“So, when that one big magician brought upon a storm that wiped off a whole city, that person stepped out… that… Uh… What was her name?!” Cater hastily flips a few pages of the book to his right, his eyes frantically searching for the name highlighted in pink. When he finally catches sight of it, he rolls his eyes. He knows the name, he is exasperated with himself, he knows the name, he has repeated it many times, then why can’t he just remember it when he needs it?
Cater closes his eyes and lets his head fall ahead. He cages it with his hands.
Why can’t he remember the things he has studied for for the millionth time? Is it so hard remembering a name? Is it so hard memorising the order of events? Is it so hard getting his brain to work?!
Why does he struggle with the easiest stuff that his peers seem to have no problem memorising it all in one go..? Can he even call himself an NRC student, a magician when he can’t even learn the history of magic properly? How is he supposed to go into his fourth year, travel all over the world to do research when he can’t even learn basic high school classes? …Does he deserve to be a Nights Raven student? The student of the school he proudly tags in every selfie, the student of a school in the top two? How did he even get in? Did the mirror of darkness make a mistake?
…That’s right… He doesn’t deserve to be in this school after all.
But he doesn’t have a choice now, does he? He can’t leave his last hope of staying away from his house. He has to hold onto this place.
Cater raises his head, only now noticing he has started crying. He lets out a hiccup and anxiously looks around to see if anyone else is buried in books in the history section of the library at 1 am in the morning. He checks the clock – oh, at 3 am in the morning by now.
He blinks rapidly and wipes his face with the tissues he has been making a habit to carry around in his bag. He takes a deep breath and focuses back on his notes, but his tears aren’t stopping. He reaches for his phone to take his mind off the negativity – then he remembers. Right, he’s been giving it to Trey in hopes of not being carried away while trying to study. It’s now left in their room.
Cater takes a shaky breath. He tries to suppress the hiccups forcing their way out of his throat, to no avail. His vision gets more and more blurry as his emotions start to push the wall Cater’s built around them over the years. He feels stupid, he feels undeserving, he feels like he’s not meant to be good at anything, like he’s not meant to be living, he feels too much –
Before he can push them back one more time, his intrusive thoughts tear down the single barrier keeping them under control and Cater’s shedding the tears he’s worked so hard to suppress for years. He pushes his chair back, rests his forehead on the table, closes a tissue around his mouth, and starts weeping with all he has.
All those years that he convinced himself he could find a way out of his stupidity, all the times he comforted himself giving himself hope that he could catch up with classes if he worked hard enough… all those times he made his friends leave their own responsibilities to help him… they were all for nothing. They were all in vain, for he can’t learn what he needs to, he can’t do what he needs to, he can never reach the level of intelligence this school needs him to be at. He isn’t fit to be an NRC student, he isn’t fit to be a magician, he isn’t fit to be an adult, someone worthy of respect. He's just some fool who can’t even memorise two words of a name… what can he even do that isn’t way below average? That isn’t horrible at best? What’s he going to do if he’s kicked out of the school? Become a magicam influencer? He’s not even good enough at that! What’s he going to tell his parents? His sisters? His hometown that are proud to have sent a student to NRC – only for him to come back crying because he’s not smart enough to remember a name. And here… what’s he going to tell Riddle when he fails his class? What’s Trey going to think of him, having spent all his time on his phone, now daring to act sad when he fails like he deserves to? His classmates, the underclassmen – how’s he going to admit that he’s stupid enough to fail, and he’s stupid enough to think he could succeed in a place for intelligent people like Riddle in the first place? How’s he going to---
Cater freezes. He still has his face buried in tissues, hunching over himself, weeping his heart out.
Riddle is here.
“Cater? What’s wrong?” He calls again.
Cater admits he’s stupid, but he’s not stupid enough to think he can hide his panic attack.
So he stays silent.
Riddle is at his side, rubbing his back now. Cater lowers the tissues to check if he can see anything, to see if he can pretend he’s not feeling as bad as he actually is.
The shock stopped the tear stream somewhat, so his broken brain hastily comes up with the solution to act as if he’s only stressed out from being tired.
He clears his mouth, “Ridd—” he croaks out before having to cough.
“Cater,” Riddle replies sternly after the coughs die down. “Don’t even try to act as if nothing happened. Why are you here at this hour? Why are you crying? What happened?”
And the questions, the care that seeps out of Riddle’s stern tone, the attention he knows he doesn’t deserve – it’s all too much. Cater’s eyes continue letting out waves of tears as if he never had a grasp on his emotions in the first place.
Riddle stays silent and bends down to hug Cater’s once again hunched back. He pets his hair, plays with his ear and occasionally comforts him with words, telling him that it’s okay to cry and to let it all out, till Cater is too tired to let out any more cries or tears.
Riddle lifts himself up, rubbing Cater’s shaking back again. He lets Cater collect himself. The older slowly straightens his back again and sniffs.
“Feeling better now?” Riddle asks.
“…Not really,” Cater lets out a fake-amused huff.
“It’s alright.” Riddle pets his hair. “You’re too tired now. Let’s go back to the dorm and we can talk whenever you want, okay?”
Cater is staring at his desk now, processing Riddle’s words. How pathetic was he, that he needs the comfort of his underclassman? The boy that he lost his dorm leader title to, is now a witness of his lowest point, as if he wasn’t embarrassed enough in front of him. As if he needed more proof of his incompetency. How can he look him in the eye after this? How can he keep up with his carefree personality? —
Riddle wipes a single tear he hasn’t realised has escaped. His eyes meet with Cater’s—and they’re filled with affection, with care, with worry, with comfort…
Ah, that’s right.
Riddle is his friend after all.
He feels his eyes sting with the need to cry, but he’s dried down his supplies already.
Riddle kisses the dried tears on his cheeks and takes his hand to help him stand up. They gather the books on the table in the bag, and make their way through the corridors. Riddle’s still rubbing his arm or back occasionally, sometimes making Cater feel as if he’s pitying him, sometimes making him feel like he cares.
Cater stops at the restroom to wash his face, and Riddle takes the chance to text his childhood friend who’s been searching for Cater in the classrooms. I’ve found him. Don't go back to the room for now, he’s a bit overwhelmed. I’ll make sure he gets some fresh air before taking him to your room.
That should be enough to explain that Cater is sensitive for the moment, they’ve been anticipating it for a while after all.
Riddle’s heart seizes for a moment – is this how Trey felt when he overblotted?
He shakes his head as Cater comes out. He looks as much like a ghost as he did when he went in.
Trey goes into the room after he’s sure Cater has fallen asleep, in order to not disturb his sleep or make him panic even more. Riddle has told him he looked over to his side but hasn’t broken his silence when he entered the room.
He kneels beside Cater’s sleeping form, face first on the bed but half of his face is still visible.
He can’t believe he let this happen again.
He knew, yet he stayed silent. Again.
He swallows the knot forming in his throat. It’s no good beating himself up even more. They will talk it out.
He leans in to leave a kiss on his friend’s cheek and whispers a good night wish to him before walking to the other side of the room.
Yeah, they will talk it out.