Continuing Tales

As Easy Mayst Thou Fall

A Labyrinth Story
by kzal

Part 7 of 24

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As Easy Mayst Thou Fall

"Sarah." A soft voice, a whisper. "Sarah, dearest, you must wake up." Cool lips brushed her forehead, the corner of her eye, her cheek. "Open your eyes, Sarah."

"Ja—Jareth?" Her mind was full of haze. She blinked, then opened her eyes fully, and jumped back. His face was only inches from hers, and unglamored; slanted, marked eyes watched her from under wild white-blond hair.

"I apologize, Sarah." He kissed her forehead again. "I have not transferred a mortal before under my own power. I did not anticipate that it would be traumatic."

"Transferred… Jareth, what did you do?" The haze was clearing rapidly from her mind, as she took in her surroundings. She lay on a chaise longue, upholstered in dark red velvet. Immediately before her, she could see a fireplace, a dark wood table, and a matching chair; glancing around, she saw also a dark wood desk, bookshelves, and, through an open door, a bed. Though through the windows she could see nothing but sky, she was suddenly certain: she was Underground.

He smiled. "Welcome back, Sarah."

"How did you bring me here?" She couldn't stay still. She pushed him away, jumping to her feet and going to the window, though she already knew what she would see. Here of her own free will, she would have been fascinated; instead, she whirled on him again. "What gives you the right to snatch me away like that?"

"I sensed that I could." Confusion and concern crept into his voice.

"Oh, that's rich. You sensed it. What does that even mean?"

"I sensed it. Magically. I asked you one question tonight: if you would be willing to return. You said you would be."

"I said 'perhaps,' and what do you mean, 'you asked me one question?'"

"In return for answering you about your friends. I asked you only one question, all night; you answered immediately, truthfully, and then you kissed me." This was spoken as though that should settle the matter.

"You asked only one question? But you didn't say… nevermind. That is not the argument I want to have right now. What I want to know is why kissing you means anything."

"You have no power over me. I am sure you remember." His eyes turned sharp at the memory, and he stalked forward, backing her towards the wall. "I could not have done anything to you without your consent, in some form, including bringing you here. Words have power; this you learned on your first visit. Actions have power too. Your admission that you would consider returning was insufficient, but when you kissed me, you gave me the power to bring you here."

"I gave you the—of all the—I never would have done that if I'd known!" She knew better than to claim it wasn't fair.

"Then why did you kiss me?"

"Why did I… Jareth, in my world a kiss means, 'I like you, let's continue getting to know each other.' It doesn't mean, 'Whisk me off to your castle where we will live happily ever after!' My life is not a fairy tale!"

"Isn't it?" He was offended now. "You know who I am, and yet you kissed me."

"An action I now regret more than I would have thought possible, and I was actually quite apprehensive about kissing you in the first place." She closed her eyes, swallowing black rage in favor of contained fury. "You really thought that, didn't you? Two dates, a few letters, one kiss: that's the recipe for happiness? That's how you claim me? Jareth, you don't even know me, and I certainly don't know you. I was starting to. I was even starting to trust you, more fool I. A few months, more letters, more time, a direct invitation… who knows? But now you've ruined it. How can I trust you now?" He stood as though carved in stone, and didn't speak. She dropped her eyes to the floor, pressing her lips together, willing herself not to cry, only now certain that she actually had been falling for him, a little, especially tonight. And he'd ruined it. He wasn't the man she'd begun to think he might be. He was just another cad out for all he could grab; just her luck that a magical king could grab far more than a mortal.


"No," she interrupted, not looking up. "I shouldn't, I really, really shouldn't, but I'll give you one chance to make it right. Send me back, right now, and I'll forgive you for this, and we can go back to letters for a while, if you still want to."

"Sarah." He was standing right in front of her. "Look at me, Sarah." She raised her eyes; he brought up a hand and raised her chin as well. "I cannot send you back."

Angry tears gathered in her eyes, and she wrenched her head away. "Can't, or won't?"

"I cannot."

"Liar. You can just claim that you can't, but you want me here, so here I stay."

"Sarah," he said softly, ignoring her anger and meeting her eyes steadily, "I have never lied to you. Not once, not ever." He gripped her shoulders, holding her when she tried to back away. "I cannot send you back."

"Is it a power thing? Because if you need something from me to send me back, you've got it. I don't want to be here."

"Sarah, I do not know why. I only know that I cannot do as you ask. If I could—" he broke off.

"If you could, what? If you could, what, Jareth?"

"I do not know," he said quietly, "and I will not lie to you."

In spite of herself, she was beginning to believe him. "Is there any way you can prove that? Is there anyone else who'll back you up? If I asked Hoggle, would he tell me the same?"

"The dwarf will convince you?" he asked, brows tightening in anger. "Then the dwarf you will have." He was gone in that instant, and she sagged forward, into the space he had just occupied.

Was he really going to get Hoggle? Just because she'd asked? She wanted it to be a contradiction, but his old words came back to her: Everything that you wanted I have done. You asked that the child be taken; I took him. You cowered before me; I was frightening. I have reordered time. I have turned the world upside down, and I have done it all for you. She'd tried not to think about those words since Jareth had returned to her life; that whole scene was still too confusing. But he'd just gone and done it again, hadn't he? Exactly what she wanted? Assuming he actually came back with Hoggle, but oddly, she was certain he would. So if he wouldn't send her home when she asked, what did that mean? He hadn't always done what she wanted. She'd asked for Toby back right away, and that time he had denied her, but that was the only time, and he'd been actingofficially, then. The Goblin King, not just Jareth. Maybe that was the one time he couldn't oblige her. And he hadn't known her, then, either. The King of the Goblins had fallen in love with the girl, but he'd told her that was just the old tale, to lure foolish mortals. And he claimed he didn't lie. Here I'll wait until you come again. Did singing someone else's word count as lying?

"Even if he doesn't lie, he sure knows how to twist the truth."

"Only one man ye'd be talkin' about, sayin' that," said a well-remembered voice behind her.

"Hoggle!" She was on her feet in an instant, running to embrace her friend, only briefly surprised that Jareth wasn't with him. "Oh, Hoggle, it's so good to see you!"

"Sarah." He grinned up at her, one eye slightly squinted. "Ye've grown."

"It's been… a while. Eleven years, Above."

"Is that a long time?" She nodded, biting her lip, and his face fell. "And ye never called?"

"Oh Hoggle, I'm sorry. I… I convinced myself that the Labyrinth wasn't real. I thought I'd made you up. I shouldn't have doubted you."

"It's alright, li'l lady. Don't ye go frettin' about that just now. Ye're here and believin' in us now." He tossed his head. "Time moves different here, anyhow. We don' feel the time pass like you do, or like he does."

"How have you been, Hoggle? Jareth told me you're still at the gate."

"I am. Faeries just th'same as always. Garden never rightly grows. And we ain't had no one goin' in the Labyrinth since you been here, neither."

"Are there so few wishes?"

"Mos' folks don' believe in us no more. Folks don' wish for what they don' know could come. And," he grunted, levering himself onto the chaise as she sat next to him, "mos' folks take their dreams. There was some chit called him some while ago, since you, but she was gonna leave the little'un to die anyhow." His deep frown showed plainly what he thought of that lack of courage and responsibility.

"I guess I never thought of that… that some people would wish away a child and not want it. I always wanted Toby; I felt so terrible, and right away."

"I know ye did, Sarah, don't go frettin' about that either, what's past is past." He stopped talking, then looked at her closely. "Sarah, the King din't say why you was here, or how. He jus' grabbed me without a by-your-leave, brought me here, and tol' me to talk to ye and answer yer questions. What in the world Above or Below are ye doin' back in the Castle Beyond the Goblin City?"

"Jareth brought me," she said shortly.

"Now now missy," he chided, "I know we're all about askin' the right questions and such round here, but don' tell me ye've been with that rat long enough t'start soundin' like him. I can't help without ye give me the whole story."

She sighed, hiding her face in her hands. "I hardly know where to start."

"The beginnin', generally." He patted her knee. "Jus' start where it feels right."

In the end, she told him almost everything. Not the details of the times she'd seen Jareth between her victory and her next wish, but she did tell him that she had thought of him often over the years, even more, though it hurt to admit, than she'd thought of her three friends. She picked up the story in more detail at her breakup, discovery of the book, and wish.

"Hold a moment, Sarah. Ye say it was yer ol' book, the very same?"

"Yes. I thought it strange, at the time, but I haven't even thought about it since…. What happened next was far stranger." Going on, she told him of her wish, Jareth's appearance, his bargain, an outline of her past week, though without going into much detail about the letters themselves. She ended by describing, in detail, the way he had reacted to Peer Gynt. Hoggle's eyes had grown wider with each revelation, and when she reached the point of saying she'd kissed Jareth, he exploded like a firework.

"Ye kissed him? Sarah, what were ye—"

"I wasn't, obviously, okay? Or, well—it's just that—he told me so much more about the Underground, and none of you really ever left my mind, even when I thought you weren't real, and he was real and right there and so damn different and sincere and I…."

"Do ye love him?"

"What? No!"

"But ye kissed him!"

"Hoggle, people don't think that way, Aboveground! I… I like him. Or, I did. I might. He's interesting and challenging and brilliant and let's not forget about gorgeous and…" she trailed off, noting that Hoggle's eyes were about the size of saucers, and he was actually backing away from her on the chaise. That might have been a bit too much girl talk."Sorry." She lowered her voice with an effort, determined to be serious and calm. "I know you don't like him, Hoggle."

"I don't. And ye can't forget he's also impulsive, devious, powerful, and driven, and he hates to lose. But he's also all we got. Ain't no one else left t'be King." He looked down, and what he said next was so quiet she nearly missed it. "At least he's still here."

"He told me." She sighed. "Listen, Hoggle. I'm so glad you're here to hear my whole story, but I know why Jareth brought you. He did it because I asked him a specific question, one I want you to answer."

"Oh? What's that?"

"Does he lie?"

Hoggle looked at her for a long moment. "What did he say to ye, Sarah?"

"I'll tell you in a moment. Please, just answer."

"I thought y'already knew. Ye said it as I walked in. He don' lie, but that don' mean he's always straightforward. Tellin' only half th' truth can be more dangerous than lyin' outright."

Her hands were tightly folded in her lap, her gaze fixed on them. "He told me he can't send me back."

At that, Hoggle sighed. "Not much getting' around simple statements like that. If he said 'I can't,' then he can't. Don' like admittin' somethin's not in his power, neither, so if he came out an' said it, that's that. I'm sorry, li'l lady, but looks like ye're stuck with us." When she looked up again, he was searching her face. "Is that really so bad?"

"I don't know." She leaned her chin on one hand, looking at him. "I certainly would have loved to come to visit, but I'm not ready to stay, if he even wants that. As much as I love you and Ludo and Sir Didymus, now that I know you're really here, the way things are with him… I'd need to be sure of him too, and I'm not." She sighed, slumped over, and then straightened her shoulders, drawing strength from her posture. "I suppose I need to talk to him. He made some pretty big assumptions, but I made mistakes too."


"You think I shouldn't?"

"No, that ain't it. I jus' wanted t'say, I prolly won' be able t'see ye for a while, once he sends me off."

"What? Why? Hoggle, if he tries to keep me away from you—"

"Don' be angry, it ain't his fault, much as I hate t'admit it. Did he explain how the Underground changes ye?"

"He did."

"Then I'm guessin' he wants ye to stay much as ye are now, and I'm guessin' ye'll be wantin' the same, an' ye're strong-willed and old enough to have a chance, if the legends are true, but ye must do as he says when it comes to that. He din' say I was to tell ye that, neither, but ye need t'know." He patted her knee again. "I'll see ye when I see ye. It'll be soon enough." With another grunt, he heaved himself off the chaise, and departed through the heavy door.

The door was closed only a moment before it opened again, and Jareth stood there, his face carefully blank, an obvious mask. She wanted to retreat before the anger she was sure hid beneath, but instead she straightened, standing from the chaise to meet his eyes, proud and defiant.

"Thank you for bringing him." She could give enough to be the first to speak.

"Did he answer your question?" His voice was as carefully calm as his face.

"He did. Though... I'd already decided you were telling the truth." Not a necessary concession, this one; but she hoped to encourage him to reciprocate.

He nodded, accepting her at her word. "I believe I know why I cannot send you home."

That was the sort of concession she'd been hoping for. "You do? Why?"

He shook his head. "I must not tell you."

She wanted to be angry, but she'd caught his choice of words: must not, not cannot or will not. "It's something I need to do." He nodded. "But telling me what it is will keep me from doing it."

"Telling you would make it very unlikely; so unlikely that I will not risk it. I want you to be happy, Sarah." His voice was softening, and he moved forward. She let him approach, let him touch her cheek, let him tuck a lock of hair behind her ear, but she didn't move, or meet his eyes.

"You have a strange way of showing it." He inhaled to speak again, but she held up a hand. "Please, Jareth. No more, just now. I need... some space, to be with my own thoughts."

"Very well. Come this way?" He gestured towards the door, and she glared up at him. What part of "leave me alone" doesn't he understand? He only laughed at her expression. "Sarah, dear, if I am to leave you for the evening, perhaps you would prefer your own rooms, rather than mine...?"

As Easy Mayst Thou Fall

A Labyrinth Story
by kzal

Part 7 of 24

<< Previous     Home     Next >>