had grown between us
like a forest around a castle. — Louise Glück, Excerpt of The Sword in the Stone
I would like to be the air
that inhabits you for a moment
only. I would like to be that unnoticed
& that necessary. - Margaret Atwood, Variations on the Word Sleep
Bright Moon is a strange place to call home.
Even years since she’d first stepped foot in the castle, there are some things Adora can’t get used to—how if she wears socks without shoes on she will inevitably slip down the hallway floors; how there’s a gratuitous amount of fountains; how everything is so plush that if Catra isn’t being careful, one nick to the corner of a pillow or the cushion of a daybed could send a mess of feathers spilling out the side.
Over the years Adora and Catra have curated their room, just a little. There’s less frill, more calm. Their bed is the same slightly-better-than-rock-hard bed Adora was given when she first defected, dressed in simple sheets and a couple of quilts, a pale pink and a deeper burgundy. Catra has taken a liking to decorating it with trinkets from their travels, and if Adora ever said out loud how endearing she finds it, she knows Catra would turn red and sputter about how she doesn’t really care how their space looks, it’s just not practical to have so many fluffy monstrosities lying around when she has claws to worry about. But it’s still very—
—it’s very not theirs , she thinks.
Tonight is one of the rare nights where Adora is up later than Catra. Usually Adora follows an early-to-bed, early-to-rise routine that exactly Bow and none of her other friends appreciate, but it keeps her sharp. It’s an early-morning training session, a quick shower, and then she’s lounging on their bed by the time Catra wakes up to walk with her to breakfast. But every once in a while Catra succeeds in badgering her to take it easy, and Adora is usually grateful for it.
But tonight she’s—it’s just—she’s—she’s restless.
Everything feels uncomfortable. The quilt is too rough on her skin, Catra’s body too warm where it touches her own, the bed—ironically enough—too hard. She wrestles with getting up to take a walk, finds a sweater and begins to pull it over her head, stops, takes it back off. There’s nowhere to go , really. The castle is so large it would take her more time than it’s worth to make it to the outside to walk to the stables, and if she were to roam the halls she’d worry the guards. It’s all so big and overwhelming that there’s nowhere to go when she just needs a moment to feel small.
It’s just—she needs space, she thinks.
Adora settles on her side instead. She looks to Catra, begins tracing the scar that begins at her shoulder blade and cuts to the opposite side of her back that Adora thinks she gave her during the war—neither of them are sure when, and Catra doesn’t even remember getting it.
She had asked—one night so long ago Adora hardly remembers when—after she noticed the raised pink lines that litter Catra’s skin, if Catra was upset by the scars at all; if she blamed Adora.
Catra didn’t respond. All she did was move Adora’s hair, splayed across her back, to her shoulder and trace the ragged emboss of her claws. Her brows turned upward, an apology in her eyes. And Adora doesn’t blame her for those, not while they stung as they hit the dry air of Mara’s ship later that day, not then, not now.
So, that was that conversation.
She finishes tracing up and down and up and down the scar and settles a hand on Catra’s shoulder, drumming her fingers against the skin. It’s a few minutes before Adora realizes she’s effectively tapping Catra’s shoulder, yet she’s surprised when Catra fidgets and wakes.
Catra is fast—almost as quickly as she wakes, she is sitting up with a soothing hand over Adora’s heart. Some realization washes over Adora at what a tap awake in the middle of the night usually means for them.
“What,” Catra’s eyes are wide, alert, and Adora half-thinks it’s a shame she’s missed Catra when she’s half-asleep, half-thinks on how guilty she feels to have waken her at all. “Bad dream?”
“N-no,” Adora stammers. “Not dreams. Sorry. I didn’t mean—it’s nothing, don’t worry.”
Catra snorts. “Okay. Go to sleep, weirdo.” She turns back onto her side, but then looks back over her shoulder. “You sure you’re okay?”
“Yeah,” Adora settles down beside her. “Sorry for waking you.”
She tries to sleep, really, she does. She tries to relax, but relaxation never seems to find her. She suddenly misses how small and anonymous they had felt staying in guest housing on one of the many planets they’d visited, no big castle to get lost in. If she were on any of them, she’d ask Catra if she wanted to take a walk around, if she wanted to sit in the kitchen.
An idea half-forms in her. She can’t name it, not really.
She almost taps her shoulder again, but the quiet snore she gets in response stops her.
Adora sighs. She lies back down. It’s just—no, that’s what it is, exactly. There’s just too much space, and yet somehow not enough of it for her.
There are things to do still, of course—the kingdoms never do stop arguing amongst themselves about trivial things and the added confusion of the... outer space intergalactic relations of it all seems to exist solely to make Catra’s life more difficult. She’s lying in bed one morning reading through Glimmer’s recon notes on Linosa, a planet that manufactures something and would benefit from Etheria’s magic for some reason when Adora asks, simply and earnestly, “Do you know anything about building foundations?”
Catra looks up from her files to frown at her. “Is that a metaphor?”
“No, I mean like, for…” Adora bites her lip. She tries again, turning to lay on her side facing Catra. “The castle is nice, but it’s so big .”
“Uh huh,” Catra humors her.
“And it would be nice to have our own space.”
“So you’re suggesting that we, with no experience or skills that would in any way help us, build our own house?”
“That’s the plan, I guess,” Adora says with a sheepish grin.
“And we do this with our loads of spare time, when we’re not on journeys across space to bring magic back to literally every planet who wants it?”
Adora leans her head on Catra’s shoulder to peer at the files in her lap. “Linosa. That’s the one with the high-tech agricultural system.” Adora presses a quick kiss to Catra’s cheek, then nestles back into her shoulder. “Bow’s been talking my ear off about how we need to visit them.”
“Why, are we having agriculture problems?”
“Not that I know of.” Adora pouts. “Anyway, it doesn’t have to be a quick process. We can take our time with it. It can be, like, a fun little side project.”
“Little,” Catra echoes.
“Okay, not little .” Adora says. “But...I don’t know. I just…it...” Adora frowns. Catra watches her brows furrow, like there’s something in her mind she can’t quite parse through. “We should have something that’s ours, you know?”
And Catra can’t fight her on that. It’s been years since the war, but old habits die hard, and Adora is still learning how to be selfish. How to just say no when she wants to, sleep when she needs to, let go of her burdens when they weigh her down. She gets better day by day. And if Adora wants to build something of her own from the ground up, so be it. It’s not in her nature to do things the easy way.
Catra laces their fingers together. She kisses the back of Adora’s hand. “I’m in.”
Adora beams at her. She sits up onto her knees and leans forward to grab Catra’s face and kiss her, quick but forceful, then sits back on her heels. Her shoulders go slack with sudden tension. She purses her lips, rocking ever so slightly back and forth, and Catra knows she’s about to burst.
“And I’m guessing you’ve already written up pages and pages of notes about this.”
Adora jumps—practically leaps off the bed to her desk nestled in the corner of the room. She cards her fingers through the mess of papers and books that make up her filing cabinet and pulls out a notebook. Adora is a strange sort of organized chaos, with plans and notes immaculately detailed, yet strewn about in no particular order.
Adora settles back into bed by Catra’s side and flips through the charts, graphs, lists—a list inside of a list at one point, and Catra can’t help but watch in dazed wonder. She loves all versions of Adora, but she rarely sees this particular Adora in these days of peacetime. She loves this Adora, the Adora in hot pursuit of something, the Adora that is planning and brainstorming and changing her mind so often Catra has to keep her finger on the pulse of her just to keep it all straight.
“And here’s a timeline for how long it’ll take—here’s one for if we want to be really quick about it, one for if we’re middle ground, and one for if we’re really taking our time.” Adora points to a chart in her notebook, though she moves too fast for Catra to follow any of the specifics. “And I figure it doesn’t really make sense to start until we’re back from Salineas in a couple weeks.”
“Wait, we’re going to Salineas?” Catra asks, and Adora’s face falls in abject horror. “What? I made plans.”
*Catra, you can’t forget about your friend’s wedding, that’s — ”
“Relax.” Catra throws her hands up in mock surrender. “I’m joking. I even got an outfit to go with Mermista’s stupid dress code.”
“What dress code? Her only rule was ‘don’t look better than me.’”
“Yeah, and that’s a hard task,” Catra says, and adds only to rile Adora up, “It’s hard to keep She-Ra from fawning over me all night. My girlfriend might get jealous.”
Adora takes the bait. She lunges forward to swat Catra across the shoulder, but Catra’s quick. She wraps her arms around Adora’s middle and pulls her down on top of her, hugging her to her chest. Adora is a mess of giggles, and Catra’s heart stutters at the sound.
“I don’t think you’re She-Ra’s type.” Adora’s still trying to catch her breath. “I heard she thinks you’re a little too obnoxious.”
“Where’d you hear that?”
“I have my sources.” Adora’s lips curl into a smirk.
“Oh no,” Catra whines. “How will I ever win back her favor?”
Adora grins. She readjusts so that she’s leaning over Catra, knees straddling her hips, her hands gently cupping the sides of Catra’s face.
“I don’t know,” Adora says. “I’m sure you two can figure something out.”
They decide to build it in the woods.
“Not too far from Bright Moon,” Catra says as they eat a late breakfast, the only ones in the dining hall.
Adora can’t help but smile. There were years she’d never imagined Catra here, far behind them now but always a looming shadow present in the back of her mind. But now Catra refers to Bright Moon as home, to Bow and Glimmer—begrudgingly—as her best friends, and something in Adora’s chest still swells each time she thinks on how far they’ve all come, even after all this time.
“Don’t say that too loud,” Adora answers through a bite of her pastry. “Or Glimmer might get the idea that you like her.”
“I tolerate her,” Catra shrugs. “She keeps me employed.” Adora rolls her eyes, and Catra laughs. “We’ve gotta pay for your big fancy house somehow.”
Adora shakes her head as she pours herself more coffee. She holds the carafe up to Catra in offering, but Catra waves noncommittally in its direction.
“It’s not gonna be big, just enough room for us.” Adora purses her lips. “And, I mean, a couple of extra rooms for our friends to come visit, and a yard for Melog, maybe, and a stable for Swift Wind—” Catra laughs, and Adora glowers in her direction. “What?”
Catra laughs—she giggles , and it echoes across the dining hall. Adora’s never heard a better sound. “You never learned how to take it easy, did you?”
“Never,” Adora grins in agreement.
It’s a slow process—it takes a year or so to even clear out the perfect spot in the woods, to gather the materials they need, to learn what to do or find someone who can do it for them.
Bow knows a guy, of course. They enlist the help of Bow’s brother-in-law Ira, a carpenter—Bow has so many brothers and now so many siblings-in-law Catra wagers out loud once Bow knows a guy for anything he’d ever need.
Adora is eager to help. She studies whatever Ira does and says, following behind with a pad and pencil. But where Adora is a good student, she isn’t always the most precise, and Catra stands behind her to point out any holes in logic that Adora didn’t catch or troubleshoot through anything tricky.
It’s funny—years and years between them and they still operate in the same fashion. On the outside so much has changed. But if you dug down and scraped your way to the core of them, nothing has.
Adora makes a list of the people they’ll have to recruit—someone to lay the foundation down, someone to help with the framing and siding and roofing, someone to help with the masonry, whatever the hell that is.
Catra stares blankly at the list one evening as they sit near their window, taking Adora’s notebook from her hands. “Do we know any of these people?”
“What,” Adora pokes at Catra’s cheek with the end of her pencil, “you commanded an army but you can’t find someone who likes to paint?”
“ We can paint.” Catra grabs the pencil from Adora’s hands. “And aren’t we getting Ira to do, like, all of this?”
“Ira just does the...you know, the carpentry stuff.”
“You know,” Adora motions with her hands, rotating her wrists as she tries to think. “The...house stuff?”
“House stuff. How eloquent. I’m so glad you’re the face of Etherian intergalactic politics.”
“Oh, stop.” Adora grabs the notebook. “You’d miss me if I wasn’t.”
“Actually, I think Bow and I would have really hit it off by now if you weren’t on our missions.”
“Because you’re not already friends.”
“Exactly,” Catra says. “I’ve never spoken to Bow in my life.”
“So Bow didn’t offer me one of the cookies you guys made together yesterday.” Adora raises her eyebrows. “The cat ears were a nice touch.”
“His idea, not mine,” Catra grumbles. “He thought I could use some ‘fun without hitting things’ after all of yesterday’s meetings.”
There had been meetings all week to prepare for their latest bout of off-planet travel, most of which Adora attended. But as they got to the details of it—the “how many fuel crystals do we need” and “how much food do we ration” and “how likely are we to all kill each other if we keep crammed on a ship for two months” details—the burden fell mostly on Bow and Catra’s shoulders as the ones most adept to figure the logistics out.
“The cat ears were his idea, or the cookies?” Adora asks.
“Both.” Catra readjusts to lie down, resting her head in Adora’s lap. “Anyway, I already told Ira to get started on the framework while we’re gone, so that’s one less thing on your to-do list.”
“What? It’s called delegating,” Catra says with a flick of her tail. “I commanded an army, I know a thing or two about it. We’ll be gone for a while and I gave him a down payment. If I didn’t, you’d drive yourself crazy following him around trying to learn how to do it yourself.”
Adora pouts. “What’s wrong with learning a new skill?”
“Adora,” Catra sighs, and she takes Adora’s hands into her own. “I love you. Which is why I’m trying to keep you from dying of overexertion.”
Adora smirks down at her, triumphant.
“You love me?” she asks, though she already knows the answer.
“Yeah, stupid,” Catra lifts her arm to poke Adora on the forehead. “And if I have to third wheel Bow and Glimmer in outer space I’ll go crazy. So don’t die, okay?”
“Fine, I won’t,” Adora says. “But only because I worry about, you know, keeping time and space intact.”
In the beginning, they treaded lightly when talking about the past. It was still an open wound, slow to close and soft to the touch. It gets easier with time, but it’s still not...easy entirely. Adora is never sure how much they can joke about it now.
Adora knows it goes unsaid between Catra and Glimmer; that her first year or so in Bright Moon Catra’s every glance toward Glimmer said an “I’m sorry” she didn’t dare verbalize, that Catra still cowers sometimes when she passes the stained glass Angella that decorates the hall. That Glimmer can talk about her mother now without the ghost of a sob in her words, that Catra can listen without looking away. But the wound hasn’t fully healed yet. Maybe it won’t ever.
Catra laughs at it now, though. And Adora loves hearing her laugh. So, they can leave it there for now.
They’ve gotten lazy, Catra thinks.
She’s off-planet, representing Etheria at some intergalactic summit with Glimmer while Bow and Adora visit a neighboring planet to chart how its first year with magic has affected the local population. Catra can’t help but find the whole thing a bit unnecessary—they’ve been traveling for what feels like an eternity now, though she knows it’s only about a month or so. She’d never admit how much she misses the plush pastels of Bright Moon, how somehow her bed in the castle is the only comfortable bed in the entire universe, apparently. She groans as she unceremoniously plops back-first onto the bed in her guest room, ever so slightly too soft to be to her liking.
The issue isn’t that Catra can’t hold her own in an assembly hall. She very much can—in fact, she and Glimmer spend half of the summit in separate rooms, then meeting in Catra’s in the evening to review their notes.
The issue is that it’s become so tiring. Exhausting, really. She’s spent by the end of a day of doing nothing but sitting and talking and–only sometimes, Catra swears—shouting. She’d commanded an army and somehow the stamina that required has left her entirely.
Even Glimmer, usually a bundle and a half of energy and obnoxious about it, is beat. She drops onto the couch in Catra’s living accommodations with a defeated thud after their round of meetings. When Glimmer pouts like this, she looks like a toddler in a tiara, not the spokesperson for an entire planet. It would be amusing if Catra wasn’t similarly spent.
“Hey Catra,” Glimmer says. “Next time I suggest we hit three planets in a row, please stop me.”
Catra raises an eyebrow. “Because you love listening to me.”
“You’re my advisor. It’s your job to advise against me doing stupid things.”
“You’re the Queen. Have you ever thought about, I don’t know, not doing stupid things in the first place?”
Catra and Glimmer are cut from the same cloth—Adora laughs about it all the time, that they’re, in her words, “ practically the same person ” and that it’s hilarious when they drive one another off the wall. If Catra’s getting snippy, Glimmer is too, and if she doesn’t want to admit defeat Glimmer especially doesn’t want to. Catra pinches the bridge of her nose.
“Sorry, Sparkles,” Catra sighs. “I’m just tired.”
“It’s fine. Adora and Bow are usually the ones keeping morale up, anyway.”
“And leaving us to do all the hard work,” Catra snorts.
“Well, they’re probably having a better time than we are.”
She thinks to what Bow and Adora are probably doing right now; maybe dancing at some celebration, maybe sitting through boring meetings, maybe Adora is clicking the tip of her pen in and out and shaking her leg, and maybe Bow is sitting beside her with a long-suffering sigh as he gently places a hand on Adora’s knee for her to stop. They’re on an almost-entirely nocturnal planet now—with the time difference, she’s probably waking up. Probably rubbing at her eyes as she gets out of bed and getting dressed in a hurry even though she’s running early.
Catra’s about to say something to that effect, but she stops.
She falters. It’s not that she doesn’t love talking about Adora. On the contrary—she talks about her maybe too much, thinks about her twice more than that. It’s just that Adora touches every part of her life, she’s so ingrained in Catra that it’s impossible to pick apart the parts of her Adora hasn’t touched.
It’s that—she has questions.
Catra crinkles her nose. She takes a deep breath, and Glimmer’s head turns to her, eyes wide in concern. Catra hates that. That she has a tell that something is wrong, that her uncaring facade is so easily broken.
“Why’d you choose earrings?”
“You and Bow,” Catra says, cheeks burning. “You guys gave each other earrings.”
“Oh.” Glimmer purses her lips. Catra looks away from her. “Uh, my mom gave my dad earrings.”
Catra winces, the one wound still between them reopening. Glimmer must notice, because she joins Catra on the bed, a hand on her shoulder.
“You don’t have to look like that,” Glimmer says. “It was a long time ago.”
“Yeah, but it was...I was…” Catra shrugs. “Yeah. A long time ago.”
And Glimmer is apparently content to leave it there, because she grabs Catra’s other shoulder and shakes until Catra is two seconds away from unsheathing her claws and digging—
“Anyway,” Glimmer says—practically sings. “You and Adoraaaaaaa—”
Catra’s ears flatten. “Shut up, Sparkles.”
“You’re gonna get married !”
“We—” Catra clears her throat. She says, voice as level as possible, “we’ve talked about it. But we’re not, like, planning anything yet.”
“You mean you haven’t planned anything.” Glimmer snorts. “This is Adora we’re talking about. She’s probably got the whole thing planned out in her head.”
Catra hates it, but Glimmer has a point. It’s Adora—Adora with her notebooks and her routines and her lists inside of lists, after all. But Adora is easy to read. She can’t keep secrets unless they’re of earth shattering importance. She can’t for the life of her muster up a poker face. If Adora were planning something, Catra would have figured it out by now.
Catra frowns. Her head snaps to her luggage on the floor, the suitcase she’s been living out of for what feels like ages at this point. Nothing in there suits Adora—there’s nothing sentimental or trademark enough that would ever designate that Catra and Adora are a shared entity. There’s nothing in there that feels uniquely like Catra’s to give away, as Etherian tradition would dictate.
It’s a side effect of growing up in a warzone; Catra never learned how to have things.
“Do I really have to find her something? We can’t just say we’re married and call it a day? Your traditions are all so weird.”
“What, no tradition in the Horde?” Glimmer asks. “What did you do when you liked someone?”
“Pretended you didn’t,” Catra says with a snort. Glimmer nods slowly, as if that answer explains...something to her. Catra doesn’t care to know what.
“Well, tough. You’re Etheria’s Royal Advisor,” Glimmer says. “Knowing Etherian tradition is kind of your job.”
“I thought it was making sure you don’t do anything stupid.”
“You’re smart.” Glimmer waves her hand in the air. “You can do both.”
“Glimmer?” Catra says, and Glimmer lets go of her shoulders. Catra turns to face Glimmer, looking her in the eye. “Thanks.”
Glimmer smiles. “Sure, Catra.”
“And I’ll kill you if you tell anyone I asked you any of this.”
“ Sure , Catra.”
“I mean it,” Catra says with a halfhearted scowl.
Glimmer laughs, and laughs harder when Catra reaches back on her bed to throw a pillow square at her chest.
In autumn, Adora and Catra venture north to pay a visit to Spinnerella and Netossa. Spinnerella insisted that fall is the perfect time for a visit, once. Just the right temperature, she had said. Cold enough that it’s cozy, but not that it’s miserable.
Neither Catra nor Adora are particularly sold. The seasons don’t change much in Bright Moon, but they do by their ranch. They both don sweaters, and Adora giggles as Catra admits defeat and wrestles with shoving a pair of boots over her pants. She frowns a bit with each step they take up the walkway to the front door and kicks them off almost immediately upon entering their room.
“What?” Adora asks. “The queen of Bright Moon’s royal advisor can’t handle a pair of shoes?”
“Oh, shut up.” Catra plops down onto the bed, her hair splaying loose against the pillows. She can never decide what to do with it—Adora has watched her go through the cycle of growing it out only to get to the awkward in-between length between short and long, then cutting it again at least three times. Now it sits just below her jaw. It suits her—though maybe Adora is biased. No, she is definitely biased, but Adora doesn’t care.
Adora braces herself on the edge of the bed, kicking off her own shoes. She pauses.
“You coming to bed?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Adora answers. “It’s just...it’s always weird to spend time with Spinnerella and Netossa. Nice, but weird, you know?” Adora joins Catra now. She sits up against the headboard, back braced by pillows. “No matter how much time passes it feels like they have their own separate life, and we’re just some dumb kids running around and wreaking havoc.”
“Okay,” Catra grips Adora’s elbow. She drags Adora down gently, and Adora goes along with her to lie down next to Catra. Catra leans forward to touch her forehead to hers. “Well, we haven’t wrecked significant havoc in a while.” Catra smirks. “I mean, I wouldn’t be opposed.”
“Of course not,” Adora chuckles. “I just mean, I can’t tell if it seems nice to get away from it all or if it’ll just be boring.”
“Well, you’re always gonna go sticking your nose into things, that’s just how you are.” Catra pokes at her nose with the pad of her finger, as if to make a point. “So don’t worry about us getting bored.”
“Promise you’ll blow something up if we do?”
Catra laughs, burying her face in Adora’s shoulder. “I don’t think that’s really what you want, but sure.”
“Okay, fine. Nothing too expensive.” Adora rakes her hand through Catra’s hair. “And nothing, like, I don’t know. Sentimental?”
“What do we own that’s sentimental? That’s what I’ve been trying to—” Catra stops abruptly. Before Adora can think to ask her what she means, Catra adds, “you’d kill me if I blew up the horse.”
“You know,” Adora says, “the more you act like you hate him, the less I think you actually do.”
“Mhm, you tell yourself that,” Catra hums into Adora’s neck.
Adora thinks she whispers her “I love you,” thinks she breathes it out before drifting off to sleep—or maybe she dreams it. Maybe she dreams Catra’s “I love you too” echoed back.
She joins Spinnerella by the fire the next morning, Catra having joined Netossa in some intense game of fetch with Melog and Spinnerella and Netossa’s dogs. Adora watches as Melog, usually the refined creature, sprints with sloppy enthusiasm after something Catra has thrown.
Spinnerella settles a saucer and teacup on the coffee table in front of Adora, and Adora smiles as she sits. “So Catra says you’re looking to move from the castle.”
“Yeah,” Adora says. “It’s a slow process of actually getting it done, but...it’s nice. Something to look forward to.”
If she frowns, she doesn’t notice herself doing it. When she meets Spinnerella’s gaze, she’s looking at Adora with concern.
“You seem unsure.”
Adora shrugs. “It feels like the end of an era, I guess. I’ll miss Bow and Glimmer.”
“But it’s time to start your own life,” Spinnerella says. “Away from all the noise. And it’s not like they won’t be right around the corner.”
“Did you ever get worried?” Adora asks before she can stop herself. “When the first Alliance ended, that you’d get away from all the excitement?”
At that, Spinnerella laughs. She sets down her cup of tea with a soft clink.
“Adora, haven’t you had enough excitement?” She asks. “I don’t think it’s so wrong to take it easy.”
“It doesn’t get boring?”
“It seems impossible when you’re young but I promise you, some day it’ll feel nice to just relax.” Spinnerella looks toward the window, and Adora follows her gaze. Netossa has a hand on Catra’s shoulder to steady herself as the two laugh. Adora can’t hear it, but she imagines the squeak as it trails toward its apex and smiles. One of the dogs, fluffy and almost as large as Melog, comes up to Catra with a ball in his mouth and Catra tousles his fur before wrestling the ball from him and throwing. Spinnerella looks back to Adora fondly. “Don’t worry, it’ll be the right amount of boring. Not so much that you get tired of each other, but just enough that She-Ra doesn’t have to save the universe again.” She laughs, and adds: “I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough wars for a lifetime.”
Adora feels her cheeks burn as Spinnerella speaks, but she doesn’t care much—she never outgrew it, the sheepishness that comes with new love, the rush of nerves that comes with someone on the outside acknowledging what has been blooming inside her, clutched against her chest for so long, the private world she and Catra have carved out for one another.
“Thanks,” she says. “And...yeah. No more wars. I’m good on wars.”
The door swings open, and the fluffy dog Catra was playing with before comes bolting inside to sit expectantly next to Spinnerella.
Melog runs to curl up at Adora’s feet, and Adora knows Catra is not far behind. She hums contentedly when she feels Catra’s arms lock around her from behind the sofa. Catra nestles her face into Adora’s neck and turns her head to plant a kiss against her jaw.
“What’d I miss?” Catra asks.
Adora makes room for Catra on the couch and Catra curls against her like they were made to fit together and Adora decides that maybe, boring could be nice.
“Remember, it’s a ⅜ inch gap from the wall.”
“I know ,” Catra says with a click of her tongue. “Why ⅜, exactly? That seems specific.”
“The wood expands when the temperature changes. Or something.” Adora sits on the ground beside Catra and pores over her notes. Piles of laminate planks sit on top of the underlayer they’d spent all morning laying down onto the floor.
The house isn’t warm, really—it’s fall, so the dead of summer has passed them, and the woods usually keep cool enough on their own. But the humid air stays trapped inside the house, and Catra wishes they’d brought a fan or something . Her hair is pulled back away from her face, but sweat still pools at the nape of her neck and underneath her shirt. It’s uncomfortable, the thick, unbearable air is driving Catra up a wall, and when she looks to Adora it’s—
—she’s in a bad mood, she thinks.
Catra doesn’t know what’s making her take Glimmer’s words seriously. She’s never liked secrets, maybe that’s it. She doesn’t like people planning things for her. She doesn’t like being ambushed by a thought, a plan, an idea that yes , she wants , but not if Adora is steps and steps ahead of her.
She feels guilty, she thinks, that she just can’t...conceptualize it. Adora had a head start to understanding things like being happy and having friends and getting married and it’s not fair. It’s never been fair. She feels silly for feeling like this now, now that she can feel those things for herself. She feels stupid .
She skirts around conversation topics as they work to line the floor, talking about nothing of substance. Adora—sweet, idiot Adora—wore her usual long-sleeved shirt to the house and now is stripping it off, sweat sticking it to the creases of her elbow, until she’s sitting in a sports bra and her leggings. It’s nothing Catra hasn’t seen before. She doesn’t know why her face turns red and she looks pointedly away.
“Did you just look away?” Adora snickers. “Are we cadets again?”
“You were trying to show off?”
“No, I—hey.” Adora scoots to put her hands on Catra’s shoulders. She presses down, massaging them lightly, like Catra would like if she were not feeling particularly on edge. “You okay?”
Catra frowns down at the floor to where she’s laying a plank down exactly ⅜ inches away from the wall. “I’m...I’m fine.”
“What does that— Ahh !” She shrieks, because just then Adora pulls Catra by the waist and into her lap. Catra looks away. She folds her arms across her chest.
“Something’s bothering you,” Adora says. She cups Catra’s cheek, running her thumb along the tip of Catra’s cheekbone and tilting Catra’s head ever-so-gently toward her. Adora’s eyes are warm, soft— annoying —as they look at her. “Tell me.”
“It’s never stupid, Catra,” Adora answers quickly, so earnestly that Catra’s ears flatten so slightly against her head. “I promise.”
“It’s—” Catra cuts her gaze downward, but that lands her eyes on the flat, toned lines at the top of Adora’s stomach, peeking up from the top of her leggings. She watches the slow heave of her chest up and down as she breathes, how the muscles expand and contract, and she suddenly, viscerally and stupidly wishes they could be doing literally anything else right now other than having a heartfelt conversation in a half-finished construction zone.
Catra just has to spit it out. “Are you planning on proposing?”
“What?” Adora blinks, eyes blown wide.
Catra grimaces. “I told you it’s stupid.”
They sit in silence for a second. Catra says fuck it internally and gives in, allowing herself to trace the lines of muscle along Adora’s stomach. Anything to avoid whatever look Adora is giving her right now. She feels strangely accomplished to hear Adora’s breath hitch lightly as her finger makes contact.
“Would...would you be offended if I said ‘no?’” Adora says with a wince, and all Catra can do is laugh. “I—I mean I want to, but—I—” Adora stutters, and Catra keeps laughing, and she feels lighter, somehow. “Did you want me to say no?”
“Kind of, yeah,” Catra says. Adora frowns down at her. Catra’s hand moves to the nape of Adora’s neck, pulling her head down until it’s touching her own. “Glimmer just made it seem like...like you have this big, intricate plan and I can’t even, like…”
“Visualize it?” Adora asks. “Like, at all?”
“Yeah, actually,” Catra says. “You can’t, either? You’re usually so…” Catra gestures toward Adora’s notebook, still open to the instructions to lay down the flooring.
“I just...I kind of don’t get it?” Adora crinkles her nose. “I mean, we talked about it and I want to and I know you want to, but I just don’t get why it’s so…” Adora motions something with her hands, her palms facing upward. Catra is probably the only person in the known universe who can speak Adora. She takes a certain pride in it.
“You know, we don’t have to make it such a big thing,” Catra says. “We can just...decide one day that we should get married and go do it.”
“Why not? It’s our thing. We can do whatever we want.”
Adora pouts, like this is still a new concept for her. That there are no rules or regulations that she must follow or proprieties she must take. And it makes sense; after years of traveling and Etherian diplomacy, the off-time feels foreign. But they’re home. Adora isn’t She-Ra all of the time.
“You know what?” Adora says. “Yeah. You’re right.”
“Of course I am. I’m always right,” Catra says with a smirk.
“Sure you are.” Adora tips Catra’s chin upward, and Catra’s eyes begin to close on instinct, until Adora stops. She smiles a mischievous smile before turning away and scooting out from underneath Catra.
Catra plops back down to the ground, her mouth open, washed over with a certain sort of whiplash.
Adora grants her a shit-eating grin before craning her neck down to inspect the flooring. “This doesn’t look like ⅜ inches, Catra.”
Catra rolls her eyes. “Adora, I hate you.”
“You love me,” Adora says. “And if you love me, you’ll finish the floor with me.” She passes Catra a plank, and Catra groans as she takes it.
“What’s in it for me?” Catra asks. Adora gives her a raise of her eyebrows, which makes Catra’s face burn red all over again, which is embarrassing and stupid , but has Adora chuckling to herself as she measures the distance between the wall and the plank in her hand with a tape measure.
They make some headway. The floor is not, in fact, all laid out by the end of the day, but they entertain themselves by arguing about what color they’ll paint the walls—something neutral, maybe a muted green or a golden yellow—if Swift Wind will get his own stable—Catra loses; he will—and Catra can admit, Adora’s years-long pipe dream has its merits. She couldn’t visualize it before; she had just trusted that Adora could think up what a home should be and went with it. But she’s starting to. She imagines the patter of footsteps against the floors, a couch in the main room, a quiet conversation with the warmth of the fireplace washing over them.
But first, Catra thinks as she smooths a hair over the damp bangs against her forehead, they need a fan, probably.
After the home is built, they travel.
The wedding happens quickly, instantly, like they’d talked about; they didn’t necessarily plan when or where they’d get married, but when they’d set out to travel across Etheria, there had been a silent agreement that they would find the right time and place.
The time and place happen to be, of all places, right in the heart of what used to be the Fright Zone. Adora is sitting on the floor, packing up to leave on the last night of their visit to the Scorpion Kingdom when Catra, lying on their bed with her head hanging off the edge, hovering next to Adora’s, says, “we should just do it.”
“You know,” Catra almost mumbles, and Adora turns to her. “Get married.”
“Here?” Adora blinks. “Of all places?”
It’s a surprise—between the two of them, Catra’s always been the more reluctant to spend time in the remnants of the Fright Zone. It’s not that she never wants to visit Scorpia again, Adora knows. It’s more complicated than that. It’s that usually, taking the incentive to visit requires a gentle prod from Adora, a squeeze of her hand when they enter the threshold of the Scorpion Kingdom, a silent reminder that their past lay far behind them.
“I went walking,” Catra says simply. “You know our old rooftop? There’s a garden on top of it now.”
“Probably,” Catra says. “I just thought...this is where it all started for us. And it’s starting over. So should we.”
Adora wonders if Scorpia and Perfuma talked some nerve into Catra. Her eyes shine so sure, a soft smile on her lips as Adora reaches to cup Catra’s face with both hands. Adora kisses her, sweet and quick, feeling Catra’s grin against her lips.
Adora pulls away, but not much, just enough to speak. “That’s really how you’re gonna propose to me?”
Catra heaves a dramatic sigh that Adora knows is all for show. She giggles as Catra rolls her eyes and hoists herself from the bed to sit on the floor beside Adora. Catra takes both of Adora’s hands in hers, rubbing her thumb across the knuckles.
“You could’ve given me time to prepare a speech,” Catra mutters as she stares down at their hands.
“Like you’d ever prepare a speech,” Adora says with a laugh.
Catra clears her throat.
“Adora,” she starts, “I love you. You already know that. And you’re already stuck with me forever, like it or not, so...marry me? Today? Perfuma can officiate it.”
Adora snorts. “Perfuma’s in on this?”
“She may have... enthusiastically suggested that we do it here.”
“What about the rest of our friends? They’d want to be there.”
“Oh, please. The second Glimmer and Bow find out we got married, they’re gonna start party planning in our honor. You know them.” Catra squeezes Adora’s hands. “We’ll make a big thing of it with them. But before all that, I want something that’s just for us.”
Adora smiles. “Me too.”
An hour or so later, Adora is standing in the one dress she brought along with her, golden and cut to the knee, loose and shifting in the wind. As if it were all fated, it matches the pin she adorns Catra’s chest with, the golden wing she once wore on her belt sitting over Catra’s heart against the white, soft fabric of her shirt.
Catra’s a lighter packer—she doesn’t have anything to give Adora right then, but that’s alright. Adora doesn’t need it. It was Catra who brought back She-Ra all those years ago, Catra who brought back Adora .
She kisses her now and it still feels like magic. Her heart still beats as quick and eager as it did underneath the Heart of Etheria. Catra is here, flowers grow around them, magic swells underneath her chest and blooms at her fingertips as she cards her hands through Catra’s hair. Catra is definitely crying, Adora thinks as she feels droplets collect under the palm cradling her cheek, and she’s definitely crying, too.
She’s surprised how much it matters to her. She didn’t expect it to. After all, she can’t really name anything between her and Catra that will change. A promise has always tied them together. This isn’t anything new, but it feels new and raw and exhilarating.
It’s funny, because as much as neither of them could say that they’d never bought into Etherian tradition, had never really considered where the ceremony of it all would take place or what gifts to exchange, she could never deny that she wanted it. And she knows Catra—would rather die than show weakness to anyone but Adora and even then, it’s debatable Catra —would never admit that she wants to believe in it all just a little. Just enough to be waiting for the perfect opportunity to ask, to make it impromptu but still somehow calculated, tailored to them and only them and not the party of friends and onlookers tugging their attentions every which way.
She opens her eyes and she doesn’t see the dark of the Fright Zone, the grey foreboding sky that once was there. She sees a sunset, an open sky—and something that looks like home.
“You got married ? Without us?”
If Adora wouldn’t kill her for it, Catra could laugh at how white her face is right now as Bow follows Adora back to the dining hall. Catra sits at the table eating lunch, abandoning the paperwork she had been skimming through to watch the shitshow in front of her.
“We were going to tell you guys!” Adora folds her arms across her chest as Bow slams the door shut. “We just didn’t want to make it a big thing.”
“ Marriage is a big thing, Adora!” Bow turns to Catra, narrowing his eyes. “You’re not off the hook, either.”
Catra throws her hands up in surrender. “Hey, I told Sparkles we’d tell you ourselves. It’s not my fault she snitched.”
“She’s my wife! She’s allowed to snitch to me!”
“Not when I specifically told her not to!”
“So you’re saying,” Bow says, “if I told you a huge secret, you wouldn’t go and tell Adora, like, immediately?”
“That’s—” Catra stops herself. “Okay, fine. Whatever.”
“Look,” Adora stands behind Catra, bracing her hands on her shoulders. “I’m sorry, Bow. We were going to tell you guys together, but Glimmer figured it out. We just...we wanted to celebrate with you guys, but…”
Adora falters, and Catra looks up to see her squinting, like she’s trying to parse through a thought. Catra sighs as she cuts in for her.
“When you guys got married it was a huge deal, and we wanted some more space,” Catra says. “She’s just too nice to tell you that.”
“Yeah,” Adora winces.
Bow’s eyes soften at that. He takes a seat next to Catra, clasping his hands and resting his elbows on the table as if about to negotiate a proposal to the Alliance. Catra snorts at the severity of it all.
“Alright,” Bow says. “How about this? You take some time and settle into the house, we plan something for you guys in...say, a month’s time. Nothing too big or too crazy. I promise.”
The month passes, the boxes of their belongings are unpacked slowly. They scout for furniture, Adora transforms into She-Ra to lift their bed and sofa and dresser and just about every unnecessarily heavy thing through the door. Catra thinks Adora just likes showing off. Adora argues that Catra enjoys it. Catra can’t argue back.
They stay mostly in Bright Moon as they unpack. So now, Catra sits in front of their obnoxiously large bathroom mirror as she lets Glimmer tug her hair back into a slick ponytail. Glimmer, as Catra could expect, is not gentle or merciful in the slightest. The entire process is brutal, and Catra makes a mental note to never agree to let Glimmer brush her hair ever again. Also, she thinks as she catches a glimpse of the fountain that’s not meant for showering in the corner of the room, that the bathroom in her and Adora’s house will be considerably less... princessy .
Glimmer yanks at a particularly large knot, and Catra jerks her head back. “Ow! Watch it!”
Glimmer does nothing more than groan in response. Catra rolls her eyes. “Do you think Bow is torturing Adora like this right now?”
“I think Adora owns a brush, so no.”
“How do you know we don’t share?” Catra asks, but her point is punctuated by her own “Ow!” as Glimmer rakes the brush through the underside of her hair. Glimmer raises her eyebrows.
A few more tugs of the brush and Glimmer deems herself satisfied. Catra can admit that it looks nice. Sleeker and smoother than Catra would usually go for, but the tips of her bangs still stick out to frame her face.
It’s dumb, really, how quickly the scowl on her face smooths out into a smile when she looks at herself dressed in white and black and gold and thinks about how Adora might look by her side. Adora is always— always —the brightest spot of any room she walks into; her smile, her laugh, the glint of moonlight against her golden hair, the fond look she reserves for Catra when she thinks no one else is watching them. It feels almost self-indulgent to imagine that reserved for her and only her.
She doesn’t notice when Glimmer says goodbye and slips out quietly behind her, and it feels like an apparition to see Adora appear in the mirror in her place. Catra blinks, and Adora is resting her chin on the crown of Catra’s head, both her hands braced against Catra’s shoulders. The solid weight against her is the only thing that proves to Catra that this is real and tangible and hers and not some elaborate dream.
Adora presses her lips to the top of Catra’s head, mumbles into the hair a “hey, Catra.”
Catra turns. Her breath hitches, which would be embarrassing if not for how strangely surreal it all feels. Her hands come to trace the golden lace at Adora’s waist, running a finger along the gold that crawls up to her shoulders, layered on top of ivory fabric. The collar is high, with a cutout on the chest. The gold bleeds into white as the dress reaches the floor.
She moves to pull Adora closer by the waist, but stops. The back is open; she wasn’t expecting that her fingers would trace old scars, the horizontal swipe of her claws sinking into her back aboard Horde Prime’s ship. She’s not affected by them anymore, really—she’s seen them hundreds of times by now—but it takes her by surprise all the same.
Adora must feel her hesitation, because she gently pries Catra’s hand to the small of her back, where the fabric covers.
Catra’s other hand comes to rest at the nape of Adora’s neck, careful not to ruin the braid that sits against her shoulder, pulling her close to bring their foreheads together. The metal of Adora’s diadem hits cold against Catra’s skin. “Hey, Adora.”
“Is it weird to be nervous?” Adora asks with a chuckle. “I shouldn’t be nervous. I mean, we’re already married.”
“You get nervous over everything. I’d be offended if you weren’t.”
“Mhm,” Adora hums as she takes Catra’s hand on her back and laces their fingers together. “I’m glad I didn’t disappoint.”
“You never disappoint.” Catra’s voice breaks there. There’s no trace of sarcasm, no edge or hint of banter to her words but only a scarcely-used sincerity that scrapes her insides raw, so genuine that it would frighten her if not for how steady Adora holds her gaze on Catra, how her fingers ghost the golden wing before her hand moves to cup Catra’s cheek.
“Bow says he and Glimmer will meet us outside when we’re ready,” Adora whispers.
“They can wait a little bit longer.”
Adora tips Catra’s chin forward and closes the distance between them. She slots their lips together, soft and slow and gentle. She pulls away to pepper kisses across Catra’s cheeks, her jaw, her forehead, the lids of her eyes, and Catra thinks that she could not possibly love Adora more if she tried, but she knows that’s not true. She’s thought that before. She’s thought it when Adora nursed her bleeding knuckles as teenagers after a training session; thought it as Adora stuttered back to life in her arms; thought it in quiet moments in their Bright Moon bedroom, when Adora would reach for Catra’s hand in her sleep and Catra would reach back every time. It keeps growing. It keeps expanding.
“I love you,” says Catra, and the words no longer feel foreign in her mouth like they once did, like she was admitting to something dangerous. It once felt like she was handing Adora a weapon and telling her to do what she will with it, whether it be point it at her chest or retire it.
“I love you too,” Adora says, and the words are not a weapon at all.
They dance, later.
Unlike on some handful of the planets they’d visited, a con to Etherian dancing is that for livelier songs the partners are constantly changing. Adora could complain, but she smiles as she watches as Catra and Scorpia take their turn together. Catra looks so free, so happy as Scorpia twirls her once, twice—maybe once more than Catra can stand, and Catra laughs as she tumbles off balance. Adora can’t hear, but she sees Catra’s defiant pout and can guess she’s griping about the low golden heels on the boots she’s wearing.
Adora lands Bow as her next partner. His hand meets hers as they circle one another. Adora looks upward, taking the opportunity to take in his handiwork.
Adora nods. “Just looking—you really did all this?”
“Well,” Bow says, “I had help.”
She had found it odd before that Bow and Glimmer waited outside Catra and Adora’s door to escort them to the party. Odder that they’d insisted on Glimmer teleporting to get there, when Adora had assumed ‘there’ only referred to the castle’s chamber hall. Odder still that they’d insisted Catra and Adora spend the night before the wedding in the castle and, in explicit terms, not at the house.
She expected a big ordeal. After all, it’s Bow and Glimmer, and Bow and Glimmer both operate in grand gestures. But now they dance in the nook of the woods they had carved out in front of their home, just them and their friends from across Etheria. No big crowds or acquaintances from off-planet to invite for social niceties. The bouquets and garlands that adorn the tables and chairs are no doubt Perfuma’s doing, the glittery canopy that hangs above them and the twinkling lights across the trees Glimmer’s. Frosta had carved some decorative ice sculpture that’s begun to melt under the heat of the lights. She’s sure if she really looked she could find bits where all her friends had contributed, but now she’s too overwhelmed to take stock of everything.
“Who’s playing music?” Adora asks as Bow twirls her. “”We don’t know any music people.”
Bow grins. “Sea Hawk does. I even think the guy on drums is an ex.”
“You mean, Sea Hawk set his ship on fire.”
“Eh, same thing.”
“Bow, are you gossiping with me,” Adora asks, “at my wedding?”
“You call it gossip, I call it gathering intel.” Bow lets go of her hands, and Adora frowns in surprise. It’s hardly the correct beat in the music to switch partners, but Bow’s head turns toward Catra, now standing expectantly behind him with her hands on her hips. Her tail swings back and forth behind her. “I’ll let you take it from here.”
Catra takes Bow’s place. She straightens her back and places one hand at Adora’s waist, and the other takes Adora’s hand. She leans her head against Adora’s shoulder, her face resting in the crook of Adora’s neck.
“You couldn’t have waited, like, thirty more seconds for the partners to change?”
Catra’s breath is warm against her neck. “It’s my wedding. People have to do what I want.”
Adora raises her eyebrows. “And what do you want now?”
“To dance with you, dummy,” Catra says. “You know, I think I prefer the dancing in Noveria.”
“Is that the planet with all the ice or the really hot one?”
“Ice,” Catra shrugs. “Their dance floor might be lethal, but at least they never make you change partners.”
Catra extends a hand for Adora to twirl. Catra usually leads; she likes to lead, and she’s by far the better dancer between the two, so Adora is happy to be strung along.
“What,” Adora smirks before she turns, ”you want me all to yourself?”
Catra pulls her back in. Adora half-expects a sarcastic quip, a ‘no, actually, I wish I could dance with Glimmer all night,’ or a ‘don’t get a big head, princess.’ Instead Catra pulls her a little tighter to her chest, arms locked around Adora’s front and says, “Yeah.”
They sway like that for a while. Catra must be standing on tiptoes to be able to rest her chin against Adora’s shoulder, but she doesn’t dare look, doesn’t dare do anything to distract from the moment.
“Netossa told me there’s a bottle of champagne waiting for us out back,” Catra says finally. “If you want.”
“Did she do that?”
“She said something about how ‘at her wedding, she wished they had a second to themselves to get away,’ or whatever,” Catra steps back, offering Adora her hand. She takes it. Adora smiles to herself as Catra leads her to the stable in the back of the house. Catra’s funny with Netossa; for all she wants to pretend she listens to none of her sage advice, Adora can tell she always finds a shred of truth to it. Not that Catra would ever admit that.
The stable is empty, a skeleton of what it’ll be when it’s ready to home Swift Wind. All that stands is the structure, a corral, and a wide bench, now dressed in satin cloth and nursing the aforementioned champagne.
They drink right from the bottle, Adora leaning against the stable wall and Catra with her back pressed against Adora’s body, talking about everything and nothing like they would on any normal day.
“They’ve been good to us. Bow, Glimmer. All of them,” says Catra at one point, and Adora knows she’s one or two drinks in by now. She could never stomach to admit something so genuine on her own.
“They have been.” Adora presses a kiss to the top of Catra’s head, then rests her cheek atop it. “We should do something to thank them.”
“Mhm,” Catra hums. “Should we get back soon?”
“I think they can all wait a little lo—”
Glimmer’s voice cuts through the air. She leads Bow into the stable by the hand and he rushes in, caught off balance from Glimmer’s tug on his arm.
“We were looking for you guys,” Glimmer says.
Adora sits up, and Catra yelps as she pulls her into her lap. Still, Catra extends the bottle to Bow and Glimmer.
“C’mon,” Catra offers, “sit with us.”
They sit and drink and talk, and Adora’s head is fuzzy—whether from the alcohol or from how long the day has been she isn’t sure. Despite everything that’s changed, despite the pin on Catra’s shirt or the earrings that Bow and Glimmer share, she still sees the reflection of kids huddled together in the main cabin of Mara’s ship, laughing as they share a dinner, welcoming Catra into their circle for the first time. She tightens the arm around Catra’s waist, holding her a bit closer at the thought of it.
“You know what this reminds me of?” Adora says. “Right after we beat Horde Prime, stealing cakes from the big party they threw in the castle and bringing them back to Glimmer’s room.”
“And wine,” Bow adds with a glint to his eye. “We did steal a lot of wine.”
“Oh come on, I’m the Queen ,” Glimmer drawls, and Adora can tell she’s maybe had enough to drink already. “It’s my castle. I didn’t steal .”
Catra adds, “And falling asleep on the floor because we were too lazy to move?”
“Because someone was scared of me teleporting us to the bed.”
“I was not scared!”
“I don’t know,” Adora chimes in with a mischievous grin, “you were a little scared.”
“Betrayed by my own wife,” Catra shakes her head. Something in Adora’s stomach flutters at how casually she says it. Wife . It’s still new. “I can’t believe it.”
“Too bad you’re stuck with me forever,” Adora pokes the wing on Catra’s chest.
Catra meets her eye. Her eyes still shine so bright each time she looks into them. It never gets old. It’ll never get old, Adora thinks.
Catra leans back, pressing herself against Adora and nestling her head beneath Adora’s chin.
“Yeah,” Catra says. “Too bad.”
They’ve begun staying in the house more and more, now that most of their furniture is in its place. It’s nice, Catra thinks. She’s never had time to dwell on whether or not she likes her privacy; she’s always lived with so many other people, first in the Horde and then around the bustling chaos of the castle, and she finds that she likes the quiet.
Adora wears her hair down a lot these days. Catra’s not sure why it’s that noteworthy, she’d begun wearing it down intermittently years ago, but it’s gotten longer, hanging low down her back and circling her shoulders like a curtain.
The first thing she feels when Adora wakes her is her hair tickling her shoulders. Catra blinks away the last remnants of sleep as she feels Adora’s grip on her shoulder tighten. She’s blinking up over Catra, the faint shiny scar from the Failsafe on Adora’s chest glinting back at her in the moonlight.
Catra blinks slowly. “You alright?”
“Yeah,” Adora says. Her eyes are bright, wide open; Catra can tell she hasn’t slept at all. “Want to take a walk with me? I can’t sleep.”
“Yeah,” Catra answers. She watches as Adora leans down to pick Catra’s pajamas off the floor and toss them to her, the lines raked across her back moving and stretching with the muscle of her shoulder blade. Catra can’t help but lean forward to touch them, drag her fingers along the raised tissue.
Adora looks back to offer her a small smile. The scars don’t hurt anymore, Catra knows. There’s nothing Adora blames her for, no uneasiness that lingers between them. It’s dumb; she has Adora memoriezed, could chart and draw every crevice of her, as easy as breathing. But still, sometimes Catra will envision Adora and forget the scars across her back or the swipe of her claws on her right thigh, only to have wind knocked from her lungs when the scars stare back at her.
She catches the scar against Adora’s leg as Adora wraps herself in a robe, smoothing down the blanket on her side of the bed as she rises. Catra isn’t as diligent. Her side of the bed remains unmade.
They walk in silence. Melog trails behind, their mane glowing blue and placid. Swift Wind sleeps in his stable.
Adora takes Catra’s hand, and Catra runs her thumb across Adora’s knuckles. She regrets not bringing a jacket—if she were younger, she would blame the way the hair on her arms is raised on goosebumps, on the still-newfound comfort of Adora holding her hand. But there has been years of holding hands, of walking in comfortable silence, of drinking in Adora in all her versions; Adora outside in the moonlight; Adora in the haze between sleep and consciousness, clinging to Catra before the morning finally beings; Adora making promises and vows that Catra knows she’ll keep. Adora in wartime. Adora in peace.
The forest is crisp and fresh, a spring blooming through the Whispering Woods.
“We should visit Scorpia and Perfuma soon,” Catra says. Her voice rings out across the woods.
“Perfuma says the spring is the best time to be in Plumeria,” Catra shrugs. “Something about the flowers.”
“You always do that.”
“Do that thing where you pretend you don’t remember exactly what Perfuma said about the flowers.” Adora gives her a knowing smile. She nudges Catra’s shoulder with her own.
Catra rolls her eyes, all in jest. “Fine,” she heaves a dramatic sigh. “She said they bloom in the spring. They’re very pretty, apparently, so she and Scorpia spend the spring in Plumeria.”
“Yeah,” Adora agrees, squeezing Catra’s hand. “We should visit. It’ll be nice. And we can have them visit in the summer. It’s too hot over there in the summer."
“Isn’t Princess Prom in the summer?”
Adora snorts. “We can visit more than once. We’ve got time.”
Adora walks a bit farther out, finds a small clearing out in front of them. She sits against the trunk of an oak, opening one side of her robe to offer to Catra as if it were a blanket. She accepts. She curls up against Adora’s side, and it feels like they’re young once again, huddled underneath a thin blanket on Adora’s bottom bunk, whispering between one another.
“You know,” Adora says. “I miss the castle sometimes. I mean, we’ve always got a room there, but still. It’s weird to be out on our own."
"What," Catra says, "getting cold feet?"
"Never." Adora laces their fingers together. "I like this, too. I like being with you. Wherever we are.”
“Sparkles can always teleport. She and Bow can come over any time,” Catra says.
“You know they’re talking about kids?” Adora shakes her head. “When did we all get so old?”
Catra shrugs against her. “Have you thought about it?”
“Someday. One, maybe two.” Adora turns to look at Catra. “Have you?”
“Yeah,” Catra says. She presses her lips to Adora’s shoulder, then rests her head atop it. She feels Adora’s hands card through her hair. “But not yet. I think we’ve still got a couple good years of being young and dumb left in us.”
Catra turns to Adora now; the stars cast their light on her, staining her golden hair with silver, freckling her cheeks. Adora always looks beautiful, but there’s something about the faint glow of the early morning that makes her look so bright, like she is made of something holy and precious that Catra has somehow, unbelievably, been deemed worthy of being privy to.
Everyone has access to Adora in the heart of the day, her cheeks pink from the first moon’s warmth and her eyes shining blue to match the sky. Everyone has seen She-Ra’s radiance, her elegance, the otherworldly glare that she casts. But Catra keeps this Adora a secret held clutched to her chest; the Adora who sits with her in the dead of night in front of four walls of their own creation, that points out constellations she’d seen in a book at George and Lance’s library, that dreams up a future full of “ somedays .”
Adora smiles at Catra now, and Catra thinks that everything she’s ever done—every hardship, ever triumph, every vicious defeat—was worth it if it led to this moment.
They sit in silence, staring up at the stars. Catra feels at home.