“Run faster!” He shouted at me as he tossed a grin in my direction.
I did as he asked, or at least, I tried. I ran as fast as I could, but I am not as strong as him. Someday he says I’ll be faster than him, but I don’t know that I believe that.
I fell behind him, my short legs carrying me as far and as fast as they could. The cold night air pierced my lungs and made my throat burn, but I didn’t mind.
He ran just in front of me, his strength daring me to push harder, if only to impress him. I looked up and caught my breath as I took in the sight of the moonlight raining down on him and for a split second, I slowed down. He glanced in my direction, not slowing at all. At first he looked confused, but then, realizing I’d been staring, he suppressed a smirk.
I felt my face begin to burn as I darted my gaze away to avoid his eyes. In my haste to look away, I failed to notice that our terrain had changed ever so slightly and I was flung forward as I tripped on the uneven ground.
I laid face-down on the grass, thankful that I had landed on my arms instead of my head.
“You’re a little clumsy, aren’t you princess?” I heard his voice dripping with amusement behind me.
“Don’t call me that!” I demanded as I threw my fists into the ground, my cheeks flushed red as I turned over to face him.
His eyes got wide as he surveyed the damage of my ever so graceful decent to the ground. As strong of a man as he was, he had one weakness: blood.
Recovering his composure, he pointed to my bloodied knee as he folded his arms, “Want me to kiss it and make it better, princess?”
I bolted forwarded as I lunged to grab his jeans and pulled him down.
“Whoa!” he exclaimed as he put his arms out to stop himself from falling on me.
“I told you not to call me that.” I whispered with a hint of my temper lacing my words.
I leaned forward, inches from his face as he crouched on the ground in front of me. My knee brushed against a sharp stone, making me wince in pain. I lost my balance and quickly rocked back on my heels to sit.
“I think we should be done with training for tonight.” His voice was filled with concern, a tone rarely heard from him, “Maybe you should let me take a look at it, I don’t want you to get an infection.”
His hands wiped away the blood from the wound on my knee, surprising me with their gentleness and warmth.
“I’m fine.” I replied as I squirmed with discomfort from both the wound and the uneasy feeling I always got from him getting too close, “Just wish I was strong enough to be unaffected by pain.”
“Why is that?” He asked flatly as he studied the damage.
“Pain is weakness, right? That is what is holding me back from…” my voice trailed off.
All of a sudden, as though he had a sensor for when I was about to say something he deemed might be embarrassing for me, he looked up and asked with his undivided attention, “Holding you back from what?”
“Nothing.” I quickly shot back, turning away from the intensity of his gaze and attention. He was a bit stunned that I was being so sharp and as a result, released my leg. I took the chance to pull it back and away from his grasp.
He looked saddened and brought his eyes up to mine as he reached towards me. I grabbed his arm instinctively and held it in place, much tighter than was necessary.
“I was just trying to get the leaf out of your hair.” His voice fell as he explained.
“Sorry.” I hastily offered up as an apology as I pulled the leaf out myself.
“Why don’t you trust me?” His voice cracked as he asked.
“I do!” I insisted, louder than I probably should have.
“You don’t,” he frowned, “and I don’t understand why.”
I sighed as I opened my lips to offer some cover of an explanation, only to close them again. I looked towards the moon above us and wondered what he’d say if I told him the truth.
“Well,” He said with a tired sigh, “You don’t have to trust me with what you were going to say, but you are going to have to trust me to carry you home, just this once.”
My eyes widened as I began to protest, “No, no! I can walk!”
I stood quickly as he moved to pick me up, but the pain blinded me and my knees gave out. To my dismay, my body gave itself up into his arms.
“Am I really that bad?” He asked, only half-jokingly.
“Well,” I tried to lighten the mood, “you do smell kind of bad from the run.”
He chuckled as his upper lip threatened to bust through his stoic expression.
“I suppose I do.” He said as I allowed myself a tiny smile and rested my head onto his chest.
I rested in his arms for a few yards, until he broke the silence.
“Pain isn’t weakness, you know.” He said matter-of-factly.
“What?” I asked, startled from the thoughts and feelings racing through me.
“Pain isn’t weakness.” He said, “At least, it doesn’t have to be.”
“I don’t understand.” I said, wondering if I was beginning to fall asleep. It was kind of hard not to feel a little tired after the run. Listening to his heartbeat and wasn’t exactly helping matters either.
“Pain is just a tool, princess. A very powerful tool.” He explained, “You can use it to feed your fear, or you can use it as energy to fuel your strength. Pain isn’t weakness, it is an opportunity.”
“You seem to know a lot about this.” I whispered as I stared knowingly at the tattoo he bore just below his collarbone. His tank top was worn out and stretched just enough to showcase the otherwise secret ink he’d gotten on his 18th birthday. He shifted his weight and adjusted how he carried me before clearing his throat.
“Maybe,” He whispered back, giving me the faintest of smiles as he looked into my eyes, “Maybe I do.”
Part 2: Secrets, Part 3: Embers, Part 4: Titanium, Part 5: Scar, Part 6: Capture, Part 7: In Your Eyes, Part 8: Reflection, Part 9: Running, Part 10: The Cabin, Part 11: Macaroni and Cheese, Part 12: An Open Door and A Squeaky Floor, Part 13: Interruptions, Part 14: Origin
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