Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Stephenie Meyer owns everything. Lucky duck.
Thanks to Ein Kampf kann eine Lebenszeit for being a great beta!
It was very late when we got back to the caves. Brandt was standing watch, and after a quick look at our eyes, resumed his surveillance of the desert landscape.
Candy had insisted we get her more supplies. It must have been from working in a hospital for so long, because she was as close to a germaphobe as I had ever known. The caves were full of dirt; there wasn't much that could be done about it.
That didn't matter. Candy could often be found standing sentry at the kitchen, holding a can of Outside Clean that she used to spray everyone's hands before they ate a single bite. If anyone scraped their hands or sneezed or breathed irregularly, she seemed to materialize out of thin air so that she could make them inhale the Inside Clean. It was all we could do to keep her from using the Heal on every scrape or the Mend on every tiny bruise.
It was completely unnecessary.
But, Jared and I had to take Pet to a station anyway, so we said we'd pick up a couple crates of the stuff.
There wasn't anything either of us wanted to say as we carried our loads to the hospital; we were both too tired. I guessed that it was about 3am. It was a good thing we knew the cave complex so well, because we only had our one tiny flashlight, and were trying to save the batteries.
We started to walk silently back to our rooms, when I got a good whiff of myself.
"Ew, I'm not going to bed like this. I'm going to take a quick bath."
"Good idea." Jared followed me as I changed course toward the river room.
We went together to the large pool, stripped, and jumped in. The warm water felt strangely refreshing after a long day of traveling and hauling supplies.
There was a small pile of towels sitting on a ledge by the edge of the pool. Nice, soft, terrycloth towels. Beside them were piles of clothes, sorted by gender and size. There had been some definite advantages to letting Wanda out on raids.
That didn't mean I wanted her to go out again. Her new body was so tiny, so fragile, and she was still getting used to it. I was too afraid for her to let her out in the open just yet.
Thoughts of Wanda made me anxious to see her. I pulled on some fresh sweatpants and a t-shirt and threw my dirty clothes in what was now the "laundry pile." Though all I could see in the darkness was his basic shape, I could tell that Jared was doing the same.
"Ready?" he asked.
He flicked the flashlight on to show us the general direction of the exit, and where the loose floor was, then turned it off again.
My doors were first in the tunnel, so Jared continued on to his. I pulled the red door very carefully over the gray one, trying hard to keep it quiet so I wouldn't wake up Wanda. But, when I looked into our room, at the tiny twin mattress that we shared, it was empty.
What? Where had Wanda gone? I panicked out of habit, trying to keep in mind that Brandt would have told us if something was going on. I moved quickly down the hall, looking for Jared to see what he thought about Wanda's disappearance.
When I got to his room with the green screen, he was peering into it and chuckling slightly.
"Missing something?" he said, pointing into the room.
I came to stand next to him to see what he was talking about.
Melanie was sprawled across the double mattress, long legs and arms almost falling off the edges, and there curled up beside her in a loose fetal position, was Wanda. They were holding hands.
Jared was still laughing, and I couldn't help but smile in response. I took a step into the room, when my movement brought Melanie to a full upright position. Her eyes were wide and surprised, but it took her all of one second to take in the situation.
"Jared!" she screeched and flung herself into his arms.
"Shhh!" I said, glancing to see if she had woken Wanda.
She had, but Wanda's new body wasn't used to being on high alert at all times. She came awake slowly, peering around with confused and groggy eyes.
Finally blinking in the darkness, she called my name. "Ian?"
"Hi," I said easily as I crouched down next to her, giving her a quick hello kiss.
She wrapped her arms around my neck and I took the advantage to pick her up in my arms. Jared and Melanie were kissing passionately, not paying any attention to us. I maneuvered my way around them and carried Wanda to our room.
"Sorry you had to come look for me," Wanda said. "Mel and I didn't like sleeping alone."
I kissed her forehead. "I don't mind at all, though I was confused to find an empty bed."
She yawned widely as I placed her on the bed, and I mimicked her action. It was very late. I quickly put the door back and came to lie next to her, holding her close to my chest.
"Mmm?" I was almost asleep already. We'd have to have a proper reunion when we'd both had some sleep.
"I missed you. I'm coming with you next time."
I wanted to argue with her, but couldn't seem to find the energy. In the morning