I wake up sweating. It's too hot here. I put on a shirt I find folded on a chair in the corner, and walk down the hallway until I find a bathroom. I splash some water on my face and look at myself in the mirror. There is a bruise on my cheek that is yellowing and a few cuts, but other than that I have no physical scars of the tragedy that I just went through. My stomach flips at the memory of the dead bodies everywhere. I can't take this; I need her. She will make this go away.
I start down the hall towards Tris's room when I remember her gunshot wound. I stop an Amity nurse walking by and she gives me a bottle and dropper with some medicine. I ask her how everyone else is doing, and she informs me the other members of our party are all fine. She also tells me about the meeting in half an hour. I continue down the hall until I find the room I took her to last night.
I knock on the door and hear Tris say "come in." I open the door and see her on the end of the best, looking worn down and beautiful.
"The Amity are meeting in half an hour," I say, trying to start conversation. I tip my head to the side and raise my eyebrows. "To decide our fate." I say it lightly, but every word still feels heavy in my throat.
Tris shakes her head. Never thought my fate would be in the hands of a bunch of Amity," she grumbles.
"Me either," I say annoyed. "Oh, I brought you something," I say, reaching for the medicine. "Pain medicine. Take every six hours." I hand her the dropper and she quickly puts the medicine in her mouth.
I am studying her. To everyone else here, she looks the part of the hero who rescued us. But I know better. I know she witnessed things that I wished she would never have to, and I know there is something she is not telling me that is the worst part.
"How are you, Beatrice?" I ask her trying to act casual, looping my fingers through my belt loops and leaning against the door.
"Did you just call me Beatrice?" she asks, surprised. Crap, too casual.
"Thought I would give it a try," I say with a half-smile on my face. "Not good?"
"Maybe on special occasions. Initiation Days, Choosing Days…" She is about to say something else, but catches herself.
"It's a deal," I say, respecting the holidays of our shared childhood home. But now I have to be serious. "How are you, Tris?"
Her smile fades, and she tenses. I wish she would just tell me whatever it is that is eating her up.
"I'm…" she says, trying to find the words. "I don't know, Four. I'm awake. I…" All the dread from the past two days comes rushing to her face. She is broken down. I want so bad to fix her, but I don't know how. I do the only thing I can think of to try and make her feel the least bit better: I run my thumb over her cheek and gently kiss her. She grabs my arm tightly, holding on to it like it's the only piece of me left. I break the kiss and she leans her head against me, and I know I have given her some comfort, if only for a moment.
"I know," I tell her, understanding the pain crushing her. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have asked."
She looks at me with an expression of understanding on her face. I don't want to leave. Then I remember the meeting.
"I'll let you get ready," I tell her. I kiss her forehead once more, and close the door behind me.
I spend the time waiting for Tris to get ready by checking on how the rest of our group is doing. The Abnegation are all scared, but hiding it well as they scamper around the compound, living up to their faction's standards of help. The Dauntless are more pissed than upset. I find Lauren beating the life out of a door that won't open right, and I have to calm her down.
"Let go of me!" she shouts, trying to fight my grip around her waist. A couple of Amity walk by and give us quizzical looks, but don't question us.
"No," I say gruffly.
"Let me go, right now Four! I need this. This is how I deal with pain and disappointment. When they took the control over my own body away, they took away a piece of me. I need to find it again. You have no idea what that's like!" she shouts. Her words sting, but I don't say anything. Suddenly, she stops fighting me.
"Oh, Four, I am so sorry. I didn't mean it like that, I-"
"It's okay," I whisper. Lauren leans her head on my shoulder and cries. I wish I could cry, too, but I can't. I just can't.
Finally, it is time to collect Tris. I decide to find Caleb first, thinking it might be good for her to have him around. He is all the family she has left. When Tris opens her door, all I can do is stare. Her hair, it's….short.
"You cut your hair," Caleb says. No kidding, I want to say, but hold my tongue. Now is definitely not the time to start a fight.
"Yeah," Tris says nervously. "It's…too hot for long hair." I know it's not the real reason she cut her hair.
"Fair enough," Caleb shrugs. I don't say anything, but lead the way towards the grand room for the meeting.
"Does everyone know you're Marcus's son?" Caleb asks suddenly. "The Abnegation, I mean."
"Not to my knowledge," I say calmly, but give him a look that says and it will stay like that. "And I would appreciate if you didn't mention it."
"I don't need to mention it. Anyone with eyes can see it for themselves," he states matter-of-factly. I want to punch him then and there for even thinking I have any resemblance to that pathetic excuse of a man. "How old are you, anyways?"
"Eighteen," I tell him.
"And you don't think you're a little too old to be with my little sister?"
His question makes me laugh. The idea that he thinks of Tris as a fragile little girl is just hilarious. "She isn't your little anything," I tell him.
"Stop it, both of you," Tris says, stopping us in our tracks. I can see that right now she can only handle one thing at a time, and this is obviously not what she wants to focus on. We continue into the room in silence. I guide Tris to a space on the side of the room that is between the Abnegation and Dauntless. I see the sweat starting to form from the humidity on the nape of her neck.
"I like your hair that way," I whisper into her neck, and we sit down. Tris leans against me and I silently stroke her new hair. Looking at the Abnegation in front of me, it hits me why I like it so much: it is Abnegation short, and reminds me of peace.
Johanna, who was standing at the front of the room, raises her hands, and the room falls silent. After several seconds, she lifts her head up.
"We have before us today, an urgent question," she begins. "which is: how will we conduct ourselves in this time of conflict as people who pursue peace?" The room is alive with chatter again, as the Amity share their opinions with each other on the answer.
"How do they get anything done?" Tris asks, confused.
"They don't care about efficiency," I explain. "They care about agreement. Watch."
Tris and I watch as the Amity slowly group together to form bigger circles, and each shares their equal opinion. If every faction was this way, we probably wouldn't be in this situation right now.
"This is bizarre," Tris comments quietly.
"I think it's beautiful," I tell her. She gives me a funny look and I can't help but laugh.
"What?" I ask with a smile. "They each have an equal role in government, they each feel equally responsible. And it makes them care; it makes them kind. I think that's beautiful."
"I think it's unsustainable," Tris comments. "Sure, it works for the Amity. But what happens when not everyone wants to strum banjos and grow crops? What happens when someone does something terrible and talking about it can't solve the problem?"
I don't have an answer for her other than the obvious one, so I just shrug. "I guess we'll find out."
The representatives from each group finally get up to talk with Johanna.
"They're not going to let us argue with them, are they," Tris points out.
"I doubt it." Suddenly, the room is silent again, and I notice Johanna at the front of the room with her head down.
"Our faction has had a close relationship with Erudite for as long as any of us can remember," she finally says. "We need each other to survive, and we have always cooperated with each other. But we have also had a strong relationship with Abnegation in the past, and we do not think it is right to evoke the hand of friendship when it has for so long been extended. We feel that the only way to preserve our relationships with both factions is to remain impartial and uninvolved. Your presence here, though welcome, complicates that."
A frown tugs at the corner of my mouth. Only the Amity would flee in a time of war.
"We have arrived at the conclusion that we will establish our faction headquarters as a safe house for members of all factions under a set of conditions," Johanna says. Relief floods through me, knowing we are safe, if even for a night. "The first is that no weaponry of any kind is allowed on the compound. The second is that if any serious conflict arises, whether verbal or physical, all involved parties will be asked to leave. The third is that conflict may not be discussed, even privately, within the confines of this compound. And the fourth is that everyone who stays here must contribute to the welfare of this environment by working. We will report this to Erudite, Candor, and Dauntless as soon as we can."
Johanna's gaze shifts directly over tome. "You are welcome to stay here if and only if you can abide by our rules. That is our decision." I understand her words exactly as she means them.
"We won't be able to stay long," Tris whispers under her breath.
"No," I say. Conflict is in my blood. I was literally raised by it. "We won't."
Tris and I don't talk about the meeting. We both know the reality of the situation, and it is too grim to mention. Instead, we explore the compound. At dinner, we eat in silence. We enjoy as much of the peace as we can. After we eat, I decide to do some private training in my room. I am mid-crunch when I hear a knock on my door.
"Come in," I say, standing up. The door opens, and I am surprised to see Caleb standing there. He looks down at my bare, tattooed chest and frowns.
"I need to talk to you about Tris," he says, and shuts the door behind him.
"What about her?" I ask, putting my shirt on.
"First of all, you two haven't…" he says, fiddling with a loose string on his sweater.
I am confused by his question for a moment, and then it hits me. "No," I say, and relief floods his face, along with blush.
"Good, good. I just…need to know that you aren't going to hurt her," he says.
"I couldn't if I tried," I explain. "She is the bravest person I know."
"What makes you say that?" he asks.
"One of the first things we do during Dauntless training is learn to throw knives. When a fellow initiate couldn't as was going to be hit with knives because of his lack of ability, Tris offered to step in his place. Each knife I threw just made her…braver. That's when I knew how incredible she was," I tell him.
"You threw knives at my sister?" he shrieks.
"Calm down, I only nicked her once, and it was on purpose," I roll my eyes.
He glares at me. "There's no way you have that good of aim."
I smile at him and take the knife out of my pocket. Without looking I hit the flower painted on the wall dead center. His eyes grow big.
"Can you teach me how to do that?" he asks.
"Sure," I say, retrieving the knife. "But we need a softer target."
Caleb pulls out a big chunk of cheese from dinner from his pocket. "Will this work?"
"Perfect," I say, and place it on top on the dresser.
"Let me watch you one more time," he pleads. I sit down against the bed and hurl the knife at the cheese. "Your turn," I say. He runs across the room to collect the knife and stands next to me. He hurls the knife, and it hits the ceiling. I can't control myself. A roar of laughter comes out.
"No, not like that!" I say.
"What do you mean 'not like that'? I imitated you perfectly," he says, sure of himself.
"You did not," I tell him.
"Well, do it again then." I sigh as he hands me the knife, I throw it and it hits the cheese. Caleb looks confused and in awe. I hear a footstep and see and Tris staring at us in the doorway.
"Tell me he's some kind of Dauntless prodigy," Caleb pleads. "Can you do this, too?"
With my right hand, maybe," Tris says, a smile playing on her lips. "But yes, Four is some kind of Dauntless prodigy." On Four, I look at her. It still is weird to hear her say my nickname after getting used to her calling me Tobias. "Can I ask why you're throwing knives at cheese?" she asks.
"Caleb came by to discuss something and knife-throwing came up somehow," I explain.
"As it so often does," Tris says, the sarcasm in her voice heavy. I just stare at her, admiring her messy blonde hair. I don't know why she likes me, I really don't.
Caleb clears his throat, breaking the silence. Anyways, I should be getting back to my room," he says. "I'm reading this book about the water-filtration systems. The kid who gave it to me looked at me like I was crazy for wanting to read it. I think it's supposed to be a repair manual, but it's fascinating." All I can do is stare at this kid and wonder how he is in any way related to Tris.
"Sorry," he mumbles, blushing. "You probably think I'm crazy, too."
"Not at all," I say, masking the sarcasm in my words. I just can't resist. "Maybe you should read that repair manual, too, Tris. It sounds like something you might like."
"I can loan it to you," Caleb says, his eyes sparkling with hope.
"Maybe later," Tris mutters, and Caleb practically skips out of the room. When the door shuts, Tris shoots me a dirty look, and I know I'm in trouble.
"Thanks for that," she chastises me. "Now he's going to talk my ear off about water filtration and how it works. Though I guess I might prefer that to what he wants to talk to me about."
"Oh? And what's that?" I ask curiously. "Aquaponics?"
"One of the ways they grow food here. You don't want to know," I tell her, shaking my head as I remember the conversation he tried to initiate on our walk here.
"You're right, I don't. What did he come to talk to you about?" Tris asks innocently.
"You," I say, and she looks surprised. "I think it was the big brother talk. 'Don't mess with my little sister' and all that."
"What did you tell him?" she asks quietly. I get up and walk to her. I gently stroke her cheek with my hand, feeling the warmth of her skin.
"I told him how we got together, and that's how the knife-throwing came up. And I told him I wasn't messing around."
Before she can say anything, I push her against the door and kiss her. I grab her hips, pulling me closer to her. It scares me how much I love this. She pulls me closer and gently traces her fingers under the hem of my shirt, along my stomach. I kiss her hungrily. Hungry for her skin, hungry for the warmth, hungry for her. I hate when I have to pull back.
"This isn't what you came for," I whisper.
"Then what did you come for?"
"Who cares?" she asks, and before I can push the question further, her fingers and running through my hair, pulling my mouth to hers. I enjoy the sensation for a second, but I know I need to make sure she is okay.
"Tris," I mutter against her neck.
"Okay, okay," she sighs. She tells me about over hearing Johanna and Marcus in the garden, about a big secret the leaders are supposedly keeping from us.
"Well, what do you think?" she asks when she finishes her story.
"I think," I say, trying to find the right words, "that it's Marcus trying to feel more important than he is.
"So what, you think he's just talking nonsense?" she practically screeches. Crap.
"I think there probably is some information the Abnegation had Jeanine wanted to know, but I think he's exaggerating its importance. Trying to build up his ego by making Johanna think he's got something she wants to know and won't give it to her."
"I don't…" she hesitates, then frowns. "I don't think you're right. He didn't sound like he was lying."
"You don't know Marcus like I do. He's an excellent liar." I think about all the stories he told to explain the welts and bruises.
"Maybe you're right, but shouldn't we find out what's going on? Just to be sure?"
"I think it's more important we go deal with the situation at hand," I say. I love Tris, and I can't let her build this false impression that Marcus really is trying to protect some big secret. "Go back to the city. Find out what's going on there. Find a way to take the Erudite down. Then maybe we can find out what Marcus was talking about after all this is resolved, okay?"
She nods, but doesn't say anything. I know she's not happy with it, but it's the best option. If we don't focus on trying to fix this, there will be nothing left to protect. I wrap my arms around her waist and kiss her hair. I would do anything to protect this girl, and if that makes me the bad guy for a moment, it's something I have to risk.