A/N: Okay, I just want to say a few things. This is it, the final chapter. I just finished the last sentence and sat and had a little weep at my keyboard. This story first popped into my head seven years ago, and I thought the concept was interesting, but was convinced it would be over in five chapters, at the most. I never dreamed it would evolve and develop the way it did, and the characters kept doing things that surprised (and frustrated) me. There were so many ways I wanted this story to end, it was a bit of a "Choose Your Own Adventure" scenario. In the end I just had to plunge ahead and choose one.

I battle severe anxiety at times, and with this comes a fear of finishing/completing projects, self sabotage, blah blah. But right now I'd like to say, despite all it's plot holes and imperfections, I am so proud of myself for finishing this.

I read EVERY review, and although I didn't reply to them all, every single one was an encouragement, even those I received in the "drought" years when there were no updates, and no hopes of any coming. I want you to know that I heard you all, and your support has blown me away.

So here it is. I hope you enjoy it (and oh, I'm fairly sure you will *suggestive eyebrow waggle*). I feel like I really earned this.

I hope finishing this will perhaps free up my brain to write more and if you want me to expand further on my other Labyrinth short stories, tell me which ones!), but for now... I present to you all...

Chapter 23

Healing takes time, and patience. Sarah had had to learn patience in her years in the Underground, which was just as well, for she was now forced to remember the lesson. Her leg was broken cleanly, the bone unshattered, which meant a good recovery if only she would remain still. No longer staying in her garden shed, she had been brought back to the guest chambers she had once spent the night in. It was, Sarah felt, an indication of her changed status. No longer the hired help, upgraded to privileged guest, but still with no clear role or purpose.

After sleeping for nearly three days through, awakening once or twice to cram as much food into his mouth as he could before falling asleep into his plate, Toby was up and back to his usual, mischievous self. He roamed the castle freely, usually trailed by a group of ragged goblins and the odd chicken, and his laughter could often be heard echoing down the hallways, and into the rooms of those who were still abed. He played with human and goblin children alike, and seemed to be thriving in this strange place.

Jareth only allowed Gwyneth to keep him in his chambers for a day and a half. The wound on his head was healing well, and although it pained him almost constantly, his hand was healing also. To Gwyneth, it looked as though the skin had been completely burned off the surface of his palm and fingers. There was no reason it should not heal well, provided her pig-headed cousin could be persuaded to only use it lightly.

Caoilainn's recovery was slower. The wound covered a large part of her face, from the middle of her forehead across to her cheek to her right ear. She had been sleep and food deprived as Toby had, but was not recovering from her ordeal as swiftly as he. Infection set in, and Gwyneth was kept fully occupied for a few days, battling it as best she could with tinctures and poultices, reinforced with healing magic. It was unclear as to the fate of her damaged eye, and Jareth's forehead seemed to be permanently creased with worry.

Cuinn's body had been borne solemnly back to the castle, and with a ceremony which all attended, with the exception of those who could not leave their rooms, had been interred with honour in the crypts that belonged to Jareth's own family. The walls, stairs, every nook and cranny, had been crowded with goblins, humans, and Fae. Jareth had stood, pale and still battle marked, for a long time at the entrance to the tomb, even after the door had been sealed. Only Gwyneth dared approach to stand beside him, and only she saw the deep emotions on his face that he struggled to keep under control. She said nothing, only stood nearby until he turned and strode towards the stairs that led back up to the castle hall.

Sarah had found her way down to the kitchens one afternoon, when Gwyneth released her from complete bedrest, and she was given a wooden crutch to make getting about easier. Cruet sat her down at once and fed her a feast of good things, and told her what she wanted to know about the Lady Caoilainn. Sarah now recognized her from the tales Cruet had told her before, and heard all that the cook knew about their former dalliance. She shrank from this knowledge, although she never asked Cruet to stop telling her everything. Knowing that she had no right to feel that way, no claim on the time or affections of the Goblin King, even after what had happened to them both, she fought back guilt and jealousy. The Lady had saved her brother for her, almost at the cost of her own life, and Sarah was so very grateful towards her.

She even stood in the doorway of Caoilainn's room one afternoon, leaning on her crutch, watching the sleeping face of the still-beautiful noblewoman, her sunset hair clean now and spread over the pillow, skin pale where it remained uncovered by bandages. She took care never to be there when the Lady was awake, as she felt awkward and clumsy around her, not knowing how to react or how to appropriately express her feelings. Jareth spent many hours sitting with Caoilainn, holding one hand, giving her the news of the new High King when she was awake. Sarah tried not to think about it. Jareth had seen her very little since they had returned to his palace, apart from visiting her once or twice while she was still bedridden. During those visits he had only stood in the doorway, asked after her health in what she felt was a very dispassionate tone, and taken his leave after a few uncomfortable sentences. Sarah felt the potency of their connection fading away, and wondered if perhaps she had imagined its strength. Now and then the scarred handprint on her shoulder throbbed and ached, and she rubbed it with her hand, trying to forget how it had come to be.

Gwyneth had her own theories on what had occurred in the High King's palace. She felt sure that the unusual bond that had been formed had to do with the blood that had been on Jareth's hand when he reached out to touch Sarah, having cut his own palms with his fingernails. Blood was a powerful factor in working magic, and particularly in sealing magical contracts. His own grandfather had first forged his bond to the land with a blood seal. A combination of need, force of will, and timing had caused Sarah to become almost like a booster, amplifying Jareth's magic to a level higher than it usually reached. Their connection had also been strong enough to reach the source of their magic at the centre of the Labyrinth, and, feeling their need, it had responded instinctively by pulling magic from every available source that it could, before sending it to the two of them. There was no way of knowing for sure without experimentation, and Sarah found she simply was not willing to repeat such an experience. Parts of her mind still felt as though they were turned inside out, and she now avoided Jareth as willingly as he seemed to be avoiding her.

Several weeks passed, and the air grew cooler. Harvest time was over, and leaves fell from trees in great swathes of scarlet, yellow, and orange. Sarah abandoned her crutch, and apart from time spent playing with and getting to know Toby all over again, found she had very little to do. Although she had heard through castle gossip that Eamon had been pardoned and released to his former duties, guilt at her part in his imprisonment kept her away from the stables. From force of habit she found herself wandering down to Gwyneth's workplace again and again, and picking up where she had left off so abruptly. Gwyneth said nothing when Sarah joined her the first time, only raised one eyebrow and gave a faint smile of welcome.

She began to fall into her old rhythm, rising early and going out to the gardens, careful to keep her new, finer garments from becoming dirty, and the working with Gwyneth inside preparing medicines and teas. Her roughly chopped off hair was beginning to grow again, although it still remained scandalously short in the eyes of many women in the castle. There was less to do outside as time went on, the whole garden beginning to hunker down for the cold season. During the quieter times, Gwyneth taught her what she could about controlling her magic, how to contain, focus, and use it intentionally, rather than as a response to danger. It took Sarah some time to grasp the concepts that she was being shown, but once she understood the basic principle, she learned quickly.

She was sitting in Gwyneth's work room alone, on a high wooden stool, when he found her, the late afternoon setting sun streaming in through the glass doors. Her pale, fine linen dress glowed orange in the sun's setting rays. As she had so often since that day, she seemed to be staring blankly into nothing, eyes unfocused. Jareth entered quietly, not wanting to startle her. She did not look up when he came in, even though she knew very well who it was entering the room so silently. The joining of magic that had occurred between them meant that both were aware of the other's presence at all times. Sarah found it disconcerting, as though part of her was always walking somewhere else. He came and stood beside her at the workbench. He was dressed for riding, and had already spent much of the day in the saddle, surveying some of the damage that had been wrought to the outer walls of the city and the labyrinth beyond. It was nothing that could not be repaired, given time and resources, but with the weather growing colder each day, it was work that had to be completed soon.

Wincing a little, Jareth pulled the riding gloves slowly from his hands. The handprint he had left on Sarah's shoulder was healing now, gradually fading from a dark purple to red, and he traced it lightly with his fingertips. His right hand had healed enough that he could uncurl it properly, although the scar tissue matched Sarah's for colour. They were each indelibly marked from the experience, physically as well as mentally. Sarah turned her head at his touch, acknowledging his presence for the first time.

"It still aches, you know. My leg as well."

"Yes, I know." He flexed his fingers once more, trying to work out the stiffness made worse by holding the reins all day.

"Is Lady Caoilainn…?" she let the question hang.

"Gwyneth has reached the end of her expertise, I'm afraid. The scarring has been minimised, but I am afraid she has lost the vision in her eye." he frowned as he spoke, and Sarah closed her eyes, guilt written on her face.

"I owe her so much… she protected Toby, kept him safe, when I didn't know how." Burying her face in her hands, she shuddered, reliving the experience, imagining how it could have ended differently. Taking in a deep, shaking breath, Sarah ran her hands over her cropped hair with fingers that trembled slightly. "It's probably time for me - for us, to go back. Past time, really." She laughed bitterly. Jareth placed both hands on the wooden countertop. His voice was carefully expressionless as he spoke.

"Back. Yes, I suppose it is the proper way it should be. After all, your family will be aware of Toby's disappearance and searching for both of you now." His brows drew together over the bridge of his nose, and a scowl now appeared on his face. Sarah tried to look anywhere but at him, feeling her eyes grow hot and stinging. After all the destruction her presence had ultimately caused, she was sure he would be pleased to see the back of her head, magical bond or no. Perhaps being in her own world would lessen the intensity of it, make it less uncomfortable to bear.

Sliding off the stool and onto the ground, Sarah winced a little at the ache in her leg, favouring it slightly to ease the pain. She turned to walk towards the outer door leading to the garden, and paused. Jareth had not moved, both hands still on the bench top. She noticed that his fingers were curved slightly, as though he was digging them into the wood.

"Jareth." He said nothing, but turned to her after a moment, angular face seemingly carved from stone. Slowly, carefully, she reached out a hand towards him, stopping short of touching his arm. "After all that happened, after all that we went through together…" she stopped, and swallowed. His eyes were on her, and, as the sun slipped below the garden walls, they darkened also. More daring now, she took his scarred right hand, turned it over, and lifted it to her mouth.

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry…" timidly she pressed her lips to the ugly purple scar, feeling an answering twinge in her shoulder as she did so. Not daring now to look him in the face, she let go of it and turned from him quickly to leave the room. She had just reached the door, still limping, when a hand caught her arm from behind, and suddenly in one movement she was spun around, and pulled towards Jareth. A cry of pain as her bad leg gave way was muffled by his hungry, insistent lips on hers. It was nothing like her fantasies, and nothing like the clumsy advances of boys she had known in school. It was rough, and awkward, and felt like she had touched an open wire. Jareth smelled like dirt and leather and horse, his mouth now moving from hers to trail over her face to her ear, where he hungrily nipped at her earlobe, his tongue darting out to taste her skin. She gasped, feeling as though the breath had been driven from her lungs. Moving down to her neck, he fastened there none too gently, and she could feel his slightly pointed teeth digging into her skin as he alternately sucked and bit.

His arms held her up, kept her from falling, and she clung to his shirt with one hand, the other reaching up to bury itself in his pale hair. His hands were everywhere at once, as though he needed to know every inch of her was indeed there. A moan escaped from her lips before she could stop it, and he growled into her neck in answer, the vibrations of his voice sending shivers down her spine. His hands now found her backside, and he lifted her into the air, turning them around and moving until Sarah felt the wooden countertop pressing into the base of her spine. He lifted her up onto it and she tried to wrap her legs around his waist, but found her skirts were getting in the way. Impatiently, Jareth reached down and grasped one side of her skirt, and pulled sharply, the material giving way with a loud rip. Shocked, Sarah was about to protest the ruin of her garment when Jareth claimed her mouth once more with his own.

She pressed herself into him, legs as tightly wrapped around him as her injury would allow, and with her hands began to tug off his riding jacket, sliding her palms over his chest as she did so. The leather jacket fell to the ground, and she pulled at the laces of his shirt. The sound of glass breaking behind her made her pause for a moment and turn her head, lips leaving Jareth's to see what they had shattered. With an impatient noise, he reached behind her to sweep all of Gwyneth's bottles and glassware from the counter in a single motion, sending them smashing to the floor. The noise seemed to waken her from the daze she had fallen into, and she turned to face Jareth now, her eyes uncertain. His face was in shadow and he spoke in a low voice, almost a snarl.

"You are mine now, mine. We belong to each other, I know you feel it, you've felt the connection between us. We are no longer separate." As he spoke she knew it was true. Leaving? It was unthinkable, laughable. She might as well consider leaving her arms or legs behind. Their souls had become tangled into each other, magic unifying the two. To separate now would be to suffer. She looked into his eyes, and in reply leaned forward and kissed his mouth, gently at first, then with growing confidence as she felt him leaning further into their embrace. Their tongues brushed against each other, tasting, exploring, exchanging hot breaths. Her hands became occupied once more with untying the laces of his linen shirt, which was stained with sweat and dirt. Jareth's hands slid up the outside of her thighs, and she felt herself jump as they reached her rough linen undergarments. Just as she was wondering how much of a barrier they would pose, she felt his fingers slide up inside them, and with a jerk and another sound of tearing cloth, they came away. Sarah was sure she would be bruised where the fabric had pulled against her waist before it gave way.

She pulled clumsily at the last of the ties on his shirt and pushed it off his shoulders, her fingers feeling the myriad of small scars left behind there, and the crescent shaped pendant he always wore shone dully in the lantern light. Jareth left her mouth abruptly and began to kiss her neck once more, his hands sliding still further up underneath her dress, halted only by the tightness of the laces that bound her bodice. Before he could completely destroy the dress, Sarah hurriedly undid the laces that ran down the front of the garment. Jareth took it as an invitation and ran his mouth down her neck, across her collarbone, and stopping once to press a kiss to the scarred handprint on her shoulder, descended yet lower.

Everywhere that he touched her, with hands, lips and even his hair brushing against her skin, was like being on fire. It felt so much like the magic that had washed around them in the High Kings's chamber, that when Sarah closed her eyes in ecstasy, she was not surprised to see the now familiar colour of their magic, flowing in and around both of them. Her eyes flew open again when she felt his mouth on the side of her breast, both his hands busy pushing the dress down off her shoulders. The room was mostly in shadow now, lit only by a single lantern glowing on a chain hung from the ceiling, but she still felt exposed and vulnerable. He gave her little time to dwell on the feeling, his mouth busy on her body, every flick of his tongue sending stabs of lightning into her belly.

Her hands stopped moving, as she was overwhelmed by sensation, until he growled low once more and took one of them, guiding it downwards along his own body. There was no mistaking his intent, nor the extent of his desire for her, as she felt the hardness of him through the fabric. A little apprehensive now, she tugged at the first button of his linen riding breeches. It came undone, and she moved onto the second, encouraged by the noises he made as her hands moved over him. The third button was not so co-operative, and his mouth moved to her nipple, causing her to arch her back and lose her grip on it. A high pitched moan came from the back of her throat, and the sound seemed to drive Jareth to greater industry, his tongue circling, pressing his body even closer to hers. He was all lean muscle and heat, and she knew every place they touched as though he was burning her. Her hands reached out to hold onto him, nails digging into the skin of his back hard enough to make him raise his head momentarily from the task at which he was occupied.

She took the brief opportunity to renew her attempts on his breeches, fumbling impatiently with the buttons, fingers feeling clumsy and awkward. A tug, and the third button popped, falling to the ground. The fourth button went the same way, and now she slid one hand downwards inside the fabric, eliciting a groan from him, his head falling back, eyes closing. His hips began to move, spiralling slightly, pressing himself into her hand. After a moment he opened his eyes again and looked straight into hers, hands coming up to grasp either side of her head and pull it upwards for a kiss. He roughly delved into her, alternately biting her lips and sucking her tongue into his mouth. Again he groaned, the sound muffled by their kiss, and let go of her face to slide his hands once more up underneath her dress, intending to drive her to distraction just as she was doing to him.

Their breath was almost synchronised now, both gasping rhythmically. Sarah could feel sweat beginning to run down her spine, as she let herself go to the intensity that threatened to overwhelm her. When their bodies finally came together and began to move in unison, it was such a relief that she almost wept. Her leg throbbed horribly, her lips were swollen and sore from Jareth's persistent mouth, and when she went to wrap her arms around Jareth's neck, she found they were still tangled somewhat in her sleeves. All these things were minor distractions now, and nothing could have induced her to pull away from him.

As their ardor built, in the air around them were woven very visible strands of leafy green magic, thickening, entwining, binding them together still further. They were matched to each other in strength and intensity, Sarah realised, before she once again was washed away by the feelings that crashed over her like a wave. Jareth had abandoned her mouth and had pressed his face into her shoulder, his breathing ragged on her scar. She could do little herself but hold him to her, hands tangled in his hair. They moved together, seeming to be one body, Sarah's voice came in a rhythmic whine, building in pitch until she found herself groaning deeply, each breath tearing itself from her lungs. Jareth too shuddered, his breathing harsh, and moaned into the side of her neck. They clung to each other, trembling in the aftermath, sweat slick on both their bodies. Sarah was glad she was supported by the bench, because she certainly could not have stood up, even if she wanted to. Just as she was wondering fuzzily if Jareth was tired of standing, she felt him reach to the side and grab a stool, seating himself on it while endeavouring to keep their bodies pressed together as closely as possible.

Once both their hearts had begun to slow, Sarah found herself shivering slightly from the sweat cooling on her body. This roused Jareth and he lifted his head from her shoulder, seeking her eyes in the lamplight. Suddenly self conscious, she found herself unable to look at him. She tried to hide her face from him, but he caught her chin with one hand, and gently moved her head around until she was looking straight at him. She had never seen this expression on his face before, tender, triumphant, and possessive. His eyes gleamed, and he smiled, a lopsided smile that did more to speed her heartbeat than slow it down. He placed his other hand over her heart, and his smile widened feeling the effect he had on her. She shivered again in earnest, feeling the cold night air now that his warmth had moved away from her. Without saying a word, Jareth leaned down and snagged the fabric of his shirt with his long fingers. Lifting it, he took her hand, and began to draw one of the sleeves slowly up her arm. She shivered once more, this time from the sensation of fabric caressing her skin. He draped it behind her and took her other hand, repeating the action with the other sleeve. Being dressed by him was almost as electrifying as being undressed by him had been. Gently he pulled it closed, and while his hands still held the ties, leaned forward and kissed her, tenderly this time, as though trying to soothe the lips he had ravaged in his haste.

Still no words had been spoken between them, but Sarah could think of nothing to say that did not seem trite or commonplace in the face of what had just happened. Their physical joining had been the most natural thing in the world, and had seemed to complete a part of her that had been missing. The place in her heart where she had felt the connection to Jareth form during their battle no longer pained her. It was Jareth who finally spoke, and his voice was warm and tinged with amusement.

"As much as I'd love to parade you back to my chambers this instant, dishevelled and de-robed… I believe I would like to keep you to myself for the rest of this evening." She looked at him quizzically, as he rose, adjusted his breeches, and suddenly swept her off the countertop into his arms, her dress still hanging around her hips, and wearing his shirt. He walked them towards the doors that led outside to the garden, and Sarah was beginning to have an idea what he intended. She smiled to herself, and shivered a little as the cold night air hit them both. Jareth did not appear to be cold, or at least he hid it well, but nonetheless he walked quickly to her little shack against the garden wall.

Nudging the door open with his foot, he summoned a crystal with a nod, and set it to glow inside the darkened lantern hanging from the roof. Sarah could see the room had been tidied since she was there last, but it was still sadly dusty and unused. This did not seem to bother Jareth, and he gently placed her in a seated position on the narrow, uncomfortable bed. He knelt down before her, to her embarrassment, and began to unlace her boots, removing them slowly and deliberately, running his palms up her calves. The action raised goosebumps all over her, and Jareth removed his own boots swiftly before climbing in also, pulling her close in the small bed, and drawing a woollen blanket up over them both. She laid her head on his shoulder and he put both arms around her, turning her on her side.

"One night we must have here, at least. Sarah… under my nose all that time, working in my gardens as a lowly servant…" His grip tightened around her possessively.

Jareth sounded so chagrined that Sarah could not help a laugh escaping her. "You are more offended at the idea that I managed to avoid you for so long, than the idea of my being a servant."

"Perhaps the Labyrinth knew what it was about when it decided you were more than a match for me… Sarah." The way he spoke her name sent a delicious sensation through her, as though his voice caressed every nerve ending in her body. One long-fingered hand slid inside the linen shirt that Sarah wore, and their minds, closely linked as they were, both turned down the same path. This time there was no hurry, only a desire to know each other more fully, and a knowledge unspoken that they had all the time in the world.

Several days passed, and Sarah, Jareth, Toby and Gwyneth were gathered in Jareth's quarters, eating a casual breakfast. Sarah had changed much in the past few days, her eyes clearer, more confident, and her smiles came more freely now than they had in years. Every now and then she would pause what she was doing, and a shadow cross her face, but it never lasted long. Toby was eagerly telling Sarah what he was going to do today with a group of children - it involved fishing in a nearby creek and climbing trees - when the door to Jareth's chambers suddenly opened, and Lady Caoilainn entered. She was dressed in an elegant dress of pale green, which set off her sunset beauty perfectly. Sarah noticed with a start that she now wore a patch over her destroyed eye, made of fine white leather. Strangely, it only seemed to enhance her face, which wore an amused half smile. Jareth had leapt to his feet when she entered and gallantly handed her into a chair, although she scarcely needed his assistance. Gwyneth nodded to her, and Toby jumped up and ran to Caoilainn, stopping just short of her and bowing like a courtier, the action having grown more smooth with practice. He grinned and threw himself on her, hugging her tightly. She laughed and returned his embrace.

"I'm glad you're feeling better, Lady." he reached one finger towards her face but did not touch the patch. "Now you look just like a pirate!" Immediately he was on his feet, imaginary sword in hand, hopping around the room and staving off invisible bandits. Sarah blushed at little at his familiarity with such a noble lady, and looked down to her plate, pushing the remains of her meal around with a fork. She had not yet had the opportunity to speak with Caoilainn, to thank her for saving Toby's life, and for her part in the battle. Jareth had leaned forward and was speaking with the Lady in low tones, and although she knew better, she could not help feeling a slight pang at the sight of them together. They were so beautiful, seemingly so well matched. As if he sensed her train of thought, and indeed he likely could, Jareth turned towards Sarah momentarily, looking her in the eyes, reassuring her without words. She flushed and looked down again, but this time with a smile on her face. Jareth stood now, and walking over to Sarah's chair, offered her his arm. She took it and stood slowly, unsure of just what he intended. He drew her over to the Lady's chair.

"Perhaps I should be a good host and introduce you properly, at long last. Lady Caoilainn, Sarah Williams, lately of the world Above." Sarah attempted a curtsey, still a little awkward on her leg, and tried to look the Lady in the eyes. Blood rushed into her face as she did so, and she began to stammer awkwardly.

"My Lady, it is good to meet you… I mean, I know who you are already, Cruet… that is to say, I have heard of…" she broke off, biting her lip, and wanted to stones underneath her to open and swallow her whole. The Lady laughed, a silvery sound, and smiled at Sarah.

"Ah yes, the head cook I believe. I remember him well, a funny little fellow, responsible for many excellent feasts."

Sarah took a moment to calm herself down, and again raised her eyes to the Lady's own. She saw no mockery there, only compassion and humour. Sarah took a breath and continued.

"My Lady," she spoke as formally as she could, "I owe you a great debt. You protected the life of my brother with your own, and, and…" she faltered here, not knowing how to refer to the Lady's loss of her eye. Caoilainn raised one hand to the patch on her face, her smile becoming a little wry.

"Everything is bought for a price. Even you did not escape unscathed, I believe." Sarah nodded at this, and suddenly she knelt in front of the Lady.

"I don't know how to thank you enough, for everything you did for me, for Toby," and she found a great lump rising in her throat, and could say no more. Hot tears gathered in her eyes, and she looked down to the ground. She tried to blink them back and gain control, but they began to fall down her face despite everything. Toby saw and ran over to her, hugging her around the neck. The Lady placed one hand on Sarah's head. Although she had become more accustomed to Jareth's touch, the feeling that came from his powerful Fae woman was quite different, and much stronger. Sarah could appreciate all she had been told of the Lady before now. Sniffing back the tears, she dared to look into the Lady's face, and was surprised to see that her eyes were suspiciously bright.

"It is over now. What's done is done." Sarah felt a little start of surprise at this familiar sounding reference, and heard Jareth chuckle quietly from somewhere behind her. His hand slipped under her elbow once more, and she leaned into his strength to pull herself to standing. He let go of her arm once she was on her feet again, instead sliding it around her waist and pulling her slightly towards himself. Toby stood as well and wrapped an arm around Sarah's leg. The Lady's smile widened when she saw the boy and man ranged on either side of Sarah.

"Clearly there were some unexpected outcomes to everything that happened. It is comforting to know they were not all traumatic." Sarah felt Jareth's arm tighten slightly, and looked up to see his face turning a somewhat darker shade of pink than was usually seen on his pale skin. Jareth released her arm and sat once again in his chair, deliberately picking up a piece of fruit and a small sharp knife, and slicing it into small wedges. Sarah sat as well, and Toby abandoned his post in favour of running up and down the stairs that led to Jareth's bedroom.

"I do believe," said Jareth, after eating one or two pieces of the fruit, and handing Sarah a third - she was relieved to note that it was not even remotely peach-like, "that our new High King will be passing through my lands in the next few weeks, before the winter truly sets in. He wishes to reassure the people of his fitness to rule." Jareth was watching Caoilainn carefully as he spoke, and he was the only one to notice a slight flush cross her face, lighter than his own blush but unmistakable, and her eyes dart to one side to avoid his gaze.

"Well, then," she replied, her voice carefully neutral, "I believe it will be time for me to return to my own holdings, in order to receive him properly." She too had known Conall for many years, since their youth, but she had not know of his true identity. It had initially been difficult for her to reconcile the truth in her own mind, but now she seemed to take in in stride. She raised an eyebrow at Jareth.

"Will the lady Sarah be returning to her own place as well, in the world Above?" Rather than take offence at her words, Sarah exchanged a glance with Jareth.

"In fact, yes," he replied, surprising Caoilainn. "Toby must be returned to his own time, and Sarah feels her family would benefit from some time spent with both of them. However, she is to return as soon as she is able." his gaze on Sarah turned intense, and she returned it in kind. Gwyneth, who had been watching the whole encounter silently, cleared her throat gently. Jareth was unapologetic. "The Labyrinth would not prosper as well as it could if she is not present. Also, nor will I." The two of them had discussed it in length, throughout dinner and most of one night, and come to the same conclusion, although Jareth was reluctant to let her go back for any length of time, however Sarah had insisted.

Gwyneth rose from the table, wiping her mouth delicately on a serviette. "If you will excuse me, Cousin, I believe there are tasks which demand my attention." She bowed her head briefly to Jareth, curtseyed to the Lady, and actually smiled, ever so slightly, at Sarah. Sarah found herself smiling in return.

It was early morning, and fog lay thick upon the paths of the Labyrinth. Two horses rode that morning, a tall, grey stallion with two riders, and a chunky pony with a small, blond haired boy atop him. As they reached a certain clearing, the mist seemed to swirl more thickly around them. The great Stone in the centre still leaned slightly to one side, but otherwise remained unchanged. Dismounting, Jareth helped Sarah down from the saddle. She could have ridden alone, but nothing could persuade her to spend the last hours in the Labyrinth apart from Jareth. Already she could feel the ache building in her heart at the thought of their separation. Toby was excited, as always, and jumped and ran through the mist, delighting in the strange ways it swirled around him. Jareth took the opportunity to quickly remove his gloves, and run his fingers through Sarah's hair, tilting her face up to his. She kissed him eagerly, the action as always sending a stab of electricity through her insides, and causing her heart to falter for just a moment. His kiss became passionate, and it was with an exertion of will that they broke apart, both flushed and trembling slightly. Taking one of her hands, Jareth called to Toby. He came reluctantly, and took Jareth's other hand.

Here in the centre of the Labyrinth, magic flowed freely, and it was the work of a moment for Jareth and Sarah to gather enough together to wrap around the two humans tightly, and begin to open the portal that would take them back to their own world and time. Sarah wanted to arrive the morning after she had arrived back the first time, with Toby in hand, some hopefully believable excuse concocted to satisfy them. She hoped it would be enough that their family was together again. Then, after a time, she would explain to her parents that she had to go. But not for a while. She knew this time Jareth would be watching her, and the thought comforted her.

As the magic rose and swirled around the three figures, Sarah turned her head for one last kiss, feeling a moment of desperation. Jareth pulled back and hissed "Soon, my heart. If you do not return I will come to collect what is mine." he grinned, that old feral, pointed grin, and she grinned back. She knew it was true, and was reassured. With a sudden rush and emptying of space, Jareth was alone. As the leaves settled and the mist flowed slowly around him once more, he took the reins of the pony, and mounted his own stallion, beginning the slow ride back to his castle, to await the return of his Queen.