Continuing Tales

Second Chances

A Labyrinth Story
by Stormlight

Part 18 of 18

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Second Chances

Sarah was gasping for breath when she reached the pond, and she came to a stumbling halt, doubled over, gasping for breath. **This seems familiar,** she thought wryly as she slowly straightened, remembering the last time she’d taken a flight like this through the woods. Scanning the clearing before her, she saw movement down beside the water, and realized that it was Jareth.

"Jareth!" she called, or tried to, anyway. She was still out of breath, though, and her voice was barely more than a huff. Gulping, she stumbled from the trees into the clearing, heading toward him. He was sitting cross-legged beside the water, hands on knees, eyes closed as though he was asleep. He was dressed in all his kingly glory, and a faint glow seemed to emanate from him, making him look ethereal and mysterious even in the middle of the day. She realized with dismay that he was in a magical trance, possibly one meant to send him back to his world. "Jareth!" she called again, putting as much force as she could behind the words. This time he heard her, and his eyes snapped open, a startled expression crossing his face.

"Sarah." He sounded uncertain as he gracefully rose to his feet. "What are you doing here?"

"What do you think? I’m here to keep you from leaving! You…you weren’t even going to say goodbye." She could not quite keep the accusation out of her voice.

He sighed wearily. "What do you want me to say?" he asked, his voice sad. "I believe I said everything there *was* to say. Now, I’m finished talking. I told myself I would not offer you my heart a second time, but I didn’t listen to my common sense and now I am regretting it." He held up a black-gloved hand, and a shining, delicate crystal formed on his fingers. She winced at the sight of it. It was part of the old Jareth; her enemy, the Goblin King. Not the kind, gentle man she had fallen in love with.

"I am a king, and I have responsibilities," he told her, his voice gone cold as ice, making the crystal dance across his fingers.

"Is your kingdom in trouble?" she asked, refusing to be intimidated, for she knew the coldness for what it was now. A mask designed to conceal his pain. She felt shame that he was forced to wear it again in her presence. Had she hurt him so badly then?

Jareth gazed at her silently, then gave a shrug. "Hoggle and Sir Didymus have it well in hand," he replied indifferently. "I’ve been checking up on them. They are fair rulers. Nevertheless, it is my kingdom, and it is time for me to return."

"But…but what about Pixie and Toby? Are you going to just leave? Pixie will miss you, and you've been just like a father to Toby," Sarah argued. "Look, if anyone should leave, it’s me. I’m the one who caused all this. I’ll go back to New York, leave Toby here with Pixie. At least that way he’ll be out of trouble. You can stay with them then, if I bother you so much.

Jareth seemed somewhat surprised at this offer, but he shook his head. "They’re your family," he replied. "Not mine."

"That’s not true!" Sarah protested hotly. "You’re as much a part of this family as anyone! You made yourself part of it when you came into Pixie’s life, and now that you are, you can’t just leave!"

He closed his eyes, a though fighting some inner battle. "Why have you come here, Sarah?" he asked, and his voice was as mocking as she’d ever heard it. "Are you here to ease your guilty conscience? Pixie and Toby will get along quite well without me. They did before, they can do so again." He abruptly turned away, as though to leave…

"But I can’t!"

The words were out before she could stop them. He paused, his cloak swinging about him, as dark as a bit of the universe. He didn’t turn around, but she could tell he was listening intently. Well, she had his attention, at least. Even if she couldn’t make him change his mind, at least she could tell him how she felt, even if it broke her heart in the end. Maybe he didn’t love her anymore; she could hardly blame him. She wasn’t very fond of herself, at the moment.

"If you go, my life will be empty," she continued in a low voice, staring at the ground, afraid to see his reaction. "You came back into it so suddenly, and I had never expected to see you again, and I hadn’t even believed that you were anything other than a fantastic dream. So when you came, it turned everything around so completely I didn’t know which way was up anymore. I was confused, and angry, and…and scared. I felt sure that you were up to no good, and the more you proved me wrong the more determined I was to be right." She gave grimace of self-disgust. "I know you think that sounds crazy and stupid and ridiculous, and you’re probably right, but it’s still true."

She paused; he remained silent. Taking another deep breath, she plunged ahead. "What happened last night…I wish I could do it over. I wish I could do everything over, but I can’t. If I had known my heartless words were going to drive you away, I would have bitten off my own tongue rather then say them. If I had known those words were going to destroy your kingdom twelve years ago, I would not have said them, either. I don’t want you to leave."

Slowly, Jareth turned back to her and paced toward her, his gaze burning into her, not saying a single word until he stood face to face with her. "Give me one good reason why I should stay," he said emotionlessly, his eyes searching her face.

She licked her lips. Here it was, the moment of truth. Either he would accept her words, or he would turn and walk away and be gone forever. It was only fair, she supposed. After all, she had caused him enough pain. She deserved to get a little of it back.

"Because if you leave," she said quietly, her voice quavering slightly, "I feel like I would die. Because…I love you, more than I ever loved anyone before. It just took me awhile to realize it. I’m sorry I’ve been so stubborn. If you walk away now, I won’t blame you. But at least you’ll go knowing that I don’t hate you, even if you hate me."

She dropped her gaze from his, but immediately felt his hand under her chin, lifting it so she was forced to meet his eyes again. He studied her, his eyes gentle and compassionate, a small smile touching his lips. "What took you so long?" he whispered, and his eyes took on a teasing glow as his hands—once again bare of gloves—slowly trailed up her bare arms, leaving little trails of fire where his fingers just brushed her skin. She shivered in spite of herself as his hands reached her shoulders, then briefly circled her slender neck with his fingers buried in her hair and his thumbs pressed lightly against the hollow of her throat, circling lightly.

She *knew* he felt her pulse racing. The mischief dancing in his eyes became a wicked sparkle as his hands traced from her throat up along her jaw before joining the rest of his fingers in her hair. His eyes had not left hers the entire time, but now another brief smile tugged at his lips as his gaze dropped lower. Sarah’s breath quickened, and her heart skipped even as he tugged her head forward and his mouth closed firmly over her own. Everything faded, and all she knew was the feel of his soft, velvet kiss, his arms around her, and his hands stroking her back and hair. She had never felt so *alive* before! Nothing had ever felt so…right.

The kiss lasted forever. It ended too soon. When he at last pulled away, she had enough willpower left, at least, to keep herself from pulling him toward her again. Somewhere along the line her arms had ended up around his neck, his incredibly soft hair entwined with her fingers. Funny, she didn’t remember putting them there…

His eyes were pure devilment as he gazed at her. "I’ve been waiting a long time to do that," he murmured.

She blushed and looked away, embarrassed and pleased all at once. "You’ve kissed me before," she reminded him.

"Not like that I haven’t, and I hope to continue to do so for a long time," he replied softly, stroking her face.

She dropped her gaze, suddenly shy, and smiled. "So do I," she admitted finally, and was rewarded with another warm embrace.

"Are you still planning to leave?" Sarah asked worriedly when Jareth released her again.

"Not unless I can take you with me," he replied seriously. "Now that I finally have you, I’m not giving you up so easily. My kingdom, as I’ve said, is in good hands, but I know one day I must return to rule again. It will not be so bad, I think, with a companion." His smile was gentle as he regarded her.

"I’d love to go back to the Labyrinth," she told him. "I’ve missed it. But…what about Toby? And Pixie? I couldn’t bear to leave either of them behind, and I don’t think they would choose to live in the Labyrinth with us. Well, at least not Pixie. Toby would probably be overjoyed to get out of school for good."

"That’s what he thinks," Jareth replied with a devilish smile. "There is such a thing as school in the Underground, and it would probably make the sixth grade class in your world look like preschool. I myself would oversee his education, and see that he gets a proper one, at that." He hesitated. "But then…there is the matter of your career," he added thoughtfully. "Surely you would not care to give that up, not when you’re so famous and all."

Sarah frowned faintly and turned away to face the pond, gazing thoughtfully into the water. "These past years have been wonderful," she said, and her voice was soft with remembrance. "Despite my parents’ deaths, and despite the trouble I’ve had keeping my family together." She sighed and leaned back against Jareth, and he wrapped his arms around her and rested his cheek on her hair. "My mother…my real mother…was faced with this same choice," she continued, with a trace of bitterness. "It was either her career, or her family. Well, we both know how that turned out." Jareth’s arms tightened slightly, comfortingly, and she felt his lips brush her hair. She smiled and closed her eyes, relishing this new closeness. Why had she ever been so afraid of him, of what he could offer her? It seemed so foolish now.

"Mom tried to balance both her career and her family in the beginning," she murmured. "But it just didn’t work. When it came to her career, Dad and I always came in second. She missed my fifth grade play, you know. She was on an airplane on her way to California because someone was trying to worm their way into a part that she wanted to play in some off-Broadway show. I was the star of my play. It was Sleeping Beauty. It was one of my first performances, and I worked so hard on it because I wanted to make her proud of me. I remember searching the crowd for most of the night trying to find her in the audience, and I acted my heart out, just in case she was there and I didn’t see her. There was a standing ovation at the end, but all I remember is crying because she wasn’t there."

"What are you saying?" Jareth asked her gently.

She sighed. "I don’t know. I guess…I guess I’m saying that I promised that I would never put myself in the situation where I’m forced to make that kind of choice. But, you know, now that I am, I find that the choice is surprisingly easy to make." She turned in his arms and smiled at him. "As soon as I can get to a phone, I’m going to call Cliff, and I’m going to inform him, politely but firmly, that I am taking an early retirement from acting as soon as my contract is up…which it is in another six months. He won’t be happy, but he can’t really stop me, either."

Jareth was astounded. "But, Sarah, this was your dream!" he protested, gripping her shoulders. "I cannot ask you to give that up for me. I won’t ask such a thing! Soon, you would begin to hate me for taking you away from what you love!"

"What I love…is you," she replied softly, touching his face with her hand. Her shadowed eyes were glowing as she gazed into his own, and he felt as though he could float away from the light and love that filled his soul. "Don’t you see, Jareth?" Sarah was saying earnestly. "Acting was fun, but it isn’t important to me, not anymore. Now that I have you, I don't need anything else. My mother may have chosen to pursue her career, but I don’t. You are my true dream, and you always have been, even when I was too young to realize it. Without you…what else is there?"

Jareth was speechless. Never had anyone given him such a gift. He was overwhelmed, and it took a great deal to overwhelm the Goblin King. Silently, he took Sarah back into his arms and held her like he would never let her go. His kingdom…it would still be there when he returned, if he returned. As for now, he would remain on this world, and he would marry this woman…the other half of his soul. It was what he wanted, with all his heart. "I think perhaps we should go back and let the rest of your…*our*…family know that everything has turned out all right," he told her. Smiling brightly, she nodded in agreement, and together, they walked hand in hand back to the house.


Second Chances

A Labyrinth Story
by Stormlight

Part 18 of 18

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