The Never Series

Never Two: Sarah Williams just bought an old Victorian house to celebrate her divorce from The-Good-For-Nothing that she wasted the last few years of her life on, but she's about to find out that her new home comes with a few extra surprises, not the least of which is an enchanted canine. J/S AU

Genre: Romance, Fantasy

Rating: M

Never Sit On A Werewolf

Part Five

In some distant way, Sarah knew that she was dreaming—knew that outside of this misty realm she found herself in, her true body was sleeping in the strong arms of a strange god. She knew all that, and yet the dream was so faultlessly realistic, so frighteningly lucid, that she found herself willfully ignoring the fact that it was purely fantasy.

But, in some ways, it wasn't. Sarah stared, wide-eyed, as she relived the events of just a few short hours ago, witnessed the fervor of a doomed and damning passion.

She had been primed for the sex, eager for the desperate urgency of pleasure and the simple comfort of touching another living being. And it hadn't felt wrong, either, as it so often had with Isaac; it hadn't felt like a dirty and unbalanced affair, like a shameful duty that had to be performed. With Jareth, sex had been a curious process of give and take: a simple moan got her a wicked smile in return, a stroke against him got a stroke for her, a tug at his hair got her a nip against the neck, and so on. He had been delicate and considerate when she had wanted him to, and delightfully demanding when she hadn't known what to do; one brief affair with her supernatural houseguest had managed to eclipse the entire sum of her former marriage.

She had, quite naturally, been awed by him. Perhaps it was simply the difference between man and god, but she had never known anyone who took so much pleasure out of simply giving pleasure—with Jareth it might have been a form of conceit, but she was more than to happy to allow him the vice. And maybe, in the end, he was lonely too, and their passion had been born out of a desperation to cling to something while lost within an uncaring world. They had crashed together like a wave upon the shore, both suffering from old wounds, both starved to feel something long forgotten.

And so it had progressed, one kiss turning into two, a light caress turning into a lingering embrace, until they had both been drunk on desire. She had consented to his touch, forgetting his past and her own, forgetting everything but the feel of him sliding silkily over her.

Of course, watching the event from the outside this time, Sarah remembered everything she had ignored, noticed things that had been lost to her in that passionate haze. For one, she remembered Jareth explaining how poisonous his bed play could be—for one night of pleasure she might have damned herself to a loveless future. For another, she noticed a strangeness in Jareth's touch—beneath the tenderness, beneath the urgency there was a possessiveness, as though he knew this would be the first of many times that they would come together in a meeting of flesh.

She frowned; he had said something about possession once before, hadn't he? Jareth had raged against Caerlik for robbing him of the ability to possess women, to brand himself into them at the height of passion. Had he been trying to recapture that with her; had their time together merely been an echo of a long-denied conquest? And what had Caerlik said?

"He will fuck you and then kill you, woman. You are a fool." The words sliced through her like a diamond through glass, chipping away at her already hardened heart.

Was this it, she wondered still watching the ethereal play-back of her first taste of passion in many years. Had Jareth used the details of his unhappy past to lure her in, to soften her to the idea of accepting him into her bed? And if he had, where did that leave her? Would she wake up alone, without a single reminder of the wolfish god to cling to? Or would he carry on as though their desires had never entwined, pursuing other women before her very eyes. For as brief as Sarah had known him, she knew that being subjected to such treatment would kill something within her. Isaac had jaded her, but Jareth had given her hope, if not for love than at least companionship. But with that hope he exerted a horrible power over her—that hope would live and die by his hand, and if he abused that power, Sarah knew that, in the end, he would only reinforce what she had learned from Isaac.

Love was an illusion, and romance was a mere trick men played to trap lonely women.

Sudden laughter broke through her thoughts; a hellish, wicked laughter that chilled her to the bone. Then a voice like the most frigid mountain peak whispered, "Hope is a frail thing, so easily destroyed. You can love, woman, but you shall love in vain."

Sarah awoke with a violent start, immediately aware that something was wrong. Even in the darkness of the night, she could tell that her bed was empty and cold, not a single sign of man or wolf in sight. Dread iced her blood as she wondered if the melancholy ponderings from her dream were coming true. Well, she comforted herself, it wasn't as though she had gone into the affair blindly; she knew what men were like, and Jareth had made no apologies for his past or any promises about the future.

So why did she still feel so hollow?

Throughout the course of her marriage and all the time after her divorce, Sarah had felt empty on the inside—as though Isaac had burned everything, leaving only ash in his wake—but Jareth had made her feel. Irritation, kindness, wonder: he had brought those things and more to life within her just by being around. And now that he was gone, she felt empty once again. Just like her faded Victorian, she felt drained and unwanted.

'But what if he hadn't gone of his own free will?' an insidious voice—the long-forgotten voice of hope—whispered quietly. Sarah clung to that hope; she had been alone for so long, even before the divorce, that she could barely stand the thought of being by herself again. She needed to believe that she hadn't made a fool of herself, that somewhere out there was a man that wanted her just as much as she now knew she wanted him.

But if he hadn't left by his own decision, then who had forced his hand?

Sarah's eyes narrowed as she thought of Meg's Uncle Dillsby—the man, or rather ghost, certainly had a motive and he was as good a place as any to begin looking.

Sarah had managed to pause her storming long enough to throw on some clothes, and she made it to Meg's house in record time—with no small amount of danger to her life, seeing as driving angrily in the dark wasn't a particularly safe pastime. Even before she opened the unlocked door and stepped into the empty home, she could tell that something was wrong. She had never had these strange instincts before, but she trusted them because they seemed to overshadow the hollowness within her.

"I had a feeling that I'd be seeing you this night," Uncle Dillsby murmured, a ghostly blue light illuminating his form as he materialized in the entranceway.

"What's going on," she demanded hotly, trying to ignore the fact that she was snapping at a dead god. "And don't bother lying to me; I know you know."

His dark eyes narrowed in appreciation, a small smirk flitting about his lips. "Very well," he murmured. "Come with me into the parlor and I'll tell you a story."

"I've already heard enough stories to last me a lifetime," Sarah groused, following him into the curtained off room.

"But not this one," he smiled over his should. "And you need this one, don't you?"

She felt chilled walking back into the room where she had first met the dead man. It was brighter there, bright enough for her to see him. He was still a grizzly mix of beauty and murder: tan skin, blood, and black hair that seemed to dip and wave with a mind of its own. To the very bottom of Sarah's heart, she knew that she wouldn't have been back in that room with Dillsby if she hadn't been so horribly certain that he had something to do with why she hadn't woken up in Jareth's arms. "Well?" she asked impatiently, nervous and unsettled by the situation.

Dillsby held up a bauble—a flashing jewel mounted in an unusual, arching symbol. "Do you know what this is?" he asked, twirling the bauble between his fingers.

"No," she answered, a strange restlessness filling her.

He laughed then, a nasty sound that filled the room and assaulted her senses. "It never ceases to amaze me how oblivious you mortals are! This, my dear," he jangled the trinket before her eyes, "is your soul." Sarah made a reflexive grab for the object, but Dillsby already had it high above her head. "Granted, it's only a small part of your soul—an insignificant trifle, really—but it can still do wonderful things."

"Like what?" she growled, her mind desperately trying to wrap around everything. The bastard had part of her soul? She didn't care how small it was, she wanted it back!

A mean look entered his eyes. "Scare another god into foolishness, perhaps?" He chuckled. "Jareth knows I could crush you, control you, with just this tiny little trinket."

Dillsby crossed the room until he came to sit in a reclining chair and, even with the sudden height advantage it gave her, Sarah still felt vulnerable. And so very violated. Providing that he was telling the truth, this man, this creature before her had ripped out a part of her very being, and she hadn't known it until hours after the fact. If he could do that, what was to stop him from doing more? It was a frightening thought to contemplate.

"Dear me," he said with false joviality, interrupting her thoughts, "I promised you a story, didn't I?"

She glared at him. "I'd much rather know how you thieved off of me."

"And so you shall," he smiled gently. "It is, after all, part of the story." With a grace that belied his nasty nature, he gestured for her to sit opposite him.

"I've already heard about your feud with Jareth," she said shortly, sitting down in a huff. "What more could you possibly add to that?"

"Did you know that I still wed Phaedra, even after Jareth destroyed her?" Dillsby—Caerlik—asked quietly. "Did you know that we had children she was incapable of loving in even the smallest of ways?"

Sarah shook her head.

"I was resigned to not being loved by her," he continued, "but I loved that woman so much, I couldn't imagine a future without her, even if it was an unhappy one. And, thanks to Jareth, it was. Phaedra was never the same," he sighed. " She was bitter and passionless; her eyes, which had once gazed upon me in love and adoration, were distant and frigid. On the rare occasion that we had children, she loved them even less than she loved me. Every day, until her mortal passing, was more brutal and scarring than the last—after so many years, I knew just cursing Jareth to spend half his time as an animal would never be revenge enough." Caerlik shifted, his face caught between despair at the sad story of his wife, and anger with Jareth. "So I told him that if he ever touched one of my children, I would release him from his punishment."

Sarah's eyes narrowed. That offer was certainly too good to be true. "How?" she asked suspiciously.

He smiled, a flicker of appreciation for her sharpness flashing through his eyes. "Death," he answered simply. "He knew there was a catch in that offer just as well as you did, which was why he never took me up on it. He murdered me long before I ever had the chance to murder him." A haziness came over Caerlik for a moment, before he snapped back to attention. "I've been starved for revenge ever since."

"And what exactly is it that you intend to do now?" she inquired, a slow panic building in her gut.

"Intend?" he asked mockingly. "It's already done." He began twirling the bauble between his fingers again. "I took this from you when you first came to see me."

Sarah remembered the horrible feeling she'd had when coming through the room's curtain. It had been as if the fabric had clung to her, sucking away her body's warmth until she'd felt empty and shaken.

"It was just the leverage I needed," Caerlik continued. "Jareth would never sleep with Meg without the proper incentive."

She couldn't deny that what had been done to the god before her had been awful, but it was hard to feel pity for the twisted creature he'd become. "So Meg really is related to you?"

He nodded, his black hair floating serenely around his handsome face.

"And you would use her—and me—to exact your revenge?" She felt cold inside, unbalance and uncertain, but she still had purpose. Her world had narrowed down to one point: Jareth was missing and she wanted him back.

Caerlik shrugged. "I never claimed to be honorable."

"Obviously," she sneered. "So, where is Jareth?"

The dead god smiled bemusedly. "It doesn't work like that, Miss Williams. Haven't you ever studied mythology? You must fight for what you want."

She was fighting, she thought inwardly. "What are you suggesting?"

He smiled wickedly. It wasn't at all like Jareth's wicked smile, which was feral but charmingly playful; this was the smile of a man who had little compassion left. "A game," he said simply.

Was he stalling, or just prolonging her torture? "What kind of game?" she snapped, her patience wearing thin.

"It's simple, really," he replied, gesturing smoothly until a small table appeared between them. It was a beautiful table made of polished marble and sweeping spirals of wrought iron, an ethereal concoction of grace and intimidation. Resting on its cool surface was an intriguing maze, a small collection of figurines, and a deck of cards. "We each take turns drawing cards; for every card you can move one of your figurines up to that card's value of paces in any direction. But I'll warn you now: the walls and paths will change between each turn."

Sarah frowned. So it was really just a game of chance then? "My objective is get all my characters through the maze before you do?"

"No," Caerlik shook his head. "Your objective is to meet your opponent in the center of the Labyrinth or along any of the pathways; if one of us gets to the center before the other, they can start to bring more of their figurines onto the board—we start with only one figure each."

She nodded. "And then?"

"Then, once we cross paths or meet at the center, we each draw two cards, and add them together; if your score equals thirteen, your opponent's figurine is removed from play and a new one is placed on the board. Who ever destroys all thirteen of their enemy's figurines first wins." He paused and eyed their playing field, as though searching for anything he might have overlooked. "Do you understand?"

She nodded once more. Now that the whole game had been explained to her, she realized that she needed strategy just as much as she needed luck. The easiest way to win the game was to amass as many figurines at the center as possible in order to overwhelm her opponent. It seemed simple enough, although she had to wonder if Caerlik would play fair or if he would use his powers to cheat. "I understand," she replied.

And so they fought, god against mortal, in a game that was just as challenging as it was childish.

Caerlik overwhelmed her at first. He was ruthless, and cared little for his pieces, going out of his way to confront her within the maze instead of searching for the center of the board. The ghost was bloodthirsty, not at all concerned about safeguarding his life, so long as he got his pound of flesh in return. But, for all his ruthlessness, his game was sloppy. As he chased wildly after her pieces, Sarah slowly drew them to the center of the Labyrinth, building a small army across the board. Caerlik might have destroyed a figurine here or there, but because he rarely had more than one piece on the board at any given moment, he was easy to pick off, one character at a time.

Even given her opponent's narrow-minded strategy, Sarah still found it a hard game to play. One minute she thought herself only a few more paces to the center, and the next minute the entire game had changed. The walls were constantly shifting, thwarting one plan after another, forcing her to backtrack when a dead-end suddenly developed, or unexpectedly bringing her face to face with her enemy when a wall disappeared between turns. She wasn't just fighting Caerlik, she was fighting the very nature of the game as well, and it was maddening.

And then Caerlik began using his pieces in pairs—one to shield and the other to make the kill. The player who had been easy to defeat was suddenly a crushing machine. Sarah was forced to adjust her game, to travel in pairs as well.

The more intense the game became, the harder it was to concentrate. So many things had happened to her in such a short period of time—she had been tested and tried, her world had been turned upside-down, and she wanted nothing more than to rest and think things over. But she needed to know where Jareth was, she needed to know that he was safe, and she craved the hope he had lit within her. Perhaps that did not match the vicious desires of an angry god, but it gave her a purpose, a direction after so long without one. She refused to lose just because she was feeling overwhelmed.

And, in the end, Caerlik had already damned himself; by starting with such a careless strategy, he had allowed her to pull significantly forward in numbers. As long as she was careful, it was easy to ride out any storm he unleashed upon her. It took what felt like an eternity before the final figurine fell but, in the end, Sarah stood the victor.

"So, where is Jareth?" she repeated to the defeated god.

Caerlik sneered, a curious and malicious triumph glowing in his eyes. "He went bounding off after my Meg, of course," he replied sweetly, sweeping the already forgotten game off the table. "I imagine they're locked in a lover's embrace even as we speak."

Tears trailed down her cheeks before he even finished speaking. She had never counted herself as being particularly emotional, but right now she couldn't stop herself. Jareth had meant something to her, had been a sign that she could and would be able to heal from the damage Isaac had caused her. To be betrayed now, when the shadow of her disastrous marriage had finally been lifting, hurt. A sob caught in her throat, then another and another, until she finally crumbled.

And just like that, Caerlik deflated, his eyes closing in self-disgust. "Don't cry," he pleaded miserably. Quietly, awkwardly, he came to sit beside her. "Please don't cry. Millennia come and go, and still nothing hurts me so much as seeing a woman in pain."

Sarah hiccupped as he rubbed her back soothingly. She was trying desperately to stop—she didn't want him seeing her so vulnerable—but it was hard to stop once the dam was broken.

Caerlik drew her to his side, letting her sniffle into his chest. "He loves you, if that's any consolation."

She quieted. "How do you know that?" she asked, momentarily thrown off by the dead god's complete switch in personality.

Caerlik snorted, an exasperated sound that burst through him and shook Sarah to her very toes. "He was quite stricken on your behalf; I've never seen him in such an uproar over anyone but himself."

She shook her head disbelievingly. "He's only known me for a day—he can't care that much." Maybe he hadn't even cared at all; he'd admitted to his ceaseless, meaningless conquests—perhaps she was just one more in the unending line of women.

"Love is many things, my dear," he patted her shoulder, "but reasonable has never been among them." He paused, then sighed heavily. "You've dashed my plans quite prettily, you know. Jareth should pay for his sins with blood, and he certainly doesn't deserve you, but you did win… and I would hate to see you suffer because you got stuck in the crossfire."

Her spine stiffened in anger. "How can you say that now, after all the damage you've already caused?"

He shifted uneasily, but met her eyes, a haunted light burning in his own. "It's easy to do anything in theory, it's even easy to forget that your pawns are living creatures, but it is never easy to be shown the suffering of the ones you hadn't focused on. I was happy enough to think of you as a convenient tool but now, after seeing you like this, I can only remember my Phaedra. She was destroyed so easily by the foolishness of two men, and it would kill me just as surely as Jareth's rage did to see you, or any woman, shattered like that. There have already been too many casualties in our little war; I will not add you to the list. Besides," his tone lightened, "you've already done more to him than I ever could."

Her tears slowly drying, Sarah looked to her erstwhile opponent in curiosity. "What do you mean?"

"You've made him care, made him love, and that comes with a mess of trappings—fear, jealousy, anger, compromise, it's all there." He smiled sharply. "I won't get to see him bleed, but I will get to watch him squirm; of course, I'll have to suffer through the annoying periods of happiness, but it's a small price to pay."

Sarah shook her head dejectedly. "None of that will matter if he sleeps with Meg; the situation would just be too complicated for me to handle."

Caerlik laughed outright. "He won't sleep with her."

She frowned. "But you said—"

"Oh, he certainly ran out to find her in a hurry," he agreed, "but I guarantee he only made it about halfway to the girl before he realized that it was ultimately a losing situation. If he slept with Meg he would be free of the curse and you would get back that which I've stolen, but he would lose you in the process. And he won't risk that, because Jareth is nothing, if not persistent about what he wants, and terribly exacting about his acquisition of it. He wants your love, the love of a woman who was emotionally brutalized and yet still had enough heart to accept him in all his strange and dangerous glory."

Sarah froze, trying to process what she was hearing, what it meant to her, and the fact that Caerlik knew more about her than was strictly comfortable.

"If I know him even half as well as I think I do," the dead god continued, "he probably spent the whole journey home thinking of ways to outsmart me, and is currently frantic with worry because you were not there when he got back."

That thought warmed her heart, brought parts of her back to life that she had thought long dead. Someone was waiting for her, wanted to see her, was worried that she wasn't home. When was the last time that had happened? When was the last time she had opened her front door and been greeted by someone who was actually happy to see her?

"Here," Caerlik handed her the small bauble. "I obviously can't go through with my revenge, so you can give that to Jareth."

She frowned. "To Jareth? Why? It's my soul, shouldn't you be returning it to me?"

He smiled warmly, his face lit with a boyish charm, giving Sarah an idea of what he had been like before Phaedra. "It belongs to him now," he replied seriously.

"Great," Sarah muttered, snatching the trinket from his fingers, "as if Meg wasn't bad enough, now even the gods are trying to play matchmaker for me."

"By the way," Caerlik helped her to stand, a patronizing look back on his face, "I respectfully request that you name the first one after me."

She stopped her hasty exit, her hand pausing on the door, and stared at him blankly. "Name the first what after you?"

His patronizing look grew. "Child, of course."

She opened the door, shaking her head. "I'm not having any children; not yet, anyway."

Caerlik's dark eyebrows rose in amusement. "Are you so sure?"

The drive back to her old Victorian was blessedly short, although it did leave her with enough time to worry about where her future would ultimately lead, and if Caerlik had been implying anything with his parting comment. In those few minutes, a thousand thoughts flashed through her mind, but never once did she suspect what was to greet her upon her arrival.

In the dead of night, under the light of a silver moon, Isaac was pressed flat to Sarah's porch, a very angry wolf crouched atop the man's back. If she hadn't been so genuinely confused at the situation she was walking into, she probably would have taken the time to enjoy the scene. As it stood, she merely shuffled out of her car and walked briskly toward the pair, a question already at her lips. "What's going on?"

"Get him off me!" Isaac wheezed, unsuccessfully trying to topple the canine from his back.

Sarah mounted the step, slowly shuffling alongside Jareth, bemusement and curiosity burning in her eyes. "How'd he even get on you?" she asked her ex.

"The furry little bastard attacked me, that's how!" he shouted, slapping his hands against the ground until Jareth growled menacingly at him.

She ran a hand over the wolf's ears, laughing a little on the inside even as she tried to calm down her ethereal lover. It was nice to see karma biting Isaac in the ass. "Why don't you go back inside, Jareth?"

His blue eyes—lupine, and yet strangely human at the same time—narrowed on her calculatingly. It was hard to guess what was going through his mind, but eventually his hackles dropped and he wandered away from the porch.

"That thing is a fucking menace," Isaac snapped, standing shakily to his feet. "You should have the beast put down."

She rolled her eyes. "You're lucky he didn't kill you, seeing as you were sneaking around my home in the dead of night. And while we're on that subject," she glared at him, standing as tall as possible, "what the hell were you even doing here in the first place?"

He rolled his shoulders and moved closer to her, trying to intimidate her with his height advantage; it was a move that had cowed her during their marriage, but not now. "I wanted to see you," he replied.

"At," Sarah darted a glance to her lit watch, "three in the morning?" She snorted. "Don't lie to me, Isaac, it's just insulting."

He rolled his shoulders, obviously frustrated with her behavior. "You've become quite the suspicious little hen since we separated, haven't you?"

She gave him the stoniest stare she could. "Look, if you're planning to weasel your way out of trouble by shooting the breeze, then we can skip it. I'm exhausted, emotionally drained, and I'm going to call the police tomorrow morning no matter what you say. Let's just skip the asinine pleasantries and be on our separate ways."

His eyes narrowed, a desperate and greedy look twisting his handsome features. "If I'm going to hang, then I might as well do something to deserve it." He eyed her darkened windows. "I'll bet some of those antiques in there will fetch a pretty price."

"You're going to rob me?" she asked, unsurprised. "After all the grief you put me through, you've decided that it would be fun to kick me while I'm down?"

"Why not?" Isaac smiled nastily, turning away from her and walking straight into a fist.

"Because," Sarah smiled, watching as Jareth—completely human and quite pissed off—fisted a hand in Isaac's shirt, "I'm not exactly 'down' at the moment. Or alone."

Isaac was an inch or two taller than Jareth, but Jareth had more presence than Isaac could ever hope to achieve. The cursed god radiated primal, vicious power—it was a strength and bearing that was even more feral than his wolf form. And it terrified Isaac.

Panicked, his left eye already swelling from the hit, the scheming weasel tried to pry Jareth's hand off of him. "I'll leave," he wailed, after a few moments, "I swear it."

Jareth nodded, a dangerous haze clouding his eyes. "Yes," he crooned quietly, "you will be leaving." His free hand came up to stroke along the other man's throat, pressing against his jugular threateningly. "And you won't be coming back, will you?"

Isaac stopped struggling, his body going curiously limp as a blank daze overtook his face. "No," he responded, his tone flat, "I won't."

Jareth released him, watching as the man swayed on his feet before catching his balance. "Run along, then," he suggested firmly. "And be thankful you were spared."

Sarah watched in bemusement as Isaac tottered off her property, moving like a limp rag doll before breaking into a run. "I doubt that's the last I'll see of him," she shook her head, turning back to Jareth. "Isaac's like a cockroach: no matter what you do, you can't keep him from coming back and you certainly can't kill him."

Jareth smiled softly, but there was murder in his eyes. "I enjoy a good challenge," he murmured, staring off into the distance, as though he could still see Isaac—and perhaps he could. After a few moments the deadly haze seemed to clear from him, and he turned his blue eyes to Sarah. "Where did you go?"

It was strange to hear that question again; no one had cared to know for so long. "Looking for you," she replied, stepping into the house.

He followed, closing the door loudly enough to startle both of them. "Please tell me you didn't—"

She held up a hand, cutting him off. "It was logical. Caerlik and Meg were the only other people I'd ever seen you interact with."

"Are you all right?" he asked quickly, assessing her with narrowed eyes. "He didn't hurt you?"

She slumped onto the sofa, lounging across it as the day finally caught up with her. "I'm fine, but there's something I need to know." She paused, closing her eyes. "Did you sleep with Meg?"

He didn't answer her for so long that her heart began to ache. Surreptitiously, she opened her eyes and snuck a glance at him. He was leaning over the back of her sofa, his lips quirked as he shook his head. "The only person I've slept with tonight is you." He sighed heavily. "I know I'm being greedy, but I promise you we'll find another way to get your soul back from Caerlik," he bent over the back of the sofa, pressing a kiss to her forehead. "I won't rest until it's done," he assured her, his lips whispering against her skin.

"You have a chance to be free of your curse," she responded quietly, enjoying his light caress. "I don't want to take that opportunity away from you."

"You aren't," Jareth murmured. "Caerlik would never let me be free of the curse and live—his schemes have always been painfully transparent. The important thing right now is to figure out what we can do to get the part of your soul that he's stolen."

Sarah quirked a smile. "Don't bother." She held out her hand, the small arching bauble resting in her palm. "I've already taken care of it."

His blue eyes rounded in astonishment. "How?"

"He's terrible at board games," she said, a confused smile pulling at her lips.

Jareth snorted. "Caerlik never was much of a tactician. Still, this all seems a little hard to believe."

"There was crying involved," she replied flippantly.

"Ah," he responded lowly, "he never could handle a crying woman."

"Here," she moved her hand closer to him, offering up the bauble. "Much to my chagrin, Caerlik said it was for you."

Jareth moved from behind the sofa, walking around it until he was in front of her. He crouched there, laying his head on her stomach as he took the trinket from her. "You know, it's not every day that I get the blessing of a god I've managed to piss off in every way possible," he met her green eyes seriously, "and yet you still look concerned. Why is this?"

"You're still cursed," she shook her head. "You've been tortured for who knows how long, and I went through an epic battle for you—well, all right, it wasn't an epic battle, per se—but nothing's changed."

He chuckled against her belly. "We have. You can't deny that we've both moved toward something more serious than either of us were intending; that's something, isn't it?" He shrugged, "I can live with being cursed, so long as you're around. We're both alive; that's all that matters."

"I still feel bad," she responded, running a hand through his silky hair.

"Then, think about it this way," he replied, leaning in to her touch. "Our children will have two things to celebrate in the winter: Christmas, and a couple of extra hours with daddy."

"Children?" her hand froze. Why did everyone keep suggesting that she was going to get pregnant? "Who said we're having any children?"

Jareth flashed her his wolfish smile. "I did, just now."

"Oh no," Sarah smacked his head lightly, "it's hard enough wrapping my mind around the fact that my lover is a god; kids are just out of the question."

"But I'm a fertility god," he argued, "you can't expect to be with a fertility god and not get pregnant!"

The End.

A/N: Yes, Sarah's soul-bauble is Jareth's necklace from the movie. Also, I was going to have Sarah and Caerlik play Mancala, but decided against it for three reasons: 1) In the variation I play, I figured out a while ago how to essentially win in the first turn; 2) it is both hard and boring to narrate; and 3) I wanted to incorporate the Labyrinth somehow.

I'M ALIVE! You're all shocked, aren't you? I'm going to be very blunt about this, because I don't have the fortitude to dance around the subject right now, and you guys deserve an explanation. I've been having a lot of problems in my personal life for a while, swinging between periods of massive creativity and complete apathy (which explains why I write like a maniac and then disappear for months on end). Some friends helped me work up the nerve to seek help for this, and I've been tentatively diagnosed with Bipolar II. It's a messy process—figuring out what's wrong and what can be done—and it's leaving my life in a constant state of change, which is extremely unbalancing. Writing has always been a stabilizing influence for me, so I'm back once more (and with Labyrinth this time!), but I can't promise you guys anything right now.

That being said, it's my intention to go back to Listen For Thunder now. I have no idea when the next chapter will be up, because before I can continue the story I need to go back over everything and decide if there should be some re-writes. I will try to stay in the Labyrinth fandom long enough to finish it, if not longer, and do my best not to start any new long, chaptered stories until LFT is done.

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Disclaimer: I do not own Labyrinth or any of its characters.