"It's not fair!"

"No it isn't. But that's the way it is."

"This was very cruel of you," she cried with heated contempt.

He shrugged, pulling her closer as they walked through the garden. "I'm very sorry, dear Sarah," he replied. But then he stopped, his head titled slightly, "Well, not really. Actually, I'm quite proud of myself."

She sighed in exasperation. "I knew you were unfair. I didn't know you were this unfair! If I had known about this, I would have…I would have-"

"…yes?" he inquired with mild sarcasm.

"I would have thought of something!" she finished with gusto.

The couple came to a crystal river that shimmered in the silver light of dawn. Numerous peach trees covered the banks of the river, and a sweet fragrance wafted through the air. Honeysuckle and wisteria grew further down the river. A few yards away was a stone bridge that spanned across the waters.

Sarah's brow furrowed in confusion. "I don't remember this place."

The king laughed, "Don't you? You've been here before. With those little friends of yours."
Sarah's head shook emphatically, "I'm sure I would have remembered."

Jareth waved a hand, "The bridge is new, of course. I'm afraid those stepping stones just wouldn't do."

Sarah gasped, "You mean this is the….bog of stench? It's…different."

Jareth shook his head briefly. "It's exactly the same. The bog was only an illusion, as are all the dangers of the Labyrinth. The illusions are greatly heightened by fear and anxiety."

"Oh," Sarah said mildly, "I guess that's why the illusion didn't work on Sir Didymus. He's not afraid of anything."

Jareth smiled, "No. He isn't."

"But it worked on Hoggle and Ludo."

"Ah yes," Jareth nodded, "I had some misgivings about Hoggle. I was quite shocked when he actually gave you that peach…"
"Oh! Don't even mention that peach!" Sarah cried, "That's what got me in to this mess!"

"No, love, not quite," Jareth answered smoothly, "Your father is what got you into this mess."

Sarah's eyes darkened with anger. "I never had a chance, did I? First my father, then Hoggle. They practically gift wrapped me! I suppose Karen had a hand in the matter too?"
Jareth paused with strained hesitancy, and Sarah threw up her hands in frustration. "Of course she did. She's your aunt, after all."

"Now Sarah," Jareth said softly, "She knew my intentions for you from the start. She didn't want me to marry a spoiled brat. And you, Sarah; you were a spoiled brat!"

Sarah's eyes filled with pain, "I thought…I thought Karen liked me! We got along so well after-"

"Of course she likes you, you idiot! As do I, or I would never have married you-"
"We're NOT married!" Sarah protested loudly. Jareth continued as if he hadn't heard her.

"But you were quite selfish at the time. You needed to learn a few lessons first." He idly plucked a peach out of a nearby tree. "And by the way; we ARE married."

"I don't believe you!" she cried, "You put some kind of spell on me! You gave me false memories!"

He laughed, "Yes, I did put a spell on you when you wed me. It was necessary for your…cooperation. But afterwards, I shifted the enchantment to make you forget. After all, you still had an hour to er, solve the labyrinth."
"Yeah, about that," Sarah said, "Why bother giving me that last hour? And why bother offering me my dreams?"

He shrugged, "To see if you had really changed. To see if you would actually give me your baby brother in exchange for those dreams."

She snorted, crossing her arms. "And what if I had accepted your offer?"

"I would have punished you," he answered with quiet certainty. "And you would have deserved it. Besides, it doesn't quite work that way..."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, you see Sarah, a child can only be wished away by his mother or father."

Her mouth dropped open. "Then why did you take him?"

"I've already explained this; I needed to teach you a lesson. And Toby is my cousin. There are no restrictions about bringing family to my realm for a visit."

"You are horrible!" she cried, "I don't believe anything you say! You're just trying to trick me!"

"You still don't believe me, even after your father and step mother confirmed all of this with you?"

She rolled her eyes, "You probably gave them a poisoned peach too."

He took her by the shoulders and looked her in the eyes. "You can believe whatever you wish, Sarah. But it won't change anything. You're mine. You have been mine since you were an infant; since your father wished you away."

***

19 Years Ago…

"Can it be that you were helping that man?" The goblin king was stretched out comfortably on his throne, a tiny babe cradled in his arms.

"Don't take that tone with me, young man! And stop slouching! Sit up straight for goodness sake! You're a king, not some dirty hoodlum in the streets."

The king bore his aunt's chastisements with silent longsuffering. He smiled, "I think you like the man. I can see it in your eyes."

Karen turned away, a faint blush creeping into her cheeks. But she faced him again, hands planted firmly on her hips. "It's no business of yours if I like him or not. I think he's a decent man; a gentleman. He's in a troubled marriage with a cheating wife, and is entitled to feel angry every now and again. You shouldn't be tormenting him like this, he didn't mean what he said."
The king laughed harshly, "Ah, but what's said is said."

Karen bit her lip. "Very well then, Jareth." She marched directly up to him to shake a finger in his face, "But if you don't let him solve the labyrinth, I will never speak to you again!"

"Oh my. That is serious," the king answered dryly. He sighed, "He's not going to solve the labyrinth. But if it will appease your sensibilities, I will allow him to keep the child…" He smiled as he caressed the baby's cheek, "…for now."

Karen nodded, feeling mixed emotions on the matter. She turned to exit the throne room, but stopped suddenly. "Oh, and Jareth!"

He looked up from the sleeping babe, an eyebrow raised, "Yes?"

"It's past time you took a wife." She eyed her surroundings for emphasis, "This place could use a woman's touch."

He gave a small grunt of disgust, "By and by, dear aunt. And I promise you will receive a personal invitation to the wedding."

***

5 Years Ago…

"Karen?"

"Yes?"

"I feel sick."
Karen gave her husband's hand a soft pat, "That's called 'guilt', honey."

"Don't you feel guilty? I mean, she is your step daughter."

Karen's mouth was set in a firm line, "What were we supposed to do, Robert? Tell our fifteen year old daughter she had to marry some old geezer with a bad hair cut?"

Robert winced, "I wish you wouldn't put it quite that way."

Karen giggled, "Well, it's true."

Robert frowned as he watched his only daughter exchange vows with the outlandish goblin king.

The enchantment would begin to fade after the ceremony, and she would forget everything. The king had promised to wait several years before he brought her to the castle permanently. He had been clear about his intentions to marry the Williams girl; he had not been very clear about the timing.

But the truth was, Sarah would grow more cynical as she grew into an adult, and enchantments of this nature would affect her very little. Yes; this was the ideal time to trap the girl in a binding marriage. She was still young enough to be fascinated with fairy tales, and old enough to be interested in the opposite sex.

"You may kiss the bride."

Robert's face twisted in remorse as the king pulled his daughter into a close embrace and sealed their vows with a kiss.

"How are we going to explain this to her?" he whispered to Karen.

She smirked. "We're not. HE's going to explain it when the time comes."

"But…she'll know that we deceived her. How is she going to feel when she looks back to this day and suddenly realizes that we-"
He paused and offered his daughter a bright smile as she looked his way.

The smile faded, "That we weren't going out for the evening; that we were, in fact, on our way to her wedding?"

This time Karen winced, "I wish you wouldn't put it quite that way."

*Later*

Sarah's head was spinning, her vision rather blurry. What had she been doing? Motion caught her eye, and she looked around to see a crowd of people surrounding her. They were dressed formally and wore extravagant masks. She felt slightly sick as she realized she was dressed in a glamorous white gown, and was the only person without a mask. She stepped wearily through the crowd and searched the many faces. None of the people were familiar, and yet they all seemed to know her. They smiled and laughed as she passed.

Then she saw him and a surge of warmth pooled in her belly. He was familiar. Was he her enemy? The warmth turned to a nervous tension as he lowered the mask. Her mind raced to fill in the gaps. Who was he? She knew him, she was certain she knew him. Then a dancing pair moved past him and he was gone. She quickened her pace as she moved through the room, trying to get away from him, trying to find him. Could he tell her what was going on?

Jareth smiled with private delight as he watched his poor confused bride navigate through the ballroom. Moments later she stopped before him, and he took her in his arms; serenaded her with a gentle melody.

The bittersweet song broke her heart. It spoke of her love, pain, shattered dreams. But worse than those things, which were true enough, was the false promise. The lie. The mockery.

I'll be there for you. That was the greatest illusion of them all. Her fantasies and dreams paled in comparison. She knew deep down, that in the end, she was alone. She would always suffer alone.

A clock chimed. Sarah's head snapped up as an urgency swept through her. She had to go! This place was a deception. She had to finish something…

Jareth smiled, seeing that Sarah's memory was beginning to return. She turned and quickly pushed her way through the crowd. But his smile faded as he watched her go.

She hadn't believed him.

***

-Back to Present-

Sarah's body shook with nervous tremors.

She suddenly slugged him in the arm, "You…you know what you are?"

He clasped the girls fists in his hands, the corner of his lips curving upward, "No. What am I, love?"

She looked down at her feet. "You're a mean person!"

He sighed, and titled his head as he seemed to consider this accusation.

"I suppose I am. But I do have everyone's best interests at heart."

The day had passed pleasantly enough with Jareth guiding her through the labyrinth; minus the enchantments. She had been quiet surprised and delighted to find what a cheerful and beautiful place it really was. Even the goblin city was pleasant. The goblins themselves were not the creatures she remembered. It appeared that the enchantment had been on them too; for instead of the gruesome creatures she remembered, they had sweet faces and warm brown eyes.

Incompetent little buffoons, Jareth had called them; lucky that the defense of his kingdom wasn't dependent upon them.

She backed away from him, only to find herself pressed against the wall. He smiled as he watched her awkward discomfort.

"Please…?" she asked for the umpteenth time.

He leaned in until his lips were mere inches from hers. "I've given you five years. Wasn't that generous enough?"

The day had faded into evening, and after a brief supper, Jareth had brought her to the room they now occupied.

The bridal suite.

Sarah cast a nervous eye to the elaborate canopied bed. "Do you know how much time I've spent with you in all those five years? About two days."

"I see," he answered with mock understanding, "And how much more time would you require?"

She blushed. "Maybe another twenty years or so."

***