Chapter Twenty: Glen
Glen remained still as Aaron’s arm pressed against his throat, pinning him into the house.
“Give me one good reason I shouldn’t kill you,” Aaron said.
The obvious answer was that Aaron couldn’t kill him, though he no doubt wanted to, but to say so would’ve jeopardized the very reason he’d returned.
“I know where she is,” he said.
“I can find out where she is.”
“But you’d be discovered, and then she’d have no chance of escaping.”
The frigid brick of the house dug into his back when Aaron’s arm pressed harder, and he forced himself to remain calm, taking very slow breaths through his restricted windpipe. The man was angry—understandably so—but as his eyes flashed and flickered, the pattern became clear.
“I want to help. You don’t trust me, nor should you, but in this instance I’m on your side. I can explain everything if you do something for me.”
He lifted his hands so Aaron could see the black plugs he held.
He shook his head to cut off Aaron’s questioning. The arm didn’t leave his throat, but Aaron let him insert the plugs into his ears.
“Alright. Say what you need to say.”
“Xenia had betrayed us all, but especially you. She isn’t the woman you think she is. It’s her fault Saige is—”
He choked when Aaron added more pressure.
“I told you to tell me about Saige. Not lies about my family.”
“What’s going on?”
Aaron’s arm loosened enough for Glen to breathe a little when Xenia’s voice interrupted them. Glen could only see one half of her around Aaron’s frame.
“He came back. I don’t know why. I’m figuring out what he knows, so I can get Saige back.”
Xenia’s eyes settled on him.
“You should tell him... yourself,” he said. He shifted to allow himself more breathing room to speak. “Aaron?”
Aaron looked at him again. He shook his head as much as he was able.
“I have no reason to return to you without Saige. Why would I come back only to feed you lies? I came to take you with me, to help me break her out of there.”
“Out of where?”
“The compound the military is holding her in. Because Xenia reported her. Again, according to her.”
“What are you talking about?”
Aaron’s arm lifted a little. Glen’s lungs rejoiced.
“It would be much easier to explain if she would join in and tell you herself.”
“I don’t know what possessed him to come back here and tell you lies, but he must have some sort of agenda,” Xenia said. She didn’t, however, move closer to either of them. “You know I wouldn’t do that.”
Per her Siren genes, she sounded genuine. But underneath, he saw the deviousness she wouldn’t dare let show or she’d lose Aaron, and he was her contact. He was her guide to make sure she could continue to do the things she wanted without consequence. Her green card, so to speak.
“I left with Saige because Robert persuaded us to go. He claimed he needed to get out of the house, so we went for a drive. But along the way he told us the things Xenia relayed to him. She—you thought he hated her,” he said to Xenia now. “He loved Saige. But he could tell something was wrong, so he acted as though he was against her. Acted like he was on your side.”
“Why are you talking like that? Like he’s gone,” Aaron asked.
“Because he is. While he told us, we were chased. We fought, but Robert was killed. The military, our military, killed him. And then Saige...”
The mentioned night replayed in his mind with such clarity, he wished he could share his dreams with the man. If only Aaron could see what he’d seen, all would be moot and the man would come with him without question. But he couldn’t share his memories that way. He’d have to settle for telling about it. But at a later time.
“Saige was captured. But she gave us a gift along with her capture.”
“A gift? What are you talking about?”
Glen nudged Aaron’s arm, and the man dropped it.
“She told the military she’d been controlling us. Me and Aaron. She didn’t even mention you. They don’t seem to know you’re involved. So I’ve spent the last few weeks in a quarantine cell, as they worked on ‘deprogramming’ me. And now I’m free. You’re free. She did that for us. So we could have the opportunity to rescue her.”
“You can’t be listening to this—”
“I barely spent any time around the two of you, but I saw enough to know that she doesn’t care about you. And deep down, you must know it too. I gave you those plugs because I’ve seen what Siren do when their backs are against the wall. They control you and make you forget. I’ve seen her control you. She’s probably been making you bend to her wishes all this time.”
Xenia moved to Aaron’s side now, and reached up to touch his face. “Aaron, look at me. You know I care for you. I was with you when no one else was. Your family left you, the orphanage didn’t want you, and the service only kept you around for your abilities. I’m the only one who has been with you all these decades. Stuck by you and helped you... I...”
Aaron’s eyes darkened as she spoke until it seemed he wore a blank mask with black eyes. She lowered her arm, but he didn’t move.
“Aaron? I didn’t do what he’s telling you I did. I swear—”
“Your voice is different,” Aaron said.
Xenia paled. “What? You’re being ridiculous. This is how my voice sounds.”
“No it isn’t. It sounds strange. Lighter. And you have never touched me like that.”
“Why would he come back? Why isn’t Robert with him for backup? Why is he decked out in his uniform if he’s still in hiding? And if you’re so blameless, why are you trying to influence my mind?”
“I wasn’t, I was just helping you to see reason.”
Glen watched her back away from Aaron, but shook his head.
“Remember what you’re talking to. I wouldn’t move if I were you. There’s nowhere to go where he can’t catch you.”
Aaron’s fists balled. His body tilted forward ever so slightly, and Glen moved to touch his arm.
“Harming her is not the answer.”
“You were there for me when no one else was,” Aaron asked. His voice quivered with an intense, bottled-up emotion. “No. You were around. Somewhere. You know who was there for me when no one else was? When I was sure no one loved me and would ever care about me?” Aaron took a large step, covering the three steps Xenia had taken, to stare directly down at her. “That little girl you reported and had deported to Earth. Barely free of her toddler years, she disappeared, and I wondered where she was, and you never. Ever. Said a thing.”
“I didn’t know. I—”
Glen started when Aaron’s hand shot out to wrap around the Siren’s throat.
“When I met you, you were so beautiful. So exotic. Your voice was like heaven to my ears.”
“Aaron, you don’t want to do this.”
Xenia struggled, her feet hovering over the ground, to breathe. Aaron continued to talk.
“But we have a nursery rhyme here on Tulca that I never quite understood. ‘Heaven to your ears is poison to your mind. Don’t befriend the tiny folk, they’ll harm you every time.’ I think I understand now. Every word you speak sounds so pure and true, but you’re spitting nothing but lies.”
Glen grabbed Aaron’s arm. “Her life means nothing. Saige’s life means everything. Saige gave us the gift of freedom. But we don’t know how far it extends. We don’t know how many she’s told, or if she’s continually working with them. If she disappears, they might know. They might come looking. And they might find you, which will lead them to me, and they’ll discover everything. Saige won’t be safe anymore. Aaron, you need to put her down.”
“If we let her go, there’s just as must chance of her going straight to them. Either way we turn, she’s the beginning and the end. One way or another.”
“Let her go. Let her go, Aaron.”
Aaron opened his fist, and Xenia fell to the ground. She gasped for air and coughed. Glen made sure he diverted Aaron’s attention.
“She won’t go to them. She won’t tell them. I’ve seen her type before. They want to report people and then hide. Telling them about you and I would turn an investigation on herself, which she isn’t looking for. Who knows what else she’s up to, and she doesn’t want anyone else finding out. Isn’t that right?” The last question he asked her directly.
Xenia locked eyes with him for a long while. Her entire body shook, whether with anger or fear, he didn’t know. But instead of answering him, she turned on Aaron.
“I did it to protect you! You think I’m a monster and that I had something against Saige, but I don’t. I did it to protect you—did you think no one would ever find out? Did you think the two of you could’ve lived happily ever after without consequence? No, they would’ve found you both, all of us, and we would’ve been killed. That’s what they do to people who harbor those things.”
He stepped in before Aaron could grab her again.
“All she ever did was love you! She was a child. Harmless.” Aaron struggled to break past Glen. Had he truly wanted to get by, he could’ve.
“Children grow up. Monsters always become monsters, one way or another. She wouldn’t survive out here anyway. Everyone hates her kind. Her kind are either killed or locked away for testing. They’re too dangerous to be free.”
“I’m going to kill you. As soon as she’s safe, I’ll see to it that you die.”
The woman remained on the ground, staring up at them. Now she looked to Glen.
“I won’t tell them about either of you. Not because I have anything to hide, but because you won’t get her out to begin with. She’s surrounded by the finest soldiers, and you have a job and a reputation to protect,” she said. “A family. She isn’t worth all this trouble. She isn’t worth your death. Nor was she worth Robert’s.”
Glen’s jaw worked, but he kept his anger under control. He had half a mind to let Aaron at her, but that would’ve been more trouble than he needed. Things were going to be difficult enough as it was.
“Everyone is worth it,” he said. “Everyone deserves a chance at freedom.”
“I’m sorry for you. You’re going to die for her and you barely know her. I’m sure her record isn’t spotless.”
His lips twisted in a humorless smirk. “If my record were anywhere spotless, I wouldn’t have the position I do now. So I’m the last person who can judge.”
He tugged on Aaron’s arm. The bigger man kept his eyes on Xenia even as his body turned away.
“When I come back to this house, I don’t want a single sign that you ever lived here. I’ll send the divorce papers as soon as possible.”
“I did care for you. I just didn’t care for her.”
“We’re a package deal. Love us both or neither of us.”
Finally, Aaron turned around and started to walk on his own away from the property. Glen found his own arm being grabbed before a wave of dizziness and weightlessness hit him like a train. He blinked, and found himself in the middle of a forest. Somewhere.
The man sunk to the ground, forehead on the frozen dirt. His fists balled, and he pounded the ground, releasing a primal yell into the soil. The cry of anguish ended with something close to a sob. He lay still and silent in the dirt afterward.
“She’s going to be okay. You need to hold yourself together so we can work to get her out.”
“The answer was right in front of me all along and I never knew it.”
“You can’t blame yourself.”
“But I do.”
“I know for a fact that Saige doesn’t. She did this for us. The least we can do is rescue her.”
When Aaron lifted his head, dirt stuck to his forehead. He brushed it off as he stood. “But... I’ve been thinking. You said that Saige gave us the gift of anonymity and freedom, but saying that she did it so we could save her sounds wrong. That’s not the girl I knew.”
“What are you saying she gave us our freedom for then?”
“I think she gave us our freedom because she wanted us to be free. She doesn’t want us to come back for her.”