DRAG ME UNDER
"How are you feeling?" He asked, staring down the wide walkway that lead to the front porch of the little rustic house.
Tris chewed down on her lip. "I don't know…" She began whilst shuffling her feet along the gravel pavement. "What if they don't like me?" She looked up at him, blue eyes shining, but he could tell she was pushing back a sniffle.
He gave her a small chuckle. "Of course they will." He reassured before planting his hand on the base of her back. He felt her shiver from his touch but she didn't shrink away.
Her eyes remained on the front door, unyielding in her stare. Tobias could sense that just being here brought back a lot of memories, and a pang of guilt rung through him as he wondered if he had pushed her too far this time. Though he was hesitant in bringing up the subject with Tris, and despite her being delighted to hear that her family was still in their old house just outside of Chicago, Tobias couldn't help but feel a little torn. What if he had pushed her too early? What if she wasn't ready for this?
"She's ready." Christina had said when Tobias asked her about it. "She needs this… she needs her family." Christina's voice echoed through his head, and her words left him more confident that Tris was more than capable of handling the reunion.
He pulled her tighter to his chest, needing to feel her warmth. She sighed as she took a step towards him, and rested her head in the crook of his neck. He could smell her, the way her fresh, citrus scent clung to her clothing and the way her hair smelt like strawberries. He ran a hand up and down her back, consoling her.
"If you're not ready, we can always do this another time. We don't have to do this today…" He murmured into her ear.
"It's okay." She managed a small smile despite how nervous she was. "I can do this."
He looked at her, eyes flicking back and forth, trying to detect whether she was telling the truth. She spent a few more seconds in his embrace before pulling away, though not too far, before walking down the pavement with Tobias in tow. He gripped onto her hand more tightly, afraid of letting go, and let her lead her to the steps onto the porch. He could only imagine all the thousands of feelings swirling inside—old memories, guilt, pain, and sorrow…
The three-step climb to the porch went by slowly and he swallowed with each step. He felt anxious, was this really the way to meet her family? The family of a girl he had kissed—the girl he was in love with but wasn't man enough to admit he was in love with—the family of the girl who he, and Christina, now called family. What if they embraced her, and she went back to them like the past year never happened? His biggest fear struck home hard: What if she left him for them?
He swallowed the thought, shoving it to the back of his mind. This was about Tris not him. He heard her knock and he prepared himself for the worst. Everything went blurry and Tobias could barely make out the faces that swamped around them. He could, however, remember standing there awkwardly, posture stiff and proper, as they smothered Tris with hugs and kisses. With little effort, he removed himself from the inner circle, perching himself a little further from the group. He released a loud exhale and looked away. Despite what he had said earlier, that this trip down here was all about her, he couldn't help but think of himself. Although it gladdened him to see Tris reunited with her family—genuinely happy, and like she belonged—it pained his heart. It reminded him of the things he missed out on.
He was too preoccupied with his own mind and thoughts that he hadn't notice everyone slip back into the house, until Tris popped her head out of the door, calling him with a big grin.
"Are you coming?" She says with a giddy smile.
He nodded but took a few more seconds to appreciate the beauty of where Tris' family lived. It was surrounded by grassy hills, and just swallowed up by green everywhere. The fresh air was rejuvenating and the mild wind felt nice against his face. It made him feel fresh, and it was a lot better than the air in the city. The air there was bearable, and sometimes nice compared to indoors but it always contained some sort of nauseous gas or engine exhaust, that wasn't too good for the body. One last glance around and a big inhale later, he followed her inside.
The next hour passed by quickly. He had been introduced to Natalie and Andrew Prior, her parents, and also to Caleb, her brother. They were a lovely family, and great company, though very quiet. They were well practiced in their mannerism and versed in their table etiquette. They were quite the compassionate family and they had greeted Tobias like he was part of the family, but it didn't feel right…
Dinner was simple but plain, and idle chitchat was made, as no one spoke with their mouth full. It was a rather short meal, and soon Caleb, Tris' brother, was stacking away plates and cleaning the table. After Caleb was done, Tris proceeded to gather them in the dining room, telling them that she needed to explain something. She went on to tell her parents what had happened in those long years she had gone. She would look over at him for support, and he reassured her with a gentle smile and a tender squeeze under the table. She let a little smile slip as she clasped her hand into his, interlocking their fingers.
Sobs and cries followed but it was generally taken well. With the tough conversation over, her parents began to ask how she had been for the previous months, the time gap between the court trial and now. Tris replied, saying she had been doing well, and that she had been helping Christina down at the hospital once a week. She then went on to add, "It made me feel in control. Being in a place like that definitely brought back the memories, but being able to help people gives me the strength to move on with my life."
He was proud of her; he was proud of all she had accomplished since then. She was becoming her own woman… She was no longer Beatrice, the young girl from the suburbs. She was Tris, the woman who didn't let her past define her as a person.
After that, all the despair and longing disappeared into thin air, and all that was left were old family traditions—laughs, giggles, and smiles. They were bonding, and it all seemed like they fit, but he didn't feel like he belonged… Tobias felt like the odd one out. Tris seemed to slip back into place, like she had never left at all, and they embraced her all the same. She seemed to know the house back and forth, and he soon found her laughing along like nothing bad had ever happened. She fit back in seamlessly, but he didn't. It made Tobias wonder whether he would ever fit in anywhere.
When they were all distracted with their catching up and rehashing stories from childhood, Tobias politely excused himself—though he doubt anyone paid him any mind—and slipped out the back porch.
He spent a while to himself, just existing in his own mind. He was actually feeling something that resembled pity for himself—and he usually didn't do this—but the sight in there made it hard. Today especially, because today was the day his mother died—the anniversary of her death. Tris didn't know this though, and he hadn't planned on telling her today of all days, so he kept it bottled inside. He felt torn; he was truly happy for Tris, but seeing her happy with her own mother made his heart ache for his own. It had been years since she died, but the day of her death still scarred his heart. The day of her death would forever be marked in the calendar in his mind.
He let out a loud exhale as he looked outwards onto the grassy meadows. Nature was the one connection he had left to his mother; the one thing he had left to hold on, and being out here, free and clear, made him feel just a little bit better on this day.
He was absorbed in his own mind that he hadn't seen Tris join him out on the back porch, her gentle voice floating through the wind. "I didn't see you slip out after dinner."
He looked over his left shoulder for a second, and gave her the tiniest of smiles. "I just needed a breather, that's all."
She nodded. "How long have you been out here?"
He contemplated on his answer, wondering whether he should spare her the long story of not. He ended up shrugging. "Not long." Both of them knew that was far from the truth.
Wrinkles formed on her forehead as she looked him over. "Tobias, what's wrong?"
"Hm?" He murmurs, eyes still plastered on the green landscape in front of him.
She crossed her arms over her chest. "I know something's wrong. It's got you all wound up and upset. I can always tell when something's not right... So what are you thinking about?"
"Nothing." He answered simply. He could feel her eyes on the side of his head, but he refused to look her way. She had this way about her that made him want to give into her. She always found a way to make things better… but today, he didn't want to make it better. He just wanted to be here, to just exist on this day.
She frowned at him, "Tobias, just let me in... Please. Please just tell me what's been bothering you all day... What's been on your mind?"
He sighed. "It's just that… that today is the day that my mum died, and it's been hard… you know?"
"Oh, Tobias…" Her eyes fell to the floor. "I didn't know…"
He shook his head, "It's okay… I'm fine really." It was another lie but he hoped she wouldn't notice. He took another heavy breath in and released it. "It's just being in there made me think of her… I know that you're all happy, and I'm really happy for you but it all just made me think of what I missed." He turned to look at her, "I know you haven't gotten much of your childhood either but you've got your parents, a family now. You're home now. Meanwhile, I don't know where I belong anymore… I'm lost… I…" he trailed off, not really wanting to finish the sentence.
When he looked up, she had moved closer to him. "Hey." She said softy as she cupped his face, "Never say that, because you've got me. You belong with me." She reminded him gently. "Yes… this might've been my home once, but I was already home." She leaned into his chest. "Because home is wherever you are."
— THE END —
Final A/N: Yes that is the end… and nothing but the end. aghsjkl I don't even know what to say right now...
I like how this finished, how it's gone a whole round—it all started with Tris, so it's only fitting that it end with Tobias. They've been through so much, and they've experienced a lot of what life has to offer together, and there's a lot to be learned from the two of them. I think one thing you guys might've picked up on was that neither of them have said the "three words/eight letters", and I've definitely written it this way because I feel like they're just beginning to discover more about each other—and themselves—and it would be way too soon to include in this story. I find it works though, because after all Tris' been through, and after all Tobias' has experienced with Annie and now Tris, they're definitely hesitant in saying those words. But don't get me wrong, they do care for each other. It's really up to you to interpret what you've read (but definitely don't forget about how Tobias didn't answer Zeke's question on this topic though, chapter 24). Take from this story what you will—you might find that not saying it means more than actually saying. Ultimately, it's up to you to decide. I've written it this way deliberately, but it's now up to you to make up your own mind.
THANK YOU ALL for such an incredible journey and I can't wait to start a new one with all of you! :)
UPDATE: I have published my new story 'The Art of Losing Yourself'. I know I said I'll update in two weeks but I couldn't wait, so the first chapter is up already, and you can go check out the story if you want. The story is mainly about romance and friendships, and the importance of family. It is about letting go of the past, looking towards the future but also living in the moment. This story deals with grief, hope, and also strength—the strength to fight for yourself and those you love but also for what you believe in. If you want a better idea of what it is about, the summary is below:
Tris is tired of her life—one where she's submissive and weak, one where she does everything her (ex)boyfriend, Peter, wants her to. In hopes of putting her old life behind her, she moves back to the town where she grew up. On her journey to find herself—her real self—she meets Tobias, a man who seems to have no job, no money, and no care for the future. He's mysterious and brooding but somehow she's attracted to him. Why does he make her feel things she's only ever dreamed of? On her lonely road to discover who she really is, she realizes she's not the only one who wants to uncover the truth, and she's certainly not the only one who wants to begin anew.
ALSO! I have posted a one-shot that is from Tobias' POV that is set between chapters 24 and 25 of this story. It deals with what Tobias' is feeling, the grief and guilt he feels after killing Eric. It is under 'Deadly', if you also want to go give that a read.