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the only hoax i believe in

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"What did you expect?" Catra spits, a grin stretching across her lips. She can feel the quiver in her eyebrows. "After all, us Etherians are so very emotional." 

She can't explain the laugh she feels in her stomach. She teeters in her binds. 

And then Catra is met with stone as cold as Prime's voice, the laughter stamped out. The rush of doing one good thing is only apparent as it slips away, leaving Catra with only herself. She purses her lips, in a refusal to start shrinking for monsters now .

Even as a sober panic runs through her. 

What are they going to do to her?

It's an eerily peaceful thought. Because she knows, doesn't she? She knew as she ran to Glimmer's room, and she is ready to accept it. Catra is sharply aware of the nature of her sacrifice; It's a repentful one, rather than heroic. 

And then she will be with Prime. In his garish, hollow light.

Four thick eyes blink down at Catra. She stares into the green, narrowing her own piercing eyes.

He really is ugly.

"Take her to the holding chamber," Horde delivers dryly.

"What?" Catra's voice hits her own ears, and she is dragged away. 

---

The room isn't nice like Glimmer's was.

Or maybe it is, enveloped in white. Catra sits on the smooth metal floor, tilts her head against the wall. She is exhausted. She wants her handcuffs off. She wants to lay flat across the floor and decompose into the ship - yet all she can do is sit, tall in skin and bones. She isn't made for the crevices of this ship. 

And she isn't made for good intentions, only self-destruction. So she sits tall, and she squeezes her eyes shut against the seed she planted the moment she turned toward Glimmer's room - still her heart sweeps in, steady waves turned to rain drops in acceleration. 

Now Catra knows, it was never herself that her heart beat for. 

It has always been Adora. 

Of course it has. Even Catra's own heart isn't hers, but Adora's. For all the plans Catra drew, every meticulous crawl up the ladder - she was still held in clumsy, overflowing hands. 

Catra should be furious. 

But instead she just feels sick. She doesn't allow herself to think the words, though she feels her kingdom coming undone. Every brick, replaced with Adora - as if she isn't the sand the bricks were made of in the first place. 

This is surrender. It is Catra allowing a hoax to settle over herself like a thin blanket.

And Catra can only think - finally. Adora won. Sitting in this blinding white dark, Catra fights the final battle of which the end has been foretold - she fights the battle alone. She doesn't even care. Adora was her one - is her one. She's been winning since the beginning. Not with her shining sword or army of magic, but with her tender smile and teasing laugh. It is laughter in corridors, a little reaching hand, that has broken Catra so raggedly. It is Adora’s eyes as they fought their war. It’s her faith held in a refusal to give up.  

Maybe there was a time Catra could have done it - could have found some good in herself, if only at the bottom of a lake. But Catra’s conviction for others, and the thrill she found in the world around her, died long ago. It’s somewhere in the walls of the towering, maze-like play structure that morphed into the Freight Zone as Catra grew; left in a place that is lost forever. Catra is bitterly aware of this fact, yet it took Adora forever to grasp it. And it’s the strongest weapon Adora fought with - holding that version of Catra so close, and then thinking she could play the hero with her.

Because Adora should have known it from the start. She should have seen it in the scar tissue forming as the Horde pulled Catra apart. Instead, Adora only seemed to know the Catra who blinked with wide eyes, who blushed and leaned into blonde hair or grinned and draped across broad shoulders. She never measured just how much the Horde took, didn’t realize that Catra was never left with enough of herself for conscience. 

“You know I’m not a hero now, don’t you?” Catra croaks aloud. Her words bounce off the four walls, echoing back into her. 

She doesn’t need to search for answers hidden in silence, though. She knows she’s persuaded Adora - knows she’s finally seen her for her truest, emptiest form - as revealed through chilling blue stares.

(That stare killed Catra. It pierced her bones, making her cower like a child in a world with no wonder. It made her feel small enough she could eat herself whole in one gulp - and then emerge, stronger than before though her bones now bare.)

And now Adora is destroying Catra all over again. From light years away, deep in space; this unfolding of emotions is the darkest thing Adora has ever done to her. 

Catra feels numb as she shifts her eyes to look at the dull screen of green light closing her in. She pictures the mindless clones walking across it in the hallway, and then she imagines the clones coming for her. She used to think she was ready for them - not anymore. Now, sitting in this barren land, Catra has something to lose. She has everything to lose. Adora isn’t hers - but this yearning for her breath and skin is, and this twisted longing to shed the skin that hurt Adora is. 

Adora’s beating heart and pink flushed cheeks are very tangible. Adora will never breathe the same air as Catra again, but she will be okay. From this distance, in this reality, that’s all Catra aches for - and the aching hurts. Catra doesn’t want to lose Adora. She doesn’t want to lose the saturated nostalgia constantly spinning through her mind or the assurance that Adora is out there somewhere, probably making a stupid decision. She doesn’t want to lose the sickening fear that comes with it all. 

It’s a good thing Adora now knows Catra’s worth. Even Adora’s impossibly golden blood would never come back for her, and so Catra won't lose the one thing she exists for.

Thin tears brush down Catra's cheeks, strikingly wet. Though Catra didn't think she had anything left in her to form tears, these ones are hand-crafted by Adora. It makes her want to cry for Adora forever; she only ever wants to feel hollowed out by her. She wants the weight of Adora’s absence to haunt her, and she wants Adora to break her heart a hundred times over.

Catra wouldn't wish the way Adora flits through her mind on anyone. Neither the pain of Prime's lime green pools, nor the peace of his light, could ever compare. So Catra's eyelids fall closed. She shivers into the wall, imagining the clones coming for her once more. 

And, as she grasps the distinct shade of sadness that is Adora - Catra resolves that she'll only go kicking and screaming.