Continuing Tales

Power Struggle

A Labyrinth Story
by bobmcbobbob1

Part 30 of 50

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Power Struggle

Sarah woke up feeling like all the linen had just come from the dryer, warm and soft

Sarah woke up feeling like all the linen had just come from the dryer, warm and soft. But the linen wasn't the only warm object encompassing her body. She snuggled to his chest, Jareth's arm lightly quashing her naked breasts as he sleepily drew her closer as well. He breathed a sigh, exhaling near enough to Sarah's ear to make her shiver. The rise and fall of his chest as he chuckled brushed against her already overly-sensitive skin. Sarah arched her neck and kissed his jaw; it just wasn't fair, really, how he could do that.

"Good morning, Sarah," he purred into her ear, making her shiver again.

"Good morning. Do we have to get up?"

His grip around her tightened a little more. "Not yet. Perhaps we could be very late to the next meeting."

Sarah smirked, momentarily shy but quickly overcoming that little bother. "After yesterday's 'lecture?' Are you sure that's a good idea? Maybe I should stay right here."

Jareth had returned the night prior with a very stern look. Sarah could tell he wasn't actually upset as he accused her of all sorts of trickery, distracting him from the proceedings with all sorts of devilish thoughts. She had only giggled until he had seen the joke through enough to join in her laughter.

"As distracting as you are, Sarah, I'd prefer to have you with me."

She reached back and pulled him into a kiss. "This time you go for the Deadly Nightshade."

He kissed her again, chuckling against her mouth. "If that's the excuse I need to spend more time with my wife…"

"Can I ask you something?"

"Other than that question?"

Sarah rolled her eyes. "Yes, Jareth, other than that question."

"I suppose."

"This isn't another mask, is it?"

His arms stiffened around her.

Sarah sighed. "I didn't want to ask, Jareth. But I really want to be sure, best to clear the air now and all that," she ended lamely.

"Is affection so out of my nature?" he asked coolly.

"No, it's not like that. I just don't know how to read through some of your masks, how much is really you. This relationship is still new." She twisted in his slackened arms to face him. He was doing the I'm-not-revealing-anything sort of expression that tended to make Sarah a little wary. "I know that I'm falling or fallen for you. I meant it when I told you I've never cared about anyone this way before. Now I know you like me at least and—"

Jareth's mouth crashed down to hers again, all at once a tender and ravenous force working to assure her understanding. "Perhaps there are moments when I am not entirely certain as well. The first time I saw you, you were indeed intriguing though I did not understand what it could mean. I did not know on your second visit that it might evolve to something quite like what it is steadily becoming."

Sarah rested her head against his chest. It was carefully phrased but honest, she could tell (how, she wasn't quite sure, but it was there all the same). "I guess that answers my question."

"Not mine, however."


"Perhaps we could be late to the next meeting," he repeated in a low growl that tended to make Sarah melt.

"I don't think that's actually a question so much as a suggestion."

"Will that change your answer?"

She slid her hands down his chest and along to his abdomen, pausing at his navel. "Probably not."

They were very late to the next meeting. Sarah did her best to pretend that she was still ill—tactical advances and all—though Joan noted that at least her countenance had improved. The other leaders in the Underground welcomed her reappearance in varying levels of sincerity. Jareth was never very far. Strangely enough, she could feel it. Given the fact that she was surrounded by magic and she was in fact married by magic, Sarah chose not to question it too much. She did, however, notice that her husband seemed to be glowing. Stepping closer, Sarah took his arm and confirmed that he was indeed emitting some sort of light.

She gently pulled him into a confidential whisper. "Jareth, you're glowing."

"So kind of you to say, dear."

"Seriously, Jareth, you're glowing. What's that mean?"

"Sarah, I shall not go into detail here, but you do recall the conversation shortly after our marriage in regards to what relevance our, ahem, level of relationship might have on my power?" Sarah nodded. "Consequently, you're glowing, too."

Sarah glanced at her skin and nearly squeaked. "How do I turn it off?"

Jareth chuckled and waved his hand. "Don't worry."

"Sorry, I'm slightly mortified all the same. How long have we been…advertising?"

Laughing a little louder, Jareth refused to give her an answer.

There was a tap on Sarah's shoulder. "I'm glad to see his majesty is in better spirits than yesterday. A pity, actually. Some of the trolls were more shaken by such a change in tactics than anything else. They're certain he's going to pull something."

Sarah grinned and turned around. "Ack, it's good to see you again."

"I'm pleased to see that your health has returned, Sarah," he replied, taking her hand in his claws and displaying his fangs in feral welcome.

"Getting there, yes, thank you. And I wouldn't discount the theory that we're planning something."

Ack laughed. "Oh, I do not doubt it. Just tell me which side of the room I should be on to have the best vantage of all the chaos. I do so enjoy a terrified stampede for the exit. And there is the added bonus of assessing how much of our frivolity is entirely practical."

Sarah laughed while Ack tried to further explain how heeled boots could either be a hindrance or a benefit (tall, spike heels could get stuck however short, blunted ones inflicted pain without slowing movement) and otherwise headdresses and overlarge bows could be used to clear a path by thwacking and cracking the ribbon like a whip. "Alas," Ack commented while Sarah was still giggling, "few of the leaders here seem to consider the limitless possibilities."

"Tell me, Ack, what should be done with an additional cummerbund?"

"Blind whoever's blocking your path."

"What would you suppose feathers are best for?"

"Ah, now that is a tricky one. Mostly I've seen them fall out and slipped upon but we can certainly come up with a much better purpose for them."

"Turn it into a giant chicken?" Sarah suggested.

Ack grinned, eyes flickering red briefly. "That could work."

"More schemes?" Jareth questioned, sliding one arm along Sarah's middle.

"Quite possibly involving giant chickens."

Jareth gave her a startled look. "You're not enjoying this splendid vacation from the wretched beasts?"

Sarah had to admit he had a point.

"I believe it's time to return to the meeting hall," Ack stated wearily. "I should like to sit with you, Sarah, in order to best judge when to duck or start running." Sarah laughed again as Ack inclined his head and started making his way.

"I think we should invite him to the kingdom one of these days," Sarah said with a smile.

"I daresay we can find the time."

"Oh, yeah, that whole immortality thing. That's still kinda strange to think about."

"If you prefer to think of it as reordering time to omit the various parts you would simply age…perhaps it will help."

"And you're not going to use that as an excuse to put everything off, are you? A show of 'we've got all the time in the world so why bother this decade?' sort of thing?"

Jareth tapped his lips with a gloved finger. "An intriguing idea."

She swatted him. Jareth took her hand and kissed the back of it.

"I should like you to sit next to me," he murmured just low enough for her to hear. The others in the room were already moving out, the two of them caught near the back of the heard.

An image of playing footsie with Goblin King nearly made Sarah snort. "As much as I'd like to, I get the impression that I'd really just be a distraction. Plus, the sudden shift might arouse some suspicion."

Jareth sighed but didn't argue with her logic. Sarah was gratified to see him deflate ever so slightly.

"You can thank me later when you make it up to me," she added flippantly.

"When I make it up to you?" Jareth repeated as a question.

"Yes, I saved you from all sorts of trouble, much to our mutual vexation," Sarah clarified ruefully.

He laughed. "We will make a politician out of you yet."

"I sure hope not."

Jareth sobered momentarily. "I hope so as well."

Having no snappy comeback, Sarah bade Jareth to escort her to her seat. She allowed him to take her hand and steer her to where, he explained, he could keep an eye on her. By means of farewell, Sarah grazed the skin of his wrist with her thumb, evoking a quickly concealed smile from her husband. He kissed her forehead and saw her to her chair. Sarah had the distinct feeling that he would perhaps have done something quite different if their front of "lightly smitten" was not somehow blastedly important.

"I saw that," Marek commented on her left.


Leaning forward to better the aims of conspiracy and secrets, Marek answered, "You touched his wrist."

Sarah blinked. "…Yes?"

Marek leaned back slightly, trying to gauge Sarah.

"Does that mean something?"

"Of course it does, Sarah."

She sighed. "I'm not terribly surprised. Care to enlighten me? Why does most of the court wear gloves anyway?"

"I am somewhat surprised that he did not insist that you wore them as well. I suppose the two of you have had differing opinions on fashion."

Sarah smoothed the folds on her dress, mostly velvet again though the style was comparatively modern, circa 1950s. While Jareth found it unlikely that Sarah should be attacked again, he did not want to raise any further suspicion or induce any attacks on the assumption that they had lowered their guard…and he admitted to finding the texture pleasing.

"So what does it mean?"

"It falls back to some tradition. Do you shake hands in the Aboveground to seal an agreement?" Sarah nodded. "Some members of the Underground would introduce a poison in this manner."

"So everyone wears gloves to keep from getting poisoned instead of changing the shaking hands ritual? It can't be comfortable to wear them all the time."

"Practical or not, shaking bare hands is a symbol of near-ultimate trust."

Sarah recalled Jareth's surprise when she had freed his hands and the look in his eyes that had followed, repressing the shiver the memory cause. "Ah," was all she said.

"I don't know if it would be a good or a bad thing if anyone else saw that. I was only watching for it because you two have been acting somewhat peculiar."

Sarah could tell what Marek was up to, the barely suppressed smirk giving his game away. She refused to feel any embarrassment nor would she allow him any satisfaction, despite his teasing. Ack soon took a seat on her right. Sarah knew better than to thank Ack for her rescue, lest he take up the charge on Marek's side; it seemed like something he would do.

Marek's attention was soon monopolized by the Duchess Melocka who Sarah could only guess was a tall dwarf or a petite Fae, stocky and lovely. Ack took up the conspirator's spot and stance. Most of the court followed a similar trend, a few in semblance of an open group though the significant glances revealed that there was certainly something else going on. Sarah had to wonder why anyone bothered to pretend secrecy, let alone if anyone was ever tired of it. She voiced her question to Ack.

He barked a laugh that Sarah could best describe as disturbing. "I'm quite exhausted for one. I enjoy telling the truth on occasion just to watch how it muddied and confused my company for the afternoon. I wouldn't recommend trying it until it can contradict another solid opinion."

Sarah laughed again. "My husband hopes that I'll never turn into the whole secret-monger pattern."

"You will be quite dull if you do. For my own selfish reasons and entertainment, please don't."

"I'll do my best." Sarah glanced up to see her husband watching her, sending her some sort of smirk in his eyes, reading that he had some idea of what she was discussing.

Ack took her hand in his claws again and Sarah returned her attention, his muzzle closer as he lowered his voice. "I have heard some rumors recently that I think you should be aware of."

Sarah's smile deflated somewhat and she nodded. "Any help is good. Jan tried to mention some before but it hasn't come up again. What have you heard?"

"The court knows that your husband only acts this way in public because a mortal such as yourself would expect it of a fairy tale. I hope you are not taken in by this?"

Sarah sat stunned for a moment but mentally shook it off. Instead, she gestured impatiently for Ack to continue, before he could ask.

"I only mention this as the veneer has come up to much discussion. Ignorance is not your best option in the thick of this. What do you know of the Prophecy?"

"Some," Sarah conceded, falling into the act of the diplomat.

"I do not believe Jareth has told you enough." Ack looked down at Sarah's hands in his own claws and sighed with a giant collapse of his furry body. "As much as I do enjoy your company, I almost wish you did not come. For all your potential, it is unfair. I do not want to see you hurt when some things come to fruition."

"What do you mean by that, Ack? What am I not being told now?"

"I have already said too much."

"And why would that stop you?"

Ack grinned. "It shouldn't.

"Especially when it's apparently this important," Sarah urged. "You still haven't told me anything solid."

Ack calculated, the white of his eyes quite yellow with a red iris surrounding an oddly shaped pupil all staring at a fixed point along the wall. The dark goblins clambered into the hall, all muttering and grumbling as one stuck a gnarled finger, longer than it was tall, at Sarah. Sarah frowned and made to rise. Ack pulled her back to seated.

"You should not deal with their like today. You are still considered ill. Regardless of how you feel, your opinions might be brought to question if it suits the vampires and they are not in any particular mood to like you anyway. In return, I will promise to tell you more later, in some other environment."

Sarah nodded and kept her chair. The meetings began and she even dissuaded Marek's attempt to pass notes. The normal ennui was overshadowed by wondering what could have bothered her friend so much. Ack seemed to have regained himself, laughing and making small comments to Sarah and Jan on his other side who had entered late.

Then a twinge in the back of Sarah's mind erupted through her thoughts. Her emotions began to ebb and flow in a steady flux, fear, anger, desperation. Something was decidedly wrong. She glanced up at Jareth and noticed that he was resting his head in his hand, trying to look as nonchalant as possible, but Sarah could see the slight strain around his eyes as he stared at her, waiting for her to acknowledge the same thing. He waved over one of the humanoid servants with the blank eyes, dressed in a dusty white that looked coated in mildew. Sarah watched as he scribbled a small note and whispered directions. Most of the court was so involved in the argument between the troll and the dwarf (considering that objects were beginning to fly across the room; Marek had already been splotted with a discarded inkwell) that they did not watch as the servant snaked, unnaturally graceful around knees and various appendages over to where Sarah sat. Sarah took the paper and glanced back at Jareth. He kept eye contact as he waited for her to open the note, shifting his head to the side slightly as the leg of the chair whizzed by, unsettling a few strands of his hair.

Sarah opened the note and read Jareth's flowing script, made jagged in haste: something is wrong with the Labyrinth. Make an excuse.

Glancing back up, Sarah nodded, allowing the note to burn in her hand. Jareth returned his attention back to the argument, still watching Sarah from the corner of his eye. Sarah made a small gesture with her hand, trying to tell him to wait. If anyone had been watching the note progress across the room, they would know something else was wrong…that and Sarah had to come up with some reason to leave. To her own disgust, her first inclination was to stand up and faint dramatically. It would have worked in the Victorian era; the dark goblins would poke her if she did it now, before three of the party would tend to her which still did nothing for Jareth.

The answer came much more simply than she expected. She met her husband's gaze one more time, nodding slightly. He nodded back, waiting. After the ordeal quieted (the troll conceded that he was indeed tall and this was not meant as an insult) and the next was beginning ("Midget? Upon my honor, I will not stand for this."), Sarah stood up quite suddenly, her chair thudding to the floor. "Silence!" she demanded, cocking her head to the side and staring at the ceiling. Tapping into the magic, she jumped and glided over the heads of vampires and elves to stand beside her husband.

"Listen," she hissed, aware that she had the full attention of the court. Jareth's mad mortal queen was still the newest commodity of the Underground. "Someone's going to say the words."

The tiny bunch of confusion between Jareth's brows dissolved as he stood up, too. "Yes, very soon."

Praying that it worked, Sarah waved her hand over her front and changed into her own version of Jareth's formal-child-stealing-clothes. It worked. The gown had no sleeves though her forearms were wrapped with laced cloth that ended in trailing sleeves entirely disconnected from the dress and cuffed in black leather. The high collared cape around her shoulders created quite a shadow as the room darkened even further except for an ethereal light. Gold and glitter shimmered in her brown hair, the straight locks suddenly swept in soft curls. The deep blue matched Jareth's when he made the transformation himself.

Sarah tilted her head toward the ceiling again, as though the action helped. She smiled. "We are summoned." Praying once more that her grasp on magic could come through in a pinch, Sarah turned herself into a hawk and barreled out of the open window, a white owl quickly overtaking her to lead the way.

Just on the edge of earshot, Sarah could hear Marek call weakly after them: "I'll just get the luggage then?"

Power Struggle

A Labyrinth Story
by bobmcbobbob1

Part 30 of 50

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