Stephenie Meyer owns The Host.
Hey guys. Long time no see. But here is a story I promised you all a while ago. Just so you know, I had a lot trouble getting into Jared's head space, so if I didn't get him exactly right I apologize. I tried. Anyway, thanks to everyone who has read and reviewed Blurring The Lines and all of my other stories. You guys are the greatest! Hope you enjoy this one as well :)
Too soon, I tell myself. The aliens left maybe twenty minutes ago. It's too soon to go in, but... I don't know. Instinct says get in that house, now. Before they come back. So I go with it. My gut hasn't steered me wrong yet.
Slowly, so I don't make any noise, I cross the patio to the sliding glass doors. I'll be quick. Quicker than I've ever been. I don't need much. Just something to tide me over until I can get out of town.
I reach out to slide the door open at the same time I notice a small tanned hand reach out inside the glass. My gaze jumps to the figure in the window. "Shit," I whisper, and yank the door wide open. My knife is already in my hand.
The figure has already turned to run, to call the Seekers, but I grab at it shoulders. Or at the human who's shoulders the damned alien has hijacked. It stumbles back, into my chest, and I press my blade into its throat. Not enough to do any damage, but enough to let it know it should keep its mouth shut.
"One sound and you die," I say as threateningly as I can manage. I don't want to kill it. I will, but I don't want to. I'm hoping she'll stay quiet. It's a girl, I know that much. Can feel it in the curve of her body against mine. Not that it matters. An alien's an alien, man or woman. She'd sic the Seekers on me in a heartbeat if this situation had gone down differently.
"Do it," she hisses and I'm a little shocked by her tone. "Just do it. I don't want to be a filthy parasite!"
For a second I'm glad she can't see my face, because I blink in confusion. Not only does this alien sound angry, something I've never heard from one of them before, but she said she didn't want to be a parasite. What does that—
It only takes me a half a second to regain my composure. To realize what's happening here. "Clever," I mutter. "Must be a Seeker. And that means a trap." I focus on the thing in front of me. "How did they know?" I ask, shifting my grip on her. I remove the blade from her throat and grab her by the neck. "Where are the rest of them?"
I increase the pressure on her throat slightly when she doesn't answer. I may have removed the knife, but that doesn't make me any less dangerous, Seeker.
"It's just me," she says, her voice strained but firm. Then she elbows me in the stomach. She doesn't have enough leverage to hurt me, but I kind of appreciate her attempt. She doesn't want to die here, same as me. Then she stomps on my foot. There she had enough range to do a little damage.
I falter, only for a second, but she takes the advantage and tugs away. Unfortunately for her she's carrying a bag and I grab it, pulling her back to me, then reach for her throat again. "Feisty for a peace-loving body snatcher, aren't you?" I say.
It wriggles around, sinking its nails into my arm. I put more pressure on its neck. "I will kill you, you worthless body thief. I'm not bluffing."
"Do it, then!" she yells.
She wants to die? That doesn't make any sense. She's fighting so hard—
I gasp and release her arm, grabbing at her hair instead. Then I search her neck for the sign. The mark that will tell me I'm being completely ridiculous right now. But I... I can't find it.
I reach for my flashlight and when I do I drop my knife. I hear it hit the floor but I don't care. Instead I spin the girl around and click the flashlight on. She gasps and tries to pull away, but I've still got a firm hold of her hair, keeping her in place. I direct the beam into her right eye.
Nothing. Just warm chocolate brown irises staring back at me. No silver at all.
"I can't believe it," I whisper. I can hear the awe in my own voice and I know I sound stupid, but I can't help it. "You're still human."
I take her face in my hands and kiss her. I know right away it was not my best move. Far from it, actually. I should have told her I was human. Shown the flashlight in my own eyes. Proved I wasn't a parasite. But my first reaction was to kiss her. I'm not even surprised when she knees me a few seconds later. But it still hurts like hell.
She ducks under my arm and leaps out the open siding glass door, her bag bouncing as she runs. I realize now that it probably contains most of the food that was in this kitchen. She was searching for food, too. It was just pure luck we both happened upon the same house.
"Wait!" I yell once I catch my breath. I'm already out the door, chasing after her. I don't even care that the aliens might hear me. I can't let her get away from me. She's human.
Those words repeat like a mantra in my mind. Human. Human. Human. "I'm not one of them!" I try. I'm gaining on her, but she's fast.
"Listen to me! Look! I'll prove it. Just stop and look at me!" She doesn't. She keeps running, pivoting off the path and through the bushes. I yell some more. It's stupid to scream out in the open like this, but letting her go would be even stupider.
"I didn't think there was anyone left! Please, I need to talk to you. I'm sorry I kissed you! That was stupid. I've just been alone for so long!"
I mentally kick myself. Yeah, Jared, 'cause that doesn't make you sound creepy. Especially after you kissed her. Can't blame her for running.
"Shut up," she whispers, but I hear her. I almost want to laugh. She's still trying to be quiet and here I am waking up the entire neighborhood. And I thought I was good at this whole survivor thing. She picks up her pace. Damn, this girl can run. I'll lose her if I don't get her to stop soon. I gather all the energy I have left and burst forward, pulling her to the ground.
"Wait. A. Minute," I pant. Then I twist us around so she's on her back with me straddling her chest. She's fighting me, trying to get away.
"Look, look, look!" I say, trying to get her attention. I pull my flashlight out of my pocket and shine it in my own eyes. She's looking, and I know what she sees. My eyes are clear. No reflection. "See? See? I'm just like you."
"Let me see your neck," she says after a few seconds. She's suspicious. Smart girl. Although she's not doing me any favors.
I grimace. "Well..." I say. "That won't exactly help matters. Aren't the eyes enough? You know I'm not one of them."
Her eyes narrow. "Why won't you show me you're neck?"
"Because I have a scar there," I tell her.
She squirms some more, trying to get away.
"It's self-inflicted," I hurry to explain. "I think I did a pretty good job, though it hurt like hell. I don't have all that pretty hair to cover up my neck. The scar helps me blend in."
"Get off me," she demands.
I hesitate. I'm scared she'll run again, but she won't trust me if I keep her pinned to the ground. I shift my weight off of her. Getting to my feet, I hold out a hand to help her up. "Please don't run away." I smile a little, then add, "And, um, I'd rather you didn't kick me again, either."
She doesn't run, which I'm grateful for, but she doesn't exactly look thrilled to see me, either. At least, not as thrilled as I am to see her. "Who are you?" she whispers.
I grin at her. "My name is Jared Howe. I haven't spoken to another human being in more than two years, so I'm sure I must seem... a little crazy to you. Please, forgive that and tell me your name, anyway."
She watches me for a second, then whispers, "Melanie."
"Melanie," I tell her, "I can't tell you how delighted I am to meet you."
She grips her bag to her chest, refusing to let the food go. I reach out again to help her up, and this time she let's me. I don't let go of her hand once she's up. I know I should, but...
"What now?" She sounds cautious. And she should be. It's smart. Smarter than running through the open, shouting like an idiot. It's only a matter of time before the parasites realize we're here.
"Well, we can't stay here for long. Will you come back with me to the house? I left my bag. You beat me to the fridge."
She shakes her head, and for a split second she looks absolutely terrified.
"Will you wait for me here, then? I'll be very quick," I say gently. "Let me get us some more food."
"Us?" she asks, perplexed.
I smile a little. "Do you really think I'm going to let you disappear? I'll follow you even if you tell me not to."
"I..." She hesitates. Then finally, "I don't have time. I have so far to go and... Jamie is waiting."
My smile fades. "Your not alone."
Her boyfriend? Jamie could be a girl's name, but...
What are the chances you meet the only other human left on the planet and she's beautiful and all alone? Yeah. Right.
"My brother," she says. "He's just nine, and he's so frightened when I'm away. It will take me half the night to get back to him. He won't know if I've been caught. He's so hungry." As if on cue, her stomach growls, proving her point.
A part of me, the survivor part, the part that takes in my surroundings to ensure I don't get caught off guard, listens to what she's saying to me. The rest of me is stuck on the first two words. My brother. Jamie is her nine year old brother.
I smile, grinning from ear to ear like an idiot, but I don't care. "Will it help if I give you a ride?"
"A ride?" she repeats, sounding perplexed again.
"I'll make you a deal," I say. "You wait here while I gather more food, and I'll take you anywhere you want to go in my jeep. It's faster than running—even faster than you running." I smile at her again.
"You have a car?" she asks.
"Of course. Do you think I walked out here?" Then, as I watch her eyebrows crinkle together, I realize that she probably did walk out here.
"We'll be back to your brother in no time," I promise. "Don't move from this spot, okay?"
"And eat something, please. I don't want your stomach to give us away." I grin at her and she holds my gaze.
Finally releasing her hand, I go to step away, but then I change my mind. "Please don't kick me," I beg, and lean in.
I grip her chin, tilting her head up just enough that my lips meet hers. I kiss her again, and she reacts differently this time, which I'm grateful for. I feel her arms reach around my neck, grazing my cheek, my hair, my neck.
Shit, my neck!
Too late. She's already screaming.
I grab her arms as she pulls back, already twisting to run away again. "No, no! Look! I told you I had a scar." But she's scared.
That stops her. Her name, spoken from a human's lips. She stares at me for a moment, then swallows. "Can I see it? The scar?"
I hand her my flashlight and turn around, brushing my hair out of the way with one hand so she can see the raised line of pale skin. I hear her suck in a breath, but then her fingers are there. Tracing the scar, warm and soft and leaving electric sparks dancing across my skin.
"It's not as clean as theirs are," she says. "Yours is more noticeable."
I turn around and smile at her. She's not running away. "Well, it's not so easy to make an incision on the back of your own neck. But it's better than nothing."
She meets me eyes and nods.
"I'm going to go and get more food now," I say softly, trying not to scare her again. "Please. Please, stay here until I get back."
If she leaves while I'm away I'll never find her again. I just have to hope that the prospect of more food and a car are enough to keep her here.
She nods again. "Okay."
I hesitate, giving her one last glance before I go. She really is beautiful, regardless of her being the only other human left alive out here. Long brown hair flows past her shoulders. Even though I know she can't have washed it recently, it's still soft to the touch. She's tall and tan and lean. Her lips are soft and pink from being kissed. Her brown eyes are wide and full of fear and... hope.
And then I know, she'll be here when I get back.