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falling feels like flying (till the bone crush)

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In the next several days, Adora tries to find comfort in a few things.

The first thing is that she spends more time in the Whispering Woods, by herself, usually just wandering aimlessly until Swift Wind shows up and asks her if she’s okay, tells her it’s getting dark and that she should head back. And every time, Adora nods, gets on his back, and they fly back to Bright Moon silently.

For as annoying as he can be sometimes, Swift Wind has learned quickly not to press the issue when it comes to the aftermath of the portal.

And so Adora enjoys her long, quiet walks alone, turning every detail of the portal in her mind over and over. It’s gone past trying to come up with answers and gone straight into a cycle of rumination—Adora knows this.

But what else is she supposed to do?

Glimmer won’t speak to her, has barely looked in her direction since she found out what happened.

And Adora can’t even blame her at all.

They’re all grieving—but Glimmer most of all, and the weight of an entire rebellion thrust on her shoulders unexpectedly.

The second thing Adora takes comfort in is knowing that Angella isn’t dead, necessarily.

She’s just trapped. And maybe they can get her back somehow.

It’s awkward, these first few days, because Castaspella is trying to make funeral plans, and Bow and Glimmer keep reminding her she’s not dead, but she’s also not here, and how exactly do you plan a funeral for someone who’s gone but…not?

The third thing Adora finds comfort in is knowing the last thing she said to Catra is I love you.

Which is both comforting and unsettling at the same time somehow, because the last thing Catra did when she was around Adora was run away. And she hasn’t seen her since.

Is she back in the Fright Zone? Are they right back to being enemies despite this knowledge that their “perfect” world involves them being together? Despite the fact that Adora has finally said out loud how she truly feels? Is Catra okay? Does she feel the same?

It’s been a little over a week since the portal, since Angella’s not-death, since all the things that Adora’s barely scratched the surface of processing.

She’s lost so much.

Her best friends are grieving. So is Adora.

She’s exhausted.

And she has no clue where Catra is. No clue if Catra is.

She tries not to let herself think of that possibility, that when Catra ran from the portal, Hordak went after her, sent soldiers to capture her. That maybe Hordak was successful in that, or if not, that Catra met a similarly awful fate somewhere in the Whispering Woods.

She thinks of Catra, of sitting in an alternate version of this exact room and telling her we can’t end like this. She thinks of knowing she’d have to be the one to pull the sword from the portal, not wanting to die—especially in front of Catra—but pushing herself to finally say what she’d been wanting to before she did.

I love you.

Adora thinks of the way the words felt whispered against Catra’s lips, the way Catra’s breath ghosted over Adora’s mouth in response, the fear in her eyes as she pulled back and realized what Adora was going to do.

Adora, no. It’s like you said. We can’t end like this. Please.

She doesn’t focus on the fact that Catra didn’t say it back. Adora tries to convince herself that Catra’s tears, her pleading for Adora not to do it, holding onto her and digging her claws into her forearms, is enough. That those actions were Catra’s ways of showing she loves her too.

But if Catra does love her back, why did she run?

It’s one of the many questions Adora tries to answer during her walks in the woods.

Adora’s standing in her bedroom that night, looking out the window, and if she keeps her eyes peeled open long enough, she can still see the phantom flashes from the portal—white cracks of lightning severing everything from the top of her line of vision down to the ground, like an earthquake pulling the entire atmosphere apart. She’s trying to stand exactly the way she did when she was in the portal, in the exact same spot, captured with Catra and staring down the end of the world.

Like maybe, if she stands just right, if she thinks just the right thing, she can somehow transport herself back there and fix it. Like if she stays fixed to this spot long enough, she can feel it all over again—the pain, the anguish, the longing for Catra she felt in those moments. Like maybe if she punishes herself enough like this, if she keeps feeling it over and over again, it’ll stay this big open, festering wound.

Because Adora doesn’t want her grief to feel smaller.

She doesn’t deserve it.

Adora let herself want something, and look what happened—

Angella is gone. And Catra is gone. And everyone and everything is in ruins.

So Adora stares out into the night, at the starless Etherian sky, suddenly so much darker and more despondent than it’s ever seemed.

It could be seconds, minutes, or hours later that Adora hears a knock on her door—she’s not really sure. Time seems to run together these days after having weeks flash before her in seconds inside the portal.

Adora sighs, rises to open the door, and softens when she sees Bow standing on the other side.

While Glimmer has shut herself off from most (Adora included), the one thing they do have in common right now is Bow’s unwavering support for the both of them. But even that breaks Adora’s heart, because she knows that Bow is grieving just as much as the rest of them, and here he is, doing his best to keep them all tied together when the ropes are dangerously frayed.

“Hey, did you hear?” he asks in greeting, but Adora just stares back quizzically.

“Hear what?”

Bow looks past Adora into the room, silently asking if he can come in, and Adora steps out of the doorway to the side. He slowly walks in, turns back toward Adora as she shuts the door behind them, and says, “We just got word that Catra’s not in the Fright Zone. Hasn’t been in a week.”

Oh.

Catra really is gone.

The first thing she feels is relief that Catra didn’t go back. That maybe this means she’s trying to change, trying to get away from the Horde. But then she feels sorrow—because if Catra’s trying to get away from the Horde, and has left, then where could she possibly go? Why didn’t she—

“So where is she?” Adora asks quietly.

Bow sits down on the end of Adora’s bed and scrubs his hands over his face, sighing again.

“That’s just it. Nobody knows.”

Mara is gone.

Angella is gone.

Catra is gone.

And Adora? Adora still has no answers.

“She deserted, Adora.”

Catra has left the Horde.

Catra has left, and instead of coming to Adora, she’s just gone.

The next thing Adora feels is anger. At Catra. At herself. Because here, Adora has let herself want something—someone—has made the choice to be vulnerable, to start to tell Catra what she wants—

And Catra is gone.

“Oh,” is all Adora can utter in response.

It’s a silly thing to ask out loud, why Catra wouldn’t come to Bright Moon. Logically, there’s probably several reasons why she didn’t. But still, Catra has broken into Bright Moon to see Adora before, so why—

“But then why wouldn’t she—”

Adora cuts herself off, shakes her head.

No.

No.

She deserves this. This is what she gets. This is punishment. And Adora will bear it, and deal with it, and keep moving forward because regardless of where Catra is, the Horde is still out there, though certainly weakened by the loss of their strongest strategist.

But the Rebellion is weakened too without Angella.

Maybe now they’re even.

Adora paces around the room as she turns the questions over in her mind, and she feels Bow’s eyes on her while she walks circles which are undoubtedly making him dizzy as he watches her.

“You really didn’t know?” Bow asks suddenly.

Adora stops, looks over at Bow, who’s staring up at her in surprise, like he’s thinking that maybe she knew where Catra was headed. Like maybe because they were…whatever they are… (were, Adora corrects herself) that Adora would know.

But Catra is gone.

And Adora has no idea where she is.

“Look,” Bow continues. “I know Glimmer isn’t ready to talk about it, and maybe you’re not either. But I’m just gonna ask anyway…”

Adora feels herself tense because, here it comes, the question she’s been avoiding all week by diving deep into the Whispering Woods alone.

“What happened in the portal, Adora?”

Truthfully, Adora’s still trying to find the answers herself. She goes to the woods to avoid the questions from others, but she also goes to seek out the answers. If she just walks far enough or stumbles upon the right part of the landscape, maybe she’ll remember a detail she’s lost to adrenaline, or maybe she’ll find a different perspective.

Maybe some of this will finally make sense.

But right now, Bow is sitting in front of her, all open heart and ears, just like he was in that Crimson Waste bar when he urged Adora to tell him about Catra. And maybe he’s the different perspective that she needs right now.

Adora stops pacing. She goes to stand by the window again, places her left foot over the spot where the toe of her boot has scuffed a mark in the floor to remind her where to stand. Right foot shoulder width apart from the left. Hands balled in fists at her sides. Staring straight out onto the horizon. Just like she was before.

And Adora feels it all over again, just as big, just as angry, just as much of a bleeding wound.

We can’t end like this.

She lets herself replay the scene in vivid detail in her mind but only gives Bow bits and pieces—it’s her pain to bear, after all. Not his.

“Someone had to go into the portal to get the sword. I volunteered myself. It was all my fault. It’s all my—"

“Adora.”

Adora sees it all—Catra’s wide eyes filled with tears, shaking her head at her, hair swept up in the windstorm of the portal as it broke off more and more, taking pieces of the only solid ground left on Etheria as it got smaller and smaller—

“Catra begged me to let her do it. And I wouldn’t let her.”

Adora sees it all—resigning herself to her fate, her destiny, her death. She could keep them all safe. She could have kept them all safe, and she failed.

“And then Angella stepped in, and, well, you know.”

She should be the one in the portal. She should be the one trapped, alone, suspended between realities. That should be Adora, and Bright Moon would still have a queen. Glimmer would still have a mother. And Catra—

Well, Catra is gone.

Adora quickly pivots the conversation away from Angella. It’s too much, too hard to talk about. And if Adora just lets the pain live inside her head, swirling around and pounding on her nervous system with no way out, if she just keeps it locked inside, then maybe this grief will keep feeling bigger and keep hurting more, just like she deserves. Maybe if Adora keeps it locked inside, she can keep her pain away from Bow and Glimmer and anyone else. They don’t need to know she’s hurting too. They don’t need to know.

So Adora brings the questions back to Catra.

Even though that topic hurts almost just as much.

“If she deserted, why wouldn’t she come find me?”

Adora’s still rooted to her spot at the window, fists tightening until she feels her fingers tingling from lack of blood flow.

“Adora, maybe just give her some time,” she hears Bow say from his spot on Adora’s bed.

Adora doesn’t turn around, doesn’t move a muscle as another terrible question re-enters her mind:

What if Catra doesn’t have time?

What if she’s dead? What if the Horde killed her and are keeping it quiet? What if she tried to escape and was captured by someone else? What if—

“What if she’s—"

“Adora, we can’t think like that.”

But it’s the only way Adora is capable of thinking now, caught in this vicious cycle of what if. And truly, all the evidence of the past week continues to point to things going wrong, things turning out horribly.

And it’s all Adora’s fault.

She looks up at the clock and sees how late in the afternoon it’s gotten. Castaspella is probably looking for both of them to help Glimmer with preparation for the coronation this evening. They’ve held it together in front of others, and between Frosta crafting an ice sculpture of her and Glimmer, a ceremonial robe that needed quite a bit of altering, and Mermista’s comments about “stifled creativity” when it came to flower arrangements, that’s been no easy task.

Adora’s had to steel herself for days, pretend like it’s not killing her inside that Glimmer only politely engages with her in front of her friends and walks away as soon as everyone but her and Bow are gone. And Adora isn’t exactly known for her incredible acting skills, either. But thankfully, planning a coronation proves to be time-consuming and energy-consuming, so any of the many times that Adora falters, that her voice cracks or she laughs uncomfortably, can all be shrugged off as stress from the event.

“Come on, we have to go get ready,” Adora says quietly.

Casta is surely waiting on them by now, so Adora waits for Bow to leave and then, when he’s out of sight, heads down the hall in the opposite direction of him.

Toward Glimmer’s room.

However, not much farther down the hall, Adora is stopped by two guards who appear to be covering—

Fuck.

The guards part just enough to reveal deep blood red cloaks, and Shadow Weaver’s unsettling white eyes staring at Adora through her mask. Because for some reason, in the week since the portal, she’s just been…hanging out here.

“There’s no need to be alarmed. I’m a guest now, can’t you tell?”

But the two guards flanking Shadow Weaver on either side do nothing to ease Adora’s anxiety, do nothing to stop her from flashing back to the portal. To the way she tossed Catra aside like a ragdoll with her magic to try and keep her away from the switch.

There are several things about Shadow Weaver that have made Adora anxious over the years. But the worst thing right now is her ability to manipulate people, manipulate entire environments, to make it unclear which side she’s even on anymore.

“Please convey my best wishes to our new queen. I hope you two are still close. Power changes people,” she adds, that mocking lilt of her voice cutting through Adora like a knife.

And Adora can’t help but bite back, can’t help but respond, because power isn’t changing Glimmer. Glimmer hasn’t even changed.

She’s just grieving.

And Glimmer is absolutely allowed that.

“Glimmer is a good friend. She’ll be a good queen too,” Adora answers, eyes firmly set on Shadow Weaver’s masked face, before brushing past her and making a point to knock her shoulder against hers.

Adora doesn’t bother turning back around or reacting when she hears Shadow Weaver call out, “I hope for your sake you’re right.”

In the end, the stress finally gets to Glimmer right before the ceremony begins. Frosta is grumbling that Seahawk is whining about being encased in ice. Perfuma is upset that she’s not the one doing floral arrangements. Mermista is making an aquarium out of the gardens. And Swift Wind is dangling a lantern on the horn of his forehead, excitedly announcing that they should be ready for the quest now.

Adora can see the moment something cracks inside Glimmer, right before she screams.

“Everyone just STOP!”

The whole courtyard falls silent as Casta places a hand on Glimmer’s shoulder. Adora watches as Glimmer brushes her away and turns her head toward the castle.

“Let’s just get this over with,” she hears Glimmer mumble.

And with every crack that Glimmer shows, Adora feels herself break even more.

Because this is all her fault.

So Adora follows Glimmer into the Chamber of Queens, hoping that they will indeed just get this over with and do so quickly.

Later that night, the coronation quest (we’re bad at quests, Glimmer makes a point to snap at Adora when she insists that the Best Friend Squad is great at quests) complete and the three of them on tenuous terms still (because not even an epic journey into the Chamber of Queens can fix trapping someone’s mother in a portal), Adora once again goes for a long, lonely walk.

This time, it’s down the hallway from her room to Glimmer’s, a relatively short walk she’s made dozens of times.

But this time it feels like there’s miles between them.

Adora knocks on the door and hears a sigh from the inside before a stern “come in.” Adora opens the door and barely steps inside the room to see Glimmer sitting at her desk, staring at…something. Adora can’t quite tell what it is from this angle. But there’s a mirror that allows her to catch Glimmer’s reflection, and it’s clear she’s been crying, eyes rimmed red and tear tracks glistening on her cheeks.

“Can we talk?” Adora asks carefully, quietly.

She catches Glimmer’s eye in the mirror, but her friend’s gaze darts away once again, firmly focused on herself. Adora wonders if Glimmer ever thinks about the resemblances she bears to her mother, as she steps close enough to realize that what Glimmer is staring at in her hands is a picture of Angella. Because to Adora, while there are certainly differences, certainly ways in which Glimmer’s face resembles Micah more than Angella, the hard, focused look in her eyes reminds her of the Queen.

Former queen. Technically.

“Glimmer, I’m so sorry—"

Glimmer doesn’t let her finish, raising a hand to cut Adora off and then inhaling sharply, closing her eyes.

“For which part, Adora? For keeping secrets from me and Bow? For sleeping with Catra? For getting my mother stuck in a portal forever?”

And Adora can’t even be mad at how direct Glimmer’s being. She knows that Glimmer can get angry—that passion was always something that Angella seemed to fear would lead her daughter right into getting hurt somehow. She knows that sometimes Glimmer has the tendency to push, to lash out and make the space around her and everything (and everyone) in it her emotional punching bag. She knows that.

(She knows because she sees it in Catra, too.)

Adora knows this about Glimmer, and she can’t even be mad. Because Glimmer is grieving, and part of grief, part of feeling like you’ve completely lost control of what you thought you knew, is a deep, raw anger.

Adora knows this because she’s feeling it too, though she keeps it locked tightly inside.

And even if it hurts them both, Glimmer deserves to be angry.

“How could you do that? How could you go trust someone like that—"

“Will you please let me explain?” Adora shouts back.

Glimmer deserves to be angry.

But Adora deserves the chance to explain what happened.

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about me and Catra. But how was I supposed to?” Adora asks, taking a few steps further into the room as Glimmer turns away from the mirror and toward Adora.

Adora deserves the chance to explain what happened in the portal, what happened with Catra, for Glimmer’s sake.

Not for her own.

“Well, I think I would respect you a little more if you had told me yourself instead of me finding out from Bow being traumatized by her shoving her tongue down your throat outside a seedy bar!”

Fair enough, Adora thinks.

And then she decides that she’ll tell Glimmer whatever she wants to know, whatever she needs to know.

“How long has this been going on, Adora?”

Years, Adora finds herself wanting to say.

Years ago, before she even knew what it was, what she felt. Years ago, somewhere in the in-between, somewhere along the lines until Adora realized that tether she felt, that pull, was more than just missing her best friend.

But, Adora also knows that’s not necessarily what Glimmer’s asking.

“The first time was at the Crystal Castle. When I saw her there, right before the Battle of Bright Moon.”

Adora sees the way Glimmer tenses and looks away from Adora, and can’t help but think of the moment she leaned forward and kissed Catra for the first time. It’s probably not what she should be thinking about right now, given that she’s trying to have a serious conversation with Glimmer, but Adora can’t help it when the memories come roaring back.

She sees the frustrated look on Catra’s face, hears the please Catra whined when Adora pressed her thigh more firmly into Catra. She remembers the uncertainty she felt, wondering if she measured up to anyone else Catra had previously kissed, and then forgetting that question completely when Catra started kissing her back and pawing at her shoulders, desperate to get closer.

Adora misses her so much, wonders if having Catra here would bring any consolation at all.

But it doesn’t matter.

And Adora has to live with the consequences.

“I—I didn’t realize how much I…felt for her until we were apart, you know?” Adora adds, like an afterthought.

Even though it’s the exact thing that’s at the front of her mind right now.

“I’m not asking for you to understand or even be okay with it,” Adora continues. “I just need you to know I’m sorry for keeping it from you for so long. And I’m sorry for what happened into the p—"

“Don’t.”

Glimmer’s voice cracks when she speaks, eyes still fixed firmly on the floor in front of her, chin tilting downward to hide her eyes. She grips the picture of her mother in her hands tighter and tenses even more when Adora goes to say the word, like it’s something forbidden, like it’ll unlock a new level of hurt that Glimmer’s not ready to feel yet.

And Adora just wishes she could take it all away from her.

“Glim—"

“Don’t say it.”

So she doesn’t. Adora doesn’t say the word portal, doesn’t say anything at all after that. She just waits on Glimmer, afraid that even the smallest whisper of any words will make it all worse.

“I want to know. I want to know what happened. Just not yet, okay?”

Glimmer finally looks up at Adora with pleading eyes, and Adora nods before backing out of the room once more.

She somehow manages to wait until she gets back to her room to let the tears start falling.

So Adora decides to wait a few more days to approach Glimmer again about the portal, still taking her solitary walks into the woods and now, joining Glimmer for meetings to discuss how to deal with the Horde going forward. Especially when there’s so much they don’t know—like who’s even in charge or what Hordak has planned. Have Scorpia and Entrapta stepped up in Catra’s place? Has someone else?

And still, it doesn’t answer the question of where Catra went.

Three days later, it’s Glimmer who ends up coming to Adora first.

Adora’s rooted in her place in front of the window, staring out onto the horizon again, still swearing she can see the world fragment before her eyes, when she jumps and grabs for the dagger at her bedside hearing the door open behind her.

She only finds Glimmer standing in the doorway with the same tired and sullen look that Adora’s come to find a regular fixture on her friend’s face these days.

“Hi.”

She peers down at her friend expectantly as Glimmer sits down on Adora’s bed and adjusts her cape as it tightens under her when she sits. Adora watches her shift uncomfortably and stare at the floor before muttering, so quietly that Adora has to strain to hear it, “I’m ready to know. What happened. If you want to talk about it.”

Adora suddenly finds herself fidgeting, anxiously pacing around by the window because while she’s thought about this conversation several times in the past week and a half, she wasn’t sure when it would actually happen.

And in her mind, Adora can control the outcome, can control the way she plays it out in her head and try to ready herself for any scenario.

But here, in reality, she feels woefully underprepared to have this conversation.

But Glimmer wants to know. And Glimmer deserves to know.

So Adora finally walks over to her bed, sitting down beside her, and starts to tell what happened. She explains everything from when they lost her and Bow in the woods, to Catra pleading her not to go in the portal, to Angella flying in with the realization that none of what was happening around them was real.

“Catra was wanting to help. When we got to the portal and saw the sword, I was going to go in. I was going to close it and be the one who got stuck. It should be me there and not—"

“Adora,” Glimmer interrupts.

But Adora won’t hear it. She won’t hear it from anyone else, and she certainly won’t hear it from Glimmer. This is her fault, no matter what anyone else has to say about it.

This is Adora’s fault. Angella is gone, and Catra is gone, and it’s because of Adora’s actions.

“And then Catra said she was going to do it. That she would rather die than have me do it.”

Well, I’m not gonna let you die just to satisfy your savior complex!

This is my fault, Catra! I should be the one to do it.

Adora pauses, replaying every detail in her mind over and over. And like with Bow, Adora remembers that this is her pain to bear and gets stuck on the details.

“What happened next?” Glimmer prompts.

Still, Adora can’t speak, her mind caught on the image of Catra fully sobbing Adora’s name and begging her not to go.

“Adora. What happened next?”

But Glimmer wants to know—she wants to know it all. And that includes the parts with Catra too.

“I was ready to do it myself. Or as ready as I could be, I guess. I made peace with it as much as I could with such limited time. And I told Catra I loved her, and—"

Adora stares at the floor when she says it but swears she feels the way Glimmer sits up straighter at that. Adora shakes her head and adds, “Angella was just standing back and watching this all.”

She remembers Angella’s hand on her shoulder behind her as Catra held her by the arms. Adora remembers letting go of Catra only to turn and see Angella towering over her, then placing a second hand on the other shoulder and bracketing her in place, not letting her go toward the sword.

She remembers what Angella told her, right before she flew up into the portal, feels it seared into the membrane of her brain like an unwanted tattoo.

But Adora, I was just scared. And then, I met you. You inspired us. You inspired me. Not because it was your destiny, but because you never let fear stop you. And now, I choose to be brave.

“She said she wanted to make the brave choice.”

Adora feels her heart crack in half when Glimmer reaches over to grab one of her hands. Adora welcomes it, because she thinks both her and Glimmer are desperate for something to hold onto.

And Adora lets the tears fall once again.

“I’m so sorry, Glimmer. I—"

Glimmer cuts her off by wrapping her arms around Adora, crushing their bodies together in a hug so tight that Adora wonders if Glimmer’s trying to squeeze the guilt out of her. Adora starts crying harder and hates herself for it, because she’s supposed to be the one comforting Glimmer, who’s crying just as hard into Adora’s shoulder.

She’s supposed to be the other comforting Glimmer, and Adora shouldn’t even be crying right now because this is her fault anyway.

“The last thing she asked me was for us to take care of each other,” Adora mumbles against Glimmer’s shoulder.

What she doesn’t tell Glimmer is that when Angella said it, she glanced back at Catra like she was including her in that command as well.

 

 

///

 

 

Catra knows that she’s never pushed so hard that Adora hasn’t still been able to reach her, hasn’t pushed away to a point that Adora would stop fighting for her. But she can’t help but wonder, as she looks behind her and sees her tracks blown away in the desert wind, sand swirling up all around her, if this time, she’s finally done it.

If this time, Adora won’t reach her.

And Catra can’t help but wonder if maybe, right now, that isn’t the worst thing in the world.

Because really, that’s why she’s here. There’s a lot to process, and Catra thinks maybe that’s best done in a place where she can’t be found right now. Where Hordak (hopefully) can’t find her.

And where Adora can’t either.

Because where Catra has been so hyper-focused on winning, on proving herself to anyone and everyone, she realizes that she’s completely run herself into the ground. It only took getting to the end of the world, and Catra hates herself for it.

Maybe winning never even mattered at all.

Because she’s completely lost herself in the process.

She tries to convince herself that the number of times she’s had to stop during her travel from waves of nausea that slam into her body are from the harsh conditions of the desert, the possible dehydration she’s starting to experience.

But Catra knows while that’s probably contributing to how she’s feeling, there’s more to it. The twisting in her gut and the gagging when she tries to choke down her food is just her body’s way of begging her to take notice that not only is she physically unwell, but emotionally too.

With every step she takes into the desert, she tries to clear it from her mind—the wide-eyed look on Adora’s face when Angella came swooping in. The way Adora screamed out in agony as Angella sent the sword down to them, and they both watched the portal close up.

The way that the queen of Bright Moon is stranded in a portal, and it’s Catra’s fault.

She should be happy. This is what she wanted—the Rebellion weakened and at the Horde’s mercy. Surely, with a blow like losing Angella, Etheria would be hers for the taking.

But watching in shock as Angella made one last request to Adora, watching as Angella’s eyes roamed from Adora to Catra and back as she said take care of each other, like there was some sort of deeper understanding, deeper clarity that wasn’t there before, Catra knows she could never do it.

Angella saved them all. Catra included.

And seeing the pain in Adora’s eyes…

Maybe she never actually wanted any of this. Maybe her heart was never really in this to begin with.

So when the dust had settled, and the world as they knew it returned with one less person in it, Catra knew the only thing she could do to buy time was run. She craves the quiet, the space, the distance. And in a world where all she’s known is war and fighting and death… She just needs a little time to breathe. A little time to think.

Because there’s so much for Catra to process that she hasn’t even gotten around to one of the biggest parts of it—

That Adora loves her.

She replays it at night, sprawled out in the desert wherever she’s been able to take shelter, wide awake and wishing that she was in Adora’s arms instead.

Adora loves her.

But thinking of the portal, of what she’s done, what she’s been a part of, Catra’s not so sure she deserves that.

So she keeps walking, one foot in front of the other, eyes focused on a small hut that a local had pointed her toward. At first, they’d just laughed at her when she requested to know the whereabouts of the strongest in the Crimson Waste, but a quick refresher with her claws and a threatening growl seemed to remind everyone that it was just a couple weeks ago that Catra was poised to take over the whole region.

She approaches and hears nothing inside, just listens to the sounds of the desert winds and the sands sifting. Catra knocks on the door.

Nothing.

She knocks again.

Still nothing.

And really, she should have known it would go like this. Because now she’s completely alone, and how stupid is Catra to think that she could show up in the Crimson Waste and maybe have Huntara help her out?

“Who are you?” Catra hears suddenly, somewhere behind her.

She whirls around, and there, just as Adora had once described, all purple-skin and muscles and narrowed eyes, is Huntara.

“Wait, aren’t you—you’re Adora’s…friend.”

She says the word carefully, tentatively, like maybe she has bits and pieces of Catra and Adora’s story but is missing a lot of the details. And then Huntara cocks an eyebrow and tilts her head at Catra, dropping the bag of supplies she holds on the desert sand next to her.

“What are you doing here?”

It isn’t malicious, but it isn’t welcoming either. Huntara mostly sounds confused, and maybe a little apprehensive. After all, Catra’s sure that word of her short-lived success in the Waste has spread. Huntara could easily see her as a threat and do away with Catra right now if she wanted. She’s weak enough that it probably wouldn’t take much.

“Isn’t this where ex-Horde soldiers go to restart?” Catra asks.

Huntara’s eyes widen, but there must be something about the tired, broken look on Catra’s face that she recognizes from years ago when she deserted, that she believes as genuine, because then she’s smirking and reaching out a hand for Catra to shake.

And then, Huntara invites her inside.