Warlands of Song

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Chapter Seven: Saige

Saige’s body didn’t know how to process all the emotion running rampant throughout it. Its default solution was to shut down. She tried as hard as she could to fight this, but even she was overwhelmed.

There was fear, of course, of being hunted and wanted dead or in a lab to be dissected. Following close after was sadness. How had her life had ended up this way? Her anger had long since fizzled out. But the dominant emotion she couldn’t wrap her head around was gratitude. Gratitude toward the two men that had helped her escape when she’d been completely defenseless and unable to make the choice for herself. She didn’t know why, but the very fact that they had was threatening her training.

From a young age, she’d learned to keep her emotions in a locked box. Emotion never did anything good for anyone. The only emotion she allowed out was compassion. It remained the sole reason she’d kept her sanity after all the decades she’d been stuck on earth without anyone by her side. All other emotion was locked away and kept hidden for over two centuries. So the fact that they could now break the lock on their box and rush out freely terrified her. All she could do was try her best to shove them into a corner and hold them there. They would not win.

She jumped when a hot hand rested on her arm.

“Are you okay?” Glen asked.

He sat beside her in back of the SUV Robert currently drove. She’d woken to find her head in his lap and his fingers running rhythmically over her shaved head. Even though she didn’t have much hair, the short strands she had captured the pattern of his fingertips, and she couldn’t help but relax. She even wondered for the first time since the first time she shaved her head, why she’d kept it that way. For minutes she’d lain there in total peace and bliss until a deep sigh escaped her throat. Then she sat up and pressed as closely to the wall of the vehicle as possible. Right. That was why. Why had she been cursed with hair that had nerve endings? It was so stupid.

Glen hadn’t reacted, though Robert glanced back at them in the rearview mirror. They explained what had occurred during her state of unconsciousness, like nothing had happened. That was probably when her emotions began to surface, as Glen recounted the story. Including that the man in charge had been his supervising officer at one point. It was just too much for her to handle. She hadn’t asked to be saved.

“Hello?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. Thank you.”

“It’s okay if you’re not.”

She glanced at him and wished she hadn’t. His eyes displayed the exact kind of pity she hated. That “poor you, I’m so, so sorry for everything” kind of pity. She wasn’t a delicate little flower. She had taken care of herself for far longer than she enjoyed thinking about. But maybe she did need to at least thank the two of them for what they’d done.

“I’ve been attacked before, okay? I’m not going to have a meltdown. Give me a break.”

Idiot! That wasn’t what she’d meant to say. She could have banged her head against the window in frustration. Why couldn’t she just say what she felt?

“I understand your frustration—”

“Do you? Do you really? Have you ever been hunted like a wild animal infected with rabies? Have you had people after every one of your body parts and your blood? You need to stop treating me like a child. I know how to deal with this. I’m fine. And no, you don’t understand.”

He laughed and removed his hand from her arm.

“I was in the military. I’ve been in combat with multiple races, many of whom wanted to kill me. Yes, I know what it’s like to be hunted. And what it’s like to kill. To be injured, badly. And I’ll stop treating you like a child when you stop acting like one.”

“I—”

"You. Everything is about you, unless you’re violating the rights of an oblivious couple and making them adopt an orphan boy. Why don’t you look at this situation from my perspective?”

He turned fully toward her and began counting on his fingers as he listed things. “I’m famous on my planet. Practically royalty. I was awarded the highest ranking in the military, and am known as the most decorated General in history. I’m known everywhere but here on earth. Children look up to me, men admire my accomplishments and strive to beat me. I can’t afford to do anything wrong, being in the public eye.

“Yet I chose to get involved with you and saved your life. Went against the laws of my people, my planet, my S.O. He taught me a lot. I surpassed his skillset, but I owe him. I owe my prestige to him. And I left him in a poisonous bubble. Why? To save you. Do you even understand what I’m saying? A simply thank you would be nice. Some sort of gratitude. But no, you’re only worried about yourself. How did you survive so long with this—No, that is how you survived, isn’t it? Being selfish is how you survived.”

She didn’t turn from the window. Her hands remained tucked into her elbows to hide their violent shaking, and she didn’t open her mouth again.

“Being selfish is how you survived.”

No, she wasn’t selfish. She’dsurvived with love and kindness, not the opposite. Her lack of sociality wasthe cause of her offensiveness. She was sorry. But he wouldn’t hear that, wouldhe? Surely he didn’t care anymore. She couldn’t blame him.

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