.

.

Nobody leaves the Maze truly behind.

They're surrounded by open skies, a permeating, endless blue with cotton-clouds in the distance. It rains here—gushing down in buckets. They have water that can be boiled and can be extracted from the ground once Gally sets up their own well system.

Jobs are given out or volunteered for: the hunting parties that explore deeper and deeper into the woodlands, cooks, fishers, gardeners, builders, sloppers, med-jacks, and of course, baggers for the deceased. If there was any. There's no more keepers—it's a system built on mutual trust, and expectations of hard work.

Thomas volunteers for "Hunter" within the first few weeks, along with Minho.

Building shelter with the trees and nearby shrubbery takes no time at all; and soon enough, everyone has a roof to sleep under. The huts are about moderate proportions, with enough room for a dusty sitting area and then, a sleeping area. Some prefer hammocks. Others prefer to sleep on a proper cot, using their own hands and fingers to wind tough, knotty vines around smoothed-down, thick limbs of pinewood to hold it all up.

Eventually, everyone begins to gravitate to each other for sleeping companions… a hand to hold, a reassuring voice in the middle of the night, lips to kiss over and over, body-warmth to caress with palms and the steadying weight of another person.

Thomas remembers Brenda's dark hair in his face, her legs saddling open. She rocked on top of him, in breathy, high-pitched moans, nailing digging into his hips. His cock jerked and pulsed deep inside her body, but… his mind often wandered back to Newt, when the sex was over. Newt, alone in his own hut, refusing anyone's concern.

Newt almost didn't make it. He had been so close to turning into a goddamn Crank, and the imaginings gave Thomas the worst shudders.

He couldn't even think about a world without Newt in it.

Brenda chose a new sleeping companion in another week, smiling apologetically and kissing the dirt-flecked corner of Thomas's mouth. She didn't have to say it, but she knew.

"Were you honestly kicked out?" Newt asks, rolling his eyes with a tsking noise, shoving the back of Thomas's shoulder until the other man lurches into Newt's hut. "You must have been a shuck excuse of a lover, Tommy…"

If that's the reason, then he wonders why Newt's lip gravitate towards his… why his fingers slide roughly over Thomas's pink-flushed cheeks…

.

.

It's so beautiful here.

Hand all over him, rubbery with high-grade, medical latex. He's screaming into his oxygen mask, thrashing wildly with padded, steel-linked restraints. Newt's arms and legs care hardly lift an inch from the surface of the examination table.

White, shimmery lab-coats.

He feels wet, his hair, his skin, like Newt's been dunked inside a tub of water. Adults with frowns and cold, black eyes stand over him, observing with empty hands as he struggles and hollers wordlessly. A nurse with a long syringe mutters nonsense, garbled up language to Newt, pinning him down and injecting the needle into a major vein in Newt's inner, naked thigh.

A burning, fire-hot sensation filters into Newt's blood, his legs and his stomach. His entire frame trembles visibly, and Newt's throat closes up, his head jerking side-to-side. HE WON'T SURVIVE THE TRIALS, they whispers and frown. HE WILL SURVIVE, they argue back, cheerfully.

HE WON'T SURVIVE THE MAZE.

HE DOESN'T NEED TO.

HE WON'T.

WILL.

WON'T.

Newt awakens, choking for air, his head ringing with pain.

He sends himself crashing to the floor, attempting to fling himself off the cot in his nightmarish sleep. Newt claws himself onto his feet, going on a panic-fueled instinct, lunging for the hut's door.

"Newt! No!" Thomas yells, physically blocking him, arms tightly locked to Newt's waist and dragging him backwards, their heels digging for purchase.

It's a miracle he does this comparing their strength, but Newt is flung once more, stumbling towards the cot as Thomas's arms release him. Newt screams out a rage-filled, animalistic sound at Thomas, before his energy completely drains out of him, as he collapses weakly onto his elbows.

Thomas, bare-chested and sweating, wide-eyed in fear, drops to a kneel beside him.

"Newt… Newt, look at me," he says, pleading. "It's gonna be okay… you're okay. You're okay." Thomas murmurs this over and over, keeping his hands to himself, as noiseless sobs escape Newt's mouth, his head lolling to the ground.

Somewhere within another hut, someone else is screaming awake as well, as if being brutally tortured.

But, that's the thing about Paradise.

It's beautiful… and still, it's full of their screams.

.

.

The sea crashes below the cliff-side, roaring and thunderous.

Yellows and pinks halo in their soft colors, around the tents and huts, in Thomas's hair. Both men linger outside, fully dressed, a blanket to Newt's shoulders and a cup of cool water in his hands. From across the way, a grinning Frypan waves one-handed, and Thomas waves back politely.

"You should go back in," Newt says aloud, expression blank as he stares ahead. "I'll be fine on my own."

Thomas shrugs, hands going into his pockets, lips quirking.

"Nah. It'll be too cold without you anyway," he replies, shooting Newt an overly pleasant look. It's a lie. The temperature is always, always perfect in Paradise.

Newt sips his water and meets his eyes, reveling in the gleaming, darkest brown, taking him in. He nudges Thomas's hip with his own.

"Subtle, Tommy. Very subtle."

He laughs gruffly, and ignores Minho's wolf-whistling when Thomas laughs too and hugs them together. Newt presses his mouth underneath Thomas's ear, smelling the earthy leaves. He presses softer kisses along his neck, mindful of his full, sloshing cup between them, groaning a little.

More of their friends mill around the grassy field, ready for their assigned chores.

Brenda passes them, looking over and giggling with Sonya before Newt frees one of his hands, grabbing Thomas's side, pulling away and smiling thinly.

Later, he mouths, waiting for Thomas to nod and steal away Newt's cup, drinking the rest of its contents.

.

.

A rattling, sickly cough echoes.

Newt wipes at his face, at his clammy, dry lips. He clears his throat, blinking out dizziness.

.

.


Another TMR fic this week! IKR! I participated in TMR Secret Santa on Tumblr, and my giftee themaze-wolf asked for something angsty and Newtmas. I was more than happy to provide! :) A nice, unsettling feeling. Any comments or questions from you guys - I would love to hear! And happy holidays to those who celebrate!