Disclaimer: I WISH I could write like Philip Pullman… (pouts)

Author's Note: If anyone actually reads and reviews this, I will be shocked. Eh heh.

Yeah.

So, this is my first time dabbling in the world of His Dark Materials, though I've read and re-read the books. And, while I dearly love Will and Lyra as a couple, well…

I admit I'm a bit sick and twisted.

That said, I hope you enjoy!

Wanings: Takes place before The Golden Compass; PantalaimonxLyra. Can't say I didn't warn ya! X3

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"That day I oft remember when from sleep
I first awaked, and found myself reposed
Under a shade on flowers, much wondering where
And what I was, whence thither brought, and how
Not distant far from thence a murmuring sound
Of waters issued from a cave, and spread
Into a liquid plain, then stood unmoved
Pure as the expanse of heaven; I thither went
With unexperienced thought, and laid me down
On the green bank, to look into the clear
Smooth lake that to me seemed another sky.
As I bent down to look, just opposite
A shape within the watery gleam appeared,
Bending to look on me. I started back;
It started back; but pleased I soon returned,
Pleased it returned as soon with answering looks
Of sympathy and love. There had I fixed
Mine eyes till now, and pined with vain desire,
Had not a voice thus warned me: 'What thou seest,
What there thou seest, fair creature, is thyself.'"

Paradise Lost, Book IV

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Narcissus

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I. The Word

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"Nah… nara… wait a moment. No, it's a "narsssss" sound, right?"

Lyra wrinkled her dust-smudged nose, squinting hard at the impossible word. "Pan," she voiced, speaking to the mouse on her lap, "do you have any idea how to pronounce this word?"

The gray-furred dæmon scuttled up her blouse, peering at the thick, leather-bound tome from the little girl's shoulder. His whiskers flicked. "No," he said bluntly, and changed into an ermine. Winding gently around her neck, he closed his eyes. The sun that day was particularly warm, hinting of the summer months to come, and all Pan wanted to do was take a nap in the shade. "Why don't you put down the book for a while, eh? The scholars don't really expect you to read it, do they?"

"No," Lyra answered lightly, unperturbed. She turned the book sideways, as if hoping this would help improve her reading abilities. "But I'd like to do it anyway. Think of what they'll say if I actually know what they're talking about! It'll be a wonderful trick."

At these words, Pantalaimon sat up, blinking. "…what?" he gawked, eyeing the girl incredulously. "You? Consider that a trick?"

"What's the matter?" Lyra frowned, shooting the ermine a look of reproach. "I thought you'd approve. You hate it when I do dangerous things."

"I do approve. I'm just wondering where my Lyra went."

"Haha," the young girl drawled, sniffing haughtily and smoothing out the parchment pages of the volume. "Well it just so happens that I'm smarter than you think, Pan. It don't matter what those gyptian children says, I en't as dumb as a rock."

"'Course you en't," Pan returned, sounding surprised. He slipped off her shoulders and became a tabby cat, nuzzling her arm. "They're just mad about that boat you stole."

Lyra scoffed, gently flicking her dæmon's forehead. "I know that," she said, rolling her eyes. "I just wanna show off. But to do that properly, I first gotta know what I'm doin'. And this was the biggest book in the library that I could sneak out without bein' noticed, and I wanna make sure I can read it the best of them all."

Pantalaimon considered this, his tail dancing in the sweet-scented breeze. Above their little bench, the petals of a plumb blossom unfurled. "That's all well and good," he finally decided, "but can ya tell them what it means when you're done? Reading it is one thing, but understanding it is quite another."

She gave a small start; he had a point.

"…maybe you should ask the Master for help," Pan added after a moment of silence and blank realization. "He says you can always come to him if you willingly want to learn something new."

And so that was what they did.

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II. The Story

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"Lyra, child, where did you get this?"

The Master's withered face was shadowed in the dark office, and it was taking a while for Lyra's eyes to adjust after the sun-filled garden. But the scent of pine was familiar and comforting, and the feel of the cushioned seats made her smile, and she enjoyed watching all of the Master's strange instruments work on their own. The Master's office was even more enjoyable than the yards.

"The library," she responded promptly, petting the ferret Pantalaimon who was nestled against her breast.

"Did you ask permission to take this out?" he pressed, sounding reproving.

"Yes."

He clearly didn't believe her, but seemed to decide pressing her for information would be pointless. He was quite right, of course; he exchanged a glance with his raven dæmon, who was shifting from foot to foot, looking both annoyed and (for some reason) amused.

Well, as much as a bird could, anyway.

"In that case, child, what can I help you with?"

She wasted no time for pleasantries: "This word," Lyra demanded, standing and pointing to the scrawled mass of letters with her grubby finger. The Master peered down at the book on his large desk, eyes sweeping over the word she'd indicated.

His eyebrow arched, but he said nothing.

In Lyra's arms, Pantalaimon squirmed, as impatient as his partner—who was scowling, unable to take the Master's silence. "Well?" she pressed, eager and edgy. "What is it? What's it mean?" She leaned forward even farther, waiting for an answer, as Pan's beady eyes pierced the elderly man.

The Master gave her a brief once-over. "…The word is narcissism," he told her finally, sounding— for some reason— cautious. His dæmon ruffled her feathers. "It means to love oneself too much."

"To love…" Lyra began softly, but soon quirked an eyebrow at him, bemused. "Like being prideful? The Church says that's bad." Though she had a few of her own opinions she'd like to share with the Church…

Pan smothered a chortle, feeling her thoughts.

"Well," the Master murmured, stroking his chin in a hesitant sort of way. "Yes and no." His fingers flicked out to the raven, and he stroked her silk-smooth head, calming her. "To understand the meaning of the word, you must understand the story behind it. This is a book of myths, Lyra, and this is the story of a man named Narcissus who fell in love with his own reflection and died because of it."

If this summary was supposed to help her to understand, it didn't.

"His reflection?" Lyra echoed, mystified. "What, like his dæmon?" It would make sense: dæmons were a reflection of one's soul, in addition to being a physical piece of the person's spirit. However, if that was the reflection being spoken for…

Not for the first time that day, the child's nose scrunched in utter confusion. "But en't you supposed to love your dæmon more than anyone and anything else in the whole world?" she inquired, glowering to show her indignant frustration. "I mean, that's how I love Pan."

Pan purred his agreement.

The Master smiled faintly, in that patient way he always did, and closed the book with a snap. "This was a different sort of love."

There was a note of finality in his voice, the kind that told Lyra he wouldn't expand. And it immediately irritated her, because his explanation had done nothing for the mystification she still felt. It didn't help that the Master couldn't keep a chuckle off his lips.

"You'll understand when you're older, child."

And with that she was shooed away, off to wash for supper.

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III. The Definition


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…or that was the Master's intent, but Lyra had other plans, and instead snuck into the servants' quarters and found the secret passage that led to the courtyard. Once there, in the cooling spring breeze and under the rainbow glow of twilight, she laid down in the grass beside a cougar-shaped Pantalaimon and speculated.

"So if you're my reflection and I love you, does that make me narasa…whatever it was?" Lyra asked her dæmon, sprawled on her stomach with her chin in her hands.

"I dunno," Pan replied, shrugging as best he could. "But even if you were, or I were, I wouldn't stop loving you the very best of all."

Lyra smiled—a smile that made her eyes wrinkle and her face light up. And inside, the little girl could feel her dæmon's returning smile: rising up within her like happy little bubbles in a Champaign glass. Above the cheerful pair, some mighty force had begun punching tiny dots out of the sky; the brilliantly white starlight helped the delicate moon illuminate the heavens and the people below. "I love you the very best of all, too, Pan," the child then whispered, as if telling the cougar some spectacular secret. "Because you are me, and you are not me, and we are one while being two. It's a marvelous thing, isn't it, to know that you'll never be alone?"

Pantalaimon gave a warm growl, rolling over onto his back to stare up at the sky. "I don't understand why this narcissism is bad, then, or why Narcissus was killed. Or… perhaps he wasn't killed…" he continued thoughtfully, wisdom in his feline eyes. "Perhaps they tried to take him away from his reflection and he killed himself. I would much rather die than be without you."

The breeze danced through again, rustling through the budding leaves and blooming flowers. Lyra's dæmon turned his head with the wind, his gaze meeting the girl's.

Lyra jumped a bit as a shock jolted down her spine; had the night gotten suddenly warmer? She felt sort of hot… in the face, in the chest. And her heart had skipped a beat. What was going on?

But before she could figure it out, the air shifted, and the mood died.

What was that?

"Aw, Pan, you're gonna make me blush, you silly goose." Still puzzled but hiding it, Lyra nudged her dæmon playfully, then rolled onto her back as well, lying beside him on the crisp blades of emerald grass. "But I would much sooner die, too," she admitted. "It'd be like a whole part of me was missing…"

"'Cause it would be."

"Uh huh."

From what seemed far off, the supper bells rang: loud, sweet, clear. The sounds echoed through the coming night, drowning out the liquid songs of the birds. And the two laid there, soaking it all in, as thoughts and feelings and stories drifted through their heads.

Then, suddenly, Lyra sat up. "Hey, Pan?"

He shifted form again, becoming an owl in preparation for the imminent darkness. His tawny eyes gazed up at her, and he tilted his head both ways. "Yes?"

"Is it possible to be more of a reflection of me?"

Pantalaimon seemed at a loss. "Pardon?"

"I mean," Lyra continued excitedly—and Pan could see the mischief in her eyes— "could you turn into a replica of me? Like a real reflection, in a pond or the mirror? Or a twin? Think of all the fun we could have if you could! We could really double up on the brickburner's children, or capture two gyptian boats and no one could tell which one I took and which one you took!"

Pan didn't have to have the features of a human for Lyra to know that he was shooting her an incredulous glare. "Well… I don't know," he finally vocalized, sounding dubious. "I've never heard of anyone trying, but I guess humans are animals… and I can be any animal…"

"Yeah, yeah!" Lyra encouraged, sitting up straight and crossing her legs. The evening dew that had collected on the grass had moistened her shirt and skirt, and made her blonde hair wild. Her bright eyes were sparkling with excitement. "Try it!"

"Well…" the owl considered. "I guess trying wouldn't hurt…"

And so he tried.

But the pair had forgotten to take into account that Lyra was a girl, and Pantalaimon was a boy. He couldn't become female, just as Lyra could not become male. And so, in that aspect, the two who were one had failed in their doubling attempt. However, Pan was successful in donning the form of a human…

And it was, in more ways than one, a surprise.

Lyra gasped, taken aback—for there, there in front of her, was a Pan she'd never seen before. A human Pan. It was so bizarre; so much stranger than she had expected. To see her other half as another person… for when he was an animal, he was like a companion. But as a human, he seemed like a whole other being entirely.

An odd shiver ran from her head to her toes, a sensation comparable to when her foot fell asleep; but this was her whole body, and it felt so much better.

"Lyra?" Pan asked, with soft-looking pink lips that moved like her own. He stared up at her, with eyes as deeply blue as the sea, and touched her hand with his fingers: long, pale fingers, gentle and warm. He was clearly concerned by her reaction, though he felt the same way, too. This same awe and wonder and strange fear… this silent voice telling them that this was wrong, to turn back now… "Lyra, are you all right?"

Pantalaimon. This was Pantalaimon—unclothed, for the animals he generally impersonated were unclothed; sweet-faced, lean, and beautiful, with tousled blonde hair that curled around his ears. Her Pantalaimon…

And as she ran her fingers down his face, and he brushed away her hair— as they would have done… had done… while he was a cat, or a goat, or an ermine, or anything other than human— both were filled with an identical longing. The petting and stroking and general touching that had felt so good when Pan was an animal (when he was not human) suddenly felt twice as wonderful, and the responding love in the dæmon's eyes was more predominate that ever.

Lyra swallowed loudly, drowning in the near-tangible adoration that was filling the small courtyard. "Pan… Pan, I…"

Without realizing it, they had leaned closer. And when she did realize it, Lyra blushed: an immediate response which bewildered her. Why was she embarrassed? She had always cuddled with Pantalaimon. This was natural. This was normal.

To prove it, she kissed him as she always had.

What she had not been prepared for was his kissing back.

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IV. The Moral

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They sat for what felt like hours—their lips touching softly, slightly parted and gentle and moist. Pan seemed to have no desire to pull away, and Lyra was in such a great state of shock and joy that she couldn't have moved if she'd wanted to. This was the most amazing thing she'd even felt, and the sensation resonated deep into her soul, doubling the pleasure.

Eventually they had to breathe, and broke apart with stifled gasps: eyes half lidded and foreheads together.

Pan's pale locks tickled Lyra's nose; he touched her cheek with his fingertips. "I love you more than anything," he breathed, grinning widely. "I love you the most of anything in the world, Lyra."

He had said it before, but it sounded somehow different, now. Subtly so, but different…

And in that moment, she realized that there were more types of love than she had ever accounted for.

"Lyra?" Pantalaimon sounded suddenly shocked, but she couldn't see if the feeling had overtaken his beautiful face, for her eyes had been firmly jammed shut. She couldn't bear to look at him, the other half of her soul— her only, her dear one, her soul mate. "Lyra, why are you crying?"

His form shifted into that of the white ermine, and he coiled his way up her arm and around her shoulders, licking away her tears.

But at his actions, the tears only fell harder.

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