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It’s just like clockwork. Month after month without fail, a new Greenie is delivered to them. Week after week, they receive supplies, sometimes extra necessities sprinkled among the usual assortment. This week, however, there was a small, unmarked glass vial full of a slightly pink, slightly clouded liquid tucked away inside a bag with the food.

“Hey, what d’you think this is?” Frypan asked the group transporting the supplies, turning it around in his fingers so the sun shone through it.

Alby stopped taking inventory and glanced over at him. “I don’t know. It was with your food stuff, wasn’t it? Maybe it’s a spice or some klunk.” He shrugged and then turned back to his task.

Frypan scoffed. “Hardly. If I don’t know what it is, it’s not going in my food.”

“Good that,” Newt said, shoving the last stack of supplies out of the box hole and then climbing out. “It’s probably a poison or something horrible just to ruin our lives that much more anyway.”

“Yeah, might be better to get rid of it.” Alby nodded his agreement. “Toss it over here. I’ll drop it down the hole.”

“What if it’s something good though and they just want us to think it’s bad so we’ll get rid of it?” Chuck spoke up from behind the group. They pondered it for a moment while Chuck hefted a large box into his arms and started toward the Homestead.

“Shank’s got a point. I’ll hang onto it.” Alby said.

Frypan tossed the vial to their leader just as Chuck walked between them, accidentally knocking Newt to the side. The bottle’s lid flew off as it collided with the boy’s chest, spilling the contents down to seep through his shirt.

Alby grabbed his friend’s arm to steady him while Newt wrinkled up his nose at the overpoweringly floral scent that now emanated from him.

“Oh shuck, Newt, I’m really sorry—”

“Slim it, Chuck. Just finish your job.” The younger boy nodded emphatically and ran off while Newt pinched his shirt between his fingers and held it away from his body. “Well, now I’d really rather that not be poison.” He cautiously sniffed it before coughing several times and whipping his shirt off over his head. “It smells like I’ve been rolling in bloody rose petals for hours!” he complained.

“You alright?” Frypan asked, Alby watching the boy with a concerned expression on his face.

“Aside from the smell, I seem to be.”

“Well, it did seem like a drink, so maybe whatever it is won’t hurt you if it ain’t inside you.” Frypan hypothesized. “Unless it’s like acid or something…” he trailed off, staring worriedly at Newt for a few moments until it seemed that his skin was not in immediate danger of melting. He then nodded to himself. “Yeah, you seem okay, shank. Let me know if you’re dying, yeah?” He grabbed the bag of perishables and returned to his kitchens, leaving Newt and Alby to finish with the last few packages after Alby capped the little bottle and stowed it in his pocket.

“Sure you’re good?” Alby asked as they walked together to the weapons vault.

“Will be soon as I can wash this flower stench off me.” Newt easily placated his friend. They stacked their boxes in a storage room before going back out in the sun.

“I’ll grab the last one. Why don’t you go roll around in some dirt to smell better, okay?”

Newt rolled his eyes. “Thanks so much, Alby. What’d I do without you?” he said sarcastically, though he clapped him on the shoulder before walking away at his unsteady gait.

On his way to wash up, he caught a few of the boys staring after him. He raised his eyebrows at them or told them to get back to their tasks, as it was getting dark, but most ignored him and continued staring. Those who returned their attention to their work looked confused and shook their heads as if to clear them. Newt glanced around him as he went, now wary of either a prank from the boys or a more sinister variable from WICKED.

By the time he was finished cleaning himself off—though he still smelled faintly of flowers—it was dark and he knew it was only a few minutes until the doors of the maze would close. He tried to hurry back. After all, he still had a role to perform even if another weird day had occurred. And, as one of the gladers’ leaders, he should be ready for the runners to come back in case they had any news.

Soon, Newt was just a short distance away from the giant doors with about a dozen boys following behind him. This wasn’t technically as unusual as it could be. Though they usually didn’t, there was no rule preventing the gladers from greeting the runners as they returned. Sure, Newt and Alby or just one of the two would do it often just to make sure everyone was alright, but it was strange for groups of the boys to come along, which led the boy to think that something had gone wrong in his short absence.

He kept walking until he was beside Alby, who immediately noticed him and threw an arm around his shoulders, drawing him closer into his side. That instantly alerted Newt that something was wrong.

“Isn’t it great? Soon the runners will be back, and maybe they found a way out of here.” Alby said with a smile.

Newt’s eyebrows shot up, practically disappearing into his hair. “Right… and where did your bloody optimism come from, slinthead? Why’s today any different from the rest?”

Alby’s face actually crumbled like a child’s. “Newt, please…” his grasp on the boy tightened, and Newt’s eyes widened, his confusion clearly visible on his face. “Don’t you want to get out?”

“Course I do, you bloody idiot shank. But I don’t think you’re right in the head at the moment.” He slid out of the elder’s grasp and stepped a bit closer to the maze, squinting to try to see into the darkness. The runners were cutting it fairly close tonight. They only had a couple more minutes with the doors open. A pit of worry settled itself in Newt’s stomach, and he felt a throbbing developing behind his eyes. “Has anyone—?” he turned, only to be met with a group of ten or so boys in a semicircle around him, all with glazed eyes and slightly opened mouths curved into stupid smiles. He cleared his throat and went around them, but he was confronted with more, smaller groups. “Okay, someone’s telling me what the bloody hell is going on here right now. Did you shanks all get your hands on drugs or some klunk? You smoking the bloody grass? What’s going on?” He turned to their leader figure, who merely approached him along with Theresa.

“Newt,” Alby started, and Newt noticed that his eyes were the same as the others. He and Teresa each reached toward him, but he shrugged away from them.

“Stay right there, okay?” he ordered, concernedly glancing around at the few dozen boys before going to stand alone immediately at the entrance. Thankfully, several figures emerged just as time was running out. Thomas and Minho were the last out, the doors already just having started to close as they passed through them.

“Something happen?” Minho asked immediately, hands on his knees and breathing heavily. The unusual presence of a crowd had him instantly worried.

“Yeah, why’s everyone here?” Thomas panted, looking up at Newt, who shook his head.

“Make your maps. Finish your jobs and then we’ll talk. It’s not… I don’t think it’s urgent.” Newt said. The others had learned to trust his judgment enough to simply nod and comply with his orders, though they stared at the others as they passed on their way to the map room, highly perplexed. When some, including Alby, Frypan, Teresa, and Gally followed, Newt snapped at them to get back to work or go to sleep before shutting himself inside with the runners.

Minutes passed with the runners working and the occasional thud heard outside the door. It was incredibly disconcerting for Newt to be wary of his friends, but that was the only way he could describe it at the moment.

The sound of several trunks slamming shut knocked him out of his reverie, and he met Minho’s gaze.

“Wanna explain the brain-dead zombies out there?” he crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow. Thomas came over, as did the runners who had finished their day’s maps.

“Do my best.” Newt took a breath. “There was a little bottle of something we didn’t know in the supplies today and it got spilled. Ever since, everyone’s been out of their shuck minds.”

“Is there anyone else that it’s not affecting?” Thomas asked immediately.

Newt shook his head. “Just me. Everyone else is out there. The stuff did spill on me though, so I guess that’s why it’s not doing anything to me. It has to be some WICKED poison or drug, right?”

Minho nodded. “Probably. If they sent it to us—”

“Then they meant for it to be a variable,” Thomas said slowly, grabbing Newt’s sleeve. “You don’t think it’ll kill them, do you?”

“I think if they wanted us all dead, they’d send the grievers after us and not a tiny bottle full of flower water.” He rubbed at his temples as the pain in his head got worse. “God, this giving me a headache.”

“I can massage your temples.” Two boys tripped over each other to get the same sentence out as they stumbled at Newt, and Newt’s heart fell.

“Fan-bloody-tastic, it’s still spreading. And I got most of it off, too—”

“Look,” Minho spoke up, elbowing the boys out of the way. “Let’s just get everyone to bed. Maybe they can sleep it off.”

“Right, maybe they’ll regain their full brain capacity overnight. Brilliant, Minho.”

“Hey, just trying to help, Newt. You know I’m always there for you—me, your best friend. And no one else’s. Right, Newt?” Minho smiled lazily at him and cupped a hand around his neck.

Newt immediately shoved him off. “Even you. Am I entirely alone in this?” he looked up at the ceiling and took a long suffering breath as an outburst of “no, no, of course I’m here with you!” followed his question. “What the bloody hell is happening?”

“I’m thinking it’s a variable.” Thomas said, and Newt’s head snapped around to meet his almost entirely clear gaze.

“Ah, good. You’re sane. We’re getting out of here now.” He said curtly, grabbing Thomas’ wrist and throwing the doors open, running off toward his room in the Homestead. He purposely shoved into Alby on the way, reaching in his pocket for the empty vial and then letting Thomas peel the elder off of him as he tried rather hard to kiss him. “Thanks, Tommy.”

“No sweat, I’m with you.”

They made it inside the Homestead, managing to outrun the others even with Newt’s limp. They then shut the door and went to Newt’s room, barricading that door by pushing the bed up against it. They both dropped down onto the bed, Newt in pain from having to sprint on his bad leg and Thomas simply tired from having been running all day.

“Right. So, they’ll probably be at the door within a minute.” He brushed a hand through his hair to get it out of his face and took a deep breath. “Why is this happening? And how come you’re fine?”

Thomas shook his head, looking like he was trying to clear it. “I’m not fine. I feel… weird. I don’t know. Like I…” his cheeks flushed a light red. “It’s like there’s just… a huge urge to kiss you and stuff… and it might kind of feel like if I don’t, I’ll die.”

“But… you’re not doing anything. I mean, physically or whatever, this is how you always are.” Newt cleared his throat. “So either it doesn’t affect you as much for some reason, or you’re just the only decent human around capable of restraint, in which case I should just take my chances with you, Tommy,” he laughed without humor, pressing the heel of his palm into the side of his head. “Shuck, my head bloody hurts. I guess that’s what I get outa all this.”

“Maybe it’d help if you lay down,” Thomas suggested, moving to the edge of the bed to give the elder some room. He complied, then lifted the small vial up to peer into it.

“Hey, it says something on the bottom… can you read it? It’s too small.” He passed it to Thomas and watched expectantly as the boy squinted at the tiny words etched into the bottom of the glass. “Well?”

“For breeding purposes,” Thomas finally said stoically.

They were both quiet for a moment.

“So…” Newt cringed. “So WICKED is even more disgusting now. What, they just want us to settle down, create a village to raise a kid that they’d force Teresa to have? That’s… it’s bloody sick. I might actually be sick.”

Thomas nodded slowly, staring at the blank expanse of wall before him. “There’s just Teresa. They know no one would force themselves on her, but they want us to have kids… They were expecting us to use this to make her want us.” His expression was one of pure rage, matched equally by Newt’s as he sat back up beside the other.

“Well,” Newt said, prying Thomas’ fingers away from the vial before he managed to crush the glass and need stitches. “They’ll have to try something new now, won’t they? Apparently they didn’t count on us having morals… or having Chuck to make sure it spilled.”

“They’ll just try something new.” Thomas said flatly. Newt ignored Thomas’ fingers trailing up and down his arm. It could be worse, and he knew the boy was already restraining himself.

“Yes, but now we know their disgusting little plans and we’re going to protect Teresa. All of us will. Don’t worry, Tommy. We won’t let anything happen to her, I can promise you that.” A thought suddenly occurred to him. “Hey, why would they even bother with this in the first place? Aren’t you and Teresa sort of together?”

Thomas snorted and shook his head, nails scratching gently at Newt’s forearm. “No, shuck no, we’re friends. Good friends, but… no.”

Newt raised his arms in surrender, separating himself from the other boy which appeared to snap Thomas out of some sort of trance. He blinked and looked away from the wall and over to Newt.

“Um, I—so, it’ll probably wear off soon then, if it’s for—for that.” He stammered. “It would need to be temporary.”

“Yeah, makes sense.” Newt agreed, allowing Thomas to take his hand and begin to play with it. He traced his fingertips down his wrist, across his palm, along his fingers. If Newt was being honest, it actually felt quite nice. “So, Tommy, how is this love drug affecting you now?”

Thomas seemed surprised by the question for some reason. “It’s, uh, it’s weird. Like, I need to touch you, but uh… I’m… in control? Maybe?” He looked down and saw himself playing with Newt’s hand, and he seemed surprised. However, his momentary pause was just that, and he continued his ministrations as if he had been uninterrupted, eyes just slightly unfocused.

“Maybe it’s worse for you to be close,” Newt suggested.

“I’ve already been exposed to it. I don’t think leaving will change anything.” Thomas said quickly, his grip on Newt’s hand tightening slightly.

“Okay, relax there, Tommy. Any idea why it’s affecting you less than the others?”

“I, um, I think it’s like a—a medicine, almost? Like when you’re hyperactive and they give you stuff to calm you down. If you don’t have the disease or whatever, then it’ll have an opposite effect on you. Or no effect for other medicines. Or less of an—”

“Tommy,” Newt interrupted gently as Thomas rambled on.

“Sorry,” he blushed, pressing his thumb into Newt’s palm. “I think that like those… It didn’t affect me as much because I already had—because I lov—liked you a lot, and it didn’t need to replicate those feeling because they were already there.” He rushed through this all, but Newt was still taken aback.

“I…” he stared at Thomas for a moment, who simply looked scared and dejected. “Okay, so it’s creating love—or mimicking it, whatever. Point is, the slintheads were gonna do this to Teresa, so we need to make sure she’s gonna be okay after all of this is finally bloody over. They’ll probably try to put it in our food supply or some klunk, so we’d better—”

“Newt, I love you.” Thomas interrupted him, holding his hand tightly in both of his own and staring into his eyes.

Newt’s expression crumbled. “Tommy, I’m thinking that it really is getting to you and you just didn’t react at first. This love drug klunk is screwing with your head and none of this is actually you talking. We’re not talking about this until it’s all over.”

“No, Newt, I’m serious. I really—”

“No, Tommy.” He sighed. “It’s not real until this is over. I can’t know if you’re really with me or if you’ve gone crazy with the others, so we’re going to wait.”

“Fine.” Thomas pouted.

Newt shook his head almost amusedly, the corners of his lips turning up into an almost-smile. “Don’t be a baby, Greenie.”

Thomas flinched at the term. “I’m not the Greenie. I’ve been here more than half a year. Just because no new people came—and Teresa would really be the Greenie, you know, and—”

“And you get all worked up when I call you that? Huh, hadn’t noticed, shank,” he grinned, and Thomas calmed down somewhat. “Get some rest, Tommy. Try to sleep this off.”

Thomas shook his head. “No. I’ll stay up with you. It’s fine, I’m not even tired.”

“You were running all day,” Newt countered flatly, raising a single eyebrow.

“Okay, so I’m a little tired. But I’m also not letting the hoard of people practically right outside the door barge in here and tear you apart with fake love.”

“That’s very bloody sweet of you, Tommy, but the only way people are getting in is through that door, and you’re blocking it, so I think you’d be able to notice an intruder in time to protect my honor.” He said sarcastically.

“I guess you’re right.” Thomas laid down, tucking an arm under his head. “Newt?”

“Yeah, Tommy?”

“Please forget everything I said to you tonight.” He murmured, already half asleep. Newt stared down at the boy, puzzled. It didn’t seem like the drug would cause him to say that, but who knows. If there’s only one thing that the gladers can be certain of concerning WICKED, it’s that they should never think that they can be certain about anything. So maybe this was some big set of mind games that he didn’t yet understand. Maybe WICKED didn’t want Teresa to remember anything after this was used on her. But whatever reasons Newt came up with, he still thought it sounded like simply an embarrassed and scared Thomas.

---

Morning came around with the mechanical grinding of the maze doors opening. Newt and Thomas woke up and stretched, their night having been fairly cramped on the same small bed.

Newt pushed his hair back out of his face and turned to look at Thomas, who still looked mostly asleep. “Hey, Tommy,” he nudged the boy with his shoulder. “Still in love with me?” Thomas grumbled something unintelligible and then dropped his head onto Newt’s shoulder. The elder sighed and brought his hand up to run through Thomas’ hair, which was currently experiencing severe bedhead. “I’ll take that as a yes, shank,” he tipped his head to rest atop Thomas’.

“Mm… I feel hung-over. And I’m not sure I even knew what that felt like before, but I feel it now.” He groaned, turning his head to bury it in Newt’s neck.

“Tommy… you can’t do this.” He then felt lips pressing against his neck. “Tommy, stop,”

“I want you,” was mumbled against his neck, and Newt pulled away.

“Thomas,” he said firmly, regretting it immediately as he watched the boy’s expression crumple into devastation.

“You… you’ve never called me Thomas. I’ve always been Tommy to you… and that’s really important.”

Newt took a deep breath. “Look, Tommy, I’m sorry, but this isn’t you. You’re essentially drunk and on drugs and being a bit of a child too, so believe me when I say I’m looking out for you by stopping this. It’s not that I don’t want you, it’s just that all of this happened. Later… later, we can deal with this. Talk about it and all that shucking klunk, alright?”

Thomas nodded slowly, getting to his feet as Newt dragged him off the bed.

“Help me move this back. We’ve got to go out there. I’m not letting anyone go out in the maze until they’re in their bloody right mind.” They pushed the bed back where it belonged and stood beside the still closed door. “Okay, so this is for those shanks’ own good. Anyone tries to go in the maze, they get put in the slammer. That includes you, Tommy boy, so I suggest you work with me here. Good?”

He nodded again, and Newt opened the door, only to be immediately met with Gally and several others who rushed in like a crushing wave.

“We waited for you all night, but you never came back and we couldn’t get in. I know you must’ve made a mistake.” Gally said quickly. Before Newt could reply, he had him up against the wall and was covering his mouth with his own, moving feverishly and holding tightly at Newt’s hip and neck. A startled “mmph!” came from Newt before he was fighting to get the boy off of him and Thomas was joining in. Together, it took them almost a minute to detach Gally from him, at which time it took Newt only one punch to knock the boy unconscious.

“Shuck, bloody idiot,” Newt said, wiping his lips that were now red and puffy. He turned to the other boys in the room. “Would you like to be knocked unconscious as well, or are you going to stay here and not leave or go anywhere near the maze until I say it’s alright?”

“Newt,” Winston spoke up. “Kiss me like Gally and then knock me out. That’d be—” he was cut short by Thomas’ fist instead, and Newt smiled.

“Anyone else? No? Good. Don’t leave this room.” He walked to the door, held it open for Thomas to pass, and then locked it behind them with the others inside. Their walk out of the Homestead revealed about a dozen sleeping boys. Newt simply repeated his actions upon leaving the building, locking the lot inside. “So, Tommy, are you up for spending the day sitting outside of the maze and knocking out people who try to pass us?”

“I guess… but shouldn’t I go out there, though? What if today is the day that the pattern changes?”

“And what if the today is the day I lose you out there because you can’t think straight? No. No maze for anyone.” He said firmly.

“Newt—”

“Tommy, if I have to lock you in the slammer to make bloody sure you’re safe, I will.”

Thomas quietly grumbled his dissent behind the other before jogging to get up beside him again, just as Teresa popped up out of nowhere and threw herself into Newt’s arms. Unprepared to catch her full weight flying at him, Newt fell onto his back with her on top, and she wasted no time tearing at his shirt and attaching her lips to his neck. She straddled his waist and succeeded in tearing his shirt clean down the middle, and she shoved it off his shoulders just as Thomas’ arms encircled her waist and lifted her straight off the boy.

“Thomas! Tom, no, put me down! Newt! Newt, make him put me down. Baby, I love you, come on. Newt!” she shrieked. Thomas covered her mouth with a hand and Newt climbed to his feet.

“Slammer?”

Newt nodded, picking up the ruined remains of his shirt and tying it around his waist. “We’ll be able to count everyone there, too. Make sure no one gets lost in the maze. It… it’s the safest option, right?”

“Right. You’re doing the right thing here, Newt. Protecting everyone, even if they don’t know it.” He started off toward the slammer, Teresa still kicking and flailing as they went. Then, Newt spotted another group.

“Hey, get her there, will you? It looks like Alby’s bleeding over there.” Newt started in the direction of the group.

“Newt, don’t—” Thomas called, knowing it was pointless.

“Just hurry up with her.” Newt waved off his concerns at the sight of blood on his friend’s face.

“N—!”

“Slim it, you bloody shanks,” Newt cut several people off as they started to say his name. He pointed at Alby. “Why are you bleeding?”

“Just a disagreement with Minho about you, babe,” Alby smiled, not seeming to notice the blood trickling down his face.

“I’ve known him longer! I deserve him more.” Minho spoke up, appearing behind Newt as he dragged Alby to his feet and wrapping his arms around Newt’s waist, settling his hands at his hips and leaning to press kisses to his now-bare shoulders.

“Alright, listen up, shanks!” he pushed Minho off and glanced around the rest of the group, sighing in relief when he found that including those in the Homestead, everyone was now accounted for. “The next slinthead who kisses me is getting bloody banished! And Minho, you and I have known each other the exact amount of time I’ve known Alby. We were dumped here together almost three years ago on the same buggin’ day. Sorry I didn’t keep bloody track of who said hello first. Now, everyone is going to the slammer, because you’ve all been horrible through no fault of your own, but still… it’s for your own bloody good. Now follow me. You’re going to wait there until you’re sane again, and then life will go back to normal, sound good?”

A couple of people nodded, but everyone followed when he walked away toward the slammer, met halfway by Thomas on his return.

He jogged over to meet them. “This everyone?”

“This group and the people in the Homestead. Thanks for staying sane for me, Tommy.”

He laughed humorlessly. “No problem. Let’s get this done and wait for ‘em to be better.”

“Good that,” he sighed as they locked up the remainder of the group, all of whom were pouting at Newt as he left their cells. “We should find some food for them all. And water.”

With the next hour spent supplying that errant thought, they also took the rest from the Homestead and moved them to the slammer. Newt also instructed a med-jack inside to look after Alby, and then he left the building with Thomas.

“Well, we managed to wrangle ‘em all together. God, it’d probably be easier fighting a griever.”

“Take them any day,” Thomas laughed. “What do we do now?”

Newt shrugged. “Wait. Keep taking care of them. Hope it ends soon. If it lasts too long, we’ll just forget it all and I’ll go into the bloody maze. If I’m not around, then they’ve got no reason to be crazy. I’m gone, drug’s gone.”

Thomas grabbed Newt’s arm, and the boy slowly turned to face him. “You’re not dying for any of us, you idiot. Understand? D’you have any idea how much more insane we’d be without you?”

Newt smiled softly. “Good to know at least one of you shanks doesn’t want me dead.”

“No one wants you dead. Not one glader does, I can absolutely promise you that.” Thomas said firmly.

Newt stared at him for a minute, and then nodded. “Okay then. Well, we should take care of some jobs that have to be done. I suppose in your glamorous life as a runner, you never really got to see behind the scenes.”

“I guess not really. Just in the first couple days.”

Newt climbed to his feet and offered a hand to Thomas. “Come on then, Tommy, my personal senior Greenie. Allow me to show you the ropes.”

---

“Newt! Thomas!”

The angry shouts were easily heard from where the two had been sitting waiting for the doors to close that night, even though there was a bit of distance between them and the slammer.

They glanced at each other. “Think they’re good now?” Thomas asked.

“One full day? I guess it makes sense.” Newt got up and started toward the slammer, yelling once he was close enough to be discernible, “Shut your bloody mouths you whining shanks, we’re coming!”

When they entered the building, the other gladers converged on the bars separating them.

“Newt!”

“What the shuck happened to us?”

“Let us out!”

“Newt!”

The boy went over to them. “You all normal now?” A majority of them blushed furiously and nodded, while some, like Gally, stood at the back and stared blankly ahead. “Alright, come on out.” He unlocked the doors and people came spilling out, running in different directions to kitchens, bathrooms, or bedrooms once they got out. A few stayed behind with Newt as they slowly followed the others outside.

“Newt, I am so, so sorry. It’s my fault that stuff got spilled on you and all of this happened. I’m really sorry.” Chuck stuttered, looking so upset at having let a leader down.

“Chuck… go get some rest. It’s done.”

The short boy nodded quickly and ran off, a slight smile now gracing his face.

Newt glanced around the group that remained—Alby, Minho, Teresa, Gally, and Thomas. He sighed, knowing to expect more apologies for things that weren’t their fault. It was WICKED’s fault, always WICKED’s fault.

Gally was, surprisingly, the first to speak. He cleared his throat. “Newt, I uh…”

“Hey, don’t worry about it. It wasn’t you, yeah?” Newt said softly.

Gally nodded. “I guess. Still… sorry.”

“Well, you could’ve got me dinner first, but—” he cut himself off with a laugh as Gally swatted at him. “Bloody idiot,”

“Shuck face,” he retaliated, messing up Newt’s hair as he left.

Teresa stepped up next. “Newt—”

“Okay seriously, you guys. Stop it with the apologies. None of you are at fault. It was bloody WICKED sending up that klunk in the first place, and that’s all we can blame. Whatever any of you did, no matter how stupid, it wasn’t you, so bloody man or woman up and get on with your shuck lives.” Teresa smiled and kissed his cheek as she left, and Alby and Minho exchanged upset but still friendly expressions as they followed, each clapping Newt on the shoulder in passing.

“We’ll talk about this later, right?” Alby asked. Newt nodded, which seemed good enough for him to go. “Get some rest.”

Newt sighed when the last of them had left, and he slid down the truck of a tree just inside the edge of the Deadheads. “Are you exhausted? I’m bloody drained.” He muttered, hearing Thomas sit beside him, having taken his words as the invitation they were.

“Yeah,” Thomas sank back against a tree, pulling a couple of blades of grass from the ground and playing with them to pass the moments spent in silence. “Newt?”

“Hm?”

“I was aware of what I was doing for most of that time. And the stuff that I told you last night… it’s true.” He took a shaky breath and chanced a look over at Newt, only to find that he was staring intensely at him. “I do lo—I’m in love with you.”

Newt didn’t even blink for a few seconds, just held Thomas’ gaze until he spoke. “Good that, Tommy.” He said quietly.

“What?”

Newt shrugged. “What ‘what’? I’m not on any drugs like you were. I liked you from the minute we pulled you out of that box hole, and you just keep growing on me. I love you too, Tommy,” he said it like it was the simplest thing in the world, but maybe after living in this insane life for so long, it was. “I was just hoping that last night wasn’t the drug jerkin’ me around.”

“No… it basically just made me do whatever I was holding back.” Thomas grinned. Everyone lived through the last twenty-four hours, and Newt loved him back. Shuck WICKED for the night.

“That all you were holding back, Tommy?” Newt smirked, his tone incredulous but his eyes twinkling with mischief.

“Nah, I’ve got a few more tricks up my sleeve.” He moved to swing a leg across Newt’s and raised both of his hands to his neck, twining fingers through the strands of hair at the back of his head. “You good?”

“More than good, Tommy,” his hands came up around Thomas to rest on his hips before quickly pulling him closer and connecting their lips.

They kissed until they were breathless, and then Thomas pulled away and pushed Newt back so he was lying flat on the ground, and he moved farther up his body, mouth moving to the boy’s neck as his hands moved under his shirt. This carried on for several more minutes, growing more heated until Newt started to laugh.

“What? What is it?” Thomas sat back on Newt’s hips.

The elder shook his head, grinning. “WICKED sends us something to basically make Teresa have a kid that we’d all end up raising—just another variable, right? But then it goes so horribly wrong for them in that the entire disaster ended with the two of us together. My Tommy,” he ran a hand through Thomas’ hair and brushed it along his cheek. “Doesn’t it just give you such a rush to ruin WICKED’s plans?”

Thomas smiled down at him and kissed him again for a moment. “There’s nothing better. Hey,” he spotted a beetle blade roaming around nearby, and he knew that it had been watching them the entire time but couldn’t bring himself to care. “Thanks for the love potion, guys. Really.” He directed the words at the machine until Newt sat up slightly to be able to pull off Thomas’ shirt. He ran his hands down his chest admiringly before pulling him back into another searing kiss.

The beetle blade remained as the boys did for the night, only projecting to the Creators that this variable in particular needed to be sorted.

Somewhere in the compound, a WICKED employee reluctantly added to a file, “Subject A5 has formed a close relationship with Subject A2.”