Adora's eye flew open, instantly alert.
After a moment's hesitation, Adora glanced around the dorm, but she couldn't see anything amiss.
They may still be cadets, but like the rest of her peers, she had been trained to be up and ready for battle with just a second's warning. Even from the deepest sleep, something being wrong should, and usually would, awaken her.
However, Adora frowned as she peered around.
There was nothing.
Or maybe… there actually was.
From right below her bunk, she heard a slight gasp and small whimper. Adora's eyes widened and her heart sped up.
Adora scrambled to the side of the bunk and leaned over the side to gaze down at her friend. Her face scrunched up at the sight below her.
Catra was curled up in a ball, her feet cycling as if to get away from some menacing phantom. Her expression was pained as she panted and whimpered, tears gathering in the corners of her eyes. Her grasping claws dug into the thin mattress of the bed, flexing as if she couldn't decide whether to scratch or not.
She was also clearly asleep.
Adora looked around once more, but none of the other cadets stirred. She glanced back down at Catra and bit her lip. Technically, it would be against the rules, but…
This was Catra.
Adora swung from her bunk into Catra's. She paused to make sure no one had heard the slight thump from the change in position, and then she crawled closer to her friend.
"Catra?" She spoke as softly as she could. Neither of them could afford getting caught in another's bunk and Catra's superior hearing had always been great at picking up the lowest whispers.
As they did now.
Catra jerked away with a gasp, some final, stray tears making their way down her face as she stared up at Adora with frightened eyes. Adora stiffened at the fear being directed at her.
She never wanted Catra to look at her as if she should be afraid of her.
"A-Adora?" Catra whispered back, as her frantic breaths began to calm and she wiped those tears away. "Is - is something wrong?"
Adora's brow furrowed as she reached out a tentative hand, only to stop as Catra flinched. "Are you okay?" She asked instead, letting her hand fall onto the mattress.
Catra froze. Adora knew that Catra had just had a nightmare and probably wasn't okay. Catra obviously knew that she knew. But Adora wasn't even sure why she'd asked how Catra was doing, because she knew Catra, and she just knew that she'd -
"Of course, I'm alright." Catra scoffed, slumping slightly and refusing to look her in the eye. "Why wouldn't I be?" Her ears pressed back against her head and her tail lashed out behind her.
- deny everything.
Catra hated seeming weak more than anything.
Adora stared at her. She needed to do something. The urge to help her friend was an itch under her skin, but she didn't know how to satisfy it when Catra was being stubborn like this.
Catra would deny when she was hurt or in pain until she collapsed. She always tried to be stronger for Adora.
Oh, Adora blinked at a sudden idea, that could work.
"Because I'm not alright." Adora lied, her eyes never leaving Catra. "I had a nightmare."
Catra finally looked at Adora. She frowned at her and obviously didn't buy what she was saying, her ears and tail showing her agitation, but she still played along.
"Sorry to hear that." Catra said. "What do you want me to do about it?"
Adora floundered a bit. She… she didn't actually know what she had planned to do at this point. She'd just wanted to help, but she didn't know how, and she thought turning it around and making Catra think she'd be helping her out would work better but she didn't know how to make Catra feel better. She flung herself back into her memories, trying to come up with anything that could help.
Oh! There was something!
"Can I hold you?" Adora asked, opening up her arms. She remembered how comfortable it was to hold Catra close. They had had to be sneaky about it, and they used to do it a lot more, but it had always been nice. She wasn't quite sure why it felt so nice, but she knew that it had always made her feel better and Catra had always seemed calmer when they did it.
Catra narrowed her eyes as she studied her face, but she eventually relented with a sigh. "Fine."
Adora grinned as Catra laid down and Adora scooched up and wrapped her arms around her. As she pulled her close she could feel the tension drain from Catra's body, and her own as well if she had to be honest. She sighed, and buried her face in Catra's hair.
Somehow, this was the nicest thing in the world.
The two of them didn't talk. Adora knew that Catra wouldn't talk about her nightmare or even admit she had one, and Adora didn't want to break the comfortable space that settled around them.
She didn't know how long it took, but soon she felt Catra's body once more relax fully in sleep, curling up once more as a slight purr rang out. The purr was just as soothing as the warmth of Catra's body and the silky softness of her hair pressed to Adora's face.
It was no wonder that eventually she too drifted off, with a slight smile on her face.
She could get used to this.
AN: So I totally subscribe to the theory that the bottom bunk is actually Catra's bunk and Adora was the one who would crawl down and join Catra down there.
So this story takes place sometime after they made their promise to stick together but long before the events of the show, so I imagine them as like 10 or 11 in this (during the events of the show, I'm currently headcanoning them as about 17 or 18, since they're reaching the end of their training and becoming full fledged soldiers). After this, Adora would sneak down every night for them to sleep together. As they got bigger, they stopped full out cuddling and just slept side by side, but since Catra likes to curl up, they had some problems. That's why they worked it out that Adora would spread out at the top of the bed and Catra would curl up at the bottom.
By the way, do you know how hard it is to describe cuddling without actually saying it outright? Because considering that they don't know what family is and stuff, I find it hard to believe they'd know what cuddling is.