i wish i'd see a field below

O U R   C R A C K I N G   B O N E S   |   a cally windheard playlist

i. howl, florence + the machine be careful of the curse that falls on young lovers, starts so soft and sweet and turns them to hunters
ii. field below, regina spektor and so the day starts out so slow, again the sun was never called, and darkness spreads over the snow like ancient bruises
iii. help, roxette help me if you can, i’m feeling down, and i do appreciate you being ‘round, help me get my feet back on the ground, won’t you please, please help me?
iv. let the morning sleep, reamonn it’s too late to hate, what we’ve done is done now | it’s okay to say what you’re thinking, now that the moment has broken you can’t hide anymore
v. breakable, ingrid michaelson and we are so fragile, and our cracking bones make noise, and we are just breakable, breakable, breakable girls and boys
O U R   C R A C K I N G   B O N E S   |   a cally windheard playlist

i. howl, florence + the machine be careful of the curse that falls on young lovers, starts so soft and sweet and turns them to hunters

ii. field below, regina spektor and so the day starts out so slow, again the sun was never called, and darkness spreads over the snow like ancient bruises

iii. help, roxette help me if you can, i’m feeling down, and i do appreciate you being ‘round, help me get my feet back on the ground, won’t you please, please help me?

iv. let the morning sleep, reamonn it’s too late to hate, what we’ve done is done now | it’s okay to say what you’re thinking, now that the moment has broken you can’t hide anymore

v. breakable, ingrid michaelson and we are so fragile, and our cracking bones make noise, and we are just breakable, breakable, breakable girls and boys

value pride and stability | lyra + cally + grayson


No. No, no, no, no.

He asked her in absolute certainty that she could do it for him. She’s a killer now, with every bit of ability to do it. He’s killed no one, what right does he have anymore to life, sitting like a rock, unable to move himself? He’s got to have just a little control, he thinks. Something he can decide, and he’s decided this is it. This is his time to be done.

He grips her again, by her neck, presses his lips to her’s and pleads against them. A pain, dull like the shifting of sore muscles pushes him like he’s falling. His breath is hot against her. He can give her fire back if it means that she’ll take it all away.

“I want you to do it. Please god I need you to do it.”

His heart pounds in his ears and his voice is cracked and dry like stone. He thought she understood him. He thought that Cally Windheard was the one to understand. Thaddeus Mordre did not understand him. He liked him but what does that mean if he does not understand? 

Five, six, maybe seven canons and he thinks there must not be a Thaddeus Mordre anymore at all. 

Lyra is here and Cally is here. He wonders about Kalya and Ritter, who did not understand him and did not try. They are probably gone now, too. He should thank the gods, but an ache sharper than his mace splits through him.

We won’t let you live.

I’m still alive now.

“Please,” he says over her mutters. She has to understand. She has to be the one to understand him. His fingers brush through fiery red hair and fumble over her neck and he tries his best not to touch her with the bad one. “Please… I want to go home.”

He can’t go home, but District 2 was never very homey, anyway. No, and what’s left for him there? 

His family is dead and now, as he finds the desire to join them, he can’t. His jaw shudders and he holds Cally tight to him. If she hears how hard his heart is trying to stop beating, she has to help it. But it betrays him, beating harder and faster than he even thought it could.


Not Cally. Lyra.


At first it’s a shock. It pins his breathing in his chest and he worries that the point will stretch through him and kill them both. He slumps against Cally, giving in to the pain that shears into his skin and rips his muscle and bone in two. His vision fades away and his sight, his taste, his feel becomes a cold, steel pain. It doesn’t feel like he thought it would, and his body buckles.

The tip of Lyra Reiser’s rapier is sharp and, slowly and shakily, it’s opening up a hole for him to escape through. A hole to go home. A chill runs over him and shakes his bones to the core and, just for a moment, his eyes flash open and he fights against the tip of metal in his lungs, through muscle and skin and bone. 

He screams when it breaks his skin one last time, touching Cally’s thigh just a little from the front of him. He curls around the weapon and his body shakes. It fights back, and he can feel cold spread where his beating heart falters. 


The voice is soft, hands softer. Lyra kneels in front of him. His hearing has swallowed all noise, and it’s difficult to make out her words. Maybe Cally is screaming. It looks like it, but he just doesn’t know anymore. His vision is closing in, a black netting like a funeral veil dabbling at his vision. 

“Thank you,” she says slowly, touching his face. His eyes are wide and his breathing comes away in blocks, forcing him to keep living and keep wading through the pain that rips him apart.

He wants to die, probably, but he thinks to ask her if he can live. His hand grips at hers. He holds her tight like he was sure he couldn’t since they met. But she does not fight him away. Her spare hand strokes his jaw. Her voice is forced; cold, but she is trying to take away his fear.

“Thank you for being my friend.”

She kisses his cheek with ice cold lips that feel like fire to him. One beat. Two. No more breaths. Blood bubbles at his lips and he can feel his throat try to get rid of all of the excess. He chokes and it stains him red. He was cold before but he is freezing and cracking, now. 

He reaches for Lyra again, or maybe he’s reaching for Cally, he doesn’t know. His hand will not cooperate, though. Nothing more for the dying boy. Nothing more for the cursed boy who didn’t fight his fate. The boy who got to control one thing so now he can have no more. It’s time to send him home, no more time for goodbyes or explanations.

He didn’t tell them, though. He didn’t tell them anything at all, and his story will burn away to ashes with him. He parts his lips and tries to scream. He has more to say. 

One breath. He was a Mercer, a trained Career from District 2, the youngest child to his parents, one of the last Mercers. He has become a statistic, he thinks. 

One more wheezing, gasping breath that falters to find a place to go. Five Mercers went into the Games. Make that six. 

The fire crackles, sends sparks flying towards them. It is too far away, and she too cold. She shivers and her hands shake—she’s hell frozen over, covered in ice from the inside out. And it is all cracking open.

“I can’t,” she repeats, like a mantra, sounds whose meaning she’s almost forgotten. There is no warmth, no matter how far she runs trying to chase it. It’s gone. He pleads through cracked lips, pleads with words and without, pleads with everything he has left. “I can’t.

District 5 is far behind, her mother and her brother and the man who killed him. The cracks that sprawl inside of her have eaten at them, forgiving nothing, turning them into distant victims of the cold and pain she feels. Only Candice remains in full relief—she’s watching now, isn’t she?—Candice and Darling, and she doesn’t know where one begins and the other ends. They were the same age, weren’t they?

It is so cold.

She can feel the cracks spreading, everything else splintering, unraveling.

“I can’t.”

Her eyes close in pain and grief and hopeless as it may be, she still tries to find warmth in Grayson Mercer’s arms, never mind his pleas, never mind his words. She wants to apologize, but she can’t. She wants to apologize for not giving him what he wants, but her lips seem unable to form any other words.


Cally’s eyes fly open and she sees Lyra, the Ice Queen Lyra Reiser with tears in her eyes and rapier in hand. She looks like she could fall apart, break and shatter where she stands, but Cally knows she won’t—she will do it, she will go through with it. Their eyes lock briefly and something passes between them in both directions, something that could be an apology or an explanation or an agreement, but is probably all and possibly neither. It doesn’t matter, because the moment is over and the point of Lyra’s blade has gone through the chest of Grayson Mercer.

Warm blood splatters all over her, all that warmth she couldn’t reach. She still can’t, and she turns her head and looks away from it. She will not see his eyes darken like Harris’ did because of her, like Darling’s on the screen, like Emmy’s and Carson’s both, somewhere out of her reach. Like Candice’s might have, and she wouldn’t have done anything to stop it. No, she will not look. To have his blood cover her is enough, to feel the heat that would not appear before, radiating off him as though it wants to break free through the cracks.

Maybe she’s screaming, but like before, it dies in her throat and there is no sound. It’s Grayson who screams now, but her eyes are closed, shut as tightly as she can manage. If she could cover them with her hands, if they were not stained with blood, she would. The blade pricks at her thigh, barely causing any pain, and for a fraction of a second, the three of them are joined by the sword.

Lyra says something to Grayson, but Cally can’t hear her over the sounds that escape her throat, whether they are whimpers or screams or something in between.

A cannon booms.

Everything is so cold, and she feels so small. She could curl up and draw her knees up to her chin, make herself smaller still, try to keep the cracks within her from spreading. Her eyes open—everything is blurry. Red like before. Red and white and Lyra sits there, still as a statue carved out of ice, and she’s melting. Tears fill her eyes once more. Breaking again now that he’s gone.


Now they are the same, aren’t they? One’s cracking and one’s breaking and they have no warmth left, neither of them. Grayson lies between them, warmer in death than they are in life.

“Lyra… Lyra…”

Her voice breaks, like the rest of her. She wants to tell her it’s okay, but more than anything, she wants Lyra to say it to her. She wants to turn away from this. She wants to close her eyes and she wants to go back home. She hasn’t wanted it so much in a thousand years.

She stretches out a shaky, blood-stained hand, the same hand that wielded the sword. The sword that ended two lives, the sword that tore through Lyra’s districtmate without even meaning to.

Lyra’s eyes finally tear themselves away from Grayson Mercer’s lifeless face, her hands finally stop tracing his cheeks, his jaw. She turns her face towards Cally, glances at her outstretched hand, but the look in her eyes is too much. It’s burning and frozen and nothing in between; questioning and demanding and pleading without words. She will fall apart if she speaks.

But she does anyway, and her voice is less than a murmur, less than a whisper, less than any human word will ever be able to describe.

“I didn’t…,” she begins, but the words die as soon as they’re spoken. A sudden tremor goes through her, and she closes her eyes. Cally’s hand goes to rest on her arm.

The cracks within her grow larger and larger. She can almost hear them.

“No,” Cally says, and her voice hurts coming out, it strains her throat and burns it. “You didn’t…”

You didn’t. I didn’t. None of us did.

Her hands shake so much, and it is so cold. It threatens to seep through the cracks and spread itself all over her.

Not yet, though. Not yet.

“No, no, no…”

It echoes in the cave. It is all the same, isn’t it? It’s the same and they’re the same, everything is the same except she’s not alone this time, she doesn’t have to be, neither of them has to be.

“We didn’t…” Her free hand fiddles with a stray thread, where the fabric of her parka was ripped. The wound has healed and it doesn’t hurt anymore, it doesn’t bleed, it doesn’t bleed… “I’m sorry, too… Harris…”

They are the same, aren’t they?

Lyra’s eyes widen in understanding. It doesn’t take any more than that.

The motion is quick, too quick—the rapier wasn’t even in her hand—and at first, it doesn’t even register. For half a second, it doesn’t even hurt, not like the axe. There’s just cold and blood. But the pain does come. It’s small and sharp and deep and precise, unlike any sort of pain she has ever felt. She could almost handle it, if it weren’t for the air.

Iliria Temper’s hands had choked her, bruised her neck, cut off the passage to her lungs. She thought she would die then, but this is different—no matter how much she breathes, it’s never enough. It becomes shallow and too quick, too quick in an effort to gather as much air as possible, in the hopes that some of it might go through—but to no avail. Her throat is closing and she almost feels Iliria’s hands on her again.


She tries to speak, to say something, anything, Lyra’s name, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to, anything, but the sound that comes out is an unrecognizable gurgle. Clouds swim before her eyes and she can barely see anything else.

The cracks spread, the cold worsens. Pain radiates from the tiny pinprick in her chest and she has stopped breathing. There are two different kinds of pain, now.

She can hear the fire crackling, the sparks that fly. Another sound that might be sobbing, though she knows it can’t be her own. She tries to gasp for breath, but nothing responds.

Glowing embers, dying embers. It’s all the same.

value pride and stability | lyra + cally + grayson


It’s his first time outside the cave in hours, but it doesn’t feel like it’s been nearly long enough. His feet dig deep into the cold and he shakes. First guard duty falls to him and, though he can’t guard much of anything, he quiets his shaking and forces his eyes to stay locked to unending white. After a few minutes that seem like a lifetime, he can’t see anything else at all, only a flurry of white that becomes the earth, wind and sky. 

He imagines that Artemis Mordre could loose an arrow and split his skull and he wouldn’t know he had died until someone came out and informed him. He grips hard to the snow, but the cold no longer phases him and, without a parka, he begins to shake hard.

You’re going to die.

I know. 

One breath. Two. Breathing isn’t hard. His lungs have opened up since eating and, though he shakes and though frost bites at his skin, he survives. His heart beats. He can hear wind whip against snow.

Eventually a hand touches his shoulder and he finally strains to turn his sore neck. Lyra Reiser’s eyes are like ice and she eyes him with equal chill. She’s become a cold slate he slides from, but she holds him like skin to ice. She always did, he supposes. 

“My turn,” she says softly. He struggles, propping an elbow to the rock behind his back to pull himself to his feet, but Lyra presses her hand hard to his shoulder again and grips his good hand like iron. With a grimace, she pulls him to his feet. 

“Thanks,” he breathes, and he think maybe the clouded heat of his breath will melt her, but instead her eyes smile, just a little.

“If you fall asleep on your next guard, I won’t help you at all,” she says, trying her best to stay stern, but her lips twitch up in a reluctant smirk. 

We’re not going to let you live. 

“I won’t,” he says, his voice a shaky rattle. Lyra nods firmly and like that, the atmosphere shuts down. Lyra Reiser is done speaking to her ally, and her guard duty will commence. The coldness of her shoulder sends a chill down his spine, so he crawls into the the cave. 

Cally is still asleep and the fire is still flickering. He wonders briefly how long Lyra has been awake, but he shakes the thought away. She likes the cold, she embraces it, but he still remembers her eyes when he woke. They’re frenzied heat. The way he thought her tears might melt away the frosted skin of her dirty face. For an Ice Queen, she has let it consume her.

He sits in silence for a long time, watches small yellow and red flickers bounce off of Cally Windheard’s face. Every once in a while, he stirs a little. Watches her chest rise and fall to make sure she hasn’t left him alone. He doesn’t know when she became his lifeline, but somehow she did, and he can’t cut it. 

When she wakes up, he watches her a while longer. The way her eyes adjust to her surroundings as though she can’t remember where she is. It’s understandable, he thinks. Every time he closes his eyes now, he sees home and it’s not a white smudge over his eyes or a black veil that hints at death. It’s home and, though he’s struggling to even stand, he’s clutching for ways to get there.

It’s okay.

It isn’t.

“Are you awake?” he asks, and something turns in his stomach. Cally Windheard still struggles to wake up, and Lyra peers around the cave entrance, watching them both carefully before turning back to the snow. Grayson pulls himself from his wall to where she lays and he tries hard to see life in her eyes.

There’s some there. Some will to keep living. She looks puzzled with him, but she’s alive somehow. Even if it means she’s taken the life from her districtmate, from Lyra Reiser’s districtmate, even from him in exchange for his cold, she will keep living.

And Lyra Reiser will keep on living. He is a rock, though. Thick and stuck deep in an awful frozen lake. No wave can move him, no matter how hard they try. He thought maybe he had found life huddled against Cally Windheard’s warmth of in the invigorting ice of Lyra Reiser. 

But he traded his life to Cally Windheard for a taste of her fire, and he can’t move anymore at all. One breath, two. He thinks he’s finally figured out what he wants, but his hands shake and his fingers feel numb when they brush over her defined cheekboes, and touch her neck in a fluttering movement. 

He seals his quivering, cold lips to hers because he needs one more taste of fire before he burns away.

His resolve drains from him in a fraction of a second after the days it took to build, and though his heart beats in his throat and his lips fumblr against her’s, he’s got nothing left to fight for it. 

He’s empty of resolve, empty of life, and empty of fire. Even the ice hates him now. He can’t fight and he can’t sink anymore. He isn’t falling. He’s stuck. 

“Cally,” he whispers against her lips. “I know I promised I would protect you, but I need you to do something for me.”

His voice fades away at the end of his sentence as his throat swallows the noise. He’s shaking more than he should be for the temperature. His hands cup her face and he thinks, if there’s any life in his eyes, she has to see it.

“I need you to end it.”

Once it’s hit the air, it feels as though the air sits still and stagnant. His breath shudders and he tries hard to find her in her eyes. It’s time to go home. He has to go home.

When the first cannon goes off, she closes her eyes and sees Harris. Even when she opens them again, she sees the dried, brown blood come alive with ripples and bubbles, steaming, boiling. The blue eyes and blond hair of Lyra Reiser are next to her, but they are those of her Districtmate, cold not with the eternal paradox of their burning ice but with the empty stillness of death. Maybe she screams, a small choked sound that begins at the back of her throat.

The sound resonates within the cave walls, lingering long after it stops. Still shaken, with trembling hands, she holds onto Lyra’s arm for support, gripping her so hard she could’ve dug her nails into her skin. But the blonde says nothing, and her eyes—her own again—are cold as always, cold and yet so terribly full of something that makes Cally’s breathing even out and her heart beat faster, both at the same time. She lets go of Lyra’s arm and presses her lips into a tight line but nods once, shakily, as if to say it’s okay, I’m okay. Lyra nods, too.

The second and third cannons go off a few hours later, and it’s Darling and Candice she sees this time. The flames of their fire become Candice’s hair, the resonating boom of the cannons remind her of how the same thing happened last year, of how little Darling covered her ears, her mouth, how she scaled the red, dry canyon walls to her death. She doesn’t scream this time, but the tremor of her hands worsens and the wind freezes her tears before they fall. She is on guard and the booming sounds only make the others stir slightly in their sleep.

A few minutes later, two more, and she feels numb by then. She can’t even summon up the will to really wonder who’s gone, which of them it is, if it’s Xander or Iliria or one of the others whose names she doesn’t know. Maybe it’s Artemis—Emmy had been yelling for Artemis,so she was still alive, so maybe it was her… She struggles to remember any other names, to no avail. But it doesn’t matter, because in the end they’re all dead, and now it’s just the sound, boom, boom.

Boom, again.

And again, and again.

And finally, silence, and she sleeps.

The three of them sleep and eat and exchange glances, warmth and ice and a semblance of life, and barely any words. Time passes like that, minutes and hours and maybe even days bleeding into each other, in an indistinguishable blur that goes back and forth between white and red and black.

“Are you awake?” Grayson asks in the midst of it—on the edge of it. And she is, but just barely. The blur is white now, that is her only measure of time. White and black, white and black, with splashes of red that exist only in her mind. She doesn’t even know what day it is, or how long it has been since she saw the life leaving Harris Tellmach’s eyes. She sees them all the time, in any case.

But it’s Grayson’s grey eyes that look at her now, not Harris’ blue ones. Lyra keeps guard just outside, a carved statue, a beautiful dark outline against the unforgiving snow.

Next to her, Grayson moves—shifting closer, like the first time he walked into the cave. His hand brushes against her face and her neck, and she drinks up the warmth of the fluttering touch like an elixir that will miraculously keep her from madness. In her mind, it’s gold and light and entirely separate from the bleak heaviness that has settled within her since she first brought down that sword of hers. She raises her hand to touch his face, and when their lips meet it’s simply a natural continuation of what came before; a deeper touch that is still not enough to breathe true life, true fire into her lungs, but it almost, almost is.

It’s a sort of limbo, one she wishes she could stay in. The images of home are starting to blur and fade at the edges, swallowed by the cold and the fear, but this is solid and that is what she needs.

“Cally,” he whispers, still as close to her as he can manage, so close that she feels his breath, the movement of his lips against her own. She can never stop wondering at how hollow they all sound. The thought had come to her when she saw Lyra, but they are all hollow and struggling, flickering flames struggling to keep alive and shining icicles desperately hoping they won’t melt. “I know I promised I would protect you,” he continues, and her eyes close for a moment for the pain she feels at the word, though she’s not sure which word. Promises nobody keeps or protection everyone goes against, “but I need you to do something for me.”

He pauses and she swallows, waiting, not even daring to guess at what he might ask of her. What could she do? What could any of them do, except try to live? They’re hanging on a thread as it is, barely holding on to the edge of something, one foot hovering over the abyss.

“Tell me,” she urges him, though the sound doesn’t form fully.

“I need you to end it.”

If they’d been outside, or if the wind could somehow manage to filter its way into the cave, she would think the words had been carried away from some distant corner, so still are they, so quiet and dead. Dead, dead, dead. The word echoes in her mind, joining the ranks of the cannons and all those other words that she has heard spoken since her reaping.

I need you to end it.

It could mean anything and yet she would be so foolish to misunderstand. End it. It can only mean one thing, there’s only one surefire way out, her eyes close and she sees herself lying down in the snow, the way she’d wanted to, no blood and no pain and just as easy as falling asleep. That isn’t what he wants, though—no, but she can’t do that, she can never do that, not again, not to him, not now, no, no, no.

“No,” she says, like before, and like before her hands shake as she inches back, away from him. Like before, tears fall from her eyes though she hadn’t noticed when they started.

“No,” she repeats. She repeats it over and over and over. “I can’t. I can’t, I really really can’t, I…”

I can’t. You can’t.

Lyra sits still at the mouth of the cave. She’s turned towards them now, and she watches.

No, no, no.

“I can’t.”

But the third time she says it, she shakes her head, I’m sorry, and she glances at Lyra.

Final 8

(Source: kalyafullton)


n. an agreement to aid and/or accompany another to prevent harm, until such a time that all involved parties can safely depart.

Aunque el frío queme,Aunque el miedo muerda,Aunque el sol se esconda,Y se calle el viento,Aún hay fuego en tu almaAún hay vida en tus sueños.
Mario Benedetti

Aunque el frío queme,
Aunque el miedo muerda,
Aunque el sol se esconda,
Y se calle el viento,
Aún hay fuego en tu alma
Aún hay vida en tus sueños.

Mario Benedetti

value pride and stability | lyra + cally + grayson


I won’t let you die, Cally Windheard, okay?

Her form shifts and turns in front of him, shimmering like the surface of water. Flashing from the girl in the elevator to the killer on his chest. Rippling between the two as though they aren’t so different, but they are. 

The ground slides out from under him and he’s tugged into the air, tumbling upward with gravity nipping at his heels and pulling him toward the ground. At one point he wanted to fall but not anymore. He grips Cally hard and forces himself to hold her while they hover up and away from the ground. 

They rise and rise and rise until the break some glass ceiling above them. It shatters and cuts him along his arm, sharp and cold. 

“Wake up.”

The fire has gone out. Grayson isn’t sure how long ago, but it’s entirely gone now, and the cold has set in. Cally Windheard now has skin just as cold as his own. There is a heat on his skin, tight like pain in his arm, but he only dreamed of glass.

The cool tip of a rapier, though. That is far more real. 

No guard. He slept and Cally slept and neither of them guarded. Now, he thinks, they’ll both die. 

Another promise broken without even trying.

Grayson’s eyes, wide in shock, trace up the weapon to shaking hands clamped at it’s hilt. Further up is a tattered parka and further, further is a puffy, tear-streaked face with wide, crazed eyes and light, wild hair. It’s a face he prayed wasn’t in the sky each night he couldn’t see, and now he’s questioning those feelings. 

“I said wake up. Wake her up.”

Lyra Reiser’s voice shakes deep in her throat. She moves her weapon from Grayson’s arm and points to Cally. Slowly, he nudges her until her eyes flutter open. Then, his eyes are back to their captor warily. 

“Lyra…” he says slowly. He breathes in, pushing himself just a little off the wall with his good hand. Lyra steps back, swinging her weapon threateningly. 

Blood coats its tip like rust. She’s become more dangerous than him, too. 

She volunteered for this. It was what she wanted. She knew that this would happen. She had to know, or else why would she ever want it? It’s the same question he’s asked himself constantly since the sixty seconds sounded off and no one fell to his swing. 

In one motion that can only be described as rash, her reaches forward and grabs the point of her rapier. Flakes of dry blood break loose from the sword onto the palm of his hand, but Lyra doesn’t take the final blow. She still holds an intense air of coldness, but it’s different now that she’s fallen apart. He expects to die and is left staring face to face with the girl who should have killed him.

“We’re not going to hurt you,” he says and immediately curses himself. He’s doing it again. Speaking without thinking first. How many more people will he promise not to kill?

Lyra’s eyes travel to his hand and he nearly tucks it away in embarrassment. Now she knows he can’t kill her anyway. Her eyes snap to Cally, though, and maybe there’s a moment between them that promises Lyra the same thing, but he just can’t read her. Not even a little.

“Okay,” she says softly, and she jerks the rapier away from him. Her lips settle themselves again into a stoic line and her eyes narrow. “But you don’t touch my weapon, neither of you.”

Grayson looks quickly to Cally and he doesn’t know what he’s hoping for. Confirmation  or support or anything. 

“Why were neither of you on guard? Were you just hoping to die or what?” Lyra snaps, moving the ashes where their fire used to flicker around with her weapon. 

“Do we let her stay?” he asks Cally, hand falling over her’s almost without thought. 

It’s not your fault. It wasn’t our fault. It wasn’t us.

So many echoes, all of them overlapping. Maybe slightly louder than the old ones, but not nearly enough to drown them out. It’s not comforting—can’t be; she’s beyond any and all comfort, now—but somehow in the midst of it she finds herself hanging onto those words as though they were the only thing keeping her from falling to her death.

And they could very well be.

Saying it’s okay was never a comfort, and this isn’t, either. But it is something. The light pressure of Grayson’s hand on her neck is something, the warmth that passes between them is something, the closeness and shared breaths and shared words. It is something. She might still be alive.

She closes her eyes and lets herself imagine it isn’t like this at all. Despite the cold and the pain and the dread, she’s so far gone that it isn’t hard at all.

I won’t let you die, Cally Windheard, okay?

With her eyes closed and her mind drifting elsewhere, she almost, almost smiles. Her head shifts slightly and for the first time in the arena, she does not dream. There is no blood, there are no deaths; just a warm darkness that envelopes her and carries her from one moment to the next.

The only hint of warmth left when she wakes up is that the frost on her eyelids isn’t as thick, and it breaks when she opens them. Though still unfocused, she becomes instantly aware, as she regains consciousness, that there is a different kind of tension in the air.

“Lyra…,” Grayson trails off, and Cally sits upright as she glances at the new arrival. Lyra. Lyra. Lyra Reiser. The blonde is alive and all things considered, does not seem all that worse for the wear—and she’s swinging her rapier at them. Bile rises up in Cally’s throat but she swallows it back, fighting to keep calm against the current of thoughts bubbling up in her mind.

Cally had liked Lyra—she would’ve wanted to be her friend, in different circumstances. She would’ve wanted it so much. And though they’d only spoken once, her face would come up in her mind along with the others. Cally isn’t sure how to react—will Lyra attack them?—but the idea of dying at her hands fills her with panic and a wish to run and cry.

There is something else adding to her terror, though. Something entirely irrational that causes her breath to quicken even further and her heart to beat its way to her temples. The sight of Harris had once made her thoughts wander to Lyra, and now the inverse happens… they were districtmates, after all, and it is only a logical association. But worrying about that when the blood-crusted rapier swings so near her must surely be the height of madness, and yet she can’t help it.

Grayson’s movement happens in a split second, and by contrast, the expectant, draining moment that comes afterwards, even after he speaks, seems to stretch for an eternity. Cally’s eyes lock with Lyra’s for the first time since she woke, and she has to force herself not to look away. She still radiates coldness—but don’t they all, now, isn’t that all they are?—but there’s something else that for a fraction of a second Cally thinks of as pleading, like the silent screams she knows all too well. She takes a deep breath and holds her gaze for a while longer, noticing every detail. Lyra’s face is covered in scratches, and when at last Cally tears her gaze away from hers, she catches sight of a large red stain on her leg. Finally, she speaks.

“Okay,” is all she says for a moment. Okay, okay, okay, what does that word even mean by now? But she continues. “But you don’t touch my weapon, neither of you.” A pause. Cally’s breath is starting to return to her. “Why were neither of you on guard? Were you just hoping to die or what?”

Were they?

She wasn’t thinking, though.

She hasn’t been thinking since her name came up in that stupid slip of paper and look at where that’s landed her, now.

She is so tired, and she is so cold.

“Do we let her stay?”

Grayson’s voice interrupts her thoughts and she looks at him for the first time since waking up. She holds his gaze for a moment, frowning, and nods once, almost imperceptibly, before looking back at Lyra. It’s almost as though she’s forgotten her question, and is completely ignoring his—she stirs the dead ashes for a long time, her body stiff and tense, her gaze intent on the task.

“You did it,” she says, breaking the thick silence after a long time, without looking away from what was once a fire. Her voice is strained, even moreso than the first time they spoke, but there’s something like the hint of a smile in it.

Cally’s mind goes blank. She bites her lip in confusion, raking her mind for any clue as to what she might be talking about. Her thoughts are so slow now, so dull when they used to be so sharp. It’s maddening. Her hand twitches under Grayson’s, but Lyra turns her head by a fraction, and looks at her. It’s the first time Cally notices how hollow she looks: her cheeks, her eyes. She’s all hollowed out.

“You got him,” she adds, in the same strained voice, and after a second of panic—Harris, Harris, Harris—she has it. The corners of her lips twitch upwards just slightly, an almost alien, meaningless gesture by now.

“I did,” she answers, and her voice, too, sounds hollow.

Still standing, Lyra’s gaze drifts towards Grayson. She winces then—in pain, and Cally steals another glance at the other girl’s calf. Her back is turned, so she can see more clearly, though the fabric of her pants obscures the wound. It’s not new, but it hasn’t healed.

“I have medicine, if you want it” she says, biting her lip again, wincing. The time for caution and guardedness is far behind, it seems. “Your leg.”