Continuing Tales

Power Struggle

A Labyrinth Story
by bobmcbobbob1

Part 26 of 50

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Power Struggle

Thankfully, Jareth was not exactly in dire jeopardy. Not even in a lot of trouble, really. In a matter of speaking, anyway. Marek had tried to explain as Sarah marched down the hallways (toward the great courtyard where she'd seen the dragons lounging before) that he truly found it unlikely that Jareth would be in any real danger. However, Sarah was not entirely comforted by his assertions, fully tired of just one more thing on top of all else and the sudden flood of the taint—ever so slightly and building—altering her thoughts, mood, and intent more than she would like to admit.

Jareth was on the ground, the dragons peering over at him with their heads cocked in concern. Dutifully, Sarah rushed to his side, checking for damage.

"What happened?"

The dragons gave her the equivalent of a shrug. "He tried to block part of his mind. Perhaps the strain."

Sarah frowned, but returned her attention to her prone husband. Thankfully, he stirred. As relief fused into Sarah's bones and she fought to keep herself from visibly sagging, she also noted that the invisible barrier between herself and the dark taint was steadily restoring itself; however, this now seemed to keep in all that had entered when her walls were down.

"Jareth, are you alright?" Sarah asked, running a hand along his cheek.

Once Jareth opened his eyes and ascertained his position, he immediately moved to right himself. Marek was speaking with the dragons so, taking advantage of their distraction, Sarah took a hand and shoved him back down.

"Oh, no you don't," she instructed in a sharp whisper. "If you stand up too quickly, you'll end up right back on the floor, one way or the other, trust me." He responded with a scowl though the pull at the corner of his mouth turned it into an annoyed but indulging smirk. He crossed his legs and placed his hands behind his head. Shaking her head, Sarah laid down next to him and copied his pose.

Sarah turned her head away from the grey sky filled with greyer clouds. "Now it's not just you, happy?"

Jareth smiled. "Yes, this is much better."

"We could go to the next meeting as hippies, but I don't think that would go over well at all."

Jareth gave a small laugh and they continued to stare at the sky. Some creature with webbed wings zipped overhead.

"What happened?"

"Long story," he replied.

"Don't care," Sarah assured him. "And I doubt that it's just low blood pressure."

"Call it retaliation."

"From what?"

"You think all that happens at these gatherings is talking? That's partly why Marek is here, to help facilitate some of what needs to be done. I have a certain reputation for a reason, Sarah, besides my verbal eloquence."

"What have you been up to?"

Jareth smiled again. "Lots of mischief."

Sarah sighed, noting that Marek was still talking to the dragons. "I don't know how much more of this I can take, Jareth. Leaving home, getting to know you, dealing with this whole taint thing, getting used to magic and the idea of ruling, the whole Orion thing…I—I feel like I'm going to snap."

He extricated a hand and held it in front of Sarah, two gloved fingers extended and two not, the thumb and the middle finger meeting. His leather gloves made the sound more of a thwip than a snap.

"Har, har. I mean it, Jareth."

"The Labyrinth, and the Prophesies for that matter, chose you, Sarah. And with each twist, I am reminded why."

"It's not just because I put up with you?"

He raised an eyebrow as if to say, "Me? What about you?"

"I'm interested to hear what these reasons are, but now those clouds look like rain and I wouldn't be surprised, especially in this courtyard, if it was acidic or something."

"Actually, it's—"

"No, not unless you're going to say 'quite refreshing.'" Sarah stood up and offered a hand to Jareth. "You're allowed to move now. Let's think of some way to make a grand entrance."

Jareth took her hand and pulled her back down. Sarah yelped and Jareth laughed as he caught her. "We can be late if we're going to plan a grand entrance," he assured.

Chuckling, Sarah squirmed out of his hold and lay so that her head rested on his lower chest, one of his arms still stretched over her stomach. All in all, she was quite comfortable. "I think I could stay here a little while longer," she quipped. "Do they ever take mental health days in the Underground?" Then she cringed. "Don't you dare say anything sarcastic to that."

"Would I do any such thing?"

Sarah swatted his arm.

Marek's face hovered over them. "Comfy?"

"Sure," Sarah replied with a shrug. Jareth just chuckled, causing Sarah's head to bounce slightly with the movement of his diaphragm and some giggles of her own.

"Much as I hate to spoil something sickeningly cute…"

"Cute?" Jareth interjected.

"Apparently," Sarah consented. "Who would have thought?"

"I am not cute," he assured her.

"Well, it seems we are."

"Exactly," Marek agreed. "Now stop it."

He walked off, shaking his head while Sarah laughed openly and Jareth grinned.

Jareth assisted Sarah to her feet and began to escort her back to their room. "What can we do, then, Sarah, to see that you do not snap?"

"Good question. No idea."

"None whatsoever?"

"Could you stop time for a few days?" Sarah asked hopefully.

"Now, Sarah, some of the creatures here would be sensitive to that much magic. I'm afraid not."

"An afternoon?"

"More doable, yes, but if you're willing to let time go on without you, then I'd say that is all the more likely."

"You mean I could just skip?"



"No, probably not."

Sarah swatted his arm. "Well, what would be reason enough?"

"Something real. Directly lying is distasteful, mixes poorly with magic."

Fixing him with another glare, Sarah pushed open the door to their room. "You're not giving me much to work with, Jareth."

He began to list, counting down with his fingers: "In ascending order, immediate health—sorry, stress will not win you any favors with the others—danger to alliances, danger to family, and attacks on the kingdom."

"Why do you put up with them anyway? Unless most of them gang up against you while you're asleep or something, I don't think they'd really be a problem. I mean, the Labyrinth is kind of essential and even if they think they could run it better, they still have to change its loyalties."

Jareth laughed. "You've been thinking about this for a little while. Do you really want to leave that badly?"

Sarah grinned ruefully. "Perhaps. Still, the Labyrinth, from what I can tell is pretty attached to us."

"That it is, Sarah," Jareth agreed. "And it would certainly fight in its own way."

"That doesn't answer my question though. Why do you put up with all this pomp?"

Jareth smiled in a way Sarah wasn't quite sure she would like if that maliciousness was purely directed at her. "It's the game, Sarah."

She might have laughed if she didn't know that he meant it. She smiled and shook her head anyway. "I guess that's one way to pass eternity."

"Some years are more tedious than others."

"I'm sure that Marek would agree that you make your own entertainment."

Jareth regarded her for a moment. "There is certainly more to it than that, Sarah."

"I know. But I still doubt you pass up many opportunities for mischief. Still, you have to be careful lest you put up with someone's grudge for all of eternity."

"If I may say so, your confessed stress does nothing against your tendency for sarcasm."

Sarah flopped down on the bed, one arm dramatically across her face. "Well, that's a relief."

Jareth set himself down next to her, arm propping his head up as he surveyed her carefully.

"Are you sure you're alright, Jareth? I've seen you unconscious twice now."

"The first time was not my fault."

"I'm not sure which part of that to question first, arguing that it was your fault or the implication that this time it was your fault."

"The first time was not my fault," Jareth repeated with a smirk.

Sarah rolled her eyes. "What kinds of mischief have you been up to?"

"All kinds, of course."

"That doesn't surprise me, but what kind of messing with people are we dealing with?"

"Oh, mostly placing ideas in their heads, pushing them in different directions."

"That doesn't sound too bad."

Jareth smirked, not feeling a pressing need to elaborate on what a dream invasion, false memories, or a good old fashioned illusion could really do. "Sometimes the subtle approach is much more gratifying than tossing them out the window or a nasty curse, at least for these."

"And do they always retaliate like this?"

Jareth shrugged his free shoulder. "On occasion."

"Try to avoid the whole unconscious thing while we're here, please. I mean, that taint is overpowering without that shielding."

Jareth suddenly looked concerned. He grabbed one of Sarah's hands, scrutinizing her nails in particular.

"Jareth what are you—" She stopped when his gloved fingers traced along the tips of her teeth. She swatted his hand away. "Jareth, what are you doing?"

"Checking," he replied simply, pulling her left eyelid up (before she could push him away) and checking that as well before pulling back to his same position, the other hand close to his mouth as he appeared to be thinking. Jareth, Sarah figured, had better be able to read her expression that demanded elaboration, for his safety at any rate.

He apparently came to the same conclusion. "Sarah, the taint is enacting no physical changes. As long as that doesn't change, the rest we can deal with."

"Wait, are you saying this could have been a possibility?"

"There are lots of possibilities, Sarah, but few are likelihoods. No one could know for certain how the Underground would affect you."

Sarah sat up, crossing her arms and looking straight ahead. "Let's not go back to the 'Leave Sarah Completely in the Dark' thing, okay? I know there's a lot you're not telling me as it is. Give me a flashlight, here."

"Sarah…" Jareth stretched her name out.

"Ignorance is bliss and all that, Jareth, but I can't do anything useful if you won't trust me. I can't get to know you if you won't trust me. Don't push me around to strategic positions of their own personal vexation like you do the others in this world or you'll find yourself not only very alone but with one angry thorn in your side who can suggest things to impressionable goblins."

Jareth just laughed. "That's one of the reasons the Labyrinth chose you, Sarah."

"What, my imagination?"

"That's another, yes."

"Access to magic plus sheer frustration will not bode well for you, Jareth," she sighed. "Everyone says this whole communication thing is important. We need to work on some of that."

"We're speaking to each other, yes?"

She turned to face him. "Oh, stop it. You know what I mean."

He sobered. "Perhaps we can add this to our talk?"

Sarah froze and considered for a moment. "I'm a little tweaked right now, Jareth. I don't think it would be a good idea."

Jareth frowned for a moment but nodded. "Then we should consider a grand entrance."

Sarah flopped back down on the bed and laughed. "Are lasers allowed?"

The meeting started a good half hour late, some of the more skittish members of the Underground still twitching at every loud noise or small reflection of light for the remainder of the day. Sarah and Jareth mirrored each other's enigmatic yet smugly satisfied grins for a job well done. Perhaps they could write a musical number next time.

Power Struggle

A Labyrinth Story
by bobmcbobbob1

Part 26 of 50

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