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Lead Us Not Into Temptation

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Mrs Coulter threw away the pen with a wordless cry of frustration. She was thinking about him again. This was getting ridiculous! She had him locked away awaiting trial but he still wouldn’t leave her mind. She threw back the chair and paced the room, a habit that was recurring far too often. It was so pointless wasn’t it? Years and years studying sin, sin of all kinds. And yet she was the biggest sinner of all. It seemed so hypocritical, so ridiculous to her. Why was she so obsessed with it all? She tossed her hair over her shoulder and sat back down of the chair, placing her head in her hands and closing her eyes. There he was again, looking at her, smiling at her, reaching for her. Kissing her. She opened her eyes and let out another cry- only this time in frustration. At herself mostly, for missing him, for wanting him, for letting herself have him in the first place. She ran her hands through her hair and tried to think of anything but him.

Some nights she forgot about him completely. She could submerge herself in her work and kept him out of her mind all night. Other nights she would spend with house guests (or seducing someone) so that kept him out of her mind too. Most nights she thought about him constantly- did he still hate her? Was he thinking of her? Did he still want her? Some nights she even made up her mind to see him, and only her daemon could stop her. He knew her better than she knew herself, but they both knew she would crumble if she ever went to face him. She would crumble and lose her resolve just as she had done many times before. He did something to her, changed her in ways she would never have imagined. He had an influence over her, the same influence she had on others. She could wrap anyone around her finger- except him. He was immune to all of her, even her faultless lying. Only he had lusted for her, the way all men did. But he was different, oh so different.

Subconsciously she had begun pacing again. She sighed and almost moaned, sitting on the edge of the bed. Her longing was almost unbearable, so heavy that it threatened to crush her. The Golden Monkey caressed her, and though it offered little comfort it barely ceased the throbbing of her heart. She needed him, needed to be loved the way he loved her. She put her hand around her throat and closed her eyes again, throwing herself back on the bed. There he was again, invading her thoughts. He was unwelcome, yet so welcome. He was kissing her, kissing her, loving her. Then he was undressing her, carrying her to the bed, kissing her until she moaned and gripped the sheets. He lay down on top of her and she called his name out. Her eyes flew open again and she caught herself before she let out a sob. He was a heretic and was going to be killed, at her doing. For what better way to stop us changing than by killing the person who changes us? Maybe then she thought I might get some bloody work done.

But still- Was he thinking of her?

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The answer was yes- he was. Far up in the North, Lord Asriel was thinking deeply about the woman who was keeping him there. He knew images of him would be torturing her, but he was sure it wouldn’t be enough to stop her. If she came to him, however, it would be a different story. But she wouldn’t. If she did come to him, she would simply put the control in his hands and she hated it when he had the power- she always had. He smiled at it, at her frustration. She was most beautiful when angry; she would puff out her chest and raise her chin, and try to keep calm while he could see the rage in her eyes. His eyes were playful, they always were. She wouldn’t kill him, he was sure of that much. He walked across the room, moving along the bookshelves and tracing a finger across them, moving along a hundred spines. He sat in the chair by his desk and did his favourite pastime; thinking of her.

Of her smile, of her lips. Of her body. Of kissing her- taking her by surprise mid-sentence. That was his favourite thing to do, to watch her flick through emotions so obviously when she was usually so discreet. Firstly confusion, then anger, slowly giving way and then she would kiss him back until both of them were raw with lust. He would push her against a wall, kissing her passionately while she ran her hands through his hair, vaguely aware of the daemons behind them. Oh their daemons, the key to each other. He could remember many a night where he would use Stelmaria or The Golden Monkey to torture her. Allowing his daemon to stroke hers softly, or to dig his hands into the monkey without warning. Her reaction was beautiful, the queer sensation running over her face leaving her shocked but pleasured. He loved controlling her like this, exposing her like this. Mostly, he loved to take her clothes off and fuck her.

He stood once again and circled his room, thinking of her dark hair and shining blue eyes and wondering how he could possibly love her after all that she had done. But he did; he loved her with every fibre of his being. And after all this time, he still wanted her. He laughed at himself and Stelmaria hissed.

“For god sake Asriel, will you stop?” She muttered.

“Stop what?” He said innocently, pulling out a book and pretending to examine it.

“Thinking of her! It’s very… distracting…” The daemon crossed her paws and rested her head on her chin. Asriel turned and raised an eyebrow to her, but said nothing. Instead, he flicked the book open, and began to read, immediately erasing his mind of the woman in his thoughts.

Until she knocked on his door

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This is ridiculous. She thought, shivering outside the door. He is my prisoner, why am I knocking? Her daemon hissed from inside her coat and she could feel his disapproval. To her surprise it was not the servant, but Lord Asriel himself who answered the door. He was as breathtaking as she remembered, wearing an expensive shirt casually tucked in to his trousers, and a tie coming loose around his neck. She noticed the stubble around his chin and wondered if he was trying to grow a beard. She took him all in, his patent shoes, his crisp tailored trousers, his shirt, navy tie and golden cufflinks. And finally, she raised her eyes to his and found herself immediately drowned in his deep pools of grey.

“Can I help you?” His voice brought her back to her senses, and infuriated her. The way he was so ridiculously casual, as though she was the captive and he was in charge. She knew it was a mistake then, but it was too late to turn back. She let out a sigh of annoyance.

“Let me in Asriel, It’s cold and I do have a schedule to keep,” She snapped, sounding less angry than she thought she would. He pulled the door back, and she felt the draw of the warmth.

“Why of course,” He said clearly and she knew he was mocking her. She turned and watched the doors close behind her, totally regretting her impulse decision. Once inside, she allowed him to pull off her coat, ignoring the shiver that ran through her when his hand brushed against her. Stelmaria padded silently by her master and Mrs Coulter was led into the parlour. She took a seat and watched him walk back, turn and sit on another sofa. Stelmaria watched her unblinkingly, and with obvious hostility and she bared her teeth and growled softly. Mrs Coulter knew fully well the daemon disapproved of her, and was the most sensible of the two. The Golden Monkey leapt from her shoulder and took two tentative steps towards the snow leopard, who never once took her eyes off Mrs Coulter. She felt a flicker of annoyance; why should her daemon be bowing his head? She was in control of the situation, or at least she was supposed to be. The monkey showed this a little too plainly by glaring at the snow leopard, and sitting openly on the floor.

Finally, Lord Asriel spoke.

“To what do I owe the pleasure?” He asked politely, pouring her a drink.

“I thought I’d pay you a visit,” She mumbled. She hadn’t thought this conversation through. In her head, she had burst in and sneered down at him, mocking him and degrading him. All that had been ruined by a locked door.

“A visit?” He repeated, handing her glass to the golden monkey who took it over to her. She took a sip and watched him pour his own drink.

“Yes,” She said, finding her confidence slightly, “A visit. I hope I’m not interrupting something,” She added. He raised an eyebrow.

“How is Lyra?” He asked. The question took her by surprise. So he didn’t know? He had no clue about anything that had happened.

“Well,” She replied.

“Well under your influence I presume,” He said, almost angrily.

“Under my influence?” She repeated, feigning innocence, “Why Asriel, I’m sure I don’t know what you mean,” He inclined his head at her in reply, and for a moment there was silence while they drank. Mrs Coulter emptied her glass, and Lord Asriel rose to fill it, crossing the room until he stood next to her, uncomfortably close, She shifted slightly, and watched his shadows dance across the wall, illuminated by the fire which was now blazing. He stood and put the glass down on the table. He reached down and pulled her up until she was standing beside him.

“Why did you really come here?” He asked quietly, his voice so soft it was barely audible. Mrs Coulter felt her breath quicken, felt the rise and fall of her chest as he stared down at her, looking straight into her eyes. She looked up slowly, raising her eyes to his until she was locked. As a reply, her daemon reached out a hand and placed it on Stelmaria’s paw, and both parties were aware of the slow movement.

“I think I know why you came,” He said. Mrs Coulter was panting, she realised with embarrassment. She hadn’t touched him for twelve years, and yet here they were, staring into each other’s eyes. He stroked a strand of hair behind her ear, and she shivered involuntarily and sighed. He leaned down until their faces were barely an inch apart, and whispered “I think you came for this,” And then he kissed her, so softly she was unaware if it was really happening. He kissed her, reaching around her waist and pulling her towards him, pressing against her. It was the moment she had dreamed of for twelve years, and a slight moan escaped her lips as she closed her eyes and let him kiss her neck.

“Oh Asriel,” She murmured. “Asriel,”

“I know,” He responded, and he kissed her again; this time with more passion. He laid her down on the sofa and continued to kiss her, as she wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him back. Deep in her mind, her subconscious reminded her of the risks, that she shouldn’t be doing this. That if she did this, she would give way. The voice of reason played at the back of her head for a moment, but then he bit her lip playfully and the voice was stifled. He leaned over her, holing her by the waist and pressing her against the sofa. In the distance, their daemons were playing with each other and growling softly. A wave of sense washed over her quite suddenly, and she sat up.

“Asriel no,” She said, pushing him away. Their daemons were still entwined in each other, and they didn’t stop. “I can’t do this,” She added “I shouldn’t do this…” Lord Asriel looked up and stared her in the eye.

“No,” He said “You shouldn’t,” And he leaned in again, sweeping her into another drawn out kiss.

“No,” She cried out once more, pushing him away. “I mean, I… I-“

“Marisa,” He said quietly. She looked up at him. It was the first time someone had called her that name in a long time. She looked up at him for a moment, before finally surrendering herself to his arms.

 

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She was already up and getting changed. He watched her for a while, pulling on her clothes quickly, as if in a panic. She looked like she had been crying.

“Marisa,” He spoke quietly so as not to wake their sleeping daemons, “Come back to bed,” She didn’t even turn.

“I have to go,” She replied, her voice a raspy whisper. Lord Asriel rested his head back down on his pillow and sighed as Mrs Coulter continued to fumble at the fastening of her dress. She seemed so pointlessly stressed, he found himself wanting to comfort her, but stopped himself.

“You have hours yet,” He pointed out. She stopped for a moment and looked at the clock above the mantel piece.

“I can’t stay,” she replied, her voice still quiet.

“Not forever, but for a few more hours,” With a jolt she began to work at her dress fastening again. Fine, he certainly wasn’t going to push her. She sat down on the edge of the bed, and shuddered in a way that he thought might have been a sob.

“I shouldn’t have come,” She said, her head resting in her hands. He felt a surge of pity for her, but stifled it. She was keeping him captive here after all, and while he did love her, she was a wicked woman indeed. She sat on the edge of the bed and tried to cover her sniffs. One of the daemons at the edge of the bed stirred.

“Marisa,” He said, sitting up on the bed. He loved the way the name sounded in his mouth, in his voice. “I know that Lyra got away from you. I know about Bolvanger, about the children. Marisa I know everything,” She snapped her head around and looked at him in panic, her face white as a sheet. He watched her fumble for words, watched the panic set so deeply her daemon awoke. It dawned on him that she had nothing to say. She felt no remorse, no regret over the way she had taken her child back, or had cruelly butchered so many little children, and scarred so many more, all ‘in the name of the church’. She was truly a devil, an evil person with no soul or conscious. For a brief moment, he felt quite disgusted with her, until he remembered that he wasn’t that different. Didn’t he plan to kill a child too? He would do anything for research, and so would she. They were very similar. Too similar

She turned her body until she was facing him fully, kneeling on the bed in front of him. She ran her hand down the side of his face, staring deeply into his eyes as though she was searching for something. It stirred something deep inside him, and he resisted the urge to take her, kiss her, fuck her right there and then. When she spoke, her voice was unusually calm.

“Do you know why I came?” She asked him. He couldn’t manage a reply, so he simply shook his head.

“To see you,” She answered. She kissed him once on the lips, and left. Just like that.

She would be back. He knew it. He knew it all too well. He could tell how much she missed him, and knew himself how much he missed her. She would be back. Soon.