Hello again! This is another challenge piece originally submitted to the Labyfic Forum on LiveJournal. The challenge was to write about someone in the Labyrinth universe who was having a night of contemplating regrets.
Please note, this is definately an adult orientated story, with sexual references. If BadJareth is not your thing, please don't read any further.
I do not own anything Labyrinthine and all creative respect must go to the writers and producers of the film.
He had done a most careful thing.
It's my home, this junkyard. There is little that I miss, even laden as I am with the dreams and real things of the mortal world. To some I am called Edie, to others I am simply the Junk Lady, to others still I may answer to my peoples name, collector. But call out 'collector' in this place and you will get a mulititude of answers. We have prospered here, to be sure. We were the among the first to answer the call, on that day lost in time when a young fae lord threw back those gates and extended his hand in protection.
I remember that day. He smiled on me, and I on him. I thought him beautiful. He was just a child of his kind, really. He and the Goddess had grown this place; a thousand years it had taken from one tiny seed. And for my people the Labyrinth was a place of security, one that we never need venture forth from again to sate our appetites for the treasures of men. You see, Labyrinth was not a perfect cocoon, nor was it designed to be. It leaked, and through those tiny fissures in the unreality came the mortal world and its dreamers.
From the beginning, Jareth worked tirelessly to stem the intrusions, except he was the only one who saw them as such. In later years, when he had finally given up to hide away the millenia in his pile of stone, I knew that he began to watch them; those humans whose divinations, lucky guesses, or sometimes poor choices led them to the gates. One day (out of boredom or curiousity we know not) he let one inside, and so the Game was born. Like a cat on a wall he stalked them, played with them, leading them astray and laughing at their fears. And some began to say, in careful whispers amongst the hedgerows, that he grew to love them.
Love them? It was something I had always doubted. Until today that is.
As I said, he had done a most careful thing. Down to the tiniest detail, everything was in its place. From the dust and debris into which the Room had collapsed, he had used his magic to recreate it. Never mind that it was my own magics that had crumbled it away in the first place. He is the lord of this world, and may do as he pleases after all, but he so rarely intrudes upon my domain that at first I did not realise what he had done. It blended in with the rest of the junk wilderness as well as if I had made it myself, but to me this Room stood out from all the other ones because it was the only one not occupied by its owner. There are more than a few Rooms in this place in which languish fearful mortals, old and young alike lingering in their places of safety, failed runners all of them. Sometimes I think that Jareth has forgotten they're even there. But no, the owner of this particular Room, that child had flown the trap. Shockwaves were still doing the rounds of the walls and the whispers were even bolder.
I went to the door and pushed on it. Inside, Jareth sat sprawled on the floor, which was a hideous mixture of false fibres tainted pink and gray. I wondered why he, the most fastidious of creatures, would think to sully himself with it. But then I looked around at the mass of man made things, all unnatural and garish to my eyes. One could not inhabit a place like this and not come into contact with human things. And inhabiting it he certainly was. It was no 'sending' I was seeing, but the King himself in the flesh, such as I had not seen for many many years.
"Dream King, what do you here?" I asked. Ordinarily, one does not ask Jareth direct questions, but I was put out by his intrusion into my junkyard domain, his rearranging of things in a place where chaos is the only deity. He did not look up at me from whatever he held close in his lap. Feeling emboldened by his odd stance, I shuffed my bulk through the doorway, just as I had done once before. Once inside, I allowed myself a moment to admire his spellcraft. I tapped the walls, finding them solid. I peered under the narrow bed, seeing there the tangle of odd socks and stuffed toys. Across the vanity the assorted paper clippings and bookmarks were exactly right.
"Well, it's not a bad effort. If you like this sort of thing" I said. I was tempted to ask him how long it had taken to make this place, but then again, in Labyrinthine circles, magic workers just don't discuss things like that. Maybe I thought, as I stole another sideways glance at him, he's sitting on the floor because he has spent too much and is now exhausted! But it can be fatally erroneous to assume anything about Jareth and his capabilities. His face was downcast, set in lines I had not seen before. Gone was the haughty and arrogant mask. He looked, for all the world, sad.
"Have you regrets over this one, Jareth?" I asked him, my curiousity getting the better of me. But he did not reply quickly, nor even bat an eyelid at my using his given name.
Eventually he spoke, but it was not to me, not directly anyway. "Regrets are for those who will one day come to the end of their lives. I am immortal and will answer to no one for what I have done. Therefore I must cultivate for myself no regrets at all, for there will never be a merciful God to relieve me from their weight". It was a strange response, to be sure. Jareth rarely spoke of the greater pattern of his life in the Labyrinth. He had been well chosen by the Goddess for this role, but I guessed that from time to time he might well resent it for its limitations. I found myself agreeing with his summation. It would be an easier life without regrets to further burden it. But I was soon to learn that what Jareth perceived as a 'regret' could just as easily be the ruin of anothers life.
I continued my inspection. The beady eyes of the stuffed animals followed me around the room. Good lord, but this girl had an overabundance of them! I hadn't really noticed how many she had when I'd last been here. Some bore the taint of magic; soft plushes bearing uncanny resemblance to many real monsters I have known. Jareths handiwork without a doubt. And there, right on the dresser, standing as if caught in an eternal pose before the mirror was the fae himself. It was a well rendered likeness, from the blue velvet coat and lace to the tiny crystal ball held fast in the upturned hand. The doppelganger was staring fixedly across the room at another object I knew well, only...
"You've gotten that one wrong!" I blurted out. True, it was a minor detail, but I was genuinely pleased that his omnipotent aura had been dimmed, even slightly. Try and do my job himself would he?
"Really?". His voice was a soft drawl. There was no measure of dented pride in it at all. I fell for the ruse, of course.
"Well yes. She's too big. The original is much smaller. The girl could fit the thing in her hand easily. It's at least two times bigger than it is in Real Life" I puffed out, sure that I was right. Jareth reached to take it from the table. His gloved fingers worked the key on the side, a grating mechanical sound in the silence of the room. For the first time he looked straight at me, letting go the metal turner. Music, dainty and tinny came from the canister. I did not understand how such music was made from a mere collection of bits of metal and springs. A mortal magic it was, and yet it was not the full purpose of the thing, just an accompaniment to the dancer who twirled above it.
She was an oversized replica of the original, but it was only when Jareth lifted the music box to set her before the mirror that I realised that it was a well designed error on his part, for only now could I see that the Dancer was in perfect proportion to that other one, his own likeness. The box settled on the dresser with a soft thump and Jareth withdrew his hand back to his lap, where lay another out-of-place thing, a thing I recognized but dared not mention now.
"She's perfect, don't you think Edie?" I didn't think it was a question, so I stayed silent and watched the eerie tableau. The Jareth figurine stared still at the Dancer. His painted eyes became deeper, darker, taking on that unique uneven quality that belongs to Jareth alone of all his people. The limbs became supple as I watched. When the figure stepped off his pedestal to present a small bow to the two of us, I was not surprised. I had seen the real Jareths lips moving in silent incantations to bring life to the thing. And not only to himself it seemed, as the figure now turned to the music box Dancer, his hand reaching up to grasp hers as she spun in ever slower circles.
To easily, it seemed to me, she was in his arms. The music coming from the now bereft box continued to play, only now it took on a deeper, more realistic tone, far more pleasing to the ears. Faint was the sound of a voice singing, a male voice that many in this land had heard. Jareth on the floor moved his mouth silently in time with the words.
On the dresser, the couple swirled and twirled with the music. Her long white gown flared out at the hips as he turned her around and around. His hand found itself caught sensuously at the small of her back. I stole a glance at Jareth on the floor as he sat enraptured by the performance, his hands tangled now with the mass of beaded fabric crushed against himself. It was like I was not even there in the room. I began to feel as if I was intruding upon some private thing. Maybe I would pay the ultimate price when this was done, just for the witnessing of it.
The dancers continued. I had spied on human and fae dancers many times before. I understood the symbology of the movements; the constrained and yet overt signals that the partners sent each other. A mating ritual not unlike many other creatures of the overlands, a pity in many ways because humans typically felt themselves above such things. But this was a dance between human and immortal, even though neither of them was real. Was I seeing a true recollection then? I knew she had gone to the Ballroom in her dream. I knew that Jareth had joined her there. Bits and pieces of the shattered dream had fallen around the girl as she had tumbled into my junkyard. What had happened there? A sense of foreboding grew in me.
The Sarah-doll was a smiling innocent, her long hair flying like a lions mane despite the silver clips that fought to tame it. Jareth drew her closer, his arms forming a circle in which she tensed against him for a moment. Ah, of course. This woman was not exactly what she seemed. Her flesh, that which her partner so obviously hungered for, was untouched by any man. No one had held her so close. No ones lips had ever claimed hers like his were now.
"What..." I began, but I was cut off by the minute movement of his finger as it raised.
"Hush. Don't disturb them" Jareth whispered, looking askance at me for a second. There was a feralness in his gaze now that turned my bones to water. He turned back to the dancing couple. "Didn't you wish to know my regret?".
Bound into stillness and silence, I watched the scene play itself out.
Neither of the playthings had voice, but neither did I need it to interpret their actions. The Jareth-doll bent his head to kiss hungrily at the Music Box-Sarah. Not satisfied with merely her mouth, his cold lips moved slowly downward. With one hand he raised her breast to his mouth, the laces of the bodice coming free under the attentions of his other arm across her back. Her head was flung back now under the pressure of him, her mouth open soundlessly. His hands drew circles on her bare skin. His teeth left puckered bite marks on her shoulders.
Next to me, on the floor, Jareth stared in rapt attention. Unconciously, his hands traced pathways in the silk of the Gown in his lap, just as his miniature fondled the flesh of the girl. He was pushing her now to the ground, covering her body with his own. When the tiny replica dress was torn, so was the silk that flowed out from Jareths hands. I could smell her scent on it strongly. Jareth raised it to his face, smoothing the fabric across his skin which was so like the silk itself that it blended almost seamlessly with his own flesh. But he did not take his eyes off the two figures on the dresser who were even now reaching the inevitable conclusion to their dance.
This much was purely imagination, I was sure of it. The girl, the real Sarah that is, had been untouched when I had found her.
Melded together finally, those two danced the most ancient of dances. Having spent so many years in close proximity to both human and fae creatures, I was not innocent of the relations between them. This sweating, fumbling of limbs splayed out in all directions did not move me as it so obviously moved the only other real being in the room with me. He was not gentle with her, this Jareth-doll, and yet there was something so wrong with this scene that I at first couldn't place it. It wasn't just the loss of virginity by what amounted to little more than a spellbound rape. Jareth had done that before, on more than one occasion. It was the strange laxness on the part of the Sarah-doll, almost like Jareth had not thought to have the toy behave in a realistic manner. There was no kicking and screaming from the girl, but neither was there passion or desire. Could it be that Jareth, master of dreams and watcher from the windowsill, could it be that he did not know this girl at all? It seemed impossible to me. He had spent years grooming this one, far longer than many others who had run the Labyrinth in times past.
He had finished with her finally. She lay there just like a broken toy would, hair and dress torn aside, blood and bruises marking her porcelain skin. She made it to her feet, and the Jareth-doll simply lay where he let his limbs fall, staring at her as she stumbled away from him. Closer to the edge of the dresser she came, with odd mechanical like movements that made me think that perhaps Jareths' spells had worn off finally and she would soon revert to cold and unmoveable china. Then she jumped.
Too late was Jareths hand as he reached out to stop her. But I was closer than he and I caught her scant inches from the floor. Into my open palm she fell, and I breathed a quiet sigh of relief that she appeared undamaged, even though I knew her to be little more than an illusion copied from a much loved plaything of a mortal girl, one that could so easily be created again and again. Briefly, I wondered how many times Jareth had had Sarah play out this grim scene. I held her out towards him.
"Is this what you regret, Dream King?" I demanded. "Not what you did to this child, but what you did not?".
He laughed, a cold and cheerless sound. "But of course dear Edie. Have you not heard the saying? Regret not what you have done, but only that which you did not. Probably one of the wisest in all the mortal world, that one". He reached to snatch Sarah out of my hand. If I had dared to, I would have magicked the doll out of existence just to keep one thing of her out of his possession. But he held her most carefully, using his now bare hands to smooth out the dress, arrange her hair, erase the blemishes that marred her. She lay quiet in his hands, gazing up at him unknowingly. "And do not, Edie, mistake this mortal for a child" he said, with the first note of warning creeping into his voice. "Truly you have been too long away from the human world, collector. Children in this day and age rush headlong towards adulthood. Her being a maiden is besides the point altogether, and besides, am I not as good as the next man?". He laughed again, bending to kiss the tiny doll before reaching up to place her carefully back on her pedestal, her form losing its pliable tones and settling once more into simple china and porcelain. His Jareth counterpart had already returned to his base. Just like two unmoveable figurines they stood, each waiting in frozen stillness for the magic to wrap them again.
"You are no man at all, Jareth. Or had you forgotten that?" I countered. I ignored that part of him that so obviously belied my words, but at the same time I wondered why he had not taken his own pleasure as his doppelganger had. Pity washed over me, leaving me sick and cold at heart. Pity for Jareth and his isolation, pity more for the girl for when he finally decided to make real his desires.
I wanted to turn away then, to leave this voyeuristic fae lord to play out whatever imaginings he wanted. But he too rose from the floor and I thought he would precede me to the doorway. But he was not entirely finished with his musings. He went over to the bed, bending over it to carefully lay out the Gown across it, just like any girl might place it so, eagerly awaiting her first formal dance; her first foray into adulthood. His fingers traced the beading lightly, lingering softly at the intricate lacework at the cuffs. With quick, deft movements, he made right the silk that had been torn and damaged. But in stepping back as if to admire his handiwork, I saw a tiny pearl come loose, rolling down the fabric like a teardrop would. Into the carpet it fell, where it lay shining in the moonlight.
Jareth stared down at it, all his lust and anger clearly visible for such a terrifying moment it seemed as if Labyrinth herself quaked in fear. His illusions were not so perfect after all. Was it love that had done this? Love, that destructive force that had laid whole lands and countless lives to waste in both over and underworlds? What would he do, this powerful and wilful being who held all our lives in his hands, when he realised what an enormous chink in his armour was now in the keeping of this mortal girl?
The pearl popped as he ground it under his heel.
"You won't be trying to warn her, will you Edie?" he said. "You wouldn't be thinking of trying to keep her from me, no?". Of course I knew he had read my thoughts. Mutely, I tried to conjure up what meagre spellcraft I had in order to try and deflect the killing blow that I knew was now to come my way. In silence I waited, but no magic was turned on me. I dared to raise my head to look into his face.
"No" I said. He would have heard all that I forced into that word.
"I am glad, Edie. However," he said, kneeling down before me, hands on my shoulders, "you wouldn't want me to regret leaving you alive, would you? Because you know how I of all people cannot live with any regrets".
"You made this one too well, Jareth. Sarah won't ever regret leaving you" I said, unable to avoid a parting shot as he turned to leave the Room. He stopped in the doorway and smiled back at me, a horrid thing that I have seen in my dreams every night since.
"Ah, but she will, Edie, she will. She just doesn't know it yet"