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In a name

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i.

They take everything from you. Every memory, every dream. Every scrap of your identity. The only thing they leave you is your name.

Because a name is so special. Because a name defines you, makes you who you are. Because names are the fucking be all and end all of everything you fucking need and what’s in a fucking name, a rose by any other name would smell of the same stinking shit as anything else ever would --

“Thomas,” he chokes out, spits the words around sand and mud. He staggers to his feet, and the crowd around him have gone silent, waiting for him to finish that statement. He swallows against the brittle lie, and indulges them: “My name is Thomas.”

They cheer. They chant. At some point, Newt shortens the name to Tommy, and claps him over the shoulder like he’s proud.

Thomas grins back. Buries the collection of unpronounceable letters that had swum up from the murky remains of his memory. Thomas, he hammers into his mind, and he tells himself it shouldn’t matter.

Except that, on some level, it does. Because they only leave you your name, but Thomas’ name - his real name - wasn’t worth having.

Well. Screw them, and screw their little dog too. Thomas forces the strained grin into reality and feels it relax, feels it become natural. He laughs and it sounds genuine, takes a swig of the watered down jet fuel that Gally brews and almost manages to swallow before he chokes. In the firelight and the noise, he forgets that Thomas was a random name he picked out of thin air, forgets the collection of unpronounceable consonants that formed his real name. They’re meaningless.

Thomas drinks again and laughs again and spins in circles just to feel dizzy, and he’d rather be a Thomas any day.

ii.

Chuck runs through the who’s who of the glade, as much as he knows.

“Most of us are weres, I think - or shifters? There’s definitely a couple of shifters. Like, at least three. But, um, I don’t actually know the difference between a were and a shifter, so you should ask Jeff about that, because he knows everything. Like, scary everything. So anyway, Alby’s a dryad, which is totally awesome, and Gally’s a wolf, and Jeff’s a wolf, and there’s actually a lot of wolves, you know? I’m a wolf, we’re pretty cool - Newt’s not, he’s a coyote, or a jackal or a dingo or something, no one really knows but we think coyote - as in, he’s not a wolf, not that he’s not cool, because he is - and there’s a mermaid somewhere but I can’t remember his name, and Clint’s this sort of lizard dragon thing which confuses everyone but his claws have this wicked painkiller medicine going on which is useful for a med-jack, I guess, and --”

Thomas nods at appropriate intervals and tries to commit the various names and were types to memory. He looks down at his hands, long fingered and mole-spotted, and tries to imagine them curled into claws.

“So what are you?” Chuck finishes with, gazing up a Thomas with an expectant air. Thomas almost snorts; with his wide eyes and his flyaway curls, he looks one notepad and pen set short of being an earnest reporter for the local school paper. Maybe in another life that’s what he was.

“I don’t think I’m anything,” he says, then tacks on a hasty “Sorry, Chuck,” though he’s not quite sure why.

“Nah, you’re something. We all are - it’s why they put us here. But it’s cool, apparently some of the guys don’t remember until their first full moon - I bet you were bitten, do you reckon you were bitten? Maybe it just happened, maybe that’s why you were able to forget. Oh, and I forgot, there’s Winston - don’t tell him I forgot him - he’s a vampire, he can walk upside down and everything, it’s awesome.”

Thomas nods and smiles and reties the knots on his hammock in a way that can’t be tugged or pulled loose (but will fall prey to a fistfull of claws which is why duct tape is your friend, duct tape, stopping weres and solving crimes since forever and it’s totally legit let’s duct tape everything just in case why is no one else supporting this plan guys come on guys seriously) and adds Winston to his mental list.

iii.

“Chuck give you the run through?” Alby asks the next day. He runs his hands over the names carved into the wall. His fingers linger on the harsh lines crossing a few of them out.

“The run through?”

“Of us. The weres, the shifters, the spirits - all of us.”

Well. Yes, but Thomas kind of didn’t realise he’d be quizzed on it. He’d have made flash cards if he knew, he didn’t know much about himself, but he kind of felt he was a flash card kind of person.

Alby levelled him a look, flat and almost combative. “Any prejudices you have, any centuries old grudges between your kind and ours - forget them.” He made a chopping motion with his hand that had Thomas resisting the urge to take a step back. “They don’t mean anything. Gladers don’t hurt Gladers. Keep your instincts under control and don’t be an idiot.”

Thomas nodded shakily. At Alby’s expectant stare, he stammered out a shaky, “Yeah, gottit. No making crosses at the vampires, nossir.”

The pause dragged on. Thomas fought the urge to squirm. He didn’t think he had any instincts, or any inbuilt grudges against any of the Gladers. It wasn’t his fault that his first reaction to Chuck’s list had been a running mental commentary of weaknesses and ways to take everyone out. There was no way that Alby could know that. Anyway, it wasn’t like he’d use any of that knowledge. He didn’t even have half the materials and oh my god please stop now just in case Alby was a mind reader, Hi Alby, how’s things, ohgodstop.

“Good,” Alby pronounced. Thomas did not sag at the knees. The older teen nodded again, this time with a slow smile. “Good,” he repeated. “So, any questions?”

And, because Thomas was an idiot whose mouth ran faster than his brain: “I thought dryads were women?”

The dryad in question clapped him on the shoulder and almost sent him to the ground. “I’m an oak tree, Greenbean,” he laughed. “Trees don’t have genders.”

“Oh,” Thomas answered, and tried to shake the feeling back into his arm.