Disclaimer: The Host and all of its characters belong to Stephenie Meyer, I just like playing in her world from time to time.
A/N: Here is the epilogue as a little extra. I wrote this pretty quickly while I was procrastinating, haha. Hope you guys like it! I'm not really sure what else I can write as an extra, so if you'd like to see something else from the book just let me know! :) And many thanks to efficacious humorosity for betaing!
Extra #1: Epilogue
I didn't let Wanda out of my sight after her reinsertion. I was scared that if I left her alone for one second, she would disappear again or actually succeed at taking her own life. And whenever I was with her, I couldn't stop myself from touching her, running my hands through her hand or caressing her cheek. She was just so soft, small, and delicate, that it was impossible not to reach out to her. Everyone else seemed to be having the same problem, patting her head or stroking her hair at any chance they got. It was the body that they had found for her; protecting her just came instinctually to everyone. And she seemed to have a hard time adjusting to her new limitations. Petals Open To The Moon's body was much weaker than Melanie's. Wanda was used to carrying loads and doing work, and now she was simply physically unable to do much of anything. I could tell that it annoyed her, even though I thought it was stupid. She still thought she didn't belong with us and wanted to use physical labor as a way to make up for it, even though the majority of us had shown her that we wanted her around.
And life went on in the caves, although it seemed so much brighter now. Candy remembered more from the soul inside of her than she had from her own human life, and now she was performing miracles in the hospital wing. People were surviving when, for all intents and purposes, they should be dead. It was an amazing thing to witness, and it was a shame that we did have this technology sooner. Too many of us had died in senseless accidents or from infections or diseases that we could now cure. Kyle and Sunny continued to look for Jodi, even though Sunny seemed a little reluctant. It was clear that she had fallen in love with my brother, much like Wanda had fallen for Jared, and she didn't want to leave him now that she had found him again. Kyle wasn't oblivious to this fact, but he was too determined to get Jodi back to fully comprehend what it meant. I didn't think Jodi would be coming back, and I knew that it would completely break my brother. And at the same time, I could sympathize with Sunny. I knew what it felt like to be completely smitten with someone who would always love someone else more.
That was one of the dark sides of life. I had hoped that Wanda's love for Jared would disappear with her new body, but it was clear that it hadn't. I would still catch her looking at him longingly, as if she thought he was the most amazing man in the world. It was hard to hold back my jealousy then. She couldn't excuse the feelings away as Melanie's anymore; they were all hers and that was a bitter pill to swallow. But I was able to understand that while she still loved Jared, they were simply echoes from a past life. I knew that she considered me as her true partner; her love for me did not come from any outside influence. It was all her. I also understood that she would need time to move past her feelings for Jared so that she could be with me completely and so I gave it to her, although it was an incredibly difficult thing to do. It seemed like both Jared and Melanie were having a hard time adjusting too. There were times when Melanie would brush her hand against my arm and then jerk away as if my skin had burned her. And there were times when Jared would stare at Wanda as if he were searching for something, although I wasn't sure what. I think I was the only one who didn't feel conflicted. It was weird seeing Melanie's face without Wanda's expressions on it, or being around her and hearing her words instead of Wanda's, but it only cemented what I already knew. I was not in love Melanie or her body, although she was very beautiful. I loved only Wanda. She did not share the space in my heart with anyone else.
The rains came soon after that and they seemed to wash away all of the problems in the caves. Sharon and Doc, who had been fighting since Wanda had arrived, finally made up after only one night in the rec room. And I was hoping to start my relationship with Wanda soon, although I was inexplicably nervous about talking to her. It was silly, but I wasn't sure if she would be able to love me in her new body. Jamie must have decided to speed things up for me, because he pushed his mattress next to mine and then called Wanda over. I carried her hospital cot with me as I followed her over to our corner.
"You don't really want that cot, do you, Wanda? I'll bet we could all fit okay on the mattresses if we shoved them together," Jamie grinned as he kicked the two mattresses together. "You don't take up too much space." He took the cot from me and placed it on its side against the wall, not really giving Wanda much of a choice. Then he laid down on the very far side of the mattress with his back to us. "Oh, hey, Ian," he said without turning back to us. "I talked to Brandt and Aaron, and I think I'm going to move in with them. Well, I'm beat. Night, guys." I knew this was it. I would have to invite Wanda to move into my room now, even if I was scared that she would reject me. She would take it the wrong way if I didn't.
"Lights out," Jeb yelled from his mattress. "Everybody shut yer trap so I can get some shut-eye." A few people laughed but shut their lanterns off; they knew that Jeb wasn't joking around.
I found Wanda's hand in the dark, her touch giving me the courage I needed to just ask her already. I fell to my knees on the mattress and dragged her down with me. I kept her hand in mine as she laid down next to me in the seam of the two mattresses. "Is this okay?" I whispered.
"Yes, thank you," she said.
Jamie rolled over and knocked into Wanda. "Oops, sorry, Wanda," he murmured, yawning from exhaustion.
She shifted out of his way and bumped into me. She gasped at my touch and tried to shift out of my way, but I placed my arms around her before she could move an inch and held her against my body. She rolled over to face and whispered, "Is this okay?"
I kissed her forehead softly. "Better than okay." It felt amazing to have her back in my arms.
We were silent for a few minutes as I worked up the nerve to ask her. "Wanda, do you think…?" I trailed off, not sure if I should go on or not. Had she had enough time to move on from Jared or would she reject me?
"Yes?" she whispered.
"Well, it looks like I have a room all to myself now. That's not right."
"No. There's not enough space for you to be alone," she said.
"I don't want to be alone. But…" I would have to ask her. I couldn't let her stay with me if she was still in love with him. I didn't want to start a relationship with her when I was still second best in her mind.
"But what?" she asked. She almost sounded exasperated, as if she wanted me to just spit it already.
So I did. "Have you had enough time to sort things out yet? I don't want to rush you. I know it's confusing… with Jared…" She didn't say anything for a moment, and I was afraid that she would need more time. And then she actually started to laugh. I had no idea what she found so funny, but I intended to find out. "What?"
"I was giving you time to sort things out," she said. "I didn't want to rush you – because I know it's confusing. With Melanie."
I actually jumped in surprise at that. How could she think that I would have feelings for Melanie? Honestly, I hardly even knew the girl. Her body was familiar but her mind wasn't, and that made all difference to me. "You thought…? But Melanie isn't you. I was never confused."
"And Jared isn't you," she pointed out.
I didn't want Wanda to know that I was still angered by her feelings for Jared, it wasn't like she could help it, but I was unable to hide it in my voice. "But he's still Jared. And you love him."
"Jared is my past, another life," she said soothingly. "You are my present."
I found it hard to breathe then. She was trying her hardest to move on from Jared and that was all that I could ask her. "And your future, if you want that," I offered.
"Yes, please," she said.
My heart felt like it was going to burst out of my chest and I was unable to keep the smile off my face. I leaned down and kissed her passionately, trying to pour everything I felt for her into it. I needed her to know that I was desperate for her, and I was overjoyed by the fact that she was ready to start her life with me.
I wanted to spend every second with Wanda after that, but supplies were running low and we had to go on a raid a few days after that. We would have to drive far up north to get everything that we needed. Wanda was having trouble staying still; she was fidgeting in excitement as we drove out to the rock slide that hid all of our cars. I couldn't stop laughing at her as she bounced from foot to foot as we loaded our things into the van. That was when it happened.
We should have been more careful, and we definitely should have been quieter out here in the openness of the desert. But none of that mattered now because it was done, we had been caught. They ambushed us, coming out from behind the rock slide and shining the flashlight into our eyes and pointing their handguns at us. They knew immediately that we were human and I instinctively moved in front of Wanda, wanting to protect her from them. Who knew what they would do to her once they realized what she had shown us? I shoved my fingers in my pocket, searching for my cyanide capsule. It was so unfair, having to die like this when I had just gotten Wanda back, but I knew that I couldn't jeopardize the lives of the others in the caves.
"Steady, now, everybody just keep calm," the man in the center of the group said. It was obvious that he was the leader of this band of Seekers. "Wait, wait, don't be swallowing anything! Jeez, get a grip! No, look!" He turned the flashlight on himself. He was older, with dark hair that had turned white at the temples. His skin was tan and leathery, as if he had spent too much time out in the sun. But his most glaring feature was his eyes. They were brown. Just brown. There wasn't even a hint of silver shining back at us. It was clear that he was human, even though that must have been impossible. How could there have been more humans out here in the desert? "See?" he asked. "Okay, now, you don't shoot us, and we won't shoot you. See?" He laid his gun on the ground and turned to the others in his group. "C'mon guys." They put their hands down too. "We found your cache here – clever, that; we were lucky to find it – and decided we'd hang out and make your acquaintance. It's not every day you find another rebel cell." He talked as if there were other humans out there and I felt the hope bubbling up inside of me, even though I didn't want it to. Did that mean we had even more of a chance against the aliens? He laughed and said, "Look at your faces! What? Did you think you all were the only ones still kickin'?"
We didn't even move an inch, we were all so shocked.
"Think they're in shock, Nate," one of the others said.
"We scared them half to death," one of the women said. "What do you expect?"
They waited for us to recover. Jared was the first to unthaw from our frozen state. "Who are you?" he whispered.
The leader laughed again. "I'm Nate – nice to meet you, though you might not feel the same way just yet. This here's Rob, Evan, Blake, Tom, Kim, and Rachel along with me." He gestured to the others as he spoke and they nodded when he said their names. "There's twenty-two of us altogether, though." He held out his hand to Jared.
Jared took a deep breath and stepped forward. Everyone in our group exhaled at his movement, all of us coming out of our shock. "I'm Jared," he said, shaking his hand. "This is Melanie, Aaron, Brandt, Ian, and Wanda. There are thirty-seven of us altogether." I shifted in front of Wanda when he said her name. I knew the other humans wouldn't understand why she was with us, and there was no way I was going to let them hurt her. I could kill anyone that touched her.
Nate's eyes widened in shock. "Wow. That's the first time I've ever been one-upped on that one."
Jared blinked and I heard Melanie gasp in shock. So there were other humans out there. For the longest time, I had thought we were the only ones still alive. It was both refreshing and a little unsettling to know that I had been wrong. "There are three other cells separate from ours that we know of. Eleven with Gail, seven with Russell, and eighteen with Max. We keep in touch. Even trade now and then," Nate laughed. "Gail's little Ellen decided she wanted to keep company with my Evan here, and Carlos took up with Russell's Cindy. And, of course, everyone needs Burns now and then – " He stopped talking abruptly and turned to look at the red-headed man standing in the back of the group, the one he hadn't introduced. I noticed that he was staring at Wanda and I tried to block his view of her.
"Might as well get that out of the way," one of the others said.
Nate looked at suspiciously and said, "Okay. Rob's right. Let's get this out there. Now, you all just take it easy and hear us out. Calmly, please. This upsets people sometimes."
"Every time," Rob muttered, his hand hovering over the holster on his thigh.
"What?" Jared asked.
Nate sighed and gestured to the red-haired man as he stepped forward. "This here is Burns. Now, he's with us, so don't go crazy. He's my best friend – saved my life a hundred times. He's one of our family, and we don't take kindly to it when people try to kill him." One of the women, I'm pretty sure it was Rachel, pulled her gun out its holster and pointed it at the ground.
"No, it's okay, Nate. See? They've got one of their own," Burns said, pointing straight at Wanda. I tensed up, ready to fight our way out of there if I had to. I wasn't going to let anyone hurt her. "Looks like I'm not the only one who's gone native." He smiled at her and then walked into the empty space between the two groups of humans with his hand stretched out to Wanda.
She stepped out from behind me and I muttered, "I don't think this is a good idea, Wanda." I didn't know if I trusted this man yet and I didn't like leaving her vulnerable to him.
He shook Wanda's hand and introduced himself. "Burns Living Flowers."
"Wanderer," she said.
"It's… extraordinary to meet you, Wanderer. And here I thought I was one of a kind."
"Not even close," Wanda said, probably thinking of the others back in the caves. Maybe Wanda wasn't as much of a freak as she seemed to think she was.
He raised an eyebrow at her. "Is that so? Well, maybe there's some hope for this planet, after all."
"It's a strange world," she murmured as I moved up to her side.
"The strangest," he said. We all introduced ourselves properly then, full of the hope that we might actually be able to take our planet back after all.