He multiplies immediately, surrounding us, the belts dragging on white tile. I curl into myself, hunching my back, waiting, waiting. The belt pulls back and I flinch before it hits, but then it doesn't.
Tris stands in front of me, her arm up, tense from head to toe. She grits her teeth as the belt wraps around her arm, and then she pulls it free, and lashes out. The movement is so powerful I'm am
azed by how strong it looks, by how hard the belt slaps Marcus's skin.
He lunges at Tris, and I step in front of her. I'm ready this time, ready to fight back.
But the moment never comes. The lights lift and the fear landscape is over.
"That's it?" she says as I watch the place where Marcus stood. "Those were your worst fears? Why do you only have four . . . oh."
She looks at me.
"That's why they call you . . ."
I was afraid that if she knew about Marcus, she would look at me with pity, and she would make me feel weak, and small, and empty.
But she saw Marcus and she looked at him, with anger and without fear. She made me feel, not weak, but powerful. Strong enough to fight back.
I tug her toward me by her elbow, and kiss her cheek, slowly, letting her skin burn into mine. I hold her tightly, slouching into her.
"Hey." She sighs. "We got through it."
I put my fingers through her hair.
"You got me through it," I say.
I take her to the rocks that Zeke, Shauna, and I go to sometimes, late at night. Tris and I sit on a flat stone suspended over the water, and the spray soaks my shoes, but it's not so cold that I mind. Like all initiates, she's too focused on the aptitude test, and I'm struggling with talking to her about it. I thought that when I spilled one secret, the rest would come tumbling after, but openness is a habit you form over time, and not a switch you flip whenever you want to, I'm finding.
"These are things I don't tell people, you know. Not even my friends." I watch the dark, murky water and the things it carries--pieces of trash, discarded clothing, floating bottles like small boats setting out on a journey. "My result was as expected. Abnegation."
"Oh." She frowns. "But you chose Dauntless anyway?"
"Out of necessity."
"Why did you have to leave?"
I look away, not sure I can give voice to my reasons, because admitting them makes me a faction traitor, makes me feel like a coward.
"You had to get away from your dad," she says. "Is that why you don't want to be a Dauntless leader? Because if you were, you might have to see him again?"
I shrug. "That, and I've always felt that I don't quite belong among the Dauntless. Not the way they are now, anyway." It's not quite the truth. I'm not sure this is the moment to tell her what I know about Max and Jeanine and the attack--selfishly, I want to keep this moment to myself, just for a little while.
"But . . . you're incredible," she says. I raise my eyebrows at her. She seems embarrassed. "I mean, by Dauntless standards. Four fears is unheard of. How could you not belong here?"
I shrug again. The more time goes by, the stranger I find it that my fear landscape isn't riddled with fears like everyone else's. A lot of things make me nervous, anxious, uncomfortable . . . but when confronted with those things, I can act, I'm never paralyzed. My four fears, if I'm not careful, will paralyze me. That's the only difference.
"I have a theory that selflessness and bravery aren't all that different." I look up at the Pit, rising high above us. From here I can see just a small slice of night sky. "All your life you've been training to forget yourself, so when you're in danger, it becomes your first instinct. I could belong in Abnegation just as easily."
"Yeah, well. I left Abnegation because I wasn't selfless enough, no matter how hard I tried to be."
"That's not entirely true," I say with a smile. "That girl who let someone throw knives at her to spare a friend, who hit my dad with a belt to protect me--that selfless girl, that's not you?"
In this light, she looks like she comes from another world, her eyes rendered so pale they almost seem to glow in the dark.
"You've been paying close attention, haven't you?" she asks, like she just read my mind. But she's not talking about me looking at her face.
"I like to observe people," I say slyly.
"Maybe you were cut out for Candor, Four, because you're a terrible liar."
I set my hand down next to hers and lean closer. "Fine." Her long, narrow nose is no longer swollen from the attack, and neither is her mouth. She has a nice mouth. "I watched you because I like you. And . . . don't call me 'Four,' okay? It's . . . nice. To hear my name again."
She looks momentarily bewildered.
"But you're older than I am . . . Tobias."
It sounds so good when she says it. Like it's nothing to be ashamed of.
"Yes, that whopping two-year gap really is insurmountable, isn't it?"
"I'm not trying to be self-deprecating," she says stubbornly. "I just don't get it. I'm younger. I'm not pretty. I--"
I laugh, and kiss her temple.
"Don't pretend," she says, sounding a little breathless. "You know I'm not. I'm not ugly, but I am certainly not pretty."
The word "pretty," and all that it represents, seems so completely useless right now that I have no patience for it.
"Fine. You're not pretty. So?" I move my lips to her cheek, trying to work up some courage. "I like how you look." I pull back. "You're deadly smart. You're brave. And even though you found out about Marcus . . . you aren't giving me that look. Like I'm . . . a kicked puppy, or something."
"Well," she says factually. "You're not."
My instincts were right: She is worth trusting. With my secrets, with my shame, with the name that I abandoned. With the beautiful truths and the awful ones. I know it.
I touch my lips to hers. Our eyes meet, and I grin, and kiss her again, this time more sure of it.
It's not enough. I pull her closer, kiss her harder. She comes alive, putting her arms around me and leaning into me and it's still not enough, how can it be?
I walk her back to the transfer dormitory, my shoes still damp from the river spray, and she smiles at me as she slips through the doorway. I start toward my apartment, and it doesn't take long for the giddy relief to give way to uneasiness again. Somewhere between watching that belt curl around her arm in my fear landscape and telling her that selflessness and bravery were often the same thing, I made a decision.
I turn at the next corner, not toward my apartment but toward a stairway that leads outside, right next to Max's place. I slow down when I pass his door, afraid that my footsteps will be loud enough to rouse him. Irrational.
My heart pounds when I reach the top of the stairs. A train is just passing, its silver side catching moonlight. I walk beneath the tracks and set out toward the Abnegation sector.
Tris came from Abnegation--part of her innate power comes from them, whenever she's called upon to defend people who are weaker than she is. And I can't stand to think of the men and women who are like her falling to Dauntless-Erudite weapons. They may have lied to me, and maybe I failed them when I chose Dauntless, and maybe I'm failing Dauntless now, but I don't have to fail myself. And I, no matter what faction I'm in, know the right thing to do.
The Abnegation sector is so clean, not a scrap of trash on the streets, sidewalks, or lawns. The identical gray buildings are worn in places from where selfless people have refused to mend them when the factionless sector so badly needs the materials, but neat and unremarkable. The streets here could easily be a maze, but I haven't been gone long enough to forget the way to Marcus's house.
Strange, how quickly it became his house instead of mine, in my mind.
Maybe I don't have to tell him; I could tell another Abnegation leader, but he's the most influential one, and there's still a part of him that's my father, that tried to protect me because I'm Divergent. I try to remember the swell of power I felt in my fear landscape, when Tris showed me he was just a man, not a monster, and that I could face him. But she's not here with me now, and I feel flimsy, like I'm made of paper.
I walk up the path to the house, and my legs are rigid, like they don't have joints. I don't knock; I don't want to wake anyone else. I reach under the doormat for the spare key and unlock the front door.
It's late, but the light is still on in the kitchen. By the time I walk through the d
oor, he's already standing where I can see him. Behind him, the kitchen table is covered with papers. He's not wearing his shoes--they're on the living room carpet, their laces undone--and his eyes are just as shadowed as they are in my nightmares about him.
"What are you doing here?" He looks me up and down. I wonder what he's looking at until I remember that I'm wearing Dauntless black, heavy boots and a jacket, tattoo ink on my neck. He comes a little closer, and I notice that I'm as tall as he is, and stronger than I ever have been.
He could never overpower me now.
"You're no longer welcome in this house," he says.
"I . . ." I stand up straighter, and not because he hates bad posture. "I don't care," I say, and his eyebrows pop up like I just surprised him.
Maybe I did.
"I came to warn you," I say. "I found something. Attack plans. Max and Jeanine are going to attack Abnegation. I don't know when, or how."
He watches me for a second, in a way that makes me feel like I'm being measured, and then his expression shifts into a sneer.
"Max and Jeanine are going to attack," he says. "Just the two of them, armed with some simulation syringes?" His eyes narrow. "Did Max send you here? Have you become his Dauntless lackey? What, does he want to scare me?"
When I thought about warning the Abnegation, I was sure the hardest part would be getting myself through this door. It never occurred to me that he wouldn't believe me.
"Don't be stupid," I say. I would never have said that to him when I lived in this house, but two years of intentionally adopting Dauntless speech patterns make it come out of my mouth naturally. "If you're suspicious of Max, it's for a reason, and I'm telling you it's a good one. You're right to be suspicious. You're in danger--you all are."
"You dare to come to my house after you betrayed your faction," he says, his voice low, "after you betrayed your family . . . and insult me?" He shakes his head. "I refuse to be intimidated into doing what Max and Jeanine want, and certainly not by my son."
"You know what?" I say. "Forget it. I should have gone to someone else."
I turn toward the door, and he says, "Don't walk away from me."
His hand closes around my arm, tightly. I stare at it, for a second feeling dizzy, like I'm outside of my own body, already separating myself from the moment so I can survive it.
You can fight him, I think, as I remember Tris drawing back the belt in my fear landscape to strike him.
I pull my arm free, and I'm too strong for him to hold on to. But I can only muster the strength to walk away, and he doesn't dare shout after me, not when the neighbors could hear. My hands shake a little bit, so I put them in my pockets. I don't hear the front door shut behind me, so I know he's watching me go.