The final chapter and I have to say that I'm sorry to end this fic, the number of reviews I have received has been amazing and humbling, and I want to thank everyone who read and reviewed over the course of this little work. Thanks out to those who reviewed the last chapter: draegon-fire, InuLvr7, EDouble, vickster223, Anna McNarin, notwritten, Me, VampiricSlayer, Sintar, yodeladyhoo (thanks for being a sounding board when I needed it, and taking a certain someone off my hands when he got too much), ScarlethasPheonixpower, aeenc, Avispa, angeloneous, silver.shadow.23 (your reviews continue to make me laugh hysterically each time I read them), sweetbabby33, Weirdness Rocks and FaerieatHeart13 (a lot of my improvements seem to be down to you, I thank you again.)
Thanks out to you all. I won't leave you waiting any longer.
Chapter Thirty: Ending.
As he approached his study door, Jareth heard a muffled thump. Fearing the worst he pushed the door opened. What he saw horrified him. Marissa had Sarah by the hair, forcing the face of the woman he loved into the burning fire. The Queen's face was twisted into an expression of maniacal glee and he did not think before grabbing her arm and flinging her away from his beloved. Marissa hit the floor, her head making sharp contact with the leg of the chair. Jareth failed to notice, his every thought on Sarah. Blisters were already forming on her face and she was making mewling noises of pain, her eyes unable to form tears, but showing all of her fear and pain. He held her to him as he transported them to the infirmary, shouting for Ades as they arrived in a puff of glitter and smoke.
The elf healer appeared within seconds and as he looked at Sarah, his face took on the sick expression that Jareth had seen there all to often since Marissa had arrived. It was with a measure of reluctance that the Goblin King laid Sarah in the same bed she had spent so many weeks in all those months ago. Now as he looked down at her, her face marred by the blisters and weeping burns, he felt cold fury fill him. All of this was down to his foolish, stubborn pride, allowing himself to be manipulated by a woman he should have sent home years ago. It was then that he remembered that he had left Marissa on the floor of his study, whether conscious or not was something that did not concern him. He summoned a crystal to his hand and looked deep into it. An image began to form as he focused on one particular creature.
"Estor!" He snapped to the captain of his personal guard. The large Higher Goblin shifted in his sleep, then Jareth saw him sit bolt upright.
"My King!" He sounded more than a little surprised and even through his anger, Jareth could understand it.
"Gather your men and have Queen Marissa taken into custody," he saw the goblin frown. "Place her in the oubliette next to the Bog, she should be in my study. If she resists, you have my permission to use force." The frown was replaced with surprise, but to Estor's credit he did not question his king's orders. Jareth turned back to Ades, who was examining Sarah with gentle fingers. Fortunately, Sarah had passed out when Jareth had transported them to the infirmary. "How is she?" He asked, his voice gentle.
"I need to clean these burns and bandage them, but they are beyond my ability to heal," Ades replied quietly, "they will scar." He looked shrewdly at the Goblin King. "I did hear of an incident where you were able to heal some rather nasty burns, Your Majesty." He hinted. Jareth nodded and looked at the unconscious woman.
"The burns I healed were rather worse than those," he noted and Ades looked at him expectantly. Jareth hesitated for a moment. Healing Toya had been different, he had no fear of making anything worse, or causing the girl pain. This time it was more than different. This time it was his Sarah, the woman he loved and he feared that his intervention would cause her pain, he feared that he would make the burns worse. However, with Ades' eyes burning into the side of his face, and his fear at how Sarah would react if she awoke and he had not even tried to help her, he decided that he needed to take Ades' hint and attempt to heal Sarah.
He conjured another crystal, one that glowed with a golden light, and began to pass it carefully over her face. Slowly the weeping blisters began to vanish, the angry red began to fade and Sarah's face started to return to it's normal beauty. Ades laid a gentle hand on the King's arm, stopping him from completing the healing process, seeing the magic within Sarah beginning to fight the foreign power that caressed her.
"This last must heal naturally," he whispered, "you have taken the worst of the pain and the burns from her, she will not even scar, but you must leave some evidence for her family to see." Jareth glared at the healer, loathe to leave Sarah in any pain or with any form of disfigurement, how ever short lived it would be, then he nodded and the crystal vanished. He passed his hand over his weary face and sank into a chair that Ades had placed behind him as he had healed the woman he loved. He was exhausted, he had not slept in nearly two days and now he had all of this to deal with.
Ades watched his king for some time before he dared to speak.
"You should retire, My King, save this unpleasantness for the morning." Jareth glared at him and Ades knew that getting the King to leave would be nigh on impossible. "Of course, I will have one of the spare cots brought in here for you to sleep on, so that you will be here when she wakes." He added quickly and was rewarded with a nod of approval. As he scurried away to organise the moving of the bed, Estor marched in, coming to a rapid halt and salute, his face blanching under his pale fur when he saw the burns on Sarah's face, minor though they now were.
"What is it?" Jareth demanded, not liking the way the Higher Goblin was staring. Estor saluted again and looked at his King.
"The Queen has been detained and placed in the oubliette as ordered, Sire!" He reported. Jareth nodded once.
"Did she give you any trouble?"
"No, Sire, she was unconscious when we found her, but she woke when we arrived at the mouth of the oubliette. She is demanding to see you, My King." Jareth sighed and looked back at Sarah. He was in no mood to deal with Marissa, no mood to leave the sleeping woman on the bed, and not up to a confrontation of any sort. Let Marissa stay in the hole for the night, let her stew. He would not deal with her now.
"My thanks, Estor, I will deal with her when I have rested. She can stay there for the rest of time for all I care." He dismissed the guard with a wave of his hand and Estor saluted sharply as he made his exit, eyes resting on Sarah once more before he finally left as Ades' two assistants struggled over with the bed. Jareth looked at them, his mismatched eyes glowing in the dim light, then nodded his thanks, waited until they left and climbed onto the bed, lying on top of the sheets and turning so that he could watch Sarah as he drifted into sleep.
When Sarah awoke the next morning her face was tight and painful enough to bring tears to her eyes. It took her a few moments to remember why and a few more moments to remember that she had been rescued.
"Jareth," she breathed the name of her savior, winced as even her lips hurt, and turned to look across from her where she could actually hear a mans soft breathing. The movement hurt and she suppressed a moan as she saw the shock of blonde hair. Jareth's face, he was looking towards her even though his eyes were closed, was so peaceful in sleep, relaxed in a way that seemed to take years off him, a place where the cares of his kingdom could not get to him. She risked a smile and mewled in pain as the dry, damaged skin cracked. At the sound, Jareth's eyes flew open and she saw him smile at her, then his eyes filled with concern and over the pain of her burnt skin she felt a new trickling, stinging pain. Her cracked cheeks were bleeding and she felt tears fall, adding another level to the torment she was already in.
"Oh, my Sarah," he whispered, desperate to touch her and not wanting to make things worse. "Ades!" He called and the elf healer was there in seconds. He looked at the woman in front of him, saw her anguish and turned to his king.
"There is little you can do here, Your Majesty, I suggest that you freshen up and complete the duties upon you from last night. I will care for Sarah and swear to you that I will call you when I am finished." Jareth glared at Ades, noted the pleading in Sarah's eyes and took her hand in his, kissing the back of it, though he longed to place a soft kiss on her lips.
"I will return later, My Love. Marissa needs to be dealt with." A single tear leaked out from Sarah's right eye, and without thinking Jareth brushed it away. Sarah flinched but did not cry out, telling him with her eyes what it hurt too much to try and say. Then he was gone and Sarah turned to Ades.
"Bring me a mirror," she muttered, barely moving her lips. "Please, Ades, please." The elf shook his head and moved to tend to her wounds. She pushed him away. "A mirror, Ades." She insisted, and the elf reluctantly gave in. He was gone only a matter of moments before returning with a small hand mirror, watching as Sarah looked at herself, deep, terrible pain in her eyes and the tears being held back by shear force of will alone. She stared for a few moments, transfixed, then flung the mirror away from her. It shattered on the stone floor and she simply shrugged and looked in front of her, avoiding Ades worried gaze as best she could.
"The King did his best, but he could not heal you all the way. I was forced to stop him, the damage it would cause you would have been irreparable. Your body needs to be able to heal on its own, and the magic you had absorbed from the last time he helped to heal you was beginning to fight. You will heal, with time, you will not even scar, he was able to do that much for you." Ades explained gently.
"Does he know?"
"No, it would destroy him to think that his own magic could cause you more harm than good." Sarah merely nodded and looked away as Ades began to tend to her face.
Though he knew the oubliette smelt worse that terrible, Jareth kept his expression neutral and his eyes hard. He would need all of his strength to keep from throttling Marissa as soon as he laid eyes on her. The temptation, of course, was to leave her in the oubliette and forget about her, continue his life with Sarah as though Marissa had never existed. Unfortunately, he did not have that option. Before he had come, he had called in the representatives of the High Council, he had decided that enough was enough. He would not keep Marissa locked away for three weeks and he most certainly would not allow her to run free either. He wanted her gone and he wanted it done now, before he did something that may start a war with the Fairy Kingdom.
"Jareth!" He heard Marissa shriek from the other side of the dark hole and he called a crystal of light, suspending it above his head so that he could see her. Like the place she was now in, Marissa was covered in dirt, black and gooey lumps stuck to her clothes and skin. He suppressed a smirk, knowing that he had already pushed her almost over the edge.
"You screamed," he muttered and silently cursed Sarah as a bad influence.
"How dare you! How dare you! Let me go! Release me from this, this, this..."
"Hole?" He suggested and this time he did smirk. "Give me one good reason why I should." He challenged. It took her only a second to reply and it was what he had known she would say.
"Because I am your wife! What other reason does there need to be?" Her voice rose.
"How is that a reason?" Jareth laughed coldly, his eyes flat and dangerous. "You are my wife in name only and are as pure as the day you were given over to me. Unless you have something you want to tell me." She did not miss the implications of his words and she fell silent, staring and suddenly afraid. "You will remain here until the Council arrives, they should be here in a couple of days. I will end this, Marissa."
Jareth washed before he returned to the infirmary, the scent of the bog tainted air clung to his clothes and hair and left him feeling more than a little nauseated. There was a reason why he never went into the Bog, though he doubted that many realised that the smell stayed with them for hours after. He could have used his magic to dry his hair, could have gone to her in his normal, perfect, smug way, but he did not. He wanted her to see him, as he was, is, has always been. He wanted to make her understand that he wants her in all the parts of his life. When he arrived, there had been no smile, no look of joy or happiness or completion on her face or in her eyes. There was only despair and pain, terror and worry and even though he did not want to acknowledge it, Jareth knew why. He could see the burns, shining under the healing creams, thick with magic and nature. He could see the way her hands clenched into the blankets stretched over her and how she turned to avoid his gaze. He did not care, she was alive and if she could not appreciate that, he would have to show her.
"Sarah," he whispered her name and still it sounded so much like the soft caress of a trembling hand over innocent skin, that she turned for the briefest of moments to look at him and he could see her heart in her eyes. He could sense the reason behind her fear and he was sat on the edge of the bed before a thought about self preservation could stop him. What he wanted to do was to touch her cheek and tell her that everything would be alright, he found himself with his hand halfway there before he had been able to stop himself and he saw the tears form in her eyes.
"Why are you here?" She asked, her lips barely moving, her eyes darting from him as she once again turned her face away.
"I would have thought that was obvious," he purred and took once too tense hand in his gloved ones.
"How can you even stand to look at me? I know that you can't bare to touch me!" The words were hissed with a measure of spite that he had almost expected, even though he noted that she had conveniently ignored the way that her hand was clinging to his.
"I don't want to put you in any more pain, Sarah. I love you, and I will love you no matter how you appeared before me. If you were a troll with seven heads, I could not love you any more or less than I do now." He kept his voice quiet, not wanting anyone else in the room to hear his honest confession, but now amazed at how much lighter and easier he felt with her, now that he had told her the complete truth. Her only response was to turn her damaged face back to him, her eyes wide and incredulous. If he could have kissed her in that moment without causing her pain and injury, he would have done it and to Hades with the consequences. He settled for raising her hand to his lips and placing a long and lingering kiss there, not caring that he had not had a response to his honesty.
Sarah had allowed herself a moment of doubt before he had kissed her hand, the way his lips had seemed so desperate just to feel her there and she was upset when she realised that she could not find the words or the expression to tell him how deeply he had touched her and how much he was a part of her soul. She settled for returning the gesture, feeling the way her lips screamed at her as she did so and trying not to wince and ruin the moment. His smile was all she needed and she settled into the pillows, content to watch with a smile in her eyes.
"I've called for representatives of the council to come here as soon as they can." He told her quietly. "I'm pushing the divorce though before I do something truly foolish."
"Like what?" She whispered, suddenly more alert than she had been all day.
"Loose you," he shifted so that he could lie next to her on the cramped bed, resting one hand under his head as he laid the other on her stomach. She flinched a little as he came into contact with bruised flesh but did not complain. "Or kill Marissa and start a war, take your pick." He was rewarded with a flash of amusement in her eyes and he knew that she was trying not to smile by the way her lips were trembling. They lay in comfortable silence for a long while until a Torel breezed into the room. He looked at his King, lying with the woman he loved on the cramped little bed and smiled.
"The council has arrived, Sire," he informed Jareth and was rewarded by an angry glare. Then Jareth rose, kissed Sarah's hand again, looked at her in a way that said that he longed to do more, and lead his steward from the room.
Jareth sipped his wine as he looked down the table at the six representatives of the Underground Council. Six other rulers who would now have a hand in deciding his future. It was this that he had dreaded for the last three hundred years, feared that they would not see Marissa for what she really was and accuse him of being a foolish and malicious child. To his right down the table sat Marissa's father, Tirith, the Fairy King, followed by Mestral, the MerKing and Solor, the Sun Lord. To Jareth's left was his uncle, Andros, Rilton's father, followed by Nemilia, the Unicorn Queen and Arelli, the Lady of the Moon. Each were opposites, Elf and Fairy long since opposed to each other for reasons lost beyond time, Unicorns and Merfolk never had been able to see eye to eye and the reasons for the enmity between Sun Lord and the Lady of the Moon never did really bare thinking about. Jareth just knew that this meeting would descend into petty bickering and back stabbing, at his expense, made all the worse that he had been given no time to prepare for their arrival, they had responded to his summons with unprecedented speed.
"Noble Majesties," he hated that part too, he was the Goblin King, guardian of the portals to the Above and the Unwanted. Of all of them, he should have been the most powerful. Instead they would shun him, calling him the Lord of Thieves, the Golden Tongued Trickster and a number of other, less flattering names. He hoped for his sake that they would do the right thing and sent out a silent thanks to passing, minor deities, that Solor was among the group.
"We know why you have called us, Nephew," Andros told him, sending an unpleasant shiver through Jareth as he looked at the man that could have been Rilton's mirror image. "But you still have three weeks until you can officially apply to divorce Marissa, unless you have proof of infidelity," he leered, trying to catch Marissa's scent on Jareth and finding only anger. "Not that I would blame her." He added after that and was rewarded by glares from all others in attendance.
"Really, Andros," Nemilia muttered, her voice soft, like moonbeams and it reminded Jareth that she was strongly allied with Arelli. "Must you be crude every time we meet?" Solor laughed and Jareth gifted the gathered royals with one of his patented smirks.
"Must we always behave like children?" He asked, aware that such longevity as theirs usually resulted in some sort of mental regression at some point. "I wish to hasten my divorce, not because Marissa has been unfaithful, but rather because I begin to fear for the safety of the Taken."
"Begin?" Arelli questioned and he remembered that she had visited him on more than one occasion where Marissa's victim had been severely injured.
"Very well, I have feared for them for nearly three hundred years. However, yesterday night, Marissa attacked one of the maids, who has been under my personal protection since an incident nearly seven months ago, attacked her by pushing her face into a burning fire and holding her there, content to let the girl, and her own hands, burn in vengeance for some imagined insult. I can no longer tolerate her in my castle and my home." The other royals looked at him and he hoped that they would not make the undesirable connection between the incident seven months before and Sarah. They did not and he breathed a hidden sigh of relief.
"I find it hard to believe you could care so for a mortal slave over my daughter and her beauty." Tilith laughed, though no one at the table shared his mirth, many having a greater respect for life, mortal or not, than the Fairy King seemed to. Jareth clapped his hands and Marissa was brought in, wearing chains, and the filthy dress that she had been wearing the night before. Her burnt hands had not even been treated and they were covered in weeping blisters. Still, they were in better condition than Sarah's face had been when she had arrived in the infirmary and Jareth found that he was enjoying the obvious pain Marissa's hands were causing her. Tilith stood with an angry yell, his normally cool facade vanishing, Mestral frowned and leaned in to mutter to Solor who nodded and seemed about to speak when Tilith began to shout.
"What man would do this to his wife? To my daughter, a noble princess of the Underground?" Mestral chuckled darkly and it was Solor who prevented Jareth from having to reply.
"As I would treat such a whore," he flicked his brilliant red hair back over his shoulders and nodded to the Goblin King, a close friend and ally. "No matter how diplomatic my brother monarch has been, I can smell the other men on her." Marissa had seemed contrite and afraid when she had entered, now she let herself go.
"What else was I supposed to do? That impotent fool does not have it in himself to satisfy me!" She pointed a finger at Jareth, then fell silent as her father hushed her.
"You would reject the generous gift I gave you?" Tilith demanded instead. "Treat her as nothing more than a slave and expect her to cater to your every whim whilst the servants are treated better? No this I will not stand for! I withdraw my daughter from this marriage, one that has so obviously never been consummated, and I warn you, Goblin King, that I will be interrogating her most closely on your treatment of her."
"By all means," Jareth's smile was cold, but his eyes glittered with amusement.
"Be warned, if you have mistreated her in any other way, I will not hesitate to take you, and your pathetic realm, to task." With that the Fairy Queen and his daughter were gone. Jareth looked at the gathered royals and spread his hands helplessly.
"I apologise, if I had known that treating Marissa in that manner would have been all it would take to get Tilith to take her away, I would have done it years ago, and spared you the inconvenience of leaving your Kingdoms."
"It does not matter, My Friend," Solor assured him, "I am merely glad I got to see you rid of that hag." He nodded to the others. "Come my brothers and sisters, let us leave Jareth to his new found freedom. The others all vanished, but Solor stayed for a moment longer. "It's Sarah, isn't it?" He questioned laughed as Jareth scowled and crossed his arms over his chest. "do not worry, My Friend, your secret is safe with me for as long as you wish me to keep it." With one last chuckle, he too, vanished.
Sarah's face healed rapidly, in part due to Ades constant ministrations and mostly due to the Fae magic she seemed to have absorbed from Jareth and Rilton. Soon it was clear to Jareth that she would return to her former beauty without a mark, physically, to show for her torture. He had spent as much time in the infirmary with her as he could each day, they talked easily and often he would read to her. One day, two weeks later, on his search for another book to read to her, aware that she had told him repeatedly that it was not necessary and delighting in this little thing that she would let him do, he continued and found a book that they had started seven months before and never finished.
"Guess what I found," he muttered in her ear after he had kissed her in greeting. Sarah had to admit that his kisses were something she would never tire of and the feel of his lips against her ear made her wish that she was no longer confined to the infirmary.
"What did you find?" She rose to the bait, he let one eyebrow drift up slightly and she scowled at him. He laughed at her and held up the book, Persuasion and he saw her lips part with a small gasp of surprise.
"We never did finish it, and I, for one, would like to see how it ends." She allowed him a small smile of encouragement and allowed herself to drift to the sound of his voice, simply content that he was there.
Nearly a month after Marissa had left the castle, Sarah was released from the infirmary, her face completely healed and her heart full. She stood with Jareth by the window of his study, looking out at the now complete Goblin City, the new buildings gleaming in the light of the setting sun. behind them, the fire burned next to the remains of a simple meal for two, half a bottle of wine stood forgotten by the empty glasses. Jareth had his arms wrapped tightly around Sarah as she looked at the beauty that had been created from the complete destruction her actions had caused. She sighed and rested her cheek against his chest, enjoying the way the soft material of his shirt felt against her skin.
"You know," she mused, "despite everything that I've been through to get here. I wouldn't change a thing." Her voice was full of half sleep content and in that moment, Jareth understood.
"I would change a few things, Dearest," he kissed the top of her head and she made a small noise. "I would never have given you to Marissa..." she silenced him with a kiss.
"Change nothing. It was Marissa that made me realise how I feel for you." They stood together for some time, just enjoying the sunset, knowing that they had others to enjoy for the rest of their time, but that none would be so perfect as this first.
There, it's over. Done and dusted, there may be a sequel, I'm not sure, I haven't really got much of an idea for one and we all know that I have another fic to finish anyway. Of all of this I think I will miss Rilton most of all (even if his antics did give me a migraine whilst I was writting this, which may be why it's a little weird) All comments are welcome and if I get anything which helps me to improve this last chapter, I will use it and give credit where credit is due. Please R&R, lets get me up to 400 reviews, guys!