WARNING: THIS STORY IS FOR A MATURE AUDIENCE. It contains an adult scene, and has been rated M for a reason. The scene is not overly explicit, but it is adult enough that those under the age of 16 or so shouldn't read it. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Disclaimer: Characters and/or scenes closely resembling anything from the 1986 movie 'Labyrinth' are the property of Jim Henson, LucasFilms, and Henson Studios. This work is written by a fan for fans, and the author makes no profit from it. The title of this fic, 'The Hunter's Kiss,' is taken from a Rasputina song by the same name.
It had been a very long time since she'd last stopped to gaze at the moon. It was a beautiful sight; a shining silver orb that rained gentle white light down on the earth. The rest of the sky was cloudless, the stars shining like pinpricks in a vast sheet of inky black fabric. In the distance she could hear a faint rustle - no doubt some poor hapless creature being hunted by a dark, unknown predator. If she strained her ears, she could hear the brook near her house bubbling away quietly. There was a cricket chirping somewhere on the balcony they shared, and even if she closed her forest-green eyes, she could hear no cars, no trains, no buses. The quiet was quite possibly what she liked best about this place.
A cool breeze caressed her skin, which Sarah welcomed wholeheartedly; the weather had been steadily warming up as April steamrolled unstoppably towards an unusually hot May. Having always been a fan of the cooler seasons, Sarah wasn't so sure she was happy for the change. She placed her cup of cooling tea on the balcony rail and braced herself against it, leaning outwards to try and catch a glimpse of the northern star. Her search was unsuccessful, and the brunette smiled to herself as she turned and went back into the house, carefully locking the sliding glass door and the security screen behind her. Despite the fact she no longer lived anywhere near the city, she knew she wasn't necessarily safe from the sick and depraved of the world. After all, people went missing in the woods all the time.
Sarah couldn't say what possessed her to buy a house so far from the city; her only excuse was that she had always loved the woods, and she'd needed privacy at the time. She knew Karen and her father worried about her frequently; Karen demanded near-nightly phone calls just so she could be sure Sarah hadn't been raped and murdered. Hell, even her eight year old brother rang her up sometimes, undoubtedly picking up on his parents overly-protective habits. Though, Sarah mused, they couldn't really hold a candle to herself when it came to that; how many times had she lectured Karen on Toby's safety? A few too many, according to her stepmother.
She'd managed to appease her parents worry - just slightly - by ensuring her security was top notch. Though it was undoubtedly worth it, it had cost a pretty penny and Sarah had been more grateful than ever for the more-than-generous trust fund her mother had set up for her after the divorce. Sarah's income as a budding novelist wasn't enough to live on, and wouldn't support anything close to a splurge. The money from her mother had paid for her living expenses so far and also the house, which in reality was barely more than a two-bedroom, one bathroom cottage with a wide balcony and a back, side and front yard of nothing but forest. It had been love at first sight, and Sarah knew there was a good chance she might never, ever sell the place.
As she turned on the lights in the bathroom, then the faucet of the bath, Sarah's mind wandered as it had always been apt to do. Her first fantasy novel had achieved a surprising amount of success, and though her second one was currently being looked over by her editor she was again wondering if she had another book in her, just as she had done when she'd sent to first off to be published. Two novels in three short years was quite an achievement, she thought, and she wouldn't feel guilty about putting her pen and paper on the shelf - temporarily, of couse - when she started her new job next Wednesday.
Outside, the breeze picked up and became a gust of wind loud enough to stir her from her brief reverie. A muted 'clunk' from outside made her jump, and she frowned as she tried to identify it.
"Damn," she muttered, turning off the taps and hurrying back out onto the balcony. Sure enough, her favourite teacup - a gift from her late grandmother - lay on it's side on the floor, it's leftover contents spilled on the polished hardwood and dripping through any miniscule cracks that got in it's way. Sarah bent to retrieve her cup and carefully examined it for chips. Finding none, she sighed in relief and was about to go back inside when the breeze brought her a gift.
It could only be described as a sweet, delicate fragrance. It was subtle at first, but utterly delicious, and Sarah found herself tipping her face upwards so her nose might catch more of this unknown and enticing scent. Her eyes slowly drifted shut as she tried to identify it; it was not flowery, and it was far too heavenly to be moss or earth. It was fresh enough to make her mouth water, just a little, and at first she thought it might be a fruit of some sort. If it was, she'd never encountered it before. There was more to this scent though; it wrapped around her other senses and smothered them until she could not hear or taste or feel, nor did she have any desire to. It was somehow warm, beckoning and familiar.
It made her skin tingle, as though a lover's lips had brushed gently against her flesh. Deep in her belly awoke a strange hunger, and had there been a banquet nearby she surely would have helped herself to an inhuman amount of food. Laughter bubbled up from within, spilling forth from her lips with inexplicable delight. She wanted to sing, dance and make love to someone. Her feet itched to run through a field, and at the same time she was desperate to fling her arms out and spin 'round and 'round in circles until the dizziness overwhelmed her. God, she needed to find the source of it, it was so sweet, so electrifyingly powerful and irresistable. It was almost otherwordly.
Sarah's world lurched forward and her eyes snapped open in panic. As she righted herself she realised she'd tripped on a large, jagged rock. Looking back in surprise, she saw she was standing a good twenty feet away from her verandah steps. Her feet had carried her towards the woods of their own volition.
Suspicious green eyes flicked from tree to tree, bush to shrub, and she whirled around when she felt a peculiar tingling between her shoulderblades, as though someone had brushed her skin so softly she thought she might have imagined it. Sarah's heart began to pound in her chest; she knew this feeling of being watched. She'd never grown particularly fond of it. Confusion and fear raced through her mind, her breath coming in short puffs. She had crossed her yard, was up the steps and locking her balcony doors from the inside within half a minute. Her teacup was left on the ground where she'd dropped it, forgotten.
The scent didn't follow her.
"-Was made for loving you baby,
You were made for loving me,
and I can't get enough of you baby,
Can you get enough of me?"
Sarah groaned and rolled over, hitting the button on her radio/alarm clock. All things considered, KISS was not the band she would have preferred to wake up to. Still, there was nothing to do now but roll out of bed. She stretched and sat up, idly scratching the side of her breast and yawning, and dragged herself out from under the covers and into the bathroom. Not having felt like taking a bath after her... experience the previous night, Sarah had fallen straight into bed in an effort to not dwell on the peculiar happening. As such, the bath was still about a quarter full, so she turned on the hot tap and stripped out of her pyjamas, lowering herself into the steaming waters. It was a perfect way to start the day.
Relaxing in the bathtub is also an idle passtime, so Sarah's thoughts began to unwillingly drift back to the previous night. What had that scent been? Why had she suddenly found herself so close to the edge of the woods, when she hadn't even felt her body move?
'Maybe,' she thought, 'I was abducted by aliens. I should have looked at the clock to see if I lost any time.' She snickered at the thought. Up to a certain point in her life, she had truly believed in all things fantastical, but aliens had never tickled her fancy. It was just so... science fiction. Still, the incident had left her unnerved. What had that scent been Where had it been leading her? More importantly, why had it affected her so? She'd never felt so aware, yet been so hopelessly out of herself. It was as if she'd been drugged. Or enchanted.
Sarah sighed at the though. She wasn't a total stranger to enchantment, if she was honest. It was years ago now, and she'd never dwelled on any of those memories - if indeed that was what they were, rather than the over-imaginative fantasies of a painfully lonely young girl.
'But if they are memories,' Sarah mused (and she knew deep down that a part of herself would always believe they were), 'they might hold the key to all this. I have to figure this out, because last night...'
Last night had scared her.
Sarah leaned back against the cold, unforgiving wall of the bathtub and closed her eyes, willing herself to remember.
Lost. That's what she was, lost in gilded room of white, lost among candles and pearls and these people... their faces were covered in ugly masks, satirical in nature and bearing distinct resemblence to gargoyles and goblins. The revelers sneered and laughed at her, parting like a sea as she pushed her way through them and tried her hardest to ignore the malicious humour they took at her expense. She knew her eyes were wide, and her lips were parted in astonishment, but she had never before witnessed anything like this, where the men let their hands wander freely over their dance partners, and the women did naught but cackle and tease in response.
But she knew she was here for a reason, could feel it like a tug in her belly. These dancers were unimportant, small, and she needed to find... what was she looking for? Was it a who? An urgency was rising within her even as the partygoers stepped out of her path more easily than before, paying little attention to her now. And then she felt it, that tickle between her shoulderblades, the fine hair on the back of her neck rising as though someone had blown cool air across it. She was being watched, and she turned around quickly to see who it was. The corner of her eye caught only a flash of glittering blue and black before it was gone, and she could see only the ordinary dancers who revelled in their own corruption.
The tickle came again, and again and again as she whirled and stumbled, trying desperately to find the source of this... this confusion, but then she turned one more time and finally saw him, standing there between two women who seemed starstruck and dazed; Sarah knew they loved him. His attention was focussed solely on her though, and her heart beat a fast rhythm beneath her breast when she realised it. His eyes, mismatched and beautiful, captivated her as he extricated himself from between his companions and walked so purposefully towards her. She didn't fight when he placed his hand on her waist and gently took her hand in his; all she could see was him, tall and regal and spellbinding. As he lead her around the dance floor, she wondered what his arms would feel like around her, and whether his lips would be soft if she placed a kiss upon them. He smelled wonderful too, warm and sweet and tempting...
Sarah bolted up in the bathtub, uncaring of the water that splashed over the sides and onto the tiled floor. That scent... it couldn't be the same one, could it? Granted, it had been so much stronger last night, but... but yes. It was the same. It had been him, the Goblin King. Whether it was merely a cologne he preferred - and Sarah would have laughed at the image of him fussing over Calvin Klein aftershaves if she weren't so shocked - or his own natural 'funk,' her brain supplied, she didn't know, nor did she want to.
She all but threw herself out of the bathtub and flew down the hall to her room, not even bothering to dry herself off before dressing in whatever garments she blindly grabbed from her closet. A bizarre desperation had taken hold of her, a knowledge that she had to do it fast, had to get outside or she might miss it... even though she knew there'd be nothing to see, nothing to miss. If it was true, if he was watching her, playing with her, he wouldn't reveal himself so early in the game. Even so, she bolted down the hall and flung open the balcony doors. The clean scent of the morning air enveloped her, and while she usually would have stopped to appreciate the beautiful early summers morning, she kept moving. Down the steps, past the point where she'd nearly tripped over the previous evening, right to the edge of the woods that stretched on and on in every direction...
Her eyes moved over the trees as they had before, searching for any sign of a presence that was neither human nor woodland creature. The singing of birds near and distant was all that met her ears, and she sniffed delicately at the air as though the scent might have lingered. It hadn't, and Sarah was left with no signs, no real clues as to what was happening. All she had was her memory, and her instincts that cried yes, something was about to change.
She lingered there for a few moments, letting her heart beat calm down, allowing the cool morning air - which would soon rapidly heat up - to soothe her. It wasn't long before she headed back inside, only to pause again at the door. She'd forgotten all about her teacup.
Sarah cast her eye over the balcony, her lawn, the driveway. She could see no sign of her grandmothers cup, the only heirloom she owned, given to her by her mother on her 21st birthday. It was gone, probably taken. With a creased brow that spoke of heavy thoughts, Sarah finally went back inside, making sure to lock the door securely behind her.
It was Friday afternoon. Sarah had done her best to put the strange occurences around her house out of her mind, and was looking forward to her meeting with her editor, Julie Watson. Julie was a rare woman who worked for a rare company, the kind that was open to taking on young or up and coming authors, and took chances on them. Occassionally (well, more often than not), the company lost money due to the risks they took, but that hadn't been the case with Sarah's book. Sarah hoped it wouldn't be the case with her current one either; it was even less realistic than her previous novel, and it was with a kind of nervous anticipation that she waited on her balcony for Julie's car to pull up.
When the phone rang, Sarah was more than tempted to ignore it. However, if it was her father or Karen, they'd assume the worst when she didn't pick up and she'd answer the door several hours later to see her wild-eyed and worried family anxiously awaiting proof of her safety. Sarah knew this from experience, so she rolled her eyes and headed in to answer the damn phone.
"Sarah, darling, it's Jules. Look, I'm sorry sweetheart, but I was just on the phone to Albert and he told me that 35th is absolutely jam packed. I'm not going to make it today, darling."
Sarah twirled the phone cord around her fingers, a habit she'd developed in her late teens. "Oh no, that's fine. Can you make it on Monday?"
"Sure darling, I've cleared my schedule just for you! We'll have coffee-"
"-and do lunch," Sarah snickered. "All right, see you on Monday. Early?"
"About ten o'clock. See you then!" and 'Jules' hung up. Sarah gently set the phone down on its hook, and wrinkled her nose as she looked at the clock. She hadn't expected to have the next few hours to herself, and found herself at a loss for things to do. She ended up flipping through a magazine she'd had for months, scrubbing out her kitchen cupboards, and eventually flopped down in front of the telly, surfing through the channels without any intention of actually watching anything. After a while, she decided she felt sufficiently brain dead, so she heaved off the couch and went into the kitchen, opening all her recently cleaned cupboards and throwing ingredients haphazardly onto the bench. Hot or not, she felt like a casserole tonight, so she was going to have one.
An hour and a half (and a short phone call to Karen begging for the latter half of the recipe, her copy of which was unreadable due to irreversible coffee stainage) later saw Sarah holding her hair back from her face and copping a face-full of steam as she examined her casserole closely. Satisfied that all was as it should be, she replaced the lid on her crockpot and went back outside, where she'd begun the arduous task of cleaning out her car. The backseat had somehow accumulated what appeared to be several years worth of rubbish, and a certain brunette was more than a little cranky at herself for letting her trusty tin-can get so...cluttered. Her younger self wouldn't have cared of course, but this Sarah had long since developed an aversion to clutter.
It was nearly dusk by the time she finished, and it was with a sigh of exhaustion that Sarah locked up her car. She was nearly to her front door when she heard it; faint laughter, clear and high, coming from her kitchen. A cold thrill of fear shivered through her as she stopped dead in her tracks, her eyes fixed on her door. When she heard something crash to the floor and shatter, Sarah cringed. She slowly crouched down, her fingers fishing around for a large rock - her only means of self defense, she realised. Her lips thinned as she steeled herself and straightened up, carefully making her way up the driveway and then the balcony stairs. She flattened herself against the wall and peeked through the screen door, but was unable to see anything. Inside the house was dark and shadowed, illuminated only by the pinks and golds of the glorious sunset in the west. The curtains inside fluttered lightly but silently in the breeze, and all was quiet but for the mischievous, unidentified giggling.
'Sarah, you don't have to do this,' she told herself. 'Mrs Grambson lives four miles down the road; it's a bit of a hike but you're less likely to be murdered by mauraudering casserole thieves.'
But Sarah wasn't one to back down from a challenge, not even when her safety was at risk. She lived as she liked, would do as she pleased, and wasn't going to let a couple of young fools scare her into abandoning her home, even if it would only be for a short while. It was with a deep breath and conscious straightening of her spine that she tiptoed into the living room.
The laughter was very, very quiet, and it suddenly struck Sarah as odd that she should have heard it all the way outside. It wasn't deep laughter, nor was it especially raucous. In fact, it sounded less like laughter and more like the tinkering of tiny bells. Sarah's heart, already beating fast in her chest, began pounding in her chest, and a bead of sweat slipped down her temple, over her cheek and jaw, before falling to the polished wooden floor beneath her feet. She didn't hear it hit the floor.
Suddenly, the laughter ceased. The young novelist took another deep breath and peeked around the door into the kitchen. There was nothing there.
And Sarah knew she was alone.
The casserole continued to bubble away in it's crockpot atop the stove, but it's glass lid lay smashed on the floor, the only proof that anyone had been in the kitchen at all. Sarah's eyes fell upon the window she'd left open to let out some of the heat the stove generated, not having wanted to turn the house into an oven. She quickly crossed the kitchen, unmindful of the glass grinding beneath her shoes, and set her rock on the bench before shutting the window and locking it up tight. She drew the curtains across. Turning, she grabbed the crockpot, carried it into the laundry and tipped the casserole into the bin located there, shutting the lid tight.
Sarah left the crockpot sitting on the laundry bench and singlemindedly made her way back into the lounge, picked up the phone, and dialed her parents house. It rang and rang, and no one picked up. Sarah slammed the receiver down and dialed her fathers work number. Roberts secretary, an older woman named Maureen answered the phone.
"Yeah, it's Sarah here. Can I talk to my dad, please?" Sarah asked, trying to ignore how desperately strained her voice sounded.
"He left early," Maureen replied, volunteering no other information.
"He did? Did he say where he was going?"
"Something about a weekend with the family. If there's nothing else, Ms Williams?"
Sarah huffed and dropped the receiver back onto the phone. Maureen was a bitch, she thought idly. And it seemed now that Sarah was on her own; no point in going home if her family weren't there to provide the safety (sanity) that she wanted from them.
It was with a kind of frantic detachment that Sarah went around the house, locking every window and door with keys and deadbolts and sliding locks. It was well after dark when she finally calmed down, sitting gingerly on the couch. She buried her head in her hands, taking deep breath after deep breath. It was time to face the facts.
The laughter she'd heard had most definitely not been human. It was too high, too mischievous, too musical. That scent the previous day hadn't been anything natural, anything of this world. It had smelled like him, like magic. Something was building, like a looming storm. 'Or a hurricane,' Sarah thought miserably. With equal misery, Sarah realised there was little she could do about it except wait for...whatever it was to play out; this time, she was powerless.
She slept little that night.
It was nearly dawn by the time proper sleep claimed her, and as a result it was well after twelve when she peeled her eyelids open and bleerily gazed around her brightly-lit room. Sarah lay there for a while, her thoughts carefully dancing away from recent otherworldly events and focussing more on... well, anything else.
'Maybe,' Sarah thought, 'I should go to college. Do a creative writing course; Julie said I have natural talent, but I can only improve, right?' It was true, she wasn't really looking forward to starting her new job at the post office on Wednesday. Budding novelists didn't get paid well, and she'd been reluctant to keep bleeding her trust fund dry just to pay the bills. Being a small town, the only jobs going had been the one she'd ended up with, or fisherman. Sarah wasn't a fan of fish. She hadn't wanted to go to college straight after highschool, considering the absolute mission it had been every day just to get through her classes. A break from formal education had been called for, though Sarah continued to educate herself by reading every damn book she could get her hands on.
'I have to go grocery shopping. And change the page on the calendar; yesterday was the end of April. Maybe I should call Clarice, see if she's up for afternoon tea or something. I think I'll buy a dog... and some shorts for summer.'
There was no way she was staying home today.
It was more than an hour later when she finished cleaning up the glass on the kitchen floor and locked her front door behind her. Sarah cast a careful eye around the woods as she made her way to her car, and was soon pulling out of her driveway.
Clarice unfortunately wasn't in town. In fact, it seemed all of her regular contacts were unreachable, which struck Sarah as odd, and therefore didn't warrant another thought. She stopped at the local cafe and bought doughnuts and coffee for breakfast, realising she hadn't eaten the night before. She did the grocery shopping, and bought a couple of cheap, supermarket bottles of wine. The bored-looking teenager manning the checkouts asked for her ID, and it was with irritated, jerky movements that she pulled it from her wallet and handed it over. Surely he recognised her by now, she'd been shopping there for nearly a year.
On the way home, she very conveniantly spotted a handmade sign that read PUPPIES FOR SALE. It was with a smile that Sarah realised it was in front of Mrs Gambson's house.
Half an hour later, Sarah strolled into her home holding Buttercup, an eight week old golden retreiver who immediately set about exploring her new home. She seemed reluctant to leave Sarah's side however, and followed her in and out of the house as Sarah brought in and put away the groceries. Sarah could barely stand to take her eyes off her new companion; Buttercup had been the most inquisitive and curious of the litter, and the young novelist had fallen in love with her immediately.
Sarah played with the energetic little puppy for a while, knowing now was the time to bond. Having had a big day though, Buttercup soon tired out, so her owner fed her and set the puppy bed Mrs Gambson had given her down in a corner of her bedroom. The little dog promptly fell asleep, and Sarah watched over her, her thoughts wandering as she sat on the floor and idly patted her new companion.
It was late when Sarah's stomach rumbled, and it was with lazy reluctance that she dragged herself into the kitchen to cook herself something resembling dinner. She ended up eating Kraft Mac 'n' Cheese as she loosely sketched fantasy art in the art pad she'd found hidden away in a draw a few days previous. It had been a few years since she'd really drawn or painted anything; her art teacher in her last year of highschool hadn't been a fan of fantasy art, and consistently failed Sarah's projects on the grounds of failure to comply with assessment requirements. Disheartened, Sarah had put away her paintbrush and turned to writing instead. Looking back, perhaps there'd been a silver lining on the cloud of angst that had been her final year of schooling.
Sarah smirked at herself; 'cloud of angst' indeed.
The twenty-two year old stood and took her dishes to the sink, filling it up with the intention of washing them. She pinned her hair up to get it out of her face, then set about cleaning up after herself. An infestation of cockroaches in her early months of independence had finally taught her the hygenic discipline Karen had tried and failed to instil in her for years.
As she scrubbed the persistant, chemical-ridden 'cheese' sauce off her bowl, Sarah's mind wandered and she found herself gazing out her kitchen window into the woods that lay beyond. She wondered what was waiting out there, if anything. Was it, or they, watching her? She pursed her lips, pulled the plug out of the sink, and switched off the kitchen light. Her eyes adjusted to the complete darkness inside her house, and as they did the woods outside the window became clearer. The moon above illuminated them, bathing trees and earth in that much-loved silvery light.
She stood there for a while, silent and unmoving, before turning away from the window and walking away.
Sarah's mind was quiet as she prepared for bed, slipping into a thin summer slip and brushing out her long, dark hair. When she lay down to sleep, a whining noise next to her bed caught her attention, and she leant down to pick up Buttercup, who evidently thought Sarah's bed looked infinitely more comfortable than her own. Buttercup settled against Sarah, and the two of them drifted off into sleep.
To Sarah, it seemed as though is were only a few minutes later when Buttercup woke her up with distressed barking.
"Hush Buttercup, 'm sleeping," she mumbled. Buttercup's barks only increased in volume and frequency, and an uncomfortable spike of wariness shot through Sarah. She sat up in bed, throwing only a cursory glance at the digital clock that read 10:03 pm.
Buttercup was standing up on now, barking furiously. She jumped off the bed and began snuffling at the bottom corner of the door. Sarah got out of bed and let Buttercup out; if the little puppy was only after a toilet break, she would be most displeased. Buttercup shot off down the hall and ran to the back door in the laundry faster than Sarah could keep up. She cast wary eyes about the house, but saw no evidence of intruders. Evidently, Sarah thought as she carefully opened the back door, whatever was upsetting Buttercup was outside, since the tiny golden retriever darted out into the night with not so much as a pause.
"Buttercup!" Sarah called, fully awake and now worried for her dog. "Buttercup, get back here! Buttercup!" Cursing under her breath, Sarah stalked across her small back yard to the edge of the woods, peering carefully into the distance. There was no sign of her puppy.
Glad that her nightgown reached only to her shins, Sarah carefully picked her way a few meters into the woodland. She knew what she was doing was more than a little stupid; inhabitants of the woods tended to be furry and in possession of long, sharp teeth. She also knew that the chances of her actually finding her dog were slim; Buttercup would return to her, or Sarah would once again be petless. Nevertheless, the young woman with nerves of steel wandered further, cursing her dog and her own lack of common sense, and wondering just why she couldn't ignore the impulse to keep going forwards, further and further into the dark, mysterious woodland. Before long she came to the bubbling brook, and without a care sprang along the stepping stones that lay across it.
Minutes seemed to roll past unheeded as Sarah keep walking. She could hear little around her, but for the hooting of owls and the scurrying of small creatures in the underbrush. To chase away the unnerving silence, the brunette began to hum a made-up tune to herself, making sure to keep her eyes peeled for any sign of Buttercup.
Sarah did not look back. She knew she wouldn't see her cottage; she was too far away now.
Time no longer really existed, so Sarah had no idea how long it was before she realised her voice was no longer the only one she heard. Far, far away in the distance, a sweet song was being sung by many sweet, tiny voices, to the same melody she herself sang. With nary a thought, she turned towards the voices and let her feet continue to carry her forward. Buttercup was forgotten; her mind was focussed only on finding the sourse of that sweet song. She ducked and dodged branches, and somehow managed only to place her feet on soft patches of earth, stepping on neither pointy twigs nor sharp rocks. A slight summer breeze - for it was summer now - was at her back, and blew wisps of dark hair around her face. Irritated, she pushed them back and combed her fingers through her hair.
It wasn't far now; she could see them, little glowing lights flitting through the trees. As she drew ever closer, the forest grew brighter. Drops of dew littered the grass beneath her feet. Sarah knew she was nearly there; the lights were larger now, and it was with a startled gasp that Sarah stopped suddenly in her tracks, kept from going further by a faerie hovering but a foot from her face.
The tiny sprite was different from the fairies she'd seen outside the labyrinth; it was smaller, fine boned, and looked like a tiny version of an adult woman rather than the small, flittering children Hoggle had been spraying. Sarah watched the glowing faerie with wide eyes; despite her experiences in the labyrinth, she could not help the feeling of sheer wonder that permeated through her. The faerie smiled at her, and it was warm and kind. She flicked her hand through her flowing green hair, and flew yet closer to Sarah. Tiny, delicate hands fluttered over Sarah's face, touching her eyelids, cheeks and lips. Sarah couldn't help but giggle. Tinkering laughter fell over her ears; the faerie giggled with her, then flew away, stopped, and looked over her shoulder. She wanted Sarah to follow her.
So she did.
The joyful singing was louder now, and Sarah could no longer hear the natural song of the woods. She followed her guide, and eventually came upon a grove of sorts. The beauty of the place astounded her; the glow of the fairies bathed it in an ethereal blue light, and beneath a huge, ancient looking tree danced a wide ring of faeries. All about her they flew, laughing and touching her gently, tickling her nose and ears. Their light glanced off the dew drops that littered the leaves and mushrooms around her, so the glowing forest seemed sprinkled with sparkling diamonds.
With a mad kind of glee, Sarah let the faeries pull her into the middle of the ring, and danced with them. She leapt and twirled and span, her voice joining theirs in a song of celebration. They were touching her everywhere now, their fingers tickling, their song growing louder, and it was with closed eyes that Sarah span around in circles, faster and faster and faster, spinning round and round 'til she saw and heard no more.
Sarah was awake. She knew she was awake, but she was reluctant to open her eyes. One by one, her other senses woke up; she realised she could smell earth and smoke. There were people nearby - a lot of people, yelling and laughing and singing merry tunes. Beneath her back, she could feel grass and ground, and every inch of her skintingled. It was most peculiar.
Carefully, Sarah lifted a hand to feel her brow, and her nose, and her chin. Everything seemed to be where it should be, except for, well... her. Her eyebrows furrowed as she tried to remember where she was, and how she'd gotten there. She remembered music, and lights, and dancing... Sarah bolted upright, her eyes snapping open. A faerie circle, a faerie circle! What had she been thinking? Had she been thinking at all? Was that a bonfire over there?
It was with wide, amazed eyes that Sarah finally saw the scene before her. A huge clearing, dotted with large, roaring bonfires, littered with loud, dancing people. They flung themselves about, twirling and laughing between and around the fires, pairing off and running away into the forest that lay all around them, or unabashedly kissing out there in the open. Truly, it was one hell of a party.
Sarah swallowed; where exactly was she? Awkwardly, she stumbled to her feet; had the fairies brought her here? God... what if she wasn't in her world anymore? Her legs seemed nearly unable to bear her weight as she clumsily made her way towards the group of people. True, she was wary - moreso even than when she'd run the labyrinth, for who knew how these people would react to her? She knew she was an uninvited guest, and these revelers... they seemed familiar in their raucous, carefree mannerisms.
As she drew closer, she saw they were not dressed as her people dressed. These clothes were of an old style, pre-dark ages. Nervousness rippled through her, and she felt for a moment as though she had an anxious, fluttering faerie in her stomach.
"I wouldn't go any closer, if I were you. Curious though this sight may be, it is not safe."
Sarah stopped dead in her tracks, her eyes falling closed as her lips sent a quick prayer toanyone who might be listening. In that one sentence, she had confirmation that her journey seven years previous hadn't been a dream, nightmare, or imagination. She had confirmation that it had been real, that they had been real, that he had been real. He was still real, and he was standing behind her.
It was with a deep breath, and a conscious straightening of her spine that she turned around and faced the man that had been the object of her fantasies, and her nightmares. She was suprised when she saw no mocking humour marring his face, no anger or arrogance. He was simply looking at her, as she looked at him. Two former rivals, meeting on what (might) be neutral ground.
He hadn't changed at all; his white-blond hair was still feathery and long. His skin was still smooth and pale, flawless. His eyes glittered with inhuman intelligence, one pupil larger than the other. His mouth looked soft and generous, and capable of great cruelty. He was clothed in a poets shirt that opened nearly to his navel, equally shadowed and glowing orange in the firelight. Soft, dark leather encased long, strong legs. His feet were bare, as were his hands. Sarah's heart lurched, and her voice caught in her throat. She couldn't speak, because she could think of nothing to say.
The delicate corner of his mouth turned upwards. He turned to the side, his arm sweeping out to motion away from the bonfires. "Walk with me, Sarah."
His voice was the same, confident and warm, without that mocking edge that she'd so despised during all their previous meetings. An uncontrollable shiver ran up her spine and spread out over her shoulder blade at the way her name fell from his lips; it was as though he'd thoroughly rolled it around in his mouth before finally allowing himself to speak it. Sarah was glad he couldn't see her blush in the dark. She followed him back to the edge of the woods, not ten feet away from where she'd woken up.
The Goblin King (for Sarah would not think or speak his name) motioned, and she saw a tall boulder, one that she hadn't noticed before stumbling towards the partygoers. Not comfortable with sitting in his presence, she leant against it, and watched as he did the same against a tall tree not three feet from her.
"Where am I?" she blurted out, immediately rolling her eyes at herself for betraying her discomfort. And there it was, that Gobling King smirk that really, he should have patented.
"You should know where you are, Sarah. You've been here before." His voice was a little haughty, a little amused.
The Goblin King just watched her. She tried again.
"The faeries, they brought me here? Through their faerie ring?"
He cocked his head to the side. "Yes." He paused. Very, very quietly he added, "You were quite beautiful, you know, dancing like that. Like a goddess."
Sarah's face suddenly felt like it was on fire, hearing only his words before she realised what he'd said. When she did, she blanched. "You saw that? You were there? You were watching? You-" Sarah stood up straight and frowned as fiercely as she could. "Did you bring me here?"
Slowly, he nodded.
Watching him carefully through narrowed eyes, she asked, "Why?"
The King was silent for a moment. Eventually, he nodded towards the bonfires. "Do you know the date?"
"What has that-"
"May the first."
Sarah didn't so much blink at the interruption, her mind already working to remember the importance of this day. "May Day?"
She'd heard of it, but knew little of it except that it was a Pagan holiday. Her brow furrowed in confusion, and she looked up at him to see him watching her closely.
Attempting to seem nonchalant, she shrugged. "What about it?"
The King took a step towards her, his eyes trained intently on hers. She couldn't help the thrill that ran through her as her back met the unforgiving granite of the boulder. The Goblin King stopped advancing only when they were toe to toe. Her neck craned to look up at him, for he was taller than her and now in very close proximity. Her heart began beating faster.
"Beltane," he began, his voice low and rich, "is a time of celebration. It is the first day of summer, a time to purify one's spirit and place upon oneself protection from those of the Otherworld," he smirked at the last part. "On this day, the veil between worlds is thin, allowing easier travel from one to another."
"That's how you brought me here?"
"The other day, there was this... scent. It was like..." Sarah's brow creased as she tried to think of the words to describe it, but came up short.
"Magic." He watched her for a moment. "Out of curiosity, what did you smell?"
"One usually smells ones favourite scent when the tang of magic is in the air."
Sarah's face went red, then white, and she blurted out the first thing that came to mind. "Roast chicken." Before the King could make a snide remark, she asked, "And the voices in my kitchen?"
"Faerie folk. They like stew."
"If I may continue my lesson?" the Goblin King asked with raised eyebrows. Sarah nodded.
"Beltane is also a celebration of life. The earth is now fully awaken from it's wintery slumber. The Fair Folk, and humans once, celebrate fertility. It is a time of unabashed sexuality. There are many old rituals associated with it." He grinned wolfishly down at her, and her eyes were drawn to those sharp teeth.
A number of respones entered Sarah's mind, such as 'Get the hell away from me,' and, 'Well, since you asked nicely,' but she settled with the most sensible one. "You still haven't answered my question. Why did you bring me here?"
The King simply reached up and let his fingers gently caress her cheek. Tempting as it was to close her eyes and lean into his touch, she refused to let him lull her into a false sense of security. He hadn't answered her damn question, and she had no idea what he had planned for her. Her fingers wrapped around his wrist and, ignoring the sheer softness of the skin beneath her fingertips, pulled his hand away from her.
"Don't, Goblin King."
He seemed unaffected by her apparent rejection of his touch, and only raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Goblin King? You know my name, Sarah." He leaned into her, and her heart began beating a veritable tattoo beneath her chest. "I want you to use it."
"Say it, Sarah," his voice was barely about a whisper, his mouth that much closer to hers. "Say my name."
"Just say it. Jareth."
"I said no." Her resolve was weakening, though, and her breath was coming quick.
Her eyes widened and she looked into his own. They were dark with something, some knowledge, a want or a need. She licked her lips, and did the only thing she felt she could do. She turned away from him, and the boulder, and bolted.
Behind her she heard laughter, and despite her resulting confusion she ordered her feet to run faster, her legs to pump harder, because she could hear him charging through the forest at her back. She knew not where she was going, only that this was right, that she had to keep running. So she did. Ducking under tree limbs, sometimes crashing through them, she ran. Leaping over rocks and fallen trees, she ran. Away from her pursuer, her hunter, she ran.
Around her was naught but woods and blackness. She dared not look upwards to see if the stars still watched over her, lest she lose her footing. Twigs and branches tore at her nightslip, and she quickly paused behind a tree to tear the side seams of it up to her hips. Now, the shin-length fabric would hinder her legs no more. She shot off from the tree, resuming her hectic escape, knowing he had not slowed down, had not stopped. She could hear his footfalls not that far behind her, and frantic adrenaline charged through her veins, providing her with the power and drive to get away. As she ran, her mind fell back to the place where it had retreated to during her hike to the faerie circle. All she could focus on was the journey; nothing else mattered, nothing but her flight. Even her fear fell back, replaced by a sense of purpose. Something warm and utterly feminine woke deep inside her, and the knowledge came to her thatthis was right, that for this night only, all was as it should be.
The undeniable urge to laugh to her, and as it bubbled forth she did not slow her pace through the woods. She twisted among a maze of trees and stone, heading deeper and deeper to the woods, leading him onwards. He was getting closer all the time, and she could hear twigs snapping beneath the soles of his feet. He followed her trail effortlessly, his eyes no doubt locked onto her, his legs pumping hard as he fought to catch up. She wondered what he looked like as the primal hunter, but dared not look back.
And as it was sure to happen, she eventually stumbled, only to be caught in such strong arms around her midsection. A wave of dizziness swept over her, and when she'd blinked to clear it she saw he'd brought her to another clearing, one much smaller than the bonfire field. Her captor still stood behind her, his arms still tight around her body, his chest heaving hard at her back, his laughter victorious. She waited, aware(so aware) of each movement he made, and in the very second he loosened his grip around her she'd darted away and turned on the balls of her feet. The entire clearing was between them now, and she watched as he carelessly motioned towards a small pile of kindling within a circle of stones. A large fire immediately roared into existence, and Sarah's breath caught in her throat as the glow of the bonfire illuminated her hunter.
He'd lost his shirt somewhere along the way, clad only in those soft, dark leather pants, and every inch of exposed skin glistened in the firelight. His body was lithe and tightly muscled, and he was watching her intently, waiting for her to make a move, knowing she was already his. She licked her upper lip, a flash of tongue really, and he growled, stalking towards her. She darted out of his reach, circling the fire, ready to evade him again. A feral smile drew over his face, and he was wild, nature contained in human form. A wolfish grin to match graced Sarah's own features, and she darted to the left as he feinted right, only to come crashing into his arms and be swung up against a tree.
Caught, pinned, Sarah struggled mightily, hyperaware of every inch of him pressing her into the trunk behind her. She growled at him, baring her teeth, and tried her damndest to sink them into any flesh she could reach. His eyes were huge and his smile wild when she realised her escape was well and truly foiled. She settled and simply watched him, watched a bead of sweat trek over his features, down his throat and chest. She growled again, and he leaned in closer, only to back away quickly as her teeth nashed at his nose. His grip on her arms tightened minutely, and all of a sudden he seemed hesitant, his face darting in to try and get close enough to kiss her. She tried to bite him everytime, only to fail when again, he feinted one direction and took another. His lips were upon hers, hot and starving, and she was lost. He heaved her upwards, her legs wrapping around his waist, her fingers tangling deep into his hair, and his one hand not holding her up was firm against her belly.
His mouth was molten against her, and she was melting from within. His tongue dipped in and out of her mouth, teasing her, and when she tried to bite down she met only his lower lip. The taste of him delighted her, sweet and wonderful - he tasted of freedom. His hips between her thighs, his torso solid and real against hers was like heaven and hell, sheer satisfaction and utter torture at once, eliciting only a need for more. That scent, so familiar now, cloyed at her senses, pure male. His teeth on her lips were sharp and hungry, shying just short of drawing blood. They clawed at each other, gripping and pulling and growling, until Sarah found herself swung quickly but carefully onto the ground, onto her back, looking up at a Goblin King out of his mind with want. His clothing was entirely gone, his naked body proud and beautiful as he crouched above her.
Sarah reached for him, wanted to wrap herself around him again, growled her want, but was prevented by his grabbing of two handfuls of satin. A tearing sound echoed into the night, swallowed by the roar of the fire, and Sarah's coverings were ripped to shreds and flung, forgotten, into the forest. His hands were sure and steady as he lifted her hips and pulled off her panties, and he was then upon her. She dodged his mouth and sank her teeth into his neck, hard enough to bruise, and he grunted his pained pleasure as she flipped them over, pinning him like he had her some minutes before. He squirmed beneath her, temporarily the hunted rather than the hunter, as she nipped and licked her way across his skin. She nuzzled the flesh over his beating heart, and bowed her back when he snuck a hand between her legs. They kissed hard and hot as his fingers danced, her moans falling upon welcoming ears, and, judging herself to be more than ready, Sarah grabbed his hands, placed them upon her hips, and impaled herself on him with a tiny gasp of pain.
His moan of pleasure was long and hungry, and they were moving together in an eternal dance. She soon found herself being pressed into the earth again, his hands pulling her thighs tighter around him. Her sobs of satisfaction were swallowed eagerly by his sensual, hungry kisses, and as he skillfully adjusted his angle her sobs became cries, and eventually a scream. Her profound pleasure brought about his own completion, and it was with a sigh of utter wonder and fulfillment that he rolled off her and gathered her into his arms. The two of them lay there, quietly, and he sensed her increasing lethargy. Sarah nuzzled closer to him, burying her face into the crook of his neck and sighing a single word that had him closing is eyes and drawing in a single, deep breath.
"Jareth..." she mumbled, and was asleep. He pressed a kiss to her hair.
Jareth awoke later to the sound of a bird's cry, and quickly gathered his bearings. The fire had almost burned out and was reduced to little more than glowing embers, and it was not yet dawn. The light provided by the fire's remains and the moon above were enough though to illuminate the wondrous beauty of the woman that lay sleeping beside him.
A small smile warmed his features; if only she could see herself now, he thought. Natural and beautiful as she lay there on the earth with leaves in her hair, Sarah looked less like the wild goddess from earlier and more like a seductive wood nymph. Gently, he turned her over onto her back and placed a little kiss on her soft breast. Stars, she was heaven in a human, he was sure of it.
Carefully, he laid a hand low on her abdomen and closed his eyes, searching for... yes. They had been successful. A new life grew within her.
The smile fell from him.
He was supposed to take her back to her world and leave her there, only to return one years hence to collect the child - his heir - and abandon her forever. Those were the rules, it was how things were done. No arguments, no regrets.
But he could not do it. As he gazed upon her in the starlight, he knew that he simply could not do it.
So damn the rules. He didn't like playing by them anyway.
Warm, glorious sunlight streamed through the window, and Sarah burrowed deep into the wonderful, luxurious mattress beneath her belly. Her pillow was soft, the sheets were silken and gentle against her naked flesh.
Sarah blinked her eyes open, and was met with the sight of stone walls, a window not her own, and an ornate door leading out to the great unknown. In a flash, the recollections of the previous night inundated her with images and sensations, and she went utterly, completely still with shock. God, she'd been out of her mind, and where was she now, and dear god it had been wonderful, and a hand was gently stroking her hair.
It took courage for Sarah to turn over and meet his eyes, but she was glad she did.
The look in his eyes was all she needed to know.
And Jareth kissed her good morning.