Continuing Tales

Second Chances

A Labyrinth Story
by Stormlight

Part 9 of 18

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Second Chances

Sarah paced the living room, absentmindedly cracking the knuckles on one hand in a nervous manner. She had seen Jareth and Toby head into the forest, and that had been over two hours ago. They had not yet returned, and Sarah just knew that something had happened. Jareth had stolen Toby away, she was certain of it. **Why didn’t I watch him closer?** she chided herself. **If something’s happened to Toby, I’ll never forgive myself. I’ll never forgive Jareth!**

She paused and looked out the window again, straining to catch any signs of movement. There…was that a person walking across the snow-covered field? She strained her eyes, until she could make it out better. It was Toby, she realized, and he was alone. Jareth was nowhere to be seen. For some odd reason, that realization sent a spiral of alarm racing through her.

Shaking off the feeling, she grabbed her coat and sprinted out the door, running to Toby as fast as she could. She was panting heavily by the time she reached him, her lungs having not yet regained their full strength to handle the abuse she’d just put them through. "Thank heavens!" she gasped when she finally reached the boy, throwing her arms around him in a bear hug. "Don’t you ever go off like that by yourself again! I was scared to death something had happened to you!" she scolded.

"Aw, Sarah, knock it off! Quit gushing all over me," Toby complained, shoving his sister away in embarrassment. "I was fine. I was with Jareth, but he decided to stay in the forest by himself. He sent me back here though ‘cause he knew you’d be worried. You’re just being paranoid!"

Sarah stepped back, stunned. "I am not!" she cried. "You hardly even know this guy, and you just go off alone with him in the woods? Who knows what he could do to you!"

"There’s nothing wrong with him, Sarah," Toby replied. "He’s okay, and Pixie likes him. You’re the only one who thinks he’s gonna go and murder all of us in our sleep or something."

Sarah opened her mouth to protest, then shut it. She could not very well tell Toby who Jareth really was; she had promised not to, sort of. Besides, Toby would never believe her, anyway. He’d just think she was crazy. Not only that, but they had been there several days already, and Jareth had not so much as looked at Toby the wrong way. That didn’t mean she could trust him, but still…."Just go on inside and warm up," she finally muttered. "Pixie has some cocoa warming on the stove. I’ll be in later on."

Toby complied, and as soon as he was out of sight, Sarah headed into the forest in search of Jareth. She could not let this continue. She was going to confront Jareth and tell him just what she thought of him, whether or not he’d do anything to her. She was going to keep him away from her brother if it was the last thing she did.

"Jareth!" she called. "I know you’re here! Where are you?"

She waited, and after a few moments she thought she heard a faint reply. She followed the sound, and soon enough found Jareth sitting in a clearing on a snow-covered tree stump, hands on knees with his eyes closed, looking for all the world like he was meditating. A small, crystal-clear spring ran beside his foot, its music sounding almost like magic in the silence of the forest. Sarah stopped, a bit awed in spite of herself. With the snow and ice covering everything and the sunlight reflecting from the whiteness and making it sparkle like crystal, it looked like something out of a picture book, and Jareth now looked extremely like a fae to her, with his head tilted back and his fine, moonlight-colored hair blowing soft and loose about his pale face.

He slowly opened his mismatched eyes and brought them to rest on Sarah’s face, and her heart skipped a beat. She felt her nerve slipping away in the heat of his gaze, filled with a familiar power and cunning, and she almost bolted. At the last moment, however, she drew herself up and stated, much more calmly than she felt, "I want you to stay away from my brother."

His elegant brows arched at the quiet demand, and a smirk appeared on his lips. "Indeed. And why might that be?" he asked calmly.

"You know why!" she snapped. "I don’t want you anywhere near Toby! Not after what you tried to do to him before!"

"My dear, I did nothing to him that you did not wish me to do," Jareth stated quietly, and in a voice gone deadly cold. He saw her wince, and decided to change the subject. "What’s the matter, dearest? Don’t you trust me?" he added, lightly mocking.

She glared at him. "I don’t trust you any further than I can throw you!" she snarled. "Whatever happens between us, I can handle. It doesn’t matter what you do to me, but when you start messing with my family, you’d better watch out, or I’ll make you sorry you had ever been born!"

Jareth listened to her passionate speech, and then shot her a knowing look. "Are you saying that, had we left Toby out of our last confrontation, things may have been…different?" he suggested slyly, his voice a soft purr that made a shiver pass through Sarah’s body…although not from fear.

"Th…that’s not what I said," she stammered, her face paling visibly at his not-so-subtle hint.

Jareth shook his head, his expression gentling. "It doesn’t matter what you said, only what you mean," he replied.

"That is *not* what I meant!" Sarah protested hotly, a blush reddening her cheeks. "You must be crazy to think that you and I…that we…Oh! Never mind! It doesn’t matter anyhow! Just keep your hands off my brother! I’ll be watching you, so you’d better watch yourself!" she snapped, and turned on her heel to march away.

Jareth watched her go, his expression turning thoughtful. "Methinks the lady doth protest too much…" he quoted softly, and slowly rose to follow her back to the house.

* * * * *

The next day, as Jareth was eating breakfast of cold cereal, a bleary-eyed Sarah stumbled into the kitchen, pushing back her mussed hair with one hand. She barely acknowledged Jareth’s presence as she began opening and shutting the cabinet doors with loud bangs, looking more and more irritated. Apparently Sarah wasn’t much of a morning person, he thought with a smirk as he watched her, although he couldn’t help but think that her worn, forest green flannel pajamas were kind of adorable, as was the grumpy pout on her full lips.

"What in the Underground are you looking for?" he finally asked after Sarah had slammed shut her sixth cabinet door and was now rooting through the refrigerator. He thought he saw her wince at that certain word before her head vanished into the cold box, but her reply was clear enough.

"Breakfast," she muttered. "Anything with caffeine will do. Coffee, soda, chocolate, iced tea…"

Jareth stifled a chuckle and hid his grin behind his mug of tea. "There’s a variety of herbal tea in the cabinet above the stove. I’m sure one of them has what you’re looking for," he suggested helpfully, and laughed again at the look Sarah leveled at him, as though he’d just suggested that she take a drink from the toilet.

"I’m so very glad I amuse you," she sniffed, her head vanishing back into the fridge. "It just makes my entire day to hear you laugh."

Jareth raised an eyebrow, and a wicked gleam lit his eyes. He concentrated; it was hard to work magic on this world, though he could still do small parlor tricks that fae *children* could easily master (a fact that he was rather ashamed to admit). A glow settled into his hand, then faded, and he smiled smugly. "Sarah, why not have some real food for breakfast?" he suggested slyly. "Here, have some fresh fruit."

Her head popped up, and then her jaw dropped when she saw what he held in his hand. Her eyes narrowed dangerously. "Very cute, Jareth," she snapped through clenched teeth. "I suppose you think that’s a wonderful joke, offering me a peach."

He looked at her innocently. "You don’t want it?" he asked, affecting a wounded tone, though his lips were twitching.

"The last peach I ever ate, as I recall, gave me nightmares. I haven’t touched one since," she snapped.

Jareth smirked. "Too bad," he replied teasingly. "They really are delicious." He winked at her as he took a large bite out of the peach, and she huffed and turned to flounce out of the room, his chuckle following her all the way.

* * * * *

Later that day, Toby decided he wanted to go for another walk in the forest, and of course Jareth had to go along, which meant that Sarah had to go, too. She wasn’t about to let them go off by themselves again, and apparently Jareth was unfazed by her threat of bodily harm if he didn’t keep away Toby. Ignoring the gleam of humor in Jareth’s eyes—He was apparently in a playful mood today, a fact that somewhat surprised her since she hadn’t known Jareth *had* playful moods—she zipped up her coat and wrapped her scarf securely around her neck. It was warming up, finally—it was supposed to be springtime, after all—but she was taking no chances in getting sick again.

She silently followed Jareth and Toby out the door, breathing in air that held the scent of melting snow and wet plants. They set a brisk pace, Jareth’s long legs and Toby’s energy almost more than a match for Sarah’s weakened state, but she clenched her teeth and determinedly did her best to keep up with them…*without* letting on that she was wearing out. She refused to call out to them to slow down; her pride would not allow it. She was breathing heavily after a half hour of stumbling over half-buried tree roots and slipping through muddy areas along the path, and she fell further and further behind.

That was okay. She welcomed the chance to slow down and rest. According to Pixie, the path led out to a large clearing in which there was a frozen pond. That was where the other two were no doubt heading; she was sure she could catch up with them. As for the moment, she sat down on a fallen tree and caught her breath, turning her face up to the faint rays of sunlight that filtered through the trees and letting the peace of the forest wash over her.

It was then she heard Toby yell. And at that same moment the sound of a gunshot ripped through air.

Her heart stopped, and she leaped to her feet in alarm, staring wide-eyed down the path. **Toby!** she thought fearfully before breaking into a sprint in the direction her brother and Jareth had gone. **I knew it!** she thought furiously. **I just knew I couldn’t trust that thieving baby-snatcher! If he’s done anything to Toby, I’ll kill him! I swear I’ll kill him!** She forced herself to run even faster, ignoring her burning lungs. She had to reach him in time. She just *had* to.


Second Chances

A Labyrinth Story
by Stormlight

Part 9 of 18

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