It had always been a secret.
The greatest of ironies was that it had always been Adora who had problems with it being a secret. Catra had never cared.
She didn't care now, either, that much was important.
But even then, Catra had been more loyal to the cause than Hordak's precious force captain. Because Catra had understood that the Horde could not allow affection to go divided among their ranks. All affection was owed to the Horde.
Each time Catra saw Adora among the Rebels - leading the Rebels as she had once led Catra - she wanted to toss Adora's previous discontent with keeping their tryst a secret into her pretty little face.
The poor Rebel fools, so desperate for anything approaching competence to join their ranks, had accepted the treasonous force captain without much of a second though. Catra wondered how differently they might have reacted, if they knew how well their leader had once squirmed beneath Catra's fingers.
Either of them could have been promoted to force captain, and though their competition had been fierce and occasionally vicious, Hordak would have accepted nothing less from his soldiers.
Catra would have accepted nothing less, from a woman she would follow into battle, nor would Adora.
"If you are going to cower beneath me, you are of no use to me," Adora told her, in the middle of what would be their first test to determine who was the better.
After the last such test, after it had been determined that Hordak's favorite was the better at least in his eyes, they celebrated in the luxury of the force captain's bed. That itself was a risky prospect. As force captain, Adora's presence might be required at any time. No matter how nice the newly acquired captain's quarters were, lounging around together was an invitation for someone to discover their secret.
Then again, Adora's status as Hordak's favorite generally scared most of her underlings into at least knocking first.
Catra wondered what that would feel like.
There were a variety of rumors floating around the Fright Zone these days. The benefit of needing to keep her former relationship with Adora a secret was that nobody had any reason to hold back when they spoke of the former force captain.
It was fortunate for them, then, that they didn't know. If Catra ever thought they were demonstrating pity over something so inconsequential, they would plead for Hordak himself to grant the mercy of a quick death to end the torture she would make them suffer.
The rumors, always whispered in hushed tones with a careful eyes towards the shadows, claimed that Adora was never loyal to the Horde.
All rumors, and nobody was foolish enough to bring it up in front of anyone who would know.
"Do you think it's true?" Scorpia wondered in the middle of sparring practice.
Catra hated sparring with Scorpia. She wasn't focused enough and it was too easy to distract her from her goal. No wonder that bumbling nuisance She-Ra always managed to use Scorpia's weapons against them.
"I think," Catra growled, "That anyone who couldn't see that Adora wasn't loyal to the Horde from day one was a fool."
The device came from the kingdom of Brightmoon, and Catra was doubtful of its efficiency based on that fact alone.
Brightmoon, with their easily defeated queen and simpering, cowardly princess in hiding under the pretense of staring a "rebellion" - what could that kingdom know about the kind of pleasure women like Catra and Adora sought?
But Adora brought her the device, blue eyes full of impatience even as her hands remained steady to fasten the straps into place.
Catra wrapped her fingers through Adora's, pushing her hands into the mattress as Catra used the device to ride her. The device might have been foreign, but it was not going anywhere that Catra's fist had not been, so Catra easily overcame the initial awkwardness of using the device.
Beneath her, Adora's breaths quickened and her fingers squeezed Catra's own. Her mouth parted and her tongue and teeth took turns running over her bottom lip.
Perhaps Brightmoon was good for something, after all.
It wasn't always mere underlings contributing to the rumor mill. Sometimes, a stray comment by Hordak or Shadow Weaver gave Catra reason to pause.
They spoke often of "getting Adora back," of "getting Adora under control," of "taking back what She-Ra had taken away."
Catra wondered, if the rumors about Adora being forced into serving the Horde were false, why they would take the chance on using the services of someone who had proven herself to be a traitor already?
But she also wondered, if the rumors were true, what that said about everything they had done together.
Everything they had been.
"I don't know why you don't even want to try," Catra complained.
"I didn't say I don't want to try," Adora argued. She ran the leather restraints over her knuckles slowly. But that wasn't the only reason the hesitation was obvious. Catra could sense it from a mile away, because Adora was trying to use her force captain voice, and Adora never used her force captain voice in the bedroom with Catra.
"So petulant, Force Captain," Catra said snidely. "Sometimes I think the rumors were true and were untouched before coming to my bed."
Pride flashed all over Adora's face. "You were not my first," she hissed.
"You act like it." Catra leaned forward on her knees. "All needy and hesitant and clingy."
The goading was as effective as Catra figured it would be. Adora thrust the leather restraints into Catra's hands. "Do it," she commanded.
But Catra ignored the command until Adora raised her hands above her head silently, offering the type of submission Catra had been fighting for since day one.
Catra supposed in the bigger scheme of the Horde's plan, the rumors didn't really matter either way. She had what she'd always wanted, control of Hordak's soldiers, and Adora had a whole new team of underlings.
Underlings who had apparently forgiven and forgotten all that Adora had done in the name of the Horde. Sometimes, Catra wondered if anyone - even the Rebels - could be so stupid as to put such trust into a traitor.
Even if the rumors were true, how could they trust someone so easily manipulated by the enemy?
Othertimes, despite all that had transpired, Catra couldn't help but think that Adora deserved better followers. Adora might always have been the inferior force captain, but she had been competent. There had been no one before or since who had been able to give Catra such difficulty when they sparred with her. While Catra had the essential viciousness that a force captain needed, she didn't have the patience for the long, drawn-out tactical planning that Adora did.
But like the Fright Zone, the Rebels were terrible at keeping secrets, and Catra knew that most gave credit to She-Ra for the Rebels' wins, and occasionally to that mindless hero from Eternia.
Adora's handprint was all over every covert strike, every foiled tax collection, and every charity mission that distracted the Rebels from their stated goal.
Hordak and Shadow Weaver saw the signs and grew frustrated at their inability to stop the Rebels.
Catra saw the signs and wondered why anyone, even a traitor, would align herself with such ungrateful minions.
Adora loved their newfound game the most after battle. It didn't matter whether the battle was successful or mediocre for the Horde.
As soon as they had a spare moment during which they could risk slipping away, Adora would place the restraints in Catra's hands and lie back onto the bed.
Sometimes, they used the device from Brightmoon with them. Sometimes, Catra straddled Adora's face and demanded her own pleasure; only after Adora's lips were moist with Catra's juices would she move between Adora's legs and return the favor.
Sometimes, Catra was a benevolent dictator.
It might not look that way to a casual observer, with the way that Adora strained against the material holding her in place. Each jerk caused her breasts, already sore from the attention that Catra's mouth had given them, to wiggle in a manner that would have been quite pleasant to Catra, had she been paying attention.
But her attention was devoted entirely to finding the right way to shift her fist in order to make Adora's unrestrained legs jerk and clench around Catra. The only spare attention she could afford was the amount required to lean forward and run her tongue over Adora's clit until her familiar moans deteriorated into a mass of barely coherent syllables punctuated by needful cries of "yes."
The minions did have their place, as it turned out. Hurting one was a guaranteed way to throw Adora off her game.
Catra took advantage of this fact and pounced while the inept archer took the wounded Princess of Brightmoon to safety.
"Pity about your friend, Adora," Catra purred. "Pity the wound won't be fatal."
Adora struggled beneath her, but Catra pinned her wrists, in the same old, familiar spot that Adora had never been able to wriggle out of, in training or otherwise.
"Let go, Cat," Adora commanded, low and soft, and Catra laughed at the absurdity of her trying to use her force captain voice on her now.
Did it still count as her force captain voice? Did she use it on the Rebels when they misbehaved?
"But Adora, if I let you go, you'll be all alone. Your little friends ran away with their tails tucked between their legs and abandoned you. Why, they're probably in Whispering Wood right now, hoping that She-Ra will show up to save you," Catra mocked.
"Considering the way she usually embarrasses you, I imagine you're hoping the exact opposite," Adora retorted. But something close to annoyance flashed over Adora's face, and the ruthlessness that had made Catra the better force captain seized it.
"Or perhaps they're not thinking of you at all. If she showed up and offered to lead the Rebels, do you think they'd even notice your absence?" Catra demanded. "What happened to never wanting anyone who cowered beneath you?"
"They're my friends," Adora claimed. "Do you even remember what that's like, Cat?"
Her thumbs pressed against Adora's wrist, and Catra couldn't tell whose heartbeat she was listening to.
Regardless, she listened for a beat too long. It was enough for Adora to use her legs to propel Catra up and off and the distraction was enough for Adora to jump to her feet.
"You don't get to ask me that! You are the one who left!"
"I left the Horde, Cat. I never left you."
"You pretend there is a difference."
"There could be." For a moment, Adora's words confused Catra, because even someone with a heart of a traitor would not offer to bed the enemy. But then Adora continued, "You could join us."
Catra wondered, briefly, if this was some sort tactical diversion method. If so, Catra almost had to give her credit for the sheer amount of confusion it was causing her, in the middle of battle.
But no, that was Adora being earnest.
"You want me to be a Rebel?"
She wanted to laugh. She wanted to follow that good, hard laugh with the sharpest knife she had sliding right into Adora's presumptuous, treasonous chest.
"The Horde is going to lose, Cat. You have to see that. I don't want to see you punished for Hordak's crimes. You could... you could be an enormous asset to the Rebellion. They accepted me; they'll accept you." Adora's eyes never looked quite as blue as they looked when she was begging, and maybe that was why Catra let her plead her ridiculous case without interrupting her. "We could be partners again. We could have each other's back."
"Never." Catra spat the words. "Never again."
The sound of Rebel reinforcements in the distance allowed Catra to claim reason for a retreat, but not before she caught sight of the hurt that flashed over Adora's face.
Catra left her with their secret and her wretched new friends for company, though Catra wasn't sure she deserved either.