A/N: Well, this is my first Host fanfic. I have been drabbling with it for a while, and just recently completed it to my liking. I was sort of nervous using The Host characters, because I didn't want to muck it up, and I didn't know how to go about making it right, if you know what I mean. If you have any comments, please review!
Disclaimer: I do not own The Host or any of its characters; they belong to the lovely Stephenie Meyer. I do however, own the plot.
It had been almost a month since I had been inserted into Pet's body and as horrible as it may sound, it was the best month of my life as a human. For a whole month, it had been just me inside this body; no one had been talking back to me like they way that Mel had when I was in her body. I enjoyed the freedom of wandering around and doing as I wished, without someone talking to me. Most of all, I enjoyed being with Ian and falling even more into love with him; which I never thought would be possible.
With it just being me in my host's body I was able to freely express my emotions, and I liked that. A tiny part of me still yearned for Jared's touch whenever I saw him holding hands with Mel or touching her in any way; the memories of his touch was still fresh in my mind. The majority of me was completely in love with Ian.
To me, our relationship felt right. Whenever he touched me, my skin lit on fire. When his lips touched mine, even for a brief second, it felt like he had given me third degree burns on them. This was something that I had to get used to. I was used to feeling how Melanie's body reacted every time that Jared had touched her or looked at her, but that was simply because she still loved him so. This time, it was me that felt this way around Ian; these were all my emotions.
One thing that I still was trying to get over was the blushing. Every time Ian looked at me or smiled in my direction or held me when we were in the company of others; or even alone for that matter; my body immediately flushed crimson. I didn't particularly like feeling so vulnerable, but Ian had told me that he found it endearing. I was still trying to get used to the shyness too.
Life in the caves had improved slightly also. Everyone was more or less friendly to me, only Sharon and Maggie still showed some resentment, but they had come around a little once they saw Melanie back in her body. All the humans in the caves, including myself, were still annoyed by Lacey and her relentless bantering. Even after living in the caves all these months, she still managed to find one thing or another to complain about. Some people had suggested letting her go and have the Seekers catch her, but Jeb pointed out that the Seekers would then put another soul into her and come looking for us. Brandt had recently decided that we should knock her out and leave her for the coyotes to find, which I didn't think was such a bad idea.
Kyle and Sunny were still inseparable, mostly due to the fact that Sunny was extremely nervous whenever she was without Kyle's company. I made an effort to take her with me to do some chores every day to relieve Kyle. He was trying to love her like he loved Jodi, but I knew it was hard for him to accept that Jodi wasn't coming back. Usually I took her to do the laundry with me, but more often than not, she huddled herself into the corner until it was time to go back to Kyle. I sort of felt bad for Kyle, because as much as he loved Sunny, he really wished that she would gain some independence; she would not let him go out on a raid and leave her in the caves, and he wouldn't let her go out as he didn't want to lose Jodi again, so they were at a stalemate in that department.
This morning, instead of thinking about everything that was going on in the caves, I just concentrated on Ian.
We were lying on the makeshift bed that Ian had made; he had found another mattress somewhere and stacked his on top of it to make a double bed so that Kyle could take his old mattress to his and Sunny's cave. I had woken up early this morning; I could tell by looking up at the orange sky through the cracks in the ceiling and was watching Ian sleep.
As usual, Ian was sprawled out on the mattress in every which way. He had somehow subconsciously adjusted himself to the amount of space he took up once we started sleeping in the same bed together; there was just enough room for me to lie comfortably on my back.
I rolled over and lay on my stomach, using my left arm as a pillow and watching his chest move up and down as he breathed. I yearned to reach out and touch his hand that lay so close to me, to run my hand through his hair or stroke his cheek, but I didn't dare wake him up. Instead I thought about him and reflected upon all the things that we had done in the past month.
We hadn't really gotten to work together much, as Jeb kept giving Ian chores to do that required more strength and muscle, and gave me lighter things to do. I wasn't sure if he was doing this on purpose, but I wasn't too fond of the situation. I was surprised that Ian hadn't said anything to him about it yet. Today they were going to start the planting in the second field, so I made up my mind that I was going to go and help out as much as I could; I was tired of doing light and feathery work, I needed something that would get my hands dirty.
I lay and watched Ian sleep peacefully for at least another half an hour before he woke up. He slowly opened his eyes and looked over at me, his blue ones piercing my silver ones, rubbing them a little. Ian smiled as he saw that I was already looking at me and I blushed at being caught, quickly looking away.
"Good morning Wanda," he said to me lightly, still smiling.
"Morning," I whispered, still looking away.
He chuckled and reached out his hand to grab mine, while shuffling closer to me. "I didn't think you could blush this early in the morning," he whispered teasingly.
This caused me to turn crimson.
"Why are you acting so guilty?" he asked, sliding his right arm under my head, wrapping it around me and cradling my body to his. My entire left side felt like it was burning.
"Because I didn't think that you'd catch me looking at you," I muttered, laying my head on his chest as he held my right hand with his left and rested it on his stomach.
Ian kissed my forehead. "Don't be so ashamed, my Wanda. If anything, I should feel extremely guilty about the number of times I've laid awake watching you sleep." His voice rumbled in his chest. "I'm not afraid to admit it. You're gorgeous, and I love you and I can't help but watch you sometimes."
This made me blush even deeper.
He started using his left hand to run through my hair and I nodded, making him chuckle. He kissed my head again and I sighed.
"We should probably get up soon, we have a lot of work to do today," Ian said, still brushing through my hair.
"No, you have a lot of work to do, I'll probably be stuck in the kitchen again," I replied. "I just wish that I could work as hard as I used to be able to in Mel's body."
"I know you do, Wanda. But what you do is just as important as what everyone else does."
"But Ian, all I do is work in the kitchen, wash dishes, do the laundry and clean mirrors," I pointed out.
"Hmm," he said.
"I need to work harder; I need to do more things."
"Wanda, you already do too much for us. Since you came back to us, you haven't taken a day off. You don't need to prove your worth to us, Wanda; everyone loves you and appreciates what you do for us."
I sighed. "You're going to be planting today, aren't you?" I felt him nod. "So then why can't I help with that? It usually requires everyone's help."
"The majority of us are going to be breaking up the soil; I doubt that we'll get to the planting until much later today. You could do something in the morning and then come help plant later on," he suggested.
I shook my head. "No, Ian. I want to help out all day. I don't care that Pet's body can't handle it. I don't care that tomorrow I'll probably be so sore that I can't lift my arms over my head; I need to be able to physically work this body somehow."
He was silent for a minute. "Wanda, I'm sure that there are other things-"
"There aren't," I interrupted him.
I could almost hear him thinking of another possible solution. I lifted my head off his chest and looked right into his eyes.
"Please, Ian. Just this once, then I'll go back to being a good little soul and wash dishes and bake bread and do all the regular things, I promise."
He smiled a little and ran a hand through my hair. "How can I say no to a face like that?" he asked before hugging my body tight to his. "But you're not a 'good little soul'. Don't refer to yourself as a soul; it sounds so degrading. You're much more than a soul could ever hope to be in their wildest dreams."
I snuggled into him and lightly kissed his chest. We lay in this embrace until we could hear Jeb's shouting from down the hall.
"Get up ya lazy buncha louts! Daylight's burnin and times 'a wasting! There's soil to be turned and crops to be planted!"
Since our cave was the first one in the hall, his voice was extremely loud. It didn't help that he came barging through the door seconds later.
"Come on you all, what are you, a bunch of lay-abouts?"
"Haven't you heard of knocking?" Ian asked, holding me tighter to him.
"It's my house and I'll do what I want in it," Jeb replied. "Now come on, Ian. We're gonna need your strength to break the soil. Wanda, there's some laundry to be done, I believe. Up and at 'em!"
"Actually Jeb, Wanda is going to work with me in the second field, if that's alright," Ian told Jeb while I tried to squirm out of his arms to turn and look at Jeb.
"Why how come, Wanda? You don't like the laundry?" Jeb asked.
I finally freed myself from him and sat up. "It's not that I don't like it," I started. "It's just that I'd rather change up the schedule a little bit so it's not so repetitive. And I know that you need a lot of extra hands when you plant crops," I added.
To my surprise, Jeb broke out into a huge grin. "I was wondering when you were gonna say something about the work. I knew that you'd grow restless some day. I was working my darndest to try and make everyone's clothes as dirty as possible just ta give you something to do."
I just stared at him and Ian laughed. "So that's why you've been making me do all sort of dirty work lately? I thought it was just because you wanted the caves to look spotless."
"Course not," Jeb turned towards the door. "I needed to give Wanda something to do," he said before leaving and continuing to yell down the hall.
Ian sat up. "If I'd had any idea that that's why he was making me do all sorts of dirty work, I would have stopped awhile ago."
"I know, it's fine, Ian. You don't have to apologize; it's just another one of Jeb's crazy schemes."
Ian laughed and ruffled my hair before pulling me into another embrace. Instinctively I tried to fix my mussed hair, but he pinned my arms to my sides.
"Wanda, you look fine," he said reassuringly and I shrugged. Ian kissed my cheek before continuing. "We should probably get going, Jeb won't like it too much if he has to make a second round."
I nodded and ran a hand through his dark hair before he let go of me. Together we got changed and stepped out into the hallway where we almost bumped right in to Jared and Mel.
"Oh, sorry," I apologized. Ian held my hand in his and Melanie laughed.
"Wanda, even if you ran into me at full force, I doubt it would do much damage," she said and I scowled. "You know I'm just kidding."
"I know," I replied and we stepped out into the main room.
I started slowing down. "Do you think that I should get right to the second field to help, because they'll-" The look Ian was giving me silenced me at once. He shook his head and tugged me along.
"Wanda, you're going to help us today?" Mel asked once we joined up with them again.
"Yes," I replied. "I'm tired of doing menial tasks while the rest of you do real work."
"What you do is just as important as what the rest of us do," she started again. "Just because it doesn't involve heavy labour doesn't mean it's not important, you know."
"I know," I said as we entered the fairly empty kitchen. "I just need a change of pace."
She sighed and walked over to the nearest spot and sat down.
"I'll go get us some food," Ian said to me before kissing my cheek and walking away to the back of the room with Jared smiling.
I sat down beside Mel and chatted with her until Jared and Ian returned. Lately he had been bringing too much food for me to finish up myself; I was certain that he was so used to getting 'Melanie' sized portions, that he didn't even realize that this body didn't really need half as much as she did. It was tiny, after all and I wasn't working as hard as she did, so I didn't need to refuel like the rest of them did. He always managed to finish off whatever I couldn't eat, so I passed the rest on to him this morning too.
Ian gave me a funny look that said, "We'll talk about this later," but I was confused. This was never an issue before.
"We're getting low on food supplies," Jared pointed out and Ian nodded. "Time for another raid, I suppose."
Mel groaned. "It feels like we just got back from a raid."
Jared smiled and looked down at her. "We did just get back from one, but that was almost a month ago, and it was a small one, nonetheless. This time we'll have to bring more people..."
"Jared, can't the planning wait until after the crops are in the ground? It's making me tired just thinking about the amount of work that has to be done," Ian said.
Kyle came running into the kitchen just then with Sunny in tow. She sat down across from us while Kyle ran to get food for them. When he returned, Ian asked what we all were thinking,
"Dude, where's the fire?"
"Jeb's on his way," Kyle said, though his voice was muffled through the food in his mouth. "He's mad that not everyone's out of bed yet, and we didn't want to get caught. We had a bit of a lie in," he looked sideways at Sunny and winked at her while she looked down at her plate.
I caught Mel's eye and bit my lip to try and keep myself from laughing, but of course I was blushing. Mel rolled her eyes at me and turned to talk to Jared. Ian wrapped an arm around me and whispered,
"Ready to go?"
I nodded and he made to stand up, but then Jeb came bursting through the door, clearly upset about something.
"On second thought, I want to see what this is about," I said to Ian, pulling his arm back down. He smiled and sat as Jeb began yelling.
"Good, I'm glad to see that at least you people understand what it means when I say there's planting to do. I want to get this done in one day, ya here? We've got a raid to plan, and that means losing our best workers while they go out, and I want to use them while they're here."
Just then a few stragglers came in the room, Lacey included, and Jeb glared at them.
"You know, I really don't appreciate playing the role of a rooster to yous people. You knew there was things to be done, and y'all are laying about like it's Christmas or something."
"Well, I can't function before a certain time in the morning. And I needed to have a shower, my hands are constantly dirty and it's killing my skin," Lacey said to Jeb and Ian choked on his drink, coughing loudly.
"Something funny?" Jeb asked him, trying to ignore what Lacey had just said to him and Ian shook his head.
"Just. A. Cough," he spluttered between coughs. Kyle reached across the table to thump him on the back.
Ian glared at him. "Thanks, Kyle."
Kyle smiled widely back. "Anything I can do to help you out."
After Kyle and Sunny finished, we all headed to the second field and started to grab the tools we would need. Sunny wasn't going to help break the soil, she really wanted to get the seeds ready, so she sat at the side of the field and watched Kyle. The rest of us grabbed mostly shovels that were ready to use and split into two groups to get started.
I was in a group with Ian and Kyle while Mel, Jared and Brandt were another group. We started in the back corner of the field with Ian in front, breaking up the soil, I was in the middle, turning it over and starting to chop the clumps apart while Kyle brought up the rear with a rake, making the ground smooth. I still felt slightly nervous at the prospect of Kyle working in such a close proximity to me with a rake in hand, but Ian squeezed my hand reassuringly before we got to work.
It seemed like we had just gotten started when Ian removed his shirt. Granted, it was quite hot in there and I was working up a sweat; but when he took it off, I glanced at him and immediately blushed. Kyle noticed and started laughing his head off.
"Ian, it seems that you've embarrassed Wanda," he pointed out while continuing to laugh.
This caused me to flush a deeper color of red and duck my head so that my blonde hair fell in front of my face. Ian turned and pushed it back out of the way and held my chin up with his fingers.
"Don't hide, Wanda. I love it when you blush," he said to me, tracing a finger over my cheek.
"Man, Wanda, all Ian has to do is look at you sideways and you immediately turn red," Kyle said. "Doesn't that get tiring?"
I started to nod my head, but Ian held it in place. "Shut up, Kyle. I find it sweet."
I lightly pulled my chin out of his hand. "We should get back to work. I don't want Jeb to yell at us."
"Wanda, you work too hard as it is, we can afford to take a little break," Ian said to me, frowning.
I shook my head and started breaking apart a clump of soil in front of me, successfully ending the conversation. Ian turned back around, shaking his head and we worked right through until it was time for a water break.
Lily came around with water for everyone and bounced right up to us.
"Hello, Wanda. How are you today?"
"Hi Lily, I'm doing alright. I'm a little tired, but what do you expect?" I said walking up to her to grab water for Ian and I. Kyle had gone off to sit with Sunny.
She laughed. "I don't know how you can put all this muscle into this work. I'm only scheduled for the afternoon today. Tomorrow I'm planting all day though. We miss you up in the kitchen though, the one day that I have kitchen duty you're not there."
I took the water from her. "I know, and I'm sorry Lily. I just needed a change in pace for today. Tomorrow I'll probably be all sore and hurting and regret it completely. I just feel like I need to do more around here."
"Oh, Wanda. You do too much for us already; we're forever in debt to you," she said, smiling at me.
Just then Jeb called out "Where's that dang water when you need a drink? A guy like me can't work all morning and expect to go without fluids; that's how people die around here!"
We both laughed. "Well, I guess I should get going with the rounds," she said. "I'll see you later, Wanda."
"Yeah, I'll see you Lily!"
I turned back to Ian and saw that Mel and Jared had joined him and they were all sitting on the soil. I sat down and handed Ian his water before taking a sip of mine. He was done his instantly and I offered him the rest of mine.
"Are you crazy, Wanda? I'm not going to take that from you. You've worked just as hard as the rest of us, you need that for yourself," he told me.
"But you've been working much harder than I have," I protested. 'You should take it. Besides, I already had a cup full of it from Lily while I was standing there talking to her."
"You really shouldn't trust her," Melanie half-whispered to Ian. "She'll just try and do what's right for other people and not think about herself first." She winked at me and I scowled. Jared wrapped an arm tight around Mel and smiled at me.
"I know, I worry about her," Ian said, looking down at me. I held the cup out to him.
"I swear, I've already had a drink, you can take it."
"I don't know whether to believe you or not," he said.
"Ian, it's just water. If she's thirsty later on, she can go get herself one. There's no point in having a silly argument over a cup of water," Jared said to us, chuckling. I pressed the cup into Ian's hand and he tried to hand it back. "If you don't drink it, I will," Jared threatened.
Ian finally took it and drank the cup in one gulp and I smiled. He shook his head.
"How much longer do you figure it'll be before we get to the planting?" Mel asked, looking around.
"Weren't you here the last time we did this?" Jared asked.
"Not technically," she replied. "My body was here, but I wasn't in control of it."
"Sorry," I whispered.
She frowned at me before taking my hand. "Why are you apologizing? You never specifically asked to be put in my body like that. I'm just grateful that it was you and not some other soul like a... a seeker," she shuddered and I shrank into Ian's body. "Then I would have never gotten to know you and never come back here to see everyone again." Mel smiled at me. "I couldn't have asked for a better soul to be put inside my head. Besides, you're much more than just a soul to me; you're my family. You're my sister," she lightly squeezed my hand and I returned it.
"Thanks, Mel. That means a lot."
She shrugged. "I don't know why it would, but okay."
"No human has ever said that to me before," Ian cleared his throat and I turned to him. "You say some wonderful things about me, but I'm not your sister," I said to him and he smiled.
"No, you're much more than a sister to me," he said. "You always will be."
I smiled. "Alright, can we turn this conversation away from me now?"
Luckily Jeb came to my rescue. "You've all had yer water break, what are you still doing lying about? Yer not getting paid to sit around and chit chat when there's work to be done!"
Jared rolled his eyes. "I suppose that's our cue." He stood up and pulled Mel up with him and they went back over and started working again.
"We're not getting paid in the first place!" Kyle yelled to Jeb from across the room.
"Shut yer trap Kyle. You get to stay here for free, don't ya?" Kyle didn't answer. "Then there's your pay, now get up and get to work before I shoot ya."
Sunny automatically clutched Kyle's arm and refused to let go of him.
"Oh, and Sunny, I didn't really mean it. I promise; I just have to get his butt into gear somehow," Jeb apologized.
She still didn't seem to calm down and we waited for Kyle to return.
"Let's start without him," Ian suggested, picking up our shovels and handing me mine. "He'll catch up."
"But that's not fair to him, he's just trying to comfort Sunny," I protested and Ian turned to me.
"Wanda, please don't try and defend Kyle. He deserves a swift kick in the ass to get moving. Once he sees the amount of work that needs to be done, he'll find a way to detach himself from Sunny pretty fast."
I shrugged and we started working again.
True to Ian's words, Kyle came running after us and began work almost at once.
About two hours had passed when I started to feel a little funny. I was all clammy and my head was hurting. I closed my eyes to try and suppress the nausea I was feeling and stopped. Ian didn't notice that I had stopped as he was a little further ahead, and Kyle was still quite far behind us, trying to catch up.
I counted slowly to ten before I opened my eyes again. It seemed as though the temperature in the room had increased by about twenty degrees and I could feel myself sweating profusely. When I opened them, my vision was dotted with black spots that were clouding over. I felt light headed and closed them again, leaning my forehead on my hands, resting on the end of my shovel.
I heard someone behind me should out my name, probably Kyle, and I opened my eyes again to try and look around. My vision was still spotted and I just caught a glimpse of Ian throwing his shovel aside and running towards me.
"Ian," I murmured before everything went dark and I could feel myself falling towards the ground.