This first chapter is separate from the others. I almost hate to post it as it may understandably frustrate some readers but it does help set up the subsequent chapters. I promise if you stick through it, there will be lots of sweetness, love, and fun between Ian and Wanda.
After finishing The Host, I was most perplexed by Jared's character. I wanted a better glimpse of the Jared that Melanie knew. I had a difficult time accepting that he was so adaptable and willing to do what had to be done in any situation, and yet would also sit idly by as he watched a relationship grow between Ian and Wanda. After doc promised to give up on the soul removal experiments, I think Jared would have come around to the realization that it was possible Wanda would always be there. If he wanted to be with Mel, he had to accept Wanda with the package. What other option was there? He loved Mel intensely and would not have been ok with her hand in Ian's. Of course he understood that it was Wanda's choice but he learned in the book that Melanie feels what Wanda feels. Any and every touch is felt by the both of them. I feel Jared would have adapted.
This chapter takes place after the seeker has been caught and Wanda and Jared leave to gather some cryotanks. For the sake of it fitting better into the established story, the reader should assume the cryotanks are only for the removal of the seeker. Wanda's decision to leave Mel will be made the next day as a result of this night. The following takes place after Wanda fell asleep in Jared's arms.
Top of Form
A soft pressure on my bare shoulder brought consciousness to me sometime in the middle of the night. I opened my eyes slowly and could still feel Jared curled against me. His warm breaths were not the normal slow and heavy pattern of his sleep. That's when I felt his fingers lightly trail across my upper back from one shoulder to the other. I held still, pretending not to have woken. Would he still touch me if he knew I wasn't asleep? Was Melanie awake and how long could I let this go on before her anger turned to violence? She was very still and quiet, remembering the many other nights Jared had difficulty sleeping. I learned there were many times when he would awake her this way. They were some of her most tender and guarded memories which I now knew.
His gentle touch returned slowly back across my bare skin leaving sensuous burns within. "I miss you," he whispered barely audible.
He wasn't talking to me.
Usually I would have felt disappointed that it was again only Melanie he wanted but this time it felt right. I shouldn't continue to hope when there was none. That fact didn't stop Melanie's ache from becoming my ache. It was a physical inevitability.
Yet, I also felt his touch and heard his words. I could feel his breath across my skin. The memories of his touch were mine as well. I tried not to want Jared. I didn't want Melanie's anger. He was hers and she was his. I understood that but the understanding didn't stop the desperate way I wanted him to continue touching me. Or us. I thought I might go insane.
"My world came crashing down around me when I thought you were gone." Melanie was alert and listening now. "I didn't know how to go on... But then I realized I had to for Jamie's sake. He couldn't lose both of us. So I made myself find this place and these people. I did it for him. During the day, I forced myself to get up and contribute to the group. I vowed not to let you and Jamie down. ...The nights were altogether something else." His voice trailed off in the still night air as he wrapped his arms around us and held us close, burying his face in our hair.
Surely by now he knew we were awake and listening. I didn't turn around. It would be my eyes he would see in the moonlight, not the ones he longed for. Unlike before, Melanie wasn't angry that he was touching me. She knew he was trying to touch her. His admission of grief was a weight to us both. Jared so rarely showed any sign of weakness or doubt. His vulnerability struck us to our core. She longed desperately to wrap her arms around him but I didn't dare move. I didn't want to be between them. I was a wall obstructing their intimacy.
He inhaled once before continuing, his breath now against our neck. "I'd lie awake at night and mourn to hold you in my arms again. I'd drown in my memories of nights past knowing I'd never have you with me again." There was a long pause as his breath wavered. Silent tears began to roll down our face. "I begged, pleaded, and prayed to anyone in the universe that was able to give me just one endless night to have you back in my arms. I promised I would never let you go."
He gently pressed his lips to our shoulder as his hand trailed down our arm in slow patterns.
It was silent for a few minutes as he remembered. He laughed one hard laugh and went on. "Then you came back to me. Only now... I don't know what to do. You won't let me touch you and I understand, but it doesn't stop the empty ache in my arms every time I lie awake at night. I see your face and yet you want me to pretend it's not yours. I'm not allowed to touch it. I'll hear your voice as I'm about to enter a room and my body physically responds to quicken my steps as if it forgot the rules you've set in place. I yearn for your laughter. It's a cruel twist of fate to have you always so close and I can't feel your skin under my fingers." He ran his touch down the middle of our back and over our thigh. "I long for you now more than when I thought you were gone. To have you so close yet out of reach and forbidden takes every bit of restraint I can gather. I want you back here." He tightened his arms around us again and gave us another soft kiss under our ear. "I need you more than this place needs the rain. I need you Melanie."
His fingers found their way up our arm and gently cupped the side of our face. He wiped away the tears on our cheek as a soft sob found its way between our lips.
"You're still here Melanie. And this is your body. I know because you gave it to me and we shared it for years. I know every line and curve of it as well as my own. I know the way it smells and how it tastes. I know how it feels against my skin and how it reacts to my touch." He brushed our hair back and gently kissed the place where our neck met our shoulder which caused a quiet sigh to escape from within. With every touch, a greater desire formed in the pit of our stomach. The need was desperate. "I know...it's not just us now but, this body still belongs to us. I know it every time I look at you from across a room and see you respond to me. You are still mine. I don't see any other reason why you would have come back to me. And I will forever be yours. Please don't keep me away. What other option is left for us now?"
Melanie's thoughts were barely comprehendible.
"This is more than I can bear. Please touch him for me. Please," she pleaded.
Hearing his pain was unbearable for us both. I closed my eyes, the eyes he didn't want to see. The eyes I didn't want him to see. I turned to face him, twisting our fingers into his hair. I'd seen it a thousand times in her memories and felt every desire. Her desire was my own desperate desire. My need was doubled because it was matched with hers. This body always responded to Jared whether Melanie or I tried to resist. The irony in the moment did not escape me. Not only was I sharing this body with her but it did in fact belong to a third person. Rather than feel disappointed, I realized with every touch and taste of him, he belonged to this body. Every touch was a relief for some unknown, invisible ache that I carried. I didn't lose myself to a third being; rather I gained a new completeness. I lost myself with him. And it didn't matter when he whispered Melanie's name at one point when our lips were apart. In fact, it felt overwhelmingly right.
Afterwards, as we laid in his arms and our heavy breaths began to slow, he whispered, "I love you," into her ear quietly and leaned over to kiss her lovingly again. I could no longer tolerate not gazing at his beautiful face. Melanie too yearned to see him. Slowly, I opened my eyes for the first time to meet his. I could see a slight widening of his eyes in response to the moonlight which certainly reflected silver in mine. His breathing hitched just slightly as a slow blush colored his face as would be expected if someone just realized their most intimate moments and baring of their self had been witnessed. With his desperate need sated, the complexity of the situation was apparent. A small crease formed on his forehead before he hid his face in our hair holding us close.
I started to untangled our naked bodies but he pulled us closer.
"Please don't take her away yet."
So I held him again burying our face in his chest. I silently cursed the eyes that gave away the truth. I didn't look up for several minutes but he began to slowly run his hand through our hair and absently twist the ends loosely around his finger before letting each lock fall gently against our bare back. Melanie remembered him always doing this and realized how much she missed it. This closeness to Jared was a breath of fresh air to her. For the first time in the past year, she felt as close to normal as she could.
It was also the most I had felt like an unwanted invader. I couldn't stop the silent tears that began to fall to his chest.
"No," he murmured and pulled us back to lie beside him. "Open your eyes," he was speaking softly but different this time. No longer whispering.
I sniffed quietly trying to gather my emotions before looking at him and seeing the evidence on his face which I already knew. I ached to never see his rejection and wished at that moment to disappear somewhere very far away. Another sob broke through.
"Shhh," We felt a gentle kiss on our forehead. "Please don't cry. Please open your eyes, Wanderer."
The shock of him using my name had them open immediately. He was propped up on one elbow looking down at me. A slow smile spread on his lips. Lips that I couldn't forget had just been on my skin. Or rather Melanie's skin. He brushed the tears from my face before gently running the back of his hand down my cheek to my jawline. Again he spoke to me with soft words rather than whispers and it was evident that this was his way of differentiating between Melanie and me.
"Thank you," he said fervently. "Thank you for bringing her back to me. There aren't words to describe the gratitude I have for that." He continued to brush the hair from my face and caress my cheek. "I love Melanie, she is my everything. But you are precious to me now too. You carry her with you. You love what she loves. You love because she loves. We are a unique...type of family now. You asked me to kiss you when you thought she was gone because you were afraid to lose her. I'm afraid to lose her. Don't you see? Our love for her, her love for us, it binds us together now. I've experienced she won't let me touch her because she is afraid I'll have the wrong intentions. She also wouldn't let me have this if she knew your intentions were against her. I looked at that seeker back there and realized how lucky we are to have you, Wanderer. For Melanie, for this..." he pulled me against him. "Thank you." He leaned down and kissed me once gently. It wasn't with the tender passion he had kissed Melanie and we both recognized it but for once, I felt loved too. And she was ok with that...almost.