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AFTER BREAKFAST, I tell Tobias I’m going for a walk, but instead I follow Marcus. I expect him to walk to the guests’ dormitory, but he crosses the field behind the dining hall and walks into the water-filtration building. I hesitate on the bottom step. Do I really want to do this?
I walk up the steps and through the door that Marcus just closed behind him.
The filtration building is small, just one room with a few huge machines in it. As far as I can tell, some of the machines take in dirty water from the rest of the compound, a few of them purify it, others test it, and the last set pumps clean water back out to the compound. The piping systems are all buried except one, which runs along the ground to send water to the power plant, near the fence. The plant provides power to the entire city, using a combination of wind, water, and solar energy.
Marcus stands near the machines that filter the water. There the pipes are transparent. I can see brown-tinged water rushing through one pipe, disappearing into the machine, and emerging clear. Both of us watch the purification happen, and I wonder if he is thinking what I am: that it would be nice if life worked this way, stripping the dirt from our lives and sending us out into the world clean. But some dirt is destined to linger.
I stare at the back of Marcus’s head. I have to do this now.
“I heard you, the other day,” I blurt out.
Marcus whips his head around. “What are you doing, Beatrice?”
“I followed you here. ” I fold my arms over my chest. “I heard you talking to Johanna about what motivated Jeanine’s attack on Abnegation. ”
“Did the Dauntless teach you that it’s all right to invade another person’s privacy, or did you teach yourself?”
“I’m a naturally curious person. Don’t change the subject. ”
Marcus’s forehead is creased, especially between the eyebrows, and there are deep lines next to his mouth. He looks like a man who has spent most of his life frowning. He might have been handsome when he was younger—perhaps he still is, to women his age, like Johanna—but all I see when I look at him are the black-pit eyes from Tobias’s fear landscape.
“If you heard me talking to Johanna, then you know that I didn’t even tell her about this. So what makes you think that I would share the information with you?”
I don’t have an answer at first. But then it comes to me.
“My father,” I say. “My father is dead. ” It’s the first time I’ve said it since I told Tobias, on the train ride over, that my parents died for me. “Died” was just a fact to me then, detached from emotion. But “dead,” mingling with the churning and bubbling noises in this room, strikes a blow like a hammer to my chest, and the monster of grief awakens, clawing at my eyes and throat.
I force myself to continue.
“He may not have actually died for whatever information you were referring to,” I say. “But I want to know if it was something he risked his life for. ”
Marcus’s mouth twitches.
“Yes,” he says. “It was. ”
My eyes fill with tears. I blink them away.
“Well,” I say, almost choking, “then what on earth was it? Was it something you were trying to protect? Or steal? Or what?”
“It was . . . ” Marcus shakes his head. “I’m not going to tell you that. ”
I step toward him. “But you want it back. And Jeanine has it. ”
Marcus is a good liar—or at least, someone who is skilled at hiding secrets. He does not react. I wish I could see like Johanna sees, like the Candor see—I wish I could read his expression. He could be close to telling me the truth. If I press just hard enough, maybe he’ll crack.
“I could help you,” I say.
Marcus’s upper lip curls. “You have no idea how ridiculous that sounds. ” He spits the words at me. “You may have succeeded in shutting down the attack simulation, girl, but it was by luck alone, not skill. I would die of shock if you managed to do anything useful again for a long time. ”
This is the Marcus that Tobias knows. The one who knows right where to hit to cause the most damage.
My body shudders with anger. “Tobias is right about you,” I say. “You’re nothing but an arrogant, lying piece of garbage. ”
“He said that, did he?” Marcus raises his eyebrows.
“No,” I say. “He doesn’t mention you enough to say anything like that. I figured it out all on my own. ” I clench my teeth. “You’re almost nothing to him, you know. And as time goes on, you become less and less. ”
Marcus doesn’t answer me. He turns back to the water purifier. I stand for a moment in my triumph, the sound of rushing water combining with the heartbeat in my ears. Then I leave the building, and it isn’t until I’m halfway across the field that I realize I didn’t win. Marcus did.
Whatever the truth is, I’ll have to get it from somewhere else, because I won’t be asking him again.
That night I dream that I am in a field, and I encounter a flock of crows clustered on the ground. When I swat a few of them away, I realize that they are perched on top of a man, pecking at his clothes, which are Abnegation gray. Without warning, they take flight, and I realize that the man is Will.
Then I wake up.
I turn my face into the pillow and release, instead of his name, a sob that throws my body against the mattress. I feel the monster of grief again, writhing in the empty space where my heart and stomach used to be.
I gasp, pressing both palms to my chest. Now the monstrous thing has its claws around my throat, squeezing my airway. I twist and put my head between my knees, breathing until the strangled feeling leaves me.
Even though the air is warm, I shiver. I get out of bed and creep down the hallway toward Tobias’s room. My bare legs almost glow in the dark. His door creaks when I pull it open, loud enough to wake him. He stares at me for a second.
“C’mere,” he says, sluggish from sleep. He shifts back on the bed to leave space for me.
I should have thought this through. I sleep in a long T-shirt one of the Amity lent me. It comes down just past my butt, and I didn’t think to put on a pair of shorts before I came here. Tobias’s eyes skim my bare legs, making my face warm. I lie down, facing him.
“Bad dream?” he says.
I shake my head. I can’t tell him that I’m having nightmares about Will, or I would have to explain why. What would he think of me, if he knew what I had done? How would he look at me?
He keeps his hand on my cheek, moving his thumb over my cheekbone idly.
“We’re all right, you know,” he says. “You and me. Okay?”
My chest aches, and I nod.
“Nothing else is all right. ” His whisper tickles my cheek. “But we are. ”
“Tobias,” I say. But whatever I was about to say gets lost in my head, and I press my mouth to his, because I know that kissing him will distract me from everything.
He kisses me back. His hand starts on my cheek, and then brushes over my side, fitting to the bend in my waist, curving over my hip, sliding to my bare leg, making me shiver. I press closer to him and wrap my leg around him. My head buzzes with nervousness, but the rest of me seems to know exactly what it’s doing, because it all pulses to the same rhythm, all wants the same thing: to escape itself and become a part of him instead.
His mouth moves against mine, and his hand slips under the hem of the T-shirt, and I don’t stop him, though I know I should. Instead a faint sigh escapes me, and heat rushes into my cheeks, embarrassment. Either he didn’t hear me or he didn’t care, because he presses his palm to my lower back, presses me closer. His fingers move slowly up my back, tracing my spine. My shirt creeps up my body, and I don’t pull it down, even when I feel cool air on my stomach.
He kisses my neck, and I grab his shoulder to steady myself, gathering his shirt into my fist. His hand reaches the top of my back and curls around my neck. My shirt is twisted around his arm, and our kisses become desperate. I know my hands are shaking from all the nervous energy inside me, so I tighten my grip on his shoulder so he won’t notice.
Then his fingers brush the bandage on my shoulder, and a dart of pain goes through me. It didn’t hurt much, but it brings me back to reality. I can’t be with him in that way if one of my reasons for wanting it is to distract myself from grief.
I lean back and carefully pull the hem of my shirt down so it covers me again. For a second we just lie there, our heavy breaths mixing. I don’t mean to cry—now is not a good time to cry; no, it has to stop—but I can’t get the tears out of my eyes, no matter how many times I blink.
“Sorry,” I say.
He says almost sternly, “Don’t apologize. ” He brushes the tears from my cheeks.
I know that I am birdlike, made narrow and small as if for taking flight, built straight-waisted and fragile. But when he touches me like he can’t bear to take his hand away, I don’t wish I was any different.
“I don’t mean to be such a mess,” I say, my voice cracking. “I just feel so . . . ” I shake my head.
“It’s wrong,” he says. “It doesn’t matter if your parents are in a better place—they aren’t here with you, and that’s wrong, Tris. It shouldn’t have happened. It shouldn’t have happened to you. And anyone who tells you it’s okay is a liar. ”
A sob racks my body again, and he wraps his arms around me so tightly I find it difficult to breathe, but it doesn’t matter. My dignified weeping gives way to full-on ugliness, my mouth open and my face contorted and sounds like a dying animal coming from my throat. If this continues I will break apart, and maybe that would be better, maybe it would be better to shatter and bear nothing.
He doesn’t speak for a long time, until I am quiet again.
“Sleep,” he says. “I’ll fight the bad dreams off if they come to get you. ”
“My bare hands, obviously. ”
I wrap my arm around his waist and take a deep breath of his shoulder. He smells like sweat and fresh air and mint, from the salve he sometimes uses to relax his sore muscles. He smells safe, too, like sunlit walks in the orchard and silent breakfasts in the dining hall. And in the moments before I drift off to sleep, I almost forget about our war-torn city and all the conflict that will come to find us soon, if we don’t find it first.
In the moments before I drift off to sleep, I hear him whisper, “I love you, Tris. ”
And maybe I would say it back, but I am too far gone.