A quick note about this story: I know the characters are OOC and this is probably the weirdest pairing you can ever think of, but I wanted to be able to explore their characters more, especially Eric's. Most of the story will be told from his point of view. Also, David: he was never in the book, in case you were wondering if you'd missed him. He is a mildly important OC who just happens to stick needles in Eric's face.

Breaking The Habit

Chapter One: Dauntless

Eric

I am not sure exactly what wakes me, but if I had to venture a guess, I would say it is my pounding headache. Just opening my eyes requires a huge amount of effort, and as I blink away the blurriness of fatigue, I notice my hands. One or two of the scabs on my knuckles have peeled, revealing new skin, but the majority have been ripped off. Fresh blood stains the sheets, vivid red against the backdrop of off-white and rust.

It's not the first time this has happened. In fact, more often than not I wake with some part of me bruised or bloody. The risk of injury and possible death is one every Dauntless takes, but it runs even higher for me. Because I am a leader, because if I go a few days without a fix I cannot control myself.

I look at my hands. It has been a few days.

I reach blindly until I find the chain that turns on the other three lights. When I stand, I can see myself in the cracked shard of mirror hanging from the stone wall. My black hair is a greasy tangled mess. I consider washing it, but decide not to—it's a hopeless cause and a waste of time. Instead I flatten it a little with my thin fingers and pray no one notices. I step away from the mirror and my piercings catch the light, throwing reflections in every direction imaginable. At last count I had seventeen, but that could change in a matter of minutes.

Now that I've let myself think about it, I long for the feel of a needle piercing my skin. I don't trust myself to act normally if I shoot up, and since it is Choosing Day, I'll need my wits about me. Maybe I'll head down to see David later, see what he can do about the fact that I don't have a septum ring.

I bend down and pull on the first things I can find. Skintight pants, boots, a leather vest. My arms and chest are covered with dirt and black paint. I smear some across my eyes from a jar on the floor and check to make sure it hides the dark circles under them. (Fatigue is not leaderly, Max told me once, and I reluctantly took his advice to heart. I didn't need any more reasons for the others not to like me.) Once they have disappeared, I no longer look like the hopeless addict no one knows I am. I look Dauntless. And, if I'm being honest with myself, that confirmation is exactly what I need.

~oOo~

Max—another Dauntless leader, another conspirator—catches up to me at the end of the hallway. "Have you seen Four?" he asks urgently. He keeps trying to meet with Four, and I'm sure Four is avoiding him. I shake my head and wait.

"Can you go find him?" I knew he was going to ask, he always does. I shake my head again. This time I raise my eyebrow, moving several piercings in the process. "Well, why not?"

"Have you forgotten what day it is?" I turn around and start walking, but backwards, so I can make progress and still see his reaction. His brow furrows, and he pushes a hand through his gray-streaked hair.

"Right. Well, if you see him, tell him I'm looking for him."

I shrug. "Might not see him. I'm busy today." But I know now that I will make a point of seeking him out. I'm always looking for excuses to see Four, slip into the conversation that I'm not second best anymore, am I?

"Of course you are." Part of him, I'm sure, is angry that I'm the one who took the extra step and volunteered to oversee training for the faction transfers. We might be working for the same cause, but we are more reluctant colleagues than friends.

I start across the Pit, not waiting to hear the end of his response. David's room is in the hallway opposite mine, one of the generic spaces not reserved for Dauntless leaders or initiates. (Mine is as well, but I'm loathe to admit it. The rest of the leaders all live in the Spire, and they despise me. When it came time to pick my living quarters, I decided I would rather stay close to the few friends I have.) I know I will find him there-it's too early for him to be anywhere else. People watch me as I go by. Some bow their heads respectfully or mutter greetings. The ones that don't are frozen, watching me out of the corners of their eyes. I can sense their stares on me, and the feeling of their mixed respect and fear is not entirely an unpleasant one.

I don't bother knocking on David's door, I just push right in. The chair is already set up, an assortment of needles and rings on a tray next to it. The puncture scars on the inside of my elbow ache just looking at them. Obviously, he knew I was coming. Part of me wonders if Asher let him know I'm in a shitty mood, but I push that thought away. Whatever the two of them have to say about me behind my back is clearly none of my business.

"Let me guess." I turn around and he is there, tan fingers tapping impatiently on the bed frame as he scrutinizes me from under an unruly mop of brown hair. I don't have a bed frame. My thin mattress is on the floor, like everything else. "Septum ring?"

"Right as always." Now that the tedious guessing process is over I am free to drop into the chair. David snaps on a pair of rubber gloves and looks at me like he knows. And he does. I've paid him well to keep my dirty little secrets (though one would think it comes with the territory, being friends with a leader and all). The only thing he has to do is supply me (no matter how reluctantly) with a vice.

"Don't hold back," I say. It has been almost a year since I stopped getting numb like I used to. I expect the pain, I anticipated it. The slow burn of the healing puncture is the best part, though, and I hope it will be enough of a high to get me through the day.

"It'll be a couple days before we get more in," he says, answering my question before I ask it. "Probably a good thing, though. You'll have faction transfers to train." He winks at me. David was in my group two years ago, and he is one of the few people who knows I transferred to Dauntless from Erudite. Not to mention one of the few I allowed close enough to call friend.

"Don't remind me. I hope we get another Stiff this year. Something I can use to taunt Four."

"Yeah, yeah," David mutters. His Candor nature, still not hidden well enough after two years, allows me to know exactly when he's annoyed with me, and now is one of those times. "Hold still."

I close my eyes and let him stick the needle in me, forgetting everything I have to do, all feigned interest in my responsibilities, until there is only the pain.