There is a card in her room.
Adora doesn’t think much of it at first. Glimmer is always leaving her little notes, bits of bright paper dotted around the room with messages or words of encouragement.
Bow leaves notes too.
They’re trying to make her feel at home here, she knows that, but it doesn’t really help because her home was the Horde. Her home was not nearly as bright and sweet.
So she doesn’t think much of the card at first, because she’s already had a little note from Glimmer this morning and it was enough to last her through the day. The warmth she feels whenever her friends do something nice like this is usually enough to motivate her through the day. To remind her of why she’s doing this.
Why she left the Horde?
Except the card isn’t from Glimmer or Bow.
She knows because they bounce into her room, both of them talking at once, and Adora keeps up with them easily. She was surrounded by voices in the Horde, surrounded by noise. Picking apart the two of them is easy and she answers both of their questions as well as she can. That part is a little harder because normally no one asked questions, not even Catra.
She didn’t ask questions either.
She wonders if that’s why she was part of the Horde or what being part of the Horde did to her.
She’s not sure any more.
Glimmer waves the red envelope at her. Adora frowns and reaches it for it, but Glimmer keeps it out of reach so she can take a better look.
“I thought it was from you,” she says.
“Not me,” Glimmer says and they both look at Bow.
“Not me, I got a great joke for tomorrow though.”
Adora smiles at that because she doesn’t doubt that it will be funny and make her smile. However that pretty much rules out the only two people who would leave something in her room. Glimmer hands her the card and she turns it over.
She immediately recognises the scrawl on the cover that is supposed to be her name.
Catra’s handwriting has gotten worse since she left she thinks.
“Who’s it from?” Glimmer asks and Adora looks at her, then as the card and she’s tempted to say no one, pretend it’s nothing, brush it off and brush them off.
But these are her friends and while she is still learning what that means outside of the Fright Zone it’s not that different to what she had with Catra.
“Catra,” she says.
She opens it then, ripping the envelope and pulling the card out and the writing on the front of the card is much clearer and legible and reads ‘Happy Birthday’. On the inside is another of Catra’s signature scrawls that’s probably her name and nothing else.
The fact that she even sent a card says enough.
“How did this get here?” Adora asks suddenly. She grabs Glimmer, then Bow, “did you see anyone? Anyone at all??”
“No one!” Bow cries, extracting himself.
“What is it?” Glimmer asks, a hand on her arm and her whole body tenses as she fights the urge the throw it off. She’s just trying to help.
“A birthday card,” she says. She hands it back to Glimmer so she can take a look but she ignores it entirely.
“A birthday card! It’s your birthday?” she cries.
“Yeah, the 19th.”
“You know what that means right?” Glimmer says and she and Bow look at one another.
“PARTY!” they squeal and Adora is surrounded by them as they embrace her.
“This is going to be awesome,” Glimmer says, and she’s already dragging Adora out of her room and the card is discarded, forgotten. Bow is behind them, the two of them making plans and Adora isn’t even sure what a birthday party is but even she forgets the card as they two of them explain it to her.
It isn’t until after a full afternoon of colour swatches and cake tasting – how Glimmer organised that so quickly, Adora has no idea – that she remembers the card.
The fact that it was in her room worries her, and after a little investigating, it seems that no one really knows how it got there. So she slips out in the night, sword strapped to her back and heads straight to the Fright Zone.
She expects security to have been beefed up since she left, left with all it’s secrets, but those same secrets are undiscovered and she’s able to slip in easily. There is dust covering the tracks she made the last time she came this way, and before she knows it, she’s in the dorm.
Catra is no longer asleep in her bunk.
Nor is she asleep in her own bunk and it takes her a moment to realise that she’ll have moved out of the dorm and into a room of her own. And she doesn’t know where that is.
So she wakes Kyle to ask him.
The boy jumps out of his skin when he sees her, and goes to hug her but she manages to hold him back, gives him a smile.
“Are you-” he starts and she shushes him. “Are you coming back?” he whispers
She shakes her head.
“Where’s Catra?” she asks.
“Opposite Scorpia, with the other Force Captains,” he says. “I miss you.”
“I miss you too,” Adora says, already walking out the door.
She is not sneaky.
She wasn’t really trained to be sneaky, no one in the Horde is. They aren’t spies, they don’t really do reconnaissance or attack from within. They just attack. She fights, she’s good at it, the entire Fright Zone is made up of people who are very good at fighting.
Except for Kyle.
And it should frighten her and she knows it frightens Glimmer sometimes, especially when she talks growing up, training, working to become a Force Captain. It doesn’t frighten Adora though, because it feels like she has been doing reconnaissance work all this time and now, now she’s fighting back with everything she learnt.
The revelation has certainly helped her settle in with the Princesses.
Still, she wasn’t really trained for creeping around the Fright Zone living spaces in the night, looking for Scorpia’s room. Should she even recognise it when she finds it. She’s aware that all the damn rooms look the same and she’s lamenting on this when she’s spotted.
Catra is behind, leaning against the wall, arms cross, one foot tapping against the green wall.
“How did you get that card to me?” Adora asks. “Were you in my room?”
“Real nice,” Catra says with a smile. “I don’t know how you stand it.”
“I climbed up the wall, it wasn’t hard.”
Her claws retract, glinting in the harsh light of the corridor and Adora can believe it. Especially as she sees a chip or two.
“It was interesting really, to see inside the pretty palace. Is it always so bright and...colourful,” she says with disdain and Adora smiles. She struggled with it too. Still does.
She wants to tell her it’s not all bad, but she doesn’t want to argue with her because they just go around in circles. Adora is not going to come back and Catra isn’t going to join her, they’re going to keep fighting until the end.
Adora is suddenly very sad.
“You should go,” Catra says, “before you get caught. Shadow Weaver might think you’re returning to the Horde and we wouldn’t want that.”
Adora frowns but she’s right and she starts back down the corridor when she’s suddenly pulled back, almost falling as Catra’s tail whips around her waist and tightens. She gasps as she comes to a stop in front of her, managing to keep from crushing her by bracing her palms flat on the grey wall either side of her head.
Catra just grins.
Then unwraps her tail, flicks it in the air beside her and kisses Adora on the cheek.
“Happy Birthday,” she tells her again, before slipping from between her and the wall and swaying down the corridor. Adora blushes red and watches her go, eyes wide and jaw almost to the floor. She manages to note the door she enters despite her shock and files away the information for later.
Kyle is asleep when she heads back into the dorm room and doesn’t wake, even when she drops the panel on her foot and swears. She manages to get through the passageway though, kicking up more dust and home again before it’s too late to even get any sleep.
Not before Glimmer notices and she’s pacing the room when Adora walks in.
“Where were you? I was worried sick!” She cries, and she launches herself at Adora and hugs her. Adora often wonders if Glimmer realises just how much she sounds like her mother when she says stuff like that. “Bow and I searched everywhere for you. Are you okay? Did you get lost? I know it’s a pretty big place and I don't think there is even a map and-”
“Glimmer, I’m fine,” Adora says with a laugh. “Though a map might be helpful.”
Glimmer laughs too.
“I’ll see if I can get you one. Did you get lost in the Aquarium?”
“There’s an Aquarium?”
“Yeah, down by the Solarium.”
“I don’t even know what that is,” Adora says. “Are there any more riums?”
“A rium isn’t even a thing.”
“Where were you?” Bow says, bursting into the room. He too launches himself at Adora, squeezing her tighter than Glimmer had and she gasps and struggles to extract herself.
“I’m fine. I went out.”
“I went to see Catra.”
“What?!” They both cry together.
“I wanted to know how she got the card here,” she looks to wear the card now stands on her clothes drawers. “It was fine. No one saw me. No one’s discovered the old passages.”
“Did you see her? What did she say?”
Adora smiles, feels another blush coming.
“Just happy birthday,” she tells them.