It Went Like This:
Adora in Brightmoon, surrounded by shiny new things and loving new friends and a loss inside of her so big she didn’t quite know how to handle it.
Catra in the Fright Zone, surrounded by metal so worn it almost gave comfort, friends she didn’t know how to love back, and an anger so deep it consumed everything.
Adora learned that the moons of Etheria looked the same from no matter where you saw them, and she wondered if Catra ever went back to their spot, at the top of their known world, and looked at the same moons. She liked to think that Catra did, but then that loss inside of her would grow and grow until Adora found it better to just not look at the moons at all.
Catra learned that having your own room as a force captain wasn’t all what she thought it’d be, and that the long pale hairs she used to pick off her uniform with a frown at breakfast were suddenly a lot more annoying when they simply weren’t there. And while the hum of the Fright Zone had always made enough white noise to fall asleep to, the lack of steady breaths beside her were a lot harder to fall asleep without.
It Had Started Like This:
They were seven and laying sideways on Catra’s bunk with their legs swinging carefree off the side. They were pressed together, their hands tightly clasped and hidden between their sides. They were so close that they could whisper just quietly enough that no one else could hear.
When Shadow Weaver had walked in, Adora sat up so suddenly that Catra didn’t get a chance to let go of her hand.
It was the first day they both fully understood what forbidden meant.
They were fourteen and had gotten a lot smarter in the years where their lives together had doubled in time. They had rank, they had power (or at least Adora did), and they were not above using that to their advantage.
Adora had first noticed that Catra wasn’t quite comfortable around the other cadets when they were thirteen and were first placed on their squadron with Lonnie, Kyle, and Rogelio. Catra smiled less, barley laughed, and when she spoke it was usually to insult someone.
So Adora had started getting them assigned to chores further away, on the edges of the Zone, in vacant storage rooms, down in the bottom of the labs. Places where Catra finally felt okay enough to reach out for Adora’s hand again. To lean against her side. To dramatically throw herself into Adora’s lap as she sometimes did, but then chose to stay there longer than they ever would in the barracks.
They were sixteen when Adora fully realized what being alone together for so much of the day meant for them. It happened when Catra had made a comment about who was the hottest cadet and Adora had answered, without hesitation and without stopping to use any of the braincells she had left: ‘Catra’.
Then she froze, because Catra had frozen, and Adora realized in that instance, moments too late, that this may too be something forbidden.
But then Catra had brought her hands up to Adora’s shoulders so slowly that Adora thought maybe this was something good. And by the time Catra’s lips met hers, Adora was sure that forbidden or not, this was theirs and she would never give it up.
They Found Out Like This:
Adora wasn’t used to watching people show affection for each other, which was kind of the understatement of her life. Seeing Glimmer’s mom yearn for Micah, watching Glimmer and Bow dance around each other with the ease of being completely comfortable with someone; it was all new. And confusing. Because suddenly these actions had names and meanings behind them. Like love. And marriage. And commitment forever.
It took until Adora had to be told what an Aunt was for Glimmer to finally ask if she knew about marriage or love or any of the things Glimmer later spent a whole sleepover telling her about. And it really didn’t fully click for Adora until Glimmer turned and asked if she had someone like that, back in the Horde.
And Adora’s mind flew to Catra, pushing her hair back and laughing. Catra, sneaking Adora an extra bit of her ration bar when she thought her attention was elsewhere. Catra, slipping down to Adora’s bunk nearly every night because being five feet above her was simply too far away.
But that was also the same Catra who had slashed scars into Adora’s back so deep that not even transforming into She-Ra could fully heal them. Catra, who had kidnapped her friends. Catra, who could leave at any time but needed to stay, to prove herself to people who never loved her. Catra, who Adora still woke up reaching for in the mornings.
So when she finally told Glimmer no, it was enough for Glimmer not to push it.
Catra, for her part, kind of always knew. Adora had been the oblivious one, the one with round and soft human ears. The one whose eyes rarely strayed further than Catra, or Catra’s comfort. But Catra paid attention, and listened, okay maybe eavesdropped, and learned.
When Catra had leaned up to kiss Adora that first day she knew exactly what she was doing. She knew what it meant. And it had hurt the day she realized that Adora kissed her because kissing her felt good and she liked being around Catra, and because, as Adora had said once, they were best friends, and best friends did everything together.
Catra had been too stunned to say more that night.
But she could handle that, she could handle it being less for Adora. A thought that was cemented the day Adora fully left the Horde, fully left Catra, behind.
When she left, Adora had taken Catra’s trust, her heart, and after that it was all too easy to let the blind rage take over.
The Catalyst Was This:
It was enough, Adora lied to herself, to be able to see Catra so periodically. To see her only when fighting. To just know that she was still alive and snarky and whole. To still have hope.
So the day when a Horde invention went wrong and the section of the woods between Brightmoon and the Horde suddenly rumbled and exploded, leaving a mountain wider and higher than they had ever seen, Adora didn’t know what to think.
Contact was more or less cut off with many Etherian towns. And in the two weeks after the mountain appeared and the dust settled, a steady panic grew in Adora each day that she may not see Catra for a very long time, if at all.
Angella’s wings were strong enough to get her up to the top of the mountain, which allowed her to confirm that the Horde was still operational, but such was the height and width that crossing it felt impossible. Which meant seeing Catra was impossible. Which was a reality Adora was not yet ready to face.
But another week of planning turned up nothing, and Bow’s inventions just weren’t strong enough once they took in the height, and wind speeds, and the power needed. And Adora’s panic that had begun as a tiny drop of water was now a full on river, drowning out everything around her.
It was worse at night. Because night had always been their time and night had always been when Catra finally felt safe enough to talk about her feelings and what frustrated or scared her. And night was so branded with Catra’s touch and smell and presence that it was night when Adora finally broke.
The ridge was not Catra’s fault in the slightest but it was Catra who took the fall and so Catra who was sent away from the warmth of the Fright Zone to camp along the cold, dark, damp start of the ridge to ‘study’ it. As though she would know anything about the dumb rock in front of her. None of their tech worked close to it and most of the cadets she had been send with were so new and so miserable that none of them offered any help anyway.
So Catra took to taking walks long into the night. Because the only thing worse than young cadets complaining to her about bullshit, was the fact that in the night, her anger would fade to something sharp and painful and way too close to tears for comfort. So it was better to stay awake, and stay angry.
It was on one of these walks that Catra found a dip into the base of the mountain, not much, but small enough to maybe be a cave. And the wind was strong tonight and the sky extra dark, so she ducked inside. The cave led a little ways into the mountain and for a moment Catra hoped it may continue all the way through, but then it ended abruptly into yet more rock, and the anger that was already simmering rose to a boil. Catra slashed at the rock with her claws again and again until her claws were bloody. But she came away with an idea.
It was warmer on Brightmoon’s side that same night, when Adora left the comfort and safety of her bed in hopes that doing something, no matter how small, may take just some of the panic away that threatened to drown her.
Even though they hadn’t seen any sign of a threat since the mountain went up, Adora wore She-Ra’s form as she made her way through the few remaining woods to the base of the mountain. Tucked into a shadowy part was a small indention, so Adora started there.
She-Ra’s sword was powerful enough to slice into the rock, again and again until the sun was starting to lighten the sky around her and her form flickered between Adora and She-Ra as she trembled with exhaustion. But she had made a sizeable indention into the mountainside and for a moment her panic had lessened with it.
She didn’t tell Glimmer about that hole in the mountain. It didn’t matter, and it wasn’t going to ever reach the other side (the thing had to be miles wide, by Angella’s calculations). It just helped, late at night when it all got to be too much. So she kept doing it.
A week into slashing into that damn ridge in an attempt to actually do something. A week of disappearing into the night and catching naps in the afternoon to make up for lost sleep. A week later when Catra finally felt something give.
Her tunnel, that’s really what it was at this point, was pretty deep by now. Narrow and small, but deep. The rock had proven to be unrelenting and hard. Slick at some points while grittier in others, but all solid as, well, rock.
So Catra was not ready for the moment that her claws met little resistance, and a lot of crumbling. She wasn’t ready for the breeze that graced her face. And she totally was not at all embarrassed by her perfectly normal reaction to all of that.
So the ridge did have an inside. And from the looks of it, a very hallow, narrow, inside. Catra left the hole just as it was, a couple of inches wide, and went back to camp. Tomorrow she’d be back, and she’d bring supplies. She was going to end this war with Brightmoon for good. Maybe then she’d actually be able to sleep through the night.
Adora didn’t go to the mountain every night, but it was close enough. With her sword, she was able to hack deep into a small cave she had created for herself. It wasn’t the first thing she kept from Bow and Glimmer, but she didn’t really want to fight the Horde right now. She just wanted to make sure Catra was okay. And that wasn’t something she was ready to explain to Bow and Glimmer, not after they thought she had gotten over the whole ‘Catra thing’.
Adora had carved out a pretty decent sized cave by the time another week had gone by. No new developments had come up and tensions were running high. Besides from sparring matches with Glimmer that always turned into arguments over ~something~, this was the only real outlet she had.
She grunted in frustration as she swung her sword yet again against the wall, but this time it was easier. This time, the wall began to crumble before her, revealing a small hole. A breeze lifted She-Ra’s sweaty hair back and for the millionth time Adora missed her ponytail. Not wanting to turn back, she kept her form as she carefully pried away at the hole, widening it enough for She-Ra to slip through.
The hole in front of her was actually a tunnel. The edges were rough and ragged, like it had only recently been carved. Adora was immediately suspicious.
For a moment, she thought of going back to get Glimmer, Bow, Angella…someone, but something pulled her forward. So she took a step and paused to listen. All she heard was the soft sound of the wind behind her. The breeze that had been coming at her face, from deep within the tunnel, now seemed to curl around her, urging her forward. So forward she went.
Out of the supplies she had managed to grab, Catra had a lamp, a couple of grey ration bars, a rope, and a wrench (for smashing things, obviously). She slipped out well after the other cadets were asleep and headed back to her crevice, and into her tunnel. Catra had never been a fan of cold, underground places. And the thought of an entire mountain pressing down above her was enough to make her steps falter, but the urge to destroy Brightmoon, to be ~done~, was bigger. So she walked onward.
The tunnel was…surprisingly nice. It was cool, but warmer than the howling wind outside. So Catra walked onward.
Adora only had to walk for a couple of minutes. She used the glow from her sword to light the way. It wasn’t long before she came to a large cave-like room. The walls and floor were smoother here, and small boulders lined the walls.
Adora held her sword up as she turned around the room. It took her a moment to notice the small tunnel on the other side of the cave, and she honestly probably wouldn’t have noticed it if not for the faint glow that was suddenly getting closer and closer. Adora gasped and took a couple of quick steps back, her large She-Ra feet tripping against a boulder. She stumbled backwards and by the time she looked up, a figure was already standing at the entrance.
Catra didn’t quite know why she said it, but it’s what she always said. Why stop now, when you see your former childhood-best-friend-who-was-maybe-something-more-but-then-left-you-and-everything-you-had-together-behind-the-first-chance-she-got. Catra needed a better name for that.
Adora, meanwhile, had scrambled back to her feet. She froze, looking at Catra with a shocked expression, her hand clenched around her half-raised sword.
“Catra. Did you build this?”
Catra had to laugh. Adora really still thought that highly of the Horde?
“How would I have built this, Adora?”
Adora finally lowered the sword as she shrugged, looking around.
“I was digging into the side of the ridge and found a tunnel. It led here.” Catra continued. Then her eyes narrowed. “How do I know you don’t have some of your freaky princesses hiding behind you?”
Adora actually turned around. Catra couldn’t believe it. Dumbass left her whole back exposed. She turned back, expression open and Catra just couldn’t take it.
“I’m here alone.”
Catra sighed. “Right. You’re only the most wanted by the Horde and you’re wandering deep into the ridge alone.”
“I was just slashing at the rocks.”
“Attacking rocks now?” Catra interrupted, raising an eyebrow.
Adora rolled her eyes and relaxed her stance even further. “It helps with the stress. I wasn’t even that far in when I hit this tunnel. It led here.”
“Huh. What do you even have to be stressed about.”
Adora wanted to lie, but after an entire week of barely any sleep and not knowing if Catra was alive and okay, and the whole thing bothering her more than she was willing to admit, she didn’t have it in her.
“I was worried about you,” Adora finally says. She watches as Catra’s ears go back for a moment before she regains control over them.
“Yea, you. Wait, how did you even get here? It’d take hours to walk this far into the mountain.”
“I didn’t, dumbass. You’re the one who walked far. I can’t even have gone a mile.”
Adora frowned. “But that’s the same for me. Maybe time and space work differently in here. I mean the tunnel was just…here. And the whole mountain did just kind of appear.”
Catra eyed Adora’s sword warily and Adora realized she was still in her She-Ra form. “A magical tunnel appearing where space does not work the same wouldn’t be the weirdest thing to happen to us.”
Adora phased out of her She-Ra form and slid her sword into the holster on her back.
“I’m glad you’re okay.”
Catra seemed entirely too suspicious at that. “You were worried about me?”
Oh, so they were back to this. “I thought I was supposed to be the dumb one. You know how I feel about the Horde. The only good thing about us fighting all the time is at least I know that you’re still alive.”
Catra scoffed. “As if they’d kill me.”
“Haven’t they tried like, several times.”
Catra had no response for that.
“How is it, anyway?” Adora asked.
“Why would I tell you?”
Adora sighed and sat down on one of the boulders, leaving Catra still standing a few feet away from her. “Maybe because this is the first time in over a month that I actually don’t feel like my brain is going to explode out of my head and maybe I want it to last a little longer.”
Wow. Honesty hour was hitting her hard.
It was quiet for a long moment. Then Catra slid down against her side of the cavern.
“If I answer, you have to answer too.”
“It’s a mess. Hordak was messing with the black garnet and then boom, this. We don’t have contact with anyone anywhere else. We still have troops out.”
“We’re at a loss too. It’s why I was so-”
“Worried about me, yeah we established that.”
Adora smiled and felt her heart lighten when Catra finally smiled back.
Ugh her face. That was too much emotion for Catra to handle.
“How do you think this tunnel even got here?” Catra finally asked, running her claws along the solid wall.
Adora was quiet for a moment, her eyebrows drawn together. “Well, Etheria reads our emotions. And the mountain is technically part of Etheria. Maybe it heard what we want?”
“We?” Catra yanked her hand back into her lap. For all she knew, these stupid walls were reading her inner thoughts right now.
Adora shot her a look. “The mountain wouldn’t have brought us both here if you didn’t miss me too.”
Catra didn’t really have an answer for that. She was exhausted, and she couldn’t remember the last time she actually talked to Adora, and god it hurt. It ached deep in her chest and sat on her lungs and took her breath away. It was annoying.
“Is that…right?” Adora’s voice was soft, hesitant.
“Don’t be dumb, Adora.” Catra snapped. “Of course I fucking miss you. We were all each other had until you found that stupid sword. You don’t just erase seventeen years of existing for each other. You don’t erase,” Catra cut herself off. “Forget it.”
“If we miss each other so much, then why do we keep fighting?”
Great. Now she actually sounded hurt. “Because that’s just what we do, Adora. And no, it won’t change.”
More silence. Catra became dimly aware that she could still hear the howling wind back on the Fright Zone side.
“Can it be different just in here?”
Catra sighed. “What do you mean?”
Adora had been hugging her knees to her chest but now she let her arms fall as she sat up a little further. “Well, the mountain obviously brought us together. And if the Horde is doing its thing and Brightmoon is doing its own thing, why can’t we just keep this for us, just for a little bit.”
“That’s a really bad idea, Adora.”
Adora visibly deflated. “Oh, right.”
Another deep sigh. Nearly two years of successfully avoiding Adora and now she was going soft? Pathetic. But, it was for Adora. So. “But I guess we can do it anyway.”
Adora really needed to learn to control her emotions better.
“Yea, really.” And from across the room, Catra smiled.
So It Becomes A Thing:
Their thing, specifically. They meet up nearly every night, while the Horde and Brightmoon scramble to find a way around this massive new problem. Glimmer’s happy because Adora’s finally sleeping again, and Bow’s happy because Glimmer’s happy, and Angella’s happy because she no longer has three brooding teenagers on her hands.
Catra keeps on her assignment at the edge of the ridge, testing the new inventions the Horde sends over and maybe fudging a couple of results if only to keep her there longer.
And they meet up in the cavern every night. Adora on her boulder, Catra against the wall. And they talk. Catra avoids talking about Shadow Weaver and Adora avoids Bow and Glimmer but for the first time both of them feel fully comfortable talking about themselves.
And if by the end of the first week they’re each leaning against the same boulder as they talk, they don’t mention it.
It’s into the second week, or sometime around then. As long as Catra here, time really doesn’t matter to Adora. Usually Catra brings a light, but it’s been getting harder to sneak them away from camp, something Adora didn’t even think of, and so she offers to bring the light this time.
It’s one of Bow’s new inventions and it adjusts to fill the space it’s brought into, and when it brightens upon entering the cavern Catra actually hisses.
Adora laughs, tapping at the bottom to lessen the glare.
“What the fuck, Adora?”
“I almost forgot how dramatic you are,” Adora teases.
“I am not dramatic. I’m frightening and intimidating.”
“Yes of course you are, it’s all very cute.”
They both freeze. For far too long.
“Anyway, it’s a lantern isn’t it.”
Adora cringed as soon as she said it, but Catra’s shoulders finally relax so Adora continues on. She swings the lantern over near the wall and suddenly pauses.
“Wait Catra, look at this.”
Catra’s at her side in an instant, close enough that the heat from her arm presses into Adora’s side. Totally not distracting at all.
Catra frowns. “Are they drawings?”
Adora walks slowly along the cavern wall, carrying the bright lantern with her. “It looks like it.”
The drawings are old, done in cracked paint and faded charcoal.
“Look,” Catra says, “it’s like us.”
Adora leans closer to peer at the image. Two figures stand far apart, explosions and fighting between them. In the distance, a large grey mountain looms. Adora
turns to ask Catra what it means but when she does she realizes that Catra’s face is much closer than she recalled. As close as they used to be when they pressed into hiding spaces in the Horde, as close as when they curled up on Adora’s bunk and whispered late into the night, as close as the moment right before Catra would lean in to kiss her.
“There’s more,” Catra whispers.
It’s a moment before Catra backs away and Adora misses her immediately, in a whole new way than she has been. But she bites her tongue and follows after.
The images are a series along the wall, and Adora feels a little dumb having never noticed them before. The next one shows the two people walking together under the mountain. The third has them resting together in the middle. There are more, Adora could tell that much, but they had been carved out.
Adora ran her hand over the missing images.
“I wonder what happens in the end.” She says.
Catra shrugs. “Maybe it never ends.”
“All things end eventually.”
Catra looks right at her. “Do they?”
They’re close again. So close. Adora’s hand twitches for a moment before she slowly brings it up to rest on Catra’s waist.
“I guess they don’t always have to. Not the good ones.”
“Were we a good thing then?” Catra’s own hands brush up the sides of Adora’s harms. It’s so achingly familiar and so achingly far away.
“We were the best thing.”
And then they’re kissing and it’s everything Adora remembered and so much better and so much more and she never wants this good thing to end.
Catra would never admit how much she had thought of this moment in the past two years, both before the ridge appeared and after she found the cavern, found Adora. But now Adora’s in her arms, laughing at her jokes, kissing her lips, her cheeks, her temple.
They pull away with a gasp and Catra just can’t help herself.
“I thought you and Sparkles were a thing.”
She regrets it as soon as she says it, but Adora actually laughs. Because Adora gets her, she always has.
“Were you jealous?” Adora asks, touching her forehead into Catra’s and raising an eyebrow.
It’s Catra’s least favorite expression of Adora’s, or at least that’s the lie she clings too.
“Absolutely not.” Catra goes to pull away, just to prove her point, but Adora’s hands are sliding into her hair and maybe her pride can just get over that insult for tonight.
So They Become A Thing:
Adora can’t get over the fact that she’s the one who gets to hold Catra now, who gets to run her hands over her, who gets to kiss her.
Their nights in the cavern become longer, riskier. Adora sneaks out as soon as the guards move to night rotation, meeting Catra in the cavern with new foods to try, blankets to lay on, and fizzy drinks. Catra doesn’t bring anything from the Horde. With both of them together under miles of mountain, there’s nothing in the Horde for either of them to miss.
They fall asleep sometimes, waking as light starts to break over the sky, leaving with hurried kisses and promises to return the next night. It takes several times before Adora starts to believe it.
But she does believe it, she trusts it, she trusts ~Catra~.
Catra hasn’t felt this relaxed in years. Away from the prying eyes of the Horde, they’re able to rebuild what they once had, in a way. It’s different, but it’s good. Catra falls asleep to new tastes and flickering lights and the ever-familiar smell of Adora against her side.
On days when the Horde was especially hard, or tensions were high in Brightmoon, they curl up into each other under a blanket and talk with their foreheads pressed together and their hands linked.
On other days they press close together and kiss until they’re breathless and dizzy, and god Catra’s never been more thankful for Adora’s stupid turtle necks until now.
But it rests in the back of Catra’s mind, that thought from back in the Horde. That this never meant the same thing to Adora. And Catra could survive it now, but she has to know. And eventually the ‘has to know’ gets to be too much.
“Adora,” Catra says one night, pulling away from their kiss.
Adora finally opens her eyes. “Okay, focused.”
“What is this?”
Adora frowns and Catra has to restrain herself from kissing the crunch between her eyebrows. “It’s kissing, right?”
Catra blushes. “Well, yea. But what does it mean to you?”
Adora shifts a little and lets her gaze land anywhere other than Catra’s eyes. “It means I want to kiss you.”
“But do you like me?” Catra hates the way she sounds.
“Of course I like you,” Adora breathes out, finally meeting her eyes. “I kind of thought I’d made that clear.”
“But,” Catra sighs. This was much much harder than she thought it’d be. “Do you like me as a kind of forever?”
“Catra you’re the only one I want like this, and I have multiple best friends.”
Well Catra had mixed feelings about that statement, but she’d allow it. “You’re the only one I want like this, too.”
Adora laughs softly. “Then why’d you stop us?”
Catra rolls her eyes and flips Adora over to shut her up. For once it actually works.
As much as she hates to it admit it, Catra’s happy for once. And it would have felt like a weakness, it should feel like a weakness, but Adora’s always managed to make her feel strong.
Catra knows it probably isn’t a good idea, but they don’t talk about the years spent fighting each other. They don’t talk about what the future holds. They don’t talk about what will happen when they meet back on the battlefield.
Adora stops asking Catra to defect to Brightmoon, and Catra’s grateful, but the look never leaves Adora’s eyes. And for a moment Catra is tempted.
As they talk more, as they become more firmly each other’s, Adora starts to talk about her new friends. And to Catra they sound like way too much, but they don’t sound bad exactly. And for a night Catra imagines being there, in a room that belongs solely to her and Adora, where they can actually be free and loved and happy.
But then she rises each morning and kisses Adora behind and returns to the Horde. It’s just a dream, afterall.
In all truth, Adora should have known she’d get attached to Catra. Attached like they were before. Leaving her in the Horde hadn’t exactly been Adora’s choice, and she knew better than to try to change the ending. She knew that her losing Catra would always be their final page, but she let herself believe it, just a little bit.
She let herself imagine that she could live a life with Catra always by her side. That they could be together in more than just the middle of the mountain. She pressed Catra into the blankets in the cavern and imagined how much better it would be in the large bed in Brightmoon. She brought Catra new fruit and thought about how thrilled she would be by the hot dinners and sugary breakfasts that the kitchen never seemed to run out of.
And maybe she wished a little too hard for it all, because she eventually started believing it.
Yet, This Is How It Ends:
It’s a blur for Adora, really. Too fast to warn Catra, too fast to say goodbye. Too fast to give her the small pin she had been holding onto for a week now. Too fast to even ask if they were supposed to still hate each other.
The mountain was connected to the red garnet after all, which Adora never told anyone about but Glimmer figured out anyway. And with her and Frosta and Perfuma’s combined power, they quite literally melted the mountain back into the ground.
Adora watches as She-Ra, Bow at her side, as her connection to Catra disappears.
Far on the other side, where Catra and her forces are quickly retreating back to the Horde, Adora wonders if Catra is as torn about it as she is.
Adora adjusts her grip on her sword. It turns out that something that good wasn’t meant to last anyway.