Author's Note: Yes, there is an epilogue. However, the story does stand well enough on its own, so if you liked the bittersweet ending of the last chapter, then please feel free to skip this, it's definitely not necessary to the story.
It was the first day of the new year, and Sarah Williams sat on the floor of her dorm room, a pile of textbooks lying forgotten beside her. Christmas morning had come and gone in a flurry of bright paper and ribbon, and she'd spent days pretending to a happiness she did not feel. In the end, she'd made her excuses to her family, ignoring the twinges of guilt at Toby's crestfallen expression and promising to call. But she could not stay.
It was all too immediate and painful, for everything at home reminded her of where she had been... So she packed her bags and went back to school, back to her books and the solitude. It would be her refuge, just as it had been the first time. Sarah leaned back against the edge of her bed, listening. The halls were empty, the other students gone, and there was nothing but the sound of the ancient heating system grumbling in the background. It was just the way she wanted it.
At midnight, Sarah walked by herself through the streets, silent and deserted under a blanket of snow. She knew the way by heart, had walked it many times on her way to class-- a winding path through the wooded heart of the campus along a frozen stream. A few streetlamps cast dim pools of light against the darkness, and all around her the bare tree limbs were black and twisted against the distant stars.
Cutting through the woods, she emerged in front of the library and the fountain square that lay before it. The fountain had been turned off, but someone had neglected to drain the water and a thin sheet of ice lay on the surface like black glass. Sarah brushed the snow off the marble edge and sat down, drawing her knees up to her chest. She'd always thought this fountain gaudy, its rubenesque Venus reclining half on her side with arms raised above her head. Love was a lot of things, Sarah thought. She could see none of them in this goddess' face, eerily impassive by starlight and all cool emotion and reserve. She wished it could be so easy, then perhaps she wouldn't have this raw, ragged-edged hole inside of her.
It had been nearly seven days to the very hour since it all began on that sleepless night, and Sarah had not called her friends. She thought about it each time she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror, but she couldn't show them this new Sarah with her haunted expression and dark circles beneath her eyes. The dire dreams were gone but she could not sleep, not even in the safety of her dorm room where there were few reminders of home to distract her. The alien silence begged to be filled with something... anything. Sarah had nothing to fill it.
I want him. More than anything, I want him. But as she looked up at Venus' bland visage gleaming dully in the light, Sarah knew that wanting something-- even very, very badly-- was not enough.
The clock would not strike the hour, not at this time of night, but Sarah thought it must be nearly one in the morning. She realized how long she'd been sitting there on the stone bench, and she was nearly numb with cold. Winding her scarf a little tighter around her nose and chin, she began the long walk home. School would begin in a few weeks, and she would have the dorms to herself until then. Alone. It was little comfort and as Sarah neared home, she drew up the collar of her jacket, thrusting her hands deep into her pockets.
Something with hard edges met her fingers. It was a small book of sonnets she'd bought the day before at a bookstore downtown, a glorious maze of ramshackle shelves and teetering piles of books in every corner. She had bought it for the satiny leather cover and worn gilt edgings, not trusting herself to read its contents just yet. But she took it out now just to have something to hold onto. In the feeble light of the streetlamp outside her dorm, Sarah held the book open, letting the icy wind flutter its nearly translucent pages. Her eyes fell upon a passage in faded ink:
Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken...
Sarah let the book fall in the drifts of snow at her feet and fled back inside the building.
Back in her room with the door shut behind her, she shed her coat and scarf, flinging them on the chair. She would see him again someday, behind the mirror's reflection. But it would not be the same, it would be... Bittersweet. That's how her life would be from now on,stolen moments that would never be enough. Sarah threw herself on the bed, intending to bury herself under the covers and have a good cry since no one was there to hear. But a little parcel on her nightstand caught her eye.
Sarah looked around. Her door was locked, there was no other way of gaining entrance to her second-story room except the window. Nothing had been disturbed, and there was no sign that anyone had been there at all... except the bundle wrapped in gold cloth tied with a dark blue ribbon.
Sarah picked it up as if it would bite her at any moment. A folded slip of parchment was attached to it, and written in an old-fashioned, flowing hand was a message that simply read, "For My Lady."
Hands shaking, Sarah opened it. Something heavy and metallic suspended on a soft leather cord dropped into her palm, warm to the touch as if someone had been carrying next to his body. At first, she didn't recognize it. It was silver, a strange triangular shape with two curved prongs. In the center was a gold disc engraved with intricate knotwork in a pattern she'd seen before. She caught her breath. Of course...
Sarah couldn't remember the last time she'd seen him wearing it, but she should've known it was Jareth's from the moment she touched it. It seemed to almost pulse in her hand, humming with the resonance of a distant song. She slipped the cord over her head, and from far, far away, she thought she heard the faint chime of a golden bell.
She did not dare to hope, because she had none left to spare. But when Sarah looked out her window into the snowy night, she could see in her mind's eye a kingdom where spring still reigned and a maze of walls stretched on and on, the stone gleaming the color of straw in the incomparable sunlight...
Sarah closed her fingers around the pendant, too dizzy to think. "I wish..."
She didn't even have to complete the sentence aloud. The door of her room flew open with a violent crash, and Sarah was hammered by whirling winds that nearly knocked her over. Under her feet, the floor began to shudder and buckle and a cold spike of fear clenched in her stomach. Had she made a mistake? The dim light of her nightstand grew brighter and brighter until Sarah had to close her eyes against it or be blinded. The last thing she heard was a great roar like a tidal wave, a wall of sound barreling swiftly toward her...
Then the world fell down.
She was standing in the doorway of a chamber. A glass-domed roof opened up to a brilliant night sky with so many stars that the room was bathed in their silvery light, and a fire burned in the hearth. In the center of the room was a bed draped with white silk, and as she stepped in the room, the sleeping figure that lay on it stirred restlessly.
Lying on his side with one hand tucked beneath his head, the Goblin King looked like a fallen angel, lashes dark on his pale cheek. She knelt by the bed, touching a strand of his hair that lay against his pillow. Sarah leaned quite close.
"Beloved," she murmured against his lips.
He woke with a start, his voice rough with sleep. "Sarah."
Jareth didn't seem at all surprised to see her. He sat up slowly, face worn with grief. "This... This is a dream."
Sarah touched the spot where his shirt had slipped down over his shoulder, a white ring that scarred his skin. He caught her hand and pressed his lips against her palm, his eyes never leaving her face.
"It doesn't matter,' he said in a broken whisper, "If this is all I'm to have, I won't say no. If this is only a dream, so be it."
Sarah's answering smile was like the sun. "If this a dream, then I don't want to wake up."
His embrace was swift and crushing. Sarah found herself wrapped up in the sheets and not caring when they slid off the bed onto the floor. She worked her way out of the tangle, laughing and breathless as she fell back into Jareth's arms.
"Now I know this is real. I never would've dreamed anything so clumsy."
His gaze fell upon the pendant around her neck, which shone with the radiance of a captured sun. Jareth fingered the leather cord that lay against the delicate ridge of her collarbone. This was where it belonged, something of his to lie near her skin always.
Sarah covered his hand with her own. "I found the way back."
The Goblin King could feel the talisman attune itself to the beat of her heart, sustaining that bright energy that poured from her like the light through a break in the clouds. As long as Sarah wore it, she would be his. Time and distance would not separate them, though they existed in worlds apart. And as yet there might come a day...
Jareth's thoughts trailed off. He could not speak to her of that hoped-for time just yet, but the Goblin King saw two thrones, a slender figure all in white by his side, and a crown of stars. This dream he would keep to himself, and it would not be forgotten.
He held Sarah close.
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
"It will be hard for you, beloved... moving between the worlds. No mortal has ever done it."
"No mortal has ever loved as I do."
The Goblin King held his breath. Her response was impulsive, but the truth. Mortal hearts were such fragile things, mutable and short-lived as butterflies. If one day she should change her mind... But great reward only came with great risk, and Jareth knew better than most what chances a man could take... and how far he could fall.
His throat constricted, but he forced himself to answer playfully. "And how long will your love bind you to me?"
"Forever." Her voice was muffled in his chest.
The echo of her words seemed to hang in the air long after she'd spoken, but the chamber was silent save for the sound of a log settling in the fire. The Goblin King smiled, slow and secretive. It was a promise, and queens--like kings-- must keep their promises. Jareth pulled back to look at her, snared in those eyes, moss-green and gold.
"Forever is a long time." he replied at last.
Sarah shook her head. "It's not long at all."
Poem quotations taken from William Shakespeare's immortal sonnet 116: "Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments..."
Author's Notes: Thank you everyone, for all your comments and for reading along. This has been so much fun, and I plan to continue writing Labyrinth fanfics if I possibly can, although I also would like to work on some original material for publication after this, too.
For everyone who asked about a sequel, have you read The Forgotten Dream one-shot yet? If your answer is no, then hah, don't you dare tease me about a sequel until you have, you incorrigible imps! In all seriousness, there is no sequel in the works at this point in time, so that one-shot might be as close as you get. Sorry, guys. However, I do have ideas for other Labyrinth stories rattling around in my head, and hopefully those will find their way onto here as well.