Author's Note: Hello! Sorry again for the long wait. I am hoping that you enjoy this chapter and any chapter that follows today.
Disclaimer: You know who's mine. You know who's theirs. Enough said.
Sarah woke to the gentle touch of a hand on her shoulder. She jumped, then turned to see who it was. She found Mannonda standing behind her.
"Sorry to have startled you."
"It's fine," Sarah said, rubbing her eyes.
"His majesty wanted me to invite you to have tea with him in the gardens."
"What time is it?"
"Half past midday."
Sarah looked at Lenna to find her sleeping peacefully.
"I can stay with her while you are away if you would like."
Sarah shook her head. "She'll be fine. She'll probably still be asleep when I get back."
Mannonda nodded. "I will notify His Majesty of your acceptance of his invitation while you freshen up."
Sarah followed Mannonda out the door, then walked to her room where she proceeded to take a quick shower and to change her clothes. Not feeling in the mood for anything fancy, she put on a pair of jeans and a poet's shirt. She clipped the sides of her hair back and put on some mascara, then flung her bedroom door open, nearly bumping into Mannonda who had been about to knock.
"I am glad you decided not to wear anything formal. After the week the two of you have had, His Majesty felt that you both deserved a relaxing time outdoors and being formal would have made this get-together pointless."
"Well, I'm glad His Majesty won't be upset by my casual appearance today."
Mannonda led Sarah to the courtyard where she found Jareth standing beside the table, dressed in brown leather pants, knee-high brown boots, and a cream-colored poet's shirt. He pulled the chair he stood beside out for Sarah as she approached the table and gestured for her to sit, then pushed it in ever the slightest before taking his own seat.
"I'm glad you decided to come," he said.
Sarah stared at him. His posture was perfect and his voice sounded rested. His eyes, however, betrayed how he really felt.
"You look quite refreshed," he said to her with a smile.
"It's amazing what a shower and a change of clothes can do," she said nervously, the smile seeming to be foreign.
A goblin servant came with a tray that held a brewing tea kettle and a plate of crumpets and set it on the table in front of them.
"Thank you," Jareth said.
The goblin bowed, then left.
Jareth set a cup and a small plate in front of each of them, then lifted the tea kettle.
"Listen," Sarah said, "don't get me wrong, I really appreciate this relaxing time outside, but you haven't gotten an ounce of sleep, have you?" she asked as he poured her tea. "Why should you worry about my welfare when you're the one who needs to recuperate before…" Not sure how she wanted to word it, Sarah let the sentence stop there.
Jareth paused in pouring his own tea and looked at her for a moment, then finished pouring his cup and set the kettle back on the tray. "This is a part of my recuperation, he said as he chose a crumpet and held it in front of his face, inspecting it. "I've been going mad stuck in that damned room all week long. I invited you because I am quite sure you haven't been feeling much better stuck in Lenna's room all week long." He took a bite of the crumpet, sure to chew and swallow it before continuing. "I have slept, Sarah. I have slept a bit too much, in my opinion. That witch is out there plotting and scheming to take over the kingdom, though I'd be damned if I knew why. My brother, who is enough of a problem on his own, is now possessed by said witch. And here I've been, all bloody week long, sleeping."
Sarah stared at him for a moment. "Mannonda said you needed the rest."
"I did!" he yelled in obvious frustration.
Sarah took a sip of tea. "There's something else going on."
Jareth, whose eyes had gone wild, stared over Sarah's shoulder into nothing.
He and Sarah sat just like that for a long time, neither of them speaking.
Sarah nervously took the last sip that her teacup had to offer. Jareth appeared to have frozen where he sat and, despite the fact that Sarah didn't know him very well, she could tell that something beyond the upcoming war was wrong. Something had him seriously shaken.
Finally, unable to take it anymore, she reached across the table and laid her hand on his. She watched as he jumped, his eyes slowly coming back from wherever they had been.
Jareth looked down at their hands, then back up at Sarah, perplexed.
"Talk to me," Sarah said gently. "Please tell me what is going on."
Saying nothing, Jareth pulled his hand away, summoned a crystal, and handed it to her.
Sarah looked into it to find it pitch black. Her brow furrowed. "What is this?"
"I summoned a crystal after bringing you breakfast this morning only to find that I can't see anything. I can't see a single thing anywhere across the entire kingdom.
Sarah glanced back up at Jareth and watched as he rubbed the bridge of his nose.
"Where is Sir Didymus?" she finally asked.
She watched as his fingers stopped moving, but remained where they were, his eyes opening and looking straight at her. He stared for a moment in silence before responding. "Meditating," was all that he said.
"Where?" she asked as his eyes closed again.
"He's safe in the castle, if you want to consider anywhere safe anymore."
"Since when does Sir Didymus meditate?"
Jareth opened his eyes again. "Since when is anything what it seems here?"
Sarah paused for a moment. 'Good point,' she thought. "Where is Hoggle? And Ludo?"
"They are in their homes. As sad as it is to say, they're probably safer than any of us are."
Sarah gulped and watched him for another few minutes. "What can I do to help?" she finally asked.
Jareth's hand dropped to the table as his eyes flew open. "You can stay out of it," he snapped. "Something terrible has happened in my week of absence and, once we've finished the tea and the crumpets, I expect you to stay in Lenna's room with her. There is a bathroom in there and there are no windows. It is the safest room in the castle."
"You're afraid to be out here right now, aren't you? If it's so dangerous, why didn't we do this indoors?"
"I need to see some part of this kingdom other than the inside of the castle. I need confirmation that my kingdom still exists."