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CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

I OPEN MY eyes to the words “Fear God Alone” painted on a plain white wall. I hear the sound of running water again, but this time it’s from a faucet and not from the chasm. Seconds go by before I see definite edges in my surroundings, the lines of door frame and countertop and ceiling.

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The pain is a constant throb in my head and cheek and ribs. I shouldn’t move; it will make everything worse. I see a blue patchwork quilt under my head and wince as I tilt my head to see where the water sound is coming from.

Four stands in the bathroom with his hands in the sink. Blood from his knuckles turns the sink water pink. He has a cut at the corner of his mouth, but he seems otherwise unharmed. His expression is placid as he examines his cuts, turns off the water, and dries his hands with a towel.

I have only one memory of getting here, and even that is just a single image: black ink curling around the side of a neck, the corner of a tattoo, and the gentle sway that could only mean he was carrying me.

He turns off the bathroom light and gets an ice pack from the refrigerator in the corner of the room. As he walks toward me, I consider closing my eyes and pretending to be asleep, but then our eyes meet and it’s too late.

“Your hands,” I croak.

“My hands are none of your concern,” he replies. He rests his knee on the mattress and leans over me, slipping the ice pack under my head. Before he pulls away, I reach out to touch the cut on the side of his lip but stop when I realize what I am about to do, my hand hovering.

What do you have to lose? I ask myself. I touch my fingertips lightly to his mouth.

“Tris,” he says, speaking against my fingers, “I’m all right. ”

“Why were you there?” I ask, letting my hand drop.

“I was coming back from the control room. I heard a scream. ”

“What did you do to them?” I say.

“I deposited Drew at the infirmary a half hour ago,” he says. “Peter and Al ran. Drew claimed they were just trying to scare you. At least, I think that’s what he was trying to say. ”

“He’s in bad shape?”

“He’ll live,” he replies. He adds bitterly, “In what condition, I can’t say. ”

It isn’t right to wish pain on other people just because they hurt me first. But white-hot triumph races through me at the thought of Drew in the infirmary, and I squeeze Four’s arm.

“Good,” I say. My voice sounds tight and fierce. Anger builds inside me, replacing my blood with bitter water and filling me, consuming me. I want to break something, or hit something, but I am afraid to move, so I start crying instead.

Four crouches by the side of the bed, and watches me. I see no sympathy in his eyes. I would have been disappointed if I had. He pulls his wrist free and, to my surprise, rests his hand on the side of my face, his thumb skimming my cheekbone. His fingers are careful.

“I could report this,” he says.

“No,” I reply. “I don’t want them to think I’m scared. ”

He nods. He moves his thumb absently over my cheekbone, back and forth. “I figured you would say that. ”

“You think it would be a bad idea if I sat up?”

“I’ll help you. ”

Four grips my shoulder with one hand and holds my head steady with the other as I push myself up. Pain rushes through my body in sharp bursts, but I try to ignore it, stifling a groan.

He hands me the ice pack. “You can let yourself be in pain,” he says. “It’s just me here. ”

I bite down on my lip. There are tears on my face, but neither of us mentions or even acknowledges them.

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“I suggest you rely on your transfer friends to protect you from now on,” he says.

“I thought I was,” I say. I feel Al’s hand against my mouth again, and a sob jolts my body forward. I press my hand to my forehead and rock slowly back and forth. “But Al…”

“He wanted you to be the small, quiet girl from Abnegation,” Four says softly. “He hurt you because your strength made him feel weak. No other reason. ”

I nod and try to believe him.

“The others won’t be as jealous if you show some vulnerability. Even if it isn’t real. ”

“You think I have to pretend to be vulnerable?” I ask, raising an eyebrow.

“Yes, I do. ” He takes the ice pack from me, his fingers brushing mine, and holds it against my head himself. I put my hand down, too eager to relax my arm to object. Four stands up. I stare at the hem of his T-shirt.

Sometimes I see him as just another person, and sometimes I feel the sight of him in my gut, like a deep ache.

“You’re going to want to march into breakfast tomorrow and show your attackers they had no effect on you,” he adds, “but you should let that bruise on your cheek show, and keep your head down. ”

The idea nauseates me.

“I don’t think I can do that,” I say hollowly. I lift my eyes to his.

“You have to. ”

“I don’t think you get it. ” Heat rises into my face. “They touched me. ”

His entire body tightens at my words, his hand clenching around the ice pack. “Touched you,” he repeats, his dark eyes cold.

“Not…in the way you’re thinking. ” I clear my throat. I didn’t realize when I said it how awkward it would be to talk about. “But…almost. ”

I look away.

He is silent and still for so long that eventually, I have to say something.

“What is it?”

“I don’t want to say this,” he says, “but I feel like I have to. It is more important for you to be safe than right, for the time being. Understand?”

His straight eyebrows are drawn low over his eyes. My stomach writhes, partly because I know he makes a good point but I don’t want to admit it, and partly because I want something I don’t know how to express; I want to press against the space between us until it disappears.

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I nod.

“But please, when you see an opportunity…” He presses his hand to my cheek, cold and strong, and tilts my head up so I have to look at him. His eyes glint. They look almost predatory. “Ruin them. ”

I laugh shakily. “You’re a little scary, Four. ”

“Do me a favor,” he says, “and don’t call me that. ”

“What should I call you, then?”

“Nothing. ” He takes his hand from my face. “Yet. ”

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