we never found the answer but we knew one thing
Hello, everyone! Another year, another a Big Bang, and I was lucky enough to take part in the She-Ra Big Bang 2021 hosted by @sherabigbang. Please be sure to head on over there to see all of the other amazing fics being posted and all of the artwork too. Everyone has worked so hard, and they’re all putting out some amazing content.
The amazing artwork done for my fic was done by @astrumumbrae, and it’s so good and angsty and fits the scene perfectly.
A quick note before finally getting into my fic, I’ve had to split it up into two chapters. The end of the semester and finals ended up getting the better of me, but I’m going to finish the second chapter as soon as I’m done with my papers and grades are in. But hey, ya gurl has a Master’s degree now, so there’s that.
Alright, onto the fic. Enjoy!
Read on AO3.
Chapter 1: like we’re a lost cause
They catch her off guard, jumping her in an alley despite her best effort to evade their scans, and she tries running, but a hand catches her ankle before she’s even able to think about the safest place to run.
Her only option is to fight, and even though she knows where to strike, she knows what to do, she also hasn’t eaten anything substantial in a week, and it’s starting to slow her down.
It’s a useless fight, but she fights nonetheless. There’s really nothing else she can do, even if she’s only one against a whole Horde.
The host that caught her ankle pulls, and she loses her footing, but she’s able to kick the hand away, the crunch of bones sounding in her ear as she fights to pull herself up, but just as she’s got her feet under her, she feels arms wrap around her chest and a host walks up to her and grabs her crowbar before she has a chance to use it.
The host feels familiar to her, like she knew the person long ago before the very existence of a person inside the body was wiped clean. Their eyes are blank, still colored, still a very human shade of brown, but their body moves robotically, like they aren’t thinking about what they’re doing.
Still, she finally recognizes him, a boy who was a friend of a friend in high school. He was awkward, weak, and kind of scrawny, and not much has changed despite the hard labor that hosts are put through without complaint.
“Hey, Kyle,” she rasps out, her voice so rough from weeks without use.
He doesn’t respond.
“Yeah, I knew you wouldn’t say anything,” she struggles a bit on the other host’s hold, but it’s a solid as can be, “None of you ever do.”
He walks closer to her, her crowbar held solidly in his hands. His posture, so hunched in high school, is straighter now, more confident, and he holds her crowbar like he knows how to use it.
She wonders how much of that is growing up and how much of it is the hold over him.
He’s not totally perfect, though. She watches his movements closely, and just as he brings the crowbar down, she gets just enough footing to twist the host holding her, leaving the implant at the base of the skull in the direct path of the hit.
She hears the electricity crackle as metal comes down on the implant, and the host holding her in place spasms and releases her, and she falls to the ground and quickly dodges as Kyle brings her crowbar down again.
She tries to get up, but Kyle is too fast, and he throws himself on her, and she grabs onto her crowbar to get some leverage, but the skinny, awkward kid she knew forever ago was gone, and all that is left is a husk of a person with immeasurable strength.
She hears the sound of footsteps, and when she takes a chance and looks around them, the other hosts in the Horde are circling around them. She’s still fighting Kyle, but the crowbar is creeping closer and closer to her throat, and any hope of overpowering him and running away is slipping away.
“This isn’t really how I imagined going out,” she says like a conversation, but her voice comes out strained through gritted teeth, “I’ve done some awful things since this all started, so it only makes sense I would die alone.”
Kyle doesn’t respond, and she feels the cool metal of the crowbar against her throat.
“I guess I’m not alone,” she grits out, air getting harder and harder to suck in, “You’re here with me, aren’t you, Kyle?”
Kyle’s eyes are blank.
She starts to see spots at the edge of her vision, and somewhere far, far away, she swears she hears someone say her name, but it must be the lack of oxygen.
Even if there was anyone here to save her, no one would.
Her vision fades, and the second before she is completely swallowed in black, she sees the hosts crumble around her, and the last thing her mind sees are soft blue eyes.
“Catra?” a voice asks, a voice so familiar to her that she’s sure it has to be a hallucination caused by lack of air.
She passes out before she can respond.
Catra wakes up suddenly, the nightmare still gripping its claws into her even though she’s no longer asleep.
She looks around herself frantically, trying to find something, anything, that she can clutch to herself for comfort, but they’re not given much here.
The top bunk has a pillow, a thin blanket, and scratchy sheets. She’s not allowed any of the stuffed animals she saw kids at school with, and the blanket is barely long enough to cover her body, let alone to clutch it close to her.
She hears shuffling from the bunk underneath her, and Adora pulls herself to peek over the bar.
“Are you okay?” Adora asks, her voice quiet enough not to wake up anyone else in the room.
Catra pushes away from Adora, her back pushing into the wall, and Adora’s eyes go wide.
“Sorry,” Adora says quickly, “I didn’t mean to scare you.” She pulls herself up into the bed and sits crossed-legged across from Catra, and she offers Catra her hand.
Catra tries and pulls her blanket around herself, hoping that if she disappears under the fabric, Adora will leave her alone, but there’s no movement, no indication that Adora gave up and went back to bed.
She pushes the fabric down under her eyes, and Adora is still there, her hand still held out to Catra, and she’s smiling.
“You sounded really scared,” Adora says, her hand dropping down to the bed but staying in the space between them, “I heard you whimpering from my bunk.”
Catra still doesn’t say anything, but she watches Adora closely.
She’s Mrs Weaver’s favorite, and Catra is sure that she can’t trust Adora, but Adora’s here and offering her comfort, and there’s no one else in this entire house that has ever even tried.
“If you’re scared, you can share my bunk with me,” Adora says easily, “I get lonely down there, and it would be warmer too.”
Catra is sure there’s some kind of catch. They’re not supposed to get out of their bunks at night, and Adora offering to share breaks at least five rules, but she doesn’t seem to mind. She’s looking at Catra with an openness Catra has never felt.
Her options are to take Adora’s offer or stay up the rest of the night for fear of falling asleep, so she grabs Adora’s hand.
“Okay,” Catra says, her voice small, and Adora’s smile gets so wide that Catra can see the gap left from the tooth Adora lost the other day while her and Lonnie were roughhousing.
“Come on,” Adora says excitedly while throwing her legs over the bar to get down, “I’ll keep you safe.”
Adora drops down first, and she climbs back up just enough to grab Catra’s pillow and blanket for her before making room for Catra to get down too.
Catra almost falls when her feet hit the floor, but Adora is quick to grab her before she makes enough noise to alert Mrs Weaver.
Adora gets in bed first, and she pushes herself up against the wall so that there’s plenty of room on her bed for Catra, and Catra climbs in hesitantly. She’s still not quite sure she can trust Adora, and she’s almost certain Mrs Weaver will find out, but it’s easy to forget all that as Adora moves Catra’s pillow a little closer to her own and snuggles up under her blanket.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Adora whispers.
Catra nods her head no and snuggles a little closer to Adora. She reasons that it’s cold in their room, and the blankets are thin, so it’s just for warmth, but Adora grabs her hand and Catra doesn’t move away.
“That’s okay,” Adora smiles sleepily, her blanket pulled up under her chin, “I’ll be right here anyway.”
“You promise?” Catra asks, and she starts to feel drowsy, the nightmare from earlier slowly forgotten.
“I promise,” Adora whispers right before they both start to drift off, “I’ll always be right here.”
Catra’s hazy as she wakes up, her head throbbing, and she can’t move or open her eyes.
There’s a quiet conversation going on beside her, and there’s that voice again, one she hasn’t heard for years, and she’s sure that she’s hallucinating. She doesn’t recognize the other voice, though, and she’s not cognizant enough to comprehend anything.
She can already feel herself drifting off again, and no matter how much she tries to fight it, she passes out again.
Catra closes her locker and turns to see Adora waiting for her, smiling wider than Catra has seen all day.
“You look insane,” Catra comments, adjusting her bag to sit more comfortable on her shoulders.
Adora rolls her eyes. “Hello, Adora,” she mimics Catra’s voice, her smile not wavering, “It’s so nice to see you after a long day of classes, Adora.”
Catra smirks, “You’re not really helping the insanity argument here, dummy.”
“Just ask me why I’m here.”
“We go to the same school and live at the same place. I figured you were here so we can go home.”
“Catra,” Adora whines, her smile finally faltering to help the effect.
“Fine, fine,” Catra sighs, “What are you doing standing at my locker, which is where you are every day after school in the off-season?”
“I’m so happy you asked,” Adora says happily, her smile coming back, and Catra fights back a matching smile, “Mrs Weaver won’t be home until after dinner tonight, and Lonnie agreed to do our chores for us today.”
“How did you manage that?” Catra asks, “Lonnie fucking hates me.”
Adora sighs, and Catra already knows what she’s going to say next.
“She doesn’t hate you, Catra,” Adora and Catra say at the same time, Adora’s voice exasperated and Catra’s high-pitched in an attempt to mimic Adora.
“She really doesn’t,” Adora adds on, “But that’s not the point. I promised Lonnie I would do her chores for the rest of the week, so, if Mrs Weaver is gone . . .” She trails off, waiting for Catra to finish the thought.
“We’re free until she gets back,” Catra says excitedly.
Adora nods, and Catra realizes now that she has her hands help behind her back, because she reveals what it is.
“Mrs Oakland let me loan out one of the cameras for you,” Adora says, offering Catra the camera, “I know you’ve been wanting to go to the cemetery to take some pictures, so I figured we’d use our afternoon of freedom to catch the bus and go.”
Catra takes the camera and holds it against her chest, trying her hardest to hold in her excitement, but the hallway has emptied enough that Catra doesn’t stop the smile from pulling at her lips.
“This is okay, I guess,” Catra says in pretend nonchalance.
“I know you’re excited,” Adora rolls her eyes and gestures around the empty hallway, “There’s not even anyone here to keep up the façade.”
“Come on, dummy,” Catra carefully puts the camera into her bag and then grabs Adora’s hand to pull her out of the school, “I want to savor every second we’re free.”
Later, after hours of walking around the cemetery across town and grabbing chocolate milkshakes from a place down the road, Catra and Adora make it back to their group home just minutes before Mrs Weaver, and even though Mrs Weaver seems suspicious, she has no proof that anything is off.
At bedtime, Mrs Weaver turns off the lights with her usual threats, and Catra waits until everyone else falls asleep before climbing down into Adora’s bunk, the camera held carefully in her hands.
They flip through the pictures until they’re too sleepy to keep scrolling, and Catra snuggles into Adora after setting the camera down on the floor.
“Today was a really good day,” Catra whispers as she starts to drift off.
“It was,” Adora agrees, “Someday, our lives will be even more days like today.”
“Yeah,” Adora says, pulling Catra closer, “I promise.”
Catra wakes up again to someone moving her onto a stretcher, and she’s sure that she’s been brought to one of the facilities set up to make more hosts.
She starts to fight the hands grabbing her, her mind too fuzzy and vision too blurry to see what’s happening. All she can think about is getting away.
A hand tries grabbing her wrist, and she pulls away violently, but another hand grabs her shoulder and shoves her down onto the stretcher. Straps hold her down and make fighting impossible, but she still pulls.
“Stop!” That voice shouts, the one so familiar to her, “You’re hurting her!”
“Adora?” Catra asks frantically, looking around herself for the hallucination.
She feels a pinch, and her vision clears just enough to see her hallucination pushing herself to the edge of the stretcher before it gets fuzzy again.
“You’re safe here, Catra,” her hallucination promises, “I’ll keep you safe.”
The last thing Catra sees before being engulfed in black is her hallucination grabbing her hand.
The sky darkens above them, and Catra looks up from the field expecting to see dark clouds rolling in, but there’s a ship covering the sky. Before Catra can think, she runs from the track to the soccer fields, looking around for Adora.
She finds Adora ushering her team inside, and when Catra calls her name, she nudges the last girl through the doors before meeting Catra at the fence.
“We need to get inside,” Adora says quickly.
“I don’t think getting inside is going to help.”
There’s a sound of pressure release, and Adora and Catra look up at the sky to see the ship stopping above the school, something spike-like coming out of it.
“What the fuck is going on?” Catra asks, and Adora doesn’t answer. She hops the fence, grabs Catra’s hand and runs into the building.
The other girls on the soccer team wait for Adora before running further into the school. Adora follows them without question, and Catra looks over her shoulder and sees the spike sinking into the turf of the soccer fields. She just barely sees doors opening before they turn the corner, and they keep running into the center of the school.
Adora stops them right before the cafeteria, and Catra sees other students start to fill in. Catra notices the theater kids first, still in costume from their dress rehearsal, and a few are still holding their props like some kind of safety blanket.
Then there’s the robotics team looking like a mix of excited and scared with the Quizbowl kids intermingling with them.
Catra sees the other members of the track team run in, and when their coach spots her among the soccer players, she waves Catra over.
“I’ll be right back,” Catra tells Adora, and Adora lets go of Catra’s hand like she just realized she’s still holding it.
“You know where I’ll be,” Adora says, and the easy smile seems forced, like she’s trying to pretend like she isn’t freaking out.
Catra gives her a forced smile before running back over to her team.
Her coach marks Catra off of her list, and the rest of her team pulls her into the conversation they’re already having.
“Did you see it?” one of the freshmen asks the group, but she’s looking right at Catra.
“Yeah,” Catra says, barely paying attention and looking over to see Adora talking to a few girls on the soccer team.
“What was it?” another girl asks, one of the other seniors, but Catra has stopped paying attention completely, wondering when she can get away and get back to Adora.
Someone grabs Catra’s wrist when she doesn’t respond, and she pulls away and pushes the girl back.
“Don’t touch me!” Catra yells, pulling her hand back to strike again, but she feels a hand grab her wrist and an arm around her waist.
“Hey,” Adora says gently, and Catra doesn’t know how Adora got over here so fast, but even with Adora holding her back, Catra still feels wired.
Her teammates help the other girl up, and she glares at Catra as she brushes herself off, and Catra tries lunging forward, but Adora strengthens her hold, and Catra’s stuck.
“Driluth!” her coach yells, putting herself between Catra and her teammate, “Now is not the time to be picking fights.”
“She fucking started it,” Catra growls.
“I was just trying to get her attention,” her teammate argues, but Coach puts a hand up to either of them to stop any other explanations.
“Grayskull, take her to go cool off,” Catra’s coach orders.
“Yes, Coach.” Adora drops her arm from Catra’s waist, but the hand around her wrist stays, and Adora pulls Catra off into one of the dark hallways away from teammates and theater kids and robotics nerds.
Catra pulls her hand from Adora’s grip and punches the wall, recoiling immediately from the pain.
“Why did you do that?” Adora asks, her voice exasperated, and she gently takes Catra’s hand in her own.
“What the fuck else am I supposed to do?” Catra asks, “Normally I run, but I can’t do that with whatever the hell is going on out there.”
Adora runs her thumb across Catra’s knuckles, and it’s enough to tamp down the last dregs of anger, frustration, and panic that Catra is feeling.
“Why did you shove her, Catra?” Adora asks, her eyes catching Catra’s while she waits for an answer.
“I—” Catra looks down and away, because she doesn’t really have a good answer. She can’t remember what was going through her head when her teammate grabbed her. Somewhere in the back of her mind, it felt like Mrs Weaver, and she shoved her teammate without thinking twice.
“I don’t really know,” Catra says softly, and then everything is too much. Between worrying about whatever is going on outside, keeping track of Adora, and whatever just happened between her and her teammate, she feels strung out, and she pulls her hand away from the comfort Adora is trying to give her.
“But thank you so much for coming to my rescue,” Catra says sarcastically, cradling her hand close to her chest.
“Catra, you were about to start a fight,” Adora tries moving back into her space, but Catra just backs away.
“And you just had to play the hero, didn’t you?” Catra sneers, and everything in her head is telling her to stop, telling her to just let Adora comfort her, but she pushes it so far back she can barely hear it anymore.
“It’s not like that—”
“Coming in at just the right time to save Catra from herself,” she cuts Adora off, her nails digging so hard into her skin that she’s sure she’s going to draw blood, “I mean, you’ve already made everyone think of you as my keeper.”
“That’s not what I’m trying to do,” Adora says, annoyed, “I’m just trying to help you.”
“Then stop helping!”
Suddenly, they hear something, and Adora looks into the nearest classroom to see that the TV has turned itself on, but there’s nothing but static.
Everything, the fight, Catra’s response, yelling at Adora, is forgotten as Catra looks behind them out to one of the doors of the building. She sees something very not human walk in front of the doors and station itself right outside, its back to them.
“Look,” Catra says quietly, grabbing Adora’s arm so that Adora will turn away from the staticky TV.
“What is it doing?”
“It looks like it’s guarding the doors,” Catra says, “There’s probably one on all of the entrances.”
“No way out,” Adora whispers, then grabs Catra and pulls her back to everyone else, “We need to let the others know.”
They get back to the cafeteria to see all of the TVs on and showing nothing but static, but suddenly, everything clears to a black screen and a robotic voice says, “Be calm. Do not leave.”
“Real comforting,” Catra whispers sarcastically.
The TVs play that message on repeat, that same robotic voice stating, “Be calm. Do not leave,” over and over and over again.
Catra looks around to see some of the other students pull out cell phones, but it looks like they aren’t working.
“Your phone?” Catra asks Adora.
“In my locker with my stuff. Yours?”
“Same,” Catra thinks on it for a second, then adds, “As if Weaver would pick up.”
“We’re trapped in the school, Catra,” Adora starts pulling at her ponytail, and Catra can see her breath start to pick up, “What are we supposed to do?”
“Hey,” Catra pulls Adora’s hands away from her hair, “Please, do not start freaking on me. We’re fine.”
“We are,” Catra agrees, “Freaking out isn’t going to help, though.”
“Then what am I supposed to do?”
Catra looks around them to see that most of the students are sat in groups, some of them talking, others looking one step away from breaking.
“Right now, we sit,” Catra says, pulling Adora to a wall and sitting her down, “We’ll try and figure out what’s going on after you calm down.”
“Catra, I’m scared,” Adora admits, and Catra’s surprised to hear her say it.
Adora’s not afraid of anything. Adora stands up to bullies and faces their rival teams with an easy confidence, and she comforts Catra with strong steady arms.
Catra isn’t used to being the one to offer comfort.
Still, even if she was mad at Adora just a few minutes ago, she’s going to fill that role if Adora needs it.
“So am I,” Catra admits softly, “There’s nothing we can do until we get more information, though, right?”
Adora nods, “Right.”
“Then, for right now, we wait,” Catra says, taking a seat next to Adora.
Catra wakes up slowly, her hearing coming back to her before she’s willing to open her eyes against the bright light she already knows is waiting for her.
She thinks she’s in one of the host facilities, that she’ll open her eyes to the clones standing over her, an implant ready to erase every part of who she is.
Maybe erasing it all is for the best, Catra thinks, twitching her hand a bit as feeling comes back, but when she twitches, she feels the warmth of a hand in her own.
It’s too comforting, too human, to be one of the hosts.
Then she hears whispers.
“Adora, you need to grab something to eat and get some rest,” a soft voice, low and comforting, says in the quiet of the room.
“Bow’s right,” another voice, soft and insistent, agrees, “You’ve been here since we found her.”
“I’m not leaving,” that voice, her voice, is closer than the other two, “Not until she wakes up.”
“We don’t know how long that will be,” the soft and insistent voice says, and Catra can hear some frustration in there too, “She hasn’t woken up since my mom administered the sedative.”
“I’m not letting her wake up alone,” her voice says, and it has that same determination that echoes in Catra like a lost memory.
The person with the soft, insistent voice groans, and Catra recognizes the feeling.
“We’ll bring you some food,” the low and comforting voice says, and then Catra hears a door open and click shut before silence fills the room.
The hand in her own squeezes, and as Catra starts to come back to herself, as every part of her starts to feel less groggy and more alert, she’s too afraid to open her eyes.
She’s still not convinced that this isn’t just a hallucination. She worries that she’ll wake up to see the girl she chose to let go, but it won’t be real. She’ll come face to face with the one person in the world she’s cared about more than herself, but everything will disappear like smoke, and Catra will still be alone.
There’s a sigh, and then Catra feels the bed shift just slightly.
“I’m right here,” her hallucination’s voice assures her, “And I’m not going anywhere.”
But you did, Catra wants to say, You already left.
She doesn’t say it out loud, though. There’s no point arguing with something that’s not really there.
Catra feels herself drifting off again, but unlike the last time, she can fight it, and she does.
She figures there’s no reason to delay the inevitable. Even if she refuses to wake up, they’ll make her a host anyway, and she won’t be Catra anymore. She’ll be just another blank-eyed worker for them.
When she opens her eyes, the overhead fluorescents are almost blinding, and she groans and closes her eyes quickly, her head trying to bury itself back into the pillow to block out the light.
“Catra?” More movement on the bed, and then Catra feels a hand against her cheek.
“Not real,” Catra rasps out to remind herself.
“What?” her hallucination asks, a gentle thumb running across Catra’s cheek.
“You’re not real,” Catra says a bit louder this time, and when she opens her eyes and they adjust to the light, Catra can’t believe she’s seeing her again.
Adora, her hair up and her blue eyes full of concern and worry.
Catra knows the look. She’s seen it a million times. Every time Mrs Weaver punished her, every time Adora held Catra while they tried to sleep, Catra saw that same look.
“What do you mean?” Adora’s brows pull together in confusion.
Catra reaches out and touches Adora, her fingertips running over the fabric of Adora’s shirt, and she thinks, for just a moment, that her hand might go through Adora completely, but she feels the soft fabric.
“You’re not real,” Catra whispers.
“I’m real, Catra,” Adora keeps running her thumb over Catra’s cheek, “I’m really here.”
“You’re—” Catra breathes out, her fingers fisting into Adora’s shirt. Despite the fact that she still isn’t totally sure, her previous hallucinations of Adora have never interacted with her, never touched her, never made her feel so safe.
“You’re real,” Catra says, a flood of different emotions filling her up, “How?”
“You must’ve been close to Bright Moon without realizing it,” Adora explains, “We were doing a supplies run, and I saw you fighting a group of hosts. I ended up running to help you before anyone could stop me.”
“There were, like, ten hosts.”
“I didn’t take them down myself,” Adora responds, “Bow and Glimmer ran after me, and everyone helped.”
Catra can almost imagine it, Adora seeing her and running without any real plan and no way to help either of them but doing it without a second thought.
Then she realizes something.
“I’m in Bright Moon then.”
“Uh,” Adora pulls her hand off of Catra’s cheek, “Yeah. You were unconscious, so medical brought you back.”
Catra gets flashes of waking up, of being restrained, of fighting because she didn’t know what else to do. She sees bandages on her wrists that she knows she didn’t get from fighting the hosts.
Catra releases Adora’s shirt and clutches the blanket instead.
“I, uh—” Adora gets up from her chair, and she trips over one of the legs before righting herself again, “I should go get Angella. She’ll want to know you’re up.”
Adora leaves, and Catra is left alone in whatever Bright Moon is using for medical. There are other beds in the room, none of them occupied, and Catra wonders for just a moment how often Bright Moon uses their medical, because just from this glimpse, she doesn’t think it’s very often.
Even though it’s bright, it’s quiet. There’s the ambient noise of electricity and the soft whir of machines, but otherwise, the only sound is Catra shifting in her bed and her heavy breaths.
The door opens again, and a tall woman enters the room, Adora and two people that Catra hazily recognizes following just behind.
The tall woman steps up to Catra’s bed and takes Adora seat.
“It’s nice to see you awake, Catra,” the woman says, and Catra notices that her voice is kind, if a little stern, and it raises every warning signal she has been able to ignore for years, “I’m Angella.”
“How long was I out?” Catra asks, trying to pay attention to the woman sitting next to her and not Adora a few feet behind
“Almost five days,” Angella answers, “Between the injuries and the sedatives, and given that you were dehydrated and malnourished, I’m surprised you weren’t out for longer.”
Catra doesn’t have anything to say to that, so she doesn’t say anything at all.
“Right, yes,” Angella stands, and Catra notices a stethoscope hanging around her neck, “If you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to do a few checks to make sure you’re alright.”
Catra looks past her again to Adora and the other two, and Angella follows her gaze and seems to have a moment of understanding.
“It does seem to be quite crowded in here,” Angella mutters to herself, though Catra thinks she’s also meant to hear it, then to Adora and the others, she says, “Out, please.”
The other two leave without issue, but just as Adora winds up to argue, Angella puts a hand up to stop her and says, “You can come back in after I’m done, Adora.”
Adora mumbles something under her breath, but even still, she gives Catra one last look before following the other two out the door.
“That’s better,” Angella says, turning back to Catra with a smile, and Catra knows it’s probably meant to be comforting, that asking Adora and the other two to leave is probably meant to be a kind act, but she doesn’t believe it.
It wouldn’t be the first time kindness was skillfully used against her, so she keeps her guard up.
Angella moves closer to Catra, and Catra’s fist grips tightly into the blanket, her body ready to run or fight.
Catra doesn’t expect Angella to notice, but she does, and she gives Catra as much space as she can.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” Angella assures Catra softly, taking the stethoscope from around her neck, “I can explain everything I’m doing if that would help.”
Catra’s not sure how much she’ll understand, but there’s some level of comfort in knowing what’s going on, so she nods, and Angella smiles.
Angella is efficient as she checks each of Catra’s injuries, the only conversation between them Angella’s explanation and the occasional question, whether it hurts to breath or talk, if the bandages around Catra’s wrists are too tight, rating pain on a scale of one to ten when Angella checks the bruises on Catra’ neck or the bruised rib Catra didn’t know she had.
The check-up is done within ten minutes, and as Angella wraps her stethoscope back around her neck, she says, “If you need anything, just let someone here know. We’ll try to help any way we can.”
“Can I ask for something?” Catra says with a little bit of hesitation.
“Of course,” Angella responds easily.
Catra takes a deep breath in and lets it out before saying, “I don’t want Adora in here.”
Angella looks surprised, and Catra wonders just how much Angella knows about her and whether Adora has talked about her at all. Angella doesn’t ask any questions though, and if she does know anything, she doesn’t give herself away. She just nods and says, “I’ll make sure she doesn’t come to see you.”
Catra doesn’t say thank you, and Angella gives Catra a look she can’t quite decipher before leaving.
The week following is lonely and quiet for the most part. Angella comes once a day to check up on her, and the only conversation between them are the questions Angella asks and the explanations she continues to give. Their appointments are short, and Angella doesn’t push despite obvious curiosity, and Catra only gives as much as she has to.
Someone else brings Catra’s food throughout the day, a tall girl with dark skin covered with freckles and flowers constantly woven into her hair. She tries talking to Catra, asking her questions and providing some things here and there about herself, but Catra never reciprocates. She just takes the food offered to her and says nothing, hoping the girl will leave when she realizes Catra’s disinterest, but she never does. She just fills the silence by telling Catra about her garden and her favorite tea and every opinion she has about the meal she brings.
On the sixth day, Angella opens the door as the tall girl is leaving, and the girl takes a moment to have a short, cheerful conversation before Angella ushers her out of the room.
Over the week, Catra has become a bit more comfortable with Angella, but even still, she can’t help her grip tightening into the blanket the closer Angella gets to her bed, and Angella stops about a foot from the edge just like she always does.
“How are you feeling today, Catra?” Angella asks, the first part of their usual routine.
“Fine,” Catra says, and unlike every other time, she actually means it. She’s still sore, but everything feels so much better, and she can’t complain about consistent and filling meals.
“Good,” Angella says, looking down at her clipboard and taking a seat, breaking the routine they’ve built up over the last week, and when she looks up, she says, “I’m going to do a final check-up, but unless I see any issues, we can discharge you today.”
“I can leave?”
“And you’re not going to stop me?”
“Bright Moon isn’t a prison,” Angella says, setting her clipboard aside so that her sole focus is on Catra, “I would prefer you stay here, at least until everything has healed completely, but if you want to go, we’ll give you what we can before you leave.”
Catra doesn’t believe her. She’s sure that they’re going to find another reason to get her to stay, to lock her within Bright Moon’s walls, and her mind is already building escape plans.
“So,” Angella stands, “Shall we?”
Catra’s mind wanders throughout the exam, already planning and thinking ahead, wondering which direction will get her away from Bright Moon the fastest and the best places to hide out where Bright Moon can’t find her. She’s so distracted that she barely registers the questions Angella asks her, answering with unfocused, one-word answers.
Catra expects Angella to find some reason to make her stay, but Angella doesn’t find anything worrying or out of the ordinary. She just clicks her pen closed before helping Catra out of the bed, waiting for Catra to slip on her boots, and leading her out of medical and into the poorly-lit hallway.
“Perfuma has your things,” Angella explains, directing Catra towards a desk in the corner, “She can walk you out to the gates whenever you’re ready.”
Perfuma waves at Catra from her desk, and Catra’s already sure that she’s going to be trapped in an unavoidable conversation on the way out.
Catra turns and sees Angella smiling at her.
“I know you don’t want to be here, and that Bright Moon has never been where you see yourself, but you should talk to her,” Angella says softly, and Catra wonders if this is what motherly advice is meant to sound like, as opposed to the slurred words and harsh jabs she grew up with, “She’s missed you.”
The advice is given like Angella knows what happened, like she knows who Catra is and the chasm that dug itself into her heart over the last three years.
“I miss her too,” Catra finds herself admitting, but she quickly shakes herself out of it, out of emotions that she can’t let herself feel, because if she feels them, she’s not going to leave, and she wants to leave.
No matter how much she wants to talk to Adora, she already knows how the conversation will go, and she’s not sure she’s strong enough to say no this time.
“I can’t.” Catra makes sure her voice holds finality, because she doesn’t want Angella to fight her on it, and Angella doesn’t.
Catra can tell that she doesn’t agree, but she understands, and she doesn’t push the subject further.
“Perfuma,” Angella calls down the hall, “Please bring Catra’s things.”
Catra’s surprised to see her backpack untouched, but even as Perfuma hands her bag back to her, she opens it to make sure she still has everything she came to Bright Moon with.
Everything is there and nothing is out of place.
She does notice that her crowbar is gone, probably lost in the fight, so the first thing she puts on her mental checklist is to find a new weapon.
“Nothing’s missing,” Catra comments, closing her bag back up.
“Of course not,” Angella says like it’s obvious, “These are your things. If you had chosen to stay, we would ask that you hand over any food you may have, but everything else is yours and no one else’s.”
There are a few moments of silence before Angella rips something from her clipboard and hands it to Perfuma. “Get Catra everything on this list and then take her to the gates.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Perfuma says with more energy than Catra can handle.
She runs off to get what’s on the list, and Angella lets out a sigh. Catra looks over at her to see a tiredness she’s never noticed before. It sweeps over Angella in a wave before she squares her shoulders, checks her clipboard, and turns to Catra.
“I need to go, so it’ll just be you and Perfuma.”
Catra rolls her eyes and puts on her backpack. “I can’t wait.”
Angella smiles, and it’s the kind of smile Catra isn’t used to getting. It has a small amount of fondness and exasperation but still kind. It’s the type of smile that a mother might give before softly chastising, and Catra doesn’t let herself get comfortable with it.
“She’s excitable, but she knows what she’s doing,” Angella says, and she reaches a hand out before stopping just short of Catra’s shoulder and pulling her hand back. “Safe travels, Catra.”
Angella leaves before Catra can say anything, but Catra doesn’t even know what she’s supposed to say. She knows, “Thank you,” would be what most people say, and it would cover a lot, but Catra has never been good at saying, “Thank you,” and it never comes off as genuine from her.
Perfuma returns just after Angella left, and she hands a package to Catra. “It’s medicine,” she explains, “Angella included instructions on when to take it and how often.”
Catra nods and puts it into her bag.
“We can stop by the cafeteria if you’d like provisions too,” Perfuma offers.
Catra almost says yes, because food would mean more time before she has to stop, but she doesn’t want to walk through more of Bright Moon than she has to. She’s sure that if she follows Perfuma to the cafeteria, somehow Adora will be there, and she’ll have to confront the fact that she hasn’t allowed Adora anywhere near her, and she’s leaving before Adora gets a chance to convince her to stay.
“I’m good,” Catra says, “Let’s just get to the gate.”
Perfuma leads Catra out of the medical building, and Catra gets her first real view of Bright Moon.
They’re deep in a cave system, but the lights placed overhead mirror the sun, and even though it doesn’t feel completely natural, it’s enough to make the cave feel a little less dark and damp.
Even still, it feels like this place has been untouched. People move around Catra and Perfuma on their way to wherever they’re going, and they’re laughing and joking, talking openly without worrying about being found. It’s like none of them are worried or even aware of what life is like outside of Bright Moon’s gates. They’re more than happy to exist hidden away.
There’s no fear, no worry, no constant looking over shoulders to make sure they haven’t been spotted.
Catra can almost see the appeal of living here now that she’s seen more of the city, but she doesn’t let that change her decision.
They leave the city center, and the happy, talkative people thin out to soldiers stationed along the way to the gate, and when one stops them to ask their purpose there, Catra hears her name shouted from a distance, and she turns to see Adora running towards them.
It's unavoidable. Catra can’t get away, and none of the soldiers are stopping her, so Adora runs right up to her, breathing heavily and obviously angry.
“You were just going to leave?” Adora asks, pushing into Catra’s space.
“Did you really think I was going to stay?”
Adora’s eyes go wide, like she’s surprised and hurt, but it quickly dissolves into anger, and Adora shoves Catra, causing Catra to trip over herself and fall, Adora falling onto her and pining her to the coarse rock floor.
“I can’t believe you,” Adora says, shifting her weight to stop Catra from fighting and grabbing Catra’s wrist when Catra tries to shove her off.
“Just because you found me and brought me here doesn’t mean I’m going to stay,” Catra forces out through gritted teeth, “I didn’t want to blindly follow you here three years ago, and I won’t stay here now.”
“You could be safe here!”
Catra remembers Adora saying the same thing three years ago, her voice so earnest and hopeful, and it’s fuel on the fire of Catra’s anger.
“I don’t care!” Catra yells, finally getting enough leverage to flip them, “I don’t want to live in the place you left me for!”
One of the soldiers pulls Catra off of Adora, another keeping a hand on Adora’s shoulder when she gets up, and Adora looks at Catra like Catra reached into her chest and ripped out her still-beating heart.
Catra knows the look well.
It’s the exact look she had when Adora chose to leave her for Bright Moon three years ago.
“Why can’t you just stay?” Adora asks, her voice pained and everything part of her looking like the only thing keeping her from reaching out to Catra is the soldier’s hand holding her back.
“Because you didn’t.” Catra fights her way out of the soldier’s hold and walks past Perfuma to Bright Moon’s gate.
She doesn’t look back.
She doesn’t falter when Adora calls after her.
She doesn’t stop until she sees the sun.
They think they’ve found somewhere relatively untouched. The town isn’t much bigger than the one they grew up in, and it’s completely empty.
It’s the perfect place to set up camp for a few days, and Catra and Adora are able to replenish their food supply and just rest.
On one day, they make their way through an old sports supply store, each of them trying to find something new to protect themselves with since they lost their old weapons in a fight a week before.
Adora finds a sword, and even though Catra pokes fun at her, asking how she’s supposed to protect herself with it, Adora doesn’t care. She grabs the sheath and straps it across her back and helps Catra find a new baseball bat to replace her old one.
They move their camp among the different shops, and this night they decide to hide themselves back in the sports shop’s storage, Catra sleeping while Adora stays awake to keep watch.
Everything is quiet until it’s not.
Catra wakes up to Adora shaking her shoulder, and the two pack up as fast as they can before Adora leads them deeper into the building and out the back door.
Sirens fill the night’s quiet, and Catra knows what it means.
The drones have found someone, and now they’re on high alert for other humans in the area.
Every building will be searched, every hole checked, and whoever has already been caught will either be deemed fit enough to become a host or killed.
Just as they’re about to step out onto the street, Adora pushes Catra back against the brick wall of the building, the drone’s green sensor just barely missing them, and they get a good look at the people who got caught.
It’s a girl about their age with fading purple hair and a boy clutching onto her for dear life, and they’re looking around themselves hopeless and afraid.
Catra wants to keep going, wants to get out of the city limits as soon as they can, but she can see Adora’s decision before Adora says anything.
“No,” Catra whispers, grabbing Adora’s arm to keep her in place, “Adora, it’s a suicide mission.”
“I can’t just leave them out there,” Adora doesn’t look back at Catra as she says it.
“They’re not our responsibility.”
“Yes, they are,” Adora insists.
Catra groans, because she knows there’s nothing she can say that’ll convince Adora to leave. She already knows she’s doomed to help, because there’s also no way she’s leaving Adora alone to do something inevitably idiotic, so she’s trapped in whatever dumb plan Adora is going to come up with.
“Fine.” Catra looks over her shoulder and does a quick count of everything they’re up against.
It’s not a big town, so there aren’t that many drones or hosts, and as far as Catra can see, there aren’t any sentries, which puts them at an advantage.
“We’ll need to take out the drones first,” Catra says, grabbing Adora’s wrist and leading her back through the alleys in the direction that the drone was heading, “If we get them from behind and kill them fast, then they won’t have time to alert the hosts that we’re here.”
“I like that advantage,” Adora says, and Catra looks over her shoulder to see a smile.
“At least the drones won’t put up a fight.”
They find another alley that leads out onto the street, and duck out of the way when the drone they are following turns to scan the alley before moving on.
“I’ll get this one,” Adora says and starts down the alley before Catra can say anything, and Catra feels a twinge of annoyance, but she buries it for now.
It doesn’t take long for Catra to hear a soft crash and the sound of electricity sputtering out before Adora comes back to where she’s crouched down.
“One down then.”
Adora nods. “How many hosts did you count?”
“There’s probably more around,” Catra thinks for a moment, thinking of the size of the town and how far the drones and hosts would go to find more organic life, “I can’t imagine there’s more than fifteen hosts altogether, which means there will probably be two other drones.”
They head back to where they know the two others are being held, and Catra notices that the alley they stopped at opens up to the town’s center.
The hosts are still holding their position, and the girl and boy look like they’re getting more and more desperate.
“How likely is it that the other hosts and drones will come back before we can take these five out?” Adora asks, her sword already unsheathed and ready.
“I don’t know. How big is your ego today?”
Adora rolls her eyes and bumps their shoulders. “No need to be a jerk.”
Catra smirks and says, “So long as we aim for the chips, I think we can manage it.”
“No point in wasting time then.”
Adora finds a rock to throw that pulls the hosts’ attention away from them, and when the hosts turn, Catra and Adora take them out as quickly as possible.
They work together easily, Catra moving and dodging to bring the hosts’ chips where Adora can smash the handle of the sword into it, and as the last host falls to the ground, the chip flickering and sending spasms through them, Catra grabs the girl’s wrist and Adora grabs the boy, and they run.
They run until they hit the town limits and then keep running until they see a small patch of woods that they can hide in.
Catra releases the girl and takes a deep, relieved breath. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Adora collapses to the leaf-covered ground, her face red from all of the running.
“You’re getting slow,” Catra comments, her breaths still coming out ragged.
Adora flails her arm in Catra’s direction. “Bite me,” she says, her voice coming out weak, and Catra laughs at her.
Just as Catra’s about to continue making fun of Adora, she hears the girl groan and collapse against a tree, the boy rushing over to make sure she’s okay, but Catra can see that he isn’t much better.
“You’re welcome,” Catra says before she can stop herself, her voice coming out sarcastic.
The girl looks up and glares at her, but Catra just smirks back.
“Thank you,” the boy says, his voice soft and kind, “We don’t know what we would’ve done if you hadn’t done that.”
“You seem to be in good enough shape, so it looks like being a host would’ve been in your future.”
“Catra,” Adora says, her voice like a warning, and Catra hears what Adora isn’t going to say out loud.
Be nice. Behave yourself. Don’t say something like that.
Adora picks herself off the ground and brushes herself off before coming up beside Catra.
“Sorry,” Adora apologizes for Catra, and Catra just scoffs and turns away, “I would say that she’s not usually like this, but she is.”
That little spark of annoyance comes back like a fire, and Catra has a thousand things to say on the tip of her tongue, but Adora continues without even noticing Catra’s quick change in mood.
“I’m Adora, and this is Catra,” she introduces.
“I’m Bow,” the boy says with a smile, “This is Glimmer.”
“Are you two alone out here?” Glimmer asks, finally catching her breath enough to pull herself up, but she’s still leaning pretty heavily on the tree.
“Uh, yeah,” Adora looks between Catra and the other two, confusion pushing her eyebrows together, “It’s just been me and Catra since the first wave.”
“You guys have been on your own for a year?” Bow asks, the disbelief in his voice matching the pity in his eyes.
“It’s not like there are many humans to buddy up with,” Catra grumbles.
“You guys are the first unchipped people we’ve seen for weeks,” Adora adds.
Bow looks like he’s about to say something, but Glimmer cuts him off with a quick, “No.”
“Oh, come on,” Bow says, gesturing between Catra and Adora, “They just saved us.”
“That doesn’t mean anything,” Glimmer insists, crossing her arms and presenting a strong front that Catra finds almost laughable given her height and the overall softness she gives off.
Catra and Adora look at each other, each of them trying to figure out what the two are even talking about.
“But they’re alone!” Bow’s voice is on the shriller side, and if they hadn’t run so deep into the woods, Catra would’ve been quick to quiet him down before he shows the drones and hosts who are probably still looking for them exactly where they’re hiding.
Bow gives Glimmer some fairly impressive puppy eyes, and Catra expects Glimmer to break easily, but Glimmer doesn’t falter.
“Angella would tell us to offer them a place,” Bow says quickly, and Catra isn’t sure what part of that sentence finally broke Glimmer, but Glimmer lets out a loud groan and covers her face.
“I wouldn’t have had to say it if you would’ve just let me ask.”
“Excuse me,” Catra cuts in, finally tired of listening to their back and forth about whatever it is they’re talking about, “What the fuck is going on?”
“Glimmer and I are from a community called Bright Moon,” Bow gets out before Glimmer can stop him, “It’s in a nearby cave system, and we’re completely hidden away from the drones, sentries, and hosts.”
“If you guys have that community, what are you doing out here?” Adora asks, and Catra’s curious to know the answer too.
Bow turns to Glimmer. “Yeah, why are we outside the gates?” For once, Catra sees a little bit of annoyance cross Bow’s features, and Glimmer falters a bit under his look.
“It’s not important,” Glimmer says quickly, but Catra knows that it’s a lie.
No one in their right mind would risk capture when they have somewhere perfectly safe to stay.
Despite the lie, Catra doesn’t force Glimmer into saying whatever reason she is trying to hide. Instead, she says, “I’m assuming you want us to help you get back, seeing as you don’t seem to have any weapons or supplies.”
“Please,” Bow says with relief clear in his voice, “And when we get back to Bright Moon, you two can join us there.”
“No,” Catra is quick to say.
“Catra—” Adora turns on her, but Catra doesn’t let her continue.
“We don’t need your charity,” Catra hisses out.
Adora grabs her arm, and after saying a quick, “Give us a sec,” she pulls Catra deeper into the woods, away from Bow and Glimmer and offers of safety.
Catra pulls her arm out of Adora’s grip and shoves her away, and Adora has to catch herself on a tree to stop from slamming into it.
“They just want us to help them back to their community, Catra,” Adora says, annoyance seeping into her words, and Catra lets every bit of it fuel her anger.
“No, they don’t,” Catra counters, “You heard them. They want us to join their community too.”
“Would that really be that awful?”
“Yes!” Catra insists, “Adora, we don’t know anything about them or what they want from us. How are you so willing to trust them?”
“You’re right,” Adora says, and Catra is taken back, because she wasn’t expecting Adora to actually listen to her, “We don’t know anything about them or where they’re from, but we do know that they were helpless and now they want help getting back, so let’s help them back, okay?”
“That’s it?” Catra is hesitant, because it’s usually harder to get Adora to agree with her.
“That’s it,” Adora agrees, “As far as we know, they don’t have any weapons and are alone, so we have nothing to fear in helping them back.”
“Unless we get ambushed by whoever is in charge of their community,” Catra says, her voice coming out sharp despite the fact that her anger and annoyance is starting to fade.
“Please,” Adora scoffs, “We’ve lasted this long. I’m not afraid of some people hiding out in a cave.”
Adora smirks, and Catra mirrors it.
“If we get cornered, I grab the girl, you grab the boy?” Catra jokes, crossing her arms.
“I thought it would just be grab whichever is closest,” Adora says, “Although now that I think about it, you might be too short to effectively take Bow hostage.”
Catra glares. “I’m going to smother you in your sleep.”
Adora smiles, wide and cocky. “No, you won’t.”
“I am not that much shorter than you,” Catra walks past Adora, clipping Adora’s shoulder with her own, “And I don’t need you to survive.”
“Yes, I know. You’re totally fine all on your own.”
Adora follows her, and Catra lets her catch up before putting a foot out to trip Adora, and as Adora falls to the leaves and dirt, she grabs onto Catra’s wrist and brings her down too. Catra fights, but Adora has always been stronger, and she’s pinned to the ground, a branch poking uncomfortably into her back.
Catra pushes the heel of her hand into Adora’s cheek and says, “Get off of me, you dumb jock!”
“What?” Adora pulls Catra’s hair, “Can’t finish what you started?”
They hear rustling, and Catra looks up to see the boy and girl looking down on them, the girl looking unimpressed and the boy looking amused.
“Glad to know you’re not dead,” the girl says, “Just trying to kill each other, apparently.”
Adora gets off of Catra and stands before offering a hand that Catra ignores.
“I wouldn’t be so rude to the people who have decided to help you back,” Catra says dryly, brushing leaves and dirt from her clothes.
“Really?” Bow asks excitedly, looking between Catra and Adora, and Adora nods with a smile.
“Thank you!” Bow pulls Glimmer and Adora into a hug, and he would’ve pulled Catra in too, but she ducks at the last moment, his arm barely skimming over her head.
They decide to stay in this patch of woods for the night, partly because they’re all tired after running from the city, but they also want to be sure that the hosts and drones in the town have lost their trail.
Catra takes first watch, and she holds her bat close, her eyes flicking from the trees to the strangers asleep against each other and down to where Adora is sprawled out beside her.
Even though Adora convinced her to help the others back to their community, Catra still doesn’t trust them, and she watches them as much as the trees until it’s time for her to wake Adora up, and even then she pushes her back against Adora’s leg to sleep, every noise and movement waking her up throughout the night.
Catra stays vigilant as they start their journey. They use the map that Adora keeps on her to plan the trip, and as Bow and Glimmer start to recognize landmarks as they get closer to Bright Moon, their excitement gets harder to mask. They start telling Catra and Adora stories about their community, and even though Catra isn’t interested, Adora hangs onto their every word and asks questions to hear more.
Bright Moon sounds perfect, but that just makes Catra more suspicious than before. No place that perfect can exist now, so hidden away that they can have working technology but still stay hidden from the hosts and the drones. Catra’s sure that there’s something sketchy going on, and she’s sure Adora sees it too.
She has to. There’s no way Adora could be so sucked in so quickly.
When they see the gates that close the cave from the rest of the world, Bow pulls Glimmer into an excited hug. Soldiers meet them outside the gates, their guns raised, but when they recognize Bow and Glimmer, they put them away, but they watch Catra and Adora closely.
One of them makes a comment that Glimmer’s mother wants to see her as soon as possible, and Bow and Glimmer are hurried inside.
They raise their guns again when Adora moves to follow them, but Bow explains. He tells the soldier that Catra and Adora saved them, that they helped them get back to Bright Moon, and when the soldier lowers his gun, Bow says, “You should come in and see the place. We’ll give you a meal and a place to sleep for the night.”
Adora says yes before Catra can protest, and even though Catra glares at her, she grabs Catra in a headlock and says, “It’s free food and a bed for the night. I’m not saying no.”
They’re not allowed too far into Bright Moon. Bow explains that everyone who comes in has to leave weapons and supplies, and for those who aren’t staying indefinitely, there are beds set up right outside of the barracks surrounding the gate.
Catra watches the soldiers closely while Bow talks, her eyes following machine guns and her senses tuned into the hard fall of combat boots.
Everything feels off. The soldiers, how they were let in so easily just because Bow and Glimmer vouched for them, the gate that traps them all in.
She doesn’t feel right here, and she’s sure Adora feels it too. She knows Adora has to be having the same thoughts, the same wariness.
Bow brings them dinner in a tent that’s been deemed theirs, and Glimmer comes shortly after, complaining about her mother and the punishment she received for leaving Bright Moon.
Catra barely eats even though she’s starving, and she doesn’t join in the conversation even though Adora does.
She’s just being nice, Catra thinks, watching Adora laugh at something Bow says, She doesn’t want them to know we’re suspicious of them.
Finally, Bow and Glimmer leave, and Adora and Catra are left alone for the first time since they pulled Bow and Glimmer out of that town.
It’s silent at first, and unlike their usual comfortable silences, this one feels heavy, like both of them have something to say but neither of them knows how to say it.
Catra unrolls her sleeping bag and turns, quickly saying, “I don’t like it here,” at the same time Adora says, “We should stay.”
It takes a moment for Adora’s word to register in Catra’s mind, but when they finally click, she can’t believe what she’s hearing.
“What?” Catra asks, hoping that she just misheard.
“I think we should stay here,” Adora says.
“Are you insane?”
Adora laughs, but Catra isn’t joking.
“Come on, Catra,” Adora says lightly, “You heard Bow and Glimmer. It’s safe here.”
“I don’t trust it,” Catra says, “They talked about this place like it’s some safe haven when everything outside is hell, and it can’t be. There has to be something wrong with this place.”
“Not everything has to be too good to be true,” Adora takes a step towards Catra, and Catra takes a step back, “Maybe Bright Moon is exactly what it says it is.”
“And maybe you’re just being dumb.”
Adora sighs. “Catra—”
“I thought you felt it too,” Catra cuts her off, “I thought you saw past whatever sparkles and rainbows they were presenting Bright Moon as.”
“I’m just—” Adora doesn’t finish her thought.
“Tired, Catra,” Adora says softly, “I’m tired. We’ve been running since we escaped the high school, and I just don’t want to run anymore. Aren’t you tired of running?”
Catra is. She’s so tired of running and hiding and wondering if she’s going to get captured, but that’s just what life is now. Life is constant fear and watching her back, but at least this kind of fear is constant. It’s understandable.
It’s so much different than the fear and suspicion she felt every day in that house with Mrs. Weaver.
“I don’t want to stay here,” Catra insists instead of answering Adora’s question.
“We could be safe here in Bright Moon, Catra,” Adora grabs Catra hand and squeezes, and Catra thinks that it isn’t as comforting as it usually is, “We wouldn’t have to be constantly on the run anymore.”
“Adora, come on,” Catra’s sure that she can get through to Adora if she just reminds Adora of their promise, “We don’t need them to be safe. We have each other.”
“We would still have each other here.”
Catra pulls her hand from Adora’s. “You’re really going to stay?”
She tries not to think about how small her voice is, how desperate she is to hear Adora tell her that she was just kidding before, that of course she isn’t going to stay in Bright Moon.
Adora nods, and Catra feels her heart splinter.
“I’m staying, Catra,” Adora says, the splinters in Catra’s heart cracking and breaking, “And you could stay too.”
As Adora tries to come towards her, Catra shoves her away, and Adora loses her footing and trips over her sleeping bag, falling onto it with a soft groan.
“Catra—” Adora’s voice is sad, and Catra can’t look at her.
Instead, she grabs her backpack and runs, the last thing she hears is Adora shouting her name as she pushes past soldiers and leaves Bright Moon’s gates.
The soldier holding her back releases her, and Adora sinks to the ground.
Catra’s gone, having disappeared into the only natural light that spills into the cave’s opening. She didn’t even look back as she passed through the gate.
Adora hear talking around her, but she can’t focus. Everything is too loud and far too quiet, and her mind keeps replaying Catra leaving over and over and over again, her silhouette black against the sun outside.
Arms fall around her shoulders in something like comfort, and she looks up to see Bow with a sad smile, and tears burn the back of Adora’s eyes.
Everything about this opens old wounds that Adora sewed shut years ago. She feels the same heartbreak, the same anger, the same sadness. Her mind is reeling with a million different ways to get Catra to stay, and a part of her is whispering Go after her, but she knows she can’t.
Catra made her choice. Catra left again.
Adora chose Bright Moon.
No matter what Adora says or does, Catra will never stay.
Glimmer sits beside her, her head tilting to lean against Adora’s shoulder, and Adora chooses comfort, relaxing against Bow and resting her head on Glimmer’s.
They don’t speak.
They don’t need to.
The guards watch them until a command has them scurrying back to their posts, and Angella stands a few feet from the group, watching Glimmer and Bow try to mend some of the pieces, but Angella knows that there’s only so much they can do.
Tears start to spill over, and Adora doesn’t even bother to wipe them away before burying her head in her knees and letting out a sob.
It hurts. The breath shakily entering her lungs feels almost bruising, and the sobs scratching through her throat leave it ripped up, but somehow, it hurts less than everything else.
Every thought tells her that she should’ve done more to get Catra to stay.
That she should’ve done more three years ago.
They flood her and spill over onto the dust and dirt and rocks of Bright Moon’s cave.
Finally, when the sobs quiet down to whimpers and the thoughts go from screams to whispers, Adora lets herself be pulled from the ground, and when she looks up, she expects it to be Bow or Glimmer standing in front of her, but it’s Angella.
“You let her go,” Adora says, her voice cracked and soft.
“It’s what she wanted,” Angella replies, and even though she maintains her stance as leader, she breaks it for a moment to rub tears from Adora’s cheeks.
“Why did she leave again?”
Adora doesn’t mean to ask it. She means for it to remain a thought, but emotional exhaustion pushes it from her head to her voice, and she asks it without meaning to.
Angella smiles, and it’s soft and sad around the edges. “I don’t think she wanted to,” Angella whispers, and despite wanting to push the stray strands of hair back behind Adora’s ear, she just rests a hand on Adora’s shoulder again.
Adora doesn’t understand Angella’s words. She doesn’t get how Catra could want to stay and still go.
“Bow, Glimmer,” Angella says over Adora’s head, “Get Adora back to her room?”
Then her best friends are at her side, Bow holding her close and Glimmer grabbing her hand, and they guide her away from the cave opening and the ghost of Catra leaving and the confusion Angella’s words caused.
It’s been three days stuck in the high school, three days with no information and nothing from outside.
Hours after the sentries took their places, the athletes and theater kids snuck back to the locker and dressing rooms to change out of costumes and uniforms and grab their phones in the hopes that they might’ve missed texts or calls from parents or siblings.
There was no connection. No texts.
They still have electricity and running water, but the televisions just keep repeating, “Be calm. Do not leave,” and the few radios they could find just played static.
In the middle of the night, as all of the other students try sleeping on whatever soft things they found when looking through the classrooms, Catra stays awake, sitting close to Adora with her back to a wall.
Down the hallway, she can see the doors that lead out to one of the courtyards and it is completely covered.
A sentry is stationed on each door, never moving.
She figures they don’t have to, since they don’t exactly look human. They don’t move; they don’t even twitch.
“Hey.” Catra feels a hand wrap around her wrist, and she’s so focused on watching the sentries that she pulls away, but Adora holds on, her grip warm.
“You should sleep,” Adora says as she sits up.
“I don’t understand how you and all of these other idiots can,” Catra whispers, looking around at all of the other high schoolers asleep around them, the teachers and coaches looking like they fell asleep while keeping watch.
“You haven’t slept since this started, Catra,” Adora tries reasoning, and she tugs at Catra gently.
Catra lets herself be tugged, lets Adora pull her so that Catra’s leaning into her, but she doesn’t stop watching the sentries.
Adora follows Catra’s line of sight. “They still haven’t moved?”
Catra nods her head no.
“I wonder why they’re here,” Adora thinks out loud.
“Nothing good,” Catra whispers, feeling herself start to slump against Adora, her eyes slipping closed.
Until she sees one of them move.
She pulls away from Adora as the sentries turn to one another, and Catra finally gets a better look at them.
They’re more robotic than anything, one of their arms ending in some sort of gun that looks like it came right out of one of Rogelio’s Sci-Fi novels.
“We need to—” Adora says, but she’s cut off as the sentries turn in unison and begin firing.
Catra tackles Adora, covering Adora’s body with her own and using the force to push them back and out of the way of green blasts.
“We need to get out of here!” Catra looks up and immediately takes cover again as a green blast soars right over her head and explodes into the wall, covering them in dust.
“We can’t leave everyone else behind!”
Catra wants to argue, wants to tell Adora that it’s useless, but there’s no time. One second of arguing could get them dead.
“Fine,” Catra pulls herself up and drags Adora up too, “You take that side, I’ve got this one.”
Just as Catra says it, a few sentries appear in the cafeteria, their blasters pointed at the students. Catra looks behind her to see the two sentries that were guarding the courtyard coming up behind her and Adora, and she shoves Adora down a hallway she knows leads further into the school and away from any doors.
“Catra—” Adora tries to turn around, but Catra catches her.
“We’re outnumbered,” Catra says simply, “It’s a useless fight that’s just going to get us killed.”
“We can’t just leave them to die.”
The sentries that were behind them haven’t turned down the hallway yet, and Catra is quick to shove Adora into one of the classrooms, following quickly and closing the door before anyone or anything could see where they went.
The TV in the room changes messages. The robotic voice repeating, “Be calm. Do not leave,” stops, and there’s just a red screen with the word, “Submit,” across it.
A green beam shines through the small window in the door, and Catra pushes Adora into the corner of the room, just barely making it out of the beam’s way in time.
It goes away and comes back before going away completely, and Catra waits a moment before saying, “We’re no good to anyone if we’re with that group. There’s no way they’re going to escape that ambush.”
“So how do we help them?”
We don’t, Catra thinks, standing up and going to the door to try and see what’s happening.
As far as she can tell, the sentries are just keeping everyone left in the school held in the cafeteria. They have formed a circle around them, each of them with a blaster pointed at every human, and she notices something new.
Something flies overhead, some kind of drone, and it seems to be scanning everything in the school, almost like it is logging the information.
Adora comes up behind Catra and watches everything that’s happening too.
“They’re not doing anything,” Adora whispers, her eyes following the drones.
“It’s almost like they’re taking stock,” Catra remarks, “The sentries too. It’s like they’re logging everything that’s in the school.”
“What do you think they want?”
One of the sentries steps forward, grabbing a girl that Catra recognizes as one of Adora’s teammates, and it lifts her up, holding her even as the girl fights back. It scans her from the top of her head down to her feet and then places her back down, and Catra’s impressed when she tries making a run for it, but the sentries are faster. One of them, a different one than the one that scanned her, steps into her path, and she barely catches herself before running right into it.
The sentry that scanned her says something, but it’s some sort of language that Catra doesn’t know, and she’s guessing that it’s probably not from this planet.
Then a sentry grabs the girl and takes her from the cafeteria, the others moving to stop the members of the soccer team that try to get up and grab their teammate, and Catra already has a hand on Adora’s wrist to stop her from doing anything idiotic, like trying to save her.
“Where do you think they’re taking her?” Adora asks, watching as they start the process again with someone from Catra’s team.
“Nowhere good.” Catra pulls her attention from whatever is happening in the cafeteria and looks down the hallway, noticing that it’s empty for now. “We should get moving while they’re distracted.”
Catra turns to see Adora with her arms crossed and a look that Catra knows means she’s ready to disagree.
“There’s nothing we can do for them,” Catra argues before Adora can say anything, “They are caught and trapped, and we’re two people with absolutely nothing to take down at least twenty of those sentries. Trying to save them is going to get us killed.”
“I can’t just leave knowing that there are people here, Catra.”
“You’re going to have to,” Catra looks back to the cafeteria, “We need to get out of here before they start checking the classrooms.”
Adora sits there and thinks it over, and every second that it takes for her to come to a decision puts Catra on edge. She keeps looking through the window, making sure that the sentries haven’t started looking for anyone else that may be deeper in the school.
Finally, Catra breaks.
“Goddammit, Adora,” Catra growls, grabbing Adora’s wrist and cracking the door open.
Adora doesn’t say anything as Catra pulls her into the hallway. She knows this will be a conversation they have if they make it out of the school, but they are running out of time.
The sentries are distracted with everyone and the drones are still flying overhead, so Catra pulls Adora in the opposite direction, their footsteps quiet as they run. Catra isn’t sure if they are attracted to or sensitive to sound, but she figures they’re better safe than sorry.
She stops them at every corner to look around before making a turn, taking the hallways she knows leads through the band hallway and out a set of doors where the marching band packs their equipment for competitions.
They stop to look down the hallway that ends in a set of double doors that leads out to a parking lot, and Catra expects for there to be sentries stationed there, but it’s empty.
“This feels like a trap,” Catra whispers.
“It’s more likely that every sentry sent to the high school are in the cafeteria,” Adora reasons, turning to watch their backs.
“You think they don’t have the numbers to have both?”
“Maybe not yet,” Adora says, “You don’t send everyone on the first wave, right?”
Catra nods and starts walking towards the doors, but Adora catches her wrist.
“What’re you doing?” Adora hisses, looking around them frantically.
“There’s only one way to know,” Catra yanks her wrist from Adora’s grip, “If there’s no one there, we’re fine. If there is and we can’t see them, then there’s no way we’re making it out of the school anyway. Might as well try.”
“So are you, but I still keep you around.”
Catra just smirks.
“Fine.” Adora starts walking towards the doors, and Catra’s quick on her heels.
Outside seems normal, but Catra can see the shadow that the ship casts down over the school, and as she looks off into the distance, there are a few more ships covering different parts of the town.
There aren’t any sentries around, though, and the sky is free of any drones as far as they can tell.
“We should stick close to the building,” Adora suggests, “Just in case we need to rush inside to take cover.”
They choose a direction at random, hoping that it is the right way, and they don’t run into anything until they reach the front doors of the school.
Catra sees it first, grabbing onto Adora to stop her from going forward, and they watch as one of the theater kids is dragged out of the school. He’s kicking and trying to get out of the sentry’s hold, but it’s useless.
The sentry drags him aboard a vehicle that doesn’t look like anything they have on Earth, and as the back doors open, Catra sees every member of the soccer and track team loaded inside, each of them looking terrified.
The sentry closes the door behind the theater kid and the vehicle drives away.
Catra expects the sentry to go back inside, but it’s followed by all of the other sentries and drones from the school, and Catra and Adora take cover where their beams can’t reach them, but they don’t have to. The sentries and drones leave without looking back.
Adora makes a break for the door and runs back in before Catra can stop her, and Catra follows her all the way back to the cafeteria.
She expects to find it empty, but it’s not. Everyone that wasn’t loaded into the transport vehicles lies dead on the floor, smoke rising from where the sentries shot them.
Adora falls to her knees, her eyes wide in disbelief, and Catra looks away, but she can’t unsee what happened.
“We couldn’t save them, Adora,” Catra says gently.
“We could’ve tried,” Adora whispers, and Catra sees a few tears start to fall down Adora’s cheeks.
“If we did, we’d be right here with them,” Catra tries to comfort Adora, but it’s never been something she’s good at.
Adora doesn’t say anything, and Catra drops down in front of her.
“Hey,” Catra’s voice is soft, “We need to get going. I know they just left, but we don’t know if they plan to come back.”
She doesn’t get a response from Adora, so she pulls Adora to her feet, slinging one of Adora’s arms around her shoulder so that she can lead Adora out of the school.
“Catra?” Adora’s voice is small and broken.
“What do you think they’re doing with all of the people that they took?”
“I don’t know,” Catra thinks of everyone shoved into the transport, “But I doubt we want to find out.”
Catra’s first mistake is assuming that the town she got cornered in is empty. She’s studied the sentries’ and drones’ patterns for three years now, and whenever they clear a town, they don’t come back until weeks or months later when they think other humans might be inhabiting it.
Catra’s second mistake is being distracted and out in the open. Her thoughts are filled with the hurt look on Adora’s face and the hole that leaving dug out in her heart, and she doesn’t notice a group of sentries hidden in an alley until it’s too late.
The sirens go off, and Catra is surrounded before she can run, their sensors scanning her from head to toe.
One of the sentries says something in their alien language, and then two hosts grab Catra.
She fights. She jabs and kicks and is able to get away for just a second, but a sentry steps forward and aims a blaster at her head.
“Do it then,” Catra taunts, watching as the other sentries lift their blasters.
It doesn’t shoot.
“Kill me!” Catra shouts, “I’ve already gotten away once, so just do it!”
The sentry moves, and Catra thinks she might’ve convinced it to kill her, but the arm comes down hard, and everything blacks out before she’s even hit the ground.
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Beautiful Children Ch 4
*Please note this chapter contains a graphic flashback of Adora and Catra being abused. If you don't want to read it, stop after the line: 'She watched their small breaths go in and out until she too felt the heavy pull of sleep," and skip through the entire chunk of italicized text. Resume reading at, "Adora bolted upright, chest heaving. Eyes blinking away the darkness. "*
Adora slipped back into her and Catra’s room late. She held her breath, stepping lightly. She closed the door behind her carefully, turning her back to the rest of the room. She braced for another fight, preparing herself for Catra to jump at her with questions and explanations and demands. Adora carefully turned, a thousand thoughts bubbling to her mind, ready to slip out when...nothing. She tip-toed to the bureau, switching out her day clothes for a simple white gown and gently unlooped her hair from the tight ponytail. She allowed herself to sigh with relief as her hair fell down around her. Still she couldn’t shake the tension that any minutes now Catra would parge in, ready to continue their fight.
Catra is nothing if not persistent.
Adora stole a shaky breath, trying to calm her nerves, walking over to her side of the bed...and stopped.
Her wife was curled on her side, facing away from where Adora usually slept. The blonde crept closer, settling down on the bed with care. Catra shuffled under the sheets. Adora peered over the young woman’s shoulder, her heart clenching in her chest. Catra’s face pinched tight with anxiety. Her jaw clenched. Adora squinted, through the moonlight, between Catra’s fingers she could see the golden gleam of the golden pin she’d given to her on their engagement. Catra clutched it close to her and Adora settled herself into bed beside her wife. Anger still rooted in her belly, but it was tempered now by resolve. She rolled onto the opposite side but kept one arm stretched out, her fingers finding Catra’s wordlessly in the dark.
The way they always found each other. In the bunks of the Fright Zone or out on missions sleeping in rebel strongholds before the journey to Mysticor.
They always found each other's hands in the ark. No matter the emotion that brewed between them. Adora felt Catra press her lips against her hand in a quick kiss and she fell into a fitful sleep. Finn pressed between them both, snuggling blissfully unaware.
Adora sat up so quickly her head rushed with dizziness, she groped at the sheets for some sense of grounding and blinked hard in the dark. Her hands reached out, patting the spot where the magikit had laid between her and Catra.
Where did they go?
The Brotherhood of Prime?!
Her heart raced, realizing Catra was also missing from their bed. Adora’s eyes continued to take in her surroundings. The layers of dark and shadow until she caught Catra’s glowing eyes. She paced back and forth around their room, bending her knees every few steps and then resumed walking.
What is she….?
Catra turned, her eyes downcast at whatever she was holding. If she noticed Adora was up she didn’t comment, continuing to stride once more.
“Shhhh Finn, you’re going to wake Adora. Quiet now. Rest,” Catra murmured, dipping in her stance once again.
“Ehhhh, ehhhh, waaahh,” in the dark Adora could barely make out the little baby, curled against Catra’s chest. It’s own blue eyes gleamed, blinking slowly trying to resist the pull of sleep.
“Told you I have better hearing,” Catra quipped, terse. Adora snapped to attention. “I heard them crying. They wouldn’t shut up.”
The blonde could only nodd, mute. Catra standing there crowned in silver moonlight, holding little Finn in her arms. So serene, so tender...a side of Catra even Adora had never seen before. One hand holding Finn’s soft head against her breast, the other cradling their body. Even standing still, Catra swayed from side to side, hair falling in curls around her shoulders as she gazed down toward the magikit.
“You...you’d be such a great mother Catra look at you.”
Adora whispered lovingly.
Oh shit, did I say that out…
Catra’s head shot up, scowling.
I did. Damnit Adora.
“Don’t tell me what I would or wouldn’t be.”
Her ears pinned back to her head as she handed the now sleeping magikit into Adora’s arms.
“Catra...we can do this.”
Catra’s tail lashed, she flopped down on the other side of the bed once more.
“You can. I can’t.”
Adora looked down at Finn, sleeping sound thanks to her wife’s efforts. A little bubble of drool puckering between their lips.
“You can Catra! I know you can.”
“You start this Adora and the baby’s going to wake up again.”
Adora grimaced, indignant. Catra rolled to face her, eyes no longer cold and contempt but...sad. She glanced down at her own curled fist.
“How are we supposed to raise a child Adora? We never had a childhood ourselves. We were never children.”
“Of course we were kids Catra. I had a missing tooth for years, you used to be a fuzzball.”
Blue and gold eyes stared at her through the dark.
“We were children Adora, but we were never allowed to be kids.”
We were soldiers. That’s all we were ever meant to be. Hordak, Shadow Weaver...they didn’t raise children, they raised fighters for the Hordes Ranks.
Hot anger bubbled in her chest, she reached out with her arm, the one not holding Finn to her chest and laced her wife’s fingers in her own.
“We’ll figure it out Catra. We will. I promise.”
“You can’t use ‘promise’ for everything Adora.”
“I can if I mean it.”
Catra rolled her eyes, turning away again.
“Next time they wake up it’s your problem.”
Adora nodded, though Catra couldn’t see. She lay down carefully placing Finn between them, fiddling with the blankets to make sure they were comfortable.
Catra would be a good mom. I just have to make her see. She might be right about the Horde and us not having a good childhood but we can do better this time. We can give Finn what we never had. She just needs to understand.
“Are we absolutely sure there’s no sign of the Brotherhood of Prime anywhere else in the galaxy?” Glimmer addressed the coalition for the final time during their meeting. All princesses in attendance, plus Bow and Wrong Hordak.
“For the thousandth time data never lies!” Entrapta assured them, exasperated. “My surveillance bots would’ve picked up on any activity and they haven’t since our last mission. If that changes we will know but for right now, there aren’t any signals being released.”
“Maybe we should send out scouts just in case?” Adora ventured, raising her hand. “I could lead a party to patrol the outer rims of the galaxy! Or...or go to different planets and talk to them about the brotherhood, train them to recognize anyone who might be chipped so they can report it to us! Or…”
Glimmer held up her hand, stern. Adora swallowed her words.
“Those are good ideas Adora but...I trust Entrapta that we’ve wiped out the last of the Brotherhood for now. If anything else happens we will know about it from her bots.”
“But, I could….”
“Adora it’s fine, it’s okay,” Glimmer attempted to ease her. “We don’t need you to do anything.”
Adora glanced down at her hands, curling them into light fists. She missed the comfort of Catra’s hand on her thigh. Beside her, her wife only picked something out of her claw. They’d teetered around each other in awkward pretense the entire morning. For her part, Catra hadn’t exploded, hadn’t confronted her when they awoke but merely went about her day as if their late-night conversation had never happened. Glimmer would not postpone a meeting for Adora’s domestic squabble, nor should she, but Adora sunk lower in her chair, eyes flitting towards the door.
I hope Finn’s okay…. does the palace staff even know how to take care of a baby?
“They cared for Glimmer, they’ll be fine,” Catra’s only flippant words to her thus far today echoed in her mind.
Adora bit the inside of her lip, watching Glimmer facilitate the next item on the agenda, something about supplies and the all-consuming venue for the next Princess Ball.
“A...are you sure I can’t do anything?” She repeated, looking towards Glimmer again. “I...I just...I want to do something. Tech has its drawbacks. We can never be completely sure there isn’t some threat...no offence Entrapta. I really think I should…”
“Adora!” Glimmer’s tone turned from compassion to admonition quickly. “The war is over. It’s been over. We don’t have to fight anyone or anything, for once. We don’t need SheRa right now okay?”
We don’t need you.
No. No, that's not true. That’s not what she means. You know that.
Adora mustered a nodd, willing herself to sit back in her chair. As the rest of the princesses devolved into debate over the ball.
“I’m going to go check on Finn,” she whispered to Catra. Her wife shrugged, her sharp eyes boring into Adora’s back as she excused herself from the table and pulled open the door.
If they don’t need Shera...and there’s no more threat...what am I supposed to do? What can I….? I need to...I need to do something…. Adora’s mind spun in circles with each step.
“They’re here,” one of the guards answered. Adora’s heart lifted instantly from it’s funk at the sight of the magikit’s bright eyes, they’re tail switching eagerly. They reached out pudgy arms, squealing, sending Adora’s thoughts from a dark cesspool to a ray of light.
“There you are!” She welcomed the baby into her arms and held them above her head. Finn squirmed in delight, trying to kick with their tiny legs. Their pink mouth opening into a wide smile.
“Did they behave?”
“Yes lady Adora, they only spat up on my uniform twice.” The guard indicated several spots of dribble on her shoulder.
“Oh...uh...sorry...I...I might’ve given them too much milk? That’s what Glimmer, er...Queen Glimmer recommended. I don’t really know.”
The guard only nodded, curt.
“Do not apologize my lady but please do not ask me again. I have other duties to attend to. I cannot babysit.”
Adora opened her mouth in retort but the guard nodded, turning on their heel from the corridor. She brought Finn close, kissing the top of their head.
Etheria might not need Shera right now...but Finn needs us.
Adora’s righteous fury rising. Not enough to turn her into Shera, thankfully but enough to hold Finn even tighter.
“We can do this Finn, we got this.” She kissed them once more. Their soft skin giving under her lips, still smelling so sweet.
“I love you Finny, we’re going to be okay.”
Adora turned, Bow looked between her and the magikit, the rest of the princesses chatting as they left the adjourned meeting. She spied Catra, laughing at something Scorpia had said. She spared Adora a quick glance before hurrying past them with the rest of the princesses.
“How’re you doing? I know things have been a little hectic since we got back,” Bow’s radiant smile made Finn kick enthusiastic, cooing and snorting and reaching out their little arms. They’d already put on some weight since they got here much to Adora’s relief.
“It’s been great!” She piped up brightly. “It’s been a little busy but it’s been good!”
She jostled Finn on her hip, they cooed and burped a little.
“Finn’s up a lot during the night and Catra isn’t fully onboard but we’re going to do it! We can make it work!”
“Adora, I know when you’re lying.”
She eyed Bow, those soft brown eyes, always so capable of seeing right through her facade. He always had been. He took her free hand, squeezing it.
“Let’s go to the gym.”
“But, I have Finn,” Adora glanced at the magikit, who had begun to tug on her shirt, fisting the white fabric in their hands.
“Bring them! We don’t have to train or shoot, let’s just….get you some air.”
She smiled grateful, following him down the hall.
“So Catra’s not onboard?” Bow asked as soon as they got to the gym arena. Being king now, Bow got all-access to Brightmoon’s newly built training facility anytime he wanted. The sun did wonders to improve Adora’s mood, bright sun shining on her face. Skin warming with the rays of light. Finn’s own blue eyes somehow, impossibly shown brighter. Adora beamed, sitting down on the fresh trimmed grass. Bow stretched out, his usual routine.
“She’s….afraid,” Adora chose her words carefully sitting cross legged with Finn in the crux of her lap. “She’s intimidated, I don’t know! She’s...she’s being selfish. This baby needs us.”
Bow nodded, thoughtful.
“Of course they do but..seems like you need them just as much.”
Adora splayed out her fingers, wading them in front of Finn as they leaned forward to grip at them, tail on alert, switching through the grass.
“Adora,” Bow stood up from his stretch and leaned toward her with sympathy. He rested his hand on her shoulder. “Catra might not be ready to take care of a baby.”
“But she’d be a great mom!” Adora protested. Bow raised a brow. She frowned, “What?! She would!” Bow threw up his hands defensively.
“She might be!” He admitted, “But...it doesn’t matter what you think,” he finished gently.
“Of course it matters! I’m her wife!”
Bow shook his head frantic, briefly smiling when Finn tried to reach forward towards him.
“No, no, no I just meant, she needs to believe it herself. Catra and you….you neither of you had parents that you know of. Of course she’s scared. Taking care of a child is a huge responsibility.”
Adora nodded reluctant,
He does have a point.
“Trust me,” Bow grinned. “I had to take care of seven brothers!”
That brought a laugh to her heart. She repositioned Finn in her lap, tussling their blonde hair.
“I know you and Glimmer insisted you’d help us, and you have been! But Catra...she...I think she’s afraid she’ll hurt Finn..the...they way she hurt me,” Adora swallowed the lump in her throat.
“That makes sense,” Bow answered. “Shadow Weaver wasn’t exactly a doting mother figure. Catra learned lashing out was the only way to protect herself of course she’s afraid she’d fall back on bad habits. Surprisingly self-aware of her actually,” he pondered for a moment.
Can’t argue with that, she has been working on herself a lot. She’s been trying. She’s been growing so much, doing such hard work with Perfuma. Adora’s heart swelled with love and pride for her wife even to amid their argument.
Bow grinned, giving her shoulder another squeeze.
“If you’re really determined to raise this kid, there’s no stopping you. But...maybe try to understand where Catra’s coming from validate her concerns and encourage her to spend small amounts of time with Finn. With all three of you together so she doesn’t feel alone. You both deserve love, you both deserve a family...if that’s what the two of you want. After all the two of you have done for Etheria...you both deserve the world and little Finn here, they deserve it too.”
Adora blinked passed the tears in her eyes, enveloping Bow in a tight hug.
“You do too Bow, you too. You and Glimmer both.”
“Speaking of,” Bow gently pulled out of their embrace but continued looking at her with those sanguine eyes, “when Glimmer said we didn’t need Shera anymore...she didn’t mean you okay, you understand that.”
Yes, yes I do. I understand that.
“Yeah,” Adora nodded, pulling a stray piece of grass from Finn’s hair. “I do.”
“Alright, good. Now. Let’s see how many babies you can bench.”
Adora gave him a good natured slap, picking up Finn and straightening out her arms, lifting them up in the air once, twice, three times.
“Catra, can you please just talk to me.” Adora held a bottle to Finn’s gobbling mouth. Bow was able to lift one from his dads, along with more baby toys than one could possibly imagine and Glimmer had the palace purchase enough formula to feed an army.
They had walked on broken glass around each other for three days now. With Catra only offering small grunts and shrugs. Straining on Adora’s every nerve. Catra’s silence left ample room for Adora’s anxious thoughts.
“Finn easy...you’re going to poop yourself. Catra please!” Her voice cracked with emotion. How many times had she desperately called that name? How many more times would she have to scream it?
“Perfuma told me if I don’t have anything nice to say, I shouldn’t say it,” Catra muttered, taking her hair from it’s ponytail without turning around.
Adora opened her mouth, then bit her tongue quickly to swallow her words.
“Is Finn sleeping in bed with us again?” She asked, a biting undertone to her voice.
“Yes,” Adora pried the bottle from their mouth and tilted it,
Less than halfway? Aren’t babies supposed to eat more than that?
“But this will be the last night! George and Lance are going to bring the cradle tomorrow.”
Catra spun, dark curly hair raised on edge. Eyes flashing.
“Goodnight Adora,” Catra hissed crawling into her side of the bed and tugging the blanket over her shoulders.
Adora swallowed, looking down at the magikit sucking at the bottle in earnest. She took refuge in the small insistent squeaks, in the soft velvet ears swiveling every which way. Refuge in the purpose Finn gave her.
The magikit finished their bottle and Adora scooped them up, walking them back and forth across the room. Trying not to look at Catra.
Bow’s right. He’s always right. She just needs time. She would be a great mom...she’s scared...I can make her less scared. Right Finny?
Finn’s finger curled around Adora, snorting with their little nose. She watched their eyes blink slowly,
Catra does that when she’s affectionate or sleepy. Haven’t seen her do that in over a moon now.
Finn nuzzled into Adora’s chest, against the heart. Their baby breaths puffing against her chest, making the heart glow.
“There you go, right to sleep. I’m here, I got you. I’ll keep you safe Finn,” Adora glanced up at where Catra’s form lay under the covers, curled tight and tense.
I’ll protect you.
It took several more rounds, until Finn finally closed their eyes and kept them shut. Adora eased them into the bed, her heart growing three times as their little body rolled onto the sheets. She watched their small breaths go in and out until she too felt the heavy pull of sleep.
“Oh Adora, you’re here, come in.” Shadow Weaver’s voice dripped with saccharin amusement. Adora crept quietly,
Scan the room…
Her eyes flitted this way and that through the chamber, ominous Black Garnet gleaming in the middle of the room. It gave off an energy of its own.
Adora stopped before Shadow Weaver, leaning into the woman’s embrace, though it was short and stiff on her part. The arms going around her small torso seemed to hold her in a cage. She stepped back as soon as permitted, body rigid.
“Thank you for seeing me today, I know you’re quite busy.”
You ordered me to come here, Adora thought. Her stomach turned in circles, goosebumps riddled her arms.
“What is it you want Shadow Weaver?”
Whatever expression the sorceress made behind her mask, Adora couldn’t tell...and didn’t dare go so far as to imagine. Shadow Weaver had been known to invade the minds of any wayward or disobedient cadet. Though it had never happened to Adora, still the threat of it was enough to make her shiver. She adjusted her weight, eyes still surveying the large chamber for any sign of threat.
The only exit is behind me...though...if I had to, I could use the vents.
Catra had utilized them on more than one occasion, usually to escape from one of the Shadow Weaver’s more horrific beatings. Though thankfully, to Adora’s knowledge it had been awhile since her best friend had to resort to that.
“Force Captain Treyar tells me you’ve been doing exceedingly well during simulations and drills.”
“Thank you Shadow Weaver,” she kept her head bowed, hands clasped behind her back.
“You are becoming quite the outstanding cadet Adora. I see big things for you ahead.”
Her heart leapt with joy, almost enough to make her forget the nausea in her stomach. If Shadow Weaver approved of her then she wouldn’t get threatened or hit.
I could be something.
“I think it’s high time we test those abilities.”
Adora couldn’t hide her confused frown,
“Don’t we already do that?”
“What did you say to me?” The sorceress snapped.
Adora shrank back.
“I mean...y...yes Shadow Weaver.”
“Good. Now I’d like you to take a strike at me.”
Adora blinked, swallowing the lump in her throat.
“T...take a strike at you?”
“That’s what I said isn’t it?”
Shadow Weaver made a show of standing before her, opening her arms. The fabric of her robes unfurling outward until she appeared three times as tall.
“I...I don’t want to fight you.”
“How can I expect you to fight the rebellion if you can’t even hit an old woman?”
An old woman with powerful magic, Adora glanced at the Black Garnet.
“I’m not going to use magic on you Adora. I want to see if you have what it takes to strike me down in hand to hand combat.”
Adora wrung her hands together, one hand reaching up in an urge to twirl a loose strand of hair around her finger.
“N...no...Shadow Weaver...I. I don’t want to...I can’t.”
The sorceress huffed, disappointed.
“Perhaps you just need the right...motivation.”
With a flick of her wrist shadows materialized behind the large stone. Adora shrieked, jumping back, fists up.
“No….no,” something pleaded tearfully.
Adora’s jaw dropped, as tendrils of shadows held fast around Catra, suspending her in the air, dragging her forward. Her arms behind her back, legs bound by black shadows, her tail between her legs.
“That’s right,” Shadow Weaver turned her attention back to Adora. “We need to test your abilities Adora. Your true abilities. Come now, you don’t want Catra to get hurt do you?”
No. No. This is impossible. This isn’t happening. It’s an illusion. Shadow Weaver wouldn’t….Catra’s a cadet too. She wouldn’t…
“Adora! Adora!” Catra screamed through tears. “Make her stop! Make her stop!”
Adora froze, all but her eyes which darted between the sorceress and her friend.
“S..shadow Weaver….I...I can’t!”
“You must!” She raised a hand, curling her fist. Adora’s stomach threatened to vomit as Catra’s howls filled the echoing chamber. Her back arched, feet kicking wildly. The shadows bound tighter around her and now glowed with red.
“Stop! Stop it you’re hurting her!” Adora shrieked, unable to move.
“Go ahead Adora, hit me.”
Adora gaped, her legs refusing to move.
“N...no! I can’t! Please...just let her go!”
“I will her her go when and if you manage to subdue me.” Shadow Weaver hissed.
“Adora! Adora! Shadow Weaver! Please!” Catra wailed tears running down her flushed face.
“Shadow Weaver snarled, turning towards the magicat girl. The shadows glow intensified, black and red light pulsing across Catra’s skin. Her body jerked, first backward then forward, her matted hair shielding her face.
Adora pinched her ears against the yowls of Catra’s agony. Tears ran from her own eyes.
“Don’t hurt her! Please just don’t hurt her!”
“Do you think I enjoy hurting my wards?” Shadow Weaver asked; her voice high and light with sweetness. “I do not. But you force me to take extreme measures. Now I will ask one more time. Use your training and subdue me.”
She’s lying. She’ll hurt Catra no matter what and it’s your fault. If you try to land a hit she’ll just dodge or use magic and she’ll still hurt Catra. She might hurt you.
The young girl stared at Shadow Weaver, then Catra, who’s misery now took her from shrieking, yelping to frantic breathless incessant begging.
You can’t do this.
You’ve failed Shadow Weaver.
You failed yourself.
Catra is in pain because of you.
“Shadow Weaver! Please I can’t just let her go!”
Like she’d even be able to fight if she wanted to, her muscles reduced to jelly, her body shook with such a force she could hardly hold her arms up.
The shadows binding Catra curled and undulated, glowing. The sharp stinging smell of burning flesh and fur filled Adora’s nose.
“Strike me cadet!”
“No! Please don’t make me! Don’t hurt Catra!”
“A...a...d...dora...s...stike her...j...justdo...i...it..makeitstop makeitstop!” Catra beseeched. She let out a wet cough, moaning, trying to curl into herself to no avail.
Adora held her breath, eyes wide, the smell of raw sizzling skin too much. She let out sob staring in apt terror at Shadow Weaver, then fled, diving towards the nearest open air vent.
“ADORAADORANODONTLEAVEME!” Catra’s crazed cries sounded through the narrow tunnel, muffled only by her own sobs.
Adora bolted upright, chest heaving. Eyes blinking away the darkness.
Catra! Where’s Catra is she safe?!
Adora’s head spun with confusion. Taking in her surroundings by degrees.
“Adora?” Catra’s sleepy voice wandered from the blackness.
“C...Catra!” The sound of her wife calling her name sent another sob choking out of her. Adora’s hands fumbled finally landing on something soft.
The sleeping magikit squirmed, legs kicking out. Their face crumbled and they let out a little fussy cry.
“Adora, I’m going to touch you okay?” Adora barely nodded, unable to speak. Catra’s arms wound around her tight. The other woman pressing her face into the back of Adora’s neck from behind.
“I got you, shhh I got you.”
“Sh...Shadow Weaver...sh..she wanted me to hurt her and I refused...she..she tortured you!” Adora reached out for Finn, carefully supporting their head and taking them to her chest. She folded them against her as snug as they would go, drawing her knees up to further curl herself against them.
“That cunt is dead Adora. Shhh...shhhh...don’t smother the baby.”
Catra’s fingers stroked her hair, she planted tiny kisses against Adora’s spine and shoulders.
“I...I let you get hu...hurt,” Adora cried, kissing Finn’s hand. The magikit fussed again but their eyes remained closed.
Catra huffed, warm breath against her skin, apathetic and indifferent.
“It was a long time ago Adora. Breathe, breathe with me.”
Adora tried, taking a shuddering breath. She looked down at Finn.
Scars, riddles of skin across their arms, down their sides. Shadows binding them.
She shook her head against the thought, kissing them all over. Kissing the shadows away.
Easy, it’s not real. Finn is here with you perfectly healthy and whole. Catra is holding you. Catra is okay. She’s not in pain.
“Adora,” Catra called her back to reality, holding her close. “Tell Finn how much you love them.”
“Just do it.”
Adora nodded, sniffling. Looking down at the fussy baby.
“I love you Finny...so...so much.”
“Good,” Catra soothed; all traces of her past anger gone.
Adora dragged a hand across her nose, wiping at her tears than adjusted herself to face her wife.
“I...I didn’t mean I didn’t want Finn to turn out like you,” she whispered. “I just meant I don’t want them to get hurt like you did. I want to keep them safe and care for them the way I failed you.”
“You didn’t fail me,” Catra’s familiar hand cupped Adora’s cheek, thumb stroking away her tears.
“You didn’t fail me. Shh, breath, deep breaths. Good, that’s it.”
Adora managed a tiny smile.
“Ehhh...ehhh...eh,” Finn whined.
“Shh, Finn come on, I can only handle one crier at a time okay?” Catra reached out, patting Finn’s belly until they stilled. Adora’s heart flooded with warmth.
You’d be such a good mom Catra, see?
Adora caught herself before saying the words aloud and stopped herself, instead she only leaned into Catra’s touch.
“I’m sorry Catra...all those years ago...I should’ve….I’d kill her for what she did to you.”
“To us,” Catra corrected, stoking her cheek. “And...yes, that would be pretty hot.”
Adora stifled a laugh, then sighed, turning her attention to Finn.
“I just...I want to care for them. I want to show them all the love we never got but always deserved.”
Catra said nothing, though even in the darkness Adora could make out the tiniest of empathetic nods.
Adora swallowed, head stuffy with her tears. Her cheeks red and burning, exhausted.
“It’s okay, tell me what you want Adora.”
“C...c..can you...can you hold me?” She asked gingerly. It was hard, asking for something so vulnerable, so tender and simple. Her mouth barely formed the words.
Catra eased Adora down, back to the mess of pillows and blankets, adjusting herself to wrap around the larger woman the best she could. Adora closed her eyes at the tender kiss Catra placed on the crown of her head. She mirrored the movement, kissing Finn’s head and adjusting her own hold on them.
I want Finn to be able to say what they want when they get older. I need to set an example for them.
“I want you. I want Finn. I want you as you are. Not a mom, not if you don’t want to be. We can take care of Finn just until we find them a better home. How’s that sound?”
Catra’s hands ran up and down her arms,
“Maybe. Now Get some sleep.”
Satisfied for the moment Adora enveloped the magikit in her embrace, Catra enveloped her. Between the warmth of the baby and her wife, Adora drifted into a serene sleep.
This. Right here. This is what I want.
More than anything.
More than Shera.
She turned her head into Catra, pulling herself to consciousness once more to kiss at her wife’s chest. Catra’s purr mingled with the tiny thrumming sounds of Finn’s.
It was the single greatest sound Adora ever heard. It drowned all else, even her nightmares, even her own doubts.
Catra's deep purr, Finn's little purr's her own snoring as she drifted off.
The sound of a family.
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