No Rest For The Dead.

Final Installment to the Death Is So Red Verse.


An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,

In blast-beruffled plume,

Had chosen thus to fling his soul

Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings

Of such ecstatic sound

Was written on terrestrial things

Afar or nigh around,

That I could think there trembled through

His happy good-night air

Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew

And I was unaware.

- The Darkling Thrush, Thomas Hardy


PART I: RISE.

1

Madison Saros - The Nightingale.


TW: In-depth discussion of suicide, self-harm, and recovery after an attempt.


It is when she is six years old, in the depths of a red warehouse against green trees, that she learns a bird has more rights than she does.

A nightingale lands on a tree branch. It is a distance away from her cage, made even more silver by the moonlight.

Her hands reach up to the bars. She grips them - they're cold as icicles. She peers out into the forest, dark and blue and swathed in the remnants of the star's eyes, and focuses her sight on the creature that has dared to disrupt the dead night.

It chirps, a singsong tune, belting with all its enthusiasm from its little ribcage, as it shifts on its two claws. A warning is loaded to spring in her mouth: a cry, a shout, for if she did not tell this little thing that Levine Saros would eat it once he sees them, then it will be too late for them to survive.

But night morphs in its dozen kaleidoscopic amalgamations, grime blue and dark grey and then bleak darkness again. Song shatters the gloom, and then the blackness, too, because the dawn rises and pools the realm and the nightingale still sings, too.

The nightingale does stop, eventually. After the noise of footpads against metal and cigar wafts into her cage, and she turns away from the bars to find his smirk and his sneer and his gun, clanging against the door to wake her up.


He has called her many names, first, before he had called her Madison.

In the beginning, she is Variable One. She had never liked what that title implied, for Variable One meant the existence of Variable Two, and she was too terrified to imagine what that would entail. But his focus was entirely on her, and his hands had only damned her, so she had put her trepidation to rest.

Trooper was the next one. It is a call sign more than it is a name, but it was what she answered to. She figures that he was tired of calling her soldier. Even though soldier was what she was, a snivelling, pathetic child did not do that denomination justice.

It is a reminder, he would tell her, brushing her dark locks behind her ear. A soldier is what she is. Her body is his tool. A Career, eventually. That is why she trains, for she is here to change One itself.

He eventually names her, upon the same day he tells her that she has turned seven. When she asks for its meaning, he replies that it means warrior, and she is his warrior, she is his, and she will do him justice when she enters the arena. A half-smirk had raged upwards his cheeks, and he had cupped her cheeks, and kissed her forehead, as she wrapped her new name around her body and sounded its vowels in her mouth.

She doesn't quite like it, not really, because he always says it so crudely, but it is better than Variable or trooper or soldier or Career, and so she will rest well with it, for now.


When she is an age - an age, in the block between her hopeful optimism that grew dopamine in her brain and the empty despair that engulfed her lungs - she looks outside every night, to try to find the nightingale again.

It is there, sometimes. It is more often not. But the birdsong exists, transient between night and night, and Levine has not killed it yet, nor has he made a hole out of its throat yet, and that desperate fact is a string she clings upon, like a doll to comfort her throughout the darkness.

And when she cannot find the bird's songs, she lies in bed and the moonlight swathes her, and she shuts her eyes and dreams of a nowhere place. That is the best she can do for herself, in the deluged time she has before her volunteering and her death.


She enters the Academy at sixteen. It is as her vision falters - debris and chaos and all else whipping through the range of her eyes - but not soon enough, not quite yet. Not enough for a soldier's rest: for armour is featherweight on her shoulders, and between her fingers are blades and knives and swords she can still so easily wield.

She succeeds in the Academy at sixteen. Is it any surprise?

They christen her a Career, of course, but she is his soldier first and foremost.

She will live a soldier's life, and die a soldier's life.

It is no surprise - not to her, not to any onlookers. Not to him. But at least - and that is her wish - it will be quick.


When Madison Saros is seventeen, and one year fresh into the Academy, there are roses entwined with the blades upon their racks.

They stink of violence and rot. It is a memorial, of the bygone. This is Stolvania's Academy, after all, and the 54th Games have just passed. Sterling Stolvania's name is all that is on everybody's lips.

They are trying to take it down: from the matrons and the trainers and the officials and the benefactors to even Stirrius Stolvania's command - they do not approve of this requirem. But Academy students, for as much as has been inculcated in them, do not do well with orders. District One is the frivolous one, after all, where death is weighted in vanity, and suicide is immortality.

There is only one way a person can be immortalised in their youth. One is proud of their phenomenon: the falls, of princess-girls with clipped wings and heroic boys with failed destinies.

In a twisted way, the students are proud. The Academy is not, for death is a failing, an abysmal one, an unspeakable one, that reflects poorly upon the drought of Victors that has plagued their District for more than a decade. That is what the officials say. But anyone who has seen the state of the children who thrive here will understand. The memorial, twisted in metal, is as much compassionate as it is a cenotaph.

The roses. They stink of empathy and aesthetic.

(Did Sterling have anesthetic, when she...?)


When she raises her hand to volunteer, all that is in her mind are the petals, that fall too early to the street ground, where they are trampled before they bloom. She is unsure of what that says of herself, but she will not think about it. Thinking about what she has lost is a futile exercise, when she has nothing of her life and will have nothing of her death, too. Obviating her mind is how she will survive.


It is in training where she meets Maeve, who pries Madison from her lips and names her Maddie, instead, with a gleam in her eyes and a star in her smile.

(Her life changes, in a flash. But she and the rest all know that.)


When Madison Saros is eighteen, she dies with a knife to her gut, and a smile half-formed on her lips.

It is her beginning, and it is her end. A soldier, then a cadaver, six feet under dirt. Perhaps in another life, she would have fared better, but for now - and now, is what matters here now - now, today, is her conscience's deathsday, her body's doomsday.

A knife's metal is in her stomach, and it spirals a dripping rose down.

In the split seconds, before her consciousness reaches an end, her words spin in her mind. Live for yourself, Maeve utters, a smile on her lips. Madison looks at the form before her, brown hair, black eyes, no, she blinks, her sight blurs, and she is blonde, blue again.

I will, Madison whispers in reply, her last words breathless in her breaths. Her grip tightens on the knife's hilt: does her fist bleed a rose?

It is not a soldier's death, not an honourable end, but it is better than any of the deaths she will ever get.


Madison Saros is eighteen, with one death under her belt, when she is reborn again.


She wakes in heaven.

Clouds, cotton-soft, swathe her. She turns her head in them: presses herself deeper. It is warm - warmer than she'd thought it would be. She doesn't feel so cold.

The mist's in her eyes. Only white meets her sight: but that isn't surprising. Her eyelids are heavy. Close them, slip under: she'll wake in heaven. She can find Maeve later. She'll rest, first. It won't be for long: just a bit, and she will feel less weary in her shoulders, less weighted by her body, less pain in her lungs.

Pain.

Why does she—

Why does she hurt?


A ripple of sensation lances up her back. A scream rips out of her throat.

Beeps, a crescendo, manic, zigzagging through the murk, and then doctors, and then—

Submerging back into the misty depths again, falling, falling. Blood rushes to her head—

A white place comes up to meet her.


She is…

Where is she?

Beeps.

They are what greet her ears. Beeps come in a continuous rhythm: an electric beat each, whizzing across the room, in tandem with the soft clatters of a thing inside her chest.

Chatter. That is what infiltrates her ears, second.

It isn't just her here. She isn't alone in heaven. There are… others, monotonous tones. Monotonous faces, the same white masks and the same white nets covering their hair.

It is familiar. It is so much like Veneri and his surgeries. Except they are speaking in hushed tones. Veneri likes to taunt her as he cuts her open.

Feeling. That is what returns to her next.

Tingles snake across her palm, and into her fingers. They surface in her skin, and she does not realise how numb she has been until she begins to feel again.

Numbness. That is what she had expected.

She should be numb, now. Because she is dead. Heaven only admits ghosts into its gates.

But she is—

Not numb. Tingles rush up her skin, like a stream and a flood, down to her feet and pooling in her toes, weighing her there, and it's so much, so much, so much at once, she can't, she can't, she can't—

Her head is stuffed. She cannot think, does not know how to think. She is stuck in her own mind, stuck breathing, bit by bit and hitch by hitch, and ohno, oh no, her heart falls from her throat and down into her chest, that's the thing in her chest, her breath strings her lungs together and constricts, she's breathing, she's breathing, oh no, ohno—

Only one thought resounds in her head.

(Why isn't she dead?)


She should not be here.

(Why is she here? She had reached out - for a dream, for a place. She was… she was about to go, but then something tugged on her feet, coiled around her arms, and dragged her away from her haven.)

She is... in a room somewhere.

It is not a misty place. But she is in a nowhere place, though it is not the nowhere place she had expected.

(She had dreamt of a place that was quiet. Not here, buzzing too much in white noise, bursting too many fragments in her mind, rendering her own brain into mush.)

It is not a cozening place.

(But she is in a white place, though that is not the white place she had conjured up in her mind. She had thought of something spartan, not hospital beds.)

It is not a heavenly place.

(But she is in a different place, though it is no heaven, or haven, or in any world which she had constructed in her mind.)

Madison Saros is alive.

She forces a choked breath in the back of her throat. Tears leak by her eyes, and make track-marks across her cheeks, as she turns her head sideways in her pillow, and she gazes up into the ceiling, stirring in white noise, blurry and mistlike because of her broken eyes. Madison Saros feels her breaths too heavily, breaths that shouldn't even be there, and she wonders why the universe does not allow her to die.


Cynane speaks to her after she wakens. It is a reel of fact.

You were saved, because one of our operators from Six had controlled the hovercraft, had collected your body and had resuscitated you. We had brought you back to our base: you are here, now.

What about them? What about my friends?

We couldn't save them. I'm sorry.

… Why couldn't you?

We didn't have the technical capacity to: the hovercraft that picked up your body was the only one we controlled. I wish we could've, but—it wasn't possible.

Oh, of course.

I'm sorry, Madison.

… The Capitol. They think I'm dead?

They think that something's happened to your body. Because they couldn't retrieve your corpse. But, to answer your question— yes. They don't think that you're alive.

Okay. I'm the only one…?

Yes. You're the only survivor. I'm sorry, Madison.

(It's here when she wants to shout. It's here when she wants to choke, to yell, from wretched breath to wretched breath: Why me? Didn't you see me, on the screen? I was—I am—I didn't want this. They should've lived, not me. Why not Scott, why not Jordyn, why not Brynn, why not—why not Maeve? Anyone else would've been better. Anyone but me.)

(She doesn't, though. But Cynane continues on, as if she sees what gleams in Maddie's eyes.)

It was coincidental. We didn't actively choose you to survive, Madison. I wish that operative would've respected your wishes. But they had not. For what it's worth: I apologise.

"It's… okay," she mutters, her throat cracking. "I'm here now."

(What can she say, other than that?)


They try to fix her, a week after they have revived her.

They save her body. That is what their stitches reconstruct and their skingrafts salvage. That is what they focus upon: to keep that machine of a body that contains her alive. It is what they do, even as her mind sloshes in its shatterglass pieces - made of cracked memories and contorted whispers, of volatile screams and visid deaths, of dead limbs and dead eyes preserved in its webs. But her body's functions are more important than her mind, and they will not try to and save her sanity, not as long as her body works for bloodshed.

They lengthen her time. We know about your eyes, they say, and they do not wait until they usher her into another surgery.

More time passes, in recovery: more time is she spoken to, and that is more time they keep her immobile. She cannot say she minds, that they keep her immobile - she is too tired. Fatigue, they say, you are recovering from a wound. But she thinks about the days before her end, and she thinks about her emptiness, and she thinks about her brokenness, and she knows they are lying to salve their consciences.

She does not say that, of course, but it is in the air. Madison Saros had killed herself. The entirety of Panem knows that fact.

A doctor comes to her bedside. She suppresses the flinch: all of the doctors here are too close to Veneri, who had fixed her eyes just the same but not well enough. He tells her: he's tried his best, but it's not quite fixable, he's just given her more time, rewired her eyes some, cut out some of the destruction already in her eyes. But it will intensify, as time goes on. She is deteriorating.

(She does not tell them how she does not mind. She figures that is not what a grateful survivor is supposed to say.)


She watches her death again and again.

Set the scene: it is late, near dusklight, near twilight, when it happens. Set the precursor: her voice, still croaking from Scott's death, and her commands, still bare and hoarse to the rest of her friends, are crudely cut into the moving pictures that unravel before her eyes.

It is a shaking camera, for dramatic effect. Or perhaps it is because it is shot from a mutt's eyes: from the two hollows where eyes should be, from eyes that act like cameras and cameras that act like eyes. Through the greenery, and through the branches, and through the snow: the mutt tears through, trampling the world underfoot.

It leaps down. She sees herself from the periphery of the creature's sight, struggling against Quinn. Then the mutt crashes down, and then she is struggling against the mutt, then she's breaking away, clutching her side and staggering away, and then she sees herself no more. Then, the mutt's eyes rivet on Quinn.

A cannon echoes through the night.

Madison Saros is lost from the mutt's sight.

Its eyes turn away: for the mutt is bloodthirsty, and just the sustenance of some blood is not enough. Her mutt advances through the thickets. She will claim that mutt, for that mutt was one Madison was supposed to track, and yet she had let it disappear from her sight. She had let it go, to another part of the arena, instead of stopping it, and then, and then—

There. She is there; standing in the middle of the forests, transfixed at nothing. That moment is a moment Madison thinks about. For what is Maeve thinking then? About their hopes— about their world? About how they'll kiss— about their ends?

She will never know what Maeve thinks at that moment, and she will never know what it is that leaves her thinking for only a moment too long. For a moment is all it takes for her mutt to descend, with a roar, to leap at her body, and—

Her screams are so loud. She fights, vainly. Does she fight, or does she try—less? Madison doesn't know. She doesn't know, not anything, as her mutt rips Maeve apart, piece-and-piece apart. Not as it sinks its teeth down in her back, so close to her spine, throws her like a ragdoll in its mouth, before setting Maeve down again. Still she is not dead. Not until her mutt teases her spine from her skin, like it is a toybone, before biting down with a snap and—

Another angle, now, but one which is ground-level, knotted in the tree-roots and not the mutt's perspective.

Her eyes are so blue.

(As blue as dead sea fruit.)

...

"You should turn that off," Daria Makrain says. "It's not healthy for you."

Madison does not respond. She does not respond, not even as the Four girl reaches for the remote, and presses the button for her. As Daria has been doing for the past few days, ever since she'd went up to her bedside and nervously introduced herself with a wave, and explained how she's been assigned to take care of her, though she'll only be here for two weeks or so before she'll have to go back to her operations in Four.

What are you in charge of?

Oh, nothing much! Just the usual - staking out recruits, passing flyers, working in my squad! - that kind of thing! I'm just an operative, nothing more. Though, I have been doing this for a while.

For how long?

For a while now! It's been seven years - started when I was fifteen!

Fifteen?

Yeah! They let us start young.

"Madison? Are you… okay?"

Her words, now, snap Madison back into focus. Daria turns to her, tilts her head and lifts an eyebrow. Worry's in her expression, as her eyes flick from the closed screen and to her again. Guilt, shame, sadness sinks in Madison's gut, as she stares at the blank screen, at where Maeve's vitality once was, before—

Before—

...

She swallows. What is asked is implicit in Daria's gaze. Why are you doing this?

"I—I need to know what went wrong." Madison says, so hoarsely. Sympathy flicks in Daria's eyes. You can't change the past, is what she replies, dwelling on it won't really help you, and won't really help Maeve, either. And Madison nods along, mouths a thank you, it's okay, I'm okay, don't worry about me, and tries to smile, to the advice Daria gives to her lie.

Madison Saros does not watch Maeve's death for that reason: no, she watches, for it is the only way she feels something.

She is too empty, otherwise.


Her rebellion was a selfish one. Perhaps the Vultures do not see it that way: perhaps they are too engrossed in their propaganda to care. But her rebellion has been selfish. It had been so she could gain a life, a world, a place else.

But now she has none of that.

(She has a corpse in her hands, a girl with hair of golden-flaxen and dull-blue eyes.)

She would cry, if she had tears left in her eyes. She would cry, if her tears were not already fallen snowdrops from her eyes: left in the arena ground, mixing with water and bone.

She would, if she could. But she cannot: she has shed enough tears over Maeve Alcraiz already.


Time passes: a week morphs into two, and two into three, and a month passes, with Madison Saros prone on a bed, a respirator over her face, breathing on excess time. People pass by her bed, and they are figures and a blur together; pastel grey pieces and apparitions that scuttle across the sheen of gunmetal floor.

Some stop. Some stare, with wide eyes. But most ignore her. She is unimportant: just another number for their swarming, choleric masses. If she closes her eyes, then perhaps she can forget herself, just as they forget her.

If only they would.


They broadcast her suicide.

It is one thing to kill yourself on screen, with what becomes mandatory viewing for the whole of Panem, and to let the people left grapple with the fallout of your death. It is another thing to see it broadcast every minute and the next, with closeups and shaky cams, a zoom into the knife's incision into her stomach, music wistful and sonorous echoing and twisting together. Her death is flown across the skies as propaganda, and it is their morale booster, as it is their mortality pet. She cannot go a meter in the Vultures' base without being traumatised again.

(She is sick of seeing herself die. She's sick of seeing Brynn die.)

Granted, they've played it less, after she'd been… revived. But it still makes her stomach churn, and it still labours her breaths, and it brings back memories that she does not need, yet every screen is a return of it again.

All she wants is to curl in a ball and forget. The world's witnessed her suicide attempt. They ogle and they scoff and they sympathise and they can think anything they want, but fuck - she never wants to see it again.

(She doesn't know what she's more humiliated by - the fact that they'd all seen her try, or the fact that she'd failed herself.)

"I don't want you out there," Cynane tells her, on one of the days she sits by her bedside. "It is better, for us, if they believe that you are their martyr."

"That's fine with me," Madison whispers. She grips the sheets by her side tighter, bites her lip, and looks away from Cynane. If that's what they want to believe, then better for her: if she's dead in their minds, then maybe she can pretend she's dead in the flesh, too.

Cynane gauges her, for long, until she finally clasps Madison's hand in hers, and it is so intensely, searingly warm. It takes all of her self-control not to recoil.

"Look, Madison. I'm sorry that the Games have driven you to take your life. Life - your life - is precious. But your death is something beautiful. Something untouchable. We need that image in their minds. We can't tell them that the dual-suicides were unsuccessful - not when it's galvanised our cause. Countless individuals in One - people that we wouldn't have by our side, otherwise - had been converted into Vultures because of what you've done. So, you must understand—"

"I understand," Madison says, quickly.

Cynane's taken aback, for a moment. But her composure resets so easily. A leader's faculty.

"Good. I'm glad you do."

They are silent.

Then, in a softer whisper: "Madison… are you okay?"

It is a reassurance, except it is not. Not when Cynane grips her hand so tight. Not when her warmth is pins and needles stabbing into her skin. Not when her warmth is not the warmth Madison needs; she needs the memory of the last person that had held her hand. She needs Maeve, not the foreign feelings of scalpels and tubes and machines, she doesn't need the doctors, doesn't need Cynane, what she needs is—

— something she can never have again.

"I'm fine," she'd responded, hoarsely, and Cynane's hold had loosened. "Good," she'd murmured. Then, Cynane had left: off to stimulate the rebellion some, or what it is that a rebellion leader is supposed to do.

Her days after Cynane's visit are miserable. She's sick. Not physically sick: no, she's heartsick. She's mind's still the same mind that had suffocated in the Arena, and being away, here, recovering, doesn't change a thing.

All her friends are dead, and she still wants to die.


For here is a fact, which Panem knows by heart—

Suicide never escapes One. It does not escape its generations, rising with successive mountain and crushing into rubble again: not those too old and too vain and too ruined to breathe, not their children with wings built in their shoulders, too eager to fly.

There is one thing in common, for all of One's denizens and their spawn and the vermin that come after: they all topple from their heavens.

Every one of them falls.


Cynane updates her, a week after her visit. Their broadcast's successful. Countless more recruits stream in from One, they boast, after they fly her suicide over the skies again.

If it works, then she should not complain. So she is quiet, as Cynane recites the rebellion's happenings to her. About how they're still trying to crack into Two, because all they've done is seep rumours and there is unfortunately nothing other than dissent in there, but open rebellion's starting in Six. About how Eight's ablaze with riots already, with banners and callsigns and stamp-downs. She pauses. Do you know, Cynane says, that my daughter, just sixteen, is living in Eight - for a few years, and counting, now. I've lost, too, to the Capitol, and I'm in danger of losing her. I'm sacrificing everything for this.

But before Cynane goes, her head tilts towards Madison.

Are you?


She needs to avenge them.

It is a pyre of guilt that flames in her heart: it is what she has to do, because sitting and pitying herself is a luxury she doesn't deserve: not when they're dead, and she's living, still. Rebellion is what she must do to carry Scott's torch. It is what she must do to ensure that her friends haven't all died in vain. She has to fight for them. Has tofight for Scott's desires, for Maeve's family, for Jordyn's dreams, for Brynn's memory.

But how can she? How can she imbue a silver lining in their deaths, just as the Vultures have imbued a silver lining in her suicide? Is it not the same? They've died senselessly, and there is no silver lining in that. She cannot turn around with a saccharine smile on her face and glorious tears in her eyes and say, Scott's died, Maeve's died, Brynn's died, Jordyn's died - but I'm alive, I'm fighting, and I want you to fight, too.

It isn't as if she doesn't want to fight. She's tired and she's empty but that same chant is still a litany in her mind.

The Capitol, dead in her head.

Are the Vultures her answer to that?


It is two months after Madison Saros sinks a blade in her gut, that Kiernan Alcraiz volunteers in Two's square.

She watches from her bedside, the IV still pumping fluid into her arm, as he grits his teeth and grips his fist and stalks towards the stage. He's mad, she knows that: who would not be? Sent to his death, for no reason other than for the Capitol's vengeance, and he is so aware of his impuissance.

In another life, she would understand the feelings that beat and bleed in his heart. What does she not understand? Told to volunteer, told to survive, told to kill and maim for life again. But she'd be audacious to relate to him, when the only reason they are having the Reapings now is because Madison Saros had killed herself. Kiernan Alcraizis suffering the consequences of her gall, just as Maeve Alcraiz had suffocated to death because of her temerity.

The whole family, and his voice is dull, laughing, always smeared with a sneer, annihilated by your iniquity. I hope you're happy!

She doesn't respond. She's long learnt to ignore Levine's voice in her head. Instead, she stares at the screen, at blonde hair, short and choppy in the violent winds, and blue eyes, crystalised with tears that would not fall.

I'm sorry, Maeve, and a choke turns itself up in her throat, That's another promise I've broken.

A knot tightens in her stomach, and it twists and tangles together and abrades. It is for her guilt. But it tightens and tightens until a spark is rubbed out of the ropes and smoke singes the back of her throat. Guilt morphs into indignity and indignity into anger

Before she knows it, she is burning.


"I have a proposition for you."

Madison inclines her eyes up, towards where Cynane stands, in her war-room. Half of her isn't sure if she wants to hear what Cynane says. Half of her knows that is what she must do because she's been brought in to sit here for a reason.

So she says, quietly: "Tell me."

Cynane paces. She has paced more since her daughter had been Reaped in the Games. She'd lost her composure more easily. She had looked angry, sometimes, when she'd glanced at a screen. She paces, now, and Madison wonders if this has anything to do with that.

"I'm reconsidering my decision. I do believe the dual-suicides are important. However. I think it might be more helpful for you to rise."

"What do you mean?"

"I'm saying that the world should know you are alive." Cynane's eyes are upon her: a pointed gaze, blank ink and cold, piercing into the depths of her soul. "You've died by your own hand: ash converging with ash, in desolation and dust and death. But you can rise again. You can be reborn again: with your second life. Like a phoenix, you could say."

Cynane lets that sit between them. After a moment, she clears her throat.

"So that brings me to my proposal. You know Levine Saros."

Madison doesn't flinch. She's too inured, to.

Cynane observes her. It's as if she expects a reaction from her. But Madison does not react, and so instead, she continues on.

"You want his flesh, don't you?"

Her throat constricts too tight. It is too bitter, too tight. Her words fall from her throat before she can control herself: "I want him to die," and it is bitter, and it is choked, and it betrays more emotion than it should.

At least Cynane seems satisfied by her reaction, this time. For while Cynane's expression does not change, her eyes do, and consideration curls upon her lips. "Well. I can give him to you. But if you want that— then you'll have to embark on a mission."

"What is it?"

"What do you think about a rescue mission?"

Her eyes widen. "How?"

"We control all the hovercrafts— have, actually, for a while. That's how we plan to save those in the Games, now..." and Cynane's voice fades away, only as static and white noise left, because Madison isn't listening anymore. Her mind focuses on only one line, and Madison's throat tightens and her stomach tightens and fuck, fuck—

She speaks, before she realises she is speaking, and she's glaring, before she's realising she's glaring, and she's standing before she realises she's standing and bristling as she stares at Cynane Rendevez and her admission.

"You had control of all the hovercrafts. You have for a while. You lied to me. What the hell, why—"

"You could've saved her," Madison grits out, and she slams Cynane against the wall, her arm against her throat. "You could've saved her, why the fuck did you save me? Don't you have fucking eyes? Did you not see what I did in the finale? I wanted to die! I wanted to die, I want to die, and you—"

Her throat cracks.

"— You chose me. You brought me back."

She closes her eyes. She lets her arm slack some. She swallows. "I didn't ask for that."

"It was a rogue operation," Cynane begins, slowly, softly, as she steps forward to Madison. "We would've respected your wishes: but our operative had staked out on their own. Yes, we had control of all the hovercrafts: but it was a reconnaissance mission, not a rescue mission. We did not have the resources to sufficiently save you. We didn't think we did." A rueful smile ticks up by Cynane's lips. "That was what we thought, at least, until we were… proven wrong."

Madison exhales. God, she doesn't even know where to begin to dissect it all. Because loathe as she is to admit it, Cynane's words make sense. She opens her eyes: and Cynane's considering her, staring right at her eyes.

"Besides. You are not the only one alive."

Her breath leaves her throat. "What?"

"I'm sure you know Jordyn Moriau."

Her eyes widen. Her mouth drops open. Her heart stops. Because it's not real, how could it be real, Jordyn had died trying to escape the Arena, her body was fried.

And yet…

"She's— alive? What? For how long?"

Cynane shrugs as if this was old news. "She's been in Thirteen for a while, as our figurehead."

Madison blinks. A thousand questions blink in front of her eyes, and why didn't anyone tell me? is nearly exhaled from her throat. But instead, from the maze of questions in her mind, she asks: "Does she know I'm alive?"

"We haven't told her yet. But we will."

Jordyn is alive. She can't see her, not yet, but she's alive—! Hope rises in Madison's heart, and for once in forever, a smile quirks by her lips. Wetness runs tracks down her cheeks, and it is not until after that she realises they are her tears, mixed with so much elation that she hasn't felt in forever. Because, fuck, Jordyn's alive, Jordyn's alive and—!

(That's one less friend to mourn.)

"She'll be on the rescue mission," Cynane says, tilting her head.

"I'm going," Madison says, hoarsely, hope still fluttering in her throat like a transient butterfly. If only just to see her.

(She can't quite believe, still, but— it's real. Cynane won't lie to her about that.)

"Good. Also, Madison," Cynane murmurs, and her whisper raises hairs upon her neck. "Don't try that again. I don't take kindly to threats upon my life."


She needs to live.

She has to. It's the least she can do: to fight for Maeve, to fight for Scott, to fight for Brynn, to fight for all the fallen.

(She knows she needs to. It is a need that screams in her bones: that leaves fires rippling through her skin, a scream in her throat for the injustice, for the justice that she needs, god, fuck, she needs it all. Their deaths can't be in vain—not after what they've all been through, not after all that they've tried. Fighting for them isn't finding a silver lining from their deaths: no, far from. She's standing over their bodies, charred and smoked and broken underneath her, and she's here to burn down the world for the memory of their lives.)

But just as much as the need rests on her shoulders, so does her weariness. She is so tired, so empty, so desperate, so desolate. She wants to snap, wants to end them all just as they've ended her—

She can, and she will, and she must. She is so empty, but that does not matter. Her body was first Levine's, and now it is the Vultures', and if she is used, then at least it is for a just cause, at least it is for her friends—

(For her family, though she should not call them that. For her soulmate, though she should not call her that.)

Because the truth is this: Madison Saros will sacrifice her soul for her friends. If they are the only things that she has, if they are the only things that matter to her, then might as well.

She will fight for them.


(Maddie. Please. Can I ask one thing from ya?)

(...)

(Live for yourself.)


Cynane brings her to the war-room again, and Madison's heart leaps to her throat.

It's Jordyn. Staring back at her, with the same shock in her expression, the same realisation widening her eyes. And for a moment - for a moment they stare at each other, slack-jawed, eyes blinking - because how do you rationalise this moment? How do you rationalise the fact that you are staring at your dead friend, alive again?

She can't. Madison's hand knocks against her mouth, and she bites down on her thumbnail, down on her fingers, down on the sob that's boiling in her throat. Because she's here, Jordyn's real, she's standing by the side with the same surprise and—

She takes a step forward. But her legs are shaking too much, more than it has in therapy, and she stumbles. And then Jordyn paces forward, and doesn't even stop to think when she catches her before she falls, a hand over her shoulder and a hand around her waist and—

She wraps Madison into a hug. It's warm, real and warm. A sob lets out of her throat, and her tears flow down her eyes, splatter and mingle with Jordyn's dark shirt and kevlar. It's not just her: Jordyn's crying too.

"I'm glad you're alive," Madison whispers. She holds Jordyn tighter, because - how long has it been? Since she'd been touched by another human, since she'd been held?

And Jordyn's embrace is so warm, so human, that it keeps her so rooted.

"I— they told me, that you were alive," Jordyn says, quietly, hoarsely. "But I didn't… didn't really think. Not till..."

They hold each other, for long. Too long, probably, but Madison doesn't care about the mission, doesn't care about what the Vultures think. All that matters is that she's here with her friend, and she's crying, she knows, her sobs muffled in Jordyn's shirt, as she clutches to her body. But that's what she needs - Jordyn's warm, alive, present, breathing, and so is she, and it's a smile that she chokes upon now.

Cynane clears her throat, but Madison doesn't care. She still clutches to Jordyn then. And Jordyn - Jordyn doesn't let go. She holds her, as the rebellion stalls and wraps around them, for the Vultures can stop for this moment: for the reunion of two friends.


But soldiers can only pause for so long, before they must march again; just as a bird of prey wait for only so long, before it swoops in to kill.

The revolution does not care: it forges on.


She's on the hovercraft. She's sitting, as Sadie Rendevez storms off, her yells curling in her throat, her eyes too vitriolic with anger to consider anyone. She watches, as Kiernan Alcraiz meets her eyes, and she squashes her feelings down, a tenfold and a sea down, because she didn't think— she didn't think that she would be meeting him here. He says her name, and she wishes she could close her eyes, then, for she can imagine what goes on in his head.

If it were up to her, Maeve would be the one sitting here, staring at Kiernan. Maeve would be the one rushing up to Kiernan, curling him into an embrace. They would be here - siblings reunited, the Alcraiz's, swaying in the hovercraft. The one hope in a tableaux of tragedy.

But that is not the world here, and Kiernan stares at a machine instead. Madison sits, and stares, and he stands, and he stares, as if there is fragile glass sloshing in the atmosphere between them, prickling their arms, frizzing with static and nerve, with discomfort and shame and despair.

She hears, only half-listening, as Cynane rats off what they will all have to do. Kiernan's eyes burn into hers, and she looks away. For she cannot bring herself to meet his eyes. It is not just because he is Maeve's brother.

It is because his eyes are too blue, and they fracture her sanity, and they crack a trickle down her face, and they cleave a ravine in her body, sickened with the disease of her failure. His eyes are Maeve's eyes, and staring at them is gazing in the depths of her memory, reflecting a girl not-broken-yet, breathing like it is her first time, stars and desperation in her dilated eyes. Her eyes, blue-shining, back at her, and that— that is something she cannot survive.


They return to a base.

It is not their base - not Thirteen, but that is to be expected. They've broken out of the Games: to bring them back to the base is mechanical suicide. Instead, they go deep into the midst of Seven: in the environs of trees and woods so deep in the woodlands that nobody would dare trespass in fear of the wolves and the creatures that rampage through the night.

They do not have time. They barely have: if their extraction itself wouldn't have compromised them, then the explosions surely have.

The explosions. It's what Jordyn's done, Madison later realises, but magnified: the barrier had wavered for a moment before it had flicked back in place again for the 55th Games, and now the barrier had been besieged and broken and had fallen for the 56th. And the Capitol is on their tail, seething and roaring, as they take the rest they should not have.

They descend, quickly, for night settles fast in Panem: twilight is but a silver between the light and darkness that swallows the realms, and it is easy for reality and visions to blur together when your sanity is fractured by the night.

One by one, they stumble out of the craft. The Fours hold onto each other, fingers entwined together; Sadie Rendevez's glaring anyone that would look at her; Kiernan Alcraiz doesn't say a word. Soon, they are greeted by Seven's rebellion leader: Gehenna Veredis. She's a lunatic, Cynane had said to Madison, during their debriefings, but a useful lunatic. We're safe from the forests thanks to her.

Why that is, is evident. Wooden stakes and fences reach several feet high, though they are not secure exactly: a wolf could slither between the stakes if it so tries, but she wards that thought from her mind, Perhaps what is special is the charms that sway on the gates, from the winds, wards and symbols that keep the darkness of the night away. Her hand raises to her neck, and grazes over the cuckoo necklace that she still wears.

She tries not to think about what the forests remind her of.

She can't.


Kisses, so soft by the corner of her lips, a breath and another. Hands, holding her arms. Safety swirls around her, and they have hope - there, in a tent that warms her, with a girl that salves her, giving breaths that save her.


It is not fifteen minutes until darkness spreads across the realms that the first broadcast is passed on through the Vultures' networks.

Rhodos had caught the message first, from the radio in Gehenna's canopy. He had called them, panic in every syllable he'd pronounced, and he'd told them all to gather, for Snow had a message for the Vultures only. They are here, now: congregated inside the hovercraft, around the projection that shines a figure upon the craft's humming machinery and blinking lights.

Snow's face flicks across the humming machinery and the blinking lights, and Madison can only choke back the gasp in her throat. Because - she knows he's not here, that this is prerecorded, that he isn't speaking directly to them. Yet with the gleam in his eyes and the glare in his expression: it's hard to believe otherwise.

He stares at them all. Beside him's fences shooting up high, built of wooden stakes and metal wires. It's rudimentary. Almost… too rudimentary for the Capitol. So, if not the Capitol: where does he broadcast from?

"This message is to the rebel group that have christened themselves 'The Vultures'."

The tension in the hovercraft is electric. Every person stands on edge.

Snow cocks his head. His lips pulse, under the lights: they are so red.

"You may feel that you have won. You feel this way, because you've taken advantage of a momentary faltering in the force-field to rescue a few tributes in the Games."

Next to Madison, Sadie scoffs. "Yeah, right. Momentary faltering? We destroyed the whole fuckin' thing. Shame you won't admit it. Won't admit what Daniel's done. What Ry's done. What Fasc and what Herman's done. What we've done."

Her diatribe's... loud. Deliberately loud. Because Sadie's eyes harden from a sneer to a glare, and they flick from Snow's projection, to Cynane, as if she's challenging her. To Cynane, who doesn't pass her daughter even a glance - who exhales a breath, instead, and focuses her entire attention on Snow.

Is that irritation that flares in Sadie's eyes?

But Madison does not get a moment more to think before Snow begins again.

"But I am not here to speak to any rebel group. My message is to the escapees of the 56th Games."

All breath's sucked out of the room.

"That means: Kiernan Alcraiz. District Two male. Rhodos McNamara. District Four male. Althea Ivory. District Four female. Sadie Rendevez. District Eight female."

Is that a thin smile that twists Snow's lips?

"Let us begin in order. Kiernan Alcraiz. I did not think that you would have made it past the first day in the Games. Your presence was comeuppance. Yet… another Alcraiz lives, for now."

It's then when Snow turns his head. "Bring her in."

Another figure stumbles into the view of the projection.

From beside her, Kiernan's eyes widen, and a curse tumbles forth from his mouth. Madison doesn't need to ask: the person's terrified electric blue eyes say everything she needs to know.

"I'm sure you recognise her. Anastasia Alcraiz. We should've taken her in, sooner - for the treason of producing not one but two rebellious children. That sort of genetic inheritance should be exterminated."

"Kiernan," Anastasia gasps, and her figure shimmers in the projection. Tears streak down her eyes. "Please, please just listen to them, please listen to me, okay? Please just turn yourself in, please come home. They'll treat you good, they won't touch you, not even a hair, I'll make sure of that, okay, baby? Please return to me, there's— there's a war coming, and children aren't made for wars, okay? You— you aren't made for war. I can't— I can't lose you too."

"That's enough. Take her away."

Shuffles, screams: Anastasia Alcraiz leaves from their line of sight.

Kiernan is silent. His arms are crossed, and he's looking at anywhere except the screen, except for the rest of them. For good measure, too: everyone's eyes are on him, now. It's a mix: sympathy's in Jordyn's, anger's in Sadie's, sadness's in Rhodos', impartiality's in Althea's. Cynane's is unreadable.

Coldness sinks into Madison's gut. "I'm sorry," she whispers. "I—"

Kiernan glares at her. "Shut up," he snarls. "An apology? That's fucking rich of you. After all you've done to Maev— after all you've done!"

But then he goes quiet once again, blinks a few times, and turns away from her. Madison shuts her eyes, pushes her arms to her chest tighter, and looks away.

What did you think he'd say? You thought he'd have appreciated that? You'd ruined his family. You'd gotten his sister killed, you'd gotten him in the Games, and now his Mom's as good as dead because of what you've done. What were you thinking?

Snow's voice cuts through her spiral.

"But that is enough time spent. Now. Rhodos McNamara… I did expect better from you. But no matter. Your parents— are here. They have been detained by Capitol troops, as we have your sister, Venice."

"Oh, god." Rhodos' voice is shaky, as he stumbles backwards, as if he could somehow get away from the glare of the projections. "No, oh—oh no. This can't be happening. They're not— they're not there. They can't… they can't be… "

Beside him, Althea Ivory clears her throat, her throat strained. "Rhodos…"

For a second, Madison thinks that she's about to reach out - to comfort him. But Snow speaks, and—

"Althea Ivory. Don't think we don't know about Kani Fairchild."

— all falls away.

"No," Althea Ivory whispers, and it is despair that swallows her tone. She presses a hand to her mouth and stands there, every muscle of hers too tightened, every bit of her body too rigid.

"We have her in our cells. Slated for execution, for fraternising with a traitor."

"That can't— that can't be, fuck you! You're not— you're not going to execute her, I swear to god, if you even touch her—!"

Madison can only watch, as Althea Ivory sways between lashing out and breaking down, as tears glitter down Rhodos McNamara's eyes, as the Fours fold under Snow's gaze.

"And Sadie Rendevez. Don't think that we've forgotten about you."

Sadie scoffs to the screen. "Must suck, then, 'cause everyone I care about is dead. You've killed them all, you fucking bastards."

"You and I both know why you were Reaped into the Games. We know all about your lineage: your claimed lineage, anyhow. But, 'Rendevez': that is not your real last name, is it?"

"No: you're Sadie Qing. Your mother is six feet under. But you do have a father. Arenko Qing."

"Fuck you," Sadie spits out. "So do me a favour and kill him, then, for all I fucking care!"

Does Snow smile?

"But I don't imagine it's your father that you care about: nine-year-old runaways don't tend to hold their parents in high regard. But someone you do - or did care for - was Victor Vernina. And I'm certain that you wouldn't wish anything bad to befall his family."

Sadie's anger morphs in an instant. Shock swallows her expression, and her face drains of colour. But just as quick as it goes, it returns, and she's glaring again, with ardour in her glare, with madness in every breath she takes.

"Vic's fucking suffered enough. Don't you dare fucking touch their family."

Snow, of course, does not hear her. His eyes fixate forwards once again: and though he stares at them all, Madison feels her skin crawl.

"Surrender yourselves. Turn away from the rebellion. Or your family will pay the price. Just as they have."

Snow strolls off-screen. Behind him is a stand, and upon the stand are posts, and those posts have people tied to them, and oh no, oh no—

"No," Sadie gasps. Maddie's stomach constricts. Because she doesn't know the people upon the posts, about to be executed, but they're familiar—

It clicks in her head, suddenly. Ryleigh's parents. Daniel's family. There are - men, forty-something, women, thirty-something, children, barely twelve, barely ten, barely seven, barely four - oh god, they don't have to execute them all.

But the Capitol troops march upon the scene, and they set their guns. A countdown reaches down: three, two one.

The guns screech. The children scream.

Not a moment later, and Snow steps back into the frame. "You have a week's time to come into contact with us. I won't wait long."

"Shut that shit off," Kiernan mutters. "I'm done."

But Snow continues to stare. A smile ticks up the corner of his lips.

"Oh, and Madison—" and at her name, her chest constricts, her stomach drops in horror. They're all looking at her, now: Kiernan and Jordyn and Rhodos and Althea and Cynane and the rest of them—

"—I know you're out there. I hope they haven't ruined you too badly: though, really, they couldn't have ruined you more than you've already ruined yourself. Really, Cynane? Jordyn Moriau is one thing. But I thought you would've had more compassion than to exploit a suicidal child."

The broadcast shuts off.

They're still. They're all still - too still. Madison's rigid. She doesn't even care how Snow knows she's breathing. All she's too aware of is - their eyes on her, all of them, and she knows what they're riveted on, the way suicide's twisted on Snow's lips, and she knows what they think again, that same scene again, but now a thousand more fucking questions spiralling from their minds—

What's she doing here again?

Why hasn't she joined her friends yet?

Are those scars on her arms?

Do you think she still…?

Won't be surprised.

Did you cut yourself? Can I see?

Does that mean you want to die?

Madison, and Scott stares back at her, dismay and confusion and anger in his begging eyes, why did you kill yourself? You were the only person that could've made my life mean something but instead you were selfish and made sure I died for nothing.

Why are you alive?

Oh my god, you want to die? A grin, and disbelief, and teeth, razor-sharp. Talons, tugging at her wrists, drawing blood from her skin. Y'know, suicide's a temporary solution to a permanent problem.

Didn't you want to die?

Cynane's face, and tongue, and her eyes, gazing off into the windows. Your life is precious. Oh, but don't get me wrong. Your death is far more beautiful, and far more useful than your life had ever amounted to.

Oh, come on. His scoff infiltrates her head. Things aren't that bad. Nothing to warrant hurting yourself over. Stop playing the victim. You're the best Career of One. Others are in far worse situations than you. They envy you. Act the part.

Why can't you stop?

Why are you alive?

You're my soldier. You're my trooper. Good, Madison. That's how you make me proud.


She's huddled in a ball, shivering in the winds, sitting against the hovercraft. She had excused herself, I need air, and so she is here now, staring at the too-wide fences and left wondering whether wolves would slither through the cracks.

Madison doesn't expect anyone to come. But steps crunch against the dirt, and she looks up to find Jordyn Moriau, staring back at her.

A faint sort of smile turns up Jordyn's lips. She drops down next to Maddie, leans against the hovercraft, and presses her fingers into the dirt.

"How are you holding up?"

"I'm okay. Thank you," Madison murmurs, quietly. She presses her lips together and focuses ahead into the forests. Chirps reign through the thickets; soft, barely-there, but still present.

"Are you sure you're okay?" There's a crinkle in Jordyn's eyes: as if she's trying to gauge what she's really thinking.

Madison tightens her arms around her legs and pushes her legs closer to her body. "I'm fine. I'm alright. You don't have to worry about me."

"Okay, then," Jordyn says, softly. "Should I tell you about what they were talking about? Before you left?"

"Yeah, um, that would be… good. I didn't really catch it."

Jordyn lets out a quiet exhale, though it isn't targeted at anyone. "They're talking about launching a rescue mission, for the families. Figured that Snow's holding them all in Four. Althea had recognised one of the landmarks. So, I think, Rhodos and Althea are going on that mission. To save them. They're going to meet up with the contacts which Cynane has over there."

"That's good," Madison says, after a moment. "I'm glad to hear that. I hope they can to save their families."

Jordyn's eyes flick towards hers. As if she notices the haltingness in Madison's voice. But if she does, she doesn't mention it - all she does is continue on.

"There's another mission that Cynane wants me to go on. She wants me to go to District Eight. To rally the troops there. Me, and Sadie, and Daria - I think you know her?"

"I do. She'd helped me for a while when I was still recovering."

"Yeah, her. Kiernan's also coming - who knows why - but at least rallying Eight's a safer mission than venturing into Four. Cynane wants you on, too."

That she is taken aback by. "Why me?"

"I don't know." Jordyn bites her lip. "I'm sure she has her reasons, even if I don't understand them."

"She always does."

They're quiet, for a while, after. Only the slow chirps of the birds strike through the night, so slurred, so still, it's as if they aren't there at all.

"I still worry about you."

Madison's eyes flick towards Jordyn's. "Thank you, but - it's okay. You shouldn't." A slight quirk turns up her lips. "You're the rebellion's figurehead - you've got more important things to do, and you shouldn't spend that time worrying about me."

"Sure I could," Jordyn says, "But you matter to me. So I'll end up worrying about you, whether you like it or not. Doesn't matter whether I'm the rebellion's figurehead. You're my friend."

Her hand falls upon Madison's hand upon the ground. They're barely touching, but what little is of Jordyn's touch is comforting.

(Her warmth makes Madison's breath hitch.)

A half-smile twists by Jordyn's lips. Is it a rueful one? But soon, Madison realises that she's somewhat smiling too. Even if it's only a little lift of her lips - it's better than nothing.

Something glimmers in Jordyn's eyes.

"Madison, I don't know if you know, but just so you do - you can always talk to me if you need to. For what it's worth... I'm glad you're still here, with us. I'm glad you're alive."

Her heart drops.

She doesn't know how to speak, for a moment. She doesn't know what to say. She knows she should - Jordyn's eyes are on her, and she needs to respond. But her throat's dry, and her throat flutters, and her mind runs a million thoughts a mile.

She doesn't know why her tears fall.

She doesn't know why they make tracks down her cheeks, and she doesn't know why sobs choke away her breath, and she doesn't know why she smiles through it all.

She doesn't know why the first words that slip through her lips are a thank you. She doesn't know why it's a whisper she lets repeat, again and again, and she can't stop any of it, not her tears, not her hitches, not her breaths.

(And maybe - just maybe - it's because she's tired of yearning for death. She's tired of it being the only light in the gloom they've plunged her in. She's tired of it being the only answer that the world pushes her to accept.)

(Why isn't she worth a moment's happiness? Why can't she live without hating herself? Why shouldn't she be worth more than her weight in despair?)

(Why doesn't she deserve to hope?)

Jordyn wants her here, Jordyn's glad she's alive, so that must mean something, right? It means she isn't completely useless. It means they don't all despise her. It means that her failure to die wasn't a failure.

Someone still wants her here, someone still wants her breathing, and she knows if Jordyn sees the fucked-up filth that's her insides, she wouldn't, but Madison lets herself believe. And if Jordyn believes there's worth to her being, then perhaps she can make herself believe, too, if she tries hard enough.

She clutches Jordyn's fingers, and Jordyn responds by tightening her hold, as if she'll never let go.

"Just take a break tonight, okay? Try not to think about Cynane, or the Vultures, or anything. I know it's hard - I mean, I've tried that too many times - but it helps."

"I'll try to," Madison whispers.

"That's all I can ask for."

They sit there in the gloom, staring out into the forests of the night, as the nightingales - they are nightingales, for she can recognise their song anywhere - sing through the darkness. She'd stare on from her cages before, so much despair weighing her bones, for they are free to frolic in their wilds whilst she is an osier bird, trapped in her osier cage, told to sing the songs they've slotted in the hole of her throat.

But she has a hand holding her hand, now, and she has somebody breathing with her, now, and it isn't as suffocating as it would be, before. Because at least she has Jordyn. And that is enough for her to bear through the night.

"Their song's nice," Jordyn says, softly. "I've never heard it so clearly before."

Madison tilts her head. "Yeah. It is. They sing it well."

And that is where she stays, for the night, as Jordyn knots their fingers together, as the nightingale sings their song, as wetness dries by her eyes, as she hopes.


It is at eighteen when Madison Saros is reminded of the nightingale's song.

And with their breath, with their plea, with their pain, with their hope: she will sing on.


It does not take so long, for her to descend into the hollows of Eight. It is with a girl that hates her, for she is the epitome of Career. It is with a boy that hates her, for she is responsible for the death of his sister. It is with a girl who had saved her, in the weeks she'd spent in recovery. It is with a girl who should not be here, who should be dead, yet is as breathing and as alive as she.

(She takes solace in the fact. She's glad, that Jordyn is alive, too. They've suffocated through the same hell: if they're to come out of the other side, then at least they can do it together. And maybe Jordyn can dream, as she had always wished to - but dreams only suffocate in the decimation of revolutions.)

She stares, out to the ravaged earth, out to the broken world. Out to the riots, and the flames, and the burned world.

They are supposed to rally this place?

It is destruction. It is pain incarnate. It is people, battered-down and weary and broken. It is toys, strewn across the harrowing landscape, sinking into the sludge and the flames.

"What the fuck," Sadie Rendevez growls, to nobody in particular, but her eyes rivet upon Madison's. "Have you done to my home?"

Her eyes rivet on Madison's, yet it is not Madison whom she looks at. Sadie glares at her, rage and anger and a grimace. It is a glare that she only uses upon Cynane. Madison wonders, then, if she is a medium for that.

Daria's the one who speaks, next. "I didn't expect it to be so..."

"Destroyed?" Sadie scoffs. "Yeah, right. Bet the Capitol couldn't wait for an excuse to firebomb my fucking home. Like they could get to all the folks they couldn't personally kill 'cause—oh wait, they died in the Games."

They're quiet, during Sadie's rant. As Sadie stabs her gun into the smoke-lain ground and kicks a stone down the pathway: it knocks, to a stop, against a burning backshop. She isn't sure how to react - but then again, so is the rest of her squad.

"Camp's somewhere over there," Sadie mutters, and she doesn't even look at that direction - only gesticulates, with her gun. "'Least, that's what dear 'ole mother says. If it hasn't been destroyed already."

"So let's go, then."

Madison starts. Because those quiet words come from Kiernan's mouth. He hasn't spoken - not till now. She glances over to him, and there is nothing readable in his expression: only a gaunt jaw.

He looks only too small, for this place. The gun weighs upon his grip: he struggles with it, yet he still slings it over his shoulder, like it is merely a schoolbag and not a weapon. He has aviator goggles on, that rests atop his too-large helmet. His camo is too baggy and his armour is too large for his frame. Kiernan has a scowl, of course, and his eyes are— too blue, too old for his age— but the rest of him is too small for the world.

(Too small to be broken.)

Part of her wants to reach out. To reassure him, somehow. To wish him away, back somewhere safe, where the world would not tear him open, with merciless breath to breath. Perhaps to a place in the woods, as she'd dreamt with Maeve. But she stays rooted still, for they are in a war and not a cottage home.

(Why did Cynane even allow him on the battlefield?)

It is too late for that question, though - for they are on a battlefield, and Sadie already marches her way on, soles trudging through the mud and gore that pools in the streets of Eight.

Pass the burning stores, pass the ravaged metal factories, pass the debris on the pathways - Madison Saros follows the lead of a girl that hates her, as they morph into soldiers together, inside a wrecked world.


This is how the revolution begins, for the child soldier, that had died too early in a grave.

This is how the revolution begins, for a girl broken too early by the world.

This is how it begins.


A/N: Welcome to the revolution!

It's taken us a while to get here! 7 months… that's a pretty long hiatus. But I'm very happy to be back!

So, let me get right to it: formatting! We'll have 13 characters who will have one POV chapter each, and one epilogue - so No Rest will have 14 chapters in total. Every chapter will be based on one character's experience of the revolution, and will be in the same format. So expect non-chronological order, and we'll be bouncing over the place. However, I'll be keeping it (hopefully) easily coherent and comprehensible, since there is an overarching storyline throughout it all.

Do take a look at the updated blog! All the characters on the page will have a POV chapter. Also, I hope you enjoy the video I've made for all these kids, linked in the blog: disrverse. weebly / no-rest .html

Thank you for reading! I'll be seeing you in the next chapter. Feel free to let me know what you thought, if you feel so inclined!

Love, Dawn.