Peter took a long drag of his cigarette as he leaned on the high balcony of Amity head quarters. The quiet breeze wasn’t so much of a relief, Amity people had a way of keeping to themselves that he appreciated now, but still wasn’t used to. It was the sound of the wind rippling through the buildings, long and slow, that finally allowed him to breathe.
“I find it strange,” said a voice behind him, “that the Dauntless have such shameless love of risk taking, down to what you put in your bodies.” Caleb sidled up beside him, glancing at his cigarette.
“I find it strange that Abnegation doesn’t,” said Peter.
“I’m not Abnegation,” Caleb said.
“And I’m not Dauntless.” Peter shrugged and took another drag.
They were quiet for a few moments, Caleb taking up Peter’s pose against the rail, looking out. Finally, he said, “You’re not doing yourself any favors, keeping away from everybody like this.”
“Your sister hates me.”
“You gave her good reason to.”
Peter turned slightly to look at him. “So why don’t you?” he asked. “I bet she’s told you all about me by now.”
Caleb raised a fine, black, very un-Abnegation eyebrow. “Honestly, she doesn’t pay you much mind,” he said. “So, no. I only know what you want me to know.”
Peter tried to laugh but it came out more like a choke. Smoke scratched at the back of his throat. In the time since the Erudite's coup d'etat, the annihilation of Abnegation, the bullet holes in the system he thought of as law, as dogma, since childhood, Caleb’s company was the only kind Peter could stand. Sure, he stayed chummy with Marcus, the old man was lot cleverer and more ruthless than his grey clothes let on. But after a while, Peter could swear he smelled the blood on that wolf’s breath, how the sheep’s clothes itched him, causing him to twitch at the collar. It made him slightly nauseous, watching the man grow red in the face with his lies.
Caleb was the only person here that spoke with such utter sincerity. Peter thought he didn’t care about that anymore, never thought he would miss his old faction so much, even when he refused to go back. He didn't know how he fit there anymore, after all that had happened and what he had become, but it was a part of him always.
“Answer my question,” he said. He heard his mother in his voice, hands on her hips. It was never an option to lie.
Caleb leaned closer. The clean, soapy smell he carried clashed with the cigarette smoke Peter exhaled through his nose. “I don’t hate you because I don’t have to,” he said.“You do a pretty good job on your own.”
Peter flinched, but said nothing.
“And because I believe everyone has goodness in them,” he said. “Just because someone brought out the worst in you that doesn’t mean that’s all that’s left.”
This time Peter did laugh. “You’re adorable,” he said, flicking his cigarette over the balcony. “Fucking precious, really.”
Caleb did not react, did not flinch. He only watched Peter, and his gaze made him feel naked. Those eyes he shared with Tris, which on her were sharp and cut off, on Caleb were deep and simple. They spoke of nothing but kindness and a will do to good. It was disgusting.
Peter sighed and stepped away from the balcony, to go back inside. Turning, he said, “So is it your sister, then, that brought out the worst in me?”
Caleb shook his head, but he was smiling. Walking towards him, Caleb steered him towards the door, as though to playfully dismiss the slight on his sister. Peter resisted purposely, not because he didn’t want to go inside - it was getting cold out, anyway - but because he liked the pressure of the other boy’s hands on him. And he liked that he could make him do what he wanted, even when it seemed the other way around.
“You’re getting strange,” Caleb said. “You’re alone too much.”
“At least I’m not Di-ver-gent,” he said, over emphasizing the last word, feeling the end of it bounce off his tongue. He shrugged Caleb off. He wanted to hit something now, or get hit. He missed that about Dauntless. He thought of finding Tris, remembering the bloody remains of Molly’s face on the floor of the sparring room, and thought it might be fun to pick a fight with her.
“It could have easily been just the same with me, you know,” Caleb said.
“What?” he said. “What are you talking about?”
“I just mean,” he shuffled his feet, his words failing him for a second. Then he shrugged. “I chose Erudite. I wanted so much to learn and be…better…not for anyone else, but for myself, that I was blind to what they were doing. I could’ve been complicit in the destruction of my home. My family. If it hadn’t been for Tris – “
“No,” said Peter. “No, it wouldn’t have been. That’s not you.” He bristled at the idea of Tris Prior having any hand in anything that Caleb was.
“It could’ve been,” he said. “I don’t know what I am now, but I was Erudite.”
Peter shook his head. He turned away, barely able to stand the exposed look on Caleb’s face. It was one thing to speak the truth; it was another thing to live it, to have it written all over your face and not even know it. “No,” he said, under his breath, knowing Caleb wouldn’t hear him. “You’re something else."