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Thorns

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“Did you hear about the new trainer transferring back to Dauntless? Ben said she’s already here but they’re keeping her locked away until tommorow, treating her like a damn princess.” Elliot rolled his eyes, the beer in his hand sloshing over the top of the bottle as he gestured wildly.

“Transferring back? Did she already train here? I didn’t think you could get back into Dauntless once you left?” A stockier man with a closely cropped crew cut rose from the mess hall table, a curious brow raised as he itched at the brand new tattoo on his forearm, his name, Luke, was inked in masculine print.

“She never trained here, not as a leader atleast. She earned her place in dauntless, she was the best initiate to ever step foot into this faction and she came in way above her entire class. She was here a year after me and Eric. We were in leadership training when she graduated.” Four tossed a dented beer can in Eric’s direction, not flinching when the pierced man caught it without looking up, crushing it in his hand.

“I remember hearing rumors.. didn’t care enough to listen .” He shrugged, eyes pulling up from the tablet in his hands to join the conversation “if she trained here why isn’t she here, she passed. Where did she go?”

“Dude.. you really have to start paying attention to your emails.. or atleast the meetings Max holds monthly.. she’s back after two years.. she went UC underground. She lived with the factionless, learned everything about them, it’s really kind of amazing.” Four cocked his head, lost somewhere in thought for a quick moment until the slam of Eric’s hands on the metal table broke him out of his head

“She’s been there for two years?! She’s out? She made it out of there alive? How do we know she hasn’t turned? How do we know she’s been honest this whole time? And now she’s back here? In dauntless? She could end us all.. she could be planning an attack as we fucking speak.” He hissed

Okay professor Paranoid.” Deema chuckled, of all of erics friends Deema was the only one capable of seeing through Eric’s stoic, often times cruel demeanor. They had come from Euridite together and other than four he was one of the few people not terrified of the huge tattooed man.

“Wait a minute.. she’s not..” Elliot trailed off, eyes wide and excited

“Holy shit she is isn’t she.. it’s..”

“Ellarose Blanchett.. the girl who took down the entire army of Factionless soldiers on her own.. the same soldiers who were armed and ready to take down Dauntless.” Four cut off Luke, nodding firmly, eyes landing on Eric “dude you really gotta get out more.” He chuckled.

“Oh shit, I read about that.. she bombed their training ground the day before they were supposed to bomb us! She wrecked their entire armory and ended up killing the leader of the compound without so much as a weapon. They said it was brutal the way they found him.” Deema was practically salivating, he loved a good war story.

“Yeah and she was in Max’s ear the entire time she was there, telling him all about the spies on the inside and who he needed to look out for here in Dauntless. It must have been miserable for her there, we’ve seen the factionless living conditions.. it’s like something out of a nightmare..” Luke shuddered, reaching over and grabbing a handful of fours fries.

“Where the hell did you read all of this?” Eric growled, frustrated at being blindsided and completely out of the loop.

“You mean other than in every single newspaper article last month.. or maybe it was the hundreds of news reports playing on the Dauntless screens literally everyday For the entire month.” Four chuckled.

He didn’t read the newspaper and he didn’t watch TV…it was all meaningless and hearing about the latest dandelion crop in Amity was not something he was interested in. Dauntless was his home and if he needed to know something he was damn sure going to find it out on his own.

“Twenty bucks she’s some huge broad with muscles bigger than peters Ego. And hair shorter than Tris’ from last year.. no offense Four.” Luke shrugged, eyes sparkling wickedly.

“It was a practical cut. And she looked hot.” Four mumbled glaring at his obnoxious friend. “And besides, we’ll find out tommorow. She’s coming with us to welcome the new initiates.”

“I don’t give a shit what she looks like, I’m still going for her. Can you imagine how wild she would be in bed? A fucking warrior.” Elliot grinned rudely grinding his hips against the table.

“Fuck off.” Eric growled sliding the rest of his dinner across the table, sometimes his friends were dicks. “I’m going back to my office. I’ll see you tommorow, and try to keep your dick to yourself.” He pushed away from the table and walked away without another word, ignoring the taunts and obnoxious groans coming from behind him.

Six hours later and his eyes burned from staring at the computer screen so long, his back was achey from combat with four this morning and he couldn’t seem to settle his mind, thoughts so jumbled he couldn’t even pick one to process. That’s what brought him to the rooftop, the one open space in dauntless that hardly anyone knew about, he needed fresh air.. that’s all.. just a little air.

He hadn’t expected to find it already occupied, a girl perched on the edge of the roof top, her feet dangling and long chocolate curls swirling with the wind, he couldn’t see her face but she was small. The initiates had all arrived early this morning and after jumping he hadn’t had a chance to thoroughly observe them before they were rushed off to their room assignments by Christina and Tris. Judging by the tiny frame and hunched in shoulders this one was already regretting her decision.

“Off the ledge Initiate, if you want to jump you jump from the Chasm. Not here. I’m not cleaning up your pathetic mess.” His tone was bored but sharp, disgust lacing every word. The girls shoulders stiffened but she didn’t turn around, she didn’t answer him.

“I said down. Now. Don’t make me ask again.” He snarled, now he was pissed as he stalked towards her.. he was just about to grip her arm when she whirled around, a face full of healing bruises and stitches, a soft type of smile on her face. They hadn’t started combat yet so why was this slip of a girl covered in scars.

“I wasn’t going to jump, I was just looking at the stars. They’re brighter than I remember.” She whispered, eyes flicking from the man in front of her to the dark sky littered with stars.

“I’m sorry..? What the fu..” he reached to grab her arm for the second time but she was faster, tiny hand gripping around his raised wrist with a force that was actually fairly painful.

“You can’t go out at night if you don’t have a faction.. we would work in tunnels underground at night.. I haven’t seen the moon in years.” She explained slowly, flexing her fingers around Eric’s hand before dropping it all together. “I’m Ella. It’s nice to meet you.”

Chapter Text

He looked like an idiot, he could feel it from the slack of his jaw and the fact that his eyes were probably just a size too big for his head right now, And he wasn’t.. he wasn’t stupid or daft, he was Dauntless.. he was trained to be conscious and aware at all times, never be caught off guard and most definitely never stare dumbfounded at a woman with a torso the size of his left bicep. He’d done his research, looked up everything there was to find on Ellarose Blanchett and yet nothing had prepared him for this.

She was smiling at him, mocha eyes looking up at him through long thick lashes and deliciously plump lips curled up at him warmly. She looked soft and her smile was nothing but sweet and yet.. those same hands that were tugging on the hem of her t shirt had beaten a man until he was unrecognizable, her baby smooth skin must have been spattered with the blood of the three factionless guards she had carried through their compound and dumped half alive at the door of an Amity Leader. Her fingers that were now painted a dark navy had at one point been wrapped around Jacob Darren’s throat so tightly the imprint of them was still prominent when she delivered his body to Dauntless with what he could imagine was fire in her Bambi eyes.

“I’m going to be tranining the initiates. I’m not supposed to be out here but i couldn’t miss out on a night like this.” She explained, filling the quiet with her songbird voice.

After what felt like hours but couldn’t have been more than a moment Eric found his voice

“I know who you are, I’m Eric. You’ll be training alongside me at times I’m assuming.”

Ella’s eyes lit up and she nodded

“Yes I’ve heard about you, Max said you were “strong, strict and downright angry.” “ She mimicked their bosses voice and giggled “he really respects you but he told me to steer clear of you.”

Eric huffed

“Nice, I’m the one who picks up all his slack and I’m the one you need to steer clear of. I heard that you got here early this morning, they’re keeping you locked away like some big surprise.” He watched as she slid away from the edge of the roof and dropped her boots to the concrete, he took a moment to catalogue her injuries

A deep red gash tore open the soft skin of her bottom lip, partially healed but still noticeable, stitches lined the space where her lower eyelashes hit, curved into some semblance of a smiley face. There were green and purple bruises all over her jaw line and a butterfly stitch over her right eyebrow, he was used to seeing the women of Dauntless covered In bruises and injuries, it was almost a badge of honor but for some reason the sight of her pretty face marred with the sight made his fists clench and his stomach lurch.

Ella turned to him quickly, something he couldn’t quite place trapped behind her eyes

“No, he’s not keeping me away because I’m a surprise.. he’s keeping me away because I’ll scare the transfers.. I’ll scare the kids.” She cocked her head to the side.

In that moment he saw it, the savage type of disconnect in her eyes, the fierce loyalty and animalistic twitch to her lips. He knew that look.. he knew that look because it was almost always gracing his own face. The way she pouted, brown eyes flashing made him want nothing more than to drag her off this rooftop and back into his apartment, throw her on his bed and make her forget anyone else’s name.. he wanted to hear her say his name over and over and over again.

Eric shook his head, shaking off the thought and shifting in his now too tight pants

“You don’t look scary. you’re small, incredibly small. I don’t think anyone’s going to be expecting you to be this small.” He reiterated, eyeing her tiny waist and long toned legs, lingering on the way they clung to her hips.

“I’ll have no problem reminding them just how scary I can be.” Ella bit out, her words raspy, anger lingering behind them before she settled and moved closer to Eric, nodding her head towards the door “ I didn’t get to eat much while I was Undercover, I was factionless completely.. I took what I could steal but I can’t count the days I went hungry, even if I managed to get food it was more than likely going to be taken.”

“Who took your food?” He questioned, holding the door open and slipping behind her, his hand on the small of her back, just a touch of her smooth skin against his fingers.

“Everyone.” She answered simply.

“Factionless bastards.” Eric grumbled.

It wasnt more than a second before she whipped back around, her fingers digging into the sleeve of his jacket

“They take what they want. Anything they want. They deserve to rot, every single one of them. I did my best to make sure of that but there’s more.. there’s more and that’s why I’m here.” Her words were rushed and her eyes darted around him to make sure no one was listening. She smelt like vanilla shampoo and mint toothpaste, this close he could see the almost translucent scar stretching from her temple to the corner of her ear. “You train those kids. Keep them safe, make them strong. Do not let them fail. Do not let them become factionless.”

“Failure isn’t an option” he promised, Grey eyes holding hers “you’ll learn fairly quickly that failure doesn’t apply to me.”

It was quick the tiniest scrunch of her nose and the tilt of her lips, something close to fondness melted her stoic expression. Her eyes shifted to her fingers curled around the harsh leather of his jacket before she slowly flattened them against his arm.

“I’m gonna have a hard time steering clear of you aren’t I?” She whispered looking up at him through her lashes.

Eric swallowed thickly, his hands hovering over her waist before slowly dropping them to the tops of her leggings just an inch of tanned skin brushing his fingertips.

“Not if I have anything to say about it.”

She reached up slowly, fingers brushing his cheek

“I..”

“Ellarose! We have been looking everywhere for you. Was it your room? You didn’t like it? We can easily relocate you somewhere more comfortable, we were concerned when Olivia went to check on you and you were gone!” Max rushed towards the two dauntless trainers, frantic eyes as Ella pulled away from Eric, wincing at the chaotic volume of their bosses voice.

Eric stepped forward, half of his body blocking the much smaller girl from their leaders reaching grip. He crossed his arms over his body, towering frame every bit as intimidating as it seemed.

“She’s not a prisoner, there’s no reason to lock her away. This is her home now, she can go wherever she pleases anytime she pleases.” Eric raised a pierced eyebrow at the shorter man in front of him, challenging him.

Ella stepped around Eric

“I’m not going to run away Max, I needed a breather. You know what happened last time I was isolated.” She sighed “Eric was helping me back to my room, I’m headed back there right now. I’ll follow you.” She turned back towards Eric, chocolate eyes sparkling “Thankyou Eric. I’ll see you tommorow?”

Arms still crossed and a half smug smirk on his lips he nodded firmly

“Count on it.”

Max gently tugged on Ella’s arm.

“Thankyou Eric.” He sounded confused before he started speaking to Ella in hushed whispers. She looked back just once, a soft smile on her lips.

He didn’t know much but he knew he would be thinking of that smile all damn night.

Chapter Text

He hadn’t been wrong about her smile, it was the absolute only thing on his mind from the moment he watched her silky curls leave his line of sight. Something about her was burned into his system now, he couldn’t seem to shake the way her skin felt under his fingers, even just the tiniest touch of his hands on her waist had his heart beating just a little too fast in his chest. Her skin smelt like vanilla and peaches and laying alone in his bed last night he couldn’t help but wonder if she tasted like sugar, it was maddening really.

This wasn’t him, he wasn’t the type of fool to get caught up in milk chocolate eyes and rose petal lips, he was stronger than that, bullet proof against the charms of a women. Sure he’d had his share, he was in shape, handsome, well put together and dangerously mysterious..his cruel nature seemed to draw the women of Dauntless to him like bees to honey and he used them. They warmed his bed and satisfied a need but that was all, it wasn’t like they weren’t using him too, he was payback for ex boyfriends, karma for neglectful fathers and a challenge to their friends.

But then there was Ella, strong and fierce, damaged and beautiful.. she had seen things he couldn’t even begin to imagine, done things that would scare even the strongest man but still.. she smiled like melted sugar cane and her touch was as warm as early morning sunshine. There were secrets buried deep in her eyes, an unimaginable level of pain that he wanted nothing more than to shield her from, to finally protect the tiny slip of a girl who had spent the last three years fighting.

“She’s mine.”
The clang of metal hitting metal had Eric’s eyes lifting from the tablet in his hand, pulling himself back to reality he stared blankly at Luke, the shorter boy dropping onto the bench across from him, a dreamy far off look in his eyes. Elliot followed closely behind with Deema and Four slid into the spot beside Eric rolling his eyes.

“You wish. Dude, she literally took like eight steps away everytime you came close. She wants me. Did you not see the way she smiled at me when I gave her that hand wrap. That’s it, no one else stands a chance.” Elliot grinned smugly, his arms exposed in the sleeveless tank top he was wearing. Funny how Eric had never seen that shirt before.

“She’s amazing dude, I can’t believe you missed it. That Ellarose is like everything I ever imagined and so much more, max assigned her to combat training with the new initiates and we all got to sit in and watch. She’s so focused and get this.. she broke the dummy.. snapped it clean off its base. I think peter almost shit his pants when she asked for a volunteer.” Deema chuckled.

“Her only disadvantage is her size, she can easily win any fight but if she’s caught by surprise or her attacker manages to grab the upper hand, which is rare for her, they would be able to easily grab her and crush her.” Four nodded from beside him.

“Her size is an advantage as well, she’s underestimated. She was factionless for three years, and one of those years she wasn’t even part of the army and she still managed to overpower all of them.” Eric snapped, he felt a strong urge to defend Ella, he didn’t want anyone thinking they had a reason to doubt her.

“You did your research.” Deema teased tossing a grape at him from across the table, Eric caught it easily and popped it in his mouth rolling his eyes.

“Of course I did. She’s one of us now..you jackasses heard she didn’t have a dick and you were ready to hand over your guns.” He scoffed.

“I’d give her anything, I’d give her my last name if shed let me flip her over..” Elliot started

“ENOUGH.” Eric barked, it was loud he knew that, could almost feel it in his throat but he didn’t care, he didn’t give a shit when all eyes locked on him in the mess hall. “You don’t get to talk about her like that.” Luke’s eyes widened before narrowing

“What the fuck dude? You haven’t even met her yet.. you don’t get to play the “I respect women” card when I say you in the training room bending Lauren over the weights with your hand over her mouth three nights ago.” He hissed.

The memory of that night was long forgotten, he had been drinking and he was so damn tired and Lauren was there, she was always there following him, watching him. He had been on his way home after a workout when she walked in with her long blonde hair and barely there shorts, Lauren had finished bottom of her class the same year as Eric, her father was a leader at Dauntless and that’s the only reason she had graduated. She was sexy but she was weak and desperate, he hadn’t even taken off his hand wraps before her hand was deep under the waistband of his shorts. He didn’t remember much of it, he couldn’t even look at her during or after.

“You might want to cut this argument short. Look who just walked through the door.” Four nodded towards the open doors where Ella was standing somewhat awkwardly, her mess of curls pulled back into a braid, loose strands brushing across her cheekbones and the tight black tank top she wore exposed the scribbled writing on her collarbone, he couldn’t quite make it out.

“Let’s ask her to sit with us!” Luke beamed, standing for a moment to wave excitedly, Ella’s eyes instantly fell on Eric’s table, a shy kind of soft smile gracing her lips until she caught sight of Eric. Her whole body loosened, he saw the way her shoulders dipped and her head cocked to the side, her fingers that had been balled tightly dropped to her thighs and smoothed the fabric of her pants before she started towards the table.

He was already shifting to the side to make room when Ella was intersected by an incredibly excited Tris practically bouncing on her heels to meet the girl that everyone was talking about. He couldn’t quite hear the conversation between the two girls but he could make out Ella’s gentle laughter and Tris’ warm compliment.

“I am so happy to meet you! I’m Tris Prior. I wanted to come see you before we welcomed the new recruits but I got stuck with paper work, you’re kind of an inspiration to a lot of the girls and women here.” She grinned shyly, her blonde hair was pulled back with a headband and her green eyes look extra large.

“Oh gosh, that’s so kind. Thankyou. I’ve heard about you, you were the year above me. You had the fastest time in beating your fear simulation, I was always amazed at how quickly you could get out.”

That was all Eric heard before she was shuffled away to sit at the table halfway across the room with Tris and Christina and a few of the other female dauntless trainers.

“Dude.. your girlfriend is actually the worst.” Luke pouted, plopping down to sit back in his seat.

Four just chuckled
“I’ll be hearing all about her tonight I’m sure. Tris has been crazy excited to meet her. Looks like Eric here is just going to have to wait his turn like the rest of us.” He clapped a hand to the muscular mans shoulder before turning to Deema to continue there conversation.

“You’re not getting this one Eric.” Elliot said from across the table, an almost angry grimace on his lips as he squinted with narrowed eyes “she’s not going to fall for whatever games you play, she’s smarter than the bimbos you hook up with. Don’t even bother. This ones mine.”

It took everything he had not to lunge across that table and wrap his fingers around the cocky boys throat, he would have given anything to watch the color drain from his skin and his eyes pop out of his head.

But he didnt

Eric simply stood up, brushed his pants off and walked directly to the door. Tension radiating off of his shoulders, he couldn’t deal with this right now, he had recruits that couldn’t hit a target if you shoved their face in it, Max was breathing down his back about planning a factionless ambush and Four and Tris wouldn’t stop trying to set him up with “a nice girl.” His life was anything but settled right now.

So four hours later when he was sitting against the open door of the immobile train he nearly murdered the subtle footsteps that he heard moving behind him.

“Deema, I don’t want to talk to you right now. I’m not depressed or in need of your mental guidance I’m just tired and I needed a breather. That’s all.”

“Sure is a pretty place to breathe.”

The distinctly feminine voice had him twisting around, he couldn’t help but notice the way her eyes looked like the deep soil that lined his backyard when he was a kid, they were so rich and dark. She moved to sit beside him, her leg pressed against his in the cramped space.

“Deema told me I could find you here. I missed you at training this morning, they stuck me with combat. Good thing though, I suck at weapons.” She chuckled, face turned to the setting sun.

“No shit?” He asked, genuinely surprised. Ella turned to him then nodding loosely.

“God yeah, I can throw a knife like no ones business, that’s easy. It’s the guns and rifles that freak me out. It’s like I see them and panic. They didn’t have many weapons in the factionless. Bombs though.. those are my specialty.” She winked.

“So I’ve heard.” Eric smiled for the first time since he’d left the mess hall, Ella’s gentle and teasing disposition making it easy to relax.

“You have beautiful eyes.”

Blushing was not a word you would ever imagine to use in the same sentence as Eric Coulter but at the tiny warriors words he felt the deep flame of his cheeks spread all the way down to his toes.

“Shut up.” He shoved her shoulder, laughing softly when a dimple bearing smile broke through her face.

“Oh you know it.” She teased “you know how good looking you are, you’re the talk of Dauntless. The brooding trainer with the fire ash eyes. Girls drool when you walk by Mr. Coulter.”

She was staring at him now, he could feel her gaze on his skin eyes tracing his tattoos.. examining him, inspecting him.

“I can’t figure you out.”

His eyes snapped to hers

“I’m an open book.” He joked, watching her as she watched him.

“They say you’re mean.. cruel even. I was going to stay away from you. Lord knows I’ve been around enough angry in the last few years. But you’re not cruel..”

“Yes I am.” He cut her off, for the first time in his life he regretted how the truth felt falling from his lips.

“Not to me. I know cruel and you aren’t cruel. determined, strong.. maybe jaded and bitter but not cruel.” She looked away, eyes trained on the peach and honey setting sun.

“And you?” His fingers brushed her knee before settling over the smooth black fabric. “Are you cruel?”

Her eyes followed his fingers, before she dropped her own hand over his. She shrugged tiny shoulders and looked up

“I don’t know what I am anymore.”

He didn’t like that look on her face, confusion, hurt…lost. He moved calloused fingers to soothe the scrunch between her eyebrows, trying to ease just a little of her anxiety.

“You’re Ellarose, you’re here. That’s all that matters.”

She stared for a moment, a flash of something In Her eyes before she nodded just slightly

“Tris invited me to dinner at her and fours apartment tonight, I said I would go. She said you might be there?” It wasn’t a question, he would be there.

“Yeah. Yeah I’ll be there.”

He wasn’t missing a chance to be around her

He couldn’t.

Chapter Text

“And then we had to climb this old Ferris wheel and Four was terrified, I’d never seen him like that.” Tris rambled, her eyes locked on the slightly pink faced man beside her as they both stood in the doorway of the neatly organized apartment.

“Don’t forget to tell them how you nearly slipped right off and fell to your death if it hadn’t been for me.” He raised a brow leaning towards his girlfriend and dropping a kiss to her cheek, she sighed dreamily and beamed before turning her attention to her two guests standing awkwardly in the hallway.

“It was so great having you both over for dinner, I can’t believe you managed to drag Eric here Ella. He’s always blowing us off.” Tris accused lightly.

“I wonder why.” Eric mumbled under his breath just loud enough for Ella to make out. The pretty brunette shook her head and bit back the giggle that was threatening to spill out.

“Thankyou so much for inviting me, I had a great time! Once I get my apartment all set up I’ll have to return the favor.” Ever the respectful amity raised young lady, Eric rolled his eyes wrapping his hand around Ella’s and tugging gently, he chose to ignore the way fours eyes followed the movement curiously.

“I’ll hold you to that.” Tris smiled “I’ll see you tommorow morning? Basic training?”

“I’ll be there! Who else is going to spar Peter?” Ella chuckled squeezing Eric’s fingers when he pulled at her hand impatiently.

“Lord help that poor boy.” Tris giggled waving one last time before closing the door, the lock clicking.

It was less than a second before Eric was pulling her through the halls of Dauntless, they were both practically sprinting, not stopping until they were both panting over the edge of the chasm, laughter spilling from their lips, Ella’s hands wrapped around her stomach as she bent over in laughter, Eric’s thick throaty chuckles echoed in the open space. After their hysterics died down Eric turned to Ella

“Pumpkin?” He snorted

“Cupcake?” Ella countered, her breathing quick as her chest rose and fell with residual laughter, tears making the deep brown of her eyes sparkle.

Tris and Four were a very openly affectionate couple behind closed doors, Eric and Ella had spent the last five hours watching as the two kissed and nuzzled and god.. the nicknames.. the absolutely horrible nicknames.

“I mean they’re lovely. Tris is so sweet and I can tell we’re going to be great friends but..”

“The tickling.. the fucking tickling.” Eric cut her off. shuddering.

“I know right? That was totally weird.” Ella giggled, sighing before resting her weight on the railing of the chasm gazing down at the black abyss she had spent hours staring at years ago thoughtfully. “Ya know when I first got here, to Dauntless I mean, there was a boy. Smaller than you but much bigger than me who asked me to jump with him, he told me I was going to be factionless by the end of training, I was too small, I’d never make it.”

Eric scoffed, how could they have not seen what she was capable of.. one look in her eyes and he had known, he had seen it all laid out for the world to see. Fire, burning and bright.

“He couldn’t keep up, he said If we did it together it would be better, it would make us look less like cowards.. an act of love he called it.” She rolled her eyes, long lashes brushing.

“You didn’t jump.. did he? Did the boy jump?” Eric questioned.

Ella finally turned to him then, gentle sadness brushed across her smile.

“Yes. By himself. Alone. I was his only friend.. I had to tell his parents. It was better that way.”

Eric placed his hand over hers on the metal bar, it practically swallowed hers up, the size difference was almost comical.

“I made a trainee dangle from the chasm, she was weak, she had to prove to herself that she was strong before anyone would believe in her.”

Ella laughed then, her eyes lighting up and her nose crinking adorably

“I remember hearing about that! Max would send me the reports at the end of the month, it was something to keep me grounded while I was undercover. I remember “newest leader Coulter hangs initiate by chasm.. possibly insane?””

Eric scoffed “insane? Please. I was helping her, my entire training class was pathetic. I had peter trying to kill everyone, Tris defying every single thing I said and the rest of them were crying in their bunks every night. It was miserable.”

“I missed Dauntless.” Ella sighed grinning at Eric’s twisted grumpy face.

Eric felt the tension ease from his shoulders now that it was just the two of them. there was that new sense of calm washing over him, he had to be careful.. it was something he could feel himself getting used too. She was so damn pretty and so damn sweet and it was everything he had sworn to never get too close to and yet here he was, desperate to just touch her even just to look at her.

They stood there in comfortable silence for a moment before Ella led him away from chasm

“I can’t get used to my room here.” She sighed “I know I should be grateful and I am but I don’t know.. I almost feel..lonely?” She sounded conflicted, almost confused.

“What do you mean?” Eric questioned.

“I just mean.. I don’t know but with the factionless I was never alone unless I actively seeked it out, like when I had to get information to max or read something he sent me but other than that I was always around people, there was never any quiet. Granted they were all terrible terrible people, they were still noise.. something to keep myself away from my thoughts.”

“You can come see me.”

The words were out of his mouth before he even had the chance to stop them. Eric’s eyes widened and he resisted the urge to punch himself in the face before he continued rambling

“Not that I’m great company or anything.. I just meant that if you ever get.. if you’re ever lost in your head I’m just a couple doors down. You can just.. you can always…”

He never got to finish his sentence, toned arms wrapped around his torso, peach and vanilla rushing his senses as silky curls brushed against his chin, and smooth skin pressed against the plain black T-shirt he had on.

He was being hugged.

Eric Coulter was being hugged.

And he liked it.

“I’m not very good at this.” She whispered against his chest, her words muffled by the fabric of his shirt.

“At what?” Eric pressed his palm into the small of her back, enjoying the way it seemed to fit perfectly there.

“Whatever it is I feel for you. I don’t know how to act. I’m afraid I’m going to scare you away.. I’ve forgotten how to feel things, I shut that off the moment I entered the factionless and now here with you? I don’t know.. I just.. I feel something.. something good.” She whispered, burying herself deeper into him, vulnerability seeking through her words. Eric was certain she hadn’t been able to be like this for a very long time, he himself had never allowed himself to feel that kind of emotion.

He didn’t know how to tell her he was feeling the exact same way.

So he didn’t.

Cupping her cheek with one hand he ran his thumb along the jagged scar starting at her temple, winter grey eyes searching her warm ones longingly before he pressed his lips to hers. She melted into his body pressing her chest to his and winding her arms around his neck, his fingers tangled in her hair, tugging gently at the mess of silk curls as he licked at her lips begging for entrance, the second her teeth wrapped around his bottom lip he knew he was a goner. He gripped at the backs of her thighs, lifting her up and pressing her against the cold metal wall, his hand coming up to cup the back of her head to prevent her from slamming it against the hard surface.

“Eric.” She whispered somewhere caught between a gasp and a whimper.

“Ella.” He kissed her skin, tasting her.

Her fingers dug into the heavy leather of his jacket as his slipped underneath her cotton T-shirt. She was everything good about this world wrapped around his body.

A door slamming broke them out of their moment, Ella slipped from his grasp, her feet finding the ground as Eric’s hands moved to grip at her waist, his forehead lowering to rest against hers, They were both breathless as they stared at each other.

“I should be heading to bed.” She whispered

“Yeah.” Eric nodded

Neither moved for a moment, taking in the moment and planting it firmly in their memory. Finally Eric’s hands slipped from her waist and he stood up straight, wiggling in his now far too tight jeans. Ella’s eyes drifted down before she quickly looked up, a wicked smile on her lips.

“I have weapons training with Elliot tommorow, I might stop by your combat class.. see if I can learn a few things.” She reached down to intertwine their fingers, Noticing the way Eric tensed slightly, his spine stiffening. “Unless.. unless you don’t want me too?”

He noticed the way her voice dropped to a whisper, he shook his head rapidly.. they were at the door to her apartment now and he pulled her back against him

“No! No I want you to come by.. it’s.. just be careful around Elliot okay? He’s not someone you want to get too close too.” He stroked her cheek softly, his eyebrows were scrunched up as he stared deeply at her.

“That’s what they told me about you.” She smiled fondly, reaching up to cover the hand he hand on her cheek with her own “but I thought you two were friends?”

“No. No, not when it comes to you.” His voice was much deeper, serious.

Ella nodded, her eyes confused.

“Okay Eric.. I’ll let it slide for now.. I’ll see you tommorow. We can maybe.. pick up where we left off.” Her eyes fell on the still there bulge of his pants and she looked back up innocently, going on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek before slipping into her apartment.

“The death of me. The literal death of me.” He moaned.. but still...

He couldn’t wipe the damn smile off of his face.

Chapter Text

He could still taste her on his lips at breakfast, could still feel her silk skin under his fingers as he tied his boots, could still smell her peach shampoo on his morning run. She was everywhere but nowhere all at once, he hadn’t seen her since last night despite how much he searched for her.. it was an uneasy feeling.. caring for someone other than himself. She was all he could focus on, all he could think about.

...Although Deemas smug grin and curious eyes were enough to draw his focus to his annoying best friend.

“What are you staring at?” Eric grumbled, arms crossed as he kept his eyes on the initiates pathetically sparring each other. Not only was he desperately distracted he was also pissed off and frustrated, the display in front of him was enough to to have his blood boiling. “Adams, lift your fucking arms or I’ll break them before you have a chance to block your ugly ass face.”

Deema grinned
“You have.. that look.” The shorter boy circled the much larger tattooed man in front of him.

Eric squirmed under the inspection of his goofy friend

“Knock that shit off, I don’t have any “look”” he growled.

Deemas eyes lit up and an ear splitting grin broke free on his handsome face
“You got laid! My man!” He lifted a palm to Eric’s face, laughing when he smacked it out of the way “who’s the lucky lady?”

“Shut up, I didn’t get laid. Lower your fucking voice.” Eric hissed, eyes darting around the room.

“Was it Lauren again? I’ve seen her following you.. I mean she’s a little.. much. But all power to ya if you’re into silicone.” Deema chuckled.

“Fuck that shit. I haven’t touched Lauren since that night and I don’t plan on ever doing it again.” His nose scrunched up in disgust, Lauren slept with anyone who would give her credibility.. when she couldn’t get Four she had set her sights on Eric and he had stupidly fallen for her long legs and short shorts, alcohol buzzing through his blood.

“So who...”

Deema was cut off by the heavy metal door of the training room swinging open, all of the initiates turned to see what had caused the noise and in an instant Eric was in front of them all.

“Ella?” He questioned.. stepping towards the source of the disruption.

The beautiful brunettes heavy boots beat the linoleum tile, her hand was wrapped tight around one of the newer trainees wrist as she pulled him towards the fighting ring, breezing past Eric and his initiates. Her group of trainees trailed through the open door all looking slightly terrified.

“What’s happening?” Deema moved to stand by Eric beside the ring as they watched Ella tie up her hair and pull off the black long sleeve shirt she had on leaving her in nothing but her tight sports bra and spandex shorts.

Her body was something on an entirely different level, her stomach tanned and toned but subtle curves dipping from her hips to her muscled thighs. Her chest was plenty more than Eric had been expecting based off of her small stature, a bead of sweat rolling from the length of her neck to nestle right between the dips of her breasts. She was without a doubt the most beautiful woman Eric had ever seen.

Then there were the bruises.

Heavy handed purple and green splotches littering her sides, indentations made clear that it was a fist that had beaten her right next to her rib cage. Her spine was marred with scars just beginning to heal and the fingerprint sized bruises on her forearms made Eric’s stomach twist and turn in the beginning stages of nausea. The sight alone made him want to kill something... someone. Her low and angry voice had him snapping out of his own head

“Go ahead Evans, hit me... this is what you wanted isn’t it? “A crack at the crazy bitch?” Well I’m standing right here? You’re not scared are you?” She taunted the much larger boy, clapping her hands together and bracing her feet, knees tight and eyes wild.

Danny Evans was an arrogant Dauntless born piece of shit, Eric had experienced his insubordinace first hand when the boy refused to pack up his shit, Eric had him running laps until he threw up, he had apparently gone too far with the newest trainer and was now staring at her from across the fighting ring, anger and confusion mixing together on his face.

“You’re a fucking psycho.” He sneered “everyone knows you’re insane, that they filled you up with some crazy shit when you were with the factionless.”

Ella laughed, her eyes never leaving the angry boy once.
“You’re right.. I’m crazy. Insane even. But Im stronger than you.. I’m smarter than you.. I’m better than you.. I am every damn thing you could ever hope to be.”

That was all it took, Danny lunged for her with a feral growl reaching for her throat, Ella easily dodged his grasp driving a heavy fist into his side causing him to bend over in pain her free hand reaching up to grip a chunk of his blonde hair and delivering another swift punch to his cheek, blood splitting from his now open lip. She kicked at his side with reverence and swiped his legs out from under him, locking him in place and twisting his arms so they pulled behind his back. He yelped, wiggling and attempting to kick his legs. Ella bent low to his ear and whispered

“Didn’t your mother ever tell you to stay away from crazy girls.” She tugged one final time, firmly dislocating his shoulder before dropping his arms and climbing off of him, his screams echoing abasing the quiet murmur of the room. she was panting, adrenaline radiating off of her.

“Class is dismissed for the day. Go pack up your guns. I’ll see you tommorow, extra early.” Her voice was back to its normal honey smooth tone as she adressed her group. They all scrambled to their feet and rushed out the door, most of them were impressed but some were more than a little scared.

Eric watched the way Ella’s shoulders shook just slightly, her eyes far away as she moved to walk past him, head down.

“Ella..” he reached out for her, his fingers just brushing her forearm. she looked down at his fingers on her skin before quickly pulling away. Tears built up in the corners of her chocolate eyes as she gathered her shirt from the ring and rushed past him.

Eric watched her go, an aching in his chest that he wasn’t familiar with.

“So it’s her. Shit dude.”

Deemas hand came to rest in erics shoulder, he turned quickly

“I..” he stuttered, unsure whether he was ready to say it out loud, to put it out there into the world.

“You don’t have to say anything.. just go.” Deema smiled in only the way a friend who had been through what they had together could.

He didn’t have to be told twice, pushing past the trainees and rolling through the metal doors. He knew exactly where she was.

He found her resting on the ledge of the roof, the sun setting against her skin made it glow in hues of yellow and gold, he could make out the tracks of her tears on her skin when she turned to look at him. As soon as she did though she turned away.

“I can’t talk to you right now.” She whispered “I’ll.. I’ll talk to you later okay?” He hated how small her voice sounded, the breeze rustling her curls, he had to bite down the desire to run his fingers through them.

“You did what you had too, there’s nothing wrong with letting them know you’re in charge. They’re dauntless now.. they need to learn.” He sighed when she didn’t answer, moving to stand behind her resting his hand against the small of her back.

It all happened too suddenly for him to process, Ella leaped down from the ledge and onto the floor of the roof, stumbling away from Eric.

“How can you sit there and touch me?! How can you even look at me? You don’t know what I’ve done.. what I’m capable of!” She cried desperately, tears leaking down her cheeks as she pushed herself into the brick wall closest to the door. “You need to stay away from me, .. I can’t be brave.. I can’t be anything.. I hurt people.. that’s what I do! And I won’t hurt you! I can’t.” She reached for the handle, desperate to get away, to run.

In two strides Eric had her wrapped up in his arms, his arms engulfing her waist. As he pressed her head into his chest, fingers rolling in her hair as he held her as tightly as possible.

“I know you Ella.. I see you. You’re beautiful and brave and strong and you’re broken but that’s okay. I’m broken too, I’m cruel and angry and mean and impatient but you make me feel something.. you make me feel everything. I’m not letting whatever this is go because you’re afraid of hurting me. I’m here and I’m not going anywhere.. I’ve never had anyone.. I’ve never wanted anything like this but I want this with you. Don’t push me away, let me be there for you. Let me be here.” He gripped her chin and pulled her eyes toward his, She sniffled and closed her eyes lashes fluttering against her cheeks.

“I’m pathetic.” Her lips lifted just slightly, enough to make Eric laugh softly.

“You’re beautiful.” He repeated.

Ella lifted her arms to wrap around his neck, her fingers tracing his tattoo gently. His own eyes drifted closed at the feel of her fingers on his throat “hmm” he hummed.

“Do you think I’ll get In trouble for the whole Danny thing?” She leaned forward, lips brushing his jaw following after her fingers.

He tightened his grip on her waist
“Fuck that. I was there, he had it coming. It was the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Ella laughed, pure and open and warm. Her nose was red and her eyes were puffy from crying, she’d never looked quite as beautiful.

“Oh yeah? That’s what it takes? A couple undercuts and I have you around my finger. What on earth will all of the ladies of Dauntless say when they find out I’ve caught your attention? We’ll have a riot for sure.”

Eric grinned wickedly, scooping her up and into his arms bridal style, burying his face in her neck, smiling when she giggled and yelped.

“I couldn’t give a shit.” He mumbled against the smooth skin of her neck, inhaling as he slipped out the door with her wrapped up in his arms.

They were halfway down the hallway, Ella talking about the upcoming leadership conference at Amity when Elliot stopped them abruptly moving to stand in front of Eric, his eyes trained on the pretty brunette in his arms, a nasty glare set on his face.

“Where the fuck were you?” He growled.

Ella slipped from Eric’s grasp, her feet finding the floor before she turned towards Elliot.

“Excuse me?” She raised a brow, arms crossed

Ella slipped from Eric’s grasp, her feet finding the floor before she turned towards Elliot.

“We had weapon training together and I leave to talk to Max for five minutes and find my entire class gone? What the fuck Ella?” He moved closer.

Eric gently tugged Ella back, his expression absolutely lethal.

“Watch your mouth.” He growled.

“What are you going to do about it Coulter? She has you whipped and you haven’t even gotten anything out of her yet. You won’t.. I know bitches like this.. they string you along for nothing.. look at her. You really think she’s worth more than a quick fuck in the training room?” He scoffed, laughing.

Everything went black.

The last thing he heard was his name falling from Ella’s lips.

Chapter Text

He was on administrative lockdown, locked down in the pits, his knuckles bleeding and his lip busted.

“It’s just until you calm down. You almost killed Elliot Eric. I know you have a temper but we can’t have you attacking everyone in the faction.” Max sighed, running a hand over his face, he looked exhausted and Eric couldn’t help but feel as though he was being scolded, he scoffed.

“This is Dauntless, if he can’t handle a beating he doesn’t fucking belong here.” He growled, throwing a fist into the nearest wall.

Max rolled his eyes and made his way to the door
“Get some rest, I’ll be back in a while.”

As soon as he heard the click of the lock he threw himself on the workout mat closest to the wall, dropping his arm over his eyes. Fucking Elliot Wells.. the fight was far from over, if he thought he could just run his mouth about his girl he had another thing coming.

His girl.

I mean she was wasn’t she? He didn’t think she was kissing anyone else the way she did him and he definitely wasn’t dry humping anyone else against the apartment halls. He wasn’t the boyfriend type, that much was clear but he could be.. for her he would do anything.. maybe that made him some kind of bitch and maybe his dumbass friends would want to run their mouths but he didn’t care, they didn’t get to feel her skin pressed against theirs or watch the way her eyes lit up when she hit the target at weapons practice.. they’d never get to see the way her lips looked swollen and rose red after a kiss.

He fell asleep to thoughts of her vanilla skin and Bambi brown eyes until he was violently shaken awake, Tris was standing in front of him, eyes wide and wet, Four was standing by the door and he looked just as panicked.

“Wake up! Wake up now!” Tris pulled at his arm, tugging him to his feet.

“What the fuck? What are you doing? What the hell is the matter?” Eric ripped his arm free of Tris’ grasp her nails digging into the muscle of his bicep.

“She’s gone! They sent her.. she’s gone! Did you know?! How could you let this happen!” She shouted, her voice shaky as she pushed at his chest

“Who’s gone! What are you talking about!” Maybe it was the fact that he’d been ripped from his sleep or the fact that it was dark and cold down in the pits but he wasn’t thinking straight.. he couldn’t think at all, he hardly even flinched when four threw his body into his and shoved him against the wall.. his arm on his neck to keep him in place.

“Was it all a joke to you? Did they ask you to do it? To play with her like that.. to keep her distracted before they sent her back! Like she was some kind of fucking pound dog?!” Four growled, his teeth bared and his face twisted in anger.

Eric shoved against fours grip effectively pushing him back
“I don’t know what the fuck you’re..” He trailed off, his head snapping towards Four “Ella..” he whispered “where the fuck is Ella?” His eyes flicked between four and tris frantically.

“Like you don’t know! Your best friend Max was in charge of it all!” Tris had her arms crossed tight around her chest trying desperately to conceal her anxiety, disguising it as anger.

“Tell me what the fuck is going on!” Eric spit, halfway between the open doorway and Fours slightly wavering stance.

“They sent her to the factionless.. she’s human bait.. a distraction so that we can infiltrate.. it’s a suicide mission. They’ll kill her for being a traitor, they sent her so that their leader Dante would be focused on getting revenge he wouldn’t realize our troops are following closely behind her.. you.. you didn’t know.” Four trailed off before his eyes widened “Eric you can’t..”

But it was too late, Eric had taken off down the halls of Dauntless, heavy combat boots rapping against the ground as he rushed into Max’s office instantly gripping him by the neck and pushing him into the wall, fingers tightening around the much smaller mans throat.

“Eric.. Eric it wasn’t me.. it wasn’t my call I tried to stop them.. I did.. I didn’t want..” Max choked, his breathing ragged as Eric tightened his grip

“You’re in charge! You make the decisions! You expect me to believe it wasn’t you who sent her there.. who did then huh? Who sent her?!” He was sparatic, he could hardly focus on anything other than the man who had sent Ella to her death.

“Me. I did. I sent the girl back.”

Eric whipped around at the slightly familiar voice.

Jeanine.

He should have known.

Eric let Max slip from his fingers and rounded in on the prim and proper woman, ignoring the guards scattered around the room.

“Who the fuck are you to send her back there? She’s walking into a loaded gun.. you sent her to be murdered!” He stuttered, he vaguely registered Four and Tris coming to stand behind him.. they were on his side. There was rage building in his body, if he snapped the woman’s neck, if he cracked her skull against the corner of the desk how fast would they kill him?

“She knew she would be going back, being here was only temporary. She had a job to do and she executed it flawlessly, she’s a brave young woman and she’s doing this for her faction. She’s sacrificing herself for the greater good... she saw that.” Jeanine nodded firmly, a slow smile on her lips. The sight of her purple painted lips tilting upwards made Eric’s stomach flip and turn, he wanted to kill her.

It didn’t make sense.. why would she willingly walk into the fire? Why would she give herself up.. unless she felt that was her purpose.. that’s why she had held him so close and kissed him so tenderly.. she didn’t think she had a choice but to leave him..

Maybe before.. before she made friends, before she found a purpose..a position here in dauntless, before everything... before him.

“We’re going now. We’re raiding them now and we’re getting her out of there.. Alive.” There were no means for argument, Eric turned to Four.

“I’m with you brother. I’m right behind you.” He nodded tightly, determination in his eyes, he’d never seen Eric like this before.. it was commonly known around the faction that the tattooed man cared only for himself, he would kill anything or anyone that got in his way consequences be damned. But here he was, focused solely on the tiny brunette who had stolen his heart.. it was strangely amazing to see.

“You can’t just decide..” Jeanine huffed, quickly being interrupted by Eric

“I’ve decided not to take that stapler to your face.. don’t press your luck.. we’re going to get my girl.. and we’re going now. Gather your army.” He didn’t look back not once, he kept his eyes trained on the road from the moment he attached himself to the side of the Dauntless tank to the second the factionless compound came into view.

Eric was willing to do whatever it took, he didn’t know how long she’d been in there.. what they’d done to her..but they’d pay.. he just hoped he wasn’t too late.

They made it through the gated underground community without being spotted, it was only when they barged through the doors of the run down factory building that it became very clear to the factionless exactly what was going on. They’d scrambled to get there weapons but there were too few of them, they were underprepared, clearly not ready for battle. Jeanine had been right.. they were distracted.. the reason for the distraction was currently being shoved past the gates, a man around Eric’s age and height was trying to sneak Ella out of the compound.. his grip tight on the bruised and battered girl.

“Ella!” Eric called to her, relief flooding his body when she whipped towards his voice, he saw just the slightest bit of relief behind her battered face before she was wrenched away from the iron gate by her hair.. that must be Dante. He saw red, charging towards the gate his gun lifted directly at the space in between the dark haired man eyes.

“No!” Ella shook her head aggressively, watery eyes wide “don’t shoot him, you need him.. you need his information!”

“I don’t give a shit about what he’s hiding.” The gun clicked in anticipation as Eric lined himself against the gate, he couldn’t get in it was locked but Dante seemed frozen to the spot, fear sketched across his face at Eric’s hard, cold and glazed eyes.

“I’m gonna enjoy this” he sneered, fingers tightening around the trigger, the man fell to the ground screaming shoving Ella into the gate on instinct.

Eric stared at Dante writhing on the ground then back to his gun. He hadn’t shot it.

“Ella!” Tris ran towards the shaking brunette embracing her in a tight hug “I didn’t think it would work, thank god eric had him distracted while we snuck back here.” Her green eyes fell in disgust to the man laying on the floor. “He’ll live, it was a dart gun.. he’s just temporarily paralyzed. Come on! Let’s get you out of here.” She reached for Ella’s hand immediately dropping it when the girl in question let out a sob, clutching at her side and cradling her wrist. “It’s broken.. and my fingers.” Her fingers were all twisted funny, obviously individually broken, erics sharp inhalation of breath had Ella turning back to the gate.

“You weren’t supposed to come after me.. you were supposed to understand.. you’re a soldier like me.. you were supposed to let me die.” She whispered, tucking herself into Tris’s side and allowing the taller girl to pull her back to the tanks, Four was cuffing Dante went he looked back to Eric.

“She’s never going to think she’s worth anything.. her parents made sure of that when she was younger.. just like yours did. She needs you man, and you need her.” He didn’t day anything else, just hauled the screaming man to his feet and disappeared amongst the shrapnel leaving Eric to gather the rest of the troops, his mind in something else entirely.

*****

“Im okay Tris.. im just tired and my ribs hurt.. I just need a hot shower and a nap.” She smiled weakly, taking the stairs one at a time slowly tried hovering behind her.

“You sure you don’t want me to stay with you? Or you could stay with me? Just so someone’s there to help you?” Her friend gently helped her up the last step, pushing at the small of her back.

“I told you it’s okay, it’s not like I haven’t been beaten up before.. this is Dauntless.” Ella teased half heartedly.

“Beaten up” is different than three broken ribs an entirely broken hand, a concussion and pretty severe blood loss.” The short haired blonde raised a brow, before her eyes zeroed in on something in the distance, a guilty kind of smile gracing her lips as she backed away “but if you’re sure you’ll be fine.. I better get back to Four, He was just with Max.. I’ll get you all the details on the morning.” She bent down and pressed a kiss to her friends cheek before shooting down the stairs leaving Ella to limp to her apartment door on her own.

Or atleast she thought she was alone.

Eric was leaning against her apartment door, arms crossed and that stern look on his handsome face.

“Oh no.” She mumbled, fumbling in her pockets for her keys “Eric.. I’m really tired.. I don’t think I have it in me to fight right now.. I just want..”

She was instantly cut off when Erics arms circled around her, pulling her into his body with a softness she didn’t know he possessed. His face buried in her hair and his hands slipped under her ripped T-shirt to rest on her back, the contrast of his warm fingers on her ice cold back made her shiver and she couldn’t help but melt into him. He pulled his face to hers dropping his forehead to hers, he had to duck because of the height difference but soon his eyes were seeking out hers. They were so different in appearance, he was all light an clear while she was dark and rich but still there was something so similar in the way he held himself, similar weight on both of their shoulders.

She was so sore and so tired both mentally and physically that when his arms reached under her knees and hoisted her into his arms she didn’t fight it, she simply nestled into his neck closed her eyes. She didn’t open them until she felt him place her gently on her bed, the mattress dipping when he joined her, his arms wrapping around her tiny broken body and molding himself around her.

“Sleep baby. I’m right here.” He whispered, fingers brushing her curls away from her neck.

They had so much to talk about.. argue about.. but right now?

Right now they had each other..

And that was enough.