"Energy can never be created, or destroyed; it can only be changed from one form to another."
- Albert Einstein
As Tobias runs his hand in slow circles over Beatrice's back, he opens up the paper Marcus gave him with his other hand, spreading it open over his leg. A hand drawn map, guiding them over the fence. Away from the city. Out into the world that holds whatever his parents, along with an entire generation of adults, decided to shut themselves away from, and hide from their children. No matter what.
Beatrice frowns and studies the lines. They both understand that the map doesn't help much. It's all an idea, nothing solid, except whatever they decide to build.
But isn't that what the Factions were, too? One choice changes everything.
She glances up to where her father and Caleb are talking, softly, a few feet away. She can hear a few words here and there, over the crackle of the campfire. A serious, logical discussion; heated, but not angry. Earlier that day, as they walked, Andrew Prior and Marcus Eaton had taken turns passing on the information Jeanine wanted to contain. Caleb had asked questions, constantly, while Beatrice just listened half-heartedly and wondered why any of it mattered. The knowledge of others outside in a world even more broken than theirs doesn't seem like enough to make everything they've lost worthwhile.
She watches her family (incomplete, her mother is still dead, her absence is still a wall that pushes Beatrice away from feeling comfortable, or safe), and she can't help but remember the terror and panic of the fear landscapes Caleb induced, using her secrets and fears to torture their father. Her stomach hurts. Her hand curls into a fist before she realizes what she's doing. She glances down, but doesn't relax. She lets her fingers, in their tight ball, rest against her stomach. The heaviness of their weight helps.
Andrew looks up, and gives her a small smile. I love you no matter what. She squeezes her eyes shut to stop herself from crying and shakes her head. He's forgiven Caleb already, easily. And he's forgiven her for not saving Natalie. Her parents are so much better than she is.
"You think it's true?" she asks, so softly Tobias can barely hear her. Her words are swallowed by the heavy air, like a ghost. He pulls her closer against his body, and listens. "I mean... all of this... hope, that they're pinning on us? This idea that we can save the world that they broke? I don't feel that special."
Tobias laughs, an exhalation of tension that he doesn't deserve but can't hold back. He squeezes her shoulder gently. "You are," he tells her, honestly. "And I don't know about anybody else, but I trust you."
The seriousness of her voice brings him back down to reality, hard. He traces his thumb along her jawline and draws her lips up to meet his. She closes her eyes as he kisses her, long and slow, breathing in everything that is her until he's forced to break for air.
"Because..." he stumbles, tripping over what he's trying to say. He wants to tell her she's brave, and strong, and that she shouldn't have to ask why she's special. But he can't find the words.
He sees it instead in images, memories of touch: the warmth of her body against his on the rooftop when both of them were desperate for belonging, her gentle touch when all he needed was to feel something, to remind himself that he was no longer invisible.
He glances quickly across the circle of the fire, to where Marcus is sitting, eating something out of a can and waiting for Tobias to come to him with a plan. They still don't talk, except in terse words, here and there. But Tobias isn't afraid of him anymore, he isn't angry. And he hasn't forgotten that Beatrice is the one who stopped him from shooting his father. Maybe the first thing you rebuild is a family.
"You helped me," he finally says.
It's simple. And it's enough.