When they started running together, Allison could—no pun intended—run circles around Walsh. She'd run her whole life, from the moment she could walk, according to her mother. She'd gone to college on a track and field scholarship, had upped her game to half-marathons when she'd begun attending the Academy. It had always been her go-to for getting away: getting out of her crowded apartment as a kid, out of her dorm room with her roommate who hadn't learned how to do laundry, out of her head any time she needed.
She didn't slow down for Walsh. He could either keep up, or meet up with her when they were done. The first few times she expected him to be like any other male running partner she'd picked up—and discarded—throughout the rest of her life: to pretend to be unbothered in the early runs, and then get passive aggressive about it, make comments about 'running like a girl,' whatever.
Months in, when it was simply their preferred way to wake up before a day at work, he finally said, "Fuck, I love that view," as she pulled out ahead of him, but there was laughter in his voice, sincerity. She turned her head to stick her tongue out at him and then looked ahead to keep on running.
She missed the whip-rush of the wind, though. She missed the way her mind could go silent, feel clear and clean right as she hit her stride. She even missed the pounding of her heart and the pain in her calves.
Walsh usually tried to sneak out in his running clothes before she woke, but now and then she'd surface to see him tying his shoes and it was all she could do not to throw something at him. It didn't help that he always looked apologetic. It wasn't his fault.
He said, "I missed you."
She said, "I missed this."
He nodded. "I know."
He pulled her into the shower afterward and she laughed. "This is what you missed, huh?"
He made all the appropriate noises, but she could still hear the tread of his feet next to hers on the pavement, slow and steady.
She laughed and sprinted out ahead.