When the hospital doors open with a swish, I see Dad pacing across the white floor. It's a good sign: pacing means he's still waiting and no one's delivered the crushing news of death.

He runs and holds me with no words. Then his parental check reveals I've been bruised and battered. "Fuch, sweetie, did one of those monsters hurt you? I told them not to let you get hurt." His eyes turn green and wet.

"I'm—fine." But my tears won't hold back either and we transpire for a minute in the kind of hug you don't get that often from a parent, the one that pulls you in and says you can break down and give up and hide from this horrific world even if it's just for a minute.

"How's—" I can't even say the word Mom.

"We don't know. The waiting is agonizing, but Dr. Arnica said the items you're collecting are her only hope. I wish I'd been out there braving dangers with you."

"Someone needs to stay here and make sure they're doing everything they can to heal her," I remind him. Honestly, I don't know which task is worse.

"They are, that I can promise," a voice makes me melt.

I turn and press Cord to me until I can believe he's real. When I remember Dad is watching, the awkwardness makes me back away a few inches. We're still touching where we can, our arms linked at the hands.

Looking into Cord's face I see I'm not the only one who's been through hell. A bruise hovers under one eye and the gash crossing his cheek oozes green. I trace the emerald line with my finger and he lets me. "How did you break out of jail?"

"Dad bailed me out—all charges dropped—once he reminded them of our importance in saving a Paintbrush tribe member, and the rest of the community for that matter. How about you? Any luck with that pillow?"

I fish the feathers out of the tiny box wedged in my pocket.

"Cord, Fuchsia, come with us," Dr. Arnica has appeared next to Dad. Her blank face gives away nothing but her feet direct us to Mom. Clopping down the hall, she prepares me for the worst. "There's been no change at all with her vitals, even after administering the water."

Nothing can prepare me for what I see. Mom looks so tiny, her body wasted from giving the way mothers do. Her legs twist under the blankets, sad lumps of lost energy. Dad drapes his arms across the metal edges of the bed as if protecting her from an enemy we can see.

I give Dr. A one of the feathers I collected from the Waster's pillow. She places it under Mom's head where the soil is squishing out. Seems like voodoo to me that this could work, and sure enough nothing happens. "So I risked my life to get those feathers, but how can they help?" I know it's rude but really, I didn't almost get pressed by the enemy just for show.

"Fuchsia, you are brave beyond words. But the healing power of this item lies in the love that made you act so selflessly, a force which can reverse the draining effects of the nutrient donation. Now you must trust that this act will be enough to heal your mother."

"Is it enough?" I ask. She stares deep into my tear-stained eyes. "I think so." She takes a slip of paper out of her white coat and hands it to Cord. "Your last clue, the Cloak owed me one," she whispers. We all read it together:

Ring around the Grove

A feast for my love

Bright and fine, full of sunshine

Heals from head to toe

Mom clearly needs sun but how can we get some into this artificial room whirring with machines? There's no sunshine-in-a-bottle I can think of. If only we could get her to the sun itself, if that were possible.

Cord looks at me and we say it at the same time, "The roof!"

Once Dr. A unplugs all the equipment that doesn't seem to be working anyway, we wheel Mom out of her room and into the elevator.

"What about the others?" I ask. It doesn't seem fair to only save Mom. Dr. A gives me a nod and Cord helps her get Mr. S from his room into another elevator. He's looking as bad as Mom, maybe worse. His face is shriveled and pale, and the hospital get up they put him in makes him look like a child, not a teacher. Cord takes a feather from my tiny box and tucks it under Mr. S's pillow.

"What about Lemon?" I ask even though they seem annoyed with me for asking again.

"Lemon can't be moved; she's still accepting collected nutrients through her hausteria, and besides, she's being watched." Dr. A's eyes shift but she sees the disappointed look on my face and continues, "She took the serum and your mom's nutrients and those will have to be enough."

Their bodies wobble as we wheel Mom and Mr. S out of the elevators and into the brilliant sun where they can soak up hot rays next to the sparkling pool like they're on vacation.

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