Title: Never Look Back
Fandom: the Maze Runner
Pairings: pre Minho/Thomas
Warnings: Angst, minor character death, canon inuries
Word Count: 1670
Disclaimer: If I owned it, there would be more kissing.
Summary: Minho breaks all his rules where Thomas is concerned.
Before Thomas arrived, Minho was the best runner that the gladers had ever had. He ran the maze daily for almost three years, surviving the drops and the traps and the Grievers when most of the other boys were too frightened to even step beyond the walls.
Minho wasn’t the fastest runner or the smartest but he was the most disciplined and that's why he survived. The keeper had a list of rules that all his runners had to follow and he did his best to keep those shanks alive. He did his best but every runner had to face the maze alone someday. Because there were three rules that Minho held above all others: don't slow down, don't look back, and never turn around.
Minho bent those rules for Alby but he never broke them. Breaking the rules was how a runner died.
Leaving the maze didn't change things as much as Minho thought it would. The gladers were still trapped; they were still puppets dancing to the strings that W.I.C.K.E.D. pulled. Their prison was just larger than it had been before.
Minho probably would have lost his mind without Thomas there to back him up. The other teen was unfailingly optimistic even as he cut through the Ratman's lies and bullshit, giving Minho purpose when he would have floundered helplessly. His brain wasn't wired for deception; the sort of mind games that their captors were so fond of just made the runner ill.
Honestly, the teen was almost relieved when the remaining gladers were told that they’d have to run the Scorch or die. The desert would be dangerous but at least it was honest about wanting to destroy them and running was something that he knew how to do.
Always carry enough water. Watch out for your partners. Keep your eyes open and remember that your surroundings are always more dangerous than they look. Everything wants to kill you where W.I.C.K.E.D. is concerned.
Indeed, W.I.C.K.E.D. gave with one hand while taking with the other and the gladers lost two boys before they even reached the sand. But once there, Minho took command without hesitation, not because W.I.C.K.E.D. had labeled him the Leader but because he owed his friends the best that he could do. The teen drafted Thomas as his second and between the two of them, they managed to keep the remaining gladers moving somewhat steadily.
The first few days were brutal. The heat was unbearable and most of the other boys weren’t as used to traveling as Minho would have liked. They had to rest too often during the day and the nights were not much better, their sleep broken by endless haunting screams.
At first Minho thought it was a scream that woke him. Yet for once the Scorch was silent, only the snoring of his companions to keep the runner company. He was about to fall back asleep when a deafening crack of thunder split the night apart. Minho’s eyes snapped open, the teen looking up to see a giant storm of lightning headed straight for the gladers’ camp.
“Wake up, shanks! We have to run!” Minho shouted, shaking the nearest boys awake and then taking off across the sand. The other gladers fell in behind him, Thomas bringing up the rear to ensure that no one fell behind. At least, that’s what he assumed. The runner didn’t actually stop to look but Thomas had a knack for being right where he was needed and Minho trusted him to do the same this time.
The storm reached the gladers just as Minho spied a group of rocks or buildings in the distance; something that might give them shelter if they could only make it there. This was a big if – the runner knew that – but he still had to try.
So the teen waved an arm to signal and turned toward the buildings, his hair standing on end when a bolt of lightning struck the ground nearby. One and then another until lightning was striking all around him and it was only luck that kept the runner safe.
Some of his friends were not so fortunate. Despite the near constant rumbling of thunder and sharp cracks of lightning, Minho still heard the screams. Someone had been struck. One of his friends was dead now and he couldn't do anything. The keeper would only get more people killed by stopping; his friends trusted him to lead them out of danger and that's what he had to do. So Minho just put his head down and ran faster, doing his best to ignore the screams and shouts that followed every lightning strike. Looking back would only make the runner lose his focus now.
But what if it was Thomas?
Minho stumbled and nearly fell before he caught himself again. It couldn't be Thomas. Thomas was a good runner; he was fast and agile and too strong to die in some random lightning storm.
But what if he did? What if he's injured and he's back there screaming on the ground?
It couldn't be Thomas. Minho needed Thomas. He needed Thomas to keep him moving, to be stupidly optimistic even though the whole world had gone to shit. He needed Thomas to smile at him and make bad jokes and throw an arm around his shoulders as he laughed. Minho couldn't do this without Thomas. He didn't want to do this without Thomas at his side.
Shuck; I think I love him, the runner thought. He couldn't imagine a future without Thomas there to aggravate him; that was his happy ending not whatever W.I.C.K.E.D. planned. Somewhere safe where Thomas wouldn't get himself hurt so often and Newt could bitch about the weather to his heart's content. Somewhere without Teresa so that Minho might actually have a chance. A long shot, maybe, but even friendship would be better than living without Thomas and the keeper would never get his happy ending if Thomas died right now.
So Minho looked back. He looked back through the storm, part of his mind counting every glader that he'd lost. However, while he was glad to see that Newt and Frypan were running just behind him, there was only one person that he was really looking for.
And Minho found him. Back at the end of the line, the keeper saw the long gangly shadow that he knew was Thomas; he would recognize the other teen anywhere.
Thank god; he’s okay, Minho thought, a new burst of energy flowing through his limbs. The buildings were getting closer and the gladers just had to run a little farther until they would be safe. Not all of them, he knew that, but the keeper was long practiced at carrying the dead. The weight of his grief wouldn’t break him as long as Thomas was all right.
But then something made him look back at the other glader one more time. Some premonition of disaster warned him that his thanks were premature.
Minho watched in horror as a bolt of lightning struck the sand right by Thomas. The flash blinded the runner for a moment and when the spots finally cleared from his vision, the other boy was nowhere to be seen.
No. No. No. No. No!
Minho couldn’t breathe. This could not be happening. Thomas wasn’t dead. The runner refused to believe that the other teen was dead, not without a body and maybe not even then.
He didn’t realize that he had stopped running until Newt came up beside him, the other glader grabbing his arm and shouting, “Why’d you stop? What’s wrong?”
Instead of answering the question, Minho just ordered, “Keep running toward those buildings!”
“But where are you…?”
Minho turned around before Newt finished his sentence, running back toward the place where he had seen Thomas last. He couldn’t stop but he shouted encouragement at every glader that he passed, telling them that they were almost there and pushing them along. The last was Aris; beyond him was open sand and Minho tried not to think about everyone he hadn’t seen. Stan, Winston, Jack, Tim…
The runner stumbled over something, nearly falling to his knees. He looked down to see a body on the ground, its skin scorched black and face unrecognizable. Minho recoiled, his stomach protesting violently at the smell of burning meat.
But he had to know; he had to know if that was Thomas lying there. So the teen fought down his nausea and looked closer, searching for clues as to this poor shank’s identity until a faint groan met his ears. It was Thomas, the other boy half buried in the sand a few yards away. He must have been stunned by the lightning strike but when Minho ran over to him, he didn’t seem injured otherwise.
The teen grabbed Thomas’ arm and started running back the way he came, dragging the other teen in his wake until he found his feet. The other gladers had a significant head start by this point but Minho could still see Aris in the distance and it shouldn’t take long for them to close the gap.
So Minho focused on running, blocking out everything but the harsh sound of Thomas’ breathing and the sand beneath his feet. He ran and ran and he was nearly to the cluster of buildings when his luck ran out. Something slammed into the runner – a bolt of lightning found its mark. The impact threw Minho through the air, driving the breath out of his lungs. He landed hard and lay there gasping even as his clothes burst into flame before his eyes. But the runner couldn’t feel a thing; he couldn’t move, could hardly breathe, and when Thomas screamed his name, the word was barely a whisper through the ringing in his ears.
Should’ve known there’d be a cost, Minho thought hazily. He’d broken his rules for Thomas. He’d turned around and now he had to die. But even as the shock and darkness took him, the runner knew that he would do the exact same thing again.