Catra missed the beginning of the bet. She was taking a nap, because space is boring, and there isn’t much to do between planets.
She’s drawn to the galley by the sound of an argument, which isn’t surprising. Bow and Adora who are shouting at each other when she enters, while Glimmer sits on the counter looking suspiciously innocent. She’s the only one who notices Catra, and pats the spot next to her.
“Adora has to shave her hair,” she whispers as Catra hoists herself up.
“What?!” Catra raises a hand self-consciously to her own hair, long enough to fall into her eyes but too short to tie back.
“Just a patch. They shook on it.”
Glimmer heaves a sigh, like Catra is being the difficult one here. “Adora and Bow were having a competition to see who the better pilot is. The loser has to shave their head. Adora lost.”
Catra was familiar with the piloting argument and resulting competition, which the two had been squabbling about for weeks. “What happened to bragging rights?”
“Well, Adora didn’t really think she was going to lose, did she? She’s lucky I talked them down from the whole head to just a patch.”
“So you thought Bow was going to lose, too? That’s cold, Sparkles. He did get us through an asteroid field that one time.”
Glimmer splutters. “You- I- look. I wasn’t sure, okay? I didn’t want my boyfriend to shave his whole head for a dumb bet.”
Adora, who is guestering wide with her hands to illustrate a point, finally notices Catra, and cuts herself off. “Catra!” she shouts. “You’re not going to let them cut my hair, are you? I’ll look stupid!”
“You already look stupid,” Catra teases. “But you’re right, it would look weird with just a patch missing. Might as well go with the original plan and cut it all off.” Adora’s expression falls as she realizes Catra’s not going to back her up on this one.
Glimmer takes pity on Adora. “Just do a little bit at the nape of your neck. No one will ever know.”
“I’ll know!” Adora wails, and Catra struggles to keep a straight face. Adora turns back to Bow, who is standing with his arms crossed. “I’ll take your dishwashing rotations for a month.”
“I have twelve older brothers, Adora. You’re not going to wear me down.”
“The rest of the trip!”
Glimmer hops down from the counter, and sidles up to Adora. “If you do my dishes, I’ll cut it for you.”
Adora grabs her ponytail and backs away from Glimmer into Catra’s legs. Catra wraps an arm around her, pulling her close, still laughing.
“I’ll do it,” she tells Adora, who groans and turns to bury her head in Catra’s shoulder. “Come on, Adora. A bet’s a bet. It was your idea.”
“...Promise it won’t look bad?”
“Promise.” Catra gestures with her free hand for the scissors. Bow, who looks slightly guilty now that Adora’s back is turned, gives them to her. “Come on.” She nudges Adora away, toward one of the chairs Entrapta had bolted to the floor in front of the counter.
Adora takes a seat, nervously shutting her eyes as Catra circles her, assessing the situation.
Months ago, on this very ship, before they even reconciled, Adora had cut Catra's hair. Sometimes when memories of her time with Prime haunt Catra, she thinks of Adora lowering her head back into a bowl of warm water and working out the gel with gentle fingers. Afterward, she approached Catra’s hair with this same pair of scissors from the galley, taking the rough haircut and turning it into something even shorter and wilder, but much more Catra.
Catra remembers Adora’s soft commentary as she worked, warning Catra each time she began cutting or worked out a snarl with her fingers. Catra simmered with anger at each comment- it made her feel needy, weak, and the rage had egged on the fast beating of her heart and trembling fists clutched in her lap. Loved, Catra thinks now. It made her feel loved.
Catra wonders if Adora is thinking of the same thing. She lays a hand on the back of Adora’s neck. “I’m thinking about doing your sides, so it’s even. Don’t worry, you can keep your dumb ponytail.” Catra glances at Bow and Glimmer, who are caught between amusement and apprehension. She bops Adora’s ponytail before releasing it with a tug.
“Just do it,” Adora grits out through clenched teeth.
Catra forgoes scissors for the first part, spinning Adora around so that she faces the three of them. She grabs a section of Adora’s hair from the side of her face and is reminded, for an unpleasant moment, of cutting her own ear tufts the same way years before. Slowly, she pulls in strands from behind her ear until she has sectioned off a handful of Adora’s hair. With the swipe of a single claw, the deed is done.
Catra blinks down at the limp clump of hair in her hand for a second before handing it to a bewildered Glimmer. Glimmer shrieks and tosses it onto the counter. “Do you even know what you’re doing?”
“It’s a little late to ask.”
Adora buries her head in her hands.
"I think it's going to look cool, Adora!" Bow insists.
Catra tugs Adora’s head back up. "I promised, didn't I?" she asks. She turns back to Glimmer. "Help me make sure this is even."
Glimmer coaches her from the other side of Adora's head as she gathers hair on the other side, and once another clump of hair joins its twin on the counter, Catra reaches for the scissors.
Now that the bet has been fulfilled, Bow seems set on mitigating the damage. "It's not that much. It looks really natural."
Catra eyes the shaggy hair, and thinks this is a bit generous. She sets to work on evening it out, leaving a short layer of fuzz behind.
Over her shoulder, Glimmer hums in approval. "It looks a bit like Netossa's," she adds for Adora's benefit.
“Maybe now she’ll have hair envy!” Bow exclaimed.
“I doubt it,” Adora mumbles. “Her hair is blue .”
Catra smiles at the familiar tone of envy in her voice. “We could always dye yours next.”
“Wait,” Glimmer asks. “Are you jealous of my hair?”
“Yes!” Adora exclaims, sounding miserable about it. “Your hair is cool. And you’ve got, you know,” she waves a hand at her own hair, which Catra bats away, “The sparkles.”
“Are you jealous of Bow’s hair? Were you trying to sabotage it?”
“Adora!” Bow gasps.
“Yes! No!” Adora splutters. “I don’t know, it was just the first thing I thought of.”
“It’s because you’re obsessed with hair. Always have been,” Catra points out. She looks over the right side, which is as even as it’s going to get, and switches to the left side. Then, she smirks, seeing an opportunity for her favorite new hobby- telling embarrassing stories about Adora to Bow and Glimmer, the only people who appreciate them half as much as she does.
“When we were- what, four?- Adora was sneaking around one of the warehouses and knocked over this barrel of- well, I don’t know what it was, but it was sticky, and took forever to wash off. Her hair was a lost cause. One of the Force Captains cut it down to the scalp.”
Adora’s nose wrinkles, and Catra is momentarily distracted by how cute that is. “I can still smell it. I think it was motor oil.”
“It grew back fast, but not fast enough for her. One night we're in bed, and I wake up, because she’s got her hands all in my hair-”
“Catra!” Adora complains, clearly remembering where this story goes.
“-and she asks me, completely seriously, if I could cut some of my hair off so we could glue it to her head.”
Bow’s, “Awww,” comes in right on cue, and Catra cackles.
“So Catra is the origin of your hair envy?” Glimmer asks.
A smile is tugging at the corners of Adora’s mouth. “Catra was so little, and she had so much hair back then. I’m pretty sure it was half her body weight. She had plenty to spare.”
“Admit it,” Catra tells her. “You were jealous. You said so.”
“Fine. Your hair is fluffy- and cool- and...awesome. I can’t do anything with mine.”
As Adora speaks, Catra finishes with the right side and begins to wrestle it back into a ponytail- the one she had started wearing when her hair finally grew back, adding the pouf later on.
“You could braid it,” Bow offers. “That would be cool.”
“So? I could still braid my hair if I had Catra’s hair. I used to braid hers all the time.”
“Don't get any ideas. No one is braiding my hair. It’s too short, anyway.”
“When it's long enough, I will,” Glimmer declares, with a determination that chills Catra’s blood.
Catra hisses, not at Glimmer, but in frustration as Adora's hair slips from her hands yet again as she tries to form the pouf. "How do you even do this?!" She's watched Adora pull her hair up countless times, but mimicking the motions isn't working for her.
Adora finally blinks open her eyes, and holds out a hand for her ponytail holder. It takes her only a moment to pull her hair into place, wincing as her hands graze the shaved parts of her head.
Catra steps back and admires her handiwork.
"It actually looks good," Glimmer says. “I’ll go get a mirror. You’ll see.”
"Really good," Bow emphasizes. "We'll have to show Netossa next time we're in comms range."
Adora glares at him, then Glimmer’s retreating form, then Catra, for good measure.
“Hey,” Catra admonishes. “This was your bright idea.”
“Just be honest,” Adora sighs. Her shoulders sag, and Catra places her hands on them, leaning in close to whisper in Adora’s ear.
“Just tell me.”
“It looks hot." Adora giggles wetly, as if Catra were joking, but when Catra pulls away there’s less dread in her expression. “It’s different,” she adds, “But it looks good.”
“Really good,” Bow chimes in.
Glimmer returns with a hand mirror, which she holds turned to her chest. “Close your eyes,” she tells Adora.
Adora runs a hand across her nose, and Catra’s twinges in sympathy. There are bits of hair everywhere. “I just want to get this over with.”
“Come on, Adora,” Glimmer insists, and shoves the mirror in front of Adora’s face when she obeys. “All right, open them!”
Adora stares at herself for a long moment, turning her head from side to side, before she blows out a breath and says, “Okay.”
“Just okay?” Glimmer exclaims.
“It’s not as bad as I thought.” Adora turns to Catra, running her fingertips along the short hair. Catra remembers how weird the feeling was for her, at first. “You did a good job.”
"Of course I did. So, you get my dish rotations for the rest of the trip? That was the deal, right?"
“Well, I think it looks great,” Bow declares. “Spin for us?”
Adora gets up and obliges, further scattering hair pieces all over, which Catra definitely won’t be cleaning.
Bow moves in for a hug, which Adora returns, and even though Catra hadn’t really been worried about hurt feelings, it’s good to be sure. Catra isn’t averse to conflict, but Adora and Bow fighting would be too weird for her to handle.
A chin lands on Catra’s shoulder, and she looks down at Glimmer, gazing affectionately at their friends. “Will you do mine next?” she asks.
“Why not? It’s a long trip.”