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The Price I Paid for Loving You

Chapter Text

Infecting She-Ra was one of the greatest things Catra had ever managed to accomplish.

She had to bite her lip to suppress the laughter that bubbled up in the back of her throat as she watched Adora swing furiously at her friends, who all looked on the verge of pissing themselves. They knew she outweighed them in terms of strength and magic. And of course, they didn't want to risk hurting their oh-so-precious hero.

And Catra could only watch in heightened amusement as Adora struck the ground with a fierce blow, causing the icy rocks around the trio of idiots to crack apart and crumble, cascading them all down into oblivion. She so wished she had a camera on her right now.

She had to admit, she had been terrified for a moment that her plan had backfired. That she was going to be completely at the mercy of her own weapon. Well, Entrapta's weapon. She had worried that telling Scorpia and Entrapta to stay behind was a huge mistake.

But this seemed to be working perfectly in her favor.

Catra let out a laugh, "This is the greatest thing that's ever happened!"

She spoke too soon it seemed.

Upon hearing her voice, Adora rounded on her, and Catra barely had time to jump out of the way as she swung her sword downwards. When her sword only struck solid ice, Adora just rushed towards Catra again and continued to swing and swing, unfazed and not showing even the slightest hint of exhaustion.

Catra managed to duck and dodge the swinging sword easily enough, though it certainly was a test of her reflexes. She had to admit, this was kinda fun, it felt like she was being faced with a real challenge. She could feel real adrenaline buzzing in her veins now, blocking out the sting of cold and wind.

When Adora did manage to land a blow with her fist, Catra ignored the sharp ache in her jaw and retaliated quickly by throwing snow into her eyes, hoping to disarm her for at least a moment.

Every second counted in battle after all.

Catra hoped to utilize those seconds and jump away again, put more distance between the two of them, but she had underestimated her opponent's newfound strength and recovery time, and could only yelp in surprise as she felt a hand seize her ankle with a fierce grip and slam her into the ground.

Okay, that hurt.

Adora had never been so merciless in her attacks. Despite what Catra's thoughts often told her, she knew Adora still cared for her at least a little, enough to never unleash the full extent of her power on her, enough that it was a weak spot. One Catra often stuck her fingers in and twisted.

It was only just moments earlier that Adora had held her at sword point with a stern look and a command not to move, and Catra had only spat that she didn't have the guts to do anything. She hadn't felt a single ounce of fear then.

The same could not be said now.

When Adora rounded on her this time, Catra realized how badly she had fucked up. This wasn't Adora. The Adora she knew would be angry, sure, but her eyes always betrayed her. Her eyes, even when narrowed in contempt or focus, always held mercy and forgiveness and tenderness, all of which Catra despised. At least that's what she told herself.

These eyes were blood-red and full of unbridled, uncontrollable rage.

The monster drew closer, raising her sword with a virus-ridden arm and a cruel, malicious smile while Catra could only crawl back helplessly, with nowhere to go and no one to help her.

"Adora, wait!" she cried out. She was desperate now for the old Adora to surface, the one she always called weak.

She wouldn't actually kill her, right?

But the monster Catra created only laughed maniacally, a sound so purely evil, so unlike Adora that Catra's blood ran cold.

She was gonna die.

Adora was gonna kill her, and she was gonna laugh while doing it.

There was no mercy to be shown this time.

All Catra could do was close her eyes and wait.

Chapter Text

Adora felt like she had just been hit by a train.

Her body ached in ways that were unfamiliar and her head throbbed dully, making the simple act of opening her eyes quite difficult.

As she looked around, she registered two things of vital importance

First, she was in her room back in Brightmoon. Second, she had absolutely no clue what had happened or how she ended up back here.

Adora did not like that at all.

She sat up, clenched her eyes shut, and racked her brain for the pieces that eluded her. She remembered...the Northern Reach, and Catra. Yeah, Catra was definitely there. She had transformed into She-Ra and gone after her. She had her at sword point.

That was all she could remember. Everything else was a complete blank.

Why couldn't she remember?

The pain in Adora's head sharpened and she relented, slumping back against her pillows. She put a hand to her head, never had she felt so miserable before. Usually, She-Ra's healing abilities left her fairly unscathed after a battle, just tired and in need of a day's rest.

But this was something else.

Adora's attention was then turned to the sound of the door opening. Glimmer and Bow walked in with small, shy smiles. They both looked as miserable as she felt, Glimmer's skin was painted with bruises and Bow favored his left leg as he walked.

"Hey Adora," Bow greeted. He kept his voice quiet and soft, which Adora was immensely grateful for.

"Hey guys," she gave a weak smile, comforted by the presence of her two best friends.

Glimmer perched herself on the edge of Adora's bed. She was still smiling, but her eyes looked tired and sad. Adora began to feel uneasy.

"How are you feeling?" Glimmer asked.

"Weird...I hurt all over, and my head's killing me"

Her friends nodded sympathetically. The silence that followed was tense and lasted only a moment before Adora couldn't take it anymore.

"What happened? How did we get back here?"

The duo seemed to expect these questions, exchanging a glance.

"Adora, how much do you remember?" Bow asked.

"I remember being in the Northern Reach. I remember transforming and going after Catra. But...that's it. Did something bad happen?"

Glimmer bit her lip, and anxiety began to gnaw at Adora's insides, she couldn't stand not having any memory of what happened, or what she had done.

After a moment, Glimmer spoke up, "You did go after Catra. When we managed to catch up, Catra had attached Entrapta's disc to your sword. It had infected you before but...you were different, your eyes turned red and you didn't seem to have any control over what you did. You were like a...."

Glimmer paused nervously, searching for the right word.

Adora finished the sentence in her head. Monster.

"...Like a totally different person...Anyways, the ground underneath us had collapsed, so we had to climb back up. When we finally got out, you were lying unconscious in the snow. Thankfully you seemed okay and we were able to escape without any further issue"

Adora nodded, the pieces now fitting together. She was immensely grateful she hadn't hurt anyone in her infected state, even if it was out of her control, it would've killed her to know she had been the cause of her friends' injuries and suffering. But there was still one piece missing.

"What happened to Catra?"

She didn't expect her question to be met with such deafening silence, that was an immediate cause for concern. Sure, Catra was her enemy but it wasn't that strange for her to want to know how the fallout ended? Was it?

She watched as Glimmer and Bow nervously exchanged glances again. There was something they weren't telling her.

She repeated her question more insistently, "Glimmer. What happened. To Catra?"

Glimmer hung her head, sighing heavily. She knew there was no way around the truth, as desperately as she had wanted to hide it. Her and Bow had argued tirelessly over whether or not they should make up a lie for Adora's sake. But even while she argued, Glimmer knew Adora would find out whether or not she heard it from them.

"When we found you, Catra was also lying in the snow a few feet away. But...she was bleeding, a lot. Scorpia and Entrapta found her right as we found you, and...Scorpia was crying. She had picked her up and was screaming that they had to get her inside. But we heard Entrapta saying there was nothing they could do..."

Adora's ears were ringing. She felt the jack-rabbit beating of her heart all throughout her body. Her hands and fingers began to tingle and go numb. She might've been shaking, she couldn't tell anymore. Everything felt disconnected, even Glimmer, who was only a foot or two away, seemed to be on another planet entirely.

She could hardly hear herself speak, "What is it you are telling me?"

"Catra's dead, Adora. I'm so sorry"

Chapter Text

Adora wandered through the depths of the Fright Zone. She was a small girl to start with, but in the halls, which were lined with metal and notoriously crowded with shadow, she felt even smaller.

 

She wished Catra would come out of hiding, she hated wandering around here by herself. Every creak of shifting metal made the hair on the back of her neck stand stiff, and she at least wanted a hand to hold.

 

Plus, Catra could always make her laugh.

 

She called out her name several times, small whispers that echoed but were met with no response.

 

Adora sighed, gripping the sleeve of her shirt out of nervous habit. Her absence could only go unnoticed for so long, and if she couldn't find Catra, they both would be in for a world of trouble.

 

Then she heard a noise. It was quiet and muffled, but it was there.

 

Adora broke into a run, moving as fast as her little legs could carry her, the pounding of her footsteps trailing right behind her. As the noise grew louder and more distinct, she caught sight of Catra, curled into a tight ball behind a pile of abandoned boxes.

 

She was crying, and her tail was puffed out, something which Adora noted only happened when she was especially scared or upset.

 

"Catra?" she called.

 

Catra's head bolted up, ears flattened. Her first instinct was to hiss and wield her claws, but upon seeing Adora, her features relaxed and she let down her guard.

 

She wiped her eyes, "What are you doing here?" she grumbled.

 

Adora took a seat beside her, enough to leave some distance between the two of them, but only a little.

 

"Looking for you, silly." she offered a small grin.

 

When Catra didn't respond, Adora tentatively pressed on,

 

"What happened?"

 

Catra snorted, wiping this time at her tear-stained cheeks, "Shadow Weaver went on her daily rampage about how I'm a disappointment and a bad influence. Nothing new."

 

Adora's brow furrowed, she didn't understand what about Catra was so disappointing to Shadow Weaver. She was incredibly smart and quick on her feet, and she could always hold her own in a fight.

 

Adora never felt like she earned the endless praise that Shadow Weaver gave her. She thought Catra deserved it so much more.

 

But this thought she kept to herself, she knew Catra would fiercely argue against it, and if anything she would spiral further downwards.

 

So instead, she slowly reached her hand out towards Catra's, relieved when she didn't flinch or pull away at her touch.

 

"I love you, you know." the words felt clunky and foreign on Adora's tongue. She had never used them before and had only heard them exchanged in secret between older cadets. Cadets who seemed to be close, like how she and Catra were close.

 

Feelings confused Adora more often than not, and those were feelings she already knew about. She hadn't had a name for the feeling she felt in her chest when she was with Catra, it was like happiness...but more.

 

So, after a lot of thought, a lot a lot a lot of thought, she was pretty confident that she loved Catra.

 

Still, she couldn't help the wave of fresh terror that washed over her when those words were left hanging in the air between them. Catra just stared at her, wide-eyed, with an expression she couldn't name.

 

But her wide-eyed stare softened into a smile, a real one. And Adora couldn't have been more relieved when Catra scooted over and closed the distance between them, settling her head into the crook of her neck, purring softly.

 

"I love you too."

 

***

 

Adora's world was crumbling around her.

 

She was only vaguely aware of the fact that she was on the floor now, and that someone's hand was on her back. She slapped it away.

 

She didn't want anyone to touch her.

 

Glimmer's words were ringing in her head, over and over.

 

Catra's dead. Catra's dead. Catra's dead

 

It was her fault. She had killed her. She was the reason she was dead. She shouldn't have gone after her, she shouldn't have fought her, she shouldn't ever have left the Fright Zone.

 

Catra was right.

 

She never should've left. If she hadn't left, if she had just stayed, they would be together. And Catra would be alive, and she would be okay. Sure, they'd be dealing with Shadow Weaver, but they would at least have each other, that was how it was always supposed to be.

 

Adora couldn't take a proper breath, her throat was closing, and her lungs were burning and shrinking inside her chest. She could hear voices shouting her name, but they were miles away. All she heard was the voice inside her head, chanting.

 

She's dead. It's your fault. She's dead. It's your fault.

 

Why had she left Catra? Why had she left? She couldn't remember now. All she knew was that she had spent the last year fighting her own best friend.

 

And now she was dead.

 

And for what?

 

She needed to get out of here, now.

 

As soon as Adora stood up, her legs felt ready to give out beneath her, her whole body was tingly and numb. But she forced herself to move, to run. She ignored the several voices that called out to her as she ran. She ignored her own body's desperate pleas for her to stop, to catch her breath. She ignored the impossibly tiny voice in her head that told her she was being irrational, and that she needed to calm down before she made any rash decisions.

 

She just ran.

 

She ran and ran and ran, as fast as her body would physically allow her to.

 

She ran until the castle was out of sight.

 

She ran in a desperate attempt to leave Catra's death in her trail.

Chapter Text

Scorpia liked to consider herself to be a rather calm individual. Sure, she was excitable, but she liked to think she could keep a level head in a crisis.

 

But right now, she was the furthest possible thing from calm and level-headed. She anxiously paced back and forth across the room, to the point that even Entrapta's attention was diverted towards her.  

 

"Uh, Scorpia. I'm not sure if you're aware, but your constant pacing is not going to affect Catra's state in any way, positive nor negative"

 

Scorpia stilled for a moment to look at her eccentric, pink-haired friend. Normally, matters involving people did not interest Entrapta very much, they made her more nervous than anything so she preferred to stick to her tech. But Scorpia could see true sadness and remorse in her expression, as if she was truly sorry she had to deliver such a statement.

 

She sighed heavily, "I know...I just, I really just want her to wake up."

 

At this, Entrapta just nodded solemnly, then offered a weak smile, "Hordak and Shadow Weaver know what they're doing. Technology has come a long way after all. If anyone could've saved Catra, it would be them."

 

Scorpia nodded, she had been skeptical about approaching the pair for help, both characters made her extremely uneasy, and she knew that Catra had an especially complicated relationship with Shadow Weaver. But the fact was, she was good with magic, and Hordak was good at...well, whatever Hordak did. And she was desperate.

 

It had been going on two days since she found Catra, and Scorpia had not slept a wink since then. Every time she closed her eyes the moment of when she found her played through her head of her like a broken movie reel.

 

She had been nervous from the get-go when Catra told her to stay behind.

 

"If there's anyone who can handle 'She-Ra', it's me," she had said, letting the name slide off her tongue in a mocking, playful manner, as if She-Ra wasn't a literal princess with borderline invincibility.

 

"If you say so, Wildcat..." was all she could say in response.

 

But when nearly an hour had passed, and there was no sign of Catra, Scorpia took it upon herself to go out and look for her, dragging Entrapta along with her. It had taken them all of ten minutes, trudging their way through the snow and chilling wind, before they caught sight of two bodies in the snow.

 

The first she recognized as Adora and a pang of guilt ran through her. Should she rescue her? Leave her there? Thankfully she was spared from making such a decision when she saw Glimmer, Bow, and Sea Hawk run towards her unconscious body.

 

The second body, however, ripped a scream right out of her throat. Catra was lying face up, eyes closed, and one hand over a massive, gaping wound across her stomach. Blood was still leaking from the wound, like a slow and steady river.

 

"Catra!! Oh God, Oh God!!" Tears sprung to her eyes in a record-breaking time, she should've never let Catra go out there alone. She should've just disobeyed orders and gone after her.

 

She was such a fucking idiot.

 

She quickly threw off her coat, which was two times Catra's size, and wrapped it around her torso in a sad attempt at a tourniquet. And despite her panic, she made sure to handle Catra's nearly-frozen body with great care. She seemed to still be breathing, but it was uneven and ragged. The snow around where her body had been was bright pink.

 

"We gotta get her inside!!!" she screamed. She turned to Entrapta, who was looking at her sadly.

 

"Scorpia...I don't know if anything can be done..." she said, her voice was the quietest she had ever heard it.

 

"I don't care!!! We have to try!!!" and she took off before Entrapta could try to argue any further.

 

Despite being their prisoner, Shadow Weaver was the first they turned to. She had chewed them out viciously for their supposed 'laziness and carelessness', and though Scorpia was scared out of her wits, she couldn't help but notice that it was the first time she had ever seen or even heard of Shadow Weaver showing some resemblance of care towards Catra.

 

"And anyway, even if I wanted to help you, I can't." she spat these words at them, but she seemed remorseful.

 

"Without my connection to the Black Garnet, my powers are nearly useless," she admitted.

 

Scorpia had been ready to breakdown and cry again at this point. The idea of losing Catra forever did not sit well with her at all. It made her feel like her heart would break in two.

 

"But..." Shadow Weaver spoke up, "If you can get Hordak to get off his high horse, just for a moment, we might be able to find a solution"

 

And though it took a lot of convincing, most of it coming from Entrapta, Hordak relented and agreed to work with Shadow Weaver.

 

"Just this once," he had growled. He did, after all, view Catra as a useful asset.

 

Scorpia had no idea what they had done, but when they came back several hours later, they assured her and Entrapta, that Catra would be okay, and would wake up in time.

 

"In time", however, was far too vague for Scorpia's liking. So she didn't sleep, and all she could do was pace.

 

That was until Hordak stepped into the room. There was no expression on his face as he approached the duo and spoke,

 

"She's awake."

 

Scorpia bolted out of the room before Hordak had even fully finished speaking. She knew rationally that Catra would not want to be bombarded by her, and would likely want space, but sue her if she wanted to see her best friend after finding her in a state of near-death.

 

So she was surprised when she entered Catra's room, and she actually smiled at her.

 

"Hey Scorpia," her voice was low and weak and lacked her usual snark. But she was Catra all the same.

 

Scorpia frowned, suddenly feeling a hot flash of anger run through her. "Don't you 'Hey Scorpia' me. You almost died. I had to carry your bloody body back inside. Do you know how much that sucked?"

 

"Scorpia I–"

 

"A lot. It sucked a lot. You and your 'I can handle 'She-Ra' bullshit. I'm not letting you pull anything like that again."

 

For a moment, Catra just stared at her in silence, and Scorpia almost immediately wanted to apologize for being so harsh.

 

But then she heard Catra start giggling, and she raised an eyebrow in question.


"What?"

 

"That was a terrible impression of me," Catra laughed.

 

Scorpia couldn't help but laugh along, reaching a pincer out towards her friend. She was a little mean at times, sometimes downright cruel. And she was an idiot, an absolute idiot. But Scorpia loved her all the same.

 

"It's good to have you back Wildcat"

 

Chapter Text

Catra loathed the guilt that slowly chewed away at her. She'd told herself over and over that she did not owe The Horde anything.

 

She did not owe anyone anything.

 

Except...that wasn't entirely true. She owed Scorpia at least. She definitely would've been a frozen carcass in the snow if she hadn't gone out looking for her.

 

She at least owed her a goodbye.

 

Catra groaned, aggressively shoving the last of her supplies into her pack. She didn't have time for goodbyes. Not real ones at least. She had been itching to get out of there since the day she woke up, and she already had wasted enough time being confined to her bed for the three days following her waking.

 

Plus, she could hear Scorpia's voice in her head, asking, "Why do you want to leave? The Horde needs you. I need you." she'd say something along the lines of that, then she'd give her those puppy dog eyes and Catra wouldn't have to heart to leave.

 

But she needed to.

 

She couldn't explain to anyone why. She had been trying to find the answer herself for the last few days, but any logic behind her feelings eluded her.

 

There was just...a feeling.

 

Maybe that's just what happens when you attempt to corrupt your former best friend to use as a weapon against her own army, but then it goes horribly wrong and she ends up almost killing you instead.

 

Catra ran her hand along her stomach, where there was now a sizable scar, a long strip of white along her bronze skin. She couldn't pretend she hadn't been thinking about Adora almost every moment she'd been conscious to do so.

 

Is this what she had been doing to her?

 

Catra had an especially distinct memory of digging her claws into Adora's back and scratching down, down, downwards, taking delight in how she cried out and bled beneath her hands. She wondered if she had left scars

 

It made Catra feel powerful, the fact that she could reduce Adora to blood and tears and misery. It meant she had control. It meant she had the upper-hand. She had never truly cared whether she won or lost, it was all about seeing what she could turn Adora into, how far she could push her. It was never about The Horde versus The Rebellion.

 

It was about her versus Adora.

 

And that was why Catra had very few qualms about leaving.

 

That night in the Northern Reach, that enraged look in Adora's red eyes, the malice in her smile as her sword struck her skin.

 

Catra had never quite felt fear like that. Real, paralyzing, all-consuming fear. 

 

Somehow she always knew, no matter how much she pushed and shoved and taunted, she was safe with Adora. That was why she loved fighting her. Because she could push all she wanted, take all the power she wanted, and remain in this safe little bubble where Adora might bruise and batter her, but never truly hurt her.

 

Catra hadn't spared Adora that same kindness. She was angry and hurt, so she wanted to hurt Adora just to prove that she could.

 

She understood now. And where she had once felt pride, she now felt only shame.

 

She needed to get away. From the Horde, from the Rebellion, from Adora. She needed to figure herself out before she could ever return to any of this. And maybe not even then. She only stayed with the Horde because she had Adora, and when she left, she stayed so she could beat Adora.

 

Catra didn't feel like fighting anymore.

 

So what was the point in staying?

 

She gnawed at her bottom lip as she stared at her now-vacated room. There was still one more thing she had to do.

 

Hastily grabbing a pen and paper, she scrawled out a note. Then she skulked through the corridors and placed the note on Scorpia's desk, before disappearing into the shadows.

 

"You were always a good friend. I'm okay. Thank you"

Chapter Text

Looking back on it, Adora knew she should've planned more thoroughly. Well...she should've just planned, period.

 

Panic does funny things to a person though.

 

Plus, growing up in the Horde meant that she was rather self-sufficient. She knew how to survive on her own. How to fight, how to stay on guard.

 

Though...she wasn't really alone during that time.

 

No. Adora shook her head. No thinking about Catra. It just made her collapse into a worthless pile of tears, and she couldn't afford to keep exhausting herself like that.

 

Adora had found herself in the Whispering Woods. She hadn't been running with any destination in mind. She didn't have anywhere to go, after all. But once her body had completely given out from exhaustion, she was lucky enough to find that she recognized her surroundings. And it was a space that had water and food, and was decently sheltered from the elements, and the enemies.

 

So Adora decided to stay, at least until her fate took another somewhere else.

 

Fate...fate was a funny thing. Her fate was to be She-Ra, wasn't it? What was her purpose in life if she couldn't be of use to other people? Where did her self-worth come from?

 

Adora pinched the bridge of her nose, she had too much time to think these days. She had always been a restless individual, even as a child. Because once her body slowed down, her mind sped up, and it was oftentimes overwhelming.

 

That was how she felt now, overwhelmed. And lost. Completely and utterly lost.

 

She rose from where she had been sitting, at the base of a tall tree, and began to pace around the small clearing she had set up camp in. She needed to move at least, release some of the restless energy from her body. Because right now she felt like a string wound so tight it could snap.

 

A large branch caught her eye, buried in a heap of bushes and weeds. It gave her an idea.

 

Sure, she wasn't actively training for anything, but that didn't mean she couldn't practice a little, right? Plus, Adora was the most relaxed she ever got when she could put her body and mind to use.

 

She picked up the branch, it was a little taller than her and quite thin, but not so thin it looked to be at risk of snapping. She measured its strength by attempting to bend it and was satisfied when her hands were met with quite a bit of resistance. This would do.

 

She walked back over to the tree she had been resting under and gripped the branch like it was a staff. She inhaled deeply, fixing her gaze intently on the trunk. Then she charged forward and swung. The backlash made her hands sting, but the branch held steady, so she continued to swing. She rolled and dodged and struck around the tree as if she were fighting another person.

 

Adora couldn't help but think about the sparring matches she and Catra used to have back in the Horde. It was almost like muscle memory, how her body was moving, how the branch in her hands struck the tree. She tried to block it out, to wipe her mind clear of any thoughts that deferred from her current technique.


But Catra's face, as a young and wily teenager, was in her head. Her hair was a lot more untamed back then, and she had taken so much pride in being half an inch taller than Adora. And there was that cocky look on Catra's face as she pressed her index finger to her forehead, almost like she was telling her a secret only the two of them were in on.

 

It didn't matter which of them won the round, they would end up tackling each other anyways, and Adora could remember the heat that rose to her cheeks every time Catra's body was flush against hers like that. But they would both burst out laughing before she could think too much of it.

 

"Shut up!!!!!" Adora wasn't yelling at anyone except herself. She wanted her mind to stop tormenting her with all these memories and feelings. Catra was dead.

 

The resurgence of that thought brought up every ounce of anger Adora had ever felt in her life. Her face was so hot it felt like it was burning like a star. She started slamming her branch-made-staff into the tree as hard as she could. There was no technique involved anymore, there was only fury.

 

"She's dead!!! Why can't you just accept that!!!" Each word came out in breathless shouts between blows. She was screaming at this point, once again, to nobody but herself, and the tree she was unleashing her rage on. It only took a handful of these blows before the branch snapped in two, and all Adora could do was cry.

 

She told herself she was done crying. That she would accept this and move on. Light Hope had told her at one point that she needed to let go. She had to.

 

But she couldn't.

 

Catra had a vice grip on her, she always had. She probably always would.

 

So Adora could only resign herself to sobbing until she gave out from exhaustion. At least when that happened, there would be no thoughts or memories to plague her. She could disappear from her horrifying reality.

 

As she curled into a tight ball at the base of the tree, her tears slowed enough for her to whisper,

 

"She's dead. She's dead...and it's all your fault"

Chapter Text

Adora had always been a light sleeper.

 

Sleep never came to her easily, unless she had worn her body out well past the point of exhaustion. If she didn't fall asleep the instant her head hit the pillow, it would take her well over an hour until she was finally able to doze off. And even then, she was extremely restless. She did what Catra had liked to call 'sleep fighting', throwing fists and kicks at imaginary enemies, yelling for the imaginary people around her to take cover.

 

So yeah, sleep wasn't really Adora's friend.

 

And in the last week, it had become her mortal enemy. The only times she managed to succumb to sleep was after a particularly long crying fit that left her head pounding and eyes wet and heavy or a grueling day of using and pushing her body until she physically couldn't hold herself up any longer. Both happened often enough for her to get at least a few hours of peace throughout the day.

 

Sometimes she fell asleep with no memory of doing so or no concept of how much time had passed.  

 

Somewhere in the back of her mind, Adora knew this was not a very healthy way to live. In fact, this was probably the most self-destructive she had ever been. But Adora couldn't be bothered to care anymore, not about herself.

 

Usually, Adora woke with the sun, when the first few rays filtered through the trees and caressed her face. But today, she was stirred by voices.

 

Familiar voices.

 

Adora's eyes shot open. Fear and adrenaline coursed through her veins and she was quick to scramble up the nearest climbable tree. She knew exactly who the voices belonged to, and she wanted to remain far out of their sight.

 

Once she had reached a height she knew would keep her well-hidden, Adora cautiously peeked through the leaves camouflaging her.

 

Bow and Glimmer were down below, walking right into the clearing Adora had been calling home for the last week.

 

"Can we rest for a bit? This looks like a nice spot" Glimmer asked.

 

"Sure, we have been looking for a while," Bow replied.

 

Adora bit her lip. Shit.

 

She had no idea how long she was going to have to stay up there now.

 

She heard Glimmer sigh, "Bow, it's been over a week, and we've heard nothing from her. She could be dead for all we know!"

 

"Don't talk like that. Adora's not dead. She just...needs some space. Finding out your life-long best friend is dead isn't exactly an easy piece of news to handle"

 

"Catra wasn't her friend though! At least not while we've known her. Look at everything she's done to Adora, to us! No friend would ever do that. No decent person would ever do that!" Glimmer's voice had raised to a near-shout.

 

"Glimmer," Bow's tone was stern but still gentle, "You have to remember. They didn't grow up the same way we did. They grew up in the Horde. They were trained, since birth practically, to be soldiers. To be cold and unmerciful"

 

"Adora's not like that though...she's never been like that. She's always been kind, and awkward, and goofy, and funny..." Glimmer had to force the words through her throat, which was growing uncomfortably tight from holding back sobs.

 

"I know...and I think the only reason Adora is the way she is, is because she had a friend in that place, she had Catra. All they had was each other back then. I think their friendship goes deeper than either of us could ever understand. I don't think Catra is...or, was a bad person–" Bow's voice cracked as he choked on his words.

 

He cleared his throat briskly and continued, "Adora made a difficult decision. She chose to leave when she saw what the Horde truly was. But I don't think Catra ever fully understood that, I think she always saw it as Adora choosing to leave her behind. And Adora was all she had...that certainly doesn't excuse all the terrible things she's done...but I don't necessarily blame her for reacting the way she did."

 

"You don't?" Glimmer asked.

 

Bow shook his head, "No. Being in her shoes...I don't know what I would've done in a situation like that. But the important thing right now is that we support Adora. And if that means giving her space to grieve...then that's what we have to do."

 

Glimmer sighed heavily, "Yeah...I suppose you're right. I just hope she's safe."

 

Adora watched from above as Bow pulled Glimmer into his arms. Her heart ached, and tears were streaming down her face. A part of her was yearning to climb down and collapse into their arms, to tell them how miserable she was, how every day was growing more and more agonizing to live through.

 

But Bow had hit the nail right on the head when he was talking about her and Catra. All they had was each other. And Adora knew very well that would've become an entirely different person in the Horde, under Shadow Weaver's unnervingly attentive eye, if she hadn't had Catra.

 

Because Catra made her took breaks when she was pushing herself too hard, aiming for a perfect standard she could never quite reach. And she snuck her grey ration bars because those were her favorite. And she always held Adora when everything became too much and she couldn't breathe and couldn't stop crying. And she never judged her for breaking down.


Well...at least she used to do all those things.

 

Adora went and turned Catra into the person she herself would've become without her. She left her and never looked back.

 

And that was why she only watched as Bow and Glimmer stood and made their way back. She didn't deserve their friendship and kindness. She didn't deserve the comfort of being loved. She knew that now. Deep down, she'd known all along.

 

So all she could do was cry, and loathe the fact that the fall from the branch she sat on would not be enough to kill her.

Chapter Text

Catra was running, and she wasn't sure why.

 

She didn't remember when or how she started running, or what she was running towards. Or what she was running from.

 

But then, a moment later, she heard a voice calling out her name.

 

"Catra!!"

 

It was not a call of distress, however. The syllables were bubbling with laughter, they sounded breathless and happy.

 

Happy.

 

This was the first time in a long time Catra could recall her name being said in such a way. Not the preface of disappointment, not a desperate plea, not hissed through grit teeth with contempt or anger.

 

Happy.

 

A moment later, Catra realized why she was running. Adora was right on her tail, chasing after her. But Catra could tell by the wide, dorky smile that she was wearing, this was not a malicious cat-and-mouse game, but rather just the childish antics of close friends.


Best friends.

 

Catra had a brief opportunity while she was running to take in her surroundings. She was running through a field of wild grass, with dewdrops that shimmered in the light like diamonds. It was not a place she recognized, but it seemed to stretch on for miles. Maybe she would just keep running for eternity.

 

But Adora had always been just a little bit faster, and she was able to successfully catch up to Catra and tackle her to the ground.

 

Catra hit the ground softly with a yelp, with Adora right on top of her. The impact knocked the breath out of her a little, but Catra found herself unable to stop laughing. Adora was laughing too, whether it was with her or at her, she didn't care.

 

"Told you I'd get you," Adora said, with a cocked eyebrow and a crooked twist of her lips.

 

"Yeah? Well, you got me, now what?" Catra asked, mirroring Adora's smirk with one of her own. It was a challenge, a dare.

 

For a moment Adora just stared at her, with a light in her eyes, they looked so very blue, and a tenderness in her expression that made Catra's heart nearly stopped. She was just now becoming aware of how close they were. Their bodies were tangled together, and Adora's face was a breath away from hers.

 

It seemed to be coming closer.


Closer. And closer still.

 

*** 

 

Catra awoke with a start and a racing heart.

 

For a moment, she struggled to remember where she was, and out of habit, she turned to look for Adora. It was a habit she had yet to fully break, even though it had been a long time since Adora had left. She still always looked for her in moments of doubt.

 

She hated herself for it.

 

She rubbed her eyes and attempted to shake Adora from her mind's eye. She hated that she still could still see her stupid smiling face, and feel her body on top of her, and smell that scent was uniquely hers. But reality was at least coming back to her now, leaving the Horde, not even really knowing where to go.

 

But she couldn't deny that a part of her was wandering around, hoping to maybe stumble upon Brightmoon, upon Adora.

 

It was crazy and stupid, because even if she did find Adora, what the hell would she say? "Hey Adora I know I've essentially been trying to kill you for the last year but now I know how it feels and it feels bad so sorry about that"

 

If there was one thing Catra was good at, it was being alone. So what was wrong with spending the rest of her life alone?

 

If she was alone, nobody could run away from her ever again.

 

So she picked herself up, packed up her things, and looked towards the woods that stood on the horizon. She took a deep breath and readied herself for another day of traveling with no destination.

Chapter Text

Adora slept longer and longer as the days passed. She wasn't even sure what day it was anymore, days and nights all muddled into each other, and time passed like a hazy, indistinguishable blur.

 

If she was being honest with herself, she had all but given up. Her mind and body had rivaled against her and dropped into an almost constant state of complete exhaustion. It was hard to eat, to bathe, to do anything that required any amount of physical or mental exertion.

 

She had become a hollow shell of who she once was.

 

It was coming to a point where Adora wasn't sure if she could carry on much longer. She honestly wasn't sure why she didn't just give into her fate and embrace it willingly.

 

She was gonna die, that much was certain.

 

And why draw things out longer than necessary? If she was dead, this would all be over. The exhaustion, the pain, the nightmares. The unbearable lonliness. Loneliness she had brought on herself entirely, and loathed with her entire being, but could not bear to break away from.

 

Most of her days were occupied with such thoughts at this point. A pathetic, miserable way to live.

 

The worst part was she could practically hear Catra mocking her if she were to see her in such a state.

 

"Oh Adora, this is what you left the Horde for?"

 

"How does it feel to be left behind?"

 

"When did you become so weak?"

 

Actually, hearing Catra's taunts in her own head wasn't the worst part. The worst part was that they made her feel better than when she was without them.

 

When did she become so weak?

 

Her train of self-pity was suddenly interrupted by a rustling in the bushes nearby.

 

Adora quickly rose to her feet and positioned herself behind the tree, just barely peeking around the large trunk. She wanted to at least catch a glimpse of the intruder before she chose whether to fight or flee.

 

But when the figure came out from the bushes, Adora could hardly believe her eyes. Because it was Catra that was stepping into the clearing. Catra, with her wild, untamed hair and her heterochromatic eyes and her fangs poking out from her teeth the way they did whenever she was in deep thought. Her Catra...who she had killed in the Northern Reach...


Adora turned away, heart pounding furiously in her chest. She must've lost her mind. Yup, that was it. She had lost her mind and was now hallucinating her dead ex-best friend. 

 

She peeked back out from behind the tree, just to see if the projection from her clearly deranged mind was still there. It was.

 

Adora had to think for a moment. But only a moment. It wasn't really a difficult decision. If it was madness that brought Catra back to her, then Adora would embrace madness with open arms. It was better than whatever hell she was living in prior.

 

So she tentatively stepped out into view, trying her best to approach the girl without scaring her half to death. But it only took one step before Catra's ears flicked and her head swiveled in her direction. Upon seeing her, her eyes widened dramatically.

 

"Adora? Is that you?" Adora couldn't tell if her tone was incredulous or pissed off. She didn't care. 

 

"Catra!!!" she yelled, and she set off running in her direction.

 

For a moment Catra looked ready to brace for a fight, but her features quickly morphed into that of confusion as Adora threw herself into her arms full-force, knocking the two of them to the ground.

 

Catra coughed, the wind knocked fully out of her, "Whoa, mind giving a girl a warning before you tackle her like that?"

 

But Adora was sobbing heavily into the crook of her neck now. This wasn't madness, she was certain of it now, this was real. Catra was real, she was alive. She never thought she'd ever get to hear that snarky tone of voice outside her own head, let alone wrap her arms around her. She even still smelled the same. It was everything she had ever dreamed of. It was everything she had been dreaming of almost every night since she left Brightmoon

 

"Uh, Adora? Are you okay?" Catra gently placed her hands on her back, still unsure of how to react. This wasn't exactly the reaction she expected when she had let her mind wander to the possibility of seeing Adora again.

 

"You're alive!!" Adora cried, the words were almost unintelligible through her sobs. 

 

"Uh...I never wasn't?" Catra replied. 

 

Adora's head whipped up. She stared into Catra's eyes, one beautifully teal, the other a dazzling gold. She had always loved Catra's eyes, especially as a kid. She thought they were the coolest thing she had ever seen in her life. And thus, that made Catra the coolest person she'd ever met in her life. 

 

"But....but, Glimmer...she, she said-" she couldn't arrange her words properly, the gears in her brain seemed to be completely short-circuiting.

 

Catra sat up, shifting Adora off of her. But she still clung to her arm desperately, wanting tangible proof that all of this was real and not a fucked-up mirage.

 

"Take a deep breath, princess. I don't know what planet you've been on, but we speak Etherian here"

 

Adora wanted to cry again, that comment was just so Catra-esque, she wanted to bottle all her words and keep them forever.

 

But there seemed to be some confusion between the two of them that needed to be sorted out, so Adora took a deep breath and wiped her eyes, willing the tears that clawed at the back of her eyes to stay put.

 

"Glimmer....she, uh, she told me you were....dead," Adora's voice dropped to a low whisper, it almost hurt too much to even think about it. About the sheer agony she had been in since that day.

 

Catra nodded, not seeming very surprised. "Ah, so that was what Sparkles told you. Yeah no, sorry but not even Entrapta's tech could make you strong enough to kill me"

 

She knew Catra was just being her snarky, sarcastic self, but Adora couldn't help but throw her arms around her again, a fresh wave of tears running down her cheeks.

 

"I'm so so so sorry Catra. Please forgive me. I swear I had no idea what I was doing. I didn't even remember what happened. I swear I never would've tried to hurt you like that, let alone try and kill you, I never should've even left you-" all Adora's words were coming out in one breath. There were so many things she had been wanting to say to Catra, so many things she would've given anything to tell her.

 

But Catra pulled her away, keeping her hands firm on her shoulder, "Adora, breathe." she gave a small smile when Adora did as she instructed, wiping at her eyes again. 

 

"It's okay. I know you weren't in your right mind...I'm not exactly guilt-free of what happened." she rubbed the back of her neck awkwardly, avoiding her gaze.

 

There was a seemingly endless moment of silence that followed, where Catra kept her eyes glued to the ground, and all Adora could do was stare at her. But eventually, Catra brought her eyes back up to meet Adora's.

 

"I think there's a lot we need to talk about."

Chapter Text

 A small fire popped and hissed as the sun dipped below the horizon, and the wind began to carry with it a strong chill.

 

Catra stared into the flames as they danced in the night air, ribbons of orange and yellow. It was easier than staring at the girl across from her. She knew she would have to look up eventually, to stare into those wide blue eyes, always full of so much kindness, so much love. It was too much to bear sometimes.

 

Adora was never one for silence though, and Catra heard her voice cut through the crackling of the fire far too soon,

 

"So, what happened?"

 

Catra sighed heavily, it was a fair and simple question, but answering it required the surfacing of memories that she would prefer to keep tucked safely away, preferably forever.

 

"Well, I blacked out at some point," she decided to spare Adora the gruesome details of how her corrupted being had dug her sword mercilessly through her abdomen, inciting within Catra a new level of pain and a confrontation with her own mortality that she had never thought was possible.

 

Yeah, Adora didn't need to hear about that.

 

"I don't know how long I was out for. But when I woke up, it was to Shadow Weaver and Hordak standing over me. Not the two faces you exactly want to see in a moment like that," she let out an awkward chuckle, hoping to maybe lighten the mood, but Adora only stared pointedly, waiting to hear more.

 

"Hordak explained what had happened, how I was gravely injured, and how he and Shadow Weaver had "struck a deal for their most valuable asset"...his words not mine," she said when Adora raised a brow in question.

 

"Anyways, this is where the details get a little finicky, apparently Hordak was able to combine his tech with what little power Shadow Weaver had left and were able to repair the damage," she grimaced, absentmindedly running a hand along where her scar dominated the skin beneath her top.

"I hate the idea of that old hag's magic inside of me somehow, but...it fixed me up, so I guess I owe her one."

 

Catra fell silent then, hoping her explanation was satisfactory. She really didn't want to delve into the details of what happened afterward, the nasty words that were thrown around, the bouts of sharp, unyielding pain that would consume her body every so often, which Hordak had referred to as "a minor side effect".

 

Of course, Adora only responded with another question,

 

"Why'd you leave the Horde then?"

 

"Well, I could ask the same of you. What are you doing out here? I think it's only fair I get to ask you a question before you throw another at me,"

 

Adora sighed in exasperation, rolling her eyes in a way that made Catra smirk. Adora had always been so easy to work up.

 

But Catra's smirk quickly fell as she watched Adora pull her knees into her chest, hunching over and settling her chin on her arms, eyes cast downwards She recognized that behavior, Adora always tried to shield herself from her own anxiety and pain. She pulled away from her emotions like a tortoise pulls itself into its shell to hide from a predator.

 

"I blacked at too, at some point. Again I don't...I don't really remember much from that day. But I woke up back in my room, I'm guessing the following morning. I hurt all over, in a way I never had before, and I was trying to piece together what happened...what I had done."

 

Adora's eyes skittered upwards briefly to meet hers, and though it was brief, Catra saw nothing but pain.

 

"Bow and Glimmer came in, they were in rough shape too. They told me what happened, how they had found me unconscious in the snow. And you...unconscious and bleeding. Apparently, Scorpia and Entrapta had found you right as they had found me. And...they told me they heard Entrapta say there wasn't anything that could be done...that you were dead..."

 

Catra watched Adora closely, she was rocking gently back and forth and her eyes shone brightly with tears. Catra felt her heart thudding in her chest, she was tempted to walk over and pull her into her arms, to tell her that it was okay. But she knew she had to let Adora finish now, or she would never be able to.

 

"And uh, once they told me that...I just, I just...freaked out I guess. I felt like I couldn't breathe and I was thinking so many thoughts all at once. Mostly that it was.....it was my, my-my fault and that I, I, I needed to get out of there. So I ran..."

 

It seemed to take every ounce of Adora's energy to get those last few sentences out, for once she uttered her last word she broke down into heavy sobs and shaky breaths.

 

Catra wasn't a stranger to Adora's anxiety attacks, they came every so often in the Horde when her small, thin shoulders collapsed under the overwhelming pressure that was forced on her.

 

Catra briefly wondered if her 'new friends' had ever seen this side of her. If she had ever let them, it took a long time before she even let Catra in.

 

Did they ever take care of her?

 

Catra slowly rose to her feet and made her way over to Adora's trembling frame. She couldn't for the life of her remember how she could've ever had so much hatred towards this girl. This poor, stupid girl who would rather die than ever do anything for herself, let alone let anyone do anything for her.

 

There were times when the two were on enemy lines, where Catra's mind would drift into restricted territory, and she would worry about Adora. She would worry if she was remembering to eat, if she was taking breaks, if she actually let anyone help her. But she would quickly shove those thoughts aside in favor of twisting her image into one that brought nothing but pain and loneliness. One that was her enemy, not her friend.

 

But now, none of that contempt was to be found. Instead, Catra gently placed herself behind Adora, and slowly pulled her back. Adora's body slowly but willingly unfolded, and she let her head drop onto Catra's shoulder. Once her weight was settled against her, Catra slowly laid herself down onto the ground, bringing Adora on top of her.

 

She breathed in and out deeply, hoping the exaggerated rise and fall of her chest would help Adora breathe with her. She kept her arms wrapped tight around her back, and lifted one hand to undo her ridiculously tight ponytail.

She really couldn't believe Adora still insisted on styling her hair in such a way, it was all gonna fall out in a few years at this rate.

 

Catra ran her hand through the blonde locks that now spilled down Adora's back, she was relieved to find Adora's sobs had quieted, and her breathing seemed more even.

 

They would have more talking to do tomorrow, Catra knew this, but for now, the least she could do was keep her safe.

 

After all, that was what she had been longing to do all along.

Chapter Text

When Adora drifted back into consciousness, she realized she had slept peacefully and dreamlessly for the first time since she'd left Brightmoon.

 

A moment later, the reason why solidified in her mind. She could feel the ground beneath her rising and falling, slowly and calmly. And there was a warmth and pressure surrounding her that was distantly familiar.

 

Adora's lifted her head and found herself mere inches from Catra's face. She was still asleep, and Adora found herself entranced by her parted lips and smooth brow. It was a sight that brought on feelings of safety and relief, as well as another less familiar feeling that Adora couldn't quite place.

 

Catra's eyes opened then, locking on Adora's like she had a sixth sense. Adora looked away with a deep blush painting her cheeks, like she was caught doing something she wasn't supposed to. Maybe she was

 

"Mornin' to you too," Catra said. Her voice was even deeper than usual, raspy and thick from sleep. Something about it made Adora's heart do backflips.

 

"Uh, morning...how did we end up like this?" Adora asked. She tried to phrase the question in a way that wouldn't make Catra think she was upset with the arrangement, if anything she was immensely grateful.

 

Catra sighed, seeming to contemplate her words carefully. "We were talking last night, about what happened. How we both ended up here. And talking about it seemed to trigger an anxiety attack...wore yourself right out"

 

Adora nodded slowly, the memories flooding back. She looked away, her face burning deeply with shame and embarrassment

 

"Right...sorry about that..."

 

There was a beat of silence. Then a hand on top of hers. Then Catra's voice, "It's okay. It's always okay, you know. You don't have to be strong all the time."

 

This conversation was starting to get too personal for Adora's liking, so she used one of her more favorable tactics. Deflection.

 

She smirked, "Ha, so you admit that I'm strong?"

 

Catra's eyes widened at the sudden change of direction, and she blinked slowly for a minute before frowning and punching Adora in the shoulder.

 

"Ow!!"

 

Catra smirked, "Guess you're not that strong then if a little punch hurts you."

 

Adora rubbed the tender spot where Catra had punched, but she couldn't bite back her grin. It had been a long time since she'd felt this dynamic with Catra, their playful, albeit a little childish, dynamic where they could poke at and tease the other without prodding old wounds that haven't fully healed.

 

But Adora knew those wounds were still there, some more fresh than others. And her biggest mistake had always been waiting until they were bloody and infected to address them, and by then it was already too late.

 

She wouldn't do that this time. She would talk this out with Catra, even if it scared the absolute hell out of her, even if it was easier to shove it all down and pretend she was fine until the moment she absolutely wasn't.

 

Adora had been so absorbed in her own thoughts she hadn't realized Catra had left and was only just now returning with her hands full. She sat down across from Adora and shoved a small pile of berries and a gray ration bar towards her.

 

"I don't know if you were planning to starve out here, but I wasn't. So here, eat something"

 

Adora looked at the pile of food, then back at Catra, who was already chewing nonchalantly.

 

"I'm glad you grabbed the grey ones," Adora mentioned offhandedly.

 

"Yeah, I know you never liked the brown ones," Catra finished. She said this passively as if it was common knowledge.

But Adora felt a sharp tug in her chest at the fact that she had remembered such a useless, trivial fact despite it having been far too long since Adora had last complained of her distaste for brown ration bars.

 

So she gathered every last bit of nerve, took a deep breath, and forced herself to speak,

 

"I know that...I know that when I left, it hurt you."

 

Catra looked up sharply, a hard look in her eyes as if to say: Do it Adora. Push me away again.

 

It was almost enough to make Adora stop right there, to swallow the rest of her words, and apologize for mentioning anything. But she needed to say this.

 

"I never wanted to leave you. I know I've said this before, but I really didn't. Once I realized what the Horde was...I don't know how I didn't see it earlier. But I wanted us to go together. And then everything fell apart...and I never understood why you couldn't just come with me.."

 

Adora could feel Catra's eyes burning into her, waiting for more.

 

"But when I thought...when they told me...I suddenly understood. Because it felt like you left me, and you weren't supposed to. You were never supposed to. And it felt like every decision I had made leading up to that point was a mistake. I should've just stayed and I couldn't remember why I left."

 

Adora was crying again. She could feel the tears, hot and fresh, streaming down her cheeks. She wiped them away furiously, she was so sick of crying.

 

"I think I left wanting to the save the world...but I realized, what's the point of saving it if you're not in it with me..."

 

A thick, heavy silence fell over the two of them and it made Adora want to squirm, but she couldn't even dare herself to look at Catra. If she was about to lose her all over again, she didn't want to watch her walk away. She couldn't.

 

"I know I've done unforgivable things." At the sound of Catra's voice, Adora's head shot up, and she was surprised to see her looking away uncomfortably, bashful almost.

 

"When you left, I thought it was because I didn't matter enough to you. So...I wanted to hurt you just to prove that I could. If you could hurt me so much, it felt right to hurt you back."

 

Catra grimaced, her face was a deep red Adora had never seen before. She had always been cool, confident Catra. Always right in your face, telling you exactly how she feels. But this Catra was on her knees and looking away in fear.

 

"I'm not...good at this. But after what happened...fighting just felt so pointless. And just, I wanted...I wanted to say that I'm sorry. I know that's probably not nearly enough but...it's all I've got right now so..."

 

Catra cast a quick glance at Adora, anxiously biting her lip. Adora couldn't take it anymore, she threw herself into Catra's arms and pulled her into the biggest, tightest hug her body could manage.

 

"I'm sorry too"

 

She wasn't gonna lose her. Never again.

Chapter Text

She was in her body but it wasn't hers anymore.

 

Adora could feel herself moving, but it was all being done against her will. Her mind was crowded, it felt like her own consciousness had been shoved to the back, and in the front was a furious being of power and rage.

 

Kill. Kill. Kill.

 

That word reeled through her head without her consent, over and over, and she was powerless to stop it. It was like she had taken the back seat in her own body and was forced to watch this being take control.

 

Her sword was in her hand and Catra was on the ground before her. There was real fear in her eyes, a fear Adora hadn't seen since they were kids in the Fright Zone.

 

"Adora, wait!" Catra was begging now, attempting to drag her bruised and battered body away.

 

Adora wanted to stop. She didn't want to hurt Catra, not when she already looked so hurt, so scared. She wasn't evil, she wasn't Shadow Weaver. She wanted to stop.

 

Stop. Stop. Stop.

 

Kill. Kill. Kill.

 

Adora felt her own lips curl mechanically into an evil grin, she heard herself laugh, but it was a sound she had never heard before. She felt herself lift her sword, even as Catra closed her eyes and attempted to shield herself.

 

Stop. Stop. Stop.

 

Kill. Kill. Kill.

 

She swung. Catra screamed. Adora screamed with her.

 

 

Adora shot up, gasping for air.

 

She was drenched in sweat, but she felt like someone had poured a bucket of ice water over her. She couldn't stop shaking.

 

Her heart was pounding so furiously she briefly worried her ribs might crack and her heart might burst right out of her chest. But it managed to slow a bit, upon looking beside her and seeing Catra sound asleep, not covered in blood nor begging for her life.

 

Adora let out a heavy sigh and thanked whatever omnipotent being existed out there for keeping Catra safe in this moment, for everything being a dream and not a semblance of reality.

 

God, how that reality would crush her.

 

Wait...

 

It slowly dawned on Adora, to her complete and utter horror, that her dream contained all the pieces that had been missing from her memory. She hadn't remembered anything from when she was infected, she hadn't remembered going on a rampage.

 

Oh no. Oh no.

 

That was what she had done to Catra. She had smiled and laughed in the face of her pain and pleading and struck her, deep enough to bleed, nearly enough to kill.

 

Adora started to crawl away from Catra, her mouth agape. The trembling was starting all over again, and her breaths were growing smaller and weaker inside her chest.

 

She knew what she had done was bad, if it left Glimmer and Bow with the impression that Catra was dead. But she had remained blissfully ignorant to her actions, to those memories, to that look on Catra's face.

 

Pain.

And fear.

 

So much fear.

 

She had to leave now.

 

Adora scrambled up to her feet and began to run, fast and hard. Her chest was on fire, every breath was a knife lodged in between her ribs, directly into her lungs. But she had to keep going, she had to get far, far away, to where she could never hurt Catra again.

 

"Adora!!!"

 

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

 

Adora broke into a sprint at the sound of Catra's voice, but she failed to recognize the advantage Catra had with her claws and the trees and out of nowhere, she was being tackled to the ground, hard.

 

Adora landed flat on her stomach with Catra pounced on her back, she coughed as all the remaining air she had was knocked out of her. But she could barely take a breath before Catra roughly grabbed her and flipped her over so she was facing her.

 

"What the fuck!!!" she screamed.

 

Adora flinched, she didn't think she had ever seen Catra so angry, especially at her, and that was saying something. Her pupils were mere slits in her narrowed eyes, her fangs were out, and her breathing was harsh and heavy.

 

"Catra I-"

 

"Were things getting a little too boring for you in the woods? Too familiar? Did you decide you want to abruptly leave for a different home again?"

 

"I needed to get away from you!!" Adora screamed. Catra's eyes widened, and Adora didn't miss how her lips briefly trembled before she grit her teeth.

 

"Why? Why now? After everything, we went through, after everything we talked about!!! If you didn't want me to stick around you should've said that before I bore my fucking heart and soul and apologized to you!!!"

 

Adora felt the tears rising behind her eyes again, and she willed them to stay put. She couldn't break, not now.

 

"You don't understand..." she had meant to shout but her tone had lost any bite to it, and she spoke almost in a whisper.

 

But Catra was still hot and furious, her face mere inches away "What? What don't I understand Adora? Please tell me what on Etheria, after growing up with you and knowing you my whole life, what could I not possibly understand?"

 

"I remember!!!"

 

Catra's snarl dissolved instantly, and she pulled away slightly. "Remember what?"

 

Adora's resolve almost broke at the sudden softness in Catra's voice, but she bit her lip hard until the sting of tears fled.

 

"I remember what happened when you infected my sword. I hadn't remembered...but I had a dream, er, a nightmare...I was in my body, but I couldn't control it. And there was this voice in my head. And you were there, and you looked so hurt and afraid of me, and I didn't want to hurt you but I couldn't stop myself. I felt myself smile and laugh...and swing..."

 

Adora turned then to look at her, Catra stared back with an expression she couldn't place, but her ears were pressed flat against her head.

 

"I..I heard you scream...and I wanted to get away before I hurt you again..." This time, Adora couldn't stop the tears and she gave up on trying. She let them flow freely.

 

"Oh Adora..." Catra sounded so...sad. It only made Adora's tears flow more excessively. Catra reached her hand out and cupped her cheek, wiping away a tear with a soft brush of her thumb.

 

"The worst you could ever hurt me would be by leaving me again..."

 

Adora looked up at Catra, her best friend, the person she thought she would one day be ruling the world with, the person that undoubtedly meant the absolute most to her. She was becoming increasingly aware of her straddling her waist, the soft hand cradling her cheek, the deep blush that had taken over her entire face.

 

"Why?" she asked.

 

Catra sighed, "You really are such an idiot."

 

And she leaned in and pressed their lips together.

 

Adora froze for a moment, but only a moment. She realized very quickly that it was this. This is what she had been wanting her whole life, what she had been missing her whole life. She had wanted Catra for as long as she could possibly remember, in ways that exceeded her limitations of what she believed she deserved. In ways, she told herself she could never allow.


She wanted to kiss her.

 

So she reached her hands up and tangled them through Catra's hair, pulling her impossibly closer, and kissed her like it was the last thing she would ever do.

Chapter Text

Catra wasn't sure how long they had been kissing for.

 

There had been no words exchanged, just lips on lips and skin on skin. So much warmth and so much passion, Catra was afraid she was going to burst.

 

She had wanted Adora. She had loved Adora for as long as she could remember. She could remember crying and berating herself as a child for the feelings she didn't understand; the anger, the jealousy, the desire to have Adora around at all times, all to herself. 

 

It didn't help that Shadow Weaver had deemed her "a distraction" and had often punished her for being just that.

 

So Catra didn't exactly acknowledge those feelings she had harbored since her youth, she shoved them deep, deep down within herself, twisted them until they resembled hatred. After all, she had told herself, it was better to hate than to love someone who didn't love you back. 

 

So she pretended it was easy to fight Adora, to be her enemy. She let everyone around her, including Adora herself, eat up the facade she put on, up until the very moment she was behind the locked door of her room, alone, and could cry herself to sleep.

 

But now they were here. She was kissing Adora. And better yet, Adora was kissing her back. And her lips were soft but fierce against her own, pushing and pushing for more. Enough so that Catra risked letting her tongue gently slip in between her teeth.

 

Adora let out a muffled squeak of surprise, but she didn't pull away, rather she pulled Catra closer until she was fully on top, and her body was smothering her.

 

Catra gripped the shoulders of that stupid red jacket Adora was still wearing and pulled away long enough to growl,


"Off"

 

Adora complied without hesitation, quickly shedding the jacket off before leaning up to greedily kiss Catra again, wrapping her arms tightly around her neck. Catra let her fingers trail down Adora's arms, the muscles in them highlighted by the tightness of her white compression shirt.


She was so beautiful Catra could hardly stand it.

 

Her body was screaming for more, more, more. She wanted every inch of Adora pressed up against her. She wanted to know what Adora sounded like while she unraveled, she wanted to be the sole cause of that unraveling.

 

Mine. Mine. Mine.

 

Catra tried to push those more primal, possessive thoughts to the side as soon as they came, the last thing she wanted to do was scare Adora away with the intensity of her desire.

 

But maybe Adora could read her mind, for when she broke away, breathless and panting, arms still encircled around her neck, she said those few words that shook Catra to her very core.


"I love you."

 

Catra froze in place, bracing her arms on either side of Adora, staring down at her in shock. Adora's half-lidded eyes snapped wide open and she dropped her arms down as she registered the weight of what she had just said, something she hadn't said since they were kids and only had an acute understanding of what those words meant.

 

"I-I, I'm sorry...I didn't mean to say that...I mean I was thinking it but I didn't mean to say it out loud. We don't even know what we're doing, it's too soon to say something like that and I probably just messed everything up and I-"

 

"Adora." Catra sat up, pulling Adora up with her. She reached her hands out and gently cupped Adora's cheeks, leaning forward until their foreheads were touching.

 

"I love you too, you dork...I always have..." her voice was impossibly small, even shaking a little, but she would take it to the grave before she ever admitted she was nervous.


"Really?" Adora's eyes lit up in a spectacular way that made Catra believe she had just witnessed every astronomical phenomenon that existed.

 

"Yes, dummy. I know your skull is about as thick as that dumb little hair poof you wear, but...I have loved you for a really long time."


Adora frowned and reached a hand up to the aforementioned hair poof, poking at it self consciously. Catra giggled, she would never admit that she secretly loved that little poof, it was just so perfectly Adora.

 

"Well...I have too. And it's not like you noticed either." Adora stared her down with crossed arms and a raised eyebrow, trying so hard to look intimidating that Catra couldn't help but burst out laughing again.

 

"I guess you got me there, now come here." She opened her arms and Adora tucked herself into them happily, settling her head on Catra's shoulder.

 

"We're done fighting?" she asked. Now it was Adora who sounded small and vulnerable and scared. It made Catra's heart break a little and she hugged Adora tightly, planting a small kiss at her temple.

"We're done fighting. I promise."


Adora nodded her head lightly, and the two were quiet for a moment before Adora spoke up again.

 

"Catra?"

 

"Hm?"



"I...I don't know what to do now.."

 

Catra looked down at her questioningly, "what do you mean?"

 

Adora looked away, her cheeks tinted red with shame, "Like I said...I ran away. I gave up She-Ra, Brightmoon, Glimmer and Bow. I gave up everything...and I honestly hadn't had any intention of going back"

 

Catra's gaze hardened and she couldn't hide the hot coal of anger she felt as she asked, "Are you thinking about it now?"

 

Adora looked up at her with a fearful expression that made Catra instantly regret the bite in her tone.


"I'm not going back unless you're coming with me," she said firmly. Catra was taken aback by how resolute she sounded on the matter. "I'm not losing you again. I just...I just don't know where we'll go if it's not back there."

 

Catra sighed heavily, lifting her eyes upwards towards the night sky, she didn't know what time it was, but she imagined it was late. Too late for what she knew would be a very emotionally taxing discussion.

 

"How about we discuss it in the morning, okay?" she offered, and she was relieved when Adora replied with a simple nod of her head, she knew how stubborn Adora could be at times.

 

So the two laid down on the soft forest ground and tried not to think too much of what tomorrow's conversation would bring.

Chapter Text

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.

 

Almost.


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.

 

She smiled.

 

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.