Part One: A Tight Spot
Sarah Williams was walking home to her apartment, dark hair pulled back in simple ponytail, hands shoved into her jacket pockets, head lowered to avoid the huge drops splashing down on her uncovered head. She'd meant to wear her raincoat when she left for work today, but had been in a hurry and grabbed her regular jacket instead. The one without a hood.
The one that allowed the rain to pour down on her unobstructed and drench her neck. The stupid jacket that wasn't what she'd meant to wear today and totally didn't go with her purse…
In the middle of her mental rant she drew herself up short and gave herself the same lecture she always did when she started feeling sorry for herself: Sarah Williams, what's a little rain to someone who successfully ran the Labyrinth as a teenager? To someone who beat the Goblin King at his own game? To someone who saw and interacted with actual magic?
Scowling, she gave herself the same answer she always did: And what was the point of getting a taste of real magic only to turn down the chance to keep it in my life forever?
To which her next response was always: To save your brother you sacrificed that possibility. Dumbass. Quit bitching.
And so it went, with her actually ending up chuckling at herself for repeating the same damn loop over and over, yet always managing to end up where she wanted to be: in a better mood.
Truth be told, her mundane existence wasn't all that bad, even if it hadn't turned into the wonderful life she'd envisioned for herself as a teenager. She ticked off the pertinent facts in her mind, if only to keep herself from noticing how freaking wet she was getting. She was twenty-two, attractive, in great health and physical condition, well liked by friends and the occasional boyfriend (which she was currently between at the moment), had her own place, a great little brother, and a nice, safe career.
Trouble was, it wasn't the career she'd hoped for. Not even close. Not even remotely close.
How in the hell had she ended up majoring in biology? And why was she working in a nice, secure, guaranteed-pension-when-she-retired, boring state job? Analyzing dead bats and rats and whatevers for rabies?
She shook her head sadly, then scowled as that helpful motion allowed even more rain to pour down her neck and back and soak itself onto her blouse. It always seemed to be raining in Seattle, why hadn't anyone warned her about that little climatological fact before she decided to move here? Still, here she was and here she would no doubt remain unless something better came along.
She just wished the "something better" involved a return to the Underground and even, maybe, another meeting with a certain sexy Goblin King.
Ooh, time to squelch that line of thought. That way led only to trouble, and dreams that left her feeling extremely frustrated in the morning. She hadn't seen the Goblin King since she was fifteen and way too young to appreciate what her mother would call his "animal magnetism," but thinking about him now…woof. She could certainly picture a couple of ways she'd love to unleash the beast…
Hey, you're supposed to be getting off that train of thought, she chided herself as she stopped obediently to wait for the light to change before crossing the street. Thinking about Jareth is verboten, remember? You bested him, he hates you, end of story. He even stopped your friends from visiting you after a couple of weeks.
She was scowling again just thinking about it. She knew Ludo and Hoggle and Sir Didymus wouldn't have just stopped visiting her on their own, with no warning, so it had to be the Goblin King who'd shut down the mirror portal between the Underground and here. Probably to punish her even more after she'd rescued Toby. He hated her, she hated him right back…didn't she?
"Grrr," she said aloud as the light finally changed, startling the man standing next to her. She offered a weak smile in apology and mumbled something about the rain, but he wasn't waiting around to hear what the crazy growling lady had to say, just strode off the curb, smugly dry under his black umbrella and across the street before she'd even stepped onto the street.
When she did so, still lost in her tangled thoughts, it was at least a minute before she realized it was no longer raining.
And the street had turned to cobblestone beneath her feet.
What really caught her attention, however, was the huge stone wall that suddenly appeared in front of her.
A good two hours passed before Sarah finally gave up on trying to wish her way back home again, or find a way out of the box she found herself trapped in. Because of course once she was pulled up short by the wall in front of her, she'd spun around to find a wall behind her as well. And one on either side, leaving her about forty feet of pacing room in any direction and walls that just kept stretching taller and taller if she tried to jump or climb them, taunting her with a glimpse of cloudless blue sky above that was forever out of her reach.
She'd removed her jacket and was mostly dry again, as much from the relentless heat as from the sudden cessation of rain. She'd tried calling out, but no one answered. She'd tried pressing the various stones to see if any of them might be loose enough for her to push or pull them out, again with zero results.
Right now she was sitting on her jacket, glaring at the wall in front of her and muttering to herself: "It's him, he did this to me, but why? Why wait all this time to bring me back here?"
"Here," of course, had to be the Underground, most likely the Labyrinth, and "him" was the Goblin King. But why? Revenge? If he'd wanted revenge, wouldn't he have come after her sooner? Or maybe her friends were trying to help her and had botched things, trapping her in this stupid stone box instead? "It's a good thing I'm not claustrophobic!" she shouted as her frustration grew to the point where she absolutely had to express it verbally or her head would explode.
Nothing changed; the unseen sun still shone, the blue sky still taunted her, and the stone walls and cobblestones beneath her feet still were still all stony and hard and unmovable.
And her feet were still soaking wet, the one part of her that hadn't dried off in the sun. She kicked off each sneaker and pulled off each black sock, laying them out so the heat could get to work on that part of her wardrobe the way it had already dried out her navy skirt and navy-and-white striped blouse. Work clothes. Of all things to be stuck wearing while trapped in the Labyrinth, she was in work clothes. At least she'd changed into sneakers for the walk to her apartment; she shuddered to think how awful it would be to be stuck in a pair of navy pumps on the uneven footing provided by the cobbles.
Said pumps were resting in her shoulder bag, along with her purse and various other sundries. She'd already tried her pager—no luck there—and even flashing mirror signals with her compact, but that hadn't done any good, either.
So what was she supposed to do now?
Chillingly, she wondered if Jareth had brought her here to die, to roast to death or die of thirst in this giant stone prison. Her chin rose and she glared as if he were staring down at her. Well, if that was the case, he wasn't going to catch her begging for mercy. Besides, she had a water bottle in her bag that was still half-full, so immediate death-by-thirst wasn't upon her.
Of course, just thinking about it made her aware of how dry her throat felt, how the sweat was trickling down her neck and between her breasts and across her forehead. "Roasting" wouldn't be an exaggeration of the temperature. "At least it's a dry heat," she muttered to herself. Humor had always buoyed her once fantasy had shown its grimmer side and any hope of a theatrical career was crushed by her inability to remember her lines from one scene to the next in a school play.
Another hour passed, at least according to her watch. Which, amazingly enough, was still ticking cheerfully away on her wrist and apparently keeping time in spite of them being in a dimension where time ran differently than it did Aboveground.
It was time to give in and finally take a drink from her water bottle. The water was warm, of course, but felt cool on her parched throat. She sucked down almost half of it before remembering that this might be the last water she would ever drink. She hastily set it down and closed it up, then stared in astonishment as it magically refilled itself to the exact level it had been at before she took a drink.
It took Sarah a long minute before she dared reach out and pick the bottle up again. It felt the same, it looked the same, but it definitely had never refilled itself before. She risked taking a small sip and found that the water was now icy cold and delicious, the best water she'd ever tasted. She took a longer sip, then another, until every drop was gone. Then she placed the bottle carefully back on the cobbles and watched.
Sure enough, it refilled itself to the half-way point. Well, good. That meant she wasn't destined to die of thirst. But it still didn't explain why exactly she was here, or if anyone was ever going to come and get her out.
She glared at the walls again, then jumped to her feet, hands on hips. "Well?" she shouted as she looked skyward. "What the hell am I doing here? Jareth, you bastard! Answer me!"
There was a sound like a small explosion, then suddenly she was no longer alone.
The Goblin King himself was standing in front of her.
Timeline note: "Labyrinth" came out in 1986. This is set seven years later in 1993, so not a lot of cell phones in common use but still lots of pagers, which is why Sarah has one of those.
A/N: Here is the first of my two long-promised Labyrinth fics. This one is rated M for the final chapter. I've actually already got the bulk of this thing written, believe it or not, since it plot-bunnied its way into my mind and WON'T LEAVE ME ALONE! (Deep calming breath) There will be only four or at most five chapters, of which one and two are done and three is mostly done and I know EXACTLY how it will end. If you enjoy and review, I will even give out a preview of the other story when I'm finished! That one is much darker than any of the others I've written and Jareth is much more of a villain-in-desperate-need-of-reforming than he is even my story "A Mirror Darkly." But since I am a huge fan of happily-ever-after endings, even that one will work out for our star-crossed lovers. Stay tuned!