Continuing Tales

Power Struggle

A Labyrinth Story
by bobmcbobbob1

Part 48 of 50

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Power Struggle

He could hear her voice. And her voice was not happy. Distressed, at the very least. Needless to say, Jareth was moving about the castle with a particular urgency.

Marek didn't see his king at first as he strolled down the hallway engrossed in his reading, though the thundering from clouds that had formed over the Labyrinth ought to have been anyone's first clue that something was going on. Jareth knocked the book in Marek's hands shut and seized his arm, propelling him in a new direction.

"Hey, what's going on?" Marek demanded as he found his footing. He was about to complain further when he caught the look on Jareth's face. The majority of it was an attempt at neutral, aside from his exposed gritted teeth. His hair was flashing different colors.

"Right," Marek asserted. "Something big. I'm moving, I'm moving. Alain's in the study if that's where we were heading."

Jareth took the detour suggested by Marek. Marek could then only surmise the situation, thinking through what evidence he had. If Jareth had continued on, then there was some affair of state that needed immediate attention. If he had turned the opposite direction, then he simply wanted a private conversation which could mean any number of different things, likely another controversial lead on bettering the veil. But if Jareth wanted Alain, then he wanted thoughts on Sarah and LT. Marek's took long breath and held it. Seeking Alain with this kind of frenzy did not bode well.

"Is it time?" Marek nearly whispered.

Jareth's jaw tightened further.

Marek wisely said nothing more.

"Alain," Jareth roared, storming into the study (his hair strictly blond, now, through no small amount of effort). Marek quickly shut the door behind them.

"Your highness," Alain demurred with a bow, "What would you request of me?"

"No time for that," he snapped. "What are your most recent calculations in regards to Sarah?"

Alain considered his words carefully, trying to avoid the brunt of Jareth's rage. "It is within the realm of possibility for the child to come now. I take it there has been some indication?"

Jareth held out his hand, slowly unclenching his fingers. "Sarah's voice was ringing through my head, urging me to get there soon. I checked the stone immediately."

The rock was red and pulsing at irregular intervals.

Marek's eyes widened. "Have you had that all along?"

Jareth ignored him. "Alain?"

"The stone's reaction is definite, Jareth. You don't need me to confirm that."

He dropped his arm. "I need to know if the child will be healthy."

"Ah," Alain noted, glad to be back on familiar ground. "I would say we don't have any specific reason to believe otherwise. Given what information we have, it appears Sarah has progressed on a faster but similar trend. It goes without saying that we would like her to be here for the event, ceremony aside. Who can say if they even know what a proper midwife is? The stone, too, is giving no indication of danger, yes?"

Jareth nodded, brows furrowed as he clutched the stone within his fist closer to his chest. "I need to be there."

"Keep an eye on the stone and let me know of any changes. We may be able to use its connection to help her somehow if something goes wrong but only if it indicates something. I'm afraid that's all I can do."

"Have you had that all along?" Marek repeated.

Jareth ignored Marek again. "Using the stone?"

"Only as a focal point," Alain clarified.

"Exactly!" Marek cried. "We could have used this months ago. Why didn't you mention it?"

"It is mine and Sarah's," Jareth answered with a glare.

"But we could use this," Marek insisted. "If we amplify a few things here and there and concentrate one of the six spells I ran across that uses the stone with the veil better than what it was then—"

"Transport could be arranged," Jareth finished. "Let's get to work."

While Jareth was finding reassurance, Sarah was…well, not.

"Why the hell can't we get a room yet?" Sarah demanded, panting from the last wave of contractions, still a good twenty-two minutes apart.

"They're getting it ready, Sarah," Karen reassured her. "Jen's giving them hell."

"Good. They can join me there," she grumbled.

Karen hugged her stepdaughter. "I promised to remind you that you still have your sense of humor, but I don't think I'm quite that cruel."

Sarah's frown crumbled into a soft smile. "Thanks, Mom."

"It'll all be worth it in the end, hon. Just keep focused on that."

Sarah took a deep breath. The next few hours were going to be interesting, to say the least, and long. She closed her eyes and thought as hard as she could in Jareth's direction. For the first time, she heard a response formed in words: "I'm coming." Those words were quickly followed with a series of muted emotions through their bond, emphasizing that the urgency of the situation was understood and amplified by his own. There was a definite sense of hope, meaning that there were a few things he was trying. A soothing stream of wordless support followed.

Breathing a little easier, Sarah opened her eyes as Jen returned.

"Right, someone is coming to show us a room."

"Where's your cousin?" Sarah asked in even tones.

"He's on his way," she assured, beginning to push Sarah's wheelchair in the direction of the nurse's station (the occupants of which wisely made no verbal note to Sarah's change in hair color, even as it faded back to its usual brown).

The admissions volunteer led them down a series of walkways and hallways broken up with atriums filled with benches and plants until they came to the proper wing. The room itself had a bed, a padded rocking chair, an IV pump, a rolling adjustable table tray, two additional chairs, a large TV, and a small bedside table. Sarah noted her surroundings as she entered, aware that she would be very familiar with these walls by the time she left, the utilitarian white broken up by a teddy bear border with pink and blue balloons, a plain clock, and a crucifix. Jen and Karen assisted Sarah into a hospital gown before the nurse returned to start her IV.

Somewhere at that moment, it hit Sarah that this was really happening. She ate some ice chips, not trusting her rolling stomach to hold anything more.

Once Sarah had been situated, supported by her own pillow and covered with her own blanket, Karen excused herself. "I'm going to call the boys, let them know which room we're in. Anything I should have them bring?"

Sarah shook her head. She reached over to pick up the communication crystal. Staring in, she prayed to see a wisp of blond hair.

The TV began to flicker on and off. Sarah glanced around to make sure no one was sitting on a controller, but no such luck. Sarah took a few long, deep breaths, preparing herself.

"Hey!" Jen yelped, raising out of her chair and scrabbling to grab on to something. "Sarah, put me down!" As the contraction hit, Sarah vaguely noted that Jen had bumped into the ceiling, though she kept enough sense to push Sarah's IV pole back toward the ground so it wouldn't be pulled from her arm.

"Sorry," Sarah grunted.

There was a quick knock on the door and Dr. Yeardly entered, too busy pulling on a pair of gloves to immediately notice his cousin on the ceiling. When it did occur to him that his cousin was successfully defying gravity, he only raised an eyebrow.

"Hey, cuz."

Jen stared at him, still struggling with the IV pole.

"How're we doing, Sarah?"

Sarah took a couple shallow breaths, half scowling and unaware that her hair was changing color again, along with her eye color flashing a range of impossible colors. Jen caught herself on the IV pole as she fell back to her feet then knocking over her chair as she fell. Scrambling up, Jen glared at her cousin.

"I don't see how you can be so calm about all this. It's like the Exorcist in here, for God's sake."

"Jen," Doc chided gently, "If I panicked every time a baby was born, I wouldn't be a very good obstetrician, now would I?"

Sarah laughed, suddenly relieved to have him in the room.

"If this is just the first few quirks, this could get interesting," Sarah admitted. "Jen, if you see the IV line turn into something it really shouldn't, I give you my permission to pull it out."

Doc nodded. "Probably a wise precaution." He proceeded with all the necessary questions as to how far apart Sarah's contractions were and any other specifics they could offer him before he proceeded with a quick exam.

"Still a ways to go," he declared with a small smile. "I know we have mentioned it before, Sarah, but I will say it again. I believe a natural birth is the best plan. We just don't know what sort of reaction your child will have to whatever drugs we could give you."

Sarah nodded. "I know, barring an emergency cesarean. I was listening. I just didn't want to think about it."

"Anything I can get you to make you more comfortable?"

Sarah smiled at his concern. "Not yet."

He nodded and left to go attend to something at the nurse station, promising to check back on her shortly.

Jen rubbed her head where she had bumped it. "I think I'm going to need as many days to recover from this as you will, Sarah. Being a supportive friend is pretty hazardous."

"You knew what you were getting into," Sarah pointed out.

"No, I don't think I did. No regrets all the same. Who wants a boring friendship? I'm going to get some caffeine. I think I'm going to need it. Sure I can't get anything for you?"

Sarah shook her head, her stomach still churning.

"I'll be right back."

Sarah picked up the communication crystal again, still brown and translucent. "Okay."

There was a tiny explosion of smoke as the crystal hit the stone. Apparently, it had been a good idea to stand back, particularly as the smoke was soon followed by vortex that took up half of the wall, absorbing only green objects for no discernable reason before imploding on itself.

"Well, a dramatic failure like that means were closer to finding the correct answer, right?" Marek supplied from behind his screen, the green tie that held his hair back now missing. "I'm not even sure whether the vortex was to take you there or spit her out."

"Hence why when I make a suggestion I think through it," Jareth growled behind clenched teeth.

"At least the vortex was there, though I don't understand the green." He snatched another volume, pouring through it as the sun was beginning to set over the Labyrinth. They had sequestered themselves in the library for a few hours now, Sarah's demands for his arrival still pounding in Jareth's head. He could hear more of her words. Surely they were getting closer.

But they were also getting sloppy, this being the last of a series of attempts. Had Marek's half-baked idea pulled Sarah through the vortex at this time or had any party been caught, the situation would be much worse, to say the least. Jareth raked a hand through his hair, staring out across the Labyrinth as his mind plowed through one scenario after the next.

He pulled off his glove and set his hand on the smooth surface to their stone, nearly pulling his fingers away at the unexpected heat until it cooled under his touch, still pulsing. Marek continued to murmur half-formed sentences as he jumped from one text to another. Jareth watched him though his focus was still on the fast beating from the stone. He fed it his magic, wishes, prayers, and positive thoughts. The stone turned blue for a moment, and Jareth smiled. "Message received," it seemed to say.

"How did you do that?" Marek demanded. "Blue was mentioned in one of these, I swear…"

Jareth sighed. "Marek, we're not getting anywhere. All of the solutions that could feasibly work require more preparation, weeks worth. They simply were not made for this."

Marek slumped into his chair with a grimace. "I didn't want to be the one to say it. I was hoping for a moment of frantic inspiration."

"It's nearly nightfall," Jareth noted. "There is another option we haven't explored."

Marek frowned. "I don't think the Spirit of the Moon grants many requests, if that's what you're thinking."

"Outside of his duties, not often, no. But I need to try."

"He might not do it for free," Marek pointed out.

Jareth hardly needed to be reminded of the rules and quirks of the world he lived in. "I have a case I can present."

Marek eyed him warily. "Don't do anything too stupid. A rash decision now could affect everyone in the kingdom."

Jareth's glare read that he most certainly did not need to be reminded of that, and Marek wisely stopped speaking, breaking eye contact and taking a more submissive mien. "I suppose it's worth a try. There was some mention about the moon knowing its own, whatever that means. I had thought you didn't like meeting with him."

"It's not necessarily a matter of like," Jareth clarified.

"I guess the only thing, then, is what we're going to do until night falls."

Both Fae let their eyes veer to the orange cast coloring the Labyrinth as the sun continued its downward path. A few hours at least, until the moon would be in the proper position. Pity he could not reorder time until the veil returned to normal.

With a sigh, Jareth murmured, "We wait."

Dr. Yeardly stood in a corner, cleaning off his fingernails in an effort not to look anywhere. Or at least Dr. Yeardly's body was off to the side. Toby's body, however, was stripping off a pair of gloves and standing up from the examination. "About six centimeters. We're getting closer, Sarah."

"This is officially the weirdest thing ever," her father who was really Jen commented.

"You're telling me," Sarah laughed hollowly. "I was just examined by my kid brother, for God's sake. The nurse was just lucky she stepped out in time."

"The other kids would never believe this," Jen who was really Toby asserted, looking at his temporary body with curiosity.

"It should wear off in a moment or two," Sarah declared airily.

"I hope so," Dr. Yeardly who was really her father declared, "For your mother's sake at the very least."

The room turned to look at Karen, the potted plant. She shook her leaves.

"Someone hand me my camera and my journal," Sarah asked, trying to suppress her laughter. "This is just too good to leave out."

"I'm glad it's making you feel better," her father who was actually Jen replied in gruff tones.

"I guess I'll wait here until it wears off," Toby who was really Doc breathed. "It's strange to be this short again."

Toby in Jen's body frowned.

"Just think, Doc, if LT decides to leave this minor alteration. We'll all have to wait until Jareth gets here," Sarah sniggered.

Her father who was Jen chuckled, too, then the TV began to flicker again. The group met one another's gaze, wondering just what was going to happen next. Sarah watched as their eyes glazed over, and Karen reappeared next to them.

"That was…strange," Karen commented, wiping invisible dirt from her hands. "How are you, Sarah?"

"I've been here seven hours, Jareth still isn't here, and God knows if this hospital is going to make it through all this weird shifting. Just peachy, Mom."

Karen squeezed her hand. "I know it's not easy, sweetie, and I know it hurts, but you'll be holding your baby soon and all these months will be worth everything."

It was a little hokey, perhaps, but it gave Sarah some reassurance, particularly paired with Jareth's steady stream of support muted in her mind. He was there as much as he could, given whatever was still holding them apart.

"He'll be here," Sarah murmured, as though trying to convince herself.

Karen looked to the rest of her family. "Are they alright?"

Sarah gave a small smile. "They will be. Just give them a moment."

Her father seemed to shake it off first. "Are you two okay?"

"We're fine, Dad. Take a seat."

"This day has certainly been memorable for more reasons than one," he observed dazedly.

"I don't think you want it over faster than Sarah does," Jen rang in.

"What else are you going to do, Sarah?" Toby asked, more eager than anyone else about the whole thing.

"Don't have any control so I can't rightly say," Sarah replied, ruffling his hair.

Doc took a moment to check himself over. "I don't have a tail or anything else, do I? Hair the right color?"

"Can't really tell under the cap, there, Doc. After today, though, you can really say you've seen it all."

He smiled. "Except that I can't tell anyone the details, aside from where it specifically affects your continued treatment. Which reminds me, I need to talk to the next nurse on shift. We'll see how much I can prepare her."

"Good luck," Jen called after him. "I'd say this couldn't get much worse, but we both know what that does."

"Please, don't," Karen begged.

Sarah agreed. It was going to get more difficult, she could tell, if the intensity of the labor pains with less and less time in between to recover were any indication. By the looks of things, though, her family was setting up camp. Toby didn't have school the next day, but he seemed caught between wanting to be there to make his sister smile and fidgeting. Her father was at a loss and benefitted from Jen's soothing presence as much as Sarah did. Whenever he felt especially uncomfortable (or some sort of smell was getting to him), he went down the gift shop to pick up a different flower or trinket, hence the small pile on the window ledge. As for Karen, Sarah really wasn't sure what she would do without her, her attitude toward the magical and medical changes along with her constant support made the whole situation almost tolerable.

Sarah allowed her head to flump back on the pillow. "So, how about them Yankees?"

"What?" Jen asked.

"I don't know. Just talk about something, anything, please."

Jen was very good at playing the distraction, but LT was better. Her family braced themselves for whatever additional "symptoms" would present themselves. A difficult few hours, indeed, she mused. Who could say what would be after body swapping in LT's agenda? Out-of-control magic was not helpful in the best of times.

The contraction was long and painful, and Sarah felt that she would break the sidebar of her hospital bed should she hold on any stronger. Gritting her teeth, she looked over at the crystal: still brown. She gingerly settled back to the bed again, breathing heavily as her mother wiped her brow and spoke in soothing tones, completely unaware that she was speaking backwards.

Jareth appeared along the mosaic girl's wall. She appeared to have been waiting for him and curtsied.

The words appeared next to her head: "You're looking for the Spirit of the Moon again, yes?"

Jareth nodded, not trusting his voice.

"I will show you."

With a small dive, Jareth shifted into an owl to better keep up with her, banking around corners in an effort to soothe his own hurried thoughts. The mosaic girl stopped just in front of the moss glade, where the stone shifted to shrubbery. She pointed.

"In there," the word above her head directed.

"Thank you," Jareth replied, eyes focused on the swatches of light peeking through the formed branches.

Again the Spirit of the Moon walked along the trees, oblivious to the world other than the natural subjects of whatever his imagination and sight could stir.

Jareth set his hand on the figure's shoulder, causing the glowing man to turn with curious eyes.

"I need your help."

"King of the Goblins, you never come to just talk," he replied with a sigh. "I help you too much as it is."

"I wouldn't ask if I could think of any other option," Jareth declared softly. "Please. My wife is in labor. I would wish more than anything to be there."

The Spirit of the Moon gave a small frown. "You are sure?"

Jareth revealed the stone, the red pulse shifting purple.

The Spirit nodded. "You are sure." He seemed momentarily distracted by a firefly across the glade, particularly as it spewed a small burst of fire. Then, he frowned again, considering. "The price would be too much. I am sorry."

"No, that cannot be your answer," Jareth insisted, anger and desperation warring for his face.

The Spirit of the Moon rested a hand on Jareth's shoulder. "I'm afraid so. I pity you, Goblin King, but this is the world order as it currently stands."

"Damn order," Jareth growled, jerking away from the Spirit's grasp. "This is a land of change."

"But this change falls in a structure," the Spirit explained slowly. "I cannot."

"Even for your own grandchild?" Jareth erupted.

The Spirit stood very still for a long moment. "I do not remember—"

"Father, there are many things you don't remember," Jareth interrupted gently. "You're right. I do not come just to talk. I find it too…strange…and the conversation too stilted when there are so many things I cannot speak of. Few even knew about it when it happened." The confusion still plain on the Spirit's ethereal face, Jareth continued, "There were many conditions involved in becoming the new Spirit of the Moon. You were chosen. You were needed. I do not begrudge you for accepting. You no longer recognized me nor have you shown me any partiality, such was the goal." Jareth took a deep breath. "I would never have dared to try in most any other circumstance. You asked me not to, much as I might have wanted to."

The glow in the moss glade seemed to ebb. The Spirit stood in front of Jareth and scrutinized his face. Jareth did not meet his gaze, his heart pounding in his ears: this response could end in the stripping of his title or death. Even Marek didn't know that small detail. The Spirit directed Jareth's face to turn with a knuckle.

After an impossible silence, the Spirit murmured, "That's my chin."

Jareth could have wept with relief, but the Spirit could still decide an extreme punishment for disrupting his sense of order. "So Mother said."

"Your mother?"

"She died before you left," Jareth admitted.

The Spirit of the Moon was at a loss, the light from his skin dimming to a much less blinding level if still an unnatural glow. He took off his headpiece, revealing short, sandy hair. "How?"

"It's a long story. In the end, dragon flu."

"But for that to have happened…"

"Again, it's a long story. If you wish, I will tell you another time. But now there are still more pressing matters."

"It does seem remarkably familiar, somehow, so much to take in. I have a son, a daughter-in-law, and a grandchild on the way," the Spirit mused in wonder. "Anything else I'm missing? I guess that would explain a couple things. I will need to talk to that Ack creature at some point. Regardless, it still cannot be done, especially now." He face reflected genuine sorrow.

Jareth could have torn his hair out. "Why?"

The Spirit—though now his face more resembled the man Jareth had once known—met Jareth's eyes with a bit of a scold, as though to remind him not to raise his voice. "I cannot allow you to take the risk. There is a cost. And any method I have might take more time than you can spare, thus making that cost in vain. The veil will right itself eventually."

Jareth closed his eyes, shoving aside his inner panic and despair with practiced control. "Father, what kind of compromise can we manage?"

"Remember, Sarah, when I said that it was like The Exorcist in here? I guess I spoke too soon."

"Jen! That is not helping at just this moment!" Sarah panted. This part was not fun. Not fun at all. After twelve hours, Doc caught sight of the head, even directing Sarah's hand so that she could feel the damp hair of her child's head. The fetal monitor had been taken off, as it kept turning into other things. The major objects in the room that did not seem to fit included a nurse working with Doc and the fresh equipment he had asked her to bring. Most everything else was a spot-on match for the castle in the center of the Labyrinth. An eyed lichen in a damp corner read through one of the magazines Sarah's father had brought up on one of his many excursions—he and Toby were waiting out in the hallway, though dressed in an incredible facsimile of the clothing of the court. Apparently, there was a stairwell in the hospital now that only led down, regardless of how one climbed. The torches on the wall somehow did not set off the fire alarms, and the crest of the Goblin Kingdom took the place of the TV. The clock had changed to thirteen hours but had so far refused to keep any sort of accurate time. The nurse continued to eye it warily, until the situation pulled her back. Karen and Jen, garbed in gowns of a different sort than Doc, were on either side of her.

There was a small knock on the door. "Doctor, did you need…" The nurse's aide trailed off as she took in the room.

"Another gawker," Jen noted.

Between breaths, Sarah managed, "I don't care if they sell tickets at this point!"

Jen and Karen continued to cheer her on best they could, secretly wishing they could feel their fingers again.

"The head is out," Doc announced, pulling a bulb syringe from the kit to suction LT's mouth.

Sarah gave an odd sound between a laugh and a sob. Then she took a few shallow breaths. "Oh, God…the shoulders."

"Almost there," Karen and Jen seemed to chant at her.

The world seemed to slow for Sarah. At first, she thought it was just one of those moments where your body takes everything in and a series of profound thoughts explode over the conscious. But no, everything was actually moving significantly slower. Sarah took a much-needed moment to breathe.

"LT, if you reorder time and make this last any longer than it needs to," Sarah calmly said, "You will be so grounded before you leave the crib. No magic ponies either."

It didn't hurt here, at least. And it seemed that things were progressing all the same, Doc focused and moving, albeit very, very slowly. Jen and Karen were watching her with concern and frantic energy, the blue and pink sleeves of their gowns brushing her arms though she couldn't feel it. Sarah glanced around, wondering if Jareth could do anything in this lull in time. Releasing the bar of the bed from her aching fingers, Sarah laid a hand on top of the necklace he had given her.

"Jareth, now would be a good time for a dramatic entrance," she whispered. "You've missed enough already."

"Sarah," a familiar voice breathed back, echoing in the odd muted space, sounding strained.


Sarah snapped back as a louder voice caught her attention, her mother taking her face into her hands. She stared at her mother in mild surprise, and then the pain returned causing Sarah's breath to freeze in her throat.

"Breathe, honey," Karen reminded. "Almost done. One more push," she coached.

Doc, mindful of both of his patients, told her what was happening and directed the gawker nurse—Daphne, he had barked—to watch over Sarah. Then she was all reassuring business.

One last push, indeed, was all it took, everything being relatively easy past the shoulders.

"You're doing wonderfully, Sarah," he encouraged, taking a couple of clamps from his instrument tray. "Absolutely textbook, aside from the whole changing the walls upside-down and around."

Sarah gave him a weak smile. Then she could hear nothing but a cry, exploding into an indignant wail. Laughing and crying herself, Sarah fell back to the bed. Jen and Karen hugged her and each other excitedly, stumbling through congratulations and shouts of joy and relief.

Sarah's smile collapsed, and Karen caught her eye. "What's wrong, Sarah?" The nurse, too, seemed ready to leap at any indication.

"He…he didn't make it." A fresh line of tears fell down her cheeks.

"Oh, sweetie," Karen murmured, hugging Sarah.

The walls were beginning to fade back to their original white, the clock having already righted itself to note a proper time of birth, seemingly fixing itself there. LT was still displaying the strength of new lungs as the nurse took to an efficient cleaning before swaddling the infant.

"Ms Williams," she beamed, handing off the bundle, "your daughter."

Her face was red. Her skin was blotchy. Her face was scrunched, though the cries had tapered off. Her tuft of damp, light-brown hair was sticking out of a pink cap at strange intervals.

Sarah had never seen anything so beautiful in her life.

Another line of tears streamed down Sarah's face. "So you're what I've been waiting for all this time. I'm so glad you're here. Brianna Iris, you have no idea how much I love you."

The first of many to come, Sarah kissed her daughter's forehead.

"Your daddy's going to love you, too."

Power Struggle

A Labyrinth Story
by bobmcbobbob1

Part 48 of 50

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