Chapter 2

Sarah sat in front of her vanity staring at the troubled face reflected back at her. Had they forgotten her, she wondered while chewing on the ends of a strand of her thick hair. She quickly dismissed that idea from her mind. Of course they hadn't! She flung the damp lock over her shoulder where it joined the others, and lay like a straight, long curtain of silk.

Hadn't they been in this very room just yesterday? They'd all sat comfortably squashed together on her bed chatting and sharing mugs of hot, homemade cocoa. Through mouthfuls of cookies they'd taken turns telling her about their day. Rattling on about the Fiery's and how they'd come up with new dances. Sir Didymus had then taken the opportunity to attempt to imitate the mermaids stirring, soulful songs. She'd giggled uncontrollably when Sir Knight had reached his high pitched, screeching finale. She whistled and clapped enthusiastically and had even called for an encore, which Sir Didymus politely declined.

Hoggle had proudly showed her his newest trinket; a pretty necklace. The stones, which he'd found at the bottom of a brook, had been polished to a high shine. He'd fashioned them together with a piece of colored string one of the sprites had given him. He'd informed Sarah that the string had been a payment of sorts. When she'd asked for what? He'd winked and said he'd promised not to spray the little sprite and her friends for a solid month.

Swiveling round in her seat, Sarah surveyed the room with avid eyes. Sometimes they liked to hide behind the furniture or under the bed just to tease her. They enjoyed a lively game of hide and seek from time to time. It was a particular favorite of Ludo's although he often had issues finding adequate places to conceal his largeness.

She searched each corner of her room with painstaking thoroughness, but she saw no blast of color signifying their presence. No giggle, no guffaw, and no exuberant barks from Sir Didymus' stout, and honorable steed.

She picked up a cookie and bit into it munching with little interest. It was delicious. Irene's double chocolate chip brownie cookies always were, but they didn't taste as good today as they usually did. The problem was they tasted much better when her friends were here to share them with her. Where were they? Had something happened to them? It must have, Sarah thought as mild panic began to set in.

Brushing a few wayward crumbs from her vest, Sarah stood and made her way over to the cubbies which held her favorite stuffed animals. Choosing one, she buried her face in its plushness and asked out loud, "Where are they, Lancelot?" Sarah felt tears burn behind her closed lids as she cried in real anguish, "Why don't they come?"

XXXXXXX

"How very sad," Dorcus mused dispassionately while viewing Sarah's plight through the looking glass she held in her palm.

"Yes," Jareth agreed, gripping tightly to his own crystal avenue into Sarah's world. Whipping his head to the side, he demanded harshly, "Is it absolutely necessary for you to view this?"

"Witness must be borne," was her serene reply. "You know this." Noting his momentary hesitation, Dorcus pressed him. "Proceed."

Jareth sent her a withering glare before closing his eyes. With delicate efficiency he squeezed the glowing orb he held in his gloved fist. Instead of breaking, as Dorcus had expected, the glass remained firm. One of her fine eyebrows rose as Jareth's hand seemed to meld with that of the orb. Interesting. Her other brow joined the first in startled astonishment when Jareth's entire being seemed to slowly melt away. In less than a moment, in true magical fashion, he was gone!

XXXXXXX

Sarah was busy pacing back and forth the length of her room when Jareth materialized. She hadn't noticed him as yet, so absorbed was she in her own unhappiness and worry. When she did become aware of his presence her sea green eyes widened in surprised apprehension.

"Hello, Sarah," was his simple opening greeting.

Swallowing hard, she answered with the defiance that he had come to admire while she had been traversing through his Labyrinth.

"What are you doing here?" Her question was quickly followed by the forming of a wide O of her lips. "You," she spat out while pointing an accusing finger at him. "It's you keeping my friends away!"

"You silly child," he declared with a loconic twist to his own lips. "I have done nothing. Just as I have done nothing the entire time in which you have been here."

"You're lying," she sputtered, anger bringing a rather becoming color to her face. "You always lie!"

Clicking his tongue in reproof, Jareth replied, "The word 'lie' has such a nasty ring to it, don't you think?" Clearly amused, he added, "I prefer 'prevaricate.' It has a much more civilized tone."

"It doesn't matter what word you use or how pretty you wrap it up. When it comes right down to it it's still nothing but a lie!"

Placing a hand over his heart, Jareth said with a faked pained expression, "You wound me, dear one. But, no matter for I am quick to recover."

Sarah snorted. "You have to have real feelings in order to be wounded, and it's no big secret that you don't! You wouldn't know a real feeling if it up and bit you in your arrogant arse!"

Jareth's composed face showed nothing of his true feelings. Still, he felt the sting of her words keenly. It annoyed him to no end that she had forced him to play the role of the wickedly deceitful, despotic king. A ruler, who cared little for his subjects, and was as heartless and cold as the stones which made up the building blocks of his Labyrinth.

"Come," he barked at her, "time is short."

"Jareth," a voice hissed in his head. 'Have a care for you tread dangerously close to breaking the law! You cannot make her decisions for her! She alone must choose her path."

Jareth snapped back, "Remove yourself from my mind, if you please!" Internally calling on a portion of his power he forcibly shoved Dorcus from his head. But not before he heard a huff of outrage.

"Come?" Sarah's brow furrowed in confusion. "What do you mean, 'come'? I'm not going anywhere with you!" Still holding her stuffed toy, she crossed her arms over her chest and added smugly, "I beat you and your stupid Labyrinth! You have no power over me!"

Eyeing Sarah with keen interest, Jareth agreed by saying, "There was a time when your words were true." At her triumphant smile, he tacked on, "But… no longer."

"What do you mean?" A trace of fear was settling in the pit of her stomach.

"I mean that your days of power are over, little girl." He grinned, revealing his slightly pointed teeth. It wasn't a pleasant grin. It was filled with a type of evil relish that chilled Sarah to the bone.

Jareth took several steps forward bringing him self within less than a foot of Sarah who was struggling against the urge to back away.

"I… I don't understand," she stuttered in confusion. What could he mean? Was this another of his lies? It had to be. There was no other explanation. He must be trying to trick me again.

He muttered darkly, "I know, but you will. It was decided the moment you set foot in my world." A bleak day for you indeed.

He pretended not to notice her flinch when he placed a finger beneath her chin and raised it until she could meet his eyes completely. Staring deeply into their startled depths he whispered, "All will be revealed at the proper time." Sighing, he lowered his hand and in a crisp voice stated, "Enough of this. The night grows short."

Sarah rubbed the underside of her chin. His touch had left a burning sensation behind, which was odd considering he was wearing gloves.

"What happens at daybreak," Sarah asked snidely, while absently repositioning the loose barrette until it had a solid hold on the swath of sable hair pulled back from her face, "do you turn into a pumpkin or something?"

He chortled in astonished delight. "You would do well to keep your frivolous fairy tales straight," Jareth instructed her. Then, with fearsome intensity flashing in his strange eyes, he said, "If I were to tell you what the dawn would bring, it would shock your senseless, little mind!"

"Jareth!" Dorcus screeched in his head, causing him to wince.

"All right!" He yelled back at her. "But, is it too much to ask that you watch from your own mirror instead of the confines of my brain?"

"I would, if I could depend upon you to not force your will on the girl."

His reply was swift in coming, and even in her head it still managed to sound dry.

"Really, Dorcus… her will is as strong as mine. Remember? Now, let us finish this once and for all."

Leaving his internal conversation with Dorcus, Jareth quietly commanded, "Heed me, Sarah for I am about to give you something which I did not the first time we met." At her quizzical stare, he continued, "A choice, dear girl."

"A choice?" Sarah echoed dimly. "A choice between what?"

"Why, a choice between two necessary evils." With a flourish of his hand, he remarked expansively, "See how magnanimous I can be?"

Setting Lancelot carefully on her bed, Sarah answered back incredulous, "Magnanimous? You call it magnanimous to give me a choice between two evils? That's no choice at all!" Stamping her foot, she declared, "I won't do it! You can't make me."

Cocking his blond head to the side, he shattered her world by saying, "But I can dear delusional, Sarah. I can, and I will if I must."

Sarah shook her head from side to side in distraught dismay. "It's not true," she gasped. "You're trying to trick me again!" She pressed a clenched fist to her trembling mouth while tears of angry frustration filled her eyes turning the bright green orbs into shallow pools of murky grief. "Please," she begged, her eyes beseeching him to take back his words.

Jareth's lashes fluttered down, he mustn't weaken; he mustn't! Yet, her apparent pain was almost unendurable. He felt her agony like a finely honed rapier slicing through his senses. If there were but another way!

When Jareth did, at last, raise his lids, Sarah saw grim determination in their mismatched depths. However, he spoke softly, mindful of her harried state. "I don't want to force you, Sarah. Please believe at least that, if nothing else."

Scrubbing the traces of her tears from her face, she asked mournfully, "Can't you just leave? Go back, and just forget about me?"

"If only it were that simple," he answered, wishing it was so with his entire being. "Sadly, I cannot depart until you have done what is required."

Sarah bit at her bottom lip so hard that she drew a faint bubble of blood. "If I do it, will you leave me and my family alone once and for all?"

"Have a care, Jareth. This must be done with great delicacy."

Ignoring Dorcus' interruption, Jareth said, "If you do what is asked, I will no longer trouble your family, and I will depart from this place never to return."

"For good," she enquired, leaning forward at the waist, her voice hoarse with wild hope.

Shrugging his broad shoulders, he stated simply, "But of course."

Sarah exhaled and as she did so, his gaze zeroed in on her quivering mouth. The droplet had spread across her half parted lips coating them as if it were brilliant, crimson lip rouge. Everything about her looked vulnerable. Her stressed, pale oval visage was home to a pair of wide, wounded eyes and delicate cheekbones. Her thick, gently arched brows were the same shade as her lustrous tresses. His perusal took in her slender, waifish curves and included the fine boned wrists peeking out from the sleeves of her loose shirt. Yes, very vulnerable indeed.

"Fine," Sarah agreed, working hard to get her rampaging emotions under control. "What do I need to do," she asked, eager to get rid of him.

With a swift twist of his wrist a crystal appeared. He stepped with lithesome grace to her vanity. Raising his arm shoulder high he stretched it out and away from his lean body and turned it so that the palm of his hand faced the ceiling while his fingers pointed at the mirror.

Jareth's pristine, white shirt alternately billowed and pulled. It hung in a loose cloud colored wing from his upraised arm while it stretched tautly across his slight, but well defined musculature. The stays holding the silk string bindings separated, widening the V until a vast expanse of marble sheened skin was laid bare.

Not that either really noticed. Jareth was busy looking her square in the face, his own very serious. Sarah was busy staring back, just as seriously. Then, he made his proclamation. "Two choices lie before you, Sarah."

Sarah's gaze left his and darted back and forth between the two objects. She had to choose between the crystal and her vanity? What in the world did he mean?

Jareth was less than surprised by Sarah's reaction. He could well imagine the jangle of thoughts racing through her head. She was, undoubtedly, profoundly overwhelmed. In many respects she was still such a child, and depending on her choice she could well remain so.

Sarah sent him a shy, tentative smile before asking, "I don't suppose you'd tell me what will happen when I choose? Or give me a hint of some kind?"

Jareth was ruthless in his reply. He had to be. "Are you attempting to use your feminine wiles upon me sweet, Sarah?" He chuckled, but it lacked actual humor, and the shell shocked expression which graced Sarah's features was enough to leave a sour taste at the back of his throat. Damn you, Dorcus!

"Damn me all you like, Goblin King if it pleases you to do so. It changes nothing."

Jareth pressed on, doing his best to steer clear of softening under the evidence of her suffering. "Are you hoping that a smile here, or a batting of the eyelash there, will make a difference?" Jareth's derision was laid bare as he added with a sardonic lift to his brow, "It would take far more than a simple quirk of your luscious mouth to appease me." His wicked smile held a wealth of insinuation.

A tidal wave of red heat rushed up Sarah's neck and spread across her cheeks in a dark cherry flush. She certainly hadn't meant to flirt with him! And she most certainly hadn't meant to use herself as some sort of bargaining chip! The nerve of him! He was a heartless, unfeeling monster, and she hated him with every fiber of her being!

"Yes… I know," he answered woodenly. Sarah hadn't been aware that she'd spoken the last sentence aloud. "Such is the nature of our relationship. But, due to our past acquaintance I will gift to you the advantage, if you still desire it."

Giving him a wary look, Sarah asked, "What will I have to do?" Without waiting for his answer, she rushed on, "I won't do anything um, like uh…" her voice trailed off, she fidgeted beneath his sardonic gaze. "You know what I mean… I won't do you any… um… favors." She came to a stammering halt, totally embarrassed and wishing the floor would open up and swallow her whole.

"Just so," he acknowledged wryly. He watched as Sarah visibly relaxed at the assurance that she would not have to sully herself by providing him with payment of a physical nature. "Listen well," he warned. "For one of your choices will lead you nowhere." He hesitated. "But the other," he whispered with insistent intensity. "The other will lead you elsewhere." Smirking, he motioned with his head, "The looking glass or," he pinched the orb between his gloved fingers, "the crystal? Choose wisely, little Alice."

I have to apologize for the lack of hyphenation to some of my words. Unfortunately, that key (along w/the numbers five and six) are sticking and do not work. I just wanted to let you know so that you didn't think I was a total lack of hyphen imbecile.