Summary: Because not all prisons are metal and bars. JS oneshot.
Author's note: Yes, I know that Beltane Night hasn't been updated in, well, a while, but the final part is in progress. This story however, was begging to be written, and I've stuck to a oneshot, purely because I'm too busy (and lazy) to write a full length multi-chaptered Labyrinth fic. One day, perhaps.
And again, strictly no fluff.
Et in Arcada, Ego
Light would slant through the windows, vivid and iridescent, distorting into a thousand prisms as it passed through the glass. Sarah had become used to watching its many varying changes of hue in the long hours of solitude. Pale yellow and soft lavender in the springtime, vivid cerulean in midsummer, the burnished gold of autumn, and in winter…
In winter, there was frost along her skin, and it was too cold to stand near the windows.
Wrapped in the soft confines of his fur cloak, she would sit in the bed and watch the icy designs being traced along their crystalline surfaces from outside. Sometimes red berries would hang tantalisingly out of reach, bright as the drops of blood that fell from her lips when his kisses were too violent.
Memory shook her then, memory that she pushed away, because it wasn't entirely hateful.
The room was circular, a self-concentrated orb that was a world unto itself. Against one wall – although as there were no corners, it seemed impossible to describe it as such – was a fireplace stacked with wood; mahogany red and ash and silver, and others she could not identify. These gave off an aromatic smoke, both acrid and incense-laden. The flames glowed with a luminous phosphorescence that caused the magic-imbued air to ripple, and at dusk, shadows would dance along the walls. When she looked a certain way, their outlines were reminiscent of faces, figures, hands outstretched. They didn't frighten her.
The windows were made of crystal but they would neither shatter nor smash. The bruises on her hands had blossomed like purple flowers when she tried. Jareth had bound her hands himself with an expert skill and uncommon gentleness, his eyes full of anger and a strange, inexplicable pity.
Her world was one of crystal and glass, light and shadow. Everything was bright and hollow. Nothing solid or real.
Except him, of course.
She was different now than she had been then. The Goblin King had noticed it at once. The immature and reckless child had grown into a more cynical and knowing adult. But what an adult she had become!
If the child had been an adversary, the woman was truly a force to be reckoned with.
Although only a few years had passed, much of the childish roundness had left her face. It was more defined now, and sharper, though it retained a hint of tenderness. Although the latter was rarely seen in his presence. Not that it made any difference. She was mortal; her life barely worth noting as it flared and died as quickly as the mayfly. He cared nothing for the ever-changing marks of humanity that imprinted themselves on her features. After all, he was immortal, cynical, jaded – and her sheer childlike naivety and crusading nature were laughable –
But she had won.
Jareth could not shake off that inner voice, no matter how much he longed to.
It unsettled him. He knew now that he had become complacent in his years of unchallenged and untested authority, secure in his own arrogance and power. She had surprised him. And that was something that hadn't happened in a long, long time.
When she returned above ground, he had spent years watching her, trying to discern any signs of hidden magic that could have led to such an unprecedented victory. It would have been easier, then. If he had tapped into some power she harboured, it would have lessened the sting of defeat. But eventually, he had had to accept that she was just an ordinary fifteen-year-old girl – more determined and courageous than most – but otherwise unremarkable.
Jareth paused, holding a gloved hand to his lips.
No. Not unremarkable.
The Five of Cups
Sometimes, at Samhain and the Equinox, the walls of the chamber seemed to shimmer and the crystal he left on her dresser would allow her glimpses of the world above. She would see it in flashes; the empty park on a rainy day, Karen's brazen too-loud laugh, Toby's hair, bright as the sun. She experienced a flare of intense longing, leaning in so close her breath misted the surface, then she would have to wipe it clear with her fingers and look again.
Then Jareth laughed and asked her if she enjoyed self-flagellation.
He had not meant to be deliberately cruel.
Well, perhaps a little.
He couldn't deny it gave him no small sense of pleasure seeing her under his power, and how her efforts at escape were so constantly thwarted.
She was the only one who had ever escaped him. All those years and he had never forgotten. As she uttered those fateful words and he fell, hurtling through time and space, the walls of his kingdom crumbling around him, the Goblin King swore to himself that he would find her, and be sure that she would never escape him again. She too, would know what it was to feel such ruination and despair.
Of course, he had been careful, making sure his kingdom was secure against any such eventuality. The physical damage done had been temporary, and easily righted. But even that didn't ease his defeat. It hadn't stilled the whispers that had erupted in his realm. It threatened his position, leaving him at best, a laughing stock, at worse, exposed to rebellion. She had destabilised his long-secure kingdom, undermining the years spent asserting his power and authority. And if there was one thing Jareth hated, it was chaos. Even magic had its own ancient laws and binding customs. Contrary to ignorant human beliefs, it was not a means of doing anything and everything. No, he had spent a long time establishing his realm and unlocking the secrets to its power. And for its foundations – set in place before time itself existed – these foundations to be shaken by one girl?
Oh yes, young Sarah Williams had a lot to answer for. And answer she would. But in his own time. Jareth was in no hurry. Unencumbered by the fleeting urgency that came with the trappings of a mortal life, he could afford to wait, drawing out his meticulously planned vengeance with slow deliberation. After centuries of experience, he had become rather proficient at it. The Goblin King could be proud, narcissistic, petty in his resentments and ruthless in his revenge. That she had dared set her wits against his and won – the battle if not the war – such an insult could not be forgotten lightly. He was resolute, and she had no comprehension of what she had gotten herself into. Furthermore, there was no danger of her escaping from his hold.
Those were the kind of stakes the Goblin King liked to play.
It had been loneliness. Or curiosity perhaps, compounded by a foolish sense of bravado. Almost too long ago to remember now, as she had made that fateful wish. The first time should have taught her to leave well enough alone.
There had been a boy. Hair like ripened corn, an honest, handsome face. Eyes that shone with kindness instead of cruelty, familiarity instead of mystery. He had even broken up with her kindly, with an awkwardness that was almost endearing. Words like love you, but and keeping secrets and don't trust me.
I want to tell you, she'd thought desperately. But if I did… you'd think I was crazy.
And so she kept her silence and watched her last chance for a normal life walk away.
There had been a storm that night. Sarah listened to the sound of the wind crashing outside and the rain lashing against her window in torrents. A wild mood possessed her. Unthinking, she rifled through her drawers until she found what she was looking for. The Labyrinth book had become tattered and dog-eared from those frantic weeks after her return, when she had desperately sought answers. She sank to the floor, and stared at it blankly.
Four years ago. So much had changed since then, and at the same time, so little. She was still no wiser as to whether it had all just been an extraordinarily vivid dream. She had never dared call her friends from the Labyrinth here. She had been too afraid to. Afraid of them actually appearing, even more afraid of them not appearing. Instead, she had tried to put it from her mind. Life went on. Or at least, it was supposed to.
She thought of her boyfriend with a twist of pain in her heart. Then she thought of another face: pale and angular and ruthless under a wreath of blond hair, silver eyes like shards of metal.
"This is all your fault, Goblin King."
"Can you hear me?"
A gust of wind rattled the half-open window in its frame. She looked up, half in anger, half hope – but there was nothing but water streaming down the glass and blurring darkness.
Do you even exist? Sarah took a ragged breath. Or maybe… maybe I am crazy.
She could faintly hear, over the noise of the rain, Karen's Phil Collins CD playing downstairs. The normalcy of it made her want to scream. Karen, her father, they had no idea, no idea – Jareth was probably watching her right now, and laughing.
I hate this. I hate all of this, I hate you –
She had won. She had earned her right to return here and live a normal life, so why could her past not let her go? This was more than a mere childish tantrum. This went far deeper. She was just tired of it all. Tired of this secret bleeding into every aspect of her life, tainting a first love of innocence with secrecy and the memory of cruelty. A childhood fantasy preventing her from being open and honest with someone she truly believed she could bring herself to love. A secret that had her dreams haunted by an enemy with a heart of ice while her boyfriend slept beside her. An enemy who had mocked her, and treated her like an ignorant child and who had wanted to see her fail. What was wrong with her?
It's not fair –
She heard his mocking laughter in her head. You say that so often. I wonder what your basis for comparison is?
Sarah looked back down at the book in her lap.
I'll tear it to pieces, she thought savagely. I'll tear it to pieces and hopefully his whole stupid kingdom with it.
"Watch, Jareth," she said fiercely. "You'd better come quickly unless you want your castle to collapse around you. Is that what will happen when I do this? And this – and this –"
Sarah gave a choked gasp and tugged sharply. A couple of pages tore from the binding and fluttered around her.
"Come on, Jareth. Why don't you come? Are you scared?"
She felt a burning moisture on the backs of her hands. Had she been crying? She hadn't even realised –
"Or are you sulking? I thought Kings were too mature to sulk –"
The storm was fiercer now, the hail rattling like bullets against the glass. The carpet underneath the window was soaking wet. With an exhalation of tearful frustration, Sarah hurled the book away from her. It hit the wall with a dull thud. The curtains were half transparent with rainwater and billowing wildly, like white bird wings –
"I want you to come." Please come.
Sarah buried her head in her hands, taking deep, ragged breaths. There was a terrible tight, dry pain burning at the back of her throat and it hurt, and her hands hurt, and her head hurt – Lightning flashed, illuminating the scene eerily, causing the dark glass to flare like crystal for an instant, before leaving her seated on the floor, alone in the darkness.
"Where are you, Goblin King?" Where are you.
She pressed her hands over her stinging eyes, her voice reduced to a harsh whisper.
"Do I have to make a wish? Is that it?"
There was a scratching, a scrabbling sound against the window as though something were trying to get in. Over the crashing of wind and rain, she didn't hear it.
"I wish… I wish the Goblin King would take me away… right – now!"
There was a moment – a long, long moment – in which nothing happened. Sarah seemed to have frozen in her crouch on the floor. There was a low humming in her ears, and a crackle of electricity in the air that had nothing to with the storm. She didn't dare lower her hands from her eyes.
After several heartbeats of time, she gradually became aware that the violence of the storm had abated. Silence had descended over the room. And Sarah realised then that she had made a very serious mistake. Through her fingers she caught a glimmer of silver light. A part of her thought she was going to faint. The other part of her was concentrating all her energy on not screaming.
Something brushed against the backs of fingers; the unexpected sensation caused her to move her hands to shake it off – white bird feathers –
She instinctively looked up.
Oh my God –
"Why, Sarah," Jareth said pleasantly, and his voice was like water sliding over glass. "I thought you would never ask."
Jareth remembered well the day she had returned to him. He remembered the wild ecstatic triumph. Never in a thousand years would he have expected such an opportunity to fall into his lap, and never from her own volition.
And now she was here. Finally in his power.
He had never been able to reach her. Oh, he had tried, never fully forgiving her for her childish, self-righteous defeat over him. But despite all his attempts, the results were meagre at best, barely making so much as an imprint in her dreams. Around Beltane and the winter Solstice, he had more success – she seemed to be aware of a something but even this was a poor reward for his endeavours.
For years, he had seethed with silent rage, cursing both his ineffectiveness and inability to forget. But the Goblin King had learned long ago how to focus his anger and channel it to a useful purpose. So he had been content in doing what little he could to disrupt her otherwise uneventful life, all the while waiting for the time when he would be able to act more effectively. His inner fire – so long suppressed he had almost forgotten it existed – was encased in the ice of methodical planning and the resolution to wait.
And it appeared his patience had paid off.
He saw her again crouched in her bedroom, all wild hair and futile childish tears.
I hate all of this – I hate you –
Her assertion of hatred didn't bother him. After all, he could never have come to her, had she not been sincere in wishing for him. And hatred was an emotion no less easy to manipulate than love. It came from the same fire and impetuosity, heightening the senses and dulling the perception. The Goblin King smiled slightly. Yes, hatred was an intriguing emotion, and a powerful one. It caused wars to be fought, kingdoms to be destroyed…
And wayward mortals to pay for their overconfidence.
Jareth laughed aloud.
The nights he did not come, she would lie back against the cold sheets and stare up at the ceiling, filled with an unshakeable, aching yearning.
When he later asked if she had missed him, she would always lie.
He wasn't in love with her. No, he would never have been foolish enough as to succumb to that, and give her so much power. He wasn't capable of love.
And yet… and yet…
Jareth moodily wondered whether the nights he deliberately abstained from visiting her chamber were arguably more of a punishment to him than her. Oh, he had ways of watching her, ways she would never discover, but he had never been able to ascertain whether she missed him in his absences or was merely glad of the time alone.
Neither would she know he passed those nights in solitude pacing the floor of his own rooms, or spread inelegantly across a couch, staring into the fire and unable to find rest from a gnawing, uncharacteristic doubt. Firelight and rich wine were poor substitutes for a warmth he denied himself only by his own stubbornness. No girl – no mortal – should have so much influence over him; it was dangerous, it was maddening, it was intoxicating. Imperiously stalking his corridors during the day, the Goblin King had the luxury of venting his rage on clumsy subordinates; at night, he prowled to and fro like a caged tiger, cursing both his own weakness and the girl who had caused it.
Jareth crossed his booted legs and stared absently into the hearth. His half-closed eyes caused the firelight to take on a shimmering quality, a narrow line of gold light stretching across his field of vision. Images passed behind his closed lids. A thousand years of light and dark, good and evil, pinnacles of height and abyssal depths, much of it forgotten, more remembered all too well. And Sarah, who had no comprehension of such things; so mortal and so hopelessly young. Yet it was her face that stood out most clearly in his mind, and her expression when she had defeated him that first time – fierce with both triumph and the unconscious cruelty of childhood. How that expression had haunted him. Haunted him so much that even now it branded his soul. Or it would have, if he had one.
He hurled the wineglass into the fire in an uncommon display of violence.
Damn the girl. Damn her stubborn impudence and his own lack of self-control. His will was normally ironclad, strength sealed with coldness, but still she managed to creep in, thawing his ice with fire. How he loathed it. And her.
He was not an overtly emotional being. He had too much self-will; and uncounted years of self-reliance had hardened him to autonomy and independence. Even his closest advisors he would never trust fully, knowing well that loyalty could turn to treachery in an instant. Jareth had not come to be ruler of the Labyrinth by wearing his heart on his sleeve or by playing fair. He did not pander mindlessly to the demands of his subjects. His rule was stern, and those who did not abide by his decrees would suffer the consequences. The Goblin King knew well that emotion was a weakness.
Once, he had been guarded against any foolish human sentiment, with internalised defences far more secure than ivory towers or iron-bolted doors. He had been cold, yes, aloof and distant, but satisfied in his own invulnerability. The brief flaring triumph at having his prey back in his power had awakened something within him. The Goblin King thought at first it was hate. But then why did he hesitate to do what must be done?
For years, he had dreamed of this moment. But now he was only tired, so tired. The long-awaited chance for vengeance had consumed him whole, leaving nothing but ashes in its wake. Now he had the chance to meet out the revenge so overdue, he found he had not the spirit for it. All he felt was the terrible sense of something being wasted.
The Queen of Swords
She could sense him stood behind her, hear the familiar-unearthly sound of his breathing, feel the brush of silk against her back as he inhaled slowly. Sarah shivered, and knew it was not from revulsion.
Cool hands, pale fingers, combing through the tresses of her dark hair. Obeying instinct, she tilted her head forward, and his breath was warm against her neck.
"So what did you do today, my love?" he asked, like he always did, and then laughed as though something amused him greatly.
Familiar now, this routine of cutting mockery, and she didn't answer, only stared at the pale circle of moonlight that fell onto the stone floor. Her feet were aching with cold.
His hands on her shoulders, he slowly turned her to face him. Dressed only in a loose shirt and breeches, as he often did when they were together like this, he appeared rather less aloof and imperious than was usual with him. The knowledge would have given her a faint sense of power, had she not realised by now that any power she thought she held was an illusion. She was a prisoner caught in a silken snare, and it was not the walls, or the endless maze of corridors that held her here, but something far more insidious and deadly.
His face – not handsome, but rather arresting in its irregularity and meta-humanity – was close to hers, he needing to bend only slightly to meet her defiant gaze. She swallowed, not fully knowing what to expect even though they had been together so many times. There were many different Jareths that entered this room once the sun went down. At times he could burst into the room quivering with barely suppressed rage entirely unconnected with her, eyes flashing dangerously and his biting wit turned cruel, wanting only gratification and release. Or he would be elusive and detached, almost bored, full of irony and bringing her to the heights of passion with methodical hands and cool lips. At other times, he was almost gentle, the mockery in his voice only light, and without the sting. After those nights, she would wake up to find his arms around her, and he would whisper soft endearments in her ear and stroke her hair.
The memory caused her to shiver uncontrollably.
"I asked you what you did today." His voice was calm. Too calm.
"Nothing," she replied, a shade too quickly.
"So nothing I should know about? No… visitors?"
Sarah swallowed hard. He knows. "No."
"You are many things, Sarah. A convincing liar isn't one of them. I know perfectly well that Hogwash and your small, gallant knight were in my castle today, in this very room. I would recognise the stench of dwarf anywhere."
"Jealous?" she asked sweetly.
His smile was bright and sharp as broken glass. "Hardly."
"And if they were here?" she challenged. "I don't think your clause said no visitors."
Jareth looked down at her with part irritation, part amusement. "You never stop, do you, precious? Although inciting my servants to rebellion is a bold move, even for you. And a most foolhardy one. Be in no doubt, Sarah. Your friends will be punished."
Sarah swallowed hard. Don't let him see you react. "I didn't know they were such a threat to you."
"Now, I know you don't really believe that."
She looked up at him, struck by a sudden, burning curiosity.
"Am I a threat to you?"
The Goblin King laughed softly.
"You, love?" he said, and she was unable to tell whether he was in earnest. "Always."
The Wheel of Fortune
He wasn't afraid of her. Among the many ranging complexities and disputes within his kingdom, her outbursts were little more than childish tantrums, and were equally ineffectual. Neither was he overly concerned by the discovery she had somehow managed to coerce her loyal, foolish, dim-witted friends into disobeying him. But be as that may… it was still worth being vigilant. She had caught him off-guard before.
She was wearing a pensive expression, chewing her lip in an old childish habit that had never left her, but he knew she was assessing him, wondering just how much her defiance had riled him. Never one to leap into anything rashly, Jareth paused, considering. He was angered, yes, but beneath that, also slightly impressed. He didn't know she had it in her.
It certainly kept things interesting.
The Four of Cups
Bathed in moonlight, he seemed paler than ever, the opalescent light glancing off his ivory silk shirt and mother-of-pearl buttons. Whiter still, his skin that was so smooth and cool beneath her hands. Occasionally, she came across faint silver scars, but he would never tell her how he came by them.
"So you can find a weakness to exploit? I think not." His tone had been light and mocking, but she recognised the warning behind them.
It never did to ask too many questions.
Sarah could hear her own breathing in her ears, the tension causing her to knot her hands into the thin material of her nightgown. Rippling silk, beautiful and fine as gossamer – nothing but the best for her, he always said – but it seemed to snag against her fingers, the glittering stars enmeshed in the gauzy fabric both hard and cold. Focus on that, she told herself. Focus on what's real.
Too dangerous to embrace the intangible, to allow his compelling allure of whispers and frost and rippling glass to work its elusive magic upon her.
He reached out and pried her hands loose from the folds of her dress, running his fingers almost lovingly across her palms. It was a curiously tender gesture for him. "Such cold hands," he murmured absently. "Are you cold, Sarah?"
Her head snapped up, and she met his questioning look with a cruelty in her eyes she had only learned from him. "I'm always cold," she said.
He didn't react with anger. She hadn't really expected him to. Always, he sought to maintain strict control over his emotions, never betraying too much. Instead, the sideways quirk of his mouth, the lazy, half-closed eyes.
"Is this better?"
Fire. It erupted into life, throwing a myriad of warmth and colour into the room: fleeting moonsilver now vivid amber and blood-crimson. Heat rippling over her like molten glass. The hairs on her arms prickled, visible on white skin turned gold, but the fire did little more than thaw her exterior.
"It doesn't help," she said dully. "Nothing ever helps."
"Is that right?" His voice was dark and intoxicating, heady, like wine. "Then let's see if we can't do something about that."
He lifted her hand to his lips, keeping his gaze on her. It was a strangely earnest look, one she did not often see.
"Come, Sarah. Must you always fight me?"
The loathing must have shown in her eyes, because he laughed quietly, and looked down at her slim fingers against his own, glittering with jewelled rings. "Of course," he said. "Of course." And then he laughed again. "You are a strange thing, Sarah. I have you in my possession, to treat as I please – you cannot escape, nor do anything to hurt me – and yet, sometimes it feels as though you're not really here at all, as though – as though I have no power over you. Your soul is as free as it was the day you rejected me for your squalling infant of a brother. And you endure not because you must, but because you can. I see it in those proud, blazing eyes of yours. You're really not afraid of me, are you?"
Looking into his eyes was to become lost in an eternal northern wasteland, paralysed by the icy fingers that wrapped themselves around her. So pale, so cold…
But he wasn't cold; he was warm and vivid and vital. His touch burned through her like the fire-magic of the hearth. Again, Sarah cursed her weakness and wondered just what it was that gave him such a hold over her. What made it worse was the conviction it wasn't him, but something damaged inside herself that had made her a prisoner here. If she hadn't been so stupid and made that wish…
That isn't going to help you now, she rebuked herself fiercely. If you really want to fight him, fight him in a way you can.
She jerked her hand away from his. Jareth's expression darkened slightly, the old possessiveness flaring in his eyes. Sarah could remember how he had mocked her now ex-boyfriend, with an elegant sneer and detached disinterest as he calmly stoked a fire that had her writhing against him and weak with need. Did he taste you, sweet? he had asked derisively. Did he tell you he loved you? Did he make you feel? Did he make you scream –
Sarah shuddered. Don't think about that.
Jareth reached out and cupped her chin with his hand, tilting her face up to his own. His irises reflected the fire, like silver crescents. "You know," he said again, and his voice was low, reflective. "I sometimes wonder if you do have some magic in you, after all. Because I think that if you ever did find a way to escape me, I should go mad. Now isn't that the strangest thing?"
It was hard to concentrate on what he was saying. His pale gaze was hypnotic. She both wanted and didn't want to look away. Ash-blond hair brushed against her shoulders, the colour of autumn leaves, but it shone with winter's frost.
Then, abruptly as it had come, the strange mood seemed to leave him. He released her and moved back without appearing to, and he was as she knew him best – arrogant, sardonic and cynical.
"Come," he said, with impish mischief. "Indulge me tonight, Sarah. Then perhaps I can be persuaded to overlook your little friends their… misdemeanours."
Sarah looked up quickly. "So you won't hurt them?"
The Goblin King looked away and didn't answer for a moment. The severe lines of his face hardened, if that were even possible. "So protective…" he murmured, almost to himself. "Could I ever inspire such loyalty in you, precious thing?"
He already had too much of her – this she could not, would not give him.
"No." Her voice trembled with resolve. "Because I don't like you. I don't trust you."
"Well, of course you don't," he replied, as though she had said something very obvious. "And you shouldn't. You haven't even begun to know me, child."
He had always found her more beautiful at night.
During the day she was nothing extraordinary. Pretty yes, in an odd, discordant sort of way with her heavy black brows and white skin, but it was a fleeting, coarse, mortal beauty. But when he came to her in those hours of darkness she glowed, she burned, like brimstone and embers. Jareth felt an ironic smile tug at his lips. His Sarah. His cruel, bitter, beautiful Sarah. In the thousand years and more as ruler of the Underground, he had taken many lovers, but none had quite intrigued him as much as this dark haired witch-child. There was something endlessly fascinating about the combination of smouldering antipathy and challenging defiance that was far more interesting than prosaic affection, and made him wonder just what she would do if he one day provoked her enough to break loose from all her boundaries.
The almost unconscious pressure of her hands against his chest made him shudder against her, and Jareth found himself wondering once again which of them really held the power in this castle of illusion. It would never do to let her see just how much sway she held over him. No, he was always careful to hide his real feelings beneath an audacious smile and a cutting witticism. Let her think she was a mere game to him, some idle diversion. Never let her suspect how often her contemptuous comments found their mark, or how easy it would be to succumb and make good on his last offer...
Fear me. Love me. Do as I say, and I shall be your slave.
His eyes flared at the memory.
Grey-green eyes, that shade of withheld promises, were fairly smouldering. At such times, he was never sure if she would strike him or kiss him. The two impulses were never far from each other.
The Goblin King was aware of a feeling that was almost like pride.
Who would have thought that she would become such a wildcat?
When he had first come to her, her experience of lovemaking had been reduced to callow boys, fumbling with clumsy hands and gentle sincerity. Jareth could have – and did – laugh aloud. Poor Sarah, reduced to such unworthy fools. No wonder she was so difficult and tightly wound. Why, he could teach her things she had never even dreamed of. He had once accused her of turning his world. That night, he splintered hers into fragments, melted it down and forged it anew. He had had lifetimes of experience, and she bewitched him beyond anything he had encountered for centuries…
He had not meant it to happen. There was nothing in the ancient codes and magics governing the laws of the Labyrinth that implied this was his prerogative. Neither had he taken a human lover in many, many years, nor had he desired to do so. But there was something about her rebelliousness and undisguised dislike of him that set his blood on fire. The stunned confusion in her eyes when he had silenced her with his lips flared vividly in his memory. Even then, he had told himself to be careful. The girl was incendiary. But his body reacted explosively. And she, blazing with fury, clutching at him with anger turned to passion, hatred turned desire.
The next morning, she had barely looked at him, all cold indifference and stiff aversion. But later, he had no sooner entered the room, when she was in his arms once more and they had almost devoured each other.
After that, he was always careful to hold something back.
Her fingers were poised against his chest, hovering over his heartbeat, and as he went to fold his own hands over them, she instinctively pulled away, instead clutching at her nightdress. Jareth felt a strange sense of satisfaction. Good. It would never do to make the game too easy.
Since Sarah, he had not been with anyone else.
He would never tell her that, either.
The Nine of Wands
His eyes half-closed; he liked it when she used his name. "Yes?"
"If you didn't want me seeing my friends in secret…" The words were forced from her, grating and bitter tasting.
His brow raised in slight surprise. "Yes?"
"You could always let me out of the castle."
"My little bird." His voice was lilting and low. "It would never do to let you stretch your wings. With my entire Labyrinth at your disposal, who knows what damage you might do?"
Fury assailed her, but it was dark and bitter with the sense of its own futility. She snarled at him like a cat.
"My, my, such spirit. Such passion." A white flame burned in his eyes. "I really would hate to see that go to waste." He leaned away slightly, warm breath ghosting across her lips. "And of course… if I let you out… you would only fly back to me."
"It's not true," she hissed against his mouth.
"Tell me honestly. Were you really any happier back at home?"
Jareth paused, letting the remark sink in. She would deny it, of course, like she always did.
"You think you've won," she said. "But there's one thing you've forgotten."
"And what's that?" he inquired coolly; knowing the gentle movement of his fingers across her upper arms would only further incite her. But he had never been able to resist her anger.
"You thought you could give me my dreams."
"And I can," he said, and for once, he was being entirely honest. "You need only ask."
"You tried, once. The crystal, the poisoned peach. But I can see through your illusions. You must hate it," she added ruminatively.
He knew she was deliberately trying to rile him, and even though he expected it, the remark still stung. The truth was, her ability to perceive the deceptions and illusions he had so intricately wrought in the Labyrinth had always been a cause for annoyance. He had learnt that she was not to be diverted by baubles and pretty tricks, for all her dreamy sensibilities.
"Does it kill you to know that? That with all your power you still can't make me your willing slave?" Sarah lifted her face to his with a hard and triumphant look. "You won't have me – you'll never have me."
Jareth clenched his jaw. Typical Sarah, never content to let the issue drop. No, she must prod and pry and taunt until it tipped him over the edge. Of course, he could break her in an instant – she still had no comprehension of his physical strength that needed no augmentation from any magic – she didn't realise that she scored these small victories only because he allowed her to. Yes, he could bruise and break her, but it wouldn't matter in the end; her strength lay within her fierce soul, not the mortal fragility of her bones or how easily she bled.
That was what drew him back to her night after night, that was the source of this craving, this inexplicable hunger. Sarah could be – and was – bratty, frustrating and infuriatingly self-righteous, but most of all, she was indomitable. If she were not, he would have lost interest a long time ago, but something inside him was drawn to this endless conflict and to the girl who would never just lie down and give up, even when the game seemed lost.
He caught hold of her shoulders, pulling her towards him in one swift, possessive movement. He could feel the heat of her body through the sheer material of her nightgown. "You always speak in such certainties. I would have thought you knew better by now. Because…" The scent of her skin was tantalising. "I would argue that I have you now. And will have you… again, and again… and again…"
Unable to resist any longer, his lips trailed from her shoulder to collarbone and he felt a surge of dark triumph when she gasped quietly. His muscles tensed with anticipation. She tasted faintly of wood smoke and something unique and indefinable. It reminded him simultaneously of moss and sunlight.
Sarah stole a breath. "We can't…"
"You say that so often." His slightly ragged voice was laced with mockery. "We both know how this game ends."
"You think we're playing games?"
"Of course." His teeth nipped a spot at the side of her neck and she twitched against him. "And you know the wonderful thing about the game, Sarah?"
Jareth lifted his head so he could look at her expression. Her green eyes were very dark.
"It doesn't have to end."
With skilled hands, he traced her familiar contours through her nightdress. She was wraith-thin, but the fire had warmed her skin until it felt almost too hot to touch. A rush of fierce exhilaration swept through him. Playing with fire, that's how he always felt when near her, his Sarah, his firebrand, the only one who could melt his pallor and after thirteen hundred years, still surprise him.
He brushed her lips with his own, softly at first, and feather-light. She could have pulled away at any time. He felt her soft exhalation on his mouth, her voice halfway between a question and a warning.
The sound of his name broke down the last barriers of his restraint. Hands tangling in her heavy dark hair, he drew her towards him into an aggressive, ravaging kiss. The force of it could have crumbled his kingdom to the ground, but she had already done that… it was an outpouring of all his frustration and fury and hunger, drawing his soul from his body like a fine silver wire. Tempting as it was to continue in that vein until she had no breath left in her body to protest, Jareth needed more. Uttering a low growl against her mouth, he backed her towards the bed in few stumbling steps, overcome by the dark need to possess. He pressed his thigh between her own while finding her lips again, and this time he wasn't so tender. The hiss of pain through her teeth served as an irresistible aphrodisiac, spurring him on to provoke her further. He wanted her to respond. He wanted that battle of wills, that eternal struggle.
He wanted his fire.
The King of Swords
Sarah was still furious. Her body was shaking with anger, please let it be anger, as she silently vowed he would not get the better of her in this encounter.
She shoved him away, watching with a grim satisfaction as he stumbled – only very slightly, it was true, but still noticeable. He recovered instantly, shaking with silent laughter, and drew himself up in a proud stance, regarding her mockingly. He didn't need layers of trappings or feathered cloaks or jewels to convey his power. No, that he possessed in spades, even in just a silken shirt and a pair of breeches. Even now, he was still in control. She glared up at him, hating him for the arrogant expression he was wearing.
"If you think you can just shut me up by –" Jareth cut her off again, pulling her into another earth-shattering kiss. His mouth was sharp and tasted of winterberries, goblin fruit. He was rapidly burning away her resistance, eroding her defensive walls she tried to maintain against him. Her hands reached out, clutching at a fistful of his shirt – to push him away – pulling him closer to her. He made a noise, almost a snarl, deep in his throat, his hands sliding under the fabric of her nightgown to grasp her waist, yanking her into the circle of his body. She vaguely reflected that it seemed incredible that she, Sarah Williams, could incite such an explosive response in him, but then there was nothing but magic and fire and his hands on her hips, her back, and he lifted her onto him, slamming her against the wall in the same movement. It hurt briefly, but in the same half-painful pleasure of worrying a loose tooth. Satisfaction could be cruel.
When he had first come in, proud and aloof, he had seemed as solid and imperturbable as a pillar of marble. But now, with his skin glowing in the wake of the fire, wild hair spilling over his shoulders like liquid gold, Sarah wondered how he could have ever seemed cold to her. He was an inferno, brilliant and savage, a phoenix rising from the ashes of bitterness and shattered illusions.
Beautiful wasn't the word for him. It was too soft, unable to convey his pride or his authority or his sheer utter ruthlessness.
No. He was magnificent.
He was kissing her fiercely, his mouth simultaneously nipping and caressing the hollow at her throat. She arched her head back against the wall, gripping his hair, trusting to his strength to hold her up. They were fighting just as surely as they had been moments before; only this was a wilder, fiercer, more primal conflict that could only be resolved by flesh upon flesh, heartbeat on heartbeat. She tugged at his hair and he hissed in response, then her mind went hot and blank as he cupped her breasts, then slid his hands down towards her thighs.
This shouldn't happen. But she knew – somewhere deep down in that fierce, burning core of pure want – that it was going to happen, and more than that, she wanted it to. And the worst of it was, she was clinging to him, her kisses fierce and searing as his own, and filled with a craving hunger.
He shifted position, supporting her with his body. Sarah felt hot – too hot. Heat was rippling along her skin that had nothing to do with where his hands were, and she glanced sideways, realising they were against the wall alongside the hearth. Sparks leapt out, settling on her nightdress and the floor and Jareth's shoulders.
"The fire," she said, the words escaping her in a low hiss. "It's too close."
"It won't matter soon," he growled in response, voice muffled against her skin.
She looked down at him through lust-clouded eyes. Sparks of gold glittered in his fiery hair and reflected in his catlike eyes. She shivered suddenly. His expression was exultant, almost feral. He was breathing hard, all former control and reserve gone. There was a faint thrill in knowing she was the cause of it, but any power she might have felt was lost in her rapid exhalations of I love you I hate you this doesn't change anything oh God don't stop please don't stop –
Those lips that had uttered words of mockery and cruelty and issued pitiless commands were now pressing against every inch of her through the frustrating barrier of clothing that it now seemed imperative to be rid of. Her hands, that had been clutching him blindly, now clawed at the mother-of-pearl buttons on his shirt, wanting that hard and wonderfully unyielding skin beneath her fingers. Firelight broke over her in waves of heat but the blood burning in her veins was hotter still, and she knew he felt it too, human or no…
Arrogant he might be, merciless certainly, and she didn't like him at all, but he also knew her like no one else did. He not only understood her impulsive, rebellious, contrary nature – he gloried in it. She could feel him pressing against her hip and made a frustrated noise – Jareth grinned, a dark, wicked smirk – and finally stopped tormenting her. His hands, hard and hot on her legs, shoved her nightgown upwards, leaving her exposed to his carnal, wolfish gaze. He paused a moment, savouring her, prolonging the point of painful pleasure. Punishment at its most cruel. Sarah knew what he wanted. He wanted her to beg, to admit that she craved him, yearned for him, despite all her arguments to the contrary.
I never will – I never will – she clamped her lips together, knowing full well he would not hesitate to walk away, leaving her aching and unfulfilled, just to win an argument. So instead, she leaned forward, catching his lower lip with her own and pinched it hard between her teeth. His eyes flared – then she snaked her hands around his shoulders, sliding her fingers lightly down his spine and pulling his hips towards her own with a sharp movement that caught him off-guard. It was answer enough. The silk of her nightdress raked up around her thighs caused an almost unbearable friction as she heard the rustle of fabric and the dull sound of a belt buckle falling to the floor.
Then she cried out, nails raking down his back as he filled her completely, everything splintering in silver light; the fury, madness, exhilaration, wild joy and the fight that would never end.
Author's endnote: Ugh, this was difficult. I'm a little (by which I mean seriously) anxious about the ending, as I rarely write smut. I tend to leave that aspect of these two plot bunnies to the more talented writers on this site, but reviews and feedback would be much appreciated.