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In another world, Adora thinks, testing the weight of the sword in her hand, maybe things could have been different.

Maybe she never showed the sword to Catra, never called her with bright eyes and gentle laughter to help her pull it by the hilt out of the tangle of thorns it was embedded in. Maybe when the visions grabbed her, pulled her sideways into darkness, Catra didn’t catch her, didn’t wait for it to pass. 

Maybe, in a different world, they never got on that skiff in the first place. Maybe, when she fell, Catra didn’t fall after her, leaving their ride home to soar straight into a branch and shatter.

“What do you think?” she asks finally, breaking herself out of her thoughts to glance up at Catra, perched on a rock a few feet above her. “What do we do with it?”

Catra shrugs. “I don’t know. Throw it away?”

Adora looks down at the sword in her hand again, frowning. “I don’t think we should be just throwing something this powerful away, Catra.”

“Well, we can’t take it back to the Horde.”

“Why not?”

Catra huffs, crossing her arms. “What do you think Shadow Weaver is gonna do with it? Let you keep it?”

Adora shrugs and doesn’t answer. She’s right, of course. She’s usually always right about things like these. It’d be cool if it wasn’t so annoying.

“Besides, if that thing you saw is right, and it really does give you, like, magical powers or some shit—” 

“—I think it just turns me into She-Ra—”

“—do you really think you’ll be allowed to keep those ? She might—she might take you away from me, or the Rebellion might try and get a hold of you, or—”

Adora sighs, shifting her weight from foot to foot. She understands where Catra’s coming from, really, but it doesn’t make it any less irritating. “Look, I get it, but—I mean, this is way too big of an opportunity to pass up. We could defeat the Rebellion for good, Catra. We could be heroes. You know, together at the end of the world, just like—”

“Just like we always said, I know,” she mutters, crossing her legs as well, curling in on herself. Adora knows what this means—she’s shutting down, pulling up her defenses, blocking emotions out until she knows it’s safe. It’s an exhausting state to live in, to live around.

“Nothing’s going to change that, you know,” she says quietly. “You’re still my best friend, and I trust your judgement. I just—okay, I know how you feel about Shadow Weaver, but can’t you just trust me? For once? I won’t let anything happen to us.”

Catra frowns at her feet. “You don’t know what she does when you’re not looking, Adora. You can’t protect me from that.”

Adora swallows, glances down as well. It’s easier to focus on the shape of her boots, sticking out through the grass, than it is to watch Catra’s face change like she knows it is right now. She’d rather watch the damp-blue-green stain the soles of her shoes than watch her best friend crumple. 

And the worst part is, it’s nothing she hasn’t heard before. She’s seen the scars, heard the stories, held Catra in rare moments of vulnerability and cleaned her wounds as she tries her best not to cry. She knows that some days, the promise of a future together is all that keeps her going, and it stings.

“I could,” she murmurs into the sudden silence, “With this thing, I could.”

Catra blows out a long breath, lacing her fingers together over one knee. “So we take this thing back.”

Adora smiles into her shirt. “Mhm.”

“We… hide it, maybe? Just outside the Fright Zone. Somewhere we can go without raising suspicion.”

“I’m listening.”

A deep breath in, hissing between her teeth. “You train with it. Until your next mission, you train with it. And when you’re sent out, you use it. You win the battle, you’re a hero, and Shadow Weaver wants to know how you did it. So you hide the sword again.”

Adora frowns, taking that as her cue to tug herself up onto the rock beside her. Years of practice have made her good at this kind of thing, tucking herself into high places next to Catra with an ease her teammates can never quite replicate. “Why hide it again?”

Catra turns to look at her, eyes dark. “So she can’t take it from you.”

“You really think she’d do that?” Adora whispers. It feels appropriate, here, even though they’re as far away from the Fright Zone as they could possibly get in a single afternoon. It isn’t worth shattering the odd peace between them for the sake of filling the silence.

Catra nods silently and goes back to watching the forest in front of them.

She looks down at the sword in her hand again. It’s beautiful, really, gold and blue and grey, fitting into the curve of her palm like it was meant to be there all along. She can feel the sheer power of it thrumming against the tips of her fingers, pulsing up through the hilt and into the blade like a current, singing quietly to itself in the dim light. If she twists it right, she can see herself reflected perfectly in the gemstone embedded in the crossguard.

“It speaks to you, doesn’t it?”

Adora tears her gaze away from her reflection. “Huh?”

Catra uncurls, which is a relief, twisting and planting a hand down between them to get a closer look at the sword in her hands. “That thing. It—it’s calling to you. I can feel it. It wants you to use it. It’s—connecting itself to you.” 

“I didn’t think you believed in that princess shit,” Adora says quietly. Catra shrugs.

“I don’t. It’s like—almost a living thing. Can’t you sense it? It feels like—like I’m listening to a conversation. I can’t really describe it.”

Adora nods slowly, pretending to understand. “Okay. Well, I have no clue what you’re talking about, but I believe you. Is it—is it a good thing or a bad thing?”

“Too early to know. But—I don’t know, are you sure we can trust this thing?”

She lets out a long, slow breath. “I don’t know. But I hope so. It sure feels like I can.”

Catra studies her, eyes narrowing. Adora forgets how intense she can be sometimes. “Alright. Okay. Fine. We’ll—we can walk back, can’t we? We’ve got the whole night. And if it turns out this thing is bad, or Shadow Weaver is—you know—“

“I’ll walk back here myself and throw it away,” Adora fills in, offering her a small, genuine smile.

Catra doesn’t smile back. “I’ll drive you.”

A beat, and then silence. Adora turns back to the forest, training her gaze firmly on a boulder several feet away, and pretends not to listen to the sound of Catra’s breathing. Is that creepy ? It feels kinda creepy .

It really is beautiful out here, full of dancing lights and glowing plants and fauna she can’t even begin to categorise. Under different circumstances, she knows Catra would love it here. 

Under different circumstances, after seeing all this, she never would have even considered going back, and Adora would have followed her, like she always does. And maybe they’d be captured by the freaking Rebellion or eaten by some princess monster, but it would have been worth it to see Catra’s eyes light up like they did when she drove their skiff into the forest for the first time.

Kicking her feet against the rock she’s sitting on and probably scuffing the heels of her shoes beyond repair, Adora wonders vaguely how they ever convinced the Horde this place was evil.

“Catra?”

“Hm?”

“Don’t you think this place is nice?”

“It’s lovely,” Catra says blankly, flicking her tail.

Adora shifts in her seat, pressing her hands into the stone. “No, seriously. It’s so much better here than what they told us. I can’t believe we ever wanted to destroy this.”

A long, deep sigh, the kind that normally comes after a lecture or a particularly trying argument with Shadow Weaver. “Yeah, well. Neither can I.”

Adora tears her gaze away from the forest in front of her, studies the sharp angles of Catra’s side profile. She looks… lost, almost, tangled up somewhere in her thoughts amongst thorns and shadows and edges.

Lonely.

“Catra,” she begins. Catra doesn’t look at her, brows furrowing. “If you’re really worried—about Shadow Weaver taking the sword—we can leave it here. We can pretend like it never happened.”

“You have a destiny,” Catra mumbles, monotone, resigned.

“It’s not worth it if it’s not with you,” Adora says softly. “Like we promised, remember. We look out for each other, and that goes both ways. And if you really think it’s too dangerous to use, then I trust you. Entirely."

“No, you don’t,” she replies automatically. “You don’t trust me at all. You—”

“Catra.” Adora slips down from the rock, bends her knees on impact and slouches back against the surface. Catra stops kicking her legs so as not to knock her shoulders, going perfectly still above her. “I do. I promise you.”

Her lips twist a little, but she stays silent, training her gaze firmly on the branches opposite. The area they’re sitting in is more of a space cleared to make room for a path than a clearing, but it’s broad enough that her gaze goes distant as she looks up, up, up, into the trees and the haze of lights flitting between leaves.

“Catra,” she tries again. 

Catra sighs. There’s a shuffle of movement as she hops down off the rock, landing ten times more gracefully than Adora did, and then she lifts the sword out of her slackened grip and brings it to eye level, inspecting the edges of the blade.

“... Alright,” she says finally. “Okay. But I get to say I told you so when everything inevitably goes wrong.”

Relief pings around her ribcage, lodges firmly between her lungs. Adora grins at her. “It’s a deal.”

When Catra smiles back it’s strained, empty, eyes fixed carefully on a spot several centimetres above Adora’s shoulder. “Yeah.”