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THAT MORNING I wake up to the buzz of an electric razor. Tobias stands in front of the mirror, his head tilted so he can see the corner of his jaw.Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)
I hug my knees, covered by the sheet, and watch him.
“Good morning,” he says. “How did you sleep?”
“Okay. ” I get up, and as he tilts his head back to address his chin with the razor, I wrap my arms around him, pressing my forehead to his back where the Dauntless tattoo peeks out from beneath his shirt.
He sets the razor down and folds his hands over mine. Neither of us breaks the silence. I listen to him breathe, and he strokes my fingers idly, the task at hand forgotten.
“I should go get ready,” I say after a while. I am reluctant to leave, but I am supposed to work in the laundry rooms, and I don’t want the Amity to say I’m not fulfilling my part of the deal they offered us.
“I’ll get you something to wear,” he says.
I walk barefoot down the hallway a few minutes later, wearing the shirt I slept in and a pair of shorts Tobias borrowed from the Amity. When I get back to my bedroom, Peter is standing next to my bed.
Instinct makes me straighten up and search the room for a blunt object.
“Get out,” I say as steadily as I can. But it’s hard to keep my voice from shaking. I can’t help but remember the look in his eyes as he held me over the chasm by my throat or slammed me against the wall in the Dauntless compound.
He turns to look at me. Lately when he looks at me it’s without his usual malice—instead he just seems exhausted, his posture slouched, his wounded arm in a sling. But I am not fooled.
“What are you doing in my room?”
He walks closer to me. “What are you doing stalking Marcus? I saw you after breakfast yesterday. ”
I match his stare with my own. “That’s none of your business. Get out. ”
“I’m here because I don’t know why you get to keep track of that hard drive,” he says. “It’s not like you’re particularly stable these days. ”
“I’m unstable?” I laugh. “I find that a little funny, coming from you. ”
Peter pinches his lips together and says nothing.
I narrow my eyes. “Why are you so interested in the hard drive anyway?”
“I’m not stupid,” he says. “I know it contains more than the simulation data. ”
“No, you aren’t stupid, are you?” I say. “You think if you deliver it to the Erudite, they’ll forgive your indiscretion and let you back in their good graces. ”
“I don’t want to be back in their good graces,” he says, stepping forward again. “If I had, I wouldn’t have helped you in the Dauntless compound. ”
I jab his sternum with my index finger, digging in my fingernail. “You helped me because you didn’t want me to shoot you again. ”
“I may not be an Abnegation-loving faction traitor. ” He seizes my finger. “But no one gets to control me, especially not the Erudite. ”
I yank my hand back, twisting so that he won’t be able to hold on. My hands are sweaty.
“I don’t expect you to understand. ” I wipe my hands on the hem of my shirt as I inch toward the dresser. “I’m sure if it had been Candor and not Abnegation that got attacked, you would have just let your family get shot between the eyes without protest. But I’m not like that. ”
“Careful what you say about my family, Stiff. ” He moves with me, toward the dresser, but I carefully shift so that I stand between him and the drawers. I’m not going to reveal the hard drive’s location by getting it out while he’s in here, but I don’t want to leave the path to it clear, either.Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)
His eyes shift to the dresser behind me, to the left side, where the hard drive is hidden. I frown at him, and then notice something I didn’t before: a rectangular bulge in one of his pockets.
“Give it to me,” I say. “Now. ”
“Give it to me, or so help me, I will kill you in your sleep. ”
He smirks. “If only you could see how ridiculous you look when you threaten people. Like a little girl telling me she’s going to strangle me with her jump rope. ”
I start toward him, and he shifts back, into the hallway.
“Don’t call me ‘little girl. ’”
“I’ll call you whatever I want. ”
I jerk into action, aiming my left fist where I know it will hurt the worst: at the bullet wound in his arm. He dodges the punch, but instead of trying again, I seize his arm as hard as I can and wrench it to the side. Peter screams at the top of his lungs, and while he’s distracted by the pain, I kick him hard in the knee, and he falls to the ground.
People rush into the hallway, wearing gray and black and yellow and red. Peter surges toward me in a half crouch, and punches me in the stomach. I hunch over, but the pain doesn’t stop me—I let out something between a groan and a scream, and launch myself at him, my left elbow pulled back near my mouth so that I can slam it into his face.
One of the Amity grabs me by the arms and half lifts, half pulls me away from Peter. The wound in my shoulder throbs, but I hardly feel it through the pulse of adrenaline. I strain toward him and try to ignore the stunned faces of the Amity and the Abnegation—and Tobias—around me, and the woman kneels next to Peter, whispering words in a soothing tone of voice. I try to ignore his groans of pain and the guilt stabbing at my stomach. I hate him. I don’t care. I hate him.
“Tris, calm down!” Tobias says.
“He has the hard drive!” I yell. “He stole it from me! He has it!”
Tobias walks over to Peter, ignoring the woman crouched beside him, and presses his foot into Peter’s rib cage to keep him in place. He then reaches into Peter’s pocket and takes out the hard drive.
Tobias says to him—very quietly—“We won’t be in a safe house forever, and this wasn’t very smart of you. ” Then he turns toward me and adds, “Not very smart of you, either. Do you want to get us kicked out?”
I scowl. The Amity man with his hand on my arm starts to pull me down the hallway. I try to wrench my body out of his grasp.
“What do you think you’re doing? Let go of me!”
“You violated the terms of our peace agreement,” he says gently. “We must follow protocol. ”
“Just go,” says Tobias. “You need to cool down. ”
I search the faces of the crowd that has gathered. No one argues with Tobias. Their eyes skirt mine. So I allow two Amity men to escort me down the hallway.Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)
“Watch your step,” one of them says. “The floorboards are uneven here. ”
My head pounds, a sign that I am calming down. The graying Amity man opens a door on the left. A label on the door says CONFLICT ROOM.
“Are you putting me in time-out or something?” I scowl. That is something the Amity would do: put me in time-out, and then teach me to do cleansing breaths or think positive thoughts.
The room is so bright I have to squint to see. The opposite wall has large windows that look out over the orchard. Despite this, the room feels small, probably because the ceiling, like the walls and floor, is also covered with wooden boards.
“Please sit,” the older man says, gesturing toward the stool in the middle of the room. It, like all other furniture in the Amity compound, is made of unpolished wood, and looks sturdy, like it is still attached to the earth. I do not sit.
“The fight is over,” I say. “I won’t do it again. Not here. ”
“We have to follow protocol,” the younger man says. “Please sit, and we’ll discuss what happened, and then we’ll let you go. ”
All their voices are so soft. Not hushed, like the Abnegation speak, always treading holy ground and trying not to disturb. Soft, soothing, low—I wonder, then, if that is something they teach their initiates here. How best to speak, move, smile, to encourage peace.
I don’t want to sit down, but I do, perched on the edge of the chair so I can get up fast, if necessary. The younger man stands in front of me. Hinges creak behind me. I look over my shoulder—the older man is fumbling with something on a counter behind me.
“What are you doing?”
“I am making tea,” he says.
“I don’t think tea is really the solution to this. ”
“Then tell us,” the younger man says, drawing my attention back to the windows. He smiles at me. “What do you believe is the solution?”
“Throwing Peter out of this compound. ”
“It seems to me,” the man says gently, “that you are the one who attacked him—indeed, that you are the one who shot him in the arm. ”
“You have no idea what he did to deserve those things. ” My cheeks get hot again and mimic my heartbeat. “He tried to kill me. And someone else—he stabbed someone else in the eye . . . with a butter knife. He is evil. I had every right to—”
I feel a sharp pain in my neck. Dark spots cover the man in front of me, obscuring my view of his face.
“I’m sorry, dear,” he says. “We are just following protocol. ”
The older man is holding a syringe. A few drops of whatever he injected me with are still in it. They are bright green, the color of grass. I blink rapidly, and the dark spots disappear, but the world still swims before me, like I am tilting forward and back in a rocking chair.
“How do you feel?” the younger man says.
“I feel . . . ” Angry, I was about to say. Angry with Peter, angry with the Amity. But that’s not true, is it? I smile. “I feel good. I feel a little like . . . like I’m floating. Or swaying. How do you feel?”
“Dizziness is a side effect of the serum. You may want to rest this afternoon. And I’m feeling well. Thank you for asking,” he says. “You may leave now, if you would like. ”
“Can you tell me where to find Tobias?” I say. When I imagine his face, affection for him bubbles up inside me, and all I want to do is kiss him. “Four, I mean. He’s handsome, isn’t he? I don’t really know why he likes me so much. I’m not very nice, am I?”
“Not most of the time, no,” the man says. “But I think you could be, if you tried. ”
“Thank you,” I say. “That’s nice of you to say. ”
“I think you’ll find him in the orchard,” he says. “I saw him go outside after the fight. ”
I laugh a little. “The fight. What a silly thing . . . ”
And it does seem like a silly thing, slamming your fist into someone else’s body. Like a caress, but too hard. A caress is much nicer. Maybe I should have run my hand along Peter’s arm instead. That would have felt better to both of us. My knuckles wouldn’t ache right now.
I get up and steer myself toward the door. I have to lean against the wall for balance, but it’s sturdy, so I don’t mind. I stumble down the hallway, giggling at my inability to balance. I’m clumsy again, just like I was when I was younger. My mother used to smile at me and say, “Be careful where you put your feet, Beatrice. I don’t want you to hurt yourself. ”
I walk outside and the green on the trees seems greener, so potent I can almost taste it. Maybe I can taste it, and it is like the grass I decided to chew when I was a child just to see what it was like. I almost fall down the stairs because of the swaying and burst into laughter when the grass tickles my bare feet. I wander toward the orchard.
“Four!” I call out. Why am I calling out a number? Oh yes. Because that’s his name. I call out again, “Four! Where are you?”
“Tris?” says a voice from the trees on my right. It almost sounds like the tree is talking to me. I giggle, but of course it’s just Tobias, ducking under a branch.
I run toward him, and the ground lurches to the side, so I almost fall. His hand touches my waist, steadies me. The touch sends a shock through my body, and all my insides burn like his fingers ignited them. I pull closer to him, pressing my body against his, and lift my head to kiss him.
“What did they—” he starts, but I stop him with my lips. He kisses me back, but too quickly, so I sigh heavily.
“That was lame,” I say. “Okay, no it wasn’t, but . . . ”
I stand on my tiptoes to kiss him again, and he presses his finger to my lips to stop me.
“Tris,” he says. “What did they do to you? You’re acting like a lunatic. ”
“That’s not very nice of you to say,” I say. “They put me in a good mood, that’s all. And now I really want to kiss you, so if you could just relax—”
“I’m not going to kiss you. I’m going to figure out what’s going on,” he says.
I pout my lower lip for a second, but then I grin as the pieces come together in my mind.
“That’s why you like me!” I exclaim. “Because you’re not very nice either! It makes so much more sense now. ”
“Come on,” he says. “We’re going to see Johanna. ”
“I like you, too. ”
“That’s encouraging,” he replies flatly. “Come on. Oh, for God’s sake. I’ll just carry you. ”
He swings me into his arms, one arm under my knees and the other around my back. I wrap my arms around his neck and plant a kiss on his cheek. Then I discover that the air feels nice on my feet when I kick them, so I move my feet up and down as he walks us toward the building where Johanna works.
When we reach her office, she is sitting behind a desk with a stack of paper in front of her, chewing on a pencil eraser. She looks up at us, and her mouth drifts open slightly. A hunk of dark hair covers the left side of her face.
“You really shouldn’t cover up your scar,” I say. “You look prettier with your hair out of your face. ”
Tobias sets me down too heavily. The impact is jarring and hurts my shoulder a little, but I like the sound my feet made when they hit the floor. I laugh, but neither Johanna nor Tobias laughs with me. Strange.
“What did you do to her?” Tobias says, terse. “What in God’s name did you do?”
“I . . . ” Johanna frowns at me. “They must have given her too much. She’s very small; they probably didn’t take her height and weight into account. ”
“They must have given her too much of what?” he says.
“You have a nice voice,” I say.
“Tris,” he says, “please be quiet. ”
“The peace serum,” Johanna says. “In small doses, it has a mild, calming effect and improves the mood. The only side effect is some slight dizziness. We administer it to members of our community who have trouble keeping the peace. ”
Tobias snorts. “I’m not an idiot. Every member of your community has trouble keeping the peace, because they’re all human. You probably dump it into the water supply. ”
Johanna does not respond for a few seconds. She folds her hands in front of her.
“Clearly you know that is not the case, or this conflict would not have occurred,” she says. “But whatever we agree to do here, we do together, as a faction. If I could give the serum to everyone in this city, I would. You would certainly not be in the situation you are in now if I had. ”
“Oh, definitely,” he says. “Drugging the entire population is the best solution to our problem. Great plan. ”
“Sarcasm is not kind, Four,” she says gently. “Now, I am sorry about the mistake in giving too much to Tris, I really am. But she violated the terms of our agreement, and I’m afraid that you might not be able to stay here much longer as a result. The conflict between her and the boy—Peter—is not something we can forget. ”
“Don’t worry,” says Tobias. “We intend to leave as soon as humanly possible. ”
“Good,” she says with a small smile. “Peace between Amity and Dauntless can only happen when we maintain our distance from each other. ”
“That explains a lot. ”
“Excuse me?” she says. “What are you insinuating?”
“It explains,” he says, gritting his teeth, “why, under a pretense of neutrality—as if such a thing is possible!—you have left us to die at the hands of the Erudite. ”
Johanna sighs quietly and looks out the window. Beyond it is a small courtyard with vines growing in it. The vines creep onto the window’s corners, like they are trying to come in and join the conversation.
“The Amity wouldn’t do something like that,” I say. “That’s mean. ”
“It is for the sake of peace that we remain uninvolved—” Johanna begins.
“Peace. ” Tobias almost spits the word. “Yes, I’m sure it will be very peaceful when we are all either dead or cowering in submission under the threat of mind control or stuck in an endless simulation. ”
Johanna’s face contorts, and I mimic her, to see what it feels like to have my face that way. It doesn’t feel very good. I’m not sure why she did it to begin with.
She says slowly, “The decision was not mine to make. If it was, perhaps we would be having a different conversation right now. ”
“Are you saying you disagree with them?”
“I am saying,” she says, “that it isn’t my place to disagree with my faction publicly, but I might, in the privacy of my own heart. ”
“Tris and I will be gone in two days,” says Tobias. “I hope your faction doesn’t change their decision to make this compound a safe house. ”
“Our decisions are not easily unmade. What about Peter?”
“You’ll have to deal with him separately,” he says. “Because he won’t be coming with us. ”
Tobias takes my hand, and his skin feels nice against mine, though it’s not smooth or soft. I smile apologetically at Johanna, and her expression remains unchanged.
“Four,” she says. “If you and your friends would like to remain . . . untouched by our serum, you may want to avoid the bread. ”
Tobias says thank you over his shoulder as we make our way down the hallway together, me skipping every other step.
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