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if you never hear my thunder

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"What was in our stars that destined us for sorrow?"

— Anna Akhmatova

 

"Long before I met you I had waited for you. I had always waited for you."

— Tasos Livaditis

 

"For hunger is to give what the body knows it cannot keep."

— Ocean Vuong

 

 

Zeus's cabin thunders relentlessly. 

The noise agitates Adora. Every echo, every rumble, marks another minute Adora wastes by not being out there in the real world with Bow.

Glimmer, a daughter of Angella, the winged Goddess of Victory, has been taken prisoner by Kronos' forces. Kronos, the King of the Titans and the biggest threat to the gods, hasn't fully risen yet, but his armies have been growing stronger. Strong enough to capture Lady Artemis of the Hunt, and in the process, Glimmer, without leaving a single trace behind. Even the gods themselves claim they don't know where they are. If they do know, they're keeping the information to themselves. Adora knows there are old rules the gods must follow, but surely when one of their own is missing they could make an exception. 

Adora had begged Juliet, Camp Half-Blood's director, to let her talk to Razz, their oracle, about seeking a quest. Juliet had denied her, and she denied Bow, saying it’s too dangerous. The centaur has never been overly lenient, but she's always been understanding. The sudden sternness was alarming, as if Juliet had forgotten every successful quest the Best Friends Squad has been on.  

But it doesn’t matter, Bow and Adora are going to sneak out of camp. Bow should be waiting for Adora at the stables right now, to bust Swift Wind out and leave. Adora should already be there, but she had received word saying that Light Hope would be visiting her; she has a tendency to arrive at times that inconvenience Adora. Adora's convinced Light Hope does it on purpose.

Adora paces across her cabin, glaring at the piercing bronze statue of Zeus, Lord of the Sky, King of the Gods, her ever absent father. His expression is the same as always: majestic, angry, unmoving. Adora's only met him once, when she tries to picture his face, she can only recall his bronze features. 

She quits her pacing and puts both hands on her hips. "You can't tell your wife to get here any quicker?" she asks, as if he can answer her.

Adora had tried many times to communicate with Zeus this way when she was younger. She'd tell him about her accomplishments in training, the first time she beat Juliet in a sword fight, the first time she summoned lightning, the first time she and Glimmer won a chariot race. She'd ask when she'd get to meet him.

He never responded.

Adora sighs, and checks to make sure that her sword, currently taking the form of a pen, is safely tucked in her jean pockets. (It’s enchanted, it always comes back, but it’s a habit of hers to check.) She then opens her backpack to make sure she has everything she needs. It's stuffed with protein bars, golden drachmas, a first-aid kit, a disposable camera (she learned the hard way that there’s no point in bringing expensive ones when she’s fighting who-knows-what kind of monsters), nectar, and ambrosia.

She pats the pocket with her pen again and sighs.

Still no Light Hope. If it weren't such a bad omen to neglect a goddess, she would just leave. 

The thunder ceases, and there’s a light glowing in the middle of her cabin. Adora closes her eyes to avoid looking at Light Hope in her true form, listening to the shimmering sound of Light Hope’s magic.

Adora cracks an eye open. Light Hope glows a radiant blue, standing almost too tall for the cabin. 

“Light Hope,” Adora greets carefully. The nickname still sounds strange to her, Lady Hera had insisted on it when Adora was a child. Only, she’s eighteen now, and would prefer to call her Hera, certain it would be more respectful. But Light Hope has never corrected her, and is easily offended. “To what do I owe the honor at this late hour?”

“Your father is displeased with you,” Light Hope answers monotonously.

This is how Light Hope often begins their conversations. Throughout the years, Light Hope has come many times to personally scrutinize Adora's progress. Her criticisms have always been the same: Adora isn't training enough, isn't strong enough, hasn't mastered her control of lightning to Zeus's satisfaction. You'd think after all these years, she'd be used to it, but it still manages to sting just enough.

Adora tries to keep her face even. She knows Light Hope despises most heroes, especially Zeus’s children; she counts herself lucky that she’s in Light Hope’s favor. Part of the time, anyway. Perks of having your life being offered by your dad to his godly wife as an apology for even existing, she supposes.

“The Hunters have already started their search for Artemis, and yet, you do not go with them,” says Light Hope. Another benefit of having Light Hope be a constant presence in her life: Adora is all too familiar with the way Light Hope makes statements instead of simply demanding the explanation she seeks.

It's true, the Hunters had invited Adora to lead the search with their lieutenant. It's a rare honor not given to most heroes; Adora has always admired Artemis, and her band of exclusively women hunters. But all-women was the catch: Bow wasn't permitted to join them on their search. He had insisted Adora still go with them, trusting her to find Glimmer and bring her home. Adora has known Bow for years and while he has always been the most level-headed of her friends, she suspected he’d still try to go after Glimmer on his own. That’s what Adora would do if she were him. It was impossible to imagine Bow sitting idly when Glimmer was in danger.

It wasn't even a decision, really. She declined the Hunters' offer. If Bow was going to strike out on his own, she'd prefer he do it with her by his side—for both their sakes. Adora didn't think she could take losing another friend.

“Their invitation excluded Bow,” Adora explains simply, certain that Light Hope already knows this. “He’s Glimmer’s friend too, I wasn’t about to go on a quest without him."

Light Hope frowns. “I thought we had been over this, Adora. You are She-Ra. You are the daughter of Zeus, your attachments to lesser demigods are a hindrance to your true power. You do not need help from the son of Apollo.”

“I’ve already made my decision,” Adora says firmly, despite the trembling of her clenched fists. Standing up to Light Hope on even minor things tends to surge adrenaline through her veins—she had learned very early on to choose her battles. This is one of them and while she refuses to budge, seizing the opportunity for a choice of her own, her heart pounds violently in her chest.

The Fates so rarely allow her a choice, and she isn't going to waste this chance. 

“So you have,” Light Hope says, with a grimace. “I know of your plans to leave camp. I see Juliet could not persuade you to let it be.”

"Are you the reason she wouldn't let me talk to Razz?" Adora asks. She shouldn't be so surprised, it wouldn't be the first time Light Hope has tried to interfere with her quests. 

“It matters not,” Light Hope answers coolly. “You have already forsaken the safer option with the Hunters. They could have protected you from what's to come. I am here to tell you that if you leave camp tonight, there will be consequences.” 

Adora stifles a laugh. 

Of course there will be consequences: she's about to break fifty camp rules by embarking on a cross-country journey to look for a goddess. If Artemis hasn't been found by the winter solstice, the annual council between the Olympians will be forfeit. The war against the titans is getting worse, and there are whispers that Kronos will fully wake soon. With Adora's twentieth birthday a little over a year away; they can't afford to have Artemis miss this meeting. 

“Are you here to stop me?” Adora asks.

It's tempting to tell Light Hope that if she is the She-Ra of the prophecy, like Light Hope claims she is, she’ll be fine. This mission cannot harm her. 

Light Hope's steely eyes narrow, as if she heard Adora's thoughts. “You have been warned,” Light Hope says. Without saying anything else, her blue aura shifts to white as she turns into her true god-form to disappear. 

Adora shuts her eyes just in time—if she sees Light Hope's essence, she'll be incinerated immediately. She counts to twenty before opening her eyes. She swallows and checks for her sword again. She glares at her father's statue once more, for good measure, before throwing on a baggy white Camp Half-Blood t-shirt over her red hoodie. It’s December 5th, they have sixteen days until the solstice.

Sixteen days to find Artemis and Glimmer. 

Adora’s met with stabbing cold air outside the cabin. It's a cloudy night, which Adora is thankful for. It gives her more coverage—and she doesn't have to call the clouds herself. She's still not great at summoning thunderclouds without creating an entire thunderstorm in the process. She shivers as she sneaks behind the other cabins, careful to avoid the harpies on patrol for any campers breaking curfew. They get extra grouchy in cooler weather. She suspects they get hungrier as well. 

She makes it to the pegasus stables in one piece, and Swift Wind whinnies at her from his stall. 

“You know it’s not right that I’m stuck in here when I’m a sentient being,” he tells her.

“Shush, you,” she laughs. “You know there are monsters in the woods, it’s safer for you here in here.” She pets him. His mane is overdue for a brushing, but they won't have time for that tonight. She reaches for one of the horse brushes to add to her bag, only to remember she forgot to pack an actual hairbrush for herself. It's a good thing she just keeps it up in a ponytail anyway, she supposes. 

“Not that I’m not happy to see you, Adora, but isn’t it a little late at night for you to be here?”

Adora bites her lip. Swift Wind has been with them on quests before, but she hates the thought of putting him in danger, even though he's insisted before that he's honored to be She-Ra's steed. 

“Bow and I are leaving camp to go rescue Glimmer, will you help us?”

Swift Wind neighs affirmatively in response, and Adora cradles his head. She can't contain her smile, Swift Wind always makes her feel less anxious. 

She freezes as she hears someone elaborately fake cough. It's not Bow's style. 

“Not to interrupt this uh, tender moment you’re having, but did I hear you say you’re leaving campgrounds?”

Gods.

It’s Sea Hawk, a son of Hermes. To this day, Adora can't understand how he's related to Lonnie, the head counselor of Hermes' cabin. Where Lonnie is clever, Sea Hawk is lucky, at best. 

And ten times more annoying.

Adora turns around and crosses her arms. “Is there something I can help you with?” she huffs.

“I haven’t left campgrounds in months,” Sea Hawk says casually.

Adora pinches the bridge of her nose. Sea Hawk is definitely lying, for one thing. Sea Hawk often sneaks out and bring back actual sodas and junk food. The contraband is in high demand, considering camp is big on health food. She just bought an overpriced Dr. Pepper from him two days ago. 

“What I mean is," Sea Hawk begins, "I haven’t gone on an adventure in quite some time."

She hears someone's footsteps shuffle, and then Bow is standing in the stable's doorway. Sorry, he mouths to her. 

Adora should have known Bow would end up telling Sea Hawk about the quest, the two of them are close. But Sea Hawk's never tried to join them before, though it's possible it he was too afraid of Glimmer. That would be understandable.

"Quests aren't an adventure, Sea Hawk. They're dangerous," she tells him. She makes eye contact with Bow, who shrugs. 

"Believe me, Adora, I'm prepared for anything." Sea Hawk replies, flashing a toothy grin her way. He then marches right up to Swift Wind and offers him an apple.

Adora narrows her eyes, most of the pegasi at camp prefer sugar cubes, but Swift Wind prefers apples. Sea Hawk seems to know this, and Swift Wind promptly eats the whole thing in one bite, the traitor.

Sea Hawk raises his eyebrows intently. “Besides, aren’t quests better in groups of three?”

“We have three,” Adora says.

At the same time, Bow calls Glimmer their third while Swift Wind insists it’s him.

“Well, this is awkward,” Swift Wind says.

"Like it or not, Glimmer isn't here," Sea Hawk continues. On noticing both Adora and Bow tense up he rushes to add, "And before either of you beat me with a stick, you know I'm right. Starting a quest with less than three members is a bad omen, even I know that. And let's face it, you need all the luck you can get."

Sea Hawk always had an air about him that reminded Adora of a cockatiel—he's prone to elaborate jokes, he walks all over camp with an obnoxiously puffed chest, and he's loud. But right now there's none of that—his bravado has all but disappeared, and when he looks at Adora there isn't a hint of a joke on his face.

"I want to help," he says earnestly.

Adora meets Sea Hawk's pleading eyes and sighs. “Fine,” Adora says. “You can come with us. But only if you have everything you need on you. We’re leaving right now.”

Bow grins at Adora, and she gives him a weak smile back. 

“Do not fret, my dear companions!" Sea Hawk says theatrically, his regular self bouncing back so quickly it gives Adora whiplash. “For I am always prepared for an adventure.” He then dramatically presents Swift Wind with a second apple. Adora shoots a quizzical look at Bow, who only shrugs back at her as if to say he doesn't understand his friend either.

But the fond smile tugging on Bow's lips tells her maybe having a third person is a good idea after all. They need someone to keep them from spiralling and Sea Hawk's theatrics might just do the trick.

After he finishes his chomping, Swift Wind tells them, “I won’t be able to carry all three of you for very long.”

“That’s okay,” Adora replies. “Just get us far enough from camp, and we’ll figure out our next mode of transport from there.”

Swift Wind nods. 

“So,” Bow says. “Where do we start? The Hunters are a day ahead of us.”

“We’ll follow the Hunters' trail for as long as we need to. They left yesterday, heading west,” Adora pauses, opening Swift Wind’s stall. “It shouldn't be too hard to find them. Perhaps a little too confidently, she adds, “After all, I’m a great tracker.”

 

*

 

Adora is not a great tracker. She’s probably not even a remotely good one. 

Swift Wind barely gets them fifty miles away from camp, where they take a break right outside New Jersey. There’s no sign that the Hunters were ever near this area. Part of Adora had been hoping that Bow’s godly father would show up. Apollo isn't necessarily one of the kinder gods, but he has a soft spot for George and Lance. During one of their past quests, Apollo had given Adora, Bow, and Glimmer a ride halfway across the country.

It looks like they’re out of luck now, the god is probably on the search for his twin.

While Sea Hawk is searches for food, Adora puts her hand on Bow's shoulder.

“We’ll find her,” she says. 

“What if it doesn’t matter?” Bow asks. “I mean, Kronos’ forces—they took Artemis, she’s one of the most powerful goddesses. Even if we are able to find her—”

When we find her,” Adora corrects, “we’ll figure it out. I’m She-Ra, remember?” she gives her fingers a fierce snap, and lightning strikes ten feet away from them. It’s a powerful bolt, and Adora’s so confident, her legs don’t even shake this time; she stands tall as the sky darkens around them. “Kronos will pay for this.”

It's Glimmer's senior year of high school. She and Bow should be at camp right now, celebrating the completion of their college applications with stolen cups of hot chocolate. Adora, having decided to permanently train at camp after graduating high school, was looking forward to spending a few weeks with Bow and Glimmer during their winter break. 

Bow's eyes narrow as he looks across the distance. Adora understands. This is their first quest with someone missing, and they have no clue where they're going. 

Sea Hawk returns as the sun rises, bringing back donuts, coffee, and good news.

"It turns out even Artemis' Hunters can't resist caffeine," he says, pulling out a poorly drawn map on the back of a receipt as Adora not-so-graciously shoves a donut in her mouth. "Looks like Colorado is their next destination."  

 

*

 

They split up to make it easier for Swift Wind to fly. Bow and Sea Hawk take a train, Adora flies with Swift Wind. She’s not as good at manipulating the Mist as Glimmer, but she feels confident that nobody has noticed a pegasus in the air, or on the top of the train when he needs to rest his legs and wings.

Two days pass, and they end up in a park near Boulder, Colorado, thinking it best to stay away from Denver. Swift Wind is exhausted from flying, Adora’s legs are sorer than she thinks they've ever been, and both Bow and Sea Hawk are getting irritable after spending that train with only each other for company.  

How even Bow can tolerate Sea Hawk for that long is beyond Adora's comprehension. 

“We’ll camp here, tonight,” Adora says. The park is pretty empty, considering how cold it is. Adora's just grateful it isn't snowing. 

Everyone else is too tired argue, and Sea Hawk gets a fire going that's probably bigger than regulations allow, but they need the warmth. 

Even for being in the middle of the woods, things are suspiciously quiet, their whole trip has been. They haven’t run into a single monster. That’s never a good sign, monsters are typically drawn to demigods, the more powerful the demigod, the higher number of monsters. Adora has had her fair share of encounters with gorgons, hydras, and the Nemian lion itself. The four of them have been gone for two days, and there wasn't even so much as a Stymphalian bird on the train. 

Adora volunteers to keep the first watch, leaning against Swift Wind, lying down with a wing draped over her shoulder. He's the only one asleep. 

Everyone else is silent, sullen, centered around the fire as Sea Hawk keeps “accidentally” burning his smores. 

And then a white Cadillac pulls up twenty feet from their camp. It's a vehicle that would already be suspicious in public. But they're in the middle of nowhere, miles away from any street or even a dirt road. 

Adora stands up, pulling her pen out of her pocket. 

Helpfully, Sea Hawk says, "Well, this can't be good."

“Any chance it’s your dad, Bow?” Adora asks.

Bow squints at the car. “It’s nowhere near sunrise, and I’m pretty sure Cadillacs aren’t Apollo's style.”

"Yeah, I figured," Adora says. 

The car's windows are too tinted for her to make out who could be inside it. The door swings open, and a tall, winged figure steps out. 

It's Angella. 

Everyone collectively sighs with relief. 

Adora's only met Angella twice, but the sight of her allows Adora to relax for the first time since she left camp. 

The goddess offers everyone a sad smile. "I'm taking a risk coming to you all in person," she confesses. Looking directly at Bow she says, "But I've come to speak to you about my daughter's whereabouts." 

"Do you know where she is?" Adora asks. 

"I know where she might be," Angella says. "But you, She-Ra, are expected in the car." She gestures towards the Cadillac.

“What? Why?” Adora asks.

Angella gives her a wry smile, before turning her back to her.

Adora makes eye contact with Bow, who shrugs. Sea Hawk looks like he’s trying not to laugh at her. Adora doesn't understand why. She narrows her eyes as she marches towards the car. It’s still a strange sight seeing the Cadillac in the middle of the woods, so she braces herself. As she steps closer, she swears she smells roses. 

The door opens for her automatically and she seats herself on the leather in the backseat and—she can't think. Or remember how to breathe properly. Or what her name is.

Aphrodite is beyond lovely.

Adora’s never really crushed on anyone, but she’s always been aware of other girls. She’s seen Aphrodite’s daughters around camp. Beautiful didn’t cover it then, and it certainly doesn’t cover it now. Trying very poorly to focus on anything besides Aphrodite's sheer dress, Adora finally meets her eyes: one of them is gold, the other blue.

She stammers, "L—Lady Aphrodite," and swallows. She's met many of the other Olympians, but none have ever made her this nervous.

"Hello, Adora," Aphrodite purrs. "It's about time we've met, don't you think?" 

Adora's not sure about that, Light Hope has always been dismissive towards the idea of love. Ironic, for the Goddess of Marriage. The one time Adora did go out with a girl, Light Hope had left cowpies for her to step in for a week. Message received. 

Besides, Adora has spent too much time fretting over the prophecy of She-Ra to actually consider having a love life. 

Aphrodite's two-colored eyes sparkle down at her. 

“I’ve never seen anyone with your eyes before,” Adora says, as if that’s a smart thing to say to the Goddess of Love. Her cheeks heat up.

“Oh my,” Aphrodite says, examining Adora closer, as if she can see her own eyes through Adora's, “you are a special one.”

That grounds Adora a little, shakes her out of the rosy trance. She’s been called special and chosen her entire life. It’s annoying. She tries not to roll her eyes as she says, “Yeah, being She-Ra and all really has its perks.”

Aphrodite laughs at her, gently. “Dear one, I’m not referring to your prophecy.” Aphrodite leans closer to her, “I’m talking about something far more interesting.”

Adora doesn’t see how that’s likely, or why Aphrodite is bothering to talk to Adora at all. She's never had time for anything love-related before, and she certainly doesn't have time for it now, not with Glimmer's situation so dire Angella herself has come to talk to them. Adora would rather be fighting one of Hephaestus's spiders than be stuck in the car with the Goddess of Love. 

Well, she eyes Aphrodite again, and supposes it can't hurt to stay a little longer. 

“What are you talking about, then?” Adora eventually asks, momentarily forgetting that it’s rude to ask the gods of anything.

If Aphrodite’s bothered, she doesn’t show it. "No one's perceived my eyes this way in a long time. I believe Mara was the last." 

Mara. Great. Mara the tragic, Mara the fallen. She had a role in a prophecy too. She tried to escape her fate by betraying the gods. It didn’t work. Her story has always been one of warning, like Achilles'.

"What do mean by that? What do the color of your eyes have to do with anything?" Adora asks.

"You see them one way, your friends would see them another. Your friend, the son of Apollo would see pink, and your other friend would see brown. Are you following?"

"Not really," Adora admits. 

She startles as Aphrodite’s slender hand touches her cheek, briefly. “Relax, hero,” Aphrodite says. “I am not here to speak to you about eye color, or even prophecies."

She shakes her head and looks at Adora with something like pity. "Don’t you find it tragic, when heroes define themselves by what they believe they’re destined to be?”

Adora doesn’t have an answer for her. The Prophecy of She-Ra is all Adora has known since she was young.

“I’ve found that a hero’s heart is far more interesting than their deeds,” Aphrodite says kindly. “Yours especially.”

“And what of mine?” Adora asks. “What difference does it make, when the prophecy says that—"

Aphrodite doesn't verbally cut her off, but she tilts her head ever so slightly, and Adora finds herself spellbound. 

“Love can be kind to you, hero, but only if you allow it.” Aphrodite smiles. Or maybe she’s been smiling the whole time. It seems like it’s wider, whiter, hidden with intent that Adora can't tell is good or bad. “Consider that, when you meet someone with the same eyes as me,” Aphrodite says, her eyes gleaming. "I haven’t forgotten you, Adora.”

Adora doesn’t know what to say to that sort of implication. It's frustrating, the way Aphrodite makes her head light, dizzy. She's hopelessly tongue-tied. And no one's ever said her name like that before.

"Thank you, Lady Aphrodite," Adora says quickly, before she can say anything else embarrassing. 

The Cadillac's door opens, and Adora takes that as her cue to leave. By the time she walks back to their campfire, both Angella and the Cadillac are gone.

Swift Wind, ever the intuitive asshole, snickers at her. 

Bow and Sea Hawk stare at her blankly.

Adora rubs the back of her neck. “You know who I was talking to, don’t you,” Adora says, defeated. She hates feeling flustered. 

Sea Hawk coughs and mutters something Adora can't quite make out. 

Bow looks at her pointedly with those annoyingly kind eyes of his. Concerned, he steps closer, asking, “What did Aphrodite want with you? She doesn’t usually visit heroes in person, not unless—”

“I’d rather not talk about it, okay?” her voice comes out alarmingly sharp. She winces at the sound.

Bow's eyes soften. “Okay,” he agrees. “I’ll fill you in on what Angella told us.”

Mount Tamalpais, Mount Othrys' current location, has been clouded from all the gods’ vision. The gods themselves aren't able to visit, and none of their spies have returned.

“That’s where Angella suspects Artemis has been taken. She’s worried that Atlas isn't the one carrying the sky anymore," Bow explains. “If Artemis is there—”

“Glimmer will be there, too,” Adora finishes for him.

Bow nods.

Adora sighs. “Okay, we rest up, and tomorrow we head to California. We’ll have plenty of time before the solstice.”

 

*

 

Before the sun rises, they’re ambushed. 

There’s a manticore, leading a group comprising of both mortal men and skeletons. The manticore appears to only be interested in Adora, but his poisonous spikes keep flying everywhere like little missiles, Bow has nearly gotten hit several times. 

"I'll lead him away," Adora tells the three of them. Most of the men have passed out or retreated. "You guys think you can handle the skeletons?" 

"Of course we can," Sea Hawk says. 

"Adora, are you sure about this?" Bow asks. 

She nods. "I'll lead him up that hill, you three take care of the rest of them." 

"I should go with you," Swift Wind insists. 

"I've got this, Swiftie," she promises. 

As she runs, she gets hit with a spike on her side. It stings, but the poison doesn't burn as bad as she thought it would. So she keeps running, slicing oncoming spikes apart with her sword. Despite the high altitude, she can't stop sweating. Fighting the Nemian lion wasn't easy, but the manticore, being part lion and part scorpion, is an entirely different feat. She strikes him with lightning, but it hardly slows him down. The ends of his fur singe and its smell is revolting.

The sky grows darker, and as she summons the strength to call another lightning bolt forth, a spike hits her knee. Another one follows right below her chest. With each passing second, the pain grows worse. And Adora can’t say how it happens. She didn't think she was near the edge of a cliff, but one minute she's looking at treetops and the next she’s on Swift Wind.

Usually, they’re in sync, but one last spike manages to hit Adora and it knocks her off, leaving her too dizzy to manipulate the wind so that she can land on the ground safely. 

 

*

 

When Adora does open her eyes, she's met with a blindingly bright blue sky. She’s resting on warm sand. For half a second, she thinks she’s at a beach in Elysium, but there’s no sky there. And if she were dead, she wouldn't be in this much pain. 

Disoriented, she searches for her pack. It’s still there, thank the gods. Her head is swimming, her flesh feels like it's burning from all the manticore poison still pulsing through her bloodstream. Blearily she recalls she’ll need some nectar for her wounds, and reaches blindly inside her bag. 

And then she spots her: a girl around her age with a red mask wearing a white chiton. She calls to Adora, the waves are too loud for Adora to hear her. As the girl gets closer, Adora can make out that one of her eyes is a golden amber, the other a brilliant shade of blue. For one brief second, the image of Aphrodite's mismatched eyes from last night in the Cadillac superimposes itself over her face, and Adora's stomach drops.

"Oh, fuck me," Adora swears loudly.

The girl scowls at her.

And really, Adora should have known better than to listen to the Goddess of Love, she wasn't looking out for her at all. She knows not every Olympian believes that Adora will be their She-Ra, they don’t trust her to save them. After what happened with Mara, the gods have been understandably wary of their children. 

It’s so obvious to Adora now: this place is a trap. Adora has been to enough beautiful places inhabited by monsters to know that while this girl may be beautiful, she’s lethal. This might not even be her real form, as is what often happens with monsters, hiding their true selves to lure demigods to their deaths. She’ll kill Adora as soon as she has the chance, and considering Adora’s rapidly declining state, the odds of her winning a fight right now are slim. She doubts she can conjure a single spark of lightning in her condition.

“You’re hurt,” the girl tells her, kneeling down to Adora’s side. 

“Stay away from me,” Adora warns, standing up and stumbling backwards a few steps, putting her hand on her side where the first spike pierced her through her skin. 

The girl’s eyes widen. “Please,” she says, her voice is soft. “Let me help you.”

Adora doesn’t have time for this. Glimmer is still missing, and she has no idea where she is in relation to Bow, Sea Hawk, Swift Wind—she was just in Colorado, but the salt air of the ocean is impossible to mistake. 

Suppressing a groan, Adora glares up at her, and says, “If you’re going to fight me, I’d rather you drop the disguise and get it over with.” Adora uncaps her pen, and her sword glints in the sunlight. 

The girl’s face shifts, she looks at Adora curiously. Adora squints at her, her face is timeless, the way most immortals look. She then has the audacity to laugh at Adora. “O, mighty hero,” she says, her voice low and sultry, “you wouldn’t stand a chance against me. Luckily for you, I’m only here to help.”

Adora takes a step towards her but knee buckles as soon as her foot hits the sand. Everything fades to black.

 

*

 

It's Adora's first night after being claimed as Zeus's child. Juliet leads her to her new cabin after dinner, carrying a sleeping bag. The cabin is cold and empty, aside from a tall statue. 

"Can I please go back to Hermes' cabin?" Adora asks. It's where she had been sleeping the past few weeks, as it is welcome to all who need a place to stay, including unclaimed demigods. "I don't need my own bed." Adora had been sharing a bunk with Lonnie, but she didn’t mind. Lonnie was nice, unlike the scary statue of her father.

The centaur shakes her head. "I'm sorry, Adora," Juliet tells her. "This is your home, now."

"Because of She-Ra?"

Juliet stills. "How much do you know about the prophecy?" 

Adora shrugs. "Just that it's important." She-Ra is filed with other words Adora keeps hearing: sire, oath-breaker, Mara. No one will tell her what any of them mean.

"The prophecy is important," Juliet says. "But what's even more important is getting a good night's sleep. Especially for a hero in training." Juliet helps set up the sleeping bag for Adora, her hooves clacking loudly against the marble floor. "We'll get you a new bunk tomorrow, okay?" Juliet asks once Adora's tucked in. 

"Okay," Adora yawns. 

But Adora doesn't sleep. She can't, not with the statue's eyes following her wherever she goes. She sneaks out, intending to go back to Hermes' cabin. She doesn't care about the harpies; she can't sleep alone. 

She runs headfirst into an old lady, who doesn't introduce herself, or seem to mind that Adora barged into her. 

"Is that you, Mara, dearie?" she asks.  Adora is too scared to answer. It doesn't seem like the lady notices. "A daughter of the eldest gods," she warns Adora, "shall reach twenty against all odds..."

Adora doesn't understand all of what the lady says. At eight, she only understands this: she is She-Ra, daughter of Zeus.

And She-Ra will die to save the world.

 

*

 

Adora wakes up feverish. The girl from the beach is at her bedside, cooling her forehead with a washcloth.

“You’re okay,” she assures Adora. “Nothing can hurt you here.”

Adora wants to reply, but her throat is too dry. Knowingly, the girl hands her a glass of water, Adora carefully sips it all, barely able to sit up. Adora's not used to feeling this weak and it's embarrassing, the way this is the first impression she gives a stranger. 

The same stranger who is currently cleaning Adora's open wounds. Adora winces. Whatever ointment she’s using hurts more than nectar, and her body still aches. 

“Manticore poison takes a little more to treat,” the girl explains. Her brow furrows. “Your wounds are deep. What did you do to make a manticore so mad?"

"You think it's my fault I got attacked by a manticore?" 

The girl laughs, and it almost passes as a cackle, but the sight of her smile makes Adora feel light as sunlight, despite the burning sensastion of her wounds. Giving Adora a playful smirk she says, "Your first instinct was to try to attack me. Which wouldn't have ended too well for you, I might add." With nimble fingers, the girl starts to thread together the largest wound. "Besides, attacking a manticore sounds like the exact nonsense you heroes are so well known for." 

Heroes do have a history of seeking out monsters for glory, but that's never interested Adora. Ignoring the implication, she asks, “Where am I?” 

The girl answers, “Ogygia."

The name sounds familiar, Adora’s must have read about it before, but she can’t place it. All those old names and myths blend together sometimes. “And who are you?” she asks, hoping that her name will clue her in, so she’ll have a better idea of who she’s dealing with.

"Catra," she answers carefully. 

Catra. Usually, monsters shorten their names for contemporary times, but Catra isn’t ringing any bells. 

There's so much more Adora needs to ask, but she whimpers as Catra continues to stitch up her side.

Catra presses her hand to her cheek. “You’re still burning up,” Catra says. And then she starts singing, and it sounds beautiful. For a moment everything feels safe, and Adora almost believes Catra when she said that nothing could hurt her here. 

Outside of camp, safety is a rare luxury to come by for demigods, even less so for Adora, carrying the responsibility of She-Ra. But Adora feels more than base safety, she feels protected. Taken care of. It's strange. It's nice. She can't recall the last time someone watched over her like this, usually she's the one doing the protecting.

It's when her eyes begin to flutter shut of their own accord that she realizes perhaps Catra is singing a spell— but before the thought can fully crystallize, Adora falls back to sleep.

The next time Adora wakes, she finds her body aches less, and her wounds no longer feel like they're on fire. She can breathe more easily too, now that she's alone.

She’s able to assess her surroundings now: she’s in a cave with gemstones glittering on the ceiling above her. There are racks filled with spices and dried herbs. The “room” she’s in is sectioned off by white cotton sheets, blowing gently from a breeze. They seem to be the same material as the sheets on her bed. 

Adora sits up. On the table by her bed, there's a fresh pair of pants, a new shirt, and undergarments. Gingerly, she touches them, their fabric is softer than any clothes she's ever bought. It's safe to say that since she's only wearing her sports bra and underwear, her own clothes must have been too tattered from the fight to be salvaged. She changes, relieved to find that her sword appears in her new pocket instantly.

“You’re awake,” Catra says from the entryway. She’s no longer donning a white chiton, instead she wears a deep red tunic, matching her mask. Her hair is braided, hanging off her right shoulder. She’s carrying a basket with fresh fruit and bread. “Are you feeling any better?”

“I—yes, thanks to you.” She’s still not sure she can completely trust Catra, but she suspects that if Ogygia were a trap, Adora would already be dead, or worse, a prisoner of Kronos. 

Catra eyes her quizzically. “You still don't trust me, do you? How often do you find yourself in in bad company?"

“Pretty often,” Adora admits. “Can't afford to be too trusting, as a demigod.”

“Right,” Catra drawls. “Tell me this: if I wanted to harm you, would I have spent the past few days tending your wounds while you were unconscious?”

Adora pales at the news. Surely she hasn’t been gone for days. No more than two, at least. “How long have I been here?” she asks, on the verge of full out panicking.

Catra shakes her head, setting the basket on the table. “Time doesn’t pass the same way here, I’m sorry.”

“Catra,” Adora says, “I have to get out of here to help my friends.”

“I know,” she says, almost sadly. “Glimmer and Bow, right?”

“How do you know their names?” Adora asks, unconsciously reaching for her pen. 

Catra notices and looks a little hurt. “You talk in your sleep.” She crosses her arms and raises an eyebrow. “You also sleep fight.”

Adora laughs roughly, thinking of how Bow and Glimmer refuse to sleep within kicking range of her.

“So I’ve been told,” Adora says.

“Please eat,” Catra tells her. “And get more rest,” she adds.

Adora doesn’t think she’ll go back to sleep anytime soon, but she eats what she’s given, and drowsiness takes her. She had wanted to get out of this cave, but she decides to save it for later, whenever that will be. 

 

*

 

It’s getting dark when Adora wakes next.  

Anxiously stepping out of the cave, she gasps at the twilight sky: it's unbelievably bright from the sheer number of stars. There must be no air pollution here, Adora’s never seen anything like it before. It’s light enough for her to walk around and explore without a flashlight. 

Outside the cave’s entrance is meadow, to her far left is a vineyard, covered with lush grapes Adora swears she can taste just by smell. To her right, a garden. It’s filled with more flowers than Adora could ever remember the names of, though she can make out roses, sunflowers, and honeysuckle. Drawn by the fragrances, Adora walks deeper into the garden. She passes several marble fountains and delicately carved statues. 

It's in the garden Adora finds Catra tending to white flowers she's never seen before.

Careful to keep a little bit of distance between them, Adora asks, “Why are you gardening so late?” 

Not bothering to look at her, Catra answers, "I'm planting moonlace. It can only be planted when the moon is out."

Adora looks up and sure enough, the moon is rising, slowly. “I’ve never heard of moonlace before,” Adora says, eyeing the flower in Catra's hands. It almost glows silver underneath the moon.

“I don’t know if moonlace exists outside of here, anymore,” Catra admits wistfully. 

Catra faces Adora now, looking so sad Adora wonders if there's anything she can say to comfort her.

"It might," Adora ends up saying. "I don't really know too much about plants. I've really only lived at Camp Half-Blood or shitty high school dorms. I couldn't exactly take care of plants too well." 

"Why not?" Catra tilts her head slightly.

At first, Adora assumes she's messing with her, Glimmer and Bow have teased her in the past for not even being able to take care of succulents. But Catra looks earnest. 

"Well, there wasn't a whole lot of space, the dorms were really crammed and at camp—well, I was always too busy training to make the time to garden." Sometimes the woodland nymphs tried to convince Adora to help them out, but she always politely declined. 

"That's a shame," Catra says, returning her focus to the earth. All Adora can do is stare at her, watching the gentle way she holds the flower, the way she tucks it's roots into the soil. "This camp you speak of, that's where heroes live?"

"You've really never heard of Camp Half-Blood before?"

Catra shrugs with one shoulder. "I've lived on Ogygia for a long time." 

"All alone?" 

Catra meets Adora's eyes and says something in a language that sounds far older than Greek. 

Suddenly, there's a panther-like creature sitting right next to Catra, with glowing blue eyes and what Adora swears is a royal purple coat, unless the stars are deceiving her. 

"This is Melog," Catra says warmly. "They're my companion." 

Melog stands up, carefully minding the patches of flowers to walk towards Adora. They meow at her, or at least, it sounds close enough to a meow from a cat their size.

"Hi, Melog," Adora says, sitting herself on the ground to match their height, carefully holding her hand out. Melog rubs against it, and then her cheek. Adora laughs. Melog gives off an almost mechanical rumble, circles around Adora, and then rests their head on her lap. 

"They like you," Catra says. Adora thinks she hears her mutter, "For whatever reason," but she lets it slide. 

Adora's not sure if it's because of Melog, the garden, or the way the moon shines on Catra, but it's all too apparent that Catra means her no harm. 

Adora clears her throat. “I’m sorry for being so distrusting, earlier.” Catra stills her movements, and then resumes to pat the soil around the flower. “I’m, uh, grateful for your help.” 

“It’s fine, Adora,” Catra says. “I understand where you’re coming from. I am a suspiciously beautiful girl on a suspiciously beautiful island.” Only now does she turn to face Adora, in time to watch her redden. “What?" she asks. "Your words. Not mine. You should probably work on the whole sleep talking thing.”

"That doesn't sound like me," Adora retorts. Feeling bold, she adds, "Maybe that's just what you wanted me to say." 

"Funny," Catra deadpans. "As I was saying," she says, with an exaggerated eye roll, “I’ve had to deal with more impatient heroes in the past. You would think by now I would be a little more used to how rude heroes are." 

"Other heroes have come to Ogygia before?" Adora asks against her better judgment. 

The glare in Catra’s eyes tells her to drop it. 

It dawns on Adora: Catra was immediately at her side, and knew how to treat her wounds. Catra was ready for her, but she doesn't know what that means. 

“The stars are amazing out here,” Adora says to change the subject.

Catra nods in agreement before her eyes narrow suddenly. With a sigh, she says, “Adora, like I said before, time passes differently here. The moon will set before too long. You should get more sleep while you can.” 

Catra stands up and pats the soil off her tunic. Melog gets up as well, circling themself around Catra before she walks past the cave, towards the juniper grove. Adora wonders if Catra sleeps somewhere else, if she sleeps at all. 

Back in the bed inside the cave, Adora realizes that she never introduced herself to Catra, and that Catra hasn’t asked who her godly parent is. She wonders if she knows.

She wonders if it matters to Catra. Part of Adora hopes she doesn't know. So far, Catra hasn’t given her that single look of pity everyone else aims her way.

It’s a change Adora could adjust to, if she had more time. 

 

*

 

This time, Catra left a blue chiton for Adora. She's only had to wear one a few times for ceremonies at camp, but this looks more authentic, and significantly less scratchy. Or maybe it's just Catra's touch. She puts it on, and it barely passes her knees. To her relief, there is a side pocket, for her sword.

Adora stares at herself in a bronze mirror. In the chiton, she's barely recognizable. She lets her hair down, uses the brush Catra had left for her, and sweeps her bangs up. She doesn't look like a weary demigoddess on a quest, she looks like she's gone back in time, like she could be one of the Hesperides. It feels right, somehow. 

The morning is cool, and the island is beautiful in daylight. Adora takes her time to explore, welcoming the exercise after having been bedridden for days. She walks along the vineyard, tempted to pluck some grapes dangling from their vines. She remembers the story of Persephone and the pomegranate and decides against it. She knows it’s silly, she's already eaten food that Catra had brought her, but something tells her she shouldn't try the grapes.

She can't get stuck her forever. 

The vineyard is picture worthy, though, so Adora pulls out her camera, snapping pictures along the path. At its end, she spots giant boars in the distance; they're green and blue, almost blending in with the juniper trees and grasses around them. Their tusks are large, but they appear to be peaceful. She grins, taking pictures as proof of their existence. She won't be able to get the photos developed until she stops by a Walmart or gets an Athena kid to help her, but she knows Bow and Glimmer will be excited to see them; boars of their kind are supposed to be extinct, having descended from the Erymanthian Boar himself. She hadn't expected to find them here. 

Guilt seeps through her.

As thankful as she for Catra's help, she has to get back to the real world. She can't even fathom how worried her friends must be. She doesn't even know if they made it out of the park okay. And Glimmer—she's always been strong, Angella herself had blessed her, but she's still a mortal, and Adora can't stand the thought of her in pain. Adora would give anything to make sure she's safe. 

She makes her way back to the cave, surprised she hasn't seen Catra or Melog at all this morning. She finds Catra deeper in the garden, lost in concentration. She's wearing white again, and her hair is still braided. Adora watches Catra bite her lip, watches as she tucks her a strand of hair behind her ear. She quickly takes a picture of her, wanting to capture her in this moment: her serene expression, her hidden smile. 

It seems like Catra does possess some sort of magic, but she chooses to manually tend to the flowers herself. 

Melog is dozing on a patch of grass, and Adora snaps a picture of them as well. 

Bees hum, and doves flutter around. 

Being on Ogygia is like living in a dream, Adora's never known a place so tranquil and and lovely. When Adora wasn't living at camp, she was going to school in New York, where there's always noise and movement. But Adora's lingered here for too long, she knows that.

She just doesn't know how to break this news to Catra. 

So she doesn't yet, she sits on a bench, placing the camera in her backpack.

“Well, looks like you’re feeling better,” Catra says, one hand on her hip, standing barefoot on the grass in front of her. She smiles at her.

“Yes, thanks to you,” she says, smiling back shyly. Adora never gets shy. She'd rather be fighting a hydra, or face the manticore again, than feel like this. She furiously tries to forget what Aphrodite hinted at about those heterochromatic eyes. The whole thing is so stupid. It's not like Catra, whoever she really is, could ever feel something for Adora anyway. It's better for Adora to just move forward. So she takes a deep breath, hoping to ask this question as nicely as possible. “Look, Catra, as much as I enjoy being here—”

“You’d like to leave soon, help find your friends, and save Artemis and Glimmer,” Catra interrupts.

Adora swallows. 

“Adora—” Catra pauses and closes her eyes. When she opens them, Adora finds herself devastatingly lost. “You can’t leave here till you’re fully recovered. That’s uh, sort of the way this works.”

“You’re telling me Ogygia is some sort of recovery island for heroes?” Adora asks, tilting her head to the side. She can't imagine that such a place would have existed and that she would have forgotten about it. 

“Something like that,” Catra says dismissively, averting her eyes.

There’s more Catra isn't saying, Adora can tell. She has heard of Ogygia before, she's sure of it now, but she still can't place it. 

"Your hair's down," Catra points out. 

"What? Oh, yeah. Thought I'd try something new, with the chiton." 

Catra purses her lips. "Would you let me braid it?" 

"Oh, uh, sure." 

Catra makes her way behind the bench. Adora can't tell if talking to Catra now is better or worse now that she can't see her. As Catra runs her fingers through her hair, Adora decides that this is much worse. 

"Adora, you can relax. You're safe here, remember?" Catra's voice is soothing, but the way her fingertips brush against Adora's neck send out sparks. “It won’t be long before you’re presented with the option to leave, if you wish to take it. Just… let yourself breathe, okay? I know it's hard, with your quest." 

Adora takes that in. Catra’s phrased it quite strangely.

“Do you have the option to leave?” Adora asks.

"Would it really matter if I did?"

It matters to me, Adora thinks. She wants to say that out loud, but she’s not sure if she’s allowed. She’s only known Catra for a few days. “It should matter,” Adora ends up saying. “Are you—are you stuck here?”

“Stuck is an interesting way to put it,” Catra says. “Living on Ogygia is my punishment.”

“Living here is a punishment? It doesn’t seem that bad.” As far as Adora can tell, Ogygia is nothing but paradise. 

“Try being here for millennia,” Catra says.

Only now does it occur to Adora that Catra is far older than she thought. She had supposed it was possible for her to be a newer immortal, it's heartbreaking to think that Catra's just been forced to stay here for all this time. 

“I’m sorry,” Adora says.

Catra scoffs. "I don't need any pity from you, hero. You don't even know what I've done." 

“Would you tell me?” Adora asks, wondering if she’s crossing a boundary.

Gently, Catra let's go of Adora's braid. Instinctively, Adora reaches back to feel it. Catra leaps over the back of the bench to sit next to her. 

“I sided with my family in a war ages ago, when I shouldn't have,” Catra says exasperatedly, as if she's explained it a hundred times. It's possible she has. With a wicked grin, she adds, “I’m sure you’re familiar with the titans.”

“You’re a titan?” Adora asks. That’s impossible. There’s no such thing as a good titan, she’s sure of it. And there's certainly no titan who would braid a hero's hair. Maybe she works for Kronos. Maybe this whole thing was a trap. “But you’re not—”

“What, evil?” Catra supplies, fully smirking now. “Is that really so surprising to you, hero? Can you honestly look me in the eye and tell me every Olympian is just?”

Adora can't. 

Her first thought is of Light Hope and the last time she saw her. She had barely waited for Adora to look away before reverting to her godly form, knowing full well that if she had looked away a second too late the sight of it would have burned her alive. It was meant to be a reminder of how little she cared for Adora when she wasn't being blindly obedient, and she was unfortunately very used to it.

Of course Adora knows that not all of the gods are fair, but they’re better than the titans.

“It’s really not all bad, living here,” Catra says, facing away to look at the nearby fountain. “Ogygia is my birthplace. The gods were kind by allowing me to live here in peace. I could be chained to a rock, forever picked at by vultures. I could be in charge of holding the sky, to keep it from crushing the earth." Her words come out fractured, her expression darkens. If Adora thought an immortal could look scared, she would look it. Heterochromatic eyes meeting hers, Catra says, “I made my decision a long time ago, and I’m still living with the consequences. I can’t control my heritage any more than you can control yours.”

“Do you know who my father is?” Adora asks her.

Catra shakes her head. “I won’t ask you to tell me, Adora.” She grips Adora's wrist tightly. “Please don’t ask that of me.”

"I won't," Adora promises. Catra’s the first titan she’s ever met, and it's surprising, how easily she can talk to her. But Adora can relate to coming from a powerful family. Besides, the gods came from the titans in the first place. She supposes it makes sense she can relate to Catra. 

Catra offers her a relieved smile and lets go of her wrist. 

“So," Adora begins catiously, "you've been here for... centuries? Don't you get lonely?" Adora's all too familiar with loneliness. She loves her friends, but they don't understand how isolating it is, the weight of her foretold death. Even the other campers she doesn't know as well treat her like a hero, an idol, as if she's already dead, not a living human being.

“The goddess Scorpia occasionally visits me. She’s one of the kinder Olympians.” Catra says fondly. "There's Melog too, of course." At the sound of their name, Melog wakes up and walks over. Catra scratches their chin. "While I’m bound here, they’re free to leave. They do what they can to update me on what like the outside world is like, but some things get lost in translation. And of course, sometimes heroes like you wash up on my shore." 

"You didn't answer my question," Adora says, though it's a comfort to know she can keep Catra company, at least for a little while.

Catra stands up abruptly. "Meet me here tonight," Catra tells her. 

 

*

 

Adora watches the sunset at the beach. She sits a few feet away from the shoreline, minding the waves. Usually, Adora stays away from the water, as Poseidon hasn’t forgiven Zeus for breaking his oath not to sire anymore children. But the waters of Ogygia's bay seem soft and inviting. She slips her sandals off and dips her toes in the water. It feels good, the same way this whole island does; there’s nothing that could threaten her here. It’s rare she doesn’t have to brace herself for a fight. Even at camp, Light Hope would sometimes send some of Hephaestus’ mechanical spiders after her at random.

With a sigh, she walks along the shore. She knows she has to leave Ogygia soon, but she doesn't want to. It'd be different, if she wasn't on a quest. If Glimmer wasn't a prisoner of the titans, if she knew her friends weren't in grave danger.

If she weren't She-Ra.

The sky fades from pink to lilac, and Adora realizes she doesn't even know which ocean she's looking at. The loss of place and time is jarring. 

At the garden, Catra's mask reflects moonlight, and she's tending to a sad-looking flower. 

Adora asks, “Are you sure that one is going to survive?” 

“Don’t you think it’s still worth it to try?” Catra muses quietly, as if she's asking the flower instead. She gets off the ground, her eyes shine once she looks at Adora. "This way," Catra says. 

She leads Adora up to the hilltop above the cave, where there's an even more incredible view of the stars, and a better glimpse of the Milky Way. 

“I’ve never seen so many stars before,” she tells Catra, not trying to hide her awe. "Let alone traces of the galaxy." 

Catra’s expression softens. “I knew the world had changed; I didn’t realize it had changed so much.” 

Catra lays out blankets and lies down, gesturing for Adora to join her. 

Adora frowns at the sight, she’s never been able to relax for very long.

Catra notices her hesitation. “What,” she teases, “you can’t lie down for a few minutes and stargaze?”

Adora scoffs. “Of course I can,” she says, sitting down, and then even lying all the way down. Flat on her back. The stars blink at her. Less than a minute passes before she pulls out her pen to fidget with it. 

“None of that,” Catra says, reaching for the pen and throwing it down the hill. 

"Catra!" Adora complains. 

"It's enchanted isn't it?" Catra asks. "It should return any moment."

Adora just gapes at her. 

"What, you seriously think I’ve never seen a magic sword before?” Catra asks. “I’ll throw it again if you can’t just relax for ten minutes. You heroes are ridiculous.”

Adora holds her breath until she feels the pen’s weight in her pocket. She exhales, opening her mouth to tell Catra that she really doesn't think she can do this and then—

Catra's arm shoots up, her finger pointing to the sky. “That one I named after Melog, and that one is Serenia.” Catra continues to point different constellations out. 

Adora’s never heard of most of them, but she’s engaged. It occurs to her that even though she’s the daughter of the sky god, she’s never appreciated the night sky for all its beauty. She almost tells Catra this, but she stops herself. She likes the way Catra talks to her as Adora, a hero stranded on an island, not She-Ra, Zeus' daughter. 

“That one,” Adora says, pointing to the left, “is Pegasus, one of my favorites.” 

“Because of Swift Wind?” 

“Exactly, and The Archer, over there, for Bow. He tried to give me archery lessons a few times, but it never worked out too well.” She smiles at the memory. “And then over there, is Mara. History hasn't been too kind to her, but she has a beautiful constellation." Catra tenses up next to her. "I wish her story wasn't so sad."

“Sad in what way?” Catra asks. 

“You know? Daughter of Poseidon, prophesized to do great things, but when her time came, she betrayed the gods.”

Mara faced their unrelenting wrath. It's always been one of Adora's fears that she would share the same fate. 

“That doesn’t sound like the Mara I knew,” Catra tells Adora hotly, sitting up.

“You knew Mara?” Adora asks, sitting up too. “Did she—did she also land here?”

“She was the last hero who came, before you,” Catra answers brusquely. 

Mara lived over a thousand years ago. Catra's been on her own all that time. 

“What was she like?” Adora asks. 

"She was the perfect hero: brave, kind, and she sided with the gods completely. When I knew her, at least." Catra sighs.

"You say that like it's a bad thing," Adora says.

"It's not like it did her any good," Catra pauses. "Be honest with me, if the gods weren’t your family, would you still be fighting for them?” 

The question startles Adora. She never thought about it. She’s known about the prophecy for ten years now, knowing one day she would die for them. She’s never really had a say in who she was going to fight for. 

“You don’t have to answer that, Adora,” Catra says apologetically. “I just—I just want you to know there are more options.”

There aren’t, but Adora isn’t going to tell Catra that. She’s the first person who never treated her the way a daughter of Zeus is supposed to be treated. She’s never looked at Adora sadly and then looked away, hoping Adora hasn’t noticed that she’s mourning her already. Adora always notices. Besides, she likes the way Catra talks to her as if she still has a life she can live. As if she still has a future. 

"Tell me more about your friends, your world," Catra begs. 

Adora's heart breaks a little the way she says “your world,” a reminder that Catra isn’t part of it anymore.

Adora does. Catra listens intently. 

They end up forgetting the stars, each lying on their sides, facing each other. Catra's hand is dangerously close to Adora's. Adora vaguely remembers all the times Glimmer and Bow had gone off to stargaze alone. 

She wonders if under different circumstances, this would be a date. 

Instead, she memorizes the curve of Catra's smile, the excited look in her eye when Adora tells her something new about the world. Like how Manhattan is the place she'd want to live in one day. 

"Manhattan is a strange name," Catra says. 

With a grin, Adora says, "Sometimes it's a strange place." 

Catra laughs, and Adora wants to inch closer to her. But she's not sure it's allowed. Instead, she fakes a yawn, thinking it best to end it now, before this can hurt her anymore. "Should we head back?" she asks. 

Catra looks like there's more she'd like to say, but she lets it go. "Sure, Adora," she says. 

Catra walks her back to the cave. "Goodnight, Adora," Catra says. 

 

*

 

Adora's jeans, Camp Half-Blood shirt, and hoodie are all neatly folded by the table, good as new, as if Adora had never bled on them at all. She puts on the t-shirt. It's far too warm on Ogygia for long sleeves. 

She goes straight to the garden, eager to thank Catra for mending for clothes, but she isn't there. There's no sign of Melog, either. 

Adora searches for her, and finds Melog pacing in the dunes. They make a sound at her and then turn invisible. Down at the beach, she spies Catra, who isn't alone. She's with a tall figure. Godlike. They have a red aura. Adora wonders if it's Scorpia. 

Wanting to give them privacy, Adora quickly turns around, making her way back to the cave.

Catra meets her there half an hour later. She doesn’t greet Adora with a smile. She glares at her. “There’s a raft here for you,” she says, leering in the entryway. “It will take you to your friends.”

“I thought I had to stay till I was fully recovered,” Adora says. “I don’t think much has changed since yesterday.”

“Well it looks like things have changed,” Catra snaps. She swiftly turns around and exits the cave.  

Adora follows her. “Catra, wait!” she calls after.

Catra doesn’t stop walking till Adora cuts her off.

“Did I do something to offend you?” 

“No, Adora. You haven’t done anything wrong.” Catra hugs her arms, refusing to make eye contact. 

In turn, Adora shifts her focus to a patch of sunflowers. “I just—I feel like I’m kind of getting mixed messages here. Last night we were stargazing, and it was nice. Now it feels like you’re trying to get rid of me.” Adora pauses. “Does this have anything to do with who you were talking to this morning?”

“It doesn’t.” Catra sighs. "You want to leave, right?" Catra asks, meeting her eyes now. Her voice is quiet, broken, as if she's afraid of something. 

The vulnerability frightens Adora. “I have to leave, eventually. I guess I thought we’d have a little more time.”

The sun beats down on them.

“You can stay till sunset,” Catra says with finality. “That’s how long the raft will stay.”

“Okay,” Adora says. Catra walks on without her. Adora lets her.

She goes back to the cave, she’s already mostly packed. Since Catra treated her with her own medicine, Adora still has plenty in her bag. She’s used up all the film in the camera. She eyes herself in the mirror, her pontytail almost looks foreign to her—here on Ogygia she was free from the prophecy and war and all the burdens she's used to carrying. She was able to live a few days as a girl—and come sunset even that will change.

She feels ashamed for not wanting to leave, and ashamed for having been here so long with Glimmer still missing. 

“Hey, Adora,” Catra says coyly, stepping in past the curtain. "I'm sorry, for earlier. I wanted to give you this," Catra hands over one of the moonlace flowers. “For your shitty cabin, or dorm. Wherever you need it most. I just, I want you to have it when you go back. A little piece of Ogygia."

“Thank you,” Adora says. For everything, she thinks. She holds on to the flower gingerly. She’s a little afraid. She’s never taken care of a plant that didn't die before.

“You’ll do just fine,” Catra says, as if she can read her mind. “I trust you.”

“Thank you,” Adora says again.

"Adora—" Catra steps back. "I'll meet you at the raft, okay?" 

She nods and Catra disappears once more. 

 

*

 

It's a simple looking wooden raft with a plain white sail. Adora doubts it can really get her anywhere.

"Look," Catra says. "You’re the first mortal I—you’re the first person to stay with me since Mara. I’m not good at goodbyes.”

Adora can understand that. She hates the thought of leaving Catra alone. She doesn’t have much time before her prophecy unfolds, but she’d like to see Catra once more, to tell her the truth about who she is. “Well, maybe after the winter solstice I’ll happen to get hit attacked by a manticore again and—”

"You won't be coming back, Adora," Catra says ruefully. 

The finality is a little offensive. It might not be easy to find Ogygia again, but that wouldn't stop Adora from trying. 

"Of course I'll come back," Adora insists. "Wait, do you—do you want me to leave?"

"It's not that," Catra says. Her eyes are wide. 

Heroes like Adora come to visit her, from time to time, she said. And it didn't seem like Catra knew what happened to Mara after she left. 

"If I leave now, I'll never see you again," Adora states slowly as the truth sinks in. She glances at the raft on the water, then back to Catra, who's holding her arms close to her chest. Light Hope had told her there would be consequences, Adora never considered that meeting Catra would be one of them.

"You are a hero, Adora," Catra reminds her. She says hero as if it's a tainted word, an insult, a disgrace. "Heroes don't stay." 

"I'll come back," Adora says. "I won't just leave you here.”

Something flickers in Catra's eyes. "No one ever finds Ogygia twice," she says.

“Has anyone tried?”

Catra looks like she’s been slapped.

"I'm sorry," Adora says, her voice comes out strained. Her chest feels like she's being stabbed. 

"Take care of yourself, okay?" Catra asks. 

They don't even hug each other goodbye. Adora doesn't know how to go about it, not with the guilt weighing her down. She steps onto the raft carefully, thankfully it's sturdier than it looks. It creaks as it starts to move.

Adora turns back to face Catra, expression solemn.

There’s a selfish part of her that wishes she didn’t have to leave, but the wind blows the against the sail, and she knows she has to find her friends. She got to spend a few days in paradise, with Catra, of all people. She knows it hasn’t been as easy for everyone else.

Catra waves at her from the distance. Adora waves back. And then with a startlingly green flash, she disappears.

 

*

 

The raft somehow brings her to a pier in San Francisco, where she finds Bow and Sea Hawk snacking on freshly baked sourdough bread. Swift Wind is grazing in Golden Gate Park. It’s foggy and cold, and Adora knows she needs to get away from the sea, this water won't be as kind to her as it was in Ogygia.

She’s been gone for ten days. 

The three of them spent two days searching for her in Boulder, but more and more monsters kept arriving. Eventually, they had to leave. 

During her absence, a sea nymph saved Sea Hawk from drowning, in Southern California. It’s a story that sounds suspiciously close to The Little Mermaid but Bow says the sea nymph is real.

"She helped us travel up the coast," Bow confirms. 

“Her voice was like a siren’s call,” Sea Hawk rambles on, “it’s still haunting me.”

Adora remembers Catra’s voice, singing as she treated the cuts on her body, so Adora would fall asleep. She says nothing. 

Bow eyes her suspiciously. “Where were you, Adora? How did you get to California on a wooden raft?”

“I—” Adora falters. She doesn’t feel like sharing the truth of Ogygia, not yet, like it’d be a betrayal to Catra, if she did. “I landed on a phantom island, somehow. I think the gods sent me there, though I don’t know why. Time passed differently, and when the raft showed up, I left.”

Bow nods understandingly. The three of them had gotten caught in one of those warped traps before, but Glimmer was the one to get them out. 

“But I’m here now,” she says, trying to sound confident. 

"We'd better go fetch Swift Wind," Bow decides. "The three of us, well, we didn't know how to go forward, without you. Atlas isn't carrying the sky anymore. He's currently leading Kronos' army. He made—I had a vision of Glimmer holding the sky. It was a trick to get Artemis to carry it instead."

“Wait,” Adora chokes. “Glimmer was—”

“You haven’t been dreaming about her?” Bow asks, eyebrow raised. In the past, the three of them have shared visions, trying to piece them together.

Adora shakes her head. “I had slept so heavily there I—I didn’t realize my visions were getting blocked.” 

“Adora, are you sure—”

“I think that’s our cue to leave,” Sea Hawk interrupts, eyeing a group of two mortals walking alongside a hydra. Adora has no idea what the other mortals on the pier see. 

“Mount Tam it is then,” Adora says. 

Bow looks like he has more he wants to say, but he knows it’s best they get off the pier without a fight. 

Adora touches her pen, and then her fingers graze along the petals of the flower in her pocket. It’s stupid that she’s thinking about Catra while she’s on a mission, Catra with that alluring sad smile of hers, laughter that echoed wind chimes. 

It didn’t feel like she could never come back when she set foot on the raft, but now it’s all she’s left thinking about. Mentally, she curses Aphrodite. Light Hope was right, love is a distraction, and Adora can't risk the distraction, not with Glimmer's life on the line. 

 

*

 

Glimmer is bound to a pillar and her mouth is gagged. 

The goddess Artemis looks like she's holding up a vortex of deep blues and grays. 

And Mount Tam is heavily guarded with more monsters than Adora's ever seen in one place before. 

Adora has to make a decision, and quick. As a goddess, Artemis will be a better fighter, if she's not too weak after taking Atlas' burden. As good as Adora is on the battlefield, she's not sure if either Sea Hawk or Bow or strong enough to carry the sky, even temporarily. She inhales quickly. She's not destined to die today, and maybe with the sky being her father's domain, she can manage it. Just until her friends are safe. 

"Bow, go to Glimmer, and take care of her. Sea Hawk? You ready to take on that dragon over there?" The dragon has many heads, each one like a serpent.  

Sea Hawk nods, too focused to crack a joke. 

Bow looks torn, but he rushes to Glimmer's side. 

Adora approaches Artemis, struggling underneath the weight of the heavens. 

"Let me take this from you," Adora says. 

"No," the goddess chokes out, “it will crush you.”

Adora's never seen a deity in physical pain before. It hurts to look at. 

"Please," Adora insists, "it should be me."

The goddess meets her eye and an understanding passes between them. For the ten seconds she shares the weight with Artemis, she wonders how it's physically possible that they both aren't crushed. When Artemis lets go, Adora sees red. The weight is excruciating, but she can hold it, for now.

She has to. 

“It’s nice to finally meet you, She-Ra,” a deep voice tells her. There’s something familiar with his accent, but Adora can’t quite place it. “Although I must say, I’m a little disappointed that none of your friends are strong enough for the sky’s weight, so you and I won’t be able to fight. Unless, of course, you choose to let go.”

As if that’s an option, if she weren’t using all her concentration on keeping her hands above her shoulders, she’d tell him.

Footsteps approach, and power radiates off of him. His feet are larger than any mortal man, and it hits her: Atlas himself is going to seek her out while she can't do anything. Quickly, Adora scans her nearby surroundings, wondering where Artemis went, but she can't find her. Still buckling under the weight, she looks up to meet his eyes and she can't conceal her gasp: both of his eyes are golden, the same shade as Catra’s left eye.

I can’t control my heritage any more than you can control yours,” Catra had told her. Adora understands that now. Atlas is Catra's father. 

"It's not too late for you to join our side, you know," Atlas says.

"I will never fight for the titans," Adora says through gritted teeth. 

"That's a pity, I was hoping that since you've met Calypso, you'd be a little more sympathetic to our cause." 

Adora grimaces, flushing with shame. Catra is short for Calypso, she knows her real name, now. Adora does know her story, it comes back to her painfully. She's the daughter of Atlas and the old sea goddess Tethys. Calypso, exiled, cursed to fall in love with every hero that lands on her shore. But none of them stay. Adora is no different from the rest. Her feet sink into the dirt and her entire body trembles.

“Don’t listen to him, Adora!” Glimmer calls to her. 

Adora tries to look for Glimmer, but she can't find her or Bow. 

"Or perhaps it's fitting you side with the gods," Atlas muses cruelly. "You abandoned Calypso, same as the other heroes. Just like the gods abandon their children, after all these eons. It's no wonder why many of your demigods have left camp to join us.”

Adora's knees shake. It's true, several have abandoned camp. But Adora had assumed they were too old for it, or thought they didn't need camp's protection. That's what Light Hope had told her. It was a foolish thing to believe her. 

"Maybe I can convince your friend Sea Hawk to fight for our cause. Could you imagine, being unclaimed at his age?"

Adora sputters. "What are you talking about?" 

Atlas laughs at her. "That is no son of Hermes, child." 

Adora spots Sea Hawk in the distance, setting off Greek fire.

"Do you really think the gods are just?" Atlas says, an exact echo of what Catra had asked Adora earlier. "Even your lord father is forcing you to fight his battles. He could show up at any minute to carry the sky for you." The clouds above them rumble. "Tell me, She-Ra, when's the last time you've seen your father?" 

All Adora can do is focus on her breathing. 

Atlas hums at her, disappointed.

Adora glares at him, and then she finally spots Glimmer and Bow, the latter who is shooting his arrows, protecting Glimmer.

It’s true, maybe the Olympians are liars, deceitful. But Adora still has people to protect, and she won’t betray them. She's not fighting for her father, she's fighting for her friends. She closes her eyes, remembering Catra waving her goodbye on Ogygia’s shore. She heaves.

"Give up, hero. The heavens aren't meant to be carried by a mortal. Even the goddess Artemis has left you."

“I’m not going to give up," she tells Atlas. And I'm not leaving anyone behind again, she thinks, making a mental promise to herself to find Catra again.

The sky stays steady on her shoulders for a good ten minutes, but ten minutes is enough.

Artemis returns with her Hunters, and they're able to force Atlas to carry the sky again.

Adora collapses into Bow and Glimmer's arms. She holds back a sob, wondering how Atlas could be so cruel when Catra was anything but. 

 

*

 

Upon their return to camp, Juliet greets them halfheartedly. 

What Atlas said is true, more campers have left camp to switch sides. Their numbers grow larger, and with each demigod that joins Kronos, his power only grows stronger. 

"We do have a new camper, unclaimed as of right now," Juliet says. She darts her eyes towards Adora. "She's powerful." 

Adora nods. Juliet often has Adora show the stronger ones the ropes. 

Her name is Frosta, and she's only twelve. After one meeting, Adora can tell that she's been through more than anyone should have at her age. 

Adora will start training her tomorrow. Frosta looks indifferent about the whole thing. Adora can't blame her.

She seeks out Sea Hawk after she meets Frosta. If she's honest with herself, Adora had forgotten that Hermes' cabin took care of the unclaimed kids. She had just assumed that Sea Hawk was Hermes’ son.

"I'm sorry if I was ever insensitive about your parent," Adora says. "I didn't know."

“I forget myself sometimes, it’s been so long. I keep thinking if I can just prove myself... they'll finally think I'm worthy." 

"Is that why you wanted in on the quest?" Adora asks gently. "To prove yourself?"

Sea Hawk nods.  

“Sea Hawk," Adora pauses, not sure how to go about this. "There are demigods who have been claimed… who left. To fight with Kronos. And I think I can see why being unclaimed would make someone want to switch sides. Have you ever—have you ever considered it? Before the quest, that is.”

He gives Adora a wry smile. “I was never interested in switching sides.”

“Why not? I might, if I were you.”

Sea Hawk frowns pensively, strokes his moustache. “I don’t think you would. You’ve got too big a heart for that.” He shrugs. “Besides, you and I are both loyal to our friends. You wouldn’t leave without them. It’s demigod code, remember? We look out for each other.”

"Right," Adora replies. If he notices the way her voice cracks, he doesn't comment on it. She aggressively rubs away tears from the corner of her eyes. "Shut up and come here," she orders, pulling him into a hug. Sea Hawk returns it easily, and when he chuckles into her shoulder, his voice sounds suspiciously thick.

 

*

 

It’s a sleepover in Zeus's cabin. Glimmer uses her magic to make a lavender tent big enough for the three of them to sleep in, safe from Adora’s kicking range and safe from Zeus's statue watching them.

Bow falls asleep early on, snoring loudly. Adora welcomes the sound. He had barely slept during the quest, anxious as he was about Glimmer. He deserves the rest.

Fiddling with her ponytail, as if to braid it, Adora asks, “Do you think I’m a bad person, for leaving her?” She can’t get the thought of Catra, alone on her island, out of her head.

“Adora,” Glimmer says softly, reaching over to put her hand on her shoulder. “The gods are cruel. What they did to Calypso was especially cruel. But you can’t blame yourself for leaving. You had to. You're literally in the middle of a huge prophecy.”

Adora doesn’t know how to respond to that.

“And hey,” Glimmer says, smiling now, nudging Adora. “The first girl you get a crush on is a goddess? Talk about unattainable. You never take the easy route, do you.”

“I—I never said I had a crush on her,” Adora stammers.

Glimmer laughs. “You didn’t need to. Bow told me as soon as you guys found each other that he knew you’d met someone. Of course, he wasn't able to guess that she's literally a titan who—” she stops herself. "Sorry, it's still strange to wrap my head around the fact that there are some good titans out there." 

"You're telling me," Adora says. "She's still being punished for fighting alongside her father. How is that any different from what I've been doing for Zeus?"

"I don't know if it's different," Glimmer admits. 

Adora looks at the gray streak in Glimmer's hair, the same as her own. It's a permanent reminder of the weight they each carried. 

Glimmer's eyes are glossy. Idly, Adora remembers how Aphrodite told her that Bow would perceive her eyes as pink. She glances at Bow, snoring soundly. At least the two of them still have a future, together, if either one will do anything about it. 

She's suddenly struck with the thought of how close they had come to losing any chance of having that future. Adora's used to her life being finite, she can't stand the thought for her friends. 

"I'm really glad you're okay, Glimmer," Adora says.

"Yeah," Glimmer replies quietly, as if she's only processing the gravity of what had happened. "Me, too."

Adora hugs her, and they don't let go of each other for a long while.

 

*

 

Adora is back in Ogygia, wading in the ocean. Only, this body isn't hers. She feels more muscular, stronger—and her skin is definitely a shade of brown. The water laps against her knees, but instead of the anxiety she usually feels around being near her uncle's realm… she feels invigorated. Like she could fight an entire army and still walk out unscathed.

Catra approaches her—she's not wearing her mask. It's strange to see the bareness of her forehead, her hair blowing about in the wind. 

“Mara,” Catra says. Her voice sounds so strained. All Adora wants to do is to comfort her and tell her everything is going to be okay. But this isn't a dream. It's a memory. 

“I promise I’ll come back to you, Calypso. When the war is over, I’ll find you,” the words come out of Mara's mouth, but Adora can feel herself saying them. 

"You don't have to leave," Catra insists. "It's not too late, the raft hasn't arrived yet, you can stay here," Catra flushes, averts her eyes. "With me." 

Mara cups Catra's cheek. It's strange looking down at Catra from this angle—Mara is taller than Adora. She then leans down and kisses Catra, who returns it, deep and desperate, as if she kisses Mara longingly enough, she'll stay. 

"I can't stay," Mara says, pressing her head to Catra's. "They need me."

"I know," Catra sighs heavily, "they always do."

Her eyes are screwed shut as if she's in physical pain. Adora can't stand to see it, she can tell Mara can't either.

"Calypso," Mara says, once they part. "I swear on the Styx—I will return." Thunder roars, solidifying the promise.

And it's thunder Adora wakes up to, feeling as if she's about to vomit. Catra had intentionally concealed her history with Mara, and now a god made her live through it. She vows to fight whichever god sent her this vision. Adora quietly steps out of the tent, glaring at her father’s statue, and gives him the finger. If she weren’t his daughter, if she weren’t the prophesized one, maybe she could have stayed.

But Catra never offered.

And now Adora knows what her lips taste like, even though she didn't kiss Catra herself.

"The gods are cruel," Glimmer had told her. Glimmer was right.  

Adora presses her thumb to her lips, eyeing her empty windowsill. 

In a horror, Adora realizes she never planted the moonlace. Thankfully, the moon is out, and she places it on her windowsill, directly in the light.

“I hope I can find you again, one day,” she says to the flower, as if it can pass along the message to Catra.

I wish I could make you a promise I could keep.