Semper Mine (Chapter Eight: Katya, page 1 of 6)

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Have I ever voluntarily been up this early? I stayed up with Petr for days straight in the hospital, but this is different. This is camp. I need coffee and a hot shower before I'm ready to start my day. I'm not sure why I'm staggering around the room getting dressed as quickly as possible. I'd like to think it's because the kids might need me.

But I'm pretty sure it's because my sleepy mind is listening to Captain Mathis' curt order.

With a sigh, I sweep my hair up into a ponytail and walk through the dorm, emerging into a chilly morning. In shorts and a long sleeve t-shirt, I'm shivering by the time I make it to the place he calls the pit.

The kids are doing laps. I slow and stare, surprised to see them running around the pit while Captain Mathis stands with someone else in the center. He's dressed similarly in short shorts that reveal the long, thick thighs of a swimmer.

He had to have nice thighs.

More irritated at him, I fold my arms across my chest and approach. The easy smile on his face fades when he catches sight of me. I can almost see him tense. The woman with him, who I recognize from yesterday, turns to face me.

"Good morning," Captain Harper says with a smile. Perky and alert, she looks the opposite of how I feel.

"Morning," I respond.

"Now that your partner's here, I'll take off," she says to Captain Mathis. "Have fun!"

She leaves, taking with her the cheerful atmosphere.

Captain Mathis and I gaze at each other.

"Five o'clock," he begins.

"If you have coffee ready at that hour, I'll consider it."

His jaw clenches. "Do you have any self-defense training?"

"No. Baba said that's why I had two brothers."

"Everyone should know something," Captain Mathis replies. "I know you can slap. Punch?"

I almost smile but shake my head.

"This will be interesting," he states and beckons me towards him. "I want to teach the kids some basics."

"Train them to kill young?" I ask, glaring at him.

Captain Mathis watches the running kids. "Train them to take care of themselves. A sense of vulnerability often comes with the death of a loved one. It might help build confidence and …" He faces me and stops.

The awkward silence is heavy. I'm trying to keep my face expressionless, but not emoting is not my forte. It's too early to hide the pain I feel at the reminder. Captain Mathis searches my face briefly with his brown eyes then takes a step towards me.

It's hard for me not to want to scream every time we stumble on even the most innocent inference to Mikael's death. I can't forget that my brother isn't coming home because of the man standing in front of me.

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