Continuing Tales

Second Chances

A Labyrinth Story
by Stormlight

Part 17 of 18

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Second Chances

"The ballroom," she whispered, feeling her face drain of blood. Panic abruptly gripped her, and she started to pull away from Jareth’s grasp, feeling the walls closing in on her. "Why did you bring me here? What are you doing?" she gasped, turning frightened, accusing eyes to the Goblin King’s face.

He regarded her steadily. "Don’t be afraid," he murmured. "I’m not going to harm you. Look." He gestured to a dark corner, where a table stood draped in satin and set with fine china and gold. "Let us eat," he said. "I’m hungry, aren’t you?"

She pulled away fully and glared at him. "No! I’m not hungry!" she snapped. "I’m pissed off! What the hell are you trying to do to me? Do you think you’re going to seduce me with this…this…adolescent fantasy again?" She shook her head. "Just when I was finally beginning to think I could trust you…"

"You can trust me!" Jareth replied in a pained voice. "I just…I just wanted to surprise you. I thought…this was such a wonderful fantasy. Don’t you remember? I didn’t think you’d mind dining with me here. I thought…" He trailed off, shaking his head in confusion.

"You thought what, Jareth?" Sarah asked coldly. "Some enchanted food, a song and dance, and I’d fall into your arms? Think again." She cast a loathing glance at their surroundings. "What do you see here?" she asked, her voice shaking. "Do you know what I see? I see a dream. An illusion. It isn’t real. It was never real. Nothing is real with you! All it was, was a distraction, a decoy to keep me from reaching my goal. And it had worked, for awhile. For a moment, I truly loved you." She paused, then laughed bitterly. "But that illusion was too fragile to last, like everything about you is." She plucked one of the crystals from the air and hurled it to the ground, where it exploded into dust. "Just like this crystal, the dream was shattered, and so was my heart."

Jareth gripped her hands, gazing into her eyes intently. His expression was a myriad of emotions. Pain, anger, loss…love. "What this illusion was to me was my way to tell you that I loved you," he murmured, "in the only way I knew how. It was the best memory we had, of us dancing together, for the moment more than enemies, more than friends. I thought perhaps it might bring back those feelings you had for me, but I see now that I was wrong. I’m sorry for the pain I’ve caused you. Perhaps I merely fooled myself into believing in a dream that can never come to pass."

He paused, then slowly reached out to cradle her face in his hands. "Loving you is like touching a star," he murmured. "So beautiful and distant and cold. I know that I will never reach it, but I cannot keep myself from hoping, from trying, even if it dooms me to remain alone forever."

Sarah’s eyes were brilliant with tears as she gazed at him, speechless. This was the first time he had ever openly declared his love for her; that he had ever made himself so completely vulnerable. She blinked, and her tears slid down over her cheeks. Slowly, Jareth leaned in and kissed them away with utmost tenderness, his lips soft and warm against her skin. She closed her eyes, fighting the guilt that rose in her at the memory of her harsh words. **It’s only another trick, another illusion,** she told herself, but her thoughts lacked conviction, for she knew, deep within, that he was being as honest as he had ever been. He truly loved her, and was going against his very nature to tell her so, and she was doing nothing but accusing him of deceit.

She felt like a complete heel.

The warmth of Jareth’s hands left her face, and she opened her eyes as he stepped back. The illusion was fading, the satin draperies and streamers falling into dust, just as it had before. The silverware and china and satin covering the golden table faded to reveal Pixie’s kitchen table, set with nothing but a white sheet, chipped plates, and metal flatware. The walls vanished to reveal the porch and the night surrounding them. The tall candles in their golden stands turned into a few skinny candles in pewter holders.

Sarah stared in astonishment, then turned a guilty glance to Jareth. Had she been the one to cause the illusion to shatter this time, as well?

He met her gaze, gave a weary shrug. "Even the most elaborate of illusions need props," he said wearily, "and it only lasts so long as the dreamers want it to. Don’t worry. This time, it is my dream that has shattered." With that, he turned and walked into the house, shoulders slumped and head bowed as though he had aged a hundred years in a single night.

* * * * *

It was late morning when Sarah emerged from her bedroom. Her head was pounding, and her eyes burned fiercely from the hours she had spent crying herself to sleep. She had gone inside immediately after Jareth, locking herself in her room, and had done her best to sleep. But every time she managed to drift off, she would dream of Jareth standing before her in a shrinking pool of light, reaching out to her, his eyes pleading to save him from the blackness that engulfed him. She would run and run to reach him, but he was never close enough. Then, just when she was able to grasp his fingers, he was gone, leaving her standing alone, feeling the deepest sense of loss…

She stumbled downstairs, blinking against the light. Toby and Pixie were sitting around the table, their faces gloomy. She frowned. "What’s the matter?" she asked.

They glanced at each other, then at Sarah. "I take it things didn’t go well last night," Pixie said bluntly.

Sarah frowned. "You were in on that little fiasco?" she asked accusingly.

"I helped him plan it!" she retorted. "What happened?"

Sarah heaved an exasperated sigh. "He totally threw me for a loop, that’s what happened," she said. "He created the ballroom again, Pixie. Complete with candles and crystals and streamers and all." She shook her head. "Here all this time I thought he had hardly any power left, and yet…"

"He’s been slowly gaining it back," Pixie replied, "and he used a great deal of it, I’d imagine, trying to impress you last night."

"And that’s my fault?" Sarah scowled, pouring herself some coffee. "I didn’t ask him to do that! I didn’t *want* him to do that!"

"He was trying to prove to you how much he loves you." Pixie’s voice was filled with disapproval. "He chose that scene because, for him, it was the best moment of your time together in the Labyrinth. Perhaps he made an error, but he is, after all, partly human, and humans are known for their mistakes."

Sarah turned on her, gesturing helplessly. "What do you want me to do about it?" she snapped. "To me that scene brought back nothing but bad memories! He’d made a mockery of me, and he toyed with my heart and my emotions. He’d made me lose time I needed to win. I only just managed to save Toby, you know. Ten more seconds, and neither of us would be here. We’d be nothing more than memories."

"Ten more seconds…and your dreams may have actually come true." Pixie’s voice was soft. "Oh, Sarah. Why do you have so much trouble believing that anyone could love you? You, of all people, deserve a fairy tale ending."

"There are no such things as fairy tales," Sarah replied in a low voice.

Pixie snorted. "I believe that’s the biggest lie you’ve ever told," she huffed.

Sarah blinked at her, surprised. It was then Toby spoke up. "It doesn’t matter now anyhow. He’s gone," he said gloomily.

Sarah looked at her brother in surprise, a touch of alarm making her eyes narrow. "What do you mean, gone?" she demanded sharply.

"I mean he went away." Toby looked like he was trying hard not to cry. "He packed up his stuff, and he went into the forest. He was wearing his Underground clothes. He said…he said he’s going back to the Labyrinth." He blinked, swiping at his eyes. "He said he needed to make sure everything was all right with the goblins and stuff."

"You mean…he’s leaving for good?" Sarah’s face paled just a bit. "He…he can’t just up and leave! He didn’t even say goodbye!"

"Somehow, my dear, he’s gotten the impression that you wouldn’t want to see him. He felt it was better this way," Pixie replied wryly.

"But he *can’t* leave!" Sarah exploded.

"He seems to feel that he has no reason to stay." Pixie’s expression was carefully blank as she eyed her niece.

"But…but what about you and Toby? I mean, you’re his friends. He’s just gonna abandon you?"

"I always knew he wasn’t going to stay forever. He’s like…well…the owl he turns into. He has to be free. Eventually he’d fly away. I was just hoping it wouldn’t be so soon."

"I…I can bring him back," Sarah said hurriedly. "Tell me where he went, and I’ll go bring him back. I’m sure he’ll listen…"

"Don’t you get it?" Toby exploded. "He left ‘cause of you! He can’t stand being around you anymore, ‘cause he loves you so much and you don’t love him back! Gees, Sis! I’m just a kid, and even *I* know that!" He glared at his sister, then sat back down and glared sullenly at the table, instead.

Sarah staggered back a step, shocked at her brother’s outburst. "I…I didn’t mean to drive him away," she whispered. "He’s…he’s part of this family now. I don’t *want* him to leave! I want…" She paused.

"What *do* you want, Sarah?" Pixie asked quietly. "You’d better figure it out quick, because the more you hesitate the less of a chance you have of catching him before he leaves, and you’ll lose him for good, then."

Sarah looked at her aunt, her eyes haunted. "I don’t want to lose him," she admitted slowly, hesitantly. "I…I need him in my life."

"As what? A friend? That isn’t good enough for him anymore, Sarah." Pixie’s voice was gentle. "What do you want of him?"

Sarah closed her eyes, fighting back more tears. "I want to love him, and I want him to still love me. I want my happy ending," she finally admitted.

"In that case, you’d better head down to the pond. You’ll find your happy ending there, if you hurry."

Sarah hesitated a moment longer, then turned and bolted to the back door, grabbing her jacket from the hook and sprinting at full speed ahead toward the forest. She was going to stop Jareth from leaving no matter what it took.

If it wasn’t already too late…


Second Chances

A Labyrinth Story
by Stormlight

Part 17 of 18

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