Chapter Thirty-Two: Glen
He paused beside Saige when she stopped in front of the door he’d indicated. She looked at him in question, and he swung forward on his crutches to enter his room code. Rather than attempt to hide the number from her, he paused during each press for a moment too long. She watched him warily.
The door swung open, and she looked to him again. Something about her expressions always spoke more than her words. How she could communicate through her eyes was a skill he’d never learned. Now, she leveled a hesitant glance on him. Like she thought he was trying to trick her. Or trap her.
It was as though he was trying to calm a frightened animal. She was wild, her sense of intuition stronger than her reason, and all too dangerous.
“I just want to get all this blood off you.”
Her eyes darkened, accusatory.
“I know you can do it yourself, but you haven’t been cleared to be alone yet.”
This, at least, was true. She hadn’t been removed from suicide watch, and if her latest fight was any indication, she wouldn’t be for a time yet. With a small sigh which contrasted her defensive posture, Saige stepped into his room. He followed at a slower pace to give her time to adjust.
A few steps in, one of his crutches banged into a table, and she spun around with hands in the air. A wall of Matter appeared before them. He blinked. It had flickered into the air between them like magic.
“You’re getting good at that. You’ve been practicing. Almost as fast as me.”
Her eyes glowed bright white, but as he smiled and waited, the glow faded. Her hands lowered and the wall of Matter melted to the ground. Then it defied gravity and floated up to her palms, absorbing into them.
“Feel free to have a seat anywhere,” he said in passing, heading toward the bathroom. “I’ll get the first-aid kit.”
He took his time stocking the kit. His hands shook so much, he nearly dropped every item. Finally, he set the box down and rested his hands palm-down on the counter to still them. Saige was just another girl. She was scared out of her mind, whether or not she would admit it. She didn’t need him tripping over himself like a love-struck teenager. She needed stability and comfort.
He could do that.
When he exited the bathroom, Saige waited exactly where he’d left her. He struggled to hold the box and hobble to the couch, and she moved closer with small steps to take the box from him. Together, they moved to the couch. He waved a hand toward the couch, and she took a seat. He knelt before her. Her small stature and his height meant he was taller than her, even lowered on the floor.
He sifted through the kit for a minute or two, taking deep, even breaths to calm himself and steady his fingers. He raised a swab covered in sterilizing liquid, and she flinched so violently, he found himself starting a bit. She stood, and he had to tip his head back to look at her.
“I’m fine. I heal quickly,” she said.
Her fists were balled at her sides, and he could see her entire body quivering with a mix of tension and fear. He dropped the swab, gently grasped her hips, and pulled until she dropped back to the couch. Her head lowered in defeat. He touched her chin, despite his shaking hand, and turned her head to and fro. Cataloging her wounds. Anger bubbled in his chest again, but he swallowed it down and set to cleaning her wounds.
She kept still as he cleansed her various cuts and bruises. Though each touch to a new area made her wince, she seemed to be relaxing as he went along. Her skin shimmered in the areas where bruises formed. It was strange, the way her skin reacted when her silver blood rose close to the surface.
A glance at her face revealed a watery film in her eyes. He set down the swab and sat back on his heels, giving her a break. His side protested the position, so he moved to sit beside her.
“Are you okay?”
“Want something to drink?”
She shook her head. Her reluctance to speak was concerning. Her Siren side rendered her generally talkative, but that side of her was hidden. She was doing it on purpose.
“I’m going to continue now,” he said, to keep her from jumping.
He reached for another bottle and a new swab. The moment he cracked the seal, her nose wrinkled and she stared at the bottle. He leveled an apologetic look on her before beginning to swab her wounds with the solution. Now she hissed in pain.
“Shh... I’m sorry. This will help.”
Though her eyes watered from the pain, she shifted to give him better access, turning more toward him and folding her legs underneath her. When he finished, he dropped everything back into the box and settled back to look at her. She turned to face forward again, and her fingers raised to her mouth so she could bite at the tips. Every so often she would look over at him, and he felt her tension rising.
“Are you hungry?”
“Talk to me.”
She just stared at the ground, silent. He lowered her hand from her mouth and held it in both of his.
“Look, I know-”
She pulled her hand out of his and looked right at him.
“Just stop. Okay? You were right. I get it. I shouldn’t have taken the test. I didn’t meant to hurt you-I didn’t know it was you. And the kids... I can’t...”
He started to reach for her, but she reacted violently, shoving him away and leaping to her feet.
“Stop touching me! Why do you keep doing that? You hate my guts, remember? Are you just trying to get me comfortable around you so you can kill me? Because you don’t have to go through all that trouble. Just do it now. You have nothing to lose. I have nothing to lose. I thought I was working toward making a difference, but I was just working towards becoming their new puppet. I will never be free. And I would’ve died on earth, so why shouldn’t I just end it now? There’s no reason why I shouldn’t.”
She stood before him, wound to the point of breaking. Her near-black skin shimmered with silver bruises and her clothes were stretched and torn in places. Her body was no longer scrawny and skinny, but strong and curvy. When he’d found her she’d been on the run, isolated from everyone and too scared to even tell him her name. They’d come full circle. Yes, she’d grown stronger, and yes, her confidence had grown, but with the test and the realization that she’d gone through it all for nothing, all she’d worked to achieve was collapsing. Her whole world was collapsing.
“There’s a very good reason why you shouldn’t end it now.”
“Carter has put so much stock in you. You’ve surpassed many of the initiates from a year ago. You passed the test that I didn’t even touch until my fifth year. And it wasn’t real to begin with. It was just a simulation.”
Now she laughed, and tears finally spilled onto her cheeks.
“I passed? They all died! So did you, almost. But I passed. And Carter’s hard work didn’t go to waste.”
She started to leave, but he stood to block her. He also forgot his crutches, and his side rejected the movement. When he stumbled, she caught him and helped him back to the couch. He grimaced in pain, and she muttered to herself as she lifted his shirt up and felt his stab wound. He watched her as she examined him.
"I would miss you.”
Her head remained where it was, but her eyes rolled up to meet his.
One side of his mouth lifted.
“I already miss you. I don’t want to act like I hate you anymore. I don’t care if I get in trouble.”
“I am so sorry, Saige.”
She didn’t respond, but she didn’t fight him either, when he wrapped his arms around her. But she did squirm.
“Your side. You don’t need to be-”
“Why are you so concerned about me,” he murmured into her hair, “when your life is falling apart?”
Her face turned in his chest, until her ear was pressed to his heart. She didn’t answer him.
“I think you focus on making everyone else feel better to ignore what you’re going through. Ever since I met you, that’s what you’ve done.”
He tightened his hold when she squirmed again.
“Why don’t you let someone be concerned for you for once? And you should be concerned for yourself. You can accept that you feel bad. It’s not wrong. If anyone deserves to be happy, it’s you. Let me take care of you. Just for tonight.”
He expected exasperation, a fight, anger, maybe more tears. What he did not expect was compliance.
Saige didn’t speak, and she didn’t lift her head to talk with her eyes. But he kept himself as still as possible as she tucked her legs up underneath her and molded herself into his form, completely relaxed in his arms. Her hand raised to rest on his abdomen , and her eyes closed. Moments later, she was fast asleep.
Just like that.
If he moved, would he wake up and find out that the entire day had been a dream? Would she be missing from his arms, and never there to begin with?
Moving all too slowly, he called Carter and brought up the screen, enlarging it so his friend could see the entire scene. Carter answered with a concerned frown on his face, but as his eyes roamed, taking in the picture before him, the crease between his brows disappeared.
“You told her?”
Glen lowered the volume on his stone. With her Siren hearing, he feared Saige would wake up. He shook his head a Carter.
“But you must’ve told her something.”
“That’s progress. This is progress. But remember what I said. Her or me. And soon. Before something else happens. Something worse.”
What could possibly happen that was worse?
Carter observed them for a few moments more. He sighed.
“You look good together. Even if it’s wrong and you shouldn’t be together, you do look good. I haven’t seen her that relaxed in a long time.”
Neither had he.
Carter hung up, leaving Glen to watch the rise and fall of Saige’s back as she slept, and listening to her breathing. He ran his fingers over her tightly-coiled hair, and she sighed in her sleep, burrowing further into him. Though fatigue pulled at his mind, he had nowhere to rest his head.
His fingers stopped stroking her hair, and he looked down at it. She was asleep... and it looked so soft...
He lowered his head to hers, pressing his cheek to the black mass. Just a moment. He’d get a few minutes of rest. Two seconds...