The evening before their fifth or sixth trip into space, Adora finds Catra at the top of the former Fright Zone. She doesn’t have to use a grappling hook anymore, just traipses along a flowering, spiral staircase that goes up and up and up and up.
Catra has, for once, eschewed the railing and is sitting on the moss-carpeted floor of what is now effectively a rooftop garden, her legs dangling over the edge and into the air. Adora takes a moment to be grateful that they’re the only people there. She takes a second moment to recognize how weird that thought still is - this never used to be a particularly public area. And then she takes a third, just to admire the figure Catra cuts there, the long lines of her back and tousled fluff of her hair stark against the fading light.
“You’re not quiet, you know,” Catra says without turning around.
“I was having a moment.” Adora replies, moving to stand at the railing. Her calf nudges Catra’s elbow. “Several, actually.”
Catra hums her acknowledgement. She doesn’t lean into Adora, exactly, but there’s a brief soft push of shoulder-to-leg, and it’s nice.
Adora picks at one of the vines curling along the rail - now polished, red-and-black - and fiddles with a yellow flower there, folding its petals this way and that. After a moment, she says, “Glimmer’s convinced I’m up here to propose.”
That makes Catra jolt a bit, leaning back so she can meet Adora’s eyes from her place on the ground. “Marriage!?”
Adora cocks an eyebrow at her.
“No,” Catra groans, tipping her head forward to rub her face into Adora’s leg pathetically, “please don’t.”
Adora laughs, a little incredulous, “Excuse me?”
“Adora - Adora. Adora. I cannot do another party. I just can’t. We did Glimmer and Bow’s wedding and then Scorpia and Perfuma’s and Sea Hawk and Mermista did that whole massive engagement thing and there was that one shindig in Erelandia and then Entrapta’s birthday was right in the middle of it all and then you decided we had to celebrate Swift Wind’s birthday even though we do not know when that is and I know I said I love parties but I said that years ago when I didn’t know what a party was and now I know they’re torture and if I ever see another fruit platter again I am going to jump off this thing I am,” she gesticulates throughout her speech, ever-theatrical, and ends it with a sweeping arm at the open air beneath them.
Adora laughs again and lowers herself down to sit on the edge, too, one of her legs dangling down and the other curled on the ledge to let her sit sideways, let her keep looking at Catra. She remembers when sitting here was scary, when she was small and even when she was bigger, older, but before she’d shot through the air on a winged horse or through space on her own gut magic, back when falling didn’t also mean flying.
(She remembers when looking at Catra was scary, too.)
“You’re saying,” she deadpans, “that you don’t want to marry me because you’re sick of parties.”
“No!” Catra shouts, and then adds, “Well, yes. Can we decide later?”
Adora grins at her, “I didn’t even ask, you know.”
“Good. Keep it that way.”
“Aren’t you supposed to be, I don’t know, all fluttery and excited about it?” Adora has maybe read too many romance novels from the Bright Moon library. So has Catra, she knows, because Catra steals all of hers and gives them back with tiny holes in the corners where she turned the pages too fast with her claws. Not that she ever admits it.
“I’m going to pretend you did not just describe me as fluttery." Catra eyes her. "Also, hey, aren’t you supposed to be nervous or something? Isn’t that how proposing - oh, wait, sorry, not-proposing - works?”
Adora shrugs. “Maybe? Glimmer was a wreck. I’m really not, though. Is that weird?”
Catra looks away, for a moment. When she looks back, her face is set, serious. “I think,” she says, slowly, and Adora is surprised to realize that Catra has definitely been thinking about this, “it’s the whole forever thing. Like, we’ve almost died on each other and saved the universe with the power of love. It’s hard to get stressed about, y’know. Commitment.”
Adora blinks, absorbs that. “That makes sense,” she says, “I’m not exactly worried you won’t say yes,” and then, when Catra opens her mouth, “eventually. To spending your life with me, at least. Ceremony or no.” And there, now Adora is feeling a little fluttery, yeah.
Whatever Catra was going to say turns into a snort. “Can you imagine - I don’t think we can ever break up. It’d be mortifying. Like,‘hey, folks,’” she pantomimes waving at a crowd, “ I know she shoots off magic when she touches me sometimes, but,'' an overdramatic sigh, “it’s just not what I’m looking for these days.”
Make that very fluttery. Adora giggles, then fails to sound blasé when she fires back, “I came back from the brink of despair because she asked me to...but I thought I should shop around.” She lets herself grin.
She’s glad she does, because she’s rewarded with Catra’s big, toothy smile in return, along with her laughter. “I’ve wanted her my whole life, but it’s gotten so,” Catra fakes a yawn that turns into more giggles, “boring.”
“We’ve worked through the whole world domination thing, but the way she steals all the covers? Dealbreaker.”
“Hey! What!?” Catra’s response is real, this time, as is her indignant “Say what you will about the force captain gig, but it was a good bed. I got used to it!”
“You used to be so cute when you’d turn up on my bed all curled up in the middle of the night, now you sprawl like a—”
“Used to be!?”
“Catra, are you asking me to call you cute?”
“Well, you’re not allowed to not call me— ugh!”
They’re wrestling now, only barely mindful of the parapet’s edge, and it takes quite a bit of breathless laughter and maneuvering and maybe some kissing before they settle, closer than before, all four of their legs and Catra’s tail dangled over the edge. Catra’s head finds a place to rest on Adora’s shoulder, and Adora’s hand fiddles with the edge of Catra’s belt as they look over the flourishing New Scorpion Kingdom.
Adora catches herself, as she so often does, looking for things she knows. Looking for green-grey pipes amid the riot of flowers and red and black, for the roof of the old dining hall or the blocky shape of the barracks. She gets caught up in it, and doesn’t realize how long until Catra says, “You looking for—”
“—something familiar, yeah,” Adora finishes, tilts her chin against Catra’s hair. “You too?”
“All the time. It’s funny, I hated it here, but...I still look. Never find anything, really.”
Adora hums. “Yeah. There’s...not much left. If anything.”
It’s Catra’s turn to hum, now, and the silky top of her ear tickles at the base of Adora’s neck as she adjusts a little. “Sewer system’s still working, I guess.”
Adora snorts, “Mermista cleaned it.”
“Yeah. With extreme prejudice. And Sea Hawk.”
“Kinda glad I missed that.”
Adora chuckles, then thinks, closes her eyes to cast herself back through the halls of her childhood until she lights on, “The black garnet’s still here.”
Catra’s hair brushes Adora’s neck again as she shakes her head. “Have you seen the chamber? It’s, like, the happiest place on earth.”
“Yeah, okay, true. So many flowers.”
“Skiffs?” Catra offers.
“Refurbished,” Adora replies.
“I know the locker rooms got all fixed up, but that place right inside the vent there where I carved our initials is probably—”
“Gone,” Adora notes, throat just a little bit tight. “I checked. A couple weeks ago - Scorpia’s replacing the vents. Says she wants them nicer for Entrapta.”
“Oh.” Catra’s hand finds Adora’s in her lap, threads their fingers together. “That’s nice, I guess.”
They sit there quietly for a moment, and then Adora says, “What about sleepovers?” Catra gives a questioning trill, so Adora elaborates, “We still have those, right? So yeah. Sleepovers.”
She doesn’t know how she knows Catra’s smiling - maybe something in the way her ears twitch, or her head shifts, or just a good guess. It’s in Catra’s voice, too, rough and throaty and suggestive: “Whole different game, now.”
Adora laughs, even as a shiver dances up her spine. She lets her own voice go low to say, “Well, if you want to—”
“I love you.” Catra interrupts her, pulling away just a little to meet her eyes. The words come out fast, forceful, blurted into the space between them as though they’re not something she says every day, even though they are.
Adora gives her a perplexed look, starts to reply, “I lo—”
“I mean it,” Catra presses on, insistent, “I’ve loved you my whole life, Adora. If you’re looking for things that haven’t changed - there’s that.”
The breath catches, hard and sharp, in Adora’s chest. Fluttery has nothing on this at all. “I—” she starts, but she can’t find a sentence to connect to the word. And Catra’s looking at her, not expectant but nonetheless intense, and Adora finds herself asking, “And is that—” Her voice is hoarse. She clears her throat. “Does it feel the same?”
Catra doesn’t answer right away. Her brows draw together and she opens her mouth, once or twice, then flushes dark and tucks her face back into Adora’s neck like she’s hiding, plays with the pin on Adora’s belt. Adora lets her think, or maybe lets it go entirely - whatever Catra needs - and goes back to the view instead. The New Scorpion Kingdom is glittering in the dark, twilight having faded into the twin glow of stars above and lanterns below. They’re mostly red, the lanterns, like the glowing bits of malevolent tech Adora remembers, except for how these softer, and how every fifth lantern is other-colored, interruptions in gold and blue and purple and green and pink and every other color of the rainbow. In their light she tracks the spots where the old Fright Zone spires have become pleasant outlooks, where the shapes of familiar buildings can be seen, if she looks hard enough, but now repurposed into meeting halls and guest quarters and party rooms. It’s Scorpia’s past - two pasts, even - made over, revitalized and revised on but not recreated, not exactly. It’s who her family is and who she was raised to be and who she wants to become, all at once. It’s Adora’s home, and Catra’s, and it isn’t at all.
Adora’s mind has begun to drift, warm and peaceful and safe, when Catra says, very quietly, “No, it doesn’t. Not at all.”
And that’s good, too.