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CHAPTER FIVE

TRIS

Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)

I SET MY watch alarm for ten o’clock and fall asleep right away, without even shifting to a comfortable position. A few hours later the beeps don’t wake me, but the frustrated shout of someone across the room does. I turn off the alarm, run my fingers through my hair, and half walk, half jog to one of the emergency staircases. The exit at the bottom will let me out in the alley, where I probably won’t be stopped.

Once I’m outside, the cool air wakes me up. I pull my sleeves down over my fingers to keep them warm. Summer is finally ending. There are a few people milling around the entrance to Erudite headquarters, but none of them notices me creeping across Michigan Avenue. There are some advantages to being small.

I see Tobias standing in the middle of the lawn, wearing mixed faction colors—a gray T-shirt, blue jeans, and a black sweatshirt with a hood, representing all the factions my aptitude test told me I was qualified for. A backpack rests against his feet.

“How did I do?” I say when I’m close enough for him to hear me.

“Very well,” he says. “Evelyn still hates you, but Christina and Cara have been released without questioning. ”

“Good. ” I smile.

He pinches the front of my shirt, right over my stomach, and tugs me toward him, kissing me softly.

“Come on,” he says as he pulls away. “I have a plan for this evening. ”

“Oh, really?”

“Yes, well, I realized that we’ve never been on an actual date. ”

“Chaos and destruction do tend to take away a person’s dating possibilities. ”

“I would like to experience this ‘date’ phenomenon. ” He walks backward, toward the mammoth metal structure at the other end of the lawn, and I follow him. “Before you, I only went on group dates, and they were usually a disaster. They always ended up with Zeke making out with whatever girl he intended to make out with, and me sitting in awkward silence with some girl that I had somehow offended in some way early on. ”

“You’re not very nice,” I say, grinning.

“You’re one to talk. ”

“Hey, I could be nice if I tried. ”

“Hmm. ” He taps his chin. “Say something nice, then. ”

“You’re very good-looking. ”

He smiles, his teeth a flash in the dark. “I like this ‘nice’ thing. ”

We reach the end of the lawn. The metal structure is larger and stranger up close than it was from far away. It’s really a stage, and arcing above it are massive metal plates that curl in different directions, like an exploded aluminum can. We walk around one of the plates on the right side to the back of the stage, which rises at an angle from the ground. There, metal beams support the plates from behind. Tobias secures his backpack on his shoulders and grabs one of the beams. Climbing.

“This feels familiar,” I say. One of the first things we did together was scale the Ferris wheel, but that time it was me, not him, who compelled us to climb higher.

I push up my sleeves and follow him. My shoulder is still sore from the bullet wound, but it is mostly healed. Still, I bear most of my weight with my left arm and try to push with my feet whenever possible. I look down at the tangle of bars beneath me and beyond them, the ground, and laugh.

Tobias climbs to a spot where two metal plates meet in a V, leaving enough room for two people to sit. He scoots back, wedging himself between the two plates, and reaches for my waist to help me when I get close enough. I don’t really need the help, but I don’t say so—I am too busy enjoying his hands on me.

He takes a blanket out of his backpack and covers us with it, then produces two plastic cups.

“Would you like a clear head or a fuzzy one?” he says, peering into the bag.

“Um . . . ” I tilt my head. “Clear. I think we have some things to talk about, right?”

Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)

“Yes. ”

He takes out a small bottle with clear, bubbling liquid in it, and as he twists open the cap, says, “I stole it from the Erudite kitchens. Apparently it’s delicious. ”

He pours some in each cup, and I take a sip. Whatever it is, it’s sweet as syrup and lemon-flavored and makes me cringe a little. My second sip is better.

“Things to talk about,” he says.

“Right. ”

“Well . . . ” Tobias frowns into his cup. “Okay, so I understand why you worked with Marcus, and why you felt like you couldn’t tell me. But . . . ”

“But you’re angry,” I say. “Because I lied to you. On several occasions. ”

He nods, not looking at me. “It’s not even the Marcus thing. It’s further back than that. I don’t know if you can understand what it was like to wake up alone, and know that you had gone”—to your death, is what I suspect he wants to say, but he can’t even say the words—“to Erudite headquarters. ”

“No, I probably can’t. ” I take another sip, turning the sugary drink over in my mouth before swallowing. “Listen, I . . . I used to think about giving my life for things, but I didn’t understand what ‘giving your life’ really was until it was right there, about to be taken from me. ”

I look up at him, and finally, he looks back at me.

“I know now,” I say. “I know I want to live. I know I want to be honest with you. But . . . but I can’t do that, I won’t do it, if you won’t trust me, or if you talk to me in that condescending way you sometimes do—”

“Condescending?” he says. “You were doing ridiculous, risky things—”

“Yeah,” I say. “And do you really think it helped to talk to me like I was a child who didn’t know any better?”

“What else was I supposed to do?” he demands. “You wouldn’t see reason!”

“Maybe reason wasn’t what I needed!” I sit forward, not able to pretend I am relaxed anymore. “I felt like I was being eaten alive by guilt, and what I needed was your patience and your kindness, not for you to yell at me. Oh, and for you to constantly keep your plans from me like I couldn’t possibly handle—”

“I didn’t want to burden you more than you already were. ”

“So do you think I’m a strong person, or not?” I scowl at him. “Because you seem to think I can take it when you’re scolding me, but you don’t think I can handle anything else? What does that mean?”

“Of course I think you’re a strong person. ” He shakes his head. “I just . . . I’m not used to telling people things. I’m used to handling things on my own. ”

“I’m reliable,” I say. “You can trust me. And you can let me be the judge of what I can handle. ”

“Okay,” he says, nodding. “But no more lies. Not ever. ”

Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)

“Okay. ”

I feel stiff and squeezed, like my body was just forced into something too small for it. But that’s not how I want the conversation to end, so I reach for his hand.

“I’m sorry I lied to you,” I say. “I really am. ”

“Well,” he says. “I didn’t mean to make you feel like I didn’t respect you. ”

We stay there for a while, our hands clasped. I lean back against the metal plate. Above me, the sky is blank and dark, the moon shielded by clouds. I find a star ahead of us, as the clouds shift, but it seems to be the only one. When I tilt my head back, though, I can see the line of buildings along Michigan Avenue, like a row of sentries keeping watch over us.

I am quiet until the stiff, squeezed feeling leaves me. In its place I now feel relief. It isn’t usually that easy for me to let go of anger, but the past few weeks have been strange for both of us, and I am happy to release the feelings I have been holding on to, the anger and the fear that he hates me and the guilt from working with his father behind his back.

“This stuff is kind of gross,” he says, draining his cup and setting it down.

“Yes, it is,” I say, staring at what remains in mine. I drink it in one gulp, wincing as the bubbles burn my throat. “I don’t know what the Erudite are always bragging about. Dauntless cake is much better. ”

“I wonder what the Abnegation treat would have been, if they had one. ”

“Stale bread. ”

He laughs. “Plain oatmeal. ”

“Milk. ”

“Sometimes I think I believe everything they taught us,” he says. “But obviously not, since I’m sitting here holding your hand right now without having married you first. ”

“What do the Dauntless teach about . . . that?” I say, nodding to our hands.

“What do the Dauntless teach, hmm. ” He smirks. “Do whatever you want, but use protection, is what they teach. ”

I raise my eyebrows. Suddenly my face feels warm.

“I think I’d like to find a middle ground for myself,” he says. “To find that place between what I want and what I think is wise. ”

“That sounds good. ” I pause. “But what do you want?”

I think I know the answer, but I want to hear him say it.

“Hmm. ” He grins, and leans forward onto his knees. He presses his hands to the metal plate, framing my head with his arms, and kisses me, slowly, on my mouth, under my jaw, right above my collarbone. I stay still, nervous about doing anything, in case it’s stupid or he doesn’t like it. But then I feel like a statue, like I am not really here at all, and so I touch his waist, hesitantly.

Then his lips are on mine again, and he pulls his shirt out from under my hands so that I am touching his bare skin. I come to life, pressing closer, my hands creeping up his back, sliding over his shoulders. His breaths come faster and so do mine, and I taste the lemon-syrup-fizz we just drank and I smell the wind on his skin and all I want is more, more.

I push his shirt up. A moment ago I was cold, but I don’t think either of us is cold now. His arm wraps around my waist, strong and certain, and his free hand tangles in my hair and I slow down, drinking it in—the smoothness of his skin, marked up and down with black ink, and the insistence of the kiss, and the cool air wrapped around us both.

I relax, and I no longer feel like some kind of Divergent soldier, defying serums and government leaders alike. I feel softer, lighter, and like it is okay to laugh a little as his fingertips brush over my hips and the small of my back, or to sigh into his ear when he pulls me against him, burying his face in the side of my neck so that he can kiss me there. I feel like myself, strong and weak at once—allowed, at least for a little while, to be both.

I don’t know how long it is before we get cold again, and huddle under the blanket together.

“It’s getting more difficult to be wise,” he says, laughing into my ear.

I smile at him. “I think that’s how it’s supposed to be. ”

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