|In a Glass, Darkly
Author: Subtilior PM
Dr. Sarah Williams, psychiatrist, wants fiercely to succeed. A tormented patient, Aaron Cohen, wants only to sleep. But they have something in common ... and that something wants nothing less than Sarah herself ... Pika's Reverse Illustration Challenge.Rated: Fiction M - English - Horror/Supernatural - Chapters: 9 - Words: 71,404 - Reviews: 357 - Favs: 351 - Follows: 55 - Updated: 09-07-07 - Published: 08-03-07 - Status: Complete - id: 3701450
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
In a Glass, Darkly
Chapter 7, Part 3
She remained huddled on the ground, in a heap, even after she realized that the sky had ceased falling. That the screaming had stopped. That –
– and Sarah gasped –
That Aaron had disappeared.
She shot to her feet. Broken glass cascaded from her hair; dust puffed out from her clothing. She recognized the dirty stone – the heaps of rags – the splintery benches – even the occasional chicken feather –
Sarah stiffened. She could feel someone staring at her – a gaze resting on her neck and back with an almost tangible weight.
You know very well who it is –
She turned. And she saw Jareth.
"Oh, no …"
"Oh, yes." He was poised on the edge of the familiar, ancient seat carved from stone, drinking in the sight of her with flaming eyes, and gripping the armrests of the throne with his hands. "Welcome, Sarah."
She took a step backwards, legs shaking, and almost fell over the stair leading up from the depression in the middle of the throne room – she scrambled up it as fast as she could, and then spun in place, wildly, looking for Aaron.
"Where is he?"
Jareth raised both eyebrows. "I beg your pardon?"
"Aaron Cohen!" she spat. "Where – the hell – is he?!"
A nonchalant shrug. The Goblin King sat back, and rolled a crystal – oh God, that crystal – from one hand to the other. His lips began to curve up, as he looked across the throne room at her, his eyes –
Sarah stared at him. He looked exactly as she remembered him best – from so long ago – from her time in the Labyrinth – though a combination of how he had appeared at different times then … his dark, heavy cloak; his gaudy, almost foppish clothing; his extravagant hair – his thin, mobile face split by a smile; his eyes glittering at her, with a combination of magic and lust – wait –
That look – the hairs on the back of her neck prickled. She remembered that look. She remembered it from each one of the three nights they had been – her mind stumbled and she almost tripped – together – on each of those nights he had gazed at her in desire – and in her dreams he had looked at her thus … as though she were something that he could consume – something he could swallow whole…
She slowly moved further away from him – one step, then another, then another -
"Really, Sarah." His voice, low and oily, slipped across the room. "I find it quite ironic that you are so suddenly concerned for young Aaron's welfare – although your final act in your earthly life was, I admit, quite gallant." Jareth snapped the gloved fingers of one hand– the crystal vanished. The smile had left his face; he stared at her, his eyes shadowed. "But before, Sarah – before – you were quite content to let him recover from his horrible trauma far, far away from your blessed presence … weren't you?"
Sarah took refuge in anger, to prevent fear from freezing her in place.
"He isn't my only patient, you son of a –"
She choked, horrified, as Jareth raised one finger to his lips.
"Shh, shh, shh … ah. That's much better." His voice lilted. "Hush, little Sarah, don't say a word …"
Sarah tried to speak, but could not. It was awful – her tongue seemed to have turned to stone in her mouth – her throat had dried up –
"I have had quite enough of your imprecations, my dear. And I made sure to warn you. 'Look to your vassals, Sarah.' Such a pity that you sent the most important of them all so very far away. He was lonely, you understand – and he had enjoyed my story so very much, that I thought it would be worthwhile to pay him another visit, and offer him another bargain …"
Jareth's eyes lingered on hers; she could not tear her gaze from him.
"Behold –" He gestured, suddenly; she started. "The moral of your story, Sarah mine." His voice hardened. "If you will play the crusader, you must take special care to watch over your vassals – all those under your power … lest they find a power of their own, and seek to punish you… for injuries either imaginary, or all too real."
Her breath hissed between her teeth as she tried to choke out a protest – a curse –
"Hm. I should say – all those who were under your power." The voice was still icy, but now Jareth's eyes gleamed. "Because playtime is over, precious … Story hour has come and gone ..."
He sat up straight on the curved throne, and smiled slowly at her.
"Won't you walk closer?"
Sarah's feet twitched.
She gasped, and looked down; then stared back up at Jareth and grabbed onto a small statue, set into the stone wall – willing herself not to move –
"If you are not amenable to suggestion, you force my hand, love." Jareth's voice was quiet.
"Walk closer. Now."
Sarah would have screamed, were it not for the strange buzz of power in her throat and mouth. She took a deep breath, and tried to shout again – and managed a choked growl as her feet mechanically took her across the dirty floor to the foot of the dais.
"My, my, my ..." His eyebrows shot to his hairline as he slumped back in the throne, considering her. "What a will you have, that you can stand your ground in such a way. I was not mistaken in you …" Jareth smiled, his eyes hooded. "You have a very great talent, Sarah – a force of will which, when wed to your considerable imagination, makes you a power to be reckoned with … truly …"
Then he paused, and his eyes narrowed to slits. "But I can hardly reckon with you from such a distance, can I?"
Another grin – shark-like. "Come to me, Sarah." He shifted, slightly, and patted his knee. "Come, sit with me here –"
Sarah felt a great sweep of anger rush up into her face, leaving it crimson and stinging, at being summoned to sit like a child – like a pet –
She clenched her teeth together as her legs moved, and took her up the steps and arranged her on Jareth's lap like an automaton. He paused for a long moment, watching her furious face with obvious enjoyment. Then he laughed, harshly, catching hold of her and drawing her closer.
"Now, now – won't you relax?" She kept herself stiff, but then he whispered, "– relax –" and then Sarah gasped as her body draped itself over his chest and legs, as if strings holding it taut had been cut. Horror and fury mingled in her stomach to fight the sudden arousal that surged through her as he buried his face in the curve of her neck –
"Yes …" Jareth's voice was muffled against her skin and her hair. "Playtime is over – but now the real fun begins, doesn't it?" He brought up one gloved hand to glide over her jaw, pressing his mouth to her throat. She felt each of his words as a hot gust against her flesh. "How does it feel, Sarah? … How does it feel to have no power – to be weak, to be helpless – to be at the mercy of another?"
Mercy – the word dripped from his mouth like blood from a chunk of raw meat. Sarah felt her gorge rise as he traced his lips up and down her neck, slowly, inhaling her scent as he did –
"Especially after I gave you such a precious gift, to add to your own power. 'Be watchful – be vigilant –' How did it feel, to have the thoughts of others fly to your hand? How does it feel, to know that you will never use that power again, until I order you to do so? How does it feel, Sarah?" Jareth hissed against her skin. "Princess –"
With an enormous effort, she hissed back at him, through her gritted teeth. "Bastard –"
Jareth pulled his head back, sharply, and stared. "Such a force of will. My … Well, I'd hate to put you through further discomfort, so –" he held her immobile at her waist, twining his legs around hers – "Won't you speak to me, my love?" He batted his eyelashes. "I would so much like to hear how it feels to be powerless – from your own lips … so … speak."
The grip of power evaporated from her mouth and tongue, with the feeling of sandpaper scraping metal – Sarah gasped in another breath and snarled. "You monster –"
He nodded. "Yes. I thought I made that quite clear, in the alleyway."
"You have no power over me, you rat bastard son of a –"
"Now there you are wrong ..." He moved his hands from around her waist, mocking her with his fingers inching up, little by little, sneaking beneath her white jacket – and then her shirt – Sarah registered the slide of leather on her bare skin and bared her teeth at him in defiance –
"Wrong …" he crooned. "Wrong, wrong wrong." Jareth traced over her ribcage, then gave her a slow, heated smile as he moved to her bra. She bit her lip and looked away from him. "You see, Sarah, once somebody has spoken the words and has witnessed their consequences, he – or she – never forgets them. Such it was for you, with – what was it? Ah, yes – you have no power over me." His hands slid to her back; he felt for the bra's clasp. "You never forgot that phrase, and you quite delighted in throwing it in my face, day in, day out – damn –"
Sarah felt a bubble of hysteria float up through her throat, as his fingers fumbled the clasp. "Too much for you, your Majesty?"
Jareth gave her a long, measuring look – there was something lurking in the depths of his eyes, so close to hers – something cold and cruel – horrible – whatever it was made her shudder –
"Hardly." He had flicked his gaze from hers; the hold was broken. She felt him tug at his gloves, one hand to the other – then they were off, and falling down her back in a tumble, and his bare hands unhooked the clasp smoothly. "As I was saying, you remembered the one phrase – but you seemed to have forgotten the invocation that gets so many foolish people into so much trouble in the first place …"
Sarah tried to focus on his words, but his touch brought other memories to the front of her mind – his fingers, burning hot, retracing their path from her back to her breasts – he flipped the scrap of cloth up beneath her shirt, though it still hung from her shoulders, and caressed her, slowly –
"Yes …" Jareth hissed – his breath was hot. "I wish the Goblins would come and take you away – right now – ring any bells?"
Someone was moaning. Sarah blinked away a haze that had fallen across her vision, and realized that that someone was herself. Cursing inwardly, she fought against the insistent press of memory, and of his hands – his hands feel so –
"Fairy stories." Her voice was ragged. "Fairy tales and dreams – that's all you have to work with, Goblin King – tricking children and people who never grow the fuck up – ah –"
He had palmed one breast and flicked his thumbnail against the nipple. "Such language …" Jareth teased her, tracing his thumb in circles – then he pinched her and Sarah yelped – and then felt her face flame as she caught him smirking at her. "Fairy tales are enough for some, Sarah. Tales, images, archetypes … those universal constants that lurk beneath the bed and in the mind … and even those stories have their nicer points. For example: I am personally fond of the kiss that awakens the beautiful princess …"
Sarah's heart shot up into her throat. She was no longer aware of his hands at her breasts, although he did not halt his caresses – she stared at him – at his eyes, hooded and focused on her lips.
"Sarah … Won't you kiss me?"
She swallowed. "No."
Jareth flicked his gaze up to meet hers. "Then allow me to rephrase that." He smiled, viciously. "Kiss me."
"You bastard – I don't want t –" Her words cut off as her mouth moved of its own accord to meet his – and –
God – it was everything she remembered – everything that it had been over those three nights – and her memory gave her not only the kiss but all that followed as well: sunset to sunrise of skin on skin, lips parting, tongue against teeth, and limbs twisting together until her heart was beating so fast that she thought it would burst within her body –
Jareth gripped her tightly, and kissed down the line of her jaw. "Sarah –" his voice was hoarse. "Princess – I will give you your dreams – all of your dreams – for now you are mine – mine – and nothing can take you away from me –"
"Jareth –" she choked. He murmured something indistinct against her ear as he swept his palms over her upper body, tugging at her clothes from the inside.
"Jareth – please, wait –"
He drew his head back to stare at her – his eyes were wide, the pupils dilated so that they matched. "Wait for what?" he rasped.
"My dreams …" Sarah whispered. "Shall I show you my dreams?"
A smile tugged at his mouth. "I know all of them, my dear, but –" and he took in a deep breath, and exhaled – "what is it that you wish to show me?"
"This." Sarah felt every square inch of her skin shiver in anticipation –
– and then she drew back her lips from her teeth, and spat in his face.
He roared in fury, and threw her back by her waist, hard – she landed at an awkward angle on the floor and cried out as her back wrenched beneath her body weight. A torrent of power crackled through the air – lights and sounds whirling around her as she heard him stride from the throne, every footstep echoing –
"You dare?" His voice rebounded off the grimy walls of the throne room. "You dare show such insolence to your master, you –"
Sarah propped herself up on her elbows, then sat up straight with an effort, glaring at him. "Master – I don't think so! You tricked me – you tricked Aaron! He's a child, Jareth – just an innocent child and if you put him through the Labyrinth again, I'll never forgive you –"
Jareth glared back at her, his eyes burning with rage, his dark cloak unfurling around him in the wind that blew through the room. "I am your master now, Sarah. All of your power is mine, to use as I see fit. Whether or not I show you mercy depends on your behavior – and – come to think of it –"
He stooped down by the throne and grabbed his gloves; with one, he wiped his face clean – and then he slapped the two together in one hand with a crack of leather. "I could order you to do anything, at this moment, and you would do it. I could order you to jump out a window, or gnaw off your own right hand – I could order you to hold your breath until you suffocated." His face darkened, with his voice. "I could order you to strip, to crawl over here on your hands and knees and beg to suck me off – do you understand me?"
Sarah recoiled in horror; she scrambled away from him, through the dust and filth of the throne room. Her white coat was dirty; she didn't care –
"Sarah …" Jareth fixed her with his eyes as he paced towards her. Then he went still, his stark face twisted into a rictus of beautiful cruelty. "Lovely Sarah. I could tie you down and take you here by force – here –" he tapped one boot – "on the floor, in front of all the assembled creatures of the Labyrinth – and none would lift a finger to help you …"
Her mouth felt coated in sand. "But Aaron – in the Labyrinth –"
"Especially Aaron." There was nothing warm, or human, about his smile. "And you think he is in the Labyrinth, Sarah?" Jareth tilted his head to one side, and gathered his cloak around himself. "Think again."
He watched her, narrowly, and then gestured –
The first thing she heard was sobbing. The next thing she heard was a familiar voice.
"Please … please … I'm afraid …"
And then Sarah saw Aaron materialize before the throne, shaking where he stood, and hiding his face behind his pudgy hands.
Jareth's smile became remote, as his eyes flicked from her to the boy – and as he turned away to face her former patient –
"Wait …" Sarah gasped. "Wait – Aaron –"
Both of the others ignored her – Jareth, regal and proud; Aaron, shivering in fear.
"Well!" The familiar, jaunty tones of the Goblin King hit her ears. "Well, my fine fellow – what can I do for you?"
What can I do for you –
Oh, no. Oh my God, no – please let it not be –
Aaron whimpered. "You promised me –"
"Ah." Jareth smiled. "What did I promise you?"
The cries redoubled. "My sister … my sister …"
Glancing towards Sarah, and smirking, Jareth flicked one of his bare hands in the air, and pulled a sparkling crystal out of nothingness, to glimmer and glow before the boy's face –
"I have a gift for you, young man."
"No –" Sarah hissed. "Jareth, you son of a bitch – don't do this to him again –"
"Sarah." His voice was cold, and it fell like a weight into the room. "Do not presume to tell me what to do. Ever. Do you understand me?"
He held her eyes, his own commanding and pitiless – and she saw – oh my God what is it – the air in the room shiver, changing – and Jareth himself rippled, strangely –
Had she hit her head? Sarah stared, feeling numb. She had an impression of the boundaries of her vision bubbling – the lineaments of the throne, of the air, of the stone, of reality changing before her eyes –
She saw a seethe of reptilian coils, and scales – is that a snake –
Sarah could hardly force his name out from between her chattering teeth.
He said nothing, merely looked at her.
"What's going on?"
A slight shrug. "This is neither the time, nor the place, for questions."
"No –" Her limbs felt heavy – and her head – she couldn't keep her head up – and then she felt a queasy rippling in her flesh as Jareth's image seemed to change –
"What are you, Jareth? What are you – really?"
He raised an eyebrow. "I am who I am –" He smiled. "I am myself."
Sarah stared at him. "Let me see you."
Jareth's smile turns cold. "Are you sure?"
"You're not going to like it."
"I don't care."
He paused, considering – and inclined his head.
"So be it."
Jareth smiled at her again, merciless, remote – and then he turned his back on Aaron, and on her, and strode back up the stairs to seat himself upon the throne.
"Then we shall see face to face."
His eyes rested on hers, and then he held out his arms with a sudden rustle and flap of his cloak –
– a black cloak –
– a white cloak –
– or were they white wings –
The room groaned. Light bent, stone and dirt melted away. Colors melted to black, black became white, and white burned with such a horrible intensity that Sarah cried out, and covered her face with her hands –
And when she opened her eyes, and let her hands fall away, reality as she knew it was no more.
She could not see where the room ended. Sarah looked up, staring, at the walls of the throne room stretching into a bleak, burning white sky. But no – there was the ceiling – she set the boundary of the room there and looked for the opposite wall – but the walls had receded into the distance and she could no longer see where they sliced across the infinity of white –
A child was crying.
Sarah heard its cry, felt the sobs clutch at her heart. She turned her head, slowly, to try and find the child – there –
But where Aaron was, surely there would also be –
She turned her head to her right, and saw him.
Jareth was shining with a light somehow even brighter than the whiteness of the room – beautiful and terrible to behold. Bright silver loops of power coiled around him, and he had – wings? Wings? Or a cloak? – Sarah could not look near his face for long – She averted her eyes, her mind scrabbling for some way to understand what she saw, and she focused on his hands – and there – her thoughts stumbled – he was stroking a silver snake, a snake that wove itself around his elegant wrists and through his long, pale fingers –
And then her mind stopped as he spoke –
"Aaron. Light bringer ..."
– Sarah felt her very being recoil – she squeezed her eyes shut - there was something so wrong about his voice, something deeply unreal – as though the abyss had looked back at her and had spoken in an echo millennia old –
"My light bringer. Aaron Cohen – son of high priests and kin of kings ... You have rendered me a great service."
The young boy was trembling where he stood.
"Aaron. Do not fear. You shall have whatever you desire ..." His voice dropped to a grating whisper. "For you brought me something I coveted."
The child's voice quavered.
"Whatever I want?"
The hiss echoed through the room, rebounding off the walls and growing louder and louder – "yes yes yes yes YES YES–"
"Please." Sarah heard a sob. "I want my mom and dad. Mom – I want my mommy ..." He began to cry harder.
"Ah. Honor your father and your mother, that you may live a long life in the land which is given to you ..." The terrible voice set the words slithering up, down, and around – Sarah choked back a swell of sickness. "Yes. An admirable request, my light bringer."
"Please – please – I'm afraid – my sister – please give me my sister –"
"You need not fear, dear child." Sarah heard a rustle; despite herself, she opened her eyes to see –
– Jareth, standing, and looking at a white light in the palm of his hand.
Sarah squinted against the pounding in her head. Was it the same crystal?
– and then she recognized the shape of the light. It was an apple.
A beautiful, iridescent apple – shimmering and rippling with the colors of the rainbow –
"Aaron. Light bringer." Jareth held out the apple to the boy. "Eat this, and nothing will ever hurt again. Your parents shall be yours. Your sister shall be yours. Anything and everything you desire shall be yours. Take it –" his voice roughened. "Take, and eat."
The words were wrong, from his lips – it felt as though her mind were being flayed –
But she gathered her strength, and choked out: "Don't – Aaron – don't do it –"
Jareth did not even spare her a glance. He watched the boy, his eyes hooded. Aaron had stepped forward, trembling, his eyes round and filled with fear – but then he reached out a pudgy hand, and took the apple.
"Oh, God, no –" Sarah cried.
Jareth whipped his face towards her – his molten silver glare sliced through her mind like a knife through butter.
She felt his whisper creep across her thoughts. It left blisters in its wake.
"That name is forbidden here. That name has no place, no power here and it is forbidden to you – do you understand?"
Yes – Sarah felt her tongue cleave to the roof of her mouth as she tried to speak past the pain – yes I understand I know who you are I know what you are –
The shining walls pulsed as Aaron took a deep breath; they flared in triumph along with Jareth's eyes when the boy bit into the apple; they flattened into a contented shimmer as Aaron took one step, then two, and then pitched to one side and fell, heavily – fell into death? into sleep? – Sarah could not see past the glowing light of Jareth's countenance as he strode from his throne to look down at the boy, as he shone like the sun, like a star –
And then he turned to look at her.
His face was the same, but different – pale yet fiery, beautiful beyond compare – its lines and planes and the curve of his lips just as they had always been – but an image from beneath the beauty seared itself onto her mind's eye, like a bright light leaving a multicolored outline on her retinas – an afterimage of hideous, blackened corruption – seething, festering, and grinning at her, horribly, its sharp teeth bared and dripping with rot –
Sarah tried to say something. Her mouth was too dry.
Jareth inclined his head towards her. "Speak, mortal. We will hear you."
Fear slid its parched fingers from her mouth to her throat, choking her.
"Hm." She saw the skin around Jareth's eyes – that strange silver – crinkle as he smiled. "That is rather overly formal ... Although the beauty of high language is a blessing in itself, is it not? They way it simultaneously reveals and conceals … if those who have ears do not hear."
The glare of the walls flickered into something approaching normal light as he nudged Aaron's body out of the way with his foot.
"Well, Sarah. Now you see face to face, where before you saw in a glass, darkly ... Now perfection has come, and soon, soon, my dove,the imperfect will disappear ..." Jareth made a sweeping gesture with both hands; the white of his robes pulsed against her eyes like her own heartbeat. "Soon you will know fully, as you become – fully known ..." A leer split the beauty of his face into two ugly halves –
Sarah shrank from him as he drew near to her.
Jareth's face smoothed out into a gorgeous mask. "What ails you, my love?
"You told me –" she croaked. "You told me –"
Jareth took his right hand from where it stroked the shimmering scales of the snake twined around his left arm – Sarah could only watch, mesmerized, as his fingers floated towards her – and then she flinched as he brushed her hair away from her face. He saw the flinch, and he drew his lips back, a slice of jagged, razor-sharp teeth flashing from the maw of his mouth –
"What did I tell you?"
Even the murmur of his voice scalded her mind.
Sarah heard her own voice, high-pitched, disbelieving.
"You told me you weren't Satan."
Jareth's eyes flickered. He reached out with his other hand – the snake undulated up his arm and uncoiled over his shoulders. He touched Sarah's face with his long fingers – she gasped as she felt her cheekbones, her jaw, her forehead go numb with some strange current – or power –
He smiled, gently.
"And you believed me."
Sarah felt her consciousness begin to step away, first slowly, and then running, backing up as fast as it could.
"Your friend, now – Benedict Romani, that admirable young man – he almost gave me away …"
Jareth framed her face with his hands; she thought she would scream, if she could breathe –
"Benedict – his namesake such a worthy foe, so long ago – that boy, that friend of yours … he saw me, Sarah! He saw me in the flames, and he knew me for who I was – and when he realized what was at stake, he fought with me from sunset to sunrise and finally called on the name of his precious savior –" Jareth spat – "to cast me out. I suspect that if he sees me again, it will be a reckoning for him." His smile was horrible. "You had a champion, Sarah – a defender ready to hand – one to whom you could have joined your own force to blast and defeat me, leaving me utterly cast down … But ..."
… and his voice dropped into a whisper, slithering over her face, scorching it – "But – what if you had told him something of what you had seen – what if he had not shied from your contempt by obscuring the truth of his vision with his pathetic little jokes – what he had told you that he recognized me? … if indeed he had made the leap from the mists of his dreaming to the stark reality of day? … His fight with me was as real as your defeat of my Labyrinth, dear heart – and just as difficult to describe to others without sounding insane … So – even if he had told you that he knew me as the Great Deceiver … well … somehow I doubt his medieval notions would have held any sway at all with you, my dear ..." His face bent closer; he ran his tongue over his jagged teeth as he gloated. "Is it not so?"
Ben – she thought, despairingly. I should have known. I should have told you – you could have helped me – I should have known –
Jareth's fingers stroked her face, and twined their way into her hair. If she were any closer, Sarah thought to herself – if she were any closer, she would be burning up – incinerated –
But she was far away. If she squinted, from a distance, she could imagine herself in a tiny boat, tossed on the surface of the sea – a sea that grew choppy as she shivered, the water darkening with her fear –
"What – leaving so soon?" Jareth breathed. "I think not."
The water began to boil and steam. She could see a shining figure on a far-off shore –
"I have not finished with you here, Sarah."
And she felt an unseen force drag her back from her retreat and slam her back into her body, fully conscious – and every single one of her bones and each drop of her blood screamed in agony as he pulled her against him and kissed her on her mouth.
If his voice had been a dagger, then his kiss was a flood of molten metal burning through her, leaving slag behind – Sarah gasped for air and shrieked even louder, in her mind –
Through a gray haze, she saw Jareth draw back, and consider her, his silver gaze flat.
The excruciating white-hot fire crackled around her eyes, inside her skull, and melted them –
Sarah screamed, and woke up –
She was on the floor of the Goblin King's throne room. It was quiet. Sarah propped herself up on her elbows, and saw – next to her – Aaron, lying as motionless as a corpse, and just as pale –
Gasping, half-crying, she crawled to him and felt for his pulse. There – just there – faint, flickering, but still present – he was still alive.
Sarah sat up. And regretted the motion instantly, as her head seemed to split in two with pain.
"You can't say I didn't warn you."
The voice was soft, and drawling. Sarah peered in the direction it had come from – she saw Jareth, half-hidden in a window recess, watching her.
He bared his teeth at her. "Peek-a-boo."
Fear gripped her stomach; she scuttled away, across the flagstones, much as she had before – but that was before I knew –
Her back hit a step, and she could move no further. She could only watch, her heart racing, her mind screaming at her to run, run, run – as Jareth unfolded himself from the recess, and stretched.
"Come now, stop that quivering. That's the whole point of this fairy-tale get-up, you realize." Jareth walked up to her; she saw one of his boots tapping the floor impatiently. "The Goblin King is an avatar. An archetype. A convenient mask. A way of dealing with humans without the regretful side effect of reducing them to mindless wrecks or greasy cinders." He took her hands and pulled her to her feet. "Although mindless wrecks can eventually prove satisfying. And they do burn quite spectacularly. Remind me to give you the full tour, one of these days."
Before she could register his movement, he had tipped his head, gracefully, and bestowed a kiss upon her cheek.
Her stomach practically rebelled. Sarah yanked her hands away from his and wrapped them around her arms, shivering.
His eyebrows rose. "Cold? Then here –" He swept the dark, ornate cape from his shoulders in one smooth motion, and slung it around her own. "This will keep you warm."
It was warm. And the leather had a strange, alluring scent to it – dark, with undertones of some subtle tang, or some electrical charge that made the hair on the back of her neck prickle ... and made her remember –
– Jareth, easing her legs apart with his long fingers and making her thrill with pleasure – kissing her on the mouth and murmuring – heart's desire – heart's desire –
"Heart's desire." She spoke dully.
"Ah – she speaks!" Jareth flashed a smile at her as he bent to pick up Aaron in his arms. "But why so forlorn, precious thing?"
"All this time – all this time, you've lied to me. Was it –" Her tongue felt thick, in her mouth. "Was any of it true? What you said that last night?"
"What – 'you are my heart's desire'?" Jareth tucked Aaron's limbs within his grasp. "Well, I certainly desire you ... but whether or not I have a heart has been a matter of considerable theological debate for quite some time. I'd be happy to summarize it for you, when we have the chance." He stood at the door, his head tilted, considering her. "Will you follow, Sarah?"
She closed her eyes, trying to focus around the echoes of his voice, and the prickling of tears beneath her eyelids. Follow – or be forced to follow –
Jareth tsked. "Follow me." He spun on his heel, and walked away, with Aaron in his arms. "You will forgive me, for being in a hurry, won't you?" he called back over his shoulder.
Feeling his power tugging at her legs and feet, Sarah followed.
She lost track of the twists and turns of the castle – for it was the castle … she recognized the stairs that led to the Escher room, and she caught a glimpse of tiny forms scuttling into corners, squeaking and running away from the tread of Jareth's boots. Sarah held the cloak tightly closed, trying to take comfort from its warmth, and, most of all, trying to think around the fact that sat like an iceberg in the middle of her mind –
How is this possible – how is this possible – but no, it's possible – so how can you get away – how can you bargain – what can you bargain –
She could think of any number of things she could bargain. But the time to bargain had been before Aaron had opened his mouth, before he had met her in the first place … before he had even been born …
Sarah gasped as they walked through a marble archway into a vast room, open to the sky – midnight blue studded with stars – and crammed full of marble slabs. They spread out in a glowing geometric pattern beneath the starlight – far into the distance, further than the eye could see.
On each of the slabs rested a man, or a woman, or a child.
Resting … Sarah drifted through the mass of humanity, taking in the washed-out, immobile forms on their biers. Resting truly described them. None was bound, but none moved. Dark roots and vines twisted up from the earth in between the slabs, coiling around the pale marble, but not touching a single soul …
The room had the air of one massive, ancient graveyard, silent under the stars.
She kept walking, and listened to the soft taps of her practical hospital shoes on the ground, the quiet rustle of the Goblin King's cloak sweeping around her. Jareth's own steps were sharper, louder. She let her eyes fall on his back, on the sweep of pale hair moving before her. She felt that she would never be able to lose sight or sound of him – that even if she closed her eyes, she would still hear the sound of his step on the hard ground, the cold ground, the ground that held so many dreams, or nightmares, or visions of the world to come –
Sarah blinked away a sudden image of dark roots twisting, and grappling with the sleepers, like snakes writhing around corpses. Where had that come from?
Jareth's crisp voice cut through her thoughts. He had walked up a few steps to a prominent bier; he took one hand from around Aaron's body and gestured at her to join him.
She watched her feet making their careful way up the steps. Her fear was a distant clangor in her mind – controlled, and put in a corner for the time being. It's no use …
"There …" The Goblin King's pale face was inscrutable as he carefully – almost gently – laid Aaron down on the marble, smoothing out the boy's crumpled collar, and wrinkles in the striped shirt, and tufts of lank hair, as he did so. His hands – where did his gloves go? – gleamed the same deathly white as Aaron's skin.
With a quiet sound of satisfaction, Jareth drew his hands away, and flourished his fingers in mid-air.
The edges of the slab undulated, strangely, and something began to crystallize on them –
Sarah blinked. It was crystal – or glass ... It rapidly grew on itself, and leaped up to meet other iridescent strands from the opposite side, until Aaron's face became dimmed – obscured by the panes and facets that resembled nothing as much as a near-transparent, finely wrought coffin.
Mutely, she laid a hand on the glass, and tapped. Wake up. I'm sorry. Please wake up –
"No," Jareth murmured, and Sarah realized that she had whispered the last words aloud. "It will not be so, Sarah – for I have granted his wish, and he will sleep here … and in his dreams, he will have the family that he so longs for, and the love that was never granted to him in his short span."
"You won't hurt him –"
Jareth cut her off, his flared nostrils the only sign of emotion on his face. "I gave him my word, and I keep it – just as I keep my word to you. All these, Sarah –" he gestured widely – "all these are my dreamers, who sleep here until the ending of the world, when all that is made will be unmade … They sleep, and they dream … but thanks to your command, I will not torment them further."
"They took their dreams?" she whispered.
"All of them?" Sarah croaked. "Jareth – how many – how can that possibly –"
His eyes never left hers. "I have been doing this for quite some time, Sarah."
She paused. "Do I want to know how long?"
Jareth's mouth curled in a smile, a smile without any warmth at all. "No."
Sarah closed her eyes, trying to keep her breathing steady. Then, another thought flashed across her mind –
"All dreams, Jareth? Is there anything beyond your touch?" She heard her own bitterness. "Anyone you don't seek to destroy?"
He made an impatient gesture. "You have not listened to me! These are the ones who sought to defeat the Labyrinth, and failed. They practically throw themselves into my path – yet they represent only a fraction of humanity – only those particularly attuned to the great power that flows like a river through history, through the human mind …"
"Archetypes …" Sarah whispered.
Jareth shrugged, and turned to look down at the crystal coffin. "A crude notion, but it will serve. It has served. But truly – if I sought to control the dreams of the whole world, I would be spread even thinner than I am already."
He passed one hand over his mouth. "I find myself pressed for time, Sarah. Time. I know neither the day nor the hour – I do not know when the final conflict will come – I hang upon the notice of others, like some lackey –" he spat the words and clenched his hand into a fist – "but that does not mean that I cannot find as many dreamers as I can, and take their power for my own, lest that same last battle prove my undoing."
His voice was harsh – Sarah heard it as though it came from a great distance.
My jewel, my Sarah … My dreamer –
She drew in her breath at the memory. "Jareth –"
He moved his brooding gaze from Aaron to herself. "Yes?"
"Will you –" Will you lay me down to sleep here – forever – oh God – "What will you –"
"What will I do with the boy?" Jareth sighed, in mock exasperation. "I told you – I will do nothing harmful. I gave you my word."
His eyes flicked down over her form, then back up to her face. "What you do with him, however, will be left to your discretion." A slight smile. "Though you can always count on my benevolent guidance, love."
She shivered at his expression –
– and then her mind caught up with his words.
"Wait." Her lips felt numb. "Wait – what I do with him?"
Jareth's smile turned secretive. He brushed past her to walk down the steps. He paused at their base, and surveyed the expanse of sleepers – dreamers – she caught the flash of his keen eyes.
"I've told you – I have grown far too busy over the last few hundred years, my dear. Even as belief in certain archetypes – figures of fairy or myth – has waned, humanity's arrogance and ability to wage death and destruction has burst into full bloom. With wars, and rumors of wars, and every matter of strife practically knocking down my door and offering me tribute on a silver platter, how can I spare time for dreams?"
He tipped his head to one side, and smiled once more.
"That is why I have long been looking … for a suitable replacement."
"No …" Sarah could hardly speak.
He willfully misunderstood her. "Oh, certainly not for my own seat of power – no indeed." A laugh. "You would do well to never foment rebellion against me, precious thing. No – all I desire is a renewal of this ancient archetype – the dream keeper, the child stealer, the trickster and the singer … the lover … the cheat. Some facets you'll have to polish by yourself – I do hope you can carry a tune – and other …" his eyes darkened. "Other aspects of this role, you will practice with me ..."
Sarah stared at him, aghast. "You can't – you can't mean –"
His eyes sparked with glee. "Can't I?" He surveyed her again, hungrily. "'Come to the Labyrinth, and be my Queen' – those were my exact words, were they not?"
He paused, and his smile turned gloating – and somehow, strangely – proud?
"That cloak becomes you well, Sarah."
Her breath was coming faster – she felt dizzy as she looked from side to side, and fumbled with the jeweled clasp at the cloak's collar – but – wait – it wasn't a clasp – it was a necklace, or a pendant –
"No." Jareth's voice was low. "I'm afraid not. Once on, that seal does not come off – unless you find someone to take up your mantle." A pause. "Which you won't, seeing as I forbid it."
Sarah flung her arms to her sides, and stared at him, her eyes tearing up with fury.
"You planned this so well, didn't you?" she gritted out between clenched teeth. "You let me find my purpose – protecting children, helping people, saving them – and you turned it on its head, you bastard, so now I –"
"I keep my word to you, Sarah …" he whispered, his eyes flaring with an unholy light. She blinked, and caught a glimpse of a snake, and winced away from the memory of pain – "I gave you my word – and I keep it. No, I will not torment the sleepers … the dreamers …" He bared his teeth. "You will."
A pause. She could hardly breathe. Her blood rushed in her ears. The fear had fled its corner, and was crashing through her brain – tearing and screaming –
"In other words –"
Jareth gave her a courtly bow.
"Welcome to your Hell."
Her heart beat frantically – the fear pounced, and bit – and she saw Jareth shimmer in her vision, and fade from her sight as her mind took her away, took her into darkness, so she would not have to look upon his broad smile as he held out his arms to receive her.
Sarah groaned, and woke up.
Her voice was thick and her head ached; her throat felt as though she had swallowed a glass full of sand.
Blinking, she sat up and looked around. She had been sleeping on a twin bed with a patterned quilt. She glanced behind her – there was a pretty white headboard, a rust-colored curtain topping it, and – she frowned – a blue pillow in the shape of a dinosaur, its plush body slightly squashed where her head had rested …
Sarah bit her lip as realization set in. She was in her old bedroom; just as it had been with she was young – overflowing with books, crammed with stuffed animals, knick-knacks, memories …
She slid her legs over the side of the bed, stood – what's that rustle – took a step – and cursed as she stubbed her toe on a dollhouse.
"Fuck – fucking hell –"
Looking down to her worn, dirty shoe, she gritted her teeth and shook out the pain. Her gaze traveled up. Her pants looked the worse for wear –she shifted – her bra was somehow falling around her upper arms, beneath her shirt – her white coat was absolutely filthy … Sarah blinked back tears that welled up, oddly enough, when she saw how the navy-blue embroidery of her title was coming unraveled over her breast pocket. Dr Sar h Wil – the rest was a tangle of thread.
Pull yourself together – what's going on?
She gripped her elbows with her hands, and then froze at the rustle – wait a minute – and saw the leather falling in heavy, graceful folds to the ground.
The cloak –
And Sarah remembered.
Stumbling, she took a step backwards and fell onto the bed, heavily.
This means I'm the –
"Goblin Queen –" she whispered.
– Goblin Queen –
Sarah jumped where she sat. The echo had not come from inside the room – it had come from behind the closed door …
Did she dare? …
Steeling herself, Sarah got up, walked to the door, and flung it open in a burst of courage.
The hallway was not the one she remembered, from her childhood home. It was made of stone – and one torch crackled and sputtered in a wrought-iron sconce directly opposite the doorway.
She stepped slowly out of the room, the hairs on her neck prickling. She turned right, only to see a dead end. She turned left –
The hall stretched into darkness.
Sarah took the torch, ignoring the sparks that fell on her hands, and walked forward. She concentrated – one step, then another, then another – She batted away cobwebs that caught at her hair, and resolutely ignored the squeaks of – mice? Rats?
The small circle of light, illuminating her and pooling at her feet, accompanied her over dusty flagstones and crumbling mortar. She walked steadily, with her eyes on her feet, or the walls, or the floor, until she reached the first step of a winding staircase.
Blinking, Sarah turned the torch at an angle, to try and see where the stairs led. She peered, and squinted, but could hardly see into the darkness.
Carefully, she tried the first step – it held. Then she went up to the next one. Then the next one …
She ascended slowly but surely, holding onto the middle pillar with her right hand.
It was taking such a long while to climb … Sarah paused to rub at her eyes, and then frowned, and looked back over her shoulder.
A sudden rush of vertigo made her stomach lurch. The steps behind her had – fallen away? – disappeared, somehow, but with no sound – no crumbling of rock, no crash of masonry – nothing to indicate that no return was possible …
"Figures." Her voice rebounded off the stone, bitter and piercing.
– Goblin Queen –
Sarah flinched. The echo had grown louder.
She closed her eyes, opened them, and kept climbing the stairs. Then she found herself speaking aloud, her voice mechanical, brittle.
"It doesn't take a Jung, or even a Freud, to figure this one out, does it?" The echo hissed; she ignored it, and kept talking. "The lone heroine, weighed down by the cursed gifts of the enemy, but with the torch of knowledge –" she waved it through the air; the flames crackled – "leaves the tokens of childhood behind, and ascends the dark tower – said tower being a typically male space – not knowing what she will find there –"
– you know very well what you will find there –
Sarah stopped in mid-stride. She fell back to the previous step, gulping back a rush of –
"I won't be afraid," she hissed fiercely, staring at the imposing door that had appeared at the top of the stairway. Its heavy, dark wood was banded in studded iron – it looked grim. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here – the quotation flashed across her mind – she shook it away, and swallowed and held the torch higher, examining the spider webs looped around rusted chains – both twisted around the door's handle. The entire mass of metal looked rusted in place.
"Well." She made her voice bright. "It's locked. Too bad – I was looking forward to whatever treat lies on the other side, but now I'll just have to –"
– it will open to you –
"Damn it." Sarah squeezed her eyes shut to hold back tears. "What if I don't want to open it?"
– too late –
"Yes, thank you, you've made that clear." She swiped a sleeve across her face. "Damn you, Jareth …"
She strained to hear the echo – but only felt a strange, rippling rush of – amusement – from behind the locked door.
– how presumptuous of you –
Sarah half-laughed, half-sobbed, and scrubbed at her eyes.
– Goblin Queen –
Her mouth fell open as another ripple swept through her, leaving her entire body prickling to attention –
– come to me –
Sarah watched one of her hands take the handle of the door – and the chains encasing it fell away, and with a flick of her thumb, she opened it –
– and her other hand dropped the torch into the stairwell behind her, its light flaming down into the darkness like the smallest of falling stars.
Sarah recognized the room at once. She let her gaze wander around it, bleakly. How could she do anything but remember it? …
There was the white dresser, the dainty armchair, and the antique rocking horse. There was the rectangular swath of carpet, leading to what had been her favorite part, as a child – the tall, elegant windows, with their long curtains … the pale material moving gently in the wind …
The windows were open. Sarah took a step forward, then another – and then walked through her parents' bedroom to see what – who – she knew she would find there …
Jareth sat in one of the window seats, half-hidden by a heavier, green drape. He was tracking her – his eyes glittered in the dim light shining through the glass. On seeing her gaze pause on him, he quirked a smile, and indicated the empty space at his side.
Slowly, Sarah padded across the carpet, feeling the breeze caress the cold sweat of fear on her skin. She swallowed as she reached him, and as she looked down at his face …
His shining hair was pale in the moonlight – not as wild as usual, and falling to his shoulders, neatly – he looks like he did on the third night – his angular features were eerily beautiful – as beautiful, and as strange, as –
She followed the tilt of his head, looked out the window, and –
– there was the Labyrinth, glowing beneath the moon, its intricate coils and turns glittering like a tiled pattern on a marble floor –
Sarah heard her own sip of breath, her own sigh, as she sat down beside Jareth, and stared out over the silent maze.
After a long, quiet moment, she swallowed hard, and spoke.
She felt his gaze settle on her face.
"Jareth – this is where –"
The Labyrinth blurred, through the mist of tears in her eyes; she blinked them back and heard him speak, softly.
"Where we first spoke, yes."
She felt him shift, next to her – Sarah looked at him, and saw his fingers, long, and bare, resting on the window frame. Jareth waited until she met his eyes, and then continued.
"I came in through this very window." His gaze was soft. "And when I saw you – when I felt your dreams reach out to me, speaking to me, calling to me with their power … I cannot describe to you how it felt, my dear Sarah … I had looked for you for so long …"
She felt a tear fall down her cheek, and tried to focus on something besides his mesmerizing face –
"Your gloves –" Sarah whispered. "What happened to them?"
A slight laugh. "They are not my gloves – not anymore." She could hear the smile in his voice. "They belong to you, now."
"Jareth …" And then she could not speak, as tears choked her.
"Sarah …" He sighed. "My princess – my dream weaver …" His hands came up to cradle her face – she flinched at their heat, but then gulped as his thumbs brushed over her tears. "You should not think to ask me for mercy, for you shall receive none."
She squeezed her eyes shut, feeling the salty drops run down her face.
Jareth made a small noise, and then she felt the heat of his body draw closer. "Really –" his voice was coaxing. "It might not be as horrible as all that …"
"How –" she spluttered. "How is this not horrible – Jareth – you're the Devil. You're Satan, this is Hell, and I'm here for eternity –"
She opened her eyes wide as a breath of laughter puffed across her face.
"And where would you rather be, Sarah? The – other place?" Jareth arched an eyebrow and took her hands with his; his words were delicate, precise. "I speak from experience when I tell you that it is insurmountably dull. Nothing but singing praises, day in, day out – and a day stretches to a thousand years, truly … Yes. Horrific, indescribable tedium … what?" His voice grew somewhat nettled. "You must believe me. Would you care to be one of ordinary thousands, hundreds of thousands, chanting to someone content to watch his marionettes suffer while he basks in bliss – what?"
For Sarah had fixed him with a level stare. "Jareth …"
He raised both his eyebrows, haughtily. "Yes?"
"I think you're lying. To me – and to yourself."
The silence that stretched between them was as cold as it was ghastly – and as terrifying as the look that spread across his face, freezing the pale angles of ivory into ice, into stone – his grip on her hands tightened like a vise – hard and relentless –
"Be that as it may …" and his voice was low, and honey-sweet – it made her blood curdle – "Call me what you will: liar, or bastard, or 'you son of a bitch'" he mocked her own voice in snide tones; she bit her lip – "Whatever may come, Sarah – you would do well to remember that I am your master – that I am your liege – and that all I did was offer you a rope for your own hanging. You were the one who took it, my fine girl – and you very obligingly put your own neck into the noose." Jareth bared his teeth, and laid a finger on her forehead – she winced. "Remember that, whatever else you may forget … Goblin Queen."
"Forget?" Her voice skirled upward; she lurched from the window seat, and backed away. "No – I don't want –" She stumbled over the cloak and almost fell.
Jareth laughed. "You'll have to work on that." He rose as well, and took something from a pocket of the black suit jacket that he wore –
Sarah's stomach clenched. The suit, and that red shirt – she knew those clothes – she swallowed – she had torn them off him –
"Damn you," she whispered, as memory swept her back on a tide of lust to their ferocious lovemaking – but it wasn't love – on her couch, reflected in the glass mount of that painting – her painting – The Last Supper –
She covered her face with her hands. I should have known. From the way he looked at it, that first night – from the way he reacted every single time I called on the name of God – I should have known – I should have known –
Another laugh. "I told you, I do the damning around here, Sarah."
Clenching her fists at her sides, she opened her eyes, only to see her own pale reflection in her parents' mirror – there was an angry red burn on her forehead –
She saw Jareth toss something up into the air, and catch it. Too small to be a crystal, and the wrong color – and the way it fell …
Turning, Sarah recognized what he held. It was a soft baby sock, unusually small, crocheted in warm yellow yarn.
"This belongs to the honored first, Goblin Queen." Jareth grinned at her. "After all … you would not want him to – die alone. Would you?"
She felt her hands turn clammy. It was all she could do to shake her head. "No – no, not that one – please –"
"Really – any infant, especially one as frail as little Benjamin, is – how would one say it? Ah, yes – a piece of cake, compared to a fully grown and conscious adult." He tossed the sock onto the bed. "But the babe can wait – I must confess, I had something quite different in mind for the next little while ..."
Sarah stared at the sock. Its yellow was a bright blotch against the purple damask of the bed cover – wait –
His voice was traipsing on, sly and smooth. "After all, the duties of the Goblin Queen are varied, multi-faceted. It is far more difficult to weave a web of deception around adults – but that is because they require forms of seduction, my dear, which can only be perfected through … extensive practice –"
His words did not register. "That bed ..." Sarah stared at it. She touched the heavy, dark cloth. "We met here, Jareth – but – but this wasn't there. When we met." Her skin crawled with a horrible foreboding; she swallowed hard. "This is the wrong bed."
"No." His voice is quiet. "No, Sarah. It is – most emphatically – the right bed."
Jareth walked toward her, his face darkly intent. "We met in this room, but that bed belonged to your father and your stepmother. This bed –" he spread his arms, gesturing "this bed belonged to your own parents. Where they slept – where they came together in their love –" his eyes widened; his nostrils flared – "where they gave you your life ..."
He reached out, and clamped his hand around her wrist – then drew her to him, and kissed the inside of her palm, his eyes never leaving hers. His mouth burned her skin –
"You begin your new life here … I will give you a new life here, my princess …"
Sarah fought desperately for words, with him so close; with the heat from his body radiating out to enfold her. "Why, Jareth?"
He tilted his head. "It began here, Sarah … You began here." He touched her face; his fingers felt like fire. "We began here. This is a place of beginnings ..."
She shook her head.
"No?" Jareth looked at her. His eyes gleamed. "Then let it be of endings." He smiled. "Whichever you prefer."
Sarah closed her eyes, and tried to take her mind away, as Jareth wrapped his arms around her, and ran one hand through her hair. Time to leave. Time to go.
– we have all the time in the world – his whisper felt like a razor-sharp skewer in her mind –
Her eyes flew open, and she winced at the sensation of his cheekbone slicing over the side of her face – we're the same height – still – but somehow it feels –
– how does it feel, Sarah?
Somehow it felt as though he were taller, but that was wrong, because her lips were shriveling against the heat of his as he brushed a kiss over her mouth – and he wasn't stooping to kiss her, so he wasn't taller, that was wrong – and there was nothing else in the room – it was wrong to think that there was a large animal circling the bed, its tail flicking back and forth, rumbling a growl as the air thickened and turned darker, and darker – she pushed at his chest to gain a bit of space, and sucked in a breath through cracked lips as she looked over her shoulder into the corner by the dresser – It's so dark –
– now that you mention it – I do like to see what I'm doing –
Sarah heard no sound, felt no gesture split the air, but all of a sudden a pearly glow glimmered forth from a crystal atop her parents' dresser.
– won't it be fun, to let there be light – Sarah? It's a simple trick, and you're so clever, my fine girl, that you'll pick it up in no time at all –
"No –" The word hung in the air, unnaturally loud; she realized with a jolt that neither of them had spoken since he took her in his arms – her voice sounded thick. "No, Jareth, I didn't mean that –"
His eyes glowed, like a cat's, in the dim light. She felt his desire wind around her hands like a snake – I want you to see what I do to you –
"No," she managed, before those same eyes flashed and he pulled her to him, his mouth hard against hers in a hot, demanding kiss – Sarah jerked backwards, instinctively; Jareth moved with her and she felt the backs of her legs press against the bed –
His long fingers unhooked the cloak's clasp and he swept the leather back from where it draped around her shoulders. Sarah felt a sudden, wild surge of hope – before she realized that all he was doing was letting the cloak fall to the floor, and that the amulet lying against her breastbone was pulsing with a strange heat, pricking her skin with its points
Jareth's hands moved to her white coat. Sorrow seized her heart at the image of him tearing it from her, crumpling it and throwing it away like trash –
"That doesn't –" she mumbled against his lips – "Leave it – that doesn't belong –"
And then she felt her thoughts curl up into a ball, wanting nothing more than to hide, as a drop of his dark amusement trickled into her mind and became a flood that swept her away with his laughing intent –
– I suppose it doesn't. Very well – come along –
Sarah gasped, and
– there was the hospital, pale and washed-out from the rain, huge puddles on the pavement before it, reflecting a sky that looked like a dingy gray sheet –
She turned and stared at Jareth, dumbfounded. He smiled at her, his teeth glinting.
"Jareth –" Sarah breathed. "Jareth – are you – will you –"
Taking one shaky step towards the hospital door, she took another, and another – but before she could break into a run, he grabbed her coat collar and yanked her back to his side.
"Tsk, tsk, tsk –" his voice was metallic, clanging, horrible, in the cool April air – "mustn't do that. No, Sarah – we're just here to return your coat!"
She felt her legs wobble beneath her; she thought she might faint.
His voice was gleeful in her ear. "That was what you wanted – wasn't it?"
Tears stung her eyes. "No."
"Ah." Jareth shrugged. "You might as well, though, now that we're here."
He took her hand in his, and walked towards the hospital – she followed, numb. Nobody greeted them. Nobody said a word, or met their eyes. Nobody seemed to notice as he strode down the hall, dragging Sarah after him, and took one turn, and then another –
– and then Sarah saw a heap of rubble, smoking, glistening with rainwater, and ringed off by yellow tape and surrounded by men and women in uniforms and hard hats –
She heard the squawking of radios from a station near the uniforms, but also the low buzz of conversation from – she turned to look – from a wall overlooking what had been the café and atrium, heaps of flowers at its base … plastered with pictures …
Her heart feeling as though it had turned to lead, Sarah walked towards the wall. The crowd seemed to part before her as she stepped slowly, carefully –
– to see her own picture – no, more than one picture – a studio portrait that she had always hated – and then herself, with her stepparents; herself, with her study group – and notes scrawled in childish hands –
Sarah took a step backwards, missed her footing, and fell hard against Jareth.
"Tell me –" she croaked.
"Hmm?" His voice vibrated in his chest, against her back.
"Tell me this is a dream."
She felt him laugh, softly, into her hair. "In a sense. This is reality for them, and reality for you – but never the twain shall meet again, unless you are summoned to take on flesh …"
A wrench of metal and a thud made her flinch. Jareth snorted. "Shoddy workmanship in the first place." She felt another ripple of laughter at her back. "But I daresay they'll do a better job next time around."
Sarah tasted blood where she had bitten the inside of her mouth. "You're – you're evil –"
He hummed in agreement; then hissed at her ear. "And you're taking far too long, my beauty …"
Jareth's breath was hot; she shivered as she felt him close his sharp teeth on her earlobe – but he merely kept them there, without breaking the skin – her own breath came shallow as she waited for him to bite –
"Now, will you take off your coat and leave it here, Sarah? …" His voice slithered from around his clenched teeth, its tones made slightly indistinct by her own flesh. "Or need I make you?"
"No – I won't –"
He snapped his teeth shut – and black spots danced before her eyes at the pain –
Sarah stumbled where he had pushed her, toward the wall, with one hand. "Take off your coat, Sarah, and leave it here. Now."
She watched, feeling far away, as she slipped out of her coat and carefully folded it, and laid it down in the midst of flowers and candles, in front of her own picture. And then Sarah felt her eyes go wide as the coat shimmered, and seemed to sigh – and its dirty and threadbare folds unraveled, first slowly – then more quickly – and dissolved into nothing.
Sarah shivered again, and turned back towards Jareth. Part of her noted a smear of blood on his lower lip; another part observed how she felt a trickle running down her neck from her ear –
The shivering increased. He smirked. "You have a perfectly serviceable cloak back in our room, so –" and he held out a hand. "Shall we?"
"No." Sarah saw his eyes flame with anger, and impatience; she spoke as quickly as she could. It worked with the coat. I'd rather dissolve into nothing than go back. It worked with the coat – "I don't belong, Jareth – I don't belong – and no cloak, or crystal, or anything of the Goblin Queen will make me belong …"
He raised his eyebrows, and the outstretched hand moved to touch the amulet hanging from her neck. "Debatable. And that is rather the point of punishment, Sarah, as you yourself observed to me – to take a purpose, or a calling, and twist it into a torment … but," his voice turned musing, "but it is true in part. Parts of you don't belong … Your coat, and –" Jareth looked her up and down, and grinned – "other accessories."
oh fuck no – the bastard – twisting my words in every –
"Yes, dear – it's somewhat of a specialty." Jareth snatched her hand, reeled her in to his side and folded her into his embrace –
Sarah gasped, and –
– there was her bedroom – her bedroom in her apartment – looking just as she had left it on – what morning – what morning had it been –
"Friday morning." Jareth strolled past her, peered out the window. "It's Saturday now – afternoon, by the sun."
Sunset to sunrise – the memory came to her after an effort –
Sarah looked around her bedroom. Just as she had left it – except the digital clock, blinking 3:00 – 3:00 – 3:00 –
She closed her eyes at Jareth's voice – slippery, oily, urgent ... "So, Sarah … will you take off your clothes … and leave them where they belong … or shall I make you?"
Sarah could only see soft, red-black darkness. Her own eyelids – somehow comforting –
"This grows tedious." His words bit into her. "Sarah. Take off your clothes, and leave them here – quick as you can, please."
He sounded gleeful by the end of his order; she did not open her eyes to observe her hands unlacing her shoes, and then moving over buttons and hooks, instead saying: "I don't think this is tedious for you at all." Cool air hit her skin; she felt waves of goosebumps. "I think you're enjoying this."
When Jareth spoke again, she started, despite herself; his chin scraped her shoulder, and she had not heard him walk up to her. "You know me well. Very well … and soon, I shall be fully known. You shall be fully known …" His voice thickened, and Sarah squeezed her eyes shut tighter as she felt his hands on her body –
"By all the powers above and below – Sarah – princess –" his palms cupped her breasts and she shuddered – "you are so beautiful to me … I could lay you down where we have lain before and we could retrace what we learned together –"
how long do you think it will take that romantic bridegroom Sarah to figure out how to do this –
She choked at the memory, and Jareth laughed against the back of her neck, his breath coming shorter, and hot – burning hot –
"Yes … far better to make new memories …" He spun her around to face him; her eyes opened with the movement. Sarah felt her mind cringe away from the lust twisting his face –
"No, Jareth – I want to stay here –" she cried out.
"Do you?" he hissed, grinning. "Do you? Come, then, princess –"
He grabbed her hand, and strode out the doorway of her bedroom, leading her to her living room –
– and a murmur of voices reached her, from her kitchen and from the dining table –
– her stepparents, and her mother, and Toby, and Lyn, and Dr. Michaels and Dr. Brown and Nurse Joe and Rachel's sister Leah with three of her children and others – but not Ben where's Ben – all pale and red-eyed, her mother actually sitting at the table with her head in her hands – they were here all here– and they would see her naked –
Sarah gasped and covered herself with her hands, as best she could – then whirled as she heard Jareth cackling with laughter.
"Now that dream – that motif – is a classic – you would be surprised at how many businessmen can be reduced to tears by simply walking naked into work – but not to worry, dearest love – they can't see you …"
"They can't?" Her voice sounded desolate, to her own ears.
"No, they can't – but they miss you, precious thing – how they miss you – boo hoo –"
He had practically doubled over with laughter. Rage made her vision flicker around the edges, and she felt something in her mind snap –
"BASTARD!" Sarah screamed, and ran at him, and grabbed him by the arms and pushed –
She felt a silver shock wave break around her, ripple through her consciousness as the force of her push sent them away from her apartment and through the borders of dreams into –
Sarah gasped, and –
– there was the Labyrinth, gleaming in the sun, its intricate coils and turns glittering like a tiled pattern on a marble floor –
She cringed, half-expecting Jareth's voice – it's further than you think – and time is short –
– but she heard nothing …
Nothing, except the wind, coming in occasional gusts. Whistling through the gaunt branches of a tree behind her – leaving her shivering in her nakedness and feeling desolate …
Her cry was faint – it echoed off the stones of the Labyrinth –
– Goblin Queen –
Fear washed over her – that voice …
– Goblin Queen –
Heart in her mouth, she approached the edge of the hill, and looked down –
– Goblin Queen –
– there was Jareth, at the gates of the Labyrinth –
– come to me –
– she took a step down, and another, down down tumbling down the hill and she had sand between her toes –
come on, feet –
"No –" she ground out, harshly – "you stupid feet, you'd stop right now if you knew what's best for you –"
– I am what's best for you –
And she tried to retort, but her voice dried up of its own accord as she stopped before the gates of the Labyrinth, and saw Jareth reclining on his side there in the sand – his mane of hair shining gold – his skin tawny in the sunlight – all of his skin, for he was as naked as she …
She heard her own ragged breathing in the silence; he watched her, amused, his chin propped on one hand.
"Now, dear Sarah – this is the point at which you normally complain about your shoes – and I tell you: 'take them off, for you are standing on holy ground' – well, maybe not that last –" His voice, sly and wicked, caressed her body – she went weak at the knees. "And then … well – who knows what happens next?"
"Cat got your tongue?" Jareth grinned. "You know you may always borrow mine ... Here, Sarah – come –" his eyes smoldered – "lie down with me, here …"
He smoothed one palm over the glittering sand – as she lay down, Sarah noted that the glitter came from the remnants of the gold and amber path that she remembered from her other dreams – the path had broken – broken and crumbled into dust –
My dreams – Sarah thought, vaguely, as Jareth smoothed one hand down her legs, and back up over them, and then swept both hands around her waist and rolled onto his back to let her unfold over his own body …
"Yes …" he murmured between kisses. "I will give you your dreams. I will give you the power of dreams …"
The power of dreams … Her thoughts were hazy as his lips moved beneath hers – as she uncoiled her own tongue into his mouth, exploring and tasting – Sarah worked her fingers into his hair and tipped his head backward to kiss down his jaw, watching his eyes slide shut and the angle of bone change as he clenched his teeth and hissed as she shifted her body where it rested on his – My dreams –she remembered her dreams …
"Jareth –" she husked. "Where are the vines?"
"The vines are not here …" he whispered back to her, biting at her lips and slipping one knee between her legs. "I am not the vine – I am the snake …"
The snake – she remembered her dreams … It was hard to remember, with him moving his thigh between hers, in a rhythm that sent ripples of pleasure through her. "What about the mirror?"
Jareth flexed his fingers on her hips. "What about it?"
"The gates turned into a mirror." And they were – shining and rippling into silver, above Jareth's head, where he lay –
– she smiled at her reflection –
hello – I'm Sarah who are you?
And the immense silver snake in the mirror smiled back at her, and hissed, indistinct:
I am your heart's desire –
I am your heart's desire, sweet –
Sarah gasped, and stiffened.
She heard Jareth growl, but she could not look away from the mirror –
And she realized that the snake was hard to understand because it was slowly swallowing her – working up her legs, writhing around her waist, and soon it would eat her alive –
Sarah screamed –
She screamed as loud as she could –
Sarah screamed and woke up –
But she could hardly move, because of the way she lay twisted and coiled in purple – the damask cover pushed down to the foot of the massive bed, and the sheets sliding over her bare skin the same way Jareth's hair slid over her fingers where she had knotted them in the silken strands –
"I suppose I should feel flattered." His voice was muffled, indistinct – her heart was racing fit to burst in her chest, her throat was sore – and her stomach lurched in equal parts desire and horror – oh he didn't oh no he did or he was and why is he stopping – as he lifted his head from between her legs and grinned at her, his features a study in light and shadow in the glow of the crystal –
"Jareth –" Sarah moaned. "Jareth – the snake –"
He laughed. "The snake was eating you, sweet …" He splayed his fingers over her thighs; she felt her entire body jerk, instinctively. "And I'd say that that symbolism really isn't that difficult to decode." Jareth smirked, and bent his head to lick her. At her gasp, he looked back up. "Is it?"
"No –" she choked.
"No," he replied. "I thought not." Jareth looked at her, eyes narrow, for another beat, and then lowered his head, agonizingly slowly – his gaze intent on her face –
Sarah couldn't bear to watch. She let her head collapse back onto the pillow and groaned what she remembered from her dreams – from my dreams –
"Heart's desire –"
"Yes .." Jareth hissed. "Yes, precious thing – and if you say it louder, you will be rewarded …"
"Heart's desire –" she gasped.
"That's it …"
At the slick sensation of his mouth on her again, Sarah heard a high-pitched keening, coming from her own throat – "Jareth – but it can't – you are my heart's desire – that's you – that's what you said, in my dreams – my dreams – oh please, please please – oh shit – oh – fuck –"
"Sarah. I am your heart's desire – feel this –" he grabbed one of her hands with one of his, and brought their twisted fingers to where his mouth rested – "feel how hot you are for me, princess –" he rasped –
She felt. And, mauling her own lower lip in an effort to be silent, she tore her hand away and fisted it in the sheets.
Jareth laughed harshly and delved back into her with his fingers, and raked his mouth up her body, tantalizing her, lapping at her sweat and teasing her with his teeth. "You're hot for me. You're wet for me, sweet, and you're not leaving this bed until I've fucked you through it, you understand?"
Sarah's mouth fell open – she could not reply, she could not speak – she had felt, and she was aching, open – pulsing in the same way that the amulet was, wedged as it was behind her right shoulder, digging into her flesh –
"Yes –" His voice dripped into her ear like scalding hot oil. "You feel so – fuck, princess, you make me want to –" he gave his fingers a final twist and brought his hand to her face and swiped across her forehead – the burn there stung – "Feel that? You're ready for me, Sarah, so dig your claws in, if you like …" Jareth gripped her shoulders and yanked her lower on the bed, fully beneath his body – his hot breath made her eyes water as he seized her face in both hands – "Claw away –" he bared his teeth at her – "you can't come close to hurting me –"
– why would he say –
And any questions exploded out and away from her mind as Jareth buried himself in her with a vicious thrust – Sarah gasped in a breath to scream but then he trapped her mouth with his, snarling, and her throat turned to parchment and began to curl away in strips of ash – his mouth was too hot – everything was too hot – she had forgotten how his touch and his tongue burned until he had brought her mind back from the pleasure he had given her with his mouth on her – claw away –
Sarah dug her nails into his skin, feeling her palms slip on sweat, and scratched, and clawed as he set a demanding pace, forcing her back into the bed with each thrust of his body – as he hissed his lust for her over her tongue – the taste of his own so horribly bitter – and as his lips curled back from his teeth and as he tore his mouth away to croon obscenities into her ear –
Her throat was too sore to scream, to cry out – she took in a rattling breath and coughed onto his neck, and stared through a red haze of pain at the crimson spatter on his throat – it was pain, and pleasure, and excruciating pain and – Jareth shifted to a different angle and she could almost hear the sound her eyes made, rolling back in her head – it was indescribable pleasure – and all Sarah could think of, with the conflict boiling through her brain like a flood of lava, was that she had died and gone to Hell with the pain of it –
– oh wait that's right I have –
"Yes –" Jareth grated into her ear – "you have, and you're mine – mine, Sarah – princess – I will give you your dreams, I will give you power beyond your wildest imaginings, because you are mine– my jewel – my spring, my sun – my stars and moon – my flower and ripest fruit to eat –" he bit her, hard, and she managed a scream after all, but coughed until her body shook – but it wasn't the cough, it was the thrusts of his body that made her own spasm – she reached down his back and dragged her fingers up, clawing madly until she felt the stinging burn of his blood beneath her palms –
"My dream weaver – feel what I'm offering you –" Sarah felt his body begin to grow somehow hotter as he brought his face to hers and ground his hips into hers and fixed her with his eyes –
His eyes – Jareth's eyes were flaming, their colors somehow blazing together – the jeweled eyes of the snake, the golden eyes of the owl – the mismatched blue eyes of the Goblin King – and behind them all but searing to the fore were the molten white-hot silver eyes that she remembered from her birthday from speaking to him only an hour or a day or a year before – how long was it – I don't know – what day was it – I don't know – but those eyes – she remembered those burning silver eyes as evil eyes – the Devil's eyes –
"You're the Devil –" she rasped – her throat was on fire –
His eyes glowed, ferocious, as he grappled her to him even closer. "I am your heart's desire."
Sarah felt the heat build to an unbearable pitch – the purple silk and damask began to smolder – and then silver flames leaped up around her –
"I am your heart's desire – and you shall give me mine –"
The fire roared so hot that she thought she was burning alive –
"You have given me yourself, and you will give me yourself again and again, and for the future you shall give me the dreamers, and for the last battle you shall give me a son –"
Jareth dragged in a deep breath, and
– the flames enveloped them –
"– he shall rule, Sarah – and he shall bring all under his feet, and give me dominion over the world, and victory in my time –"
– but they weren't flames anymore – they had flattened out into one immense, beautiful silver mirror –
"My victory – my time – my world –" Jareth whispered – yet she could hear him over the roaring in her ears – "my Sarah –"
And he drove himself within her as deep as he ever had – and they fell through the glass, and she felt a silver shock wave break around and within her, rippling through her consciousness as the force of his climax sent them away from the bed of purple and fire, to the sand in front of the gates of the Labyrinth, to her apartment, to the steps in front of the cathedral, to the park bench, to the hospital and to the atrium –
– where she had seen, and she saw, where she had known, and she knew, the glass shattering, the darkness spreading – and silver eyes burning her to ash and the wide white wings of an owl ravaging her as it fell upon her, as she fell beneath it, screaming with no sound at all.
But it is too late: sleep spirals away from her and, with a sigh, Sarah wakes up.
She stares at the ceiling, blinking. The pale paint is familiar, though hard to see, in what little light falls through the windows – of course – it's my parents' room – she feels damask slide beneath her cheek as she turns into the pillow – wrong bed though –
Frowning at this thought, she straightens, and rises – and feels her lips twist in a grimace at the strange ache through her entire body –
Why does it hurt –
Sarah slides off the bed, feeling a vague sense of heaviness – I always thought that purple was overdone – and shuffles out of the room into a hallway – but – this is the hallway from my old dorm …
Confused, she makes her way down the hall, through the gloom. To her right – the old, ratty dormitory bathroom – she hears something squeaking and shudders. To her left is another door – she opens it, and walks into another room – my old college room – hey I thought I lost that shirt –
– and then she looks over to her desk … and her heart stops, as she sees a crystal lying on in front of a large mirror
– the mirror showing her the desk entire, with its books and papers and pens
– and there is the crystal, and a feather …
"Here's the day you hoped would never come."
The words are quiet. They seem heavy, somehow – falling into the dark like coins into the water of a well.
Sarah breathes in, and realizes that her voice is the one echoing around her. She is the one who has spoken.
She closes her mouth.
Sarah stares at the mirror. There is the desk, the familiar chair. Pencils. Old books. A lamp.
And there, throwing a soft light into the room, glowing and perfect, sits a round crystal.
Its immaculate beauty almost keeps her from seeing the pale feather lying next to it.
Sarah sees it, though. Of course I see it. How could she not see it?
"No dream, this." Her whisper sounds thin, and disbelieving. "This is no dream."
A draft brushes over one bare shoulder; she ignores it.
If she were only to stretch out one hand, she could feel the desk. The familiar chair. The pencils and old books ...
One step forward, and she could take the crystal in her hand …
The draft turns into a light wind; she shivers.
And then she hears a footfall, behind her.
Sarah closes her eyes. Opens them. Stares at the crystal, and the feather, the desk and the chair, through a sudden haze of tears.
Here's the day I hoped would never come.
She remembers everything.
The wind suddenly gusts through her hair with a swish – she jumps, and grabs her bare arms with her hands – and then she sees a familiar figure walk through the door – into her room – into my room I remember you oh God oh God help me –
"Ah. Here you are."
She turns her head to look.
Jareth smiles at her – his angular face tipped to one side, his mismatched eyes glinting – the soft fall of his owl-feather cape just barely brushing towards her – she feels a feather flick at her ankle –
Sarah stares at him. "Why have you brought me back here –" her words stumble – "back to college –"
But Jareth's attention has left her – he is looking at a scroll in his hand. He considers it, breaks the ornate seals, and unrolls it.
"What is that? Jareth?"
"Hm? Oh, just a note." Jareth scans the text, and then grimaces. "Still not time. I honestly don't know what they're waiting for."
He rolls it back up, snaps his fingers, and summons a flame – silver – her skin crawls. The parchment crackles, and then turns into ash – Jareth dusts off his hands with brisk, no-nonsense movements.
"Why am I here, Jareth?"
He looks up, from examining his pale, long fingers. Smiles at her from the corner of his eye.
"Are you truly here?"
Sarah turns back to the mirror, and stares at her reflection. Her look of unease, her hair brushing her shoulders – the one shoulder bare – and the room stretching around her – the empty room –
She feels her mouth go dry, and her hands turn cold, as she realizes. It is only her reflection. She can't see Jareth there.
Sarah turns to look back at him. Jareth bares his teeth in a grin, and blows her a kiss.
She looks back at her reflection – but it's changing – she is saying something, in the mirror – the image says something – it stares, eyes wide, then takes a pillow, and a blanket, and runs away. A door slams.
The room around her flickers. Then it changes, into strange surroundings of sandstone, and crumbling masonry, floating in midair. Sand blows past her in the wind; her eyes water.
There is a mirror, floating in midair. If she stares hard enough at it, she can see into her other room – her college room – It is so close. If she stretches out a hand she could feel her desk ...
"I remember …"
"I wish you would not." And now Jareth steps forward, to her side; she can see him just brushing the edges of her vision. His voice is low. "It means only trouble for you – trouble and unease – when you do."
"What do you mean?"
"I always find you here, Sarah. You keep coming back to it."
"What do you mean, always?"
"From time to time."
"This has happened before?"
"A time, and two times, and half a time – yes."
"How many times, Jareth?"
Sarah turns slightly, to stare at him straight on, her heart in her mouth.
Jareth's smile has turned secretive, and sly. "You know, I don't believe I'm going to tell you."
The choking sensation at her throat turns to fury, so suddenly – the roar of anger shooting up from her stomach takes her aback with its power. "What – you –"
"That's more like it." He gestures, and the crystal quivers on her desk, in her room, on the other side of the mirror – the feather wisps up to touch the mirror – there is a ripple, and the crystal floats through the mirror and through the air to her hand.
"Take up your work, my lady."
Sarah grips the crystal tightly. Another gust of wind rushes around her, making her cloak flap – my cloak? – The heaviness that she had felt all along solidifies – and then Sarah sees her reflection, flickering; her white face and staring green eyes, her dark hair catching in the cloak and on the jagged spikes of the armor.
She cannot see Jareth, in the mirror – but she sees a silver light, to her side, glowing around her – so intense that she almost has to shut her eyes –
But she doesn't – even though they tear up, and the burn becomes well-nigh unbearable –
His voice is proud. "My Goblin Queen."
Sarah takes herself away from his gloating smile, and examines her own mind, in the mirror – the anger is still there – but it is somehow less vicious – somehow different. A righteous anger, burning with a golden light – a beautiful light as bright as the sun – a quiet determination …
In the golden light, she sees the dreamers. Rank upon rank of men, women, and children, gazing back at her. And then the light shines upon others – she sees Aaron, waving. She sees her parents – her mother, her father, her stepmother – she sees Toby – Lyn – and Ben – Ben smiling at her, holding a child in his arms –
Jareth is at her side, but she knows that he can see neither the dreamers nor her friends. She opens her mouth to deny him – to deny him everything –
And then Jareth speaks, in an echoing voice of power – burning and empty of everything but its own pride –
"Kneel before me."
Sarah feels a weight on her shoulders – she wills her mind to resist – and then she feels the sunlight gild a sliver of defiance – it becomes a golden sword in her hands, as she forms her thoughts into a wall that holds against him – and the only way to compel her will be to destroy her –
– the dreamers crowd around her and hold the wall – they free her to look down –
She sees a lithe silver snake, twisting around her feet. Sarah drags the sword around her side to the snake's head, willing her arm to move, willing the weight to lighten, as she prepares to slice at it – to destroy it –
Jareth hisses a curse. His hands clamp down on her upper arms – she feels his fingers, burning through the armor.
"Kneel before me, Sarah –"
Sarah lifts her chin, and keeps her voice steady. "No."
Hold on – she orders herself. Hold on – remember – and fear nothing, for there will be another time for you – at the last day –
– we'll be there – and she almost weeps to hear the voice of her friend – hold on, doctor – Sarah – stay strong – Ben whispers in her ear – we'll be there at the end –
Jareth snarls out another curse – and she feels a gesture of power split the air –
And then she cries out, and opens her eyes wide, fighting against the sting of tears and the bite of white-gold sand whipping past her in the rising wind, struggling to see the glass through the crackling silver haze of power – burning the images into her mind – herself in armor and regalia, herself in a white coat, herself in a thin shirt – a room, a desk – a feather and a crystal flickering and fading from view –
"Happy anniversary," Jareth hisses.
– telling herself that she will remember this time, so that the next time will be different – that she will keep it secret, and keep it safe: the memory of the day she hoped would never come.
Be watchful, be vigilant: for your adversary the devil walketh about as a raging lion, seeking whom he may devour –
1 Peter 5:8
That's straightforward enough … -grins-
That passage, and the one Ben sings in ch. 5 are both texts (the latter a hymn written in the 4th century, I think) sung at evening monastic prayers.
Other Biblical passages that figure largely in this fic include:
Genesis 3:1-15 (The Serpent)
Job 1:6-12, Job 2:1-7 ("Going to and fro upon the earth")
Song of Solomon 1:1-4; 4:10-11, 16; 5:1-4 (yowza!)
John 2:1-11 (changing water into wine)
Matthew 4:1-11 (Jesus tempted by the Devil in the wilderness) - this one is key!
Matthew 24:6-8 (signs of the end of the world)
John 13:21-30 (dipped bread given to the betrayer)
John 15:1-6 (The vine, branches and fruit)
Matthew 26:30-46 (Peter's denial foretold, the vigil in Gethsemane)
Matthew 26:69-75 (Peter's denial of Jesus)
John 18:38 ("What is truth?")
Matthew 27:34, 48, 51 (vinegar and the veil)
1 Corinthians 13 (The Love chapter)
1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 51-58 ("We shall be changed")
Revelation 12 (the woman and the dragon, "he who deceives the world")
Revelation 13 (the mark of the Beast)
Revelation 7:9-17; Revelation 19:1-6 (the praises of the multitude)
Revelation 20:1-10 (the thousand years)
The wine that Jareth drinks is taken from C.S. Lewis' "Screwtape Proposes a Toast" – Screwtape admires the color of the vintage that is brought to the devils' table. All the writhing red and purple streaks in it are actually the souls of the damned, pressed together, twining together, for eternity. Yummy!
The song playing on the taxi radio in ch. 4 is, of course, "Highway to Hell," courtesy of AC/DC.
In this last chapter, I nicked a few lines from Guy Gavriel Kay, and a line from one of theatresm's Harry Potter fics, for the sex scene.
As for other credit where credit is due: I've probably missed explaining other references, so you're curious about anything and/or want to point out: OMG you stole that, drop me a line and I'll explain what I was trying to do and/or give the ref.
I hope my Sunday School teacher never sees this fic! I cut the most sacreligious part – which might appear, much MUCH later, if I get the guts to post it. If I do, its title will be: Ben's Dream.
Thank you to all who reviewed, thank you to imbrium and thistlebush for their feedback and suggestions …
... and thanks, most of all, to Pika – I'll say it again, people: go look at her artwork! It's linked through her profile. And she painted a bee-yootiful Erlkönig picture just recently, so my motives are not entirely without self-interest … I want people to enjoy that pic as much as I do. -grins-
So thanks to Pika: for her artwork, for her challenge, and for the way "Here's the Day" first made me shiver, then gave me a great idea … which broke off from Erlkönig and joined itself to the fic I had always wanted to write but couldn't make work until then.
And to everyone: take care, and thanks for staying with me to the bitter end.
6/15/07 - 9/7/07