Author's Note: I genuinely don't know what to say. Over the last few weeks I have been absolutely floored both by the renewed interest in my Divergent fic's (especially Three Parts Dead), and the lovely, touching messages so many of you have sent me both here and on my Tumblr asking me to write something new for Tris and Tobias. Hopefully, I'm doing you all justice. I'm not going to lie and say that I was happy with Allegiant (mostly because I've been very open with my criticism of it), so I'm writing this as an alternate ending to it. Right now I'm keeping the rating to "teen", but it could always slip into "mature" territory ;)
Anyway, I owe a lot of you thanks, not least of which Wee Kraken (her beta-ing keeps my Tobias on-point), and Gray Glube (for trying to keep me on-point with the medical stuff, though I'm sure there are plenty of inaccuracies despite her extensive notes); Safely Away for quite possibly sending me the most wonderful message ever (I want to frame it); jandjasalmon, v-ivid-ivy, get-wellcards, goldandglorymade, obsessedagain, theurgewhichensues, thebright-eyedwanderer, miminour, a-imanou, wildwanderwords, redguyiscool, and all the Anon's who encouraged me to write this too.
This chapter is mostly set up (and writing myself out of plot holes). I'm working on my own stuff, so this is a side project for me, but I will try my hardest to update this weekly. No promises though.
Appetence: (n.) A natural attraction or affinity; an eager desire, an instinctive inclination.
Tobias' feet land on the ground with a muffled thump, the snow creating a soft, smothering blanket. The space in front the converted terminal should be thrumming with life; the lack of it makes the space feel creepy-claustrophobic despite the openness, the emptiness pressing in menacingly, and the falling snow hiding monsters dancing around his peripheral vision. He knows this is a good thing, that it means Caleb successfully released the memory serum, but still.
This isn't right. The thought twists up his spine, making him shudder and shake. He didn't expect Tris be waiting for him, racing to his arms, not after Caleb's death, but this… absence... isn't right.
He can tell Amar picks up on it too by the way the older man's eyes narrow, scan the area as if looking for a threat. "Where is everyone?" he mutters, moving towards the building, hyper-alert.
Tobias balls his hands into fists to stop them shaking, a cold sweat making him clammy and uncomfortable. This is wrong. His stomach clenches dangerously at the thought that maybe David decided to release the death serum rather than allow the compound's memory to be wiped. Power corrupts, afterall; Tobias knows that better than anyone
They pass through the security checkpoint, and he vaguely registers the looks of shock and awe Zeke and Hana wear, because waiting on the other side is Cara. Her face is badly bruised and her hands are twisting around each other nervously, the skin turning an angry red at the friction. Beneath the bruises and bandages the look on Cara's face sucks all the air out of Tobias' lungs.
"Where's Tris?" Tobias demands.
"I'm so sorry, Tobias. She -"
"Sorry about what?" Christina says roughly. "Tell us what happened!"
"Tris went to weapons lab instead of Caleb," she survived the death serum, and set off the memory serum, but she… she was shot."
Tobias sways on his feet, his world spinning off it's axis. "Where is she?" he demands again, his voice weak.
"She's… she's in the hospital, in surgery. Tobias, I don't know if they can save her," Cara says, her face crumpling as the tears pooling in her eyes spill across her cheeks.
And suddenly, he's running, his feet carrying him towards Tris before his mind can register the impulse that sends him flying. He shouldn't find his way as easily as he does, but in their short time at the Bureau, they've spent too much time here.
When he turns down the hallway that serves the operating theaters he sees Caleb. Alive. Sitting in one of the uncomfortable, utilitarian chairs with his head in his hands. At the sound of Tobias' feet slapping across the linoleum he stands, and even from a distance Tobias can see his eyes widen in fear, his shoulders hunching in protectively. He should be afraid. A second later he's knocked off his feet and Tobias has him pinned to the wall by his throat. "What did you do!?" he screams.
Caleb's mouth works uselessly, trying to find air more than anything else. Tobias' hand tightens even more, the crenulated ridges of Caleb's esophagus pressing into his palm, collapsing under the pressure. He's still screaming, he doesn't even know what, it's all just static white-noise tearing up his throat, raging to get out.
It doesn't stop when he feels Cara and Christina grab at him, wrenching him off Caleb. Tobias' nails leave bloody tracks across Caleb's rapidly bruising neck. While Tobias seethes and struggles, Caleb's half-collapses, hands braced on his knees as he desperately tries to breath again.
"She threatened me," he rasps out. "She had a gun, and said she'd shoot me if I didn't let her go."
"You fucking coward!" Tobias screams at him, Christina's shoulder digging into her sternum as he tries to lunge at Caleb and finish what he started.
"She had a gun. What was I supposed to do?" Caleb shouts back.
"Die. That's what you were supposed to do," Christina snaps. Her Candor honesty has always been her greatest weapon, and Caleb recoils as her words hit him.
"Do you really expect any of us to believe that the sister who insisted we spring you from jail would shoot you?" Tobias scoffs, his voice sarcastic and cruel. "I should have put a bullet in your head that night in the alley."
"If it wasn't for me she'd be dead right now," Caleb says, his voice shaking too much to project the false bravado he's trying so hard to convey. "She was dead when I found her. Dead. And if I wasn't there to perform CPR she still would be."
"What the hell is going on out here!?" a bulky male nurse demands, bursting out of one of the swinging doors that line the hallway and ripping away the mask that covers his mouth and nose. His hands are covered in blood and it smears a line down his cheek.
"Family dispute," Christina says dryly.
The nurse looks between Tobias held fast by Christina and Cara, and Caleb looking battered and guilty with narrowed eyes. "You," he points at Caleb, "go down to the Emergency Room and get yourself looked at. And you," he turns to Tobias, his pointed finger threatening. "Calm down or I'll strap you down and give you so much peace serum you'll be singing show tunes for the next month."
"Do you have Tris in there?" Tobias asks hastily, straining at people holding him back for a different reason now. "Beatrice Prior. Is she in there?"
"Yes, she is. And you can't come in, so don't even try," he snaps, crossing his arms and standing up straight, the breath of his chest forming an insurmountable barrier between Tobias and Tris.
He waits until Caleb scurries out of sight and Tobias give him a curt nod of assent before disappearing back into the room he came from.
Tobias and Christina drop into the chairs against one wall, defeated, while Cara seats herself in a chair opposite them. The whole thing has the feel of an inquisition, and considering the question Christina levels at her dead boyfriend's sister, that's just about right. "Tell us what happened. All of it. Now," she huffs at Cara, stony faced.
"I think…," Cara starts and cuts off, looking guiltily at her shoes. "I know this is my fault, partially, anyway."
When neither Tobias nor Christina say anything in response, she continues, telling them about her botched attempt at dosing the control room workers with peace serum, thus setting off the emergency lockdown. Her story gets vague and confused as to how exactly Tris ended up being the one going to the weapons lab since she had to hear it second hand from Caleb and Matthew, and at the time they were more focused on breathing life back into Tris' body than giving Cara a detailed account of how the plans changed.
"I'm not trying to be rude," Cara cautions, "and I know I don't know Tris as well as either of you, but any idiot can see that she hates watching people suffering when she can stop it. What were you thinking, leaving her here with Caleb?" she questions desperately.
"Don't you think the right time to point that out would have been before we left?" Tobias shoots back, visibly bristling at the accusation that he failed to protect Tris from herself.
"Stop it. Both of you," Christina says, cutting off their argument before it can get started. "It happened. It's done. Yelling at each other doesn't change anything."
The silence that falls between them is heavy, and in the absence of talk Tobias' mind wanders down paths he wishes it wouldn't, not least of which being that what he thought when he left Tris was that he could finally, finally, trust her to stay alive. It makes anger spark inside of him; little frissons of electricity that arc across his conscience making his hands ball into fists and his teeth clench so tightly it makes his jaw ache.
He doesn't want to go down that path. Not now, not ever again, really, though he knows he'll have to at some point. Just not tonight. Not with Tris laying on an operating table, her life hanging by a thread. And that thought stops him short. "Should those doctors be working on her?" he asks worriedly, remembering what a big dumb puppy Peter turned into after taking the memory serum.
"They didn't seem affected by the memory serum," Cara shrugs, worrying her lip. "I think they're inoculated against it, but you'll have to ask Matthew about that."
"Where is he?"
"In there with Tris," Cara says, nodding towards the swinging door, before holding her hands up defensively at the look on Tobias' face. "I don't know why he's allowed in there and you're not; maybe he has some medical training or something."
"It worked though?" Christina questions. "Tris released the serum?"
"Oh, yes, there's no doubt about that," Cara replies distractedly, lost in her thoughts once again.
"Well at least something went right," Christina mutters, swiping a hand across her face.
They descend into silence again. Tobias can feel it scraping across his nerves, shredding them piece by piece. He gets up to pace for lack of anything better to do, chewing his nails until he tastes blood. All it does is remind him of Tris during initiation. He's just passing the swinging door for what might well be the hundredth time when it opens and almost smacks him in the face. He expects to come face-to-face with same burly male nurse from earlier, but instead, it's Matthew, looking thoroughly exhausted, but exquisitely relieved.
Before he can get a word out another man emerges, pulling off his little cotton cap to reveal salt-and-pepper hair framing his haggard face. "You're Tris' friends?" he asks tiredly.
"Family," Tobias corrects him shortly.
"Right," he says, eyeing Tobias warily. "Has anyone told you about her injuries?"
"No," Tobias, Christina, and Cara say in unison.
The doctor starts prattling on in medical language only Cara seems to fully comprehend, but it still sounds like a horror story to Tobias. Certain phrases sound out: "perforated small intestine" and "ruptured appendix" and "collapsed lung". It seems almost comical when the doctor adds that Tris has a few broken ribs on top of it all from Caleb too aggressively compressing her chest while administering CPR. Still, it's the collapsed lung that worries everyone the most; if she gets an infection there it will kill her quick.
By the time the doctor finishes Tobias can barely breath and has to fight the urge to vomit up his stomach contents all over the doctor's shoes. He leans against the wall, trying to will air into his lungs and his world to stop collapsing around him. He hears Christina ask the doctor when they can see Tris, but her voice sounds far away and muffled.
This wasn't supposed to happen. They weren't supposed to live their life a literal heartbeat away from death once they left the city. They were supposed to have a future together, a life together, a - "Hey," Matthew interrupts before Tobias' emotions can spiral out of control. "I know this isn't the best time, but there's something else."
"Oh God, what now?" Tobias groans. He's not sure how much more of this he can take before he breaks completely.
Matthew looks at him appraisingly. "When's the last time you guys ate?"
"I'm not hungry," Tobias says dismissively. His stomach's about the size of a walnut, and he knows anything he puts into it is just going to come back up.
"Coffee then. You look like you're about to drop. C'mon," he urges with the gentle hand on Tobias arm that gets thrown off in a moment of irritated petulance. Matthew sighs and runs a hand through his hair. "They still have to clean her up and take her to the ICU, we've got a minute."
"Fine," Tobias snaps.
They shuffle off down the hallway, Tobias looking back to the door he knows Tris is behind every few steps until the turn the corner and find a small alcove with a coffee machine. Christina wipes away her tears and clutches the cup Matthew hands her like it's a lifeline.
"What happened?" Tobias asks. He doesn't know if he'll ever stop asking that question.
Matthew shakes his head. "We split up during the lockdown. I created a diversion and Tris and Caleb ran off to the weapons lab. I don't know what happened after that, just that when I was able to slip away I found Tris bleeding out, and Caleb trying to resuscitate her. People were already dropping from the memory serum by then."
"How do you and Caleb still have your memories?" Tobias tries to keep the accusation out of his voice, and fails. Matthew shrugs it off.
"When they were testing the vaccine I was one of the test subjects. I've been inoculated for years. I don't know about Caleb, you'll have to ask him. But that's what I wanted to talk to you about. Tris was exposed to it."
"So, she wasn't inoculated," Matthew says like it's the most obvious thing in the world.
"She's Divergent. She survived the death serum and no one's ever done that before," Christina says, exasperated. "If she can survive that…"
"This is different. I'm not going to pretend to know exactly how it works, but it's more than being Divergent. It's a force of will that allows her - and probably you too, Tobias - to resist the serums."
Tobias turns the idea over in his mind. The only serum that's ever had an effect on Tris was the peace serum, and hadn't he told her at the time that it wasn't that she couldn't resist it, but that she didn't want to resist it? Being unable to muster any resistance…
"Caleb said she was dead though," Cara says, shooting Tobias an apologetic look for using that word. "Without any brain activity would it even have an effect?" she asks hurriedly, getting the worst of it over with as quickly and painlessly as possible.
"Maybe," he shrugs. "As I said Caleb knows more about this than I do, but it's a medical fact that brain activity can continue for minutes after the heart stops. She released the serum, it would only take a few seconds after that for people to start breathing it in."
"But we can… "reprogram" her or whatever you call when she wakes up right?" Christina asks.
"I don't know. Maybe," Matthew hedges. "Normally we have a few hours after exposure where the subjects mind is… suggestible. Tris was in surgery during that time though, under anesthesia."
"So if she wakes up and doesn't remember anything, we just give her another dose and fix her, right?"
Matthew pinches the bridge of his nose like he's willing away a headache. Tobias can't blame him, Christina can be insufferable sometimes. "It's not that easy. If you give a person too many doses of memory serum too close together they lose brain function and they never get it back. In the early testing phase of the vaccine - when it still didn't work - they turned a group of test subjects into drooling, shitting vegetables from exposing them to the memory serum too often."
Christina looks faintly sick at the revelation. "You're surprised?" Tobias scoffs.
"No, I guess not," she concedes.
"She's still got us though. Even if she doesn't remember we can help her," Cara says optimistically, a determined glint in her eye.
"And the Bureau recordings from the cameras around Chicago, so we can show her those," Christina adds.
"Not everything," Tobias says abruptly, thinking of all the deaths that have surrounded them in the last few months.
"Why not?" Cara says, her voice suddenly hard and furious.
"She's already lived through that grief once."
"And I have to live with it every day. I don't have a brother anymore because she shot him," Cara says, taking a step closer to Tobias, challenging him.
"She didn't kill your brother, Jeanine Matthews did."
"Enough!" Christina yells. "We don't even know if the memory serum affected her, so can we just… not. Not tonight, not until we know."
"Fine," Cara mutters, violently throwing her empty paper cup in the trash and walking away.
"They should have Tris in a room by now," Matthew says and then throws back the rest of his coffee. "Ugh, that's foul," he grimaces.
As they make their way through the hospital they have to navigate around groups of people standing idly in hallways and slumped in chairs, in sharp contrast to how they move, with purpose, fully in control of their faculties. It reminds Tobias of his question from earlier. "The medical staff… they weren't affected by the serum?" he asks quietly, his eyes shifting to Matthew who walks beside him.
"No, they're 'essential staff'. They were inoculated in case there was a lab accident or something."
"What about David? Is he 'essential staff'? Tobias asks, making air-quotes with his fingers.
"He thought so," Matthew says with a wry smile. "I might have switched out his serum. You'd be amazed what you can do with some saline solution and a little food coloring."
"Nice," Tobias says approvingly, a small smile tugging up his lips.
The Intensive Care Unit is really one large room. In the middle is the nurses station and along the walls are rooms with glass fronts so whoever is on duty has an unobstructed view of the patients. The entire place smells like disinfectant and feels ghostly, as if the presence of those who died here linger in some way. Tobias hates it. Hates everything it implies and hates that Tris is here. Since she's the only patient though, she not hard to find, and when they do they all stop short.
Tris is small and pale and waxy looking as the nurses hook her up to a bevy of machines, the doctor following behind, double-checking things, presumably. She's laid mostly bare so they can do what they need to do, and once the shock of seeing her so broken wears off, Christina grabs Matthew by the elbow and pulls him out of the room with her. She might have no problem with nudity, but she knows with Tris's Abnegation upbringing she wouldn't want anyone but Tobias seeing her this way if it can be helped.
Tobias edges closer to the bed, hovering uncertainly, and waiting for someone to tell him to he's in the way, or to stop his hands once he starts inconspicuously flicking at the sheets, trying to keep Tris as covered as possible. He understands little of what they're doing, but he's stricken when they hook up the heart rate monitor and it starts beeping wildly. It reminds him of the fear simulations and all he can think is that Tris is scared and this is real, not some simulation that she can control and pull herself out of.
For all his control he chokes on a sob, and the nurse who's adjusting the tube coming out of Tris' chest looks up at him with sympathetic eyes. "It a side-effect of the collapsed lung," she says quietly.
"What?" Tobias asks stupidly.
"Her heart beating so fast, it's a side-effect of the collapsed lung. She's not afraid."
It takes Tobias a minute to put the pieces together through his stupor. "You were Dauntless?"
"Mmmhmm," she hums as she places IV lines in Tris' arm. "And Divergent. The Bureau pulled me at out about… oh… seven years ago now."
For some reason it makes Tobias feel better, like he has an ally in this room, and all the questions that he had been holding back for fear of sounding like an obnoxious child come spilling out. She explains to him about the chest tube, how it pulls excess air (and blood and pus) out of her chest cavity so Tris' lung can expand properly. Tobias winces as they insert a ventilator tube down her throat, even though the nurse explains it's a good thing; it's breathing for her. She even explains how the funny little blood oxygen monitor clipped to Tris' finger works.
The only question he doesn't get a satisfactory answer to is the one he aims at the doctor. "How long will she have to be hooked up to all this?" Tobias asks, waving at the machines sustaining Tris.
"Hard to say," he answers noncommittally. "Right now she's stable, and hopefully she stays that way. But the longer we have to support her lung the higher the risk of infection."
The reminder is like a punch to the gut, and Tobias ducks his chin to his chest, squeezing his eyes tightly closed, fighting off tears once again.
"Only one of you can stay with her overnight, but you can each have a few minutes alone with her before I enforce that rule," the nurse says kindly, slipping from the room. A minute later Tobias followers her out, and motions Christina inside. The nurse makes a point of looking busy at her station and Tobias and Matthew go to stand in front of one of the empty rooms, giving Tris and Christina as much privacy as the space will allow.
Tobias can't hear what she says, if she says anything at all, but a few minutes later she walks out of the room, furiously wiping at her eyes and not bothering to say goodbye to either of them.
"Do you want to…," Tobias extends his hand towards the door to Tris' room in offering.
Matthew considers him for a moment and then shakes his head. "No. I'll talk to her tomorrow when she's actually awake," he says with a stoic sort of optimism Tobias wishes he himself could embrace at the moment.
After he leaves Tobias takes a deep, bracing breath, preparing himself for going back into Tris' room. It doesn't help, not really. His throat still constricts at the sight of her; his stomach still twists itself into knots; his vision still burns and blurs. He can't breath, but he doesn't mind that so much since he can't smell the dried blood streaked in her hair as he leans over and gently presses his lips to her forehead.
"Hi, Six." He barely gets the words out, and when her eyes don't flutter open to take him in, and her hand doesn't reach up to stroke his cheek, and her lips don't move to tell him not to worry, he can't hold back the tears anymore.
Blindly, he reaches out for her hand, willing her to come back. For just one more kiss, one more word, one more glance from those eyes were that were always so alive. He doesn't care if she doesn't remember him, he just needs one more second chance.
Eventually his tears stop, but he never lets go of her hand. Even if he wanted to sleep he couldn't. The machines make too much noise, especially the ventilator, which emits a high, terrifying noise every time Tris' breathing falls out of sync with the machine as she tries to do it on her own and the pressure gets too high.
"She's a stubborn one, isn't she?" the nurse asks with a smirk as she checks Tris over.
"Yeah, she is," Tobias says thickly.
It's got to be around dawn that he he feels Caleb enter the room. Tobias doesn't need to look at him; doesn't want to, and doesn't trust himself to. "Get. Out," he says through gritted teeth.
There a moment of absolute silence before Caleb says, "Fine. But I'm coming back. I'm her brother." Tobias would be impressed that he had the gall to say that if he didn't hate him so much.
He's just crossing the threshold when Tobias' words stop him. "If Matthew's right about her memory, she won't remember you."
"She won't remember you either," Caleb points out.
"Yeah, but I'll be around to remind her, you won't," Tobias says flatly, the threat implicit.
Nurses, doctors, friends, they all come and go. Christina gives him updates on Zeke and Hana. Matthew lets him know more government officials - ones higher up the bureaucratic food chain - are on their way to investigate what exactly happened at the compound. Cara brings him food he doesn't eat, but he prefers her company since she doesn't feel the need to fill the silence.
It's after lunch and he's alone again when Tris starts showing signs of life; making little noises and fingers twitching against the sheets. Soon enough she's moving more and Tobias is pretty sure the smile on his face makes him look like a simpleton, but he doesn't care. It's abruptly wiped away though when Tris starts scrabbling stupidly at the ventilator tube. He stills her hand, and look over his shoulder, eyes wild, about to yell for help, but the day-shift nurse is already on her feet.
She pushes him out of her way, and is joined by the doctor a few minutes later. Tobias leans against the wall, eyes trained on whatever part of Tris he can see between bodies as he chews on his nails. Finally, it's decided to take the ventilator tube out.
Even though they're gentle Tris moans and gags around the tube as they pull it out, and weakly, her eyes flutter open for a second. The doctor speak too loudly, telling her to lie still, that she's okay and the tube will be out soon. It's not reassuring to him, and he doubts it's reassuring to her, so without thinking he moves closer to the bed so she can see him, hoping to calm her.
He takes an elbow to the stomach for his troubles, but it's worth it because the next time her eyes open, she meets his gaze. It's brief and fleeting, and her eyes are heavy with the morphine they're using to control her pain, but they open, they take him in, hold his gaze longer than when she was fighting the nurses.
One glance. For today, it's enough.
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