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THE LIGHTS COME on. I stand alone in the empty room with the concrete walls, shaking. I sink to my knees, wrapping my arms around my chest. It wasn’t cold when I walked in, but it feels cold now. I rub my arms to get rid of the goose bumps.Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)
I have never felt relief like this before. Every muscle in my body relaxes at once and I breathe freely again. I can’t imagine going through my fear landscape in my spare time, like Tobias does. It seemed like bravery to me before, but now it seems more like masochism.
The door opens, and I stand. Max, Eric, Tobias, and a few people I don’t know walk into the room in a line, standing in a small crowd in front of me. Tobias smiles at me.
“Congratulations, Tris,” says Eric. “You have successfully completed your final evaluation. ”
I try to smile. It doesn’t work. I can’t shake the memory of the gun against my head. I can still feel the barrel between my eyebrows.
“Thanks,” I say.
“There is one more thing before you can go and get ready for the welcoming banquet,” he says. He beckons to one of the unfamiliar people behind him. A woman with blue hair hands him a small black case. He opens it and takes out a syringe and a long needle.
I tense up at the sight of it. The orange-brown liquid in the syringe reminds me of what they inject us with before simulations. And I am supposed to be finished with those.
“At least you aren’t afraid of needles,” he says. “This will inject you with a tracking device that will be activated only if you are reported missing. Just a precaution. ”
“How often do people go missing?” I ask, frowning.
“Not often. ” Eric smirks. “This is a new development, courtesy of the Erudite. We have been injecting every Dauntless throughout the day, and I assume all other factions will comply as soon as possible. ”
My stomach twists. I can’t let him inject me with anything, especially not anything developed by Erudite—maybe even by Jeanine. But I also can’t refuse. I can’t refuse or he will doubt my loyalty again.
“All right,” I say, my throat tight.
Eric approaches me with the needle and syringe in hand. I pull my hair away from my neck and tilt my head to the side. I look away as Eric wipes my neck with an antiseptic wipe and eases the needle into my skin. The deep ache spreads through my neck, painful but brief. He puts the needle back in its case and sticks an adhesive bandage on the injection site.
“The banquet is in two hours,” he says. “Your ranking among the other initiates, Dauntless-born included, will be announced then. Good luck. ”
The small crowd files out of the room, but Tobias lingers. He pauses by the door and beckons for me to follow him, so I do. The glass room above the Pit is full of Dauntless, some of them walking the ropes above our heads, some talking and laughing in groups. He smiles at me. He must not have been watching.
“I heard a rumor that you only had seven obstacles to face,” he says. “Practically unheard of. ”
“You…you weren’t watching the simulation?”
“Only on the screens. The Dauntless leaders are the only ones who see the whole thing,” he says. “They seemed impressed. ”
“Well, seven fears isn’t as impressive as four,” I reply, “but it will suffice. ”
“I would be surprised if you weren’t ranked first,” he says.
We walk into the glass room. The crowd is still there, but it is thinner now that the last person—me—has gone.
People notice me after a few seconds. I stay close to Tobias’s side as they point, but I can’t walk fast enough to avoid some cheers, some claps on the shoulder, some congratulations. As I look at the people around me, I realize how strange they would look to my father and brother, and how normal they seem to me, despite all the metal rings in their faces and the tattoos on their arms and throats and chests. I smile back at them.
We descend the steps into the Pit and I say, “I have a question. ” I bite my lip. “How much did they tell you about my fear landscape?”
“Nothing, really. Why?” he says.
“No reason. ” I kick a pebble to the side of the path.Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)
“Do you have to go back to the dormitory?” he asks. “Because if you want peace and quiet, you can stay with me until the banquet. ”
My stomach twists.
“What is it?” he asks.
I don’t want to go back to the dormitory, and I don’t want to be afraid of him.
“Let’s go,” I say.
He closes the door behind us and slips off his shoes.
“Want some water?” he says.
“No thanks. ” I hold my hands in front of me.
“You okay?” he says, touching my cheek. His hand cradles the side of my head, his long fingers slipping through my hair. He smiles and holds my head in place as he kisses me. Heat spreads through me slowly. And fear, buzzing like an alarm in my chest.
His lips still on mine, he pushes the jacket from my shoulders. I flinch when I hear it drop, and push him back, my eyes burning. I don’t know why I feel this way. I didn’t feel like this when he kissed me on the train. I press my palms to my face, covering my eyes.
“What? What’s wrong?”
I shake my head.
“Don’t tell me it’s nothing. ” His voice is cold. He grabs my arm. “Hey. Look at me. ”
I take my hands from my face and lift my eyes to his. The hurt in his eyes and the anger in his clenched jaw surprise me.
“Sometimes I wonder,” I say, as calmly as I can, “what’s in it for you. This…whatever it is. ”
“What’s in it for me,” he repeats. He steps back, shaking his head. “You’re an idiot, Tris. ”
“I am not an idiot,” I say. “Which is why I know that it’s a little weird that, of all the girls you could have chosen, you chose me. So if you’re just looking for…um, you know…that…”
“What? Sex?” He scowls at me. “You know, if that was all I wanted, you probably wouldn’t be the first person I would go to. ”
I feel like he just punched me in the stomach. Of course I’m not the first person he would go to—not the first, not the prettiest, not desirable. I press my hands to my abdomen and look away, fighting off tears. I am not the crying type. Nor am I the yelling type. I blink a few times, lower my hands, and stare up at him.
“I’m going to leave now,” I say quietly. And I turn toward the door.Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)
“No, Tris. ” He grabs my wrist and wrenches me back. I push him away, hard, but he grabs my other wrist, holding our crossed arms between us.
“I’m sorry I said that,” he says. “What I meant was that you aren’t like that. Which I knew when I met you. ”
“You were an obstacle in my fear landscape. ” My lower lip wobbles. “Did you know that?”
“What?” He releases my wrists, and the hurt look is back. “You’re afraid of me?”
“Not you,” I say. I bite my lip to keep it still. “Being with you…with anyone. I’ve never been involved with someone before, and…you’re older, and I don’t know what your expectations are, and…”
“Tris,” he says sternly, “I don’t know what delusion you’re operating under, but this is all new to me, too. ”
“Delusion?” I repeat. “You mean you haven’t…” I raise my eyebrows. “Oh. Oh. I just assumed…” That because I am so absorbed by him, everyone else must be too. “Um. You know. ”
“Well, you assumed wrong. ” He looks away. His cheeks are bright, like he’s embarrassed. “You can tell me anything, you know,” he says. He takes my face in his hands, his fingertips cold and his palms warm. “I am kinder than I seemed in training. I promise. ”
I believe him. But this has nothing to do with his kindness.
He kisses me between the eyebrows, and on the tip of my nose, and then carefully fits his mouth to mine. I am on edge. I have electricity coursing through my veins instead of blood. I want him to kiss me, I want him to; I am afraid of where it might go.
His hands shift to my shoulders, and his fingers brush over the edge of my bandage. He pulls back with a puckered brow.
“Are you hurt?” he asks.
“No. It’s another tattoo. It’s healed, I just…wanted to keep it covered up. ”
“Can I see?”
I nod, my throat tight. I pull my sleeve down and slip my shoulder out of it. He stares down at my shoulder for a second, and then runs his fingers over it. They rise and fall with my bones, which stick out farther than I’d like. When he touches me, I feel like everywhere his skin meets mine is changed by the connection. It sends a thrill through my stomach. Not just fear. Something else, too. A wanting.
He peels the corner of the bandage away. His eyes roam over the symbol of Abnegation, and he smiles.
“I have the same one,” he says, laughing. “On my back. ”
“Really? Can I see it?”
He presses the bandage over the tattoo and pulls my shirt back over my shoulder.
“Are you asking me to undress, Tris?”
A nervous laugh gurgles from my throat. “Only…partially. ”
He nods, his smile suddenly fading. He lifts his eyes to mine and unzips his sweatshirt. It slides from his shoulders, and he tosses it onto the desk chair. I don’t feel like laughing now. All I can do is stare at him.
His eyebrows pull to the center of his forehead, and he grabs the hem of his T-shirt. In one swift motion, he pulls it over his head.
A patch of Dauntless flames covers his right side, but other than that, his chest is unmarked. He averts his eyes.
“What is it?” I ask, frowning. He looks…uncomfortable.
“I don’t invite many people to look at me,” he says. “Any people, actually. ”
“I can’t imagine why,” I say softly. “I mean, look at you. ”
I walk slowly around him. On his back is more ink than skin. The symbols of each faction are drawn there—Dauntless at the top of his spine, Abnegation just below it, and the other three, smaller, beneath them. For a few seconds I look at the scales that represent Candor, the eye that stands for Erudite, and the tree that symbolizes Amity. It makes sense that he would tattoo himself with the symbol of Dauntless, his refuge, and even the symbol of Abnegation, his place of origin, like I did. But the other three?
“I think we’ve made a mistake,” he says softly. “We’ve all started to put down the virtues of the other factions in the process of bolstering our own. I don’t want to do that. I want to be brave, and selfless, and smart, and kind, and honest. ” He clears his throat. “I continually struggle with kindness. ”
“No one’s perfect,” I whisper. “It doesn’t work that way. One bad thing goes away, and another bad thing replaces it. ”
I traded cowardice for cruelty; I traded weakness for ferocity.
I brush over Abnegation’s symbol with my fingertips. “We have to warn them, you know. Soon. ”
“I know,” he says. “We will. ”
He turns toward me. I want to touch him, but I’m afraid of his bareness; afraid that he will make me bare too.
“Is this scaring you, Tris?”
“No,” I croak. I clear my throat. “Not really. I’m only…afraid of what I want. ”
“What do you want?” Then his face tightens. “Me?”
Slowly I nod.
He nods too, and takes my hands in his gently. He guides my palms to his stomach. His eyes lowered, he pushes my hands up, over his abdomen and over his chest, and holds them against his neck. My palms tingle with the feel of his skin, smooth, warm. My face is hot, but I shiver anyway. He looks at me.
“Someday,” he says, “if you still want me, we can…” He pauses, clears his throat. “We can…”
I smile a little and wrap my arms around him before he finishes, pressing the side of my face to his chest. I feel his heartbeat against my cheek, as fast as my own.
“Are you afraid of me, too, Tobias?”
“Terrified,” he replies with a smile.
I turn my head and kiss the hollow beneath his throat.
“Maybe you won’t be in my fear landscape anymore,” I murmur.
He bends his head and kisses me slowly.
“Then everyone can call you Six. ”
“Four and Six,” I say.
We kiss again, and this time, it feels familiar. I know exactly how we fit together, his arm around my waist, my hands on his chest, the pressure of his lips on mine. We have each other memorized.
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