A/N: Well, hello, faithful readers! *gets hit with rotten tomatoes* *teeters, falls* *gets up determinedly, covered in tomato juice and pulp* Alright, I deserved that. Gracious, I've been ... absent for nearly a whole Year. - that must be a record. Isn't it? I can't promise I won't ever go on hiatus again, but I can, and I will, promise I'll try my best not to.

I recently found out about Project PULL from Bronte (believeinthegods) who is just ... rockin', and I've decided I will join, and therefore hopefully continue to write regularly. -Also, I realized that I write more oneshots/drabbles, and so - to keep from overwhelming the fandom with my rubbish - I've started Breathing Yesterday. Bring on the - er - nauseatingly badly-written - nostalgia. Now: on to the story, before I smother you with my rambling!

Dedication: To you, because every woman's heart is an ocean of secrets, and I hope you find peace within yours.


Breathless

'The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.'

-Oscar Wilde

Has she ever told you she once kissed Luke Castellan?

Of course she hasn't. She never will. You will suspect. You may already suspect. But you will never know for sure.

(You will never know) it was a dreamy September afternoon: one of those lazy Autumn days where Time seems to stop for a while –pauses, her rushed merry-go-round frenzy forgotten – and hangs over the edge of her wheel, to snatch an apple from Yggdrassil, and Summer indolence reigns for a little longer.

He was standing at the edge of the white picket fence that is now yours, his back against the peeling wood, a rare moment of peace, too, in his violent existence. She appeared from the direction of the Big House, a spring in her step (that you will never know), her hair mussed into a casual disarray, her cheeks flushed (blowsy, your mother might've said) from the wind.

(You will never know) his mouth corners curled up into a smile (the kind you only saw once, and never again) and her teeth flashed bright in a carefree grin; her arm came up and waved, once, twice – the energetic gesture of a blithe young woman life has not yet touched with sorrow. He smiled wider (to himself, you might've said), and crossed his arms and slid one ankle over the other in a quick, languid movement you, with your drive and your energy, can only dream of imitating.

(You will never know) she called "Hey!" as soon as she was sure he could hear her, a little breathless, and he told her, "Happy Birthday, Bethy!", his eyes bright. She came to him still smiling, but there was a little crease between her eyebrows when she said, "I'm twelve, today."

"Yes, I know, Bethy," he said, and reached out and ruffled her hair – and she ducked away, laughing.

"So you can stop calling me Bethy now." She hoisted herself onto the fence and sat leaning against the fence-post, one browned leg swinging back and forth, the other brought up against her chest. (You will never know) the sun crowned her queen, and the wind paid her homage, and her golden hair shone, her face aglow with intelligence and anticipation and the dreams only youth can have.

She is not a woman. Not yet.

But (you will never know) all that crossed his mind in that instant was that she was no longer a little girl, either.

"Alright," he said, "Happy Birthday, Annabeth." And he smiled at her – the special smile that was hers and hers alone – but today, there was a twinkle in his eye that she had never seen before.

(And you will never know how her heart sped up under that smile and the color rushed to her cheeks, soft rose infusing the brown – and her eyelashes dropped over her smile, breathless.)

(And you will never know) that he wondered: is this self-assured young woman the little girl who'd clung to his fingers so tightly? –and he'd reached out and taken her hand, softly, gently, as if to reassure himself that she was still his Bethy, despite her protests otherwise.

(You will never know how the touch of his hand on hers gave her butterflies, when it had been so natural before.)

And she took her hand away and made a show of smoothing back her wind-tossed hair and he said, "Remember I used to tickle you breathless?"

She grinned. "I'm not ticklish anymore, you know."

"Are you entirely sure about that?" And his eyes narrowed mischievously and he reached out and poked that spot on her ribs and presently she gave up trying not to laugh and screamed – and soon they were on the grass and she was desperately trying to avoid his (long, able) fingers, laughing, breathless.

(And you will never know) when they were exhausted they lay side by side on their backs, his head turned towards the bright azure sky and hers turned toward his: her eyes roving (hesitantly at first, you would have noticed) over the (lean, strong) length of his form – and the sun laughed down at them, and a bird twittered as it swooped up into the heavens.

"Do you remember? You used to be small enough for me to hold," he said. "I used to carry you around everywhere."

She blushed and turned her face away and contemplated the wide blue expanse above them and tried to ignore the fact that his hand was right there

"When you'd lift me," she said, "I'd put my arms around your neck and kiss your nose."

(And you will never know how her breathing was erratic and her heart beat breathless.)

- and then his hand found hers and he lifted her small fingers in his long ones, and little flowers of heat bloomed against her skin where his brushed hers. The afternoon sunlight shone translucent through their entwined hands and the warmth soothed her breathless.

(You will never know how) he said, "Yes, I do," easily, softly, "do you remember when you stopped?", and he turned his head glinting gold (just like hers) to look at her and she shrugged, as if it were a throwaway comment, a question of no importance,

"No," she said. "I suppose I just got older and stopped. I never thought about it."

"Annabeth."

(You will never know that, when he said her name, she felt as though a shaft of sunlight had broken over her.)

"Yes, Luke?"

He grinned at her, an easy open smile (that you only saw once, and never again). "One last time? For old time's sake?" And she laughed a little,

"Alright," and he held out his arms and pulled her close, and

(You will never know) she meant to lean forward and press a kiss to the tip of his nose but he tilted his chin and kissed her full on the mouth and then she was falling-falling-falling, (completely breathless), her arms around his neck and his hand behind the back of her head.

"I wanted to know what that felt like," he had said against her lips and she had smiled,

"Me too," and he'd put her away gently.

(And you will never know how the sad-pained-haunted look on his face had knocked the breath back into her body.)

His eyes studied her carefully (as she had before), as if he were trying to memorize her features, and then he'd pressed a kiss to her forehead and stood. In the distance, the horn sounded for dinner, a long low blast, because Time never truly stands still.

"C'mon, Princess," and she'd taken his hand and walked with him to the dining pavilion.

(You will never know how she looked to catch his eye afterward and blushed, and her heart beat breathless.)

(You will never know, when he asked her if she had loved him, and she had said no, it had broken her heart, and shattered what was left of his.)

(You will suspect. But you will never know for sure.)


A/N: Completed for Bookaholic711's Project PULL. Now ...drop us a line! A thought, a rant, a ramble, CC, whatever!