His Dark Materials are not my dark materials. The characters and scenario are the property of Philip Pullman.
Lyra and Pantalaimon sat upon the bed, gazing fiercely into the crystal of the alethiometer. The book of readings was closed upon the night stand beside the naphtha lamp which illuminated their long, quiet session.
"I can see the pattern Pan, like it were written out before me. I understand the words, but it's as though their grammar were all confused."
"Perhaps it's time to check the book Lyra."
"No Pan. We'll never be the best if we rely on that dumb book every time the going's rough."
"Even the masters need the book sometimes Lyra. Besides, we've been working at this for nearly four hours now."
"Four hours? That's impossible."
"See for yourself." Pan nudged aside the curtain of the bedside window. The snow had piled up immensely since Lyra had last checked. The rooftops and streets of Oxford below were covered in at least a foot of it already.
"I suppose you're right Pan. Maybe a short break wouldn't hurt."
"Lyra, we're half asleep already. Let's stop for the night. The alethiometer will be there for us tomorrow."
Lyra held the alethiometer close to her face for a moment more, looking through her reflection as she watched the needle make one more pass around the dial. Reluctantly Lyra slipped the truth-measure into a purple velvet pouch and stowed it away with the book of readings into the top drawer of the night table.
She put out the lamp and drew back the curtains to reveal the pale radiance of the moonlight reflecting off the snow. The covers of the bed seemed to swallow her up as she sank into them.
Pan crawled over to Lyra's side and nuzzled her shoulder. Lyra smiled and cradled the pine marten in her arms, pressing him into her body as she kneaded him with her fingers. They sighed contentedly and snuggled closer to each other, bound tightly in the comfort of the quilts and blankets.
As Lyra watched the snow fall from the icy sky beyond the window her thoughts flashed to the North and all the cruel, passionate memories it brought. Of the heartless anbaric glare of Bolvangar's lights, of imprisonment by the Panserbjorne under the usurper king Iofur Raknison, of Roger's vicious death at the hands of Lord Asriel, and of that wretched, horrible moment in which she nearly lost her dear, sweet Pantalaimon to the blade of the silver guillotine.
These thoughts all made Lyra sick inside, the last of them most of all. Pantalaimon knew his heartmate's sorrow well. Embracing her in the heat of his love, he licked a tear away and nuzzled her chin.
"It had to happen Lyra. I hated all that too, but without it we could never have freed Roger, we never could have beaten death…"
"…and we never could have met Will. I know Pan, I know. It's just --" Lyra sobbed and let her tears fall into Pantalaimon's coat.
"Do you think it's snowing in Will's world tonight Pan?"
"Whatever the weather, I'm sure he is with Kirjava now, doing just as we are doing."
Lyra cuddled Pantalaimon and pressed his face to hers, his stiff whiskers prickling her cheek.
"Oh, Pan." Lyra cooed at the thought of any sort of closeness with Will. Her senses returned to that happy moment in which she and Will shared in the warmth of each other's souls.
It was still there; that ecstatic, sacred thrill that rattled her when William Parry laid his hand upon her dæmon. Will's love had placed a mark upon Pantalaimon, invisible and indelible, tucked away deep within him.
Lyra and Pan sank into a trance, the sort they once could enter with ease back when reading the alethiometer was second nature. Together they found that trace with and grabbed on tight.
Their link, which had which had been made limber and elastic by their journey into the underworld, drew taught and stiff like the strings of a lute.
All the distractions had been cleared out of Lyra's mind and once again it was just herself and Pantalaimon in the universe, and the lingering evidence of Will and Kirjava's love for them.
That old ecstasy came alive again in both Lyra and Pan, strumming the strings of their connection and making music only they could hear.
Lyra held Pantalaimon as close to her as she could and stroked him with every ounce of love she had in her.
Lyra's touch upon Pan was now as Will's had been, and she and her dæmon once again drank of that satisfaction that came of sharing in something beyond themselves.
Pantalaimon slipped into Lyra's warmth, wanting to squirm in delight as she petted him, but finding that he could only lay limp in her embrace and smile as a deep, thorough happiness washed over him.
Pan opened his eyes. Lyra was smiling with him.
Lyra felt a pang of jealousy for the people of Will's world. How wonderful it must be for them, to live with their dæmons within them, to feel their affection from the inside out, to never fear being separated as she and Pan nearly were at Bolvangar all those years ago.
But still, Pan reminded, how cruel it was, that those people would never know the bliss of holding their heart's companion in their own arms, of hearing their voices aloud and feeling their company as a physical presence, and that their dæmons would never know what it is to simply be touched by their human.
Lyra then considered as she often did that this fleeting phase of her existence as a flesh and blood creature would be the last and only in which she would know the joy of being joined with Pantalaimon, her beloved dæmon.
She sobbed at the thought, though she still smiled as she rubbed Pan from head to tail and basked with him in the pleasure the touch brought them both.
Her tears fell on Pan's muzzle, and he licked them up.
Lyra kissed her nose to her dæmon's and held it there for the longest time.
"I love you Pantalaimon."
"I love you too Lyra."
Lyra stroked Pan lovingly until they both fell asleep, curled up together beneath the covers and the glowing, silvery backdrop of the Christmas Eve skyscape.