Chapter Forty-Three: The Labyrinth, Part Three.
Perhaps it had been inevitable, some part of Jareth mused detachedly. His entire life had felt like an up-hill battle, and now he had finally lost his footing. He had just never thought it would happen at such a painfully crucial moment. A few seconds more and he would have had a confession out of Sarah, but then maybe that would have been worse, being accepted in one breath and rejected in the next.
Five centuries of careful and ingenious planning lay crumbled around his feet and he had no one to blame but himself and Oran's horrible sense of timing.
Jareth had always expected problems like this to resolve themselves quietly; he had never been particularly concerned with the prospect that they wouldn't, but then Sarah hadn't been a part of his life when he had thought about the consequences of building the Labyrinth. Splitting himself had not been a good idea but at the time it had been the only option available. Embedding a part of himself into Toby hadn't been a good idea either, but at that point he had been too far-gone, blinded by his obsession with Sarah.
Part of him understood that this situation was his fault and accepted that truth with grim resignation; another part of him bellowed and raged like a wounded animal. And like a wounded animal, he refused to give up what he had worked so hard for; he would fight with everything in him to keep what was his.
Hadn't that been why he had made the Labyrinth in the first place?
Sarah shivered as the alien eyes searched the room, detached and lifeless, but when they settled on her something fierce kindled into their depths. It was hard imagining that this was the same man she had juked and jousted in the Labyrinth; that she had thought him cold and stone-faced then was suddenly laughable compared to now. What she wouldn't give to go back to that time, she thought wistfully, it had been simple then: ignore everything other than solving the Labyrinth.
Jareth's lips curled back in a snarl, revealing teeth that were more fang-like than playfully wicked, as before. "You want a Labyrinth to solve?" he growled, making everyone in the silent room jump at the angry sound. His voice held a strange resonance, as though multiple voices had been speaking from different directions all at once. She had heard that before…
Sarah tried to pull out of the solid arm around her waist, feeling much too close to a ticking time bomb that was about to go off. Where had all her bluster gone? Where was the girl who had stood up to the Goblin King and won? 'Hiding in the corner,' she thought with little amusement. This wasn't the sarcastic and mocking Goblin King, this was Jareth at the end of his rope and ready for a good fight; she could feel his rage pounding into her, like the Arctic at high tide. But as much as he was scaring her, he had presented a wonderful opportunity. A challenge to overcome, a way to get home! Too much had happened, too much about what she had thought had suddenly become questionable, too much she still didn't know, and all she wanted to do was go home and spend the rest of her life trying to forget how eerie and terrifying he looked at this moment.
"Fine, I'll give you a Labyrinth to solve," Jareth bit out, interrupting her frenzied thoughts. Like lightning, he grabbed her chin, forcing her to look at him. "But not the old one, oh no," he shook his head, regaining some of his mocking attitude, "you may not know what turns to take but you already know the tricks and the traps and what to look out for. You want a challenge, a test of wills? You solve this Labyrinth," Jareth tapped his temple, "or this Labyrinth," he tapped his heart. "Can the great Sarah manage that? Because I don't think she stands a chance." His eyes searched hers, foreign and yet still familiar. His thumb caressed her cheek, a frighteningly tender gesture considering the pure anger she could feel coursing through him. "You know the rules: thirteen hours to solve the Labyrinth; if you win, you are all free to go. Only Sarah enters, and I assure you, you will find very little help this time around."
From the corner of her eye, Sarah could see Oran cautiously approaching his son. "Jareth," he spoke quietly, soothingly. That he was speaking to his son as though trying to calm a suddenly wild dog was more nerve-wracking than Jareth's aggressive behavior. "Now is not the time for action; words will serve you better. Calm yourself."
And faster than anyone in the room could blink, Oran was gone.
Jareth stared at where his father had been standing. "Action saved this kingdom once before, when words could have brought only false safety. It can save this kingdom again, old fool," he said with a sneer.
Oran's gift for compassion bled out of the room like a poorly covered wound, and with it went whatever peace had been holding everyone steady during the crazed king's critical build up. Though she silently willed her family to be still, it was only a matter of time before someone snapped back to themselves enough to start raising protests. And just like that, Sarah found her bluster. In her fear for Oran, for what Jareth could do to her family if they drew his attention, she found that magnificent bravado that she had worn like a cloak nearly five years ago.
"What did you do to him?" she asked, thankful her voice was level. It wouldn't fool him, she knew, seeing as he could feel her emotions just as well as she could feel his.
Insult briefly flickered through his anger. "You think I would hurt my own sire?"
"I don't know what you're capable of anymore," she answered honestly, praying that her family could stay quiet just a bit longer. Long enough for her to accept his challenge, to ensure that they had at least one way home.
Jareth's face blanked again, then turned mischievous, as though he had to change his emotions with as much effort as one would change a mask. "Then come find out, little Sarah. Find your answers, if you can; all you have to do is pick up the gauntlet," he murmured persuasively.
Sarah gulped. So much more was at stake this time, and this was a whole different sort of game. Or was it? She frowned; after finding out that Jareth was the Labyrinth she wasn't so sure it could be different. That thought gave her hope. "All right, Goblin King, I'll play your game."
Such lose terms. One day his Sarah would learn to bargain before blindly agreeing to anything.
Sarah hadn't remembered closing her eyes, hadn't felt herself leaving that crushing embrace on the bed, but when next she opened her eyes she was standing alone in an empty corridor. The short hall was frigid, frost lancing the walls and collecting in dips on the stone floor. For a moment Sarah missed the body that had been crushing her into a deliciously male heat; all she had for warmth here was a nightgown that was more decorative than it was practical.
Shivering, she began to study her surroundings. Doors lined the walls to her left and right, the metal handles looking colder than she felt.
"Where am I?" she wondered quietly.
Karen didn't bother holding in her scream when Sarah went limp in Jareth's grasp. The creature on the bed was wild, glowing silver, and all she could think was that her stepdaughter had made a deal with the devil. Now they were all lost.
Karen didn't know a thing about magic. She had been more interested in what was happening around her than she had been in the possibility of what could happen. She was a realist who had suddenly found herself drowning in a world that could have put even the finest imagination to shame. Still, she didn't need to know about magic to know one thing for sure.
Jareth would never give up.
For whatever reason, he wanted Sarah, and in that one moment, seeing the absolute determination etched in his silver skin, Karen knew he would do whatever he had to, to keep her.
"What have you done to her?" Karen demanded, beating her husband to the questioning.
Jareth laid Sarah's lifeless body across the bed, arranging her with infinite care. "Have no fear, she is well and shall remain so as long as she stays wary." With a quick touch over his chest he added, "She is here; safe."
He seemed so distracted, Karen thought, opening her mouth to demand what he meant. But his attention had gone, and with a negligent wave of his hand Karen found her family and the Hadrian boy face-to-face with an extremely weary Oran.
"You're here," Sarah whipped around to find Jareth standing behind her, a hand over his heart. "Where you belong," he added.
She didn't marvel at the oddity that his answer meant she was inside him, didn't even stop to contemplate such a trivial detail. "Why are you doing this?" she asked seriously.
He flinched violently, as though he had been struck from behind. "I'm not… I can't-" Sarah became alarmed as his eyes grew cloudy. "Too many pieces," she heard him murmur, "too many cracks."
"Ignore him," a voice said from behind. Becoming dizzy, she turned around to find another Jareth. This one was wild of posture, a careless air surrounded him and, somehow, she knew that this was the one who had been the Labyrinth. "He is insignificant, a trifling splinter."
Now Sarah was the one to flinch. Trifling, he said, as though completely untroubled by the thought of not being whole.
"I suggest you get moving, sweet Sarah, you are wasting precious time," the Labyrinth said, fondness dancing in his eyes.
She bristled, stifling a groan. The last thing she need was to feel like an ass because she had a sympathetic ear rather than a wary enemy. "I've done this before," she snapped, "I can do it again."
"Correction," he smiled condescendingly, "you've solved me before, but I'm nothing compared to Jareth. He's much more complicated because he feels more. I'm just that which he felt while creating me: impatience, rage, and helplessness."
She tried her best not to look shocked. "Helplessness?"
"You seem surprised; you shouldn't be. You've seen him that way before. Did you think he was unable to feel out of control?"
She thought of another time, during another game, when a room had flown apart at the hinges because Jareth had felt out of control. One thing was for sure, Sarah thought absently, the man certainly didn't do things by halves. "Go away," she finally said to the Labyrinth, making a shooing motion, "I have work to do, and I'm still trying to figure out how this all began."
"What do you mean?" he asked, head tilted to the side.
Sarah sighed. What did she mean? In less than a week her life had been turned upside-down, and now her freedom could very well be dependant upon her solving a maze when she didn't even have the vaguest clue as to what her objective was. "This all started with a dream that had nothing to do with Jareth," she replied, thinking back to that first strange occurrence from several days ago.
The Labyrinth laughed, a sound that leaned more toward a wicked cackle than the throaty chuckles she was used to. "It had everything to do with Jareth."
Sarah shook her head. "But he wasn't even there," she argued, "just a bunch of shadows trying to prepare me for something, trying to warn me what not to do." Which she had blown royally, she thought sourly.
"They were trying to tell you, in their own decidedly cryptic way, that Jareth was coming and that it would be better for everyone involved if you just made with the googley-eyes," he scoffed.
"Who where they?" she asked quietly, subtly try to warm her arms in the still frozen corridor.
The Labyrinth shrugged. "Most of them were Hadrian's children; they didn't have enough power to show themselves as anything more than shadows."
Who the hell was Hadrian? Sarah thought angrily, wishing to understand more of this conversation than she was. "Well, what did they want?"
"A queen," he said, quickly disappearing from sight.
He watched from the shadows, silently keeping track of time as Sarah meandered her way through his heart.
This door led to a puzzle, that one to a memory. Sometimes they led onward, other times they dead-ended. Here, there was a wintry paradise; there, there was a tropical hell. And, damn it, but there was no pattern at all!
Sarah sat down with a huff, having just walked through a door that led to a starlit field. It was absolutely beautiful, silver moonlight plating young grass and making the trees look like celestial sentinels, but…
She had no idea where she was or where she was going, and no clue how much time had passed. Sarah Williams was not a defeatist, but even she had to admit when things looked bleak. Frustrated tears welled up in her eyes; this wasn't like last time at all.
Last time she had had a goal, now all she had was one word: solve. Before she had had help, this time she wasn't even getting mocking visits from the Goblin King; she had been alone since the Labyrinth had left.
She didn't want to contemplate that word, didn't even want to think about the implications, because the sad fact was that something damn close to an appreciative shiver had gone through her at that word, rather than regret or anger. If Sarah was completely honest with herself she would even admit that despite the fact that she was exhausted, terrified, and soul-weary, something in her still burned for Jareth, still ached with unfulfilled hunger. It was beyond unfair, she thought moodily, that just when she had been ready to try and work some sort of commitment out with Jareth, the world had come crashing down. Bitter disappointment filled her; every time that she had begun to trust that man, he did something to make her take it back. "A queen," she snorted, as disgusted with the idea as she was with herself for actually wanting it.
"You are, you know," a quiet voice said by her ear, nearly making her shriek in surprise.
Sarah turned, although she already knew who she was going to find lounging next to her. It was strange, because they looked no different, but somehow she knew that this was Jareth and not the Labyrinth. She frowned at him, trying to stifle the small thrill that ran through her at the sight of him. "Not that I expect you to help or anything, but could you tell me what the hell I'm supposed to be doing?"
Jareth ignored her question. "I wondered, time and again, what about you was so special, so much that you became the worst sort of obsession for me." He reached out, gently running his fingers through her hair.
"And have you figured it out yet?" she snapped, trying to cover with anger the shiver his quiet touch produced.
A smile broke his somber expression, as though he knew, and he probably did, what effect he had on her. "Everything I've done has come to a head," he explained. "Every little action has fallen into place, and I can see the shape of my life."
"So…?" she asked confusedly.
"You are special," he continued, his hand leaving her hair to stroke around her neck, "because you have magic. A tiny little babe who had magic enough to call to me, who wanted me to be the one to fulfill your wishes. Now I know why." He lowered his forehead to her own, making her uneasy with his closeness. "The Labyrinth shut me off from others. My people, while grateful for being protected from the threat of mortals, feared the power I wielded. Life became a hollow mockery, as devoid of company as it is possible to be while running a kingdom; my own father feared me for a time. I turned from one pursuit to another, trying desperately to fill the emptiness." He sighed. "Understand, Sarah, that my kind are governed by their emotions, and in that dark time I believe that my magic got away from me."
She gave him as confused a look as possible while being so close.
Jareth gave another sigh, one arm going around her shoulders despite the way she flinched at his touch. "You called to me, because I called to you first. In loneliness and despair so dark it was killing me, I lost control. In the years that followed I kept wondering why you reminded me so much of myself; it was because that magic you have is me."
Sarah went still, her mind screaming at the hundreds of different ways that his statement sounded so wrong. "Do you mean I was enhanced or created?"
He was quiet for a time. "I don't know," he said at last, "but it doesn't matter; either way you are mine."
Sarah tried not to laugh, wondering if she had stepped into a scene straight out of a trashy romance novel. Mine? Still, some ridiculously feminine part of her still wanted to melt at the thought. "How do you figure?"
He gave her a devilish look, hooking a finger under her chin to urge her lips through the inch or so of space separating them. The second their lips touched, Sarah knew she was lost. It was simply electric. But like that first kiss they had shared, there was something about it that simply wasn't normal. It was as if something within her was trying to break free, as if pieces of her were being shifted around at somebody else's bidding.
Was it possibly because they were?
Were there little bits of Jareth within her, moving around at his consent, trying to break free and delve back into him because that's where they belonged?
That thought alone almost shook her more than his kiss did.
He broke the kiss, but the feeling kept coming, a pleasure that was incomplete, that left her wanting so much more. "No one else could ever make you feel this way," he assured, and she had little trouble believing him, "and if they did, I would lay into them with a viciousness hereto unknown."
Sarah shivered, knowing it wasn't the idle threat of an insecure man, but the promise of a king who was subtly pointing out that, yes, he was the jealous type.
Jareth stretched out, lifting Sarah to sit in his lap, still shaking with whatever magic he had left raging inside her. Powerful arms wrapped around her, and she tried desperately not to moan. That something was wrong would be an understatement. He was barely even touching her anymore and she still felt that electric charge, as though he had never stopped kissing her. She cracked an eye open to stare at his smug face, trying to ignore the fact that she had gone dangerously hypersensitive.
"It could be wonderful beyond your imagination between us, Sarah," he whispered, ghosting his fingers over flesh that was burning with need.
"What did you do to me?" she asked through gritted teeth, fitting the overpower urge to roll her hips, thrash in his arms, anything for a little bit of friction.
Jareth's expression was mockingly pleasant. "Why, I'm giving you incentive to stay, darling. Or perhaps you need something more… visual?"
The starry field gave way to a dark bedroom. Sarah held herself tense, strung taut by lust that magic was forcing through her veins, and groaned when she felt herself pulled back against the solid length of Jareth. She groaned again, this time in dismay, when she realized they weren't alone in the room.
Brute force had not stopped her last time; if anything, outright opposition seemed to give Sarah a thrill. Romancing hadn't worked either, because her young heart hadn't truly been ready for it.
But things were different this time; Sarah was older, they were more connected, and he was willing to play dirty.
He had a woman to seduce.
If sexual frenzy had been what she had experienced on the bed that morning, then she had no words for what she was experiencing now. The feeling was beyond endurance. Muscles that had never shown the slightest inclination to make themselves known where quivering, her skin felt like it was on fire being constantly agitated by the rough caress of her clothing, and her thighs were clenched firmly together, as though that would help her ignore the need. Every second vaulted her higher, until she wasn't sure if it was blood coursing through her veins or an aphrodisiac-laced lava. The wanting was fierce, and fast becoming painful. And the only relief to be had would come from the very man who was controlling the explosive desire.
The ironic cruelty was not lost on her.
But where she had been willing to venture this morning was no longer an option; though she wanted Jareth more than she wanted to breathe, she could no longer ignore the fact that casting her fate into his hands was a risky venture, at best. At worst, it was a binding life-sentence with no escape clause. Funny how just this morning she hadn't been able to picture life without him, but he had scared her enough that she was willing to try.
One of Jareth's hands dipped down from her waist, playing lightly over a thigh that was much too happy for the attention. The other hand wrapped around her to grab her chin, forcing her gaze to the bed. "Look Sarah," he murmured, "look at how it could be if you would stop fighting me every step of the way."
She didn't want to; the last thing she needed was to get a peak of what could ease an arousal that was quickly turning into physical torture. But the grip on her chin was relentless and, want it or not, she was looking at the bed.
Sarah's brain wanted to melt. She wasn't sure what was more appropriate: horror or increased arousal.
A ghostly sort of vision occupied the bed, nearly opaque but hazy around the edges. And Sarah watched in increasing shock as a spectral version of herself was mercilessly teased to climax by a spectral Jareth. A glowing silver body wrapped sensuously around lightly tanned skin, the ethereal glow catching the cold metal of an amulet in the dark, and making it look as though the coupling was nearly powerful enough to create its own light. Pants and cries rent the air, the woman coming down from an orgasmic high with eyes that still spoke of need. With a roll of his lean hips, the man entered her still quivering flesh and, right around the moment that the other woman moaned in ecstasy, Sarah knew she would do almost anything to receive that kind of pleasure, to be released from the heady spell that had been cast over her.
Anything but surrender.
It wasn't solely fear guiding her actions, although that had a great deal to do with it. It was a responsibility to her family. They were all trapped Underground and she could be the only one who knew of a way home. If that meant overcoming a lust so powerful it was nearly like a drug, then so be it.
The vision faded, but the lovers never broke apart as they slowly ceased to be; the hand at her thigh never stopped its idle stroking and Sarah wanted to cry out at how cruel Jareth was truly being. How could she be shown something like that, in the state she was in, and be expected to walk away?
She wasn't, and that was the problem. Whatever his motivations, Jareth was playing to win this time around, and apparently didn't intend to pull any of his punches like last time.
It was strange to realize that he had pulled his punches back then, but it was the only thing that made sense. If the Labyrinth had been built as a defense and weapon for war, then the only way she could have gotten through it was because it had been toned down for her. Like she was fond of saying, it was easy to defeat an enemy who was blinded by love.
She stilled at that thought. Could it be that simple? Sarah thought through a haze of hormones.
She was in his heart, trying to solve some sort of Labyrinth, and she hadn't known what to do because she had been looking too far away. Where you belong, he had said; which meant that she had had the answer all along. There wasn't anything to solve, because she already knew that Jareth loved her; how could she not, the man had all but tied her up and staked a claim.
"It's me, isn't it?" she whispered thickly, trying to keep the husky note out of her voice.
The curse behind her was immediate and vicious. Jareth's arms tightened convulsively. "You cannot return Above, Sarah. You've absorbed too much magic. It would just result in a slow and painful death for you," the words were quiet, laced with the same fear and desperation as during a similar encounter. "I will not let you go."
"That's the answer to this Labyrinth," she went on, once again heedless to his pleading. "It's not that you have no power over me," because, apparently, he had a lot of power, not over her, but in her, "but that I have power over you."
The world went dark, a mournful and enraged wail behind her the only sound that entered the black void.
When next Sarah opened her eyes it was to be greeted by the sight of her cozy, but Spartan bedroom. Home, she marveled in both delight and disappointment, she was home! But two details had changed since the last time she had been in her room.
The first was that around her neck, held by a short and delicate chain, was Jareth's amulet. She had never seen him without it, but when she moved to take it off for a quick study, the thing refused to budge; the chain either snared, or shortened itself, but the end result was that it refused to be pulled over her head.
The second thing she noticed was that a piece of paper had been slipped beneath the silent and stagnant hourglass on her vanity table. On weak legs, Sarah rose from her bed and took the note in hand. The curling script that greeted her was shakier than she had ever seen it.
You have destroyed me in more ways then you could ever imagine. You may have won your freedom, and that of your family, but know this: it will never end, this is not something you can escape.
Is it possible for a woman to never be ready enough to accept her destiny?
Keep the amulet close; it is a sacrifice that will keep you safe. Understand that I have given you what little I have left, and it may very well haunt you until the end of your days.
Our paths will cross again, Sarah. Fate is uncanny in that way. Will you be ready to accept responsibility for what you've done when that day comes?
Remember the mirror.
A/N: Your author is simultaneously thrilled at her achievement, happy for having just turned 20, and terrified that angry readers are going to come after her with pitchforks for what she's done. (Isn't third person fun?) THERE IS A SEQUEL!Just give me a little time to see if I want to do a small Labyrinth side-project before I get to work on the second part of this story.
A lot of people asked about this and, in case this chapter didn't clear things up: no, Jareth and the Labyrinth have NOT re-merged. They just both happen to be in the same place (Jareth's body). Any other questions? Be sure to ask them, because I'm more than happy to answer, or tell you if it will be addressed in the sequel.
There are hordes of lovely ladies I would like to thank for helping me get through this endeavor. I've made a lot of new friends, and I'd list you all but I would hate for someone to feel slighted because I forgot a name. Thank you all, you've really made writing this a learning and growing experience.
This chapter has been dedicated to Kaline Reine, for submitting the 700th review!
Please Review! I can't tell you how thrilling it is to hear your thoughts.
Disclaimer: I do not own anything having come from the movie Labyrinth.