It's hard to tell if you love someone until they are gone.
My foot kept tapping. It was the first time I hadn't gone on a raid. Ian went with Kyle and Jared, told everyone else that they would be back in a week, at most. It had been eight days. Mel, of course, had gotten fed up with my incessant pacing and tapping. She had given up on trying to stop it.
Usually when they said they'd be back in a week, they were back seven days later. Not eight. I had suggested cell phones, but everyone said that having a phone bill delivered to "Third hill to the left of the big mountain" might attract seekers. Of course they had all forgotten we don't pay bills. They still said no.
Jamie didn't like my restlessness, so he too became restless. During dinner though, I would sit down and look at my hands. To me, after being in Mel's body for so long, they were extremely white and small. The nails, even with the low calcium they received, grew exceedingly fast. I bit them just to make sure they wouldn't grow.
I remember, when I first woke up in this body, how soft my skin had been. One could tell the body had been taken care of extremely well before I came to live in it. And despite the lack of lotion for a few weeks, the skin was still soft. I owed that due to the fact that no one would let me carry anything heavier than a plate of bread anywhere. Ian and Jeb wouldn't allow me to touch a hoe. Jared, on the other hand, said it should be up to me. And, were it up to me, I would be working twice as hard as I had been while in Mel's body, simply because they had done so much more for me than I had originally asked them too.
Yes, I was angry at Ian when I woke up in Pet's body. I had wanted to use words I had never heard of before earth, but something had kept me from using those words. Jared had teased me at first, but he stopped after I used blackmail.
It was hard to believe that it had been so long since I made the decision to exterminate myself to let Mel have a happy life with Jared underground. I never thought ten years could be counted as a long time, but time on Earth seemed to go by slowly, though it seemed like it all happened in the blink of an eye. It was different.
I also remembered the first time I had sworn. Ian had found it hilarious. It was night, and everyone was in their rooms, getting ready for bed. It was dark in our room, so I couldn't see anything. I was walking towards the area where the bed was, but I forgot about the rock that jutted out just before the bed. Like an idiot, I hadn't had my hands in front of me, checking to make sure I wouldn't hurt myself. I was looking down, so the rock hit me, or rather I hit it, on my forehead. I felt myself sink to the ground, and once I was settled there "shit" escaped my mouth.
Ian found that a necessary time to turn a light on and looked at me holding my head, sprawled out on the ground. He had a child-like grin on his face.
"Did you just say shit?" he had asked, chuckling slightly at the thought. I only glared at him. He was still chuckling as he bent over me to see what damaged I caused myself. He sighed, shaking his head before taking me to the hospital. When we got there, Doc sighed as well.
After that we had to do another run to a hospital for more healing supplies. Ian hated me doing those runs. Once he tried to make Sunny go, but Kyle wouldn't allow that to happen.
It still amazed me. I hadn't told Sunny what Kyle had been like before she came along. I don't think he would appreciate my telling his current love interest how he once, like all other humans, despised us "worms," and how he had once tried to kill me. How he could go from that to loving one of those "worms" he once tried to vehemently to kill gave me more reason to love these strangest of life forms.
Mel sat down beside me. I was at the table nearest the entrance to the dining hall, lest Ian would return. Mel, I knew, was also worried about Jared, and Sunny, Kyle. Though after ten years, Sunny had learnt to control her worry. Mel had done the same within the first two raids Jared went on when we were still in the same body. I was the only one still worrying openly. It made me feel a little weak, and I was embarrassed by all my worrying when they would return with no injuries, but at the time I couldn't think about anything else than everything that could go wrong.
Jeb didn't like them going out like this either. Now that "we have Wanda here, we don't need to be riskin' ourselves to get supplies." I was always flattered by this, but at the same time I couldn't help but think about what could happen when I went out. It wasn't a sure thing that I would come back with Ian and Jared and Mel unharmed. We always had the danger of being caught by seekers hanging over our heads, and I hoped desperately that that would never happen. Though I was sure that, were Ian caught, he would be like Mel. Only far more annoying.
My latest thought was that Kyle had been too violent after being woken up and seekers had heard the commotion. The seekers then would find the three humans, take them to the nearest insertion building, drug them for questioning, then inject them with someone from the flower planet, or perhaps even a dolphin. Granted, the thought of Ian being injected with someone from the Planet of the Dolphins was funny, until I realized what a bad thought that was, then it was just appalling. Mel put her hand on my forearm, which was resting on the table.
"They'll be alright, you know. Jared's always brought everyone back from raids safely," she said. Her words were meant to be comforting, but my mind took the route of, "What if this is the one time he breaks that streak?" Nonetheless, I looked up and smiled.
"I know. I just can't help but worry," I said. I looked back at the table. It wasn't just Jared and Ian that worried me. They had gone on plenty of raids, just the two of them, and I never worried about them then. It was only when more than two went. Then, especially when Ian and Kyle went together, they were more likely to be caught. It's much easier to hide two people than three.
"Don't worry. I'm sure Ian and Kyle will save their bickering for when they come back," she said, a small smile on her face. My back was facing the entrance to the dining room, and she had a clear view. We always sat like this when waiting for them to come home. Had she not been smiling before, I would have turned around to look, but she had had that smile on her face the entire time. They weren't back. Not today.
"Don't they always?" I asked in a monotonous voice. I sighed, looking at my hands again. No matter what, dirt never seemed to infect them, which was rare in a place like this.
Judging from the light filtering down through the cracks it was almost time for people to start coming for dinner, so the rustling didn't have me jumping out of my chair to see if it was Ian.
"I don't know if I should take that as a compliment, or an insult, honestly. What about you, Mel?" I heard Kyle say. I shrugged my shoulders. I had learned to ignore Kyle most of the ti-
"It's an insult, you idiot," Ian's voice followed closely. At this I jumped up without so much as a deep inhale and ran towards the voice. When I saw him I jumped on him and he caught me. He kissed my cheek and I could feel blood rising to my cheeks.
"It's an insult to you too, dummy," I said, looking over his face to make sure he didn't have any bruises or scratches.
"It's more directed at him," he said. He put me down and put his arm around my shoulders and walked to our usual table. I busied myself with looking at his bare arms and neck to make sure he was unharmed.
"I'm alright, really," he said when we sat down. He was smiling. I did this every time he came back. It was more for me than anything else. I didn't stop looking.
"You know me," I said, obviously distracted. He brought his hand up to cup my cheek, but I grabbed it before it could do anything. I looked at his knuckles, then at his face, my eyes narrowing. I ran my fingers over the split skin.
"What happened?" I asked in a low voice, looking nowhere but his hand. I could feel him shrug and I slapped his hand. This time he winced.
"It was nothing really. Kyle and I just got in a little brawl, you know us," he said, running his other hand through his head. He was looking everywhere but me. At least he knew when he was in trouble.
"You could have been caught," I said in a low voice. The room was starting to fill up so it didn't really matter.
"But we weren't, so there's nothing to worry about. Let's get you some food," he said, taking his hand back and getting in the line for food. I didn't move from my spot. Perhaps I was being overcautious, but the last time he and Kyle had gotten into a "little brawl" we were almost caught. And people said I had no reason to worry. I went and stood next to him in the line.
We ate dinner in silence and had Doc fix his hand in silence. He broke that silence when we got to our room.
"You don't need to worry so much, you know. We've been doing this for years. We know how to avoid capture," he said softly. He never spoke down to me, and he had only raised his voice once, and that was when he was yelling at Jamie for doing something he shouldn't have been doing.
That's another thing I couldn't believe. Having the memories from when Jamie was a child it was just so different to see him now as a grown man. He was definitely made for it, but Mel and I still wouldn't let him go out on raids.
"I know that, but I still can't help it. I don't even know why I worry so much. I'm just happy you're back, relatively unharmed," I said, lying on the bed. He put his arm around my waist and pulled me closer. I relished the contact. He sighed, I could feel his warm breath on my ear.
"Oh yeah, you love me," he said, content with himself. I smiled to myself, loving just how true his words were.
"You say that as if you don't love me," I said in response. I was extremely happy that, over the years, I had become more self confident and I was able to be completely open with Ian. His arm tightened, pulling me closer than before.
"But I do, and that's a fact I don't want you to doubt," he replied. He kissed my head. I smiled, once again content with how my life had turned out. There was no other place I would rather be than where I was.
Oh my god, another Wanderer/Ian fluff thing. Amazing.