For all Dauntless tech, it came to Eric as certain hilarity that he now needed to rely on a basic compass to get them back to the city. Also fuck Amity and their reports. At least they didn’t sink into the lake like their APC.
This far from the borders snow ruled. It fell from the skies in sheets thick enough where they’d had to tie each other together. He’d insisted on leading, his bulk shielded Tris from some of the windchill while Richards brought up the rear.
“We’ve got to get out of the snow, Coulter!” Richards’ voice came across the wind. “It will be dark in less than an hour!”
Then the temperature would drop further
Eric turned to tell the driver he knew. He stepped wrong, it would occur to him later he’d seen the edge’s shadow through his goggles. Tris screamed his name then it was dark and cold.
So very, very cold.
Eric realized he’d been dumped like a gear bag once the throb in the side of his face made itself known. Then there were gentle fingers prodding at him, looking for injury besides his bruised pride and tender cheekbone.
“I will get the fire going.” He heard Richards say. Wherever they were, his words echoed in the space, and the air around them was fucking cold. It sunk through Eric’s jacket, making his bones ache.
“Eric, I need you to wake up for me.” Tris ordered. She pulled his goggles off. He opened his eyes to see her smile, “There you are.”
“What happened?” Eric asked. He sat up, looking around. Iced over beams and gardening tools were the only things he could identify. The door behind them was paneled and on a pulley system.
“You slipped and fell, like an idiot,” Richards said. He dragged a shallow metal basin from behind a stack of boards before he knelt to open his pack. “Tris was smart enough to anchor herself so I could pull you up. I told you following the shore was a bad idea.”
Eric considered himself a tough but fair leader. And it meant owning up to triumphs and fuck ups not matter if it made his stomach clench. Or that may have been the hunger, he was too fucking cold to figure out the difference.
“You were right.” Eric said. He got to his feet. “Anything I can do to help, Richards?”
“Find a ladder, there should be one around here somewhere,” Richards replied. He took out a flare. “Tris, if you could break off the handles of some of the tools.”
Eric followed her to the walls, trying to find something vaguely ladder shaped in the ice. He saw a wooden door propped closed with a two by four. In the back of the structure he saw a pre-war bicycle frozen to the concrete.
“What is this place?” He asked after his search yielded nothing. “No ladder.”
“Pre-war garage. People would store their vehicles in them from the weather.” Tris answered between snapping the handles into smaller pieces. “I’m surprised we found one, it’s nearly buried on three sides.”
Eric watched Richards take out a hand tool before picking a saw attachment.
“I am going to need you to lift me up so I can get into the ceiling struts,” Richards said. He walked over, holding the tool carefully. “Unless you’re too addled from your fall.”
He knelt, cupping his hands together. Richards took the boost, resting a foot on Eric’s shoulder until he could pull himself up. He stayed under the driver in case the beams broke while he sawed through the roof.
Basic survival classes taught the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. Richards cut the hole in quarters, pausing after each section to listen to the structure. Once he was done, he handed the tool to Eric before swinging down.
“That will provide adequate ventilation.” Richards said. Eric noticed he talked constantly when unsettled. Crashing his APC would make any driver out of sorts. “Sodium magnesium flare, they can light anything on fire no matter the weather or environment.”
Hours later Eric was warm and he had a full stomach. Richards provided fresh fruit from his minor off the regs trade route he had going with someone in Amity. Absently, Eric made note to pay him for what he and Tris had eaten. They sat around the fire after finding a few wooden chairs behind another pile of boards. Richards dozed lightly in his, arms and legs crossed, perfectly balanced.
“Happy Holiday, Prior,” Eric said, looking over at her.
“Not much of one,” Tris replied. She tossed another board on the fire, they’d started in on one of the piles after Hour Two.
Eric smiled and shook his head.
“We have good food and each other. I mean, Richards, I could take or leave but I’d say we’re doing pretty well in the celebration part of things,” he told her. “Thanks for saving my ass out there.”
“If you were back at the compound you’d be at the Pit, partying with everyone else.” Tris said, she moved her chair closer to his, making it scrape across the floor. “And you’re welcome, consider us even for me asking you to come along.”
It was supposed to be a milk run, check out whatever Amity reported then back to the city in time for food and festivity. In truth, Eric hung around until she got annoyed before sarcastically asking if he wanted to go too.
“If I was back in Dauntless, I’d be in the motor pool waiting for you to get back.” Eric said. He dropped his arm over the back of her chair. “It’s not Holiday without you.”
Over the years they found middle ground and now in their early twenties, he couldn’t imagine not having her in his life. From spending hours in each other’s offices to the twenty quiet minutes every morning before getting on the clock, he liked having her there. Whatever grew between them didn’t have a name, they probably should acknowledge it in a small way.
“If you were the one out, Kyle would have to share his com so I could make sure you were safe,” Tris said. She kicked her feet up over his lap like they were in her office, on her stolen couch. “If you got lost in the snow then it wouldn’t be Holiday for me either.”
Eric smiled, content enough to sit in front of the fire with her. Richards made a face before shifting in his seat.
“What did you get me?” Eric asked, smirking in the way he knew annoyed her.
“What makes you think I got you anything, Coulter?”
“I don’t know, Prior, other than the butcher paper scraps on your desk and the block of chocolate you used to bribe Kyle for ribbon.” Eric said. He tugged on her hair. “I got you something.”
He’d made her a sweater with thumb holes and a skull on the front. He’d worn it for a few days to stretch it out. The wool cost him dearly; Kyle could now use the shooting range whenever he wanted and Richards got out of the shittier assignments for the next year.
“Five pounds of beef jerky and a bottle of that Candor whiskey you like so much.” Tris answered with a small laugh. “Richards really can get anything for a price.”
“I’m pretty sure the motor pool has their own black market.” Eric agreed.
“And yet no one has had the balls to take us down.” Richards mumbled. His eyes were still closed.
A banging woke Eric up.
“Tris, get the door, tell Kyle we’ll be at the morning briefing in five minutes or less.” Eric grumbled until he opened his eyes. Tris stumbled off her chair, slipping her sidearm out of its holster.
Richards moved with a lupine grace to stand off to the side of the door. He kicked the two by four away, raising his rifle to head level, leaving Eric to play bait.
“Help!” Eric yelled, loosely holding onto a throwing knife.
The door flew open.
Whoever strode through it was Dauntless. Unlike the typical cold weather uniform, the coat was longer, more dramatic, and it could only be one person.
Kyle yanked off his balaclava and goggles, hair sticking in every direction. He scanned the area, stopping on the barrel of Richard’s rifle, and raised an eyebrow.
“Really?” Kyle drawled. “Love you too, Sweetheart.”
Eric stood, sheathing his knife while Tris holstered her weapon. Richards dropped his rifle, the strap catching it, and held onto his boyfriend.
“How did you find us?” Eric asked. “We’re in no man’s land.”
“Richards has a tracker in his ass.” Kyle answered then dodged a punch to the arm. “Kidding! Saw the smoke in the distance.”
“Anyone with you?” Tris tried to look behind him.
“No, one man rescue.” The receptionist told her. “It’s a Holiday miracle.”
After they climbed into the smaller all terrain vehicle Kyle commandeered, Tris moved across the seat to burrow under his arm. Eric slouched, thankful to be warm, and ignoring the debriefing that would involve a lot of talking around the issues.
“You never did tell me what you got me.” Tris whispered.
“I made you a sweater.”
“Guess I’m going to have to model it for you later. You’ll have to tell me if it looks better with or without pants.”
Eric choked on his tongue.