Last night, Tris' nightmares were the worst they've ever been. I blame Eric. Whatever he told her he would do to me has bled into her dreams and won't let her rest. She would yell my name, always in a panic. The first time it happened, I woke her up, hoping to snap her out of it, but it was like it was real to her. It took me twenty minutes to calm her down and convince her I wasn't hurt. After that, when her nightmares hit, I just wrapped my arms around her and spoke softly in her ear until it passed.
In the morning, I lay with my head propped up on my elbow, tracing her bruised neck lightly with my fingers. Tris wakes up and scrunches her face when she realizes I've been staring at her. She grabs the hand that's been touching her neck and pulls it away.
"How does your throat feel? Is it still sore?" I ask.
"Yeah, it feels like I've been yelling," she says, swallowing hard. I touch her bruised neck again.
"How does it look?" she asks.
"It looks good," I say.
"Really, is the bruising gone?"
"No, but now it's purple and green as well," I say, my lips curling.
"I can't go out like this. I need to get a shirt that'll cover it up," she says.
"Why don't you go shopping with Christina? Pick out some things for your apartment while you're at it," I say.
"Are you trying to get rid of me," she asks, smirking.
"No." I stroke her hair and lean over and kiss her. "I love having you here," I say, and kiss her again. Her lips curl into a smile. I touch her face, tracing the curve of her bottom lip with my thumb. Her lips part and she exhales and I feel her warm breath on my fingers. I lean in and kiss her again, deeper, our tongues finding their familiar rhythm. I shift my body closer until I'm pressed right against her.
"I thought we said we were going to cool it till I was better," she says.
"Oh yeah, we did say that didn't we," I say, stealing another quick kiss. I get up, grab a glass of orange juice and put it on the bedside table. She sits up and wraps her arms around her knees.
"I'm going to have a shower, and see about cooling off," I say. She smiles shyly.
I have to go back to work, but I don't want to leave Tris alone with Eric roaming around. I came up with a plan in the night. I wait for Tris to get in the shower and then I head to Christina's apartment.
She's a little surprised to see me when she opens the door.
"Is Tris okay?" she says
"She's fine. Well she's still totally bruised but…..listen, I don't have a lot of time. Tris is in the shower. Can you spend the day with her, shopping for stuff for her apartment?"
"Sure," she says, a little skeptical. "What's going on?"
"Her windpipe is still bruised, and sometimes she has trouble breathing. I don't want her to be alone in case it happens. But she has to think it was your idea to go shopping. If she thinks you're just there to watch her she'll….. well, you know how stubborn she can be," I say.
"Tell me about it," she says, rolling her eyes. "A covert shopping operation, I love it!"
"Okay, thanks," I say and hurry back to my apartment.
Tris is still in the shower when I get back, so I get ready for work. By the time I leave, Christina has come and convinced Tris to go shopping. I mouth 'thank you' to her as I leave.
I head to the dining hall on my lunch break but the nurses have set up a booth by the entrance. I have to see them before they let me in to eat. They're giving everyone a needle. I recognize Carole from the infirmary and I stand in front of her.
"Four, how's Tris doing?" she asks.
"Much better; she's still totally bruised but she's not as sore," I say. I bend my head, exposing my neck to her.
"What are the needles for?" I ask.
"Something about a virus they're trying to keep out of Dauntless," she says, not seeming to know exactly what's she's injecting me with.
When I walk back into the control room I find Max standing over the computers. He turns to face me slowly.
"Max," I say through gritted teeth.
"Four," he nods. "I understand you interrupted Eric's project the other day," he says coldly. I move closer to him.
"I interrupted Eric attempting to kill my girlfriend, but if you want to call it a 'project' than yes, I did," I say.
"Identifying and experimenting on the Divergent has become a top priority for Dauntless, and I expect you to cooperate," he looks me squarely in the eyes.
"And if I don't?" I say, a little angrier than I planned on.
"There might not be a place for you here anymore."
"In the control room?"
"No, in Dauntless." Max turns to leave.
I start laughing. Max spins around.
"You find this funny?" he snarls.
"You wouldn't understand," I say with a smirk.
"You know Four, I had such high hopes for you but you've disappointed me," he says and turns to go.
"I can say the same for you," I say. He slams the door on his way out. A few months ago, I had decided to leave Dauntless, the new and vicious Dauntless, and become factionless. I would have left if I hadn't met Tris. She made me change my mind. And now that I've decided to stay and build a life here, they're going to make me leave anyway. The irony of it makes me laugh but when I actually think about what this means, it doesn't seem so funny.
I head back to my apartment and wait for Tris. I lie down on the bed and try to think this thing through.
There's a pounding on my door.
"It's me, let me in! Let me in!" It's Tris.
I run to the door and let her in. She rushes through the door, her arms loaded with bags of stuff.
"Shut the door!"
"What's going on?" I say, worried.
"It's Christina, she just wants to keep shopping and shopping. I can't do it. I had to ditch her," she says breathlessly. I'm so relieved that it has nothing to do with Eric that I let out a laugh.
"It's not funny! We've been shopping ALL DAY!" she throws down her bags and sits on the bed. She's wearing a scarf tied around her neck to cover her bruising. It's black with red flames printed on it. I move over to her and touch the scarf.
"Very nice," I say, my lips curling into a smile.
"Ugh!" She yanks at the scarf until she unravels it and then throws it on the floor.
"I can't do it! I can't be one of those girls who shops all day," she says.
There's a knock at the door.
"Four, it's Christina." Oh, crap. Tris jumps off the bed and moves to the kitchen to hide. I open the door a crack.
"I'm sorry, she got away from me. I lost her," she says.
"It's okay, she's here," I say as quietly as I can but I know Tris has heard me. "Thanks," I whisper and close the door.
I turn to face Tris who has her mouth open in disbelief and when I have nothing to say in response her look shifts to pure anger.
"How dare you!" she spits out.
"Let me explain," I say, moving toward her.
"Do you think I'm a baby? That I need a babysitter?" She seethes. She moves to the door and opens it. Before she gets out, I slam the door shut and hold my arm against it. She struggles to open it but it doesn't budge.
"I'm not doing this again," I say.
"Doing what?" she snaps, letting go of the doorknob.
"I'm not having a misunderstanding spiral out of control until we're fighting again. You're just going to have to trust me. I'll tell you everything, just not here. Are you up for a train ride?" I ask.
"Always," she says through gritted teeth.
We make our way to the train tracks, neither one of us speaking. We don't have to wait long for a train. I run alongside it, grab the handle and jump up. I turn, and reach out my arm for Tris. She grabs it and easily swings into the rail car. She leans against one of the walls with her arms crossed and a scowl on her face. I can tell she's not ready to listen to me yet so I grab the handles and stretch out of the door and let the wind whip through me. I stretch way out, just my toes and fingertips keeping me connected to the rail car. I close my eyes and inhale the wind. I glance back at Tris and she doesn't look mad anymore, more frustrated.
"What?" I yell to her. She moves over to me.
"I really want to do that but my arms are too short," she yells over the roar of the tracks. I lean back into the car and let go of one of the handles.
"Hook your arms around mine," I say, motioning her to move in front of me. She steps in front of me, steadies her feet and then wraps her arms over mine. I grab the other handle again.
"Ready!" I yell. She nods yes. "Hang on!" I yell and then move us forward until we're both leaning out of the car. She starts screaming with joy; her hair whipping around us both.
"It feels like flying!" she yells. We lean out farther than we should, the wind whipping by us so fast it's hard to breathe.
"I love this!" she yells. She's so alive right now she's electric.
We stay like this until the train slows and the wind dies down. We move inside the car, both leaning against the wall for support. Tris' hair is windswept and wild. We both smile, our breaths heavy. I grab Tris' arm and pull her to me, burying my face in her hair. She smells like the wind. I spin her around and brace my arms against the wall so I'm hovering over her. She leans back against the wall. I bend my elbows and lean down closer.
"I….," I shut my eyes tight. I don't know how to start. "I….," I stop myself. I'm going to tell her everything, but I can't just yet. It'll change everything and I'm not ready. I lean down and kiss her, slowly.
I put my forehead against hers.
"Talk to me. What's going on?" she says, touching my face. I shake my head no. She pulls her face away and tilts her head up.
"Tobias, tell me what's wrong," she says, searching my eyes.
"Not yet," I say. I grab her face in my hands and kiss her. "Not yet," I say against her lips. Once I start talking, it will change everything. It could change us, so before I start talking, I kiss her again. I memorize the feel of her lips, her tongue, her cheeks, her earlobes, her willowy neck, her ravens.
My kisses turn desperate, because there's a chance I might never get to kiss her again. I wrap my arms around her. I kiss her too hard and I hold her too tight.
"Tobias, you're scaring me," she says, trying to back away.
"I know," I say, not letting her go. I want to tell her that it'll be okay and she doesn't have to be scared but I'm about to tell her something that will shake her whole world apart, so I can't tell her it'll be okay. She struggles under my grip and I look at her face. The fear in her eyes is unnerving and I immediately release her. She backs away.
"I'm sorry," I say, my shoulders hunched.
"You have to tell me what's going on," she says slowly and firmly, but her bottom lip quivers. I move toward her but she backs away again. I take in a deep breath and exhale slowly.
"Remember when I told you I found some files that looked like war plans?" She nods. "Well I found another file that listed meetings between Eric and the Erudite. The morning after we had our big fight, I went to Erudite to spy on Eric at one of those meetings. But it turns out, there was no meeting; it was a set-up and there were some Dauntless there with guns who I'm pretty sure were looking for me."
"Why didn't you tell me," she asks wide-eyed.
"I had other things on my mind that day," I say. Her face softens slightly and it looks like she's going to take a step towards me but then stops herself. "Then when Eric experimented on you, I told him I was going to report him to Max."
"What did he say?" she asks.
"He said Max authorized doing that to you," I say.
"That's why I had Christina stay with you today. I knew they wouldn't try to grab you again if you weren't alone," I say.
"Oh," she says.
"I was just trying to keep you safe," I say, I can feel my voice starting to falter but I have to keep it together. She closes the distance between us and takes my hand.
"Does she know about me?" she asks.
"No," I shake my head. "No, I told her it was because you were having trouble breathing and I wanted her to keep an eye on you." I grab her other hand and bring them both up to my lips and kiss them.
"Then today, Max confronted me at work. He told me that identifying and experimenting on the Divergent had become the top priority of Dauntless and if I didn't cooperate there wouldn't be a place for me anymore."
"A place for you where?" she asks cautiously.
"In Dauntless," I say. She steps back. I try to hold her but she pulls away from me.
"But where would you go?" she asks, stumbling backwards.
"I'd be factionless," I say.
"You can't go," she says, trembling. "You're from Abnegation; you've seen how the factionless live. How could you even consider it?" her voice quivering. I inhale and then exhale very slowly through my teeth.
"Tris, it's not safe for you in Dauntless anymore either," I say, moving toward her. She moves away.
"What are you saying?" she stammers.
"I don't think I can keep you safe if we stay."
She sinks down to her knees. I reach out to her but she holds her arm up to stop me. There's nothing left for me to say and nothing left for me to do. I can't comfort her because there is no comfort to give. Neither option we face is desirable.
I stand against the wall, slump down and pull my knees up to my chest. Tris sits across from me and does the same. We sit like this for a long time, winding our way through the city. Night falls and we ride in darkness, only catching glimpses of each other when the train passes by the occasional lights from nearby buildings. Her face looks the same as mine. Numb.
When I see we're nearing Dauntless again, I stand up, move over to her and hold out my hand. She takes it and lets me pull her to her feet. We jump off the train and then walk in silence. When we walk up the stairs to my apartment, she stops on her floor which is one below mine.
"I think I want to be alone tonight," she says quietly.
"But you're bed isn't even made up yet," I say, thinking of all the bags of stuff she just bought sitting in my apartment.
"I don't imagine I'll be doing much sleeping," she says, not meeting my eyes.
"Can I at least walk you to your door?" I ask.
"Of course," she says, putting her hand in mine. We walk along the hallway. We stop and she unlocks the door. She flicks the light on and the starkness of it is jarring. I can't do it.
"I don't want you staying here tonight. I'll stay here, you can stay in my apartment," I say.
"It's fine…..I'm fine," she says meekly, about to walk in to a place which will give her no solace.
"Tris, nothing about this is fine," I say, grabbing her shoulders so she has to face me. Her eyes are so sad, it's tearing me apart. I cradle her face in my hands and kiss her, offering what little comfort I can muster. She puts her hands on my chest.
"I just want to think everything through. And I have to do it with no distractions," she says putting her forehead against mine.
"So, now I'm a distraction?" I say, only half joking.
"You know I can't think straight when you're around," she says, attempting to be light-hearted. I kiss her again, memorizing her taste. She pulls away.
"Pick me up for breakfast," she says, and then the door clicks shut and she's gone. I put my forehead against the door.
I reluctantly head back to my own apartment. When I open the door and see all the bags of things she bought, things that would help her settle into her new life here my breath catches. Why can't life ever be easy?
I lay on my bed but I don't expect to sleep. I let my mind wander, wondering about the different choices I could have made. Maybe if I'd had the courage to stay in Abnegation, I would have met Tris anyway. We could still have been together without all this insanity. All I know is whatever she decides, I'm staying with her. I won't let her go. Ever.
In the middle of the night I hear someone out in the hallway and I run to the door, hoping it's Tris.
The hallway if filled with people, but no one's speaking.
"What's going on?" I say, as people file past my doorway. No one looks at me. I see Zeke. I grab his arm as he passes by me.
"Zeke! What the hell is going on?" I say to him. He stares blankly ahead and doesn't even register me grabbing his arm. I stand in my doorway, dumbfounded, and rub my hand on my neck. I feel a twinge of pain when I touch the spot where I got the needle this morning. And then it hits me. Everyone in Dauntless was injected today and now they're under some kind of simulation. But I'm awake, which means…..Tris is awake too.
I have to find her!
This is where my story meets up again with the rest of Divergent. Hope you liked it. Thanks for reading.