Bah! Sorry for taking so long – I've been having trouble with my internet connection. I promise to make it up to you all with an extra special bonus chapter, later this week! :D
Sarah gasped, gripping Robbie's hand tighter.
The light overhead flared to life, illuminating the Goblin King in a pool of weak, orangey glow. The frail light cast the planes of his face into a wolf-like, feral beauty. Sarah felt her heart lurch at the sight of him, but she dismissed it quickly as fear.
"What are you doing here?" she demanded breathlessly.
"Come now, Sarah. I thought you'd be pleased to see me after all these years." He feigned offense, but devilry sparked in his eyes.
Robbie stepped forward, between Sarah and the Goblin King.
"Leave her alone, Jareth."
Sarah's body seemed to freeze in place, her mouth half-formed around a forgotten word.
"You know him?" she finally managed to croak.
Robbie turned to her, his eyes like those of a snared rabbit. "I – well, I…"
Jareth's amused laughter rippled through the darkness. "Spilling secrets, Robin?"
"Robin?" Sarah took a cautious step away from him. "I thought your name was Robert."
"It is," he said quickly, his expression desperate. "Here, my name is Robert."
Sarah continued to back away until she felt the wall against her back. "Here? Then where is your name not Robert?" she demanded incredulously.
Jareth watched their exchange with narrowed eyes, his lips on the verge of a smirk.
"I go by Robin in… the Underground."
Sarah's hand flew to her mouth, while fury boiled through her veins. How could it be that she'd been duped again by a creature of the Underground? She felt so stupid – she'd thought he was a decent, normal guy, someone who might actually have the potential to be a boyfriend, to make her happy. If she'd learned anything during her time in the Labyrinth, it was that the inhabitants of the Underground were not to be trusted.
"You lied to me."
"I never lied to you," Robbie said resolutely. "The Fae can't lie."
Sarah shook her head, unable to process everything being thrown at her. "Whatever you did – you tricked me. I thought you were… normal."
"I'm afraid it's worse than that," Jareth cut in smoothly. "Robin is a member of the Fae court. Winning a mortal's heart gives him a free pass to live in the Aboveground, while said mortal must take his place in the Underground."
Robbie's expression was crestfallen, defeated. He made no move to contest Jareth's claims.
"Oh my God." Sarah stared between the two of them, mortified and furious. He'd been doing worse than tricking her – he was using her. Jareth's expression mirrored her fury, but she couldn't imagine what he could possibly be angry about. Her wrath slowly gave way to a detached, calm sort of clarity.
She looked at Robbie, her expression deadly calm. "I wish the goblins would take you away, right now."
The contemptuous glare on Jareth's face slipped, showing a millisecond of astonishment, before he recovered his features into an inscrutable mask.
She turned, ignoring Robbie's desperate, pleading cry of, "Sarah!" and made her way back to her apartment. The lights overhead flickered on, one at a time, as she passed beneath them, illuminating her way back to apartment 3C.
She slammed the door shut behind her, startling Jess off of the couch.
"What are you doing back?" She dropped the ice cream tub she was eating out of, and flicked off the TV.
Sarah ignored her, and stormed into her room, slamming the door shut and locking it.
"Sarah?" Jess called again, before giving up.
Sarah turned away from the door and bit back an astonished scream. Jareth stood before her, a bemused smile pulling at the corner of his mouth.
"Well, well. Sarah, I thought you'd have learned from the first time."
"I don't care. Go ahead and keep him." She pushed past him, her eyes on her dresser. The little white box was gone.
"Looking for something?" Jareth held the box, a strange look on his face. His eyes met hers, holding her gaze. "I wonder who this could be from. Your Fae admirer, maybe?" he mused, stepping closer so that Sarah was pinned between his body and the dresser. She felt a blush rising, but forced herself to meet his gaze. The heat of his body only brought memories of her dreams, tempting her into something foolish.
She swallowed hard, forcing those thoughts away. "Like you don't know." She sidestepped him and snatched the box, ripping the lid off. Inside rested a small crystal ball, the unmistakable tag of a certain Goblin King. "Golly," Sarah said sarcastically. "Whoever could this be from?"
Jareth took the crystal from her, turning it over in his hand. "Who did you get this from?" he demanded.
"I'm not an idiot," Sarah reached for the crystal, but he pulled it away too quickly.
"I did not send this," he assured her, his tone a dire seriousness that she'd never heard before. Even at his most furious, when she defeated the Labyrinth, there'd been a self-assuredness underneath all the anger – he hadn't believed she could truly defeat him. But now… he was perplexed.
"I don't know where it's from. It was left outside my door."
Jareth relaxed his expression into his normal haughty veneer. At least now Sarah knew there was something other than imperiousness lurking beneath that expression.
"Never mind." With a roll of his wrist, the crystal disappeared. "Now, Sarah."
Sarah looked from his hand to his face, her expression mulish. She knew what was coming.
"Keep him. I don't want to run the Labyrinth."
"I'm afraid you have no choice in an instance like this. Robin was of the Underground. By rights, he should return to the Fae Court."
"I don't care. Do whatever you have to."
The Goblin King's tone grew impatient. "Will you listen, please? You must run the Labyrinth for him, regardless of whether you want to or not. What he's done has already bound you to him in certain ways."
"What?" Sarah felt her heart racing.
"If you defeat the Labyrinth again, you return safely home, and Robin is mine. Should you fail… you are mine and Robin returns safely to his court." There was something akin to pity in the Goblin King's expression, and Sarah couldn't bear it.
"No!" she cried, staggering away from him as if the distance would save her from what was happening. "That's not –"
"Fair?" Jareth's expression hardened. "Come now, Sarah. We've been through this already." He turned and looked out her bedroom window, where instead of the buildings of the university, Sarah saw the walls of the Labyrinth, rising to meet the Goblin City. Dark clouds hung over the castle, and the walls seemed in a greater state of disrepair than she remembered.
She blinked –
And then she was standing there, Jareth just behind her. The feel of him at her back had her spinning around, a gasp escaping her. She muffled it, annoyed by her lack of control around him. She focused on the Labyrinth instead, trying to clear her mind for the task ahead of her.
The wind whipped along the barren outer walls, tugging at her hair, her sleeves, her body – as if willing her to lie down in the scrub and give up before she had a chance to fail.
"Isn't this familiar?" the Goblin King mused, his mismatched feline eyes alight with furious pleasure.
"You don't intimidate me," Sarah said coldly, the lie slipping easily over her lips.
Jareth smiled wickedly. "Then I shall have to try harder." He turned to face a small clock, hanging from the branches of a long-dead tree. "You know the rules Sarah – thirteen hours to solve the Labyrinth."
She looked back at the walls, determination replacing despair. "I've done it once," she said calmly. "I'll do it again."
When she looked back, the Goblin King was gone, but his mocking laughter still echoed in the air.
Sarah sighed, and began walking down the hill to the gates of the Labyrinth.