A/N-- Sorry it took me so long to churn this one out. My muse has been very tired recently. Enjoy this one... and sorry for the cliffie!

Chapter Three

Loud applause echoed in her ears as she bowed gracefully. Thick stage makeup smudged over her face masked any sign of worry or fear. The stage lights burned on her form warmly as she took Alan's hand in hers. The entire cast looked around at each other, and she noted the smiles they were wearing. Some were genuine, some were fake, but everyone was obviously determined to cash in on the credit for the show.

They all bowed again, raising their joined hands in triumph before the large red, plush curtain slid forward. They made no noise, carefully walking offstage, out of the audience's hearing distance, before celebrating another night. Then, the whole cast erupted in laughter and gleeful yells. She felt a warm, masculine hand slide around her petite waist and lips kiss her cheek in delight. Then, she was picked up and whirled around as her coworker laughed raucously.

"You did a superb job," he said after having put her down, smiling. People bustled around them, muttering under their breath. Sarah was aware of the fact that her embrace was stopping backstage traffic, but she didn't much care. "Didn't you see how they loved you?"

Sarah smiled wanly, teasing him.

"I think you've developed some female fans out in the audience, my dear."

He chuckled richly, starting to move through the long corridors now. One hand stayed on her waist, guiding her through the masses of people.

"There's no accounting for taste, is there?" he asked nonchalantly. She shot him a Look, which only widened the grin on his face.

He turned off abruptly, stopping at her dressing room. She smiled at him again; he was, after-all, quite charming.

Exhaustion overcame her, and she swayed, suddenly turning pale and clutching to the wall as waves of nausea swept over her. She had managed to go on with the performance, shoving all other feelings behind a barrier. The wall between herself and all those emotions was crumbling now that she had a time to rest, and it was overwhelming. Fear, anger, despair...

"You alright?" Alan asked, a comforting hand on her back as she trembled. He was simply a friend, nothing more, and expressed a friend's concern. But she could not tell him, not now, not about Jareth. He would think her less then a child, and she cared about him, cared about his respect. She nodded uncertainly, hair spilling in front of her face, hiding her panic-stricken expression.

"I can take you home," he offered quickly, glancing around. He was still in full stage makeup, prosthetics, mask and all. It would take them both quite awhile to undress and remove the copious amount of makeup plastered on both of their faces. With a shuddering sigh, Sarah quietly regained herself.

"Yeah," she said, her voice barely raised above a whisper. "Yeah, that would be good."

He glanced uncertainly at the door to her dressing room.

"Will you need any help?"

She shook her head, her face beginning to regain some of its natural sanguine color.

"No," she said with a shaky grin, forehead still pressed against the wall, "I think Melanie can take care of me fine, thanks." Melanie was her dresser; a fierce, protective woman who could be quite obstinate if crossed.

"Alright," he said mildly, disbelievingly. He paused for a moment, shooting her a last, caring look before walking away, mixing into the crowd. She enjoyed his company, but he was often overprotective, and she could sense sometimes that he wanted more then a friendship. He was quite the perfect man in many senses; tall, handsome, romantic... But she found a part of herself balking at a relationship, resisting. She did not know why. She closed her eyes, unresisting as Melanie pulled her into the room.

------

Sarah quietly slipped in the apartment door, not even attempting to find the light switch. The New York streetlights outside her window would provide all the illumination she needed for tonight. Pale light filtered through her windows, illuminating the trappings of wealth she had accumulated. Everything seemed darkened and surreal, much like it had years ago on that one night...

Once she stepped in the door, she leaned against the wall, tears slowly rolling down her cheeks. Tangled, repressed emotions stung within her as she took in deep, shuddering breaths. She had been so content for so long, and then he had come and ruined everything, again...

Deeply rooted longing had sprung at his touch. He had slowly rekindled the flames of desire that she had fought for so long. She had longed for him before, had been so needy for his touch, his love, that she had actually almost said the words, dozens of times pulling herself back from the edge before it was too late. Every emotion she had felt before was now cascading over her, multiplied a hundredfold. Despair, knowing she was not the princess who lived her life at the end of the story... She didn't want to feel all this, she only wanted to be happy...

"No," she gasped openly, vulnerably, sliding down until she was on the floor. This wasn't supposed to be the way it went, wasn't supposed to be like this. She was supposed to come back and live happily ever after, with his only presence in her life a memory. He was so dangerous, so cruel... She shuddered to think of his eyes, shuddered to think of his gloved touch. She could never be with him; he was evil. He had stolen Toby, had done so many awful things...

Coldness came over her like a harsh, biting, chilling wave. She bit her bottom lip, no longer struggling to hold back the tears. She had not cried for months. Every time there had been even a hint of regret or fear, she had pushed them aside. And now, they were erupting.

The prospect of a life with him chilled her, made her catch her breath in fear. Having to endure a lifetime of that intensity in his eyes, she thought. Having to give into him, utterly and completely. He was inhuman, in too many senses of the word. Even as she thought this, all her desires came rushing back to her in a blazing instant, and she knew. In a moment of dizzying revelation, she reached a pinnacle of thought that surmounted everything.

Despite the fact-- or maybe because of it-- she loved him still.

-------

Jareth's eyelids closed slowly. He was weary, far more weary then he had ever thought he could ever be. Sarah tired him, drained him, as well as infuriated him. She brought out every instinct in him, a sort of anguished desperation. He hated her and loved her for it; it was part of the reason he loved her.

He felt every tear that she cried. The apathy that she had felt for so long had been shared by him, and now he felt her pain. They were bound inseparably, much to his chagrin. Her emotions were an uncontrollable force, raging within him, unstoppable. She had felt so little passion, and now she was feeling everything. And she was dragging him down to hell with her.

He conjured up a crystal with a regal flick of his wrist. His eyes were wary as he gazed into the sparkling orb. He did not want to see her, not after she had just denied him, but she was irresistible. Mesmerizing, even. Concern blossomed in him as he saw her. She was leaning against a wall, crying. Tears spilled through her fingertips, and her chest was quietly convulsing, her head against her knees.

Seeing her agony both frustrated him and gave him an odd sense of triumph. Mixed emotions wound around each other, confusing him, ripping and twisting the edges of his dark soul. The part of him that acknowledged her as his enemy felt a sense of victory, but the rest of him... The rest of him wanted to dry her tears, to comfort her.

Her head raised, and he was torn from his ruminations into watching her. His eyes glittered with alien emotions as she stood, tears trailing away into nothingness. She wore faded jeans and a white t-shirt, but even these were transformed by the dim lighting into regal, elegant garments. She looked faded, worn, washed-out. It was such an immense change from the self-confident woman he had seen on stage that he actually gasped before regaining himself.

"Say the words, Sarah," he murmured quietly, "And everything will be as you long for."

------

Deja vu left her breathless as her feet dragged across the floor. The only thing that felt different to her hazed mind was the fact that there was no rain and thunder. It was a calm, moon-lit night, a slight breeze pulling at her curtains.

Now, she felt... nothing. It was a different nothing then the apathy she had experienced before. It was like some of the actors she had seen before, the bad ones. They played a part, nothing more, saying words from a script. That was how she felt, like a stranger in her own skin, playing a part, nothing more.

She opened the door to her opulent, luxurious bedroom. Her eyes were glazed over as she walked through, not seeing anything. Her long, elegant fingers closed around the doorknob to her walk-in closet. The only sound a whisper of her shirt catching on the door, she entered the darkened room.

She did not need to see to find the cloak she knew would be there. Dark folds of thick fabric made it distinct from all her other outfits. It would wrap her in shadows, transforming her. She kept it at the back of her closet; she had bought it at a whim, and never worn it. But it was perfect now for her purposes.

She quietly slipped it on over her clothing. It was huge on her, far bigger then it needed to be. It allowed a tantalizing glimpse of flesh at her neck to be seen, allowed her fingernails to be shown, but that was all. She quietly covered her head with the hood. Darkness seemed to set over her, obscuring everything else. Everything seemed to be cold, even through the thick layers of cloth against her.

Her fingertips trailed across the doorway, the stained wood. It felt smooth against the pads of her fingers, and she smiled quietly to herself. The cloak whispered around her, almost as if it had a voice of its own. It seemed to drown her, submerging her in fantasy and memory.

If she had been in her right mind, she would have laughed at herself. She would have chuckled at this ridiculous indulgence in teenage fancy. She would have reminded herself that she was an adult, and she had no business playing dress-up.

But something within her had snapped. Part of her had given in, had stopped fighting, just for that moment. A secretive, sinister smile crossed her rounded lips as she continued her shuffling walk. Her eyes were no longer glazed, but they burned with a strange fervor. She seemed to be carved of porcelain, or perhaps ice.

She walked over to the open window where white curtains billowed out. She closed her eyes, fingertips slowly coming to rest on either side of the windowpane. Then, she began to speak.

"The Goblin-King was angry," she whispered, voice barely above a soft, lilting, longing sigh. "She had forsaken him, had betrayed everything he had to offer her."

Harshness crossed her lips, twisting them into something alien, almost something inhuman. Something that was cold, angry, something that burned like a pale fire that lit her from within.

"But," she said, voice steadying, "His desire outweighed his rage, and he resolved to himself that he would capture the girl, make her his."

Her eyes fluttered up into her head in an expression of twisted delight. Repressed emotion was building in her, slowly boiling to the surface. All her desires had been hidden, and now they were beginning to unfurl slowly. It would be a kind of catharsis for her to speak this, a purging of tension and fear and lust.

"The girl knew secretly that she wanted him as much as he longed for her in the depths of his passion, but she would never reveal this to herself, nor to him." Her voice had dropped to an ominous, hushed whisper. Rain was starting to fall now, pelting the earth vengefully outside her window.

------

Jareth caught his breath, staring into the crystal with an unnerving intensity. His eyes were unreadable, every fiber of his being wound into watching her. She appeared unnaturally pale through the distortions of the silver-tinted orb. The lightness of her skin was only emphasized by the dark cloak she wore, clinging to her skin.

She was revealing everything to him, and she did not even know he was watching. She was so beautiful, he thought. Every breath for him was a struggle. She was a catalyst that provoked unexpected emotions in him. He wanted every glance from her eyes, wanted her every touch to belong only to him. She took everything that had ever been intense in him and made it raw, made it overpowering, made it a force of its own. She was his life, his obsession. Her presence was the only form of healing for his pain, her eyes the only salve for his desperation. He doubted she would ever know how much power she had over him. His breath quickened as he watched her cross the room to the curtains, her eyes marking a figure that he could not see.

Then she began to speak. Her voice was quiet, silver tones barely loud enough to hear. But Jareth... Jareth heard everything.

He did not smile as he heard her revelation. His lips did not quirk into a sarcastic smirk; his eyes did not glisten with mocking cruelty. There was no visible reaction from him as he heard her outpour her desires, no sudden vulnerability. He did not even breathe as he stared at her.

But his soul was reaching out, stretching through layers of space and dimensions as he sat, frozen. His very essence was overflowing with desperate, pleading, raw, open love. It stretched out to Sarah, a breath on her neck. It touched her tears with unexpected tenderness, tasting, feeling. It entered her emotions, knowing that same need in her. She felt the same as him, felt that strength of emotion which no words could have described.

Jareth felt no triumph in knowing this, felt no elation at this new victory. He felt different then he had before, felt out of time, out of place. He was not the Goblin King; his eyes were not awash in cruelty; he did not want to hurt her. The new emotions that were provoked by her were far different, and far more frightening, far more dangerous. They were not tender, or sweet. They were potent and surpassed all bounds of passion, leaping beyond him. He closed his eyes with a weariness that went beyond tears.

Silently, without a sound, he disappeared into the night, preparing himself for confrontation.