The second Mercy sat back on his heels was the second everything happened. If timing was everything, his was terrible. Possibly the worst. He felt stuck in time as he watched initiates went for each others throats, deafening yells filling the air. Somehow, it quickly became background noise, similar to when thunder and lightning cause you to jump at first crack and then become white-noise for the rest of the night. His gaze settled on the instructors. That's where all the important action was(though, of course, he occasionally swept a look across the floor in an attempt to make sure that no one slipped through the cracks and got stepped on). The instructors were where he would learn the most. He watched, half in awe and half in a muted horror as Charlie threw herself at Ghost and ultimately got her ass kicked. She put up a bit of a fight— he was surprised when she started whacking at Ghost with a staff with only one hand. She got knocked down and got up again. So resilient... And then she leapt into Ghost's arms and died.
That was his cue! As Ghost rolled Charlie off of him and got up to fight, Mercy rose to his own feet, scrambling to get through the battlefield to get to her before she got trampled. He ducked, bobbed, and weaved, some might even say he danced around. He slid carefully between groups of initiates, trying his hardest to not get fake-decapitated as many weapons came flying in his direction. Eventually, he got to her. The teenage boy knelt down to check her for any real injuries, making sure that moving her wouldn't cause more damage, and hooked his hands underneath her armpits to carry her off in a moment's notice. There was a moment in which he found himself taking in her face more so than the rest of her.
So pre— JESUS CHRIST! His internal monologue was shattered when a booted heel clicked with his own(and wished for home), causing Harper Day to come crashing down upon both the unconscious, real medic and the [temporarily?] conscious, pretend medic. He scrambled to his feet and out of the way, hoisting Charlie up with him in order to keep her from being fallen upon and sustaining any further injury. Not that Harper's fall would cause any more injury than a few bruises, but, he was given a job and he was gonna do it well. Even if Charlie would never know the difference. He looked up wildly to see who had so carelessly tried to kill him. Okay. Kill was dramatic, but he could have split his chin open. Or... I don't know. Bonk heads with Charlie hard enough that one of them needed stitches. There's also no way that this floor was accident proof. His deep brown eyes found Ghost's own, soulless ones. Gritting his teeth and mustering no more than a glare, he turned away sharply.
He let Charlie down for a brief moment to readjust his hold on her, this time carrying her bridal style in his arms. The girl— er, woman, she was older than him— couldn't have weighed much more than one hundred pounds. It was no problem. He tiptoed his way carefully back through the battlefield, this time with much more attitude and less care for the initiates fighting around him. He grumbled out a few "Coming through! Right behind you, on your left..."s on his way by. As soon as Charlie was situated on her cot, it seemed, there was another body for him to retrieve. Namely, Ghost's.
Mercy sat for a moment on the edge of Charlie's bed, his eyes on the instructor's "lifeless" body. He looked so peaceful when he was dead. Well. Fake dead. There was no snarl on his face or evil glint in his eye. They were glassy and still. He'd never noticed how tired Ghost looked when he was awake. Even unconscious dark circle plagued his eyes, like he was permanently sick. And unconscious, there was no smart remark to come out and bite anyone. In fact, his lips were only slightly parted. And very, very chapped. Jeez, had that dude ever heard of lip balm with SPF? He contemplated leaving him there to get stepped on and maybe stabbed again. It could be fun. Maybe Ghost would learn something if he had a few fingers accidentally broken under the heavy boots of others. Mercy was sure he'd done the same to others. Or maybe he'd done it with his cane. But it didn't matter, he definitely stepped on people, probably both physically and metaphorically... But no. He couldn't leave the instructor there. He'd probably look worse than he already did if he sat around and left him.
With a heavy sigh, he pushed himself back to his feet and quickly made his way towards Ghost making awkward nods and half-hearted eye-contact with those around him to hopefully prevent getting tripped over again. Was white really the best color for this damned pinnie? He felt like he blent into the masses just as much as he would if he were fighting amongst them. Was Dauntless out of safety orange? He knelt done next to Ghost and carried him too bridal style. He was a bit heavier than Charlie, perhaps fifteen to twenty pounds, and a bit taller. But he was still smaller than Mercy, who had spent most of his childhood lugging around farm equipment that probably weighed more than Ghost did. Honestly, he'd expected the older man to be heavier. All those bones had to weigh something. But he guessed he looked twenty pounds soaking wet and felt it too.
As he carried Ghost back, his eye caught Charlie stirring and Thorn also dead in his hiding spot. Sigh. Guess he had another stop to make before Charlie was back in working order. He dropped Ghost off into an empty cot(much more haphazardly than he had situated Charlie) and sulked off to go grab Thorn. The smaller boy was curled up like he had been in a lot of pain before he blacked out. A true frown fell onto Mercy's face. He had begrudgingly taken this job, pissed that he'd been taken out of the fights. But, after seeing Thorn, maybe he was spared. Pins and needles shot down his arms as he thought about it, about the sickening pain some people might be enduring— they were dying, and no one could see it. He scooped up Thorn and carried him back to safety. When announced, this had felt a lot like the physical trials of Phase One. But now, Mercy understood, this was more about the same mental strength that they were trying to face in Phase Two. They were being traumatized right now. The only person who might be okay would be him and whoever made it out on top.
The boy gently laid his fellow initiate down on a cot and glanced around. No one else had fallen yet. Charlie was now awake, as was Ghost. And, well, Ghost... Mercy was sure he'd glanced over both of them, making sure there were no real injuries. Both of the adults had nothing more than a few bumps and bruises that would heal in a few days time. All the weapons were fake, they didn't really have any run-ins with their fists. They were fine. But Ghost looked. Well. Like a Ghost. He seemed paler than before. His legs seemed unsteady. And he was clutching that damned handkerchief...
He hastily gave Thorn a once over, confirming that he too had no more than some bruises from his fight before snagging some things from the first aid kit and hustling off after Ghost. He was the medic for now, and he was going to do his job right. And that meant taking care of anyone unwell. Especially if they looked like they might pass out at any second and split their head on the concrete floors of the compound. He practically chased Ghost down at an alarmingly fast power-walk that all suburban moms would be jealous of. Jesus. How was Ghost so fast? He had a cane for Christ's sake. Luckily, the journey was only to the bathroom. Well. Only lucky because that meant no more chasing and feeling too creepy. It was less lucky because if Ghost really was about to pass out, he could hit his head on a porcelain toilet and possibly do more damage than the floor would. Not long after Ghost had shut the bathroom door, Mercy swung it back open with scarlet ears. He'd caught Ghost off-guard.
He sucked in a breath to speak. He paused. He didn't really think this part through. There wasn't a lot to say. "You're sick." He said finally, wanting to say something before the other had the chance to. His shoulders slumped, half in relief and half in defeat. What in the world was he doing? He didn't know. He was just... doing. He kept is gaze steady and slowly approached him, the door slow-closing behind him thanks to the specially adjusted hinges that most bathroom doors had. "You're sick and you should be fine, which means it's not from the simulation... Is it?" He let his eyes take Ghost in all the way. Had he always looked this frail? This hollow? He pulled the bandages and other such things that he'd grabbed on his way out the door and rested them gingerly on the lip of the closest sink. He wished he'd grabbed a stethoscope or something much more helpful. Like a knife, in case this swan of a human being decided to attack him. Just in case, he kept himself angled in a way that kept the door inconvenient for Ghost to get to and kept Ghost in Mercy's gaze. He was also prepared to scream like a little girl if anything happened. Like Harper said. We're Dauntless and we play dirty... right?
Ghost // Male // Age 18 // Training Instructor // Erudite to Dauntless
Ghost awoke to a hellscape of failure, shattered dreams, and heart-wrenching pain.
It wasn’t all just mental anguish. There were some very recognizable physical symptoms, too, like the shivers so strong they were nearly seizures, and the way his teeth clenched so tight that it was a small miracle they didn’t shatter. But hurting worse than that was the gutting knowledge that he had lost to the one person he refused to lose to. That he hadn’t even posed a decent challenge to Harper Day. That he was inferior to her in every way that mattered. That the only way for him to improve his swordplay was if he sucked up his pride and asked for her tutelage.
The world dipped and swayed unpleasantly as he propped himself up onto his elbows. Swinging his legs over the side of the cot—his curiosity momentarily overpowered his melancholy as he wondered where they had come from, and whether Charlie had taken the initiative to bring them from the infirmary herself, or if Harper had truly thought of everything—sapped all his strength, and Ghost had to rest on its edge for a minute with his head in his hands, collecting himself. All he felt was cold, inside and out. Yet when he pulled his hands away from his face, they came away shiny with a sheen of sweat, and so Ghost withdrew his handkerchief from his pocket and dabbed at his forehead. The single act of standing felt as though it took more willpower than he in his feeble state possessed, as if he had taken out a loan from some future version of himself at which time the appropriate amount would be extracted. Pain slammed into his chest like a lightning bolt, driving the air forcefully from his lungs and nearly crushing him to the floor. Some part of Ghost felt like he deserved it, like that was the price of losing, and was sorely tempted to fall to his knees and let death take him if it so desired.
The back of his throat itched maddeningly, and he fought against the urge to cough, not wanting to draw attention to himself. Ghost darted a look around the room, at the dwindling melee at its center that transfixed the attention of everyone still conscious, eliminated onlookers and surviving competitors alike. No eyes were on him. He briefly considered taking his medicine here, swiftly and in plain sight, but that was a risk. Game theory almost unanimously agreed on the fact that major risks should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. With a herculean effort, Ghost set one foot in front of the other and resisted the way that the room darkened at its edges, at the cacophony of snarls and shouts reduced to a low, constant hum. His brain timed out for the next few seconds—maybe even a full minute—and Ghost didn’t remember how he had come to be sagging against the door frame but didn’t question it. A cough banged around in his chest, and a taste like rust seeped into his mouth. He burrowed deeper into his trench coat to ward off the insidious cold.
He made it all the way to the men’s restroom in much the same fashion, in skips and stutters. As soon as he was conscious of the sallow shift in light that signaled he had reached his destination, he hurried to the sink as fast as his battered, broken body would allow, clutched its edge, and rummaged inside a well-hidden pocket for a slim vial. Ah, where the hell was it, dammit! It had to be… Ghost’s fingers closed around something narrow and cylindrical, withdrew the vial filled a quarter way with a powdery gray substance, and fumbled with the sink several times until the tap was running. Water sloshed into the vial startlingly fast, and Ghost’s heart lurched in his chest as the powder rose up and very nearly sloshed over the rim. Without ceremony, he tipped his head back and let the silty water trickle between his lips and—
A low, roaring din of fighting initiates interrupted his thoughts, blasting through the suddenly open bathroom door like a gust of wind. Stupor or no, four years of living in Baneberry had honed Ghost’s reaction time to a razor’s edge, and that was the only thing saving him now. Acting on reflex before he had even processed the situation, he snatched the vial out of the air and cupped it against his chest, covering it with his hand so that the mirror wouldn’t reveal it to anyone who stood behind him. Overwhelming shame would be the least of Ghost’s problems if he was caught with such a ridiculously illegal substance. It took a few blinks until the world sharpened into focus on the freckled, frizzy-haired boy visible over Ghost’s left shoulder. But instead of immediately heading in the direction of a stall or sink, the boy simply remained where he stood, looking at Ghost. Trying not to feel self-conscious, Ghost returned the boy’s gaze in the mirror, not turning around or saying anything despite the many questions bubbling into his mind.
He remembered too late that staring was an obvious indicator of guilt and moved his eyes to that other pale, feral boy who dominated the mirror, looking ragged despite his tailored suit. Sleepless bruises ringed his eyes, and his usually immaculate hair pointed in a dozen different directions. His features were a collection of angles sharp enough to cut anyone who drew too close, and while his cheekbones had always been high, today they jutted out in a sickly way that could only be described as gaunt. The fact that Ghost had shaved himself clean earlier this morning was the least striking part of his transformation. He reflexively straightened his tie and tried to finger-comb his hair into some semblance of order.
The boy behind him suddenly spoke and Ghost startled, having somehow forgotten he was there. As his eyes jumped between the two forms in the mirror, the world snapped into perspective. Ghost felt a twist of vertigo as his vision sharpened. Colors brightened, and he noticed that the other boy had red highlights in his otherwise mocha hair. The boy spoke, and Ghost tried not to flinch at the thunderclap of sound. The one thing lull had going for it was that it wasted no time, taking almost immediate effect. Remembering the vial that he was still palming against his chest, Ghost tried to make the motion look natural as he slid his hands down to rest against either side of the sink, as keenly aware of their angles as if he had lifted an ace from the top of a deck of cards during a high-stakes game of poker and was trying to hide it from his opponents.
The baldness of the boy’s—Mercy Cartwright—observation gave Ghost a second shock. It was a statement, not a question, and he wondered whether everyone in the training arena had really been as transfixed by the fight as he had thought. Just how much had Cartwright seen? But Ghost’s recovery was plausibly swift, impressively so for someone who had been on the brink of death not even a minute ago. “Such a statement could be taken in a number of ways,” he replied mildly, as if he and Cartwright were old chums who always engaged in small talk after a long day of training. When in reality Ghost’s heart was beating with the urgent frenzy of a trapped rabbit. “Is that a comment on my physical state, or are you criticizing my moral character? My apologies for any hard feelings our brush on the battlefield might have imparted upon you.” Ghost manufactured an expression of remorse to accompany his woeful tone, purposely misunderstanding Mercy’s meaning. “Not to make excuses, but sometimes I just get so wrapped up in the thrill of combat that I lose sight of my surroundings!” he chirped, as if it were a glorious thing, and just thinking about fighting filled him with fierce pride.
At this point, Ghost used an old magician’s trick. There is a certain inflection of voice, a certain body language, that signals spectators to relax their attention, to more readily watch the magician’s hand that flourishes a decoy card and disregard the other that conceals the real card. It is a curiosity of psychology, but one that can be relied upon almost every time. Ghost made a sweeping gesture with his right hand, as if that single motion would spell annihilation for his foes on the battlefield. At the same time, his left hand, still grasping the edge of the sink, discreetly moved to the side pocket of his coat and slipped the empty glass vial inside. Ghost breathed an internal sigh of relief the moment that it was tucked out of sight and tried to keep his shoulders from slumping visibly. Lord, how he hated having to improvise his way through surprise encounters, almost as much as he hated losing. He dearly hoped his performance sounded more convincing than it felt.
Cartwright’s reply sent a ripple of annoyance through Ghost. Either he hadn’t been listening to Ghost, or he hadn’t bought the act for a second. Cartwright advanced a step closer, and alarm caused Ghost to spin around, meeting his eyes through more than just the mirror for the first time. He swallowed thickly, eyeing the first aid kit in Cartwright’s hand with some nausea, and remained silent for a moment as he considered and discarded several different ways to play his cards. Dammit, if only he had more time, but that was one commodity in short supply at the moment. “Ah, how perceptive of you,” Ghost conceded when any further silence would have been suspicious. “You wouldn’t happen to have any snacks in that medical bag of tricks, would you? It’s true that I haven’t eaten anything all day, which in hindsight might have been a big mistake going into an activity as taxing on the body as the free-for-all.” Ghost’s palms were slick with sweat, and he inadvertently looked away as he told the lie, which he hoped Mercy Cartwright would perceive as Ghost feeling ashamed of his immense foolishness.
Before Mercy had the chance to reply and possibly call Ghost out, Ghost plowed onward. “Would you mind telling Charlotte and Harper for me that I’ll be leaving training a little ahead of schedule? As you might have noticed, I’m feeling somewhat light-headed and need to get a meal in me,” Ghost finished with a pleasant expression that was not quite a smile. Cartwright’s eyes were wide, and he parted his lips as if to protest. Ghost tried to sidestep him and make for the door, only to find Cartwright blocking him. Ghost shifted to the other side with the same result. Seeing no other out, Ghost forced a good-natured chuckle, as if Mercy’s obstinance were really just clumsiness, and the both of them had accidentally gotten in the other’s way while simultaneously trying to move around. “Stay still,” Ghost directed, and with exaggerated deliberation, he extended both arms, curled his hands atop Cartwright’s shoulders, and guided him to the left while Ghost stepped right, until their positions were reversed and the door was immediately behind Ghost. Escape was in sight.
“I appreciate your concern, but there is probably a whole slew of initiates who took a worse beating in the ring than I. It would be wrong for me to monopolize your help while they’re still licking their wounds,” Ghost said sunnily. He closed one paper towel-wrapped hand against the door handle and tried to retain a natural posture, striving to not look too eager to leave. “Well, thanks anyway.” He had intended it as a farewell of sorts, and the delivery was only slightly awkward, which Ghost considered a win. He tugged the door open, the paper towel rustling in his grip, but unfortunately for him the trash can was by the sinks, almost across the room. Balling it up, Ghost resigned himself to throwing it, but missed the trash can by a foot, and the paper towel plopped onto the floor. Seeing no easy way that he could retrieve it, dispose of it properly, and still slip out of the door before he would have to catch the handle, Ghost attempted to shoot Cartwright—who had been watching the whole thing—a shameless wink and retreated from the bathroom. The interaction had left him in a jittering bundle of nerves, and if it weren’t for the fact that Cartwright would be exiting the bathroom through the same door, Ghost might have slumped to its base and face-palmed himself for his repeated idiocy.
He vacated the hallway as quickly as he dared, knowing that he had to maintain the stumbling appearance of light-headedness for Mercy’s sake. It was true that he had no intention of returning to the training arena now that his shot at the free-for-all had come and gone. Even more than Cartwright’s annoying penchant for nosiness, Ghost was embittered by his too-recent loss to Harper and feared the possibility that he might snap if someone teased him about it so soon. No, the best way to wash down his lull was with a drink. And possibly some food, too, because it was true when he’d told Cartwright he hadn’t eaten all day, even if hunger hadn’t been the source of his illness. But more than anything, Ghost felt helpless, incompetent, and stupid, and he could think of no worse combination of feelings. All he wanted was to be alone, to kick back and not have to work for once in his life. To be able to turn into Caspian Maddox for an hour and throw responsibility to the wind, because Ghost’s glance in the mirror had told him that he’d run himself ragged. If Caspian was entitled to carefree relaxation, then why shouldn’t Ghost be too, dammit?
He knew he should probably be planning the finer details of his proposed heist with Blair for tomorrow, assuming that she accepted. But between sparring with Randi, being threatened by Alex Young, doing detective work for Blair, the fear simulation with Leah, the altercation with Charlie, and his defeat by Harper, Ghost had reached his limit. His feet ached desperately from long hours standing on them. So he surprised himself when he made a rare snap decision and turned into the very first nightclub he encountered, the Sauterelle, which like many of the nightclubs in the compound, was open all hours of the week, because in Dauntless the parties never ended. Well, if nothing else, he would at least find anonymity among the nameless sea of faces in the Sauterelle. No one who knew him would go looking for him here.
The second he pushed past the saloon-style doors, Ghost was pointedly reminded of why he never went clubbing. The Sauterelle was a tempest of flashing multicolored lights, tuneless pop music cranked to ear-splitting volumes, and scantily-clad bodies jerking haphazardly around the dance floor. For all intents and purposes, it might have been a Saturday night rather than not quite noon on a Wednesday. In his pristine waistcoat and tie, Ghost knew he should have felt remarkably out of place. Instead, he was surprised to find that he didn’t give a damn, and made his way into the Sauterelle, skirting the dance floor and beelining to the bar. There, the bartenders were frantically scuttling back and forth, trying to appease the snapping crowd that was already assembled. Ghost approached the back of the line—if such chaotic disarray could be called a line—content to take his time, because for once in his life he had no place to be. Amid the throng of people, the air smelled of cloying perfume, dried sweat, and alcohol. A combination that Ghost couldn’t say he was very fond of, but anything was better than being inside that hellhole of a training arena. He had been calmly standing in line for all of two minutes when a burly man elbowed him out of the way, telling him to “Get lost, pretty boy.”
Ghost felt a cold frisson of rage pump through him. He quickly analyzed whether retaliation would be worth his time and trouble, and had just come to the conclusion that he had little to lose when a second form barreled into his chest, this one smaller and curvier and smelling of strawberry. Light from the dance floor dyed Poppy Lycon’s skin and hair a flirtatious shade of fuchsia, and she shouted something to him that was lost in the sensory overload of the nightclub. Before Ghost could ask her to repeat, she had latched a viselike hand around his wrist and was towing him away from the bar, toward a mostly secluded row of booths in the back. Ghost felt a whiplash of confusion, quickly chased by suspicion. So Poppy had skipped out on training to go clubbing today, eh? No credit for her. Ignoring Ghost’s myriad questions, Poppy continued to herd him along like an errant sheep, and seeing no way to politely extricate himself from her grasp without causing a scene, he reluctantly let her. What a fool he had been to assume that he could spend one afternoon in anonymity.
A mixture of dread and more questions boiled up into his throat when he saw Maverick Maddox raise his head from a booth tucked away in a remote corner of the club, and Ghost intrinsically knew that was where Poppy Lycon was taking him even before it became obvious. Ghost’s relationship with his unexpected new roommate was tense at best and nonexistent at worst. The only times they ever acknowledged each other’s presence was when Ghost reminded Maverick of the times and locations of upcoming training sessions, since Maverick was only filling in for his brother until Caspian recovered from heart surgery. Although Caspian seemed to have taken a keen liking to the leisure pursuits that time off from work gave him, and at this point Ghost seriously wondered whether Caspian would ever “recover.”
Ghost took slight comfort in the knowledge that Maverick looked just as surprised to see him as he was to see Maverick. At least Ghost wasn’t at a disadvantage in this impromptu meeting. Poppy trilled something to Ghost and clumsily climbed into her side of the booth. She bumped the table with one hip and very nearly spilled a glass of pale golden liquid with a pink umbrella protruding over its rim. Ghost felt stupid for not realizing it sooner: Poppy Lycon was drunk as a bloody skunk. Giving him a smile as bright as all the flowers in the world, Poppy inched closer to the wall and patted the vacant space next to her. Ghost froze for a moment, unsure of what to think. Was she for real? Why was she suddenly being so goddamn friendly toward him? Yesterday was probably the first time she had ever talked to him… Ghost scowled. So what had been her motive in approaching him yesterday? These kinds of coincidences didn’t just happen, and whether it was a product of the alcohol or not, Poppy’s inexplicable enthusiasm at his presence seemed too overblown to be fake.
But that didn’t change the fact that she was a step above a total stranger to him, and Maverick was eyeing him skeptically. Ghost didn’t want to get roped into staying with these people any longer than etiquette required him to, especially when he had come to the Sauterelle with the express intent of getting drunk, alone. Trying to refuse as politely as possible, he waved a hand and said, “That’s quite all right. I’m not sure it’s appropriate for instructors to drink with initiates, and I wouldn’t want to cause any trouble.” Ghost lifted a meaningful eyebrow in Maverick’s direction, but Poppy’s brain appeared to have skipped right over his insinuation. Just how many girls was Maddox courting, after all? But then again, a boy and a girl didn’t have to be dating to hang out, right? Like how Ghost sometimes went out with Randi, Leah, or Charlie… That thought made him inwardly cringe. He didn’t know what the hell he was to Charlie, but he sure didn’t want to dwell on it at the moment. Maybe even Maverick’s business with Bella had been completely platonic when he’d brought her back to his and Ghost’s apartment last night… and had locked the door behind them… and hadn’t emerged until the next day. Riiiiight. Ghost snuck a covert glance at Maverick and looked at him in a whole new light. Disgusting.
Both of Ghost’s companions were watching him expectantly but with expressions that couldn’t have differed more. Poppy looked at him with wide, sparkling eyes and an eager smile, like a young child waiting for a magic show to begin. Maverick, on the other hand, was inscrutable except for a slight frown, as if he were wondering how long Ghost planned to stay here and was counting down the seconds until he left. Buddy, I am just as confused as you, Ghost thought, but what would be the fun in telling Maverick that? Better to let him stew and guess if Ghost didn’t have some all-important purpose here after all. As easily as if he had chatted away the last hour in Maverick and Poppy’s presence, Ghost asked the question that had been on his mind since stepping foot into the Sauterelle. “What’s the appeal of these kinds of places? Nightclubs, that is.”
One of the benefits to the booths in the back corner was that Ghost didn’t have to shout to be heard over the music, which he greatly appreciated. Once again he looked out at the dance floor, at the forest of young bodies, most of which were only slightly older than himself, losing all semblance of self-awareness as the psychological phenomenon of deindividuation worked its magic, tossing their heads and waving their arms with reckless abandon. Ghost wished to understand why Caspian and many other Dauntless squandered so many hours in these cheap and gaudy settings. Perhaps it would fuel him with inspiration for a new poem. It had been forever since he’d written a poem...
Ghost hadn’t thought his asking of the question had sounded particularly rude, but Poppy and Maverick didn’t seem to agree. They both stared at him blankly, as if the context of his question had bewildered them and they were waiting for him to add more. Pointedly aware of his status as the third wheel, Ghost shifted his weight and stood beside their table with his hands in his coat pockets. “I’m not making fun of you, if that’s what you’re thinking,” he replied patiently, speaking mostly to Poppy, since she had been the one to insist on his company. He cocked an eyebrow at her continued hesitation. She seemed uncertain as to whether or not he was being serious, and how serious her answer should be in return. Or maybe she had just drunk so much that she was struggling to register his words at all. During the silence, Ghost gazed pensively into Poppy’s glass, and how it shimmered deep ocean blue in the flashing disco lights.
“Well, I suppose I could be making fun of your faction’s traditions, if you want to look at it that way,” he amended archly. “Is drinking and dancing truly what bravery means to your people? It’s just so intriguing”—he gave a flourishing gesture in the direction of the dance floor—“their willingness to laugh and mingle when the lights are low and the music drowns out all coherent thought. But when the chips are down, they’ll go for each other’s throats. Much like our training exercise today, if only you would have shown,” he said, not unkindly. A part of Ghost was fascinated by people. Most of the time they were fickle creatures, full of irony and irrationality, yet capable of astounding feats when pushed to their brinks. But an equivalent part of him wouldn’t trust another human being for all the money in the world.
More silence. In its endless depths, Ghost imagined he could hear echoes and crickets, but of course, all he really heard were the pounding rhythms of music along with Poppy and Maverick’s palpable disappointment with their entertainment. Ghost sighed internally. I am surrounded by absolute fools. He didn’t have to hunt for a change of topic for very long, because just then he belatedly noticed a basket of food at the center of the table. His empty stomach yowled at the sight of it, and even though Ghost was typically very discerning about what he put into his body, suddenly he didn’t care what was in the basket. “Are those”—he paused to crane forward—“boneless chicken wings?” This warranted a solemn nod from Maverick. Ghost’s spirits soared. Finally, it appeared as though they had reached a topic of mutual understanding! “Those look delicious. Mind if I steal one?”
Feeling salty about having been dragged against his will into a conversation where he was obviously unwanted, Ghost didn’t wait for an answer before plucking one of the wings out of the basket. Two containers of sauce were set to the side, and in the ever-changing light, it was hard to tell what they were. Too impatient to ask, he simply saturated his wing in the one that was closer to him, spitefully coating its entire surface until the remaining sauce dipped noticeably lower in the container. That was another problem with Dauntless: They were way too over the top with their assertions of dominance. They had to learn to be more subtle about it, use more finesse. Subtlety did wonders for the effect. “Did you know that boneless chicken wings are actually made from breast meat?” Ghost mused aloud as he held his chicken wing at eye level for inspection. “Yes, the breast is cut into wing-size portions and breaded to give it a more flattering appearance. In other words, you both have been victims of false advertising,” he said with moderate cheer. Ghost popped the hunk of meat into his mouth all at once.
And it was delicious, almost painfully so, but whether it was because of the quality of the meat or Ghost’s famished state, he wasn’t sure. He closed his eyes in bliss. As he chewed, he reflected on his strained encounter with Mercy Cartwright from earlier. Not only had Ghost not eaten all day, but he had barely eaten for the past few days. Not by design, of course, but because a full stomach reduced his thinking capacity to a fraction of what it normally was, and he was well aware that he was looking almost painfully thin. No wonder Cartwright had thought he was at death’s door.
Ghost’s eyes snapped open and he stopped chewing. All of a sudden, he’d been thrown into a world of pain, and his shoulders and knees were quivering with it. The symptoms were close to those he experienced every time he skipped a dose of lull, with the strange exception of his mouth filling with fire instead of blood. He blinked, and tears fractured Poppy and Maverick’s forms into a hundred shards. Ghost breathed once through his nose, and dazzling pain lanced through that as well. The impulse to spit came upon him so overwhelmingly that he pressed the back of his hand to his mouth to keep himself from hawking chewed-up meat all over the table. Ghost’s knees trembled even more dangerously, and his other hand braced against the table was the only thing keeping him from sinking to the floor. Between the throbbing beat from the dance floor and his internal agony, he was scarcely aware of the high-pitched keening noise somewhere between a scream and a moan that dredged out of his throat. With a massive burst of willpower, Ghost managed to swallow as his nose ran and hot tears streaked down his cheeks.
His breath came out in a gasp. Of its own accord, his hand shifted from his mouth to his throat, as if following the dreaded chicken wing on its path down his esophagus. “It burns,” he croaked, eyes squeezed shut against the cruel world that had tricked him so horribly. “My throat… stomach!” Ghost was still shaking profusely, and his voice was the smoldering embers that remain after a fire has been stamped out. He slumped against the edge of Poppy and Maverick’s table, his forehead only inches above the wood and his hair falling into his wet face. “Water… please!” Ghost wasn’t sure whom he was begging, but if the hushed whispers coming from near the bar could be trusted, his spectacle had attracted a small audience. Oh please, not the bystander effect, he pleaded silently, unable to speak that many words at once. Don’t just stand there and watch, you wastes of life!
Charlotte "Charlie" Stark || 20 || Medic || Dauntlessborn
Charlie had vaguely come to when Mercy had been hauling her to her cot, but she had quickly fallen back into the safety and serenity of unconsciousness. Ahh... that sweet bliss of nothingness, no thoughts, no fears, no nightmares, no dreams, no aspirations to fall from, no nightmares to wake from. Rest. However it had to come to an end at some point, Charlotte Starks unusual form of blissful rest was shattered as her mind began to process the sounds of children... initiates, yelling and fighting, bodies moving and falling, weapons clashing, occasional screams, occasional laughter. Sighing audibly, Charlie slowly sat up, eyes opening and blinking at the lights in the room, she was situated on a cot and she could feel her body complaining about the legitimate injuries she would keep from her fight with Ghost, and Harper. Although anything a weapon gave through simulated pain would fade, pain that was given through blunt force would stay, as that was real. Charlie could tell from the tenderness in her back that she would have bruising upon it, Harper had thrown her weapon well and it had truly embedded itself within Charlie so hard that it had left it's physical mark. The rest of her body felt exhausted also, from her fight with Ghost. Charlie moved her eyes upward, checking to see where Ghost was, only to watch him leaving, Mercy not far behind him. So he had been taken out rather quickly after herself, Charlie was surprised that that thought gave neither comfort nor remorse, she was instead just numb to the good or ill that had come upon Ghost. Maybe that was for the best, she needed to take her mind off of him, he clearly was able to do that towards her, and she needed to take a few lessons from the cold man himself.
However, without Mercy, she was now the medic, as she should have been the whole time, and it was her job to make sure that people were not getting legitimately hurt. She could see Thorn had been brought back to a cot and was still unconscious so that was fine, and from her vantage point it seemed like everyone else was still fighting, nobody had been knocked out yet... She watched with a dulled enthusiasm, her eyes scanning the initiates. Her eyes strayed on Aubrey, watching as the little firecracker that was her sister battled with the phoenix that was Randi... Charlie couldn't help but smile, she saw how much Aubrey had grown, and part of her felt comforted that so much of her own sacrifice had cemented Aubrey's ability to grow up without Jeremy's abuse, but also... jealousy that Aubrey would live in the faction she was born for. Charlie had made the sacrifice of giving up her dream of living in Amity so that Aubrey could live here. Maybe it was worth it, watching Aubrey now made it seem so. Randi... Charlie felt herself watching the girl and seeing someone else, not Randi, but Alice. Alice, fiery and beautiful, blonde hair cascading, a grin upon her face, muscles clear and toned, body beautiful and seductive, eyes alert and exotic... Randi was very similar to Alice, though there were many differences too... Alice had been a larger build yet smaller than Randi, from Charlie's recollection.. It had been a while since she had seen Alice. Randi was also much more blonde than Alice, and paler. Yet Randi reminded her of Alice, and she wondered if Aubrey could be friends with Randi like she had been with Alice. And instead of Aubrey and Finn breaking up for Finn to be with Randi... it could be the opposite, Randi and Finn had tried their time and broken up before... What a circle of life... Herself, Caspian and Alice. Aubrey, Finn and Randi. Who knew if fate would be similar, though hopefully much kinder upon them. Charlie continued sweeping her gaze over the crowd, landing upon Jaxom who was fighting Vex. Now Vex was a strange one, Charlie didn't know her very well, she didn't seem to have any friends and did her own thing. She had come from Erudite but she seemed like she had been born and raised in Dauntless. It was unsettling to say the least, but Charlie chided herself for even thinking that way. It was unfair to put assumptions on somebody you didn't know. She watched with a slight interest as Jaxom and Vex fought... She waited there watching for quite a while when Thorn finally woke up. Charlie turned her gaze to him, they were sitting close to each other, well... Thorn was still lying down, but they were close to each other. She gave him a soft smile as he sat up, and she felt sorry for him, he looked to still be in much pain. "Are you.." Charlie started to ask if he was okay, but he nodded quickly, catching on to her concern fast, obviously he didn't want to dwell on the pain and suffering he might have gone through. Charlie sighed softly, her gentle brown eyes looking at the boy she called friend, she wished Thorn had gone through initiation when she had, she knew they would have been fast friends and would have done much together. She bit her lip, her eyes leaving Thorn's to look at the floor. Her fingers trailed up her neck to gently caress the pendant that Thorn had given her, and her heart swelled with admiration and joy. Nobody had done something like that for her in such a long time. "Thank you again for this, Thorn, it means the world to me." She breathed, leaving her cot to come sit beside him. They watched the battle together, and Charlie wondered where Mercy was, she had asked him to do this job for her if she fought, which she had. She did feel some guilt in that... However his disappearance seemed... no... he had run after Ghost, Ghost had looked ill... So he was doing his job to the letter. That was commendable.
Charlie and Thorn sat close to each other, not so close as to have bodily contact, but close enough to show that they felt safe with each other, like good mates. Charlie felt no threat from Thorn, only friendship and safety. She had never felt that he would do something inappropriate, or hurt her, or assert dominance or even just desire her like some idiots did. He had always just been friendly and good natured. She enjoyed that security with him. "Thorn, you should show me how you make beautiful creations like this some day." She broke the silence, again letting her fingers slide across the pendant, feeling the branches of the tree and imagining how each one was delicately made by Thorn. "I would be very interested to watch, it seems so fragile yet strong. So beautiful." She laughed slightly, a small, almost girlish giggle, of someone who felt flattered and awkward at receiving a compliment. Thorn's face looked elated for Charlie's suggestion, and she could tell that he wished she would. She grinned, a genuine smile, one she hadn't emitted for quite a while, and clasped her hands in her lap. The two sat there happily, watching as the fight raged on. Mercy was not back yet, but people were starting to fall, so Charlie sighed. "I suppose I have my job back, would you care to assist me? There is no need but..." Charlie did not even have to finish her sentence, as Thorn jumped off the cot without so much as a hesitation. Charlie felt again a surge of appreciation within her. She looked at who had fallen so far; almost in succession, she watched as Fable clearly and terrifyingly "killed" Finn, Aubrey, taken by surprise and screaming at Finn's death, was also taken out, and Leah was also overpowered by Chris. Three bodies fallen and three less in the fight. She and Thorn nodded at each other and zipped into the fighting area. Charlie was nimble and small, and easily scampered across the floor to where Leah lay unconscious. A tiny spark of jealousy caused Charlie to frown, only to try and wipe that away through her mindset of work. Jealousy was unlike her, and she didn't enjoy it, so why was she having it towards Leah? She didn't own Ghost... but goodness she sort of wished she did. Charlie wasn't the strongest by far, but Leah was lithe and didn't hold as much weight as many of the dauntless borns; this allowed Charlie to loop her arms under Leah's armpits and pull her towards the edge and over to the cots. The simple action caused Charlie to realize how much pain she was in herself, and she had to almost hold her breath, clenching her teeth together. However, she managed to do so quickly, only barely dodging a few accidental people who had tried to hit her. Charlie dragged Leah over to a cot and lifted her up, sighing as she finally was able to let her muscles rest and Leah was safely on the cot. Thorn had managed to get both Aubrey and Finn, and Charlie chuckled almost embarrassed. "Thank you Thorn... I appreciate your help."
Charlie looked over Finn, Aubrey and Leah, and then back at Thorn. As much as she knew this was her job... She needed to go, she needed to find Caspian. She felt guilt rack her body at having shared such an intimate and horrid memory the two had with Ghost. She smiled at Thorn and rubbed her tired arms as she felt the exhaustion from fighting and also dragging Leah out of the fight, one she didn't often feel. It felt sort of good to have that exhaustion from something she had choice in, something she also attributed to her own skills in a fight... She hadn't just been beaten, she had fought... But now she wished to find Caspian. She turned her head as she heard the doors swing open and shut, seeing Mercy walking back into the training room. She looked at Thorn "My replacement is back, giving me my escape." She playfully winked at Thorn, before quickly walked over to Mercy, catching him before he could get back into the midst of the fighting initiates. "Mercy, if you have a second.." Charlie's voice breathed out towards the boy, watching as his freckled face looked up towards her. "I just wanted to apologize for taking you out of the fight in order for myself to join in, however, as you did not put up any argument and have done a marvelous job..." Charlie knew she was stepping on Ghost's toes for doing this, but something about that spurred her on even more and she found herself almost feeling thrilled at the idea of that. "You shall receive your own amount of points for having obeyed orders without arguing at all. Thank you." Charlie smiled again and watched as Mercy seemed to think about that, Charlie hoped he felt better about that, because she did feel guilt, especially after she had done so poorly and had done little than to get out first anyway. She nodded to Mercy and looked towards the training doors. "When people wake up, they are allowed to leave as training will have been done for the day... You don't need me here as no injuries should occur through simulation, however as always I have my phone on me so I am only a call away.. Harper will have my number if you need it. Thank you again." The gentle medic smiled and walked past Mercy, heading out of the training room. She was tired, she was defeated, she also felt some surge of adrenaline from having fought again, from having given Mercy points without asking Ghost. But her plan was simple. She needed to find Caspian and talk to him...
Where would one find Caspian? Why the clubs and bars of course. Charlie hated the places, but she knew her best friend well enough to know that was likely where he was. She sighed as she pulled her jacket on tightly, zipping it up and stuffing her hands in her pockets. She felt vulnerable in those places, and having a jacket to cover her felt safer... IF that was possible. She clenched her jaw, steeling her face and stiffening her body, she walked into the first bar. Nothing. Charlie sighed, walking in quickly and walking out. No Caspian, just sleazy men and half dressed women. She dodged a couple who were making out in the doorway, and made her way down the Dauntless halls and turns to her next stop. The Sauterelle. Charlie walked in, immediately being almost enshrouded by darkness and ratty lights, loud music that blared from a crappy speaker, causing the music to sound near to white noise, and she smell of sweat, bodies, alcohol and greasy food reached her lungs. Yuck. Charlie wanted to walk out immediately, but she could hear Caspian, or at least she swore she could. She looked around, her eyes scanning as she stood at the edge, unwilling to have to go into the midst of this hell hole. Why did Caspian spend his time and money on disgusting places like this? Especially after surgery... Damn she wished she could lock him up at home so he would recover. She missed him dearly. She kept moving slowly around the edge, trying to pinpoint that deep, musky, masculine tone that sounded so much like Caspian... She heard it again and she began to move faster, only to pause as her eyes rested on the Maddox boy.
Only... it wasn't Caspian. It was Maverick. Charlie's heart dropped, and she stopped trying to get to him. He was at a table by himself, she wondered why, he hadn't been at the training today... was he with Caspian by chance? Hope soured within her heart only to shatter again as a certain young initiate's head bobbed into view. Poppy? Maverick was out with Poppy and she was... with Ghost?! Charlie couldn't believe her eyes as the situation went from weird, to weirder. Poppy looked.... tipsy, if not completely drunk. She was giggling, and swaying, and holding onto Ghost like a puppy. Maverick seemed confused, so Charlie surmised that he had not invited Ghost, but was here with Poppy. Charlie knew the two of them were good friends, but seeing them at a bar together, with Poppy having had alcohol, was a red flag to the medic. But she stored that away, it was not her place to police and parent the initiates or her fellow instructors. No matter her own experiences on the matter. She did however, watch them with a small interest in seeing what was happening. Maybe Caspian was also here, maybe they had all gotten together for drinks? The three boys? And Poppy... Hmm that seemed unlikely but in Dauntless anything could happen.
And that anything, was Ghost's reaction to whatever he had eaten. Which from Charlie's perspective seemed to look like some type of hot sauce. Very hot sauce, judging from Ghost's reaction to it. She rolled her eyes at his reaction, and walked up to the bar. "Two strawberry ice cream sundaes please." She ordered, quickly adding that she didn't want any alcohol in them. She could still hear Ghost splurting nonsense and sounding like a mock Darth Vader in the background. She thanked the bartender as he passed her the icream sundaes and she paid him, walking over to the table that Ghost was momentarily dying at. She caught eyes with Maverick, then plopped the sundae on the table with a bit more attitude than she had meant, causing a louder bang that caused her cheeks to flare red with embarrassment. Ghost glanced up at her, eyes red and his body convulsing like a wave pool. She steeled her features, though still blushing slightly, "Dairy is better than water." She simply stated, before turning around and disappearing. What on earth was that? Why had she done that? Was that charity or mock to Ghost? Did she feel stronger or weaker through doing that? She didn't know, nor did she take time to think about it further. She ducked out of the bar, escaping from both the disgusting nature of bars, and the idea of seeing Ghost again. She was done. She didn't even have the energy to look for Caspian anymore.
Aubrey Amber Stark || 16 || Initiate || Dauntlessborn
Aubrey and Randi's fight had only just started in Aubrey's perspective, but it was soon to end without Aubrey even knowing how or when. She and Randi had just gotten back into fighting, teeth bared and claws out, when behind Randi, Aubrey saw Fable swing down on Finn's head like an executioner. "FINN!" Aubrey screamed, as the terror of how that actually would play out in real life caused Aubrey's heart to physically skip a beat. That was her mistake though. As her distraction cost her her life. Aubrey let out a gasp as she felt pierce her from behind, and she fell to the ground, her body going limp and not responding to her brain. Her axes fell from her grasp and her eyes began to close, the last thing she recalled seeing being Finn's lifeless body on the ground.
Aubrey groaned as she slowly sat up, her body no longer caressed by the cold yet sweaty mats in the arena, but now being held gently by the soft and cushioned features of the cot. She sat up too fast, holding her head as her body began to regain consciousness. That had been a killer fight and Randi... Wait... had Randi beaten her? Aubrey looked out into the fight, she had no idea who had gotten her. She had been so entranced on Randi, and then on Finn's death that someone had taken her from behind. It could have been Randi, she supposed, but she almost found that unlikely. Randi seemed like the person to take her from the front, rather than the back. Plus she had been facing Randi. Aubrey shook her head, upset at having been taken out. Yet... She turned to where Finn sat, having just woken up as well. Aubrey jumped off of her cot, walking over to FInn's and leaning on his. "Well that was disappointing, I'm not sure who got me out, I was so focused on Randi and then you... er... well I just don't know who did it but someone came and stabbed me from the back, cowards, and now I won't get those points.... Hey it was fun though right? Did you have fun? I found two axes and they were super cool... gotta try and use those again, I wonder what they were actually? I know that it's all simulated so I wonder what I was actually holding..." Aubrey babbled on characteristically as Finn sat in his own cot, finally allowing Aubrey the chance to leap up and sidle up next to him, so they could both sit and watch the fight. She sat close to him, closer than usual maybe, her arm rubbing his and close enough that when she swung her legs the left one almost looped with Finn's. She gripped the edge of the cot with her fingers. "Hey... you okay? That was quite a brutal way to go down." She asked in all seriousness, her voice quiet as to not embarrass Finn should he get embarrassed. She waited for his answer, her eyes looking at the fight.
Whatever Finn's answer, Aubrey turned to look at him, blue eyes searching his and being ecstatic to see them alive. She knew the simulated death was just that, simulated, but it was still scary to watch your best friend go down like that. Did that prove her weakness though? Aubrey looked away from Finn quickly, coughing awkwardly and staring at the fight. Was she weak for having been afraid when Finn was killed? She couldn't bear the thought. Would this get in the way of her desires for Dauntless leadership? She bit her lip and swung her legs some more, nervousness of being caught in weakness racking through her body. She had really wanted to come on top in this fight, she had really wanted that. But no... She had gotten out nearly immediately it seemed, and that was embarrassing. She sighed under her breath, her fist clenching on the cot, angry at herself for having fallen, almost angry at Finn for him having fallen and having distracted her. "I want a drink." She declared, causing her to laugh a little. "Damn I'm predictable..." She curled over laughing a bit more, putting her elbows on her knees and propping her head on them, looking around for Night. "Now let's hope Night gets out so I can go shout us some drinks! I feel like we could all use some." Aubrey looked at Finn, smiling and butting her head against his playfully. She continued watching the fight, unsure of what to do now.
Christian "Chris" Parks || 16 || Initiate || Dauntlessborn
Chris couldn't find Blair. His heart was racing and his head was pounding. Where was she? What was she doing? Had she been taken down? Was she trying to go at it alone? WHere was she? She had asked him to stay with her this whole time and yet now when Chris was trying to find her she was gone!? He swore verbally, throwing the knives down. No need to carry those if he couldn't even find Blair. He began to get tense, as he looked around, his feet tearing him around the arena looking for Blair. However it seemed unlikely that he could find her at this point as everyone was fighting. Well... everyone except the one person that Chris ran into in his search for Blair. It seemed like some weird twist of fate that caused him to always run into Leah, like they were strangely magnetized to do so. He tumbled into her, both of them sent flying and rolling over the mats in a very ungraceful manner. Chris felt immediate stinging as he lifted himself up, holding his side painfully. Damn that had hurt, what did she... ahh.. some type of knife sword thing. Leah shakily got to her feet also, having been heavily winded by Chris's barrage, and she held her sword with a shakey hand as she got back her bearings. Well... if Chris couldn't find Blair. He'd try and take out everyone he could in order to keep her safe. He squared his shoulders. He looked at Leah, and making a quick decision, he placed the brass knuckles down on the mat and proceeded with just his fists. The brass knuckles could easily break Leah's jaw if he used them well. He didn't want to hurt her, just take her out.
Leah wielded the sword against him and Chris ran towards her again, this time though he tried to dodge the sword, clumsily though as his feet slid on the sweaty mats. The slipping cost him his ability to barrage straight through, and he felt Leah's sword come slicing down on his right arm, easily opening a giant wound should that sword have been real. Chris swore again, but losing no time he swung his left arm out, hitting Leah square between the shoulder blades, watching as she was pushed forward. She managed to stay on her feet but it didn't take long for Chris to learn that Leah was no easy prey. She was much more graceful than him, and she easily dodged his next attack as he lunged for her mid section, and in fact her sword found another place, his shoulder, to slice down upon. Chris swore as this happened over and over again. He occasionally got a hit on her, and it was clear that his hits were hurting a lot, and winding her, but her graceful moves meant he struggled to do so often, where as she got many more slices and dices on him. He also didn't want to hurt her, he didn't like the idea of hurting someone like her. Maybe Jackson he would hurt, but not someone he held nothing against, and someone who he could easily accidentally kill.
That's how the fight seemed to go, Leah got more slices in, but Chris's hits hurt more than her sword did, so in the end they were both thoroughly exhausted, fairly even. Chris's right arm was nearly numb from the pain that emanated on it, but he was still standing. Leah seemed shaky, but held on the sword for dear life. Chris realised though, that he just needed to get that sword off of her, and he could win.
Thus, when he next tried to attack Leah again, he didn't even try to hit her, instead, he swung at her sword arm. Leah easily saw this, and dodging gracefully she swung back at him. Chris couldn't be bothered trying to dodge, and still wanted that sword. So turning quickly he grabbed at the sword with his left hand, catching it blade first. The pain that it caused was familiar to when he had fallen into glass once, and he winced as it felt like it was tearing through his skin. However... it was not. So he held on for dear life, pulling the sword, still attached to Leah, causing her to fly towards him. Chris lifted his feet and kicked, hitting Leah straight in the gut, causing her to fly backwards. The sword of course, stayed within Chris's hand, and he ran to where Leah lay winded, and almost apologetically he wasted no time in stabbing her belly. Hard enough that it "killed her" but not so hard as to leave an actual bruise or injury.
He wanted to find Blair again.
Interacted with: Leah xayah.
Interacting with: Currently nobody.
Finn's breaths came quick as he tried to stand, but a kick to his side sent him sliding comically across the floor. He groaned and rolled to his side, his eyes narrowed in pain. Through them, he could just barely see... oh, was Fable charging at him with her axe? Finn shouted and leaped to his feet, just barely avoiding the blade by a millisecond. Fable had grown faster, and he was finding that their fight was tiring him out. Probably thanks to all the stress he'd been under lately, since Finn could usually hold his own for some time. He readied himself to fight again as she charged at him once again, determination in her eyes.
The two shared a dance for a few moments, Finn swinging his nunchucks in what he hoped was the correct way as Fable swung her axe around. The young boy had no idea if she knew what she was doing, but he knew he really didn't. How funny if neither of them did and here they were, fighting. His eyes quickly surveyed the other initiates in the distance, all with their own opponents. He needed to finish this fight so he could go challenge Aubrey again. Or Harper! How fun would that be. Finn was ready to show off just how strong he had become.
Fable was fast, but he moved just a little faster. His nunchuck wrapped around her hilt as he took the force of her charge, only taking one step back. He grinned at her, for a moment thinking he had rendered her axe useless. He jerked it backwards, only for Fable to respond by twisting the hilt violently. Finn lost his grip on his weapon and they went flying away, skidding along the floor. His eyes widened in surprise. "Woah! Good move," He couldn't help but breathe out with a smile. He wouldn't have thought of that so quickly.
Despite his mood turning happy, Fable was still focused on the battle. She used his moment of hesitation to shove him backwards and he hit the ground again with a thud, the air taken from his lungs. He wheezed on the floor, trying to roll himself back up onto his feet. His movements were halted, though, as the girl firmly planted her foot on his chest. Any air he had managed to suck in was suddenly gone again and he gasped. He reached up and grabbed her leg, although there was barely any strength behind it. His light eyes stared up at her with fear. Wait, was he seriously about to lose this fight? Already? He hadn't even gotten to fight Aubrey or Ghost or even-
A burst of explosive pain and then it was dark. Dang. Fable was cutthroat.
Finn awoke with a headache, his vision blurry from the sudden lack of adrenaline and the awkward way someone had rested his head on his cot. He sat up with a groan, wondering where he was. Wait- had he lost? So soon? The boy ran a hand through his hair and gazed around, only to be scared out of his skin by someone's sudden presence next to him. Aubrey's voice rang through the fog in his skull as she immediately began chattering on about the fight they'd just left. Oh yeah! Fable must have gotten him. The pain from the holographic weapons was already disappearing as Finn remembered more and more. "Wait... we both lost?" Was all he could say. He and Aubrey were supposed to be top of the class! Oh well.
Aubrey seemed proud of herself despite her loss, talking about learning with new weapons. Finn's hand gripped imaginary nunchucks as his face slowly broke into a smile. "Yeah, I only managed to grab some nunchucks. Not the best weapon, but they were fun to spin around!" He exclaimed, "Maybe I'll practice with them more too, in the future."
Aubrey sat down next to him, making Finns' heart jump as their arms touched. She gazed at him with soft eyes, concern shining through the beautiful blue. "Oh! Haha, yeah, just unexpected. Fable is pretty strong, I guess."
He wondered how she had gone out. She'd been fighting Randi, right? Had he seen? No, he had no idea how the other girl had taken his best friend out. Was she still in the fight? Finn tore his eyes away from Aubrey's and looked back out into the match. There were far fewer initiates now, but it was still a passionate fight. His hand itched at being so close to hers. He looked down at it, then at her, only to see she was staring at the ground in an awkward way. Was she feeling what he was? Or just embarrassed about her loss? He sighed and took his hand away, rubbing it up and down his arm. While his death had been fake, the bruises were not. Fable packed a punch; he'd have to ask to train with her sometime. Well, not more than he trained with Aubrey, of course.
The blonde beside him suddenly laughed, declaring she wanted a drink. Finn grinned at the idea. Although her inclusion of Night hurt him a little, he supposed she simply wanted to share an afternoon with friends. "Sounds good to me!" He replied, getting to his feet. He felt a lot better now, more stable and alert. "Shall we go find Night?"
She could only watch in what was veiled astonishment as Ghost performed- not a neat roll, or a quick dash, but a cartwheel- to grab the sword before she could. Her mind briefly went to her own brother. In physicality, the two were very similar. Similar fighting styles, agility, a small flair for the dramatic. Well, Ghost's was probably more than small. But they were both smaller young men who used their bodies to deflect and run when needed, while Harper relied on strength to overcome. Harper could find flaws easily in their attacks, holes to strike in, but the boys were quick-minded. Even looking at Ghost now, tired and hurt, he was still able to move with freedom. His eyes were ablaze, not only with the excitement of the fight, but also with careful observation. Harper hated the way he constantly had to analyze fights. If you were just fast enough, and strong enough, none of that would really matter. She had to make sure he didn't have time to plan his next attack. She had to win this fight; to put this conniving young man in his place.
To her surprise, he lowered his sword and stood tall, taking a few deep breaths. Harper stayed poised, waiting to see if this was a ruse of some kind. He began talking, his breaths a little shaky, but voice as smooth as ever. What was she, some kind of snake he was trying to charm? He spoke on, referring to her coming to him as some kind of request she had accepted from him. Untrue. He was just trying to make himself feel better since he knew there was no way he was walking away from this fight conscious. She darkened her expression, his words fading into the noise of the background as she wondered where the best place to attack would be. Her hands gripped her dagger loosely, yearning for the heavier weight of the sword her opponent possessed. She'd be unstoppable with that.
Ghost continued speaking, no doubt stalling for time as he caught his breath and came up with a plan. Harper wouldn't allow it. He dipped his sword a moment, right hand going out as he gesticulated for impact on his words. She darted forward at that moment, dagger going straight for his newly-opened right shoulder. An easy strike- or so she thought.
Ghost parried in one of the smallest movements Harper had ever seen, his blade thudding as it met her own weapon, and he forced her off of him. In her surprise, he also managed a harsh hit to her collarbone, pain sparking tears in her eyes. She took a step back, actually a little impressed. He had played on her thoughts of him being stupid and monologuing to draw her into a trap. That wouldn't happen again.
Both of them readied themselves for the fight ahead. Harper wondered if it would be a showdown or a quick duel; Ghost treated her with the upmost caution, surely knowing her skills outmatched his, as he kept his back to the wall and eyes glancing around. But Harper knew, as was just shown, she tended to fall for his tricks, and he surely had a hundred more up his sleeve. Her face settled into a silent snarl, one similar to a tiger on the prowl. She would enjoy turning that little smirk into an 'o' of surprise as he fell limp to the floor. "You talk too much."
She would have to match speed with speed. Like lightning, the girl darted forwards and landed a series of quick strikes, the third landing a cut above his brow. She missed seeing the curtain of red that would have surely fallen had their blades been real.
Their battle raged on, Harper's movements only just barely being avoided by Ghost, the closeness of her weapon to his skin sending him into a flurry of parries and dodges. She was stronger, faster. He was no user of a blade and had no idea how to fight someone with her fury. He had been softened by only battling the teenagers they were looking after for the past few months, people easy to gain the upper hand on. He was no soldier, and it was no surprise he wasn't one. He hadn't come from Dauntless, but Harper had. Holding a blade was more comfortable to her than holding a pencil, and the adrenaline of battle was more common than the calmness of sleep. Whenever she got close enough, she could see slight slivers of anxiety in the eyes of her opponent.
Ghost did land a few good blows here and there, but nothing debilitating. Harper grabbed his wrist at one point and aimed an uppercut with the hilt of her dagger. Ghost leaned his head back as far as he could, avoiding her punch, and brought it crashing forwards again in a forehead-to-forehead hit. Harper let go of his wrist and made a face, at him. Seriously? They paused, as if both not sure what had just happened, before launching into it again. Harper brought a flurry of punches down, aiming for his face.
As he flinched from her strike, Harper planted a kick to his chest, sending him flying into the wall he had tried to keep at his back. Ghost grimaced, biting back a shout of pain. Harper smirked at the sight. Sweat trickled down her forehead, but her body felt alive and ready to go. Such a short fight would not make her tired this fast. The sole thing keeping her grounded was the pain still sparking from her clavicle- a reminder to not underestimate Ghost too much. Still, this ability to torture him was proving to be a lot of fun.
She decided to pause, wondering if he would surrender here. Harper tapped her foot as she observed his situation. Surely he wouldn't be able to fight well after such a fall. If he was so smart, he would know what was best for him here. The thought of having the man Ghost himself surrender to her was something of her dreams. Was she about to have it for real, here and now? Alas, she was a fool. Ghost staggered back to his feet, using the wall as a support. He looked tired, but also with a new sense of meaning, as if winning this fight was the only goal he had ever had in life. Harper cocked her head to the side, the image of him struggling to his feet unlocking a memory in her mind.
Drex had a huge hand around the boy's collar, Ghost's thin form weighing nothing to the larger initiate as he and his goons dragged him away. Harper could only stand by and watch. On the outside, her face was one of impassiveness, not caring about what her boyfriend did to others. There was no point. Ghost was a common enough target, and annoying too, so it was okay that she did nothing, right? She wasn't strong enough, anyways, and Drex would surely come after her if she spoke up. Ghost's scared eyes met her own for a brief moment, and she turned away. She ran a hand through her hair, finding a tangle to work her fingers through as she waited. A smack made her look again, only to see Ghost slumped against the wall, barely visible through the group of laughing, larger boys surrounding him. Harper turned away.
If the two would just sit down and talk about their experiences and feelings, perhaps they would come to some kind of peace with their histories. But that was not to be. Ghost saw Harper as an abuser and someone who had stood by in his moments of pain. Harper saw Ghost as a challenge to overcome, a constant sign of her own weakness, and an enemy. This conflict between them would be immortal.
Ghost began circling and moving forwards. Harper did the same. She narrowed her eyes, wondering what he was thinking now, in his battered state. Then, to her surprise, he matched her earlier ferocity and charged, blade forwards. She easily parried such a large movement, but was caught off-guard by the force Ghost had behind his steps. She took a step or two backwards, windmilling an arm to keep herself upright. However, someone was suddenly behind her, and she stumbled, keeping on her feet while also trying to avoid whoever it was that had suddenly appeared. Her gaze met an initiate's, Mercy's, as he looked back up at her with the same surprised face. What was he doing here?!
"Get out of the way!" She shouted, uncaring for whatever reason the boy had for his sudden appearance. Realizing she was wide open, Harper lowered her dagger and spun around, just in time to see Ghost leaping towards her once again. A brilliant plan- if it had been a plan and not just coincidence- but Harper was still on top of her game. Ghost flew from above, like an angel bringing down a heavenly strike. Harper came from below, rising to meet him. His blade did meet her skin, her arm exploding in pain as a the holographic weapon made it seem as if he had sliced it open. But she would have her revenge. The look on his face made her nearly giddy as he suddenly came to the realization that she had struck from under his field of vision, straight into his stomach. A move she had used countless times before, one that took others by surprise as it was not from somewhere they would expect. Typically, Harper had to take a hit to land her own, as well, but that was manageable.
She dropped her dagger to grip her arm, wincing at her own pain. But it was fine, because Ghost was falling to the floor in an almost slow-motion manner. The sword slipped from his grasp, hitting the floor lightly only mere moments before his own body thumped to the ground. He looked angry and defeated, not meeting her gaze. Harper reached down to grab the sword, breaths coming out long and ragged. She had one. As expected, of course. Ghost was a trickster and had definitely grown in his style of fighting, but he was no match for a Dauntless warrior. While her respect for him had grown, her confidence had as well. There was no need for her to consider herself under him anymore. "Goodnight, Ghost. Remember this sight," She hissed out as his eyes flickered shut, body finally going limp.
Harper stood again and gazed around, seeing the free-for-all continuing. There was, however, peace around her for a solid moment. She turned to Mercy, who was still staring at her in shock. 'What, ever seen a fight before? Get them out of here," She told him. Harper was still rearing to go and her words were sharp. For now, though, it was best to take a breather before finding another opponent. Her eyes slid over to Chris, who was perched over Leah's body. A Parks boy, huh? Might be fun.
Night realized that while he was spending time on the ground Jaxom had retrieved his axes. Lucky for him, his spear wasn’t far away. He bent over to pick it up but kept his attention on the initiate who had almost knocked him out moments prior. Here we go again, he said to himself. They were back where they started, and if a new variable wasn’t added soon it seemed like it would be up to a coin toss who ended up victorious. He lunged forward but to his surprise, something had wrapped itself around Jax’s raised arm. He stopped in his tracks as Jax was pulled away from their dual. The reason for this sudden change in events caught Night off guard. An initiate had used a whip to pull Jaxom into a fight. She looked deadly and well, let's just say Night couldn’t quite tell if being breathless was entirely a symptom from his fight with Jaxom. If he was in Jaxom’s position he would surely be dead from freezing like this. He broke from his thoughts and asked himself what he’d do next. Join in on the fight, or run from it like a coward. He could easily stab one of them in the back when it was turned. How dishonorable and even more cowardly than running. That didn’t seem like a very good finale to their fight so he decided there wouldn’t be one. He and Jax were pretty evenly matched, he felt like they would call it a draw. Maybe this girl would bring something new to the fight, one of them emerging a victor over the other. As he left the spot where the two were currently fighting he began to miss the fight he had with Jaxom. No matter how painful, it was fun. Maybe they’d become friends, he seemed like he’d be a pretty cool guy when not trying to kill you. He took a look back at the two before feeling the need to look in front of him. It was a mix of feeling like someone was watching him and the almost silent footsteps approaching him that his ears picked up. He turned in time to see Indira heading toward him. She held an ax in one hand, a knife in the other. Her ax rose to strike Night but at the last second, he kicked outwards, his foot hitting the knee of Indira. As she fell on her face in front of him, her ax clanged on the floor in the distance. He felt both glad and disappointed that there wasn’t a satisfying snap to accompany the blow. “Maybe next time you should give me a warning before stabbing me in the back.” Raising his spear over his head he readied to shove it down to pierce her back. How hypocritical, this would be the third time he technically stabbed someone in the back today. While the first he was most likely unmatched and the second he wasn’t going for the kill he felt like this time was different. An easy fight was never a fun one. At the end of the day, Night would learn a lesson but it wouldn’t be to avoid stabbing someone in the back.
Hesitation. Even a second's worth could cost you your life. In this case, it would cost him a high ranking. A hand grabbed his leg, the other stabbed with a knife. Tearing pain ripped through his foot making him forget any honor in fighting. He used all his force to plunge the spear into her back, but she had the time to roll out of the way. If it was a real spear it would’ve been stuck in the floor. She stood up, but Night was unable to. In a lunging position, he put all his weight on the foot that hadn’t been stabbed. She charged at him and spun as he jabbed forward. The knife tore through his right shoulder. Feeling as if it would fall off, he couldn’t help but drop his spear and grit his teeth. He stood in a last attempt at winning this fight. She swung at him but he caught the knife-wielding arm with his working one. “Did you really think you could take me out?” bending her arm. His eyes were stuck on hers, unable to notice her foot raising to drive down against his own. “I know I can,” she replied. And with that, the pain shot up his entire leg, he was unable to hold onto her arm any longer. All he wanted to do was fall on the ground and die but she wouldn’t let him. Holding him up as she stabbed him, the pain he feared soared throughout him. He blacked out before hitting the mat.
Awaking to a peaceful surrounding initiates were scattered about. He looked around, half frightened and half angry that someone could use his fear against him. Out on the battlefield, he didn’t have time to feel sick but now that everything was slower it came down on him. Nearby there was a bucket a fellow initiate had used which he gladly stole and proceeded to vomit in. Spitting the last bits, he wiped his mouth with his sleeve. The marks from the beating he took from Jax would be visible but wouldn’t last forever. The knives however would leave a lasting mark. A memory of pain he could never forget. Almost as bad as a fear landscape. Almost. Doing nothing would only make him dwell on being stabbed so he slowly stood up in search of a distraction. Somewhere in the distance, he spotted Aubrey and Finn the two initiates he arrived to today’s training with. He approached them slowly, not knowing how either of them went out. “I hate knives,” he said jokingly but he was dead serious. “I’m surprised to see both of you here. You didn’t kill each other did you?” He already felt better, but still felt uneasy. A drink would help him forget more than anything and if he remembered correctly he jumped before Aubrey. “I’m thirsty, and seriously in the mood to forget. And correct me if I’m wrong but your buying?” he said pointing at Aubrey.
With a short and sweet survey of her surroundings, Leah spotted exactly what she was looking for. A dagger, long enough to fight in close combat but light enough to throw, laid only a few feet from where she was standing. It must have fallen out of some poor initiate's hand before they were knocked out. With no one zoning in on her at the moment amidst the thinning crowd, the lean, long-legged girl dashed towards the weapon. As her hand reached out, fingertips only a few mere centimeters away, she noticed an incoming object out of the corner of her eye. At this point, her body was too far forward to rotate or dash out of the way and the sword in her possession only weighed her down.
As expected, the two of them collided into one another. Neither were what could be called an unstoppable force, but they had both been unnecessarily tunnel-visioned. Leah felt herself land on the ground in a less than ideal way and slide back a few inches. The impact left her sore throughout and a little red from the friction on her smooth skin. A quick inspection of her arms confirmed the slight burning feeling she had. Years of delicate and intensive skincare in Erudite had been ruined in one single impact. Her forearms were peeling and flushed, making her dedicate even more effort to wielding her needlessly heavy sword while Chris seemed to shrug off the impact. He seemed slightly grazed by the weapon Leah was now struggling even more to hold, but besides that, Chris must have felt like a collision with someone half his size was almost nothing.
Not even able to gather her bearings before Chris charged in towards her, Leah could only swing her weapon at him. The first impact had practically drained what little energy she had remaining, and she knew there was no way she could keep up with Chris if she was continuously on the defense. Offense was the only rational option, and the two of them traded blows one after another. A slice at an arm, a punch in return. Despite the continued beating, Leah had an iron grip on her sword. An intelligent person knew their weaknesses, and Leah knew hand-to-hand combat was her worst area. Plus, if the fight continued this way, her sword would inevitably win.
At least, that was what Leah thought. After who knows how many swings, Leah felt her sword stop in midair. Her eyes widened as Chris grimaced but pulled with so much force that she was dragged into the trajectory of his foot. That was the final straw for Leah as she felt her body fall back and collapse. When her eyes fluttered open again, Leah found herself by the rest of the disqualified initiates. She gazed around, seeing the likes of Aubrey and Finn, before sitting up properly with a groan, hand over her stomach which was sore from Chris' knockout kick, and looked right up besides her. She had been coincidentally seated by... Mercy. Right, that was his name. How convenient it must be to not have to literally fight to not be factionless. Something brewed within her. It was definitely envy, just a little bit of it. He must have felt it because a quick turn of his head, and the two met face to face. Ah, how embarrassing; but that didn't mean Leah would show it.
Mercy was glad he spoke when he did. Staring at Ghost through the mirror felt strange and unnatural. Looking at anyone else through a mirror always did. Did anyone else ever think about that? When you're looking at someone else through a mirror, you're seeing them how they view themselves. That's the way they primarily perceive themselves because that's what they see every single morning when they brush their teeth. There was just something so warped about seeing him this way. Like if he stared too long, Ghost's reflection would become his reflection and then crawl out like Bloody Mary to come gouge his eyes out for trapping him there.
The teen had no skill for subtlety, his face couldn't hide his true feelings as he looked at his shorter counterpart. He had no thought to do so. His nose was somewhat scrunched and his lips were parted enough to show his large(but slightly crooked) front teeth. It was contorted in some sort of look of one-thirds discomfort, one-thirds concern, one-thirds confusion. His moves were so careful, so calculated. They always were. Ghost's response caused him to stand up a little bit straighter— he typically tried to stand up straight, he wasn't the tallest but refused to allow anyone believe he was shorter than he was— but when Ghost spoke, any curve to his spine and any slouch to his shoulders disappeared. And, the more Ghost said, the more Mercy's face was contorted into a look of three-thirds confusion. It took him a second to process what was happening. Was Ghost really misunderstanding? Em furrowed his brows, his cheeks flushing once more at the mention of the mishap on the battlefield. "Dude, you look like you're about to pass out." He adverted eye contact for a moment, breifly embarrassed. He took a step forward to examine Ghost a bit more, gingerly reaching a hand out, ready to place it carefully on Ghost's back or shoulder. If you asked, he wouldn't be able to tell you why that was his move. Perhaps it was instinct. Perhaps it was something programed into him by the Amity long, long ago.
Before his hand could even move very far from his side, Ghost whirled around. He clutched the first-aid kit in front of him like a tiny shield, in case something was thrown at him. Like a knife. Or a paper towel. Or a knife. Living in the Dauntless compound, Mercy had learned to expect anything. Especially hidden blades. There was an awkward silence— man, this bathroom seemed filled with those— filled by a suspicious amount of blinks from the younger of the two as he looked on, concerned. Ghost looked like he was one headrush away from hitting the floor because, apparently, he didn't eat that day. Which, he'd suppose was believable. To him, Ghost looked rather thin. But, clearly, Ghost had no interest in eating, for he asked Mercy for a snack and then proceeded to plow through the conversation.
He opened his mouth to speak again, but was caught off guard by Ghost's attempt to leave. On instinct, he followed his footsteps, continuing to block the door. Something in his gut told him not to let the him through. He just maintained awkward eye-contact, looking sheepish as they did their weird little dance. His nerves seemed to get worse when Ghost chuckled. He could feel every muscle in his body tense as Ghost raised his hands to move him out of the way. Mercy half expected Ghost's fingers to pass right through him like his namesake(he sure as hell looked like one), but alas, he was carefully shuffled out of the way. The whole exchange with the paper towel made the situation even more awkward and confusing. The whole exchange was likely about five minutes or less, but they were not a five minutes that Mercy would be able to recount very easily. He himself wasn't even sure of what happened. He felt like an observer of it all. Like he was just witnessing Ghost. But, one thing was for certain. Happy Ghost was mildly disturbing to be around and non-malicious laughs and smiles(and, he supposed, winks), gave Mercy the chills.
The initiate took a second for himself after the bathroom shut, to try and process what had happened. He glanced at his reflection, as if asking it if it found any meaning to that excruciating exchange. Note to self: either Ghost is sick, or he gets really weird when he's hungry. He was sure that that was probably more mentally challenging than the fights going on in the other room. When he left, he didn't catch sight of Ghost. He didn't really bother to look, to be honest. He wasn't sure he wanted to look Ghost in the eye for the next several hours.
Mercy re-entered the testing center, calmer and a little more awake than when he had left, though definitely stuck in his own head. He almost missed Charlie's approach and would have walked passed her if she hadn't said anything. He stopped mid step and bounced back into place before her, lifting his chocolate colored eyes from the floor. He didn't say anything(for once in his life), but raised his eyebrows and offered her a slight nod, letting her know he was listening. He placed his arms behind his back, seemingly grabbing one arm with the other, though he pinched at it nervously as she spoke. He was honestly afraid to disappoint her. Did Harper tell her that he was a klutz on the field? Was she mad at him for going after Ghost?
A huge smile broke out across his face as she spoke to him, his cheeks turning a little bit rosy as she complimented him. He scratched his neck bashfully. He felt silly for being so upset about it earlier. Charlie was so sweet, of course there were no ill-intentions there. "Yeah, no problem." He shrugged nonchalantly, though the grin on his face betrayed the rest of his mannerisms. The mix of his huge crush on Charlie and his desperate need for praise left him on a huge high. He practically skipped back over to the cots. He'd forgotten to give the medic Ghost's message, but by the time he remembered to say something, she already had one foot out the door. He decided to dismiss it, deciding she probably got the memo if she was leaving too. He would just make sure to tell Harper.
The two medics— okay, one medic and one initiate— timed their trade-off well, for Mercy returned just in time to find Night on the floor. Honestly, he was surprised the two Abnegate transfers had made it this far, since Fable was still fighting. It's not like he had any room to talk, he was one of the only Amity transfers, and this round he didn't even get put into the ring. But, with Abnegations reputation being worse than Amity's, he was initially shocked when they made it passed phase one, to be honest. But, it looked like they were both beasts out there. Especially Fable, who was still out there kicking ass. Surprisingly enough, Night and Mercy were fairly similar sizes(albeit Night visually was more filled out and good-looking than he, he could admit), so it was an easy move for the Amity transfer. He situated him on his own cot as more began to stir. It was a few more minutes before Chris impaled Leah— ouch— and then he was back out there.
Mercy really liked Chris. He considered Chris a friend. He wasn't totally sure if the other boy felt the same way, he was kind of a man of few words, but Mercy sure thought he was great. Part of him wanted to clap and cheer him on, and even with the immense social judgement that came with it he totally would, but he knew himself well enough to know that he'd get too distracted and probably get in trouble if someone got legitimately hurt on his watch.
He got Leah situated on a recently freed up cot and perched himself on an adjacent empty one, since there was enough people up and walking around that there was no current need for all of them. The rounds of death seemed to die down for a moment, meaning he had time to himself if he could think and watch at the same time. He glanced over, seeing that Aubrey and Finn seemed to be well. He gave them a slight nod. "Charlie said you guys were free to go once you're up." He offered them a cordial smile and turned back to the fighting.
While Charlie's compliments and apologies and thanks had certainly made him feel a lot better about the situation, a tiny bit of jealousy set back into his stomach. Along with a lot bit of self-loathing. Now, if he had the ability to think rationally, Mercy would know that what he was doing as a medic was a good thing and, to most people, wouldn't necessarily have a tie to his home life or anything terrible. However, as he sat there, barely playing doctor, the whole thing was leaving a bad taste in his mouth. The medics were what made him hate Amity especially. He had vivid memories of being dragged into the infirmary, kicking and screaming. On some level, he knew that wearing a white pinnie and making sure people didn't get stomped on wasn't the same as that. But, if he kept it up, kept chasing after Ghost, maybe he would become one of those nurses who held down a sobbing twelve-year-olds and injected them with some sort of serum that made them complaisant and calm for no other reason than convenience. He folded his hands and looked at the ground in thought. Man, he was pathetic.
He saw something move out of the corner of his eye and turned around a little too quickly, coming face to face with Leah. It was a little bit closer than he was comfortable with, to be honest. He hadn't noticed before his spatial position compared to hers until they were both sitting upright. "Oh, you're awake now." Was all he could think to say at first. There was a brief pause before he spoke again. He turned slightly more away, so he wasn't in her face. "I looked you over. You're gonna be sore and have a few bruises, but you should be okay in the next few days. No lasting injuries." She had such a steely gaze that his cheeks and ears felt warm and his body felt cumbersome. It was weird to move when you felt as though you were under careful watch. "Chris killed you. Well. I guess you know that. I assume you maintain most of your memories. But just in case you don't, Chris killed you." He folded his arms and leaned forwards to rest his elbows on his knees. The hand most conveniently hidden went straight to pinching at his arm again. He glanced at her again, reaching up with his idle hand to hold his face and to allow himself to bounce on of his legs. "Was it any fun?"
“Ooo, I think I like you.” Vex purred as his comment about her skill with a whip and the possible reasons for it hit her ears. She had to admit that this Candor transfer was pretty easy on the eyes, and she wouldn’t mind seeing more of him if she didn’t already have a job to do. She doubted his well-built body would break as easily as some of her other playthings and deep down she craved to leave her mark on him. Her studying of his build and stance wasn’t just for fun however, she was analyzing his every look, move, ripple of muscle, and breath. Each of these things would help her detect what his next move would be so she could react in kind.
“Looks like your friend isn’t joining us.” She called out to him as she noticed his gaze shift away from her and back towards the battlefield where Night had last been. “That’s alright. We can have fun with just the two of us!” She smiled before deciding she was bored and ready for more carnage. Taking advantage of his diverted gaze Vex lashed out like lighting with her whip. The tail of it cracked across Jax’s shoulder and chest and likely would have ripped his shirt open if the weapon were real. “Do I have your attention now?” She purred, her seductive smile never fading.
Knowing herself and her opponent Vex was well aware that at this point in time she could not take Jax in a battle of might. Even after his brawl with Night the young transfer still had brute strength on his side so she would need to whittle him down a bit, drain him of his power. In an instant Vex had once again returned to whipping the young man, striking with the precision of a cobra, making sure to change up where her lashes would land so she remained unpredictable. The lad was smart enough to try and block his head and neck with his arms and axes but that didn’t matter to the former Erudite. All she needed was to keep striking him, eventually, the build-up of pain would be enough to exhaust him. She danced around his relatively stationary form, never drawing too close and letting her ranged weapon do all the damage for her. It was like an intricate dance that kept her entertained as she watched the tiny gap between his arms and face to see the expression of pain grow.
Soon enough she was sure she had him dazed and confused about where the next blow would come from. She had made her way around his form a few times and changed direction frequently enough to keep him guessing about where the next blow would fall. Content with the fact that he was probably weakened enough at this point she lashed out again, her whip wrapping around the arms he had been using as a shield. Brandishing her short sword Vex pulled him towards her as she approached confidently. She was certain he would be too tired to fight back now and as she wrenched him forward again she learned she was wrong when the beast of a man used the momentum to him her square in the gut. She fell to the ground and gasped for air; her teeth clenched in rage at the idea of being hit by someone like him. He was a toy. A plaything. He wasn’t supposed to fight back. As she gasped for air, she felt Jax’s booted foot kick her hand open and send her sword skidding away from her. “Naughty boy.” She spat and kicked out at him as he stood over top of her. Her foot landed in his gut causing him to double over and drop his ax to the ground. In a flash Vex had her legs wrapped around his shoulders and neck and used her weight and momentum to roll backwards, sending Jax crashing to the ground behind her. He threw a few solid hits at her legs in the process but was dazed when he made impact with the ground. That was all the time the vicious weapon of a woman needed to get her hands around the hilt of Jax’s ax. In a fluid movement, she brought the ax down on the back of his head, implanting the pretend blade deep into his skull.
As Jax’s body slumped into dead weight at her feet Vex stood up and smiled, picking up her whip and holding the ax in the other hand. “Thanks for playing.” She chuckled as she stepped over the muscular form on the ground and started back into the fray. The young Erudite transfer didn’t even manage to make it two steps from the scene of her last struggle before she was locked into another fight. She wasn’t sure where the blonde had come from but all of a sudden Randi was slamming into her and wrapping around her without a care that the impact would take them both down.
“Sorry babe but it looked like you needed to be knocked down a few pegs.” Randi laughed though the look in her eyes made it clear she had seen the way Vex had treated Jax and was not a fan. Vex would have smirked herself if she wasn’t so busy trying to get Randi’s legs to loosed up around her arms. They were on the ground now and Vex managed to roll over so Randi was beneath her and the two remained locked in such a position for several long heartbeats before Vex managed to wiggle free.
Turning so they were now facing each other Vex brought her fist down to try and slam Randi’s face into the ground. The blonde luckily dodged the blow and kicked out, hitting Vex in the side of the knee. Crashing to the ground once more the two beauties locked into another fistfight that made them look like lionesses locked in the heat of battle. “It’s cute how you think you’ll top me.” Vex hissed as she wrapped her hand around one of the fallen axes and swung it at Randi.
“It’s cute how you think you have anything other than bottom energy.” Randi replied as she twisted out of the way of the ax and landed her elbow into Vex’s outstretched arm. In return Vex growled and shot her leg up to kick Randi square in the chest, successfully sending the blonde back a few feet. Randi hit the ground and wheezed for a second, she was getting really tired of getting the air knocked out of her lungs today. As she refocused on the fight, she saw Vex rushing towards her with Jax’s ax, and in a split second, she managed to roll out of the way and avoid the object sinking into her skull. As she rolled the blonde felt herself bump into something and looked over to see it was one of the daggers she had dropped earlier. Wrapping her hands around the hilt of the blade she waited until Vex was charging at her once again and when the girl was too close to disengage Randi shot her arm out, the dagger cutting through the air and landing in Vex’s throat. A pained look flashed across Vex’s eyes as she stumbled and fell to the ground with the imaginary blade embedded in her flesh.
Getting to her feet Randi walked over to the fallen female and looked down at her as her eyes closed. “See, bottom energy.” The blonde laughed though it hurt to do so. Between fighting Aubrey, Harper, and now Vex she had taken just about as much of a beating as she had given. Her ribs, spine, and gut were killing her and as she pulled the dagger from Vex she felt pain flash through her arm as well. At some point during her rush of adrenalin from these fights, she must have gotten slashed in the arm and was starting to really realize it now. The medical examination would have to wait however seeing as the moment Randi turned around, she was having to dodge a great ax to the head. “Holy shit!” She gasped and rolled to the side seeing Fable recovering from the missed swing and winding up another.
Fable’s eyes were locked onto the blonde, and she knew in an instant that Randi would probably fight like Finn. She would be quick and bold with her strikes which meant Fable needed to be on guard and clever. She watched Randi carefully, knowing she was Dauntless born and honestly one of the more popular initiates next to Aubrey, Poppy, Finn, Chris, and Blair. Taking out Finn and Randi would probably help her to truly stand out among the transfers, it would prove her worth as a prospective member of Dauntless. With thoughts like these fueling her she felt new determination flooding her veins as Randi came charging at her with a lone dagger.
As soon as the blonde was close enough to strike Fable jumped back and lashed out with her ax. To the redhead’s surprise, Randi managed to hit the ground before the large blade cut her in two and was now rolling forward towards Fable. Fable did her best to block Randi’s next strike but gasped in pain as the dauntless born initiate shoved her blade into Fable’s side. Before Randi could pull the knife back out Fable smacked her away with the hilt of her ax and sent the blonde back a few steps.
“So I guess I’m not getting my knife back?” The young spitfire asked as her jade gaze went between the hilt in Fable’s side and the redhead with the ax. “Damn, I just got it back.” She cursed and winced slightly as she felt the ache from where Fable had smacked her away.
“Sorry, but no.” Fable grunted as she pulled the knife from her side and snarled at the pain it sent radiating through her. Having no real use for the blade Fable chucked it away as hard as she could in order to ensure Randi didn’t manage to get her hands on it again, or at least not during their fight.
Fable watched as the blonde shrugged at the response before launching herself forward again. She was right to think of Randi and Finn in the same way, both were charming and talkative, both were fast and deadly. She swiped out at the blonde, her blade missing but her knee connecting with Randi’s gut as she placed her weight on the ax which was currently driven into the ground. The petite blonde doubled over at the force of the impact and rolled to the side in order to get a heartbeats recovery from the redhead. Fable wouldn’t allow that though and lunged forward to tackle the blonde as they began to exchange blows.
It was clear that Randi had yet to catch onto the idea Fable had formed in her mind as she now went one on one in a fistfight with the dauntless-born girl. Neither of them having a weapon in their hand but Fable still having hers unknowingly in play on the battlefield. As the two females rolled and scuffled Randi managed to land a few blows to the spot she had stabbed earlier which sent waves of pain through Fable’s body. Fable had to do her best to ignore this though as she controlled their rolling back towards her ax. Once they were close enough Fable reached forward and took a solid grip on Randi’s shoulders, flipping so that Randi was now on top of her. A look of confusion passed over the blonde’s gaze as she couldn’t fathom why Fable would expose herself in such a way.
Fable’s reasonings became clear an instant later when she managed to get her legs between Randi and herself and kicked Randi backwards. From where they were on the ground it sent the firecracker of a blonde backwards and onto the blade of the double-sided battle-ax that protruded from the ground. Randi’s eyes widened as the blade split through her back and became embedded in her chest. Pain bloomed through her upper body as the simulated blade mimicked the pain of her bones, muscles, and organs being split apart. The pain lasted what felt like forever before finally, everything faded to black, and Randi lay limp on the ax blade.
Fable gasped for breath and sat up as quickly as she could with all her aches and pains. She looked over at the unconscious blonde and thanked any higher being listening that her plan had worked. She wasn’t sure how much longer she would have survived in that one on one but now she needed to worry about surviving the rest of the free for all. Getting to her feet she limped over to the blonde and pulled her off of her ax, moving her to the side. Wrapping her hands around the hilt of the double-sided battle-ax she gave it a solid yank and smiled as it came free of the ground. Turning her multicolored eyes studied the battlefield once more, hunting for her next fight.
Ghost // Male // Age 18 // Training Instructor // Erudite to Dauntless
Pain blazed through Ghost, his skin burning with it, knees trembling with it. The world had been reduced to a collection of watery lines blurring together, and when a dark, lithe shape approached him, he was half convinced it was the Angel of Death herself come to take him away and release him from his agony. A dull crash rang out when the angel reached his side. For a moment, Ghost thought it was the pounding of the bass from the dance floor, but this noise only came once, and it didn’t vibrate in his chest the same way that the bass did. Then he ascertained that the sound had risen up from the wood of Poppy and Maverick’s table. A splash of something cold touched the back of Ghost’s right hand. He blinked and struggled to focus, still clinging to the grooved edge of the table for support, still wondering at the appeal of spicy food. What kind of masochist would want to experience pain while they were eating? Who would knowingly order a dish that would make them cry?
Then the voice hit his ears, and he knew with a dreaded certainty that the whole thing must have been a fever dream, born from the wild fragments of his imagination. It was a voice as high and clear and musical as chimes singing on a breath of wind. Accompanying it was a faint aroma of roses, and Ghost’s heart jumped out of his stomach and into his throat in the space of half a second. Suddenly the amorphous outline of the dark figure was shrinking, as if she were rapidly retreating. Something frantic bubbled up inside of Ghost. With the feral desperation of a rabbit trying to claw its way out of a snare before hunters descended on it, he swiped at his teary eyes, forcing the world to resolve into focus through sheer strength of will. Then, as if fate were teasing him, he thought he caught a glimpse of Charlotte Stark’s cascading midnight ringlets moments before the surging crowd swallowed her, but he couldn’t be sure. Ghost knew he still wasn’t yet in complete control of his faculties, and this was just the kind of fantasy his scrambled brain would concoct. Or maybe it was a nightmare, if he wanted to consider the possibility that Charlie might have seen him choking and weeping at the height of human idiocy.
Ghost shifted his gaze down to the table, where Poppy was staring at him blankly, her lips parted as if she wanted to say something but unsure of what, and both of Maverick’s eyebrows were raised so high that they almost disappeared into his hairline. As Ghost watched, Maverick smothered something that could have, conceivably, been a cough into the crook of his elbow. A long, persistent cough. With a jolt of surprise, Ghost’s gaze settled on a pink mound of ice cream in an oblong glass that hadn’t been sitting on the table before his anonymous benefactor’s arrival. He numbly turned his hand over, examining where a patch of strawberry sundae had spattered across the back of it, and the cuff of his coat. Ghost picked up one of a wad of brown paper napkins and began to meticulously clean the area. “Was that…?” His voice sputtered and died like a broken car engine. Impatience flared through him, and he cleared his throat—or at least, as best as he could when his throat was still reliving the trauma of the fiery chicken wing he had downed in one bite. Louder, he asked, “Charlie?” trumpeting his voice to be heard over the roaring beats of the nightclub.
This elicited a small, solemn nod from Poppy. A flash of alarm pierced Ghost. So he really hadn’t been imagining things. His mind churned and wrestled with itself as he wondered what to do with this new piece of information. Absently, he plucked the maraschino cherry off the sundae as he thought, scraped the traces of whipped cream off it with a fingernail, and popped it into his mouth. While he was still curious as to what had prompted Poppy to kidnap him from the bar in the first place, Ghost knew when he had overstayed his welcome, and his prickly encounter with the two Dauntless-borns had only gone downhill. That, and he couldn’t just let Charlie walk away from him. Could he? No, of course not. He had to… pay her back for the sundae. Yes, that sounded about right. But Ghost would have to get moving if he hoped to catch up to her, because he’d lost her in the crowd a full thirty seconds ago. Maybe more.
Feeling disoriented from this new and impulsive plan of action, he turned to Poppy, pushing the soupy pink swirls of ice cream toward her. “Yours. Eating something will take the edge off the drink, which you dearly need,” he informed her, not wasting time to frame his opinions in a more diplomatic way. The seconds were draining away from him like blood from a sliced artery; time was not a luxury he had. Poppy continued to stare, giving no sign she had heard him. Her alarmingly dilated pupils were as large and dark as new moons. Ghost gave a sigh through clenched teeth, impatience practically seeping from him. “Miss Lycon,” he said softly, bending until he was eye level with her seated form. “I’m going to be direct with you. You’re a pretty girl, and you’re shit-faced. Quite evidently. No doubt there are all manner of nefarious men prowling this club at this very moment for easy prey such as yourself. Men who, regrettably, would not think twice about taking advantage of a woman who is not in control of herself.” Ghost gave a significant pause and let his eyes flicker toward Maverick, lounging lazily across from Poppy in the booth. “I strongly suggest that you take yourself back to the barracks while you are still conscious. Don’t make any pit stops along the way, and you’ll be just fine.”
He was afraid that his words had come out sharper than intended, but there was no time to fret over it. Besides, from Poppy’s vacant expression, it was something she probably needed to hear. Ghost unfolded to his full height, ignoring a painful protest from a bruise on the center of his chest, where Harper had kicked him during their duel. He turned a half step, gave Maverick a tight, silent nod, and waded into the thick knot of people congealed around the bar, the last place he had seen Charlie before her disappearance. Ghost felt a small thorn of regret, aware that the time he’d taken to have a heart-to-heart with Poppy might have cost him catching up with Charlie. The crowd only grew denser the further in Ghost went, until progress was painstakingly slow and he felt like he was being shoved one step back for every two steps forward. His external surroundings were reduced to a haze of clinking glasses, feathery hair accessories, sticky floors, over-exaggerated makeup, and sheathed bits of metal that caught the rainbow of light from the disco. Ghost forced himself to press on but felt his heart sink at the hopelessness of his task. Maybe if he tried—
His shoulder connected with the soft give of flesh. There was a lurch of uncoordinated motion as a woman in a low-cut dress of orange sequins careened into another woman in black latex. Ghost heard a shatter of glass even over the constant auto-tuned blare, and then the first woman’s sequin dress was darkened to a pale brown as the liquid from her broken glass spilled across her bodice. The woman turned around to see who had pushed her, her gaze finally settling on the blond man directly behind Ghost—standing where he had stood a second ago. In a flurry of rage, the woman in the sequin dress flounced up to the blond man, tapped him on the shoulder, and when she had his attention, balled her hand into a fist that connected with his jaw. The man hit the floor hard, and a chorus of shouts went up from a nearby group as the woman began hammering at him with her heeled feet. Ghost sucked in a sharp wince, wanting to apologize to both parties but not daring. Harper had beaten enough hell out of him for one day.
The fiasco that had begun with a woman in a ruined dress assaulting a wrongfully accused man was quickly evolving into a full-fledged brawl, punctuated with screeches of fury and flying fists and feet. Ghost scurried for the nearest exit as the Sauterelle turned into a maelstrom of chaos that men in blue staff vests tried and failed to rein in. Even without his guilt at starting a bar fight of legendary scale dampening his resolve, trying to find Charlie amid the sudden battleground was an exercise in futility. Ghost wondered where Poppy was in the room; whether she was still seated at her booth with Maverick or if she had gotten caught up in the fray. Ghost dryly reflected on the grim irony of the situation. It had been with his best intentions that he had told her to get up and leave the club, and then, because of his carelessness, Poppy might have gotten swept up into a fight that could leave her with lasting injuries. No good deed goes unpunished, Ghost thought bitterly as he reached an exit, at last. His intermittent heroics always had the most damnable timing.
He savored his first breath of clean, fresh air upon emerging from the nightclub, not realizing what a blessing such a basic ability was until he had reclaimed it. The flashing, overbright colors of the disco were still seared into his retinas, and Ghost blinked furiously in an attempt to adjust to the dim fluorescent lights. He sagged against one uneven, stony wall, overcome with a sudden wave of fatigue like a hard-run horse. And very nearly missed the shimmer of green cloth that vanished around the corner up ahead. Despite knowing better than to give in to the whimsy of his imagination, Ghost felt a brief flicker of hope. But a flicker was enough. A flicker of hope had won wars before, and some women were worth starting a war. Or in this case, a bar fight. Maybe it hadn’t all been for nothing.
Ghost didn’t remember issuing the order for his legs to run, but the moment he pushed off the wall, he exploded into motion. Nervous excitement popped and fizzled through him. Even if it was Charlie, she might turn him away, given her capricious moods of late. But nothing would definitely come of not trying at all. And Ghost was certain that if he could just talk to her, he could change her mind and smooth things over. Ideally. He rounded the corner, resenting the fact that he was forced to momentarily slow down so as to not crash into the wall, and struck his foot on a small mound protruding from the bumpy floor. Ghost caught his balance just in time to keep from falling on his face, even as pain splintered through his toes. His head snapped up and he locked on the woman halfway down the corridor, with matching moon and sun tattoos on her ankles and a waist tiny enough for a man to wrap his hands around and have his fingers nearly touch. Charlotte Stark spun around just as Ghost’s pounding footsteps closed the last stretch of distance between them, her sun-kissed complexion a shade paler than usual in her surprise.
He slammed to a sloppy halt just before he would have barreled into her, grinding the heels of his boots into the stone floor for traction. Charlie’s raised eyebrows slanted into an angry frown, and she made to recoil from him. Whether it was a reaction to Ghost’s sudden incoming or just to Ghost himself, he was unsure. Fear that Charlie would abandon him speared through him. “Hey, wait!” he cried, a note of desperation in his voice. Before she could take more than one step back, he reached out and latched onto her wrist, enveloping her hand between both of his and preventing escape. Ghost’s breath caught in his throat, and for a moment he just marveled at the soft, silken feel of Charlie’s skin, the perfect way that his hands gloved hers, and the knowledge that he did not want to let go, perhaps ever. Unable to say anything, Ghost just stared at her as stupidly as he had the very first time he saw her, filled with quiet awe and wonder. Yes. Charlie was a woman worthy of starting a war over, and ending one too. Ghost would battle a dozen clones of Harper all at once for her sake. Not that he could ever tell Charlie that, of course. Ghost knew he couldn’t tell her with the same unquestionable certainty that he knew he couldn’t eat a stone or walk through a wall. The universe just didn’t work that way.
It was a gradual process, the creeping knowledge that Charlie did not reciprocate his euphoria. In fact, she was glaring at him in a way that couldn’t have made that fact any more clear. Her eyes were molten, like everything inside of her was consumed with fire. Ghost recalled that same look on Leah’s face when he had lashed out at her for following him to his parents’ graves in Baneberry, and he briefly feared that a slap might be coming his way as it had then. He took it as a warning sign and backed off, retracting the pale bracelet his fingers made around Charlie’s wrist and retreating a full step. A flustered moment passed in which Ghost was at a loss for what to do with his hands before settling on crossing his arms tightly. His gaze flicked to the floor as self-consciousness washed over him. Ghost was almost never self-conscious. Normally his confidence was the kind that could move mountains; occasionally when he played cards he pulled off a stone-cold bluff relying on nothing other than his steely poker face, and then there was that one time in Baneberry when he had been dirt poor but managed to get a whole suit of clothes for almost free by pretending to be some wealthy politician’s imperious brat of a son.
Right now, though, Ghost did not have a sliver of doubt that Charlie would rather have an older, more mature man, or one that would not lose in an arm wrestle to most of the girls in the compound. Beneath Charlie’s penetrating stare, he felt frivolous and frail and foolish for ever thinking that she might find him attractive. It made no sense that she would even be remotely interested in a bookish pretty boy like Ghost when her dating history included a strapping hunk like Caspian who was Dauntless to his bones. What did Ghost think he could do, woo her with card magic and meaningless questions of philosophy? He had been alone for most of his life, and there was a reason for that. All of his relationships had been parasitic in nature; if Ghost wasn’t someone else’s liability, then chances were that they only chose to hang around him because they felt they had something to gain from it, and Ghost was too starved for attention to notice or care. All his life, he had been a performer capable of attracting an audience so long as he had some novel and shiny trick to flaunt. But the moment that the tricks ran out and there was nothing left to admire, his spectators dispersed. Charlie was no exception, clearly having outgrown the fleeting phase in which she had been impressed with Ghost.
Realizing that Charlie was still glaring up at him, waiting for him to say something, Ghost turned his thoughts to something more productive than feeling sorry for himself. Her question—though unasked—was a good one, and he paused again, stumped. Why had he hunted down Charlie with such need? What excuse did he have to talk to her this time? His decision to run after her had been completely unplanned and off script. When he knew an important encounter was approaching, Ghost typically tried to imagine the various routes the conversation would take ahead of time, in as many as two dozen different ways, and more than not, at least one of his guesses more or less hit the mark. Since his and Charlie’s less than cordial exchange in the simulation room early this morning, he had known this altercation was coming eventually, but he had wrongfully assumed that he would have more time to prepare for it—a lot more time.
Ghost was annoyed at his own incompetence. In an attempt to recover some of his lost dignity, he puffed his chest out like a rooster’s. The truth was, he had so many questions that he wasn't sure where to begin. Why had Charlie attacked him during the free-for-all and then thrown herself onto Harper’s blade for him? Had Caspian truly taken advantage of her as she had claimed this morning, and if so, why had she confided in Ghost something so painfully personal? Had she followed him all the way from the training arena to the Sauterelle? He supposed so; the alternative would have been too much a coincidence. Ghost felt a sour tang of self-loathing. There had once been a time when no one would have been able to sneak up on him within a hundred feet. Now, between Mercy and Charlie getting the jump on him in the same half-hour span, Ghost was losing his touch.
“I’ve been thinking of moving out of my apartment for a little while now," he finally said, cool and standoffish, still unsure what he was doing here but not wanting Charlie to know that. “Big personalities like Caspian’s are best tolerated in small doses, and I’ve had my fill of his.” Ghost punctuated this statement with a nonchalant shrug of his crossed arms. “You can join me at my new residence, if you want, I guess. In the event that, you know, you don’t want your parent constantly bothering you anymore,” he said, careful to use ambiguous language. If Ghost’s rendezvous in the barracks with Leah had taught him anything, it was that the walls in the Dauntless compound had ears—and sometimes eyes, as well. “That, and it would make communications between us much more efficient.” He added this part in a listless, almost bored tone, as if communicating with Charlie was at the very bottom of his list of priorities. “Sooo, what do you s—”
Charlie suddenly interrupted, asking in angry tones what us meant to him. So far, Ghost had been fumbling his way through the conversation with no particular plan, but he grew angry at the interjection nonetheless. Or maybe not so much at the interjection as the obscurity of Charlie’s question. He had no idea what she was talking about and wondered if she wasn’t deliberately trying to make him feel stupid. It reminded him of a nasty trick his father would sometimes play on him when Averill had wanted Ghost to feel small and ashamed: asking Ghost a rhetorical question, waiting until he answered and refusing to continue the conversation until he did, and then berating Ghost for answering what had obviously been a rhetorical question and why couldn’t Averill have had a son with a brain in his head. “Us is the object form of we,” Ghost replied sardonically, letting some of his irritation bleed through. “What is that supposed to mean?”
It turned out, Charlie must have meant a lot by her enigmatic comment, because she had a small diatribe in response. As he listened, Ghost felt all of his thoughts jam to a stop, piling atop one another like cars in a freeway crash. He tried to process each piece of information separately. Charlie was interested in some sort of us. Charlie enjoyed spending time with him. Charlie was willing to try something new, and they could do it Ghost’s way, but he needed to make a choice whether he was in or out. Ghost blinked, trying to absorb that last bit. Subsequently, any delight he might have felt at Charlie’s previous comments was smothered by confusion at this conclusion. Make a choice. In or out. Of what? Ghost thought helplessly. He looked into Charlie’s eyes for answers. They were as dark and bottomless as unsweetened coffee, and she was gazing at Ghost with an expression so intense that he struggled to place it. Without prompting, Charlie slowly stepped toward him, and Ghost glanced down to find that the backs of her knuckles were brushing his own. It was just a featherlight touch, but one that drove him crazy. Her closeness pressed the breath out of his chest, as if he’d suddenly been thrust deep underwater. And as simple as that, Ghost understood the choice Charlie was referring to.
He made a hasty list of pros and cons in his head, quickly reviewing his various fears and reservations holding him back from what Charlie was asking. Not having enough alone time to pursue his own goals and interests. Being trapped and deprived of the freedom that came with only ever having to please himself. And… Charlie getting close enough to see him low and vulnerable, much as Leah had earlier this morning during Ghost’s fearscape. Specifically, Charlie knowing how to make him vulnerable. Ghost was arrogant, but he was no fool. At least, not enough to think that he was untouchable. When it came down to it, he knew that he was just as weak as everyone else and could easily be broken under the right circumstances.
But if he refused Charlie’s request, then she might take it as a personal affront and want nothing to do with him from now on. Also, if he refused Charlie, then he knew there was a very high probability that Ghost would never in his life find the courage or desire to date another girl. This incident would set an ongoing pattern by which he would stick. Having had no lasting relationships in his life—even his seemingly inseparable bond with Leah had eventually cracked—it was hard to untangle his feelings of friendship for Charlie from possible romantic ones. And then of course there was the matter that Ghost saw himself as her protector of sorts ever since his confrontation with Jeremy. Was he confusing protecting with love? Was Charlie? Had Ghost liked that one brief taste of playing the hero so much that the remainder of his bond with Charlie was hinged on it? And yet, undermining every reason not to agree to Charlie’s deal was one trump card: If Ghost was… with her, then he would never need to find another lame excuse to talk to her again. He wouldn’t need a reason. He could do it just because he wanted to. Because he enjoyed her company. Because being near Charlie made him happy.
It occurred to him that he was thinking of this as a game he was trying to strategize his way through, to calculate the best odds to victory. Like he had during his duel with Harper. Ghost wasn’t sure what feelings an enamored young man was supposed to experience when looking at the object of his affections, yet Ghost was fairly sure that cold and detached analysis wasn’t it. But just because he didn’t know what to do now didn’t mean that he couldn’t learn or change for the better. Ghost was a gambler to his core. It was sickening, going into a showdown knowing there was a possibility that his deductions were wrong and his opponent might be holding the higher hand. It was maddening. It was addicting. Ghost would never have it any other way.
Charlie made a small noise in the back of her throat, prompting him for an answer. Anxiety flooded over Ghost, threatening to drown him. He just barely stopped himself from reflexively reaching inside his coat, for substances, for playing cards to fiddle with, for a knife to plunge into himself to check he wasn’t dreaming, for anything. His mind played a quick roulette wheel of potential responses, flipping through black, red, truth, lie, yes, no, and Ghost had no clue where the ball was going to land before it did. “You have a deal,” he said as if he were concluding a transaction. Profits and losses, giving up what you have to get what you want, were all things that Ghost understood. Unlike romance. By nature he was a gambler and a thief, a liar and a murderer… not a doting suitor. Yet he supposed that he had mastered harder concepts through study and practice. “I’m willing to try something—if you are, of course. But I’m going to need a lot of space. Just because I now have a… significant other doesn’t mean my other priorities suddenly cease to exist, understood?” Ghost’s ears filled with heat as he said that last part, and to detract from it he forced the beginnings of a fierce glare into his eyes. He would not let Charlie think him soft, because he was not soft. He would not mislead her.
His head was splitting, or at least it still felt like it was. Before his eyes were even open, he was doing everything he could to hide the pain that still pounded in his skull from where Vex had slowly pressed the point of her sword into his head. He had been through a lot of pain in his life, but that sort of agony was like nothing he had ever witnessed before. Through the sensation of his brain feeling split in two, the young man could sense something else, or rather, someone else. Thick lashes parted as Thorn’s eyes slowly opened and fell upon Charlie, despite his pain his lips pulled into a smile at the sight of her, he was a natural at smiling through the pain though she always made it easy.
Slowly and with great difficulty as the world spun around him, Thorn managed to sit up on the cot beside Charlie, his hands holding the surface beneath him to keep from falling over as he regained his senses. He heard her start to ask him a question that he heard all too often due to his home life, but she suddenly stopped when she seemed to realize that he would say he was fine even when he wasn’t. For a moment he worried he had done something to offend her, perhaps he was too close for comfort, her eyes had left his and were not focused on the floor as she seemed to be filing through many thoughts within her. He wondered if he should give her room, maybe see if she needed him to do anything, he wasn’t sure what but he wanted to do whatever made her most at ease. When she finally spoke, and he noticed her hand tailing up to the pendent he made her his anxiety eased slightly. “You deserve it.” He replied simply, a genuine smile pulling at his lips as he looked at her.
As she continued to speak her words warmed the young, freckled boys’ soul. She was so kind, so sweet, everything about her felt so genuine. These were all qualities Thorn admired and appreciated since so many he knew growing up did not share such traits. He knew he was younger than her but spending time with the dark-haired medic always left him feeling less alone, like she was the friend he had always hoped for. He wasn’t sure if she felt the same and didn’t want to make it awkward if she didn’t so he just appreciated what time they had together rather than getting greedy for more. At the suggestion of him teaching her how to make jewelry such as the pendant Thorn’s eyes lit up. “I-if you really want to, I would love to show you how.” He admitted, stuttering slightly due to the surprise and excitement that hit him like a tidal wave.
After a moment more of discussing the idea of teaching her to smith jewelry, Thorn noticed Charlie’s attention diverting elsewhere. It wasn’t out of boredom but rather that her instincts as a protector and healer seemed to have kicked in as she became aware of those falling on the battlefield nearby. With Charlie’s acknowledgment of the duty, she had to fulfill Thorn had been already willing to offer his aid so when she asked if he would care to join her the young man was practically already on his feet. Three others had fallen since he had regained consciousness, each experiencing their own version of death at the hands of another initiate. Some looked far more gruesome than others, but each seemed harsh in its own way. From the looks of it, Aubrey and Finn had fallen not too far from one another. Seeing that Charlie was already on the move towards Leah the young initiate took it upon himself to fetch the other two. As he entered the battlefield once more, he kept an eye out for the chilling form of Vex but it seemed she was nowhere to be seen, a comforting and also terrifying observation. The clanging of weapons caused the pain in his head to almost triple and feel like a dozen hot knives were cutting into his brain. Pushing through the pain the surprisingly strong young man made quick work of retrieving Aubrey’s body and gently placing it on a cot before returning to scoop up Finn. Neither of the initiates felt like they weighed all that much but then again Thorn was used to lugging far heavier crafting materials around in his forge. Compared to the heavy metal and tools he handled almost daily, Finn and Aubrey were a piece of cake.
After making sure Finn and Aubrey were both safe on their cots Thorn turned to continue helping Charlie only to find her safely returning with Leah in her arms. He stepped forward to help the medic but stopped when he realized she was able to get the unconscious girl onto the cot all on her own. He was about to ask her if there was anything else he could do to help but stopped when he noticed Mercy’s return. He gave the young transfer a friendly nod of greeting before waving to Charlie as she departed the scene. “Be safe.” He called after her out of instinct and knowing how crazy things could be around here.
Looking around for a moment Thorn shuffled his feet. He wasn’t sure what he was supposed to be doing now but he did know that he wanted to be useful. Looking at Mercy who was not talking with a newly awoken Leah the young man crouched down. “Hey Leah, how are you feeling?” He asked softly, not wanting to hurt her head if she had been taken out by a head injury like he had. Looking at Mercy he added, “Is there anything I can do to help?”
Charlotte "Charlie" Stark || 20 || Medic || Dauntlessborn
Charlie slowly ate her strawberry ice cream sundae, relishing each spoonful that she put in the mouth. The ice cream was slowly melting and so it was at the perfect consistency that meant it was soft to the touch and melted like butter on the tongue. The strawberry flavour was a tad overpowering, so Charlie was grateful for the cream and dark chocolate chips that were scattered on top. Although her taste buds were thankful for the delightful treat, her stomach growled in irritancy as it complained that she had not fed it anything sustaining today. She knew she should eat more but she had eaten far less and she knew she would be fine, it wasn't like she was one of the initiates and constantly fighting to stay alive and in the Dauntless compound. Charlie dropped the disposable ice cream container into a nearby bin as she continued her walking and her thoughts, this was her home, as painful and unpleasant as it could be, and she didn't have to worry about being kicked out, she simply had to worry about seeing her father, and thanks to Ghost she knew that was covered now. As if thinking the name of her fellow trainer was a summoning spell, Charlie was suddenly aware of pounding feet on the floor behind her, and she spun around in order to not be run into by whomever it might be, which of course, happened to be Ghost. What a coincidence that he was running this way, Charlie took a step back as she was scared he would barrel into her... oh no... not a coincidence. Charlie was acutely aware as Ghost's hand whipped forward, his fingers tightly encircling her wrist and keeping her in place. He asked her to wait, wait for what? For him? Did he want to walk with her? Talk with her? Ask her something? Tell her something? Berate her? Deny something? Charlie did nothing to move, nor did she try to take her hand out of his... admittedly she sort of liked the feeling but she felt annoyed at herself for doing so. So instead she stood there, mouth pressed into a thin line and eyes glaring at Ghost with an obvious question inside them. What do you want?
Did he even know what he wanted? Ghost finally let go of her wrist and she immediately replaced the empty space with her own hand, holding her hands together in front of her as she looked up at Ghost. He seemed unsure of himself, an odd sight to be sure, as he was well known for being too sure of himself. Charlie would have laughed at this, if she was not suspicious of his ulterior motives for following her. After everything that had happened between them she was so confused and tired of trying to figure him out. One moment he seemed to hate her, the next he would avoid her, the next he would give her flowers, then yell at her, then he would make fun of her, then he would watch her from afar with gorgeous sepia eyes, then he would... well.. kiss her... Then he would kiss her some more... Then avoid her again, then save her from her father, then... Well... whatever the hell their "relationship" was for the last few weeks. Small dates and make out sessions in quiet areas, walking each other home, a smile there, a touch here, a kind gesture there... Then Leah. Then that conversation. Charlie's expression darkened as she waited for Ghost's response, she felt immense guilt for sharing her story about Caspian, it wasn't Ghost's place to know and she knew that it was unfair to Caspian. The truth was the truth, but it was a long time in the past. She had just gotten so upset and so frustrated that Ghost would hold her "sleeping" with Caspian so close to himself and as a reason to berate her. She hated that.
Had Ghost truly not spoken yet? Charlie could have sworn that minutes had gone by, and the silence between them was almost palpable, as if she could open her mouth and taste the... Actually.. Charlie's lips parted and a curious and investigative look arrived on her face. She could taste it... Not the silence but that strange... sweet smell that she had smelled on Ghost once before, and tasted on his lips a couple of times. She had never been able to place the smell and taste to anything she knew. Until now. She took a small but deep breath, and her brain seemed to unlock a secret passage. That smell was the exact same smell that she had smelled on Christian.
Christian, the poor boy who had suffered with terrible anger management issues, who had been on such drugs that caused him to be almost a lifeless mannequin, had overdosed on a drug recently, and through doing so was no addicted to the stuff, in such a way that he needed it to survive. Phillip ha come to her with the news, alongside Christian himself. She had inspected this drug at the time, and kept a supply just for Christian locked away in her infirmary where nobody but her could get to. But that smell, it was distinctly the smell that emanated off of the large, blonde, Parks boy. And that smell was exactly the same smell that she could smell right now that was coming off of Ghost. He wasn't on the stuff too, was he? She knew that could get him in so much trouble, and it was so unhealthy... Christian was deadly addicted to it now, and she imagined how it could be if Ghost was the same, that feeling caused her heart to skip a beat, her face paling slightly as she imagined the thought of Ghost dying so young. No... She began to chew the inside of her lip as she wondered how she could find out, could she simply ask? He surely wouldn't just tell her...
Wait... What did he just say? He was moving out from Caspian's apartment? Charlie blinked her dark brown eyes in surprise. That had not been what she was expecting from that prolonged silence. Had he run all the way here just to tell her that? She didn't say a word, but simply stood there waiting for him to finish. He spoke upon his reasons slightly, and then mentioned that she could move in with him. She wanted to laugh at this point, and yet her expression remained the same stoic position she had kept this entire conversation. He was asking for her to move in with him? That was... really thoughtful, if it had come from anyone except Ghost. Because as soon as he made a nice and thoughtful gesture he had to ruin it by making light of the reasons why... Which he did immediately, as per usual.
Charlie cut in as soon as Ghost said the word "us". "Hold on a minute. What do you mean by us?" She said, admittedly with more harsh coldness than she usually would speak by. But she was very much wanting an answer to this question. Ghost had not made much effort to keep a relationship of any kind afloat, and seemed to enjoy the aspect of "take what you want, and give when you feel like it", or "Give when it works best for you, not them". Although the idea of moving in with Ghost and being safe from her father actually made Charlie's body shiver with warmth and excitement, she crossed her arms, waiting for Ghost to answer. He frowned, obviously annoyed by her interruption and question, and answered so straightforwardly she actually laughed, or made a slight hiccup sound from surprise. "You know, for someone who prides themselves on their wit and cunning you seem to have misunderstood my previous question with incredible candor." Charlie stated, taking a small but deep breath again, as she tried to untie the knots of feelings and thoughts within her brain. "What I meant by that question, is what is this thing between us? Because I am interested, in something, happening with... us. I like... uh... I like being with you and I enjoy the time we spend together, I would like to do that more and I am not so privileged and highly strung to declare what that must look like, or give you a bunch of rules to follow... I want to try, but the choice is yours... either you're in or out, I don't want to be dragged along like a wounded dog where you want, and left behind when you're done." Charlie ended this sentence by hissing in a breath through her teeth. She had never spoken so brashly towards Ghost before, and she was very aware of the fact that doing so often caused him to blow up at whoever did talk to him like that. She gently gnawed at the skin inside her cheek as she waited for his answer and stepped closer to him boldly, wanting to signal her views in a physical way as well as verbal, letting her hand gently brush again his and looking up at him determinedly. The silence was nearly unbearable. He wasn't going to accept... Her heart dropped.
Deal... Deal? Charlie's heart skipped and she was nearly unable to stop herself from grinning childishly. Wait... did Ghost just.. She waited as he finished his sentence, laying down a ground rule. Just because they would now be... in a type of relationship didn't mean she controlled him. She nodded almost too enthusiastically. "Of course. I wouldn't dream of taking away your space or freedom." She breathed, almost purred, heart pounding like a beat to a song inside her chest. Ghost was flushing on his cheeks, she imagined she was too. They still stood very close to each other and for a moment, a long moment, neither really spoke, they simply stood and stared into each others eyes, searching for that truth that inside of each other there was a longing, no matter how big or small, for the other. Their hands still hovered next to each others, not touching but so close that one could almost feel it. They may have stood that way for a while if not for the interruption of someone walking around the corner, and breaking the almost frozen stare that the two had been standing in. Charlie and Ghost both flushed, embarrassed, as if they'd been caught in some odd position, but the person simply walked by without even giving them a second glance. Charlie mulled over what she wanted, she wanted to ask Ghost about that smell, about that drug. How... He would be unlikely to tell her the truth in public spaces, so she wondered if he would do so in private. "Walk with me." She said softly, looking at Ghost to see if he would, he seemed to think about it, but eventually relented and fell into step beside her, as they walked down the hallway. Charlie felt jittery, like her body was full of a thousand tiny bees all buzzing inside of her. She wondered if Ghost felt the same or if he was feeling a different feeling... Whatever it was, she was simply excited for this new step in her life, or their life? Yikes she didn't want to take it so seriously as if they were married or moving in together, except... she supposed they might move in together, as Ghost had just offered such a thing to her.
Nobody was nearby, so she decided to broach the subject of the drug to Ghost, wanting desperately to know. "Ghost... Have you taken any medication recently?" She asked and quickly looked towards him for any telltale sign that he might quickly lie. The only thing she saw was surprise at her question, whether that be surprise because of how absurd it was, or because it was true and he was shocked at how she could know. Whatever the look was, it darkened his features and he told her no, asking her why she would ask. "You just recovered so quickly from your fight, and from what I've seen you recover very quickly from many injuries, I was wondering if it was some medication you took, but if you insist that you haven't taken any medication.." Ghost was quick to assure her that he didn't, but was simply proficient in hiding pain, she mulled that over in her head. Did she believe him? In part yes, but also no. She believed he was good at hiding things such as pain, but also she knew that he was good at hiding the truth too. The two of them fell silent again, until Charlie noticed a familiar looking electrical storage area, and she couldn't stop a blush and a silly grin from appearing on her face. She reached out, her fingers lacing with Ghost's, and clasped onto his hand. She pulled him forward with her, and opened the storage unit, stepping inside with him and before he could complain she shut the door. Giggling slightly she reached around, finally finding a switch to turn on a very very dull light that hardly illuminated a thing. "Remember this?" She asked, stepping close to Ghost and looking up at him. "This is sort of where it all started for us... Would you... I don't know... want to... you know..." Charlie blushed a deep scarlet red, suddenly feeling very very awkward and shy, she looked down at the floor, what was she doing? Trying to seduce Ghost? Kiss him? Well yes... she did really want to kiss him. She also wanted to see if she could find anything on him... if he was on that drug she really really wanted him to stop. It was deadly. He needed to stop using it before he got addicted like Christian. She bit her lip, glancing back up at Ghost through her long eyelashes.
Aubrey Amber Stark || 16 || Initiate || Dauntlessborn
"Well finally!" Aubrey laughed as Night finally joined the at the disqualified area. "Took your sweet time didn't you? Nah me and Finn just died at the same time, though I wish we took each other out! That would have been hilarious and iconic. I'm not sure who got me, someone hit me in the back while I was fighting Randi and so I just blacked out, must have used some knife or something, next thing I knew I was waking up over here. Stupid... I really wanted to win that fight and I was doing so well against Harper and Randi... But oh well... Yeah let's get drinks! I guess I do have to pay huh, fair's fair..." Aubrey chattered as she simultaneously hopped off of the cot and began to stretch her body out, still feeling that awful pain throb in her back. Whatever had gotten her out had really left a mark, and she wondered if someone had used a real weapon rather than a holographic one. She decided it didn't matter, what wouldn't kill her would probably make her stronger. She looked at the two boys next to her and linked her arm with each of theirs. "Come on! Drinks are on me!" She chimed as she dragged the two, willing or not, towards the exit. Once they got there she let go and began to hum softly under her breath as she thought of something to talk about, not usually being one to be speechless. "I saw your fight with Indira at least for a moment Night, she's a bit of a nightmare sometimes... She has this weird fascination with knives and hurting people that's sort of cruel. I mean I love fights and squabbles as much as the next person but she really gets into it, sorta disgusting sometimes. She's also obsessed with Chris, she used to date him.. You put up a good fight though, I think you would have gotten her if she hadn't have been using knives, they're sort of her specialty, like mine, I love knives, Caspian would teach me when I was a kid, and they were always what I was best at." Aubrey chattered on as the two boys beside her walked with her silently, well if neither of them had anything to say, she had no worried with keeping conversation.
"How about you Night? What has been your favourite weapon, or style of fighting? Guns.. Hand to hand.. knives... one on one or group fights, or free for alls like today? There are so many types!" Aubrey looked at Night with curiosity, watching as he answered and nodding along to what he said. It was always very interesting hearing from the transfer initiates on what they liked doing. She knew that she loved fights off all kinds, though knives and hand to hand were her favourites, and she loved one on one fights, or two on two... rather than free for all's. As she listened to Night they got closer to the nearby bar, and she began to skip girlishly, excited for some alcohol to wash away the throbbing in her back, and the memories of the fear serums she had taken the day before and the knowledge that they'd have to take more tomorrow. "Damn I wish we could do this everyday rather than the stupid fear simulations. Or at least pit us against ACTUAL things to fight in our fear simulation. I mean, how is putting me in a dark room going to help me at all in Dauntless? Give me a man twice my size for me to take down and I would easily excel." Aubrey ranted on as she opened the doors to the bar, soaking in the warmer atmosphere, the pounding music and the smell of alcohol. "Home sweet home. Come on boys, drinks are on me remember!" She chimed, grabbing both their hands and running to the bar, letting go simply to vault onto the seat and make eyes at the bartender, waiting for him to notice. When he turned around she laughed. "Asher!" She said with a loud happy voice, causing a similar "Aubrey!" to come from his. The broad shouldered Parks boy reached over, grabbing Aubrey out of her seat and pulling her into a bear hug, that soon turned into a silly wrestling match where Aubrey managed to climb onto Asher's back and wrap her arms around his neck. They both giggled like silly little girls before Aubrey finally skipped back over to the side the boys were on and proceeded to introduce Night. "Night! This is Asher, Parks, he's Chris's older brother... Or one of them, Chris has heaps of siblings.. like.... how many? Um.... like 6 or 7 I don't know! So many..." Aubrey laughed loudly as she swung around on her barstool, blonde hair whisking out and whipping the boys in the face. "Sorry! Okay Asher, let's have something fun to drink and something yum to drink! I'm buying!" Aubrey grinned almost evilly, excited for that drink to come.
Asher nodded, and immediately began mixing something up for them. While he did he poured them a shot of Whiskey, explaining to them that it might not taste good but it would be fun. Aubrey grabbed at hers, immediately slamming it back and sculling the whole thing down. She grinned as it burned her throat, a familiarly happy feeling. "mmmmm.... Just what we needed... what have we got next Asher?" She asked. Asher winked as he finished up the next drinks and placed one in front of each of them. "And just for you Aub's, I'm putting the next song on to go with the drink, enjoy." Aubrey's eyes widened as she sipped at the drink, immediately getting the flavours of pineapple and coconut... Then soon enough, a song began playing in the club. "I was tired of my lady... we'd been together too long..." Aubrey jumped up, her half drunk Pina Colada sitting on the bench. "Asher I LOVE this song! Come boys let's dance!!!" She quickly whisked off before either boy could answer her and began dancing on the dance floor. Yelling out the lyrics of the chorus. "IF YOU LIKE PINA COLADAS! AND GETTING CAUGHT IN THE RAIN. IF YOU'RE NOT INTO YOGA. IF YOU HAVE HALF A BRAIN. IF YOU LIKE MAKING LOVE AT MIDNIGHT, IN THE DUNES ON THE CAPE, THEN I'M THE LOVE THAT YOU LOOKED FOR, COME WITH ME AND ESCAPE!" Aubrey giggled as Finn and Night joined her on the dance floor, grabbing onto Finn's hand and using the momentum to spin around him, clumsily bumping into his chest in the meanwhile. She kept dancing and singing, hoping to erase her fears and ejoy the time she had.
Christian "Chris" Parks || 16 || Initiate || Dauntlessborn
The free for all was slowly coming to a stop, but Christian was still out there. He was mad, very angry, because Blair was missing and that probably meant that somebody had taken her out while he was gone. That was EXACTLY what wasn't supposed to happen! He was supposed to have looked after and protected her. Especially after they had seen poor Ben's body draped over the rocks like a blanket. Chris felt his vision darken as he continued to make his way through the people. He didn't know who he was taking out at this point. One dauntlessborn there, another transfer there, one after the other they fell beneath him like lego men under the foot of an oblivious dad. It wasn't until he noted Indira that he REALLY wanted to take someone out. He made his way over, only to stop when he noticed that she was toe to toe with Harper already. Indira was good, but did she really think she was good enough to take out Harper Day? Chris still made his way towards them, but only to watch as Indira was taken out spectacularly by Harper. He laughed slightly, chuckling. "Sort of a pity, I was hoping to do that myself." He said, resisting the urge to kick Indira while she was unconscious and down. That was... unkind, even for him. He looked at Harper, and shrugged, realizing there was only a few of them left. Harper, Himself and Fable, well... Fable was fighting Randi so one of them would be out soon, but Chris wasn't interested in them.
His hand still stung fro catching Leah's sword before, but thankful that it was a fake cut and not real, Chris was able to mostly ignore the pain. He shrugged his shoulders, getting ready to charge at Harper, before noticing that she herself also had a sword. He wasn't sure he could take out another person with a sword, so he made a last minute decision to grab a nearby weapon, even though he was not particularly good at weapons. He frowned as he held it in his hands, a mace was not too bad of a weapon, it was heavy and painful, but it wasn't too big so it felt like an extension of the hand. He doubted anyone had used one well this fight as they were difficult to use, so he hoped he would do it well. He faced Harper again, only to hiss in surprise as she was almost atop him, having obviously decided to take him by surprise. Christian was nearly not fast enough, and may have been taken out then and there, as Harper's sword aimed for the soft skin on his neck. However Chris was quite a bit taller than Harper, and was able to spin, causing the sword to instead hit his shoulder and swing Harper's body off to the side from the impact. Chris felt the sting of the sword and bit his tongue to stop from swearing. That had been stupid to be thinking that Harper wouldn't attack him so quickly.
Chris wielded the mace in one hand, and his fist was balled in the other, as he had grabbed Leah's sword with his hand, he knew he wouldn't be able to hold onto anything with it, so he only was able to use one weapon and not two. However that was enough. Christian did not feel like smiling today, even though he might have in a usual battle. He was mad at Blair's disappearance and angry that he had failed her today. That anger and disappointment spurred him on as he and Harper faced each other. Christian couldn't be bothered waiting, and he charged at Harper, knowing full well that it actually gave her the advantage. She was able to dodge his charge, easily rapping him painfully with her sword, but what he was able to do with his charge, was swing his arm low with the mace, causing it to hit one of her legs in full force. If that were a real mace and a real battle, it's possible that might have broken her leg, shattered the bone, but it was not real, and was likely something like a baseball bat if anything. She dropped for a second, as pain would have emanated all over her knee, but recovered quickly. She now had to favour that leg though, and Chris had a target. He just had to avoid the sword stabbing or slicing him in a spot that would kill him. That... was hard but not impossible. Chris steeled himself, slightly lowering his body so that he was more grounded. He and Harper stared at each other, but it was obvious that Harper was not going to make the first move, she was too injured to do that. Chris knew he shouldn't either, but he wanted to.
Christian let out a grunt of frustration as he charged at Harper again, though this time he squared his shoulders and protected his head with his hands, barreling straight into where Harper should have been, but he was surprised that she had moved so quickly out of the way. He yelped as her sword stabbed into his side, causing immense pain and making him fall to his knees in weakness and pain. Harper grinned at what seemed to be Chris's stupidity, but he wasn't done yet. As Harper lunged with her good leg to take him out, he feinted, falling backwards so that her sword sailed above his nose, barely missing, as he simultaneously kicked out with his leg at the knee which he had smashed with the mace. Harper made a sound of agonising pain but it was muffled by her will to stay strong. Chris knew he had to move quickly or else he would be taken out, knowing it was daft he rolled into her legs, feeling as her sword had easy access to his back, he hoped that his momentum would stop her being able to penetrate the skin. Since he was not unconscious, even though his back felt like fire, he surmised that he had in fact stopped her from stabbing him, rather it feels like she had sliced at it his back relentlessly. He grimaced as he grabbed her waist, pinning her to the ground and using his leg to pin her sword, the sharp edges stabbing into the skin of his leg. But she couldn't lift it. He didn't like this position though, it felt awkward and wrong. She took his hesitation too easily though, and her hand slammed forward, hitting him in the throat, causing him to roll off of her, right onto her sword. Damn that hurt. She rolled up onto her feet and in a second they had traded weapons, although Chris still was lying on her sword, she had grabbed his mace. As she went to take him out though, Chris rolled into her legs, picking the sword up as he did so and plunging into her belly.
The satisfying feeling of her body slumping onto his, causing him to have to slowly push her off of him, was enough to tell Chris that he had managed to take her out. He slowly stood up, his entire body sore and battered. Now... had Randi won or had Fable? He looked up to see.
Finn waved as Night approached them, happy to see the other young man was in a good mood. It seems he had lasted longer than either of them- or had just taken a long time getting over here. Still, the sting of defeat was something he couldn't ignore. Finn tried to keep his eyes off the battlefield, wishing desperately to still be out there.
"Sadly, no. Although I totally would have gotten you first!" He crowed with a grin, punching her shoulder, "And yeah, I'm pretty sure she's buying. Since, y'know, what happened earlier." Their race seemed a distant event now, like something he'd done the other day rather than a few hours ago. He wondered if time would always just keep getting faster and faster in life. "You a lightweight, Night? Aubrey here can outdrink any guy I know. So don't ever volunteer to pay for hers, alright? Always a losing game."
They walked, Aubrey and Night chatting on about their favorite weapons and fighting styles. Finn was a little hurt to not be included, then realized Aubrey already knew all of that about him. Duh. Just as he knew hers. They reached the bar and a familiar face greeted them from behind it. Finn offered a wave and a smile as Aubrey launched herself at the Parks boy, giggling. Finn frowned at the sight. Was she just like this with every guy? Flirty, touchy, happy? He pushed the thought away and sat down beside Night. His eyes roved over the choices. Hmm... some kind of crisp cider sounded good right about now. He told Asher so, and sipped on what he was given as Aubrey continued her little show. She burst into song as Asher put on a familiar tune, and to Finn's surprise, drug him out onto the dance floor. She used him to spin, a laughing, fiery mess of red hair. She looked so happy, so innocent there. Not at all like she could kill a fully grown man in a few seconds. Finn found himself laughing as well, reaching out to grab her hand as the two twirled and shook across the room.
With Indira out of the way, she could move on to Chris. The boy seemed to be taking things casually, even laughing as he watched Indira hit the floor. Perfect. Oblivious. Harper exploded into an attack, landing a solid hit to his shoulder. She had been aiming for his neck, but even a tall girl like herself was not the best fitted against a larger man. Chris seemed a little off, as well. Angrier than usual. Harper knew the Parks boys well, and wondered what could have happened to make the young loverboy so upset. Relationship issues, perhaps?
Their fight flurried on, his mace a powerful weapon she had not been expecting. Her leg definitely would have been shattered in a real fight. Chris took advantage of his weapon and size to constantly beat her down, her quick attacks growing slower and slower. If only Ghost hadn't worn her out! Harper knew she was stronger than this. Still, the young man was able to catch her in a single moment of weakness, feinting, then coming back in a quick stab to the stomach. Harper gasped in pain, feeling her body already losing its movements. She hated this. Would she really defeat Ghost only to fall to Chris Parks? She fell to the ground, noticing Chris got up and moved own quickly. He didn't even care. Kudos to him, she supposed, as her eyes closed.
Harper awoke faster than most, swinging her arm around in a wide circle to ward anyone off. Especially Mercy. She resisted the urge to glare at him as she got herself up and off of the mat, limping to the edge where other initiates lay resting.
Ghost // Male // Age 18 // Training Instructor // Erudite to Dauntless
The raw nature of Charlie’s question caught Ghost entirely off his guard. He had been expecting declarations of love, terms and conditions of their new relationship, a reprimand for what had taken him so long to make up his mind. But this sudden, thinly-disguised accusation completely unbalanced him, and he nearly stopped dead in his tracks. You’re sick, rang a voice in his ears, a few octaves lower than Charlie’s. First Mercy, then Ghost’s newly proclaimed beloved, both within a half-hour span. In the wake of Charlie’s question, the silence of the hallway felt oppressive. It was a thief’s quiet, coiled, lying in wait. Ghost felt a cold sweat break out over his body. Act naturally. God, what the hell was natural in this situation? Was it commonplace for girls to immediately inquire into their boyfriend’s medical record? “Unless you’re counting absurd amounts of caffeine to endure the early mornings, then no, I’m afraid not,” he said lightly, almost playfully. Ghost might have looked away as he told the lie, if not for the fact that the memory of his encounter with Mercy in the restroom was fresh in his mind. Ghost had looked away then, caught himself after it was too late, and berated himself when it was clear that Mercy hadn’t bought his act.
“If you don’t mind me asking,” Ghost said as casually as he could manage, “what makes you ask?” Two close calls in one day was too much a coincidence. With Mercy, Ghost could see the younger boy’s logic; Ghost had plodded out of the training arena in a semiconscious daze, bumping into walls and doors. It had been the moments before he’d taken a dose, and one could plainly see that he was flagging. But now? Ghost felt as fine as he ever did, exhibiting no obvious signs of illness. Or at least, none that he was aware of. So why had Charlie called him out on medicating? That word, medication. Ghost repressed a shiver at it. It was the mild euphemism that he and Caspian used to refer to the drug that was leaching away at his life, day by day. Ghost could go forever without ever hearing that word again, and it’d still be too soon.
Charlie shrugged Ghost’s question away, seemingly nonchalant. He narrowed his eyes, trying to catch some sort of tell that would give away an ulterior motive. But he and Charlie were walking down a hallway, so she had a good excuse not to meet his gaze, and she didn’t freeze up the way she did whenever someone pointed out her bruises. Ghost’s analysis came up inconclusive. He didn’t have time to fret over it, though, because just then Charlie launched a counterattack of her own, insinuating that his recovery from injuries was too fast to be natural. “Well,” Ghost said to buy some time, hoping his pause seemed natural, “what do I stand to gain from crying over them? That’s not exactly the way to a winning reputation here in Dauntless.” Relief poured over him, and despite being irreligious, Ghost thanked every angel and saint up above for his quick wit and smooth tongue.
Mercifully, Charlie dropped the subject as their aimless strolling brought them to an electrical closet with a glaring yellow sign that read keep out! in capital letters. Charlie giggled girlishly and shot Ghost a mischievous glance from the corner of her eye. Suddenly her hand was entwined with his and the other was tugging the closet door open, and before Ghost could rattle off a question or protest, she was pulling him inside the cool, moist darkness of the closet. It smelled of metal and dust and long-forgotten secrets. When Charlie shut the door the only thing warding off complete darkness was the dim glow trickling past the door’s edges. Ghost was reeling in surprise from Charlie’s abandonment of her usual inhibitions but unsure how to phrase this observation in a way that would be polite. That, and he didn’t want her to take it wrong and think he was criticizing her. It would do Charlie some good to not be so restrained all the time.
There was the click of a light bulb chain, and a warm slice of yellow light cut through the dark. Ghost blinked furiously, his eyes still scrambling to adjust to the sudden blackness. Charlie bloomed into little more than a silhouette before him, and he could just barely see the way her whiskey eyes sparkled. There was a nostalgic lilt to her voice as she asked him if he remembered a similar setting from their mutual, not-too-distant past. Ghost felt his face contort into a wild-eyed look that was only partly desire. “H-how could I forget?” he stammered, not quite reciprocating Charlie’s sentimentality. Despite the overall positive outcome that had come from the night of the Visiting Day party, the moments leading up to Charlie and him kissing in a closet had been some of the most flustered, reckless, and utterly stupid of his life. Ghost had never been drunk before, not including the occasional buzz from the dark liquors that always populated the fridge he shared with Caspian, and that night he had been smashed beyond all semblance of sensibility. The knowledge that Ghost was not in control of himself had been terrifying but futile. Standing in the dark of a similar closet, three weeks after the fact, he renewed his vow to never touch another drop of the vile stuff again. No matter what.
Desperately wanting to change the topic, he blurted, “Does one usually turn the light on for this sort of thing?” It was a question he had been curious about ever since Charlie had first turned the light bulb on; light never accompanied the breathless sighs that filtered out from behind Caspian’s closed bedroom door when he brought an overnight guest back to the apartment. Unfortunately, Ghost had fired off his question before he had given it due consideration and realized how transparent it made his complete lack of experience. He dearly hoped that the darkness was too thick for Charlie to see how his face was burning.
Charlie made a fidgeting motion with her fingers before replying, and Ghost wondered why she should feel self-conscious in the wake of such an improper question. He was the one who had asked it, after all. Staring at the floor, Charlie answered that Jeremy was responsible for having instilled a fear of the dark in her at an early age. Ghost detected a nervous quaver in her voice but figured it was only natural for her to feel that way when thinking of the scum who had abused her for years and covered it up. “I see.” Ghost nodded his understanding. During his nightly excursions in Baneberry, it wasn’t uncommon for gunshots, screams for help, and cars screeching around corners to puncture the darkness. Upon transferring to Dauntless, it had taken him months to shake the habit of reaching for a weapon each time a shadow moved.
Charlie’s newfound confidence dissipated in the wake of Ghost’s question. She stuttered an amalgam of half-complete thoughts in a way that made him catch his breath and watch the movement of her plump lips intently. Charlie was adorable when she was flustered, and Ghost wondered whether she was aware of it and purposely played the part. To spare her further discomfort, Ghost slowly leaned in, rested his hands on her hips, and gently touched his lips to the corner of her mouth. Now that he was aware of how Caspian had taken advantage of Charlie, it was hard to kiss her without feeling awkward, and Ghost was keenly aware of the possibility of breaching her limits. It was like recklessly handling a tawdry old necklace before finding out that it was a family heirloom worth more than your house. He handled Charlie with a delicate, almost reverent touch, probing the soft curves of her hips with his fingertips and deciding he liked their feel. It wasn’t until Charlie had shifted her mouth to slant across Ghost’s and was kissing him back in earnest that he found the courage to get bolder with his touches.
Slowly, teasingly, he brushed his hand up Charlie’s flank, tracing the shape of her until he came to caress her neck. He felt a delicious shiver resonate through her body, and Ghost tried not to smile against Charlie’s lips, feeling profoundly rewarded. He might have been painfully new at this, but he was a quick study, and he was determined to impress her. Spurred on by the hammering of her pulse beneath his thumb, Ghost gently took her lower lip between his teeth and chewed at the glossy enamel of her chapstick. He slid both hands to her biceps and slowly walked Charlie back until she was sandwiched between the wall at her back and Ghost at her front, and she gave another little gasp as his firmer chest pressed against her softer one. He relished the sound of it, using it as a benchmark of sorts to judge whether Charlie liked whatever he was doing and if he should do it again. He likened Charlie’s body to a violin, an instrument that, when played with the right hands, he could wring delightful notes and tremors out of. Ghost enjoyed provoking those small reactions from her, almost as thoroughly as he enjoyed when she provoked those small reactions from him. Almost.
He had brought his hand up to tilt Charlie’s chin onto a better angle for him to kiss, when a sudden idea occurred to Ghost. He reached down, grasping at the backs of Charlie’s knees and meaning to lift her up against the wall like the handsome suitor always does in movies, but in his excitement his elbow knocked against something with a dull thunk. A bright arrow of pain raced down the length of Ghost’s forearm, and he recoiled from Charlie as a long coil of wire slithered to the floor. Still breathless, he swore slightly louder than he’d intended, and then he and Charlie were looking at each other and sharing a nervous laugh. Curiosity at the whole awkward exchange trickled through Ghost, and he made a mental note to try swearing again sometime, but deliberately, and to be especially vulgar with it. This being his and Charlie’s first romp as a couple, he figured this wasn’t the time or place to get too experimental, but Ghost had heard—in a lecture Caspian had unwillingly subjected him to—that some girls liked dirty talk.
Ghost barely had time to catch his breath before he and Charlie were back at it. But this time she moved against him with a new vigor, as if growing impatient with his featherlight touches and gentle kisses. She tried to step into his embrace, but a circle of wire ensnared her foot, and she pulled Ghost down with her, making no effort to break her fall. They sprawled sloppily onto the floor together, and Ghost felt no pain from the impact his knees made against the cool stone. Charlie crawled toward him on all fours and ended up bumping into Ghost in the semi-darkness. Her curtain of hair brushed the side of his face, and he inhaled a deep waft of her rose shampoo.
Before he could recover his balance, Charlie had her hands on his shoulders and was easing him, inch by inch, onto the floor, until his spine was pressing into it and coldness seeped through him despite his multiple layers of clothes. His unbuttoned coat folded back from his torso, the interior forming a forest-green puddle against the floor. Ghost wondered whether the shudder that worked its way through his limbs was entirely from the temperature, or if the intimacy of the gesture had something to do with it. Lying on his back and staring up at Charlie, he felt horribly vulnerable and wonderfully relieved that he could relinquish the lead, for once. Ghost was pointedly aware that he had no idea what he was doing. Slightly less so now, but it had been the only thought in his head during his and Charlie’s first few sessions. Yet, for reasons unknown to him, she had always waited for him to initiate anything and everything between them. Given her history with Caspian, Ghost felt as if he now had an idea why.
So he was surprised when Charlie climbed onto his supine body, planting her knees to either side of his waist and straddling him. She bent forward until her weight was a pleasant pressure atop his chest, and then her mouth was crashing against his. Ghost hesitated a beat before returning the kiss, unsure what to do with his hands in this position. Or was he supposed to do nothing at all and let Charlie do the heavy lifting? Eventually, he settled for skimming them along Charlie’s thighs, the warmth of which he could feel even through her leggings. Then she shifted a bit and her damp lips were tickling the fragile skin of his throat. Ghost’s eyes rolled blissfully upward to the ceiling, and his stomach suddenly felt weak and strange. Charlie continued in a tantalizing path downward, and fireworks were shooting through Ghost’s skull by the time she tugged the collar of his shirt aside to kiss his clavicle.
Then there was a rustle of cloth, and he opened his eyes to find Charlie fumbling with the top button of his shirt. Alarm bubbled up inside Ghost’s chest and he started to bolt upright. “Hey, what are you—!” He hadn’t gotten even halfway before Charlie made a sensual shushing sound. Suddenly her finger was over Ghost’s lips, distracting him in about eighteen different ways. He let himself fall back to the floor, placated by the graceful silhouette her hand cut in the dim lighting. Long, elegant fingers with nails that protruded in smooth white crescents. Dexterous palms that were pleasantly warm with a fine sheen of sweat. It occurred to him that Charlie might have a natural aptitude for sleight of hand, if ever she took the time to learn. Ghost snatched her hand before she could withdraw it and kept it level with his mouth, delicately nipping at the pads of her fingers and smattering a series of kisses across the knuckles as if Charlie were a princess. His princess. “My lady,” he jested, somehow able to keep a head level enough for speech despite Charlie’s formidable attempts to rob him of his faculties. “You and I are the rulers of all electrical storage domains. Enemies shall quiver in fear at our foreboding yellow emblem of death. Our reign of terror shall last until the end of—”
Charlie, relying almost solely on touch in the near darkness, finally managed to undo the second button of Ghost’s shirt. His attempt at being witty broke off in a sharp gasp as she pressed her lips to his bare shoulder. His toes curled inside his boots. No one had ever kissed him there before. Charlie used Ghost’s surprise to reclaim her hand, and sensing his weakness, did not relent. With both hands, she skimmed the length of his torso, raking her nails lightly across his chest, tracing the pattern of his ribs, making his stomach jump. Ghost’s gasp transformed into an unbridled moan, and his back arched up off the floor, his senses muddling until he felt stars and saw butterflies. Charlie’s wandering fingers stopped just an inch above his belt, and Ghost trembled like a final autumn leaf clinging to a bare tree. She had stopped so abruptly that it almost physically hurt to be teased so cruelly. The stone floor, once rigid and chilly, now felt like a bed of clouds he was floating in. “Again,” he murmured. “Holy hell, do that a—” Charlie had gone very still atop of him. Ghost broke off, eyes snapping open, feeling a mix of disappointment, annoyance, and panic at her sudden pause. Had he done something he wasn’t supposed to? Or not done something? Which was worse?
Ghost had forgotten that Charlie weighed anything at all until she swung her legs off him and pins and needles pricked at his various muscles. She appeared to be crouching a little ways off, holding something up to the light. Still lying on his back, Ghost first tried rolling his eyes downward to get a better look, then when that didn’t work, sat up too fast and a lurch of dizziness came over him. He started to flop to one side and flung a hand out, supporting himself against the concrete floor as the world swayed around him. For the first time since entering, Ghost realized how cold the electrical closet was and went to pull his coat around him—
He suddenly recognized the small, cylindrical object that Charlie was holding, and the swaying world seemed to invert on itself. But that couldn’t be, because— Ghost patted at the inside pockets of his coat, which he realized had been remarkably open and exposed while he’d been lying flat on the floor. And suddenly two unrelated ideas linked inside his head, snapping together like magnets. Charlie assuming control of their amorous activities had seemed so unlike her at the time, yet Ghost had barely questioned it, even when she had shut down his protest with her finger over his lips. But it had been no accident or coincidence that he had ended up with his coat fanned out around him on the floor, enraptured and unassuming. Hell, he had played right into Charlie’s hands, enjoying the ruse so much that he had egged it on. Ghost felt like he had been staring at a painting of nonsense patterns for a short eternity, only for the optical illusion buried deep within to suddenly hit him in full force, and now he couldn’t unsee the bigger picture.
From the beginning, Charlie had seduced him with the intention of searching through his pockets. All because she hadn’t believed Ghost when he had told her he wasn’t taking any medication. And now the powder at the bottom of one of his vials of lull glimmered like tarnished silver in the lackluster light. He heard Charlie’s voice but from a distance, as if she were speaking from underwater. Seeing his most precious secret cupped inside her trickster hands, Ghost forgot how to move. Speak. Breathe. Blink. Ghost forgot what he was doing in a drafty, claustrophobic closet. He was dimly aware that he should have felt angry at being tricked, at having been seduced into giving up his secrets like a lock beneath a burglar’s picks, but his astonishment was so great that it carved out a hollow void inside him that no other emotion could breach.
Inside a remote, shadowy corner of Ghost’s mind, a door unlocked, swinging open on creaky hinges rusted with disuse. And bursting forth was a scrapbook of hazy images like half-remembered dreams: A bead of liquid frothing at the point of a needle. The airy feel of a hospital gown around his legs. The sickening smell of anesthetic just before unconsciousness claimed him. Blinding white light piercing his eyes, rendering the heads of doctors hovering over him as dark shapes. The tops of tall pine trees looming outside his fifth-floor window. He had been imprisoned in that hospital room for two months, a full, never-ending sixty days of sterile-white hell, only to be told that, sorry, we’ve tried everything we could, but there’s just no cure. Time for you to get out of here and get on with what’s left of your life, kid.
When Ghost resurfaced, he found that his hands were clamped over his ears, blocking out the ceaseless roaring that defined his being, and the electrical closet was gently rocking back and forth, like a boat on restless waves. No, that wasn’t right; Ghost was the one rocking back and forth, his knees drawn up to his chest and his shoulders curled in, as if he had been trying to make himself as small as humanly possible. Charlie sat across from him on the cramped closet floor, watching him warily, like a stray cat that she didn’t dare shoo away for fear that it was rabid and might try to attack her. Curled loosely in her grasp was the vial that had started it all, but unlike before she now paid it no mind. In intervals, Ghost began the process of unclamping his hands from his ears and setting them on the floor to his sides, halting his rocking motion. Then, with an air of perfect, lifeless calm, he asked, “What gave me away?”
He heard Charlie catch her breath from her corner of the closet. It was a short while before she answered, as if she were puzzled by Ghost’s meaning, or shocked to hear him speaking in placid, reasonable tones. Eventually she responded, but by then his focus was elsewhere, though he didn’t know where elsewhere was. After having almost given one of his dearest secrets away to an initiate and then plainly giving it away to his lover, Ghost had asked the question with intention to discover what he was doing wrong so he could take steps to avoid others figuring him out in the future. But the door in his mind was still open and beckoning, the sounds of memory drifting out like a half-heard strain of music, and Charlie’s response was drowned out. Nonetheless, Ghost nodded dumbly as she finished. He noticed there were scuff marks on the knees of his pants from extensive clambering around on a dirty floor.
It wasn’t until Charlie asked her question for the third or fourth time that he registered it. And then he only paid attention because she gestured wildly with the vial of lull. Often do how take stuff this you. Ghost unscrambled and rearranged the words until they made sense, as if he were listening to a foreign language in which he was only partially fluent. How often do you take this stuff. “Every day,” he replied woodenly. For six years, he thought to add, but couldn’t find the will to say anything more. He felt as though he were coasting, in the same way that a door torn free of its hinges coasts through the winds of a tornado. It was oddly liberating, to cast the bonds of sanity aside.
Something softened inside Charlie’s velvety eyes. Ghost recognized the expression, and his blood simmered in response. She started to crawl across the floor toward him, making soothing noises, and just when she came within touching range, his fury reached a boil. He shoved violently away from Charlie, hard enough that a dull throb passed through his shoulder blades where they slammed up against a wall. “Don’t you dare pity me!” he spat, stabbing an accusatory finger at Charlie. “I did it to my own stupid goddamn self out of my own stupid goddamn free will. There’s no one else to blame, and I got what I deserve.” His voice was a low and dangerous growl, as if daring Charlie to contest this point. Ghost did not look away as he told the lie. Ghost did not—not even for a second—reflect on how he had been tied to a chair as a tall and tattooed man injected him over and over with a powerful hallucinogen, while a bald and stocky man cut apart his parents with a machete. Ghost’s connections in Baneberry had enabled him to eventually find and kill the two hirelings responsible, but never did he learn who had commissioned the hit, or why Ghost couldn’t have joined his parents inside the cold, sweet earth.
He had lied to Charlie because he couldn’t come to grips with the fact that his identity had been forged in screams and tempered in blood. That he would live out the remainder of his days as someone else’s victim, even after his assailants were long dead. Ghost would rather Charlie see him as a heartless villain than a helpless victim.
The silence between Charlie and him was a thread stretched to its limits, on the brink of snapping. Some buried, annoyingly logical part of Ghost knew that he was being unreasonable to lash out at Charlie. Even if she had deceived him, it was only to catch him in an outright lie that he had told her minutes before. Fair was fair. It was a well-played trick, and just as Ghost said, if he hadn’t seen it coming, then he had only himself to blame. Furthermore, he begrudgingly supposed it was her right to know that her romantic interest was a drug addict before agreeing to date him. To many people, that would be a pretty significant deal-breaker, and justifiably so.
Ghost took another few deep breaths, and then the tension dissolved so completely from his shoulders that he felt like he had deflated. Too nervous to look at Charlie head-on, he darted a glance up at her from beneath the bangs flopping into his eyes. No doubt his hair was a dark crown of spikes. He tried to clear his throat, but his voice came out rough anyway, like boots crunching through snow. “If you no longer want to be with me in light of this information, then I won’t take it personally. Just say the word, and none of this will ever have happened. I’m sorry to have wasted your time.” Ghost had attempted to sound placating, as if he were trying not to force Charlie into anything against her will and would support whatever choice she made, yet he was scowling at his knees again by the time he finished, disgusted with his own weakness.
Was it any fun? Had it not been for years of composure training, Leah's face would have contorted into an expression of pure, untainted confusion towards Mercy. She felt her eyebrows twitch, just itching to move into a raised position, but maintained her current demeanor. Did she look like the type of person who enjoyed fighting and being rendered unconscious? If she had a dime for every time that happened, she'd only have two dimes... which wasn't a lot, but it was strange that it happened twice. Maybe a Dauntless-borne, or someone who actually passed their aptitude test with a Dauntless result, would have been flooded with something similar to a runner's high after the free-for-all, but all Leah felt was soreness and exhaustion. Even sitting hurt. She shuffled around a bit, trying to find the least painful position before removing her gaze from Mercy and glancing back at the ongoing duel between Harper and Chris. She could tell her face was going to sour the longer she stared at the training medic. If he wanted to partake so much, Leah would gladly switch positions with him, but then again, jealousy was never a good look, and she was never going to be caught wearing it.
"No, it wasn't. I'm not the type to enjoy violence or pain, and I'm not particularly well-versed at fighting face to face either." Her voice was cold, almost robotic, but surrounded by a thin film of annoyance. She much rather preferred a battle of wits than a battle of fists and could only imagine how painless Erudite initiation might be had she chosen it. Instead, she was here, leaning against a wall and looking like a victim of an assault, while the person who seemed like they so desperately wanted to participate was stuck on first aid duty. What a joke.
Out of the corner of her eye, Leah saw Thorn crouch down towards her, asking Mercy if there was anything he could do to help. Scratch looking like a victim of an assault. Leah must have been something more like a damsel in distress, and she hated the thought of being perceived that way. She glanced at Thorn, seeing he was in better shape than most of those who participated in the free-for-all, before replying, "I'm fine." Her words were as brief and apathetic as always. She continued to watch the one versus one between Chris and Harper as it wrapped up. It was one thing to beat someone as small as herself, but for Chris to beat Harper... It must've been embarrassing for Harper. Leah knew the feeling of being beat by someone you're expected to best, and it was never pleasant. She couldn't help but sympathize with the instructor for a brief moment, but that's all it was. Brief. Her head turned back towards Mercy, ignoring the display of strength Chris just sent out to the rest of the initates. "I'll help out, too."
Jade eyes fluttered open and instantly she could feel a solid ache in her chest and gut. While the weapons they had been wielding today weren’t real, the physical blows she had taken to the gut had been. She lost count of how many knees, fists, and feet managed to slam into her stomach and ribs during the fight as well as how many times her back had been slammed into the ground. Now that the adrenalin had worn off, she was certainly feeling the aftermath of the blows and knew she was likely going to be pretty sore for the next several days.
With a subtle flinch as she sat up, Randi reached behind her and ran her hand across her back. For a second, she swore she could still feel the solid blade of Fable’s battle ax against her spine, but the pain quickly faded, and she was able to move freely once more. She had never seen the move coming and wondered if it had been planned or just pure luck, either way, she had to admit it was a great way to be taken out. She would have been disappointed if something as simple as a stab to the gut had gotten her but instead, she had been flung onto a weapon that no one was even touching. She smirked at the memory as she took a moment to stretch and loosen up her body after such a workout.
Glancing around the room she noticed several initiates were gone, likely having already recovered and left. Missing faces included Aubrey, Finn, Bella, and Vex. In the corner of the room, she spotted Leah, Mercy, and Thorn all chatting together as they hung out over Leah’s cot and couldn’t help but feel a slight curiosity as to what initiates of such different personalities and temperaments were talking about. She was happy to see that they seemed to be getting along though, it was important to make friends in this faction because, as she had learned long ago, you will almost always need them for backup.
Her gaze left the small group as a large muscular figure approached her. She was a bit surprised that Jax was approaching her but then again, the two had been rather intimate lately and since he was new to the faction, he likely saw her as an easy person to get along with. She had to admit he was a pretty interesting dude and she had enjoyed her time with him so as he walked over, she gave him a smile and continued to stretch. “Hey big guy.” She greeted with as she straightened out.
Hearing his offer to go grab coffee Randi agreed to go. It wasn’t as though he had asked her on a date, so she had no reason to say no or even hesitate. If it started to seem like he was interested in taking their one-night stand further, she would need to make sure he knew she did not like to be tied down like that. She had done the whole relationship thing before, and it really hadn’t been her thing. But, for now, that didn’t seem to be the case and young Jax was a young man in need of a fun time, her specialty. “Oooo that sounds amazing, to be honest.” She purred and thought of the sweet taste of chocolate. “I know the BEST spot to get a chocolate chip frap. I think they would have regular coffee and ice cream too now that I think about it. Wanna go there?” She suggested as they began to move towards the exit. She walked with her usual energetic bounce that seemed to be a signature of her shameless personality. She didn’t care what people thought, if they found her annoying, if they hated her, if they loved her, if they wanted to be her or be with her, she just cared about living as who she was and not ever having to apologize for doing so.
As Jax stopped and opened the door for her she walked through with a laugh and turned around to give him a curtsy. “Why thank you, good sir.” She chuckled with a genuine smile painted upon her lips. The two continued down the streets and cut through a few alleyways as they made their way to the hole-in-the-wall coffee joint. “It’s not too much further.” She informed him, interrupting their conversation to keep him updated. “I know it’s out of the way, but I swear this place is worth it.” She added with an excited bounce.
So many initiates had been fighting and in an instant, it seemed as though they were all gone. Fable didn’t know how long this battle had been going now, only a few minutes, or much longer, it was hard to tell. Her eyes scanned the world around her and fell upon the only other person standing on the battlefield, Christian Parks. Her grip tightened on her ax as the two made eye contact. From the quick scan, she made of his figure it seemed he was already hurting, a lucky thing for her she was sure. From the way he was holding himself she could tell he had been hit several times and was clearly favoring one of his sides over the other.
That was all the info she needed. With her hands wrapped firmly around her battle-ax, the young fiery-haired girl raced towards her opponent. Instead of attacking straight on with the blade of the ax she attempted a fake-out move and went with the blunt end instead. It seemed Chris was prepared for such a move seeing how quickly the young man dodged the blow and brought the hilt of his sword down against her spine. It might not have been a blade but still with the amount of force behind the move pain bloomed violently across her back.
A growl of frustration rang from her throat as she kicked backward and managed to hit him in the side. Luck had been on her side as it seemed her relatively blind kick was planted against his tender side. The handsome young blonde’s face flashed with pain just as Fable turned around but he was quick to recover, an admirable trait. In a flash, Chris was striking at her with his sword and Fable found herself moving just as quickly to block the blow, using the long handle of her ax to deflect it before striking the Dauntless-born boy in the side of the head with the butt of her weapon. Taking advantage of the daze he fell into Fable planted a kick to his chest in order to regain a bit of distance.
It was a risky move but when they were so close she feared Chris would be far more agile and swift with his sword than she would be with her ax. She needed room to react and build up the powerful blows that made her weapon so devastating. Chris seemed to catch onto her thoughts though and despite already having taken several blows was quick to try and close the gap again. Fable knew she couldn’t allow that to happen and brought her ax upwards to warn him off. Disengaging from his attack Fable saw Chris looking for his next opening.
At this point, they had both taken quite a few painful blows and Fable was sure Chris was feeling them since she knew she was definitely feeling hers. The two circled each other for a moment before wordlessly rushing back into the fight. Fable did her best to keep Chris from getting too close but he managed to get a good swipe at her back and her leg, causing pain that slowed her and gave him the upper hand in speed. The blows hadn’t been all bad though since they gave Fable the time she needed to study his pattern of attack. The next time he tried to dash in for a swipe she was ready and turned fast, dodging the blade while using his own force plus hers to implant the ax blade into his gut. A heartbeat later the sword dropped from Chris’s hand as the young blonde slumped to the ground, falling backward off the ax blade as Fable pulled it from him.
Just like that, the fight was over. Fable was breathing heavily and her body hurt all over but the pain began to fade as reality set in. She had won, she was the last initiate standing in the Free For All, she had managed to come out on top. Leaning against the hilt of her ax the young redhead felt her lips part in a proud smile as she felt a rush of emotions flood her system. For the first time ever, for just a moment, she finally felt like she belonged, like she was worthy. It was incredible.
Thorn smiled when he heard Leah offer to help and offered her his hand. It wasn’t because he thought she was weak or couldn’t stand on her own, but rather a show of respect and acceptance of her offer to help. “That’d be great.” He replied with a warm smile and nodded towards the battlefield. “It doesn’t look like there are many people left.” He added before taking a look at the battlefield only to notice the fight had ended. “We should probably go get Chris.” He stated as he began to head off towards the arena where the young blonde Dauntless-born lay unconscious on the ground.
As he walked over to the fallen initiate he glanced at Fable and was honestly surprised that she was so quiet after such a victory. Rather than celebrating and rubbing it any everyone’s face that she won it seemed the young redhead was enjoying her victory quietly and by herself. For a moment he worried she was hurt or upset by something but then his eyes locked onto the smile just visible past her curtain of thick hair and he knew she was far from distressed.
Reaching Chris, Thorn looked up at Leah and Mercy before reaching down to get a hold of the muscular young man. “We can get him back to the cots faster if we work together.” It was an obvious thing to say but Thorn wanted to make sure all three of them felt they were actually helping like they wanted to. He honestly could have handled Chris’s weight along but was glad he didn’t have to. Though he wouldn’t admit it, he still hurt all over from Vex’s vicious attack and was not eager to strain his body too much. As they carried Chris over to the cots Thorn made sure to try and lower the young man onto the bed as gently as he could. “So, is there anything we should do for him before he wakes up?” He asked Leah and Mercy.
Bloom was used to seeing entertaining scenes at the bar but when she walked in for her shift, she was surprised to see all of what was going on. In one corner of the bar, a fight seemed to have broken out and security was only now starting to break it up. On the other side of the bar, a familiar young face was dancing her heart out to Pina Colada with two boys on the dance floor with her. Aubrey was quite the character, so fierce and determined, yet so playful and happy. She had a drive to her that Bloom had no doubt many likely envied. The sight brought a brilliant smile to the young bar tender’s lips as she slipped past and put her stuff behind the bar, knocking Asher in the side with her hip gently in greeting as she passed, something they had started doing because they could usually never manage a hello while talking with the bar patrons.
Her appearance seemed to have gained the attention of several of the regulars as she heard the usual catcalls and hollers of her name coming from across the bar. She turned and waved, several patrons, waving back or raising their drinks in greeting. This bar was perhaps the place she felt most at home in the entire world, it had become not just her place of work but her community as well. Here she felt more at ease than she ever did anywhere in Amity, especially after all that happened.
“Hey Aubrey!” She called to the young girl dancing to the music. She had only known Aubrey for a few years now, but the girl was the half-sister of her best friend and Bloom had grown rather fond of her. “Next round of drinks for you and your friends are on me!” She declared with a smile and grabbed some glasses to start getting drink orders ready.
Out of the corner of her eye, she watched the fight as it started to dissipate. She wasn’t sure what caused it but this was a bar so things like that tended to happen. She was glad they had some form of security because she hated having to break up brawls like that. She wasn’t incapable of it and had her beloved Roni, a sturdy baseball bat, behind the counter for such reasons. Usually taking Roni out was enough to end most fights but every once in a while, she did have to take a kneecap or two out to make it clear that sort of behavior was not welcome in this bar.
Charlotte "Charlie" Stark || 20 || Medic || Dauntlessborn
Charlie knew that bringing Ghost into the closet was an interesting and risky situation. She knew that they had not ended the last time they'd been in this situation well, and she recalled how terrified she had been when seeing and hearing Jeremy at the party and how that had been the reason she had dragged Ghost in here. She remembered how she had spent much of the night sitting in the closet too terrified to come out, for fear that Jeremy would still be out there waiting for her, like a hungry lion waiting for its prey. She was always the prey, always the mouse, rabbit, bird, that gets eaten by the hungry lions and wolves. Never once did she feel like a predator, or at least something that wasn't being chased or hunted. But when she was with Ghost she occasionally felt like he wasn't hunting her, sometimes she felt like he wasn't even trying to get her in any kind of way, but at least she didn't feel hunted. Maybe examined, like an explorer or some type of archaeologist might examine old dinosaur bones... Either way, she was thankful for that simple thing. Yet it didn't take much for Charlie to revert back into the meek, shy mouse routine, in fact Ghost's simple quip asking about the lights caused a wave of anxiety to wash over Charlie. She felt the genuine fear of the dark that hounded her every night, but also she felt a small but growing tinge of guilt, knowing that one of the reasons she had dragged Ghost into here was in the hopes that she might find something that could prove her thoughts that he had lied to her about the medication. She was almost certain he was taking it, or at least holding it.. Even now she could still smell it in this small dusty closet. Charlie glanced at the ground awkwardly, answering slowly and stutteringly. "I... I have bad... that is... Jeremy..." She swallowed, realizing how useless she sounded. "I have a fear of the dark that Jeremy is responsible for... many of the experiences I've had with him have been in pitch blackness and I would prefer light to that..." She looked at her feet again, having glanced up at Ghost while saying that second sentence, she wasn't sure what to do. She felt weak again, like the prey, and she wanted to sink into herself. WHat was she doing...
Charlie knew the feeling of a man's hands upon her all too well, and she knew the feeling of a man's lips upon her own. Hell she had even known Ghost's own hands and lips upon her own body once, in a situation much like this. However, when Ghost lightly gripped her hips and held her tentatively between his hands, and when his mouth so lightly touched the corner of her mouth, it was like an invitation rather than the demand that it always felt like with others, namely Caspian and her father. Like Ghost was showing his own interests but giving her a large amount of choice and freedom. Charlie's heart thumped loudly within her chest, and butterflies erupted within her stomach, a smile alighted upon her face; she tilted her head, catching Ghost's lips neatly between her own. There was nothing overly demanding about anything that either party did in that electrical closet, although Ghost took initiative to run his hands along her body, even so far as to push her against the wall, it was never so much that she felt like she was out of control, or felt like she had no choice. Ghost had a specific way of touching her, it was with meaning, with intention, and with force that showed desire and passion, but it always came with a gentleness that hid deeply within, and she inherently knew, or believed, that if she were to tell him to stop, or push back, that he actually would. But Charlie did not ask that, nor did she even try to stop him, because although the gentle, pure seeming medic wouldn't admit it aloud, she loved this more than she dared to admit even to herself, and she yearned for more. As Ghost became more intentional with his touching and kissing, his chest pressing against hers, she felt her body tense and relax, confused from the initial fear of touch, and then the relishing of it. Her own hands were confused and often just skimmed along Ghost's sides like lost little fairies trying to find their way, unsure of what to do. But her mouth was right where she wanted it to be, and she could feel Ghost's own, taste that terribly sweet flavour.. Another reminder that she was certain he had lied to her.
As if on que, Charlie jumped in surprise when Ghost knocked over something in the closet, and their lips parted, a small separation occurring between the two of them as a coil of wires cascaded and bounced on the ground. A small silence exuded between the two of them before they both laughed nervously and awkwardly, aware of how embarrassing but equally fun this was. Charlie didn't want it to stop though, and she felt guilt for half of the reason why. Of course she didn't want it to stop because she really truly didn't want it to stop as she loved Ghost's hands and lips upon her, but she also didn't want it to stop because she was determined to find this Lull. If Ghost was taking this drug she needed to warn him about how dangerous it was, and hope that he hadn't gotten so addicted to it that it was a life sentence. Rather, a death sentence. Yet she didn't waste time before stepping towards Ghost in order to keep that closeness between them, if she could just gently look through his... She let out a yelp of surprise as her foot tangled with the coiled wires on the floor, and Ghost's body, along with hers, went falling to the floor. Ghost fell to his knees where as Charlie somewhat slipped backwards, landing on her bottom. She was glad that the space in the closet was small, and that hadn't fallen far, because it had simply shocked her rather than hurt. She giggled slightly under her breath, and taking the coil off of her foot, she began to crawl towards Ghost, She couldn't see so well down here where the light drifted slowly, so she was surprised when she bumped into him so quickly, and she moved her hands up, grasping his shoulders. An idea plunged into the depths of her mind that she knew could work, if all went well. Again that guilt erupted in her chest, as well as the delight of the actual sensuality that seemed to emanate from Ghost and Charlie's little positions. She laid him down onto his back, knowing that he was allowing her to do so, because although neither was large or weighed much, Ghost was stronger than her and could have easily resisted if he had wanted to. Once he was flat down, she gently slid onto his waist, just above his groin as that was not where she wanted to sit upon, not yet... and clung onto him firmly with her legs. Her hands trickled up his chest as her body moved along with them, lying against him, before her mouth crashed aganist his with more passion and pressure than she had ever kissed someone before. Excitement and adrenaline fueled her as she kissed him deeply, and she shivered in delight when his hands tickled her thighs, causing her to unwillingly let a small moan/giggle to come from her mouth, still attached to Ghost's. Knowing that this wouldn't last forever, even if she prayed to some unknown god, she gently left his lips and trailed her lips down his cheek and chin, across his neck and then towards his chest, resting her lips upon the nape of his neck and feeling his body tense, relaxe, and shiver accordingly.
As her lips worked upon his collarbone she began to reach with her hands for his buttons that would unbutton his shirt. Ghost began to be alarmed and Charlie was worried that this would cause him to stop her, that he would stop this whole thing, so she brought one hand up to his mouth, her finger landing upon his lips, and her mouth making a small and quiet shushing sound. Akin to a mother towards a child, but with a lot more sensuality than that. Ghost seemed distracted by this, as he grabbed her hand with his and began to kiss it. Charlie was glad, it had worked, but she continued to try and unbutton his shirt, struggling with only one hand, her lips still resting on his collarbone and giving it small occasional kisses. She could hear Ghost talking, which meant he was distracted and trying to be smart, and she knew he felt somewhat safe yet trying to assert dominance (she assumed) so she was more intentional and finally after a small amount of time managed to undo the button. Not letting him have any moment to stop her, she pulled his shirt to the side and let her lips travel sideways, kissing his shoulders and the upper area of his chest. Ghost seized up letting his grip go on her hand, letting Charlie have it back, and she used both hands to gently play with his chest, fingers and fingernails creating patterns and following the lines of his chest and scars and body. She went no further than the belt at his pants, not wanting, nor willing,, to go down that path just yet, if ever.. She simply wanted this, this fun, playful, sensual yes, but not sexual yet, desire. PLus she had an ulterior motive. As Ghost trembled under her touch, she used one hand to draw little circles on the skin above his belt, while her free hand gently searched the pockets of his jacket. Please don't be anything. Please let him be telling the truth. Please don't hate me Ghost... I'm sorry... I shouldn't be doing this... I... Charlie's thoughts were interrupted when her hand found the one thing it had hoped not to find. A vial. A lump began to form in the pit of her stomach and Charlie almost felt like if that lump moved it would make her throw up, so she froze, as her mind realized exactly what this meant. Ghost was taking this drug.
Ghost seemed to realize something was amiss, but unsure of what it was he said nothing. Only breaking off the sentence he had been speaking prior. Charlie though, quickly got off of Ghost, unsure of what to do but feeling uncomfortable in that position when they weren't in the midst of a playful interaction. And she c ould no longer play the ruse of being in such a playful interaction anymore. Charlie couldn't say anything, her mouth had gone dry and her head hurt, a headache forming already. Her eyes glued onto the vial as she looked at it in the small light of the closet, as she sat cross legged on the floor. She looked at Ghost, her eyes apologetic but also sad, he had lied to her, he didn't trust her? Neither had Caspian. Ghost said nothing, in fact, he seemed to go into shock, and Charlie felt guilty as she watched him cover his ears and bring his knees up to his face, rocking back and forth. Denial. Had... What... She didn't know how to feel. She simply sat there, waiting for him to come back to reality when he realized this was real. She opened her mouth to try and apologise but she heard no words come out, instead her mouth was so dry she required closing it in order to salivate and make it usable again. She could still taste the taste of Lull in her own mouth, it had clearly been in Ghost's, although it was getting harder and harder to taste as time went on. When Ghost finally came to his senses and replied to her. Charlie was shocked that he didn't yell, didn't grab the vial, didn't call her any intense and rude name, but instead he was calm, asking what gave him away. She opened her mouth in a small gasp of surprise, as he simply stared at her almost sadly... "I... could recognize the smell and taste..." She finally said, as that was the truth. She watched as he nodded but seemed not to be listening. "Ghost.. how often do you take this stuff?" Charlie asked, waiting for a few moments, but he didn't answer. She repeated herself, several times, before her finally seemed to catch on. Please don't say every... But her prayers were not answered as Ghost's answer was exactly what she feared. Every day. So he was addicted to it. Charlie's eyes softened and she felt sadness erupt in her heart, she felt an urge to wrap him in her arms, knowing that this meant he wouldn't be around forever... Caused her heart to feel like it was going to break. She didn't know what drove her to do so but she tried to touch him gently, only for him to shove away from her aggressively, scaring her. Although he did not hit her to do so, it still scared her as much, and Charlie also shoved backwards in order to be further awa. He demanded that she not pity him, and told her he had done it of his own free will. She bit her lip as it trembled, and said nothing. She didn't know what to say, what to do, what to feel, what to think.
When Ghost finally spoke, Charlie frowned and closed her eyes, sighing. She shuffled towards Ghost, watching as he shied away from her, but she simply ignored that and sat beside him against the wall. The closet was small, so they sat with their shoulders and hips pressed against each other in this position. Charlie said nothing in reply to Ghost's invitation for her to leave. She didn't try to touch him nor did she try to console him or berate him. She just sat there.
Eventually she spoke. "Nothing has changed in how I think of you, and of how I think of us ."She sighed softly and dared to rest her head against Ghost's shoulder, feeling his body tense up and then slowly, slowly relax. She opened her hand up and gently moved it to where Ghost could hold it if he felt like it, an invitation for him. "This changes nothing between us, I simply know more about you now than I did before, and I am sorry because I wish it had been through you telling me rather than me finding out this way... I hope that you also feel that nothing has to change between us... My feelings have not changed." She held her breath at this point, wondering what Ghost would say in reply.
Aubrey Amber Stark || 16 || Initiate || Dauntlessborn
Aubrey was having a good time, dancing, singing, hanging out with Finn and Night. Even though she had not really gotten to know many of the transfers, she was glad Night had joined her and Finn with their run this morning, he seemed to be fairly fun and interesting, especially for a stiff. Maybe, just maybe, she judged the other factions with a little too much severity, but on the other hand maybe Night was just an exception, plus… he wasn’t like Finn… Aubrey threw her thoughts to the wind and simply continued to dance, spinning and jumping and laughing to her hearts content. It was nice to just have fun and not stress about the fear simulations, even though the previous days ones still traumatized her, especially in the night, she hadn’t had any today and she could be thankful. Just as she was letting her mind escape into the loud sounds of the blaring speakers, she heard a voice call out over the noise. Calling her name. Aubrey turned around with surprise, half expecting Charlie to be there, and immediately going into alert mode, however it was not Charlie, but Bloom. Aubrey grinned, waving at the older girl and squeezing Finn’s hand. “I’ll be right back!” She said.
Aubrey jogged over to the counter where Bloom stood behind and she swung around a bar stool a couple times before catching herself just as she was falling off, giggling to herself. “Hi Bloom!” She said. She had known Bloom for the last few years since she had come through initiation. Charlie and Bloom had become close friends and had even talked about moving in together, except Charlie always ended up saying she had to be home for one reason or another. Was it that man who’s abusing her? Aubrey was realizing how many things Charlie could be doing because she was being threatened or because she had no choice. Why was she allowing herself to be in so much pain for this person? Was she in love with them and they had manipulated her? Was she scared and feeling threatened? Aubrey shook her head, letting her fingers trailing circles on the countertop of the bar. She cleared her throat, looking at Bloom with a smile. “So… what drink are you conjuring up for me today? I bet you can’t make me one that I haven’t already had!” She said, as a way to make fun but also as a way to see if she could get one of the drinks that Asher generally wouldn’t make her, just because they had a lot more alcohol and weren’t advised for younger people. Bloom raised her eyebrows and laughed, causing Aubrey to laugh along with her. She knew the lovely Amity Transfer wouldn’t give her something that was really bad for her, even if she was curious to try it. Instead Bloom got her something else, and Aubrey thanked her, taking her drink and Finn’s and going back into the mob of dancing people.
She shimmied through people by using her hips, and eventually she had to somewhat trip/shove someone with her foot and hip to get past them, but in return they shoved her back. “Hey!..” She said with disgust as her body slipped, she tried to regain balanced but it wasn’t until two hands grabbed at her hips that she was put back in place. She stiffened, but as soon as she saw Finn’s face she relaxed, smiling at him and handing him his drink. The feeling of his hands on her hips were like static electricity though, like little fires that were erupting under each finger. She felt hot where he had touched her and she was taken aback by her feelings of this. Finn seemed to be confused at her sudden quiet embarrassment, until he realised his hand was still attached to her hip. He flushed a bright red and Aubrey couldn’t help but laugh at that, immediately feeling at home with her best friend. She downed her drink, the feeling of alcohol burned her throat and warmed her tummy, but the sweet sugary mixture that was with it buzzed her mind and exploded in her mouth. She laughed, so much, happy as she could be. Each drink made her less and less scared, less and less thought and more fun. More freedom. She looked at Finn with bright blue eyes, was he still holding her by the hip? That seemed awfully intimate for him, but she admitted that she liked it, it felt good. Had Finn grown taller? She peered at him. “Hey, have you gotten taller? That’s totally unfair…” She stood on her toes so that her nose was able to be at the same level as him, and cheekily bopped him on the nose with her own, faces so close as to be inseparable. She giggled as she wavered, alcohol and standing on her toes causing her to be less steady than usual, falling towards Finn she linked her arms around his neck and stumbled ungracefully against him. Causing the poor boy to stumble backwards too, and bump into a rather large man who was dancing with a burly looking woman. Finn went beet red, apologising for “his” clumsiness and stepped away, but while his face was turned towards the other couple, Aubrey had a funny little thought.
Before Finn could turn back to look at her, she again stood on her toes and promptly pressed her lips to his cheek, before quickly going back to the flats of her feet and simply dancing along with him as if that hadn’t happened, occasionally glancing at him to see his response.
Christian "Chris" Parks || 16 || Initiate || Dauntlessborn
When Chris woke up, he seemed to be surrounded by people. Wait.. he hadn’t won? He sat up abruptly, rolling his shoulders and getting to his feet. The world around him spun for a few seconds as the burly boy stood there gaining back his senses, but soon it was back to normal. He looked at who had been beside him, Thorn, Mercy and Leah. An odd trio, he assumed they had taken him off of the mats. He nodded at them. “Thanks.” He said, short and sweet. He turned around looking for Fable. She stood on the mats, still reeling from their fight, she had done well to down as many people as she did. He was surprised. He walked over to her, extending his right hand. “That was a good fight, I didn’t know you could fight like that. We should train together sometime.” He said simply, waiting for Fable to shake his hand back. When she did he waited till they were finished to walk back to where the others sat, noticing that near them was where there were many water bottles. “I don’t suppose any of you three know where Blair is?” He asked, watching as each one of them said no. He sighed, grabbing a water bottle and downing it. His body still hurt from the multiple fights and beatings he had taken during that game, but he was also noticing that it was disappearing quickly.
He had placed second, so he had been given many points. Blair’s name wasn’t anywhere in that list, so she must have gotten out faster, and why would she have disappeared? That was unlike her. He had no idea how he could find her, so he decided he wouldn’t. If she needed to find him then she was much more equipped and smarter than him, so she would do that better than if he were to look for her. He knew she’d been so shaken after seeing Ben at the bottom of the chasm today. So he hoped she’d just gone home to deal with that. He’d check on her later if she didn’t come back to him sooner. Throwing his empty water bottle into the trash, he grabbed another, downing it as well, before grabbing one more and walking towards Fable again. "You should have some water, you would have used a lot of energy." He motioned his head towards the others around. "I was about to suggest to them that we all go to the cafeteria or something, I'm sure we could all eat our weights worth of food after that fight." Chris wasn't usually known for speaking so much, so this might not have been usual for most people who knew him, however his voice wavered on an edge of two feelings, one seemed uncaring, bland, grey, empty, what most usually knew of him. The other wavered on a side of care, emotion, thought. It was an odd thing to hear if you knew him well. He began to walk over to the group of three who sat on the cots. "I don't know about you three, but I am very hungry. I'm going to the cafeteria to get some food." Even though it wasn't a direct invitation, the thought was there, and Chris waited a few seconds before leaving, unsure of who would be following him.
He led the way towards the cafeteria, looking around as he saw many of the other initiates metaphorically licking their wounds. Those who had gotten out early had snuck away like dogs with their tails between their legs, ashamed that they had been knocked so early, fearful of those who had beaten them, feeling annoyed that it had happened at all. Some had failed out of pure inability to put up a good fight, others had been taken by surprise, something that could get anyone in a free for all. Some had been cowardly and hadn't fought much at all. Chris scanned the cafeteria hoping to see that mane of golden hair that belonged to his girlfriend, instead he saw nothing of the type, other people that he did and didn't know, but Blair was not here at all. Chris's face darkened, wondering why his girflriend was ignoring him, or at least hadn't waited for him, and had disappeared. He shrugged his shoulders irritated, and headed to where the food was piled high in the cafeteria. Grabbing himself a plate he loaded his plate with carbs, meat, salads and a healthy amount of fruit. Chris might have had a big appetite but it was clear that he was using all the nutrients and energy that he did consume, being the size he was, towering over most others, and weighing much more than they did. He waited for those who had come with him to grab their own servings, before finding the nearest table that wasn't occupied and situating himself down on it, settling in to eat his food. He kept an eye and ear towards those who had come with him, for if any of them decided to start a conversation. Chris was happy to eat in silence.
Ghost // Male // Age 18 // Training Instructor // Erudite to Dauntless
Ghost was so lost in the downward spiral of his thoughts that he jumped when he felt a brush of cloth against his flank. Charlie squirmed and wriggled to fit beside him in the cramped confines of the closet, and the fact that her small gyrations failed to ignite a sudden passion within him was a testament to just how miserable he was feeling. He scooted to the side, trying to make as much room as possible for Charlie, who finally seemed to find a relatively comfortable position and stilled. For a while, the two of them steeped in a thick stew of silence, not necessarily an uncomfortable one, but one that was impossible to displace nonetheless, one that filled every vacant nook and cranny of the closet. Trying to overcome the silence would have been like trying to cross water so black that its depth was a mystery. During that span of time, Ghost’s existence was tied to the warm, reassuring pressure against his left side. Charlie’s presence was the anchor that steadied him against the implacable pull of the waves, keeping him from being lost to the sea. He breathed the metal and dust of the storage unit and the flowery aroma of her hair. Ghost was too grateful for the silence to convey in words. Consolation from Charlie was the last thing he wanted. For now, he wanted to just be.
A chilly draft swept into the closet, and he pulled his coat tighter around himself. If only Charlie knew the reason that he dressed like December when it was, in fact, July. With the exception of the few summer days when the sun blazed at its hottest, he was almost always freezing without a coat, as if his body were already preparing for a cold coffin interior. His small motion seemed to stir Charlie out of a daze, because finally she answered the question he had asked so long ago he’d almost forgotten it. Instead of feeling affronted by her hesitation, Ghost was relieved for it. An immediate assurance would have been a dishonest one. The fact that Charlie had taken a while to consider her answer meant that he could better trust it. Ghost told enough lovely lies for two people, and he would rather Charlie confront him with a painful truth if that was the only alternative.
Despite the fact that Charlie had seduced him with a hidden agenda, Ghost found himself believing her words. Maybe just because he wanted to. Because he was so desperately lonely that, now that he’d had a brief taste of what it was like to be seen and understood by another human being, returning to a world of solitude was unbearable. Charlie tilted her head onto his shoulder, her hair tickling his cheek. Ghost tensed at the unexpected contact and, in a moment of introspection, the oddness of his reaction struck him. Just a few minutes ago—or had it been for the better part of an hour that they’d been sitting here?—he had eagerly allowed this same woman to unbutton his shirt and kiss the naked skin of his torso. Ghost was no stranger to preying on another person’s trust for money, but the knowledge that he had fallen so neatly into Charlie’s deception rattled him. She had known exactly which buttons to press to disable his defenses. Ghost didn’t know how long it would be until he could kiss Charlie without the memory of his past mistake haunting him, the fear that he would open himself to another betrayal. Still, he didn’t blame Charlie for exploiting him so much as he blamed himself for stupidly letting her.
When her hand grazed his on the floor, Ghost didn’t withdraw. Instead, he hooked his pinkie finger around hers in a silent but tenacious promise. He couldn’t live for Charlie. As he had told her, he had too many external responsibilities and goals he wasn’t willing to relinquish for that. But he would live with her, for however long that might be, and so long as she wanted him around. “This is not the end for us,” Ghost said, stubborn and solemn. His voice, usually smooth and airy, sounded low and rough to his own ears, like a stranger’s voice, and there was a peculiar hitch on the word us. Charlie’s word, the one that he hadn’t been able to define not so long ago. “Rest assured that I have no plans on dying anytime soon.” Charlie flinched slightly at Ghost’s open acknowledgement of the possible fate that awaited him, one they had both been thinking of but dancing around. He found it silly when people used gentle euphemisms like passed away, like they were shying away from the truth of the matter.
Ghost knew how naive he sounded when he said that he didn’t plan on dying soon. No one planned out their deathday. It just happened, caught them unawares. But it was a reality that Ghost had been braced for for the past six years. Unlike other people, he knew that he was living on borrowed time. Doctors had told him to expect one or two more years of life, and each breath he continued to draw was a medical anomaly, a stolen artifact, an impossibility made possible. His father had been greedy for the luxury of money; Ghost was greedy just for life, and everything else was secondary. Or was it? He thought about it. No. Life was secondary to his freedom and pride. He would die before he actually became the loyal puppet to Jiao-long Young that he pretended to be. Just as he would die for Charlie if it ever came down to her or him. Ghost had subconsciously been aware of his willingness to die for her since the day he had decided to risk his life to teach Jeremy Daniels a lesson about abusing helpless young girls.
“I won’t die while I have unfinished business,” Ghost continued, scowling as he thought of his vow to uncover the conspiracy that threatened Blair Avalon, his need to beat Harper Day if even it was only one in a hundred duels, his desire to watch Young’s empire burn to a smear of ashes and blood. “Besides, I have it on good authority that I am notoriously hard to kill. I have a boatload of enemies who can attest to that,” he finished wryly. Jeremy. Drex. Christian Parks. Young, if their deal went sideways. His son Alex. Maybe Leah after the events of this morning. Uncountable street urchins in Baneberry whom Ghost had either stolen from or cheated in cards, which, he supposed, was more or less the same thing.
Speaking of enemies, he remembered that he had one waiting for him in his apartment. If not now, then very soon, and it was in connection to Ghost’s lull usage, as many things had been over the past six years. “I think it’s about time we parted ways now,” he told Charlie steadily. She dislodged her head from his shoulder and twisted to look up at him, as if asking whether he would be okay on his own. In the dim glow of the closet, he could just barely make out the brown of her eyes. Like fresh-smelt copper before the world eats it away in cruel patina chunks. Charlie was so gentle and pure and perfect. Ghost never wanted that to change about her, and he was willing to dirty his hands so she wouldn’t have to. “You probably have better, more productive things to do than brood with me in a dark closet, and I wouldn’t want to impose on your time.” His tone was respectful but firm. Although it was true that he didn’t want to monopolize Charlie’s time, the day still had a final hurdle to throw at Ghost, and he wanted to get it over with while he had the motivation. For the first time since Charlie had pulled the vial from his pocket, Ghost felt like he had regained some semblance of control over himself.
“I’ll be taking that.” He contorted himself so that he was reaching across Charlie as unobtrusively as possible and snatched the small vial that lay next to her hand on the closet floor. “This stuff is ungodly expensive,” he added with another scowl. Indeed it was, but that wasn’t Ghost’s only reason for being stingy with his lull. Right now, what little that he carried on his person was his only supply of the drug. Nasty ramifications would ensue if any traces were found in his apartment over the next few hours. He seriously doubted that Christian Parks, being the son of the faction leader, would let go of his grudge without a fight. Even if Parks had asked for misfortune, which he had; Ghost had given him a choice, and Parks had chosen wrong.
He gave Charlie’s hand a reassuring squeeze and clambered to his feet, narrowly avoiding banging his head on the ceiling. Amid the highs and lows of various emotions since entering the closet, Ghost had failed to notice that the ceiling sloped along one side. Bent in a half crouch, he edged toward the door, his back brushing up against the stretch of wall beside it. He held his breath and slowly cracked the door open a sliver. Cool fluorescent light spilled in from the hallway. He fished in a pocket for his phone, and with his back still against the wall, angled it over his shoulder so that he could use the black glass as a mirror to peer out into the hallway. It would raise too many questions to stroll out of an electrical storage unit in broad daylight, especially in the company of a pretty girl. He raised the phone a little higher and squinted, scanning for any potential witnesses.
Charlie spoke, shattering the silence so profoundly that Ghost nearly dropped his phone in surprise. His brows dipped into a confused frown as he looked at her. “What?” he hissed, keeping his voice low. “No, I’m not taking a selfie!” he answered incredulously. “I hate having my picture taken.” His gaze momentarily flashed to the reflective surface of his phone, then cut back to Charlie just as swiftly. “Do people typically take pictures of themselves after they…?” Ghost trailed off, unsure if there existed a verb that he could end his question with that wouldn’t send him blushing like a schoolboy. “Never mind.” He had meant it as a serious question, but Charlie giggled into her palm as if he’d just told a particularly funny joke. Ghost wasn’t sure whether he wasn’t being laughed with or at. Since he wasn’t laughing, at seemed like the logical conclusion.
There was no one in the hallway. He slid his phone back inside his pocket. The closet door gave a rusty creak as Ghost opened it and stepped outside, into light. His knees echoed the sound, cracking in a way that made him grit his teeth as he unfolded to his full height for the first time in what was probably close to an hour. There was some clattering as Charlie climbed to her feet, followed him out, and closed the door behind her. “See you tomorrow,” he said with his usual degree of seriousness. Ghost wasn’t sure of the protocol for a casual goodbye between lovers, whether he was supposed to kiss the top of her head or clasp her to his chest in a brief embrace. Either one felt wrong to commit in public, especially with the knowledge that he wouldn’t have to worry about succumbing to addiction if Charlie’s father found out they were dating. Ghost wasn’t even sure if he would have kissed her goodbye in private. So he settled for dipping his head in farewell and set off for the most direct route to his apartment, ignoring the hunger that clawed at his belly.
Given his days living on the streets, he was no stranger to hunger. This hunger was just a painful one, not the type that left him weak and trembling. That wouldn’t set in for another eight hours. Regardless, this boy needed a double cheeseburger and milkshake. Ghost weighed his options and decided he could afford a quick detour for lunch, relieved that, while he was short on time, at least he had the comfort of a heavy wallet today. He was still deciding among the various establishments where he could obtain a hot meal when suddenly the hairs on the back of his neck stood up. Ghost almost didn’t hear the approaching footsteps until a shadow fell atop him, like a swooping owl’s wings casting its impending meal into shadow. A heavy hand fell on his shoulder, pivoting him around, and Ghost turned with the momentum, producing a slender knife from a hidden fold of his coat and leveling it at his attacker’s diaphragm. His heart skipped a beat. If his draw had been a moment slower, his throat might have already been slashed. Ghost made a mental note to apply more of his internal awareness to his external surroundings in the future.
A fingerbreadth from the end of his blade stood six feet of muscle. Harper Day’s mahogany hair hung over one shoulder in a fraying braid, and a pale scar on the right side of her face glowered menacingly at Ghost. “‘Lo, Harper,” he greeted, unsmiling. Seeing that she was brandishing no weapon, he disappeared his knife even quicker than it had appeared. He calmly stepped away, not letting on how much her touch bothered him. Touching unbalanced him in general, but this one felt particularly patronizing, as if her goal were to make Ghost feel small and insignificant. His defeat at her hands was raw enough that it enhanced the effect. “To what do I owe the pleasure?” He kept his voice carefully neutral, ambiguous between polite and sarcastic.
Harper eyed him critically, as if Ghost were a horse she was considering betting on. He slowly became self-conscious of the facts that his hair was still tousled and the top two buttons of his shirt undone. Too late to do anything about them now. He straightened his shoulders and lifted his chin in response to Harper’s probing gaze, as if his rumpled shape were a deliberate fashion statement. Rumpled and sloppy and sexy, with his tie just askew. Harper raised an eyebrow but withheld comment, which Ghost considered a success, not knowing how he would have explained his activities otherwise.
That wasn’t to say Harper didn’t have other matters she wanted to discuss. Faster than Ghost could follow, she was assaulting him with a whirlwind of questions, most of which concerned the nature of Charlie, himself, or a combination thereof. Harper growled something about the free-for-all, and some connection clicked inside Ghost. A little distantly—the events of the past hour had been various levels of distracting, to say the least—he recalled how Charlie had knocked him to the ground right before Harper could impale him on her knife. So that was the common link between all these questions. Harper wanted to know the meaning of Charlie’s sacrifice, which had also stupefied Ghost at the time of its occurrence. His mind drifted back to the fierce way she had clung to him in the electrical closet, and he thought he had a better understanding of her intent now, though…
Suddenly Harper was snapping her fingers in front of his face. Ghost recoiled, too alarmed at the ease with which he had spaced out to be properly indignant. He was doing that more and more frequently with each day, it seemed. “Sorry, thinking about lunch,” he lied automatically. “You were saying?” He regarded Harper with crossed arms and half-lidded eyes, making a point to illustrate how bored he was with her questions that he hadn’t even begun answering. Ghost knew that the repeated mention of Charlie’s name—especially in relation to him—should have made him afraid. Very afraid. However, another of his most dangerous secrets had been spilled not even an hour ago, and his mind felt sluggish trying to keep up with this new unanticipated threat. Like his body had already used up all the adrenaline it had to offer. He remembered reading that the third stage of stress comprised exhaustion, and it was never a good thing to reach that point. In addition to a double cheeseburger and milkshake, Ghost could have used a week of sleep. He even lacked the will to get angry at Harper or himself for losing to her in the free-for-all. That in and of itself should have been a warning sign.
Finally, Harper’s series of questions drew to an end, and she seemed to be waiting for a response from Ghost, her face a collection of harsh lines. “Harper,” he began slowly, trying to conceal his weariness, “do your conversations normally take the form of uncivilized interrogations?” Harper started to retort hotly, but Ghost clicked his tongue in admonishment. “That’s not how diplomacy works, I’m afraid,” he said with a mild expression. A sudden, nasty, diabolical idea occurred to him just then, lifting his spirits remarkably and dissolving some of the world’s dullness. “Why don’t we discuss over lunch and a few video games at the arcade? I’m famished for another of our battles of wit,” he punned, feeling appropriately pleased with his own cleverness. “Ample intellectual stimulation often puts me in a more conversational mood, too, so it will be to our mutual benefit.”
Ghost wasn’t sure why he had suggested it. Maybe he was hoping to work himself into a rage through extended exposure to Harper Day. Maybe he sought a desperate chance to redeem Harper’s respect after having lost their duel. Maybe he wanted to test Harper’s limits and see how much time she was willing to spend in his loathsome presence in exchange for a kernel of truth. Or maybe he just wanted to procrastinate dealing with the mess that would be waiting for him back at his apartment for as long as possible. Caspian and Maverick would hit the roof once they saw what Ghost had indirectly dragged them into.
Harper started to protest, but he cut her off before she got very far. “Seeing as I’m under no obligation to answer any of your questions,” he said icily, his face darkening into a scowl, “I suggest you agree to my terms. Especially when many other brokers place a much higher price on information.” Inside his coat he discreetly fingered a knife. Given what Harper’s ex-boyfriend had been capable of, Ghost wouldn’t put it past her to try to smack some answers out of him. And he was prepared to gut her like a fish if she so much as breathed on him. Much to his relief, though, Harper ground out a reluctant agreement to his deal, and Ghost released his grip on his blade. Things were a lot less ugly for all parties involved when the Holy Ghost got his way. He tilted his head pensively, and somehow he was simultaneously looking at Harper and just past her. Ghost’s voice was light, almost playful, when he remarked, “You fascinate me, Harper Day. During the free-for-all you tell me that I talk too much, and now you’re prepared to devote an entire afternoon just to listening to me talk. Are you always so impossible to please?”
Finn let go of Aubrey's hand as the song changed, taking a moment to catch his breath and slick his hair back. Sweat was good for something. Another girl approached, one Finn had interacted with before, but was not exactly on friends terms with. Aubrey was friends with her, he knew. The teen smiled and waved as she approached, giving a cheer as she announced next drinks were on her. He was really feeling some kind of rum. Anyways, he headed over to where she was to introduce himself properly.
"Hey! I'm Finn," He called out over the music, a big grin on his face. The alcohol and the atmosphere made for a good time. "Nice to meet you! And thanks for the drinks!" He leaned against the counter, staring out at the dance floor as Aubrey and Night continued. It was relaxing to do something like this after such a stressful day. He wondered who had been the end victor. Maybe Randi? He was sure he'd find out later.
By the time the fight came to an end, most of the initiates had moved on. Harper noted with a hint of annoyance that not even Ghost or Charlie had stayed, disappearing to unknown places. It was a surprise victor, with Fable standing proudly at the center of the arena, looking around with wide eyes. Harper grabbed a notebook from nearby, making a few notes as to who the final initiates were so they would receive their due points. The results were not at all what the young woman had been expecting; Randi and Chris had made it to the final five, but Finn, Aubrey, Leah, Jaxom, none of the others that had been doing well were present at the end. Harper had to give kudos to Fable, somehow having survived everyone else for this long, and finally becoming their champion.
"Congrats Fable, you look like you're our winner for today," Harper told her, a small smile on her face. Fable looked tired, but Harper knew she had to look a little worn out herself after the fighting. "You'll be receiving fifty points for your victory. Good job. Chris will receive forty, Randi twenty, and Indira ten." The last part was said more of a note to herself than anyone else, but she quickly turned her attention back to Fable. "Everyone else has just about left by now. You're free to do so as well. Again, congrats."
While Harper did love her brother, she had no bias towards his win or loss. It was his own duty to win and his own loss to lose. Fable was obviously the strongest today and deserved any rewards she could get her hands on. That was Dauntless. Harper remembered her own days as an initiate, standing there defiant as the bodies lay unconscious around her in the training room. A sight she sadly did not get to see today; although, if she had counted in this match, she would have been third. The second loser, in her eyes. At least she had taken out Ghost, a small victory of today.
As the initiates filtered out to go do whatever it was they wanted, Harper stayed to clean up the training room and get everything back in order. She picked up her own sword as well, missing its familiar weight at her side. As she did so, few of the initiates, Thorn, Leah, and Mercy, were still hanging around waiting for Chris to wake up. Fable seemed a little in shock, too, still standing quietly off to the side. Chris should be fine, plus he had Mercy there, so Harper decided that her job here was done. "I'm heading out. Come get me if he's actually dead or anything," Harper called out to the small group as she left the room. After dropping off the notebook with the points at the instructors' station, she moved on down the halls towards the Pit.
Despite a calm gait and neutral expression, Harper was more than a little angry. Ghost constantly abandoned his duties, leaving her to both set up and clean up, and was nowhere to be found to run the initiation show. Charlie had abandoned her own post too, leaving Mercy to handle whatever happened during the fight. She understood that the two had been beaten, but they had awoken fine and could have remained for the rest of the free-for-all. Instead, they vanished, and the beaten initiates seemed to have followed their lead in just leaving. Kids these days.
Harper rounded a corner to see a smaller figure up ahead, walking as if deep in thought. Ghost. Speak of the devil, in all honesty. Despite her anger, the young woman couldn't help but smirk. Was he contemplating his defeat? Thinking of how to next get out of responsibility? To her surprise, Charlie was nowhere nearby. They seemed to be thick as thieves nowadays, those two, yet just as quick as thieves too. She wanted to catch them in the act, to confirm her suspicions, yet was always just a little too late. It had been some time before the end of the match. Perhaps they had just parted? Or was she overthinking? It was not like the Day woman to overthink. She was typically very quick-witted and efficient in decisions, making sure everything ended the way she wanted it too. Now here she was with a cyclone of feelings and thoughts. It was almost embarrassing.
With a smooth gesture, she placed a hand on Ghost's shoulder to get his attention, only to find a blade at her chest just as fast. She glared at him for the sudden attack, and he quickly hid his weapon away again. Would he really come at her with a kitchen knife, now that she had her own blade at her hip once again? He looked a mess, like he had fallen asleep in his clothes and just awoken. Messy hair, unbuttoned shirt, eyes glancing around as if hoping she wouldn't notice something. What had he been up to? And were women seriously into a guy like this?
"Where were you? Leaving me to pick up your messes, as usual? Do you even care who wins training sessions if it isn't you?" The taller woman asked, feeling more than a little powerful in their current situation. She had the upper hand, not only in looks currently, but also in her recent victory and the knowledge that her insults were correct. "You can't just run off. Especially after something like that happens in a fight. Charlie shouldn't have even been fighting, yet there she was sacrificing her own victory to save you. What is up with that? I know you two sneak off together and have conversations. Too many to be innocent. What is going on? She is far too good for you in any sense of the word. Hello? Hello?"
Harper snapped her fingers, seeing Ghost going cross-eyed. He wasn't even listening. She sighed as he asked her to repeat herself. Was he really spaced out or just testing her nerves once again? Her hand rested gently on the hilt of her sword. "I'm asking about you and Charlie. I know something is up, and I don't think you should be anywhere near her. You're slacking off on duties, you look like you're a Dauntless reject off the streets, and now this. What is going on, Ghost?"
If one really paid attention to her voice, one might even hear a hint of concern. Ghost had been her arch-nemesis for as long as she could remember. The fact that he might be weakening or somehow losing his motivation almost... scared her. What would she have to fight against? To keep her going? Although it was the role of a villain in her life, losing that role would throw her story into a loop. She wanted to get to the bottom of this.
Ghost finally declared that he would talk to her, over a few games at the arcade. She hadn't been there for a long time, finding such small games a waste of time when she could be working out or doing something more productive. Ghost's sly smile showed that he would not be talking under any other circumstances. She glared at him again but breathed out an agreement, rolling her eyes. She still had the upper hand, and would humor him for a little bit, if it meant she could get some answers. This situation was not in his control just yet. Her hands, however, itched to simply beat the crap out of him to get answers instead. She knew he had thought of that too. But she would go along. Reluctantly.
"You do talk too much." Was all she said as she turned towards the arcade and set off at a lively pace. The sounds of people laughing and music up ahead made her slightly regret saying yes to such a place, but she wanted answers. And to maybe beat her nemesis in something other than physical combat as well.
Ghost // Male // Age 18 // Training Instructor // Erudite to Dauntless
Ghost snorted indelicately at Harper’s comment about his appearance. “Oh please, don’t insult street urchins by comparing them to the Dauntless. That’s plain disrespectful,” he said dryly, falling into his and Harper’s usual sassy banter like the steps of a familiar dance. Whenever Ghost reflected on his status as a member of Dauntless, he internally compared it to a falsely advertised product, a glass of diluted brandy passed off as the real deal to jack up the price. You could taste the water in the liquor at first sip, but that wouldn’t stop the bartender from collecting his due payment. Likewise, Ghost didn’t even put up the pretense of acting the part of a true Dauntless. He knew everyone else knew that he was a misfit, yet since he had passed initiation and couldn’t be kicked out, he couldn’t care less about fitting in. In fact, as he thought about it, Ghost deemed it a small miracle that he hadn’t yet been arrested on suspicion of being Divergent, even though he wasn’t. His aptitude test had decisively come up as Erudite, but when he compared himself to more traditional Erudites like Alex and Leah Young, who smelled of trust funds, friends in high places, and noxiously floral perfumes, Ghost still felt like an imposter. Perhaps, unlike Divergents who fit into too many factions, he fit into none at all.
Dauntless to her bones, Harper shot him a look that would have turned a more timid man to stone. Harper was a zealot for her faction, and Ghost knew the quickest and most efficient way to sting her was to target the Dauntless as a whole. He wondered whether he would have become as blind a follower of Erudite if his parents had never been murdered and his family name blackened with scandal. Now, Ghost was practically fallen Erudite royalty, and it was a large part of his reason for masquerading beneath a pseudonym among the Dauntless.
Harper continued to reprimand him, and despite the bitter edge to her words, Ghost detected a strange note in her voice that unsettled him, in the same way that Charlie’s warm and fond gaze as she’d thanked him for saving her from Jeremy had unsettled him. He might have teased Harper about her unintentional display of concern if it hadn’t caught him so unguarded. Not because he knew her worries were justified; Ghost was well aware that he was a mess, both externally and internally. But because Harper had been sincere. That plain sincerity sent a cold frisson of fear through Ghost that the sum of Harper’s dangerous accusations and questions about Charlie had failed to provoke. His gaze flicked to the floor, away from Harper, and a beat passed before he was able to find his voice. Ghost dealt in secrets and lies, and that one unexpected truth had caught him unawares like a bull’s horns goring him through the chest. Harper was his rival. She was supposed to want to see him bleed. Anything else was just wrong.
When Ghost said nothing in response, Harper disdainfully curled her lip and turned, striding in the direction of the arcade, as were the terms of their deal. She walked with all the straight-backed dignity of a saint marching through flames, muttering something about how Ghost did talk too much. Her remark kindled an ember of amusement in him, given that Harper had spoken so softly that Ghost would have had to remain silent to hear her, which he did. Being the sucker for irony that he was, he couldn’t resist commenting as he scrambled to catch up with Harper. “You should take it as a compliment,” Ghost chirped in a tone that was uncharacteristically upbeat. He and Harper climbed several winding flights of stairs, and the quiet, dimly-lit halls of the bottommost levels of the compound gradually morphed into a soft yet bustling roar of activity as they emerged into the Pit. Unlike Harper, Ghost was panting slightly when they reached the top and fought to conceal it from his voice. Damn cardio. “I wouldn’t talk half as much in the presence of boring company, and conversing with you is anything but that. As an instructor, however, your presentations are unfortunately lacking in showmanship.”
He leaned into that final word and darted in close to Harper, pretending to pull a coin out from behind her ear. Her eyes quickly flared wide and then narrowed as he stepped away with a quarter pinched between his thumb and forefinger. Ghost recognized the expression. It was one of violation, as if he had just stolen her wallet, or maybe a kiss. Well, good. It was the same way he’d felt when she had snuck up on him in the hallway and manhandled him by the shoulder. Ghost considered his unexpected magic trick an act of reciprocity.
As they neared the arcade, a jaunty cacophony of sounds greeted them: a lyrical jangle of piano notes, the frantic ringing of a bell as a grand prize was won, a shrill cluster of voices as several preteen boys argued over a video game. Ghost was already reaching for more bills and coins to join the one he had pulled out from Harper’s ear as they approached the counter at the front of the striped red-and-yellow awning.
The boy behind the counter was maybe a year or two older than Ghost and Harper, with round cheeks and greasy spikes of brown hair that hung over dull, glazed eyes. Harper’s trepidation was palpable as she surveyed the general clientele of the arcade, nerdy tween and teen boys who looked as if a little more sunlight would have done them good. With only one other girl in sight, Harper stood out like a bloodstain on white linen. Ghost recalled his musings about constantly feeling out of place amid the Dauntless and felt a dark glimmer of satisfaction to see that his and Harper’s positions were reversed for once.
“Welcome to Morey’s Games and Arcade,” the cashier said with the lifelessness of knowing that several hours remained until he could go home. “How can I help you?” His sluggish gaze roved over Harper and was reluctant to move even when Ghost started speaking.
“The two of us would like a few hours of play, please.”
“How many… sir?” The disinterested boy at the counter added it reluctantly, as if he much rather would have called Ghost something else that went strictly against company policy. Ghost wondered whether the cashier was compelled to address even the twelve-year-old boys as sir.
Despite the cashier’s sleazy attitude, his question was a good one. Ghost turned fully away from the cashier and consulted Harper, his hands clasped in front of him. The other boy’s impatience was a tangible thing, but Ghost didn’t care. There was no line behind Harper and him, and his money spent just as well as any other customer’s. His sepia eyes twinkled with mischief as he looked at her. “You need proper punishment. That means… two hours…” he said tentatively, well aware that Harper was a captive audience until Ghost decided he was ready to answer her questions. “No, that’s letting you off too easily. Maybe four?” Harper’s face turned stricken and pale, as if four hours surrounded by nerdy teenage boys in an arcade were her personal version of hell. “Mm, you did clean up the training arena for me, and I do appreciate that,” Ghost acknowledged magnanimously. He ran a finger over his lower lip, analyzing his rival intently.
“How about three then,” he suggested softly, more a statement than a question. This proposition seemed to only mildly annoy Harper, as if she were hoping that Ghost would have been a little more appreciative. A good compromise. It was settled, then. Just as the cashier interrupted their negotiations with a sharp “Please, sir,” Ghost decisively spun to him and declared, “We’ll take three hours, please.”
The surly boy’s attempt to stifle a roll of his eyes was only half successful. “Will you be paying separately or together?”
Harper seemed to be already in the process of reaching for her money, as if certain that Ghost would answer separately. But Ghost tried not to make a habit of being predictable, especially where his rivals were concerned. “I shall be paying for both the lady and myself,” he stated. His voice was steady and strong and held just a touch of the arrogance that came with being born into fantastic wealth. Ghost had lost that fortune, but with the help of a secret and lucrative connection, he was well on his way to remaking it of his own accord.
Harper looked equal parts surprised and offended that a man—particularly one with whom she was on questionable terms—would presume to pay for her. But the cashier named his price, and Ghost had the money on the counter before Harper could gather her wits enough to protest. With minimal inflection, the other boy bid them a fun time, and Ghost turned from the counter, grazing Harper’s shoulder with his own. Together they stalked deeper into the small electric city that was the arcade. Ghost swept one arm in a wide, lazy gesture that encompassed all of the various games the arcade had to offer. “I wouldn’t be a proper gentleman if I didn’t give my lovely companion first choice,” he said gallantly. “By all means.”
* * *
Two hours and twenty minutes later, Ghost was mildly pleased with his ratio of wins to losses across the numerous games that he and Harper had visited. The only game that she had gotten the better of him was air hockey, and even then Ghost had won two out of their five-game series. He had a thin cut on his chin to show for his efforts, from when Harper had slammed the puck so hard that it leapt up off the table, and Ghost’s ill-placed face had been the only thing keeping it from sailing into space. The second time she’d done it, he had been ready and narrowly twisted out of the way.
But air hockey had been the exception to the rule. Ghost had showcased his prowess at Skee-Ball, along with both of the video games they had stopped at: Fortnite and Mario Kart. Oldies but goodies. Modern virtual reality tried to overcompensate and always fell short of the mark. Much to Ghost’s liking, all the games in this arcade were retro stuff, the newest of which was maybe a century old. Currently he and Harper were parked at Smash Bros. Ultimate, where Ghost wasn’t so much battling a worthy opponent as practicing combos on an unwilling victim. Harper hadn’t been too bad at Mario Kart, but Smash was a whole other story. Her strategy seemed to be mashing buttons at random.
Ghost reclined in his seat and crossed one knee over the other, poised as always. “Smash attacks are powerful but slow and predictable. You should refrain from using them until you’re ready to kill,” he advised, figuring that it was only fair to share this tidbit of information. “And as a general rule you should use your shield and dodges more often.” Harper muttered something under her breath that sounded a lot like, when Ghost was present, she was always ready to kill. One corner of his mouth slanted upward. “Oh, stop it, you’re making me blush,” he answered wryly. Onscreen, Meta Knight chased Lucina off the stage for the final time, and the match ended in Ghost’s victory. He set his controller down and reached for the bag of black licorice he had bought with his combined tickets from air hockey and Skee-Ball. Although he liked black licorice, Ghost hadn’t chosen it at random. Rather, its darkly sweet aroma wasn’t too different from that of lull, and so the candy offered an alternate explanation for the scent of his clothes. Because if Charlie could smell the lull on him, then odds were that others could too. Ghost’s only other option was to invest in cologne and slather it on until the smell was overpowering, which he found distasteful.
As soon as the match concluded, Harper swiveled in her seat toward Ghost, eyed him carefully, and fired off a question pertaining to Charlie’s intentions during the free-for-all. That had been their arrangement since they’d started playing Smash—with only an hour of their time remaining, Ghost had agreed to answer one question upon the completion of each battle. He bit off another piece of licorice, giving himself a pause to think. During that time he deftly collected his story and shook it into order like settling a deck of cards ready for dealing, mindful not to prolong his pauses for any more than would seem natural. “Well,” he started, “Charlie would be better suited to answering that question than me because, believe it or not, she doesn’t confide her reasons for doing everything she does to me. But the way I see it, Charlie’s soul would have been crushed if I were to have fallen by a hand that was not her own. Especially since she had worked so hard for her victory and, as you are well aware, I am a contemptible miscreant disliked by all. Therefore, she probably pushed me out of the way of your blow so that she could have the glory of beating me all to herself. And her plan obviously backfired when she took the hit instead.”
Ghost scowled at Harper and shook his head in mock disapproval. “How very inconsiderate of you to try to steal her kill like that.” Then he gave a nonchalant shrug. “Though in all honesty, two lovely ladies vying for my attention does wonders for my ego, so I won’t complain.” He looked up at Harper from underneath his lashes in a decidedly smug expression, like a cat basking in sunlight. Ghost’s insinuation had the desired effect, because Harper’s face heated as though beneath a spotlight. She stammered a few inarticulate and half-complete thoughts, and Ghost refrained from taunting her further. Suffice to say, her train of thought was adequately misdirected from trying to poke holes in his theory or asking follow-up questions, which he would have had excuse to ignore until the end of their next match, anyway. He mercifully turned away from Harper, exchanged his licorice bag for his controller, and prepared for their next Smash battle. After some deliberation he switched from Meta Knight to the Wii Fit Trainer. “We’re not evenly matched enough to 1v1. How about we do a team battle against some CPUs instead?” he proposed.
Harper reluctantly broke off her stream of denial about vying for Ghost’s attention. When she retrieved her controller, the set of her shoulders, her eyes, and the line of her jaw were hard, almost belligerent. Ghost knew he was playing a dangerous game, but the important thing was that Harper seemed increasingly convinced there was nothing untoward between Charlie and him. No risk, no reward. Harper grumbled something about video games being unrealistic nonsense, but Ghost noticed that she at least seemed to try during their battles, when she could have ended them prematurely by self-destructing three consecutive times and get to ask her next question. He was sure the idea had already occurred to her and admired that she hadn’t exploited the loophole. “Just because something’s unrealistic doesn’t mean it’s nonsense,” he replied evenly as they started the next match. “Okay, look at it this way: If abstract art and fantasy literature are considerably unrealistic, then is all of it irredeemable nonsense?”
The battle began and ended swiftly. Harper expended her three lives in all of two minutes, and then it was up to Ghost to fight off their two opponents on his own, which he did without fail. Harper wasted no time between setting her controller down and launching into her next question. This one was a bit more forward than all its predecessors, and she asked it haltingly, as if part of her feared Ghost’s response. He swallowed his current bite of licorice and manufactured an expression of such sad sincerity that he could have been a saint in a stained-glass picture. “I won’t lie,” he began, forcing his eyes to shift up from the floor and meet Harper’s. “Charlie came on to me once, pretty recently. She seemed really, um…” Ghost hesitated a beat and scratched the back of his neck, as if the memory made him distinctly uncomfortable. “Smitten, for lack of a better word. I tried to break it to her as gently as possible, and she pretended to take it well, but I could see that she was hurt underneath.” Ghost winced a little, careful to keep it subtle. Harper knew that he wasn’t overly compassionate, and if he laid it on too thick he was sure that she would see through him. “I think that might have been part of her motive for attacking me in the free-for-all earlier today...” he trailed off, speculating.
Truth was a fragile thing, prone to shattering and cutting like a sheet of glass when clumsily handled. Ghost made sure to look appropriately vulnerable when telling it, as if he were yielding up something hidden and precious from his innermost heart. He knew that he couldn’t lie worth a damn when put on the spot. Ghost wasn’t spontaneous that way, or in any way, really. But he was a schemer, and he had been mentally constructing this tale of unrequited love ever since Harper had confronted him in the hallway with her hand on his shoulder, laboring over the nuances of each facial expression and the cadence of his breathing. And as he presented his masterpiece to Harper, he beheld a strange softening in her eyes that he had never glimpsed before. He wasn’t sure if she was sympathizing with him, Charlie, or both, but so long as it was one of them, he wasn’t picky. Ghost was the son of one of the most notorious con artists in recent history. Given time to compose a script, he could convince his audience to mistake a devil’s horns for a halo.
Their game lay abandoned as Harper just stared at him. Ghost bit his lip and looked into the middle distance, as if remembering. Without looking at her, he could sense the question welling up on the tip of her tongue, and he answered, unbidden. “There’s only one girl in Dauntless whom I might be interested in.” He dragged his gaze back to Harper’s and let it rest there significantly. “And it’s not Charlie Stark.” Ghost held her stare a moment longer, his expression calm and controlled and in sharp contrast to Harper’s battleground of emotion.
She seemed to have depleted her supply of questions in the wake of Ghost’s admission, and he tamped down the surge of triumph coursing through him. Her sudden silence could only mean one thing: She believed him. As if not wanting to disturb the quiet of the moment, he gently laid down his controller, picked up his black licorice, and stood. “I think we’ve been here long enough. Besides—Call of Duty is open now.” Ghost started across the arcade, barely waiting for Harper. Now that her interrogation had drawn to a close, she was under no obligation to spend further time with him. And yet for reasons unknown to Ghost she chose to follow him through the arcade anyway.
* * *
A half-hour later Ghost earnestly thanked Harper for a pleasant afternoon, and they went their separate ways. As he slunk along the labyrinth of corridors and staircases leading up to his apartment, Ghost was characteristically lost in his thoughts. What constituted a date? Was it merely any occasion on which a boy and girl hung out together, alone? Or was a kiss on the cheek or an intertwining of hands required to make it official? If not, then had Ghost inadvertently tricked Harper into going on a date with him? She didn’t know that he was already committed to another woman. But it wasn’t as though his insinuated interest in Harper had been genuine, and Ghost knew nothing would come of it. While he was willing to look past their differences in the interest of mutual gain, he was aware that Harper’s hatred of him was instinctive and enduring. Hell would freeze over before she returned his “crush.” She probably just thought that Ghost was an even crazier son of a bitch for falling for her than she’d already taken him for, and he understood that she would hold it over his head for as long as he lived. So be it. As long as Harper thought that Ghost had eyes for anyone but Charlie, he was in the clear.
Because Jeremy Daniels would have Ghost drawn and quartered if he caught so much as a whiff of the truth. Daniels would do things to him that made Ghost’s vengeance killings of his parents’ murderers look like a children’s bedtime story. And then with him out of the way, nothing would stop Daniels from hurting Charlie and her mother again. So long as the identity of the anonymous culprit who had broken into Daniels’s house and threatened him at knifepoint remained a secret, he would be too intimidated to act. You can’t catch a shadow without light to see it by.
These were the turnings of Ghost’s thoughts as he pulled up a loose floorboard at the far end of the hallway that his apartment was on and carefully transferred each glass vial of lull from his pocket into the small aperture he’d created. He replaced the board and took out the half-full bag of black licorice that would explain the smell like lull, holding it in plain sight. Then, moving as quietly as a cloud passing over the moon, he backtracked to the door of his apartment, unlocked it, and pushed it open. Ghost could already tell from the gruff voices barking to each other from behind the door that his hypothesis had been correct. Christian Parks was hoping to take Ghost to hell with him. Taking a deep breath, Ghost steeled himself and stepped into the ransacked remains of his apartment.
The room had been turned inside-out on itself in a way that reminded him of a plundered grave after robbers had already claimed everything of value. The pillows on the couch lay scattered like stepping stones across the hardwood floor, which was scuffed with the prints of boots too big to be Ghost’s. The shelf against one wall had been stripped bare of books and knickknacks. Chairs lay overturned, their legs tangled up in one another. A dark-skinned man and a sturdy-looking woman bustled across the living room, dusting every exposed surface for traces of illicit substances, and from the banging and clattering in the kitchen, a third officer was unseen but present. Ghost pasted on his best expression of slack-jawed surprise, started to reach for a weapon with the hand that wasn’t holding the licorice, but of course stopped midway when he realized that this was no burglary. These were uniformed officers sifting through his personal belongings, members of Dauntless security. They appeared to be searching for something. If not a burglary, then…?
“What in ten hells is going on!” Ghost cried as if no longer able to contain himself. He splayed one pale hand across his heaving chest, deeply scandalized. The two officers in the living room snapped their heads up in unison, and Ghost couldn’t tell if they really were noticing him for the first time, or if they had just been ignoring his arrival before. The stark silence that followed was punctured by the sound of nails clicking across the kitchen floor, and the tan, long-haired man that appeared in the doorway was almost too tall and beefy to squeeze through. A German shepherd on a short harness followed him out. Ghost suppressed a shiver. Jeremy Daniels was a giant of a man, but with the dog’s footsteps masking his own, he moved all but silently, and he probably wasn’t even trying. Almost silently enough to make a veteran thief less than half his weight burn with jealousy. Daniels’s eyes landed on Ghost and the big man smiled the toothy leer of a shark moments before it shreds its dinner apart.
Honestly, Leah wasn't quite sure what she was doing. In the few weeks of initiation that had occurred, most people had found a sort of clique or group that they relied on. Aubrey, Finn, and the other notable Dauntless-borne. Transfers with similar personalities or backgrounds. Leah, on the other hand, still preferred to be alone. Maybe it wasn't a preference as much as her inability to establish genuine connections with others, but nonetheless, Leah was alone at all hours of the day, both on the way to and from training. Recently though, she had been dragged to a bar with Aubrey and now she was helping Thorn and Mercy drag Chris from the mats to the first aid area. Even her mornings had been preoccupied by Ferris recently, especially today.
An exasperated sigh came out as Leah plopped Chris' unconscious body down on the floor. Initially just from exhaustion—after all, Chris was almost twice her size and even though she had the help of Thorn and Mercy, she was still supporting a third of him—the thought of this morning's events caused her breath to come out heavier than she expected. She had been glad to avoid Charlie and Ferris during the free-for-all and even after. The two of them had their issues to work out and being caught in the middle was not pleasant, but something about what happened left Leah with an unsettling feeling. Was she the intruder in a lover's quarrel? Probably, and that made Leah uncomfortable.
She didn't have much time to dwell on her role as the potential side fling, a possibility that strongly annoyed and unsettled Leah, as Thorn immediately filled in the trio's exhausted silence with a question. Her eyes flickered over to Mercy, who didn't seem to have an idea on what to do, and neither did Leah. The three of them were an unlikely trio, nothing like cliques where common traits united them. There was the Erudite princess, Charlie's successor, and a Dauntless-borne through and through. If there was a spectrum of who fit into Dauntless, Leah would be on the rejects side and Thorn the opposite. Mercy might have been perfectly in the middle. Why these three came together at all made no sense, and a brief silence fell over the group.
And brief it was. Maybe it was something about Chris' physiology, but he awoke relatively fast compared to the others. He gave a short thanks before heading off to talk to Fable. Leah nodded, and then watched as he went away. There went the group's brief respite from their silence. Maybe a meal would do? Leah generally would have went off alone immediately after she awoke, but now that she was here, she might as well try to connect with the two boys by her side. As her mouth opened, readying itself to ask the two to head to the canteen for a meal, Chris returned to spit out what she couldn't—implicitly at least. A part of her was a bit irritated—like a student who just had their idea stolen during a discussion—but a part of her was grateful for him doing something that was needlessly difficult for her.
Leah got up slowly, her whole body a bit sore from training, but followed suit with Chris and even kept pace with him thanks to her long legs. She expected Mercy and Thorn to follow, since the three of them were somehow a group for today. This was probably thanks to Thorn suggesting some type of group activity just before Chris had regained consciousness. She grabbed a yogurt and an apple, all that she really ever needed no matter how tiring the day was, and sat down at the table Chris claimed first. However, just cause he convinced them all to eat together didn't mean that a conversation was going to spawn out of thin air, and it didn't. Leah ate her yogurt with the grace that was ingrained in her bones from years of Erudite training, and not a word escaped her lips. Whether that was because she wasn't sure what to say, or if years of dining etiquette lessons had indoctrinated in her a correlation between rudeness and talking during a meal, it wasn't quite clear. What was clear was that she was not going to be the one to start the conversation, if there was ever going to be one.
Coffee with Jax was a nice way to end a long day of fighting and mock pain. He was polite and surprisingly funny when he wanted to be which was nice. Talking with him was surprisingly easy which was both good and bad, good because it was like talking to a friend, bad because it made a small voice in the back of her head worry he might want to be more than friends. She hoped that wasn’t the case, she was not ready for a committed relationship again, casual was far more her speed. Plus, he seemed like a good guy and she certainly wasn’t a good girl. She didn’t linger on the thought for long and instead just had fun chatting and drinking coffee.
The two parted after a few hours sitting in the shop nibbling scones and pumping themselves full of caffeine. Like a gentleman, Jax held the door for her, something he seemed to do a lot, and they parted with a friendly hug and Randi passing him a lollipop for the journey home. It was crazy to think such a thing had happened so recently and compare it to where she was now.
With her head feeling a bit fuzzy from some drinks, she honestly hadn’t had that many, and her eyes on the cards in front of her she glanced up. Her plump lips were rather expressionless as she did her best not to give away the failure of a hand she was currently holding. She was normally a master at cards but it seemed tonight nothing could go right. It wasn’t until she was a few rounds in that she began to suspect Kain Holloway and his brother Jarvis of cheating. Unfortunately, she was too deep in and had too much on the line. She needed to try and beat them at their own game since they currently had the majority of her money and their leering looks told her they were looking for much more from her tonight. A shiver went down her spine as she caught Jarvis’s eyes on her as he licked his lips, it was hard for her to believe that someone like Thorn was related to these two. Already they had made several comments about how she could make it up to them if she ran out of money, it was disgusting. She knew she had a reputation but it certainly wasn’t that bad.
As the hand ended and she lost once again the wheels inside her foggy mind began turning and she gave them a smile. “Hold my seat for me boys.” She told them casually as she got to her feet, doing her best not to sway, she really hadn’t drunk that much. “I’ll be right back.” She added as she grabbed the rest of her drink and made her way towards the bathroom. Once she was behind the locked door she rushed over to the toilet and poured her drink out. Though it tasted just fine she was almost certain they had dosed it with something and knew she was lucky to still be as functional as she was. Pacing silently for a moment the young blonde did her best to try and think about what to do next. She was alone, she didn’t have backup, she couldn’t call Poppy or Blair and risk putting them in danger as well. She needed someone she knew could handle themselves, someone smart, someone who would have her back but look out for themselves too. “Ghost.” She whispered as she pulled out her cell phone. Dialing his number the young girl half leaned, half fell against the wall, her head swimming. “Ghost!” She greeted in a hushed yet urgent tone as she heard him pick up. “I-I need your help.” She continued, her words slightly slurred as whatever was in her system hit a bit harder. She hadn’t consumed the whole drink so she could fight it off for now but it still left her feeling fuzzy. “I got myself in a shitty situation and I need you to save my dumb ass.” She admitted as she ran her hand through her hair and sighed. “I’m afraid.” She whispered after a second knowing it was the least dauntless thing she could do but also that she was likely drugged, outnumbered, and if left on her own she would become a victim to these men. She gave him the address and a quick rundown of her situation, hoping he would understand why she needed his help.
Harper’s congratulations pulled Fable out of her silent and personal victory party. Her head rose from where it had been resting against her arm and the hilt of her weapons and she looked around, suddenly remembering the others were still there. She pushed a loose lock of her thick red hair behind her ear and nodded to Harper as the instructor listed off the different points earned today. She still couldn’t believe she had come in first place, it was so very different from her fear simulation results but that was a good thing. In her mind, it showed her worth in the real world rather than in a simulation.
As Harper went on her way Fable took a moment to stretch out her arms, finally noticing how tired they were from swinging around such a heavy weapon for most of the free for all. She hoped Dante would hear of her success and know that she got there without having to blackmail anyone. As she stretched herself out slightly she heard the sound of footsteps on the matts and turned to spot Chris coming her way with a water bottle in his hand. She straightened up and wondered for a moment if he was bitter about losing to a transfer. Her concerns disappeared however when he extended the water bottle to her and suggested she drink some. Nodding her head in thanks she accepted the water and broke the seal on the cap before chugging it for a few heartbeats. “Thanks.” She sighed as she pressed the cool bottle to the side of her face to help her cool down. “I didn’t even realize how thirsty I was.” She admitted giving Chris a friendly smile. She hadn’t interacted with the boy much but so far what she had seen of him wasn’t bad and she was interested in maybe getting to know him better.
“Food sounds like a dream.” She replied and downed the rest of her water as she followed him towards the cafeteria. Once they were there she eagerly got herself a bowl of instant ramen with a triple hot spice pack. In Abnegation she was never allowed to have spices on her food so the heat of spicey ramen was like mana from heaven to her. She was still learning all the different and new spices but she could already tell she would love red pepper flakes, garlic, paprika, and chili powder. As she began mixing the instant ramen bowl together she offered some to those around her, a sign of friendship in her own way. Spotting Chris eating alone she finished up her food prep and walked over to sit across from him. “So, did ya go easy on me?” She asked and twirled some noodles on her fork.
Hearing the suggestion to go get food seemed to suddenly spark life in Thorn’s stomach as it growled loudly. Freckles cheeks flushed bright red in embarrassment as the young Dauntless-born boy ducked his head and scratched the back of his neck. “Yeah, food sounds nice.” He agreed and did his best to hide the wince that came from moving his arm. He knew he needed to let it rest after taking the slash of a broken bottle to it but it was hard to not move his arm at all, especially when it was attached to his dominant hand.
He looked over at Mercy and Leah and gave them a small smile at the idea of sharing a meal with them. He hadn’t gotten to know either of them well yet and wanted to find a way to break the ice. They were both transfers who wanted to make this faction their home which meant it was his job to make them feel accepted. Or at least that was what his big heart was telling him to do. He knew he was probably on the bottom of the list for a Dauntless friend, he didn’t act dauntless, he didn’t jump into the fight or drink like the rest of them. No. Thorn was a disappointment, but he didn’t mind. He stuck to what he believed, he chose to be passive rather than violent, he was a proud embarrassment. In his mind, you didn’t have to long to fight to be dauntless. Being dauntless meant being fearless, and he was fearless when standing for what he believes and who he is as a person. He hoped that that would mean something to Leah and Mercy, but he had his doubts. That didn’t matter since he could still always show them friendship even if the feeling wasn’t mutual.
“I can make us some food.” He offered as they walked towards the cafeteria. Seeing the slow nod of heads when his offer was made caused a smile to once again pull at his split lip. Upon reaching the kitchen Thorn went to work pulling out pans and mincing, stirring, and searing. Finally, after a final pinch of salt, he placed plates full of chicken and broccoli alfredo down in front of his fellow initiates. “Let me know if it needs anything.” He requested as he pulled up a seat next to the others with his own plate. “So, what do you guys think of initiation so far?”
She was beyond irked. Her blood was boiling after the free for all. It should have been an easy win for her with all the training she has had and yet some cheeky bimbo managed to take her out with only a few people left standing. Her throat still stung from where the knife had been implanted and she almost felt the need to grow. She loved pain, her own included given the right circumstances, but not like that, never like that. The blonde’s cheeky grin and snarky words were burned into her mind as she clenched her fist tight enough for her nails to draw blood. At that moment she swore to herself that if it was the last thing she did she would find a way to repay Randi Rose in blood for embarrassing her like that.
Vex knew it was a lucky thing she had just gotten a tune-up this morning or else she would be in much worse shape. Her mind was clear with her next objective, her orders having been received while her handler was performing her tune-up. The Erudite leaders had given her her next target and now it was up to her to figure out how to eliminate them without being suspected. She had thought through several plans but finally settled on one that gave her a bit more security than all the others, provided she could find the medic she was looking for in time.
Rounding the corner Vex almost laughed as it seemed her target was delivered to her upon a silver platter. Across the street she could see the long dark locks belonging to Charlie bouncing up and down as the young woman walked her way. Continuing on her path Vex kept her head down, her face hidden behind her thick dreads and hair, and shoved her hands in her pockets. It gave off the look of someone upset, someone feeling isolated, someone who needed comfort, the perfect bait for a bleeding heart like Charlie. She continued to walk with her eyes on her feet as she drew closer to Charlie until suddenly the two women collided.
“Oh hell!” She gasped in very convincing fake surprise as she stumbled back, also reaching out to try and catch Charlie. The effort to try and catch the medic wasn’t because she cared for her safety but would give off the impression that she did. “Shit! I didn’t see you!” She blurted, the closest thing to an apology one was likely to expect from her. She kept her hands on Charlie’s arm until she was sure the young woman was steady, her eyes flashing in deceptive concern. “Charlie?” She stepped back and pushed her hair out of her face. “Great, pissing off the medic is the last thing I needed today.” She sighed with a miserable laugh laced into her tone. “My head’s not really in it after the fight, I should have been watching where I was going.” She admitted, trying to appear like an awkward transfer who was too proud to admit how upset she currently was but doing a poor job hiding it. “Are you okay?”
The smile on Bloom’s lips only grew as Aubrey and her little friend came bouncing up to the counter. She couldn’t help but laugh as Aubrey swirled around on the barstool a few times before finally finding her balance on the spinning chair. It was good to see the young blonde out and about having so much fun with her friends. That was one of the best parts of initiation the Bloom remembered. Once she got everyone past the idea that she was a flower child transfer and actually made friends they were out partying and having fun almost every night. It had taken a bit of time, but she finally showed that she was one of them.
“Hi Finn!” She greeted with her signature smile and a firm handshake over the counter. She looked from Aubrey to Finn and back, her mind easily piecing together the chemistry between the two of them. It was cute to see young love like this and she would certainly be excited to talk to Charlie about them the first chance she got. She hadn’t gotten to catch up with Charlie in a day or two and figured something must be up, seeing Aubrey pushed the idea of reaching out to the older Stark girl into the front of her mind. She would do it as soon as she got off her shift. “I’m Bloom, or at least that’s what everyone calls me.” She added as she introduced herself in return.
Hearing Aubrey’s challenge earned the young blonde a cocked eyebrow, a wordless acceptance to her challenge. “Is that so?” She replied before walking off and grabbing two shot glasses, one for Aubrey and one for Finn. Moving swiftly behind the counter it was clear to any watching that this was Bloom’s realm. She knew where everything was, could pour the perfect amount without even looking, and was able to juggle bottles flawlessly. Going with the fruity theme that Aubrey already had, Bloom poured some coconut rum, white rum, pineapple juice, Blue Curacao, and a splash of grenadine into the tiny shot glass. The liquids all together became layered with red on the bottom, fading up to a blueish-green, until at the top there was a neon yellow. “I present to you the Captain on Acid shot.” She announced and placed the tiny glasses in front of Aubrey and Finn. “Enjoy.” She stated with a wink before turning back to her work and starting to fill orders.
She watched as the two downed their shots and made their way back to the dance floor. It was so good to see Aubrey having fun like this. She had worried that the young blonde was going to become too consumed by the pressures of initiation that she wouldn’t find a way to enjoy it. It seemed that with Finn thrown into the mix such concerns weren’t necessary. It was clear that they cared for each other and that brought a smile to Bloom's face.
Jeremy Valdis Daniels || 40 || Leader of Dauntless || Dauntlessborn
Jeremy Daniels was thoroughly unimpressed and frustrated with the search that he had undertaken in the ungodly apartment of what looked to be teenage boys. He had taken a few of his best people with him, his nephew Wolf, and Wolf's wife Alyssa. At the behest of Obadiah and having learned about the severity of the necessity of this "mission", Jeremy had even decided to take along with him one of his canine friends, a large German Shepherd which was named Banshee. Having better things to do and not caring whether the occupants had any qualms with the search of their apartment, Jeremy didn't even knock but simply stormed into the house like an ogre, and began the search. It was a measly apartment, which had two bedrooms though it appeared more than two people stayed here, as it was noticeable that someone often slept on the couch. He sent Wolf and Alyssa to check the bedrooms while he searched the bathroom, and then the kitchen. After a little while of looking through a cupboard lacking of anything interesting to see, he had just grabbed a protein bar and began eating it when he was met with the sound of someone speaking in the living room, assumedly one of the residents. He continued to munch on the protein bars as he leisurely made his way to the entrance to see what was going on, bringing Banshee with him.
The person in question stood there looking dumbfounded, and maybe a tad scared, though Jeremy thought everybody was inherently intimidated by him so that was not much to go by. "Ghost? I presume?" He started, watching as the boy seemed to catch a fright that his name was known by Jeremy Daniels. Jeremy took another bite of the protein bar and motioned for Wolf and Alyssa to shut the door, he himself flopped onto the couch, allowing Banshee to roam free in the apartment. "Amusing name, you might like my friend here, her name's Banshee." Banshee wagged her tail but also growled at Ghost, circling him a couple of times as she sniffed at him, Jeremy watched him closely, he was the one that Obadiah had sent him here to check on. Banshee seemed to be interested in sniffing Ghost until she sniffed something that made her sneeze, at which point she promptly sat in front of Ghost and simply stared at him. Jeremy chuckled as he watched this, and began to rifle through the horribly cheap porn and martial arts magazines that were scattered on the table. He leaned back on the couch, slamming his large combat boots on the coffee tables and staring into Ghost's eyes. Ghost seemed to be catching his breath and shock, finally coming to his senses as he turned to Jeremy, politely, or was that nervously, asking why a leadership councilman would be in his apartment. "Well, I have thoroughly wasted the better part of an hour searching this god forsaken apartment in search of illicit drugs that were claimed to have been acquired from you, Ghost." Before Ghost could protest with something Jeremy put up his fingers. "I wasn't finished. I know that you and Caspian use this apartment, since Caspian is the pretty little poster boy of Dauntless, he is easy to track and trace, and that rules that you must be Ghost. An odd combination of boys in one apartment, as you... on the other hand, have little to your... amusing name. Finished top of your class, turned down a high position role, and instead decided to train our initiates... You also came from Erudite, so that already makes you a pain in my ass, but a useful one at that." Jeremy finished the protein bar, throwing the packet on the floor without a care in the world. "As to your question about what I am doing here, I was sent because Obadiah Parks thought that this was of utmost priority, likely because his son was the boy in question to have been given those drugs."
"Now, I am already frustrated enough as it is, having wasted my time in this dull place, and would like to go about my day with things that actually render an importance to my day. I hope you don't mind if Wolf and Alyssa go through your belongings, because they'll be doing it anyway." Wolf and Alyssa immediately went through everything that Ghost was wearing, rifling through his pockets and patting him down, although Wolf seemed to be doing it out of work, Alyssa seemed to actually enjoy it. In the end, they found very little, coming up with a bag of licorice and a set of playing cards being the most notable things on Ghost's possession. When Wolf and Alyssa came to Jeremy declaring that nothing had been found, he sighed in frustration, finally getting up and moving over towards Ghost himself. "Alright, I'm not leaving without an explanation, and you better have a f*cking good one otherwise I'll drag you to the prison cells for being a waste of my time and energy. Why am I.." Jeremy was about to finish as Alyssa leaned over towards him, "Sorry sir, but the dead body in the chasm has just been identified as one of the initiates, Ben." Jeremy physically turned and his arm raised, causing Alyssa to wince and flinch back, before Jeremy obviously withholding a great deal of anger, simply placed his hand on Alyssa's shoulder, slowly squeezing it, causing her face to pale. "Thanks Alyssa, now shut up when I'm speaking." He snapped, turning back to Ghost and unclenching his hand from around Alyssa's shoulder. It was noticeable that it had caused enough pain to make her pale and shake, and she stepped back obediently, not even daring to apologize. Jeremy sighed, even more irritated than he had been before. "Great, now I have to go tend to the dead body of one of your initiates, try to keep them alive won't you? Since I'm in a hurry and have wasted enough time, I'm going to allow you to answer one question and if I like it, you don't have to come with me when I leave. Why was I told that you of all people had given this drug to Obadiah's kid?"
Charlotte "Charlie" Stark || 20 || Medic || Dauntlessborn
Following Charlie and Ghost's interaction, Charlie felt more at ease than usual. Of course she was deeply concerned for Ghost, she hated the idea of him dying from an addiction to drugs, and the knowledge that he had done it to himself, probably when he was as young as Christian, caused her sorrow. What had driven him to do that? What painful past had he been through that he thought it necessary to use drugs? Although Charlie herself knew the benefits to using drugs of many different kinds, she knew the downsides and side-effects were generally not worth the risk, and this one was no exception. Although she hadn't learned of it before Christian, she could tell the side effects of this drug was not worth the risk... and now both Ghost and Christian were serving a death sentence for a mistake they had made. That thought irked Charlie, as a medic, she was meant to save people... and if she couldn't save the person she... cared about... then how was she a good medic? She set her jaw as she walked away from Ghost, stuffing her arms into her jacket to steady herself. She was determined to research this, and find a way to cure... look after.. delay... or simply understand this unholy drug. She was sure that it wouldn't be listed on a normal medical book, so she would likely have to research quite deeply to find the damn information. Internet, books from scrupulous authors, and even if it came to it, Charlie wondered if somehow she could find out about it through less-than-legal ways. However she hoped she didn't have to do something like that. I will find a way to... do something... for Ghost...
Charlie finally made the decision to continue her search for Caspian. It was likely to be underwhelming and even if she did find him she wasn't sure he would be even sober enough for her to talk to. However she was determined and she missed her bestfriend... if she could even still call him that. Since had disappeared from initiation, since he had lied about his illness and been so reckless about his life, since he had lost Maggie and Maggie had lost their child. Charlie felt a grip on her heart and she swallowed deeply, trying to keep old memories down. She bit her lip and continued walking, trying to move past that part. Caspian had gone off the deep end, he spent all his days drunk or in bed with girls who were... Charlie knew she could find someone she recognized as an ex lover of Caspian. Was that all she was too? She sighed. Now she just had to find one of them. or Caspian himself, hopefully. She didn't really want to go round looking for people that Caspian... spent time with; Either way, the direction to go was to go to another bar, club or food area. Charlie continued gnawing at her lips as she walked, only to be nearly bowled over by a very distressed looking initiate. Charlie had not been prepared for such a collision and was clearly falling over, the girl must have been walking very fast to have bumped her so much, but obviously she had faster reflexes than Charlie herself. The girl caught her, helping to stabilize her and apologizing profusely for running into her. Charlie tried to get a word in but the girl seemed to be in her own head and was spewing out apology after apology and trying to make sure Charlie was okay, even declaring that "pissing" off the medic would just add to her day. Charlie's heart began to melt and she felt empathy towards the girl in front of her. What had gone on in her day to make her so distraught?
"I'm fine, really... Don't worry I've suffered a lot worse in Dauntless than a simply collision." She tried to make light of the small mistake, hoping to ease the girl's worries. "It's... Vex, right? Is everything okay? You look... well you look a bit down." Charlie had not spent any time with Vex, hence why she wasn't so sure if that even was her name. She had never come to the infirmary and she did well enough in all the fights to never need her attention. In fact, Charlie had only ever seen her in training, and never out of it. Was she struggling with the transition? Charlie's heart squeezed as Vex seemed to try and act okay, even though it was obvious she wasn't. "Hey.. I was just on my way to find Caspian, and the most likely spot to find him in is a bar, do you want to... get a drink? Or some food? I'm sorry I wouldn't know what you like." Charlie stated, trying her best to break the ice. At the mention of a bar and food, Vex seemed to be more keen on the idea, and Charlie smiled. "I find bars to be a bit over the top, but I know they're useful for some people to feel better, Aubrey loves them." Charlie waited as Vex thought about it, finally agreeing that it could be nice to go out. Charlie smiled, and began to lead the way to one of the bars and restaurant areas that she knew of that was a bit further away but a bit nicer. Although Caspian often went for the cruddier bars, he could be there.
The bar was named "The Rising Storm" and Charlie wasn't totally out of her element here. As a teenager she had come here with Caspian and Alice to enjoy themselves, as Caspian and Alice knew that Charlie would prefer a bar that wasn't disgusting. It was on the higher end and had less people than your average Dauntless bar. But the music was more pleasant and it smelled a lot better. "Here, I'll get us a table... that is if you would like that?" Charlie waited for Vex's nod, and found a table they could get. The two girls sat down and Charlie ordered a peach iced tea and made sure to ask for no alcohol whatsoever for herself, and told Vex she could have whatever she wanted. Once the two had ordered Charlie sipped her ice tea and tried to open up a conversation. "Has the transfer been difficult for you?"