Chapter 4


The crisp white snow at her feet had changed, replaced by a carpet of countless red roses, plush red petals rippling in a gentle breeze. The decorative stone pillars beside the bridge looked like rose trees; vines thick with blossoms wove up them, turning them into arbours of swaying tendrils trimmed in red. Swirling frost patterns clung delicately to bare tree branches like spider's webs woven of diamonds, glimmering in the light of crystal orbs which floated in midair, glowing like some mystic constellation. The sheer beauty of it made her catch her breath; she just looked at him in silent awe. It was all he needed; the surprise and delight upon her features was thanks enough. It made more pride swell in his heart than he had ever felt there before – and he usually had quite a lot. Of all the dreams he had made actual, this one was by far the prettiest. It made the normal so-called Valentine's Day 'extravagance' of a dozen long-stemmed roses look paltry in comparison.

He extended a hand over the field of scarlet; obediently, several blossoms drifted upwards, like large red bubbles drifting on an unseen breeze, and arranged themselves into a perfect circle. He gently plucked the garland from where it waited in midair, and set it tenderly upon her hair, the scarlet flowers glowing like great red stars against the glossy blackness of her tresses. Her smile held a hint of nostalgia. She remembered coming down here to the park of an afternoon, wearing her favourite moss-green 'Camelot' dress, and with an old moth-eaten wreath of silk flowers, salvaged from one of her mother's many stage costumes, worn upon her head like a diadem…

The childish imaginings of those days had become a reality, in a form that surpassed all expectation… it was more than she had managed to ever even dare to dream…

Wanting to reciprocate somehow, she stooped and plucked a single rose from among the countless ones before her. The flower came away easily in her hand; there were no thorns on the stems to prick her. Somewhat bashfully, she drew close to him and tucked it into his buttonhole. She was rewarded with a smile of gratitude that made her own heart stumble somewhere beneath her pendant. The scene still wasn't quite complete; he snapped his fingers, and a tinkling little tune began to drift out of nowhere, weaving its way through the clear night air. It was one they both knew well. It reminded them of other times; it was a song that had spanned their long, rather unconventional courtship. It was their song.

He raised a hand; hers met his. Her other rested upon his shoulder, whilst his alighted upon her waist. There was no hesitation any more, they acted almost as one; it just felt right, to take up a ballroom hold side by side, almost cheek to cheek. She felt like electricity was coursing through her veins; their arms formed the circuit, generating a current that made their skin tingle and empowered their hearts to beat faster than usual. Once again, they took a step in unison; it was followed by another, and another, in what constituted a smooth, gliding movement through the bed of roses, making petals fly as he deftly twirled her around, spun her away from him, then brought her back in towards him, coming together closer than they had been before. Their breath intermingled as they laughed together, thrilled by the freedom of their movement, by this sensation of drifting down a river of red petals; it felt like flying.

He led her, skimming and twirling about, in a whirling dance across the park, beside the stream, and over the bridge. It made her think of an old film she had watched once with her mother, in which Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire had danced around, beside, and finally on a stream in a park in Paris, at the end of the number stepping out onto an island-like punt that had drifted off into the distance with them dancing upon it. That was what she felt like; like she was drifting away on a fairytale romance, although hers was even better than anything the movies could create…

Almost as though he could read her thoughts, he guided her down the river bank, and stepped out onto the water. She suddenly tensed and tried to halt, uncertain; the stream, although not a swift one, looked icy cold, reflecting the black sky above like some dark mirror set in the ground. His hand gently tugged on hers; he smiled down at her reassuringly. There was a wordless appeal in his eyes, a silent twinkle that promised that it would be alright, that asked her to only trust him…

"Fear me, love me, do as I say, and I will be your slave…"

She listened to it. Quashing her fears, she took a step off the bank and followed him out onto the water.

She gasped at the strange sensation of dancing on the water's surface. It wasn't slippery, but it somehow couldn't be compared to dancing on any sort of solid ground; they skimmed over it, the surface shimmering slightly but never breaking, leaving faint ripples instead of footprints. It was so miraculous – not just walking, but dancing on water – that she gave a peal of laughter that sounded almost delirious. He gave an unrestrained chuckle that matched hers, whirling her around a little faster, making her feel dizzier and giddier and more light-headed and happy than she had ever felt. They danced on and on, almost as if they intended to keep going all night, turning around and around on the shimmering black dance floor, enveloped in the perfume of roses, and in each other's arms.

"You didn't put anything in that peach this time, did you?" she asked, sounding slightly dazed as she looked up into two mismatched blue eyes, the rest of the world swirling vaguely beyond her field of vision as he twirled her around again.

"No, certainly not. Why do you ask?"

"Because I'm feeling giddy and slightly faint for some reason. Looks like I can't blame the peach this time, though I can still blame the person – or the goblin – behind it."

He chuckled at that. "Well, then, maybe we should stop for a while."

Their spinning gradually slowed and they came to a stop, both slightly breathless. She no longer felt like her body was spinning too fast for her senses to keep up with, but her heart was still galloping. He led her across the water, her arm still through his; now that they had slowed down, she could almost feel the water flowing beneath the soles of her shoes, though the surface stayed flat. They strolled under the bridge, which had now the air of a fairy grotto, its walls hidden by hordes of roses and a cluster of glowing crystals, like great glass chandelier, hovering overhead. It was when he reached up to smooth his tie that she gasped sharply.

"What's wrong?"

He started forward in an instant, full of concern; she looked sheepish, flusteredly explaining her action. "Oh, nothing, it's just… I just remembered I left… s-something behind, back in my room, that I should've brought along with me…"

"If you want to stop and go home-"

"Oh, no!" she interrupted him, making them both grin at the fervency of her reply. "N-No, there's just something that I want to go get…"

He raised an eyebrow curiously, but didn't ask questions. "Not a problem, nothing could be simpler. Where abouts in the room is it?"

"O-On the dressing table," she replied, wondering what he planned to-

He seized a glowing crystal that floated nearby, and tossed it casually back up into the air. It hovered for a moment, frozen in motion, then it seemed to rapidly expand outward, becoming larger, flatter, no longer transparent. Something appeared within it, a picture of- no, it actually was her bedroom, viewed through a perfectly circular portal. She looked in amazement at this round, glassless 'window', then at the familiar arrogant half-smile he wore whenever he showed off his magic and which was now on his face. She hesitantly reached a hand through the portal – slightly worried that at any time, her stepmother might come through the bedroom door and see her arm sticking out of the dressing table mirror – and plucked something up off the tabletop. Once she had withdrawn her arm from it, it closed, dwindling down to its original size and turning increasingly translucent until it became a crystal again. He waved it away distractedly to rejoin the clustered 'chandelier' above their heads.

"Wow," she managed to utter in a quiet, awe-tinged voice, "this thing is going to look perfectly ordinary after a display like that…" He seemed to be heedless of her words; his eyes were drawn to the item in her hand.

"Is… is that…" He seemed almost uncharacteristically timid, afraid to even suggest what he thought it was…

"Yeah, it's, um, something I got for you, in case I did see you today… turns out it was lucky I got it… er, it's nothing special, but I thought, it… you might like it, and I wanted to get you some sort of valentine, so…" She nervously handed over a tiny red box tied with a bit of white ribbon; he took it from her almost reverently, mouth hanging slightly open in a way that wasn't very dignified. A few seconds of nervous anticipation passed, during which he untied the bow and carefully opened the lid, whilst Sarah watched closely. When he saw it, his eyes lit up with such a buoyant, undisguised joy – like the sun reaching its zenith in a blue summer sky – that she felt an excited flutter within her, and her lips split in a proud little smile. He drew off one of his gloves to better handle it and carefully lifted it up off its black satin lining, pinching it delicately between thumb and forefinger.

"It's a tie pin," she explained, trying to look modest at the immense reaction she had inadvertently managed to create. "I thought it might suit you…" It was a silver pin, its outwards-facing side adorned with a curling silver feather, its edges finely etched in the minutest detail. The box disappeared somewhere; he reached up and pinned it to his satin cravat.

"It's wonderful. Just perfect. I… I never expected… I hadn't…" broke off, merely shaking his head at her in disbelief. His beaming smile of pure pleasure told her what words couldn't.

"At least I was actually able to give it to you in person this time, and on the actual day." He laughed at that; the inarticulate shock and amazement eased away. He fingered the cufflinks he wore fondly, as well as this new addition.

"Thank you."

"I-it's nothing really," she demurred, almost as overwhelmed by his gratitude as he was by the gift.

"No, it's really just so brilliant. And will be a hard act to follow, but…" It seemed he regained some of his former assuredness; he brought his hands before him, flourishing them like a conjurer about to perform a trick, then drew them apart in midair, as though he were drawing a line with his fingertips. Something fairly long, straight and narrow indeed appeared between them.

"I… I thought that… that all this tonight was already my present," she faltered, looking at the item he offered her.

"Only a part of the total package; all these-" he gestured at the roses and floating crystals "-are mere trifles. As is this, really… but I thought you would look more-than-beautiful wearing it…"

It was a hair pin, and quite definitely the only one of its kind she had ever seen. It featured a decorative panel of silver wire designed like the tendrils of a trailing rose vine, complete with a large rosebud with what looked like it had real gems of intense ruby-red set in each petal. This design was studded by a silver pin, adorned at the tip with a few silver leaves, and hanging from it on a silver thread were a crystal, like a drop of melted snow or a minuscule crystal orb; and beneath that a tiny gold heart, matching the one hanging from the chain around her neck.

"It… it's just so… so beautiful…" Their roles were reversed; she groped for some words, words which didn't even begin to describe it. He gave her a smile that looked almost as ecstatic as she felt.

"That's just as well; it may almost do you justice, though it still doesn't even begin to compare. May I put it in your hair for you?"

"Yes, yes please…"

He took a step towards her and reached out with an ungloved hand. She felt the same little rush of electricity sweep from her head to her toes as he stood very, very close to her, his eyes gazing into hers as his fingers worked behind her head, sweeping her hair up in a loose twist and passing the pin through it to secure it in place. Wearing it up like that made her suddenly feel very grown-up and elegant; quite possibly, having him do it for her contributed to the feeling. He gave a slight nod of satisfaction.

"Truly beautiful…"

She heard and felt him breath the words out, though his eyes didn't even touch her hair; they never left her face. Although he had finished fixing her hair, his hand stayed at the nape of her neck, making little shivers flitter up and down her spine. "You may have to tell your parents that you bought it from a discount table at a department store, or some such excuse to explain its existence."

She smiled ruefully at that. "I don't think they'll believe me somehow. They'll be starting to get suspicious, with all these mysterious pieces of jewelry I keep getting. They'll think I've robbed a jewelry store or something." Her fingers curled, as was now her habit, around the gold heart around her neck. "I've almost run out of present ideas; there isn't much men's jewelry left for me to get you."

"Well," he purred at her, his voice sounding as silky as rose petals, "you'll just have to find something else to give me."

"Like what?" She began to get an inkling of just what he might mean as those blue eyes grew larger, drawing even closer to her.

"I'm sure I can think of something. Something far more precious than any mere jewels…"

"And what might that be?" She felt like she was being drawn inward, about to overbalance and plunge into one of those two pools of mismatched blue…

His hand still rested at the nape of her neck; it gently drew her forward, and at the same time he leaned in towards her, and their lips met.

None of her hours spent dreaming of countless romantic scenarios - full of princes on white steeds whisking her away to a fairytale ending, steeling a light touch of her lips as their only means of reward - could quite prepared her for her first real kiss. It wasn't like the kisses she saw other people her age doing at the mall, or stolen furtively in a deserted corner at school, away from the disapproving eyes of teachers; those were usually all moving lips and interlocking faces. This wasn't anything like that. Their lips merely touched and pressed together - demure by modern standards - yet the sensation went right through her, her stomach flipping over and her mind buzzing incoherently like static, and every inch of her skin tingly with electricity. He continued to support her head with one hand, the other arm curling around her waist. She was rather glad of it; she had completely forgotten her sense of balance, and might have swooned and fallen right over into the water if he hadn't taken that precaution. He kissed her very carefully, very softly, his lips firm, yet almost delicate against hers, like velvet. He drew slowly away; when she opened her eyes, she looked into those same two blues, now misted over, like a clear sky seen through frosted windows, yet so full of warmth; full of love - for her.

"That doesn't count as next year's present, does it?"

That made her laugh; the intensity of the moment faded, though he was still very close, and her senses still swam. His voice was slightly husky – like crushed velvet – and so was hers when she answered.

"It can be part of this year's present. I owe you I suppose; you gave me the hair pin, and all these roses, and a peach dessert, and I gave you one tiny little tie pin; this evens things up now, doesn't it?"

"It certainly does," he said, licking his lip like he had earlier that night, after the incident with the cream. "In fact, I think I've been over-compensated. I'll just have to give you something back in return."

And he leaned in for another kiss. She knew what was happening this time; she closed her eyes and leaned in too, meeting him half-way.

That interlude somehow inspired them to dance some more, with renewed energy. They whirled about upon the stream again until at last, too breathless and dizzy to continue, she leaned on his arm, purposefully making him overbalance, and they tumbled together, laughing wildly, onto the bank and into a deep bed of scarlet roses. As they fell into it, they sent a great cloud of red petals scattering briefly upwards, only to fall back down again upon their upturned faces. He was sprawled on the ground beside her, his suit rumpled and hair even more unkempt than usual, only his tie kept orderly by its new pin. His head was thrown back and he was laughing with such abandon, no longer making any attempts at emulating 'regal grandeur'. With a contented little smile, he rolled over towards her, drawing her a little closer to him. His arm was still around her, his shoulder cushioning her head; she could feel the cold metal of the pendant he always wore somewhere near her cheek, and his lips were just brushing her forehead. She laid beside him in the roses, just enjoying being near him and listening to him chuckling into her hair, his laughter lilting and loud in the rose-perfumed air. His voice was entwined with her own as she laughed along with him, for no more reason than that it was so wonderful to just be near each other.

"I'll have to take you home soon," he murmured after a while. "It's now almost midnight."

"Already?" She raised her head to better look at him. "Who says I have to be home by midnight?"

"Well, we both know the fairytale. No turning into pumpkins now." He laughed again; she felt his lips through her hair as he planted a kiss on the top of her head. "Seriously, though, I know better than to keep a respectable young lady like yourself out all night. Especially when you live in a house with a crying, fussy baby. You need your rest, your parents will ask questions if you appear too tired tomorrow morning."

"What, making sure I get my beauty sleep?" she asked, an impish light in her hazel eyes. He playfully tapped the tip of her nose with one long finger.

"You would never need subscribe to 'beauty sleep'. No lack of slumber could ever make you look any less than simply stunning."

She happily basked in his words, breathing a small sigh. Living in a house with a crying, fussy baby. She'd forgotten all that for a little while, forgotten she was appointed babysitter to an occasionally-troublesome toddler, and that she had chores and homework to think about; she had forgotten all that, along the rest of the entire world. She had forgotten everything except that she was spending time with him, in a beautiful, dream-like setting, and she had never had so much fun or felt so pretty and happy and well-loved in her life.

"I wish tonight never had to end," she whispered almost sullenly, curling one hand around the lapel of his coat, clinging to it rather like a sulky child.

"I'm afraid it has to eventually. I have a kingdom to run, and you have school to attend and a life to live, and other dreams of your own to fulfill."

"But I like this one best." Her hand tightened on his collar, pulling him a little closer. Through the roses, she detected a whiff of his scent – it was a combination of something musky, like earth that had been upturned after the rain, along with some sort of spice that was exotic-smelling, both of which she associated with the Underground; and something else that was unique to him, and was of him, and couldn't be compared to anything else. Although if she had to guess, she would say it was most like peaches and cream.

He wove his fingers into her hair, a sign that he appreciated her words, and reciprocated. He heaved a sigh of his own. His kingdom seemed the very lowest pits of the doldrums without her in it. "Well, you can return to this dream whenever you wish. I can't make your entire life a living fairytale; you have your own, human life to pursue, full of quaint things like electricity and plastic jewels – as well as a few real ones – and sheep dog puppies and screaming babies. Well, hopefully not screaming too much, or too often. That's your world, and you need to live in it. But I'll be there to bring the fairytale to the in-between moments. Life can't always be easy, its not always 'a walk in the park', but even when it's not, I can come to you, to make sure that when I'm there at least, it is a veritable – or literal – bed of roses." He raised a hand full of petals, and let them filter through his fingertips, showering them in what felt like red-velvet confetti. His use of puns made her chuckle, though she felt the sentiment behind the humour of his words. It was almost the same question as always, asked in the same mock-casual way.

"I'd like that," she said, "and in return, if you like, I can show you some of our 'quaint' human customs."

She tilted her head up so she could see his face, so that she could see all of his answer. She could see the humour still there in his mismatched eyes, but it was mixed with something far more serious, yet far greater and more joyous and wonderful, something that shined more brightly within those blue depths – there was love plainly visible there as he gazed back at her.

"It's a deal."

And he sealed it with a not-so-casual kiss.

It was morning. The light filtering through the curtains told her so. She stretched, keeping her eyes closed, wanting to stay in bed a while longer, just thinking it over, remembering all that had happened the night before. Up to and including the moment when he had left her in her bedroom, back in her original clothes, and kissed her gently one more time before melting through the glass of her bedroom window and disappearing from view, dissolving into the night sky with a vague sound of flapping wings. Leaving her with a promise that she would see him again soon. The possibility made her smile broadly, and somewhat wistfully; at last, she reluctantly sat up and opened her eyes. As she did, something fell out of her hair and landed on the bedspread before her. She scrutinized it closely. It was a single red rose petal.

She looked at her dressing table. There was no one standing within the mirror, to her disappointment, and the items on it were neatly arranged, as usual. Yet something wasn't quite in its rightful place; there was a gap between her music box and her snow globe, and the little red book that usually filled it was lying flat on the tabletop. Something was lying on top of it; an elaborate hair pin, adorned with a jeweled flower the same red as the scarlet book cover.

She ran a hand distractedly through her hair, then touched a finger to her lips, remembering, feeling them tingle at the mere memory of it…

Her lips stretched in another smile. She smiled, because she knew she was still dreaming. And so long as he was there and would come to her when she wished, come to her with more dreams of dancing and laughter and blue eyes filled with love for her, she would never have to truly wake up.

*** THE END ***

Author's note: and there's another one put to rest. And actually in time for the holiday, as well. I was right when I guess it would be 3-5 chapters; right bang in between. Slight apologies for the sappiness of the last chapter, although it is dedicated to the people who wished, secretly or otherwise, that Sarah and Jareth had kissed in my Christmas fic. Some people have already asked for another one, but I have no idea when it would be. I have a vague idea for a Halloween story, but before then, I'll only write another one if I have an absolutely fabulous idea. In the meantime, I have several other fics I should continue on with, including another Labyrinth one, 'Don't Dream It's Over', which from early indications looks to be an epic. There will also be Laby-themed fan art trickling into my Deviantart gallery every so often, please feel free to check it out if you feel so inclined.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed this installment of the 'holidays' series, and Happy Valentine's!

Cheers, ~ Wai-Jing