Disclaimer: I don't own anything except a Labyrinth DVD.

Warning: For those who want a nice, fluffy, cute, snuggly fanfic--I'm sorry. My darker muse got to me. Sorry. What if Sarah lost and Jareth---dare I say it?--wasn't nice?

Sarah heard the frantic ticking over the pounding of her heartbeat. If only she could remember the last line. She had come so far--so very, very far--and the final exhilarating jump had put her face to face with him. C'mon, Sarah! She mentally shook herself. ".... My kingdom is as great...." What was that last line?

Jareth felt the tremor at first. More magic? He wondered briefly, exhausted. Who could be casting more magic here--in the crumbles and ruins as time rushed in uncertain tides around them? He could almost smell his defeat as he pondered what steps to take next. The tremor of magic flowed through him, a gleeful black energy with one use.

Jareth absorbed the energy into his own magical reserves. With a spark of inspiration, he did it.

A little nudge of time. The clock that hung in space began chiming. That's all it took--a nudge forward, hurrying the game to its end. The clock chimed. A faint, acrid odor seemed to tease his nostrils, like a thread of a tapestry burning. It chimed more. Jareth swallowed, almost swearing he could taste a bitter wine in his mouth. He wanted her to win--why had he advanced time yet again? The clock chimed again.

Then it was on her tongue. "You--!"

Suddenly, the clock chimed for the last time.

Jareth almost choked on the wave of bittersweet in his throat that congealed around his heart. Then he felt the gleeful warmth fill him, energizing him as he drank in his last minute victory. Apparently she wasn't as powerful as she thought she was--she was only another scatterbrained girl. Bitterness hardened around his heart. Thought she could defeat the Goblin King, did she?

A cold wave of laughter shook her, and she stumbled backwards before the Goblin King. "No, please," she whispered, following his gaze to Toby. "Don't hurt Toby."

Jareth sneered at her, his eyes like chips of stone--one a cold sapphire and one frigid obsidian--as he looked at her. He paused for a moment, and then said, "Another bargain?"

Sarah nodded dumbly.

Jareth smiled. "You--for him. In exchange."

Sarah nodded again.

Jareth walked around her, examining her for a moment. "Done." He clapped his hands and Toby vanished in a puff of magic dust.

Sarah stared at the empty piece of staircase as it spun once more then snapped against another piece of reassembled masonry, feeling her heart break. Giant pieces of architecture were swirling around her as the Escher room reassembled itself. Toby was safe. She barely paid attention to Jareth pacing around her, until he grabbed a hank of her hair and pulled, bending her to her knees in front of him.

"Sarah. Dear, Sarah," he whispered. "I have found a fitting situation for you, I think."

She glared up at him, trying to wrest his fingers from her hair. "You have taken away my family. You have taken me from my home and freedom. Isn't that enough?"

With a quick thrust, Jareth push Sarah away from him. "You have tried my patience." He conjured a crystal in his hands. "But I am generous. One last chance to choose..."

Sarah looked at the crystal. Inside were the grotesque masked figures from her dream masquerade. They still spun, giggling and weaving as though drunk. Yet, it wasn't the bright, sparkling ballroom she remembered. Looking from the outside, she saw the paint that peeled from the masks, costumes were stained and torn, the taint of lead in the powders worn by the ladies, the battered furniture and askew chandelier. Most horrifying was the certainty that these people--the dancers and players--were laughing because they couldn't cry through their hollowed out, sunken, bloodshot eyes. "What happened?" she asked in wonder.

"They have always been like that," Jareth smiled. "That is what they wanted--it isn't a special dream to be in a masquerade ball, after all--and they stay there for eternity." He rolled the ball around for a second, showing her a different view of the same room. One woman collapsed in exhaustion, and another couple, laughing merrily, danced over her prone body. Jareth snapped his fingers and the woman, hanging limply like a marionette, was pulled up and deposited on a worn, collapsed couch. "But they stay at the party they always dreamed about."

Sarah turned away. "But it was so lovely when you and I were there."

Jareth smirked, watching two men fight over an old bone. "It really wasn't any different. You just didn't see it."

"I cannot bear that," she whispered.

"So proud, my dear Sarah--even in defeat." Jareth shrugged, letting the crystal vanish. "Very well. You will go another route, then."

Sarah felt warmth in her veins. For a moment, it was like the warmth of drinking one of her father's infamous hot toddies. Then it turned scorching hot. Sarah gasped, curling up on the floor in agony. She glanced briefly at the tall boots beside her, and then closed her eyes as she felt every bone in her body twist, every nerve scream and every muscle clench. Panting heavily, she glanced at her balled up fists. The skin mottled darker, wrinkling, as her fingers shortened and became stubby. Suddenly, another spasm of pain curled her up double again.

Jareth laughed softly--sounding far away as Sarah writhed on the ground. She vaguely noticed a crystal sailing over her and shattering against a wall beside her. The glass shards flew out for a split second and then merged together--melting together--into a smooth, silvery mirror. Sarah could only scream at the creature she saw in that mirror and then mercifully, everything went black.

Sarah cracked an eye, looking into the mirror. A goblin stared back at her--a grotesque beast with a huge nose, heavy brows shadowing her eyes, which suddenly seemed beady and tiny in the mass of wrinkles. Her long, slender hands were now stubby paws with broken, blackened claws. Her teeth barely met correctly--a mercy, all things considered--but she was absolutely furry under her arms, down her arms, and down her legs. There was even a fine mustache forming over her upper lip and five fat white whiskers stuck out of her chin, along with three warts. Her feet, once small and delicate with pink painted toenails, were large and club-like. She stood precariously, desperately swinging to get her balance.

Sarah heard the screaming in her head, but couldn't speak the words. Jareth walked behind her, his reflection suddenly tall and imposing. Sarah reached out gingerly to touch the mirror--horrified when the revolting creature in the mirror reached out to her in cool reflection.

"Now if you're done gaping at yourself, you can start on your chores," Jareth snapped.

Sarah turned towards him, dumbly. She meant to say, "What chores?" but it came out blubbery and clobbered, "Vwhachers?" Her eyes widened and she clapped her paws over her mouth. Even her tongue and mouth felt large and clumsy. Trying slowly and carefully, she finally managed, "Wha' chors?"

Jareth smiled in amusement. "Start with cleaning up after yourself here, then we'll get you settled. Oh, that's right!" He adopted an exaggerated shocked mien. "You refused me!" His voice dropped, dripping mockery. "I guess you'll have to do what the other goblins do."

Sarah nodded mutely, not surprised when a bucket half as tall as she was appeared with a chunk of olive green lye soap and a coarse brush. She had apparently vomited in her agony--and had made quite a mess. Tears falling from her stubby face and dropping off the wart on her nose, she began scrubbing.

"Do drop by the throne room when you are done," Jareth said casually, with clearly exaggerated enunciation. "I will have a few more chores for you."

Sarah dropped the brush four times, her paws feeling strange and clumsy. And her little arms wouldn't go that far--just a tiny circle, now. But with a stubborn set to her jaw, she carefully cleaned up the floor. The chore, taking her until a dim sun filtered through the skylight in the confusing room of stairs was just about complete when she backed into the bucket of water. Perversely, it tipped, sloshing the dirty water over the sides. Sarah grabbed for the bucket, but her paws were so tiny and clumsy, she could only grasp at empty air as the bucket sailed off the edge of the platform.

Weeping at the thought of the bucket's filth being sprayed over several layers of stairs and landings, Sarah crawled to the edge of the platform to look down. Jareth stood below her, his boot cocked on the bucket like a bizarre reflection in a magic mirror.

"My, my, we are careless," he sneered, flicking his wine red velvet sleeves. "Just imagine if this had fallen." He jerked his foot, and Sarah cried out at it looked precariously close to tipping yet again. The bucket suddenly swung up to be right side up right beside her. Jareth looped around the same edge in a single step. He glanced at the floor and nodded. "Acceptable, but for right now you're needed elsewhere. And bring your bucket."

Sarah pushed the bucket along in front of her, praying that there weren't any steps between her and wherever she was supposed to be going. Of course there were, so she carefully navigated the bucket down the steps, then hurried to catch up with the retreating form of Jareth. Every step of his seemed to cross huge distances compared to her own. Panting, she was relieved when he finally stopped and leaned against a set of doors.

"Go in there and help with the dishes, and then the laundry," he smirked. "Then, if there is still some scraps, you'll get some food."

Sarah's stomach rumbled. She was so hungry right now she'd eat a plate for the gravy smears on it.

Jareth grinned as she opened the heavy doors. Blasted back by the humid, hot air, Sarah cringed. Hauling in her bucket, she stared at the huge pots of water and the crowds of creatures that were scrubbing dishes and the next row of boiling cauldrons of laundry. She swallowed heavily.

"Oh, and Sarah," Jareth called, conjuring yet another crystal. "You need this." He held the crystal out to her.

Sarah approached warily to take the offering. As soon as her claw touched the crystal, she staggered back with a searing pain in her nose. Clapping her paws over her nose, she whined. A dull bronze ring was affixed in her nose, a crystal ball hanging down from it like a ring on a doorknocker.

Jareth laughed. "That way I'll be able to keep special track of you--and you'll always know when I want you to do something." He yawned and stretched widely. "Good night, then." With a nonchalant stroll, he left, smiling at the new goblin's tears.

Sarah could barely move from the stepladder at the boiling laundry pot when she was released by the Mistress of the Pots--a somewhat kindly half-goblin half-troll who knew that the new goblin would fall right in the pot and be boiled alive if she lifted another linen napkin. Stumbling to find somewhere, she finally found a basket of dirty laundry tucked in a corner. Falling in it, Sarah was quickly asleep.

Sarah's dreams were strange--of a large clown with a buzzer in his nose that tickled when he leaned closer and bumped his bright red nose to hers. Starting awake, she realized that the nose ring was going off. Shuffling out of the clothesbasket, she wearily asked a passing goblin where the King was. He grunted and gestured up a long flight of stairs. Sarah sighed heavily, and began climbing.

Fortunately, there was only one set of double doors at the end of the hallway. Sarah waddled through them, panting softly and hoping that somewhere--anywhere--there was a bottle of aspirin.

"Aspirin is horrible for goblins, Sarah," an idle voice mused. "Makes them sick--ah, sorry--makes YOU sick."

Sarah concentrated on her surroundings for a moment. She was standing in an immaculate sitting room with a large, comfortable looking couch under one window. Beyond, she could see a bathing chamber through one door. Another open door showed her a tremendous bedroom. The third door was closed and hadn't been opened for some time--if the dust and cobwebs in the upper corners was any indication. The Goblin King, in all of his terrible, casual glory, was sprawled across the couch, playing with crystal balls.

Sarah bowed her head slightly, more to glance away from his mismatched stare than to show any respect.

Jareth smiled and stretched. "Do be a good goblin--Sarla--and tell cook that I want three eggs, over easy, hash browns, whole wheat toast, peach nectar, and milk. Oh, and some butter and honey. Bring my tray up when it's ready." He waved dismissively.

Sarah nodded and shuffled out. Telling the cook anything was next to impossible, and if the cook could read her writing with the tiny stub of grease pencil smearing over a dirty piece of parchment, it was impossible to tell. With a few grunts, the cook turned back to her stove. Sarah waited gamely, praying that the food would come out to order, but half-praying it wouldn't so she could eat it.

The tray--an elaborate carved silver affair--was almost as long as Sarah was tall and heavily laden. Wiping the tears from her eyes, she tried desperately to get someone to help her carry it up. Her nose ring started buzzing again, as she approached a taller goblin to help her carry the tray. It buzzed harder as he ambled away, grunting some unintelligible excuse. Sarah's eyes filled with tears up as she felt the buzzing increase. In despair, she wrung her hands until she spied Hoggle. Running up to him, she tugged on his sleeve.

"Wha'? Who?" the little man yelped, startled. "Go away! Shoo! Shoo!" He waved the spray can at her menacingly. "Get on or I'll zap you!"

Sarah pointed to the tray and to the stairs, her words coming out blubbering and confused.

"Oh no!" Hoggle snorted. "I ain't helpin' nobody with nothin' again!" He grabbed a large glass filled with juice from a guardsman and fled outside.

Sarah sobbed softly, trying desperately to haul the tray to the bottom of the steps at least.

Jareth watched from the staircase as she hauled the tray, pulling with all her might. Snarling, he commented sarcastically, "If my breakfast is cold, I'll tip you into the Bog, wretch."

Sarah stood there, tears dripping down her chin.

Jareth walked down the steps and grabbed the tray. Peeking under the domed lid, he glared at her for a moment. "It's cool--but not cold--lucky you. Now, since you've seen fit to starve your King, then you can go clean up the throne room until I come back down and then you'll strip the bed in my bedroom so that the sheets can be washed." He arched an eyebrow at her. "Then you'll wash them."

Sarah watched as the huge breakfast walked back up the steps and out of sight. Returning to the kitchen, she fought for a crust of bread and a mug of warm milk. Weary, she hauled out her bucket, soap and brush, and went into the huge throne room.

About an hour later, Jareth strolled in, walking directly across the damp area in his boots, Jareth snapped at her and gestured at the steps. Sarah clumsily dropped the brush into the bucket and hauled the bucket out of the way of the general traffic of goblins. Trudging up the stairs, she went to strip the sheets. It took her forever to get a grip on the bedclothes of the immense bed and drag them into a pile on the floor.

Jareth stood in the doorway, smiling and gnawing on a peach, watching her struggle with the huge pile of heavy linens. Her pudgy paws could barely get a grip on the tucked in sheets and she practically could live in one of the pillowcases. But still she persisted, clawing and tugging with all of the puny strength in her tiny body. Painfully slowly, she managed to get the sheets into a pile in the middle of the floor. Then she noticed him.

Sarah sent out a yelp as she noticed the Goblin King standing in the open doorway. She had been so sure that she was alone. What little errand does he have lined up for me next, I wonder? She thought sarcastically as she rolled the linens together into a knot that was almost as large as she was.

"A very good question," he said. "How about cleaning up the breakfast dishes? Then I'll need the bathroom cleaned, and some more soap from town, and I'll expect my bed to be made tonight." He wrinkled his nose. "You seem to be so very slow about all this."

Sarah cried out in protest. She meant to say something intelligible, a protest filled with fire--but all that came out was an unintelligible, anguished scream of gobbledygook.

Jareth's eyes flashed in fury. Stalking around her, he picked up the laundry and threw it out the door, where it went fluttering down the steps. Sarah could only gape at the fluttering mess, when she suddenly felt Jareth's boot in her side. Sarah cringed as she felt her body lift up and go sailing out the door and then land on several steps and go rolling. She finally ended up against the side wall, upside down, as the doors above the steps slammed. Sarah lay there for a moment, collecting her thoughts when she realized something.

She wasn't truly hurt.

She needed to catch her breath. She was sore from all the work yesterday and her tummy grumbled. But truly, even being sent flying by Jareth's boot hadn't hurt her. Not even landing on the stone steps truly hurt her. Sarah tumbled a bit and started picking up the scattered linens. She really wasn't hurting at all. Was it Jareth's doing? Or luck? Or the tough goblin hide she now wore?

Sarah gathered the linens again into a big pile and hauled them down to the laundry pots.

The Mistress of the Pots glared at the load. "He wantsum washt agin?" she snapped.

Sarah could only nod.

The Mistress of the Pots (who Sarah had dubbed "Miss Potts", privately) rolled her eyes expressively, snorting something that sounded remarkably like cursing. At the slam from above and rapid tattoo of boots on the steps, all the goblins stopped for a moment, listening to the angry steps of Jareth as he passed. The taller half-breed waited until he was out of earshot to snort again. With a crack of her knuckles--snapping being very difficult for the stubby goblin fingers--three others appeared and everyone began loading the sheets into a huge pot. Sarah filed out with them and began drawing water from the low well.

The day sped by, as Sarah washed the sheets, hang the heavy masses out on the lines, scrubbed the bathroom, and began picking up the dirty dishes. Ashamed and ravenous, she paused for a moment to snag a half a piece of toast with a bite out of it and wipe up some runny egg yolk from his breakfast plates. Feeling marginally better for the snack, she brought the dishes back to the kitchen. Then it was time to bring in the sheets. Sarah had barely managed to get the heavy basket indoors when she realized she had forgotten the soap.

"Miss Potts" nodded as if she understood exactly what Sarah was saying, although Sarah could barely make out her own speech. With another knuckle crack, she had two helpers bearing stools on wheels as she and Sarah hauled the basket of laundry upstairs. Sarah sorted out the sheets as the helpers set the stools down on each side of the bed. Sarah could hardly believe it as Miss Potts stood on one stool and gestured for her to do the same. The helpers whizzed the stools up and down the sides of the bed as they spread the sheets and tucked in the corners. The pillows were less of a problem, and were tossed on the bed. Sarah smiled wearily--the goblins were amazing in their ingenuity in their own way.

Miss Potts snorted and pulled a dirty piece of parchment from her worn apron. A list of things to buy, Sarah decided. A pound of soap, some ground talc, a new comb, and a package from the dressmakers didn't sound so bad--or so heavy. Thankfully, Miss Potts--who's name was apparently "Ookla"--chose to accompany her, introducing her in some fashion to each of the merchants. With a smile, Sarah accepted each of the items, carefully marking them off the list with a stub of an old grease pencil.

Sarah trudged up the steps with the items in a wicker basket, carefully glancing around for signs of Jareth. With a sigh of relief--he wasn't in the magnificent rooms--she began putting things away. The soap--a delicate fragrance of spices (nutmeg? cinnamon?) and vanilla with just a subtle hint of sandalwood--was in several bars that Sarah carefully slid into the empty soap dishes. The talc--finely powdered--was dumped into a round, carved silver container and the puff replaced. Sarah was sweeping up the fine bits of powder that had billowed up around the replaced puff when Jareth reappeared.

Jareth snorted as Sarah started and dumped the comb--an elaborately carved one out of ebony--and a paper wrapped package on his dresser. With a hasty bob, she started to scamper out. Jareth waved his hand and the doors closed. Sarah skidded to a stop, glancing around nervously and clutching her basket nervously.

Jareth picked up the package and tossed it at her. "Open it," he commanded.

Sarah frowned, and tore open the paper packaging. Velvet the color of the deepest midnight blue lined with a matching, shimmering satin slithered out over her hands. Carefully pulling out the velvet, Sarah could only gasp hoarsely at the velvet robe and the satin nightgown were revealed. It was one of the colors that Sarah loved the most--the color that made had made her pale skin glow, darkened her eyes to an almost violet, and highlighted her long hair. Jareth smiled in a cruel way as he picked up the robe and gown and opened the third door with a sparkling silver key. Sarah picked up the ebony comb and padded quietly after him.

This room almost put his bedroom to shame. A pair of French doors led to a stone balcony that overlooked a series of blooming gardens and the beginnings--or endings, depending on your point of view--of the hedge maze. The bed--a slightly smaller bed with two featherbeds resting on it, was dressed in sparkling white sheets with a midnight blue velvet coverlet and matching canopy. The furniture--graceful and feminine--consisted of the bed flanked by two nightstands, dressing table, a tall wardrobe, a desk that could only be called a "secretary" with quill and parchment at the ready, and a huge three-way mirror. An almost anachronistic touch, a small stand stood in the corner with a white pitcher and basin set on it. Sarah could only gape at the room, a room she had fantasized about in her wildest dreams. It was almost painful, standing in her dream room.

Jareth opened the wardrobe and pulled out a padded hanger. Sliding the nightgown on the hanger, he draped the robe over it and hung it on the outside of the wardrobe door. The satin shimmered softly in some unfelt breeze as Jareth stroked it once more. With a sigh, he snapped at Sarah, "Quick gawking and put the comb on the dressing table and go away."

Sarah padded up and carefully slid the wooden comb on the dresser. Jareth stood frowning at the velvet and satin and one finger traced down the hand-quilted lapel's embroidery. Sarah glanced over at it with a longing sigh--and she gingerly reached out, not quite touching it, like a small child in a china shop.

Sarah pulled her hand back, looking at it. Her hand wasn't pale and soft with manicured nails anymore, but calloused and almost gnarled in the tough goblin skin. She would ruin that delicate velvet if she touched it--snarl the soft satin if her hand grazed it. She felt her heart squeeze--she couldn't even come near such luxuries any more with her calloused prickly skin and broken claws. She glanced up at Jareth, suddenly pitying him. He was so cultured, so precise, so sensual and surrounded by goblins who couldn't appreciate any of it. With another glance at the midnight blue set, she slipped out with her willow basket.

The next days were difficult, but not impossible. Sarah's chores were constant--clean up after Jareth in his apartments, change his towels and pick up his laundry, bring him his meals as required, and running errands. In a way, Sarah was grateful for being busy--it kept her mind off of the din of the other goblins and her own moping self-pity. She steadfastly refused to even glance at the continually closed door in Jareth's suite of rooms. Her dreams were too painfully real there.

Sarah snorted at herself. She had more immediate problems. She leaned against a wall, staring mutely at a particularly large soap bubble in the puddle in front of her. She never seemed to get enough to eat. She only got to drink if she could scoop up a bit of water as she hauled water for the laundry tubs. Weariness now seemed her constant companion and occasionally it seemed that she could barely put one foot in front of the other. Her sleep was often broken by the cursed nose ring and dreams that forced her awake, gasping and panting. Or worse, she would sleep through the night, dreaming of being warmly welcomed to a holiday feast, only to awaken once more hungry and cold on some stone floor.

And Jareth was becoming more and more difficult. At first, it was simple chores--the simple drudgery of scrubbing, folding, washing, or fetching. Then, as the time passed, the harsh orders became more complicated. Go fetch my book regarding Common Laws of Realm Traveling from the library and look up the laws regarding tolls. Take inventory of the supplies of the kitchen and create an order list. Sort these papers into alphabetical order according to the kingdoms that they pertain to. Then dust the desk in the parlor. There was always some chore or task that he laid before her, his kicks and strikes with his riding crop sharp and swift.

Sarah lugged the bucket of soapy water closer. It would have been kinder to make her forget her family--forget that she had ever been 'Ooman'. Sarah knelt down and began scrubbin' de tilez agin--...the tiles again. Gees, she was starting to think like the other goblins talked, now--not the precise, ladylike speech she had painstakingly learned. Sarah mentally shook herself--she shunned any reminders of her human form, preferring to forget. Her mouth had watered at all the books the first time she had been called into the library to fetch a lantern, some dirty dishes, and to file a new proclamation away in his desk. Now she openly shunned the place. She had longed to stretch out on the hammock or the old-fashioned seat swing tucked in a corner of the formal gardens when Jareth had called for some lemonade to be brought out to him. Or to stroll among the orchards like she had when her family had spent the autumn break in Washington. Now she barely glanced outside the windows and French doors. She rarely even went through the throne room--the memories of charging through to get Toby were too painful--and she never approached any of her friends.

Ironically, she did still stray into the Escher room--with its myriad staircases and landings at all sorts of angles. When she awoke from sleep yet again, she would slip in there. Occasionally she would wander around, but mostly she stuck to one platform, sitting on the edge and staring out into room with her stubby legs swinging off the edge. For all the world, she looked like a small child sitting and waiting for something to happen.

A few weeks later, the first snow began to fall. Even the goblins seemed to relish the hush as the delicate flakes fell. Sarah glanced at it once or twice, but otherwise concentrated on scrubbing a particularly stubborn green stain out of a runner. By evening, the Labyrinth was covered with a white blanket. The dinner--usually a messy, involved affair--was a simple stew with fresh bread, butter and honey. Sarah sighed in relief--there would be fewer dishes to wash, perhaps, with such simple fare.

Sarah carried up a tray--a smaller one than the one she had attempted her first day--with the bowl of soup, two loaves of bread, the double crock of honey and butter, a plate with two ripe and blushing peaches, and assorted silverware to His Majesty's bedroom. Her stomach grumbled at the scent of such plentiful food. Jareth sat in front of the massive fireplace in his bedroom in one of a pair of lavishly overstuffed chairs with a small table between them. He stared moodily into the fireplace, his fingers folded together in front of his face as he gazed into the dancing flames. Sarah timidly set the tray down on the small table and began to slink out.

"Sarah," he said, still staring into the fire.

Sarah squeaked softly, stiffening.

"Sarah," he repeated. "Come around where I can see you."

Sarah crept around the empty chair, wide eyed. What on earth had she done now? Her chores were done for the day, and she longed for nothing more than a bit of stew to soothe her rumbling stomach--if there was still any in the kitchen by now--and the tiny, dark corner she had claimed as her own. Almost shaking, she stood before him, dropping her eyes to where her toes were digging into the soft carpet.

Jareth stared at her briefly. Plucking up a peach, he reached out to give it to her. Sarah flinched openly and ducked behind the empty chair. "Come out now," he whispered, his voice almost soothing. "Come out."

Sarah peeked out from behind the chair, trying to avoid touching the smooth fabric. Another claw had broken today and it snagged on everything. Jareth sat in his chair, his hand outstretched towards her. With slow, unsteady steps, Sarah slunk closer to him.

"Good girl," he soothed. "Here, take this." He gestured again.

Sarah almost choked as she reached out and Jareth dropped the peach into her paws. With a terrified look, she mutely pled with him.

Jareth's eyes narrowed slightly. He had seen less fearful mice facing down his owl form. "Sarah, I can hear your stomach rumbling--" A soft gurgling escaped her again. "--Almost constantly. Eat the peach."

Sarah's eyes went wide and in a burst of panic, she dropped the peach and sprinted for the door. Jareth's magic slammed the heavy wooden panel in front of her and she cringed at the door, hoping that he would be done quickly with whatever he was going to do to her.

Jareth sat still, watching her. Despite what she thought, he still saw a lot of the human Sarah in this cringing goblin. A certain stubbornness lingered around the jaw. She was still tenacious and tireless in getting a task done. Her intelligence was invaluable to him since most of the native born goblins were too silly or easily distracted to send on the complicated errands he sent her on. Or they would conveniently forget them to pursue whatever bright and shiny game caught their eye and abandon their chore entirely. He had been generous in that regard--particularly now that this one could take up those chores. That she still feared him--and must be truly terrified if she abandoned food to run from him--irritated him beyond reason. Hadn't he exhausted himself attempting to give her all of her dreams? Hadn't he re-ordered time and space to please her? He snarled to himself, ignoring the slight prickle of wrongness flicker through him, then vanish.

Hadn't he won?

That thought soothed him somewhat. He had won--like always. He had never been defeated in love or in the Labyrinth--and it looked like he probably never would. Impatiently, he conjured a crystal in his fingers.

"Sarah," he tried again patiently. "I'm not going to let you out of this room--and you'll keep every inch of it pristine! --If you do not return here and eat this peach. Right now."

Sarah stilled for a moment. Then, reluctantly, she crept forward.

"It's not enchanted," he snorted.

Sarah looked skeptical--if he could correctly read her current expression. He shrugged nonchalantly and studied the crystal on his fingers. "Why would I waste magic creating a magical peach for you again? You are already fully in my power and I can hardly claim it worked the first time, yes?"

Staying carefully out of his reach, she stretched out and grabbed the peach. Huddling beside the empty chair, she all but swallowed it whole. She carefully licked up the sticky syrup from her fingers and the little drip from the corner of her mouth with a small sigh of satisfaction. Jareth smiled softly and shifted in his chair.

Startled, she bolted to the door again. Jareth frowned and released the gaes. The door flew open--he wouldn't have believed that a tiny goblin could have hurled it open that quickly--and slammed shut as Sarah charged down the steps.

Late the next morning, the King buzzed Sarah's ring for breakfast. Sarah and Ookla carried the heavily laden silver tray up the steps and into his apartments and traded it for the empty tray on the table. Sarah bent to retrieve the wine colored napkin and stuff it in her pocket, when her fingers brushed something cool. Fumbling with the napkin, she uncovered a chess piece.

The delicate china chess piece--the white queen--was beautiful in her sculptured perfection. Slim and proud, she stood arrayed in a slim, white ball gown with delicate pearlised details of beads on the bodice. A swirl of fine silver paint was the crown upon her long brown waves of hair. Her blue eyes proudly stared forward and her hands folded neatly in front of her.

Sarah cradled the piece in her hand and looked around for the chess set it belonged to.

"Ahh, you found her," Jareth's smooth voice overrode Sarah's thoughts. "I was wondering where she had gotten." Jareth scooped up the tiny figure from Sarah's paws. "You know, the queen is considered to be the most powerful of the pieces on the board."

Sarah just nodded dumbly. A sudden memory bloomed up of her dad teaching her to play chess, but she firmly squelched it. Even if she could find the time and the chess set, she couldn't begin to move the pieces with her big paws. So, with only one little tear lingering in her eye, she watched as Jareth conjured the entire board and set the queen in her place. Holding her hands carefully behind her back, she examined the set.

Trust Jareth to do the daring and novel. The two armies faced each other. For the dark army, two goblins in blue armor perched on the bipedal dragons as knights. A line of goblins formed the pawns. A single "stone" tower formed each rook. The bishops were miniatures of the cleaner's machine. Jareth himself was the king--of course--in the black outfit she had first seen him in. The light side was arrayed with her friends. Twin figures of Sir Didymous and a rearing Ambrosious were the knights. Twin figures of Hoggle were the bishops and Ludo stood with a rock for the rooks. The pawns were spheres of flawless crystal.

Sarah frowned slightly. There was no light king nor was there a dark queen--only two crystal spheres sitting in carved bases in their places.

Jareth waved his hand, causing the board to vanish. "Go back to your chores."

Sarah stared at the empty space for a moment, then turned around and trudged out.

The days seemed to blend together as Sarah lost herself in her chores. For a time she would think heavily on the chess set, then she would shake herself mentally and continue. It was only another trick of Jareth's to make her regret her folly. She no longer even looked out at the snow as the other goblins often did, if they did not go running out to play. She couldn't fathom how they had time at first, but her mind eventually abandoned the puzzle as it turned towards more important matters, such as finding food, water and warmth. Endless gray days became endless black nights and endless gray days again.

Sarah glanced at a pile of dishes that she was washing. She had a relatively clean bowl that she scooped scraps that looked edible into, but now in the winter, there were fewer and fewer scraps. The cook had taken to fixing stews and soups--which often left few scraps at all. With tears in her eyes, she began licking the bowls clean, praying for enough to ease the gnawing in her gut. A dirty knife fell into the water, spattering the dirty soapy mess all over the counter.

Sarah could only stare at her reflection. A goblin with holding a bowl to her face stared back. There were small streaks of dirt and gravy everywhere--all over the horrible nose ring, all over her face and hands, and all over her shirt as well. Her hair was matted and dingy looking and her claws were broken and ragged. Sarah dropped the bowl--unmindful of the clatter at her feet. She had been lapping up at the scraps like a mangy animal. Bits of crumbs and stuff clung to the folds of her clothes and even sprinkles of crumbs in her hair.

Sarah fled the kitchen to find her corner of the Escher room. Cringing in a corner, she buried her face in her paws. Tears welled up and spilled out. Quite soon, the Escher room was filled with her howls. Sobbing, she curled up into a tighter ball. At last, she had no more tears to cry and all she could do was huddle in a knot on the landing, staring out at all of the stairs.

She had been reduced to an animal scrabbling in the scraps and dirt. He--the one who had promised her her dreams--had changed her into a wretched beast. Sarah sobbed at that--the cracked sound sounds like a hoarse barks devoid of mirth. She had forgotten that nightmares were dreams too.

He had shattered all of her good dreams, too. All of the dreams that she had cherished were ground to dust in the daily scrabble for enough food to live another day. Not that he'd let her die. Oh no, he was far too thorough and too proud to let that happen. Even the tender, young shoots of dreams that had just sprouted--small dreams of him and pondering the mysterious, exotic, charming creature that was the Goblin King--were withered and trampled to death. Sarah Williams had died at the end of the Labyrinth--here in the room of endless Escher staircases in the Castle beyond the Goblin City at the hands of the Goblin King.

She felt her eyes tear up again and her throat grow raw as she felt the sorrow rush up to swallow her. So much might have happened. She might have fallen in love with him. He might have respected her. They might have gone on with a sense of mutual respect and never seen each other again. There might have been so much more.

Sarah watched the day pass in the Escher room, quietly alone in her thoughts. A few times, she thought that she felt the irritating buzz of the nose ring, but she wouldn't stir out of her own thoughts. Or couldn't stir. It didn't matter which one.

Morning came swiftly the next day and Sarah heard footsteps--boot steps--ringing up the steps. She remained huddled in her little ball. Even if he kicked her down the steps, it wouldn't harm her physically any more than the dull copper knives in the kitchen would pierce her hide. Somehow numbed, she didn't even really fear the Bog either. If she hadn't be so numb, she might have found it ironic that the Goblin King finally couldn't hurt her.

"You really shouldn't be here," Jareth snapped behind her.

Sarah turned and looked at him then turned back to the staircases.

"Go to my apartments, Sarah," he ordered.

She glanced at him again, but said nothing and continued staring.

Jareth grunted and, with a snap, transported both of them to his apartments. It was disconcerting the way she didn't even appear to notice that she was sitting on a cushion in front of his fireplace instead of a stone landing.

He stood in front of her, trying to ignore the prickly feeling that she didn't even see him. "Sarah, I've decided to be generous...." He conjured a crystal, bent low and twirled it in front of her.

She continued to stare forward.

"I will restore you to human form for a bit, now that you've settled into life in the castle so well." Jareth thought that maybe he saw her blink. "What do you think of that?"

He stood for several moments, twirling his crystal, trying to gauge her mood. She simply stared straight ahead glassy eyed, sitting like a perfect goblin doll. She was not ill, nor was she wounded or poisoned or drunk or drugged. He would have known instantly if she had done something to herself to cause such a reversal of her personality. Sitting down in his stuff chair, he cast a spell, wondering if she had somehow gotten a spell cast on her--beyond his own, of course. No, there were no spells. She just wasn't responding. Jareth frowned--this was no fun.

His opponent had suddenly left the field of contest without him, leaving him alone.

This thought was unbearable. The true goblins offered little amusement--their simple and scatterbrained pursuits scarcely interesting to him. The Labyrinth offered some distraction, but it had become flat and tasteless. Finally a worthy opponent appeared, testing his wit and cunning. She drew him away from the demon L'ennui, offering him solace from his immortal boredom. And now, she was gone.

At a loss, Jareth allowed one spell to lapse. Glassy blue eyes filled with tears up, shimmering with pain, as she shifted back into her human form. Sarah sat before him again--albeit with her nose ring in place. A very smelly Sarah, he noted.

"You smell like the Bog," he said softly, trying to put a teasing chuckle in his voice. "Shall I bathe you, pet?"

Sarah glanced down at her hands--a slightly coarser, rougher version than before, but human hands nonetheless. Sighing softly, she mentally wondered what was going on. Was she asleep again? Or had she woken up from a nightmare? Or was she dreaming of her human self? She perked up a little--a fine thread of energy filling her. Yes, she must be asleep on the landing and this her dream--a harmless dream about being human in the Labyrinth.

Jareth smiled softly as she seemed to respond a little, like a weak fledgling bird in his hand. She even glanced briefly at him, watching him with a painfully wary expression. Jareth teasingly sent a weak buzz into her nose ring, hoping to get a rise out of her spirit now that she could snatch the offending ornament away. Perhaps she would cry or laugh? Perhaps she would say something? Or would she get angry--pout or snarl at him? Or scream? Or, maybe she would pounce on him--seeking to revenge herself? Or perhaps---

Sarah felt the buzz throughout her soul. Weakly, she slipped back into the cool solace of her thoughts. She must be dreaming. Or perhaps it was real. Who could tell what was real in a world of dreams? It didn't matter anyway; she consoled herself, drowning in the black pit of her heart's pain.

Jareth felt his whole mind go blank as he saw Sarah's glittering eyes suddenly dim into lifelessness again. Her hand dropped that had wandered up her arms and to her hair dropped to her lap. She sat politely on the cushion, staring out again. Jareth sighed again.

"Sarah, will you get into the bathroom?" he asked.

Sarah still stared aimlessly, her hands still in her lap.

Jareth buzzed her nose ring again. When he failed to get more than a glance, he tried again harder. Then harder. Rolling his eyes, he conjured a crystal and put it into the line of her gaze. Toby's image appeared in it, playing happily.

"Sarah, I know you can hear me. Now hear this. If you do not obey me, then I will steal Toby away again and bring him here. Do you want that, pet?"

At first, she seemed to ignore him. Then, as he carefully allowed sound to spread from the crystal, Toby's shrill giggles filled the room. Sarah finally focused fully on the crystal and filled with anguish. Her gaze turned towards him, pain again shimmering in them.

Jareth felt some small bit of satisfaction that he had at last captured her attention. Now he wanted to capture her cooperation. "Do you have any idea what I could do to him? A small child, alone, here?" Sarah's eyes brightened with tears. "You cannot even imagine the things that I could do to him...." Jareth let his voice fade to a soft purr. "I have many hours each day that I could fill that way." He smiled evilly, letting the crystal roll around his hand. "Of course, I can be persuaded to leave him be.... --if you made it worth my while."

Sarah nodded dully, wondering when she would awake from this nightmare. She begged herself to wake up--even if it was as a goblin in the kitchens and laundry. Please she begged herself mentally. Please wake up and make this end.

"Now, let me bathe you, pet."

Sarah stood obediently and went into his bathroom. She cringed as he reached out to stroke her cheek, but otherwise she watched with the same detached attention she paid him. Jareth magically spun the taps around, filling the tub with warm water.

Sarah felt numb as Jareth's magic stripped them both. He purposefully picked up a thick cake of soap, lathered his hands and began washing her. Wake up, Sarah, she sternly commanded herself, her inner voice wavering and fading into her frozen thoughts. Please wake up. As if she were watching a movie, she saw Jareth standing behind a girl with long brown hair in a tub of warm water, both their clothes in a pile on the cool marble tiles. She saw Jareth rinse his hands in the waist deep water and rinse her off. Then shampoo her hair, carefully flicking soap away from her eyes and massaging the rich lather into her hair. Yet, it was only a dream that she was here, having her long chocolate colored hair rinsed free of the crumbs and grease. She was asleep somewhere, sometime, and would wake up soon from this lovely dream of warmth and water. Only a dream--and the dream couldn't hurt her.... Sarah sighed softly, as long as she believed that this was a dream, things would work out. But that pretence, as much as it protected her, was fast slipping away like the soap bubbles washing into the waist deep water.

Jareth smiled grimly at Sarah's complacency. She was perfectly still under his hands, obediently closing her eyes when he rinsed her hair and face, obediently opening them again and climbing out of the tub when he directed her to get dressed. She picked up a heavy bathrobe of his, when he snapped and pointed towards the door of the blue bedroom. Nodding softly, she silently padded to the door. When she stood in the doorway when he changed his mind, telling her to stop until he could pick something out. Disgruntled as she stood e climbed out of the tub, hoping to shock her into at least some small blush, and dressed in front of her.

She didn't even blink. She barely shuddered as a draft wafted past the beads of water clinging to her skin. He toweled her down firmly, magically drying her long hair. Her skin glowed softly beneath his hands and was smooth as silk. She was beautiful still--despite everything she had been through. Perhaps, he thought distantly, she would be more willing to be his paramour after her stint as a goblin. The thought warmed him, making him smile. This could yet be turned to a mutually satisfying ending.

Then, he pulled her face up to his. The cool blue depths were completely blank. He had seen them warm and teasing like a summer sky, fierce with lightning flashing in them, and limpid blue like a southern sea. Yet, this was a blank gaze--disinterested and unaffected--like a corpse before the pennies were placed on the lids.

Jareth sighed slightly. This would not be the first woman he had to thaw out with a present or two and a bit of charm. Smirking slightly at the idea of proud Sarah awaiting his pleasure, he wrapped her in one of the largest towels and led her into the blue bedroom. "Let's get you dressed," he whispered.

Sarah nodded and shrugged out of his grasp. Without a word, she walked to the elaborate wardrobe and opened up the door.

His temper pricked, he settled into a chair. Sarah had picked up the first dress in the great wardrobe--a slim fitting gown with a nice peasant top out of green silk with white embroidery--and then ducked behind the open door to slide it on.

Sarah felt her imaginings slide away with the first brush of the green silk against her skin. The dress hung loosely around her, but could be tightened somewhat with the elaborate web of ribbon laces down the front and at the cuffs. The laces at the back were thankfully as tight as they could be laced, or else she'd never finish dressing. This was real--not a dream. Sarah felt something in her shatter into terror. This kindness was more terrifying for the cruelty she had survived. Cruelty was expected--this kindness was not. Or was this some more fanciful and exotic form of cruelty?

"Come out, Sarah."

Sarah wanted desperately to protest. Then the image of Toby, trapped here with Jareth as Jareth's little play toy rose up. Even if she was a goblin for the rest of her life, it was better than that. She hadn't even dreamed to venture down the stone steps to the dungeons below the castle. Sarah felt her heart freeze in terror again--sapping her spirit and numbing her again. Taking a steadying breath, she obeyed him and stepped out, tugging at the ribbons.

The dress hung somewhat loosely around her now much lighter frame but if she were to put on a few pounds, she could fill out the dress quite well, Jareth noted mentally. He fiddled with a crystal, frowning until she had almost finished with the fanciful laces down the front, then said, "I don't think that I like that one. Try the next one."

Sarah glanced at him and slid out of the dress, frowning at a broken nail caught on some of the embroidery. Deftly, she untangled herself, hung up the outfit and pulled out the next dress--a white cotton dress with froths of lace around the deep square neckline and the hem of the full skirt.

Jareth barely glanced up, saying, "Not that one. How about the next one?"

Sarah continued to try on clothes for him--carefully hanging up each one and pulling out the next. Truthfully she lost count of how many dresses there were--in blues, blacks, greens and purples of every sort of fabric. None of them mattered to her as images of Toby being tortured chilled her. And none of them met with his approval--as though he were seeking something that he couldn't find. She closed her eyes, praying for strength to make it through this as every muscle ached, as she reached for the next dress. Without glancing at it, she slid it on.

Jareth could only stare at her. She was beautiful in the white silk ball gown. A small part of him had known she would be, as beautifully arrayed as she had been in her dream of the ball. But to see her in the flesh, so to speak, in the white gown with its form fitting bodice and full skirt, was amazing. He smiled softly, watching her smooth the skirt down. Yet, when she straightened again, she still had the same blank look of disinterest.

She didn't even seem to recognize the dress. Even when he directed her attention to the full-length mirror in the wardrobe door, she still remained coolly remote--without even a flicker of recognition.

Growling, he shot up out of the seat and grabbed her wrist. She gasped in pain as he twisted her arm up but still stared at him with that hatefully blank expression. Growling, he conjured another crystal and Toby's image in its center. "You are here for my amusement, girl. And you will amuse me or I will make Toby suffer in ways you cannot even imagine." She looked at him with those cruelly dead eyes and nodded. "You will obey me--in everything. Say it."

"As you wish, your majesty," she whispered, her voice cracking softly and a tear sliding down one cheek. What was wrong? She had done everything he said. What was he after? Sarah felt tears form in her eyes as his hold tightened and bruised her wrist. Resolving to be as obedient and quiet as she could--how else could she avoid his anger? --Sarah began praying that his mercurial mood would shift again and she could go back to her simple goblin life.

Jareth, sensing that thought, thrust her wrist away. How dare she act as though his generosity and attentions were to be wished away? And pray to be a goblin more than his paramour? Snatching down the midnight blue gown and robe and shoving them at her at her, he growled low in his throat, "Put these on and never even think of touching that dress again." He stalked out of the room.

Sarah slid on the gown and robe, grateful for the small mercy of a decision. Hanging the gown up carefully, she tied the robe around her waist and walked into the sitting room. Jareth brooded by the fireplace, staring at the summoned chessboard. He gestured angrily at the opposite chair and Sarah crept to it to sit down.

"Do you know how to play chess?" he snapped suddenly.

Sarah nodded, feeling the shocks of the day drain her even further.

Jareth glared at her for a moment, then snatched up one of the goblin pawns and plonked it down two squares ahead.

Sarah gingerly reached for a knight, watching his every move through her lashes. Picking it up gingerly, she debated moving it to the left or right for a second.

"Play, Sarah," he snapped.

Sarah hurriedly set the piece down to the left and then sat further back in her chair, her gaze dropping to her hands in her lap.

Jareth made another move and watched as Sarah glanced at the board and made her move. She would reach out just long enough to glance for a move--apparently the first move that she saw, she would take--then retreat back into her huddle in the chair. Of course, he won easily. Frowning, he gestured for her to reset the pieces.

Sarah felt his gaze piercing her as she moved the pieces back. Timidly, she tried to make as little noise as possible. His anger was practically palpable and she shuddered at the possibility of hearing echoes of Toby's screams in these stone walls. Yet, he seemed even angrier as she set the final pieces back and folded her hands in her lap again.

"Sarah, sit up straight and look me in the eyes," he said suddenly.

Confused, Sarah sat up straight in her chair, and glanced at him in the face.

"In the eyes, Sarah," Jareth repeated. She raised her eyes warily and held his gaze for a second. With a sigh, he pointed to a spot on the floor about two feet in front of him. "Stand there. Now look at me." Sarah stood, looking in his general direction with a distinct spot of terror in her otherwise blank stare. Jareth practically rolled his eyes. "Be...fierce. Angry."

Sarah frowned deliberately for a moment, and then her face cleared.

Jareth half grinned. "That will do for a start. Now let the robe drop and show your left shoulder. That's it. Muss your hair a bit and smile."

Sarah slid the robe open to show her left shoulder. She ran her hand over her hair, mussing it. Looking at him, she tried to force a smile. In her terrified confusion, it came out as a half-grimace.

"A smile--like you're glad to see your lover," Jareth snarled dryly. "Not like you're growling at a goblin."

Sarah tried again.

"I've seen better smiles on baked oysters, Sarah." He snapped and pointed at the seat across from him. Sarah slid the robe back into place and sat in the chair again.

With a sigh, Jareth covered his face with his hands. She couldn't even act out anything but that morbid detachment. Perhaps it was a bad idea--perhaps he should have left her be. Sarah glanced up at him warily, huddling in the chair like a field mouse. If this kept up, she'd be no better than his normal goblins, regardless of the skin she wore. Jareth gestured at the chessboard. "Just play like you have half a brain."

Sarah desperately tried to concentrate on the game. Yet her stomach clenched and her heart raced every time he moved. Did he mean for her to play her best or just to entertain him? Trying to play it safe, Sarah moved her bishop along the diagonal line.

Jareth captured her queen with his knight. Frowning, he studied the pale figure and then studied Sarah's features again. "You know," he said absently. "This is a special piece."

Sarah dropped her gaze to her lap again, feeling herself shake a little.

His voiced dropped a little as he studied the piece. "I dreamed about her. I dreamed that she beat the Labyrinth, full of fiery pride. She was spirited like a wild unicorn. I couldn't bear the thought of eternity without her." He set the piece down carefully on the board.

Sarah squirmed in her chair fearfully, but Jareth didn't even look up.

"I have been dreaming about her for fifteen years now. I built that bedroom, chose everything in it to please her." His eyes raked over her briefly, distastefully. "I thought when you first wished Toby away that you were her. You were a suitable age, suitable coloring." He glanced at her again. "But you have none of her fire. None of the hearty spirit and backbone. She was worthy of immortality as my Queen."

Sarah said nothing.

"You are only a pale shadow of her--nothing more than that. A coincidental freak of chance that you share her coloring--you don't deserve to." Jareth's lip curled in a sneer as he conjured another crystal. Considering it, he relaxed a little. "She's still alive, I think. I can see her if I use my crystals, but she is fading quickly." His voice dropped to a quiet, forlorn note. "She was cloudy before--and I could divine nothing about her--and now she is becoming a fainter and fainter shadow."

Sarah's hands knotted in her gown, feeling the first spark of anger in her heart in ages. All of this? For the possibility of a dream girl?

"Careful, Sarah. Do not anger me," he said idly.

Sarah willed her hands to relax and not mar the lovely fabric. Finally she whispered, "If you can see her, why don't you zap over to her?"

Jareth shrugged. "I suppose that I could." Then he frowned. "Yet, I cannot see where she is now, only what I think is supposed to be her last confrontation with me. It's like something crucial has changed to prevent us from being together." He studied the crystal even more deeply. "I will re-order time to have her, apparently."

"Perhaps that is what you need to do, then. Go to her time and place," Sarah offered timidly, forcing her hands to unclench. Then I can leave.

Jareth heard that whisper of thought. He smiled to himself--this girl was gradually becoming bolder. Perhaps she would be amusing after all. "Sarah, what's done is done and what's said is said," he drawled. He shrugged elegantly. "Moving forward in time is simple. Moving backwards is much more difficult. I would be phantasmal at best, non-corporeal at worst. I would only be a wisp of smoke in that place and time. Only if I moved into a living body could I even attempt to touch her hand." He smiled without humor. "And she'd never stand for me to have you, pet."

Sarah took a deep breath, and prayed fervently--although whether she prayed that he would get angry and put her out of her misery or be soothed by her words and leave her be, she couldn't say. "But wouldn't you be happier?"

"Immensely," Jareth confirmed.

"I wish that I could see her," Sarah mused only half to herself.

Jareth shrugged elegantly. "I suppose it wouldn't hurt you to see what true beauty is." He snapped his fingers and Sarah was clothed in a dark grey gown.

Sarah watched as Jareth concentrated on the crystal in his hand. It started glowing with a hectic light that filled the room.

And all went dark.

Sarah blinked rapidly, her eyes straining in the sudden dark. A shadowy form of Jareth stood behind her, barely visible. Yet, another form of Jareth stood in the shadows--pale and exhausted in a feathery white cape. Sarah noticed her Jareth walk over to a clear spot in the floor, and then took a place in the shadows of a stump of a column. Pieces of the castle spun around in the air overhead as the form of a young woman floated down.

Shadow-Jareth sucked in his breath as she landed in front of him. "S--s--Sarah?" he gasped in a wispy voice.

That Sarah walked forward, through the shadow of Jareth. In a firm voice, she said, "Give me the child."

The pale Jareth stepped into the uncertain pool of light. "Sarah beware, I have been generous until now. But I can be cruel." His voice lowered seductively, with a thread of cold iron cruelty in it.

"Generous? What have you done that was generous?" Her eyes widened in frank amazement.

"Everything!" The pale Jareth snapped at Sarah as the shadow Jareth sat down with a vaguely shocked look on his face. Jareth circled Sarah menacingly, pacing like an angry tiger. "Everything that you wanted I have done. You asked that the child be taken, and I took him. You cowered before me, I was frightening. I have reordered time, I have turned the world upside down and I have done it all for you." He paused for a moment, the rage slipping from him. Then in a weary tone, he continued, "I am exhausted from living up to your expectations. Isn't that generous?"

This Sarah was not undone, though. She boldly walked forward, the monologue falling from her lips like honey. "Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the goblin city. For my will is as strong as yours, and my kingd-"

"STOP!" Pale Jareth commanded. "Wait!" For a moment he looked weary, then hid his fatigue behind a mask of determination. "Look Sarah, look what I'm offering you." A crystal, perfectly round and clear, gleamed in his hand. "Your dreams."

"And my kingdom as great" Shadow Sarah echoed the words, sliding into the Sarah who confidently advanced.

Pale Jareth, backed away like a white king from a dark queen on a chessboard. "I ask for so little. Just let me rule you and you can have everything that you want," he offered in a voice somewhere between asking and begging.

"And my Kingdom as great..." Sarah glanced down at her shoes as the future self gazed at him intently. "Damn! I can never remember that line."

Sarah screamed "YOU HAVE NO POWER OVER ME! Those are the words! Say them! PLEASE! It's simple.... 'You have no power over me!'" She felt her shadowy voice shudder and crack as she screamed at her past self only to have her voice floating away like a whisper of a breeze.

Both Jareths looked at the two Sarahs. The pale one was the first to recover. In a pleading soft tone, he offered her the crystal, and said, "Just Fear me, love me, do as I say and I will be your slave..."

"My Kingdom as Great...." Sarah kept muttering to herself, hoping to jog her memory. She had it on the tip of her tongue--like some voice was whispering it to her just soft enough to not be able to make it out. "My kingdom as great..."

Sarah sank deeper into the body of this past self. The shadowy form of the Jareth she knew was slipping into his past form as well, though for what purpose she couldn't tell. Frantically she shouted, "Come on... this is the best part. 'You have no power over me'--it's not that hard is it?! Hmmm?!?!"

Suddenly, a moment before the clock struck, Sarah felt the words rush to her. It was like some part of her just knew them. In a moment of wonder, she whispered, "You have no power over me."

Jareth's pale form tossed the crystal as light and fragile as a bubble into the air and fell backward. The floor beneath them crumpled and his magnificent white cloak filled the air to wrap around him in long, fingers of pale softness. She reached out to grab the bubble as the tolling of a great clock echoed around her, marveling that a vague, whisper of color seemed to follow after her hand like a shadow self.

Jareth felt the past body fall away in defeat. Time and magic unraveled around them as the path of history was changed. Even the crystal in Sarah's hand burst. Pummeled by the rushing tides of magic, he pulled Sarah and himself away from the crumbling pieces of the Labyrinth and into their own time.

Sarah and Jareth were in Jareth's royal bedrooms. Sarah glanced down at the midnight blue satin nightgown with a frown. What had she been doing? She had been.....

"Sarah," Jareth's deep voice purred from the two chairs by the fireplace. "Are you coming to finish our chess game?"

Sarah scowled in his general direction, trying to remember. It was something important. "Just a second, darling." The memory refused to emerge and vanished like a whisper of dream. Her hands knotted into fists--she hated being so new to magic and having things come to her and vanish away in the blink of an eye.

Jareth watched her curiously. "Have I told you you're sexy when you're angry?"

She smiled, meeting his enflamed gaze with a hot look of her own. "Not today." She ran her fingers through her hair, mussing it even more, and smiled at him. "And I like hearing it."

Jareth grinned salaciously as Sarah slid down in the chair across from him and began studying the board again. "I like saying it." He gazed at the pale figure of the white queen and her king--Sarah in her ball dress and him in his white-feathered cloak. "So what are you thinking about?"

Sarah glanced up at him and his genuine curiosity held her gaze. "I felt something. Like just for a moment, something had been..." She searched for the right word. Then she shook her head.

"Like what?"

"Like something had been...changed," Sarah replied, moving the white queen to the middle of the board. "I don't know how to explain it."

Jareth frowned. "Could it be just a tide of magic? You know that you are sensitive to when magic is flowing around you." He studied the board.

Sarah frowned again, studying the board. "Perhaps." She thought for a moment. "I can't explain it."

Jareth smiled and took her hands in his. "Then don't worry about it." Tenderly, he kissed them both. "Worry about how you are going to save your nightgown...." He grinned wickedly, rising from his chair. Sarah grinned at him and, with a laughing shriek, darted away to his bedroom.

"You're so wicked, Jareth," she giggled, dodging a grab.

Jareth grabbed a tail end of the tie to her robe. Hauling her into his arms, he smiled. "So do you have any regrets?"

Sarah settled against him. "You mean, 'do I have any regrets in calling you?' " He nodded softly. "No. Nor do I regret telling my parents about my secret boyfriend who proposed to me."

"What about fooling your parents?" His mismatched eyes searched hers with a trace of uncertainty.

She shrugged philosophically. "It's true. You were my secret boyfriend. You did propose. You and I do have a house in Ohio." She grinned. "And I don't want to know how you managed to do that since you can't spend gold coins in the U.S. or how you managed to get a cell phone to ring down here." She sighed, snuggling deeper into his arms. She smiled and gazed at a crystal that rested negligently against the back of a couch. An image of Toby--comfortably asleep--lingered inside it so that she could always check on him. "You've even given me a way to check on them every day." She smiled sleepily. "I have a magical kingdom, a Labyrinth, my friends and you. How could I not love being your wife?"

"My wife," Jareth smiled, kissing the top of her head. "I like that."
Clotho smiled softly. Her weaving was smooth and unblemished again. Eternally a youthful maid, she continued to weave all of the threads together, forming a tapestry of the stories of all lives. Lachesis measured the smooth threads as Clotho bound them together.

"Soul mates?" Lachesis asked softly, gazing at the pattern. Her figure, ripe and motherly, swayed in time to the rhythm of Clotho's movements.

"Aye," Clotho said, expertly twisting threads together. "They were destined to be together." She flushed innocently. "Yet their thread is so strong and so long, that I fear it will be tangled again."

Lachesis began measuring the threads in the tapestry again and chuckled softly. "You'll be hard pressed, dear sister. That thread will be very, very long." She patted Clotho's shoulder gently. "If it tangles again, you will handle it."

Aged Atrophos stepped forward, her wrinkled hands flexing as she tested her shears. "Aye, that thread will be long indeed." At Lachesis' nod, she snipped a thread off. "It will be interesting to see all of their story."