To me, at the time, it almost seemed obvious. I thought, since she seemed to understand me better than most people, she might understand that, too. But of course she didn’t. She’s not a mind reader.
“Why?” she says.Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)
“Because … you’re from Abnegation,” I say. “And … it’s when you’re acting selflessly that you are at your bravest. And if I were you, I would do a better job of pretending that selfless impulse is going away, because if the wrong people discover it … well, it won’t be good for you.”
“Why? Why do they care about my intentions?”
“Intentions are the only thing they care about. They try to make you think they care about what you do, but they don’t. They don’t want you to act a certain way, they want you to think a certain way. So you’re easy to understand. So you won’t pose a threat to them.”
I put my hand on the wall near her face and lean into it, thinking of the tattoos forming a line on my back. It wasn’t getting the tattoos that made me a faction traitor. It was what they meant to me—an escape from the narrow thinking of any one faction, the thinking that slices away at all the different parts of me, paring me down to just one version of myself.
“I don’t understand why they care what I think, as long as I’m acting how they want me to,” she says.
“You’re acting how they want you to now, but what happens when your Abnegation-wired brain tells you to do something else, something they don’t want?”
Much as I like him, Zeke is the perfect example. Dauntless-born, Dauntless-raised, Dauntless-chosen. I can count on him to approach everything the same way. He was trained to from birth. To him, there are no other options.
“I might not need you to help me. Ever think about that?” she says. I want to laugh at the question. Of course she doesn’t need me. When was it ever about that? “I’m not weak, you know. I can do this on my own.”
“You think my first instinct is to protect you.” I shift so I’m a little closer to her. “Because you’re small, or a girl, or a Stiff. But you’re wrong.”
Even closer. I touch her chin, and for a moment I think about closing this gap completely.
“My first instinct is to push you until you break, just to see how hard I have to press,” I say, and it’s a strange admission, and a dangerous one. I don’t mean her any harm, and never have, and I hope she knows that’s not what I mean. “But I resist it.”
“Why is that your first instinct?” she says.
“Fear doesn’t shut you down,” I say. “It wakes you up. I’ve seen it. It’s fascinating.” Her eyes in every fear simulation, ice and steel and blue flame. The short, slight girl with the wire-taut arms. A walking contradiction. My hand slips over her jaw, touches her neck. “Sometimes I just want to see it again. Want to see you awake.”
Her hands touch my waist, and she pulls herself against me, or pulls me against her, I can’t tell which. Her hands move over my back, and I want her, in a way I haven’t felt before, not just some kind of mindless physical drive but a real, specific desire. Not for “someone,” just for her.
I touch her back, her hair. It’s enough, for now.
“Should I be crying?” she asks, and it takes me a second to realize she’s talking about Al again. Good, because if this embrace made her want to cry, I would have to admit to knowing absolutely nothing about romance. Which might be true anyway. “Is there something wrong with me?”
“You think I know anything about tears?” Mine come without prompting and disappear a few seconds later.
“If I had forgiven him … do you think he would be alive now?”
“I don’t know.” I set my hand on her cheek, my fingers stretching back to her ear. She really is small. I don’t mind it.
“I feel like it’s my fault,” she says.
So do I.
“It isn’t your fault.” I bring my forehead to hers. Her breaths are warm against my face. I was right, this is better than keeping my distance, this is much better.
“But I should have. I should have forgiven him.”
“Maybe. Maybe there’s more we all could have done,” I say, and then I spit out an Abnegationplatitude without thinking. “But we just have to let the guilt remind us to do better next time.”
She pulls away immediately, and I feel that familiar impulse, to be mean to her so she forgets what I said, so she doesn’t ask me any questions.Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)
“What faction did you come from, Four?”
I think you know. “It doesn’t matter. This is where I am now. Something you would do well to remember for yourself.”
I don’t want to be close to her anymore; it’s all I want to do.
I want to kiss her; now is not the time.
I touch my lips to her forehead, and neither of us moves. No turning back now, not for me.
Something she said sticks with me all day. This would never have happened in Abnegation.
At first I find myself thinking, She just doesn’t know what they’re really like.
But I’m wrong, and she’s right. Al would not have died in Abnegation, and he would not have attacked her there, either. They may not be as purely good as I once believed—or wanted to believe—but they certainly aren’t evil, either.
I see the map of the Abnegation sector, the one I found on Max’s computer, printed on my eyelids when I close my eyes. If I warn them, if I don’t, I’m a traitor either way, to one thing or another. So if loyalty is impossible, what do I strive for instead?
It takes me a while to figure out a plan, how to go about this. If she was a normal Dauntless girl and I was a normal Dauntless boy, I would ask her on a date and we would make out by the chasm and I might show off my knowledge of Dauntless headquarters. But that feels too ordinary, after the things we’ve said to each other, after I’ve seen into the darkest parts of her mind.
Maybe that’s the problem—it’s all one-sided right now, because I know her, I know what she’s afraid of and what she loves and what she hates, but all she knows about me is what I’ve told her. And what I’ve told her is so vague as to be negligible, because I have a problem with specificity.
After that I know what to do, it’s just the doing it that’s the problem.
I turn on the computer in the fear landscape room and set it to follow my program. I get two syringes of simulation serum from the storeroom, and put them in the little black box I have for this purpose. Then I set out for the transfer dormitory, not sure how I’ll get her alone long enough to ask her to come with me.
But then I see her with Will and Christina, standing by the railing, and I should call her name and ask her, but I can’t do it. Am I crazy, thinking of letting her into my head? Letting her see Marcus, learn my name, know everything I’ve tried so hard to keep hidden?
I start up the paths of the Pit again, my stomach churning. I reach the lobby, and the city lightsare starting to go out all around us. I hear her footsteps on the stairs. She came after me.
I turn the black box in my hand.
“Since you’re here,” I say, like it’s casual, which is ridiculous, “you might as well go in with me.”
“Into your fear landscape?”Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)
“I can do that?”
“The serum connects you to the program, but the program determines whose landscape you go through. And right now, it’s set to put us through mine.”
“You would let me see that?”
I can’t quite look at her. “Why else do you think I’m going in?” My stomach hurts even worse. “There are some things I want to show you.”
I open the box and take out the first syringe. She tilts her head, and I inject the serum, just like we always do during fear simulations. But instead of injecting myself with the other syringe, I offer her the box. This is supposed to be my way of evening things out, after all.
“I’ve never done this before,” she says.
“Right here.” I touch the place. She shakes a little as she inserts the needle, and the deep ache is familiar, but it no longer bothers me. I’ve done this too many times. I watch her face. No turning back, no turning back. Time to see what we’re both made of.
I take her hand, or maybe she takes mine, and we walk into the fear landscape room together.
“See if you can figure out why they call me Four.”
The door closes behind us, and the room is black. She moves closer to me and says, “What’s your real name?”
“See if you can figure that out, too.”
The simulation begins.
The room opens up to a wide blue sky, and we are on the roof of the building, surrounded by the city, sparkling in the sun. It’s beautiful for just a moment before the wind starts, fierce and powerful, and I put my arm around her because I know she’s steadier than I am, in this place.
I’m having trouble breathing, which is normal for me, here. I find the rush of air suffocating, and the height makes me want to curl into a ball and hide.
“We have to jump off, right?” she says, and I remember that I can’t curl into a ball and hide; I have to face this now.
“On three, okay?”
I nod again. All I have to do is follow her, that’s all I have to do.
She counts to three and drags me behind her as she runs, like she’s a sailboat and I’m an anchor, pulling us both down. We fall and I struggle against the sensation with every inch of me, terror shrieking in every nerve, and then I’m on the ground, clutching my chest.
She helps me to my feet. I feel stupid, remembering how she scaled that Ferris wheel with no hesitation.
I want to tell her it’s not a game; my fears aren’t thrilling rides she gets to go on. But she probably doesn’t mean it that way.
The wall comes from nowhere, slamming into her back, my back, both our sides. Forcing us together, closer than we’ve ever been before.
“Confinement,” I say, and it’s worse than usual with her in here, taking up half the air. I groan a little, hunching over her. I hate it in here. I hate it in here.
“Hey,” she says. “It’s okay. Here—”
She pulls my arm around her. I’ve always thought of her as spare, not an ounce of extra anything on her. But her waist is soft.
“This is the first time I’m happy I’m so small,” she says.
She’s talking about how to get out. Fear-landscape strategy. I am trying to focus on breathing. Then she pulls us both down, to make the box smaller, and turns so her back is against my chest, so I’m completely wrapped around her.
“This is worse,” I say, because with my nervousness about the box and my nervousness about touching her combined, I can’t even think straight. “This is definitely …”
“Shh. Arms around me.”
I wrap my arms around her waist, and bury my face in her shoulder. She smells like Dauntless soap, and sweet, like apple.
I’m forgetting where I am.
She’s talking about the fear landscape again, and I’m listening, but I’m also focused on how she feels.
“So try to forget we’re here,” she finishes.
“Yeah?” I put my mouth right up against her ear, on purpose this time, to keep the distraction going, but also because I get the feeling I’m not the only one who’s distracted. “That easy, huh?”
“You know, most boys would enjoy being trapped in close quarters with a girl.”
“Not claustrophobic people, Tris!”
“Okay, okay.” She guides my hand to her chest, right under where her collarbone dips. All I can think about is what I want, which has nothing to do with getting out of this box, suddenly. “Feel my heartbeat. Can you feel it?”
“Feel how steady it is?”
I smile into her shoulder. “It’s fast.”
“Yes, well, that has nothing to do with the box.” Of course it doesn’t. “Every time you feel me breathe, you breathe. Focus on that.”
We breathe together, once, twice.
“Why don’t you tell me where this fear comes from. Maybe talking about it will help us somehow.”
I feel like this fear should have vanished already, but what she’s doing is keeping me at a steady level of heightened uneasiness, not taking my fear away completely. I try to focus on where this box comes from.
“Um … okay.” Okay, just do it, just say something real. “This one is from my … fantastic childhood. Childhood punishments. The tiny closet upstairs.”
Shut in the dark to think about what I did. It was better than other punishments, but sometimes I was in there for too long, desperate for fresh air.
“My mother kept our winter coats in our closet,” she says, and it’s a silly thing to say after what I just told her, but I can tell she doesn’t know what else to do.
“I don’t really want to talk about it anymore,” I say with a gasp. She doesn’t know what to say because no one could possibly know what to say, because my childhood pain is too pathetic for anyone else to handle—my heart rate spikes again.
“Okay. Then … I can talk. Ask me something.”
I lift my head. It was working before, focusing on her. Her racing heart, her body against mine. Two strong skeletons wrapped in muscle, tangled together; two Abnegation transfers working on leaving tentative flirtation behind. “Why is your heart racing, Tris?”
“Well, I … I barely know you.” I can picture her scowling. “I barely know you and I’m crammed up against you in a box, Four, what do you think?”
“If we were in your fear landscape …” I say. “Would I be in it?”
“I’m not afraid of you.”
“Of course you’re not. That’s not what I meant.” I meant not Are you afraid of me? but Am I important enough to you to feature in the landscape anyway?
Probably not. She’s right, she hardly knows me. But still: Her heart is racing.
I laugh, and the walls break as if my laugh shook them and broke them, and the air opens up around us. I swallow a deep breath of it, and we peel away from each other. She looks at me, suspicious.
“Maybe you were cut out for Candor, because you’re a terrible liar,” I say.
“I think my aptitude test ruled that one out pretty well.”
“The aptitude test tells you nothing.”
“What are you trying to tell me? Your test isn’t the reason you ended up Dauntless?”
I shrug. “Not exactly, no. I …”
I see something out of the corner of my eye, and turn to face it. A plain-faced, forgettable woman stands alone at the other end of the room. Between her and us is a table with a gun on it.
“You have to kill her,” Tris says.
“She isn’t real.”
“She looks real. It feels real.”
“If she was real, she would have killed you already.”
“It’s okay. I’ll just … do it.” I start toward the table. “This one’s not so bad. Not as much panic involved.”
Panic and terror aren’t the only kinds of fear. There are deeper kinds, more terrible kinds. Apprehension and heavy, heavy dread.
I load the gun without thinking about it, hold it out in front of me, and look at her face. She’s blank, like she knows what I’m going to do and accepts it.
She’s not dressed in the clothes of any faction, but she might as well be Abnegation, standing there waiting for me to hurt her, the way they would. The way they will, if Max and Jeanine and Evelyn all get their way.
I close one eye, to focus on my target, and fire.
She falls, and I think of punching Drew until he was almost unconscious.
Tris’s hand closes around my arm. “Come on. Keep moving.”
We walk past the table, and I shudder with fear. Waiting for this last obstacle might be a fear in itself.
“Here we go,” I say.
Creeping into the circle of light we now occupy is a dark figure, pacing so just the edge of his shoe is visible. Then he steps toward us, Marcus with his black-pit eyes and his gray clothes and his close-cut hair, showing off the contours of his skull.
“Marcus,” she whispers.
I watch him. Waiting for the first blow to fall. “Here’s the part where you figure out my name.”
“Is he …” She knows, now. She’ll know forever; I can’t make her forget it if I wanted to. “Tobias.”
It’s been so long since someone said my name that way, like it was a revelation and not a threat.
Marcus unwinds a belt from his fist.
“This is for your own good,” he says, and I want to scream.
He multiplies immediately, surrounding us, the belts dragging on white tile. I curl into myself, hunching my back, waiting, waiting. The belt pulls back and I flinch before it hits, but then it doesn’t.
Tris stands in front of me, her arm up, tense from head to toe. She grits her teeth as the belt wraps around her arm, and then she pulls it free, and lashes out. The movement is so powerful I’m amazed by how strong it looks, by how hard the belt slaps Marcus’s skin.
He lunges at Tris, and I step in front of her. I’m ready this time, ready to fight back.
But the moment never comes. The lights lift and the fear landscape is over.
“That’s it?” she says as I watch the place where Marcus stood. “Those were your worst fears? Why do you only have four … oh.”
She looks at me.
“That’s why they call you …”
I was afraid that if she knew about Marcus, she would look at me with pity, and she would make me feel weak, and small, and empty.
But she saw Marcus and she looked at him, with anger and without fear. She made me feel, not weak, but powerful. Strong enough to fight back.
I tug her toward me by her elbow, and kiss her cheek, slowly, letting her skin burn into mine. I hold her tightly, slouching into her.
“Hey.” She sighs. “We got through it.”
I put my fingers through her hair.
“You got me through it,” I say.
I take her to the rocks that Zeke, Shauna, and I go to sometimes, late at night. Tris and I sit on a flat stone suspended over the water, and the spray soaks my shoes, but it’s not so cold that I mind. Like all initiates, she’s too focused on the aptitude test, and I’m struggling with talking to her about it. I thought that when I spilled one secret, the rest would come tumbling after, but openness is a habit you form over time, and not a switch you flip whenever you want to, I’m finding.
“These are things I don’t tell people, you know. Not even my friends.” I watch the dark, murky water and the things it carries—pieces of trash, discarded clothing, floating bottles like small boats setting out on a journey. “My result was as expected. Abnegation.”
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