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Maybe Hope Is Stronger Than Fear

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All he could hear was the sound of their feet touching the hard-stone floor, the crunch of the ivy crushed by their quick pitch and the casual chatters that rose above their labored breathing.

“What do you think was wrong with Gally yesterday?” His companion asked him.

“What do you mean?” He replied, a look of utter confusion on his face.

“Oh come on! He did nothing but complain about I don’t even know what. He was bloody nagging.” The other boy moaned.

“Newt, I have no idea what was going on with that shuck face.”

The blonde rolled his eyes in annoyance, then said: “Last night, driven by exasperation, I made him drink a couple of glasses of his special recipe during the bonfire.”

“Do you even know what was that shuck thing?” He asked, trying to hold back the laughter.

“I have no clue. But I’m sure it worked out great.” The other said, smiling mischievously.

“Slim it, shank.”

“Shut up Minho.”

Then he burst out laughing, followed soon after by Newt. They laughed until their bellies started to hurt, the image of a drunk Gally in their minds.

It’s not that bad, he thought.
----

His heart was beating so loudly that he thought he’d collapse at any moment. But he couldn’t do that. At least not while Alby’s words kept filling his mind.

“Newt. Did you see him? It’s getting late and he’s not back yet.”

His feet didn’t seem to touch the ground. He didn’t feel his breath getting heavier and heavier. He didn’t even care about the pain that permeated his body. He knew that something was wrong. He couldn’t even explain it to himself. He just knew it. In the same way his mind was aware that he wouldn’t be fast enough, no matter how hard he tried.

There’s still time, he kept repeating to himself, pretending not to see his chances decreasing with the passing of time.

I’m not running out of time.

His heart was aching. But it wasn’t because of exhaustion. No, it was something worse. Something he hadn’t been able to name before. The fear of losing him, his best friend.

I need to find you, no matter what. I can’t fail. I can’t afford it.

This was the only thought in his mind.
----

“What happened to him?” He asked, speaking louder than necessary.

“I already told you.” Alby replied, his voice still steady.

“I don’t believe a word you said.” He stated.

“He was attacked by a Griever. There’s nothing more you should know.” The older boy said between clenched teeth.

“Oh, please. A Griever in the daylight? I’m not that stupid. I spent more time in the Maze than you all. You don’t actually think that I buy your bullshit, do you?” He shouted.

“Minho, please. Lower your voice.” Alby gave him a pleading look.

“Alby’s right. I think you need to calm down.” Clint said, reaching them in the hallway.

His whole body was shaking. He was pervaded by an overwhelming anger. He was mad at Alby for not telling him the truth. He was mad at the med-jacks for not letting him see Newt. He was mad at his best friend for what he had done. But, more than anything else, he was furious with himself for failing to protect the person he cared the most about.

Alby tried to reach out to him, but he immediately took a step back, almost stumbling on his own feet.

“Don’t you dare get close!” He said hysterically.

“I’m gonna break your faces!” He was surprised by his own words.

For a long moment no one seemed to know what to do. Then Alby sighed and looked him straight in the eye. The words that followed stroke him with a devastating force.

“All right. Newt tried to kill himself.” His voice was shaking this time.

His mind emptied of every thought. The pain in his chest was throbbing. Bitter tears were about to fall down his face, but he forced himself to hold them back with all the strength he had left.

Newt, what have you done?
----

That evening he ate his dinner without even realizing it. A few Gladers sitting at his table spoke joyfully about the events of the day. He nodded now and then, but he wasn’t really listening to them. His mind was totally elsewhere, far away from the Glade. The truth was he was thinking about how hard it was to run through the Maze all by himself. The walls were becoming more stifling every passing day. The hours he spent running were getting longer and longer. The only companions he had left were his own thoughts. And the worst part was that he had the overwhelming impression that he was slowly losing his mind.

Later that night he found himself sitting on a chair in a room that was comfortable, even though it was filled with the stinging medicinal scent. He took a moment to look at his best friend lying next to him. The sharp pain that had been haunting him for weeks became even stronger, almost taking his breath away. The blonde had deep rings around his eyes. The tiredness on his face was evident, as well as the suffering. His eyes were dead calm, lacking the past brightness. He wasn’t dead, but in a way it was as if he was.

“How are you, shank?” He asked, attempting to smile.

“Same as yesterday, and the day before. I’m a mess.” Newt replied sarcastically.

“Man, you are one butt-load of sunshine, let me tell you.” He said with a slight sneer.

He was expecting a laugh, a slur, even just a sigh. But none of this happened. Instead the room fell in an unnerving silence. After what seemed to be an eternity, Newt said: “Today I was told that my leg is getting better.”

“It’s wonderful, isn’t it?” He exclaimed, getting caught by excitement.

If that’s what you were supposed to tell me, then why you look so sad?

His words didn’t even seem to touch the blonde who kept fiddling with the fabric of the blanket placed on the bed, without daring to meet his eye.

“Minho… Look, Clint and Jeff also told me that my leg will never be the same as before. I- I can’t be a Runner anymore. I’m- I’m sorry.” His voice stumbled a few times.

No, it can’t be.

“What? What do you mean?” He asked, his voice nothing more than a whisper.

Please, tell me I’m wrong.

“Bloody hell Minho. I’ll limp for the rest of my damn life! That’s what I mean.” Newt looked him straight in the eye this time. In that look he saw nothing but deep shame.

Please, forgive me. This is all my fault.

Without even saying another word, he left the room with only his empty chair behind him.

Strangely enough, his feet knew exactly where to lead him. The Map Room. The only place in the Glade in which he could be alone. Entirely alone. As soon as he stepped foot inside the small room, his nostrils were filled with the familiar scent of damp wood and old paper. He found it comforting, in a way. Against all odds, a faint smile made its way on his face, and suddenly a tiny glimmer of hope lit up in his chest.

No matter what happened, things will work out somehow. They always do. He thought.

But then his eyes inevitably fell on the boxes filled with maps arranged on the sides of the room and a painful awareness struck him right in the chest.

Hope slipped through his fingers as suddenly as it appeared. He felt as if the darkness was taking him over once again. It was as if every inch of his body had grown numb.

He slid down the wooden wall, ending up on the dusty floor of the hut. And then the strangest thing happened. A chocked sob escaped from his mouth for the first time in a very long time. He didn’t even try to hold it back, merely because he had no strength left. And so, giving up on his beloved pride, he allowed himself to cry. He cried because he was afraid to die. Because he knew he had no future. Because they were trapped in there. Because of what Newt had told him that night. Because his best friend wasn’t the same as before. He cried because he was deeply furious with himself for not being able to find a way out of the Maze. Because he knew he had failed. Because his efforts would never be enough. He cried for Newt, but also for himself.

How pathetic I am, he mumbled before falling into a dreamless sleep.
----

When the Doors closed, he felt as if his last glimmer of hope had been extinguished with a freezing breath by the death that was looming over him.

Great. I’m royally screwed.

Did he have any chance of getting through the night? He was fully aware he didn’t even have one, no matter how hard he tried to convince himself otherwise. How long would it be before he inevitably met a Griever? Thinking optimistically, a couple of hours.

That shuck thing can’t complain. At least it’ll have a tasty dinner. The flesh of a Runner doesn’t have to be that bad.

But, as much as he tried to joke about it, fear was eating him alive.

He glanced at the unconscious body nearby.

Alby, please. Forgive me. I failed again.

The weight he was carrying on his shoulders became unbearable, and so he was forced to slide to the ground. What he was supposed to do? Accepting to die or fighting to live? In that moment death seemed to be the best choice. Or at least, the easiest one. What was the point of keeping fight? What was he fighting for?

I disgust myself. But then again, I’ve never been anything but a coward. He mumbled laughing bitterly.

That was how it was. He was giving up on surviving the night. On finding a way out of the Maze. On his stupid task. On his future. On Newt. Even on himself. At that point nothing really mattered anymore. And so he stayed there with his face between his hands, waiting to be found.

Suddenly a noise made him shiver.

Come and get me if you have the guts, he thought.

Was he really ready to die? He had no idea. But for sure, he was going to find out soon after. He was sweating. His hands were shaking. His legs were like jelly. And, to top it all off, his mind was clouded with adrenaline.

Am I supposed to say something like “dear Lord, forgive my sins”?

But then the strangest thing happened. It wasn’t a Griever the one standing in front of him. No, it was too small and human to be one of those shucking monsters.

“Greenie, what the hell are you doing here? Have you lost it?” He asked in utter confusion.

“Minho… Listen, we have to do something.” The other boy stated, looking him straight in the eye.

“All right. I’m listening.”

Great, at least I won’t die alone.

----

As soon as they got past the Doors and their feet touched the soft lawn of the Glade, he stopped to catch his breath and stretch his sore muscles. On the other hand, Thomas didn’t even seem to consider to take a break, and instead he headed straight to the Homestead.

Not so fast. I know exactly where you’re going. He thought, forcing himself to reach the brunette.

“Hold on a second, shank. Let’s go to the Map Room first. After that, you’ll be free to go to your sweet boyfriend.” He said with a smirk.

“W-What? I don’t k-know what are you talking a-about.” Thomas’ face turned red as he stuttered in embarrassment.

“All right, let’s pretend you’re not craving to make out with my best friend.”

“I don’t want to do any of that. It would be better if you started to mind your shucking business… Slinthead.” Thomas replied, trying to seem intimidating.

In all honesty, I don’t know how Newt can take you seriously.

“Slinthead, when you try to be mean it’s just freaking hilarious.” He didn’t even try to hold back the laughter.

 

That night he found himself sitting on a trunk during the bonfire. There were drunk Gladers all around him. Some of them were dancing. Others were chatting joyfully. His nostrils were pervaded by the scent of burnt wood, smoke and alcohol. The atmosphere was welcoming and warm. At some point he glanced around and spotted Newt and Thomas sneaking out of the party. He stood up and in a moment he was next to the couple.

"Where are you going, lovebirds?” He asked mischievously. His heart warmed when he noticed that their hands were intertwined.

“I’ll take him back to the Homestead and I’ll put him to bed.” The brunette replied, smiling at him.

“Tommy… I’m not tired yet.” Newt babbled, losing his balance.

“If you say so, honey.” Thomas said, giving the other a loving look and putting an arm around his waist so that he didn’t stumble.

When Newt put his head on Thomas’ shoulder, he thought he’d never seen anything sweeter than that simple gesture.

“How many drinks did you have?” He asked, looking his best friend straight in the eye.

“I lost count after the fourth glass.” The blonde replied in a drunken slur.

I would be really curious to know what Gally puts in his drinks.

“All right, champ. I’d say it’s time to go to sleep.” Thomas stated in a slightly worried tone.

After saying goodbye, the couple moved toward the Homestead, leaving him alone.

 

That morning Thomas wasn’t keeping him company. In fact the brunette had asked him if he could take the day off running since Newt wasn’t feeling well and he wanted to take care of him.

Exactly how am I supposed to say no to you? He had thought seeing the look of genuine concern of the other Runner. But the truth was he felt relieved knowing that Thomas was looking after him.

He didn’t believe in stuff like soulmates or love at first sight. It was just bullshit that people came out with just to shake off the angsty fear of being alone for the rest of their miserable lives. But there were exceptions to the rule. And Newt and Thomas were the proof. They were soulmates, quite simply. He wouldn’t know how else to define them.

Newt had recovered from the accident. He had his limp but all in all, he seemed to be fine. Or at least that was what others wanted to believe. But he knew things were different. His best friend got used to the idea of not being dead, but in fact he had stopped living. And, over the years, the situation hadn’t changed. Not until Thomas had come up into the box. That one moment had changed everything. He could see it in the way Thomas took care of the other boy. Or in the way Newt would make sure the brunette didn’t do anything stupid (he was incredibly good in it).

My friend, you should pray to never piss off Newt. Trust me, it’s not funny.

Or the long walks they took just to spend some alone time together. Or the tender way in which Thomas kissed the blonde on the forehead. Or the fact that Newt put aside some berries for Thomas every time he worked in the Garden, just because he knew the other boy loved them. Not to mention that Thomas always tried to compliment Newt, ending up stumbling over his words or forgetting what the wanted to say.

Sometimes you’re incredibly awkward, shank. Let me tell you.

Without forgetting that those two slept together whenever they could (better not to go into details).

Newt, let’s face it, you love being the little spoon. You can’t convince me otherwise.

But the best part was seeing his best friend happier than ever. The past brightness gleamed again in his eyes. His laugh had begun to be heard more often. The shame that had haunted him for a long time seemed to be gone. And it was all thanks to Thomas. It was hard to believe that a person could do all this, but it was the truth. There was no other explanation.

Maybe you haven’t noticed, but you saved his life. Whatever you’re doing, please don’t stop. I’ve never seen him more alive.

----

He was slowly getting used to not having to run all alone. He would never admit it even under torture (foolish pride), but he was glad to have company once again.

“What time will we get back to the Glade? Is there the bonfire tonight? And how is it possible that the shoes you gave me are so comfortable?” The brunette asked him without even taking a breath between one question and the next.

Here we go again. How many questions did he ask me? A dozen? Even more? In any case, too many for my short fuse.

He sighed rolling his eyes, then said: “Enough questions for today. I think we should take a break, fill our little tummies and drink up.”

The other was more than happy to have a break and grab a bite. A few minutes later they were sitting on the stone floor with their backs leaning against the huge wall.

“Let’s see what Frypan’s soft hands gave us this time.” He said as he was rummaging in his bag. When his companion had done the same, they both unwrapped their lunch and started eating.

“Frypan has golden hands! This stuff is so good.” The brunette mumbled, taking another greedy bite to his sandwich.

“Slim it, greenie.” He said, trying to stifle laughter.

“It’s Thomas by the way.” He could feel a slight discomfort in the voice of the younger boy.

“Okay, Thomas. Let’s see if you remember the first thing I taught you.” He was pretending to use a tone of command.

“The number one Runner rule. Never. Stop. Running.” Thomas replied proudly.

“Good boy. I see you’ve done your homework.”

They both laughed at the hilarity of those words and, especially, of that situation. Only after a while he realized he was genuinely laughing after a long time.

How did I get into this? Maybe I’m just going crazy. He thought, laughing at himself.

 

He was supposed to hate Thomas. That shucking greenie was succeeding in what he had miserably failed. It was a fact. No matter how hard the others tried to convince him otherwise. Because, even though they were grateful to him for doing the impossible to free them all, he still couldn’t be proud of himself.

Why on earth are they thanking me? What did I do for them if not going back empty-handed every day?

But it would have been so easy to pick on Thomas. After all, he had every reason in the world to do so. But for sure he didn’t want to upstage Gally since he seemed to enjoy blaming Thomas of anything that came to his mind. He was also aware that there was much more. He didn’t care if someone replaced him. He didn’t give a damn if he took a back seat. He didn’t even care if someone was acclaimed in his place. Not when all of this was swallowed in the deep, dreadful hatred he felt for himself. It would have been too easy to hate Thomas rather than himself. But it would also have been worthless because the world didn’t work that way. Sadly enough, problems didn’t magically disappear by doing everything to ignore them. He knew that from experience.

 

Thomas could be annoying at times. He was able to ask questions to the point of making people want to slam his little head against a wall over and over. Most of the time he seemed to be a jerk (maybe it wasn’t just an impression). He always acted impulsively (but in that case, it was up to Newt to judge him). Sometimes he gave the idea to do anything to get in trouble. Not to mention the fact that he would already have become the meal of a Griever (or of Gally, why not?) if Newt hadn’t looked after him constantly.

But despite all that, he liked Thomas. He appreciated the sweet voice he used to talk to Chuck. The patience he had proved by not punching Gally right in the face. Or the way he stood up to him, despite his bad temper. But more than anything, the way he made Newt smile. He envied the courage he had shown by entering the Maze to save a boy he hardly knew (in all honesty, he was still wondering if he had been incredibly stupid or brave that night). His constant attempt to do the right thing. His ability to make himself heard in any situation. His concern for others safety (especially Newt’s). His unwavering determination.

Even in the most absurd and hilarious situations, he kept looking for him. Because the truth was that Thomas was restoring hope in him.

You’re gonna get us out of here. I’m sure.