Author's Notes – Confined in bed with a sprained ankle, this random idea sprung out of sheer boredom as is usually the case with most of my fics . The outcome was that, when I saw a rose, an ordinary rose, mind you, I thought of this. Enjoy and please review!

Withered Rose

By Nymph of the Night

Wind howled as an anguished animal through the dead of the night as the dense forest was momentarily lit was a flash of brilliant lightning. Rain poured in torrents, soaking everything in sight save for a small niche lying at the edge of the wood. It stood as though sheltered by an invisible shield – calm, dry and pleasant, oblivious to the disturbances of the outside world.

It was in a secluded corner at the edge of this untouched expanse, that a thin figure dressed in a silvery jacket and torn jeans sat huddled in a morose heap, her head bent as she stared at the pale of her palm, her breath slow and ragged. There, on her palm lay a single rose, it's lacklustre petals withered and stem dull and lifeless. A lone tear rolled down her cheek and onto the withered rose as she closed her fist around it's thorny stem tightly, drawing blood from her palm and then, she opened it again, unmindful of the sharp stinging pain in her hand. For her, the physical pain seemed trivial before the extent of mental agony she had endured in life.

The rose, she reflected bitterly, as the blood seeped through the cuts. Symbol of love. It's stem was now encrusted with the blood from her wounds and it's petals seemed ironically redder and gaining in lustre, somehow. It's sudden brilliance was lost on her, however as she shut her eyes and envisaged his breath on her face, the day the rose had been gifted to her …

Annabeth Chase had fallen asleep, her seven year old form curled by the blazing fire for warmth. Thalia watched dispassionately from the rock on which she was seated as Luke covered the young blonde's legs with a thin sheet and ruffled her curly blonde hair lovingly. Then, he turned back, a smile etched on his face.

"Wipe that smirk off your face, Castellan," she snapped irately, as the grin showed no sign of vanishing.

"Oh, Castellan now, is it?" he questioned rhetorically, sitting down beside her; far too close, but Thalia was so wrapped up in herself that she failed to notice the propinquity between them. She settled herself more comfortably on the rock and haughtily refused to answer him, choosing to stare at the empty black sky instead.

"You're angry, aren't you?" he taunted, putting his arm on her shoulder gently and brushing her neck. She flinched at the tenderness of his touch, but her superciliousness overrode her desire to run and she kept her position. "Because I forgot your birthday?"

The jeer in his voice was replaced by a huskier, desirous tone and Thalia instinctively looked back at him, his eyes bore into hers for what seemed like eternity. Then, her breath caught in her throat as he closed the distance between them, amorously brushing her lips, and as if on cue, she deepened the kiss, wrapping her arms around his neck tightly as he pulled her face closer and ran his fingers affectionately through her jet black hair.

They broke apart when the urge to breathe finally overawed them, and a deep silence followed as they stared unsurely into each others eyes, both flickering with desire.

"That was … nice," Thalia said, very cautiously breaking the noiseless spell.

Luke laughed softly and somehow, the tension in the air seemed to dissipate at once with the sound of his carefree, amused chortle. "There's still more, you know." He breathed softly, pulling out a single blossom of a blood red rose and resting it in her outstretched palm.

She gasped, her intense blue eyes dancing with wonder. "An Amor Rosa!"

Luke smiled slowly, his own eyes now sparkling with an intensity she had neither seen nor appreciated before. "The Rose of Love. Nurtured by Demeter and kissed by Aphrodite herself…"

"…and blooms with the blood of those in love," she finished, looking deeply touched by the gesture. "You didn't …"

He held out his hand and she noticed the half healed wounds where the thorns of the rose had cut into his skin.

Overcome by love, she moved closer and over that single scarlet bloom of rose, their lips met again.

The emotions held back for so long, suddenly surged forth and she broke into wild, grief-stricken sobs, tears smudging the thick eyeliner and forming two, intimidating black lines down her pale cheeks. In contrast, the rose that lay in her palm bloomed more dazzlingly than ever, it's petals now glowing a iridescent hue of scarlet, it's stem, a poisonous green, silently speaking of a love that continued to live, a deep passion that was forbidden and yet survived despite the odds. It spoke of an ardour that impalpably tied two souls together, a love that ignited the very essence and braced them for darker days. It told of a love that lived, unallowed, yet unchecked; impossible, yet true.

And as the birds of dawn called to their mates and the radiant daylight engulfed the stormy night, Thalia bitterly wiped away those forbidden tears with a careless hand, as the rose, preserved by such vestiges of unfulfilled love and passion, was tucked into the pocket of her jacket once more, for another night of painful reminiscences.

The End

Copyright 2008.

Love to know what you think! Reviewers will get hugs from the pretty Annabeth and the hot Apollo! (okay, if I knew how to get hugs from them in the first place…)