AN: Slightly revamped, based on the advice of Yoka (yay for Yoka!). Just some syntax changes. Still an experiment in style. Am debating whether or not to try something in a similar vein with other characters, but don't really know where to start with that. In the meantime, there is this, at least.


Take a deep breath before you read it. Savor the smell of the room, the sounds of the world around you.

Now forget them.

There are moments in life that are so simple, so profound, that they burn themselves into our minds forever. We could be one hundred years old, blind, deaf, and drooling, and still we would see that image before us, as perfect and clean and bright as when we stood in it ourselves.

If I possessed even a shred of artistic talent, if I could put pencil to paper and produce something that was even vaguely recognizable as the object which I wished to create, there is a specific moment I would try to draw for you. And even if I had the skill of the great masters, I would never finish that drawing, because it would never be good enough, never be true enough.

But since I am not an artist, but am only a simple writer grasping at the illusive face of perfection, I will still try to paint that picture for you the only way I know how – with words.

Imagine, then, the edge of a forest, with tall, looming trees that press together and whisper to each other in the wind. Stand with your back to those trees, listening to their secrets and smelling the heavy perfume of growing leaves and damp earth. In front of you, the landscape changes abruptly into a sweeping grassy field that stretches on and on until, far away at the edge of the horizon, you can see the grass fade gently into small, pale dunes. The wind pushes restlessly against your back, carrying with it the last faint chill of night. Overhead, the sky is slowly turning grey as it transitions smoothly from the darkness to the light. It has been a dark night; it will be a bright day.

But it is not morning, yet.

The world is growing, reaching, reviving, and you are frozen in that moment between sleep and waking, when the restless nightmares and hopeless dreams of midnight are still tangible but falling further back into a place you can't really remember. It is the moment between the deep breath and long sigh, the instant when you could breathe out or you could hold it in but you haven't decided which yet because you haven't even realized that the choice is there. That moment.

He is there before you, as barren and flat as the hints of the desert far on the horizon, arms crossed and chin lowered. His mouth is twisted in what could be anger, could be contempt, might be fear, is probably all of these things and confusion to boot. Shocking red hair rustles slightly in the breeze, and the dim grey light turns it the harsher shades of rust, or blood. His shoulders are slumped slightly, and you can't tell if it's the weight of the gourd or something infinitely heavier that is bearing down on him. His pale eyes take on a strange yellow-green cast in the last few shadows of the night, and there is something in them you do not expect. It might be hatred. It might be hope. You don't know, though, because he does not look at you. He can't see you, probably can't see anything at all because those unreadable eyes are focused wholly on the girl directly in front of him.

Because she is there too, face turned up to look at him. Her pale pink hair and vibrant green eyes are like a softer version of his coloring. She is young - they both are - but her eyes are older than her body. She is old with knowledge, she is old with loss, she is old with pain. And yet still young. Still happy. Still peaceful and calm and pleasant.

On her lips is a smile, a soft little smile that the great masters themselves couldn't paint, though one of them came close, once.

Her face is turned to the east, towards where the sun will shortly rise in all it's morning glory. You can see in her face that perhaps she is hoping that (just this once) it won't rise because that would break this moment, make that choice between breathing and not breathing. She doesn't want that choice to be made just yet, and, to your surprise, neither do you.

Her hand is touching his cheek, three small fingertips hovering lightly against the unmarked skin just under his left eye. Her other hand is suspended between them, halfway between her body and his. It's turned up, palm to the morning-grey sky, fingers half curled loosely.

He's looking at her face, but you can tell that he knows that hand is there, and he knows what it is offering.

And you wonder. . . will he take it? Will he reach out, and press his own hardened palm against those delicate fingers? In this one moment - caught between night and day, between waking and sleeping, between desert and forest - the paths are infinite and the choices all too clear. In this moment, everything that they are and have been and will someday become is hanging between them, hanging on the most basic choice that any human being has ever had to make: to breathe.

Will they hold their breath? Will they exhale?

Will you?