Author's Note: This started as another one-shot, but it kept growing, so I decided to split it up into chapters. It won't be very long, maybe 4 or 5 chapters total, but that's considerably longer than anything I've posted to date. So here is the first installment. I'm going to work furiously to get the rest of it done by the end of the month. And, the story is no where near as dark as the first chapter makes it out to be.
Disclaimer: The Labyrinth and all its wonderful characters are not mine; I'm just borrowing them. The delectable David Bowie is not mine either, and I would very happily borrow him as well, if I could.
It was Friday night, and against her better judgment, Sarah Williams was allowing her co-workers to take her out to celebrate her promotion. Thankfully, it was only a group of two who insisted on the impromptu celebration, and Sarah decided that with such a small party, it would be easy to make an early night of it. It's not like it was a big deal, anyway. She had just been promoted from temp to permanent worker, after only five years with the company. Still, the peace of mind that came with job security was worth at least a drink, even if she was now officially in the rut of being a legal assistant. She'd had to cancel all her dreams when her father and step-mother cut her off half way through college when she got pregnant. Fortunately for her, the little bit of writing she had done while in college had honed her typing skills, a talent which proved invaluable when she suddenly found herself having to pay her own way, and prepare for the birth of a child. All things considered, she had done okay for herself and her now fifteen year old daughter. They lived comfortably enough and did not lack for necessities. Sarah did regret that she was unable to give Kimmie the luxuries which were undoubtedly considered essential by other 21st century girls. And even though a cell phone would certainly make life easier for both of them, they got along well enough without. Sarah considered herself lucky that Kimmie knew better than to ask for things like her own laptop or an iPod. Sarah would love nothing more than to be able to lavish such gifts on her, but given her status as a temp, she'd had to squirrel away money just in case she needed to go a spell without work, or, heaven forbid, either of them get sick and require expensive medical care. Being a temp meant no health insurance. Hopefully that would change now that she had changed her status to full time permanent worker. She might even be able to take Kimmie on a trip somewhere.
So as 5:00 rolled around, Sarah found herself in the ladies' room touching up her make-up. She had already called Kimmie to let her know she'd be late. Sarah trusted Kimmie implicitly. She was everything Sarah had not been at 15: responsible, mature and level-headed.
Hopefully, Sarah mused, she'd be able to make her getaway after only a couple of drinks and she could be home in time to sit down with Kimmie and watch a movie, as was their Friday night tradition.
"Ready, Sar?" asked Evelyn as she poked her head into the ladies' room. "Deb's already left to get us a table at the bar across the street."
"I'm coming," Sarah replied. She followed the petite somewhat overweight blonde toward the elevators.
"I know we've worked together for years now, but it's nice to know you're now officially a part of the team," Evelyn said good naturedly, as she put her arm around Sarah's shoulders and gave a quick squeeze. Sarah smiled at the gesture. She didn't have many friends, and she truly did appreciate having Evelyn in her life.
"Thanks, Ev. I know I don't show it very well, but. . . well, thanks. Thanks for being there for me these last few years."
"Think nothing of it, hun. Us single moms, we got to stick together. Now let's get out of here before they lock us in for the weekend!"
As they made their way across the street, Sarah had to hold her sweater tight around her to keep the chill wind of the afternoon from getting to her. It was late spring, but the blustery cold made it feel like autumn.
They entered the bar, named appropriately enough Bacchus, and despite the darkened interior, had no difficulty spotting Deb waving frantically at them from a table near the jukebox. As it was still quite early, there weren't many people there and they had waitress' almost undivided attention. Deb ordered them all a round of Kamikazes while Sarah looked at the menu to see if any of the appetizers looked tempting.
After placing their orders, the threesome sat around and caught each other up on the latest office gossip. Sarah found herself enjoying her evening out much more than she had anticipated, and before she knew it, the waitress had returned with their order of Buffalo wings and more drinks.
"What's this," Sarah asked, as the waitress put a glassful of wine down in front of her. "I didn't order this."
"It's from that guy, over there," responded the waitress, indicating a man with wild blond hair sitting hunched over his drink at the bar. Sarah looked in the direction the waitress was pointing, and gasped. It couldn't be! There was no way that self-righteous, arrogant bastard would dare show his face anywhere near her after twenty years, especially after what had happened. She tried hard to reign in her anger as she recalled how he had been the reason she had to end her friendship with Hoggle, Ludo and Didymus. It hadn't taken long for Sarah to realize that he was determined to use every means at his disposal to somehow force himself into her life. Her friends were placed in the untenable position of having to choose between loyalty to their monarch, or loyalty to their friend. Sarah did not have the heart to force them to choose, so she had done the noble thing and relinquished her hold over them. It had now been about 17 years since the last time she had summoned them through her mirror, and as Sarah stared at the back of his head, all her anger threatened to boil over. As she fought for control, she kept repeating to herself, he has no power over me he has no power over me, completely disregarding the fact that he had been the subject of several dreams over the past 20 years, and that in those dreams, he held a tremendous amount of power over her.
"Sar, what's wrong?" asked Evelyn, curious as to what could cause her friend so much obvious agitation. "Do you know him?"
"I - I'm not sure," Sarah answered tersely, as she got up and cautiously made her way to the bar. Addressing him as "your Majesty" or "Goblin King" might raise a few eyebrows, so she deliberately chose her words and addressed him as an equal. "Jareth?" she tried not to sound like she was spitting the name out, and even to her own ears didn't entirely succeed. As he turned toward her, a strong gust of wind suddenly caused the front door to burst open. Startled, Sarah looked at the door before looking back at the man with the wild hair in front of her. He was much older than she had expected, and had a sallow complexion. His large round eyes also looked toward the front door before focusing on Sarah, and she couldn't help noticing that his uneven lips barely closed over his extreme overbite. "Huh?" he said as he looked up at her, and then again at the front door as it slammed shut. "What do you want?" he asked, panic rising in his voice as his eyes quickly scanned the bar. "Why can't you leave me alone!" he cried, and with that he got up and practically ran from the bar, leaving a very confused Sarah wondering what she had done to give such a fright to the strange little man, who was obviously not him.
No one noticed the man who appeared seemingly out of thin air at the back of the bar and gave a self-satisfied smile, revealing inhumanly pointed teeth.
Sarah returned to her table, and no sooner had she sat down than she and her companions burst out laughing at the way Sarah had scared off the purveyor of her drink.
"What was that about?" Deb cried, finally able to stop laughing long enough to speak.
"I have no idea," Sarah giggled, wiping tears of laughter from the corners of her eyes.
"His loss," continued Deb, as she raised her drink for a toast. "To Sarah's mystery benefactor!"
Sarah sipped the wine the waitress had brought her, and was very pleasantly surprised. "Hey, this stuff's not bad!" she declared as she took a much more generous drink. There were more people showing up now, and the atmosphere at Bacchus was becoming a little more lively. And still, the mysterious man at the back of the bar went unnoticed. He smiled broadly as he watched Sarah gulp down her wine.
Eventually, the conversation turned to ex-boyfriends, a topic that Sarah's two friends had very similar and intense opinions on. As Deb finished her tirade about the last unfortunate wretch she dated, she lifted up her glass for another toast. "To being single!"
"To being single," Evelyn chimed in.
"Sorry, but I'm out," gushed Sarah, as she tipped her glass over to show that it was empty. She was feeling a little woozy. She mentally chided herself for drinking too quickly and vowed to be a more responsible drinker for the rest of the evening.
"Well in that case, I shall be eternally grateful if you will allow me to buy you another round," came a smooth as velvet voice from behind Sarah. She turned around a little too quickly and found herself losing her balance and almost falling right into the arms of a very handsome stranger. "Hi!" she managed to gasp as she looked into his crystalline blue yes. He held his arms out to her to help steady her as he smiled at her. Sarah held his gaze, mesmerized by him, and was suddenly embarrassed by the way she had been ogling him. "Umm. . . I'm Sarah," she finally sputtered.
"Pleased to meet you Sarah," and he took her hand and kissed it. Sarah felt herself blushing before he continued, "Now, what precisely were you drinking?"
"Well, I'm not exactly sure," she started awkwardly. "The waitress said a gentleman had bought it for me, but I think I scared him off when I went to thank him for it." She repressed a giggle as she recalled how he had not so much been scared off, but rather fled from her presence. She looked up at the man standing before her, vaguely aware of the room spinning. He had elegantly chiseled features and sandy blond hair, and he reminded her of someone, but at the moment she didn't care to prod her memory too hard as she was thoroughly enjoying just looking at him.
He just smiled at Sarah as he called the waitress over. "The lady would like another of whatever it was you brought her last, and actually, make it two. How about you ladies," he continued, turning toward Deb and Evelyn.
"Oh, we're fine, loverboy," Deb giggled as she gave Evelyn a knowing look. In all the time they had worked with Sarah, neither had ever known her to have a boyfriend. To their knowledge, Sarah never went out and did not date, which is why tonight was so special. And now a really hot guy seemed to have taken an interest in their friend. While Deb would have no qualms about hooking up with a guy she just met, she knew Sarah wouldn't. Putting aside her normally jovial nature, and trying hard to think clearly through her buzz, Deb looked him straight in the eyes and gave him a stern warning. "Just so we're clear, buddy, Sarah's not your typical chick you pick up at a bar, so don't you dare treat her like it. She has a kid, and she takes her role as a mom very seriously. So seriously that this is the first time in the five years I've known her that she's agreed to go out with us. Now, if you're still interested," and at this point Deb raised her glass before continuing, "you have our blessing," she finished as she took another drink.
Sarah, meanwhile, was blushing furiously at hearing her friend's words. "Deb, I'm not some helpless teenager who's never been around guys and bars. I can take care of myself."
"Sar, we couldn't give a rat's ass about you," Evelyn joked. "We just want to make sure you don't expose Kimmie to the kinds of flakes and losers you pick up at bars," and turning toward the mystery man continued, "no offense, and hopefully you'll prove yourself otherwise."
"None taken!" he replied, laughing and appearing to be highly amused by this exchange. The waitress arrived with the drinks, and as Mr. Blue-Eyes handed Sarah her drink, he asked, "So, I take it Kimmie is your daughter?"
Sarah, taking another swig of the wonderful whatever-it-was, nodded her head enthusiastically as she swallowed. He watched carefully as she drank and smiled, and if his smile seemed a little less good natured, perhaps even a touch menacing, particularly the way his teeth appeared to be a little too sharp, no one noticed.
Some time later, the foursome stood outside Bacchus, having been forced out at closing time. Despite the biting cold wind which was still blowing, their spirits were high, and although Evelyn and Deb seemed eager to continue the celebration, Sarah suddenly remembered that she had promised Kimmie she'd be home early.
"You three go on. I halftago home. Kimmie's waiting." Sarah stumbled slightly as she tried leaving while rummaging through her purse to find her car keys. Having succeeded in locating them, she was about to wave them about triumphantly when they slipped through her fingers and went flying toward the first man whose company Sarah had enjoyed on a purely personal level since . . . well, ever.
"My dear," he began as he bent over to pick up the keys, "neither you nor your friends are in any condition to drive home." He grabbed Sarah by the shoulders and gently guided her back to rejoin her friends.
"Atsokay," rambled Deb. "Evvy here lives juss a couple blocks down that-a-way," she continued, pointing to her left.
"Other way," giggled Evelyn, spinning Deb so that the hand she was still holding out in front of her to point the way was now pointing in the right direction.
"Jussthisway," continued Deb, ignoring Evelyn's interruption. "Me and Sar can crash there tonight."
Sarah, for her part, slowly shook her head as she leaned against the wall and said, "Nope. Kimmie'll worry. Gotta go home." She closed her eyes as she continued leaning, hoping to ease some of the vertigo she was feeling so she could at least walk straight.
"Sar, you can call from my place, she'll be fine," Evelyn started, but Sarah cut her off.
"Nope, gotta go home," she said as she opened her purse and began fumbling again.
"Would you by chance happen to be looking for these?" asked her tall handsome companion with an amused glint in his eye, holding up Sarah's keys. Speaking to Evelyn and Deb, he asked, "If you two ladies are quite certain you can make the walk to Evelyn's, I would more than happy to escort Sarah home."
Deb nodded, and Evelyn replied, "Sure, won't be the first time."
"Well then, Sarah, shall we? That is, if you are capable of providing directions," he teased, grinning wickedly as he held his arm out for her.
"Oh, I think I know my way home," Sarah slurred as she took his arm. Had she been sober, that grin would have set off alarms which would likely have resulted in her taking Evelyn's offer to sleep there. And she would have realized that neither she nor her companions ever thought to ask the man his name, and at no point during the evening did he volunteer it. But she wasn't sober, so there were no alarms, and no one thought it odd that they had just spent an entire evening socializing with a man whose name no one knew. And Sarah ended up accepting his offer to drive her home. And after being such a gentleman, she couldn't just leave him outside in the cold wind to wait until his cab arrived, so she invited him into her apartment to wait.
As the morning sunlight shone in Sarah's eyes, she begrudgingly roused herself from slumber, all too aware of the pounding in her head. She wanted desperately to go back to sleep to see if it would make the jack hammering stop, but as consciousness slowly flooded through her, memories of the night before began replaying in her mind as half-formed images, making her head hurt even more. She had gone out with Deb and Evelyn, and had had way too much to drink. And there had been a man, a very good looking man, and more drinking. Sarah mentally winced at this thought and hoped desperately that her behavior had not been too grossly inappropriate. Public drunkenness was bad enough, but she suddenly realized that she could not remember how she got home. And that's when she noticed that she wasn't wearing anything - she was lying in bed in the nude. "Oh, Sarah Williams, what have you done!" she groaned out loud. "You finally get a night out and you make a spectacle of yourself."
And suddenly there was movement next to her, and an arm snaked itself around her waist as a velvet smooth British accented voice purred in her ear, "Oh, come now, precious thing, it wasn't that bad."