Newt never liked heights. From the moment he woke up in The Glade he was frightened just looking up the large walls that captured them. So he always kept his gaze straight forward, throughout the initial days, for the first weeks, everyday he went into The Maze after being selected a Runner. There was a few boys who thought that that the walls was their way out, some that tried to climb the vines and a couple of them got seriously hurt in doing so. Newt watched a boy die, falling down from the almost top because of a bad vine. Newt had broken his own rule to never look up when the boy had started to scream and the sight of the high place he fell from was enough to make Newt’s stomach turn. The overly long time it took for his friend to hit the ground and the rapid increase in volume of his death cry when he approached didn't help. Neither did the boy’s body. His name had been Hector. And his limbs lay like a broken doll in a mess that had been his chest and head. Newt hadn't eaten dinner and puked in the woods, not been able to get all the horrific pictures out of his mind. Minho had made a poor excuse for a try to make him feel better by joking about Fry Pan’s cooking being so bad he didn't want to eat it either, it hadn't helped but Newt appreciated his efforts.
After Hector died, there was never anyone who tried or even suggested climbing the vines again. Except for a few greenies who was immediately shut down. Newt started sleeping on the ground, the smallest heights made him cringe, his heart speed up and he would feel dizzy almost just by think about being over ground. He ran The Maze with Minho, day in, day out, and at least he felt safe with Minho by his side. Minho wasn't scared of much. At least not that he admitted to anyone but when Newt confessed the irrational fear of heights one day because Minho was teasing about him sleeping on the grass, Minho confessed that he was scared of snakes. They'd only had had a few of those in The Glade, a golden one had grasped everyones attention only a few days earlier and when Newt thought about it, he hadn't seen Minho anywhere near the hoard that had gathered around it. It made him feel better somehow. To know that he wasn't alone in being afraid of things that was actually really easy to avoid. Minho muttered that he better not tell anyone else, he had a reputation to withhold. Newt had rolled his eyes but kept the secret like a sacred possession.
If the other boys understood or wondered why Newt was suddenly always sleeping on the ground, they never said anything about it. He guessed, hoped more like it, that they respected him enough to not ask questions. He started to have problems falling asleep. Falling was the problem. Always came back to that. He startled himself in that little space between consciousness and sleep where he kept half-dreaming that he was pushed somehow of the edge of The Maze and couldn’t see anything but the sky and vines swooshing past him. His heart rate took several minutes to even resemble something that could be called calm but it took him hours for him to dare close his eyes again.
It became worse with time. He was tired and cranky and it only made him sleep worse, made him snap at his friends and one day he realized that Minho was the only one sitting by his table at dinner. Minho seemed to be at his side at all times. Newt thought it was strange, even when he could really act like a douche and say stupid shuck, reason: insomnia, Minho would only sass him back or tell him off and then drop it, reason: bloody good mate. After that, he kept all his anxiety to the nights when no one could see him or hear his sobs. He only told Minho a few things but otherwise kept everything about his mental health to himself. Some of the boys told him they were glad to have their old buddy back after a few days. All of them started talking to him again. He hyperventilated for hours in the woods after sun down for a week straight.
When he woke up from a nightmare screaming of the top of his lungs one night, three months after Hector, Minho was at his side in less than three seconds. If Newt hadn’t been trying to get air through his lungs that didn’t seem to work, he would’ve thought that even if Minho was a Runner, his speed was incredible. He felt his head being propped up and easily put down in someones lap, there were an arm around his midsection and breath on his ear. Whispers that said you’re on the ground, it’s fine, you’re on the ground echoed in his brain and it made him finally be able to take a deep breath, like it was the first he’d ever taken. Minho’s voice soothed him enough to break out from the panic attack and he was embarrassed when he finally could sit up and see a bunch of boys standing a few feet away, around him, in a small circle. Minho sat up beside him, absently stroking Newt’s hair and it just made him feel more flushed. He patted Minho’s hand away and said I’m fine. The other boy snorted, saying yeah, the big boy can handle himself and shook his head. Soon after, all of the boys had left and gone back to bed. Minho had gone first, looking resigned and aggravated. When Newt lay his head down again, he wished Minho hadn’t left him.
Time passed. The Glade didn’t change much. Newt didn’t either. He was afraid to sleep, he was constantly on the verge of a panic attack and the only one that seemed to notice was his fellow Runner. Newt thought Minho had started to look at him like he was fragile, after the nightmare incident. He hated it. He hated it so much, he started not to meet Minho’s gaze. Went back to his original plan, to keep his eyes forward, never up and now “up” also included “Minho”. They talked briefly and ran and memorized The Maze and painted the maps together. That was it and Newt didn’t dare to want anything else.
“You sure it was a right turn?” They had been running all day and Newt just wanted to get the maps ready, eat and then not fall asleep. Didn’t want to break routine. Minho was being meticulous, which for him was kind of strange.
“Yeah, it was a right turn.” Minho looked at him like he wasn’t so sure and was making up his mind whether he could or could not trust Newt’s judgment. Something in him snapped, so did his eyes and his voice. He stared down Minho, first time he looked him in the eye for days, maybe weeks, and spat that if he didn’t trust him anymore, why did he even run with him? Minho was obviously taken aback by the statement. He started to shake his head. Newt could feel himself grow more angry by the second and pointed a pen towards the black haired boy across the table from him.
“Common, you’ve been looking at me like I’m a weak little boy since I-”
“I’m not looking at you like I think you’re weak, Newt!” Minho had started breathing hard and Newt had a hard time believing him. What else could it be? What else could have put that piteous countenance on his face?
“Then what the shuck is it?” Minho looked like he could have punched Newt right in the face. Instead, when he rushed around the table and didn’t stop in the comfortable bubble that’s called “personal space”, he just crowded in and pressed though lips to Newt’s. Newt was shocked enough that he stumbled backwards and dropped the pen he was holding. Emotions exploding into a mess on Minho’s face, too many to decipher. Minho did what he did best. He ran.
They went days without talking. Newt only slumbered a few hours the third day when his body gave in to the exhaustion. He didn’t know how to tell Minho everything he wanted to tell him, didn’t know how to say that he wanted, oh god, he wanted so bad, but couldn’t. Couldn’t let himself fall like that. Couldn’t fall in any way at all. He was too scared of the height.
Everything was harder on him when he didn’t have Minho and it was the first time he really understood how much Minho’s constant presence had kept him going, kept him sane. He felt so tired. Of running, of mapping, of keeping a happy face, of not sleeping, of not being able to look at Minho anymore, of eating, of klunking, of breathing, of the whole concept of living. He thought about the wall and that it was the one thing it boiled down to, that it was what was wrong with everything. The thing that kept him up at night when he wanted to be down. What made him throw up when he wanted to swallow. What made him hug the ground and not want to go to sleep.
He decided that there was one thing he couldn’t live with; the fear. There was one thing he could do to fix it; defy it.
It felt like peace. Like this was exactly where he was supposed to be, like this was what he’d been made for and his struggles had only prepared him for this moment. His mind was blank and his hands weren’t shaking of exhaustion anymore. He didn’t have the urge to vomit, he didn’t feel like he was going mad, he didn’t feel anything. He was high and mighty, finally able to breath. And when his hands didn’t grasp the plants anymore, it didn’t feel like falling, because he was choosing to let go.
Pressure. A press and heat in his palm. Pain. Agonizingly bright in his head, in his leg, in his ribs. Sobs. Uncontrollable and not his own. He woke up slowly and wasn’t even sure if he was conscious or just slightly aware. He moaned around the throb in his forehead. There was rustling beside him and he felt the squeeze become a bit tighter around his hand and then it was let go.
“Newt?” It was a boy. That much he could tell, but then again, it would’ve been a real surprise if it’d been a girl. It took him a long time to figure out it was not just any boy, it was Minho. He grunted the best he could, which was to say not very loudly or with much emphasis. He could hear a sharp intake of breath and then Minho was flat out crying, mumbled the blonde boy’s name over and over. Newt felt like going out cold. He fought it.
“‘M here.” He wasn’t sure he actually said it or if he just thought it. It hadn’t sounded like something real. Maybe it was just in his head.
“What where you thinking?” Minho asked on an exhale, not sounding judging just really anxious. Newt guessed Minho had heard him, but now he had a hard time grasping what the other boy had answered, asked. It took him a few minutes to be able to form any more words. He dared opening his eyes, didn’t see much at all.
“I fell,” Newt said, his own voice sounding far away.
“No shuck!” Minho gasped but Newt held a hand up, motion enough to make him want to pass out again. He closed his eyes.
“No, no, I mean I fell all the time. I fell with Hector, I fell in my sleep, I fell when I was running the maze, I fell… I fell for you. There was just so much falling.” He could hear Minho move in his chair beside the bed, then the warm hand was clasping his once more. He didn’t know if he could open his eyes.
“Please don’t ever scare me like this again,” Minho whispered against his temple. Newt turned his head towards the other boy when he was leaning back in the chair. Eyes half lidded, he acknowledged:
“I might fall again.” He could see Minho’s face now. His eyes were puffy, cheeks wet with half dried tears, lips chapped. He was still handsome. Newt didn’t want to let his eyes go again, but he could feel his eyelids slip down without himself deciding to. The other boy came close again, words barley audible.
“I’ll catch you.”