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Turning Darkness to Light

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Adora shuffled outside of her balcony door and shivered into the night air. The party celebrating the end of all rebuilding efforts, five years after the end of Prime’s invasion, continued to rage on downstairs. Adora could hear the muffled laughter of her friends below her, and a twinge of anxious guilt flashed across her face.

Why do I feel like this?

She sat on the balcony ledge and looked up at the stars. A resigned sigh escaped her mouth.

I know I should feel happy – even accomplished. And yet -

She shook her head. She knew that the thought process she was about to go down was pointless. She was safe, and she was happy. She had friends, she had a home, and she had -

“Hey, Adora.”

Adora turned her head to see Catra standing there smiling at her. She let a small smile creep across her face. Catra reached out and put a jacket around Adora’s back. “You’re gonna get cold sitting out here all alone, you dummy.”

Adora pulled the jacket over her shoulders. “Catra – sorry for leaving the party. I should go back, shouldn’t I?”

Catra took Adora’s hand. “Adora, you don’t have to do anything.”

Catra sat down on the balcony ledge beside Adora, as Adora snuggled into Catra’s shoulder. Adora looked up at Catra’s face and felt a wave of deep love settle into her body. She tried to hold onto it before the anxiety returned. “I’m sorry – I know I should just get back out there. It’s just – well, when Glimmer said -”

Catra looked with expectant and knowing eyes. She saw what happened. Glimmer was celebrating the end of the rebuilding, the last knot to tie after the end of the war. She passingly mentioned that this probably meant that they “wouldn’t need She-Ra very much anymore.” Catra saw Adora's eyes fall and her shoulders tense up at those words. Adora had spent the last five years trying as hard as she could to heal. She found new hobbies and made time for herself, but Catra knew that Adora also relied on the rebuilding effort to continue to give her purpose.

Adora continued, " - well, when she said that they don't know if they need She-Ra anymore. I just - I've spent so many years with that being the point of everything that I do. And I thought I was over this! I know I should be over this! I kept telling myself that I wasn't relying on the rebuilding effort, that I wasn't using that as a crutch, that I really was getting over this. Ugh, why do I feel like this? Shouldn't I be better?"

Catra cupped Adora's cheek. "Hey, look at me. You are doing so much better."

Adora looked at Catra with searching eyes. "No, I'm not. Not well enough."

Catra brought Adora close and let her head rest on her lap. "Come here, dummy. How many times have you had to hold me and tell me that I was doing better? Were you ever lying to me?"

Adora looked up at Catra. "I was never lying to you."

Catra smiled reassuringly. "And I'm not lying to you either, okay? You are doing better. Just because you got triggered or whatever - it's okay. That doesn't mean you aren't doing better."

Adora tried to let Catra's words inside, but the anxiety was impossible to brush off. "Do you really think we're all done? Do you really think Glimmer meant what she said?"

"Adora, it doesn't matter. Sparkles and Bow both love you as yourself, okay? They don't need you to be She-Ra. None of us do. We want Adora around."

Adora scrunched up her face. "But, why?"

Catra smiled and rolled her eyes. "Well, personally, I just want somebody as dumb as you to keep beating in all the games -”

Adora scoffed and landed a soft punch into Catra’s belly. “Hey!”

Catra laughed, before returning her hand to Adora’s cheek. “I love you, Adora, and I always have. I loved you long before either of us ever heard of She-Ra. I’ll tell you that as many times as I have to."

Adora felt an anchoring blanket fall across her, and she snuggled into it as long as she could.

Even after all these years, you have no idea how much that means.

Adora raised her head and wiped the tears from her eyes with her arm. She looked away from Catra, back towards the stars, before she spoke again.“It’s just – every time I think I’m doing better, I hear this stupid voice in my head -”

“Let me guess, the voice sounds something like this:” Catra lowered her voice and did a cartoonish interpretation of their shared abuser. “ Adooooorrra.”

Adora laughed. Memories of Catra and herself huddled together in the Fright Zone, hiding from Shadow Weaver, played across her mind. Catra used to mock Shadow Weaver’s voice to make her seem less scary, especially when Adora was particularly afraid. “I don’t think I’ve heard you do the Shadow Weaver voice since we were little kids.”

Catra held onto Adora’s hand. “I guess I was kind of afraid of her still.”

Adora sighed and looked down at their hands. “Do you – do you think we’ll ever, I don’t know, get her out of our heads? Do you think we’ll ever finally beat her?”

Catra looked up at the stars with a satisfied grin. “Oh Adora, I think we beat her every day.”

Adora’s eyes widened. “You do?”

Catra nodded. “I do.” Adora silently prodded for Catra to keep speaking. Catra looked down at herself and continued. “You know, for years I thought the best way to beat Shadow Weaver was to finally accomplish the things she trained us for. Be the best force captain the Horde had ever seen and conquer Etheria. But the funny things is, I did all those things, and all I did was become exactly as worthless as Shadow Weaver always said I was. I was cruel, callous, and abusive. I didn’t beat Shadow Weaver. I was becoming Shadow Weaver.”

Adora squeezed Catra’s hand. “No, you were never like that – don’t say that, you were never like that -”

“Adora, hey, it’s okay. I was, but I’m not anymore.” Catra smiled softly. “Instead, one of my best friends is a pink sparkly princess named Glimmer, another one of my best friends is an annoying softy named Bow, and I get to spend everyday with this idiot who I also love very much. This – all this – having friends, feeling safe, and feeling loved – these are all the things Shadow Weaver always told me I was never worthy to have. But she was wrong.” Adora saw Catra’s satisfied face and felt herself let out a small gasp. Catra was confident and full of self-love. Adora’s heart beat heavy with the realization that Catra was deeply healing, perhaps quicker than herself. The sting of anxiety prickled her neck and head.

Catra doesn’t need me anymore either, does she?

Adora shook her head as tears started to trickle down her cheeks. “Catra I shouldn’t – I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be burdening you with all this. This isn’t fair – I should be better, I’m sorry.”

Catra pulled Adora in and held her tightly. “Hey, you’re never a burden for me, okay? Isn’t that what I promised when I married you?”

Adora tried to believe Catra, but she couldn’t shake the thoughts clouding her mind. “That doesn’t mean – you can’t possibly be okay with me being like this. I mean, I’m supposed to be the healthy one! I’m supposed to be the hero! Look at me, I can barely function after my friend made a joke about how we all get to relax more. That’s all she did! Why are you okay with this? Why do you put up with me?”

Catra shook her head and let out a small laugh. “Because I love you. Because waking up next to you every day makes me happier than I ever thought I would deserve. Adora, you put up with so much worse from me, and through it all, you somehow still believed that I deserved to be happy. That big heart belongs to you, Adora, not She-Ra. Shadow Weaver tried to contain it, but she never could. You always loved more than anybody could ever contain.”

Adora sighed, and she sank into Catra’s embrace. She felt Catra’s purr vibrate through her face, and the feeling dissipated her doubts for a moment. She cracked a small smile. “I guess it’s easier to believe that I’m getting better when I’m being held by you.”

Catra kissed Adora’s forehead. “Well, luckily for you, I’ll always be here to hold you.”

Adora finally let Catra’s words sink beneath her skin, and the shadows retreated. She held onto Catra for a moment longer, before breaking the embrace and looking into her eyes. “I love you so much.”

Catra smiled. “I love you too, dummy.”

Adora wiped a stray tear from her eye before getting up from the balcony ledge. “Hey – I think I’m okay to go back out there now.”
Catra jolted up and hurried towards the door, ahead of Adora. “Okay that’s honestly really great to hear because I promised Sparkles I’d help her beat Sea Hawk in a game that I think is coming up here real soon -”

Adora laughed as Catra sped away in front of her, back towards the party. When she exited the balcony and reached the shadows of her bedroom, she could see the light emanating from the hallway door. Adora froze for a moment as the anxious thoughts flooded into her mind again. Shadow Weaver’s voice echoed in the darkness. The world needs you as She-Ra, not Adora. This is what you’ve spent your whole life training for . The shadows threatened to re-envelope her before Catra returned to the lighted doorway and reached out her hand.

“Hey, Adora – c’mon, let’s go.”

At the sound of Catra saying her name, the anchor returned, and the last vestiges of Shadow Weaver’s voice melted from her mind. Catra reached her hand into the darkness of the bedroom and waited for Adora. The girl who had gone farther into the shadows than anybody had found her way out. She was now always standing in the light, ready to pull Adora back from her darkest places.

If it’s with you, I think I can always find my way back.

Adora grabbed Catra’s hand and allowed her to lead them both back into the bright hallway.