Continuing Tales

Second Chances

A Labyrinth Story
by Stormlight

Part 12 of 18

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Second Chances

Three hours and another wooden floor later, Jareth still hadn’t come back, and Sarah could not quite suppress the nagging worry that maybe she was right, and he might not return after all. She sat at the kitchen table, nursing a cup of cocoa, trying to warm her chilled hands. The stricken look Jareth had given her before storming out was lodged in her mind, and refused to leave. It had been almost an exact replica of the look he’d given her after she had banished him from her life and shattered his magic and his kingdom, and the guilt still nagged at her. She had really hurt him, and it was disturbing to know that the Goblin King *could* be hurt; that he had actual feelings. It made him seem more like…a normal man.

The back door creaked, and Isaac, who was resting beside it, raised his head and thumped his tail softly against the rug. Sarah looked up hopefully, and nearly sagged in relief when Jareth appeared, hanging his jacket on the hook and refusing to look at her. She bit her lip for a moment, then dared to venture a comment. "The way you stormed out of here…I was afraid you weren’t coming back," she said hesitantly. Jareth barely acknowledged her as he went to the stove to pour some chocolate of his own.

Sarah frowned, feeling a spark of annoyance. It wasn’t like she wasn’t *trying* to make things right! "You know, I did apologize," she pointed out testily. When he still didn’t reply, merely turned his back on her, she continued, "I would have hoped you’d be gracious enough to accept it, but I guess that’s asking too much of you, isn’t it? You can’t be more of a man than you really are, after all."

*That* got his attention, as she had known it would. He turned on her, and she waited with a raised eyebrow for his outburst. He narrowed his eyes at her, then shook his head and sighed, bringing his mug to the table and settling himself into a chair, taking a cautious sip as he studied her. "Sarah, you have to look at it from my point of view," he finally told her. "The last time those words were spoken to me, my entire life changed, and not for the better. I had never expected to hear them again…"

"…and if you hadn’t decided to spy on me you wouldn’t have had to," Sarah finished smugly.

He grimaced. "I wasn’t spying on you, Sarah. I heard you scrubbing floors and came to offer my help. I wasn’t expecting a reading session, however, or I might have thought twice about it."

She sniffed. "Well, I wasn’t expecting an audience, or I would have thought twice, too," she replied. "Come on, Jareth. Do you honestly think I would have done that on purpose? I mean, it’s true I don’t like you all that much, but I’m not *that* mean!"

"You’re too kind," he sniffed, taking another gulp of chocolate.

"You know what I mean," Sarah muttered, a faint blush staining her cheeks.

He set down his chocolate with a thump. "No, Sarah, I don’t know what you mean," he replied sweetly. "Why don’t you specify for me." His eyes held a certain gleam to them, and she blinked at the sudden challenge, trying to think of a suitable answer. Luckily for her, at that moment the doorbell rang loudly.

"I’ll get it!" she said quickly, nearly tipping her chair in her haste to get up, and hurried to the door.

"Saved by the bell," she heard Jareth reply laughingly behind her, and she shot him a dirty look as she flung open the door.

The brilliant flashes of half a dozen cameras greeted her, and she stood there for a full minute, half blinded and completely stunned, before regaining enough sense to slam the door shut again, her heart pounding. Reporters! Here? How in the world had they found her? She had kept her location a secret to prevent just such an occurrence. The only people who knew were her doctor, who was under strict orders not to tell a soul, and…

Sarah’s eyes narrowed angrily. "Cliff," she hissed. Oh, she was going to absolutely *kill* that little creep! It would be just like him to go and blab her location to every reporter in the country. Privacy apparently was not a moral issue with him, especially when it dealt with his favorite little star, but then, she had already known that…

"What’s the matter?" Jareth had seen Sarah open and then slam the door, and her face had taken on the bewildered, trapped appearance of a deer caught in the headlights of a speeding car. Immediately concerned, he rose from his chair and went to her as the bell rang again.

"Don’t open that door!" Sarah commanded, grabbing his hand as it reached for the knob. He looked down at their joined hands, somewhat surprised.

"What’s the matter?" he asked again, looking into her face with concern.

"Everything," she muttered. She looked down at herself, and let loose with a word Jareth had never thought to hear *her* say. "Great. And me looking like Susie Homemaker after a battle with a mutant toilet! I can see the headlines now."

"What in the world are you talking about?" Jareth exclaimed.

Sarah sighed, then pulled him to the window and drew the drapes back far enough to let him see out. "Them," she replied, gesturing to the small crowd milling in the yard. "They’re reporters, and they’ve apparently decided that I’ve had enough peace and quiet and its time for them to bring some hell back into my life. See that guy? His name is Vance…somebody-or-other. He’s the top reporter for Star Magazine, which is one of the cheesiest tabloids on the market. Don’t let him see you! If he catches a guy in the house I’m supposed to be staying in, he’ll blow it into a major scandal.

"You mean, like an affair?" Jareth asked, his eyes sparkling wickedly.

She glared at him. "Don’t go getting any funny ideas into your head," she sniffed.

"So how did they find you?" Jareth asked.

"My agent, most likely. He’s the only one besides Doc who knows I’m here, and unlike Doc, he will not hesitate to squeal if he’s offered a large enough sum of money."

"Sounds like you might need a new agent," Jareth said thoughtfully.

"I know." Sarah sighed. "But Cliff is my friend. I can’t believe he’d do this to me. He proposed to me last year. He says he loves me."

Jareth gave Sarah a sharp glance at that information. "He proposed to you," he repeated, his voice gone flat. Sarah was too distracted to notice.

"Yeah," she muttered. "I turned him down though. Maybe this is his revenge."

Jareth nearly sagged with relief, his plummeted spirits raising again. So she didn’t love this Cliff person. She wasn’t going to marry him, or anyone else that he was aware of. Maybe there was still some hope…

"Uh-oh." Sarah’s quiet statement brought him back to reality, and he realized suddenly that he had moved quite close to her, her back pressing against him as they gazed out the window. "I think we’ve been spotted."

Sure enough, one of the reporters was looking their way. It was Vance Something-or-other, and judging by the victorious smile lighting his face, he had obviously seen the both of them standing there…in a somewhat intimate position, no less.

Sarah drew the curtain closed, but not before the flash of Vance’s camera went off. She winced, hoping that the bright light would reflect from the window enough to obscure whatever was on the other side, and turned away. She realized how close Jareth was, suddenly, their bodies pressing together in a somewhat interesting manner, and she looked up at him somewhat uncomfortably. "Um…excuse me," she muttered, pushing past him, trying to ignore her racing heart. "Look, we’re never going to get rid of them," she added.

"So what do you propose to do?" he asked calmly.

She ran her hands through her hair. "I don’t know. This is so frustrating! There’s no phone, so we can’t even call the police for on them for trespassing. I’m tempted to go out there packing a gun, but I can imagine how much Vance would *love* that, and it probably wouldn’t work anyhow."

"So it seems the best way to get rid of them is to face them down and give them what they want," Jareth said logically.

Sarah’s face paled at the thought. "Right now? No way! I’m a mess! I’m skinny as a rake, my hair’s a disaster, I’m pale as a ghost, and I look like I pulled these clothes I’m wearing out of the garbage!"

Jareth smiled slightly, eyeing Sarah’s jeans. "Don’t you mean out of my dresser?" he asked casually, and was amused when she blushed.

"Well…I was cleaning and I needed old clothes. I didn’t think you’d miss one pair. Besides, these were my uncle’s long before you came!" she muttered. "But that isn’t the point! The point is…if I go out there looking anything less than my best, those people will tear me apart! It’ll be all over the news!"

Jareth cocked his head at her, looking somewhat puzzled. "Why do you worry so much about your appearance?" he asked. "What difference does it make?"

"In this business, image is everything. Besides…" She grinned wickedly. "…are you sure you’re the one to be asking that? I mean, wasn’t it you that changed your clothes…what?…six or more times when I was in the Labyrinth?"

Jareth looked somewhat embarrassed, much to her delight. "That was different," he replied sulkily. "I was a king, and you were my guest. I had to put on a good appearance. How else could I frighten and intimidate you?"

She rolled her eyes. "Whatever you say, oh-vain-one," she sniffed.

The doorbell rang a third time, followed by a loud, "Open up! This is the fashion police! We know you’re in there!" which was, in turn, followed by a round of laughter.

"Kiss off!" Sarah yelled through the door, and was greeted with more laughter and a long, drawn-out "Ooooh!"

"I don’t think that helped," Jareth said, his voice filled with amusement.

"I’m so glad you think this is funny," she snapped. "Why don’t you make yourself useful and conjure a few monsters or something?"

"My magic doesn’t work like that," he replied haughtily.

"Oh, I see. It’s good for turning babies into goblins, but when it comes to actually doing something useful its pretty much use-LESS, right?"

He glared at her, but she ignored him in favor of calling Isaac over to her. Gripping the dog’s collar, she hissed at Jareth to get back into the kitchen, flung open the door, and planted herself firmly in the middle of it. "Hi, fellows," she said with false enthusiasm. "I’d like to introduce you to my friend, Isaac. Isaac, these are *reporters*. They’re *bad people* who don’t know what the meaning of get lost is."

Isaac looked at the men standing before him disdainfully, baring his teeth briefly, and snorted. He didn’t know what reporters were, but he knew that Sarah didn’t like them very much.

"Guys," Sarah was saying with forced politeness. "You are trespassing on private property. This is my temporary home until I recover, which I am doing quite nicely, thank you, so now that we’ve visited, I think you ought to leave. I don’t know how you found me, but you have three seconds to get your carcasses off this land before I turn my friend here loose to greet you properly. He hasn’t had a new chew toy in awhile. I’m sure he’d be more than happy to play with you."

The reporters were eyeing the big dog warily, who was licking his chops in perfect timing with Sarah’s words. One by one, they turned and began to head to their various cars, muttering and shooting Sarah dirty looks. "By the way," she called after them, "if I see so much as a word or a picture of this in any of your papers, I will have every lawyer in the United States breathing down your necks, and I don’t think your bosses would be very happy with you for getting them sued. So if you want to risk your jobs, be my guest. But don’t expect any sympathy from me."

They hurried their paces and, one by one, squealed their tires and tore out of the driveway. All except one. Vance still stood there, arms crossed and regarding Sarah smugly. He apparently didn’t care about getting sued. Sarah rolled her eyes. This guy was more arrogant than Jareth, were that possible. Unlike Jareth, however, he had none of the charisma and style needed to pull it off.

"Get lost, Vance," she snapped. "You’re not getting anything from me."

"Not even the name of lover boy in there?" he sneered.

She gave him a sweet smile. "Why, Vance, I haven’t the foggiest notion as to what you’re talking about. The only guy in there is my little brother, Toby."

"Sure he is," he smirked. "Come on, Sarah, you can’t fool me."

She fixed him with an icy glare that would have made Jareth proud. "That’s ‘Miss Williams’ to you, you vulture," she snarled. "Get the hell off my property before things get ugly."

He crossed his arms, the stupid moron he was, and refused to budge. "What are you going to do about it if I don’t leave?" he sneered.

Sarah smiled grimly. "Isaac, look," she suddenly exclaimed. "You have a new play toy! Go get him! Go chew him up!" So saying, she released the Newfoundland’s collar, and the huge dog lunged happily at a now-terrified Vance, who immediately took off across the yard toward his jeep, yelling all the way.

Sarah watched him go with grim satisfaction, waiting until the jeep was out of sight before whistling for Isaac to come back into the house. The dog happily complied, chewing on a scrap of cloth that he had torn from the reporter’s blazer. She took it from him and laughed evilly. That suit had probably cost Vance a half a month’s salary. Maybe next time he’d learn to dress for the mountains. One never knew what sort of wild animals one might meet out there.

"Is it safe to come out now?" Jareth asked teasingly as Sarah sagged against the door, sighing with relief.

"Yeah. They’re gone," she muttered. "For now."

Jareth came toward her, noticing her exhausted state, and took one of her hands in his own. "Your hand is like ice," he exclaimed, and began to rub it briskly. Sarah didn’t even seem to notice, even when he raised it to his lips to breathe warmth back into it. She merely sighed and closed her eyes, leaning her head against the door. He frowned. She didn’t seem well all of a sudden.

"Here, come lay down," he told her, pulling her to the couch. "You certainly knew how to handle those reporters!" He allowed a touch of admiration to enter his voice. She shook her head in denial.

"No, I didn’t," she argued. "I handled it terribly. They’re still going to report those stories, you know, and it’s going to come out making me look like some crazy lady. That is anything but good for the image I’ve been trying to build up. It might even ruin my career."

"Because they invaded *your* home?!" Jareth looked outraged. "What kind of a life are you living where you’re prosecuted for defending yourself? This is the dream you so wanted to live?"

Sarah winced at his tone, but refused to reply, instead choosing to collapse onto the sofa and curl up. She heard him sigh. "I’ll never understand mortals," he muttered, and then the sound of his receding footsteps told her that he had left.

* * * * *

A few hours later, as Jareth was heading upstairs, he saw that Sarah was still sprawled out on the couch, fast asleep. He hesitated, then padded softly to her, pausing to look down on her thoughtfully. "Sarah," he whispered, kneeling beside her and stroking her cheek softly with a knuckle. She stirred slightly, but didn’t awaken, and after a moment, he bent and carefully picked her up in his arms. She was incredibly light, so it was not difficult to carry her up the stairs into her room, where he laid her on the bed and pulled a light coverlet over her, smoothing back her hair and gazing down at her lovely face; older now after twelve years, but no less beautiful for all that.

After a moment of indecision, Jareth could no longer resist the temptation. Here was a single chance; he doubted he’d get another. So he stooped and kissed her gently, savoring the warmth and sweetness of her lips against his own. Was it his imagination, or was there the faintest stirring of response from her, a half-conscious reaction to his kiss? He longed to find out, to deepen the kiss until her desires rose for him, even in sleep, but he didn’t dare wake her. He had a perfectly logical explanation for being in her room, but he doubted she’d believe that his motives were pure. She would, naturally, assume the worst of him. Not, he told himself, that she had any reason *not* to…

With a soft sigh he stood and walked to the door, closing it firmly behind him.


Second Chances

A Labyrinth Story
by Stormlight

Part 12 of 18

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