Sanctuary

Ch 8

By: Jack Hawksmoor

Sarah landed on her feet with some force, stumbling forward into the grass to keep from falling over. She straightened, lifting her head to look up at the mountain, and someone crashed into her from behind. He seized her by the waist and pulled her in close. He was still very naked.

Sarah made an outraged sound and squirmed for all she was worth.

"Stop it!" she snapped, annoyed. Jareth released her and stepped back a bit, as if he was expecting her to whirl and attempt to slap him. Sarah declined, feeling like she'd lived down to his expectations enough for one night. She glared at him instead.

Jareth gave her an impatient look, as if he was a teacher, and she a particularity thick student of his.

"Sarah," he said in a scolding, stop-being-stupid voice. "Don't you see? You've just proved me right again."

Sarah spread her hands. "What? That I'm a sucker for-"

"You care." He flashed her an infuriating, self assured smile. "About me."

"Look," Sarah said in a dangerous tone of voice, stepping toward him with the possibility of real violence on her mind.

"You had to care, Sarah, for the undoing to work. If you hadn't cared, just sleeping with you wouldn't have changed anything," Jareth said, his voice soft. "And how could I have predicted that?" He reached out and touched a lock of her hair, as someone else might reach out to touch hands. Sarah let him, surprised and once again reviewing her own assumptions.

"I don't understand," she said quietly. "If you...if you didn't know..."

"I didn't try to make you care, because I didn't think it would work even if you did." He lifted his eyebrows. "If I had known, I would have tried as soon as I got through the door." He tilted his head as he looked down at her. It was bizarre how confident and relaxed he could be while not wearing anything. "I would have had you eating out of my hands. You would have recited poetry, composed ballads...I can be very seductive." His voice went dark and shivery at the end, and Sarah had to fight the impulse to glance down at his lack of clothing. She opened her mouth and stared at his face for a moment instead, her brain going over the words he'd just said with growing disbelief.

"You are not a nice person, you know that?" Sarah said frankly, shaking her head a little at the sheer unapologetic audacity of the man. With a prick of dismay she recognized that she found amoral frankness weirdly attractive. Sarah would be so much more comfortable with the fact that she liked him if he was nicer.

Jareth smiled at her unpleasantly.

Poetry. Right.

Sarah looked away from him with a confusing mix of amusement, relief, and dismay. He hadn't used her but given the knowledge and opportunity, he would have. Not exactly comforting. Even though...

Sarah flashed, briefly, on the expression on Jareth's face when she'd first removed her shirt. Whatever else he might have lied about, that had been real. Pursing her lips, she glanced over at him tentatively. He was looking up at the mountain.

They were standing on one of the grassy, flower-specked foothills that rolled right up to an impressive, looming, snow-topped mountain. The smaller peaks of the mountain range clustered close by, younger siblings hovering close to their older brother. Behind Sarah was a small, uninhabited valley that was so mindlessly pretty it could have been on a label of Swiss chocolates.

"You can't do that again," Sarah said quietly, almost to herself. Jareth turned from the scenery to look at her.

"What?"

"You can't lie to me to make a point," Sarah said, louder that time, nodding to herself.

"And why not?" Jareth asked, amused.

"Because that's not what you do!" Sarah sputtered, giving him a sharp look.

Jareth blinked, and then examined her closely, as if he'd spotted something unusual growing on her face. "Not what you do," he repeated, as if rolling the words around in his mouth, to see if he liked the taste. "When?" he asked then, an intensity in his voice Sarah couldn't miss.

Sarah examined her fingernails. She was a little unsure herself of where the end of that sentence was leading. That's not what you do...when you like somebody...when you're with somebody? She was saved from having to answer by a loud rumbling from above.

The sound was very out of place in the postcard-perfect place they were in, and Sarah lifted her eyes with a frown. The sky behind the mountain was ruining the scenery. It was cloudy and ominous-looking and getting darker even as Sarah looked up at it.

"I've never seen it storm here," she said, ignoring the expression of frustration on Jareth's face. The valley was a station on a lot of routes through strange places. There were supposed to be protections on it. Another rumble of thunder came from behind the mountain, rolling down the hills to echo through the valley in a disturbing way. "I suppose...it's been so long since I've been around-"

"That's not a storm," Jareth said, sounding a bit put out at the abrupt change of subject. Sarah looked at him with a question on her face. "I told you they would follow," he added, taking a step and folding his arms.

Sarah did not miss the fact that he had just placed himself between the not-storm and her. The darkness was moving alarmingly quickly across the sky. As Sarah watched, a white flicker of lightning struck the mountaintop in front of them.

Sarah stared to count and got to three before a crack of thunder made her wince.

"But you can stop them now," Sarah said tentatively, stepping up beside him. "Can't you?"

Jareth lifted his head, looking powerful and strange and very inhuman. There was another flash of lightning, and Sarah didn't even get to one before the thunder. Her heart sank a little. So fast...

"Oh, yes," he said, his voice promising terrible retribution. Then, quieter, in a much more terrible tone of voice..."Yes, we are in trouble, aren't we?"

Sarah glanced over in surprise and got a chill, suddenly quite sure he wasn't talking to her. There was a dark, shark-like smile on his face. His teeth were very sharp, and they seemed larger in his mouth than she remembered them. She looked up at the mountain, and felt an unexpected flicker of pity for whatever was headed their way.

The Goblin King was pissed.

Given what had happened, Sarah could only think that they'd earned whatever they were about to receive. Then he turned to her, and the disparity between Scary Goblin King and tense, concerned-looking Jareth was hard to miss. He took her by the shoulders and leaned close.

"You have to shut your eyes for this, Sarah," he said, as the sky darkened over their heads. Sarah was sure she could hear something whispering on the wind, and bit her lip. Jareth squeezed her shoulders. "Shut your eyes, and don't open them, no matter what you hear." He reached up and touched her cheek. "I'll keep you safe," he murmured, and it almost sounded like an oath.

Jareth was afraid, but not for himself. Sarah looked up at the determination on his face and almost kissed him. She remembered just in time what a distracting experience it could be. Sarah thought, by the way his eyes widened, that he'd seen something of the impulse in her expression. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes.

She felt his thumb brush lightly over her eyelid and shivered once, head to toe, remembering.

The sound of the wind went from whispering to something more like snarling, and Sarah was left standing alone with her own thoughts. She gritted her teeth, flinching as something solid and covered in hair brushed by her. Then, with a yowl, it was gone. The noise...she had nothing to compare it to. Like a fight between hundreds of cats and a demon, maybe. Screaming and howling and gibbering. Something was laughing and the sound was so horrible she slapped her hands over her ears, terrified it would burrow into her brain and tear her sanity out.

It didn't really help, though, it couldn't...and then it got worse. It was madness all around her. Looking-glass monsters spewing insanity all over the hillside like blood from countless wounds.

Something grabbed at her arm with an appendage that wasn't even close to a hand and Sarah cried out once, trying to jerk away without falling. An outraged roar made her wince and she felt the thing grasping her arm start to flake away. It didn't release her, but almost seemed to disintegrate on the spot.

Things started wailing in disbelief and terror, some in voices that might almost have been human. Begging and sobbing...and that laugh...it made Sarah want to tear her ears off.

Then, little hissing clicking voices, she could almost make out...

please, and sorry, so sorry...

Cockroach voices, claws that catch scratching words out on the ground through a puddle of blood and entrails.

Sarah turned her head and retched. She went down on one knee, almost grateful for the physical sensation, distracting her from what she was hearing. Jareth had warned her not to look. Sarah wouldn't have opened her eyes for all the fairy dust in Neverland.

Then, it got quiet.

Sarah waited, straining to listen, wondering if she should try to run. Knowing that if she needed to it was hopeless anyway. The wind had stilled. There was only her own breathing, and something else, faintly...a wet sound. Sarah frowned, concentrating. Almost like...eating.

She went abruptly and utterly cold.

"Jareth?" she called, clenching her fists. For a long, heart-wrenching moment there was nothing.

"All right," Jareth said roughly, sounding not quite himself. Sarah sagged in relief and opened her eyes, grinning. She realized, afterward, that Jareth had probably meant 'all right' in the sense that he was okay and uneaten, as opposed to 'all right' in the sense of 'all clear to look'.

Jareth was kneeling beside a pile of leaves. Sarah's mind told her, after a moment, that it was definitely a pile of leaves. Strange, charcoal-gray oak leaves, sparking with that otherworldly glitter that Sarah had seen so liberally covering every surface of the labyrinth. The wind whipped through and rustled the pile, a few individual leaves taking to the air, sparkling in the sunlight. Sarah saw that, her brain accepted that. But for just an instant, as she'd opened her eyes, it had been something else. A body. A creature corpse right out of nightmare. Jabberwocky horror. Then Jareth turned to look at her with glitter all around his mouth, (blood, Sarah wasn't thinking blood...) and it was just leaves. He was unrecognizable to her, for just that one moment. Some wild, powerful, ancient thing, at least at terrible as the beast he was feasting on...

Oak leaves were scattered all over the hillside, dark and shining and dancing in the wind. Sarah was kneeling in them.

Jareth wiped his mouth clean, looking if not entirely human, at least not so frightening. He was wearing clothes again, conjured out of thin air. He was dressed as he had been the first time she'd set eyes on him, in fact, and Sarah couldn't help but think the choice was deliberate. Reminding her of simpler times? Sarah stared at him in barely concealed horror. She wasn't thinking about the blood on his face. Or the stuff stuck in his teeth that was more solid than blood.

It was just glitter, blowing away in the breeze.

Jareth saw the look on her face and blanched. "I told you," he said, his voice deliberately casual, "not to look."

Sarah nodded, too fast.

"Lucky," she said faintly, still just slightly hysterical. "I might've been cursed or something."

Jareth stared at her, and said nothing. Sarah got a chill. She thought she'd been lucky...

"Am I going to turn to stone?" she asked. It could've been a joke. It wasn't. Sarah's voice was deadly serious.

Jareth pushed on his knees and levered himself upright. He looked grim. "You could have gone home, back to your life. Put stranger things behind you." he said, extending a hand to help her up.

Sarah looked at his hand, then back up. "Not likely," she said deliberately.

Jareth eyed her. " No?"

Sarah smiled slightly. "Well, for one thing, you destroyed my apartment."

Jareth gave her an amused, slightly superior look. "You won't turn to stone," he said, almost gently.

"No matter what?" Sarah asked, lifting an eyebrow.

Jareth stared at her for a moment, then lifted one of her hands and kissed the inside of her wrist. "No matter what," he said in a strange, deliberate tone of voice. Sarah believed him, suddenly and whole cloth. She had a creepy suspicion, looking into his eyes, that he was being entirely truthful with her. One of those fairy-tale oaths that lasted far longer than they ought to. Should she live five more years or five thousand, no matter how long any piece of her remained on earth, she would never turn to stone.

Sarah almost laughed, it was so ridiculous.

"I'll hold you to that," she said, in a flash of insanity suddenly feeling warm and fond of him. A monster, maybe, but her monster. "What now? Can you go back home? Fix things?"

Jareth looked away from her, stepping back. He was quiet for a moment.

"I could say," he began slowly, "That I have no intention to. You did not stay behind in your apartment, your end of the bargain wasn't kept, so why should mine?" He examined the hillside as if it was fascinating, watching the oak leaves blow about, glittering attractively in the wind. Sarah stared at him, mouth open. "I think then you would be outraged," he said slowly, thoughtfully. "You might even try to force me to fulfill my promise."

He folded his arms across his chest and looked down.

"I could then be certain you would come back with me. You would demand it, so I would not try to trick you again." He kicked aimlessly at the pile of leaves at his feet, rather like a slightly petulant child.

"Why don't you, then?" Sarah asked him hoarsely, her throat suddenly very dry.

"Apparently," Jareth said softly, "It isn't done." He poked at the leaves with his boot as if they were fascinating.

Sarah stopped breathing for a moment, convinced she couldn't have heard that. Then, feeling rather lightheaded, she took a step toward him and put her hand on his chest. He was wearing that dark armor, and it was cold under her fingers. She cupped his cheek with her other hand, pushed up on her toes, and kissed him.

Jareth tasted of sex, and, as his lips parted, the flavor grew more intense, sharpening until to her own surprise, he tasted of himself...

Sarah broke away, breathing hard. The glitter that had been left on his face had smeared on hers, and she was mildly surprised at how little she cared.

Jareth had snaked his arms tight around her waist, and when she pulled back he made no move to release her. His eyes were very bright, but his face was serious.

"Until now, you've been living along the edge," he said quietly, his face very close to hers. "You've been moving through the margins, and the things you've seen haven't noticed you passing by." His eyes were deadly serious.

"Sometimes seeing the truth comes with a price," he said, drawing back a little, lifting his hands to grip her by the shoulders. "You're going to get noticed now." He enunciated every word precisely, pausing to stress each one. The effect got her attention as thoroughly as if he'd shouted in her face. He couldn't have made it clearer that she had desperate need of this information. His voice seemed to promise dire things on the way.

Sarah pressed her lips together in a thin line and nodded once, understanding pretty clearly what he was trying to tell her. Regular people were pretty safe from ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties. She hadn't been regular people since she was fifteen, but she wasn't any kind of target, either. The world was filled with stories of young girls who triumphed over the big bad. There were quite a few involving young women helping magical things triumph over the big bad. The endings usually involved some kind of happily ever after.

But the stories about the young girl who saw something she shouldn't rarely ended so sweetly.

"And I suppose you can't help me," Sarah said, guessing where this particular tale was headed. Jareth looked briefly surprised.

"You want my help?" he asked, and a smile briefly flickered to his lips. His tone of voice indicated that his kind of help was rarely asked for. Sarah tilted her head to the side, thinking.

"What happens if I say yes?" she asked frankly. It hardly ever hurt to ask. Sometimes people (or things) just told you, and saved you no end of trouble...

She felt his hand move on the small of her back, his fingers spreading out. He dipped his head, and when he lifted it again, he looked pleased as punch. Like a small boy just offered a sucker the size of his head.

"If you..." he began, and stopped and had to clear his throat before continuing.

Sarah's eyes widened. His voice was shaking in the way of someone barely holding back a shout of triumph.

"If you say yes," he said, "You'll have to come with me," his voice went soft on the last, his eyes greedy and bright. He pulled a crystal from nowhere, held it up and sent it to spinning with graceful absentmindedness. It was a beautiful sight, and difficult to ignore, but if he meant it as a distraction, he failed miserably.

Sarah raised an eyebrow and regarded him with some justified exasperation. She looked from his face to the crystal in front of her, and chewed thoughtfully on her lip. She could see nothing inside the crystal, only darkness.

"You could just ask me, you know," Sarah said quietly.

"Come with me," Jareth replied quickly. Sarah smothered a smile. That was about as close as she could hope to get. Silently, she nodded.

Jareth's eyes flashed in delight, and he released the crystal into the air. He opened his hand and it floated up into the air above them, brightening as it went. The crystal flashed blindingly over their heads. Sarah blinked, then finally had to shut her eyes, flinching away from the light.

Jareth stepped back, and it was as if he'd dropped her into a hole, it got dark so fast. Every ounce of light was extinguished. Sarah opened her eyes and it was as if she hadn't. She saw nothing, nothing at all. It was so dark it felt like she had a sack over her head, and she grabbed Jareth's arms tightly, the cloth of his shirt bunching under her fingers.

Then, faintly, from above, a pale bluish glow. It did not exactly light the landscape around them, but gave Sarah's eyes some dark suggestion of outline and shape. The crystal lowered, the light concentrating the closer it got to the ground. There was still no color to the world, but Sarah could definitely see what was around them for about ten feet. A wall of stone, floor of stone, a large urn with a mocking face carved into it, and steps leading up...

"We're in the Labyrinth," Sarah exclaimed, and swiveled her head around, peering into the darkness with some strange, sad hope of finding something familiar, now that she knew where she was.

"Yes," Jareth said. He sounded hollow, as if the sight of his kingdom had scooped out something important from inside him. Everything beyond the meager reach of Jareth's light was black. Not the slightest shine from water or glass, not the tiniest difference between the sky and the earth. Only death, only silence, as far as the eye could see. Sarah shivered. There was a faint smell in the air that raised all the hairs on the back of her neck. As if some slight echo of horror and loss still lingered. The scent of despair hung heavy in the air, and when Jareth brought the softly glowing crystal down between them, Sarah focused on it with desperate concentration.

Jareth brought his hands up as if warming himself in the light, and after a moment Sarah mimicked him. They huddled close to it, facing each other and doing their best to shut out the terrible truth all around them. Sarah wasn't sure what she'd expected, but this was...bad.

"It's so dark," she said, her voice hushed.

His mouth tightened into a smile that had very little humor in it. "It's the end of the world," he said. "It's always dark."

Sarah gave him an uncertain look. "Can you fix it?"

For a moment, Jareth's jaw worked silently. Then he nodded.

Sarah touched his arm. "Can I do anything?"

Jareth reached up and brushed her hair away from her face, his fingers skimming her cheek. It was an affectionate, intimate gesture, and despite their surroundings, Sarah suddenly felt warm and giddy.

"Not just yet," he said, and stepped back. He didn't bother, this time, telling her to shut her eyes. That particular realization made her pause.

She'd been so careful, over the years. There were unspoken rules for regular people among strange things and impossible places. Finding herself on the other side of those concerns was...odd.

Then Jareth tensed, and Sarah felt her heart thud hard in her chest as the world around her developed a stutter. It was like watching a reel of film that had caught in the projector, but it was the whole labyrinth around her.

Jareth staggered slightly, then braced himself better, standing with his legs further apart, knees bent. As if he was just getting started. Sarah felt a shiver and broke out in goosebumps. There was a surreal kind of tension in the air, something under enormous strain stretching to its limit, and then further.

The stone cracked under her feet with a gunshot. The sound spread out, like ice on a lake threatening to break. Popping, crunchy, 'oh shit' sounds. Sarah looked around her at the stone with wide eyes, frozen with the thought that the place she was standing was as safe as any other. The ground bucked under her, heaving up and down once, as if some vast giant beneath the earth had taken a breath. The ground cracked as it rose, falling back down as chunks of stone. Sarah's heart clenched tight in her chest as she rode the wave, and she flinched and gritted her teeth as she headed for a nasty re-introduction to the earth.

The ground split before her, and she continued to fall. On and on into nothing, the rest of the labyrinth seeming to join her on the way down, big sections of floor tumbling past her into darkness.

She waited. Nothing happened. Experimentally, she shut her eyes, then opened them again. She would have jumped at the change, if she'd had anything to jump off of.

Sarah opened her eyes to daylight, or something like it. Light, anyway. She dropped down neatly onto a chunk of stone floor (or possibly wall) that was sort of floating in nothing, as if gravity was a friend that occasionally looked the other way where she was concerned. There were other chunks of labyrinth hanging around in the air like Christmas decorations dangling from an invisible tree.

Sarah had been here, before. Or at least, someplace very like it.

"This is not as easy as it looks, you know," came a voice from behind her. Sarah spin around, relief high in her chest.

Jareth was pale and washed out, and looked absolutely exhausted. His clothes were rather...feathery, as if he was halfway to being an owl. Sarah looked around at the floating bits of labyrinth all around them.

"Ah," she said, "didn't quite work, did it?"

Jareth gave her a wry look. He lifted a hand as if to gesture her in close. Sarah stepped forward quickly, curious. He slipped his arms around her in a way that implied he wasn't sure if she would allow it. Sarah bumped him affectionately with her hip, oddly comfortable with him. Some little voice inside her whispered my monster.

Jareth dropped any pretense, leaning all over her.

Sarah grunted, startled, and braced her feet. Jareth was breathing hotly against her neck, which under other circumstances would be very nice. He said something against her skin that she couldn't catch, and she made a questioning sound. Jareth got his feet more firmly under him, which was a good thing, and pulled back to look her in the face.

"I said," he repeated, "that's better." Then he kissed her.

It was brief, and sweeter than it had any right to be, given the fact that Sarah was beginning to think Jareth was using her like some kind of battery. He pulled back, looking flushed, and Sarah leaned all over him this time, trying desperately to find her presence of mind.

"Um," she managed, failing for the moment to find it. "Dangerous stuff."

Jareth grinned at her with sharp teeth. He looked immeasurably better. Sarah spied her rational mind, hiding behind her libido, and a few things clicked into place.

"I've still got some of you, don't I? Some of that power I shouldn't have." she said shrewdly, though it was somewhat ruined by the fact that Jareth was still essentially holding her up.

Jareth gave her an amused once-over. "Well, you're not dead," his arms tightened around her briefly, "something I would prefer to avoid." His voice warmed, grew more intimate. "I'm sure I can learn to live with the situation as it stands."

Sarah made a pleased sound against his chest.

"Even though you're still quite foolish, and a bit slow to catch on," he added wickedly, and Sarah stiffened, pushing away from him in outrage.

At which point she noticed they were standing on the ground. The ground-ground. Dirt under their feet, and below them, at the bottom of the hill, gleaming just slightly in the not-sunlight...

The labyrinth spread out, the castle beyond the goblin city rising up in the distance.

"Oh," Sarah said, and then grinned broadly, actually bouncing on her toes in sheer delight. "Oh-Hoggle, Lugo-" she turned to him with light in her heart. "Jareth, are they here? Are they okay? Can I see them?"

Jareth raised his chin and looked down at her. "Perhaps I can arrange something," he said, a smile playing around his lips. "But not here. Not now."

Sarah frowned. "Why-"

Jareth tapped her once between the eyes. "Think," he said simply. Sarah blinked, startled. He didn't look superior-well, he didn't look any more superior than he usually did-so she decided against a smart remark.

Well, he'd done as he said he would, and turned back time on his world. So that meant, what? Sarah flashed suddenly on that chunk of floor floating in nothing, on Jareth looking pale and feathered, and started to wonder.

"How far..." Sarah frowned, and looked down at the labyrinth as if she could tell just by looking, "how far back did you go? Not...not all the way? This isn't-"

"The day you won?" Jareth said delicately.

Sarah's eyes went wide. "Then, they just saw me. They're-"

"Up there with you right now," Jareth said quietly, nodding at the sky, "celebrating, leaving footprints and chicken feathers and I shudder to think what else, all over your bedroom."

Sarah gave him an odd look. She remembered finding unidentifiable bits of trash and fur all over her room the next day. Months later, following a thorough cleaning, she'd found somebody's tooth on top of her bookshelf, along with what had looked like a bird's nest full of eggs.

"I have experience," Jareth said with a delicate shudder. "You would be amazed what I've found in the least likely places."

The eggs had hatched into tiny crocodiles.

Sarah snickered.

"So what do we do?" she asked. Jareth looked very pleased about that 'we'. He stepped very close to her, leaning in to speak into her ear.

"Close your eyes," he breathed.

"I thought I was past that," Sarah said with a shiver. Jareth started to nibble on her ear, and she hissed in a sharp breath.

"Leave them open, then, if you like that better," Jareth said, his voice promising filthy, filthy, wonderful things.

Jareth's tongue flicked out, tracing along the outer edge of her ear, and Sarah shut her eyes with a sigh. Jareth laughed, low and throaty, and vanished.

Sarah stumbled forward, and caught herself on her kitchen counter. She blinked down at it under her fingers for a minute, and then started cursing.

She was standing in her apartment, and Jareth was a rotten tease-

Sarah stopped, and slowly spun around. She was in her apartment. It was spotless. Her windows were unbroken, the curtains pulled back and the blinds drawn up to let in the fading evening light. Her door was solid and unmarred, the wards all pristine and un-smoldering. She sniffed experimentally. There wasn't even any lingering hint of brimstone. The clutter she'd left in the hall was gone, the closet neatly shut.

"Well," she said, rather impressed despite herself, "he can clean."

"Who can?" said somebody, opening her bedroom door.

Sarah gaped for a spit second, and then squealed in delight, running across her living room and tearing down the hall.

"Hoggle!" she cried, going down on her knees and throwing her arms around him.

"Don't kiss me!" he exclaimed, alarmed. "He still hadn't got over that one!"

"My lady?"came a hesitant voice from inside her room, and she grinned, throwing the door wide. Sir Didymous got very flustered when she kissed him on the nose, but then she saw Ludo over by the bed, and threw herself into his arms, letting the little knight off the hook.

Sarah buried her face in Ludo's fur and abruptly, she was crying.

"Sarah sad?" he asked, concerned.

"Oh, no, Ludo, I'm just," Sarah pressed her face back into his fur, sniffling. "I'm just so glad to see you guys."

"You saw us last week," Hoggle said doubtfully. "Is this one of those women's things?"

Sarah laughed out loud. She turned, scrubbing her face.

"No, I just haven't-" Sarah stopped, startled. She had seen them last week. And the week before that. They'd played Pictionary against the goblins and won, since apparently the goblins could only draw chickens. And something that looked vaguely like Jareth in a dress, though from the reactions of the other goblins, Sarah got the impression that particular drawing was a bit treasonous. Sarah remembered it happening. But she also remembered the one night when they stopped coming. She remembered hoping, and eventually, giving up. She remembered a knock on her door in the middle of the night, and a Goblin King she learned to care about-

"Are you all right, dear lady?" Sir Didymous asked kindly.

"I don't-yes," Sarah replied. She looked around, out of sorts and half wishing the Goblin King would step out from behind a piece of her furniture. "Yeah, I'm okay," she sighed.

"There was supposed to be punch and pie tonight," Hoggle said hopefully.

The funny thing was, Sarah remembered that he was right.

"Yeah," she replied, straightening with a firm nod. "I'll just go see what I've got."

There was, of course, a pumpkin pie and a dutch apple, which Sarah remembered buying earlier in the day. Also a fizzy punch made with ginger ale and fruit juice. Plastic cups, plastic forks, and paper plates, since the goblins were invited and Sarah wasn't about to replace all her dishes again for like the fifth freaking time.

Sarah set everything out, and went to place the wrappers and boxes in the trash. There were bloody paper towels in the trash. Sarah stared at them for a long minute, feeling both sets of memories sort of fighting with each other in her head.

Someone knocked at the door. A simple, non-desperate, just-a-friend-here-to-say-hello kind of knock. Sarah set the stuff in the trash and went to answer it, waving Hoggle back from the pie and towards the bedroom, just in case it was someone normal.

She flipped the latch and swung the door wide, wondering if goblins had learned to knock. Miracles could happen, after all.

On the other side of the door stood the Goblin King. He was leaning on the door frame. Sarah stared at him, confusion and alarm fighting a good battle with pleasure and relief.

"It's been...a long time," Sarah said hesitantly. Because it had been...she was almost sure...

"Has it?" the Goblin King asked her, sounding tense. She watched his fist clench on the door frame. He looked suddenly, desperately hopeful.

"I'm having a little trouble with this," Sarah said honestly.

"Invite me in?" he asked quietly. He glanced up, as if looking at something out of sight, just above her door. "Friend?" he ventured.

Speak, friend, and enter...

Sarah swallowed hard, as one set of memories rolled over the other set with a resounding thud.

"Clever of you," she said, and stepped aside. Jareth poked his nose inside like a hesitant cat. Sarah gave him a warm look and took his hand, pulling him in. Her wards didn't so much as flicker. "It's a puzzle, you got it right," Sarah reassured. She smiled slightly. "Guess you can get in any time you like, now."

Jareth approached her as if she might scream and run at any moment. He took her arms gently, warily, as if she might have an iron poker hiding somewhere nearby and wasn't afraid to use it. Sarah leaned close, resting her hands on his chest in casual intimacy, and he relaxed all at once. She remembered him, for the moment. Sarah could still feel the heavy press of everything else she remembered, as if the new memories were upset by her reluctance to forget.

"You may regret saying that. I'll need to stay close for a while, or you'll lose everything we did." Jareth hesitated. "Unless you'd rather forget."

Sarah frowned at him, pushing back, but Jareth continued persuasively.

"It will be safer for you. Life isn't always easy for The Girl Who Saw too Much," he reminded her. Sarah paused, trying hard to think, and knowing that at the moment, she wasn't doing all that great with it.

"I like you," she said, and Jareth puffed up adorably. "And I like me." She paused. "The me I was, I mean. I don't want to forget that." Or what it felt like to...say...kiss the Goblin King. Not to mention what it felt like to do other things with him.

"So..." Jareth prompted, looking warm and pleased.

"So," Sarah said firmly, and smiled. "Stay."


Author's Note:

Several goblins step forward, and the one in front starts to speak.

"And so this is the end of the very short story, of how King came to Sarah's game night one time for no reason at all, and everyone had a good time except for two goblins wot got bogged for treason during Pictionary, and Hedgewort, who's still kinda nervous around King."

(there is muffled whispering amongst the goblins for a moment)

"Punch and pie," the goblin adds, doubtfully. A pair of goblins in the back give a thumbs-up.

Tiny Jareth, quite overcome, claps enthusiastically. The author sniffles and dabbs at her eyes with a glittery hankie.

scriptrix-scriptorum- Slack for Jareth, as requested.

Ice Demon Ranger- yes, you've discovered my evil plan to not let either of them out of Sarah's apartment until they consented to shag each other :)

cu-kid- MWA-HA-HA!

Lixxle- of COURSE Jareth was still naked. Jeez. You think I'd pass up a golden opportunity like that? There should be some kind of challenge, I think. A Jareth-needs-to-be-nude-the-whole-time challenge. He could be trapped above and need to hide in Sarah's shrubbery, or something. Man, I'm tired.

Mirra Mirra- oh, ye of little faith...and I gotta say, I've kept that line about 'explody jareth' because it made me snicker when I wrote it. I thought it was funny, so everyone else gets to suffer. :)

JewelValentine- so glad you are pleased!

CoffeeKris- (hugs back)

Liben ist Magie- well done, clever girl. For your prize, I have this...erm...tribble. Don't feed it. (I've been over in Star Trek for a while now, I'm afraid.)

I am taking a poll. Anybody care to read a 'Lady and the Knight' sequel? Just curious, nobody throw any vegetables at me...