"I am not letting you in," she said quietly.
Carefully, without losing his purchase on her door, he ascended a step, and then another, as Sarah resisted the urge to retreat and thus give up the entrance to her home entirely. Soon, he was standing over her.
"Yes," he said softly. "You are."
Her grip tightened on the edge of her door. She tried to look down, but could feel his eyes on her and could no longer resist. She looked up, and caught his full gaze upon her. He didn't only dare her with his words, but with his eyes as well.
Nails digging into the door paint, her lips tightened and she quirked a brow up at him. He frowned back in return, and in that split second, sensing distraction, she pushed on the door with all her might, slamming it shut, and locking it behind her, wishing desperately she had more deadbolts than she did.
Outside her door, he sighed. "This solves nothing, Sarah," he called loudly at the metal shut against him. On the other side, Sarah slumped against it, pushing still despite it being firmly shut and very well locked. He'd used her name. Despite the determination that had succeeded in winning back control of her door, tears began prickling at her eyes and she looked up at the ceiling desperate to hold them back as his muffled voice called to her.
She heard the shuffle of feet. "Sarah?" he called again. She instinctively held herself against the entrance, when right next to her head came three firm knocks. "Sarah, can you hear me?" he called again. She closed her eyes as a tear ran down her cheek.
"Please go away…" she murmured almost silently. Her fingers gripped at the metal. She froze in place.
After several seconds of nothing, she slowly, delicately, careful to make no sound whatsoever against her front door, pulled away and padded silently to her front window where, to her relief, her blinds were drawn. Kneeling down, she took a deep breath, flexed her fingers, shoot out her hands, and, resting the blade of blinds on the very tip of the back of the nail on her index finger, slowly, carefully raised it. She dared to raise it only very slightly, making her bend awkwardly to allow her peer through the space she'd created.
He was still there. But, she noted with significant relief, he did not see her. She watched him as he shuffled around her door landing, watched as he stared pointedly, and with narrowed eyes, at her front door, apparently successfully closed against him, and as he shifted his gaze to examine the rest of her building.
She held her breath as his gaze made their way back down to the front facade and she slowly lowered her finger to replace the blade. She released the breath, and her blinds billowed slightly. She froze. Did he see it? Did he know she was watching?
Sarah backed away slowly from the window, careful not to disturb the air currants again, and quietly made her way up the stairs to her bedroom. As she passed through the door, her eyes darted to her bedroom window- it was in the wrong place to try and spy on him from above.
She sighed. She was exhausted. Running into him again had at least made her forget, momentarily, that she'd just killed a man at the bar. Only, she hadn't really killed him. Sarah slumped down on her bed. What was going on? It had certainly felt like she'd killed him. She looked down at her hands. Clean.
She narrowed her eyes at her bedroom door. Suddenly, she jumped to her feet and bounded down the stairs and into her living room. Shoving her hands into the blinds, she noisily wretched open the blades. Despite the assistance of the street lights, it took her a moment before her eyes fixed upon him, still standing outsider her door but on the stairs now, and picking up on the movement of her blinds against her window, she watched as his eyes met hers and she scowled. Flinging the blinds away, she heard it clatter against her windowsill as she pounded up the stairs, back into her bedroom, and snatched up the bottle now resting on her nightstand. Rattling out a lone pill, she tossed it back, making a slight face at having to drink the water left over from the night before, stripped off her clothes into warmer night attire, and flung herself into bed.
As the drugs began to take hold, she pulled the covers up around her and closed her eyes. Mindlessly, she realized she'd left the lamp on. No, leave it on, she thought. Her dreams were blessedly empty.
When Sarah awoke in the morning and readied herself for work, she always wondered at how, despite the pills' ability to completely clear her mind of thoughts as she slept, she still woke up feeling exhausted. She could no longer remember what it was like to experience a good nights' sleep, let alone what it was like to wake up refreshed.
When she reached her door, she pulled on her shoes, and pulled it open. Almost immediately, panic seized her stomach in a vice grip. Where was he?
As she stared outside, there was no one there. She blinked. Peering around to make sure her eyes were definitely not deceiving her, with a wary expression she set foot out her door, closed it behind her, and felt with trepidation as the lock clicked into place with her key.
With a deep sigh, she told herself it was time to go to work, and she stepped down the stairs to the curb to hail an on-coming cab.
As the yellow taxi pulled up, its door swung open and Sarah scooted inside.
"Park Row," she leaned to tell the driver, and as she sat back, she felt herself brush against something. Looking up, she nearly screamed in surprise. As a gloved hand shot up to delicately but firmly cover her mouth, he looked down at her with a quiet shhh.
Sarah stared in panic. Her eyes darted towards the cabbie, unable to believe that he couldn't see what was happening.
"I'm going to let go now, so long as you promise not to make any high-pitched noise that may make the confines of a small taxi cab intolerable," he said, not bothering to disguise the amusement in his voice. "Agreed?" he asked, his brow, trimmed in mortal imitation, arching upward.
As the shock began to wear off, she contemplated her options. She could scream anyway. She could try to bite him. No. He found her, sat outside her house, hijacked her cab…her dreams….although she'd tried desperately to reason it away, she knew her dreams couldn't have come just from her once over-active imagination, now dulled almost senselessly by the sleeping pills she'd come to rely on so heavily just to attain comparatively peaceful oblivion.
Her brows furrowed together, and she nodded. He nodded back and, slowly, his hand fell from her mouth.
They stared at one another in silence as the car took another corner.
"Who are you?" she asked finally. He scoffed.
"Why Sarah, I'd've thought by now you'd know who I am," he said with an affected frown. She squeezed her eyes shut, shaking her head.
"No. I need to hear it from you. I need you to say it," she said, looking at him as she tried and failed to conceal the worry on her face. Maybe she was insane. Maybe the cabbie was staying silent because he knew better than to mess with the crazies.
His shoulder leaned into the seat of the cab as he sighed, looking thoughtfully at her. Leaning in conspiratorially close, he looked up at her when the motion made his head bow.
"I am Jareth," he began, his low tone masked by the engine and traffic noise so that only she could hear. "And you….you are Sarah, whether you like it or not."
He leaned back and took in a deep breath before resuming his more casual countenance. Sarah's face fell, and she could feel the blood drain from her as he finally said it.
"And once upon a time, you, my dear, ran my Labyrinth…" he trailed off, looking at her. Sarah's mind was trying its best to juggle too many thoughts and ideas and concepts at once when his eyes took on a wistful look, distracting her, and causing the balancing act in her brain to come crashing down. She frowned.
"My Labyrinth…" he repeated, eyes still lingering on her.
The corner of Sarah's mouth twitched. "What about it?" she asked reflexively.
His eyes shifted past her now, looking out the window she reckoned, when his head dropped to the side.
"Well," he began, a soft smile playing at his lips. "You destroyed it."
Sarah's eyes widened in shock, and her mind pulled her back into the nightmare—
The castle….her fault…all her fault…
Sarah shook her head violently. "What?" she half yelled, glaring at him.
He leaned his arm against the car seat as he looked down at her.
"It's true!" he declared casually. "All gone."
Sarah slowly turned away from him, desperate to lose herself in anything other than the current conversation. The traffic passed by as they neared her destination. Jareth played absentmindedly with the fingers of his gloves.
"It took about a year or so," he continued, "but there isn't a trace of it left now…"
She could feel his eyes on her but she couldn't bring herself to look away from the dashboard of the car and all the little meters working away on it. Silence. It had been about a year after her adventures when Hoggle, Ludo, and Sir Didymus no longer seemed to come when she called. She figured they'd just grown tired of chatting with a high school kid, or that maybe something else was keeping them. After a few more failed attempts, she didn't try again. It wasn't much longer after that when the nightmare began to reveal itself to her, little by little.
"How?" she finally asked.
Jareth's brows rose. "How?" he repeated. "The how would be you. You do remember the state of things when last we saw each other."
Sarah pulled her gaze away and looked at him in confusion. "But…but that was just part of the test, wasn't it? It wasn't really that the—"
He glared down at her, cutting her words short. "Wasn't really that you destroyed the center of my castle that tore a hole like one of your 'black holes' through my kingdom that began a chain reaction that swallowed its creation whole?" he said, biting into his words as he spoke them. Sarah could only listen, pain visible in her eyes as she listened. Silence, again. She was so torn that she could hardly see where to begin.
Suddenly he laughed. Her frown deepened. His head fell back with his laugh, somehow managing to avoid bumping into the window behind him.
"Can it really be," he said, pulling himself together, "That you are finally at a loss for words, Sarah?"
She gritted her teeth.
"I never thought I'd live to see the day," he finished, wiping at the base of his eye with his gloved forefinger.
Sarah's own fingers dug into her bag as she glared at him. The cab, finally, came to a halt.
"$24.36," the cabbie said, craning back to glance at her. Without taking her eyes off him, she reached into her bag and fumbled for her wallet. She paused.
Leaning over through the dividing window she looked at the driver and said quietly, "Excuse me, but please- do you see the guy sitting in the back here?"
Sarah heard a laugh behind her and a muffled, "Really, Sarah!" She felt a hand brush against her leg and tried to lift up a heeled foot to kick at it. The cabbie, put off by anyone invading his precious front car space, glanced into the rearview mirror and saw a man with pale blonde hair waving rather sarcastically at him.
He looked back at the lady. "Blonde. Mid to late 30s. Gloves, leather jacket, yeah, I see 'im."
Sarah sighed and nodded, shoving the money and a very generous tip through the limited space through the window. "Thank you," she murmured as she pulled her head back through.
She sat back down and tried to collect her things. "So is there something I can do or something?" she asked absently. "Is that why you're here bothering me like this?"
He watched her with vague amusement and shook his head. "Not a thing. As I told you before, the Labyrinth is totally gone."
She snapped her head up. "Then what is it you want from me?" she growled. Jareth tried to look hurt.
"That's a very cruel tone, Sarah," he chided, folding his arms in front of him. Somehow even in the confines of a taxi cab he managed to stay imposing. Sarah blinked.
"You have places to be, though, don't you?" he said, and he leaned towards the driver. "If you could be so kind as to open the door for the lady…" he said, and the door swung open in compliance. Sarah caught her belongings to herself and frowned.
"You're kicking me out?" she said in disbelief. He merely smiled. "This is ridiculous," she mumbled.
"Don't worry," he said. "We'll see each other again soon. After all…" he trailed off, smoothing down the creases in his jacket. "I owe you for slamming the door on me last night."
Sarah opened her mouth to protest but he interrupted her. "Did you sleep well, by the way?" he said. He cocked his head to the side in feigned concern. Sarah's mouth snapped firmly shut again as dread swept over her.
Spinning in her place on the taxi seat, she swung her legs out of the vehicle, ground her heels into the pavement, and walked as fast as her footwear would allow into her office building.
She thought she heard his voice laughing behind her as she left and clutched her belongings to her as the vehicle sped away.
A/N: Oh! Finally, some adventurous souls left most treasured reviews! Gracious thanks to kellyn1604, Honoria Granger, Ebony-dove, and GoldenAerie for their bravery, as well as to all the followers and favoriters! This story is an experimental piece for me, as I only write a chapter under certain conditions which are half met by the story and half met by myself. In a couple weeks I'll be moving to strange new shores which may hamper the timeliness of the next chapter, but if things do get up to snuff before then, I'll do my best to put out chapter four before that. Thanks again for reading, and sweet dreams...