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They Lied About Oxygen

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Right behind the fine bone of Rachel's jaw, underneath her ear, usually hidden by her loose corkscrews of hair, there's this spot of skin, soft to the touch, a light brush of fuzz like the flesh of a peach. Rachel always smells the strongest right there, something sharp and woodsy, like cedarwood and myrrh, from where she dabs her perfume on like a man's cologne.

When she's bored, or has a free hand, or thinks about it, or sees it, or generally is just kind of in a four-foot radius of her, Annabeth likes to crowd in close; brush back the curtain of Rachel's frothy red hair and press her mouth to that spot. Rachel laughs, her pulse a warm beat against Annabeth's lips, her body turned towards her like muscle memory, like a plant arching towards sunlight. Annabeth likes the way that scent floods her nose, so she can't think or breathe anything else but Rachel.

"I like your mouth," Rachel says to her once upon a time, voice low, contemplative. She tilts Annabeth's chin up, thumb curving over the shape of her bottom lip, glossy wet and full. "I don't have much of an eye for architecture, but the shape of it --" a swipe, and Annabeth's mouth falls open, pressing into the touch. "The way it's almost too big for the rest of your face.... this mouth is a masterpiece. My favorite part, though, is when I've got mine on it." And she leans the rest of the way in.

And. Well. Never let it be said that Annabeth doesn't rise to a challenge when it's presented.

Simple fact of living in two separate worlds, they don't get to spend a lot of time together, between camp and school and evil slimy monsters trying to munch on small demigod children. So they make time, in and around everything else, moments caught with their fingers tangled together and backs pressed into shadows, moments stolen from the flow of everything else, just for them.

It feels like whenever they're anywhere near each other, it's all Annabeth can think about, like their mouths are the polar ends of magnets. Rachel's laugh, her glib comments, even something as simple as her saying "thank you" to the cashier at the convenience store when she gets her change back, and Annabeth wants to swallow it away, wants her lips spread open and her words helpless and suffocated, thinks her knees will knock from wanting it so bad.

Rachel doesn't taste like much of anything -- like salad dressing, if she's been munching on some of her cheap hippie vegetarian stuff recently, or sharp like the mint of her toothpaste, or plastic like lipstick if she's got one of her dad's social events later -- mostly, though, she just tastes wet, like the air in spring when it's about to rain.

Annabeth kisses Rachel as early in the morning as she can get away with, using her invisibility cap to sneak onto the Dare estate and climb in through Rachel's bedroom window. Rachel is a languid, drowsy weight in the covers, her limbs sleep-smooth and warm and her bed a nest of blankets that Annabeth burrows into, tilting Rachel's mouth up to hers and kissing it into wakefulness, Rachel mumbling and confused beneath her, reaching out with clumsy, sleep-hot hands to pull Annabeth down, wrapping them up in each other.

She kisses Rachel when it's awkward and their bodies aren't angled right: leaning over the console in the front seat of the car, her forehead bumping Rachel's engineer cap and knocking it off, catching the wrong end of a giggle and licking her teeth on accident; twisting around in chairs at the back of a conference hall where no one can see them, Rachel muttering, "oh, hey, watch it, you just elbowed my boob;" stretching out and hovering over the island in the kitchen while Rachel whisks something in a bowl, getting streaks of cake batter on the front of her shirt. It's silly, how undignified they make each other, and all of this is wonderful, too.

She kisses Rachel when she doesn't want to be kissed, coming up behind her when she's sitting at an easel, or on the couch with her legs tucked up under her and a sketchbook in her lap, and leaning against her, comfortable with familiarity. Rachel hates it when her concentration's broken, so Annabeth starts slow; fingertips tracing the shell of her ear, back curving down so she can mouth slowly, without urgency, at the back of her neck, angling her head around to suck a slow mark to where her neck meets her shoulder. She hums with pleasure in the back of her throat, tongue flicking out to lick at the marks. Until Rachel finally snaps, turns around, grabs her face between her hands and crushes their mouths together with a frustrated noise. Her fingers leave streaks of paint and charcoal in her hair and across her cheekbones, in patterns like handprints, like anyone who sees her can identify whose hands have been all over her by the shapes they leave. Annabeth doesn't mind this; it feels like she has Rachel's fingerprints all over her, burned into her skin, so that if she's ever cut open, it'll be right there, a mark of ownership for all to see. She smiles at this thought, pulls Rachel closer with a hand in the small of her back, lifts her head to give a quick kiss to the tip of Rachel's nose, her eyelid, anywhere she wants, silly and stupid and unselfconsciously affectionate as only girls can be.

She kisses Rachel when Percy is just a few feet away, pulling strands of messy long hair loose when they get caught in between their mouths, giggling quietly, and Percy makes noises somewhere between "what" and "nnhnnn" and "that is so not fair." It is, without a doubt, absolutely hilarious.

And also. Also. That time, just the once, when Rachel is rigid and shaking, her head thrown back and her eyes brilliant, blinding yellow-white like staring right into the sun. She mumbles, head twitching back and forth like she's in pain, and Annabeth doesn't know what to do. Can't do anything but just sit here and hold her, press light, reassuring kisses to her cold cheek, her forehead, stroke her hair back and listen to the Oracle deliver prophecies on the fates of people she'll never know, and wait for Rachel to come back.

It goes the other way, too. Like that time, her senior year of high school, when she's giving a presentation in her American history class on the influence of Greek architecture on buildings in the capital city (that may or may not have anything to do with the topic they were supposed to be giving a speech on) when the class's attention shifts, and someone stifles a giggle, and Annabeth whips around -- there's Rachel, party hat perched jauntily on her head. "What are you --" Annabeth starts, because Rachel's supposed to be in that dumb school in Pennsylvania, isn't supposed to be here in San Francisco, but Rachel cuts her off with a scoff, going, "Oh, please, like I was going to miss your birthday. Bitch, I'm Rachel Elisabeth Dare, I go where I want." And grabs her around the waist, pressing her back into the podium and kissing her mouth open, stealing whatever remark she was going to make about the marble columns of the late Roman Republic. Technically, Annabeth was supposed to fail that presentation, considering she never actually finished it, but apparently exceptions are made for lesbians on their birthdays when they make out in front of a class of high school seniors.

Rachel kisses Annabeth when she's being shy, putting her mouth to all the places she knows Annabeth doesn't want her to: her lower belly, where it extends over the hem of her jeans and Annabeth's too busy denying this to go up a pant size; the thin white scar underneath her last rib where Ethan Nakamura missed her heart by that much; the nubbly little bumps of dry skin all up her back. Rachel kisses her everywhere like she can't not, her hips and her knuckles and the foamy underside of her bra, until Annabeth is breathless from it, like she's been plunged deep under the surface of Rachel's blind adoration, all the air just sucked right out of her.

Rachel kisses Annabeth when she's fresh from a fight, her eyes big and black and dilated, only the faintest rim of silver around her pupils like the moon eclipsed, her mouth open and wet, panting with adrenaline. She bitches, "you're not supposed to be here" and "just because you can see through the Mist doesn't mean you need to go looking for fights, what if I'm not with you next time," and Rachel ignores her because talk is cheap, just wrestles her against the nearest hard surface and cards her hands through her hair and bites at her mouth, until the bruises left by the empousi or the hellhounds or the whatever are replaced, painted over with the imprint of her kisses.

And other times, when Annabeth is truly injured, staring at a spike or a spear or a sword or something sharp and pointy sticking out of somewhere vital, and she lies there with her mouth shock-white, Rachel on one side and Percy on the other, one there by vision and the other by instinct, and Rachel can do nothing but kiss her fingertips, light butterfly pressure, and pray to every god she knows -- Greek ones, Egyptian ones, Christian and Hindu and even the Native American ones she can barely remember, on the hope that one of them will take pity on her, one of them will save this girl, because she is too amazing, too brave and wonderful for any of them to let her die.

But then there are the times -- and these are the best of all -- when they have nowhere particular to be, nothing particular to do, when it's just them and Annabeth kisses Rachel or Rachel kisses Annabeth, it doesn't matter. They pull at each other's clothes, their feet tangling when they head in one direction and then stumble in another, no purpose, no hurry, just pressing their mouths together, licking at corners and nibbling at the bows of lower lips, no sound except for the soft, wet, animal noises their mouths make while sucking at each other. They can do this forever, they think, just kiss and kiss and never leave, and this will be their shining golden memory of each other; the expressions in their faces when they turn around, murmuring, one more, just one more, I like this mouth, I like this mouth so much, I like you, I like you more than I know how to say, just one more kiss, okay, another, another, maybe just another one, until their mouths are burning, until they taste the same, until they forget how to breathe unless it's each other.