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Candor is the Hardest Part

By Cy16

Romance / Drama

The Secrets She Holds

The wind rippled over the dry grass in waves as we sped down the dirt road. I checked and rechecked the coordinates Alex had scrawled down for me. I had memorized them by heart, whispering them to myself in the dead of night when everyone else was asleep. Everyone except Annie, she lay awake too. Thinking, I suspected, of her family and the war raging around us.

I had done well in staying off the grid for the last three months. Eating and sleeping only at locations outside of Erudite’s control and stealing if I had to. I reached down for the black duffle bag at my feet, running my fingers over the thick fabric as the sound of glass on glass issued faintly through it. I had found the simulation serum in one of Erudite’s largest bases. What I couldn’t carry with me I destroyed, making it look as much like an accident as possible.

I glanced behind me; Annie was leaning out one of the jeep windows, her red hair blowing in the wind. Alex, her older brother, slept next to her his lips parted slightly as he breathed in and out. I glanced at the speedometer which told me we were going well over a hundred. Demetry was driving, his black brows knitted together as he concentrated on the road ahead. He never dropped his guard, even sleeping with a knife under his pillow. I couldn’t blame him though seeing as I slept with a loaded gun one arm’s reach away from me at all times. I had found them by accident as I was sneaking around the ruins of Abnegation looking for any semblance of my old life. Annie had been injured, a gunshot wound to the thigh. I had found her and Alex huddled in a doorway their Amity robes covered in her blood. Alex and I had half dragged Annie to their hideout not far off where Demetry had been waiting. It had taken me a half an hour to dig the bullet out of Annie, a surgeon’s worst nightmare. Somehow though they had appointed me their leader. We were the same age, Demetry was even a year older than me but he still turned to me to make the first move whenever we raided a base or tread on enemy territory. They had learned quickly but I had only been able to teach them so much.

I felt the jeep slowing down before I saw the figures in the road. There were three of them, spread out across our path.

“Well, at least, we know we are headed in the right direction,” Demetry said quietly as he came to a stop.

Two men and a woman stood, arms crossed. They were dressed in plain black and gray clothes and carried machine guns. We were only a couple of miles from where there was thought to be more Factionless and, hopefully, my friends. When I had split off from Tobias and my brother we had never had a meetup location so this was just a hunch.

As I watched, the woman crossed over to my open window as her companions prevented Demetry from going any further.

“Step out of the car, please.” The woman said sharply eyeing me with a piercing gaze.

I did as she asked and stood with my back against the hot metal of the jeep.

“Everyone put your hands where I can see them” she demanded of my crew. Alex was awake and alert now, his hands pressed into the seat in front of him.

“Look—” I started but she stopped me.

“Did I ask you to speak?” She snapped.

I gritted my teeth, I could already tell I didn’t like her.

“Check the car,” She commanded the others. I could hear doors opening as my friends got out.

“Keep your hands up.” One of the male guards grunted at Demetry as he shoved him forward around the car. They pressed a gun into Annie’s back. The image made my blood boil and I blurted out,

“Let me just explain why we are here.”

Instead of striking me as I expected her to the woman walked toward me, stopping with just inches between us.

Even though she was taller than me I stared her down angrily. A vein jumped in her temple and her face hardened.

“No.” was all she said, “you don’t get a say here.”

Where was here, exactly?

“I found something!” one of the guards called out from inside the jeep.

A moment later he emerged with my black bag.

I closed my eyes briefly as dread flooded through me.

The woman knelt on the ground and opened it.

I debated kneeing her in the head but decided against it, we outnumbered them but I was the only one qualified to fight and win.

“Simulation serum,” She said coldly, “don’t let them get away.”

I could hear one of the guards call for backup on what looked like a handmade walky-talky while the other one grabbed me roughly by both arms. Clearly I had already been labeled as the biggest threat.

“Janine thought she could just infiltrate some of her little workers that easily, huh?” The woman sneered, the hot sun glinting off of her black hair. I guessed her to be about thirty with a ruthless personality.

“We aren’t Erudite,” I said quietly.

She laughed a short humorless laugh, “I don’t believe you.”

“She’s telling the truth!” Annie burst out angrily.

The woman crossed to Annie faster than I would have thought possible. I heard the butt of her gun strike Annie’s skull and she crumpled.

“Get away from her!” I yelled as my resolve broke. Without thinking twice I threw my head back and felt it collide with my captures nose. He grunted in pain and loosened his grip on my arms. They tingled as blood rushed through them and I spun around kneeing him in the groin all before she reached me. I blocked her first punch, knocking her gun to the ground but the second caught me in the lip. I felt the skin split as I was pulled to the ground. Both the woman and the second guard slammed me into the dirt making my vision blur momentarily. I heard a shuffle of feet as Alex and Demetry attempted to pull them off me.

“Don’t!” I cried out, “stay there!”

I heard the click of a gun as something cold was pressed hard into my temple.

Dust was beginning to settle in my lungs and my chest tightened. The male guard who had tackled me blocked my view as he leaned over me, holding my hands behind my back.

Just as I was contemplating my next move a new deep voice carried over to us, “What the hell is going on?”

“It’s about time you got here.” The woman snapped. “I caught four Erudite trying to sneak in here. Three of them are nothing to worry about but this one—” she said pushing the barrel harder into my temple, “has some fight in her.”

There was no way I could move, no way I could see anything, but I still dared to hope that my life would not end here on this hot dirt road in the middle of nowhere.

“Why do you think they are from Erudite?” Asked the voice again, it was closer now and relief pumped through me at every syllable.

We had found Tobias after all.

“She had simulation serum.” The woman said.

I had just taken in a small breath to call out to him when he beat me to it.

“Let her up.” He said quickly, his voice a quiet command.

They hesitated.

“I said let her up!”

The woman pulled me roughly up into a sitting position, still keeping a tight hold on me.

I blinked as the sun hit me full in the face.

Tobias stared down at me, his usually stern face flickered with too many emotions as he saw me.

“Some welcoming committee you have here,” I said hoarsely.

“Tris.” He breathed.

He reached down and pulled me to my feet as the other’s scrambled to theirs.

“You know her?” The woman demanded.

Tobias ignored her as he gave me a once over still holding onto my arms.

“I’m okay,” I told him wiping dirt and blood from my face.

“Jesus,” He said his face darkening as he eyed the guards.

He released me and moved passed gingerly. Tobias was slightly shorter than the woman but his anger was more than enough to make up for it.

“You blatantly violated protocol!” He barked stepping closer to her.

Despite their age difference, it was clear that Tobias was the one in charge.

“But she had—” the woman began scowling.

“I’m willing to bet,” He said cutting her off, “that you didn’t let them explain themselves before you thought you’d go on a killing spree, is that right!?”

She didn’t answer.

“We do not hold guns to Dauntless civilians.” Tobias’s voice was becoming quieter now with even more vehemence.

I turned away from them and knelt beside Annie who was still unconscious.

“Tris.” Alex was there in a moment, “is she going to be okay?”

“She’ll be fine,” I assured him my speech slightly distorted from my swollen lip.

“Are you alright?” Demetry asked, his black brows knitting together in concern as he crouched beside me.

“Yeah, don’t worry about me.”

He nodded solemnly, “can we trust him?”

I glanced over at Tobias.

“With our lives.” I finally replied, “He’s who we’ve been looking for. This just didn’t happen quite as I planned.”

I slipped my arm under Annie’s shoulders and pulled her up with me.

Alex draped her other arm around him and we began to drag her forward.

Demetry grabbed the black duffle bag from the ground and began rummaging in the jeep for the rest of our meager supplies.

“Tobias.”

He turned at the sound of his name and met my eye as the guards exchanged looks.

“Where’s camp?” I asked.

“I’ll show you,” He said his voice softening instantly.

With a wave of his hand, he dismissed the guards. The men, one still bleeding from his nose, avoided my gaze but the woman stared at me defiantly. I stared back unflinchingly as Tobias approached us.

“We got her,” I said as he reached for Annie.

He nodded and began walking slowly in the direction of a far off group of trees. They looked out of place on the flat land as though they had been planted to hide something.

The sun beat down on our backs as we dragged Annie along with us, our feet kicking up dirt and dry grass with every step.

“Not much further,” Tobias called over his shoulder.

Ten minutes later we cleared the trees and saw what was hidden behind their thick trunks.

A cluster of small lodges formed a horseshoe around a large set of wooden picnic benches where several people sat, lounging in the sun. As they heard us approaching, however, they sat up, instantly on guard. Many years of living as Factionless had conditioned them well. One tall man with dark skin approached us cautiously.

“Four,” he said, “what’s going on? We heard you were called for backup.”

“Nothing to worry about. They’re with me.”

The man looked at us quizzically but seemed to trust Tobias’s judgment because he nodded and stepped aside.

Tobias motioned for us to come forward. We passed through the rows of benches and staring faces and up a couple of steps into one of the lodges. It was cool and dark, a welcome change. Tobias led us down a hall where Alex and I had to move sideways to fit and into a small room. It had only a bed and two crates filled with what looked like canned food.

“Lay her here,” Tobias said gesturing toward the bed.

We did as he said and I leaned over her feeling for a lump on the side of her head where she had been struck. Sure enough, it was the size of a bouncy ball I had once seen a small child playing with on the streets of Abnegation.

Tobias leaned around me and laid a wet cloth across her forehead

Annie began to stir slightly and opened her eyes.

“Tris.” She gasped when she saw me. Her eyes slid closed again for a moment but she fought to keep them open.

Her body suddenly tensed and she tried to sit up.

“Not so fast.” I said pushing her down, “you’re safe, you just need to take it easy, okay?”

She nodded, relaxing again.

Alex took my place as I stood up.

I turned to Demetry who had just moved further in to let Tobias exit.

“Did you get everything from the truck?” I asked wearily.

He nodded and held out what he knew I was really wondering about.

I took the black bag and unzipped it. Miraculously none of the vials had broken. I breathed a sigh of relief before stashing the bag under the bed. I would show Tobias later.

“I’m sure it’s safe to walk around.” I told Alex and Demetry, Annie had already fallen back asleep, “we have more than one friend here.” At least, I was hoping, I had yet to see another familiar face.

Demetry crossed to an empty crate and overturned it, sitting down.

“Okay,” He said, his eyes held concern but he said nothing else.

“I’ll be back,” I told them before I stepped out of the lodge and back outside.

My neck ached but I was beginning to breathe easier again as I scanned the strangers before me. Several caught my gaze curiously.

“Tris!!”

I blinked and followed the voice to the last person I had expected to see.

Christina broke away from where she had been talking to Tobias near one of the tables.

I felt my lip split again as I smiled. I pulled her in for a tight hug when she reached me.

“I thought you were dead.” I laughed with relief.

“Alive as ever. I caught up with everyone else soon after I left the city limits.”

I pulled back examining her. She looked good, more tired than when I had last seen her but strong and alert.

“Well look who the cat dragged in.” Said a familiar drawling voice behind me.

Peter stood a few feet away, leaning against the side of the lodge and regarding Christina and me with a bored expression. He slowly twirled a small dagger between his fingers as he watched us.

I was too happy to allow him to ruin my mood.

“Hello, Peter,” I said curtly.

Christina just rolled her eyes at him and dragged me over to Tobias who was talking to an older man with graying hair and a brunette woman about our age.

Tobias nodded his head slightly to whatever the man was saying, clearly engrossed.

Christina skipped forward ahead of me.

“I’ll talk to her. She caused me some trouble earlier today so I’ll add it to the list.” Tobias was saying a tired edge to his voice.

He caught my eye as Christina bounded over to them and pushed off from the table.

“Excuse me,” he said to the couple.

He crossed to me in three strides and pulled me gently against him.

I wrapped my arms around his waist and breathed him in. He felt solid and safe.

Exhaustion washed over me as I relaxed for the first time in months. Each bone loosening as he held me. I felt many eyes on us but I ignored them.

“How did you find us?” He whispered into my hair.

“I found the coordinates in one of the Erudite databases.”

He pulled back slightly to look at me, his brows pulling together in concern.

“I don’t think it’s anything to worry about. It was just a rough sketch of possible locations of the Factionless. I wiped the program anyway.” I reached up and pressed my hand against his cheek. It was warm and rough against my fingers.

“Tris,” He said quietly, “you could have been caught. You’re the last person who should be sneaking onto an Erudite property.”

I took a breath but didn’t say anything deciding not to resume the argument we had had months before about splitting up the group.

He took my hand and pressed his lips briefly against my palm, “okay” he breathed into it resolving this as well.

He turned back to Christina and the couple who still stood a few feet away throwing furtive glances our way.

“This is Tris.” He said as we joined them, “she was with Christina, Peter, and I in Dauntless.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Tris.” The older man said shaking my hand. His kind gray eyes matched his hair and his teeth were surprisingly white in the fading sunlight.

“I’m Joshua and this is Lidia.” He motioned to the girl who waved shyly glancing between Tobias and I. Her face was round and framed by dark brown curls.

“It’s nice to meet you both,” I replied.

“I hope your friend is going to be alright,” Joshua added as Tobias leaned against the table, his hand still in mine.

“Annie should be fine. She got hit pretty hard earlier but it could have been worse.”

He nodded, “looks like you got hit pretty good yourself.”

“Tris has survived worse.” Christina chimed in.

I glanced at her and smiled, “you should have seen the other guy.”

“She’s not exaggerating,” Tobias said, “I had to have someone set his nose.”

They all laughed but it didn’t mask the derisive snort that came from behind them.

Joshua turned to look at Peter who hadn’t moved from his stance against the side of the lodge.

“You have something to say, Peter?” I asked already knowing the answer.

“You talk tough, Stiff.” He replied not looking up from cleaning his fingernails, “but we all know that in a fight anyone can have you on your back in seconds.” He paused and then added raising his eyes to mine, “but maybe that’s how you like it.”

Tobias was on his feet before I could blink.

I grabbed his arm and pulled him back.

“Tobias, don’t. It’s what he wants.” I reminded him.

“God Peter, you’re such an ass,” Christina said angrily, “you should just drop this sick grudge you have against her.”

“Peter,” I said casually, “do you remember the last time you doubted my fighting abilities?”

He didn’t respond. I stood and walked over to him slowly.

He picked at his nails again with the tip of his knife, not looking up until I was right in front of him.

His cold eyes met mine without wavering.

“Because I remember it involving a semi-automatic and a hole the size of a quarter in your arm.”

Peter’s eyes narrowed.

“Not to mention your pathetic plea for my help in smuggling you out of Dauntless.”

I reached out, taking the knife from between his fingers and slammed its blade into the wood directly above his head.

“You wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for me. I’d remember that.”

Joshua whistled quietly and Christina slapped me on the shoulder as I rejoined them.

We watched as Peter pulled his knife from the wood and stalked away.

I shook my head exasperatedly.

“That jerk’s had it out for you since the beginning. You’d think he would get over his Abnegation prejudice since we are now all Factionless.” Christina muttered.

“Are you originally from Abnegation?” the girl, Lidia, asked suddenly.

I nodded, “are you?”

“No,” she shook her head, the curls bouncing from her shoulders, “but my mother was.”

I smiled a little, “my mother was from Dauntless actually.”

I could sense everyone’s eyes on me.

“Was she really?” Christina asked.

I looked at her, “yeah…I was surprised too.”

The silence stretched then as we all mulled over our own thoughts.

“Do you have a shower?” I asked suddenly, the prospect of being clean reviving me slightly.

Tobias smiled a little and nodded.

***

The shower was cool, running off of me in brown rivers. I scrubbed three month’s worth of dirt and fear from my skin until it shone pink. Finally, I turned off the water and wrapped a towel around me. Someone had left clothes for me on a stool near the door: a black tank top and gray pants. I pulled them on and combed my long wet hair with my fingertips. I caught my expression in a cracked mirror that hung over a small sink. I leaned closer examining my face. The swelling of my lip was going down but a dark red line threatened to split back open at any sudden motion. I also had a dark shadow blossoming over my left cheekbone.

I sighed and left the bathroom.

The sun was setting; orange streaks slicing the sky open as the smell of food wafted over to me. I ducked back into the lodge two doors down and into the familiar narrow hallway that lead to Annie’s room. She was still sleeping, her chest rising and falling under Alex’s gaze.

“I’ve woken her up twice,” He said hollowly to me without glancing in my direction, “to make sure she’s still alright.

“Good.” I commented dumping my towel and dirty clothes on the floor at the foot of the bed, “you should get some food. I can take over.”

“You should both get something to eat.” Tobias’s voice said from the doorway.

I straightened up and looked at him. His eyes met mine and I suddenly wanted nothing more than to be alone with him.

“Seriously,” he continued, “she’ll be alright. Demetry is already out there.”

Alex looked doubtful at leaving his sister and I suddenly wondered where Caleb was.

“Okay.” He finally said and stood.

As I turned toward the door Alex added, “they have a shower here?”

I glanced back and caught him examining my rapidly drying hair and smiled, nodding.

Tobias led us over to a picnic table with several familiar faces already seated at it.

“Hey, Tris! Long time no see!” Uriah stood and lifted me off the ground with the force of his hug.

I smiled, “it’s good to see you.”

I caught sight of a familiar pair of eyes, my mother’s eyes, and moved passed Uriah to pull Caleb into a hug. He was becoming more comfortable with affection now and his arms wrapped around me almost instantly.

“I was worried when I didn’t see you earlier,” I said quietly.

“I’m alright.” He said releasing me, “are you? I heard you got into a fight earlier.”

His expression was slightly stern as he said this.

“It wasn’t really a fight. I think we just took them off guard is all.” I assured him.

I sat down between Caleb and Demetry as Tobias slid me a bowl of what looked like shredded beef and canned vegetables before sitting across from me.

I dove in hungrily as did the others and conversation lagged for several moments.

“It’s better today,” Christina said a few people down from me and several people murmured in agreement.

“How long have you guys been here?” I asked to no one in particular.

It was Tobias who answered: “about two months. But many of the Factionless were already here.”

“Was there someone in charge when you got here?” I had surmised that Tobias was an authority figure but I was curious to know if there were more. Who had been organizing the Factionless and helping to build this place?

“Not really in the beginning.” It was Uriah this time, “once Four got here everyone elected him leader almost automatically. Before that, I guess you could say it was Danika.”

I gave him a questioning look and he pointed to his lip.

I nodded the female guard who had busted up my face and almost put a bullet in my brain. Of course.

I wanted to ask Tobias why he had authority over her if she had been here first, but I wasn’t sure he wanted to get into it. Tobias had turned down a Dauntless leadership position twice back in the city so his authority over the Factionless was a bigger deal than I was sure many of them realized.

***

The air chilled as the sun sank behind the horizon making me shiver. I pushed my hands further into the soapy water, scrubbing my dishes clean. I was learning that everyone had their own chores here. People signed up to go on perimeter checks, supply runs, and make food. Everyone, however, washed their own dishes and clothes, something about individual and communal responsibility. Even though this was my first night here I was surprised to see how well everyone worked together. The Dauntless laughed and joked around with the Factionless as though they had grown up with them.

I found myself holding my breath, wondering how long this could last.

I glanced over to my right as I set my dishes on a nearby table to dry.

Several people were carrying armfuls of brush and logs over to what looked like a large fire pit.

“Um…” I began as Uriah took my place at the wash barrel, “isn’t that a bit risky?”

Uriah followed my gaze and smiled, showing all his teeth, “what do you think all the trees are for? They give good cover.”

I just raised my eyebrows, unconvinced, and turned my attention back to the fire builders. One girl, younger than me, lit a pine branch on fire and laid it on the woodpile, watching it spread slowly before stepping back.

“Come on.” Uriah said and led me over to them. A crowd was slowly gathering, sprawled out across the dusty ground, chattering.

I reached out my hands as I sat, feeling the warmth ripple over them. I shivered again as a slight thrill ran through me.

“I wish we had s’mores.” Uriah said longingly as Christina sat down on his other side.

“What are s’mores?” I asked.

Uriah and Christina just stared at me, open-mouthed.

“Only recently started eating hamburgers,” I said pointing to myself.

“I sometimes forget how much you don’t know,” Christina said wonderingly.

I shot her a look as Uriah launched into a detailed explanation of what constituted a good s’more.

A shadow fell across me then and I looked up.

Tobias stood surveying the fire quietly.

“Hi,” I said.

He looked down at me, the corners of his mouth turning up in a slight smile, “hi.”

Instead of taking the vacant patch of ground next to mine he sat down directly behind me and pulled me against his chest.

“Are you even listening to me?” Uriah asked me.

I smiled, “I’m listening. Golden brown is the goal when it comes to marshmallows.”

“Not for everyone.” Christina said gazing at the fire, “some people like theirs burnt.”

Uriah made a face and I laughed relaxing back into Tobias’s chest.

His fingers linked loosely with mine as he rested his chin on my shoulder.

I caught the curious and even shocked gazes of some of the people around us.

“I think I’m blowing your tough guy cover.” I said quietly.

“I don’t mind.” He said, his voice low and soft in my ear.

As if to illustrate this he kissed my temple, lightly.

“If you guys are going to make out just warn us first.” Christina said.

A flutter of guilt settled in my stomach as Will’s face flashed before me. I pushed it aside though and turned slightly around so I could see Tobias better.

He just looked at me, his gaze steady and so much warmer than how he looked at everyone else.

“I’m warning you.” I said not looking at Christina.

Tobias smiled faintly and leaned in, pressing his lips to mine. He tasted like salt and smoke and sent chills up my spine that had nothing to do with the cold.

Several people whistled and catcalled, Dauntless no doubt, as one of them yelled, “get it Four!”

I couldn’t help but laugh as I pulled away.

Tobias rolled his eyes as I turned back around resisting the urge to find somewhere more private. All eyes were on us now, making a stealthy getaway impossible.

I avoided their gaze and looked past the group to something I hadn’t noticed before. A low shelved platform stood against the wind several yards away glinting with small circles of light. I squinted at it, unable to see more in the darkness.

“What is that?” I asked, pointing.

“You mean the altar?” Uriah asked.

“Altar?” I repeated.

Uriah nodded toward it as if telling me to take a closer look.

As I began to rise, Tobias shifted to do the same but I stopped him.

“I’ll be right back.” I whispered already questioning the growing sense inside me that I should be alone.

I walked around the outside of the circle. As I grew closer I could see that the glowing lights were candles, tiny pictures pressed between them, their corners fluttering in the breeze.

I knew even before I saw Will’s face what the pictures contained.

Al….Will…my mother…my father…and many more.

All of the people who had been lost stared back at me from pictures of varying age and quality. The firelight played across them giving the illusion of life.

My vision blurred and I crossed my arms over my chest trying to suppress the sudden desperation and sadness I felt.

I had pushed Al away at his weakest moment. His picture was here because of me.

I had let my mother and father die. They had sacrificed themselves for me. They were here because of me.

But Will was the worst of all. I had stopped his heart myself. He was here because of me.

I wiped my face hastily with my fingertips and turned away searching desperately for the lodge, a place away from prying eyes.

I opened the doors to several occupied rooms before I found one I knew I could hide in. Tobias’s room was only recognizable because of his few meager possessions, a familiar duffel bag heaped on the floor and the black sweatshirt he had once lent me laid over the footboard of his bed.

I sank down onto his mattress, the springs squeaking under my weight. Tears pushed against the backs of my closed lids as I let Will’s face fully emerge before me. My heart beat painfully in my chest and I half wished that no one would find me. I wanted to stay in this darkness forever, falling to pieces only when no one was there to see it seemed easier, fairer. I didn’t deserve anyone’s sympathy or compassion. I may not have had much of a choice in killing Will but he was still absent because of me. And I deserved to suffer for it.

The door creaked a little as it opened and a soft chink of light fell across my shoes.

I didn’t look up as Tobias knelt in front of me. His hands wrapped around mine, his skin rough and warm.

“Tris?” His voice was a whisper in the semi-darkness.

“Don’t.” I whispered back, my voice thick with repressed tears.

“I’m sorry if those pictures overwhelmed you. I should have said something.”

I shook my head, shaking a few tears loose.

“It’s not that.”

“Then what is it?” his voice was so full of concern it took everything within me not to burst into tears.

Tobias deserved to know, Christina deserved to know. But giving them that knowledge could ruin me.

As though he had read my thoughts Tobias whispered, “nothing you have to say will change the way I think of you.”

I leaned forward and pressed my forehead into his shoulder. His hands moved from mine as he wrapped his arms around me.

He was silent, giving me the time I needed and the comfort I didn’t deserve.

“It was my fault.”

“What was your fault?” His voice was muffled by my hair.

“I killed him.” These three words split a seam down my heart and relief and pain flooded through me.

I couldn’t stop the tears then and my entire body shook.

I pulled my hands up, covering my mouth.

“I’m so sorry….” I sobbed, “….I’m so sorry…it’s my fault Will’s dead.”

Tobias’s arm’s hardened around me in shock but he didn’t remove them.

I pulled away, sitting up. My vision was so blurred I couldn’t make him out but I felt the sudden desperate need to get this out.

“After my mother found me,” I gasped, “we cut down an ally and Dauntless guards found us, they were all under the attack simulation…”

The memory came in a flood, entering into the forefront of my mind quickly and easily after so many months holding it at bay.

“Will was there…He shot at me. I yelled at him to stop, that it was me. But he just kept coming closer…”

I squeezed my eyes shut and my fingernails dug into my arms.

“I shot him. He died because of me.” My voice was a whisper between gasps.

I had expected relief to come but instead I felt raw and exposed.

We sat there in the dark for several moments and I was suddenly scared that he would leave me here. His view forever altered by what I had done.

But instead, he moved to sit next to me on the bed, pulling me against him. Supporting me when I couldn’t support myself.

***

I didn’t sleep much that night and neither did Tobias despite his attempts to deny it the next morning. Instead, we lay awake, not talking, arms around each other. The raw feeling in my chest that had come when I finally admitted to Will’s death never left me and thoughts of Christina haunted me for hours. She was my best friend, her strength often keeping me upright when I couldn’t. How could I let her down like this?

“Christina will forgive you if she’s really your friend.” Tobias said when I voiced my fears to him, “it just might take her some time.”

“How are you taking this so well?” I asked him, my voice rough from crying.

He shifted his head slightly to look at me, our faces just inches from each other on the pillow.

“Because I know you Tris. I know you would never do something like that by choice, especially to a friend.”

He pressed his hand to my heart making it both ache and accelerate at once.

“You feel so much and you’ve experienced such loss that sometimes I don’t understand how you keep going.”

I looked away as tears threatened to start up again.

He tucked his fingers under my chin forcing me to look at him.

“But you do keep going.” He whispered, “and you will come back from this too.”

“Sometimes it’s hard to believe that.” I told him truthfully.

“I know.” His voice sounded tired and so much older than 18.

Tenderly he leaned his forehead against mine, “You know why I’m also taking this so well?”

“Why?”

“Because I love you.”

Unable to help myself I leaned in and pressed my lips to his.

“I love you too.” I murmured against them.

He wrapped his arms around me, pulling me closer.

We kissed for a long moment, fueled by desire and my selfish attempt to escape the pain of what I still had left to do.

***

The smile Christina gave me the next morning at breakfast turned my stomach. Her day was about to take a turn for the worse. I couldn’t help but feel like the grim reaper, bringing the news of death to her front door.

I leaned over my untouched oatmeal and whispered, “can I talk to you after breakfast?”

She looked surprised but nodded, “of course.”

Beside me, Tobias squeezed my hand under the table. He had offered to come with me but I had refused. I needed to do this alone.

When Christina had cleaned her plate she got up and I followed.

She glanced down curiously at my untouched food but didn’t say anything.

I walked around the table and lead her around the back of one of the lodges, ignoring the eyes on us.

“Tris, what’s going on?” She asked as I turned to face her.

Her dark brows were knitted together in concern.

“I…um.” I began rather unsteadily crossing my arms over my chest.

She stood watching me, not saying anything.

“I need to tell you something.” I said finally.

“Okay…”

I took a shaky breath now wishing Tobias had come with me after all.

“Do you remember the attack simulation?” I asked. It was a stupid question but a start all the same.

“Yes.” She said slowly, “what about it?”

My insides squirmed as I continued.

“Remember how you said you didn’t understand what you were doing? You just knew you had to kill people.”

She frowned at me and I realized that maybe this wasn’t the best way to tell her. But it was too late to back out now.

“Well I um…wasn’t under it because of the whole divergent thing and my mom found me in Abnegation.”

Christina blinked, surprised. She knew my mother had died but I had never told her the story.

“We were running down one of the alleyways trying to escape the people under the simulation…and I saw Will.”

I wasn’t looking at her now, my gaze fixed on the rocky pebbles beneath our feet.

“You saw him?” she said in surprise, “I didn’t think anyone saw him after the simulation…until…” she trailed off quickly.

I squeezed my arms tighter into me until they pressed painfully against my ribs.

“Tris, what’s wrong?”

She took a step toward me and I stepped back reflexively.

“I saw Will. He was under the attack simulation…he….he didn’t know who I was. I kept calling out to him but all he did was try and shoot at us…”

My vision was blurring again but I raised my gaze to hers.

“I’m so sorry, Christina.” I whispered.

Through the haze of salt water, I could see the horrific realization crash over her.

“No…” She said quietly shaking her head. And then louder, “no…no…no…please tell me you didn’t.”

“I didn’t have any choice.” I pleaded taking a step toward her.

Now it was her turn to step back.

“He would have killed me.”

Her face had reddened and she was stepping quickly backward now, away from me.

“Christina please!” I called after her.

“Stay away from me!” She shouted at me, “you murdered him!!”

We were in the view of most of the prying eyes now.

Christina turned on her heel then and sprinted through them, heading for the trees.

I didn’t call her back. She had reacted just as I thought she would and now I had to live with that.

“Tris?” I turned to see Uriah standing a few feet from me, “What is she talking about?”

“Will’s death was my fault.” I told him and turned away. Walking blindly in the opposite direction.

***

I walked until my feet ached so badly I couldn’t continue. I let my knees give out, trampling the wheat stocks beneath me. I lay there for a long time staring between golden rows watching the sun’s changing position alter their color.

I didn’t stir as footsteps finally approached, crunching through the wheat field. They all sat down beside me. Annie’s hand reached out and squeezed my arm comfortingly.

“What are you doing here? You should be in bed.” My voice didn’t sound like my own. It was broken. Shattered in too many places by the dead that it was unrecognizable now.

“I heard you needed some company.” She said, “and we couldn’t just leave you here all alone.”

“I don’t deserve to be comforted.” I whispered.

A hand reached out and stroked my hair, “sure you do.”

It was Alex, the never faltering shadow of the injured.

My heart throbbed painfully then as the sudden longing for my mother emerged. I wanted her arms around me. I wanted her calm voice telling me it would be okay, that Christina would forgive me and people wouldn’t think of me as a killer of friends.

Demetry, the last of the trio, had been silent but I could feel his presence none the less. Watching over me.

I didn’t deserve any of them, their kindness or small comforts. They should be heading for the hills now that it was painfully clear what happened to those close to me.

Another set of footsteps approached.

“That took longer than I thought it would.” Tobias said from above me, “how is she?”

“Sad.” Annie answer simply.

I watched as his boots circled me until he knelt beside my head. Instead of settling into the heavy silence he slid an arm under me and pulled me into a sitting position.

“Drink this.” He said pressing a canteen into my hand.

For some reason, his business like attitude annoyed me.

“Don’t look at me like that.” He told me, holding my gaze. “You’ve been lying in the sun for hours.”

I took several large gulps of water, draining the canteen quickly as my thirst set in.

With the help of Demetry, Tobias hoisted me to my feet and we began the long journey back to the lodge.

The sun was setting as it finally appeared in the distance. I really had lost the whole day.

Tobias and the others wouldn’t let me sleep until I had eaten something.

I spotted Uriah crossing behind one of the tables as I scraped the last of the mush from my bowl.

He gave me a small sad smile, so unlike his usual glowing grin. This somehow made me even sadder.

Caleb appeared then and sat across from me.

“You look like hell.” He told me promptly.

“Thanks.” I said sarcastically picking up my water glass.

“I heard about what you told Christina.” He said, “was Will a friend of yours?”

“Caleb, not now.” Tobias said gruffly.

Caleb fell silent but looked as though he wanted to say more.

“Yeah.” I told him standing up, “he was a friend.”

I left the others at the table and headed into the lodge. The cool of Tobias’s bed welcomed me as I collapsed onto it, slipping into unconsciousness almost instantly.

***

Will stood before me. His face was ghostly pale in the moonlight and his eyes were so sad I had to look away. We were standing in my old bedroom; it’s plain bed spread and empty walls as familiar to me as my own hands. He didn’t say anything, just stood there. Gradually, I felt their presence. Thier faces surrounded me, flickers of firelight shifting across them with their every movement. My mother stood behind my right shoulder, but I didn’t dare look at her. She was so close I could feel her cool breath on the back of my neck. Will’s eyes bore into me and blood dripped from his left ear; soaking his shirt. Fear thrilled through me and I squeezed my eyes shut as they moved in...closer and closer ready to smother me.

I sat up so quickly my head spun. Blood pounded in my ears as I stared unseeing into the darkness.

“Tris?” Tobias’s voice encircled my mind, pulling me back to reality.

I felt my body stiffen, Will’s sad eyes still swimming before me.

“Hey, it’s okay.”

I turned my head in the direction of his voice, blinking rapidly to clear my vision. My heart still pounded at the memory of their closeness.

Wordlessly I let Tobias pull me back against the pillows. His hand stroked my hair rhythmically until his breathing slowed and he dropped off to sleep.


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