The Red Thread – Epilogue
One year later…
Sarah tipped her head back and looked at the night sky. The stars were shining, where they hadn't been bleached away by the full moon's light. It was an exact year since that fateful day she nearly died. In the end, she'd woken up in the hospital with a broken rib, a broken arm, various bruises and scrapes, whiplash, and a black eye. Recovery had been long, painful at times, but she had survived.
And she remembered. She just didn't fully understand. How had they escaped Death at the end? What had happened to Jareth? Why had she found herself back in her own world, her old life?
Lying in that hospital bed, wondering about her fate, wondering about whether she was even mortal anymore, Sarah had waited for the Goblin King to come and collect her.
He never appeared.
When she had gone back home, she had tried everything she could think of to call the Goblin King to her. She had chanted under her breath, "I wish I could see the Goblin King right now!" She had tried, "I wish the Goblin King would appear in front of me right now!" as well as other phrases. She'd sat in front of her vanity mirror and softly called his name—and Hoggle's, Ludo's, Sir Didymus's—until she felt pretty silly. In a final ditch effort, she'd thrown wide her arms in the middle of her living room and yelled, "I wish the goblins would come and take me away right now!"
As she sat in her living room, shocked and confused, she had come to this conclusion: the red thread had broken, her connection with Jareth was gone, he couldn't hear her. Maybe he didn't love her anymore, maybe the power had gone when the thread had broken, and so she couldn't call to him.
"Which really sucks, Jareth," she had muttered under her breath, pressing her palms to her eyes and resting her head in her hands, "because I was definitely beginning to love you!"
She wept then, because she had fallen in love with the Goblin King and she had promised not to regret being with him. Now she wouldn't even get to see if she could keep that promise. She wept because she felt the absence of the red thread. It was a loss that affected her deeply and vibrated through her body. She knew something was missing, she could feel its absence. There was a sense of loss.
That hadn't changed. Even now, one year later, when she focused she could still feel that absence inside her, like something had been ripped out. However, Sarah had always been adaptive—a survivor. If her fate was to live Aboveground, so be it. She had been happy before the car crash, why not afterwards? So what if her friends noticed she liked her own company more now? She had to find equilibrium, a way to deal with the knowledge of her loss and continue living.
She went to work, she paid her bills, and she bought books and practiced plays at the community theater. She tried to keep herself busy so she wouldn't notice what was missing from her life, and she wouldn't think about Jareth. She tried not to think about whether she was mortal or not, either—she definitely didn't want to experiment. One near death experience was enough. But the idea of an eternity alone was not a relishing thought, so she just didn't dwell on it.
Six months later, her body had healed from the wounds—except for some lingering soreness—and she found some happiness again in the simplicity that life could offer. Although, she also noticed she seemed to be subconsciously…waiting. She didn't date; in fact she broke up with her boyfriend. She also slept badly, so she often walked around her neighborhood at night. No one ever bothered her.
Hence today's little sojourn.
A year since Jareth had saved her from Death's clutches. It seemed fitting that she should sit out here enjoying the night air, which blew across her face like chilly kisses, noticing the beauty of the world around her. All this was possible because he'd made it possible. She wished she could thank him.
Sarah was lying down on the top of the large, plastic slide in the playground. The park was located near her apartment building. Sometimes, teenagers hung out there smoking, but tonight it was blissfully abandoned, quiet, and private. She was enjoying this snatched moment immensely. Just being a dozen feet above ground felt like she was much closer to the stars. Maybe if she reached out, she could pluck the moon like a pearl.
I wish… Sarah thought, but didn't voice it, just sent it out into the night like a soap bubble or a firefly.
Maybe she dozed for a minute or two, she wasn't sure, and when she opened her eyes the moon hadn't moved much from its perch in the sky, however she felt that something was very different with the world.
And then she heard an achingly familiar voice say, "I have always had thoughts about adults who play in children's playgrounds."
Sarah grinned, but managed to school her expression into cool amusement. She sat up and looked over the plastic, red railing. Standing on the ground with his hands on his hips was the Goblin King and he was a sight for sore eyes. The street lamp gave off enough light to illuminate his golden hair and cast long shadows on his face that, annoyingly, obscured his expression, but she could hear the amusement in his voice. He was wearing the costume from the Escher Room—leather vest, dark tight breeches, boots and all. She'd always liked that outfit.
"What thoughts?" Sarah asked, cocking an eyebrow.
"Why, that more people should do it, of course." She saw a flash of white and knew that Jareth was grinning. "Precious, I've come an awfully long way, why don't you come down here?"
"Why don't you come up here?"
"The Goblin King does not climb children's slides!" He sounded affronted, despite the grin. Sarah couldn't help laughing. Only the Goblin King could still look kingly standing in sand in a children's playground.
"Alright, alright." Sarah sighed dramatically, then pushed herself down the slide. At the bottom, she drew a leg up and propped her chin on her knee. "Well now, Goblin King, I think I should ask where you've been this last year?"
Jareth stepped forward, which cast a little more light on his face, enough so that Sarah could see his expression sober. He looked around, then pointed at a bench just outside the playground perimeter. "Shall we talk, Sarah?"
Sarah sobered, too. "I'd like that."
As they walked to the bench, Jareth asked, quietly, "Have you been well, Sarah?"
"Quite. In a way, I suppose I should thank you for this year. Some people may have been bitter, always wondering when their time was up, but I've learned a lot from everything that's happened. I've enjoyed every day as if—at the risk of sounding macabre—it was my last." Sarah smiled reassuringly at him. "And you? How have you been?"
"Well enough." Jareth waited until she sat, then sat down next to her.
"So what happened?" Sarah asked. "Everything's a bit foggy at the end." She remembered Death swooping down, breaking the red thread. She shuddered at the memory.
Jareth looked bleak. "My powers did not work in Death's domain. I could not save us. In the end, we managed to make it to the entrance, but the damage had been done. The thread was broken…"
Sarah nodded. "But you didn't come for me. Wasn't that the deal? My life for eternity Underground? 'Fear me, love me, do as I say' and all that?"
Jareth looked away, his face obscured by shadows again. "Something like that," he said, amused. "Actually, I was a fool, I learned what that damn connection was too late. Do you remember the book, Sarah?"
"The…the book? The Labyrinth?Yes." Sarah frowned, trying to follow his train of thought.
"Remember how the story went? 'But what no one knew…'"
"'…Is that the Goblin King had fallen in love with the girl and given her certain powers,'" Sarah finished, frowning. "But that was before. You couldn't've fallen in love with me before? The connection was made after I arrived—"
"I fell in love with you not knowing what it meant," Jareth said, bleakly. "And on a lark I let you call me and you did. As you said, a domino effect. If anyone is to blame, it is I, for it was risky to give you such powers."
"Domino effect?" Sarah mused. "I'd rather think of it as a dance."
Jareth smiled. "Regardless, it happened, and the moment the red thread came into existence was the moment I realized what I felt for you."
Sarah remembered: Jareth on the cliff, his head in his hands, murmuring to himself, "What a pity."
"My powers, again, forging a link between us, because I wished it so," Jareth continued, half to himself. "A link that persevered when you said I had no power over you. Why, I can't be certain, except maybe there was a seed of some feeling inside you…At any rate, it was the red thread that allowed us to be connected, even through death. But, when that thread was broken, any link I had to you was gone, as well."
"So, why didn't you appear before now?"
"I couldn't," Jareth said. "Until you wished for me. Truly wished for me. I had no power over you."
"I did! I said it a million times before tonight! 'I wish—'" Before she could say more, Jareth pressed his gloved finger to her lips, stopping her. Around the digit, she said, "It didn't make a difference."
"You didn't wish for me, Sarah."
Sarah was about to retort, "Didn't you hear me? I did wish," when she stopped to think about what he said. She'd always wished with the yearning to know what had happened that moment when everything had gone white. She had wanted to ask questions of the Goblin King. Only tonight, when she'd sent that tiny wish out into the night, had she just wanted to see him…because she missed him, because she wanted him there. Because she loved him.
"Okay," Sarah said, moving away from his touch because it was distracting and right now she needed a clear head. "Okay, so what now?" She paused, then asked, quietly, "I have to go with you, don't I?"
Jareth's face hardened. "Yes."
"Because I traded my soul to you for my life."
Sarah looked away, licking her suddenly dry lips, and then asked, "Death said that if I did so, I'd never 'know its embrace.'" She looked back at the Goblin King. "Am I mortal, Jareth?"
Jareth had the decency to look slightly guilty, after all he'd made Sarah an offer without really naming the terms. However, all he said was, "No."
"Am I like you?"
"No, you are simply immortal."
Sarah nodded. "So…it really will be an eternity Underground?"
Jareth sneered, his eyes flashing with anger. "Is that so horrible, Sarah? I don't understand what you want! You asked for your life—I gave it back to you! I trespassed in death for you! I came to you when you called! And even before, even when you sought your brother, I offered you every dream within a tiny crystal," Jareth gestured with his hand and a crystal ball appeared, perched delicately on his fingertips, beautiful and innocent as always. "I would give you everything again if you only asked for it, and in return I ask for so little. You made the bargain, I only ask for you to uphold it!"
Despite the anger in Jareth's expression, she could see his eyes and she saw the pain in them. Foolish man—foolish king—would never just say that he wanted her to love him; he'd never just ask. Sarah sighed and said, "Jareth—"
"And don't try that 'you have no power over me' nonsense!" Jareth interrupted, angrily. "You've already agreed to the bargain. You're coming with me to the Underground, Sarah, whether you like it or not—"
Sarah cupped Jareth's face in her hands, causing him to stop mid-sentence in surprise. Their faces were only inches apart now. Sarah said, gently, "Jareth, would you please shut up for five seconds? I'm trying to tell you…you have power over me."
Jareth's eyes widened.
"I've done a lot of soul-searching in the last year, and being shown your memories from new, eye-opening angles, and nearly dying, has a way of making you very contemplative. 'Things are sometimes not what they seem.' I realized you were probably the biggest mystery of all, Jareth. You always showed me a mask. I never fully understood you or your motivations. And it's exceedingly difficult to wring a simple answer from you." Sarah smiled, but Jareth didn't return it. He was looking at her very oddly. She took a deep breath and continued, "I was foolishly young thirteen—no, fourteen, now—years ago. What I didn't know, well, until recently really, is that in order to love someone you have to give them power over you. I love you, Goblin King. You rescued me from goddamn Death itself! How could I not lo—?"
Jareth interrupted Sarah's confession, which she thought was a rather touching and heartfelt one, by leaning forward and kissing her. She couldn't begrudge the kiss, despite it interrupting her emotional confession; the kiss was wonderful, ten times better than the one they had shared in the ballroom. It spoke quite eloquently of love and forever and dreams. Sarah's hands had fallen away from his face to wrap around his shoulders, pulling herself closer to him. Jareth possessively splayed his hand across the side of her neck, but he kept the kiss startlingly gentle. He kept brushing his lips over hers, feather light. The shockingly intimate, loving kiss was doing something to her, making her heart feel like it was expanding in her chest. She wasn't sure she could bare such tender, joyful feelings; she might die after all.
She felt saturated with emotions, with sensations; the feel of his silky kisses sent tingles through her body. Jareth's scent surrounded her; that spicy, wood smoke smell filled her nostrils. It wasn't enough, she wanted to taste him. Delicately, Sarah licked the tip of her tongue across his lower lip and wasn't surprised when she got the faint taste of peaches on her tongue.
Jareth growled, opening his mouth and coaxing a deeper kiss from her. Their tongues touched and Sarah gasped at the tingles it caused in her belly. Don't let this moment end, she thought, dizzily, as Jareth kissed along her jaw and pressed his mouth to her neck, just over her pulse, licking the skin there as if tasting her. She shuddered, moaning deep in her throat. He wrapped her in his arms, keeping her close as he kissed along her neck and the collar of her shirt. Sarah was very glad for the scoop neck T-shirt. It allowed more flesh to be kissed than her flannel nightshirt.
Sarah tipped back her head, gasping as Jareth left teasingly soft kisses along the base of her neck. She stared at the stars and then said, huskily, "You—you know, there's going to be none of that 'let me rule you' stuff."
"Mmm," Jareth said, and Sarah could feel his lips vibrate against her skin.
"And—and none of that 'fear me' crap either," Sarah managed, although it was very hard to think and speak when he was doing such a good job of kissing her.
Jareth moved far enough away so he could murmur, "Really, Sarah, you take away all my fun. How am I meant to be villainous?"
"Oh, I'm sure you'll find a way."
"A challenge. I do so love challenges," he said. Sarah felt a soft kiss just above her breasts and her heart began to pound harder, if that was possible. Then, with a smile that she felt against her skin, Jareth kissed back up to her mouth. He pressed his lips to her, fiery and passionate, and left her breathless.
"Shall we go home, my love?" Jareth said, with a knowing smile. His mismatched eyes sparked with some challenges that Sarah definitely wanted to explore further.
"Yes." She stood impatiently, which caused the Goblin King to grin. Smug bastard, Sarah thought, affectionately.
She felt a tug on her wrist and looked down to see a familiar red thread tied around it. Except it seemed to be a much deeper shade of crimson, and it didn't seem so fragile anymore. She said, "Look, it's back."
"Indeed," Jareth said, sounding pleased. He made a flourish with his hand and a crystal ball appeared in his cupped palm. With his other hand, he grasped Sarah's and bent over it, kissing the back of her hand, but the chivalrous gesture was ruined when he looked up at her with mirth-filled eyes. The red thread tied the short distance from her wrist to his.
Without breaking the kiss, Jareth tossed the crystal up and it exploded in a shower of glitter, the magic whisking them home.
Author's Notes: Voila! I present you with the completed story. I hope you've enjoyed the journey as much as I have. I know things got a little freaky back there - honestly, I was surprised (and a little pleased) by how many people said Part 5 freaked them out. I was hoping for suspense...anything more than that was gravy. I hope this is a happy ending for you. I know, I could have made this a tragedy, but I'm a sucker for a happy ending.
Please review! Let me know what you think about the ending and the story in its completed state. While I consider this story fairly strong on its own, I am toying with the idea of a one-shot sequel. What do you guys think? Either way, I have some other short fics in the work, as well as continuing with my WIPs. If you're interested in reading my other works, I'd suggest Author Alert-ing me so you'll know when I post them. :)
This story has a few nuances that I didn't indulge in, however I'm making a "commentary track" on my blog where I'm stuffing all my thoughts, all the hidden plot details, stuff I didn't add in this story, etc. It's kind of like an extra feature on a DVD. If you're interested, please check out my weblog (corditequill . wordpress . com OR find the link on my profile page). The first part of the commentary is already up and the rest will follow through this week. :)
I really enjoyed writing this story and thank you everyone for your comments, encouragement, and wonderful remarks. They've really helped me keep going, produce one more word or chapter. Until next time my pretties, when once again Jareth and Sarah will struggle to find common ground. XD