Disclaimer: I do not own anything but the laptop I wrote this on.
Leaving behind her friends made her feel vulnerable and tired. Their reunion hours prior had touched her and she had not realized how sad their absence had made her during all those years.
"Well, it follows that I would have to find him all by my lonesome," she told herself, crossing her arms protectively over her chest.
The cobbled road led past the gate and twisted and turned, loosing itself among goblin huts and houses. It was silent, and once more the overwhelming sense of emptiness in the Labyrinth returned. Her friends had disappeared from the horizon, and it took a great deal of effort to press on, knowing that she could go back to the safety of her friends at any moment.
Reaching within, she recalled her prior triumph, the feeling of reclaiming her little brother and putting that terrible man in his place. It gave her the strength to pass through the goblin village. Roughly thatched houses made of mud, stone and straw stood as a silent witness to her arrival into the final stretch of the challenge. Whereas her previous labyrinth journey had been a great physical test, she felt the effects of the doubt and fear she had faced during her second attempt.
"Oh stop it, you're just feeling sorry for yourself." She chastised withdrawing from her internal ruminations and focusing on the imminent towering castle. It dominated the small hamlet which pressed upon it like children clutching at a mother's skirt. The subtle tapping of her feet upon the stones echoed back to her in a startling way. The sound seemed to cut itself and redouble like a scratched record. This in itself was unnerving, but as she grew closer to the castle the sky began to darken. Looking behind herself she saw the pitch black of night approaching with a fast-forward speed.
Picking up her heels she started at a brisk walk before breaking into a jog. Careening carelessly around corners, she finally slammed into the wall of the castle. A foolish thought of: 'home free' rung in her head as she pushed away from the solid wall and took stock of her body. Glaring at the sandstone and marble monstrosity, she began to examine the impenetrable building for the door she had used before. It was closed off, effectively separated from the troubles of others.
"Don't be silly, you can't expect me to scale the walls, can you?" Looking up, she saw an indistinct shape in the window.
"I'm not climbing up there, you hear?" She yelled. The figure on the sill twitched, the profile still in shadow. A soft "Very well," whispered behind her shoulder, making her jump. Spinning around, she could find no origin for the words, but returning her gaze upward, she saw a rope ladder had been lowered from the window. If she jumped, she would be able to reach it, she reasoned.
Taking a deep breath she leaped for the ends of the ladder and succeeded only in scraping her hands along the wall. Hissing from the pain, she tried again, this time securing the end of it. Using what little upper body strength she had and scrabbling her feet along the wall, she managed to pull herself up to the first rung. The effort of the exercise combined with her panicked run moments earlier had left her breathless. Clinging to the untrustworthy rope, her limbs trembled from exhaustion. Promising herself the longest bath in the history of steaming baths, she began the ascent to the tower. It felt as if she were the prince from Rapunzel, coming to rescue the damsel from her prison of gild. Finally heaving herself over the ledge of the window and falling ungracefully to the other side, she lay panting on the ground. She had made it into the castle; she just prayed that she still had time. Finally forcing herself to move from the floor, Sarah noticed that she had merely come full circle. The familiar quarters of the Goblin King unassumingly stared back at her.
'Who…?' Sarah felt eyes on her, tracing the symmetry of her body and evaluating her for its own amusement.
"I see you have managed to stumble home, little one." A silky voice stroked her from the shadows, disappearing again to leave her cold and to wonder at the word home.
"Come out Jareth, I've won." Sarah called bravely, hoping that it was the truth and she had won after all. She was still in the Labyrinth, and the world did not explode into fragments of imagination as it had done that day years ago. Fumbling about her she used a nearby table to drag herself to stand.
"I wonder about that, dear Sarah…that you have won, that is." A smile appeared briefly on his face, changing his leer into something more terrifying. He was clothed in dark leather pants that left nothing to the imagination. An open peasant shirt hinted at the muscled form beneath, leading her thoughts to places her mind shied away from. Jareth caught her gaze, his smile telling her that he knew exactly what she was thinking. Colouring, she quickly turned defensive and brought a hand up as if she were warding him off.
Jareth's grin flickered and extinguished, bleakness drenching the fire of his eyes. "Oh little one, young one." His words became a whisper, until a final heartbreaking name finally left him, "Mortal one."
Spooked, Sarah withdrew further from Jareth, not trusting him and herself even less.
"What do you mean," She asked, forcing courage into her spin, straightening up. "Mortal one?"
"Ah Sarah, sweet innocent doomed Sarah," he intoned morosely.
"Would you stop speaking like I'm going to die?" Sarah levelled a glare at the Goblin King.
"But you are." He rejoined simply.
"And you aren't?"
"No. Never. Not until I want to, and I do not."
"Scared?" Sarah asked derisively, a grin pulling at the thought of Jareth cowering from something.
"No, it would just be dull. How banal, to die for love," Scoffed Jareth, waving a hand vaguely as if to illustrate his contempt for the concept.
"Nothing is wrong with dying for love," Sarah protested.
"Sarah, grow up. Dying is taking the easy way out."
"I suppose…" Sarah trailed off, feeling foolish.
"You were thinking it was romantic?" His voice piqued at the end, turning his question into scorn.
"Look at Romeo and Juliet" Sarah protested, scrabbling for something.
"Ah, yes, Romeo how quickly he forsook his Rosaline for Juliet." Pityingly said, it only served to raise her ire.
Shaking her head, Sarah pressed a hand to her temple. "You're getting off topic, why all this talk of love and death?"
"I will die for love of you, and that is your fault."
"Love? I was a stupid child; I didn't realize I was cursing you to love me. I'll make it go away…somehow. I promise."
"It is quite trite, having to repeat to you that I do not wish to forget. I've been changed and that alteration is accountable for my desires- and such dark desires they are."
Her heart stopped as his heated gaze fell on her, sweeping across her.
"That…that wasn't my doing…I was innocent then." She protested weakly, recalling her childish play and how she had yearned for a dark lover, not knowing what it was.
"You are completely culpable," Jareth countered, shifting from dangerous to playful.
"The way you smile, slow like the rising of the sun. I love that smile." He drew close and unable to think much less move, Sarah let him.
"Oh Sarah, dear, please do not look like that. Like a poor animal in the glare of hunter." His tone was sweet and derisive, his eyes unreadable.
"Did you do something to me?" She asked, suddenly afraid, her limbs locked. Jareth's laugh was bitter, drawing ever closer.
"I fell in love with you after I fell in love with you, how pitiful." He loomed over her figure, his painfully gaunt cheekbones cutting the air. He moved slowly, afraid to startle her. Softly, so softly, he pressed his lips against hers. Sarah felt as if she had been submerged in cold water, the shock and intensity of his kiss simultaneously elated and condemned her. She felt she would never be free from that moment in time, finding herself drawn to Jareth and pressing herself against him. His arms wrapped around her, one hand cushioned her head, the other pulling her waist in towards him. Breaking contact, Jareth leaned down, his voice soft in her ear.
"And your eyes, so fluid. Even if you lie to me, I can see the truth in those honest eyes of yours." A kiss over each eyelid. In the distance where her consciousness was, Sarah knew she must flee. That this surely was a trap, and she would be made to suffer as she had made him. It was her traitorous body that leaned towards him, turning her face up like a flower to the sun.
"Your hair, so plain at first, catches the light, changing from black to gold, my lovely shifter." He gathered her hair in his palm, wrapping it around his fist. Expecting violence, she flinched, but he only lifted the strands to his lips and bestowed his blessing to them as well.
"I obviously didn't create you; everything you say is so cliché." She lamely tossed out, unwilling to lose herself within his words. 'Painted words.' She told herself.
"You ruin the moment, Sarah." He scolded, an arched brow sweeping up.
"I just want to go home. I don't want anything. I don't want this place or any of its strangeness. I just want to go back to my normal self-involved life before anything to do with the Labyrinth." It sounded like she was whining, but she was beyond being dignified and Sarah could no longer stand the effect of her frayed nerves. Pushing against him and leaving the shelter of his arms, Sarah crossed her own, ignoring the idiot in her who demanded her return to his side.
"Oh Sarah, I told you that your eyes cannot lie to me." Jareth's voice held pity, as if Sarah had been caught doing something she could not help.
"I just want to go home." She reasserted firmly, drawing herself up to her full height and taking an aggressive stride forward. Placing herself in front of Jareth she glowered and wished she had a sharp implement with which to threaten him.
"Do you even know how long you have been gone, Foolish girl?" Jareth returned her look with one of his own. "How long your little trip through the labyrinth took this time?"
Sarah paled, she had taken for granted that time would go by quickly in the Labyrinth while time in her world would slowly follow.
"How long have I been gone?" She asked, voice shaking.
"Half a year in your mortal time," he told her plainly. His voice held no sympathy and for that Sarah was glad. It made it easier to hate him.
"Take me back." Sarah calmly demanded, although her eyes flashed dangerously. Her mind was full of her family, 'Oh God, they must be so worried! They'll probably think I'm dead! School will probably have kicked me out!' Sarah ran her hands through her hair in a frustrated manner, horrifying imaginings circling about in her mind.
"I do not control time for your pleasure." Jareth coolly replied. He retreated to a chair that had moments before not existed. It dominated the room, decorated as it was with the bones of small mammals, and dark feathers. He brushed a speck if imaginary dust from his leather pants before his attention was drawn to what might have once been the head of a vole.
"Sarah, I can take you away from all of this mortal misery," he offered, not looking away from the pearlescent thing in his hand. "Destined to wither and die- a short lived blossom in the winter. I just have to pluck you from that place and you will bloom forever here. No sorrow or pain."
"No, no, no, no!" Shaking her head like a child, she fisted her hands in her dress and tried to mask her fear.
"Why would you even want any of that?" Jareth asked, not elaborating on what 'that' was.
"I want all of it," she shouted, hoping volume would mask the temptation to let it all disappear. "It is not worth anything if I can't have both. I want the pain and the sorrow and I want to age and yes, to die."
"You are too young to know what you want." Jareth snarled, the skull he was examining shattering in his hand.
"One by one your bones will break. Your hair will fall out, and your eyes will fail. Your joints will ache and your teeth will mould. So proud and tall you stand before me, but soon your spine will bend until it snaps. Oh yes, you are eager for this, aren't you?" Sarcasm more biting than acid assaulted her, washed over her and began to eat at her solid defences.
"I offer you the chance to always be young. Always be beautiful and charming-"
"and no longer human? No. I love what I am. I'll die and die with no regrets. That is a promise."
A snarl that showed a flash of hurt spread over Jareth's features. "Do not make promises you cannot keep. I'm tired of games and I'm tired of waiting for you to decide what it is you truly want. This world needed you, but do not presume too much."
"What, that I control them? That bull shit again? Ha, you are absolutely crazy."
"I wonder who to thank for that."
"I didn't create you."
"You are right, girl. You created the world and changed your 'friends' to your liking, but I am not so easily altered, Sarah. I've felt it before….your will surrounding me, trying to force me into your predestined caricature of me. Cruel and heartless, repentant and whipped like a dog. Yes, many times, but I am not either of those creatures you wish to shift me to. I can be cruel, and heartless. I have been boundlessly before you, and will be after. I've repented when I think I have wronged, but not much has been wrong to me. Never whipped nor contrite. Passive and tame, never."
I've had Moloko's Over and Over stuck in my head this whole chapter, as well as Emiliana Torrini's Me and Armini... that, and Silent Hill's Letter from Lost Days. It's hardcore guys. Don't do it…but seriously do.
A bit of fluff this chapter, but I hope it didn't drive anyone away. Thank you everyone for your kind reviews, and please continue to criticize and comment. It gives me something to aim for every time! Take care, lovely readers, my sweet September Sylphs, my October ...organists…