A/N: Originally written for the Five Figure Fanworks Exchange on AO3 for CorinaLannister.
Full Summary: Within the towering walls of Chicago, there are five factions with simple rules. Once one chooses which to join when coming of age, they are one of them forever. Leaving your faction of birth is a betrayal that cannot be mended. Beatrice Prior is ready to make the hard choice to remain in Abnegation to keep their family together right up until her brother abandons them for Erudite. With Caleb gone, remaining in the smothering grip of Abnegation for the rest of her life is too much for Beatrice. She runs away to Dauntless in hopes of becoming stronger, braver, and most importantly, happier than she would be stuck in the selfless life she was expected to lead.
I will be uploading these chapters gradually over the next few weeks.
Oh, Be Careful What it Takes
It didn't seem fair to Beatrice that not only did she have to spend the entire morning of Choosing Day dodging her parent's oh-so-knowing glances but that they all had to make the long walk to the Hub together. The busses were all full before they even got to the end of the block, and they couldn't be so rude as to impose on the Black family to drive any of them. The car would only have fit at most another one or two people and of course if any Prior was going to get to ride in a car then it would be expected of them to offer it to one of the others. All of that amounted to no Priors being able to join Susan and Robert's family in the car.
So Beatrice trudged along next to Caleb with her arms alternating between folding across her chest and swinging fitfully by her sides when she could no longer ignore her father's chiding expression. All of the conversation died out after a few exchanges. What was there to talk about that wouldn't be too hard? And why bother discussing the simple stuff when it was time for both Caleb and Beatrice to choose?
The indignity wasn't over even once they arrived at the Hub, either. Beatrice's already irritable mood soured further as she watched her parent's shoulders turn dutifully towards the stairwell entrances. "Can't we at least check if the elevators are available?" Beatrice grumbled under her breath. Caleb's elbow jabbed into her side in an unkind reminder that asking the question was practically an insult all on its own.
She clamped her mouth shut the whole way up the dizzying stairwell even when her sides hurt from the effort. Getting to the auditorium with its clustered, slightly-too-close-together chairs still managed to be a relief. Beatrice huffed her way behind her parents as they made their way to the Abnegation section that mercifully wasn't on the opposite end of the large room.
Their little group was stopped briefly by a tall, blonde woman that Beatrice eventually realized was actually the Erudite faction leader, Jeanine. There was a bit of uncomfortableness as her father clearly tried to wriggle out of the conversation but Jeanine was having none of it.
"These can't be your children, Andrew," Jeanine commented as though it wasn't very obvious to the contrary. Beatrice didn't bother keeping her eyes low and out of the way. Since when had her father been on speaking terms with the leader of any faction besides the other Abnegation council members?
Beatrice' father pressed his lips in a thin line that might have been generously called pleasant. He still answered her though. "Yes. My son Caleb and my daughter Beatrice. They're both choosing today," he explained curtly.
Jeanine raised a thin eyebrow. "An auspicious day. You must be looking forward to seeing their choices. I know that I myself am always curious how children choosing on the same day make their decision. Whether they match or not," she replied. "When there are transfers things get quite interesting, don't you agree?"
There was a wrinkle that passed over Beatrice's father's face. Irritation which was quickly smoothed over into the easy confidence he wore when on Council business or out speaking with the neighbors. "You'll have to look to some other family for your nature versus nurture observations, Jeanine. I know that's what you're talking about," Beatrice's father said firmly. Beatrice was finding it difficult to decide what she was feeling - irritation that they still hadn't gotten to sit down or burning curiosity as to why her father was speaking so sharply to a faction leader. Especially an Erudite leader.
Another part of her was curious as to why Jeanine would call transfers interesting . Perhaps because it wasn't her own flesh and blood. It wasn't personal, knowing you were never going to have the same relationship again.
"Transfer" was a kind term. The more accurate one was "traitor."
Beatrice's eyes flicked to the five bowls positioned behind Jeanine. They were in the center of the stage, offset even from the small podium that this year's faction leader would speak from to bring the ceremony to order. Each carved stone bowl stood on their own with their unique contents. They served to capture all the attention of the room. On what each young man and woman would pledge themselves to.
Beatrice's father placed a hand on Caleb's shoulder, bringing her attention back to the conversation unfolding still. "We -" Beatrice knew well the royal we that actually meant Abnegation "- are looking forward to finally having our children make their initiation and join the faction. Isn't that what every parent wants? To see their children build on what they've accomplished?"
Jeanine's lips curled in a smile that didn't reach her eyes. "I'll have to take your word on that, Andrew," she replied. With a curt nod, Jeanine briskly walked away.
"Since when are you on speaking terms with Jeanine Matthews?" For once, Beatrice was not the one asking rude questions. Caleb had blurted it out. Their mother shushed him and directed them to finally sit down. Now they sat in an even more uncomfortable silence as the rest of the hall gradually filled up with the other families and faction members in attendance. Not everyone came to the Choosing Ceremony, but it seemed to Beatrice it might as well have been everyone.
The gathering crowd took a while to assemble. Yet Beatrice felt it was only all too soon that Marcus Eaton took the stage to begin the ceremony. There was a long-winded speech about legacy and how their choices today would sow the seeds for their own futures. Beatrice had to hide a grimace when she caught her parents throwing expectant looks at both herself and Caleb.
Technically Beatrice could fit in just fine in Abnegation. Her aptitude test had shown that she did indeed share her parent's and Caleb's aptitude for the faction of the selfless. There was just the little wrinkle where the proctor, Tori, had read out two additional factions. Dauntless and Erudite.
Transferring happened of course, but as Beatrice had sat in her bedroom last night she had wondered if she would be up to the challenge. It was one thing to know that she had the aptitude for something other than politely helping her fellow neighbors for the rest of her life. It was another to make the decision to leave.
Sixteen years of being reminded that " we" have to do the right thing, that " we" make the decisions which are best for all not just ourselves. Sixteen years of being Abnegation. Beatrice could easily see herself walking away from all of that. But spending the next fifty, sixty years without seeing her family again? That wasn't quite so simple to walk away from.
Here in the Hub, actually facing down the decision, Beatrice wished that she had stayed up a bit longer last night to just choose. It had seemed then that there would be more time to think, more time to consider. Before breakfast. In the shower. On the walk here.
Caleb put a hand on her knee. Beatrice started. She hadn't realized that she had been bobbing it up and down while she spiraled into her anxiety. Caleb furrowed his brow. You okay? He mouthed.
No, she wasn't. Beatrice swallowed and lifted one shoulder. This wasn't the place to get into it. Marcus was tapping his papers back into line, and the assistants were laying out the small sterile blades on the table that had been rolled out next to the faction bowls.
Her brother squeezed her knee once and pulled his hand back. Beatrice exhaled slowly. She forced herself to stay still, to stay calm. One way or another, this would be over shortly.
The first few of Beatrice's classmates to step up to the center dias had the worst luck, she decided. To be the first to Choose for each faction meant an enormous level of pressure. There was an extra burst of applause when the very first faction was chosen. Erudite. In the corner of Beatrice's eye she caught her father's downturned lips even as he clapped politely along with the rest of the room. It didn't mean anything, being the first faction chosen, but Beatrice suddenly could picture the report to go out tomorrow on the event. There would be some jab, some self-congratulating pat on the back that of course the first faction Chosen was Erudite.
Yet just like that, the room quieted and the next name was called. The process continued and more blood was spilled. Beatrice took some solace in watching the first teenager bleed into the grey stones of Abnegation. At least she wouldn't be the first Abnegation today. Assuming that was what she would default to. The decision still lingered in the forefront of her thoughts.
There was another first, though, that had yet to creep up. As the names crept closer and closer to Prior in the chaotic, reverse-alphabetical tradition, Beatrice edged ever forward on her chair. Who would be the first to transfer? Perhaps this nervous Dauntless-born girl would decide to join the laid back Amity? No, she steeled her shoulders and stepped to the coals just like her parents had before her.
Beatrice let out a breath as the last teenager before herself and Caleb made his way down. She knew him well enough. They had been lab partners for a quarter. There was no way that he was leaving Erudite.
"Guess there won't be too many transfers after all," Beatrice said as she leaned over to Caleb. He didn't answer. They both watched the boy happily grin as he squeezed his hand over the glass in the Erudite bowl.
"Good luck," Beatrice whispered as Caleb wiped his palms on the fronts of his pants. He stood up just before Marcus Eaton finished reading his name from the list. Their parents wished him much the same. It felt like a chorus, though what they all truly meant was not "good luck" but "see you soon." Beatrice felt her own decision solidifying in her mind. They had to stick together. They were a family, regardless of aptitude, regardless of how dull volunteering might be some days.
Caleb took the steps at a quick pace. He accepted the knife from one of the assistants and made the cut on his palm in an almost rushed manner. The assistant who took the soiled blade from him had a frown on their face. Some quiet exchange passed as Caleb shook his head. Beatrice tried not to roll her eyes. Of all the things to mess up, you didn't want to hurt yourself for real during the ceremony.
She frowned, however, when Caleb stepped away from the assistants into the half-circle of bowls. He hadn't stepped all the way to the side to reach the Abnegation bowl. He'd stopped partway through. There was a moment that seemed to stretch for much longer than a few seconds as he turned his face to look up to where the three of them were sitting. Beatrice's skin grew cold as the fear crept in.
"No," she whispered to herself. Caleb swallowed and tore his eyes away to look instead at the bowls once more. "What are you doing?" He didn't answer of course. He couldn't hear his sister all the way down there. And it was obvious what he was doing, painfully so, as Beatrice watched him step over to the wrong bowl.
Caleb lifted his hand over the glass and let his blood join the others before him. There was a long pause, much longer than for any other chooser. Caleb looked up at Marcus and surely there wasn't enough air in the room for this many people because Beatrice suddenly couldn't breathe.
"Erudite," Marcus finally announced, sealing the decision. Caleb pulled his hand back and in the crescendo of confused yet exhilarated applause, he was welcomed into his new faction.
Beatrice looked at her parents. Her father's face was twisted in obvious fury. He did not clap. Neither did Beatrice. Her mother had managed to belatedly join in the applause but her expression was just as confused as Beatrice felt.
"Why did he do that?" Beatrice asked. Neither of her parents answered. Her question was buried in the clapping.
When it tapered back down, Marcus had returned to his previous composure though there was a stiffness down his spine. He cleared his throat deliberately before calling out, "Next, Beatrice Prior."
It wasn't fair. Beatrice felt herself stand up simply because she knew that was what she was supposed to do. She stepped past her parents, murmuring apologies that she didn't have to give but surely meant that she was sorry, too, for what Caleb had just done to them. Next she passed down the stairs. At the bottom she paused, and her head swiveled to find where Caleb had sat down. He was looking straight ahead, his expression carefully schooled.
"Beatrice?" She flushed and turned back to the bowls in front of her. She had just been standing there, glaring at Caleb. She needed to keep moving. That was the expectation.
Smoothing her dress with her hands, Beatrice approached the assistants with their curious faces and their shiny, sterile blades. One of them passed it to her with a murmured reminder to just press enough to get a few drops. Maybe they thought after Caleb it would be better to give some direction than to assume.
Beatrice followed the instructions dutifully, handing over the blade to the right one. She kept her hand cupped to prevent the precious liquid from spilling. It had to be done right. She had to do it right, unlike Caleb.
She couldn't mess up.
She couldn't ruin things, not like Caleb had.
How could he have done this? To their family? They were supposed to be on the same page. If she was staying, surely he could suck it up and remain as well. That's what they were supposed to do as good, selfless people. Even when they didn't want to, that was what was expected. People didn't betray their factions, their families. It wasn't right.
Beatrice stepped away from the little table of knives and approached the bowls. She didn't stop moving, didn't shy away from the path that she knew had been laid in front of her by her mother and her father before her.
She didn't want to. Not really. But that didn't stop her from standing there in front of those plain, desolate stones and tipping her hand to scatter her blood among them.
Her quiet exhale was lost in the applause that followed Marcus' announcement of her choice. Just like she would soon be, among the grey backdrop of her family's faction.