"So how have you been Anna?" He set his coffee mug down on the counter and smiled. The porcelain was warm in his hands helping to take the chill from his fingers.
"That's not my name," she whispered, her fist tightening around the tea kettle.
Pete sighed, the smile melting away from his face. "You know what I mean."
Sarah pursed her lips, her back still to him. "Yeah, whatever."
"So?" he asked, trying to break the awkward silence.
"So what?" She turned and poured the hot water into her own cup, letting the tea bag seep as she sat down across from him.
"So how have you been?" he asked. "Make any friends in town?" His temper was beginning to heat, but he'd learned to be patient with Sarah over the years they'd known each other.
"What's the point?" she asked. Pete opened his mouth but Sarah lifted a hand to cut him off. She was too tired to argue. "Things are the same as always Pete," she sighed, running a hand over her tired eyes. She was so tired, so tired of running, of living, of playing the game. Why couldn't it just be over?
"I'm sick of this," she snapped. "I want my life back."
"That's not my name!" She slammed her cup down on the counter splashing how water over her hands. Sarah clenched her teeth and moved back to the sink to grab a towel.
Pete watched her carefully. "I'm sorry."
Tears unexpectedly pricked at her eyes and her shoulders sagged. "I just want to go home." She turned and looked at Pete and he saw the raw edge of pain in her eyes that she'd hidden so well at first. It seemed to be overwhelming her now. Pete knew about the pain, he'd seen hundreds of people with the same feeling in their eyes and hearts, but with Sarah something was different. Looking into her eyes was like watching her soul die and there was nothing he could do to save her.
"I know; I know you do. Just give us a couple more months-"
"A couple more months?" she echoed, anger heating her words and perhaps a touch of desperation. "Oh come on, that's what you said last time and the time before that." She turned around and wrapped her hands around the edge of the sink.
"Until then you'll just have to be Anna Watson-"
"And Mallory Lane and Grace Churchill," she interrupted. "How many more Pete?" Sarah turned on him. "How many more identities will I have to go through until you catch this guy?" This time Pete didn't answer.
"You can't go back Anna."
"Get out," she hissed, her hands tight on the sink. Pete rose from his stool, his hands falling away from his mug.
"Alright. Try to get some sleep. I'll send someone to check up on you again at the end of the week." Sarah didn't turn back around until she heard the front door slam. When it did she slapped her hands against the counter and struck the cupboard beneath it with her boot, trying not to scream. She twisted her hands in the towel and kicked the cupboard again, a scream tearing past her lips along with a strangled sob. The cupboard popped open spilling pots and pans all across the floor and Sarah kicked one across the room before sliding to the floor, putting her head in her hands and crying.
Three years; that's how long she'd been in witness protection and how long since she'd last seen her family. She missed Toby; missed having him in her life. It was like having a taste of what life would have been like had she left him in the Labyrinth all those years ago. It left a bitter taste in her mouth. How could she have ever been so selfish?
She'd had no contact with anyone from her past since entering the program and barely any time to make friends since. Besides, it hurt less if she didn't. No matter what Pete said it would never be over and she could never stop looking over her shoulder, wondering if Nicky found her again. It wouldn't really be over until one of them was dead; she just wished someone would make their mind up and get it over with. She was tired of running.
Every time Nicky found her she'd had to move again. She was stripped of her artificial past, bleached clean of every form of identification until she was left as bare as whale's bones in the sun and given a new life; or at least that's what they called it. To Sarah it was just another prison with a different name. She wasn't allowed to call home or even to have pictures of her parents or her little brother. Sarah Williams didn't exist anymore. She couldn't.
She barely recognized the face in the mirror anymore. They'd cut off all her hair into a short pixie and dyed it red. The color was horrible and made her sunken eyes and cheeks look even more shaded, her skin sickly and washed out. Maybe it wouldn't have been so bad if she'd been able to keep some kind of weight on but she hadn't, not out of necessity, but the stress of jumping at every snapping twig, flinching away from every shadow she passed. It was slowly killing her.
Her one consolation was that this time she didn't have to wear contacts but she didn't recognized the eyes staring back at her even if they were her own. These were so haunting. There was none of the strength that used to be there, none of the bright eyed determination she'd used to have. It had faded a long time ago.
It was like being a ghost. Every part of her life was a lie and she'd been living it for so long she was beginning to lose sight of the truth. Some days she wondered if her parents and her little brother were real or if they were just some crazy fantasy she'd made up. Other days she felt like she was the fantasy; a spirit haunting the world unable to let go. Both notions were horrifying.
"This isn't living," she whispered. It was more like purgatory. Trapped in a life not her own in a body she no longer recognized. Was the Labyrinth even real or had she made all that up too?
Sarah shook her head and wiped at her tears. No, she couldn't think like that. The Labyrinth was the one thing she was still sure of. She couldn't prove its existence, but in her heart she believed it was real; it had to be. If she last the Labyrinth she lost everything. Her world would go spinning out of control and she couldn't let that happen. She had to believe it was real. It was the only thing keeping her alive, keeping her sane.
With a headache throbbing behind her eyes Sarah decided some fresh air would do her some good. She grabbed her coat and wrapped a scarf around her neck, avoiding looking in the mirror as she did so. She pulled a maroon colored hat that clashed horridly with her hair out of her pocket and tugged it on.
She'd contemplated shaving what was left of her hair off but that would only upset Pete. She was trying to be good; especially since the last time Nicky had found her Pete had taken a slug in the arm for her. She still felt guilty about that. Nicky wouldn't have found her if she hadn't tried to call home, but she had and he'd traced the call. He'd found her but she'd managed to escape, she'd managed to live. Death was almost preferable to this, she thought as she slipped outside into the cold night.
The snow crunched underfoot as she closed the cabin door behind her. The snow had drifted up onto the porch in the night and she'd been too depressed to shovel it clear that morning and she wasn't about to bother too now. It would just drift back up again that night.
Sarah trudged down the steps, the snow reaching over the top of her boots to slowly melt against her jeans. Ignoring the cold she made for a gap in the trees ahead of her, knowing the clearing would look like a lake of silver in the moonlight. Sometimes, if she squinted, she could imagine she was living in the middle of a desert made up of white sand and she was a Bedouin princess. The snow drifted like sand dunes when it was deep enough and anything was better than here. But the image rarely lasted and soon the cold loneliness that had become her constant companion over the last few years would crawl back in leaving her feeling hollow and empty, somehow more broken than before.
Sarah laughed, but the sound was bitter and frail. Even now she fancied herself a princess. She thought she'd grown out of such childish imaginings, but it didn't seem so. She hated herself for it. What would he say if he knew?
Shivering, Sarah pushed the thought aside. He would laugh, that cruel smile stretching across his lips and bleeding into his eyes. His beautiful mismatched eyes. Sarah banished the image and burrowed deeper into her jacket.
"Stop it," she scolded herself. "That isn't helping." But now that Jareth had wormed his way into her thoughts he wouldn't leave.
She'd never dared to say his name out loud for fear of summoning him. She didn't know if only calling his name would do such a thing, but she preferred not to take that risk.
Slowing to a stop Sarah wondered if he would recognize her now.
A hand lifted to her hair and bitterness filled her heart. No. Her own family wouldn't even recognize her. The one person who could was the one she didn't want.
She trudged on through the snow, anger building in her heart as her thoughts turned to Pete. How many times had she asked him to call her by her real name when they were alone? It must have been at least a dozen, but he always refused, saying it wasn't safe. You never knew who was listening. Sarah had scoffed. In the mountains? She'd asked. There's no one here for thirty miles in any direction. Who could be listening? But he'd just smiled and ignored her like he always did when he thought she was being difficult. Was it really so much to ask to have someone, anyone, call her by her real name? Sarah pursed her lips. Probably, she finally conceded. No one knew her real name. If they did she would be a target again.
A heavy weight settled about her shoulders and the wind whispering through the trees seemed to mock her, hissing liar into her ears with every step she took until she slowed and finally stopped, sinking to her knees in the snow. She was tired of lying. She missed being real. She missed having friends, having a family, being a part of something. She was tired of being alone.
"Toby," she whispered. He must be nearly a teenager by now. She wondered if he was as tall as her yet and a pang of longing went through her.
"I just want to be called by my real name, is that so much to ask?" she demanded of the moon as she craned her head back, her hands fisting in her pockets. "Really?" she cried. "Damn it, I'd rather be dead!" The wind whipped past her, stinging her cheeks with ice crystals and she ducked behind her shoulder, trembling as the snow melted through her jeans.
There is one, her traitorous mind hissed. One who could call you by your real name. Sarah hoped she wasn't that desperate, knowing in her heart that she was. She squeezed her eyes shut against the longing welling up in her heart. She'd always loved the sound of her name on his lips; the way it rolled off his tongue and how he practically purred every time he said it.
Sarah bit her lip, her hands again balling into fists as she wrapped her arms around her waist. He could do it, he could call her name. No, some part of her warned. It's not worth it.
But it was. She was dying inside and he could save her with just a word if he only would. Who knew a name could hold such power? she thought miserably. He did. She was sure of it.
She formed his name with her lips even as some part of her raged against it. Fear and desperation sent her heart pounding so fast she could feel her body twitch with the force of it. She tried to strangle his name even as it tore from her lips in a pained cry.
She hadn't meant to scream, but she had and the sound resonated off the night around her and echoing in the crisp air. She stared wide eyed at the meadow around her, as frightened as a caged animal, her pulse roaring in her ears, her breath coming in fast gasps. She expected to see some glittering flash, hear the beating of pale wings on the wind, smell the magic in the air and feel it prickle across her skin, but there was nothing, no sign that he was there, lingering in the space between moonbeams or on the edge of a shadow and she sagged in relief, bending forward until her forehead nearly touched the snow.
Her breathing was ragged and the sweat that had broken out across her back cooled and she shivered. Another part of her cried in disappointment that he hadn't appeared. Maybe she really had made it all up. Maybe the labyrinth wasn't real, maybe he wasn't. All at once terror rose up in her throat and she choked on a sob, her whole body shaking with the fear of it.
"Sarah." A whimpering cry came from her throat and she sagged further into the snow with relief at the sound of the voice, anyone's voice, just so long as they said her name.
Tears coursed down her cheeks as her body shook. Her hands were so frozen she couldn't feel them, but she didn't care anymore. He had eased the pain in her heart and nothing could compare with that.
As her hysterics abated she lay in the snow, smiling like an idiot, her shoulders shaking with tears. She couldn't bring herself to look up and see if he was really there. She didn't think she could handle the disappointment if he wasn't.
When she finally started to feel silly kneeling there in the snow she sat up but kept her eyes closed, tilting her face back to the moon and taking slow deep breaths. She steeled her heart and opened her eyes.
He was staring right back at her, a curiously blank expression on his face. Sarah smiled in relief, her head lolling to the side.
"Say it again. Please," she whispered, her eyes sliding half closed. He lifted one twisted eyebrow, that familiar cruel smile curling in one corner of his mouth.
He took a step towards her. "And what will you give me if I do?" he asked.
"Tears of joy." She'd said it without thinking, but it was the truth. She'd been so relieved to hear her name she'd give anything to hear him say it again, oh if he would only say it again.
Something flickered across Jareth's face that Sarah wasn't fast enough to place. Curiosity? Surprise? She couldn't tell, but his eyes were more searching than before and he stepped closer.
"Is that all?" he asked. He seemed distracted though, as if he wasn't really expecting an answer. He was staring at her hat.
Not at her hat Sarah realized after a moment, but at her hair. She flinched back into her coat as he knelt before her, his dark cape swirling like a shadow across the surface of the snow.
She couldn't look at him as his fingers found the edge of her hat and slowly pulled it free. Sarah moved away in shame as the cold air struck the back of her head and she reached for her hat, trying to pull it back over her butchered hair before he could laugh at her, but his hand around her wrist stopped her. She peered cautiously up at him through her bleached bangs. He was looking at her hair with cold calculation as if surveying a difficult problem, but Sarah didn't know why.
He reached up and captured a lock between his gloved fingers for a moment and then released it.
"What have to you done to your hair?" he asked. The tone was slightly mocking but she didn't see any of the same condescension in his eyes, just a mild curiosity and a touch of sadness. Sarah snatched her hat back out of his hand but didn't pull it on, just twisted it nervously between her hands. She shrugged awkwardly and wouldn't look at him.
"It's not like I had any choice in the matter."
"You always have a choice Sarah." She looked up at his tone and felt they weren't talking about her hair anymore. She swallowed thickly, wanting to look away, but unable to.
"I couldn't stay and you know that." Her voice was barely louder than the winter wind but his face hardened, proving that he'd heard her. He stood and moved away, a mask of derision on his face as he paced back and forth.
"Things changed after I left," she said. She didn't know why she was explaining what had happened to him, but she couldn't stop. "At first it was great-" Jareth snorted and Sarah pursed her lips, dragging the hat on over her hair, fury hardening her face into a mask and hiding her pain. "Why am I even telling you this? It's none of your business," she said hotly. She rose to her feet, clutching her coat closer around her. Jareth laughed, but it was mirthless.
"I do not know. You were the one who summoned me here, remember?"
All of her relief and joy melted away, a cloak of anger wrapping about her. "Forget it." She turned to go back into the house, her teeth chattering and her whole body shaking in tremors that doubled her over. She hadn't realized she was so cold and now she was so stiff she could barely move. And then Jareth was there, wrapping her in his cloak from behind and pulling her close, banishing the cold from her body.
"What are you doing?" she asked, hating that her voice shivered and broke. She had to clench her jaw to keep her teeth from chattering and she trembled against him.
"You are cold." She wanted to retort but she couldn't get her mouth to work. She briefly considered letting herself freeze to death. That was one way to end it, but she couldn't do that if he was here.
Jareth turned her around, chaffing at her arms with his hands. He pulled his gloves off and captured one of her hands between his own. Sarah hissed at the heat of his skin against her own. How could he be so warm? He rubbed her hand until feeling began to prickle back into it, blowing on her fingertips to warm them. She flushed, looking away and Jareth smiled, tugging his glove onto her hand. She was ready to protest, but he silenced her with a look. She was thankful for the gloves, but it felt strange to be wearing them.
"You were saying?" he prodded gently. Sarah contemplated not answering, but decided against it. He'd brought her relief. If this was all he wanted in return, so be it.
"I saw a man shoot someone and when he started stalking me and made an attempt on my life they put me into witness protection. The guy found me anyway and nearly killed me once; stabbed me in the side." Sarah shifted uncomfortably as Jareth blew on her fingers again. "Each time he found me the government moved me someplace new. New name, new story, new identity…new life. This is just the most recent attempt to make me look unrecognizable." She pointed to her hair. Jareth's eyes flickered up to her hat, following the motion of her finger.
"Yes. It is not at all becoming on you." He tugged the second glove onto her hand as Sarah snorted.
"Gee, thanks." She crossed her arms over her chest and glared out into the trees. After a few minutes passed in silence her anger abated and she relaxed again. "I hate it too." She took a step away from Jareth and threw up her hands, turning her back on him. "I hate all of this," she cried. "I just want my life back." Her voice dropped in pitch to a pained moan. "How did things get so messed up?"
She felt Jareth close behind her and she hugged herself more tightly, tears building in her eyes again. She melted back into his embrace when he wrapped his cloak about her again.
"Would it make you happy to have your hair back?" he asked, his breath hot against her ear as he pulled her closer, his hands clasped loosely about her waist.
"Yes," she said sadly. "But it's not-" She stopped short as Jareth reached up to tug her hat free, letting it slip to the ground as he ran his fingers through her hair. She went rigid in his grasp and she could feel a low chuckle rumble through his chest.
"I'm not going to hurt you." She could hear the smile in his voice and aside from a slight prickling sensation along her scalp she didn't see anything wrong with his actions, so she let him stroke her hair. In a few minutes she'd relaxed back against him, her head lolling against his shoulder.
Jareth twirled his finger around a lock of dark hair, watching it curl and catch in the wind. He was pleased with his work. Sarah's eyes had slipped closed and she made little purring sounds of contentment as he continued to run his fingers through her hair, no longer feeding it the necessary magic to return it to its natural state.
He leaned down to whisper in her ear. "I have a favor to ask." Sarah instantly tensed and jerked out of his grasp. She shivered in the cold air and hugged herself.
"I knew there was going to be a catch, I knew it." She mentally scolded herself for her stupidity, anger heating her words, but Jareth only smiled, captivated by the sight of her dark hair twisting wildly about her in the wind.
"I would like to see the scar."
Sarah stopped short, her mouth open in surprise. That hadn't been when she was expecting. Not that she knew what she'd been expecting but it certainly wasn't that.
"I-" She worked her mouth, trying to decide what to say and cast a look about the meadow, searching for answers but finding none. Her eyes finally found Jareth's again.
"Why?" she demanded, her eyes guarded.
"Jareth shrugged easily and clasped his hands behind his back. "Call it a morbid curiosity."
"Sicko," she said. He smiled. Sarah seemed to think it over, catching a stray lock of hair stretched across her mouth and pulling it away. She looked down, running her fingers over the length. She was glad to have her hair back even if she didn't know how she was going to explain it to Pete. Maybe she could say it was a wig. If this was all Jareth wanted in return, fine. He could have asked for more.
"Fine. But make it fast. I'm freezing out here." She pulled an arm out of her coat before she could back out and quickly lifted the hem of her shirt, offering him a brief flash of the scar on her ribs.
"There, you've seen it." She tried to tug the shirt back down into place but Jareth caught her arm, lifting the shirt back up. Goose bumps rippled across her torso in the cold and her teeth chattered, but she let him examine the wound. He turned her gently, exposing her side to the moonlight. He traced the scar with a finger and Sarah hissed. His touch burned and for a moment the scar throbbed, a stitch of pain catching her breath and then it was gone.
Jareth released her shirt, tugging it back into place. The wound was old, but the memories attached to it were strong. He could still feel Sarah's fear high in the back of his throat, bitter and hot. Beneath that fear lingered a desire for death as well, a desire for it all to be over.
Some part of her was so tired of running that she was tired of living. The thought frightened him.
He could still feel the pain of the wound throbbing in his side, but he had what he wanted. He now knew who it was that hunted Sarah and he would put a stop to it.
Sarah watched him, watched the little gears and cogs in his head turning as he set something into place, a smile of triumph finally alighting briefly on his lips.
"Why don't you go inside? You look half frozen."
Sarah barely heard him. "What did you do?"
"Me? Nothing. Why do you ask?" Sarah frowned. He had done something when he touched her side, but she didn't know what. She didn't feel any different, but she knew he was lying.
Seeing as how she couldn't prove it though she let it go, snuggling deeper into her coat. He was right, she was cold and more than ready to go back inside, but the thought of returning to the empty house made her stomach twist in knots. She opened her mouth but then looked away in embarrassment.
"Will you come back?" she forced out, wincing at the words. When he spoke she could hear the smile in his voice.
"Whenever you have need of me." Despite her embarrassment a weight in her heart lifted. Jareth was a part of her life Nicky could never take away and something the program would never strip of her. He was all she had left of home and she would die before relinquishing that.
She nodded, swallowing tightly. "Thank you," she mumbled, kicking at the snow with the toe of her boot. "For everything." The corner of his mouth curled up in a little smile.
"Goodnight Sarah." She nodded again and trudged back through the snow to the edge of the clearing, the cold air biting viciously at her nose and cheeks. She turned back as she reached the trees, but he was gone.
Three days later Pete showed up at her cabin saying Nicky had been found dead in an alley, a look of utter terror on his face. No one had seen or heard anything and the police had nothing to go on. How he had died was a mystery to everyone but Sarah. She knew it was Jareth's doing. She didn't know how, but she knew. He had done it for her.
Notes- Jareth doesn't heal/remove the scar on Sarah's side. I know that's not very clear, but logic in my head dictates that removing a scar isn't possible. By touching the scar he retrieves her memories attached to the incident. He's collecting information on Nicky basically without her knowing.
As to Pete's reaction to her hair Sarah lied or just didn't answer him and now that Nicky's dead it doesn't really matter. She can do whatever she wants.
If you'd like the story to continue (it won't) how about YOU tell ME how you think it goes on? Because I really have no idea, but I'd love to hear your thoughts about it.
Thanks for reading!