AN: Shock horror could it be that Nova is writing something other than Doctor Who fic- oh yes!! This has been begging to be written for years and I have finally got it down.
Disclaimer: I own nothing of Labyrinth or anything belonging to the Henson Company…I'm just playing with the gorgeous toys they created. I also take terrible liberties with both Faerie-lore and Egyptian history but please, its all in the name of art. So sit back, read and enjoy and if you like it (or if you have some constructive criticism which is every writer's life blood) please leave them at the end.
Dead Man Walking
"You are so going down!"
"Want a bet?"
"Sonic Boom…Yes! Take that!"
"No, it's not fair!"
"You say that so often, I wonder what your basis for comparison is."
"Sarah! Sis? Hey, Earth to moron, anyone there?"
Sarah blinked as she noticed the skinny, pale fingers clicking in front of her face. She smiled as she finally gave her brother her full attention, shaking off the memory of ten years past and the one voice that still haunted her day and night.
"Sorry Toby jingles," she said noticing the eleven year old grimace at his nickname as she handed back the computer controller, "Guess that's another win to you and about time for me to throw in the towel."
"Aww sis nothing, young man," said an older, blonde woman from her place on the sofa behind where they sat on the floor before the television, "Your sister's right, you've played that thing all night and its time for bed."
"No buts Toby Williams, bed before your father gets home."
"Yes Ma'am," said Toby dejectedly before turning to his sister and pressing a kiss to her cheek, "Night Sar."
"Night Tobster," said Sarah fondly, "Pleasant dreams."
"Productive dreams," said the boy with a grin, "You promised you'd let me read the next chapter of your book before you take it to the publisher. I can't wait to see what happens when Didymus crosses the Plains of Sorrow."
Sarah frowned at the sadness that touched her soul as she thought of the little fox, "Well we'll see," she said as her brother got to his feet and kissed his mother goodnight before heading to the door, "Haven't had much inspiration recently."
"You'll get some," said Toby, "You always do and if not you can always write another funny story about Hoggle upsetting the Goblin King!"
"Maybe," said Sarah, "Now bed, go else I'll make you buy a copy of the next one from the book store."
"You never would!" said Toby, "Night all."
Sarah watched after him as he scurried out into the hall, all gangly limbs and energy, the epitome of an excitable pre-teen. She frowned however as she realised she had been left to tidy up but she began to wind up the cords that attached the controllers to the telly nonetheless as she knew her step-mother was a stickler for tidiness and the task a better option than attempting the usual stilted conversation that revolved around the fact that Sarah should really get herself a man or at least go out with her friends a little more and meet people rather than staying at home every night with her brother. Sarah could understand Karen's argument, at twenty-five years old Sarah was a little beyond living at home; indeed with the money she had made from the moment her writing career took off she could afford a large place of her own and still live quite comfortably but she had remained in her parents house for the sake of her young brother and the strong bond they shared.
When she had finished tidying away the remnants of hurricane Toby she looked up to see a program on interior design on the telly and the pull of her own room proved more alluring than watching a mad man with a paint brush destroy the front room of a equally mad person's house.
"Guess that's goodnight from me too then," she said getting to her feet, "I need to get a few bits done for my meeting on Friday."
"Alright dear," said Karen, not taking her eyes from the screen as a dreadful fuchsia pink was slung onto the walls, "See you in the morning. Your Dad'll be home in a little while anyway."
Sarah nodded before following her brother's footsteps out of the door and into the hall. She climbed the stairs to the second floor of the house and crossed to her bedroom, the one she had had since moving to the house with her father after his divorce from her mother. She stepped inside and closed the door firmly behind her, once more in her sanctuary, still as important to her as it was in her youth. She leant back against the woodwork for a second, surveying the room before her, it was relatively unchanged over the years. Teddies lined the wall behind her bed, still a single as she had little need for anything else, looking a little more care worn than they had but still well loved. Her book shelf still overflowed with tales of fantasy and adventure but was now interspersed with works bearing her own name.
Her dresser now sat opposite her bed, the bay window in between the two, but it had changed from the princess dresser it had been years before; now it was a picture of organised chaos, a work space for her literary career. An extra table now stood alongside it, holding the computer monitor and printer whilst the keyboard and her notes sat on the dresser itself, leaving little room for the pictures and trinkets of old. The only things that sat on her desk were reminders of her truest friends, a worn copy of the red book that had led her to them, a shiny silver bracelet from Hoggle, and twisted knot of leaves from Ludo that was meant to be a bracelet and an elegant little written poem from Sir Didymus to 'his Lady'.
Sarah frowned as she thought of her friends, for three nights they had failed to come at her call. It was not unusual for one of them not to answer now and then; they had duties that needed attending in their Labyrinth home but for all three to be truant for so long was odd indeed. The weather outside the large window seemed to reflect her mood as the rain hammered and the lightning flashed, causing Sarah to hug her arms around herself as she crossed to the chair by the vanity. Before she could sit down however though she heard the sound of a car pulling into the drive and leaned to look out of the window, seeing her father hurrying from the car and onto the porch. Light poured out onto the steps for a moment before falling dark once more.
Content that all her family were safely home Sarah sat before the mirror and popped her glasses on her nose, clicking on her pen before laying her hand on the glass.
"Let's hope it's not so nasty in the Labyrinth," she said to herself, "Didymus, I need you."
She frowned as the mirror remained clear, the familiar mist of her friends' manifestation failing to appear as it had done for several nights.
"Guess he's still busy," she said, "Ludo, I need you."
Again the mist failed and Sarah's frowned deepened as she clicked her pen off and pressed both hands against the glass, wishing for her best friend to appear.
"Hoggle, I need you."
She jumped as the thunder rumbled outside and the lightning flashed brightly through the window. She hugged her arms around herself once more and frowned at her own reflection trying to fathom what had her friends absent from her for so long.
"Now where are you?" she said to the glass, "What's that idle King of yours got you doing?"
She smiled sadly as her thoughts fell upon the one inhabitant of the Labyrinth she never called upon no matter how tempting the idea had become as she had grown older. The Goblin King, the man she had once seen as her most deadly enemy until the wisdom of age began to cause her to realise otherwise but even the years passed could not make her think entirely fondly of the person who had kidnapped her brother.
"You'd better be being nice Your Majesty," she said once more to her reflection before sighing, "Well if I'm on my own I can catch up on my sleep, night boys…and that would be me talking to thin air again!"
Getting up she stripped out of her jeans and jumper and pulled on her nightdress, flicking off the light she clambered into bed, burrowing into the soft sheets and willing sleep to swiftly claim her. She opened an eye half an hour later as she heard the door bell ring downstairs and then the other as someone began hammering on the door and calling out, their words lost though under the noise of the rain. She sat up as she heard Karen's voice and then her father's, the former pleading with him not to open the door.
Sarah hurried out of bed and pulled on a robe as she heard the door click open and her father demanding the visitor leave. She reached the top of the stairs to see a figure cloaked in a ragged black cape standing drenched in the hallway and bent as if in great pain.
"Please," the figure rasped in a weak voice, "Please help me…I need…a friend…I need to find Sarah Williams."
"How do you know my daughter's name?" demanded her father as Sarah hurried down the stairs.
"Is she here, please I beg you is she here? I don't know where else to turn."
"I'm here," said Sarah, stopping on the final stair, "Who are you?"
She froze as the figure spoke her name, his voice undeniable despite the rasp that came with it. The hood of the cape still obscured his face but she didn't need to see him to recognise him, "It can't be…"
"I found you, I…"
Sarah cried out in alarm as the figure pitched forward, her father just catching him as he fell and lowering him to the floor. She had crossed the room and taken her father's place before she was even aware of her own movement, cradling the soaked form. The man in her arms struggled for each breath as she hurriedly pushed back his hood and pulled down the scarf covering his face, gasping at the injuries that marred his once perfect features. His haunting, mismatched eyes stared up at her in a mixture of agony and relief.
"I found you," he said weakly, "I finally found you."
"What happened to you?" said Sarah taking hold of the leather clad hand as he reached for her, "Who did this to you?"
"He? Whose he?" said Sarah, her heart leaping into her throat as she saw him struggling to remain conscious, "Tell me."
"Obe…No! Stay with me," she cried as his eyes slipped shut and his body slumped in her embrace, "Stay awake, stay with me."
"I'll call an ambulance," said Karen from the doorway.
"No!" shouted Sarah struggling to lift the man into her arms.
"Sarah he needs a doctor," said her father, "He's not well."
"Dad trust me," said Sarah reaching for the weak pulse in her patient's neck, "You send him to hospital and God only knows what they'd do to him. I'll take care of him; just help me get him upstairs."
Her father hesitated, "How do you know this man Sarah?"
Sarah's eyes filled with tears as her fingers traced a deep, bloody wound on the perfect porcelain skin before her, "He's an old friend," she said, "Please Daddy, please help him."
Robert Williams, stock broker, was known for his rational mind, his will to always follow the set path but the fear and worry in his daughter's eyes broke his heart and before he knew it he had lifted the broken body from the floor and into his arms, amazed at the lightness of the tall form.
"Karen get some towels, the medical box and some dry clothes to put him in. We'll put him in the spare room."
"No, my room," said Sarah, "The bed in the spare room is iron, it'll kill him. My bed's all wood; he'll be fine in that. Don't question me Dad please; I know what's best for him."
Robert frowned but nodded, "Your room then, come on. Karen hurry and bring up some brandy too, if he wakes he might go into shock," he said as he began to climb the stairs with Sarah close in his wake, her face a picture of concern but she managed a weak smile as she looked back at her step-mother.
"Make sure it's the good stuff," she said with a weak laugh, "He's kinda royal."
Karen's expression was lost as Sarah returned her attention to the man her father carried, willing him to fight, to live.
The first rays of the dawn sunshine fell upon the small bed and its fevered occupant, painting his too pale skin in even harsher tones as it picked out every cut and bruise that lingered like a map of pain on his face.
Sarah gently ran the cool cloth over his brow once more, his laboured breathing testament to his suffering. Her eyes clouded again with tears as she thought of the injuries she had uncovered in the night. Peeling off the rough cape she had been met by the familiar ensemble of white poet's shirt and black waist coat over tight black trousers and leather boots, his hands encased in black gloves but far from flawless they were marred by blood and dirt, a world away from the immaculate figure that had terrified her in her youth.
Pulling away the leather gloves she had found ragged fingers and deep, bloody rings around his wrists which screamed shackles to her, shackles and struggle. Modesty aside she had pulled of his shirt, crying as she found the numerous deep whip marks across his back and shoulders, some healed but others newer and opening at the slightest touch. She'd treated and bound every mark, weeping as she did so until Karen had pulled her hysterical form from his side, her father taking her place as she broke down in her step mother's arms at the horrendous sight of his torture.
Her father's report as he emerged didn't bring any hope to the distraught girl, the same marks on his wrists were present around his ankles and one leg was badly injured and already bound in a ragged bandage. He begged again for her to let him call a doctor but she refused once more, instead pulling herself together and taking a seat beside the bed and beginning her vigil, having to smile sadly at the sight of plain black pyjamas on the usually Byronic figure.
Sarah shook off the memories as she once more lay her hand against his brow, feeling the burning heat there, "Who did this to you?" she said knowing she wouldn't get a response, "Who could have brought you so low?"
"Still no change?"
Sarah looked up to see her father leaning in the doorway.
"No, no change. He had a couple of nightmares I think, I had to change the bandage on his shoulder because he'd ripped it," said Sarah sadly, "Could you bring some more home later, he'll be wrapped up for a good week I think. He must be in so much pain."
"How do you know this man Sarah?"
Sarah smirked as she gently fingered a lock of soft blond hair, "He's a friend, from a very long time ago…he's…he's important to me."
"It's not like you to be so secretive princess," said Robert crossing to the bed and laying a hand on her shoulder, "But I know you have a good reason, you always do. Could you at least tell me his name?"
"Jareth," she said softly realising with some surprise that it was the first time she'd ever uttered his real name, "He's called Jareth."
"Just Jareth," said Sarah continuing to stroke his hair, "I wish I knew what had happened to him to make him like this."
As if his name was the cue Jareth moved on the bed, one hand coming up before him, trembling as if trying to ward off some dreadful threat.
"Leave them be," he pleaded in the dream that had taken him, "The children, please leave them be."
"Jareth?" said Sarah softly, taking his hand and laying it back across his chest, "You're dreaming. It's just a dream."
"Don't hurt them!" he cried striking out against her but his injuries and dream state rendered the blow useless.
"You're hurting yourself, lie still," said Sarah trying to hold him in place and he struggled on the bed, "Daddy help me wake him."
"Run!" cried Jareth, "Get away…run away all of you. I'll find you, I promise you!"
"I think waking him would be more dangerous than not," said Robert, "Speak to him Sarah, calm him."
"Sing to him," said Robert, "I used to sing to you when you had nightmares."
"Dad! I was five and I can't sing, especially not to him," cried Sarah as Jareth thrashed more violently in the covers. Mumbling incoherently as he continued to live his nightmare and crying out as the bandage on his wrist stained with blood once more as his wound ripped open with his force. Sarah grabbed him roughly, pinning his arms to his side, "Keep still, you're killing yourself. Jareth please!"
He stilled slightly at her command and Sarah took his bloodied hand in hers, holding it close to her heart as she stroked back his wild hair, a song coming to her unbidden as she did so.
"As the pain sweeps through, makes no sense for you, every thrill is gone, wasn't too much fun at all, but I'll be there for you, as the world falls down," she sang softly, watching as he calmed back into dreamless sleep, "You remember don't you? Hold onto that Your Majesty, hold on to that memory and know that I'm here for you."
Without thinking she bent down and pressed her lips to his forehead. Robert watched his daughter in concern, men rarely appearing in her life and now all her tenderness focused on one and the thought disconcerted him no end as she continued to stroke the unruly blond mane.
"Why did you call him Your Majesty?" he said, the words sounding ridiculous to his mind.
Sarah just smiled, "Suits him," she said, "You'd better get going or you'll be late for work."
"Will you be alright, here alone I mean?" said her father, "Karen is going to drop Toby at school on her way to work and he has soccer practice after so there'll be no one home until at least five."
"I'll be fine," said Sarah, "If I need you I'll call."
Robert bent down and kissed his daughter's cheek before laying a hand on Jareth's arm, "You mind she behaves herself hey sport, don't let her nag you."
Sarah giggled at the sound of her father talking to the Goblin King like a teenager, "Bye Dad."
"Bye princess," said Robert as he left the room, pulling the door closed behind him.
Sarah sat at the bedside for a few moments longer until she was convinced the sleeping king was beyond the worst of his nightmares. She straightened the comforter over him before stroking back his hair once more, frowning at the deep cut above his eye.
"What happened to you?" she said sadly, "What happened to the terrifying King I once knew? I'd give anything right now for you to come out with some barbed put down Jareth, anything to let me know you're going to be alright."
She quickly changed the bandage on his wrist before crossing to her vanity and reaching out to touch the glass, deciding that she might be able to get answers from elsewhere.
"Hoggle…I need you," she whispered, already knowing the response would be silent; her friends absence of several days given more weight by their King's presence in the Above, "Where are you all? What happened there?"
She laid both hands firmly on the glass, closing her eyes tightly, "Show me the Labyrinth."
The mirror warmed beneath her touch and she opened her eyes only to recoil in horror at the sight that greeted her. The Labyrinth was bathed in pitch darkness, only the flames from the fires that lapped the castle walls giving any light. Lightning ripped across the scene before two piercing blue eyes stared out at her. She tore her hands away instinctively, tumbling back over her chair to stand before the helpless form on her bed. She looked back up to see only her own worried reflection staring back at her. Turning to the bed, she knelt beside it, taking his almost lifeless hand in her own.
"Whatever has happened, I'll help you solve it," she swore, "I promise you."
Sarah wrestled to wakefulness as she felt a light tug on her hair but instead of opening her eyes she batted away at her assailant as dreams kept hold of her. Fingers tightened in her hair and gave a swift yank, waking her fully.
"Oww!" she cried pulling away from the offending hand.
"Ye Gods be praised, she awakes!" came a familiar yet scratchy British drawl, "You snore like a goblin with a head cold."
Sarah rubbed her head as she scowled down at the Fae King awake before her, "I think you mean thank you for all you've done for me Sarah," she mocked, mimicking his accent, "You were most kind lugging my sorry ass up the stairs and sitting up with me all night…oh that's alright oh great and powerful Goblin King, it was the least I could do after you stole my baby brother and nearly imprisoned him for eternity in your rotten old castle."
Jareth smirked, cocking a perfectly arched eyebrow at her tirade, "My, my, we are snappy first thing aren't we?"
"I take it you're feeling better then?" said Sarah unable to help the small smile at the sight of him awake, "You gonna tell me why I've had an unconscious Seelie King bleeding on my bed sheets all night?"
"If you explain to me what possessed you to dress me in this sorry, synthetic excuse for clothing?" said Jareth looking down in dismay at the pyjamas he wore.
"Hey!" said Sarah indignantly, "They were expensive, I got them for my Dad last Christmas."
Jareth snorted as he grimaced at the clothing, "It grows worse."
"Well I tell you what," cried Sarah, "How about I just give you back your soaked clothes and send you on your way because I don't want anymore to do with you Jareth, you're nothing but trouble. Magic up a little crystal and go back on your own to sort out your damn Labyrinth and see if I care what happens to you! I stayed up all night making sure you didn't bleed to death, having to listen to you practically screaming in your nightmares and not knowing how to help you and all you can do is complain! I was terrified; I thought you were going to die and I…"
"Sarah," said Jareth, one soft word halting her monologue as he gingerly nursed one of his bandaged wrists, "I am grateful for your help and I am sorry I came here but I had nowhere else to turn."
Sarah's anger cooled but did not leave her totally, "The great Goblin King left with only a mortal to turn to? Pull the other one Jareth, it has bells on. I didn't ask for any of your mischief this time."
"I am no longer the Goblin King," he said unwrapping the bandage, the wound on his wrist opening once more as he stared in horror at the marks there.
"I am dethroned and banished from the Underground and all I have in the world now is the hope that one person who has shunned me for ten years has the compassion to aid me."
"I…" began Sarah before kneeling beside him once more and rebinding his wrist, "You're making it worse, come here. Who did this to you, and please, a straight answer. You've been tortured, that much is obvious."
She looked up from her work to see a memory cloud his eyes for a moment before he shook it off, snatching his hand back from her.
"It matters not," he said coldly, "I am tired, leave me."
Sarah bristled but sighed in resignation as she rose to her feet, unwilling to start a fight with the notoriously stubborn Fae, "Call for me if you need me for anything and don't get out of bed, you're not well enough," she said heading for the door, pausing before she left completely and looking back to the bed, "Whatever has gone between us in the past Jareth I will listen to you without judgement and I'll help you if I can. I'm not the child you knew, whatever has brought you to this you can tell me."
Silence was her answer as the fallen King simply stared blankly at nothing, lost in memory. Sarah pulled the door to but didn't close it fully, running a hand over her tired eyes as she tried to make sense of the moments passed since she awoke. True to form he had infuriated her but she couldn't help but feel relieved that he was back to his snappy self rather than the tortured creature she had nursed through the night.
Ten years weighed heavily on her mind, ten years since she had last seen him and refused the offer she only began to understand as she grew. She shook her head, refusing to dwell on regrets and memories that threatened to surface at his presence once more. Checking her watch she frowned to see that it was only just gone eleven in the morning before heading down the stairs and into the large kitchen. She ran a hand over the soaked clothes Karen had dumped on the breakfast table. Picking up the white silk shirt, she slipped her fingers through a ragged tear and wandered what could have made it. Catching up the rest she headed into the utility room, switching on the washing machine before thinking better of it and picking up the large washing tub and soap box.
Half an hour later found her carrying a basket of hand washed clothes out to the line, hanging them carefully to flutter in the breeze and sunshine. She looked over to the open doorway, half expecting to see him standing there watching her in amusement but she saw nothing. She turned back into the house and began bustling round the kitchen, preparing a tray with tea and toast as she remembered her real mother doing when she had been ill as an infant, the ritual a comforting one for her even though she played a different role this time. Balancing the tray carefully she climbed the stairs, pausing outside the door and listening for any movement before pushing it open and stepping inside.
She glanced over to the bed, the sunlight dappling the covers and the figure beneath, sound asleep and looking more peaceful than he had the night before. She set the tray down on the dresser, resisting the urge to try to call for her friends once more. Crossing to the bed she knelt down and reached out to Jareth's shoulder, squeezing gently.
"Hey, wake up sleepy. I made you some breakfast."
"Mmmpf!...Away!" was the incoherent response and he buried himself deeper in the pillow.
Sarah shook him a little harder, mindful of his injuries, "You're actually quite cute when you're sleepy," she said, "Come on now, wake up."
He struggled under her grip, crying out in alarm as reality and dreams mingled. He sat up quickly and in a moment was gripping onto her for dear life as he struggled to wakefulness. Sarah hugged him tightly, feeling the shudders that ran through his thin frame.
"You're alright, I've got you," she said trying to bring him from his nightmare.
"I can still here them screaming," he said against her shoulder, "They were screaming and I couldn't do anything, he was stronger than me."
"Who? Tell me who?" said Sarah stroking his hair as he fell silent once more, relaxing against her shoulder. She felt him stir and gradually pull back.
"Sarah?" he said, his expression troubled as he realised his position, "Where…?"
"Take your time," said Sarah, "Remember where you are. You're safe here with me."
He fell back against the pillows, the haunted look once more in his mismatched eyes, all the bravado he usually displayed stripped away by pain and exhaustion, "Safe? I've forgotten the meaning of the word," he said sadly, "I…oww!"
Jareth reached tentatively to his shoulder, his fingers coming back stained with blood as a dark patch began to grow on the black shirt he wore, "I seem to have undone your handiwork once more."
"Come here," said Sarah reaching for the buttons of his shirt and popping one before she pulled back blushing, "Umm I…"
"So modest my dear?" said Jareth smiling at her discomfort as he reached up to undo the buttons, slipping the shirt off and tossing it onto the floor, "All yours Doctor Williams."
Sarah lifted herself onto the bed and gently unwound the now bloody bandage from his shoulder, hissing at the sight of the re-opened wound, "This one is deeper than the rest, it really needs stitches."
"You're a woman aren't you, grab your needle box," said Jareth, flinching as she stemmed the blood flow with the old bandage.
"Chauvinist," muttered Sarah.
"Wench," came the quick retort before Sarah pressed a little harder on the cut, "Oww!"
"Oh I'm sorry," she said, her voice dripping with sarcasm, "Did that hurt?"
Jareth was silent as Sarah lightened her touch once more before he sighed dejectedly, "It doesn't even touch the pain of when they gave it to me."
Sarah didn't reply as she took up a clean bandage and rewrapped his shoulder, pulling it tight enough to stem the bleeding. She checked the other bandages, knowing by sight that they were fine but needing somehow to keep physical contact with his as she gently smoothed over the bindings.
"You've become quite the little nurse over the years," said Jareth as she tidied the end of one wrapped round his arm, "Is Doctor Williams a closer title than I give you credit for?"
Sarah shook her head, "No, I'm not a doctor. I'm a writer," she said, "I would have thought you would have known that."
"I have no power over you remember," said Jareth bitterly, "When you defeated the Labyrinth…me, you rendered my magic useless against you and I was unable to look in on you and your friends have been less than forthcoming with information as well. The last time I saw anything of you Sarah you were a girl of fifteen playing dress up and winding up your step-mother."
Sarah laughed, "Things haven't changed that much, though my dress up is more knock off Prada than princess dresses," she said leaving the bed and heading to the dresser, fixing two cups of tea as she continued, "I went to school, college, I had my first book published when I was eighteen. I got a degree in English Literature and made my career writing fantasy fiction and lecturing in schools."
"Why does fantasy fiction not surprise me?" said Jareth, "What are your stories about?"
"The Labyrinth," said Sarah turning to see the shock register on his face, "They're labelled fantasy and published under my name but they really should be under Hoggle's name and Didymus'. They're all their stories really although there are some that are my own, stories I've made up surrounding the Labyrinth but the majority are truth. Didymus and I were working on a new one until about three days ago when he stopped coming when I called. I'm guessing now that might be linked to why you're here too."
Jareth turned his attention from her, picking at a loose thread on the comforter, "Are you going to stir that tea all day?"
Sarah looked down to see her hand moving in rhythmic circles as she stirred, her mind not controlling the unconscious action. She hurriedly put down the spoon and carried the cups over to the bed, handing one to the Fae and setting her own on the night stand. She folded her hands in her lap as she fought back the tears that threatened to spill at the thought of her friends.
"Are they alive?" she asked finally.
"They're alive," said Jareth sipping at the tea in his hand, "He will not harm them, they will not go through what I did."
"Do you mean Oberon?" said Sarah, "You were talking about Oberon when you arrived. Did he do this to you?"
She raised her head at his silence only to see him nod sadly.
"Why?" she asked, taking the cup from his hands as she noticed the tremor there and setting it beside her own."
"Because I was born," said Jareth, "All that death and pain because I was born."
"I don't understand," said Sarah reaching out and taking his hand, relieved when he didn't snatch it away.
Jareth raised his head to look at her, seeming to come to a decision before he spoke, "I have not told this tale for many years and I must go from the beginning if you want to truly understand," he said, sadness lingering in every word, "First you must understand that time to a Fae is not as you perceive it here Above; we are where we are needed, when we are needed and when we please. Ten years have passed here for you and I too have chosen to live ten years alongside but I could have easily have lived a thousand years or only ten days. Do you understand?"
"You're saying you can time travel?"
"A very modern take on a very ancient twist of the dimensions but for the purpose of the tale yes. With that in mind then you can understand that I am sixteen hundred years old and yet my mother was born into this world in sixteen twenty-four."
Sarah stared at him incredulously for a moment before allowing herself a smile, "Sixteen hundred years old? Well you're looking good on it," she said, "I never thought about how old you are."
"I feel every year like a hammer blow at the moment," he said using his free hand to rub the comforter over his damaged leg, "My own age is irrelevant but my mother's birth in the Above at that time and what followed is. My Father is overlord of the entire Underground and known to mortals by many names; Osiris, his rightful name, to the Egyptians, Hades to the Greeks, Pluto to the Romans…"
"The God of the Dead?"
"A mortal misconception," said Jareth, "He has no power over mortal death; he is merely the transition aid from the Above, through the Underground and on to the dimension beyond where mortal souls go after they leave the corporeal form but you would have me digress. My Father is wed to a Fae lady and has been for many thousands of years but it was arranged and there is little love between them. My Father had often dwelt in the Above and at one such time he met Lilijana, a gypsy girl who had travelled from Europe with her band to England in sixteen forty. He fell in love with her and she with him and she soon bore him a son."
Sarah understood what lay beneath his words, "You're half human?"
"I was," said Jareth fingering the plain gold band on his smallest finger, "Soon after I was born my Father was called home to the Underground and he had to leave my Mother and me behind. I did not feel the loss of him, I was too young and I had my family, the gypsies and all their children and I was happy but then we travelled to a town that would spell our doom. Do they teach you much of English history in your schools?"
"A little bit," said Sarah, "I don't remember all that much though."
"Do you know the name Matthew Hopkins?"
"You don't write about the Occult and not find his name," said Sarah with a shudder, "The Witch Finder General and I dread to think what you're going to tell me next. You went to Manningtree didn't you?"
Jareth nodded, his grip tightening slightly on her hand, "We did not know about the trials and plied our trade as we always did, dancing, mortal illusion everything that drew his attention to us. We were imprisoned, tried and convicted, all of us, including the children. Witches they called us, devils, and we were despised. They held us in these rotting cells, rats everywhere. The night before…the night before my Mother took me aside from the rest, slipped off the ring she wore and placed it in my hand, telling me to barter my way out if I got caught, then she kissed me and told me to run, helping me through the bars. Skinny as I was…am I got out without a hitch and I should have run but I stayed in the town, bidden by some inexplicable force as I watched them build the pyres. At dawn they led my family out and bound them to the posts, the crowds were baying and I knew I should run away but I was drawn as the torches were lit. As the fires grew higher I heard them screaming but then I saw her, twenty-one years old, beautiful as a new dawn and she saw me and she smiled. She was still smiling when the flames took her."
"I'm sorry," said Sarah blinking back her tears at the story, "You can't have been very old if she was only twenty-one."
"Four, perhaps five, six at the very most, I can't really remember much and years grow to matter little to immortals as they pass. I wandered alone for many days, starving and cold then one night something compelled me to call out and I held Lilijana's ring tightly and wished to be with my family. What passed next is fuzzy at best but I awoke in a room, in a warm bed, wearing clothes far finer than anything I had ever known and there was a man sat beside me forming crystals on his fingertips. He passed one to me when he saw I had awoken and when I took it I just knew that he was my father," said Jareth, "I was on Avalon and I thought in that sacred place I would be safe but far from the peace I should have known I was soon met with nothing but disdain. I was mortal and my Father's wife…well what wife would accept the bastard child of her husband's lover? She hated me, even more so when the Seelie Court granted my Father's request to give me immortality. She encouraged her sons, my brothers, to test me as she articulately put it and when I truly upset her I would feel the back of her hand, evidence of which I still bear."
Of its own volition Sarah's hand raised to his face, her thumb tracing the arched eyebrow above his mismatched eye. She was almost as shocked at her own action as she was that he didn't flinch away.
"You were just a baby," she said sadly, "Didn't your Father stop it? Wasn't there anyone?"
"My Father was away so often overseeing the Underground and I was not one of them, I was different but I soon got out. I was proficient at magic and joined the Avalonian Royal Guard, protecting Queen Mab herself in the heart of Avalon but after several centuries of happy existence Mab announced that she was retiring from her position and passing the throne on to Oberon. My step-mother's elder brother became King of the Faeries. As soon as he was crowned I was sent from the Court and order onto border patrol, protecting Avalon's shores from invasion with a pack of pitiful elves and that's where I first encountered goblins. Although part of the grander term of Faeries they were considered one of the spoiled races and looked down upon, left to their own devices, ruling themselves within the Underground. They were often to be found sneaking onto Avalon to cause havoc and the rule was to turn them about but not to harm them.
"One day I was in a party that stumbled upon a small band leaving the misty waters and one of our number, a particularly cruel elf, attacked them without warning and before I knew it I had stepped before him and blocked the blow before it fell. How I was hauled to Oberon's feet for my crime; how dare I, the demi-Fae, block the righteous actions of a pure one. He had me exactly where he wanted me and I could do nothing save await my banishment but it never came, instead I found myself in a castle, a crown upon my head and a thousand Goblin faces turned to me in waiting," said Jareth with a bitter laugh, "He'd made his Halfling nephew King of the Goblins, charged for eternity to contain that unruly band in their city in the Underground and how they came to see it, to laugh. Fae after Fae at any hour appearing in my Kingdom for their own amusement but I soon thwarted them. I created the Labyrinth with such spells that none save my Father and my Lord King could reach the castle without traversing it. None came again and I never left for years until one night a devil's spirit took me and I chose to follow one of my unruly Goblin packs as they went about their mischief in the Above, finding my diversion in watching them terrify this old maid as she tried to sweep a yard.
"My mirth was short lived though as I watched the master of the house drag a young boy outside, throwing him against the wall before kicking his tiny frame. I was still young and impulsive then and manifested myself between them, taking the boy without a word and returning to the Underground. Oberon went mad."
Sarah couldn't help but giggle at the satisfied smile that passed over the face of the former king, revelling in the memory, "I bet you didn't enjoy that in the slightest."
"I enjoyed nothing more than seeing the steam coming from dear uncle Oberon's ears," said Jareth before his face fell, "Until he sent the child back."
"No mortals allowed; no humans allowed to stay in a Fae realm for more than twenty-four hours. The child went back and that's when it started and I wove the final spell of my Labyrinth, that any who remained within after twenty hours would become Goblin-kind but Oberon forbad me from taking the children directly for we were not to meddle in the affairs of mortals unless called on but I am far cleverer than Oberon and I sent out the words…"
"I wish the goblins would…"
A pale finger against her lips silenced her and she was shocked to see the terror in his crystalline eyes before they hardened to the look she had been coming to forget.
"Stupid child, do you want to get yourself killed? I might not be king but the magic still holds and don't think for a second that I'd risk my neck in coming for you."
She froze at his harsh words before pulling away quickly, stumbling back over her chair as she did so before scrambling to her feet and fixing him with a stare that could have liquefied stone, "Nice to know where I stand," she said, "And there was me beginning to think you actually had a heart, oh Mighty King."
"And I was beginning to believe that ten years would have given you some shred of intelligence," snapped Jareth, "Oh the gods are laughing now; dethroned, banished and dumped with you! Of all the mortals in all the ages here rests the Goblin King, Oberon should have killed me when he had the chance."
Sarah's heart froze at the words, "Don't say that," she pleaded softly, "Please don't ever wish a thing like that."
"Oh no why the concern?"
Sarah sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose as a headache threatened, "Jareth," she breathed in exasperation, "Please can we stop this, I'm so very tired. I know you're all riddles and mischief and I know we haven't the best of histories but like it or not we're stuck with each other at least for the moment so can we at least agree to be civil."
"I've never been anything but civil."
"You called me stupid."
"You were about to drop yourself into Oberon's clutches you foolish creature, you would have got yourself killed."
"Oh now why the concern?"
Jareth raised an eyebrow as she threw his words back at him, "Touché!" he said, something akin to pride in his voice before he reached a pale hand towards her, "Friends?"
"What? No fear me, love me, do as I say? Where's all your flare?"
"Sorry," she said stepping over and taking his proffered hand. He tugged her gently onto the bed, sliding over to give her room, chuckling as she stiffened in surprise.
"I'm hardly in a fit state to molest you dear one," he said as she settled next to him, "You said you were tired and as I seem to have over run your bed…"
Sarah rolled onto her side to face him, "How can we be fighting one minute and sharing a bed the next? You tie me in knots Jareth."
He gave her a desperately wicked smile, "I like to keep you on your toes…my friend," he said seemingly testing out the last two words, "Now go to sleep."
"But your story," said Sarah around a yawn as her eyes fluttered sleepily.
"Can wait," said Jareth, the yawn clearly contagious. Neither of them seemed to notice or care for the fact that their hands were still joined when they fell into dreamless sleep.
A/N: There you have chapter one. Chapter two to follow in a week. Please read and review as it's always appreciated. By the way I am dreadfully English so if the American is wrong please forgive me and correct me. Thanks Nova.