Continuing Tales

The Lady and the Knight

A Labyrinth Story
by Jack Hawksmoor

Part 18 of 19

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The Lady and the Knight

He'd planned it.

The words he'd said, the look he had given her that last day, they all flashed through her mind, all pointing to one inescapable conclusion. He hadn't planned to keep her there, he'd never planned to keep her...

'You won't be trapped there, as I was.'

'I wouldn't have the heart to tame her...'

'It goes where you go. Anywhere you go. Remember that.'

Jesus, he'd been saying goodbye to her, and she'd been too thick to see it...

Now he was dead.

The thought shocked her enough to still her tears. He was dead. Time moved so much faster there, it had only been a scarce handful of minutes for her but for him...hours. He was already dead, surely. He'd been dying there alone while she'd been sitting on the dock. That thought was the last one she was capable of for a long time. It was like the hurt in her heart was this yawning abyss, swallowing any thought save misery.

She did not know when she gained a companion, but after some immeasurable amount of incoherent agony it came to her that someone was offering her a handkerchief. She focused on it for a befuddled moment, before allowing whoever it was to push the fine white cloth into her unresisting fingers. She held it in her hand as if she didn't know what to do with it, and then looked up.

Marib was crouched down beside her, looking deeply uncomfortable.

"Hello, sad human girl," he said, brushing the sand off the dock before sitting down. He'd rolled up his sleeves and unbuttoned his collar. Sarah made a noise somewhere between hysteria and misery, and wisely shut her mouth lest anything else even more disturbing escape her.

Marib looked at the empty spot by the dock that had once held Marcus' ship.

"Your friend Marcus gave me something to give to you," he said, not looking at her, "but now I think I will not do it."

Sarah looked at him blankly. He was saying words to her in English but it was like she couldn't manage to shove them together correctly to wring the meaning from them. His words bounced off her and fell gently to the ground, and she stared at them with careful concentration. If she did this, perhaps she could keep herself from thinking, from feeling...

Sarah shut her eyes tightly, making a soft sound of anguish.

"If you were another girl, I would give you flowers and jewels to stop your tears," Marib said quietly, "but I think this would mean more to you than any jewel I could find."

He held something out to her. It wasn't a handkerchief. Or jewels. It was a feather. She opened her eyes wide.

"You dropped this, when you were on the dance floor with your...friend," Marib said gently. She reached out and took it from him with shaking fingers. It was the feather Jareth had left for her, when she'd first set eyes on him in the tent...two weeks ago. She looked back at the party. There was a hint of dawn on the horizon. Two weeks or about six hours... She held it gently, as if it was the most valuable thing in the world. She blinked hot tears down her cheeks as she stroked it lightly with a fingertip.

It was so strange...holding it in her hand; It almost felt like he was standing right behind her. Like that last whisper of his voice in her ear...she shut her eyes and brought the feather gently to her lips, pressing a kiss upon it. Somewhere inside she felt the faintest hint of warmth, as if she had a strong hand at her back.

When she looked up at Marib her eyes were teary but clear and self-possessed.

"Thank you," she said, and meant it with her whole heart. Marib did not smile, but he did look rather relieved. He nodded at her silently, and when he moved his head, she caught a glimmer of gold at his throat.

The sight snagged at her memory, and she looked up at Marib's face. His skin was almost black, and his eyes flickered with otherworldly fire, casting shadows on his face. For a dizzying moment, those eyes seemed to swell in her sight, and what Sarah could see in them was a rising excitement.

His face was a mask of restrained encouragement. Put it together, his face seemed to say. You've nearly got it, put it together...

"What is that, at your throat?" Sarah said in a strange, strangled tone of voice. A necklace...or a collar? His eyes flickering with triumph, Marib leaned over and bared his throat for her. At his neck was a thick gold collar, exquisitely crafted with beautiful scroll work. There were words written upon it, but there were no seams. This was a collar not meant to come off. The words were not in English, but Sarah recognized them. They were in Arabic, from the Koran. Sarah couldn't read Arabic, but she knew what it meant because she'd asked the last time she'd seen something like this.

The words meant 'Prostrate yourself unto Adam'.

She looked up at Marib with terrible comprehension. He was a Jinn. An Ifrit, by the looks of him. A bound Jinn.

"I seem to be making a habit of meeting enslaved people I can't free," Sarah said softly, sadly. Contrary to popular belief and Disney movies, a bound Jinn could never be freed. Not without killing the Jinn. Sarah imagined that little detail might have made Aladdin a bit of a bummer for the kiddies.

Marib looked at her placidly.

"Do not worry, sad girl. I am content enough. My master has been very kind to me." He took a deep breath and stretched like a cat. "I am free to roam from her side, and she has given me gifts for all my good service."

Sarah felt a wild hope rise fully formed in her heart. It would be so unlikely...a person lucky enough to come into possession of a bound Jinn was apt to keep it most of their life before using up the wishes they were granted. But why else would he care so much...why else would he be looking at her like that?

"What..." Sarah had to clear her throat. "What gifts?"

The flickering fires in Marib's eyes burned in bright triumph at her words, and Sarah's heart gave a little jump. A bound Jinn was subject to a lot of rules and restrictions. They really were slaves, to an extent. A bound Jinn was usually confined to a lamp or other container, when not doing work for his master. A bound Jinn could not confess his nature openly. A bound Jinn could not give information unless asked the right questions.

A bound Jinn could be a real pain in the ass, to be honest. They did not, as a rule, always give you what you actually wished for. A Jinn was just as likely to give you what you really wanted in the deepest recesses of your heart (which could be embarrassing at best and dangerous at worst). An evil Jinn, a Shaitan, would twist the nicest wish you could think of into the worst hell anyone ever brought down upon themselves. They didn't usually wear name tags to let people know which ones were evil. The mistake was usually fatal; A Shaitan could turn 'have a nice day' into an explosion involving busloads of Buddhist monks and a railroad car full of puppies with a flick of his wrist.

Marib did not look like he was likely to do this, but still...

"My master is a wise woman. She has set a charm that I may see who my next master might be, so that I can always make sure the master that finds me is a good one," Marib said pleasantly, and waited.

He was obviously waiting. He was practically chomping at the bit. Ask me where my master is, his face pleaded. If she did not, he would be unable to tell her, no matter how much he wanted to. Rules and restrictions.

There were, of course, certain perks. A bound Jinn was orders of magnitude more powerful than a free one. It was the difference between setting alight a pinch of gunpowder on the sidewalk, and cramming that gunpowder into a bullet, and putting that bullet into a gun, and firing it. The Jinn, like the gunpowder, gained a great amount of power and velocity from the restrictions placed upon it.

"Where is your master?" Sarah asked, her mouth suddenly dry. She couldn't possibly be so lucky.

Please, let me be lucky...

Marib beamed at her.

"My master has used her wishes, and has sent me to find my new master," Marib looked at her contentedly. The longer he stared at her the wider Sarah's eyes got. Marib smiled slightly. "I looked for you Sarah Williams, all night, but you had gone far away from here," He looked rather proud of himself. "I knew you would return."

Marcus had told her, he'd been asking for her by name...

'What, did he take you off on his flying carpet?' Marcus had laughed about it. He'd known. He'd known what Marib was...

Sarah clenched her hands into two tight fists to keep herself from fainting dead away.

"Take me to your master," she said.

"She is not far," Marib said, getting to his feet and offering her a hand up. "But I should give you the message from your friend before I do," he said, and paused. "It is not good news, I think."

Sarah tried to think back, he had said something to her about Marcus, she hadn't really been capable of paying attention...

She held out her hand, hope stiffening her spine.

"Let me see," she said. He handed her a piece of paper. It was her postcard to Toby, she realized with a faint trickle of surprise. Well, not the whole thing, he'd kept the part with Toby's address...

Sarah was sitting on the dock again, somehow. She didn't have any memory of losing her feet. One moment standing, the next sitting down with her heart in her throat.

He wouldn't...surely he wouldn't...

"He wouldn't," Sarah said softly, and made herself believe it. He was trying to scare her. It was just a nasty trick.

"I did not think it would be good to give it to you, earlier," Marib said apologetically, offering her a hand again. Sarah took a deep breath and nodded once, standing on her own.

"That was...that was right, Marib. That was the right thing to do." She didn't think she would have been able to handle it, in the state she'd been in. She might have cracked like an overripe melon, too many bad things coming at her all at once.

Marib led her back into the trees, to a raised pavilion set with tables. There was an old woman in a gray dress watching them with curious eyes as they approached, and it was to her Marib brought Sarah.

The woman was old but not frail. She sat very straight and when she folded her hands on the table, she showed hands that still had a lot of strength in them. Her eyes were bright blue and had not faded with age at all. She didn't smile at either of them, but gestured them both to sit.

"Well now, let's get a look at you," she said without preamble, gesturing Sarah closer with a finger. Sarah was a bit surprised, but complied, leaning over the table. The woman looked closely at her eyes.

"Not too bad a job, Marib. She should do nicely," the woman pronounced after a moment. Sarah sat back, frowning.

"Excuse me? Who are you?" she asked, a bit irritated.

The stern woman looked at her with knowing eyes.

"I am the woman who bound this Jinn, and I am the woman who will give you the means to make your dreams come true," she said with a slight smile. She did not look like a woman who smiled often. She looked like a woman who had a large number of floppy unattractive hats and a dozen ill tempered cats. Sarah would guess there was probably a lot of floral patterned furniture involved as well. But if she'd been the one to do the binding, she had to be powerful and good at what she did.

So Sarah thought of Jareth, of the precise color of his mismatched eyes, and kept her mouth politely shut. The woman nodded briskly, as if she approved, and pulled out a small metal cylinder with a tightly fitted lid.

"When you've gotten what you're after, Marib will know where he needs to go to find his next keeper." She pointed her finger right in Sarah's face. "You take the Jinn, you take the responsibility for that, you hear?"

Sarah thought of the small, crooked smile Jareth wore when he was being infuriating, and nodded politely.

"Yes, ma'am."

The woman looked at her with keen eyes.

"You know what you want, don't you. That makes it easier," She said. "It can be a little...intense at first. It helps if you have what you want ready in the front of your mind for the first wish." The woman looked her over again, seeming satisfied by whatever she found. "You'll get used to it. Just don't let it go to your head."

Sarah looked at her with determination, her heart singing away in her chest. She could do this. She could save him.

"Ready?" the woman asked her, and Sarah nodded, taking a deep breath. The woman held out the little metal cylinder, and dropped it into Sarah's waiting hand.

Sarah hissed in a sharp breath, her eyes going wide.

"Easy," the older woman warned. Sarah nodded faintly, and looked over at Marib with her mouth hanging open. She could feel him, pushing at her thoughts, tugging at her desires...he was enormously powerful, it felt like the shadow he cast filled up the whole world. There was so much possibility, so much raw magic and it wanted to be used, it was begging to be used, all she would have to do is relax a little and it would sweep her up in her dreams, she wouldn't even have to say 'I wish'...

Sarah forced her hand open, narrowing her eyes, looking away from Marib at the container she was holding.

Focus on reality. Deep breaths. Don't Do Anything Stupid.

Sarah frowned suddenly, holding the cylinder up to the soft lighting. It had a little latch on the lid, and it was rough on the bottom. Strangely familiar, actually...Sarah lifted the latch, and looked inside, not really expecting to find anything.

She stared for a moment, then looked up at the woman.

"A tin for matches?" She said incredulously. There were four loose strike-anywhere matches inside.

"You bound a Jinn in a tin for matches?"

The woman frowned at her.

"Well, it was what I had," she said.

"But there's still matches inside," Sarah said incredulously.

"Yes, well, useful things, matches," the woman said carelessly. "You got your wish in your head straight? Marib's a good boy but he'll improvise if you ain't clear."

Sarah gaped at the woman for a moment.

"Yes..." she said vaguely, and then straightened sharply at the sound of her own voice. Marib was there in her head, tugging at her thoughts, probing for something to give her, to grant her, his master...

"Yes." Sarah said firmly, and started to smile. "Thank you. You have no idea how much-"

The woman waved her hand sharply.

"Now none of that! Next you'll be thinking what you could do to repay me, and there's your first wish lost," she scolded.

"Right," Sarah said, somewhat taken aback. "Well then. I wish-"

She never got to finish. Marib practically rushed into her head, sparkling with delight at the opportunity to please her. They vanished immediately from the party. This could be more difficult than she'd thought. She was just lucky that she'd been thinking about the time, and not just the place.

They spilled out into the labyrinth in the exact instant and approximate place she'd left it. She hadn't really wanted to be up the tree again. Marib stood at her back, huge and dark like a small mountain, as Sarah looked out over the battlefield. Her heart clenched in her chest at the sight of Jareth, and her first, terrible instinct was to save him.

But Marib was right there, and tugging at that desire like an exuberant dog on a leash. Sarah had likened a bound Jinn to a bullet. She just hadn't thought of what it would feel like to be the gun.

The tendrils of iridescence reached for Jareth, and in the second she had to think she focused on that desperately. That was it, she thought with a surge of raw hate. She turned her eyes to the gate. That was what she wanted.

She did not even say 'I wish', all she did was look at the portal, and relax a little. Yes, she said from somewhere deep inside, and Marib rumbled with joy at her back.

"Yes, master," he said, and the words shook the earth a little under her feet. He moved forward, swelling in size, and cracks formed in his black skin. Fissures of fire crisscrossed his hide. A wave of heat like a furnace blast hit her in the face, and as one, every single beast on the plain in front of them turned to look at the new force on the battlefield. The impossibly colored tendrils snapped back into the gate almost hastily, and Marib followed them in a billow of flame.

The Ifrit were sometimes called fire demons.

"Sarah!" Jareth shouted, looking shocked. The beasts that had been converging on him were now making a mad run for the gate itself, trying to get at Marib like white cells called to an infection. Jareth started to run to her, tossing bodies aside as he went, but they were both distracted by a massive explosion at the gate.

Sarah looked and saw Marib surging in size, stretching up to reach the clouds over their heads. The heat was incredible. He brought an arm the size of a Buick down and slashed at the face of the gate, actually cutting into it, the fire burning away at it like it was made of dry tinder.

The inhuman shriek of a dying monster was drowned out by the roar of a bound Jinn well pleased by the work he did for his master. Sarah could feel Marib building up, knew that he hadn't had the chance to stretch himself in ages, that he was actually enjoying this, and froze with a horrible thought.

She'd forgotten to remind him to make certain they were safe in the killing of the thing. A bubble of pure hysteria welled up to the surface of Sarah's thoughts.

He was really...ha, ha,...he was really building up now...

Sarah was standing on the crest of a hill. She looked down at Jareth with wide, panicked eyes.

"Get down!" she cried, and took a running leap down the hill just as the gate split wide open with an ear-shredding explosion. Sarah landed in the ravine just as a wall of flame passed over her head. She winced, covering her head. She rested that way for a heart-pounding moment, until she felt a hand on her arm.

Gunpowder and bullets, she thought in amazement, lifting her head to look at the blasted landscape.

"Bang," she said faintly, impressed. There wasn't much left. Then she turned and saw Jareth crouched over her, looking singed and exhausted and concerned and very, very alive. Her heart threw itself joyfully at him, and all she did was follow it.

Jareth grabbed for her with a relieved breath of laughter. She squeezed her arms around his neck and shut her eyes, torn between the urge to kiss him and the urge to strangle him.

"Oh, you unbelievable bastard," she said into his neck. He laughed again, totally unrepentant, and tightened his embrace of her as if he never intended to let her get away from him again. He rubbed his face against her skin like a cat. She pulled her head back, fully intending to kiss him senseless.

Jareth was looking up with a dangerous expression on his face, however, and Sarah turned to look as he moved to get in front of her. There wasn't anything alive within range of the fireball save the two of them, and Marib, who was looking quite proud of himself. Sarah looked behind her and saw one or two of the beasts running away at top speed, and couldn't blame them for being sensible.

"Who are you?" Jareth said cautiously to Marib, who had returned to his relatively small original size. The Goblin King did not sound particularly friendly, though Marib had obviously just saved them both. Sarah moved quickly to intercept.

"That's Marib," she said quickly. "A friend of mine." Marib looked positively overjoyed at her choice of adjectives. Jareth wasn't quite so effusive. Marib still had fine little fissures of fire crisscrossing his skin, and they made the golden collar he wore gleam brightly.

"Jinn," Jareth said, and it sounded like a curse. Marib frowned at him. Jareth glared at her as if she'd done something wrong.

"I've one wish left," Sarah said with a halfhearted smile, holding up the ridiculous matchstick case. She wasn't sure what he was upset about, but whatever it was, she had just made it worse. Jareth jerked back from her as if she'd hurt him.

"You accepted your dreams...from him?" Jareth said disbelievingly, sounding angry and betrayed. Sarah opened her mouth and left it open.

She hadn't thought of it like that.

"Well...yes," Sarah said hesitantly, genuinely caught off guard. Jareth's mouth firmed into a thin, straight line, streaks of black crawling through his hair. He stepped away from Sarah and made a single motion towards Marib, a distilled essence of aggression that seemed to promise terrible things to come. Above them, lightning crackled across the sky.

Sarah leaped in between them with a thrill of terror, and it wasn't at all for what Jareth might do to Marib. Jareth was trying to pick a fight out of his weight class.

"Jareth," Sarah said, her hand out placatingly, "I did it to help you!"

He looked down at her in a cold fury.

"How generous of you," he growled. Sarah shut her mouth with a snap, outrage momentarily rendering her speechless.

"" Sarah was nearly sputtering, she was so angry. She wanted to...

Marib was suddenly there, sifting through her thoughts with greedy fingers, pulling at her. He'd do anything she wanted, anything at all, and god help her all she wanted right then was-

Sarah clapped a hand over her mouth and clamped down on her thoughts, shaken.

"Master," Marib said plaintively, and Jareth showed his sharp teeth.

"No," Sarah said with thunderous determination. Maybe that was what the woman who'd passed Marib on to her had been looking for. Having a Jinn seemed to require a heroic amount of it. Determination and a level of self-control that approached the ridiculous. Any person who hoped to keep a Jinn, even an obliging one like Marib would...well, they would end up like the woman in the gray dress. Stern and cold and tightly controlled. Sarah didn't think she had it in her. Sooner or later she was going to slip and hurt someone. She eyed Jareth, who was positively seething.

Probably sooner.

Sarah curled her hands into two tight fists, Toby's postcard crinkling in her hand. Best to get rid of the wish now.

She wondered, suddenly, if Marcus had left the postcard for her just to ensure she wasted a wish. He'd known what Marib was. It would be very like him.

"I want to make my last wish, Marib," Sarah said, and watched something in Jareth's eyes die. Her heart wilted treacherously at the sight.

Marib beamed at her.

"Yes, master," he said eagerly, and Jareth went for his throat.

There was a sharp ozone tang of tangled magics in the air as he leaped at the Jinn.

"No!" Sarah cried, and the words were there on her lips, 'Marib, don't hurt him'. That was what she wanted, but Marib was waiting for that last wish and she didn't dare speak, she didn't dare even think. She tightened her hand around Toby's postcard, rubbing the paper between her fingers, agitated and uncertain. She had to make the wish now or Marib would make it for her.

Jareth got his hands around Marib's neck, and to Marib's credit, the Jinn didn't really do much to fight back at first. But then Jareth did something flashy with his hands that involved a lot of blue light and the distinct smell of scorching flesh, and Marib started to look pissed. He grabbed hold of Jareth's shirt, and suddenly the fiery cracks in his hand were open a lot wider than they had been, and Jareth growled as the scent of scorched flesh got more pronounced.

Dammit all...

"I wish the Goblin King was free," Sarah said clearly.

Marib and Jareth both turned their heads to look at her.

"What was that?" Marib asked, caught off guard.

"What was that?" Jareth said, startled.

His shirt was smoldering slightly. The similarity of the befuddled looks on their faces might have made her laugh, any other day.

Whatever Marib had been expecting from what he'd gleaned from her rather murderously furious thoughts toward Jareth in the last few minutes, wishing for his freedom obviously wasn't it. Sarah took a deep breath and ordered her thoughts neatly.

"I wish the Goblin King was free," she said simply. Jareth's eyes went wide. Marib turned his otherworldly eyes upon the Goblin King in question. It was not exactly a friendly look.

"As you wish," he sighed, with rather less than his usual excitement. He reached out with one huge hand and got hold of Jareth's head, and Sarah realized with a wince that this was probably going to be less pleasant for the Goblin King than it strictly needed to be.

Jareth stiffened, and for a long moment, there was no other indication save that. Then, Jareth started to struggle. He put his back into it, and from the look on his face he was in a good amount of pain as he did it.

Sarah took a step forward, clenching her fists, and Marib looked at her briefly.


Marib did not say it. He was busy. Marib simply painted the word in big red letters onto her brain. It was not a particularly nice feeling, but it stopped Sarah cold. She narrowed her eyes at Marib as Jareth arched his back, trying to wrench his head out of the Jinn's grasp.

"You're hurting," she said softly, angrily. "You're hurting!"

Marib registered her displeasure and lowered his head, narrowing his eyes in concentration.

Sarah felt the ground under her feet lurch, and Jareth's body stiffened in shock. A moment later Sarah was on her knees, gasping. She had felt...something...snap. She hadn't even noticed when this place had gotten a hook into her, but she felt it break. It hadn't been too bad and it hadn't felt very deep, but it had hurt. She lifted her head and saw Marib lowering Jareth's limp form to the ground. He was utterly still in the larger man's arms, and Sarah jumped to her feet in dismay.

"What have you done?" she demanded, furious. Marib looked up at her calmly. It had started to rain, lightly.

"He is free, as you asked. You are also free, though you did not ask for that," he explained. It was wonderful how he could answer a question without actually saying anything. Sarah shot him a mistrustful look as she crouched down at Jareth's side. He was pale, but he was breathing.

"What exactly did you do to free him?" Sarah asked crisply, keeping her temper.

Marib looked hesitant.

"I did not kill it, if that is what you fear. I have made it so it was never alive," he told her. Sarah blinked at him.

"Kill?" she ventured, "kill what?"

Marib pointed at the horizon.

"The creature that lived there," he said. When she continued to look mystified, he elaborated. "We stand now on its shell," he said, pointing to the earth under his feet.

The labyrinth. He'd killed the-

"Wow," Sarah said, impressed. Alive. That was...just about as horrible as she'd feared it would be. "Well done, Marib," she said softly, stroking Jareth's forehead. It had trapped him, and it had tried to trap her as well. She wasn't about to cry over it. "Will he be all right?"

As if in answer, Jareth stirred a little under her hands.

The sky chose that particular moment to open up. What had started as a light sprinkling settled quite happily into a downpour, as if the storm that had been held at bay had been finally released all at once. She looked up, rapidly getting soaked, and shared a weary look with the Jinn.

"No need for you to get wet," Sarah said, opening the little tin of matches. Marib looked relieved.

"Thank you, master," he said, and he was gone. Poof. No flash of light or glitter or anything. He was powerful, but he lacked the Goblin King's style.

Sarah tucked the container into the waistband of her dress, alongside the torn scrap of Toby's postcard. She rubbed her arms, shivering. With the obliteration of the gate the air had warmed, but it was still too cold, and now she was getting wet

Jareth groaned softly, and put a hand up to cover his face as if to shield himself from the rain. Then, seeming to realize where he was, he stiffened and sat up sharply. He looked up at her with uncomprehending eyes. Then slowly, as if in a dream, he looked down at his own hands.

"Are you all right?" Sarah asked rather timidly. He looked exactly the same to her. A bit shaken up, maybe.

He lifted his head and looked at her, seeming dazed.

"Free," he said thickly. He reached out, quick as a snake and snatched her by the shoulders. His eyes were wild, and the look on his face was rapidly becoming alarming. "Do you know," he demanded roughly, "how long-" his voice broke on the last word and he shook her slightly. "Do you?" he said with a laugh in his voice that bordered slightly on the hysterical.

Sarah had been in that place before, though not for the same reason. She got a good, steadying grip on his upper arms and moved to pull him to his feet.

"Its raining, Jareth," she told him, not without sympathy, "We need to get somewhere dry."

Jareth allowed her to do this more because he wasn't paying attention than anything else. His eyes were glittering with something crazier than joy, and deeper than shock.

"Why did you do it? You could have had anything you wanted," he breathed, searching her face for answers. He tightened his grip on her shoulders and shoved his face in close. "Why, Sarah? Why do you do these things for me?"

Thunder cracked energetically over their heads, but it was like Jareth couldn't hear it. Sarah could understand. Sometimes having your world turned upside down could throw you for a loop, even if things were better for the change.

"Jareth," Sarah said sharply, reaching up and grabbing his chin. Focus. Jareth's eyes widened. "Rain," she said clearly, pointing up.

Jareth looked up, and then back down at her. The only warning she got was a slight narrowing of his eyes. He took one step forward, snatching her up, and pushing her backwards. Then he slammed her back up against a tree, and Sarah noticed that it was abruptly about twenty degrees warmer, and she had absolutely no idea where the hell they were. Not where they had been, that was for sure. It wasn't raining here.

Jareth put his hands on the tree at her back, effectively trapping her in place. He was breathing in short, sharp pants, his eyes huge and dark. He kept moving his head, trying to look her in the eye.

"Tell me," he insisted, almost pleading."Why?"

Sarah lifted her head and looked him full in the face, disbelieving. Good god, surely he knew by now.

Jareth's eyes were glittering. She'd been wrong. He did look different. He looked like someone had lit him up from the inside. He was practically glowing, and it had nothing to do with magic.

"Say it," he breathed faintly, the hope in his eyes making him almost too bright to look at. "Say it."

If he'd been smug, or angry, her reaction might have been very different, but he wasn't. He was stripped bare and almost incandescent with intensity, and the sight of that on his face made her heart start fluttering disgracefully.

"Because I love you," she sighed, and said nothing more for a while, because Jareth had taken complete possession of her mouth and her tongue and several crucial parts of her nervous system relating to higher brain function. He kissed her with an emotional intensity that made Sarah concerned about the possibility of spontaneous combustion. He attacked her with a passion that left little doubt that her feelings were returned, in spades.

Sarah grabbed him and held on tight. He pulled back a little, stroking her face, looking like a man who'd just gotten his dreams delivered to him on a silver platter. Sarah saw that look on his face and every ounce of self restraint she'd ever possessed flickered and died.

Sarah kissed him like he was hers, and never would be allowed to be anyone else's.

Jareth did not bother removing his pants, and Sarah wasted several precious seconds of groping and clasping to shimmy out of her undies and hike up her skirt. Jareth pressed close to her, kissing her deeply, hitching her legs up around his waist as he lifted her easily.

"Again," he breathed into her lips, as he brushed against her intimately. "Say it again." He slid inside her with the ease of an indrawn breath, pushing her up against the rough bark of the tree trunk. She shivered at the deliciousness of the abrupt invasion, catching his lower lip between her teeth. She nipped him, pleased.

"I love you," Sarah managed, her voice soft and welcoming.

"Yes," Jareth growled fiercely. "Oh." His voice went soft as he moved within her. "Oh, yes..."

He was rough with her this time, as rough with her as she was with him, as if they both needed desperately to be reassured of the solid reality of the other's presence. He was alive, she was alive. He'd sent her away, she'd made it back to him. It had happened, but it was like she needed to touch him to be able to believe it.

"Don't you dare," Sarah panted, and thrust her hips against him, hard, "ever," she growled at him, "leave me." Jareth moaned at the sharp press of her body against him.

"Never," he whispered fiercely, and Sarah's heart contracted with a little wail inside her chest. "Never," he swore, and Sarah cried out softly against him, almost coming simply from the sound of his voice. He was thrusting into her as if he needed to prove to her that he was really there. As if he needed to prove to himself that she was still there.

Sarah got loud. She didn't care.

Jareth seemed to find her reaction unbearably exciting, gasping and moving deeply within her when she cried out for him. His voice was rough as he urged her on. The bark of the tree was biting into her back, but even that felt good in the sweet, desperate place she was in.

He hit the right spot, god, he was just right and she dug her nails in as if to hold him there.

"Please," she gasped, almost incoherently, "please..." He thrust again, and for a moment it was so good she thought she had come, but then he thrust again and it was better. She arched against him with a little wail and Jareth cried out, thrusting against her hard as if the sensation of her climax was more than he could bear. She realized with a thrill that he was coming as she was, together, and almost laughed out loud, it was such a wonderful treat...

Joy still singing strong through her veins, Sarah looked up and burned the expression of sheer bliss on his face into her memory forever.

The Lady and the Knight

A Labyrinth Story
by Jack Hawksmoor

Part 18 of 19

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