Disclaimer: So far, only unnamed mystery man belongs to me.
Chapter 1: Blame it on Stress
"Borderline personality disorder" - the pages of the book flipped over idly - "core features are impulsivity and instability in relationships, mood and self-image" - white sheets fluttered momentarily in the air before succumbing to gravity - "excessive fear of abandonment... likely to coincide with an Axis I mood disorder" - unread, unviewed, as the facts were recited off by memory. But more importantly, untouched. From the other end of the bedroom Sarah twined her bare legs around the cool metal legs of her chair. A sliver of pages hung, for an instant, in the air at a perfect ninety degree angle, waiting and unmoving, until concentration was abandoned and they fell, once again servant to the laws of physics.
"Okay, okay, got that," she muttered, dropping her head back as she leaned into the seat. Ooh, big mistake. Her already damp shirt stuck instantly to her spine, creating an unbearable sticky-sweat feeling. Summer had come early to California this year, and she was left wondering, once again, why exactly she had chosen a school out here.
Ah yes, the sun, the fun, the beaches... all those wonderful things that had been all but forbidden to her back home, where winter lasted about half the year and spring and fall took up the other six months. Summer was that two-week period that snuck in usually early August and disappeared before school started up in September.
But who knew it would take so much getting used to? It wasn't the heat that bothered her so much, but the muggy nature of it. The humidity and the smog and the heavy, oppressive feeling in the air when no saving breeze was to be found. It wouldn't have been so bad, if it weren't for the studying. Just four more exams, two more weeks, and then she would be all ready for enjoying this heat. Until then though, she felt like a chicken, slowly roasting in the oven.
A long, out-drawn exhale of air and she started anew. "Histrionic personality disorder..." God, she wished she had sprung for an air conditioner when she moved into this place. Never having had need for one before, she hadn't been able to see the logic in sparing three hundred dollars for the device. Of course, with the heat wave in full blow, getting one now would have emptied out her entire bank account. "Overly dramatic, attention-seeking, emotionally shallow, seductive" - a snort and a wry grin - "Ha! Who do I know that fits that description?"
She pulled the t-shirt away from her damp body, tried billowing it to create a bit of cool air, then gave up. Times like these, she wished she were brave enough to go au natural. Even though she was the only one in the apartment, and her curtains could easily be pulled shut - it wasn't as if the open window made it more bearable anyway - she just couldn't bring herself to do it. Stringent upbringing, she blamed it on. She wasn't a Californian yet - not by any stretch of the imagination.
"Narcissistic personality disorder - do I even need to start that?" She rolled her eyes, then ran her fingers through damp hair, lifting it away from her head with a slight grimace. Maybe, she thought, glancing in the mirror, maybe it was time to cut it. Something short, chic, a little more accommodating to the weather.
She dropped the dark locks. Maybe later.
"No more studying tonight!" she declared suddenly, and the textbook at the other end of the room slammed shut in accordance. Almost leaping from her seat in small, pseudo-renewal of energy, she glanced at the clock - 2:44 a.m. "My, how time flies when you're wasting away your youth."
The light flicked off as she flopped onto the bed, sheets and covers dangling forgotten at the foot. She briefly considered taking a shower to cool down, but abandoned the idea almost immediately. Relief would only last so long as she was in the water, but once out - it would be back to this. Besides, she just didn't have the energy to make it any further tonight.
"Oh right," she said, suddenly remembering she had forgotten to set her alarm. No classes tomorrow, but she wanted to make sure she was up early, to pick up right where she'd left off tonight.
The little clock was on her nightstand, all the way at the other side of the bed. Had she reached for it manually, it would have required her rolling over at least once, maybe even twice, then groping to push that little switch over to the right slot - but, lucky her, all she needed was a little bit of concentration and.... there!
Telekinesis had its advantages.
She was dreaming, although it didn't feel like a dream. She only knew it was because, well, she suddenly no longer had a body.
Drifting aimlessly in a room she had never been in before, though it tugged at her heart, vaguely familiar. Stone walls, adorned in occasional tapestries. Furniture carved so intricately, of such beautiful wood, she would have felt uncomfortable sitting in it - had that been an issue, but of course it wasn't, since she had nothing with which to sit - enough to have made her stepmother drool with envy.
At one end of the room, a fire burned heartily and she cringed at the sight. Why in the world would anyone have a fire going in this heat? Then a sense of realization hit her and she would have smacked herself upside the head - had she had a hand or a head to do it with.
Something tells me we're not in California anymore, Toto.
Voices suddenly broke the peace, and she unconsciously drew back into the shadows, not wanting to risk exposure - despite the fact that she was invisible, and despite the fact that this was all just a dream.
Her non-existent eyes widened in disbelief as she saw the voices' owners enter the room, heart coming to an abrupt stop at the sight of one member of the pair.
"I don't see what you expect me to do," he tossed over his shoulder before heading toward a particularly lush-looking armchair, located next to the fireplace. He draped himself over the cushion with such practiced ease, as if looking elegantly bored were as easy as breathing, she mentally rolled her eyes while regarding him enviously. Showoff.
His companion took a seat across from him, leaning back into the contours of the chair as well, but there was a certain tension in his shoulders that belied his true state. Wavy brown hair crowned his head, in a mussed up look that suggested he had just climbed out of a shower - or a swim - and not bothered to comb it after it had dried. Tall, she'd noted from the seconds before he'd taken his seat, about as tall as him; broad shoulders and an athlete's build, not thick, but not too slender. She would have called him young, perhaps in his twenties, but something in those rolling blue eyes spoke of years much greater than she could imagine.
Despite that, he looked fairly normal - not like his highness over there - his clothes simple, though neither cheap nor tattered. But casual, like one who didn't give much time or energy to such trivial details, a sharp contrast to the rich maroon frock coat, matching pants and gleaming black boots of his companion. Someone she could easily imagine running into on the streets of her own city. And a real hottie, she thought with a slight grin; he'd really fit right in. Normally, she might have taken more time to appreciate the view, but right now her concentration was broken by his distracting presence.
After four years, she hadn't expected to ever see him again - and certainly not in her dreams. And what a dream! Two guys having a conversation about what, she had no idea.
"I expect you to take this as seriously as the rest of us," his cute friend returned, and though his voice was low and even, she could sense the impatience in him.
"I am taking this seriously," came the reply, complete with narrowed eyes and a slight downturn of his mouth. "And I am doing everything within my power to combat this."
"No, not everything," hottie countered, leaning forward in his seat. She could sense something big coming, but not something unexpected, not for the pair in question, at least. There was a certain feeling of anticipation in the air, with an "I know what you're going to say, and I don't want to hear it, but I think you're going to say it anyway, so now I'm waiting for it" feel about it. Well, okay, maybe that was a little too specific, but something along those lines, certainly. "Jareth" - she curled her lip in disdain at the sound of that name - "you have to bring her here."
Anger flashed in those eyes - the cool, disturbingly undisturbed gaze she suddenly remembered all too well. "No, absolutely not," he returned, shaking his platinum head, the fire throwing in strange orange highlights. "After she left, I decided she would never step a foot back into the Underground again."
Uh-oh, Sarah suddenly had a sneaking suspicion she knew just who they were talking about. And she was not liking this conversation...
"You hardly have a choice in the matter," the other man insisted. "You need her - we need her."
No, she was not liking it at all...
"No one needs her, least of all me!" The abrupt response, the anger in the tone, was enough to silence his companion at least momentarily.
Then, finally, in a quieter voice, "Don't you care about what's happening? Would you risk everything for your pride?" He shook his head, cinnamon-colored hair falling over his forehead. "Would you risk your Labyrinth?"
Jareth's jaw tightened at the last question, but he kept quiet. His friend patiently awaited his reply. It seemed he was actually pleased by the response he was receiving; Sarah shuddered to think what would have been the reaction if this had gone over badly. "Even if I agreed to do it... I highly doubt she would consent to helping us. And as long as she doesn't want to help us, it doesn't make a difference. We need her cooperation."
A smile appeared on the other man's face, and it looked more natural than the stern, serious expression he had worn earlier. A victory, albeit small, it seemed was at hand. "I'll take care of that," he answered self-assuredly. "You just get her here."
The Goblin King raised one eyebrow, a faint hint of amusement adorning his features. "Though I admire your confidence, my friend, I'm afraid it's not quite as easy as that. You haven't met her. When you do, you'll see what I mean."
The wave of a hand was his response and Sarah wrinkled her nose in distaste. If they were indeed talking about her, mystery man's attitude was not winning him any points. She was not that easily persuaded. It looked like she would have to teach him a little lesson in the unpredictability of the female gender - if this dream did indeed last long enough for her to get to that point. Because, she was absolutely, one-hundred-percent sure that was all it was: a dream. A crazy, whacked-out dream of a person she had no wish to remember, and another person she had never met. It didn't have to make sense; it just had to be a reasonably sane explanation. Her life was strange enough as it was, without adding in this little complication.
Abruptly, Jareth lifted himself from his seat and headed toward the door. "I don't know about you, but I've had enough of this topic for tonight. How about a little distraction?"
His friend followed suit, a slow grin appearing on his face as blue eyes sparked with interest. "I don't know about that. Your 'distractions' never end well for me."
Hmm, how quickly the mood had shifted. Bolder now with their impending exit, Sarah moved out from the shadows, gliding forth, nearer to the center of the room.
A smirk was his response, along with the words, "Well, perhaps if you learned to run a little faster, things would turn out better."
Rich laughter rang through the room, the tension lifted in a matter of moments since the decision had been made. Sarah watched the duo leave the room, Jareth first. Suddenly, the second man paused, turning in place as he faced the room. Those strange, shifting eyes swung and landed right on the place to which she'd moved. Her breath caught in her throat and she froze.
She wasn't physical, she wasn't really there, he couldn't see her - right?
Apparently, he didn't agree, judging from the slight downward twitch of his mouth as he studied the spot intently. Abruptly, the expression shifted, and a smile, slow but wide, replaced the frown.
But it didn't make her breathe any easier.
"Are you coming, or did you get lost?" a sarcastic voice drawled out.
Not breaking his gaze, his friend returned, "Miss me already? Don't worry, I'm coming." He remained a moment longer, staring directly at her, then, without warning, turned on his heel and left.
She let out a breath of air she wasn't even sure she'd held.
When Sarah woke up the next morning to the sound of her alarm clock blaring some hideous, yet disturbingly popular, tune, the "dream" was all but forgotten.
Well, whaddya all think? I hope it wasn't confusing... it all works in my head---I just have to make sure I do the same on the paper. Please, tell me what you think!