Winning and Losing
"We had everything we ever dreamed of! Why couldn't you just stay?!" Catra screamed at Adora.
"Because than we'd both be dead!" Adora screamed back."What is so hard to understand about this? The world is collapsing around us. If we don't fix this, we are going to die. You are going to die. And I won't let that happen!" Catra paused, memories of Adora running through her head. Promises of protection that were always broken.
"Don't you get it?" Catra laughed, brokenly. "I don't care about that! I don't care if the whole world dies, so long as you don't win!"
"What is wrong with you?! Catra!" Adora yelled. She charged Catra, who swiped at her with her claws. Adora ignored the blows, letting Catra cut her across the arm and chest before tackling Catra. Catra sank her claws into Adora's back but Adroa gritted her teeth and hung on.
"Get off me! Leave me alone!" Catra yelled, tearing into Adora.
"So you can what? Kill yourself?!" Adora screamed, tears coming to her eyes.
"I'm not going to kill myself," Catra snapped.
"You literally just said you would!"
"Well maybe if you would just give up, I wouldn't have to!"
"If I give up we die!"
"We-" the ground crumbled beneath them, falling into the white void of the portal. Adora threw a hand backwards, catching onto the ledge, her other hand clenched tightly around Catra's arm. Catra immediately sank her claws into Adora's arm.
"Ow! Are you trying to get me to drop you?" Adora yelled.
"I don't need you to save me!" Catra yelled back.
"That is objectively not true!" Adora yelled.
"What do you care anyways?" Catra cried. "Trying to prove you are so much better than me? Drag me along as your pet? That makes me sick," she spat, dragging her claws down Adora's arm.
"Gahhhhh!" Adora roared in pain and frustration, throwing Catra upwards, the magicat landing on firm ground. The rocks she had been holding on crumbled, and Adora fell, only for Catra to grab onto her with both hands. "And now you're saving me?" she asked, in anger and confusion.
"Shut up! I'm not going to let you win!" Catra yelled, pulling Adora back up onto solid ground. She tensed up, preparing for a fight, but Adora just slumped to the ground instead.
"I don't get it," she said, her voice exhausted. "Why didn't you let me fall? Don't you want to win at all costs?"
"You heroically sacrificing yourself to save me is not winning," Catra said, scoffing.
"Then what is?" Adora asked, wincing as she stood up. Catra didn't answer, turning around and walking away.
"Come on. Let's go," Catra said, walking away.
"What? Catra you aren't making any sense," Adora said. "Catra! Catra wait up!"
Catra smirked as she heard Adora crashing through the bushes behind her. "Your turn to chase after me for once," she whispered to herself. She sped up, using all four limbs to bounce from tree to tree and avoid bushes that Adora had to push through. There was movement in the bushes ahead of her. Catra frowned, and pounced, only to receive a broom to the head.
"What are you doing Catra? Sneaking up on an old woman like that? You'll give Madam Razz a heart attack," Razz said, swatting Catra with the broom again.
"Stop it," Catra growled, swiping her claws at the broom. To her surprise, her claws that could tear through bots with ease, didn't leave a scratch on the broom. She tried grabbing it instead, but it slipped from her grasp and she got another swat for her trouble.
"Catra, you stop being so rude. Where's Adora? You never visit me without her around," Razz said.
"I never visit you period, you old crone," Catra sneered.
"Baah, nonsense. You were here just the other week. We had pie and I told stories about my Mara," Razz said, waving a finger in Catra's face. "You shouldn't be so forgetful, Catra. It caused you so many problems back in the war."
"Newsflash Wrinkles, the war is still going. I'm not the one who needs to get her memory checked out," Catra said. Adora finally caught up, panting, as she pushed past the final bush.
"Catra," she gasped. "Where are you going?"
"To where she needs to be, Mara dear," Razz said, cheerfully.
"Madam Razz?" Adora asked, "Oh thank goodness! Madam Razz! Everything is falling apart and I don't know what to do, and-"
"Shush dearie," Razz said, smiling and holding a finger up to Adora's mouth. "Do not worry. This can still be fixed. You just need to go to the beginning and find the sword."
"We were just at the Fright Zone. There was no sign of the sword there," Catra said, snorting.
"Not the Fright Zone, the beginning," Razz said. Light began to glow all around them as the fabric of reality crumbled. "Bah, there's no time. Just go dears. And remember!"
Catra sneered at the old lady one last time, who gave her a cheery wave in return as she disappeared into the swirling white light.
"We need to find Bow and Glimmer," Adora said, firmly, as she tore up her shirt to bandage the cuts Catra inflicted upon her.
"Why? So you can betray me? Or do you just need someone to cheer you on and pat you on the back?" Catra asked, sarcastically.
"No! But they were there in the beginning so maybe they know what it means," Adora said, trailing off shyly as she went off. Catra snorted.
"That's ridiculous and you know it. Those two weren't there in the beginning, I was. The sword is probably in the Whispering Woods somewhere. Which is already fading all around us, so I guess you already failed, Adora," Catra said, filling her voice with as much spite as possible.
"The Whispering Woods are huge. We've still got time," Adora countered. "But we need a plan to actually find the sword."
"Fine. Lets go find Entrapta. She can sniff out a piece of First One's tech a continent away. I bet she can find the sword too," Catra said, rolling her eyes. "But where would she be?"
"Probably in Dryl. If we were brought back to the Fright Zone, then I suppose she'd be brought back to her home as well," Adora said.
"Good enough. But how will we get there? It would takes weeks of travel to walk all the way to-," reality flickered, and the pair found themselves standing outside Entrapta's lab. "Dryl," Catra finished, lamely. "Okay, what was that?" Adora just shrugged and pressed on the intercom button.
"Hello, Entrapta? Can we talk to you?" she asked.
"Oh, hello! Sure thing, come in come in, don't mind the deathtraps, they are only slightly lethal," Entrapa said, the door opening. Contrary to her words, there was nothing but Entrapta, dozens of bots, and her computer screens.
"Err, how are you?" Adora began awkwardly. Catra sighed.
"I'm just fine! This portal phenomenon is quite fascinating. Horrifically dangerous of course, but the data I'm getting is absolutely amazing!" Entrapta said, joyously, spinning around in her chair. "Of course, I won't be able to collect data for much longer, the portal being centered on you means that I'll quickly be consumed, but what an experience that will be! I hope I remember what happens when the portal is closed."
"You know how to close the portal?" Adora asked, hopefully.
"Of course! It's really simple. All you have to do is remove the sword from the portal device. However whoever removes the sword will be trapped in between dimensions, but the world will be saved," Entrapta explained.
"Hold up a second. What do you mean the portal is centered on Adora?" Catra asked, eyes narrowing.
"The sword and Adora are connected. Quite oddly too. These readings are quite bizarre as they are suggesting that the sword itself doesn't power She-Ra. Instead it resonates with her and then, well does something I can't figure out. You'd think it would be amplifying the power, but if anything it is weakening it in some manner. But not exactly, ahh, this is so frustrating. Such fascinating data, and only a few minutes to research it!" Entrapta said, spinning around and facing her screens.
"Well. It looks like this is all your fault again, Adora," Catra said, ignoring the twinge in her stomach at Adora's hurt look.
"Oh? How so?" Entrapta asked, not looking away from the screen.
"Wha? You just said the portal is centered on her!" Catra said, pointing dramatically at Adora.
"Yes. But fault implies she had a choice in the manner. I chose to build the portal. You chose to betray me and activate it. Adora had about as much choice as the switch did in being pulled," Entrapta said, her voice curiously blank.
"I didn't chose, I was chosen," Adora murmured, looking sick.
"Excuses," Catra sneered.
"Data doesn't lie," Entrapta shot back. "No matter how much you do. Or abandon me. Or use me. Data is the only thing I can count on." The room began to fade into white as the portal consumed Dryl.
"We need to get out of here, come on Entrapta!" Adora said, holding out a hand to Entrapta, who ignored it.
"This is so fascinating. The rift between worlds..." Entrapta trailed off, walking into the portal and disappearing. Adora pulled her arm back, tears in her eyes, only to find herself yanked along by Catra.
"Don't be so melodramatic. You heard the crazy old crone. Get to the portal, find some patsy to pull out the sword, and everything will be fine," Catra said.
"Okay, just...I think I've figured this out," Adora said, grabbing Catra's hand. She took a step forward, and the pair found themselves in front of Light Hope's temple, the white of the portal already consuming it as they stood among the crumbling architecture. "There!" Adora said, pointing to the woods. The Sword of Protection floated in the air, energy crackling off of it.
"Well that was easy. But who are we – Adora what do you think you are doing?" Catra cut herself off, as Adora let go of her and began to walk forward.
"Fulfilling my destiny, I suppose," Adora said, reaching out for the sword.
"No!" Catra screamed, in rage, leaping on Adora's back and bringing her to the ground.
"Catra! Stop it!" Adora yelped, pushing Catra off.
"You stop it!" Catra yelled back, swiping her claws across Adora's face. She paused, reeling as memories of Adora's scratched face overwhelmed her. Adora snapped her out of it, with a brutal punch to the face. The pair circled each other as the land they were standing on became an island in a sea of white.
"Why do you even care? I'll close the portal, and you can go conquer Etheria without ever having to fight with She-Ra again," Adora said. "Isn't winning what you want? Isn't this the ultimate loss for me?"
"I already told you, letting you make some stupid heroic sacrifice isn't winning!" Catra countered.
"Than what is?" Adora asked. Catra didn't answer, choosing instead to try and tackle Adora. Adora caught her arms, and flipped her over her head, slamming Catra into the dirt. She brought her knee down into Catra's gut, winding her, before pushing off and making a run for the sword.
"No you don't!" Catra wheezed, chasing after her on all fours. Adora leaped and grabbed the sword, only to be tackled by Catra. They fell to the ground, Adora wrapped around the sword, and Catra wrapped around Adora.
"Catra, let go!" Adora flung herself backwards, landing on Catra.
"Put it back first!" Catra dug her claws into Adora's arms, and squeezed as hard as she could.
"I need to do this!" Adora slammed her head back.
"No, you don't!" Catra hissed, shifting slightly to avoid Adora's head.
"Then who will?" Adora yelled, tears falling from her eyes as she turned to look at Catra. "You?" she added, in clear disbelief.
"Someone else. Anyone else! We'll go grab one of your stupid friends. They can make the sacrifice for once," Catra said, bitterly.
"I couldn't ask that of them," Adora said, shaking her head. "Besides, I think it's too late."
"Of course you couldn't," Catra spat. She had to admit though, Adora was probably right. Their island was more of a raft now. Even if they could get to Brightmoon or any of the other kingdoms, they might not be able to get back to the portal at this point.
"So I have to do this or we all die," Adora said. Catra gritted her teeth and dragged her claws down Adora's arms, trying to get her to drop the sword. To her surprise, it worked. Until Adora grabbed Catra's arms and spun.
"What are you-"
"I'm sorry!" Adora cried. "But you'll live," she said, flinging Catra off of her and the island in one go.
"No!" Catra screamed. She spun through the air, and managed to hook onto the edge of the island. She climbed furiously, already knowing what she'd see. Sure enough, a teary eyed Adora had picked up the sword and was preparing to throw it as far away from the portal device as possible. "Don't you dare!" Catra screamed. She leaped at Adora just as she hurled the sword. There was a blinding flash of white light.
Catra opened her eyes to find herself floating in a white void. She hissed and rubbed her eyes, before looking around more carefully. Nothing. No wait, Adora was floating a little ways away from her. From the looks of things, the two of them were rotating around each other.
"Hey Adora," Catra called. "Wake up, idiot!" she yelled, when Adora didn't react. Adora groaned, and shifted in midair. No matter how she rolled, the two of them stayed the same distance apart.
"Catra?" she murmured, confused. "Catra! No, you can't be here! That's...No!" Adora yelled, suddenly jolting fully awake.
"Why not?" Catra asked, cruelly amused at Adora's distress.
"Because I was supposed to save you!" Adora cried, tears pouring down her bloody and battered face. Catra laughed, triumphantly.
"There it is! There! I told you I'd win, and I've finally done it. You've finally lost!" Catra cheered.
"What is wrong with you?! You are going to die!" Adora yelled.
"I don't care about that," Catra said, dismissively. "So tell me, how does it feel to know you failed? That you weren't good enough? That despite your best efforts, you have nothing to show for it?"
"Awful! It feels like I'm being torn apart! It always does," Adora said, looking at Catra in anguish.
"Good, now you have an idea of what I feel like," Catra said, without thinking. "Wait, always?"
"You feel like this?" Adora asked, holding a hand to her chest. "Since when?"
"Since you abandoned me," Catra snapped. "Now what do you mean you always feel like this? When else have you lost?"
"When have I lost?" Adora repeated. "Catra, when have I won? I've failed to get through to you again and again, I can't seem to make any progress in my training as She-Ra, I failed to stop the Horde, failed to stop the portal from opening, and now, finally, I failed to save your life! So tell me Catra, what have I won?"
"Shadow Weaver chose you! Even after I became Hordak's second in command, even after I had her at my mercy, even when I tried to help her, she only ever payed attention to you!" Catra yelled.
"To use me as a pawn! You want to know the reason she defected to Bright Moon? So I could heal her. She was dying from...something. I honestly don't know what. But she knew I'd be too much of a sucker to let her die, so she came to me for help. No, she came to She-Ra and used Adora to control her," Adora said, tears drying up in her anger.
"And where was all this hate when we were growing up huh? When she was torturing me?" Catra demanded.
"I didn't know better!" Adora yelled back. "She was all I knew. All we knew. I thought that was normal. That she was just being strict. That she had our best interests at heart. It wasn't until I met Queen Angella that I realized how twisted Shadow Weaver was. How her lies did nothing but hurt us, and how unnecessary all of her cruelty is. I didn't realize how much I hated her."
The two fell silent for a while, just floating in the void. Catra twisted her body to look away, scowling. Her triumph had turned to ash in her mouth and instead of filling her with elation, Adora's confession had only caused her stomach to twist guiltily.
"Hey Catra?" Adora finally asked.
"Why did you stay in the Horde?" she asked.
"Why should I tell you?" Catra asked, refusing to look at Adora.
"Do you have anything better to do?" Adora asked. Without looking Catra knew she had shrugged.
"I suppose not," Catra said, sighing. "I stayed because it gave me power. I was second only to Hordak, and everyone had to obey me." There was silence for a bit.
"I don't believe you," Adora said, finally. "If that was the case you'd be more concerned with, well, with living. Or at least with ordering people around. But you took to the field a lot. Like, way more than Shadow Weaver ever did. Or even any other Force Captain in the Horde."
"I just needed a break from the constant paperwork," Catra said, twisting around so she could glare at Adora, who was sitting cross-legged as she floated.
"That's another thing. You hate responsibility with a passion. Having to ensure that everything was working properly in the Horde must have been miserable. I know the paperwork for the Rebellion was bad enough. It would have been even worse in the Horde," Adora said.
"Fine. It wasn't the power. It was because the Horde is all I've ever known and the only place I belong," Catra said, with a bit of anger.
"Bull. That's an even worse lie than before. You never fit in with the rest of the Horde. You hated following orders, you hated discipline, and you always talked about one day seeing the rest of the world. As a conquering general, sure, but still," Adora said, looking evenly at Catra.
"Then you tell me if you know me so well," Catra snarled. She instinctivly swiped at Adora as she floated by, but could come anywhere close.
"That's what I truly don't get. It wasn't the power, it wasn't the people, it certainly wasn't the food. So what? What made you stay with the Horde?" Adora asked.
"You," Catra spat.
"What? But...I wasn't with the Horde," Adora shook her head.
"Exactly. You abandoned me. You broke our promise and left me behind like some stray cat. And I wasn't going to just accept that. I would prove to you that I wasn't just some sidekick that would trail helplessly after you. That you made a mistake to leave me behind and that I wasn't a worthless beast like Shadow Weaver said," Catra said, angrily. "So I used the Horde. I rose up to be the second in command. I made sure to fight the Rebellion in person whenever possible. I made it so that if I couldn't be your best friend, than I'd be your greatest enemy."
"Catra..." Adora said, tearing up again.
"What? Gonna lecture me? Go ahead! It's not like I can stop you," Catra sneered, before spinning around once again.
"But...I didn't abandon you. I kept trying to get you to come with me, to join the Rebellion," Adora said, sadly.
"Phha," Catra blew air out her nose, dismissively. "You call a few platitudes about how the Horde is evil trying? Bah, you should've known that would never convince me. If you had really cared about me, you would've come after me. Launch a mission on the Fright Zone to try and capture me. Or at least offer me something."
"I thought trying to force you would be a mistake," Adora said, faintly.
"It would have showed you cared enough to try."
Adora didn't respond and after a few minutes, Catra turned back around to find her pale and shivering. She wouldn't meet Catra's gaze, and quickly turned around so Catra could only see her back, still faintly bleeding.
They sat in silence, this one going on even longer than the one before. Catra watched Adora bleed, the blood falling from Adora's skin, only to float around her. She sniffed, her nose growing cold. She frowned and breathed out, watching her breath mist the air.
"Hey Adora, why'd you join the Rebellion anyways?" Catra asked.
"Because the Horde is evil," Adora said, flipping back around to face Catra. Catra frowned at how pale Adora was.
"I get that's why you left the Horde, but why did you join the Rebellion?" Catra asked, again. "Why didn't you just go off on your own?"
"Because I needed to stop the Horde," Adora said, clearly puzzled. "What else was I supposed to do?"
"I don't know, give up fighting, live the good life?" Catra suggested. "I mean, what's in it for you?" Adora squirmed. Catra's eyes widened. "Wait, don't tell me you aren't getting paid!"
"I mean, neither are you," Adora protested.
"Yeah, except I could requisition anything I wanted. Extra blankets, extra ration bars, whatever," Catra said.
"I could do that! Kinda," Adora said.
"Yeah? I guess they probably made you commander of their forces. Makes sense," Catra said, before sighing when she saw Adora's guilty wince. "You weren't even their general?"
"I mean, that was Glimmer's job. I couldn't take that away from her," Adora said, looking intently at her fingers.
"Glimmer. That's the sparkly one who looked like she never missed a meal in her life?" Catra said, dryly.
"Uh-huh," Adora nodded.
"And she gave you, the best cadet the Horde has ever seen, orders," Catra said.
"I mean, I helped with strategy and she pretty much always took my advice. Same with the other Princesses really," Adora said.
"Okay, but they didn't have to listen to you," Catra said.
"Nope," Adora shook her head.
"Did you get anything from joining the Rebellion?" Catra asked, frustrated.
"Ummm, I got my own room," Adora offered.
"That is not enough! You are a literal goddess of battle, they should be giving you everything you could possibly dream of! Not just...scraps!" Catra shouted, outraged.
"It feels wrong accepting gifts for stuff I'm supposed to do," Adora protested. "Besides I don't want any of that stuff anyways."
"Well what do you want?"
"You," Adora blurted out, before looking horrified, and spinning around.
"What?!" Catra shouted in surprise. "Adora, what did you just say?" Adora shook her head, and clamped her hands over her mouth. "No, stop that. Don't ignore me Adora! You just said you wanted me. What's that about? Adora!" But Adora refused to answer. Catra growled and tried to move towards Adora, but just managed to flail about in mid air. She stared at Adora's back, thinking furiously, even as her stomach did flipflops.
"Adora, please," she said, softly. "Tell me what you mean." Adora glanced over her shoulder at Catra's tone. "Please. I don't want to die wondering what you meant."
"Promise you won't laugh or make fun of me?" Adora said, biting her lips as she let go of her mouth.
"I promise," Catra said, mentally crossing her fingers.
"Okay," Adora said, clearing her throat. "I miss you. A lot. I honestly feel like I'm falling to pieces without you there, and I can't focus on my training, cause Light Hope uses simulations of you, and it just completely throws me off. And it really hurts to try and make plans to beat you. Above all else, I didn't want you to get hurt."
"If you wanted me so badly, why didn't you say so? Or do something, anything, to try and get me?" Catra asked, speaking so softly Adora could barely hear her.
"Because I wasn't allowed to," Adora said, tears springing to her eyes again, as she looked over to Catra. "She-Ra isn't supposed to have any attachments. And you were leading the Horde, the enemies of Etheria. There's no way Angella or Glimmer would approve if I let them know my feelings for you."
"Screw that!" Catra yelled. "You just told me they weren't giving you anything. They owed you big, and even if they were upset at you...wanting me," Catra shivered, "what would they do about it? They needed She-Ra's power to even have a chance against the Horde. They wouldn't dare do anything to drive you away."
"And another thing! Who does this Light Hope person think she is, telling you you can't have any attachments? That's the most ridiculous thing I ever heard! If you didn't have any attachments, you'd have never left the Horde! You'd have been another Force Captain like Octavia and Grizzlor, who didn't give a horsefeather about if their troops died or not!" Catra continued on.
"So. So you're fine with it?" Adora asked, her eyes filled with hope.
"Obviously, you idiot. Haven't I made it clear yet? Everything I've done has been because of my feelings for you," Catra said, half smirking, half snarling. "If I didn't care about you, it wouldn't have hurt so badly to be left behind."
"Oh," Adora said, blankly. "Oh, that's wonderful," a blissful smile formed on her pale face. She shivered in the cold air. Catra looked closer at Adora, noticing her injuries still hadn't fully clotted over.
"Hey Adora. Are you doing alright?" she asked, suddenly concerned.
"Yeah, I'm fine," Adora said, waving off Catra's concerns, even as she kept shivering. "Just a little cold."
"A little cold huh? You look like you're freezing," Catra said.
"Well there's not much we can do about that is there?" Adora asked.
"That's not true. Here," Catra reached out, as far as she could. "Grab my hand." Catra snorted in disbelief at Adora's look of awe as she reached for Catra's hand. Between the two of them, their fingers just managed to hook onto each other, and pull themselves together. Adora immediately wrapped Catra in a hug.
"Thank you," she whispered.
"Hey none of that now. Lets get those cuts bandaged up," Catra said, turning Adora around. She tore her own shirt up to use as bandages, and crudely covered Adora's injuries. "There," she said, satisfied that she did everything possible, and enjoying Adora's gaze on her. "That's should do," she added, hugging Adora close. Adora hummed happily and the two floated through the void, attached to one another.
"Is it just me or is it getting colder?"
"It is. Looks like that's what's going to get us."
"Oh...I guess it's better than dying of thirst."
"Always the optimist aren't you?" Catra said, with a laugh. She tried to ignore how much shivering Adora was doing.
"Do you think we could be happy?" she asked, her face buried in Catra's neck. "I mean, if we were together outside the portal."
"I dunno. Back there we've got all sorts of stuff going on," Catra said.
"Stuff?" Adora said, giggling a little bit.
"Yeah. Leading armies, goddess alter-egos, abusive mother figures. Stuff," Catra said, smiling. "Here we can just be ourselves with no distractions."
"Yeah. It's actually really nice. Hey Catra?" Adora said.
"Can I kiss you?"Adora asked.
"Of course, you dummy,"
They had been floating for hours now. Catra tried to ignore how numb her body was. She tried to pretend that Adora's shivering stopping was a good sign. She tried so hard to keep her eyes open, to stay focused.
"It'll be okay," Adora murmured. "You and I, we look out for one another. Nothing really bad can happen so long as we are together," Adora's arms tightened around Catra.
"You promise?" Catra said, stroking Adora's hair.
"I promise," Adora said, giving Catra one last kiss.
Author's Notes: So I encountered She-Ra and the Princesses of Power and have become absolutely obsessed with it. I could not get any writing done until this was finished, let me tell you that.
As for this, well I wanted to write something tragic for once. It's not an emotion I usually write, so here's my try and making you feel.