A/N Ah, the truth: three years later, the writing in this story appalls me, the characterizations make me cringe with shame, and the fandom is no longer one I'm rabid about.
That said, I've always hated it when stories end without reason or warning. It's taken me three years, but I'm back if only to finish this. Many thanks for all your patience for these last two chapters.
Don't Let Go
Chapter Twenty-five: The Feel of You Fills the Night
The air shifted as she stepped over the threshold, and she paused as she saw the shadows glide over the walls. The once-straight and direct hallway vanished behind cold walls sliding into her path. Sarah vaguely recalled the walls in the Labyrinth giving way to her urgency; clearly no help could be sought here. This was the King's part of the Underground; his magic and his will melded with that of the Labyrinth. Magic took the path of least resistance, and with the multiple layers of magic woven throughout the realm, the space most immediate to the key influencers was bound by that magic. The castle was heavily interlaced with his magic, and Sarah could feel her ties to the lines of magic dim in response to the overwhelming majesty and anger trapped in the stone walls.
She took a deep breath and pressed on into the castle. With her connection to the Labyrinth reduced, she felt oddly naked, and she resisted the temptation to wrap her arms around herself. The path in front of her feet kept changing without notice, as walls vanished and appeared without warning, and furniture unexpectedly swerved into her shins.
It was when she felt the bruises swell underneath her jeans that she decided she was being silly. She stopped right in front of a plush red carpet whose edge was rumpled to trip her. "Okay," she said with some exasperation into the sulky, weighted air. "Let's make this easier on all of us. I'm just here to talk with the Goblin King. Give me two minutes, and if he still wants me gone, I'll go. You can all shove me out then."
Her words hung in the air, trapped and echoed and largely ignored. She couldn't verify it, but the walls felt closer, and suddenly the walkway seemed much narrower on all sides.
She tried again, desperation taking its toll. "You can't keep me out forever! I need to talk with him!"
Curiously, the walls stilled, and an odd silence wafted through.
Sarah felt a tingle of Something, and she blindly reached for it. "You will let me in and I will talk with him!"
Words have a tendency to shape reality, echoing the force of belief. Nowhere was this more true than the Underground, and though the Goblin King's will controlled the castle indomitably, the force of Sarah's demands created a tiny rent in the fabric of magic blanketing the stones.
That little tear jarred the smooth transitions of magic moving within the walls, and the furniture stumbled in time to the slow pulsing of Sarah's lingering words.
"Get out of my way!"
Sarah inhaled sharply as the path straightened without moving, the furniture fell back in order without skittering across the floor, and the walls made way without bending. She glared sharply at the still-snagged carpet, and was gratified to see with the next blink that the material smoothed out.
She continued forward down the hallway, nervous but determined. Ahead of her loomed a giant set of wooden double doors, with meticulously wrought iron handles in the shape of disdainful lions. No other hallways branched out from her current path; her goal must have been behind those doors.
The lions snarled at her as she reached for them. "Oh, hush," she admonished mildly. "You heard me; if he wants to kick me out, he can." Her words hardly mollified the door handles, but they stilled under her gaze, glaring for all they were worth. She ignored them and pushed the right door open.
The room was unexpected, but fitting: Sarah had found the remains of the Escher room. Broken pillars stood upright beside fallen columns, and pieces of white cement spun lazily in the air against a backdrop of stars and space. There was a raised tablet in the center –did the room have a center?– and draped across the milky white slab was the Goblin King on his back, one hand flung out to the side to idly juggle two crystal balls.
Relief swept through her body. She had been worried that the castle would merely lead her right back outside. Her brown eyes drank his figure in wistfully. If all went well…
But there were no guarantees. There never were, not with the Goblin King.
The silence stretched out between them. She knew he was aware of her presence; he had fixed his mismatched eyes on her when she entered the space. He was leaving the next step up to her, which was manipulative and selfish of him.
And perfectly reasonable. She had stormed his castle; she owed him the courtesy of stating her purpose. Her courage was failing her, but that was beside the point. If she'd learned anything from him, it was that courage really didn't have any bearing on the choices she made and actions she took. She didn't need courage to mouth off to him, nor bravery to save Toby.
It boiled down to desire; in the end, that was all that mattered.
She inhaled, and broke the silence, timidity causing a slight wobble in her voice. "I wanted to talk with you, Goblin King."
He turned his head to face her fully, an eyebrow raised in careful consideration. "Oh?" Careless elegance colored the one syllable.
Sarah swallowed and glared at him, her frustration simmering beneath her skin. "I wanted to talk with you," she repeated, the wobble more pronounced this time, but she ploughed ahead, the words spilling forth, and none of them the right words. "I needed to. I needed to come and see you, and speak with you, and ask you questions." Her desperate explanations tumbled clumsily into the cold space, and her mind raced. What was she doing wrong?
He rolled his eyes and languidly pulled up into a sitting position. He propped one arm up against a raised knee, and snorted indelicately. "Questions? What more will my cruel mistress ask of me?" He cast a sardonic gaze on her as he slouched over his knee. "More favors? More wishes? More dreams to fulfill?" He barked a sharp laugh before adding bitterly,"Do tell, dear Sarah. You invaded my home; this must certainly be an overwhelming desire."
If he had expected anger, or hoped for pleas, he was disappointed when Sarah grinned brilliantly. "I'm not here to ask anything of you. I'm here to ask you one question, and that's all. I have no right to expect you to fulfill any more dreams or help me in any way. I know what I should have asked the first time around; I'm only sorry it took me so long to realize the right words." She took another breath, brown eyes fixed on mismatched blue and green ones, and she smiled gently.
"What is it that you want, Jareth?"
His head snapped upright, and he stared at her.