Adora waits in the airlock of Catra’s apartment building, holding the takeout bag and looking at her phone like she’s waiting for someone to let her in, until one of the apartments’ actual residents leaves and Adora can slip through the keyfob-access-only door before it closes behind them.
She arrives at Catra’s door at exactly 12:15 in the afternoon, and knocks. There’s no answer, so she knocks again. Then she calls, and of course nobody picks up. Then she knocks louder, and says,
“Catra it’s me. Are you feeling okay? I brought you some phở.”
The door opens, and Adora is hit with a wash of relief until the person behind it who comes into view is definitely not Catra.
Suddenly embarrassed, she cranes her neck around to double check the number on the door, but it’s definitely Catra’s place.
“Uh, hi,” she says, looking up at the tall, muscular butch goddess of a woman standing in Catra’s apartment. “Is Catra here?”
Is it possible Catra dealt with whatever is going on in her head right now by hopping on Tinder and finding someone to have a fling with? Adora’s stomach tightens in a knot at the thought.
“Adora, right?” The woman says, and although her posture is stiff and she is very obviously blocking the door, her voice is a lot more gentle than Adora expected.
“Uh,” Adora says, surprised. “Yeah. Do I know you?”
“No. I’m a friend of Catra’s. She talks about you a lot.”
“Oh,” she says, and then lifts her bag of steaming takeout. “Can I come in? I brought lunch, in case she’s, you know, too sick to cook, or - or whatever.”
“No,” the door guardian says, “I can’t let you in right now. She wants to be alone.”
Except that she obviously doesn’t want to be alone, because there’s another person in her apartment. So that just means she doesn’t want to be around Adora.
“Will you at least tell me what’s wrong?” Adora entreats, feeling her throat start to get hot and scratchy. “She won’t talk to me and if it’s my fault, I can’t fix it if I have no idea what’s going on.”
The stranger studies her, frowns.
“That’s not my place to tell you, Adora.” She hesitates, looks down at the bag. “You do get that she’s not actually sick, right?”
“I - I mean I kind of figured.”
“But you still brought her soup.”
“It’s phở,” Adora says weakly. “Catra likes phở.”
“Yeah,” the stranger agrees, smiling just a little. “She does.”
“You’re Scorpia, aren’t you?” Adora says, finally piecing this imposing woman’s identity together from the protective way she’s keeping Adora in the hallway and the soft way her eyebrows crease in worry when she talks about Catra.
“That’s me.” Scorpia smiles just a tiny bit more. Adora regrets that this is how they met. She’d been looking forward to meeting Catra’s old roommate from LA.
“Good,” Adora says, “I’m glad.” That seems to make Scorpia confused.
“Because Catra’s obviously hurting right now, and I - I care a lot about her. I don’t understand what’s going on but I just want her to be okay, so I’m glad she’s got someone here she trusts who’s taking care of her.”
Scorpia gives her that careful look again, like she’s studying her. It’s not as inherently distrustful as Catra’s sharp scrutiny but Adora knows when she’s being assessed.
“I’ll make sure she gets the phở,” Scorpia finally says. “Thank you for bringing it. You should go now.”
“Okay,” Adora says, handing over the bag defeatedly. “If - if it’s something I did, will you tell her I’m sorry?”
“You shouldn’t apologize if you don’t know what you’re apologizing for,” Scorpia remonstrates kindly, and then the door closes again, and Adora is left adrift once more.
She cries silently in the hallway outside Catra’s door for ten minutes, and then gathers herself together and heads back to her car.
When Adora arrives at the theatre for her 6 p.m. call time, she still hasn’t gotten any texts from Catra. She’s distractedly checking her phone for the third time in five minutes, watching with an ache in her chest while Starla does Glimmer’s makeup for the role of Francesca and waiting for her turn in the makeup chair, when Sea Hawk appears at her elbow.
“Adora!” He says, a little too loudly. “I’m just stepping outside for a quick smoke before the show. I have a question about my lines I wanted to run past you.”
He’s already dragging her towards the back door of the theatre before she can even splutter we literally don’t have any scenes together or since when do you smoke?
When the heavy crash bar door shudders shut behind them, Sea Hawk’s obviously fake grin falls away.
“Adora,” he hisses, looking around even though they’re alone in the alley behind the theatre where the smokers go, “Now, I promised my dearest Mermista that I wouldn’t interfere, but I can’t help but feeling that something strange is afoot here.”
“Sea Hawk,” Adora says urgently, “if you know what’s going on with Catra, I need you to tell me.”
“Aha!” He says, like he’s trying to solve a murder mystery, “So you profess to being ignorant of the cause of her distress?” Adora likes Sea Hawk. Really she does. But sometimes this wordy theatre kid bit gets on her nerves, and this is one of those times.
“No, I have no idea what she’s upset about. She won’t talk to me!”
“Adora, I must ask,” he says, gripping her shoulder and giving it a squeeze, leaning in and lowering his voice like he’s terrified of Mermista catching him at this (which he probably is), “Was it truly your intention to sleep with her in secret and then pretend it never happened?”
“I - “ Adora’s mouth flops. “What?” She glares at him, hurt and insulted and confused all at once by the accusation. “No! No, that wasn’t what - why would you think that? When have I ever done something like that?“
“Well, technically, if you had, we wouldn’t know,” he rationalizes.
“Yes you would!” Adora hisses angrily. “This is community theatre. Everybody eventually finds out who slept with who! There’s no such thing as secrets! Jesus! Where did you even get this idea??”
“From Catra, last night on the drive back to the apartment,” Sea Hawk says, suddenly intense and serious. Adora feels like she’s just taken a bullet to the chest. “The question perhaps you ought to ask yourself is where she got that idea from.”
“Fuck,” Adora blurts, backing up against the brick wall of the building, already scrambling for her phone. “Fuck!!”
“Oh, you’re being loud now,” Sea Hawk murmurs. “Alright, well, I’m going to run, because Mermista - “ he doesn’t finish the sentence, just zips back inside and leaves Adora to her meltdown.
“I’m such a fucking idiot,” Adora mutters furiously to herself, “I’m such a fucking idiot.” She dials Catra’s number, presses the phone to her face, blinking through tears. It rings and rings, and nobody picks up. It goes to voicemail. She hasn’t left any voicemails yet, but it’s worth a shot, right?
“Hey, Catra - “ she starts, knowing her voice sounds shaky and frantic, “I think there’s been some kind of - some kind of miscommunication? About us? I just, I - I’d really prefer to have this conversation in person, because I’m thinking about our texts now, and about how maybe I just wasn’t reading your tone right, and - I’m really sorry, Catra, I’m really sorry, I obviously fucked up huge, and that’s - that’s my mistake for I guess assuming you could sort of read my mind, which you obviously can’t, and it’s dumb that I ever thought that, and - “
“Adora?” Bow asks, sticking his head out the back door and peering into the alley. She ways him away with a gesture.
“Catra, I just, I really didn’t want to mess this up, and now I already have, and I - you mean so much to me, and I was trying to be careful - and - and maybe that’s just a dumb excuse, maybe I was just being a coward, because I was scared of being too much, and too needy, and - “ she swallows, and Bow hasn’t left. He mimes a makeup application, frowns worriedly at her. “And I have to go, because the show is starting in like half an hour, and I still have to do makeup, and I miss you and this sucks without you and I’m just - I’m just so sorry, Catra. Please just text me, okay? I can come over tonight after the show and we can talk about this and - and I really have to go, okay, but last week wasn’t what you think it was, it wasn’t just some fling, I really - fuck, I really have to go, but please text me?”
She hangs up the call. She stares at the phone, fighting the impulse to call again, and again, and again, until finally Catra picks up.
Instead, she allows Bow to wipe the tears from her face and then lead her back inside.
Glimmer does quite admirably as Francesca, considering the blanket of misery that her co-star is doing her best to perform through. Her voice is rounder and softer than Catra’s, and her Francesca is a little more flustered and giddy, and that paired with Adora’s total lack of heart during her scenes makes for a pretty subdued love story. If the members of the audience came tonight hoping for the intensity described in the newspaper review, Adora can only imagine they were sorely disappointed.
When the show is over, she can’t get to her phone fast enough.
There’s one new text message from Catra.
Her heart stops.
She opens the text app.
ur fucking shit at communicating of course i cant read ur mind (9:37 p.m.)
That means Catra listened to the voicemail. Adora frantically types out a response.
(10:14 p.m.) Can I come over?
She checks her phone every ten seconds or so as she frantically changes out of her costume. It takes her a few minutes, but eventually Catra responds:
fine (10:19 p.m.)
but u better have a good fucking explanation (10:19 p.m.)
Adora gives her utmost apologies to Bow and Glimmer for ditching them without a ride home (“It’s fine, Adora,” Glimmer says, “my dad can drop us off.”) and then hammers out a quick text to Catra. She’s already got her car started before she hits send.
(10:19 p.m.) Omw
She stops outside Catra’s door, taking a deep steadying breath.
God, she fucked this up so thoroughly. She feels so guilty. She feels so stupid.
She counts in her head. One Mississippi. Two Mississippi. Three Mississippi. Four Mississippi.
She hears the bolt slide, and then the door is open, and there’s Catra. No Scorpia anywhere in sight.
Catra is wearing pajamas and she’s obviously been crying. Adora wants to crush her in a hug, but hesitates. Catra steps aside and gestures: a wordless come in.
Adora shuts the door behind her.
“Catra,” she starts, taking a deep breath. “I’m sorry. I - “
“Wait,” Catra says, cutting her off. “Let me talk first.”
“Okay,” Adora agrees, because she will give Catra literally anything she asks for if it will begin to undo the harm she’s caused.
“If you’re just here to try to convince me to do the last show tomorrow, just turn around and leave, okay? Look, I thought I could do it, I thought I could just push through and focus on the play, but last night’s show obviously proved me wrong. I just.” Her voice cracks. “I can’t do it. I can’t be so close to you knowing I don’t actually get to have that.” Adora opens her mouth to contradict her, but Catra stops her with a sharp hand movement. “I’m not done. The other thing I want to say is if you’re just here to say you’re sorry that I’m sad, that you feel bad because I was stupid enough to catch feelings when your intention was only ever to fuck me, you can take that apology and shove it up your ass.” She swallows hard, the flash of anger reflected in a tightness in her jaw. Adora wants nothing more than to try to soften that clench of pain, to dispel all these things Catra has somehow convinced herself of. “I don’t care if you’re just here because you feel guilty and you don’t like that feeling and think an apology will make you the good guy again.”
“Catra, that’s not - “
“I - yeah, I read you loud and clear.” Adora frowns, her concern clear in her voice.
“Okay. Good. So. Say whatever you wanted to say that you couldn’t say over the phone.”
Adora takes a deep breath.
“Okay. Uh. First of all, I don’t know where you got the idea that all I wanted was sex.”
Catra’s eyebrows take an Olympic leap up her forehead.
“I’m sorry, what? You said - you said we were just friends! You literally said you just wanted to get it out of your system so that you could focus on the stupid fucking play!”
“I - no!” Adora skims quickly through her memories of the last week. Okay. Maybe she did kind of say those things? “That - I mean, that wasn’t what I meant! Why didn’t you just talk to me instead of deciding that that was what I meant?”
“I told you it meant something to me.” Catra says, soft and bitter, “And then I asked if you wanted it to be some dirty little secret and you said yes, Adora! What am I supposed to think, when you don’t want to be seen kissing me in the hallways, when you won’t hang out with me with my friends in case they guess that we’re sleeping together, when you fucking say we’re just like the doomed couple in the goddamn play who fuck a bunch and then literally never see each other again? What was I supposed to think, Adora?” Catra is crying now, and Adora urgently wants to go to her and wrap her up in her arms, but she doesn’t think that would be welcome right about now.
“I don’t - I wasn’t - I wasn’t thinking - “ Adora stammers.
“Obviously,” Catra snarls, and Adora shrinks away from that sharp, angry word. It’s just like when we were kids, she thinks in a sad, reflexive flash. Suddenly Catra’s face fills with guilt, with regret. That weighs more heavily on Adora than the snapping itself - it makes her wonder if maybe she and Catra make each other worse, not better.
“Adora,” Catra says, deflated and sad, “Don’t look at me like that.”
“Catra,” she murmurs, rubbing her face just for something to do with her hands, “Look, I’m really sorry. I really fucked this up. I never meant to make you think any of those things, and I feel like shit that you did, and I wish I hadn’t been so fucking chickenshit, I - I just - “ she forces herself to look up, to meet Catra’s eyes. She’s guarded, wary. “I had it in my head that you’d get freaked out and overwhelmed if I was too sappy all at once. I was trying not to push for too much too soon, but I also guess I was just… scared, so I let myself use that as an excuse to avoid actually having a conversation with you.”
“And what if I don’t believe you?” Catra asks, her voice sounding wrong, somehow, too neutral, too disconnected. “What if this just seems like you saying whatever you think I want to hear so that you can fuck me tonight, have your perfect final night of the performance tomorrow, and then leave me in the dust again like - “ she stops herself, trying to strangle that poisonous thought, but it’s too late. It’s already out into the air, already hanging between them.
Was Catra lying, when she said she didn’t blame Adora anymore for making that choice back at the end of highschool?
Adora is hurt, dizzied by the accusation. She opens her mouth to say something, doesn’t know what, but Catra beats her to the punch.
“Fuck, I’m sorry,” she blurts. “Adora, I didn’t mean that.”
Adora swallows hard, takes in a deep breath, fights back tears.
Honesty. She’s supposed to be approaching this with honesty, and, and - what else? Compassion?
“Okay,” she breathes. “That uh. That hurt. But I get that - that there’s a lot of history here - and that I said a bunch of really stupid things without thinking about how they sounded.”
“Just tell me what you want, Adora,” Catra whimpers, like she’s afraid of the answer but she needs it, like it’s an inoculation or a trip to the dentist.
You, is the immediate answer, but Adora realizes now how that could sound like she’s just objectifying Catra, thinking of her as a trophy to be claimed and used and discarded.
“I want to be your girlfriend,” Adora says. “I want to hold your hand in front of everybody and - and carry your guitar for you, and make you laugh, and - and I really want to hug you right now, if maybe, that would be okay?”
Catra lets out a long, long, shaky breath.
“Do you mean that?” She asks.
“Of course I mean it,” Adora whispers, mentally working herself up towards the precipice of a confession. “Catra, I never stopped loving you. Not really. That was what I thought I was hinting at, when I said - when I said we’d fallen back into our friendship so easily.” Catra looks stricken. Maybe not the reaction Adora was hoping for, but she can’t stop now. “I loved you even when we were just friends, even before we hit puberty and started thinking about sex. I don’t know how you could ever think I’d be able to just have sex with you and be okay with that. I’m - I’m kind of a whole-ass gay disaster around you, Catra. Just ask Bow and Glimmer. I haven’t talked about anything but you since the first day I walked in and saw you there at rehearsal.”
Catra just looks at her.
And then, voice trembling, she says:
“Okay. Come hug me now please.”
Adora rushes across the distance between them and envelops Catra in her arms, holding her maybe just a bit too tightly, pressing her face into Catra’s neck. There’s a moment of hesitation, and then Catra’s arms come around her back and grip just as tightly.
Neither of them says anything for a while; they just cling to each other desperately, holding on against the buffeting winds and crashing tides of their emotions.
“Have you eaten dinner?” Adora whispers, eventually, and the question means I love you.
“No,” Catra says. She sniffles, then rubs her face against Adora’s shoulder. “Thanks for the phở, by the way. It was really good.” Adora thinks maybe this means I love you too.
“Want me to order us some takeout?” She murmurs softly. “We could put on a movie or something.” And then she presents the ace she’s got up her sleeve, hoping it secures her another hour or two with Catra to just… be with her, and maybe talk things out a little more. “I could rub your neck. I never did finish getting all that tension out of your jaw.”
Catra gives a shaky little laugh.
“God, that hurt so much. You really weren’t kidding when you warned me.”
“I can be a little gentler if I’m taking my time,” Adora reassures her, pulling away a little out of the hug, kissing her forehead. Catra sighs and then turns to look up at her.
“You can order food and we can pick a movie but first I need absolute, sparkling-fucking-clear clarity, okay?” Adora nods, and Catra continues. “Am I your girlfriend?”
“If you want to be.” Adora says, hope taut in her lungs. “I’d really like you to be.”
“Okay,” Catra breathes. “So we’re dating.”
“We’re dating,” Adora parrots, and even just saying the words makes her smile, makes some of the ache of the day recede. She cranes her neck forward and gently kisses Catra’s eyebrow - their established signal that this is just them, and not their characters.
At long last, Catra smiles.
“And do you… not want me to come back to the show tomorrow night? I know I… kind of made a scene, with bailing on it tonight. I wouldn’t blame people for thinking I was being - “
“You were sick,” Adora interrupts quickly. “Netossa said you mentioned something about food poisoning. As far as anybody cares, that’s the truth. You don’t have to do the show tomorrow, but if you want to… I would be really happy to have you there.” She cautiously lifts a hand to stroke Catra’s face. “Plus you wouldn’t want to miss the wrap party after. Everybody missed you today, not just me. You’re part of the crew. You’re their friend, people like you.”
Catra’s smile grows, fragile and sheepish, and she leans into Adora’s touch.
“Yeah.” Adora rubs her thumb against her cheek with the utmost of care. “And besides… if you’re okay with it, maybe… tomorrow we could tell everyone we’re dating?”
“After the show is over, I assume,” Catra says, and Adora can hear that edge of unhappiness hiding folded between her words.
“I actually meant before,” Adora says softly. “No more sneaking.”
Catra flashes her a look that Adora recognizes. It’s the same look Catra gave her on that first night when she offered to do the dishes while Catra showered.
“I’d like that,” Catra says, so quietly, fearfully hopeful that Adora’s resolve breaks and she leans in to kiss her. Catra kisses back; there’s no heat to the kiss, just tenderness. Adora closes her eyes, feeling some of the tension leave her shoulders.
“Anything else we should clarify?” Adora asks, when they pull apart.
“I think that covers the most important stuff,” Catra says. “You want to order dinner?”
“Sure. What are you in the mood for?”
“Literally anything,” Catra says, and then gets a thoughtful look. “Actually, one last question. Are you… okay with me calling you princess in front of other people? I know you used to hate that.”
“I hated it for like maybe a month, tops, when we were sixteen,” Adora says with a grin, rubbing Catra’s lower back with the hand that’s still settled there. “I like it when you call me that.” She feels herself blushing as she forces herself to admit: “It makes me feel pretty, when you say it like it’s a good thing.”
“You are pretty,” Catra reassures her, leaning in to kiss her jaw. Adora sighs happily at the touch. “Pick whatever you want for dinner. I’m gonna see what our options are for movies. And I’m gonna text Netossa.”
They end up getting a heaping styrofoam container of lemon pepper fried calamari and vegetable fried rice. Adora doesn’t really remember what movie Catra ends up picking; they’re asleep, curled up in each others’ arms on the sofa under a blanket, within the first twenty minutes.
Adora gently wakes Catra up when she comes to and realizes the credits are rolling.
“Hey,” Adora whispers.
“Hey,” Catra says back, groggy but affectionate.
“It’s late, and call time is at one tomorrow. I should head home.”
“Okay,” Catra says softly, stretching up to press a kiss to her lips. Adora’s eyes slip shut, and she wishes she could just stay, but she didn’t bring a change of clothes.
“Can I take you out to an early lunch tomorrow before we have to be at the theatre?” Adora asks, when the kiss ends for too soon for her liking.
“As long as it’s lunch, and not brunch,” Catra says wryly. “We’re reaching my upper limit on breakfast food consumption.”
“Deal,” Adora says, and then sits up and captures Catra’s face for another kiss. “Before I forget… I had this idea for the final curtain call,” she murmurs, when they pull apart, “but I wanted to get your approval first.”
Adora pulls the car into the theatre parking lot, glancing over at Catra.
“You okay?” She asks. Catra looks nervous.
“They’re not all gonna be mad at me for missing yesterday’s show, are they?” Catra asks, in a voice so small Adora just wants to cradle her and tell her everything is fine.
“No,” she says instead, and smiles knowing it’s the truth. “They’ll be happy to see you.” She leans over and kisses Catra in the bright warmth of the early afternoon sunlight.
“Okay,” Catra whispers against Adora’s lips.
Adora takes her hand as they cross the parking lot.
When they push open the door, all the assembled cast and crew turn as one.
The backstage erupts in cheers, and five different people come running to wrap Catra in hugs and demand to know if she’s feeling better.
Adora notices Mermista hanging back. They catch each other’s eye.
“Sorry I like, assumed the worst of you, or whatever,” Mermista says, in a low voice. Adora smiles and shakes her head.
“I was an idiot,” she says. “I’m glad she had you on her side.”
“Obviously,” Mermista scoffs. “Aside from me, she’s the coolest person here.”
“No disagreement here,” Adora says, grinning.
Once Catra escapes the enthusiastic hugs and check-ins (two of which are from Bow and Glimmer respectively) Adora firmly takes her hand in front of everybody and then kisses her cheek. There are several gasps and shrieks and the people who swarmed for hugs begin instead to demand details.
“Ugh, finally,” DT drawls from across the room, and everybody laughs, and just like that they remember they have a performance to put on and everybody is back to work, running around getting ready for the final show.
Adora thinks this might be the best performance she’s ever given. The words and gestures come to her sure and sincere and natural, her voice resonates clear and powerful through the theatre, and every move she makes and note she reaches for is in perfect synchrony with Catra.
There’s just one thing missing, one thing left to do, one message she feels her heart burning to convey.
At intermission, she wraps herself around Catra from behind right there in the middle of the dressing room, and whispers in her ear:
“Act two, scene five. I’m singing to you, okay? Not Francesca. To you.”
Catra’s huffs with surprise. She knows what the scene is. She knows what the song is.
“Okay,” Catra says, a little breathlessly.
Adora reluctantly peels herself off of Catra and allows her to change for the second act. As they’ve done so many times before, they wait in the darkness in the wings, curled together in bed.
Tonight, as they listen to the bouncy county fair scene and anticipate when they’ll need to be back in position, they hold hands. It feels like the best thing in the world.
Act two, scene five.
Adora is nowhere to be seen as Francesca watches her children grow up, graduate, get married. She attends her husband’s funeral. She tearfully thanks Marge - Mermista - for her unwavering friendship through a secret affair neither of them can name. She moves on. She gets old.
And once more, she is alone in her kitchen.
The phone rings.
“Johnsons’,” she answers, sounding tired. No answer.
“Johnsons’,” Catra says again, confused. Still no answer. “Is someone there?”
Nobody is there. She hangs up the phone.
Adora enters from the other side of the kitchen, lit by a ghostly blue spotlight - a spectre of Francesca’s imagination. Her flattering button ups are replaced by a drab sweater vest; spectacles hang from a chain around her neck; her hair is up in a messy bun instead of hanging loose and wild and free. She walks through the kitchen like she doesn’t see her own surroundings; Catra watches her, bewitched by the vision of a lover long gone.
When they’re standing just a few feet apart, Adora stops. She looks up, looks at Catra as if she really sees her, as if she’s really there. They hold each other’s gaze. Adora smiles softly, sadly. Catra puts a hand to her mouth and stifles a noise of old longing, the keen of a broken heart.
Adora looks away again and steps out of the light, vanishes.
She reappears on a new set that shares the stage with the kitchen; Roberta’s study, filled with boxes and mementos and so much junk accumulated over a lifetime of endless wandering, endless searching for meaning.
There is a phone conversation, sad and wistful, about retirement, about something terminal, about a phone number from a woman named Francesca who never called. Adora hangs up the phone and begins to shuffle through her boxes of stuff, stuff, so much meaningless stuff. She sighs and looks up, looks across the stage at the kitchen that exists only in her memory.
Her eyes find Catra and stay there.
They aren’t supposed to do that. She’s supposed to be looking at the stuff in her study. But Adora doesn’t care. Netossa can fuss at her later. It’s a small tweak, a tiny change in direction.
There was something in the desert, she starts to sing, gently musing about her life, all the good things she knows she ought to remember, ought to treasure, There was some place wild and green - and a child in a village I passed through. She runs her fingers over the envelope she’s holding, but continues to stare at Catra in the kitchen.
Francesca is supposed to be mostly shrouded in darkness during this scene - Roberta’s lament is normally the main focus of this song - but somebody up in the lighting booth has noticed Adora’s lingering gaze and has made the executive decision to improvise, lighting Catra in a soft ethereal blue so that the audience can see what Roberta is so fixated on.
There are places I have travelled, and so many things I’ve seen, Adora sings, sweet and soft and sad, and it all fades away… but you. The music starts up at this last word, an almost hopefully nostalgic guitar strumming as Adora rises to her feet, still clutching the envelope, and walks away from the collection of boxes.
I was sliding down a mountain, she sings, a little more forcefully now, her eyes on where she’s going instead of on Catra, looking around the kitchen set as if she’s trying to understand why this place, of all her memories of magnificent and wondrous places, is the one she recalls with such clarity that it feels like she’s right back there whenever she thinks about it. I was burning in the sun. I was crying with amazement at the view.
She circles around the set, touching surfaces, shadowing Catra by just a few ghostly paces as Catra moves wearily from sink to stove, from stove to cupboard, from cupboard to table. I was capturing a moment, but when all is said and done -
Adora intercepts her so that she and Catra are at the front of the set, standing a few feet apart, and now, once more, she looks directly at Catra. Catra looks back, even though she’s not supposed to, but with the otherworldly blue light on her it just looks like Robert’s vision is invoking an old memory of Francesca looking back at her. Well it all fades away, Adora sings, holding Catra’s eyes, willing every ounce of herself into the words, but you.
In a daze, she reaches for Catra. Catra turns from her, walking to the sink as if to do dishes, as if Adora isn’t there. It all fades away, Adora sings, pursuing her at a sedate, patience pace, It all fades away. She wraps her arms around Catra from behind, presses them together, frowns. It all fades away but you.
Warm and sombre and filled with deep regrets, the piano joins the guitar. A moment later, the sharp, wistful sound of a mandolin joins in. Adora squeezes Catra once, then loosens her arm enough for the memory of Catra to slip away from her once more, crossing to the other side of the kitchen. The music carries Adora’s feet as she moves to the front of the stage again, singing to the audience like she’s begging for their help in understanding just what went wrong.
I have sailed across the oceans, past the cities and the farms, on a never ending quest for something new. She sings to them, with a bitter shake of her head at her own foolishness.
She turns back to look at Catra, who looks up from where she’s wiping the kitchen table clean to freeze and hold Adora’s eyes again.
And the only thing that mattered, Adora sings earnestly, was the four days in your arms! And it all fades away - she stalks towards Catra, now with more urgency - but you.
Catra comes around the kitchen table so that they’re both at the front of the set where the audience has the best view of them. Adora reaches her and extends her arms, like she wants to hold her again but knows she isn’t real, and instead sinks to her knees. It all fades away, she sings forlornly to the stage floor, then straightens up in her kneeling position taking hold of the hem of Catra’s dress with shaking hands. It all fades away. She stares up into Catra’s eyes, willing her to believe these words. Adora has missed her for eight long years. She’s changed, she’s grown, she’s made other amazing friends, but Catra has always been - and will always be - special. It all fades away but you.
The music dances, swelling with Roberta and Francesca’s unfulfilled love, smothered in its cradle. Catra’s eyes shimmer with tears that only Adora can see. Tonight, she's pretty damn sure they’re good tears.
Adora presses her forehead to the edge of dress she has in her hands, takes a deep breath like this scrap of fabric is the only thing tethering her to this life anymore.
She rises to her feet slowly, letting her fingers uncurl with obvious reluctance. She would stay on her knees, but she really does have to be standing to get the power she needs for the next notes.
As the music lifts up and up, so sad and so honest, so longing and so pure, Adora sucks in as much air as she can fit into her lungs and then launches into a wordless aria - the most vocally challenging piece in all of Roberta’s songs, a solid thirty seconds of sustained notes that have no lyrics but become progressively more and more powerful and intense as the character empties all of her life’s regrets into a beautiful, devastating bellow.
She’s supposed to deliver this to the audience; instead, she sings it to Catra, tears in her eyes and desperation in her body language even as she’s throwing back her shoulders and just about dislocating her jaw to deliver the most raw and soulful sound she can achieve.
Catra has slowly reached one hand towards her face throughout this, but has never broken the appearance of being only a memory, only an illusion summoned by Adora’s own mind. Adora reaches her own hand towards those outstretched fingers, never making contact.
There is one thing that’s eternal, that cannot be torn apart - there is one thing that remains forever true, Adora sings to her, her face open and her heart on her sleeve. Past the thinking! Past the breathing! She clutches her own chest, Past the beating of my heart! It will all fade away but you!
She tears herself away from Catra and walks back to the edge of the stage, facing the audience like she was technically supposed to be doing this entire time. Sorry Netossa.
It all fades away! She feels a hand slip tentatively around her waist.
It all fades away! Catra presses herself up against Adora’s back.
It all fades away but you. Adora wraps her hands around Catra’s forearms, holding her there, closing her eyes as if she’s desperately trying to cling to the delusion that she’s here.
It all fades away! She sings mournfully into the audience.
It all fades away! She opens her eyes, and as she does, Catra slips her arms away again. Adora doesn’t turn to look at her, this time, as she vanishes.
It all fades away… Adora sinks down to one knee, looks at the envelope she’s still somehow holding. But you. She hangs her head, tightens her grip angrily around the paper, then relaxes it again in resignation. But you.
Slowly, she rises to her feet, crosses back over to Roberta's study.
But you, she sings to the damned envelope, placing it delicately into one of the scattered boxes.
She puts the lid on the box. The music fades. The lights go down. The audience roars with applause.
Catra has one final song, achingly beautiful and recklessly sad, and then the audience is on their feet, clapping so loud Adora thinks she can feel it.
The cast assembles at the front of the stage for the final curtain call. They start at the outer edges, and Adora can’t stop smiling, smiling, smiling like she’s filled with a bright golden light as each of her friends and castmates steps forward and bows one by one to receive their much-deserved applause. She looks at Catra, drinks in the brilliant, delighted, emotional smile on her face, and only smiles harder.
She blushes when it’s her turn to step out for a bow and Catra puts a hand behind her back and pushes her gently but firmly out into the limelight, and the audience erupts with whistles and cheers and a resurgence of thunderous applause when she bows.
Then it’s Catra’s turn, and Adora backs up and returns the favour, guiding Catra out to receive her applause with a soft hand on her back. If Adora thought the cheering for her was loud, it feels like the response to Catra is about ten times that in volume and enthusiasm. She can see Catra blushing and blinking away tears.
And then, right as Catra straightens up from her bow, Adora takes Catra in her arms, dips her so low the end of her wig brushes the stage, and kisses her. The theatre explodes with cheering and wolf-whistles and howls of approval - and Adora’s pretty sure several of them are coming from the people up on stage with them.
Catra is beaming fit to light the entire world when Adora pulls her back up to standing.
They hold hands, and then reach out to the members of the cast beside them and take their hands too.
As one, they bow.
Over the theatre’s audio system, DT crows:
“Let’s hear it for the truly fabulous band!” The spotlight highlights the incredibly talented little group; DT is sprawled across the piano bench with their microphone, and Rogelio smiles shyly with his guitar in hand. “The unparalleled and delightful tech crew!” The lights come up in the control booth; Entrapta, bracketed by the Hordak twins, grins and waves down at the crowd that has turned to offer them applause. “The set designer!” In the front row, Angella stands bashfully and smiles and waves when Entrapta puts a spotlight on her. “And our astonishing director and musical director duo, Netossa and Spinnerella Malokotela!” Adora and Catra release each others’ hands and part, grinning, so that the married couple can step out and take center stage for just a brief moment. The applause feels like it will never end. Adora’s face hurts from grinning so hard.
“Thank you, everybody for being such a wonderful audience!” DT declares. “Enjoy the rest of your evenings!”
And then, at long, long last, the curtain goes down for the final time.