No Such Thing As Heroes
That night I tossed and turned as a million thoughts whirled in my head. What had happened today? It didn't quite seem real, and how could it? I had been kicked off the chasm and then kissed by the same person. My fingers gently grazed over my still swollen lips, causing my heart to do a weird thump that I would have assumed was me dying if it hadn't already done it earlier.
My face burned red with the thought. Stop it! I tell myself sternly. You cannot, WILL not, allow yourself to feel absolutely anything for him except hatred. That monster of a man, who allowed you to be beaten to a pulp, found amusement in it even. Who kicked you off of the chasm, tortured you every chance he could get and for what? The satisfaction of successfully being an asshole to everyone in Dauntless?
No. No, there were no feelings involved in that kiss, only shock and uncertainty. Although, I do wonder if his mind is racing just the same? And why he did it in the first place? I could ask myself a million of these questions but the truth is just the same. He doesn't care enough about anything but power and respect, let alone some kiss that was just undoubtedly another cruel, sadistic scheme, to make me obey his every whim, just as the others do. And tomorrow? Tomorrow would be no different than the rest.
As soon as sleep overtakes me, I am jolted awake by the cringing sound of metal hitting metal. I squint open an eye to see what the commotion is about and see a dozen flashlights piercing the darkness of the room. I make out a tall, broad silhouette who I recognize as Four, the rest are other Dauntless who I've seen maybe once or twice before.
"Everybody up!" Four says in an almost amused tone.
I grumble and sit up slightly, just enough to seem like I'm following orders.
"It's one in the morning!" Peter protests as he fumbles out of his bed.
"Glad you can tell time." Four says with a sarcastic smirk.
I think I see his eyes flutter in Tris' direction but they are back scanning the room in an instant, and I put it off as my imagination, that and the fact I still only have one eye open.
"Be ready in five and meet me at the tracks. We're going on a little field trip."
I let out an irritated growl and begrudgingly roll out of bed. I'm still wearing my clothes from the day before and honestly don't feel like changing, nor do I really care. So I throw my hair up into a messy, red heap, and groggily wait for Christina and Tris to follow suite. When they are fully clothed and ready, we head up the narrow paths of the pit towards the train.
When we arrive at the tracks Eric and Four are standing beside two large boxes.
"Everyone, grab a gun and a box of ammunition." Four says pointing to the boxes.
I grab one of the guns out of the box and inspect it. It is long and slender and light weight in my hands, not at all like the guns we used in training. I sling its strap over my shoulder, and shove a box of ammunition into one of my pockets.
"Do you think these hurt?" Asks Christina inspecting a box of ammunition that reads, "Paintballs."
"Well," Begins Will. "Given the velocity in which the gun will be propelling it, I believe it will hurt, but taking account its spherical shape and low density, it most likely will only sting, just for a few minutes."
"Thank you, Professor Will." Christina says, rolling her eyes.
"Enough chit-chat." Eric growls, not once looking in my direction.
"The time?" He says to Four.
"Any minute now. How long is it going to take you to memorize the train schedule?"
"Why should I, when I have you to remember it for me?" He says, purposefully knocking into Four's shoulder as he walks past him.
"Is it just me or is Eric grumpier than usual?" Asks Tris who comes to stand beside me. She was right, he was grumpier than usual, and I knew why. But I couldn't really tell her that. Instead, I shrug my shoulders and say,
"Guess he doesn't like to be woken up in the middle of the night either. You know, miss out on any of his beauty sleep."
Tris lets out a giggle and I see Eric's jaw tighten slightly. Oh god, he must have heard me. But to my surprise he doesn't do anything, he just stands there in front of the tracks, without making a sound. Anger bubbles in my stomach. How dare he ignore me like I've done something wrong when I've done nothing. He's the one who kicked me off the chasm, and he's the one who KISSED me!
I clinch my jaw and contemplate walking over there and slapping him in his face, but the tracks suddenly begin to vibrate, and a sliver of light shines in the distance.
"Get ready." Says Four. "The train is coming."
Four is the first to get on and Tris isn't far behind him. Maybe I wasn't seeing things earlier? I take note and remind myself to ask her about it later.
"We'll be dividing into two teams to play capture the flag." Four finally says after everyone is on.
"Each team will have an even mix of members, Dauntless-born initiates, and transfers. One team will get off first and find a place to hide their flag. Then the second team will get off and do the same. This is a Dauntless tradition, so I suggest you take it seriously."
"Four and I will be your team captains," Eric says nodding at Four. "Let's divide up transfers first, shall we?"
"You can go first." Four says nonchalantly.
Eric looks around the cart quickly and shrugs,
Next is Four's turn, who looks at his feet, his brow furrowed as if really thinking about his next move.
"I'll take the Stiff." He finally says in an almost bored tone, and somehow I know he's not talking about me, so does Tris, who goes to stand by Four almost immediately.
I know something has to be going on between the two, that's obvious now. I definitely need to remember to ask her about it later. It's Eric's turn again who scans the cart, his eyes purposely skipping over me every time. Finally, after a long pause he lets out an almost frustrated sigh and says with a clenched jaw,
I won't lie, I was a little surprised given the whole cold shoulder he was giving me, and even more surprised that he actually used my name. That made twice already, which I was not keeping track of by the way. But despite my surprise, his face stayed cold and expressionless, and still not once looking my way.
To my dismay I'm stuck on a team of people who hate me, with the exception of Al and Edward, and a few of the dauntless born, I had the great pleasure of trying to work with Eric, Molly, Peter, and Drew. Although, to be honest I would rather work with a million Peter, Molly, and Drew's than have to deal with Eric.
"Hey babe, the whole messy look suites you." Peter says walking by me with a wink as the rest of the team jump off the train.
I take it back, maybe I would rather deal with Eric. I roll my eyes and catch up to him at the front of the group.
"Where are we going, and what's our strategy?" I ask as nonchalantly as possible.
Eric lets out an irritated sigh and points to a large open space at the end of a pier surrounded by trees.
"Over there. It's open enough to be able to see who's coming and the trees provide enough cover, making it hard to see from a distance."
I nod in agreement. "And our strategy?" I ask.
"That, is for you all to decided." He hisses in annoyance.
Eric stops in front of a large tree just at the edge of the pier, and tosses the flag into the top of it. It catches on a branch for a few seconds, only to tumble to the ground when the branch snaps. I sigh and grab the flag, tucking it in my back pocket while I try to find some footing on the tree.
"What are you doing?" Molly hisses as the other initiates gather around.
"I don't know genius, what does it look like I'm doing?" I growl back.
We didn't have time for her or anyone else's stupidity. Molly let out a snort that closely resembled the sound I've read wild boar make when threatened.
"Hurry," Eric grumbles. "We don't have all day."
I huff at his words. No, never would I get a "good job Ava, nice thinking." No instead I get a, "This was my plan all along, not throwing it up in the tree and hoping it stayed." I shake the distractions out of my head and carefully climb up the tree trunk. The bark was slick, most likely from the dew that had been collecting everywhere, but I was able to maintain my footing all the way to the top, and gently hung the flag tightly on a sturdy branch.
"Everything good up there?" I hear Al call out.
"Yeah, coming back down now." I call back.
Suddenly something catches my eye in the distance. It started out as a slight pulse but as I looked harder I could make out the glowing outline of the other teams flag fixated in the middle of an old carousal.
"You guys!" I say, excitement bubbling in my stomach, as I shimmy down the tree as fast as I can, but the bark is slick and halfway down I lose my footing and begin plummeting to the ground below. I close my eyes waiting for the impact but instead, to my surprise, someone catches me just in time.
I look up to see, of course, Eric, staring unamusingly back at me.
"I'm fine. You can put me down now." I say more harshly than I intended.
Almost immediately Eric lets go of me, sending me straight into the ground with a very painful thump. What. An. Asshole. Al and Edward hurry to my side as I begrudgingly rub my backside.
"Are you ok?" Edward asks laying a gentle hand on my shoulder, and furrowing his brow at Eric, who luckily for Edward, wasn't looking in his direction.
"Yeah." I say, grabbing Al's outstretched hand and steadying myself back on my feet.
"The other team's flag," I say, dusting off my pants. "I saw it. It's on an old carousal just north of here."
"Navy Pier, same place as last year. How creative." Eric says disdain in his voice.
"What's the plan then?" Al asks expectantly. At first I think he is speaking to Eric but then I realize everyone's eyes are on me. I want to tell them they have it all wrong, that I have no idea, but a thought crosses my mind.
"We break up into four teams. One stays here for defense, one goes up the middle, distracting them, while the other two come up the sides. That's the only way we are going to get close enough to do anything."
To my surprise Eric nods in agreement.
"I'll go up the middle with two of the dauntless born." He says, a hint of excitement in his voice as if he believes the plan could really work.
"Molly and Drew go to the left, Al and Edward to the right."
"What about me?" Peter scoffs. "You and Ava will stay here and defend."
"What?!" I say in disbelief. "You want me to stay here with Peter?"
"That's what I said."
"Why? This was my plan! I should be going with the rest of you!"
"No I should!" growls Peter.
"Enough!" hisses Eric. "I said BOTH of you will be defending and I mean it. Now shut up and do your job." He barks, motioning for the rest of the group to move out. Edward gives my shoulder a reassuring squeeze as he walks by me and disappears into the darkness, leaving me alone with Peter. I let out a sigh and rest my back against the tree.
"Well I guess it's just me and you now." Peter grins. "You and me, me and you, alone at last."
I gag as bile rises in my throat. "In your dreams." I hiss.
Peter lets out an eerie laugh as he steps closer to me, his face inches from mine, leaving me no room to escape.
"I think we could make that dream a reality." He says mockingly, as his hand snakes up my side.
"Get away from me." I say through clinched teeth.
"Aw but we could be having so much fun. And the others, well they'll be gone for a while."
Peter's hand finds its way up my shirt and I've had enough. I knee him in the crotch with as much force as I can, causing him to double over in pain. Suddenly rage consumes me and instead of running like I intended to I grab him by his collar and punch him right in the face.
Blood spurts from his nose and he cries out in pain. I let out a satisfied huff and turn on my heels to catch up to the others.
"You bitch." He growls and grabs me by the collar of my shirt, ripping it down the middle, and sending me backwards into the dirt.
I groan in pain and feel the pressure of his body on top of mine. I struggle to get him off of me but he is much stronger than I am. He grabs a fist full of my hair and yanks hard, making my eyes water, and punches me in the face. My head snaps back into the ground and pain shoots through my skull. Suddenly I hear footsteps.
"Hey get off her!" It's Christina.
I hear Peter hiss in pain as he gets pummeled with paint and I give him a good shove as I scramble to my feet. I look up to see Tris coming down from the tree with our flag and I know the game is over.
"You okay?" Tris asks franticly, examining my bloody nose and torn clothing.
"Yeah," I say whipping the blood from my face. "I'm fine."
"What a loser." Christina growls, kicking Peter in the side as he lies on the ground clutching his paint splattered stomach. The shouts of triumph echo around me as the rest of Four's team rumbles in. I subconsciously scan the crowd for Eric, and catch his cold eyes staring daggers in me. It would be no surprise if he blamed our loss on me, in fact I'm almost certain he does.
I clench my arms around my torso tightly, protecting my exposed abdomen from the cool breeze and feel a hand on my shoulder. I flinch, only to see Edward beside me.
"Are you okay?" He asks, his eyes filled with concern.
"Yeah, I will be whenever we get back."
Saying his name leaves a fowl taste in my mouth and I scrunch my nose. Edward's eyes cloud with a darkness that I had never seen in them before. Is Edward being protective over me? Does Edward like me? No. I think to myself shaking my head, he is just being a friend. We had bonded over our unwillful fight and that was it.
"I'm okay Edward." I say softly, patting him on the shoulder. Edward shakes the expression off his face and smiles.
"Well here." He says handing me his jacket. "You probably need this more than I do."
I nod in gratitude and drape it over my shoulders. It was still warm from being worn, and I nestle into it some more, trying to escape from the cold air.
When we arrive back at Dauntless it is already time for breakfast. I look around for Tris and the others. Tris is surrounded by the dauntless-born, laughing and joking around. She looks like she is actually having a little fun for once in her life, so I decide not to bother her. I'm glad she is finally starting to fit in somewhere, I smile slightly to myself.
I think about heading back to the dorms to change but I'm starving, so decide to grab a bite to eat first. Suddenly a strong hand grabs me by the arm and spins me around to face them. Eric.
"What do you want?" I sigh, trying to pry his fingers off of my arm.
"What was that today?" He growls, digging his fingers deeper into my flesh.
"What are you talking about?!"
"You know what I'm talking about. We lost today because of you. You didn't want to defend, you couldn't follow orders, yet again! And we lost! What is up with you?"
My body begins to tremble and my vision blurs red with anger.
"We lost because of me?" I say, raising my voice. "No, we lost because Peter attacked me!"
Eric looks at me in confusion and loosens his grip. I snatch my arm away and take off Edward's jacket, revealing my ripped shirt, and exposed abdomen, as if my bruised and bloodied face hadn't already given it away.
"I didn't know." He says hoarsely.
If I didn't know any better I would say he sounded remorseful, sympathetic even, but I knew better than that.
"No, you didn't know, because you were on too big of a power trip to listen to me. So if you want to blame someone for us loosing, blame yourself."
I don't wait for his reaction, I just turn and leave, not wanting to look at him any longer. Whatever feelings I may have had for him after what happened yesterday were gone. He didn't care about me or anything else. All he cared about was power, and nothing else. I head towards the dorms. I've lost my appetite.
I inspect the dorm to make sure I'm alone before grabbing some new clothes from my bag. After today I feel filthy and sore, so I decide to take a shower while no one else is around. I walk into the large open bathroom and look around one last time before taking off my tattered clothing.
I turn on the shower and let the water run for a moment before stepping into its steady stream. The warm water massages my face and soothes the sore bruises beginning to line my nose and jaw. I let the relaxing hum of the water lull me into a trance.
I'm suddenly brought back when I hear a faint sound coming from the dorms and snap my head around to see if anyone had come in. I stand without moving a muscle, my eyes darting back and forth around the empty room. The panic finally fades from my chest and I put it off as my imagination and begin showering once more.
Without any warning, something heavy comes hurtling into me sending me crashing into the hard, tiled wall in front of me. My head cracks into it and I lose my footing on the slick, wet tile. On my way down I reach out for something, anything, to steady myself before I hit the rigid floor, but I only manage to wrap my fingers around the knob of the shower, turning the hot water into a scalding blast.
I let out an agonizing cry as the steaming water hits me in the face, and I fall onto the hard floor. I manage to roll onto my side, out of the way of the shower, only to be dragged into the middle of the room by my leg. I try to kick my leg free from whoever it was but instead I get a sickening kick to the rib cage and double over as the pain shoots through my abdomen.
A pair of hands wrap around my wrists and pin them to the ground. My eyes finally quite burning long enough to catch a glimpse at my attacker or rather, attackers, and it's no surprise that I see Peter and Drew in front of me.
"Get away from me." I say, my voice quivering.
"Oh no, I think we have some unfinished business now don't we?" Peter grins sadistically.
"No, I don't think you do!" Comes a familiar growl. Eric. I let out a relieved sigh as my wrists are released, and I wrap my arms around my knees, trying to cover myself as best I can. I hear a thump, a kick, a groan, and I know Eric is giving them what they deserve.
My eyes burn as I fight back tears. I felt so weak, so exposed. Suddenly something warm wraps around me and I jerk away instinctively.
"It's okay, you're okay." Eric says in the softest tone I'm sure he's ever used. I let my body relax and cling to the soft fabric Eric placed around me.
"I'm going to pick you up, okay?" Eric says. I nod in agreement and he gently lifts me off the ground holding me tightly into his chest. My body is trembling uncontrollably and my head is pounding as the adrenaline begins to wear off.
"It's okay, I've got you. You're safe now." I somehow find comfort in his words and relax my body as I press my face into his chest. Maybe I was wrong about him after all. Maybe he isn't as bad as he leads on.
I open my eyes to a blurred sea of red and the faint sound of running water. My head, face, and ribs throb and I know I shouldn't move. When my vision clears I begin to make out the outlines of the mahogany walls and objects around me, and I know I'm in someone's room.
I look down at the strange, yet extraordinarily comfortable bed. Where was I? Suddenly the water shuts off and the door opens, revealing a very half naked Eric.
"You're up." He smiles drying the remaining droplets of water off of his toned chest. I feel my face turn a deep red and try to look anywhere but his direction.
"What happened?" I say in a shaky tone, trying to make some sort of conversation to ease my embarrassment. Eric's body grew still.
"Peter and Drew," He growled, the softness no longer evident in his voice. "They attacked you in the showers."
The realization hits me and I pull the blankets over my bare shoulders. Eric looks away and walks to a closet, shifts through some clothes, and pulls out a black t-shirt.
"I left you how you were because I thought me dressing you would make you uncomfortable." He says, pulling the shirt over his head. "I brought some of your clothes."
He points to a pile of neatly folded clothes at the end of the bed.
"Thank you." I say hoarsely. Eric stares at me for a moment, an unreadable expression on his face, as if he was contemplating something but decides against it, and gives a nod instead.
"I'll be outside if you need me. I let Four know so you can stay here as long as you like until you feel better."
I nod in confirmation and he walks out of the room, shutting the door behind him. I shuffle to the pile of clothes and sift through them, two shirts, a pair of paints, a bra and a pair of underwear. I smile in amusement at the thought of how uncomfortable Eric must have been picking these out, and quickly throw them on.
When I'm done I find Eric in the living room lying on the couch with his eyes closed. I stop and take in the way he looks, so peaceful, so unlike himself, before I gently tap him on the shoulder. His eyes slowly open and for some reason I can't pull away from his gaze.
"They didn't get away with it you know." He finally says in almost a whisper. My mind races at the thought of what Eric could have done to them, but I know no matter what it was, Eric made them pay, and that's all that matters to me.
"I know." I say.
Eric finally breaks our gaze as he sits up and pats the couch, instructing for me to sit down. For once I listen, and take a seat beside him. There’s a long, awkward silence between us, and I fidget my hands nervously. Eric reaches over and lays his hand gently over mine, the sudden contact causing my heart to thump erratically in my chest.
“You don’t have to be nervous.” He says, before awkwardly removing his hand.
His words only made me more nervous, I had no clue what to think of all this, it wasn’t a few hours ago that he was threatening me, and now all of a sudden he was being gentle and taking care of me. I usually take pride in being able to read someone as soon as I meet them, but Eric, he was a different story, he was erratic and unpredictable, and that scared me.
“Shouldn’t I be?” I finally ask.
Eric lets out a laugh, not at all menacing or sarcastic, but an actual, genuine laugh.
"What? You think I would save you just to get you alone and kill you myself?”
I stare blankly at him for a moment. Was he trying to joke with me?
“Sorry for being cautious, but you’re a ridiculously confusing man.” I state plainly.
“Confusing?” He asks, raising his brows in mock astonishment.
Suddenly a thought crosses my mind and I don't know why I say it but for some reason I do.
"Why did you kiss me?" I say. "The other day, at the chasm."
Eric's body stiffens beside me, all amusement drained from his face. I can tell there is a war going on inside his brain as he chews on his bottom lip intensely. Finally he lets out a sigh.
"It was either that or punch you, because honestly that's how I feel around you most of the time."
His earnesty catches me off guard and I look at him in surprise.
“You feel that way?"
"Yes." He sighs. "It seems like every time I give you an order, you purposely do the exact opposite, and for some unsound reason I don't know whether to punch you or kiss you, because on one hand everyone else is too afraid to be as honest as you are to me, and on the other hand, I'm a dauntless leader and you should be more respectful of my authority, which, you're not."
I stare at the ground intensely as I let his words sink in.
"And what about you." He says. "You could have broken away, ran, but instead you kissed me back. Why?"
I look up at him, his usual cold expressionless face, was now full of an intensity I hadn't quite seen before. He was showing me a part of himself I had never seen him show. Was this the real Eric, or just the vulnerable one?
"I don't know honestly. I mean you had just dangled me and my friend off the chasm so before that moment all I wanted to do was light you on fire, but when you kissed me, it just, I don't know, made me forget why I hated you in the first place."
"I'm not as sadistic as you think you know. I may have some strange methods, but everything I did to you was to make you stronger."
I scoff at his statement. “Yeah well, we can just agree to disagree on that one.”
Eric lets out a sigh. "There are things happening here in Dauntless Ava, things beyond both our knowledge. Everything I've done was to prepare you for what's to come. You're a true Dauntless, I've known that since that first day on the roof top. You belong here Ava, and I'm just trying to make sure of that."
"What things are happening?" I ask curiously.
"Nothing that I could ever tell you." He sighs.
"So, all those things you've said and done, they weren't because you hated me?" I say, and I get the sudden urge to touch him, so I scoot close enough that our bodies are brushing against one another, causing Eric to stiffen at the sudden contact.
"No, I don't hate you, it's the exact opposite actually. But, but I'm not a good guy Ava, and I never will be, I'm not a hero, and I'll never save the day. I'll always be on the opposite side. Just know that." Eric looks down at me, a faint glimpse of sorrow in his eyes, as if the thought saddens him.
"You were my hero, yesterday, with Peter and Drew, you saved me then." I say in a hushed voice.
"That's different." He huffs.
"How?" I ask. "How was that different?"
"Because," He says, frustration growing in his voice. "It was you. It's different with you."
Eric reaches out and gently cups my face in his hand. His touch causes my insides to burn with a sensation I had never felt before. A part of me knew this was wrong, toxic even, after all, he just said himself that he wasn’t a good guy, but I guess the Dauntless in me just doesn’t care.
"Well then, maybe I don't want a hero." I say firmly.
"I'm serious." He says in a low voice.
"Some am I."
And as if that is all Eric needed to hear, he wraps his arms tightly around me and pulls me forcefully into him. His lips collide with mine, the longing and hunger, evident in every touch. I wrap my arms around his neck and run my fingers through his short hair, causing him to let out a throaty growl. His kisses become more desperate, as if they would never be enough, and he gently lays me back onto the couch. I'm sure this moment is a fine line between a dream and reality, but honestly, I really don't care.