“Adora…” Her expression twists with something resembling anguish, and Adora wraps her arms around Catra, pulling her closer. Catra buries her face in Adora’s chest, and Adora rolls onto her back, pulling Catra mostly on top of her.

“Sorry,” Adora whispers, though there isn’t really anything for her to apologize for. The question needed to be asked. She just doesn’t like to see Catra upset.

“S’fine.” Catra goes quiet for awhile. Adora runs her fingers through Catra’s hair absently where it’s settled across her back. The lamps in the hotel room are dim at best, and Catra is warm and solid on top of her. The combination has Adora half asleep before Catra speaks again.

“I do still want it,” Catra says finally, her voice a puff of air against Adora’s chest. “It’s…well, y’know. It’s comforting.” Adora makes a quiet noise of agreement. She doesn’t get it, necessarily, but Catra has explained it to her before. She needs the reassurance of somewhere to be that belongs to her. Not her and Adora. Somewhere that’s just hers.

“So then why get rid of it?” Adora says. “You don’t want to get rid of the whole studio, right? We can afford it, and you love having somewhere to work alone.”

“I do, I just…” Catra sighs and adjusts her position, resting her cheek against Adora’s collarbone. “It just seems dumb. It’s our four year anniversary next month. I shouldn’t need somewhere to hide from my wife.”

“Catra…” They’ve already talked about Catra’s shame over needing her own space twice—once when they first moved in together and started renting the studio, and again when they got married. Adora doesn’t know how to convince Catra that a little space doesn’t make her feel any less loved.

“It’s not just that,” Catra says. “I mean, what if we have kids? That seems like a great way to fuck a kid up, having one of their moms rent a separate apartment to sleep in…”

Catra is still talking, but Adora can’t hear her anymore. Her ears are buzzing with what if we have kids.

“You want to have kids?” Adora whispers, lifting her head from the pillow to stare down at Catra. Catra blinks at her. “With me?”

“Duh, with you, idiot,” Catra says. “Who else? Fucking—I don’t know, Scorpia?”

“You want to have kids?” Adora says again. There’s some huge warmth growing inside her, pushing at the back of her ribs. Catra flushes pink.

“I don’t know,” she says, averting her eyes from Adora’s. “I don’t—I’m not sure yet, if I want that. But…I mean, it’s something I’ve thought about. Haven’t you?” Adora honestly has not. She still wakes up sometimes and has to remind herself that she isn’t twenty-three and fresh out of college anymore. The concept of children is so—so distant and abstract, and she isn’t sure if it’s something she wants. But the fact that Catra has thought about it? Has thought about it with her?

“I love you,” Adora says. Catra finally looks at her again, still pink, and smiles.

“I love you, too.”

“And I don’t think you spending a few nights away a year is going to traumatize our hypothetical kids.” Catra sighs.

“When you say it like that, it sounds dumb,” she says. Adora grins and pulls her closer, pressing a kiss to Catra’s forehead.

“It’s not dumb,” she says, settling back onto the pillows. “We should talk about whether we want kids, and if—if we do, you just wanna make sure you can be a good mom. That’s amazing, Catra. That’s—so good of you.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Catra traces absent patterns on the fabric of Adora’s tank top where it lies against her stomach. It tickles a little bit, but Adora isn’t about to stop her. “I guess it would be fine if I kept the bed.” Adora hums in agreement. “I just…I don’t want what Shadow Weaver did to me to cheat another person out of a normal life.”

“What do you mean?” Adora says. Catra props herself up on her elbow and frowns down at Adora.

“She’s the reason I’m like this,” Catra says. “If it wasn’t for the way we grew up, I wouldn’t need to run away sometimes.”

“No, I know that,” Adora says, nodding. “I just mean that…I don’t feel cheated.” Catra blinks at her, and Adora searches for the right words. “If I could go back and save us from the way she treated us growing up, I would in a heartbeat. We didn’t deserve that. But here, now? I don’t feel cheated at all.”

“How can you not?” Catra whispers. “I…” There are tears gathering at the corners of her eyes. Adora reaches up and cups Catra’s face in both her hands, pulling her down until their foreheads are touching.

“You think I could be any more happy with this?” Adora whispers. “You think I want anything more?”

“You should.” Catra’s voice cracks. “You should, Adora, I—I leave. I leave.”

“But you come back,” Adora says. “And while you’re gone, I’m—I’m happy.” Catra shifts backwards in surprise, lifting her head to look Adora in the eye. “You leave because it’s what you need to do to take care of yourself. That makes me happy, Catra. I love knowing that you’re doing what you need to to be okay.” Catra drops down from her elbows and presses her face into the crook of Adora’s neck.

She cries for awhile. Adora holds her tight and doesn’t let her own tears fall. She’s never quite broken the urge to be strong for the people she loves.

“I believe you,” Catra says eventually, a few minutes after her tears have stopped. Her voice is muffled against Adora’s skin. “I believe you, I just—I can’t—“ She sighs in frustration. “My brain won’t believe it with the rest of me.”

“I know,” Adora says. “You know I know.”

“Yeah.” With a reluctant sigh, Catra rolls to the side, off of Adora and onto her back. She wipes at her eyes with the heels of her hands. When she lifts her hands away, she turns her head to the side to look at Adora. Adora notices that her eyes are bloodshot—from exhaustion or crying, Adora isn’t sure.

“Maybe we should deal with all this shit before we start talking about kids,” Catra says. Adora half-smiles.

“Probably,” she agrees. “We’ve got time.”

“Yeah.” Catra looks down at herself, her rumpled dress clothes, and sighs heavily. “I should change. God, I’m so fucking tired.”

“We’ll sleep in tomorrow,” Adora says, watching as Catra drags herself to her feet and starts working on the buttons of her dress shirt. “Our flight isn’t until tomorrow night, anyway.”

“Sounds good.” Catra drapes her shirt over the back of the office chair in the hotel room, along with Adora’s jacket, shirt, and pants. They can deal with their clothes in the morning. “Are you actually going to sleep in, or are you going to sneak out at seven in the morning to work out?” Adora rolls her eyes.

“I’ll stay,” she says, trying and failing to inject exasperation into her tone.

“Good.” Finally undressed, Catra returns to the bed, slipping under the covers this time. Adora shimmies under beside her and reaches out to wrap her arms around Catra’s waist. “Nuh uh.” Catra pokes her in the forehead. “I’m being big spoon tonight. Turn around.”

“Ugh, fine,” Adora says, rolling over. “You’re so annoying.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Catra’s arm slips around Adora’s waist, and Adora presses backwards into the contact, threading her fingers through Catra’s where they rest against her stomach. “Turn off the lamp and go the fuck to sleep.”

Adora manages to reach the lamp by the bed without breaking the contact between her body and Catra’s. She flicks the switch and plunges the room into semi-darkness, illuminated dimly by the city lights outside their window. She falls asleep to Catra humming behind her, nose brushing the back of Adora’s neck.

An hour later, she wakes up and remembers that both of them still need to brush their teeth, but that hour of sleep is some of the best she’s ever had.