Disclaimer: Labyrinth does not belong to me. It's the property of Jim Henson, George Lucas, Brian Froud, David Bowie, etc.
It was dark when Sarah awoke. Her head throbbed and her eyes ached to see but the blackness was deep, endless. Frighteningly familiar.
She sat up groggily and moved to stand. Her body ached from lying so long on the stone floor. Sarah froze and brought her hands to her chest, her shoulders. My armor's gone, she realized. All she wore was Jareth's silky shirt and breeches, her boots were gone too. She extended a leg, trying to find her footing. It slid over the edge of a swift drop, almost dragging her with it. Sarah pulled back immediately, curling her knees to her chest. Okay, not getting out of here that way, she thought.
Instead, she smoothed a palm backwards over the smooth stone surface. No drop. Sarah followed her hand, inching along the floor until she hit solid wall. She let out a breathy sigh of relief. At least there may be some way out of here. Now, if she could just follow the wall and—
A laugh broke her momentary calm.
I know that laugh, she thought, stomach roiling.
Sarah kept her feet firmly planted as a soft slither met her ears to her right. It seemed to rise up along the wall behind her, a slithering body undulating along the wall, soft as a whisper. The back of her neck erupted in shivers, her heart went careening away. Sarah took in a deep, shaking breath.
"Whoever you are, I know you're there," she called out. Her voice reverberated, making the tremor there all too noticeable. Sarah swallowed that lump in her throat and tried again. "Hey! Stop hiding, playing games in the dark…show yourself."
She was unsure even as she said it, but there was no taking it back. Sarah flattened her back to the wall behind her as dim light flooded the room. The Escher Room. She was in the Escher Room at the edge of a landing. Looking down, all Sarah could see was blackness and there was not an escape to be seen. The endless stairs encircled her running miles in either direction. They were coated in dust, the stone cracked and uncared for. Any source of light had been blocked out, yet somehow, whatever it was that was toying with her had granted her wish and brought a dull emerald light to the place. It washed over the unkempt room in a sickening blanket.
"Okay, t-thank you," Sarah managed, finding her voice. "Now, come out."
It laughed again, long and loud. The cackle bounced along the cavern of the room. Sarah swore it made the stairs themselves shake.
"Cut that out!" she demanded.
It laughed harder.
"Oh, Sarah," the voice called, an endless echo down the chasm of stairs. "Sweet Sarah…"
The shadow fell from above in a swan dive, lazy and elegant. It was larger than the others and streamed in a cloud of ever-fading mist. It hit ground gracefully as a heap of black smoke on a landing just above hers and straightened into shape.
Sarah drew back slightly in shock when it stood. It had taken the body of a large feline creature. Sleek muscle rippled beneath smooth black fur and yellow eyes flashed. It still laughed with that mouth, but in a new voice, a purring voice that was smooth like velvet.
"Oh, Sarah," it crooned slowly and leapt down to a closer landing, its eyes never leaving hers. "I knew you'd be…" it shuddered with a jerky twitch, its body trembling into new skin, that of a slim, female creature, all long thin limbs and silky hair of what looked like seaweed, a sort of water nymph perhaps, "delectable," it said in a soft, breathy voice, "I never knew that," the creature inhaled deeply, shifting back to the cat, "you'd smell like sunshine."
"Get out of here," Sarah commanded, her tone more threatening than she felt.
The creature just laughed once again, ignoring her attempt at intimidation.
"I know what you are," she said.
It tiled its large head and bared those long feline teeth in the imitation of a grin. "And what's that, sweet?"
"You're the Consciousness," Sarah said. "Those shadows, the changelings, they listen to you, worship you. You took over this place. All of this is your fault."
"Oh, my Sarah," it said with a chuckle. "We both know that isn't true."
Sarah clenched her jaw, eyes flashing. "If you say a single word against him, I swear I'll—"
"You'll what?" it snapped, leaping down to her landing. The Consciousness stalked toward her, its catlike form nearly as large as she was. It was predator, she was prey. It stopped just short of touching her and sniffed once. "Did you fall in love with the foolish king, after all that he's brought down upon you?"
Sarah met its eyes, refusing to blink, leaving her jaw set in a hard line.
"Did you forgive that easily?" it asked her. The Consciousness dared to lean in, touching the large cat's velvet cheek to her own, its hot breath fanning her ear. "I never would have found you if it weren't for him."
Sarah was shaking, but leaned in and whispered, "You're disgusting."
It laughed and drew back to circle her, its tail swinging as it looked her over. "Did you ever want to know how I knew you?"
Sarah stood completely still but for her trembling. She clenched her hands into fists at her side.
"I knew the moment Jareth's barriers were down," it said. "And I'd been so hungry, for so long. I wanted something potent, delicious, and I knew just where to get it."
"So you decided to come here, snack on some innocent goblins?" Sarah asked in revulsion. If I keep talking, maybe he won't kill me, she thought, hoping she was right.
"I never had an appetite for goblins. What can one do as a goblin?" it asked her, circling once more. "But as a King, to have access to that kind of power…"
"But you didn't get him," Sarah said, taunting as it circled behind her, "He got away."
"Ah, but I got a taste of him sssssweet SSSSarah," the Consciousness hissed. Sarah yelped at the abrupt change to its voice, a slithering, snake-like tone. She watched in horror as it flaunted its new body, a ridged forehead, thickly muscled arms, and the pointed tail of a serpent. It laughed at her and shuddered again, sliding into new skin, the skin of a gentleman. This face was tall, pale, and delicate, with silky black hair framing his shoulders. Something from another era, or perhaps another world. He was deceptively handsome but for that glint in his eye. The man didn't look human. It was something more, or perhaps something less.
"Yes, I got a taste," it said, voice smooth and cultured. "And do you know what I tasted, angel?"
"What?" Sarah whispered darkly.
Sarah's eyes narrowed as she watched it circle her, all crimson velvet jacket, and long black hair. A monster in the guise of a gentleman.
"What about me?"
"My dear, sweet girl," he said, rolling the words lovingly on his tongue. "He tasted of you. You were in his blood, in his heart. You were everywhere, everything, and I wondered…"
It shuddered again, emerging as a child, rosy cheeked and curly haired. "I wondered what could render the Goblin King so lovesick to grant her so much power," it said, the voice high and babyish. "I knew I needed to have her, to taste her when I found out."
The Consciousness was the gentleman again. It crept slowly behind her. That long hair tickled her cheek. It smoothed those hands, soft skinned and long fingered, up her arms. When they reached her shoulder, it began peeling Jareth's loose, silky shirt down to expose her skin. The Consciousness made a soft noise of approval in its throat as it surveyed her. The red velvet of his coat was harsh and chafing to her bare shoulder as he reached around her.
"You're her, the Keeper, the Queen," he muttered, nuzzling at her bared neck.
Just as in her nightmares, its tongue emerged to trace her throat, unpleasantly wet and cool. Sarah elbowed it roughly in the ribs as hard as she could. It stumbled back and laughed.
"You are bold," it said, as if admiring her. "You're everything I imagined you to be."
"Yeah so are you," Sarah commented, wiping at her neck in disgust.
"Beautiful, brash…" it whispered lovingly.
"Egotistical, repulsive…" Sarah said in the same mocking tone.
Its eyes flashed in anger. The Consciousness breathed deeply through those perfect, stolen nostrils. "I knew how to find you, I knew where you lived. The Above."
Sarah shifted uncomfortably.
"So I sent my acolyte to you, to find someone close to you and get a taste of them. To report to me on your duties," it said with a sneer.
"You killed Derrick Grant," she said.
"Yes," it confirmed. "I needed someone near you, someone who could touch you when I could not…"
Sarah drew further away in revulsion. She felt empty, violated. She had been engaged to that monster, she had told it secrets, likes and dislikes, loves and fears. She had opened herself up to Derrick in ways that she had never before done, she had made love to him, not knowing what he truly was. Sarah fought the urge to vomit and instead spat, "You sick, twisted, perverse—"
It flew at her and stopped, just an inch before her face, chest heaving with anger. "I'd think you'd want to keep your lips tightly shut, sweet. Some villain could rip out those pearly teeth, tear your pretty gums."
Sarah scoffed, although she knew its threat was true. She leaned in even closer and hissed through those teeth, "I am not afraid of you."
The Consciousness smirked and stepped back, pacing, long fingered hands clasped behind its back. "No. Clearly not. But by the time I'm through with you, sweet, you'll beg for me to take you, to suck you dry. I believe I was telling a story. Allow me to continue, pretty thing. It was quite rude to interrupt."
Sarah bit her lips and remained silent. The longer it talked, the more time she had to figure a way to kill it.
"Unfortunately, all that I had worked toward was sullied when the Goblin King went back to you, to your world," it said bitterly. "You, unknowing of your abilities, killed my loyal follower. But…" his face lit up, "the most miraculous thing occurred. You took a bit of him into you."
Sarah touched the thin cut on her lip unwittingly. It was almost faded now, but she could still feel its mark beneath her fingertips.
"You see, sweet? With that piece of him within you, although he is gone, it connected you to me the way I am connected to my children. I could enter your dreams, feel you."
"Why?" she asked.
"Oh, it was the sweetest torture," it said, the words seductive on that handsome, stolen tongue. "My sweet Sarah in dreams, so vulnerable."
"Were you trying to kill me?" she asked, apprehensive as it approached.
The Consciousness looked almost offended. "My sweet, I only wanted a taste. To feel you, a preshow, if you will."
"But you're going to kill me now," Sarah said, "Today. You're going to kill me, steal my body, my powers."
It tilted its head, wisps of silky hair hung around its face. "Yes."
Sarah backed up further to the wall as he advanced, her hands fumbling in the pockets of the breeches, hoping for a miracle.
"I'll make it pleasant for you," it said, his eyes dragged over her, taking her in. "Do you like this form? I chose it for you. All those romantic novels…"
"I would have gone with a different model," Sarah said, lifting her chin in defiance. "It makes you look cheap."
The Consciousness growled and shuddered sporadically, the handsome form quavered between others, the cat, the snake, the child, and some so horrible Sarah had to look away. "Careful, sweet. I may decide I prefer another. I may rip out your lovely throat."
Sarah's fingers found a thin stick of wood at the bottom of her pocket. A match. I don't have anything to use for a torch, she thought in blind panic. There was no wood in the cold stone room. But she had run out of options.
Sarah pulled the match out and held it up between its eyes. "Touch me and you find yourself on fire."
The Consciousness tilted its stolen head, taking in the stick before it. It smirked a lopsided smile. "You mean to frighten me, little girl?"
"No," Sarah said, her voice warbled as she lit the match with her thumb. The Consciousness immediately stepped back. "I mean to kill you."
It growled, that sculpted soft mouth opened to reveal elongated incisors, crooked lower teeth. The Consciousness stalked in a circle around her as Sarah held the match out like the weapon it wasn't. Perhaps she'd bought some time, it seemed afraid of fire, but perhaps it was toying with her. After all, that was what it did, wasn't it? Invaded my dreams, ruined my life, Sarah thought, her anger rising with each word.
The Consciousness ran, surprising her, and knocked her down. The match skidded out of Sarah's fingertips and landed on the cold stone floor, a single wisp of smoke rising from where the flame had been.
Sarah scrambled away and leapt, catching another platform and pulling herself up. It was the cat again, huge and dark, all muscle and rippling fur. Sarah ran again, ready to take that leap of faith into the abyss. It had worked before, why not now.
A pale hand closed around her upper arm, yanking her back against its chest. Sarah flailed and hit it the Consciousness in that red coat, struggling in its arm.
"Let go of me," Sarah insisted, landing a punch on its stolen jaw.
The Consciousness growled in her ear, "I want to show you something."
Sarah struggled again, but it caught her up in its arms and leapt from the platform. Sarah could feel her heart rate increasing, her breath coming in short pants as they plummeted. Then, just as she had ten years before, they began to slow. Unlike the past, the creature began floating steadily upwards, enveloping her in a blanket of darkness.
Sarah screamed, thrashing as they rose, surrounded completely by its dark body. Better to fall than to be destroyed by this monster.
They glided over the endless staircases, higher and higher, touching down on one of the top platforms. Sarah fell from its grip and rolled along the cold stone landing. She looked up, dazed, and nearly screamed at what she saw.
"Jareth?" Sarah breathed, running over.
He lay, still as death, surrounded by a large number of their army, Hoggle, Sir Didymus, Ludo, and even Ambrosius. They lay along the platform haphazardly, as if they'd fallen asleep there.
Sarah fell to her knees at Jareth's side and shook his shoulders, pushing his hair away from his eyes.
"Hey, it's okay. I'm here," she said, a note of panic in her voice. He didn't respond, his eyes remained shut. Dark gold lashes against pale skin. Sarah felt a lump of panic rise in her throat, choking her. One hand flew to his wrist, feeling for a pulse. When she found it, Sarah almost cried out in relief. She shook him harder. "Jareth? Jareth!"
He lay still.
Angry hands grabbed her roughly by the shoulders, dragging her back.
"No, let go," Sarah said, writhing and thrashing in the creature's arms as it dragged her away.
The Consciousness turned with her. Sarah saw two changelings waiting. One's body undulated like wisps of smoke, the other's bubbled. Both had the white eyes, the pointed teeth. The Consciousness threw her to them roughly and stepped away, seething.
"This is your punishment, angel," the Consciousness said, pacing before her, dark hair whipping around its handsome face. It grinned wide again, showing her those vicious teeth.
"What did you do to them?" Sarah asked.
"Once you were gone, it was easy to sedate them in their panic. It's a useful power, I picked it up from the strangest fellow at a Samhain feast. Oh how I love the Underground," the Consciousness said with a smug expression which darkened into one of hate. "I was going to take you first, let you go out feeling passion, pleasure. Now you'll go feeling pain."
"Don't do this," Sarah said, struggling against the creatures' iron grip. "Don't just kill them like this."
The Consciousness laughed. "I am not killing them. I am a collector, a proprietor of the finer things. I am killing him, the rest are for my children."
"But, the Labyrinth," Sarah insisted, a feeling of certainty building up inside her. "It needs him."
"The Labyrinth?" the Consciousness asked with a spluttering laugh. "This cluttered, filthy pigpen housing swine? Why should I attend to its needs when it has done such a filling job of fulfilling mine?"
Sarah's heart pounded in anger, protectiveness. The feeling surged through her with each of the Consciousness's words. She felt powerful. Her eyes narrowed as it stalked over to Jareth, no longer concealing its shadowed form. It was larger than the others, its white eyes deadly, and its teeth long.
"Take one last look at your lover, sweet," it said, sweeping down to Jareth's side and holding his head back by his hair. "The next time you see his face, I will be wearing it as I devour you."
Sarah felt a burst of strength, something she'd only felt a time or two before. But it was familiar, and warm, and bright.
The Consciousness didn't seem to notice that look of euphoria Sarah knew broke out over her face. "Like it or not, Sarah. You are mine. The Labyrinth is mine."
"No," Sarah said. A sweet ache rose from within her chest, spreading out through her limbs. "It's ours."
The light exploded from within her. The changelings who flanked her faded away with screams in an instant as the world turned white. Sarah let out a soft gasp as that sharp twinge coursed through her, lighting the room.
The Consciousness screeched in terrible pain, the light ripping through its shadowy body, tearing it away bit by bit. Its scream was louder than the others, longer, but Sarah kept on, not ceasing to shine until he was finished. Not even a wisp of smoke remained.
Sarah could feel herself cooling down, the Labyrinth's heart resting within her own. She breathed out in relief, release. The Consciousness was dead.
"Jareth," she whispered.
Sarah ran the short distance of the landing to his side. She knelt down beside him and rested a tentative hand on his chest.
"Sarah…" he said slowly. Blue eyes blinked open, one pupil large, the other a pinprick, both filled with relief. Jareth sat up. "Where's the Consciousness? Are you hurt?"
"Hey, easy," Sarah said, steadying his shoulders. She ran a hand across his forehead, over his cheekbone. Jareth leaned into her touch with a soft sound that was almost a purr.
Around them, the others were waking up.
"Fiends!" Sir Didymus exclaimed, leaping to his feet. "You dare attack a man with his back to you? You cowards! Ambrosius, wake up!"
"Oh, stop your yammering," Hoggle said groggily. "What's going on, where are we?"
"Sarah," Ludo said happily when he caught sight of her.
Sarah laughed in relief. She leaned in, resting her head against Jareth's shoulder.
"You're all right," he breathed in relief, cradling her head to him.
"So are you," Sarah said, barely containing the unexplainable urge to cry.
Jareth pulled back, inquisitive. Now that he was awake and knew she wasn't harmed, Sarah knew that questions were just flooding his mind. "Sarah, what—?"
"I love you."
Jareth blinked in surprise, his eyes went wide as she spoke.
"I do," she whispered. Sarah wrapped her arms around his neck, forcing him to look at her. She raised one hand to his cheek, she felt boneless as she saw that look in his eyes, hungry and warm and loving. "Well, say something…"
He kissed her, standing and bringing her with him in the process. Sarah giggled, almost squealed, as he lifted her up by her waist, spinning her in a circle before settling her back down.
Jareth kept kissing her, pressing his lips to her forehead, her cheeks, and her mouth. "Oh my beautiful, clever girl," he was able to say between kisses, "Sarah, precious."
Sarah laughed and caught his face between her hands. "We won," she said, her voice dizzy with victory.
"Not yet," Sir Didymus spoke up. "If I may have my lady's leave, and his majesty's of course," Didymus said with a bow toward Jareth, "I will take these goblins out and destroy the last of the brutes. Teach them a thing or two about invading our land."
Jareth drew Sarah to his chest. She rested her cheek against him, grinning at the goblins as they stood and began speaking. Some cheered, though they hardly seemed to know why, others gnashed their little teeth, growling about the changelings.
"I think that's for the best," Jareth agreed. He glanced to Sarah. "Do you, precious?"
"I completely agree," she said with a smile.
Jareth flashed her a proud grin, kissing her brow.
"Do you mind if I help, Sir Didymus?" Sarah asked
"The more the merrier, my lady," Sir Didymus exclaimed. "Ambrosius!"
As Didymus clambered onto the sheepdog, and the others fell into line, Sarah grasped Jareth's hand and pulled him along as they began climbing the stairs, heading toward the arch that led out of the Escher Room. They maneuvered through the darkened halls. The goblins tore down window coverings in their wake, letting bright sunlight fill the castle once more.
"All right," Hoggle said as they reached the front door. "Let's get those shadowy bastards."
The goblins all screeched their agreement and pushed at the heavy doors. They squealed in delight and ran into the sunlight as the few remaining changelings scattered before them.
Jareth stopped in the shadow of the castle doors. He took Sarah's face in his hands, pushed her hair back behind her ears. "How do you feel?"
Sarah grinned and pulled him down to a kiss, her lips were soft against his, gentle. "Like I'm home."
"What does that mean?" Jareth asked, hope flickering through his eyes.
"It means that I am."
Author's Note: We are nearing the very end of this story. Thanks to Honoria Granger, iknowyou2, Zayide, Jetredgirl, Kilikina12, rahnaesmomma, Kaytori, comical freaka, and Gaeliceyes for the reviews. Another big thanks to everyone who followed or made a favorite. I really appreciate it!