Hey, y'all! Hostfanatic here. Please pardon my cheesy Southern grammar. This isn't exactly a one-shot, but it's not really long, either. Just three chapters. I hope you enjoy! Reviews, please! Constructive criticism will be appreciated and considered, but unhelpful flames will not.

Disclaimer: I sadly don't own The Host. I wish I did. But I don't. Too bad…

Jared POV

"Wanda!"

But she was gone, vanishing into the darkness.

I didn't love her. Not the way I loved Mel. Never the way I loved Mel.

But somehow, I loved her, too. It wasn't the same. It was completely different. I had no idea why I was somehow attracted to her now, attracted to a silver worm. Why?

She thought that she'd left me behind, but I couldn't let her do this. I couldn't let her die.

I snuck after her as she continued down the tunnel to Doc's office, to her death.

This is wrong, a small voice in the back of my head scolded. Don't you want Melanie back? You can't have both of them.

Yes, I can, I yelled. I have to. Somehow, I've got to make this work.

I was more confused than I ever remembered being, but I knew one thing—I could not let Wanda, innocent Wanda, die. I had to save her, somehow. And the first thing in order to do that was to stop Doc, before it was too late.

It shouldn't be hard. I know that he doesn't want to kill her, not really. He and Wanda are friends.

Anyway, even if it doesn't work, I've got to try.

I was surprised at how much that hurt—the idea of it not working, the idea of Wanda being gone. It didn't make sense. Didn't I want Mel back?

Of course I did. Nothing was more important to me, not even Wanda.

But there had to be a way I could save them both.

I heard them talking, just around the corner. Heard Mel's voice—Wanda's voice!—asking Doc to put her under. He was whispering words to her, something about his name. And then it was silent, except for his sobs.

Panic fueled me as I tore around the corner, and I barely realized that I'd yanked out my knife before I had it pressed up against his throat.

"You can't kill her." My voice was awfully calm and rational under the circumstances.

"Jared," he wheezed. "I don't want to—you know I would never want to—,"

"Then don't."

"She made me promise, Jared. I have to—,"

No.

I didn't care about his blasted promises. Not anymore.

But then, luckily, backup arrived.

Ian's POV

She loves me…

She really does love me…

I was floating, feeling wonderful. On Cloud Nine. It took me a minute to remember why, but then I realized it. Wanda had told me she loved me.

She had said it with such conviction that I believed her for the first time, believed that we had a chance at being together. We had a chance at having a future.

Then I remembered the first half of the tribunal I had called, at what Wanda had wanted to do…

I sighed. Silly, selfless soul. She would really stop at nothing for others. She has no limits.

Well, it's a good thing I do.

I couldn't help the smile that was on my face. I'm not sure she's being completely serious about this. She must know that I would never let her leave us…leave me…

I reached out instinctively, ready to pull my Wanderer closer.

I frowned. My hands rested on the mattress.

Did she fall off the bed in the night? Where was she?

Moaning, I forced my eyes to open and peered out.

It took me all of two seconds to process the scene.

She was gone.

Wanderer. My Wanda. She was gone.

WHERE DID SHE GO?!

Then I realized.

No…

No…NO! NO! NO, NO, NO!

She had left! She had waited until I was asleep. She had lied! She had left!

NO! It's not too late! It CAN'T be!

I was heading for the door when I stopped dead.

Was this best? If she wanted to leave, why I was I being selfish enough to stop her?

I sighed.

Then, like puzzle pieces clicking together, everything that had been going on fell into place. With a gradual horror, I suddenly realized what was going on.

Talking about how much she loved Melanie, wanting to give her back…but saying that she didn't want to be a parasite.

The glances she had given Doc, how her voice had faltered when she tried to explain to Jeb why leaving earth without being a parasite would work.

She wasn't planning on leaving earth at all.

She was planning on…

"NOOOOOOOOO!"

My shriek of denial wasn't silent this time. It ripped up through my chest and throat, spilling out of my mouth. No. She wasn't leaving the planet only to go somewhere else! She was attempting suicide!

I had wrenched the doors aside and was running before anyone could even wake up.

Running, running. I ran as fast as I could. I had never run so fast before. But I had to. I had to make it. I had to save her.

It. Is. Not. Too. Late.

It can't be!

I looked down desperately and saw footprints, small footprints in the purple dust. They were Wanda's—I saw them frequently when she walked. They were fresh. She hadn't left long before I'd woken up.

It. Is. Not. Too. Late.

I heard noises, coming from Doc's office as I ran down the end of the southern tunnel. I could hear people in there.

It. Is. Not. Too. Late.

I heard Doc, and then, to my astonishment, Jared.

"—can't kill her."

"Jared. I don't want to—you know I would never want to—,"

"Then don't!"

"She made me promise, Jared! I have to…"

I was in the office. Wanda was lying facedown on the gurney. Panic seized me at this sight, but I forced myself to search the room for a soul.

There wasn't one, not one that wasn't in a cryotank, anyway. She wasn't taken out yet.

It's not too late!

"I don't give a crap about your promises!" I exploded at Doc, who was pressed up against the wall with Jared holding a knife to his neck. They both turned to look at me, astonished. "You can't kill her! I won't let you!" I was yelling now, barely able to control myself. "I WON'T!"

"Ian's right," Jared growled, recovering from his shock. "You can't kill her. I want Mel back with all my heart, but we're not going to let Wanda go that easily because you made some stupid promise."

Doc stared at him for a moment, and then slumped with relief. "Thank you," he gasped. "Thank you so much."

We stared at him, confused.

He smiled faintly at our bemused looks. "Now I'll have a valid excuse when she wakes up," he explained.

"Wait a second," Jared said in a low voice. "We can't leave her in there…we have to let Melanie come back."

Any other time, I would have argued fiercely, but the thought of losing Wanda forever, of being without her, of Doc taking her from me, had changed things for me.

Jared had been without Melanie for so long. Melanie was his Wanda. Much the same way Doc had tried to take my Wanderer away from me, the Seekers had taken his Melanie away from him.

I had experienced only a tiny amount of the agony I would have gone through if Wanda was gone, and I knew now that it wasn't right to allow anyone to have to go through that kind of pain.

"Jared is right," I murmured in a low voice.

Jared looked at me, astonished, and I permitted myself a small smile. "We can't just let Melanie remain a prisoner," I continued, my voice louder, "but we can't just let Wanda die."

"For now, let's put her in a cryotank," Jared suggested. "We can keep her safe until we figure out a solution to the problem." His gaze was steady. "We'll find a way to have them both, Ian. I promise."

"Right," I said in a businesslike tone. "Doc, you're going to have to give me some instructions on how to do this."

"Do what?"

I blinked at him. "Take a soul out."

Doc looked surprised. "What?"

Jared understood, though. He pulled Doc aside and said in a low voice that I could still hear, "It's best if you let him do this. I'm not sure he could stand it if anyone other than him touched Wanda right now. He'll be fine. I'm sure he can handle this. I wouldn't let him if he couldn't."

Doc hesitated, and then nodded.

"NOOOOOOOOO!"

We all whirled around, astonished, as a tall form sprinted into the room and nearly hit the wall. Panting, Jamie slumped against the rocks instead.

"You—can't—kill—Wanda," he gasped. "You can't. You can't. I won't let you."

"What the…" Jared seemed at a loss for words.

I knew what had happened, though. "Jeb?" I guessed grimly.

Jamie stared at me. Then he looked at the floor.

"Tell Jeb that his scheme was all for nothing," I told Jamie wryly. "We're not killing Wanda. I would never let that happen, and neither would Jared. We're going to put her in a cryotank for now, so that Melanie can get her body back, and then we're going to figure out a way to solve the problem."

Jamie frowned. "Wait. Scheme?"

"Yes," Jared concurred. "Scheme?"

I sighed. "Jeb told you about the tribunal and everything that's been going on. He told you that Wanda wanted to leave, right?"

Jamie nodded.

"And then he told you that, with his shrewd old-guy insight, he had put the pieces together and figured out that Wanda was going to kill herself."

Jamie nodded again. Jared stiffened slightly.

I rolled my eyes. "Jeb told you that so that you'd come down here and try to stop her. He knew that you're the one person she can't resist."

Jared whistled. "Clever, for an old guy. Too bad we beat him to the punch."

Jamie looked crestfallen. "I…I didn't come down here because Uncle Jeb sent me. I came down here because I don't want my sister to die."

"Melanie won't die," Jared assured him.

Jamie shook his head hard. "My other sister," he said, and his voice broke. "Wanda's my sister, too."

I smiled. "Wanda's going to be just fine," I assured him in a low voice.

I turned to Doc. "All right, Doc. Just tell me what I need to do."

"Can I watch this time?" Jamie asked in a hushed voice.

Doc grabbed the scalpel, holding up a hand when I tried to stop him. "I'm going to make the cut," he said sternly. "I'm going to do that part. You can do the handling."

I nodded in reluctant agreement. Doc swiftly slid the scalpel through the fine pink line on her neck. Then he sprayed a can of Still on it, which stopped the blood already beginning to rise.

Huh. So that's what Still did.

"All right," Doc instructed me. "Carefully slide your fingers in…"

I did so, sliding my two fingers in as gently as possible. And I felt her. My Wanderer. Wanda.

I remembered what she had said. If you could see me in my true form…you would crush me…

Here it was. The moment of truth. Were souls really as hideous as she thought, really as hideous as humans made them out to be?

I felt her retracting, curling into my hand just like she used to curl up against my chest to sleep, and I carefully lifted her out.

I vaguely heard the others' gasps. I wasn't paying the slightest bit of attention. My focus was on my world, the world that I held in my hand. Wanda. She was my world, my life. I had her close to me.

Feathery attachments, like ribbons. Billowing softly as though there was a breeze. She moved slowly with grace, stretching and rippling as though happy to be out of Melanie's body, happy to be free. She shone with a silver light, sparkling softly, and I smiled. I couldn't help it.

She was so beautiful. So wonderful. So perfect.

She was mine.

What was she talking about? Crush her? All I wanted to do was hug her, cradle her, carry her in my hands forever. Love her.

Then, to my astonishment, she curled her attachments in again, and she seemed to snuggle down into my hands, curled up deeper as though she knew exactly who was holding her.

I smiled. You know who I am, don't you?

I swore I could hear her thrumming slightly.

I know who you are, too.

I got the sense that she would be grinning delightedly if she had a mouth to grin with.

I promise, my Wanderer, I won't let anything hurt you.

Then, to my surprise, she curled some of her attachments around my hands and squeezed.

I blinked in shock.

"Are you…is she…is she hugging you?" Jamie's voice was astonished.

"I think so," I breathed, and I had an insane desire to laugh.

"All right." Doc's voice was gentle. "We have to get her into the tank."

I nodded, and felt the whoosh of cold air right under my hands. Wanda clung to me, her attachments tightening their grip on my fingers.

I know. I'm sorry that I have to leave, but if you stay out too long, you'll die. I'll be holding your tank the entire time. Don't worry. I'll be by your side.

She slid reluctantly into the tank.

I closed it just as reluctantly and cradled it to my chest gently, lovingly. I whispered to my Wanderer, not knowing if she could hear me or not, but telling her that it would be all right. Because it would be all right. I was sure of it.