Soli Deo gloria

DISCLAIMER: I do NOT own the Host. Our power had gone out for a while (two hours) a bit back, and I got this idea before I went insane on no Internet. XD

This is before Melanie goes after Sharon. Just a one-shot of my three buddies in the cabin. :)

There was running water in the cabin, thank goodness, and Melanie was glad for it. They had no washing machine, which was annoying, but she hardly thought it mattered as she started to hang up the clean, limp, soggy clothes she had just scrubbed in the kitchen. The hot summer sun was baking the back of her neck, but she didn't care as water dripped down her hands and onto her face as she raised them and set them on the line, pinning them into place with clothespins from her mouth.

She was almost done. Supper was busy bubbling on the stove. Canned chili. Jamie liked that. He said it didn't taste like the stuff their dad used to make, but it would do. And then with that there were crackers and canned soda. They had lots of canned sodas. Any amount of canned drinks were good to have on hand.

Suddenly Mel noticed something. A shift in the air. The sun was no longer baking her neck. She looked around, her eyes squinted, and she noticed it. Saw the particles of dust playing around in the air, rushing forward in a race. Miles and miles of impending dust particles rushing to her at several miles an hour.

And suddenly the wind felt like it was sweeping past her, whipping her hair around her face, making it hard to see. And she heard Jared's hard shouting voice, "Mel! Melanie!"

She turned to see him standing in the doorway to the cabin. Jamie was peeking behind her. She could see the shock in his eyes.

And she ran. She knew she didn't have the time to grab the newly scrubbed clothes. No. She wasn't stupid. She hadn't lived in the desert for so many years to die because she was fetching clothes from getting caught in a dust storm. Melanie Stryder had not survived to be taken like that.

She caught Jared's hand and she was pulled into the house, stumbling into his body, his arms wrapping around her body like he was saving her from drowning. Jamie shoved the door closed as the wind lashed at his body. He leaned against the door, pushing all his body weight against it.

Jared forced Melanie off of him. The brunt of the wind's pressure no longer pushed them together like a fateful moment. He pushed the hair out of her face, his eyes boring into hers, his voice soft and hard at the same time. "Melanie, are you okay?"

She nodded. All she felt was short of breath, but now she had caught it. And she profusely cursed herself for not having seen the storm before she had gone out to do the laundry. Perhaps she had been caught up in the little perfection of their world, their beautiful protected world that no one could poke into, like the entire thing was a bubble. Like she had been trying to deceive herself that nothing had been off and that things were all well.

Jared had her arms in two seconds and Jamie looked on with a sort of horror that was entirely his own as he said quickly, "You two aren't going to kiss, are you?"

"Maybe. Just to annoy you," Jared said. His voice was hot against Melanie's hair. He drew away and said, "No, we need to cover every crack we find in this cabin. It's a dust storm; there's going to be dust."

Jared hurried to get rags and Melanie turned to Jamie, still so much shorter than her, her hands on his shoulders. She met his eyes and smiled, though inwardly she was torn; half of her was scared out of her mind and the other was happy that they had Jared and his cabin. Imagine being with Jamie out in the world and caught in a dust storm. She would rather not think about it.

"Jamie, we're going to play a game. We need to beat the storm before it overtakes the house. Jared's getting rags. We're going to stuff them around the windows, the doors, the vents, everything that has an opening to the outside," Melanie said in a calm voice.

"Even that doggy door in the back door?" Jamie asks curiously.

"Even that one." Melanie patted his arm. "Get moving."

Jared returned and the two adults went to the kitchen as Jamie ran to his room. Melanie called after him, "Hurry, Jamie," before she turned back to Jared. She let out a deep breath. "I wasn't expecting a dust storm this time of year."

"Snuck up on us. But we've got plenty of canned goods. The electricity. Each other. We should be able to survive until it's clear to go outside," Jared said confidently as he began to stop up the back door. Melanie could already see the little streaks of dust across the floor where the dust had blown through past the hinges.

"That should be enough to survive one dust storm," Melanie said. "Unless something goes terribly wrong." She began to stuff the rags around the windows. Even though Mr. Howe had put grout or a substance of some sort around the glass panes, there was dust coming through.

"Dad built this house, making it sturdy. The dust won't knock it down," Jared said.

"Ah, but the winds might," Melanie said, raising an eyebrow as Jared caught her eye.

"Are you determined for us to not last the night?" Jared asked. He shook his head as he turned back to the door. Melanie stared at him for a moment, catching the little crinkles in his eyes against his tanned skin, the laugh lines from years ago and months recent.

"I'm just pointing things out," Melanie said.

"Oh, Mel. Don't do that," Jared said. He turned to her, his job done, and set his hands around her arms, gently holding her so that she could rest against his grip and look up into his beautiful eyes. "Let's just lay low for the evening and wait for it to blow over."

Melanie sighed and nodded.

That was when the power went out and Jamie yelled, "Hey, what happened to the lights?"

Jared sighed and something hit him. A wave of dirt. And he knew then there was no point in trying to save the electricity, no point in trying to fill the house's cracks with rags, when the dust storm was like a persisting hand pushing all their buttons. He said, "Come on, Mel. Let's go find him."

"What's the plan?" Melanie was ready to do whatever Jared said to do. She had firm lines in her face from when she went stern. She was always looking so stern, so serious. She was in a world that forced her to be serious.

"I've got a tent." He stopped and said, almost hesitantly, "My dad used to take me and my brothers out camping. It should be in the closet. We can set it up in the middle of the living room and wait out the storm. Mel, get a lantern. I'll get Jamie and the tent."

Melanie quickly ran to the kitchen once more and retrieved the lantern and matches and a box. She coughed into her arms as she hurried into the living room where Jared and Jamie were. It wasn't as dark as it would be in an hour. But already the dust was causing the place to take on a dark shadow.

"Why are we camping in here?" Jamie wanted to know, his voice uncertain as he watched Jared, so much taller than he was, pick up the tent and start to assemble it, sending sticks and poles sticking out everywhere.

"Well, Jamie, we're going camping indoors because the tent has less holes than the house. We'll cover it with blankets and hang out in it until the dust storm is gone," Jared said.

Jamie watched with a curiosity only fitted to him as Melanie grabbed a few blankets from the bedrooms and made her way through the hall to the living room. She was perfect at walking in the dark; she snuck into houses for years before meeting Jared. She could make her way through the dark without stumbling in seconds; it was a skill she was forced to have.

The wind howled and sent the shutters smacking the house as Jared finished setting up the tent, his dark hands skilled at quickly making it up; probably from experience. He looked up as Jamie darted into the tent as Melanie came to the tent, holding out the things she had gathered.

"Here you go," she said.

Jared had already pulled a blanket out and started to cover the strong tent with it. It bowed slightly, but not too much. It was meant to survive harsh weather; a warm blanket wasn't going to do much to it.

"How long do you think it'll last?" Melanie asked Jared.

He took another blanket and looked into her eyes and saw a spark of worry there. She hadn't experienced such a dust storm with him, or maybe not in her whole life. She didn't know what to do.

"It shouldn't last more than a few hours. We'll survive. The house'll stay up. We'll have fun," he said, laying the blanket over the tent. He then turned to Melanie, who looked uncertain that he knew everything, and he gently put his hand to her cheek and said, "It'll be fine, Mel."

She smiled, scoffing slightly.

"Come on," he said warmly. "Betcha I can beat you at a game of cards."

"Depends what we're playing," Melanie said, slipping into the tent.

"I am a master of all the games. Poker, Crazy Eights, Rummy, Solitaire, you name it," Jared said, coming into the tent. It was roomy, but cozy as Melanie sat the lantern in the center and sat and looked at her boys in the warm color of the fire.

"What do we do now? The chili must have dust in it now," Jamie said, sounding half-sad and half-annoyed at this turn of events concerning his supper. He sat cross-legged, his head held up in a fist on a propped elbow. He looked from Melanie to Jared in expectation.

"I brought this," Melanie said, pulling out of the remaining blankets from her scurrying retrieval a box of sandwich cookies.

"Hooray for artificial snacks," Jared said.

"At least these souls aren't all natural or anything," Melanie said as she opened the box. "Hooray for the pre packaged cookies and chips and snack cakes and all that good stuff."

"See? The souls aren't THAT evil," Jared said as a joke.

Melanie raised an eyebrow at him and said, "I also brought a deck of cards, Jamie."

"Let's play poker!" Jared said. "And bet with cookies."

"But how can we eat the cookies if we play with them?" Jamie wondered.

"Whatever extras you win from your pile you can eat," Jared said. "So no one can have more than the original amount in each round, except if they lost."

This seemed like good terms for all concerning parties and the three humans started off their game. The light as their fire, they were able to sit up in the tent, which was made for six people. Their blankets were set out as sleeping bags and they sat on them, cross-legged, as they began their long, six-hour game of poker. This thus ensued a lot of cookie consummation and Jamie eating far more cookies than he won, for Jared was beating him. But yet Melanie was beating him, resulting in her teasing him and poking him as he pretended not to notice her, as the blow to his pride was not able to bear such a torture.

He grinned so much, though, that Mel knew he didn't mind it.

But soon enough, though the wind was still howling, Jamie began to yawn and look tired.

"Time to go to sleep, Jamie," Melanie said firmly.

"Nah," Jamie said, though his eyes could barely stay open. "I want to stay up. Let's play another round."

"There's no point in arguing, Jamie," Melanie said, snatching his cards and making him lazily catch her eyes, looking angry. "It's time for you to fall asleep."

"You're about to fall asleep on your cookies," Jared said, looking like he was holding in a laugh.

Jamie stared at him and shoved a cookie into his mouth.

"Don't fight it. Just lay down and fall asleep," Melanie said.

Jamie begrudgedly laid down, but he said, "I'm not going to fall asleep."

But his eyes fell closed the same, though, despite the whistling winds swirling around them and knocking against the doors and walls of the cabin.

Jared said, "Do you want the light on?"

The wind knocked harder.

"For a bit, yeah, probably," Melanie said, earning a laugh from Jared. She smirked and grabbed her blanket and went over to his side of the tent. They were not needed for warmth, but rather for padding against the slightly carpeted floor. Melanie smoothed the folded blanket and then turned to Jared, who was lying down as well. He was on his side, his eyes exploring hers, alight with a sort of wondrous glow. Her hand caught his arm and his arm nuzzled around her waist, making her shiver slightly in his embrace.

"It won't last long. Swear," Jared said.

"I know. But I'm still worried about getting out of here. What if we're dusted in, like it's snow?" Melanie wanted to know.

Jared saw the worry in her eyes and shook his head. "I swear, I've been living in the desert my whole life and NEVER has a dust storm gotten us dusted in."

"I don't know if you're trying to sound reassuring or not," Melanie whispered, looking at his chest instead of his face in the dark.

"I try, don't I?" Jared said gently, putting a hand to her chin and tilting her head so that she was no longer looking down.

"I think you do," Melanie said.

"Is it working?" Jared asked. "The reassurance?"

His tone somehow sounded both soft and wonderful at the same time, and Melanie took in his face right there, all of it. From the dark lines to his tanned forehead, his long nose and his beautiful eyes that were flecked with gold. His face just emitted a trust that Melanie couldn't help but embrace.

"Yes," she whispered.

Jared leaned forward and gently brushed his lips against hers before leaning up and blowing out the light, leaving nothing except the two of them beside each other, Jamie fast asleep on his little side, and the wind blowing at the doors and walls of their cabin.

THE END.

Thanks for reading! Please review! :)