A/N: I started writing this on a cold Friday evening that I was stuck alone at home, listening to music with a cup of hot chocolate and missing miserably my boyfriend who was away for too long. One of the songs was "Run" by Snow Patrol, and I thought it fitted the story of Ian and Wanda beautifully. And somehow I got this idea of having the two of them listening to the song, sometime - let's say a few months - after the end of the rains, when they are already together and their relationship is strong and growing. I couldn't stop writing until 5 am that night.
The original version of this one-shot included some lyrics – not a lot, since I'm not particularly fond of lyrics within a story anyway, just what I felt was needed to make the story work. However, to comply with this site's rules, I removed all lyrics and rewrote those parts by describing what they were supposed to deliver. Plus, towards the end there was a lemony part which is now almost completely removed to make sure that the story is within the limits of the M-rating. I think that the overall story still holds together well and that the effect of this editing is minimal, but if you would like to read the original version, you can find a link on my profile.
I'm indebted to RawSugarX23 for beta reading this story. Your comments and suggestions made it so much better! I can't thank you enough!
Disclaimer: The Host and its characters belong to Stephenie Meyer. The phrase "Have heart, my dear" is used here as something the characters say to each other, not as part of any song.
Spoiler Alert: There are some references to the bonus chapter.
Finally, I'd like to dedicate this story to my boyfriend on the occasion of our anniversary. Thank you, baby, for one more wonderful year!
Have Heart My Dear
We were finally returning home after several weeks of raiding. The drive was long and exhausting, but it was almost over; we had just reached the hidden exit that lead towards the caves. I killed the lights and idled the van to a stop behind a high creosote bush to attach the tarps on the bumper. Wanda didn't move, being deeply asleep, curled sweetly in her seat. I waited a few minutes for Jared and Melanie to catch up since they were following with the truck and had to drive more slowly. When they approached, I waved my hand in the air and restarted the car to follow the wash on the last stretch of our route. It was already past midnight and I was eager to get home.
Everyone was. We could have stopped for the night at a motel for a more relaxed drive home the following day rather than spending endless hours on the wheel, but everyone was sick of being constantly on the move. We all longed for the safety and the regular rhythm of life in the caves, and particularly for the privacy of our own room. During the whole trip, we all stayed together whenever we got to a motel, mostly because Jared didn't want to risk staying in a separate room with Mel, in case something happened during the night and Wanda was suddenly needed. He was right; it was the safest thing to do, thinking of it rationally. Yet, it was so hard to have Wanda in my arms every night and not being able to even kiss her properly. The way she'd snuggle into me was making it even worse. I couldn't help but slip my hands under her T-shirt once the lights were off; I had to feel the softness of her delicate skin, and I knew she needed it too: she would press my hands on her, sighing quietly, the moment I'd touch her. It was the only intimacy we could have, being stuck night and day with Mel and Jared for so long.
Of course, it wasn't easy for them either, especially after losing each other for what they both had thought to be forever. But their love had the maturity and stability of a long-term relationship and they were able to handle the lack of closeness better. Wanda and I were still in the beginning - we had just started learning each other and we needed our time alone. I was still discovering ways to touch her, ways that would make her sigh and steal her breath away, while she was slowly overcoming her shyness, getting more and more comfortable with me. Day by day, she was opening up to me, letting me see the beauty and richness of her deepest thoughts, sharing with me her hopes and her fears, her dreams and her worries. And only recently had I started unlocking old memories from a former, forgotten life, buried deep inside me for years. Slowly, careful not to hurt either of us, I was also rediscovering myself with her as my guide.
It was funny that I needed a Soul to teach me how to be human again. But not any Soul. Wanderer was special and I knew that from the very beginning, when she was still unwelcome in the caves. People were blinded by their prejudice and couldn't see what a gentle and loving creature she was. And yet she managed to win them over with her kindness and selflessness. This body suited her perfectly; she was just as delicate and angelic on the inside. Jamie couldn't have made a better choice.
I briefly glanced at her sleeping form. She was sank in her seat, head slightly tilted, her golden hair falling like a flimsy curtain over her face. Her beautiful legs were bent towards me, tantalizing me. I knew that I'd love her the same no matter what she would look like, but I had to admit that I adored every single inch of that delectable body of hers. And now that she was finally free from Melanie's interferences, now that she finally had her own body, I was overwhelmed by the way she responded to me. I wasn't prepared for it - I hadn't seen this side of hers before. But she was a woman, above all. A very feminine and attractive woman, despite her shyness and inexperience. She was oblivious of her sexuality, but when she touched me... The way she cuddled into me, the way she trembled in my arms, the way she whispered things that were only meant for me... She was blowing my mind away.
Of course, being Wanderer, she wanted her body to be stronger to be able to help with the chores as if what she had already done for our small community wasn't enough. The first couple of months in this body, she kept insisting on working in the fields, despite having fainted more than once with a shovel at hand. And when we finally persuaded her to take over easier chores, she was stubborn enough to start a rigorous schedule of jogging to build up her stamina. She was jogging every single day to the game room and back, sometimes twice a day. I always went with her, to make sure she wouldn't wear herself out. (And to steal a few kisses when we'd reach the game room.) I wasn't surprised she made progress quickly. In the beginning I didn't let her jog the way back, but we soon started doing rounds inside the game room. (And having more elaborate make-out sessions.) Not that she didn't need help with her chores any more - life in the caves was simply too rough for her - but it was impressive what she had already managed to achieve with such a delicate body. She was so determined to gain strength, she was even using packs of books as weights every evening in our room. That didn't go very well though. She was too cute for me to just watch.
Wanda stirred in her seat, effectively dragging me out of my reverie.
"Where are we?" she asked, her voice sleepy, as she leaned towards the window, squinting to see outside.
"In the desert. We should be home in an hour or so."
"Already? How long was I sleeping?"
"Not too long. Take another nap, if you want. I'll wake you up when we get there."
She sank back in her seat, yawning. I yawned, too, shaking my head to clear the sleep away. There wasn't much distance left, but with the lights off and the uneven road, I had to concentrate more on driving. At least there was plenty of moonlight - it should be a full moon in a couple of days.
"You're tired," Wanda pointed out. "Let me drive," she said, trying to suppress the drowsiness from her voice, as she sat up.
I smiled. Typical Wanda. Always willing to help, even when half asleep. "I'm fine, baby."
"I'm fine too, you know."
Stubborn girl. "Then you can keep me some company." I grinned, reaching for her hand.
She sat back again and sighed. "I'm not very talkative right now."
"Yet ready to drive?" I teased and she let out the cutest giggle.
She stayed quiet for a while, her delicate fingers drawing random patterns on my palm.
"How about some radio?" she asked.
To be honest, I wasn't very fond of Soul music. It was too calm, too dull for me. But sometimes it would remind Wanda of one of her stories or stir up some conversation and I wouldn't want to miss that.
She pressed the radio button and searched for a station, but being in the desert for some time already, there was nothing but noise.
"Too late," she sighed again, her voice disappointed.
I wondered if she missed music while in the caves. After all, she had said more than once how much she liked the Singing World and that it was the closest she had ever come to choosing a planet. I was glad she hadn't. But maybe she did miss listening to music and tonight would be her last chance for a long time. Thanks to her, we had gathered plenty of supplies and, unless for an emergency, we wouldn't need another raid for months.
Then I remembered.
"Wanda, I think there are some old CDs in the glove compartment. Take a look."
She opened it and after some searching under maps, flashlights and medical supplies, she did find a couple.
"Which one?" She leaned towards the window, trying to get some light to read the titles. The moon illuminated her hair, making her more exotic and dreamy than ever.
"Snow... Patrol?" she shrieked.
"Yeah, that's the band name."
"They sound like Seekers in Canada."
I laughed. "Yeah, I suppose. They were a good band; I liked them. Put it on."
"Are you sure? I-It's not violent?"
I laughed again. I wanted to take her in my arms when her voice trembled like that. I settled for her hand and brought it to my lips.
"No, not at all. A bit sad maybe, the songs are mostly about relationships. Give it a try and if you don't like it, we can listen to something else."
She put the CD in the player and pressed 'play'. It felt good to listen to real music after so many years. It reminded me of my years in college, before the invasion, of happy, untroubled times. But at the same time, it was so odd to listen to these songs now. They felt completely out of place, like they were from a different world. It wasn't surprising we had forgotten we had them. Jared had found these CDs a long time ago, in one of his first raids after his arrival at the caves with Jamie. But probably no one listened to them ever since. We were always too stressed, too alarmed while on raids for such things. Even now, I wouldn't have remembered if it wasn't for Wanda.
I glanced back at her. "What do you think?"
She was sank in her seat again, hugging her legs to her chest.
"It's... powerful. Much more intense than our songs," she said, as she tenderly ran a hand along my lower arm. "Like everything human," she added, smiling.
I smiled back and reached for her hand again, kissing it once more. She always impressed me with the open and innocent way she took in everything. It was in her nature to like calmness, but she dared to see beyond her world. Gentle, yet strong. Innocent, yet insightful and understanding. She was truly one of a kind.
We remained quiet for some time, the music giving a sweet, nostalgic tone to the night. Wanda leaned on my side, resting her head on my shoulder. I thought she might have fallen asleep again, but then, all of a sudden, she took a deep, shaky breath.
"Nothing," she replied, but to my surprise, she sounded like she was about to cry.
She didn't speak. I hated it when she did this. For one thing, she was a lousy liar and it was obvious that there was something wrong. But more importantly, the fact that she was actually making an effort to hide something from me could only mean two things: either that I wouldn't like it or that she was afraid she would hurt me. It worried me either way.
I nudged her leg. "Please, baby. Talk to me."
She sighed. "It's nothing. I was just moved by the song."
"The one that just finished?"
The truth was that I hadn't been paying attention to the music anymore. I had relaxed and gotten lost in my thoughts. Instinctively, I pressed the button to play it back.
"You don't mind?" I asked, on the afterthought that it could upset her more.
"No, no... I liked it. It's just..." Her voice was hardly audible. "It reminded me of us... It reminded me... of that night. The night that I left."
I felt my body tense for a moment, realizing which night she was referring to. The night she told me that she loved me for the very first time. The first night that she really kissed me; the first night she came to sleep in my room. The same night that she sneaked out of my arms and left to kill herself.
It seemed such a long time ago. Yet, it still ached, like a badly healed wound, still releasing spikes of pain on a simple touch. I'd never forget the next day that I went to look for her and bumped into Melanie. I grabbed her arms to keep her from falling and the feel of her touch was so different, so horrifyingly different that I immediately knew she wasn't Wanda. For the very first moments, I wondered if I was having a nightmare, if I was still sleeping and I would soon wake up to find the Wanda I knew; but the pained expression on Melanie's face told me otherwise. And yet, only when she began talking to me, only when I heard somebody else's words coming from my Wanderer's body, only then the realization started sinking in: she had left me.
My hand was clutched on Wanda's leg a bit more strongly than necessary, somewhat possessively, and I quickly loosened my grip. I knew it was much more distressful for her. It wasn't surprising we had never talked about that night before, although I suspected it was better this way; all these years on the run had taught me not to look back, not to scratch sore spots. Especially for Wanda, whose experiences from her past, serene lives on the other planets could never have prepared her for dealing with such painful memories. Healing would take time.
"Here," Wanda whispered, drawing my attention to the song. It addressed a loved one to reassure – her? him? Most probably both of them - that they would make it if they ran away.
"I was wishing so much we could leave, we could escape..." she added wistfully.
But there was no way out from the body she was wearing. Or at least so she thought. And being so outrageously self-sacrificing, the only solution she could find was for her to die. I put my arm around her shoulders, hugging her tightly with an irrational, belated urge to protect her from the fate she had chosen - the fate she had come so close to fulfilling.
I was surprised when the next words I paid attention to resonated with my own memories. They talked about standing next to your loved ones, being there for them even when they cannot hear you.
Those long, bittersweet days that she was still in her tank came to my mind - days full of sadness and hope at the same time. I couldn't talk or touch her, not even see her; all I could do was to hold her tank and replay millions of moments in my head: her sweet, shy smile, her warm hands, her soft lips on mine, her far too often tear-swollen eyes. How many times had I gone through the course of events, thinking of ways I could have changed them? Reexamining every move she had made, every word she had said, with the knowledge of what she was going through, of what she was planning? How many times had I blamed myself for not catching up? And yet, another part of me couldn't stop thinking of her reaction when she would wake up in a new body. I couldn't stop hoping that she would want to stay, that things would finally work out. It was encouraging that Melanie was positive about that. And particularly that she had confirmed Wanda's feelings for me, that those "I love you's" Wanda had said, that made my heart beat so hard, were real. This is what gave me all the patience I needed to wait for her to come back.
Wanda nuzzled against my shoulder, her hands pressing on my thigh. Her thoughts were still revolving around more difficult moments. The song talked about a heartbreaking goodbye.
A small sob left her lips.
"Baby, it's okay." I stroked her hair, softly massaging the skin underneath. "Those days are over."
The song ended with the conviction that better days were bound to come and they only needed to be brave for a little longer to make up for all the mess.
At least there was some optimism in the end. "Have heart, my dear," I said, repeating the song's last words, as I brushed her cheek with the back of my fingers. "We've made up for the all the mess, haven't we?"
She nodded, not lifting her head from my shoulder.
"Yes, but still..." Her voice trailed off.
It still hurt. I knew that. It would always hurt.
We both remained silent for the rest of the ride, Wanda cuddled tightly under my arm, as we breathed in the melancholy that the echoes of the past had stirred in the atmosphere. I knew that words wouldn't help much; only a long, warm hug could ease that pain. Or maybe the sunshine of a new day would chase away the darkness of memories we wished we never had in the first place.
When we eventually arrived at the caves, Jared, Melanie and I started unloading, while Wanda went inside to find some people to help. She didn't put much fight about carrying anything herself, which was relieving and worrisome at the same time. When she returned together with Aaron and Brandt, she picked up our clothes from the van and headed inside towards our room.
"I'll be there soon," I whispered to her ear as we walked through the narrow passage of the entrance.
"Okay," she replied in a pensive voice and disappeared quietly in the dark corridors.
We were about halfway done when Wanda showed up in the storage room.
She came closer and found my hand.
"Do you think..." She hesitated. "Would you mind if you and I drove the cars back?"
That was unexpected. Why would she want to do that after such a long trip? Aaron and Brandt would take the vehicles back, which meant driving all the way to the rock slide, taking the jeep from there to the small cave it was normally parked and then returning to the caves on foot. It would take them all night.
I put my hand under her chin, coaxing her to look at me. I could barely see the silver in the back glistering under the dim blue light of the lantern.
"What's wrong, sweetheart?"
She didn't speak right away. "I'd just like to listen to that song once more," she whispered, a light blush forming on her cheeks.
I smiled and leaned to hug her, kissing the top of her head.
"We'll be unloading for some time still. Come to the car. You can listen to it in the meanwhile." I urged her to come with me but she didn't budge.
"No, Ian. I meant... To listen to the song with you. Holding me."
"Baby... We'll have to walk all the way back. It will take us till morning."
I sighed as I ran my hands along her arms. "Okay. I'll tell Jared."
Of course, Jared didn't like the idea.
"Are you out of your mind, Ian? Aren't you tired from driving the whole day? Let someone else worry about having to return the rides to the cache."
I took a deep breath. "I know. It's just that Wanda wants to listen to some music in the car."
He chuckled as he took a heavy box of canned food from the truck and started walking away. I grabbed one too and followed him.
"She may not be able to walk all the way back. You may have to carry her."
"I don't mind."
He sighed. "Fine. Do what you want. I'm going to bed as soon as we're done here."
A few moments passed before he spoke again.
"You're head over heels in love, O'Shea. You know that, right?"
Soon, everything was unloaded and Wanda and I left for the cache. Once at the rock slide, I parked the truck in its hiding place, and went to find Wanda who was waiting in the van. The song was already playing when I opened the passenger door. I looked at her and my heart tightened to see her beautiful gray eyes swollen with tears. Had she been crying all throughout the ride back?
She gave me a sheepish smile as I jumped in and took the passenger seat.
"Come here," I said, reaching for her hand. I helped her climb over the cup holders to sit on my lap, straddling me. She immediately wrapped her arms around my neck and pressed her cheek against mine. I sighed and hugged her tight, rubbing her back soothingly.
"Why were you crying?" I whispered to her ear.
She didn't answer right away. She held me tightly for a few more moments and then loosened her grip. She moved a little back to face me, but kept her eyes low.
"I-I don't know..." she replied as her fingers played with the collar of my shirt. "I-I just can't stop thinking of that night." She took a deep breath and looked up at me. "I wanted to stay with you, Ian. I really did."
"I know that, sweetheart."
She smiled sadly, averting her gaze again. "But I had to go. I couldn't be torn like that any more. I hadn't thought -"
"Shh... It's okay," I stopped her, placing a finger on her lips. "I know. You were in an impossible situation. I don't blame you."
"I'm sorry I hurt you," she whispered.
"Don't be. I'm happy you're back. This is all that matters."
"What if -"
"No, Wanda. Don't do that. There are a million ways things could have gone wrong. What is important is that none of those happened. You're here now. Don't look back."
She closed her eyes and laid her forehead against mine. "I didn't want to die."
My muscles stiffened involuntarily, her confession stirring a residue of anger I didn't know that existed.
"Wanda, you need to value your life more. You cannot sacrifice yourself like that. No one is worth it, no matter if it's Melanie or Jamie or..." I stopped abruptly before mentioning Jared's name. I didn't want to remind her - but mostly remind myself - that he was part of the reason she had given up her life.
I took a deep breath. It was so strange; every time I pried open those locked memories in my heart, I would stumble upon all sorts of wounds. It was like walking in a minefield.
Wanda felt the pang of jealousy and planted a soft kiss on my jaw to soothe me. "Don't look back," she reminded me, brushing a hand on my cheek.
Who was comforting whom? I smiled at her, my little, gentle Wanderer - so fragile and sensitive that I had to protect her from the harshness of this world, but still brave and strong, ready to protect me from the ferocity of my own feelings.
"Promise me that whatever the problem is, we'll face it together. No matter what happens, you'll talk to me. Can you promise me that much?"
She nodded, the silver in her beautiful eyes shining in the moonlight. I took her small face in my hands and kissed her slowly, softly, silently giving her my own promise.
"Then we'll be alright."
She smiled, looking deep in my eyes for a moment, and then moved her hand to run her fingers through my hair. "You look tired... I'm sorry I dragged you here."
"No, I don't mind," I replied as I let my body relax in the seat. "In fact, I like it. We're alone in the car, listening to music under the moonlight... It sort of feels like we're on a date." I grinned, winking at her.
To my delight, Wanda's cheeks turned a beautiful shade of pink. Even after all this time together, she still blushed when I teased her.
"Not a very good one," she murmured shyly.
I chuckled, glad to lighten up the mood. "You're on my lap, aren't you? That sounds like a good date to me. Besides..." I leaned to nibble her earlobe. "It can only get better."
"Ian!" she scolded me, letting out a small giggle at the same time.
I grinned wryly and turned to look at her, my eyes falling repeatedly on those soft lips, my hands strolling up her elegant thighs, unable to resist her any longer.
I always thought she didn't know what she was doing to me with her girlish reactions, but when she giggled again, squirming playfully on my lap, her eyes sparkling with mischief, I realized she probably did. I leaned to kiss her more fiercely this time, and she responded just as passionately, making me smile and exciting me at the same time.
My lips soon left hers and trailed a path of kisses along her jaw, back to her ear and down to her dainty neck, nibbling soft spots here and there. Her hands turned into fists in my hair and pulled me closer.
"I missed you," she whispered.
I looked up to meet her gaze. "I missed you too, baby. So much."
She leaned her forehead against mine and closed her eyes. "Sometimes," she said, "I'm afraid that something bad will happen... Like we won't be happy for long..."
"Nothing will happen," I promised her, tightening my arms around her. "I won't let anything touch us."
She gave me a faint smile, a strand of golden hair falling in her eyes. "Melanie would say that I'm being melodramatic again."
"Melanie is sometimes a bit harsh with you," I said softly while tucking the stray strand behind her ear. "Have heart, my dear," I quoted the song she liked so much. "Don't be afraid."
Her smile grew bigger. "I'm not when you hold me like this." She pulled me closer and suckled my lower lip, nibbling it softly with her teeth. I groaned at her unexpected move and automatically crushed my lips on hers. She giggled against my mouth and we started kissing again, impatiently, hungrily, our bodies in desperate need to be closer, to fuse into one. I held her hips tight, pressing her hard against my waist and she instinctively rubbed her body against mine.
She immediately pulled back and looked at me speculatively, trying to read the intentions in my eyes.
I chuckled. "We are alone," I pointed out, brushing my lips on hers, before starting to lightly peck her jaw and neck again, determined to kiss every single freckle I would find. I could feel her body melting in my hands, as she loosened her arms around me and tilted her head back to give me more access to her slender neck. Soft sounds came from her throat, driving me crazy, and my hand slipped under her shirt, briefly brushing the soft skin of her stomach before traveling upwards.
Her eyes were shining in the moonlight as she leaned over to bring her lips on mine again.
We lay quiet for a while, Wanda collapsed on my chest while my fingers traced her spine, feeling the goose bumps forming on my touch. The CD was still playing.
"So, how was it with the music in the background?" I asked.
"Incredible," she replied in a sleepy voice.
I chuckled. "Maybe next time we're on a raid, we can find some portable CD player, something that plays on batteries..."
"No," she said automatically.
"Because everyone will know what we're doing," she whispered sheepishly, making me burst out laughing.
My eyes felt suddenly heavy and I knew I was dangerously close to falling asleep. I stretched up to look through the back window. The sky was turning dark blue in the east; it was almost dawn.
I sighed. "Baby, we need to get going. We can't stay here for long."
We took the jeep and soon we arrived at the small cave where it was usually parked. The rest of the way had to be on foot. It would definitely take us several hours and we wouldn't avoid walking in the heat of mid morning.
Wanda was back to her normal self. She was surprisingly active despite the lack of sleep. She gathered her hair up in a quick bun, revealing the faint pink line on the back of her neck, and then pulled my hand.
"Come on. Let's jog. I have to get back to my schedule again."
"Wanda, it's too far. You can't run that much. You'll get exhausted."
"We'll stop when I get tired. We'll get there sooner this way." She dropped my hand and took off.
I sighed. Stubborn, stubborn girl. I'd have to stop her myself; otherwise, she'd run until she would be about to collapse.
"Come on, Ian!" she shouted with her sweet, trilling voice, as she turned back to face me. "Have heart, my dear!" she added teasingly.
I laughed, but started jogging, quickly catching up with her. I could probably keep up with her just by walking at a fast pace, but then I wouldn't jog with her, would I?
It was hot already, even though the sun was still low on the horizon. Her muscles would definitely be sore the next day, after so many weeks without training. Maybe I could give her a massage once we'd get at the caves.
Yes, that was a good idea - a nice, refreshing bath first and then a long, relaxing massage.
It was good to be home.
A/N: I got this whole idea about jogging from a S. Meyer's interview, where she said that the next book starts with a scene of jogging. This is my take of who would jog and why. I could easily picture Wanda jogging with Mel as well, but it was such a great opportunity for Ian to spend more time alone with her :)
A large part of the story turned out to be a character study, so I wonder if you found Ian and Wanda to be in character. There is, of course, a lot more freedom in describing Ian's thoughts rather than Wanda's, but I hope I did him justice. Any feedback (either on this, edited version or the original one) will be very much appreciated. As well as a simple note whether you liked it or not. In any case, thanks for reading!