Tobias: Before (prologue)
I'm a little boy again.
The walls surge up and close in around me, inching nearer and nearer until I'm practically suffocating.
I place my hands against the surface, trying to get my heart rate under control; trying to steady my breathing and focus on anything that does not involve boxes or closets. When I feel like I'm about to shatter under the weight of the walls, they disappear and in their place falls Marcus.
It's been years since I last saw him, clothed in black as if ready to deliver punishment. But I don't think I'm afraid of him anymore. The little boy he used to beat and bruise has grown up. He has been trained to protect; he has learned and taught himself the things a real father should have. And I think I've done well. I hold out my hand, just as my father releases the whip that latches on to my wrist. I ignore the hot burst of pain that shoots up my arm and pull down forcefully in an abrupt jerk, disarming him. I look him dead in the eye, the fire on my skin somehow rejuvenating; a rush that expands from my fingers and to my toes.
"You can't hurt me anymore," I say.
And then he's gone.
The scene shifts once more, blurring at the edges as it spirals until I am standing in front of a small, sterile-looking room.
Nothing but white stands beyond me. Blank shelves line the walls, full of glass tubes with stagnant liquids inside. The floor beneath is simple tile. The transparent doors are sealed shut. I close my eyes for a second, knowing who I am about to see. This is not the first time I have been here, outside this room, but that doesn't make it any easier to witness or any less bearable to see. It has nearly caused me to stop using the serum. Some reasonable part of my mind tells me that this will do no good and that is serves me nothing beneficial; that it will only cause me further pain. And that is true. But I need to.
It is the only way I'll see her.
And sometimes, I just need to see her.
I open my eyes.
Tris stands before me, her eyes boring into my own, her arms hanging loosely at her sides.
"Tobias," she whispers and I want to run to her, I want to feel her alive and breathing so badly against me that my breath leaves my body in anticipation, but my feet won't move fast enough.
"Tris, wait," I say, trying to force my limbs to move. I'll tear them off if I have to, I just need to get to her. She starts walking backwards and the doors to the sterile room open.
She looks at me with sad, reluctant eyes. "I never wanted to leave you," she says.
"No!" I shout, and my legs are suddenly propelling me forward, but then she slips in between the doors and I reach them just as they slam shut once more. I push against the glass, as if expecting them to open, but I know they will not.
Because they never do.
"Tris!" I slam my arms against the glass, putting all my weight into it, hoping to break it, smash it, I don't care. The doors simply have to open. I stare down at her, wanting her to press a button that will remove the thin piece of glass that separates us, but she just holds her hand up to mine and presses. My mind flashes back to our time in Erudite, as she was being sent to her death, that feeling of helplessness somehow bland in comparison to this. I lie my forehead against the glass.
"Beatrice," I say, "you don't have to do this." But she only nods, a tear spilling over her cheek. "Yes Yes I do, Tobias."
My fist connects with the door. "No! No, you don't. You have a choice. Please, please," I beg.
I beg every time, as if that will change anything. But it won't, I know it won't. Yet still, I beg.
"It's okay," she soothes, her hand reaching up as if she can touch my hair, but then her fingers draw back, caressing the glass instead. "I'm sorry." Her fingers dance over the place above my lips before she removes them and moves back.
"No! Tris, please. Think about this. You don't owe him anything," I yell, hitting the barrier between us again and again, until the flesh over my knuckles is a vibrant red. "You don't owe him anything!"
But then the room blurs, slanting slightly and behind her appears David. Everything in me turns to fire, flaming, scorching; the hate coursing through my veins burns me from the inside out.
He raises a gun.
Like all the times before this, I try to warn her. I start screaming to her, and though she is already looking at me, it's as if I've suddenly gone mute and she can't understand. I pummel my fists into the glass, not even registering the pain as I kick, beat, battle with the doors, screaming for them to open. She needs to hear me. Please, just let her hear me.
But Tris only raises her hand and smiles.
"NO!" I shout.
But then I hear David load the gun.
I see Tris whirl around.
I see David aim as he fingers the trigger.
watch as he