A/N – Written for the Labyfic 'No Happy After' Challenge.
Disclaimer – I don't own Jareth or Sarah. Don't sue.
They overcame the dangers together, restoring peace and order to the Underground. The last challenge was over, and she had proven herself worthy of a place at his side. But their bargain was based on a fundamental misunderstanding, for he was not human, and he did not share the traditional human concept of love –
"Of course I love you," he murmured one night, in the intimate darkness. "But Sarah, I can't promise it will be forever. You cannot hold the heart to one love: we are all creatures of experience, we live, and learn, and grow, and change. It has been ten years since we first met, and you have changed immensely; will you still love me ten years from now, or fifty?"
She hated it when he spoke with such detachment. "In fifty years from now," she replied through gritted teeth, "I will be too old to look about for another."
"Yes. But I will still be as I am today."
It was neither cruelty, nor callousness. It was the simple, harsh truth: humans aged and died, but the Fair Folk were eternally young and beautiful.
"How old are you?" she asked one day, still not willing to accept his immortality.
"I don't remember," he murmured, engrossed in the flicker of firelight on crystal, in the silent, distant whisper of the wind. Beauty and sensation distracted him so easily, because he had so much time to appreciate it. "I don't know the exact year. It's not something I've ever worried about."
Her eyes were dark and searching, seeking some sort of reassurance, a reflection of familiar thoughts and ideas. "I'm twenty-five years old, Jareth. If I'm lucky, I might live to be eighty or ninety –"
"Yes, I know. It is a human trait."
"No, you don't understand," she snapped, angry that he could not understand her mortality. "One day, I will die. Will you remember me then? Or will I be just another phase, a learning experience in your long, long life?"
"Sarah…" he sighed, reaching out to her, "I love you. Why must you question it? Take what we have now, and enjoy it. These tantrums –"
"No!" she shouted, wrenching away from him. "I can't do this. I can't stay here and–" She whirled away, turning to flee as she had done ten years ago.
"Sarah!" he hissed, grabbing her arm and pulling her back to him.
She lashed out, swung; felt the stinging, solid jolt as she connected. There was a small, terrible silence. As she stood, frozen, and watched, he touched his gloved hand to his mouth, holding his fingers up to examine the slick, coppery blood from his split lip.
It was red. Of course it was red.
But all the blood in the world could not make him human.
She walked away.
He let her go.
She was in the bloom of her youth, a beautiful woman not yet in her prime. But one day that rich dark hair would streak silver, that smooth, unlined skin would sag, and her muscles would grow weak and lax. The light in her eyes would fade, and yet he would endure, as he was, for the rest of eternity –
Take what we have now, he'd said, and enjoy it.
Will you still love me when you are old, wise with the particular, bitter wisdom of mortality, but I am still unchanged?