As I crept along the dark corridors, trying desperately not to wake anyone, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I tried to scream, but a large, rough hand covered my mouth. Just before Melanie's self-defense instinct kicked in, my attacker spun me around, and I realized who it was.
"Shhh, it's me, Ian," he said unnecessarily. He took his hand off my mouth. I stared at him. "You're not going to the hospital." His hand was still clamped on my shoulder, and I wasn't sure if I could run away. "Wanda, you're not. You are not leaving me. You can't…" It was hard to tell in the darkness, but I thought he was crying. I started to cry, too.
"I…have to," I told him again as tears gushed down my face.
"Why, though? You've already proved that you're better than any of those souls out there. You could have turned us in so many times, but you didn't. Even Melanie doesn't want you to! You don't have to do this, Wanda." He was staring at me pleadingly, imploringly.
"Jared wants me to do this," I answered quietly.
"I don't care about Jared! You don't love Jared! You know that, don't you? Melanie loves Jared. I love you. I don't care about Melanie, you are the one I love." Melanie was actually growling now, but I knew that she agreed with him. "Wanda, you keep worrying about who you're going to hurt. You want Jared to be happy, and Jamie, and Melanie, and you're trying to help them. What about me? I love you, Wanda. Do you even care about me, or what this will do to me?" He was trying to make me feel guilty, but his tears were real. He was so sensitive. I would miss him…
Without waiting for my answer, he pulled me closer and kissed me. He held me there by my hair for a long time. I tried to shut down, to not react, but I couldn't help kissing him back. Fresh tears streamed down my face. It would be so much harder, now, for both of us.
Finally, I broke away. I felt angry. "You want the truth, Ian?" I shouted. He looked stunned. "The truth is, I don't want to leave. I don't even feel the need to leave. I would be content to stay here, with you, like this, for the rest of my life! But I can't! I just can't live like that, because it is too hard on both of us if Melanie is constantly trying to pull me away from you!" He looked like he wanted to interrupt, but I stopped him. "Not only that, but the fact that I can't not do this for her! She's closer than a sister to me! Ian, please, if you could help someone you loved, if it was in your power, why wouldn't you do it?" Tears careened off my chin, onto the floor. Ian was crying, too.
"What if it was me?" he asked quietly. I stared at him.
"Of course! I love you, Ian, I do, I love you…more. I do. Of course I would set you free. I would always choose to save you." It seemed obvious. He shook his head.
"That's not what I meant," he clarified. "I mean, what if I was your host? Would you stay?" I gaped at him, and then staggered back. "Wanda?" he exclaimed, catching me before I bumped into the wall.
"No!" I cried. "No, no, I could never do that! I won't do that! That would be erasing you, you wouldn't be here, you would be gone. How could I…no! Ian, I couldn't do that!"
"You don't have a choice," he replied. "If I'm choosing to be a host, I'm sure the others would be fine with it." And he began dragging me towards the rec room.