Disclaimer: Sadly, I don't own Labyrinth, Georgia, or magnolia trees (no, not even one :sniffle:).
A/N: before I begin, I just want to ask you all to please picture Jareth saying the word "elastic" when you read the end of paragraph one… hawt (the scene where he asks Hoggle "what is that plastic thing wrapped 'round your wrist" is quite possibly one of my favorites just because of the way Bowie says plastic)…
He had been in the tree long before she noticed him. He had watched her there, bent over the earth just so. He had seen her hair, dark as night, fall over her face like a veil. For a moment, he had alternated between annoyance at its obstruction of his view and the nearly overwhelming desire he'd felt to run his fingers through it. Then, just as quickly as it had happened, she'd hastily pulled it back into an elastic, seemingly annoyed by its disturbance of her progress.
This wasn't the first time he'd watched her, either; he was just closer now than he had previously allowed himself to be. Sprawled over the branch of the fragrant old tree, he'd actually had to rustle the leaves to catch the woman's attention. When she did turn toward him and he'd seen the fear in her eyes, he'd known a moment of regret. But then she had spoken his name, breathed life into the very syllables. That alone had made it worth doing.
She stood now, backing herself up the porch stairs and watching him. Her mouth stood open in an expression that seemed to be somewhere between curiosity and fear. He could taste her uncertainty in the air around him. Slowly, he slid down from the branch and began to walk toward her.
"Hello, Sarah mine."
She was certain that she should feel more terrified than she actually was. It had been years – nearly twenty – since she'd seen him, and now here he stood in her backyard. The orange light of the sunset reflected off of his hair, giving it almost a halo effect as he walked toward her. But he was no angel; he himself had told her before how cruel he could be. Not to mention the fact that last time he'd taken her brother. Oh god, Toby! Frantically, she began to speak:
"Why are you here? You can't take Toby, he's not even here, and I didn't wish –" Jareth interrupted her, stepping still closer as she backed herself against the porch railing.
"Now, now, Sarah, do calm down. I'm not here to take your beloved brother," he spit the word like a curse and moved to stand beside her. "Besides, he's no longer a child. It would be foolish to try to create an heir out of him at this point."
An heir? Sarah was thoroughly confused. She asked again: "Then why are you here?"
"Oh, I'm just stopping by, really," he sing-songed bitterly, leaning an arm against the railing. "Checking up on an old acquaintance. Honestly, Sarah, it has been years since we've seen each other, even for my kind," he made a noise of disapproval, "and after you said you needed all of us, too. I would almost have expected better, but then, I know you…"
She didn't know why that made her flinch. After all, he was nothing to her, save an adversary in a long-finished game. Still, when he said the words she cringed a little inside. She took a moment to regroup, and then spoke:
"No, Jareth. You knew me, and you're absolutely right about that me. I was a spoiled child then, and I was crueler than I knew. But you know nothing of me now; besides, I didn't mean I needed you. After all --"
He held up a hand to stop her and sighed a little, seeming weary of their battle-of-wills. "Ah yes, I have no power over you." He turned his eyes back to her, and when he spoke again his tone was earnest: "Sarah, what if I told you that I just wanted to come say 'hello?' Would that really be so terrible of me? Surely as an adult you realize that there was more to your run in the Labyrinth than just a game, and that I was not always playing a part. Knowing that, is it so wrong for me to want to see you?"
She didn't know what to say, and not just because of his mercurial moods. It wasn't as if she hadn't thought of the Labyrinth; she had, and she'd reached the very conclusions he had just mentioned. But it had been so long ago, and she had been so different. She'd been a child then, full of both wonder and selfishness. But, eventually, even she had grown up. She smirked a little as she looked at him, sizing up his appearance. She had changed, maybe, but he was exactly the same.
Suddenly, it struck her that she had no idea what that meant. She didn't truly know who he was to begin with, aside from his role in the Labyrinth. And it was a role; she had been playing a part as well – the brave heroine off to save a child (never mind it was the child she herself had wished away in a petulant fit of temper). He was, doubtlessly, cast into the role of villain. But who was he really?
She was unaware that she had asked the question aloud until Jareth chuckled. He stared over the railing at the magnolia tree and seemed to think for a moment, then shook his head and spoke: "I can't be expected to answer that honestly; no one can." Then, suddenly, he grinned at her and flung himself onto the railing like a schoolboy. "I can, however, allow you a chance to get to know me better, if you like."
"You'll trick me." The words had flown out of her mouth before she could stop them, and she reddened, embarrassed. Things had been going so well for a moment. But Jareth didn't seem to mind the knee-jerk statement of distrust; he just looked at her and shook his head.
"I can't. I have no power over you, remember? I can't even come into your home unless you invite me. I'm stuck out here in the garden, which is why this arrangement will work out perfectly." He glanced over at her, trying to see if she understood. She didn't. He sighed, and continued on: "You garden in your spare time, right? Well, whenever you come here, I'll meet you. That way, you can learn about me, I can see you, and nobody gets tricked. Not that I would trick you, if I could. We're both wiser now, Sarah. And it hardly worked last time, anyway…" He trailed off for a moment, then flashed her another puckish grin. "Well, what do you say?"
Caught between her ever-present curiosity and (much less vigilant) better judgment, Sarah figured this was how Didymus must have felt when she'd asked for his permission to cross the bog bridge, and she answered nearly the same way: "I…guess?"
Author's Note: Hey guys. I really hope you liked this chapter, and please review if you have comments, suggestions, or anything at all. Meh, for some reason, I feel like I'm channeling more Valentine (from Mirrormask) than Jareth here… Anyway, I've got this entire story plotted out, so I should be able to churn these chapters out relatively quickly (or, at least, without any extended delay). However, I will NOT sacrifice quality for speed, so be forewarned.
Oh, and this story will focus (almost entirely) on Jareth and Sarah's relationship, so if you're looking for an action/adventure kind of deal… this ain't it. Stick around, though, if you like romance!