*Important - Please Read*
Due to issues with plagiarism I will no longer be posting any new stories, or updating any of my works-in-progress on FFN. Since FFN admin's have refused to do anything about this problem and I would rather not have my account suspended either way, you can read about the details on my Tumblr (link in profile). I have moved all of my Divergent fic's to ArchiveOfOurOwn, under the same username. This was not an easy decision for me to make and I'm genuinely sorry to all of the readers here who have always embraced, supported, and encouraged my writing; I love you all.
"We need to get the fuck out of here," Tobias says. Tris can feel his words rumble against her cheek and whisper through her hair, and she still tips her head back to look him in the eye, unsure if she's heard him correctly.
"What, now?" she asks incredulously.
"Yes, now. Nothing good can come with us staying here. It's been one disaster after another since we arrived."
"They're not just going to let me walk out of here, Tobias. And where would we even go? Johanna left, like, four hours ago; there's no way she has an apartment for us already."
"Fuck it, we'll figure something out."
"You've got a potty mouth when you're angry." If it was supposed to be an admonishment it's made completely irrelevant by the way she plants a kiss on his neck afterwards.
The bathroom floor can't be comfortable for either of them, and Tobias is pretty sure his ass is asleep, but either way he pulls Tris closer, tucking her against himself and threading his fingers through her hair. "Are you… do you feel strong enough to leave?"
Tris wiggles around a little, looking for things that twinge and ache. "Hmm… ribs are still sore from whatever Caleb did to me, and my wounds are still healing," she says contemplatively. "I don't think I'll be up for jumping onto trains anytime soon, but as long as we're not walking back to Chicago, I think I'll be okay. We're not walking back, are we?" she asks very seriously.
"Are we really going to do this?" The nervousness in Tris' voice is unmistakable, but the fact that she's trusting him and not outright saying 'no', is something, he thinks.
"We can try."
"How are we going to do this?"
"Like you said, we'll just walk out," he says like it will actually be that simple. "Do you have something to wear other than scrubs?" he asks, plucking at them with his fingers as the bare-bones of a plan formulate in his head.
"Yeah, Christina gave me a bunch of clothes before she left."
"Why am I not surprised?" Tobias mutters as he rises to his feet, bringing Tris with him. Tris sways a little once she's upright and both grimace and groan at the aches borne of sitting on the bathroom floor for too long. "Can you change into some street clothes and get all your stuff together before I get back?"
"Where are you going?"
"To ask for help." And Tobias really hates that, but right now there's no way to avoid it.
"Sure," Tris shrugs. Tobias leans in for a kiss and she slaps her hand over her mouth, mumbling from behind it that, "you don't want to kiss me until I've brushed my teeth."
Amar's eyes are heavy and his hair is tousled when he leans out the door like a drunk to answer Tobias' insistent knocking. "What?" he slurs sleepily.
"I need you to take me back to Chicago. Tonight. Right now."
Amar rubs at his face, hoping to wake up a little before grabbing Tobias by the arm and dragging him through the darkened apartment to the window. "There's a blizzard coming in," he says, pointing to the snow blowing outside. "Why do you think everyone left yesterday?"
"It's not that bad," Tobias says dismissively. "They run the trains through worse than this."
"It's a two hour drive back to the city. In good weather," Amar says flatly. "This is only going to get worse. We could get stranded out there. I don't know about you, but freezing to death isn't how I want to go out."
Tobias could emotionally blackmail Amar, reminding him of how angry and grief stricken he was after his mentor's 'death', and that Amar owes him this, but he really doesn't like what that says about him, so instead he says, "You can drive me, or I'll just steal one of the Bureau's trucks. Your choice."
"Why would you tell me you're going to steal a truck?"
"Because we're friends. I'm not just going to take it like some criminal." He can't keep the smirk off his face though, and a minute later Amar starts laughing.
"We need to get out of here," Tobias sighs once their moment of humor has passed.
"Where are you going to go? Back to the Pire?"
Tobias shakes his head. "I don't want to go back there. Ever."
"You're going to have to see Zeke again. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but someday soon."
"I know, but that's not what I'm thinking about right now."
"So what are you thinking about?"
"Tris. We need to go someplace she can heal. Someplace where she's not constantly assaulted by other people's memories of her. It just makes her sicker," he says, thinking about her reaction to what Cara shared with her earlier. "That's not going to be the Pire. It's not going to be Abnegation either, though," he frowns. "I don't know where to take her, exactly; right now it's just anywhere that isn't here, I guess."
"I might know of a place, a Bureau safe house in the city. If we can get there before this," he nods towards the window, "blows in you'll have a few days peace, at least."
"So, are you going to drive us, or am I going to have to steal that truck?"
Tris is sitting on her hospital bed, chewing her nails when Tobias gets back. And for a second he just looks at her, from the top of her blonde head to the grey sweater dress she's wearing, down her black leggings, to the black suede boots encasing her from knees to toes. "Are you going to be warm enough in that?" he asks, though it's not what he meant to say.
"It's fleece-lined," she says, pulling down the neckline of her dress to show him the undershirt that matches her leggings. "And it won't hurt my wounds," she says, touching her abdomen lightly. Still, he's glad of the wool coat he helps her into, and the gloves and knit hat she tugs on.
"Tobias, are okay leaving like this? I mean, everything with Evelyn…," Tris asks, peering up at him solicitously.
"No. I don't know. I don't really want to think about any of that right now," he sighs, shoulders slumping a little under the weight of things no one his age should carry. "I just know we can't stay here."
"Alright," Tris concedes.
He takes her hand and her bag - which he's pretty sure is full of more clothes she ever owned in her life, thanks to Christina -, and leads her out. Nervousness thrums through his veins and twists uncomfortably in his stomach, but when they reach the end of the hallway and the nurses station there's no one there but Amar.
"Where is everyone?" he asks.
"Never underestimate the power of bullshit," Amar quips. Tobias knows all about that; it's how he liberated Caleb what feels like a lifetime ago.
Amar leads them through shadowed hallways to a side door. The wind bites at their faces immediately. It's only twenty feet to the truck, but the storm makes it feels like more. They all breathe a sigh of relief when they clamber inside and the truck rumbles to life, lights cutting through the scrum of snow, heat pouring out the vents. Tris nestles against Tobias, and by the time they reach the train tracks she's asleep; it's not like the view is worth staying awake for.
There's a computer screen built into the dashboard that displays a map and and a red dot to represent them as they move across it; Tobias wonders if they could drive by it alone as the weather worsens and the visibility deteriorates. There are long seconds where it's a complete white-out, where the headlights illuminate nothing but snow, and it's very slow going. By the time they make it to the fence, those seconds have turned into heart-pounding, white-knuckle minutes.
"Still think it was a good idea to leave tonight?"
"Yes," Tobias grits out, jaw clenched in irritation. "Nothing good can come of us staying there. We should never have gone there in the first place. If we hadn't Tori would still be alive, Uriah and everyone else killed in the bombing would still be alive, and I'd still have Tris."
"You do still have Tris," Amar points out.
Tobias pinches his lips shut because he does and he doesn't.
"And you and Tris saved all these people," he says, motioning out the window, but where there should be a cityscape there's just white. "That's not nothing."
"It didn't save her," Tobias says very quietly.
"Would you trade the lives of all these people for just one?"
"Yes." The word flies out of Tobias' mouth before he can really think about it, but that's usually the way it is with absolute honesty; just a little slip of the tongue that reveals someone in an instant of unguarded truth. "And you were happy to go along with the Bureau's bullshit as long as the people you cared about were safe," Tobias adds scathingly. "I guess it's naive to expect the scientists to care about the lab rats though."
A tense and uncomfortable silence settles over them, broken only by Tris making little sounds in her sleep. "We're here," Amar eventually says, his voice terse.
All Tobias can make out through the window are flashes of pale stone and ruddy brick. They pull into some sort of garage and Tobias is surprised to see George waiting for them. He quirks an eyebrow at Amar in question.
"He was at the Pire, going through Tori's stuff," Amar murmurs secretively. It doesn't really explain what he's doing here, but Tobias doesn't push the issue either.
Once they get Tris awake and grab their bags George leads them inside. They enter a large, empty room, their footsteps echoing on the flagstone floor, bouncing off the walls and evaporating like smoke around the wrought-iron chandelier glowing dimly from the vaulted ceiling. The building is old, ancient really, but mortar and stone and good care at the hands of Bureau have kept it standing for probably close to two centuries.
Despite having been up for almost twenty-four hours Tobias can't help feeling a rush of something that could almost be described as happiness. He and Tris are finally, safely, away. He clutches at her hand fiercely, tugging her up the grand staircase in George and Amar's wake to a balustraded landing made for dramatic entrances that spans the width of the room. "You're in the apartment to the left, we're on the right," George says crisply, pointing to the doors on either side of it. "They're laid out the same: living room and kitchen downstairs, bedroom and bathroom upstairs."
"Thank you," Tris says fervently, sincerely, when Tobias finds himself tongue-tied and uncertain of how to reconcile his gratitude and his lingering irritation with Amar after their argument on the way here. If Amar's still angry he doesn't show it, just waves them off goodnaturedly and follow after George.
Tobias doesn't know what he's expecting the apartment to look like - maybe the same impersonal spaces the Bureau is made up of -, but when the door swings open under Tris' hand, a small, disbelieving noise escapes his throat. And for a second, they both just stand there on the threshold, staring.
There's a narrow set of stairs leading up to the second floor to the immediate right of the door, but they ignore them for now. Instead they lurch into the living room, excitement replacing disbelief with every step because for the first time they're really, truly, alone, and it's every teenagers dream come true: space and privacy and the object of your affection there to share it with.
Tobias has been so, so careful with Tris, letting her lead him, touching her only a fraction of the amount he wants to, but he can't help himself when they get to kitchen. He traps her between his body and sink and kisses her hungrily. And she lets him, encourages him with the sweet, wet tip of her tongue teasing the seam of his lips. But the painful squeak she makes when he pushes more insistently against her reminds him that he needs to be careful, and he draws back, resting his forehead against her and breathing heavy and trying to get a grip because stopping isn't what he wants to do.
"This is so much nice than I expected," Tris whispers, and he's not sure if she means them together or the apartment.
"I know," he says, not knowing which he means either.
They spend an hour rummaging through the cabinets, raiding the pantry for anything tasty, and figuring out the pellet stove that has been fitted into the original fireplace, and that must heat the downstairs before they venture upstairs.
There's a large bathroom, all green tile and brass fixtures that they only peek their heads into before lighting upon a spacious bedroom. There's one full size bed pushed under a row of small, high windows, another fireplace burning brightly across from it.
"You should try to get some sleep," Tobias says awkwardly, suddenly aware that there's a bed and girl and maybe certain implications floating around both their heads. "You've been up as long as me and you need to rest."
"So do you," Tris mumbles, but tugs something to sleep in from the massive dufflebag of clothes Christina dropped off before she left, and disappears into the bathroom.
Tobias busies himself with looking through the closet, hoping to find extra blankets and pillows so he can take the couch when Tris wanders back in.
"What are you doing?" Tris asks as she climbs under the covers. He stops his movements and looks over his shoulder at her uncertainly. "Get in bed, Tobias," she says, sleepy and exasperated.
"Are you sure? We don't have to share… anything," he finishes, lamely.
"You won't hurt me." He's not sure if she means because of her injuries or if it's her old fear of intimacy picking somewhere at the back of her brain. Either way he watches her narrowly as he toes off his shoes, and crawls in slowly, so slowly, like she will change her mind and bolt if he moves too quick.
But she doesn't. She just sighs a little once he's under the covers too, a clear foot of space between them as they lay facing each other. "Sleep," she sighs, her hand seeking out his.
The first time Tobias wakes up he's disoriented. He's in a strange place, in a strange bed, and he thinks of a hundred places he doesn't want to be before his eyes reel around to Tris and he realizes where he actually is. Last night comes back to him, dream like and soft around the edges, and it's hard to think he's lost her with her head resting against his shoulder and her soft breathes dampening his shirt.
The second time Tobias wakes up he and Tris are braided together: arms around each other, her leg between both of his, his face buried in the mussed up hair on the crown of her head. A wave of deja vu sweeps over him, making the world rock and sway under him for a moment because this is how they woke up, that last morning.
Familiar. That's what Tris says it feels like to kiss him, to touch him. He thinks he finally knows what she means.
It's hard to believe that Tris was shot two weeks ago. That number seems too small. Fourteen days. Three hundred hours. Twenty thousand seconds. A lifetime. They were different people in a different world, and there is an ocean of time between then and now, but this - Tris in his arms -, this still feels familiar.
As much as his body resists leaving the soft warmth of hers, he rolls away because if he stays he's going to have a real problem; he doesn't think Tris wants to wake up with his dick hard against her thigh, like a divining rod seeking out the wet space between her legs. He needs a distraction so he creeps downstairs, cursing each creaking floorboard, but breathes a little easier when it gets to the kitchen without waking Tris.
It's small and simple, but functional. There's a stove against one wall, a sink surrounded by cabinets against another, and open shelves against a third. He leans over the stove to tap on the window above it, confirming his assumption that the glass is the same kind the Pire is made out of; strong enough to stop a bullet and though he can see out, no one can see in.
Not that, that matters much with the storm raging on the other side. It has only grown in intensity since they arrived, and it's a complete white-out now. But with strong walls and thick windows between it and him, he doesn't worry about it. If anything it's a gift, insulating them against whatever might follow them from the Bureau.
He wanders into the living room. There's are built-in shelves on either end of the alcove where the couch has been tucked away and Tobias is just pulling down a few dusty, forgotten books when he hears Tris coming down the stairs. She's still rubbing sleep out of her eyes when he meets her at the foot of the stairs, but he can't remember the last time they looked so untroubled.
"How are you feeling?" he asks, tucking an errant strand of hair behind her ear.
"Hungry," she answers, smirking a little.
Tobias leans down, pressing a quick kiss to her lips that leaves her cheeks a little pink before he leads her into the kitchen. To Tobias' surprise, Tris starts collecting ingredients without batting an eye. She's got a box of powdered milk, a bottle of honey, and a jar of oatmeal in her arms before he asks her what she's doing.
"I don't know," she frowns, as if realizing what she's doing for the first time.
"Keep going," Tobias gently urges her, hanging back to see what happens.
She's nervous now, stiff, like his watchful eyes are resting between her shoulder blades, weighing her down. He leans against the counter and bites his tongue when she seems unsure of exactly how much water to add to the pot she's cooking it all up in. A minute's debate later and she figures it out on her own.
"This is weird," Tris murmurs, spoon dragging lazy circles through the pot she's got bubbling on the stove now. "It's like I can remember making this before - I know I've made this before -, but I can't picture when I made it before, if that makes any sense."
As much as Tobias wants this to mean something, he knows it's probably doesn't. "Is it that different from things feeling 'familiar' with me though?"
Tris brow furrows in concentration. "Kind of? It's not… when I meet someone it's not like I know them and can't place them," she struggles to explain. "You feel familiar, and Christina… I understand how we could be friends. This is different, stronger, like deja vu."
"You woke up knowing how to talk. Feeding yourself, dressing yourself… those are essential survival skills," Tobias says contemplatively as he reaches for some bowls. "Just logistically, it would be impossible to build people from the ground up like that in a city the size of Chicago if you've only got a few hours to implant memories after the serum takes effect."
"You'd think if their technology is so advanced that they make a serum that works that way - that only affects certain things -, that they could fix everyone's genes," Tris says ruefully.
"No, you'd think if they could fuck them up in the first place they'd be able to fix them the same way. That's never made sense to me; makes me wonder who has a vested interest in keeping some people 'damaged'."
"I don't know," Tobias shrugs. "It just seems like bullshit that they could change people's genetics to make certain personality traits dominant, but not reverse it when their little experiment went haywire."
Tris splits the oatmeal between the bowls, takes a bite, and sets it back down again. She rummages around the shelf for a moment before coming away with a jar full of dried apricots. After methodically tearing several apart and mixing them into her oatmeal she takes another bite, a hint of a smile playing on her lips after she swallows. "Want some?" she asks, offering Tobias the jar.
"No," he says, disgusted. "Once, when I was a kid, I ate a whole bag of apricots. I got so sick I haven't been able to look at them since, let alone eat them."
"So what kind of fruit do you like?"
"Apples. But this is good too, oatmeal with milk and honey."
They bypass the kitchen table and head the living room. "Where's that go?" Tris asks, pointing towards a framed glass door in one corner of the room with her spoon as she sits down on the couch.
"I don't know." Tobias cups his hands and peers through the glass, but it's so dark on the other side he can't see much. "A balcony maybe?" he says, trying the handle. He's unsurprised to find it locked, and though the pad of his finger slides over the grooved slot where a key goes he knows he'll never get it open without one. "Whatever it is they've got it boarded up."
His eyes wander around the room as they eat. The Bureau was all glass and steel and impersonal open space. Here, instead of glass walls there's plaster turned a creamy buttermilk yellow with age. The dull lustre of wood paneling reaches just far enough up the wall to prevent any damage from a chair pushed back too violently, and the box beam ceiling doesn't make it feel claustrophobic, just comfortably close. It feels like a home, Tobias thinks; maybe not his or theirs, but someone's.
Somehow Tris and Tobias end up on the living room floor. Mostly it's a combination of Tris being tired and cold, and the bed being so far away and the spot in front of the fireplace being so enticing on a stormy day. They curl together, lover-like, and Tobias remembers another nest of blankets and whispered wishes about being alone.
There are two cups of tea sitting on the hearth, completely forgotten because he's too busy mapping her features with his lips and she's too busy letting him. He kisses the space between her brows, the fragile, silky skin of her eyelids, the curve of her each cheekbone, and the tip of her nose. When his lips finally make it to hers, she meets him, kissing him back lazily. It's sleepy and slow and tender, unguarded and heedless of their past or their future, done for the pure pleasure of the thing itself.
"We've never been able to do this," he comments, thumb caressing her cheek before he presses another little peck to her lips.
"There wasn't much chance in the fog of war for something this normal."
"That's a shame," she says flippantly, teasingly, but it grates across his nerves unexpectedly. That morning - the last morning she was herself - she promised him 'normal', promised him a future full of it. And then walked right into death's waiting arms like his didn't exist.
He tries to push the thoughts away, but he's been doing that for too long, and they hit him swift and hard now, without the distraction of Tris fighting for her life, and him fighting for her memory; The Bureau, Evelyn, Caleb, all of it.
Tris shifts a little, pressing more insistently against him, but he slips out from under her, ignoring her confused and wounded expression. He stalks down the hall, teeth clenched, to the kitchen. He presses his fingers so hard into the ktichen sink they throb and ache and turn white, and he tries to remind himself that Tris isn't that girl anymore. There are sick parts of him that are glad of it, that hope those parts - unlike Peter's less than savory characteristics - don't come back.
"I don't remember any of… whatever has you in here doing this," Tris voice cuts in as he glares out the window, furious with himself and her.
"I do," he says, still refusing to meet her eyes.
"Do you want me to remember just so you can punish me?" Tris snaps.
He doesn't say anything because he does, part of him anyway; the same part that hopes the memory serum took away her fatal, pathological need for self-sacrifice. But that part wants to grab her and shake her and demand why, damn it, why!? too, and he's been ignoring it for weeks, stuffing it down only to have it explode out at the worst time.
"No," he finally says. "I want you to love me." Because really that's what this all boils down to.
"I want you to love me too," Tris says quietly. "Not someone I don't remember how to be."
When he looks up, she's gone.