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To my reviewers: A sincere thank you for all of your comments, critiques and kind words. If you have an e-mail address listed on ff.net, I have tried to respond to you individually. If you do not have an e-mail listed, I have not responded to you, but I did read your comments and do truly appreciate them! Several of you have asked me if I was aware that my story was set to accept only signed reviews. I am aware, but thanks for the concern. If a person prefers not to register with ff.net, he or she can contact me at the e-mail address listed in my profile (and some of you have which is great)!Chapter 25
"She dies if you move, Goblin King."
Even Toby's voice was different – confident, bell-like. No hint of cracking anywhere.
From her position on the floor, Sarah watched Jareth's face become a mask of helpless anguish. She opened her mouth to speak, but Toby's fingers around her throat tightened ever so slightly in warning, cutting off any sounds she might have made. Think, Sarah! Think! her mind was screaming at her. What could Toby possibly want? Why not snap her neck and kill her on the spot?
The sickeningly familiar sensation of burning ice on her skin was her answer. Fat strands of shadow slipped from Toby's fingers along her cheeks and then over her hair and down her arms. Through the sudden pain, Sarah noticed that the shadow had gone out of its way to avoid her necklace. Even Toby kept his grip on her higher up, just under her chin so that his hands did not brush the chain on her neck that glimmered in the dimness. She winced as the necklace added its own fire to the agony already licking over every nerve in her body. The red welts beneath it that Jareth had so recently healed flared again to crimson life along her collarbone. Sarah was amazed that her skin wasn't crackling off her neck in scorched bits.
Scorched…skin. Of course.
She looked again at her husband. He seemed ready to howl his frustration as he remained frozen, burnt hands lifted in the air. Technically Toby was still living and she hoped that meant her spell would hurt just enough…
Sarah reached for her magic. Enchantments like the one she was about to use took so little power, that most people didn't even notice them before they were performed.
Toby leapt back with a cry, his own hands smoking and blistering in the gloom. Jareth took advantage of the boy's moment of distraction to make a beeline for his queen and was shocked when she stumbled away into the opposite corner of the cell, beyond his grasp.
She saw the look of dismay in his eyes and tried to explain, only to feel that damn sludge slide into her throat again before she could squeak out a word. Sarah was no longer merely frightened. She was furious. This awful shadow stuff wanted to kill Toby and Jareth – her family! And it was using their love for each other as its most powerful weapon!
Sarah was so shocked that she had actually included the words "love" and "Jareth" in the same thought that the king almost managed to capture her on his second dive. Fighting the sludge with every ounce of her free will, she ducked and rolled away from him into the center of the room. She crashed against something lumpy and looked up at Toby's malicious smirk as she rested against his boots. The boy's grinning lips now revealed sharp fangs and his smile widened in satisfaction as he observed the ropes of shadow criss-crossing over Sarah's face and arms.
"Sarah, give in. Stop fighting and allow the shadows to heal you. We'll be together forever, you and I." The boy reached down and lifted Sarah to her feet with surprising strength. His fingers slipped around her throat again, almost like an affectionate caress as he lifted a lock of hair from where it had fallen into her eyes. He looked pointedly at Jareth and gave Sarah's neck another light squeeze as a warning for him to remain still before turning his full attention back to his sister. "Look what he's done to you," Toby crooned, indicating the king with a sneer. "He's tricked you into a marriage you never wanted, into a lifetime of fear. He forces you to do anything he wants – even give up your family -your own flesh and blood - and for what? So you can be his slave for the rest of your life? So he can terrify you into doing whatever he tells you to? Sarah, the Underground needs a new king, a just king. We could rule together – sister and brother – for as long as we like. You would never need to be afraid of anything or anyone ever again."
Toby's voice was low and hypnotic and Sarah felt her eyelids growing heavy. Sleeping sounded so lovely. In fact, anything that would dull the pain of the shadows slowly slithering over her waist and torso sounded lovely. The chain around her neck seared her with an intense burst of heat and she was jarred back to awareness. Her eyes opened to look directly into her brother's. What she saw there was enough for her to yank her will and consciousness back under her control. Toby had inched closer to her as he had been speaking, and she now felt his breath on her neck, his lips grazing dangerously close to her jugular.
The necklace burned her again and this time she winced, drawing back slightly from her brother. It was almost as if the magic were trying to tell her something…
She smiled, giving Toby the full effect of her most joyful, trustworthy, sisterly smile. Slowly she reached up with one hand to ruffle his hair and he let her. Pulling him nearer, she rested her forehead slightly down and against his and said, "You're right. I don't want to be afraid anymore, Toby. And I never, ever want to lose you."
The young boy's entire face lit up with a gleeful, predatory light as he moved his lips closer to Sarah's throat.
Jareth had never felt so helpless in his entire life. He wanted to pick up his wife and shake some sense into her after he had killed that murderous brat of a boy once and for all. He was physically twitching with the need to do just that, but Toby had been certain to keep him well within view and never once moved his hand from Sara's throat. Jareth prayed to the gods that he could find a way to rescue her in the next two seconds before she was either dead or lost to the shadows forever. He blinked in disbelief and then felt his chest grow tight with agony as he listened to his wife practically invite Toby to bite her. Had life with him as a husband really been that miserable for her? Had he frightened her so much that she would resort to anything to escape him?
Perspiration broke out on Sarah's forehead as she tilted her neck so that Toby would have better access to her veins. He wasn't quite tall enough to get to the spot she guessed he was going for and she had to scrooch down on her knees a little so he could reach, careful to keep her weight balanced evenly. Her concentration was absolute. She knew her timing had to be perfect.
The barest prick of his teeth against her skin was the cue she had been waiting for and she slammed her shoulder up against his collarbone, causing his mouth to dip just low enough to come into contact with her necklace. With an ear-shattering scream, the boy reeled back from her, face twisted in rage at her betrayal. His lips were cracked and blistering from the contact and the point of one of his fangs appeared to have been broken off entirely.
Sarah tried to stumble out of her brother's reach, but the pain from the shadows slowed her down and Toby was on her in an instant, fumbling through the dark masses of her hair in an attempt to reach her throat. Jareth and Damien both seized the opportunity to spring into action.
As soon as Toby had grabbed her, Sarah felt him lifted off of her and then heard him land on the bed, the sharp residue of her husband's magic acrid in the air. She tried to toss her hair out of her eyes to find Jareth, but felt herself yanked backward and out of the cell by a pair of powerful hands. She whirled in Damien's arms as she felt his healing spell already working on the bits of shadow that by now had formed a web over the top half of her body.
"No! Go to Jareth!" she gasped, fighting against Damien's strength even as he worked to heal her. "Damien, please! I can make it on my own! You have to help him! He needs you!!"
Damien stopped and shook her hard. "No, Sarah! The king needs YOU. Now let me heal you enough so that we can both be there for him."
Stunned into silence, Sarah let Damien finish his spell and was relieved when the agonizing pain that had spread through her entire body settled down to a dull throb. Damien's magic didn't seem as powerful against the sludge as Jareth's had been. Her body still ached everywhere and she noticed frozen bits of the stuff coating her skin and hair like tiny icicles. Brushing the ooze off as well as she could, she whirled at the sound of a crash from inside the cell.
The sight that greeted her eyes was enough to make her cry out in horror. Her brother had somehow managed to upend the narrow bed in the corner of the room and toss it on top of Jareth. The king lay pinned beneath the heavy bed frame, throwing spell after spell to keep the boy back. The feral sneer on her brother's face rendered him nearly unrecognizable as he circled the king, looking for any opening or angle he could use for another attack. Jareth was so busy simply holding Toby at bay that he could not afford the concentration it would take to free himself from the weight of the bed. His face was contorted in pain and Sarah could see sweat beading his brow from the effort of fending the boy off.
Damien swore and stretched out his hand. Immediately the bed slid off of Jareth. Damien was dying to throw the frame right back at Toby, but didn't think the rift between Jareth and Sarah could ever be healed if her brother ended up crushed into a pulp for the sake of the king.
Jareth tried to stand and instantly collapsed, his left leg twisted sideways at an impossible angle. Toby only laughed gleefully and crawled over the king's body like an animal stalking its prey. Jareth smothered a cry as Toby rested his full weight on top of the broken leg and bounced slightly.
Sarah knew her magic had been badly weakened by her encounters with the shadow sludge, but she did not hesitate. Without a word, she stepped into the cell and flung her remaining power straight at Toby, lifting him off the king and tossing him onto the floor. Jareth's brow furrowed in concentration as he added his own power to Sarah's, using his free arm and good leg to back slowly away.
Sarah gave a startled gasp as soon as she felt Jareth's stream of magic twine with hers. She had tasted his power in small doses during their lesson that day, but nothing could have prepared her for this level of intimacy. His consciousness merged with hers like a brilliant swath of light as they both threw everything they had left at the shadows still covering her brother. For one piercing instant, she could sense Jareth's feelings as if they were her own.
She nearly dropped her assault against Toby in her shock. The king stared up at her with his own look of mingled hope and disbelief before a thin wail from the young vampire drew their concentration back to the task at hand.
The boy hung suspended in the air as their combined streams of magic wove over and around him like a web. His limbs flailed violently, tangled in a mixture of shadow and light that seemed hell-bent on tearing him to pieces. Sarah couldn't believe the energy that kept flowing out of her toward Toby, even as her knees buckled from the strain and she sank to the floor a few feet from Jareth. She could sense the king's worry as he attempted to shore her up through their joined power, but she shrugged his efforts off, redirecting everything to her brother. She glanced over at Jareth, still reeling from what she had sensed from him when their minds had so briefly touched. His eyes met hers and what she saw in them made her shiver.
A violent shriek split the air as light shot from Toby's eyes and mouth and he crumpled to the ground where he lay very still.
By now, Sarah was so drained that she couldn't even crawl to her knees to see if Toby was still living. The last thing she felt was a gloved hand closing over her own and a dull pain as her head hit the flagstones.
Sarah was certain she was being burned alive. Icy flames licked over every inch of her skin as she writhed in agony. She had to get away, had to find a way to put the fire out before she died. She tried to move but was stopped by something heavy wrapped around her waist. Her hands fluttered over her restraint, clawing at it weakly only to be captured in one warm, gentle hand.
"Shh…hold still." A second set of hands brought a cup to her mouth and cool liquid wetted her lips. She drank greedily wondering how the water could be so cool if her body was on fire. After she had drunk all she could, someone wiped a damp cloth over her face and neck. The flame-like pain abated slightly. Wasn't she burning? Where was she? How had she gotten there?
A few more swipes with the damp cloth and she didn't care. The fire inside her still raged, but the motion of the cloth over her skin brought some small relief. She felt someone loosen the ties on whatever gown she was wearing, exposing more of her neck and shoulders. Should she protest? What was happening? The delicious coolness of the cloth returned, gliding over her exposed skin and she ceased to fight. The hand imprisoning her wrists released them and then stroked her long hair back and away from her face.
"Jareth…" she murmured, not even wondering why she would call his name.
"I'm here," his voice answered.
She drifted again into blackness.
The second time Sarah awoke she had the strength to crack her eyes open a bit. The weight was still around her waist, but now she recognized her restraint as nothing more than an arm holding her close. Slowly, she eased her hands down until they came into contact with the fingers curved around her; skin tingling pleasantly as she brushed ungloved hands. He stirred behind her and turned her body gently so that she could face him.
"Jareth…" she breathed, relieved to see him alive. A shy smile touched her lips as she remembered how hard he had worked to protect her in the dungeons. Her husband might be the most difficult man in the Underground, but she knew he had also been her salvation this night.
His lips twisted strangely as she looked at him and then he suddenly buried his face in her hair, engulfing her in his embrace. His arms tightened around her as he kissed her eyebrow, then her cheek, and then her hair. He seemed to be shaking uncontrollably and after a moment, Sarah realized he was sobbing. Worried, she ran her fingers through the long golden strands that fell against his neck, murmuring soothing words to comfort him any way she knew how.
After a few minutes, he was able to speak, although his words still came in choked gasps. "Ah gods…my Sarah…I thought I had lost you…oh love…" He kissed her then with a wild tenderness, running his hands over her body as if to make certain she was real and breathing. "Sarah, I love you so much. Without you…I can't even imagine…" Again, he broke down.
Sarah lay stunned. Jareth's written declaration of love to her had been one thing, but holding him as he wept in her arms because he thought…what? Just how close to death had she come? And speaking of death, where was Toby? Her eyes flew wide at the thought of her brother. How could she have forgotten him? How long had she been like this?
"Toby!" she gasped, trying to sit up in Jareth's arms.
Gently, he pulled her back down against his chest. "Safe," was his reply.
For now, Jareth's assurance was enough. A sudden wave of weakness overcame Sarah and she fell limply against her husband, listening to his heartbeat.
"Jareth," she whispered. "Thank you."
He bent his head to hers as if searching for something, his eyes unsure. Wordlessly, she cupped his face in her hands and pressed her lips to his.
Moved beyond speech at Sarah's first willing gesture of care for him, Jareth possessively gathered her closer, watching over her as she slipped back into dreaming.
Damien cracked the door open from where he had slipped outside after Sarah had awakened a second time and peeked discreetly into the room. He started forward in alarm as he saw the tracks of tears on his brother's cheeks. In his entire life, he had never once seen Jareth cry, and if Jareth had actually allowed himself to break down then that could only mean…
Jareth's radiant smile stopped him in his tracks.
"She's going to live," the king whispered, his voice breaking on the last.
Damien's face split into a gigantic grin and he did a silent jig right where he stood, sloshing water over his boots from the basin he was carrying. The wetness soaking through to his feet caused him to remember himself and he asked, "Do you need help cooling her down again?"
"No, I think she's going to be just fine," Jareth chuckled, feeling giddy with relief. "And the boy? How is Toby faring?"
Damien's brow darkened. "As well as can be expected I suppose. I think he'll survive, but recovery won't be easy for him – at least not until both you and Sarah can work together to heal him."
"Is the shadow still contained?"
Jareth nodded. He was still wrestling with the idea that only his magic and Sarah's combined would be able to reverse the damage inflicted by the shadow. He resented the idea of placing Sarah in danger at all – let alone after she had only just recovered from an attack and magical draining that had nearly cost her life. Losing her was absolutely unthinkable. If he was honest with himself, he knew he was still furious with her for having risked her life at all, but she clearly loved Toby as much as he loved Damien. She was also the most stubborn person he had ever known. Could he really have expected any other course of action from her?
The king sighed deeply and Sarah stirred in his arms. He and Damien exchanged a glance and Damien crept quietly from the room, dousing the lamps so that all three of them could get some much needed rest.
Truth to be told, Damien could barely keep his eyes open. He had used nearly all of his available magic to heal Jareth so that the king could help him haul Sarah and Toby out of the dungeons and into more comfortable surroundings. He had been deeply worried for Sarah. Although the queen was incredibly powerful, her abilities were still raw and untrained. She had yet to learn how to pace herself to avoid the risks of losing too much life energy in a single spell. In the dungeons, she had thrown all of her magic into saving Toby without a thought to the consequences.
Gods, if Sarah had died…
Damien was torn. He knew that Sarah's actions had nearly cost the kingdom its only defenders, but she didn't yet believe in her own role in protecting the Underground. Had he been in Sarah's position and the life at stake had been Jareth's instead of Toby's, would he have acted any differently? With an irritated snort, Damien admitted to himself that he would not.
Ah well. They all needed healing. They all needed sleep – particularly himself since he knew he faced the daunting task of convincing the two most stubborn, independent people he knew that the fate of the Underground hinged on their teamwork. Gee, Damien, we're sure you enjoyed getting the stuffing kicked out of you by a roomful of rotting monsters and a pubescent vampire – why not try to tame a rhinoceros with a safety pin in the morning?
Stumbling into his bed at last, Damien promised himself a lengthy vacation far, far away from romantic angst and angry undead rotting things. Mmmm…maybe Elvin country? The ruler of that region of the Underground had been particularly attentive to Damien during her last visit to Jareth's court. Yes…and her mouth had tasted delicious too. With a grin, Damien conjured a dream spell for himself before drifting off. Even if she was no more than a dream fragment, he needed to spend time with at least ONE person who could listen to reason. Very pleased as his dream began with a reasonable proposition on his part and an equally reasonable acceptance on hers, Damien gave himself up to sleep.
Morning broke over Sarah like glass breaking over her head. The fire in her body was gone, but her head was throbbing and she felt nauseous. She vaguely supposed she was experiencing the magical equivalent of a three-day hangover. She rolled her face away from the light streaming through the curtains with a groan.
"I should send you to live in the goblins' quarters for risking your life like that, but it seems you've been punished enough," Jareth's voice rumbled from behind her.
Sarah reached up to swat at him, but he caught her hand and kissed her fingertips before tucking her arms safely under the covers where she couldn't reach him without fumbling through three blankets. She tried to glare at her husband, but couldn't work up the strength to look appropriately frightening. With another groan, she rolled back over and decided not to bother.
"Not so fast – you need to drink this first," said Jareth, holding a cup under her nose. The contents of the cup smelled vaguely like the Bog and Sarah instinctively drew back. Her husband had seemed so worried for her only a few hours before. Surely he wouldn't actually force her to drink the sludge from that infernal stench pit? He brought the cup closer to her lips and she shook her head vigorously.
He looked wounded. "Sarah, Sarah, – still so untrusting. As I've told you any number of times, I would never harm you." His young queen still looked doubtful and Jareth let out a heavy sigh. "Love, drinking this of your own free will be so much easier for you than the alternative." Sarah looked mutinous, but when he raised his hand to pinch her nostrils shut, she grudgingly gave in.
"All right, all right, but if this turns me into a goblin, I'll be the first to raid your closet and play dress-up."
The king laughed. "You can raid my closet any time you like. You're rather fetching in my clothes."
Sarah looked down and blushed to see that what she had taken for a gown in her delirium was actually one of Jareth's shirts. The ties that had been loosened to cool her down still hung open, giving the king a lovely view of most of her breasts. She knew he wasn't looking at anything he hadn't seen before, but she felt embarrassed anyway and drew the collar of the shirt closed around her neck as best she could.
"Now drink up," Jareth insisted, once again pressing the cup against her lips. "It's only a few herbs."
Sarah squinted her eyes and pinched her nose shut with one hand as she drank the liquid as quickly as she could without retching. The stuff tasted like a combination of Drano and mud and it was everything she could do to keep it down, but after a few minutes of lying still trying not to gag, she had to admit that she had started to feel much better. After a few more minutes, her headache had disappeared completely and she actually felt hungry. She flicked her eyes up at Jareth who was still sitting on the edge of the bed next to her and looking smug.
"All better?" he purred.
"I guess…yeah," she muttered.
The king stifled a grin and then rang for breakfast. After only a moment, one of the brighter goblins scampered in carrying a tray laden with a steaming platter of eggs, sausage and warm bread. Sarah's stomach growled audibly and she flushed in embarrassment as Jareth helped situate the tray on her lap. For a moment or two, she ate in silence, trying to come to grips with everything that had come to pass over the last twenty-four hours.
"I take it your breakfast is to your liking?" Jareth asked looking pleased to see her eating.
Sarah nodded, mouth full. After a moment of chewing, she was able to speak. "Thank you, Jareth," she whispered, suddenly shy. During the brief moment their minds had touched when they had combined their magic against Toby, Sarah had actually experienced Jareth's feelings – including his feelings for her. Even after finding his note and the necklace, she hadn't fully understood the depth of what he had confessed. She felt awkward and a little humbled now that she knew just how deeply he did love her. The entire idea that he would love her was so strange and unexpected that she felt toppled off balance. And if I know how he feels for me, then he must know…
Sarah lowered her eyes. She had never truly hated Jareth, but he had to know how bitter she had grown struggling against his constant efforts to keep her under his control. Beneath her anger and frustration, she supposed she did care for him – maybe even more than she wanted to admit – but his seeming treatment of her as no more than his property had left her hurt and disillusioned.
She looked up from her breakfast to find Jareth watching her intently.
"When you've finished, I'll take you to see Toby. I know you must be very concerned for him."
"How is he?" she asked, her face clouding with worry.
"He's still alive, but he needs further healing. Damien is convinced that you and I must heal him together."
"Does that mean combining our magic – like we did in the dungeon?" Now that she knew what would happen, Sarah felt uncomfortable at the thought of opening herself to Jareth so completely again. If combining power was the only way to make her brother well, she would do it without hesitation, but she didn't want to be forced to reveal her confusion to her husband.
"Yes." Jareth paused for a moment. He sensed his wife's hesitancy and longed to reassure her in some way. He knew that the sudden joining of their minds had to have been rattling for her. Gods! It had been rattling for him. He had expected to feel her hatred and her fear of him, but the current of affection that ran so deeply had been much more than he had hoped for. He shuddered to think how he must have hurt her by behaving as carelessly as he had. For the first time, he now felt a spark of hope that she might one day return his feelings.
"Take me to Toby…please," Sarah said, pushing her tray to the side.
Jareth looked as if he were on the verge of speaking, but turned away at the last moment. "Of course," he replied, sweeping his robe over her shoulders. Sarah slid her arms through the sleeves and then belted the robe tightly around her waist. The king offered his arm for support as she fumbled to put her feet into a pair of slippers and she flushed slightly as she leaned in close to him. She hadn't expected her legs to feel quite so wobbly and was forced to grab onto his arm so that she wouldn't fall over. Jareth made a clicking noise with his tongue as she righted herself with his help and then swept her up into his arms before she could protest.
"I can walk-" she started, but Jareth interrupted her.
"No, you can't. Love, you'll need every bit of strength you can muster if you're going to attempt to heal Toby. You're not fully recovered yet and I will not risk losing you again."
Sarah's eyes grew wide at the commanding king who held her, the stony look on his face a clear warning that discussion was not an option. She settled against his chest as he carried her down the corridor and decided to wait this argument out. She would decide how much more she could afford to be drained after she had seen her brother's condition for herself.
After a few minutes they arrived in front of a small wooden door in one of the side passageways. Why had Jareth tucked Toby so far away from everyone else? Surely he should have placed him closer by in case Toby needed them? The king set Sarah lightly on her feet and then opened the door.
Sarah peered through the dimness and saw a small figure lying in the middle of an enormous white bed. As they entered, a cowled healer stood up from where he had been sitting in the shadows, and bowed deeply to Jareth.
"Any change?" asked the king.
"No, your majesty. I have not left his side once, and all through the night he has cried out and wept in his dreams."
Jareth dismissed the healer and slipped his arm protectively around Sarah's shoulders as she moved closer to look at her brother.
Toby lay on his side; his face partially nestled into the pillows. To Sarah's enormous relief, his acne was back. With his mussed hair, he looked almost like a normal, healthy adolescent, but as she examined him closer, she noticed that his skin was tinged lightly gray as if all of the blood in his body had become pieces of shadow. No wonder Jareth had wanted him far away from others.
"Is it still possessing him?" she whispered, leaning closer to Jareth.
"Not in the sense that it is still controlling him, but it is draining the life from him. Soon, he will be nothing more than a crystallized husk."
"The shadow eats away at its victims until the soul dies and the body becomes a shell that falls to dust at even so much as a breeze."
"Then why did you wait so long to bring me here if I could help him?!" she rasped, on the edge of tears. "Can I even save him now?"
"WE can save him – you and I together. I waited so long to bring you because you nearly died from fighting the shadow yourself. Sarah, I will not lose you. This kingdom cannot live without you. I cannot…" he trailed off and bowed his head into his hands, turning away.
Sarah felt her temper rising, then remembered their brief moment of connection in the dungeon and checked the angry words about to spill off of her tongue. Instead, she placed her hand on his shoulder and said "Jareth, I'm sorry. I know you were only concerned for my welfare."
The king stood frozen for a moment before he turned swiftly and engulfed Sarah in a fierce embrace. Sarah was taken off guard, but soon relaxed in his arms, resting her head against his shoulder.
"Love," he murmured against her hair, "I began…badly. I don't know if you can forgive me or not, but I was hoping that we might…start again…if you agree…"
Sarah looked into his eyes from where she remained clasped against him, again struck by the level of pain she saw there. She held his gaze for a long moment before making her reply.
"I will agree – but on my terms."
Jareth frowned, then caught himself. At this point he could see why Sarah might wish to set the terms for repairing the damage between them. And she had agreed to try. That in itself was a miracle he could not dismiss. "Name your terms," he said softly, running a stray lock of her hair through his fingers.
"I scarcely know you. I scarcely know anything about the kingdom I'm to rule at your side. I'd like to have a little space of my own for awhile so that I can settle in and adjust."
"What do you mean?"
"I'd like my own bedroom for the time being."
"You refuse to share my bed?" Jareth swallowed painfully.
"For now, yes." Sarah watched the struggle on the king's face as he wrestled with the idea of allowing her a separate space.
Finally, he spoke in a strangled voice. "If your own chamber is your wish, then you shall have it, but, Sarah, please consider this – if our marriage is perceived as being weak, there are those who will think my government of the Underground is weak as well. Could I persuade you to use the room adjoining our chamber for as long as you feel you must?"
She considered his words and nodded. "That sounds like a fair compromise."
Gently he caressed her cheek with one ungloved hand, feeling her shiver as his magic played over her skin. "I eagerly await the day you no longer wish for walls between us."
Sarah made no reply, but nodded again. Taking a deep breath, she made her second request. "In addition to my own room, I want your solemn promise to teach me everything about my powers. What I don't know has already caused more than enough problems. I need to learn how to control what magic I have so that I can use it for the benefit of our kingdom."
"Consider it done," Jareth agreed immediately. Any time he spent teaching her about her abilities was time spent in her company and time he could use to gain her trust. "Is that all?"
"No, I have one more condition. I want to rule with you as an equal partner in running our kingdom. I do truly love the Underground and could never be satisfied sitting by and merely playing hostess at your banquets and balls. You kidnapped me from my home to keep me with you and I agreed to marry you so that I could see my family, but Jareth, if you truly wish me to stay with you as your queen, then I ask to be your queen in truth, not just in marriage."
The king remained silent for a long time, just gazing down at her as he held her in his arms. Sarah wasn't certain, but she could have sworn she saw…pride…in his eyes as he looked at her.
Finally he spoke, "Sarah, I've never had a partner in government before. I…can't promise I'll be the easiest man to rule with. But I do love you and I do want you with me always and by my side…in everything."
Sarah gave her husband a shy smile. "Shall we see if Damien was correct?"
"This," she breathed, twining her fingers through his and directing a stream of magic at Toby. Instantly the floodgates of connection were opened again and the two felt the shock of exposure as their feelings were bared. Sarah felt Jareth's love and eager hope wash over her as they concentrated their power on the young boy, looking so small and vulnerable in the giant bed.
Already feeling the strain of yet another session battling the shadow, Sarah beckoned to Jareth who supported her as she moved to sit on the covers next to her brother. Tenderly, she gathered Toby into her arms, stroking his hair. Jareth moved to sit behind the boy, so that Toby was held between the two of them, wrapped into the force of the magic that flowed through them and into his body.
Once again sensing Sarah's struggle between fear of him and her growing love, Jareth wrapped his arms more tightly around Toby so that he could draw his young queen even closer. A burst of affection welled up inside Sarah as she sensed the king's regret and his sincere desire to make amends. Toby stirred between them then and Sarah was focused again on her love for this boy who had followed her around through their childhood, making her mud pies and remembering her birthday with crazy hand-drawn cards. Tenderly she smoothed his hair and kissed his forehead murmuring that everything was going to be okay.
Jareth couldn't help but smile as he watched Sarah and imagined her with their son or daughter in years to come. He had married a truly amazing woman.
As the light of the day lengthened along the flagstones, they watched as the gray laced through Toby's blood gradually evaporated into nothing and his cheeks regained their color. At last, Toby's blue eyes opened bringing a small cry of joy from his sister. "Sarah?" he croaked. "Where am I? I had the craziest dream…"
Jareth and Sarah swapped grins.
"Did we get to be in your dream?" Sarah asked innocently.
"Uh…yeah," Toby muttered, suddenly embarrassed as he realized he was trapped in a group hug. He hoped that Sarah and Jareth realized he was too old for this stuff. He caught sight of Sarah's necklace, peeking from the collar of her robe and started violently.
"Sarah – I dreamed that necklace burned me right…here." He reached up and touched his now fully healed lips. "I…that was real wasn't it? Oh my god – I tried to KILL you didn't I? Oh Sarah, I'm so sorry!" Toby looked ready to burst into tears.
"Shh! It's all right, my young man," Jareth's voice soothed from behind him. "You had no control over what you were doing. You weren't the one who was actually trying to kill us."
Toby whirled to stare at the king. "You too! What happened? What did I do?!" he cried.
"You didn't do anything – except go exploring by yourself, " Sarah cut in. "And after the many mistakes that were made yesterday, I don't think anyone is going to point a finger at you."
Sarah shot an apologetic glance at Jareth over Toby's head and the king realized that she was trying to tell him she was sorry.
Sarah returned her gaze to Toby and continued ruefully, "Some of us ran off into magical situations that were a little more than we could handle without listening to those with more experience."
"But you saved me," the boy countered stubbornly, not willing to let his sister take any blame for anything that had happened.
"Yes, she did," Jareth agreed, moving to stand in front of the two on the bed. "Now, Toby, you've had nothing to eat since yesterday." The king rang a bell and a tiny goblin scampered into the room and stood at attention. "Now I want you to follow Grog straight into the kitchen where Cook has my orders to make you anything you like."
The boy nodded eagerly and ran off after the goblin leaving Sarah and Jareth alone.
"This isn't over, love, - you know that?" Jareth whispered, wrapping his arms tightly around his queen.
"Oh I certainly hope not," she laughed, surprising him with a genuine smile. "We have a dungeon full of rotting bodies and shadow sludge to conquer."
"That wasn't what I meant," he purred, running his hands lightly over Sarah's body.
"Of course there's more," Sarah countered, still grinning merrily. " I can't wait to see the look on Damien's face when you tell him he was right the whole time."
Sarah giggled at Jareth's mortified expression and whirled away from him, dashing out the doorway and down the hall toward their chambers. She was too weak from healing Toby to get very far before she felt herself lifted off of her feet and nestled firmly against Jareth's chest.
"And you think I'll tell him where you'll be able to watch?" he growled playfully.
"Well, if you don't mind letting me out of your sight long enough so I can fight the shadow sludge by myself and steal all the credit for saving the kingdom…"
"Never." Jareth crushed his lips against Sarah's, effectively silencing further arguments.
For a few minutes at least.
THIS IS NOT THE END!! So don't go getting your hopes up.