It had been three weeks, Will thought to himself, as he sat on the bench at the Botanic Gardens and sobbed in anguish. The sun was setting now; he wondered if it would ever come up again.

"Will?" he heard. "I know you're there, Will. Please listen to me." It was his daemon, Kirjava, who was as much a part of him as he knew Lyra was.

"Will..." Kirjava began as she jumped up on the bench next to him. Will stared at the pieces of the knife, clutched in his hand, not even turning to see his daemon. "Will, listen to me. It had to be done. Lyra, the knife, they were your temptations. You passed, Will. You succeeded. Life will flo-"

"This is a wicked reward for succeeding, Kir." Will interrupted. "I can't go on without...without her. Every day, Kir. Every day is like watching her fall again into the abyss in the land of the dead. I can't keep going without her."

Kirjava hissed. "That's what I need to tell you! There's a way, Will. Because you and Lyra overcame the temptation, there's a way. You can get to her again!"

"What? How?" It seemed too good to be true for Will, but he was so desperate that he would cling to anything.

"Mary had built that machine before. The one that could talk to the Dust, remember? Build it again, Will. You and Mary. Ask the Dust how. You brought them back to the world again, they will grant you this desire."

Will wiped the tears away from his eyes, hope shining within them. "Oh, Kir...it's so much to hope for. I'll throw my every waking moment into it. It could take time, though."

"Everything takes time, Will."

"Do you think she'll still love me when we see each other again, Kir?" Will asked.

"You already know the answer to that, Will."

- -

It had been three years since that fateful day, that horrible, dreadful day. But today would be different, Will knew, and the thought made him shudder with anticipation. He had thrown himself full-force into his studies with Mary. She had made the machine to read the Dust before, so they could create it again, and with that he would know the way. He had to, he thought...to think otherwise was to give in to the deepest despair.

That day that he had left Lyra, it felt like half his soul was being rended from him. Shuddering at the thought, he knew that it was like that time when he had to leave his daemon behind in the world of the dead. He could not go on living that way.

It had taken three years, but Will had barely noticed. He had grown up, for the most part, had gone through full puberty, with the normal things and hormones that happen in such, but none of that mattered to him. He only had eyes for one. He would only ever have eyes for one; throughout those three years he had a singular purpose, there was only one thing that mattered to him anymore. And now, today, he knew that he would see her again, feel her again, be with her again. He sat down on the bench at the Botanic Gardens, where he knew she would be. Kirjava was quiet, understanding; she felt the same way. Will prepared himself; he would be in her arms soon. Lyra. His Lyra.

- -

Lyra's heart fluttered in her chest as she walked the steps to the Botanic Gardens. It had been three years, three achingly long years, but now was the time. She had thrown herself into her studies, to be able to read the alethiometer again, to learn the answer to the one question, the sole question that she cared about, the sole reason she lived: to feel Will again. It was her sole passion, the only reason she had kept on living. And now, three years later, she knew.

She sat on the bench at the Botanic Gardens, knowing he would be there as she would. Pan sat next to her, and she knew that Pan was anticipating this as much as she was. After all, her daemon was in love as well. Lyra prepared herself; she would be in his arms soon. She would be complete once more. Will. Her Will.

- -

They both felt it at the same time, but it was Will who felt himself fade from existence. Then he felt himself fade back in, on the same seat...but it was different. He saw her, next to him, fifteen and the true love and light of his life and his only reason for continuing to live: Lyra. Without a second thought he threw himself into her arms, tackling them both to the ground, kissing her intensely, feeling exactly what he had missed in the past three years, and she the same. Tears ran down their faces as they kissed and panted for breath. Minutes later (or was it hours? Will couldn't tell) they paused, panting loudly, intensely staring at each other, drinking in the sight of each other like a parched man drinks water.

It was Lyra who spoke first. "Will! Oh, light...Will! My love, I've missed you, I've missed..." She could not go on, the intensity of the feelings were too much; tears poured down her face and she spoke incoherently before giving up speaking altogether.

"Lyra..." he whispered. "Lyra. My love. For three long years I've worked and toiled endlessly to find the answer, the answer to bring me to you. Know that without you I would die, just like my father did by spending too long in this world. I know this for certain. I love you, Lyra. Three years I was unable to hold you and say those words. Lyra, I love you." He said no more, but instead buried his face in her shoulder, and she in his, and they silently wept.

How long they stayed that way, neither could tell, but afterward Lyra spoke again. "Oh, Will...I did the same. I spent three years, I could think of nothing else. I spent three years learning to read it again, the alethiometer. And I did it because that was how I could keep on living. I had but one question to ask it; how I could find and get to you again. I knew without you I would die, I would slowly waste away into nothingness. Here we are again now; I don't even care about the alethiometer anymore, there is nothing I could ever ask it more important than this. Oh Will..." With that she could go on no longer because he lowered his mouth to hers again, silencing her with a fierce kiss, a kiss that spoke of years of lost and lonely passion.

Some time later they pulled away again, breathless. This time it was Lyra who spoke first. "Now...now we will never be separated again. Like daemons to their humans, we will never be separated. My love! I will always be with you! Three years, Will, but what are three years to our love?" Her eyes blazed with intense passion.

"I will always be by your side." Will agreed, still breathless from the kiss. "We may travel different places, but never alone. We will always be as one. Nothing will ever take that from us now. Every day," he went on, "every day was like seeing you fall into the abyss in the land of the dead. But now, I will never let a day go by where I do not tell you I love you."

Sobbing with joy, she buried her face into his neck. They lay there, then, cuddled up with each other by the flowers on the ground next to the bench. They said nothing for a long time; they simply basked in the magnificent feeling of being together at last, with the peace occasionally broken by fierce kisses. After a long while, Will spoke. "We will build it, together. We will build-"

"The Republic of Heaven." Lyra finished for him. "Together, with our love." She breathed. "We will build it." Then they kissed again, the world vanishing from their view. The only thing that each could see was their other.

- -

Looking down from a distance, Serafina Pekkala unabashedly let the tears flood down across her face from her eyes. It was done at last, she thought. At last. The moment had been so painful for her, she had felt as if her heart would rip free of her chest and turn to dust as she had told Mary and the daemons of the two children what they would need to do. It had been necessary, of course. They had to be tempted, and they had to overcome it, and overcome it they had with their tearful, heart-destroying separation three years before. And now, as a reward for overcoming such temptation, as a reward for doing the right thing and letting life and Dust once again come back into the world, they had found the answer they had both desperately longed for, hoped for, -needed- as surely as she needed air and water to survive.

Now they were together and she knew, as surely as she knew that she had loved Farder Coram, that they would never again be separated. When the planets would stop moving, and time cease to flow, and the stars fall apart, they would be by the other's side. The love in them was unmatched by any; their love for each other burned like the sun. It was almost tangible, she could see it around them like Dust. With that love they would rebuild it, she knew. They would create the new kingdom of heaven.

It might seem strange to someone else, Serafina thought, that such love and devotion could be held by two so young. She knew better, though. They had both experienced a lifetime in a short while, and some of those experiences you just couldn't share without falling in that kind of love. They had held that love and devotion on that day they shared their first kiss, and nothing could ever come between that.

With these thoughts in mind, she turned and flew off into the sky. She knew at once where she was going; she headed to where she had last seen Farder Coram. It was a time for happiness.

- -

Will held Lyra in his arms with her snuggled against his chest as they leaned back across the bench, her head on his shoulder, feeling her heart beat in time with his. Their daemons were in a similar position close by. Together they watched the black shape in the air go forth and vanish into nothingness, together feeling entirely content. As it vanished they looked into each other's eyes once more and Will was overcome with an urge to kiss her again, an urge he quickly sated. He was more at peace now, more happy, than he had ever been in his life, and he knew that Lyra felt the same way. It didn't matter what they would do next, after they got up to both enter Lyra's Oxford as one. Nothing mattered anymore. They had each other, and their love, and they always would. Forever.

- - - -

Endnotes:
I wrote this story almost immediately after finishing The Amber Spyglass. It was one of the saddest books I have ever read...to me, it just wasn't right for two people who deserved love so much and had finally found it, their true lifelong love, to have it cruelly ripped away from them. The book should have ended three chapters earlier, with Over the Hills and Far Away. It didn't, though, it ended with The Botanic Garden, and so I had to write this, to make myself feel somewhat better if nothing else. That's the kind of love that never dies, and to have it and then live without it...no, it's just not right. They would find a way, they had to, and in my thoughts this is it.