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02 February 2008 @ 11:12 am
Title: Climbing the Stairs of a Quieter Day.
Requested by: zenni
Written by: ittykat
Rating: G-PG.
Summary: Immediately after closing the window connecting Cittagazze to their own Oxford, Will and Mary have to adjust to the real world again, no matter how difficult they find it.
Author's Notes: I don't think this was exactly what you wanted in the request, my dear, but I hope you're happy with it anyway. My sincerest thanks to wrinkling for helping me think of a title and for proof-reading for me, even though she was tired and had had a long day at work and probably wished to be sleeping or something else instead.

They’d had to walk, because neither had enough money for the taxi fare, but neither much minded. They hadn’t spent that long away from their own world, a month or so, maybe a bit more than two for Will, but there was something comforting about the air here, that was a little difficult to pinpoint. All Will could describe it as was that it felt like home air, almost fresh compared to the air in Cittagazze and the land of the Mulefa, despite the fact that exhaust fumes and pollution was rife in the air.

Together they’d decided that all the errands they needed to run, going to the police, child services, finding a lawyer, finding his mother, finding out exactly how much trouble they were in with their respective authorities—all of that could wait until tomorrow, until they’d had a cup of tea, a good meal, a good night’s sleep and had had enough time to at least begin to process the implications of what their adventures in the other worlds had achieved.

They did not walk briskly, as neither was in a huge rush to get home. Kirjava kept pace with the two, walking right beside Will’s ankle, whenever they stopped and waited at a crossing, she rubbed up against his leg gently, assuring him silently that she was there for him, and that she would not leave him. Will worried a little that Kirjava would draw unwanted attention his way. He and Mary knew better than to think that Kirjava was just a cat, but to everyone else who might see the cat following obediently at his feet might be curious. Cats didn’t act that way normally. Moxie had been terrified of the road, the few times that he’d tried to coax her outside, she’d dug her claws in then escaped his clutches to run off into a secure hiding place, and the road outside his house was hardly as busy as some of the roads they were crossing now.

Perhaps it was fate, that Kirjava and he had could walk so far away from each other, since daemons were not understood in this world. To anyone else, Kirjava was just a pet. He imagined that if he tried to take Kirjava with him to school, they would make him take her home. They would talk later about the logistics of their future life together.

“There we are.” Mary said, breaking the silence that had rested over them for the last few blocks. She pointed at a red-brick block of apartments. They were nothing special, but Will hardly cared. If there was a roof over his head and a pillow beneath it, and perhaps a little food to line his belly then it was enough for him. The elevator inside had a piece of paper scotch-taped to the doors that said: OUT OF ORDER, so they headed around the back to the emergency staircase. Five floors up, and Mary was fumbling around in the pockets of her backpack, trying to find which compartment she’d stowed her keys in. “Can you hold this?” She said, passing up a handful of folded clothes she’d pulled out of the bag. Will took them and waited patiently.

“Oh, here they are.” She said, pulling the missing keys out of a pocket deep inside the bag. She looped them over her thumb for safe-keeping and then messily half-packed the clothes back into the bag, not bothering to zip it up properly. Mary unlocked the door and pushed inside the dark apartment, Will following cautiously behind, closing the door as soon as Kirjava was out of the hallway. There was still a little light outside, and that light shone through the windows to vaguely illuminate the living room. Mary found the light switch, and flicked it on, then off, then on again.

She made a frustrated noise with her lips. “That better be just a blown fuse or a light bulb.” She said, dropping the backpack down on the sofa as she wandered away into another room, leaving Will and Kirjava by themselves, wondering a little awkwardly what they should do, should they stand there and wait for Mary? Should they sit down on the couch? Should they offer to help search for a flash-light or something? Before they had a chance to decide what to do, Mary came back with a flashlight in each hand.

“The power’s out. The lights are off in the bedroom as well.” She said grumpily, handing the light to Will. “I’ll call the electricity company tomorrow morning. They’d be closed by now. Hopefully the gas is still connected; we should still be able to cook dinner then, other wise we’ll have to order a pizza or something.”

Will nodded, looking at the torch in his hand. There was nothing particularly spectacular about it, it was just a torch. He flicked it on and pointed it about the room, illuminating the television, a messy bookcase filled almost equally with Penguin classics and science journals, a wooden cd stacker, the kind you made yourself by slotting pre-cut bits of dowel into a pine-wood board. The coffee table in the middle of the room was scattered with photographs, paper, and chopped up ID cards, with a pair of scissors holding sitting on the edge. Mary must’ve made the fake ID card she’d used to fool the security guard at that table.

“Right. Let’s look in the kitchen, see what we can have for dinner, and then I think it should be an early night for the both of us. I don’t know about you, but I feel I could sleep for a day.” Mary took him into the kitchen and began opening cupboards, looking for things that they could create a make-shift meal out of. She gestured to Will to look in the cupboards.

“I’ve got some spaghetti, and tinned sauce. Look in that cupboard over there—no the one to the left and see if I’ve any vegetables we can still use.” There were some wrinkly carrots, onions, garlic, and a few potatoes with little white nubs growing out the side. Mary considered the options, twisting her lips together a little. “Well we can chop up some carrots and maybe some onions and add a bit of herbs to that and it should be fine.”

She filled a pot with water and lit the stove with matches she found in a drawer, while Will searched for a chopping board and a sharp knife to dice the carrots and the onion.

He found a chopping knife in a drawer near the sink, and he began to slowly cut the carrots, Kirjava up on the counter watching the process closely. She could see better in the darkness than he could, and nudged his wrist gently whenever he came a little too close to cutting another of his fingers off. The knife was a little blunt, and made chopping the onions a more tedious task than they could’ve been, and his eyes began to water and sting as the juice of the onion found its way into his eyes. Kirjava brushed his cheeks with her tail gently and he found himself wishing that he had the subtle knife again, because with it in tact cutting these onions with that would be a breeze. It’d be done before the onion had a chance to even think about agitating his eyes.

Will paused in his chopping. The thought of the Subtle Knife, the creator of portals between worlds, the God-Killer, Aeshaetter-- being used as something so mundane as a kitchen appliance was so funny that Will began to laugh though the onion-tears. Kirjava made him stop chopping until he had calmed, and when Mary asked what he was laughing about, he found he couldn’t put to words why it was so funny. She quickly pushed him to the side and finished off the chopping with such an air of practicality that Will could see why joining the nunnery had been such an appealing vocation to her, and then why science had drawn her in so completely later on in life.

The onions and the carrots went into the pan with a little oil and began to sizzle as they cooked. Soon enough they were sitting together in the dark living room eating spaghetti with black tea in silence by torchlight.

When they were both done, Mary took the plates into the kitchen and together they washed the dishes, with Will holding the torch while Mary scrubbed the pans clean with a coarse sponge. They left the plates to dry on a rack next to the sink, then Mary started to organise a place for Will to sleep. Her apartment only had one bedroom and a study, but she had no spare mattress to lay on the floor in the study. So instead, she made Will up a bed on the couch with a pillow and a few blankets, then when she was sure that Will was comfortable, they said goodnight and Mary retired to her own bedroom to sleep, leaving Will and Kirjava alone in the dark living room.

They were both exhausted, and though they hadn’t really done a great deal of walking that day, they both knew that the exhaustion was emotional and not physical. Will had done his best to block Lyra from his mind for the afternoon, so he could concentrate on the practicalities: getting to Mary’s, organising when they’d visit child services and his mother, cooking dinner, cleaning up. But now that he was alone, and had nothing else to do, he couldn’t push her blonde hair and blue eyes from his mind. He wished that the image he had in his mind of her was a happier one, perhaps from their time in the world of the Mulefa, with the marzipan, but all he could think of was the look of pure agony on her face when he closed the window between them, knowing they’d never see each other ever again. Kirjava nuzzled his cheek gently with her wet nose, sensing they both needed comfort in company. Will began to stroke her fur gently as he began to cry. They were quiet tears, so Mary couldn’t hear, but Kirjava and he were not at all so composed. They sobbed into the blanket and the pillow, drawing in air in aching breaths and hiccups, all in silence, until the catharsis of crying helped him no more.

When he felt a little calmer, he reached over and grabbed the flashlight from the coffee table, and under the cover of the blanket he switched it on and checked his watch. The window between Cittagazze and his own Oxford had been closed for exactly five hours, twenty six minutes and four—no five seconds. He wondered where Lyra was, what she was thinking, whether Pantalaimon was helping her feel better, or whether human and daemon were so inconsolable that neither could help the other, except in knowing that they both felt the same acute pain in their hearts. Will’s heart broke, knowing so certainly that she was hurting because he was hurting, and he wanted nothing more than to be with her again.

“We must be strong, Will.” Kirjava said quietly, though her voice was tired and wavered a little.

“I know. It’s going to be so hard.”

“But we were brave for Lyra, we have to live up to that, or that would be dishonest. We can do it. We’ll be together, we can share the pain, and the triumphs that come from overcoming it and moving on.”

“Yes.” Will said, and holding Kirjava close to his chest he closed his eyes and slept.
Jenni always wants what she can't have: misc. heart & flowerzenni on February 2nd, 2008 05:23 am (UTC)
Gorgeous. It reads really intricate and sweeping at the same time. I love the characters and the attention to detail. Thank you darling, you've made my day <3