Bittersweet Sorrow - A Labyrinth Vignette
Er, hello! waves nervously
Thank you for taking the time to read this fic. This is my first foray into the Labyrinth fandom, so I am still learning how to write Jareth and Sarah. This vignette was written as a response to a challenge issued over at labyfic, the Labyrinth themedLiveJournal community I am a member of. The challenge was to portray Jareth and Sarah without a happily ever after. I hope you like it.
WARNINGS: Just some mild adult themes and sexual references. I've rated it M purely as a precaution.
DISCLAIMER: I do not own Labyrinth, or its characters.
It had been truly wonderful, at first. They had seemed like such a perfect couple; Sarah's fiery defiance the perfect counterpoint to his cool aloofness, her boldness and fearlessness a match for his cunning and love of trickery. Jareth was consumed by feelings and emotions that he had never experienced before; he was willing to do anything to ensure that her happiness was as complete as his.
The initial months had disappeared in a blur of lovemaking and contented time spent in each other's presence. She came and went from the Underground regularly, insisting on continuing to live a relatively normal life between the two realms. He never could understand why staying in the drab, mundane mortal world meant so much to Sarah, especially when she could stay here, with him and live as his Queen. He suspected though, that it was largely to do with Toby and her father, whom she had become especially close to.
But eventually, Jareth began to notice a change. His beloved Sarah became absentminded and vague when she was with him, almost as though her mind were someplace else. At first, he attributed it to the pressures of 'schoolwork' (which Sarah always maintained was of the utmost importance, despite its being of a highly vexatious nature) and the various plays she was involved with. She was still as affectionate with him as ever and Jareth was more than willing to brush his misgivings aside. It was inconceivable that she would be unhappy with him. They were perfect for each other.
But as time passed, the signs grew harder and harder to ignore. Sarah grew less and less involved, often making excuses to stay Aboveground for days at a time. When she was with him, she was like a stranger. Sex became an occasional activity. Jareth could feel Sarah drifting away from him and he was powerless to stop it. Nothing he did seemed to help. At his wits end, he took to watching Sarah while she was Aboveground and the answer to all of his desperate questions became apparent within a couple of hours.
It was another man.
Flooded with self-righteous rage and hurt, he had watched them together like a hawk, torturing himself in order to gather information to throw in her face the next time she came to him. He would punish her, then he would exact vengeance on the mortal who dared to steal her away from him.
His fevered observations uncovered a few unpleasant discoveries. Firstly, Sarah was not being unfaithful in the physical sense, but it was obvious that she was having some kind of emotional affair. The amount of time they spent together and the quality of their conversations far surpassed that of a normal human friendship.
Secondly, Jareth could detect nothing special about the man. He was an ordinary mortal, a fellow student involved with Sarah's drama community. That in itself stung his pride. Why would she favour someone like this over him?
He had confronted her one night, all of his bitterness and rage spilling forth in an uncharacteristic loss of control. Sarah, for her part, was incensed by his intrusion into her privacy and they had been locked into a screaming match that lasted for what felt like hours. They had shouted themselves hoarse, thrown and smashed things for good measure, then made a production of storming out of rooms and chasing each other down darkened hallways and staircases.
Afterwards, while winding down in separate wings, Jareth replayed Sarah's furious, heated words obsessively, the experience like rubbing salt into a wound. She loved this other man, this Liam, or whatever his name was. She couldn't help it, it had just happened. He felt the same way, apparently. They had so much in common and he made her so happy, it was like she'd finally found her soulmate. He wasn't short-tempered, arrogant and overwhelming. He was sweet and gentle, respectful ofher space and her personal autonomy. He never patronised her or made her feel foolish.
She wanted to be with him, but she felt obligated to the Labyrinth and its King. She still loved Jareth, but she wasn't in love with him anymore. Consequently, she was resentful and unhappy, feeling as though she was unable to seek what her heart truly desired.
Jareth wasn't aware it was possible to feel this much pain and still be able to function. How could she not still love him when he loved her so much? When he needed her so much?
Was his allure not enough? His magic? The fact that he was willing to turn the world upside down and reorder time as many times as it took to make her stay? Why? Why was it not enough?
A dark, vicious part of him wanted to hold Sarah to her perceived obligation, to bind her to him and keep her away from the Aboveground. She belonged to him, after all he had sacrificed for her, she owed him her love and loyalty. It was all too easy to give sway to his selfish thoughts, his natural need for dominance and control was never far from the surface, especially where Sarah was concerned.
But the vision of Sarah and the other man together badgered his conscience in the most persistent manner. When she was with him, she was happy. Everything that she lacked here in the Underground shone out of her eyes. Jareth saw it and couldn't deny it. It was that esoteric, unattainable brand of human love that he had never been able to understand.
He remembered, with no small amount of bitterness, the words of his parents, warning him to keep to his own kind in affairs of the heary and the flesh. Humans, they had warned him, were fickle. Forgetful. Faithless. Their lives were so short after all, often ending without warning.They felt the need tocouple withmany partners over a short period of time, like the frenzied mating and subsequent death of many of the lesser breeds of Aboveground animals. If he became involved with a human woman, it would surely end in disaster.
Knowing this did nothing to make the situation at hand any easier to bear. He loved her and he felt that that in itself should be enough to overcome any difficulty. He felt as though he would give anything, do anything to make everything right. Except one thing. Her. His very psyche rebelled at the thought of ending it between them.
But, in the end,after prolonged agonising, Jareth had realised that truly loving someone meant that you were willing to let them go. To give them the freedom they needed to live a happy, healthy life. He knew that if he keptSarah here, with him, her spirit would wither and die and the bright light he so loved would be extinguished forever.
So, the Goblin King had let Sarah Williams go. He sent her back home that final morning with a nonchalance that disguised his misery. The knowledge that he was being supremely selfless was a cold comfort. Sarah, of course,had seen straight through him. She had clasped his face in her hands and kissed him tenderly, telling him that she would always love him. He had dismissed her wordlessly, not trusting himself to speak coherently through the agony. Standing there alone in the throne room, he had resolved never to set eyes upon her again.
But, it was not to be. His enduring love for her had kept him bound to her, against his will, despite the pain. He just couldn't forget her, couldn't let her memory fade from his heart or his mind. He found himself watching her in his crystals whenever he could, his happiness at being able to see her face tainted with the bitterness of sorrow for all his hopes and dreams of the two of them that never came to pass.
Themonths went by, blurring into years and then decades.Jareth watched asSarah married, had children, raised them and then became a grandmother. He noticed her gradual aging with passing interest. It was, of course, natural that she should grow old, being human. However, she would always be beautiful to him, whether she was 15 or 115.
The dreaded day finally came, the day when he knew that Sarah would pass from the mortal world.Jareth remembered, with a quality of vague resentment that only came from decades of repeated reflection, that if she had stayed with him in the Underground, he could have found a way around her mortality. But it was too late now. Much too late.
Unable to help himself, even now, some 70 years later Jareth had gone to her, drawn like a moth to a flame. He needed to see her, to speak to her one last time. He had to make sure she hadn't forgotten him.
He needn't have worried. The look on her face when he appeared next to her bed had been loving, pleased and regretful all at once.
"I was wondering when you would come." Her voice was weak, faded and rusty with age. "I suppose it's almost time then."
Jareth had nodded wordlessly, embarrassed to find that his throat was not functioning as it should. She looked so frail and withered on that bed, so far removed from the Sarah he had known and loved. She was still beautiful, yes, but it was apparent that her body was failing.
He knelt by the bed and attempted to locate his voice. "I needed to see you again," he told her softly after a moment's pause. "I didn't think you would mind, not now, when it's been so long."
Sarah smiled. "Of course not. I was expecting you. In all honesty, I wondered what took you so damn long. I thought you'd be draped across my armchair when I got home that day after Liam's funeral."
The husband. Jareth grinned. It was so like her to outlive her husband by 12 years. It was probably her sheer stubbornness alone that kept her alive this long. Then, his expression turned somber as he remembered the promise he'd made both to himself and to her so many years ago; not to interfere, to let her live her life in peace.
"I felt it was best to let you find your own happiness," he told her. "You asked me for a chance to live a normal life and I am a man of my word."
He smiled slightly when she pressed her weathered hand against his cheek. "And what about your happiness Jareth?" she murmured.
He rested his hand on top of hers. "Your happiness was enough for me."
He struggled with himself as her breathing began to labour. Soon, too soon.
"Will you… kiss me before I go?" Sarah rasped. Jareth leaned down and pressed his lips against hers lovingly, feeling the same rush of emotion he'd always felt for her, regardless of all that had transpired in the last seven decades. He clung to her hand almost desperatelyand she squeezed his fingers weakly in return.
"I was a selfish brat, but I did love you Jareth," Sarah gasped. "I still do. Don't forget…"
She was gone. Jareth stared at her face for what felt like an eternity. She looked peaceful and he was grateful he'd decided to see her again. Just seeing the serenity adorning her features was enough to give him a measure of happiness, bittersweet as it was. Carefully, he laidSarah's hand against her breast and rose. There was no point in staying here when her soul had already fled.
Weighed down with sadness, he crossed to the window and leapt, taking on his owl form in mid air. He flew back to his kingdom, his thoughts consumed with the only woman he'd ever loved. And she had loved him, even if they couldn't be together.
He would never forget.
Please read and let me know what you think! I'm aware that it's probably rough and even a bit OOC, but I appreciate any feedback that can help me write more convincingly.