"Well, that doesn't sound so good," Rangiku mentioned, motioning her head toward the highly raised voice of Sarah as she verbally tore that Lucas fellow a new asshole, and with a good amount of graphic detail, from the comfort of the bathroom. "You'd think she wasn't happy to see me..."

Jenny stared at the woman, her jaw slack and hanging open. Just who, or what was this woman who dominated a room by sheer presence alone?

"Eh? Do I have something on my face?"

Jenny blushed awkwardly and looked away. "Sorry...it's just...you're...so beautiful..."

The woman smiled brightly, sticking her chest out even further with the pride of a peacock. "Don't knock yourself. You're quite the cutie yourself with that golden hair and big green eyes."

...eyes as green as the Nile...

"I probably should have introduced myself properly, anyway. I'm the lieutenant of the 10th Division of the Thirteen Protection Squads of Soul Society."

Jenny gaped wildly. "You're one of them! A shinigami?"

"Brains and beauty!" the blonde declared, squeezing Jenny to her. "That's the best!"

Rangiku released Jenny when she realized the smaller blonde was starting to gag slightly from lack of air between Rangiku's boobs. It always seemed to happen whenever someone faced forward when she hugged them. Why no one ever bothered to turn their heads was beyond her. "But..." Jenny wheezed. "...I can see you...you're not all ghostly like the other two...like the Hollow..."

"I'm in a gigai, an artificial body. Think of it like a mannequin with a soul while I'm here on earth."

Sarah finally came out of the bathroom seven minutes later, looking haggard and defeated. "All right, so my higher-ups have informed me that this isn't a glitch in the system...you're my official back-up."

Rangiku frowned. "Your group isn't that incompetent."

Sarah pinched the bridge of her nose. "That's not it...I distinctly remember turning in my last mission statement with distinct outlined instructions that should I ever require Soul Society reinforcements, that it not be a certain second in command from the 10th Division But apparently, that same report was turned in to the higher ups with a significant amount of pink ink that suggested there was no one else I'd like to work with." She shot a sharp glare at the shinigami.

Rangiku looked confused. "I thought that was your pen."

"It was! But I don't use it on my reports!"

"You should. It's a great pen."

Sarah threw her hands in the air, growling slightly. "That's not the point! I specifically wanted someone other than--never mind! Never mind! I've been driving almost seventy two hours straight, I've been chased down by giant swords and monsters, had a reunion with goblins, and I'm fucking tired! I'm going into the next room, I am lying down, and taking a goddamn nap! I want silent and quiet--here, here is the company credit card." She rumpled through her purse and thrust the card into Rangiku's hands. "Go shopping, buy out a whole store, get some lunch, I don't care, but I want six hours of uninterrupted sleep, starting right now!"

Whirling away, Sarah stormed into the connecting room, bolting the door shut behind her.

Rangiku, looking not the least bit perplexed, stuck the card between her breasts and turned to the main door. "You coming?" she said to Jenny over her shoulder.

While Sarah was exhausted to the bone, she still wasn't even close to dozing five minutes later. She had heard the two ladies in the next room talking for a moment, the door open and close, then silence. So they were gone, and she was alone, and that was good; with no noise, she could concentrate on sleeping.

But sleep remained elusive. Every time she closed her eyes, all she saw was the red leather book with the golden title that had functioned throughout so much of her teenage years.

Truth be told, there wasn't a day that went by when she didn't have at least one moment of thought concerning The Labyrinth. But it was in passing now, like remembering a trip to Disney Land from when she was five. The details had gotten fuzzy over the years, from the specific scent of the Bog to exactly what it was she had given the dwarf to get him to lead her a little further. She hadn't even bothered to try calling in later weeks and months though they had told her she could. Calling the strange creatures back into her life would have made the whole adventure, made the Goblin King...


She shuddered under the stale sheets of the hotel bed, rolling onto her other side, reminding herself whenever possible not to think of him in particular.


There was a little nagging sense of guilt about never again reaching out to the creatures of her journey to come visit her again, but once the adventure was done, Sarah had determined it all a major fantasy designed to give her the appropriate kick in the ass that would wake her up to the facts of her life: she wasn't a fairy tale princess anymore, and maybe she never had been. She was on the brink of adulthood, with more responsibilities, and a future not shrouded in mythology and daydreams in the local park. Clinging to any hint of her childhood would only retard her growth.

So she had left it all behind for cliques, sexy clothes, night clubs and mind altering drugs. That is until the organization found her and confirmed what she had always thought but never voiced aloud: the Labyrinth, its inhabitants, her quest, and, more importantly, its ruler, had been real.

She had been nineteen at the time and then it had been the rationale of: what's the point? After so many years of ignoring that other world, the only friends she had made in her lonely adolescence, how could she ask them into her life now when she hardly recognized herself, looking into the mirror? With tight, but sad, resolve, she closed that part of her life and plunged head on into a career of preventing people from making the same mistakes she had.

And she was successful with her job. She was one of the top field agents sent out to take care of magical loopholes and Other worldly escapees. She made enough to make a comfortable living for herself, enough to spoil her little brother rotten, and enough to purchase the sleeping pills when the dreams started.

Like most of her nightmares, she could never remember the clear details, but she remembered the more important implications: the sense of choking, her lungs swelling in her chest, sweat rolling down her bare skin, the air impermeable, something tickling her spine and the husky, accented voice in ear. Always she woke at thirteen past midnight, and the symbolism was not lost on her. Let the Goblin King piss and moan from his filthy throne in his filthy castle and try to intimidate her.

She had won. All she had to do was keep her power.

Easier said than done.

Jenny laughed at the photos in the wallet, ranging all the way from a short little boy with snow white hair glowering while a taller girl next to him gave him bunny ears, to two men (one blond with thick bangs over half his face and another with what looked like a 69 on one cheek) half collapsed on each other with ruddy cheeks and cups in hand, obviously drunk.

"You should have seen Kira at the end of that night," Rangiku laughed while waving the bartender over. "He ended up on top of the 6th Division headquarters with just his underwear singing, oh, what's her name...Dijon?"

"Celine Dion?" Jenny prompted.

"That's the one! Another Long Island Iced Tea," she told the bartender. "And don't hold back on the Long Island. Sure you don't want anything?"

Jenny shook her head. "I'm still under aged."

"When you look like this," Rangiku said, adjusting her chest, "you normally don't get asked any questions."

Right..."So who's this one?" Jenny asked, pointing to the boy.

Rangiku's face brightened. "That's my captain! My little Shiro-chan taichou!"


"Short for Toushiro."

"Oh...he looks so young to be a captain!"

"He's a prodigy, a reborn celestial angel or something...I slept through half the introductory course." She finished off the rest of her first tea just as the bartender returned with her second. "A little genius, though, that one. And has the cutest little crush on that girl there, Hinamori! He thinks no one sees it, though, but the way he hung over her hospital bed after the insurrection...it would have broken your heart."

"Is she all right?" Jenny asked, concerned.

"She's fine now. Just..." Rangiku tapped her temple, indicating some mental affliction. "Her captain betrayed Soul Society, almost killed her with his own sword." Rangiku frowned. "I think the realization that the man she half-loved had betrayed us was too much and she broke a little bit trying to rationalize it."

Suddenly feeling awkward, Jenny skimmed down the rest of the pictures, finding one a great deal older than the rest. It was white and tannish, torn around the edges, aged, but still in good condition. Rangiku, younger, with her hair cut down to her shoulders, was posed like an old fashioned western prostitute with tassels and beads accenting her lavish skirt and long legs on a barstool. Jenny was too struck by the proposed age of the picture to be concerned with who the other figure might be.

"Is this...authentic?" She pointed. "Were you really in the old west?"

Rangiku took one look at the picture, and the previous sparkle in her eye went out. She smiled, but sadly. "It was...we were supposed to be on a training mission, but we decided we were going to have more fun elsewhere..."


Jenny glanced back at the photo, and studied the second figure. It was a man, tall and lean, against the bar itself dressed in loose fitting clothes, a cowboy hat pulled down over his eyes, and a secretive smile playing on his face.

"Co-worker of yours?"

Rangiku almost laughed. "You could say..."

Jenny stared. There was so much unspoken in those words. A lover? Unrequited love? A deceased sibling or family member? She would have asked, but when not a moment later Rangiku put the Long Island Iced Tea to her lips and gulped the rest of it down faster than it took to take a breath, she decided against it and searched desperately for a new subject.

"How did you and Sarah meet?"

"She tried to kill herself."

Jenny's mouth fell open. This wasn't much better than asking about the man in the photo.

"Shinigami have range over the souls of the dead. Not only are we dead, but we exercise various demented souls, and give guidance to the broken ones. I happened to be roaming when I found Sarah's. She had tried to overdose. Her body was on the way to the hospital, and her soul was resting nearby. Luckily the chain hadn't broken, but she wasn't the least bit interested in returning. She just seemed so lonely, I couldn't just leave her, especially when her death was premature. So I took a seat next to her and we started talking. I held onto her soul long enough for the paramedics to bring her back. I would have visited her again while she was in the hospital, but that was when her organization found her. Whatever they told her then gave her the initiative enough to get up and start her life again."

Rangiku smiled. "I think seeing her little brother again helped, too."

"She doesn't seem...uh...that pleased to see you."

The boisterous strawberry blonde laughed. "Sarah may be a little rough on the edges, but she's a good person. She's just got her own way of working with people. It's hard, especially when you were the type of person no one really understood or bothered to get as a child or as a preteen. On top of that, her mother was a narcissistic, self-involved piece of work, and her poor father could hardly voice his opinion let alone his feelings. Then in walks a step-mother with a new baby boy who just wants to understand a young woman who doesn't want to understand her. Makes for trouble, see what I mean?"

Jenny couldn't really see or understand, but she sympathized.

"Sure, she's rough, but that's just Sarah. Once you get used to that, it makes getting along with her alot easier."

Jenny swallowed. There was something she wanted to ask, something that had been nagging at the back of her mind. "Sarah once said that...she was like me. That she had had an experience like mine, with the Other world." She glanced up at Rangiku.

The shinigami woman just smiled and shook her head. "That's Sarah's story to tell, not mine. Bartender!"

The white dress clung like a second skin. Unlike the fairy tale gown of puffed sleeves and full skirts and pearls adorning the lace of the bodice, this white pleather number made mockery of the princess-like dream the fabric had been. The skirt was mid thigh length and made bad habit of creeping up higher and higher the more she moved. Not that she minded too much in her current state. The top was square cut, just enough to give a tantalizing hint of cleavage, and the quarter sleeves hugged the curve of her shoulders like a lover's caress. She had curled her long hair into luxurious waves at Deborah's house and woven fake jewels into the lengths along with a fair amount of glittery hairspray. On top of the dress, she wore a short, long sleeved, sheer over piece. She was a vision in white, a ghostly figure among the many garbed in tight black hose and fishnet and inked skin, but she blended in nicely. Despite the obvious color difference, she was just another lost soul who wanted nothing more than to forget how lost she was.

The air was heavy with perspiration and heat, cloudy from the fog machines, flashing brightly with the various strobes and colored lights rotating along the length of the ceiling. DJ's were banging their heads to the earsplitting bass of the music; behind them, psychedelic displays pulsed.

She had lost Deborah and Anthony somewhere along the way, but that was normally the way of things; probably curled up in a dark corner somewhere with their tongues in each other's throats and needles in their arms.

Sarah wasn't one for the needles; pills were her way.

So here she was amidst an amoeba of a crowd, the music pounding in her ears, lost in the swirl of her own hips as the drug finally began to slide through her. Suddenly, she wasn't just a lonely girl anymore without any dreams to keep her company; she was elegance and grace, a girl near womanhood, seduction and innocence, untouchable desire.

She was the virgin sacrifice, the temptation that haunted men's dreams. She danced for everyone and no one.

The current tune melted into a hard techno sound, and her dance continued uninterrupted.

The drug was now thick in her system. The fog was like the gossamer wings of fairies, surrounding her.

She was far above Cloud Nine. No one could have her here.

Someone else thought otherwise.

"...don't give me a piece of your preciousness..."

It took her a full second to recover and realize what was going on when she felt the unfamiliar hands slip around her waist and pull her into a dance against a firm figure directly behind her. Whomever it was moved in perfect sync with hers, like he'd seen her dance before. And Sarah was too far gone to be offended at the unknown's blatant step into her space. In fact, she was starting to like it, this game of not knowing.

She pressed against the figure as his hands caressed her arms through the sheer fabric, his hips against hers, thighs brushing her bared skin. He was in leather, his body hard and lithe. A professional dancer, maybe. That would explain how he kept to her movements without missing a beat.

The music itself was a hypnotic beat in her blood. The woman's vocals were too fuzzy to actually hear as the drug sapped at her sense of sound but amplified everything else, especially touch.

"...I don't know why...don't know why..."

Long, thin, elegant fingers laced with her own, guiding against the still faceless partner. She found herself fascinated by the smoothness of his skin, that which she could touch; like the cool silk lace of her mother's nightgowns, when her mother had still been around. Whatever kind of shirt he was wearing was even smoother under the press of her cheek. Even as she did this, he pressed his face against the curve of her neck, scrapping his teeth along the very tender tendon there, as if she were a lamb beneath the grasp of a very ravenous predator. The slip of leather along her nearly bare legs was so erotic, she almost melted. She was dreamily aware of him: the sharp scent of him, like leather and smoke; tickles on her cheek from the feather-soft hair; the almost imperceptible lick of a tongue against her ear; the hot breath that made her arch every so slightly; the thrust of sharp hips...

...a droplet of sweat trailed down between her breasts and her nipples hardened. As if he knew, the dancer her scrapped his elegant fingers slowly over the front of the white dress and she gasped, filling her lungs with the hot air of the club. She could just burst...

...she was a fairytale princess again, alone with her prince...

"...my vine twists around your need..."

"Such a pity..."

...with the rustic, accented voice of a king...

"...even the rain is sharp like today..."

"...aren't you paying attention, Sarah?"

...but not just any king...

...how would he know my name?

...the king...

"...as you sh-sh-shock me sa-ne."

...the king with the impossible eyes and impossible white blonde hair and impossible beauty that had caught her breath as a youth and now caught her heart in her throat and drowned out the blood pounding in her ears as he smiled that arrogant smile of a monarch, a flood of forgotten memories flashing through her mind, too quick to grasp, eroding the drug taken for moments just like this when the man of her dreams and nightmares made her weak in the knees and reminded her just how precarious her power was when he looked at her like that and pressed a pale hand to her throat, pressing, while she struggled to summon the words to banish him away again, but now the female vocals were penetrating...

"...I can be cruel...I don't know why..."

"...eyes--can be so cruel..." she gasped and the Goblin King smiled even wider at her and she saw just how sharp a Goblin King's teeth could get.

"...I don't know why..."

"Aren't we all?"

"...I can be--"

Sarah sat upright, nearly choking on the words.

First things first, I don't own anything. I don't own Forbidden Game (L.J. Smith does), Labyrinth or the characters in it (Jim Henson and Lord Lucas do), or any of the characters or monsters from Bleach (that's Kubo Tite). The only thing I own is the insane plot that has somehow merged these three worlds together in a thing I should call overkill.

This chapter is for the Labyrinth buffs. Sorry it took so long, but anyone who's ever done it knows that to do SEXY properly (you hope, anyway) it takes time. Hopefully the next chapter will come a little faster, but please don't hold your breath.

Hope everyone has enjoyed reading, and thanks for sticking it out so far...

P.S. The song is "Cruel" by Tori Amos. Listen to it if you can. It is sexy in that eerie kinda way.