Summary: Grown up, but hardly moved on, Lyra attends a standard function where everything changes. By the bench in Oxford, Lyra knows she's finished sacrificing herself. LyraWill.

Pairing:

Lyra x Will

The Opposite of Talking.

The opposite of talking isn't listening. The opposite of talking is waiting.
- Fran Lebowitz

A thread of dark hair uncurled from the tight coil on her head and Lyra sighed, blowing it away from her face. Her hair, which used to be a lighter blonde, had darkened in the years she had spent studying, burrowed away in the depths of many libraries in search of the knowledge she had to have. Her eyes had sharpened with age too, no longer the water blue of her childhood. She had learnt too many things studying economics to be innocent.

Her time since she had returned to her Oxford (she refused to acknowledge it as anything else) had been spent studying economics, trade laws and politics. It was strange for a young woman such as herself to take upon a more political stance, but when had Lyra Silvertongue ever done what was expected of a woman?

With another sigh, Lyra patted her clutch bag gently, reminded that the Alethiometer was still resting safely. Her studies had not only earnt her the highest economical title in the newly developed Council of Jordan College but continued her ability to read the Alethiometer.

Her world had undergone major revisions when Lyra had raised trade issues, and at the front of the revolutions had been Jordan College. She took the position to teach others after faithfully completing her studies. No one knew of her 'extra-curricular' activities with the Alethiometer yet, but that was simply because they didn't need to know.

"Ah, Miss Belacqua," greeted one of the older professors of Jordan College. Lyra smiled tightly, the smile not nearing her eyes, as she shook the old man's hand.

"It's lovely to see you," she murmured, forgetting the man's name. How was she supposed to be interested in a man's name when she'd meet him only at events like this? Her eyes looked down to the man's companion, a squat bulldog. The daemon blinked up at her, snuffling slightly, before focusing on the pine marten tucked away on her shoulder.

"Yes, quite. You look splendid, my dear." Lyra nodded her thanks; she hoped she looked at least decent; it had taken the insistent women who called themselves her friends (in reality Lyra did like them, but didn't know them well enough for the word friend to form) two hours to dress Lyra up for this event.

"Have you heard about the mystery guests?" Questioned the professor, and Lyra fought to regain attention.

She tucked the strand of hair that had escaped previously back behind her ear and smiled charmingly. No one here wanted to know her economical views, nor her political ideas. She had to behave like a charming woman, doting to the male ego and backing down in an argument. Here she had to be simple Miss Belacqua, the soft counterpart to Lyra Silvertongue.

"Only but a rumour," Lyra replied gently, in a voice suitable for a woman of her position. Here she was, surrounded by hundreds of people either directly from Jordan College or associated with it. There were benefactors, ex students, potential scholars; everyone and anyone who could profit the College.

It was a hand extended to the world from the Council of Jordan College. They had been in the public eye recently, what with hiring the influential Mistress of Economical Vales (as was her spectacular nickname within the group) and upsurging the existing government. They were in tatters, clinging onto what little respect they could and attempting to form plans around what the College wanted.

And the College wanted what the people wanted. So here they were, in a grand hall on a warm summer's evening, pressed into suits and dresses, making polite conversation and ridiculously sweet gestures. Lyra knew what lay outside of those doors, her little patch of Oxford, but it was untouchable. For now.

"A top scholar from a neighbouring area I'm told and a revered Doctor. They'll be entering the College for a year or so, I hear, so that they can benefit from our vast knowledge and us theirs." The man chortled, his bulldog daemon grunting, "Assuming they can provide it. Everyone knows we have the most influential power and knowledge here."

Lyra turned away from the man's smug face, sickened. What had so many people sacrificed themselves for? Power? Surely not. It was why she had chosen economics. It was through economics only that she could change the views of the bigoted people. People who reminded her too much of the past, too much of a man who was too fixed with the ends justifying the means.

A man named Asriel, the man who believed his world would be the best for humanity.

But Lyra was still here wasn't she? All the other worlds existed; the world hadn't crumbled. Even the world where Wi-

Lyra stubbed the thought, pain flickering to life as it always did when she remembered.

"Of course. We are the Council of Jordan College after all," Lyra smiled charmingly, and the man did a double take. Obviously he had only just realised that she did indeed hold a position on the Council.

"They say the doctor can cure the illness."

The illness. It was something no one had expected, after everything that happened. Ordinary people were dying from something ordinary, something human. An illness that spread like a bushfire. Something so normal it made angels and republics of heavens seem a distant dream.

Lyra's blue eyes darted down as the daemon shifted uncomfortably, no doubt due to the awkward moment of the man himself. They excused themselves, darting amongst the other party-goers, and Lyra was once more left alone with Pan.

"What do you think Pan?" She murmured gently, and stroked the top of his little head. "Could these outsiders offer us anything?"

Pantalaimon shuffled forwards, edging onto Lyra's hand so he could look into her eyes as he spoke.

"It depends just how far out they are," was his reply. His dark eyes glittered from light emitting from the over-extravagant chandelier. "There have been talks, you know, of-"

"I know Pan," Lyra cut him off. She knew all about the talks concerning the links between worlds. Of course they had claimed they had found a way to travel between them, but it was a lie. The only way to travel between them lay broken in another world too far to touch. The Subtle Knife had been destroyed, and Lyra's chance of happiness with it.

"Of course," Pan said sadly and clambered back onto her shoulder, careful not to scratch the fabric of her dress as he did so.

They looked fantastic together; Pantalaimon's red-brown fur glinting as Lyra's dark red dress fluttered around. When they moved through the hall more than one pair of eyes followed them, and Pan reveled in the fact that they couldn't touch his Lyra; they couldn't be the one to capture her heart. He didn't trust a single one of them, never would, and it was selfish, he knew.

Pan wanted Lyra to be happy, but the only person she could be happy with was Will Parry. He was as sure of this as he knew the only daemon he would love was Kirjava. No one else understood what he had felt when Lyra had left him except Kirjava, and no one understood Lyra as Will did.

So, while he wanted her to be happy, he couldn't allow someone who may make her slightly happier than she was to fill the space left. In the end it would lead to Lyra being chained, and his Lyra was a free child still, a woman free of social ties and obligations.

"Miss Belacqua!"

Lyra stiffened as the confident voice of Lady Rosette attacked her ears. The woman was one of the forced acquaintances she kept due to her position. Lady Rosette was a busybody gossip, butting her nose into every little detail she could.

"Oh, Miss Belacqua, you look beautiful!" The woman admonished, her ample bosom rising as she breathed.

"Thank you Lady Rosette, you look stunning yourself," an outright lie, but flattery was the difference between being the subject of gossip or the receiver.

The woman batted her hand gently, "You're too kind! Now, now, Miss Belacqua, it has been too long since we last spoke. Have you heard about..."

And so she trailed on, leaving Lyra to nod only when Pan's little claws dug in slightly. They had played this game many times before and Lyra was thankful for Pan's insight. She wasn't sure she could cope with Lady Rosette talking to her in such a way all evening.

"May we have your attention please," a voice called, alerting everyone to attention. Even Lady Rosette paused, her mouth half open in conversation.

"Thank you," the voice continued and Lyra saw the owner; a man clad in a tuxedo up near the stage that the speeches were to be held. Was it that time already?

"I would like to introduce our guests, from the little town of Lower Seegaz." Lyra started at the resemblance to Ci'gazze, and fought against the memories. Pan wriggled on her shoulder, his tail sweeping down her back.

Ignoring her daemon (accountably not the wisest of choices), Lyra turned her head away from the stage, uncaring of the two people stepping up to speak. One was a scholar and the other a doctor, and that was all Lyra would care to know about them. They might bring a helpful insight into how she could further better the people, but for now they were amongst a crowd of people they needed on their side. It would be pointless to hope for a conversation in which she could gather information.

"Come on Pan," she whispered, "Let's go get some fresh air."

Lyra ignored the way Pan dug his claws in and the way he squeaked. She rolled her eyes, bringing a hand up to stroke his head in hopes of quelling his fuss.

"Lyra, please can't we stay?"

Lyra glanced down, "Why Pan? Because of these mysterious people? I think not. You're welcome to remain, of course," she added, knowing that Pantalaimon wouldn't. Though they had both got used to the feeling of separating long distances - even used this skill a few times - other people found it unsettling. They could never stand the stares, people remembering the atrocities of Bolvanger before placing the daemon as Lyra's Pantalaimon in their head. It reminded Lyra too much of the past as well, the pain and the memories.

"But Lyra-"

"No means no Pan."

The matter was closed. Excusing herself quietly amongst the group of people, Lyra made her way to the back where she had seen a door. She heard the announcement for the doctor to be called up and glanced back once, seeing a tall, muscular man step on stage. His dark hair gleamed in the light and she bit back a childish smile as she decided the man needed a shave; stubble was forming on his cheeks and he looked artfully disheveled.

Lyra turned back towards the door, leaving Pan clutching to her shoulder as he looked back at the stage. She noticed the elegant figure of her former schoolmistress and friend Dame Hannah, yet she was set on a course. It was only Dame Hannah who knew of her training with the Alethiometer to the degree she had mastered it and Lyra was content to keep it that way for a while.

Without a word, Lyra looked around selfconsciously, feeling the undeniable sense of eyes staring at her. Shrugging the feeling off, she opened the door quietly, slipping outside into the cool air of her Oxford.

"It's such a nice evening," she commented to her daemon, and he chittered quietly, obviously subdued.

"Oh come on Pan, you hate events like this too."

"These people are different."

Lyra raised an eyebrow, "Oh really?"

Pan sniffed, jumping down onto the ground. "Yes really. I could tell." The last word was stressed and Lyra fought a smile.

They walked in silence for a few minutes before Lyra's breath caught in her chest. She had let herself run on auto-pilot and found herself staring at her bench, the seat tangled with clematis and roses budding over the arms.

"It feels like years," she said quietly, knowing it had been nearly eleven months since she had last sat here, an unread book at her feet as she looked up to the sky, yearning for Will.

There. She had thought his name. It hurt; it always would, even after fourteen years. The only time Lyra allowed herself to let go of the restraints controlling the pain was at this bench. She had moved on in some respects - gaining her Master position on the Council and the ability to read the Alethiometer - but she had never moved on romantically. Will was her love, first and only, and Lyra couldn't explain why she couldn't move on.

"Lyra, I think we should go back in."

Pan shifted uncomfortable and Lyra's heart sank. Pan couldn't help but think of Kirjava, of course. Lyra had been selfish when thinking of Will; she wasn't the only one who had been torn away from her love. She missed the way Kirjava's fur shimmered, the way the cat simply glowed, yet it was nothing in comparison what Pan was feeling.

"I've been a horrible person, Pan," she muttered, and her daemon looked up. His little forepaws stretched out as he sat on his haunches, reaching for Lyra's hand.

"Don't say that Lyra. We just have to cope how we know is all. Let's go see Dame Hannah for some proper conversation before retiring for the evening."

Lyra nodded with a smile, turning away from the Oxford garden and back into the hall. The conversation still flowed solidly, though it was more animated than before.

"Dame Hannah," Lyra greeted politely and the woman turned to her with a smile.

Lyra remembered a time, years before, when Dame Hannah had been hated by her. The woman had been ruthless in her teachings of Dust and the Alethiometer to Lyra, and she hated the fact someone else could do something she no longer could, in a way. It had been a year and a few months into their relationship as teacher and student when Hannah had walked in on Lyra sobbing, thinking of Will and unable to bear the separation a day after their Midsummer's meeting. It had been the second Noon meeting and it destroyed Lyra to think of a life without Will.

"Lyra," Hannah had soothed, "Do you know why your choice was so important?"

Through streaked tears, Lyra had looked up and wiped her nose on the back of her sleeve. Pan had shuffled forwards, rubbing himself against Lyra to comfort her.

"You were the second Eve. You gave the world a choice, what you and Will Parry did was selfless and noble. You could have been together, allowing Dust to flow between the worlds and yet you sacrificed your own happiness to save the rest of our universes. Do you know how much that means?"

It had been on this night that Lyra vowed she would no longer be weak. She had thrown herself into her studies, snapping up knowledge on Dust and snippets on other worlds until hope abandoned her and she refocused herself.

Dame Hannah had arranged a meeting with the Scholars of Jordan College for Lyra to study economics, and she was accepted after lengthy debates as to whether inviting a female scholar was acceptable or not. It was through these actions that Lyra had reformed economical sanctions and laws for trading with the North, the Ice Bears in particular. England benefitted from the deal as did Iorek's bears, and the Scholars of Jordan College had been proud of her, electing her onto the new council.

What they didn't know yet, however, was of Lyra's ultimate plans. The Republic of Heaven she wanted to create was far out of her grasp at the moment, but she could see it.

"The doctor who arrived says they have a cure for the illness."

Lyra's attention was caught as she heard Hannah speak. The illness had risen up so suddenly that no one knew of it before it was too late and it had killed hundreds of people. The Council and Governments had sent out pleas for cures a pandemic occurred, and now it seemed it had finally been found. It was originally thought to have been caused by Dust, except it wasn't Dust that was the root of problems anymore. You couldn't blame everything on the same thing.

The symptoms began as a simple cold, undetectable when thought of the amounts of colds people had. Then it spread through the body, almost like wildfire, infecting the nervous system and shutting down immunity. Without immunity, the person was a walking, talking corpse with a ticking time bomb over their head. Doctors here had made a start, but it was too fast, too deadly and accurate, to gain conclusive studies and save people at the same time.

So far it had been contained to the poorer areas, but it was simply a matter of time before it transferred to a wealthier person and then into the upper crust of society.

"Ah," was all Lyra could think to say before she took a champagne flute from a nearby waiter, sipping discreetly from the rim.

"The scholar was speaking about inter-dimensional windows," began Hannah carefully, eyeing Lyra slyly.

"There's no such thing. You should know that; you taught me everything I know about Dust."

Dame Hannah's eyes sparkled. "I'm not so sure of that. Besides, this window isn't connected to Dust. It was formed naturally, though we're all still baffled as to how or why. There is no Dust flow in or out of our world."

Lyra's eyes were sharp as she regarded Hannah. "What is it you're trying to tell me exactly? To regain hope? What would the point of that be? After all I've been told to give up, give him up," she spat, whispering the words furiously, "You decided to play me like this and lead me to false ends?"

Hannah placed a hand on her shoulder gently.

"It's okay Lyra. Calm down. I suggested nothing, but just know that it may not be too long before we could harness this technology. Or even another world."

Lyra sighed, defeated and tired, as Pantalaimon slipped down her arm a little.

"Thank you," she finished, turning away from her teacher and surveying the room.

It wasn't hard to spot the scholar; she was surrounded by the top professors and council members of Jordan College and the neighbours invited. Her steely grey hair flickered in the light, flecks of brown evident in her coiled hair.

Pan tugged on her shoulder gently, drawing her attention away from the woman and towards, presumably, the doctor. He, too, was surrounded by scholars and medical personnel, but the majority of his crowd were made up of women, many of whom Lyra recognised from St. Sofia's.

Sickened by the fickle actions of her peers, Lyra turned to exit, without Pan stopping her this time. He was stiff, though, and she credited this to her feelings.

As they made their way back to their bench (Lyra needed peace at the moment and the only place she could find it was at her bench), the trees around whispered, calling to daemon and human. Lyra smiled softly, remembering the time she had told Pan Oxford was protecting her.

Maybe it was true; maybe Oxford really did love her as much as she loved the city. Maybe her Oxford really was just hers, as much as Will's was his.

Why was she thinking so much of him tonight? It always happened at functions, when Lyra was reminded of how lonely she was. At least she hadn't been required to meet people her own age, people she had studied under Dame Hannah with. The ones who could actually hold a decent conversation without swooning over a man or giggling at the latest gossip. They were all marrying and having babies by now. Sickening to look at when you couldn't love anyone except a man in another world.

People had speculated why Lyra was alone. First of all everyone assumed it was because of her upbringing and the recent events with Mrs. Coulter and Asriel. Only Pantalaimon and Dame Hannah knew about Will here, and Iorek was too far away to talk about anything at a whim.

Iorek had lost people too, Lee Scoresby, his best friend. Many people had lost others, not just through the incident at Bolvangar or against the Authority and Asriel. Lyra remembered that the Angel Balthamos had lost his lover, Baruch. Maybe he would have understood her pain, but he had made his decision. He let himself go.

Serafina Pekkala hadn't. She still lived, so old yet so beautiful. Lyra's heart broke when she thought of the witch, alone and at the front of her Clan. So terrifyingly beautiful, yet so full of sadness. She had loved, oh how she had loved, but she had lost so much. Lyra felt selfish for the wish, but she counldn't envy Serafina. Did Kaiser feel the loss of her son too?

Lyra was unsure how much a full witch's daemon could sense, but she was sure it was as close a bond as herself and Pan. Yet, Kaiser had been able to leave Serafina from the beginning, however far back that was, but both Lyra and Pantalaimon had felt the pain they had caused when Lyra and Will had left for the Land of the Dead. Lyra felt it every single day, joined with the immense joy she had felt stroking Kirjava, and having Pan touched by Will.

Pantalaimon was stuck feeling everything she did, as Lyra was stuck feeling everything Pan did. It was a vicious circle, a horribly wicked one too, but Lyra knew she would rather have the pain than forget.

Forgetting the pain would mean letting go of Will. She would never be ready to do that, never.

"It's rather cold out," a voice broke into Lyra's silence and Pantalaimon bolted upright, baring his sharp teeth. Lyra moved a hand to smooth out his fur, hiding the shock on her face. She almost recognised that voice, but it was impossible.

Lyra turned her head, eyes locking on an older woman. She was smiling at Lyra and settled herself on Lyra's bench.

"Thought you'd never see me again?"

Lyra nodded mutely.

"So did I. I know you've been investigating the windows and the movement of objects through these windows. I also know that you've denied the claims and have instead been approving your next dissertation." Lyra's face was stony and she watched Mary Malone speak.

"You still had hope, didn't you?" Mary's voice had dropped and her eyes softened, afraid for a moment that even Lyra Silvertongue, their Eve, had lost hope. Pantalaimon moved beside Lyra, nudging her hand softly. Lyra's fingers having embedded themselves gently into his soft fur, seeking comfort.

"What you didn't know," Mary brushed something off of her dress skirt, moving her hand a little closer to Lyra's. "Was that we too were looking for ways through."

Pan jolted in her grip and Lyra knew it was a response to her sudden surge of hope. She could feel the pounding of her heart and felt her eyes clouding with tears. Mary's hand came up to her cheek, brushing something away.

"Don't cry Lyra."

Lyra was about to refute the claims as she hadn't cried in years - couldn't with stiff-collared scholars breathing down her neck - but realised it was too late.

She remembered Mary when she was younger, when she was in Will's world. She had seemed like an odd woman, making all sorts of odd jumbly words that didn't make sense, but she was clever. Mary had promised to take care of Will and promised to research into Dust. She was the woman who had used the computer programme and she was the one standing before Lyra. Not the other way round.

"I could only do so much."

Mary's eyes searched Lyra for a meaning to her words.

"I couldn't..." Lyra trailed off, looking down at her hands. Pan's dark eyes stared back at her and she smiled. "I'm only human."

Mary stood. "I know you are Lyra, but right now... you have a choice to make. We believe we have a cure to the illness here, which was why we were contacted in the first place. You can either let our doctor do his job and let him go or you can see him."

Lyra looked up slowly, the colour draining from her face. Mary was smiling and she reached a hand out to tuck away part of Lyra's hair. The strand had come loose and curled into Lyra's eye, passing over her cheek.

"He will be coming outside for some fresh air soon." Mary paused, turning to leave. "Regardless to the choice you make Lyra, I'd like to meet with you again. I'll speak to you later."

Lyra let her go, ignoring Pan's nervous gaze. His paws twitched between excitement and fear, revealing how Lyra felt. She tried to make sense of it all; somehow Mary Malone had travelled from her world - Will's world - to here. Here as in Lyra's Oxford here.

Mary said the doctor... suggested the doctor... suggested he was someone Lyra felt important enough about to make a choice over. Mary had provided her with options, to stay or to go, and Lyra remembered Mary's previous representation.

Mary had been the serpent where Will was Adam and Lyra was Eve. Before, Lyra had made her choice with Will, had left the man she loved and returned, sealing the doors to the other worlds. Now, however, there were no doors, only windows. Smaller than doors, but people could still get in and out of them. They just took a little more effort.

Lyra knew her time was up when she heard the quiet footsteps, heading in her direction. Around her heartbeat, Lyra could hear Pan's quickened breaths and her own shallow breathing. Her choice was simple; she had made it years ago now, but it didn't make reacting to it any easier.

"It's like being back in Oxford."

Lyra's head snapped round, dark blonde hair falling from its coil. Strands dropped around her face but she made no movement to push them away. Pantalaimon was in a similar state of distress, but his body was taunt, eyes wide.

"The exact same number of strides from the hall doors to the corner. It's almost as if we're still back at our Oxford."

The footsteps halted and both Lyra and Pantalaimon held their breaths.

Kirjava saw them first, her eyes sparking into a multitude of non-existent colours. Pantalaimon wriggled in Lyra's grasp, freeing himself and bounding to the cat. Lyra could feel the emotions running through her daemon and her eyes filled with tears when she felt Pan touch Will's daemon.

"Kirjava?" His voice was weak, obviously wondering why Kirjava felt the way she did. Will finally turned the corner, freezing when he saw Pan.

"Pantalaimon? Then-" Will cut himself off, eyes darting to the bench. Lyra brought a hand to her cheek, wiping away the tears, before she stood, shakily.

The next thing Lyra knew, she was pressed against Will, holding him tightly as her tears seeped into his suit. She could feel him pressing his nose into her shoulder, feel his hair brushing against the side of her face, but most of all she could feel him, his warmth, his life. Will was here.

"Lyra," a voice whispered in her ear and Lyra pulled back slightly, her hands shaking as she smiled.

"Will," she replied, her hands coming up to cradle the grown-up version of the boy she had never stopped loving. He was dark, handsome, with searching eyes. Lyra knew she must look the same; trying to find out if he was real, proof that he was actually there.

Lyra could still feel Pan's joy and she buried her head in Will's chest, inhaling. Memories of their time in Ci'gazze, back at Will's world, and the time they had shared rushed back, unable to be kept at bay.

"You're here," Will murmured, rocking them gently.

They remained embraced for what seemed like hours, the moon providing the only light they needed. At some point Kirjava and Pantalaimon had moved over to them, and the four had settled on the bench, Lyra and Will holding each other with their daemons situated on their laps.

Lyra stroked Kirjava's fur gently as Will reciprocated the action for Pan and Lyra rested her head on Will's shoulder. Fourteen years had passed in solitude yet now they were together.

"I love you," she whispered, feeling Will press a kiss to her head. Kirjava and Pan stirred gently, lazily looking up to their humans.

It didn't matter what Dame Hannah thought, or the girls from the school. It didn't matter what the scholars of Jordan College thought or what they would say on her next dissertation. It didn't matter that the trade negotiations with Iorek and his Ice Bears were flowing well, coming thick and fast with every passing day. It didn't matter that Lyra didn't have her Kingdom of Heaven yet.

Will was here. He was here, in Lyra's world and she loved him. More than anything else and she always would. She had sacrificed so much before, but she couldn't be like Serafina Pekkala. She couldn't be the woman who was brave enough to face each day, knowing that she could no longer see the man she had onced loved, nor her son. Serafina had sacrificed so much in being born a witch, and Lyra had been told she was born as Eve, but Lyra couldn't be what she was 'born' as anymore. Not now that Will was here.

"I love you too. Always will."

Lyra closed her eyes as they kissed; loosing herself to the man she loved. She had played her role as Eve and Will had played his part as Adam. From now on they would be Will-and-Lyra, Lyra-and-Will.

They pulled apart, smiling, and Lyra knew then that she could accomplish anything, had always known this, but knew she needed Will. She would have thought it weak-willed before, but being with Will had shown Lyra that she needed him, needed him to be there. She couldn't do it anymore, as she told Mary. Lyra couldn't sacrifice herself anymore.

They would undoubtedly talk tomorrow about a thousand things, millions of things, but tonight Lyra was content to feel Will, lie curled up next to him, later at home, and simply bask in the fact he was there.

Pantalaimon twitched in his sleep, curling closer to Kirjava, and Lyra knew she had finally settled her choice. There was no more world to save, no more Dust destroying worlds, no more Asriel or War.

There were just two people in love, Will and Lyra, sitting on their bench in their Oxford.

Ask yourself whether the dream of heaven and greatness should be waiting for us in our graves - or whether it should be ours here and now and on this earth.
- Ayn Rand

Notes:

So here's my first, and probably last, adventure into the HDM fandom. It was something I just had to do, because I wanted a happy ending!

Reviews are always appreciated, thank you for reading!