There’s a period after Wanderer is put into Pet’s body where Mel wants her all to herself. For almost ten days she kicks Jared out of his room so that she and Jamie can share the almost too small mattress with Wanda. The girls talk for hours after Jamie falls asleep. Mel still missing being able to hear her sister thinking in her head but for Wanda the relief of hearing Mel’s voice at all is overwhelming.
Jared doesn’t really enjoy sharing a room with Ian, mostly on principal, but selfishly he’s glad that they’re together while the girls are across the hall. He misses Mel in his arms and getting to know the new Wanda but at least he knows that Ian is just as cut out as he is for the moment.
By the time their used to each other’s voices in the dark, the new extra effort it takes to communicates, the new separateness of their bodies, and the shape of the person lying next to them Mel’s longing to be in Jared’s arms overcomes her desire to keep Wanda to herself.
She drags the still half asleep girl into Ian’s room. Ian was sprawled out on the right mattress while Jared was sleep on the left. Melanie pulled Wanda through the dark and after pushing Ian over to the far side of the mattress, against the wall, sat Wanda down on it while she retreated across the narrow aisle to lie next to Jared. The aisle was narrow enough that the two girls could still comfortably hold hands across it, if they lay on their stomachs.
Neither Jared nor Ian ask them about it in the morning.
Months later the four of them are still living out of Ian’s room.
Jamie asked Jeb about it once, ‘Why do they all feel like they have to sneak around?’, and Jeb tried to explain that it had less to do with what other people thought and more about their own fears but Jamie had just shaken his head. After everything they’d all been through he couldn’t imagine anything that would frighten his family. Jeb just said ‘you’ll understand when you’re older’.
The basic situation is actually quite simple. Melanie and Jared were made for each other, they are as necessary to each other as oxygen and set each other on fire in much the same way. Wanda and Ian are soul mates, the slow burn that fused them together is inextricable and their love is just as indisputable.
Of course life is never basic, or simple, and their convoluted love story is no different. Melanie had grown accustomed to the feel of Ian’s skin under her fingers and Jared had grown used to Wanda’s eyes staring back at him. Even though he was over a foot taller than her now Jared still insisted on pairing up with Wanda when they worked in the fields, and he enjoyed helping her train her new body so it was more useful to her. Melanie persisted in sitting next to Ian at nearly every meal, at first Wanda’s tank sat between them but after her return she continued because she enjoyed the heat that radiated from his side and that their arms would occasionally brush.
Despite what Jeb had told Jamie they were concerned about what other people thought.. It wasn’t as if the four of the were having polyamorous orgies every night, which is what they were afraid most people thought. It was just, love is an intense emotion and after a year of trying to separate body and soul the mind was still confused.
Jared did not want to kiss Wanda. He wanted to stare into her eyes and hear her voice. His love for her was a learned affection tinged with guilt for his cruelty. His desire to make up for every mark he had left made him desperate for her survival, and her happiness.
Wanda did not wish to be physically intimate with Jared. She wanted him to want her in his life independently of Melanie and when they worked in the fields together or chatted during their raids and all of his attention was focused singularly on her, that was enough.
Melanie had no interest in sleeping with Ian. She knew his hands in anger and in love and like drops of rain she’d allowed affection for him to trickle in but after a year he didn’t know her all. More than anything she want to prove that she was worthy of his friendship.
Ian had no desire in the body that Melanie occupied. Of course after a year his body still recognized it’s presence, and it always took him a split second to remember that Wanda wasn’t there anymore. It took him weeks to realize that it might still house someone worth his affection.