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CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

TRIS

Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)

PETER IS ACROSS the room, gathering a stack of books into a pile and shoving them into a bag. He bites down on a red pen and carries the bag out of the room; I hear the books inside it smacking against his leg as he walks down the hallway. I wait until I can’t hear them anymore before I turn to Christina.

“I’ve been trying not to ask you, but I’m giving up,” I say. “What’s going on with you and Uriah?”

Christina, sprawled across her cot with one long leg dangling over the edge, gives me a look.

“What? You’ve been spending a lot of time together,” I say. “Like a lot. ”

It’s sunny today, the light glowing through the white curtains. I don’t know how, but the dormitory smells like sleep—like laundry and shoes and night sweats and morning coffee. Some of the beds are made, and some still have rumpled sheets bunched up at the bottom or the side. Most of us came from Dauntless, but I’m struck by how different we are anyway. Different habits, different temperaments, different ways of seeing the world.

“You may not believe me, but it’s not like that. ” Christina props herself up on her elbows. “He’s grieving. We’re both bored. Also, he’s Uriah. ”

“So? He’s good-looking. ”

“Good-looking, but he can’t have a serious conversation to save his life. ” Christina shakes her head. “Don’t get me wrong, I like to laugh, but I also want a relationship to mean something, you know?”

I nod. I do know—better than most people, maybe, because Tobias and I aren’t really the joking type.

“Besides,” she says, “not every friendship turns into a romance. I haven’t tried to kiss you yet. ”

I laugh. “True. ”

“Where have you been lately?” Christina says. She wiggles her eyebrows. “With Four? Doing a little . . . addition? Multiplication?”

I cover my face with my hands. “That was the worst joke I’ve ever heard. ”

“Don’t dodge the question. ”

“No ‘addition’ for us,” I say. “Not yet, anyway. He’s been a little preoccupied with the whole ‘genetic damage’ thing. ”

“Ah. That thing. ” She sits up.

“What do you think about it?” I say.

“I don’t know. I guess it makes me angry. ” She frowns. “No one likes to be told there’s something wrong with them, especially something like their genes, which they can’t change. ”

“You think there’s really something wrong with you?”

“I guess so. It’s like a disease, right? They can see it in our genes. That’s not really up for debate, is it?”

“I’m not saying your genes aren’t different,” I say. “I’m just saying that doesn’t mean one set is damaged and one set isn’t. The genes for blue eyes and brown eyes are different too, but are blue eyes ‘damaged’? It’s like they just arbitrarily decided that one kind of DNA was bad and the other was good. ”

“Based on the evidence that GD behavior was worse,” Christina points out.

“Which could be caused by a lot of things,” I retort.

“I don’t know why I’m arguing with you when I’d really like for you to be right,” Christina says, laughing. “But don’t you think a bunch of smart people like these Bureau scientists could figure out the cause of bad behavior?”

“Sure,” I say. “But I think that no matter how smart, people usually see what they’re already looking for, that’s all. ”

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“Maybe you’re biased too,” she says. “Because you have friends—and a boyfriend—with this genetic issue. ”

“Maybe. ” I know I’m fumbling for an explanation, one I may not really believe, but I say it anyway: “I guess I don’t see a reason to believe in genetic damage. Will it make me treat other people better? No. The opposite, maybe. ”

And besides, I see what it’s doing to Tobias, how it’s making him doubt himself, and I don’t understand how anything good can possibly come from it.

“You don’t believe things because they make your life better, you believe them because they’re true,” she points out.

“But”—I speak slowly as I mull that over—“isn’t looking at the result of a belief a good way of evaluating if it’s true?”

“Sounds like a Stiff way of thinking. ” She pauses. “I guess my way is very Candor, though. God, we really can’t escape factions no matter where we go, can we?”

I shrug. “Maybe it’s not so important to escape them. ”

Tobias walks into the dormitory, looking pale and exhausted, like he always does these days. His hair is pushed up on one side from lying on his pillow, and he’s still wearing what he wore yesterday. He’s been sleeping in his clothes since we came to the Bureau.

Christina gets up. “Okay, I’m going to go. And leave you two . . . to all this space. Alone. ” She gestures at all the empty beds, and then winks conspicuously at me as she walks out of the dormitory.

Tobias smiles a little, but not enough to make me think he’s actually happy. And instead of sitting next to me, he lingers at the foot of my bed, his fingers fumbling over the hem of his shirt.

“There’s something I want to talk to you about,” he says.

“Okay,” I say, and I feel a spike of fear in my chest, like a jump on a heart monitor.

“I want to ask you to promise not to get mad,” he says, “but . . . ”

“But you know I don’t make stupid promises,” I say, my throat tight.

“Right. ” He does sit, then, in the curve of blankets left unmade on his bed. He avoids my eyes. “Nita left a note under my pillow, telling me to meet her last night. And I did. ”

I straighten, and I can feel an angry heat spreading through me as I picture Nita’s pretty face, Nita’s graceful feet, walking toward my boyfriend.

“A pretty girl asks you to meet her late at night, and you go?” I demand. “And then you want me not to get mad about it?”

“It’s not about that with Nita and me. At all,” he says hastily, finally looking at me. “She just wanted to show me something. She doesn’t believe in genetic damage, like she led me to believe. She has a plan to take away some of the Bureau’s power, to make GDs more equal. We went to the fringe. ”

He tells me about the underground tunnel that leads outside, and the ramshackle town in the fringe, and the conversation with Rafi and Mary. He explains the war that the government kept hidden so that no one would know that “genetically pure” people are capable of incredible violence, and the way GDs live in the metropolitan areas where the government still has real power.

As he speaks, I feel suspicion toward Nita building inside me, but I don’t know where it comes from—the gut instinct I usually trust, or my jealousy. When he finishes, he looks at me expectantly, and I purse my lips, trying to decide.

Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)

“How do you know she’s telling you the truth?” I say.

“I don’t,” he says. “She promised to show me evidence. Tonight. ” He takes my hand. “I’d like you to come. ”

“And Nita will be okay with that?”

“I don’t really care. ” His fingers slide between mine. “If she really needs my help, she’ll have to figure out how to be okay with it. ”

I look at our joined fingers, at the fraying cuff of his gray shirt and the worn knee of his jeans. I don’t want to spend time with Nita and Tobias together, knowing that her supposed genetic damage gives her something in common with him that I will never have. But this is important to him, and I want to know if there’s evidence of the Bureau’s wrongdoing as much as he does.

“Okay,” I say. “I’ll go. But don’t for a second think that I actually believe she’s not interested in you for more than your genetic code. ”

“Well,” he says. “Don’t for a second think I’m interested in anyone but you. ”

He puts his hand on the back of my neck and draws my mouth toward his.

The kiss and his words both comfort me, but my unease doesn’t completely disappear.

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