We were in the middle of the last training day of Phase One and I was more thankful than I had ever been. I was exhausted from all of the constant workouts and pressure. I sat comfortably with the sixth training spot but I was fighting to stay there. I knew that, until Phase Two started, I would be stuck in sixth. I couldn't stay there. I needed to be in either the first or second spot for leader training. But Hunter had stolen that from me. I gave a quick glance up to the clock and shook my head. Twenty minutes left. After they were over, we could leave and do whatever we wanted for the rest of the day. Tomorrow was our first official day off considering it was the short break we got in between Stage One and Stage Two of training.
As I glanced over at the ranking board I growled in fury. So many of those rankings were unfair. I was sparring with Dante currently and ducked out of the way at the last second to avoid a kick to the head. As he recovered I sent an identical kick to him. He didn't have time to move. My boot connected with his face and he stumbled back. For a moment I felt bad, but he merely grinned and advanced on me again. I knew that he was impressed. But I was just using my anger to drive me forward. I was still seething over Hunter. It had been nearly two weeks since he had almost killed me but I was still just as angry.
Max had decided that since Hunter's attack had been during a training exercise it would be improper to kick him out of Dauntless. On the bright side, Four had looked about ready to explode when he had told us his plan. He was clearly rooting for Hunter to be kicked out of Dauntless. But, unfortunately, even though Max had been able to see our points he was not going to see Hunter out of Dauntless. He was not going to lose the possibility of a good soldier.
The only punishment that he had received was solitary confinement and a ranking drop. Solitary meant that he could no longer sleep in the same dorm as me. I wasn't quite sure where they actually had him sleeping now. He still attended meals with us and trained with us but I never saw him at night. Not that it bothered me. I never wanted to see him again. He had also been dropped to the lowest ranking. Twenty eighth.
Unfortunately, Hunter was a natural born Dauntless and he had two weeks to improve his ranking. He had raised his ranking quicker than I thought was possible. He was currently ranked twenty-first. Safe from Factionless life. He was one spot above the red line. He probably deserved to be higher but I was sure that Eric and Four refused to raise him anymore.
To my absolute pleasure, Eric had also dropped Colt and Jade's rankings. Colt was currently in the eighteenth spot and Jade was in the nineteenth. They would be safe but they were in for some terrible lives if they couldn't raise their rankings. Both had looked horrified at their ranking, but neither had argued. They were smart enough to know that they were on thin ice. Even now, I'd never heard them say a word. But I didn't miss the nasty glares they sent my way every day.
But they weren't people that I liked to think about. Most of the time I tried to forget that they were even with me in Dauntless. Instead I tried to think about the other rankings. Aaron and Jackson were still the top two ranked initiates. Draven had recently taken over my spot in third. If someone else had to be in that ranking I was glad that it was him. Michael, a Dauntless born boy, was in fourth. He was followed by Jax, myself, and Dante. Greg, another Dauntless born boy, was in eighth and Buck was in ninth. Lisa and Sara were in tenth and eleventh followed by Jet and Colt. Serena was in fourteenth and Heather was in fifteenth. Much to my pleasure, she was safe.
Five Dauntless born would be leaving us in the morning. So would Raven and Skylar. They were the transfers that would be leaving. I felt for the girls but I was proud of them. They were being strong. I could tell that Jet was hurting over losing Raven, but I had assured him that she wouldn't be out there alone. She would have Skylar. And Abnegation would take care of them. And, no matter what, Raven would never forget about him.
Startling me from my thoughts, I ducked out of the way, just barely missing a blow to my head from Dante. His foot thumped loudly on the ground and I grimaced. That would have hurt. He tried to stop to check if I was alright but I merely advanced on him, throwing my fist out, just barely scraping his arm. I wound backwards and slid across the floor, leaning up onto my arms and pushing my feet upwards, jamming them into Dante's chest. It sent him flying backwards.
It was much harder than I should have kicked him. I felt a little bad as I walked over to help him back up. I was shaking with nerves from everything that had happened the past few days. Out of the corner of my eyes, I noticed that Eric was watching me closely, but I brushed it off. I had better things to be worrying about. Last week I had overheard a conversation between Jeanine Matthews and Max, while Jeanine was visiting Dauntless. I already had a lingering feeling that she knew what I was trying to hide ever since the Amity trip. But I had been able to brush it off. That was, until I heard the conversation between the two leaders.
One Week Prior...
The halls back in the administrative part of Dauntless were dark and strange. They seemed so lifeless compared to the rest of the compound. And I found myself a little jumpy as I walked through the halls. Or maybe that was just because of the strange conversation that I had just had with Eric. He had been acting rather odd lately. He wasn't nicer to me in the slightest, if nothing else, he was actually cruder. He snapped at me nearly all the time and tripped me deliberately when we were sparring.
Although I had noticed that I was the only initiate that he would spar with. He probably just thought that it was funny to hit me. And more than once during our fights I had noticed him getting a little more hands-on. He would touch lower and wouldn't hesitate to put his hands where they didn't belong. It drove me nuts that I had no idea what had been said between Eric and my parents. He acted so smug and it made me nervous that he had said something that he shouldn't have.
I was walking to Four's office. Stupid me should have bothered asking him where the damn office was before brushing him off and leaving the training room. I needed a few papers for my extended trip to Erudite when my mother was ready to give birth. Although I was glad that it was Four I needed to go to and not Eric. I was making a point to avoid being alone in a room with Eric these days.
"You know what this means, Max," a cold voice called. I froze in my steps. I knew that voice. "They are dangerous. They pose a threat to the Faction system. They pose a threat to everything that we work so hard to maintain. They have to be destroyed. All of them," Jeanine Matthews spoke.
To her credit, Jeanine never yelled or snapped. Her voice was calm with the same lilt that it always carried. I supposed that it was something that came from being Erudite. I heard a man inside of the office sigh. I knew that I was in front of Max's office. I had been here last week. But the door was closed today. Still, these doors weren't soundproof.
"Jeanine, I understand what you're saying. But this is ridiculous. You're proposing a war against these people," Max said. A war? What were we going to war for? "They've hidden in the Factions well. Let them continue doing so."
My blood ran cold at his words. "You've seen it, Max. They're getting bold. They're working with the Factionless! They attacked Erudite. They attacked Amity. They were looking for files. I assume that you know what they were looking for by now," Jeanine added.
I waited with baited breath outside the door. No one was speaking. "Files. As you said, "Max said, a teasing note in his voice.
"They were looking for files that might tell us more about them. More about who they are," Jeanine added.
"You know that the only time we can catch them is during the Aptitude Test," Max argued.
Bile rose in my throat. I knew that they were talking about Divergent's. That had been when Tori had discovered me. But she had covered for me. "Is that so?" Jeanine asked.
"Yes. They're hard to find."
"They are not that hard to find."
A terrible feeling in my stomach told me that she was talking about me. "And if we miss them in the Aptitude Test, well, Dauntless always reveals them," Max told her.
I had gone as white as a sheet. What did he mean by that? Was he just trying to reassure her of something or was there something that Dauntless could do about them? I could hear Jeanine scoff in the room. My heart was thumping in my chest as I pressed myself back against the wall.
"They are not caught in the Aptitude Test. They slip by it all the time," she told him calmly.
Me. I had done it. Or at least, I had. Until the attack on Amity. "They can't keep their secrets forever. They'll slip up," Max told her.
"When was the last time that someone was actually revealed during the Aptitude Test? Years ago. Eight, I believe," Jeanine said.
That was a relief. Eight years ago was a long time. People had been slipping by for years. There must have been more people like Tori that wanted to protect people like me. "There will always be people trying to protect them. Divergent's are rare. There probably aren't even that many," Max tried to tell her.
"Don't be a fool. There are more than that. People are helping them slip by. They are just as dangerous," Jeanine argued.
Tori. I had come to really like the older woman. I didn't want to see anything happen to her. Not because of me. Even through his sigh, I could hear the exasperation in Max's voice. This clearly wasn't the first time that he had had this chat with Jeanine. It made me sick to think about everything that they had been talking about for what seemed to be months.
"What do you suggest we do, Jeanine? I will not be causing a panic in my Faction. Eric, the rest of the leader's, we all know how dangerous these people are," Max said.
My body gave a little jolt when I heard Eric's name. He knew how dangerous people like me were. But would he give me up? Would he kill me? Of course. That was what he believed in and I was still just his initiate. "It's not causing a panic. We can do this all quietly," Jeanine tried to tell him.
"But you forget. They are afraid. They will not be stepping out of the shadows. Not while the threat of their lives are hanging over their heads," Max told her.
"If they believe that they have the power, they will step out of the shadows," Jeanine said.
"You say they aren't stupid. They aren't. They know to stay hidden. The Factionless are the real problem here," Max tried to reason.
Without seeing Jeanine, I still knew that she was wearing her typical tight-lipped smile. "I have a plan. The plans are laid back in Erudite. There's a whole file on them. Just sitting there," she said.
It was very hard for me not to sprint towards the trains at that very moment. But there were things that I needed to do before I went. Still, I immediately knew what I needed to do. I needed to get into Erudite without being spotted and get my hands on that file. I needed to know what she was planning.
"It's laid out, ready to be executed. But I need Dauntless. I need you to be on my side. Just have a look at the plans. Then tell me that you aren't for it," Jeanine purred softly.
This was already done. They were already ready for the plan to be enacted. All she needed was more people. Dauntless. The room was silent and I prayed that Max would tell her no. "After Phase One of initiation ends," Max finally told her.
No. That gave me only a week to see that file before it was removed from Erudite and hidden somewhere here in Dauntless. "We can wait a week," Jeanine confirmed.
"People are watching too closely right now. If we want this done, it has to be done correctly. Keep the file. We'll look at it soon," he told her.
"I'm glad you're seeing things my way, Max," Jeanine told him. I could hear the smile in her voice. It sent chills down my spine. "Don't worry, this war will be fought in the shadows. These people, they will die in the shadows."
A lump formed in my throat. We would die and be erased from history. She wanted to keep Divergence as low profile as possible. "That's all that I ask for," Max told her.
"I only need one. Maybe the Amity girl," Jeanine said. My blood froze. Not me. What the hell did she want me for? This was not what I signed up for. "She's one. I know she is. That's the only reason they would have been in her home. So we befriend her for now. Keep a close eye on her. She'll be one to watch."
Her voice carried a little twinkle, like she was talking about a little prank, not genocide. "Eric is close with her. We have an eye on her already," Max confirmed.
My legs gave a little quiver. They were going to use Eric to get to me. "Does Eric care for her?" Jeanine asked.
"I'm not entirely sure. I think that he does, but Eric is a hard man to read," Max said. "He knows what his duties are here. He knows what is important for his position here."
"It matters not. The Divergent's. They will be nothing more than a memory. They have to die. All of them," Jeanine said, her voice losing the sweet edge.
There was something razor-sharp in the way that she was speaking. Almost like she wasn't just determined, but that she was genuinely furious with me. What had I done to make her hate me so much? I was horrified. They were going to kill everyone like me, and probably do something worse to me. Torture? Probably. So I did the only thing I could think of. I turned and ran from the halls, completely forgetting about my paperwork.
My mind raced as I thought about the conversation I had overheard. I had gone to planning the moment that I had gotten away from Max's office. I had swiped the train schedule from Sarah's office one day when I knew that Eric was keeping her away from work. I had to do everything possible to save my own life. And it started with a trip to Erudite today. I had a whole plan that had started with remembering the train schedule.
Heather already knew to keep everyone away from me and from asking about tonight. She didn't know what I was doing, I had just told her that it was an emergency. There was an Erudite train leaving three minutes after training ended today. I would have to sprint there if I wanted to make it on time. It was the only time that I could get out to Erudite. I had to get that file. I had to know what Jeanine was planning for the Divergent's. For my people. It felt like I was the one starting the war.
All I knew was that I had to get that file. The next train that would be going to Erudite wouldn't leave for another two weeks, and by that time, the file would be here in Dauntless. And it would be near impossible for me to get to it here. As I was running through my plan one more time, Dante's foot came up and connected with my temple. I grunted in pain and fell to the ground. I had stopped moving when I had thought about the train schedule. I had seen the kick coming, but I was still startled.
"Oh! Alex! I'm sorry," Dante yelped.
He ran over to me and offered a hand up. I shrugged him off. I had been an easy hit for me to block but I wasn't in the zone right now. My mind was on another planet. "Oh, it's good Dante. I just got a little distracted. Off in my own little world. I'm good though, seriously," I told him.
He still seemed a little concerned. Of course he was. He always kicked me and I always moved. Not today. Today was different. "Are you sure that you're okay?" Dante asked.
"Yeah. I'm fine. Nice kick. That hurt," I told him with a laugh.
It really had hurt. Dante smiled bashfully and I waved him off. As I looked around the room, I noticed that Eric was no longer here. That would make it easier for me to leave. But why had he left? He loved to watch us and yell that we were doing things wrong. I glanced up at the clock and noticed that we had reached the end of training. One minute left. I was itching to leave.
"Alex, watch out! Pay attention," Four yelled at me from the corner of the room.
I rolled my eyes at him but nodded anyways. "Yeah, I will. Sorry, I got distracted," I called back.
He merely nodded at me and turned back to correct Heather's stance. I had better things to be thinking about than moving out of the way during a sparring match. Like stopping a war. Once more I sighed. This was not what I signed up for when I came to Dauntless. I didn't sign up for Divergence, a war, Eric, Hunter, Jade, or Colt. I didn't want any of it. But I was here and I had to handle it. Dauntless were the protectors. Of everyone.
"Congratulations to everyone. Phase One is over. The official ceremony will be tomorrow. Celebrate. Say goodbye. You've earned tomorrow off. Get out of here. Enjoy your afternoons and your nights. Only three months left. They'll go fast. I promise," Four told us.
Everyone nodded as the cheers began to erupt. Most people were cheering, but not me. And neither was Heather. We both darted over to each other, hiding near the doors of the training room. I didn't want any of our friends coming over to us before I could leave. They wouldn't let me go without questioning. That was the good thing about Heather. She did what I asked, even when it was insane. I did the same for her.
"You headed out now?" Heather asked me.
"Yeah," I said as she grabbed me for a quick hug.
As much as I loved her I was itching to leave. Time was not on my side. "Alright, I'll tell them all that you had to go do some paperwork for your trip to Erudite for the birth. Get out of here," Heather told me softly.
"Thanks, Heather," I said.
She really was my best friend. Iris would have raked me over the coals asking why I was going to the Erudite headquarters. "No problem," she responded.
"I promise one day I'll tell you what this is all about," I promised Heather.
She nodded once and said, "I'll told you to it."
The two of us gave each other another smile before I turned from her, making a quick walk towards the door while Heather called loudly to the boys, drawing all attention to herself. Once I had slipped quietly out of the doors, I took a few steps before speeding up into a dead sprint. Two minutes and counting until the train left. But it would take me longer than the normal thirty second sprint. I had learned the back halls so that I could avoid being spotted.
Faster than I thought was possible, I whipped through the halls. I was slowed down once and forced to turn back when I caught Max walking down the hall. I had been avoiding him at all costs since I had overheard his conversation with Jeanine. He wasn't working with her, but he was still dangerous. I had to get to the train. There would be a train coming through in three days, but it would be going to Candor. And I didn't know how far Erudite was from Candor.
Plus there was the fact that I wouldn't be able to slip away with training for Phase Two. This was the only day that I could slip away unnoticed. I ran out to the tracks and saw that the last two cars were currently pulling out of the station. Right on time. I went into a dead sprint and ran, catching the second to the last car. I barely caught the door and felt my arm stretch painfully before weakly and awkwardly pulling myself inside. I laid on the ground, panting. It had been close, but I had made it.
"How utterly unimpressive, initiate," a cool voice called to me.
Damn it. I jumped into a standing position faster than I usually did and turned to face the worst person possible right now. Eric was sitting in the corner of the car with a curious grin on his face. The color immediately drained from my face. What was he doing here? And today, of all days.
"Eric," I greeted awkwardly.
"You look a little surprised to see me."
Everything that I said was through a mumble. "But I think I should be the one a little surprised to see you. Do we need to go over the Dauntless rule book again?" Eric asked.
"I was certain that there was a rule that said that initiates could not leave the compound without a member to escort them?" Eric told me, despite the fact that it sounded like a question.
Of course he knew the rules damn well. He knew that I wasn't supposed to be here without a member. I began to panic. How could he have been here? Why today? I knew that I couldn't just beg for him to forget about this. Eric hated weakness. He liked people that could keep him on his toes. And that meant that I had to be clever here. Him being here could completely ruin my poorly thought out plan. I didn't even have a plan once I got on the train. This was as far as I had thought out. I just hadn't been expecting him to be here. I didn't even know the Erudite compound. But maybe Eric did. I could use him.
"Well then I'm not technically breaking the rules. You're a Dauntless member, aren't you?" I asked Eric.
It was very hard to try and keep the shaking out of my voice. He could kick me out of Dauntless for this. He merely smirked. Eric was sitting against the back wall of the train with one leg crossed over the other. Even sitting in his chair he seemed to tower over me. He just had that type of personality. I debated moving forward to him but I stayed where I was. I was glad that he didn't stand. It made it easier to try and figure a way to weasel out of this.
"So tell me, little Amity," Eric growled. I rolled my eyes. That had become his new favorite nickname for me. "What are you doing on your way to Erudite?"
"I -" I stumbled over my words, unable to find my words.
"A little early to see your dear little sister, isn't it?"
I felt so stupid for having not thought of a cover story in case someone caught me. That was the one thing that was just as important as me being able to get to Erudite. Good thing I didn't go to the intelligent Faction. I was a fucking moron. I stumbled over myself once more, no words coming out. I couldn't tell him why I was really here.
"No. My mother hasn't gone into labor yet. She's only a few months pregnant," I said.
"I know that."
Find an excuse, Alex. "I'm coming because I need to fill out some paperwork of my own and give them some. I also need my mother's medical records," I lied, hoping that he would buy it.
Every inch of me hoped that he was going to believe my poorly thought out lie. But I knew that he wasn't. Eric was smarter than I liked to give him credit for. He stood from his spot on his chair and walked over to me. I sucked in a breath as he walked me back into the edge of the train car, the metal cold against my back. I was standing less than an inch from the opening and I tried to force it out of my mind. We were flying past the City and the ground was at least twenty feet below us. A fall from here would paralyze me if I was lucky. Or kill me if I wasn't. Nothing good would come from this.
"I think that you're lying to me," he told me lowly.
His hands flitted over my hips and I shook slightly. "I'm not," I whispered softly.
"Is that so?"
One hand tightened around my hip, his fingers hooking over the edge of my pants. I wanted him to punch me for my thoughts. I wanted him more than anything. "I don't believe you," he said.
Remembering myself, I slapped away his hands. "Don't touch me," I hissed.
But it didn't affect him. He was still touching me. "What are you really doing here?" Eric asked me.
Divert his attention. Make him think of anything other than the reason that you're here. "I don't know what you mean," I chirped, wanting to slap myself. That was stupid. "I'm here and so are you. I'm not breaking any rules."
Instead of yelling at me like I had thought that he would, he merely smirked down at me. "Is that so?" Eric asked.
My voice was as light as I could make it. I nodded brightly at him. How was he always one step ahead of me? "How did you know that I was going to be here?" Eric asked.
"Saw your schedule."
"I was in the records office and I saw Sarah's notebook laying open. You should probably remind her to do her job a little bit better," I said, trying to distract him.
His hands tightened over my hips once more. "And we're back to Sarah. Still jealous?" Eric asked.
"I've never been jealous!"
Yes, you are. "And how did you get here on time? You must have sprinted here from training. Which meant that you already knew that the train was going to be here. And that means that you were planning this out ahead of time," he said, finding all of the flaws in my plan.
Why the hell couldn't he be a normal mindless soldier? "I just needed to get to Erudite and I saw that you would be here too," I said under my breath.
"What were you planning on doing in Erudite? And tell me the truth. Not some bullshit story about you being here for your mother's medical records," he snapped.
"That's why I'm here, Eric," I told him. I knew that he wouldn't believe me if I hesitated again. "Believe me or not. I don't care."
This was about more than our petty little arguments. This was about an impending war. One that very few people knew about. "I do not believe you," Eric said.
So I decided to try and change the direction of the conversation. "But I'm not breaking rules with you being here. No more than you've been breaking the rules recently," I told him.
His brows quirked, the silver rings in his eyebrows catching the light from the sun and glinting in my eyes. "Come again?" Eric asked.
One thing that I had noticed about Eric, in the five months that I had known him, was that he was incredibly well spoken. Better than most Erudite's even. I supposed it came with being a leader. Even when he was angry he always knew exactly what to say. He was always a mix between diplomatic and intimidating. Even with me. Especially with me. But I was not going to let him make me think that I was the only one breaking rules here.
"You heard me. You've been breaking the rules as much as I am, right now, by coming to Erudite," I snapped.
"Go on," he said.
"Coming after me like this. Touching me. Messing with me," I said. I could tell that he wasn't quite following what I was saying, so I took a deep breath, ready to finally tell him what was on my mind. After five months I needed him to know exactly how I felt. "You know the rules. No relations between Dauntless members and initiates." I thought about Damien but pushed him out of my mind. This was about Eric and me, not Damien and me. "But you don't seem to understand that."
As much as I liked him, I just wanted to know what he thought about me and what he wanted. Not just the mind games. "Then tell me, initiate. Tell me right now. Tell me to leave you alone and never speak to you again. If that's really what you want, I'll oblige. Just tell me that it's what you want," he ordered.
I froze in my spot. Not that I could have moved anywhere. He had me trapped. I knew what I should tell him. I should tell him to leave me alone. He was dangerous. But I couldn't bring myself to say it out loud. I wouldn't want that. As much as Eric drove me nuts, he kept my life interesting. I would never want him to leave me alone.
"Nothing to say?" he asked. I remained silent. "I thought not. Because as much as you hate to admit it, you like me."
His voice was still teasing and it drove me nuts. "You think that I'm alone?" I asked loudly.
No more screwing with my head. He cocked an eyebrow and glared at me. "Watch your mouth," Eric snarled.
"Come on, Eric. You're good at the whole tough guy thing but I'm not as stupid as I look. You like me too," I called him out. He merely scoffed at me. I knew that he wanted me. I just wanted to hear him say it. He had said it once, but not since then. "Just admit it! Admit it, and I'm yours. Tonight."
My heart was beating out of my chest. I couldn't believe that I'd just told him that. "What?" he asked.
His eyes darkened at my offer and I knew that he wanted it too. "Tell me right now that you like me. That you want me. That you're sorry. Say my name. Anything, Eric! Just give me something. Tell me, and tonight, I'm yours," I told him.
For a moment I raised my hand to lay it on his chest but I backed out of it. My hand fell back down to my sides as I waited for him to say something. His hands almost fell off of my hips, but they didn't. Instead they wound their way to my back and underneath my shirt, pressing into the curve of my back. It pushed the two of us up against each other, no space in between the two of us. It seemed like an hour before he spoke up again.
"You aren't serious," he told me.
I shook my head. I was so serious about this it was almost funny. "I am. I'm done with these games," I told him.
There was a strange emotion that flitted through his eyes, but it was gone before I could tell what it was. All I wanted was for him to tell me the truth. With all of the bad in my life right now, I wanted something good. And Eric, even if just for a night, was going to be good. I already knew that.
"Just tell me the truth, Eric. For once in your life," I pleaded softly with him.
I hoped that he was going to say something soon. I didn't want to look like the fool here. He had made me look like a fool enough. He stood pressed against me for a moment before nodding. Was he really going to take me up on my offer? Even while I had said it, I hadn't thought that he would.
"If you're that serious, come to my apartment. Tonight. Ten," he told me.
I didn't bother to question it. I merely nodded at him. "Okay," I whispered
We were both done with this conversation for now. We would continue it tonight. We were both here for work. "We're here," Eric said, not looking away from my eyes.
Waiting a few beats, he still didn't look away from my eyes. I nodded at him but never bothered to look out of the compartment. I knew that Erudite was behind us but I couldn't bring myself to look away from Eric. He had that effect on me. Once I got close to him, I just found myself wanting to get closer. His cold gray eyes were boring into me and I found myself unsure of what to do. I wanted nothing more than to kiss him, but I knew that the timing was wrong. We would have all night to figure us out. We were still standing pressed together when another question popped into my mind.
"Eric?" I asked.
He was moving closer to me. His lips were inches from mine and our eyes were still connected. I wanted to kiss him more than anything but this wasn't the time or place. "It better be important," Eric growled making me laugh softly.
"What are you doing here?" I asked him.
The strange emotion akin to vulnerability left his eyes and I saw the hard leader that had once tried to kill me. I already missed the Eric that had offered me to come back to his apartment tonight. It was strange to think just how different he could be in a matter of seconds. Maybe I'd see a softer side of him tonight.
"A meeting with Jeanine Matthews. She was unable to come to Dauntless," Eric answered me.
I tensed at his words. I had been hoping that Jeanine would be gone today, visiting one of the other Factions. "Gross," I muttered under my breath.
It wasn't quiet enough. Eric noticed my sudden movement. "Not a fan?" he asked.
I shook my head. "Not at all," I said.
To my surprise, Eric laughed. "Me either."
That time I couldn't help but to smile. He backed away from me and motioned for me to get to the doors of the train. Not that it was a long walk. The train had slowed a little and I braced my knees as I made the short jump. I had landed a little forward and I tucked into a roll, standing back up immediately. Eric jumped right after me and I was not surprised to see that he had stuck the landing without having to roll. It made me want to punch him in his perfect teeth.
For the first time, my eyes dropped to his waist and I noticed that he was carrying a gun. It was easy to see that it was the same gun that he had used to kill James. The same gun that could kill me if he found out who I was. The same gun that would kill me if he found out who I was. I shook those thoughts off while I walked up with him to the entrance of the Erudite compound. His hands were on my back, gently pushing me forwards. I had passed it before, but had never been up this close.
The Erudite compound looked extremely strange. Candor was a typical skyscraper. Abnegation was a bunch of gray buildings. Simple, like them. Amity was an outdoor Faction with a huge oak tree in the center. And Dauntless was hidden down in one of the old buildings in the center of Chicago. But Erudite was odd. It was like a dome and the roof was entirely made of glass. The exterior was painted a pristine white. Eric led me up to the doors with one hand on my back. Even with just his hand touching me, I could tell that he was tense. He must not have liked Erudite.
We walked inside and I found myself surprised. It was not what I was expecting. There were bookshelves lining the entire compound. But no one stood near them. There were a few hallways that led into other parts of the Faction. Most people seemed to be milling at the tables near the bookshelves, all tapping furiously away on their tablets. Not one person was reading a book. And none of them looked happy. In the center of the room there was a receptionist desk with a huge portrait of Jeanine Matthews hung over it. I felt strange looking at it, like Jeanine was watching me. Like she knew that I was here. Why I was here. The words 'Knowledge leads to prosperity,' were engraved underneath her portrait.
Eric walked me over to the receptionist desk. It was an older woman sitting behind the desk. She looked up, seemingly unperturbed at Eric's presence. That shocked me. I would have thought that Eric would terrify her. But maybe he visited here a lot. On all of those days that Eric wasn't at training he must have been here. It would make sense. He seemed to know the compound well enough. She gave me a questioning glance, but one quick glare from Eric made her turn her attention back to him.
"Here for your meeting with Jeanine?" she asked.
"Yes," Eric said, nodding stiffly.
The woman's voice was boring, like the rest of the Faction. "She's in her office, waiting. Can I help you?" the woman asked me.
Stupidly, I froze. What should I ask for? I had no idea what to say. Hello, can you please show me where you keep your files on the attack on Divergent's? No. That would not be a good idea. Eric was watching me closely and I found myself blushing. He was watching me carefully, probably hoping that I would mess up.
"Uh, records? I mean, is there a records hall?" I asked awkwardly.
The woman stared at me for a moment, clearly not believing that I was here for records. But Eric was with me and no one would dare defy anyone that was here with Eric. That was the one good thing about him being around. The woman finally nodded at me and turned in her chair.
"Straight back. Stay out of the last two rows. Classified documentation is there," she told me.
"Okay. Thank you," I said, nodding at her.
She had no idea that she had just unknowingly told me where I needed to go. "And Eric, I'll let Jeanine know you're on your way back," she told him.
Eric nodded at her before leading me away from the desk. We moved off and I turned to head back to the records section. I only had so long to look around back there. If Eric hated Jeanine as much as it seemed, he would try to make the meeting as fast as possible. Plus I was sure that he wanted to catch me doing something that I shouldn't have been doing. But, before I could disappear, Eric caught my arm.
"Watch what you do in there. I'm watching you," he growled at me.
I nodded weakly. Something about Erudite made Eric edgier than he normally was. "Okay," I muttered.
"Stay back there. I'll get you when my meeting is over. Don't you dare touch anything other than your mother's medical records. Got it?" he asked, towering over me.
I knew that Eric was being deadly serious about this. "Got it," I said, waiting for him to let go of my arm.
It took him a few seconds longer than it should have, but he finally released my arm and let me go back to the records section. As I walked through the doors I prayed that no one would be back where I needed to be. But, to my pleasure, the section was empty. That made things ten times easier. I didn't have to avoid anyone. Everyone was out working in the main rooms. I let out a breath when I saw that there were at least twenty shelves stacked to the roof of files. It would take me all day.
There were records about people, the Factions, and everything else imaginable. But those weren't the files that I needed. So I walked straight back into the thankfully unguarded restricted section. I couldn't understand why it wasn't guarded. Anyone could get back here. They were all alphabetized and I walked straight for the D section. It was only a second before I found it. Divergent. It was a hard file to miss. It was huge. It had to be the biggest one I had seen yet.
All of the files were in glass cases to protect them from the air. I grabbed the handle of the case and went to open it before I realized that there was a mechanical lock. It was for a password. I let out a deep sigh. There went my idea that this was going to be easy. There were four numbers. What the hell were the four numbers? I stood there for at least ten minutes, thinking of dates and years, but nothing made sense. Until I remembered. I was in Erudite. They loved puzzles. This lock would be Jeanine's doing. And what was it that Jeanine always said?
Knowledge leads to prosperity. But this was a number lock. I stared at it for a while. The words made sense but it was a number lock. The words were the key. I knew they were. How did the numbers fit? And then it clicked. The first letter of each word would correspond to a number. It was the way that old keyboards and phones were designed. Knowledge. K. Five. Leads. L. Five. To. T. Eight. Prosperity. P. Seven. Five, five, eight, seven.
I sucked in a breath, afraid of what would happen if I entered the wrong pass-code. But I had to do this. I had to know. So I entered the numbers and held my breath. If I was going to die, I might as well die trying. I nearly laughed as the computerized glass case made a little ding and the doors fell open. I couldn't believe that I was smart enough to figure that out. Erudite wasn't as smart as they liked to think that they were. Maybe I would have been a good Erudite. I pulled out the file slowly, trying not to push anything out of order. Jeanine would know if something had been moved.
I dropped down onto the floor and laid the file in front of me, slowly opening it. The first few pages were something typical. It was explanations of what Divergent's were, how they came to be, and why they were so dangerous. There were pictures of known Divergent's, most long dead. The last death was over three years ago. I breezed by most of them, wishing that I could read their stories. But I couldn't. There were more important things to be doing. None of the names had an aptitude for all five Factions. Only one or two had an aptitude for four of the Factions. Like me. I gulped as I continued to brush through the files.
In a hundred years, when the file began, dozens of Divergent's had been tortured. Their families and friends killed because they had been hiding them. Like Tori was hiding me. As I read, I realized that it was Jeanine's father who started this. She was carrying his legacy. The more that I read, the more nervous I became. Nothing seemed too horrible yet. There was no plan with a mention to eliminate Divergent's.
But then I saw it. The beginnings of the plan to eradicate Divergent's. I saw the plans and pictures of prototypes of the machine that Buck had mentioned a few weeks ago. It was a scanner. It read off the percentage of Divergence. I sucked in a breath. It was already in the final design phase and had proven effective during trial runs. A Factionless woman had been killed when it had read that she was twenty percent Divergent. Jeanine wasn't just planning an extermination, she was planning an all-out war against Divergent's.
There was even a plan for where to attack. Abnegation. All because they helped the Factionless traitors. They were planning on using a compliance serum on Dauntless soldiers to attack. It would keep Erudite out of official reports. It would make Jeanine look innocent. They were using the same truth-telling machine that they used in Candor to expose mass groups of Divergent's. They were planning on cutting off Amity. They would know nothing.
Not a single damn Divergent was going to be able to survive this. Especially now that the Factionless had put us on parade. My heart was pounding in my ears as I looked over the plans for new weapons and serums. I flipped through more pages, trying to block out images of deceased Divergent's with bullet holes where their eyes should be. Near the end of the file were pictures of known Divergent's. Thankfully none were familiar to me.
But that was until I landed on a picture of myself near the end of the file. My eyes watered as I read over the note on the side. Hold until Dauntless Initiation: Phase Three. Acquire for testing. I felt tears rising to my eyes, threatening to spill. Jeanine knew. This was the final confirmation for me.
Hearing footsteps falling in the hall, I shoved the file back together, no longer caring if all of the papers went back in their proper order. If Jeanine was going to kill me she was not going to kill me without a fight. I knew her plans. I could do something with it. But not yet. Today I was allowed to cry. I placed it back in the glass case before sealing it and dashing back through the rows of files, trying to head into the member rows.
I stopped in the C section, walking through the files. Tears were falling and I wiped them away. Eric would never let me live me live it down. But this was not what I signed up for. I didn't want to be Divergent. I wasn't afraid of death but I didn't want to die. Not at the hands of Jeanine. I wanted more than anything to figure out a plan, but I couldn't do it alone. I needed help but I had no idea who to trust. Not Eric. He was too close to Jeanine. And not Max either. He already knew about the plan. I thought about maybe going to visit Johanna, but she was Amity. She wouldn't want to do anything. She wanted to avoid fighting.
Brushing more stray tears from my eyes, I began to paw through the files. I couldn't be crying when Eric came to get me. He could see right through me. I couldn't let him think that I had been here for anything other than my mother's medical records. I had to read something else. Something happier to get my mind off of the Divergent file. So I scanned over the files in the C section. Nothing looked interesting. Nothing could get my mind off of the dead bodies. I couldn't stop thinking that soon I would be one of them. My eyes finally flitted over a name. Coulter. I couldn't think of where I had heard it, but I knew it from somewhere. I picked up the file and held it gently. It was small.
Holding the file tightly, I flipped it open to look at the pictures of two people. Both were geneticists with titles that I couldn't even begin to understand. The man's name was Gregor. The woman's name was Margaret. They were in a domestic partnership. I frowned as I read down their file. They weren't married. But they had taken the same last name. Odd. Maybe it was to make files and whatnot a little easier to put together.
The couple were doing experimentation on raising children. Different types of parenting along with different strands of DNA. Some hand-picked to be the strongest and others to be the weakest. I didn't understand most of the language that was in the files. But something about their situation was distancing one's self from a child picked to be the strongest. I frowned once more. That wasn't fair to the child. They used their own child, conceived through a test tube. That wasn't even a child. It was an experiment. It was a boy a few years older than me. I turned to look at the picture and gasped. It was a face far too familiar to me.
Had I not been holding onto the file tightly, I would have dropped it. There was no way that this could have been him. Eric was born in Dauntless. I'd brought it up plenty of times during arguments. He never once stopped me and told me that he wasn't Dauntless born. But looking at the picture, I knew that it was him. The age was right and his name was Eric. That's why the name on the file sounded so familiar. Eric Coulter. I'd seen his file in Dauntless and had tried to grab it, but he'd stopped me.
I couldn't help but to wonder if this was the reason that Eric was the way that he was. I frowned once more. It had become a common theme for the day. His personality wasn't his fault. It was theirs. I glanced at the picture and smiled. It was a school picture. He had a full head of hair. It was darker blonde than it is now and grown out a little, with the slightest hint of a curl. He had no tattoos and no piercings. His face was a little pudgier and his eyes weren't as hard as they are now. He looked less like a leader. He looked like a little boy. But not a happy one.
Unsurprisingly I heard his voice call out behind me. "I suggest that you put that file down if you don't want to lose that hand," he called out.
I still couldn't help it. His dark voice had startled me slightly. I turned to him, fighting to keep a hold of the file. Thankfully he was alone. I didn't know what I would have done if Jeanine were with him. I continued to hold the file. He had a hard look in his eyes and I knew that he was pissed with me. Probably because I had seen the file. He must have wanted to keep his birth Faction a secret from me forever.
"Erudite?" I asked.
"Put it back. Initiate," Eric warned.
The last word was a snarl. A dare. He was not kidding. And now I knew why. This place held bad memories for him. For far more than Jeanine Matthews. And now I knew why he was so uncomfortable walking up here. This was his childhood home. He hated this place. It held no good memories for him.
"You never told me that you were from Erudite," I said softly.
The second that the words had left my mouth, I wanted to slap myself. Clearly he didn't want to talk about his life in this Faction, but here I was, pressing it. Still, I wanted to know why he had never said anything. To his credit, he merely shrugged. Although he was looking at the file like he was hoping to set it on fire just by staring at it. He took another step closer to me and I fought to stay standing where I was.
"You never asked," Eric answered me. I nearly scoffed. That was a terrible explanation.
He wasn't going to back out on this one. I wanted to know why he had never told me where he was from. "Eric, when we were fighting I must have mentioned that you had things easy, not having to change Factions. I told you multiple times that you never had to adapt to somewhere new. That you didn't have to leave anything behind," I told him.
His eyes didn't change once. They were the same typical cold that I saw whenever we had entered the ground of something that he didn't want to talk about. "And?" Eric asked tonelessly.
"You're from Erudite. You aren't Dauntless born. Why didn't you ever say something?" I asked. Once more he stayed silent. Now I knew how he felt when I did this. "Correct me or something. You love to prove me wrong."
My joke didn't go over very well. He didn't laugh or crack something close to a smile. Not that I had been expecting him to. "Listen to what you just said," he told me.
I cocked my head at him. I wasn't sure what he meant by that. "What do you mean?" I asked.
"That I didn't have to leave anything behind. I left nothing behind," he said.
I was a little startled by how cold he was. Could his parents really have never cared for him? Had he never cared for his parents? "Eric -" I started, quickly being cut off.
"I take it you read the entire file?" he asked.
"Yes," I said, knowing that telling the truth was a better option.
"Then you saw that I had nothing here. Leaving was easy. I might as well have been Dauntless born," Eric answered me.
His voice had never wavered once and I never even saw a slight hint of emotion in his eyes. His voice was cold and so were his eyes. I could feel how much he hated this place. It was something that no one deserved. I wanted to say something to him, to hug him, to try and make things better but nothing I could think of would have made his life better. Still, I felt like I had to say something. Despite everything, he was a good man.
"I- I'm... I- About your parents. You didn't - No one deserves something like that," I awkwardly tried to spit out.
Nothing seemed like it was good enough to say. As much as I wanted to pretend that I knew something about Eric's home life, I knew absolutely nothing. I wanted to know more about his family but I knew that Eric would never tell me about his home life. It didn't even seem like something that he wanted to think about himself.
"Don't," he growled at me.
I immediately silenced myself. I knew that this was the final say in this conversation. "Okay," I whispered.
"It doesn't matter. They aren't my parents. Just people that I happen to share DNA with," he snarled.
My heart broke for him at his confession. He'd never had a real family. Part of me knew that it was stupid to continue pushing at him but I couldn't stand him thinking things like that. So I moved forward and resisted placing a hand on his shoulder. I knew that actually touching him would be going a step too far. Hell, I was sure that even this was going too far.
"Everyone deserves a family, Eric. Everyone. Even you. Especially you," I told him.
I couldn't quite realize or understand why I was saying what I was saying. I just felt like these were things that I had to tell him. Things that he needed to hear. Despite knowing that he didn't want me to touch him, I moved forward and placed a hand on the side of his face. He shied away from me slightly, but said nothing else as he gently pried my hand away from him. His voice was so quiet that I barely heard him when he finally spoke once more.
"Not everyone," he growled lowly.
I wasn't sure what I should say to that. Was there anything that I could have even said? So I merely stayed silent as Eric grabbed the file roughly from my hand and closed it, shoving it back into its spot on the shelf. Briefly I wished that I would have taken the picture of him. I liked it and it reminded me that Eric wasn't always this way. Besides, he had a picture of me. I deserved to have one of him.
"So tell me," Eric began and I glanced up.
The same teasing look was back in his eyes. But they still looked harder than normal. "Tell you what?" I asked, prodding him on.
"Did you find the files for your mother?" he asked.
"Yes," I said, nodding at him.
"And tell me, when did she come to the Erudite Medical Center?" he asked.
It didn't take a genius to know that he was goading me into a trap. There was no doubt in my mind that he knew the date that my mother had been to the Erudite Medical Center, but he wanted to know if I actually knew. Eric wasn't stupid. He was from Erudite. He knew that I wasn't here for my mother's medical records. This was just solid proof. For a moment I wished that I had actually gone through the files and found my mother's medical records. In the event of something like this.
"Two weeks ago," I answered him.
I hoped that by some grace of god, I might have been right. But the look on Eric's face, and the sinking feeling in my stomach, told me that I was wrong. His eyes were sparkling now and I was somewhat grateful that we had at least gotten off of the topic of his family and his life here in Erudite.
"Really?" Eric asked.
The teasing lilt in his voice was back and it put me on edge. "Yes," I muttered.
I knew that I was caught and Eric was not the type to let things drop. "That's strange. Because Jeanine tells me that your mother hasn't been here in nearly a month," Eric teased.
In all honesty, I should have seen this coming. I blanched at him. I knew that Eric was slowly unraveling my lie. It wouldn't be long now before he figured out that I was Divergent. I was going to have to be careful. Eric was working with Jeanine. Maybe he didn't know about the attack yet, but it wouldn't be long. And then, as much as I hated it, we would be on two different sides. I couldn't trust him. Not yet. Maybe not ever.
"So tell me. What were you really looking for?" he asked.
There was no way that Eric was still buying my lie. He probably just liked watching me squirm. But if he didn't get the answer that he wanted, and soon, I had no doubt that he would force it out of me. But I had to stick to my story. I couldn't change anything that I had already told him.
"My mother's medical records. My old records," I told him, fighting to keep my voice steady.
It was easy to see that Eric knew that I was lying. He took another step towards me but I managed to stay in place. "Liar. Tell me the truth," Eric hissed at me.
I shook my head weakly and backed myself up against the shelf. "It is the truth," I muttered.
"I don't think it is."
No matter what I said, nothing was working out in my favor. I had successfully managed to corner myself by the shelves and I wanted to slap myself. This was where he liked to be. Anywhere that he could trap me underneath him. He was leaning over me with one hand on each side of my head. There was nowhere to run and no more lies to tell. I couldn't tell the truth either. Eric couldn't know. Not until I knew where his alliances lay.
"Leave me alone," I hissed at Eric.
One of his hands lowered itself onto my shoulder. So I decided to play back. "Leave me alone, or do something about it," I said, tugging at his belt.
The two of us stared at each other for a while as Eric placed a hand behind my neck, yanking my head towards him so that he could speak in my ear. "I will. Tonight," he growled.
My heart was thumping in my chest. His hands caught on my hips once more to squeeze them before trailing back up my arms to come back to my shoulder. "Good," I whispered, barely able to say anything more.
"Now come on. Tell me why you were here. Or I'll pull it out of you. And you won't like if I have to settle with that," he told me, a low bite in his words.
There was no way that he was lying so I still kept my mouth shut. Whether or not I wanted to be Divergent, I was a part of this now. And that meant holding onto their secrets. For a moment, I feared that he might hurt me, but he never did. A figure stepped through the shelves and Eric glanced up. He didn't bother to back away from me though. I recognized her immediately. After all, I had just been looking at her picture.
"Eric?" she asked, a bored tone to her voice.
She did seem a little surprised though. Both Eric and I simply stared at the woman. She bore an incredible resemblance to Eric. But the eyes... The eyes were different. They held no life. Eric's always did. His mother merely stared at us, her even expression giving away nothing. She didn't look happy or sad. Just indifferent. And that made my blood boil. They should have never had a child. No one should have a child unless you would give them unconditional love. Not because of a science experiment.
A man stepped through the shelves a moment later and I knew that it was Eric's father. He looked very much like his father, too. "Eric, what are you doing in Erudite? Business, I take it," his father said blandly.
"Yes," Eric said through clenched teeth.
Neither one held any emotion in their eyes. Despite the strange position Eric and I were in, neither one seemed to even notice me. Eric nodded at his father with his jaw clenched tightly. Eric towered over both his mother and father and I knew that he could have killed them if he wanted to. I couldn't help but to wonder if there was any lost love there, or if they really hated each other.
The air quickly became awkward as Eric said nothing. He just stared at his parents, none of them seemingly willing to say anything. So I took the conversation into my own hands. Perhaps they were just startled. I shoved one of Eric's hands down to the sides and walked up to his parents. "Hello. It's a pleasure to meet the two of you. My name is Alex. I'm one of Eric's initiates in Dauntless," I introduced myself.
His parents nodded as I reached out to shake their hands. "Pleasure," his father said.
"Good to meet you," his mother said.
Neither one of them sounded like they were really that happy to be meeting me. And they looked less than thrilled that I was touching them, but they shook my hands regardless. "He was just escorting me here so that I could look through my mother's medical records," I explained.
That actually got his parents attention. They each had the slightest hint of emotion in their eyes. "What's wrong with your mother?" Eric's father asked.
"Oh, she's not sick. Pregnant. Almost five months along," I said with a little smile.
Although I thought that it was happy news, it did not garner the response that I had expected. "How... unsanitary," Eric's mother said.
My fake smile dropped off of my face at her words. "Excuse me?" I asked, hoping that I'd misheard.
"Margaret," Eric warned.
My head titled to the side. He didn't even call her mom or mother. At my side, I could feel Eric tense more than I thought was humanly possible. "It's just a fact, Eric," Margaret said.
"It's rude," I put in, before Eric could say anything.
"I suppose it's a sweet sentiment though," his mother continued.
Maybe she was trying to make up for it. "They're very happy. My parents only ever had me," I told them.
"Are you a transfer?" Eric's father asked.
"Amity?" his mother asked. I nodded. "I wasn't aware that many Amity transferred into Dauntless."
This time it was Eric that spoke up. "They don't. If she makes it through initiation - and she's in the perfect spot to do so - she will be the first Amity member to ever make it into Dauntless," Eric stated.
"Charming," Eric's father said, sounding not charmed at all.
"Your parents only had one child? That's impressive, coming from Amity. They don't seem to ever be able to show restraint," Eric's mother said.
That time my jaw dropped, and I was unable to say anything more. "Margaret!" Eric shouted, startling his parents.
He looked like he might hit them, so I placed a hand on his chest and kept him back. "It's alright," I mumbled to him. "For your information, my parents had fertility issues. They were lucky to even have me."
His mother merely huffed. "Eric never escorts initiates. There has to be another reason," she analyzed, changing the subject.
"We just happened to be going to the same place at the same time," I said.
They both nodded at me, not saying anything. They were such awful people. They made Eric seem like a Patron Saint. My teeth were grinding together as I forced myself to remain civil around these people. How could they be so heartless? So emotionless? Even Eric showed emotion better than them. And that was a hard thing to beat.
"Are you sleeping with him? You wouldn't be the first," Eric's mother said.
That time I couldn't help it. My jaw fell open at her words. I was floored at her words. Did she mean that I wasn't the first initiate that Eric had slept with? I certainly hoped not. I wasn't sure why, but I felt a certain possessiveness when it came to Eric. Like I wanted to be the only one to touch him. I knew that he felt the same way about me. Eric opened his mouth to say something, but I spoke over him, wanting to end the conversation.
"Not sleeping together. But we are together." It was a complete lie, but I enjoyed the look on his parent's faces. I grabbed his hand and entwined our fingers. His hand completely engulfed mine and was grasping tightly at mine. "We should be going. It's getting late. I'd like to say that it was a pleasure meeting you, but it wasn't."
I flashed his parents a sweet smile and turned to leave. What could I say? Some Amity traits never died. We turned and left the compound without another word. I dragged Eric behind me as we walked back through the shelves. When I turned back before we left the records section I saw that his parents were already pawing through the shelves of files, speaking softly to each other. I growled to myself. They were horrible people. Not once did Eric bother looking back at his parents.
We walked through the lobby before heading back to the train station. The train had to be close. I could hear it whistling off in the distance. The sun was already set and I figured that it was already either nine or getting close. The train roared around the corner and I jumped first, pulling myself easily into the compartment. It was a good comparison from earlier. Eric threw himself in easily behind me and took the seat at the wall of the train car right next to me.
Typically Eric was never one to shut up, as teasing me was one of his favorite pastimes, but that was not the case today. He was silent as he stared down at his hands. His face was an unreadable mask and I sighed. I wished that I could tell what was in his mind. He wasn't an easy man to read. But there was one way that I could at least know what he felt about tonight.
"So is that offer for ten still on the table?" I asked softly. I wasn't sure what kind of mood he was in right now.
Apparently he was still in a somewhat good mood. The corner of his lips quirked up and I smiled. "Come by and see what happens," he told me with a little laugh.
I grinned at him and nodded. "Okay," I said softly.
Despite the awkward encounter with his parents and the impending war on Divergent's, I was glad that I could be happy. Even if for just one night. "Initiate?" Eric called. I looked up at him. I hated that I was now responding to that name. But I was working at it. One day he would call me by my name. "Don't think that the conversation about why you were in Erudite is over. I'm giving you a pass for tonight. But we will discuss it."
"I figured," I admitted, nodding at him.
He would eventually want to know why I was in Erudite and one day I would have to tell him the entire truth. I didn't blame him for wanting to know. He had every reason to be cautious of me. I was sneaking out of my Faction to go to the records department of another one. He had every right to believe that I was up to no good. I just had to come up with a better lie by then. I wasn't sure that I would ever be able to manage the truth.
"Eric," I said, making him look up at me. "About your parents -"
He cut me off before I could even think of what I wanted to say. "Don't," he sneered.
It was harsh, the way that he said it. It left no room for argument. So I nodded and silenced myself, glancing down at my boots. The rest of the ride was made in silence but it wasn't uncomfortable. We arrived back at the Dauntless compound and I jumped out first. I wobbled for a moment before steadying myself so that I didn't fall. Once more, Eric landed perfectly. I glanced up at the clock and saw that it was half an hour until ten. I felt like I should give him at least a few minutes to himself after his day. Besides, there was something that I had to do.
There was someone that I owed a major explanation to. Someone that had been a good person to me over the past few months. Eric seemed to be waiting to see if I would follow him back or not, so I turned towards him with a steady face. There was something that I had to do and I had to force myself to do it. Things were changing. No more lies. No more faking it. If I wanted to be truly Dauntless, this was where I started.
"Go back to your apartment. There's something that I have to do first," I told him evenly.
For a moment I thought that he might argue, but he merely nodded at me. "Don't fall asleep on me," he joked.
I nearly laughed. I was wide awake. I had a feeling sleep would not come easily tonight. "I'm not planning on it. I have something to keep me awake," I said, giving him a pointed look.
"One way or another, we're talking tonight. You're right. The games are over," Eric said.
For once, I liked the darkness in his eyes as he spoke to me. I nodded and let him walk back to his apartment. I didn't want for him to see me headed to Damien's apartment. I had a feeling that he still wanted to remove the man from Dauntless for ever being with me. Waiting for him to get back to his apartment, I walked into the Pit and stopped at the bar. I grabbed a shot from the bartender and downed it before turning back to Damien's apartment. Just a little liquid courage.
Peeking around the corner to Damien's hallway, I was glad to see that Eric must have already walked into his room. I approached Damien's door slowly, trying to steady my breathing. I almost didn't want to do this but I knew that I had to. He deserved to know the truth. Or, at least, the convoluted truth that I was going to give him. He couldn't know about Eric. But I still needed to tell him that he was a good person, and I saw that, but only as friends. I knocked quickly and the door almost immediately opened.
I gave a nervous smile to Damien. He was fully clothed and smiled when he saw me. I hated that smile. It made this even harder. "Alex. Good to see you," he said.
"Hey, Damien. I wondered if we could talk," I said, trying to plaster a smile on my face.
He wore his normal smile on his face but looked a little surprised that I was here. Not that I blamed him. It had been a few days since I had seen him last. But he knew that I was busy with the end of Phase One. My heart skipped a little when I thought about what Jeanine wanted with me after Phase Three but I shook it off. I didn't have to think about that. Not right now.
"Sure. Come on in," he told me, stepping to the side so that I could walk into his apartment.
"Thank you," I muttered under my breath.
"Want something to drink?" he asked me.
I turned back and nodded. He was a good man. He deserved someone better than me. "Water, if that's alright," I told him softly.
He nodded at me and walked behind the counter to grab me a glass of water. "Not a problem," he said.
I headed straight back to his living room but jumped when I saw that someone was already there, planted in my normal spot at the edge of Damien's couch. This certainly wasn't a conversation that I wanted to have with someone else listening in. I shrugged, figuring that I could come back another day. The person on the couch finally turned back to me and I had to suppress a gasp. It was Colt. What the hell was he doing here? I didn't know that Colt even knew Damien.
"Oh - I, uh - I didn't realize that you had company. Look, I'll just come back later," I told Damien awkwardly.
Damien was perched behind the counter looking more than a little concerned about my sudden change in demeanor. Colt was still sitting on the couch, grinning up at me. "Alex, what is it? You can hang out here. Don't worry, Colt won't mind," Damien said.
Colt merely gave me a grin that made a sharp shiver shoot down my spine. "He's right. I don't mind, little Amity," Colt purred.
"Besides it's been a while since I've seen you," Damien said.
If I said what I wanted to say out loud, Damien would wish that I had left when I'd offered. And then Colt would know that I was breaking Dauntless rules. "Yeah, I know. But it's just that Colt and I don't really see eye-to-eye," I said.
"Oh?" Damien asked.
"Yes. But I'm not going to tell you who you can and can't be friends with. Just, enjoy each other's company," I said awkwardly.
Damien was watching me with mild concern and Colt was grinning, knowing that his presence was making me nervous. "Alex, are you sure that you want to go?" Damien asked.
After the Hunter fight, I tried to stay as far away from Jade and Colt as I could. "I'm sure. I'll come back later. I have something to tell you but I'd prefer it just be between you and me," I told Damien honestly.
He smiled at me and shook his head. He had clearly forgotten about my water. There was a glass of liquor that sat untouched on his counter and I found myself glad that he hadn't been drinking tonight. He might need his wits about him if Colt tried something. The hair on the back of my neck was standing up and I tried to brush the feeling off. This was Damien. We were sort-of dating. He was a nice guy. There was nothing to be freaked out about.
"I think Colt's good at keeping secrets," Damien said with a smile that Colt returned.
"I'm sure he is," I muttered.
"You can stay. Seriously, I'd prefer if you stay. I mean what else do you have to do?" Damien asked. Eric. But I wasn't going to tell him that. Not right now. And I did not want to stay. I wanted to be in Eric's room. "And Colt here tells me that you're in the sixth place ranking. That's pretty impressive."
"Thanks, but I'm serious," I told him through tight lips. He was starting to press me and that wasn't something that I liked. "Colt and I; we don't get along and I'm not comfortable. Trust me, the conversation is best had in private."
I was slowly finding myself getting angry with him. Damien was usually understanding. He rarely pressed me for things. "Sounds like something's bothering you," Colt said.
Something was bothering me. Both of them were. I ignored Colt and looked to Damien. "I'll see you later. Maybe I'll come by tomorrow. I have the day off," I said, trying to placate him.
He said nothing to me and I took that as I sign that I should leave. Perhaps I had interrupted something between the two of them. The air seemed a little tenser than usual. Or maybe it was my knowledge of what was awaiting me three doors down. Or perhaps the impending war. I just knew that something was putting me on edge.
"Alex?" Damien asked before I could take five steps.
I stopped and turned back to see him standing in front of the kitchen counter. Colt had also risen from his spot on the couch. Maybe he was going to take the high road and leave. "Yes?" I asked.
"Can I tell you a quick story before you leave?" he asked me.
I didn't like the sound of it but I nodded anyways. I didn't want to start a fight with these two. "Sure."
"Did you know that I wasn't Dauntless born?" he asked. "I'm a transfer. Just like you. But I'm from Erudite."
That certainly surprised me. Not just surprised me, it stunned me. Damien had always told me that he was Dauntless born. He had told me stories of himself growing up in Dauntless. Was this some type of stupid joke? Maybe I was the stupid one. I should have asked Zeke. I could have asked Zeke. He would have known. But I was stupid. Blind.
"You aren't Dauntless born?" I asked, not knowing what else to say.
"No," he admitted, at least having the decency to look ashamed.
"But you told me that you were. Why would you lie?" I asked him.
I wasn't sure what to make of this. He had lied, but why? Could it have been an innocent lie or was this something dangerous? "I was afraid that you might not like me," Damien said softly.
I felt a wave of pity sink into the pit of my stomach. I didn't want to have to end things with him. He didn't always go about things in the best ways but he did mean well. He seemed like a good guy. I knew that he was a good guy. But I just couldn't understand why he was telling me this now. Maybe because he knew the end was coming.
"Oh," I muttered, feeling extremely guilty.
"I was afraid that if you knew about my family you would want nothing to do with me," he said.
Part of me wanted to laugh at his confession but I was glad that I hadn't. Everyone had crazy families. And even though Erudite weren't very loving didn't mean that they were bad people. There were lots of people that had crazy families. And his couldn't have been any worse than Eric's.
"Damien, we all have crazy families. I have a crazy family and so do you," I told him. My family wasn't that bad but they certainly had their moments. "But I don't care."
The moment that I said it, I wanted to hit myself. Not that I was afraid that Colt would use it against me, he had no proof. But I could have just made things even harder to end. I'd never had to break things off with a person before. And clearly I wasn't very good at it. I should have just said something in the doorway. Every second I was here made it harder.
A little hint of amusement shot through Damien's eyes and I wondered if he was thinking about his family. "But, you see, it's not like normal families. I don't have crazy parents. No. It's my siblings," he said. I didn't like the way that his speech had suddenly become formal. I'd never heard him speak like that before. "I have an older brother. He stayed in Erudite though. But I have a younger brother too."
This time he wore a full smile on his face and I certainly didn't like it. Colt was wearing a smile that mirrored Damien's. "Okay," I said slowly and under my breath.
"He transferred out of Erudite. Just like his big brother," Damien said, his voice going slightly higher at the end of his statement.
My mind went blank as Colt came to stand on my other side, leaving me effectively trapped in between the two. They were both too close to me for comfort. I found myself wishing that I had a knife or gun. Not that I was sure I would be able to use either. I looked them over carefully, Damien's words weighing on me. A younger brother that transferred. Was he trying to tell me that Colt was that brother? He couldn't. They don't look anything alike. But as I was looking for any similarities I saw it. Damien's hair was a few shades darker than Colt's. But at the roots of Damien's hair I saw it. The same shade of hair that Colt had. I remembered the day that I had seen Damien in the salon. He wasn't there to get it cut. He was there to get it dyed. But why? Why the secrecy?
"Colt? Colt is your brother," I said softly, not wanting to believe it.
Damien was the good guy. I was so sure of it. But it was getting harder to believe that with every passing second. "Well spotted Softie," Colt purred at me.
I growled deep in my throat. Even Eric had stopped calling me that. "Asshole," I snapped at him.
"Honestly, I'm shocked that it took you that long to figure out. Come on, same eyes. Same figure. Almost the same hair," Colt said. As he listed the things off I felt more and more foolish. He was right. They had so many similarities that it was hard to ignore. "I guess it's a good thing you didn't come to Erudite."
He was right. It was a good thing that I hadn't come to Erudite. I wasn't intelligent at all. Jeanine had already proved that. She had found out that I was Divergent after only having two conversations with me. And now Colt and Damien were adding to the reasons of why I was a damned idiot.
"Why? Why are you telling me this?" I asked them, fighting to keep the fear out of my voice.
Alone, I wasn't afraid of Damien or Colt. But together they could do serious damage to me. And this time no one was here to stop them. "Because, Amity, someone had to show you just how stupid you've been. Sleeping with the enemy. Literally," Damien laughed.
Colt followed with the same heartless laugh. "What?" I asked, my voice shaking.
My blood ran cold at his words. Everything. It was all a lie. "You know, when Colt here first got to Dauntless and he told me about this little Amity, I thought he was just being over dramatic. But he kept talking about you and I agreed to meet you. It wasn't just chance that I met you at the bar. Colt had described you to me. The minute I saw you I went to you," he said. I nearly threw up. I remembered it now more clearly than ever. I should have caught it. The eagerness in his eyes. But I had ignored it because I wanted to prove that I was Dauntless. "I messed up but I managed to get back into your good graces. Until I had won you over."
His words had gone straight through me like a knife. A lump was forming in my throat making it difficult to breath. "So what was the point? To make me look stupid? Very well done boys. Both of you. You fooled me," I said, hoping I could leave. But I knew that this meeting was far more sinister. "And now I'm going to leave. Excuse me."
I had to get out of here. They had already made me look like a fool. That was enough. But they weren't going to let me leave just like that. "No, don't leave yet. We're going to show you a little fun first," Colt hissed at me.
My hands shook as he put me in between himself and Damien. They had me trapped. Eric had told me once that if I was ever outnumbered in a fight to not let myself get trapped. And that was exactly what I had done. "No, thanks," I said softly.
"You got Hunter, Jade, and I dropped to the bottom of the ranking board. It's your fault Hunter got the life beaten out of him," Colt snarled.
And just like that my blood began to boil. That was what this was about? "He knew the rules! You all did. We don't fight to kill each other, we fight to disarm. You all took that fight a step too far. Hunter got what he deserved," I sneered at him. It was true.
"He lost his place," Colt snarled at me.
The same would have happened to anyone that did something like that during a fight. "It was Eric, not me. I don't control what he does." They didn't bother to say anything but had smirks clearly planted on their faces. "So what happens now? You're going to kill me? You think your ranking is low now, just wait. You kill me and you'll be Factionless," I told them.
Not that I actually believed that either one would really do it. Colt was a terrible person but I didn't believe that he had it in himself to kill me. No, that was why he had had Hunter do the dirty work. I believed that they would attack me, but not kill me. Still though, I was fighting back my nerves. I had never been in a situation like this before. I should have just gone back with Eric.
"No. We aren't going to kill you," Colt said. I almost let out a breath at his words. I knew that he wouldn't do it. "We're going to do what we need to with you and then, then we're going to kill you. Toss you over the Chasm. By the time they find your body they'll think it was a suicide."
Ice ran through my veins at his words. They could do it. They could kill me and then throw my body down the Chasm. People committed suicide there all of the time. It wouldn't be surprising if another one did. But there was a flaw in their plan. Cameras were all over Dauntless. Someone would see them carrying the body. My body. Hopefully Four. He would kill them for me.
"You'll keep your fucking hands off of me. Both of you," I warned.
A cold smile crossed Damien's face. "I've never heard you say that before," Damien teased.
Keep them talking, Alex. "There are cameras down there. You don't think that they'll see you dragging a body in there? There are worse punishments than being Factionless for killing someone. You'll be executed yourselves. Both of you," I said, looking over to Damien for the first time in a while.
I couldn't believe that he was just going along with this. I couldn't believe that he wasn't the man that I had thought that he was. I couldn't believe how stupid I was. There were so many things that I couldn't believe. I had been such an idiot this entire time. They had been planning this for months and I'd walked right into their trap.
"You think that we didn't think this through?" Damien snarled at me. Of course they had. They were still Erudite. "There are service hallways. Back doors out of this apartment. I have friends in the Control Room. People that can get rid of any footage and replace it before anyone can ask any questions. We already know what we're doing. We have the whole plan laid out and ready. And I didn't have to get you here. You just willingly came. Thank you, little Amity."
Now I couldn't help but to shake. They were going to kill me and I had no ideas how to get out of here. Damien was blocking the exit and there was nothing that I could use as a weapon. I was defenseless. They were both far too strong for me to take on, afraid and alone. The only thing that I could do was run and hope to catch them off guard. They were not going to kill me. Jeanine was not going to kill me. I was going to live.
Dashing away as quickly as I could, I bounded over the couch before making a dead sprint to the door. They had been expecting me to do that. Damien caught me before I made it to the door and grabbed my ankle, pulling me to the ground. I fell and cried out at the slight tug in my bones. Before I could make another move Damien grabbed me and flipped me over, punching me in the stomach. I tried to shimmy away, ignoring the throbbing as Colt walked over to us. He stepped down roughly on my knees and I couldn't help it. I screamed. I prayed that someone could hear me but I knew that everyone would be in the Pit. There was no way I was getting out of this. I couldn't fight both. I tried to grab Colt's weak knee but he stepped on my hand before I could.
Once more I opened my mouth to scream but Damien's hand clamped itself over my mouth. A tear fell from my eyes as I tried to get out of his grasp. I shouldn't have come here. I saw Colt's foot coming towards me and I tried to move out of the way. Damien's hold faltered slightly and I missed the boot the first time. The second time I was not so lucky.
His boot came down on my throat as hard as possible. I tried to gasp for breath but I couldn't. Air wouldn't come to me. Before I could regain my strength, another kick came to my head and I cried out. Colt grabbed me to sit up and I thrashed out. My thumb came in contact with his face and I jammed my finger as hard into his eye as I could. He screamed in pain before falling. I opened my mouth and let out another piercing scream but it wasn't long before Damien grabbed me by the throat.
He held me still for a moment and I was brought back to my fight with Hunter. I was in the same position. But I had lived through that fight. I was going to die now. Colt slowly stood back up and I saw that his eye was bleeding and swollen. Part of the cornea looked like it was protruding slightly from the eye. But he didn't slow down as he grabbed my throat from Damien blindly. He had one hand on each side of my neck and was squeezing hard. I jammed my foot as hard into his stomach as I could, but he refused to let go.
Time after time I kept kicking him, but he wasn't letting go. And as he squeezed tighter, I was unable to fight. I couldn't breathe as he twisted my neck to the side. He was going to break my neck. He twisted once more and I could feel the bones crunching in my weak neck. Each twist was harder and I tried to gasp for air. I had been able to keep my neck steady enough to fight his twists but my resolve was dying with the lack of oxygen. I was going to die. He was going to kill me.
In the background I could hear fighting and screaming. Maybe that was actually me. I couldn't tell what was happening. Maybe someone had found me. My hearing wasn't quite right and my vision was nearly black. It didn't matter if someone was here. I was going to die first. As Colt twisted my neck once more I felt another vertebrae crack and a searing pain shot up my spine. The next snap was going to kill me. Or paralyze me. Maybe Colt would make it slow.
But it never came. His weight was thrown off of me and I fell to the ground gasping for air and crying out. My neck was straining with every movement and I let out a few loud cries. Tears were streaming down my face as my vision slowly came back. What the hell happened? I was about to die.
My vision was slowly coming back as I glanced around the room. Everything was still blurry as I noticed that Damien lay a few feet from me, bloody and immobile. Barely able to turn my neck, I glanced to the other side of me to see that Eric was kneeling over Colt's body. The boy wasn't fighting back and I could tell that Eric was not holding back his hits. Colt was twitching slightly with every hit that Eric continued to rain down on his body. I tried to stand but found myself barely able to do so. I still managed to hoist myself up and weakly walk over to Eric before falling back to my knees.
"Eric. Eric. Eric! Stop!" I yelled weakly. "Come on! Please!"
He seemed to finally snap out of his daze as he looked down to me. Fury was radiating through his eyes and off of his body. He was shaking and letting out deep panting breaths as he hovered over Colt. I turned back to Colt briefly, wondering if Eric had killed him. He certainly wasn't moving. He yanked on Colt's shirt and brought their faces together.
"You touch her, or anyone else in the compound ever again and I will not stop. You hear me?" Eric asked rhetorically. Neither Colt nor Damien were moving. They were either dead or close to it. "I'll beat you to death next time."
Eric got off of Colt before grabbing me. "Eric -" I tried, unable to find the words.
He didn't need me to say them. "Come on," he said.
As we left, neither one stirred at all. He walked me back to his apartment on shaky legs. His arm was underneath my own and wrapped around my waist, pulling me with him. Next to me, I could feel that he was shaking too. But not from fear. My back was groaning in protest as he seated me at a stool behind his kitchen. He grabbed a bottle off of the counter before grabbing a pill out of it. He handed it over to me with a glass of water, which he slammed on the counter. He was furious.
"Take these. They'll take the edge off," he said.
I said nothing but took the pill from him before swallowing it. The pill seemed to stick to my throat but I eventually got it down. I wanted to say something but I couldn't I wouldn't have even known what to say. I was horrified. I had almost died. Colt had only been a few seconds from killing me. And he would have been successful had Eric not come to save me.
"I heard you scream," Eric said. His voice was low, like he was fighting the urge to not scream. "Wasn't sure that it was you. I walked out in the hallway and saw that it was coming from Roberts's room. Figured it had to be you. What the hell happened in there?"
But I wasn't able to say anything. Even though Eric obviously wanted me to say something. His comment wasn't a question. It was a demand for me to tell him. But I still didn't say anything. I still couldn't think of anything to say. He had saved my life. Eric had saved me. Eric, the man that was completely cruel and loved to watch me get hurt, had saved my life. I would be dead if it weren't for him. And, because of him, Colt and Damien might be dead.
"You don't go back there tonight. Not to the dorms," Eric said. Even though I was looking down at my lap and not speaking, Eric knew that I was listening to him. "He won't be moving for a while but you don't go back there. Not if his little friends knew what he was planning tonight. You can stay here."
All I wanted to do was sleep for the rest of my life. I should have been listening better, but I had barely heard him. My body was shaking so much that I thought that at any minute I might have a seizure. I had nearly died. It was finally hitting me, just how close I had been to death. Despite the fact that I didn't want to say anything, there was something that I had to know.
"Did you kill him? Either of them?" I asked.
I wasn't sure whether or not I cared. It was more just because I needed to say something. I found that I didn't even recognize my own voice. It was soft and strangling. Not teasing or strong like it normally was. It was like every word was a challenge to say. My neck was still killing me as I shifted in my chair slightly.
"It doesn't matter," Eric snapped at me.
His anger wasn't at me. I had known him long enough to know when he was angry at me, or when it was at a situation. I found myself shaking once more. At any moment I thought that I might just collapse. He could have killed me. He would have killed me. I should have known. Colt was a bad person but I had never thought that he was really a killer. Not really. I was a fool. For believing that and being with Damien.
"I told you not to go back there," Eric told me. His voice was low and dangerous. "I told you!" Eric was holding a glass in his hands and he turned to smash it against the door. The glass shards went flying but I didn't jump. I didn't move at all. He was right. I wasn't suited for Dauntless. "Why the hell didn't you listen to me? I was trying to help you."
Once more I said nothing. He was right. About everything. I should have listened to him from the beginning. He waited for me to say something, all the while seething. My hands were folded over the counter and I stared down at them. They were already bruising from where Colt had stepped on them. I could see that a few bones were probably slightly out of place. I would have to fix those later. Eric's hands were covered in blood.
"Aren't you going to say something? Anything? Since when were you ever at a loss for words?" Eric asked me after a long silence. I said nothing. I had nothing to say. "Come on little Amity. Say something."
That time I found myself saying something. "Don't call me that!" I shouted at Eric.
We were both shocked by how loud my voice had gotten. I hadn't thought that I was capable of that right now. Eric was glaring at me and I knew that he was furious. It wasn't just him. I was furious with myself. I couldn't believe what I had done. I couldn't believe that I'd actually thought that Damien might have real feelings for me.
"He called me that," I told Eric, softer that time. Tears were rising once more and I brushed them away. Not right now. "I get it! I fucking get it! I shouldn't have gotten involved with him. You were right. I was stupid. I wasn't being Dauntless, just foolish. You were right. I'm not suited for Dauntless. Dauntless are brave, not reckless. So congratulations. You were right."
My voice was much softer that time. I hated admitting to Eric that I had been wrong the entire time. He was right and I was wrong. About everything. He had gotten what he wanted. He was silent for a moment before he spoke once more. And his voice was quieter than it had been in a while.
"I never wanted to be right. I wanted you to prove me wrong."
I stayed silent. I didn't know what to say to him. I had let him down. I had let myself down. I had thought that I was invincible and I wasn't. I had gotten so caught up in the life of a Dauntless that I hadn't seen past Damien's appeal. I was foolish. I should have known that Damien was not a good guy. I should have turned from the room the second that I saw Colt. I did everything wrong. I let everyone down. Myself and Eric most of all. Once more I realized that I would be dead if it weren't for him.
But something occurred to me. "Did you know him? From Erudite?" I asked.
Eric looked over to me with something almost like a smile. "Why do you think that I warned you to stay away from him?" he asked.
Part of me wanted to laugh at myself. How would I ever get through mental initiation? I was weak. I'd had two people, technically three, try to kill me. Jeanine wanted me dead. There was a war brewing on the horizon. I was one of the only people that knew about it and I didn't know how to stop it. Eric thought that I was a blubbering fool. And I was. My parents had found something new to love. Florian and Iris had each other now. My friends here, they would always have each other. But I was alone with no one to turn to. I'd even lost Eric. If I'd ever even had him.
"Look at me," Eric ordered me.
It was an outright order, something that I couldn't ignore, but I didn't bother. I couldn't bring myself to look at him. Not after everything. I was staring at his counter. The picture of me in the red dress that he had stolen from my room back in Amity was lying there and I fought back tears. Where had that girl gone?
"Look at me, initiate." I couldn't bear to do it. I should leave right now. I didn't deserve to be here. "Look at me." His voice had gone completely hard now. The demand was clear in his voice and I knew that he was standing right in front of me. "Alex, look at me, damn it!"
His voice was so loud that it nearly rattled the walls. That time my eyes shot up. He had said my name. My real name. I knew that he did. It hadn't been a trick that my mind was playing on me. He had said my name. Or had I imagined it? But judging by the surprised look on his face, I assumed that he really did say it. And he probably hadn't meant to.
"You said my name," I told him. It barely came out as anything more than a whisper. I couldn't believe he had said it.
"You earned it," he said, referencing his words months ago that he would tell me my name when I had earned it. But how had I? I failed to see that. "Anyone else would have never even looked at me again after the Chasm. After I paired you with Hunter. But you did. You fought back against everything that I did to you. You never stopped. Not even when I said things that would have destroyed someone else. You aren't weak. You're a damn idiot. But you aren't weak." I almost cracked a smile. "Come on, don't get soft on me now. I told you earlier. These games, we're done with them. And tonight, it makes us even for the Chasm."
He was right. The games were over. Whatever had happened tonight didn't matter. He mattered. He had saved my life. He was more than just the cruel Dauntless leader. I had known it the entire time, in the back of my mind, exactly what he meant to me. But this had been my final confirmation. The last thing that I needed.
"No, it doesn't," I told him and he raised an eyebrow. "This does."
Without taking a moment to think about what I was doing, I grabbed his shirt and pulled him to stand flush against me. He smirked for a moment before I grabbed him and pressed myself completely up against him. I raised my mouth at the same time that he dropped his and kissed him. Just like I had always wanted to. His lips were soft but chapped. Probably from yelling at me. They captured mine in a kiss that screamed that I was his. For once I didn't bother fighting it. And even though he didn't say it, I could feel it. I'm sorry. From both of us.
The kiss was not gentle and it was not romantic, but it was what I wanted. It didn't take long before he pushed my body back into the counter. The sharp edge dug into my back but I wasn't going to dare stop him. I gasped in pain and he took the momentary lapse in judgement on my part as an opportunity to push his tongue into my mouth. We wrestled with each other but he won in the end. He was the dominant type. Not that I minded.
His hands were tight around my hips as they grabbed tightly to my skin and pushed me up onto the counter, stepping it between my slightly open legs. I bit his lip and he grinned into our kiss. My entire body felt like it was on fire as his hands wound up my spine before grabbing the roots of my hair and yanking roughly. I gasped as he briefly moved down my neck to bite roughly at the crease between my shoulder and neck. A spot that elicited something between a moan and soft cry. I reached down to grab the hem of his shirt before his hands grabbed onto mine.
I waited for him to say something more, but he never did. I liked the way that he said my name. I wished that he had said it more often. I was extremely surprised that he had stopped me. I would have thought that he wanted it. But I could tell by the way he was staring at me that he did want it. His hands were shaking at my sides. I could feel them. I wondered if I said no if he would actually stop. But I wasn't going to say no. I didn't want to say no. We had come too far to stop. I had been waiting too long. I needed the comfort. We both did.
"Do it. I want it. I want you," I breathed.
"You're messing with my mind, Amity," he said.
I laughed softly as he grabbed me off of the counter and I gasped, wrapping my legs tightly around his waist. He threw me up against the wall and I gasped, leaning back down to his lips once more. He had gotten his confirmation. The only thing that either one of us had needed. He wasn't waiting long anymore. We had both waited far too long. I moved back from him and peeled his shirt off of his body before letting him do the same to mine. They were both tossed carelessly to the floor.
My nails dug into his back as his head dipped slightly lower than my lips. He walked back from the wall once more and I grabbed him tightly, pulling him into a bruising kiss. He broke it very suddenly as he grabbed me from his waist and literally tossed me a few feet onto his bed. I shrieked and bounced a few times before he climbed on top of me. I didn't miss the way that his movements were predatory. Like a tiger stalking its prey.
"Don't you dare move," he growled as he leaned back to my lips. I wouldn't have, even if I could.
My breath caught in my throat as he pressed his body roughly against my own. His hips ground down into mine and I knew that we wouldn't last long teasing each other. The last thing that I wanted was to drag this out. The only thing that I wanted was for the two of us to be on each other all night long. His hands dipped down to the waistband of my pants and I lifted my hips up into his, inviting him to slip them off. Our hips ground together for a few seconds and I moaned softly into his mouth.
Having him on me was so much better than I would have expected it to. Eric pulled my pants off of my legs, ripping them off as quickly as he could. He turned and threw them off of the bed like they had burned him. He dropped back down and brought his mouth back to mine. His kiss was bruising. He pushed through my closed lips for a moment and I groaned. His tongue was hot in my mouth and I smiled into the kiss as his hands snapped the clip of my bra open.
He didn't bother to hide the fact that he was blatantly staring at my chest. A blush rose to my face and trailed down my chest but I was grateful that he said nothing. He should have known that, at some point, I would have been a little embarrassed. But we had come this far. It was strange to think about. So don't think. His mouth left a trail of kisses down my neck and I groaned as he bit down on a few places that were more sensitive than the rest.
One in particular, just above my collarbone, made me give a loud moan. I was sure that someone outside could hear. He bit down on my neck before placing his lips there and sucking roughly on the spot. He was leaving marks all over me but I couldn't have cared less. My nails were digging into the skin on his back and he hissed in between pain and pleasure. We were marking each of us as the others. His head dipped down suddenly to my bare chest and I moaned loudly, not caring if the neighbors could hear.
His mouth completely encircled my nipple and I groaned as his teeth grazed them. I arched my back so that he was pressed harder against me and he complied, knowing what I wanted. His teeth tugged at the peak slightly and I let out a little hiss. It was much rougher than anything that anyone in Amity would have ever done. I was panting quickly, feeling like, at any moment, I would overheat. But it was damn well worth it.
One of his hands went up to weave in my hair, tugging my head back while the other worked at the nipple that he wasn't currently gently biting. He knew exactly what to do. He twisted and pinched, leaving me somewhere in between pain and pleasure the entire time. My entire core was throbbing and I wanted nothing more than for him to finish this. But he wouldn't. He was going to make me his in every way first. And that was exactly what I wanted.
My hands worked down at the button to his pants, suddenly utterly aware that he was wearing far too much clothing. The only piece of clothing that he was missing was his shirt. I didn't want him to have anything on. I wanted it all off. But he knew what I was doing and he wasn't ready yet. He grabbed my wrist with bruising force before holding it above my head. He wasn't going to let me pull his clothing off until he was done with me. I tried to struggle against his grip, but his hands were like iron. He took his free hand and grabbed the waist of my underwear. With one swift motion, he tugged them free of my hips, tearing the black lace.
At least I didn't like them very much. The side of the underwear ripped and he was able to toss the offensive garment to the side. They hit the floor, out of sight and mind. I was dripping onto the sheets and the inside of my thighs and he knew it. His finger slid across my folds and I gasped at the feeling. My legs locked up as Eric shoved them apart. We were really going to do this. His mouth was back on mine as he slid the first finger into me. I cried out into his mouth and he grinned, biting down on my lip roughly.
He sure as shit knew what he was doing as he slid his finger in and out of me. He wasn't slow and he wasn't caring. But it was everything that he wanted. Amity were the people that went slow and sweet. All I wanted was the real Eric. He was fast and harsh the entire time. He bent his finger and curled it as he went, moving out of me slowly. I gave a strangled cry into his mouth and I felt him smirk into the kiss. No one had done that to me before. And it hit something I couldn't describe inside of me.
The feeling was better than anything that I had ever experienced. It wasn't long before he placed a second and third finger in me, stretching me more than I had been expecting. He always had had large fingers. He hadn't stopped the curling motion and he hadn't slowed down. If anything, he was moving faster than before. My hips lifted from the bed as he pumped particularly roughly into me. I watched, slightly confused, as he moved his mouth down.
If I had thought that I knew exactly what he was going to do, I was wrong. He kissed down my entire body, making me sigh softly. But, as I thought that he would stop, he continued down my legs. He was pressing kisses against my inner thighs before a new move completely threw me. His tongue slid right above where his fingers were currently residing inside of me. He licked at my clit and I yelled loudly, moaning his name loud enough for the entire Faction to hear. Not that I cared. It was something that no one had ever done to me before.
It was something that I couldn't believe that I had gone for so long without. As he continued to pump his fingers in and out of me, he twirled his tongue around my clit, his thumb pressing it down. His tongue was swirling around and I gasped softly as he began to suck on the spot, his teeth gently grazing me. His name, mixed in with a few profanities, slipped from my mouth. I felt the all too familiar sensation of bundling nerves and I tried to release the tension in my body as my vision began to fade.
He was getting me so close, much faster than anyone else had ever managed it. My fingers were gripping his sheets so tightly that I thought that they might tear. But I had a feeling that he wouldn't have cared. We were both getting everything that we wanted. Just as I began to quake and shiver under him, he retracted his fingers and sent his tongue completely up my core, dipping into me briefly before sitting up. What the fuck was that? Why had he stopped?
"What -?" I asked, being quickly cut off.
"Not yet. My turn," he said.
And I suddenly knew what he meant. It was only fair. I nodded and threw my hands up to his chest, shoving him back onto the mattress. He looked extraordinarily surprised, but said nothing. He merely smirked and leaned back on the bed. Normally he would have shoved me back, and probably clear off of the bed, but today was different. I was still a little shocked that he was going to let me control him in such a way, but I didn't mind.
I finished opening the button on his pants before tearing them free from his legs. Legs that I had never seen bare before. They were pale, like the rest of him, but strong. His boxers were the only article of clothing left between us and I was fast to remove them. He was hard, not surprising to me in the slightest. I grabbed him in my hand, pumping his impressive length once. He had a larger girth than any man I had been with. Was there really a chance that I could take all of him? I would sure as hell try.
His eyes rolled back in his head as I continued to pump up and down and his fingers wrapped around my hair, letting me know that he was the one in control. Of course. Even in a position like this, he wanted to be the one in control. I didn't fight him on it. I egged him on. Without warning, I squeezed him once before opening my mouth and taking him in. I heard him suck in a breath above me and I smiled, pushing my mouth down as far as I could, almost all of the way.
He was a little too large for me to actually take all of him. One hand was cupping his balls underneath him and my other was running my nails in patterns on his inner thighs. His hands were tight in my hair as I bobbed up and down on him. Every once and a while I would completely retract from him and twirl my tongue around his tip or place a tiny bite on his hips. I noticed that each time I did that, he tensed up a little more. As I dropped down to him once more, he slammed my head down on him, forcing me to take all of him. It was hard but I refused to stop him.
It wasn't long before he pulled my mouth off of him and he sat up, throwing me back underneath him. "Fuck this," he growled.
I'd never been so happy for him to say something like that. I knew what he meant. We had waited long enough for this. We wanted each other more than anything. I wanted him inside of me. Far more than I had ever realized. How I had waited this long was beyond me. He easily complied with my wishes. Without warning, he slammed into me and I cried out. It wasn't painful but it was slightly uncomfortable at first. His lips lowered back to mine and our tongues swirled together as I adjusted to him. The moment that I had, I bucked my hips up to his, groaning as we rubbed together.
He needed no more warning than that. He retracted so that only his tip was still in me before forcing my legs completely apart and slamming back into me. It was a good thing that I was flexible. He shoved into me roughly, without mercy, and I groaned loudly. God, he was better than anything. Everything that he had done to me was well worth it as he rushed his pace, not taking any time at all. Not that I wanted him to take his time. The only thing that I wanted was to savor this.
For what felt like hours, he rode me, making grunting noises and every once in a while lowering to my lips or chest. His hands were clinging at my hips and I could see the bright red marks forming under the pressure. He was making me his in every way, marks that would last even after tonight. My nails were raking down his back as I felt my release climbing. I knew that his was too as his thrusts became more desperate and curses began to spill from his lips.
But just before I could scream out his name, he pulled out of me and sat up, grabbing my hips and pulling me on top of him. I nodded and placed myself above his waist, lowering onto him and sitting back on the balls of my feet. It took me a moment to gather my balance before I could bob up and down on him. He was stretching me as far as I could go and I moaned loudly, kissing him desperately. He was doing things to me that I had never felt before. They were things that I was praying that someone would one day make me feel. And here I was, feeling them right now.
To my surprise, Eric let me take control of our time together. He laid back and let me go at a fast pace, my breasts bouncing in front of him. His eyes were locked onto them as I threw my head back, reveling in the feeling of him. We bounced together for a while before he grabbed my hips and lifted me up slightly. My vision went blurry as he slammed into me at a faster pace than I thought was humanly possible. For such a large man, he was extraordinarily agile.
"Oh fuck. Eric! Fuck," I gasped desperately, looking for something to grab onto as I felt a pressure higher than anything I had ever experienced rose in my core.
My nails dug roughly into his back once and that was all that it took. My vision blurred and I screamed his name time after time as my body shook. Eric was the one that was doing all of the work as my body erupted into spasms, leaving me almost useless to do anything more. But that didn't seem to bother him. In fact, he looked thrilled with himself that he had done such a thing to me. While I leaned back, exposing my chest to him, Eric leaned down and placed his mouth there.
My arousal only became stronger as a slick wetness slid down my thighs. My walls were clenching around him tightly, and that was all that it took for him to release himself into me. He groaned expletives with my name mixed between them as he spilled himself into me. The feeling shocked me as he jerked into me. We were both panting heavily as he thrust a few more times into me, emptying himself. His mouth released my chest as he looked up to me with dark eyes.
The two of us said nothing. There was nothing that we could say. Instead we panted against each other, chest against chest. I leaned forward slightly, placing my forehead against his. I felt one of his hands come up to tangle in my hair as he pulled my head back, pressing a long kiss against my mouth. His hand was keeping our heads together as we exchanged a long kiss with each other. We stayed together for what might have been hours before he fell back onto his back, still inside of me. I fell with him and laid on his chest for a few moments, my legs on each side of him.
We caught our breath before I raised up, finally letting him fall out of me. Evidence of what we had been doing not a minute beforehand slid down my legs as I laid next to him. We were both breathing heavily, neither of us saying anything to the other. I wasn't quite sure what to say or do, but it didn't seem that he knew what came next either. Maybe that was just something that we had to deal with in the morning. Maybe that was something that we never had to deal with. It didn't matter. I just knew that, right now, we didn't have to think about what had happened.
The two of us stared at each other for a moment before he leaned over to me and we gave each other another lasting kiss. It was almost romantic. Not that Eric knew what it meant to be romantic. He tasted like me and I tasted like him as our tongues swirled together. We stayed like that for what felt like all night. I never wanted to leave him. But, eventually, I pulled back from the kiss and turned away from him, not bothering to grab my clothes.
Mostly I had done it so that I wouldn't need to talk to him or think about what was going to come next. There would be the price to pay in the morning for what we had done, but it wasn't something that I had to face right now. If I was lucky, I would never have to face it. I knew that I should have left, but I couldn't face reality yet. I didn't want to face the impending war, Damien or Colt, or what had just become of Eric and me. Because something had definitely just changed between the two of us. There was no coming back from what we had just done.
So I merely laid on my side for a long time before feeling Eric shift to face away from me in his bed. He laid there for a second before throwing the sheets over us and settling onto his side. We said nothing as he leaned over to the bedside table and shut the lights off. Even despite that, I could still hear his heavy breathing. We weren't looking at each other or acknowledging what had just happened, but judging by the fact that he hadn't kicked me out yet, I assumed that it was a good thing. I felt his back touch mine softly and I smiled, shutting my eyes. For the first time in what seemed like forever I slept soundly, the pleasant throbbing in between my legs a good reminder of what had happened for the first, and hopefully not the last time.
A/N: There were lots of extensions to the dialogue in this chapter. There were a few extensions to the M-rated part. Drop me a review if you feel the need! Until next time -A