Continuing Tales

Power Struggle

A Labyrinth Story
by bobmcbobbob1

Part 9 of 50

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Power Struggle

Sarah woke up to the drone of an alarm clock, a sound she decided firmly that she would not miss. She smacked it fondly all the same. She took a quick shower and flumped down on the couch with a cup of coffee and a banana, turning on the news to look for the weather. She settled happily into the couch, remembering the first time she had sunk into layers of padding at the store to where it felt like her knees would fold into her chest. She had bought it right then and eaten Ramen noodles for the next two months. It was well worth it. On a snap decision, Sarah hunted for the crystal and set it on the couch, leaping off of the brown leather as it sucked the small couch into the clear ball. The couch may not fit in well with the décor of her room, but she vowed she would guard it herself from any goblins (or their king) moving it out. Sarah sat down in front of the TV on the carpet with her legs crossed and finished the rest of her banana. The room seemed so empty now, even though the large wooden shelving that held the TV, the matching bookshelves, and glass coffee table stood just where they were. Perhaps she could convince Jareth to let her redecorate her own room.

She glanced at the microwave clock in the kitchen and finished getting ready. Sarah had every intention of arriving early to avoid as much confrontation as possible. Naturally, traffic had other plans.

It was odd, she decided, going to work in jeans though few enough people would be worried about what she wore…especially if she was never going to see them again. Pushing that thought firmly out of her mind, Sarah hopped on the bus and stared out the window. It really wasn't fair. The life she had built was gone. She'd be stuck with Jareth until she died, though knowing Jareth there was probably still some rule that stopped senescence that he'd just failed to mention. Sarah rested her head against the window. Being out of the loop for centuries didn't seem practical, on top of the fact it was rather annoying (hence why Jareth continued the trend, she guessed). What kick Jareth got out of annoying her was beyond her comprehension but, she smiled to herself, king or not he'd have to suffer his own in good time. If there was one thing she had learned thus far about Jareth was that he did have an innate love of games and winning them for that matter. Losing might be good for him every now and again, she thought cheerily.

The bus crawled along in the midst of traffic and Sarah continued to work on her story, still getting nowhere fast. Her thoughts returned to a discursive mess, wondering how much of the Aboveground she was going to miss. Even the scraggly woman who sat next to her on the bus held new novelty in that she'd never share a bus seat with someone probably ever again…unless the Underground developed some sort of mass transit but the thought of goblins in charge of anything but their own feet was terrifying. Signing up to be a traffic cop would be akin to suicide. Even Ludo's reaction time would bar him from driving anything slower than a giant pink snail. Though that produced yet another amusing mental image, Sarah was jolted out of her reverie as the bus gave an almighty lurch, stopping for the umpteenth time.

She was just a few blocks away now. Shrugging, she called out, "Excuse me, can I just get off here?"

The already agitated bus driver grunted and Sarah hurried up to the front and out anyway. Dodging traffic and people alike, Sarah maneuvered her way four blocks west and two blocks north. She rode the elevator anxiously and arrived at her desk after stopping by the recycling sector of maintenance and grabbing a large cardboard box. When she made it upstairs, Jen was focused on the stack of papers in front of her at her desk. Sarah snuck past as quickly and quietly as possible, compiling all her sketchbooks. She slipped as much as she could into the crystal, aware that leaving with a rather full box would be more than obvious (not to mention suspicious) and it would probably be much easier to have Jareth get rid of what she didn't need instead of running into any additional curious coworkers.

"Hey, Sarah," Derek greeted with one of his winning smiles, at least until he realized what she was doing. "Where are you going?" She continued organizing stacks of supplies and papers, refraining from using her crystal for a moment, and refused to look up.

"Sarah's here?" Jen asked excitedly. "I thought I was the only one called in on Saturdays." Her smile slipped as well. "What's going on?"

Sarah looked up guiltily from what she was doing. "I honestly can't explain now, Jen." It was true enough; Sarah was under a time limit and she never got around to figuring out a story. Sarah began filling her box again until Jen's hands wrapped around her wrists and stopped her gently.

"What's going on?" she repeated. "You know you can tell me anything."

"I wish I could, Jen." Sarah's eyes fell to the floor and she held back tears. Jen could obviously tell that something was really wrong and only held her friend in a comforting hug.

"I don't think I'll ever see you again, Jen," Sarah mumbled into her shoulder.

"Why not?" Derek demanded, his face twisted in confusion.

Sarah bit off a short laugh. "You'd never believe me."

Jen crossed her arms in front of her chest, an elegant eyebrow raised in a "Try me" fashion. Sarah tried to return to packing her things but Jen stood in front of her. Derek stood on the opposite side of the desk, blocking her alternative route with another wary look.

"I'd do anything for you, Babe. Tell us how we can help," he coaxed.

Sarah could see Mr. Lawson lean back in his plush chair in his office across the hall; as strict as he was about deadlines, his dry sense of humor had made Sarah glad to have him as a supervisor. He didn't look too pleased now, possibly for the stir they were starting to drum up.

"I really can't say, guys. I'll be fine."

"But you can't say where you're going?" Jen asked with a glimmer of hurt.

"Have you gotten wrapped in something, Sarah?" Derek added.

Sarah allowed a wry grin to grace her features as she haphazardly tossed another item in the box, taking advantage of Jen's distraction. "You could say that, I guess. Despite our differences, Derek, I will miss you. And yes we did have differences before you say anything," Sarah warned, and Derek shut his mouth quickly. "Jen, I think I'm going to miss you most of all." Sarah pulled Jen into a quick hug and started to move toward the door. She stopped at the frame and turned around. "I owe you an explanation someday."

Derek placed a sturdy arm across the doorway. "Sarah, you can't just up and leave."

"I don't have a choice. Get out of my way," Sarah muttered with a hint of annoyance.

"Please, just tell us what's going on," Jen pleaded. "There's always a choice, Sarah."

"Tell that to my fiancé."

Jen and Derek blinked; Sarah bit her lip and cursed her tongue.

"You're engaged?" Jen mustered. "That's great, Sarah, but…well…"

"What kind of hold does this guy have over you?" Derek questioned, obviously still a little dazed and with a steadily growing sense of being miffed, though he wisely said nothing on that vein. Sarah wondered vaguely why she had dumped him, until he mentioned, "I won't let him take you."

The effect undone, Sarah remembered another flaw: "There's no way you could stop him, Derek."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"You don't have enough imagination to fight this guy."

Derek blinked and blinked again. It didn't do much good; he was still hopelessly lost.

"Sarah, there are places you can go. We can keep you safe."

Sarah sighed and ran a hand down her face, the other she set on Jen's shoulder. "I promise, I'll explain this someday. It'll make a hell of a lot more sense later. That's going to have to be good enough for now."

"It's not, Sarah."

Derek agreed with a nod, still mulling it all over. He was still blocking her path. "What do you mean we can't stop this guy? There's always a way, Sarah."

Sarah stepped back and let her box thump to the floor. She held up her hand and a crystal appeared. Sarah, for her part, was just as surprised as Jen and Derek but held the clear glass high in front of them.

"What do you want?" a cold voice echoed from the crystal. Sarah glanced away from Derek to see that Jareth's face did indeed fill the space, clearly annoyed.

"I need to go to my parent's house. Can you send me there?"

"What is that?" Jen murmured, nearly touching the surface with a perfectly manicured nail.

"You're not alone," Jareth spoke without it really being a question.

"Before you start that attitude, I didn't mean to do it."

"What is that thing, Sarah? Who's the hologram?" Derek tapped on the crystal with a soft tink tink that sounded like thick glass.

Jareth turned to face the voice. "This one looks familiar. Yes, I remember."

"You know me?"

"You know him?" Sarah's voice more surprised than Derek's.

"Wished his brother away about sixteen years ago."

"I don't have a brother," Derek retorted quickly.

"Not anymore, no."

Derek's face shifted to a sickly pallor.

"You've got to be kidding me," Sarah said in a low voice, resting her forehead on her palm.

"Some folk do forget more than others, if that answers your question, Sarah," Jareth replied flippantly.

"I had a brother?" Derek mused aloud, finding that each new bit of conversation really didn't seem to clear up much of anything.

Sarah dug into her purse and handed an envelope to Jen. "Give this to Mr. Lawson and if my landlady has any questions about my lease, I trust you'd know what to do better than I would anyway." She turned back to the crystal in her hand. "Jareth? Can you send me there? A secluded part of the park maybe so I don't pop up in the middle of the street?"

Jareth waved an impatient hand. "Yes, yes. I'll send you wherever you need if you stop using magic."

"I keep telling you, I don't mean to."

The crystal faded and dissolved into the air but Jareth's voice was still quite clear: "I've heard that once or twice, yes. You'll be transported in about a minute. I will collect you in another hour or two."

Sarah moved Derek's arm enough that she could shut the door. She turned to Jen and hugged her again. "I don't think I'll be seeing you for quite a long time, Jen. I'll find my way back up here someday."

In the middle of a rather tearful goodbye, Sarah disappeared. Jen stumbled as she was no longer supported by a solid body. Her wide eyes met Derek's equally frightened glance.

Sarah's box had been left on the desk but she still had her purse with the far more important crystal nestled securely. She didn't mind losing the box; it was only the extra junk she was planning on tossing out once she had left the building, saving the cleaning crew some work and ultimately giving whatever detective group her family would hire something more to look for. The park was relatively empty and Jareth had placed her under the branches of a willow tree, obscuring her arrival but making it tricky to dig herself out from the branches.

Once out in the open, Sarah sat down on the stone bridge, wondering if she could disappear if only she leaned back and fell into the water. She needed a moment to gather her bearings, that was certain. Her family could never be bought off with promises of a real explanation eventually. Her father would certainly stand between her and anyone who threatened to take her away. Karen would cling to her stepdaughter as though anchoring her in this world.

Sarah slid back to her feet and turned around, staring in the creek and noting how her reflection had changed, wondering how much more it would change in a century or so (one way or the other). There's no time better to live than in the present, she decided with a laugh to herself. Of course, that may be difficult to balance if Jareth started reordering things around all willy-nilly. Somehow, Sarah could see that as a possibility. At least her life would always be interesting.

With a resigned sigh, she headed home. Whatever was going to come from this mess, she knew she could find a way to be happy…even if that meant sending Jareth to an oubliette for the thirteenth hour of every day. She snickered; it'd be worth it just to try, even if he actually did send her to the bog of stench or the land of incessant goblin music (not a pretty sound at all) or some other mess that strongly dis-appealed to the senses. Sarah stopped in front of her house, willing her mind to take a powerful mental photograph, better than her digital camera that had a habit of erasing what she wanted to keep. As she walked up the stairs on the creaky porch (registering a new fondness for the decaying boards, as she was not trying to sneak in), she was bowled over by Toby. Luckily, she kept her footing well enough to stumble into the wall instead of over the edge.

"Woah, watch it there, kiddo."

"Sarah! I've been looking at stuff on the internet and I've found out a ton of stuff about Fae and it's all really really cool."

Sarah blinked, trying to register what he'd said at that speed and wondering how many Mountain Dews it had taken to get to that point (though more likely it was entirely natural). "Like what, Toby?" she asked, once she'd processed and disentangled herself.

Toby grinned. "Well first off, iron is really bad for them. I mean iron is like one of the only things that can actually hurt them. And their magic comes from—"

"Is that Sarah I hear out there?" her father's voice called from the living room. Toby shut his mouth with a soft pop.

Sarah grinned and stepped through the door. "Yes, Dad. I'm back. I can't stay for very long though."

He wrapped his arms around Sarah for a hug but she had already seen his perplexed face. "Is there something wrong?"

Sarah bit off a short laugh. "Yes and no, Dad." She glanced at her watch, monitoring her time and wishing that she hadn't spent so long on introspection when she would probably find a way to seclude herself later…except for the really curious goblins, of course. In the other room, Sarah could hear Karen intoning her usual polite goodbye and hanging up the phone.

"I suppose I'd better try and explain this to both of you. Karen?"

"Yes, Sarah? When did you get here?" she asked, plopping next to her husband and accidentally setting the throw that rested on top of the couch askew.

"Just a moment ago."

Karen was frowning and Sarah shifted slightly.

"How did you get here? Your car's been here all night."


Judging by the skeptical glance she still held, Karen was unconvinced; Sarah felt as though she were fifteen again…without the whole temper tantrum thing coming on. Sarah plopped down in the armchair that match the couch and Toby, already bored and playing with some video game or another, sat down on the floor next to her.

"I'm going to be out of contact for a while."

Though Sarah didn't know that was possible, Karen's look sharpened. Both parents patiently waited for her to continue and Toby, unhelpful as always, chuckled to himself.

Sarah chose her words slowly and carefully. "I'm leaving the country. There won't be any easy way to contact me. I have some friends who care about me there and will make sure I'm safe. I should be perfectly fine."

"For your sake, young lady, I sure hope there's more to this story," her Dad mentioned, brows twisting down in a different emotion. Karen's face hadn't changed.

"Oh, there's a lot more," Sarah promised. "I just don't know where to begin. Or how much I'm actually allowed to say."

Bob's eyebrows shot up. "Unless you're in some government witness protection program, I suggest you add as many details as possible and start at the beginning."

"Perhaps you could start on how it took you only twenty minutes to get from the city to here?" Karen supplied.

Sarah stared at her. "Well, I…uh."

"That's not possible," Bob answered for her.

"That was Mr. Lawsen on the phone. He was very worried about you, wondering why you suddenly quit your job today."

"He called my parents?" Sarah asked to the ceiling, incredulous.

Bob's eyebrows shot up again. "So you were there?"

Sarah's face fell into a sheepish smile as she laughed nervously. Toby smothered his giggles but was still shaking.

"And what do you know about this, young man?" Karen asked, focusing her Mom-glare at her son.

Toby swallowed. "Well…"

"Do you believe in magic?" Sarah blurted out. It was as good a place to start as any.

"Sarah, is that really important now?"

"Yes, Dad. It's probably the best way to start this whole mess."

Dumbfounded, Bob leaned back into the couch. "I'm listening."

Sarah took a deep breath. "This is all going to sound ridiculous, but I assure you, it's the truth. Please, hear me out before you call the nuthouse. It wouldn't stop him anyway."

"Who, Sarah?" Karen shot in quickly.

"My fiancé." Her parents continued to stare at her. "…We'll get to that."

"I sure hope so," her father grumbled.

"Look, when I was fifteen and had to watch Toby, you guys remember how I was back then. Remember that day I actually started trying? When I wanted to be a family?"

"Not the exact day. But we noticed that you made the effort to meet us halfway."

"One night, I made a wish. I don't know if I actually expected to have it granted or not but all the same, the goblins came to take Toby away."

"Why did you do that?"

Sarah sighed. "That's really not the important part, Dad. The Goblin King, he came and told me I could run the Labyrinth to get Toby back. His name is Jareth and, he's now my fiancé. And I've probably attracted his attention by mentioning his name. It's weird like that." She raised her voice a little bit, "Maybe if he'd come here and help me explain, he could make this much easier!" Sarah glanced around and for some reason wasn't vastly surprised to see he hadn't responded. Her parents seemed slightly frightened at her ravings. "Anyway, like I said we'll get to that part later. Obviously, I opted to run the Labyrinth and made a few friends along the way. If you really want to full story, Toby knows it by heart."

They shot their son a look. He sheepishly sank against the chair, well aware that his information would be thoroughly pumped by the time Sarah had been gone eight minutes. He resumed pretending to play his game though failing to maintain his nonchalance, clearly interested in the conversation.

"He hasn't known for more than a couple years, I'm not quite sure how long. But anyway, back on track here. I really don't have much time for tangents."

"Why not?"

"Because Jareth's going to transport me probably sooner rather than later, knowing him. I might be able to transport myself one day but now I'm sort of dependent. That's how I got her so fast." Karen nodded, more inclined to accept magic than one amazing driver with a flying taxi. "As I was saying, I got to the end of the Labyrinth and won Toby back and thought it was over."

"And?" Karen prompted after Sarah fell silent for a few moments.

"I started having strange dreams and he started appearing places."

"He's stalking you?" Bob rose from his seat, immediately defensive.

"Something like that but it's really more complicated," Sarah tried but her father had already latched on to something that made sense.

"Sarah, you don't have to go anywhere with this guy if you don't want to. He can't force you to quit your job and leave your family. We won't let him."

"Dad, I really appreciate that," Sarah began sincerely. "But it really won't do any good. He's the Goblin King. If he just poofs me away, there's nothing you can do about it, no matter how good an army we raise."

"What's he going to do? Turn us into frogs?"

Sarah couldn't help it as the laughter erupted from her throat. This whole mess was far too absurd. She wasn't sure when Karen pulled her into a hug or when her snorts shifted into sobs.

"I'll miss you all."

Toby wrapped his arms around Sarah's trunk, tired of only watching the ordeal.

"What are you doing, Bob?"

"Calling the police," he shot assuredly over his shoulder.

"Dad, don't. Just don't. I mean it when I said it won't do any good. It'll make it a bigger mess."

Bob joined the hug, adding in tears of his own.

"Sorry to interrupt," a light voice broke through the companionable silence. Jareth sat with his legs flung over the arm of the chair.

"You're early," Sarah muttered, wiping her red eyes on her sleeve.

Bob caught on quickly. "Get out of my home." He stood in front of Jareth with his fists shaking. Jareth didn't seem too worried.

"I'll be gone soon enough. Sarah? Do you have everything?"

Toby still clung to her waist as she rose to her feet. "Almost. I need to run upstairs first."

"Hurry. There's much left to do."

Sarah rolled her eyes and bit off the sarcastic comment she was about to make. Unpeeling from Toby, she snatched her purse and went upstairs. She could hear her father's voice but not what she was saying. Truth was, she didn't need to. She'd known his response since the beginning, only missing on how fast it would all move. Sarah rushed through stuffing what she wanted to keep into the path of the absorbing crystal, trying to finish before her father did something truly stupid.

Too late, Sarah heard a loud thump and bolted down the stairs. Toby had wisely retained his distance, never having seen Jareth in a truly foul mood but Bob was firmly planted to the wall.

"Jareth! Let my Dad go!"

"I do not care to be threatened," Jareth stated simply, as though it explained everything.

Sarah grabbed the lapels of his jacket. "I don't give a damn! I don't care how stressed out you are or what he said, let him go now!"

Jareth dropped his arm to his side and Bob relaxed, sinking to his knees. Sarah noted that Jareth was evidently still annoyed and she knew she'd hear about it later.

"That's no way to meet your in-laws."

The side of Jareth's mouth quirked in a half grin. "I suppose you're right, Sarah."

Bob pulled himself back to his feet, still a little off balance. Jareth held out his hand, from what he had heard of Aboveground customs.

"I am Jareth, King of the Goblins."

Robert Williams practically snarled but shook his hand. "Bob Williams. I still don't want you anywhere near my daughter."

"Your sentiments are noted," Jareth replied cheerily. Sarah hoped a bolt of lightning would find its way through the ceiling and strike her dead.

"Where is your mother?"

By means of introduction, Karen swung a large skillet at the back of Jareth's skull. He fell like a stone into the glopping muck of the bog, helpless to do anything about it. Sarah stared at his limp body and back at Karen. No one had noticed when she snuck into the kitchen or when she had come out again with the large black cookware behind her back. Blood leaked out of Jareth's head, staining his feathery hair.

"Is that a cast iron skillet?" Sarah breathed.

Power Struggle

A Labyrinth Story
by bobmcbobbob1

Part 9 of 50

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