(a/n Hey guys, this is not an update! I have merely reposted this story in a three-chapter format, as it has been suggested by a reviewer, and I quite agree, that it would be easier to grasp that way. (Thanks Danika!)
Its still a oneshot, and the three chapters should be read as though they were part of the same oneshot, so as not to break the continuation of the piece. For that reason I haven't added chapter numbers or names at the top of the following two parts- because there are no chapters in this story.)
Also thanks to everyone who's reviewed thus far! Your kind words have inspired and your advice has been noted!
A/N: Well, it all started as a ficlet on of my theories of what Sarah really meant when she spoke her bit to Hoggle by the mirror about needing all of them, and how much she'd really changed. But with me a tiny ficlet never stays as such. So this has sort of been an off-to-the-side piece I've been working on for a while. It took ages for me to be happy with it, especially since just when I thought I was, something else would occur to me. But, finally, I am happy with it. I can honestly say it is what it's meant to be.
I hope you guys enjoy it.
Please, tell me your thoughts on my little yarn. Suggestions, etc are welcome. It's always good to hear other people's perspective! And every bit of perspective both helps and encourages one to write more.
Disclaimer: I don't own the Labyrinth or anything connected to it. I do not own The Philadelphia story, As you like it, or the Crofton Croker poem, which can be found at the bottom of the page, in its entirety, for those who are interested.
The thirteenth hour rang on, and Sarah found her victory to be nowhere near as sweet as she thought it would have been. The thirteenth hour rang on and she still saw the look on his face as she denounced his power over her. The thirteenth hour rang on and on and she knew, without really knowing, that it would ring on forever in the depths of heart and mind.
Sarah couldn't sleep. She turned over yet again. Her blankets and sheets were tangled around her legs and she felt that her thoughts and feelings were not much different. Giving up after an hour of turning every which way, Sarah clambered out of bed. It was hours after her victory party came to an end, and her room was a right mess. Knowing that sleep was not forthcoming, she clambered out of bed. She put an old woolen coat over her pajamas to ward off the cool wind and ran her fingers through her hair, before softly opening her bedroom door. With practiced ease born of years of midnight 'rehearsals' she snuck carefully down the stairs, avoiding the third step from the bottom, which released a screech-like sound capable of putting a banshee to shame, when stood upon. Opening the back door, Sarah inhaled the sharp, cool air with some gusto. She looked around the garden Karen had put so much work into laying out. It was all shadow upon shadow, with leaves rustling faintly and a small fountain trickling water, surrounded by a bed of blood-red roses. A faint movement some way in front caught her eye, and with her usual brashness, she hurried to see what it was, her fluffy blue slippers getting wet from the dew coating the lawn. Rounding the corner and passing through a little picket gate, she drew to a halt in the front yard. The white shadow settled in the tree right outside her window, and with a plummeting feeling in her stomach Sarah recognized it as a barn owl. For a moment, she stood unmoving, contemplating running home in a panic. Then she admonished herself for being childish and walked towards the old tree instead.
Without much thought she hoisted herself up, this, too, done with practiced ease. A gust of wind ruffled the leaves, and her hair with them. It occurred to Sarah how ridiculous she must have looked, in her fluffy bedroom slippers, sheep-patterned pajama pants and a long grey jersey. But she pressed on up the tree.
Were there any passers-by that night, they would have been astounded, because as the strangely dressed girl neared the bird, it made no move to fly away in fright. Instead the owl fixed her with yellow, unblinking eyes, staring her down. Sarah came to rest on a branch level with her bedroom window, next to the immobile owl. Ignoring the bird, she took in the view of the silent street, and swung her legs unconsciously.
At length she spoke, sure of the identity of the creature next to her.
"You weren't there." She didn't specify. Somehow, Sarah felt she didn't need to.
A shift out of the corner of her eye. A dark blur, but she forced herself to keep looking out over the dark road.
"Was I wanted?" A deep, rich voice, ringing with mockery, hidden meanings and not-so-hidden innuendoes.
Sarah was silent again for a while. He sighed.
"Yes." So silent, she wasn't sure she'd said it out loud.
He laughed then. Threw back his head, and laughed. The chilling sound almost overrode the thirteenth clock toll, still engraved in her heart and mind. She looked over at his pale throat, and wild hair, and cursed herself for expecting his reaction to have been…different. Though, she didn't know herself what 'different' entailed.
She was about to take offence, when something in the humorless expression on his face stopped her. Instead she looked away, back out over the silent street, just in time to see a few shadows slink across the road.
When his mirth subsided, he found Sarah silent, regarding him coolly, having lost interest in the road.
"Very well," he whispered fiercely, "little girl, I'll be sure to remember that." his teeth flashed at her and she felt a shiver go down her spine.
"Sarah, dear, are you quite alright?" Karen asked her morose step-daughter. "Morose" was very unlike Sarah. There had been lots of 'livid', 'petulant', 'stubborn', 'resentful', and other signature aspects of the melodramatic since Karen had moved in with Robert and his head-strong daughter. Just as there had been 'smugness' and 'elation', and the victorious smirk Sarah wore so often. Those frightened Karen more than the darker spectrum of Sarah's moods, though she would never admit it. But 'moroseness' was not in the girl's repertoire.
Sarah felt a bit miserable as she mulled over exactly what it was that she had gotten herself into the previous night. She also felt remotely miserable about feeling miserable. It was against the code of the Great Woman. Her beloved mother had always told her that Great Women (especially ones whose future lay on Broadway) had no time to be miserable, because they were too busy fighting for the right to be Great. Linda was one such Great Lady.
The concern in Karen's voice startled her somewhat. It was almost…maternal.
"Yes. Just a bit under the weather." She replied with calculated absentness, turning around slowly. She watched her stepmother carefully, as something occurred to her. Karen's immaculate brow creased in a frown. Sarah had always wondered how Karen had managed to win the fight against ageing skin when so many other women fell in that battle.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes. It's just the rain."
"But you like rain, dear." Again, surprise. How did Karen know that? Even Linda still thought her daughter was afraid of thunderstorms. Or perhaps it was just more convenient for her to think that. Sarah often wondered about her mother.
She gave a startled chuckle. "Yes. Yes I do." And the older woman had a feeling that Sarah was not discussing the weather. The girl was so full of unspoken secrets. Some of which, Karen wasn't sure Sarah was even aware of. Karen often wondered about her stepdaughter.
He kept his threat of a promise. Sarah did see him after that night, often without actually seeing him. He was there behind her reflection in the water, or she heard the sound of his laughter overriding the general mirth of the crowd surrounding her. Blending and standing out. He was there as the words of a song hit home to hidden meanings within her. Then one day he was just there. No longer a mist and a whisper.
It wasn't her birthday, or the anniversary of her wish. It was just a Monday. Not a good Monday perhaps, but not a particularly bad one either. She was in bed, nose in a book on the Comedie Française her mother had lent her. Her hair was still damp from her shower. It was a terrible habit- going to bed with wet hair, Karen always told her. But Sarah was perfectly content.
She turned a page and just as her eyes found the top of the next page, she felt the air around her shift. A faint scent of spices tickled her nose. She looked up to find him standing at the foot of her bed and raised an eyebrow, resisting the urge to pull her blankets up to her chin.
He didn't speak, and she smiled. Inclining his head he extended a hand to her. There was an order in his eyes, but she didn't care, rising at her leisure, because she wanted to, not because he did.
They danced in her room, before their bodies had even begun to move. Predator and prey, only there was no clear distinction between either. They danced, and the furniture seemed to leap out of their way, or perhaps it was just less real then they, at that moment in time, and they spun through it without a shred of impact. Sarah closed her eyes, hearing the strains of melody from so long ago, etched in her heart forever. The moonlight spun music just for them that night.
"Why don't you sleep, Sarah?" He asked bluntly, a year and a few months after the dance, which had shifted more than reality that night, though neither had mentioned it since.
She supposed it was for the same reason she couldn't eat. Of course eat she did, finding it a more preferable option to trying to explain to Karen why she no longer wanted so much as a spoonful of her favorite lasagna. But eat she couldn't. It was all bland suddenly. The flavor was still there, but distant. Removed. Like trying to see out into the garden through a foggy, rain-stained window.
She supposed she knew why she couldn't eat either. While Sarah didn't understand vectors or couldn't tell you what the capital of Finland was, she knew her mythology backwards and forwards. Faerie food. 'That blasted peach', as she referred to it in her mind. Or at least as she did on good days when she didn't feel like cursing. She had sat many times over stories of mortals who had tasted of faerie food, and found that from that moment on no mortal food could ever hope to compare.
She shrugged, refusing to face him, wary somehow, of his sharp scrutiny. She could see the outlines of his sharp face faintly reflected in the glass of her window. Still, like an ivory statue.
He knew she was watching him.
She closed her eyes and listened to him breathe.
The stories were ridiculous. Elf charms and elf arrows. Snorting softly, Sarah closed the book with a snap.
"Thee, Lady, I would lead through fairyland,
(where cold and doubting reasoners are exiled),
A land of dreams with air-build castles piled…" He appeared on the bench next to her, quoting the poem from the Croker Irish fairytales book. Seductive promise in his voice.
Breaking off the verse, he laughed at the bewilderment on her face.
"You read fairytales?" She asked, breathlessly, scolding herself for momentarily believing the words he had spoken were meant as such. Just a poem. Nothing more.
"It always stands to be great entertainment to see what drivel you mortals have made up about my kind, and how skillfully you have distorted the truth." She saw again the tinge of bitterness on his face.
Sarah laughed. "You take yourself too seriously. Stories are only that. Even I know how little truth they hold."
"More than you could ever begin to imagine." He said gravely.
"Really?" She opened the book again and ran a thin finger over the picture of a pale, blonde, startled-looking girl watching a fairy circle longingly, her hands stretched out towards them, eternally out of reach.
The king raised an eyebrow.
"Elf-touched. Wasting away for eternity, after one dance in their midst."
"Was it worth it?"
She looked up sharply. Hidden meanings. Always. Dual conversations.
Something in his eyes. That same thing she'd seen time and time again. That same thing she could never identify.
Then, once upon a time, Sarah grew up. Perhaps it was that night, with those words and that look. Or perhaps it was the next. Sarah found that time was an optional thing, whenever he was around she found it hard to keep track. But all the same Sarah grew up. And Sarah didn't. She skipped in puddles and twirled around in the rain. She watched her bother and went shopping with her stepmother.
Sarah got puzzled looks from the neighbors and an amused smile from Karen as she skipped past to read poetry in the park, the girl with ebony hair and a fey glint in her eyes…her eyes…oh but her eyes could be frightening. Determined, and with the promise of cruelty if tried.
And sometimes, if you looked at the right moment, the stars sang laments in her eyes and she wore the moon for a crown.
When no-one was watching, she held conversations with shadows and near-indecipherable shapes within. And when they were, she stared back with a knowing glint, amused, as though she knew something they never would.
She didn't believe in fairytales. She knew them. Every now and then she had tea with the goblin who lived under the dresser. She exchanged greetings with the troll under the bridge in the park, to whom she tossed the ham and avo sandwiches which she never had the heart to tell Karen she hated.
All in all Sarah was a well-rounded girl. Just that her social skills were more inclined towards short and scaly. She did have friends of course. Just not close enough to understand why Sarah refused to part with her dressing room mirror when it obviously did not match the modern décor ideal, or why she had laughed so hard that day when she saw a barn owl out the window and her friend bought her a glass of peach wine from the bar. Because, to be close enough to understand, they'd have to be in her mind, or perhaps beyond even that.
As the moon rose over the small, crowded bar, with its music bordering on deafening, Sarah sat untouched it all, somewhere else. Taut as a bow string, hair practically prickling for a second, and in gales of mirth the next. There were whispers passed here and there about the strange girl. "Human" was one word no-one used to describe her.
Somehow no-one save her friends dared approach her when she was like this.
Sarah laughed a lot, a ringing, echoing sound that bounced like bells and branded like hot steel. It was nothing spectacular one moment and terrible the next. And her smiles, the subtle, cruel twist of mouth, a flash of something not-wholly-tainted in her eyes, set teeth on edge.
Her friends, bordering on eccentric themselves, missed her more outrageous quirks. Or pretended to. It was all good as far as Sarah was concerned.
She was sure she was late somewhere. This had less to do with the time and more with the fact that she was always late somewhere. But Sarah took her moments where she could get them
Sarah sat, leaning against a tree and turned the page, looking up occasionally at some kids playing "stuck-in-the-mud" and laughing loudly a ways away from her. She was reading the Croker collection of Irish fairytales again. The book with its green and gold-leaf cover depicting a grinning Irishman by a brick wall, (pipe, hat, ivy and all) made Karen chuckle indulgently that morning over breakfast as she leaned closer to see what it was Sarah was perusing.
While her stepmother still didn't quite grasp Sarah's fixation with her fantasy books, much preferring a 'good romance novel' with a title that has something to do with dark lords, big manors, some girl on the cover, dress half falling off and some young man of unrealistic proportions. Still, Karen did not protest her fetish so very much anymore.
As she began another story, which followed the familiar pattern of a human who is summoned to the fairies to do them a service, and upon leaving puts some fairy salve on their eye. When next, thanks to the salve, she sees the fairy, and greets her, the creature blinds her in the enchanted eye. This recurring pattern made Sarah wonder.
She was in the habit of having a good chuckle, when coming across distorted truths in the stories, such as the instance of Child Roland. Some nobleman goes to rescue his sister from the fairy king. Having accepted her selfishness in having wished her brother away, Sarah felt she had every right to laugh at Praised Roland's supposed honor and nobility, where she knew that if the near-catastrophic events recoded really had occurred, the man would have been responsible for them himself.
The blindness story unsettled her, though. The repetition of it in the many stories she'd read meant there had to have been some grain of truth in the words, yet she knew and greeted a good many Undergrounders, and had yet to be blinded for it.
"Not still reading fairytales, Sarah." A voice chided knowingly. She looked up, unperturbed to find the Goblin king standing over her. She answered with a mocking smile.
"Some things never change."
"Very true." He extended a gloved hand to her. She closed her book, stuffed it in her bag and accepted.
As Jareth pulled her up, she wondered when it was that such a thing became normal in their strange relationship, though she wondered if 'relationship' was even the right word to use. Sarah knew that words were important.
"Shall we?" He asked, holding her hand in his a moment longer than necessary. She noticed but didn't mind. She noticed that, too, and wondered.
They walked to another bridge that spanned the little stream. Coming to a halt, Sarah leaned against the ornate railing, and Jareth did the same. Sarah glanced sideways at him. He wore mortal clothing. A black shirt and black leather coat, and in truth she had trouble imagining him in any other mortal garment. The wind ruffled his hair slightly.
She looked away as soon as he glanced at her. He noticed but didn't mind. He noticed that, too, and wondered.
"Something on your mind?" He asked when he felt the silence had wound around them long enough.
This time she glanced at him openly, ducking her head in self mockery.
"Yes." She surprised him yet again, by the lack of obstinacy. Sarah considered baiting him, by making him ask the next logical question, a game he frequently indulged in, but found that she was not in the mood for word games.
"It's a story, actually." She continued, thinking as she went, "A consistent story line, where some mortal gets blinded when discovered that she can see fairies."
Jareth raised an eyebrow.
"I know you go around calling mortal storytellers fanciful, and perhaps you're right, but it has to have a grain of truth in it!"
He chuckled. She wondered if he was about to accuse her of taking things for granted yet again.
"Well done, Sarah. Whenever did you become so very observant?"
She ignored him and went on.
"So something of the sort has happened, but then…why can I still see?"
He frowned, then, his expression darkening.
"Still you insist on taking things for granted." Mirth and irritation battled within her at his words. Irritation won.
"That's not an ans…" She broke off, realizing that it was.
The twist of his thin lips was unkind. "Did you expect that it was because you were somehow special, my dear?"
"'Special' is really a matter of perception, don't you think?" She countered.
He didn't reply. They stood in silence for a while longer.
"What was done was done for a reason. It was a safety precaution. Not all in Faerie can defend themselves against the mortals."
His voice was matter of fact. But she read beneath it.
She touched his arm and his gaze shot to her face, eyes narrowed and brow furrowed in suspicion.
"Thank you. Trust is a precious, elusive gift, and you have given me so many already…" With a soft smile, she turned and walked away, all the while congratulating herself on the winning the war of words. Talking to him was often mentally exhausting as she broke down and analyzed every word, her own and his.
Seeing as she was already late, Sarah chose to head home. He watched her walk away, face unreadable.
Sarah smiled secretly to herself as she let herself in through the front door, and Robert, catching the smile, felt worried.