"Tonight's the night of Halloween, and the faerie court will ride..."
Chapter 25: She Spins Tales of the World
When the rushing sensation cleared, Yera stood before her, grinning.
"Oh good, I was afraid His Majesty was going to be insufferable for at least the next century or so." Sarah barely had time to catch her breath before the fae swept her into a warm embrace that smelled of summer and cinnamon. "And of course, I am delighted to have you back as well," Yera murmured as she released her, a spark of amusement lighting her eyes.
"How… how are things here?" Sarah asked tentatively. "It didn't look so great when I left."
Yera sobered, but smiled her reassurance. "Nearly stable, now. You certainly cut things close on the return – I'd guess that another handful of minutes and your wish wouldn't have worked. There is damage done, but it will mend all the faster with you here to get His Moody Majesty out of his tower. He's shut himself up there, and by the fact that he's not down here and shooing me off yet, he's apparently dampened his link to the realm."
"Well, I guess I'll have to go surprise him." Sarah paused, then snorted. "And that is either the best or most foolish idea I've ever had in my life," she concluded in a mutter.
Her friend trilled a bright laugh. "Oh, but does it matter which? You're going to do it anyway; you always do."
Sarah blinked at Yera for a moment, but whatever mnemonic cobweb she'd felt snag had already dissipated. "Of course I am." She lifted the pile of fluttering silk she still held, and raised an eyebrow. "Help me make an entrance?"
Yera's smile took on a wickedly familiar gleam. "With pleasure, my dear."
Some minutes later, Sarah stood before the small door that hid in the shadows near Jareth's throne, clad in the ephemeral, sweeping layers and gossamer netting of the gown she had worn to the summer masquerade. Yera hung back in the center of the throne room, nodding toward the door. "You'll find your way."
Sarah steeled herself for the disorienting sight that waited beyond, and turned the handle. The staircase did not disappoint, its pieces shifting and whirling through the void of the tower like some primal incarnation of chaos, surely immune to any mortal's taming.
It responded to Jareth before… maybe…
Though it made her head spin, Sarah swallowed her vertigo and stepped onto the short landing.
I need to see him. Let me pass.
The stairs continued their mad, impassible dance.
"Let me pass!" she commanded, taking another half-step forward to the very edge.
The stairs did not respond for a heartbeat, but then their seemingly random motions slowed and converged, forming an unbroken spiral path before her. The implications of its obedience were not something she paused to contemplate, lifting her skirts and stepping carefully upward. It was harder than it had been the first time, the lack of Jareth's presence causing her mind to skitter off into morbid imaginings of the staircase suddenly deciding to dump her – it was just the sort of defense she would expect from any construct of his – but contrary to her fears, the stairs remained solid.
Sarah was only slightly winded when she finally reached the relative safety of the top, but she paused just before the last step that would carry her up into the tower chamber. She could not yet see Jareth, but the tail of his dark cloak as it fluttered in the wind promised his presence as surely as the indefinable tingle that had burgeoned in her mind as she'd ascended the stairs. He was the star at the center of his Labyrinth, all paths orbiting him – for the first time, she could see the pattern, see the way his mere being tugged all the elements of his realm into alignment. With a heady thrill, Sarah knew that she would never be lost in this place again.
She took the final step, allowing her bare foot to shuffle against the stone, and in hair-trigger response, the Goblin King whipped around to confront the intruder.
The moment he registered just who stood in the doorway of his private sanctum was one Sarah would treasure for time immemorial. His face made the thundercrack shift from anger to astonishment and the most unguarded, guileless wonder she had ever seen, and the second seemed to hang, and crystallize…
…and then he was moving, and catching her face in hand with a strange, uncharacteristic tenderness… and she thought he would kiss her, but instead he only watched her eyes, a thousand questions swimming through his own. "You… are here to stay?" he asked, finally.
Sarah laid a palm against the gloved smoothness of his other hand before gathering it up and squeezing. "Yes, unless I choose to run the Labyrinth again for my own return to the mortal world… which even if it would work, I've no intention of doing," she quipped.
Jareth blinked down at her owlishly for a long moment, incredulity slowly dawning on his sharp features. "You… you didn't."
"I did," she affirmed, grinning.
The wide-eyed surprise gave way to a bright, clear laugh. "You absolutely delicious creature! I suppose Yerascaltidryx collected you, then? She would have wanted to…. " He sobered slightly. "But, Sarah…"
"Affairs are in order to see my book printed and distributed, and I made every other story I ever wrote that was worth a damn available to anyone who cares to access them. They will spread – for all the awful things humans have managed to do with their world over the last few decades, the 'net was certainly something wonderful. If I'd kept on the career course I had planned… it would have been years and years before anyone saw any of them, and now I don't need the money," she finished with a rueful grin. "I do hope you haven't changed your mind about wanting me to stay."
"Never think it," he answered fervently. "Sarah – " Her name had the cant of a question, but he cut off whatever he had thought to say, averting his eyes to the floor.
"Jareth." She reached up with her free hand and gently ran a finger along the line of his jaw, and his eyes came back to hers, where she wanted them. "I want this. I want you. Whatever game we were really playing… I think we both played it too well. Because here I am, and I love you, too."
"I'm so bored," Toby's older cousin complains. At fifteen, she has snootily declared herself too old to play Legos with him, and now that he's beaten her at Scrabble she refuses to try that again, either. Their parents are still at the dinner table (and how adults can talk that long, he has no idea, but they seem to be having fun).
He rolls his eyes in a ten-year-old's effusive exasperation. Sarah is always much more fun, even though she is even older than Jocelyn. "Tell you what," he says. "I know a site with stories you'd like, and then I'll go play Legos by myself and leave you alone."
"What d'you mean, 'site'?"
"A website, silly!" He is already heading for the computer.
Laurel rolls half-off her overstuffed sofa, sandy hair dragging against the floor as she looks at the clock upside-down. The dregs of the dream still seem to slosh behind her eyes, and she shakes her head and sits back up, recalling the lights – they had filtered down through faintly murky water, striking strange, wavering shadows from the sea nymphs who cavorted along the reef.
She really has no idea why she keeps dreaming of gorgeous ocean-dwellers, but she's not about to object.
Her phone rings with Jen's tone, and she stumbles hurriedly across the living room to answer it.
"Hey, what's up, love?"
She pauses, listening, and an impish grin brightens her face. "Right, I remember the modern dance group. I always kinda wondered why they never asked us to light a show for them before we graduated, but I'm game if you are… Yeah, actually, I've got all kinds of design ideas…"
A young man wakes in the dark hours of morning, drenched in cold sweat and still frightened, yet oddly exhilarated from the strange nightmare.
It was that damned website, he muses. Shouldn't have stayed up so late reading; no wonder my dreams were so tripped out.
He takes a long swallow of water from the glass on his nightstand, then grabs a much-abused notebook to scribble down his new idea for an absolute gut-twister of a scenario that he'll put his gaming group through that weekend…
A child's eggshell-thin eyelids flutter, and she pulls the blanket her new foster-mother gave her close to her chest. She dreams of a beautiful lady dressed all in green who shows her faerie secrets in an orb of clearest crystal…
The lilting melody was faint and distant, but unmistakable and growing stronger by the day. He could almost mark the moments when new strings sounded out their first pealing notes – sometimes they were tentative, like an anxious student's careful plucking; others cried out in exuberant declaration as they joined in the music. Each one drew a smile that held a warmth few had witnessed in centuries.
He watched her drink it all in as spring leaves gather sunlight, and smiled still more.
Her words to him in those first few seasons still made him chuckle to remember –
"You know, when I was writing that book, I always thought of myself as Janet… I'd never realized I was supposed to be the Faerie Queen, instead."
A/N: ...And that, is that. This has been one hell of a trip, and the first major writing project I've actually *finished.* Please let me know what you think, now that I've finally stopped with the cliffhangers! -) Those of you who have me on alert can expect to see some more Labyrinth work in the future, though I don't have a timeline set yet (and there are other large projects in other fandoms in the offing, as well).