Chapter 14, A Curious State
The sun was out. Its rays were thin but bright, and cut through the mist of clouds which brushed the pale blue sky. Its quiet intensity hummed through the air, but was betrayed by the cool breeze which sang overhead. The wind whistled, lost in hushed echo of some troubled howl off in the distance. It danced and kissed and swelled.
The land was vivid, each pebble, each blade of grass adrift in an animated sea of life; even the coarse and brittleness of weathered stone and fleeting desert basked and glowed in the sunlight. All these traits painted a picture of fascination and serenity, once trapped within the frame of a window; but it was a facade cast too flippantly, for no amount of aesthetic could mask the fickleness of such atmosphere. It was a dimension that, no matter how far one strove, could never be breached. It was a sweetness turned bitter, and longed for all the more for its somberness, for its recognition, for the true sadness which composed such marvelous and unattainable beauty.
These, and countless other forlorn thoughts whirled with the wind as Sarah gazed far outside her bedroom window. It was she who was trapped in a box, and yet this simple curve of stone had made it seem like it was everything else which was kept firmly contained. Her eyes wandered in reprise, though what they saw was always new. The environment was so quiet, and yet it spoke volumes to her.
A breeze had found its way to the window and brushed her arm, the bare skin trembling in its wake. She rose a hand to sooth the spot and shifted away. It was no less than 65 degrees out today, but that had still made it the coldest day since she'd arrived. She was starting to get used to the torrid climate, today was out of place. For a moment, she regretted her short sleeves.
She heard Mariella close the door from across the room, a motion which sent another draft, ruffling the skirt around her ankles this time. She began to fidget again, then sighed and leaned a hip against the wall, resigning to deal with the cold.
"Is there anything in particular you would like to do today, Sarah?"
The sound of Mariella's voice was received like an intrusion disrupting the distilled air, and even she recoiled at the reverberation of it. It was amazing how much louder even the most minuscule noises became when surrounded by dead silence. Sarah folded her arms over her chest.
Mariella looked towards her and frowned, and then began to move cautiously about the room. Sarah's back was to her, as it had been too frequently over the past couple of days. She'd seemed rather distrait recently, remote even. She was alive and active, yet she breezed through each day like a ghost. Her constant state of vapidity was worrying; and even though she didn't know her well enough to judge whether this was abnormal behavior, Mariella had never seen the girl so lifeless. Her eyes were always cast downward, her lips always in a pout. She looked pensive, but even that was a hard expression to label. At first, Mariella had thought that maybe she and His Majesty had been in another argument; but as one day turned to two, and then three, and still Sarah hadn't said a single word unless she was directly spoken to, she began to realize something more serious must have happened. Normally, Sarah would respond to quarrels with fierce retaliation, she couldn't imagine what would leave her so absentminded. Though it wasn't just Sarah's behavior which was getting to her; the more she thought back, she realized she hadn't seen His Majesty all week either. His absence was certainly casting a poignant shadow over the castle, and thus became a grave point for concern.
Mariella had tried, numerous times, to talk to her, but whatever it was Sarah was bottling up, she'd been doing a good job of it. Regardless of whatever amount of integrity Mariella may or may not have had, she felt genuine sympathy towards her. She wanted to help; but this isolation was incredibly disheartening. It wasn't her place to pry, and so after only one or two questions, there was really nothing more she could do. Instead, she'd tried perking her up, distracting her from whatever was distracting her and making it her ambition to get at least one real smile out of her before the week was up; who knew, maybe Sarah would open up and talk to her all on her own? She wasn't off to a very good start. Maybe it would be better to overstep...
She moved to sit on the edge of the couch, and continued to gaze up at her with a practiced smile.
"Are you sure? We could go explore some of the game rooms? Or maybe dig through the library? I've been told of some wonderful literature from your world. How about a snack, are you hungry?" Although Mariella was genuine, even she was able to register how forceful that sounded. Sarah was a brick wall, one that didn't seem to be budging anytime soon. She spied Sarah nibbling on her lower lip as she gazed out the window. Hm, at least something was having an affect on her. What was she thinking about? Gods, all this fettering was just plain depressing...
"No, thank you. I'm not hungry." Sarah's monotone came as no surprise, one that presented another issue for concern. She'd noticed Sarah's appetite had been near nonexistent lately. With the way that girl ate, she knew something severe must have happened. She nibbled her own lip as she struggled with the urge to jump out at her, and was thus surprised when Sarah turned around to face her all on her own. She unfolded her arms and placed her hands back against the windowsill.
"Hey. I know I've been a bit dull lately. I'm sure you must be bored out of your mind. I think I'm just going to hang out here for the rest of the day. You're free to leave and go do whatever, if you want."
Mariella might have found this suggestion surprising, if it weren't along the same lines as her dismissal from every day that week. Every day Sarah had insisted on being left alone, regardless of pretext, the underlying plea was always the same. Mariella understood that she might want and need time to be alone, maybe she even expected His Majesty to drop by; but her speculations were never answered, and only made Sarah's strange funk even more mysterious. She tried to be cheery for her sake.
"That's alright, I don't mind lounging. It's better to do nothing with someone than to do something alone, in my opinion." Sarah's eyes flickered to the floor then, but Mariella wasn't sure why. Had something about her sentence made her uncomfortable?
"Yea...I guess you're right," Sarah said, and turned back to face out the window. It was quiet after that, but the mood was screaming with tension. She could practically feel Mariella's squirming, and sensed the question well before it burst out of her.
"I...forgive me for overstepping, but when you took me on you asked that I stay as a friend."
"You are my friend, aren't you?" The slight upturn in pitch made Mariella even more fidgety. Sarah cracked a ghostly smile that she couldn't see; even now she was still fun to tease.
"I...yes, I mean- I'm trying. It's just...well, as a servant it would be out of place for me to ask, but as a friend it would be my obligation."
"Has something happened between you and His Majesty? Something you should-I mean, would like to talk about? I know I am but a servant, but if you seek an outlet to confide in, I am always at your disposal." Sarah lowered her head and curled her fingers against the warm stone of the sill, but was still, quite frankly, surprised it had taken Mariella this long to ask. In silence, she'd been telling herself she didn't want to talk about it; maybe what she was really doing was waiting for someone to ask... She suddenly felt very tentative, but the reason for it was less obvious.
For the past several days now, Sarah had found herself living in a void. She wasn't sure which was more numb, she or the world. As the time passed, she thought she was using it to work through her issues, using it to think, to rationalize, to comfort; but she wasn't. She wasn't doing anything at all. She'd finished thinking everything over days ago and she'd rationalized it well before that. She'd stopped feeling guilty. Stopped feeling angry. And yet, something was still missing, obviously the only something with the capacity to fill that void. Was it comfort? Ironically, that was turning out to be the most painful to obtain.
The first day was the easiest. She'd felt somewhat empowered after the way Jareth had left her with his tail between his legs, and was almost ready to deal with a possible round two should he come back. She never thought he would actually listen to her, never thought he would keep his word; but true to it, Jareth hadn't shown up that next morning. And while she should have found this liberating, there was something unpleasant beginning to twinge in the background.
She was alone. She was really alone; and even though that was the one thing she'd asked for, that was the last thing she'd ever wanted. She woke up in bed with a pounding headache and a stuffy nose, but she just didn't care about physical discomfort after what she'd experienced the night before. She'd wandered about, bathing and dressing herself as she waited for Mariella, and the entire room seemed perturbed and unwelcoming to her. When Marie finally arrived, the heady silence had taken what was left of Sarah's voice. She had nothing to say.
She was confused as she walked to Roldan's class, holding a tentative hand over her stomach as if she'd expected some miraculous change to overtake her body now that she was sullied; but there was nothing, she felt exactly the same. After what happened...how could that be? For some reason, she expected the change to be more than physical. Maybe it just hadn't hit her yet.
Her withdrawal was immediately noticeable, but not yet abnormal. Mariella looked worried, but Sarah really didn't care enough to give her any false reassurance. Even Roldan seemed concerned, or put off at the least. He'd kept eyeing her down as if he wanted her to jab at him and was left a little at sea when his comments remained stagnant and undignified, left without response. His attitude soon changed however, as one day turned to the next, until his skepticism became some twisted sort of satisfaction. She would glare at him when he wasn't looking- his expression pure haughtiness. She bet he felt so darn good about himself with the thought that Jareth may have finally tamed the Shrew. Oh, how wrong he was. But again, she just didn't have the energy to care; she was picking her battles, so she let him have his moment; she'd get back at him soon enough.
She'd gone back to her room alone after class, Mariella was still clueless, but regardless she just didn't want to be around anyone. She lied to herself in thinking she wasn't instead waiting for someone. At first, the silence helped. She was so forlorn and lost, shameful of herself yet confused why. Her thoughts were clustered yet distant. She needed the solitude to pull them back and then apart. Still Jareth didn't come.
She slept better the second night; the ease of being liberated from Jareth's omniscient prowl was a soothing, but weak facade. She slept uninhibited, that is she left the crystal on her dresser. She didn't want to see their faces. She didn't want to see anything.
The second morning was the same as the first, and for some reason Sarah found this deeply worrying. It was a far cry to think Jareth would do anything without some self-serving fine print hidden in the margins; yet here she was, another day and not a single sight or word of him. That was when the twinge became a pang. She felt...compromised. Something horrible had happened...was it wrong of her to want to be coddled? Even if it was by the person who had caused it? She tried to shake the urge, the desire to see him. What point would it prove if she sought him out after only two days? She told herself it was just her nature, her instinct to resolve a conflict completely and immediately. The issue had ended, yes, but nothing was resolved. She'd made her point, she'd stewed about it long and hard, and now she wanted to talk, she wanted to quell the anxiety by taking a step forward rather than remaining stagnant...but the only one she had words for, the only one who could pull her forward, was nowhere to be found.
It was about midday when the anxiety really started to hit. For some reason she almost expected him to come see her during lessons. She was fidgety, but kept it well internalized. Roldan seemed to be having a field day with her passive demeanor and was thus well distracted. On the other hand, she had a firm hunch that Mariella was a bit more sincere than that. The way she started eyeing Sarah down told her it wouldn't be long before spotting an intervention. She tried to think of what she would say.
That evening, Mariella had insisted on keeping her company, but she had said she had a bit of a headache and wanted to lay down. Mariella looked genuinely upset at this, but that didn't stop Sarah from turning her back on her. She laid in her bed staring at the ceiling for a long while, determined to conquer this silence before it crushed her. Again, her mind was warring with her heart, telling her she should be feeling one thing when in reality she felt another. Why was that? Who had placed these values and morals upon her which she could never live up to? Was she doing it to herself? Was she disappointing herself on purpose? "You like to play the victim, because it will make hating this place that much easier." Jareth had said that to her once. It was only now that she acknowledged he was right. Constantly letting herself down, victimizing herself, allowing Jareth to victimize her in her own stead? Yes, it was making it easier to reject this new reality. She was tired of being disappointed.
It was in the dead of the night that she realized if she was going to move forward from this, she needed to start owning up to her own faults and stop blaming everything else. She'd been playing Pitiful Patty for so long, she failed to realize she may have been a part of the problem all along. A part of taking back control wasn't just by acting, it was by taking responsibility for both her actions and their consequences. And wasn't that precisely the motivation behind all this anyway? Even if she was hurt, it was her decision to do so. She was in control of herself, of Jareth and the outcome. So how could she blame him for any of it? She couldn't. She didn't. If for principle and nothing else, she just couldn't blame him, because technically he hadn't done anything, it was all her.
Owning up to herself, the good and the bad, that was what having control was. She had done something bad, she had done it on purpose, and it was really as simple as that. If she was going to be upset with anyone, it had to be herself.
That night came with many revelations and many reconciles. In some ways, the third morning was both better and worse than the previous two. Waking up alone was taking its toll in a way she hadn't anticipated. It was like the walls were scorning her, their silent lecturing bearing down on her conscience. She hated it, and actually caught herself wishing Jareth was there to distract her from it. She knew how desperate that made her, but it couldn't be helped. On the up side, she was able to breathe deeply again, and stretch and move like her old self. There was still no Jareth, but she was doing her best to view it as a positive. What once made her so worried, she was now able to perceive. If she was feeling at such a loss after that night, how must he be feeling? How was he dealing with all this? He was the one who'd felt the brunt of it after all. Maybe he needed the time to get his head on straight too? Or maybe he was afraid of facing her because he just didn't know how. She took great satisfaction in that theory, and so chose to view this loneliness as a good and impermanent thing. It was good because Jareth was alone too. It was also good because she knew it wouldn't last. It'd been three days now, they couldn't go on avoiding each other for ever, and she knew from Roldan that their engagement party was only a few days away. Surely he would want to figure this all out before then, right? A nagging voice told her that was just wishful thinking, that when it came to real emotion Jareth became one-dimensional; he was avoiding her simply because she'd told him to, nothing more, and wouldn't see her until she came back to him. Before, she might have thought that to be the case, but not now. She'd made a sacrifice for the chance of opening his eyes, even if it was just a sliver. She hadn't sent him away hoping never to see him again, she sent him away so that he could come back... If he had seen anything, if he had learned anything...
Lessons passed quickly, and the walk back to her room was quiet. Mariella lagged behind, and Sarah figured it was because she was too anxious to be caught in the same light as her. She was starting to feel a little bad for her; though she hadn't cared up to this point, her intention was never to upset Marie. With that said, her company was still no more than superficial, and all that brought her back to the present. Mariella was trying to be something more towards her. She was trying to care, and was doing a very convincing job of it. That was something she had wanted wasn't it? Maybe she should repay her kindness, maybe it was about time she finally spoke up. An outside perspective would be good for her; and besides, this was what she had been waiting for wasn't it? For someone to muster the courage to ask? She fisted her hands and took a deep breath.
"There's really not much left to say. We had a...confrontation," she said. Though her words weren't much, they did a great deal in absolving much of the tension in the room. Mariella worried her brow.
"Would you be willing to tell me about it? He hasn't hurt you, has he?" For a moment, she was skeptical of Mariella's interest, but the plea in her voice seemed true enough. She looked down and smiled at her hands.
"I think hurt is a relative term. We argued. We fought. We hurt each other. The only thing that makes this one different, is that this time there was no winner." She kept her gaze lowered as she spoke. Her voice was so gentle and subdued, and contrasted greatly with Mariella's own worried state. Mariella tried to analyze her words carefully.
"...You've reached an impasse then? Is it serious?" she asked, hoping that was what she had meant. Sarah shrugged.
"I wouldn't call it an all out impasse...more of a failure to resolve. And...yeah, I'd say it's pretty serious." Mariella perked up in her seat.
"Oh Sarah, I'm terribly sorry-"
"Why?" Sarah's interruption had come with a glance, one that left Mariella momentarily dumb. Sarah smiled. Wait, smiled?! "It's a good thing," she continued, and slowly turned back to the window. Mariella gaped a little.
"Why is that a good thing? Look how miserable it's left you! I-I mean-" Mariella staggered as she tried to remain poised. Sarah waited until she was finished.
"I think misery is precisely what makes it so. It's good, because it's about time we started taking each other seriously. If that revelation is a painful one, well isn't that sort of the point?" she asked. Mariella kept quiet, one veil after another slowly lifting from her eyes. In only one simple sentence, her perception had altered greatly. She pondered Sarah's words and expression, saw the haunting smile and complacency that moved about her. This reclusiveness, which she initially interpreted as depression, it now seemed like nothing of the sort. It was melancholy indeed, but it was also tranquil. It was blissful. It was peace. What in the world? She could feel her own verve fading with the enlightenment.
"...I take it he's done something rather atrocious then?" she asked, with a humbled tone, as she tried to shake off her own confusion.
"Yes...what he did was atrocious, because it made me do something even more so." Sarah's words were weighted, so heavily that Mariella didn't need nor want an explanation. She inched forward and reached out tentatively. She wanted to sooth her, but was at a loss with the way Sarah seemed already perfectly at ease with the conversation.
"I see. And...that is the reason then. You're avoiding each other."
"So it seems. To tell you the truth, I never thought he would stay away for so long. I don't know if it's me or my magic Jareth-dar, but something's tingling. I mean, it's been three days now, hasn't it? That's a record for him. I doubt it'll be very much longer. I swear I can feel it in the air. Maybe that's why I'm waiting..." Mariella furrowed her brow at the vernacular, but let it be; she was starting to pick up on all of Sarah's slang.
"...What do you mean, you don't know if it's you?" she asked. Sarah's brow twitched, she hadn't really given thought before saying it.
"I...I mean...well..." she mumbled and began to turn back around, leaving Mariella concerned with the amount of contention put into her scowl. "I'm just feeling very...anxious, I guess. I don't really know what I'm supposed to be doing." She gave a kind of shrug and pursed her lips. Mariella tried to stifle a sigh.
"That makes sense...I doubt he knows what he's supposed to be doing either," she said, though her statement held little impact; if anything, she'd have said Sarah hadn't heard her at all. Her eyes had traveled away and her arms had crossed. She had that worried pensive look again. "Um...Sarah?"
"Hm?" Sarah peered up as if they hadn't just been in the middle of a conversation and widened her eyes. She shifted her weight onto the other foot and began tapping her fingers against her biceps. And now she was anxious again? She caught the look in Mariella's eye and stopped her fidgeting. "Sorry, it's just..." and she let out another harsh sigh, "Would you call me crazy if I said I missed him?" Her brow was thoroughly worried, but her lips couldn't help but twist into an exasperated smile. She stared at her for a moment, but after catching the echo of her question, quickly started shaking her head in disbelief. Sarah's eyes soon met Mariella's again, and were obviously pleading for a specific answer, but Mariella wasn't sure what it was. Their gazes were quickly torn again however, as Sarah turned her head away one final time. "I mean, it's absurd, I know. After what happened...I just...but I...Ugh, I don't even know. I should be upset, shouldn't I? I should be spiteful at least. But I...I want to see him. Is that weird? Is that wrong of me?"
For the first time in three days, Mariella had caught a glimpse of the real Sarah again. Just expressing a single thought regarding Jareth had opened her up. It was astounding. All of Mariella's confusion, past and present, was starting to take shape. She didn't know what had happened, but she knew well enough what was going on. She eased back in her seat, and donned a look of tenderness.
"No, Sarah. That's isn't weird. It's only natural for you to long for him, regardless of what turmoils you've gone through. It means you care. You wish to make things better. It means you want to pick up the pieces rather than leave them scattered and broken. That's what you do in a relationship. Is that wrong?" Sarah glared away harder, clearly annoyed with her response, but this reaction didn't bother Mariella; if anything, it made her even more joyful because it affirmed that what she once thought was a hollow shell, was merely stifled embers. It was good to see some of her fire coming back, in whatever amount.
"Miss him. I said I miss him. I don't long for him. Those are two totally different connotations."
"Whatever you say, Your Grace."
"And I mean, when I say I miss him, I don't really mean miss him. Like you said, I want to get over this argument. I don't like feeling caught in the tide like this. So, if wanting him here to talk and get rid of this anxiety means missing him, then yea, sure, fine, I miss him. But I don't- I don't- Ughhhh this is stupid."
Mariella had to purse her lips as she watched Sarah begin arguing with herself. It seemed she had been successful in popping the cork, and it was simply delightful. Sarah wasn't dead inside, she was far from the sort. This moment was invigorating for her; and she hoped, for both their sakes, that Jareth wouldn't ruin the opportunity. Oh, how exciting this week was turning out to be after all.
"Let's compromise and say you're just going stir crazy," Mariella suggested, choosing to humor the mood. Sarah paused her venting and huffed.
"Yes, let's call it that," She wove an exasperated hand through the air then and turned back towards the window to pout. Mariella took a deep breath, glad that there was now hope in the world once more.
"Sarah, if this separation vexes you, why not seek him out? Force his headway, you could say," she asked. Sarah snorted.
"Please, that would deride the point. And besides, I already did that. No, he can come to face me when he's good and ready. I did my part."
"And what if he doesn't?"
"Then I guess he can kiss this whole marriage thing goodbye, because I assume we both need to be together at the altar to do it."
"Alright...and what if he does then? Are you prepared to reconcile?" Sarah turned slightly then, curious of Mariella's tone.
"...Why do you say it like that?" she asked. Mariella refolded her hands over her lap.
"It's just...well, come now Sarah. You say you wish to move beyond this, but are you prepared to make those concessions? Are you willing to forgive him?" she asked, frowning at the way Sarah scowled and straightened her back.
"Forgive him? No. I will never forgive him," she said, with quick conviction, "But reconcile this particular issue? Yes, I may be willing to do that." She unfolded her arms and placed her hands against the windowsill. "The point of this argument, Marie, is that whatever happens next is entirely up to him. The ball's in his court, and I'll do nothing to sway it." She cut the air with one of her hands as if she were lecturing a bird passing by and not the concerned woman sitting behind her. The air around her held a hint of vehemency and weighed her words, leaving a momentary silence that was a clear indicator to both that the conversation had reached its natural end. Though she still had much more probing to do, Mariella didn't mind, she'd still gotten quite a bit out of her after such a long silence. It was probably best to leave things as they were lest Sarah work herself up. But this was good; it seemed things weren't as dire as she had thought. It was obvious what Sarah wanted, the only thing that mattered now was whether or not His Majesty would catch on. She surely hoped so.
After a moment, she brought her attention back to Sarah, still brooding viciously out the window, and smiled. This behavior was a good sign. Things would be fine. It was then that she remembered Sarah's request, and realized this was her cue to go. She stood and walked over to her, and placed a hand on her shoulder.
"I'm glad to see you grumbling again, Majesty. These halls were starting to get a bit doleful without it."
Sarah let out a huff of laughter, but when she turned to glance back at Marie, she was already on her way to the door. She stared after her, but didn't say anything, smiling instead and then turned back to the window, not quite sure why the breeze felt softer than it had before.
Minutes passed, and the more she thought about it, the more she shook her head. Hm, girl talk with Becky had never been this satisfying. It was nice to feel like she had an honest friend again. She was right, finding her voice had been good for her. As she gazed out the window, her thoughts couldn't help but tangent to her other friends, wherever they may be. On one hand, she felt so betrayed, so hurt to think that everything between them had been a front; but on the other, she could never believe that. She knew they were true in heart, she just hadn't had the time nor the courage to confront them yet. Maybe Jareth would let her see them? If they ever reached a point where they could just talk that is...
Was Marie right? Was she not only willing to get over this, but actually pushing for it? Why was she so biased? Though she had just spoken the contrary, if Sarah didn't know better, she might think she had already forgiven him. But that would be crazy. Wouldn't it? She shook her head again, baffled with how much one could accomplish when left alone with their own thoughts long enough.
She'd made her move, and she'd done it with her head held high. In her mind, it was all on her, it had to be, so how could she forgive him for something she had done? She couldn't, because she didn't have to and she didn't need to. And because she didn't need to, she couldn't find a reason to be angry with him over it. Was she angry? Was she angry at him at all? The answer, surprisingly, was no. She wasn't angry over what happened. She wasn't angry at anything, not anymore. And so, in a way, in spite of herself or even him, maybe she had forgiven him already; and maybe that was okay because, just like it was her decision to tear herself apart, it was her decision to pull herself back together. She no longer cared that to do that she may have to pull him with her.
Things had taken a curious turn in the misty conscience of Sarah Williams, a turn that should have worried her, and in fact might have only a few days ago. But not now; though on the surface things had remained the same, something else had changed, something more than physical, and she couldn't have been more eager for it.
It was almost cliche' to say she felt his presence well before it was there, and even more so to say her intuition was breaching the line of prescience, but it had happened and she was right. She closed her eyes and pretended that the feel of the sun on her face was what put her at ease and not his proximity, as he now stood, staring her down no doubt, opposite her against the frame of the window.
Jareth sat in his chair, brooding as he stared down at his desktop. His posture was so stagnant and listless it was almost foul. His eyes roamed blankly across the trails of woodgrain, but they were leading him nowhere. He continued to slouch deeper and deeper into his seat, sighing heavily with each word Roldan spoke, though he gave no thought to what those words said. The saunter of his eyes ceased when a stack of papers suddenly cut off his path. He sat up a little and took them in hand.
"As you are aware, the lodge has been reopened today to begin preparations. I've sent several workers in early, so refurbishments should be on schedule. Selvdahn -the Couturier you requested- has already done a run-through, and has asked that I facilitate some matters he wishes your consultation on. I have the forms here..." Papers moved, things shuffled. Jareth sighed.
"It's mostly frivolous, things like color pallet and this flower over that; but since it's your wedding I thought it to be best you make the decision. I've already scheduled most everything else: the appropriate winery, performers and popular virtuoso. If I could just get you to sign off on a few things..."
Jareth rose an eyebrow as he signed his name blindly. He honestly had no idea what Roldan was even saying, much less cared for it. He was right, this was frivolous. His eyes were cast half-lidded as his vision went vague against the desk once more. He'd never been so bored, and equally distracted. His attention was caught in a haze, though strangely enough, the only thought that managed to manifest itself was that Roldan seemed to be awfully proactive and dare he say cheery today. That wasn't like him. Not these days anyway. He closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair.
"Is this it then? Or do you have something for me that you can't handle all on your own?"
Roldan drew his brow and was silent for a moment, though it wasn't from his King's irritable tone. In truth, Roldan was just plain surprised Jareth had piped up at all. He'd been so withdrawn these past few days. He held the folder he was about to place before Jareth closer to his chest.
"If you wish, I can see to all matters on your behalf, I merely thought you might want to take hand personally."
Jareth started to snarl then, for a reason apparent to neither of them. He'd been getting rather impatient with all of Roldan's ramblings lately. It seemed he was always asking him to sign this, or read that, to meet with these people and mandate one contract after another. Yes, he knew that things would be getting busy with the planning of the celebration and wedding, and yes, as King this was in its entirety his job, but Jareth's inner petulance couldn't have picked a worse time to curb his disposition. He'd been trying, for days now, to focus on work. Work was simple. Work was easy. Work was tedious and time consuming...but that didn't mean it was distracting, and in truth was having an effect quite the opposite. He registered Roldan's cheeky tone and clawed a hand down his face; something had really put a pip in his step and it was annoying the Hell out of him. His wedding was in two weeks; what he hoped would be the most looked-forward to event in his life was just around the corner, and yet right now it seemed like the most minuscule, irrelevant bother. He took a deep breath as his hand finished raking down his face and leaned back in his chair.
"How are your lessons going?" he asked. Roldan stood, looking to be caught off guard, and cocked his head to the side. Jareth had been so reserved this passed week, he hadn't expected such a direct question so off topic.
"It's...well...it's going rather well actually. We've been moving along at a fine pace," he said. Jareth pinched the bridge of his nose.
"And Sarah? Is she learning?" he asked. Roldan started to draw his brow.
"I'd say so. She's become increasingly focused. I don't think I've heard one complaint or grumble out of her in days." Rolan honed his attentions on Jareth as he spoke, eager to study his reactions. While it was true that Sarah had become dramatically accommodating as of late, and thus had made his life that much easier, it was still curious. But from all the joy he took from that, he suffered equal concern for Jareth and his quiet antagonization. Jareth had hardly spoken a word or looked anyone in the eye for days now, and when he did it was always with harsh volatility. He hadn't worried himself too much over this however, as his work ethic had been higher than it'd been in quite some time. That was a good thing. Come to think of it, both Sarah and Jareth's behavior were equally favorable as they were worrisome, and now that he really thought about it, he hadn't seen the two of them together all week, and he wasn't fool enough to not realize that there was an obvious connection. But it wasn't his place; even it he wanted to intervene, Jareth would never condone it. So he did nothing but answer his questions and file his forms.
"...That's good," Jareth mumbled, his voice distant. Roldan sighed, one mention of Sarah and he was already becoming distracted. What was it about this girl that he found so beguiling? "How has her temperament been otherwise?" he continued. Now that really made Roldan's brow twist. Why would he need to ask him that? Shouldn't he know himself? Then it hit him. Maybe he didn't. Since she'd arrived, Jareth had been trailing after her like a lost little git; if something was keeping them separated it must have been serious. Maybe the connection between their strange moods was something he should be concerning himself with after all.
"Fine," he said, and saw Jareth's brow twitch at such a simple response. He didn't know how to read into that. "She's been quiet, which is surprising; but otherwise I suppose she's just fine. Like I said, she hasn't been as argumentative. I took that as progress...Is there a reason why you're asking me?" The tail end of his question came with the raise of a sassy eyebrow (there was only so much he could keep back), and was proud that was the only bit of petulance which escaped him at the way he was then ignored.
"Hm..." Jareth murmured. And that was all. Roldan's inner sass curbed.
He watched as Jareth slowly stood from his chair and ran a tired hand through his hair. The look in his eyes was a million miles away. Gods, all this drama was really starting to irk him, and he wasn't even a part of it. That stupid woman. All she was doing was muddying everything up. If he could, he would grab Jareth by the collar and shake him back to his senses. But that didn't happen of course. No, instead he just stood there waiting for an order that never came as he watched Jareth walk right past him out of the room.
The hall stretched farther and farther; corners became irrelevant, doorways nonexistent, lonely echoes lulled. There was only the path, leading him to a place he had no intention to go. He took one step after another, his face twisted in a bitter frown that ought to have seared the floor beneath; but no amount of grimacing could stop him, for he had no idea why he was even walking in the first place. What had compelled him to get up and leave Roldan just then? He didn't know, or rather, he didn't care. He didn't care about anything but the awful pit in his stomach. He felt trepidation, he felt frustration, he felt feebleness; but this walk, this walk felt of ease. It felt effortless and natural. It was like a breeze was flowing through the hall guiding him with it. He'd been so inert, both spiritually and physically, he could no longer think nor wanted to. The numbness had come full circle and became painful; and so he let the path guide him.
His mind was all but absent as he stood before the door. He had no idea if she would be inside, yet he found the very prospect of it frightening. Why was he here? Where had this courage come from, when he himself was still so inept? Courage? No, there was no courage. It was compulsion, only because waiting was proving to be more painful than facing the source of discomfort. Because not seeing her was more torturous than any amount of berating. Because the memory of the look of utter loathing on her face was more destructive than it could ever be in person. In person he could walk away from it, he could close his eyes and it would be gone; but the memory...no matter where he ran or how he fought, the memory would always be there, staring at him from behind his own eyes. And as he walked, as he spoke and read and signed day after day, those eyes which stayed with his stole his gaze. Those eyes, so green and fierce and battered and broken; eyes full of anger and sadness. Eyes whose tears sparkled, that glistened with disappointment in him.
He fisted his hands at his sides as he stood with his head lowered, like a dog in shame, before the door. His teeth gritted as he fought for the courage to walk away, and even he was able to realize how strange it was to be more afraid of turning away from this door than of facing whatever was on the other side. What was he to do? He had no plan, he had no words prepared. Three days and still he was clueless. She had scorned him in one of the only ways possible, and the blow had been heady. He'd never felt like this before. He'd never not known what to do. Loving a woman had never been this complicated before. But then again, he had never really loved a woman before had he?
Just the thought of love made him cringe in shame, as even he knew this was not how one loved another. He couldn't help himself. He had a weakness for getting caught up in the moment; and oh, how compelling she could be in the moment. He should have seen this coming. He both over and underestimated her. He thought she was more like him deep down. He thought she could take it. But the more he thought about it, the more he realized they may be too similar.
Like ripping off a bandaid, he rose his head from the floor and left that dreadful door behind him. He hadn't the conviction to raise a hand to it, so had decided to skip the obstacle all together and appeared on the other side. He was quiet, in case she were nearby. He wasn't fully prepared for the sheerness of her stare should she face him just yet.
He stood for a moment, and was put at ease by the familiar scent of the room. He took a deep breath and his shoulders relaxed, but the painful tension about him stayed. He looked up, his eyes starting right and scanning about the room. It was perfectly quiet, yet he found it soothing when compared to the troubled air looming about his own room. Never again would he be able to stand in that room without reliving that night, never again would he be able to sit in his chair without feeling the tears in the leather, or look down at the floor boards without seeing blood smearing a path away from him. She had ruined so much...why did He have to ruin so much?
He took a step further into the room so he could scan around the corner when a fluttering at the window caught his eye. Assuming it was nothing more than a curtain swaying in the breeze he peered up to it reflexively and was then frozen in place.
The room was so quiet and still, he hadn't realized she had been there all along. She was caught in the light, the paleness of her skin and the darkness of her hair contrasting greatly with the bleak muted stone around her. She stood with her back to him, gazing out at the world like the poor songbird that she was, as the breeze pranced about the locks of her hair. She wore a dress, pure white, which fell just past her knee. He drew his brow, confused and concerned why she was dressed in such a fashion, but couldn't fight off the rock that formed in his throat at how unbelievably beautiful he found her. He tried to swallow that lump, but it didn't help as his eyes traveled around her contours. She was so slight, so graceful and lithe. No one but he would know just how torrid and powerful she really was. The wind whistled and picked up at bit, ruffling up the ends of her skirt. His eyes were drawn downward as she then raised a foot to rub at the back of her calf as she shifted away from the cold; and as she turned he saw the sunlight hit the side of her face, and felt such bliss and unrestricted joy it was like nothing that had happened mattered and all the anguish he felt not moments before now failed in comparison to how much he adored her, utterly and hopelessly, in that one fleeting moment.
He stood like an idiot before a picture he was sure his guilt had painted, but found it oddly liberating. She sighed and leaned to rest her jaw on the heel of her hand, and he found himself wanting to smile at her trivial state of boredom. He took a step forward, but just as he did, did she turn to brush her hair behind her ear, revealing the despondent scowl which marred her face. Whatever fancy that had deluded him just then left just as quickly, leaving him even more dejected than before. He didn't know how to approach her. He didn't know what to do. All he knew was that the pain of seeing her was better than the pain of not seeing her, so there was really nothing for it. He'd already made it this far, surely there was a reason why his heart had picked now of all times to come to her...
He walked up and leaned against the frame of the window. He kept himself turned away from her, kept his eyes on the floor. His arms were crossed over his chest and one ankle crossed over the other. He scowled hard, as if he were angry for even being there, and in some sense he was, leaving him oblivious to the faint smile and wander of her gaze as she scoped him out from the corner of her eye.
Sarah felt a weight lift from her shoulders as her eyes caught the stark white of a shoulder and hints of golden wisps out of her peripheral and had to bite her lip to stifle a smile of ease. She didn't look over to him, she didn't have to. His presence alone was enough. She could tell by the angle she saw him in that he was slouching against the wall, facing opposite her. She lowered her head and started knotting her fingers. His brooding aura let her know she wasn't the only one feeling this anxiety. But at least she was right. At least he was here. That was a step. In the back of her mind, she wondered how she had known he would be here...
She had no idea what expression was on his face, but the silence that stretched wasn't a pleasant one. She lowered her head even further.
"So...long time, no see."
Her words came out awkwardly, only adding to the tension, and after mixing with the ease she secretly felt, fluttered up all kinds of unwanted butterflies. She knotted her fingers more vigorously. Jareth shifted his posture.
"Yes, well...you didn't exactly specify," he said, his voice overtly terse, though she knew not to take it as such. He was just as uncomfortable as she was.
"You're right. I didn't."
She could hear the leather of his gloves crinkle as he squeezed his arms tighter. Her voice had sounded more annoyed than she intended.
"Do you want me to leave?" he asked. Sarah cracked a faint smile. He'd never asked her that (and meant it) before.
It was quiet for a moment, neither knowing how to guide the conversation. Sarah took a deep breath, while Jareth seemed to be choking on his.
"You look...very lovely today," he said, almost forcefully. His eyes started roaming over her as best they could, seeking for hidden reactions. She remained perfectly still.
"White suits you...your skin and your hair, I mean. Especially in the sunlight..."
Sarah turned, only fractionally, not enough for him to notice, as there was something about his voice that had caught her attention. It was distant and indirect. He was masking something, clearly holding back with small talk. She found his struggle greatly satisfying.
"May I ask why you-?"
"It's just easier, I guess," she said, with a shrug. "Roldan makes me change for dinner now, and it's just easier to wear one outfit a day rather than change four times out of spite. I don't know what happens to the laundry, but I figured I'd make it easy on whoever does it by only dirtying one outfit rather than two or three." Her nerves made her ramble, but she hoped he wouldn't read into it. She didn't notice, but Jareth had turned to fully look at her by this point. His eyes were pleading, but they didn't know what they wanted. She smiled as she spoke, staring intently out the window rather than him, but he was glad for it; he could appraise and appreciate her beauty with ease. He'd never realized the way the sun illuminated her skin. She seemed...so very much at ease.
"I see...I'd say I approve of the change, but I had no qualms with your attire before hand," he said, almost making Sarah laugh. He was being so careful to tip toe around her, it was just as surprising as it was expected.
"A change was needed. And besides, I'm sure you approve regardless."
Jareth's gaze flickered down at that and he cracked a smile, unsure what the mood of their conversation really was. She didn't seem to be upset with him. They were already making jokes with one another...Though then again, he wouldn't describe her as being very happy either, nor their jokes all that sincere.
It was quiet again, longer this time and twice as unsettling. She knew he was holding himself back, but now the tension was starting to fester. She had no care towards the discomfort however, as this was a bubble she refused to pop. For once he was the one to squirm; she'd wait until he sorted it out on his own.
"...I am sorry," he muttered, with little conviction. Sarah closed her eyes briefly.
"I don't know how many times I can say it for it to matter...but I mean it..." She didn't respond to that, and his gaze, which had warily wandered up to her, now fell back to the floor. "Do you hate me yet?" he asked. The sudden pitiful tone of his voice made it harder for her to not look over. She fisted her hands on the sill.
"No, Jareth. I don't hate you." Her words were annunciated, like she were speaking to a child. He scowled then and looked harder at the floor.
It was quiet. For a moment, he thought she wouldn't answer.
"If you're expecting pity, you won't get it. I don't hate you, because it's my choice not to; and there's nothing you can do to change it. Only I can do that," she said, sounding so wise and resolute, when really she was alluding to something else entirely. The subtext was not lost on him. He stood a little more rigid.
"No. I'm not." It was quiet, but she could sense the look on his face and on a whim turned to face him. "What, you don't believe me?" she asked, her unrestricted gaze locking onto his and not letting go. There was a fleeting moment of dismay in his eyes, having not been ready for her fierce attention, but she ignored it, along with her own torrent of butterflies. That puppy dog look could wait. "I'm not angry with you over what happened, Jareth. Everything leading up to it, maybe; but not that." Her voice was stern and her tone bored, as if she was offended he didn't already know. She wove a hand through the air and then crossed her arms. Her eyes narrowed and her lips pursed, a look he knew well and missed even more, and then looked away shaking her head. "Everything that happened I did to myself. I did it for myself. I was the one who came to you. I was the one who wouldn't stop. I made it all happen. The consequences for those actions were-are mine to deal with-"
"So I was little more than an instrument then?"
"Yes, does that make you feel any better?"
"No, it doesn't. But I suppose that's the way you wanted it, isn't it?" he asked. Sarah bit her lip as she scowled.
"You're not the only one who can play dirty, Jareth. I have been learning from the master after all." Her voice was so hard it made him wince. He took a moment to think, he wasn't sure how long. This silence had become excruciating; all he wanted was a way out of it. He didn't know why he had come here, and it was now painfully obvious that he wasn't ready in the slightest. His nature was resolute, no matter how much he fought against it. If they could only just start over. If they could just call a truce and try again...maybe then he could be what he needed to be. Maybe then she could be what she wanted to be.
"...I don't know how to fix this," he said, that being the only solid conclusion he was able to make. They'd been cast down a particular road, it would be hard to just skip to another; but at the same time, he had no idea how they would survive if they continued down this path. It was so dark...would they be willing to guide one another?
"I told you, some things aren't meant to be fixed."
Jareth snarled then. The conversation was becoming stagnant and he couldn't stand it. Sometimes the best way to surpass an obstacle was to just go around it rather than fight your way through...
"Like I said, I don't know how to fix this. I barely know how to apologize, let alone be sorry. Though if that's the case, I don't think that would help anyway." His voice grew louder, his emotional grip slipping only for a moment. He was getting frustrated with his own incompetence. The potential energy of the room was itching for release, and a part of him was urging that he make a move, any kind of move, good or bad, it didn't matter, just something to knock them out of this rut. He thought about reaching out for her and embracing her until she fought for release. He thought about clawing his hands into her hair and demanding an answer. He thought about smashing their foreheads together and drinking her in as their secret yet unbridled vehemence clashed. But sadly, and perhaps for the better, he had not the conviction to do any of these things. He instead closed his eyes and let out a sigh, his body going lax in defeat as he said, "I know...I know that I am not able to make right what happened between us; but if you'll allow me, perhaps for the time being, I propose that we come to a compromise and try to simply move on from it." His eyes opened, staring straight ahead, feigning that sour conviction which he found so elusive. Sarah turned towards him, curious and worried things were about to take a disastrous turn.
"What are you asking?" Jareth's brow drew tighter.
"I won't ask for your forgiveness...But if you mean what you say then you'll at the very least give me your hand," he said. Sarah stood straighter and rose said hand to her chest defensively. She eyed him up and down, but he seemed totally withdrawn. That couldn't be good, surely. She was tentative when she spoke.
"For what?" she asked. Jareth closed his eyes as he stood from the wall, as if he needed to compose himself. When they reopened, they stayed low, even though he stood directly before her. He started to reach out to her, but couldn't finish the gesture. He too was tentative.
"...If you wouldn't mind...if you'd give me the chance...I would like to show you something."
She stared at him strangely for a moment, not so much out of caution but just plain confusion. This wasn't exactly panning up to be the encounter she'd expected. Did he actually have something planned? Had he really gone out of his way to set something up on her account? It didn't seem like he did, but then again, he was at the very least making an effort.
She saw the way his hand fought against the urge to offer itself to her, and on a whim she extended the olive branch by reaching out for his instead. Did she have to accept this gesture, partial as it was? No; but she did, because they needed to take a step. Together. This was about building bridges after all...now was as good a starting point as any.
His thumb brushed against the back of her hand, before the awkwardness caught up and forced him to release her altogether. He took a step away and straightened his back.
"You should probably put some shoes on," he said. Sarah drew another curious brow, but did as he suggested, happy that he had gone out of his way to suggest rather than straight up order her to do so.
"Where are we going?" she asked. He moved to open the door for her while she finished slipping on her shoes, though he didn't respond until she was crossing under his arm.
"For a walk."
She stayed close to his side as they began walking, her curiosity helping to distract her from her anxiety.
"Anywhere in particular?" she asked.
She pursed her lips at his answer, wanting to protest against his aloofness, but didn't have the energy and so remained quiet. She was curious after all, and admittedly eager for the change in routine. She kept an eye on the hall, trying to see if she could figure out where they might be going, but the corners they took led nowhere of any significance. They walked in silence, though now contented by it. She'd thought about speaking to him, making small talk or whatever, but the sternness about him was off putting. She wondered if it had anything to do with their destination.
With these thoughts looming overhead, she stopped paying attention to the path. When she finally came to, she was surprised to no longer recognize the hall they were in. Her mouth opened to question him, but she held her tongue, her eyes caught on a large door at the end of the hall. It was wooden, enforced with metal brackets, and had a strange vine-like design with flowers and birds carved into it. This struck her immediately, as none of the other doors she'd seen had flaunted a design this descriptive.
"Where are we going?" she asked, eyeing Jareth conspicuously as they came nearer towards the door.
"I told you, just a walk."
"Why don't I recognize this door then? Or this entire hall for that matter..." She began peering about worriedly as they stopped before the mighty door, then looked back up to Jareth for a verdict. He placed his hand on the door, preparing to push it open.
"That's because I haven't shown it to you yet."
The door opened, but whatever was on the other side remained a momentary mystery as a bright ray of light blinded her ill-prepared eyes. She rose a hand to shield herself, and as the door opened further, she heard the sounds of birds chirping and felt the pressure of a draft as it chilled her exposed limbs. The air became crisp and refreshing, and the vacuum of the hallway seemed to release like the castle itself had taken one deep lingering breath. Her eyes recovered from their disorientation quickly and focused on the image in front of her, before her excitement propelled her straight into it.
She took a step, and then another and another, until Jareth and his brooding were the furthest things from her mind. The first things she saw were pillars, enormous, glorious pillars glowing with a rosy hue as the sun beat down on their Corinthian capitals with gentle grace. Between these pillars were archways, brilliantly molded, connecting the ceiling of overcast stone which shaded the patio beneath. The floor was made of a stone she'd never seen before, but was so soft to the touch she swore she could feel it through her shoes. She turned in full circle as she marveled at the surroundings. The carving of the stone was so much more delicate, so refined and intricate compared to the rest of the castle, for a moment she thought they were somewhere else entirely. She looked to the side and saw the patio stretched far along the side of the castle and was dotted with tables and chairs and chimes. The sun breached the void between each column, casting scattered rays and dancing shadows which together made the entire area hum with natural vitality. For a moment, she just gaped, wondering how in the world this place had been right under her nose and why, why why why had Jareth not shown her this before? But even those words were lost when she finally focused on what was waiting just beyond the frame of columns.
The amount of unfurling greenery left Sarah so abashed, one might think she'd never before experienced such a color. All she'd known of the Underground was bleak desert, with only a memory of the forest she saw from her window; but even the lush of that tropic failed in comparison to the foliage, artfully crafted, which posed itself before her.
There were hedges and trees, well preened, which encircled and gave shape to a pleasant courtyard. The center of this, directly before her, displayed a fountain, so sumptuous and smooth, it would have made the Greek masters wail in reverence. Its figures loomed, in ardent embrace, over the area, and from one sprouted valiant wings which curved with such fluidity, it looked as though the statue might break into flight at any moment, taking his beloved with him into the sun. Surrounding the fountain were lilies of every size and color growing about its rim, their roots even breaching the pool itself. There were benches and chess tables and grottos and flowers galore, with a cobblestone path to connect them all which wove throughout the circle.
Only a few seconds had passed, but to Sarah it had felt like a decade as her eyes made one discovery after another. She stopped at the edge of the patio and turned back to Jareth just as he was shutting the door.
"What is this place?" she asked, her voice full of awe and wonder. Jareth kept his eyes away from her, as if he were ashamed of it.
"It's outside," he said, and moved to join her at overlooking the scape. "I told you we still had the
grounds to explore...I thought now would be as good a time as any."
Sarah gaped at him, wanting to smack him upside the head and yell "You waited this long to show me this, you fool?!" but refrained to simply turn and go back to admiring the view.
"So, is this like, the royal garden or something?" she asked.
"No. This is just a courtyard. There is one for every exit out of the castle, aside from the main gate and merchant alleys that is." Sarah's brow rose.
"How many are there?" she asked. Jareth pondered a moment.
"...About twenty or so. I don't remember exactly."
"Are they all different?"
"Slightly. Enough not to get them confused with one another. It can sometimes be rather tedious trying to figure out which door you came out of when trying to go back in."
"...I see," she mumbled, and began drifting into the scenery. At first, she was careful to stay on the cobblestones, as if touching any of the foliage were sacrilege. Jareth lingered, watching as she gazed this way and that, tiptoeing from one path to the next. She seemed much more vibrant now, though he tried not to take her excitement to escape confinement as happiness. That would be giving himself too much credit.
She continued to wander this way and that, poking at the flowers and gaping at the sculpture. Some of these flowers she'd never seen before, and wondered if they were native to her world at all. Eventually, she made it to the fountain, her real destination all along and just stood there, tilting her head as she inspected it from every angle. It looked somehow familiar, but she couldn't quite place it.
As Jareth watched Sarah's slow frolic, he began to think of what to show her next. The grounds were vast, and its spectacles endless; but for all he could show her, he sadly realized he had no idea of which she might enjoy. Crossing his arms, he slowly sulked his way to her, standing by her side as she gazed at the fountain. He examined it with her, but couldn't find whatever it was about it that had enthralled her so.
"This statue looks familiar, what is it supposed to be?" she asked. Jareth rose a brow and tilted his head, trying to remember the answer himself. It'd been so long since he was last out here, it was becoming hard to recall such details.
"I believe in your world you know them as Cupid and Psyche," he said. Sarah's gaze widened, as if the lightbulb had finally gone off.
"Oh. Yea, I can see it now. It kinda looks like that old Greek one," she said, tilting her head this way and that. Jareth spied on her from the corner of his eye.
"The artist who sculpted the statue which you are referring to, was Canova," he explained.
"Hm. I don't know that much about art, but I'll take your word for it," she said, and walked away. Jareth, shut down from a moment of familiarity, could only smirk at her lackadaisical air and followed after. She walked for a pace, then halted and swung around to face him. "So, is this your compromise?" she asked, and again Jareth smirked at her mock-sass. He still couldn't gauge her, but perhaps that was what she was aiming for. Their lucidity was wavering, making it seem like their actions towards one another were a facade and indeed they might have been; though they still served as a distraction at the very least, from the enormous elephant not-so-quietly slumbering in the back of the room. Choosing to continue ignoring it, he leaned a hip against the rim of a table and crossed his arms over his chest.
"Actually, this is just the front door. I had planned to show you something more, if you're so inclined." Sarah caught wind of the playfulness seeping through the cracks of his voice and had to turn herself away so not to encourage him. She still wasn't sure how grumpy she wanted to be with him, but the fresh air and freedom of her surroundings was making it difficult for her to be cross.
"By all means, lead the way," she said, with a gesture of her hand. Jareth leaned up off the table and moved past her.
She followed him, and as she did looked beyond the fountain and was able to realize the wall of shrubbery was incomplete. Beyond the opening she saw a field, a vast field, and a hint of a forest beyond that. They reached the end of the path, but as Jareth stepped onto the grass, more cobblestones seemingly rose from the ground to further this new direction. Sarah, now gaping at this action, scuttled close to his side and only looked up again once the wonder of that particular magic had worn off.
They were crossing the field, but it didn't seem like there was anything on the other side. She looked all around- the sun hung large in the sky without a single cloud to obstruct it. She could hear and see birds and insects humming about, and was curious about which other lifeforms she may encounter. After a while though, when the long monotonous walk became tedious, she finally spoke up.
"So, where are we going now?" she asked. Jareth glanced back over his shoulder.
"That depends, are you eager or anxious?" he countered. Sarah gave him a look of detachment.
"Neither, just wondering where we're going. We've been walking through this field forever now." Jareth smiled then, but she didn't see.
"No, we haven't." Apparently, that joke was lost on her. He could sense her grumbling and took pity. "See that fence over there?" Sarah peered around him to do just as he'd asked and was a little surprised she hadn't noticed it before.
"Yeah, what about it?"
"That's where we're going." That pesky playfulness made her sigh heavily, but she chose to gripe in secret. No doubt he was being cheeky on purpose, trying to keep the mood light n all, but damn was all this coyness necessary? As if they weren't avoiding enough already...
They arrived at the fence, and again Sarah was daunted by how large it was up close. It stretched as far as the eye could see on both sides and was taller than her. She started looking for a gate, but there was none to be found.
"I take it we're supposed to cross this? How are we supposed to get over it when there's no- oomph! -Hey!"
Before she could even finish complaining, she felt herself being lifted, much too short notice for her liking, and glided with Jareth arms curiously around her, over to the other side.
He pushed off of the fencepost and landed weightlessly, setting Sarah back down on her feet. Could he have just conjured a gate for them to walk through? Yes; but where was the fun in that? As she stood beside him, hands on hips as she grumbled about their quandary, Jareth found his gaze towards her full of tenderness. The tension was starting to lift from him the further he walked beside her, as if that was all it took; who would have thought such a meager act could be so gratifying? This air of solemness was slowly filling with delight, and its ambivalence was felt by the both of them, he was sure. She seemed her normal self, eager yet annoyed, passionate yet reserved. The one thing missing was the only thing he had expected, her anger. It was strange. Her pheromones were quiet, yet there was a pleasantness to it, not like before when it was unsettling, to say the least. Could it be true that she wasn't angry with him? That she didn't blame him the way he blamed himself? What was this peacefulness he saw behind the facade of her stoical eyes? There were questions, but the one thing that he was sure of, was that she was here with him now. She was giving him a chance, and that was enough for him. It was with this motivation that he reached down and scooped her up without further hesitation, the gesture making for a weak mask to get away with touching her the way he so yearned. But in that split second that she hovered in his arms, did he remark how light she felt, and thus the fall back to Earth was a sobering one.
He was pleased that she allowed him to release her, instead of jumping from his grasp. She stood before him and smoothed out her skirt, then looked up to him with a slightly bewildered expression.
"What the- Did you? Did you just jump over that?" she asked, seemingly abhorrent. Jareth furrowed his brow at the ghastly look on her face.
"Yes? Does that bother you?" he asked, warily. Sarah eyed the fence, then him and back again.
"N-no. It's just...that was unexpected. I didn't realize you could jump that high." That look and tone made it clear she was weirded out. Jareth didn't really know how to respond.
"I vaulted off the post, if that helps." He wasn't really sure what he was trying to do here. He didn't think she had ever looked at him like that before.
Sarah leaned back on her heel as she pondered.
"Ok, well, I guess that makes sense. After experiencing Marie's unnatural endurance, I suppose jumping six feet straight up into the air is just normal for you, too." She wove a hand through the air as she spoke, causing Jareth to furrow his brow further at how exasperated she now seemed. "Is there anything else you can do near super-human?" she asked. Jareth rose a brow at her, fighting himself not to take advantage of her question.
"Oh, probably. But I think we should save those for another time, lest I overwhelm the physical restrictions of your brain." His sarcasm was self-evident, and he moved to continue walking. "Come on, wouldn't want to miss what we've walked all this way for."
They walked to the summit of a small hill which overlooked the rest of the plane. From there, Sarah could see the tree-line of the forest, and the hint of a building peeking out of the brush. She looked over, and saw Jareth had taken a seat on the ground.
"What's over there?" she asked. Jareth stretched back.
"It's a stable."
"Stable? Like a horse stable? We're in a pasture then?" she asked. Jareth, starting to feel the heat of the day, removed his gloves and rubbed the back of his neck.
"Am I supposed to answer that?" he asked, rhetorically. Sarah narrowed her eyes on him, fully aware of the wall he'd put between them, and joined him in the grass in a place both awkwardly close and strangely distant. She pulled her knees to her chest and hugged them, letting the warm air tickle her skin. It was warmer down here than way up in her tower; she felt more comfortable now...or maybe it was just him.
They were quiet, Sarah sighing in the breeze while Jareth stared her down from the corner of his eye as if the meltdown were eminent. Though she was not blind to his anticipation, it was the wall which refused them to meet. She knew he wanted to reach out, and in truth she wanted to meet him half way, but the mound between them was too much right now, all they could do was tip toe around it. It was then that Sarah laughed. For all the tension, for all the frustration, all the lack of boundaries and all the anger they'd ever felt towards one another, this void of detachment was more off-putting than anything she'd ever felt before. Even though she may have been fighting against it, Jareth had never held back from her, never. And now that he was...was she really resenting it? "You find something amusing?" Jareth asked. Sarah shook her head and squeezed her legs tighter.
"Not really. It's just...kind of funny, don't you think?"
"What is funny?"
"You and me. Here. Like this." She turned towards him with a smile he couldn't place. Their eyes met and he could have sworn he saw them spark. "After that night, I couldn't imagine how we could ever face each other. But I suppose...when you don't know how to do something, all you can really do is do it anyway, right?" Her smile turned complacent, and she shrugged a little in reassurance. Jareth just stared for a moment, still lost in the fleeting brightness of her eyes. How was she so tranquil? How could she just brush everything off like it had been any other squabble? What sort of epiphany had she had during their time apart? And why was he so unable to see it?
"Yes...I suppose you're right. I thought a few days would be nothing, but-" he cut himself short, his tentative words overpowered by the sheerness of her attention on him. Had he really been so thirsty for her that even the slightest glance would overwhelm him? He tore his eyes away so he could finish. "But...I'm impatient as it is, and I thought..."
"Maybe I wanted to see you too?" His eyes sprang to hers in an instant, but just as some miraculous connection was about to be made, a rambunctious babble of noises began to blare from up ahead. With a slight gasp, Sarah turned away from him and faced the tree-line, her attention thoroughly stolen and the moment shattered before it could even form. Jareth sat up, both thanking and resenting the intrusion.
"Seems like we haven't missed them after all." Sarah's eyes flickered over to Jareth at the sound of his voice, but was otherwise firmly engrossed with whatever force that was soon to burst from the forest. She could hear bushes rustling noisily, branches breaking, ground shaking. As the sound grew near, she was able to discern the gallop from the tremble and the whine from the wind.
"You have a herd of horses?"
One by one, the shadows of the forest dispersed as the figures of majestic equines of every variety filled the scene. Sarah knew nothing about horses, but was able to recognize a popular few, a Pinto, an Arabian, a lumbering Clydesdale, an Appaloosa and a Paint. Each one was different either in pattern or in breed, she was sure. Like a wave they settled over the pasture and began to graze, as if the fantastic stampede had never occurred.
"I didn't know you had so many horses," she said. Jareth leaned back, comfortable enough now to sprawl under the sun. Sarah had to turn to look down at him. Her eyes were curious. His were closed.
"Hmph, you didn't know I had horses at all."
"Why do you have so many? Why are they all different?" Several mares were starting to wander near. In her excitement, Sarah hoped the rest would follow so she might see them better.
"It's a bit of a sport," Jareth said.
"There are no horses in the Underground. So it's become a bit of a habit for aristocrats such as myself to gather them from your world and collect them. They're traded between houses as gifts, usually accompanying treaties or as a personal hobby." His voice was so calm as he spoke, the tension was almost invisible. Sarah wasn't sure who she should be investigating more, he or the horses.
"That's why they're all different kinds?" Jareth nodded. Sarah turned back and observed. She'd never really been much of a horse person, but she didn't have anything against them either. Actually, come to think of it, she'd never been up close to a real horse before. This moment was indeed exciting, whether Jareth realized it or not. "They're all so beautiful..." Jareth peeped open an eye at her airy tone, an eye which she caught when she twisted back round to face him. Her smile...seemed much more genuine. "Could we go near them?" she asked. Jareth became more attentive, he hadn't thought this would peak her interest so much.
"We could, but not now." He regretted the frown his words met.
"Because they aren't what I want to show you. If we approach them now, she might not come out." Sarah drew her brow, but the look was lost on Jareth's closed lids.
"Who might not come out?" she asked. Jareth stretched further.
"You'll see. She's never too far behind. Give it a few minutes and let me know when she comes out." Sarah only grew more and more puzzled as he spoke, but his casual dismissal left her with little room to qualm. Instead she turned away and sought into the crowd, searching for what ever it was Jareth was talking about.
Time passed pleasantly slow as they lounged on the crest of the hill. The sounds of the horses a ways off kept the silence from getting awkward as they tried to further acclimate to the other's company. Jareth remained in his supine lax, trying to quietly meditate away his bothersome anxiety, while Sarah, far more attentive than the mood called for, continued to search the tree-line for this mystery guest. Who or what would be following after the herd and why was it important? She couldn't figure it out, and as the line of the underbrush continued to remain intact, she thought that maybe her curiosity would never be answered.
"Jareth. It's been like twenty minutes and I still don't see anything. Could you just tell me what it is I'm supposed to be looking for?"
"Hm? Has is been that long already?" She turned and threw him an eye, but he seemed perfectly content under the sun. His eyes were still closed, and she couldn't help but take advantage of it. Her eagerness grew shallow and her gaze lowered down his front. He always looked so different to her out in real light, without cane or capes or trimmings. For being so pale, his skin had a way of glowing when caught in the sun. It was warm today, so he had no coat. The cuffs of his shirt were undone, exposing his forearms as he reclined them behind his head and the folds of his collar ruffled over his chest in the breeze. His expression was relaxed, but she knew he wasn't really. She frowned then. He was so beautiful in moments like this, when he was docile. She turned away and frowned harder, confused as to why she felt very sad all of the sudden.
She leaned forward and hugged her knees, her eyes resuming their casual search once more.
"Jareth? Do you ever think that maybe..."
There was something odd about her tone, something important. Jareth opened his eyes and moved to sit up, but just when she was about to finish her question did something cause her to hop up to her knees and steal her attention. She leaned forward and her eyes, once cast in shade, now beamed with excitement.
" *Gasp* Jareth! There's something coming out of the woods. Is that it?!" Jareth furrowed his brow, still hung up on whatever it was she was about to ask him, but finished sitting up all the same. He peered into the tree-line and immediately spotted what had caught her attention.
"Hush now or you'll spook her," he said. Sarah narrowed her eyes and rose a hand to shield them from the sun so they could focus. Whatever it was, it was a good distance away, and being obstructed by the brush made it hard to identify. She started shaking her head uncertainly.
"But...it's just...it's just another horse? It's just a white horse, what makes it so special from all the others that we had to wait for it?" she asked. Jareth smiled, but held his tongue; she'd figure it out in only a moment or two.
"She's too far away for you to see. Give her a minute, she'll come near."
Sarah watched as the snowy mare trolled the underbrush like it were a barrier separating it from the rest of the pasture. It would come close to the light, fidget cautiously, before a random neigh would spook it back into the shadows. This went on for minutes, until eventually it had wandered closer into their view; but still Sarah couldn't tell what made it so special.
"Why is it so skittish?" she asked, her eyes flickering over to Jareth and noticing he'd scooched closer towards her. Jareth leaned forward, keeping his eyes fixed on the mare.
"She's wary of open spaces. It is very rare that she will venture too far from the coverage of the forest. But with the herd so near, I imagine she will come out just a step or two." Sarah furrowed her brow at him, confused at all of it.
"I'm confused. Was she abused or something?" She started shaking her head, but Jareth's sly grin gave nothing away.
"Just keep watching. Please."
She turned back towards the mare, humoring Jareth by continuing to watch it spook itself away from the sun over and over again, until finally it seemed to find some sort of closure. It stomped its hooves at the shadow line and would tentatively take two steps forward, then one step back, until finally it had forced itself out of the obstruction of the trees. It kept its head low, as if surveying the area around it, though Sarah had no idea why it would be so wary in the first place. It was when the sun first hit her brow that Sarah finally saw what it was Jareth was going on about. She stepped farther and farther into the pasture, until the tranquility of the scene allowed her to raise her head high and enjoy it. Sarah actually rolled back on her butt she was so dumb-struck. The way the light glinted off it was...
"From your reaction, I take it you finally see." Jareth turned back to scoff at Sarah's amazement, and was only a tiny bit pleased that he was able to bring out such a fun reaction. She sat back up and leaned forward on her hands and knees.
"Is that a- a god damn UNICORN?!" Jareth rose a brow and cracked a smirk, surprised that she had kept herself from using a more vulgar phrase. While her outburst wasn't loud, it was enough to call the mare's attention. Its head darted up, looking straight at them. Sarah's hands sprung to cover her mouth, and again Jareth laughed.
"Control yourself or you'll spook her," he warned. Sarah calmed down and sat flat on the ground, then turned to him and forced herself to whisper.
"You have a freaking unicorn?! You're telling me those actually exist?" Jareth rose a brow at her.
"Apparently. Although they are extremely rare, even in my world. As far as anyone knows, they're only native to Meyhaven. I underwent quite the barter with King Alexsielee to acquire just this one here."
"But I thought you said the Underground didn't have horses?"
"It doesn't. Unicorns aren't horses, they're manifestations of nature, like Nymphs and Goblins and every other magical creature."
"Oh...why doesn't she like open spaces?" Sarah asked. Jareth shrugged.
"It's not that she doesn't like open spaces, she's simply wary of them," he said. Sarah became more concerned.
"Why?" she asked. Jareth couldn't help the dastardly grin that flashed in the split second before answering.
"It's the only place where her mate can find her." His grin was slowly creeping back, making Sarah more and more unsettled. I thought he said he only had the one? Why is he staring like that? What in the?
"What do you mean her mate?"
Just then a loud virile shriek cut through the air. Sarah's head whipped around but she couldn't see which horse had made the sound. The cry came again, causing a stir amongst the herd and sending them into a messy stampede. Confused, concerned and a little bit afraid, Sarah began to search for the source of the ruckus. That was when a dark blur caught the corner of her eye. Now even more perplexed, she looked towards the sky, and her look of confusion turned to plain disbelief.
"What the hell is that?!" She yelled, no longer concerned with the anxieties of the mare, as she was sure their feelings were one in the same. Jareth smiled fully and leaned back on his hands, seeming so smug with the creature's grand entrance.
"That would be my pegasus."
Sarah watched the chic velour of a black stallion glint in the sunlight as mighty wings thrust it in for a landing. In unwarranted horror, Sarah turned her eyes towards the poor mare, fearful of what might happen next and praying it had already run off into the woods with all the others. That was when her brow slowly drew tight; for the mare, as panicked as it was, did not run off to safety but instead stood its ground, raising up on its hind legs to confront the beast. Sarah turned back to Jareth, who looked like he'd seen this scene a hundred times before.
"What the hell is going on? You just told me she's afraid of that thing. If your plan is to make me watch a unicorn getting raped you need some serious notes on problem solving." She looked so angry as she spoke, that to Jareth it was almost a relief. But his smugness was unwavering. He leaned towards her until their noses were only a fraction apart.
"Perhaps you should give me a chance and just watch."
She tried to maintain conviction, but it was hard given the proximity of his face to hers. The last time he was that close was when she was kissing him madly. Regardless of context, the image made her gulp. For reasons unknown to her, she felt a heat rise in her cheeks and tore herself away from his gaze. Jareth withdrew with more ease, but kept his attention on her.
Sarah, now wary and annoyed, watched as the stallion and the mare seemed to just prance around one another. The mare's actions, while offensive and aggressive looking, never evolved to a true attack; and while the male's gestures with its wings and muscular body were definitely intimidating, they were no way forceful.
"I'm still confused. What exactly is going on right now? It looks like they're just dancing around each other."
"That's because they are. They're courting." Sarah glared back at him.
"They're what? Do horses do that?"
"A unicorn and a pegasus do that, apparently. You were so quick to cast pity on her. Did you ever consider that she is the one directing him?" Sarah scowled and looked away, trying to better understand the scene before her and ignore his pesky subtext.
"You said she's wary to come out because of him."
"Because her intent is to lead him on. She wants him to fight for her favor. As you can see, she didn't run away when he confronted her, yet she will not yield to his advances either. She's hiding so that she can be caught." Sarah scowled harder as if that alone would shoo away his words. Was that it then? Is that what he really had planned? Calling her attention to a stupid parallel to their own fucked up relationship? Hopefully, if she was obtuse enough, he would just lay off.
"Maybe they're just not meant to mate. They are different species after all, aren't they?" she asked, but there was tension in her voice.
"Perhaps. But their mutual interest is hope enough."
"Hope enough? You want them to breed?"
"Of course. That's why I acquired them. Winged Unicorns, or Alicorns, a word that has been used to call them, are the epitome of the rare and exotic. I can think of no one at court who would not go to great lengths to acquire one." Sarah had turned back to glare at him, but he wasn't taking her bait.
"So you're doing this for political leverage?" she asked.
"Hm, you'd be surprised how far mere pleasantries can get you in the world of aristocracy." She turned back towards the horses, the male had started trotting after the female like they were playing a game. A game. Humph.
"And I guess this whole cat and mouse thing you've revealed to me is just symbolic coincidence, right?" Sensing her agitation, Jareth leaned forward to be in line with her.
"You could argue that either way; but in all truth, I was just trying to find something to show you that you might like. And even if it is backhanded, it's better than completely ignoring the issue, wouldn't you agree?" She spied him out of her peripheral, suffering lingering annoyance, but couldn't find the will to rebuke him. He was right after all, at least he was making an effort, as catty as it was. She lowered her head to rest her chin on her knees and grumbled.
"Hm..." She watched as the horses' bout came to a close; the unicorn, waving her horn around like a weapon at the male and coyly withdrawing into the forest, while the pegasus flapped its wings at her in retaliation. For a moment, she wondered why he didn't just chase after her. "How come he doesn't just follow her into the forest?" she asked.
"She is of the forest and he is of sky; though they are both creatures of magic and nature, one cannot breach the other's domain." Sarah stared on, questioning why she found his explanation very sad. They were the same, but they were different. They were together, but separated. Maybe that was why they wouldn't mate, because they knew they couldn't ever really be together... She was thoroughly distracted when Jareth spoke, "Sarah..." She didn't look over, but her ears twitched in a sign that she had heard him nonetheless. Seeing her dismissal of him crushed whatever amount of confidence he had been mustering and so he cast his gaze to the ground. The creatures had left. It was quiet now. Just the two of them. Together...but separated. He sighed heavily. "I don't know what you're expecting of me, nor what you're thinking of me, and I don't care, so long as you know that -while I've gone about it in all the wrong ways- all I've wanted is happiness for us-"
"For you," she clarified. Jareth paused. "I think you mean happiness for you."
"And for you."
"Selfishly maybe." Jareth sighed again. She was right. He wanted her to be happy in a way that would make him happy, but there was no changing that. No matter what obstacles came between them, he would never let her go. She would always be his. Even if she couldn't be happy with him, he'd rather have that than nothing at all, regardless of whether he ever acquired his powers or not.
"My manner is flawed, I acknowledge that, but it cannot be fixed." His voice was full of petulance, but he didn't much care. All of this, everything that they were doing was nothing more than a distraction from this. The things that were to be said needed to be said, no amount of grumbling would help it.
A moment had passed, and the silence returned. Sarah didn't respond. The herd was gone, the pegasus flown away. They were all alone. The wind picked up a whistle and grazed through both their hair. He wondered, where they were to go now.
"Jareth...can I ask you a question?" Sarah's voice was surprisingly light, minus the tension and agitation of before. Jareth peered up. "Why are you so awful?" He gaped when she turned back, meeting him dead in the eye. For a moment, he thought she expected him to give her a literal reason. "I know you can be nice, I've seen you do it. You're doing it right now. Why not be that from the beginning?" Catching on, Jareth blinked himself back to his melancholy and turned his gaze back to the grass.
"If I did that...you would end up irrevocably disappointed."
"If we started out at the top of a hill, for a time the horizon would seem perfect, but eventually you would look down and see the cracks and faults which lay under its surface, the hill would crumble and you would fall to the bottom and be lost amidst a darkness you didn't know. But...if you started at the bottom and chose to push through and climb those faults and cracks, then by the time you reached the summit you would understand them and by reaching the top you will have accepted them, maybe even healed some of them; and I feel that journey is far more gratifying." Sarah's brow slowly became worried. He was being very serious all of the sudden. "I do not hide my nature from you Sarah, as you would have preferred, because I would rather you know the worst of me and only that, than a facade in which you know nothing." Sarah's eyes flickered down and her frown solidified. She'd never had this kind of talk with him. It was almost surreal. But then again, was she really expecting that same charismatic deviant from before?
"That's a pretty speech, but I'm not buying it." Jareth peered up to find her scolding him. He sat up a little straighter. "Jareth, you split yourself into the good and the bad and expect me to sew the two back together, but did you ever stop to consider what things might have been like had you never separated the two to begin with?" Jareth blinked; they were speaking to each other in metaphors that would at no other time have made any sense, yet they each knew what the other meant completely. Why was that? Where did this sense of understanding come from? Was it perhaps because, for the first time ever, they were speaking on the same level? He smiled incredulously in spite of himself and shrugged, turning his gaze away from her.
"...I suppose not. Seems we were doomed from the start then, weren't we?" he asked, and moved to stand to his feet. Sarah's gaze followed him up, but she remained seated.
"Seems that way." He offered her a hand.
"Well, might we carry on with our walk then? Better something keeps moving forward." He pulled her to her feet and turned away.
"Wow, don't sound so glum," she said, barely having time to brush the stray grass from her skirt before he was walking away from her. He stopped to wait until she caught up to his side.
"I'm not concerned with our fate, so long as I'm walking with you now," he said. Sarah scoffed. She wasn't sure when or how, but the mood was eerily light.
"Mock me all you want. Regardless of it all, you know that I care about you." She stayed by his side as they walked, not sure if they were following or being followed by the ever rising stone path. All this talk of caring and compassion was new to her, normally it was about a lack thereof; but he seemed sincere, to the point where she thought that maybe he always had been. It wasn't just the sun that was casting him in a different light; and as they walked, she began to understand the alien peacefulness which had surrounded them all that time on the hill. They hadn't yelled, gotten angry or made threats. They weren't arguing against one another, they were just...talking. And in the back of Sarah's mind, a deadly voice whispered that for her it wasn't a question of whether or not he cared, but a question of of how much.
The walk through the pasture was relatively quiet. They happened upon a few horses here and there, but Sarah no longer had the urge to investigate. Their exit was through a gate this time, leaving Sarah strangely disappointed. She knew Jareth could do things like teleport and walk on walls, but she'd never really thought about the extent of it. Her scientific curiosity urged her to find out more about his abilities, but now wasn't the time. They carried on through another field next, one which Jareth explained was used for games and tournaments. There were remnants of bleachers and banners and tents that would be set for things like duels, jousting, vaulting, horse races, all manner of sport really. His demeanor had returned to that of when he'd first given her a tour of the castle, casual and businesslike, and she realized that must be his default when trying to distract himself. After looking everything over and seeing the vastness of the grounds, she found herself asking if the Underground had Aboveground sports like soccer or football, to which Jareth responded that it could if she wanted it to be. Such casual small talk brought about an ambivalence of contentedness and unease within her. She was very much enjoying this time and was very much eager for it and yet on some level that felt wrong. It felt like they weren't allowed to have this ease when there was still so much that needed settling, and yet she was too afraid to bring it up anymore than they already had. She wondered if Jareth was feeling the same, and she bet he was. At least they were in it together. Hm. Together.
Jareth filled the silences by describing things to see that they could not yet see and might come back to another day. When she would ask why they couldn't go now, he said he had something else in mind that they were already closer to. They passed a few more courtyards, some of them bustling with Goblins pruning and taming the foliage. Sarah couldn't help but think of Hoggle then, and was only one impulse away from bringing it up. She tried to distract herself instead.
"So where are we going now?" she asked.
"Well...after your earlier question and seeing the way you lit up in the courtyard, I thought maybe you might like to see the actual royal gardens."
"Is it really better than the courtyards? Because I don't think I can even imagine that."
"Oh, it's ten times better." She peered up to him at his playful tone. No doubt he was mocking her.
"What's so special about it?" she asked.
"Well...there are lots of flowers. I understand you women tend to like that sort of thing." He shot Sarah a smirk and a sarcastic brow. She shot one back.
"Mhm, I bet your women do." Jareth's smile broadened.
"Actually, I've never had another woman in the gardens before." Sarah's brow rose.
"Really? Why?" Jareth shrugged, though it seemed he was holding something back.
"Well, mostly because I've never had to. My women, as you call them, are quite content in any number of chambers within the castle walls."
"Wait, you don't take women to your chamber?" she asked, as if that were the biggest surprise yet. Jareth wasn't sure how to respond.
"No...my chamber is reserved for my wife."
Sarah's smile, as weak as it was, faded away completely at how stern his voice had become just then and as she peered up, saw the disgruntled tension twisting his brow. She neither understood nor liked this change, though wasn't sure if she should pursue it or leave it be. She took her eyes from him to mull over her motivations and caught sight of what looked to be another hedge fence off in the distance, the entrance of which was marked by a golden gate.
"Is that it? The sun is so bright I can barely make it out," she asked, apparently choosing to drop it. Jareth looked forward towards the horizon.
"Yes. Though don't worry, it's not as far as it looks."
Sure enough, the two came upon the gate much quicker than physics should have allowed, leaving Sarah to marvel at the gate which was no bigger than her thumb just a short time ago. Of course, like all the doors in this kingdom, it was ginormous. Standing twelve feet tall and made of think gold bars, it looked like the heavenly gate of St. Peter, or Eden rather. Smaller bands of gold had been gilded and welded into intricate knots and swirls of a Celtic nature and opened automatically sensing their approach. All that was missing were an array of white doves, a reference which was lost on Jareth, though Sarah found amusing all the same. She didn't hesitate to take a step over the threshold, and was thus surprised when Jareth's hand was suddenly holding her back.
"Huh? Why can't I go in?" she asked, immediately annoyed. Jareth's eyes roamed from her head to her toes.
"You need to take off your shoes first." She blinked and scrunched her brow in confusion, even when his eyes came back up to hers expectantly.
"Consider this...a type of hallowed ground if you will," he said, but that only made Sarah more skeptical.
"Okay, what does that have to do with my shoes?" This time Jareth looked surprised.
"Roldan hasn't taught you yet?"
"Taught me what?" Jareth rolled his eyes and shook his head, obviously exasperated with something important. She tried to think back in case she forgot something. "Um...if this is something religious, we haven't gotten into tradition and ritual yet. He was saving that for closer to the wedding so it would be fresh in my mind." She hoped that would help, not that she much cared for sticking up for Roldan, but still. Jareth rolled his eyes down to her.
"I see. Well then, I suppose I'll just teach you now. It's already been explained that woman hold higher position in our culture-"
"Loosely defined." Jareth shot her an eye, but she didn't budge, so he continued.
"The reason for this being that we are beings connected to nature on an intimate and inherent level. It is the source of our magic and the source of our existence. Nature is life in its spiritual form. Women, as you know, are the progenitors of our physical life. They take nature's life force and make it manifest, they are the bridges between this world and the next. This is why we place them on pedestals, for they are able to establish a connection to magic and the lifestream that men simply cannot. Therefore, when presented in a place such as this, where nature itself is idolized, it is a sacrilege to sever the link between said Nature and its Conduit."
Sarah eyed him strangely, not exactly the reaction he had expected.
"Okay. And that's why I have to take my shoes off in the garden?" Jareth was quiet, not sure if she was being serious or just mocking him. Either way, he was on the verge of irritation. There were many rules of his own culture that Jareth cast aside, Roldan could attest to that, but this was not one. Sarah peered around, and then glanced back to where they came. "But, I could wear shoes all over there...so that nature isn't as special as this nature?" It was becoming apparent that she was indeed mocking him.
"This garden serves as an idol, or as you might better understand the altar of a church that happens to be our world."
"Hm, interesting...Alright. Though, may I point out that I'm a human? Even though I'm a woman, I don't have a connection to magic. So this is all rather for naught isn't it?" She slipped off her shoes and stepped onto the grass, almost surprised that the path didn't follow. The grass was cool and crisp beneath her feet, a sensation she hadn't felt in ages and realized had been taken for granted all this time. She took a few steps into the garden, leaving Jareth behind.
Like the courtyard, the entire space was encircled in hedge trees. The opening "lobby" area, as she would call it, was in many ways similar to the courtyard as well. There were stone benches and flower bushes and fountains. Leading out of this small enclosure were pathways marked with overhanging vines like tunnels. She could see taller trees and fountains from over the inner walls, and realized the real spectacle must be further in.
Jareth stayed by the frame of the gate to watch Sarah gander. Seeing her like this...dressed like that in a place like this, it was something out of his dreams. Her dress glowed in the sunlight, its rays casting shadows on her form underneath. The wind swayed her skirt around her, making even the slightest reveal of calf or knee alluring. His eyes stuck to her feet; what she didn't realize was just how relevant this experience really was for him. Sarah might not have been Fae, but she held all the power of The Labyrinth inside her, the very essence of nature itself. To him, that made her more mystical than any pureblooded being of his world. And as she now stood and twirled and glanced back at him with a smile she didn't know she had, he thought, achingly so, that maybe what happened would be worth it after all. He imagined a day when she would be his; only he would have the liberty to approach, to embrace her and twirl with her; and though he thought that day might never come, if it weren't for her gall they never would have made it to even this point. And so...maybe that was why she was so peaceful. Maybe that was why she refused to be angry with him. Forget starting at the top or the bottom, they could make their own summit, in any shape and at any rate they chose.
"Hey? You coming?" During his daydreaming, Jareth hadn't noticed Sarah's smile fade to worry as she waited for him to join her. He shook his head and smiled to himself; yes he had told Liana he would use his feelings for Sarah to his advantage, but there was a risk of letting them take advantage of him instead. He needed to be careful or he'd lose sight of how this all began... He joined her by her side, and ushered her to begin.
"Wow, this place is huge. I mean, look at that waterfall, that's crazy!"
Sarah's adventure through the garden went as expected. She saw many things, most of them plant related, but still it was more beautiful than anything she could have imagined it to be. She'd found Goblins of varying races doing varying things. Some were pruning, some were potting, some were dusting fairies. Others were playing chess, and others were simply passed out under the overpowering scent of flowers. There was a pond, and in it fish Sarah had never seen before. Needless to say, she was thoroughly entertained, giving them both time and a distraction from themselves.
"I had no idea this was here. I couldn't see it from any of the windows." She took a seat on a stone bench, needing the rest. She looked down at her feet, which were now dirty and stained with grass. Silly traditions...
"It's on the south side of the castle. I doubt you're over there very often." Jareth joined her, but kept a healthy distance away, as he had during their entire walk. She looked around, spying on Goblins minding their own business, when something odd came to mind.
"Say...how come there aren't any other Fae here?" she asked. Jareth sat back a bit. Her question was innocent enough, but he was in no place to give her the whole truth.
"Quite simply, no one wants to live here. You've seen the surrounding area. It's all desert. Fae tend to like things with a little more flourish." Sarah rose a disbelieving brow and made a gesture towards their surroundings.
"But the grounds are beautiful. There's plenty of flourish."
"In the castle, yes. But I don't trust anyone enough to let them live here permanently." Sarah narrowed her eyes on him.
"Because a court of any kind is dangerous. And I've amassed enough power to where I don't need one to sustain my social standing. I have Roldan, and plenty of competent Goblins, and that's good enough." His eyes wandered off to the side, feigning distraction on a nearby bird, as if he could be drawn from the topic so easily.
"Hm?" It was like he didn't hear her. She wasn't taking his hints.
"You have Liana too. Though...I don't think she lives in the castle, does she?" Sarah asked, though her tone made it difficult for him to identify her real inquiry. The last time they had talked about Liana, it hadn't gone very well.
"No. Actually, I don't know where she lives," he said, lying through his teeth. In fact, he knew Liana's home residence down to the pattern of the floor tile. Her heart was in a saucer atop a pedestal located in the core of the castle. Oh, the pains he and all his ancestors had gone through in keeping it secret...Best continue before he got distracted and let something slip. "But it's not like my kingdom is inhabited solely by Goblins. There are plenty of Fae in other districts. I have Lords and Ladies just like any other kingdom."
"So...is that where it got its name from? Because only Goblins live in the capital?" Sarah's question was so childish it almost made him laugh, but he stifled it for her sake. He was just happy he'd managed to turn the conversation away from Liana.
"I suppose. Though I was not King when the country was formed." Sarah looked down into her lap, deeply contemplative; and from the air about them, it seemed like this were any other day having any other conversation. This flux between complacency and anxiety throughout the day was having a very rough effect on him.
"From what I've read, an absence of Fae in the capital has always been the case..." He shot her a sharp eye from his peripheral, hoping direly that she would drop the subject. There weren't very many excuses he could make on this one, and none of them were satisfactory. He tried to play it off with ease.
"What can I say, my family has always preferred solitude," he said, which was a truth...
"I guess...but doesn't it get lonely? I mean...it was just you and Roldan occupying the entire castle before..."
"People come and go. We both have plenty of business to occupy our time. And besides, in those times when I ever did get lonely, I thought about getting someone like you." He gazed down at her teasingly, seeing how much he could get away with. She was already glaring by the time he caught her profile.
"Oh, I'm sure. Glad I can serve as a bit of entertainment for you. Too bad I can't be as useful to Roldan." Her tone was disgruntled but the way her feet swayed in the grass betrayed her. He chose not to take her seriously.
"Roldan is coarse by nature, but he'll come around, one way or another." She peered up to him then.
"Yeah...speaking of that, he's been oddly nice to me lately. Maybe he is coming around, or maybe you simply stopped ordering him to be purposefully mean to me. One way or another right?" Her voice was tersely condescending. Jareth's gaze started to fall and he sighed.
"I told him one day was enough. After..." He paused; Sarah became curious at the way his words lingered and she watched him intently as his eyes closed while he gathered his thoughts. After a moment, he sighed again. "Instigating you is no longer necessary." His voice was much more stern now, she became more attentive. "Those lessons...are no longer necessary. Lessons involving me anyway." Sarah's eyes widened, and she gaped up at him like she hadn't heard him correctly and was waiting for him to repeat himself. He could sense the ease and relief that flooded over her at his admission and such a reaction only made him feel worse about the whole thing. Had he been reading her wrong all along? Her scent didn't lie, her dreams didn't lie; was she really so allayed by this? Was his touch really so coarse to her...
He was surprised when she asked,
She sensed a tension move through him just then, resulting in a definite crease in his brow. She'd been getting glimpses of the tumult he was feeling beneath this pleasant facade all day, but now, being so close and isolated like this, she couldn't help but feel some sort of sympathy.
"I've told you numerous times...what effect intimacy would have on your stability...and after the display you put on that night, it's clear you have a firm grasp on yourself. There's no further need to carry on." Sarah's brow started to scrunch the more he talked. He sounded as if he were angry and she actually felt a little bad about it. Maybe it was just the alleviation she felt of knowing her nights were now safe from routine molestation, but she almost couldn't stop herself from reaching out and telling him it was okay. Instead, she kept her hands firmly rooted in her lap.
"I see...I suppose I should be glad then. I mean...I actually learned...and did something right..." Her head lowered subconsciously as she spoke, allowing Jareth to cast his glance back over her unseen.
"And yet you sound uncertain."
"I do, don't I?" She looked back up to him with a false smile, and it was painfully obvious just how sour the air between them had become. He held her stare until she was forced to shrug it off. "We're pretty messed up, you know that?" she asked, her lighthearted tone trying to ease the mood. Surprisingly to her, this only made Jareth frown.
"The last time you said that, I believe you were screaming it at me; and now you say it with such a gentle smile. This whole affair has brought us to quite the curious state, hasn't it?" And just like that his smile came back. It was faint, and it was forced, but it matched her own and that meant that they were trying. She turned away and slouched in her seat, feeling comfortable that they each had a reasonable understanding of the other. She never imagined they would have to go through so much to get to a place like this.
They welcomed the silence, as it seemed to now be working in their favor by lightening the mood rather than making it awkward. He was distracted by a fairy fluttering in the bushes beside him, and so didn't notice Sarah's attention wandering off in its own direction.
"Say, what's over there? I don't think we've gone down that way yet."
Jareth looked up to find her pointing towards an opening across from them, crowned by an overhanging veil of yellow roses, decorated with stone and bronze nymphs. There were taller trees beyond those walls, concealing many things, haunting things that Jareth forgot he had forgotten. He pulled out of his daze and blinked it away, surprised this particular gate hadn't called his attention sooner.
"That would be the Queen's Garden."
Sarah peered up to him, uncertain, yet eager.
"Hm? The Queen has her own garden? Can we go in?" she asked, like a child on a school trip. Jareth smiled, she probably didn't realized she had asked him for something again, but he did.
"You are the Queen, aren't you?" he asked, mockingly. Sarah scowled.
"No. I'm not actually."
"Close enough," he said, giving her a soft laugh as he stood from the bench and took her hand, leading her with him.
Immediately, Sarah noticed that this section of the garden was different from the rest. For starters, there were much more flowers, solely flowers; no shrubs or bushes or any other kind of plant that didn't have something to bloom. It was much more claustrophobic and the smell was almost overpowering. There were little fairies fluttering about, though Sarah reminded herself not to bother with them. The path opened up however, to reveal a quaint little pond with a statue similar to that of the courtyards. She knew this one was greek from the wreath some beautiful woman was placing atop an equally beautiful man's head, though again the story she couldn't place.
"Who are those supposed to be?" she asked. Jareth peered over in a manner that struck her as odd; he seemed genuinely distracted this time.
"Apollo and Daphne...I believe Cupid is hiding somewhere in here too." Sarah scrunched her brow, she
wasn't familiar with that one.
"What's their story?" she asked. Jareth rose a brow and rubbed the back of his head, as if asking him to recall was such a grant feat.
"I believe it goes, the mighty Apollo, after slaying the python became pompous and arrogant and one day mocked the bow of Cupid in comparison to his own. In retaliation, Cupid struck Apollo with a love arrow, and forced him to fall madly in love the the Nymph Daphne, whom he had also struck with an arrow of repulsion; thus Apollo was cursed to forever chase Daphne, and she was cursed to forever run away; until one day, when she could take it no more, Daphne pleaded to the gods to save her; and so just when Apollo was about to seal his loving embrace, did Daphne transform into a laurel tree. In his grief and undying passion, he took her branches and wove a wreath to wear around his head so that she may always be with him."
"I see. That's really sad actually...Say, how do you know so much about this stuff?" she asked. It always struck her how he would know certain aspects of the Aboveground and not others. Jareth seemed fidgety all of the sudden.
"I don't. The person who designed these statues did. I happened to ask them the same questions you ask me." Sarah stared at him for a moment, trying to dissect his integrity. She believed him well enough, but his strange aloofness was concerning. Maybe the smell of the flowers was getting to him.
They continued to walk through the garden, but as they did, strange thoughts started to form in the back of Sarah's mind. For some reason, Jareth's sudden absentmindedness seemed important. He was fine up until this point, or so she thought. Yes, today was a very stressful day but they had been doing pretty well thus far; she would even go as far as to say things felt...normal. It was only after entering the Queen's garden that the anxiety returned...This was a place he said he hadn't been to in quite some time, a place he'd forgotten about. A place someone else had designed.
Sarah's pace started to slow as all kinds of pieces started coming together, and all of the sudden the mounting issues which drew them together yet kept them apart, that plagued her nights and worried her days, were the furthest things from her mind.
"Jareth..." she uttered slowly, with caution.
"Hm?" Jareth turned, but didn't anticipate the intense scowl of deliberation that had stolen her features. He too stopped and waited.
"This garden has been here for a long time hasn't it..." She stared at the ground, at her feet and the flowers around her. It looked like she were having some kind of horrible epiphany, but he had no idea what it was.
"Yes. Why do you ask?"
"It's just...very well maintained. And my room..." This time, Jareth was the one to draw his brow. Her room? What did that have to do with anything?
"What about your room?" he asked.
"Nothing, it's just...when Roldan first got here, he thought my room would be somewhere else... In the east wing I think...I've never been in the east wing." Her voice lowered to a mumble, a clear indicator that she was concerned with other thoughts. Jareth became more alert, not having the faintest idea what was going on.
"And there was a book..." Sarah winced as she said that, having to fight the urge to face-palm at how stupid she was. How could she not figure it out sooner? All the signs? Roldan, the castle, how could she forget the book?
"What book?" Jareth stepped closer to her.
"The lineage book." Then her expression turned grave, and It was then that he realized what she may be thinking. Thealon ascended the throne. Betrothed to Lady Aleigha of the Goblin Kingdom, who bore two sons, Jareth and Davion. Jareth ascended the throne. Betrothed to... She kept her head lowered and her hands at her sides, as if she felt shamed for even asking,
"Jareth...have you been married before?"
She was answered with silence, until she found the courage to look back up to him. His stance was more rigid than it had been, and his expression more stern. He was staring straight at her, but she didn't know if that was a good thing or not. Her brow remained thoroughly worried.
"Yes. Once. A long time ago." His reveal seemed to release some sort of emotional shackle from around her, but right now it only made her more anxious. What was this feeling? And why was she feeling it so strongly? It was...shame, mixed with embarrassment and all kinds of insecurity. Was she jealous of this? Or just upset? Why should she be feeling either in the first place? Was it really that big of a surprise? He was a King after all, a centuries old King renown for his sexual prowess. If anything, the fact that it was only once should be what was surprising... She lowered her head again and glanced around the area.
"So...this is her garden then..." she mumbled, feeling suddenly unwelcome. These flowers, those beautiful statues, even the architecture in the courtyard. There was a reason it was so different from the rest of the castle, it was designed by a woman. I don't. The person who designed these statues did. I happened to ask them the same questions you ask me. He was talking about her, his first wife. How many other times had he been making secret references to her? Wha-what? What is this? Why was she thinking with such a jealous heart? With the way their own relationship stood, she had no right.
"Actually, this garden was created by the wife of Exelion, the first King," he said, and while the explanation should have helped, it didn't. She was just too surprised and she didn't know why. However, the past few days had taught her how to keep such reactions internalized, though she didn't think she had the will to express herself at the moment anyway.
"Oh...that makes sense. It all makes sense, I guess. Some of the things Roldan says...he's comparing me to her, isn't he?" All those times, all those strange looks he gives me...I knew there was a reason why he looks down his nose at me the way he does. It's more than me being an obnoxious human. It's because I'm not her...
"Yes," Jareth said, and started to frown. He could tell a great deal of turmoil had hit her all at once, but they weren't in the proper circumstances for him to console her the way he desired. What was she thinking? Was she jealous? Or simply insecure? Could he use this to his advantage to win her over? Or would it just push her away further?
Sarah looked around and moved towards a nearby bench, though she didn't sit. She was very tentative now.
"Could you...tell me about her?" she asked, giving in to look up to him. Her eyes were wide and full of uncertainty. He on the other hand remained perfectly composed.
"Why?" he asked, not fathoming what she could possibly gain from knowing anything about this. From her initial reaction, he knew it would only upset her. What exactly was she after?
Sarah stood a little straighter and pulled herself together; this panicky insecurity was middle school bullshit. She was better than that. And besides, knowing anything about Jareth's past might help her understand how he got to be the way he was now.
"I don't know...because. I'd like to know." Jareth held her gaze, testing her, and took several steps towards her. As curious as she was acting, there was a strength of conviction in her eyes.
She took a seat at his confirmation, and he took the one beside her. She watched him closely as he leaned back and closed his eyes briefly, as if calling back the memory.
"Her name was Aurelia and she was very beautiful." She observed him quietly as his eyes reopened, but a shade was cast over them. He was quiet for a moment, so she urged him on.
"How did you meet?" she asked. He sat up straight again and rubbed a hand over his knee. Was recounting this making him...uncomfortable?
"...When my father passed on, I was still very young. A condition of inheriting the throne was that I marry immediately in hopes of procuring my own heir as soon as possible. Something that you may not realize, is that there actually are droves of women who would jump at the chance to become my courtesan let alone my wife. Many were brought before me, all I had to do was choose. I found Aurelia to be the most pleasing, she was of proper pedigree and of a proper disposition… and so it was done." Jareth's story, as anticlimactic as it was, only had Sarah more interested. He was tip toeing around this, as he so often did with things that mattered. If something had happened...something that could have made him the way he is, she needed to know.
"I see...what was she like?" Jareth glanced over to her with a smile, feeling a bit incredulous that she could be genuinely interested. Gone was her apprehension and worry, replaced with firm intrigue. He wondered why she was so curious. In all truth, it was a time he'd rather forget altogether.
"She was sweet, and gentle, accommodating and nurturing, obedient, polite, well-tempered, sophisticated-"
"Okay, I get it. She was everything I'm not." His smile was the give away, allowing Sarah to interject against his jesting. Whatever mystery surrounded this woman, it apparently wasn't traumatizing enough not to make light of. That should be a good thing right? But then again, hadn't they been masking their own source of trauma with lighthearted jokes all day?
"On the contrary, you are everything she wasn't." His voice was lower and so were his eyes. A thought had made him withdraw but she didn't know why.
"How is that any different?" she asked, starting to get fed up with all his word games. The faint spite in her voice seemed to work, as it called back his attention. He sat back and looked out at nothing.
"I remember she had long, long golden hair that reminded me of honey and summer, and she wielded a tenderness that every boy desires. She was very pleasant. She cared to my needs and was happy to do so. We were very...content together. She did her job well, connected with the subjects and brought a good reputation to the kingdom. And for a time, I believed I was happy." Sarah pulled away from him, her insecurity slowly returning.
"...What happened to her?" she asked, somehow feeling bad that they weren't together still, though on one hand, if they were, she herself wouldn't have to be here...
"She died. Giving birth to my son."
Forgetting her own issues, Sarah leaned forward with eyes widened with surprised sympathy and concern. That was not what she expected him to say in the slightest, and to just lay it out so bluntly? Her eyes searched his face, but he seemed totally unaffected.
"What?! You have a son?" she asked, not sure which part of his sentence was more shocking. Jareth closed his eyes.
Sarah blinked repeatedly, but after sensing the wall that was starting to form between them slowly sank back into her seat.
"But you just said-"
"There were...complications during her labor. She caught a fever that not even our medicines or our magics could help. There are risks for us just as there are for you...The child was asphyxiated whilst still in the birth canal. Technically he was never born, so technically I never had a son." Sarah rose a hand to her heart and struggled to reach out for him with the other, though, just like his from earlier, the gesture never made it.
"Jareth I- I'm so sorry." And the waver in her voice said she truly meant it. Jareth glanced over, surprised that her compassion towards him was so sincere, or maybe it was just pity. Either way, she'd never looked at him like that before, like she were looking into him and actually seeing something worth the effort left on the inside. The sternness of his features humbled. How wonderful would it be if she shed a tear for him rather than because of him...
"Don't be. It was a very long time ago, and time has a way of healing most wounds," he said, meaning to be reassuring, though failing miserably. Sarah perked up in her seat a little, baffled that he could be so complacent.
"How can you speak so calmly?" she asked, sounding startled with his own lack of sympathy. Was this the horror that broke him? Was this the thing that turned him so sour? That made him so vile? Why- why was she so concerned with the answer? Why did she want the answer to be yes?
"Rest assured, I was not always so calm. The night it happened I near about lost my mind. I accused them of foul play, and a part of me still does. I suppose that is one of the reasons why I do not trust my own kind, nor want their presence sullying my halls. I was not allowed in the birthing room, it is forbidden for men. They said there was nothing anyone could have done, but I refused to believe that. My naivety back then was astounding." His brow rose and he shook his head, as if he couldn't believe he had ever reacted in such a way. How could he do that? How could he just shake it off and scorn in hindsight? No, she refused to believe he was so numb. He was forcing himself to be, she knew it. She saw the way traveling down memory lane had affected him, saw how distracted and fidgety it made him. He was not numb. This had to be it. This had to have broken him. If it wasn't...if something wasn't broken in him...how could she ever hope to fix it?
"I see...that's horrible. I'm so sorry you went through that. So that's why Roldan can't stand looking at me. He looks at me like I'm stealing something from her. I mean, I am, aren't I? She sounds perfect, there's no way I could ever live up to that." She glared away and fought for her composure. This was Jareth's experience and yet she was the one getting all worked up over it. Why was he being so calm?!
"Sarah, you are not stealing anything from her. Aurelia died nearly five-hundred years ago." Again, Jareth's voice was casual, without even the faintest hint of remorse.
"Yes, five-hundred years and she is still the standard, she is still fresh in Roldan's eyes. Five hundred years and this garden is still kept so perfect, just the way she designed it I bet...When you said the only woman to share your chamber is your wife, you were referring to her weren't you? And so my room...is actually her room...I get it...You must have loved her very much." Her voice was getting flighty, causing Jareth to look over to her. He didn't understand what had made her so agitated. She looked to be in some manner of distress. Was one of Liana's roses nearby? No, he couldn't sense anything...Perhaps there was a deeper reason to her unease.
"Actually, the garden is self-sustaining. I haven't been here in almost 300 years." Sarah peered up. His gaze was on her, but it was gentle. "Second, when I said that, I was referring to you, you're the only woman I've been with in my chambers. In the past, I valued my solitude. Aurelia respected that. I would always come to her, she never came to me."
"So, my room is-"
"Is not the same as hers. She had her own wing on the opposite side of the castle, so that I could be left on my own. That was the place Roldan thought to lead you that day."
"Then why...why is my room right next to yours if you like to be alone? Why is there a shady corridor connecting the two?" she asked. Jareth's expression turned solemn, but she was simply incapable of understanding.
"Maybe it's because I no longer desire to be left alone." She started shaking her head.
"I don't...I don't understand."
"Sarah, it is true that she was all that I asked her to be. She cared for me greatly, and it was said that we were happy together; but understand this, I did not love her."
Jareth, not anticipating Sarah fervor, leaned back when she was suddenly in his face, aghast and vehement. She actually had to hold on to the back of the bench for balance she moved so quickly, stopping herself when they were nose to nose so she could search his eyes for their integrity.
"What? How can you say that? She did everything you wanted. She was perfect, the perfect wife, the perfect Queen, she has to be or Roldan wouldn't hold her in such high regard. She died having your child for God's sake! And you said you were happy. How can you not have loved her?" Sarah's claims were outraged, leaving Jareth all but bemused. Why was she so earnest? What did she have to gain from this? He leaned forward and placed his hands on her shoulders in an effort to sooth, and for the first time all day their proximity affected neither of them.
"Why is this upsetting you? What's wrong?" he asked; but as soon as the words were uttered did Sarah rationalize her outburst and sit back in her seat. She looked away shaking her head.
"Nothing. I just...I just can't see how you couldn't...I mean, from what little you've said, and the way you said it, I can tell she was perfect, and she's nothing like me. She's everything I'm not. She was sophisticated and obedient and wanted to be here with you. After having someone like her, why ever would you possibly want someone like me? If you could have someone else from this world just like her who does what you want them to then why did you choose me? How could I ever meet those standards?" Her pleas became exasperated, to the point where the source of her turmoil became evident. Regardless of whatever jealously may fester, knowing that Jareth had loved someone, anyone at all, would mean that he was plain capable of the emotion. It would mean that he was capable of change. It was hope that one day he would fall in love with her, realize the error of his ways and change into a better person. Him loving Aurelia was hope for her own future. But now, all she was left with was a question. If you couldn't love someone like her, how can you ever love me?
And that's when Sarah realized the true depravity of their relationship: she wanted to be loved by him; but more than that, she wanted to save him. She didn't want to go home, she wanted a happily ever after. She wanted her dreams. Even now, after all the horrible things he'd done, after the awfulness she'd put them through, it made her want to save him even more, it made her want to be able to love him even more. She was just as greedy and selfish as he was. It was despicable. But this...this was hopelessness. If he was truly so unaffected by Aurelia and all that happened, then it stood to say that he had always been like this and she had loved him anyway. Aurelia, bless her soul, must have been strong indeed, for Sarah knew she had not the strength to love him as he was. But even more so, she had not the will to be loved by him as he currently was either.
She was distracted with thoughts of future calamity when he started speaking again.
"Sarah...you're still very young, I don't expect you to understand. Aurelia may have been everything that I wanted, but she was nothing that I needed." There was a humbleness to his voice that Sarah was unable to register. In the current whirlwind of her thoughts, his words only jumbled the mix even more.
"What? What does that even mean?" she asked.
"What is perfect for some is imperfect for others."
"Stop being vague. Just tell me, why did you pick me?" She glared up at him, urging him to turn. When he did, she was caught off guard by the lingering sadness she hadn't noticed had been there all along; though strangely, it wasn't rooted in a memory.
"You mean you still don't know?"
"No! You tell me I'm an adequate candidate and that I have a lot of heart and I'm fun to tease but those aren't reasons Jareth. If you can't tell me why you picked me above all others, above someone like Aurelia, then what am I even doing here? Why are you putting me -us- through all this?" The exasperation in her voice had brought her to the point of tears, though she refused to let them break her. Sensing how distressed she truly was, Jareth turned and took hold of the sides of her face with his hands and pulled her in close.
"You're right. Those aren't real reasons, and are in fact irrelevant to me. Is it that you won't believe that I did not love Aurelia? Or that you need to know why? Because the truth is, I couldn't possibly love someone like her, as I am only capable of l-"
The pivotal moment Jareth had been so carefully maneuvering towards shattered utterly into millions of little pieces with just one word, one gut-wrenching agonizing word. Sarah, anxious and on edge, darted her head over towards the intrusion immediately, leaving Jareth to slowly follow. He glared over with all the fury of Hell in his eyes.
"Uh -scuze me Sire. Master Roldan has important message. Needs to see you at once!" the little Goblin said, standing as tall and firm as it could, though even it could sense the awkwardness it had created. Its eyes darted this way and that, realizing it may have just signed its own death warrant and began looking for any possible escape into the bushes.
Jareth's hands, which had been enveloping Sarah's jaw so tenderly, now curled away with firmly restrained fury. He pulled away from her, forcing himself to do nothing simply for her sake and glared down at the poor creature.
"If this isn't life or death, I'll make it so," he growled, and took the message from its hands. He read it quickly and snarled, causing Sarah to become concerned. "I have to go."
"Don't worry. It's nothing. But I have to take care of it. I'll be back shortly. Feel free to go where ever you like." Jareth stood, and tucked the note into a pocket, leaving Sarah to slowly ease back into her right frame of mind. She blinked up at him wondering how he could escape a daze like that so quickly and then looked all around.
"Wait- you mean I can stay out here?" she asked. Jareth sighed. He may not have gotten to make the move he'd wanted, but at least she was no longer upset.
"That was my compromise. You can come out and explore the grounds whenever you like. You don't need my permission. Guards will already be in place so you don't need to worry about being alone...There are always events going on, just ask any of the guards and they'll inform you."
"Um, okay." Her brow started to worry, a little put off that he was leaving so suddenly that he couldn't even finish his sentence. What was he going to say? There were a dozen possibilities floating around in her head, but she refused to believe the most hopeful, and even if it was in fact what she thought it was, in truth, that only made her more terrified.
"Oh, but one thing," he said and pointed past her, "Don't go down that path unless I'm with you, understood?" She looked at the path, then looked at him and nodded, but otherwise couldn't get a word in before both he and the Goblin vanished, leaving her to sit there, alone, stupefied with her own stupidity.
It didn't take long for the dazzling oasis of the garden to seem like just another cage as Sarah sat alone on a finely carved bench. She'd been thrown from the midst of a faceless emotion that now left her empty and despondent and couldn't understand why. She and Jareth had almost had a moment, and she was afraid of what that meant, or rather what it could have.
She looked around and wrapped her arms around herself as if it were cold. Jareth, apparently, had taken the heat of the sun along with him. She thought about their walk and of the things she'd acknowledged and couldn't believe it had gone this well. Jareth seemed like a completely different person today, but she knew better than to get too hopeful; this wayward prudence was a result of not knowing what to do and would pass sooner rather than later. His manner was flawed and could not be fixed, even he had said that. She sighed and kicked her feet through the grass; lecturing herself for her constant pessimism. Though then again, when one expects only the worst, they can never be disappointed.
She glanced over to the spot where Jareth once sat. There was so much earnest in his eyes, and she knew what he was about to say. She knew, and she prayed to God in thanks that he hadn't been able to say it. If he had...if he had said those words she was now sure he intended to say, she didn't know what she would do. Actually, that was a lie, she would probably have broken down and cried because all hope would be lost. She acknowledged now what she wanted and what she wanted from him, but she didn't want it now, she wanted the change that would bring it. If he had told her...if he had the gall to dare tell her he loved her...well then there would be nothing left. These past weeks, all the things he'd done. If he claimed to love her already, if that was the way he intended to love her, then she wanted nothing of it. She'd rather he felt nothing for her and have the satisfaction of earning it from each other than be weakly coddled in the moment.
She found herself frowning as she thought this. She was neither ready nor willing to feel for him as strongly as she already did. She needed to cast it aside, to bury it until a time when he deserved it. But could she do that? Could she bar her emotions from herself and still have the things she wanted? Well, she could certainly try.
She trolled around the general vicinity, plaguing herself over what was better for her and what was better for her now. Had they really resolved enough for her to even be considering this kind of thing anyway? It was true that they had more meaningful conversation in this one day than in the entire time they'd known each other, but whenever she tried to imagine the future, it came up blank. As the thoughts began to layer one another, she thought that maybe it would be better to live in the moment instead.
She stopped in front of the path, the one Jareth had very precisely forbade her from, and knew it wasn't sheer coincidence that her feet had placed her there. The longer she paced the more curious she became, until the allure of the path was strong enough to distract her from her troubles. Why didn't he want her going down there? Only that way? Was there something he didn't want her to see? Something about Aurelia? Her thoughts began to ramble with possibilities, though she told herself she would stay put and wait until he got back. But the more she thought about waiting on Jareth's leisure, the more it made her want to take her own action.
She stood in front of the path, staring it down intently. Curiosity had always been a fault of hers, she'd learned that well enough from the first time she'd experienced the Labyrinth. And now was exactly the same; how could he point out something like that and then not expect her to go down it? He was practically setting her up for it! She fantasized that that were the truth, that he had pointed it out to her because he very purposefully wanted her to travel down it without him; but why? But why nothing. That line of thinking was self-serving and silly. It must be something dangerous; but then again, if it were really something she shouldn't be getting in to, wouldn't he have just closed off the path altogether?
More than several minutes had gone by, and Sarah's patience was reaching its end. She peered around, feeling so daring as she made her final decision. There were no guards, no one to stop her, and what real harm could come of it anyway? Sure, Jareth might scold her when he got back, but it was his fault for tempting her like that; she needed a distraction, and given their awkward circumstances, she might be able to get out of a scolding altogether. Her idea of living in the moment couldn't have been more perfectly timed.
"It can't be anything bad. He would make sure I couldn't go if it were...right?"
With a bit of rebellious excitement, she entered the path, eyeing every inch of her surroundings past the threshold as if it were a portal, but nothing had changed. In fact, the more she walked, the less fascinated she became. The number of flowers in this section died down quickly, leaving most of the path empty except of grass. She reached a corner, and around it saw the path open up into a large area filled with trees. She stopped before it all and drew her brow; there didn't seem to be anything special about them. Why wasn't she allowed down here exactly?
She stepped amidst the trees, eyeing them up and down, as each one was different and all were very strange. She saw some that were purple, others blue and gold. There were some that looked similar to apple trees, but their fruit was exotic and unfamiliar to her. At first, she wondered when Jareth would come and yell at her, but as she wandered deeper and deeper into the grove, forgot about everything accept taking another step forward.
Smells of the differing blossoms began to layer and linger in the air, their aroma's thick and poignant. Some of them had sap oozing from their trunks and branches, and the smell from those were indescribable in a very foul way. The trees became smaller as she walked, until the foliage opened up into another clearing, smaller this time. She looked up and could see the castle walls some ways away and wondered how far she had wandered. She looked around and blinked hard repeatedly. Her vision was getting fuzzy and she wasn't sure why. The air became dense with the scent of fruit and blossoms and bark until her chest became heavy with the effort to breathe. She rose a hand to her temple and carried on, not sure why she was still walking. Where was Jareth?
She came to the far end of the clearing and stopped dead. Something...something had told her to stop. She looked up and it was like the trees themselves were pulsating at her. She figured it must be the scent, the blood was rushing to her temples, her sinuses were flaring, but none of that couldn't explain the sudden dryness of her mouth or the overwhelming hunger that twisted her stomach in the most painful of knots. She winced and stepped forward still, staring at the ground until the shadows of leaves danced overhead. She felt soothed by their shade, she felt safe.
She stood straight and looked upwards. She was standing before a mighty tree, not might of its size but of its overwhelming presence. Her eyes roamed up and down, and it became clear that this was the thing that had been calling her near. It's trunk was narrow but its branches stretched far, farther than any of the other trees, and they hung so low that she could reach them with just the tip of a toe. It was black, so dark and uniform that its surface looked painted; but its bark curled and peeled like that of a birch. Its leaves were of a dark red, and when she reached up to touch one, was enamored by the feel of velvet. She stood back, lost in sheer reverence of this dominating figure, and her thoughts were unable to turn from it, from its smell, from its feel. The air hummed with a heat she didn't recognize but had not the capacity to fear, and when she looked up she was consumed with such cravings that her mouth began to water blatantly. Her eyes widened for the fruit hanging from its branches. They were sumptuous and alluring. They looked so soft and tender, their forms rounded and burgeoning with juices and meat. And she was so hungry, so unbelievably hungry. She forgot about everything except how badly she wanted to feel its flesh against her tongue. She could barely breathe; this pulse, it was echoing. She reached up and it fell into her hands.
The moment Jareth returned to the garden he knew something wasn't right, but was too preoccupied to find any significance. He regretted having to leave Sarah like that, but Roldan's summons really was a bit of an emergency. He'd managed to handle it quickly however, and had returned in what he considered to be a timely fashion. He wasn't quite sure what the mood would be now, but he felt a great deal better about the situation than he had that morning. There were still issues, mounting issues, but right now felt...content. Her demeanor had been more rounded from the beginning than he could have anticipated; and although he was still confused and wary of it, it had made his own struggles that much easier to work through.
He gazed about the garden, searching for her; as for some reason he expected her to still be sitting in the same spot he left her in. He became annoyed then. If that wretched Goblin had waited only ten more seconds... He still couldn't believe how close he'd been, nor the uncanny interruption. He wondered if he would still have a chance once he found her. Oh, how badly he wanted to prove Liana wrong. She thought his feelings for Sarah were holding him back? He'd show her that with them he could progress farther than he had ever planned. He saw the look in her eye, saw how desperate it was. Well, he was getting pretty desperate too.
He started to pace, yes he could locate her with the snap of his fingers if he so wanted, but he didn't mind the leisure that came with finding her the old fashioned way. Now, where could she have gone...He'd only taken a couple steps when something strange began to slowly swelter in the air. He stopped and drew his brow. That smell. It was...
He looked over and saw the path from where the aura was emanating and his expression fell. He passed through the gate, paying attention to the imprints in the grass and the strength of the scent. For a moment, he refused to believe that she had come this way. The fact that she ignored his command came as no surprise, but he knew for a fact that this path would not allow for human access. It had been charmed long ago to prevent such things, it was far too dangerous. How then did she enter?
That's when he cringed, realizing the stupidity of his ways. He was in such a rush to leave and therefore come back, that he had overlooked the fact that Sarah's dormant power might have a rather inconvenient affect on things. Stupid. Stupid! If the path had unlocked because of the Labyrinth's hold, then it was no wonder why she had ventured inside. He knew her to be curious by nature, and the forces beyond the path yearned for such ignorance. His presence was enough to mask their calling, but left alone and undistracted they would have the power to draw her in, whether she realized it or not. He shouldn't have left her alone, or better yet, he should have spared the time to explain why he was warning her.
He began to walk more briskly, her scent was certainly strong enough, she couldn't be much farther ahead. As he looked about, he prayed one of the lesser trees had caught her attention, though in the back of his mind he knew which was the true culprit, and feared for the eminent future. Anything, please be anything other than that!
He fisted his hands and snarled, angry that the entire day's progress may go up in flames in only another moment or two. He tried to analyze her scent; her pheromones were all over the place, wielding every emotion possible. That wasn't good. That wasn't good at all. How bad could it be? He'd only been gone no more than twenty minutes!
He reached the inner circle of the small forest and even he was affected by the laden sent of magic in the air. He hadn't been here in so long, if it were having even a weak effect on him, he couldn't imagine what it had done to Sarah. He entered the clearing and looked up, then stopped dead. He saw her standing across from him, no more than twenty feet. Her back was to him, and the rigidness of her stance worried him. He looked past her and saw the tree which she waited under and again his nerves twisted. She wasn't moving, not a single hair. Maybe the scent was too strong? Maybe it had rendered her immobile? Hopefully that were the case. Gods, if she had eaten one of the fruit...
He stepped towards her, remaining as calm and appeasing as he could. He was wary, though made no effort to mask his approach. In the worst case scenario, she would be as rabid as a wild animal; it would be best not to startle her.
"...Sarah?" he called to her. The breeze gently swayed the skirt of her dress, but otherwise the scene remained frozen. He eyed her carefully, then took another step closer. "I thought I asked you not to come down here alone?" he said.
Sarah twitched, as if she'd been in default mode all this time. She blinked repeatedly until her vision cleared and saw the trunk of the tree standing before her. She opened her mouth to breathe and ran her tongue along her palate. It was so thick. Everything was so thick...
She turned around and their eyes met with a spark.
Jareth's body noticeably tensed, his expression caught somewhere between anger and horror. He stared her down fiercely, not taking his eyes from hers.
Her eyes were opened wide, wide enough to cause a visible strain, though she felt none of it, and her pupils were constricted to the size of pin heads. There was a tension coursing through her, making her breathing come in tremors. A viscous fluid oozed from her mouth, so dark and red it could have been mistaken for blood, which was smeared all around her mouth and dripped down the front and sides of her neck. She continued to chew, and with each clench of her jaw secreted more juices to stream, so much that it had pooled in the well of her cleavage and stained the whiteness of her dress as it made its way down her front. She began to breathe more heavily the moment she registered it was him and her hand clenched, her slight fingers sinking deeper into the flesh of the fruit which she still held.
Jareth swallowed and steeled himself. He could not show any falter lest he disrupt this moment of balance. The effects of Monoma on mortals were unpredictable, though they always centered around the person's most base emotions. He prayed, foolishly, that she had been truthful when she said she felt no anger...
Sarah didn't respond but simply approached him. Her eyes were so wide, yet everything was a blur. All she could see was what was directly in front of her: Jareth. She opened her mouth wider and licked her lips, but the juices that stained her lips failed to quench the unbearable thirst which was slowly returning. She stopped before him and looked down at her hand as it squeezed the life out of what was left of the fruit, its bloody juices seeping around her hand and down her arm, then looked back to him. He looked so rigid. So Fierce. Why...why was she still so hungry?
She struggled with words. It was as if she'd forgotten how...
"...I want more," she said after some difficult mumbling, and stared deep into his eyes. It was strange...she didn't see anything.
Jareth tried to keep his aura mellow, but it was near impossible. He needed to get her inside and secure as soon as possible; but simply dragging her away wouldn't be so easy...
"I think you've had plenty," he said and offered her a hand. "Why don't we go inside so you can clean up? There'll be more for you there." If she came with him willingly, all might be well. He could seal her until the effects wore off. She hadn't outright attacked him as he'd feared, that could only be a good thing.
Sarah was silent, and cocked her head to look at him sideways as if regarding a strange creature. She un-clawed her hand and the messy carcass of the fruit fell to the ground. She rose her hand and stared at the gel-like substance that clung to her skin and made her fingers stick together. It was hard for him not to flinch when she then reached up and pressed the tips of those fingers against his lips. He scowled, but remained still. It wasn't that he was afraid she might hurt him if she went manic, but if she did fall into a fit there was a chance she could hurt herself in the process. And so he tried to appease her until he could get her inside and away from all this magic. She tapped her fingers against his lips and then pressed the back of her hand to smear the juices across his own face. He scowled harder still, unsure of her actions. Her eyes flickered up and down his face, as if inspecting her handiwork; then she pressed her hands against his chest and rose to her toes. She brought her lips close to his and ran the tip of her tongue along his cheek to the crease of his lips.
"I said...I want more," she whispered, and kissed him softly.
Jareth froze, utterly, as if he were being molested by a lion. Her hands turned into fists at his collar, using him as a prop to hold herself up as she kissed him again. He tried to remain unresponsive; from the way her tongue moved, it seemed she were merely lapping the juice from his face rather than actually kissing him; but regardless, this was not the proper circumstance. For not knowing what to expect, this was something he for sure did not. The fruit of the Monoma Tree amplified the urge for one's deepest desire. With everything that was going on between them, he was sure that manifest would have been something very grave; and yet she was kissing him. Something about this situation seemed very out of place.
She became more forceful in her efforts, even closing her eyes and pushing her tongue between his lips trying to gain access, but he kept his jaw firmly closed. She pulled away and frowned as she tilted her head again.
"What's the matter? Do you not want me anymore? Am I too dirty for you?" She spoke so sweet and with such innocence that he couldn't help but frown in return. No matter how much he wanted to believe her advances were real...they never were. He brought his hands to her shoulders and gently squeezed.
"You're not dirty at all. Come, we can talk inside," he urged. He thought about teleporting them both inside, but an action so sudden might make her panic and send her over the edge. He'd rather avoid that risk as much as possible. He lightly tugged but she held her ground.
"But I am dirty. I'm filthy in fact. See?" She rose her hand and smeared the tacky serum across her cheek and stared up at him like a child who didn't know any better. Jareth's scowl intensified; the slime of the fruit was starting to dry on his face and chest, though he tried not to let it bother him. "You're dirty too," she pointed out.
"Alright, why don't we go clean ourselves up then?" He took half a step back when she stepped forward; the starved look had randomly returned to her eye, letting him know that she hadn't heard a single word he'd said. But she couldn't help it, the more she tried to focus the hungrier she became. She stood up on her toes once more.
"But...it tastes so good..." And she kissed him again, only this time he was unprepared to shield it. She closed her eyes, the softness of her lips molding to his, her light breath humming against his skin. She rose her hands to the back of his head and licked away the remainder of the juice. "Doesn't it taste good?" Her lashes fluttered with a slow wantonness, the likes of which Jareth had never seen in her before. He swallowed hard and tried to remain on task. She didn't give him time to compose himself however and kissed him even harder. Her fingers wove into his hair and she held their faces together as she whimpered softly.
That sound. That soft, muffled, beautiful sound. He couldn't help but part his lips for her and give her what she wanted. Their tongues met, and he closed his eyes and leaned into her. For him, this moment was of brief sublime. After all those days of wondering how and why and dreading whatever those answers might be...After spending all that time alone away from her not knowing what to do, with only one thought of what he wanted to do...and it was this. Oh, how he wished it could be so easy, so easy to just apologize and make up, to hold her and kiss her the very way he was now. But it could never be. It could never be so easy. He knew that. Just as he knew that this moment wasn't real. It was never real; but for now...he pretended all the same. He brought a hand to her jaw and pulled away, his stern awareness fading.
"We should go inside," he insisted.
"Because this isn't what you want." If this were happening but one week ago, he would have reacted quite oppositely, but right now was crucial to their future. He knew now, he knew how serious things really were, and no matter how easy it would be to take advantage of this very situation, surprisingly, he found that he would not be able to stand himself if he did so. He was getting tired of all their moments being contrived. For one single time he wanted her touch and her taste to be genuine; and even though it was true that the effects of the drug manifested desires that were already there, this just wasn't the same.
Sarah looked at him strangely, before dismissing him completely and pulling him back down to her.
"What do you know of my desires?" she asked, and kissed him fiercely with a hot open mouth. Her arms constricted around his neck, impairing him from pulling away, and forced their mouths to twine; and no matter how much Jareth wanted to back away, there was a sweetness to her ardor that was simply inescapable.
He felt his fears and his desires flare together in a tryst of insecurity, and in that brief moment of weakness closed his eyes and let her have him.
His arms went around her and a hand knotted in her hair, leaning down as she pulled herself up into him; she panted through her kisses like she were starved for them; all the while Jareth sank lower and lower into the wallow of his woes, torturing himself with the knowledge that this was just another veneer, one that once faded would give way to even bigger issues between them. But this contention only made him hold onto her tighter, refusing to let this moment go. She may hate him for it later, but he needed this kiss. He needed it to keep on pretending.
They stood in tight embrace for a few moments, just long enough for Jareth to feel his head growing fuzzy. The juices in Sarah's mouth were being transferred to him, and though it wasn't much, it was certainly enough. He pulled back then; as a Fae, the effects of magical fruit were not as strong on him as they were Sarah, but they did have an affect all the same. It was then that he was reminded to remain in control of the situation. A kiss was one thing, but if he lost his head and did something...he knew she would never forgive him. The aromas of the trees around them began to grow thicker, feeding off their energy.
"Sarah...come. This isn't the place. You don't want to-"
"Shh...just stop talking."
Her hands caressed his cheeks, and she stared at him so sweetly. Her face was smeared with sticky juice and seeds, it was a disheveled mess and yet to him she shone like an angel. He started blinking hard then. It must be the fruit. The air about her was starting to vibrate. But the cause was irrelevant to the fact that the more he stared at her lips the more his mouth started to water.
"I think I know that look in your eye. You want more too, don't you?" she asked and nipped along his neck. Jareth screwed his eyes shut and tried to focus. His will was at ends with itself. On the one end, every touch was like a hint of the desperate haven he craved, and yet each time she touched him, all he could think of was the last time she had touched him, the last time she had said those words, and of how eerily similar these two moments were. He had to open his eyes, as images of that wretched chair and those awful floorboards had begun to taunt him. No. He would not let that happen again. For a second time Sarah was not in her right mind; the only time she came to him was when she was not in control of her own self... He couldn't take it anymore. Now disgusted, he tore himself away from her.
"No, I don't. But if you want to continue this, we have to go inside. Come with me."
"Why do I need to go somewhere to be with you, when we're together already?" She fisted her hands in his collar and shoved him until he stumbled back and fell to the ground. She wasted no time, crawling up his front and devouring him with mad kisses once again, and for all of the dozens of tiny voices screaming for him to get up and put an end to this before he fell prey to the drug as well, he wondered why he had yet to take heed. It was happening again, just like before; the assertiveness of her desire had smote him pitifully, did he still not have the power to control himself? Had he really learned nothing? But no, no he had learned, and if this were the same he knew he could stop. But it wasn't. This was different because, unlike before, Jareth was imbibing a rampaging amount of the most passionate exuberant pheromones he'd ever sensed. It would be hard to turn away from that even without the hinderance of the Monoma fruit in his system. That was the power she had over him, power that he had never experienced before, power that she was wielding all too well. Another moment of weakness hit him, one that proved almost dire. He wrapped his arms around her and held her flat against his body. Her breath was hot and her lips swollen, the skin of their cheeks stuck to one another from the lingering juices of the fruit, but it only made the moment more heated.
He rolled them so it was she who was on her back, needing the distinction to separate now from that awful incident, but it refused to leave. His conscience, still badgering him to cease, now utilized that memory as incentive, and he knew...he knew this needed to stop.
Sarah's hands moved lower, feeling down his chest and began working at the belt on his pants. The moment he felt her hands tug at the buckle was like a trigger, the one his conscience had been so direly searching for. He rolled them over once again and sat up so they were sitting nose to nose. A kiss was one thing...getting worked up was another...but it couldn't go any farther than this. He put his hands on her shoulder and stared her weakly in the eye. He was starting to get a serious buzz from the fruit, he only hoped she would be calming down soon.
"Sarah. This needs to stop." She ignored him and went back in, but he caught her and held her a good distance away. "No."
She stared at him for a moment, testing his conviction. When she tried to move again, he held her in place. Her eyes narrowed then, dangerously.
She spoke as if the word were foreign to her. Jareth did his best to remain composed. She turned her head and gave him an eye.
"Did you just say no to me?" she asked. Jareth took a deep breath.
"This cannot continue," he said. Sarah's back straightened, and she swatted his hands away from her shoulders.
"You're refusing me?"
Again, her voice held a preposterous tone, as if his decision were some audacious feat. Her features hardened into a look of sheer contempt, and she reached out and pushed him back down.
"How dare you refuse me!"
He saw the violence coming a mile away and pushed forward, forcing them both to stagger to theirfeet. She stood hunched over, with a look of awful disbelief wrought across her face. Jareth prepared for the worst. "How dare you!" she screamed, pointing a nasty finger at him. "After everything you've done, YOU DON'T GET TO TELL ME NO!" She flailed her fists at him, but he caught them mid-air and held her straight. She snarled and started thrashing against him viciously. "You son of a fucking bitch! All this time, everything you've done to me and you have the gall to tell ME NO? After taking and taking and taking you have the audacity to refuse me the one thing that I want from you?! URAGHH! I hate you! I hate you! IhateyouIhateyouIhateyou!" She shrieked and flailed her entire body, her only intent to deal him as many blows as she could, to hell with escaping. She moved so erratically that it was difficult for him to control her, and her movements held such force that he feared she might pull her arms out of socket or snap her own neck for that matter. Ignoring her words, as brutally honest as they were, he wrapped her arms around herself and constricted her in a vice-like embrace, but she refused to calm down. He knew better than to speak, anything he said from this point on would only enrage her further. She continued to scream, scream awful things to him, things that he knew had been lurking under the surface of their "pleasant day" all this time, and it was torture to hear them, but he listened all the same. "Do you have any idea what you've done to me? Do you have any idea how much you've broken me? How awful I feel because of how awful you've made me?! What happened to my happily ever after? What happened to you Jareth? What the fuck is happening to me?! Why? Why Why Why! LET GO OF ME JARETHHH! Just let go! Please. Please. Just let me go..."
After a few moments, her thrashing started to die down, her words became winded, and it was clear to Jareth that she was exhausting herself. He let out a sigh of relief when she went limp in his arms, passing out from the sheer exertion. He sank to the ground with her, holding her like he'd been wanting to for the past three days, cursing himself and pretending that it would be alright.
When Sarah awoke she found that she was surrounded by darkness. The air was humid, and there was a pressure in her ears that made the space around her echo. She tried to open her eyes, but her muscles had never felt so worn. She tried to move, but it only made her dizzy. She took a few moments to relax and let herself wake up, but it didn't help. She managed to turn her head, and her neck cracked, revealing how stiff and tense she was. She scowled and tried to open her eyes again, and was frightened at how long it took for her vision to clear. Slowly, the migraine started to hit, and the moment it did did she missed the numbness of sleep. She started blinking; the room -whatever room she was in- was dark. She gained more control over her body, and subtle sounds began to reveal themselves: a steady drip, a random scrape against stone, a muted rumble. What were these sounds? Where was she? She tried to think back, but everything was fuzzy.
She was confused to realize that she was standing up, and when she went to flex her arms, became frightened again to find that her shoulders had gone completely numb. She swayed her body and the sound of chains clanking resonated through her clouded ears. What? I'm...I'm in chains? Her scowl stayed low as she tried to focus on her surroundings. She saw the stone of the floor and a soft light reflecting from a torch on the wall. She rose her head a little and saw the silhouette of bars on the door. I'm...I'm in the...dungeons?
"Are you finally awake?" She blinked a couple times and looked up. That voice sounded like Jareth. What the hell was going on? She couldn't see him right away, not because he was hidden, but because she had expected him to be standing. She looked over and saw he was sitting against a wall. His head was leaned back and his eyes were closed and he breathed heavily. Actually, he looked just as exhausted as she was. He was a mess, his clothes were out of sorts and covered in blood. Wait- What?! Blood?
"What? Jareth? What happened? Are you okay?" she asked, but the slight up in adrenaline only made her headache pound harder. She winced and looked away.
"I take it you've calmed down then?" he asked, but she was only able to give him a confused glance in response. She was so tired and congested. What the hell had happened? After a moment of repose, she tried to move again.
"Calmed down? What are you talking about? Why am I chained up?" She saw Jareth smile in the darkness, but it was an incredulous one. He still hadn't answered why there was blood all over his face and torso.
"Your head is still fuzzy, isn't it? Don't worry, it'll come back to you soon enough." She scowled again, trying to remember what the hell could have happened. The last thing she remembered was waiting for him in the garden...
"Why are you covered in blood? Are you hurt?" Jareth took a deep breath. He seemed to be under some kind of physical stress, but she couldn't remember what or why.
"It's not blood," he said, and that was all.
"Why am I in chains?" she asked, which was perhaps the more pertinent question here.
"For your protection."
"Protection? ...Protection from what?"
"What? Why would I-" and then it clicked. She thought back, and this time the memories came clearer. She remembered the path, and that tree. God, that tree. She remembered...feeling more hungry than ever before. And then Jareth came...and then...and then... Oh. Oh, shit. She was suddenly glad for the darkness, for it allowed her to blush with embarrassment in secret. Her eyes became wide and for a split moment her headache was irrelevant. She stared over at Jareth, remembering how exactly he had come to be in such a condition.
"Do you remember now?" he asked. Sarah remained blanched. She could remember most of what happened, including her manic freak out, but anything after that was gone. She swallowed hard and tried to look over herself. She couldn't see much, but the red stains in her bosom stood out clear as day. She bit her lip in worry.
"And how do you feel?" he asked. She bit her lip harder.
"...Ridiculous. And...embarrassed," she said, and just like that the chains released and she fell to the floor. She landed awkwardly, her numb arms serving as no means of balance for her already flimsy body. Her head felt dizzy again, so she stayed put until her equilibrium came back. "Jareth?...What happened after...after I..."
"You had a fit and tried to attack me, though you passed out from the exertion. I feared that when you woke up you might try to harm yourself. So I restrained you here." His words made her scowl, nothing about this situation was making very much sense right now, but she didn't have the cognition to react properly.
"Why couldn't you have restrained me in my bed?" she asked, annoyed to be in such a filthy room with arms that still felt like jello. Jareth took another deep breath, and she began to seriously wonder what his problem was.
"I tried that, but you kept waking up and going berserk. You could hear your screams halfway across the castle. I think it goes without saying that the dungeons are soundproof." Sarah looked to the floor, unable to comprehend everything that had happened. They'd been at such a good place. Why...why did that have to happen?
"Jareth, I- I don't know what happened, why I would..."
"It was the tree," he said. She peered up to him, but he still kept his eyes closed.
"The tree? You mean..."
"I told you not to go down that path, remember?" It felt like he was trying to scold her, but didn't have the energy. The feeling was starting to come back to her arms, so she inched forward a little bit.
"I know...I just...I didn't think it would be anything that bad. It was stupid. I'm sorry." There was a glimmer of fang in the darkness as another dubious smirk flashed across his face.
"It's not your fault. That section of the garden is made up of magical things, plants used in spells and charms. I was in such a hurry, I forgot what kind of allure it might have on you when left alone."
"Oh...I see...Jareth? Why does my body hurt like this?" she asked, her headache was excruciating and her muscles were painfully tight. She wanted to lay down, but the grime of the floor was off-putting.
"The fruit you ate takes a serious physical toll on the body. In fact, I'm surprised you're as cognizant as you are."
"How long have I been hanging here?"
"About six hours."
"Ah." She wanted to say how six hours of sleep had felt like six minutes, but ironically she was too tired to do so. She inched her way across the floor to sit beside him, mimicking his posture. She didn't know why, but she was more comfortable there. She was so so tired, she could just fall asleep in this very spot, right beside him..."Jareth?" she murmured.
"Those things I did and said...I'm sorry. I didn't...I didn't mean it." Jareth peered over to her then, but she didn't see.
"Yes you did. You shouldn't apologize for it. No matter how unpleasant, I value honesty." Sarah closed her eyes and took slow deep breaths, secretly thinking it rather hypocritical of him to make such a statement.
"That tree...so it makes you go lust crazy? Is it some kind of magical aphrodisiac?" she asked. Jareth smiled again, in spite of himself, and even snickered. Sarah glanced over, confused by his reaction. His eyes had opened, but he stared at the ceiling.
"Not quite. While it is true that the fruit of the Monoma tree is often used as an aphrodisiac, sexual prowess is not its function."
"What?" she asked.
"It has a nickname in this world, as the Di of Passion. It takes a person's most deeply rooted desire and makes it manifest. This doesn't always have to be sexual." Sarah thought for a moment, thought really hard, but it was a moment or two before she understood the subtext of Jareth's words. She looked over to him, full of tentative worry and shame.
"That your most deep rooted emotions were your resentment of me, and that your strongest desire would be for my demise? Yes," he said, then rolled his head towards her and met her in the eye with the faded glory of a scandalous grin. "But that's not what happened, is it?" There were equal amounts of exhaustion and dangerous mischief in his eyes, which made for a strange combination against the weak tone of his sarcasm. Sarah gaped at him a bit, not knowing how to respond nor having the capability to do so properly. A part of her regretted scooting over to sit so close to him.
"So...what you're saying is.." He cut her off by leaning forward and resting his face in the hair that draped over her neck. She sat more rigidly.
"Mhm..." he murmured. She gulped. "It's unbelievable really," he said.
"After everything that's happened...you still want me." She caught a hint of incredulous satisfaction as he said that, but had not the energy to fight it.
"You just said it manifests your deepest desires. Didn't I also freak out and try to kill you too?" Jareth leaned up and leaned his head back against the wall.
"Yes, you certainly did." She was surprised when that was all he had to say.
"I thought you'd be gloating more," she said. Jareth cracked a smile.
"Me too. Though the truth is, I just don't care anymore." She glanced over at how winded he sounded and saw he himself was on the brink of passing out.
"What's wrong with you?" she asked.
"You're not the only one who had a taste of the Monoma, remember?" He threw her an eye, but she was slow on the uptake. She furrowed her brow, confused.
"But...you didn't...you didn't succumb...you made it stop, didn't you? And you're a Fae. It shouldn't affect you like it did me, right?" She was spitballing it here, but she briefly recalled a conversation with Roldan about enchanted plants and their effects on different species...According to that, Jareth should have been fine. And yet...here he was.
"That's true. It doesn't affect me as intensely as it does you. However, there is a balance. While it doesn't affect me as severely, those effects in turn last a great deal longer." His explanation had her suddenly worried. She glossed her eyes over him in reevaluation.
"Wait. So...all this time you've-"
"Been restraining myself from ravaging you to pieces? Yes." He looked over slightly and met her gaze out of the corner of his eye. The connection was a profound one, but was masked by their equal exhaustion.
"Oh...I see. If it's that bad...why stay in the same cell as me?" she asked. She thought about moving away from him in case her proximity was tempting, but in truth she felt perfectly safe just where she was. It was strange. In fact, this entire moment was strange... Jareth shifted against the wall.
"I wanted to know you were okay. And I wanted to be there when you woke up, in case you were disoriented and panicked. You needn't be afraid, I've controlled myself thus far, and the worst has passed. If I thought there were really a danger I would have removed myself from you." He was surprised when he felt her head lean against his shoulder and looked down at her. Her hair was covering most of her face, but he could tell her eyes were closed.
"It's okay...I can't quite believe it, but I think I trust you...for now." Her words came out as mumbles, letting him know she was on the verge of sleep. He closed his eyes and sagged against the wall; this was certainly not how he thought this day would go. Though he tried to stay awake and cherish the sweetness of her words and the way she leaned against him, he felt sleep fall over him too and there was no helping it.
When they awoke, neither knew what time or day it was, but their heads were still too cloudy to wonder. Sarah was the first to open her eyes, and was relieved to find her headache had faded and her muscles more at ease. She peered up and saw Jareth's head had turned towards her in his sleep. She was still pressed against his shoulder; they were sitting so close...she'd never realized how pretty the markings around his eyes really were. She watched as his eyes slowly opened, the first things they saw being hers staring back. The moment was silent and surprisingly removed. His half-cast gaze, still laden with remnants of fatigue, flickered to her mouth and back again, and without any hesitation at all, lowered himself just a fraction of an inch and connected his lips to hers.
The moment was so unbidden it was almost dreamlike, as if conscience had resigned itself to pure consciousness. He closed his eyes and pressed harder; and because the moment was so innocent, because there wasn't a single care otherwise, she didn't even need to put forth an effort to close her own eyes and kiss him in return. Their lips parted and their tongues met slow and gently. They were both still so tired, there just wasn't enough room for all the bullshit. Slowly, he rose a hand to her cheek and held her, his fingers inching into her hair as his kiss deepened. She relaxed into him and let the moment happen, because for once it was so easy not to fight him. He turned his body towards her and leaned forward, and she rose a hand to his wrist to help maintain her balance. After a moment he leaned farther still, until she was slowly inching onto her back.
"Jareth..." she brought a hand to his shoulder and murmured his name in a weak plea that they should slow down, but he wasn't listening.
He kissed her deeply with slow sensual licks and tender nips. An arm went around her back and hoisted her away from the wall, and he gently laid himself over her. His actions weren't forceful, but there was clear intention. She pushed against him a little harder.
"Jareth. Hold on a minute." Again he ignored her, and she was worried that perhaps the effects of the Monoma hadn't totally worn off. He'd said he was in control of it... He continued to kiss her, and she continued to kiss back, but still she protested. "Jareth, stop." He pulled back and looked into her eyes.
"Why?" he asked, with such heartfelt sincerity. He combed a tender hand through her hair and waited,
but she couldn't come up with an answer. "Why should we stop?" He put an emphasis on the "we" and again she was dumb.
"That's not a reason," he said and took her lips again, the hand in her hair moved to her jaw and held her more securely. The weight of his body began to press against her and she felt her arms moving around his back...
"Jareth- please," she said, but her words only seemed to make him more impatient. His kisses became more forceful, his grip on her body more intense, and she kissed him just as raggedly, her hands pulling at the back of his shirt. It was just too easy not to stop.
He started to press his hips against her, and she moved with him, the two slowly inching away from the wall. A dangerous passion was forming a mind of its own. His hands ran down her arms and over her sides, his kisses traveled to her jaw and neck, but still Sarah's voice wouldn't let it be.
The sudden interruption of his voice caught her off guard. It was loud and jaded, his once present languor now lost. She looked into his eyes and froze. "Give me one reason why we can't be together and I will remove myself here and now." His eyes on her were intense and angry, leaving her to gape like a hapless child. It was then that she felt pity towards him, for both he and herself, because she knew that for all her quibbling protests she couldn't find a reason. Because she was afraid? Because she wasn't ready? Because it felt wrong? Why was it now so hard to find her voice? She glanced away and bit her lip.
"Just what?" He commanded back her attention, turning her face in his hands and everything. But when he saw the flighty look in her eye, he sighed. He knew she was frightened and unsure, but the exasperation of the day was starting to get to him, and he could feel it unraveling his resolve bit by bit. He closed his eyes and forcibly pressed his forehead to hers to compose himself. "I know that you want me...And I want you more than anything I have ever wanted in my entire life. So tell me, why should we not have the things we crave? The things that will make us happy?" He brought his eyes back to hers. "I know that there are issues, but why not give ourselves a moment of reprieve? Why not satisfy our own needs with those of the other? Look at me and tell me you don't want me. Look at me and tell me that after everything there isn't some part of you that still feels doubt." Sarah's eyes grew wide, reflecting the sheer desperation in his own. She couldn't tell if it was the fruit or not, but she knew there was truth to the passion in his eyes. She'd never seen him like this. Not ever.
"Jareth, I- it's just...*sigh*..."
"You can't. I know you can't." He started shaking his head and, with both hands holding her jaw, crashed their faces together. He engulfed her in his arms and pressed her harder and harder into the slick stone floor. She said no words, for it was true that she found none to say, but instead started instinctually pushing against his chest in an effort to stave him. It mattered not, her attempt was weak, even for her. He knew she would not say it, by her very nature she would fight him tooth and nail, but she would not say the words, and that was all the motivation he needed.
Things became heated quickly. She would groan and whimper between kisses, struggling with all her worn-out might to get him off of her, but now he was determined, stopping him wouldn't be so easy.
"Urgh, Jareth-" She gave one final push, but was surprised when he rose away from her. She fixed her eyes on him, intimidated by his vehemence.
"No!" he growled, the one word echoing throughout the room. He was angry now, very angry, but she didn't fully understand. He had so much energy all of the sudden; where did it all come from? She gaped up hopelessly at his fiery stare. "No. I'm sick of this. We both know the truth and yet we torture ourselves with false precedents. Well no more! I'm done with this stupid game. You think I haven't been taking you seriously? Well, know what it's like to have my full attention."
He grabbed her wrists and slammed them to the floor on either side of her face and she struggled weakly to escape it. When he released her hands, familiar cuffs had taken his place. He grabbed her face and kissed her, her mouth, her cheeks, her jaw, her neck, everywhere; and she pulled and pulled against the restraints, and yet the rest of her body was completely still.
"Say it. Say the words, I beg you," he pleaded into her neck, his hands tightening in her hair out of sheer frustration. Everything was culminating to this one point, he just couldn't hold back any longer. His inhibitions were already weakened, letting his emotions get the better of him. Sarah didn't know how to react. "If you can't say it or if you won't, then keep fighting me. Keep fighting me so I can stop you. But know that if you don't then neither will I." His hands moved lower and groped around her thighs, raggedly yanking up the hem of her dress. She squeezed her thighs around his hips, but was left begrudgingly aware that she was the one who had kept her legs open for him in the first place. His hand clawed at her inner thigh, all the while he begged her to tell him no, that she did not want him. She whimpered and whined and groaned in frustration, but those words never came. She felt his hand leave her and in a moment of clarity opened her mouth to speak.
The next sound to escape her was a moan, a surprised, confused, unwitting moan. Jareth, not waiting for her to finish her thought, thrust into her the moment he'd unknotted his pants. His returning groan was visceral, and the combined sound resonated throughout the dungeon. Sarah laid absolutely motionless, abashed by the moment. Jareth cupped her jaw and brought his face close to hers. His eyes were closed, and he started to move...
Her mouth dropped open and she stared straight at the ceiling.
"Tell me that this doesn't feel more right than wrong. Tell me how much of a monster I am and how much you hate me for it. Please. If you don't, I will not stop."
Sarah jerked against her restraints and she started to pant, the sound of her breathing growing higher in pitch. Her continued silence only pushed Jareth on, giving up to willingly lose himself. He held onto her with all his might and thrust into her harder. She started to moan in spite of herself, each muffled sound driving him further and further. He placed a hand on her hip to hold her down so he could enter as deeply as he could and savor the feel of her. She was so warm and soft, so tender and responsive. It was so unlike before. She was dripping wet well before he entered her, making the moment of contact one of pure unbridled rhapsody. Though she pulled at her shackles, her body was open and welcoming for him. The room buzzed with the combined scent of their passion, and he only wished she had the ability to sense it as well. It was intoxicating. It was real. He kissed her neck and her jaw, making his way back to her mouth. Their relationship had taken so many drastic turns over the past week, so many during this one day alone; but he didn't care, it was worth it. It was worth it be here like this now, losing everything in this one moment. Her back arched for him and she squirmed to accommodate his presence filling her up. The intrusion was so unexpected, so genially unexpected.
He could feel her body stretching with each thrust and feel it yearning for more each time he pulled back. Sarah's moans grew louder, her fervor feeding off their own echoes. This moment was like nothing she had ever expected. She thought she would be fighting him, she thought she wouldn't be ready, and yet this feeling inside of her, the feeling of the way he moved and the things he did, it was more pleasure than she had ever imagined. How she could be like this with him she didn't understand, but right now the reasons seemed irrelevant. She rolled her head back and pulled at her cuffs, no longer certain whether she was fighting to escape or to grab ahold of him.
He kissed his way down her exposed neck and hooked his hips into her sharply, and moaned into her cleavage. The residual juice flaking from her skin made her taste both sour and sweet, and he sucked until there was nothing left. The sounds of their craven grew louder until they were shameless, leaving any nearby Goblins to wonder what in the world was going on down the hall.
As Sarah's body convulsed beneath him, she began to grow heated through her gown. Sweat began to glaze her forehead and the insides of her thighs, but no matter how she moved she couldn't escape the heat. Her chest heaved as the heat turned to a different sort of sensation. She couldn't describe it, but the pressure of his lips on her sternum made it hard to breathe. Was this really happening?
Jareth felt her body start to tremble and the way her thighs squeezed against his hips and pushed himself even harder, to the point where she could hear his boots scraping against the stone floor as he plunged deeper and deeper. Every little observation became carnal, the sound of them scraping against the floor, the feel of the ends of his hair cold and wet with sweat against her neck, the heat of their breath suffocating one another, everything was so acute. Sarah had never thought it would be so wonderful. And all this, all this satisfaction was happening so soon after that night...the contrast was uncanny, but it didn't change the present. Had he forced her into this? Was it all the fault of spontaneity? Was it too sudden for her to consent? Or was he just as lost as she was, searching desperately for the same way out... She closed her eyes and moaned, there was so much happening and so many things on her mind, she wasn't sure what to focus on, the only things of clarity were how good the vibration of his groans felt against her skin and how wonderfully constricting was the pressure in her groin.
His hand moved to knot in her hair while the other pinned her hip at an angle, and the sensation from that heightened immensely. She could feel him moving in and out so rhythmically, stretching her and letting her go; it was so much different than when she had done it and she never thought she could enjoy such an experience after it, but in all truth, the horror of that night was the furthest thing from her mind.
She became more aware of the rawness of his moans and used them to fuel her own not-so-secret passion. Her chest rose, her body tensed, and she felt something she wasn't sure she'd felt before. It was a feeling so strong and so sudden it left her paralyzed. But then she began to recognize it; she knew this feeling, but not like this, not ever. Jareth felt her insides constrict around him and groaned loudly in the back of his throat, clenching his eyes closed to focus on holding out for just a moment longer. Sarah's body bowed and she let out a shriek higher than anything she knew she was capable of and was followed by the most wonton and euphoric of moans ever to grace Jareth's ears. She began to convulse and squirm beneath him; the pleasure was too intense, but Jareth held her in place, forcing to her take and feel every sensation in its entirety. She continued to shriek and pull viciously at her restraints, having never before experienced an orgasm so powerful. It was like all the stress, all the pent up emotion and frustration over the past three days had been released in one profound moment of eruption.
Jareth swore through his teeth, and continued to in languages foreign to her as he pressed through the intense episode of her release, but no amount of control could help him. His fist tightened in her hair until she cried out from that instead and he buried his face in her neck. The fingers of his other hand dug like claws into her hip, holding her perfectly immobile as he came violently. His final moans were choked and coughed, contrasting to Sarah's exquisite screams, until both parties were left exhausted and spent. Their breath fed heavily into one another, their chests meeting with each expand. The cloud of impulse cleared from the air, and as they stared at one another, she realized something more profound had just happened than what let on, and was immediately fearful of it. The connection between them in that moment was so strong that she wasn't sure whether it was a good thing. Her eyes darted out her peripheral and saw his hands were entwined with hers. She was confused as to when that had happened, and even more confused that there were no cuffs holding her down. She became deathly afraid then, not of him but of herself. She opened her mouth, but Jareth saw the fright in her eyes and in misinterpretation spoke up first.
"Don't you dare accuse me of raping you, after that." His face was wrought with exertion but the focus in his eyes was deadly. Sarah looked at him strangely, finding his statement rather convenient, as she had no intention of doing such a thing, but stopped herself from saying that that was what truly frightened her.
"Jareth...I..." She looked so confused, so confused and upset. While Jareth could only expect as much, it was still more than he was prepared to handle. He released her hands, then grasped the sides of her face and kissed her. His hold on her was desperate, his eyes now screwed shut.
"No. Whatever you're going to say, let it wait." It was clear what he expected her reaction to be, and she was surprised and concerned to be feeling the exact opposite. She wanted to speak up, but she was simply too flabbergasted to do so. His eyes flickered down, waiting for her to interject, and was admittedly disappointed when she didn't. He pulled out of her and situated himself. She looked confused and disturbed, her mind a million miles away; but he refused to let this moment be spoiled by eminent regrets. He would keep this memory as it was. If she were going to hate him, she could do it tomorrow.
His emotions was getting the better of him again, and he realized he may end up being the one to ruin it. He looked into her eyes and ran his fingers through her hair, trying his best not to let his true emotion show through. "We're both rather disgusting. You should probably clean yourself up..."
Sarah furrowed her brow and opened her mouth to speak, confused why he was now the one to be so put off, but she never had the chance. The next thing she saw was the back of an armchair and the corner of a fireplace. Jareth and the darkness of the dungeon were gone. She looked around and realized she was now laying on the floor in the middle of her bedroom, alone. She sat up, with a mildly frenetic look in her eye, and just stared at the floor simply abashed, not having the faintest idea of where or how to start sorting through the day's events.
She closed her legs and smoothed out the skirt of her dress, and frowned at how sullied and ruined it now was, stained with soot and grime from the dungeon floor. For a moment, she thought about standing and running straight into Jareth's bedroom, demanding that they deal with what just happened here and now, though the more she thought about it, the more she realized she had no idea what she was even feeling let alone what to say. He had taken her brutally just then and left her just as quickly as he always did; though this time she was not left alone. No, this time she was left haunted by the disillusionment that it was not the shackles that had kept her held down but her own devious discretion.