No Choice At All

Part Five

* * *

The goblins seemed to have found the game already a riot. Jareth appeared rightly pleased with himself, but Sarah could not imagine him any other way. While they laughed above her and Jareth looked on with seemingly detached amusement, Sarah gathered her skirt about her, mourning the foot long tear running from the ankle-length hem of her nightgown to shortly up her calf. There was nothing she could do about the tear without making it worse. It didn't change the fact that her favorite nightgown was now ruined. Damn . . . whatever that old man was.

            "Pick a door, any door, Sarah," Jareth intoned with a sweep of the arm to the doors before them.

            "I don't think so," Sarah objected, standing straight and trying to ignore her bruised and torn state. It also didn't help that there was a little voice in the back of her mind reminding her that this was only one door in. "Not until I get some answers."

            There were whistles and ooh's and ah's from above, too loud for the amount of goblins lining the balcony. Jareth leaned back on one leg, the other foot set out towards her. He crossed his arms, eyes playful and glittering with mischief, lips stern.

            "Go on, dear woman, ask your questions."

            She cleared her throat and raised her chin just a bit higher to steel her resolve. For every small tilt of the chin made up for one inch of his looming height. This only seemed to amuse him more.

            "How did I lose exactly?"

            He grinned at this question, teeth gleaming. It was a wolfish smile that caused a tingle she took as discomfort to run down her spine.

            "You feared," he answered plainly, and the goblins giggled nervously from above. Jareth didn't even glance back at the goblins as he spoke to them acidly. "Silence, you quivering cake worms. I saw you hiding back like the cowards you are."

            "Feared? Of course I was scared! How could that mean anything?" she said, raising her hands to her hips.

            "Dear Sarah, that was the trial: to master your fear," he explained.

            "Wait, wait, wait," she said, holding up her hands. "I thought I lost because I didn't pick the door on the left, the door you wanted. But then, why didn't I lose for picking the right door? Or had I already lost?" Towards the end, she began to sounds as if her mind was abuzz with questions. "How am I supposed to win if I don't know what's going on?" Sarah finished in exasperation.

            There was a short silence from Jareth. The goblins scurried and shifted above them, unwilling to raise their voices in their king's stillness.

            "Was that one question?" he asked slyly.

            "No," she said, realizing her hands were resting on her hips. Slowly, glancing between Jareth and the goblins as if hoping they hadn't noticed, she lowered her hands to her sides. Karen put her hands on her hips. Dear god, Sarah was turning into her step-mother. "It was several." She paused a moment. "I'll try that again."

            "Please do," Jareth said as if giving her permission.

            "Why didn't I get into trouble for not choosing the right door like I did for not choosing the left?"

            "For I never told you to pick the right door," Jareth answered, only causing her more confusion.

            "But you said . . ." she trailed off at a stilling look in his eyes.

            "I said and I quote, "Never, ever, under any circumstances, whether they be dire or otherwise, choose the right door." It was very wise of you to heed my advice though I suppose I tricked that choice from you."

            "No, you're wrong," Sarah objected, shaking her head.

            "My memory is perfect," Jareth fairly purred, deep in his throat; a tone that made her gulp. "It is not my fault that you had neither the patience nor the manners to wait until I had my word before moving on to choose a door. So rash, Sarah."

            "I can't believe this . . . Wait, I can. One moment it's, "Take some risks, Sarah,"" she began to imitate his deeper voice and lilting accent. "Then the next, it's "Don't be rash, Sarah." Do you expect me to be both?"

            A slow smile spread across his face as he raised one arm of the two that were folded across his chest to rest one gloved finger against his lips as if in thought. A very short thought.

            "Yes."

            She raised her hands to her face in frustration, quelling the scream in her throat so that it sounded as a high hum. Sarah reminded herself that this was what she'd wanted. In a twisted this-was-not-what-she-expected sort of way. But what could she have expected from Jareth but the unexpected? Stupid, stupid girl of a woman.

            "You are the most frustrating person, ever," she growled through her hands.

            Her answer was his deep laughter amongst the shrill cries of the goblins.

            She pulled her hands slowly from her face and glared at him as best she could over her fingertips.

            "I wish I never apologized to you," she said, trying to sound cutting. Yet, he seemed unharmed.

            "You picked the door, Sarah. You chose your own judge. In essence, you chose your own punishment if you were to lose, which was an inevitability, I might add. The man has always been overly sentimental," Jareth said with a sigh. "Enough questions. Time for poor Sarah to make a choice."

            "I just chose," she said slowly. "Isn't it your turn?"

            "Turn?" he laughed the word. "To make the game fair – I thought you'd appreciate this- you must have some advantage as I have my own. I have knowledge. You have choice. Make use of it."

            "Oh," she muttered, turning back to the doors. "Okay then."

            "Hmm," Sarah hummed to herself, unconsciously hurrying her choosing as she sensed Jareth grow impatient. Really, she didn't think it a smart thing to do to test his humor. She still remembered running down tunnels, tugging on Hoggle's hand as metal, sharp and gleaming, chased and cornered them with little where to go.

            Oh, she missed Hoggle.

            "I get to pick out of all three?" she asked and he nodded, flicking his hand at her to further rush. "Ok, then I pick . . . the middle door, again."

            Jareth passed by her, his sleeve's fabric brushing against her bare skin. The fabric was cold or perhaps her skin was just overly warm.

            As he pulled the door open, the door –frame and all- fell the three inches or so it had been floating off the ground to land heavily on the floor. The sound was far too heavy and resonating for the appearances of the door. Jareth cautiously stepped aside as the doorframe began to teeter back and forth. Sarah watched in detached fascination as the open doorframe began to fall right on her.

            At the last moment, Jareth's hand grasped around her wrist with biting strength, pulling her out of the way. The door fell on its open face on the floor; its mouth a gaping darkness against the granite. Jareth let go of her wrist as soon as the door crashed against the hard stone.

            He walked to the doorframe guardedly, glancing in over the edge. Jareth's eyes flickered to Sarah momentarily as she rubbed her wrist and looked on to him with question.

            "I do not wish to lose because you have not the common sense to move out of the way of a falling door, Sarah. The dead don't pay dues," he explained away, daring with his eyes for her to say anything to this.

            "So you lose if I die. Good to know," she muttered, walking over to the other side of the door to glance.

            "I don't lose. I merely do not receive my remuneration," he replied and Sarah decided to ignore this.

            "Was this supposed to happen?" Sarah asked, pointing down to the fallen door. "Or did you mess up?"

            "Doors do not just hang vertically on walls, dear woman. If they were so limited, how would one reach half of where one wishes to arrive?"

            "Huh?" she said before thought caught up to her, as it eventually did. "We get along just fine."

            "Aboveground, not half of you get half of where you wish to be or see half the wonders there are to see," he said with a self-satisfied stance and a hidden smirk that threatened to show. He let it grow as she look to him silently, letting the words gather in her mind. "Ladies first." He gestured grandly down the gaping hole in the floor.

            "No way," she said, taking a step back. "You first."

            "Scared?" he teased with roguish appeal, eyes too pleased and grin not nearly as hidden as it could've been. But before she could reply to this, he had stepped onto the darkness within the doorframe, falling without sound.

            "Well," Sarah said to herself. "I don't want to go down there," she whined, stomping her foot once. The goblins squabbled and cackled and generally made a raucous. "And I wish they'd just shut up. Oh, great, now I'm talking to myself. I suppose if I'm already talking to myself in a room full of goblins, why not go down the rabbit hole . . . Minus the rabbit. Yeah, just one big jackass." She laughed to herself as she stepped over the darkness in the doorframe and waited to drop. She didn't have to wait long. Sarah should've closed her eyes. The sight of the room falling away was a disturbing one.

            Her feet met the hard ground sharply, knees buckling with her weight. She fell down on her hands and knees, feeling a stinging in her palms. Sarah raised her hands into the ray of light cast down from the doorframe above. They were covered in dirt. She looked around herself and a sickening lurch ripped through her stomach as she began to recognize her surroundings. No, no, no . . . not that.

            "An oubliette," Jareth's voice raised her eyes to where he leaned against a rocky wall, barely visible in the scarce light. "You seem rather fond of these. Though, once you have seen one you have seen them all."

            "Damn!" she hit her hands against the dirt ground and immediately regretted it as the stinging ran through her hands and fingers, sharp. "Damn! Damn! Damn!" That hadn't kept her from repeating the gesture three more times. Jareth's soft laughter caused her to whip her head back to his lithe and darkly form. "Do you find this amusing?" she asked, watching him move away from the wall, looking back at it with distaste.

            "I find it filthy."

            She sighed, raising her hands into the light to look at her palms again. If there were any scratches from the landing or blood, they were too covered with dirt to tell.

            "What do we do now?" she asked after several moments of silence, letting her hands fall limply into her lap.

            Jareth looked around them; at the unforgiving walls and hard earth and finally to the doorway that was too far above their heads to ever hope to climb out.

            "We wait," he answered and walked out of the light from the doorway completely, blending into shadow.

            Hours passed, she was sure of it. The moments felt like forever and she longed for Jareth to use his magic to reorder time, to turn the clock ahead. Of course, she had a sneaking suspicion that was really a bit more, that Jareth couldn't use his magic once he entered the doors. One of her advantages, she would wager. Or perhaps to take away one of his own.

            Sarah couldn't stand waiting. Never would she have thought Jareth to be the patient one between them. She had always characterized him as impulsive and passionately tempered. There was enough to support both but as she paced back and forth in the door-shaped ray of light, mumbling to herself, he stood quietly in shadow. Sarah liked to describe it as sulking but there wasn't very much to support that. He just waited.

            "This isn't what I agreed to," she finally broke the silence.

            "And what, pray tell, were you expecting, Sarah? A game of checkers, perhaps?" His voice sounded sarcastic and lackadaisical.

            Sarah hated that he kept to the shadows so that she couldn't see him. She wanted to see his face, to try to read his features, to read his eyes. He was just as imposing in shadow as light, but beyond the light Sarah was lost with nothing to ground to. In her mind, he became the shadow that enveloped and captured her, pressing in on her.

            "No, I expected something more . . ." As she searched for a word to describe her expectations she felt the shadow grow heavy around and on her. "Controlled."

            "Ah . . . . Controlled . . ." He murmured the word as if it amused him or was some foreign thought.

            "Yeah, like before. I had one objective. I had one goal. There was one prize. The Labyrinth was a constant adversary but I chose the way. I knew there was a way to beat it."

            "The Labyrinth was your adversary? Is the Labyrinth just a maze as the door is just a door?" Jareth walked from the consuming shadow into the doorway of light.

            "Well, yeah. But you know the meaning of what you just said. A door really isn't just a door here, is it? Not always, anyway. You've just confirmed what I'd thought; the Labyrinth isn't just some maze. It's more." Sarah could hear the awe in her voice as her earlier suspicions were confirmed. To Jareth, this was nothing new and her pleasure with the discovery was probably, at best, a loss to him, and at worse, a puerile annoyance.

            "Good girl," Jareth said and Sarah would wager his response to have been in-between; he was indulgent, as one would to another who was barely above incompetent. "But how much more?"

            "You tell me. You know more than I do," she said back, unwilling to guess when she could just be told. Once, she'd have liked to fantasize the possibilities. To know used to be to kill the thrill. But she had been little more than a child then. Fantasy offered little security. Reality was a painful constant but it was better to become numb to it than to cry out at the constant jar of the pleasant from the real.

            "The Labyrinth is uncontrolled without my presence. It has only one master, yet I must choose to limit that control you have so grown to treasure." His tone was tight and delightfully dangerous. Sarah watched as he weaved in and out of shadow and light. Trying to follow the flicker of his figure hurt her eyes and she tried to quell the annoyance that threatened to make her say stupid things that were better not said.

            "Why?" she asked, biting her tongue and averting her eyes, instead of yelling at him to stay in one damn place. "Why not control it? Wouldn't you want that power?"

            He disappeared back into shadow, but not before a wicked grin was caught in the light. "Wild magic is most potent."

            "Mmm-hmm . . ." she murmured, not really trying to understand his magic. "You aren't controlling this game, then?"

            "Now, that wouldn't be fair, Sarah, and where's the fun in that?"

            "Then the Labyrinth is controlling the game. Every time you walk through the door I choose, I have as much a chance to win as you. I can figure this out." She rose to her feet, ignoring the feel of dirt on her palms and beneath her nails. Sarah wiped her hands on her nightgown before resting them on her hips. She looked around herself with new vigor. The shadows had to be there for a reason; they had to be hiding something. That's why Jareth was in the shadows. He wasn't being enigmatic; he was being sneaky.

            With resolve, she walked into the deep shadows that clung to the imposing walls.

            Some time later, she leaned against some darkened outcrop of rocks fashioned into the oubliette. Sarah had a feeling that Jareth had long searched any such escape before she had even resolved to palm the walls.

            Jareth had taken to humming to himself some annoyingly contagious little tune. It was only a matter of time before she began to hum along. Of course, he chose a few moments later to stop so that her off-key rendition echoed around the walls. She stopped immediately almost into a choke.

            His amused chuckled filled the silence and she glared at the wall she faced, hoping against all reason to burn a hole through the stone. If the blush she could feel spreading across her cheeks was any indication, the heat of her combined frustration and embarrassment would slowly melt away the wall.

            "I hate you," she grumbled, shortly after he fell silent, and she heard him scoff in amusement. "Really, I do."

            "Is that so?" Jareth replied in the first words he'd spoken for an indeterminate amount of time.

            "Yes, it is." Again she heard him scoff in the shadows. "I tell you I hate you and you scoff. The nerve. I'd think even you'd have the decency to care one way or the other; not to merely scoff it away as if I don't mean it because, at this moment –Oh, believe me!- I do. But, of course, we are talking about the Goblin King."

            "But you don't mean your words, Sarah." His voice was far too amused for her shaky patience.

            "No, I do."

            Again, he scoffed.

            "I swear, if you scoff just one more time, I'll . . ."

            "Yes? You will?" he prompted and if Sarah was not so tense and frustrated herself she would've noticed the bite, the warning, in his tone.

            "I'll do something sensible," Sarah finished lamely.

            "And what would that be, Sarah?" Jareth asked as he stepped into the doorway of light, his hair catching the golds and appearing too bright in her eyes after so long looking into darkness. "Where have your sensible actions led? To a husband who knows nothing of your silent fantasies and longing? To a child not made of them but to silence them? Your sensible choices seem very poor ones indeed. And, yet, you would wish to repeat them? For shame."

            "No!" Sarah objected with her old, fiery resolve. "No. They've led me to a man that loves me and protects me. And to a son who I love and would protect with my life."

            "I don't see why not. You gave one away for him already. Or was that Toby? It becomes difficult to distinguish," Jareth replied quickly after her own words.

            "Because of all the babies you steal?" she asked with sardonic humor, taking one step closer to him.

            He watched the movement pointedly before allowing a sharp smirk to break the fine features of his face. "No. Because both you've silently wished away in your dreams and wondered if the freedom would be worth the guilt."

            "How dare you!" she snapped, quickly approaching him, her hand raised without thought.

            He caught it quickly in his firm, almost painful, grip. Jareth's glove pinched the skin of her wrist as he tightened his hold just that bit more, merely to show that he could. She winced but refused to cry out. To try to strike him had been foolish, plainly stupid even, in retrospect. But she wanted so desperately that small show of control. Jareth pulled her closer to him with a jerk of her wrist. Along the way, her bare foot stumbled over some rock on the ground amongst the dirt. She fairly fell into Jareth and he caught and held her, making her feel more captured than saved another fall.  

            "So foolish." He leaned forward to whisper into her ear, resting his cheek against Sarah's own. She jerked and closed her eyes at the contact. "Never again." The warning was clear and she shivered with it. "Never have I raised a hand to you. I expect no less than the same courtesy." He pointedly released her and she jerked back, nearly stumbling on the same rock again. She looked down at her feet, to kick the damn rock away.

            Sarah's mouth gaped slightly after a moment of confusion as she saw the very round, very shiny, very metallic . . . thing for lack of better description. It was surely not a rock and surely not there before. She fell to her knees and began to brush away dirt with her hands, revealing a hinge at the very edge of the light. She looked to Jareth to say something about what she found. She saw that she didn't have to as he already kneeled beside a latch that –judging from the fact that he was brushing excess dirt from his suede gloves- he had just uncovered.

            She rose to her feet and stepped away from the light. From a small distance, not taking into account Jareth and his shadow, the darkness of the oubliette seemed to outline a door of light.

            "I can't believe it," she said, raising a dirty hand to her forehead in disbelief.

            "You seemed to have stumbled on the door," Jareth said in such a stiff tone that Sarah knew it was to cover his own disbelief and, perhaps, jealousy. "Lacking finesse, certainly, but effective all the while."

            "We all can't 'walk fearlessly into darkness,'" she said with a giggle.

            "Congratulations, Sarah. Luck has visited you once again," Jareth said bitterly, stepping back from the light, himself.

            "Does this mean I win?"

            "Undoubtedly."

            She smiled broadly and walked around the door, looking for the knob. Not finding one, she rounded the light again, her smile faltering. On the third round, her grin took on more the appearance of a frown. Meanwhile, she could feel Jareth's own mood lifting.

            She put her foot on the door and pushed, hoping it would fall open. Finally, Sarah moved to jump up and down in the center of the door, ignoring as Jareth laughed outright.

            "Damn," she finally cursed, slightly out of breath. "I don't suppose you'd know how to open this thing?"

            "In fact, I believe I do," he haughtily replied back. She could see him standing just outside the line of the door, where the light took on a hazy quality and dust glittered in the air around him. One arm rested across his chest, the other's elbow perched upon the first. Jareth held one finger against his lips, as if withholding something he found altogether too amusing. Sarah would bet anything that that something was at her expense.          "Well?" she asked with impatience.

            "Perhaps it would be polite to knock," he suggested. "Just a thought."

            "Knock?"

            He nodded.

            She shrugged with a sigh and fell to a knee.

            "Ah," Jareth interrupted, almost stepping forward.

            "Yes?" Sarah asked, not so much impatient as wary. It seemed he knew something she didn't.

            "Nothing. Do go on." He pressed the finger back to his lips, which were curled up wickedly.

            She kept a way eye on Jareth as she raised a fist as if to knock. Apprehensively, she brought it down to knock on the dirt ground once, twice, and finally three times. It was then she realized why he had smirked.

            Sarah was sitting on the door when it was opened from the other side. That wasn't fair! Hinges meant the door was supposed to open the other way! Normally, at least. Her luck, it didn't work that way this time and she ended up falling down some dark shaft into a pile of ashes.

            She sat where she was, momentarily dizzy and sore. Two, strong hands took hold of her arm and tried to pull her up.

            "You better move unless you want to end up in a heap with his majesty in the fire grate any moment. And, even if you do, I don't care much for it, so get up," the woman pulling on her said in a rich, choppy manner.

            Sarah rose to her feet, letting the woman guide her head away from the mantle as she stepped out of the fireplace into a very frilly, very clean sitting room. The woman herself seemed immaculately attired in a teal cocktail dress. Large, black pearls fell around her neck in a very gaudy, but expensive-looking, necklace. Her face was long and cold. Small, beady blue eyes looked over her sternly, pressing otherwise beautiful lips together into a pale disapproving line. The woman sighed throatily and pushed Sarah towards a beige couch. "Oh, sit," she said as if she couldn't stand to look at Sarah anymore.

            "You," Jareth's voice announced his presence as he ducked out of the fireplace. The woman looked him over much the same way she had Sarah, but fiddling with the pearls around her neck.

            "You, too," she said in greeting. "Don't be so tense, Goblin King. Just sit down with the princess and we can all get this over with."

            Sarah was worried to sit on the immaculate beige couch, as covered in soot as she was, but Jareth seemed to have no such problem and sat himself without care, and he wasn't particularly untouched by dirt and soot, himself. She sat down at the farthest edge from Jareth, uncomfortably amongst pink throw pillows.

            "Congratulations!" the woman exclaimed, throwing her hands into the air and causing Sarah to jump with the radical change in her tone. "You both won!"

            "How?" Sarah asked while Jareth did not appear particularly pleased with sharing the win with her.

            "You both released you anger and found the door," she said, far too chipper. "Without harming, maiming, or otherwise marring each other in the process, I may add. A feat, I'm sure. But you took the anger, embraced it, and moved on to open the door. Kudos to you."

            "Your voice is positively sickening," Jareth said what Sarah had been thinking. His next words, although, were not so in accord. "Get on with the technicalities, if you've finished your sadistic fun."

            The woman's face fell and when she spoke, her voice was harsh and held none of the sweetness of before. "Okay. So it's like this, darling: you both won so you both get something precious from the other. That means -like his highness here was expecting- you both lose."

            "We lose?" Sarah asked in slight shock.

            "Yep."

            "Because we won?"

            "Yes. Smarts, huh?" The woman's tone turned words that could've been sympathetic into just plain mean.

            "But I won!" Sarah objected even as the woman sat on an armchair opposite them and pulled a little, black notepad out from beneath the cushions. She opened it to where a pin marked her place.

            "No, you lose. Jareth loses. And I get a nice bit of brandy to celebrate," she said while scribbling in her notepad.

            "You don't have to sound so absolutely delighted, Marge," Jareth said from Sarah's side.

            "No, you see. I do, because I am," she said with a smile that, for lack of a better word, was 'happy.' "I don't care if you end up winning this damn thing. In between then and now I plan to get plastered and perhaps go for a nude frolic in the fiery forest. And since the Bog is drying up, that's out of the picture. The Bog of Not-Quite-Eternal Stench, more like."

            "I'm sure I can concoct something equally miserable," Jareth said with a flippant gesture of the hand.

            "Certainly," Marge agreed, her smile falling to forced. "But that's if you win. If she wins the next one you, your majesty, fall folly to your own self-indulgent ways."

            Sarah at first was going to say nothing to this. This woman obviously wanted her to win and, of course, Sarah wanted to win, so they were of accord. That is, until she began to tally their score so far in her head.

            "Oh no," Sarah breathed the words as all the air seemed to escape her then. It felt as if her heart had fallen into her stomach and made it heavy and ill.

            She knew Jareth looked to her and might've even said something though the words eluded her.

            "I've already lost."

            By this game's apparent guidelines, she had lost twice and Jareth only once. If she won the next trial, they'd be tied. And a tie was a loss. If she failed the next trial, she'd lose. If she won, she still would lose. She was damned either way.

            "Aw, look at her face. You can almost watch the pieces fall together. I almost feel sorry for her," Marge's voice continued to rattle on while Sarah tried to clear her mind to the fact that she'd lost. "She's going to cry."

            "I'm not going to cry," Sarah bit out each word, refusing to look anywhere but at her knees.

            "You've lost, sweet cheeks. You played the game once and you were lucky. But Jareth was controlling that one. You might not have noticed but Jareth's got a soft spot for you," Marge continued, fingering the dark pearls between her pretty fingers.

            "Careful," Jareth warned under his breath, pushing off from the couch to stand. It didn't make Sarah uncomfortable at that moment because she didn't care; she'd lost.

            Marge eyed him warily for a moment before going on. She leaned over on the side of the armchair as if her words would then be somehow more directed at Sarah. But her eyes remained on the Goblin King.

            "Oh, not to say he made it easier on you. Oh, no. At some points, he lost his temper and even made it harder. But he didn't make it as hard as he could have." At Jareth's vicious glare, she inserted, "What? It's not as if the whole Labyrinth with half a brain isn't thinking it. It's not as if the whole Underground doesn't know that you played with her a little and she accidentally got away." It was then the woman turned her eyes to Sarah and they were cold. "But now you are playing the Labyrinth, itself. Stupid, just stupid. The Labyrinth can't 'fall in love with the girl' and won't give her 'special powers.' The Labyrinth is a game that doesn't care in the slightest."

            "Are you quite done?" Jareth voice was sharp and pulled Sarah from dark thoughts.

            "Yes, I'm done," Marge said, resting back in the armchair.

            "Why even play anymore then? I lose; that's it." Sarah swallowed back her growing fear. She found that she didn't quite remember what she was to give up if she lost. Sarah had a disheartening suspicion that she had never been told.

            "You play because I have not yet won," Jareth answered. She looked for the sounds of cruel humor in his tone but found that there was nothing but words.

            "Now, I am to decide your rewards," Marge said, picking invisible lint from the armrest of her chair. "What would be appropriate?" she seemingly asked of the ceiling as her eyes flew skywards. "Something the giver would despise if lost and cherish if kept."

            "Why are you so cruel?" Sarah asked without even realizing that she was about to.

            "Because life's never been fair to me so I sure as Hell am not going to let it be anymore fair to you!" Marge snapped, squinting at Sarah viciously.

            "You see, Sarah, you were not the only girl to wish away an unwanted child, only to ask for the same child back when taken away," Jareth explained, moving to stand beside the fireplace. "Some men and women, boys and girls, beg for the child back and run the Labyrinth at my leisure. But some of the wishers get distracted upon the way by pretty things and can never find their way back. Marge made it to the junkyard and never deemed to leave."

            Marge had begun to knead the hem of her cocktail dress between her fingers, eyes looking straight ahead and seeing something that Sarah could not.

            "All I wanted was to have a party," the woman whimpered. "I only wanted to have some pretty things and a clean house to show to people. I just wanted to throw a party. Now that everything is clean and I'm ready, no one wants to visit anymore."

            "How long has she been down here?" Sarah asked, not asking the woman herself as she appeared temporarily vacant.

            "Sixteen years," Jareth answered. "Give or take."

            "This is cruel!"

            "She could leave, at any point," he responded before pointing to a door behind the armchair and to the right. "All she has to do is walk through that door."

            "I can't go back!" Marge seemed to come back to herself. "Without Nancy, what would people say? I can't go back."

            It sickened Sarah to look at this woman. She only cared what others would think and chose to rot away amongst trash. It was pathetic. Some small voice in the back of her mind whispered that such was what she'd become. She didn't hide in a sitting room in the Labyrinth's Junkyard mumbling about parties. But she still cared, perhaps too much. She married her husband because it was the right thing to do and it felt nice to be told what a lovely pair they made. They bought the house because it was on the good side of town and minded the lawn to make sure the grass was never longer than that of their neighbors'. And Jonathon . . . well, they'd have to have a baby sometime and the neighbors and her parents were always asking when; if not asking then staring and Sarah knew just the same.

            "Sarah, you'll give him your wedding band," Marge's voice intruded on her thoughts. "That's his reward. Hand it over."

            "My wedding ring? Why? Why would he care about it?" Sarah asked defensively, covering her left hand against her belly with her right.

            "He doesn't, but you do," she answered.

            Reluctantly, Sarah began to pull the ring from her finger as she stood from the couch. The short steps to hand the golden band to Jareth seemed both long and too few. He held out a gloved palm and Sarah laid the ring upon it, watching as he closed his fingers and it was gone; like magic.

            "And you," Marge said while turning her attention to Jareth. "What do you have, Goblin King? You have title and power. The power is not yours to give. So title it is then."

            Jareth only laughed.

            "That is my decision," Marge said very seriously, scribbling in the black notepad that rested in her lap. She couldn't have been writing anything legible; her eyes were focused on Jareth and her hand's movements were almost frantic.

            "My title?" Jareth laughed the words. "Oh, yes, Sarah would make a lovely Goblin King. Yet, I do not believe she could fill my breeches."

            Sarah wasn't insulted. She knew for certain she couldn't and blushed at the thought.

            "I'm not telling you to give her your breeches. You are to give her your title," Marge instructed very slowly through clenched teeth.

            Jareth turned to Sarah with a half-smile that seemed barely amused but she didn't believe the he could care so little about turning over his title. "Sarah, I dub thee King of the Goblins."

            "What's that mean?" Sarah asked after a moment, as horrifying visions of donning a billowing cloak and kidnapping babies flashed through her mind.

            "Absolutely nothing," the woman answered, closing the notepad and rising to her feet. "Perfect, isn't it? I think it fits the situation very nicely. You both had to give up something precious that you'd despise to do without, yet is meaningless to the other without the person from which it came. Brilliant, even if I do say so myself."

            "How do I get out of here?" Sarah questioned, trying desperately not to begin an argument with this hateful woman.

            "How else?" Marge asked back, clutching the notepad to her breast.

            "The door," Jareth answered, walking across the room to the door behind the armchair.

            "Then bye to you," Sarah said, following Jareth to the door.

            "Good. Go," Marge instructed, turning to watch them leave.

            Jareth opened the door and left without a word or glance and Sarah moved to follow.

            "The guests should be here soon," Sarah heard Marge say in great expectation just before she walked into the darkened doorway.

            The doorway led not to Jareth's Game Room as Sarah had expected but to another place altogether. Old, ivory pillars stood, supporting a ceiling that was no longer there. A midday sun sent soft light down on the ruins of some great theatre; Jareth and Sarah the only souls so to speak, standing in the center of a grand, stone stage. On all sides, they were surrounded by orchard trees and small, yellow wildflowers. Broken statues peeked out from behind the odd trunk and fragments of the lost ceiling stood out amongst the wild grasses.

            Two doors sat on the stage; one at the farthest left and one to the farthest right. They were both of plain cedar with brass knobs and were set into plain stone walls, somehow surviving whatever had so torn asunder the rest of the theatre.

            Sarah turned to Jareth in puzzlement. "Where are we?"

            Jareth looked back, his face cold but eyes hiding some foreign thought, which Sarah desperately hoped was not alarm. For a moment, she didn't think he was going to answer but it was as he looked away that he said, "I'm not quite certain."

            "I was afraid you were going to say that," she admitted, swallowing fear in a physical gulp.

* * *

To all readers and reviewers:

Thank you and feedback is always appreciated.

Midnight Lady: I agree with what you said about the child, that it's possible for the child to be loved and wanted. Just at that moment, Jareth was being sneaky. And, of course, the view of the characters are not always my own. I'm glad you liked that little description of "midnight dream or fantasy." I'm glad you enjoyed my story. I hate homework. Always have. Scars children, me thinks. Thanks for reviewing.

Goodness: Oooh! I love hearing that! I try to stay true to the movie as much as I can, but adding a more adult twist. I hope you like this chapter. Thanks for reviewing.

Mari2: I feel complimented that you liked my story so much to sign in. I know, going through all that to sign in and all to review can be a real hassle sometimes. Thank you for what you said about Jareth's characterization. I do try to stay to the characters, especially Jareth. He can be tricky to do sometimes. Thanks for reviewing.

Applekrisp14: Yeah, that "doctor" annoyed me too. The chewing of the tongue really annoyed me and I wrote it! But that's who he is so I guess I should be happy that he got across like that to others. Thanks for logging in. I like to be able to check out the favorites and the stories of the people who review me. Unfortunately, I tend to stay away from actually reading on FF now. There's just such an abundance of stuff to sift through to get to anything worth it. That's why I use favorites when I do stop by. I think I've read a couple from your favorites but I don't remember anymore. Unfortunately, I don't read POTC. I'm sorry. If I start, I'll know where to go. Thanks for reviewing.

Lady Silma: "LMAO!" We seriously need to discus the concept of private conversations. Good grief!" Sound familiar? Jeeze, pick a side, Silma! First you don't want me to be familiar and then the next you say I'm too distant. What do you want from me! *Sobs* Anyways, thanks for reviewing.