Continuing Tales


A Labyrinth Story
by Willa Suvia

Part 7 of 9

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She avoided his stunned stare and smoothed the nap of a velvety pillow until it began shedding in her hand. She blew the wisps of fabric into the air and followed them, eyeing their waltz intently.

"You turned me against my dreams and made me fight a battle I didn't want to win," she confessed, the words flowing with practiced ease. "I despised you for that."

His hands clenched into satiny fists, straining to maintain their steadiness. "But you won. You walked away with everything."

She barked out an uneasy laugh. "Yeah. I won, alright."

"You don't sound very appreciative of your triumph. You beat me," he said, teeth only slightly clenched. "You proved yourself the better opponent."

"Better, nothing. It was all I could do to go on after you sang to me."

Jareth blinked incredulously. "What are you talking about?"

"I lost my will to fight halfway through the battle," she said simply. The pillow in her hands was growing threadbare with some rapidity. "That's what you did to me, you know. After you took me in your arms, I didn't want to win anymore.

"I wanted to be yours."


"Aggy! She wants him! She told him!"

Aggy rushed to the window, squinting her eyes to see the pool from the little window of their cottage. The rains had nearly stopped now, slackening to little more than a spritz. At least that was a good sign.

Raindrops made tiny ripples in the pool, pitting His Majesty's face. "Don't blow it, you pompous twit," Hoggle whispered. He made a fist and shook it menacingly at the water. "Don't you dare screw it up this time."


He shrank back instinctively as she reached out and touched his hand.

"Don't," he whispered hoarsely, pulling away. She reached for him again, holding onto him as though he were the only real thing in a room made of shadows. "Sarah, you can't. This is not good for either of us."

She released his hands and he seemed to relax a little, though his pale cheeks had a stain of crimson she'd not seen before. "There's no contest now. We're not rivals anymore, Jareth. Can't you see that?"

He started at the strange syllables she uttered. His subjects referred to him as "Your Majesty"; he'd not heard his given name spoken aloud for a lifetime.

"I remember everything about it." She wrung her hands, pulling away from him. "Every detail...every note, the shape of your mouth as you sang the words, your hand on my waist..."

She spoke not only from her heart, but from his. He wasn't sure if he could stand this. "Sarah-"

"They're not like real memories!" she cried, desperate to speak her plight. "Real memories fade in time! But these...these just get stronger every day! I can't eat! I don't sleep well because when I do, I always dream of you! Can't you understand that?"

Understand? Yes, he understood, but she needn't know how well.

This was exactly the peril of infatuation spells; you never could be certain what effects might remain once the spell itself had dissipated. He'd made the ballroom enchantment strong, and still it had not been strong enough to permeate that damnable willfulness of hers for more than a moment. It had, however, been strong enough to linger beyond the thirteen hours of its usefulness - an after-effect he did not stop to consider then - and wrap itself around his cold heart. In truth, he had never given any thought at all as to the consequences of such a spell in the long run, but he did now. Oh, he certainly did now.

In any case, he had every reason to believe she was telling the truth; such a thing, such fascination as this, could only grow if it had been there in the first place. Magic could not create love; it merely nudged the seed to bloom. And judging from the trembling beauty before him, it had been growing for a long, long time.

"It was a glamour, and nothing more," he dismissed darkly. "A slight enchantment that has not yet run its course in either of us. It will pass, in its time."

"Either of us? What do you mean 'either of us'?"


Hoggle drew in a quick hissing breath, rippling the pool's crystalline waters. The few roses that dared come close to him offered up their own vile hissing in response.

"Oops," he said to no one in particular. "Cat's out of the bag now, idnit?"


He silently cursed the slight illumination offered up by the dusty sconces and dim chandeliers. He would welcome perfect darkness right now, either for the opportunity to escape her inquisitive eyes or - at the very least - to hide his own guilt.

"You feel it too," she said hopefully. "You dream of me. I can see it in your eyes."

"I feel nothing," he snapped. "It is the residue of a spell, and nothing more. I have dealt with this unfortunate...condition...quite well for some time now, and shall continue to do so until it has burned itself out."

She glared at him incredulously. "'Burned itself out?' Three years, Jareth! That's three years we've BOTH suffered because YOU were too stubborn - "

He growled between his teeth and sat up, raising a puff of dust from the pillows. What was it about this girl that she could always drive him to the brink of madness?! "Time moves differently here, Sarah. If I have suffered at all, it is certain to have lasted a lifetime longer than yours. And make no mistake, it *is* suffering to feel this way for you!"

He continued his tirade with a tight-lipped sneer. "You are the one who left me, in spite of everything you felt in your sad little human heart. So why should I have done anything about it? Why make myself the fool when you never wanted me in the first place?"

She wiped at her eyes with the back of her hand. "If I had given in to you before it was all over, you would have despised me for my weakness. Your hatred would have been every bit as strong as my love for you now."

The silence fell between them like a thick smoke, making the air nearly impossible to breathe. He had been expecting something - a fight, definitely; hurled accusations, absolutely - but he had not dared hope for this.

"You know it's true. I would have been just another conquest to you. And I wanted to be, Jareth. I truly did. I would have settled for being the next in line just to have you for a little while. But no matter how much it hurt, I just couldn't. It would have felt low." She sniffled as the tears spilled like rain over her cheeks. "I've never believed that leaving you then was a mistake. It's the only way it could have turned out back then. It was the right thing to do. We both know that.

"What I regret is not coming back to you sooner."

He stared at her for a long moment, pulled back to the present by the exhaustion in her eyes. These were not easy things to say; no doubt it had taken a great deal out of her to speak to him as she had done. He drew a silk handkerchief from up his sleeve and dropped it into her lap. She looked up, thinking perhaps she might die of embarrassment, but his look was contemplative rather than scornful.

"Take this," he instructed. "I cannot abide a leaky nose."

When she had wiped away the tears, she looked up only to find him kneeling at the edge of the recess. He stretched his hand out to her and she took it. A soothing calm overtook her the moment his hand closed over hers. The rightness of it all was staggering; it was finding an integral part of one's self after a lifetime of incompletion. He could see in her face, in the slow fall of her eyelids, that she felt it too.

Her hand slipped from his with an apology. "How long will it last?"

He said nothing for a brief eternity, still feeling the warmth in his hand where hers had been. "It passes in its own time," he managed, "It may end tomorrow, or it may never end at all. I am...sorry, Sarah," he whispered gravely. "This was completely my doing."

The thought chilled her. She couldn't imagine living out her days with this desperate yearning for him eating her from the inside out.

"You said you'd answer my question if I answered yours, so I want that answer now. Did you ever feel anything for me? Because if you did, even a little bit, we could make the pain stop. If we had each other, it would all go away..."

He looked dejected, lost somewhere in the labyrinth of his own thoughts. "You haven't the slightest idea how strong this enchantment is. I could be close to you...inside of you..."

She blushed a deep scarlet, fidgeting absently with a tasseled pillow.

He went on, careful not to stammer, "...and it would never be close enough. We would burn for one another when we are not together, and even more so when we are. Magic is a false addiction, Sarah; it feels like love. It hurts like love. And yet it is not."

"I know what I feel," she insisted. "This isn't just some damn spell! There's more to it than that! There has to be!"

"We are enemies, Sarah!" he exploded. "There is too much between us, too much that will not justify our feelings for one another! This relationship - this charade! - would be based on one moment in our thirteen-hour history, one moment that was entirely an illusion! Could you live with this, knowing that we have made our life together on a bed of lies?

"Lies...are like labyrinths, Sarah," he struggled to explain. "It's easy to get turned around. The longer you live in either one, the harder it is to find your way out again."

She held out her hands and held steady as he pulled her up from the pillows. She did not release him as she regained her balance, but held on tighter, looking deeply into his eyes even as his gaze darted this way and that in obvious discomfort. He skimmed the edges of her face, allowing the briefest focus on her eyes, wondering why he did not notice before the flecks of pale green in her irises.

"I don't want to find my way out," she whispered.

He stammered momentarily, his hands fluttering up to say what his mouth could not. Finally, composing himself:

"There's never a forever thing, Sarah. If we do this, if we allow ourselves to feel...this have to know the consequences. You may one day wake to find a stranger in your bed. You may open your eyes and see someone you've never known at all. As might I-"

"Hush," she whispered, and smiled that same sweet smile he'd seen night after night in his dreams. "That may happen. But then it may not. We'll just have to make sure that it doesn't."

And as she moved closer, he had a fleeting, unbidden thought: this was real. He would not reach for her this time and feel only empty linen, would not awaken before dawn with her name on his lips and have to stifle it for fear his servants might hear. This was real. Everything would be all right.

He trembled on his feet as she ran the tips of her fingers along the sharp arches of his eyebrows, drew circles and curlicues on the smooth skin of his cheeks. She traced his lips until she knew them by heart. And when she had them memorized, she placed a kiss upon his ageless lips.

"I don't want to find my way out," she reassured him again, just a hint of the desperate need she felt for him bleeding through the edges of the words. "I don't want to win this time. I don't want anything between us."


A Labyrinth Story
by Willa Suvia

Part 7 of 9

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