“Aw, come on Tommy!”
“Yeah, don’t be a Greenie!”
“You a shuck?”
Thomas tried to fend of the teasing accusations with laughter, twisting his arm gently out of Gally’s grip. Well, trying to. Gally gripped harder, his voice suddenly lowered so much it was hard for Thomas to hear, let alone any of the boys by the campfire. Gally’s eyes looked dangerous.
“You wanna be one of us, right?”
Thomas nodded, then suddenly felt himself sprawling in the dirt. Gally knelt by his ear. “Then you gotta do what we do, right?”
Thomas spat out a tuft of grass, and picked himself up. He glared at Gally before turning back to the other Gladers. “Fine! I’ll join in!”
There was a chorus of cheers. Thomas approached the group, still brushing dirt off himself. He slid down next to Newt.
That was as far as their conversation went. Thomas wondered if he’d done something to offend the other boy, but dispelled that thought. Newt was just being melancholy.
“Right, boys!” Gally stood in the middle ring of the circle of bodies, framed by the fire like some otherworldly demon. “You know the rules!”
Another chorus of whoops. Thomas frowned, and turned to Newt. “There are rules?”
Next spoke without seeming to move his mouth. “Goes down in the pecking order. See, first Alby asks a dare,” Thomas could see that Alby was already picking a target. “then Gally, and so on and so on. Oh, and you have to do the dare, otherwise you go in the prisons for a day.”
“That’s a bit harsh.”
“That’s why you do the dare.”
Thomas nodded, then straightened, seeing that Alby had picked Minho to do a dare. The two stood up.
“Minho, I dare you to…” Alby glanced around, as if for inspiration. “I dare you to… imitate Gally.”
There was another whoop of delight from the boys, and an audible groan from Minho. He looked at Gally before changing his stance into one similar to an ape’s. When he spoke, it was with a gruffer tone.
“Those damn Grievers!”
It wasn’t really how Gally stood, how Gally talked, or what Gally usually said, but Minho gave a sweeping bow and retreated into the circle.
Eventually, Thomas began getting into the game, cheering with the others, wincing at the dares. He could see how this simple, entertaining game could be so popular. He wondered if anyone would dare him- but he doubted it.
“I dare… Thomas!” Thomas’ head jerked up at the sound of Gally’s voice. There was no mercy in his eyes.
He felt Newt’s hands on his back, surprisingly gentle, pushing his up and towards the middle of the circle. Thomas went slowly, not looking forward to whatever punishment Gally would make him suffer.
Gally’s face looked like that of a cat focused on its prey. Wait a second, what the hell is a cat? Thomas shook his head and instead focused on the figure opposite him.
When Gally spoke, it was with a wondering edge, as if he were still devising the perfect humiliation.
“How’s the Glade going for you, Greenie?”
There was silence from their audience, and suddenly it was just him and Gally, circling.
“Going pretty well, I’d say.”
“Made any friends, ickle wee Tommy?”
“Oh, you know. Couple.”
Gally snickered and glanced at Minho, then Newt, Alby, and Chuck. “Not many.”
Thoman bristled. “Get a move on Gally. I wanna know what your deepest desire for me is.”
There was a ringing of chuckles, and their bubble of anger burst. Gally stood up straight, and Thomas saw in his eyes that he wanted to humiliate not only the boy who’d usurped him, but also one of his friends. Thomas saw Gally’s eyes flicked over to Newt.
“Right. You-“ he pointed a fat, dirty finger at Thomas- “and you” Newt’s eyes flickered up as the finger rounded on him- “Have to spend the entire night- and day- tied together.
Silence from the crowd. How did they react to this? Thomas and Newt were friends.
Thomas grinned at Newt, trying to calm the expression on the other boy’s face, but to no avail. Newt looked just as pale and worried as he had before.
A hand grabbed Thomas’ wrist and he felt a scratchy material wrap around it roughly. Then Newt was dragged over, and they were fastened together. Thomas grinned again and clapped Newt’s shoulder.
“Could be worse, eh?” He lowered his voice as the headed over to their previous spot in the circle. “Could be chained to Gally.” Newt snorted.
The rest of the night continued in a similar vein. Newt, surprisingly, opted out of his turn to dare. Thomas could almost hear the confusion of the other boys- if anyone could devise an appropriate revenge for ally, it was Newt- but no one protested. Thomas didn’t even get a chance, being so new to the Glades.
The fire had died to a pile of glowing embers by the time the others began drifting off to bed. Thomas stood too, forgetting he was tied to Newt. He had to execute some impressive gymnastics to stay on his feet.
Newt seemed to have got some of his cheer back, and snorted at Thomas’ ineptitude. Then together, they headed towards the bunks.
It wasn’t so bad, Thomas thought. Sure, they had to walk shoulder to shoulder, and even then their wrists bumped the other’s leg all the time, but he and Newt were friends. If anything, it would be quite fun. The sleeping might be a little awkward, but he was exhausted. He didn’t expect to stay awake for more than five minutes.
Newt led Thomas through the sleeping hut, over to their hammocks. They were blessedly close, removing the need for any urgent re-tying or shifting around.
Newt didn’t say a word as he lay down. Thomas glanced at his back, bony spine painfully visible, and decided to keep his silence too. They slept like that, Newt facing away from Thomas, Thomas facing towards Newt, their wrists linked in the gap between them as if they’d fallen asleep holding hands.