The Rebellion’s new camp is smaller, much smaller, only a few huddled tents and the dark of the cave. Spinnerella’s breath catches in her throat at the thought of the people who are missing.
The people she helped Horde Prime bring to his side. Phantom pain throbs at the back of her neck.
“Spinny?” It’s Netossa, hoving over her, and Spinnerella puts a smile on her face.
“I’m fine, darling,” she says. Her ankle was healed by She-Ra — the pain gone, fixed in a moment. “Go help the others.”
“No.” Netossa holds her so tight, Spinnerella feels her breath catch painfully in her chest. “I’m not leaving you.”
It’s easy to throw herself back into the Rebellion. To lose herself in the fight. In protecting Netossa. For every tornado Horde Prime made her throw at the Rebellion, she throws three at the Horde.
And then She-Ra destroys the Horde, and saves Etheria — remakes Etheria — and there’s nothing left to fight.
Spinnerella expects Netossa to get itchy for action. They’ve been fighting for so long, and with Etheria suddenly, wonderfully, unexpectedly at peace — but Netossa finds new things to fight for. She starts taking baking lessons with Entrapta’s former pastry chef, getting competitive over creating the perfect refreshments for game night (“and it’s not a vegetable platter, Spinny. People might actually come this time!”). She joins Adora and Bow and Catra and Glimmer for planning sessions for their trip out into the wider universe, to help bring magic back to the stars.
Spinnerella tries to find her own new interests, or to throw herself into pastry and planning alongside Netossa, but she’s distracted. She’s not sleeping well. Nightmares of vast starships, endless corridors and pools of green goo. She wakes up trembling, trying to stay still so she won’t wake Netossa.
And then there’s the flashes. The moments when she sees what Horde Prime would have shown her, with his terrible light.
The moments when she looks at Netossa and sees an enemy.
Spinnerella’s on the balcony outside her and Netossa’s quarters, on the chaise lounge, staring up at the Moonstone on its tower. It’s dusk, and the last rays of daylight are hitting the high cliffs on the other side of the river.
She used to love this view, back when she and Netossa first signed up as Rebellion fighters. Spinnerella’s kingdom fell long ago, a small casualty in a larger war, and bringing her last subjects safely to the refuge of Bright Moon was a victory. Bright Moon has been the only home she’s known since the first Princess Alliance.
But now these sights feel strange. There’s an overlay she can’t forget — the way Horde Prime would have seen this sight.
The way he hated it.
She sighs, and looks up at the stars, just coming out, stained in rainbow colors from the magic in Etheria’s atmosphere.
There’s a noise, and Spinnerella looks up as Catra leaps over from the hall window, landing lightly on the paving stones.
“Catra?” Spinnerella’s surprised. “Are you looking for Netossa?”
“I know what you’re going through,” Catra says.
Spinnerella stares at her, and then takes a deep breath. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Catra snorts. “Yeah, you do.” She steps closer, one eyebrow raised. “The nightmares? The flashes?” Her hand moves towards her neck, but she stops before touching it. “Most people got lucky, got the shut-down. They remember what happened. They remember what they did. But they didn’t get the full ride.”
She balances on the arm of the chair across from Spinnerella, poised like she wants to run. Like she’s making herself stay. “Me and you, our chips got damaged, and then Entrapta had to take them off. The way I figure it, we got a little something extra.”
Spinnerella’s breath catches in her throat.
“It’s not that bad,” she says. “Netossa’s helping me.”
Catra’s face stays impassive, but her tail twitches. “Yeah? Because I figure she’d have to know what you’re going through to do that.”
Spinnerella lets that wash over her. “How did you know I didn’t tell her?”
“We studied your weaknesses the same way she studied ours. If Netossa knew you were still having flashbacks, no way would she be leaving you alone.” Catra looks away. “Being with someone who wants to fix all your problems for you…. Sometimes it’s easier not to tell them. So if you want to talk to someone else who was there, I’m here. Or not. Whatever.”
Spinnerella looks away. “Have you told Adora?”
“Hah!” Catra’s tail lashes. “Didn’t have to. She was there for my spectacular melt-down aboard Darla.”
“I....” Spinnerella’s not sure what to say. She hates every flashback, every nightmare. But what might be worse is the guilt over not just snapping back. The chip is gone. After She-Ra’s healing, even her ankle is stronger than it’s been since she was a kid. Etheria has been healed, and so has Spinnerella. Everything should be perfect now.
But what’s really stopping her is the thought of Netossa’s face. Of causing her wife more pain.
“It’s none of my business,” Catra says, finally. She’s looking up at the Moonstone too. “But apparently this ‘friendship’ thing means getting involved in people’s lives or whatever, so... I think you should tell Netossa.”
Spinnerella has the nightmares catalogued by now. The ship nightmares, the green goo nightmares. The nightmares where she looks at her friends, at Netossa, and sees enemies.
The one she has that night is the worst one. It’s the one where she’s part of the Horde, and they win. The one where Prime makes Spinnerella chip Netossa, and it feels like victory.
She wakes up in a cold sweat, trembling all over.
Netossa’s voice, quiet in the darkness.
“I need to tell you something,” Spinnerella says, before she can talk herself out of it. “But I need you to just listen. I — I need you not to try to win this.”
“Anything,” Netossa says, and Spinnerella feels her wife pull her close. “Darling, you’re shaking.”
Spinnerella lets herself feel the warmth of Netossa’s arms around her stomach, Netossa’s body steady at her back. She’s safe here.
“It’s the chip,” she says, finally, her voice quiet. “I’m still having — effects.”
Netossa’s arms get tighter around her. “What kind of effects? We can drag Entrapta back from Dryl if we have to. I knew she didn’t take long enough —”
“It’s not Entrapta’s fault.” Spinnerella swallows. “It’s me. I’m still — seeing things.” She can feel the tension in Netossa’s body. “I’m still me, darling, I promise. But there’s nightmares, and sometimes — sometimes I get flashes.”
“It’s how Prime communicated with us,” Spinnerella says, miserable just thinking about it. “Overwhelming flashes from his point of view, overwriting everything in your own mind. When I was chipped —” She wraps her arms around Netossa’s. “Sometimes I’d wake up and be myself, and think I could get back to you. And then he’d just —” She breaks off. “I missed you so much, darling. So much.”
“I hate that he did this to you.” Netossa’s voice is a growl. “If She-Ra hadn’t already —”
She can feel the shift when Netossa puts the anger aside and holds her closer. Focusing on Spinnerella, not on the past.
“I’m here for you,” Netossa says. “Whatever you need. You’re my wife, Spinny. You’re my life.”
As Spinnerella says it, she realizes that this is why she hasn’t told Netossa. She hates the idea of being the chip in Netossa’s armor. The thing she can’t get past.
She feels Netossa’s lips on her neck, kissing the scar tissue left behind.
“My weakness,” Netossa agrees. “But you’re not just my weakness. You’re my greatest strength.”
“You promise?” Spinerella whispers.
“Promise.” Netossa hugs her closer, and Spinerella lets herself relax. She’s safe here, with Netossa, in the darkness. And they’ll get through whatever comes next. Together.