The days and nights began to run together until they became weeks; the only indication to Minho that time was passing was the regular opening and closing of the gates. Every day just before sunset he toed the line, getting dangerously closer and closer to simply not returning back to the Glade at night.
Emily had stopped trying to interact with him – everyone had, except Thomas, the relentless good-natured blabbermouth – but he preferred it that way. Thomas always ran the exact same path and pace that had been drilled into him. Minho scoffed at the useless routine now, remembering the old saying about the definition of insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. And they called him insane, simply because he chose to walk through the Maze now, examining every detail from new angles and perspectives – upside down or out of the corner of his eye, pressing his nose to the stone or climbing the vines to twenty feet in the air.
Minho was driving himself crazy; today, he only made it about half a mile into the Maze when he stopped at a dead end, convinced that he should be staring down another passageway. He turned his back to the spot, then spun back around, as if it was a magic trick and he was the magician that could dispel the illusion.
Thomas came upon him like this – hopping in a half circle back and forth, each time greeted with only the same blank wall. This wasn't the most unusual thing he'd seen Minho doing, so Thomas continued around the next bend. Just then he heard Minho scream in frustration, the sound seemingly amplified as it reverberated back and forth between the stone façade. Then came a series of soft thuds as soft human flesh impacted the unmoving rock again and again.
Thomas returned to where he'd last seen Minho, who was now throwing vicious jabs at the wall, ignoring the cracking of bone and the crimson stains that had begun streaming to the ground.
"Minho!" he exclaimed, taken aback by the boy's sudden and futile outburst. "Minho, stop! You're hurting yourself!" Thomas tried to pull one of his arms off of its trajectory, but Minho was as immovable as the object he was attempting to punch a hole through.
"This. Shouldn't. Be. Here." Minho screeched, punctuating each word with a slam of his fists. His hands were numb, but a sharp pain still radiated up his arms and through his shoulders with every blow. When his broken fists could no longer generate a satisfactory impact, he began kicking at the wall, tearing off bits of ivy, even banging his head up against it and wailing into the unforgiving stone.
The wall eventually bested him, and Minho slunk to the ground. By that point Thomas had left – Minho supposed he was still endlessly running that same damn route – but it didn't matter. The Maze had won; it always did. Minho was done.
Thomas, recognizing the shift in Minho's sanity, did not, in fact, continue to mindlessly run the Maze. He ran back to the Glade for help. He didn't want to ask anything of Emily – she'd been through enough, and asking her to go into the Maze, which definitely had its risks, to comfort the man that had shattered her soul, which was an even greater risk, was unthinkable. So Thomas systematically went through the other people that had been closest to Minho – Newt, Alby, even Gally. None of them were able to get through to Minho; he simply sat there, either not listening or not caring enough to react, waiting for the sun to go down and for the Maze to finally take him. Maybe then he'd at least find some peace.
The extended absences of an increasing number of her friends had not escaped Emily's notice. Thomas was avoiding her, and he was a terrible liar, so when she confronted him about what was going on, he told her the truth.
"He's really lost it, Em. I think he had some sort of… breakdown. Clint says he probably broke and busted and tore a bunch of things, but he won't even look at anyone. I think he's just… given up," Thomas concluded.
Emily was torn. On the one hand, she had spent a great deal of effort over the past few weeks learning how to live her life without Minho in it – how to smile until she felt some semblance of happiness, how to hold on to the last pieces of her heart by never thinking of the man who'd broken it, how to make it to the end of the day when she didn't even know how she'd make it out of bed in the morning. On the other hand, that was a life of aching and emptiness that she was not eager to live.
Though Thomas had not asked her to go to Minho – would not ask, for which she loved him dearly – she started walking toward the open gate. With every step, Emily got more and more nervous, though she wasn't exactly sure why. Maybe because she expected to find the Minho that had last walked out of her life – conflicted and enflamed with such passion that it blinded him as to whether it was fueling the love or the hate that he harbored for her.
Instead, she rounded the corner and came upon a tired boy, slumped on the ground and broken in every sense of the word. What everyone had mistaken for defeat was actually agony; Minho had been waging a war within himself – between light and dark, love and hate – both struggling for dominance, and he could no longer contain or control them. The stronger side – of which he was entirely uncertain – would win out, but that battle would mean the destruction of his other half, and he was not sure he could endure the pain.
In a way, it made them perfect for each other. Pieces of both Emily and Minho had been stripped away – by the Creators, the Maze, by time and each other – and separately, they would never be whole. In that moment Emily decided that, though few pieces of her heart remained, she would gladly give them to Minho if it meant that at least one of them would have a chance at happiness again.
Emily, with great assistance from both Thomas and Alby, knelt down in front of Minho and sat back on her heels. She reached out a hand, hesitating only a moment before brushing the hair out of his eyes, trailing her fingers along his scalp and around his ear before bringing it back around to caress his cheek.
"Minho, look at me." The corridor was crowded but completely silent, and though the request was barely a whisper, Emily's voice rang out crystal clear. Minho didn't comply – in fact, responded by turning his face away and out of her grasp – but the fact that he'd reacted at all was a greater success than any of the other boys had achieved.
It was the first time Emily had touched him in a month, and it was almost too much for him to bear – the heat of her soft fingertips like scorching iron, branding his soul in their wake. His pulse sped up and he felt something, but it was too soon to tell which fire was smoldering within him.
"Minho," she breathed, invoking the name like a prayer, "I don't know how much of a heart I have left to give," she said, placing her palm over his now rapidly pounding chest, "but whatever I have left, I give to you."
"I don't… I can't…" Minho stuttered, unsure of how to react. Even if she had loved him before, how could she possibly still love him after all he'd said and done?
"And… it's okay that you can't do the same," she interrupted him. "I don't need it." Emily took a deep breath, trying to hold back the tears collecting at the corners of her eyes. "Because you've given me a whole new heart," she explained, taking one of his large hands and placing it on her stomach. "And it's perfect. She's perfect."
Something inside him snapped. Minho jerked his hand away and sprang to his feet; the darkness in him would not go down without a fight. "Stop it! Don't lie to me!" The other boys watched in tense indecision as Minho paced back and forth, anticipating the moment he would turn violent and need to be restrained.
"First of all," Emily sighed and shifted so that her butt was on the ground, splaying her legs out in front to give her aching knees a break, "what reason could I possibly have for lying? And second, which part specifically do you think I'm lying about?"
Minho paused and stared at her. He wasn't sure he could even answer the question; his addled brain was just telling him instinctively not to trust her, that anything she said was tainted with deceit. Because he couldn't formulate an adequate argument, he went on the offensive. "I hurt you – laid my hands on you and tried to kill you!" Emily picked at the dirt beneath her fingernails, unfazed by the reminder. "I lied to you – knocked you up and then promised I'd get you out of here."
Emily looked up at the sky and pursed her lips, considering his words. "Actually, I've come to terms with the fact that I'll probably end up having the baby here, raising him here."
"HER!" Minho shouted in frustration when she still didn't acknowledge his wrongdoings.
Emily smiled; though her acceptance of their circumstances was still far from the truth, she refused to give him any reason to doubt her previous declaration. This stubborn, irrational Minho was one she recognized and knew how to handle.
Minho ceased in his increasingly erratic movement and faced the wall, which he now had to admit was only a wall, and rested his forehead against the cool stone. "I thought Thomas had left me to die here in this Maze. I wish he had," he confessed to the wall.
Emily was taken aback by his sudden change in tone. He was feeling sorry for himself, and it was pissing her the hell off. "Damnit, Minho, suck it up!" she yelled, cheeks burning as red as her temper. Everyone – including Mino – turned to gape at her. With (almost) no assistance, she got to her feet and dusted herself off. "My first night in the Glade I was huddled up by the gate, couldn't even remember my own name, scared out of my mind, and a shuckin' griever comes up to that little window that looks out into the Maze. I was screaming, sobbing, just done with this whole damn place. And do you remember what you said to me?" Minho shook his head, as she knew he would – he could barely remember what he had for breakfast. "You said, 'Get over it. This is your life now – a new beginning and the chance to be anyone you want to be.'" Emily took one step after another toward Minho, who matched her steps moving backward until he was pressed into the corner. "Who are you going to be, Minho?"
"Why do you care? W-why does it matter?" She was giving him the chance to be the man she'd fallen in love with, and Minho had absolutely no idea why.
Emily reached up to cup his face in her hands and stared purposefully into his eyes, willing him to hear and heed her words. "I may not know how, or why, but the reason we ended up here – all of us – is because we matter. Minho, you matter." He shook his head, though the words resonated with some deeper truth buried in his mind. "You matter to me." She pulled her arms back and set them on her hips, gently stretching the muscles in her lower back that had started to protest. "You need to make a choice, Minho. If you choose to come back to the Glade, to love me and our child and come back into our lives, then I'll be there waiting for you. If you choose to stay in the Maze, to throw away your life and the only things that have ever meant anything, well… then I suppose I'll just always be waiting for you."
She gave him a peck on the cheek before waddling back the way she came. The rest of the entourage followed after her, giving Minho the space to decide his own fate. Though he hadn't realized it until that point, there was no decision to be made. It was her; it would always be her. She – and now their child – was his life, and as long as they lived, so would he.
Minho would have followed after them immediately, ready to once again hold the woman he loved, but something Emily had said was nagging at him. He couldn't put his finger on it, and – since it was still only midday – decided to clear his mind the best way he knew how, with a run, down the same insane path he'd traversed a thousand times. His fight with the wall had left him in pretty bad shape, but after a while he'd either worked through the pain or become numb to it.
An hour or so later, Minho slowed to a walk, parsing out Emily's words, trying to figure out which ones had pulled something from his memory. He was so lost in thought that he didn't see the griever that was crawling across the wall above his head. An unusual breeze ruffled his hair and a rhythmic metallic click finally registered and he froze.
Minho couldn't run – the creature was too close – but, injured and with no weapons, would lose quickly in a fight. He had no options, and could almost laugh at how depressingly ironic it was that he would perish in the exact way he planned, at the exact moment he decided it was no longer what he wanted.
But that moment never came. The griever simply continued on its way, as if Minho didn't even exist. In that moment, Minho realized what Emily had said that itched at the back of his mind – her first night in the Glade. When someone was close by the gate, grievers would always, without fail, claw and scratch and screech at the window. They could never breech it, but they also weren't too bright, and so always tried, generating a huge ruckus and nearly scaring Greenies to death.
Minho had spent nearly every night for weeks sleeping just outside the gate, directly under that window, and no griever had ever threatened him – and he would have known, since he was only actually able to sleep on very few of those lonely and confusing nights. He suspected it had something to do with the fact that he'd been stung – perhaps some of the poison still ran through his veins, camouflaging him to the beasts. If that was the case, he wondered why no one had made this connection before; then he realized that usually, if someone was unfortunate enough to both get stung by a griever and live, they would do everything in their power to avoid encountering one again. Did that make Minho lucky or unfortunate?
He had the sudden urge to follow the griever, which was crawling along slowly and without urgency. Minho hung back a good distance at first, realizing just how insane his current situation appeared, and ready to sprint away at a moment's notice. The griever continued to ignore him, and soon he took on a more casual stance and pace.
They were almost to the end of the Maze – well, technically there was no end to the Maze, but as far a runner could go before he had officially explored every passageway – when the griever stopped, grinding Minho to a halt several yards behind it. It simply stared at the blank wall – much like Minho had been doing just hours earlier.
He waited. Then, as if in slow motion, the griever started inching toward the wall. Minho held his breath as the mechanical limbs came closer and closer, anticipating the painful scraping twang that would ring out when they made contact with the stone. But the sound never came. The wall appeared completely solid, but when the griever started moving forward, it gave way, absorbing and enveloping the creature's body as if it were walking through pudding.
Minho stood there for several minutes, dumbfounded, staring down the now empty corridor. All this time they had been thinking of the Maze in two dimensions – just a series of shifting lines that could be laid out and studied on a piece of paper. Now Minho recognized the constraints that had been placed on their minds – shackles that had been broken by the griever poison – that had blinded them to the truth.
He suspected there were more places like that hidden within these walls, places that he couldn't see but somehow sensed were there, and began running back to the Glade. He had to tell them. He wasn't crazy. There was a Maze within the Maze. With that realization, all the broken pieces of Minho's psyche clicked back into place. Minho believed, with every fiber of his being, that this would be their way out. All he had to do was find it – before they ran out of food, before the grievers killed anyone else, before Emily had the baby.
Minho ran faster.