There’s a long string of lights leading from one end of the throne room to the other, and given that the bride could light up the entire room by herself if she wanted to, Catra thinks it’s a little overkill. But Glimmer insisted on taking care of decorations, with some help from Perfuma and Frosta, which is how they also ended up with the most tasteless flower arrangements Catra’s ever seen and an ice sculpture of Angella in the middle of the hall.
On one hand, it wouldn’t have felt right for Glimmer to get married without her mother there in some shape and form; on the other, Catra’s tired of jumping at the sight of it every time she enters the room, and of feeling its eyes following her as she moves about the tables and helps set everything up.
(When she accepted the role of Glimmer’s royal advisor five years ago, she hadn’t expected wedding planning to be in her job description - but then again, her whole life turned out much different than expected.)
She decides she needs to face her fears at some point, and so she stares up at it now, hoping it will eventually trigger a sense of familiarity, rather than dread. She studies the queen’s features, waiting for them to either soften into approval or finish speaking what they must.
Did you really think you could deserve this?
“Seriously?” A mildly annoyed voice comes out behind her, along with a sound like bell chiming, or a shower of sparkles falling. “You’re just gonna brood all day, the day before my wedding?”
“I prefer the term self-reflection,” Catra broods. “But I figured this was a long time coming.”
Glimmer steps forward to stand next to her, gently laying a hand on Catra’s shoulder. It would’ve made her jump, once upon a time, but now she leans back into the touch, her head knocking against the replica of one of Angella’s earrings that now hangs from Glimmer’s ear. “Entrapta’s just landed. Come say hello.”
The news should’ve made Catra at least moderately happier. She hasn’t seen Entrapta in such a long time, except for the video updates she sent both her and Scorpia about her space missions. The reason it makes her freeze up instead has to do with the person Entrapta has on board with her, who Glimmer has carefully failed to mention.
But of course, Catra knew she’d be here. She wouldn’t miss her best friends’ wedding, and though Bow and Glimmer never talked about Adora anymore, for Catra’s sake, it was ludicrous to hope she’d be gone from their lives entirely.
In fact, when she and Glimmer turn the last corner, there Adora is, her face already buried in Bow’s shoulder as she’s wrapped into a hug. Catra can’t see her that well, but it looks like she’s cut her hair to be shoulder-length.
She looks… good. More mature, maybe. There are years stretching out between them, and Catra feels the weight of all of them when Adora eventually pulls back, Bow still babbling on in the background, and catches sight of her.
She pronounces her name carefully, like she's not sure what she's seeing. “Catra.”
“Hey, Adora.” Catra rubs the back of her neck, which in hindsight must reveal how nervous she is, if her freezing on the spot didn't already give it away. “Had a good trip?”
Adora looks like she's about to answer, but she's interrupted by Glimmer, who dives straight into her arms.
Catra thinks of how long it took her to feel like part of their little group, and longer still to think of it as family. All that progress is being undone now, just looking at the three of them happily hugging and sharing jokes she couldn’t understand while Catra stood by, a stranger once more to their private circle. Despite being the one to stay all those years, deciding to fix the mess she made around Etheria instead of moving on to bigger and better things, it’s like she’s the one who came back to a world she doesn’t recognize.
She’s never been so glad to see Entrapta walk through the door, carrying in a gigantic crate that was maybe supposed to be her luggage. Catra even offers to help her carry it up to her room, leaving Adora, Bow, and Glimmer behind to catch up. Catra thinks they barely even notice she’s gone.
Glimmer and Bow invite Adora for tea.
Years ago, it was a mid-afternoon ritual the four of them never skipped, no matter how busy they were around the palace. God knows Catra and Adora, most of all, needed to learn not to push themselves too hard, and this was as good an excuse as any to take a break, sit down, and blow off some steam.
Glimmer wishes she still believed in the power of those little sessions, but - looking at the empty chair where their fourth member should’ve sat - maybe some things were too broken for even tea to heal.
She takes a sip of Perfuma’s super special herbal tea, listening to Adora recount her latest adventures around the galaxy. Still delicious, though.
“But the good part came later, when I left Eternia for D’riluth. Entrapta was really excited about this meteor belt we’d be driving through, but she flew a little too close. Half of our ship was entirely wrecked, and we managed a crash landing on the nearest planet just before it caught fire.”
That has Bow clinging to the edge of his seat. It’s adorable, really - how he can be serious when he needs to, as is fit for a king, but still revert to his childish, excitable self when he hears about space adventures. “And then what?”
Glimmer has to admit that, as fun as Adora makes it all sound, what she’s feeling is much closer to envy. She has everything most people would want - a crown, a palace, friends who love her, a wonderful husband-to-be - and yet when Adora speaks like that, all she can think about is the short few months they spent in space together, and how those days are now long gone.
“Well, we tried to figure out where we were. We thought it was a sister planet to D’riluth, but it didn’t show on any maps. I think they were hidden - probably protecting themselves from Horde Prime - until now.”
It was no secret that Glimmer was a rebel child. She’d wanted out of her mother’s thumb for as long as she’d been alive, and though the small taste of freedom she’d gotten was at first tainted by Angella’s death and Horde Prime’s threat, the idea of giving it up forever now makes her feel like the world is closing in on her.
“Turns out, we weren’t that far off the first time. There really was a D’riluth II - and a D’riluth III, apparently. They had no idea the war was over.”
Pre-wedding jitters aren't that uncommon, apparently, and if this is indeed what's happening, then they're pretty tame, too. Glimmer is absolutely certain that she loves Bow, and that she wants to spend the rest of her life with him - so she has no idea where this is coming from. Maybe it’s just that all major crossroads always came with a what-if, and mourning the roads not taken.
Glimmer nods attentively, but she barely registers the end of that story. She only checks into the conversation again when she hears the tail end of a question. “Must be exciting, huh?”
Adora is looking at her. Bow is looking at her. She slowly puts down the teacup. “What?”
“Yes,” Glimmer rushes to answer, perhaps a little too enthusiastically. “Absolutely. I am so pumped for tomorrow.”
“We’ve never been happier, Adora,” Bow confirms, drawing his arm around Glimmer’s shoulder to pull her tighter against his side. Glimmer sighs and burrows her head into his neck, inhaling deeply; he always smells so good, like home and safety. “And you’re part of that. Thank you so much for coming.”
Adora's looking at them a little bit longingly, but she startles at hearing those words, blinks slowly. “Why wouldn't I?”
Bow and Glimmer glance at each other carefully. This is something they actually discussed, back when they started sending out invitations. "To be honest, Adora, we were afraid you wouldn’t want to. I mean, after what happened with you and Catra -”
“That doesn’t mean weddings should be completely off the table for me,” Adora replies, an edge of defensiveness to her voice.
“Catra hasn’t told us much about the night she proposed,” Glimmer says. “And you're going to see her tonight at the party, as well as tomorrow for the whole day, so it's in your best interest that we know how to handle any awkwardness between you two.”
Adora glances down into her cup, mindlessly swirling its contents before, apparently, deciding they weren’t worth drinking and putting it down.
Asking Adora to open up about stuff like this is probably much safer, and will yield better results, than asking Catra about it. Catra will bite your hand off and chew it if she’s not ready to talk, and so far, she hasn’t been; Adora will most likely shed a few tears once the faucet opens, but she can trust Glimmer and Bow to hold her hand through it.
“Adora,” Bow gently prompts, “what happened three years ago?”
Glimmer’s bachelorette party is a whirlwind of dances, music, and drunken laughter, alcohol flowing in every cup and everyone’s bloodstream - though in no one’s more than Glimmer, who gets absolutely wasted and tops the night by smooching Catra right on the lips.
“I’m getting married tomorrow,” is her excuse, “so you have to let me do it.”
Catra grumbles a bit in response, but Adora can see her smirking as Glimmer closes in, and it does strange things to her stomach.
Now that Glimmer has been left to sober up on the couch and the party has quieted down to chill talk among the princesses, Adora gets up and goes looking for Catra.
She’s left the room about half an hour ago, saying she would be back soon - but there’s still no trace of her, and if Adora still knows her as much as she likes to think she does, then she’s probably off somewhere she can be alone.
Glimmer was so worried Catra would make a scene, when all Catra did was avoid Adora for the whole party. Adora can’t fault her for that, honestly, but they have to talk about it some time. While Adora likes traveling with Entrapta, she misses her friends more than anything, and the only way for her to feel comfortable here again is to finally address the elephant in the room.
Her feet take her straight down the corridor, but stop in front of a familiar door. She figures Catra’s room is still the same, though it used to be Adora’s own, too. She wonders if anything’s changed in there - if Adora’s stuff has been moved somewhere else, too painful for Catra to look at after her cowardly exit, or if it was all still there, waiting for her to come home.
Is Catra waiting for her to come home, too?
Only one way to find out. Adora knocks on the door, dreading a lack of response, and she’s instead invited to - “Come in.”
Adora can’t actually check if the room looks any different, because she’s welcomed by pitch black. She curses Catra’s night vision until she notices the cone of bleak light leading to the balcony.
Catra’s propped against the railing, her head turned in Adora’s direction. Her eyes glow a bit, and they narrow at the sight of her. “Hi.”
“Hi.” Adora walks timidly through the room, finding that she’s still able to make her way through it in the dark. The air outside is a bit chilly, and there’s warmth coming off of Catra’s body - Adora’s overcome by this sudden tenderness that makes her want to sink right into it, and that apparently begs to be spoken. “I’ve missed you.”
Catra chuckles drily at first, but her eyes drop down to the railing soon enough, her mouth tilting up into a fleeting smile. “I’ve missed you too.”
Adora doesn’t want to get right into it, but she also doesn’t know what else to say. “Look, about what happened -”
“It’s fine, Adora,” Catra sighs. “You weren’t ready to get married. Big deal. Apology accepted.”
“It wasn’t because I didn’t love you enough,” she immediately rushes out, because that’s probably where Catra’s mind went first. “Or because I wasn’t sure about spending the rest of my life with you. I just couldn’t think about marriage when there was still so much to be done. I was leaving on a long mission in the morning, and - there was this voice, in my head, telling me I couldn’t be that selfish.”
Catra huffs under her breath, but she speaks softly. “Adora, I didn’t need you to say yes. I would have been fine with you as my girlfriend. We didn’t have to get married right away, or - or ever, if that’s what you wanted.”
A memory pops up in Adora’s head - and within it another, which isn’t a memory at all.
“I remember your ring,” Adora says, facing away from Catra. “White and gold, with a ruby right at the center. You had it made in our colors.”
“I did,” Catra confirms, clearing her throat. “I know it’s tradition in Bright Moon to wear something of your partner’s, but I had no personal items to give you. I spent so long fantasizing about what you would give me.”
Adora smiles, though there’s a familiar sadness seeping in her bones. “I had a dream about it once. It was in the Heart, when I was dying of Prime’s virus. I saw what I really wanted for the first time - saw us ten years into the future, you and me and Bow and Glimmer. You wore my pin on your shirt.” Adora only whispers the last part, as if casting a spell on sleepy Bright Moon below. “We were happy.”
Catra opens her mouth like she wants to say something, but Adora needs to get this out. “That is what I wanted. Marrying you was my final goal. And for a second there, when you asked me, I didn’t care about earning it first. I wanted it so much, and I wanted it right then.” The shame burns through her now like it did back then, except now she’s not the only one to know why. “That’s why I had to shut the idea down. It was - terrifying.”
And sure, she didn't really expect Catra to spend any words of comfort on her - but she didn’t expect her to outright dismiss her, either. “So what, now you’ve grown tired of saving the world and want to come back?”
“No.” Adora needs to tread carefully here. She knows Catra enough to see the trap she’s planting. “I got tired of missing you. Catra, I missed you all the time.”
“Is that why you never called?” A watery chuckle. "I don't care that you left. I don’t care that you turned me down when I proposed. I care that you turned me down every time after that.”
“I’m sorry,” Adora says. “I thought I’d give you some space, and then we’d figure it out together. But I hated myself so much for what happened that I thought you must hate me too. So I ended up waiting for too long while I sorted through all of that, and then -” She breaks off, sighing. “I don’t know. I don’t know what I thought.”
“What about now?” Catra asks, and if she sounds a bit too ragged still, Adora is willing to look past it. “What is it that you want?”
The question always sends Adora into a crisis, despite the fact that it has a very simple answer. “I don’t want to ask -”
“Ask,” Catra snaps. It finally brings Adora’s eyes back to hers, and she’s surprised to find them sparking with something she desperately wants to call hope. “Put what you want out there for once.”
There’s a long pause where Adora clenches her hand around the contents of her pocket and considers putting what she’s feeling into words. Making some big, dramatic declaration, begging Catra to take her back, confessing she never thought about anyone else, not even for one second - but that wouldn’t be fair to her, not yet, after what Adora’s put her through.
“I want to be home again,” she forces out, and maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but she thinks Catra takes a step closer. “And if you don’t want to see me, I respect that. You can stay in my room and I’ll move my stuff somewhere else. But if you still want me - if you can forgive me -” she breaks off there, feeling her throat getting choked up, too.
Their first touch in years is one of Catra’s hands laid across Adora’s cheek, and Adora feels it like Catra’s reaching right into her chest.
They stand kissing under the stars, their wet cheeks sliding against one another, until the sun comes up.
The birds are singing, the sun is shining, and it’s a wonderful, wonderful day for love.
Exhibit A: This is the first Bow’s seen of Mermista and Sea Hawk since they announced their pregnancy, and Mermista is positively glowing.
Exhibit B: This morning Catra and Adora walked into the throne hall together, wearing matching bridesmaids outfits, and - gasp - holding hands.
Exhibit C: Bow is going to marry the most beautiful girl on Etheria, his best friend and the love of his life, in less than an hour.
So when someone knocks on his door as he’s getting ready, Glimmer is the last person he expects to see.
Whatever words are on the tip of his tongue halt at the sight of her in a wedding dress. Quite predictably, she chose the puffiest dress she could get her hands on, a cloud of lace and frills that leaves the shoulders uncovered, and he feels tears prickling at his eyes until he sees them mirrored in Glimmer’s in a very different way.
“Bow,” she whispers, and when she sniffles, he realizes some of her make-up is off too - like she’s been crying for a while, and it’s been hastily reapplied to cover it up. “I love you,” she promises, gripping his hand and holding it up between them, “and I am going to marry you one day. Just not today.”
His brain is slow to catch up, and when it does, it realizes Glimmer is still in the middle of the hallway, and prompts him to shut the door behind her. They do not want a mass crisis on their hands. “What are you talking about?”
“I’m not ready, Bow,” Glimmer sobs, and her other hand balls the collar of his shirt, propelling her body forward into his chest. "I loved the engagement party, and the wedding planning, and everything we did together - because it was a celebration of how much I love you. But the more the wedding draws near, the more final it feels, like - like that will be it for me, and it terrifies me.”
Bow mentally runs through all the steps he should take here. First of all, try to get to the bottom of this, figure out if all Glimmer needs is reassurance, then provide it for her if that turns out to be the case. But he’s also faced with the possibility that this may be something he can’t fix - not now, at least - no matter how good his words, or how warm his hugs, or how understanding he may be. And he knows he should just take it in stride, nod and accept it - that it’s the right and honorable thing to do. But he takes two seconds, just two seconds, to let the hurt seep in and consume him, to let his spirits drop.
“Please,” Glimmer begs into his collar, “please, don’t hate me.”
He doesn’t think there is much convincing to do, because Glimmer is shaking in his arms.
“Of course I don’t hate you,” he whispers, and he drops a kiss right on her forehead. If he also holds her a bit tighter, it’s to the benefit of both. “Come with me, okay?”
And Glimmer does, but she holds on to him all the while.
When they burst into the hall, past all the guests waiting for them, they draw everyone’s gasps and stares, and Catra falls right out of Adora’s chair. The piano even starts playing a few notes before Bow cuts it all off and clears his throat to make an announcement.
“We’re sorry for making you come all the way here,” he preambles, “but the wedding’s off.”
He expects more gasps to come, but everyone just looks very confused - and honestly, kind of annoyed.
“What do you mean, the wedding’s off?” Mermista groans. “I’m wearing heels while pregnant for this.”
“You?” Catra scoffs, having elegantly reclaimed her rightful place on Adora's lap. “I had to plan the entire thing. So help me, I'm marrying them myself.”
Bow's about to open his mouth, but Glimmer beats him to it. Her tone is steady when she speaks: “I don't want our relationship to get soiled because we got married too soon. I'm sorry.”
Bow tries to imagine what that would be like, reaching thirty or forty and silently resenting each other for the things they never got to do. He doesn’t plan to stop living his life once he’s married - but he also doesn’t mind waiting a bit longer, if Glimmer instead fears that that will be the case.
“Yeah. We don't feel ready yet.”
His words are followed by a long general silence, until Glimmer suddenly lights up. “So I get to kiss Catra again?”
Catra's fur fluffs up all over. “So I kissed Glimmer for nothing?”
“No. No, you don't," Adora points to Glimmer, and she also lights up, not with excitement - he and Glimmer are gonna have a long talk about Catra one of these days - but with purpose. When she stands up, tall and beautiful in pale silver, it's the closest she's ever looked to She-Ra without transforming. “Wow, I didn’t mean to do this today, but now I just have to, don’t I? Catra-”
“Adora,” Catra jumps up as well, having caught on to what she means to do only two seconds before Bow does. Bow has to wait until Adora’s hand emerges from her pocket, and then he squeals. “Were you just waiting for the chance to upstage Bow and Glimmer?”
“I would never,” she replies, offended. “I wanted to keep the pin on me at all times, just in case the perfect moment showed up. But Catra - I think that moment is now. I can’t stand not being married to you another second.”
Catra’s eyes are wide as saucers. “Wait, like - right now. You want to get married right now?”
Adora looks around at the crowd advancing in on them, gaping. “I mean - everyone is already here.”
No one can argue with that logic, and so they don’t.
Adora kneels on the ground and takes Catra’s hand. “Marry me,” she whispers, looking up at her. “We’ve waited so long already.”
The whole room holds its collective breath, and in the silence, a few people try to stifle their sobs - there’s Scorpia and Perfuma, hugging each other forcefully, and then a long wail, which Bow soon realizes is coming from him.
“I’ve kept the ring, you know,” Catra says, and Bow thinks it was meant for Adora’s ears only. “It’s still in my drawer. Our drawer. I didn’t know if you would ever come back, but I dared to hope.”
Adora’s responding smile is bright enough to blind the whole damn hall. “Is that a yes?”
“Yes,” Catra nods frantically, and when she takes a deep breath, it’s shaky enough that Bow finally feels compelled to look away. “Yes. Let’s do it.”
Among all the cheering, Glimmer’s head comes up on Bow’s side, both of Angella’s earrings clinking together, and suddenly - it’s okay. There will be a right moment for them, too, but for now, they get to watch their best friends make their own.
It’s such a wonderful, wonderful day for love.