Chapter 1: Arrival
Huntara is the strongest of the Crimson Waste. That’s the title she chose for herself because she had to. She has been raised by the Horde, made to value strength, both physical and mental, above feelings, and the living conditions of the Waste didn’t change her values that much, but in appearance only.
Because while playing this role, she never lied to herself about her own feelings. She hid them by habit, also she had no reason and no one she trusted enough to share those with. Both in the Horde and in the Waste, there were people who would use them against you. But even hidden, she swore long ago to care about those feelings to truly care about the people of the Waste and not become a second Hordak.
Feelings. They are hitting her pretty hard when she approaches the Ice Palace in the land of Snows. Frosta didn’t do things halfway. Huntara has heard stories about last Princess Prom but even the most enthusiastic description from Kyle tells her that it was nothing in comparison to what she is seeing now.
Kyle, Rogelio and herself, against her instinct she will argue, have their faces glued to the window of the carriage to appreciate the view. The Palace is visible from far away and shining with multiple lights. Standing in the middle of the flat, white land, the glowing mountain of ice is a beautiful and improbable sight, a beacon of hope in the middle of nowhere. If one would ask them later, none of the three would be able to tell how they arrive, got off the carriage and stepped inside, so their minds were captivated by its outside look.
And the inside doesn’t seem to pale in comparison. The walls are actually translucent since they are made of ice and the multicoloured lights shining out are also basking the interior of the building. They can see a glimpse of the ballroom already and it’s magnificent, already full of life as people are starting to arrive.
Upon entering, Huntara leaves the two guys and takes a side hallway that she was instructed to. The guards let her pass without question, relieving some of her tension. She is nervous. She. The strongest of the Waste. This feels as strange as thinking of the Waste full of trees! She chuckles.
She-Ra’s magic has done some of that, bringing the tree line farther into the desert, making oasis greener and bigger than they ever were. But the Waste is still the Crimson Waste and Huntara is still Huntara; she shouldn’t be nervous as she observes the thirty feet long corridor she has to cross to reach the room she is supposed to.
Huntara is the strongest of the Waste. Its ruler. Its leader. She has been arguing with Glimmer, queen Glimmer, for a few days now about what to do with it. She doesn’t want to change the place. It’s a refuge for those who feel left out, for those refusing complicated laws and manners. But she’s not a princess and Glimmer is trying to make her accept to turn the land into something brighter. The queen’s idea of bright is kind and appealing but even with the war over, Huntara believes that an oasis for people unable to accept that ideal is still needed.
She is the strongest of the Waste. Of course when it comes to strength, princesses and their magic powers are something else. Even Flower girl could lift a spaceship like it was nothing only using Cacti roots; that’s ridiculously out of her league. But there usually isn’t any princess in the Waste, therefore her title holds and she won’t let anyone else dictate her ways. The only argument able to make her waver is about the kids. Anyone should have a choice to come to the Waste but children born there don’t have that choice. And Glimmer knows it by now and is pushing very hard to change Huntara’s mind using this.
But Huntara is still the strongest of the Waste and therefore the one in charge. Catra took her title for a time but she has long recovered it by now. She has absolute confidence in her physical strength, and she is fairly smart. At least she fights smart and knows enough of the world. She gained a lot of experience in both military in the Horde and diplomacy after.
She is the strongest of the Waste and right now everything she just thought about is completely irrelevant because it doesn’t help one bit to relieve her nervousness. She can be as strong as she wants, she’s both impatient and anxious at the moment. And she knows it’s normal but she doesn’t like thinking of herself as only normal. She is the strongest and she would really like if that could always put her above normal, but in this rare occasion, it can not!
Huntara is the strongest of the Waste and she’s also a girl in love. She probably should call herself a woman rather than a girl too, at her age, but that makes it even harder and embarrassing. She is nervous because in the room at the end of that corridor is a girl who makes her heart race and her emotions show on her face despite her strength and training. A girl she hasn’t seen in nine days, in person, trackpad comm simply isn’t the same, and that feels like way longer without logical reasons, and she is about to see her again in that foreign, crowded atmosphere.
Huntara is the strongest of the Crimson Waste and her anxiety vanishes when she enters the room and that girl smiles at her sweetly. For a moment she forgets about everything and stands at the door smiling back. She knows she is blushing, she knows their friends will make fun of them and she doesn’t care; she is the strongest, she can silence them. Also her girlfriend is pretty strong too.
Perfuma is standing behind Lonnie who is sitting still on a chair, to do her hair properly and adorn it with a few flowers. She hasn’t known the ex-Horde girl for long but it became quickly obvious that, like Adora and Catra, she isn’t used to dress up. She can do it, she looks really nice at the moment, but it’s all about the details, and thus the princess offered some guidance. Also flowers. Because a party should have flowers, even when you are under a mountain of ice, and a few coloured flecks along Lonnie’s dreadlocks really make a difference.
She suddenly notices that Lonnie is staring at the door, her smile getting so bright that Perfuma simply has to glance the same way too.
“Hey, hi Hunty!” Lonnie breaks the silence after that tender moment they shared looking at each other.
“Hi, Lonn’, hi Perfuma.”
“Good evening!” The princess cheerfully replies. “Give me a few minutes and she’s all yours! Do you want some flowers too?”
“Nah, I’m good.” Huntara looks around and sighs. The room is decorated with a lot of flowers, Perfuma’s room, and the princess herself isn’t lacking in them neither in her hair nor garnishing her teal dress. She glances at Lonnie again and shrugs but her smile stays stuck on her face. “Why not, but…”
Perfuma can guess she is searching for a proper way to say something along the line of not as flashy as yours while still sounding polite. “I can be reasonable.” The princess says softly.
“How was the trip? Did you manage to get along? I’m sorry I didn’t take my trackpad with me, it was supposed to be a short test flight, and I’m not used to have my own yet...” Lonnie starts a conversation with Huntara.
Perfuma half-listens while she finishes her task, curious but not wanting to feel that she is intruding between the two. When Lonnie is all set, the princess creates a little ribbon of coral cacti flowers and arranges it carefully in Huntara’s hair. Since Lonnie doesn’t have to stay still and seated anymore, she stands up and their discussion becomes more awkward and flirty. In her effort to respectfully not listen, Perfuma pointlessly wonders if it’s appropriate to use a marine term to describe the desert plant flower’s colour. She starts to walk out quietly as soon as she’s done when Scorpia dashes into the room, almost bumping into her.
The two pairs stand silently for a moment, each in their little world, frozen in time, eyes to eyes, until Lonnie finally chuckles. “Hunty, this is Scorpia, Scorpia, Huntara.”
“Nice to meet y-” Both start at the same time, making the two others laugh while they start again in turn.
“Sorry, I forgot something!” Scorpia tells Perfuma before she quickly opens a drawer to retrieve her earrings. She’s wearing her black dress again and puts on those carmine jewels that echo the colour of her carapace. “All set!”
Perfuma takes her arm and invites everyone to make their way through the short hallway leading to the ballroom when Lonnie suddenly sighs, looking at the other three. “Life is so unfair.” She says but still smiles while she points at her own height. Scorpia and Huntara are big, imposing, and while slender, Perfuma is pretty tall too, accentuated by the fact that she’s wearing heels. The thought is quickly forgotten though, as they enter the ballroom and instantly all of them feel small.
Perfuma is used to the open, used to the feeling of not having walls around her, only limited by the nearest line of trees, and making her feel the same when she is actually under a palace of ice isn’t an easy feat, but one that Frosta managed to accomplish in style. The ballroom is significantly bigger than last time. It makes sense; in the middle of the war, not all princesses were willing to travel so far, and this time it’s not restricted to princesses and their plus ones.
But making sense doesn’t always let you imagine the result and Frosta, often feeling that she has something to prove because of her age and height, didn’t restrain herself. Perfuma was already here in the morning too, decorating the place with flowers, but the ambience was very different. It was a fun and casual time with the Princess Alliance and a few extras, not yet a majestic party, and it simply didn’t feel the same.
Guests are arriving from all corners of Etheria and most of the power princesses are staying on the side for now, except for Glimmer greeting everyone to show off that she knows them, or at least pretend to, and Frosta sitting on her throne, waiting for each guest to come and greet her. She is smiling politely but her friends are almost certain she’s bored of it already.
Perfuma is calm and relaxed as usual, if not a little excited of course, but Catra and Adora’s arrival manages to startle her. Catra is wearing a long deep blue tight dress, covering her shoulders but otherwise sleeveless, the bottom is cut on both sides to let her legs free and partially showing, and she wears open shoes of the same colour, which seems to be the part she’s most uncomfortable with at the moment. The dress has a few little golden wing-like patterns, the same that usually adorns Adora’s belt, adding a touch of silliness that keeps people from staring too seriously.
Adora’s dress is mostly white, but the top is ample and without shoulders, revealing the same deep blue colours on the inside floating below them. A few giggles erupt among their friends. The dress has a trail of also golden shapes, crossing her chest from her left shoulder down to her right side and continuing in a spiral around her legs. Cat paw’s shapes. Perfuma giggles too. That’s beyond a touch of silliness but doesn’t prevent Adora to confidently walk and smile like she’s proud of it.
Then it clicks in Perfuma’s head. Catra looks adorable but she won’t be comfortable with that, therefore Adora made herself look a little more silly than necessary to have people stare at her instead of Catra. Also nobody will dare annoy the feline girl with She-Ra so obviously showing that she’s with her. Perfuma’s smile twists a little. The latter might not make Catra completely happy though.
“You look… you look great!” Scorpia’s voice suddenly gets Perfuma out of her thoughts.
“Thanks.” Catra answers with a grin filled with both happiness and nervousness.
Perfuma can feel her heart tighten. Jealousy. It’s a problem sometimes to analyse people so much. It’s good for helping them but it also means she understands her own emotions too well. She doesn’t have the luxury of basking in that vague bittersweet feeling, wondering what’s happening and hope. She recognises it instantly and she knows she shouldn’t act on it but it still hurts a little.
Scorpia has stars in her eyes as she tries to formulate a few other compliments to Catra.
Perfuma’s throat is dry, preventing her to speak her mind. She shakes her head slightly and walks away, to a far table to get something to drink. But she isn’t fooling herself for long and the excuse of thirst quickly vanishes. She knows better than speak her mind when she is disturbed by a bad feeling. She doesn’t want to make another mistake. She tries to breathe. It’s so much clearer and easier when she is helping other people.
Seeing Perfuma walk away, Catra decides to go after her and releases Adora’s arm. The princess flinches and looks at her with a slight worry showing on her face already.
“What are you doing?” Adora asks quietly to not get anyone else’s attention.
“Playing the princess for a bit.” Catra smiles and winks to reassure Adora.
Almost stealthily, before Scorpia even notices, Catra sneaks through the crowd and joins Perfuma near a drinks buffet table. The princess is trying to calm down, pretending that she is pondering what to choose but she is still visibly jealous, and upset at her own jealousy.
“I didn’t now so many drinks even existed.” Catra says playfully to start a conversation.
“Catra, I don’t want to talk right now.” Perfuma clenches her fist but that only encourages Catra.
“What, afraid I’m going to steal Scorpia away from you?” She retorts bluntly and grins.
“It’s.. not my problem. It’s not my place to tell her where to look. She has the right to do what she wants...” Perfuma hesitates. “It’s so unfair, haven’t you done enough to her already?”
“Yeah, right, like you can’t do anything about that.”
“Why are you acting like this?!”
Catra’s smirk drops, seeing the princess way more negative than she thought she would be. That didn’t work as intended. Unlike Adora or Glimmer, Perfuma doesn’t often get competitive, doesn’t bite and take challenges. Catra expected her provocation to force Perfuma to try and overtake her but the princess only got more cautious and defensive instead. “Cause you are wrong?” Catra replies more softly.
“I am wrong?! You think you know better than me what’s good for her?”
“Yeah. But it’s not easy for me to explain this all soft and smile like you though…” Catra looks away shyly and the gesture manages to throw Perfuma back into her more familiar role, back being the one helping others open up.
The princess takes a deep breath, closes her eyes for a few seconds and only once her calm is restored she speaks again. “Alright, how am I wrong?”
“I’m not good for Scorpia. I mean even if I didn’t have Adora-”
“Please don’t say that about yourself-” Perfuma can’t help herself.
“Get away from your therapy mind for a minute and listen to me.” Catra interrupts. “I like to lead, I like to be in charge. When Scorpia is with me, she follows like a pet and doesn’t decide anything. I’m not saying it would be all bad now that I care about her and all but that would be a waste. That’s not what she really wants, not what will make her most happy, that’s only a lazy way to forget about her problems. You know better than me how much she can do when she gets a little confident and tries things by herself.” Catra cogitates a little to phrase this like the princess would. “She needs someone who can make her better, not someone doing the better in her place. I can’t be that person, but you can.”
“That doesn’t matter if she chooses you!”
“Are you kidding me?! Are you blind or something? She’s practically begging you to look at her! I can’t help it if I’m looking good enough to distract her. Learn to be a little more distracting yourself!”
“I can’t do that.” Perfuma is conflicted and Catra can read it on her face. The princess is thinking that distracting Scorpia is the same as leading her.
“Sure you can!” Catra smiles mischievously and in a swift motion, she cuts Perfuma’s dress slightly with her claw to reveal a little more of the princess’ long legs and cleavage.
“That’s not what I meant!” The princess erupts while her face considerably reddens.
Catra laughs and quickly disappears in the crowd, letting the princess reflect on her own behaviour like she often asks Catra to. But the feline girl feels her smile vanish and she slows down, brooding over what she just did too, and by the time she joins Adora again, she is shivering, eaten by doubts. She grabs her princess’ arm and tries to calm down. Adora looks at her with concern for a second but smiles soon enough and pulls Catra a little closer.
Catra wanted to help. She hopes it helped. Perfuma is kind, nice, soft, but she has trouble sometimes with her stiff righteous boundaries. Catra only pushed her a little past them to help Scorpia, she tries to convince herself, then notices Scorpia is nowhere to be seen.
“Where is Scorpia?”
“She ran after Perfuma soon after you left.” Adora answers as softly as possible. Catra senses how her princess has no idea what’s happening but still is here ready to comfort her, using the contact of their arms to convey feelings and warmth without making a big public demonstration out of it.
Catra chuckles as her doubts recede. Maybe her help wasn’t appropriate or even needed but at least she’s sure she’s right. Perfuma fears to walk over Scorpia’s free will so much that she doesn’t look at Scorpia straight enough to notice that the scorpion princess is looking back at her most of the time.
And Catra might be a bigger distraction in this dress that she wants to admit, looking not only good but stunning and cute enough that even Frosta is glancing at her from her throne, cracking a smile, without that usual glint in her eyes telling she wants to punch Catra’s face, for once.
Catra relaxes a little, as much as she can in this situation. A lot of people come to greet Adora, well, She-Ra to be precise, and she hurt most of them. The ballroom is beautiful and looks very different than last time, but it’s still the same place. Her princess runs a hand in her short hair, the only part of her that is a little messy at the moment, not all tidied up for the party because otherwise it still reminds her too much of Prime. The gesture helps and Catra sees inside those grey blue eyes that Adora is trying hard not to worry too much over her earlier shiver, trying hard not to hug her tightly right here and fuss over it, and that helps too.
Catra observes her friends around her. She is allowed to call them that, right? At least for tonight? They look happy. Nervous, most of them, like her, but happy. She jumps.
“Aren’t you nervous surrounded by all those princesses?!” She asks Lonnie who is so perfectly calm that it’s weird. More relaxed than Adora, that’s a given. More relaxed then herself, seems easy at the moment. More relaxed than Kyle and Rogelio at her side, very visibly feeling out of place for now, the picture fits. But calmer than Huntara at her other side, or Mermista and Sea Hawk, already starting comfortably for the buffets, that’s a whole different story.
“I was. But I stopped.” The girl answers simply.
“Wha- what?” Catra’s eyes widen.
“Look, ten days ago I was trying to call Glimmer your majesty and you know how that ended. Then I met Frosta who didn’t even try to keep any royal manners other than being polite, and since she’s the only one you call princess, she glares at me when I do too, so I don’t. Do I need to talk about working with Entrapta?” She shrugs. “I don’t think so. Yesterday, when the other power princesses arrived and talked to me like I was their best friend already, I just stopped trying to care about princess manners. Tonight is simply more of them, right? Then there’s nothing to be nervous about.” Lonnie notices Catra looking at her arm, linked with Huntara’s. “Come on, most people here came as couples anyway. Relax! Tonight is gonna be fun!”
‘She’s been like that since she set foot on a starship!’ Rogelio growls and when his eyes meet Kyle’s they both smile fondly like it’s the best thing that happened to her since long ago.
“Please teach that to Adora? Being able to relax at will would really help!” Catra laughs while the princess rolls her eyes.
The ballroom suddenly becomes completely silent when Frosta and Glimmer step up to the little stage in front of the musicians and face the crowd. Catra sighs. Right, before they can all really have fun there are a few officialties to deal with.
Chapter 2: Beginning
“Welcome everyone to my Ice Palace. ...” Frosta continues to recite her speech. Maybe her tone is slightly too monotonous but it should do. She’s bored of it already. She speaks slowly, loudly, the ballroom is huge and there are a lot of people. She sighs internally. A little more effort and she’ll be free of all this, free to have fun, free to play around. She’s not a kid, alright? Even adults like to play sometimes. Tonight is a party that everyone should enjoy, her turn just has to wait a bit longer because she is a princess, because she asked to host this, so she is going to do it properly.
Princess Prom was very traditional. There was an endless list of things that had to be done in a precise, already determined way and that is part of the charm of that event. But for today there was no such rules therefore she had to compose between what she wanted, what she likes, and good manners and expectations. Also taking into account the larger number of guests.
She eyes the crowd in front of her. Most of the people are listening attentively, or pretending to, but some of her friends are looking bored too as expected. ‘Did Catra just yawn? And she’s smirking at me too!’ Payback will have to wait. Her speech turns to relating the events of the end of the war. Most people here only have learnt about them from written messages or their newly acquired trackpads. It’s important to have a princess relates those face to face.
Frosta has been ruling for a long time already, relatively to her age, and she is well aware of the amount of concessions she has to make to prove that she can do it properly. She also has to please some people a little more stuck up and attached to traditions if she doesn’t want trouble in the beginning of this new era of peace. Order makes it easier to govern, obviously. No need to go Prime’s level of order though, obviously times two.
But really, for tonight she could have done with a simple ‘Welcome here! Please make yourself at home and enjoy!’ Maybe not the middle part because some would never leave then. She put a lot of effort in redesigning the ballroom to fit so many people and make it look so great that there probably will be some guests that won’t want to go back home at all tomorrow. She did work hard and the result is satisfying; she won’t bother with false modesty!
On another note, she needs the more serious people to either leave or loosen up before the end of the night so she can let go of some steam and maybe spark some surprises she has thought of. There’s no way she will last the night with the same slow and light music all along. She’s at the part of her speech when she introduces the musicians by the way.
Only a small part left, introducing queen Glimmer, leader of the Princess Alliance who has some official announcements to make. Frosta holds back her grin while her eyes drop on Catra again. She definitely understands why the feline girl calls Glimmer Sparkles when she has to say that long title out loud seriously.
Frosta stays still next to Glimmer but she doesn’t really listen. She already knows the content of her speech; the queen speaks for the entire Alliance therefore all the primary members have read and approved it. Again that part takes time to be solemn and proper but could be done in one minute otherwise.
‘One, an overall pardon for all ex-Horde soldiers because they didn’t know what they were doing. Two, same for most of the clones for the same reason, literally. Three, Hordak’s confinement and guard is delegated to princess Entrapta. Four, presenting Scorpia’s project for the Fright Zone and Catra’s new situation. Five, reassurance for the future because there are so many fricking questions over trades and taxes and blablabla… Six, more reassurance because people are acting annoyingly even more frightened now than before the war was over! Sex, Glimmer and Bow being officially engaged so they can finally smooch in public!’ Frosta hides her frustration of course, standing straight and feigning to be attentive.
She glances at Catra once more. It’s so unfair. She looks so good in that dress. Are Frosta’s emotions that fickle? One day she hates her, the next she forgets because Catra looks cute and attractive enough? That’s a difficult problem she’s sure even Perfuma would have trouble with. Not that she would ask, she’s old enough to take care of her heart’s trouble on her own. ‘Yeah, right.’ She’s been surrounded by happy couples from some time now, most of them very bad at being discreet, and she’s pretty certain it’s not her heart who’s talking…
If she’s honest with herself, she can’t wait to grow up, ‘Physically mind you!’, to get some woman charm because there are a lot of attractive people in this room alone, all groomed and dressed up. At least tonight she can hope for a few dreamy dances since she is the hostess of the ball.
Glimmer finally finishes her speech and in such a way that she invites Bow to open the dance. Before getting back down, Frosta listens to her friends for a moment as they twirl in front of her. She realises that this first dance is more of an obligation than real fun for most of them. They all like to do things at their rhythm and under their conditions it seems.
Glimmer>Fi-na-lly! I waited sooooo long for this!
Bow>Please slow down, we are going to bump- Sorry, very sorry!
Mermista>Huurg… Not. A. Word.
Sea Hawk sighs, smiles and stays silent, not risking losing this dance by talking.
Perfuma>Don’t be too stiff, counts, but don’t completely stop between the steps.
Scorpia’s face tries to compete in colour with her earrings.
Adora>What do you mean you don’t know? What about last time?
Catra>I only learnt how to lead! … I don’t know how to follow…
Adora>Oh… okay… you can lead then?
Catra>I feel weird but yeah. People will stare even more if we stop…
Adora>Why weird? Because of last time?
Catra>No. You offering without arguing-
Adora>But right now-
Catra>I know, Almost a murmur: thanks.
Adora>Also a whisper: You better learn before next time then.
Adora grins smugly.
Huntara>I’m not sure about this…
Lonnie>Come on Hunty, it can be fun! Just another way of moving our bodies, like fighting, you can do it!
Huntara>Humpf, of course I can ‘do it’!
Netossa>You should let me, you know, for your ankle.
Spinnerella>Now, now, don’t be a sore loser Darling, I won, I lead!
Netossa>We should have done a best of three…
Spinnerella>You shouldn’t have picked a game I usually win!
Netossa>You do not!
Spinnerella>I so do! Two hundred and seventy three to two hundred and seventy one.
Netossa>Absolutely not! You know last time doesn’t count!
Rogelio growls something.
Frosta shrugs. ‘Friends of my friends and all that?’ At least tonight she won’t think too much about it as long as people behave and she continues to listen.
Kyle>Yeah, I know.
Kyle smiles, followed by even more growling.
Kyle>Absolutely not. She didn’t mean to.
More growling, again.
Kyle>Yes, me too. But they are... nice?
And a little more growling.
Frosta shrugs again and finally drops down from the stage, not patient enough to try and decrypt a conversation she only has half of. She notices someone standing in a corner, not dancing, and she sighs. She might as well do a little bit more of princess diplomacy while people are trying to dance, too nervous to have fun yet. She knows it won’t last, people will relax and soon enough enjoy themselves but unlike yesterday, there are a lot of different people gathered, from different places and cultures, and ex-sides, and they need time.
Hordak is observing the crowd closely, from the corner of the ballroom. The queen finishes her speech and people start to dance. He doesn’t get it and fortunately, Entrapta didn’t ask him to. She left during the speech, either too bored or having spotted something worth an investigation, letting him stand here all by himself. He doesn’t mind, the situation doesn’t bother him that much. In fact, the people staring at him are more nervous than he is.
Hordak is a clone, made and grown to favour logic over feelings, engineered to accommodate Prime’s mind, he doesn’t get nervous. At least that’s what Prime taught him. But Prime was wrong on a lot of levels. He should have guessed the first time he got angry for Entrapta but his logical mind couldn’t solve the equation, couldn’t find the answer to the simple question: ‘Why do I care?’ He still doesn’t have a definite answer but with the events leading him to defy Prime he accepted that the question wasn’t that important in the first place. He cares. That’s the important part. And that makes him infinitely closer to these people than to Prime.
Etherians are so very emotional! Catra’s words echo in his head. Of course he won’t suddenly start to act all emotional himself, that’s not what he is, not who he is, but that doesn’t change the fact that Prime was wrong. He can feel emotions and he doesn’t need to understand the why. Also, he sighs heavily, he has to take Wrong Hordak into the equation too… They, clones, can be… have the ability to be emotional, very much so. It might require some brain scrambling, but they can. He would rather not mess with his own brain though, he doesn’t have to show emotions that much, does he?
Hordak notices someone looking in his direction and quickly eyes around himself to check if there is anything wrong. He isn’t standing here in a corner for any particular reason, it was only logical to stand aside to not bother other people during the speeches and even more now since people are dancing. He is here. Not dead, not in a cell, here. Because among those emotions that Prime didn’t grasp are understanding and kindness. He played his part, he turned against Prime at the end and helped save the universe.
There were a lot of logical outcomes that could have happened because of his act, being here is only one of them. Not the most expected, considering the whole story, but one of them. He couldn’t precisely weigh them because he doesn’t know how to evaluate feelings in the equation. That doesn’t prevent him from being very grateful though, most of the other outcomes look grimmer. He’s here and Entrapta has just been assigned to be his guardian which means he can work out his debt to the people of Etheria by helping her.
Hordak sighs again. These people have a hard time understanding him because he’s too logical for them, but that’s what made him close to Entrapta in the first place so it’s alright. He analyses his time as leader of the Horde here as ineluctable, a necessary delusion to keep his mind from shattering after being separated from Prime’s mind. He won’t do it again. He will repay what he can by working as long as it takes. But he won’t show regrets or remorse and that usually makes people mad. ‘As Entrapta said,’ he ponders, ‘people is difficult, science is easier,’ but since she is trying people anyway, he is too.
“You’re not going to dance?” Frosta’s voice pulls him back to the ballroom.
“Yeah, where’s Entrapta?”
Frosta grunts a little. “I told her she had to participate at least for the first one.”
“I wasn’t aware.”
“Whatever. Don’t stand stuck all alone in a corner, it’s creeping me out!” Frosta frowns a little.
“What do you expect me to do?!” Hordak’s voice rises.
“Is there a problem?” Someone interrupts.
Catra is happy, but annoyed. Yep, this feeling she had since she was rescued, almost, is still with her. She’s dancing with Adora which should be nice- is nice but that first dance seems more like an obligation than fun. The Princess Alliance and friends are opening the ball and a lot of other guests are still watching instead of dancing themselves. And Adora doesn’t mind, not one bit. Catra would be fine with it if she could chase a stupid idea out of her head. ‘Adora doesn’t mind because she doesn’t mind obligations, because she’s used to them, because she loves them so fricking much!’
At least Adora is smiling, and she’s warm, and Catra would still be purring if she wasn’t so nervous! She accepted all of this but as expected it’s a little too much right now. The dress, the shoes, the dance, the stares. She is starting to feel a little nauseous.
The first dance finishes and Glimmer appears, to drag Adora to the nearest food table. Catra doesn’t want to eat, she would rather not be too close to food even, and she freezes. Her hands start to shake.
“Catra, you okay?!” Adora fusses.
“Yeah.” Catra does her best to smile. “I’m fine. I’ll wait there for a little,” She points randomly at a side of the room to convince Adora, barely hiding that her hand is trembling. “Can you get me something to drink?”
Adora hesitates but finally follows Glimmer, and Catra is now forced to follow her own random direction. The feline girl walks slowly, breathing carefully. It’s not like her panics, she isn’t scared of her thoughts and heart spiralling out of control, but it’s still uncomfortable and heavy. She looks at her unsteady hands when suddenly someone raises their voice and she jumps.
Catra’s ears shiver and she realises she hasn’t taken something into consideration, something obvious, at least that should have been obvious. The room is loud. There are a lot of people in there, ninety-three guests if Frosta is right, and since the little princess is taking great care in her party preparations she certainly is, and a bunch of attendants, and that crowd is speaking, laughing, serving foods and drinks, all in a single closed room, and her ears are too sensitive to process all that.
She flattens them and it’s a little better. Except, that last voice she heard louder was Hordak’s and her instinct kicks in and before she knows what she is doing, she dashes forward to make sure that everything is alright, and interrupts his conversation with Frosta.
“No. I don’t think there is a problem.” Hordak answers more calmly.
“I was only asking him why he doesn’t try to have some fun. I didn’t work this hard to have people look gloomy at my party!” Frosta adds. “I mean, since he’s here anyway...”
“That’s not what you-” He interrupts himself. “I’ll go find Entrapta, is that alright?”
“Yeah, sure.” Frosta nods.
Hordak walks away and Catra can vaguely hear him mumble “People is difficult.”
“Why the red eyes again?” Catra can’t help her curiosity. He’s finding people difficult but he isn’t helping since he changed his look back the way it was when he was bad. He’s harbouring Dryl’s colours on his clothes but his face reminds everyone of the leader of the Etherian Horde. In comparison, without four eyes, Wrong Hordak who hasn’t changed his face doesn’t feel that much like Prime.
Hordak stops and faces her. “They are important to me.”
“Why? To remind you of what you did?”
“For you this appearance represents the leader of the Horde on Etheria, but for me this represents a chance encounter with Entrapta, defiance against Prime. Also she said they were… cuter.” He cracks a weird wry smile. “Please don’t ask.” He turns around and walks away again.
“You look nice!” Frosta’s voice startles Catra.
“Can’t you just simply accept a compliment?” Frosta frowns.
“No, yes, sorry, I wasn’t listening!” It’s not a lie, Catra was still caught up in her exchange with Hordak and her anxiety from before; even if she heard the words, she didn’t really process them.
“I said you look nice.” Frosta repeats, annoyed but definitely not going to back off.
“Me?! I mean, okay? … thank you, I guess?” She has no idea how to respond to that.
Frosta giggles at her stumbling, then starts to laugh. “Yes, you! Even better when you aren’t so tense, though!” Frosta winks and leaves Catra stunned in place.
Catra looks in the direction Frosta left, eyes wide, brain a little scrambled, and tries to analyse what just happened. Frosta complimented her, at least she seemed partly honest. She also made fun of her with that wink and giggle, that’s for sure. And she purposefully surprised her with those words out of nowhere, probably. Catra stares at her hands for a moment. Steady again. ‘Stars, those princesses…’ Catra smiles, feeling half her tension having left her body when she didn’t even notice.
“Catra!” Scorpia’s voice startles her again. “What did you do to Perfuma’s dress?!”
“Nothing much? A few adjustments?”
“Why would you do that?!”
“Don’t tell me you didn’t appreciate the sight!”
“She was almost crying! Please try to be a little kinder- Wait, what?”
Catra sighs dramatically with a big grin on her face. “I did aaaaall that for you and you didn’t even look a little? Oh, pooor me...”
“No, wait, I probably did, I mean, I don’t know what I mean! We were dancing, so even if she tried to hide it with a flower… why am I telling you all that?! Now I’m certain I stared. I did. Oh stars, do you think she’s angry at me?”
“Scorpia. She wants you to look at her. But maybe start with her eyes? You should go back.” Catra’s grin widens and Scorpia’s face reddens.
“I’ll… okay, the eyes, I’m going back, I think, but please don’t do that again!”
“No promises!” Catra waves her off but as soon as Scorpia turns around, her smile drops once more as doubts invade her mind. ‘Stars, why is it so difficult?!’ She rages at herself. She is helping, she doesn’t do that to be mean but for Scorpia’s good, and a little to have fun, yes, is that so wrong? And she only pushes them a little, it’s not like she forces them to do anything! But her doubts won’t leave her alone and she stands here, looking all anxious, her hand still held up as if she was reaching for Scorpia’s back when Adora joins her.
“Stop. Don’t. I’m fine.” Catra stops Adora before she can fuss.
“You sure you don’t want to talk about it?” The princess looks very worried, unsurprisingly.
“Yes. That one is between Scorpia and me.” Well, to be exact it’s between her and herself but that would make Adora worry even more and would take too long to explain.
Adora stares at her for a little more, trying to read her face. The princess takes a deep breath, closes her eyes for a few seconds and only once she’s fairly calm again she opens them back.
“Is that for me?” Catra points a finger at one of the two glasses Adora is holding.
“Yeah, I purred you a drink.” Adora holds the glass to Catra.
Catra takes it but then freezes, blinks, a few times, she stares at Adora with wide eyes. “That was so bad!”
“I’m sorry, I’m not doing it on purrpose!” Adora starts to giggle.
“Really, you have to stop!” But Catra cracks a smile at her as-usual dumb girlfriend.
“Mmm,” Adora ponders. “do I really need your purrmission to do that?” She grins smugly.
“Seriously though, you should try it, it’s good!” She points at the glass.
Catra glances back and forth between her hand and Adora’s eyes, trying to see if there’s a trap there. The princess harbours her big dopey grin but other than that she seems to genuinely wait for Catra’s reaction to her choice of drink, she even looks a little nervous about it. And that’s fair, it’s not like they had that many opportunities to talk about their tastes since leaving the common ration bars and water diet.
Catra drinks a little and smiles. She realises that she made the same oversight than with the sounds. Her sense of smell is a lot better than most people here and she is literally surrounded by smelly food and perfume. She didn’t think about it, unconsciously tried to ignore it, but that only made it worse. Now that she’s aware of it she can play with it, like trying to guess what is what, or keeping a particular smell close for a moment to overcome the others. She drinks again and takes the time to appreciate the taste.
“Mmm, it is good!” She takes another gulp.
“Ow.” Adora badly feigns disappointment. “I hoped it would be purrfect!”
Catra barely stops herself from spilling some of the drink. “Hey, stop it! I don’t want to ruin that dress!”
“Yes, that would be a cat-astrophe!” Adora laughs and smirks again.
Catra rolls her eyes and growls, and stiffens when Adora’s free hand circles her waist and pulls her close. She looks at her princess again and the stupid grin has given its place to a tender smile. Catra loosens up, and sensing it, Adora swiftly looks around and drops a little kiss on Catra’s cheek.
“You okay now?” Adora asks in a soft voice, devoid of her usual irritating fussing and endless worries, simply soft.
“Yeah.” Catra feels warm and relaxed, or as relaxed as she can be; the past didn’t suddenly vanish and she’s still in the middle of people and a place that remind her of it constantly, looking cute in a dress, to what she’s definitely not used to, but she has Adora. Her eyes fall on Scorpia and Perfuma dancing nearby and that gives her an idea.
Catra is smart, and Perfuma is currently teaching Scorpia how to dance, so observing them should be enough for her to grasp the basics of dancing, when you aren’t the one leading, that is. She doesn’t need to learn all the dances, only one or two for now. Then all that will be left is have Adora ask her to dance and she can leave it to her princess to enjoy. Because if there is one thing she knows, they both like leading, and they have the more fun when they can share it. ‘Okay, doesn’t make sense when I phrase it that way.’ She reconsiders for a short moment. ‘Compete over it or take turn, whatever!’
“So, you do like the dress.” Adora remarks, interrupting her reflection.
“Getting used to it.” Catra smiles and her tail loops around Adora’s waist. The evening keeps getting better and better.
Chapter 3: Communication
“Perfuma, can we, hum, practice dance again?”
“Of course, Scorpia!”
As they start dancing, Scorpia notices that the flower previously covering the top front of Perfuma’s dress has disappeared. Catra really messed this one up. Scorpia being taller and so close, she has a good view on the top of Perfuma’s breasts and since Catra went and did that, she can see part of her bra now, and she knows she shouldn’t, and Perfuma surely wouldn’t like her staring, and-
… start with her eyes?
Scorpia tries her best not to glance down again but at the same time, she can’t not look at Perfuma. They are dancing together, it would be rude to look away, and the flower princess is teaching her, it would be rude again to seem distracted, and… ‘Forget it, I want to look at her!’ Though Scorpia focuses on Perfuma’s eyes. ‘Stars, they are so beautiful and kind!’ Scorpia can’t even move her eyes a little, but she’s looking so intensely that the situation is beginning to feel a little awkward.
“Scorpia, why the staring? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, nothing. Catra said… no, forget it!”
“… You really like Catra, don’t you?”
“Yes! She’s great, I always knew, I mean, almost, she did some bad things but she is good now. I admire her! She’s all I wanted to be, strong, confident, proud of her differences… Me, I can give great hugs! But she can be soft, too. I’m only the muscles, but she-”
“What about me-” Perfuma visibly tries to shut herself up, only too late and she looks slightly to the side after the words escaped her lips.
“You? You… you are great too, of course...” Scorpia cogitates. “I don’t know what to say.” She tries to find the right words but Perfuma is so perfect that she can’t really describe how she feels. The flower princess showed her what she was able to do, how strong she could be. How good she could be too, how great it was to be as nice as she is. Scorpia followed the Horde for so long, thinking it was the only place she belonged to, hiding behind other people’s orders, but Perfuma gave her so much kindness, and hope! And salad. She didn’t like that one at all but the gesture made her feel so warm and welcome that she’ll remember it for ever. Welcomed. Frosta helped there too.
Scorpia ponders for a moment and recites in her head. ‘Like in everything, practice makes perfect. So, Frosta. She’s great too,’ she made her understand that not fitting was kind of a princess thing. With their power and all, they all developed strong personalities that prevent them to really blend in. ‘She’s kind, and strong. Even at her age- oopsy, she won’t like that phrasing I’m sure, but she was, like, eight when she took the throne of the land of Snows? What could I do when I was eight?!’ Scorpia interrupts her little tangent again and tries to focus. ‘She’s brave, has a super imagination that she uses to shape ice in all sort of useful forms. She’s full of energy and she cares about people a lot! Her people, the princesses,-’
Scorpia is suddenly taken back to the present where she was dancing with Perfuma as the flower princess stopped moving and looks down. Scorpia’s sight reflexively lowers too and she is met by the absence of flower covering Catra’s handiwork again.
… But maybe start with her eyes?
Though right now she can’t see Perfuma’s eyes anymore, therefore she calls her name softly hoping Perfuma will lift her head. And she does. But the sight of her face, looking depressed and sad, unable to hide behind a forced kind smile, shakes Scorpia’s heart so much it hurts.
Did she do something she wasn’t supposed to? Scorpia doesn’t often do things, so probably not. But maybe she didn’t do something she should have. She was thinking about how wonderful Perfuma is but has barely scratched the surface, and she hasn’t let the words out yet.
She wants you to look at her...
Actually she hasn’t spoken any such words at all for the whole day, hasn’t she? ‘Perfuma looking great is like the most natural thing in the world!’ Scorpia is hit by the disappearance of the flower on top of Perfuma’s dress again. It doesn’t make sense, or rather it makes sense but in a way that Scorpia doesn’t believe. Refused to believe.
Why did she do that? Perfuma has been at her side almost constantly since the end of the war. She feels like a big idiot. The flower princess, always so careful with the lines she draws, is openly inviting her to look at her and Scorpia hasn’t even said a word since she dressed up, despite Perfuma wearing a dress she chose, despite Perfuma dancing with her and only her!
“You look... beautiful.” Scorpia tries to start at the beginning.
Perfuma’s face faintly brightens, but it’s not enough, it’s very, very, very far from enough! And again Scorpia can’t find the words she needs, but from the ache in her heart, a little spark of bravery makes her think of something usually unthinkable. But if Catra thinks she doesn’t deserve things she wants, and Adora thinks she isn’t allowed to want, then Scorpia definitely usually doesn’t even consider wanting things in the first place. But right now isn’t usual by any definition of the word!
“Perfuma… you sure I can do anything?”
“Of course...” Perfuma tries to really smile, the kind of smile that one gives when saying goodbye.
“I can do this.” Scorpia knows she doesn’t have to say it aloud anymore but it doesn’t matter. “I can do this!”
She leans forward and kisses Perfuma.
It only lasts an instant, her brief bravery only letting her do this much. “I’m sorry… I have no idea what I should say… you are… too perfect!” Scorpia sees Perfuma frozen in place, then the flower princess hesitates, blushes, freezes again, and Scorpia recoils a little. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have-”
“Scorpia, if you really mean it, do it again!” Perfuma’s voice is quiet, almost a whisper, yet it’s commanding and resonates in Scorpia’s ears as if she is yelling from frustration.
It’s not the kind of demand Scorpia can turn down; of course she means it. She presses forward again and as soon as their lips touch, Perfuma circles her arms around Scorpia’s neck to keep her from having any idea of pulling away. It’s soft, kind, exciting, and a lot of other feelings that the scorpion princess also doesn’t have words for, and so warm.
When they finally part, only because they need air, Scorpia is a little dazed and with Perfuma’s hands so assertively pressing behind her head she can’t help but ask. “What happened to not telling me what to do?”
“Shut up, I’m taking a break!” And Perfuma kisses her once more.
Until Glimmer starts to whistle and they remember they are in the middle of the dance floor, surrounded by people staring at them, kindly, but still staring, since they stopped dancing quite some time ago. They start to move again to feel a little less out of place and everything falls into place in Scorpia’s head. Perfuma’s jealousy, the flower, Catra’s interventions.
“I thought you and Catra…” Perfuma says, feeling she has to completely let it out of her chest.
“No no no! I don’t see her that way anymore-” Scorpia looks at the ceiling. ‘Idiot idiot you big scorpion idiot!’ she scolds herself. ‘way to make her feel-’
But Perfuma’s giggle interrupts her. “I like your honesty. Besides, I’d rather know that it’s in the past than doubt…”
“Don’t worry, it is. But she’s still my friend, only a friend, tell me if you get jealous again please? I’m not good at keeping my mouth shut.”
“That would be pretty hypocritical for me to stop you from talking about your friends... but okay, I’ll tell you. I’m good now, though.”
Scorpia sighs in relief, and beams soon after, back to looking into Perfuma’s eyes. It’s not awkward anymore, quite a bit embarrassing though, but that’s alright. They continue dancing for a few songs and the world seems simply brighter, then Scorpia suddenly catches Catra looking at them with a serious look on her face, and she can’t help but share her thoughts with Perfuma. “You know, Catra… she went at it the wrong way but she probably wanted to help.”
Perfuma giggles again. “Of course she wanted to. But good intentions aren’t enough. You are too nice for your own good.” Perfuma sighs. “Not convincing coming from me, hu?”
“No. On the contrary.” Scorpia knows how much Perfuma suffered while herself was chipped because her kindness prevented her to act. The flower princess usually says it’s in the past and forgotten now that everything is over, but Scorpia doesn’t need to be that good at reading people to understand it’s still eating her sometimes. “She did ruin your dress and you said she was pretty mean.”
“But she was also kind of right about me.”
“Then should we thank or get even with her?”
“Neither? Both? She tried to help in her own way, disregarding how we would feel about it. So if we thank her our way...”
Catra is staring at Perfuma and Scorpia. Like before, she is learning the dances but a second ago she witnessed something else. She knows already that she won’t keep herself from teasing them for ages now. Her doubts about her actions have finally vanished completely. She may have involved herself when it wasn’t necessary, sure, but she doesn’t fear to have done something irreparably wrong anymore.
Scorpia glances back at her and whispers something to Perfuma that Catra’s keen ears doesn’t grasp through the noisy room, and suddenly the two princesses approach and take place next to her, each on one side, almost menacingly so. Well, they aren’t threatening, in fact they are smiling kindly, but Catra is really wary of princesses framing her like that and it feels a little like déjà vu.
“Catra,” Perfuma begins to talk dramatically, almost as Sparkles would. “You really shouldn’t have acted like that. I was fond of that dress and you influenced Scorpia too much. But we realise that you meant well, so thank you.” The two princesses hug Catra, who stiffens strongly at the gesture, and then kiss both of her cheeks, which finishes to make her completely tense up. Catra’s face reddens considerably, stunned and unable to react before they run away.
The princesses start dancing again, pressed ever so closer to each other than before, and Catra hears Perfuma giggle like a kid and whisper to Scorpia. “I feel so bad!”
Catra has no idea what she feels herself! Bad is one way to describe it but certainly not only that. Annoyed, sure, teased, of course, happy, no doubt even if she has difficulty admitting that one, loved… it’s too much for her to process right now, and she’s standing there like an idiot, face bright red and more than a little flustered when Adora joins her again, again.
“Catra, are you alright?”
“You don’t look-”
“I said I’m fine!”
Adora closes her eyes for a few seconds and breathes slowly. Catra forces herself to not make a big deal out of Adora’s overreaction. The princess is only being herself, even when it’s annoying.
“Do you want to dance?” Catra offers a distraction.
Adora’s eyes shot open and she blinks, surprised by the proposition before simply nodding. Catra pulls Adora to the dance floor and leads her whirling around a little faster than needed, for both of them to forget about earlier, and for a time it works perfectly. Catra feels like she can almost put her other dance plan to execution, only a little more… but Adora is too stiff and self confident to learn from, so she glances at Perfuma and Scorpia again and hides it by closing the distance to Adora and resting her head on the princess’ shoulder.
It last a few moments and unlike the first dance, Catra feels warm and good in her heart but sadly her feet are another story. With those shoes absolutely not what she’s used to, they start to hurt too much for her to continue and she has to take a little break.
She knows she should tell Adora about it, but admitting the pain is a bigger deal than she thought. The instant she leaves the dance floor, the lack of Adora’s warmth makes her hesitate. The anxiety from the place and the people surrounding her is back, and she can’t afford a weakness. She is strong, she doesn’t get hurt, certainly not by some stupid shoes. She makes a bad excuse of wanting to eat something and grabs a bit of food randomly on a table before flopping down on a chair, not giving time for her princess to follow.
And she forces herself to think that Adora choosing these shoes has nothing to do with her trying to hide that this choice hurts her. The more she thinks about it, the more dumb she feels about it, but also the more difficult it is to admit the truth to Adora. This was trivial, should have been. ‘Just tell her and drop the fricking shoes!’ But the words are stuck in her throat.
For the short time that follows, Adora dances with a lot of different people instead. Glimmer, Bow, their friends from the Horde and other princesses, even Sea Hawk but that doesn’t work well; he’s too zealous and she’s too stiff. Catra is a little jealous, of course, but she manages it well enough. Adora comes to check on her regularly between the dances, they drink and taste foods together, laugh, banter a little, but Adora doesn’t ask her to dance again.
That’s Catra’s main concern right now. She is finally ready for her plan but that all revolves around Adora asking her to dance. And since she stopped earlier, Adora has been very careful not to even mention dancing in front of her. It was alright at first but now that a little time has passed, and Adora has almost danced with every one of her friends and a few other guests that took the opportunity to ask since Adora wasn’t glued to her, she feels somewhat annoyed. Her feet still hurt but she would gladly brave the pain to have Adora lead her whirling around.
Though she doesn’t notice this, added to her constant anxiety and jealousy, is starting to erode her patience considerably.
Adora is worried. She knows it shouldn’t be worth noting, yet she can’t shake the feeling that it’s more serious than usual. Because it’s about Catra, maybe. Her girlfriend has been acting weird since she offered her some juice earlier, and all kind of stupid scenarios are running in her head about a potential side effect of the drink, but she drank the same thing and she’s fine.
She has caught Catra looking at Scorpia quite often while the scorpion princess was dancing, and a few times already, she has seen Catra flushed and concerned reaching for her ex-friend. The feline girl hasn’t talk about Scorpia since the end of the war but until today Adora hadn’t thought much of it. Now she begins to imagine that Catra’s nervousness has something to do with their broken friendship and wants to do what she can about it.
Catra has a lot to answer for, she is working hard to make up on that, Adora knows that, but on a personal level Catra hurt Scorpia the most by treating her so badly. Adora knows that too and it’s quite obvious that Catra is hiding something from her tonight. Maybe she can help even if Catra stays silent; she probably shouldn’t though. Adora tries to keep her calm and think about this rationally. The last thing she needs is making Catra angry but her thoughts start wandering again.
‘What do I know?’ She considers in her head. ‘Catra is hiding something. She has trouble reaching Scorpia? If she is afraid of doing so, she probably thinks she doesn’t deserve that, again.’ A little frustration grows in Adora’s heart. ‘She seems to enjoy dancing, and has been looking at Scorpia only when she was also dancing. Does Catra want to dance with her? I’m sure Scorpia has stopped being angry at her a long time ago, she should just ask!’ And the frustration gets the better of her. ‘Fine, I’ll help her then!’
Adora walks to Catra and grabs her hand to pull her up. “Follow me.”
Catra instantly cracks a wide smile, even if a little perplexed at the sudden invitation and Adora leads her to the other side of the dance floor. While walking past open spaces without stopping, Adora misses that Catra’s smile is slowly faltering.
“Scorpia, do you want to dance with Catra?”
“Adora?! What the heck are you doing?” Catra shouts furiously and Adora instantly regrets doing… she isn’t sure what she did.
“I know, you are always sorry! I don’t care!” Catra is definitely angry.
Adora tries to breathe slowly to stay calm. It’s so unfair, she worked hard tonight to not let her worries get in the way, not fussing at every signs of Catra’s discomfort, keeping her smile despite the nervousness, but Catra isn’t helping at all, keeping secrets, looking down, hurt, crushed, annoyed, and despite Adora’s efforts, her anxiety finds a way out. “Why can’t I be sorry, I obviously did something wrong-”
“Obviously… idiot! You don’t even try to understand what you did wrong before saying you are sorry!”
“I’m so-” Adora’s words are out before she can silence them and Catra’s angry face turns sour and sad.
“Forget it.” Catra disappears through the crowd before the princess can even move.
Scorpia and Adora stand there, stunned and lost, as they can only look in the direction where Catra vanished. After a little time Perfuma joins them and Scorpia explains the situation quickly. Adora finally moves again but only to let her shoulders drop and she sighs.
“You should go.” The flower princess says simply.
Adora nods and walk away but she has no idea where to look.
Chapter 4: Doubts
“I’m good at people I’m good at people I’m good at people...”
Entrapta is pacing nervously in a hallway, a short distance from the ballroom. Usually she doesn’t care about crowd so much, she knows she isn’t good at people and she ignores it. But not today. For once she decided a few days ago that she would try to act a little more like her friends and interact and talk more with them.
But it’s not working so well. As soon as the party began, she got nervous and before the end of the opening speech, she ran away here in the hope of calming down. The only people passing through this hallway are a few attendants carrying food and they don’t pay her any mind.
She is wearing unusual clothes too. Perfuma and Scorpia helped her pick something nice and she trusts their choice but it’s unfamiliar and she doesn’t have her welding mask tonight to hide her face. The gesture would help, maybe. She hides her face with her hands instead but again she isn’t wearing her big stuffy gloves, only light frilly ones, reminding her that she might have tried to change too much. The overall she is dressed with is also light, classy, too fancy to work with. She promised herself she wouldn’t tinker during the party but the distraction would help.
“I’m good at people I’m good at people I’m good at people...”
Entrapta recites again. Perfuma gave her some advice when they met to choose her clothes, and exceptionally, again, she decided to try. Scorpia said it was very effective too. But the scorpion princess might be more easily convinced than herself.
She didn’t expect this situation to be comfortable but she underestimated how the staring of the princesses she doesn’t know would make her feel. Ignoring them looking at her is simple but ignoring them looking at Hordak is a very different problem.
She knew that becoming responsible for him also meant responsible for his punishment. As much as she wants him to be forgiven, it’s not that simple after what he did, and having him helping her at Dryl seems very light when she tries to explain it to others. When the decision was announced earlier by Glimmer, Entrapta felt so many eyes turning to Hordak that she fled the room. She thought she could calm down quickly and come back but again it’s not so easy.
Simple, yes. She only has to walk there, one step at a time, even help herself with her hair if she needs to… but not easy as her brain refuses to move her limbs to get her back inside the crowded ballroom yet. She has already thought about it but she needs to reevaluate the complete situation. Hordak was doing bad things, even if it was somewhat against his will, a long time before she was even born. Turning against Prime for her sake at the very end is not something she can weigh herself and most people he hurt are in their rights to expect more.
“I’m good at people I’m good at people I’m good at people...”
If she was good at people maybe she could argue with them and make them accept that his current work is worth a lot. They already set up a network for the kingdoms to be able to keep in touch with trackpads; that’s a good start. She could have done that alone but it would have taken way longer.
Or maybe she needs to do something big to put people at ease, like exiling him to Beast Island, but that feels like a really bad joke right now. Though she could go with him and with the amount of tech there, they wouldn’t lack work any time soon. But even if that makes things right by them, that won’t make things right by her...
With a bitter taste in her mouth she looks at the ballroom at the end of the hallway and sees the people dancing and laughing. She wanted this responsibility. She asked the Princess Alliance for it, and thinking about all those consequences seemed fine on paper, but people is difficult.
“Entrapta? Are you alright?” Bow interrupts her reflective work.
“Not now, I’m good at people I’m good at people I’m good at people...”
“What are you doing?”
“Perfuma’s advice. I’m good at people I’m good at people...”
“Does it work?”
“No, I don’t think so. She said I should try to repeat this twenty times and see if I was feeling better.”
“Alright? I can wait until you finish. How many left?”
Entrapta finally stops walking in a circle and looks at him with a sour face. “I’m at one thousand seven hundred and ninety six. I thought I should do a little more since I’m really bad at people, but it still doesn’t seem to work. I guess I should stop...”
“Yeah,” Bow gasps a little. “You should stop. You don’t have to force yourself to try to be good at people so much, you know?”
“Why does everyone keep telling me that?!” She suddenly erupts in anger.
“Because it’s true? We are your friends however you are!”
“But now I have to deal with other people than friends and they won’t understand! I didn’t ask to be different and you are always looking at me as if it doesn’t matter if I screw up, and it’s kind, but it’s making me feel like everyone expect me to mess up!”
“I see.” Bow thinks a little in silence. “I’m bad at cooking.” He suddenly admits. “I just can’t seem to do it right. I mean, grilling meat or scrambling eggs is fine, but with a real recipe I always create a mess. And Glimmer won’t stop laughing at me! Every time it’s my turn to make breakfast she still also asks the kitchen staff to prepare extras in case what I make isn’t even edible! But it’s just how it is. We all have things we can do well and others we can’t. It’s not that I expect you to mess up with people, I simply believe it’s alright to not be good at everything.”
“Oh. Okay.” Entrapta looks away shyly. “What do I do about it then?”
“I don’t know. But one thing I know, you shouldn’t be thinking about it alone here and now! I think if Perfuma said twenty times, it’s because more won’t help at once. If you want to insist, you should ask her again and at least take breaks in between to clear your head. Tonight is a party, I’m sure you can find ways to do that. By the way, have you seen Catra? Adora is looking for her.”
“No, I didn’t. But it’s Catra so she could easily be anywhere! Oh, but with the cold she probably didn’t get outside. She is strangely bad with low temperature despite her fur.” Entrapta ponders a moment if she should ask further and decides she should show concern. “Did… something happen?”
“It seems Adora and her got in a little fight. It’s probably not much, can you tell Adora if you see Catra, please? I should go back now, tell me if you want to talk more later.”
Entrapta nods and Bow walks back into the ballroom leaving her with her thoughts again. She sits down on a hair chair and takes the conversation into consideration. Maybe a break would do good. There are a lot of experiments that require pauses and waiting times after all.
“Here you are! You missed the first dance! I told you-” Frosta’s voice cuts her before she can start and the accusation makes her tense up, but the ice princess stops herself mid-sentence. “Are you alright?” The voice turns soft and concerned once Frosta takes a good look at her face.
“I don’t know. Are you mad at me for skipping the dance?”
Frosta sighs and grabs Entrapta’s wrist and pulls her up. “Come with me!”
The ice princess drags her into the ballroom again but right after entering she turns and climbs half way up the big showy staircase in the back of the room. From there they can see the whole party. People dancing, the foods, drinks, lots of crystals and lights.
“What do you see?” She asks Entrapta.
“I mean the room. Isn’t it cool?”
Entrapta takes a moment to appreciate the sight. “Yes, but I already saw it this morning.”
Frosta sighs again. “It took a lot of efforts to do this. We all agreed to have the Princess Alliance participate in that first dance. That means you too.”
“But I was-”
“I can see that, but you should have said something.”
“I thought you would be angry.”
“Entrapta, not talking doesn’t make me less angry. These times are hard for everyone, I tried my best to make all this look cool, cool enough for people to forget for a while, cool enough for people to stay cool, cool for people to have fun. That means you too!”
“Cool… because you are the ice princess?”
“Is that a joke?” Frosta scoffs and raises an eyebrow.
“Scorpia said I should try this one when you are angry…” Entrapta smiles sheepishly.
Frosta giggles. “She’s right! You know, I would rather have us getting angry face to face so we can talk things out, rather than you silently hiding. Anyway! Leave the serious stuff for tomorrow and have some fun!”
A very serious looking Adora appears at that moment and Frosta grunts at her bad timing. Entrapta remembers Bow’s words and looks around but Catra is still nowhere to be seen. Adora barely stops to ask and walk away as fast as she appeared after they shake their heads.
Frosta drags Entrapta back down the stairs and walks straight to where Hordak is standing in a corner again. She shoves Entrapta in his arms, with a little more strength than needed to make sure he has to catch her. Well, truthfully he didn’t have to, since Entrapta can catch herself anywhere, anyhow, with her hair but it worked nicely enough and Frosta winks at them, gesturing at the people dancing nearby for them to follow. Entrapta hesitates but soon find a few smiling princesses at her side, encouraging her. She smiles too, she doesn’t have to solve everything tonight.
Adora is running around asking the members of the Princess Alliance if they have seen Catra but it seems that nobody has. She already searched their room, the kitchen, the entrance and the hallways, but even if the palace is big, there are a lot of staff and guards tonight therefore Catra can’t have gone too far without being seen, probably.
Unless she went outside but Adora tries to resist the idea because if Catra braves the cold and the snow it means she is way more pissed than Adora hopes. The princess obviously messed up but believes that what annoyed Catra the most is her instinct to apologise, which is pretty bad she admits, though do not warrant Catra fleeing too far away and for too long, probably.
Nevertheless, hoping isn’t enough so Adora is walking around trying to find her as fast as she can but one question remains. ‘What do I do when I find her if I can’t say I’m sorry?’ However the question is also pointless until she finds her and she starts to ask people once more. Adora spots Frosta and Entrapta looking down at the ballroom from a little higher, half way up the imposing staircase at the end of it.
There are little signs asking guests not to go up, that Frosta ordered put there earlier because she doesn’t want people wandering up. Adora caught her admitting that she didn’t have enough time to decorate the inner balcony surrounding the ballroom or something, though it’s irrelevant right now. Even from their higher point of view she can’t spot her girlfriend.
Both princesses have not seen Catra either and Adora is pacing the room once again, resolving herself to ask more people. And she knows she is starting to cross boundaries she shouldn’t. Asking their shared friends is fine and all, but asking other people, people that Catra hurt somewhere along the way and has not yet been forgiven by, is making her feel like she is doing something very wrong.
Slowly her chase reminds her more and more of Princess Prom, a time she wants to forget with all her strength, but she already spent a lot of it refraining from fussing over Catra looking nervous and uncomfortable so many times in the short period since the party began.
“Hey guys, have you seen Catra?” Without thinking, Adora asks other friends she hadn’t yet.
Kyle has currently some trouble believing what’s happening is real. In this place of wonders, surrounded by a lot of people looking equally rich, kind, well mannered and dressed up, this all seems a little too different from what he is used to. His life has changed a lot recently but this certainly is the largest gap he had to jump.
He is wearing a suit himself, for the first time in his life, and the only reasons he feels good about it is because the two people he cares most about said he was looking great, and also some unknown guests politely noted that too, and of course Rogelio is wearing one too.
He was still too stunned to realise all that earlier but by the time the first dance ended, every new things started to hit him. In fact he doesn’t remember dancing at all. Let’s be real, ten days ago he didn’t even know how to. The queen- Glimmer barged at their door one evening with Huntara and began to teach them, just like that, and came back the following day to make sure they got the gist of it. That was definitely too surprising to forget. Also Lonnie’s face, half angry half admiring Glimmer’s impudence, was priceless.
But tonight, the first thing that got to him after that first dance was the food. Fancy looking and tasting food. A lot of different kind of food! Kyle grew up on ration bars like everyone around him. When they were kids, they had occasionally other food but it quickly stopped when they got older. Either the policy changed or it was an easier way to get little kids to behave, he doesn’t know and would rather not think about it. There were a lot of contraband running around but there was no way for scrawny Kyle to get his hands on that. Rogelio or Lonnie might have done it if he had asked, but he simply never allowed himself to make them risk punishment for him. On their own, Rogelio didn’t want to attract trouble and Lonnie was following the rules too closely to do that sort of things.
But that means his first taste of real food was sometime like fifty days ago at most, and was comprised mostly of salvages and left-overs they could gather during their travels, fleeing the Horde. Only when they met Huntara did he discover the wonderful tastes scattered out there. And finally when they came to Bright Moon, the tasteful meals started to feel like something normal, despite clearly being served working rations more often than royal dinners.
Though tonight, there is no way he can call the table of foods in front of him normal. And if the other guests were acting otherwise he would feel bad about his limited experience, but they all look at the platters like they are treasures. Actually, on the contrary, he might be one of the few having had a royal meal with the queen and he’s really not sure if it’s something he should brag about or not. Glimmer clearly wouldn’t mind but she’s kind of weird, if he’s honest. Or rather, kind and weird.
What is he supposed to feel about all these happy people trying to be his friends? In the Horde he wasn’t supposed to have friends but it was one of the only rules he ever broke. Not counting thinking about having a boyfriend! Therefore he would feel rather bad refusing people trying to become friends now. Among these few friends he had were Adora who abandoned them, Catra before he gave up on her, and both are here tonight too, trying to patch things up with him.
Adora wasn’t too difficult to forgive. He was prepared for them to be separated when she became Force Captain. There was little chance that she would lead little-unskilled-him; or rather, a big part of him hoped he wouldn’t have to be part of any active squad at all. But he wasn’t given a choice, and he wasn’t ready to face her on a battlefield.
But yet again, Kyle was never meant to be a soldier, even when he still believed that the princesses were truly evil. If one day Octavia had come to him and said ‘From today on you aren’t a soldier anymore, you are on cleaning duty, permanently.’ he would have found that acceptable, except for the fact that would have separated him from Rogelio and Lonnie.
When they left the Horde he definitely forgave Adora, understanding he would have done the same if he had been given the choice. But Catra? She saved the universe too, they say, so he can accept her around, but forgiving her….
She gave him so many nightmares and griefs. He didn’t have another break down nor panic attack since the end of the war and Lonnie convinced him to not care too much and forget, and he does. But forgiving…
Catra ruined his little remaining hope that he was part of something. From that point onward there was only him, Rogelio and Lonnie against the world. Until he actually got out into that world, that is, and realised what he had done to it. Catra ruined his chance to feel like his time in the Horde was somewhat harmless. Thankfully he wasn’t alone and with those two people he calls family, they took turns making sure their hearts and eyes stayed open.
And even if things have been hard since then, they met good people who honestly helped. It was difficult to accept at first, not receiving help, he was fine with that unlike Lonnie and Rogelio, but being offered. That was new. That was free. That was uncomfortable. But he got used to it and trying his hand at a real job made it easier to accept, as if in a sense he was paying the world back for the help. And everyone says the same to him; if he can’t forgive, at least he needs to let go to not drown, pulled down by the weight of the grudges.
“Hey guys, have you seen Catra?” Adora’s concerned voice, and the name, makes him roll his eyes and looks up at the ceiling.
“No.” Rogelio and Lonnie answer both.
Kyle shrugs. Right above him, hanging down through the balustrade of the inner balcony a dozen feet above, he can see Catra’s tail and now he’s eaten by a dilemma. Catra obviously wants to be found and he could help, but he doesn’t want to.
“What’s wrong?” Rogelio growls softly.
Kyle sighs. He knows he’s bad at hiding things, even more so to his boyfriend. “I know where she is.” He whispers to him while Adora is talking to Lonnie.
“You should tell her.” Rogelio growls in a murmur too, and by the tone of his voice, Kyle instantly gets that he understands his trouble.
“I don’t want to.”
“Will that make you sleep better?” Rogelio’s blunt words shake Kyle’s doubt.
Kyle sighs again. He has trouble sleeping at night, and had since they left the Horde, probably even before, and he’s blaming a lot of it justifiably on Catra. But not helping right now wouldn’t do that any good and Rogelio knows it. At best it would do nothing, at worst he would wake up in the middle of the night remembering the face Adora is making right now. She is trying to smile but behind he can see she’s terrified and repressing with all her might the idea that Catra’s disappearance might be permanent.
He had enough of fear in his life already. The last thing he needs is more of it.
Kyle clears his throat to get Adora’s attention and points up with a finger. He doesn’t even need to speak up because Adora has barely looked up that she’s already running. He can see her climb the stairs, almost flying, her feet glowing with magic to go faster. It’s difficult for him to accept that Catra is worth all that effort but there is absolutely no doubt that Adora believes she is.
Rogelio and Lonnie hold his hand and he smiles. He had a talk with Bow a few days ago about not wanting to forgive Catra. He recalls a part of it as he watches Adora disappear at the top of the staircase. They all hurt people in this war, with or without reasons, some of them more than others, and he would hate it if someone were to separate him from his family because they hold an eternal grudge against him.
Chapter 5: Explanation
Adora can’t feel anything, from the outside. She is running fast, speeding up with all of She-Ra’s strength she can muster without transforming. She doesn’t remember taking more than three steps to climb up the monumental staircase in the back of the ballroom. She doesn’t feel the ground under her feet nor the railing under her hand, nor the air putting a vain resistance against her absurdly fast movements.
But on the inside her emotions are whirling. She’s scared of not finding Catra up there when she’ll arrive. She remembers too many events she doesn’t want to, many moments she almost lost her. Catra not accepting her hand, Catra falling, Catra leaving… and even a few that happened after Prime’s defeat.
The climb lasts about two and a half seconds but it feels a lot longer. The last time she felt something like this so strongly was the instant when Catra fell from the command platform of Prime’s ship. She didn’t hesitate and blindly jumped down immediately after her but the fear of having finally lost Catra for good lasted an eternity in her head.
At the top of the stairs, she finds Catra’s discarded shoes, she barely leans down to grab them, and only slows down when she can see that Catra is still there, sitting on the floor of the balcony, her back against the balustrade, looking over her shoulder at the party below. Adora sees Catra’s ears twitch at her arrival but the feline girl keeps her gaze away at first, down to the ballroom.
Adora stops a few feet from Catra, suddenly unable to get closer. She can’t see her face and for some reasons, it’s making her even more uncomfortable than if she could see Catra being angry. For so long she wasn’t able to go past that wall and really reach Catra, help her, touch her, take the girl in her arms to make everything better. Every times she tried resulted in Catra recoiling even further. Since confessing their feelings for each other, Adora has been able to hold Catra to comfort her, but at the moment the feline girl is angry and the princess doesn’t know how to deal with this properly.
She drops on her knees and her eyes fall on Catra’s feet, hurt, again, and she looks at the shoes in her hands. Last time wasn’t her fault but this one is; she asked a lot of Catra tonight and she wasn’t strong enough to follow through, to stay calm and composed to reassure her. There is only one possible explanation for Catra to have kept the shoes on that long, enduring the pain, and Adora would have gladly told her to drop them if she had known. Maybe Catra expected her to guess.
But Adora is dense and in those moments she almost regrets a time when she was even more oblivious and not halfway through like she’s now, aware of the problem yet unable to understand it to work through its resolution on her own. But she knows it’s no solution and she wants to understand. Once again in her life she needs Catra to put some senses into herself and she isn’t certain Catra wants to help at the moment.
Catra waits for some time before turning her eyes to Adora when the princess jumps at the top of the stairs. She knows the princess is looking sorry and anxious without a glance. She hears Adora’s heart beating so fast, her breathing so heavy that she is almost worried herself and she can’t help a little twitch from her ears when Adora comes closer.
But Adora flops down a little distance away from her and the empty space throws a shiver along her spine. She tenses up, her tail curling around herself. It’s not often that her princess holds back from coming near and touching her, and she certainly hasn’t since they became more than friend. Catra can feel the gap between them as if it is a hole in her heart and her eyes water. She hates it, when did she become so soft that this little thing gets her so emotional? Or maybe because it’s about Adora she always has been like that, only now she doesn’t have to hide it anymore.
Not so long ago she was trying to convince people, and herself, that she wanted space, that she wanted them to stay away, but not now. She has moments when she wants to be left alone, like everybody else... okay, maybe a little more often, but not now. There are times when even Adora gets on her nerves and she wants to run away, like a few minutes earlier, but not anymore. She turns her head to finally face Adora, hoping that the princess will take it as a sign that she can come closer.
She sees Adora looking at her feet and the princess’ face shows guilt all over again. She knows Adora wants to apologise, and it shouldn’t be a big deal, she often does, and actually has a good reason to at the moment. Catra isn’t really angry anymore; she wasn’t that angry in the first place. Little things piled up and added and combined and burst out when Adora couldn’t help herself and apologised more by habit than reason.
“I don’t care if you are sorry.”
“Fuck.” Adora’s swearing startles Catra and the princesses drops the shoes she was still holding to hide her face with her hands.
The princess doesn’t usually use that kind of language. It’s not that it never happens but most of the time she even uses a somewhat more polite speech than average, probably a consequence of having Shadow Weaver raising her all proper to be an example or Sparkles’ influence, and only curses to joke around like a kid wanting to play defiant.
Catra sniffles. A look at Adora’s distraught face through the gap of the princess’ fingers and the remaining of her feeble anger melts. “It’s a lie… I do care, but that’s not what I want to hear.”
“I was gonna say I’m so glad you are fine. Well, not fine…” Adora points at Catra’s feet. “but... here.” She sighs and smiles sadly. “I’m clumsy even with words tonight...”
“Only tonight?” Catra scoffs.
“I’m usually better than this… I hope… Catra, I want to apologise properly, I know I did something wrong. But you are right, I need to know what I did for it to have any meaning and not feel like my usual... attitude. But I have no idea… What did I do? Is it because of the clothes? You said you were coming to like the dress...”
“You danced with half of the room, and when you finally asked me, you dumped me into another woman’s arms!” Catra erupts, too shocked by how clueless Adora can be to even think of letting her guess on her own.
“But that was Scorpia...”
“You don’t consider her to be another woman?”
“Of course I do, but she’s your friend!”
“Aren’t you even a little jealous?!”
“No?” Adora seems so honest that Catra freezes. After a few seconds, seeing her completely stunned like this, Adora continues. “I… didn’t even consider that. I just… know you love me, I didn’t think….”
“That’s dumb. How can you be that confident? You know she was interested back then.”
“Because it’s my only safe place. I don’t know how to explain this. I doubt everything I do, you know my confidence is often barely surface-deep, but you, I just can’t doubt you. Catra, you are the only part of my life I have no doubt about.”
“Okay…” Catra blushes a little. “That’s still dumb though. Can’t you apply some of that to worry a little less about me then?”
“You are really unfair.”
“You know I’m not?” Usually Catra would confirm that proudly but her tone turns into a question at Adora’s surprising spin of the conversation.
“I know I have to fight my unconscious urges to endlessly worry about you but you are not helping. I know Netossa and Mermista joke about you having nine lives because you are part cat, or however that thing goes, but I can’t laugh about it like them. I also know since we defeated Prime only, I almost lost you three times already!”
“Salineas, your first panic, Lonnie attacking you.”
“You really count Lonnie punching me as almost dying?! Who’s being unfair now?”
“Well, yeah, there were bruises all over you, and a lot of blood, and your claws in your own arm, and…” The princess shivers at the memory.
“Adora! I only had to hurt myself a little to have the pain keep my instinct out of the way and not cut her arm by reflex or something! I needed you to save me, for once, but I wasn’t going to die. And that time in Salineas was an accident that could have happened to anyone, in fact we are lucky it happened to me and not to the little guy alone! And you worrying less would help me get better too.”
“I’m trying! But you hid things from me... I’m not saying you can’t have secrets, but please, not those kind of secrets... You looked so nervous and down that I couldn’t stay calm and positive as I should have!”
“Did it not occur to you that I might, maybe, I don’t know, feel constantly devastated surrounded by all those people I hurt and this place I ruined?! Of course I look bad, and the worse it gets, the more I need you to ignore it and stay close to me smiling and laughing! I told you already...”
“I know! I tried! And when I barely slipped, you ran away!” At Adora’s words, Catra’s tail flickers and curls a little tighter around the feline girl.
“I wasn’t planning to stay away that long. I wanted a bit of time to calm down. You do realise it’s been only like fifteen minutes since I left?”
Adora closes her eyes, breathes deeply and seems to count in her head, until her agitation manages to recede a little. Catra realises that it’s not the first time Adora has done this tonight. She didn’t really pay it any attention but maybe she should have. Adora did put some effort to at least not fuss over her constantly after all and Catra becomes suddenly even more conscious of how she must still be looking, even right now. Sad, anxious, nervous, on the verge of tears.
“What are you doing?” Catra simply asks.
“Perfuma’s…” Adora opens her eyes again once she has regained enough self control.
Catra raises her head, curious, and she looks questioningly at Adora’s grey blue eyes, calm again, and tenderly looking back. She doesn’t remember Adora going to see Perfuma recently.
“I... hid things from you too.”
Behind Adora’s now peaceful eyes, Catra is able to see other emotions. Love, of course, her princess isn’t trying to hide that one, but also fear. Not the brutal fear Adora showed a moment ago thinking she might lose Catra but a deep insidious one still lingering there from the time they were kids.
Adora has to talk. She doesn’t like to, not often commit to it, not when it’s so deeply about herself. Since leaving the Horde she learnt to talk about the surface, about the emotions showing on her face and shaking her heart, that were taboo in the Fright Zone. But when she has to dig deep into her mind, there is a lot of crap, as Catra worded it, that Shadow Weaver put there to control her, and it’s frightening to try to reach it because it means recognising how real it is. Crap or not, Shadow Weaver’s or not, it’s there, ruining her. When she lashed out at the wretched woman after she made Catra leave again, Adora didn’t expect this word to apply to herself as well.
But there is a single reason for her to be here at this precise moment, both literally being still alive, and having this conversation: Catra, who not long ago braved her own aversion and fear of talking to give Adora a wake up call about her issues; the earlier mentioned lot of crap. Therefore Adora will talk, as soon as she gathers her courage, because right now that crap takes the form of her pride and arrogance, when she has to talk about how much she needed help. She takes a deep breath and decides to start at the beginning of those thoughts.
“Remember that night we talked about Shadow Weaver? I told you I would reflect on what you said.”
“Yeah, but-” Catra seems troubled from making Adora talk but the princess hushes her with a hand’s gesture to not lose her determination.
“Well, I did the day after, and I talked to Glimmer. And when I came back to you in the evening, I realised how much I underestimated... all this. She sent me see other people too. Since then I haven’t been working as much as you think. I took some breaks regularly to try and fix this.” The admission forces Adora to look down in shame.
“You are not a machine that needs fixing, Adora.”
“I know. It’s just… words… please.” Adora sighs. “I saw Perfuma almost every day since then, and Bow’s dads helped too. Their field is history, but they know their library and they found books for me. I went to see Huntara, a few healers from all over Bright Moon, Micah, some of the other princesses, stars I even asked Hordak for details from when I was little, that I didn’t remember, to try to better understand myself...”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Shame? Guilt? Fear. All the things I’m trying to get better from… but it’s not that easy. I promised myself I would talk to you before the end of the party, so here I am. I know I shouldn’t have waited so long too, but one thing at a time. I need to…” Adora thinks about it for a moment but she has no word for this, she can only borrow Perfuma’s. “take out the weeds and patiently shower new seeds with water and love…”
“… until they bloom into beautiful flowers.” Catra finishes her line. “I talked to Perfuma too, remember? Can you come closer now?”
“You want me to?”
“Of course I want you to! What’s happening in that dumb head of yours?” Catra suddenly chuckles. “Are you brain damaged again?” And the memory makes Adora giggle too.
“In the past, whenever I tried to close the distance when you were angry or hurt, that didn’t work so well, though.” Adora resumes seriously.
“Doesn’t the word moderation mean anything to you? You really have to swing completely one way or another, don’t you?”
“Can’t argue with that, I guess.” She clumsily moves next to Catra, admittedly being on her knees while wearing a tight dress doesn’t help, and with an arm around the feline girl’s back she gently pulls her close, until Catra rests her head on the princess’ shoulder.
“Sure, there were times when you trying to help me was painful and being touchy was annoying, it still is sometimes, but since we are together, at least when we are alone you shouldn’t doubt that I want you close. And even when I don’t, I won’t get angry at you trying anymore. Though don’t go and hug me in the middle of a crowd like down there maybe?”
“I think I can do that.” Adora pulls Catra a little closer and both of them enjoy the warmth in silence for a few seconds. “Can’t promise I won’t hold you tight if we dance again though.”
Catra chuckles and flicks Adora’s cheek with her ear before enjoying another moment of warm quiet. “So, did that help? Talking with Perfuma and the others?”
“When I told you yesterday that I manage to let go of work in the evening, I wasn’t lying. But I think even you underestimated how deep it is, or how weak I am. It’s difficult, and takes time, and disappointing… and every time I feel I get some results I need to stop myself from telling you.”
“Why?” Catra raises her head questioningly again.
“Because… you probably will be happy about it, smile, maybe even praise me, and that makes me feel like I’m doing this to be acknowledged by you, when I should be doing that only for me, for getting better, and I’m not strong enough to differentiate by myself, at least not yet.”
“I see. But I’m glad you told me. Maybe there are things we can do together too?” Catra’s tail circles Adora’s waist to pull the princess closer too.
“We already do. I’m learning from them to let go of the anxiety, of the guilt and fear, but to help me relax there is no one better than you. When we cuddle together and you purr next to me, that’s the best medicine ever, I think.”
“You really want to embarrass me that much, hu.” Catra blushes a little more and hides her face against Adora’s neck but she can’t stop a little purr to start rumbling softly in her chest.
“Also I discovered how scary Perfuma can be. That was quite a shock. She wasn’t really too convinced when I asked for a more direct approach at first, staying all kind and soft, saying that I should wait and take it slow, until she decided one day that being a little rough was a necessary evil to help me. I’m never, ever, getting on her bad side somewhere with plants around!”
“Unlike you I can soooo imagine that. She acts all meek and sweet but when you get her out of her comfort zone, I picture her being even fiercer than Frosta!”
“Yeah, that same day, I told her I was going back to work early because I was uncomfortable making her act more brusque than she likes… She pinned my legs down instantly with roots to keep me seated and only let me go after I completed four different sets of breathing, meditating and relaxing exercises! I almost called her Octavia since she was making me do those like some cadet’s drills.”
“Well, she is dedicated to her friends.” Catra chuckles.
“She even got Swift Wind on her side!”
“She has Melog too! Just because she’s a bit good with nature and magic! So unfair!” Catra laughs and the sound is soft music to Adora’s ears; she laughs too.
“We can go see her together if you are ready for that.”
“I’m not scared of a few plants!” Catra replies smugly. “Though she has her way to frighten me too…”
“I found a few books that you should also read.” Adora quickly adds when she sees Catra’s face turning sour. “About recovering from a war, forgiving yourself, changing without losing yourself, that kind of things. It’s not like they have all the answers, but I’ve got the same feeling from reading them than after talking to Glimmer or Bow, like my thoughts are clearer and calmer.”
“Can’t hurt to try I guess…” Catra doesn’t look convinced but Adora knows that she will try, in secret if she feels the need to, but try.
“But I also discovered that I’m scared of myself.” Adora breathes deeply. “You forced me to look in a mirror, to look deeper, and I didn’t like what I saw… because it doesn’t matter who is responsible for my… issues, me or Shadow Weaver, as long as I don’t get better, I’m afraid of doing something stupid to you again.”
“To me? I’m the one who hurt you Adora-”
“I left you! At that moment I thought it couldn’t be helped! What if I leave you again? I’m scared of something I can’t imagine happening and me not making the right choice!”
“Adora, words.” Catra’s calm instantly quiets Adora, who can’t do anything except look at her questioningly. “Making the right choice. That’s from her. You shouldn’t use it.”
“You think it matters?” Adora is startled by Catra giving attention to her vocabulary but she knows her feline girlfriend is smart and won’t hesitate to use her brain to whatever subject can help her achieve her goal.
“I don’t know. Talking isn’t my thing, ask Perfuma or Sparkles.” Catra grins. “But I certainly hate when you say it.”
Adora chuckles at her previous thought. Smart or not, Catra is also simply direct. “Okay, I’ll ask them. But I can’t shake the feeling that I might do something like that once more if I think there’s no helping it again.”
“Well, I certainly am not letting you leave again. Don’t you think it’s my turn to act all protective for once? Except, unlike you, I’m gonna be all possessive too, to make sure you know how much I want you.” Catra spins a little to reposition her upper body in front of Adora and loops her arms around the princess’ neck.
“That hurts.” But despite the pain, Adora knows that Catra’s simple reassurance is already untangling knots in her badly woven mind.
“Sorry. But you need to know.” Catra rests her head on Adora’s shoulder once more, facing the ballroom this time and she looks at it through the gaps in the balustrade again, her face out of Adora’s view. “You put me in a dress, you are stuck with me now.”
“Seems fair, for once.” Adora giggles, but realises that Catra’s statement isn’t meant to be only a light joke as Catra is seriously blushing, having moved in her arms probably mainly to hide it.
‘The dress had no profound meaning’, Adora thinks at first, she simply wanted to see her girlfriend in it because she looks adorable, cute and stunning wearing it. But as Adora glances at her own dress she suddenly recalls why she chose those silly golden paws embroideries. On the contrary, from the start she wanted the dresses to have meanings. Not by being dresses, but to show people another side of Catra they didn’t expect, making an example to demonstrate that maybe they forgot or closed their eyes to what they didn’t want to see behind hate and grudges, and also the part of herself absolutely confident in Catra’s redemption, not mentioning her unconditional love for the feline girl.
While supporting Catra’s body with a hand, she runs the other in Catra’s short hair, brushes against her ears, making her purr intensify in the process. She can barely see it but Catra is certainly smiling, and she is too.
Since this seems resolved however, Adora’s thoughts return to the start of the incident. “Okay, so, I was wrong before, but you should still go talk to Scorpia, I’m sure she’ll forgive you.”
“She already did.” Catra laughs.
“You should go see her more often then-”
“Adora, I like your dense self, but I can’t do that yet.”
“Hu?” Adora answers very eloquently despite herself as to approve the dense part.
“Scorpia really liked me. I didn’t care and pushed her away like everyone else…” Catra has to pause to breathe. “So she had the opportunity to forget since she gave up on me. But then I suddenly came back into her life wanting to be better and she has to forget me all over again.”
“Hu hu.” Adora has to admit she was certainly not thinking that far.
Catra suddenly gasps. “You see that?”
Adora spins on herself a little to be able to follow Catra’s eyes and she quickly finds Scorpia and Perfuma kissing in a corner, more or less sneakily; they do have an advantageous vantage point up here. “You may have waited enough. I feel like I’m back in the Horde spying on older soldiers at night again!” She laughs.
“Did you have to bring that up again?” Catra scoffs as she faces Adora, still very much blushing from before.
“Hey, you were the one to bring that up last time!”
“Hu, yes, but I had my reasons. Now I would rather act with you than spy on others!” Catra’s sweet voice tickles Adora’s ears, yet it compels her to respond.
“But you just said-”
“Argh, shut up!” Catra shoves a hand in Adora’s face to make her, but she’s still red and smiling.
Though now Adora is left with a bunch of ridiculous ideas running in her head and she decides to act since Catra said so. She stands up. “My butt is cold. I’m sure yours must be frozen.” She holds a hand out to Catra and pulls her up.
“My fur isn’t that good against the cold, but this much with magical ice is okay, you know?” Catra raises an eyebrow to emphasise her question.
“Ooow...” Adora grabs Catra’s butt and softly drums with her fingers.
“You don’t need an excuse to touch my ass…” Catra sighs yet grins nonetheless.
“Didn’t go as smoothly as I planned.” Adora admits sheepishly.
“That’s what you get for planning this. You can be smooth when you don’t act like a giant idiot!” Catra smirks a little more widely.
The memory of their first evening together in their room in Bright Moon hits Adora and she forces her face to become all serious and looks right into Catra’s eyes. As intended, the feline girl pulls back in surprise. Adora takes a step forward, making Catra instinctively moves one more step back. Her eyes start to glow in a blue fire as she advances again. “Giant, hu?” Though the feeling of déjà-vu seems to trouble Catra.
“Adora, no. Please, no She-Ra tonight?”
Adora’s eyes return to their normal grey blue but she continues advancing and soon Catra’s back is softly pushed against the wall. There isn’t much strength in Adora’s gesture, just enough to make Catra feel wanted, she hopes. And when she puts her hands on Catra’s hips and leans down to kiss her, and Catra melts against her and loops her arms tightly around the princess’ neck once again, she knows she has succeeded.
Chapter 6: Food
Wrong Hordak is cooking. He likes it. At first he didn’t know why. Maybe because it was one of the first thing he got to do as himself, after being disconnected from Prime’s mind. Maybe because of the smiles his creations provoke, maybe to be able to provide Entrapta with an endless amount of tiny food, since he understood that her peculiar eating habits are neither common nor easy to accommodate.
Or maybe it is because the action of cooking, creating something more than simple sustenance, doesn’t seem needed. From Prime’s perspective, anything common had no value, therefore only very rare foods were worth something, but only because he found out that they made for an effective mean of threatening emotional people. Therefore everyday cooking has value to Wrong Hordak by not having value to Prime.
After an indefinitely eternally long lifetime with only nutrient rich amniotic fluid to sustain himself, cooking is simply the best skill he could develop to serve both as a proof of his independence and a way to enrich his everyday life.
Having never thought about the future, he expected to stay closely at Entrapta’s side because he had nothing else for now but a sudden opportunity let him expend his horizon even further. Shortly after the end of the war, princess Scorpia needed a few hands to help with a new project for the Fright Zone, and for whatever reason still unknown to him, she wanted clones. And he still remembers her hug when she learnt he was able and willing to cook.
Because she needs food. Lot of food in fact, as she is taking care of the remaining kids abandoned there after the dismantling of the Etherian part of the Horde when Prime arrived, and any other children that the war would have left all alone. He was quick to accept the offer, to have more opportunities to cook for a large number of people and with a larger variety of ingredients, and he discovered that making a child smile, by providing what his brain still wants to interpret as simply mandatory sustenance, is priceless.
His first reaction was to refuse, to stay with Hordak and Entrapta, but her cooking staff unexpectedly returned after the end of the war. They actually taught him a lot. They were very wary and scared at first but became quickly nice and helpful once they found out that he was genuinely interested. But it also meant he didn’t have a reason to stay at Dryl all day. Entrapta strongly encouraged him to do what he felt was right and therefore he dared to ask Scorpia if he could try every now and then. That’s when he got hugged by the way, and how he ended up travelling often between Dryl, that now feels like home, and the Fright Zone where he feels useful and enjoys his art.
That place was weird. Still is quite a bit but that is rapidly changing because it’s being remodelled by Scorpia and Perfuma. He learnt a lot about it from the scorpion princess as they worked together, and she is very, very chatty, and he can’t help but still laugh at how Hordak came to create those abominations of ration-bars by mimicking Prime’s nutriments’ fluid vials with what he had on hand from and for Etherians.
Wrong Hordak finishes his long explanation and winks. He learnt since the end of the war the subtleties of the gesture, and in fact likes it even more now, but that doesn’t stop him to also use it whenever he simply feels like it without bothering thinking if it’s appropriate or not.
“That was all very… interesting, but I meant why are you cooking at the moment? You are supposed to be a guest too.” The head cook of the palace asks him with a troubled face.
“Sister Entrapta said I should enjoy tonight, therefore I’m cooking?”
“What about dancing, eating and drinking, having fun and chatting with your friends?”
Wrong Hordak ponders for a moment. He didn’t really think about it past the opportunity of cooking but the big man in front of him, while staying calm and polite, seems perturbed by his presence, almost annoyed. Wrong Hordak is used to people being annoyed or scared because of what he looks like, what he represents.
He had a few long conversations with Bow about it to really understand the problem while the archer was in Dryl to work with Entrapta, and he grasps most of it. Like Hordak, like all clones, unfortunately like Prime, his brain has been made to be logical and efficient, except that for a reason he has not yet dared ask, he seems to be showing a lot more emotions than Hordak on his face. Entrapta often says her and Bow broke him, and while she seems to genuinely not mean anything insulting, it’s beginning to bother him. But beside all that, the man in front of him doesn’t seem bothered by him being a clone, just by him wanting to cook, which he has difficulties making sense of.
“I like your enthusiasm but tonight I would appreciate if you leave the cooking to us.” The head cook continues.
“What is the problem?” Frosta enters the kitchen, led by another attendant.
“Your majesty, this guest wants to cook… that’s very out of protocol.”
“You want to cook?” She hastily spins to face Wrong Hordak.
“Yes?” He answers simply.
“Like, really want to cook?” Frosta’s eyes go wide as if she has a hard time understanding the concept.
“Yes.” He repeats.
“As, staying here instead of enjoying the party out there?” She insists.
“Yes!” Wrong Hordak confirms.
“Because it’s fun!”
Frosta’s face twitches. She seems to find the idea really outrageous yet she stays silent. Her eyebrows raise, then she frowns, one brow raises again. She opens her mouth to say something, closes it. She finally sighs. Wrong Hordak wonders for a moment what is happening when he catches her glancing at the head cook, and he realises that it would be in fact rude to shout that she can’t imagine cooking being enjoyable while standing in a full staffed kitchen.
“You won’t regret it?” Frosta asks one more time and the sign of acceptance makes the cook flinch.
“Not a chance. Plus they have ingredients here that I’ve never seen before!”
“Is it doable?” She asks the head cook this time.
“Of course your majesty, but it’s not… well, it’s a first.”
Frosta takes another good look at Wrong Hordak, eyeing him from head to toes a few times. “New guests, new surprises, I guess.” She chuckles then suddenly brightens like she just got a splendid idea. “Can you help me bring that barrel to the ballroom first? It’s gonna be fun too!”
Spinnerella is still dancing with Netossa. They have been most of the evening, aside from eating and drinking to their hearts content and more. She can’t hide being a little… fond of good food after all. While looking at the other younger princesses she feels very strongly the weight of the party, since aside from the war being over and a lot of troubles having finally settled, tonight she doesn’t have to do anything else than enjoy.
No cooking, no cleaning. Depending of the kingdoms, a lot of princesses have attendants to do everything for them but her and Netossa have been mostly staying in their room in Bright Moon, where they cook themselves most of the time to not feel like they are abusing their already privileged situation. Except, while she won’t openly say her wife’s cooking tastes bad, she usually would rather cook herself. That’s one subject upon which Netossa can’t compete because even she knows how lost in advance it is!
“Spinny, I feel old.”
“What?” Spinnerella needs a moment to come back from her delightful thoughts at her wife’s sudden out of nowhere whine.
“I feel old! Look around us, all those young people. Compared to us, there are barely ten guests as…”
“Mature? Experienced?” Spinnerella completes in a plenty positive way. Since the days of the new Princess Alliance, they have been surrounded by younger people all the time, it’s not anything new.
“That’s one way to see it.” Netossa answers doubtful.
“On the contrary, I feel younger surrounded by all those happy couples! I’m pretty sure we can still act like that ourselves! See behind me?”
“Hu hu.” Netossa remarks, grinning a little when she spots Perfuma and Scorpia flirting in a corner.
“And on your left!” At Spinnerella’s words, Netossa glances just in time to catch Glimmer dancing very close to Bow. “See? Doesn’t that make you feel young again?”
“Not really. We’ve been there so long ago...”
“Like I’m going to be outdone by some... kids!” Spinnerella whispers as she pulls Netossa closer.
Though by chance, it just happens to be at this moment that the queen innocently kisses her archer, who cutely blushes. Spinnerella rolls her eyes and steals a little kiss on her wife’s lips.
“It’s okay, we don’t have to compete over this.” Netossa giggles. “Let the youn-”
Spinnerella kisses her wife boldly, intimately even, probably not in a way that is appropriate for the place, even if the dance floor isn’t so brightly lit, but there is no way she will let a few barely-more-than-children be more bold than herself and put her wife in such a sulky mood. She raises a hand behind Netossa’s head to keep her close while the kiss lasts, until her wife finally brightens. “Better?”
“Yes, you are the best, Spinny.”
At this moment, they both spot another couple descending the big staircase next to them. Adora and Catra are holding hands and their hairs are dishevelled while their dresses are slightly wrinkled. Noticing the two wives staring, Catra promptly begins to comb Adora’s hair with her claws and Adora straighten their clothes.
“Ah, youth.” Netossa scoffs but she keeps a wide smile this time.
Spinnerella hesitates to say something but the other couple is already blushing furiously and giggling nervously from the embarrassment. She looks away only to catch Frosta standing on a table, making a giant pyramid out of empty cup-shaped glasses.
“Frosta, what are you doing?” Spinnerella inquires, not wanting to guess.
“Champagne fountain.” The ice princess answers flatly as she concentrates to put the last glasses on top.
“Aren’t you a little too youn-” Spinnerella stops herself as Netossa laughs. She was arguing about feeling young a minute ago, she doesn’t want to compare herself to Frosta right now. “Fine, it’s a party after all.”
Frosta looks at her, and other princesses that gathered around while she was building her tower, and seems a little disappointed. “Nobody is trying to stop me?”
“No?” Some of them answer after looking hesitantly at each others.
Wrong Hordak starts to pour the drink at the top of the pyramid and it quickly flows down, forming a marvellous golden cascade from glass to glass.
Frosta sighs. “It’s actually fizzy apple juice, I thought someone was going to stop me otherwise...”
“Huurg, that’s no fun!” Mermista grunts.
“I like apple juice!” Bow encourages enthusiastically.
“I don’t like fizzy drinks…” Glimmer whines.
“I haven’t tasted apples since forever.” Kyle remarks hesitantly.
“Yeah, reminds me of the applesauce we had as kids.” Lonnie adds, nostalgic.
“Spinny makes the best applesauce ever!” Netossa announces proudly.
Adora’s snorty laugh resonates in the room and she is staring at Catra with hearts in her eyes. “Applesauce, they said!” And soon Scorpia joins her laughter.
“What? It was one of the only other food we experienced when we were kids, before ration bars became everything.” Catra is blushing and everyone can guess that there’s a story between her and applesauce but only Adora and Scorpia are openly laughing.
“Why does she know?” Adora inquires between her laughs while pointing at Scorpia.
“I kinda let her in charge of the Horde files… I didn’t think there was my own personal file in there as well! I just wanted to get rid of that part of the job!”
“Oh, right!” Suddenly Glimmer starts laughing too.
Catra is once again both happy and annoyed. She finally managed to get Adora to ask her to dance while they were coming down from the balcony, but Glimmer’s laugh is dampening her joy. Yes, she is trying to make friends. Sure enough, she can accept to a certain extend that being cute isn’t as great of an insult as she thought. Certainly, she learnt that her pride may lead her to badly react sometimes. But there are simply secrets that should not be shared!
“Why does she know?!” Catra angrily asks Adora as she points a finger at the queen.
“Hmm… you know how I’m writing about us? … I wanted another opinion and I asked Glimmer, I didn’t think of the details…”
“You dumb dense idiot!” Catra growls and Adora turns around to try and make Glimmer stop laughing.
“Hi, you are Catra, right?” An unknown voice startles her.
“Hu? Me? Yes?” That’s the first time tonight that a princess she doesn’t already know comes to talk to her personally. A few dared to start a conversation with Adora when Catra was at her side, but at the moment Adora is a few feet away, and the voice is clearly directed at herself.
“I wanted to meet you for so long!” The princess bounces enthusiastically. “I admire you! The way you turned against the Horde right at the end was so cool! Can I shake your hand? Please let me shake your hand!”
Catra is frozen in place and the princess doesn’t wait for her to move and grabs Catra’s hand. Though instead of simply shaking it, she begins to caress the top of it with her thumb.
“Stars, your fur is so smooth, I’m jealous.”
Before Catra can think straight again, the princess is brushing her arm softly. Catra tenses up and have to muster a lot of strength to not actually run away from the touches. The physical attentions remind her of Scorpia’s behaviour but she had a lot of time to get used to the scorpion princess’ lack of thoughtfulness.
“Oh, I bet your tail is soft too!”
Catra’s thoughts stop, blocked by her instincts and the most she can do consciously when the princess touches her tail, is keep her claws retracted to not shop her arm off but she violently slaps it. The princess squeaks at the pain and attracts a lot of attention. Catra backs away, hissing and panting, she unsheathes her claws, ready to become more violent if the princess dares approach again. Everyone is looking at them and by chance a few people saw the whole thing and not only Catra’s last reaction.
“Hey! You can’t touch someone else’s tail like that!” Scorpia yells. Rogelio growls.
The room suddenly glows brightly. Two strong arms embrace Catra tightly from behind and she stiffens even more knowing that Adora is once again trying to protect her, from herself this time. It hurts, she looks at her claws, she knows she has a past but right now the little princess should be the one restrained.
“Don’t you ever touch her again!” She-Ra’s voice is commanding, annoyed, almost angry as she scowls down at the princess.
Catra is still stunned and it takes her a second to realise that Adora isn’t trying to restrain her. She looks up. She-Ra is definitely more than almost angry, she is really pissed, and hugging Catra as if no one else is allowed anywhere close to her girlfriend. The feeling of being held like that in the middle of the crowd is strangely comforting and Catra relaxes, but the room is completely silent as if everyone is waiting for She-Ra to move or speak, but she doesn’t.
“Adora, you okay?” Catra inquires when she sees Adora stuck in place with angry yet empty eyes.
“Hu? Oh. Hum. Yes, sorry.” Adora seems to only now realises what is happening and transforms back. The whole ballroom silently sighs and starts breathing and chatting again.
“So you do get jealous!” Catra spins in Adora’s arms to face her with a wide smirk, showing her fangs.
“Hee? Ah. I’m not… Yes, seems so.” Adora grins in a mix of shame and cheekiness. “I’m not sure what I… I was talking to Glimmer, and half listening to your conversation, and then…”
And then Catra’s laughter erupts and she kisses Adora shortly. “I like when you are jealous.” The two of them stay in a little world of their own, eyes locked into each other’s, though not for long.
“Bravo, bravo!” A loud exclamation gets everyone’s attention and the little princess from before transforms, or rather reverts back, into Double Trouble. “That was an incredible perform-”
They can’t finish their sentence as Frosta almost flies to them, propelled by an ice ramp, and reach them punch first in their face. “You little shit!”
“Frosta!” Perfuma dashes forward to stop the ice princess from punching them again.
“What? We had a deal, they had one rule to follow!”
“But the party was getting boring.” Double Trouble complains.
“No it wasn’t!” Frosta breathes deeply to calm down and starts to smirk. “But you know the punishment I promised you if you transformed. That is gonna be boring.”
“You aren’t seriously planning to make me-”
“Of course I am! So washing the dishes it is! Wrong Hordak, take them to the kitchen please, beside the cleaning you can make them do whatever you need!”
Catra laughs again, followed by half the people around this time. “Well, both you and them certainly know how to make a scene!” She says to Adora and her sight catches her princess’ eyes again, trying to escape into their own little space again.
“You are strangely conscious of tails for someone who hugs everyone without a thought first?” Rogelio growls at Scorpia, who looks around hesitantly a little distraught.
“Hu, Catra, a little help here?” Scorpia taps a claw on the feline girl’s shoulder to get her attention.
Catra grumbles at the repeated interruption, but after making Rogelio repeat himself, she still translates because it’s the fastest way to deal with this, though she does all of it without looking away from Adora.
“But hugs are great? Everyone likes hugs!”
“Suuuure, whatever the place, whatever the mood.” Catra replies, this time facing the scorpion princess with a smirk. Rogelio nods too, while Adora is too busy looking at the girl in her arms to respond. Scorpia looks at them like a lost kid and taps her claws together.
“It’s okay Scorpia, we’ll work on that.” Perfuma intervenes sweetly as she puts a hand on her shoulder, and also nods in understanding. The scorpion princess seems baffled at the other princess not taking her side at first, but soon smiles at her nonetheless.
Catra faces Adora again. Her princess has her typical big dopey grin on her face and is still looking back at her, embracing her tightly in those strong arms. Catra stays like this, almost unmoving, her tail curling around Adora’s leg until the princess finally gets her brain working again.
“So… hum… wanna dance?” Adora asks hesitantly, though she has this smug look on her face that Catra knows so well. And the feline girl likes it, like all the other happy expressions that Adora can make.
Glimmer is queen of Bright Moon and leader of the Princess Alliance. People turn to her for guidance and she can’t hide the fact that she likes this very much, even if She-Ra often steals the spotlights from her, but she also has her pride and it means taking the whole job, not only the parts she desires the most. Therefore right now she is helping Frosta distribute the glasses of fizzy apple juice to the guests, who came from every parts of Etheria, as a sign of reunification, while She-Ra is... unavailable.
The pyramid is wobbly, Frosta did a great job making it so high but dismantling it while the cups are full and slippery is an even greater concern. The queen also fears for her dress, seeing drops of sugary liquid falling from the overfull recipients. Another problem that She-Ra doesn’t have, in fact, with her magical clothing…
The drink isn’t appropriate for a toast either. While there are a few princesses too young to usually drink alcohol, it’s an end-of-war party! Who cares? Glimmer has some trouble understanding Frosta’s reasoning, but here she is, looking like a little girl playing grown-up. And Frosta, who as the hostess has to distribute the glasses, is clearly showing on her face that she didn’t think this through and is feeling the same. Except that she hates it even more than Glimmer. But once the drink fountain was made, they had to make something out of it.
“Couldn’t you chose another moment to be reasonable?” The queen asks Frosta.
“I thought you were going to be the first one to nag!”
“No? Okay, maybe… but I wouldn’t mean it?”
Frosta simply shrugs but that’s enough to make Glimmer reflect on what she just said. The queen is trying to not feel responsible for her therefore not see the ice princess as a little girl needing help and protection, but the words are still difficult to stop, even more when she feels that she doesn’t mean them, and in those moments Catra and Adora’s relationship comes to her mind. Their circumstances may be different but that kind of attitude did lead Adora to be seriously resented by Catra, and it’s certainly not what Glimmer wants.
She tries to see the bright side of the moment; it’s a good opportunity to show off and speak with every princesses and most of the other guests, calling each one of them by name and exchanging light humour over the fizzy juice she serves them, but she is a little envious of Adora not sharing that awkward gesture.
The princess is dancing with Catra and when Glimmer tried to ask Adora to also help with distributing the glasses, the feline girl stopped her with a serious glare. The queen knows that Catra can be a very jealous person when it comes to Adora. Usually Catra is stopped by her fears of not deserving the princess and having to pay for what she did, but apparently not at the moment. And Glimmer is trying to diminish those fears, therefore it would be quite selfish and hypocritical to blame Catra and stop her when she manages to break through.
But her timing sucks… because right now the two are the only one dancing, looking out of place and excluded of the toast about to take place, when She-Ra’s participation would have a great effect on the guests’ morale.
That’s the thoughts of Glimmer the queen. However, when she notices that Catra is now bare feet and sees her shoes abandoned in the middle of the staircase, Glimmer the friend, Sparkles even, to Catra, is concerned.
There is no way she will admit it openly but she is fond of that nickname. Glimmer is her calm and soothing side. Sparkles is her fighting spirit and spontaneity, maybe? She hasn’t thought that much about it but she deeply knows she is fine with it.
Taking this into consideration, the earlier falling out between her two friends, Adora’s rush up the stairs, and the amount of pressure under which the two of them are tonight, Glimmer doesn’t want to interfere when they are finally dancing peacefully together, therefore she didn’t insist.
As soon as everyone else has a glass in hand, Glimmer gets their attention and offers a few words of celebration to welcome the new era of peace for Etheria. This moment is also a good time to close the first part of the party. While it doesn’t feel like they did a lot yet, it’s easily the middle of the night already, and even if she is prepared to party until tomorrow, everybody probably isn’t. And even if Frosta has been quite vague about it, it seems that she wants to get rid of the most stuck up people to start some fun.
And deep inside, out of her duties and mannerism as queen, Glimmer agrees. Those traditional balls and parties are good but to really let go of all the steam and tension accumulated day by day recently, something a little wilder wouldn’t hurt. Though as soon as the thought pass through her mind, the whole palace starts to flash and shake, and even if she knows this is just a coincidence, that’s not what she meant by a little wilder!
She looks up and sees the ceiling starting to crack, in the middle of a multitude of fireworks and sparklers. ‘What the heck is this all about?’ she keeps to herself. She glances at Catra, worried that this weird event will bring back unwanted memories, but the feline girl is smirking in Adora’s arms. Then Glimmer wonders if Catra actually did this but it would be weird and she seems too surprised for it to be the case. Before the queen can analyse or fear any further, she spots Sea Hawk sighing heavily.
“Shit, you were right!” Frosta exclaims to him and dashes in the direction of the Fractal Flake’s room.
Life is an adventure that one ought to experience fully. Sea Hawk knows that better than anyone to the point where he has to put a lot of effort in order for this experience to not ruin someone else’s. Because he discovered quite early in his life that he likes to set boat on fire. As ridiculous as it sounds in an everyday conversation, when the occasion presents itself it’s simply so fun that he loses all sense of reason.
For a time, he made a few enemies by sinking random boats but now he mainly does this to his own. Needless to say that this causes him a lot of money issues and even as an accomplished captain he had to rely on Salineas’ princess sometimes. And what a princess she is. It didn’t take long for him to fall hopelessly in love and like everything, he didn’t restrain himself to voice and show it openly.
But behind his brazen behaviour and charisma, he didn’t truly expect his love to be returned that strongly. He never stopped wooing her though, they have been flirting since for ever because she never strictly rejected him, and he will certainly not now that he knows she really is interested despite her dismissive attitude.
But back to the issue at hand, Sea Hawk knows how to light things on fire better than anyone and that’s why people often ask him to prep big party bonfires or even fireworks. He’s usually fine with it even if it lacks the thrill of being on a boat on fire with nothing else than water below, but Frosta asked him to do all that inside this castle made of ice, only because it would be a pain in the ass to move everyone outside! And for an obscure reason, she refuses to admit the similarities between heat bombs and fireworks.
Like the second time he put a boat on fire, he couldn’t say no despite knowing that it would end up in a disaster. The first time he didn’t really care and by the third he had accepted that the fun was greater than the troubles. But the conditions, being in the open and over water, do matter. Here the risk of the roof collapsing on the crowd still weighs on his mind even with Frosta’s reassurance that everything will be fine. And very clearly now, everything isn’t fine and he sighs heavily.
“Shit, you were right!” Frosta’s voice makes him accept the inevitable truth as she dashes out of the ballroom.
“Yes I was.” Sea Hawk notes and promises to himself to stick to boats in the future.
Mermista opens a few bottles of water and quickly extinguishes most of the fireworks, letting only a few inoffensive sparklers finish their show, and Netossa casts a large net to prevent chunks of ice to fall down. It isn’t long before the ceiling reforms itself, the cracks disappear, and Frosta then comes back into the ballroom. She stands on the stage and calms the crowd quickly.
“Okay, my bad, that didn’t go as planned!” Though she laughs quite happily in contrast.
She observes the remaining crowd closely and Sea Hawk can’t help but do the same. Only the most adventurous guests remain and Frosta seems relieved by that fact as she turns around to face the musicians and starts talking to them in a low voice. Needless to say she apparently chose them not only for their musical skills but also for their self control and composure since they didn’t even stop playing during this last event.
It begins as a vague memory. The wall are trembling and there are flashes of lights all over the ceiling, which cracks under the pressure. A few screams of panic and fear echo through the ballroom.
Catra’s ears flatten, her tail squeezes Adora’s leg and she freezes, wishing that whatever this is, it’s not real.
Adora’s arms tighten around her.
And the princess’ giggles stop the memory from becoming clearer.
“Catra, it’s fireworks.” Adora murmurs close to Catra’s ear.
Catra has to think very hard to understand but the stupidity of what she just heard hits her like Frosta’s punch. “What?!” She ignores Adora repeating the words and looks up to see for herself. “Who the heck launches fireworks inside a castle made of ice?!” But despite her best effort at sounding annoyed, she smirks at the absurdity and instead of worrying she decides to resume dancing with Adora since the music isn’t even stopping. Her princess is also grinning though visibly ready to transform at any moment.
Catra glances around. A few princesses are taking care of things with similar mixed expressions of annoyance, disbelief and amusement, but all in all the calm and detached attitude of the Princess Alliance keeps most of the guests stuck in place instead of panicking. The sight is ridiculous but also a good reminder of the real power of those princesses when they are focused.
Catra had fight that. And one of the only reasons she didn’t flat out lose and die is because those princesses put value to life. Every. Life. That means the lives of the Horde’s soldiers too. That means hers too. Otherwise they would have annihilated the Horde in a day or two. And the realisation is hard to swallow because that also means that she was weak, she was looked down upon, and she was wrong.
A soft rub on her ears pulls her mind back in Adora’s arms. The princess is worried and can’t hide it, of course, yet does her best to smile anyway and Catra acknowledges the value of that smile after their discussion on the balcony.
The situation defuses itself quickly with the fireworks sprayed by water and other princesses ensuring everyone safety, while Frosta is using her power stone to repair the ceiling. And soon all seem forgotten with a short apology from the ice princess when she comes back in the ballroom.
At that moment the music stops. Both Catra and Adora turn to face the stage, curious at the interruption happening after the incident is over, and see Frosta signing at Catra to come closer. Catra frowns. Right now her place in Adora’s arms is just too perfect. But Frosta seems to not let the music start again until Catra obeys so she approaches reluctantly to not make a scene out of it and Frosta crouches at the edge of the stage to give her two little cotton balls without a word.
“What’s this?” Catra asks and looks questioningly at the ice princess but the only answer she gets is Frosta pointing at her ears as the princess stands up again.
“Okay, now that’s all for the boring stuff!” Frosta announces without decorum.
And the music starts again. Much faster. Much louder. Much more violent and Catra quickly understands the purpose of the gift in her hand. She shoves the cotton inside her ears before they break under the strength of the sounds, while her fur is already standing on end and her tail puffed out. Even with that and her ears flatten, it’s still loud.
The ballroom is plunged into darkness briefly, before flashes of light start to flicker. The faint glow of the remaining sparklers is replaced by fast pulses of intense multicoloured beams, emanating from the numerous crystals placed all over the ballroom, contrasting with the pitch black in-between.
Around Catra, people start to dance again but at first she can’t understand. They act wildly, like they are possessed, like there are no rules and define movements to the dance anymore. Like her, Adora, Scorpia and a few others are frozen in place but the scorpion princess is quickly pulled along by Perfuma who seems perfectly both out of place and in her element with the new rhythm of the music.
Catra then realises that the flower princess doesn’t wear shoes anymore. And in fact a few other pairs of shoes are flying, or dropped more elegantly, to rest in a corner of the room. And, yeah, most of them aren’t made to let you dance like this, though Mermista seems suddenly particularly agile with hers despite being in the same category of shoes.
Catra is still tense and unable to move when Glimmer grabs her and Adora’s hands to invite them to join the fun, to which Adora answers with a big smile even though she seems quite lost too. And this is a part of Adora that Catra doesn’t know well. She heard tales from Sparkles, mostly, but she doesn’t often witness this side of Adora, simply curious at new things of the world, interested by unexpected discoveries without needing a challenge to get going. Yet her smile is the same. Catra loves that smile.
“How do you dance to that?” She tries to ask.
“What?” Glimmer shouts.
“How can you talk with the music so loud?” Adora yells.
“You don’t!” The queen dismisses.
“How do you dance to that?” Catra repeats louder.
“However you want!” Glimmer answers simply, still very loud and winks at Adora, very much aware of her choice of word.
To Catra’s surprise, Adora soon begins to move without a lot of hesitation, following Sparkles example. Like she wants. Usually Adora has trouble with what she wants because she had been told for so long that wanting was bad. But Sparkles just ordered her to do what she wants and apparently that seems to work just fine for Adora. Catra smirks and notes in a corner of her mind to command Adora to want more often in the future if it’s that simple! She knows it’s not but the idea is fun enough.
Another look around and Catra sees most of her friends starting to dance too. For a second she doubts the word again but steels herself into believing that she can use it, tonight at least. Huntara is completely embracing this, very much showing off that she is way more comfortable dancing to this music style than the previous one. As usual these days, Lonnie doesn’t think too much and follows the big woman, happy to move her body more freely and she drags Kyle and Rogelio with her too.
Spinnerella and Netossa are more reserved, however it’s not possible to believe it’s their first time either, and the same can be told of Sea Hawk, easily following Mermista whose movements are elegant and have a certain tranquillity despite the wildness, as if she was dancing underwater. On the other hand, Sparkles and Frosta seems childish but still enjoying themselves, while Bow surprisingly is a little shy about moving randomly.
Under Sparkles’ taunts, Catra doesn’t hesitate to show off her flexibility and, since she likes to move her body, it doesn’t take her long to be pulled along by the music. Adora is too stiff and the feline girl teases her about it but that only entices the princess to be more brazen about it. Soon, Catra’s only concern is the fact that she is wearing a dress, cut daringly high on both sides along her legs, and she can’t chase the idea of being very happy and relieved if that’s the only problem weighing on her mind at the moment.
Then snow starts to fall… inside… and Catra rolls her eyes briefly before her grin comes back at Frosta’s bold but completely out of place ideas. The white powder is very light and fluffy, not that cold since it’s made by magic like the walls and furnitures, and it tingles her nose. Catra remembers her time onboard Darla when she was trying to describe the princesses and the words reckless and brave-stupid was her only relevant options. Tonight there is no bravery needed but the other parts certainly still stand.
She looks at Adora dancing close to her, Entrapta surrounded by people, Scorpia blushing furiously again but still dancing. ‘Okay, a little bit of bravery.’ she admits.
But the floor quickly becomes slippery because of the snow melting, and while people with naked feet are more or less fine, those with shoes aren’t. Frosta shrugs and laughs again and with the help of Spinnerella’s wind, they wipe the floor clean and dry in order for the dances to remain comfortably safe.
And that’s how the middle part of the night goes by and Catra would be perfectly fine with it if not for the loudness and her hurt feet, yet that same loudness prevents people to try and talk to her too much so it has its good point too. She also has to squint for her eyes to not hurt because of the intense flashes of light but somehow, with the sounds resonating through her body, it’s part of the ambiance and the whole thing helps her forget and let go.
She knows that Frosta wanted it this way, the little princess easily piles up a lot of tension by ruling her kingdom so young, with lots of people trying to advise her too much, afraid she can’t do it. Even when they mean well, she doesn’t have a moment to relax in peace without someone reminding her of a thing or another that she needs to do. She didn’t hide yesterday that by the end of the party she was going to find ways to let the steam out in a bang.
Catra couldn’t keep track of time while dancing more wildly the more she allowed herself to. Despite the ice, the air became very hot and people are sweating, Adora’s hair is a mess and her own fur is not that much better, and the thing is, it takes a lot more for her to sweat, which means that the state of her fur is mainly due to the fact that she is dancing so close to Adora, rubbing against her even. Their dresses are wrinkled too but that seems to apply to everyone around. It’s probably been two hours Catra guesses. She is trying to keep her mind occupied because her feet hurt but she doesn’t want the pain to win.
She finally resolves herself to not do the same mistake of hiding it again and take a break before it’s too late, but she has been holding Adora’s hand for a time now and doesn’t want to release it. In equal measure she doesn’t want to drag Adora with her and stops the princess from dancing. Catra sighs internally; holding hands or not, if she was to escape the room stealthily, Adora would worry about it.
Therefore she decides to do the opposite of being discreet. She stops dancing and stands still in front of Adora for a few seconds, opening her hand and slowly walking away.
But her princess doesn’t let go of her hand.
Catra purposefully stops at the end of the dance floor and shows to Adora that her hand is still open to make her understand that she can stay to dance some more. She smiles to her princess, giving every signs she can to prove that she is okay and only needs a slight break.
But her princess doesn’t let go and Catra is torn between happiness and guilt. She is glad that Adora is coming with her of course, but tearing the princess from her friends and the fun part of the night is more heavy than she thought.
Catra walks to the other side of the ballroom, pulling Adora along despite her open hand, where an open door leads to a veranda. She can’t really say it leads to a garden since everything is ice though, but here the music is stifled enough to talk and breathe. Talk. Earlier she was thinking that not being able to talk was a good thing and now she counts it as a good thing. She could have just thought about how her ears can stop ringing, but no, she had to think about the ability to talk… Her mind really is all over the place tonight, or maybe has been since she was rescued from Prime.
And Adora still doesn’t let go of her hand.
“You can go back and have fun with your friends. I won’t disappear this time.” Catra tries to convince the princess.
But Adora doesn’t answer. She simply smiles and squeezes her hand a little tighter, looks into her eyes and takes a deep breath of the fresher air out here. Unlike the other walls, the veranda is completely transparent and they can see the starry night sky outside.
This chapter crosses the 150'00 words mark in my She-Ra fanfic! I never thought I would get here when I was writing the 4 short chapters of my first work! (Check part one of the serie)
I hope you enjoyed reading and to celebrate this I have a small favour to ask. If you like my stories, please spread them around!
Comments are always welcome too!
Chapter 8: Honesty
Adora has a lot to say but for now she stays silent. It isn’t one of those times when she should talk but hide, not one of those times when talking is scary, not one when she foolishly thinks that silence would hurt people less than her voice.
But she has been clumsy with words tonight and despite a lot of effort from both Catra and herself, their communication is still difficult. To be honest, it never has been easy. Adora just didn’t realise, before Catra yelled at her one night to open her eyes, how much Shadow Weaver worked to put rifts between the two of them.
They have always loved each other, being it as family, friends, fellow soldiers or whatever, and even fighting against one another didn’t break this bond. Yet when it came down to it, they were stopped from conveying their feelings and grew apart, just as planned by her.
Catra had laughed when she explained to Adora her realisation that Shadow Weaver‘s only mistake was Adora’s departure instead of hers. And truthfully that mistake saved Etheria. What would have happened if She-Ra stuck with the Horde and was trying to get Catra back from the rebellion? Would she have listened to Catra’s voice and leave?
Hopefully all this is in the past and they are together now, finally, and trying to communicate properly and heal from Shadow Weaver’s poison. But Adora knows it’s not that simple. Knowing that her worries and guilt are misplaced doesn’t mean she isn’t feeling them. Knowing that her life has value and she shouldn’t be ready to throw it away at the smallest calls for help doesn’t mean she can ignore those voices either. Knowing she is full of flaws and weaknesses doesn’t stop her from trying to appear as the perfect She-Ra.
But two days ago, when she realised that for one of the first times since Catra’s rescue she had to go to sleep alone, she understood and cried. Everything isn’t over, she was taught how to die, how to sacrifice herself, now she has to learn how to live. Because it’s easy, warm in Catra’s arms, comforted by her purr, soothed by the familiarity of her teasing and defiance, or when Catra’s burning body is pressed against hers, driven by passion and lust, but it’s another thing when her feline girlfriend is away.
Adora was brought to tears, alone in her room, when she understood that living with Catra now will be difficult. Not that she wants it any other way, obviously, but she puts Catra constantly in the spotlights even when the feline girl wants to hide, while Catra drags her past like a cover over both of them when the princess is supposed to learn how to worry less. They both have to fight the idea that being separated for a little while means abandoning the other, and they both have to fight the idea that keeping the other close to them is badly selfish. And yes, the fact that those contradict each other should help navigate through the absurdity of all this, but it doesn’t.
Most people aren’t helping either. Adora is plenty aware of their stares and remarks. Everyday when she is working, away from Catra, some come to her and speak their mind. ‘How can you be friend with someone like her?’, ‘You should be careful.’, ‘Don’t trust her.’, ‘Look my way, I’m better than her.’, ‘She doesn’t deserve you.’ Adora has a pretty long list of those to which she only answers in her head, to not add oil over that barely contained fire. Thankfully she is stubborn and those words only strengthen her conviction, though they still hurt because more often than not they are what people truly think of Catra.
And Adora has to speak honestly too, not only say what Catra wants to hear, because it always ends badly when she assumes what her feline girlfriend wants, like those people are hurting her when in their mind they are being helpful, giving her advices. As much as Adora could simply answer Catra ‘Don’t worry, I’m always sticking to you.’ it isn’t that simple. They have to live together, a real life, not a dream out of the world. Catra sometimes jokes about eloping to a deserted planet, just the two of them, but that’s not really living, even Catra now wants to connect with more people, though she is right about the fact that it would make for a nice vacation. They can’t stay only glued together all day long. They manage it quite well when they have different jobs to do, now they need to extend it to their fun times in order to make the best of their lives, but without making the other feel abandoned.
Therefore Adora has to choose her words carefully and while pondering what she has to say, she holds Catra’s hand and smiles because it’s the part of their communication that she knows the best. Catra might still want space sometimes but Adora’s hand is always welcomed now, Catra might still be afraid of the implications from this big smile full of hope sometimes when she is hurting but certainly not in this situation.
“I mean it, you know? I just need a short break and I’ll come back too.” Catra talks again first, trying to reassure her.
Adora squeezes Catra’s hand a little tighter. “You have me choose between them and you by walking away here, and it’s alright.” It’s not an accusation, only a fact, the start of an explanation, and she keeps her voice as soft as she can to convey it.
The intended effect works somehow and even if she looks ready to interrupt, Catra waits silently. Adora takes a deep breath and tries to remember what she planned to say with Perfuma. She knows she isn’t that good with words, even disregarding her clumsiness tonight, so they took time to work on the ideas she has to voice out. It doesn’t have to be tonight but it’s a good occasion. Another deep breath and Adora opens her mouth again.
“Sometime you’ll accept that I want you at least as much as you want me. You don’t have to feel guilty when I choose you, even for a little break. Sometimes I’ll stay with you, sometimes I’ll go to them.” She kisses Catra softly. “Just promise me. When I choose them, if you really need me, stop me! I won’t forgive myself for leaving you alone again when you truly need me. Please? But otherwise, when I choose you, it’s because I want to, because I want to stay with you for the rest of my life. Don’t push me away, it hurts, please? You say that we are both broken and it’s true. And I want to change that but I realised that I can’t, not alone, not without you. I promise to take care of you, to always put you first. Stay with me. Please.”
Catra is bright red as she answers with a shy smile. “Wow, I didn’t expect you to say something so serious.” But Adora can guess that she isn’t as embarrassed as she is overheating from the direct attack. And it’s fair. Since talking isn’t really their forte, Adora expected Catra to either laugh or blush, and she is quite happy it’s the latter.
“It’s serious. I mean living together truly, having friends, in the good times and the bad, staying together, not feeling forced to follow each other but always finding them again later.” Adora elaborates a little to make sure her point is delivered.
“It means you accepting that you are not allowed to doubt you deserve me anymore. You can answer anytime, I’ll wait as long as you need.” Adora isn’t sure of herself, the confidence she built up is melting quickly and she hastily adds “And I love you.” before she can’t speak straight anymore.
Adora is probably as red as Catra by the end of it and both don’t care for now, yet hope that nobody will come find them here until they calm down. She looks into Catra’s eyes and smiles again, while waiting as she sees the feline girl searching for her own words. It’s alright, they have time, they earned time.
Catra listens carefully until the end, seeing her princess’ confidence drops bit by bit as she goes on. She hides a chuckle. There is so much things between the two of them. So many unsaid words, hidden thoughts and expectations, so many rifts created by a wretched witch who didn’t care, so many wounds still open because they took so long to open their eyes and look past each other’s appearance, inside, to see what the other truly is and not what they imagined them to be.
It’s a miracle that they still love each other after doing this and Catra can’t believe how lucky she is. Adora has always been obvious with her emotions, Catra learnt early to hide them, yet both got deceived so badly by what they thought instead of what they saw. Perfuma would argue that the eyes can be deceived just as much though. Catra looks into Adora’s eyes. She has learnt to understand that too, that’s why they need to communicate so much.
But beside their relationship, Catra has a lot to prove now. It’s easy to say ‘I’m not destructive anymore. I care about people.’ but the number of people she is convinced she cares about is very limited. ‘Is it truly what I want or do I bend to what Adora wants me to be?’ There are a lot of questions left unanswered. ‘Is being right that important, more important than love? If doing wrong is so easy, isn’t it what my nature truly is?’ She wants to be better and it’s a vague notion. ‘Well, not wanting to rule the world anymore is a good start.’ She chuckles again and searches into those sweet grey blue eyes. Without taking kindness to the extreme like some of the other princesses, she knows now that it’s the right direction. Despite her issues, Adora was the righteous one at least, and Catra was wrong.
“What would you have done if I wasn’t wanting to be better?” She voices one of her doubts.
“I knew you would.” Adora does not hesitate.
“I wondered sometimes why the other princesses are just so kind. I want to save the world but I can punish bad guys without hesitation too. The other princesses on the other hand think everyone deserves so much kindness. They can’t get proof that it will end well, they can’t see the future, they fear and doubt and get hurt when they face someone truly bad that uses this against them, yet they still choose to believe it’s the best way to live. I wanted to believe that you weren’t lost. I feared, I doubted, I got hurt, a lot after the portal. But when you apologised and saved Glimmer I simply knew.”
“That doesn’t answer the question.”
“Yes, I think it does. Since that moment I couldn’t ever imagine it anymore, it was a matter of how and when, not if.”
“But that’s stupid, what if you were wrong?”
“Catra, can you look me in the eyes and tell me you want to hurt people?”
Catra winces. She is horrified by how much the question hurts. She almost shouts ‘No!’ but it’s a reflex, a response out of fear, not a conscious thought, an act of panic at the idea of not being what Adora wants her to be. She breathes and composes herself. “No. But what if I’m wrong too?”
“Then we are doomed!” Adora grins widely.
“I’m being serious!” Catra can’t help but smile a little at Adora’s silliness, as usual.
“Catra, being a good person doesn’t mean some grand schemes and ideas! You already showed that you can care about more and more people every day. You regret when your lies hurt them, you put efforts to help, you are happy when it works! You try so hard to mend those old wounds. What more proof do you need?”
“But I’m not like you, I know I can mess up so easily-”
“For someone who says I’m not perfect, you certainly don’t think I can do much wrong!”
“That’s… different…” Catra tries to put her feelings into words. Adora is perfectly imperfect. One side of Catra admires the righteous and strong Adora, another craves the soft and sweet Adora, and another loves the flawed Adora, the vulnerable and honest one, rarely shown to other people.
“No it’s not!”
“It is!” Catra replies simply. Adora is still only Adora and conveying these complicated thoughts to her is too difficult at the moment. It’s not like she is wrong, okay? It’s just… She knows she is the biggest fuck up here, it’s… different. But she’s also smart and knows that looking at Adora is like looking in a mirror. They both need to do some things better and are afraid of messing up.
“Because I say so! Shut up…” She scoffs and the princess smirks at her stubbornness.
“Don’t wanna.” Adora answers smugly.
The two of them continues this pointless argument until they suddenly recall one or another anecdote and the conversation shifts in all kind of directions. They still have a lot of catching up to do with those last years apart and they often use moments like this to share their life little by little without the risks that a long heavy discussion would have. Mainly avoiding Catra too much jealousy and pain in one go, to be honest.
They banter and laugh over silly nothings for a little time but Adora has one final thing she wants to address tonight and she knows it will hurt Catra too. She takes another deep breath, using Perfuma’s mind clearing tips the best she can again and loops her arms around Catra to hug her tightly before her confidence fades.
“I’m so proud of you!” As expected Adora’s words make Catra shudder in her arms. The sight of the feline girl’s ears flattening is breaking her heart but she has to see this through.
“I’m so proud of you!” She says softer and pulls Catra closer.
“I’m so proud of you!” The blonde girl repeats in a whisper.
Catra shows all the signs of fear and anxiety, from her past, her fur is standing on end and her tail is bushed while still curling tightly around Adora’s leg as if her life depends on it. Adora has to resist the thought of apologising but she can’t stop, not yet. She repeats her words again and Catra starts to struggle out of her arms.
"It hurts, doesn't it?"
Catra’s entire body freezes, realising that Adora said this on purpose and has a lot more to say.
"Let me guess.” Adora starts in a roundabout way hoping that Catra will not interrupt. “Because beside the fact that those words are hers, you don't like me using them? Because I shouldn't be proud of something I didn't do. You are great, Catra, and I have nothing to do with it. Being proud would be arrogant. You want me to be with you, attracted to you, equal to you, but not proud as if I am responsible in any way of what you are, am I right?"
Catra simply nods. Her face is still distorted by pain but faintly more relaxed and her ears perk up to better listen. Adora doesn’t need any more incentive to carry on and she resumes.
“Then she has nothing on you either! There is no good part of you that she is responsible for. You are everything good she tried to prevent you to be. You can be caring and soft when she wanted you to be a monster. You are my focus, my determination, when she called you a distraction. And you can guide me in the right direction like no one else can, when she tried to keep you away from influencing me. And she was so blind about it! She is not allowed to be proud of you!”
Adora breathes a little before softening her voice again. Catra is trembling but listening, her ears are flattened again as if she instinctively doesn’t want to hear more, but still listening. Adora knows this is difficult to accept, and honestly she is only half convinced that this will have any good effects on Catra, but she has nothing else and she can’t bear to see Catra be haunted by Shadow Weaver’s last words any longer without doing anything.
“And if I’m not allowed to be proud of you either, then I’m fricking proud of myself! Proud to know a brave girl who risked her life for me, proud to know a strong girl who turned around when she realised she was wrong, proud to know a caring girl who never gave up on me. I’m proud to be at your side, proud to love you! Proud to be loved by you, because you are amazing, Catra, you are the most wonderful girl in the universe! You don’t need some bitch self-serving acknowledgement.”
“You saved me too…” Catra has to argue. Just has to, whatever about, she can’t simply accept this.
“I saved you from Prime, that was easy; you saved me from myself… Catra, you have always been stronger than me, and I’m so sorry I made your life miserable because I was blind. But now my eyes are open and I see how amazing you are. You are smart, you are strong, you can do so much, you have so much more to offer than what her narrow mind could imagine. Please let it be enough to forget about her. I don’t know why she sacrificed herself. Maybe she cared at the end. Maybe not. Maybe she did it for the magic. But I’m sure it’s not her place to be proud of you, to acknowledge you. You are so much more than her, so much more than she wanted you to be. You don’t need her self-serving arrogant validation, you never did, instead let me show you.”
Adora loosens her embrace and faces outside the veranda. The night is still very dark and since the more wild music began, the outside lights have been out and only dim flashes pulse through the translucent ice. With an arm around Catra’s waist, Adora looks up at the sky and Catra follows her gaze.
Adora points a finger at the stars. “All this wouldn’t exist anymore without you.”
Adora then turns around and points at the palace, a place full of meaning for Catra. “All this wouldn’t exist anymore without you.”
Adora finally points at herself and smiles as softly as she can. “All this wouldn’t exist anymore without you.”
Catra chuckles and smirks. “Do you really need to be so dramatic, princess?” She stares at Adora insistently.
“Don’t look at me like that, I know I have to thank Perfuma later, don’t make it even more weird.”
“Oh. So that’s not your words?”
“Well, yeah, but I mean them.” Adora leans down and kisses Catra softly.
“When did you become so sweet?” There is a hint of hesitancy in Catra’s voice and eyes that Adora recognises. It was the same aboard Darla when they began to reconnect with each other. Catra was afraid of Adora having changed too much and become another person the feline girl didn’t know anymore. But their love survived that, Adora hopes it will also survive her being a little sweeter.
“You showed me I could be other things that what Shadow Weaver needed.” Adora speaks again. “I want to be this version of me. I’m not changing that much. I still want to be strong, I still want to be She-Ra too, but before becoming the Horde’s weapon, I was simply me, a girl who wanted to be friend with everyone, before becoming the First Ones’ weapon, She-Ra was Etheria’s protector and a symbol of peace and prosperity. I want to be this She-Ra, I want to be this me.”
“Okay.” Catra nods. She doesn’t seem to have any proper answer but that’s enough for now. They have time.
“Sorry. But you need to know.” Adora continues, copying Catra’s wording from earlier on the inner balcony, “You saved me, you’re stuck with me too.” Adora kisses Catra once more, her face bright red as her confidence runs out again.
For a moment they stay in each other’s arms, swaying a little to the stifled sound of the music playing inside. Catra is purring. Adora is so used to it, yet she still notices every time. She loves it. She loves Catra. And despite all those troubles and issues, warm in her girlfriend’s arms, she believes that everything will be okay.
“What’s happening to us now?” Catra wonders softly.
“We learn. All that we missed because of the Horde. We heal. From all her crap. We repair the damage of the war. And we live. Together. As long as you still want me.”
“I meant what I said on the balcony. I’m not letting you go, Adora, I’ll be with you for the rest of my life too.” Catra hugs her tighter.
“You promise?” Adora grins sheepishly. She knows she uses that word too much with Catra but it’s kind of their little thing, a little sweetness they always shared.
“Promise. I might need a bit more time to believe I deserve this though. Please be patient? But unlike you, I don’t intend to wait three years to make good of that promise.” Catra laughs happily.
“That was low!” Adora shoves her a little. “But you have no idea how much it means for me to hear you laugh like that.”
Catra kisses her. “Hey, don’t. I have a pretty good idea. Your laugh... does the same to me too.” Catra clears her throat and her voice then suddenly turns sweet and teasing in a way that Adora knows so well. “But someone here said I’m amazing, so I can be a little mean, right?”
Adora has to resist being swept by Catra’s taunt but she doesn’t want to, no yet. “Yes. You can. Even with our friends, you know? You don’t have to restrain yourself that much because you fear they will hate you anymore. They know you care now.” Adora runs a hand through Catra’s hair and rubs behind her ears.
“You might need to repeat that again if you believe it to be true.” Catra whispers. Adora recognises these signs. The glimmer of hope in Catra’s eyes, the tightening of her tail around Adora’s leg, the shy wiggle of her ears. She knows that the feline girl only needs a little push.
“Catra, I know there is a lot you want to say. To the other princesses, to our friends, but you don’t. Like me you think it’s better kept hidden but we are wrong together in this. Bottling up those feelings only make them sour and rot. Believe me, I know. You just need to be honest and not choose the harshest words in an attempt to make them hate you. And I’ll stay close to you while you talk to them.”
“How do you suggest I do that?”
“You trust me?” A stupid idea crosses Adora’s mind. Like her dress, a little speck of silliness that could help, taking the focus away from the hefty feelings while still being able to convey what needs to be.
Catra hesitantly nods. She doesn’t doubt Adora in a broad sense but they both know her plans can be… strange… and ridiculous… Actually, she can work with ridiculous. She needs this to stay light when she opens her heart, in order to not fill it with heavy thoughts.
Adora scoops Catra in her arms, carrying her like a princess with one hand under her knees and the other on the small of her back. Catra loops her own arms around Adora’s neck to keep herself steady. ‘Stars those strong arms are alluring!’ Catra keeps this to herself as she giggles at Adora’s unexpected gesture.
She doesn’t mind being carried by those arms. A little while ago she would have, feeling like she was assisted, too weak to walk on her own, at Adora’s mercy, but not anymore. Well, not every time to be more honest. It’s also a place where she belongs, where she has Adora doing her bidding and she can act… stars the word seems weird… act like a princess!
Adora starts to walk back into the ballroom just like that, carrying Catra like it’s the most natural thing. Catra feigns to resist but she has already accepted her fate and she trusts Adora to see this through with her, and that’s enough.
Chapter 9: Identity
‘If someone told me a few years ago that this would happen to me, I wouldn’t have believed them.’
Since her arrival at Bright Moon, that’s Lonnie’s new favourite sentence. Not because she likes it but because it has already happened so many times and is bound to happen again. Since then, she has been surprised every single day more often than in the rest of her life. Kyle and Rogelio are feeling the same.
Building a new house in a princess’ kingdom, getting a new job at the top of the ladder of the other side, and a highly rewarding one at that, having a taste of peace, making new random friends, forgiving enemies, tasting good foods, dancing in a dress at a fancy party, and a lot more... Growing up in the Horde, she didn’t expect any of that.
While little rebels like Catra were hiding, while Adora was being Adora, playing the perfect example and therefore getting to bed early, while Kyle and Rogelio were being discreet to be left alone, while later Catra was too occupied scheming, common soldiers were assembling to drink and talk when they weren’t on a mission, and late in the night and deep in the bottles, often people started to wonder what their lives would be like after the war. The subject had always been a dangerous one in the open but after a few drinks, nobody really cared anymore.
Lonnie had one thing right. If they survived, she would still be with Rogelio and Kyle, together as a family. They were lucky enough and it happened. But whatever she had dreamed other than that, whatever the quantity of alcohol in her blood, nothing was close to this. And today was the peak of it all. She had managed to stop being nervous a while ago, because it was just too much, but everything here was just… ‘huuummpf!’ she has no proper word for it.
And this is her new life. Not a dream. Happy. Fun. Free! Well, except she still feel that she was pushed to come tonight. After living about twenty years as a soldier, since she was barely able to walk like every other child in the Horde, one doesn’t simply come out and merge in a normal society. They lack the most basic knowledge about feelings, they have more or less no common sense and people are looking at them like they are freaks. But when Glimmer asked, Lonnie didn’t hesitate and half of it was to shut Catra up. There was no way for her to back off knowing that Catra, that Catra who only fifty days ago still acted like she was so better than her, is attending the party. After what Catra did, if the ex-commander of the Horde is able to fit in, Lonnie is too.
And unlike Catra she’s actually good at it! Lonnie has always drawn people to her, in the same way Adora does, but while they tend to avoid getting too close to Adora because she makes them feel weak since she always excels at everything and because she chases away any helping hand giving off the idea that she is quite full of herself, Lonnie’s more average perfection is more appealing when they need someone to confide to. She usually had a few cadets shadowing her even when she didn’t want them to. In the Horde, having people on your side was priceless. It’s not that important anymore but it made her quite good at dealing with all kind of people, and not only for training them, wether she actually wants to be their friend or not.
Surrounded by princesses and notorious guests, she is proud to already have a few of them gawking, either at her muscles or her demeanour while she is telling past tales of her life.
For the former, well, there are not many women with as fit a figure as hers, if you exclude Adora again. Huntara? Not someone people try to start a conversation with anyway. Scorpia? With her power now, she kind of has the same fate as Adora and is only admired from afar.
For the latter though, she is in a fierce competition with that weird man, Sea Hawk, who embellishes the most boring story with such mystical beasts and improbable adventures so brazenly that one forgets how much he overdoes it, and when he finally runs out of ideas, he starts shanties to hide it! Yeah, no, she won’t try singing her own tales just to overtake him on this battlefield, her competitiveness has its limits.
So here she is, dancing with people, talking with people, having fun, dreading the moment the party will end like a normal girl. ‘Acting normal’, she repeats in her head. She has to take Glimmer’s words for it. Her own normal is quite different. Was quite different? It doesn’t feel like it’s in the past yet. Should it be left in the past? Hard to say. At least, since Frosta had the music change into something a little more wild, she can let her body express itself. Huntara apparently loves it that way too. Though Kyle and Rogelio seem to have more trouble without something to guide them.
Another thing she never expected is people asking so much what is her relationship with those two. Back in the Horde, nobody cared. At most, people inquired about one’s squad, commanding officer or mission, or combat abilities to better optimise teams, but never about the feelings one might have for others. And hers go way beyond being only comrades or even siblings, though she doesn’t want to call them romantic because by now she noticed that most people expect a physical relationship then. In common, there is no word to describe it and it’s so frustrating! She burnt from jealousy when she learnt that it exists in Rogelio’s language. She tried to pronounce the word once but Rogelio’s laughter at her attempt was so loud that she dropped the idea instantly. Therefore she simply calls them family, opting for simplicity. It also makes things easier when she then introduces her girlfriend, and too bad for people who misunderstand the situation!
‘If someone told me this would happen to me, I wouldn’t have believed them.’
Twelve days since they arrived at Bright Moon. How much can someone change in that little time? A lot apparently. She didn’t think so either. She got used to call the queen only Glimmer, got a job, a proper one, close to training the cadets like she did back then, close but not so dull, not so endlessly pointless. She knows it’s only a matter of perspective, the job is the same, really, but feels so much more… everything than the last!
Twenty-one days since the end of the war. She had already changed a lot by then. She’s a soldier, she had carried orders that hurt people. In the Horde you weren’t supposed to contest orders, yet she did on some occasions. Not like Catra or Hordak would have ever listened. But after the war she still had to protect the ones she loves and herself, because they are ex-Horde soldiers, because of the grudges. And since she started working for Glimmer, well, let’s just say that the queen is quite vocal about forgiveness and letting things go, arrogantly so, naively so, but behind that, often rightfully so.
So many changes. About fifty days since they fled the Horde. It already feels like it was a lifetime ago. So many questions. ‘What are we now?’, ‘What do we want to be?’ or ‘What are we doing here?’. The unknown can be pretty scary and she misses the routine of her soldier’s life in the Horde. She remembers then Kyle getting angry one night, when she voiced out that her previous life may have been easier. ‘Easy? If it was that easy why did even you had to take it out on me?! I would choose any life over that one. We had shitty lives! Get your head out of your ass!’ That definitely wasn’t the kind of vocabulary she was used to hear from him.
Yeah, even she can learn from him. Learning. Lonnie was led to think she was a slow learner and therefore was anxious about anything new but she was wrong, deceived by examples such as Adora and Catra, even Rogelio.
The former, she knows now, was working so much with a constant death threat over her head if she wasn’t perfect. Adora herself didn’t realise it, and still has trouble with it apparently, but as much as Shadow Weaver seemed to play favourite, it was only under the unspoken condition that Adora was doing whatever she wanted her to, and mistakes weren’t allowed.
Catra had always been smarter than average and it was always a pain in the ass for hard working people like Lonnie to watch her waste her talent with her bad attitude…
The latter was good at a lot of specific tasks but unlike Lonnie, he wasn’t trying to be good at others, saving a lot of his time to perfect his strengths, while she was spending it aiming for good or better in everything.
“Can you believe that?!”
Lonnie hastily turns to face Rogelio whose voice just startled her. Certainly there are lots of things she has to work on believing these days but his sentence is probably not meant for her own thoughts even if his timing couldn’t be more perfect. His jaw drops as he is staring at the other side of the ballroom, Kyle soon does the same, and in fact so does everyone else around when the room glows brilliantly and the music stops. She-Ra is approaching solemnly, holding Catra in her arms almost as if she was a queen, posing, confident and smug, carried by her personal attendant.
Rogelio is getting used to surprises as much as Lonnie is. Though usually he shrugs them off more easily than her as long as they aren’t harmful, and since the end of the war not many have been. Uncomfortable, uneasy, weird? Mind blowing! Foreign, silly... but not harmful.
The last one was meeting a pair of princesses that actually understand him. One because she is half lizard too, and the second because she seems to be friend with the first. After the usual uneasiness of admitting he was part of the Horde, they did talk quite a lot. He can’t shake the impression that they look at him with a mix of curiosity and pity like they would a wounded pet though; better than being shunned and ignored, he guesses.
But all those recent rapid changes in their lives make them think about themselves a lot and their new friends can’t really help them here. No more Horde, no more war, new laws, new jobs out of nowhere, they are lucky, grateful, and scared at what they are supposed to be. Thankfully they are three and free to take their time discovering themselves again.
In a few days they will have a new house too, just to push the uneasy feelings at their peaks. They chose Bright Moon but it’s not like there were a lot of options anyway. They agree to its laws but it’s easy when everything goes smoothly during the reconstruction between the long time residents and the new refugees; that kind of cohabitation is bound to be difficult and there are not much doubts that there will be trouble in the near future.
But that’s for tomorrow him to ponder. Now he’s at a luxurious party and as strange as it is to blend in and appreciate this, the least he can do is not waste the opportunity. Kyle is here, Lonnie too, even Adora. And sadly some other people he would rather not.
Catra’s re-entrance, smug in Adora’s arms, ‘Should I call her She-Ra instead?’ he wonders, makes him flinch and growl his surprise. The feline girl, ex Horde Commander, is carried like a princess by the legendary warrior. Well, not like it’s his problem-
“Oh man…” Kyle sighs at the sight.
Until now, Catra has been discreet and they didn’t have to think about her but it seems that she is taking a break at staying away from people. Rogelio looks around and notices that almost only Adora’s friends remain, if he recalls them correctly.
“Hear, hear,” She-Ra’s voice echoes in the room, serious, doing her best to hide a smirk that would ruin her dramatics otherwise, but she isn’t good at it. “Lady- Catra will now speak.” She accentuates the word so much that she stutters on it and Catra chuckles in her arms.
“I thought we were the dramatic ones!” Glimmer snickers at the scene and most other people still present stifle laughters politely but grin nonetheless.
“Well, one of us is a princess so it’s okay.” Catra justifies as she laughs nervously.
“And you need to do this now?” Frosta too scoffs at them.
“Yes.” Adora answers flatly.
Rogelio shrugs when he sees that She-Ra’s words are so effectively absolute for that crowd of princesses; it’s almost scary.
“So…” Catra begins, uneasy but with a strong and smug voice. “Adora convinced me to speak my mind, please blame her if it doesn’t go well!” She laughs nervously again, putting a hand on She-Ra’s lips to prevent her from replying. She clears her throat. “Most of you say that compared to Adora, I always break rules. I don’t know what Adora told you about me but she’s the one who taught me how to disobey when we were kids. At the time, she was really good at pretending, being a good girl, that is.
Sparkles, I owe you, big time, but your kindness really seems to stop when you are in queen mode and there are boring tasks to do. Please stop pushing all of them on me!”
Glimmer tries to answer but is instantly stopped by She-Ra grunting and staring menacingly, and Catra carries on.
“Bow, I’m coming to like you. You’re fun and nice to have around. But! Your so cute thing is really annoying! If you don’t stop, I swear I’m gonna throw you off a cliff again.
Scorpia, I know you mean well, but remember, personal space, because we are good now doesn’t mean it’s okay to hug me without warning!
Perfuma, you need to take breaks sometimes from trying to be too kind. Like Adora, a bit of selfishness will do you some good, like tonight.” Catra winks.
Mermista, I’m still very sorry for what I did, but this and that are different matters. Please get real, Adora and She-Ra are MINE!
Sea Hawk, please teach me how to sing someday, but otherwise, there really are times, a lot of times, when you need to shut up!
Hordak, you are right, we did go through shit together and I’m taking it on you because it’s the easiest not the fairest. I still don’t like you though because you act like you didn’t do anything wrong when you should be struggling with it like me.
Wrong Hordak, that’s not how winking works! But your food is great!
Double Trouble, please get a conscience and stop betraying people just because someone pays better? I know it’s hypocritical and I don’t care, I’m getting better, you do your part too!
Spinnerella, I owe you, Adora and me are really grateful, but stop being competitive about weird stuff already! What we can do with Adora’s sword is no one else’s business!
Entrapta, please stop your experiment on me? No you can’t touch my ears. No you can’t drop me again! But yes, we can be friends; I would be happy to.
Frosta, thank you for yesterday, but you think you have a hard time being acknowledged at your age? Please, try being raised by Shadow Weaver!
Huntara, thanks for your help too, but quit dreamin’, if I hadn’t left the Crimson Waste, you would have never taken it back!
Lonnie, thank you for giving me a second chance. But seriously, you stayed half a day less than me in the Horde following orders and you think you are all so better than me? I know I was bad, I know I’m usually the one not playing fair, but we could try a little bit of fairness here together.
Kyle, I’m really sorry for everything. But you easily forgave people who bullied you for years, because they changed. I know that Lonnie played that role partly so other cadets would leave you alone but she still was one of them. You could try harder to believe that I changed too.”
Then Catra growls in a weird way and it takes Rogelio a few words to understand she is trying to speak his language. He appreciates the effort but she’s so bad that he erupts in laughter loudly. He learnt very young that it’s not a matter of training but lizard folks’ throat are just built differently. He barely understood something about being sorry too and that he should put more effort in communicating or something like that. “Please stick to common!” He growls back between two laughs and Catra blushes slightly and grunts disapprovingly. A little silence falls on the whole crowd as Catra’s speech seems to be finished but nobody knows what to say.
“What about Netossa? I know my wife is perfect but-” Spinnerella suddenly inquires.
Catra’s nose twitches. “Hurg, I hoped no one would notice… She has too much on me, she knows too much!” Catra begrudgingly admits.
“More than me?!” Glimmer reacts, incredulous.
While Netossa is silently grinning smugly.
Netossa has been a half-resident of Bright Moon Castle for a long, long time; no wonder she feels so old sometimes. Since the end of the war there is a lot to do and more than ever, Spinnerella and herself are present to help.
And in that same castle, after all that happened, are a lot of people with emotional scars and troubled sleep. Therefore she wasn’t really surprised when she stumbled upon Catra in the middle of the night a dozen days ago, in the hallway right in front of her door. What surprised her on the other hand, was Catra’s wobbly steps and mumbling.
“Ouh, priiinceeess Nots… Nest… whaaatever...” Catra started, swaying dangerously while she had a silly smile plastered on her face. “Are you here to… ask for sexy advice… urg, advice for sex... again?”
“Catra, are you drunk? I believe you are the one that came to me twice to ask for bed time tips.” As a matter of fact, Netossa did talk about sex with Catra a few times. When talking to the young couple, Netossa said once that she’s up to answer any question they might have about their relationship. Physical connection included. She was a little surprised at first but quickly understood that Catra has no problem asking and being open about this aspect of it as long as it can improve her bed time with Adora. Talking about their feelings was indeed more difficult.
A little hiccup escaped Catra’s lips. “No, no, no... I don’t do asking. I’m the greeeaaat Commander- Intendant of Fright Moooon! I don’t take… advices…” Catra staggered again.
“Yeah, well okay, but you shouldn’t wander in that state in the hallway in the middle of the night.”
Catra frowned and sneered at her advice, like she just got deeply insulted, but another hiccup made her look only stupidly drunk instead.
“Alright, alright, can I invite you inside then?” Netossa opened the door of her apartment and Catra’s expression softened. Luckily Spinny was out that night so there was no risk of waking her up. Pushing Catra in was easier than she thought as the feline girl seemed to be too tipsy to really realise what was going on, until they were both seated on the big sofa and Netossa’s hand on her shoulder as she offered her some water made Catra finally flinch and tense up.
“I don’t need you, I don’t need anybody…”
“Catra, you know it’s not true. Please don’t make Adora cry with words you don’t mean?” The princess tried to say softly. Catra’s face was complicated as if she was battling with herself to what she was supposed to do, or fighting the alcohol to not say anything she would regret. “What happened?” Netossa kept her voice as calm as she could, trying to not put pressure on Catra.
Unexpectedly though, Catra began to talk. How she had a nightmare, a bad one, how frightened she was, how after two hours of pondering if she should wake up Adora she had decided not to and wandered to the kitchen, where she had found a cabinet that Sparkles had called ‘Last resort for when you are feeling really bad, and you are alone.’ How she quickly understood and chuckled when she opened it to find a nice variety of strong alcohol’s bottles lined up. How she started to drink desperately, how she hated the feeling of losing control but couldn’t stop, hoping she would fall unconscious and forget. She didn’t either, and ended up walking here without thinking.
But Catra’s rambling didn’t stop there and Netossa listened to all of it. The feline girl talked about her whole life almost, with a frightening sincerity since her life had not been a soft one, and her thoughts close to give up on it a few times, only saved by Adora. But also that same Adora being the source of quite a lot of pain.
During the war, people usually didn’t drink that much. At least on the Princess Alliance’s side. Netossa wasn’t sure about the Horde. But drinking too heavily meant not being operational early the next morning and since the Horde didn’t have days off, they probably had quite the limitations on drinking too. Therefore she wasn’t exactly sure if Catra’s behaviour was normal and could do nothing else than give a few words of comfort, but they were more signs that she was listening attentively than real help, yet it seemed like Catra needed just that.
She talked about herself, what she was, what she wanted to be, what she had become and what she could have been. Nothing really surprising except for the fact that she was saying all that aloud.
Catra continued to speak through the night, sinking deeper and deeper into the sofa and her memories, her eyes slowly closing further and further from sleep and shame at the image of herself she was showing, until the sunlight began to light the sky. She was still very visibly drunk after a few hours which was a worrying indication of how much she had drank.
“You should go back before Adora wakes up.” Netossa innocently said when she caught an opportunity between two stories.
“Why?” Catra answered drowsily.
“Imagine if you wake up one morning and she isn’t there?” The princess’ words spread an absolutely terrified look on Catra’s face as her eyes shot wide open instantly.
The feline girl sprang up and bolted out the door, staggering and barely steadying herself against the wall. Netossa followed her without a word and Catra managed to reach her own room without incident. She quietly pushed the door and at last Adora’s loud snoring let her calm down. Catra slipped inside mumbling a little thank you and the princess made her way back. They both expected Catra to forget everything considering her state, but the blush on her face at the meeting later was all Netossa needed to understand that she didn’t.
So yeah, Glimmer may have a few things on Catra to bargain and tease her with but Netossa knows a lot more embarrassing stories and a bunch of Catra’s thoughts that the feline girl probably won’t want to admit ever again. So Netossa smiles smugly at the queen.
“Yes, more than you!” She finally declares triumphantly, after a moment of silent appreciation.
Chapter 10: Judgment
Early morning yet probably almost noon, eyes not wanting to open, memory holes, dry mouth and dizziness. The only thing lacking to the picture is a big headache… which is weird when she thinks about it?
Mermista wakes up slowly. Of the Princess Alliance, she’s probably one of the most used to bar nights and drinking, and this feels like a morning after a lot of alcohol… without the headache, which is definitely weird.
During the war, there was a lot of reasons to drink, to forget the sorrow, to mourn the missing or to celebrate little victories. But also a lot of reasons not to, one of them being that waking up the morning after was a nightmare, therefore Mermista turned to ice cream instead, most of the time.
However it created another problem quite quickly and the war extended to her bathroom, having to fight against her scale and full size mirror. Also ice cream didn’t make Sea Hawk more bearable when she needed a break from his shanties.
She finally opens her eyes and the scene in front of her seems to come right out of her favourite Mer-Mysteries novel. There are about twenty bodies lying around, thankfully only asleep in this case but still, it almost looks like people suddenly dropped where they were standing.
Perfuma, Netossa and herself seem to have gone through that disaster the best, sitting a short distance from each others with their backs against the height of the stage and their lovers using their laps as pillows, while the other people are more or less piled up in a mesh of flesh and clothes on the dance floor in front of them.
Mermista remembers some bits and pieces but everything is blurry. She recalls Catra and Adora coming back, with Catra acting like a queen, and then someone offered drinks and then… She remembers dancing on a table with a few others, at some point she definitely sat on Frosta’s throne, and that earned her laughter instead of insults therefore she is pretty sure the ice princess wasn’t in her right mind either by that point. There are a few very weird, small, ice statues lying around. Some are covered in flowers, some in claw marks, one definitely took a sword in the face...
She remembers then people quickly starting to fall asleep and thankfully someone was still conscious enough to bring blankets, of which Catra seems to have hoarded every extra ones to make a comfy nest around Adora and her. Mermista’s eyes fall on Entrapta, looking very much out of it even in her sleep. She recalls the geek princess getting more crazy than most and laughing hysterically until she dropped unconscious on Hordak’s knees.
Mermista was always the most reluctant of the Alliance’s princesses, the most grumpy Glimmer would say, less enthusiastic to adhere to the plans and act and the events during the war didn’t help. Alone on her island, being the constant focus of Horde attacks kind of did make her guarded and cautious.
Glimmer, Bow, Adora. If not for She-Ra she would have stayed away. She doesn’t regret her choice and it was really nice to have friends and allies again. However, she has to face it, at first she didn’t join the Princess Alliance because it was the right thing to do but because Adora’s power gave her hope to fight back.
Entrapta, Scorpia, Catra, Hordak. If not for her friends she wouldn’t accept them anywhere close, probably, maybe. She isn’t sure it’s okay. Mermista isn’t one to pity herself but her kingdom had it the harshest of all. For strategic reasons it was never left alone. In comparison, the land of Snows was not an interesting target, Plumeria had far less to destroy and its people could easily hide in the woods where on her island her people were cornered. And Bright Moon. Since Glimmer, and her mother before her, has always been the head of the Alliance, the focus was always Bright Moon. Where the bulk of the army camped, where She-Ra resided, only directly attacked on its border or the castle once when the Horde got too bold, only falling when Prime arrived with his stupidly overwhelming strength.
Entrapta is different. Mermista learnt to accept it and stopped trying to understand how the geek princess think but at least get her intents. Scorpia is too naive and weak against authority figures but they had time to talk- they took time to talk. So really, it all comes down to the ones who stuck with the Horde, not Prime’s Horde but the ex-members of the Etherian’s Horde, Catra and Hordak.
Catra came to help rebuild Salineas right away. That was a surprise to say the least. Mermista didn’t expect that at all, even if she joked about it since Adora was going to be there too. And the feline girl did an amazing job despite everything. However...
“Good morning!” Perfuma’s voice is almost a whisper to not disturb the people sleeping but clear and enthusiastic as always.
“’mornin’.” Mermista answers less brightly.
Perfuma looks fully awake and the fog in the sea princess’ head by comparison only reminds her of the holes in her memory from the last part of the night. Between them, Netossa’s eyes suddenly shot wide open at the sound of their voices. She looks right and left, surprised, then front, shocked by the dance floor littered by snoring bodies, then finally settles for confusion and tries to move as little as possible for the sake of Spinnerella whose head rests peacefully on her laps. She nods silent good-mornings at the two other princesses.
“Did you sleep well?” Perfuma inquires.
“Probably not long enough…” Mermista grunts and the flower princess giggles. Something in her always rubs the sea princess the wrong way, yet also makes her smile.
“Had been worse.” Netossa tempers.
Mermista’s eyes turn to the remaining sleepers again. Actually her eyes have trouble leaving Catra and Hordak. ‘Is this okay? Is this the right way to end it? Forgive and forget?’
Perfuma catches her staring and is prompt to react as if she can understand her thoughts. “It’s okay. It’s also okay to doubt, as long as you don’t judge them too hastily.”
The tone is annoying as usual and the words too righteous to be contemplated seriously right after waking up. “Hurrg… can you not so early, Flower?”
“Sorry,” Perfuma smiles softly. “But they all did their part in saving the world too.”
“Is one good action enough to erase everything else? I mean, seriously.”
“No? But they have to start somewhere.”
“For all we know, Hordak just happened to try and overtake Prime for his power, and Catra only tried to save her precious Adora.”
“It’s a little more complicated than that…” Netossa interrupts.
“Yeah?” Mermista questions her with a doubtful expression on her face. It’s obvious that it’s not so simple but by how much are they talking here: Child’s tale or Mer-Mysteries level of complexity?
“Catra isn’t dumb. She knows what it means to be with Adora. As much of a romantic that I can be, I know it’s not just love that saved the world at the Heart of Etheria, but Catra wanting to be a better person, to the point where being in a relationship with Adora began to be something possible, and Adora feeling it and answering.”
“Or Catra didn’t care and Adora is simply dumb. Love can be blind, you know?” She looks down at her man sleeping quietly. “Or deaf.” She murmurs, a little smile to her lips.
“Nah, Catra is too easily scared and lonely for that.”
“Could you not talk about people when they are, like, literally two feet away?” Catra growls suddenly, though she doesn’t move yet.
“I thought you were asleep.” Netossa answers with a big smirk telling she would have said the exact same thing even if she knew that Catra was awake.
“You looked so comfy in your nest, little kitten!” Mermista joins with a grin just as wide.
Catra raises her head and looks around, dumbfounded when she realises the quantity of blankets hoarded to form her nest. “How did that happen?!” She squeaks in surprise.
“If you don’t know...”
“Oh, I do.” Perfuma replies, a large smile on her face too, the kind of smile that accompany the intent of keeping a secret, even if for annoyance’s sake only.
“Shit, unlike the others I don’t recall you doing anything embarrassing!” Catra erupts, visibly uncomfortable not having anything to hold against the flower princess.
“How much do you remember?!” Mermista asks a little anxious to be the only one with vague memories of the night.
“Nothing after we got that weird drink that smelled like flowers from Frosta!” Netossa confesses almost proudly.
“Everything?” Catra and Perfuma answers in sync as if not understanding the point of the question, before quickly glancing at each other a little troubled by their simultaneous replies.
“That’s not fair!”
“Well, I’m used to drinking it.” The flower princess adds.
“Used to, she says!” Mermista continues, stunned.
“Of course, it’s a speciality from my kingdom! I brought this at Frosta’s request. She wanted something extra strong to let go of steam for the end of the party.”
The other girls look at Perfuma, blinking, having a hard time imagining her providing that kind of mean to free minds instead of words.
“I usually rely on meditation myself, of course, but you need to have some... alternatives. In Plumeria, parties are most often held in the open and people take turns not drinking to look after the others. I made sure there was no risk of accident if some people lost control here, with the furniture and tableware being made of magic ice and all, it’s easy. Though I didn’t anticipate Scorpia dropping so fast!”
“I have to thank you for the choice of drink, actually. Not having a headache after alcohol so strong is a first for me.”
“There isn’t any alcohol in there.” Perfuma giggles. “Only plants!”
“You can do that with plants?!” Catra blurts out, more wary of the princess than ever.
“Of course! But it’s a little surprising that you don’t seem affected by it at all.”
“I didn’t drink. Smelled weird.” Catra reluctantly admits.
“Yet you don’t remember how you ended up in there?” Mermista points at Catra’s nest of blankets.
“No I don’t!” Catra retorts. She didn’t five minutes ago, no reason she would now.
“Don’t worry, it’s a good thing.” Perfuma answers while maintaining the mystery.
“Gh!” Catra flinches. Even good things can be pretty uncomfortable, to say the least. Mermista notices Catra glancing at her and hesitating. The feline girl glances at Perfuma who answers with a smile even softer than usual and a little nod of encouragement. “Mermista… I… know you hate me- may hate me, but if you want to talk about it…” Catra is looking at her with a very difficult expression and this is a little too much to take in right after waking up, as well.
Mermista scoffs and decides to play it down for now. “Uurr, alright alright, but you understand it’s somewhat hard to take you seriously when you look like this?”
Catra looks at herself. “Well yeah, I’m in a nest of blankets, I don’t know why, and in Adora’s arms, this I know why, what about it?” She answers, a little smug, chasing the dread and hesitation from her face.
Mermista thinks about it for a moment. Perfuma seems to be proud of Catra’s positive attitude and Netossa looks happy for her even if she almost eyes Catra as if she was a child that just stopped crying. The sea princess doesn’t really know what to think of this but she certainly won’t find all the answers the morning after such a party. “Fine. We may talk about it, someday.”
Bow is next to wake up and grunts while raising up slowly. His face passes through the same routine as Mermista’s and Netossa’s did, surprised, shocked, confused, but his seems to settle more easily on a friendly smile at the end of it. However, as he looks around, he chuckles when his eyes fall on Catra and her pile of blankets.
“Oooh, you did it again, that’s sooooo cuuuute!” He says theatrically.
Before Mermista even has time to laugh, she sees Catra leap towards him to shut him up, stumbling over Adora and Glimmer lying between them in the process. The two arise in startled shrieks and Catra freezes on top of Bow. Adora certainly looks at her with the most confused face before it fall in a smirk, with a glint of adorable jealousy in her eyes, and Glimmer for once doesn’t need an hour to be completely woken up. They then also look around and spend a minute to take in the incredible scene while everyone else starts waking up after they yelled so loudly.
As often, Frosta is a mystery. She swapped champagne for apple juice but used that weird drink without hesitation only because it’s not alcohol. That doesn’t make sense but Mermista knows better than to put that on Frosta’s age, even in her head. She will definitely visit Plumeria someday soon though.
The party definitely ends quickly after that. The land of Snows is far from everything and the trip home is long, and people would rather not travel too late into the night. There may be peace but that doesn’t erase fear from the world and most aren’t comfortable wandering when it’s dark outside, and also the wild newly-freed magic made everything a little wilder.
Most people still here have been provided a room and clear it fast, using the chance to also dress more comfortably. The remaining food is shared for brunch or taken home by some less socially flexible guests. Frosta has a peculiar way to clean up afterwards, by melting everything that is made of magical ice. Furniture, tableware, decorations, she keeps the weird statues as a souvenir though and moves them to the garden while the Princess Alliance and friends laugh and banter about them. Soon the ballroom is completely empty and it’s time to say goodbye.
Mermista isn’t fond of making this last so long and finds herself impatiently waiting beside Catra. Maybe they do share a few things in common, she can use that as a start when they will talk. She said someday and she meant it. She will talk, but she needs a little more time.
All is left is the trip back home. While it’s a simple thought for Bow, he imagines it’s a little different for other people. For some it means the break from their responsibilities is over, for some it means facing the past head on once more, for some others this party was simply a formality. While most of the people enjoyed it plenty, there are probably a few that consider it part of their diplomatic duties.
But when he takes place on the narrow bench of the carriage, next to Glimmer, he realises that the thought isn’t simple at all even for him. Once they are back, the castle of Bright Moon will be his new home. He is so used to it that he tends to forget but until his engagement with Glimmer, his home is- was at his fathers’ house attached to the library. Queen Angella lent him a room so he could tinker all he wanted, and he really turned it into his own little workshop, and he put a bed there for convenience, and ended up sleeping in it most of the time. It was also perfect while pretending to be studying and living in a dorm.
But now, he just became even more part of the castle, and part of Glimmer’s life. If he’s honest, the latter isn’t making him nervous as much as the former. His friendship has always meant a lot and the only difficulty from having Glimmer step up from best friend to lover was about anything… physical, but they got over this long ago. And it was easy with so many death threats and dangers; instinct and impulses, adrenaline and all that. Was it that long ago? No, not really, but it feels like it, with so much happening.
Therefore as much as his daily life will not change anytime soon, he is now the future king of Bright Moon and even if his view of people doesn’t change, their views of him may very well completely shift. Hopefully not too much. And to put it frankly and honestly, he feels like he has it easy.
When Entrapta will arrive home, she’ll have to deal with Hordak’s punishment. Whatever she chooses, even if she does nothing, she is now responsible. The Princess Alliance will help of course if she asks but she decided to take that role. A little part of Bow is actually very glad to not have to decide what to do with Hordak himself. He deserves a lot of retribution but in what form, in what way is right?
Bow looks closely as Catra enters the carriage and sits beside Adora in the bench on the opposite side. She looks confident, she seems at ease as soon as her shoulder touches the princess’, she tries to act natural when her gaze meets Bow’s and Glimmer’s eyes, but if she really wanted to convince them that she is completely fine with them, she failed.
Yet Bow has no doubt that this is her place. He knows that Glimmer thinks so too. Adora obviously does the same. Can he judge the others fairly when he feels so biased about Catra based simply on faith?
The carriage starts to move and he sees Catra flinch ever so slightly. One flick of her tail, one twitch of her ears, luckily unnoticed by Adora and Glimmer already chatting. The war messed up so many things.
For a moment Bow closes his eyes and can imagine growing up with the three of them. Catra being the missing smart and snarky addition to the Best Friend Squad. That’s how the world should have been. But, he opens his eyes again, that’s not how it is, therefore he will do everything he can to correct this mistake, this slip of history. He respects his dads, he doesn’t want to hide or cheat the past, but the future, that is free to be written better.
Catra very carefully steps inside the carriage after Adora and sits beside her. Everything went too fast after that weird wake up and before she could put her thoughts in order she is here, confined in this little space with those three. The benches are narrow, her hip and shoulder touch Adora’s, and close, her knees an inch away from Bow’s only because they both sit straight and as far back as possible.
She didn’t think about it- forced herself not to think about it, but her misadventure with the crash saved her from this during the trip to come here. Even if that wasn’t the best experience, even if she ended up sharing a blanket with Lonnie… She realises a simple thing. Individually she could deal with all of them. But why is it so frightening when they are grouped together? They aren’t threatening!
At first she thought it was because she didn’t trust that they would not harm her. But that is long past. She glances around. Adora, Glimmer, Bow, none of them in this carriage will hurt her for any reason. She has spent time close with each of them already and they talked, even if it was difficult, and right now she can simply ignore them if she wants to.
She should feel bored, or annoyed, or whatever else than scared of being thrown away in the snow! She knows it, but her mind refuses to follow. Thrown away. ‘Oh.’ A little gasp escapes her lips when she realises that she isn’t scared of being attacked, or even confronted by words, she is absolutely terrified of not being wanted, like when all of this began. When one of them is alone with her, their feelings, good or bad are directed at her. And since they are so… themselves, there’s always at least a little good, a speck of kindness or love.
But what if they stop, what if they finally accept that she did too much wrong. When they are grouped together, their thoughts doesn’t have to be pointed at her. She could be abandoned and they wouldn’t be alone themselves. She doesn’t want to be alone, not anymore. She glances aside and thinks about grabbing Adora’s hand, in addition to the natural comfort of the contact, that would draw an imaginary line between them and the other two.
“Catra, do you want to play with us?” Bow’s voice is soft and bright as always.
Catra is caught by surprise. What is she supposed to do when her thoughts were just so grim an instant ago. But there is nowhere to flee nor hide. She nods hesitantly.
Bow begins a short explanation of a simple cards game while Adora is looking out the carriage window, smiling idly, and Catra hates it. Adora isn’t listening, meaning she already learnt how to play this when Catra wasn’t there; another moment of her life that Catra missed.
They start playing and Adora is still looking at the snowy landscape outside, and Glimmer and Bow don’t call her out or anything, and Catra is very confused, until she finally understands that Adora is not going to play with them. But that’s even more confusing!
“What about Adora?” She doesn’t get it at all.
“She doesn’t like this game.” Sparkles answers naturally.
“Then why are we playing-”
“Cause I like it?” The queen replies again simply.
“You don’t get to say you don’t like it either until the end of at least one round!”
Catra looks at her cards, at Sparkles, and Adora. This game requires some amount of bluffing so of course it wouldn’t be fun to play against Adora, or more like it would be hilarious for five minutes and then she would have to give up! Catra can imagine the scene so well that it’s reassuring, she still knows enough of her princess after all; she decides to trust Sparkles and at least finish a round.
And unsurprisingly Catra does like it. After the second round Bow isn’t able to compete anymore and she ascertains once more why she calls Glimmer Sparkles; the former is way too sweet! The queen hides her game well and her apparent naivety is deceptive, all the more since Catra feels like she opened up enough for her to take advantage of what she learnt.
Sparkles deals the cards a third time but skips Bow when he raises his hands in surrender. They manage to switch places on their bench in that little carriage while Sparkles continues dealing, so naturally that it manages to render Catra speechless in the process. Sometime during their third round, Bow and Adora start playing another game.
“So, you like it? It would be really great to have another serious player in addition from Netossa and Spinnerella. This game is best with four people after all.”
Catra doesn’t mean to flinch but she does. She wants to believe that it isn’t Sparkles’ intention to make her feel like she is only good as a game partner but her heart isn’t so kind to let her brain win that one right now. And Sparkles sighs when she notices. Adora looks worried. Nothing surprising here.
“Catra,” Bow starts all serious, almost formal. Catra recoils a little in the back of her seat. “Do you want to be our best friend?”
“I want for the four of us to be the Best Friend Squad. I easily got Glimmer to join in without question, we didn’t really gave Adora any choice in the matter but we had our reasons and she accepted it over time. We forced you in after Krytis, but unlike Adora you don’t show that it’s what you want. We know we can be a little… overbearing? But we don’t want you to feel forced to be part of it. We can be simple friends too.” He takes a deep breath and looks into her eyes. “But make no mistake: I. Want. You. With us!”
“I want you in too.” Sparkles follows. “I’ll cry if you don’t want to be part of it.” She looks at Catra with a dramatic grin. “Please don’t refuse just to make me cry!”
Adora doesn’t add anything but she is looking at Catra with her usual big dopey smile full of hope, and love. It hasn’t been long since she started to realise the latter but now that she has, she can’t ignore it anymore.
“I don’t kn-”
“Catra, no, we aren’t changing the name for you!” Sparkles laughs before Catra can even speak.
They both know it had nothing to do with what Catra was about to say but they also both know it stopped her for saying something she doesn’t mean. Sparkles said a few times that they are more similar than they want to admit. Wanted to admit? Is being compared to Sparkles still so bad? She looks at the queen’s clothes and sparkles, and winces. ‘Not what I meant!’ She scolds herself internally.
But she knew it. Being confined with those three is a bad idea. She feels so vulnerable, and soft, and happy, and annoyed, and confused, and happy… She feels her eyes well up with tears. It’s so unfair! She has been manipulated with words all her life and yet they still touch her so easily! But she is able to see through lies now, she is stronger, and the fact that she doesn’t see anything hidden behind those words is, again, frightening.
“Catra, come here!” Sparkles doesn’t let her time to respond, grabs her hand and pulls her to sit on the other bench, between Bow and herself.
The bench is barely wide enough for two people and they are trying to seat three. It’s ridiculous. And they struggle to lightly hug her from both sides. Adora takes the opportunity to stretch and occupy most of her bench and smirk at the three of them squeezed on the other.
Catra knew it was a bad idea because she has nowhere to run. The couple of kind idiots giggle around her but she can’t bring herself to hate it, while her own idiot is being herself, silly and clumsy in her teasing. No, on the contrary, Catra loves this.
For the briefest of instant she feels like she is cheating on Adora and her tears roll down her cheeks. But Adora is there in front of her, smiling at her, and she remembers Sparkles lecturing her about how this kind of love is something to be spread and shared, not to hog and limit.
“You are so unfair.” Catra manages to say as she wipes her tears with the back of her hands. “You know I can’t run away right now.”
“Yes. So, do you like the game?” Sparkles asks again as if everything that happened in-between was made to come back to this.
“Yeah! What about it!?” Catra can’t keep a smile to raise the corners of her lips. She is so scared to be so open, yet with them she feels… safe.
“Traitor.” Adora whispers while she pouts in a manner so fake that even herself wouldn’t believe it.
“Yay!” Sparkles jumps joyfully. “Team Sparks will tear through team SpiNet next game night then!”
“What do you mean?” Catra looks at her questioningly.
“That game is best played two versus two! If you like it, we can have some fun against Spinnerella and Netossa! I know you have some overdue revenge pending too. I want to play more with you!”
Before Catra knows it, she is planning strategies and code signs with Sparkles. She barely notices Bow vacating the bench to sit beside Adora as they also start talking. At first, Catra tries to follow both conversation but she manages to let go little by little. She doesn’t have to know everything right now, doesn’t have to be anxious when her princess is talking to someone else. Better yet, she can use it as a pretense to talk with Adora later.
They play other games, sometimes as four, sometime two pairs, even a few more with three while the other takes a break. Catra doesn’t get a break unless she really insists though but she can’t ignore that they are obviously, even proudly, doing it for her to feel completely part of it. ‘They could at least try to be discreet!’ She says in her head before thinking, she would probably be more annoyed if they did.
When they finally enters Bright Moon, they all kind of regret the moment this will end, even if everyone welcomes more space to move around after a few hours locked in here. From that point onward, every new game suggested is four players only. The carriage slowly rolls through the woods and the sun setting is a nice addition to the picturesque end of those few days.
“Should we have a sleepover?” Bow suddenly asks as they start cleaning up, passing the first houses of the town below the castle.
“Noway, not tonight Bow!” Glimmer erupts with a mix of sweetness and irritation in her voice.
“So Bow is the bottom.” Catra replies after seeing the glint of lust in Sparkles’ eyes.
“No! He just needs a little nudge sometimes!” The queen becomes bright red instantly, very visibly not even sure what is the most embarrassing between her intentions for tonight and Catra seeing so clearly through them. Adora’s stupid laughter doesn’t help either.
“Really?” Catra asks with her best fangs-showing smirk. Having Sparkles out of her comfort talking zone is nice for a change.
“He places friendship a little too high that’s all!” The queen tries to defend herself, or him, both! While Bow is looking out through the window, very much blushing too.
“Sparkles, I’m teasing you,” Catra laughs happily! Now she is allowed to do that about their relationship too. “Nobody doubts that you are on top between you two!” She has twenty days worth of catching up to do, and she knows that little pure Sparkles will be very fun to tease. Little honest Bow will probably be too.
Chapter 11: Kisses
I'm sorry it took me so long to write this last chapter!
I hope you will enjoy it nonetheless!
After dropping their luggage in their rooms, the Best Friend Squad gathers back for dinner. They don’t actually need it, considering the amount of food they ate these two days but Adora insisted. Because despite her slender figure, she likes to eat, a lot, enough for Catra to make fun of her regularly. At least, it is once again regular since they came back from space. Her girlfriend and Glimmer often joke that being so jittery, even in her sleep, consumes a lot of calories and that’s why Adora needs to eat so much. While she has a full plate in front of her, the other three are satisfied with a small bowl of vegetables, therefore Adora doesn’t talk much to not have them wait on her after they are done.
Glimmer tried to argue that a slice of cake was better than salad but Bow wasn’t so enticed by the idea, and Catra unexpectedly joined him. Adora learnt something new. While Catra loves sweet things, unlike the queen she won’t make an entire meal out of cakes alone. Adora beams. She really does, because learning more about Catra feels like a luxury, one she had not before. Catra was not often open about her simple likes and dislikes, always hiding a part of herself or agreeing with Adora by fear of being left alone, and while she still does in some measure, she allows herself to show a lot more now.
Adora has to thank Glimmer for a good amount of it. When she isn’t in queen mode, she usually encourages Catra to be a little less stuck up and break conformities, as Adora did when she was little. At the time, Shadow Weaver’s punishments were not a threat the feline girl had learnt to ignore on her own yet, and Adora never stopped since this was able to put a smile on her face. While Catra is now observing rules so closely for an entirely different reason, she responds well to Glimmer’s provocations; the fact that they are so close helps a lot.
Close. Adora giggles silently while looking at them. She isn’t sure how Catra would react if she says this aloud.
Catra is lively, which Adora is really happy with right now. After all that happened before and during the party, she feared that Catra would feel the need to flee and hide or close herself again for a time, but at least with Bow and Glimmer she seems alright tonight.
Adora isn’t really listening to the words while concentrating on her plate but she knows that Catra is teasing the other two about their… personal lives. Catra has been holding back until they announced their engagement officially, as promised, after all.
Catra doesn’t mind speaking about the physical part of either her own or other couples’ relationship and with the princesses, who have been taught to be a little more humble and reserved about it, she can really make them blush. Adora giggles again. Bow is as usual being included in the princess group for those kind of things.
“Catra!” Glimmer shouts for the fourth time, at least, while Bow’s face is red enough to look like he’s about to explode.
But the queen is smiling nonetheless and Adora loves this. She can’t say it aloud either, at least not yet, but she has dreamt about this kind of situations for years. Three years, more or less. Three long years during which she was hoping that Catra would simply switch side as she did herself, join them to be happy and have evenings like this one. And she is finally here.
“Catra!” It’s Bow this time. And Adora guesses that it’s about time for Glimmer to switch mood and turn her attention to him because of Catra’s taunt.
“She’s right though. Now I can do this all I want!” Glimmer answers and Adora nods at her own correct guess. The queen cups Bow’s head in her hands and kisses him.
But of course Catra laughs harder, and instead of stopping, Glimmer deepens the kiss, with tongues and all that, and while Bow seems very uncomfortable doing this in front of his friends, he can’t do anything else than melt and respond to his girlfriend with an equal passion.
Adora chokes on her food and hastily reaches for her glass of water.
She didn’t expect Catra’s behaviour to make Glimmer this bold. It’s actually pretty dumb but she realises that she isn’t used to see people she knows flirt in front of her. On nighty spying expeditions with Catra in the Horde, she was kept by the feeling that she was doing something bad, looking at something that was not allowed. In the darkness of Darla’s rooms, she stumbled upon things that her memory decided to forget since she was so focused on Catra at the time.
But in the open, she has only seen Glimmer and Bow touch lips once, and very innocently, and that was after the battle against Prime, therefore the emotions were very high and the atmosphere very different. She saw Spinnerella and Netossa kiss a couple of times but in her head that was an adult thing, and she never considered herself an adult before. Unquestionably not a child anymore but since becoming She-Ra, she kind of hoped she had a special category all on her own.
However, that may have hold during the war, when the society around her was in disarray, but now… She looks at Glimmer and Bow, who are now laughing at her overreaction, and she glances at Catra, slightly distraught as she realises she has been doing adult things for a while now, and in inappropriate places, and in unmistakably grown up ways, and suddenly she can feel the weight of the responsibility on her shoulders because her intention was never to play around but to really create a deeper connection with Catra, and she knows the feline girl feels the same.
In the Horde, there was no adult. There were little children, then cadets, then either Force Captains or veterans. Whatever happened beside was off the book, and the book was her life, so to speak. Since coming to Bright Moon, she learnt about the proper order of those things but she was not thinking of herself as being part of it until now. Yet as heavy as it all is, she also feels very warm because it means that her relationship with Catra is even more meaningful.
“Now you are surprised by a little kiss after everything we did?” Catra leans forward to look at her face while she pats her back to help her swallow. “Just yesterday we were having fun on the ballroom’s balcony!” She snickers and smirks at her.
Glimmer frowns. “What did you-”
“Nothing! We did nothing!” Adora exclaims while Catra is laughing once more.
“Okay, you are right, Sparkles, I admit…” Catra starts to say slowly, to Adora’s relief. “That use of the word nothing isn’t appropriate at all!” She laughs again.
That’s not what Adora expected her to admit right there! But seeing Catra so lively is truly making her heart melt in all kind of good ways and she can’t bring herself to try and stop her. And truthfully Glimmer seems to think the exact same thing as she lets the matter drop way too quickly.
Adora finishes eating and they all stroll in the hallway, leisurely to stretch this nice moment while they approach their rooms. She is holding hands with Catra and the other two are doing the same. The hand in hers sways. She glances aside and notices that Catra looks suddenly absolutely exhausted, and it’s nothing surprising after the last days’ events, and the feline girl is still brightly smiling.
They arrive at Catra and Adora’s room in the middle of a discussion but Adora doesn’t want to stay standing in the middle of the corridor with Catra looking like she might fall asleep right here, therefore she invites Bow and Glimmer to come inside too for a short time. As soon as she sits on the bed though, Catra lets herself simply drop on her laps. And this also makes Adora very happy for all kind of reasons, and she starts to whisper to not disturb Catra while she talks to the other two, but her sight is glued to the adorable girl in her arms.
Catra must have dozed of for a bit. Her eyes are closed and she can barely hear voices. The other three are speaking very quietly but mostly her brain refuses to make sense of the sounds. It is plunged in a sort of mist that scrambles everything her ears are perceiving, and she can’t bring herself to open her eyes. Despite all this, she feels really relaxed and good and happy and all those positive emotions she is not used to yet. She is probably purring too but that she is used to.
She is almost certain she is in Adora’s arms, and seemingly sitting across the princess’ laps, who’s in turn sitting on a bed, which absolutely doesn’t help her having any motivation to wake up, and she’s also pretty sure they are all in Adora’s and her room. For a few long seconds, she doesn’t try to forcibly go against her body not willing to move. She is definitely purring, feeling this nice, even if the hazy part is a little troubling.
She slowly remembers the end of the dinner, then moving to their room. Sparkles and Bow came in to chat briefly with Adora- with them and suddenly the fatigue of the past three days hit Catra like Frosta’s punch. She fell on her princess as soon as Adora sat down, also as a demonstration to the other two that they shouldn’t stay too long, and that should lead to now, which means she probably only missed a few minutes, but Bow’s squealing voice finally gets her attention.
“That’s so cuuuute!” He whispers, as annoyingly as ever. The low volume doesn’t change that.
“Doesn’t it hurt?” Sparkles inquires. Catra has no idea how to interpret this out of context.
“Not really. But seriously, you better go, I’m not sure what will happen if she wakes up and you are here staring…” Adora answers.
Those last words dissipate the remaining of the fog that was on Catra’s mind. She realises what she is doing and all kind of thoughts go through her head. She is indeed in Adora’s arms but she is not hugging her back, instead she is slowly kneading at the princess’ chest, claws all out, even though not aggressively, stretching her muscles and revelling in the sensation of the tension given by the fabric. It’s like scratching an itch, or feasting on a wonderful meal you have dreamt of, or finally napping after a big effort. It feels just right. Well, felt, because now she is very nervously conscious that there are three people too many staring at her at the moment!
Her eyes open wide and she doesn’t know how to react. She is very embarrassed but it’s not like she did something wrong. She is very self-conscious of her claws and the rips in Adora’s shirt, and Sparkles’ grin and Bow’s usual that’s-so-cute expression, and she did tear Adora’s shirt so it might have been kind of wrong after all, and there’s a slight dreadful feeling she can’t really place, and she has not done this to anything else than her pillow for so long, and never when people were there since she was six or something, and…
“Hey Catra.” Adora says softly.
“Hey Adora.” Catra answers almost by reflex, sweetly and smiling, disregarding for an instant the other two who erupt in laughter at her rapid mood switch. She faces them and angrily asks. “Don’t you miss your own room?”
“Not really!” Sparkles replies without blinking.
“Adora, either you do something about them or I do!” Catra shows her claws, still out. She doesn’t exactly want to threaten people anymore but they asked for it!
“Alright, alright!” Adora grabs her two laughing friends and pushes them out with a very apologetic face.
Catra finally relaxes again when she hears Adora locking the door and the blonde girl comes back to sit on the bed beside her.
“I feel a little bad for throwing them out…”
“Adora, what’s Sparkles’ power again?”
“Yeah… if she really wanted to, she would just reappear inside the room; the door ain’t gonna stop her. Also she said she has plans with Bow tonight!” Catra smiles.
“Right.” Adora smirks at the reminder of how Glimmer became agitated earlier when the queen clumsily hinted at wanting some time alone with Bow.
But then Adora seems anxious for a moment and Catra isn’t sure how to interpret all this anymore. While Bow seemed ready to spend the night here staring and laughing, Sparkles definitely looked like she agreed that the timing was right for them to leave. Therefore it shouldn’t become a big deal, except for the fact that they will make fun of her for long days to come. But Catra has a really dreadful feeling about this, and she can’t place it exactly, stronger than embarrassment, though she knows it probably has nothing to do with Adora’s current concern.
Adora puts an arm behind Catra and pulls her closer. “Can- you... do it again?” The princess asks shyly.
“I… kind of… liked it?”
“You like me ruining your shirt. Right…” Catra snickers.
“You know what I mean!”
“No? Can we not talk about my claws cutting your skin?!”
The words are out before Catra can stop herself, before she realises why she was so uncomfortable with this. She freezes. There are a few- a lot of scars on Adora’s body that are her doing. It should be completely different but the image of herself blissfully enjoying her time a few minutes ago, warm in Adora’s arms, is blending with the image of her old self trying to hurt the princess, heated by rage.
“Oh, Catra.” Adora takes her in a very tight embrace that she couldn’t break free of even if she wanted to run away. And she can’t convince herself that the idea is out of the question. The blonde girl runs her fingers in Catra’s hair tenderly. “I’m sorr-” The princess interrupts herself and grunts, before she sighs and continues. “I didn’t mean to remind you of bad things. You didn’t hurt me. You seemed so calm and happy; I don’t care if I lose a shirt or two over it!”
Catra glances at the holes she made in Adora’s clothes. She can see the red scratched skin underneath. She looks away. “Don’t lie to me...”
“I’m not lying. I didn’t train so many years to be bothered by this much! Yes, you scratched me, and I don’t care! Happy now?”
“I care. That’s not a sacrifice I’m willing to make! I don’t deserv-”
Adora suddenly lets Catra free to take her own jacket and shirt off hastily. “Remember this one?”
Catra winces. She glances Adora’s way again and sees the princess pointing at one of her scar. Of course she remembers, that’s from the first time Adora tried to climb the height of the Fright Zone when she was like a third of her current height! The answer must show on her face because Adora points at another one. ‘First time she hurt herself in a training exercise.’ Catra recalls in her head. The princess moves her finger to the next. ‘My claws when we were little kids and Adora was annoying.’ Catra winces but Adora continues. ‘My claws again during our fight on Prime’s ship.’ Catra shudders and looks at Adora painfully but her girlfriend is smiling and fondles her ears tenderly.
“You know what I hated the most about She-Ra in the beginning?” Adora asks, however she goes on before Catra can answer. “When I reverted back to myself, everything was like before I transformed. As if all the hardship, effort and consequences of them were gone. We fought for years and I shouldn’t have a single scar from when I was facing you as her-”
“But that’s not true-” Catra is about to point out one scar she very much knows she put on She-Ra but Adora interrupts her.
“I was sad. I know it’s dumb, but I missed you so much that I started to keep the scars on purpose because they reminded me of you. I told people that She-Ra’s healing wasn’t able to erase them but it’s a lie. I can probably even make the old ones disappear if I want to. I’m not saying I like the pain, I’m not even saying I wanted to share your pain, because as true as it was I know it’s wrong now, but I’m fond of the memories, even the bad ones because they remind me of you too. So if I get some ridiculously small scratches with your smile and purr, you bet I’m going to want to!”
An unnatural gust of wind suddenly get their attention and they hastily turn around just in time to see Swift Wind landing on the balcony. A small sized Melog jumps down from his back and then grows to their usual size, under the astonished sights of the two girls, before meowing a flurry of good evenings accompanied with mental images and feelings of the very nice events they witnessed in Elberon, too fast for Catra to grab all of them.
Swift Wind starts to talk too, Catra answers Melog, then Adora replies to Swift Wind who in turn respond to Catra to add to Melog’s tale and soon they have to calm down because they don’t understand a thing amidst the incoherently hashed stories. After they each take turns to summarise the gist of their days, and since it’s late already, Adora suggests to postpone this until tomorrow and everyone agrees. Swift Wind departs shortly after, and the princess heads to the bathroom for a well deserved shower, while Catra plays and talk with Melog.
The feline girl knows the previous topic will come up again soon but like with everything these days, she needs time, to accept all of this, to not rush into conclusion or make bad assumptions. But luckily enough, Adora doesn’t mind at all giving her that much.
Adora must have dozed off a few moments because the last thing she remembers is Catra entering the bathroom, and now the feline girl is standing in front of her, wearing nothing more than a towel around her body. Adora is already wearing the light grey top and short she uses as nightwear, and sitting straighter on the side of the bed, her eyes fall on the dresses still hanging on the door of the wardrobe. She can’t say she doesn’t like Catra’s current outfit but she suddenly wants a little more, and after these two very special days, she lets herself think that it’s okay.
“Can I see you in your dress again?” Adora asks innocently while she pets the big cat beside her on the bed that her sudden movement woke up.
Catra giggles at the question, probably not expecting Adora to ask her to wear more clothes right this instant, and one of Melog’s ear perks up to mirror her surprise. “Didn’t you see it enough?”
“No? Yes? Maybe... It’s okay if you don’t want to but I was too nervous to really appreciate it, I think…”
“That’s what you get for not helping me put it on yesterday. Why didn’t you? You even sent Sparkles!”
“Catra, do I have to quote you?”
“What do you mean?” Catra feigns ignorance although Adora sees Melog looking at her girlfriend with an expression unmistakably on the you reap what you saw register.
“You said,” Adora makes quotation marks in the air. “I know how to put on a dress, how stupid do you think I am? Go help someone else!”
“Because you fussed over it as if it was supposed to be difficult!”
“Well, yeah, I needed Glimmer’s help with the zipper the first time I wore a dress for Princess Prom, so I thought it would be even more troublesome with your fur.”
“Oh, Adora, your clumsiness is cute but you should know by now that it doesn’t apply to me.” Catra chuckles and smiles smugly.
She walks to the dresses, slowly, swaying her hips a little more than necessary, and also slowly lets the towel slip down. Adora very much enjoys the show from her seat on the bed, while Melog sighs and closes their eyes, and she can see Catra glancing back at her to check how well it’s working.
“You know, about the Best Friend Squad.” Adora grabs the opportunity that the mood is light to talk about this again. The subject may not be in line with the intimacy of the atmosphere but that never stopped her before.
“Adora, I need time.”
“You already get along so well with Glimmer?”
“Yeah. Apparently we are so similar…” Catra murmurs the later part.
“No kidding.” Adora scoffs, making Catra look at her questioningly. “I figured that’s why I got along so well with her myself right from the beginning.” At her words, Catra makes a complicated expression that Melog mirrors by their mane changing colours rapidly, then faces the wardrobe to finish putting on her dress, or hide her face, and Adora feels the need to add a little more. “She lacks in cuteness compared to you though.”
“You don’t find her cute?!”
“Not really? She is pretty, fun, kind, a great friend and all that, but not really cute, to me.”
“Okay, maybe the word is wrong then. The thing is, I don’t usually want to cuddle and fondle and hug her as I want to do with you!”
Catra laughs a little. She turns around, fully dressed, and walks back to her princess. “So you think we are similar or did Sparkles convince you?”
“Well, for starter you both like to sleep so much. Her in the morning, you during naps!” Adora smirks.
“Alright, if you are not taking this seriously... What’s cuter about me then?” Catra sits across the blonde girl’s laps once more and loops her arms around the princess’ neck.
‘Your competitive jealousy?’ Adora keeps herself from voicing out her first thought. “Everything? As you know, I love all of you, and that makes each part of you adorable in my eyes.” She fondles Catra’s ears tenderly.
“Oh, so you like my ears; if Sparkles had the same you would find her cute then?”
‘Glimmer with cat’s ears, Glimmer with cat’s ears…’ Adora ponders, then her laughter explodes in the room loud enough to make Catra and Melog jump. She stifles her voice hastily, reminded that her girlfriend’s ears are so sensitive. “Sorry! I just imagined Glimmer with your ears and that was too ridiculously funny!”
Catra growls. “Please keep my ears in mind then, idiot! But… I guess a reaction like that means it would take a lot more than these ears to make you fall for her.”
“Come on, Catra. You know you don’t have to be that jealous of her.”
“How did we end up so different?” Catra sighs.
“You and Glimmer? She grew up in another world.”
“No, I meant us. We grew up together, both as soldiers, both in the Horde, even Shadow Weaver shouldn’t have been able to change us this much! You should be more like me, but you think so differently. I understand you want lots of friends, and I want some too now… but a big part of me still wants only you!”
“Hey, there is a part of me that wants only you too! You know you are special to me!”
“Yeah? How special?” Catra can’t hide that she is pretty happy about Adora’s words and her smile is a little smug as if she led the conversation this way on purpose to hear them.
“I would die for you?” Adora chooses to stay overly dramatic since she began the whole thing with the dress.
“You would die for anyone!” Catra nervously snickers.
"No, not anymore." The princess tenses up. She didn’t mean to go there when she said it, only that she was willing to do anything for Catra, for her love.
"Can you not say it like this then? It doesn't feel right coming from you..."
"Can you not say you don’t deserve to smile, like earlier? We both have things we want to say with no certainty that it won’t be taken the wrong way. But we still say them because we can’t just not speak, right? It doesn’t have to be heavy every time, I don’t want us to tiptoe around each other only because it might refer to something bad or serious. Yes, I could die for you if it means protecting you because I love you that much, and it has nothing to do with my hero complex or whatever you call it nor the fact that you are strong enough to protect yourself! It’s not even heavy or dramatic, it just is!” Adora almost yells.
“Oh, hmm, okay…”
Apparently Catra was not expecting her to raise her voice like that and Adora quickly calms down. She pulls the feline girl’s head to face her and gives her a little soft kiss. Catra takes a few seconds to accept it but ultimately returns it eagerly. When they part Adora starts to think again, as if her thoughts had stopped during this.
“I may have made a mistake.” Her words make Catra looks at her like she has no idea what she’s saying again. “I think I would rather see you without the dress now.” Adora adds.
Catra sighs and shrugs. If it wasn’t this late, and if she wasn’t appealed by the idea of the two of them with less clothes on, she might stay dressed just to annoy Adora. But it is, and she is about to stand up to undress when Adora stops her.
“Wait! Can I undress you? Please?”
Suddenly, Melog raises up and growls something before leaving the room. Adora flinches. She kind of completely forgot they were here.
“What- did they say?” She inquires nervously.
“Rough translation?” Catra’s words are not really a question but Adora nods nonetheless. “Not interested in your mating rituals.” Catra giggles when she sees Adora blushing.
The princess begins to very carefully and slowly unzip Catra’s dress. She realises the work put in it by the seamstress when she sees the piece of fabric skilfully sewed underneath the zipper to prevent any trouble with the fur, the adjustments made for the tail, and a few more details for the wearer’s comfort that make her want to check her own dress again because there probably are a lot of those little things she didn’t even notice. The Horde’s uniforms weren’t bad; they were practical and efficient. Her outfit as She-Ra is just too magic for her to have thought about such details. But there are normal people who think about those every day, who make a job out of it to facilitate others’ lives. Another reminder that while she was meant to be perfect, there are a lot of subjects she is completely clueless about and for whatever reason it feels nice now, whereas it would have annoyed her or scared her a few years prior.
Adora remembers the first time she succeeded at cooking, not so long ago. The first time she learnt something to truly better the result and not to simply for the sake of being good at it or to please a certain someone, and later the first time Catra tasted her cooking and smiled so brightly that Adora almost dropped her own fork. All those things she can’t do yet are as many opportunities to improve herself in the right way or let them be, to remind herself that she simply can’t do everything. The latter being very much the difficult part of it, but she’s working on it.
However, right now, she doesn’t really need any kind of special skill to undress Catra. She does it very slowly though, because there are still two items of the lists they received from Netossa and Spinnerella that need to be crossed, and taking their time undressing the other, without hurry, without rushing, is one of the two. And the other...
“Catra, what do you want me to do? What do you like having me do to you?”
“You mean, after undressing me?”
“I kind of want to finish the lists.”
“Oh.” Catra understands instantly what Adora is talking about, and once again she becomes nervous and blushes slightly when the princess is being straightforward. Well, kind of. Thankfully Catra is not as dense as Adora or they wouldn’t go anywhere. However she doesn’t seem to want to fold to the feeling of embarrassment that easily either. “Are you not going to find out for yourself, princess?” Catra replies sweetly.
“I think… not tonight? I would really like to hear it from you and not guess, at least just this once.”
“And what if it’s not what you want to hear?”
“I’m kind of worried when you say it like that, but I would rather know now, in case you like weird stuff?”
“It’s weird. At least, for me it’s weird, because it’s not me. It’s me, but it has not been me for so long, and I’m afraid to show it, and it’s not always, just sometimes like tonight when I feel really tired-”
“Catra, we can sleep if you want-”
“I’m tired of everything, Adora. The war, the fight… I want you to be very very very gentle with me because I’m tired of the violence, of the roughness. I had too much of those in my life already, I need a break. I need to know that I can still feel the most little soft things, that I didn’t become so insensitive that I need hardship to simply feel…”
Adora ponders for a second. While it is surprising to have Catra both want this and admit it in one go, it seems quite doable, even for her clumsy and rough self.
“I also want to feel safe, without feeling protected by you. And I need you to lead, while I still feel like I’m in control. And no magic tonight. And I don’t want to hear that I’m cute nor adorable either.”
“Okay, that’s beginning to be a little hard to imagine. Wait a moment please.” Adora is starting to find it quite contradictory and difficult. She needs a plan.
“Adora, don’t think too much about it.”
“No, no, it’s no problem, I just need to-”
“If you are trying to plan this like a battle, that will end in a disaster.” Catra’s words are so close to Adora’s thoughts that the princess guesses it must have shown on her face.
“I did plan everything for our first time...”
“Really?” Catra seems very much certain it’s not true as she raises an eyebrow to make an incredulous face.
“While reconstructing the Sea Gate in Salineas, I had to listen to Mermista complain all two days that Sea Hawk was annoying while she also couldn’t not think about him! And I thought about you, and you aren’t even annoying, and the work on the gate was super boring, and long, so I thought about us, you already know the part about the sword, and I also wanted to give you the best time ever, so I planned everything… And then when the time came you kissed me… and my mind went blank and I forgot everything!”
“Oh Adora, your silliness saved us there!” Catra playfully answers and chuckles.
“Why? Is it so bad to not want to mess this up?”
“Yeah, kind of? Everything would have been ruined if it felt like you enacted a rehearsed play! It’s something we need to feel together in the moment.”
“So, hmm… did I do okay?”
“You have to ask?! I’m pretty sure I wasn’t hiding how I felt.”
“I guess not…” Adora smiles sheepishly and hugs Catra.
“But I don’t have previous experiences to compare to, if you really want to know, I can go see someone else and tell you afterward?” Catra answers sweetly with her biggest smirk, both fangs showing behind it like she loves to do.
“No! NO! I’m okay! Although you seem strangely knowledgable about this for someone without experience?”
“Unlike yours, my instincts are reliable, for this at least, and later I confirmed a lot of things with Netossa.”
“Hu, you don’t mind asking her for advice?”
“I’m not asking for advice, I’m making an efficient use of the strategical resources at my disposal.” Catra smirks again and then suddenly kisses Adora, who gasps a little from the surprise; not that she doesn’t like it, of course. “You forgot your plans yet? Can we continue where we left off please?” Catra impatiently inquires.
Adora looks at the naked girl in her arms. She isn’t wearing much herself, and the fur is as always blissfully brushing against her skin, and the little restless twitches of Catra’s ears are adorably enticing while the feline girl’s tail is possessively rolled around her waist. It’s true, with the kiss on top of this, she completely forgot what she was even thinking about. She kisses Catra once more, just to make sure, and the feline girl starts to undress her, very slowly.
Adora can feel a heavy weight leave her shoulders. She feels a little bad about only thinking this way now, in this situation, but with those days of celebration she finally begins to feel free of the past.
Glimmer was right. Adora really needed all this, the party and the time off, for her mind to acknowledge that the war is over, that the reconstruction isn’t an unending drag of its consequences but a new start over.
Catra was right too, about a lot of things. Adora needed, still needs, and will need her forever, to be the best of herself.