Continuing Tales

Second Chances

A Labyrinth Story
by Stormlight

Part 10 of 18

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Second Chances

"Hey! Cool! This pond’s huge!" Toby exclaimed as he bounded from the path into the wide glen. "Too bad we don’t have ice skates, huh, Jareth? We could play hockey or something."

"Yes," Jareth agreed, somewhat relieved that they didn’t have "skates", since he had little idea of what they were (or hockey, for that matter). He eyed the pond nervously as Toby made his way to the edge of it. The ice seemed a little thin to him…not that he was any great judge of such things, what with ice being rare in his world. But his sixth sense was telling him…or more like screaming at him…that the pond was a bit dangerous to play around.

"Toby, I don’t think you should go onto the ice," he called out nervously. "It looks too thin to hold your weight."

"Don’t be such a spoil sport," Toby replied. He hefted a large rock, which landed somewhere close to the middle of the pond with a dull thunk. "There, you see? It didn’t even crack! It’ll be fine!" He started to step onto the pond. Never mind that he probably weighed five times as much as that rock…

"Toby, don’t you dare set foot on that pond!" Jareth commanded, putting all the force he could muster behind the words. *That* tone usually sent the goblins scurrying for cover, and he had no doubt that it would quell the boy enough to keep him away from the danger.

Too bad Toby wasn’t a goblin. Apparently he didn’t realize that he was now supposed to scurry away in terror. He just rolled his eyes at Jareth and stepped out onto the ice, walking carefully with arms outstretched to where the rock had landed as Jareth looked on in helpless disbelief.

"You see?" Toby called out triumphantly. "Perfectly safe! You worry too much, just like Sarah!"

Jareth had somehow ended up beside the pond, though he didn’t remember walking there, but it was a good thing he had, because at the first loud crack of splintering ice…which sounded, Jareth noted with a detached part of his mind, much like shattering crystal…he was on the pond immediately, throwing himself across the hard ice almost without thinking of it. And when the ice, with a crack that sounded like a gunshot, suddenly gave out under a screaming, wide-eyed Toby, he was close enough to grab onto one flailing hand before the boy went into the frigid water completely.

"I got you," he groaned through gritted teeth as Toby’s weight threatened to drag *him* under, as well, nearly ripping his arms out of their sockets as he pulled back with all his strength. He used his magic to strengthen the ice under him—It would do no good if they *both* fell in—and slowly, carefully worked his way back to shore, pulling a shivering Toby with him.

It seemed to take hours before he felt solid ground beneath him, though it probably had taken no more than five minutes. The whole front of him was nearly as wet as Toby, the wet ice having soaked through his shirt and his coat having been open. Ignoring his own freezing body, he yanked off his coat and wrapped it around Toby’s body, trying his best to warm the boy. "Come on," he muttered, guiding him toward the forest. "We’ve got to get you back before you freeze to death." Not for the first time, he cursed his weakened magic. Had he been strong, he could have teleported them both to the house, or better yet, dried them both off and built a fire. As it was, he could only hope that Toby was strong enough to walk the whole way back on his own. Well, he could help himself, at any rate. No need for both of them to go into shock.

It was at that moment that Sarah came barreling out of the forest like her coat was on fire, her face white with fear and her shadowed eyes blazing with fury. No doubt she’d heard Toby yelling, and that ice snapping had been loud enough to wake a dead man…He had no doubt that she thought *he* was the culprit of it all.

"Get away from him!" she screamed, baring down on Jareth like a she-bear defending her cub. "What did you do to him, you monster?!"

"He fell into the pond…" Jareth began to explain, but Sarah shoved him aside and threw her arms around her brother, weeping almost hysterically.

"Toby! Toby, are you okay? What did this creep *do* to you?"

"Gees, Sarah! Get a grip!" Toby muttered, embarrassed. "I fell into the pond, okay? I’m fine!"

Sarah turned on Jareth. "You let him go onto the pond?" she yelled. "What’s the matter with you?! Didn’t you even *think*?" Jareth tried to answer, but she plowed mercilessly ahead. "No, of course you didn’t, because thinking requires a brain and, as you just proved, you don’t *have* one!"

Now Jareth’s temper was rising, as well. "*That will be quite enough*!" he roared, staring her down with his face only inches from her own. She refused to back down, a fact that he secretly admired, although he was too furious to admit it right then. It looked for all the world that they were going to come to blows, and Toby, who was watching in frightened fascination, finally spoke up. "It wasn’t his fault!"

"What?!" Anger made her voice sharp as Sarah turned to him, and he winced, but kept on talking.

"He told me not to go onto the pond, and I didn’t listen. I fell in and…he pulled me out. Don’t go yelling at him about it." He turned sheepish eyes to Jareth. "I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you," he added, "and thanks for saving my life."

Jareth had calmed himself down during this exchange, and now he nodded at the boy, running a hand over his damp hair. "It’s all right. And you’re quite welcome. I think we all learned a lesson here today. Now hurry back to the house and get warmed up. I want to talk to your sister."

Toby glanced at Sarah uncertainly. She was staring between him and Jareth, and slowly her color was returning as the fire died from her eyes. Suddenly she looked incredibly weary. She licked dry lips, and then slowly nodded. "Go on back," she said quietly. "I’ll be along soon."

Toby didn’t argue, although he was still reluctant to leave his sister. Jareth seemed awful mad at her, not that he could blame him, but Sarah had only been defending her brother. How was she to have known what happened? Still, he was freezing, and some of Aunt Pixie’s cocoa sounded awful good about then…Sarah was a grown up. She could take care of herself, and Toby didn’t think he should get involved in grownup affairs. So, shrugging apologetically, he turned and trudged into the forest.

Sarah watched the forest long after Toby had vanished into it, not willing to face Jareth after her incredibly immature outburst. What on Earth had possessed her? She was one who prided herself on never losing her cool. At least…never losing it to the point of throwing tantrums. She had outgrown that stage long ago. She owed Jareth an apology, a fact that made her squirm. She didn’t want to have to apologize to him for anything, but after practically accusing him of attempting to murder Toby, she knew she’d better say *something*.

"I…I’m sorry," she finally said in a low voice, still refusing to look at him. "I shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions like that. But…I was scared. I thought…well, it doesn’t matter what I thought, and it doesn’t excuse it."

Jareth was momentarily stunned. An apology was the last thing he’d expected to hear, but he was gratified to hear it, and his anger faded. "It’s all right," he told her softly. "I suppose you had every reason to believe that I was responsible for what happened, given my history." He allowed a wry smile to slip through, then sobered again. "But that was the past, and the past is dead. What happens now has nothing to do with games and magic and labyrinths. We are in your world, and it is this world’s laws I now obey. Besides…" He made a wry face. "Up here, even if I tried to turn Toby into anything, I doubt I’d have the power to do it."

"Well, that’s a load off my mind," she retorted, somewhat humorously.

"It would be," he sniffed. "But don’t worry." He gave her a devilish grin. "I still have enough power to make your life fair interesting, should you choose to cross me."

She rolled her eyes. "Promises, promises."

Jareth’s eyebrows shot up at this insolence. "Perhaps a demonstration?" he suggested evilly, reaching for her. Her eyes widened and she ducked away, staring at him as though she’d never seen him before. He chuckled and came after her, and she yelped and broke into a run, back into the forest, as he gave chase, laughing wickedly.

She ran until her lungs felt ready to burst, and grabbed the trunk of a tree to stop her headlong flight. She was surprised to see the field right ahead of her; she had run much further than she’d thought. One part of her was thrilled at this; it meant that she was well on her way to recovery. The other part wrinkled her nose at the thought that she’d probably be paying for this exercise later on. "Stop, Jareth," she gasped, looking behind her. "I can’t run…"

She broke off when she realized that Jareth wasn’t behind her. "Jareth?" she called breathlessly. There was no reply, and she frowned. "I must have run faster than I thought." As unlikely as that seemed. She waited for a moment, then shrugged and started across the field to the house. The snow was almost melted; parts of the ground were even nearly dry. The air was almost spring-like, what with the sun shining so warmly, and she opened her coat to let it cool her overheated body.

The tell-tale snap of a twig let her know Jareth was behind her only a moment before she heard his wicked laugh and felt something heavy barrel into her. She squeaked as she fell to the ground, still locked in his arms. "Thought you would escape so easily?" his voice said in her ear, warm with laughter.

"You’ve been hanging around Toby too much," she retorted with a smirk. "Now who needs to grow up?" She squirmed and managed to get herself turned around until she was laying on her back, although he was still pinning her hands to the ground, sitting on her legs with a taunting grin on his face. His eyes sparkled wickedly, and Sarah felt something like a sudden blow hit her in the chest as she gazed at him. He was just too beautiful to be real.

Her eyes widened slightly at that thought, and to distract herself, she stated firmly, "This coat cost me two hundred dollars, buddy. You’d better hope you have the number of a good dry cleaning business around here."

An eyebrow raised, and a smirk curled those sensual lips. "Any business is rather dead way out here," he replied calmly. "Besides, the condition of your coat is the last thing on my mind right now…" His gaze dropped lower, and she shivered, realizing that if he tried anything she was pretty much helpless to stop it.

Not that she wanted to…

"Jareth! Sarah! Are you alive out there?"

Pixie’s yell, sounding from close by, was the inspiration Sarah needed to break from her trance and shove Jareth aside with all her might. He landed beside her, still grinning at her, and she scrambled to her feet, trying to ignore the fact that her face was probably glowing like a beacon. "Um…yeah!" she called, wincing as her voice cracked slightly, well aware that Jareth stood right behind her. "We’re right here."

Pixie walked over to her, eyebrows raising at the sight of her niece. "What happened to you?" she asked wryly. "Looks like you two have been mud-wrestling or something." Suddenly, she grinned, and a teasing light came into her eyes. "Or something, huh?" she added coyly with a chuckle.

"That is so not funny," Sarah grumbled, shoving past her aunt. "I’m going to go take a shower. I’ll be down later for supper."

"Want some company?" Jareth called after her, his voice filled with mirth, and Pixie let loose a stifled laugh. Sarah turned to fix him with an icy glare, opening her mouth to give some catty reply. The look in his eyes stopped her, however. Despite his flippant remark…she suddenly had the distinct feeling that he was being quite serious…

Closing her mouth with a snap, she turned and hurried into the house.

Second Chances

A Labyrinth Story
by Stormlight

Part 10 of 18

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