A.N. - This chapter took a long time for me to get down! This is, regrettably, the last chapter of this story. I thought that it would be longer, but my characters are telling me that it ain't gonna happen, so please don't flame me! By the way, thank you so much to all of my faithful reviewers and silent readers! I love you all!
Chapter 6 - The Weight is Lifted
Sarah looked at herself in the mirror and sighed as she placed her brush on the vanity.
It had been eight years already, and she was twenty-three. She still stayed in separate rooms from Jareth, but at least they talked. The past eight years had been interesting ones to say the least. Through the first three, she had felt so guilty that she'd been unable to be in the same room as him, but he'd never said a word.
She glance at herself in the mirror, not at all displeased with what she saw. Her hair had lengthened, and had developed some loose curls and she'd grown several inches. In fact, she was practically Jareth's height, something that she had noticed several times whenever they walked through the gardens and talked. She glanced down and blushed. She'd also developed rather well in, uhm, other areas, and filled out the dresses that had changed throughout the years.
She'd read through most of the books in her small library and had only recently, within the past year or so, started in on the main library that Jareth frequented.
However, the language that some of the books were written in still escaped her. She had attempted to mention it to Jareth once, but he had avoided answering.
Thinking of it, however, had her mind wondering and she slowly stood up and pulled on a gray silk dressing gown that was long enough that it caressed the floor with every step that she took. It was her favorite one, and she had worn it on countless occasions over the past several years.
She slipped from her room and walked silently down the hall, barefoot once more. She suddenly remembered eight years earlier, the first time that she'd ever walked those particular halls. She hadn't had shoes then…and since that first time she had quickly discovered that she preferred to go without shoes.
It was a small comfort, but a comfort nonetheless. She slipped through the doorway and reverently picked up the book from the table that she'd left there from the night before.
It was a fascinating read, and she had been captured by the title. On the Gates of Heaven.
She carefully flipped the pages, going back to where she had left off the previous evening. She had been reading about the war in heaven, and was gaining much insight as to what had truly happened to Jareth and his brothers.
Over the years, she had seen Brynnach on occasion, as well as Edryd. Her communication with Jareth was still few and far between. They rarely exchanged words, and even then, for him, it was clipped words and terse syllables. It wasn't all that different from the beginning…except for how she felt towards him.
Only a few things had happened between them, but they were enough. She was finally seeing him for who he was. He was a man that was simply trying to find his place in the realm that he'd been asked to protect and guard. He was beautiful, but broken. She watched him when he wasn't looking, and was amazed by the kindness that she discovered within him. There were apparently palace horses, and from what she had observed, he went out riding almost every day.
He was gentle with the large animals, and he seemed to be truly at ease around them. It was all soft, low, warm whispers and strong hands between him and his horses.
She watched him every morning as he saddled up his favorite, a dusty brown gelding by the name of Bowen.
Every morning he went through the same actions. Blanket, saddle, bridle, and so on. However, this morning had been different. As she'd watched him, he'd forgone everything and merely slid onto Bowen's bare back and taken off past the gardens to the riding paths.
Sarah watched him for as long as she could, following his every movement with quick glances and lingering gazes.
She didn't dare admit it out loud, but he had captured her heart without having to say more than two words to her in a day.
It had been subtle, and she'd barely even noticed it happening. A look here, a touch there, and that was all it was. Simply being around him and learning what kind of man he truly was had made her see him in an entirely different light.
She closed the book in her lap, realizing that she wasn't paying the least bit attention to it, and placed it on the table in front of her. Her thoughts drifted to what they would be doing for their evening meal, a time of day that she both dreaded and looked forward to.
Tonight, she was going to talk to him. She was going to tell him.
She headed back to her room and slid on a silk robe, instead of the gray one that she had been wearing, over her day dress, needing to feel as though she had some sort of armor.
As she walked down the castle halls towards the dining area, her thoughts strayed to him once more.
She wondered how Jareth would take the news. Would he be thrilled to know that she finally returned his feelings? Or, after all these years, had he lost hope and had his feelings for her vanished? Her stomach was turning into knots at all the possibilities of what might happen.
She slipped into the room as silently as she could, making her way to the end of the table where she usually sat.
A boy around the age of seventeen appeared in the corner of the room and she smiled. It was Owen, the servant who she had first met when she'd first arrived so many years ago.
He moved towards her, a soft smile on his face, and she gave him a small nod.
Without pausing, he placed a covered platter in front of her and then quickly moved to the other side of the table, setting up Jareth's food for him. Both she and Owen knew that Jareth rarely arrived on time, and when he did arrive, it was always with an air about him that left them feeling as though he had arrived to his own execution.
Owen left the room, leaving her there alone.
She waited for a few moments, hoping he would show soon. What she was going to say to him was truly turning her insides. He had to know.
He had to understand that things had changed, that her feelings had changed.
The sound of footsteps just outside the door caught her attention, and she stared at the doors, waiting for him to enter. There was a long pause, but the doors finally opened…and in walked Jareth, his eyes never straying from in front of him, acting as though she wasn't even there.
"Evening," was all that she said, but his eyes snapped over to hers for a brief moment before returning to his chair.
He sat down and began to eat, while Sarah simply sat in her chair, wringing her hands, wondering how to bring up the topic.
She couldn't think of a single way.
The two of them never spoke during dinner, and even if they did, how would she have brought up the subject? 'Hi, Jareth, just so you know after eight years of absolute torturous silence and quiet suffering, I think I love you,' would probably not go over well.
She took a deep breath, trying to stabilize herself. And then it came to her.
"How…how was your ride this morning?"
She picked up her knife and fork in an indifferent manner and began to eat, out of the corner of her eye watching his reaction to her question.
Jareth had stopped eating, casting a glance down the long table, as though surprised that she had spoken. He seemed unsure of himself, and she could sense his discomfort even from where she sat, but she waited patiently for his response.
"It was…" He hesitated, and then continued. "It was quite good…thank you for asking."
Inwardly, she let out a sigh of relief. He was willing to speak to her. That was a good sign. She went to take another bite, but suddenly froze as he spoke once more.
"How have you been, Sarah?"
She didn't know what to say. After eight years of silence, of him being seemingly indifferent as to whether or not she was in the castle, let alone as to how she was feeling, she was completely at a loss for words. She stumbled over her words trying to respond.
"I…I've been good. I mean, I mean well. Well, why wouldn't I have been good? I mean well, I mean…" Her voice faded slightly and she felt blood rushing to her face.
She clamped down on her vocal chords, determined to stay silent until she could collect herself.
She chanced a glance down the table and was surprised to see him suppressing a grin. He was laughing at her!
Sarah felt her face flush even hotter and inwardly chastised herself at her reaction. She was a grown woman, for goodness sake! She was no longer the fourteen year-old girl that he'd come across those many years ago…and yet, he was still able to cause her to revert back to feeling as though she were.
Then she heard a low chuckle escape his lips and a sheepish smile appeared on her own.
"I…I have missed this, Sarah."
It was strange to hear her name on his lips after so many years. But this time, it brought another flush to her face, but for an entirely different reason.
She slowly nodded her head, pulling a strand of hair from her face. "I've missed it, too, Jareth."
A smile slowly passed over her lips, and she suddenly felt something. She wasn't sure what it was, but she knew that it was important, of that she was certain. She chanced a look in his direction and was silently thrilled by what she saw in his eyes. Friendship…and something more.
So, he hadn't forgotten her.
It had been so long since they'd interacted, that she wasn't entirely sure how to act around him.
At that moment, she was rather aware of the fact that she was very much an adult, as was he, and that she was…attracted to him. Emotionally, as well as physically.
Suddenly, she realized that she had to tell him. This was the moment that she'd been waiting for; the tension between them was broken, he was somewhat relaxed, and she now knew that his feelings towards her hadn't changed…but possibly might have strengthened even more.
Sarah lowered her eyes back to her plate, and then began to speak.
"Jareth…I've not forgotten the sacrifice you made." She paused to lift her eyes and gauge his reaction as she spoke. "And I have something important to tell you."
At this, his look turned from one of passing interest to focused curiosity.
She bit her lip at what she was about to say, but pressed forward.
"I…I love you. I…I've fallen in love with you. I-I want to be your wife as well as your queen."
His eyes widened slightly, but he said nothing at her bold admission. But then she saw that his hands were gripping the edge of his chair in a death grip so tight that his knuckles were turning white. She swallowed nervously, wondering what he would say.
She watched as he slowly rose from his chair, walking down to where she sat.
She moved to stand, but he placed a hand on her shoulder, keeping her in her chair.
He slowly knelt on one knee to the floor, moving his hand from her shoulder to cover her own hand, where it lay on the arm of the chair.
Jareth's touch was light, but firm. She stared at where their hands touched, suddenly fascinated by the way his hands were shaped. They looked as though they belonged on the keys of a grand piano, creating beautiful, haunting melodies.
His voice was low as he spoke, and unassuming. She found herself drawn in by his soothing tone.
"Sarah…I could want nothing more." He lifted his free hand to her face, drawing her eyes back up to his own. "I have loved you, and waited for you, for such a long time."
He traced his thumb along the curve of her jaw, and she shivered at the sensation.
She was finding it hard to breathe, and she knew exactly the reason why. He was staring at her with those eyes, causing her to fall into them…to drown in them. The emotion in his eyes was so thick that it felt as though she could slip beneath them and find herself in another world.
He started to lean forward, but then pulled back, drawing back his hand as well.
"I'm sorry…I wouldn't dare to presume…"
Suddenly, she realized what he'd been about to do and quickly grabbed his hand, keeping him at her side.
Without even thinking, she spoke on instinct.
She held his gaze, and the world slowly slid out of focus as he moved closer and his lips finally found place against her own. He was warm and soft, everything she'd ever hoped for in a kiss. He continued to brush his lips against her own, and she felt herself succumbing to the pure sensation of it.
Sarah parted her lips slightly, and he responded wholeheartedly, his tongue sliding across her lips and slowly dipping between them to explore.
She heard herself groan and she welcomed the intrusion.
He tasted amazing, and she never wanted to leave that moment. That moment where he was kissing her, and she was kissing him, and everything was perfect.
After a few long, passion-filled moments, he drew back, ignoring her soft mewl of protest. She sighed as she felt his free hand slide up to caress the side of her face. She leaned into the touch, and held his eyes as he gazed at her.
"Thank you, Sarah…thank you for making it all worth it."
She ducked her head in embarrassment, but he lifted her eyes back to his. They held each other's gaze for a long while, lost in the world that existed solely of the two of them, and Sarah watched as a slow smile stretched across his lips.
"Thank you," he repeated.
She slid her hand up to wrap around the one that still rested along her face. Their fingers entwined and now she was the one to smile.
"No, Jareth…thank you. Thank you for not forcing the issue all these years. You should have hated me by now for making you suffer in silence for so long…but you don't. That is most certainly the mark of a great man."
He said nothing, and simply continued to stare at her.
She leaned in and placed a soft kiss against his lips, taking both of them off guard by her boldness. He leaned into the kiss and then slowly pulled back, resting his forehead against her own, both of their eyes closing at the closeness that they shared. He finally broke the silence.
"Just so you know, Sarah…you were worth it."