"What is life? An illusion, a shadow, a story, And the greatest good is little enough: for all life is a dream, and dreams themselves are only dreams." — Pedro Calderon de la Barca

"Damn it!" Sarah tensed as the red check engine light flickered in the dashboard of her ancient Honda Civic. She eased off the accelerator and relaxed when the light went off.

She'd been driving over an hour in this rural area, searching for an address she'd seen on a flyer advertising used textbooks. The new semester at Middlebury started in a few days and buying used books would stretch her budget enough to allow for a few indulgences during the school year.

"Like regular tune-ups," she muttered.

The directions and hand-drawn map at the bottom of the flyer had seemed clear at the time, but Sarah now wished she'd brought a copy along with her. She suspected she'd been driving in circles for the past thirty minutes.

The sun had set, making it too difficult to read the addresses on the mailboxes as she passed, and she decided to turn around in the next driveway and go back to her dorm. Her 20th birthday was tomorrow, and Toby had promised to call early to sing Happy Birthday to her. Between her dorm mates' late night partying and the promised phone call, if Sarah didn't go to bed soon, she wouldn't get much sleep.

Sarah slowed as she approached the next driveway, and the check engine light flared to life again, accompanied by an ominous rattle from the motor. The car shuddered once and abruptly died, forcing her to coast to a stop on the shoulder of the road.

She twisted the key in the ignition, but the engine refused to respond at all. Grumbling under her breath, Sarah rummaged through her purse for her cell phone. She repeatedly jabbed the power button, groaning aloud when the screen remained dark.

Outside the driver's window, she could see a mailbox and driveway. Lights shone in the downstairs windows of a small cottage at the end of the long drive. Sarah tossed the phone back into her purse and opened the car door, shivering as she stepped into the damp night air. Summer was rapidly giving way to autumn, and she'd left her jacket in her dorm room, thinking she'd only be gone a few minutes.

Sarah crunched down the gravel driveway, hoping someone was home. On the front porch, she knocked on the door and waited. In a moment, the porch light came on, and a petite elderly woman opened the door. A cloud of white hair surrounded her softly wrinkled face, but her hazel eyes were bright and cheerful. At seeing Sarah, she smiled.

"Hello. I'm sorry to bother you, but my car—" Sarah began.

"There you are! I was getting worried," the woman interrupted. "I've been waiting for you since I found the book on the kitchen counter this morning."

"Waiting for me?" Sarah instinctively looked behind her, but they were alone. "I'm sorry, but I think you've mistaken me for someone else." She gestured toward the road. "My car broke down at the end of your drive, and I'm hoping you'll call a garage for me."

"Oh, there's no mistake." The woman looked her up and down, her expression growing wistful. "You're the picture of me when I was your age." She held out a hand gnarled with arthritis. "I'm Catherine Chester."

Sarah blinked in surprise, but carefully shook the woman's hand. "I'm Sarah Williams. Uh, I really just need a garage—"

"Please, come inside." Catherine opened the door wide. "I'll make us a nice cup of tea, and we can talk. Oh! Or would you rather have coffee? I don't usually have coffee in the evenings, but I'll be happy to put on a pot for you."

Sarah sighed with the realization that Catherine was either senile or so lonely she was willing to accept the company of a stranger. She glanced past Catherine into the open doorway.

"Mrs. Chester, is anyone else here with you?" Sarah asked gently. "Maybe they could call a garage for me?"

"No, dear, it's just me now. My husband passed away three years ago. But please, call me Catherine. After all, we have so much in common, and there's so much to talk about."

Sarah's heart sank. Senility and loneliness then. She glanced into the dark to her left. Had there been lights on at the last house she'd passed?

"Maybe I should try your neighbor's house," Sarah said. "I'm sorry to have bothered you."

Catherine's mouth rounded and she made a tsking sound. "How silly of me. You don't understand yet. Well, why should you? I didn't understand at first, either." She peered up at Sarah's dubious expression and sighed. "And I'm not making things any better, am I? But if you like, I'll bring the cordless phone to you, and you can call a garage yourself."

None of what Catherine said made any sense, but Sarah latched onto the promise of a phone, nodding in relief.

"Thank you," Sarah said. "That would be great."

"Just come inside so I can close the door." Catherine beckoned with one hand. "We're letting out all the heat."

Sarah hesitated. She didn't want Catherine to think she'd be staying to talk, but it was getting colder, so she stepped past Catherine into the small foyer.

"I'll be back in a jiffy." Catherine closed the door behind them and went through an open door to the right.

While she waited, Sarah looked around. An eclectic assortment of candles, knick-knacks, figurines and cheap vacation souvenirs were displayed on a long table against one wall. Dozens of framed black and white photos hung over the table, and Sarah's eyes widened when she saw the dark-haired girl featured in them. Judging from the clothing, the earliest pictures were taken sometime in the 1930's, but other than the old-fashioned clothing and hairstyles Catherine wore, the photos could have been of Sarah.

In one photo, a teenaged Catherine sat on an overstuffed sofa, her arms protectively encircling chubby toddler in her lap, and Sarah stepped closer to examine it carefully.

"I was sixteen when that picture was taken. The resemblance is amazing, isn't it?" Catherine said from behind her.

Sarah nodded and turned, expecting to see Catherine holding a phone. Instead, Catherine held out a book. The shabby red cover and faded gilt lettering were instantly recognizable. The Labyrinth.

Sarah froze, her gaze riveted on the book. A low thrumming built in her ears, becoming a dull roar that pulsed in time with her heartbeat. Color leached out of her vision, and everything swam in a jumbled sea of gray. She swayed in place, torn between knocking the book from Catherine's hand and running away into the night.

"Where did you get that? Who are you?" Sarah choked out, backing away. Her hip struck the crowded table, and she dimly heard the crash of porcelain and glass as figurines and knick-knacks collided and toppled.

"Once upon a time, I was just a girl," Catherine said softly. "A girl very much like you, I imagine. A girl who wished her little sister away to the goblins and met a king in the process."

Sarah sat in Catherine's kitchen, a mug of tea warming her chilled fingers, warily eyeing the book now resting between them at the center of the oak dining table.

"I didn't mean to frighten you, dear," Catherine said, stirring a spoonful of sugar into her own mug. "I'm so sorry about that."

The gentle metallic clink of her spoon against the mug was such a normal sound that it verged on the surreal, and Sarah drew in a shaky breath.

"I'd tried to convince myself it was all a dream," Sarah said, still watching the book, half-afraid it would move on its own. "I certainly never thought I'd meet anyone who'd been through the same thing." She raised her eyes to Catherine. "You said you wished your sister away. What happened?"

"I made a terrible mistake." Catherine's smile was rueful. "I was spoiled rotten by parents who thought they'd never have another baby, so when my sister Martha was born, I didn't deal with it well. I found the book abandoned at a train station, and I took it home. It was fun to pretend to be the book's valiant princess battling against the cruel king. But then one day I was watching Martha, and she wouldn't stop crying. So I just… wished her away. But I never expected it to work. I was horrified when she vanished and the Goblin King appeared. The next thing I knew, he was telling me that I had thirteen hours—"

"In which to solve the Labyrinth or your baby brother becomes one of us forever," Sarah murmured. Her voice strengthened. "Sometimes I have nightmares that I'm back in the Labyrinth looking for Toby. Only this time I lose."

"But you didn't lose. Neither of us did." Catherine reached out and patted Sarah's arm. "We couldn't lose."

"What do you mean?" Sarah frowned. "And why were you expecting me? When I came to the door, you weren't surprised."

"I wasn't expecting you specifically, but I knew someone like you was coming."

"How?" Sarah demanded. "I don't understand what's going on."

Catherine tilted her head, her eyes sympathetic. "I know this is disorienting for you, but please bear with me. I promise that I'll answer all your questions. I just need to tell you a story first."

"A story?" Sarah said, disbelieving. She nodded toward the book. "That's how I got into that mess in the first place. I'm not sure I want to hear any more stories."

"You'll want to hear this one," Catherine promised. "You're a part of it, as am I." Catherine paused and took a sip of tea, visibly gathering herself. "When Jareth became King of the Goblins, the members of his kingdom gave him gifts, as was tradition when a new monarch took the throne. One gift was from a seer. He used a scrying glass to reveal the face of the girl who would grow up to become Jareth's queen. But the seer's abilities were limited, and the glass only revealed a glimpse of the girl. Jareth pressed for more information, for her name or where he could find her, but there was nothing else to see."

Sarah involuntarily glanced toward the foyer and the photos of the younger Catherine. Comprehension swept over her, and she caught her breath.

"This girl looked like us?" Sarah asked.

"Yes, she did," Catherine said. "Over time, Jareth bent his considerable magic to the task of learning more about the girl, but every spell he tried failed. Finally, he sought out another seer in another kingdom, one reported to be very powerful. Once again, he was shown the face of this girl, but the seer couldn't determine her name or where Jareth could find her. The only information the seer could give Jareth was not what he'd hoped to hear."

Curious, Sarah leaned forward. "What did the seer tell him?"

"That Jareth would encounter this girl as a child, and she would banish him from her presence. He wouldn't be able to use his crystals to see or hear her, nor could he use any enchantment to control her. As you can imagine, Jareth was frustrated at the contradiction. How could she become his queen if he could never see her again? The seer told him that on the day she ceased to be a child, she'd call out to him, and the banishment would be lifted."

"The day she ceased to be a child?" Sarah echoed, her brow creased.

"Her 20th birthday," Catherine explained. "The day she stops being a teenager."

Sarah felt the blood drain from her face. "My birthday is tomorrow."

Catherine nodded. "I expected it would be soon. The story is passed on to each girl shortly before she turns 20. I met Elizabeth — the girl before me — when my family took a vacation trip to Chicago. My father won the trip from a radio station. Of course, he never remembered entering the drawing."

Sarah abruptly sat back in her chair and jerked her head toward the book. "So that thing somehow arranges for us to find each other?"

"I think it's enchanted to draw us together. No girl ever keeps the book. It vanishes after she's returned from the Labyrinth, and then it reappears when it's time to pass the story along."

Sarah's lips tightened. "I put the book in a drawer, but the next time I looked, it was gone. I thought my step-mother had taken it."

Catherine smiled faintly. "I threw it out a window. Then I became frightened that someone else would find it, but when I went downstairs, it was gone. Today is the first time I've seen it in almost 60 years."

Sarah sat silently for a moment. "So the story is passed from girl to girl until—"

"Until the future queen is found," Catherine finished, nodding.

Sarah's mouth was dry. "How do we know which girl is the right girl?"

"We don't. Even Jareth doesn't know. He won't know until he hears her call for him."

Sarah scrubbed her hands over her face. "How long has this been going on?"

"A long time." Catherine pursed her lips in concentration. "I'm 72 now. Elizabeth was 79 when we met. Marie came before Elizabeth and was born in the early 1800's, but I've forgotten the exact year. There were others before Marie, but I don't know their names or when they were born. Each time Jareth finds a girl who resembles the image he was shown, he—"

"Tricks her," Sarah said flatly.

"Yes," Catherine agreed. "He arranges it so that she finds the book, and I don't doubt that he orchestrates most of the events."

They sat in silence for a moment, while Sarah absorbed what she'd been told. "You said we couldn't lose," she finally said. "Is that part of the enchantment on the book, too?"

"I'm not sure, but I don't think so. I believe that Jareth decided it wouldn't be in his best interests to defeat a girl who might grow up to become his wife."

"No, I suppose turning her brother or sister into a goblin wouldn't make for a happy marriage," Sarah said, her tone tart.

"And defeating her wouldn't fit what the seers had told him," Catherine pointed out. "She has to win so she can banish him."

"You have no power over me," Sarah quoted.

Catherine nodded. "Exactly."

"So it's become a self-fulfilling prophecy. He plans to lose." Sarah's expression became thoughtful. "At the time, I thought he tried to win, but sometimes I wondered how I defeated someone so powerful. It never made sense. He was able to alter time, turn everything upside down, and he sent that dream where we danced…" Her voice trailed away.

"He did all of that for you?" Catherine's eyes widened.

Sarah's eyebrows shot up. "He didn't for you?"

"No." Catherine sounded faintly chagrined. "I only saw him twice. Once at the beginning when Martha vanished and then again at the end when I recited the lines from the book." Catherine regarded Sarah with an appraising gaze. "It sounds as if he went to quite a lot of trouble for you."

The memory of Jareth's silky voice, tainted with fury and exhaustion, flickered through Sarah's mind.

I am exhausted from living up to your expectations of me. Isn't that generous?

"I guess he did," Sarah said reluctantly. "Or maybe he was just bored and wanted to torture me."

"By dancing with you?" Catherine asked, smiling.

"We didn't actually dance; it was an illusion."

"An illusion he sent," Catherine pointed out.

Sarah huffed out an exasperated breath. "He drugged me with a peach."

"A peach?" Catherine struggled and failed to suppress her smile.

Even Sarah had to smile at that. "Okay, I know that sounds silly. I guess you had to be there."

"I was there, remember?" Catherine said gently. "And nothing like that happened to me. It sounds almost as if he was flirting with you, in a Goblin King sort of way."

A blush suffused Sarah's cheeks, and Catherine's head tilted. "Did he flirt with you?"

"What? No, of course not." Sarah's protest was automatic, but she shifted uncomfortably in the chair, and her gaze slid away from Catherine.

"He did!" Catherine's eyes lit up, and she chortled. "What did he say?"

"It wasn't what he said; it was the way he acted. He was very seductive. Even when he was angry, he was seductive. It was almost overwhelming. And the way he dressed was... It was..." Sarah floundered, trying to find the right word.

"Provocative," Catherine finished. "That man's trousers were so tight I'm surprised he didn't do himself an injury every time he moved."

Sarah gave a startled laugh. "You noticed, too?"

"Notice? I couldn't miss it." Catherine's eyes gleamed with sly merriment. "I've always been short, but I was shorter still back then. Everything was at eye level. Although, considering it now with a more experienced perspective, the view was spectacular. If Jareth lives up to his advertising, he's going to make some woman very happy."

Caught in the middle of a sip of tea, Sarah choked. Spluttering, she covered her mouth with her hand and laughed. They sat smiling, but bit by bit, Sarah sobered. She set her mug down and traced a fingertip over the grain of the table.

"What if I don't call him tomorrow?" Sarah asked softly. "Now that I know the story, I could just pass it on to the next girl. I wouldn't have to call him at all."

"I thought the same thing, but you'll call him. We all did. Eventually, curiosity gets the better of you. You start to wonder, 'Is it me? Am I the right girl?' It hangs over your head, wearing away at you, until you end up calling him just so you'll know."

"But what if it is me?" Sarah burst out. "I'm not sure I want to get married at all, but I definitely don't want to marry someone I don't know."

"If you are the right girl, there's nothing in the story that says you'll get married right away. You'd be the one with all the power. Jareth might know you're going to be his wife eventually, but he can't force you into it. You could take as much time as you like to get to know him." Catherine raised an eyebrow. "You could make him court you. I think it would be nice to be courted by a man who could give you anything you wanted."

Sarah bit her lip. "What if I get to know him, and I don't love him?"

"Then don't marry him," Catherine said simply. "Prove the seers wrong. But if they're right, you owe it to yourself to at least give him a chance."

Sarah's car started on the first try. Catherine had suspected that since the story had been passed on, both her car and her cell phone would work again, and she'd been right.

Sarah drove straight to her dorm, but when she reached the parking lot, she sat in the car, too restless to go inside. She was tempted to pretend none of this had happened, but she knew that was pointless. She wanted to get this settled, one way or the other, but it was only 9:30. The prospect of simply sitting in her dorm and waiting for midnight held no appeal. Besides, she couldn't very well call him there. She needed privacy.

Abruptly, Sarah put the car in reverse and backed out of the lot. She would go home. The drive would keep her occupied for the next two hours, and she'd call for Jareth in the park where she'd first found the book. If nothing happened, she'd use her key and slip into her dad's house. She could sleep on the sofa and surprise Toby when he awoke.

And if something did happen... Sarah's hands tightened on the steering wheel, and she shook her head. She refused to think about it.

A quick stop to fill the gas tank, and then she was on the highway. For the next two hours, she forced her attention to remain solely on the road, blasting the radio and singing along when her thoughts began to wander.

Back in her hometown, Sarah navigated the nearly deserted residential streets, making her way to the park. At 11:55, she stepped out of her car, cursing under her breath. She'd forgotten her jacket again.

The park was closed, but it wasn't difficult to climb over the gate. The path was well lighted, and Sarah followed the walkway over the bridge and into the park itself. Her breath plumed in front of her, and she rubbed her arms against the cold.

When she reached the bench where she'd found the book, her courage wavered momentarily. She started to turn around, but shook her head. No, she had to do this. She had to know. Steeling herself, she called out, "Jareth!"

Her voice rang through the empty park, but other than the burble of water lapping against stone, there was no reply.

Feeling somewhat foolish, she called out "Jareth!" again, but still nothing happened.

Knees suddenly weak, she sank down on the bench. She wasn't the right girl. She was relieved, but she also felt a surprising twinge of disappointment.

Pushing herself to her feet, she saw a flicker of movement in her peripheral vision. Turning quickly, she gasped as a barn owl silently glided rapidly toward her from the surrounding trees. Sarah ducked and threw her arms up to protect her face. When she lowered her arms, Jareth stood before her. Her mouth went dry. Cloaked in shadows and silvered by moonlight, he was as beautiful as she remembered.

He stepped forward, the long tails of his leather jacket swirling around his boots, and Sarah gaped, her mouth opening and closing silently before she blurted out the first thing to cross her mind. "I don't want to marry you."

Jareth stopped and arched an eyebrow. His tone was cool as he replied, "I don't recall offering."

"Oh." Sarah blinked in surprise. "I thought... Well, I don't know what I thought, but since there was a prophecy, I just assumed you'd ask."

Jareth frowned. "Prophecy or not, I don't make it a habit to propose marriage to women I don't know. The last time we met, you were but a child. Why would I want to marry you?"

At his words, something inside Sarah eased, and she smiled slowly.

"You don't know me," she repeated. Her smile widened to a grin.

"You find that amusing?" He scowled.

She nodded. "But not for the reason you think. I don't know you either, and I was worried that you'd expect to get married right now."

"I have no such expectations." He sounded vaguely offended, but his scowl faded.

Silence spun out between them uncomfortably, and finally Sarah sighed.

"So what happens now?" she asked.

"I don't know," Jareth said, his tone colored by frustration. "I've waited a long time for this day, but now the words I'd prepared seem inadequate."

She tilted her head, curious. "What were you going to say?"

"Something suitably effusive." He gestured toward her with a gloved hand. "Paeans to your beauty, odes to your gentle nature, that sort of thing. Although, now that I know it's you, I'll have to rethink that." His lips curved in a tiny smile. "You cut quite a swath of destruction through my kingdom. It took me days to set everything right; your imagination is impressive."

"My imagination?" she asked, confused.

He inclined his head in a regal gesture. "Each girl imagined my kingdom in a different way, and I altered things to fit those images for them, but you were the only one whose imagination worked on such a grand scale and in such intricate detail."

Sarah's mouth rounded into a silent Oh. "So your kingdom isn't what I saw when I was there?"

"The Labyrinth is the same; it changes for no one. But I don't live in squalor with livestock underfoot." He grimaced. "Why you imagined I did escapes me."

Sarah winced. "I'm sorry about that. I didn't know."

A light wind picked up, and Sarah shivered, wrapping her arms around her middle to ward off the cold.

Jareth frowned. "Where is your coat?"

Before she could answer, he unfastened his jacket and moved behind her to place it over her shoulders.

Sarah sighed as warmth settled over her. "Thank you."

"You're welcome, Sarah," he whispered into her ear in a silky purr.

She shivered again, but not from the cold. Now that he wasn't standing in front of her, and with the spicy scent of leather and magic surrounding her like a cloud, she felt a surge of courage. This man wasn't the frightening king of her memory. Perhaps...

"I wouldn't mind getting to know you better," she said slowly.

His gloved hands still rested lightly on her shoulders and his fingers tightened briefly, then relaxed. "I think that would be acceptable."

She heard the smile in his voice, and she added quickly, "It doesn't mean that we're getting married. Just that I'm willing to talk to you."

He walked around to face her again, and she took in the flowing white shirt open to his waist and the familiar silver and gold pendant gleaming at chest. Her gaze flicked downward, and a heat completely unrelated to the jacket flooded through her. Catherine was right. If he lived up to his advertising...

Sarah pressed her lips tightly together, suppressing the giggles that threatened to bubble out of her. Maybe getting to know Jareth wouldn't be so bad, after all.

Sixteen months later:

Sarah sat in front of a dressing table in an elaborate suite in Jareth's castle. She gathered her hair up, twisting it atop her head and turned sideways on the bench, trying to see the back.

She jumped when a large hand mirror suddenly materialized behind her, held by her fiancé.

"I've offered you a selection of maids, yet you insist upon doing these things yourself," Jareth said with a smirk. "Therefore, it falls upon me to assist you."

"Get out," Sarah commanded, laughing. "You're not supposed to see me today."

"We're getting married this afternoon, I can hardly avoid seeing you." Jareth smirked, and the hand mirror vanished. He sat next to Sarah and pulled her into his arms.

"You're not supposed to see me until the wedding. It's bad luck," Sarah insisted, but she leaned into him, resting her head on his shoulder. "But since you're already here, I guess it won't hurt if you stay for a few minutes."

His arms tightened around her. "I plan to banish anything that might interfere with our marriage. So..." He waved his hand in an elaborate gesture. "Bad luck be gone."

Sarah snickered. "Does all that waving around make it official?"

"Yes." He smiled. "The king has decreed it, so it must be done."

"I love you," Sarah said, brushing a kiss against his cheek. "I'll admit when Catherine first told me the story about the seers, I was afraid. I didn't know you, and I didn't want to marry you. But the more time I spent with you, the more I knew this was right." She gestured between them.

His gaze intense, he leaned down and then his mouth was on hers, his tongue coaxing her mouth open, his hands tightening on her waist, pulling her closer still.

Gasping, she pulled back slightly. She tried to give him a stern look, but suspected it was spoiled by the glazed look in her eyes.

"None of that until after the wedding," she chided.

He lifted an eyebrow. "It's not as if we've never been intimate. In fact, I recall just last night—"

Sarah laughed. "No more sex until after the wedding. I have lots to do, and I can't do it while you're here. Go and rule the goblins or something while I get ready."

Jareth sighed and released her. "I do have duties. It is custom for a king to give his subjects a boon on his wedding day, so I shall reluctantly absent myself from your delectable presence in order to oversee the distribution of casks of ale and sides of mutton."

Sarah looked alarmed at that. "You're giving goblins casks of ale on our wedding day? Are you sure that's a good idea? They're destructive enough when they're sober."

"It's what they want most. A king should always know what his subjects want most. It makes them much easier to control. But don't worry, they'll quickly drink themselves into a stupor and sleep through our nuptials, leaving us in peace. It's all part of my plan."

"You have a plan?" she teased. "I'm impressed."

Jareth brushed a lingering kiss over her lips. "Oh, Sarah, you have no idea."

The ale and mutton had been dispersed, and Jareth called forth one last subject. In the otherwise empty throne room, Agnes the Junk Lady stepped from the shadows.

"Congratulations, your majesty." Eyes downcast, Agnes bowed low.

Jareth's eyes narrowed. "I take it you won't be satisfied with mutton or ale?"

"No, I won't." Agnes raised her eyes to look at her king. "You know what I want. It's what I've always wanted."

"Oh, yes," he said, "I know exactly what you want."

Agnes squared her shoulders. "I did as you commanded, so I'm claiming my boon. I want it to be permanent."

Jareth smiled briefly, a flash of sharp white teeth. "Then in honor of my bride, it shall be done."

He concentrated, summoning his magic. With a smooth movement of his wrist, a glimmering crystal appeared, balanced on his gloved fingertips. A wisp of breath sent it floating toward Agnes.

The crystal hovered over the goblin, expanding to envelop her in an opalescent glow. It pulsed and quivered, growing larger and brighter until it burst in a silent explosion of magic.

When the shimmer faded, Catherine Chester stood before Jareth.

Agnes raised her hands and examined them, an expression of wonder on her face.

"The home I created still stands." Jareth lounged back on his throne. "Enchantments will prevent it from being seen by humans, so you'll be safe there. Consider it an additional reward for your assistance with my bit of trickery. Without that fiction you spun, Sarah would never have returned to the Underground or to me."

Agnes looked up at Jareth, tears in her eyes, and bowed once again. "Thank you, your majesty. You're very generous."

Jareth swept his arm out in an arc, and a doorway appeared in solid stone. "That will lead you directly to your new home, but be forewarned. After you step through it, you can never return to the Underground. You wanted permanence, and you will have it."

She hurried to the door and opened it to reveal a small foyer. A table cluttered with figurines and knick-knacks stood along one wall, and black and white photos crowded the wall above it.

Agnes paused, looking over her shoulder. "You'll never know how much this means to me." Then she stepped through the door and was gone.

As the door closed behind her, Jareth smiled. "And you'll never know how much it means to me. Now that you're banished from the Underground, there's no danger of Sarah learning the truth."

He glanced at the clock hanging in midair beside his throne. He'd dealt with the last detail, and it was time to dress for his wedding. He wouldn't want to keep his bride waiting.

Jareth laughed aloud as he rose and strode from the throne room. He did so enjoy it when everything went according to plan.

The End