Chapter 9 - Been Far Away for Far Too Long
Queen Angella looked decidedly unimpressed on the other side of the screen as she looked all of them over.
"You know," she commented mildly, "if you had told me that your friend, Catra, was a Magicat, I could've cleared this all up a long time ago." She sighed into her hand. "Then again, I suppose I should've guessed from her name."
Catra looked equally unimpressed from where she was seated in the center of their group. "Look, your majesty." She rubbed at her forehead as if staving off a headache. "I've never even heard of the term 'Magicat' before today." She frowned. "I mean, Old Lady Razz told me that there were others like me and the whole transformation thing was 'natural' but that was about it." Her nose wrinkled. "Or at least that's the jist of what I got. She's, like, one part wise, two part crazy, and all around cryptic."
Adora could attest to that.
"I've never heard of Magicats before today." Glimmer pouted a bit. "Why didn't you tell us when you first saw her, Mom?"
The queen gave her daughter a Look. "I've never met Catra face to face before today." She deadpanned. "Even when she's attacked, we've always ended up on opposite sides of the battlefield. I've only heard of her through all of you."
They all glanced at each other as they realized that that was true.
Catra snorted, bringing her hand down and tapping her fingers on the table. "And I'm sure you've heard some glowing testimonies about me." She mumbled.
"Actually, I have."
Catra blinked, obviously surprised that she'd been heard. However, she quickly covered it up and turned to Entrapta. "And you've heard of them before?"
"Yes, but I only read about them a long time ago. It's not like I ever met one before." Entrapta tilted her head as she thought back. "And at the time, I never thought I would."
Adora's brow furrowed. It wasn't the first time someone said something to that effect. "What do you mean by that?" She asked.
Both Scorpia and Entrapta looked away, and on the other side of the screen, Queen Angella, Netossa, and Spinnerella looked particularly morose.
The queen sighed before she answered. "The Magicats were a kingdom of warriors. Proud, stubborn, intelligent, and very skilled at whatever they put their minds to."
Adora tried very hard not to look at Catra. That description suited her to a T.
"It was said that Magicats had three forms: their normal forms which were the only form that most would ever see, fairly humanoid but with the distinctive ears, tails, and claws of the Magicats; a stealth form that was said to be unnoticeable and untraceable by all forms of magic; and a power form that increased their instincts, strength, and speed to take out any opponent."
Adora blinked. If Catra's stealth (Fluffy) mode was really untraceable by magic that would explain why it had been so hard to find her, even with Castaspella's magic imbued into Entrapta's tablet. The one time it had worked must've been when she wasn't in that form.
Actually, that lined up with when Catra had apparently managed to turn back to try to warn them about Shadow Weaver.
"Their powers wouldn't awaken until puberty, and then while they were getting used to the ability to shift, they had devices that would help them maintain whichever form they wanted." Queen Angella frowned. "Or at least that's how it seemed. Magicats were also well known for their secrecy and distrust of strangers."
Again, way too many similarities between the Magicats and Catra.
Catra frowned and adjusted her head guard. "Huh. This must be broken then. I've tried but I can't shift at all now."
"Most likely they stole it and then tampered with it so that you would be stuck and unable to use your powers." Entrapta leaned over and poked at it herself.
"Think you can fix it?" Catra asked, turning towards her.
Entrapta's eyes sparkled. "Can I?"
"Yeah, sure." Catra chuckled and sent her a grin before turning back to the screen. Her smile abruptly dropped. "You still haven't gotten to the point."
Queen Angella paused for a moment, pain flashing across her face, but she continued. "They had very good reasons for their secrecy, historically, but because of that, not many were prone to trust them. They were usually neutral when it came to conflicts, only getting involved if they had to, and usually just to protect themselves and their own. This did not change even when the Horde arrived. They only engaged when attacked, and even then, they were more than powerful enough to hold back the Horde.
"At least until their princess, a mere baby at the time, was stolen, taken from them by the Horde."
Adora's eyes widened and a stunned silence fell upon all of them. And then Adora pointedly did not look at Catra.
Because there was no way, right?
Catra, unsurprisingly, was the one who broke the silence. "What?"
The queen sighed and sat back. "The Horde took their princess and said that they would hold her hostage to force the Magicats to side with them." She shuddered. "I had never seen Tigra so furious. Magicats were very protective of their young, and for her own daughter to be taken…" Her eyes gazed off into the distance. "It took half of our guards to hold her back from going straight to the Fright Zone and ripping Hordak to pieces when the news was given."
"So they gave in, right?" Glimmer frowned, but her eyes crinkled in sympathy.
A slight pause. "No."
Adora's eyes widened. "They what?!" She screeched, because that was just - how could they - "They just abandoned her?!"
A glance showed her that Catra's hands had curled into fists.
"That was not their intention." Queen Angella continued. "Tigra made it clear that while she could not give into the Horde's demands, she would not abandon her daughter. She planned on mounting a rescue operation to get her back.
"But the Horde expected that. They attacked while the Magicats were making their preparations. By all accounts, it appeared that they slaughtered all of them.
"And before the blood had even begun drying, they announced that they had actually killed the princess. Negotiating with them would have been pointless anyway."
Adora's stomach churned. That was just… revolting. And yet she could easily imagine Hordak, or more likely Shadow Weaver, arranging just that. Shadow Weaver's skills would've been essential to steal their princess right from under their noses.
Adora looked over at Catra's stony face, but it didn't give off a hint of what she was thinking. At least, not until she actually spoke.
"But you don't think that's it, do you?" Catra's eyes narrowed, her gaze calculating.
The queen met her head on. "As I said, they were known for their secrecy. There always seemed to be a lot more of them than could be contained in their small kingdom. And rumors have always abound that their true kingdom is hidden from outsiders. Plus, their runestone was never recovered." She leaned forward. "And if their princess managed to survive, who's to say they didn't either?"
Queen Angella said what they were all thinking.
Catra hummed and didn't comment on that, instead looking over at Scorpia, who shuffled guiltily. "And you knew about all this, too?"
Scorpia looked away. "I heard the rumors of the massacre back when it happened, but I learned the particulars during Force Captain Orientation." She abruptly brought her claws up as if building a defense. "But I'd never seen a Magicat before to know what they look like, I swear! I thought they were just giant talking cats! I never would have imagined that you were one, much less their princess - "
"Supposedly." Catra interrupted with an almost bored look, but one peek at Catra's eyes told a different story if you knew her well enough. "Ugh, will the Force Captain Orientation never stop haunting me?" She asked so quietly that Adora wasn't sure if it was actually directed to anyone. Then, she spoke back up, "Anyway, there's not really enough evidence to confirm it."
Queen Angella frowned. "If you look at the circumstances - "
"Yes. It does look extremely likely." Catra said dryly. "But that's all we have to go on. Circumstantial evidence. They could have easily killed the princess and picked up a random Magicat kid while they were killing everyone." She nonchalantly shrugged. "I mean, that's how most of us end up in the Horde, I don't see why I'd be any different."
Adora's brow furrowed. Sure, it wasn't like what Catra said was completely wrong, but still…
"In any case, the Magicats aren't really our concern." Catra said, straightening back up and putting on her business face.
The queen frowned. "It isn't?"
"No, whether they survived in a secret city or not, they have not chosen to reveal themselves. Taking advantage of people thinking you're dead is a good strategy, and if they are still alive, then they probably won't do so until they are sure of their chances at victory. Until then, it's best not to worry about it."
Queen Angella hummed slightly and conceded the point with a nod. "Well, then, is that all?"
"Not quite." Catra said, standing up from her seat and bowing slightly. "I wanted to thank you for all of your support for Scorpia, Entrapta, and the rest of the Defiant. We wouldn't have been able to get this far without you."
Queen Angella blinked in surprise before her face softened into a smile. "I suppose we shall be seeing more of each other from now on."
"Probably." Catra sat back down. "That was all. I've been keeping tabs on what's been going on as best I could, but we should most likely review things later."
"Very well. I shall make the arrangements." The queen nodded. Her eyes moved to Glimmer. "And Glimmer, let me know when the three of you decide to come back."
Glimmer scowled but nodded. "Yes, Mom."
"Until next time." Queen Angella gave one last nod of farewell and then the screen went black.
Adora breathed a sigh of relief. She'd been unsure how the queen would react to everything, but luckily, she had taken pretty much everything in stride. She guessed that there were some benefits to being an immortal queen.
And despite the occasional rough language, Catra had been surprisingly diplomatic. She actually sounded like a leader.
Even her demeanor spoke of that of a leader as Catra sat back in her seat, a thoughtful expression on her face. "Speaking of things I've been wondering about…"
They all turned towards her.
Catra's face became completely deadpan. "Fluffy? Really?"
Adora resisted the urge to smack herself in the face. Really? That was her question?
Glimmer, on the other hand, started snickering. "Oh, my stars, we reallly - " Her snickers turned into giggles. "We really were going around calling you - pft! - Fluffy!"
As Catra sent her a flat look, Entrapta piped up. "Well, Fluffy was the name we eventually chose based on Scorpia's suggestion."
"What?" Catra's ears flattened as she spun to Scorpia. "Why Fluffy?"
"But - you were just so fluffy and soft! What else was I supposed to call you?" Scorpia shrugged.
Actually, that was the whole reason why the rest of them had gone along with the name.
"Besides, it was way better than Adora's suggestion."
Adora whirled at the betrayal. She thought that they had all agreed that they would never mention the name she'd offhandedly suggested. "I said that was a joke!"
Unfortunately, Catra looked way too interested at this turn of events. "Oh? Adora had a suggestion?" Her ears and tail perked up.
"No! It was a joke!"
"Oh, yeah?" Bow snickered as well. "It didn't look like you were joking."
Glimmer was full out laughing at her and even Entrapta had a playful smirk on her face.
"Okay, so Adora's suggestion - "
"Don't say it!"
" - was Catra, Jr.!" Scorpia informed Catra with a smile.
Adora hid her face in her hands as Catra stared blankly at Scorpia. However, she soon felt her gaze fall on her instead. She risked a peek and flinched at the almost pitying look.
"Catra, Jr.?" She asked, raising an eyebrow. "Y'know, Swift Wind was right."
Adora blinked. "What? What was Swift Wind right about?" And when had he and Catra even had a conversation?
"You are the absolute worst at names." Catra finally broke and cackled. "I mean, seriously, I thought Horsey was bad, but Catra, Jr.?" She nearly fell over from how hard she was laughing.
"It - you - she reminded me of you!" Adora protested.
"That was me!"
Adora felt her face turning red. Okay, so maybe that name hadn't been her best attempt, but she'd only been about 40% serious. It mostly had been a joke.
Still, as she watched all of her friends laughing, it did settle something inside her that she hadn't even known was restless. Against all reason, a smile grew on her face.
"Uh, Catra?" There was a knock on the wall next to the door.
All movement abruptly stopped.
Catra stood up and faced Lonnie at the door. "What is it?"
"I have the summaries of all the activities the Defiant have taken up so far and a list of what still needs to be done. At least, according to the original plan." Lonnie stepped into the room and handed Catra a tablet with all the pertinent information.
"Thanks, Lonnie." Catra started scrolling down the screen, eyes darting as they took in everything. She glanced back up and gave a wry smile. "Sorry, duty calls."
"Ah, right, we have to finish installing and testing the defenses we didn't get done before the attack!" Scorpia tapped her claws together as she remembered.
"Oooo! I have a few ideas to make them even better using the data from the attack!" Entrapta launched into a ramble as she and Scorpia made their way out of the room.
Catra made to follow them, already engrossed in her work on the tablet, but she paused in the doorway and looked back at them. "You guys can just relax if you want since I don't think the Horde will attack again anytime soon. If you really want to help with something, I think Lonnie's got the best idea of what needs to be done right now."
Bow jumped at the chance. "C'mon! I haven't had a chance to check on my friends from the kitchen yet!" He dragged Glimmer out, leaving Adora and Catra alone.
Instantly, Adora felt tongue-tied. Since beating back Shadow Weaver, this was the first time the two of them had been alone. She didn't know quite what to say when so much had happened.
Why didn't you try to find a way to tell me you were here even if you were stuck as a cat? How did you feel when you first transformed? How are you dealing with this? What all even happened to you? There are so many gaps in this story…
Are you okay?
But none of the questions passed her lips, and Adora found that she couldn't look at Catra.
A sigh finally prompted her to glance up. Catra wasn't looking at her either. "Look, I have to go over all this and see if there's anything major to fix up around here." Catra gestured with her hand holding the tablet.
"We'll talk later, okay?"
With that, Catra left as well, the flick of her tail as she rounded the doorway almost seeming to wave goodbye.
It was several seconds after she left that Adora finally managed to speak.
Adora went through the halls of Dryl, silently fuming.
"We'll talk later, okay?"
That's what Catra had said.
Several days had passed and they still hadn't talked.
Well, technically they had talked. Strategy meetings, conference calls with Bright Moon or their other allies, general meetings had happened with both Catra and Adora present and occasionally arguing about what the Horde's next move could be. Unsurprisingly due to her previous position, Catra had a lot of insight as to how the Horde generally moved and what Hordak could be plotting. Adora knew it'd make her invaluable in the future.
In addition to that, within just the few days since arriving, Catra had easily dealt with most of the hiccups that the Defiant had been experiencing. Entrapta and Scorpia had done a decent job in her absence, but there had still been many problems. Now though...
Security concerns had been locked down, people had been organized into groups according to what they wanted to do, and ways to explore their new freedom had been opened to everyone, even the ones who still wanted to fight. In short, Catra had taken the hot vulnerable mess that was the Defiant and managed to make it functional in no time at all.
Meaning that there had been no time for her and Adora to sit down and talk.
And with the Defiant being back on track, Adora, Bow, and Glimmer were no longer needed. They'd be heading back to Bright Moon in the morning.
Adora scowled. She knew she shouldn't be mad, because Catra had been busy and rightfully so, but still…
She really felt like she and Catra needed to talk.
To make matters worse, Bow and Glimmer had not been the slightest bit helpful. They kept giving her Looks whenever Catra's back was turned and they were in the same room. Stars, after one particular meeting Bow had winked at her and flashed her a thumbs up. It brought their conversation before everything went down right to the forefront, and that was even less helpful.
Adora sighed, but she waved at Fluffy sitting at the opening to a different hallway and bathing herself as she passed. "Hey, kitty…" She rubbed her head, trying to figure out what she was going to do about all this.
Then she paused.
And she whirled around to stare at Catra, who was staring at her like she was stupid. "Catra, what are you - " Adora cut off her question as she knew Catra couldn't answer her like this. She was confused though. Entrapta had said she'd discovered the problem with Catra's head guard that restricted her powers and fixed it, so Catra shouldn't be get stuck in cat form again.
However, Catra had her own way of getting a message across, even like this. She threw a weighty glance at Adora and then turned on her heel, dashing away into the darkened corridor.
Naturally, Adora chased her.
It was almost like the games that they had played when they were younger. Catra always somehow managed to be one step ahead of Adora, a hint of her tail being the only indicator of her changing directions as she led Adora through the twists and turns of Dryl. Adora had no clue where they were going, but luckily, Catra seemed to.
At one point, a subtle flash of orange made Adora pick up the pace. She thought for a moment she'd find Catra smirking at her as she turned the corner, but instead she found a door. She frowned, but opened it to find that she was on the roof of the main part of Dryl's castle. Still, she wasn't at the highest point yet as she glanced at the sentry tower that was only accessible from this entrance and smirked.
Some things never changed.
With the help of a grappling hook, Adora quickly made her way to the top of the sentry tower and she was rewarded with the sight of Catra's back to her as she sat on the far side, feet dangling over the edge.
"Hey, Adora." Catra didn't turn to greet her, but she didn't need to as Adora came over and sat down beside her.
"Hey." She settled herself, but to her dismay, she found her tongue just as frozen as she had the other day. Her chest felt like a mess of tangled knots over what she definitely felt for Catra and what she could possibly feel but she didn't know how to word any of it. This was so awkward and though Adora didn't know all that she wanted, she knew she didn't want this.
Things had never been awkward between them.
Luckily for Adora, Catra had never been one to beat around the bush.
"I know." She said, looking out over Dryl to where the sun was beginning to sink down low in the sky.
Now Adora's entire body froze, not just her tongue.
How? How could Catra know? Even Adora hadn't even known that her feelings could be greater than friendship, how could she know?
Then again, no one ever had to tell Catra the Horde was evil. She's a lot more observant than I ever gave her credit for. She probably knew before I -
"I - you - how?" Adora managed to stammer.
Catra snorted and rolled her eyes. "You told me."
No, she certainly hadn't.
"Or at least, you told 'Fluffy.'" Here Catra made air quotes just to emphasize once more how stupid she thought that name was.
But Adora also knew that Fluffy had been nowhere near Adora for any of the conversations she'd had about this.
Adora was sweating.
"Well - I - "
"I know you missed me, Adora."
Adora's mind went blank for a moment, and then she was hit with sudden relief.
Catra didn't know her biggest secret.
This was acceptable.
Catra huffed in amusement and leaned back on her hands. "I really never expected you to miss little old me, especially after everything that happened."
"I've missed you since Thaymor." Adora admitted softly.
Catra hummed at that, and silence descended between them, but it didn't feel as awkward this time.
"You do know that things can't go back to how they were between us, right?" Catra asked suddenly.
Adora's heart sunk, and she looked away, but… "Yes, I know."
"Yeah, I was kinda glad that you were finally getting a clue about that."
Catra and Adora had been best friends, but as Adora had been realizing lately, things between them had not been as great as she had thought at the time. Besides, they'd both changed since then, grown up separately and differently. There was no way they could ever truly go back.
"And in any case," Catra continued, not showing any indication of knowing about Adora's inner turmoil, "just because I'm not with the Horde anymore doesn't change anything. It doesn't change what happened between us or what we've done to each other. And I…"
Catra reached out a hand towards the setting sun, her expression more pensive and yet honest than Adora had ever seen her. "I've done things, Adora. Terrible things to stay in Hordak's good graces. I can't change that."
"You're trying to make up for it. That's the first step." That was the entire reason why Adora had taken up the role of She-ra. She had wanted to make up for just being a part of the Horde.
But even if she didn't know the full extent, she knew that Catra had probably done worse.
"I hurt you. On purpose, and not all of it was due to orders." Catra's hand dropped and curled into a fist as she looked in the opposite direction of Adora. "And sometimes when I think about how you left, I just - " She ran her hand through her hair.
"Yeah, I can get that." Maybe it wasn't the exact same thing, but when she thought about how Catra had literally left her hanging in the temple and some of the other stuff she had done, she would sometimes just get filled with a mix of pain and anger and she would have no clue how to deal with that.
"So I'm just telling you outright: this is going to take time." Catra finally turned to her, her features serious as she glanced over Adora's face. "Thanks for looking after me during all this, but it's going to take a while before I can - before we can - "
It took a few seconds for Adora to get it.
Catra wasn't quite ready to declare them friends just yet.
Which was… fair. A lot had happened between them, a lot of things on both sides that they had to make up for before they could even begin to touch the underlying issues that were between them.
Part of Adora wanted to shout and stomp her foot, because she wanted them to be friends again already! They were finally on the same side! And maybe then they could be…
But Adora had been the one to leave first. She couldn't be the one to dictate how far Catra was willing to let her back into her life again. Just like Catra couldn't decide how much Adora was willing to do the same. Not to mention that there was still a war going on, and Adora had her She-ra duties and Catra had an entire group of people to lead.
Whether she turned out to be a princess or not, Adora had seen how the members of the Defiant looked at Catra. She had become a true, respected leader. She was needed here.
"Okay." Adora bowed her head in acceptance. "You're right." Following Catra's lead here felt like the right thing, though it was not something she had done much of in the past.
Catra stared at her for a long moment, before she cracked a grin at her. "Wow, how painful must it have been to say that." She joked.
Adora nudged her shoulder. "I've admitted you were right before."
"Yeah, but that's only been recently and you said it to a cat you thought couldn't talk back to you."
Adora's face paled as she suddenly realized all the things she had admitted to Fluffy.
Catra laughed at her expression before her face softened into that smile that had always been just for Adora. "This is the best place to watch the sunset." She said, looking ahead to the borderline where day yielded to night. She offered no other explanation but she seemed to be waiting for Adora to say something.
"Really?" Adora guessed it made sense as there couldn't be too many places to view it with the way they were in the mountains.
"Yeah, so shut up and watch."
So Adora obliged. Neither of them said anything else that night, even once they had gotten down from there and parted ways for bed.
Something had changed once again, though Adora couldn't put her finger on it. Something had shifted between the two of them, but Adora didn't think it was a bad thing. It was like they had cut off some of the dead and diseased branches from their friendship so that way they could continue to grow instead of dying.
Their roots were old and sturdy but things had become gnarled as it had grown up at some point. They were getting rid of that to start anew.
Now there could be a chance for them to flourish.
And that wasn't a bad thing, even if it wasn't at the pace that Adora wanted.
As Catra helped send them off the next day with a grin and Scorpia and Entrapta by her side, Adora knew that there was no way that this was bad.
Catra was well and truly back.
She wasn't dead, she wasn't missing, she wasn't completely stuck in the form of a cat because she didn't know how to control her powers.
Even though she'd be at Dryl, Catra was just a call away.
The two of them could move forward like this.
And they had always fought better when together.
Hordak wouldn't know what hit him.
AN: It's 2 AM so I'm going to bed right after posting this as I have work tomorrow morning, but I really wanted to get this done before the new season dropped and potentially busted some of my personal headcanons, if they even came up this season.
But yes, I do subscribe to the Princess Catra theory. It has a lot of potential though I think.
And for now, since they do have a ways to go and a lot of issues to work through, Catra and Adora aren't going to get together in this fic. They need to really work to even be real friends again, much less romantic partners. They're currently in a weird limbo of being allies and former friends who used to know each other like the backs of their hands and want to be friends again but they have done a lot of crap to each other so it's weird.
Also, if you're wondering why Catra isn't pussyfooting around with how she feels about their current relationship, it's because she's learned from her past experience that with Adora, you have got to be upfront about this kind of stuff.
Anyway, thanks for reading! I know a lot of you were waiting for some genuine Catra and Adora interactions so I hope you're satisfied.