Chapter 1: A new home
Part 1 – A new home
Eric stood at the ledge of one of the first cars of the speeding train. The train wasn’t going that fast, Eric thought; he knew for a fact that the speed of the train was lowered for Initiation. Not everyone knew that but it was obvious if they wanted to keep some of the transfers who had never jumped into a moving train before and were very weak in terms of muscles and strength.
He peered outside, his Erudite-blue shirt sticking to his stomach with the wind, at the entrance of the car, one hand holding him secure so that he could lean his body out. He spotted a boy from Candor running alongside the train. But then Candor stopped running altogether and shook his head. Eric cursed inwardly; he was so close why was he giving up now? That poor Candor boy was now factionless. Another boy caught his attention, he was from Abnegation. His too large grey clothes were obviously interfering with his running but he was not giving up. The determination to make it on this train was blatant in his eyes. Eric watched as he pushed harder on his long legs and suddenly he was catching the metallic handle with both hands and Eric jerked away not to obstruct the door. But the tall boy couldn’t jump in, Eric watched him with wide eyes. Jump! He thought. The boy did. But as soon as he had one foot on the ledge of the car, it slipped away and he yelped. Eric rushed forward, thinking that he had fallen but there he was, gripping the handle for dear life, a deep frown on his brow and his body bumping repeatedly against the side of the train. Eric noticed with a start that the train wasn’t on the platform anymore; if the boy let go now he would die. Grabbing the handle inside the car, Eric leaned out and held out his hand. “Here!” He yelled to the tall boy.
The latter grunted and let go of the handle with one hand to snatch Eric’s arm. They held each other’s wrist in a tight grip and Eric heaved him inside in no time, dragging him as far away from the door as possible, avoiding the other initiates in the process. When he had him against a wall, he let go of the stranger’s hand.
“You okay?” he tried. The boy was bent forward, hands on knees, trying to catch his breath. It must have been an awful moment, he had almost died. When he straightened up and put his hands on his sides, Eric realized just how tall he was compared to him. Eric wasn’t particularly short but he felt like it in front of the boy. He had to tilt his head to look into his blue eyes and the top of Eric’s head probably arrived at his nose. That wasn’t fair.
“Yeah,” the taller boy breathed. “Thank you.” Then he turned away and plopped down, his back against the wall of the car. Eric shrugged; he didn’t want to sit so he settled for standing next to Tall Boy for the rest of the ride.
He assessed the rest of the initiates in their car. It was one of the first cars of the train so most of them were dauntless-born and they kept casting Eric and Tall Boy curious glances. There were also two kids from Candor who looked very proud of themselves. Eric couldn’t be proud of himself; he had been trained for this, it was easier for him than any of the initiates.
He still was excited about the whole thing. Initiation meant no more weekly meetings with Jeanine or daily trainings in Erudite. The woman had informed Eric that he wouldn’t have to come to Erudite before the end of Initiation; in other words, he had one year for himself, to just enjoy independence and Dauntless life-style. He wouldn’t have to think about Jeanine’s project for a long time! This project was beginning to be very annoying; he was fed up with the intense training and meetings and fake smiles and hypocrisy. He remembered how he used to like Jeanine when he was thirteen; it was also the age in which he had agreed to be part of Jeanine’s project. Now that he had reached sixteen years old, he was doubting her whole project. Surely there had to be a more pacific way to convince people that Erudite was a better faction for government. And was Abnegation that bad at governing? Jeanine probably wanted power and that was all, Eric thought, rolling his eyes.
He didn’t have to think about this whole bullshit for a year at least. Freedom was waiting for him.
His attention was taken away by a girl from Dauntless who was staring at him and Tall Boy and didn’t even look away when Eric made eye contact with her. He knew they had to make an odd pair. An Erudite who had helped an Abnegation get on the train. That sounded funny. It would have looked normal if it had been Tall Boy who had been helping others in.
“Alright, kids!” A man at the front of the car caught their attention. “We’re here! You have to jump out now!” The second he had finished talking, he thrust himself out and disappeared from their view.
Some of the Dauntless born kids whooped and rushed to look outside. One boy had already jumped out in a high pitched scream. Eric approached the door and looked out; they had to jump onto a roof which was at least one meter away from the train. And the in between was death. But he already knew that. Eric knew all of initiation’s processes by heart because of Jeanine.
He looked over his shoulder and spotted Tall Boy cautiously approaching the door. “Come on!” Eric shouted and that seemed to wake him; he rushed to Eric’s side. But then his body stiffened and his hands closed into fists. He tried to say something but Eric couldn’t hear with the loud noises that the train and the wind made. “What?” he yelled.
Tall Boy shook his head, he looked down and let out a strangled noise. Eric frowned at him; was he afraid of heights? “Don’t look down!” They had to hurry if they wanted to make it to the roof. “We need to jump now!” Tall Boy closed his eyes briefly and when they opened again they were full with determination.
“It’s not that far, right?” He said.
Eric grinned. “Yeah.” Then he stepped back to have a momentum and rushed out of the train, pushing hard on his legs. He landed at least one meter after the ledge of the roof –a great distance, he had to admit- and had to roll on his shoulder because of the speed.
When he straightened up, Tall Boy was landing harshly further on the roof. At least his long and large clothes would have protected his skin from scraping on the roof. Eric waited for him and they joined the others who were gathering.
Eric listened with one ear as Max, the leader, introduced himself and the way inside the faction compound; the hole in the roof. He had one wish and it was to jump first, he didn’t want to wait for others to jump before him and it would be great to impress the others and show that he wasn’t afraid of jumping. He heard Tall Boy inhaling loudly beside him and he realized he couldn’t just jump and let him alone. Tall Boy was afraid of heights, he was sure of it. Eric wasn’t selfless at all but he also really wanted to help him, for some strange reason. Maybe if he convinced him to jump right after him he would be fine; just like how they did with the train.
“Let’s jump first,” Eric whispered in the taller boy’s ear.
“What? No way! We don’t even know what’s down there.” But Eric knew what was down there; he just couldn’t tell him.
“Come on, it’s fine. I can go first and you jump right after me.” Eric took him by the wrist and made to lead them to the hole but the other boy stopped him.
“No!” he hissed, “I don’t like heights.” He looked very uncomfortable and Eric’s determination to help him only increased. There was something in his eyes that was just so honest and hurt.
“Then go first.”
“What? I just told you-“
“Go first. I’ll be right next to you.”
“I don’t know.”
“Come on, or someone else will jump before us.” This time Tall Boy followed Eric to the ledge of the hole. Everyone was watching them as they made their way there, he could feel their eyes burning his back.
“You know you can’t jump together, boys,” one of the adults who was standing next to Max said.
“He’ll jump first,” Eric nodded at him. He squeezed the boy’s sweaty hand who gripped back. He was breathing harshly, bordering on a panic attack if Eric wasn’t mistaken. “Look at me,” he whispered to him. His eyes left the black hole and darted to Eric’s; they showed fright. Eric squeezed his hand again. “Don’t look away from my eyes. Let go of my hand and jump,” he whispered so that no one else could hear.
“Trust me. Let go,” he said softly. The boy looked back down the hole for a second but then his eyes were back on Eric and he slowly let go of his hand. Eric nodded. The next second he jumped and fell down the darkness.
He couldn’t help but grin stupidly at that. He had just convinced someone afraid of heights to jump down that hole. And an Abnegation at that! He was proud of himself.
Eric waited for a few seconds and then he jumped too.
Tall Boy’s name was Tobias. Eric had asked him when they were waiting for all of the initiates to jump down the hole, which had taken way too long for Eric’s patience.
Tobias was staying close to Eric but the latter didn’t mind. After all he was the only one from Abnegation among the initiates. There were six kids from Candor, three from Erudite, including himself, one from Amity and Tobias from Abnegation. Eric knew most of them from afar; he had seen them at school. He only knew the name of one boy from Erudite, Casper. He was in the same math class as Eric and he was really bad, so bad that Eric remembered his name. The poor Casper had to be born in Erudite of all of the factions.
Their instructor introduced himself and made a short speech about Initiation and then he led them throughout the compound so that they could see a bit of their new home. His name was Amar and he was very tall. What was it with people being so tall? Amar had bright yellow hair, shaved on the sides and very long on top so that they fell on one side and sometimes on the other when the man flicked them. It was hideous to Eric. He also had a few colorful tattoos scattered on his arms and golden piercings were aligned on his left ear. Eric had already planned to get piercings and tattoos, he didn’t know what or where yet, but it was part of being fully dauntless and it was exciting. But he was sure that he wouldn’t end up in such a colorful hideous mismatched mess like Amar.
When Amar finally led the group to the dorms they had to choose beds. Eric and Tobias chose beds on the far corner of the dorms. Tobias’ was pushed against the wall and Eric’s was right beside it.
They were given an hour to change and shower if they wanted before Amar came back to lead them to dinner. Eric and Tobias plopped down on Tobias’ bed, their backs against the wall, freshly showered and dressed in black, their color now. They didn’t talk, they watched in silence as the other initiates socialized. It was a comfortable silence so Eric didn’t think much about the lack of conversation.
Chapter 2: Initiation
Tobias wasn’t much of a talkative person. It was true that Eric had never been the best out there to make friends but it was obvious that Tobias and he had to be friends. Eric had saved him after all and helped him and they had stuck together the first day. He still couldn’t consider them as friends and they were already almost four weeks into initiation. For fuck’s sake their beds were next to each other but they weren’t talking, and if Eric didn’t find someone to talk to –actually talk to, because he could speak to Tobias but the boy would rarely answer- he would go nuts.
It was depressing to see every other initiates talking to each other. The six transfers from Candor had made their little group, which was stupid. Casper and the girl from Erudite were quite close and they were getting along really well with the boy from Amity. Anyway they all had someone to talk to and to live with. Eric was stuck with the most silent person he had ever encountered.
That’s why he had given up and decided to spend his time with the others. Ellie and Casper were from Erudite, like him, and Oliver was the boy from Amity. They were friendly enough but they were a bit boring. Eric still gravitated towards Tobias from time to time because he hated seeing him all alone.
He could see that Tobias wasn’t happy, he had insecurities and lacked of self-confidence. He could see it in the way Tobias ducked his head or looked at the ground constantly, shuffled awkwardly or in the way his shoulders slumped forward in a protective way when David –a boy from Candor- called out insults at him.
Weeks passed and Eric was drifting further apart from Tobias. The others liked to make fun of the boy and call him a Stiff. It was true that Tobias wasn’t really good at anything, except for the knife throwing, but Eric hated when they called out snarky remarks at him. It was mostly the transfers from Candor. Eric didn’t like them.
One day Eric had stopped ignoring them and yelled at them to stop mocking Tobias. He had felt pretty good; for one the look of fucking David’s face was priceless and then he kind of felt like Tobias’ hero. The latter didn’t agree apparently because the same night when they were getting ready for bed, he asked Eric not to defend him again because he didn’t need it. After that Eric had ceased any attempt to stay close to Tobias. It had kind of hurt him.
It still bothered him to hear the others call out insults to Tobias but Eric was now restraining himself. The red-haired from Amity, Oliver, was constantly reassuring him that Tobias could very well take care of himself if he had refused Eric’s aid. Eric tried to convince himself so but at the back of his mind it was still itching.
It had been two months into initiation when Amar finally deemed that the transfers had enough endurance and had acquired his little moves and tricks in combat that he made them fight each other for real. Eric couldn’t be happier; initiation had been very boring until now. The only problem was that Tobias revealed himself very bad during the fights and the insults and the mocking were gaining in intensity.
One evening Eric decided to shower quickly before heading to the Cafeteria to join Oliver, Casper and Ellie. He was very sweaty and knew that he smelt bad. The others weren’t bothered by eating all sweaty and smelly and Eric usually ignored his drying sweat because he was always starving. But that evening he couldn’t bear his damp hair and armpits and sweaty back. He just needed to shower.
He was approaching his bed ready to shed off his clothes and rush to the showers when he spotted Tobias on his bed, back against the wall. His shoulders were shaking and he had his head ducked.
“Tobias?” Eric walked closer to his bed. “Are you crying?” He said almost disbelievingly. The weeping boy looked up at him and blushed furiously. He wiped his tears away and sniffed loudly, obviously not wanting anyone to see him in this state. Eric kneeled on the bed and shuffled to the wall where he sat next to him. “What happened?”
“Are you going to make fun of me too?” Tobias snapped.
Eric simply looked sideways and gave him a long look. “Do you really think I would?”
Tobias took his time to answer; he eventually muttered a small, “no.”
“Who made fun of you?”
Tobias scoffed. “Everyone. I’m the weak Stiff for them. They always talk about my old faction but this time it was the worst.”
“And it makes you cry?”
“I don’t want anyone to talk about my father!” Tobias raised his voice and sniffed again.
Eric studied his brown hair still cut short like Abnegation liked. He had a nice profile and his jaw was very sharp; he almost wanted to reach and trace it with his fingers. It wasn’t the first time.
“Ignore them,” he told Tobias. “Train harder and destroy them with your ranking,” he shrugged.
“You know I’m awful and hand to hand-to-hand combat. Even at shooting I’m pathetic.”
“I’ll help you. We could train together after hours.” Eric spoke without thinking. But then he pondered on his proposition and shrugged; why not? Nothing had changed since the first day; Eric still wanted to help Tall Boy for whatever reason his subconscious found.
“Really?” Tobias asked wearily, as if he was waiting for Eric to say no and laugh at his face.
Eric frowned. “Yeah. Let’s eat dinner and then we’ll sneak into the training room.” Tobias sniffed loudly and nodded silently, his blue eyes wet with unshed tears. “I’ll shower quickly first.”
“You smell horrible,” Tobias mumbled. Eric shoved him so hard that the boy fell on his side on the mattress. Eric barked a laugh at the startled boy.
The next few weeks were enjoyable to Eric. Tobias and he would sneak into the training room whenever they had some free time and Tobias was actually in condition to fight or work out. One night Eric had insisted they train even though Tobias had said he was already exhausted and the outcome had been terrible. Tobias had actually thrown up at the end of the training session and Eric hadn’t felt that guilty in his whole life. Now he listened to Tobias and observed him closely to make sure he was alright to perform in extra training with him.
When they weren’t training and actually took their free time was Eric’s favorite moments to spend. One of the consequences of their little agreement was that Tobias was opening up to him and talking more and more and looked less insecure whenever he was alone with Eric. He actually revealed a sarcastic side that Eric loved.
So when they didn’t train, they usually sat on Tobias’ bed, their backs propped against the wall, their shoulders touching and they talked about everything and nothing.
Tobias was even getting better at ignoring the jabs from the Candor transfers, to Eric’s relief. They were two boys; David and Vivien, and four girls; Jade, Janine, Veritas and Barbara. David was the leader of their little group, and the only one Tobias couldn’t ignore. David always knew the best words to hurt him. He was also the smartest, to Eric’s opinion, that was why he was the most difficult to handle.
But now that Eric was friend with Tobias, the latter didn’t mind when Eric snapped back at David. Tobias seemed less wary and insecure than before.
Things were good.
“Eric,” Tobias panted. “I can’t.” He was breathing harshly, looking sideways at Eric with hooded eyes.
“Come on, a bit more!”
Tobias looked at him with determination and then hit the bag a few more times. It was obvious that he was tired, his stance was horrible and his hits weak. He kept going for a few blows, but then he lost his balance and hugged the bag to avoid falling. “Eric. I promise I can’t anymore.” He panted, his cheek squished against the leather of the bag.
“Okay,” Eric nodded. He believed him. “Here drink some water,” he handed him the bottle, “not too much. Two or three swallows only.”
“Why do you always say that?” Tobias said between pants and took the bottle from Eric.
“It’s science.” He didn’t even know why himself; his trainers in Erudite just always instructed him not to drink too much directly after physical effort. Curiosity nudged his brain and he wished he had books at his disposition.
“Uh, okay.” Tobias did as he was told. Eric watched as he tossed his head back and his throat bobbed as he drank the water.
Eric cleared his throat. “Let’s go. You need to take a shower and then rest for tomorrow.”
“I can’t really, um.”
“I can’t walk. I can barely stand. Can’t we just rest here for a bit?”
“Your sweat is getting cold and it’s not good for you, you have to shower. I help you walk it’s alright.”
Eric didn’t miss how the boy blushed and nodded. They progressed slowly towards the dorms, with Tobias leaning heavily on Eric. The latter had one arm around his waist and enjoyed his warmth against him happily.
“I’m drenched in sweat.”
“I must smell horrible.”
“I’ve smelled worse.”
“Thanks,” Tobias said sarcastically.
“You’re going to beat whoever you’re up against tomorrow.”
“I hope so.”
“You’ve progressed so much, it’s amazing.”
“That is thanks to you,” Tobias laughed and Eric could feel his chest rumbling against his side. “Why are you even helping such a lost case as me?”
“It just-“ Eric paused and searched for the right words. “I don’t really know. It’s the first time I’ve seen someone with eyes like that.”
“What?” Tobias laughed. “Are you complimenting my eyes?”
“No. I’m saying they’re honest.” Eric didn’t waver, thankfully. “Honest, transparent, earnest. And yeah, I just thought you’re worth the help.”
Tobias cleared his throat. “Okay,” he whispered.
“And you’re not a lost case,” Eric shook his head, “you’re almost as good as me.”
“You are so full of yourself.”
“No I’m not being arrogant; I’m actually the best fighter among the transfers,” Eric said sincerely.
It was Tobias’ turn to shake his head. “Sometimes I can’t believe you,” he admonished.
“But really, you’re good, now you just need to mark more points and we’ll probably end up the first and second ranked.”
Eric and Tobias were attached to the hip. They did everything together. They woke up at the same time; the first one to wake up would wake the other. They ate theirs meals together, they went to the bathroom at the same time. They stayed close together during the fights, they chose stations next to each other when practicing shooting or knife throwing and when Amar took them outside the compound on a run, they ran side by side. At first Eric had to whisper encouragements to Tobias to keep up and push harder on his legs; but now Tobias had developed a great endurance. Eric would glance sideways to see him running with a good posture and neat breathing.
They went to bed at the same time but before that, they would sit on Tobias’ bed and talk -or not, until exhaustion took over and Eric would hop off his bed.
The weeks passed and as Eric had predicted, he and Tobias were the first and second of the rankings. Tobias had made an impressive progression and was winning all his fights. Even his knife throwing technique was impeccable and Eric had nothing to do with it; he had just watched Tobias reach this perfect level at aiming the knife.
The night before the final rankings and final fight, Amar had gathered his initiates and explained to them that he would reveal what fights would occur. He explained that it was the most important fight and therefore he let them the privilege of knowing their opponent so that they could prepare mentally for the next day.
Tobias and Eric’s names were side by side on the board.
“It’s our final fight. And we’re up against each other,” Tobias sighed, as they settled as usual on his hard mattress, their backs resting on the cold wall. “I don’t like it.”
“Come on, it’s going to be fun. We’re both the highest ranked anyway, it doesn’t matter who wins, we have more points that any of them.” Eric gestured to the other initiates in the dorm.
“Whatever happens tomorrow,” Tobias said quietly, “I will be happy with the outcome of the fight.”
“You talk like you think you have a chance against me.”
Tobias scoffed. “Of course I have.”
“I’ll beat you.”
“You said yourself the other day that I was as good as you!” Tobias turned toward him and he probably didn’t know but his lips were forming a pout. Eric’s eyes were on it.
“It was to encourage you.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“We’ll see tomorrow, Stiff.”
Tobias dug his elbow in Eric’s side. The latter grunted and they ended up laughing quietly, Tobias’ head resting in its familiar place on Eric’s shoulder.
Amar called out their names at the end of Jade and Casper’s fight and the two friends made their way to the ring, walking so close to each other that their arms touched. It wasn’t a real fight for them, just a friendly sparring.
Everyone from David’s group was encouraging Eric while David himself was standing behind and smirking. Eric was not friend with any of them.
It didn’t take him long to understand their little game. It was common fact that they all hated the ‘Stiff’. They just wanted to make him lose his focus. Eric dodged a fast punch and noticed that Tobias’ jaw was clenched. Guilt creeped inside his chest; he just didn’t like that the stupid jerks were using him to reach Tobias.
“Go Eric!” someone shouted. It went like that for a few minutes, while the two friends exchanged powerful blows and were tiring themselves quickly. Eric wished Amar would just shut them up already.
“You should kill yourself, Stiff!”
Eric’s head snapped in the direction of the shout. He was fuming. No one got to say this to his boy; but he didn’t have the time to yell back. Pain seared on the side of his face as soon as he looked away. Tobias had hit him. Eric lost his balance and stumbled until he fell out of the mat and onto the cold stone ground. He winced, feeling the skin of his side scraping against the stone; his shirt had ridden up. He grunted and looked up at Tobias with wide eyes. He just fell out of the mat. He lost.
Tobias scrambled to kneel beside him. “You alright?”
“Yeah.” He lost, but he was fine with it. It meant Tobias was first of the rankings for stage one. He didn’t feel any regret or frustration. No, it was actually fine.
“You lost your focus,” Tobias whispered in disbelief. “It never happens.”
“And you ignored David.” Eric smirked. “It never happens either.” They both chuckled softly and stood up together.
“Winner: Tobias!” Amar yelled. He quickly circled Tobias’ name on the board and gave him a thumbs up. Eric rolled his eyes and lifted his shirt to take a look at his scraped side. Skin was peeling, it was red, slightly swollen and bleeding a bit at some places. It was nothing, he let go of his shirt and looked up to see Tobias at the board, talking with Amar. The latter must have called him. Eric clenched his fists at his sides, feeling the frustration creeping up in his chest and he knew it wasn’t from his loss.
“We should do something to celebrate,” Tobias pondered. They were sat on his bed, their backs against the wall. It was already past dinner, Max and Amar had announced the rankings two hours before and most of the initiates were out of the dorms celebrating. After all they had one week to breathe.
“I don’t know. Tattoos?”
“You don’t like tattoos,” Eric reminded him.
“Piercings?” Eric said sarcastically. “Oh right, you don’t like them either. Such a Stiff.”
Tobias elbowed him on the side but froze when Eric hissed. “What? What’s wrong?”
“It’s not nothing, you just hissed.” Tobias took the hem of Eric’s shirt and the latter stopped him, grabbing his wrists. “Eric. Let me see.” Eric rolled his eyes but eventually let go of his wrists and tried not to blush as Tobias lifted his shirt and gasped. “When did you get that? It’s getting infected.”
Eric looked down at his side; alright it was swollen but it looked nasty mostly because of the peeling bits of skin and dry blood. “It looks fine to me.”
“When did you do that?”
“When I fell from the mat. My shirt rid up and I scraped my side on the ground.”
“It’s my fault-“
“It’s not. I’m the one who got distracted and then I couldn’t avoid your blow and fell.”
“Why didn’t you tell? We need to wash the dry blood and disinfect at least.”
“We don’t have antiseptics, Tobias, it’s fine.” Eric pulled his shirt down and huffed to cover his flush. If he hadn’t told Tobias, it was because he hadn’t wanted him to fuss about it. Though a small part of him had wanted him to find out because Tobias taking care of him brought a really good feeling in his chest.
“The infirmary has-“
“I won’t go there just for this.”
“Then, come.” Tobias tugged him up and led him to the adjoining bathroom and made him stop in front of a sink. He opened the water and put his hand under the flow to test the temperature. “Remove your shirt.”
Eric didn’t have a problem with nudity or wasn’t ashamed of his body; he had great muscles and just a small tummy. But undressing in front of Tobias was embarrassing in itself. Yet he couldn’t refuse without making the situation awkward so he did as asked, placed his shirt on another sink and avoided his eyes. He watched as Tobias washed his hands with soap and rinsed them.
Tobias suddenly dropped to his knees in front of him. Eric’s abdomen clenched in surprise and- was it arousal? Tobias placed on hand on Eric’s hip and kept the other under the stream of water.
“Wait, what? Tobias, I can do it myself,” Eric tried to step back but the other boy had a firm grip on his hip. God.
“It’s fine,” Tobias said.
“No, no, really.”
“Eric, I want to do it.” Tobias looked up at him with determination. Eric gulped and stopped struggling; the hand on his hip loosened its grip but stayed there, warm.
When Tobias’s wet fingers first touched his skin he shivered. They didn’t have a flannel or anything to clean the dry blood so he used the tip of his fingers and warm water. It was stinging a bit but he was being very gentle and it was soothing in a weird way. Eric swallowed and avoided looking down at Tobias.
“Wait a sec.” Tobias stood up and walked to one stall. He came back with toilet paper and dubbed Eric’s wet skin with it.
“That’s very hygienic.”
“Oh shut up. You didn’t want the infirmary so I’ll do with what I have.”
Eric couldn’t keep the smile off his face.
“So I was thinking,” Tobias began, handing Eric his shirt, “maybe we could get something pierced. Because I really can’t see myself having a tattoo.”
“You don’t like piercings,” Eric frowned.
“Not really. But I can get one ear pierced. The ear is fine.” Tobias tugged at his lobe as if he was trying to imagine a jewel in it.
Eric brightened up at that. “Really?”
“Yeah. Do you want to get a piercing?”
“Yeah! Let’s go!”
Later that night the boys came back with studs of metal through their skins and smiles on their faces. Tobias had a metal bar through his right lobe and Eric a black ring through his lower lip.
Even though the physical part of Initiation was wrapped up, Eric and Tobias kept their training session some nights. Just because they needed the exercise and they enjoyed sparring and seeing which one of them was stronger. Eric didn’t like to admit it out loud but he could tell that Tobias was better than him now at hand-to-hand combat. It was unbelievable how quickly he had progressed while Eric had been trained since his thirteenth birthday in Erudite. If Eric was honest Tobias’ taller frame and ability to develop his muscles fairly quickly was a natural advantage. At least he was better that Tobias in shooting and knife throwing.
Their training sessions were a moment he loved and he knew Tobias loved it too. That’s why he was taken aback when Tobias had tugged at his arm after dinner. “Um Eric,” Tobias spoke up. “I can’t train with you tonight.”
Eric’s shoulders slumped; he had been looking forward to their session, particularly because he was determined to beat Tobias. “Why?”
“I have this thing.”
“Aren’t you going to tell me what it is?”
“I can’t,” Tobias said, “I’m sorry.” He did look sorry, so Eric didn’t want to insist and let it go, his deception still strong. Little did he know that it was only going to happen more and more.
Almost every night Tobias would disappear for an hour, come back drained and silent. Eric had tried to ask him again what he was doing during these hours but each time Tobias would apologize and refuse to say a word about it. It was so frustrating to Eric and worse, it was hurting him. They were friends, he had to have a right to know what was going on. Suddenly he didn’t feel as important to Tobias as he once did.
Of course because of that they never trained together again. They weren’t as close as before. They still made small talk, sometimes they laughed. But their thighs didn’t touch when they sat at the cafeteria anymore and Eric never came to sit on Tobias’ bed until lights out. He missed how Tobias’ head would fall on his shoulder, he missed his warmth.
To worsen things more, Eric noticed that he wasn’t the only one to make Tobias smile. He had seen the looks Amar and Tobias exchanged. When Amar would call Tobias’ name to go into the simulation room, Tobias would smile. When Amar would walk up to him and chat, Tobias would laugh.
At night Eric always took a lot of time to fall asleep; now that the physical part of initiation was finished, he was not as tired as he used to be. And without the exhaustion, sleep would not come quickly enough. Not to mention that he thought a lot while staring at the ceiling. As stupid as it sounded, he would imagine all kinds of scenarios with Tobias and Amar meeting up during these mysterious hours.
Eric’s worst fear in the simulations was the fear of thunderstorms. He couldn’t do anything about thunder or lightning when he was in the sim. He could only sit and wait for it to pass, because thunder was a force of nature, Eric couldn’t change it or stop it. That was why it was so scary for him.
In his fear he was in a field and it was empty for one tree. He didn’t have anything to block the sound or anywhere to hide; he was forced to stay out in the open and wait for the storm to finish.
It was strange; now that he had to virtually face thunderstorms frequently, he felt like he was even more afraid of thunderstorms than before. When storms happened during the days back in Erudite, Eric had always tried to stay in places crowded with people; their presence reassured him even if they didn’t talk to him, even if they didn’t know about his fear.
Maybe it was a pathetic fear; no one was scared of storms except for children. But it wasn’t like he had decided that thunder was one of his fears. It just made him very uncomfortable each time it started. He always had this ache growing in his stomach, like his intestines were coiling. When it would hit at night, loudly, he would squeeze his arms against his aching stomach. Nothing would make his anxiety go and he always stayed wide awake and scared while the sky rumbled frighteningly loudly. All his life he had to deal with it alone. What he was missing was a person to comfort him and to anchor him for the night.
This night when he woke up in the dorms by the loud rumble of thunder, Eric felt the familiar ache in his guts coming and his pulse quickening. This time he wasn’t really alone. He had a friend. He thought about sliding out if his bed and joining Tobias. They weren't as close as before, but Tobias inspired comfort still. And the louder the thunder, the more tempted he became.
He didn’t think he would lack so much of luck for a thunderstorm to happen during initiation, out the sim times and at night. The thunders had been going for an hour now as he lay in his bed. There was no window in their dorms so he couldn’t see the lightning. But some of the thunders were so loud. There he was lying, pathetically, on his side, his stomach in knots.
He could not understand how the other initiates could sleep peacefully. He felt like the ceiling was going to fall down any minute, the thunder was horrible.
At one really loud thunder, Eric flinched. That’s when Tobias sighed loudly and sat up tiredly on the bed beside his.
“Tobias?” Eric whispered.
“Oh, you’re awake.”
“You’re not sleeping?” Eric was so relieved that he was awake. People’s presence always calmed him down in these moments.
“I can’t with the fucking storm,” Tobias groaned. “It’s so loud and I need silence to fall asleep.” He stood up and scratched his neck. “I’m gonna go to the toilets,” he whispered.
During the whole time Tobias was in the bathroom, Eric pondered his options. He could ask Tobias to stay awake with him and talk to calm his nerves. He could ask him to sleep together. Or he could shut his mouth and let Tobias try to sleep in peace. He was stupid; he knew he couldn’t ask Tobias. It would be awkward; he hadn’t even come to sit on Tobias’ bed for a few days already.
He didn’t hear Tobias come back, the boy was huffing and already slipping back in bed, not addressing him. Eric panicked, he didn’t want him to fall asleep. Another thunder rumbled loudly and his stomach clenched. He bore with the anguish for another minute before abruptly pushing back the covers and shuffling to Tobias’ bed. “Tobias,” he whispered when he was leaning over him, one knee propped on the bed.
“Yes?” he said with a voice full of incomprehension.
“Can I- can I come in?” Eric asked weakly.
“What? Uh sure,” Tobias shuffled toward the wall to make room for him. Eric slipped under the covers with trembling hands and numb limbs and lay on his side, facing him. A loud thunder cracked and Eric tried to focus on Tobias’ presence. He clenched his eyes shut and pressed one hand against his aching abdomen.
“Uh, Eric? Are you okay?”
Eric nodded, his eyes still shut. He counted to 42 in his head before Tobias spoke again.
“Are you afraid of storms?” he asked quietly with doubt in his voice. Eric didn’t answer, though he opened his eyes and stared right back at him. Another thunder rumbled and he flinched. “It’s fine,” Tobias whispered. Eric heard the sheets rustle and then Tobias was taking his hand and squeezing gently. He didn’t let go. He didn’t even complain that they were sharing his narrow bed. He didn’t make fun of him for being afraid. Eric couldn’t even find it in himself to feel ashamed, his focus was on the storm and the tightening in his stomach and Tobias.
Tobias fell asleep moments later but the storm raging outside was keeping Eric awake. He wasn’t as stressed as before; Tobias was still holding his hand.
When Eric woke up in the morning his body was sweating a bit because his bed was somehow too warm. He realized when he felt his forehead pressed against Tobias’ chin that he had fallen asleep in his bed. His clammy hand was still clasped with Tobias’ between their bodies and he almost wanted to close his eyes and fall back asleep. Then he thought about how awkward it would be and he slowly let go of Tobias’ hand and silently slid out of the bed.
Before slipping in his own bed he caught sight of someone else awake. It was Jade; she was sitting on her bed, braiding her long hair, and she was looking right back at Eric. He blushed and his lips parted in an attempt to explain himself. Jade raised an eyebrow, looked briefly at Tobias’ bed, then back at the gaping Eric and then she smirked and stood up, heading to the bathrooms.
Eric sighed heavily; oh how he hoped she would keep her mouth shut. He cursed inwardly, and lay back.
The sleep never came back, but he only had to wait half an hour before the wake up time.
Tobias didn’t mention anything of the night before when he woke up; Eric was glad for each time he remembered his face heated up.
He hoped last night meant they could still be close friends; he really missed the small touches.
It turned out Eric wasn’t stupid. One night after dinner, Eric had dared to ask Tobias again about what he was doing in secret. This time when Tobias apologized, Eric didn’t let it go, he yelled instead.
“Eric, don’t go mad on me!” Tobias pleaded. “You have to understand.”
“No I don’t fucking understand! We’re supposed to be friends! Whatever it is you’re hiding, I know I can keep it for myself.”
“But I can’t tell you! Don’t think for one second that I like hiding this from you!”
“Then tell me!”
“Are you deaf? God, leave it, Eric. I have to go.” With that said Tobias stormed out of the dorm to wherever he was headed each time.
Eric was fuming, he didn’t think before walking after Tobias. It wasn’t hard to follow him without getting caught; at this time of the evening, the corridors were full of people drinking and play-fighting. Soon enough Eric saw him enter the simulation room. Before the door closed behind Tobias, he caught a glimpse of another man inside. Amar.
Tobias had been meeting up with Amar all this time. Eric stuttered out a breath, his heart dropped, he was standing right in front of the door. He could open it and stop whatever they were doing and beat up Amar. He pressed his hand on the metallic door and leaned closer. Laughs. Tobias was laughing. He could hear the beautiful sound through the barrier. Usually when Eric heard his laugh it would clench his heart, but in a good way. This time it only hurt. He closed his eyes briefly and then he was running away.
Eric decided to keep what he saw for him, or well, he managed to keep it for himself for a few days. He failed when Tobias came back one night with a flush on his cheeks and eyes that were still smiling. He couldn’t bear to imagine what had happened in the damn simulation room.
Tobias was getting ready for bed, already sat on it. Eric kneeled on the hard mattress pushed the oblivious boy against the wall.
“Tell me what you were doing,” he hissed.
Tobias looked up at him furiously. “No. And let go of me, Eric.”
“I know that you’re seeing Amar.” Tobias froze at that. “Why the hell couldn’t you just tell me that?”
“You followed me,” Tobias whispered. “I thought I could trust you not to do that.”
“That’s not the point! Tell me! For fuck’s sake, I can’t take it-“ Eric shut his mouth and looked away. He hated not being in control and appearing vulnerable. He jumped when Tobias put a hand on his bicep and rubbed gently.
“I’m so sorry, Eric,” he murmured. “I still can’t tell everything but- Amar is helping me with something.”
“What? With what?”
“I just- I have this problem and he’s helping. And he asked me not to tell anyone because it can look bad, an instructor personally helping an initiate.”
“And you couldn’t tell me! I don’t fucking care that he is helping, you have to know that! I don’t care! You could-“
“It’s not because of that that I wasn’t telling you,” Tobias cut him. “It’s my problem that I can’t tell anyone, not even you.”
Eric jerked away to put a greater distance between them. “Well obviously Amar is allowed to know,” he said coldly. He was so angry and hurt. Tobias could trust this fucking Amar but couldn’t trust him. He made to get down from Tobias’ bed but the latter gripped his wrist.
“No!” Tobias got a hold of his other wrist. “Please, I wish I could tell you, believe me.” He sniffed and Eric could see that his blue eyes were filled with unshed tears. “I wish I could. I really really can’t. Amar found out on his own and I was so scared but he offered to help me-“
“I could help you,” Eric said sadly.
“Eric, please.” One tear was rolling down Tobias’ cheek. “Let it go, I don’t want to fight with you.”
“Okay,” Eric heard himself say. He never wanted to see his boy in such a state. He preferred keeping up with the daily fake smiles and small talk. That problem Tobias had was obviously something important and dangerous. He convinced himself to stop asking about it again.
Eric wiped the tear trail from Tobias’ cheekbone with his thumb. “I won’t ask again.”
Something flickered in Tobias’ eyes and instead of calming down, his lower lip wobbled and he snatched Eric’s hand in his. “Thank you.”
“Hey, lovebirds!” They cringed as David’s voice boomed through the dorm. “Have you finished your cute fight? Can we all sleep now?” Of course all his friends laughed.
“Fuck off, David!” Tobias snapped.
“Since when are you feisty? Oh I see, your boyfriend really changed you!”
If Eric blushed at the term ‘boyfriend’ no one had to know. He squeezed back Tobias’ hand and silently moved to settle against the wall. After a while Tobias shuffled to sit next to him, his side pressed against Eric and he even dropped his head on Eric’s shoulder. It had been too long.
“Oh,” Vivien cooed, “look Dave! Look how cute they are.”
“The beauty and the beast,” Jade added.
Eric ignored them, he ignored the laughs. His attention was on the boy pressed against his side and holding his hand. His heart soared and he had to chew his lip not to smile like a silly teenager in love.
Initiation continued that way; Eric kept his promise and never asked again why Tobias needed Amar’s help. The second and third stage of initiation seemed excruciatingly long to Eric; each day that passed, his heart was a little more broken.
While he would treasure the quiet moments on Tobias’ bed and the small touches, most of the time he was reminded by that secret. A dark veil that was standing in their way. He knew he had promised him he wouldn’t ask but it just hurt him that Tobias didn’t trust him enough to explain.
That night they were sat side by side as usual on Tobias’ bed. The latter was stiff in anger and Eric could feel the tension in his body where he sat beside him.
David and his companions had been cruel with Tobias as usual and they mentioned Tobias’ father again. It was the second time they did. Eric wasn’t completely oblivious about his father. He had read the articles his former faction wrote about Marcus Eaton. They all said the same thing; that Marcus Eaton used to beat his son Tobias and that was why he had transferred.
Eric didn’t really believe in these papers because he knew well that Erudite was trying to stain Abnegation’s image; but with Tobias’ reaction each time David mentioned his father, Eric was having doubts. But then again Marcus Eaton could be an innocent victim of the articles and Tobias was getting mad because he didn’t like people bad mouthing his father.
“Calm down,” Eric mumbled. Tobias was clenching his fists and he needed to let it go; the incident with David and the others happened hours ago. “David is stupid. They all are. Let it go.”
Eric didn’t really understand what was happening in Tobias’ head. The boy turned his head away from him. “Hey,” Eric said softly with a gentle nudge. Something was wrong. He placed his hand on Tobias’ fist.
Tobias suddenly let go of the tensions in his body; his shoulders slumped, his back bowed slightly, his fists unclenched and finally he turned his head to look at Eric. His eyes were sad.
“They’re not stupid. That’s the thing,” Tobias said very softly; Eric was sure that no one else in the dorm could hear. He spoke in the same hushed voice.
“David. The others. The articles. They’re right. Everything written is the truth.” It looked painful for Tobias to talk about it. It had to be. Eric was hit with the revelation. He hadn’t really expected the articles to tell the truth. He cursed inwardly. It explained so much. It explained the insecurities, how Tobias struggled to have faith in himself, how he was scared and wary of people, why he was isolated from the others. It explained why Tobias reacted so strongly to David talking about the articles.
The articles must hurt Tobias so much. They reminded him of whatever he had to endure with his father. They revealed it to the whole city. People everywhere were talking about Tobias the abused son.
So much was going on in Eric’s head. Somehow the revelation hurt him. Why was Tobias’ past hurting him? It wasn’t he who had suffered. It was compassion, he knew it, it just never had happened to him this strongly. His chest was physically tensed because he was sad for the boy sitting beside him.
He was sad but also furious. He was furious that anyone had ever dared to raise a hand on Tobias. Tobias was precious, his smiles were to be treasured, he needed to be protected. It pained Eric to see the uncertain looks Tobias always gave to their surroundings, or his fumbling hands because he didn’t know what to do with them.
Eric wanted to protect him but he also wanted to make him smile. He realized he had always wanted to see him smile. Now that he had helped him with the fighting, Tobias was more confident and Eric took pride in it. He cared about him. Eric loved him.
His lips parted, staring at Tobias, Eric let out a shaky breath at the realization. He did, he loved him. He loved Tobias’ newly found confidence even though it was still fragile. His sarcasm, and his way of putting Eric in his place when he was too arrogant. His good will and selflessness. He loved his features, his eyes, his lips. His ear, the one he pierced even though he hated piercings. He loved the graceful way Tobias moved and fought. He loved his laugh and his sparkling eyes.
“Don’t look at me like that,” Tobias cut his train of thought. “I don’t want you to pity me.”
Eric had smiled. “I would never pity you. I know you don’t need it.”
Eric saw Tobias as a force. While he had been quite weak at the beginning of initiation, Eric knew that Tobias’ mind was so strong. And when he set his mind on something, when he was determined to achieve something, nothing could stop him. That was the most beautiful thing to witness.
As usual Eric and Tobias waited for each other to finish going through their fear landscape before leaving together. This time Tobias was the last one to go into his landscape so Eric had to wait for several initiates to pass before both of them could go.
With his leg bouncing rapidly, he sat on the bench, glaring at Amar’s back.
Tobias finally slipped out of the room, smiling at Amar and headed to Eric’s seat. “Hey, how did it go?” Eric asked.
When they began to walk away, they were startled by someone slapping lightly Tobias’ shoulder. Eric found with dread that it was Amar. Of course.
“You’re the last one so I get to walk back to the Pit with you,” Amar announced happily.
“Alright.” Tobias smiled brightly.
That’s how the three of them ended up walking side by side; Amar being too close to Tobias’ side for Eric’s taste. He tried to swallow his jealousy. It was not easy with Tobias gladly chatting back with the guy.
The pair laughed and Amar suddenly reached to ruffle Tobias hair. Tobias let him. Eric tightened his fists and had to look away. It was not really anger he was feeling; just jealousy and the frustration to watch someone flirt with Tobias when he himself was not allowing himself to make a move.
But then he caught Amar looking at Tobias with eagerness. And the man looked briefly at Tobias’ lips.
“How old are you even?” Eric snapped. He couldn’t take it anymore. Now that he had accepted his feelings for Tobias, he could also recognize his jealousy. It was the only reason why he disliked their instructor. That, and his hair.
“I’m sorry?” Amar looked at him in disbelief. Eric realized it was the first time since Amar had caught up with them that he was even acknowledging Eric’s presence, that he was even casting a glance in his direction. Eric blushed; it was fucking humiliating. Amar could do what he wanted because he was their superior. He could thoroughly ignore Eric and get close to Tobias.
Maybe Amar was underestimating Eric.
“You’re too young to be an instructor, that must be it.” Eric said, ignoring Tobias’ stunned expression. “You’re trying to make friends with an initiate. It’s a problem not only because it shows just how desperate you must be to have a friend but also you are not allowed to get close with an initiate. That’s written in the stack of paper you had to sign when you accepted your post as an instructor. Maybe you should look it up sometime.”
“You little-“ Amar snarled.
“I’m telling the truth,” Eric stood straight, his head held high to make up for his height.
“Eric!” Tobias hissed, startling him. “That was fucking rude.”
Eric gaped at him. It felt like Tobias was taking sides with fucking Amar. His heart took a blow. He sucked on his lip piercing and did his possible not to look hurt. “I’ll see you later,” he whispered before marching away, leaving Tobias with Amar.
Eric really wanted to kiss Tobias sometimes. And the latter didn’t help. The boys were waiting for dinner, when the rankings would be revealed by the leaders. They were lying on their sides facing each other; they were too close in Eric’s opinion but he wasn’t going to complain either. He could observe the details of Tobias eyes. He had very long eyelashes, one couldn’t really see them when he had his eyes open but right now his lids were half closed.
“Doesn’t it hurt?” Tobias asked quietly.
“What does?” Eric focused back and noticed that Tobias was looking at his lips. He unconsciously licked them and his heart jumped out of his chest when Tobias reached out and pressed his fingers on Eric’s lower lip. He gulped and willed himself to calm down.
“Your piercing.” Tobias prodded it and then gently held it between his thumb and forefinger. Warmth spread through Eric’s body, particularly towards his crotch. He wondered what would happen if he leaned in and sucked on Tobias’ fingers.
He didn’t try. “It hurt the first weeks when I would tug on it.” He should have shut his mouth because Tobias tugged on the lip ring and Eric couldn’t hold back a small groan. Then he cleared his throat. “Stop that.” Luckily Tobias didn’t even react at the groan; that or he was very good at hiding his feelings. The Tobias Eric knew would have blushed for sure or jerked back or pushed Eric away.
“Sorry,” Tobias chuckled and removed his fingers from Eric’s lips. Eric watched as he closed his eyes and smiled softly.
Tobias and Eric stood side by side at the Cafeteria, waiting among the other initiates for Max and Amar to reveal the final rankings. It was true that the boys weren’t as close as before but Eric still wanted to hold Tobias’ hand to reassure him. Eric was sure that the boy was going to be ranked first, he knew the counting system for the points by heart and had calculated Tobias’ points, his and the others’. He knew Tobias was first and he had to be second. If the rankings proved him wrong then he needed to revise the counting system.
Eric didn’t even try to listen to Max’s speech.
Soon enough the rankings were revealed and Eric was proven right. Next to the number 1 was Tobias’ name and Eric’s was right below. The two boys hugged, with Eric slightly turning his head to breathe Tobias’ scent and Tobias squeezing maybe a little too hard with his arms.
Dinner resumed then; the new members were invited to take seats and so were the initiates who were out. Those had to leave in the morning after breakfast, as Max had mentioned.
Of course Tobias and Eric took seats at a nearly empty table, side by side.
“We made it, Eric,” Tobias smiled at him. “This is our new life. Here, together.” He had tears in his eyes. Eric understood that it must be a huge relief for the boy; he was now safe from his abusive father and had everything to start a new life. He could even be a leader with his ranking.
“I’m glad. For you,” Eric mumbled, wincing at his words. He could have worked on a sentence.
“Hey.” Someone sat on the other side of Tobias. Eric didn’t even need to look to recognize the voice. It was Amar and his hideous bright yellow hair. He rolled his eyes.
“So now that you’re a full member of Dauntless, we can be friends,” Amar said, his body angled towards Tobias on the bench. He even dared to put a hand on his shoulder.
Tobias smiled. “I guess so.”
As the minutes passed, Tobias’ body ended up angling toward their former instructor. They were having a happy conversation, a long one at that, and were completely ignoring Eric.
He spread his legs until his left thigh was pressed against Tobias’ right thigh. It was stupid, he knew it, he just wanted to remind Tobias that he was still sitting there. He was beginning to believe that Amar was ignoring him on purpose. Amar had never said a word to Eric when he was talking with Tobias.
Eric knocked their knees in a desperate attempt. Tobias turned to look at him and flashed a bright smile before diving back into the conversation with Amar. The frustration and deep disappointment were making Eric restless on the bench. Tobias was not even aware that they were ignoring him. Tobias didn’t see how Amar always made sure to let Eric out of the conversations.
“I’m going to bed now,” Eric said.
“Yeah, I’ll see you when you get back.”
Eric put a hand on Tobias’ arm as a parting gesture and stood up. As Tobias looked up at him Eric wondered if it was distress that he was seeing in Tobias’ eyes. But then it was gone and Eric though that it couldn’t be, with Amar being his new friend.
Chapter 3: Enclosure
The new members of Dauntless were all assigned a small room with an adjoining bathroom. They would have to live there until they had worked and gained enough points to get a new apartment. All their rooms were in the same corridor and to Eric’s disappointment, Tobias’ room was at the end of the corridor, very far from his.
It was exciting to be settling in and in a few days they were to choose their jobs. Everyone except for Eric; because his fate had been decided years ago when he agreed to become Jeanine’s Matthews project to be a Dauntless leader.
He couldn’t avoid it any further; Eric was on the train to Erudite, the dread heavy in his guts. He didn’t want to have anything to do with this stupid project. He just wanted to live as he wished and stop listening to everything Jeanine had to say.
He remembered at the beginning of the year how he thought it would be enough to have freedom for only a year. How he was wrong. Now that he had had a taste of freedom he didn’t ever want to obey to anyone. Or at least not anyone he didn’t respect. Surprisingly he realized it wouldn’t bother him to obey the Dauntless leaders. Eric felt like he fully belonged here, even if he tested Erudite and even if from time to time his curiosity got the best of him and he longed to find a library. Dauntless was his home.
Max had handed him a small device that he had called a tablet; it was slim and had a tactile screen and apparently solid enough to be kept in a pocket. Jeanine had sent him a short message in which she was convoking him. He had pondered the whole night should he come or not.
The closer Eric was to Jeanine the more painful the knots in his stomach were. Soon enough he found himself knocking on the door of her office and she was calling him inside.
“Eric, how good to see you back,” she offered him a fake smile. “Close the door behind you.” Eric sat on the chair in front of her desk when she motioned for him to and he wiped his clammy hands on his trousers.
“I heard about the rankings, Eric.” The smile was completely wiped off her face, now she just inspired coldness and Eric couldn’t help the shiver creeping down his back. “That is disappointing. You had one mission and it was to rank first. I have trained you for three years and that’s how you succeed?” Eric sucked at his lip piercing in annoyance and forced himself to keep his comments to himself. He remembered Jeanine to be frightening when angry and he did not come to experience that. “Max will vouch for you, but the other three leaders won’t accept you that easily with your ranking. Tobias Eaton is the first ranked, I hear. Don’t make him an obstacle,” she sneered.
Eric gulped, fearing what Jeanine was going to suggest.
“Threaten him if you have to, hurt him, kill him. I couldn’t care less. Tobias Eaton cannot take your place as the new leader. If you fail me you will regret it.” She smiled. “For now your goal is to reach leadership. I’ve already arranged with Max the missions you will have to go on to adapt yourself to the field and find your place among the members of Dauntless. For a few months you will go on these missions and develop your skills as well as convince the Dauntless that you are worthy of leadership. No mistake, no failure is permitted. Am I clear?” She gave him a look so cold, Eric actually shivered again. He nodded and hoped that his movements weren’t as trembling as they felt.
“Great. During this year there will be several meetings here. I will need to control your progress and make sure that your loyalty remains to Erudite.” Eric closed his hands into fists. He was sure of one thing; his loyalty did not lie with this woman. “And don’t you try anything reckless, dear, Max and I have our eyes set on you.”
Eric had chosen this, years ago. He couldn’t just drop out now, even if he wanted, he wasn’t sure he could with Jeanine. He had no choice but to force himself into doing these missions and blend in. He would deal with the consequences later.
As soon as he was back at Dauntless, Max stopped him and presented him his mission. Eric was to leave in the morning with a group of six soldiers. A certain Anita who was the team’s leader was going to be his tutor and guide him through the mission which was going to last two weeks, at the fence. Then worsening Eric’s anxiety about it, Max spat a few words about Tobias, and insisted that if Eric failed to think of something, he would take the task of killing Tobias himself.
Eric headed straight for Tobias’ room. He didn’t knock, after all Tobias never knocked when he came to Eric’s room.
He was greeted with a bright smile and then a long yawn. “Sorry,” Tobias apologized, “I think I’ll go to bed soon.” Eric swallowed with difficulty.
“Are you interested in leadership?”
Tobias startled at the question and then laughed nervously. “No. You know my father is one of the leaders. So, that would mean bearing his presence at government reunions.”
“I-“ Eric inwardly insulted himself. “Sorry.”
“No. It’s fine. But you should accept it. I mean, eventually they’re going to ask me and if I refuse they’re going to turn to you.” Relief flooded through Eric, no one was going to kill Tobias, he wouldn’t have to threaten Tobias.
“I have to tell you something.” Tobias stood up when he saw how serious Eric was. “Max asked if I would like to go on a mission at the fence. I said yes.”
“That’s really good Eric,” Tobias grinned.
“We leave tomorrow.”
“For two weeks.”
Tobias froze. “Two-“ He looked at Eric in silence, for so long, it made Eric uncomfortable.
“Are you okay?”
“Am I- No, Eric.” Tobias frowned and ran his hands through his hair. “No, I’m not okay. How am I supposed to survive? To live? I don’t know anyone here.” Warmth spread through Eric’s chest as he realized just how important he was to Tobias. He mattered to Tobias, and he didn’t think he’d ever experienced a feeling as good as this. “You’ve always been there,” Tobias continued in a weak voice. “I don’t- I don’t know.”
“You’re going to be fine,” Eric tried. He didn’t know what to tell Tobias. He didn’t want to go either. It broke his heart to leave Tobias alone; he looked so distressed. He didn’t want to be a leader. He wanted to choose a job with Tobias and wanted to stay with him. Hell, he was even ready to work at the fence if it meant they could stay together. But that wasn’t his future and he knew it. He had to become the new leader and was to work under Jeanine for as long as she wanted him to.
If only he hadn’t decided at thirteen to be part of her ridiculous project.
“When do you leave exactly?”
“We leave at 0500.”
“So I won’t- see you. Can’t you sleep in my room?” Tobias looked at him with so much hope.
“I mean, uh.” Eric struggled to find his words. He really hadn’t expected Tobias to be that reluctant to let him go. Plus he seemed to like spending his time with Amar. “I still haven’t packed my bag.” Eric felt his cheeks warm up at the thought of them sleeping in Tobias’ small bed.
“It was stupid, forget it.”
“No, no. I’ll stay,” Eric said softly. “I’ll just wake up earlier than I expected. I don’t have much to pack anyway. My tutor is providing all my equipment.”
“O- kay.” Tobias slowly walked forward, until he was standing really close to Eric. The latter was frozen, his voice caught in his throat; Tobias had really long eyelashes. Why was he approaching that much? For a short moment, Eric thought that Tobias was going to kiss him. He sucked in his lip piercing and forced himself to calm down.
But then Tobias tucked his head beside Eric’s and wrapped his arms around Eric’s shoulders. Eric shut his eyes close, trying to believe in the moment. Their chests were pressed together and he was overwhelmed by Tobias’ scent, his warmth. The hug was a very long one, Eric wasn’t going to complain; he eventually awkwardly closed his arms around Tobias’ waist and their embrace tightened. He wished they had done that earlier. It felt really fucking good.
“I’m going to miss you,” Tobias said in a trembling voice.
Eric didn’t know what to say. He just grabbed a fistful of Tobias’ shirt on his back and pressed them even closer.
“You have Amar. You won’t be alone.” Eric hated having to rely on Amar. He hated that Amar knew something about Tobias that he didn’t. Tobias had already explained that he had a ‘problem’ and that Amar knew it only because he had found out on his own. Eric couldn’t help but feel jealous.
“No I- I’m not completely comfortable with him. I mean, he’s kind and funny, I like him. But- I guess with time.“
“Stick with him. He’ll help you if you need something.” With the way he looks at you and flirts, Eric thought dryly.
Eric wondered if hugs were supposed to be that long. Tobias wasn’t letting go, he didn’t want to either, so they stayed like that. Pushed by a dangerous urge, Eric slightly turned his head until his lips were brushing against Tobias’ cheek. Tobias didn’t push him away, so Eric pressed his hot lips very lightly there. His arms felt numb and the tips of his fingers were tingling and Eric hoped that Tobias couldn’t feel the beating of his heart against his chest.
“We should go to sleep,” Eric whispered after some time. After all he would have to wake up at 0430 to get ready and meet his tutor at the train tracks.
They settled in Tobias’ small bed, lying on their sides, facing each other. Tiredness took over quickly, Eric only had the strength to settle the alarm of his watch for 0430; then he stared at Tobias’ eyes and fell asleep.
Eric’s alarm woke him in a start and as he sat up, he saw that it hadn’t bothered Tobias’ sleep. The boy was sprawled on his stomach, his hair a tousled mess and his cheek squished by the pillow they had shared. It was an endearing sight; Eric could not resist, he lightly ran his hand through Tobias’ soft hair and smiled to himself.
He studied Tobias’ traits, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to see his boy for the next two weeks. If only he could kiss him goodbye. He couldn’t complain; their hug last night had been overwhelming and had given him the best feelings.
Eric stroked the small hairs at Tobias’ nape and leaned in. “I’ll miss you, too,” he whispered.
Two weeks having slept in a sleeping bag on the ground had exhausted Eric like he’d not been in ages. His body ached everywhere, especially the muscles of his shoulders. It kind of felt like the first few weeks on his training back in Erudite when he was thirteen.
He hadn’t brought a mirror with him but he knew that he had awful bags under his eyes. His beard had also grown considerably and he was glad that Tobias wasn’t there to see him in this state. He just had one wish, and it was to sleep in his bed and take a damn good shower with hot water. Also to see Tobias.
How he missed him. He missed doing everything with him. He missed seeing the crinkles by his eyes when he laughed and his long eyelashes. He missed Tobias’ constant presence and his warmth whenever they sat close together. The weight of his head on his shoulder, his voice, the softness of his hair.
He was going fucking insane, thinking about someone’s soft hair and it was entirely Tobias’ fault. He was so whipped.
Eric hoped that Tobias hadn’t spent an awful two weeks and that Amar had helped him. And what job had Tobias chosen?
Anita, Eric and the others arrived during dinner at the compound so it was mostly empty as everyone was at the Cafeteria. Anita smiled warmly at Eric and complimented him once again on the mission and they parted ways. He was headed to the corridor where the rooms of the new members of the faction were while she had a bigger apartment upstairs.
When he had finally closed the door of his room behind him, Eric sighed heavily and dropped his huge bag at the foot of his bed. He bent to unlace his combat boots and then stood there for a minute, rubbing at his face.
The next step was to take a shower and then eat dinner. He couldn’t wait to find Tobias, really, but for now he had one urge and it was to sleep, shower or not. He sighed again, knowing that he probably wouldn’t be able to fall asleep when he knew that Tobias was just there.
So Eric entered his bathroom and when he flicked on the lights he almost gasped at his reflection. Indeed he had huge bags under his eyes, his beard looked horrendous and he had some dirt on his forehead that apparently no one had deemed important to mention. His hair was also getting so long; he was constantly pushing them back and the longer ones were brushing against his shoulders. He looked like a factionless.
He first shaved his beard and of course he cut himself on the chin. Then he brushed his teeth twice and only after that he stepped under the hot spray of the shower. Eric didn’t think he had ever enjoyed a shower as much as he did now. He scrubbed his body thoroughly and sighed several times at the wonderful smell of his bodywash.
And so, fucking tired and almost swaying with sleepiness, but at least clean and dressed in fresh clothes, Eric headed to the Cafeteria.
It only took him a minute to locate Tobias. He looked so bright and beautiful, laughing and smiling and talking confidently. Eric grinned like a fool, watching the boy, barely caring that Tobias was talking and laughing with Amar.
Eric walked to their table and when he was stood behind Tobias he settled a hand on his shoulder. Everything that happened next was in a blur. Tobias startled, turned, his face lit up and he scrambled to stand up and he crushed Eric in a hug, his arms around Eric’s neck.
“Eric,” he said softly.
Eric grabbed him at the waist and pulled him back to look at him. They stood for a moment looking at each other and grinned like idiots, Eric having completely forgotten his exhaustion.
“How were the two weeks for you?” Eric asked.
“How was it for you?”
“Great. What job did you choose?”
“I work in the control rooms.” Tobias scratched the back of his neck. “But what about you? You weren’t there when we had to choose.”
“Max said I could choose later because I was on a mission.”
“He wants you in leadership then!”
“I guess, yeah. But how was it for you?”
“Fine,” Tobias smiled. “Like you said, Amar was there with me the whole time.”
Eric let out at breathless laugh but he was interrupted by Amar coming up right beside Tobias.
“Hello, Eric,” he said. Eric almost snarled; he hadn’t missed Amar’s yellow fluorescent hair and his superior smug face. He didn’t answer but he nodded curtly.
The three sat back with Tobias between them. Eric told Tobias about his mission and Amar kept commenting to get back Tobias’ attention. It was so pathetic that Eric eventually stopped talking, a bit stunned by Amar’s immature behavior.
Eric had almost forgotten about Amar’s little game. He ended up eating in silence, his heart painful in his chest. Amar loved to steer the conversation between him and Tobias while carefully ignoring Eric. That’s exactly what he did and as always Tobias didn’t notice. He stayed silent because he didn’t have the heart to pick up a fight right now and wipe away Tobias’ smile.
“Tobias,” Eric interrupted Amar. “I have to get some sleep, I’m knackered.” In his imagination Tobias would go to bed with him and maybe they could sleep in the same bed again.
“Oh-“ Tobias pushed away his plate and Eric almost believed that he would come with him.
“Wait, I haven’t finished my story,” Amar said brightly.
Of fucking course. It couldn’t have been that easy. Eric wanted to wipe away that smug smile from Amar’s face. Did he think he was superior to Eric because he knew Tobias’ secret? Eric closed his hands into fists. Yes, he knew Tobias’ secret and maybe he was right to feel superior because Tobias wouldn’t trust Eric.
“Eric,” Tobias began. He looked hesitant. “I think I’ll stay a bit. But I’ll see you tomorrow at breakfast, right?”
Eric nodded and dragged his feet away from the pair, hating himself for having stupid feelings for Tobias.
If Eric had hoped that breakfast was going to go smoothly he had been so wrong. That applied to every other meal. Amar was actually stuck to Tobias’ side. Didn’t he have other things to do besides flirting all day with a seventeen-year-old boy?
“Eric,” Tobias smiled, “Amar and I are going to the training room right before lunch to work out for a bit. Do you want to come?”
Did he? He didn’t. He didn’t want to come and watch Amar flirt relentlessly and jump on every occasion to touch Tobias while the latter let him and laughed encouragingly. He didn’t want to witness that. Jealousy was consuming him at every lunch and dinner and his heart was breaking a bit more each time.
Training sessions were also supposed to be their thing. It was their thing before Amar came up and decided to help Tobias with his fucking secret.
It had been only four days since he had come back from his mission and he already wanted to be away. It hurt him so fucking much to watch the man interact with Tobias. And the worse was that he didn’t have a say in it; Tobias was just his friend and Eric couldn’t stop him from spending his time with Amar. He was forced to watch in silence and suffer and hate himself for being so weak. Were his feelings ever going to fade away?
“Come with us, Eric.” Amar smirked and draped an arm around Tobias’ shoulders. Eric hated him. The fucker had to know about Eric’s feelings. He had to. And he was tempting him. Why was Tobias even letting him put his fucking arm there?
As childish as it was, Eric ignored them and dropped his fork on the table. The next second he was up and marching away from the Cafeteria. He heard Tobias’ voice calling him back but he didn’t want to look back. It hurt less to walk away than to stay and watch them. It shattered him to even think about it but he wondered if it wouldn’t be better for him to stay away altogether. After all Tobias had a friend now, he didn’t need Eric. He could very well survive without him.
His device buzzed in his pocket and he reached to check it. It was a message from Jeanine Matthews. He was summoned for a meeting as soon as possible.
He really should focus on more important things. With his resolution in mind he headed to Erudite.
Though during the train ride, it didn’t stop him from thinking back of the long hug Tobias and he had exchanged before the mission.
Jeanine had asked for a full report of his mission to follow his integration in the faction and confirmation that Tobias Eaton wouldn’t take the leadership position. Then she sent him back to Dauntless, telling him that she was proud of Eric with a motherly smile. It did nothing but disgust Eric.
When he was headed back to his room, someone grabbed his arm and he almost took a swing at them before recognizing Anita.
“Hey. Everything okay, Eric?” She asked gently. Eric and Anita had developed a special relationship during their mission. While she was scary and intimidating with the other soldiers of her team, she had shown compassion and gentleness with Eric. Though it was only from time to time, and when there weren’t too many people around them. Eric was glad that she had been there; he wouldn’t have survived emotionally without her.
“Yeah,” he said softly.
“You need to see Max now. My team is leaving this afternoon-“
“Yeah, I know. I’m fucking tired. But orders are orders. Anyway I think you’re on my team again, so find Max to check and then- well, pack your bags.”
“Alright,” Eric sighed heavily.
“Cheer up, soldier!” she raised her voice.
Eric didn’t see Tobias again before he left. As Anita had asked he’d been to Max’s office and indeed the leader had assigned him on Anita’s new mission. Eric missed lunch to pack and take a nap. Sleep was very precious, he knew it now.
With a heavy heart he went away on a three weeks mission in Amity with Anita and her team. They would have to patrol constantly and find a certain group of factionless who was stealing from the Amity’s farms.
When Eric caught sight of Tobias in the Cafeteria for the first time in three whole weeks, he almost wanted to turn back. It was fucking good to see him again. But it was also so painful and unfair.
Amar was there; he put his hands on either sides of Tobias’ head and kissed him on the hairline. Tobias laughed and pushed him away jokingly.
Eric took a deep breath and walked to them. He put his hand on Tobias’ shoulder to greet him.
“Eric!” Tobias smiled. He stood up and gave Eric a one-armed hug, patting his back.
Eric was taken aback. That felt completely different than the hugs they used to exchange. It tugged a bit at his heart but he ignored the feeling and sat beside Tobias. He answered his questions while studying his face. He still had the same eyes and same eyelashes, but three weeks away and he had almost forgotten the details.
“It’s funny to see you with a beard,” Tobias remarked with a small smile. He reached to touch it. Once again Eric had forgotten to bring a razor with him on the mission and he wasn’t exactly friends with the men from Anita’s team so he hadn’t asked. They didn’t accept easily that a seventeen-year-old boy was on their team as their equal. Now he had a three-week beard and he knew it was awful and yet Tobias was smiling gently.
“It looks weird on you,” Amar laughed. Eric didn’t even spare a look in his direction and smiled at Tobias.
After that Amar took the conversation over and steered Tobias’ attention away from Eric.
Eric hated the way Amar was looking at Tobias. There was something in his eyes whenever Tobias talked; like want. Eric loathed it. It frustrated him that Tobias was oblivious to Amar’s intentions.
He willed himself to stay calm because he didn’t want Amar to see that he had an effect on Eric’s nerves. He just spread his thighs to touch Tobias’ as always, to remind him he was there. At one moment when Amar leaned too close, Eric knocked his knee with Tobias’. Tobias’ hand reached out to hold Eric’s knee and only when Amar was finished with his stupid story, Tobias finally turned towards him with a scowl.
“What?” he snapped.
Eric glared. “Nothing. I’m just going back to my room. It was good to see you too.”
“Eric, no. I’m sorry!”
Eric still walked away. He didn’t go directly to his room; he went to the tattoo parlor and got himself a new piercing on the ear.
With no thoughts in mind, Eric stood before Jeanine’s desk and listened to her usual speech. He began to pay attention when he noticed the speech getting different from the other times.
“Now that you’ve had your introduction to Dauntless’ missions we can put you in harder ones. You’ll stay on Anita’s team-“ Eric almost sighed in relief at that, “-but three other teams will work with hers. You will be in the Ruins, for at least a month. It will be plenty of time for you to prove yourself not only to the soldiers in Anita’s team but in every other team. Show them how good you are, show them your leader nature.” She marked a pause, studying Eric’s face and then she smiled that creepy smile. “Don’t worry, Eric. It will only be like this for a few months but then you will have to stay in Dauntless to prove yourself there. You will be ready for leadership very soon.”
When Eric came back from his one-month mission and sat at the Cafeteria, he didn’t expect anything from Tobias this time. It was just good and relieving to find Tobias in one piece, talking confidently and simply being happy with his new life.
Tobias tried to hug him in greeting but Eric didn’t let him. He didn’t need hugs if they were going to be empty of feelings, one-armed and quick. He squeezed Tobias’ arm, smiled tightly and sat. After some time Tobias sat back too.
“Hey Four! Listen to this.” It was Amar’s stupid voice. Four?
“Yeah?” Tobias answered.
“Four?” Eric couldn’t hold himself back.
Tobias actually blushed at that. “Yeah!” Amar cut in. “That’s how we call him now. Four. I found the name! It stands for the number of his fears.”
Eric stayed silent, trying to decide who was more stupid. Amar for thinking of this ridiculous name or Tobias for letting people call him a number.
“Oh, if you didn’t know, Four only has four fears but-“
“Yes, thank you, I already knew that, Amar. You know what? I think that’s a brilliant idea. Maybe we should all call ourselves by numbers.”
“Eric!” Tobias snapped. “Stop being fucking rude.”
“Sorry, Four. I simply loved the idea.” Eric ignored Tobias’ sad eyes and stared straight ahead at an invisible point the rest of dinner. He did his best to also ignore Amar’s shameless flirting for the rest of dinner but inside he was burning and his nails cut through the skin inside of his hand.
Before heading back to his room he went to get another piercing on the ear.
This time the meeting with Jeanine was completely different. She hadn’t talked about Eric’s case at all. She presented him a recap of her project to remind him everything that was to be done once he was a leader. She talked about a serum she would use on the whole Dauntless faction. That was a revelation to Eric. He was frozen. He had almost forgotten. When he was fourteen she had already presented him the idea of an army but he had never thought she would have succeeded to create the fucking serum. She actually planned on injecting the serum to everyone and to control them. She was mad.
“Am I clear?”
“Yes,” he cleared his throat. “I was wondering. Is it necessary to make use of this serum?”
“What have gotten into your mind?” Jeanine raised her eyebrows.
“I just- I-”
“Eric, enough. I don’t want you to question my plans. I didn’t call for this meeting for you to question the serum. The plan is flawless. Am I clear?”
“Y- yes, Ma’am.”
The next five months were repetitive and Eric became indifferent with the events of his life. He would spend a few weeks in the ruins with Anita, his fellow soldiers and the other teams. The lifestyle was harsh but he had learned to cope with it and never complained about anything.
The worst in the missions was to witness the beating of factionless people. And when he had to hit a factionless he shut his emotions and executed the order.
At night when everyone else was sleeping in their cots Eric would sit and stare at the horizon for hours. It took a lot of his sleeping time but he just knew that he couldn’t fall asleep directly with his thoughts occupied by the men and women they had beaten up or killed.
Anita tried to help; she tried to talk to Eric at night but the latter shut her out. Eric was thankful that she was here but he couldn’t talk. Because even though Eric always refused to talk, Anita was still there, sitting beside him and giving up on sleeping hours just to support him. She talked in whispers, a never ending flow, her voice soothing; she talked about nothing, told him stories, as long as she pushed away the silence. Because silence was dreadful. When there was silence, his dark thoughts came back. Thoughts about every person he was ordered to hit or kill, thoughts about being pathetic, cruel, unethical, disgusting. He hated himself. But it was fine because Anita was always here and she fought away the thoughts.
When the missions were over it was back at Dauntless. Eric didn’t know what was the worst between being back at home and watching Amar and Tobias being practically a couple or being in the Ruins and terrorizing the factionless people. Eric still loved the boy and his heart hurt more than ever. But it was fine because maybe Eric deserved it.
It was always the same; Eric would sit beside Tobias and Amar –never in front or else he would be forced to watch- and stare straight ahead. He still answered to Tobias’ questions about his missions and asked about Tobias’ life to check if everything was alright. But he didn’t open his mouth for anything else and had stopped acknowledging Amar’s presence.
Outside lunch and dinner, Eric stayed in his room or spent his time working out in the training room. He also went to get a new piercing each time Tobias was particularly hurtful.
That’s how it went for five months. Eric knew that it was slowly destroying him if he didn’t change something. Maybe he should avoid Tobias and Amar when he was back in the faction.
He felt pathetic for his persistent love for Tobias. He barely talked to the boy, they barely spent time together. And yet he always was there in his mind. He was maybe the only positive thought in Eric’s head.
Last night, Eric had barely slept. It had been the last night of the mission and a thunderstorm had been raging. Eric hadn’t felt secure at all. His team and he were always sleeping in the Ruins or in small shelters when on mission. That night they had been in a building in the Ruins. It was awful. The thunders were louder than he was used to because the windows were broken and the presence of his team did nothing to calm him down. Anita was asleep because Eric had forced her to; it was the last night after all.
It wasn’t like last time when he had slept in Tobias’ bed. They were barely friends now, he didn’t think Tobias would have allowed him to come in his bed even if he hadn’t been on mission.
So when he came back that evening he had one thought in mind, and it was to shower and sleep. He was so tired he was sure he would fall asleep as soon as his head would hit the pillow. He still had to eat dinner before.
He entered the Cafeteria trying to catch sight of Tobias and Amar since they were always together now. He couldn’t find either of them. He gingerly sat alone at a table. He ate slowly, he appetite cut short with his imagination. He couldn’t help but think about Tobias and Amar not being here. Where were they? And most importantly, what were they doing? Eric huffed and abandoned his plate, he wasn’t even hungry. What Tobias was doing wasn’t his business. Shower and then sleep. And then he’d find Tobias in the morning.
Eric stopped short when he was walking through the Pit. Tobias was there, sitting against a wall, without Amar. Eric jogged to him; it had been so long since the last time they had seen each other. His smile dropped. Tobias had his shoulder set up; Eric knew him enough to know that something was wrong. It was Tobias’ body’s way of protecting itself when he felt scared or sad.
“Tobias?” He murmured tentatively. The boy’s eyes shot up to meet his and Eric felt his heart constrict. Tobias’ eyes filled up with tears and his eyebrows turned sadly. Eric scrambled to kneel right in front of him and settled his hands on each cheek. “Are you hurt? Are you alright?” Tobias let out a sob and ducked his head. His hands reached to grip Eric’s wrists and he held on. “Babe, what’s wrong?” Eric said as softly as possible. He realized soon that he wouldn’t talk and it hurt him so much to see him in such a state. “Let’s get you somewhere else alright?” Tobias jerked his head up and down and let himself be lifted to his feet. Eric slid a hand around his waist and stuttered out a breath when the taller boy pressed his face against his neck. Eric understood that he didn’t want to see around them, and he led them away from the Pit.
Soon enough they arrived at Eric’s room and the latter made his friend sit on his bed. It hurt him to be so close to Tobias so he tried to pry the hands that were gripping his shirt away but Tobias wouldn’t let go. “Don’t leave me, please,” he croaked out. Eric wasn’t torn in choosing between comforting Tobias and suffering in silence or sitting on his sofa and letting Tobias alone on the bed. He would always put Tobias’ will in front of his. That’s why he settled beside him and let the boy lean against his shoulder.
“Want to tell me what happened?” Eric tried.
Tobias was silent for so long it didn’t seem like he wanted to talk but then he took a deep breath. “Amar is dead.”
“What?” Amar was dead? “H-how?”
“I don’t know,” Tobias’ chin trembled, “they just said he was dead. It’s been three weeks he hasn’t come back. He’s really dead, Eric.”
“I’m, I’m so sorry, babe.” Tobias made a small noise in the back of his throat and pressed his nose against Eric’s collarbone. “So sorry.” It was true. Even if Eric had hated the man, he couldn’t ever feel happy with the death of anyone. And Tobias was devastated. He hadn’t seen him cry since initiation, when the other initiates would bully him and Eric had to hug him afterwards.
“It’s fine. I know you didn’t like him.” How weak his voice sounded. Eric hugged him closer.
“It doesn’t mean I wanted him gone. I’m truly sorry.”
For a few minutes the only sounds that could be heard were Tobias’ sniffing noises. Eric didn’t even care that he was wetting his shirt. He didn’t let go. He didn’t want to ever let go. He loved this boy so much.
“I missed this,” Tobias mumbled.
Eric’s throat was so dry, he swallowed on nothing. He wanted to say ‘me too’ he had missed it so badly. But he was the one that had created the distance between them. It was his fault.
“Why are you so close but so far away every time?” He asked, his lips grazing against Eric’s skin. It was as if he had heard Eric’s thoughts.
Because I love you. But you can’t know. Eric answered him in his head.
“Your hair is really long now,” Tobias mumbled, clearly not waiting for an answer on the previous question. He reached to glide his fingers through the end of his hair that fell past his shoulders.
“I didn’t really want to cut them.”
Tobias nodded. “Eric, can I stay the night?”
“Yeah, sure. Of course you can.” He squeezed his shoulder. “Can I leave you alone?” He saw Tobias’ distress on his face and hurried to clarify. “I just came back from my mission, I need to shower.”
“Okay,” Tobias mumbled and leaned back. Eric watched as he removed his shoes and scooted to the headboard.
“I’ll be quick,” Eric stood up. He rummaged through his drawers for clean clothes and then he was in his bathroom. True to his words, he didn’t even wait for the water to heat up before stepping under the spray of the shower. He poured shampoo in his hand and washed his long black hair as quickly as he could. Then he rubbed the dirt and sweat off of his skin and stood under the hot spray of water to rinse. After that he was out of the shower and quickly drying off with a towel and fully dressed in comfortable clothes. The fatigue came up to him hard as soon as he was dressed.
He walked out of the bathroom to find Tobias under the covers in his bed. He shut out the lights except for his beside lamp and slid in next to a sleeping Tobias.
Eric tried to sleep; he was lying on his back his eyes closed. He was trying to forget that Tobias was in his bed and lying so close that he could feel his body warmth and his toes grazing against his calf. It was no use trying. He was so nervous that his hands were sweating. He wiped them against his shirt and opened his eyes. He turned his head slightly and Tobias was staring right back at him, lying on his side.
“You okay?” Eric’s voice rasped.
“For being here.”
Eric nodded. They stayed still for a very long time staring at each other’s eyes, not saying a word. Until Tobias’s eyes trailed to his lips and stayed there for what felt like forever. “Tobias?” That startled him; Tobias twisted on his back, his breathing loud. He was rubbing at his neck with one hand. Eric ignored him and closed his eyes to try to sleep again. He shouldn’t read too much into things. It was silent again for a moment but then Tobias moved and Eric opened his eyes at the sound of the rustling. Tobias’ lips were parted, he was leaning closer and closer, one hand came to rest against Eric’s shoulder. Too close. Eric jerked away before Tobias could connect their lips and sat up. His heartbeat had picked up. Was he dreaming? No, no. “Did you just-?“
Tobias was slowly sitting up too, the covers slipping from his form; he looked flustered and scared. “What-?” Eric asked, not even knowing what to say, hope building in his chest but also incomprehension.
Tobias gulped. “I don’t- I don’t know. Don’t hate me.”
Eric saw red. His heart broke even more, if it was possible. “I’m not a replacement!” He exclaimed. “Just because your boyfriend is gone doesn’t mean I’ll let you kiss me!”
Tears welled up in Tobias’ eyes. “He was not my boyfriend.”
“Whatever,” Eric hissed. “I’m not a replacement!” He was already regretting mentioning Amar and wanted to hit himself.
“Please, can you just forget what happened? I’m not even into guys.” When Tobias said it, he hid his face in his hands.
It felt like someone had just stabbed Eric. Nothing had ever happened between Amar and Tobias but nothing could ever happen between him and Tobias either. Tobias wanted to forget. Forget that he just tried to kiss him.
Eric closed his eyes. He calmed himself by counting to ten in his head. Tobias was the priority; he was grieving Amar. “Just go to sleep. I’ll take the couch.”
“Tobias, you need to rest, alright, you’re sad.” Eric stood from the bed.
“Stop doing that!” Tobias yelled.
“Doing what?” Eric snapped back.
“Taking care of me! I’m not fragile!”
“For fuck’s sake, you’re the one who were clinging to me earlier!”
“Ugh,” he groaned, “You infuriate me!”
“Just shut up and go to sleep.” Eric showed his back and plopped down on the sofa. He gingerly removed his sweatpants and lay back angrily. Tobias grunted but eventually he pulled the covers over him.
“I hate you so much,” he said. Eric ignored the boy and closed his eyes.
The morning wasn’t better for Eric. Each time he thought his pain couldn’t get worse, he was proven wrong by Tobias himself. Right before they went out for breakfast, Tobias stopped him with hands on his shoulders. That had perked some small hope; maybe he wanted to kiss him again. Eric had always wondered how it would feel to have Tobias’ lips on his.
“Eric. We need to stop this. We always fight and it’s stupid. Can’t we act like adults and stop jumping at each other’s throat?”
Eric scoffed at that. Adults? They were seventeen. If Eric were an adult, maybe he’d be more in control of himself, then maybe he would be able to stop loving this stupid boy. The feelings had to fade away with time, right?
“What?” he snapped.
“See? You just snapped at me for no reason. We need to stop this.” Eric crossed his arms. “Please. I miss you.” Tobias whispered the last words. Eric almost wanted to laugh at the stab he felt in his chest. His friend was apparently determined to make him suffer the most. He wanted to accept. But he was so tired.
“If I say yes,” he said lowly, “will you tell me what’s that secret you’ve been holding from me?”
Tobias looked so sad at that, it was so painful to watch. “Eric, you know I can’t tell you.”
“Don’t you trust me?”
“Of course I do. I just can’t. Please, I need you to understand.”
Eric took a step back. He couldn’t do this to himself anymore. He was destroying himself by staying with Tobias. “No, I don’t understand, Four. I never did, okay? I just stopped asking because it was hurting you.”
“Don’t call me Four.”
“Isn’t it your name now?”
“Not for you,” Tobias croaked, his hand reaching out.
“Stop it.” Eric turned away. Tobias was so cruel with him. “What we need to do is to stop being friends.” No, he was the cruel one. He found it was even more painful to hurt Tobias than Tobias hurting him was. Tobias had just lost a close friend, Amar, and now Eric was leaving him? Take it back, take it back, Eric repeated to himself.
“Why are you being like this? We could be like we were during initiation. Don’t you miss it?”
Of fucking course I miss you. But I can’t do this to myself anymore. His hands shook at his sides when he spoke again. “No.”
Something snapped in Tobias. While he looked hurt before, now he just inspired betrayal and anger. Eric knew it would be the last time he could see him up close. He tried to take in as much as he could, ignoring his shattering insides. He was so beautiful. His strong jaw was clenched, his blue eyes were piercing and his hair was messed up from of the pillow. Eric placed a hand on the side of the boy’s neck. He was still very warm from sleep. “Goodbye, Four.” The latter jerked away from his touch.
“You know, that’s funny,” Tobias hissed. “Don’t think I don’t know that you’re hiding something too. You were way too good for an Erudite transfer during initiation and you knew way too much. And your missions? I just never said anything. Because I trusted you,” his voice cracked, “and I knew that if you were keeping a secret from me, then you had to have a good reason.” He breathed heavily after that and was out of the room in a second.
Eric didn’t cry. He changed his clothes and walked calmly to the training room where he beat a dummy for forty minutes. When he left, the dummy wasn’t holding itself straight anymore and his knuckles were bleeding and swollen.
He almost roared in anger when he felt his tablet vibrate in his jacket; it was a request for a meeting from Jeanine.
He decided that he would come late and throw her some lousy excuse. He had to get a new piercing. His little ritual to get some part of his face pierced each time Tobias hurt him was maybe silly and childish, but it actually kept him in track. It reminded him to just cope, and to be prepared for Tobias’ next strike at his heart. Because he was resolved that it wouldn’t stop, whatever caused it; fate, maybe, Eric would always hurt in some way because of his love for Tobias.
“Eric good to see you again. Let’s get to business. Take a seat please.”
“I’d rather be standing.”
Jeanine pursed her lips. “Don’t play with my temper. Sit.”
Eric rolled his eyes but did as asked.
“Max gave me his report on you. Now that you’ve completed a great amount of missions successfully and managed to impress most the soldiers you were working with, I’ve decided it is time you have your own team. Max will assign you soldiers who will work under your direct orders. You will be given an easy mission to begin with.
“Our goal is very near, you will soon be a leader and our project will be executed perfectly. For now I want you to read these papers. It will give you a better idea on the serum we will be using on Dauntless. Am I clear?” She asked, handing him a folder.
Eric almost rolled his eyes. “Very.” He gave her the fakest smile he could muster and she raised an eyebrow. Oh how he wanted to punch her perfect face and destroy her office.
“Eric,” her voice was stern. “I don’t like your behavior. You are acting like a child throwing a tantrum. If you don’t correct your attitude I will make sure that you do. I have ways-“
“And how?” Eric cut her loudly. He laughed without humor. “Tell me, how? What can you do?” He couldn’t hold his mouth any longer but how good it felt to talk back and the look on her face was priceless. It was gone in a second and she glared.
“Believe me, I have ways to make you shut your mouth. Drop the attitude and obey the orders, Eric. I know how to make you suffer, I know where to strike.”
“You keep talking! But you don’t say anything! I’m fed up with this shit. Fuck you, I’m out of there.” Eric stood up, threw the folder on her desk, kicked back his chair for good measure and marched away, slamming the door behind him.
For once he had stood up for himself and it felt damn good. He jogged down the stairs of the building and sprinted to the train tracks, adrenaline pushing him faster and exaltation making him smile.
When he was calmer and leaning against the door of the speeding train he just couldn’t keep the image of Jeanine away from his head when he had stormed out. She had been smiling; not glaring or protesting, but smiling. She was freaking him out and he couldn’t deny that he was a bit scared. Was she preparing something against him? Could she kill him?
“Eric, here you are,” Max found him at the Chasm. Eric decided to come here during dinner because he was tired of shutting himself in his room. The place was very loud with the water crashing with power against the stone wall. It was oddly calming.
“You didn’t come to see me in my office. Here is the list of the soldiers who will be under your orders.” He held out a folder. “Read it and tell me if you want any change made. Also you’re leaving tomorrow night.”
Eric didn’t take the folder. He eyed it and then looked up at Max. “I won’t take it, Sir.”
“What do you mean you won’t take it?”
“See Jeanine. I’m not leaving tomorrow night and I’m not having a bunch for soldiers listening to me ordering them to beat up the Factionless.”
“With all due respect, Sir,” Eric cut him, “I don’t see why I should obey to Jeanine Matthews from Erudite.”
“What’s wrong with you, son?” Max shook his head and when he saw that Eric wouldn’t talk, he walked away, folder in hand.
Eric finally relaxed, and sighed heavily. Good, he had stood up to Max and Jeanine. Maybe it wasn’t too late to pick a job for himself in the faction.
The next few days Eric kept a low profile. He was tired of everything. He had thought that freeing himself of Jeanine and Tobias would have done him good but now he just couldn’t find a goal in his life. He kept questioning himself about the purpose of his existence. He’d always been a follower, since he’d accepted to be Jeanine Matthews’ project.
He spent his days in his bed and sometimes at the Chasm, listening to the water. He didn’t go to eat at the Cafeteria with everyone, knowing that Tobias would be there and it was just so painful to see him. Not to mention that Tobias was the picture of sadness, grieving his lost friend, Amar. Eric also hated himself for not feeling any regret for Amar’s death.
Whenever Eric saw Tobias he wanted to comfort him but then he remembered that he had decided to stay away from him. Eric hated being dependent of Tobias. He just knew that it was less painful to be away than to be next to the boy.
Looking down at the threatening waters of the Chasm, Eric wondered if he would ever find a purpose in living.
He jumped, almost letting out a yelp. It was Anita’s voice.
She dropped heavily on her bum, right next to him so that they sat together, their legs tangling in the emptiness of the Chasm.
“So apparently you’re going to have your own team? And you won’t be on mine anymore?”
“I- no. I’m not. It’s complicated.” Eric couldn’t really tell her that he was not going to take ‘his’ made up team.
“There’s something fishy with you, Eric. You’re so young and yet they give you soldiers?” Eric shrugged. “But it’s fine. I trust you.”
He ducked his head so that she wouldn’t see him blush.
“Anyway I came to tell you goodbye. I’m leaving tomorrow morning, again, and I’ll be gone for a while.” Eric nodded silently and almost yelped –again- when she slid an arm around his shoulders and crushed him to her chest quite violently. “Hey,” she whispered very lowly, “I don’t know what’s wrong with you, Eric but don’t let them destroy you. There’s something precious,” she poked him on the chest, “right there. So don’t let them take it from you. Do what you have to do and don’t be stupid.” Eric’s cheeks were burning in embarrassment and maybe his eyes were a bit teary. He nodded against her and as violently as before, she let him go and raised her voice. “Oh, I’ll miss you. It’s been six months. Six months with me, can you believe? You’re my baby now.” She leaned in and smacked him loudly on the cheek. “See you, baby.” With that said, she went away, smirking, leaving a blushing Eric behind.
Eric woke up in start to loud banging on his door. “What the fuck?” he whispered to no one. His heartrate picked up as he hurried to pull on his clothes and then he grabbed his bludgeon and stopped right in front of his door. He took a few calming breaths and yanked the door open.
There was no one waiting for him with a weapon. Just a limp body on the floor, a man. His heart stopped. It was Tobias. Bloodied and bruised, Tobias was at Eric’s feet, eyes closed.
Eric rushed to his knees, and pressed two fingers on his neck. He let out at sigh and a strangled noise when he felt a steady pulse. “Fuck.” Tears were pricking his eyes but he ignored them altogether, dropped the bludgeon right there on the corridor floor and gathered the tall boy in his arms. He grunted as he picked up his heavy body into his room. He lay him on his bed carefully and then rushed to lock the door and switch on the light.
The bruises were painful to watch. Eric couldn’t allow himself to think, he concentrated on the task at hand; cleaning Tobias’ face and nursing his bruises.
The boy had his lip cut and blood on his nose and on one side of his face. Eric had enough knowledge to know his nose was at least not broken. As he cleaned with wet compresses he discovered that the blood came from the side of his eyebrow. It was open and Eric knew he would have to sew it. He slid on gloves and set to work, steadily and precisely, recalling everything he knew about sewing wounds.
When he was finished he threw away the red stained compresses, the needle and his gloves. Then he fetched ice and made an icepack with a flannel. He held it to Tobias’ cheek and began to process everything that had happened in the last hour.
He had opened his door to a bloodied Tobias, took care of his wounds. Who had done this to Tobias? What would Tobias think when he would wake up and find Eric when they’d agreed not to talk to each other again. They weren’t friends anymore. Eric’s hands trembled as he looked down sadly at Tobias. His eyebrow had stopped bleeding; he had done a great work sewing it.
He was beautiful. Eric reached with his free hand and stroked his cheek very softly as if he was the most precious and the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. He let his fingers wander to the soft black hair at his temple and stroked. Eric clenched his eyes shut and leaned down until his forehead was pressing lightly against Tobias’. “Who did this to you?” Eric asked quietly in a painful voice. The person who had done this had dropped him right in front of Eric’s door. It made no sense.
Tobias’ eyes moved under his lids and he frowned. He tried to shift but winced. “Fuck,” he said in a raspy voice. Eric leaned back and could tell that Tobias’ breathing was quickening; he was panicking, his breaths short.
“Tobias, open your eyes,” Eric tried. “Tobias.”
“Eric?” the boy opened his eyes and his breaths were a bit longer now, but still too ragged.
“Tobias, calm down.”
“Why are you here?”
Eric took his hand and rubbed his knuckles with his thumb. “Calm down.”
Tobias’ breathing accelerated. “Eric. I can’t- I can’t breathe. It hurts- I-”
“It hurts?” Eric repeated, panic rising in his voice. With trembling hands he lifted Tobias’ shirt above his pectorals. “Fuck.” His stomach was bruised and his left side was covered in alarming red and purple splotches. “Tobias, calm down. You may have broken ribs but it’s fine.”
Eric took his face in both hands and leaned right above him. “It will be fine,” he said softly. “Take deep breaths. It doesn’t look that bad, alright? Probably one or two broken ribs, it’s not swollen, it’s not infected, it will be gone in a few weeks. It’s normal that it hurts a bit when you breathe. I promise it’s fine. Breathe with me.” Eric breathed slowly and loudly and waited until Tobias was mimicking him and soon enough the boy below him was calmer.
“It hurts,” he croaked.
“I know.” Eric fetched more ice and a towel and pressed it lightly against Tobias’ ribs. “Can you hold it for me, love? I need to get you painkillers.” Tobias nodded and held the makeshift icepack against him.
Eric made him drink the pills and pushed back Tobias’ hands to hold the icepack himself. “Do you feel any pain somewhere else?” He asked. He had been stupid enough to forget checking Tobias’ torso before the boy actually woke up.
“No. Just a headache. And my eyebrow is throbbing.”
Eric nodded, “I had to sew it. The painkillers will help with the headache.” His eyes looked down sadly at Tobias’ state. “Do you know who did this to you?”
Tobias shook his head. “They had masks.”
“They?” They had been several against one? Wearing masks? What did they have against him?
“Where am I?” Tobias whispered.
“My room.” Tobias began to sit up, wincing, but Eric held him back. His heart dropped, but it was his fault; he had been the one wanting them apart. “I know you don’t want to be here but you’re not in a state to walk or think straight so stay for the night and you’ll leave tomorrow.”
“I’ll leave,” Tobias grunted, “as soon as I wake up.” And with that said, he laid back and closed his eyes.
Eric’s hands were still hanging in the air where he had been holding Tobias. He slowly closed them into fists and clenched his eyes shut for a moment. That fucking hurt, like a knife to the heart. He swore under his breath and walked to the farthest wall, trying to get himself away from the wounded boy and trying to contain his anger and his pain.
After a few minutes when he was calm and noticed the steady rise and fall of Tobias’ chest, he sat back at Tobias’ side and braced himself for the long tiring night he was going to spend, watching over the boy. He couldn’t even blame Tobias for refusing his help; Eric had been the one to decide to end the friendship they had. It was his own fault and it was true that sometimes he had trouble to remember why he even decided such a stupid thing. But right now he knew damn well; the aching in his chest and his tightening throat were a great reminder. Tobias was just going to keep on hurting him even if unintentionally and Eric had to take his distance. His stupid feelings and attraction to Tobias wouldn’t fade away and he was afraid to get too attached or whipped and eventually rejected; he needed to stay in control of himself and couldn’t afford any distraction with that Jeanine bitch.
In the morning Tobias showed himself true to his word. As he was limping and hurting, he accepted Eric’s help to walk to the Infirmary. Eric had slept three hours that night and his mind was still foggy and all his limbs heavy. He focused on the task at hand, with Tobias gripping his elbow and leaning heavily. Eric couldn’t dare supporting him with an arm around him for fear of hurting his side and broken ribs.
In the infirmary a dauntless nurse with long black hair and a lot of makeup rushed to Tobias’ side and took his free arm in her hands, bombarding Tobias with her frantic question and completely ignoring Eric.
“Will you shut up and lay him down,” Eric said.
The woman raised her eyebrows and opened her mouth pink with glossy lipstick. “I’m the nurse here.” She cocked her hip and pursed her lips. “Who are you even?”
Your future leader, Eric wanted to say. He sneered and ignored her question. “Lay him down, and take care of his wounds, nurse. It’s your fucking job.” The nurse looked outraged. “Do it now. He’s sweating, if you don’t move your ass he could have a severe infection. He’s broken ribs.”
The nurse looked suddenly serious; she assessed Tobias’ state and led him, still leaning on Eric’s arm, to a bed. Eric helped her to heave him on it and remove his shoes. Then she began to cut open Tobias’ shirt. Eric turned to the equipment drawers and searched in them.
“The fuck are you doing?” The nurse bellowed. “You’re not allowed to-“
“He needs antibiotics and probably a glucose injection.” Eric continued to rummage through the drawers.
“Get the fuck away.” The nurse grabbed his arm and dragged him back. “It’s my job. Go away.”
“But he needs-“
“Out! Leave me, kid!”
Eric’s head pounded with the lack of sleep and tiredness and her loud shrilly voice.
“You need to sleep, kid. You look like a corpse. Let me take care of your friend, you’ll be able to see him soon enough.” Then she ignored him and slid on gloves, her attention back on Tobias.
When she began to prod at Tobias’ side with careful fingers, Eric let out a shaky breath and left the room.
He had barely reached his room when his tablet vibrated in his pocket. Eric cursed out loud; with the lack of sleep, he didn’t know if he could attend to a meeting with Jeanine fully focused.
It wasn’t a request for a meeting. The message sent to him was short and clear. Eric’s stomach dropped. His limbs trembled and he almost let the tablet slip from his finger.
’Next time he won’t be able to walk to the infirmary.’
Jeanine had been clear at the last meeting. She had ways to hurt Eric.
Eric hadn’t listened.
Eric went to get a new piercing; this time on the eyebrow. He just needed it after what had happened with Tobias. When he got back from the parlor he was stopped by Max.
“You shouldn’t have disobeyed, son.” He shook his head. “Jeanine Matthews is one scary woman.”
“And why are you listening to her, Sir?” Eric shot back weakly.
“You need to stop, Eric. It will only turn against you. You saw what happened. Just obey to the orders.”
“What if I don’t want to anymore?” Eric looked up sadly at the tall-dark-skinned man. He looked older that Eric had remembered; he had a deep frown between his eyebrows and tired eyes.
Max sighed and rubbed his hand against his shaven skull. “It’s too late now, son. Too late.”
“You don’t even sound like you’re on her side.”
“I am. I just have more compassion than she does. Anyway, I didn’t come to you for that. You’ll be 18 this Thursday, yes?”
“Then it’s time. I will suggest –strongly suggest- you for the vacant position as the fifth leader to the others.”
For the announcement every member of the faction had been gathered in the Pit; it was the largest space in the compound and the only one that could contain everyone.
They had built a stage platform so that the four leaders could stand on it and be seen. The four leaders plus Eric.
“Are you ready?” Magdalena asked Eric. It was asked a bit too cold for someone who was checking on someone. Magdalena was one of the two female leaders; her and Lily. Max and Etienne were the other two leaders. The fifth position hadn’t been occupied since two months ago when Dean had ‘died’ in a mission. Eric knew that the fifth position wasn’t empty by luck. Jeanine fucking Matthews had probably ordered him killed.
Eric knew that the other leaders didn’t like him. He could understand; he was only 18 and didn’t deserve to lead a faction when he barely had any experience and didn’t know many of the members of the faction. He had no idea how Max had convinced them to accept him amongst them but when didn’t comment. He had to follow orders. He knew that now.
“I guess,” Eric muttered.
“It’s alright to be nervous, you know,” Etienne looked sideways to meet his eyes.
“Five minutes and Lily will make her speech about Dean and then she will introduce you,” Max said. “You’ve rehearsed what you’re supposed to say, son?”
Eric nodded but in truth he hadn’t. He was the most blasé person in the Pit, including everyone who didn’t care about politics. He would just improvise and it would have to do.
He didn’t care about anything anymore but obeying. It didn’t mean he had to put his heart in what he was told to do. Hell no. That much was his only freedom.
Lily talked quickly, barely sparing a word for Dean’s death and she was already introducing Eric.
That’s how, frowning, Eric slowly made his way to the front of the stage at the microphone.
“My name is Eric and I am Dauntless.” People actually cheered at that. Eric reminded himself that these people weren’t as quick-witted as Erudite. “I may seem young to be a leader but I’ve spent the past year on field, living, fighting and defending the city amongst soldiers. I am a soldier, I am like you. I will be representing the faction next to Max, Magdalena, Lily and Etienne, as long as you deem me worthy of it.”
It was fucking short and Eric shook his head when most of the crowd cheered. At least he could spot some people in the crowd who weren’t happy and cheering. They were probably smarter. He knew himself wouldn’t have tolerated a kid his age to lead the others.
Eric stepped back to let the microphone to Magdalena; she had some information to give. They weren’t important so he zoned out and looked down at the crowd absentmindedly.
“You didn’t even read the speech I gave you, did you?” Max hissed next to him.
Eric shrugged and looked straight ahead. He didn’t really like Max; the man was strong and kind but he was stupid enough to follow Jeanine Matthews’ orders and by doing that, delivering his own faction to the woman.
The positive point of going back in the field with his newly formed team was that he had something to do with his time, a purpose.
Max had been careful to pick soldiers who hated the fact that Eric was their new leader. Eric didn’t complain, he understood. The goal was to prove to them that he was worthy of them. And when these men and women would go back to Dauntless, they would talk and spread the word. Eric their new leader was strong, smart and a great soldier.
The process was slow but eventually it would work. This had to do until Jeanine decided to make her move on Abnegation, Eric guessed. Why? He wasn’t sure. He didn’t think Max and Eric were there just to supervise the injections of the serum. Maybe Jeanine needed leaders on her side once Abnegation would be destroyed and the members of Dauntless would wake up from the serum to chaos. Maybe she planned on not controlling every soldier and needed them to lead the small aware army.
Eric felt better with himself when he ignored the upcoming war.
Max’s plan to give Eric a better reputation was working too slowly. Eric was stopped roughly by a cocky man and his friends in the Pit.
“You’re just a little boy,” the man snarled. “You don’t deserve your title and you’ve obviously done something shady to get to your place.” People around him nodded, a small crowd was gathering around the two of them. The man shoved him a bit and the circle around them enlarged. More people were coming closer to watch; it was probably going to end in a fight, Eric thought. His fingers were tingling with the anticipation of it. It was dangerous to start a fight, but maybe it was what he needed to prove himself to the older members of the faction.
“No one wants you as a leader! No one wants you to represent us at the government council!” The man yelled, spitting in the space between them. “I’m just the first one to say it to your face!”
“Fight!” A woman’s voice shouted. Other voices agreed loudly, some excitedly, others greedy. “Crush him Walt!” They probably didn’t care about politics like this Walt, they just wanted to see a fight, Eric guessed.
“Show him who the real fighters are!”
“Yeah,” Walt, said. “Let’s fight, Eric. Show me that you can stand at least thirty seconds against me.” He stepped closer and gave another shove at the boy’s shoulder. “You’re just a kid.” He raised his eyebrows and faked a concerned voice. “Are you afraid?”
With a deep breath Eric took a fight stance, his abdominal and back muscles contracted.
“Eric, don’t!” The latter startled and looked behind his shoulder. It was Tobias. He had made his way to the front of the circle of people. “Don’t fight him. He’s not worth it.” Tobias shook his head. “We both know you can beat him but don’t lower yourself to this.” What was Tobias thinking? Eric was annoyed at him; did he think he was helping the situation? Eric needed the faction to come to respect him and Tobias was telling him to step back and let them talk behind his back. It was also humiliating to have another eighteen year-old boy to show his faith in him in front of the older members. They were going to laugh at them. It was going to be worse. Sure enough, Eric could hear people laughing at Tobias’ intervention. Eric clenched his jaw but he didn’t have the time to snap back at the boy, the air was knocked out of him. The stupid man had punched him when he was looking away. Eric cursed loudly and took a few steps back to give himself time to recover from the blow. The man was smirking at him. Eric thought he should be ashamed of hitting a younger soldier when he had his back turned.
A few seconds later, Eric took back a fighting stance. He didn’t restrain himself, he was fuming. He shot forward and hit the man on the neck, not too hard to actually hurt, but hard enough to break the man’s defense. As predicted, the man spluttered and let his shoulders fall and the muscles of his upper body relaxed. Eric then sent a powerful fist right below his sternum. It was science. The man fell to his knees and Eric took a hold of his chin with one hand.
“Look at you,” he said loud enough for the others to hear. “On your knees in front of me, in less than thirty seconds. You should be ashamed.” Eric shoved him away and he fell on his side, still trying to breathe normally. “Anyone else wants to show that I’m not qualified to represent the faction?” He said proudly.
Of course no one answered. Some even gave him a few appreciative nods. Eric couldn’t help but notice the fear in most of the people’s eyes. It was to expect. Jeanine had trained him for so long, he was a killing machine and at such a young age; of course people were eventually going to be afraid.
The crowd eventually faded until stayed only one boy. Eric’s heart pinched when he looked behind him and met Tobias’ gaze. It was so disapproving, Eric couldn’t bear it. “What?” he snapped aggressively.
Tobias shook his head. “You changed.”
“You’re one to talk.”
“Let’s go, Four.” A woman said and she tugged on Tobias’ arm. She was shorter than him, had long black hair, piercing blue eyes that were heavily framed with black makeup. Her eyelashes were so long that Eric could actually see them from where he was standing. The woman was pretty, she had great curves. She was the nurse. “Four, he’s not worth it.”
Tobias shook his head again and walked away with the nurse, his arm around her shoulders. Eric desperately wanted to run after him, put a hand on his shoulder to stop him, get him away from the older woman, kiss him, embrace him. Instead he stood still and watched with empty eyes.
He hated himself for still feeling something for that boy.
Now that Eric was officially named a leader, he knew that he couldn’t avoid eating at the cafeteria anymore. He needed to appear integrated in the faction, which meant eating with everyone.
Tobias couldn’t control his life forever anyway. He had a girlfriend. Eric needed to get a grip on himself and move on.
His new resolution was completely forgotten when he entered and instantly spotted Tobias. The nurse was pressed against his side on the bench. She reached for his chin to turn his head toward her and leaned in, tongue first. Tobias kissed back.
Eric’s throat tightened, he averted his gaze and went straight to the leader’s table with numb limbs.
He didn’t eat anything. He watched them, as if in a trance, refusing to look away yet it was shattering him further.
Ten minutes later he decided he had proven to the faction that he was present for dinner. He went straight to the training room and wrapped his knuckles in gauze so that they wouldn’t bleed. He hit the punching bag to the point where he couldn’t control his hands anymore and his fingers trembled with the exhaustion and trauma.
He stood there, dripping sweat, his black hair plastered to his forehead and neck, his chest heaving. And he screamed. A broken sound, a wail.
With some newly found strength he gave everything he had in a series of punches. The chain of the bag detached from the ceiling and Eric stumbled back as the bag fell in a loud heavy thump.
“Fuck,” he muttered.
He was too exhausted to even move the bag so he left it as it was, on the floor.
When he came back to his room later in the evening, he had a new piercing on his left ear.
Chapter 4: 4.1 - Weaken
Part 4 – Weaken
The corridor in which Eric is living has changed. The people he knew from initiation all decided to move into a larger and better apartment as soon as they gained enough points with their jobs. All of them went away and new initiates moved in. All except for Tobias. The boy still lived down the corridor.
Somehow Eric didn’t want to move out either. In the back of his mind he knew that particular boy was the reason for him wanting to stay but he wasn’t acknowledging that thought. No, if he was staying it was because of the location of the apartment; close to the Chasm, a great place to think. And also, he had become attached to the small room with its adjoining minuscule bathroom and its shower that took ages to pour warm water. In other words, he wasn’t planning on moving out either.
It meant that the newly pledged members of Dauntless that had moved into this corridor were all impressed and scared to be living so close to one of the leaders. It should be strange for a leader to live there and not in the upper levels but Eric couldn’t care less.
Eric packed his backpack with the usual equipment; which meant a first aid kit, water, his favorite range of knives and walkie-talkies. The food, they were supposed to get together at the kitchen, Eric and his team. His new team.
Two members of Eric’s team, Isaac and Nate, had left because they couldn’t keep up with the rhythm and had requested for other missions. Eric liked them but he could understand. He actually liked all the members of his team which was composed of them, Hollie, Sarine and Rami. They had each come to respect Eric, for some reason.
Now two new members had to be added to the team. Eric didn’t know yet who they were; Max had sent their profiles on his tablet but Eric had decided to discover them without prejudice and after their first meeting he would read their profiles. It was also because he didn’t really care who was on his team.
So with his packed bag, Eric headed out of his room to join his team and meet the two new members in the weaponry.
When Eric got there he frowned; the door was wide open. He couldn’t even count the number of times he had scolded his soldiers for not closing the door behind them. The weaponry had an armored locked door for a reason. Apparently they liked to rile him up with this. Eric stepped inside, ready to reprimand Hollie once again.
But as soon as he spotted his team he stopped for a second. There was a kid there, apparently in a heated argument with Rami. He was small, compared to Rami’s height, it was the first thought that came to Eric’s mind. His hair was a soft brown and he had that fringe that was really popular among Dauntless kids. Eric found this haircut stupid because it was obvious that everyone who had it had trouble to see and was constantly flicking their hair out of their eyes. But what was a teenager doing here?
And on the other side of the group was one new member of his team. “David.” Eric recognized him as soon as he approached the group. David from initiation; the fucker who bullied Tobias.
The profiles of the two new recruits were in his tablet and now that David was standing in front of him, he wished he would have looked into the folders and prepared himself for this guy.
The memories of that boy bullying Tobias during initiation were still very clear in his head.
“Hey, Eric. Good to see you,” David said politely and held out his hand. Eric shook it and maybe he squeezed harder than he would have with someone else, but then he was distracted by the kid who was approaching him.
“Who let you into the weaponry?” Eric frowned and then glared at Hollie, knowing that she was the one who had left the door open.
“What do you mean, who brought me?” The kid sneered. “I came on my own.”
“You can’t be here. We’re preparing for a mission, leave my men alone and get the hell out of the weaponry.” And where was the second recruit? If there was one thing Eric hated, was when his soldiers were late.
“For fuck’s sake, not you too! I’m on your team!” The kid shrieked.
“No you’re not, kid. Go-”
“Don’t fucking call me ‘kid’!” The boy snarled and marched to Eric. He was small. He was smaller than Eric thought and had a high pitched voice. “I’m Ocean, I’m on this team.”
“What? How old are you?”
“I’m twenty,” he answered haughtily, flicking his fringe to the side.
“Can’t be.” Eric raised his eyebrows. That boy was older than him? He looked so young. He took out his tablet from his pocket and checked for Ocean’s profile. Indeed the picture matched and he was twenty.
“Alright soldier.” Eric raised his eyebrows. He thought about apologizing but then he saw Ocean’s glare and decided he was not worth it. “Why were you arguing?” He asked everyone.
“They don’t want me on the team!” Ocean complained loudly.
“He’s a fucking kid, Eric,” Rami said disbelievingly. “He should just go back, like you said.”
“Ocean is older than me and David,” Eric deadpanned. “So unless you’ve got a problem with my age? Yeah, that’s what I thought too. Let’s see how Ocean does tonight and only then you’ll be allowed to complain. Now get your weapons and then we’re headed to the kitchens!”
“What do you mean, the kitchens?” Ocean asked loudly in a tone that let everyone know he thought Eric was mental. Eric stayed calm but then it struck him that if Ocean didn’t know they needed to pack food he must be very knew in this kind of missions. He should have read Ocean and David’s profile before getting here.
“It’s your first time on a mission like this, soldier?”
“Well, not everyone had the privilege of being chosen for missions right after their initiation. Some of us had to work hard for this.”
“You bastard!” Rami snarled. “Don’t you dare speak like that to Eric.”
“Rami, stop. I did work hard for my position, soldier. If I’m where I am, it’s because I deserve it, it applies for every member of our faction.” It wasn’t completely a lie; Eric had worked very hard, since he was thirteen. “Rami has a point. I’m your superior and leader, you must obey me and respect me.”
“Yes, sir,” Ocean sneered.
“Anyway,” Eric sighed. “New members means introductions and rules to be stated.”
“We’ve already introduced ourselves when we were waiting for you, Eric,” Hollie said with a flick of her long blond hair. Eric had already tried to convince her to tie them up because he could see they bothered her but she refused.
“Good. So the rules. Not many, just obey to direct orders from me, protect your teammate, work with your teammate,” Eric pointedly looked at Rami, who obviously hated Ocean already. “And for advices, Ocean, since it’s your first time on a team and on the field, I’d tell you to be prepared for seeing deaths.” No one had warned Eric when he had begun on Anita’s team and he knew that seeing people die was the worst thing a human being with a sensitive heart could watch. “Strangers, but also any of your teammates. Every one of us can die at any moment. And it can’t startle you, it can’t stop you, or else your life will be in danger too. I would tell you not to get attached to your teammates but that’s not the best option to my opinion. The relationship you have with another soldier, the complete trust you have between you, the complicity, the help, is what will make you progress and keep you forward the most-“
“Ok, enough deep words, Eric,” Hollie cut him. “He gets it. We get it. It’s too damn emotional for me. Can’t we just get our equipment and the food?”
Eric sighed deeply and shook his head dejectedly.
“Well?” Hollie insisted.
Eric gestured with both hands to the weapons on his right. “Great!” She hollered and tugged on Rami’s arm. Sarine silently followed, her face as impassive as ever and David too eventually, offering Eric a tentative smile.
Ocean trailed behind and walked right to Eric’s face, puffing his chest out to make up for the height difference. “You are weak,” Ocean hissed, “You listen to that woman instead of imposing your superiority.”
Eric stepped even closer, looming over Ocean. “Careful, soldier. You don’t talk to me like that.”
Ocean only glared in response. When the smaller boy opened his mouth to snap something back, he was yanked backwards by the collar of his shirt. It was Sarine. “Maybe Eric listens to us. But it doesn’t mean we don’t respect him. Keep on disrespecting him and you’ll regret it,” she said very calmly.
“Also the best leaders listen to their soldiers,” Rami added with a determined nod.
“Enough. Get your weapons,” Eric cut in. If they continued he doubted he could hold the blush any longer. Eric didn’t even know how he managed to be liked by his soldiers. He wasn’t particularly kind or easy on them.
Eric walked himself to the wall of guns and rifles and selected two and then loaded his bag and his belt with cartridges. When he was ready he looked silently as Sarine calmly advised Ocean not to take the heavier rifle. Near them David and Rami looked like they were getting along well, with David pointing at one of his own tattoo on his large forearm and talking animatedly with a smile. Maybe David was different than when he knew him. He seemed more humble at first glance.
Hollie was behind them, stretching her arms. Well, pretending to stretch, Eric could actually see that she was eyeing up David’s behind. He could tell David was going to be liked by the team, which was great. He hoped the guy had changed.
Sarine and Ocean approached the two men and they all looked expectantly towards Eric. Ocean flicked his fringe and cocked his hip. “Well?”
Rami smacked the back of his head and the smaller boy yelped. “Stop being pretentious.”
Eric cleared his throat, trying not to smile. “Before we go get the food, pass me your bag Ocean. As it is your first time on a long mission, I will check its content.”
“Don’t question me.”
Ocean huffed. Eric just wanted to make sure that he had everything he would need to sleep outside in hard conditions for a week.
A few minutes later when they were all reunited in the kitchen and loading their bags with what they would need to survive, David approached Eric.
“Listen,” he said, “I know I was a jerk during initiation. I wanted to apologize and I wanted to tell you that you have my full respect. Honest.”
“Okay,” Eric nodded.
“Also I apologized to Tobias a few weeks ago.”
Eric didn’t comment on that but his chest did that usual small jump whenever Tobias was mentioned. After a few bit he said, “You don’t call him Four.”
“That’s a stupid nickname,” David snorted. “But yeah we were assigned on watch duty at the fence for a few days and we talked a bit, I guess. I know what you’re thinking and that you have a bad memory of me but let’s just say that the field changed me.”
“I will see for myself.”
David looked like he wanted to insist and say more but then he resigned himself and nodded firmly. “That works for me.”
After only a few weeks Eric’s old team were working well with David. He had managed to make his place in the team and was serious in his work and determination. Eric actually liked him. David liked to make snide remarks but they weren’t badly placed and sometimes Eric found himself laughing along with David and the others. It was as if he was the missing piece that made their team whole and united. Even with the old members, there wasn’t that friendly and warm atmosphere.
The only problem was Ocean. He was as annoying as the first day they had met. He kept trying to oppose Eric and kept acting recklessly, which was a danger not only to him but to the whole team. One night he had almost blown their cover when Ocean couldn’t keep his mouth shut. Fortunately he listened to Sarine. Sarine was quiet and did not talk much; and surprisingly Ocean always stuck to her side, even at night when they lay their sleeping bags down. So when Sarine glared at him and asked him to shut up, he did.
One night as they prepared themselves to infiltrate a ruined building that was reportedly an arsenal for the factionless, Eric took Ocean aside.
“I won’t deal with your reckless behavior tonight,” Eric said.
Ocean scoffed. “This is stupid. I can’t even count on my fingers the numbers of buildings we have put under a fine-tooth comb because apparently there were supposed to be factionless in it and oh damn they were just empty buildings. We are wasting our time Eric!”
“This is not the same! We are talking about an arsenal. It could be very dangerous. So behave yourself-“
“Are you listening to me when-“
“I don’t care about your opinion! We are to infiltrate that building and we are going to do it professionally. So shut your damn mouth and keep your thoughts to yourself. Am I clear?”
“Yes,” Ocean said through gritted teeth.
“No talking too loud, no bursting into rooms first without letting us know and no wandering! Am I understood?”
Ocean looked sideways and refused to answer.
“Am I?” Eric’s voice boomed.
“Ugh! Yes, ok!”
Eric should have known he couldn’t trust Ocean’s words. Because later when they were all in the building, skimming the fourth level, still without a sign of a weapon or a factionless, Ocean was starting to curse under his breath and drag his feet down. Eric grabbed him by the shoulder harshly. “Behave yourself!” he hissed. “Stay alert.” Ocean just rolled his eyes and shrugged Eric’s hand from his shoulder, dragging his feet to Sarine.
“For fuck’s sake,” Eric hissed to no one in particular.
“We should get rid of him before the next mission,” Rami grumbled beside him.
They continued on their way, Eric praying that Sarine’s presence would be enough to keep Ocean on good behavior until they were safely out this potential arsenal.
His hope didn’t last long. When they were at the seventh floor, Ocean huffed loudly. “I can’t take it anymore!” he complained with his high-pitched voice.
“Ocean,” Sarine warned. But he didn’t listen, he stepped further into the large hall they had just arrived into and spread his arms wide.
“No, there’s obviously nothing in this fucking building. Let’s get out of here!”
He was being too loud and from the corner of his eyes, Eric saw a black figure darting from a corridor and pointing a heavy rifle towards Ocean.
“Duck!” Eric yelled and fired at the figure. The person collapsed without having the chance to shoot at Ocean. There was a heavy silence for a moment when Ocean had wide eyes and turned slowly to the dead body behind him and the only noises were heavy breathing. No one dared to say a word, they all knew that the firing sounds had alerted everyone who might be in the building and it was only a matter of time before they were attacked.
The factionless man had been armed, it meant there could indeed be an arsenal somewhere. But should Eric risk his team forward or should they run the hell away, now that they didn’t have the advantage of surprise.
“Be ready!” Eric hissed. Everyone was already, but that startled Ocean who jogged back to them and prepared his own rifle in a well-practiced move.
The choice was easily made for Eric when at least fifteen armed factionless rushed into the hall from the same corridor than the black figure. They had no chance. “Retreat!” Eric yelled as he started firing at them. They walked backwards to the door they had come from while Rami, Hollie and Ocean fired from the front line. Soon Eric was on the other side of the door and he rushed his mind to think quickly. They had to block the factionless from following them. Eric heard a pained scream and he knew it was Hollie. Fuck fuck fuck. He caught sight of the elevator on the left. He hoped it was working.
He rushed there and pressed on the button. It was not working. But he had an idea. He heard Hollie cursing loudly and he knew she was alive. Eric took one of his larger knives and shoved it between the elevator’s doors. He pried them slightly open and then Sarine’s hand along with Ocean’s were there to stuck their fingers in between and pull the doors open.
“Come on!” Eric said. Sarine was the first to go inside. She grabbed the metallic ropes and started climbing down. Ocean followed. Eric turned to see Hollie rushing to him. Her right arm was dripping blood but she was still awake and determined. She hopped into the darkness and with the help of her legs and only one arm, she climbed down.
“Rami!” Eric yelled. Rami stopped firing and sprinted to the elevator. He took the rope, kept himself steady with his legs and started firing again to the door, stopping the factionless from following them.
Eric slid into the darkness and struggled to the side of the cage and put all his effort into closing the doors. It was oddly silent when he finally managed to close them.
Rami had stopped firing and they were all panting.
“Hey-“ Ocean started from lower but then yelped. Sarine had probably shut him up. They couldn’t talk loudly, not in here.
“You alright?” Rami asked Eric quietly.
“Fine, but Hollie got it bad.”
Rami clicked on the light of his rifle and pointed it towards Eric. Eric did the same with his own rifle.
“Let’s go down,” Eric whispered. Rami slid his rifle to his side and climbed down, allowing Eric to climb onto the rope too.
“Hollie you holding up?” Rami asked her.
“No,” she hissed, “my arm isn’t going to hold until ground floor.”
“Ok, ok, let me climb down and you climb onto my back. Alright? Let’s do that.” There was the sound of rustling and struggling but then Hollie was on Rami’s back and they descended as quickly as they could.
Down on ground floor they fortunately didn’t get into trouble and they managed to get out of the building without another damage.
They didn’t stop there, they ran as far away as they could, until Eric noticed Hollie unable to run in straight lines and he stopped the team. Sarine and him each took one of her arm around their shoulders, with Rami on the front and Ocean on the back and they progressed slowly to the closest safe ruined building that was marked on Eric’s map from his tablet.
As he had the best knowledge in first aid, thanks to his Erudite past, he was the one to tend to Hollie’s wounded arm.
Later in the night, when Eric was on watch, Ocean shuffled to him and sat close beside him. Their shoulders were touching, Eric didn’t try to scoot away or push him away.
It was silent for long minutes but then he sighed loudly and turned to Eric. “Thank you,” he said softly. “For saving me.”
Eric nodded and when Ocean held out his hand, he took it and shook it. Ocean then did the unexpected; he smiled.
In the next few weeks that Eric passed with his team, Ocean had a better behavior. He listened to the orders on the field. He still liked to disrespect Eric when they weren’t in important missions. But that was fine with Eric; a kind and calm Ocean wouldn’t be a true Ocean.
Eric sometimes remembered Rami’s suggestion to get rid of Ocean and take in a new soldier. He knew it would not happen now, and he knew Rami had also changed his mind.
Being with his new team for months did well with Eric. When he still had his old team, they would never go on long missions and were coming back to the faction every few weeks. Eric had loathed these moments. During these breaks, he was alone in his room. And without missions to concentrate on, his mind was free to wander and he would just end up very depressed.
He struggled to find a goal in his life, wondered why he was still following Jeanine’s plan. The same question always haunted him; shouldn’t he rat Jeanine out to the government and who cared if he died? Did he himself care about staying alive? Now that he was alone, that he didn’t have Tobias at his side, only his life was at stake.
Yes, he had Anita. But she was always out on missions and Eric was almost sure that no one knew that they were close. For everyone Eric was a loner. A monster that no one could approach.
Now that he had Ocean in his life, it didn’t seem as dull as before. He wasn’t close with Ocean, no. But the boy brought a spark in his everyday life. Ocean liked to disrespect him, liked to insult not only him but his fellow soldiers. There was always bantering now. But Eric had become accustomed to all that and now he even cared about the boy. He was just the kind of person that you wanted to protect.
“Hello, Eric. Take a seat,” Jeanine gestured to the chair in front of her desk. Max was standing behind the desk, right next to Jeanine.
“Do you know what this is?” She asked, sliding a heavy file on her desk. Eric took it and read the title ‘Organization and rules’. He opened the folder and let his eyes skim over the first page. It explained the process of Dauntless initiation. He took a look at the other pages and as the title said, it had all the rules of every phase and exercise that was to be done during initiation. Eric recognized the physical phase with hand-to-hand combat, the mental phase with the simulation serum and the last phase with the fear landscape.
“Well?” Jeanine asked.
“It sums up Dauntless initiation.” He wanted to say, ‘our initiation’ but he knew he couldn’t in front of Jeanine, because for her he was still loyal to Erudite.
“Indeed and why do you think I am giving you this?”
Oh hell. Eric knew exactly why. He didn’t want to be responsible of initiation. He didn’t want to track down sixteen-year-old divergents and kill them. He wanted to stay with Ocean and Hollie, Rami, Sarine and David; he wanted to stay as far away from the compound as possible.
“You want me to supervise initiation,” he finally said, his face schooled into a blank expression.
“More than that. I want you to lead initiation, I want you to re-write this file from scratch. Of course you’ll follow the old initiation program, but let’s just say the program needs to be toughened up a bit.” She smiled. “I want harsh conditions, so that only the best soldiers can succeed and I want to eliminate the divergent ones.”
“You just need to toughen up the rules for some of the exercises,” Max butted in. “Especially in the first phase of initiation. But I trust you, son, you’ll know where to change the rules.”
Eric realized neither of them had asked him if he wanted to supervise initiation. No they just assumed it was a mission, an order to obey.
“Do you have any questions?”
“Very well. Initiation begins in June as usual. I want you to have the new file ready for next month so that you will have plenty of time to organize everything. You will also forward me a draft of the new file by the end of the week, to give me an idea of what you have in mind. Questions?”
“You may go. I suggest you start working on it today.” Jeanine was already turning her chair around, toward Max, completely ignoring Eric.
His hands clenched the heavy file and he left the office, furious with Jeanine.
Two weeks later, Eric had re-written most of the file, in details, and he even made it structured with different chapters and a table of contents. Except for the fact that some of the things he had written are horrible and ridiculous, he was quite proud of his work. It had been a really long time since he had to do paperwork and it turned out well.
There was one problem in Eric’s new file -which he named ‘Dauntless Initiation, Outlines and Rules’ instead of the old stupid title that didn’t even contain the word ‘initiation’ in it. It was that he needed two people to supervise initiation; a trainer for the Dauntless born and a trainer for the transfers. The one for the Dauntless born was Lauren, as per usual, but he didn’t have anyone for the transfers. Jeanine never mentioned anything and he wondered if he got the right to choose a trainer for his own program. He kind of wanted to put David as an instructor.
He was called to Max’s office not long after that, as if Jeanine had also just realized that they hadn’t breached that topic. Eric was reviewing all his arguments in favor of putting David as a trainer when he knocked at the door of Max’s office and entered.
“Ah, Eric, you’re here.”
Eric’s greeting caught in his throat when he saw someone else in the office. Tobias was standing in front of Max’s desk. He was looking right back at him. His expression was so genuine and sad. But the next second he was back on his new usual face; mouth set in a straight line and deep frown. Tobias had changed so much during the past months. He was still as beautiful as before and Eric felt the tightening in his guts that he felt the rare times that he crossed path with the boy within the compound. But what was he doing here? Tobias turned back towards Max. His shoulders were broader than before and he had a better stance. But it wasn’t what caught Eric’s attention. Right above the collar of his shirt, the edge of a tattoo was peeking; two thick black lines that curled around the back of his neck. Eric wanted to touch the skin there, he wanted to tug at the collar so that he could see the tattoo in whole.
“Come in, son.” Eric startled and realized that he was still holding the knob of the open door. He quickly closed it and came closer to the desk, standing only two feet beside him.
“Eric,” Tobias greeted him.
He didn’t think the boy would acknowledge him. He hadn’t in months. Now he had to answer. He almost said ‘Tobias’ but stopped himself in time. “Four.” His voice sounded weak to him and he hoped it was only to him.
“So Eric,” Max cut short the awkward moment. “Did you receive a response from Erudite?”
“I’m sorry, Sir?”
“About the serums,” Max gave him a pointed look, “for initiation.”
Eric wanted to hit himself. Of course Max was talking about initiation in front of Tobias, not Jeanine’s coup. “Yes. The remaining stocks should be ready at the end of the week so I will be able to start testing their efficiency on volunteers.”
“Good, good. Anyway, I summoned you because of an issue we’ve had with initiation. We’ve been looking for a new instructor good enough to replace Amar. I found the perfect one.” He gestured with his chin toward Tobias. Eric couldn’t believe what was happening. He knew well what it meant; that Tobias and him would have to work together for the next few months and probably the next years because initiation wasn’t a project the older leaders liked to direct.
“Four was a close friend to Amar and even helped him sometimes with his class. Four know how it works and he has already agreed to take the assignment. Eric you will have to work with him as well as you’ll work with Lauren. But I’ll expect you to help him and direct him since he is new.” Eric stayed silent. “Well? Any objection?” Max raised an eyebrow.
“Then it’s settled. You’ll have to give him the papers you’ve written for the process.”
“You can go, both of you.”
Eric nodded and walked out of the office, hearing Tobias’ footsteps behind him. The young leader stood still for a moment, his eyes closed, his jaw clenched.
“So when will you give me these papers?” Tobias voice was cold. It hurt because he knew that he had lost his boy months ago but now the reality of it hit him hard. Tobias had never spoken to him in such a tone. He swallowed. “I’ll have a copy ready for you tonight.” Tobias nodded. Right before he turned to leave, Eric lifted his eyes and met his. They were warm. Warmer than his voice and his stance. Tobias could control his body language but not his eyes. It did something funny inside of Eric and he let out a relieved breath when the boy was gone. So he didn’t hate him. But was it even better? Hate or not, Eric couldn’t approach him again and that was his own fault.
Eric stood in front of Tobias’ room’s door for a very long time before convincing himself that he could do it. He knocked and cleared his throat to prepare his voice, his heart stupidly pounding in his chest. The door opened. Tobias was standing there, in a simple black t-shirt and black pants. Eric didn’t know if he was wearing socks or shoes or if he was bare-foot inside his room for he didn’t dare looking lower and being caught staring. It was bad enough that he was staring at Tobias’ face. But that was alright because one was expected to look at someone’s face when they were talking to that someone. Even if they weren’t talking yet.
“Oh,” Tobias said before they fell into a long uncomfortable silence. Tobias’ eyes were so, so blue and his eyelashes so long. His lips weren’t even chapped; how did he manage to have them like that?
Eric could smell body wash and feel warm and heavy air coming out of the door. Tobias had probably just taken a hot shower and maybe he had let the bathroom door opened during his shower and that was why the body wash smelled so strongly from the room. Eric wondered if he had knocked a few minutes earlier, would he have interrupted Tobias’ shower?
“What do you want?” Tobias asked, breaking his train of thought.
“Sorry to disturb, I don’t have any other way to contact you. Have you read the file?”
“Good. It was only a draft, I will give you the final version tomorrow so don’t bother to read that one now.”
“And you came here to tell me this?”
“No. I need to train you on the way the simulation rooms work. When are you free to do that? It will take long, probably one hour to show you how the computers work. And then another time we will find a volunteer on whom you will inject the serum and make them go through their fear landscape.” Eric watched him expectantly but he was not answering. “So? When?”
“Oh. Whenever. My schedule is completely empty since I’ve been assigned on initiation with you.” Tobias had that bored look on his face and it was hitting on Eric’s nerves. If he was so bored with this maybe he shouldn’t have accepted to work with Eric on initiation.
“Would now be ok with you?”
After Tobias slid on a jacket and boots, they made the walk to the simulation room in silence. It was as awkward as tense. Before Max had decided to make them work together, their last encounters hadn’t been really friendly. Yes their last conversation was months ago. Eric could still visualize Tobias’ disapproving eyes very clearly; it was that time he beat up a cocky man in the Pit surrounded by people and Tobias had walked away with his arm around the nurse.
When they were alone in the small simulation room, sat side by side in front of the computers, Eric was oddly intimidated by Tobias. It was a bit hard for him to admit it, but yes he was intimidated by Tobias’ presence, sitting right next to him, so close that his thighs could feel his body heat. He was intimidated by the tension between them and the confidence and annoyance coming from Tobias’ aura.
Tobias really had changed. Eric could see it now. He wasn’t the boy lacking self-confidence that he had come to love. Now he was a strong and fierce person, with a strong straight back, and one eyebrow practically always arched provocatively. Now he hated Eric.
Eric of course looked impassive and unaffected. He was good at looking unimpressed, he knew it.
He knew how to be professional and got into teaching mode, showing Tobias how to use the program. Because he usually worked in the control rooms, Tobias knew his way around computers and Eric didn’t have any trouble to show him the software. Then he showed him the equipment on the chair the initiates would sit on, and told him they’d find a volunteer for the next time.
One hour and a half and it was done. They got out of the room together and as Eric lingered to lock it, he didn’t notice when Tobias walked away. When he turned, the corridor was empty and Eric felt something like a pang inside his chest.
“So where is my test subject? Or did you even find one?” Tobias asked.
“I have one. He should arrive any minute now.” Because Eric didn’t want to endure an awkward silence he forced himself to find something to say. “I have not yet tested this serum on anyone so it will be a first. We need to test it several times before initiation.”
“What do you mean it’s not been tested on yet? What if something goes wrong with our volunteer?”
“No, no it has been tested by Erudite. They test their serums thoroughly in their labs before sending them to the other factions. This serum is new for our faction because it’s more efficient than the one we both know from our initiation.”
Tobias looked like he didn’t really care so Eric stopped explaining. But then it was silent again and very tense. They were stuck side by side in a small sim room. Eric fixed his stare on the chair beside them and sucked on his lip piercing.
After the longest fifteen minutes of his life, the door finally opened to a way too happy-looking Ocean. His hair was ruffled, and he was panting as if he had run all the way there.
“You’re late,” Eric snapped. “You were supposed to be there 20 minutes ago.”
“I forgot,” Ocean just smiled. “I ran there as soon as I remembered.”
“Oh leave it!” Ocean huffed. “I’m here now, am I not?” He then proceeded to completely ignore Eric and sat comfortably on the reclined chair reserved for the initiates or whoever was undergoing a sim. He held out his hand to Tobias who shook it briefly. “I’m Ocean.”
“By the way I’m happy to see you too, Eric.”
“Be professional, we’re here for an important matter.” Ocean rolled his eyes but stayed silent. “Tobias will test the serum on you. It is the first time he injects a serum on anyone, as you’ve already been informed. Then we will analyze the fear you’re under as well as your vital signals. Is it clear?”
“Yes,” he grinned. He looked too excited for someone who was about to get into a sim living his fear.
Ocean sat still as Tobias rolled his chair closer and prepared a syringe. With a small cotton ball he disinfected a spot of Ocean’s neck. He took a deep breath of concentration and in a quick movement of his wrist, the needle penetrated the skin of Ocean’s neck.
“Well done,” Eric commented. Tobias nodded in response and then he threw the syringe and cotton and started to stick electrodes to Ocean’s fingers and neck, under Eric’s watchful gaze. He rolled back his chair to the computers and with Eric’s help he started a sim.
Eric found that when both of them were engrossed in the work, they actually got along well. Only when the sim ended and they had finished with Tobias’ training for the day, the tension was back in the atmosphere.
“So why are we meeting here?” Tobias asked, he already sounded like he wanted to leave. Eric actually liked being in Tobias’ presence so it hurt him each time to see the boy tense and ready to leave at any minute. He braced himself for the long afternoon ahead of him.
“We’re here for the maintenance of all the guns.” He gestured to the long table where every gun was already aligned for the initiates.
“What? It’s going to take ages!”
“That’s why I’m not alone to do it,” Eric said. “We have to disassemble and reassemble every single one of them and then test them on the targets.”
Tobias glared at Eric, as if he was putting the blame on him.
“We don’t have any other choice. They need to be tested before being used by kids!”
“Since you’re a leader why don’t you use your power to give this task to someone else.”
“I can’t just assign this horrible task to a soldier-“
“How generous of you, Eric,” Tobias said sarcastically and headed to the table, already disassembling one gun in a practiced manner. “I still don’t see why I need to help you doing this marvelous maintenance thing.”
Eric swallowed on his saliva and willed himself to stay calm. He wasn’t wrong when he assumed Tobias hated to spend his time with him. Then again the blame was on himself, he was the one who had decided to put some distance between them and even if wanted to be close to him again, he knew he couldn’t; for one Tobias hated him now and then he couldn’t risk Tobias getting hurt because of him if he disobeyed to Jeanine.
“You can leave if you want.” The words escaped him and he regretted them already. He made himself look weak. Tobias should be here on the orders of Eric. He was a leader for fuck’s sake.
Apparently Tobias thought the same; he looked at him with raised eyebrows for a long time before shrugging and concentrating on the gun in his hands.
They worked in silence for what seemed like hours; Eric’s hands were beginning to hurt and he was considering giving up and letting a low ranked soldier finish for him.
“Eric!” It was Ocean. Eric could recognize the high pitched voice anywhere and for once the call didn’t seem reproachful. Eric only had the time to turn around and caught sight of a bundle of soft brown hair before the smaller boy crashed into him and wrapped his arms around Eric tightly.
He opened his mouth to say something but then Ocean pulled back and looked up at him with bright eyes, happiness pouring out of them and the largest smile Eric had ever seen on him.
“They-“ Ocean began but had to stop to giggle a bit and hide his mouth behind his hand. Sometimes Eric wondered how possible it was that the boy was actually older than him. Eric didn’t find lots of things ‘cute’; he even hated saying the word, but Ocean was really cute and adorable. There had been a time when he found Tobias adorable too.
“They want to make me a sergeant!”
“What?” Eric’s eyes widened. “Sergeant?”
“Yes! They said the ceremony will take place in five months and until then I’m still under your order. They also said I need to be on my best behavior because they can change their mind but you’re my superior, I know you won’t tell them even if I do shitty things. I’ll be a sergeant! And it’s thanks to you!” Ocean lunged himself at Eric and this time Eric hugged back, a smile spreading on his own face.
“I never thought I’d actually like you, Eric but right now I could kiss you!”
Just as Ocean stood on his tip toes and leaned towards Eric’s cheek, they were startled by a loud gunshot. It came from right beside them; Tobias had shot one target. Only the targets booths were very far from the table they were working on. Eric looked at the target. Even from this distance Tobias had hit the bull’s eye. Oddly he found himself turned on by this little thing. He turned to look back at Tobias and the latter was glaring at them.
“Just checking if this gun was working, the magazine was hard to put on.”
If Eric didn’t know that Tobias hated him and was straight, he could have thought that the boy was jealous.
“Well,” Ocean cleared his throat, “I’m going to go. I need to tell uh- my girlfriend about this.” He smiled at Tobias and then darted away.
“Well? Are you going to help me?” Tobias grumbled as he returned to the task of disassembling the many guns scattered on the table. “It’s going to take days.”
“After the guns we need to do the rifles, and renew the targets and check that the system of the moving targets is working. We basically need to check each of the steps of initiation so I suggest you take the time to finally read the file I gave you. And yes, it is going to take days.”
“What is this bullshit?”
“That bullshit is what I’ve been working on for the last few weeks!” Eric snarled. He knew what Tobias meant; this folder was indeed bullshit and shouldn’t be the new initiation program.
“Well you’ve wasted your time! How could you even write this? It’s not you, Eric!”
“Fuck off!” Eric then lowered his voice and spoke in a hiss. “It has been decided that a harder program for initiation was needed. New program, new rules. You don’t ask questions, you learn that fucking stack of papers and you obey.”
“You read it til the end?”
“Finish it and then you may ask questions,” Eric said forcefully. Tobias lunged at him and Eric’s heart jumped, he almost thought that he was going to hit him but he was just in his face and glaring at Eric, their noses almost touching. Eric had to tilt his head up to keep eye contact and it was so humiliating. He gulped, doing his very best to keep his composure and he had to fight for his eyes not to soften at the blue eyes that were looking deep into his own and the scent that was so very Tobias.
He hated that glare in Tobias’ eyes, he wanted those eyes to look at him like they once did a while back. With affection, with admiration and gentleness.
“Don’t talk to me like I’m one of your soldiers,” Tobias spoke in a low voice.
“You are one of my soldiers now,” Eric muttered.
Tobias snorted and walked away without sparing another glance in Eric’s direction.
“The tension was insane.” Eric almost jumped out of his skin. It was Anita, he recognized her voice from behind him. She came into view, her eyebrows raised. “Who was that?”
“From initiation. We were friends.”
“Well-“ Anita trailed and then cleared her throat, apparently not knowing what to say. “Were?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
They were silent for a very long time; they had moved to lean against the uneven stone wall of the Pit and watched everyone else around them.
“I said I don’t want-“
“You don’t want to talk. Alright. Just, you can come to me whenever you want Eric, you know that, right?” Eric looked back at her, an apology in his eyes. He hated snapping at Anita; she had been very important when he first fought on the field. She had been his anchor and he never thanked her.
She slipped her hand behind him and rubbed his back comfortingly. It was very awkward, they were not accustomed to gentle gestures between them, but she let her hand there.
“You look tired,” Eric said. It was true; her eyes seemed hollow and she looked very pale. He felt Anita grab a handful of his shirt were it rested on his back. He frowned, something was wrong. He gently held her arm in his large hand and looked down at her with worry. Anita had always been a joyous woman. He had been so blinded by the argument with Tobias that he didn’t even notice her state. “Anita?” he said softly.
“Let’s go to the Chasm,” she smiled but Eric could tell it was fake. “It’s calming there, isn’t it?”
“Alright.” He felt her hand tighten on his back and then she let go. She pushed from the wall and waited for him to do the same and together they walked to the Chasm in silence. He wasn’t oblivious; he knew it was a silent request to go somewhere where they could talk secretly with the noise of the Chasm would cover them.
“I know I can trust you, Eric. That’s why I’m telling you this, even if you’re a leader. I know I’m not making a mistake.”
“You’re not,” Eric said firmly. Anita smiled at that.
“It’s-“ she took a deep breath, her hand trembling as she pushed back her hair. “I think there’s something wrong with our leaders. Or with the government or whatever. You remember Thomas? Of course you do, he hated you when you were still on our team,” she laughed nervously. “Well two nights ago, Thomas was summoned by Max. I didn’t know much about what our leaders wanted from him. Tom just told us that it had to do with his initiation, which is completely odd and random, right? He- he didn’t even know what it was about exactly. Like, why would they want to talk about his initiation, it was ages ago. But orders are orders, right? So he went.” She looked up at Eric, her stare was fierce, even though tears were gathering in her eyes. “Yesterday morning,” she ground out, “I received a message on my tablet, stating that I would be assigned a new soldier on my team because Thomas Keys is dead.”
Eric gaped at her. Thomas was dead. What had Max done? Eric knew it had something to do with Max and Erudite. Soldiers didn’t just die like that.
“It can’t be a coincidence! It can’t! The leaders call for him and then he’s dead a few hours later?” Anita suddenly spoke frantically. Eric had never seen her panic before; he was lost, not knowing how to calm her. She gripped both of his forearms. “I’m not mad! Eric, you can’t think I’m overthinking things, right? It’s not a coincidence. The leaders have something to do with it. Thomas was murdered.”
Eric removed his arms from her tight grip and brought her to his chest, practically lifting her on his lap. As soon as she was in his arms Anita’s shoulders began to shake in silent sobs. Eric tried to murmur soothing words but it sounded just awkward between the two of them so he just held her, his throat tight.
Moments later she calmed down and leaned back, but stayed close enough to still hold his hand.
“Sorry,” she mumbled. “I’m supposed to be the strong one between us.”
“No, don’t worry about it.”
“Sorry I soaked your shirt.”
“I don’t think you’re mad. You’re right about the leaders. But it’s not all of them,” he shook his head. She looked up at him with wide eyes.
“Okay.” She sniffed loudly. “I’ll try to cope with it. Thank you, Eric. It- it actually makes me feel a lot better.”
“Don’t thank me.” He should be the one thanking her for all the support she had been during his first missions.
“You’d tell me if you knew anything about his death, right?”
“Yes.” Eric hesitated but then he thought of all Anita had done for him and how she’d always been there even if he wasn’t even kind. She was her first true friend since Tobias… “I’ll try to learn more about him okay? And I promise I’ll tell you everything, Anita.”
Two weeks working together with Tobias and Eric could see the changes in his life. He knew he had been depressed for a long time. He could admit it now. When he was on the field it was fine, the work took up all his mind. The worse was when the mission would be completed and he was back at the compound, back to the loneliness and mostly back to his mind.
Then came the new members of his team. Peter and Ocean. And everything changed. Ocean was so reckless and endearing that he added something to the dull daily life of Eric. A spark that was very annoying but that he knew he loved. And he knew Ocean liked their banter too. But it wasn’t enough. What he needed really was someone to hold him the night and someone to help him.
Now that he had Tobias back in his daily life, he knew he was better. Maybe he was insane, but it was the truth. He had missed Tobias unbelievably the last few years. Even if they weren’t friends now, even if they spent their days arguing and complaining with the other, he was back. And so was Eric’s liveliness in his heart.
Because Eric and Tobias were working together on initiation it was more common to see them walking side by side, even if they weren’t talking.
They were both stopped by a furious looking man; Eric recognized him instantly as Thunder from Anita’s team. They never got along when Eric used to work under Anita’s orders.
“I know you did something,” he snarled. “Anita told me you leaders killed Tom. I know it’s you Eric. The murder is practically emanating from you.”
“You don’t know what you’re saying, soldier.”
Thunder then laughed nervously. “Oh yes I know what I’m saying. You’re a murderer. And Anita is going to be the next victim because she figured you out. And next week my body will be found dead at the bottom of the Chasm! Because that’s what you do! You kill people!”
Eric grabbed him by the collar and got very close to his face. “Shut the fuck up,” he hissed. “You don’t want anyone to hear you talking about Thomas’ death. You hear me?”
“You’re a murderer!” Thunder yelled at his face, not caring that everyone near them was now watching the scene intently.
“I said, shut your mouth.”
Eric tightened his grip on the guy’s collar but then was reduced to nothing, his knees failing him when Thunder drove his powerful fist in Eric’s stomach. Eric vaguely heard Tobias’ voice shouting but he couldn’t concentrate because Thunder hit him again in the exact same place but with his knee and Eric choked on air and he couldn’t fight it when he was shoved and fell to the floor.
“That’s it!” He heard Tobias’ voice. He looked up, coughing, and saw him lunging forward and driving his fist straight to Thunder’s face. Tobias then grabbed him by the shirt and hit him with his knee several times until the older man managed to get away. When he looked up his nose was bloodied and he spit some at Tobias’ feet.
“How do you dare attacking your leader?” Tobias asked coldly. “You scum. Get the fuck away before I get my hands on you again.”
Thunder glared, kept a hand under his bleeding nose and marched away.
Tobias grabbed Eric’s arm and hoisted him up. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” Eric said gruffly. In reality he wasn’t. It was one thing to be feared by everyone in your faction. It was another to be called a murderer when he could barely live with himself, remembering all the factionless people he’d had to kill before. Then there was the fact that Tobias had saved him from the situation and the ugly feeling of humiliation was starting to creep up his chest.
Eric was struggling to keep his composure in front of so many people, in front of Tobias; so he mumbled something incoherent and fled the Pit. He heard Tobias calling his name but didn’t turn.
When he was out of the Pit he heard running steps behind him and so he sped up.
“Eric!” Tobias was right behind him. He was considering actually running away but just at that moment Tobias grabbed his wrist and made him turn around.
“E-“ Tobias froze and Eric knew it was because his eyes were moist.
“Leave me alone, Four.”
Eric snatched his wrist away and Tobias let him go. So he continued on his way, out of the compound and to the train.
Eric couldn’t believe it; the first jumper was from Abnegation. It reminded him too much of Tobias and he wanted to hate the blond haired girl just for the sake of it.
Once all the initiates had jumped, Eric did too and came to stand beside Tobias. They must have looked very scary because the sixteen-year-old initiates looked terrified. Tobias and he waited for Lauren to lead the Dauntless born away, never looking away from the kids. It was important to look intimidating; that was the first step to respect.
“Welcome to Dauntless,” Tobias said loudly beside him. “My name is Four and I will be your instructor during your initiation. I expect from you respect and perfect obedience.”
One girl with short hair and dark skin scoffed. Eric raised his eyebrows. Was that girl deaf? Or weren’t they intimidating enough? “What kind of name is that,” the girl whispered quite loudly to the first jumper who was standing right next to her. Perfect. The fucking Stiff had to be friends with an annoying and stupid girl. Maybe it wouldn’t be so hard to hate the Stiff then.
Tobias looked sideways at him and Eric nodded. With his hands clasped behind his back, Tobias calmly made his way to Christina. He stopped right in front of her, so close that she had to crane her neck to look at him. Eric absentmindedly looked at Tobias’ bulging triceps with the way he was holding his hands back.
“What is your name?” Tobias knew what he was doing; his calmness was more terrifying than an outburst could have been.
“Christina,” the girls’ voice was wavering. Of course she was regretting her cockiness. Tobias was intimidating.
“Well, Christina, you’re not in fucking Candor anymore. Your mouth is to be shut unless your superiors speak to you. Understood, initiate?”
“Y-yes,” she stuttered out.
“Good.” Tobias glanced back at Eric and offered him a small nod before walking back to the front.
“While Four will be your instructor I will supervise your initiation as a leader. As Four said, I will expect full obedience and cooperation. We train soldiers, not mere fighters. If you don’t understand this then you’re good for the Ruins. On a more joyful tone, I welcome you to Dauntless. Now that introductions are done, Four will show you the compound.”
“Follow me,” Tobias was already walking away and Eric watched as the transfers hurried after him. Eric could remember when he was at their place, with Tobias awkwardly sticking close to him in his grey clothes. Things had changed, Tobias was very independent and strong now. He didn’t need Eric anymore.
When Eric entered the cafeteria everyone stopped their conversation, as usual. And as usual Eric’s eyes found Tobias in no time. Their eyes briefly met and then Tobias looked back down at his plate.
Eric couldn’t believe his eyes; the fucking Stiff was sitting right next to Tobias and she was saying something to him. Without thinking, Eric walked straight toward them.
The Stiff’s eyes were on him and he glared harshly, wanting to scare her away. Of course it was childish and she stayed right where she was sitting.
“Hello, Four,” Eric said sweetly, and the sarcasm was dripping from his voice.
“Eric,” Tobias nodded.
Eric sat down right beside Tobias, ignoring the stares of the whole cafeteria. Eric hadn’t sat anywhere but at the leaders’ table since he had been named a leader. But whatever, everyone knew that Tobias and he were working on initiation together, he could very well be sitting there to talk about work for all they knew.
“Aren’t you going to introduce us, Four?”
“This is Tris. Tris, this is Eric, your leader,” Tobias answered without missing a beat.
Eric gave her the fakest smile he could muster and hoped his anger was readable from his eyes. Tris blushed and look down. He wished she would just scoot away. He just hated the way he was looking at Tobias, it was the same glint there had been in Amar and the nurse’s eyes. Want. Except that Tris was more innocent than the two others.
Clearing his throat and serving some food on a plate, Eric spread his legs on the bench until his knee was touching Tobias’ under the table. From the corner of his eyes he could see Tobias staring at the side of his face but he ignored him. Tobias didn’t move his leg away and resumed eating his own food. Eric could feel a blush spreading on his cheeks.
“What are you doing here, Eric?” Tobias asked quietly after some time.
Tobias snorted but let it go. “So have you decided to change Part IV of the stupid new folder?”
“No. It’s how it’s supposed to be and it will stay that way.”
“Well maybe you can consider changing Part III, and VI and-“
“Just shut up.” Eric hated him for again trying to convince Eric to modify the file, because he wouldn’t. But he was quite pleased that Tobias had remembered the numbers of the different chapters; he had worked hard on the table of contents.
“I won’t. Not until you accept how wrong it is.”
“There is no room for this argument, Four. I won’t change anything.”
“That doesn’t mean I’ll do what’s written word for word, I hope you know that.”
“You’re a soldier, you obey.” It felt like it was a repeat of all their previous conversations.
Tobias knocked his knee against Eric’s and the latter jumped slightly.
“Like hell I am.”
“Shut your stubborn mouth and focus on your current task. Take the initiates to their dorms.”
Tobias stood up from the bench. Eric could feel the cold air on his arm and wished they could stay side by side. He wished he could just touch him.
“Initiates!” Tobias yelled.
The morning after, all the initiates gathered in front of Tobias in the Pit and Eric was standing a few feet behind him to observe and help if needed. He listened as Tobias explained the ranking system to the frightened initiates; he pitied them, only ten of them were going to make it in the end. He completely disapproved with this new rule. Jeanine had yelled at him when he suggested taking at least the twenty first ranked initiates in or let the lowest ranked for other jobs in the faction that didn’t require to be a perfect soldier.
Eric had thought Tobias and he were scary enough for the initiates to take the news silently and obediently.
“Why do we only know this now?” Eric almost wanted to groan when he heard Christina’s shrilly voice. How stupid was this girl exactly? Tobias had already made a scene the day before because she couldn’t keep her mouth shut. Everyone was silent, obviously thinking the same.
Eric took his sweet time to turn his head toward her. He didn’t glare; his impassive expression was frightening enough for initiates. Christina had her arms crossed over her chest; she was trying to look confident. Apparently she hadn’t understood well enough what ‘superior’ meant. Even the Stiff beside her was pinching the bridge of her nose. His eyes went on Tobias; he was already looking back at him, eyebrows raised, silently asking if he should intervene. Eric nodded imperceptibly and Tobias mouthed an ‘OK’.
The initiates watched as Tobias turned back toward the girl.
“Christina,” he said her name and it sounded as if he was insulting her. “Have you forgotten your lesson from yesterday?”
The girl actually startled and then shook her head.
“What was that?”
“Surely you can repeat what I said then. So that everyone here remembers once and for all.”
Christina blushed bright red. “You said I couldn’t speak out of turn.” It was pure humiliation.
“Oh is that right. And you just did that because?” He looked down expectantly at Christina but she wasn’t answering.
“We are your superiors. You’re not even a soldier. You’re a mere initiate who has seventy percent chances of ending up factionless, so show some respect.”
“We don’t tolerate cowardice here,” Eric cut in. “If you’re afraid not to make it in the top ranks then by all mean, go.” He gestured with his hand to the door. “Leave.”
Of course no one dared to move.
“Great! I’ll leave you with Four to begin your training.”
During the week Eric came down again to the training room to see how Tobias was doing with his class. They were working on fighting moves and when Eric arrived he saw Tobias walking down the line of punching bags. The initiates were practicing their punches, working by pair, two for one bag.
They were really bad. Eric knew it was only the first week but it was still painful to watch them throw weak punches. And by the look on Tobias’ face, he was desperate.
“Four,” Eric caught his attention. He walked to him. “Do you want some help?”
“Please,” Tobias sighed.
That’s how Eric found himself spending the next hour helping initiates to correct their moves, commenting, complimenting –rarely- and scolding. Oddly he felt proud of himself because kids were listening to him and some of them were progressing already in only one hour. It reminded him too much of his own initiation, when he used to take Tobias to the very same training room and tutored him. For once it didn’t alter his good mood, to recall the memories, but he felt proud, he felt at his place. And when he glanced at Tobias, he could see the same feelings in his eyes.
Only this time when he glanced sideways to check on Tobias, he was at the Stiff’s punching bag. Eric barely noticed how bad her technique was because his eyes were stuck on Tobias’ hand on her stomach as he helped her. And on her face, her eyes when he talked to her. And anger rose up inside him, ugly and unwanted. He looked away and forced himself to concentrate on the initiate in front of him who yelped when his fist missed the bag.
“Concentrate,” Eric told him. The irony. “Don’t just throw yourself forward without and good stance.” Eric showed him how to stand correctly, and helped him further but his mind was still somewhere on Tobias and the Stiff. He looked back but Tobias was already on another initiate. The Stiff however was still staring at Tobias.
Then next week Eric went down to see Tobias and his initiates. It didn’t end well; the Stiff interfered with his methods and he hated her even more. When he left the training room he went straight to his room and sat on his bed, trying to calm down.
Tobias barged into his room only ten minutes after Eric had arrived. If Eric wasn’t dreading the coming conversation they were going to have, he would have laughed; it was like old times, they never used to knock on each other’s door.
“What the fuck was that?” He yelled at Eric.
The young leader sprang from the bed and stepped closer to the boy. “I did my job!”
“By throwing knives at initiates? For fuck’s sake what is wrong with you?”
“I told you,” Eric hissed, “we’re ordered to toughen up Initiation. You’ve read the file. And you have a perfect aim anyway, you wouldn’t have killed them.”
“I know you didn’t create these rules! I know I once said you’d changed. But I was wrong and I know it now. You’re still the same, Eric and I know you. Someone made you write this-”
“It doesn’t matter, I-“
“Of course it fucking matters!” Tobias raised his voice again. “You’re not one to follow the rules, and even less when they don’t make sense!”
Eric clenched his jaw. He knew Tobias was right, and he repeated himself the same thing every day. Unfortunately he didn’t have a choice. Not ever since he was thirteen years old. “I was given a job, Four. And I’m doing it.”
Tobias actually groaned at this. “That is bullshit. I know it has something to do with that thing you refuse to tell me. I know it’s not you.”
After a long heavy pause, Eric answered softly, his gaze trained on the floor. “You know nothing.”
“Because you never speak to me.” Tobias was quick to answer.
“I didn’t know we were on speaking terms, Four.”
“You are so frustrating. I-” he groaned. “Just know that I’m not approving this file and I’m not following the things I don’t agree with.”
“You have to. Initiation is followed closely by Max-”
“So it is Max,” Tobias’ eyes widened a bit. “It’s not you. You never decided to change the rules of initiation’s training. Is he some sort of superior to you or-”
“It’s not the point of the conversation,” Eric dodged. “You have to follow the instructions on the file.”
“Yes you will, I’m the leader here,” Eric snarled, “and you will listen to me.” He didn’t see it coming when the taller boy stepped closer, so close to him he could feel his warmth and had to crane his neck to keep eye contact.
“You’re not superior to me,” Tobias hissed dangerously. “I could fight you and dominate you so easily.” For a moment, Eric completely forgot the topic of the conversation, or more of the argument. His head was full of Tobias’ presence. His eyes, his familiar smell, his warmth, his strength, his power. Eric swallowed, his lips parted. He wanted to reach for him so bad; maybe just touch his arm would be enough, yes just touching him. The next instant Tobias stepped back and walked out of his room.
It took Eric several minutes to realize that Tobias had had the last word of their argument. “Fuck.”
One problem was that Eric still had to find a way to convince Tobias to follow the rules. Another was what dirty images Tobias’ last words could inspire. ‘Dominate you’.
Tonight was the night of the war game. Eric was confident that he could beat Tobias’ team. He was smarter and Eric was almost sure that Tobias was going to choose the weaker initiates and the ones with no friend; it was probably because it reminded him of their initiation and he didn’t want anyone to feel alone and left out. It was thoughtful and could make Eric smile, but not tonight. Tonight he would win.
He went out of his office, ready to take a few hours of sleep before the game and almost knocked into a small body.
“What do you want?” he sighed.
“I’m happy to see you too, Eric,” Ocean smirked and flicked his soft hair away from his eyes. “I just wanted to chat.”
“Since when do we ‘chat’?” Eric walked down the corridor, headed for his apartment and of course, Ocean followed.
“Well now we do, I’ve decided.”
“I don’t think so. I’m off for a nap.”
“Can I participate in the war game tonight?” Ocean asked with a pout.
“Well did I or Four ask you to? No? Yeah that means you’re not invited.”
“I know! But you’re a leader and you like me and I’m cute.”
Eric snorted. Yes, Ocean was cute, but he was also very annoying.
“So?” Ocean insisted. “Can I come too?”
“Eriiic,” he pleaded.
“I said no.” They were entering the Pit now, people were looking at them. People always looked at Eric.
“Pretty please,” he pouted again. He looked too cute for his own good. It was his own fault that everyone thought he was younger than eighteen.
“Don’t get on my nerves,” Eric fought to sound stern and to keep a serious face on. Ocean quickly moved behind him and jumped on his back. His legs and arms wrapped tightly around him. “Don’t do that in front of people!” Eric hissed, slightly panicked. This was not appropriate at all and broke the perfectly untouchable scary image everyone had of him. “Get down now!” He tugged desperately on Ocean’s arms but he was afraid to hurt him if he pulled too hard. “Ocean!”
“Then let me come to the game tonight.”
“Eric, I’m ready to stay on your back for-“
“Alright! For fuck’s sake, you can come, now get down.”
Ocean actually squealed and then he hopped off. “Thanks!”
Eric groaned. “Make sure to find someone to come with. Or else we’ll be an uneven number.”
“No problem! I’ll drag my boyfriend with me.”
“Your what?” Eric spluttered. “I thought you had a girlfriend.”
“No, I’m gay. I only said I had a girlfriend last time because Four was- hey, look it’s him!” He pointed a few yards away and indeed there was Tobias, pushing a huge cart in front of him. “What is he doing?”
“It’s the guns for the war game,” Eric said as he squinted. It couldn’t be- “Wait.” He marched towards Tobias and silently stopped him in his tracks stepping right in front of the cart; it almost knocked him over but he didn’t care. Tobias had dared to disobey. Max was going to be furious at them. He took one of the gun and sneered at Tobias.
“What the fuck, Four?” Eric snapped, tossing the paintball gun back in the container.
“A problem, Eric?”
“Yes there’s a fucking problem. Are you incapacitated to read instructions?”
“Shut up,” he rolled his eyes. “I know you wanted neurodarts guns, or at least Max wanted neurodarts. But I told you, I’m not following the new rules.”
“Yes, you fucking will!”
“I’m not! And you can’t make me. You have no authority on me and you know it,” Tobias said in a softer voice, as if he didn’t want the others around them to hear.
“I am your leader.”
“Yeah, that’s your title,” Tobias walked around the cart to be right in front of him and spoke again in that soft voice. “But have you managed to order me around since you’ve become a leader? No, you haven’t. You’re supposed to punish soldiers who don’t obey or worse, banish them. You did neither to me and that’s because you still care.”
Eric jerked away, a blush already creeping on his cheeks. “Shut the fuck up,” he hissed. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” Tobias looked at him sadly, almost disappointed.
“Jesse!” Eric barked at one of the soldiers around them.
“Get these paintball guns back to the weaponry and bring back the neurodarts ones. Bring them to the train tracks as soon as possible.”
“Ocean, help him,” Eric called out to him. The boy rolled his eyes but he uncrossed his arms and walked to the container.
“Yeah, alright, Eric. I’ll see you later.”
“You’re insane,” Tobias muttered. “Are you trying to scare away the initiates? This shit is dangerous and you know it. Not all of them have a great aim.”
“Let’s hope you’ve taught your initiates well enough then,” Eric smiled.
As expected Tobias’ team was composed of the weaker initiates. And of course Tobias had chosen the Stiff first. It made the blood in Eric’s veins boil but he was even more determined to win the stupid game.
As it happened Tobias’ team had already found out where Eric’s team’s flag was and they were attacking them. Ocean was laughing gleefully not too far from Eric and it annoyed him, this was a serious game. He wanted to win.
Eric was in the middle of a firing battle with Tobias himself. They were both hiding behind trees and trying to shoot the other. It was taking too long, one of them had to change tactics, he knew it. He shot again at the tree Tobias was hiding behind and hid back, his back resting on the trunk, his breathing heavy. He recharged his rifle with neurodarts and took a deep breath, preparing to attack again. But just then he was shoved sideways and lost his balance.
The next thing he knew, he was sprawled on the humid ground and Tobias was falling on top of him. He didn’t even have his rifle, he had thrown it away. So he wanted and hand-to-hand combat. Eric smirked even as Tobias grabbed his collar, lifted him a bit and then shoved him back down, his head taking the most of the force. The earth had cushioned the impact and he laughed. It was hysteria. He hadn’t fought Tobias since their final fight at their own initiation. Maybe this is what they both needed; the tension between them had been getting worse and worse and words and arguments couldn’t be enough relief for them.
“Having fun?” Tobias growled. He was straddling Eric’s hips and was pressing down painfully on Eric’s shoulder.
Eric brought up his knee a quick as he could, hitting Tobias at the bottom of his back. It hurt, he knew it, and as Tobias grunted, his grip on Eric loosened and the latter managed to shove him away and stand up.
The next second they were facing each other, in a fight stance. “I am,” Eric grinned. Then he lunged forward, his fist headed straight to Tobias’ face and of course Tobias dodged that one and tried to take advantage of Eric’s proximity to hit him but Eric was prepared and threw himself backwards just in time.
“Woohoo! Go Eric!” Ocean’s voice cheered.
Tobias closed the distance and threw punches after punches. Eric avoided some, took some, it was painful, but Tobias was so caught up in his fury that he didn’t see it coming when Eric threw one arm around his neck and pulled him down. His balance betrayed him and he stumbled to the side, glaring at Eric.
“Fuck,” he growled and lunged again and this time Eric suffered his blows. It was expected, he knew Tobias was better than him at fist fights.
“Oh fuck,” it was Eric’s time to curse. He tried to keep a safe distance between them to recover for a few seconds but suddenly an intense pain burned from the back of his neck and he felt all the muscles of his body electrify. His vision went black.
The next time he opened his eyes he was laying on the cold hard ground, and Tobias’ panicked face was right above him.
“Eric! Eric!” He said frantically. “Eric! Can you see me?”
His vision was still too foggy for him to process everything. The next thing he noticed is that his head was propped up on Tobias’ lap and Tobias’ cold hand was rubbing at the side of Eric’s neck, where it was somehow hurting like hell.
“What happened?” He grumbled.
“How many fingers, Eric?” Tobias held up three fingers above Eric’s head.
“Thank God. Does it hurt a lot?” Tobias asked, a deep frown edging between his brows.
“My- my neck? What happened?” The hand on his neck rubbed more vigorously.
“Fuck what am I supposed to do, I’m not a medic.”
“Tobias?” Eric groaned and reached to his neck to stop Tobias’ hand. “What happened?”
“You got a neurodart shot in your neck.”
“Fuck.” No wonder his neck throbbed. “How long since you removed it?”
“I don’t know. Like, three minutes. You were out. You collapsed. I don’t know, is this supposed to happen? It’s only simulating pain why- why did-“
“Tobias,” Eric said sternly.
The latter stopped rambling and as soon as he met Eric’s eyes it seemed that he understood what Eric meant. They were the role models here, surrounded by novices. Eric looked around them and indeed all the initiates were there, watching. He noticed the Stiff holding his team’s flag but barely cared about the fucking game. His neck hurt, Tobias cared about him and they needed to look composed.
Eric didn’t think he had seen Tobias that panicked since their initiation.
“Ok,” Tobias said softly. “Can you sit up?”
Eric nodded and with his help he was even able to stand up fully. “Who shot me?”
“Will, it was Will, from the tranfers. But are you okay?” he whispered so that the others wouldn’t hear, “Should you be standing up or- I don’t know if you should get medical attention right now. Are neurodarts dangerous?”
“No, it’s fine,” Eric answered in a murmur to keep the conversation private. “It only simulates the nerves but it doesn’t do any damage. But if you shoot someone close to the spinal cord of course the pain is going to be intense. That’s why the head, the neck and the back were off limits for the game.”
“Okay uh- when will the pain go? It still hurt doesn’t it?” Eric noticed Tobias’ hand twitching at his side, as if he wanted to rub the spot again. If he wasn’t feeling that woozy he could have relished the fact that Tobias was very worried about him. It was funny considering that minutes earlier Tobias was fighting him.
“It still hurts a bit. But it’s all good now. Just- I’m not in shape to yell at Will, you need to do it.”
“Yeah, of course. Just, don’t collapse again, please.”
Eric couldn’t help but let out a small smirk. Tobias let out a breathless laugh and after making sure that Eric was still standing without his help, he turned around and looked for Will. He marched to the boy, his back set straight and contracted briefly the muscles of his arms.
Eric’s attention was taken from Tobias and his body when he saw Ocean and his boyfriend approaching him. “Eric, are you alright?” the smaller boy whispered. “You collapsed and we didn’t know what to do.” Eric nodded and the three of them turned to look at Tobias when the latter raised his voice.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” He was right in front of Will, towering over him. “Explain yourself!”
“I- I-“ Will stuttered, not being able to answer.
“Are you too stupid to follow a rule? You are trained to be a fucking soldier, you follow orders!” Tobias yelled so loudly that Eric flinched. He hoped no one saw him; he was supposed to be the scary one. “Now listen to me!” Tobias continued and walked even closer to Will; he was absolutely looming over him. “Points will be taken for this and you will be severely punished for attacking your leader and for not being able to follow a rule. Do you understand?”
“Y-yes,” Will whispered.
“I said, do you understand?” Tobias yelled right at his face.
“You will be at your best behavior from now on!”
Will had tears in his eyes. He wasn’t even holding his gun anymore; it lay at his feet. The boy was trembling and doing his very best to look back at his trainer. Tobias was frightening when furious, there was no doubt in it.
Eric felt unexpectedly really sorry for the sixteen-year old boy. They didn’t even know if Will had shot his neck on purpose.
Tobias looked back at Eric quickly with worry in his eyes and when he saw him still standing, he walked up the line of initiates. “All of you!” he barked. “Back to the train tracks in silence and I want to see you use those damn legs! If in five minutes I see that one of you hasn’t arrived to the train tracks, the whole group will be punished! Go!”
Eric watched impressed, as the initiates hurried to run away, in almost perfect lines of four, their weapons in hand. Only the full dauntless members stayed with Tobias and Eric.
Some of them looked at Eric with worry in their eyes but they didn’t dare to walk up to him. He guessed they were still afraid of him, even if he was on the verge on collapsing. His legs felt so weak.
Who the hell had invented neurodarts?
“Eric are you okay? You look really pale.” It was Tobias, he was holding Eric up by his arm and frankly Eric wanted one thing and it was to let go of his weight. “I can- I can carry you if you want.”
Eric snorted at the ridiculous picture it made in his mind. “No.”
“Or I could,” Ocean said with a giggle. “If I can manage to lift you.”
“Ocean, take a few men with you and get to the train tracks quickly so that the initiates can get on the next train with adults.”
“Yes, sir,” he smiled and tugged on his boyfriend’s sleeve and together they hurried away to pick up other soldiers with them.
When Eric looked back at Tobias his insides fluttered warmly because he still looked way too worried.
“I can walk, Tobias.”
Eventually Tobias let him walk on his own to the train tracks but he was still walking too close to him, and Eric ignored the hand he could feel hovering behind his back. Tobias was ready to catch him if his legs failed him. That fact alone made him flustered and Eric was grateful that it was at night and the sky was pitch black.
They progressed slowly because Eric was dizzy and refused to be carried around; so when they arrived at the train tracks, they were alone. Everyone had already gone home.
During the ride home the pain lessened and Eric was able to think more clearly. Somehow the whole situation angered him. It bothered him that Tobias appeared so worried about him when he never usually cared. Also because of that stupid initiate from Tobias’ team, he had been humiliated in front of the novices. When he looked up to find Tobias staring at him with worry in his eyes, he glared and looked away.
“Are you okay?” Tobias asked quietly. They were walking down the corridors of their rooms. And they were alone since everyone lived in the upper levels.
“Why do you care?” Eric sneered. He ignored the fluttering in his chest as he recalled how the boy was worried and rubbing his neck and now he was checking up on him. He sighed softly.
“You are so annoying,” Tobias huffed. “Just tell me if you’re okay.”
“Maybe if you had controlled that initiate from your team I would have been alright!”
“Maybe if you hadn’t imposed neurodarts for the war game you would have been alright! Imagine if it’d been paintballs, uh? Will would have shot you, you would have yelled, and it would have only made a minor bruise. Look at you now, you can barely stand-”
“I’m fine! For fucks sake the pain lasts for a couple of minutes only!”
“Then why are you still holding your neck like that? Yeah that’s what I thought.” Tobias grasped the hand that Eric was indeed keeping on his neck. “It was a shitty idea and you know it. And I know you’re not behind this but why-“
“Shut up!” Eric snatched his hand back.
“What is wrong with you?” Tobias practically yelled. Eric didn’t answer. They had stopped in front of his door, Tobias towering over him. “And will you fucking talk to me?” he said softly.
As he looked up at Tobias, Eric felt the anger of the argument fade away. And exhaustion suddenly took over, he wanted nothing but to collapse on his bed.
“Just stop asking questions about everything, Tobias,” he said tiredly. Then he opened the door to his room and shut it on Tobias’ nose.
He unzipped his black windbreaker and dropped it on the floor. He unlaced his boots and slipped in under the covers of the bed without bothering to undress. It was uncomfortable but he was too tired to care; he shifted until he was on his side and sighed deeply. Only then did he realize that he had called Tobias by his actual name.
He was exhausted but the sleep wouldn’t come. He felt lonely. He needed a warm and comforting body next to him. He had slept alone for forever, he didn’t know why now he craved a presence next to him. Someone to hold him. And because no one was hugging him, he felt horribly empty inside.
His mind wandered for hours, until he finally decided to slip out of bed and undress from his dirty clothes to take a long warm shower. When he was clean he lay back down and eventually he fell asleep, even more tired than before, with Tobias occupying his mind.
In the morning Eric knew he looked really bad. He had huge bags under his eyes, still looked pale and couldn’t bother to shave his beard. He at least put some product in his hair so that the longer strands wouldn’t fall onto his face and it didn’t look bad at all.
When he opened the door of his room he froze. Tobias was leaning on the opposite wall, and looked up, as if he had been waiting for Eric.
“Eric!” Okay, so he was waiting. “How- how are you feeling?”
Eric couldn’t find what to answer until he stepped into the corridor and closed his door behind him.
“Exhausted.” What he really wanted to say was, lonely, tired, that he needed a hug, and he wanted to ask why did he wait outside his door, showing that he cared when he was so usually cold.
“Well. I can see it on your face,” Tobias gestured awkwardly to his own face. “Um- I thought we could get breakfast together?” He asked hopefully. “Or something. I mean.”
Tobias was flustered. Eric wondered if he was still in his dream. He wanted to be happy about it. He was. Right now he couldn’t remember why they had stopped being friends.
“Ok.” Maybe he flashed a small smile.
“So how is your neck?” Tobias asked when they were walking side by side.
“Listen, I know you. I know that you think no one cares about you, no- don’t interrupt me. You think no one cares, and you have no idea why I walked with you to breakfast and asked to eat with you. Right? Well I care, alright. I care about you. So would you please stop following dangerous and reckless rules because not only they’re a risk for the initiates, but for you too. I don’t want you to harm yourself in a stupid find the flag game. I don’t want you to write stupid harder rules for initiation because Max asked you too if it means you’re in danger. Or I am. It could have been me, shot in the neck, or another initiate. These neurodart shits were too dangerous for a game. But because it happened to you and I panicked last night, it made me realize that I really don’t want to follow the new initiation rules and this time I won’t let you force me to-”
Eric didn’t listen to Tobias’ speech in whole. All he could think about was ‘I care about you’. These four words were on repeat in his head and even if he was looking back at Tobias, he wasn’t paying attention anymore.
“Eric!” Tobias knocked his knee against Eric’s under the table. “I’m being serious.”
“I don’t think you’ve talked to me that much in years,” was all Eric found to say.
“Yes, well, I decided I needed to communicate to make you understand. I will follow the old initiation file from now on.”
Eric startled at that. “What? You can’t.”
“Did you even listen to me the past minute?”
“I’m your superior, you will obey me when I order you to follow that fucking file. And-“ he moaned, hiding his face briefly behind his hands, “I don’t want to have that same conversation with you one more time.”
“And did you forget when I reminded you that you are not able to order me. You never did, not once since you got named leader.” Tobias had leaned closer when he talked, provoking him into another argument again.
“I will not fight with you here,” Eric hissed. They were in the Cafeteria, still; they needed to look like they were a great team in front of the initiates and Max.
“You care about me as much as I care about you.”
Eric growled not knowing what to answer to that without letting know the embarrassment that overtook him. Because yes, he cared about Tobias, he could easily admit to himself that the love he once felt for him never left. But now Tobias knew, and now Tobias said he cared again. Even if Eric had been the biggest jerk and had rejected him as his friend a year ago.
“And that’s all I need to know,” Tobias said with finality. He smiled briefly and then stood up for the table, leaving a flustered Eric behind.
Folder in hand, Eric stepped into Tobias’ room. He didn’t knock, like old times. He was shocked to see the Stiff, Tris, sitting on his bed and the boy was kneeled in front of her.
“What the hell is she doing here?” He snapped. Both of them jumped and Tobias whirled around to face him.
“What is she doing here?” he snarled. The girl looked frightened behind Tobias. The latter stepped to Eric and took the stance he always had in public now; shoulder set tightly, back straight and fists closed at his sides. It emanated power and confidence.
“She was attacked, I was simply tending to her wounds,” he said calmly. Too calmly.
“So you just take her to your room?”
“Yes, I did! Three boys tried to kill her; I’m not sending her back to the dorms! She staying.”
“Like hell she is!”
“Why, why does it even matter to you? You don’t have a say in this. Just give me the papers and leave!”
Eric growled and threw the folder on the side in a powerful move. The folder opened and papers slid on the floor. They had been so caught up in their argument that neither noticed how close they were standing in front of the other. Tobias was still taller than him and it was humiliating how he had to tilt his head up to stare into his blue eyes. He still found him breathtaking. “You infuriate me,” he hissed.
“That’s what I said.”
“What?” Eric whispered.
“A year ago, I told you the exact same words when we- when we had that fight.”
Eric remembered that day too well; Tobias had tried to kiss him.
They were standing so close, Eric’s eyes darted to his plump lips and then back up to his eyes. Tobias’ pupils were dilated. He swayed closer. Tobias’ nose grazed against his cheekbone. Eric tilted his head until his lips were millimeters away for the boy’s. He could still remember how Tobias had freaked out when he had jerked away from the kiss and because of that he couldn’t find it in himself to close the gap between their lips. But this time it was different; Tobias’ want was obvious in his eyes and he still hadn’t stepped away. Eric felt high on adrenaline; the tip of his fingers tingled, something was stirring in his guts and his face was so hot.
“That day,” Tobias murmured, “you pushed me away.”
“And you told me to forget.” Eric hissed. He swallowed, he couldn’t take it anymore. “Do something,” he said so lowly he wasn’t even sure Tobias could hear. But the next instant the taller boy inhaled sharply and pressed his lips on Eric’s. The sensation was indescribable. Tobias was kissing him willingly. Eric had imagined them kissing so many times in the past; it was nothing like he’d ever thought. He thought he was too hot before but now his cheeks were on fire and so were his ears.
Tobias parted his lips and encouraging Eric’s to open too and Eric felt so weak in the knees he had to hold onto Tobias’ shirt. Then Tobias went to suck at Eric’s bottom lip and he tugged at his lip piercing. He licked it sensually and it made Eric pliant, whining softly; he let Tobias press open-mouthed kissed repeatedly on his lips. Eric separated their lips when he felt like it was too intense and he couldn’t process everything with his senses flooding him everywhere with Tobias. His warmth, his smell, his skin, his taste. They stayed close, staring into the eyes of the other, their eyes almost black. Eric’s hands were still gripping at the Tobias’ shirt and he hadn’t noticed before but one of Tobias’ arm was wound around his back and his other hand rubbing at his waist. It felt so good, and so right.
Eric jumped in for another kiss, startling the other boy and making him stumble back for a bit as they kissed more urgently. Tobias wasn’t taking it, he kissed harder, gripped the back of Eric’s neck with one large hand. His other one slid to Eric’s hip and when he pressed down with his thumb, Eric gasped and broke the kiss. Their foreheads were pressed together and Eric shut his eyes. His and Tobias’ breaths were mixing as they panted. After a moment Eric needed more and dove back into a kiss but Tobias made it chaste.
“We have company,” he said hoarsely. At that Eric’s eyes widened; he had actually forgotten the Stiff’s presence in the room. Both of them looked back at the bed. Tris was there, looking extremely flustered; her face completely red. It was obvious she wanted to be anywhere but here.
Tobias finally stepped away from Eric and they walked back toward her. Tobias looked uncomfortable, Eric couldn’t care less that the Stiff saw; maybe she’d learn to stop looking at his boy like she wanted him. Maybe she was the reason he still had a hand gripping Tobias’ shirt at his side.
“Uh, sorry, Tris,” Tobias mumbled. Eric scoffed. “Eric will go. You can sleep in my bed and I’ll take the floor.”
“Are you fucking serious?” Eric whispered to himself. Then he glared at Tris. “And don’t you fucking dare to speak a word about what you just saw to anyone or I’ll take care of-“ Tobias cut him with a small shove against his chest. “What, Four?” He snapped.
“She won’t tell a word, it’s fine. I’ll walk you out.” He placed a hand on Eric’s lower back and led him to the door. Eric ignored the things such an innocent touch could do to his guts and shoved Tobias’ arm away.
When they were outside the room, Tobias closed the door behind them. “Oh shit I can’t believe we just did that in front of someone.”
“Such a Stiff,” Eric rolled his eyes. Tobias glared and stepped into his personal space. “We need to talk,” he said softly. Tobias rested his cheek against Eric’s temple. Eric ran a hand up and down Tobias’ chest and breathed in his scent. “What just happened-“
“Tell me you don’t want me to forget it.” Eric didn’t care if his voice sounded pleading. He didn’t think he could take another rejection. He needed Tobias so much.
“No. I want it to happen again and again and again.” When he spoke his lips grazed Eric’s temple.
“Yes.” Eric nodded and his hands resting above Tobias’ hips squeezed hard, he needed to ground himself and believe the moment was real.
“Trust me,” Tobias whispered and leaned back a bit to find his eyes. “Let go.”
Eric’s face felt so hot. Those words were from a long time ago, it was what he had told the tall Abnegation transfer when they had both stood on the edge of the hole.
Tobias chuckled. “No, really, let go of me you’re hurting me.”
Eric’s hands jerked away from his sides. He had forgotten he was still squeezing hard. He ducked his head a bit. It was humiliating.
“What about your girlfriend?”
“The nurse,” Eric glared at him.
“Oh no. No, we ended things ages ago.”
They fell into a comfortable silence, with Tobias using the tips of his fingers to stroke Eric’s cheeks and jaw.
“Eric? Don’t call me Four again.”
“What, shall I call you ‘baby’?” Eric said in a sarcastic tone.
“Don’t laugh you already called me that once. But you know what I meant.”
“I fucking did not,” Eric said hotly.
“Yes you did. When I was crying and you took me to your room.”
“I- Shut up.”
Tobias chuckled again and looked down at him fondly. “Go. We need to sleep.”
“Kiss me.” Eric ignored his shame, he needed it again. Tobias’ lips parted and the boys leaned at the same time in a languid kiss, sucking at each other’s lip loudly. Eric found that Tobias liked to focus on his lip piercing. Eric liked it too; it made things to him when Tobias tugged on it between his teeth. Eric made a helpless noise at the back of his throat, and to make things worse, Tobias slipped his tongue inside Eric’s mouth and caressed his tongue briefly. Too briefly. All the blood rushed to his crotch but then Tobias stepped back, one hand lingering on Eric’s jaw. He stroked his cheek and leaned quickly just to press their lips together again, chastely.
“I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Eric nodded and took a step back too. He caught sight of Tobias’ eyes glistening but before he could be sure of it the taller boy turned away and walked back inside. Eric eventually made the walk down the corridor to his room, cursing at the uncomfortable situation in his pants.
Later in the night he smiled to himself at the thought of Tobias having to pick up all the papers from his room’s floor.
Chapter 5: 4.2 Weaken
Part 2 of Weaken
The next day at breakfast, Eric convinced Tobias to eat at the leaders table, so that no initiate could hear them talk or see them if they let out anything. It wasn’t odd to see leaders bring their friends at their table, not that Eric had ever done it before. Because his usual seat was at the end of the leaders table, isolated, not even the other leaders could hear them.
“Can you sleep in my room tonight?” Tobias asked all of the sudden. Eric’s eyes widened slightly. “No! I mean, sleeping. Like, sleeping. I just- Tris was there last night and I really wanted to stay with you but I couldn’t leave her alone so, will you stay the night?”
“Yeah,” Eric tried to contain a smile.
“Don’t make fun of me! I’ve just wanted that for a long time.”
“Me too,” Eric looked at him fondly and he spread his thighs under the table so that they could touch without being seen.
Tobias not only let his thigh there, he hooked their ankles and it was uncomfortable but neither of them cared.
That night the boys shared a pillow, like they used to do once. Only this time they were allowed to hold each other as they slept. The feeling of sharing their warmth, under the covers, of sharing the air and a small pillow was the greatest warmth Eric had ever felt in his guts. And as he let his eyes flutter open in the morning and found Tobias’ sleeping face right there, he knew he was right where he needed to be.
The next night and the night after both of them slept in their respective bed. Eric would not ask Tobias to come into his room and apparently Tobias didn’t want to either. Eric knew it was probably his turn to ask Tobias to come sleep with him because Tobias asked the first night, but it was too sappy for him. Which was stupid; he really wanted to get to sleep next to Tobias again. Because now he could.
So for the third night in a row Eric lay alone cursing himself for not having the guts to ask.
The fourth night Eric was curled on his side, alone under the covers of his bed. His stomach was in knots and his fists were curled so tight that his nails were digging painfully into his palms. A thunderstorm was raging, it had woken Eric up and he was experiencing the familiar stress that came with one. He hated himself not only because he was still scared of storms but also because if he had had the courage and honesty to offer to Tobias to sleep in his room, he wouldn’t have been alone right now.
“Eric?” Tobias’ voice suddenly called from the door. Eric jumped visibly and turned around in his bed to look at the door. It was too dark for him to see him clearly but Tobias was there.
“Sorry, I didn’t knock,” Tobias said. “The door wasn’t locked so I just came in.” Of course, Eric had taken the habit to leave his door unlocked at night since he and Tobias had made up, in case Tobias decided to come. But Eric hadn’t thought it would actually happen, he hadn’t bothered to ask Tobias to come by after all.
“Are you ok?” Just as Tobias asked the question a thunder resonated loudly and Eric flinched.
“Not really,” he managed to say. He wasn’t even ashamed of his fear, Tobias already knew, Tobias had held his hand during a whole night, years ago.
“Yeah, I- I thought you’d like me to stay for the rest of the night.”
Eric was overwhelmed by the fact that Tobias would even care that much about him. Tobias had woken up in the middle of night and he came to his room when he had heard the storm; because he remembered that Eric hated them and he was offering his company.
“Yeah,” Eric finally said softly.
Tobias approached the bed and slipped under the covers. They lay lying facing each other, their heads on the same pillow. Tobias had one hand settled comfortingly against Eric’s side and one of his feet slipped comfortably between Eric’s.
After a few minutes, Eric was relaxing, not flinching from the thunders and his stomach not aching anymore. “Can you sleep now?” Tobias whispered.
Eric could feel warm breath against his lips and couldn’t help but lean closer just to kiss him softly. “Yeah.”
“Good.” Tobias kissed him between the eyebrows and then snuggled his body closer, his chin resting on Eric’s head and his arm sliding around his back. “Sleep.”
And Eric did, his senses full of Tobias. Even if his body being so close combined with the covers made him way too hot, he didn’t care. Even if thunders were still rumbling loudly. He was safe.
“You know what I fucking love to do?”
“Uh-“ Tobias froze and Eric could see a blush coloring his cheeks. He was probably thinking Eric meant sex. He couldn’t hold back a laugh.
They were lying on Tobias’ bed, it was late, they were on the verge of falling asleep. The day had been particularly long and tiring.
“No,” he laughed harder because the blush on Tobias’ cheeks was even more noticeable. “Not what you think. Not that I wouldn’t love to do that with you. But I was talking about something else.”
“Then tell me.”
Eric thought for a moment but then he shook his head. “I’d rather show you actually.”
“Okay?” Tobias frowned. “When?”
“Now? We have to get out of Dauntless though.”
“Eric. We’re in the middle of the night.”
“I know. We can’t do what we’re going to do during the day.”
“If it’s illegal-“
“Tobias, I’m a leader, everything is legal. I just don’t want to be seen.”
“But I have to wake up early for initiation.”
“The initiates won’t complain if you’re late, don’t you think?”
Eric watched with trepidation as Tobias turned on his back and let out a loud sigh. “You will like it. I promise.” He turned his head to look at Eric for a few long seconds and then he slid out of the bed.
“Alright, let’s go.” Eric brightened up at that. He couldn’t wait. “I don’t know why, it’s making me nervous,” Tobias added.
“You’re going to be alright. Just dress warmly and put on clothes that’ll let you move freely. I’ll go get my windbreaker and meet you at your door.”
A few minutes later and Eric and Tobias found themselves standing on the side of the train tracks, waiting for a train. They were both dressed in windbreakers, light sweatpants and sneakers. Eric had a small smile of anticipation plastered on his face, proud of his idea to share this with Tobias.
“Where are you taking me?” Tobias cut the tense silence.
“I’m not taking you anywhere. We’re just waiting for the train.”
“So that’s what you like to do. Taking the train?” Tobias said sarcastically.
“Will you just wait?”
Tobias huffed and then groaned. “Eric, this is making me nervous-“
His voice was cut by the arrival of the train, too loud in the silence of the night. Eric grabbed his face between his hands and kissed him on the lips. “Trust me!” He yelled over the noise of the train. Then he smiled and beckoned Tobias to follow him as he started to run alongside the train. He jumped easily onto a car and watched as Tobias joined him in as easily.
“Ok, here’s the fun part,” he grinned evilly at Tobias. He walked to the end of the car, to the doors that separated the cars. These doors were always closed, Eric was probably the only one to open them; that’s why it didn’t surprise him when he had to force it and it made a concerting noise. When the door of the speeding train was open, Eric stepped on the small ledge outside and turned to look at Tobias. He looked stunned.
Eric then looked up and started hoisting himself up onto the roof of the car. He heard Tobias yelling at him but only laughed heartily in response. Climbing on top was a bit tricky because of the slippery surface and the speed of the train but he managed, helping himself with the chains hanging between the cars.
Once he was safely on top he saw Tobias’ head poking out. “Get down!” Tobias yelled.
“No way! Come up!”
“Are you mad?” Tobias’ voice sounded mad.
“Trust me! Climb up!”
“I-“ Tobias hesitated.
“You have to hurry there will be tunnels in a few minutes!”
“Fucking hell!” Tobias started to climb. It was easier for him because Eric held his hand and hoisted him up.
“Come on, stand up!”
Eric took Tobias’ hand and made him walk a few steps so that he could get used to the speed and the force of the wind. The feeling in his chest was amazing. He had always loved being up there but having Tobias with him for the first time was so fulfilling. He smiled at him over his shoulder.
The latter came closer to him, slipping his arms around Eric’s waist from behind and he leaned in, his lips near to his ear. “You are mad,” he said. “This is what you love to do. Mad.”
“It’s just the beginning,” Eric said in response and squeezed Tobias’ forearms. He didn’t think he had ever felt this happy his whole life. “Come on, let’s go forward.”
The train was almost nearing Erudite territory, meaning the only part of the city that was completely illuminated at night.
Eric knew that Tobias was getting more confident on the train; he had even stepped around Eric and was walking faster, his arms wide open. Eric liked to do that too, and he did, watching Tobias’ back instead of the nearing buildings. He couldn’t wait for Tobias to see Erudite, it was his favorite part of the ride.
Soon they were at the front of the train and Tobias begged Eric to turn back around and get to the other end of the train so that they could still move. This time it was Eric who was walking in front. It was trickier to walk on the other way and they had to run, both laughing and screaming. All too soon they arrived to Erudite and the train tracks became elevated, leaving a wide emptiness between them and the roads far below.
“Oh fuck!” Tobias yelled. Eric turned, panicking. He had completely forgotten to warn Tobias about the height. Tobias had stopped running; he was half-crouching, half standing up. His eyes were wide and it was obvious he was trying not to look down. As Eric could see that Tobias was doing greatly to calm himself down, he started to calm down too.
But the reassurance hadn’t lasted long; behind Tobias’ shoulder Eric caught sight of an approaching tunnel. Tobias would get crushed if he didn’t crouch down quickly. “Tunnel!” Eric cried with all his might.
“What?” Tobias yelled back.
Tobias still wasn’t understanding and Eric’s legs moved faster than he thought possible. He darted forward, ignoring Tobias’ frightened call and violently tackled Tobias’ body close to the roof of the train. Seconds later in a whoosh the train penetrated inside the dark tunnel.
“Oh fuck!” Tobias exclaimed.
Their bodies lay side by side, Tobias lying weirdly on his side and Eric on his stomach with one arm draped over the boy beside him. Eric felt hysterical laughter bubbling up in his throat and he just let it out. Inside the tunnel it was calmer, there wasn’t the loud noise of the wind and the train breaking through the air. So Eric’s laugh was very loud inside the tunnel.
“There is nothing to laugh about,” Tobias protested but Eric could hear the smile in his voice. “I almost died.” Tobias didn’t have to yell; they could talk quietly.
“I know, I just-“ Eric paused. Maybe it was the hysteria, but he didn’t have a filter tonight. Tonight he wanted to laugh, he wanted to talk and say all his sweet thoughts to Tobias. “I’m just glad you’re here. You’re the first person I ever show this.”
There was a short silence when Tobias moved so that his hand was at the nape of Eric’s neck. “Thank you for showing me this. For sharing something you love,” he said softly.
Eric grinned widely, even if it was pitch black and Tobias couldn’t see. “Let’s run as soon as we’re out of the tunnel. It’s my favorite part of the city. You’ll see, it’s really cool when you run.”
In another whoosh the train came out of the tunnel and suddenly it was very bright and the noise had come back. Illuminated buildings were surrounding them. It was beautiful.
They both stood up. “Ready? Come on!” Eric said and he started to run in the same direction of the moving train. He loved doing that. Nothing was able to stop him. He was so fast. To his own usual speed was added the speed of the train and he felt like he was flying. It was so, so fast. So powerful and freeing. Lights passed on the sides so quickly he couldn’t even process his surroundings apart from the hard surface he was running onto and the wind and the force pushing him faster.
He heard Tobias’s laugh behind him. “We’re flying!” He yelled.
Eric hadn’t been out on the trains since forever and how he had missed this. The fact that Tobias was doing it with him, sharing this moment was making it hundreds time better. He was ecstatic. His hands were freezing cold from the wind but he couldn’t care less.
They neared the front of the train and had to slow down to a stop. Eric was breathless and needed to rest but he couldn’t resist the urge to turn around and kiss his boy. They were both smiling so hard that they couldn’t really kiss, it was just presses of lips and sometimes teeth, which was making them smile even harder. Suddenly Tobias pulled back. “Wait, wait. What if there is another tunnel?”
“Let’s go down then.”
Tobias nodded and together they went inside the car. It was hard work to open the door but they had no choice; it was too dangerous to try to enter from the side doors which were always opened. There was no grip and support, Eric had never tried. But after Eric smashed his shoulders a few times on the small door, it finally opened and they went inside.
It was way calmer and Eric felt the fatigue hit him hard, the adrenaline of their run gone. It was fine because Tobias tugged on his arms and they both sat down against the side of the car.
As they caught their breath, they fell into a comfortable silence. Tobias let his head settle on Eric’s shoulder. The position was so familiar and reminded him of memories, both happy and sad. It downed his euphoria of their train surfing and he sighed.
“What’s wrong?” Tobias mumbled. When Eric didn’t answer, Tobias sighed too and Eric felt him press his lips tenderly on his collarbone. He shivered and felt his whole chest warm up when Tobias took his hand and started stroking his knuckles. “I’m having trouble to realize that I’m here with you,” Tobias said softly. “I’m really lucky. Thank you for sharing your thing with me.”
Eric couldn’t answer to that, it seemed his filter was back, clogging his throat. So he did the only thing he could to show Tobias his affection. He wrapped his arms around Tobias and buried his nose in his hair. It was warm, soft and safe.
It was the end of the day, right before dinner time. Eric was sprawled on his bed, waiting for Tobias to come by so that they could walk to dinner together. It was a routine they had picked up these days.
Eric’s stomach growled and he blamed Tobias for being late and causing him to be so hungry. But just then the door slammed open. “Eric!”
There was alarm in his voice, Eric bolted upright, alert.
“A initiate jumped down the Chasm,” Tobias said painfully.
He felt guilty. Eric could see it in his eyes. So he walked to Tobias and immediately wrapped his arms around his body. Tobias sagged into Eric’s embrace, exhaling loudly.
“It’s not your fault, ok?”
“I know. But I also didn’t help him either. I was too harsh on him,” Tobias whispered.
“Who is it?”
“Al.” Eric was also hit by guilt, he’d also reprimanded Al numerous times.
“Let’s go there, keep the situation in control. People are probably crowding the place.”
When they got to the Chasm, which was close to their rooms, Eric had to bark a few orders to keep people out of the way. He couldn’t understand why they all wanted to look at a dead body. It made him sick to the stomach.
“Eric,” Max came up to them, “Four,” he added, surprised to see them together after initiation hours.
“I’m glad you are getting along alright and spending time outside work. I knew you could get over the past.” Eric raised his eyebrows, he wanted to tell the old man just how ‘alright’ Tobias and he were getting along right now. “Anyway, we’re gathering everyone in the Pit after dinner. I want you to do a speech, Eric. About braveness and all that. I know you’re good at improvising.” He nodded and left the pair of them with instructions to order soldiers to pick the dead body out of the Chasm.
Later the Stiff approached them, looking warily at Eric. “Four,” she said softly and Eric already wanted to scare her away. “I wanted to tell you. Al was one of the boys who tried to throw me down the Chasm. I think he jumped because he couldn’t cope with the guilt.” She was crying, her voice was trembling. Eric didn’t feel anything when Tobias placed a hand on her shoulder. He did feel something when he looked up and Thunder was there, staring straight at him. Thunder mouthed the word “murderer” and he had pure hatred in his eyes. At the moment Eric felt more guilty than Tobias could ever be, or Tris could, about an initiate’s death.
Eric knew he needed to talk to Tobias very soon. There was a reason he hadn’t allowed them to be friends before. Yes, the heartbreak had a great part in it, but mostly, his secret was what made Eric push him away. For one Tobias was too important in his life for him not to know about Jeanine and Erudite. And then it made Tobias’ life at risk. Tobias needed to know.
And Eric wanted Tobias to tell him his own secret, the one he had shared with Amar and never told Eric. They were closer than ever, closer than during initiation, on an emotional level, but at the same time what they had between them scared Eric by its fragility. Neither told the truth, it was only a matter of time before Jeanine took notice of his renewed bond with Tobias and used it as a threat. Or before things exploded because Tobias refused to tell Eric his secret.
But he surprised Eric when days later they were sitting on Eric’s bed, playing with their hands, and he looked at Eric with a frightening seriousness in his eyes.
“So we’re both still hiding something,” he said. And Eric knew then that he wasn’t the only one haunted by their secrets. “If we want us to work this time, we need to be honest with each other. What do you say? I’m ready to tell you,” Tobias said with determination. At these words Eric’s heart jumped because finally Tobias was fully trusting him, on a level that he hadn’t reached before.
“Yeah.” Eric swallowed. “Okay.” He watched as Tobias sighed in relief.
“Who goes first?”
Eric rubbed both of his hands against his face and sighed deeply. “I’ll do it.”
Tobias nodded and waited patiently. “Alright.” Eric had to do this; he needed Tobias and the boy was right, if they weren’t honest, it would eventually end in a fight. They needed this so that they could trust each other fully. And Eric could use the emotional support, he was lost and in deep shit with Jeanine’s future plans.
“Before I tell you, you need to know that- I’m not proud of it; it kills me.” He wiped his sweaty palms against his pants, his eyes never looking away from the boy sitting in front of him. “And I wish I could go back in time because now I don’t know how to get out of it without being killed.”
“Killed? Eric, for fuck’s sake what is it?” He said impatiently but then it was obvious on his face that he was regretting it and he reached forward to hold Eric’s hand. “Sorry.”
“When I was thirteen I signed up for a project with Jeanine Matthews in Erudite. No, I became her project.” Tobias’ eyes widened. “I’m still her project. She trained me since I was thirteen so that I could transfer to Dauntless and rank first. Her goal was for me to become a leader.” Eric felt his eyes welling up, he was waiting for the disgust to take over Tobias’ face. Eric was just a dog and Tobias would probably hate him. He wished he wouldn’t. “She needs allies in Dauntless leadership because she’s creating an army. An army to overthrow Abnegation. She wants to govern and she won’t stop at nothing.”
Tobias’ face wasn’t yet contorted in disgust but his eyes were wide. Eric had to admit he’d never felt that relieved his whole life; he had finally confessed to him about the darkest part of his life.
“What do you mean she wants to overthrow Abnegation?” Tobias let go of his hand and sat up straighter. Eric was already missing the contact; he closed his hands into fists and pressed them against his thighs.
“There’s a war coming, Tobias.” Was it his imagination or did his voice sound pleading? “She’ll fight them and kill anyone who gets in her way.”
Tobias was silent for a long time, avoiding Eric’s face. When he looked back at him, Eric’s heart dropped painfully and he almost let out a sob. There was the disgust in Tobias’ eyes. No, it wasn’t disgust. It was betrayal. Betrayal and disbelief and hurt.
“Tob-“ Eric couldn’t even finish his name. The said boy stood up hastily and avoided his eyes again. “Please.” Eric was sure that tears were rolling down his cheeks. It should have been humiliating but he didn’t give a fuck at the moment. Tobias practically ran to the door and slammed it back behind him.
Eric completely let go of himself as soon as he was alone and realized Tobias was gone for forever this time. When the first sob came out he grunted in anger and stood up. He never cried! He paced the room for a minute, his breathing harsh. Soon enough he realized that holding back the sobs was actually physically painful. Another sob came out and he gasped, pressed his fist against his lips and his shoulders shook. His whole chest was painful, he had to sit down, so he walked to his bed; but as soon as he reached it, he scooted further and lay on his side. Then, he let go, sobs came out uncontrollably and he didn’t try to contain them, his cheeks were completely wet and his nose was running down. His chest was still so, so painful. He gripped his shirt above his heart and hid his face with his other hand. He cried for a long time, picturing Tobias’s traits in his mind. He’d lost him.
Eric had opened up to him, thinking it was the moment. All that he had been carrying these years. He had finally embraced the fear of an eventual rejection. He had thought he could trust Tobias with this, he had believed in them. He saw the betrayal in Tobias’ eyes but honestly he felt like he was the one betrayed.
He cried even harder when he thought back of the hope he had felt the when Tobias had kissed him twice and promised him he wanted to kiss him again and again. But could he blame Tobias? He was an awful person; working for Jeanine and obeying her when he knew there was a war coming. Hopefully Tobias would warn everyone before the war. He was going to die but it didn’t matter, no one cared about him anyway. And he didn’t have anyone to care about either. Not anymore.
Eric removed his shirt when he was calmer and wiped his eyes and nose with it. He threw it somewhere in the room and lay back down. He took deep breaths, trying to get rid of that ache in his throat.
Tears were still running down his cheeks when he fell in slumber.
When Eric woke up again he remembered that he wasn’t alone. No, there was still one person who cared. Anita. She told him that he could come and talk to her about anything. But could he go and see her without crying? He didn’t know if he could bear to be seen by her in tears.
Eric sat up in his bed, his throat dry and his eyes so puffy that he had trouble to open them. He dragged himself to his bathroom, trying to convince himself that he still had a life, that yes maybe he had lost the most important person in his life, but he still had his own life. He needed to take care of himself and go on. But as he thought this, new tears filled up his eyes and with the horrible clogging in his throat. He took deep breaths and forced himself under the shower.
After his shower Eric sat on his bed, and turned on his tablet. He checked his schedule and found out with dread that he needed to meet up with his team in his office to present them their next mission in which they would go without Eric. The meeting was set for 0600, he still had hours to get a hold of himself. Again thinking about it brought up new tears and Eric cursed out loud. He had already cried yesterday, he couldn’t let himself be so weak. Yesterday was plenty enough.
Without thinking he searched for Anita’s schedule on his tablet. Because he was a leader he had access to that. When he saw that she was home at Dauntless he let out a shaky breath; the temptation to go upstairs to her apartment was stronger. He needed a friendly and understanding face.
He dropped his tablet next to him on the bed and lay down himself.
Everything was wrong in his life. He thought he had Tobias, finally, but now he’d left. He had a glimpse of happiness, for once some things were actually good, some things made him feel at home. But then life had to take it back. He hated himself. He was still under Jeanine’s will, he was powerless and now alone. And the worse about it is that even Tobias, who said he cared, who looked like he cared a lot, couldn’t accept him with the truth. So why should Eric accept himself?
He tried to sleep to make the time pass. It wasn’t a good idea, when he closed his eyes his mind wandered to Tobias and he relived yesterday’s scene. Again and again and suddenly his cheeks were wet. He reached up to wipe his face angrily with his sleeves. He picked up his tablet again and stared stupidly at Anita’s schedule.
Eric skipped lunch. He knew his stomach was growling but he couldn’t care less. He spent the day lying on his back, staring at the ceiling and wiping his silent tears away. Came 0500 and he started to stress out. He had to meet his team in an hour and he wasn’t presentable at all. His eyes were stinging, puffier than in the morning and he was starved and felt weak. He couldn’t see them. He picked up his tablet for the hundredth time in the day and looked at the opened window showing Anita’s empty schedule. He stared at her profile picture and felt his resolve crumbling down. He needed her.
Numbly, he stood up and fled his own room, he didn’t feel safe in here. His head was weirdly empty, he was looking at the stairs he was apparently climbing. He looked at the wood splintered at some steps or nails dangerously stucking out. He looked up and counted the lamps above his head. He stumbled in the stairs but regained his balance thanks to the banister. It was made of metal, cold, greasy. Someone should clean this banister with alcohol. Who knew what germs had developed on it. He scrunched his nose and suddenly he was on top of the stairs, it was Anita’s floor. There were tiles on the corridor floor. Maybe Eric should think about moving out. The corridor he lived in didn’t have tiles. And his room was too small and the shower took ages to pour hot water. Why was he even living downstairs? He was a leader for fuck’s sake.
Eric was in front of Anita’s door and he knocked. Even the doors here were better than his. It was wooden and there weren’t graffiti’s in this corridor.
The door opened. Anita looked shocked. Eric knew his eyes were swollen from all the crying. And suddenly reality crashed on his shoulders.
“Hey,” he said in a whisper. Tears were already flowing down his cheeks. How did that happen so quickly? He didn’t really pay attention when Anita ushered him inside and rubbed his arms comfortingly.
“Eric, are you hurt somewhere?”
Yeah. All his chest hurt. And his throat and his eyes.
He let out a sob. “Oh, baby,” Anita said softly and then arms wrapped around his body. “Do you want to talk about it?” He shook his head violently. No he didn’t want to talk.
He didn’t know how long they stayed standing in the middle of her apartment. Now he was fully crying, with ugly sobs and snot rushing down his nose and dirtying her shirt.
“Oh my God, Eric.” Anita sounded on the verge of crying and Eric hated himself even more because he was making her sad. The only person except for Tobias to have ever cared for him. But now she was the only one.
“Eric, Eric. What did they do to you? God, don’t cry. Baby, don’t cry.” She talked softly and her voice was just so soothing. Thinking about how soothing she was only made Eric feel worse. He didn’t deserve someone like that.
“Eric, tell me.”
He shook his head.
“Babe-“ she rubbed his back.
“I can’t.” Eric wailed. Anita didn’t insist. She never insisted. She always knew how to act perfectly with him. She pushed Eric’s face into her neck with one hand and rubbed his back with the other. Eric gripped her shirt and held on.
“Let’s get you to your room, alright? We’ll put you to bed, you need to rest for a bit. I’ll stay with you okay?”
“I can’t,” Eric’s voice cracked but he couldn’t care. Instead he gripped Anita’s shirt harder and stood up straighter. “I have to meet with my team.”
“Oh, no, no, no. I don’t think so,” she laughed dryly but then gave him a genuine smile. “I won’t let you go.” She stroked his cheek and the gesture worsened his state, he felt his chin tremble.
“They’ll be waiting for me-“
“Don’t worry about it, alright? I’ll talk to Max and tell him you’ve got the flu or something.”
Eventually Eric nodded and they walked together out of her apartment and down the stairs to Eric’s corridor. Eric was silent, tears rolling down his cheeks without his consent. At least it wasn’t full sobs.
It was Ocean. Eric turned around and watched as the boy’s face changed from happiness to concern.
“Are you alright?”
“No, he’s not,” Anita answered for him when she noticed it was taking him too long to talk. His throat just felt so tight, he couldn’t find his voice.
“We- we’re waiting for you in front of your office. I just came here to see what was taking too long. Should I tell the others you can’t come?”
“Yeah, you do that,” Anita said softly for him.
“Okay,” Ocean bit his lip. It was obvious he wanted to ask what was wrong and Eric was glad that he was restraining himself. It was already humiliating to be seen crying. “I’ll go tell them now,” he said softly.
Anita was tugging on Eric’s arm. “Wait,” Ocean stopped them. He silently walked to them and slipped his arms around Eric’s waist, hugging tightly and burying his face in Eric’s neck. “Whoever hurt you can go to hell, Eric. I love you and I’m sure scary woman there you loves you too.”
Eric sobbed again at that and nodded against Ocean’s head.
“I’m going now, okay?”
“I’m not scary,” Anita hissed before Ocean could go. Eric would have laughed if he the pain his chest wasn’t so intense.
“Eric? Wake up.” someone was whispering. The voice was soothing and made him warm to the tips of his fingers. “Eric?” It was Tobias’ voice, that was why. Eric loved his voice; it was so deep. Tobias? Eric’s eyes snapped open and he sat up. He winced at the headache. Tobias was sitting on the edge of the bed, very close to Eric, one of his hand on the bed was so close to his thigh. He was so strikingly beautiful. Eric hadn’t thought he’d ever speak to him again. But Eric recoiled slightly. That man had hurt him like no one ever did.
“Did you-“ Tobias whispered. “Your eyes. Did you cry?”
Eric turned his head away and yes his eyes did feel completely swollen. “What are you doing here?” His voice sounded so weak, but his heart had been ripped out he didn’t care about pride.
“Sorry. I know it’s 0400 but I needed to see you and you door wasn’t locked,” he answered softly. “I’m sorry I left.”
“You had the right to. There was a reason I never wanted to tell you. I’m a fucking dog and yes that bitch is controlling me.”
“Eric. I need to explain myself, can you listen to what I have to say?” Tobias asked with worry in his voice.
Eric wanted to push him away and to say no, he didn’t want to feel that weak because of a person. But he nodded.
“Thank you.” Tobias let out a long breath. “I left because I hated knowing that you were participating in a war that will lead in so many deaths. I felt betrayed and disappointed. I once told you you’d changed. But then I had come to realize that the person you were in public was just the person you wanted people to think you are. I realized it wasn’t the real you. I knew you were the same as before. Back when we- when we were very close.
“Then there was the hope. I kept thinking that maybe, maybe there was a chance that we could be friends again. I just missed you so much these past years. There’s been this hole in me that hasn’t been filled since initiation. But it had been filled again.” Tobias smiled softly. “So when you told me you were conspiring with Erudite to plan a war and destroy Abnegation, I- I felt like my guts were wrenched, you dropped this on me and I kept thinking that I was wrong. That you were that horrible person you show people.” Tobias’ hand trembled as he hid his face briefly behind it. “I feel horrible Eric. I feel disgusting.” When he looked up at him, Eric just believed him. Eric was drinking up Tobias’ words silently, not knowing what to say but dying to halt the boy because it looked so painful to talk about it for him. But he couldn’t, he just watched with wide eyes, feeling tears falling down his cheek but not doing anything to wipe them. His stomach was in knots because he didn’t know what Tobias was going to do and what told him that he wouldn’t leave on him again? He’d done it once.
“So I fled. I was blinded,” Tobias continued. “But then I remembered. I remembered what you said.”
“What?” Eric’s voice croaked.
“That you hated it and that it was killing you.” Eric looked at him, the hope soaring in his chest. “I shouldn’t have left. I’m so sorry I should have been there and look what I did.” His eyes were so gentle and honest, Eric could read the guilt and affection. “Can I touch you?” Tobias whispered unsure.
When Eric nodded, the other boy reached up and stroked his cheeks, wiping away the tear trails. But as soon as he did so, new tears rolled down Eric’s cheeks. “No, no, don’t cry,” Tobias whispered. Then he scooted closer, so that his chest was pressed against Eric’s side. Eric was shirtless so he could feel his warmth through Tobias’ shirt. “I am so sorry. I am a horrible person. I just really care about you Eric and I’m- fuck, I don’t know how else to say I’m sorry. I’m here now. Please. Don’t cry.” Eric let out a small sob and gripped Tobias’ shirt with a hand while the other boy stroked his cheeks relentlessly.
“Eric,” he said softly. ”You’re not a dog. You’re in control of your life, you have always been. You’re always confident; I learned how to be confident from you. If you don’t want to, you don’t have to obey to Jeanine.”
Eric made a small noise at the back of his throat. He had trouble believing that Tobias was actually there and the fogginess of his sleepy state didn’t help. He felt very warm in his guts and where the boy was touching his cheeks and neck. That’s what Tobias’ presence could make him feel. “But she’ll kill me. She’ll kill you.”
“Remember that night you were beaten up and dropped at my door? It was her, Tobias. She did this because I’d refused to listen to her once.”
“Fuck, I didn’t-” Tobias inhaled sharply. “She’s mad.”
“She already warned me more than once. Tobias, I was thirteen when I started this, I was so stupid. I would have never agreed to be part of it now.” He said in a rush looking into his eyes, needing to know that Tobias believed him.
“I know you wouldn’t. I am so sorry. Eric we’ll figure this out, you’re not alone in this shit.” Eric leaned closer to press their foreheads together. “Thank you for telling me,” Tobias murmured.
Tobias leaned forward and their lips molded together. It was languid for a moment but then Eric became more insistent, he slid his tongue inside Tobias’ mouth. He pressed even closer and Tobias had to lean away and tilt his head up to keep up with him; a helpless noise even came out of his throat. Eric was putting all his frustration and anger in it. He was relieved, that Tobias was accepting him and felt horribly guilty that Tobias had felt betrayed and had admitted to miss him the past two years. But for now the anger was taking over. He had spent the day and the night crying over him. It was his fault that Eric was so weak. He remembered his own feeling of betrayal that had destroyed his heart.
Eric broke the kiss and hoisted Tobias fully on the bed, then he pushed him on his back and climbed on top of him.
“You left,” he hissed angrily.
“I know, I’m so sorry.”
Eric ducked down and kissed him dirtily again, completely dominating. “I hate you.”
“I’m sorry,” Tobias croaked out.
“I hate you so much.” He recalled how furious he had been at himself, crying as soon as Tobias had slammed the door close the night before.
“I’m sorry,” Tobias’ voice broke.
Eric kissed him again to shut him up and Tobias began to roam his large hands along his naked back, one settling at the dip above his bum. He pressed down so that there was no space between them and he rolled up his hips. Eric hissed, all his blood had rushed down and he could feel himself growing stiffer. He bit at Tobias’ lips to show him that he was the one controlling and it was not the other way around. Tobias understood and his hands went back between Eric’s shoulder blades. “I am so angry at you,” Eric ground out.
“I know. I’m sorry.”
“Stop apologizing!” Eric sat up, still straddling Tobias and suddenly hid his face behind his hands. Tears were welling up in his eyes. “I’m a mess. Don’t look at me.” It was the first time that Tobias had seen him cry. It was so humiliating. And he had seen Eric’s eyes already puffy when he woke him up.
Tobias moved to sit up so that Eric was straddling his lap and closed his arms around his body. “Eric, look at me.”
He did and was met with the beautiful blue of his eyes.
“Fuck, look what I’ve done to you. I am so sorry. Eric, you’re not a mess. You’re perfect.” Eric narrowed his eyes and pushed at his chest to create some space but Tobias’ arms were encasing him.
“I don’t need to hear your beautiful words. I’m not a weak person,” he said hotly.
“I know. I just needed to say it.”
Eric shoved him away. He found him gorgeous with his beautiful words and his clear eyes. Tobias fell back on his back. “And,” he huffed, looking up at Eric, “I’m glad to know that you cried over me.”
“Shut up.” Eric blushed and felt even more ashamed.
“Because now I know that I mean something to you,” he continued softly. “I was never sure.” His voice cracked. “We were once really close. But then suddenly you were always on missions and when Amar died you threw me out of your life and I-“
“Shut up.” Eric cursed at the prickling in his eyes and moved to lie above him again, one strong arm holding him up above Tobias’ head. “Of course you mean something to me. You always have,” he breathed.
“You too.” Tobias’ voice was full of emotion. A tear rolled down from Tobias’ eye. “I’m so fucking sorry that I walked away. I’m so sorry. I never meant to hurt you.”
Eric pressed his face against Tobias’ neck and let himself lie down completely on the boy, one leg between his thighs. “I don’t think I could be more ashamed that I am,” he spoke softly, “so- Please, don’t let go of me.” One tear slipped out of his right eye and wet Tobias’ neck. He felt disgusted at his own weakness and vulnerability.
Tobias stroked his back with one hand. “Don’t be ashamed,” he whispered very softly. “You are beautiful when you’re honest with your feelings.” Eric clenched his eyes shut against his neck. “I will not let go of you. Never.”
Eric woke up feeling very good and warm. He could feel one large hand on his bum and he was still mostly lying on top of Tobias. The next thing he noticed was that he had a morning wood, trapped between him and Tobias’ thigh. He didn’t want to make the situation awkward, so he shifted very slowly sideways and tried to remove himself from the boy beneath him without waking him up. He stilled for a moment, taking the time to realize that he was in fact waking up in bed with Tobias and that his body was very warm and comforting and the image of the sleeping boy felt just so right; Eric wanted to snuggle back in and hold Tobias in his arms but he had an uncomfortable situation at his crotch and remembered that he needed to slip slightly away.
So he put some weight on his knees and elbows and tried to move out of Tobias’ embrace.
“What are you doing?” Tobias’ voice rasped. He removed his hand from Eric’s bum only to place his arm around Eric’ waist and drag him back against his chest. Eric looked up to see Tobias squinting down at him, the light too strong for his eyes. It was obvious he had just woken up. “It felt good. Let’s stay in bed,” Tobias murmured. He voice was so gravely it did things to his body and his cock twitched. If he didn’t get away quickly it would be very awkward seeing as Tobias just wanted to lie together.
“No it’s just that-“ Eric tried to prop himself up with his hands on either side of Tobias but the latter wouldn’t have it, he hummed and used his other arm to hug Eric back to his chest.
“Stay.” Tobias’ hand rubbed his still naked back up and down, down, just above his bum. He shivered and he was growing even harder. He tried to shift away again, a blush heating up his face and neck but that’s when Tobias felt it. “Oh,” he said, fully awake.
They stilled and now Tobias’ eyes were opened. Eric didn’t know what to expect next, his heart was beating very hard. Tobias’ hand stroked his back again, testing the waters and Eric bit back a moan as he shivered. Tobias then let Eric prop himself up on his elbows and let his hands explore Eric’s naked chest and stomach. Eric took one look at his parted lips and flushed cheeks and then he slotted his lips with Tobias’; their breaths were warm between their mouths and Tobias focused on his lip ring once again. Eric broke the kiss in a strangled moan when he felt Tobias’ hand sliding down his crotch. “This- this okay with you?” Eric wanted to be sure.
The other boy laughed breathlessly. “I’m doing it, am I not?”
“Yeah, yeah, I guess.” Eric hissed; Tobias’ hand was growing more insistent on his crotch and his cock was too painful trapped in his tight jeans. When had he decided to sleep in jeans anyway? The boy beneath him was reading in his mind apparently, he popped open the button of his jeans and slid down the zipper. He gasped as he felt Eric’s warm member through his boxers and he suddenly sat up, bringing Eric up with him so that he was straddling his lap. “Off,” he said. Together they managed to remove Eric’s black jeans. Tobias looked up at him to check if he was allowed to do more and Eric was struck with how beautiful he was. He would have never thought he would have gotten to see Tobias with red cheeks and swollen lips looking at him in such a provocative way. Eric leaned down to lick into his mouth and then let him peel away his boxers. Tobias held each thigh firmly to keep Eric astride his lap and then he finally closed his hand around Eric’s erect cock. He stroked from the base to the head and then back down, his lower lip between his teeth and a frown of concentration on his brow.
“God. Tobias,” Eric grunted, he let his head fall on the boy’s shoulder and gripped his arms. It felt so intense, it was so different than when he jerked himself. Having Tobias touch him did things to his chest, like a flutter and it gave him goosebumps on the arms.
“Feels good?” Tobias let his fingertips discover every inch of him. He took him back in his fist and quickened the flick of his wrist. Eric opened his mouth in a silent moan. Precome dripped from his slit and it made Tobias’ hand glide easier. He knew he was already close. “No, no. Stop,” he ground out. “I want to come with you.”
“Okay.” He let go of Eric’s cock in one last stroke, squeezing at the base and let it hang up proudly and painfully red between them. Eric groaned at the sight and new lack of contact and hurried to help undress Tobias. The latter peeled his shirt away and was about to unbutton his pants when Eric noticed the edge of a tattoo peeking on both of his bare shoulders. Curiosity spiked in him and he wondered if it was the same tattoo that he could always see at the back of Tobias’ neck. He had always wanted to see.
“Yeah?” the boy stilled his hands at his zipper and looked up.
“Your tattoo.” Eric reached for his shoulders and made him turn around, so that he was kneeling the other way. Tobias looked above his shoulders warily.
“I-“ He stuttered, “I know it’s weird-“
Eric barely registered his words, he was mesmerized by the sight of Tobias’ back. Between his shoulder blades was inked the symbol of Dauntless; red flames that looked so real it was frightening. Below the flames were tattooed the small symbols of the four other factions, in their respective colors; a blue wide eye, two grey hands holding, a yellow tree with red branches and a black and white balance. Eric traced the five symbols with his fingers, lingering particularly on the flames. But the most impressive thing about this artwork was the thin black lines that exploded from the symbols, creating movement along his back and shoulder blades and shoulders. It looked so lively it made Eric think of wings.
He didn’t know for how long he had been studying the colorful art on his back but he was startled when Tobias twisted awkwardly to look at him.
“I- You- don’t like it?” Tobias blushed and he looked so uncomfortable, turning to hide his back from Eric and touching himself above the shoulder with one hand, as if protectively.
“No. It’s incredible.”
“You think?” Eric watched as Tobias’ eyes brightened.
Eric smiled softly and shuffled on the bed until he was sitting behind Tobias again. He looked at the tattoo for a moment again and then he leaned in and kissed the skin of his back. He felt Tobias inhaling sharply and he trailed kisses down the boy’s spine, his hands caressing his bare sides. But then he had to stop because the need to look at the colors was too strong. “I could look at it all day,” he heard himself speak. He used his left hand to trace every detail.
“I thought you didn’t like tattoos?” Eric said. He recalled the night during initiation when they’d got their piercing because Tobias didn’t want tattoos and the ear piercing was a favor he did for Eric. He reached for Tobias’ right ear and stroked the bar that pierced his earlobe.
“I don’t. Not that much. I just needed something to remind me to stay strong.”
And he did look strong, Eric thought; the muscles of his back were impressive and his shoulders were so large. He could not recognize the body of sixteen-year-old Tobias.
“Eric, I want to apologize again,” Tobias suddenly said. Eric wanted to protest, deny the apology but then he remembered the ache he had felt in his chest the day before and all the tears he had shed and the humiliation of crying in front of Anita, Ocean and Tobias and he almost wanted to blame him. Though he couldn’t; not with the pure guilt in Tobias’ teary eyes.
“I can’t forgive myself. I can’t believe I made you cry. I am so sorry.” His voice wavered and he rubbed his eyes angrily. “I- I just care a lot about you. I wish I could take it back and-“
Eric cut him by slotting his lips with his. Then he looked back at his eyes. “Apology accepted,“ he whispered.
“Thank you.” Tobias looked at him sadly and then he kissed him, strongly.
Eric’s erection had softened slightly but as he watched his strong body, the muscles moving as Tobias scooted closer, he felt the arousal coming back in full force. Tobias kissed his neck and their hands roamed each other’s bodies gently. Together they removed Tobias’ remaining clothes and dropped them on the floor.
Eric’s face heated up as he watched Tobias on his knees on the bed, fully naked in front of him; his skin pale, contrasting the trail of dark hairs that led to his cock, his prominent hipbones that he wanted to bite and lick and his strong thighs. His aura made weird things in Eric’s chest; somehow he was panting when all that they had done was kissing. And there was something so pure and intense in being naked with Tobias.
“You didn’t get any tattoos?” Tobias asked softly.
“Only piercings.” In truth Eric hadn’t really had the time to think about getting a tattoo. And the piercings, they marked events in Eric’s life.
“You got so many,” Tobias whispered and he touched each of Eric’s piercings with careful fingertips; on his ear, his eyebrow and finally his lip. He prodded it, tugged at it. Eric watched Tobias’ gaze intensify and knew his own eyes were probably filled with lust too. He could remember that day during initiation; they had lain on their sides on Tobias’ bed and Tobias had done the same prodding at his lip piercing. He had wanted to suck at his fingers, he remembered. So that’s exactly what he did now. He leaned forward slowly and closed his lips around two fingers. He let his tongue rub at the tip of the fingers in the warmth of his mouth. He looked up at Tobias’ eyes and almost laughed smugly at the effect he had on the boy just by that. Instead he sucked the fingers deeper in his mouth; after all there was nothing to be smug about, arousal was coiling in his guts as he tasted the fingers and roamed his tongue along them. Tobias slid his fingers out of Eric’s mouth, dragging them along the seam of his tongue and his lower lip and kissed him deeply. Then they stared at each other’s eyes, their breathing loud.
Tobias carefully pushed him on his back, his large hands warm on Eric’s sides, and he settled above him. He kissed Eric’s neck, sucked and bit at the sensitive skin, making him shiver.
“You’re going to kill me,” Tobias hissed. Frankly Eric was thinking the same thing. Tobias aligned them and rolled down his hips. “Fuck.” Their breathing was harsh as they continued to grind against each other, Eric’s thighs naturally parting and his hands squeezing Tobias’s bum to get him as close as possible. “Feels so good,” Tobias grunted.
Eric spit in his hand and coated their cocks. Then he closed both of his hands around their cocks and let Tobias thrust his hips up. The glide of the saliva felt so good to Eric; it was just so wet and burning hot with each thrust. “Oh my God,” he whined. Their moans were getting louder and louder but it wasn’t enough, he needed his release. “Faster.”
Tobias gripped Eric’s wrists and forced his hands away from their cocks and down on the mattress. Something coiled deliciously in Eric’s groin and he knew it was the whole dominating thing. He kept his hands there, flat on the mattress. Tobias stared down with purpose in his eyes, took Eric’s cock in his hand and flicked his wrist repeatedly and very fast, clearly wanting Eric to come. Eric was so close, he gripped the sheets in his fists whined.
“And you?” he managed to grind out.
“I want to watch you first,” Tobias whispered and quickened the pace of his hand. Then he leaned down and sucked Eric’s lip piercing, his eyes never leaving his. Eric couldn’t keep his hands out of the way anymore; they shot up to hold behind Tobias’ shoulders and he dragged his fingernails down the flesh of his back.
“Fuck!” He shouted as the coil in his lower abdomen came back, only more intensely, his back arched, his eyes never left Tobias’ and he came, stripes of white staining his stomach and Tobias’ fist. Eric breathed heavily, eyes closed, trying to come down from the high, weakly kissing back and moaning when he felt lips softly pressing down on his. Tobias’ strokes slowly came to a stop, fortunately, because he was so sensitive he had almost let out a sob at the friction.
“You?” Eric croaked out. But he opened his eyes to find the other boy already stroking himself, relentlessly. Tobias faltered and grunted as he came too, his come spurting on Eric’s stomach. Seeing the pure bliss in Tobias’ eyes made weird things in Eric’s chest and he couldn’t help but reach up and stroke Tobias’ jaw and neck.
When he looked down at the mess on his stomach he bit his lip. It was so hot to see their semen together, and if his strength hadn’t drained from him maybe he could have got hard again.
“Fuck, Eric.” Tobias panted, his forehead pressed against Eric’s.
“I could have done it,” Eric complained weakly.
“Next time,” Tobias kissed him again and nibbled at his lower lip. “I- sleep.”
“Yeah,” Eric nodded even though Tobias had his eyes closed.
Tobias groggily crawled out of the bed to find tissues; he wiped his hand and came back to clean Eric’s stomach. Then he lay down on his side, bringing Eric against him, one arm secured around his back, so that they lay face to face. “So good,” he mumbled.
Eric lazily kissed and bit the skin of his neck to try to mark him but they soon fell asleep, almost at the same time.
This time when Eric woke up, Tobias was already awake and calmly staring at him. Eric’s eyes still felt a bit puffy from crying. He was starving, it must have been the middle of the day, if they woke up now maybe they could catch lunch time at the cafeteria. Even if they didn’t, Eric was a leader, he could take whatever he wanted from the kitchen.
“Slept well?” Tobias whispered.
Eric nodded and rubbed at his eyes.
“I missed initiation all morning,” Tobias whispered.
Eric smiled, his eyes crinkling in the corners. “I don’t think the initiates will be too angry. Day off for them.”
Tobias chuckled, “Yeah but now I’m one day late on the stupid schedule in your stupid program.”
“My program is not stupid. Well yes, it is, but not the schedule. The schedule is perfectly made.”
Tobias rolled his eyes and then they fell into a comfortable silence, staring at each other. Eric reached out to play with Tobias’ earing which caught his attention. It was a simple thick silver bar. Eric recalled again the night they had gotten their earlobe and lip pierced. It was a fond memory; when the war was still so far in the future that the sixteen-year-old Eric didn’t spare a thought about it. Now it was very near and he was so fucked up. They were all fucked up. He knew he had to do something.
Tobias poked him between his eyebrows and Eric realized he had been frowning. “What are you thinking about?”
“The war,” Eric scoffed. “Always.”
“We’ll figure something out,” Tobias promised.
“We only have a few weeks now.”
“We’ll find something,” he insisted. “You’re smart and I’m reasonable. But just- I still haven’t told you that thing about me.” He sounded very insecure and after his acceptance of Eric’s dark truth, he wanted to be there to support him too. Tobias reached to settle a hand behind his own shoulder. Eric wondered if he was doing that to remind himself to stay strong, as he had explained the meaning of his tattoo.
“I’ll listen,” Eric nodded.
“Okay. I won’t ask you if you know what it is. You probably already do,” Tobias said fondly. He paused and took several deep breaths, his hand squeezing at the flesh of his shoulder. “I’m divergent.”
“You what?” Eric raised his voice so much Tobias visibly jumped. His chest clenched in fear. No, no, no. Tobias couldn’t be divergent. “No!” He let go of Tobias’ hand and sat up at the ledge of the bed. He hid his face in his hands and breathed heavily for a minute. No. Tobias couldn’t. What were the chances that his Tobias was divergent? Divergents were in danger! He startled when he felt a warm hand on his naked back.
“Eric?” he croaked weakly. “Why are you reacting like this? Are you afraid? Or disgusted?”
It sounded like he was having trouble to speak. Eric turned back toward him abruptly. “No, it’s not that!” Sure enough, Tobias’ eyes were moist and he looked very sad. “It’s not that,” he tried to soothe him and placed his hands on the boy’s arms. He himself needed soothing at the revelation but he wasn’t the priority. Fuck. How was he supposed to explain? “Remember when I told you Jeanine wanted to create an army?” Tobias silently nodded. “Well, even with dogs in Dauntless leadership-“
“You’re not a dog!” Tobias hissed fiercely. Eric’s insides warmed at this. He ducked his head for a second and took in the amount of love he felt for Tobias. Nothing had changed since initiation, he still loved him. That was crazy.
“That’s not the point,” he spoke again. “Jeanine can’t convince the whole faction to fight for her, even if she has Max and me in leadership.” Tobias’ eyes widened at the revelation and he mouthed ‘Max?’ Eric nodded. “So she needed a way to use Dauntless members without their consent to avoid rebellion against her project. She created a serum.”
“Basically when we take the serum –well, not you- we’re in a sim and we fight for her without understanding that we are actually killing people.”
“But divergents can’t be controlled by the sim,” Tobias whispered.
“And that’s why Jeanine has been tracking down divergents since forever. She needs to get rid of them now, because they are the only flaw to her plan. And you,” Eric swallowed, “you will be exposed if you take the fucking serum.”
“You’re in danger, Tobias,” he mumbled and clenched his hands on Tobias’ biceps.
“I told you. We’ll figure something out. And we’ll save not only you be me too. It’ll be fine.”
“We are so fucked, Tobias. You don’t understand. You don’t know her, she’s insane. There’s nothing we can do-”
“Yes, we can. We just can’t act alone. We need to tell people about the war. But Eric, there’s something else I have to tell you. It’s about Amar-”
Eric’s shoulders slumped a bit. He hated thinking back about him. He felt guilty for hating a dead man. A dead man who was Tobias’ friend.
“Amar found out about my divergence because he was the one analyzing my sims and he taught me how to get through my fears without controlling the sim like I naturally do. But I never wanted to tell him in the first place.”
“It makes sense,” Eric said slowly. He wanted to apologize about his behavior; he had never stopped asking Tobias about his secret and he had hated Amar because of it. Maybe it was his pride, he couldn’t find it in himself to say sorry. This subject was still touchy to him. It was because of Tobias’ and Amar’s encounters that Eric had suffered so much during initiation. It was because of Amar that Eric didn’t get the support of his best friend when he needed it the most. Sometimes when he came back from the awful missions he just wished for one thing and it was the comfort of someone, warmth, a genuine smile. Because of Amar he never had that.
It wasn’t even jealousy. It was just painful to think about those moments. He felt awful because Amar was dead and an apology seemed natural but he couldn’t. He couldn’t apologize. It still hurt him.
Tobias had his head ducked and was looking up at him through his lashes. He looked stunning in Eric’s bed, with ruffled hair and soft skin revealed until his lap, covered by the sheets. Eric sucked at his lip piercing and knew Tobias had noticed with his eyes zoning on his mouth.
“Amar only had good intentions,” Tobias said.
Eric didn’t surrender to the temptation that was a naked Tobias. He suddenly was hit by anger as he remembered all the pain Tobias put him through since they were sixteen. Good intentions?
“Do you have any idea how much I suffered?” he ground out and leaned closer to the boy. “Uh? Do you know how much I wanted to kiss you all this time?” He bit Tobias lower lip but not enough to draw blood. The other boy made a strangled noise in his throat and Eric relished the effect he now knew he had on him. He let go of his lip. “How much I wanted to touch you?” He placed a gentle hand on his naked chest, feeling the warmth and the small hairs. “All this time. Since initiation,” he whispered and glared half-heartedly at Tobias. “And you were blind. One day you shoved away my help and went to Amar without any explanation. Another day you tried to kiss me but then you freaked out and asked me to forget it. And when you finally did kiss me, you walked out on me.”
“I didn’t know,” Tobias gasped. His eyes were wide. Eric swallowed, his throat was tightening, he knew that meant he was going to cry and he couldn’t. He abruptly got up from the bed, away from Tobias’ remorseful eyes that weren’t really helpful. He was then hit by his nakedness and fumbled on the floor to find his boxers. When he put his hand on them he bent and slid them on. He straightened up to find his back hitting a warm body behind him. The taller boy pressed up against him and closed his arms around Eric’s shoulders from behind. “I’m so sorry,” he said quietly. “I didn’t mean to hurt you. Back then I didn’t know a thing about my sexuality.”
“Stiff,” Eric broke the tension and Tobias chuckled. He sniffed, glad that no tears came out of his eyes. He let Tobias turn him in his arms.
“But that’s exactly it. I was stuck up. I knew that our friendship was somehow special. And it hurt me too when we drifted apart.”
“I couldn’t- watch you and Amar together. You probably never noticed but he didn’t look at you like you look at a friend. He touched you too much. He flirted. I couldn’t bear it.” Tobias was gaping at him. “Yeah,” Eric rolled his eyes, “You never noticed.”
Tobias looked away, pressed a fist against his mouth. “Fuck,” he mumbled. Eric huffed. “But, Eric. It just hit me- since initiation, you-“ he trailed but the other boy knew what he meant and nodded, looking straight back at his eyes. He had nothing to lose, nothing to hide, Tobias had already seen him at his most vulnerable.
He was taken by surprise when Tobias came closer so that their noses brushed. He expected a kiss but Tobias stayed there, just breathing the same hot air and pinning him with an intense gaze and swaying closer and further, closer again, tempting, but never kissing and somehow it was more passionate. Slowly his hands skimmed Eric’s bare skin from his lower abdomen to his neck. He shivered when Tobias’ fingertips stroked right below his jaw and he wanted to kiss him so bad but Tobias was keeping a distance, still looking into his eyes with intent, opening his mouth and, hypnotized, Eric mimicked him, taking as much as the taller boy was giving him. Both of their breathing accelerated, Eric could feel it, his hands were settled on Tobias’ heaving chest. Fingertips trailed from Eric’s jaw to his chin and he tilted his head back, letting Tobias graze his lips at the tip of his chin. His hands skimmed higher and he scraped his fingernails on Eric’s scalp, roaming his hands through his hair. Eric exhaled a shaky breath and suddenly Tobias closed the gap and fireworks exploded. The feeling was so intense, the kiss was so different than all of their previous ones. Their lips opening wide and closing and their tongues brushing only once or twice but it was perfection; they completed each other.
They parted and kept the same distance as earlier, their mouths open, breathing in the other and their eyes intensely locked. Their chests were heaving, they caressed each other’s neck and jaw deliberately, never looking away from the eye of the other. Eric didn’t understand what was happening but he couldn’t think either, his mind was filled with Tobias, he was breathing Tobias and feeling him in his every bone. When they regained a normal breathing they leaned for soft kisses, leaning back, staring and kissing again ever so softly. They kept at it for what felt like an eternity to Eric; he couldn’t get enough of Tobias and it was obvious in the other boy’s eyes that he felt the same.
Until Eric’s stomach rumbled and the intensity of their stare-down wavered. Tobias smiled softly, his eyes pouring affection; he stroked Eric’s cheeks and kissed him one last time very gently. “Let’s eat something,” he murmured.
Eric was taking everything that Tobias was ready to give. He was absorbing the fond in Tobias’ eyes and it made him breathless. Eric nodded, his wide eyes never leaving Tobias.
Later in the Pit, when Tobias was busy with the initiates, Eric went to meet Anita.
“Here’s my baby,” Anita grinned and roughly grabbed Eric’s face to kiss him on the temple.
“Anita!” Eric hissed. “You can’t just do that in front of people.”
“You seem different.” She completely ignored his complaining. “You get laid or?” Anita smirked.
“The fuck are you on about?” Eric growled. But really, how did she know? Was it visible on him? Did he have a love bite somewhere?
“There’s lightness in the way you’re moving,” she waved her hand over his body. “Something happened to you.”
Eric didn’t know how to answer without letting too much on, if he protested he would sound defensive. But his hesitation was fatal.
“You did get laid!” Anita hissed and shoved him lightly on the shoulder. “Come on! Who was it?”
“Shut the fuck up.” She was so loud! Eric frowned, did she want someone to hear her?
“You can tell me,” she nudged him. She was way too tactile today, it was annoying him. “You’ve known me since forever.”
“Barely two years.”
“And I remember you used to have some baby fat there.” She pinched his cheek.
“Fuck off, Anita.” He shoved back her arm.
“You know what? There’s this new girl on my team, Jade. She’s from your year and she told us some little secret about you during initiation.”
“What?” Eric frowned. He barely remembered Jade; she was one of the transfers from Candor.
“She was telling us that you’re into guys. You know, because there’s this guy from my team who is crushing on you. And he keeps moaning that the mighty Eric is unattainable because you probably like ladies.”
Eric blushed; people were talking about his sexuality behind his back. And someone was having a crush on him?
“So when Jade tells this, we’re like, how could you know? I mean I know you better than anyone and I don’t know shit about your sexuality.”
“Anita, will you please-“
“Shut up, I’m not finished. So she tells us that during initiation she’s seen you sleeping in the bed of our dear Four.”
“What the fuck-” His whole face was red, he knew it. Of course, he could clearly remember now; Jade sitting up on her bed and watching intently as Eric slipped out of Tobias’ bed and went back to his own. It had been the night of the thunderstorm.
“So is it true? You and Four were a thing?”
“No!” Eric protested.
“Then is she lying?”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Jade is telling-“
“Jade wouldn’t make up such a story. I know, I know, you and Four hate each other now, but-”
“We don’t.“ Eric said hotly before he could stop himself.
“You’re friends again?”
“You’re stuttering. Do you have a crush on him?”
“Anita!” Eric growled. “That’s enough! Go back to your team. Aren’t you supposed to be packing up?”
She tsked. “Just because you’re a leader doesn’t mean you can order me around, Eric. You’re still a baby to me.”
“For fuck’s sake. I’m leaving.” Eric marched away, ignoring the woman’s laughter.
“Was he good in bed?” Anita yelled. Eric gave her the finger without turning back. His face was flaming. “Wait, Eric!” At the seriousness of her voice Eric did stop and looked back at her. She motioned for him to come back so he did.
“Are you alright?”
Eric paused. “Yes.”
“Good.” She closed the distance between them and hugged him tightly. “I don’t ever want to see you like that again. I want to say I love you but I know you’ll be all uncomfortable so let’s just pretend you already know it, ok?” She grinned.
Eric was blushing and was indeed uncomfortable. “But you just said it.”
“Oh right. Then let’s pretend you said it back.”
For a few days it seemed Eric was allowed to breathe. Tobias helped him to think positively and to relax, even though the war was approaching and they needed to think of something.
Their relationship was physical now, it was different than when they were friends during initiation. But it wasn’t the only difference, because now they knew they had each other’s full trust and there was something so pure in it.
The past few months, since they had begun to work together, there had been an awful tension between them. And at one point Eric had believed that what they needed to relieve it was a good fight and a bit of blood. Now he knew he was wrong. What they needed was simply trust and honesty. And sex.
They were both new at it and they were discovering each other’s body more each time they stumbled in one of their beds. Mainly it was just grinding and jerking off but it was enough for Eric. He had Tobias. Jerking off with Tobias was more intense and pleasurable than having full sex with someone else. At least he thought.
Eric decided to supervise the transfers’ training. When he reached the roof where they were practicing shooting, he instantly caught sight of Tobias.
He hadn’t seen him arrive and was walking to Tris. Eric was close enough to hear.
“Tris, I told you, your elbow is too low and prepare for the force backfiring.” As he talked he adjusted her elbow his hand on her arm. “Try again.”
The Stiff did and her shot wasn’t that bad, Eric thought; it hit near the center rings of the target. The girl smiled brightly and turned to look back at Tobias, but when she did she saw Eric and froze.
Tobias turned too and he smiled when he saw Eric. Eric had the urge to walk up to him and touch him but he also wanted to shout at him to be more discreet in front of the initiates.
He didn’t have to; Tobias suddenly ducked his head and faked a cough and when he looked back up his face was completely impassive.
“Are you slacking up, Four?” Eric drawled.
“No.” Tobias said and stepped away from Tris who looked like a deer caught in the headlights. Eric glared and she looked away. She tried to shoot again but she missed. Eric didn’t think anything of that, no, he wasn’t feeling smug. He coughed himself to make the smug smile disappear from his face.
The rest of the hour, Tobias just kept sending him heavy glances that promised him an obscene outcome and for the first time ever Eric struggled to keep his composure in front of initiates. So he left before they even finished their practicing. The initiates couldn’t see him flushed or worse, aroused.
Half an hour later someone knocked at his door. As soon as he unlocked it, Tobias barged inside and locked the door. Eric, not surprised at all, pushed him against the door and pressed his body against him.
“I couldn’t wait,” Tobias said softly.
It was so new to Eric, he still had a few seconds of surprise whenever Tobias showed his want of him. He did wait for years, it was to be expected.
Eric pressed his lips against his, chastely and then trailed kisses along his throat and collarbone and let his hands roam Tobias’ body.
Tobias hands came to Eric’s belt and hastily he shoved his pants and underwear down to palm Eric’s warm member. “Shit.” His legs buckled. “Bed.”
They almost stumbled on their haste to get to Eric’s bed because they were walking at the same time as undressing and as attempting to touch each other. Eric let out a breathless laugh. They must have looked really ridiculous.
“Having fun?” Tobias teased him. Eric was reminded of their fight during the flag game because Tobias had said the exact same thing then. So he tackled Tobias to the bed, mocking him when he yelped. They kissed, or they tried to, because smiling and kissing at the same time wasn’t an easy task. Somehow then they ended up trying to tackle the other, messing up the covers of Eric’s bed as they fought childishly. Eric lost the fight when Tobias tickled him on the stomach and he tried to escape.
“You dared!” Eric complained, he was sprawled on his stomach, with Tobias lying on top of him.
“Yes! I tickled the mighty Eric.” Tobias leaned down to kiss the back of his neck and Eric shivered. He trailed kissed down his spine, his hands caressing Eric’s sides.
Eric groaned, he was fully hard again, the amusement of their fight gone. He ground his hips on the mattress, chasing friction but then Tobias’ hand slipped under him and closed around Eric’s cock. It was too dry but at least Eric had friction and he let out a relieved sigh.
He heard Tobias spit and when he looked over his shoulder he saw him wetting his own cock and then he positioned himself above Eric’s bum and he ground down. His cock was sliding between Eric’s cheeks and it was wet and the sight of Tobias doing this motion and the pleasure on his face was too much for Eric. Arousal was coiling deep inside him, his cock twitched but Tobias’ hand around him had stilled.
“Tobias,” he grunted.
“I want to be inside you,” Tobias whispered and he ground his hips again, his cock rubbing between Eric’s cheeks. Eric let out a moan as he imagined Tobias penetrating him, God he needed friction.
“Fuck, do it.” He slapped Tobias’ hand away from his cock to stroke himself. Because Tobias had regained his hand he now had a better balance and he gripped Eric’s hips with both hands.
“I can’t.” Tobias kept grinding his hips, his hand sneaking under Eric’s body to find his cock again. “We need-“
“A lubricant,” Eric said, a deep blush coloring his cheeks and neck.
Tobias groaned rolled Eric on his back and kissed him deeply, giving himself time to suck on the lip ring, as usual. Eric rolled his hips up, while kissing back fervently. They ground against each other until Tobias’ breathing hitched and he came, his thighs trembling.
“You’re going to make my lip bleed one day,” Eric said when Tobias came down from the high.
“Where are we going to find that?”
“A lubricant, Eric.”
“I don’t know,” Eric sighed. “But I’m still fucking hard.”
Tobias kissed him one last time and then he ducked his head and took him in hand.
“We’ll find something for next time,” Eric promised, gasping the last word when Tobias crawled lower on the bed and tongued at his slit.
“Can I?” Tobias whispered, rubbing the head against his moist lips. Eric thought he looked obscene with his flushed cheeks and messy hair. He nodded and Tobias parted his lips and ducked to suck. A noise that sounded close to a sob came from Eric. It didn’t take him long to come with the warmth and wetness of Tobias’ mouth around his cock.
The next time Tobias came in a rush into Eric’s room he looked far too happy. “Look what I got,” Tobias said triumphantly. He held up a small bottle that had the infirmary insignia.
“You saw the nurse again?”
“The nurse is called Melissa and she is my friend.”
“Your friend who had her tongue down your throat,” Eric hissed.
“Nothing more ever happened between us, Eric. She’s a friend now. But that’s not the point, look what she gave me.”
Eric took the bottle and read the hand-written label, ‘Vaseline’. He blushed furiously. “You- Is it for-?”
“Yeah,” Tobias whispered and stepped closer, his hands going to Eric’s hips.
“You told her!” Eric hissed.
Tobias groaned. “Why are you only focusing on her? I brought a solution to our problem.”
“I don’t like her and I don’t like her knowing about your sex life.”
“You jealous bastard,” Tobias chuckled fondly. “It’s fine. Nothing ever happened between us.” Then he began undressing and Eric forgot all about his jealousy.
They ended up naked on the bed with Eric lying on his back and Tobias sitting beside him. Tobias started stroking his thighs gently and parted them. He shifted so that he was sitting between Eric’s thighs. Eric could feel his stomach tightening in anticipation. There was something so vulnerable in lying there and letting Tobias see all of him. But he didn’t hate it, not with the eyes that Tobias was making him.
Tobias leaned down to kiss Eric’s knee softly and then he looked at Eric, a question hanging in the air. Eric nodded and Tobias let out a shaky breath. Eric watched as he took the bottle with the Infirmary insignia and put some product on his fingers. He started by coating Eric’s cock, stroking him to full hardness. He took more and let his fingers trail down. Eric couldn’t see, so he focused on Tobias’ face, on his concentration and his willingness to be as gentle as he could. He felt one finger penetrating him. It didn’t hurt, he wasn’t tense anymore, he had one of Tobias’ hands in his. The other was sliding in and out of Eric’s hole. Slowly Tobias added another finger, and another. When Eric told him he was ready, because he couldn’t wait anymore, their skins were sticky from sweat and they were both panting.
And then Tobias was in him and it did hurt. But he hadn’t ever experienced such bliss before so he didn’t care about the pain. It was bliss to be with Tobias and to be so close, as much physically as emotionally. He loved him with all his heart, so much that it was frightening. But at the moment he felt like he could battle anything, anyone. Tobias’ eyes were telling him as much as he looked down at him and moved his hips back and forth, repeatedly, creating a rythm.
When Tobias started to lose his rhythm, he talked softly in Eric’s ear. “You’re so good. You feel so good. I can’t-“ he grunted and then whispered dirty words. Eric was pushed over the edge when Tobias reached between them to stroke his cock, still coated in Vaseline. “Come for me. I want to watch you come. Your face when you do-“ he moaned and Eric’s voice joined him as his balls tightened and he came, feeling Tobias inside him, still moving. “Fuck.” The coil in Eric’s gut wasn’t ending as quickly as he was used to and let out a small cry, his hands pulled at Tobias’ hair and he knew Tobias was coming too because his jaw slackened and the bliss in his eyes reflected Eric’s. “Eric,” he moaned.
As they came down from their high they kissed, stroking each other’s face and hair and chest, whatever they could touch.
Then they lay side by side, facing each other as always, their heads on the same pillow. Eric’s bum was uncomfortable but he didn’t give a damn, Tobias was looking at him as if he had hung up the moon. It was all that mattered. They were together and they were going to survive.
“I’m so happy,” Tobias said. He shifted so that he was snuggling Eric and he tucked his head under Eric’s chin, shoving his messy hair into Eric’s face. Eric huffed and brushed his hair away from his nose.
“Getting comfortable, are we?”
“Yes, I am,” Tobias laughed.
One morning Eric woke up in panic when his alarm clock ringed, he couldn’t feel his arm, he couldn’t move it, not even one finger. He opened his eyes to find Tobias sleeping comfortably beside him; his whole torso was crushing Eric’s arm.
Eric used his whole body to free his arm and sat up. He stopped the alarm clock with his good hand.
He was starting to feel his poor arm again, tingling and warm. He had to use his other hand to actually lift his own arm and cradled it against his chest.
“What’s wrong?” Tobias’ voice rasped.
“What’s wrong?” Eric raised his voice. “What’s wrong is that you killed my arm.”
“Don’t be dramatic.”
Eric rolled his eyes and then scolded himself for doing so. He didn’t want to look like Ocean. “You slept on my arm.”
“Sorry,” Tobias chuckled. “Where are you going?” He asked when Eric stood from the bed. His voice sounded dejected and it warmed Eric’s chest.
“Leader’s meeting in thirty minutes.”
“Oh. I won’t see you until lunch then.”
They both got dressed and cleaned up and headed out together. Eric was going to the conference room at the top floor of the compound and Tobias to the cafeteria.
“You’re not even eating?” He asked when they were in the Pit.
“Don’t have the time, I have to go.”
Tobias pursed his lips sadly. “If I could kiss you, now.”
Eric’s heart jumped and he opened his mouth to retaliate.
“I know, initiates,” Tobias sighed. They were in the Pit and Eric didn’t want the initiates to know about them. It would destroy the scary untouchable image they had of them.
“Later,” Eric said with promise in his voice. Then he headed for the stairs, forcing himself not to smile too hard at the affection pouring from Tobias’ eyes.
So he goes to meet the other four leaders. When he entered the conference room, he stopped short. Everyone was already there and they stopped abruptly whatever conversation they were having. He didn’t miss when Etienne rushed to gather some papers and slid them in a folder. Magdalena apparently stepped down on Max’s feet because he jumped with a wince and glared at her discreetly.
“Eric, you’re here. How are you?” Max forced a smiled.
“Uh-“ he didn’t know what to say. It was obvious they were hiding something from him. “I thought the meeting was at 0800.”
“It is,” Max nodded. “We’re just a bit earlier. Sit down, son.” Eric frowned. It wasn’t even 0800 yet; Eric had decided to come early so that he could read again the document they were supposed to discuss before the meeting.
The whole meeting he was uncomfortable. He kept eyeing the black folder sitting in front of Etienne. The other leaders were plotting something that included Max. And if it included Max, it meant Jeanine was behind it and was keeping Eric out of it. He didn’t like that idea at all.
There was a knock on Eric’s door. No one ever came to see him. It instantly worried him; he knew if it was Tobias, he would just walk in without knocking. For a moment he was reminded of that night, when Tobias’ was laid unconscious and battered in front of his door. He rushed to his door, his heard pounding loudly in his chest, his brain working a hundred miles per hour, thinking of all the scenarios possible where Jeanine could have had her hands on Tobias. But he hadn’t done anything, he had obeyed.
He opened his door to reveal a calm-looking David. He let out a breath of relief, trying to calm the fuck down.
“I just wanted to see you because I’m worried about Ocean,” he said with uncertainty.
“What did he do this time?” Eric sighed.
“Nothing, it’s just, he didn’t show up yesterday on our small mission with the team and I still couldn’t find him today. I went to see his boyfriend. The guy said someone had told him Ocean was on a top secret mission.” Eric’s chest tightened, his eyes widened. “So I was wondering if you knew where he is? He’s under your orders only. You wouldn’t have assigned him on a mission alone, right?”
“No,” Eric said breathlessly.
“Shit I hope he’s fine-“ Eric wasn’t listening. He was scared. Ocean was his to protect, that’s how it had been the past few months. Ocean couldn’t be killed. He wasn’t divergent, right?
“I- I need to check-“ he let his sentence hanging.
“Wait Eric, let me come with you.” David sounded honestly worried but Eric couldn’t let him follow.
“No, I can’t.”
“I’ll just follow you, you know.”
Eric’s temper flared, he grabbed David by the collar and pushed him up the opposite wall of the corridor. “You don’t understand what’s happening,” he hissed.
“No, Eric,” David held his chin up, glaring at him. “It’s you who doesn’t understand. I care about Ocean too. I don’t fucking care what is it that you don’t want me to know, I’m coming with you because we’re a fucking team and that’s how it works. Stop acting like a martyr, like a hero, like loner who’s too superior for us. We’ll find Ocean together.” He paused, noticing how Eric was gradually calming down. “You’re not alone.”
Eric let go of his collar. He breathed heavily for a few beats. “Let’s go then. To Max.” He looked up, determined, and seeing the same determination in David’s eyes. What he was going to do was insane. He couldn’t let David know about his connection with Erudite. About what Erudite did to people who were in their way. But he would.
When David held out his hand, Eric clasped it, a gesture that he never did before.
He took him to Max’s office, hoping that he wasn’t making a big mistake by confronting Max. They burst inside the office, startling Max who was bend over documents at his desk. “Eric?”
“Where is he?” Eric’s voice boomed. “What did you do to him?”
Max stopped short, stayed silent and didn’t even try to pretend like he didn’t understand what Eric was talking about. He looked guilty. He knew. Eric felt his knees lose their strength, he fell to them, barely felt David’s hands trying to hold him upright. Ocean had been taken by Max and Jeanine. Were the other leaders behind it? What could he do? He was practically sure that Ocean wasn’t divergent, Jeanine would have no reason to kill him. Fuck. He choked. It was his fault, Jeanine had probably took hold of Ocean as a threat to Eric. She knew he wanted out. She knew he was trying to think of a plan to counteract her coup. That’s why he shouldn’t have allowed himself to have friends. It was only a matter of time before Tobias and Anita were taken. What about his team?
“Eric, son, are you alright?” Max asked worriedly and something in Eric snapped, he stood up fully, pushing David away and stepped closer to Max’s desk.
“WHAT DID YOU FUCKING DO TO HIM?”
“ERIC CALM DOWN!” Max stood up abruptly. “You don’t talk to me like that. Ocean-“
“I’ll fucking kill you-“ he tried to jump over the desk but David’s hands grasped at him and held him back. “Eric!” He shouted.
“Ocean is not even divergent! Right? TELL ME THE TRUTH! Is he still alive?” Eric’s voice cracked.
“Son, you need to calm the fuck down. Jeanine-“
“THAT BITCH, THAT FUCKING-“
With David holding him still, Eric didn’t have the time to avoid Max’s fist, he only saw the older man’s arm fly to his head in a blur. Then it was pain at the side of his head and stars around his eyes and everything went black.