Well hello friends! (If I can still call you that after such a long time). I was at work the other night when inspiration suddenly came to me, and I just had to get this out to you. It's been a while so I understand if you need to hit the Previous button to remind yourself of what is even going on.

So here's what happened last time, Trip (a friend of Melanie's) has just come into the picture, conveniently while Jared and Ian are on a raid along with a few other familiar faces and Melanie is about to go talk to him.

Don't forget to let me know what you think.

Enjoy.

Melanie

Trip was sitting up, and listening to Doc explain the rules of the caves when Jeb and I walked in. He was nodding and agreeing to all of the conditions of his stay and didn't notice us. I took a moment to look at him now that he had been cleaned up a bit. He hadn't really changed much physically other than growing taller and broader.

Jeb cleared his throat and smiled at our new guest. "Hello, Trip. I'm not sure if you remember me, I'm Mel and Jamie's uncle, Jeb."

Trip nodded. "Yeah, you were at a couple of the birthday parties."

Jeb gave a small smile and nodded,"Well, I guess Doc got you all caught up with how things run around here." Trip nodded. "You'll get a couple of days to adjust to living here, and then you'll be out doing chores with everyone else." Jeb explained. "Now I'd bet you'd like something to eat. Follow me to the kitchen, if you're up to it that is."

The three of us stood and left Doc's office, walking slowly so as not to overwhelm our guest.

Trip looked around the dimly lit tunnel, the only source of light coming from the lantern in Jeb's hand. "Where does everyone sleep? All together? Or in rooms? How big is this place?"

Jeb briefly chuckled. "We sleep in rooms, well smaller caves really. We're finding a room for you now."

"Can't I just stay with Melanie and Jamie?" Trip asked with a confused look.

"Jamie stays with our friend Aaron, and I'm not quite sure how Mel's husband would feel about having another man in their room." Jeb laughed.

"Husband? I don't...how are you married?"

"Well it's not exactly what you're thinking. It's not legal, just a small ceremony here." I said with a smile. "He's such a great guy, Trip. He's on a raid now with some of the other members of our group, but he should be back in a couple of days."

Jeb led us all to the kitchen where a few people were milling about and we sat down with trays of food. "Now that we've covered that, do you mind if I ask you how you found your way here?" Jeb asked, after handing him a plate.

After shoveling a mouthful of potatoes into his mouth, Trip answered. "About a month and a half ago I was found by Nate's group near their hideout in nearly the same condition that you all found in. I stayed with them for a few weeks while I recuperated, but I couldn't stay for long." He took another bite and looked at the faces of those around who had joined the table when they saw that our newcomer was awake and speaking. "I have spent the past five years trying to track down members of my family that survived the invasion."

"Did you find any?" Trudy asked from her spot at the end of the table.

Trip sighed. "I found a cousin, Sheryl was her name, and we spent about three months together trying to find people-anyone at that point-who had survived. She was captured on a raid and I hadn't found anyone since. Well until Nate's group at least. While I was there I heard the name Jeb and I thought it might have been a coincidence but then they were telling stories one night and the names Jamie and Melanie were brought up and I knew it couldn't have been merely coincidence so I set off to find you all."

"On your own?" Maggie questioned skeptically, a hand on her aging hip. "Nate's group doesn't know where we are, for safety purposes of course. How did you know where to find us?"

"I didn't. I tracked your general location and narrowed it down to about sixty different places. This was my twelfth try." He explained, scraping his plate for every last drop of food he could find.

It was my turn to question him now. "What do you mean you tracked us?"

He shrugged, "It wasn't simple, I can tell you that. I followed the patterns you left; reported robberies, the occasional suspicious sightings that were reported by the souls and compared them to where I knew Nate's group had been. There were, of course, the few other known groups to consider and everything was so spaced out it took two weeks just to narrow down the sixty places. Believe me there were many more."

There was a murmur among the crowd and without even listening to what the voices were saying I knew what they were talking about. If it was so easy for a man on the run to track us, how much danger were we in if the Seekers did the same?

Jeb obviously sensed the unease within the small crowd so he intervened before it turned into complete panic. "Alright everyone, back to work. Y'all know where you need to be." Once they departed, he turned to Trip and I. "Mel, I trust you can show our guest to his new room, he'll be sharing with Mac for now. If you'll excuse me, I've got some business to attend to."

I nodded so he left the table but didn't stray far from us. "I guess I'll show you around a little before I show you to your room."

He gave me a small smile and stood waving his arm out in front of him. "After you."

We walked out of the kitchen and into the deserted hallway. I showed him the important areas; the washroom, storage, the fields and finally the game room. We stopped there and sat for a minute. He sat close to me, like a close friend would, but I remembered that he wasn't actually a close friend anymore. I didn't know the grownup Trip, we were different people now, as was expected.

Trip surprised me with the next words out of his mouth. "You're very beautiful, Mel. Even more so than I remembered."

"Oh, um, thanks." If blushing were in my nature I would've been red. I was used to Jared complimenting me, but when someone else did it I felt weird. Even slightly uncomfortable. I didn't know what else to say, so I stood and after making sure Trip was following, we walked in silence until we reached the game room.

"What did Doc tell you about this place?" I asked, kicking a loose rock.

He cleared his throat and glanced around the cavernous area. "He gave me the basic rules and information about what goes on here I guess. Jeb's in charge, go to Jared if I can't find Jeb, everyone works and earns their keep, and to just follow along until I got the hang of it."

"Sounds about right. Did he tell you about Wanda and Sunny?" I asked, making sure to look into his eyes so I could see what he honestly thought of them.

"He did. I was told not to be afraid of them, or aggressive towards them. I take it there is more to that story but he didn't seem too willing to offer any more so I left it at that."

"I'll tell you more about it later, it's a long story and I have chores to do." I responded brightly. I led him towards the residence halls and pointed out who lived where, and showed him which room he would be occupying, the empty mattress and undecorated side was his clear and only choice. "This is your room, feel free to lay down until dinner. You've had a long journey. I'll be in the room I showed you earlier, the one with the water pools. I'm on laundry duty today."

Trip stopped me before I could leave. "Actually, is it okay if I come with you? I'm too wired to sleep and I want to do something useful." I nodded and we walked in relative silence to the washroom.

The room was empty when we arrived, except for my share of the laundry waiting on the edge of the pool. The others had apparently finished and moved on to the next task.

Trip broke the silence first "So, uh, tell me about your husband."

I smiled and turned to face him. Talking with this childhood friend felt weird and forced, but this was a subject in which I was well versed and could go on about. "He's really great, amazing actually. We met by accident while I was raiding a house about two years after the invasion began. We mistook each other for souls and I nearly ran away from him forever, but he caught me in time and we've been together ever since. He's just a fun guy to be around, but strong and stoic when he needs to be. He's just so charismatic it's hard not to like him. Everyone wants to be around him, and they look to him for guidance. He practically raised Jamie, and even me in some ways."

"What do you mean?"

I let out a soft sigh, "When we met I was seventeen and on the run while taking care of a nine year old. He allowed me to be young again by taking away some of the burden. He taught me how to drive, how to shoot, and how to be carefree when it was appropriate. He is my best friend, my protector, my partner and eventually my lov-, well you get the point."

"And you have a son?"

This time, I didn't smile, I beamed. "I do. His name is Jack."

Before I could go on even more, I heard Wanda's voice call from the mouth of the cave. "Mel! They're back!"

I grinned at her voice and looked to Trip, "Let's go meet my family."

Leave me some words please!