His sapphire eyes are sparkling as he brushes my blonde hair out of my eyes. Tobias says, “You know, it’s strange. When I first saw you, I knew you had potential. But I wasn’t sure how far you could be pushed before you’d break, to be honest. But now, here you are, tough as nails.” His lips curl into his familiar smile.
I pretend to scowl. “Well, thanks for telling me that I was doubted in the beginning.”
Tobias laughs. “It’s not like you didn’t know that already.” He places a kiss on my forehead. A wave of warmth goes throughout my every cell.
We are sitting on his bed. Initiation is over. I am truly Dauntless. It feels absolutely wonderful, especially spending moments with Tobias like this.
“I have an idea,” I blurt suddenly. I’m not sure why I didn’t think it over before saying it aloud, but now I can’t take it back.
His blue eyes tighten, just barely. His expression is hesitant as if I am planning something awful. A tiny part of me is offended, but I ignore it as I ask, “You trust me, right?”
Again, he is hesitant. Very careful. After a short moment, he answers, “Yes.” Just one word, but it makes me smile.
I let out a small breath. “I trust you, too.” I reach for his hand and he encases it into his own.
“That’s great to know,” Tobias smiles, “but what does that have to do with your idea?”
I squeeze his hand and wait a few moments, just looking into his dark eyes. “I…” I don’t know why I’m hesitating. But the words are somehow stuck in my throat. Coughing just slightly, I try again, “I want to show you my fear landscape.”
Tobias, not missing a single beat, grins. “Let’s do it.” He helps me off of the bed and guides me out the door, never letting go of my hand. As we walk toward the Pit, he squeezes my hand frequently. I think this is the longest time I’ve seen him smile.
“Why are you so happy?” Maybe it’s a stupid question for me to ask, but I let it slip through anyway.
He doesn’t respond. I guess I don’t really expect an answer.
We pass the chasm and the metal railing. I think of Peter’s attack on me that one night. Anger faintly bubbles inside of me but I know that the incident has made me stronger. It made me smarter.
But I’d still kick Peter’s ass if I had the chance.
Tobias looks at the metal railing as well. His eyes flash dangerously momentarily, but then he slowly forms his features into his smile again. He drags me along faster. We turn to the right and we climb to the glass ceiling. Together, we go inside the glass building and guide ourselves to the door of the fear landscape room.
He lets go of my hand and says, “Just hold on a minute.”
I sigh, suddenly undeniably nervous. I sit down on the floor and fix my eyes on my hands. My heart thuds loudly. I don’t know if I’m ready to show Tobias my fears. Especially if the… intimate one is still one of them. I perform a pattern between playing with the hem of my shirt and wiping the sweat of my palms onto my jeans.
I try my best to think logically. Shouldn’t I know whether I fear something or not? Am I scared of the idea of Tobias trying to sleep with me? I look at him as he works with a computer and some kind of liquid, most likely the serum. No, I say to myself. I’m not afraid of him, in any way. He respects me. He loves me. I turn back to my sweaty hands, trying to keep my heart steady. I have nothing to hide from Tobias. Nothing.
He calls out, “Tris, are you ready?”
I stand up and wipe my palms on my jeans on final time. “Yeah.” I walk over to where he stands with two syringes in the same black box as the first time I entered a fear landscape. I flip my hair to my back so I can give him a clean angle of my neck. He inserts the needle and the serum goes through me. I barely even feel it, I’m so used to it. Once Tobias is done, I take the second syringe and do the same thing to him. My hand is stable, thank goodness.
Tobias puts the two empty syringes in the box and sets it on the ground. He offers me his hand and I feel a sense of deja vu. I smile at him and slide my hand into his outstretched one. He looks at the door and puts a hand in front of him, about to push the door open. But he doesn’t. His hand retreats. Tobias turns to me with shining blue eyes. “Tris, are you absolutely sure you want to let me see your fear landscape?”
Instead of replying, I tilt my head up and step closer to him until our lips meet. Tingles spread throughout my whole body and I pull away, saying, “Tobias, I’m sure.” Then I push the door open.
The door shuts behind us and the air is cold, like usual. I let out a deep breath that I hadn’t realized that I’d kept in. Then the simulation starts.
I realize that the sturdy floor beneath me has transformed into grass. I know exactly what to expect. My ears perk up to the sound of the wings flapping and the piercing caws. I look at the greenish sky. I see a flock of crows racing towards me, zipping through the sky. Although I know what’s going to happen, my chest still tightens and fear pulses through me. My heart thuds uncontrollably and so loudly, I’m sure Tobias can hear it.
Tobias looks at the sky with me, eyes focused on the birds. “Of course. The crows,” he says. His voice is curt and tight.
That’s when the birds reach me. Several peck at my neck, some on my arms, some at my sides. The flapping of their black wings is getting so loud, my brain wants to explode. I let out an unintentional scream. I lose all thought, I am no longer in control. I feel powerless. I claw at myself, trying to rid my body of feathers and talons and beaks. The claws are stabbing me everywhere and the cries of the crows are making my head pound. Faintly, I hear someone call out my name.
“Tris. Tris, stay calm.”
It’s Tobias. I suddenly remember that’s he here with me, watching me. Our hands are no longer joined, and I don’t remember when we broke apart. I feel too panicked to be embarrassed by my reaction to the crows. My heart is beating too quickly and my mind is lost in chaos. The crows are still on me, hurting me, digging into me, and my breaths come out in short gasps.
That’s when I feel the gun. Just like the first time I did my fear landscape. I pull it out from my pocket and grin. I shake my body, trying to cause the birds to fly off. Several do, but most cling onto my skin. I aim the gun at a crow that’s pecking into my wrist. I pull the trigger. There’s a poof of feathers and a burst of blood, and the crow is dead. The large bang from the gunshot scares off most of the crows on my body. I kill all the leftovers and then aim my gun to the sky. Unlike my first fear landscape, the crows are not in one flock. They’re spread out all over like a holey, black blanket. I shoot one. Then another. Then another. But there are so many of them. I realize I’m being inefficient.
My chest heaves and my heart continues to thud crazily. “There’s too many!” I cry out.
Tobias walks towards me as the crows descend over us. He snatches the gun from my hand and points it to the sky. With no hesitation, he pulls the trigger over and over, killing so many crows with only a few shots. I stare at his expert skills in awe. And then everything’s gone.
The floor is now slippery. The tank. Tobias looks down at the water pooling into the glass box we are trapped inside of. “I remember this one as well,” he murmurs. Suddenly, his eyebrows knit together and his breaths come in pants.
At first, I don’t understand why he is the one panicking. I don’t recall any of Tobias’s fears dealing with being trapped… And that’s when I remember: he’s claustrophobic. I grab his hand. “Tobias, please help me get through this.” This fear is about weakness, not anything else, and I know that I am strongest when Tobias is with me, supporting me.
He breathes short breaths through his mouth. “Okay, what are we supposed to do?” Although he tries his best to hide it, I hear the trembling in his voice. “Are we supposed to give ourselves to the water? Is the fear drowning?” I love him for staying strong for me.
“No,” I answer. The water is already at my thighs. “It’s breaking this box.” I lift my fist and slam it into a glass wall. There’s no effect. I try my best to remember what I did during my first fear landscape. My mind freezes and my heart starts drumming madly. I can’t remember! The water is rising quicker than it did the first time, now at my bellybutton. Trying my best to fight my panic, I bang on the glass. Slam after slam. Tobias joins me. Watching his strong arms hit the walls makes me remember… I can make this tank into ice.
The tank is ice. The tank is ice.
As Tobias bangs his hand into the wall, he creates a large crack. He notices this and let out a little hysterical laugh. He hits the wall again and the crack gets bigger.
The ice can break easily.
I slam both my fists into the wall and the tank breaks. I gasp. We’re free, I think for a split second.
No, we’re not.
Tobias and I fly out and land in an enormous ocean. A huge wave rises and before I have a chance to make a sound, crashes on top of us. I am underwater and my head is pounding. I still cannot swim. I’m running out of breath and try to reach the surface. The strong currents are making me drift somewhere until I hit something hard and sharp.
I am pulled away from it and then slammed back into it.
I grasp at any part of it, but the current takes me back anyways. Again, I am pushed into it, rougher than the previous time. I grab onto the rock finally, my grip strong but slippery. I pull myself to air. Sputtering and coughing, I try to make myself higher, but the water is so powerful. Then I see something in the corner of my eye, climbing the rocks easily. Tobias.
He reaches land and spots me immediately. Rushing over, he kneels above me and lets his hand down. I push myself up just enough so that our fingers are grasping each others. He tugs my arm hard and the rock is scraping my stomach, through my drenched shirt. The bottoms of my legs are still in the churning ocean and Tobias pulls again. I lift one knee and climb onto land. My other knee follows. I stand up, my legs wobbly. That’s when I notice that my shoes are gone. The current has pulled them off.
Tobias smiles and pulls me to his chest. “Finally, I come into use. I’m a strong swimmer. Now, what’s next?”
As if on cue, an unknown force tears me from Tobias and our landscape changes. I’m in the air, bound with rope. There is a pile of wood below me. That’s when the initiates come out from the bushes. They hold flaming torches high above their heads and are all wearing that same satisfied smirk. I wriggle around, although I know it’s impossible to break these tight bonds.
Peter looks at me and hollers, “You’re too weak to do anything, Stiff! Don’t even try, you don’t want to break a nail, do you?” He gives me a devious smile. The whole crowd laughs. Peter walks closer to me and to the stack of logs. He takes his torch and lights one log and then another. The logs catch fire impossibly fast. Flames lick the bottom of my feet and I watch the fire grow, now covering every bit of each piece of wood. The heat is intense and my feet are burning.
“It’s like a self sacrifice! After all, you are a Stiff. Always a Stiff. You can never be Dauntless,” Peter jeers. The crowd behind him cackles.
“Shut up,” Tobias yells. I hadn’t noticed him. He was near the bushes but now he is walking toward the fire. He takes off his soaked shirt and at first I don’t realize what he’s doing. Then he covers the flames and pulls the corner of the shirt down. And with that, the fire is extinguished.
Peter and the initiates disappear. The ropes come undone and I’m free-falling. Tobias catches me in his arms. He gently places me on the ground in standing position. But I’m no longer standing next to a stack of burnt firewood. I’m in my room back in Abnegation. But it’s not my room, not exactly.
The walls are covered in mirrors.
“Is this your bedroom from Abnegation?” Tobias asks.
I nod slowly. I turn my head to the window expectantly.
He sounds confused when he says, “But there are mirrors and mirrors aren’t allow-”
That’s when it starts. A pair of hands pounds against the window. I feel the same tightening in my chest as I did the first time I experienced this fear. It’s the man from the aptitude test. I flash a glance at Tobias, who is behind me, and he stares intently at the window. His eyes widen and he jumps ever so slightly. My eyes move back to the window and the man is in my room, along with two other faceless men. They saunter toward me as dozens of other fists bang against the window. They’re going to kill me. They’re going to take me.
I slowly step back until I bump into Tobias. I try my best to think straight.
In the closet, there will be two guns will full bullet supply. This is not real. I can do this.
“Tobias, slide the mirror,” I command in a harsh whisper.
“What?” he says, incredulous.
“Just do it,” I reply. The pounding stops. The scratching starts. The sound is close to making my ears bleed. “Please hurry.”
The hands outside the window somehow pull the glass up and disgusting creatures crawl into my room.
Tobias comes to stand next to me. He hands me one of two guns and I graciously take it. Immediately, I shoot the man from the aptitude test in the same time that it takes Tobias to shoot the two faceless men behind him. The bodies fall to the ground in a tangle of limbs.
I shoot the mangled people coming in through the window, not even aiming, just shooting. But there are even more coming in, and I know that even with Tobias’s amazing aim, we cannot kill all of them.
Dropping my gun and abandoning Tobias, I go back to the mirror.
I can control this simulation. I am in charge.
The mirror transforms into a door with a polished bronze doorknob. I turn it hastily and throw the door open. I whip my head behind me and call out, “Tobias!” He looks at me and the open door, and drops his gun. He follows me as we both run in and shut the door. We continue running and running down what appears to be an endless white hallway. I glance behind us but the door is gone.
The people are not coming after us.
I stop running and Tobias notices, stopping too. I try to think about which fear comes next.
My cheeks immediately heat up as I remember. I glance around us but there is no four poster bed to be seen. I look at Tobias and he’s looking at me with curiosity, not with lust. I sigh, relieved. Intimacy is no longer one of my fears. I laugh out loud, and Tobias looks at me strangely.
“Is everything alright?” he inquires cautiously.
“No.” But it is not me who answers. It is the harsh voice of a female. It is Jeanine. She clicks the bullet into the barrel and lifts the gun to my temple. There is suddenly a gun in my hand as well. My arm is stretched out and Tobias is no longer in front of me. Instead, my family is lined up. It’s my worst fear. The one that haunts me the most.
“Do it. Kill them.”
“No,” I croak weakly. My heart plummets into my stomach and my blood goes cold.
Jeanine pushes the gun deeper into my temple. “Kill them or I kill you.”
I stare at Caleb. I stare at my father. I stare at my mother. They are all gazing at me with understanding looks. It’s breaking my heart and my mind.
“Please don’t kill her!” my mother cries out. “Don’t!”
Caleb tells me, “Just do it, Beatrice. We all understand.”
“We will always sacrifice ourselves for you,” my father adds, giving me a look of pure love.
I whisper, “Never. I will never kill any of you. Ever.”
Jeanine leans into my ear. “I’m giving you three seconds. Choose the correct option.”
I step back so that the gun isn’t at my head and turn to her. “I don’t need extra time. I am choosing the correct option.” I throw my gun to the side and it clanks loudly against the floor.
Jeanine gives me a smug smile. “Well. You asked for it.” She aims for my heart. It doesn’t matter. My heart is for my family and she can take it if she wants. “Three…”
I’m doing the right thing.
My family is everything.
There is a click and the sound of a gunshot. But I’m still alive. Instead, Jeanine slumps to the ground, blood gushing out of her chest. From a few feet behind her, I see Tobias holding my gun that I had tossed. It’s strange, because I didn’t notice him a while ago. I run toward him and wrap my arms around his waist. He drops the gun and hugs me back, pulling me closer.
We are now back in the landscape room. I pull away from him and stare at his face, admiring his strength and intelligence. For some reason, his face is blurry. I don’t realize I’m crying until he brushes his thumbs across my cheeks, removing the tears.
“Why are you crying?” Tobias asks me, concerned.
I don’t know how to respond. I don’t know why I’m crying either.
“Come on,” he says, taking my hand. We leave the room and after pressing a few keys on the computer and moving the black box with the empty syringes, we go back to his room.
I’m completely exhausted and I collapse onto the bed. Tobias lays down next to me. I lay my cheek on my shoulder and wrap one arm across his hips.
I press my lips to his cheek and move my lips to his ear. “I love you, do you know that?”
Tobias turns to face me and I stare into his shining blue eyes. “Yeah, I do. But I love you more. Do you know that?”
“Nope,” I say, popping my lips at the ‘p’.
He chuckles. “I do have a question though.”
“What’s that?” I ask.
He clears his throat nervously. “Well… Uh, I was just wondering… I mean, I just noticed that you only had six fears…”
I nod my head slowly. “Uh huh…”
“So I’m guessing that you’re not afraid of me anymore?”
Realizing what he’s saying, I laugh. I place a hand behind his neck and bring him mouth to mine. I kiss him for quite a while before staring at him. “Does that answer your question?”
He kisses me again. “Nope,” he responds, popping his ‘p’.
I can’t help but laugh and he joins in with me. And during a moment like this with Tobias, fears feel like they don’t even exist.