Running always felt so good, it was when I felt the most alive. The wind through my hair, the ground passing under my feet, the throbbing pound of my blood through my veins. It was exhilarating. I ran alone, but most often, I ran with Erik by my side. The only sounds the thud thud thud of our foot falls as we moved. It was play, it was work, it was freedom, pure and simple. When he ran with me, I always felt more aware, more at peace. My world was never right without him by my side. It had been that way as long as I could remember.
My first memory was of him. It is one of those hazy foggy memories where only a thing here and there was truly remembered. Well, I remembered him. We were in the grass, maybe three years old, playing something. The clearest part, though, was the scent that was purely him. I know he was around before that memory, because I already knew that scent as well as I knew my parents’. He was my rock, my other half.
I stole a glance at him as we ran through the trees, took no more than a heartbeat to admire his lean long frame as his muscles worked to keep up with me. He was still somewhat in that awkward phase, still growing into his towering height, but no longer all knees and elbows. He would be a gorgeous specimen when he filled out a bit more, something no amount of weight training had managed so far, much to his chagrin.
I, on the other hand, was tiny. I claimed five feet, but some days that was debatable. It never seemed to matter that I was half his height, as he liked to put it, I always could outrun him. It was one of my gifts. I was quick, supernaturally fast and more agile than a cat. I might not be stunning, I might not be tall, I might not have the body of a goddess, but I was faster than any human, and most of my own species. I suppose there was a trade off there somewhere, but I didn’t know yet if it was good or bad. My mother claimed I would grow into a beauty. I truly didn’t care.
We darted through the trees like the hounds of hell were on our heels. I went one way around a clump of trees and brush, he went the other. It was just the opening I’d been looking for. I skidded around the grouping, dropped into a low crouch and sprung, flinging myself at open air that I knew would be filled with a warm body before I hit the ground. I was right, my small frame collided with my target, sending us both tumbling. For once, I’d caught him unaware with my sneak attack. “Ha! Gotcha!” I rolled to my feet like a gymnast, crowing in triumph while my victim still flailed in shock.
Soon enough, he was on his feet, launching himself at me with a playful growl and a gleam in his hazel eyes. “Ah, but for how long?” As always seemed to happen, his velvety voice sent a tingle down my spine even as I evaded him with liquid grace. It was like a dance, lunge and perry and skipping away. The same kind of lethal play young wolves engage in.
He reached for me again, the sparkling light dripping around us just enough to be a distraction. I stepped back, then ran up the tree to one side of him, using his own shoulders to vault over him and begin the chase once more. This time I was going to make him work for it.
I sprinted full out, letting my laugh trail behind me on labored breath. I could actually feel him breathing down my neck, growls tickling my ears as I dodged and weaved around trees and bushes, jumping or scrambling over obstacles, ducking under low hanging branches. The forest wasn’t easy going, but I knew it as well as I knew my own bedroom. It was a noisy chase, at least by our standards, neither of us wasting time or effort in hiding the sounds of our play.
I began to tire well before he did, my movements weren’t as precise, losing their grace as I fumbled for hand holds and vaults. I knew he was gaining on me, I could hear the change from good natured frustration to the knowledge victory was within reach. All it took was a slight miscalculation, one slight misstep. I was climbing a fallen log, my foot slipping just enough to slow me by a second, then a hand wrapped around my ankle and pulling. I tried to keep going, but my momentum was lost with my foothold. I squealed on the way down, my palms scraping along the bark in an instinctive reaction to falling.
I never got to hit the ground though. Strong arms wrapped around me, Erik plucked me from the log and gathered me to his heaving chest. He was more out of breath than I was, despite his greater stamina, not even the breath to chuckle as he settled us both onto the ground. “Gotcha, Kitten.” I just smiled and tucked myself under his chin, my favorite place in the whole world. I would let him have his victory.