A/N: Thanks for all of the great reviews the past couple of days. I've been on a bit of a posting binge the past couple of days to make up for the fact that I have been very slow to update as of late but also because my next update after this will probably be a bit slow coming as well. Thanks for your patience in waiting for the updates and hope you like this chapter and the ones to come!
Right now, as I'm trying to escape the grasps of several Dauntless members, I wish that my faction wasn't so comfortable with touching others. Maybe it's the Abnegation part of my Divergent brain coming out right now that makes me feel that way. As long as I can remember I have felt uncomfortable with being touched by anyone outside of my family and friends.
Once everyone has finished crushing me into hugs, Christina pulls me back to the initiate dorm to change before we have to meet up with everyone else for Dare. I try to protest, telling her that it's just Dare; not a date, but then Lauren, Shauna, Lynn and Marlene are there insisting. Right about then I'd rather have to fight Peter and Eric than argue with the five of them.
Shauna and Lauren are already dressed like they're going to a party—their hair and makeup is even done. Their appearance makes me think that my earlier proclamation that I didn't need to dress up for Dare was apparently incorrect. Since they're both ready, they focus their attention on helping Christina, Marlene and I. And by that, I mean they mostly focus on me. Christina and Lauren argue over what outfit I should wear and Shauna curls my hair. Briefly, I wonder if this is what having sisters would have been like.
Lauren must have won the argument with Christina because she walks over to me and hands me a pair of black form-fitting pants and a black strapless top with a lace overlay.
"Here, put this on."
"Uh, Lauren, what am I supposed to wear under this shirt? There aren't straps?" Christina tosses a black, strapless bra at me and I flush.
"Zeke, Uriah and Amar may have taught you to fight but there were a few things they couldn't teach you, weren't there, Tris?" Shauna asks as she finishes the last curl.
"Really, Four and Amar taught me how to fight. Regardless, though, I never want to talk to any of my brothers about their knowledge of women's underwear." All of them erupt into laughter at that. Marlene exchanges an awkward look with Shauna but I ignore it.
"Go get dressed and then I'll finish your hair." Shauna taps my arm when she says it and I rise to change clothes. Marlene hops into the chair as soon as I get up and asks Shauna to quickly fix her hair.
Once I am dressed Shauna fusses with my hair for a few more minutes until she decides it's done. Finally I look in a mirror in the bathroom. The person staring back at me looks like me but very different than I remember my reflection looking a few weeks ago. I've always been toned with a small frame but the way the clothes hug me show off the definition my muscles have further gained through initiation. The additional pounds of muscle make me appear forceful, formidable and older. I like it. The shirt shows off that even my shoulders and arms are strong and well defined. The low cut of it accentuates the three ravens I had tattooed on my collar bone yesterday to symbolize both the family members I've lost and the ones I've gained. My hair cascades down my back and over my shoulders in gentle waves that Shauna created.
Lauren walks up behind me.
"You look stunning."
It's funny to hear her say that since she's one of the prettiest women I've seen up close. She represents one of the things I've never understood about Dauntless—how the women can be capable of potentially killing 90% of the city in hand-to-hand combat yet still wear makeup, curl their hair and even wear heels at times. In a few days the women in this room will be fighting to ensure that an entire faction doesn't get destroyed. Right now we're all pushing that aside. Anyone who looked in this room right now would just see a group of teenage girls getting ready for a party; not warriors who will have to protect the city. The incongruence has always puzzled me.
"I don't know about stunning. Maybe just noticeable." Lauren smiles at me for a moment.
"Here, let me do something." She grabs Christina's bag of makeup and comes back to stand in front of me. She's taller than I am so I can't see the mirror to know what she's doing. "There," she says and steps back. She eyes me like I'm her best work.
She's lined my eyes with eyeliner and added mascara to my lashes. The result is an improvement. It offers a contracts to my grey-blue eyes that draws attention to them, making them stand out.
"Almost perfect. You just need these," Christina drops a pair of black flats in front of me and I put them on. "And you need this," she helps me put on a simple, black, collarless jacket. "Plus you need just a touch of lipstick." Christina turns my face toward her and quickly dabs lipstick to my lips. She tells me to rub them together and I obey. I'm glad to see that the color isn't too bright but just slightly highlights my mouth and makes my lips appear a bit fuller.
"How am I supposed to jump on and off a train in these shoes?" My question was technically asked to Christina but I offer it to the whole room.
"I've done it dozens of times, Tris. You'll be surprised how easy it is. Just curl your toes as you jump if they feel like they'll slip off." Lauren offers from a few feet away.
"Thanks. I'll have to remember that."
"Nice tattoo, by the way. Are those Ravens?" Lauren inquires.
"One for Mom, one for Ez- Zeke and one for Uri." My answer is simple but I find it embarrassing to admit. A lot of Dauntless have tattoos but a lot of them don't have much meaning. Lauren smiles warmly at it, though.
"I like that. You show them yet?"
"No, I just got it yesterday."
"Zeke is going to love it."
Christina rolls her eyes at our exchange. "Screw your brother. I'm more interested in what this guy you like will do when he sees you tonight. He's going to be there, right?"
"There's a guy?" Lauren quirks an eyebrow at me and smirks.
"Yes, there's a guy. She keeps sneaking off with him and won't tell me who he is. It's driving me crazy!" Christina answers before I can. "Seriously, Tris, he's going to be there tonight, right?"
"She should be." I'm blushing a bit even though the idea of Tobias looking at me fills with excitement instead of embarrassment or fear. I feel like the time before we are together again won't come soon enough.
"Well, he's going to be knocked out by how great you look." Lauren adds and winks at me. I feel like she knows something; that she's figured it out. I don't know how, though.
"I just want to figure out who he is." Christina pouts.
"Maybe we should play Candor or Dauntless tonight instead of Dare. Then you could just ask her." Marlene offers from across the room.
"Alright, we need to get going, ladies. Everyone will be at Zeke's apartment in the next ten minutes." Lauren announces it and she sounds like she's gone back to being our instructor again.
We're primped and ready to go so we head out toward Ezi's apartment. Sometime in the past two years Ezi has become the legend of Dauntless parties so New Member Dare is held at his apartment. It always ends up wandering around the city, though. It just starts here.
We walk in without knocking since we know the door is unlocked.
"Zeke!" Shauna calls out into the surprisingly empty space and my obviously inebriated brother comes walking toward us.
"Hello, ladies!" He exclaims enthusiastically. "Hello, gorgeous." He addresses Shauna with a slightly sloppy kiss. "Go ahead and take your coats off for a few. A lot of people won't be here for a bit. Somehow the time got messed up. So make yourselves comfortable and grab a drink." Zeke wanders through our group and gives each of us a hug.
"Hey, Ezi, I see you're happily on your way towards drunk."
I smile at him and his face lights up. Suddenly he throws me over his shoulder, ignoring my shrieks to put me down. He walks further into his apartment and sets me down in the middle of the main room where about ten Dauntless members are standing.
"Attention, everyone!" The conversations around us stop and everyone stares at us. "Our top initiate—my amazing sister, Tris—has arrived!"
Everyone starts cheering and I hear a few people yell my name. Uriah walks over to us and the three of us hug for a moment as people yell both Uriah's and my names.
"Geez, Tris, running off somewhere?" Uriah looks at my coat. "You can take your coat off and stay a while. It's just Zeke's apartment, you know."
"Oh, yeah. I didn't get a chance because this guy over here hijacked my entrance." I pull my jacket from my shoulders and Uriah takes it, trading me it for a drink. "Thanks." It's my only response before I tentatively taste the drink laced with sugar and alcohol.
"Ri, you got a tattoo?" Zeke asks. His words come out slightly sluggish.
"Yeah, I did."
"What type of birds are those?" Uriah asks. I'm glad he doesn't ask if they're crows.
"Why there?" Uriah asks but I'm sure he's already figured it out.
"One for each member of my family." Ezi looks at me for a moment, hopeful but also nervous. "Mom and the two of you." For a quick second I think Ezi is going to cry but it passes and instead he crushes me to him in a hug. Uriah wraps his arms around both of us and I'm smashed in the middle.
"You're the most thoughtful, sweet and brave sister in the world, even if you're a ridiculous pain in the ass sometimes." Ezi says quietly.
"And you're the best big brother ever, even if you're an ugly asshole." I respond, squeezing him tighter to keep my voice even.
"And I'm the beautiful one." Uriah adds and Ezi playfully slaps him upside the head. I start laughing and they both do as well.
"You're a ridiculous idiot even if you are the second ranked initiate." Ezi says it with a chuckle.
"Pedrad pile!" Amar calls out and suddenly people are jumping on to us—some joining in the group hug and some trying to jump on top of everyone. The result is a lump of tangled limbs that crashes to the floor.
People start struggling and stumbling to get up and extract themselves from the group. I pull my arm out from under Ezi and roll my wrist around to work the soreness out of it. I push myself up and turn to pull Ezi up and then Uriah.
"Good thing we have you around to save us, Ri." Ezi smiles and then wanders over to help Shauna up.
"OK, no more sentimental moments, Pedrad twins." Lauren sounds like an instructor again. I can't help but laugh at it.
"Zeke started it." I put my hands up in surrender.
"Good point. Zeke, no more sappy shit." Lauren gives Ezi the same withering look she gave us the first day of training.
"Yes, ma'am." Ezi feigns a scared shudder.
Christina has come over and is fussing with my hair. I try to brush her away but it doesn't work.
"Come on, Tris. You messed you hair up and I have to fix it in case that guy is here."
"'That guy'?" Uriah asks it and I can tell that he's suppressing a laugh.
"The guy Tris likes. She won't tell me who it is but he's supposed to be here tonight. Do you know who it is, Uriah?"
"You're lying. You blink faster when you lie."
"I'm not lying."
"Yes you are. You know." Uriah glances at me, silently asking for permission and I nod.
"Fine. I know."
"Is he here?" Just then about ten people walk in. Tobias is among them as well as most of my initiate class. Uriah notices it but doesn't pull Christina's attention to them.
"Who is it?"
"I can't tell you that."
"He'll never tell you, Christina." Ezi chimes in now from across the room. He won't even tell me. It's part of their sacred twin bond."
Christina pouts for a minute but then sighs. "Well, I'm going to look around and see if I can figure out who it is. I'll be back."
She leaves but then I notice Tobias walking over toward us. I meet his eyes and smile at him as he approaches. He stops in front of Uriah and me.
"Four, glad you're here." Uriah pulls him in for a tight hug.
"Me too. You two seem to have cleaned up well. You wouldn't think that you've both been beating others bloody recently." All three of us chuckle at the comment. "Congratulations again, Uriah. You've done a great job."
"Thanks, Four—for everything."
Tobias shifts his focus to me and steps over so he's standing directly in front of me. "Congratulations, Tris. I think you broke at least one Dauntless record in each stage."
"Whose records were they?"
"Some were mine and some belonged to a woman named Natalie Prior." Four says it softly so only Uriah and I can hear. I know my face must look shocked but Tobias doesn't let on.
"Wow, I had no idea."
"I hear Max will be talking to you about becoming a leader-in-training. It will be a great compliment to your skills. Congratulations."
"Thank you, Four."
He opens his arms and I step forward into the hug, slipping my arms comfortably around his neck. His arms wrap tightly around my waist. I breathe his scent in deeply. All of this feels so familiar; so right. I bury my face in his chest, not wanting to acknowledge anything other than him and how this feels.
"You look absolutely beautiful." He whispers it in my ear.
The feel of his breath on my neck and his lips brushing my earlobe sends a shiver down my spine. I smile into his chest and I know he felt both because he presses a quick kiss to the top of my neck, behind my ear. I know it was risky for him to do with so many people around and with very few distractions. Tobias must realize it because he quickly pulls back and announces he's going to find a drink.
"If you don't want Zeke to find out, you're not doing a good job at hiding it." Uriah's whisper to me comes out harsh a moment after Tobias's departure.
"I know. I know." I look at him as I whisper back.
"You need to tell him, Ri. He's going to find out by the end of the night."
I squeeze my eyes shut. "I know. I just don't know how to tell him, Uri."
"Well, you better figure it out. You both are sober and already mooning over each other. It's only going to be worse after a few drinks."
"I know. I. Know. Why does this have to be so difficult?"
"It doesn't have to be, Ri. Zeke will understand. He trusts Four and he loves you. It will be fine—Zeke is a big boy."
"Uri, you don't need to tell me that."
"I do because even if you know it, you're not acting like you know it."
"Uri, it's easy for you. Ezi doesn't want to murder every girl who looks at you."
"Zeke only wants to murder people who hurt you. You take care of yourself well enough though. Ri, if you don't tell him by the end of Dare, I'll make sure he knows. It's time."
"OK, Uri. I get your point. Geez, you get testy when we don't have enough twin time."
"You always knew I was high maintenance." Uriah flashes a smile at me as what I suspect is the last round of Dauntless members arrives. Sure enough, Ezi walks to the middle of the room, steadier than he was earlier.
"Alright, everyone! Now that everyone is here, I'd like to welcome you to a newer Dauntless tradition: the annual post-initiation game of Dare. Every year we welcome our newest members to our faction by getting you drunk and making you do dangerous things." People cheer across the room. "While it's open to all members of Dauntless you'll notice that the people around you are mostly from the last few initiation classes and, of course, your instructors." People hoot and holler for Lauren and Tobias then so they both wave awkwardly to the group.
"So here are the rules: every person will be dared to do something at least once by the end of the night. When you are dared to do something you have two choices: take a drink of alcohol and do the dare or, if you don't want to do the dare, you take a drink of alcohol and take off an article of clothing. Shoes and socks don't count."
"What do you get if you do the dare?"
"To not be called a pansycake by everyone." Lauren shouts before Ezi can and everyone laughs at the ferocity of her response.
Uriah, of course, raises his hand. "Me!"
"Oh, my kid brother outshines my sister! Burn, Tris!"
"Nah, I just know you make up lame dares, Ezi." I retort quickly, knowing that I won because he hates it when I call him Ezi in front of anyone not related to us. There's a quiet chuckle that ripples through the group.
"Alright, alright, Ri. Don't make me tell stories about you as a child." My face reddens because I know exactly what story he'd tell. I make a motion with my hand to show that I'm zipping my lips.
"Anyway, Uriah, you have to streak through the Erudite library."
"Gladly." Uriah walks through the room, grabbing his jacket and opening the door. The rest of us follow suit, knowing that we're headed for the train.
"Nice tattoo." IT would startle me if the voice saying it behind me wasn't familiar. I turn and see Tobias's smirk.
"Did Zeke like it?"
"Yeah, you missed the group hug that turned into a pile that followed. Apparently, getting raves to symbolize my family mad him sentimental."
"Zeke is a surprising guy."
"Hey, Ri, stop lollygagging!" Ezi yells it from the front of the crowd so I wave at Tobias and push through everyone until I am next to Ezi.
"You're so demanding sometimes," I joke at him when I reach him. I start to pull on my jacket so Ezi quickly reaches over to help me.
"I'm allowed to be demanding. I'm your brother." He chuckles and winks at me before throwing an arm across my shoulders.
"Careful, Ezi. If I become a Dauntless leader I can exact revenge on you however I want." Ezi rolls his eyes.
"Are you joking? That will just mean that you'll protect me from the entire city. That's what I'm counting on."
"I'm already protecting you, Ezi. I've been a better fighter than you for a while." As soon as the words are out, I regret them.
"I know." It's such a soft response I almost miss it. "My baby sister grew up and now she doesn't need me."
"I wouldn't say that, Ezi." I wrap an arm around his waist and lean my head against my shoulder. "I'll always need my big brother. It'll just be in a different way."
The conversation could continue but now we're at the tracks and I can see the train approaching. Instead, I excuse myself and run over to where Uriah and Marlene are standing. Right before I reach him I jump and he catches me, throwing me over his shoulder. I think he's going to set me down when the train is mere feet away but instead he begins to run with me still over his shoulder. I instinctively wrap my arms around his waist because I know he won't put me down until we're on the train. I feel him let go of me to reach up and grab on to the rail and hoist us up and on to the train in one graceful move. He sets me down and we high five, practically collapsing with laughter.
When Marlene grabs on to the rail, he reaches a hand out and pulls her in to the car and straight into his embrace. I back away and lean against the back wall. People may think that we're inseparable at all times, but Uriah and I long ago learned when to give each other space. Christina and Will join me a couple minutes later and we start discussing what jobs we want to select as the rest of the Dauntless members jump on board. I cringe when I see Peter approaching us.
"Well, well, well, Tris, you actually look like you might be more than thirteen." He announces it loudly and I don't need to look to know everyone's paying attention.
"Unfortunately, you still look like a asshole." Laughter erupts across the car. Peter's face is bright red—a mix of embarrassment and anger.
"Peter, you should know by now that my sister will win in a battle of wits—she grew up with the best. Your face has already learned that she'll win the battle of fists." Ezi calls it out. While I know he means it to sound joking, it comes out colder than he intended, I'm sure. It doesn't matter because the effect is that Peter just throws an angry glance at me and walks away.
The next thing I know. People begin jumping from the train. As the crowd thins, I move toward the door and prepare to jump. There's a commotion behind me and Tobias grabs Peter by the collar and kicks Peter's legs out from under him.
"You do not push another member from a moving train ever." Tobias angrily growls it as he scowls down at Peter.
I jump from the train so I don't see the rest. It takes a couple steps before I feel completely steady and I take off running with everyone else. Surprisingly, my shoes don't get lost in the run to Erudite.
Uriah strips down just outside the Erudite headquarters as people continue to arrive. Because my brother has never met attention that he didn't love, he makes a show of throwing each piece of clothing to Marlene. I cover my eyes as Uriah gets down to his boxers. When I hear Uriah begin yelling I know that he's turned to run inside and it's safe to look again. He turns into a distant blur behind book stacks as we see him run through the first part of the library. When he reaches the middle we start running to the back door of the building to meet him when he comes out.
Tobias catches up to me and bumps my hip with his once we've slowed to a walk. I look over at him, eyes bright and cheeks flushed with excitement and exertion.
"Thanks for stopping Peter back there."
"Don't worry about it. He's lucky you didn't catch him first, given what I've seen you do to him before. You're tougher than I am." I roll my eyes at his comment.
A cheer erupts from the crowd gathered and I begin to turn to see what's happening. Before I can figure out what is going on, the world goes black as his hand clamps down over my eyes and he pulls me to his chest. The cheering dies down but it's about half a minute before Tobias finally speaks.
"OK, he has his pants on now," is all he says before he releases me.
"I can say that's the first time anyone has said that to me," I joke as we walk over to stand at the front of the Dauntless crowd to stand next to Ezi and Amar.
"Their faces were hilarious!" Uriah shouts it as he pulls his shoes on.
He stands back up to tug his shirt over his head. Just then the back doors to the library open and two Erudite boys my age come out.
"All of you Dauntless, get out of here." He points to Uriah. "You, though, are coming with us."
Uriah laughs at them. "Or what? You're going to throw a book at me?" The two of them shift closer to him and a third Erudite comes out to join them.
Tobias walks over to where Uriah is and stands with his arms folded formidably, turning into Four the Instructor/Leader. I don't catch the first part of what he says because a shock of recognition goes through me. The third Erudite is older than the others—he's twenty-two to be exact. I only know him from pictures but it's enough to recognize my brother, Caleb Matthews.
"It's him. It's my brother." I don't notice that I've whispered it until Ezi looks over to me.
"I know it's Caleb." His words sound sad and I know this is all of his fears come to life—Uriah potentially getting hurt and me choosing Caleb over him when give the option.
"It's Dauntless initiation. Go back inside before our newest members show you what they've learned during their training." Four's voice is low and quiet. I can tell the two younger Erudite are affected by it the way everyone is. Caleb flinches for a moment but recovers a look of indifference. He steps in front of Four, separated by about four feet of space.
"It's the legendary Four: The Dauntless Prodigy and Leader. It's funny. I thought you'd be taller." Caleb is putting on a good show of arrogance but I can tell he's truly terrified of Four.
"And you're…oh wait, no one knows who you are," Four snaps back. Caleb feigns a confident laugh.
"You Dauntless scum never know how to leave a fight. This Dauntless broke Erudite code of conduct. We're taking him in for questioning and punishment." Caleb walks over to Uriah.
"He's Dauntless. Only Dauntless leaders have the authority to punish Dauntless members. Jeanine knows this." Four doesn't move as he addresses Caleb.
"And you and the other Dauntless leaders can remind her of that after we take him in." As soon as I hear Caleb speak, my feet carry me at a run to them. I slow to a stop and place myself in front of Caleb, part of me in his path to Uriah.
"For being an erudite, you really are an idiot, Caleb." As I look up at him, I see recognition cross his eyes quickly. Standing this close to him, I can see the subtle similarities in our looks beyond just the lightness of his hair. "You try to pick a fight with not just Four but also my brother, Uriah. And when you pick a fight with my brother, you've picked it with me."
"And who are you; other than a scrawny girl?"
Four guffaws at the question. "She's right: you are an idiot. There's barely anyone who doesn't know Tris—not only is she our top initiate, but she's been a Dauntless legend practically since birth since both of her parents were Dauntless leaders. She's already broken most Dauntless records, including many of mine. Even I know not to fight her; especially when one of her brothers is being threatened."
Caleb's eyes never leave mine.
"What? Are you really going to hit me, Tris?" He hisses my name and I feel a shudder go through me. "Is that what you'll do?" He begins to bring a foot forward and I step toward him, shifting so we're squared off.
"You take one more step toward my brother and I'll break your snotty, Erudite nose."
"Step aside, Tris." Caleb moves forward and I step toward him, slamming my arms into him, pushing him back.
"Caleb?" I pause for a moment, waiting for him to make eye contact with me. Then I step forward, grab his shirt and pull back to punch him. "Go to hell." My fist slams into his nose. I hear the sickening crunch of his cartilage and immediately know it's broken.
Blood sprays out from his face and I jump out of the way. Christina would kill me if I messed up my look with blood. Caleb falls to the ground and I kick him in the stomach. He lurches back and as I'm about to kick again, a tug on my elbow stops me. I look over to Tobias shaking his head at me.
Instead of continuing, I glare at the other Erudites. "Shouldn't you two pansycakes get inside?" They glance at each other and run back into the building.
A cheer goes up in the crowd and Uriah hugs me.
"You're my hero!" He shouts, jokingly.
"Let's get out of here!" Ezi yells and everyone takes off running, except Tobias and me.
"You OK?" Tobias asks, running a hand down my arm. I nod.
"Let's get out of here." Tobias takes my hand and kisses it.
"OK." We turn to start following the group.
"Him? You're dating Four, Tris?" His voice is raspy and nasally due to his broken nose. I stop and turn back to face Caleb.
"That's none of your business. None of my life is."
"Is that all you have to say to me?"
I stand for a few moments and try to look like I'm pondering a response. I cross over to him and crouch at his side. He looks up at me, his eyebrows raised.
"There is one more thing: tell Aunt Jeanine she can go to hell, too." I stand back up and jog over to where Tobias is waiting.
Even though the rest of the group left significantly earlier than we did, we know we'll still catch up with them at the train tracks. While we're still far enough away from the tracks to be concealed in the darkness, Tobias reaches out and takes hold of my arm to stop me. I turn to face him, our hands find each other's instantly. He looks down at them with his brows furrowed.
"Your hands are dirty." I look down as well and notice the remnants of Caleb's blood on them. "Christina will be upset with you if you ruin her hard work with his blood." He smirks as he takes the hem of his shirt in his hand and uses it to clean the blood from my hands.
"Thank you." I instinctively lean into him, allowing us a moment together with my head pressed against his chest.
He places a soft kiss on the top of my head. "Are you OK?" His words come out muffled, obscured by my hair.
"I'm fine." I'm not sure if that's the truth or not, but I hope it is. Either way, I feel a groan rising in my chest as Tobias pulls away, letting me know it's time to join the others at the tracks.
When Tobias and I stroll up together, Uriah raises an eyebrow at us.
Lynn yells out, "hey, where were you two?" I've never liked Lynn and now I like her even less.
"I had to keep Tris here from killing the Erudite when he got smart with her." Tobias replies with a chuckle. It's not entirely a lie. The train comes quickly and we're caught up, running and jumping on.
"Alright, who's next? Hmmm…" Uriah stands in the middle of the car, looking around. "Greg!" He yells to a member I don't recognize and I tune out as Uriah gives him his dare.
The game continues for a couple hours and people get significantly drunker. The game rounds over to Ezi, who is dared to climb the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier, oddly enough. When he returns to the ground, he stops to consider who should go next. He's been acting so oddly today that I realize this is the first time in my life that I really have no idea what he's going to do.
"Four!" He shouts. His face wears a smile but his eyes look uncharacteristically hard and it's enough to make me feel a cold twinge of concern.
"Zeke?" Four stands with his arms crossed, face impassive as always.
"Hmmm…what do I dare the guy who has almost no fears? Oh!" His face lights with an idea but his tone is a bit too bright and I get the feeling that what he's about to suggest isn't exactly an idea that just now came to him. "You've never done this—I dare you to zip line!" While Ezi may not have ever seen Tobias's fear landscape, they've been friends long enough that it's possible Ezi has figured out that he always skips zip lining due to his fear of heights. Tobias's face goes slightly pale but I know he'll do it because to not do it would announce is fear to everyone.
"OK, Zeke." Four responds and we make our way to the Hancock building once Tobias has taken a drink from the flask.
All of us go to the end of the zip line to catch him, except Zeke and Uriah, who go with Tobias. I look at the group as we're waiting and am struck by how all of this feels like home. I spent so many years learning to be Dauntless but not quite feeling like I always belonged. Tobias comes hurtling down the line in complete silence with a stony look on his face. We catch him when he drops. As we're setting him down, I notice that his pinky is shaking just slightly. He shakes his head a bit.
"That's it?" He jokes and people laugh. His secret is safe. "OK, so Christina, you're next." Christina looks shocked and worried.
"Oh no, you've seen my fears, Four! This isn't fair!" Four chuckles and dares her to scale a nearby building. It's older and made of brick. She takes a drink from the flask he throws her and then takes off.
We all stand in front of the building as Chris climbs. Once she gets to the top floor, she disappears into a window. After about twenty seconds, Chris appears at the front door and shouts go up.
"OK, let's go back to the train! I need a moment to think." We run through the street quietly and climb up on the train tracks just in time to catch one.
"I know who's next." Chris stands in the middle of the cart. She has to shout over the noise to be heard, not that that's a challenge for her. "Tris!" Everyone cheers and Chris walks to me. She smiles and winks before she starts yelling again. "Tris likes someone and I'm dying to know who. So, Tris, you have to go kiss whoever this guy is."
My heart drops to my stomach—this isn't the way I want Ezi to find out. I know some people would understand if I didn't want to do it. A lot of people would think this isn't a difficult Dare and the word 'pansycake' would be uttered every time I walk by for a while, but I know it wouldn't last forever. I think about just being a coward and taking off my jacket. Tobias catches my eye and I see him nod just slightly so Ezi, who's standing next to him, doesn't notice. I know he's telling me it's OK with him if I do it but I'm still not sure. I look back to Christina.
"Well?" She asks. "Are you going to be a pansycake?"
"Be brave, Tris," Amar calls out to me. Everyone chuckles a bit as they watch what I'll do.
I stride across the car with purpose and stop inches from Tobias. I put my hand on the back of neck to pull him down to me and his hands slide around my waist just before my lips crash into his. A round of hoots, whistles and cheers erupt. It continues as we kiss. It takes me a few moments to remember Ezi is right next to us. I pull back and see Ezi wearing a slightly hurt expression.
"You didn't think to tell me the guy you like is my best friend, Tris?"
"I'm sorry, Ezi. I didn't know how." His face stays the same for a little bit and then he seems to come to a conclusion.
He looks at Tobias, "that wasn't the first time you've kissed my sister, is it, Four?" Tobias shakes his head. "She's the one you've been falling for and you didn't bother to tell me?"
"I'm sorry, Zeke. I know I should have." Tobias doesn't let go of me as he says it.
Zeke thinks for several seconds. They feel like an eternity. "OK. Well, you're my best friend so I guess I trust you." His response was too easy.
We're coming up on the Dauntless compound and we jump out on to the roof. Once we're all there, I walk with Tobias, Amar, Ezi, Shauna, Uriah, Marlene, Christina and Will. We're walking much slower than the rest of the group and are the last to reach the ledge where the rest of the group has jumped down into the net. Ezi stops Tobias just before the door and the rest of us stop as well.
"You guys go ahead. I need to talk to Four." Ezi says it too cheerfully to be believable.
Everyone but Ezi, Tobias, Amar and I leave after exchanging a nervous glance with me. Amar stands a few steps away, clearly trying to give us privacy but also remaining close enough to jump in any moment. "Ri, I need to talk to Four alone." Ezi looks over at me with the stern look he'd give me when we were kids. It hasn't worked on me since I was ten but it's the best he's got.
"Ezi, there's nothing you can say to him that I shouldn't hear."
"Like that was a lying asshole for not telling me that he was seeing my sister behind my back?"
"Ezi, he didn't say anything because I didn't want him to. It was my choice. If you're going to be mad at someone, be mad at me."
Ezi looks at me sadly. "Why didn't you tell me, Ri?"
"I don't know. I wanted to protect you from possibly destroying your friendship. You're so protective and the longer I didn't tell you the longer I didn't have to deal with it." My irritation is rising as I say it, which seems out of place.
"You're my little sister, Ri! I'm supposed to protect you!" Ezi is shouting now, his arms flailing wildly in exasperation and anger. It only serves to make me angrier and I realize that this is the fight that has been coming for a while now.
"I don't need your protection! Why don't you understand that?"
"I know! You haven't needed my protection since we were children. I mean, I couldn't even protect you or Uriah tonight against your brother—your real brother! You protected both of you and I stood by, useless! What does that say about me?" His face doesn't show anger but also pain and I notice for the first time that his eyes are glistening in the dim light.
Without hesitation, I step toward him and throw my arms around him, pinning his arms to his sides. I lean the side of my head against his chest, able to hear the fast pace of his heartbeat.
"Stop it! Just stop all of this!" I tighten my grip on him. His body stiffens slightly when I shout. "You're my real brother, Ezi. Caleb left and didn't look back. You're the one who was always there for me. You're the one who gave up half of your bed to me when I got scared during a thunderstorm."
I feel the vibration of Ezi's laughter in his chest. "Yeah, I'm glad you grew out of that before I hit initiation. That would have been awkward in the initiate dorm." Slowly his arms move to wrap around my waist softly.
"I'm sorry I didn't tell you, Ezi."
I feel Ezi's finger hook under my chin, pulling it up to look at him. I don't resist it and soon I am looking up into the chocolate eyes of my big brother. The memories of all of the times he'd do this exact same thing when I had fallen as a child or after I'd feel ashamed for fighting Eric flood me with nostalgia and guilt. This is the Ezi who has always been ready to support me and help me for as long as I can remember and I've been lying to him. The look on his face is soft and understanding, which makes my guilt worsen.
"You know, if you had told me you'd find out that I kind of suspected something might be going on between you two." I raise my eyebrows at him in disbelief. "OK, so I only really started to suspect yesterday but still, you two aren't that good at hiding it."
"Are you mad?"
"I'm just mad that you lied to me. Ri, I trust your judgment. Whoever you date is your choice; it always has been. I'm never going to think that anyone deserves you but if you're going to date anyone, at least it's someone I trust."
Even though his words should make me feel better, they just make me feel even guiltier.
"I'm sorry, Ezi. I just didn't want you to be upset. I never wanted to hurt you."
"I know." Ezi pulls away from me and turns to look over at Tobias, who looks as though he's trying to suppress his apprehension. "Four, if you ever hurt her, I'll kill you."
Tobias smiles at Ezi before he responds. "Zeke, that will never happen."
Ezi claps Tobias on the shoulder before walking over to the ledge and letting gravity carry him to the net. Amar winks at me before following Ezi. Once they've both jumped from the ledge Tobias is at my side, his hand slipping into mine.
"Is he really alright with us?" Tobias asks quietly.
"Probably not entirely but he will be."
Tobias shifts so he's standing in front of me and we're facing each other. Automatically his hands find my waist and my arms wrap around his neck. I tilt up on to my tiptoes to kiss him but I'm slightly too short. He smirks down at me for a moment before dipping his head for his lips to meet mine. We stay like this, our lips moving in perfect synchronization for a while until several rain drops bring us back to reality.
"We should go in." He steps toward the ledge and reaches out a hand to me. I take it and let him lead me up on to the ledge so that we're standing facing each other again. "Together?"
His arms wrap around my waist again and I move to wrap mine around him as well. Instead, he catches both of my hands and repositions them to rest on his chest. I look up at him in confusion.
"I don't want you to break your arm if we land on it."
I nod, realizing that he has a point. I knot my hands into the front of his shirt and lean my head against his chest instead. As he counts down from three I think of how the weightlessness always feels exhilarating and terrifying. As we both let ourselves fall off the ledge, wrapped in each other, I can't imagine caring about anything else right now than the steady beat of his heart and sound of his breathing.