Author's Note:

Just a little one-shot, nothing special. When I read this poem it reminded me of Jareth and Sarah, so I wrote something. I'm not particularly happy with it, and this was my first attempt at writing something in present tense, which is not sitting all that well. Oh well, as is becoming a habit of mine, I'm going ahead and posting because I'm sick of looking at it and not sure how to make it any better at the moment. :/ It'll just eat at me if I don't get it off my shoulders and move on, and that kind of sucks the fun out of writing fan fiction, so here it is...

Wow, that doesn't really make you want to read this, does it? Well, it's short so you won't be wasting much time if you do. ;)

Many thanks to my beta, breathofnocte!

And thanks to Schermionie for the additional edits! I really appreciate the time and the feedback. :)

Standard disclaimer applies.

-o0O0o-

Among the Multitude

Among the men and women the multitude,

I perceive one picking me out by secret and divine signs,

Acknowledging none else, not parent, wife, husband, brother, child, any nearer than I am,

Some are baffled, but that one is not – that one knows me.

Ah lover and perfect equal,

I meant that you should discover me by so faint indirections,

And I when I meet you mean to discover you by the like in you.

- Walt Whitman

-o0O0o-

"Take him," the boy-child sneers, false bravado and a feigned air of indifference failing to mask the fear oozing from his pores, dripping onto the asphalt to mix with the sweet syrup of split soft drinks and the greasy discharge from the aging, decrepit carnival rides. It disgusts him.

Considering the boy stoically, a crystal glides hypnotically over his gloved fingers. He had been watching when the words were spoken, the goblins in a tizzy over the potential of a new playmate. They wouldn't be disappointed.

He had seen when the boy, fed up with a tag-along little brother, had called out to him. It was a half-hearted threat, a scare tactic; he had been embarrassed by the child's excitement over the carnival, making him feel somewhat weaker, childish by association, in the eyes of his snide, condescending friends, tough in their fifteen-year-old naivety. He had let them go ahead, turning on his small bouncing shadow, said the words. He hadn't realized the power they summoned.

He had offered to let the boy run the Labyrinth, but the allure of the crystal and his own selfishness had been too great. He was too young to yet know empathy; perhaps he never would, a too common affliction of the human race.

"So be it," he tosses back with finality, the boy snatching the crystal out of its arch across the alleyway. In a flutter of fabric and feathers, he disappears.

But he has not gone. He waits in the shadows, watching – parents eyeing the crowd warily as they try to contain the heedless excitement of their children, couples at ease laughing, carnies waiting for the end of their shift with a much different idea of excitement on the horizon, the lost and lonely. None aware of his presence – none except one.

There is one here that knows him.

-o0O0o-

Something is different – an odd sort of something she can't define. She surveys the carnival, searching the faces for recognition, the wind whipping her hair, obscuring her vision, the colored lights from the games and rides dancing. Dancing, twirling, mocking – she remembers. She has never been able to forget.

Something is out there, pulling her from present to past. A sense of desperation tugs at her, a feeling that it's one step away from fading. Surrendering to it, she ruffles Toby's hair, giving him a gentle push toward her dad and stepmom as she points toward the ladies' room, heading off in that direction as they nod their understanding.

Out of sight, she veers off behind the machinery along the edge of the encampment, not sure where she's going, but following that sense of something other than – other than school, work, family, living each day a step closer to dying - something she knows, something for her. A carnie manning the Tilt-o-Whirl calls after her and she ignores him, picking her way across discarded boards and metal poles – the less glitzy face of his world.

Her pace quickens, the sense of urgency overriding reason as she makes her way among the rubble. She stumbles over a discarded box, falling to her hands and knees; the gravel bites into her palms. She clenches her hands in the dirt, willing the very real sting to break through the unnatural pull assaulting her senses. Breathing in deeply, the scent of fried food and packed in humanity makes her stomach queasy. The something is still out there, just out of reach, but she feels closer. Perhaps reality is overrated. She climbs to her feet, finding her way more slowly this time.

Passing behind the funhouse, she pauses, on alert as she reaches a slim alleyway separating it from the next packaged adrenaline rush. That's when she sees him.

His back is toward her as he looks out on the crowd, leaning casually against the side of the building, a smattering of colors highlighting his untamed hair, his black moth-eaten cloak softly floating in the breeze.

She takes a few tentative steps forward, hesitating as a discarded plastic spoon snaps under her weight. She can see a slight tension creeping into his still form. He knows someone's there, but he doesn't turn around. She takes a few steps closer, not careful to be quiet this time, stopping when the temporary supply of courage fueling her momentum dries up. She leaves a space of a couple of feet between her and her past.

"You're here to take a child." It isn't a question.

Jareth is still for a moment longer, her voice a familiar, poisonous balm to unhealed wounds. Unfolding languidly from the wall, he turns to face her, adjusting his gloves before looking up into eyes that could be so cruel. "Sarah." He had offered her his heart once.

"I'm right, aren't I? You're here for a child."

Again, not really a question. He doesn't answer, merely tilts his head, considering her. She has sought him out…but why?

She feels fifteen again under the weight of his quiet scrutiny – naïve and unsure. Deciding to move on from the obvious, she tugs her army green canvas jacket closer, crossing her arms across her chest in a protective gesture as she leans back against the building. She slides him a sideways glance. "I didn't think I'd ever see you again."

The curious uncertainty in her tone pulls at him. He closes the distance between them with slow, measured strides, invading her personal space as he leans one arm against the wall beside her head. His fist clenches as she continues to study him with narrowed, discerning eyes.

"Miss me?" he drawls, locking her gaze with his own, his tone mocking, self-depreciating.

"Maybe," she admits quietly. She looks down at her feet, the intensity in his gaze unsettling, before looking up again. "I don't know…."

His face remains neutral as he studies her. "Why are you here, Sarah?"

She turns to face him more fully, her shoulder supporting her weight. "What you said before, there at the end. That was a lot of crap, you know."

He smirks slightly at that. "Which part?"

"The 'fear me, love me, do as I say' bit - I mean, what is that?"

So, she wants closure. He isn't going to give it to her.

He reaches out to toy with a lock of hair fluttering along the side of her face, letting the strand slip through his gloved fingers. "Fear implies a certain…vulnerability – a fear of losing something that you love." He pushes the lock of hair behind her ear. "Perhaps the 'do as I say bit' was wishful thinking, considering to whom the words were spoken."

She isn't sure what she was expecting, but his words ease the tightness in her chest, only to migrate to her throat as she struggles to fight tears she doesn't understand. "Did you mean it?"

He leans in then, his mouth close to her ear, and whispers, "I fear you…precious thing." His cheek brushes hers, lingering, his hair soft and teasing on her face and neck. He inhales, slowly, and she melts into him in time. Her lips part, drawing on the words like breath, filling her, a buried longing awakened and buoyant. The October wind scrapes across her exposed side, cold and alien, his skin against hers warm and safe, like home.

She pulls away abruptly at the thought, stepping back and walking away, needing space to think. Home. Toby. She turns back to face him. He is closer than she'd thought, standing in the middle of the alleyway now, as if he might have pursued her and thought better of it.

His expression is grim, his eyes sad, resigned. She has seen that look before and it tears at her heart. He extends a hand, almost as though it's against his will. "It's only forever, Sarah…"

She looks over his shoulder, staring glassy-eyed in the direction she knows her family is waiting. She had fought so hard to rescue Toby, to get back home. But that was so long ago. She is only an occasional visitor in her family's lives now, and her own life…well, she has only been going through the motions; something has always been missing.

Her eyes slide back to his. And that something is standing in front of her offering what she had thought was lost.

She reaches across the cold and empty air, her hand sliding into his. "Forever, Jareth." She squeezes his hand before stepping into his embrace, laying her head against his chest as he folds her in his arms. "Not long at all."

-o0O0o-

Author's Note:

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