Kade woke up struggling to breathe, and didn't manage to regain the ability until he could distinctly hear the pounding of rain against the roof. It had never rained in Prism, the fairies would never have allowed it.
He wasn't in Prism, and it was both the best and worst thing of his life. He tapped the screen of his phone sitting beside the bed and saw that he should probably get up, his alarm was set to go off in eight minutes. He flipped his phone over and buried his head back under the blanket instead.
Seven minutes later, it was a furious knocking on the attic door that got him up again. Kade threw off his blankets and cracked open the door. He relaxed when he realized it was only Christopher.
"Hey, what's up?"
"So, we have a bit of a situation."
Kade blinked suddenly more awake. "With who?"
Kade abandoned the door and walked back towards the corner of the floor that held his bed and personal closet. "Let me get some proper clothes on. Talk."
Christopher stood a few bookcases back and explained what little he knew while Kade threw on jeans, a binder, and shoes. He buttoned his dark purple shirt as they descended the stairs.
"Melanie, her roommate, came and got me because she had been crying off and on for hours and Melanie was starting to freak out."
"Did her hair change color?"
"Nothing that bad- yet. I don't know, what she said wasn't making much sense."
"Is it about her world?"
"I don't know. I think it's that something is really important to her about today."
"What is today?"
"June eighth, June eighth, Ju-oh, shit. Alrighty, yeah, she's got cause to be upset."
Christopher just gave him a quizzical look.
"That girl's got some trauma about how she got to her world. It was on June eighth, I think. Definitely in the summer."
"What? I know she said she got to it through water, was she drowning?"
"On- oh. Oh, wow, that- that sucks major ass."
"She didn't seem upset when she first told me about it, but hey, I know anniversaries hit different."
When they got to Cora's hall, Christopher led him to her room.
When Kade knocked on the open door, Cora looked up from her phone. "Oh, hey," she sniffed, and rubbed at her eyes.
Kade looked at her half of the room, painted in gentle blues. Eleanor always let the students paint their rooms, to help them feel if at all possible like they were closer to home.
"What do you need from me?"
Cora furrowed her eyebrows. Kade was used to the bewilderment of people in pain being surprised when they were asked that, because often, they didn't even know what they needed.
"Can I stay in the attic with you? The windows remind me of how the sun filtered through the water in the Trenches."
"Of course." Kade told himself he didn't mind coming down all the steps just to go back up them. Cora was more important right now.
"I'll go let Miss Eleanor know where you guys are," Christopher murmured, and Kade nodded in thanks.
When he and Cora got back to his room, Kade was only mildly surprised and fairly exasperated to find Sumi, perched precariously on one of his bookshelves, a copy of Alice in Wonderland in her hand.
"Hi, Sumi," Cora said as she crossed over to the far wall of the attic, where a fuzzy black beanbag chair lay basking in the sunlight. Nancy had brought it up in the short time she had been visiting, and Cora loved it, so she curled up, her blue and green hair splayed out around her.
"Hi Cora. What's got you so gloomy? You look like a stormcloud that isn't even having fun raining all over."
"I just don't wanna be here anymore," she mumbled into the beanbag.
Kade pulled a mug down from a bookshelf and began to fix some hot chocolate from milk he had in a little college-dorm size refrigerator Eleanor had got him for Christmas.
Just as he was letting it cool while he unplugged the hot plate, Sumi flounced over and dropped a peppermint stick in the mug. She was helping the only way she knew how, which was with sugar.
So they nursed Cora back from the half-drowned world of her own thoughts, convincing her that maybe this world wasn't so bad for right now, just until she could find her way back home.
When Kade fell asleep that night under the glow of moonlight, he felt good to have helped her, but also just a little scared and little trapped.
The next day, the disaster- because it seemed that every day held a disaster now, the question was just how big of one it was going to be- happened at dinner.
Kade hade been talking to Eleanor, and finally retired to his own table with just the company of Oscar Wilde.
He wouldn't have noticed the incident any sooner than anyone else if he hadn't picked that exact moment to look up from his book to grab a grape off his plate.
Christopher was gripping his bone flute to his chest with his left hand and his right hand was planted on the table. He stood, and Kade had just enough time to drop his book and lunge forward before Christopher swung at Tobias, the boy nearest to him.
Kade, who at his core was a Goblin Prince in Waiting, even if that waiting was indefinite, had been in plenty of fights in his life. Since joining Aunt Eleanor at the school, he had stopped plenty as well.
He pulled Christopher firmly back, keeping him out of a swinging range as Tobias also stood, and the entire room's attention was on them.
"Christopher," Kade said, low and even.
Christopher was breathing shallowly and holding his flute with both hands now, nodded, and the two of them made a only slightly dignified exit. Kade cringed, realizing he had left his book, not knowing how it had landed. But right now, Christopher was more important.
"What did they say this time?"
"Tobias said... if I wanted to go back to my world, I should just go ahead and die, so I could go back to my world of dead people."
"They're not dead!"
"I know, I know."
"They're living skeletons! And I can't help it that all their world were shiny and impossibly beautiful in a different way! Just because my rainbows were reflected off bones doesn't mean that they were any dimmer!"
Kade, who had heard this from Christopher many times before, even from Nancy, and to some degree, Jack, just nodded again.
"Want to go sit in the trees?"
Kade sat with him until after dinner was over, and went back by himself to find his plate of food taken, and his book neatly laid in the middle of the table. He picked it up, thankful for whoever was willing to help, and took the book with him to group therapy.
The final straw didn't even happen that next day. It was two days later, when he woke up and very suddenly realized that he was not getting out of bed that morning.
His alarm went off, with a cacophony of guitars, and Kade looked out his window, where the stars were fading and the sun was rising, and promptly decided he was sick of this world, and sick of Prism, and sick of the memory of Prism, and he just wanted to go back to sleep.
So he did, with a very unlike him disregard for the consequences.
There was a tapping at his door. He ignored it. The door creaked open. He ignored it. There were footsteps. He ignored it.
A hand brushed his hair. "Kade?" Eleanor's voice was soft, unlike her hands, which like the rest of them were rough from years of being the hero, whether they had wanted to or not. Nonsense might have softened her in some places, but it had armored her in others.
"I can't," he mumbled, curling up deeper into himself.
"You don't have to. Not right now. Rest a little while, I'll come back and help you when it's time."
Kade finally opened his eyes. Eleanor was smiling, ringed gently by the light of the attic. He breathed in, and smelled her perfume mingling with the smell of his books. "Thank you."
Even in this world, he would be safe.