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82 Hours

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Adora’s exhausted.

 

Her train left at 6am this morning, meaning she had to be ready to go at 5:15, because Manhattan traffic is ridiculous.

 

And the shuttle taking her to the station stopped, like, ten times to pick up other people, and every single person took so incredibly long to get their luggage loaded into the van, so not only was Adora tired, she was also stressed out of her mind.

 

But she made it.

 

Twenty minutes in, settled in a slightly smelly but cushioned seat, sunglasses on, eyes glued to the window, watching the world go by.

 

It’s all slightly melodramatic, but Glimmer always says harnessing your own personal melodrama is beneficial if you’re harnessing it for your art.

 

Glimmer’s a violinist, so that works directly for her. Her emotion bleeds into her music, it’s palpable, you can sense it when she plays. 

 

That’s why she’s so good.

 

Her mom is the current president of Juilliard, so her acceptance was messy (people still accuse her of nepotism), but her talent is undeniable.

 

Adora’s still struggling with that. Talent .

 

It’s been three years since she was accepted into Juilliard as Angella’s prodigy, the dancer who will change the industry , they called her, and despite, well, everything , undeniable, raw talent is something she’s still searching for. 

 

Glimmer and Bow call her crazy. Everyone calls her crazy. How could you even think that? Bow once yelled at her before a showcase. He also majors in dance, and although Adora would be the first to say he is one of the best dancers she’s ever seen, he’s the first to quickly refute it, which just proves her point, really.

 

Even with all the praise, she can’t shake it. Can’t shake the feeling that she’s not good enough, she never will be.

 

This feeling has always gnawed at her, even back home in New Jersey, with her humble origins at Weaver’s Academy for Dance .

 

The only person who actually challenged her on it, who made her actually consider her place in the world, was gone.

 

Well, not gone.

 

Adora’s eyes slide to the end of the train car, gaze fixed on the last seat in the very last row, turned away from her, the person sitting in it not visible.

 

Adora was taking the train to San Francisco. A 3 day and ten hour journey. She had received an invitation to audition for a ballet company in San Francisco, one of the most prestigious in the country, even though she didn’t strictly practice ballet, but of course, exceptions were made for Angella’s pride and joy. 

 

She doesn’t know why she’s going. It isn’t like she’s concerned about her career. Angella erased any fear of job insecurity in Adora’s sophomore year, when she told her that anywhere Adora wanted to go, Angella would take her there.

 

So why go to San Francisco? Why refuse the plane ticket Angella bought for her? Why even audition ? She was legendary. If she wanted a place in their ballet company, San Francisco would gladly offer it.

 

Plagued by these questions, Adora had boarded the train, slumped into her seat, and who came running down the platform, graceful as ever, a moment later? 

 

A ghost.

 

(Well, that really was melodramatic, and she couldn’t even channel that into dance.)

 

Catra. Who she hadn’t seen or talked to in three years.

 

Well, that wasn’t true. A couple months after Adora moved to New York she received a drunken voicemail from Catra basically cursing her name and threatening her. So, like, two and  a half years.

 

(Adora had cried over that voicemail. Not that she’d ever tell anyone that, especially Catra. Because she knew all that Catra wanted when she sent that message was to hurt her. And she had succeeded. Why let her know that?)


Catra had pretended not to see her. On the train, that is. Had stiffened slightly, but brushed by, falling into the seat farthest away from Adora.

 

Adora wasn’t smart or suave enough to pretend to not see Catra though, and had made quite a spectacle by choking on her coffee, launching into a coughing fit, and banging her elbow against a passing man’s luggage, and then swearing heartily about it.

 

So, like, perfect.

 

Maybe Catra was on this train for the same reason as Adora, on her way to audition for this huge ballet company. It’d make sense, because Catra actually was a ballet dancer. 

 

Then again, Adora didn’t know how many dancers from small colleges in New Jersey were handpicked to audition for the San Francisco Ballet Company.

 

She groaned inwardly. Jesus, had she always been this snooty?

 

No. Catra wouldn’t have allowed it. 

 

This was New York’s effect on her, Juilliard’s effect on her, years of being called the best and extraordinary without any dispute.

 

Adora’s eyes drift back to Catra.

+

Fucking Adora just has to be on this train, doesn’t she. She just has to be going to San Francisco. Because that’s obviously where she’s going. Where else? Kansas

 

No, she’s going to San Francisco to take away the one chance Catra has to get away from New Jersey, away from Shadow Weaver.

 

They’re going to hear Adora and that’ll be it, Adora won’t even have to audition. Meanwhile, Catra will work her fucking ass off, deliver a mesmerizing performance, and get rejected.

 

Adora couldn’t even fathom the amount of work that went into getting this invitation. Months and months of driving into the city, hanging around in the back of theaters and rehearsal spaces, one eye carefully trained on the tall man with a SF Ballet pin on his backpack. Waiting for a moment where she could truly shine.

 

She nearly cried with relief when he approached her, asking where she was studying.

 

Montclair State University.

 

New Jersey? He asked, eyebrows furrowing. 

 

She nodded. Not committed to staying there though. 

 

She had scribbled out her phone number and email and then ran away, spent the entire drive back to her dorms grinning.

 

She had even hugged Scorpia, which was different. New.

 

San Francisco was supposed to be it .

 

But now.

 

Adora.

 

Adora, with her shiny long hair and dazzling smile and dancing that looks like magic.

 

Catra stands abruptly, itching to move.

 

She’ll go to the bathroom, use the room to stretch, maybe practice a few basic moves. Just something to shove Adora out of her mind.

 

If that’s even possible.

+

One, two, three, four, five.

 

Five, four, three, two, one. 

 

Catra runs through the ballet positions again. And again. And again. Breathing resolutely through her mouth (the bathroom smells like shit) and stretching out as far as she can without touching anything (not very far).

 

One, two, three, four, five. Stumble slightly as the floor underneath her lurches, quickly correct.

 

Five, four, three, two, one.

 

She lifts her chin slightly, jumps from first position to fifth, grimacing as her form crumbles.

 

Scorpia always tells her to relax, to make dancing fun again.

 

She wants to call Scorpia, tell her that dancing’s never been as fun as now, in a bathroom with shit smeared on the walls and piss on the floor.

 

She does a little flourish, effectively giving up, and reaches for the door handle, yanking it open.

 

She’ll settle back in her seat, call Scorpia or Entrapta, listen to them talk about nothing. They’ll talk her off the edge, make it okay that she’s on a train with Adora and can’t so much as stretch without touching literal shit.

 

She makes it halfway through the doorway before someone comes wheeling around the corner, slamming into her, causing her to reel back and smack her head against the wall.

 

“Oh my god, are you okay?”

 

Catra’s head snaps up, rapidly takes in blue eyes blonde hair pink lips.

 

“Figures,” Catra mutters, straightening. Because, of course, Adora’s already shoved her way into her life, twenty minutes into the 3 day train ride.

 

Adora has the gall to look hurt.

 

“What?”

 

Catra’s scowl deepens, the back of her head starts pounding.

 

“Christ, Adora, can you just let me through?”

 

Adora finally starts glaring, the innocent act disappearing as her eyebrows curve down. 

 

“Move, Adora,” Catra says, muscles tensing and untensing, foot tapping on the floor, slowly, rhythmically, like the ticking of a clock.

 

“I just want to know if you’re okay,” Adora says firmly, nostrils flaring.

 

Catra forces herself to smile.

 

“Peachy,” she says.

 

She pushes past Adora and walks back to her seat.

+

“Are you going to stop anywhere?”

 

Adora sighs, rubbing a hand over her face. “The only stop is in the middle of nowhere, Kansas.”

 

“So… no?”

 

“I’m showering on the train.”

 

“Ew.”

 

Adora can picture Bow’s nose wrinkling, the quick glance he’ll throw Glimmer, who will be sitting right next to him, like always.

 

“But San Francisco! That sounds fun!” Glimmer chimes in, voice so high Adora knows she thinks the opposite.

 

Adora sighs again. “I might not move to San Francisco, Glimmer.”

 

Not, I might not get in, or, they might not even tolerate my audition, but I might not do it.

 

Adora grips her phone a little tighter, eyebrows furrowing. 

 

“Listen, we can’t control you, Adora,” Bow says. “But moving to Paris all together after graduation would be--”


“It would be so much fun, Adora!” Glimmer interjects, laughing slightly. “Could you imagine?”

 

“Yeah, I can imagine,” Adora mutters, forcing a smile, even though they can’t see her. 

 

It’s not that she doesn’t want to go to Paris, it’s just that… well, no, that’s exactly it. She doesn’t want to go to Paris. She doesn’t speak French, doesn’t know anything about the culture, and she’s actually really happy in New York. She has a nice dorm, a comfortable routine. Even the possibility of having to move to San Francisco makes her anxious. 

 

Paris seems so far away, so unnecessary. 

 

“Adora…” Bow says in his warning tone. “We aren’t going to force you.”

 

“Don’t worry about me, you guys. Okay? I’ll be back in a week. We’ll talk about it then.”

 

They talk for a little bit longer, just stupid gossip about what happened with this guy Glimmer can’t stand, until finally they exchange goodbyes.

 

Adora hangs up, slumping back in her seat.

 

Her gaze slides to the other side of the train, where she just barely catches Catra looking. She probably should be smiling, smug, satisfied with the knowledge that Catra felt the need to eavesdrop, but all she does is turn back to her window.

 

She remembers a time when Catra knew everything about her. When she lived and breathed Catra, and Catra lived and breathed her.

 

Never apart, never separated. People would make jokes about it, constantly, about how they were joined at the hip, how something was wrong if one of them were alone.

 

And then very abruptly Adora was alone all the time. 

 

Very abruptly she was alone, in a strange city, in a strange school, without even a phone call from Catra, or even a goddamn text message. 

 

Catra was hurt, sure. Everyone knew that, everyone understood her pain. The pain of being left behind.

 

But Adora was hurt too.

 

No one considered that. The pain of having to leave.

 

Adora exhales slowly, leaning back, eyes closing.

 

3 days. Ten hours. That’s it.

+

(Before it gets complicated.)

 

Juilliard ? New York ? Are you high?”

 

Catra scowls, flipping Lonnie off.

 

“Catra and I sent our applications in yesterday,” Adora proudly announces, smiling widely. “Two weeks before the deadline.”

 

Lonnie rolls her eyes, but only Catra sees. Adora continues walking, oblivious, hiking her backpack further up on her shoulder.

 

“Where are you applying, Lonnie?” Catra asks pointedly, enough of an edge to her voice that Adora slows slightly, eyes widening, pulled out of her perfect, innocent bubble.

 

Lonnie cocks her head, eyebrows furrowing. “I applied basically everywhere. Montclair State, CNJ, Kean, Amherst, NYU, Northeastern… and a couple of smaller safety schools in Vermont.”

 

Catra’s nostrils flare, annoyed at Lonnie’s imperviousness to her jabs.

 

“What if you don’t get into Juilliard?” Lonnie asks, snapping her gum. “They’re elite over there, you know.”

 

Adora shrugs. “I don’t really have a backup.” She stops abruptly, turning to Catra and Lonnie. “I should though, right?”

 

Lonnie snorts, and even though it’s starting to rain and Catra still has a mile to go until she gets to the house, she can’t help but smile too.

 

“I applied to Montclair State too,” Catra says airily, specifically leaving out the part where she applied to every single dance school in New York, even though she can’t afford any of them without a full scholarship.

 

Juilliard’s scholarship program is the only one where she could actually live in New York, so, really, it’s her only option. Other than Montclair State, and that has its own issues. Namely, it’s still in New Jersey.

 

“Jesus, where should I apply?” Adora asks, and Lonnie laughs again.

 

“Somewhere where you can do your dancing ,” Lonnie answers, flinging herself into a twirl as if to illustrate her point. It’s messy and unbalanced, and the weight of her backpack quickly has her careening towards the ground.

 

Adora yelps, lunging towards her, but isn’t fast enough, and Lonnie lands in a huge puddle.

 

It’s the first time Catra’s laughed in a while, well and truly, with tears running down her face and her stomach hurting. 

 

Lonnie starts cursing at her, accepting Adora’s help up and subsequently launching herself at Catra.

 

Catra runs.

 

The rain starts to pick up, hitting her like a thousand tiny pinpricks, soaking through her backpack and hair, but she continues running, Lonnie hot on her heels and Adora behind Lonnie, yelling for them to calm down but also grinning.

+

Adora’s talking so fucking loud, on the phone with her very best friend, smiling tiredly and running her fingers through her hair.

 

Catra abruptly turns away when Adora looks over, clenching her jaw.

 

She now knows that Adora’s definitely going to San Francisco. Definitely going to audition for the same spot Catra is. 

 

It’s so fucking infuriating.

 

She pulls out her phone, starts typing rapidly, messily, emotionally.

 

The first time she ranted about Adora to Entrapta and Scorpia she was ridiculously drunk, and Entrapta, sober, had simply replied, Jesus.

 

It was a common occurrence freshman year, but as Catra started to begrudgingly move on, vicious rants about Adora started to fade away, replaced by just a simple scowl when someone brought her up, or a clenched jaw when someone fawned over her.

 

But all that work , all that growth , well, that was absolutely out the window now. Because Adora was doing what she did best, taking something away from Catra, again .

 

you’ll never guess who’s on this fucking train w me

 

entr4pta

is this an actual guessing game or was that a 

rhetorical question ?

 

go ahead and guess

 

lobster 

ooh, is it a celebrity?

 

entr4pta 

is it a singer, actor, both ? Have I seen them 

in something ?

 

you guys suck at guessing. it’s Adora

 

lobster 

gaspppp!!! are you going to talk to her???

 

entr4pta

Do you think she’s going to audition for the 

place too ?

 

why the fuck would I talk to her?

and, yeah, she’s auditioning for ‘the place’ too.

I heard her talking on the phone to someone abt it.

 

lobster

 

what

 

l obster

Are you going to… hurt her?

 

jesus scorpia

 

lobster

It’s a fair question! All I remember about Adora is

that freshman yr you made a dartboard of her face.

 

lmao i forgot about that.

where do u think that ended up?

 

entr4pta

Scorpia threw it away.

 

bitch!!!

 

lobster

Entrapta! I swore you to secrecy!

 

entr4pta

It was time the truth came out anyway.

 

well, it doesn’t matter. when I’m getting

 back we’re making a new one. she’s totally 

going to take the audition spot from me.

 

entr4pta

You really think so ?

 

lobster

No Catra! You can’t think that way!!

You’re so talented!! Don’t give up!!

 

entr4pta

Scorpia’s right. I disagree with her 

use of exclamation points, but you’ve 

really come into your own as a dancer. 

You most definitely have a chance of beating 

out Adora.

 

thx guys. means a lot.

 

lobster 

text us whenever you’re thinking violent thoughts

 

you rlly think I’m going to beat up Adora?

 

entr4pta

we know you well. It’s not out of the realm 

of possibility.

 

stats for me snapping and going 

all fight-club on adora’s ass?

 

entr4pta

68%.

 

good to know. love u guys

 

lobster

awwwwwwwwwww

 

Catra turns off her phone, stuffing it back in her bag. She feels much calmer admittedly, even though no actual ranting took place. Entrapta and Scorpia have that effect on her. They’ve had no prior contact with Adora, so they make perfect recipients for her Adora-related emotions. Catra can say anything she wants, lies or not, and they don’t dispute it. 

 

Is it ethical? No. But it keeps Catra from going insane.

 

She sweeps her hair back, tying it up, and reaches for the book that Scorpia gave her before she left. 

 

You’ll love it, I promise.

 

Despite the fact that she doesn’t read books, unless it’s required reading for school, Scorpia had been begging her to give it a try for months, and well, now she really has no excuse.

 

The first page is already boring her.

 

The second page is boring.

 

The third page is boring.

 

The fourth page is boring

 

The fifth page is-- ooh, wait, someone died. 

 

She flips to the sixth, eyebrows shooting up. She always loves when big, capitalist, bureaucratic types die in books. It’s like, haha, your money can’t protect you now.

 

She’s deep into the tenth page when someone taps on her shoulder.

 

She flips the book closed over her finger, holding her place, and tilts her head up. 

 

The yeah? she planned to answer with gets stuck in her throat when she sees Adora standing next to her seat, face beet-red. 

 

“What?” Catra forces out, voice flat.

 

Adora clears her throat loudly, turning away slightly. “Um, I’m-- I’m really sorry to bother you, but do you-- do you have a phone charger I can use?”

 

Catra blinks.

 

“A phone charger ?”

 

Adora nods, face reddening even more.

 

Catra really wants to say no, to laugh and turn away. God, how good would it feel to pick up her phone charger, say you need this?, and stash it under her seat, out of Adora’s reach.

 

But she remembers Scorpia’s text, are you going to hurt her?, and deep down she knows that she hadn’t meant physically, like Catra had assumed at first glance. She meant emotionally, like if she asks for help will you give it to her, or will you just mock her and turn away? And it had been three years anyway, and Shadow Weaver always used to say how ridiculously immature Catra was--

 

Whatever. Let’s not think about that.

 

“I only have an Apple charger,” Catra says, and though her voice is wavering and her palms have started sweating, she feels a glimmer of pride for managing it.

 

Adora blinks, mouth falling open, like she’s eternally surprised at Catra’s small act of decency. “No, no, that works.”

 

Catra nods and passes the charger over, trying not to recoil when their fingers brush.

 

Adora seems to flee, striding away quickly, and it’s only when she’s settled in her seat then Catra feels like she can breathe. 

 

Her fingertips are burning, like she had shoved her hand in an open flame instead of just touched Adora. 

 

She flips her book back open with shaking hands and tries to concentrate.

 

(She had just touched Adora for the first time in three years.)

+

The first couple of hours go smoothly, until the mortification that was asking Catra for a charger. 

 

But it’s okay now, Adora thinks, because Catra had given her a charger and didn’t rip her a new asshole for it. Which she supposes is a low bar, but still.

 

(Adora will never admit to anyone the truth, that she didn’t actually need a charger, that her phone’s at 80%, that she just wanted to make sure Catra’s okay, because it really did look like she hit her head hard. She will never admit that when their fingertips brushed, Adora felt something she can’t and won’t describe, something that was akin to when they kissed for the first time. Adora will never admit that it scared the everlasting shit out of her, that she hasn’t been able to stop shaking in the hour since it happened. Adora will never say these things out loud to anyone, just as she will never say it out loud to herself.)

 

Now she just has to build up the courage to give it back.

+

(Before it gets complicated.)

 

“You’re working too hard.”

 

“You always say that. Even when I’m not working that hard.”

 

Catra huffs out a breath. “That may be true. But I’m still right. You’re working too hard.”

 

“Yeah, but if I can just get this last paragraph done, I don’t have to do anything over the weekend,” Adora points out, hunched over the library desktop. 

 

Catra sighs, the sound floating out into the air. Almost every day after school they go to the city library, two blocks away from the school, and fuck around. Over the years it’s become sort of a tradition, staying until closing, but now it’s a Friday night and Catra wants to get out, go somewhere, before the rain starts in. The librarians trust the two of them enough to leave them alone in the back room with the best desktop computer, but instead of being a quiet, serene place for Catra to half ass study, now it’s just a stupid, frustrating room with idiotic white walls and an Adora who isn’t paying her enough attention.

 

“Come on, it’s about to rain,” Catra whines, pushing her chair over to Adora. The wheels squeak against the linoleum floor, making Adora wince and rub her head. 

 

“Do you have to do that?”

 

“I can’t control the wheels, Adora,” Catra replies sharply, turning away. “Whatever. I have to go.”

 

“Jesus, Catra, really?”

 

“Yeah, really ,” Catra snaps, standing.

 

“I have to do this assignment! Just because you want to run around and try to pass for 21 at some club doesn’t change that!”

 

Catra’s mouth opens, closes. After a moment, she just clenches her jaw and grabs her bag, yanking open the door and letting it slam behind her. 

 

She strides through the empty library, snarling as she sees the storm outside. Pitch black, torrential rain, and she has to walk home alone. Fucking wonderful.

 

“Catra, do you want me to call you a cab?” One of the librarians, Catra thinks it’s Nancy, calls from behind the desk.

 

She stops in front of the door, groaning inwardly. “Yeah, yeah, I guess. I’m just gonna wait outside if that’s okay?”

 

Nancy starts objecting, but Catra doesn’t listen, pushing through the doors, barely managing not to scream in frustration at the cold front that hits her.

 

It seems as if she’s immediately drenched, hair matted on her forehead and backpack dripping. There’s no cover anywhere to wait, so she has no choice but to wait it out, desperately hoping the cab doesn’t take too long.

 

A couple minutes pass, and Catra starts itching to move, foot tapping and shoulders rolling back.

 

“You’re gonna get sick.”

 

She scowls, resolutely not turning around. “Why do you care?”

 

“Come on, Catra. What’s going on?”

 

Adora steps closer to her, and it’s only then does Catra realize that Adora has an umbrella, as the rain blessedly stops sliding down her face.

 

“It’s just-- I’m just tired, okay?” Catra says, using her sleeve to scrub at her face, knowing she’s ruining her foundation.

 

Adora makes a sound in the back of her throat, like she knows she’s lying, but doesn’t say anything.

 

“Jesus, it’s freezing,” Adora mutters, stepping closer to Catra.

 

Catra presses back against her, hoping that the cold’s a good enough of an excuse to be this close. 

 

Adora’s warm against her back, one hand delicately placed on her waist and the other holding the umbrella high up so it covers both of them, and after a moment, Catra feels a small weight on the top of her head, and realizes a bit belatedly that Adora’s resting her head on her, which shouldn’t make her stomach flip but does anyway.

 

“I’m tired too,” she says, in that stupid, dopey voice of hers.

 

Catra tries to smother her smile, even though Adora can’t see it anyway.

 

“It must be the rain,” she mumbles. “Did you get your essay done?”

 

“Yeah. Ms Jones probably won’t like the conclusion, but it’ll do.”

 

“At least a B,” Catra replies, referencing an old joke, something they promised each other all the way back in elementary school.

 

Adora laughs slightly. “At least a B.”

 

There’s a honk, and Catra straightens abruptly, realizing her cab has arrived. She turns, facing Adora. “Do you want to…?”

 

Adora shakes her head. “I don’t have any cash on me. Certainly not enough to make it all the way back to my place.”

 

“Come on, you can’t walk the entire way. Adora, please.”

 

Adora winces. “I don’t want you to have to pay for all of it.”

 

“I’m not some damsel that you have to protect,” Catra snaps, suddenly angry. “Get in the fucking cab.”

 

Adora reels back, umbrella dropping, and Catra feels the familiar damp cold cling to her again. “I never said that, Catra. Jesus, why do you always have to make it about that?”

 

Catra exhales sharply. “Just get in the cab. I can afford it.”

 

“Lonnie lives around here. I’ll call her, she can give me a ride.”

 

“Are you kidding? Lonnie? You’re gonna call Lonnie instead of just letting me pay for a cab?”

 

“What is your issue with her?” 

 

“I don’t have an issue with Lonnie.”

 

Catra does have an issue with Lonnie. Mostly because Lonnie likes to touch Adora’s arms and laugh too loudly at her jokes and press too close when she thinks Catra isn’t looking. Who knows what they’ll get up to in a car, at night, alone . It makes Catra’s skin crawl just thinking about it.

 

“I really think you do have an issue with Lonnie. Jesus, Catra, what is it?”

 

Catra laughs hollowly. “Whatever. Call Lonnie for your ride. I’m gonna go.”

 

She wants Adora to object, she wants Adora to come with her. But of course Adora doesn’t. She’s too polite for that. She’ll probably end up walking back to her house, drenched and freezing. 

 

Catra runs down the library steps, ducking into the cab, feeling Adora’s stare like a spotlight. She lists the address of the home she’s staying in at the moment and slams the door, not even bothering to give Adora a cursory glance as the cab shudders to life and pulls out of the parking lot.

 

But it’s dark and rainy, and not even the cab’s window wipers and lights can help with the appalling lack of visibility, and as Catra counts the blocks, looking out her window dramatically, the last thought in her head before the cab takes a corner too quickly and starts skidding is that she probably just should’ve said sorry.

+

It’s too quiet on the train. 

 

Adora’s never liked the quiet, it was the one thing she and Catra always agreed on. There has to be something, something more than just the rattling of wheels on track and shifting of people in fabric seats. It can’t just be that.

 

When she first met Glimmer and Bow, she was ecstatic, mostly because now she had friends in New York, but also because they were never quiet. They were always moving, always talking, always doing something to snuff out silence. It was a relief for Adora. She didn’t even have to ask.

 

She misses them, and while she knows that they don’t have the slightest urge to go to San Francisco, she’s still slightly pissed they declined her invitation. Glimmer had held up her violin. I have to practice. Bow had gotten that upset look on his face. I really wish I could, Adora, but I’ve got too much going on around here to pack up for a week and half. 

 

This is what being an adult is like, she tells herself. Responsibility. Solitude. But it doesn’t stop her from wishing they were here.

 

Then again, it would make things more complicated. She never told them about Catra. A friend back in New Jersey, she had said, seemingly uncaring. We don’t talk anymore. She didn’t tell them about the years of friendship, the accident, the kiss, the way it all exploded in the end. 

 

She doesn’t know why she hasn’t told them, because Glimmer and Bow would be so comforting and wonderful about it. Maybe it’s because she wants to keep Catra a secret. Maybe it’s because she wants one thing, just one thing, to be for herself. 

 

If she gives everything away to others, lets them in on every single small, excruciating detail of her life, what’s left for her?

 

She’s told them everything else, about bouncing around from foster home to foster home, her relationship with her old dance coach, Shadow Weaver, the shift from soccer to dance, the monumental effort it took to settle in New York firmly. 

 

Catra’s the only thing left, the only thing she hasn’t divulged in the last three years.

 

Adora sighs and leans back in her chair, hands starting to shake, as they typically do when she thinks about New Jersey.

 

She fumbles for her earbuds, shoving them in and hitting shuffle on her phone (which is still connected to Catra’s charger).

 

She smiles when River by Joni Mitchell comes on, a song Bow always cries at.

 

She relaxes as much as she can, turning the volume up so silence is the last thing on her mind.

+

Catra’s been on this fucking train for twelve hours now. It’s actually really annoying, because she knows she has to be on this train for much, much longer, but she already wants to get off.

 

There’s a myriad of things wrong with it, the first being that it’s so quiet. Shouldn’t there be nauseating music pumping through old speakers or something? The second thing wrong with it is that Catra has to pee, but she’s already seen the mess that they have the audacity to call the bathroom, and she doesn’t know if she’ll be able to mentally take it. Third is that her phone’s close to dead and she doesn’t have her goddamn charger, but she really can’t blame the train for that. 

 

Adora’s fallen asleep, one earbud in her ear and the other hanging down, draped over her shoulder, and although Catra probably could slip over and grab her charger, without waking Adora up, she doesn’t want to be accused of stealing by the other passengers and have it be a whole thing.

 

Jesus, that would be mortifying.

 

Even more mortifying than that voicemail, which, to date, is the worst thing she’s ever done.

 

Catra cringes. 

 

She does not want to think about that, she resolutely, determinedly would rather think about anything else. 

 

Her mind latches onto it.

 

Flashes of a broken bottle, head hurting, hands fumbling for her phone. 

 

Her phone, at that very moment, buzzes, and she lets out a shocked yelp before she can stop herself. 

 

Eyes turn to her, but she ignores them, scowling slightly, and checks the message from Scorpia.

 

lobster

when do you get dinner??

 

idk

soon?

 

lobster

hopefully!! where are you now?

 

somewhere flat and boring

 

lobster

you think everywhere’s boring.

 

that may be true.

but anyway

How’s it going back in nj

 

lobster

wonderfully, as always. 

 

that’s it?

awfully concise of you

 

lobster

honestly, Catra, I think we both know you’re 

on the more interesting journey.

 

i have no idea what you’re talking about.

 

lobster

...

how’s adora?

 

ugh I knew you were going to bring that up.

bitch.

 

lobster

unnecessarily aggressive!!!

 

my phone’s about to die

 

lobster

charge it?

 

that’s... complicated

 

lobster

Why can’t you charge your phone? Is

something wrong? Are you in pain? Did 

your charger get stolen??

 

jesus scorpia no

i might have… lent adora my charger

 

Catra hits send, already regretting her decision to tell Scorpia.

 

Her phone buzzes.

 

lobster

WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

TTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT
???????????????????????

SRSLY?????

YOU TALKED TO HER???

 

NOT LIKE THAT

 

lobster

OH MY GODDD

AFTER ALL THESE YEARS

 

I’M NOT RESPONDING TO YOU

ANYMORE

 

More texts start to roll in from Scorpia, but she ignores them, slamming her phone face down on her leg. Until her phone vibrates twice, which means she received a text from Entrapta, not Scorpia.

 

entr4pta  

I’m v surprised you talked to Adora. 

Did not see that coming.

 

tell scorpia to keep her mouth shut!!

 

entr4pta

She only told me because you weren’t responding.

 

not an excuse

 

entr4pta

What are you going to do now ? *wink**wink*

 

now i’m not responding to you either

 

entr4pta

boo

 

Catra flicks her phone off.

 

“Dinner?” An attendant asks, and something inside of Catra accepts, points out what she wants on the menu, smiles, waits patiently. 

 

Another something inside of Catra thrashes, white knuckles gripping her phone and eyes purposefully not on Adora, feeling like she’s back in the cab, the seatbelt taut against her chest and blood trickling down her forehead.

 

Scorpia and Entrapta are just making a big deal out of nothing. There’s no need for this overreaction.

 

It’s not like they fucked in the bathroom, it’s not like they shared a passionate kiss over dinner.

 

It’s not like Catra stood up and yanked Adora up to a roomette, their hands intertwined for the first time in years, so close their breath mingled, fingers sliding through hair and lips ghosting over skin--

 

Jesus, what the fuck is wrong with her?

 

“Can I have my meal in my room? Roomette 5?” Catra asks the attendant walking by, who simply nods. Catra jumps up, muttering gratefully, and finds the narrow staircase, climbing up until she reaches the small door with ‘5’ emblazoned on it. She ducks in, throwing her bag and phone onto the bed, and slams the door behind her, breath finally coming easier.

 

Fucking Adora.

 

She collapses onto the bed, hand fumbling for her phone. She’ll call Scorpia, tell her to keep her mouth shut about Adora and just tell her a story. Her voice always soothes--

 

Her phone’s dead.

 

If she wasn’t as exhausted as she was, she’d stand up and run back downstairs, grab Adora by her stupid, preppy collar and demand her phone charger back. Adora would look shocked but not scared, and her body would be hot under Catra’s--

 

She groans, rolling over and shoving her face in her pillow.

 

“Why am I doing this?” She mutters to herself.

 

Fortunately, she doesn’t have time to ponder philosophical questions such as that one because there’s a knock on her door, signaling the arrival of her food.

 

She groans again, shoving herself off the bed and yanking open the door.

 

“Thank y--”

 

Her breath disappears when she sees Adora standing there, not the attendant with her food, face even redder than before, phone charger clenched in her hand, eyes stuck on the ground.

 

“Adora,” Catra says icily, hoping her face is a sort of cold neutral instead of shocked and surprised.

 

“I-- I just, um,” Adora clears her throat. “Forgot to give this back earlier. Sorry.”

 

Catra nods. “Thank you.”

 

Adora holds her hand out, chord dripping from it, and Catra very carefully accepts the charger, taking extra care to not brush Adora’s hand.

 

Their eyes meet for the briefest second.

 

Catra can’t breathe.

 

And then Adora’s gone.

+

(The crash.)

 

It all happens very abruptly.

 

One moment Catra’s brooding in her taxi and the next she’s being thrown against something hard, seat belt snapping tightly against her, a mouthful-- no, a lungful of glass.

 

One moment she’s tasting glass and the next her fingernails are claws, digging and scratching away at this black thing, she’s grasping at something, black, inky, tearing away from her, but it keeps escaping her grasp, no matter how hard she holds on to it. Her ears are ringing and something is sliding down her face, tears or blood, she doesn’t know and doesn’t care to find out.

 

One moment every breath hurts and the next her eyes are opening and she sees red and blue and black. Her eyes close again. She hears ringing and sirens and rain hammering on the pavement. She hates the screaming of sirens, but she actually likes the sound of rain. The rain means she’s alive, so she releases her grip, nails sliding out of what she now knows is the fabric seat underneath her. 

 

She tries to straighten, to wiggle out of her seatbelt, but she’s unsuccessful. She remembers the glass now.

 

She slumps back, a cough rising in her chest. 

 

She slumps back-- no, wait, she already did that. Her ears hurt, they’re ringing-- no she already knew that. Her fingers are claws trying to grab something in front of her-- she already did that. She already heard the sirens, she already inhaled glass, she already apologized to Adora, didn’t she? She must have. This has to be a dream. 

 

Her eyes crack open again, and she’s greeted with the sight of the cab seemingly falling in on her. The driver’s barely awake, groaning, and she definitely knows she’s bleeding now as she lifts her hands and sees them doused with red.

 

Maybe not a dream. 

 

Maybe she hasn’t already done this. 

 

Maybe she’s doing it right now.

 

She tries to inhale deeply, but it’s like she’s fighting against a fucking elephant or something on her chest-- glass in her goddamn lungs.

 

Where is she bleeding from?

 

Temples, forehead, knuckles, cheek, ear, she checks them all. Shaky, light fingered touches that resemble the prayers one of her old foster mother’s used to do every night before bed.

 

Maybe she should pray.

 

She tries to straighten again, remembers she can’t do that. Eyes close, open, close, open.

 

The black thing is back, wavering in front of her vision, and, with all of her strength, she launches herself at it, fingers closing around it.

 

She’ll squeeze it, squeeze the fucking life out of it, but before she can even try it envelops her, and she slumps back against the seat, consciousness leaving her.

+

“Thank y--”

 

Catra stops short, staring up at Adora, looking partly revulsed and partly curious.

 

“Adora,” Catra says, voice cold, unforgiving, unrelenting. 

 

Adora never wants to look away from Catra.

 

Because this Catra, with her own blue eye and one green eye so light it looks yellow, with her red face and tucked away hair, who looks like she wants to be anywhere but here, is more reminiscent of the Catra Adora fell in love with, instead of the Catra that refused to come with her and started hating her ferociously just because Adora asked her to.

 

“I-- I just, um,” Adora clears her throat. “Forgot to give this back earlier. Sorry.”

 

Catra nods. “Thank you.”

 

Catra takes the charger, obviously not trying to touch Adora’s hand.

 

And then she finally lifts her gaze, meeting Adora’s eyes.

 

Adora doesn’t think she’s ever felt farther from her, even hundreds of miles away in a different city, there was always the thought of, Catra’s looking at this same moon, maybe Catra’s thinking of me right now, but as narrowed, icy eyes stare back at her, Adora has to acknowledge that maybe all of that thinking was absolute bullshit, that the truth was four feet away from her and couldn’t be ignored.

 

Adora turns away before, well, before what? Before Catra curses her out? Before Catra spits at her feet? Or before Catra has the opportunity to close the door in her face, before Catra has the upper hand?

 

Adora turns away.

+

Chapter Text

According to Adora’s phone, it’s midnight.

 

But she feels jittery and restless. Not midnight feelings.

 

She sits up in her cot, rubbing at her neck. She hasn’t slept yet, despite her unwavering exhaustion. She even tried to nap earlier, but all she succeeded in doing was fucking up her neck. And then someone yelled, she didn’t see who, but that scared the living shit out of her, and then she talked to Catra-- Jesus, that was awful.

 

She stands, impulsively, then sits again.

 

Stands again.

 

She doesn’t know the train’s policy on wandering around at night, but she might as well try to move around before she punches something. Like a wall. 

 

She pulls on a sweatshirt and her sneakers, thoughts straying to, of course, Catra.

 

Was this some sort of sick, cosmic joke? Forcing them together in this way, with no escape or distraction, plagued with memories, saddled with the knowledge that they’re competitors?

 

Adora slides the door open, stepping out into the hallway. It’s just her luck that she’s literally right across the hall from Catra, and the silvery 5 stamped on Catra’s door seems to mock her as she walks past it.

 

She descends the stairs almost silently, impulsively deciding to hold her breath as she passes the attendant’s room. She doesn’t realize how ridiculous that is until a moment later, and lets it all out in a whoosh

 

She has no idea what to do next, but figures the main seating area is a safer bet than the dining car. Maybe she’ll sit, look out the window, find inner peace or some of that bullshit Perfuma’s always preaching. 

 

But when she reaches the main seating area, she abruptly stops, eyes stuck on one person.

 

One person who’s curled up in a seat by the window, knees to their chest, head tilted against the glass, shoulders just barely trembling.

 

“Catra?” She whispers.

 

The figure wheels around, hand coming out to grip the armrest, and even in the dim light Adora can see the clear scowl on her face.

 

God, she shouldn’t have said anything. She should have just backed out of the room and gone back to her bed. No, she had to be like, ‘Catra?’, like a goddamn idiot.

 

The figure stands, confirming Adora’s stupid guess.

 

“Are you following me or something?” Catra snaps.

 

Adora sighs, pinching the bridge of her nose. “ No .”

 

“It sure seems like you are.”

 

“Can you keep your voice down?”

 

“Why? I’m not doing anything wrong.”

 

“People are sleeping , Catra.”

 

“You know what, never mind. I’m going back to my room, okay?” Catra pushes past Adora, looking like she’s prepared to stomp her way up the stairs, which will certainly wake up the entire train if their brief exchange hadn’t already.

 

“Jesus, Catra. I’ll go, you stay. It’s only fair. You were here first.”

 

Catra stops in the doorway, back to her.

 

“Why do you always have to be the good guy, Adora?”

 

It’s whispered and sounds like a confession, and every muscle in Adora’s body tenses, like she’s about to be screamed at.

 

“What?” She chokes out, voice strained.

 

Catra turns, and her nostrils are flared and her eyes are narrowed and, on instinct, Adora takes a step back, a step away. “You always have to be the good guy, don’t you? Upstanding and moral, ‘you were here first’ bullshit! But you’re not. I know you. You’re going to go to San Francisco and take that spot away from me, because you aren’t a good person. You just like to act it.”

 

The blunt statement takes Adora back years, to their last conversation, to leaning against a doorway alone and listening to hateful, angry words through her phone’s speaker, and before she knows it she’s right up next to Catra, shoulders knocking together.

 

“I’m going to earn that spot, Catra. Just like I earned my place in Shadow Weaver’s class, just like I earned my place at Juilliard. You-- you can’t keep blaming your failure on me, okay? It’s time to grow up ,” she spits out, eyes locked on Catra’s. 

 

Catra’s nostrils flare.

 

“You just proved my point, princess .”

 

Adora recoils, like Catra had driven a knife into her leg instead of just referenced a role she played in a ballet last year.

 

“Was it everything you ever imagined?” Catra continues, voice high and mocking. “Did you finally get to be in the spotlight without a fucking shadow? Did you put on the big, fluffy dress and the pretty, pink lipstick and feel special ?”

 

It’s not a surprise to her that Catra knows about her career. If it could even be called that. She would have followed Catra-related news too, if there was any. But there was plenty of Adora-related stuff out there, from every lead she had secured to who she had voted for in the race for class president.

 

“Yeah, Catra. I did feel special, believe it or not,” she says in a low voice, and the way Catra’s eyes flash makes her want to take another step back, but she doesn’t. “It felt great, to be around people who were happy for me, instead of just jealous and insecure.”

 

Catra grinds out a laugh, and it’s hollow and makes the hairs on the back of Adora’s neck stand up. 

 

“Well, you’ll never have to be around those jealous and insecure people again, okay?” She snaps, and she’s gone, up the stairs, a moment later.

 

Adora sighs, slumping against a nearby seat, burying her face in her hands. That’s exactly how she didn’t want it to go.

+

(After the crash.)

 

Shadow Weaver paid for Catra’s hospital bills. Her injuries didn’t turn out to be anything major, just a couple bruised ribs, a mild concussion, scratches and bruises, but it still racked up a pretty impressive bill, one that Catra couldn’t afford even in her dreams.

 

Adora is just so relieved that Catra’s okay that she doesn’t see Shadow Weaver’s kindness for what it really is-- an owing.

 

Catra owes her now. Tangibly. Instead of just Shadow Weaver’s usual you’d never be the dancer you are now without me bullshit, it’s now you wouldn’t be here, in this school, on this earth, without me , which is much, much worse in Catra’s opinion.

 

But Adora hasn’t let her out of her sight since it happened, and whenever Shadow Weaver looks away she brushes her lips over Catra’s knuckles, and these two unchanging things make Catra feel hopeful for the day she’s in New York, with Adora, without Shadow Weaver, owing nothing to no one at all.

 

Catra’s still jumpy around cars, so Adora agrees to walk back to the house with her once she’s discharged from the hospital.

 

It’s a sunny day, which is nice. Catra has a headache, which isn’t so nice, but she’ll have to live.

 

“Are you okay?” Adora asks a block from the hospital, eyes glued to her like she’ll collapse at any moment.

 

Every thirty seconds she asks this, so Catra doesn’t bother to respond, just shoots her a glare.

 

Adora makes a face, but doesn’t comment. “You haven’t missed much at school. Kyle screwed up a chemistry assignment, got sent to Hordak’s office, you know, the usual. And the football team lost their home game.”

 

“Not a surprise.”

 

“Everyone’s been asking after you, you know.”

 

Catra snorts derisively. “Really?”

 

“Yeah, Catra. Of course.” Adora frowns. “People care about you.”

 

Catra doesn’t believe that, not for one second. But she doesn’t want to fight with Adora and her ridiculous innocence today, so she lets it slide.

 

“What’s happened in dance class since I’ve been gone?” Catra asks after a moment, casting her gaze down to her shoes.

 

They’re the ones she was wearing in the crash, so they’re a bit bloodied, covered in a fair amount of dirt, but they’re comfortable, and the only ones she has anyway.

 

The sidewalk underneath them is cracked, weeds growing through. Her footsteps are heavy, when they used to be light, and she can’t tell if that’s Shadow Weaver little fucking smirk at her when she handed her the receipt for the hospitals bills hanging over her or just because of the crash. Either way, it doesn’t bode well.

 

“... but you should be able to catch up. I’ve got all your homework for physics, too.”

 

Catra nods along, pretends like she was listening. “Thanks for that, I guess.”

 

Adora stops abruptly, frowning slightly. Catra, unwilling to have the conversation she thinks they’re about to have, slows to a stop, facing away from Adora.

 

“Catra?”

 

When she finally turns and meets Adora’s eyes, she sees the cleft between her eyebrows that means she’s thinking really hard about something.

 

“Yes?” Catra prompts, already tired.

 

“I’m just… it’s-- you and… What was Shadow Weaver talking to you about before we left? You looked really upset, and-- and, well...” Adora trails off, obviously uncomfortable.

 

Catra clenches her jaw, not meeting Adora’s eyes. “Why is it important?”

 

“Catra.”

 

Catra’s stomach starts to hurt, thinking about the mangled receipt in her pocket and sadistic little gleam in Shadow Weaver’s eyes as she sat down next to Catra’s hospital bed.

 

“Shadow Weaver isn’t going to write me a recommendation letter for Juilliard,” she finally says, daring a glance at Adora.

 

Adora’s eyebrows shoot up. “ What ?”

 

“She says that because I was stupid enough to get into a car accident I don’t deserve a letter.”

 

Catra tries to make her voice even, make it seem like she doesn’t care, but she can’t help the audible, disgusting waver shining through as she talks.

 

Adora turns away, face reddening.

 

She’s embarrassed. Of course she is. She didn’t even have to ask Shadow Weaver for a letter of recommendation, she just got one. 

 

“But-- you’ll still get in?” Adora asks, her voice small.

 

Catra shrugs, the beginnings of tears starting to prick at her eyes. “I don’t know. Shadow Weaver’s opinion carries a lot of weight. I could get letters from every other teacher in that fucking school and it wouldn’t mean as much as two lines from Shadow Weaver.”

 

The silent, unspoken meaning is that Shadow Weaver knows this, and is purposefully withholding the letter as a punishment. Punishment because Catra owes her.

 

“Yeah, but you’re so amazing at dancing. Even Shadow Weaver can’t stop Juilliard from seeing that.”

 

Catra forces a smile. Adora’s wrong, they both know it, but Catra doesn’t feel like ruining the fragile trust they’ve formed since the other day’s fight, so she says nothing about it.

 

Instead, she says, “Let’s just keep going,” and turns and strides away quickly, leaving Adora behind her. 

 

After a long moment, Adora jogs up next to her, looking deeply uncomfortable. Her mouth opens, closes, until finally she just holds her arm out. Catra hopes her relief doesn’t show so openly on her face as she tucks herself into Adora’s side.

 

“Missed you,” Adora mumbles.

 

“I was never gone.”

 

“You were.”

 

Catra doesn’t ask and Adora doesn’t elaborate.

+

Catra had wanted to be alone

 

She had gone downstairs in order to be alone , to look out a fucking window and try to feel better.

 

But she had gotten only twenty goddamn minutes of hushed, silent crying in before fucking Adora had come traipsing down the stairs, with that stupid look on her face and her stupid voice crooning out Catra? , pretending like she fucking cared. 

 

She hadn’t slept at all, after she and Adora fought. She called Scorpia around 3am in a fit of weakness, who picked up but immediately fell asleep after, so Catra had just stayed on the line, listening to her breathing.

 

Scorpia woke up again around 7, and proceeded to not say one fucking word as Catra described what had happened the night before.

 

Because of Scorpia’s weighted, disapproving silence, Catra’s already decided to never come out of her roomette again, even though it’s basically a broom closet. She’ll live.

 

She holds the phone up to her ear, eyes closed, waiting for Scorpia to say something. 

 

Finally, a heavy sigh crackles through. “You said what to her?”

 

Catra brings a hand up to rub at her temple, eyebrows drawing together. “I… I know it’s bad.”

 

“Catra.”

 

“But--”

 

“You have to apologize.”

 

“I’m not apologizing.”

 

Catra--

 

“You’re not my mother! I’m not apologizing to Adora because it’s not my fault, and you can’t make me!”

 

There’s no answer. 

 

Catra bites back a groan. “Sorry. That was immature.”

 

“See? That’s all you have to say to Adora.”

 

“Really, Scorpia? I expect better from you.”

 

Apologize , Catra.”

 

“Why should I have to be the one to apologize? She said some pretty fucked up stuff too.”

 

Catra .”

 

“I’m-- just, whatever, okay? I gotta go,” Catra says quickly, hanging up a moment later,  cutting off Scorpia’s loud objection. Stupid Scorpia and her stupid morals.

 

She groans, hiding her face in her hands.

 

Despite her earlier declaration of never leaving her room ever again, she needs breakfast. Her stomach is passionately reminding her of that, in fact. But it’s still early, and maybe she can get to the dining car and back without seeing Adora.

 

“Might as well try,” she mutters, standing quickly.

 

She dresses hastily, tucking her phone into her back pocket. She counts to three before forcing herself to open the door, slipping out into the hallway, head whipping around to check for blonde hair.

 

She doesn’t see any.

 

She ducks into the stairway, and has one of those weird, unsettling deja vu moments when she barely makes it halfway through the door frame before someone’s slamming into her.

 

And Catra rapidly takes in blue eyes blonde hair pink lips for the second time in 24 hours.

+

This time, Adora’s the one who gets pushed back. Except, instead of hitting a wall, like Catra did, she falls back into nothing, guaranteeing a long, painful drop to the bottom of the stairs.

 

Until Catra grabs her.

 

The plate she was holding, with nothing but a dry piece of toast on it, falls, clattering to the floor, but she doesn’t take notice, because there’s a hand wrapped around her wrist and eyes staring into hers.

 

She’s balanced over the top step, and she knows if her hand slips out of Catra’s it’d be over, she’d go falling down those stairs, most likely be horribly injured, and the San Francisco spot would be off the table.

 

There’s a moment where all that’s audible is their heavy breathing, eyes locked on each other.

 

Then Catra yanks her up to safe ground.

 

“Thank you,” Adora mutters, face quickly reddening. 

 

“Did you really think I would just let you fall?” Catra replies quickly, an edge to her voice.

 

Adora crouches and sweeps up her food, desperately trying to avoid Catra’s eyes.

 

“No,” she answers after a moment, still crouching. She clears her throat and straightens. “Thank you, again.”

 

Last night flashes through her mind, and before she can even consider apologizing, Catra’s clearing her throat uncomfortably, gaze darting away.

 

“I shouldn’t have said those things last night,” she says in a small voice. “You… you just caught me off guard-- and I’m… well, I’m sorry.”

 

Adora blinks.

 

“I’m sorry too,” she manages.

 

Catra nods, looking uncertain, and finally pushes by her, jogging down the stairs.

 

Adora wanders away, feeling slightly dazed.

 

It isn’t until she’s back in her room, ruined toast forgotten, that she realizes how rare that interaction was-- for Catra to apologize unprompted, for something that wasn’t totally her fault. 

 

Adora buries her head in her hands. 

+

 

I apologized.

 

lobster

YAYYYYYYY!! I knew you had it in you!!

 

shut it.

 

lobster

:(

 

sorry.

 

lobster

:D

 

+

(New York.)

 

It’s Catra’s first time in New York City, it’s Adora’s first time too. 

 

They came up on a train, a 45 minute ride, giggly and excited and breathlessly nervous. It was time for their Juilliard audition, the thing that would make or break them.

 

New York , they whisper to each other.

 

It’s their first time on a train, but they don’t think about that-- that’s not the important part, after all. It’s their first time in New York, and it’s the start of their new lives, together, and their fingers are intertwined and they can’t stop smiling.

 

The smiling will stop as soon as they get on the stage, nerves will overtake them then, but for now they’re staring up at the skyscrapers and envisioning a safe, secure future.

 

With each other.

+

The morning went quickly. 

 

Actually too quickly, in Adora’s opinion, because one minute she was reeling from her encounter with Catra and the next lunch was being served.

 

She eats in her room. 

 

Around four, when she’s feeling so cooped up she can’t take it anymore, she wanders back to the seating area, figuring that if she can just avoid any more Catra-related incidents her head won’t explode.

 

She passes Catra, who is too engrossed in some book to even look her way, and turns into her seat, stopping short when she sees some stranger sitting there.

 

The random, a middle-aged man, is leaning over to the woman nearest him, the woman Adora is supposed to be sitting next to, and is laughing with her, one hand on her arm and one hand on her thigh.

 

She’s grinning right back at him, and Adora has the uncomfortable and infuriating feeling that she’s intruding on something.

 

Even though that’s her goddamn seat, she paid money for it, and this stranger thinks it’s okay to just swoop in--

 

“Can I help you?” The woman asks, and Adora belatedly realizes that she’s been staring.

 

She clenches her jaw. “No. Never mind.”

 

She turns and sweeps her eyes over the rest of the train car, seeing that all the other seats are full except one--

 

One directly across from Catra.

 

Adora holds in her scream, just digs her nails into her palms. She should just go back to her room. The tiny little fucking closet, and she’ll pay the damage when she punches a hole in the wall--

 

Her legs are carrying her over to Catra, she doesn’t want them to, she desperately doesn’t want them to, but before she knows it she’s sitting, face red, eyes glued to the floor so she doesn’t have to see the pissed off look on Catra’s face.

 

She knows Catra’s pissed off.

 

There’s no situation, no world, where she isn’t.

+

Catra’s fucking pissed off.

 

“What the fuck are you up to?” She hisses, flipping her book closed.

 

Adora, after a long moment, meets her stare, face so red Catra can’t help but wonder about her blood pressure.

 

“Some dude took my seat,” she replies, voice strained.

 

Catra resists the urge to bang her head against the wall. Instead, she snaps, “So take it the fuck back! Jesus, Adora.”

 

Her loud statement attracts the stares of a few other passengers, making her palms sweat. Adora obviously notices it too, because she starts rubbing at the back of her neck.

 

Catra hates that she knows that that simple movement means Adora’s nervous, that she feels the attention of too many.

 

Adora lifts her phone, eyebrows raising.

 

Catra scowls, but nods. “I’m at 862--”

 

“No, I know. I still have your number.”

 

Adora looks embarrassed by that fact, but her embarrassment obviously didn’t fucking stop her from sharing that with Catra, who now feels embarrassed herself, mostly because she deleted Adora’s number a long time ago.

 

Maybe: Adora 

Hi Catra this is Adora.

 

Christ Adora, I know it’s you.

 

Maybe: Adora

I’m just making sure.

 

Catra flicks to Adora’s number info, changing her contact name.

 

917-bitch

This was the only open seat btw.

 

so demand your seat back from the douche who took it

 

917-bitch

I’m not going to do that. He was 

having a conversation with the woman

next to him

 

so?

 

917-bitch

do you really have to be so cold hearted

about this?

 

i don’t want to see you.

 

917-bitch

i’ve heard that before

 

Catra’s head snaps up, mouth falling open. 

 

what the fuck does that mean?

 

Adora’s rubbing at her neck.

 

no, really, Adora. Finish the thought.

 

917-bitch

I have no choice but to be here, okay?

 

Catra clenches her jaw.

 

Fine. i can’t stop you.

 

917-bitch

Yeah, exactly.

 

Catra huffs out a breath, flipping open her book. It’s basic, simple reading, 489 pages full of adverbs and cheesy plot lines. She’s 150 pages in, Scorpia’s already spoiled the ending (the spunky redhead is the murderer), but Catra has to admit Scorpia was right. It’s a good distraction. 

 

It’s a good distraction until her phone buzzes again.

 

917-bitch

What are you reading?

 

(She doesn’t know why it makes her so angry. Maybe it’s the fake familiarity, the stupid, superficial question. Maybe it’s that stupid, nervous look on Adora’s face when Catra looks up at her, like she can’t tell if she’s crossing a line or not. Or maybe it’s just Adora in general, who’s always been able to rile her up like that.)

 

Catra stands suddenly, directing a scathing glare at Adora, and marches away, back to her room.

 

Fucking Adora.

 

Fucking Adora with her stupid I didn’t delete your phone number and fucking blue eyes. Catra’s stomach is simmering with anger-- no, she’s fucking boiling with anger, because Adora just can’t leave her alone, can she? She had no problem leaving all those years ago, but now that Catra actually wants her to leave, she just has to stick around?

 

She jogs up the stairs, pushing away the very recent memory of her enclosed hand around Adora’s wrist, and is probably about three feet away from her room when she hears, “Catra!”

 

And that word, her name, is the catalyst she needs, it’s the spark leading to a bonfire, because she wheels around, and is yelling before she knows it.

 

“What the fuck is your problem?”

 

And why shouldn’t she yell? There’s no one up here, and the train’s too loud for anyone below them to hear. She can yell all she wants, she can do whatever she wants and no one will hear.

 

No one except Adora.

 

Who’s staring at her with that dumbfounded look on her face.

 

My problem?”

 

“Yeah. Your problem,” Catra snaps.

 

Adora drops whatever she was holding, which Catra realizes is her purse and book, which she must have left behind in her mad rush to get away.

 

My problem? M-- I’m not the one who just freaked out and stormed away because of a simple fucking question,” Adora replies, voice icy, and Catra nearly sobs with relief, because here-- here is the fight she wanted all those years ago, when she called all those years ago and left that voicemail.

 

“Can’t you just leave me the fuck alone?” 

 

“Wh--”

 

“Appearing in the middle of the night, at breakfast, now-- it's like you're fucking everywhere! Are you fucking stalking me or something?”

 

“It-- are you serious? It’s a train, Catra. A train. It’s not like we’re in New York City-- we’re on a train. There’s only so many places you can go.”

 

“Oh, well you love to talk about New York, don’t you?”

 

“What is that even supposed to mean ?”

 

Catra doesn’t know. Of course she doesn’t know. She just heard New York and decided to fixate on it, go apeshit about that specifically, because, let’s be honest, it was low hanging fruit. Because Catra doesn’t have an excuse for this anger, because by all records she should be over this-- over Adora-- by now, and the fact that she isn’t…

 

Is she fucking broken, or something? There has to be something wrong with her, because instead of thanking Adora for bringing her her things and walking away, she’s calling Adora a New York City loving whore, which makes no sense at all, and it’s like she’s sinking back into that pit, the pit she thought she had dragged herself out of, and is spitting insults at Adora like she’s in a frat house bathroom with a phone pressed against her ear.

 

She must be broken. Something must not be right in her brain. To be this… vitriolic , there’s no other explanation for it.

 

Something must be wrong with her.

 

Adora’s laughing now, a hollow, sad laugh.

 

“I can’t believe-- I can’t believe I thought I could do this. You-- I thought you had changed, you know, because you apologized? But I was so wrong. You’re--” She laughs again. “What’s the point?”

 

She turns and starts to walk away.

 

Catra wants to stop her.

+

(Adora’s Juilliard audition.)

 

You’re a shoo-in, Shadow Weaver told her. 

 

She carries the words with her, tucked away, like a second heartbeat.

 

The spotlight burns her, the stage seems too polished, too perfect, and she’s vividly aware of the three stares on her, pinning her to the spot.

 

“Are you going to start?” One of the judges snaps, and Adora belatedly realizes that the music’s started already. She’s kicked into motion, clumsily falling into the first move.

 

Her form is awful, she should have practiced more, like Catra told her to, but Shadow Weaver said she was a shoo-in, okay? Shoo-ins don’t practice.

 

But as the music starts to pick up, she feels everything unraveling, as she wobbles in and out of her arabesque, as her toes point only after someone pointedly clears their throat. 

 

One, two, three, and she’s off beat again.

 

She stops. Abruptly, music still tinkling on. This has to be the worst audition they’ve ever seen. She counts herself back in, and launches into it again, more graceful, much better. Up, down, pointed toe, long, graceful arm. Beat picks up, so does she. And she falls into the dancing, shoo-in, shoo-in, shoo-in echoing in her ears over and over.

 

Leap, land, chin up, quick spin, arms out. 

 

She plunges into her dancing, not noticing the fourth pair of eyes settling down next to the judges, scrutinizing and sweeping. 

 

She does not hear she’s good, isn’t she? And she had a wobbly start, but now, look at that, excellency. And with Weaver’s rec, that’s real promise right there. And, if we take her then we’ve fulfilled our quota. Adora does not hear the fourth speak up, pink hair bobbing as she moves. Aren’t there more people auditioning? One of the older judges laughs, shakes their head. We’ve fulfilled the quota. We’ll watch, but they aren’t getting in. Not unless they’re prodigies or something. Adora does not see the fourth clench her jaw, unobjecting but displeased. Adora is not privy to the fourth’s thoughts, as she thinks about how the system is endlessly complicated, that her input doesn’t matter. She’s just the president’s daughter, and the others are just barely tolerating her as it is. 

 

Adora finishes, exhales, nods. “Thank you.”

 

She leaves the stage.

 

Catra’s next. 

+

“Adora. Wait.”

 

Catra wants her to stop and she does.

 

Adora stops.

+

(Catra’s Juilliard audition.)

 

Bun rigid on head, a stoic face. A scratchy skirt that is compared to a cloud, tights that take ten minutes to get on. Painted face, red lips, pink cheeks, dark eyes. A lifted arm, straight leg, pointed toes. The first note plays, echoes through the room, a plunk of a piano key. Inhale, exhale. Second note, less of a plunk and more of a pluck. Inhale, exhale. A breathless leap, landing effortlessly. Dip, rise. Arms moving up in unison, feet twirling in sync with the delicate piano as it plunks and plucks away again. Small jump, fingers splayed just so, land, dip, posed fingertips brush the floor, it’s dusty. Rise, bare teeth in a smile, roll of the head, every movement is long and controlled, lifted leg and gentle sigh. 

 

She curls into herself, feels her heart beating wildly, extends, leg up, leap, slide to the ground. Inhale, exhale, in beat with the piano, and, in one movement, rise and bend, leg stretching up, arm following.

 

Hold.

 

Hold.

 

Inhale.

 

Exhale.

 

Lifting of a chin, tipping back, fingers still splayed.

 

She launches into the second part of her routine, a dip, a rise, and a quick arabesque. Inhale, leap, exhale. Her arms follow her leg as it lifts, fingers splayed, the piano is gentle and swift, and she adheres to it, does a hasty, unchoreographed spin. 

 

Hold.

 

There’s hushed chatter from the three judges in the audience, and she wants to try to listen in, her entire body aches to stop and try to hear what they’re saying, and it takes every bout of discipline she has to keep going, into the third part of her routine, into the fourth and final part, hopping and dipping and twirling, until, finally, she holds.

 

She holds in fifth position, balanced on her toes, sucking in breaths as evenly as she can, and she’s one puff away from falling, she feels as though if a dust mite hit her she’d collapse, but she holds.

 

Her arms stay up, eyes stay closed, hold your position , the last note rings through the room.

 

“Thank you,” one of them says.

 

And release.

 

She nods at the judges, thank you, moves offstage.

 

Her heart’s beating and her mind is racing, her entire body is alive, full of anxiety, excitement, desperate hope. She moves quickly through the wings, yanking out bobby pins and combing her fingers through her stiff, sprayed hair, trying to loosen it up. Her hands are shaking so badly, her heart is beating so hard she can feel it in her mouth.

 

She pushes into the green room, empty except for Adora.

 

Adora stands.

 

She’s back in her jeans and sweatshirt, hair in that fucking ponytail.

 

How did it go?

 

Catra uses the moment, breathless and exciting and terrifying, hopes and dreams within her grasp, to surge up, press closer than she ever has, to wind her fingers into Adora’s hair and kiss her for the very first time. 

 

It went well, then?

+

Adora stops.

 

She doesn’t know why. 

 

Maybe it’s the way Catra said her name, like she was about to cry, maybe because right after she did start crying, and Adora hates it when Catra cries.

 

The crying feels like a real apology, or maybe Adora’s just stupid. She’s probably stupid. Crying means nothing, Catra could be faking it for attention.

 

Adora turns, hears a whispered I’m sorry as she steps closer, envelops Catra in her arms.

 

And there’s something… real , maybe? There’s something real in the way Catra clutches at her shirt as she hugs her, sobs wracking her body.

 

It’s like years and years of wounds are being healed, or at least desperately trying to.

+

(The day after Catra and Adora find out.)

“No! The fact is, I was fucking perfect , and you--”

 

“What? I wasn’t? I sucked ?”

 

“Yeah, Adora! You sucked. If you were any other person, if you didn’t have Shadow Weaver’s glowing recommendation, and if the fucking president’s daughter hadn’t happened to walk in during your half-assed audition, you wouldn’t have gotten in!”

 

“I got in because of my skill--

 

“You got in because of your luck , Adora. Luck . Because I’m just as good as you, okay? But Shadow Weaver hates me, and Miss Sparkles didn’t find me attractive, so you got in and I didn’t.”

 

“You-- you need to accept responsibility , Catra. You didn’t get in. That’s okay! Don’t blame it on me! There are other dance schools, other colleges! We can still move to New York together!”

 

“Jesus, Adora, are you really that dense? I applied everywhere. Everywhere . And--”

 

Catra stops, face hardening. 

 

“Montclair State is the only place I can afford. They have a dance program there. So this is it. Have fun in New York.”

 

“What-- Catra . What about us?”

 

Us, us, us.

 

“It was one kiss, Adora.”

 

“It wasn’t just a kiss , Catra--”

 

“It was for me,” Catra snaps, something in her stomach lurching at how Adora’s face crumples. “Listen, we both know that you never wanted to be a dancer in the first place, okay? You just fucking stumbled on it, got your first morsel of attention from Shadow Weaver and stayed. Stayed until you could get more validation, more empty attention from other people, and then you left , taking it from someone who actually wants it.”

 

Catra.

 

Her voice breaks so beautifully, like the sound of a flower petal being ripped, delicate and meant to stay unmarred, and Catra knows she’s thinking of the kiss, adrenaline fueled and seemingly destined, years in the making, because she’s thinking of it too.

 

“Goodbye, Adora.”

 

And she doesn’t know why she says Adora’s name, because, truthfully, ‘goodbye’ all by itself is enough. Maybe it’s because she wants to hear it one more time, just before it becomes a monster, full of disgusting, unsaid things and stomach rocking memories. Maybe it’s because she can’t live with the way Adora said her name, she wants to pave over it, have the last word, only so their last conversation doesn’t end with Catra’s name being said like that . Maybe it’s because she loves that word, that name, more than she could ever admit.

+

Chapter Text

Adora brought Catra breakfast.

 

Like, buttered-toast-with-fruit-on-the-side breakfast. On a plate, a simple knock on the door, nervous smile, here you go.

 

Catra had glanced at her phone. It’s ten in the morning. Didn’t they stop serving breakfast an hour ago?

 

Adora’s cheeks had flared red, she’d rubbed at the back of her neck. Well, I woke up late, but I managed to convince the attendant, and--

 

Thank you.

 

Now it’s eleven. One hour later.

 

Her bare plate sits on the floor, her eyes are stuck on it, the miniscule crack around the edge, the slightly chipped blue paint. 

 

She’s on the cot, hunched over so she has a good view of how the light hits the plate, how the crumbs cast shadows.

 

Catra still hasn’t left her roomette. She hasn’t since yesterday around 5pm though, really. 

 

After she, embarrassingly, cried in front of Adora, Adora had dumped her in her room, brought her something to eat, like the fucking saint that she is, even though not twenty minutes before Catra had called her a selfish fraud.

 

Adora had stayed in Catra’s room while she ate, silently, eyes darting around nervously. 

 

Then they talked.

 

Like, hours on end, deep, pervasive talking. 

 

Catra was too tired to yell, Adora was too stubborn to leave.

 

Adora had propped herself up against the wall, head lolling to the side while Catra laid on her bed, body tilted just so, so she could see Adora and Adora could see her.

 

It just hurt so much when you left, Catra had said at one point, voice small, wavering.

 

Adora hadn’t said anything for a while, but her mouth turned down a fraction.

 

I wanted you to come with me, you know.

 

Catra smiled slightly, looked over at Adora. I never would have.

 

Really? Adora said, eyebrows furrowing.

 

Come on, Adora. I’m me. 

 

Adora had laughed slightly, then cringed. Sorry. It’s weird we’re laughing about this, right? 

 

We might as well. What else are we gonna do? Cry about it?

 

Well, you’ve already cried about it.

 

Dick.

 

There was a long pause.

 

Adora sighed slightly. I cried about it too, you know. Especially with, um, you know, that voicemail--

 

Let’s not talk about the voicemail.

 

I thought we were talking about us? And what went wrong? That’s a pretty big part of what went wrong--

 

We aren’t talking about the voicemail just like we aren’t talking about the kiss.

 

That had shut Adora up. A couple minutes later, around midnight, she had left. 

 

Catra had been relieved. Now, she wasn’t. 

 

Talking to Adora had been so… necessary .

 

That’s the only way she can think to describe it-- necessary. Because she had never allowed herself to grieve, never allowed herself to feel anything but hate towards Adora after she left, and it was nice, necessary , to just sit and listen to her voice, knowing it was okay she was doing those things, it was okay to let go of the hate.

 

You’ve made new friends? Adora had asked at one point, biting her lip, and the ridiculousness of that question made Catra laugh out loud.

 

Of course. I’m not totally pathetic.

 

I never said that.

 

Catra had met Adora’s gaze. I know.

 

Adora shifted, lips pressed in a thin line. I just want to say… um, I never viewed you as lesser. The thing I said the other night-- I didn’t mean it. About the whole, you know, jealous and insecure thing--

 

We don’t need to repeat it.

 

Yeah. Sorry.

 

Don’t apologize.

 

Catra never imagined herself saying that to Adora. Don’t apologize. Especially after, all these years, all she wanted from Adora was an apology. Adora begging for her forgiveness, Adora returning, taking everything back, all that shit.

 

Now. Instead.

 

Don’t apologize.

+

It’s Adora’s third day on the train. Tomorrow, around four in the afternoon, they’ll arrive in San Francisco.

 

Adora isn’t sure how she feels about San Francisco just yet.

 

Yeah, she’ll finally get off this fucking train, she’ll taste fresh air again, the rest of her life will start.

 

But these days on this train, it’s been like a pause on her real life. She’s been able to go back in time, fix something she’s always wondered about. 

 

San Francisco will obliterate all of that.

 

And not just because of the competition for the company spot; a small, unsure part of her wonders if all of this, the progress and the healing, will simply evaporate when she steps off the train, if Catra will disappear into thin air, because, surprise, surprise!, she’s been a ghost this whole time! Adora can see dead people and all that shit.

 

Adora brought Catra breakfast, as if breakfast will take the tatters of their relationship and weave them back together, solidify them so nothing can tear it apart again. 

 

Breakfast can’t do that.

 

As much as Adora desperately wants it to.

 

Her gaze drifts over to where Catra’s sitting, next to her, staring resolutely at that book of hers, and a snippet of their earlier conversation flashes through her mind.

 

Did you ever want to come back? Catra had asked, voice floating through the air.

 

To New Jersey?

 

A long pause. To me.

 

Of course.

 

Why didn’t you?

 

A longer pause.  I wanted to stay more.

+

(Months pass.)

 

Adora can’t bring herself to delete the pictures of Catra she has on her phone. 

 

However, she did put them all, every single one she had, into a hidden folder on her phone. She put them in a hidden folder and resolved not to think at them, to never look at them ever again.

 

Because when she looks at them, her heart twists, her eyes fill with tears, her jaw clenches, because even after all that had happened, when Adora sees a picture of Catra with that fucking neon yellow tube top on, Adora can feel Catra’s bare shoulder underneath her hand, and when she looks at that one picture of Catra, eyelids painted and red lips spread in a big smile, her nostrils flare as she remembers how pungent that lipstick was. And even worse, whenever she sees that picture of Catra’s hair in a gigantic, ballet bun, she can feel hair spilling through her fingers, and really, any picture where Catra’s smiling, Adora can’t help but remember what that felt like against her lips.

 

Muscle memory , she thinks to herself.

 

And when she unpacks her apartment in New York, she sees the framed picture of them together, a stupid, filtered selfie, lips in a pout and heads tilted against each other, posing in front of the barely visible in the distance Statue of Liberty, she remembers how Catra’s cheeks felt against hers, how just before they pulled away from each other to look at the picture it felt like Catra was about to kiss her. Then, hours later, she did.

 

Adora remembers, and she really doesn’t want to.

+

Catra gasps.

 

She doesn’t mean to, it’s way too loud and dramatic for her taste, but she couldn’t help it, really, because-- Scorpia, that fucking liar--

 

The British dude is the murderer, not the redhead. Scorpia lied to her-- it changes the entire book!

 

“Wh-- Adora! Hand me my phone! Right now-- Adora!”

 

She and Adora are sitting next to each other, both tucked into their respective seats. Adora had been sleeping up until a moment ago, and Catra briefly feels bad for waking her up, but a moment later her phone is in her hand and she doesn’t care as much. It’s noon, so their train car is empty, everyone else getting lunch, so Catra’s saved from the embarrassment of the yelp that rips out of her as soon as Scorpia picks up the phone.

 

“You fucking liar !” She shouts. “The British guy -- why did you tell me it was the ginger? Scorpia!”

 

“I got you, didn’t I?” 

 

“You fucker--

 

“I wanted it to be a surprise! An extra layer of mystery!”

 

“I’ve spent the whole time hating the redhead because you said he murdered everyone! But it was the British guy-- Scorpia .”

 

“The redhead, whose name is Daniel, by the way, isn’t actually a bad dude,” Scorpia says casually, a laugh slipping out of her. “At the end--”

 

“Stop it! Stop talking! No more words from you! And-- ‘not a bad guy’-- you-- you made me think he was! You know what? You’re gonna pay for this. Now I have to reread the last hundred pages-- this changes everything .”

 

Scorpia continues laughing. Uproariously, like this is the funniest thing she’s ever heard.

 

Scorpia .”

 

“I’m-- I’m sorry, but, like, clever, right?”

 

“I hate you.”

 

“Aww, Catra--”

 

Catra hangs up, a strange smile on her face, and slips her phone back underneath her seat, sighing slightly. Fucking Scorpia, she’s such a dick--

 

“So, um, what was that about?”

 

Catra stiffens. Adora. Right, Adora. Adora’s still next to her. Shit, she’s gonna have to talk to Scorpia about Adora at some point--

 

Whatever. She’ll cross that bridge when she comes to it.

 

She turns towards Adora, pointing at her book. “My friend’s a fucking dick, and she made me think that some guy was a murderer, when actually it was some other guy.”

 

Adora nods, lips curving up. “Uh- huh. Makes sense.”

 

Catra bats Adora’s arm and turns back to her book. 

 

It’s silent for a moment, before Adora clears her throat and leans over to Catra, fingers brushing her arm.

 

“You know, if I woke you up by screaming and yelling about some fictional rando, I wouldn’t blame you for expecting an apology--”

 

“Don’t be a dick, too!” Catra says, almost whining, turning back to Adora. 

 

She’s met by Adora’s ridiculously blue eyes, plus a crumb stuck on her lip from breakfast, and suddenly becomes aware of their proximity, nose to nose, breath mingling, and she’s reminded of three years ago, when she hadn’t hesitated to close the gap between them, when Adora had grinned against her lips, and a single tear had tracked down her cheek (Adora had been nice enough not to mention it).

 

They’re in a fragile sort of moment, time suspended and not thought of, where all Catra can see is Adora, all Adora can see is Catra, and if one of them was more courageous or maybe even just a little less stubborn, everything could be different.

 

And then the door to the car opens, and everyone who left for lunch starts trickling back in.

 

And the moment’s gone.

 

“Sorry,” Catra mutters, ducking her head. “I won’t yell about fictional characters again.”

 

She flips the book back open, firmly biting her lip, vividly aware that Adora’s still staring at her. 

+

Adora makes it ten minutes before she can’t take it anymore, can’t take sitting next to Catra like they almost just did something but didn’t at the last second and does Adora even want  to do that? What does it mean if they do? Like, are they dating? How does that even work with San Francisco? 

 

“Do you want me to grab you some lunch?” Adora asks, standing and edging past Catra to reach the aisle.

 

Catra looks up from her book, face still flushed, and nods. “Just grab me whatever you think I’d like.”

 

It’s a loaded comment. It is for Adora, at least. 

 

Because she wants to make Catra happy, but what if her tastes have changed over the years? What if she hates blueberries and loves cantaloupe now? So Adora brings her a bunch of blueberries, Catra’s old favorite, and Catra hates it, prefers cantaloupe, which she used to spit at? 

 

She shuffles into the dining car, smiling slightly at the dining attendant, and surveys the table they have laid out. 

 

Lunch today looks to be this breaded macaroni dish and some sandwiches. 

 

Adora piles a bunch of stuff on her plate, swiping a sandwich and a fruit cup for Catra because, yeah, that’s nice and innocuous-- who doesn’t like bologna sandwiches? 

 

Yeah. Good choice. 

 

Unless Catra’s vegetarian. 

 

She could have gone vegetarian in the last couple years. It does sound like something she would do.

 

Adora swears under her breath, picking up some of the macaroni on second thought. Is macaroni vegetarian? Probably? Vegetarians eat cheese, it’s the vegans who don’t.

 

Unless Catra’s vegan?

 

Adora shuts that thought down immediately. 

 

(But she grabs an extra fruit cup just in case.)

 

She navigates back to her seat.

 

Catra accepts the plate from her with a murmured thank you, eyes sweeping over the plate.

 

“You’re not vegan, are you?” Adora blurts out, seeing Catra’s hesitation.

 

Catra smiles, obviously amused, eyes darting up to meet Adora’s. “No. This is fine, thanks.”

 

Adora nods, relieved, and falls into her seat, scooping some macaroni onto her fork. She takes a bite and, yeah, it tastes a little weird, but actually pretty decent for train food.

 

She’s about to take another bite when a weight settles onto her shoulder. She stiffens, eyes straining to the side, and her face goes beet red when she sees Catra, eyes closed and plate on her lap, resting her head on Adora’s shoulder.

 

“You good?” She manages in a squeaky voice, faintly wondering if Catra lied to her about the vegan thing.

 

Catra lets out a breathy sigh. “You worry too much, Adora.”

 

“Well, uh, yeah. That may be true.”

 

Catra laughs slightly, reaches over and plucks Adora’s phone off her lap. She double taps the screen, gaze darting towards Adora, seemingly for permission. At Adora’s small nod, her fingers fly over the screen, typing in the code Adora hasn’t changed since she got the phone in seventh grade, the code Catra’s known since eighth. “Do you-- oh my god , Adora. Change your password. I shouldn’t still know this.”

 

“I’ve never had reason to change it!”

 

“Jesus, one day you’re gonna get hacked so bad --”

 

“Thanks for the note-- also, you’re on my phone. I would be more polite if I were you.”

 

Catra snickers. “When have you known me to be polite?”

 

Adora bites back a smile, eyes drifting to where Catra’s swiping through her phone. “You looking for anything in particular?”

 

Catra doesn’t answer, just hums a tune Adora’s never heard. After going through all of Adora’s social media ( Really? You posted a bicep pic? ) and playing some games on her phone, she taps into Spotify, gasping dramatically as she does so. “Spotify Premium ? My goodness.”

 

Adora grins, rolling her eyes. “The ads interrupted my dance practice. I figured I could shell out a couple extra bucks.”

 

Catra smiles, going through Adora’s playlists and liked songs, growing thoughtfully silent as she does so.

 

“What?” Adora dares to ask.

 

Catra shakes her head. “You’ve always had good music taste.”

 

Adora blinks, wondering if she should dare see the comment for what she hopes it is; a tentative olive branch, a reference to their days when they’d listen to this music together. 

 

“Thanks,” she manages.

 

Tense silence envelops them for a moment, until it’s broken by a bark of laughter from Catra.

 

“You listened to Justin Bieber’s new album?”

 

“Stop it!” Adora yelps, snatching her phone back. “You’re so mean--

 

“You deserve it for listening to that pile of--”

 

Adora shouts something unintelligible over her next string of profanity, shoving her phone into her bag.

 

Catra settles back against her shoulder, muttering something. Adora catches blonde and jackass.

 

“Dick.” 

 

Catra huffs. 

 

“You’re dickier.”

 

“What does that even mean ?”

+

(The first time Catra’s sick without Adora.)

 

Catra’s so sick.

 

She probably got it from that girl in her chem class, that bitch in the front row who was hacking on everything. Allergies! She had trilled. Catra grimaces. Fucking ‘allergies’, she’ll stuff ‘allergies’ up that girl’s ass.

 

She wishes Adora were here.

 

She allows herself to wish this, mostly because she’s so hopelessly out of it, and doesn’t even have the energy to try and fight it. Fight blonde hair and blue eyes.

 

Scorpia was taking care of her all night, but morning had to come, with its blinding light and loud noise, and Scorpia begrudgingly went to her to classes (she’s trying to maintain perfect attendance, something Catra doesn’t want to ruin). 

 

But she left her radio on, and Catra’s so delirious that she can’t be bothered to turn it off, and right now some song is playing, seemingly on a loop.

 

Catra never listened to this with Adora, she’s never listened to it in general, but for some reason it reminds her of late night dance practice and early mornings when she’d roll over and Adora would be there.

 

She rolls over, just to see if Adora would be there, coming to her in some kind of fever dream, but she’s not. 

 

It just adds to the pain, to the sweats and chills and empty place in the bed next to her.

 

She groans, breath coming in shuddery gasps.

 

She’s so sick she can feel her heartbeat everywhere, thudding dully in her ears, and as she lays there, alone on the lumpy mattress, she starts counting.

 

Just count sheep, Scorpia had said. But Catra hates sheep and basically the entire concept of farm animals, so she counts her heartbeats instead.

 

She gets to 104 beats before she finally falls asleep.

 

But sleeping is even worse, because she’s dreaming of her, she’s dreaming of Adora.

 

Her heart is thudding along, as she dreams of hands on hips and messy lifts and slipping on the floor because she’s laughing so hard and Adora loudly counting off five, six, seven, eight with a huge smile on her face.  

 

Her heart thuds along as the scene shifts, and Catra’s on the Juilliard stage, and she can’t stand up, her legs won’t cooperate, she starts sobbing, crying on the edge of the stage, but Adora’s there, lifting her up, and it’s all okay.

 

Catra.

 

She snaps awake, sees Scorpia, feels arms around her. Let’s go to student health.

 

Catra tries to twist away, hands coming up to her face, her entire body stalling when she feels tear tracks there.

 

Let’s go.

 

Catra acquiesces.

+

“I barely remember how to play this game, Adora, give me a sec.”

 

Adora rolls her eyes. “You so do. You’re just stalling.”

 

Catra fakes a gasp, hands coming up to clutch at her chest. “I’m offended! Such a callous accusation--”

 

“Just play!”

 

“Jesus, fine! Um, go fish.”

 

“You don’t have a--?”

 

“I don’t. Stop asking. Go fish.”

 

Adora frowns. 

 

“How do you even win this game?” She asks after a moment.

 

Catra huffs out a sigh, throwing down her cards. “I don’t remember. Let’s do something else.”

 

“Dinner’s in thirty minutes--”

 

“No, yeah, I know. But that’s thirty minutes of empty time, and I’d rather jump off this train and walk the rest of the way to San Francisco than say ‘go fish’ again.”

 

Adora blinks. “That’s quite a statement.”

 

“It’s true.”

 

Adora grins despite herself, but it fades when Catra stands a second later. “Well, I’m exhausted, and didn’t get a chance to nap earlier, because someone kept moving--”

 

“I am a living, breathing person-- we’ve had this argument before, you know.”

 

Catra smiles, wide and bright, the first genuine, unashamed smile Adora’s seen in years. It makes Adora’s heart clench. 

 

“I’m going to go try and sleep,” she says.

 

“Oh, okay. Do you want me to wake you up when dinner rolls around, or--?”

 

“I’ll set an alarm. Jeez, Adora, I’ll be okay.”

 

Catra leans down, close to Adora, way too close to Adora , and cocks her head. “You worry too much, you know.”

 

Adora can see the faint freckles dotting her face (she used to have a lot more when they were kids), can feel her puff of breath on her nose. 

 

“So I’ve been told,” she says, voice surprisingly steady. 

 

Catra holds her gaze for a minute, an unreadable expression on her face, before she straightens and leaves, jogging up the staircase and to her roomette.

 

Adora watches her go.

 

After a second, she pulls out her phone.

 

i have something to tell you guys that i

should’ve told u a while ago

 

Bow 

should we be scared

 

Glimmrr

probably 

 

Adora grimaces.

+

Dinner went quickly. Spaghetti with garlic bread, chewing punctuated by quiet chatter. It was calm, peaceful. 

 

Catra and Adora sat next to each other, and Catra pretended not to notice Adora’s shoulder pressed against hers, even though Adora’s left handed where Catra’s right, so their elbows were constantly knocking into each other’s.

 

Adora left her phone in her roomette, plugged into Catra’s charger, which she had sheepishly borrowed again, and didn’t give an explanation for it other than, talking to my friends sucked my battery. 

 

That means she’s craning her neck to read Catra’s book, body radiating heat against Catra’s side, distracting her to such a point that now she’s just flipping pages, not reading a single line, just to keep Adora there.

 

It’s pathetic, she knows. Once they step off this train, this fragile comfort they have with each other will evaporate into thin air, Adora will beat her for the company spot, Catra will go back to hating her, will go back to New Jersey, while Adora starts a new, exciting chapter of her life in San Francisco.

 

It’s all so inevitable, Catra can barely take it. 

 

But she has Adora next to her, for now. 

 

She’ll do what she can to keep it that way.

+

Adora wakes at 1am with Catra on her mind.

 

Catra hanging in the doorway of her roomette, goodnight, tucking her hair behind her ear, the smile she offered when Adora said goodnight back.

 

What time is your audition? Adora had asked.

 

9am, the day after tomorrow. Yours?

 

4:30 tomorrow.

 

Catra had whistled. So you’re running from the train station to the company building, huh?

 

Adora’s cheeks had heated. Yeah. And then I’m on the first train back to New York three hours later.

 

So you don’t even get to enjoy San Francisco?

 

Adora had laughed. No, unfortunately. What time are you heading back?

 

A train leaves a couple hours after my audition. I’ll have to make a couple transfers, but it’ll get me to Montclair before school starts up again.

 

So tomorrow’s it then? 

 

Adora hadn’t meant to say it. She wanted to keep the charade up, that they weren’t competitors, that they would see each other again after tomorrow, it’ll all be okay, we’re together again. 

 

Catra nodded. Tomorrow’s it.

 

Adora went to sleep, fitfully.

 

And now it’s 1am, and she’s standing, pulling on her shoes and sweatshirt, and she’s being drawn downstairs, back to the seating area, where Catra’s sitting, again.

 

Exactly the same as the other night, head tilted towards the window, shoulders shaking, except everything’s different now. At least, Adora hopes so.

 

She doesn’t blurt out Catra?, doesn’t leave, just silently sits next to her, exhaling slowly when Catra’s head comes to rest on her shoulder.

 

They sit in the quiet for a long time, until Catra straightens, swipe Adora’s phone from her lap, just like earlier. She pauses, hand drifting over the home button. “Who’re they?”

 

Adora blinks. “Who?”

 

Catra angles her phone towards her, tapping at her lockscreen with a pointed nail. “Them. These people on your phone.”

 

“Oh, uh, Glimmer and Bow.”

 

“You gonna tell me about Glimmer and Bow?” Catra asks, a single eyebrow raising.

 

Adora frowns. “You really want to know?” 

 

The unspoken question is, is this some sort of trap? 

 

Catra obviously picks up on that, because she smiles, a little too sweetly, and threads her fingers through Adora’s. “I do,” she says. 

 

“Oh. Okay. Well, Glimmer--”

 

“The president’s daughter?”

 

“Yeah?” Adora’s eyes dart to Catra’s, searching her face for some sign of resentment, or anger, but she doesn’t see anything.

 

“And? Likes, dislikes, interests, notable attributes?”

 

“Glimmer plays violin, and, well, I guess her most notable attribute is that she has a love/hate relationship with Starbucks--”

 

“Why?”

 

“She’s against big corporations but loves their frappuccinos.” 

 

“No, I understand that part, but why is that her most notable attribute?”

 

Adora can’t help but laugh, thinking of Glimmer’s red face and contorted mouth as she rants about Starbucks and their addictive drinks. “She talks about it, like, a lot.”

 

Catra smiles, like she’s imagining it. “Anyone else?”

 

“There’s Bow, he’s a dancer like us. He’s got, like, twenty brothers, and they’re all spread out over the world, and occasionally they’ll come visit and flirt with Glimmer, which they know he hates--”

 

“Any of them flirt with you?”

 

Adora snorts. “They’ve tried.”

 

“You kicked their ass, huh?”

 

“Yeah. I totally kicked their ass.”

 

Catra snickers, opening up Adora’s phone and swiping through some of the apps. “Well, where am I?”

 

Adora blinks.“Right here?”

 

“No, dumbass. Where am I in your phone? I used to be your lock screen, you know.”

 

Adora’s face heats, and she can’t help the impulsive hand she raises to rub at her neck. “Oh… um… well--”

 

“It’s okay if you deleted the pictures--”

 

“No, I didn’t-- it’s just…” Adora takes her phone back, palms beginning to sweat as she navigates to the hidden folder, the one full of Catra’s face, Catra’s body, Catra’s laugh.

 

Adora hands the phone back.

 

“I’m like a dirty little secret,” Catra muses, an unreadable expression on her face. 

 

“You are not --”

 

“I find it hot, actually.”

 

Adora chokes on air, turning away from Catra to hack into her elbow, a weak attempt to disguise her red face, the unmistakable flutter in her stomach, an attempt to catch her breath and get away from Catra’s amused smirk.

 

“Adora, drop the virgin act and look at this picture-- remember this?”

 

Adora shoves at Catra, escaping her gaze for long enough to glance at the picture Catra’s brought up, take it in, feel the flutter in her stomach grow.

 

“Yeah. Yeah, I do.”

+

(The picture.)

 

“It’s so fucking hot ,” Catra whines, screwing her eyes shut as if she can will away the heat that hounds her, that sticks to her skin and refuses to go away, if she tries hard enough.

 

“It’s July,” Adora answers, in that monotone voice that means she’s distracted with something. 

 

Catra tosses and turns from where she’s spread out on Adora’s bed, waiting for more of a response, before sitting up, eyes fixing on Adora, who’s hunched over her phone. “What are you doing?”

 

“Looking for Halloween costumes.”

 

“I’m sorry-- what ?”

 

“Halloween costumes--”

 

“No, yeah, I heard you. But it’s fucking July--

 

“I have big plans, Catra! Big plans require a lot of planning!” 

 

“What are you even going as?”

 

Adora spins around, holding out her phone. “The question is-- what are we going as.”

 

“No.”

 

“Yes.”

 

Adora .”

 

“You have two options, okay? Netflix and Hulu or--

 

“You’re such a--”

 

Or Bob Ross and a tree.”

 

Catra barks out a laugh. “Neither, thank you. As always, I will be staying in and ignoring trick or treaters.”

 

“Catra, please ?”

 

No .”

 

Catra flops back down on the bed, sweat beading at her temple. 

 

Adora goes eerily silent, unusual for her, but Catra doesn’t think anything of it, so thankful for the silence.

 

And then.

 

“Here, obviously you’re having a hard time picturing it.”

 

Adora climbs up on the bed next to her, unceremoniously throwing her body on Catra’s and shoving the phone in her face.

 

Jesus , Adora-- it’s too hot for this!” Catra protests in a yelp.

 

Adora rolls her eyes, not moving, and shakes the phone. “Look at it!”

 

Catra takes the phone from Adora with a scowl, squinting at the screen, vividly aware of Adora’s breath on her neck.

 

“Oh my god , Adora.”

 

“Good, right?”

 

Catra tosses the phone away, and in her dreams she’s surging up to meet Adora’s lips, her arms are winding around Adora’s neck, she’s smiling and laughing because Adora’s such a fucking idiot, superimposing their fucking faces on stock images of couples dressed up as Bob Ross and a fucking tree, she’s kissing her breathlessly, feeling Adora’s hands resting on Catra’s waist, cemented there like they’ll never move.

 

What Catra actually does, however, is buck Adora off, muttering about heat. 

 

“I’m not doing Halloween,” she says.

 

Adora clucks her tongue. “Damn shame.”

 

Catra hides her smile in the crook of her elbow.

+

“What about your friends?” Adora asks, poking Catra’s arm.

 

“You don’t want to know about my friends,” Catra says dismissively, waving her hand.

 

“Uh, yes, I do.”

 

“No, you don’t.”

 

“Who were you on the phone with earlier?”

 

“Adora,” Catra says, a slight edge to her voice.

 

“Catra.”

 

Adora .”

 

Catra .”

 

“Catra.”

 

“Ador-- wait, did you--? You tricked me!”

 

Catra smiles slightly, pulling away. At Adora’s pointed look, she huffs out a sigh, pulling out of her phone and gesturing lazily at her lockscreen. 

 

Adora surveys it, sees Catra sandwiched between two other women, all laughing and pointing at the camera.

 

“Well, there’s Scorpia, on the left, she was who I was on the phone with earlier. She’s huge, like, six feet tall, and she’s at Montclair on an athletics scholarship. Everyone loves her, and she loves everyone. The other’s Entrapta. Math major. She’s going to take over the world one day.”

 

Adora smiles, watching as Catra closes her phone and slips it back into her pocket.

 

“Have you been in contact with Shadow Weaver?” She asks after a moment, impulsive and curious.

 

Catra casts her a derisive glance. “Have you ?”

 

“No?”

 

“And that means…?”

 

“Well, like, she writes to me sometimes. I try to respond, but usually I get too busy.”

 

Catra’s lips curve up slightly, but it looks strained. “Old bag deserves it.”

 

“But have you been in contact with her?” Adora pushes, biting her lip when Catra’s eyes shutter.

 

Catra sighs heavily, turning away from Adora. “I… well, yes, technically. Every other Thursday I clean her dance studios.”

 

Adora blinks, stomach starting to sink. “But she has… like, ten dance studios-- how long does that take you? Why-- why do you even do that? You’ve always hated her.”

 

Catra’s eyes slide to hers, looking weary. “Why do you think?”

 

“I-- I genuinely have no idea why you’d do that.”

 

“Yes, well, you’ve always been crazy naive.”

 

“Wh-- what?”

 

“I’m ‘paying off my debt’, at least, that’s how she phrases it.”

 

Adora blinks, realization washing over her. “Oh. The hospital.”

 

“Yeah. The hospital.”

 

“Sorry. I didn’t realize.”

 

Catra sighs, looping her arm through Adora’s. “You never do.”

 

“You make it sound like I’m stupid.”

 

“You’re not, just… slightly… hm. You’re like an innocent, little lamb.”

 

A laugh bursts out of Adora, loud and inappropriate. “If I’m being honest, I’m not sure I like that comparison.”

 

“Too bad, because I think I love it.”

 

Adora casts a glance at Catra, grinning, wants to see her smile, and apparently Catra’s line of thinking is the same, because suddenly the slight laughter is gone, they’re so close their noses are touching and their eyes are locked on each other. 

 

Her mind goes blank when Catra leans in closer.

+

(The voicemail.)

 

I-- I just wanted to call, and-- and say fuck you, Adora, okay? Fuck. You. Do you think you’re better than me? You’re not. You might’ve gotten into the big, fancy school while I’m s-stuck in this... in this hellhole, but you-- you’re just like me, okay? A fraud. A fucking fraud.

 

She’s drunk. 

 

She wants to stop, she wants to put the phone down and walk away. Go back to Scorpia and Entrapta, who are waiting for her out on the house’s front lawn. But she can’t. Because this is who she is, okay? She’s a toxic, awful bitch who ruins things, and right now she wants to ruin Adora’s night.

 

She’s drunk and she’s holding the phone in her shaking hand.

 

You’re only at Juilliard because of your bouncy blonde hair and the fact that Shadow Weaver fucking-- she fucking salivates over you, okay? Not because you’re talented, or because you’re good enough. Just like me-- I’m not good enough. You’re not good enough. 

 

She wishes Adora had actually picked up the phone, so she could hear her voice. She wants to hear the impact of her slurred, blurry words. Words she won’t remember in the morning, or at least, she hopes to god she won’t remember them.

 

She’s so drunk, and she stumbled into the bathroom and locked the door behind her.

 

I hooked up with Lonnie. Does that make you happy? You always wanted us to get along. She’s a-- she’s a better kisser than you, then again, basically everyone’s a better kisser than you were. All she could talk about was you, does that make you happy too? I always knew you two were fucking in high school-- you tried to lie to me, you fucking liar, but I knew.

 

It’s all a lie. Lonnie’s at school in Boston, Catra hasn’t seen her since graduation. But she wants to make Adora jealous, because she’s a shitty person who can’t do anything right, and Adora isn’t, Adora’s a glittering, beautiful person who left Catra, she left Catra and didn’t fucking look back. 

 

I hope you’re miserable over there. I really do. And I hope you miss me. I hope you miss me like I fucking miss you, like there’s a fucking hole in your chest, and you can’t concentrate and you can’t think straight-- I hope you feel a fraction-- a fucking fraction-- of what I felt when you left. What I still feel.

 

Catra was scrolling through the East Coast Dancing Community December newsletter, comfortably buzzed and waiting for Scorpia to finish flirting with some girl, when she came across a student run blog from Juilliard. She hadn’t even clicked on it, she didn’t need to, because Adora was on the cover, with the headline ACCLAIMED LEAD DANCER IN FRESHMAN SHOWCASE splashed across the front.

 

She drank. She locked herself in the bathroom. And now she’s speaking into a shaking phone, forcing out words and throwing them like knives.

 

I hate you.

 

She says it with all the vitriol and disgust she can manage.

 

And it says it all, doesn’t it?

 

Except it doesn’t, it doesn’t even cover the slightest bit of it, I hate you is the tip of the fucking iceberg with them. Thinking about and feeling for Adora is like breathing for Catra, it’ll never stop even when she desperately wants it to, and fuck, does she want it to. She wants to forget about Adora so bad. Her feelings for Adora are like paper ripping in her clenched hand and the shine of blonde hair in the sun and a laugh echoing through a dance studio. Fleeting, intangible, indescribable. 

 

Saying I hate you to Adora is like having a mouthful of glass, red and blue lights shining on her and blood dripping from her temple.

 

You never let me read Shadow Weaver’s letter of rec for you-- you said I shouldn’t, but I did anyway. I waited until you fell asleep and then went through your bag. And-- and I read about how you were a genius of dance, about how you were the best student she’s ever had, about how she’ll weep when you’re gone-- weep. Weep. Weep, Adora. 

 

Catra starts crying. It was only a matter of time.

 

No one ever cried over me. No one ever will. But they cry over you. Even I’m fucking crying over you. How pathetic is that? Here’s pathetic for you-- every day I wish I had never met you and I wish I had never kissed you and I wish I had never loved you. You absolute fucking fraud.

 

She takes a shuddering breath, leans against the door.

 

I wish I’d never kissed you.

 

Hang up, hand fumbling for the doorknob. 

+

Catra imagines this is what stories are written about, the moment before their lips touch, when her eyes are shining with tears and her cheeks are red, and they both know it’s happening and are helpless to stop it. 

 

Their lips meet.

 

Feather light touch, hands in hair, and a single tear tracking down her cheek.

 

(Adora’s nice enough not to mention it.)

+

Catra presses closer, a tear dripping down her cheek until it lands on Adora’s leg.

 

Adora wants to ask what does this mean and will San Francisco ruin this and do you love me like I love you and a million other things, but she doesn’t.

 

The kiss feels fragile, not like the one in the green room all those years ago. That one felt sure, solid, cemented in the knowledge that they both were onto great things. This one feels… Adora can’t describe it, but it doesn’t feel like that, it feels older, if that makes sense, like they both are vividly aware of how the last kiss ended, of how that surety of their greatness was bullshit.

+

Adora’s different than she was three years ago. Catra can’t begin to wonder what’s changed her, or if Catra herself has changed, or ponder any of the other hundred philosophical questions running through her mind right now.

+

Adora’s brain is fuzzy. It’s like it’s tracking through mud, dragging itself through an endless sea. 

 

She knows some things, like she knows Catra’s hand curled against her cheek and fingers pressing into her neck. She knows some other things, like her parting lips and the way her arm fits around Catra’s waist.

 

It feels like earlier, when everything was suspended in time as they looked at each other.

 

“Will San Francisco ruin this?” Adora murmurs against Catra’s lips, and she can feel Catra’s eyebrows furrow against her forehead, doesn’t miss the way Catra’s grip tightens on her hand.

 

“Probably,” she responds. Hushed, simply, truthfully.

 

A laugh rolls out of Adora, even though it’s not very a laugh-y moment.

 

“What?” Catra asks, and Adora can hear the edge in her voice.

 

“We just can’t get it right, can we?”

 

Catra inhales, exhales, inhales, exhales, Adora feels each breath as if it’s her own.

 

“We never can,” Catra says, her thumb brushing over Adora’s cheek.

 

And Adora probably could have left it at that. Probably should have left it at that. A kiss, a laugh, we never get it right, maybe a few more nice, sentimental words. 

 

Then parting a few hours later, and when Adora’s old and gray, she’ll wonder what could have been.

 

But she doesn’t leave it at that. She’s never been able to.

 

“I don’t want San Francisco to ruin this.”

 

Catra pulls away slightly, blinking like she’s just woken up. And then, in a moment, her face transforms, changes from something delicate and rarely seen to something more familiar, something hard and brittle and unmovable.

 

“I’m not going to give up that spot.” Catra says, voice firm, guarded.

 

“I-- Are you kidding? I don’t expect you to.”

 

“Do you even actually like dancing?” Catra asks, an unreadable expression on her face.

 

“I-- I’m sorry?”

 

“Do you actually enjoy it?”

 

“Wh-- of course I do.”

 

Catra’s eyes narrow slightly. 

 

“What?” Adora snaps.

 

“When you dance, it doesn’t seem like you like it.”

 

“I’m going to try to not take that the wrong way.”

 

“Adora, come on--

 

“Are you trying to fight with me right now?”

 

“No! I--” Catra groans and shoves away from Adora, standing quickly. “I’m confused, okay! You’re saying we can’t ever get it right, but that you want to get it right-- it’s confusing!”

 

Adora stands too, voice rising. “ You’re the one who’s saying San Francisco is going to tear us apart!”

 

“Well, I don’t want it to!”

 

“Neither do I!”

 

“Then what are we even fucking yelling about?” Catra snaps, features settling in her familiar scowl.

 

“I-- I don’t know,” Adora replies, dropping back in her seat. She ducks her head, cradling it with her hands. In a mumble, she admits, “I don’t want this to end up like it did last time.”

 

“Neither do I,” Catra mutters. There’s a minute of tense, uneasy silence, until she continues, almost in a whine, “Will you please look at me?” 

 

Hands drift down to hers, tugging, and Adora acquiesces, lifting her head, meeting Catra’s gaze. 

 

“What do we do now?”

 

Catra shrugs. 

 

“No idea.”

 

Adora laughs slightly. 

 

“That’s a good thing?”

 

Catra leans down, tilts her forehead against Adora’s. “I’ve no fucking idea,” she says in a whisper.

 

“Well, that’s reassuring.”

 

“Uh-- shut up! I’m trying my best. Dick.”

+

(After the picture.)

 

Catra leaves, after a couple hours and when the sun is close to setting. 

 

Adora closes the apartment door behind her, stares at the yellowing, chipped paint.

 

She’s such a fucking idiot. 

 

Couples costumes ? That’s all she could come up with? 

 

For a second, Catra looked like she wanted to kiss her.

 

But it was a stupid idea, just like couples costumes was a stupid idea, and crawling all over Catra in the heat was a stupid idea, because a second later Catra shut off, with that scowl on her face, and they had barely talked after that.

 

Adora leans against the door, exhaling slowly.

 

She’s such an idiot.

+

Catra wakes up very violently around 4 in the morning. 

 

She hits the ground, fingers digging into the matted carpet in her roomette, and groans, pain stinging through her arms. 

 

“Adora,” she croaks, hauling herself up off the floor. “You fucker .”

 

Adora stirs slightly, eyes scrunching up. 

 

“You pushed me off the fucking bed --”

 

“No--mm, no, I didn’t,” Adora interrupts in a thick voice, rolling over, taking the blankets with her.

 

Catra yanks the blankets off of Adora, growling out a string of profanity before dropping back into the bed, shoving at Adora. “Move, Adora-- move .”

 

“St-- stop it,” Adora mutters, still not comprehending, still not fully woken up.

 

Catra, with a huff, digs an elbow into Adora’s stomach, an old trick, and is rewarded when Adora shoots up with a yelp. “ Catra !”

 

Catra can’t help her grin. “Always works.”

 

Adora rubs at her eyes, surprise fading. “Did I push you off again?”

 

Catra nods, eyes drifting closed as she curls back up on the small mattress, legs draped over Adora’s lap.

 

“Forgot how often I did that,” Adora mutters. Catra hears a soft snort, feels the pillow dip as Adora lays back down next to her. “Remember when we were all sleeping over at Rogelio’s and everyone woke up because I was, like, shoving at the empty space next to me?”

 

Catra lets her lips curve up. “You were fighting the air. Kyle was like, does she do that all the time? And I was like, you have no fucking idea.

 

Adora wraps her arms around Catra’s waist, head coming to rest at the crook of her neck. “You got used to it, though.”

 

“I learned how to sleep dodge.”

 

Adora laughs, a deep rumble that echoes through Catra’s body. 

 

Lips press against the hollow of her throat.

 

“Such a fucking idiot,” she mumbles against Adora’s hair.

 

They lapse into silence. 

 

Probably ten minutes go by before Adora starts snoring.

 

Catra, finally convinced Adora’s asleep, exhales slowly, something on her lips that she doesn’t think she can say. After a moment, she shoves it back, picks something else. She whispers into the air, “I can’t say goodbye again.”

 

She likes it this way, this truth tucked away where no one can touch it. It’s better this way, she thinks.

 

She rests her head on Adora’s shoulder, lets her eyes drift shut. 

 

The last thing she registers before she falls into sleep is lips brushing hers, a husky voice whispering, neither can I.

+

“San Francisco 4th and King Station,” drones the voice over the intercom.

 

Adora casts her gaze out the window of Catra’s roomette, stomach sinking as the train shudders to a stop, doors sliding open.

 

She hikes her bag over her shoulder, dares a glance at Catra, who had barely said a word all day.

 

It had been a tense day. 

 

Both of them firmly ignoring what had been said the night before, they had traded earbuds, listened to a looping playlist while Catra finished her book and Adora stared at Catra, wondering what to say, memorizing her face.

 

They left Catra’s roomette once, Catra heading to the dining car for lunch and Adora heading to her room to pack up her stuff. While doing this, Adora encountered a slew of passengers gathered around two old guys who looked to be playing chess. After a couple minutes of flitting at the edge of the crowd, she found out they were heading to a chess tournament in San Francisco and were looking for new opponents, needing some extra practice.

 

When the opportunity arose, she enthusiastically volunteered and, drawing on the two months of chess playing she did back in sophomore year when Kyle got really into it and needed someone to play against him, proceeded to get her ass handed to her.

 

After barely five minutes, she admitted defeat, grinning back at the old Russian man who beat her, and stood. 

 

She got pushed out back to the aisle by the crowd and lingered there, watching as the other old man navigated his pawns around, creating an effective shield against his opponent.

 

“Have fun?”

 

She had turned, making unsteady eye contact with Catra, who unceremoniously pushed a plate of food into her hands.

 

“Yeah, actually.”

 

“Good.”

 

And that was all Catra said for the next four hours.

 

Adora sighs, checking to make sure her duffel bag is zipped all the way up. “You ready?” She asks Catra, not expecting a response.

 

“No.”

 

Adora’s eyebrows shoot up as she whips around to look at Catra. “You said something.”

 

Catra scowls, eyes narrowing. Her mouth opens, like she’s about to say something, then closes abruptly.

 

“So now you’re not saying anything?”

 

“Do not test me right now, Adora.”

 

“This, um, doesn’t have to be the end, you know,” Adora stammers out, palms starting to sweat.

 

Catra sighs, ducking her head as she fiddles with the clasp on her bag. “I know.”

 

“We don’t have to say goodbye,” Adora repeats.

 

Catra’s eyes finally meet hers.

 

“We don’t have to say goodbye because we don’t know what’s going to happen next,” she says, feeling some sort of emotion rise in her throat. “No one knows what’s about to happen next, so why ruin what may come next with goodbyes?”

 

Catra’s eyebrows furrow. “So, um, so what do we do?” 

 

“Well, actually, I have something to tell you--”

 

“Ladies! Can we please exit the train?”

 

Adora whirls around, pasting on a smile for the attendant, who’s hanging in the doorway, a sort of manic grin on her face. 

 

“Of course, sorry,” Adora mumbles, smiling a little wider at the expectant woman, hoping it makes up for Catra’s muttering.

 

They leave the roomette, Adora uncomfortably aware of Catra at her back, Catra’s sigh as they walk down the stairs, Catra’s fingers brushing hers.

 

And, much too soon, they’re at the exit.

 

Adora hesitates.

 

She wishes Glimmer and Bow were here. 

 

It’s a stupid wish, just like three years ago when she’d wish that Catra wasn’t angry with her, because there’s nothing she can do about it. Glimmer can’t magically teleport here, as much as Adora wants her to, neither can Bow. But she needs the encouragement, the pointed look Glimmer would give her, the covert thumbs up Bow would flash. The small acts of just fucking do it, you can do it.

 

She’s hesitated for too long.

 

Adora can’t help her hiss as she exits the train with a long stride, as she’s swallowed into the crowd, as she’s momentarily blinded by the bright sun.

 

She glances behind her, sees Catra with a hand raised, blocking the sun, a scowl on her face. Adora catches her eye, raises an eyebrow, and can’t help her smile as she watches Catra mouth I fucking hate people.

 

Adora turns and ducks into some shade, leaning against a poster advertising Dairy Queen or something, and eyes Catra as she shuffles up next to her.

 

“Which way are you going?” Catra asks, cocking her head.

 

Adora gestures to the right. “To get a cab.”

 

“I’m going left.”

 

Catra’s gaze is heavy on her, like three days ago when Adora returned that fucking phone charger and had the feeling that the truth was staring her in the face and she couldn’t escape it even if she tried.

 

Except then the truth had been hatred, anger, betrayal. Now, it was just pain reflecting back at her, the knowledge that this probably was goodbye.

 

“We don’t have to say goodbye,” Adora says anyway.

 

Catra huffs out a breath, skating a hand through her hair. “Don’t we?”

 

“No, no we don’t-- Here, let’s just…” Adora grabs Catra’s arm and yanks her back into the thick of the crowd. “Turn around.”

 

Catra does not turn around. “Have you finally lost it?”

 

“Turn around-- trust me, okay?” 

 

Catra fixes her with a glare. “Adora--”

 

“No! No more words-- just, turn around, please?”

 

Catra mutters something, but turns, eyes darting around nervously. “What are you doing?”

 

“I’m gonna turn around too, okay? And on the count of three, we’re just going to walk away. No sentimental words, no turning back. And we’re going to trust that one day, whenever that is, we’ll be able to be together. No complications.”

 

Catra doesn’t respond, but Adora hears her sigh.

 

“We aren’t saying goodbye,” she murmurs after a long moment.

 

“We aren’t.”

 

Catra tugs on Adora’s hand, lacing their fingers together. “I’m going to miss you, you know. Even though you’re a dick.”

 

Adora smiles, squeezes Catra’s hand.

 

“On the count of three, okay?”

 

“You aren’t gonna tell me you’re gonna miss me too?” Catra shoots back, and although her voice is full of haughty confidence, Adora detects a waver, knows it’s all an act.

 

“You know I’m going to miss you. I don’t need to tell you that.” 

 

“Maybe you do.”

 

“I’m counting to three now, okay?”

 

No response.

 

Adora inhales, exhales. “One, two…”

 

The last word gets stuck in her throat, tears spring to her eyes. And she really hates it. She hates that they have to do this, she hates that she’s putting herself through this again.

 

“Three,” Catra whispers, and Adora hears the thud of her shoes as she walks away, hand slipping out of hers, warmth against her back gone.

 

And she remembers when she thought that Catra would evaporate as soon as she stepped off the train, like she was some kind of hallucination, and how this is so, so much worse.

 

Inhale, step, exhale.

 

Adora makes it twenty feet before she looks back, spots Catra’s eyes deep in the crowd. 

 

No turning back, she had said.

 

They had both known she was full of shit.

 

Adora doesn’t think she’s ever felt closer to Catra. They’re fifty feet away and they’re walking away from each other, but Adora’s never felt so close, so intertwined with Catra, even back in middle and high school, when they literally spent every day together.

 

Adora’s breath catches, there’s the thought of, Catra’s looking at me, maybe Catra’s thinking of running back to me, but as wide, warm eyes stare back at her, Adora has to acknowledge that that thinking is absolute bullshit, because Catra would kill for that company spot but, hey, they’re both so fucking stubborn it doesn’t matter anyway.

 

Adora turns away before, well, before what? Before she has the opportunity to regret the decision she’s made? Before she misses her cab? Or before Catra has the opportunity to to turn away first.

 

Adora turns away.

 

She does this because she knows something Catra doesn’t.

Chapter Text

(Last night.)

 

“I can’t say goodbye again.”

 

Catra had held her breath before she had said it, like she didn’t want Adora to hear it, didn’t want even herself to hear it.

 

But Adora had heard it. 

 

Responded with, neither can I.

 

And now Catra’s asleep, has been for hours, and Adora, unfortunately, is wide awake. 

 

Adora’s thinking.

 

That’s a first, Catra would drawl if she was awake, if Adora shared her thoughts with her.

 

(But even if Catra was awake, Adora wouldn’t have shared her thoughts.)

 

Do you even like dancing? Catra had asked her. Right after they kissed, right after Catra’s finger had trailed along her jawline and then brushed her lips. Adora’s mind was moving slowly, tracking through mud, dragging itself through an endless sea, and Adora hadn’t even thought about her answer. Yes, of course, what are you talking about?

 

Now she is. Thinking about it, that is.

 

Does she like dancing? Does she enjoy it? She likes it, right?

 

Of course she does. 

 

She hasn’t dedicated the last ten years of her life to nothing. She loves dancing.

 

(Then again, she isn’t really excited about the audition.)

 

No, that’s just because of the whole, like, moving to San Francisco aspect. She had been super excited about moving to New York to dance.

 

Well, had she been? Adora cast her mind back three years, to 17 years old, living in New Jersey, going everywhere with Catra, doing homework in that library, avoiding Shadow Weaver’s gaze as best she could.

 

She was excited to get out of New Jersey, excited that Catra was excited, excited about living in New York… had she been excited about dancing?

 

Adora discards that train of thought, anxiety spiking through her stomach.

 

She started dancing at eleven years old. Why did she do that? What inspired her to take it up in the first place?

 

Adora’s palms start to sweat. 

 

Catra had begged her to join, said she wanted a friend in Weaver’s class.

 

You’ll have to audition for her, but that’s nothing. She needs to fill up her class, she’ll totally let you in. 

 

And what had happened after that? Shadow Weaver had seen excellency in her, refused to let her quit, championed her until Adora outgrew her.

 

Adora swears under her breath rapidly, fumbling for her phone.

 

how do you feel abt dancing?

 

Bow

...what?

 

do you like it? Like, do you enjoy it?

Or is it just kind one of those things you have to do?

 

Bow

Adora what’s going on

 

Answer the q please!!

 

Bow

Is everything okay? You have your

audition today, right?

 

Answer the question please

 

Bow

call me right now

 

Adora swears again.

 

one sec.

 

Adora pulls away from Catra at a glacial pace, whispering apologies Catra doesn’t hear, shifting off the bed, sliding open the door, and padding out into the hallway. 

 

She ducks into the bathroom at the end of the hall, dialing Bow’s number with a tap of her finger.

 

He picks up on the first ring.

 

“Adora, what’s going on?”

 

She grimaces, rubs at her neck. “I… I’m just having a small identity crisis, okay? Nothing to worry about--”

 

“Wh-- who are you on the phone with?”

 

Adora freezes, every thought eddying out of her mind as she hears Glimmer’s voice.

 

“Are-- are you with Glimmer?” She asks, starting to grin. “In your room? In the early morning?”

 

There’s an audible fuck and then a lot of hushed whispers, and then Bow’s voice cracks through. “Um, none of your business?”

 

“Are you two--?”

 

“None of your business!” Bow repeats, voice rising an octave.

 

Finally--

 

“Adora! Shut it! What-- what are you talking about with the identity crisis? Is everything okay?”

 

Adora groans, the temporary joy she gleaned from learning of their relationship slipping away.

 

“I… just… well, um, I just need some clarification. How do you… feel about dancing?”

 

There’s a long, heavy pause.

 

“Uh… I mean, I love dancing. It’s my favorite thing to do--”

 

“You never view it as a chore?” Adora interjects, heart starting to thud.

 

“No-- I love dancing, like I said. It’s what I do to get away from chores-- Adora. What are you thinking?”

 

His voice pitches down, gravely almost, and Adora’s heart starts to race.

 

“I’m just… like, reevaluating my entire life,” she answers hoarsely, tears pricking at her eyes.

 

“Is this because of Catra?” He asks, and Adora can barely hear Glimmer behind him ask, is something going on? 

 

“No,” she says firmly, the kneejerk defense. She winces. “Well, actually, kind of?”

 

There’s a lot of shuffling, and suddenly Glimmer’s voice is booming through. “I don’t know who the fuck this girl thinks she is, but if she’s trying to manipulate you into giving up that spot--”

 

“Glimmer, no! She’s not-- it’s just, she was talking about dance earlier, mentioned how she felt about it, and, you know, what Bow just said…” She trails off, chest clenching.

 

“Adora, you love dancing. Don’t you?” 

 

“I love… I love dancing with Bow, and I loved dancing with Catra… but… I don’t know if I’ve ever felt that strongly about it--”

 

“Adora. Before you say anything you might regret, please think very hard about why you’re doing this. Is it because of some girl? Some girl who hurt you before and might hurt you again? Are you just caught up in some fairytale relationship right now, and you’ve fooled yourself into thinking that you hate the thing that will literally put you on the map--”

 

Glimmer ,” Bow snaps, sounding aghast.

 

“I’m not saying she should do something that makes her unhappy! I’m saying that she’s spent, what, two days? Two days with this Catra person and now she wants to change her entire life. That doesn’t sound odd to you--?”

 

Adora hangs up.

 

That did not help.

 

Her phone buzzes, probably a text from Bow asking if she’s okay, but she ignores it, instead leaving the bathroom and, on impulse, silently walking down the stairs and sitting in the seat where, just a few hours ago, she kissed Catra.

 

To stop dancing would be like losing my fucking will to live or something, Catra had once said. Dappled with sweat, towel draped over her shoulders, pointe shoes in a loose grasp in her left hand.

 

Junior year of high school. Catra’s first solo was coming up in a show, she had practiced for at least ten hours every day. Adora barely saw her. 

 

When am I going to see you again? She had asked Catra a week before the show, hanging in the doorway of the studio, eyes tracking Catra’s leg as it rose, dipped, rose again.

 

Catra had grinned, twisting to look at Adora. Never?

 

Wow. Okay. Am I really that unimportant? 

 

An eye roll. You really think a lot of yourself, huh?

 

Not really, I just miss you. 

 

Adora will never forget how Catra’s face flushed, how she turned away, how her form wilted for just a second before she fixed it.

 

To stop dancing would be like losing my fucking will to live or something.

 

Does Adora feel that way about dancing? Does she even have to? She shouldn’t have to feel that way about dancing to enjoy it, right? 

 

Adora exhales.

 

The true question is, does she want to dedicate her life to it? Because that’s what’ll happen if she gets the San Francisco spot. She’ll be locked in for life.

 

Dancing has always been her destiny. That’s been clear to her since eleven years old. And yet…

 

Adora stands, fingers brushing the polyester seat, jogging up the stairs and back into Catra’s roomette, sliding under the covers like she never left.

 

Catra shifts in her sleep, tilts her forehead against Adora’s delicately, arms wrapping around Adora’s waist. She murmurs something, briefly, that melts into a snore.

 

Adora stares at Catra, the slope of her nose, the pout of her lips, the cleft between her eyebrows.

 

She thinks.

+

Adora hails a cab, throws her bags into the trunk, ducks into the back seat. She mutters a greeting to the driver, eyes on her phone, finger hovering over the call button.

 

“Where’re you off to?” The driver asks, twisting in his seat to look at her. 

 

She blinks. “Uh…”

 

“You don’t know?” 

 

Where am I going? She checks the time, flashing an apologetic smile at the driver. 

 

It’s 4:11. She can still make it to the company building if she wants to.

 

Does she want to?

 

“Fisherman’s Wharf,” she says after a long moment.

 

“Ah, tourist, huh?” The man replies gruffly, flicking on the engine.

 

Adora forces a laugh, dials a number. “Visiting family.” 

 

He starts to respond, but Adora tunes him out, lifting the ringing phone to her ear.

 

“Hello?” Asks a delicate voice, the delicate voice that informed Adora she had been invited to audition for the company. Take this number, call me whenever.

 

“Hi, Patricia, this is Adora--”

 

“Ah! Adora, we’re so excited for your audition. Where are you?”

 

“Um… the funny thing is, uh, I have decided not to audition, actually. So.”

 

“What?”

 

“I have decided to go in a different direction with the whole, you know, life thing.” 

 

“I’m sorry?” Patricia asks, and Adora’s palms start to sweat when she hears the edge in her voice.

 

“I-- I’m, hm, not auditioning?”

 

Adora hears a muffled swear and then, very abruptly, Patricia hangs up.

 

Adora blinks. Well, that’s handled. Dials another number.

 

“Adora! Your audition is soon! How are you doing?”

 

Adora winces. “Hey, Angella.”

+

The person overseeing Catra’s audition is almost ridiculously cheery. 

 

Since the very moment Catra stepped on stage, she’s had a gigantic grin on her face, has talked a mile a minute.

 

It’s so unlike everywhere else, so unnervingly comforting, Catra doesn’t know what to do.

 

“You’re Catra, right? That’s so amazing-- I’m Alima, a senior member. You know, I’ve been here long enough to know what the supervisors want, so I’ll be looking at your skills today-- it’s so wonderful you’re here. All the way across the country, right? Davis scouted you… was it Davis? No, yeah, it was Davis. He saw you dance all the way over in New Jersey, right? We send scouts all over the country, two to each state-- like senators, right?-- so we get people from all over. I, coincidentally, lived in San Francisco already, so it wasn’t too much of a huge change. My friend, Damara, lived up in Seattle before moving here, so little bit of a shock. But New Jersey! That’ll be quite an adjustment.” She cocks her head. “If you get in, that is.”

 

Catra nods, stomach roiling.

 

“Start whenever you’re ready. You brought your own music?” 

 

Nod. Click of a button.

 

And it starts.

 

The delicate lean into a spin, the quick breath before she plunges into a deep arabesque, and it’s like three years ago, with Juilliard and the other ten schools she snuck out to audition for.

 

A burning spotlight, a smooth, dusty stage, keen eyes watching her, it’s all the fucking same. The same worry claws at her throat, the same sweat dots her hairline. Deep breath in, deep breath out, smooth transition, one movement.
How many times has she done this? How many more times will she do this? A twirl, a breathless leap, a smile, fingers splayed just so. How many minutes of waiting for approval, of staring at her phone, willing it to ring?

 

Catra straightens, leg sweeping across the floor, back arching. 

 

(She realizes she doesn’t care how many more times she has to do this, as long as she gets to dance at the end of the day. As long as she gets away from Shadow Weaver, as long as her life moves forwards instead of back.)

 

And the music continues, her dancing continues, leaping and twirling and dipping and rising until she’s at her final move, a dizzying spin, and she turns one, two, three, four, five, and however many more times until the last plunk of the piano, until she stops, hold your position , and meets Alima’s eyes, gleaming in the empty audience.

 

Wonderful job!” Alima crows, a bright smile on her face.

 

Catra allows herself one grateful exhale, grinning back at the woman.

 

“Thank you.”

 

“Now, I just have one question to ask. Just a little extra thing, everyone has to answer it. Got it?”

 

“Mmhm, yeah.”

 

“Why are you doing this?”

 

Catra’s mouth falls open as the simple phrase yanks her back years.

 

Why are you doing this? Adora had texted her the morning after she left that voicemail. Catra had read the message and thrown out every piece of Adora she had, the anger she felt at the five words unparalleled. Why are you doing this? Catra wanted to reply, wanted to hurt Adora even more than she had the night before. Because why did she do anything at that point in her life? She did it because she was angry and resentful and wanted to bring Adora down to her level. It was because Adora left her, left her to rot in New Jersey while she went off to New York and built herself a life.

 

She had gotten over it.

 

Had felt a flash of it three days ago, when Adora had sat down next to her on the train.

 

Had gotten over it again.

 

And now she was here. Standing, slack jawed, as the world continues around her. 

 

“Why am I doing this ? Like, auditioning here, dancing…?” Catra trails off, eyes locked on Alima, who was still tucked into a plush seat.

 

She nods.

 

“Dancing is my life,” Catra blurts. “It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, it’s-- it’s all I will ever want to do.”

 

“And you believe the San Francisco Ballet Company can help you do that?” Alima persists, an uncomfortable edge to her voice.

 

“I-- I believe my talents will contribute a lot to the San Francisco Ballet Company.”

 

“And what happens if we accept you? What is your next step?”

 

Catra blinks. “I… uh, well, firstly, I’ll graduate from Montclair--” She cuts herself off, heart leaping into overdrive as Alima scribbles something on a notepad-- there’s a notepad in her lap, Jesus she’s been writing things this entire time --

 

“Yes, and?”

 

“Um, I’m-- I’m going to move to San Francisco and just… dedicate myself to my dancing. I plan on dancing for as long as I can-- I want it to be my career, and the San Francisco Ballet Company is where I want to do that.”

 

She huffs out a breath, clasping her hands together behind her back in an effort to disguise their shaking.

 

Alima finishes writing.

 

Her gaze snaps back up to Catra’s, a warm smile on her face. “Well, that’s… frankly, that’s just awesome. Your responses are just what we’re looking for-- don’t tell anyone I said that, though--, and your routine was very impressive. We only have four more applicants to review-- wait, no, three, we had a no-show yesterday, you see, so we’ll probably get back to you within a week.”

 

Catra lets out a relieved laugh, a garbled string of words that sounds like thank you thank you I won’t disappoint you I promise following.

 

And then it stops. Abruptly, dizzyingly.

 

“No-show?”

 

Alima nods. “Nothing to concern yourself with, though.”

 

“Yeah, no, of course. Thank you so much for seeing me.”

 

Alima says a few more cheery, comforting words, but Catra doesn’t hear them.

 

No-show.

+

After two days of not knowing how to tell Catra about her decision, two days of sitting on a second train, driving herself batshit, Adora settles on a quick, innocuous text.

 

Can I call you? We need to talk about something. 

 

She receives a response almost immediately.

 

What have you done

+

The next three days go by in a blur.

 

Catra gets back to New Jersey the night before classes start up again, infuriatingly, with no word from Adora on why the fuck she would cancel her audition.

 

Catra knows the no-show is her, fucking knows it because she knows Adora , knows the bored look on her face when she dances, saw that doubtful look in her eyes when they parted at the train station.

 

It’s fucking infuriating. Adora’s throwing away the certain success she has, the perfect life that’s been mapped out for her. Catra can’t fathom it.

 

(Of course, none of this anger is stemming from the fact that she secretly thinks the only reason she’s legitimately in the running for the San Francisco spot is because Adora dropped out. None of it.)

 

Now it’s 9am, and she feels like shit. So much is wrong .

 

The class she’s in is horrifically boring, for one.

 

Half the students are gone, half of that half hungover from the end of spring break parties that ravaged the campus last night. Catra distantly wonders if that hungover percentage includes her professor, who looks like he got hit by a bus a few hours ago and just barely managed to drag himself to work.

 

Scorpia, next to her, reeks of booze but is dutifully taking notes, while Catra’s just scrolling through a Buzzfeed listicle, less interested in the history of European art than her professor’s breath.

 

She, shamefully, has texted Adora a few times since she got back and, of fucking course, received no response. 

 

What have you done

Call me

Adora

What the fuck

You better have a really good explanation for this.

 

Adora could at least deign to give her a call, a text back even.

 

But whatever.

 

It’s not like Catra cares. Because she doesn’t. Not at all.

 

Fascinating ,” Scorpia mutters, nudging Catra, a signal to start paying attention.

 

Catra begrudgingly obliges, putting her phone face down on the desk and swiping one of Scorpia’s extra pencils. “What are we talking about?” She whispers.

 

“Baroque German architecture--”

 

Catra groans. “You aren’t serious.”

 

“It’s going to be on the test!” Scorpia responds, eyes wide.

 

Catra sticks her tongue out at Scorpia, but turns back to the teacher, eyes sweeping over the slides, registering next to nothing.

 

She squints.

 

“I don’t know what any of these words mean,” she hisses to Scorpia, who just rolls her eyes.

 

“Well, maybe if you had been paying attention--

 

Her phone buzzes.

 

“Thank Jesus,” Catra mutters, hoping it’s a meme or something from Entrapta. Or maybe even a message from Adora, apologizing for the days of silence, professing her love, not that Catra cares, though.

 

It isn’t Entrapta, and it isn’t Adora.

 

Unknown Number

Hi, Catra! This is Alima, the senior member 

who observed your audition. Congratulations! 

I’m so happy to inform you that you are officially 

a dancer in the San Francisco Ballet Company. 

If you have any questions, please just respond to 

this text. You should be receiving some mail soon 

that’ll solidify things. Once again, congrats.

 

Catra shoots up out of her chair, drawing the attention of the conscious few in the room. She doesn’t notice.

 

“Catra--?” Scorpia asks, putting a delicate hand on her arm.

 

“I got it,” she whispers. “I got the spot.”

 

“You got it? Oh my god, Catra, I’m so happy for you--”

 

“I need to get out of here.”

 

“Wait, what? Catra--”

 

Fingers fumbling for her things, shouldering the heavy door open, an apologetic yell to the professor. 

 

And she’s gone.

+

Glimmer fixes Adora with a scathing look as soon as she steps off the train. “I just spent the past three days trying to explain to my mother why in the world you wouldn’t audition for the company, the audition she set up for you, the audition she’s been prepping you for for months .”

 

Adora winces.

 

“I don’t know what’s going through your mind, and I fully support you, but I’m not fucking talking to my mom again. It’s up to you.”

 

Bow lets out a low whistle. “The ultimate punishment.”

 

“Is she, like, really pissed?” Adora asks, stomach sinking.

 

Glimmer nods gravely. “You’ve got quite a conversation coming your way.” She pitches her voice down, imitating Angella almost perfectly. “ Glimmah, why did Adora do this? Did she say anything about this to you? Can you stop her? Did she hit her head? Is this because of your Paris plans? What did you say to her? Did Bow say something? ” 

 

“Can I just blame it on you?”

 

“Haha. No.”

 

Adora sighs. “Well, I knew this was coming.”

 

“Yeah, and after Angella kicks your ass, you can tell us about Catra ,” Bow says, eyebrows waggling.

 

“Ooh, yeah,” Glimmer adds. “How much sex did you two have on the train?”

 

“Yeah, and after I tell you all about that, you guys can tell me how much sex you had while I was gone,” Adora retorts, grinning as they both immediately flush.

 

Glimmer groans into her hands. “Just go away. Go get lectured by my mother.”

 

Adora salutes. “Ay-ay, captain.”

 

The muttered retort she gets in response is lost in the bustle of the crowd.

+

Catra sprints through the station, just barely catching the last train of the day from Montclair into NYC.

+

Angella’s pissed.

 

Not as pissed as Adora thought she would be, though. 

 

Adora basically hasn’t even said one word since she got to the spacious, windowed studio Angella calls her office, just sat and listened as Angella told her all about how she was ruining her life, destroying everything she’s ever worked for, all that.

 

“You at least intend to finish your degree?” She asked at one point.

 

Adora had shrugged. “Probably?”

 

Probably ?” Angella had shrieked.

 

Another, separate lecture ensued.

 

Adora has stopped listening now, instead gazing out the large windows of the studio, watching from a distance as students moved from building to building, carrying instruments, bags of clothes, fistfuls of sheet music.

 

She’ll miss it here, she realizes. 

 

Adora tunes in, desperate to get away from that thought.

 

“And don’t even get me started on how you left Patricia high and dry like that--”

 

Adora tunes out.

 

There’s a couple walking across campus, hand in hand, grinning and laughing at each other. Adora can’t help her smile, the pang of longing in her chest.

 

She needs to text Catra back.

 

She wanted to deal with everything here, Angella, classes, Bow and Glimmer, then hop on a train and go to Montclair, surprising Catra there. But dealing with stuff in New York had taken much longer than anticipated, and now it just seemed like Adora was ignoring her.

 

Her eyes track the couple as they part with a quick kiss, one heading into the cafeteria and the other heading towards the music hall. 

 

She dares a glance at Angella.

 

“... even taking this seriously-- ?”

 

She goes back to looking out the window.

 

And her jaw goes slack when she sees Catra.

 

Wandering around campus, a scowl on her face.

 

“Oh Jesus fucking Christ ,” she mutters to herself.

 

“What was that?” Snaps Angella.

 

“Nothing,” she says quickly, thumbing her phone out of her pocket.

 

A quick, covert text to Glimmer had her and Bow intercepting Catra before campus security could (it was really funny watching that unfold from a distance), and then it was just a race to get Angella placated with useless apologies so she could run out and talk to Catra before she and Glimmer started fighting or they got caught or any of the other thousand possible scenarios.

 

I’m sorry, I’m not changing my mind, I’ll stay in touch, I’m not moving away, I’ll finish out my senior year, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, and Angella finally dismisses her with a wave of her hand.

 

And then Adora dove out the door.

 

She’s currently running across campus, to dance studio D, where Glimmer said they had managed to hide.

 

It’s actually pretty ingenious, because no one goes into studio D. The mirror is cracked and the floor unswept, walls stained and ceiling discolored. It’s just generally gross, making it the perfect place to be if you don’t want to be found.

 

Adora bursts through the door.

+

“Thank god you’re here,” the president’s daughter mutters when Adora crashes into the studio.

 

“Catra, uh, hi,” Adora manages, chest heaving with pants, face red. Catra surveys her from where she’s leaning up against the wall, an eyebrow raised.

 

“Eloquent as ever,” she responds, which earns her a sharp look from the one in the inappropriately short crop top. Catra gives him her best glare, which has him quickly looking away.

 

“Can we, um, have a moment alone?” Adora asks.

 

The two goons look at Adora, obviously offended. 

 

Please ?” Adora stresses, giving them a pointed glare.

 

“Oh, Jesus, fine,” the sparkly one snaps. “BTW, my mom’s out for the rest of the day, just so you know.”

 

“Really?”

 

Sparkles nods. “You stressed her out so much she decided to take the rest of the day off.”

 

Adora winces.

 

After some hushed whispers about the president and not-so-covert glances at Catra, they file out. 

 

And, all too soon, Catra and Adora are alone.

 

“Hi.”

 

Catra cocks her head. “Your henchmen muscled me into this shit studio without an explanation, you know.”

 

Adora looks like she’s trying to stamp down a smile. “Uh-huh. Yeah, I’m sorry about that--”

 

“You didn’t respond to any of my texts. Or calls.”

 

“I’m sorry about that too. A lot’s been going on here,” Adora says lamely, rubbing at her neck.

 

“It sounds like you’re already bored of me,” Catra snaps, turning away so Adora doesn’t see her pinched frown.

 

No-- God, Catra, no. It’s just, like I said, things have been busy. I just got back from a meeting with Angella about the whole, you know, thing.”

 

Catra nods, mouth curving up. “Ah, yes. The thing . You gonna tell me why you decided to throw away your entire future?” She turns back to Adora, an eyebrow raised.

 

Adora, uncharacteristically, scowls.

 

“I don’t need to hear this from you too.”

 

“Yeah, well, you’re going to.”

 

“Catra--”

 

“You shouldn’t have fucking done that, Adora.”

 

Catra--

 

“You threw it all away ! Dancing was your fucking d--”

 

“My fucking what? My fucking destiny ?”

 

“Yeah!”

 

“No-- okay? It’s fucking not! I’m sick and tired of everyone else deciding what I like, what I’m gonna do-- first it was Shadow Weaver, then Angella-- What if I don’t want to? What if I want to open up a flower shop on First Ave or something?”

 

“W-- you want to open up a flower shop ?”

 

“Who the fuck knows! All I know is that I don’t want to dance like I have been! Not for a career, certainly not competitively, I just want-- I want my destiny to be my decision.”

 

“Adora, I’m not worth this, I’m not worth destroying your career over--”

 

“Jesus, Catra-- I didn’t do it for you! I did it for me , because-- because, I want to feel about something the way you feel about dance and-- I don’t know! Maybe it’s that simple. I don’t want to anymore .”

 

Catra looks at her, stricken.

 

“You’re a fucking idiot.”

 

“I know what I want.”

 

Catra laughs hollowly. “You-- you ‘know what you want’, no, you’re a fucking idiot.”

 

“I thought you, of all people, would understand--

 

“Well I fucking don’t, okay! I don’t understand how you could just-- you could just… leave all that behind-- all of that success and power and certainty--

 

“But I did! There’s no changing that!” 

 

Catra doesn’t respond, not trusting what’ll slip out of her mouth if she opens it. 

 

“It’s not what I want,” Adora says after a long minute, voice breaking. “No amount of success will change that.”

 

Catra sweeps her eyes over Adora’s shaking hands, the furrowed brows, deciding to take Adora’s words at face value, to not read into it. Adora’s telling the truth. If she isn’t, it isn’t Catra’s problem.

 

The least Catra can do is be honest with her.

 

Catra forces herself to nod. “No, no… I--I’m sorry. I just, I think I got it into my head that you were gonna resent me, or pin the blame on me if this doesn’t work out, or something--”

 

“I would never do that,” Adora breaks in, grabbing Catra’s hand. “You know that, right?”

 

“Of course I know that, it’s just-- it’s all changing so quickly , Adora. The last time things changed this quickly, I lost you... and I can’t do that again.”

 

Adora looks at her a little too closely.

 

And a bolt of fear runs through Catra, a profound fear that Adora will see what Catra isn’t ready to show her yet, that Adora will recognize it, will try and return it. Adora will ruin it by saying it out loud, or maybe Catra will, who knows, and the hand in hers will slip away, the peace will shatter.

 

Catra looks away, ducking her head.

 

And the hand in hers slips away anyway.

 

“So… um, did you just come here to yell at me?”

 

Catra’s gaze snaps up to Adora’s, mouth falling open. “Oh my god-- um, so, I got the spot.”

 

Adora blinks. “The-- the San Francisco spot?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Wh- what ? And you’ve waited this long to tell me? Oh my god, Catra! Catra !”

 

Adora lunges for her, sweeping her up in her arms. Catra can’t help the laugh that slips out of her, plus the yelp that follows when Adora picks her up, swinging her around messily.

 

“How could you have not told me?”

 

“I forgot!”

 

“Jesus, Catra.”

 

And Adora kisses her.

 

Hands wrapped around her waist, Catra still hoisted half in the air, Adora kisses her, eyelashes wet with unshed tears. Catra’s hands drift along Adora’s jaw, eyebrows scrunching up as the kiss deepens.

 

They part.

 

“God, I’m so fucking happy,” Adora whispers. “You-- you have to teach me your routine. Remember when we’d do that in middle school? Lock ourselves in a studio and teach each other?”

 

Catra smiles, remembering. The smile fades when she looks around the studio, nose wrinkling. “Here? Sparkles said this was, and I quote, the worst studio we got. ” 

 

Adora drops Catra, pulling her towards the door. “I know just the place.

+

When Glimmer pops into her mom’s office/studio a couple hours later to pick up her bag, she sees Adora and Catra, acting like they’re fifteen again, stumbling through the Hot Honey Rag routine, long bored with Catra’s stuck-up, proper ballet dances.

 

“No, Adora-- swimming arms, did you learn anything from this fucking school?”

 

“‘Swimming arms’-- what does that even mean ?”

 

“No, like, swimmy, flowing , all that shit. They can’t be rigid!”

 

“So, just say flowing. ‘Swimming’ is a completely different thing--”

 

“Oh my fucking god--”

 

“The cartwheel! Oh my god, we missed the cartwheel!”

 

Glimmer watches for a bit, leaving when they start making out against the mirror, feeling like she’s intruding on something.

 

As she walks back down the hall, raucous laughter follows her.

+

“What happens next?”

 

A long pause.

 

“I don’t know.”

 

A sigh.

 

“Try anyway?”

 

It’s 2am, they’re in Adora’s dorm, splayed out on the floor, hand in hand. 

 

“We finish our degrees, for one.”

 

“Visit each other on the weekends.”

 

A smile, hidden in the dark.

 

“Move to San Francisco.”

 

“Set up shop in a tiny fucking apartment.”

 

They danced until they couldn’t anymore, stumbled back to the dorms, plugged in Catra’s phone, changed clothes.

 

“I’ll get a job somewhere. Somewhere like a bookstore. Or a florist.”

 

“I’ll go to work at the company.”

 

“We’ll be together.” 

 

Another smile, hidden in the dark. 

 

And then, barely a moment later, a kiss shrouded in shadows.

+

It’s Friday. A Friday that happens to be the day after one of the Thursdays where Catra cleans Shadow Weaver’s studios. A Friday that happens to be the day after Catra skipped her cleaning duties and dodged Shadow Weaver’s calls about it, too.

 

Catra swings through the open door of Weaver’s Academy for Dance: Studio C , avoiding the curious looks from the ten years old who usually only see her on Thursdays, and strides towards Shadow Weaver’s office.

 

Through the small window, she can see the old woman hunched over a bunch of documents, pencil scratching away.

 

Catra inhales, exhales.

 

“Knock knock,” she drawls as she opens the door, hoping her hands aren’t visibly shaking.

 

Shadow Weaver’s gaze snaps up. Catra consciously cherishes the silent moment before Shadow Weaver’s mouth opens, and her bullshit starts spewing out.“Do I even have to tell you how ridiculously late you are?”

 

“I--”

 

“No employer will ever keep you on if you decide just not to come in every time you don’t feel like it.”

 

“That’s not--”

 

“You’ll never succeed anywhere. Of course, I didn’t have much hope for you in the first place--”

 

“I’m moving to San Francisco,” Catra snaps, forcing herself in between Shadow Weaver’s stinging words.

 

Shadow Weaver falls abruptly silent, cold eyes sweeping over Catra’s face. “Ha. Very funny. No you aren’t.”

 

“I auditioned for the San Francisco Ballet Company last week. I’ve been accepted.”

 

Shadow Weaver huffs out a sigh, turning back to the paperwork in front of her. “Who will clean my studios?” 

 

Catra can’t help her laugh. “Do you really think I’m going to give up the opportunity of my life just to stay here and clean studios for you?”

 

“No, of course not. You’re not that stupid. But, I did think you would be more grateful for everything that I’ve done for you. Those hospital bills didn’t get paid magically, you know. And you never would have become a dancer worthy of the San Francisco Ballet Company without me . I think I’ve earned a little more respect.”

 

“You’ve earned nothing .”

 

Shadow Weaver stands suddenly, looming over Catra. “You’ve always been this way, you know. Insolent and ungrateful, worthy of nothing.

 

As Shadow Weaver continues, Catra gets caught in it. She swore to herself she never would again, but of course, that promise was shit. She’s against a wall, words being thrown at her like knives, staring up into a face contorted in anger, and she gets caught in it. She starts to drown.

 

Her nails dig into her palms, fists clenching, Shadow Weaver’s low, hateful voice grating like nails on a chalkboard.

 

And then.

 

“Catra?”

 

A flash of blonde hair.

 

And that’s all Catra needs to snap out of it, to shove Shadow Weaver away, causing the old woman to stumble back into her hulking wooden desk, the desk Catra used to stare at when she was getting screamed at for corrupting Adora.

 

“Catra…?”

 

Adora walks into the office slowly, eyes wide.

 

Adora.

 

Adora, who is spending the weekend in New Jersey, who was waiting in the car. Adora, who’s about to drive herself and Catra down to a bar where she’ll meet Scorpia and Entrapta for the first time. Adora, who asked Catra to be careful, who promised Catra she’d come get her if Catra needed it.

 

Adora’s here.

 

Catra tries to calm her breathing, tries to rein in her panting and will the tears away. 

 

“Are you ready to go?” Adora asks in a wavering voice, putting a warm hand on Catra’s elbow. Catra anchors herself to that warmness.

 

“Yeah, yeah, sorry. I’m ready.”

 

Adora gently pulls her closer, whispering something Catra can’t begin to try and decipher, and they’re halfway out the door when Shadow Weaver clucks her tongue, and Adora stalls. 

 

That fucking noise, Catra remembers how Shadow Weaver would do that whenever Adora messed up, stumbled, wilted. She’d cluck her tongue, and Adora would flinch.

 

Catra turns, whispering, “ Adora--

 

“It’s extremely rude to not respond to my letters, you know.”

 

Adora’s face flames red, her grip on Catra tightens.

 

“Adora-- Adora, let’s just go, okay?” Catra mutters, tugging on Adora’s arms.

 

“Especially when I put so much time and energy into your career… it’s extremely rude.”

 

“I…”

 

Adora trails off, hand coming up to rub at her neck.

 

“A good place to start would be, ‘I’m sorry’,” Shadow Weaver says, in that steady, lecturing voice of hers.

 

Adora leans into Catra, a movement Shadow Weaver tracks if her pinched frown means anything. 

 

“Adora…” Catra mutters, taking a step back. Adora follows, eyes still stuck on Shadow Weaver.

 

“I do have something to say, actually,” Adora says, voice strained. 

 

Shadow Weaver’s eyebrows rise expectantly. “Yes?”

 

“Fuck you, bitch.”

 

And Adora yanks her away.

 

With Shadow Weaver’s outraged yell following them through the hall, clinging to each other like they’ll fall and never rise again if they let go.

 

They reach the car, locking themselves in with a huff. 

 

And then silence. Silence, silence, silence, until.

 

“‘Fuck you, bitch’?” Catra mutters, an almost hysterical laugh bubbling out of her. “I can’t fucking believe you said that to her. ‘Fuck you, bitch.’”

 

Adora grins, looking away and burying her head in her hands. Muffled, she says, “ Fuck you, bitch . Yeah.”

 

Catra leans over, kissing Adora lightly, whispering fuck you, bitch over and over until they can’t breathe because they’re laughing so hard.

+

And that’s how it goes. Rushing out of classes to see each other, writing fuck you, bitch on each other’s arms as they walk through Central Park, falling asleep on shoulders, exchanging lingering kisses at the train station. 

 

Their graduations are on separate days, which is lucky.

 

They kiss as hats soar.

 

And then it’s scraping and saving every last penny to afford the tiniest apartment in all of San Francisco, Catra rushing off to the company building every morning while Adora surveys the classifieds. 

 

And years pass.

 

And things change.

 

Catra chops off all her hair, Adora gets a tattoo. 

 

Glimmer and Bow move to Paris, move back to New York because, according to them, French is too hard to learn.  

 

Scorpia moves all over the country, seemingly at random, crashes on Catra’s and Adora’s couch whenever she has the chance.

 

Entrapta takes over the world. 

 

It’s all wonderfully, startlingly domestic.

 

And they never get on a fucking train again.

+

the end