Continuing Tales

A Necessary Deception

A Labyrinth Story
by Scattered Logic

Part 11 of 28

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A Necessary Deception

Sarah turned away from Jareth, "I'm sorry if I reacted badly to finding out that I'm owned," her tone was still somewhat bitter, "but I don't want to talk about it anymore."

"I don't believe that's the subject we should be discussing." He saw her shoulders stiffen and continued, "Yes, the issue of ownership is upsetting to you, but you admitted to Ethain that you don't believe that I see you as a possession. Why do you assume that I will tire of you and give you away?"

She wouldn't answer.

"Who did give you away?" Jareth asked softly.

To her horror, she began to cry. "I really don't want to talk about this." She viciously wiped the tears away and her voice strengthened. "There's no point, it won't change anything."

He lightly touched her hair. "I want to understand, Sarah."

She bowed her head briefly and her shoulders sagged. After a moment, she straightened and turned to face him. The woman before him was now calm and detached.

"I'll tell you this once," she said coolly. "And then I don't ever want to talk about it again. Agreed?"


Jareth was alarmed at Sarah's transformation. Whatever happened had hurt her very deeply to cause her to put up such a wall so quickly.

"I'll agree on one condition," he said cautiously. "As I'll have only this one opportunity to speak with you about it, I want you to agree to answer any questions I have regarding the matter."

Her eyes narrowed for a moment and she nodded sharply once. "But I want to have this conversation somewhere else," she said.

"The gardens?" He suggested.

"No," she said, emotionless. "I don't want to associate this with any place that I enjoy."

Jareth simply held out his hand. She hesitated a moment and then took it. In the next instant, they were standing in an oubliette. A torch threw flickering shadows across the rough stone walls and dirt floor.

Sarah took in her surroundings and gave a harsh laugh. "A place you put people to forget about them," she remembered. For a moment, her gaze softened, "You really do have the most amazing mind," she said and gave him an admiring glance.

At the compliment, he gave a fleeting smile. With a gesture, two chairs appeared, positioned to face each other. Sarah hadn't yet realized that he had one other purpose in selecting this cramped, unpleasant place. The lack of exits. No matter what happened over the next few minutes, she wouldn't be able to run from her past. He suspected she'd already been running for quite some time.

He motioned for her to take her seat and then sat across from her. He waited until she seemed comfortable. "You have a story to tell," he prompted softly.

Instantly, her demeanor became brittle and she gave a faint smile. "Linda," she began, "had always wanted to be an actress. All through her marriage to my father, she took parts in local theater productions. She was actually very good and received excellent reviews."

"You don't call her..." Jareth started.

Sarah sneered, "Mother? No. That woman isn't my mother. I don't have a mother." Jareth merely raised an eyebrow and gestured for her to continue.

"When I was twelve, Linda met an actor from New York who'd come to our little town. I'm still not completely sure why he was there. A favor to a college friend, I think." Sarah mimed holding something to her ear and talking into it. "Come by and see my production of Romeo and Juliet. It'll do you good to get away from the city for a while."

Sarah's smile turned derisive. "Romeo and Juliet, how excruciatingly appropriate. Jeremy was handsome, charming, witty. All those things you'd expect from a successful actor. Needless to say, the oh-so-dissatisfied Linda began having an affair with this man."

She shot him an appraising glance, but Jareth just looked impassively back at her.

"When she left my father, she took me with her. For years, I thought that meant she loved me. It was only later that I realized that she'd just taken me as another way of hurting my dad.

"I was very confused. I didn't understand why I couldn't go home and I didn't understand why I wasn't allowed to see my father. And, most especially, I didn't understand why I was suddenly living in a different city with a man who was a complete stranger to me."

She arched an eyebrow at Jareth. The similarities between her past and her present were blatantly obvious, but he was careful not to react. While Sarah had a thin veneer of control, he knew that she was still very angry and was pushing for an argument. He refused to give her one.

"I lived with them for two months during the summer, all the while barely seeing Linda. She would go to auditions during the day and then out to parties or dinner with Jeremy almost every night." Sarah retreated into an emotionless mask.

"Finally, starved for attention, I began trying to get that attention any way I could. I became...difficult. Temper tantrums mostly, or sullen behavior. Occasionally, I deliberately broke things.

"Of course, this didn't sit too well with Jeremy--he wasn't used to children. And so they began to argue over me. That was something Linda couldn't allow." Sarah shook her head slowly. "I heard him tell her one night that he was tired of dealing with another man's child, that she had to choose. And Linda wouldn't allow anything to jeopardize her dreams."

Sarah's eyes went distant.

It had been so hot that day. Summer in New York was agony, all humid swelter and shrieking sirens. But the movie theater provided almost painfully icy relief from the heat outside. Linda had been the one to suggest that Sarah go, "It's only a block away and I've so many things to take care of today, lovey, you'd just be bored." Jeremy, in an unusual burst of generosity, had given her enough money for two movies and extra treats. She'd sat in the icy darkness of the theater and watched "Return of the Jedi" twice, eating over-salted popcorn for her lunch and Sweet-Tarts for an afternoon snack.

Leaving the theater and walking back into that heat had been like being wrapped in a sodden woolen blanket, and sweat had plastered her bangs to her forehead before she'd even gotten halfway back to Jeremy's.

Sarah had known something was wrong the instant she'd gone into the foyer. It was so quiet. It was never quiet there. Linda or Jeremy always had the television or stereo blasting to cover the inevitable traffic noises that would filter into the apartment. But that day, it had been so still that she could hear the muffled ticking of the grandfather clock in the living room marking each second that passed.

She'd heard someone nervously clear his throat and she'd peeked into the living room. She hadn't believed her eyes when she'd seen her father awkwardly standing in front of the sofa where Linda and Jeremy sat, silently holding hands.

"Daddy!" Sarah had called out with a smile, beginning to run toward him. He'd turned to her, but the shuttered look on his face had caused her to stop a few feet away. That's when she'd noticed her suitcases stacked at his feet.

"You're coming home, Sarah," her father had said. His voice was strained. Sarah had looked at Linda and found that she was avoiding Sarah's eyes. Jeremy, however, did look at her and he had a curious expression of shameful triumph in his eyes.

Sarah's throat had suddenly gone so dry that she could barely speak. "Mama?" she had whispered, "What's happening?" But Linda had only buried her face against Jeremy's shoulder and refused to answer.

Her dad picked up her suitcases and started toward the foyer. "Come on, Sarah. I don't want to get caught in the turnpike traffic." But Sarah couldn't move and she tried once again, "Mama? I don't understand. Did I do something wrong?"

Finally, Linda raised her head and looked toward her, but she still wouldn't meet her eyes. "They're just papers, baby," she'd said. "I'll never stop being your mother."

Sarah's eyes focused on Jareth again. Her breathing was harsh and she visibly fought for control, blinking back sudden tears. "Linda had signed over custody of me to my father. She'd given up all her rights to me and, just like that, I no longer had a mother.

"I didn't recognize that fact just yet, of course. I still loved her. I didn't see her, but she would call on my birthday or at Christmas and that was enough to give me hope. I kept track of her through the tabloids and the magazines and spent years trying to get her attention. I thought that if I became an actress, if I followed in her footsteps, that she would take me back.

"My dad remarried and it seemed that I'd lost his attention, too. God knows, my stepmother and I didn't get along. I certainly didn't want someone trying to replace Linda and she didn't want a teenager to raise. To be fair to her, I was more of a brat than most. After Toby was born, I started to withdraw further and further into my dreams. It was just so much easier that way.

"That was probably when I caught your eye." Sarah gave Jareth a brief smile. "Isn't that funny? I was trying so desperately to get someone's attention, and I finally did. I got yours."

He leaned forward and reached out to touch her hand, but Sarah jerked it back. "I don't want your pity," she hissed.

"That wasn't what I was offering," he said mildly. "Sympathy and pity are two different things entirely." He watched as Sarah wrestled her cold mask back into place.

"The day after I returned from the Labyrinth, I called Linda. I don't know why I thought that she'd believe me. But I wanted to tell somebody and there wasn't anyone else to call. " Sarah snorted, "Linda didn't even listen, she interrupted me and said that she was packing to go to Spain for a movie shoot. She said that it would be difficult to get in touch with her for several weeks. Then she started crying and said that she and Jeremy were having problems and that it would be better if I just didn't call her anymore. She hung up on me and I haven't seen or spoken to her since."

Sarah fell silent and looked at Jareth, a challenging look on her face. She was waiting for his questions.


Jareth just watched her for a moment, then asked, "Is this the first time that you've discussed this with anyone?"

"Well, it's not exactly something I'm proud of," her tone was sarcastic.

"Not even a friend?"

"I don't... I don't have a lot of friends. Not any close ones."

"Why not? You're personable, I should think you'd have a great many friends."

"Eventually they'd find out and then they would want to know." She looked away from him.

He'd obviously thrown her off balance with his questions. Good. This situation had obviously been festering inside her for years, the poison continuing to build while she tamped it down with self-control and impassive poses. It was time to let it out, but he needed a lever to break down that wall she'd built.

"What would they want to know?" he asked.

"They'd want to know what's..." Sarah caught herself and her eyes narrowed. "Is there some point to this?"

'Ah,' Jareth thought, 'Now I understand.' Careful to remain expressionless, he decided that it was time for that argument she'd wanted so badly. Perhaps in this case, a little cruelty could be a kindness.

He glanced away from her for a moment and then looked back at her with a mocking smile, "I've heard your story. Now I wonder what story Toby would tell me?"

She flinched violently and stammered, "What... What do you mean?"

Jareth sneered, "Really, Sarah, I'm surprised at you. You're an intelligent woman. Has the parallel never occurred to you?"

Shock and surprised hurt flashed across her face, "Parallel?"

"She gave you away and you wished Toby away." He allowed the faintest amount of contempt to enter his voice. "Like mother, like daughter."

"You bastard," Sarah jumped to her feet so abruptly that her chair toppled over with a crash. "You helped instigate my wishing him away in the first place and now you have the nerve to throw it back in my face?"

He rose to face her. "I didn't force you to say the words, Sarah."

"That was different! I didn't mean it, not really. She did mean it, she meant to give me away. She deliberately signed those papers because she'd rather lose me than risk losing Jeremy." Sarah's voice was rising. Tears welled up in her eyes and she began to shake her head.

"And why do you suppose that was?" His voice was cold.

"I don't know."

"Of course you know. You just won't admit it."

"I don't know!" she shouted.

"Tell me why," he commanded.

"Because...because..." Tears slipped down her cheeks. She looked frantically around the oubliette and began backing away. She stumbled against the overturned chair and would have fallen, but his hands shot out to grasp her by the shoulders.

"There's no exit," Jareth said quietly, dropping the cold persona. "It's time you got this out of your system. Why did she give you away, Sarah?" He moved a hand up to stroke the nape of her neck.

At that gentle touch, he saw her control break. "Because... Because there's something wrong with me." Her voice trembled and she began to cry. "I don't know what it is, but there's something really wrong with me. Why else would she give me away?"

She leaned her head against his chest and sobs shook her body. He pulled her into his arms. She resisted briefly and then relaxed. He held her tightly, just swaying with her gently back and forth, letting her cry it out.

When he finally spoke, his voice was somber. "The damage that humans do to their children astonishes me. There's nothing wrong with you, Sarah. Your mother was a selfish, shallow woman who didn't deserve you."

"But I'm just as bad as she was," she said.

"That was a completely different situation."

"But Toby..." she began.

"No," he said firmly. "You were barely more than a child yourself and you weren't Toby's mother. You didn't wish him away in order to attain your dreams. In fact, you fought to keep him. You rejected my offer of your dreams so that you could reclaim him."

"That wasn't a real offer, remember?" She said. She took several deep breaths to steady herself.

'Oh, Sarah, if you only knew how real it was,' Jareth thought.

Before he could answer, she spoke. "This doesn't all just go away. Not just because I cry and you say it's supposed to be okay. It doesn't work that way. You know that, don't you?" Her voice was still shaking slightly.

"Yes, I know, but you've made a beginning," he said softly.

"I got your shirt all wet." Her voice was muffled against his chest.

He chuckled in relief. She was feeling better if she was willing to tease again. "It will dry," he said gently. He lightly kissed the top of her head and transported them back to the library.

He leaned back to look into her face. "I cannot change your past, Sarah, but I understand your doubt when I say that I would never give you away."

Sarah stepped back from him and he reluctantly released her. "Can't you give me my freedom?"

Jareth had anticipated this request. "I could, but I won't do that."

At her disbelieving look, he shook his head. "It wouldn't be safe for you. As long as the rest of the Underground believes you to be my property, you'll be under my protection and will remain unmolested."

"What do you mean, remain unmolested?" Sarah asked, surprised.

"You do understand that your cooperation in conceiving children isn't necessary," Jareth said.

Sarah blanched, "I hadn't thought of that. Surely no one would..."

"The only Fae that you've met are Ethain, Brennan and myself. Not all are as honorable. Criminal behavior isn't limited to the Aboveworld."

"So now I'm something that can be stolen? This just gets better and better." Sarah rubbed her eyes. "All right, then promise that you won't give me away or sell me, or whatever it is that people do down here to get rid of their property. No matter what happens."

He reached out and cupped her face in his hands. "I swear to you, on my honor and on my kingdom, that I will never allow you to become the possession of another."

She drew in a shuddering breath. "If one of them does challenge you tomorrow night, what then?"

"They won't. This is simply the required opportunity for each of them to decide if they want to make the challenge. Realistically, it's an opening for them to attempt to bait me by leering at you."

Sarah persisted, "But if one of them does make the challenge, what happens?"

Jareth tenderly moved a strand of hair away from her eyes and looked at her steadily. He'd thought she understood.

"I'm going to kill him."

A Necessary Deception

A Labyrinth Story
by Scattered Logic

Part 11 of 28

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