AN: So this is my first official posting of my fanfiction! Wow, I'm so excited to be here and hope that you all like my work in the future. I'm easing my way into this so any help or advice you have is greatly appreciated.

A big thank you goes to Ein Kampf kann eine Lebenszeit for being my very first beta and being so nice to a nervous new author. You're awesome!!


Chapter 1 – Awake

It was quiet. Very quiet.

Voices spoke in my ear, but they didn't reach where I wanted them to. In my head, all was silent.

I could feel my body lying on the hard cot. Feeling things wasn't what I had been denied for the past year. I had no idea how to move. Still, in the emptiness of my mind, it hardly mattered.

"Wanda."

Well, it seemed that my lips knew how to move.

"Wanda." She had really done it. Doc had really done it. She was gone. Tears leaked out of my still closed eyes. "Wanda. Wanda!" I couldn't stop repeating her name.

The voices started to become coherent.

"Melanie? Mel, can you hear me?"

"Give her a minute. She'll come around."

I didn't want to come around. My companion, my sister, was gone. All my efforts at saving her had been wasted. I had even tried to erase myself just so that she could stay.

I opened my eyes, slowly, but the picture was a blur. I couldn't make sense of it. It was brown and blue and green.

"Where is she?" I asked. "Where's Wanda?"

"Right here."

I turned to the sound of the voice. After blinking several more times, I could make out Doc standing beside my bed, holding a lit cryotank in his hands, with a shining silver soul resting inside.

She was alive!!!

Feeling like I was moving through water, I reached for the tank. He placed it in my hands.

"Thank you, Doc. Thank you for saving her. When I found out what she had planned - I've been trying to talk her out of it for days."

"Don't thank me," he answered, "it was Jared who saved the day."

"Jared?" I hadn't noticed him standing on the other side of the cot. He was watching me with worried eyes. His cheeks were wet, covered in tears.

"He threatened to slit my throat if I didn't put her in the tank." Doc chuckled quietly.

I couldn't speak; my heart was in my throat. Instead I reached up to wipe the tears from Jared's face. He grabbed my hand and held it there, fresh tears flowing.

"Mel." He leaned over me and kissed my forehead. My forehead. He wasn't kissing Wanda this time. It was me. Only me.

Maybe there were advantages to being alone in here.

I pulled his lips down to meet mine, and the fire exploded. He wrapped his arms around my waist and moved me into a sitting position. I kept one arm securely around Wanda's tank, but with the other I held Jared tightly. As tight as I possibly could. I was never letting go of him again.

Abruptly I pulled back, looking sheepishly in Doc's direction. There was no one there. Kyle still slept soundly with his arm over Jodi. I looked back at Jared and then yawned.

He chuckled. "You must be exhausted."

"Yeah, but, I have to talk to Ian."

His face was concerned. "Right now?"

"I'd feel terrible if I waited. He deserves better."

"Alright, let's go."

Jared helped me down from the cot, but didn't let go of me as we headed out of the hospital. I kept the lit cryotank tucked carefully under my arm. The tunnels were quieter now. It must have been later than I thought. How long had I been under?

"Mel..." Jared began

I turned to look at him. He seemed to be struggling to find words. "What? Spit it out."

My favorite smile was back. It lit up the gold in his eyes. "That's my girl. But, Mel, I'm so sorry about everything. The way I treated Wanda. Letting you go at all. You do realize that I'm never letting you out of my sight again?"

"Likewise. And don't be stupid. Sure, you were a pig at first, but who wouldn't have been? Besides, when we first got here, I was mostly just happy that you and Jaime were okay. It was later that it was more frustrating."

"Later? Like when?"

I smiled ruefully. "Well, when Ian kissed me - her - oh but that made me mad! And you too! Because, I could feel you kissing her, but I couldn't do anything about it."

"Except for punch me."

We both laughed. It felt so good to laugh! And it was my voice that laughed at something I found funny. I laughed even more at the joy of expressing my own emotions.

"I wasn't about to just sit there and watch you touch someone else!"

Jared stopped walking and pulled me around to face him. We were at the entrance to the main room now.

"I'm not touching anyone else now," he said while tracing my arms with his hands. I shivered and copied the movement with my free left hand, till it rested on the back of his neck.

"No, you're not."

His lips touched mine softly, opening and closing slowly. We both knew he couldn't keep it up for long. Within seconds he had pulled me tight to his body and the heat was everywhere. It was awkward, with Wanda's tank in the way, but he managed to grab my hips and hold them against him. His lips traveled across my jaw and down my neck. I was gasping and my heart was pounding.

Oh yes, I had missed this.

"Jared," I managed to breathe.

He acted like he hadn't heard me, his hands sneaking under my shirt to rub my back.

"Jared," I said with more force. "Not now."

"Why not?" he growled in my ear before nibbling it.

That didn't help. The familiar chills ran down my spine. Completely without my permission, my leg hitched around his, anchoring myself to him.

No, no! I told myself. I was half-surprised when no one answered me.

"First of all, because we are in a very public place, and Jaime is sure to be sleeping in your room. And second," I continued before he could argue, "Ian needs to know what's going on. I have to take him Wanda."

Jared looked into my eyes for a long moment. I could see the slight disappointment there, which I almost found amusing. I'd been back for less than ten minutes and already he couldn't wait?

I was saved by the voices coming from the main room. We clearly weren't alone.

"Later," I said, and took his hand in mine to walk down the hall.

It still wasn't very late; there were a few people walking from the bathrooms toward the sleeping area. I knew the name of every person who passed.

Yes, but what will they think when they realize I'm not who they think I am? I was met again by that eerie silence where Wanda used to be. Huh, I would never have guessed that it would be something I missed, but I realized now that I had enjoyed having someone to talk to at all times. We had had no secrets from each other, not by the end at least, and like she had said once, it was nice to have the company.

But it was my head, and I was glad to have it back. So, even though I missed Wanda, and was sorry that I couldn't talk to her right now, I didn't miss it enough to suggest putting her back in me. Ian wouldn't have minded that, I was fairly sure. Maybe we'd put Wanda in him for good measure. I almost laughed at the thought of Wanda inside that huge man. Ian's body acting with all the tenderness and kindness of the soul Wanderer. No, there had to be a better solution than that.

My thoughts were interrupted when I saw Lacey come out into the plaza. She saw me too, and gave me the look she'd been giving Wanda for the last couple days. It was similar to the look the Seeker had. Narrowed eyes. Pursed lips. Nose scrunched up like it smelled something bad.

I snapped.

All the memories of the Seeker came to me at once. From the first time I saw her through my eyes controlled by Wanda to her snippy emails to her accusations of Wanda's weakness. I remembered her suggestion that she be put in my body. Wanda's statement from then was correct, I would have eaten her alive.

All these thoughts were completely incorrect, of course, since I was looking at Lacey and not the nameless Seeker. But this girl did still hate Wanda and had asked if I had been brainwashed. Her boorish ways were not much better than the soul we had sent away. If anything, they were worse, and they made my head boil with rage.

Wanda had always been too sweet. She said it made her head hurt when I was angry. That anger was ugly. That was probably true, but I was human, and anger was an emotion I felt regularly.

Now, with my body fatigued from lack of sleep, and no kind soul to stem the flow, my anger surged through me and I felt like a charging bull as I glared back at Lacey. I was in front of her in a few short strides. I was mildly aware of Jared trotting behind me. Lacey's eyes showed a quick spasm of fear, and then resumed their hatred.

Oh boy was she going to get it.

"I just need to make one thing clear here," my voice coming out hard and cold as ice. A few others turned to look as us. Some might even have guessed what was going on. "If it had been up to me, I would have had you shot, no questions asked. It was Wanda's idea to save you. You better remember that you owe her your life."

Her eyes grew wide, suddenly taking in the tank I carried. Her face went sour again when she looked back into my face.

"She really brainwashed you, didn't she? Can't think for yourself even without her?"

Jared caught my arm before I could slap her. I didn't know why he stopped me, but it was sort of satisfying to see her cringe in front of me.

My breath was coming in shallow gasps I was so angry. "If I had to choose between you and her, I'd pick her in a heartbeat. She's staying here, and unless you want to see how you'd fare against me, I suggest you stay out of both our ways."

Lacey cowered back before my gaze. Slowly, as if afraid to provoke me again, she slunk off toward the bedrooms. There were at least ten other people watching now, probably having heard the commotion, Sharon and Maggie included. Their faces were set in identical hard masks. Part of me wanted to greet them, for they were, after all, family. But the memories of how they had treated Wanda, and the fact that they would rather have watched Jaime die than accept help had me glaring at them almost as viciously as I had at Lacey. Rather than face my wrath, they both turned and walked away without a backward glance.

Smart of them.

I was suddenly surrounded by other smiling faces. Trudy, Paige, Andy, Aaron, Heidi, Brandt; their faces were all a blur. I couldn't make sense of all the people shaking my hand and patting my shoulder.

"Welcome back, Melanie!"

"It's great to meet you finally."

"What will happen to Wanda?"

"How are you feeling?"

They were all talking so quickly that there wasn't much time to answer them. I repeated my greetings and assurances that I felt fine. A few of them touched Wanda's tank gently and I saw an echo of the sadness we had seen in Ian's eyes from before. Uncle Jeb was right. Wanda was loved here, and we certainly had ourselves a pickle.

Jared finally shook everyone off for me. "Cool it, guys. She's exhausted. You'll all get a chance to talk to her later." The small crowd dispersed, letting me and Jared move away from them and toward Ian and the news I was not excited to give.