The adventure continues...

The Slumbering City

Chapter Seven

Mechanics of Fairy Tale Kisses

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less."

Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll

Sarah was pleased that, for once, there were no bells hounding after her. No irritating jingle following on her heels and trying to herd her through cold stone halls – in fact, there was no hall. There was only a pleasant sort of darkness, wrapped around her like a velvet blanket.

It reminded her of the first dream she'd had upon tumbling back into the ruined Labyrinth (however long ago that had been), in that she was once again surrounded by a soft thrumming or pulsation. This time, however, there was no sense of urgency, no desperate words tripping through her brain telling her to wake up. Midnight curled sensuously around her, and she could feel emotions here that, once again, existed outside of herself. Self-satisfaction reverberated from the living dark, but most of all she felt a smug sort of contentment.

Sarah realized this was a new pulse that surrounded her. Familiar, but not the one which, up to now, had been her constant companion in dreams – and perhaps even in the waking reality of the Labyrinth. This power wrapped around her now... she had felt echoes, heard reverberations of it in the thrumming bells that had alternately guided and herded her through the dark, glistening halls of the Labyrinth and Castle Beyond. But the new ripple around her was something separate. It felt old, and oddly strained, as though it was muffled or tightly coiled away elsewhere. Only a slender tendril was wrapped around her now, purring against her skin like a contented cat, and she knew that if it were to spring, to unleash itself fully upon her, she would be overwhelmed. It would be like getting hit head-on by a tidal wave. There would be nothing left of her in its wake.

She shifted uneasily, and the movement seemed to shake the dark away. Like droplets of water rolling off her skin, the velvet midnight slowly cleared. Soft, muffled sounds reached her ears – a familiar, musical voice and the rustle of silks. A shiver worked its way up her spine as a shock of cold seeped through her tattered clothes and into her flesh. Sarah felt as though her body was laid out on a block of ice, but her cheek rested on embers. It was smooth and hot, hot, hot against her skin.

Blearily, green eyes fluttered open in time to see a train of white silk glide across glistening stone and out of her sight. She groaned, dark lashes fluttering like butterfly wings. Long fingers were combing soothingly through her hair and, finally coming to herself, she focused.

Sarah was laying on her side across the cold stones of the castle floor, which explained the chill seeping into her bones. Her head rested on something firm but with much more give than the stones – and much more warmth. Mouth dry and feeling heady from a long sleep, the young woman slowly rolled onto her back and squinted upward.

Sunlight blinded her and she had to turn her head away and blink against the brilliance until her green eyes adjusted. When she looked back, it was to meet the familiar gaze of the Goblin King. The sun was setting behind him and the light set his frost-blond hair aflame, casting a golden radiance around the Fae's ethereally beautiful face that was like a halo. Half-remembered stories of angels stirred about in Sarah's mind, and as she focused on Jareth's mismatched eyes she wondered if even Gabriel could ever hope to look half so beautiful.

Certainly he could never look half so wicked, as the gleam in the Goblin King's eyes and the slight twist of a smirk on his lips could never be interpreted as anything else, no matter how much angelic innocence the sunlight tried to cast him.

Truthfully, Sarah was not surprised to once again find the ruler of the Labyrinth in her dream. She was, however, surprised that she lay with her head in his lap, and that his gloved fingers were gently combing the tangles from her raven-dark tresses. Though her body ached from the cold stone tiles, and her cheek still burned from where it had rested against Jareth's leather-clad thigh, Sarah did not find herself to be in a particular hurry to scurry away from the smirking monarch.

The young woman felt lethargic and muddled; being so close to Jareth and in such a vulnerable position made her uneasy, but her limbs felt too heavy to move. A part of her knew she should scramble to her feet and take several steps back from the dangerous Fae; after all he was – or had been, she needed to keep reminding herself – an enemy, if that was the correct word for what he had been to her. In any case he had proven himself to be unpredictable, with more mood swings than Karen going through menopause and some unclear intentions toward Sarah's person that made the girl quite edgy.

But then there was a part of her that was content to stay where she was, danger or no. A part of her that luxuriated in being so close to the beautiful man, that was flattered by the careful attention he was paying her, and that purred like a kitten every time she felt his gloved fingers massage her scalp, or gently untangle another snag in her hair.

"Your timing, as always, is impeccable, Sarah," Jareth's melodious voice roused the young woman from her inner struggle. Her green eyes focused on the monarch's face. "To think, I was about to wake you with a kiss," he continued, a wicked smirk on his full lips.

"You what?" Sarah scowled, but could feel a blush hotly staining her cheeks. Jareth, of course, could see the effect of his words by the pink stains and his grin widened.

"I thought it would be fitting," he purred, his fingers slowly twining through a lock of her hair, "to awaken the sleeping princess with a kiss." His eyes darkened as he gazed down on her, and Sarah felt her blush deepen as Jareth's voice dropped in timbre, "bestowing a kiss on one who is lost to a bespelled sleep always wakes them. That is how it works in those childish stories you used to read, does it not?"

"First of all," she blustered, feeling inexplicably embarrassed, "how do you know what kind of stories I used to read?!"

Jareth smirked but remained silent, tugging playfully at her hair in lieu of an answer. Sarah glared, twisting about to get a better look at him. He chuckled at her fierce expression, which only angered her further.

"Secondly," she growled, "this is a dream. You can't wake someone up if you kiss them in a dream."

Jareth cocked an eyebrow, and grinned wickedly. Sarah's heart raced as she watched his dark, mismatched gaze settle on her lips.

"I say we ought to test that theory, precious." He purred sinfully, his golden head slowly bowing over hers. Sarah watched as if in a trance as his beautiful face neared hers. She felt his warm breath tickle against her mouth. Finally, she tilted her head away, her heart in her throat as she felt his lips barely brush against her cheek. He laughed softly and she could feel the vibrations of it against her skin.

Sarah blushed angrily, words tumbling thoughtlessly from her lips as she tried to hide her embarrassment.

"Anyway, those kinds of kisses only work if there's magic involved," She said petulantly. Jareth laughed again, and Sarah shivered as his lips brushed against her ear. She jerked away, eyes wide as she turned to stare uncertainly at him. He gazed back at her through his lashes, expression unreadable for a moment before he smirked.

"I assure you, my kisses are quite magical," he grinned saucily, mismatched eyes predatory as they followed her movements.

Being this close to him, Sarah found herself awash in Jareth. Everything that was the Goblin King. His spicy, wild scent surrounded her, and she could feel – or maybe hear? -- his magic buzzing and rushing just beneath his skin. Her vision was filled with the fiery reds of Jareth's elegant clothes, the alabaster glow of his skin, the gold of his hair, the flash of his blue and green eyes, the bone-white of his sharp teeth as he smiled, and the sparkle of the amulet that lay against his chest.

She had been too close to him for too long, Sarah decided. She slowly sat up, berating herself for not having moved away sooner. A painful tug against her scalp made her wince, and she saw that Jareth still held a lock of her hair in his ruby-gloved hand. He pulled gently at it like a leash, and, angrily, Sarah leaned toward him.

"Don't you wish to find out?" He asked silkily, eyes dark. Sarah recognized something in his gaze. She shifted uncomfortably.

"You... You're teasing me," Sarah accused, but she sounded uncertain. They gazed at each other, Sarah frowning, her green eyes dark and guarded.

Jareth smirked, the lock of her hair still wrapped around his fingers, not allowing her to move far from him. "Am I?" He inquired, voice velvet soft.

Sarah's brow furrowed and she felt her stomach twist nervously. "Aren't you...?" Her mouth was dry. The Goblin King laughed, and it was not a pleasant sound. His eyes flashed cruelly and he tugged her closer by her hair.

"You tell me, Sarah," he grinned, sharp teeth flashing dangerously, "after all, this is your dream, is it not?"

The dark-haired girl flushed angrily, reaching up to pull her her hair from his grasp.

"I don't have dreams like this!" She protested angrily, "I don't dream about you!"

Jareth snarled at her words, and their eyes met angrily. For a tense moment, his hand tightened and she didn't think he was going release the lock of hair that leashed her to his side. Her breath caught, and they stared at each other. Finally, the Goblin King released her dark tresses and he watched Sarah retreat from him, a calculating smile settling over his mouth.

As Sarah backed away, Jareth relaxed. He leaned carelessly back watching her and looking quite amused.

"Obviously, you do." He grinned cheekily.

Sarah glared, getting to her feet. They were atop one of the Castle Beyond's turrets, the sun a blaze of orange, purple, and gold as it set heavily in the distance over the Labyrinth. Jareth stood as well, the dying rays of the sun hitting him and making him shine like a garnet.

To Sarah, he looked like a devil in red. Carmine leather breeches that she knew to be soft, and ruby hued boots of a scaled beast she didn't recognize. She wouldn't be surprised if they were made of dragon hide. A loose, scarlet shirt with billowed poet sleeves was under a sleeveless vest, the same leather as his boots and unlaced, leaving much of his broad, pale chest exposed. His gloves were of identical material to his breeches, and his hands rested on his hips. He looked out over the Labyrinth, a contented smile on his face as he surveyed his kingdom.

"Was there someone else here?"

Jareth tilted his head at the young woman's question, his gaze shifting to rest on her. Sarah toed the ground uncertainly, but didn't balk under the Goblin King's attention.

"When I, uh... 'woke up'... I heard... voices."

The Fae continued to stare wordlessly at her.

"As in... More than one?" She licked her lips, beginning to feel a bit silly. "And I saw... the bottom of a dress..." She frowned at his continued silence. Frustrated, she glared at him. "Why don't you ever answer my questions?!"

Jareth turned fully toward her, his mouth quirked bitterly. "Sarah, often I do not wish to answer your questions. There is little need, anyway, since you are so very clever at answering them yourself."

Sarah crossed her arms over her chest and glared. "There was someone else here."

Jareth grinned, "There now, you see? You didn't really need my help at all to come to that conclusion."

Frustration overtook her and Sarah stomped like a child in a tantrum. "If you have someone else here, why don't you get them to help you?!"

Jareth's eyes flashed dangerously and he gestured imperiously to Sarah, beckoning her closer. Stubbornly, Sarah planted her feet and glared challengingly back at him. The Goblin King cocked one winged eyebrow and, finally, stepped toward her.

He moved sinuously, his strides long and graceful as he began to circle her. "So brave, little girl, to continuously defy me at every turn." His eyes glowed like embers as they slid over her figure. There was something hungry and haunting in the way he looked at her. Sarah could feel a hot anger simmering in the air as he circled her once more before coming to a stop at the turret wall.

Jareth straightened his back and looked down his nose at her, eyes suddenly cold. Slowly, he stretched out a gloved hand, his voice soft and dangerous. "My patience grows thin, Sa-rah," he sang her name softly, then his tone grew brittle, "Come here, you willful child!"

Something dark in his mismatched eyes warned her that to fight would be tempting danger. Suddenly feeling meek, Sarah stepped forward, hesitantly taking his gloved hand. The Goblin King smirked victoriously, and pulled the young woman against his side.

Immediately, Sarah began to squirm as he tucked her against him, but he ignored her protests.

"Look out at my Labyrinth, Sarah," He commanded, holding her still against him. Grumbling, Sarah tried to ignore the way she was pressed against his side, or the heat she could feel radiating from him, hot as embers. She turned her green eyes out, gazing over the turrets.

"Oh..." She blinked.

"Oh?" Jareth questioned, gazing down at her dark head resting at his shoulder.

"It... It's... whole." There was no other way she could describe it. This was not the broken, decrepit Labyrinth that surrounded her in the waking world. This was the Labyrinth as she remembered it. Alive.

"This is the Labyrinth as it would be, had our last encounter gone differently."

Sarah looked up at him, frowning. "What do you mean?"

Jareth gazed stoically down at her. "Do you remember how your first journey through my Labyrinth ended?"

Sarah lifted her chin proudly, her voice steady as she looked him in they eye. "I defeated you."

The Goblin King's eyes darkened and his lips twisted bitterly. A cold wind howled around them, tugging furiously at Sarah's clothes and hair.

"You have no power over me," He shrilled, then glared at her. "Sound familiar, precious?"

Sarah cast about desperately in her memory, green eyes panicked, "But...! But, that was how the story went! I was just trying to get Toby back!"

Jareth turned and gripped her arms tightly, nearly shaking her, anger evident in his eyes and his voice. "You and your stories! You play them through without ever fully understanding! When you spoke those words you broke my magic, and with that the Labyrinth crumbled."

The dark-haired girl looked helplessly up at him, then turned back to the Labyrinth. The Fae king watched her, mismatched eyes gleaming brightly.

"Yes," he sneered, "So, the princess finally understands, does she? You are here to clean up your mess."

"This... This isn't fair," She whispered miserably, "I didn't know..."

Jareth tilted his head, whispering softly into her ear as Sarah stared out over his kingdom. "Who is the villain in the story of the Dream Weaver King, precious?" The knife her heart twisted cruelly and she felt tears stinging at the corner of her eyes.

"I didn't know," she said plaintively, finally raising her eyes to his. He smirked, lips twisted upward in a bitter imitation of a smile.

"Yes you did, Sa-rah."

"Jareth, please," she whispered.

The use of his name gave them both pause. Sarah stiffened in his hold, and the Goblin King's cold gaze seemed to soften slightly. His grip on her arms loosened marginally and the cold wind that had been beating at them both died down. He regarded her quietly, the anger almost instantly vanishing from his face.

She refused to look him in the eye, so she did not see the distant longing there, but she heard the hunger in his voice.

"Please what, love?" He asked in a velvety whisper, his head bowing over hers. Sarah blinked back the tears and took a deep breath. It wasn't fair. Wasn't fair. And she couldn't think with him hovering over her like this!

"Please... Stop," she begged, closing her eyes and silently wishing for the guilt that pained her heart to go away. How was she supposed to know that her words would have that kind of effect?

"You know I won't," He scoffed coolly. Finally, she lifted her eyes to his.

"Can I fix it?" She asked pleadingly, her green eyes wide and doe-like.

Jareth watched her carefully, and had she known him better she would recognize the calculating look in his eyes.

"Yes," He finally answered, "Else you would not be here. The Labyrinth wants to be healed, and has begun the process itself."

She frowned, canting her dark head to the side. "Then what do I do? How can I help?"

Jareth smiled. "There are several ways, I suppose... but the easiest would be to find me."

"I thought I was already doing that," she huffed. The Goblin King smiled indulgently.

"Then I suggest you continue down the path which you are already on."

"Why don't you just tell me where you are?"

Jareth smirked. "I trust you'll find me all by yourself, Sarah. You are so very good at solving the Labyrinth."

Frustrated, the young woman tried to twist out of his hold, green eyes flashing. "Ooooh! You're never any help at all!" Sarah cried childishly.

The Goblin King pulled her back to him, grinning, "You wound me, precious. What about the gift I provided you in the garden?"

Ceasing her struggle, Sarah looked up at him. "The tree. I knew that had to be you. The world isn't cruel enough to provide coincidental peaches!"

"This world is," Jareth murmured, gathering her against him. Uncomfortable being so close to the unpredictable monarch, the young woman pressed her hands against his chest, trying to keep some distance between them. The Goblin King smirked at the fruitless gesture, bowing his golden head close to hers.

"Now then, I believe it's time to test your theory, Sa-rah."

The champion frowned, "What are you –!" She had no time to protest as the Goblin King closed in.

Warm, soft lips encompassed hers in a gentle, insistent kiss. A fire and hunger fueled it, the dregs of a passion that threatened to overwhelm them both, Jareth's mouth trembling slightly against hers. As darkness rushed in to claim her, Sarah had only a moment to recognize a new fact about the Dream Weaver King that she hardly found surprising.

His kiss tasted of peaches.

Cue the eye rolls with the last line, will ya? Of course he tastes like peaches! What else would taste like? Pomegranates? Heh. Well. Maybe. Who's brushed on their Greek myths?!

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