Continuing Tales

Power Struggle

A Labyrinth Story
by bobmcbobbob1

Part 44 of 50

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Power Struggle

The sunlight pouring through Sarah's window seemed extraordinarily bright. Rolling out of bed, Sarah saw the remnants of her crash zone, sleepily noting that she would need to go through it later as she stepped over it to the window. It had snowed last night, a good two inches, and the sunlight made a crisp, blinding scene. There had been some ice involved as well, judging by the droop of the trees. After registering the height of the sun, Sarah glanced at the alarm clock next to her bed. It was almost noon.

Opening the closet, Sarah found one of the few items of clothing she had left at home, a grey hoodie, and pulled it on, wandering down the stairs. Toby had apparently had a snow day because he was perched in front of the TV. Once he spotted her, he got up and gave her a hug.

"It's about time, Sarah. I thought you were going to sleep all day."

"Hey, I needed it. Plus, this is the first time in over a year that I've woken up and not had to think about what part of the war effort I should do today."

"Still, you went to bed at like nine thirty last night."

Sarah ticked off on her fingers: "War, pregnant, long day, jet lag sort of, annoying little brother. I think I had reason enough."

Toby stuck out his tongue.

"Who's home today?"

"Dad had to go to work, but Mom called in. She's in the kitchen."

Sarah nodded and wandered that direction. Breakfast, or lunch by this point, sounded great, especially if it included some form of caffeine.

"Good morning, Sarah," Karen piped, putting something in the oven. "Did you sleep well?"

"I slept alright. Didn't dream at all, unfortunately. Everything is still kinda weird."

"Uncomfortable or just different?"

"Just different."

"When it gets to be uncomfortable, let's talk. I had to sleep half-propped up for Toby. There are all sorts of tricks. I don't suppose you're hungry?"

"Absolutely. I don't suppose I could get some coffee?"

"You're going to need to limit your caffeine intake, Sarah."

Sarah grimaced. "I was hoping you weren't going to mention that."

"How about some decaf tea?" Karen offered, with sardonic smile.

"I guess that'll work."

Karen put the water on to boil. "I received a call this morning."


"Yes, Jen will be stopping by this afternoon. She didn't really ask, but when I told her you were sleeping, she demanded that I, oh how did she put it? 'Strap her down if have to, just keep her there.' Last night's storm will slow her down, but I imagine she'll be whirlwinding in soon enough."

Sarah smiled to herself. "That's going to be an interesting conversation. Last time I saw her, I poofed away."

"I would imagine you have a lot to talk about, then."

"Somehow, I don't imagine there will be as much talking as something stronger. A lecture maybe."

Karen sat down across from Sarah. "Do you know what are you going to tell her?"

Sarah shrugged. "Probably an abridged version of everything. I think it's going to depend on what sorts of questions she asks. If she's clearly not going to believe in anything about the Underground, I'll gloss over the details. She'll have to accept something when it comes to LT anyway, so I can add on from there."

"That's another thing I've been thinking about. Sarah, are you sure you can carry this child?"

Sarah frowned. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Sweetie, I'm not questioning your ability to be a mother, more of the mechanics. After three and a half years, it's bound to be a huge newborn. And with how you describe time between these worlds, I have to wonder how much leeway there is in that. If it'll be longer or shorter than this ridiculous timeframe. Sarah, I'm worried about your back if nothing else. I know I'm not making much sense, but there's just a lot to think about."

Sarah closed her eyes, nodding. "That I understand. I had a long talk with Jareth and Alain about this one day, though I still don't get everything and I don't have an answer about time zoning. It really does get tricky. Apparently, some of the extra development time goes a lot toward the magical development, which then establishes the rate for the rest of the development. A lot of it's because of the immortality thing, but in theory I'm wondering if a Fae child is then supposed to be a little more self-sufficient or something. Honestly, I have no idea if being away from the Underground is going to speed things up or what. I find it's better if I don't try to think through it.

"As for back problems, we're going to have to see what happens, I think. Symptoms and side effects will be ever expanding categories. Combining the lists I've gotten, everything from purple hair to stretch marks is covered."

"Thank goodness for your sense of humor," Karen replied wryly, rising to check on whatever was in the oven.

"I think you'll need to remind me about that as we go."

After closing the oven, Karen took off her mitt and set a hand on Sarah's. "Of course, dear."

"Since I'm going to be here for a week at the very least, I don't suppose it would be possible to go shopping this afternoon? I hate to ask, but I have PJ's, and two, maybe three, outfits otherwise. Nothing extravagant, just a few cheap things."

"I think that should wait until after Jen comes. If you're not here when she arrives—"

"I know, I know. She'll be foaming at the mouth. I'm wondering what kind of energy I'll have left after that anyway."

"I can go while you're talking with your friend, take Toby with me so he can grimace at all the girl clothes, give you some privacy."

"And leave me without any backup?" Sarah asked dolefully.

"Oh, I think you'll handle it fine."

"Well, I guess if we compare it to goblins and the war," Sarah had to admit, "I'd be fine even if she sets the curtains on fire. My definition of 'emergency' has changed. It's weird being back. She could probably put a giant fissure in the floor and I'd just ask her 'is that all?'"

"Please don't let it come to that," Karen pleaded, pulling the glass dish from the oven. "If you could peel your brother from the TV, I think it's time for lunch."

There was a knock on the door two forkfuls from finishing. A very demanding knock.

"I think that's for me," Sarah announced, rising and heading toward the front room as the knock came again. Sore-tempted to announce through the wood that she had given at the office, Sarah instead pulled open the door and offered a warm smile.

"Missed me?"

Jen was shocked for a moment, her mouth charmingly agape, before her mind (by evidence of her facial expression) rebooted. "Sarah Williams, I'm going to kill you," she declared coldly. The frown dissolved after a moment, as Jen threw her arms around her friend's neck. Between sobs, she managed, "God, I'm so glad to see you're alive."

Sarah recovered and wrapped her arms around to Jen's shoulders. "I missed you, too, Jen. Let's go inside and talk."

Jen nodded, wiping tears from her face as she followed Sarah inside. Jen took a seat on the couch as she composed herself.

"I think I'll get some tea going," Sarah suggested. Something calming was definitely in order.

Jen's eyes widened and she stood up. "Oh no you don't. You're not going anywhere without me. Last time I hugged you, you disappeared. I'm not letting you out of my sight until you explain a few things."

Noting that Jen's resolve was back, Sarah sighed. "And by that I know you mean for me to explain everything. I won't be disappearing for a little while, Jen. Come pick your tea out. Karen's always had a closet full and always knows what to pick for my mood. She's worked her magic once this morning already, figuratively speaking."

Jen grabbed Sarah's shoulder and spun her around. "Sarah, you've been gone over a year and a half. You can't just come back and talk as though I was just over for dinner yesterday."

Sarah held up her hands. "Calm down, Jen. I promised you when I left that I would explain someday. I owe you that much at the very least. Other than that, I can't talk to you any other way. It is what it is, and I can't change that."

Jen looked her over with a critical eye. Fading bruises, tone of voice, how she held herself, everything, Sarah knew, was up for judgment.

"A lot has happened this last year, hasn't it?" she said at last.

"Oh, you'd better believe it. And trust me, I've needed a girl-friend to talk it all over with. Maybe Karen can pick us up some Ben & Jerry's."

"I'll add it to the list," a voice cried from the kitchen.

Sarah chuckled before turning back to Jen and rested a hand on her shoulder. "I'll answer whatever I can, Jen. I've really missed talking to you." With a small smile and a small squeeze of Jen's shoulder, Sarah added, "Now let me play good hostess and get you something to drink."

"I'm going to need something stronger than tea," Jen mumbled.

"Not this early, Jen. Save that for when we get to the vampires and boogeymen."

"No, I think now will do just fine if that's where we're going to end up."

Karen was just buttoning up her coat as Jen and Sarah made their way into the kitchen. "Good to see you again, Jen. Anything I can pick up for either of you from the store?"

"Actually, I would like a journal," Sarah requested quietly.

"Chunky Monkey?" Jen piped in, dazedly. Sarah made note that any hint of normalcy seemed to throw Jen off, if the whole discussion turned into an actual fiasco. Truthfully, she was still waiting for the real explosion; it'd all been too easy so far. Karen and Toby bade their farewells, and the kettle began to whistle as Jen plopped down with her chosen tea package in hand.

"Do they know where you've been?" Jen asked once Sarah set the mug in front of her.

"Let's go out to the living room. I've a feeling we might as well be comfortable."

Jen rose to follow but insisted, "Did they know, Sarah?"

"They knew some," Sarah answered. "There wasn't any real consistency that I could call home. There was a point when I was locked in a tree for six and a half months."

Jen stopped walking and stared at Sarah.

"…We'll get to that."

"Damn straight we will," Jen declared. "Do you have any idea what I've gone through trying to find you? One day you announce that you're leaving, break down into tears as you're packing up your office, talk to some guy in a bubble, then you've vanished off of the face of the Earth! Your family seems utterly hopeless in finding you again, and there are no leads to speak of except the bubble guy. I've talked to everyone about magic who will talk about it with some seriousness, I've exhausted the police, and started my own campaign."

With a pang in her chest, Sarah realized how taxing the effort her friend had put forth truly amounted to. She was touched…and taken on the most effective guilt trip she could remember.

Jen wasn't done. "And then you're standing here as though nothing's happened. As though I shouldn't have worried and just wasted my time."

Sarah wrapped her arms around her friend. "Jen, I'm so sorry. I could never have asked for a better friend in either world."

"You really could have called, Sarah. However you were contacting your family, you could have told me you were alive at least. Or let them tell me, for crying out loud."

"Given your last interaction with crystal communication, I wasn't sure it was a good idea. I should have trusted you, but I didn't want to drive you off the deep end. Believe me, when it comes to the Underground, everyone thinks you're nuts until you poof a few times to prove it."

"Oh, bubble guy almost became a webcam when I was telling the police. How could I explain that I saw the guy but didn't stop him from taking you? Why the hell did you go with him anyway, Sarah?"

Sarah sat down on the couch. "That," she agreed, "is a good place to start."

"This had better be good, Sarah, to up and leave like that. I'll find a way to haul you off to therapy regardless, rest assured."

Rolling her eyes, Sarah decided to let it slide. "There were a few things going on at the time before Jareth—bubble guy—picked me up that day. I met him back when I was fifteen and ran the Labyrinth."

"Creeper, much?"

"Well, it does sound sketchy, but time doesn't mean the same thing in the Underground. I'll get to that explanation later. Besides, he didn't start coming back until years after."

"Obsession? That still doesn't sound healthy at all, Sarah."

Sarah held up her hand, the seal of the Goblin Kingdom stamped in the gold around her ring finger. "Of the ways you could describe my husband, I don't think 'conventional' is one of them."

Jen took Sarah's hand to examine the ring. "Still sounds like a creeper, Sarah. I mean he was an attractive creeper from what I could see, but why would you go with him?"

Sarah dropped her hands to her lap. "I've asked that of myself a few times. Really, in the end it was my decision. Pushed forward faster than I would have liked, but what I probably would have chosen."

"It didn't look like you were too happy about it last time I saw you."

"No, at the time I was confused and a little overwhelmed. But I really could have fought Jareth on this whole thing. I chose to go along with everything—well, not everything."

Jen crossed her arms. "Oh, do tell."

Sarah raised an eyebrow at her tone. "Do you want to hear or not?"

Jen waved for her to continue, still mumbling something about therapy.

"There were a couple of things all coming together, all revolving around the Prophesy, capitalized Prophesy. That's where the sudden marriage thing came as a solution because I was leaching Jareth's magic which he needs to control his kingdom."

"Two things: A, you were borrowing magic? And B, his kingdom?"

"Jareth's the Goblin King, which makes me the Goblin Queen. And yes, magic is definitely a part of all this."

Jen shook her head. "I'm going to ignore the royalty part for now."

"If it helps." Sarah shrugged. "Anyway, I was borrowing his magic which meant that the land recognized me at any rate. The only way Jareth could keep control of his kingdom was to get that magic back, by either killing me or marrying me."

"So you went to help him? Married him as a favor? That's still blackmail or extortion or whatever, Sarah."

"I didn't want to see the Labyrinth or the rest of the Goblin Kingdom torn to pieces. I was tied to it, too. And something about the Underground always felt right, felt like home. And Jareth…well, Jareth, there was always possibility there, not that I understood or really wanted to think about that in the midst of everything. Now I can't picture my life without him. At the time, I think I needed to feel that it was out of my hands in order to accept it." Sarah shook her head. "Oh, and believe me, it took a while to realize it. The Underground can be an amazing place if you have the right attitude. I knew it was where I needed to be, even if my logic seems all muddled. "

"That's one way of putting it. Underground? Labyrinth? Goblin Kingdom? And now you're stuck with this guy? Dear, we can annul that sucker faster than you can say 'Hocus pocus.' The guy abducted you."

Sarah sighed. Clearly, the rest of any explanation of her story would revolve around establishing that Jareth had not coerced Sarah with her friends or family as leverage, had not extensively brainwashed her, was not a total psycho, or otherwise let it alone and let Jen think what she wanted as persistently defending him would make matters worse, particularly when she analyzed her own explanations. Other details would fall into place as they went.

Still, the first thing Karen and Toby heard when returning about two hours later was Sarah's shout: "If you say 'Stockholm Syndrome' one more time, so help me God, I will turn you into a goon and dump you into the Bog the first chance I get!"

"A goon?" Jen parroted on the verge of laughter.

"Bug-eyed little slimy things, stupid as all get out, southeast corner of the Labyrinth," Sarah huffed.

After a rather unladylike snort from Jen, both girls erupted into laughter.

Toby plopped down next to Sarah on the couch and fixed Jen with condescending stare. "If you knew what the Bog of Eternal Stench smelled like, you wouldn't find it so funny."

Sarah and Jen laughed until their sides ached.

Thankfully, though, when they had recovered themselves enough to speak coherently, Jen seemed to take everything in with much less animosity, until the exchange became more of a conversation and less of an interrogation. After all, Sarah had missed a year and a half of her friend's adventures, too, even if it involved less dirt, blood, and vampires than her own. Karen joined them in and out while Toby waffled between playing a video game in the same room and wanting to get away from "girly talk."

The evening, Sarah recounted later, was comparatively much better than both her afternoon and the previous day. Jen stayed for an early dinner, through the course of which pulled a long and complicated series of promises to affirm that Sarah would in no way disappear literally or figuratively for at least another forty-eight hours, no matter how many times Sarah assured her she would be Aboveground for a little while. After a final assertion, Jen hugged Sarah goodbye to head back home, insisting that some sort of baby shower was an absolute must and under instructions not to be too vocal to the office. Fairly certain that Jen would be back with a companion or two, Sarah waved goodbye to her friend, wondering what she would tell her other friends as both Sarah and Jen agreed that the whole thing probably wasn't to be repeated to the whole group. Still, Sarah couldn't shake her discomfort, when Jen rejoiced that it was all over now, that uncertainty.

Officially talked out for the day, Sarah asked Karen for the journal picked up from the store. Securing herself in the room, Sarah tapped her pen twice against the plain, blue-cloth cover before opening it up. Curling one hand around the necklace, he had given her, Sarah wished herself away, unsurprised when she remained just where she was. She spoke his name once more, willing him to hear that if nothing else.

November 17th, Day 2, she wrote on the top of the page.

This warrants a little introduction, I suppose. Jareth, we're missing our quality time, being stuck on opposite sides of the veil and all. I don't want you to miss anything about me or especially LT. So guess what, buster? The written equivalent is what I've got to work with. You are going to hear about every complaint and every joy, whether this temporary separation lasts eight days or eight weeks. I'll give you this journal personally or find someway to slide it through a gap if some portal isn't big enough for one of us to slide through or give you the best I can remember from it in a dream.

God, I hope you don't think I'm dead. Even if the thought has crossed your mind, if I know you like I think I do, you'll be looking for me as hard as I'm searching for you. This journal will stand as proof that you're in my thoughts. And you will have the opportunity to see them. I pray that this is the only volume I'll have to write.

Regardless, here are the basic facts: I'm okay. LT is okay. I'm staying with my family. The whole veil thing is confusing to me, too.

Most importantly, Jareth, remember I love you.

Sarah sat back for a moment, to absorb what she had written. It wasn't perhaps the best letter she had ever composed, but it covered what she needed it to. She went on to describe her arrival and the sorting of details on her first day back home.

Some time later, Toby knocked on her door, entering without waiting for a response. "We're going to watch a movie, Sarah. Wanna watch with us?"

Sarah tucked the first sonogram picture between the pages and turned back to her little brother. "Sure, Toby. That sounds great."

Toby grinned and took off down the stairs as Sarah wiped away the one tear that had managed to escape, smiling.

Four weeks and a few days (running in a frustratingly linear direction) had passed since the veil had sent a shockwave over his kingdom, and Jareth's magic had still not fully returned. Not that he would let it show. Still, the constant drain made for adverse affects, hence why many Fae, if they did die tended to die during times of war, when their magic had been consistently pulled for years. Granted, this war had not lasted quite as long as the five hundred year war a millennia ago, but circumstances being what they were, well, it still wasn't a quick fix, unfortunately. All the goblins and other creatures under Jareth's care knew that they were to keep an eye out for any sign of their queen as the reconstruction continued. He was more somber, enough that the goblins noticed, but otherwise to his subjects he was the ruler they had always known, as impenetrable as they had always known him. Aside, of course, from those who knew how to read him. Such was another story all to itself.

Jareth took a deep breath. There was her voice again, on the barest periphery of his senses. He could never hear the words around it, just his name. Each day he heard it, and each day he would try to transport to some hazy destination, which was firstly dangerous and secondly blocked by something. His magic, along with the rest of the Underground, was in massive need of recalibration.

Sarah would have laughed, tell him to get over it, having lived most of her life without any magic to speak of. A tentative smile crossed his face, though he quickly shunted it away. Any possible hint of approval was a bad idea in a goblin grievance hearing.

This particular goblin had been bawling for the last four minutes. The chicken statute had been one of his best and simultaneously worst declarations. On the one hand, the goblins had plenty of initiative to work on reparations. On the other, their promised weekly reward of the infamous chicken toss (followed by the chicken chase) led to hoarding of specific birds. "Lutz, give Zam the chicken."

With another wail, Lutz clutched the chicken tighter. It squawked horribly.

"It's not your turn, Lutz. You can either give Zam the chicken now, or you can swim in the Bog and not get another turn for a year."

It was one of his harsher punishments, but it also had the desired affect. With no shortage of tears and an oversized pout, Lutz passed Zam the chicken. Zam stuck out his tongue and stalked off, bird over his shoulder and flapping uselessly.

Lutz sat down, sulking heavily. The rest of the room began to clear as Marek stepped away from the wall and closer to where Jareth sat.

Jareth met his eye. "Any word?"

"Not much, no. Essentially, we were given the same information that Ack had already told us. The veil will take some time to adjust, and until such time all magic is vastly unpredictable."

Jareth gave a small nod. "How long will it take?"

"For the veil? That depends. It hasn't happened often enough to know for sure."

"How long, Marek?"

"Anywhere from five months to several years."

Jareth closed his eyes but said nothing.

Marek grimaced. "On a happier note, they also agree with Ack in that she probably was sucked into the Aboveground. Sarah will be fine."

The unspoken "if she survived the trip" weighed the air around their shoulders.

"'Probably' is not a certainty. We will explore all options."

Marek closed his mouth and sighed, nodding. "As you command."

The goblin Lutz felt that the hall was too easily forgetting his misery and began sobbing all the more loudly at the injustice of the world: "Mean majesty. Lutz miss Pretty Majesty."

Jareth sat up slightly straighter, eyes falling again on Lutz who suddenly looked immensely terrified. Standing up, Jareth strode just in front of the wide-eyed goblin before sitting down next to him, arms resting on his bent knees. Lutz continued to stare, snot dribbling down his nose.

"I miss Pretty Majesty, too," Jareth said quietly.

Power Struggle

A Labyrinth Story
by bobmcbobbob1

Part 44 of 50

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