Adora had been awake long before the sun came up
Her mind was awake and restless and the gears were spinning tirelessly. But she sought comfort and peace of mind within Catra.
Catra, whose arms were wrapped tightly around her waist, whose warm breath was tickling her neck, whose purring was rumbling softly like distant thunder and humming through her body like electricity.
Catra's presence, and the mundane, repetitive act of being running her fingers through her mane, were almost enough to steady Adora's restless mind.
That isn't to say Adora didn't almost bolt upwards when Catra's eyes slowly blinked open and she greeted Adora with a soft, sleepy grin.
"Mornin' princess," the low raspiness of her voice as she spoke made Adora's cheeks immediately flare-up, hot and pink.
"Morning..." she grumbled, looking away shyly, attempting to cool her cheeks with the backs of her hands.
Catra giggled and had a much-too-cocky smirk on her face, but thankfully said nothing on the matter of Adora's horrific blushing. So Adora busied herself with gathering breakfast before Catra could tease her mercilessly.
She could hear Catra laughing in the distance.
When she returned with armfuls of berries, she took a seat right beside Catra, no longer feeling any need to place some unnecessary formal distance between them. Catra responded in kind by whipping her tail over and resting it on Adora's thigh.
It was a small gesture, but it spoke loudly.
The two ate in silence, occasionally teasing each other by flicking a berry in the other's direction or squirting juice into their face between a fitful of giggles.
It felt simple and easy and normal.
It felt like things were way before, except there was a little something extra. Something special in the way they smiled at each other and how their stares lingered rather than darted away in embarrassment, in the careless touches that weren't always playful or rough, but soft and intimate.
It was everything Adora had ever wanted.
"So..." she was surprised when she heard Catra break the silence, "what is it that you want to do? About this....about us?"
Adora could hear the hesitancy in her voice as if she was afraid of the answer. She reached over and took her hand, squeezing it firmly.
"I want you to know...I'm not going anywhere without you, not again. Okay? It's you and me, it always has been and I've been such an idiot for not realizing that sooner. I'm willing to give up whatever I need to if it means I get to be with you....hell, I mean, I pretty much have already given up everything. The only thing I have to lose at this point is you, and I'm not losing you again."
There was a long moment of silence.
Catra just stared at her, and it drove Adora crazy that she could not read her mind in this moment, or garner any idea of what she was even thinking. But Catra's face was a blank page. Blank and unyielding.
Adora hadn't realized she had been holding her breath until she heard Catra sigh, and all the tightness in her chest uncoiled.
Catra shook her head softly, before looking at Adora with a sad smile, "You really always have been an idiot."
Adora wasn't quite sure how to interpret that, so she just smiled awkwardly.
But Catra pressed on, "We could stay here, I'm sure. If I told you I wanted to, you would. Or if I told you I wanted to run even farther away from all of this, you'd be running with me. But...Adora, you don't run away from things. I mean, okay, you did once. But I know you. I know you want to go back to Brightmoon, to be She-Ra, to help people. Because that's who you are. You put everyone before yourself so much that it's annoying. And right now you're putting me first...which I thought was all I wanted..."
Catra looked away for a moment, ears flattening. She looked sad and embarrassed and ashamed, which took Adora by surprise. But after a moment, she perked back up and took both of Adora's hands in her own.
"But I can't ask you to change who you are. Who would I be if I did? You're Adora, stupid, brilliant, beautiful Adora who I've been in love with since I was five years old. So...let's go back to Brightmoon. I promise that I'll be there with you this time"
Adora could only stare at Catra with overwhelming amounts of tears and love in her eyes, what Catra had said was true. Deep down, she did want to go back, she felt like she had abandoned her duties, duties she couldn't be bothered with when she was suffocated by grief. But now Catra was saying she would come with her. And that was all she had ever wanted from the start.
So she threw herself into Catra's arms and kissed her deeply. She really would never get tired of kissing her. Adora wasn't one to let herself want things, but she could think of two.
She wanted to save the world.
And she wanted to be kissing Catra for the rest of her life.
Returning to Brightmoon wasn't exactly smooth and uneventful.
A majority of the guards were convinced Catra was holding her hostage, despite the two of them literally walking hand and hand. And it took Adora way too long to convince them that Catra was no longer an enemy nor a threat, and Adora was not here as some kind of ransom.
And the whole time, anxiety gnawed at her, that all the ridiculing would set Catra off and she would run away again. But so far, Catra was still with her, albeit a bit grumpy at having the words "Horde scum" and "intruder" thrown in her face, but that was to be expected.
The pair were finally able to make it to Queen Angella's chambers, where Adora suddenly found herself frozen in front of the door. What if they didn't want her back? She had just up and left them after all...not exactly a good mark on one's hero resume.
Catra seemed to read her thoughts, and placed a hand on her shoulder.
"Hey, it's gonna be okay."
Adora turned to her and smiled before hesitantly knocking three times.
She heard that familiar, regal voice on the other side call "Enter"
Adora tentatively opened the door, Catra trailing behind her as they entered the room. Once Angella looked up her face brightened and she hurried towards Adora, wrapping her up in a tight hug,
"Oh Adora, thank Etheria you're safe, we were all so worried, are you hurt? are you-" Angella stopped herself short as her eyes fell upon Catra.
She gently let go of Adora and looked at her pointedly, "Adora, what is the force captain of the Horde doing in Brightmoon?" her voice held a coldness that made Adora shiver and want to curl up in a ball and hide.
But she straightened up and took Catra's hand, encouraging her to step up beside her.
"Former force captain," Adora said, "Catra no longer has any ties with the Horde, I can absolutely assure you. And I'm here to ask if...if she can stay here with us."
Angella raised an eyebrow skeptically, "Now, why exactly do you think that would be a good idea?"
Adora took a breath, she hated confrontation, especially with authority. But this was important.
"Because, Catra has made mistakes, but they are mistakes she is willing to make up for. Not to mention she is incredibly smart and can hold her own in battle, and probably has the best inside knowledge of the Horde out of any of us. But...more importantly..." Adora faltered for a moment as Catra squeezed her hand tightly.
She cleared her throat, "She...Catra is my best friend, so much more than that actually. I know this past year wouldn't exactly show that but, she's everything to me. And the fact of the matter is...if Catra isn't wanted here, then I have no interest in being here either..."
Angella stared down at her.
"Uh, Your Majesty..." Adora added on hastily.
The Queen stared down at the nervous pair for a long moment, so long Adora was afraid that this really was it, she wasn't gonna accept her terms and she and Catra would be left on her own.
"Alright," Angella spoke, "She can stay here, but understand that she will be under watchful eyes until she proves her loyalty."
Adora smiled, nodding giddily, "Yes, of course, ma'am. Thank you so much!"
Angella smiled back, "It's good to have you back, Adora."
Introducing Catra as a friend and ally to everyone else went significantly smoother, way smoother than Adora could've ever expected.
Glimmer and Bow just seemed so happy to see Adora, they probably would've accepted Hordak himself had it meant Adora came back safe and sound. And they seemed to have a new understanding of the pair's relationship after everything that had happened.
The rest of the Princess Alliance was a bit skeptical, but nobody was going to question Adora. And Adora was very much okay with that.
So that just left the two of them, sitting by the windowsill in Adora's room, soaking up the sun.
"It's just so...pink! And why is there a waterfall??"
Adora couldn't help but laugh at Catra's incredulity that very much mirrored her own when she first arrived.
"Trust me, you'll get used to it"
Catra crossed her arms grumpily, "Whatever, this isn't because I like you or anything."
Ah, there was that classic one-liner.
Adora smirked and poked at her, "I know, it's because you loooooove me," she teased.
Catra blushed furiously, "Shut up!!!!"
Adora giggled, poking at her some more, "Catra's in loooooveeee," she drawled.
"Am not!!! Take it back!!!" Catra threw herself at Adora, and the two found themselves wrestling on the floor, as was common in their youthful days in the Horde. But this time there was no Shadow Weaver to berate them, or any repressed anger or regret, no fear. Just pure joy and playfulness.
When the two ran out of breath, they laid staring at each other, entranced.
"I love you..." Catra said softly.
Adora smiled, "I love you too."
They could've laid like that for hours. They had all the time in the world now.