I glanced behind me again. He ran a few steps behind me, his feet tapping out a steady pace. No matter what trail I picked or pace I pushed he always ran the same distance behind me. He had been assigned to follow me since I arrive here at the hospital. Now that I was recovering from my injuries, he came with me to work out in the gym or to run the trails. He was my shadow. I was all but healed except for a few lingering pink scars. I had caught him watching me several times while we lifted weights or ran. We started talking as we cooled down after a run and I learned he was a soldier who had been discharged because of an injury and became a nurse who worked at a military hospital. I told him about my adopted mother Alice who lived in Montana and about running the mountain trails there. Over the past weeks the tension between us climbed steadily.. Most people might not find John handsome but his black hair, blunt features and broken nose balanced against a body honed till it was a work of art. He was not bulky like some men who tried to get as big as possible lifting weights. His was a lean strength that spoke of endurance and power. As I slowed to a walk he surprised me by jogging past to lean against a large sycamore tree. I followed, standing before him waiting for him to speak. Instead he reached out and pulled a tendril of hair away from my face. You could not say I was a beauty either. My brown hair and eyes sat in a plain face that was good at blending into the woodwork. I was thin no matter what I ate since I ran so much. My hair was pulled back into a long ponytail as always. Considering John’s first look at me had been one with a black eye and busted lip, I probably had cleaned up a fair bit, even if I never was going to win a beauty contest. I stepped up next to him, leaning on the tree with one shoulder, watching to see how he would react. I try to keep my relationships away from the military but none had managed to last so far. Few men were willing to deal with the constant missions and injuries or the fact that I may only be in town for a few weeks before disappearing on another run that might last months. John was quickly becoming a friend, I was not sure if it should be more then that. I felt attracted to him and maybe him to me but I had no guarantee that he would not stray like all the others when I had to leave. I had never run with a man that was not determined to dominate and prove that he was the stronger runner. They all blazed past and picked a pace that drove me ragged. John never once tried to pass me. He let me pick the pace, the trails, and the times we went out. Once or twice when the trail was wide enough we ran side by side, matching strides till our feet sounded like one hitting the trail. This was the kind of man I could grow to like, more than like, but I was not sure if I wanted to risk the pain that always seemed inevitable. With a sigh I made to move away. John reached out and stopped me with a touch on the shoulder. With a muttered curse he lunged and kissed me awkwardly. I froze for a moment before kissing him back. After we broke apart he stepped back and watched me, waiting. With a crooked grin I leaned in and gave him another kiss. We walked back to the hospital ground with matching silly grins. I knew half the base would know about us by the end of the day but for once that did not bother me. —— I ran behind McCray watching as she pounded down the trail. I had been assigned to watch her after she had suffered seizures from one of the medications she was on. No one seemed to believe that she would be doing more than lying in a bed for several weeks so they discharged her to the barracks with me as a daytime companion. I am sure no one thought she would be at the gym two days later doing light stretches and walking. Now almost a month later everyone had forgotten that I had been assigned to her and I was perfectly fine with it. No one expected a soldier that had shown up at the hospital in a coma to be running trails in the woods a month later. Well not a soldier. She was contracted to the military in some convoluted way. She was technically a civilian and had no rank but I had seen her take several officers and doctors down several grades when they got in her way. I always enjoyed running and having to follow someone who like to spend half a day running trails was all but a godsend. It only helped that she was cute. For a short woman she was all muscle and sleek lines. She did not run as much as float along the trail, more a deer then a woman. For all her fire and determination she had a knack for sliding into the woodwork. I watched her slide out of lunch rooms and dining halls without attracting a single eye. She would disappear for an hour or two and then turn back up at her room. I realized with a jolt that we were almost back to the trail head. Running with her I never wanted to stop. When she broke into a walk to start cooling down I jogged past her and leaned against a tree a few feet away. I had a problem. I did not want to stop talking to her, to not see her every day. I had gotten used to the way she laughed at some horrible joke I told her or shot me that quick quirk of her lips when we were running that said catch me if you can. I wanted to catch her. Catch her and keep her. She stepped up in front of me, waiting for me to break the silence. Instead I reached up an pulled a tendril of brown hair that had stuck to her cheek. We stood just looking at each other for a moment before she shifted closer and leaned sideways against the tree next to me, barely a breath away from touching. I turned till we were face to face again. With a sigh, she made to move away. With a muttered curse I reached out to stop her and gathering my courage, all but lunged in to kiss her. She made a sound of surprise before kissing me back. We both had to look like love struck idiots walking back to base with matching mile wide grins, but I don’t think either of us cared.


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