Title: the way back to grace
Fandom: His Dark Materials
Word count: 700
Mary's flat is... nice, Will thinks, as he hangs up his coat. Comfortable. Practical. Grounding, he hopes, now that Lyra is gone. The colors are quiet here, soothing, somehow, softening the sharp edges and vivid colors of his memories. Kirjava twines around his ankles, and he bends to bury his face in her fur. Never again, never again. The quick beat of her heart comforts him even as his own thuds hollow in his chest, the rhythm of midsummer rain still ringing in his ears.
When he looks up, there is a cup of tea steaming on the table, Mary's light footsteps having come and gone unnoticed in his moment of weakness. A small kindness. "Thank you," he says softly into the empty room, and takes a sip.
"Lyra? Lyra!" Dame Hannah sighs as the curly head comes into sight. "I've been looking all over for you, child! Why are you in the garden?"
Lyra stares down at the slats of the bench. "I'm sorry. I- I concentrate better, here. None of the girls know about this place."
"You could study in your room, you know. Just close the door, and they won't bother you; we can make it a house rule, if you like."
"I do! It's just- it's not the same. Sometimes I just need to be outside." She looks up again, biting her lip. "Don't tell them, please? It's o- it's kind of a secret."
"All right." The older woman looks at her curiously, before turning toward the gate. "Come and find me when you've finished that chapter."
"Will," says Lyra, quietly, when Dame Hannah's footsteps have faded, and allows herself one tear before she turns back to the Aletheia. Pantalaimon curls about her shoulders as she begins to recite, "The scales represent the law..."
Kirjava leaps onto the table, tail twining sinuously around nothing. "Tell me about the research project," she says. "Dark matter, is it really the same thing as Dust?"
Mary smiles. She has become accustomed to sporadic interrogations, over the last few days. "Yes, or at least that's what Lyra said. We had a machine, once, in the days before our project was taken over. Lyra made it so that I could communicate with the Dust."
"Lord Boreal," Will says. "I hope he's dead now."
"He is," Kirjava replies.
Mary clears her throat. "Well. I broke the machine before I quit my job, so he couldn't do any more damage."
Will bites his lip. "But how are you going to study Dust now? What are you going to do?"
"I don't know. I can probably reconstruct the computer program I wiped, but I suppose I'll need to get in touch with the technicians who built the machine, eventually. But I made an amber spyglass, once, in the mulefa's world, so I could see the Dust. I've been thinking about where to plant the seedpod they gave me."
Will frowns. "Seedpod?"
"But surely not everything about the alethiometer can be explained by one book, Dame Hannah!"
The older woman folds her hands, unruffled. "I never said it was, child. The readings are at least 90 percent interpretation. We always need to be observant of the world around us in order to make an accurate statement."
"Yes, Dame Hannah, of course. But I would have thought-"
"Remember the book that Mary had, in her office? The I Ching? That was one book, too, wasn't it?" Pantalaimon says idly.
"Well then." Pan rearranges himself more comfortably around her neck and closes his eyes.
Lyra sighs. "I suppose you're right, Pan. It's just- reading it used to feel like-" Flying. She frowns at the table. The polished surface of the alethiometer winks back at her, needles quivering lightly as she extends a finger.
Dame Hannah, sitting across the table, cannot help but think that she looks a little bit like a bird with a broken wing. But then, she has always been good with injured creatures, and Lyra will be strong enough to fly again in time.