Chapter 35 - "She knows, Jay."

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Carter twisted in her bed to reach her phone. She winced at the light as she looked at the time. The room was still draped in darkness. The first rays of the sun had barely peaked over the horizon and were lost among the apartment buildings. She rubbed her eyes, pushing away the last of her sleep. With a yawn, she tossed aside the covers and set her feet on the cold, wood floor. The apartment was silent.

She waited. Waited for the telltale signs of her father moving about, preparing for the day. When nothing moved, nothing even breathed a sound, she stood and moved to her closet. She pulled out her workout clothes and quickly changed. As she did she kept her ear tuned to any hint of her father being awake.

By the time she was ready, the state of the apartment hadn't changed. Pulling her hair into a ponytail, she walked down the hallway to her father's door. She gave a quiet knock and then opened it. Her father sat on the side of the bed, leaning over his knees. He stared out the window. Crossing her arms, Carter leaned on the doorframe.

"Come on old man, we have a run ahead of us," she said.

Her father looked down at his clasped hands.  "I'm going to skip the run today."

Carter waited for her nickname, but he never said it. She took a step into the room.

"What's wrong, Captain? You no longer have your sling, let's celebrate with a run." 

She came around the bed and looked at him. He didn't stand up but he straightened and looked her. For a breath is seemed he would say the thing that had been building a wall between them. But the moment passed and he gave her a fading smile. 

"Not today, Sarge." He stood. "You'll have to go without me."

As he walked past her, Carter felt like stopping him. Reaching for him and asking him what was going on. But she didn't say anything. She didn't move. He left the room, leaving Carter in a storm of questions. Suddenly feeling trapped by her own thoughts, she bolted from the apartment.

The metal staircase was slick with morning fog. All around her apartments lay quiet, their occupants still tucked into beds and in dreams. The air was cold but she wasn't aware of it. She clambered down the stairs and started running the minute she hit the pavement. The sky was still dark, although streaks of lights were beginning to make themselves seen. Streetlights were still on as she took to the sidewalk.

When her muscles had shaken off the last stiffness of sleep, she ran faster. Her footsteps pounded away on the pavement, her thoughts chasing after her. Her mind raced alongside her, things she couldn't make sense of the shadow behind her.

Mist hit her face and got stuck in her hair. Car lights flashes by, as their tires ran through shallow puddles. As she ran she forced everything out. She focused on the even rhythm of her breathing. The steady beat of her shoes on the pavement. The thump of her necklace as it bounced off her chest.

The world shifted around her. Faint sunlight began to burn away the mist. More cars took to the street. Apartment buildings shifted to store fronts. Then Georgetown itself drifted away as she moved towards the center of D.C. The streets were steadily busier the closer she got to the Mall.

Sweat had just begun to gather on her forehead as she crossed the street and headed towards the Lincoln memorial. It wasn't until she was doing a lap around the Reflecting Pool she became aware of her surroundings. Aware of the fact that it was the same route she always took with her father. The Mall was mainly empty, even the most avid tourist not up so early. The only people there were joggers and cyclists.

Her body was reaching the peak of its energy as she rounded the narrow pool. She came face to face with the empty Lincoln memorial steps, the towering white marble, columned building, and started sprinting. She raced down the stretch of water, beating away the fatigue she could feel coming on. She pelted towards two men running, giving them a short, 'on your left' signal before bolting past them. Reaching the stairs, she ran up them, taking the two at time. She pushed away the weariness in her muscles, relishing in the one thing she could control.

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