AN: I started re-reading the Host this morning and in the very first chapter, I was reading and then Wanderer was describing the note Melanie left for Jared and Jamie and I just had to write this. Basically, what's happened is they went to the rendezvous point and she wasn't there, but they found a note from her leading them to the building she jumped from. I took artistic license with information not specified in the book, so keep an open mind. R & R! Oh wait, one more thing. I apologize in advance for any formatting errors or typos I may have missed. I read through it like a million times, but I always seem to miss something.

I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know

It is nearing dusk, now. The sky is a brilliant orange-pink with vivid purple clouds and a brilliant yellow sun. It's cool and crisp outside, and the temperature is steadily dropping. It has been raining all day, but just minutes ago, the clouds cleared and the sun became visible.

This part of Chicago is not busy― in fact it's all but abandoned. There are buildings everywhere, but for the most part, no one occupies them. Unfortunately, the one building down here that is occupied is an apartment building, with rows and rows of windows looking down onto the street. They will have to be very careful and make sure to keep out of sight at all times.

Jared Howe was crouched behind a car so that, hopefully, no one would see him if they were watching from their window. He shook his head like a dog to attempt to dry his hair from the rain, splashing flecks of water all over the small boy next to him. Jamie laughed, and Jared flashed a fleeting smile before returning to the task at hand.

Jared put one hand on Jamie's shoulder. With his other, he put one finger against his lip in the universal symbol for quiet as he straightened up just enough so he could look up at the windows. Carefully, he scanned all of them for a face. He didn't immediately spot anyone, and upon further, more thorough investigation, deemed the coast clear.

Jared looked down and met Jamie's eyes for a moment and then together, they darted across the street and toward the abandoned hotel that Melanie had sent them to. Jared's hand was still on Jamie's shoulder, and he could feel Jamie shaking. He looked down and saw Jamie was laughing silently. Jared wanted to laugh with the small boy, but there was a seed of doubt in his mind― a seed he couldn't ignore. Why wasn't Mel at the original rendezvous point? Why had she sent them here, to this hotel?

What if all was not as it seemed with Melanie?

Melanie.

The most amazing, charming, smart, funny, beautiful, caring, strong, and brilliant girl Jared had ever met.

Just a couple of years ago, when Jared had not only lost everyone he cared about, but everyone he had ever even met, when he had thought that he was the only human left alive and had been hovering over the edge of giving up, Melanie had come swooping in with her younger brother and given him a reason to fight, a reason to survive. A reason not to give up.

And then, a few months ago, she had seen her cousin on the TV and run off to Chicago to find her. She had promised to stay alive, and in return, he had promised to keep himself and Jamie alive. They had agreed to meet at the Chain O'Lakes State Park just outside of Chicago about a week ago. Jamie and Jared had gotten there a few days before that and, after waiting for her for days, finally found a plain business card with the hotel's address printed neatly on the front and "MEL" scrawled across the back in Melanie's handwriting. At that point, they had come down to Chicago to check out the hotel, and Jared was left wondering what to make of it.

Jamie was vibrating with the excitement and nervousness of seeing his sister, of seeing for himself that she was alright. Jared only hoped that she was.

Jared glanced back at the apartments one more time to make sure that there was still no one watching. After breathing a little relieved sigh, he opened the door and ushered himself and Jamie inside. As soon as he let go, the door swung shut with a colossal thud that had him darting his eyes around nervously.

Once they were inside, Jamie looked up at Jared expectantly. Remembering the pattern he and Melanie had come up with, Jared took Jamie's hand and led him to the staircase. He didn't at all trust the elevators in this old, rickety building.

Five flights of stairs later, both the man and the boy were breathing heavily. Once on the fifth floor, Jared started walking down the main hallway, counting side hallways in his head. One, two, three, four, five. He turned there and started walking, this time counting plain, dark wooden doors. One, two, three, four, five. He stopped on the fifth door.

Room 524. Seemingly just a random room. But in reality, it was the most specific location Mel and Jared had been able to think of. Fifth door along the fifth hall on the fifth floor. In this building, that door was the door to room 524. The big gold numbers emblazoned across the dark wood glared at him.

Jared stood staring at the door for a very long time. If Mel was in there, he'd want to go in. But what if she wasn't in there? What if the room was completely abandoned? What if there was an army of Seekers in there? Or worse, what if some silver-eyed parasite was in there waiting for them, wearing Melanie's tall, lean body― her well-toned runner's muscles, her long black hair, her sun-tanned skin, her big, expressive eyes and her beautiful, thin hand and long, willowy fingers.

But he couldn't hear anything― or anyone― in there. If there was someone in there, unless they were asleep or sitting perfectly still, they would have to be making noise, even a very subtle noise. That made an army of Seekers unlikely.

Ultimately, Jamie was the brave one; the one who threw that door open and flew into the room. Jared would have stood there staring and speculating, and never would have found anything.

Melanie wasn't in there. Deep down, Jared had known that the room was empty. He hadn't heard sounds of movement, and he hadn't felt her. He should have been able to feel her.

The fact that Melanie had gone to great lengths to get them here and then not been here herself was bad, but Jared tried to ignore the growing feeling that something was very wrong.

There was an agonized, strangled cry, and a thump as Jamie took in that his sister was not here and slid to the floor. Jared crouched down next to him and tried to mimic that soothing-mother-thing that Melanie did. He pulled Jamie into his body and pushed his head onto his shoulder and the two of them sat there like that. Neither of them cried after that first painful shout from Jamie, but both of them wanted to, and both of them were dangerously close to it. Both of them sat there, thinking of how strong and graceful and clever Melanie was, and intentionally not thinking about the horrible possibilities of where she may be.

The note was written on the back of a crumpled, important looking, typed document. It was completely unremarkable in every way, just sitting on top of the inconspicuous bed as if that was where it belonged, blending in completely with the off-white of the dirty, bare mattress. The only reason Jared was able to see it at all was because he had been unconsciously scanning the room, searching for something, any sign that might prove that she had been there. Even at that, the only reason his eyes lingered was because he knew that handwriting. He had only glimpsed her writing a spare few times, but the very recent, if short, note from Chain O'Lakes State Park had imprinted her careless scrawl into his mind.

Jared pulled the business card Melanie had left at the park out of his pocket and turned it over to where it said "MEL." He looked at the writing on the back of the card and compared it to the note and inhaled sharply.

Melanie had written the note on the bed. The note was from her.

Abruptly, Jared pushed Jamie away and lunged toward the bed. He snatched up the paper, leaving Jamie in the middle of the room to wonder whether Jared was maybe going a little insane.

Carefully, Jared smoothed out the paper and read it to himself. Jamie could see him getting tense, the veins on his neck popping out, his teeth grinding together, his eyes narrowing, and his lips pressing together. His eyes flew back and forth as if he was reading for his life.

Suddenly, he violently balled up the letter and lobbed it at the wall behind Jamie. He leapt to his feet and stood there, seething. He stormed over to the dresser and kicked it as hard as he could, shouting incoherently.

And Jamie sat there, in the middle of the room, wondering what had been on that piece of paper and what could possibly bring out a reaction like that from Jared. He had no idea that the piece of paper was a note from his sister, confirming his and Jared's worst fears.

Suddenly, Jared sank to the ground, sobbing.

"Read it," he choked out. Jamie's eyes widened and he scrambled over to the spot where the piece of paper had landed. He picked it up and smoothed it out with trembling fingers and read the note written in his sister's writing.

Jared, Jamie, I hope you find this. I love you both so much. I wish I wasn't having to write this, but I don't want you guys to never know what happened to me, and I really don't want you guys to sit around waiting for me. You have to get out of here. Find Sharon and go far away. I'm sorry I wasn't careful enough. I'm sorry I got caught.

Love you both more than you'll ever know.

Mel

Jamie stayed there, staring, wide-eyed at her signature for what may have been a couple of seconds or many, many hours. The tears fell, soaking his cheek and dribbling down his chin as he brushed his fingers over her signature, the last word she had ever written. He rubbed his thumb over the word and rocked back and forth silently, tears falling freely.

His sister was gone. His sister, who was a survivor, had made one careless mistake and now she was gone. Forever. He could imagine Melanie running through the hotel, up five flights of stairs with Seekers chasing her, trying to make sure she got the right room, locking herself in and scribbling the note, dropping it on the floor, opening the door and giving herself up to the Seekers.

No, he knew she wouldn't give herself up to them. Maybe she had been in the room waiting for him and Jared like she said she would, and then she heard the Seekers, wrote the note, and then opened the door and ran, just ran until they caught her.

However it had happened, she had suffered. She had been scared and alone. Jamie should have been with her. He should have been here, running through this hotel with her. She shouldn't have been alone.

Jared breathed deeply as he calmed himself. Jared was not used to losing his calm. Whatever was happening inside of him, it belonged there― inside of him. His fury and pain and sadness and hatred would have to wait; Jamie needed him. Jamie needed him to eat, to keep from getting captured, to find his cousin, to get to a safe place. Jared would keep Jamie alive just as he had failed to keep Mel alive.

Together, Jared and Jamie and hopefully Jamie and Melanie's cousin Sharon could make sure Mel was never gone. Jared Howe would not allow Melanie Stryder to fade away.

No, Mel, Jared thought to himself with a small, sad smile. You have it all wrong. I love you more than you'll ever know.