- chapter.16.home -

"You called me." His voice was cool, collected. He was dressed all in black, from the imposing black boots on his feet to the thick black gloves on his hands, his huge dark cape fluttering behind him in the sudden breeze that stirred the trees in the park. He looked indifferent, cool, and unresponsive--and so beautiful. Sarah felt her heart break a little as she looked at him... then she was in motion. She was in his arms, weeping against his chest before she was aware she had moved. She wrapped her own arms tightly around his chest, crushing him to her as she sobbed against the soft material of his shirt.

"Sarah... Sarah, are you well?" The ice melted out of Jareth's voice, and his arms were moving to hold her, to impart comfort.

"I'm so sorry," she whispered between gasping heaves, her face a mess of tears. "I'm so sorry I asked to go. I'm so sorry I didn't realize sooner... I could have saved us both so much trouble, Jareth, I'm so sorry..."

"Whatever for?" Jareth asked, tilting her chin up with one hand, carefully wiping her damp cheeks with his other.

"For not realizing how much I love you."

Jareth's hand froze mid-wipe, his eyes going blank. It was as if something shattered in them, like glass that had been full of hair-line cracks finally giving under some great pressure.

"What?" The word was the barest of whispers, and Sarah heard it only because the breeze had stopped, and all the singing bugs had hushed themselves for the moment.

"I love you, Jareth. I didn't realize it because I was so busy trying to resist you... but then I came home, and nothing was right. I don't belong here... I belong with you, in the Labyrinth. I should be with you, wherever you are. I wish I'd stopped being so stubborn sooner and just realized... but I do now. I know now. I love you, Jareth."

The shattered look on Jareth's face was twisting slowly into some horrible hybrid of pain and rapture, his eyes staring into hers with a slowly dawning hope.

"But... you left."

"I made a mistake, Jareth. Like you did, when you took Toby. I just hope you can forgive me, like I've forgiven you." She threw her arms around him again, squeezing him to her. "You were only trying to make me love you, Jareth. I understand, and I forgive you for it. It was a stupid thing to do... but I was much, much stupider in trying to run from you."

"You... want to stay with me?" His voice sounded so fragile and weak, and Sarah pressed her lips to his throat, trying to offer him some small immediate comfort.

"I do, Jareth. I want to stay with you for as long as I live, and even longer."

Jareth was trying to smile at her now, but the expression kept dissolving into itself. He looked so vulnerable, so innocent. His arms wrapped around Sarah in a warm embrace then, tighter and tighter, and he whispered, "I don't see how you could ever love me."

"Because you are everything a Knight in Shining Armour should be, Jareth. Because you love me so much. Because you challenge me to be your equal, and never let me back down from you. I love you because I can see what you are." Sarah reached up, running her fingers through his hair as she had longed to for she didn't know how long, enjoying the silky texture of his mane in her fingers. "I'm just sorry I don't deserve you," Sarah added with a self-deprecating laugh.

"What? No, Sarah! You deserve much more than I could ever give you!" Jareth said, reaching up to cup her face in his darkly gloved hands. "You deserve a real Knight, someone as gallant and pure as you are. Sarah, I saw you for the first time when you were five, and you were too young to have built walls around your heart and soul. I saw who you are, deep inside where not even you can look anymore. I saw how brave you are, how good and kind you are. I saw how much love you have, and how much fiery passion is in your soul. I fell in love with your soul then, Sarah, and your soul is still there inside of you. You've hidden it from the world because you had to, because it hurt too much to let everyone see who you really were." He brushed his lips reverently over her forehead, whispering against her skin, "I can only hope eventually you'll take those walls down, and let me see your soul again."

Their third kiss was the most wonderful experience of Sarah's life. The kiss had all the comfort of coming home after being gone for a long time. It was the security of being tucked in by a loved and trusted parent, and the joy of finding some treasured item that had been long forgotten. Jareth's lips moved over hers sweetly and Sarah gave herself to the kiss wholly. When Jareth finally pulled back, Sarah felt dizzy and light-headed, as if effervescent champagne were running through her veins.

"Are you ready to go home?" Jareth asked softly. Sarah looked over her shoulder, and laughed--the huge main door to the castle was where her recitation bench had been, but over Jareth's shoulder she could see the park.

"How did you do that?" she asked, still giggling.

"It isn't too hard to bring our two worlds together for a few seconds." Gently, he tugged her into the Underground, and Sarah watched her old world fade from view, melting into the Goblin City.

"What about my father and step-mother?" Sarah asked, turning her face up to Jareth.

"I've implanted a few false memories. They think you're safely away in a private school that they had just enough money for. You'll be able to return to visit them once or twice a year, if you'd like. In the meantime, you'll be here."

"How terribly smart of you," Sarah whispered, snuggling her cheek against his solid chest.

"Yes, I rather thought so," Jareth said, gently twining his fingers through hers. "Now, shall we go in to a very early breakfast, or a very late dinner?"

She laughed brightly, giving the hand entwined with hers a gentle squeeze. "I don't care which... I haven't eaten since I had that pear in your garden, and I could use some food."

"Then we will go." He leaned down, planting a soft, trembling kiss against her forehead. "Oh, Sarah... I do love you so."

Sarah and Jareth headed up the steps into the castle, their faces shining. Sarah was not sure what was ahead of her, but she knew she would never lack for food or clothing or entertainment. Perhaps she would help Jareth rule the goblins, or perhaps she would learn to do magick of her own. Maybe she would start an enchanted garden full of impossibly colored flowers all her own, or maybe she would find a way to completely eliminate the Aljunnu from the Labyrinth. Everything was full of hazy possibilities, and wrapped around it all was the knowledge that through it all, she would be with Jareth.

Honestly, Sarah couldn't think of another thing in all the worlds that she wanted more than that.

~ End ~