Continuing Tales

Most Prized Possession

A Labyrinth Story
by Jester3

Part 27 of 42

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Most Prized Possession

The darkened gala continued to pulse with the carousal of its masked revelers, despite the temporary absence of its notorious host. Many dazzling pairs of masked guests spun and whirled in unison to the haunting music as two celestial bodies appeared on the horizon of the whimsical masquerade. They appeared side by side, one wearing the golden face of the blazing sun, the other bearing the quiet silvery visage of the moon.

They were both breathtaking in their own right. The pale moon, ethereal in his silver beauty, made only more attractive by his somber demeanor and cool arrogance. He emitted confidence and authority rather than soft illumination. His lithe relaxed body and haphazard smile graced him with an air of casual aloofness. At his side shone his own bright sun, charming and radiant in her warm golden tones. Where he was nonchalant and reserved in his cool appearance, she was warm and impassioned, brimming with vitality.

Sarah took a deep sobering breath as Jareth's gloved hand closed around hers. Despite the fact that she was fully clothed in her formal attire with her gilded mask securely in place, she felt incredibly exposed and vulnerable after all that had taken place between herself and the Goblin King.

Her thoughts were a tempestuous storm as her mind reeled over what had and what had almost taken place. Jareth had kissed her. He had touched her, and he had nearly seduced her. If she had allowed his actions to persist even a moment longer she would have surrendered and made love to him right there.

More than a good part of her mourned the fact that she had halted him in his seduction, for she had to admit that seduction was one art that he had apparently mastered. There was no doubt in her mind that unlike her previous sexual escapades, this particular one would have left her quite satisfied.

Just the thought of how close they had come, was staggering. What was worse was the fact that her body was still punishing her for stopping him. The ache that persisted cared nothing for declarations of love, nor mutual understanding, it merely hungered for gratification, which his body would have no doubt effectively provided. Though she knew she had done the right thing, she still suffered because she was a slave to her desire, especially when it came to Jareth.

Jareth watched from a distance as Sarah found a spot alone at the feasting table. She glanced left and right to make sure no one was paying her much mind before she slid her mask up to rest upon her forehead. She was positively starving and the spread of delicacies was just begging to be sampled.

She took a handful of sugar-coated grapes and selected a goblet of sweet wine. Jareth watched with amusement as she popped a plump grape into her mouth. Sarah suddenly felt a pair of eyes on her as she sipped her wine. She looked over the rim of her glass to see that Jareth was staring at her with a faint smile. Her face flushed automatically in response to his scrutiny as she looked away quickly, turning her attention to a large display of sweet meats and cheeses. Jareth was lost in his appraisal of her, when a smooth youthful voice shook him from his reverie.

"She's quite striking isn't she?"

Jareth didn't have to glance over his shoulder to know it was Nyx. He would have recognized that voice anywhere, like a viper with a saintly whisper. The sound washed over Jareth like a fog rolling in and it chilled his very blood. His face immediately became set into its usual mask of indifference as he turned to regard the stormy eyed young man who had sidled up to him.

Nyx was no longer wearing his raven's mask, and looked thoughtful as he gazed intently at Sarah, adding in that same satin whisper, "Strange...She bears a startling resemblance to your page boy."

Jareth had been anticipating the comment and coolly countered, "No, it isn't strange at all, considering that Sargonne is her twin brother." Nyx's eyes widened as he turned to Jareth and quipped, "The brother she wished away to the Goblins and won back?"

Jareth shook his head and corrected, "No. You speak of her youngest brother, Tobias."

The young man replied, "Ah. I didn't realize that she had more than one brother." Jareth found his sudden interest unnerving and remarked, "Yes well, I suspect there is much you don't know about Sarah or Sargonne."

Nyx ignored the jeer and pressed, "Tell me Jareth, how did you come by them...This time around?"

Jareth didn't care for Nyx's line of questioning and wondered at his motives. With thoughtful consideration he replied, "Sargonne has lead a troubled life, and he wished himself into my care."

Nyx's face was grave as his eyes drifted back to Sarah and he mused, "And what of Sarah?" Jareth noticed that as Nyx watched her, the corners of his mouth curved upward in an appreciative, but humorless smile.

Jareth leveled a cool gaze at him, realizing that the smile reminded him of the ravenous expression of a starving wolf or other such unpleasant predator. Gruffly Jareth replied, "She too is here by choice..." and with an icy grin he finished, "...and that is all you need know about her."

Nyx took a quick draught of his wine and apologetically assured, "I didn't mean to pry your majesty. It's just that everyone is curious about her." Jareth raised a finely arched eyebrow and replied, "Ah. I see, and I suppose you too are wondering if there is any truth to the rumors that have no doubt begun to circulate?"

Nyx shrugged innocently and countered, "I can't help but be curious about your intentions. Everyone knows that the Goblin Kingdom has been without a Queen since long before your reign, and well, it makes for tempting speculation when the girl on your arm happens to be the same human girl who was the only one able to solve your labyrinth." Jareth grinned menacingly and coolly replied, "Yes well, I don't want to ruin the suspense." With that he offered Nyx a feral parting grin and stealthily made his way to Sarah's side.

Sarah was just finishing her wine when she felt an iron grip on her wrist. She tensed with surprise at Jareth's husky whisper, velvety smooth, as it was commanding, "You owe me a dance."

She was too startled by his sudden intrusion to offer any objection as he started to drag her through the oppressive crowd. In a matter of moments he found a suitable spot, hardly long enough for her to generate something coherent to say. He wound one arm possessively about her waist, pulling her close as his hand caught hers in it's leather grasp.

She was forced to look at him as he swiftly lead her right into the dance. She couldn't prevent her eyes from traveling up his long lean form before they settled on his stubborn arrogant face. Her eyes drifted over his lips, thin in a twisted cynical smirk, before terminating at his enthralling gaze.

His eyes were compelling, magnetic. One a cool Nordic blue, the other a warm tawny hazel. They were fathomless, ageless, and entirely captivating, so much so that she feared she might become lost forever, every time she gazed into their bewitching depths.

His features were so perfect, that any more ethereal delicacy would have made him too beautiful to be a man. Quickly she reminded herself that in fact, he was no mere man. He was Fae, a powerful, immortal King, who also happened to be very easy on the eyes.

Once again she suddenly felt very small and insignificant, for what would a creature like him want with someone so plain and ordinary as herself. She masked her inner turmoil with deceptive calmness as she demanded in a cool whisper, "What's with the urgency?"

His voice was deep and sensual, sending a ripple of awareness through her, "Forgive my haste...I simply desired the pleasure of your company."

She raised an eyebrow, shooting him a wry look as he leaned forward and lowered his voice, "Well that and I thought I'd spare you from any more of that reprehensible boy's lecherous looks..."

His eyes slid sideways and Sarah followed his gaze spying Nyx lurking against the wall, his steely eyes still fixed on the two of them.

Sarah gaped in disbelief as she quickly turned back to Jareth. His eyes flicked towards the young man again as he finished, "...While you were drinking, he caught a glimpse of your face, I must say he appeared to be rather taken with you..."

Sudden fear made Sarah's breath catch in her throat causing her voice to break as she hissed, "Oh no, He saw me!? Do you think he'll tell Taibarr? What did he say?"

Jareth smiled smugly before he began in a satisfied whisper, "He did notice that you bear a certain resemblance to my page...but never fear, I quickly gave him a believable explanation."

Her brow shot up in surprise and she lowered her voice, "You did? What did you tell him?"

The corner of his mouth tugged into a confident smirk before he replied, "I told him that Sargonne is your twin brother."

She was quick to retort, "And he believed you?"

His tone was matter-of-fact, "He has no reason not to."

Sarah sighed at his confidence, but she wasn't totally relieved. He sensed her lingering anxiety and for a moment his expression softened as he urged, "Don't think on it. There's no cause for alarm."

He offered her a mischievous smile as he went on, "Come, the night is still young for reveling, you might as well at least pretend that you are enjoying my company."

A sly smile found it's way through her mask of uncertainty as he finished, "Come the very least you have to admit that I'm an exceptional dance partner."

Her gentle laugh rippled through the air as she admitted, "Well, you're much better than Kayla...and I haven't fallen on my face yet, so that must count for something."

His tone was skeptical as he twirled her around and murmured "Count for something..." She was brought back face to face with that disarming smile of his as he huskily added, "Well that simply won't do..."

The arm about her waist tightened, drawing her closer to him as he leaned in and whispered in that throaty sultry voice, "I suppose I will have to show you then...Just how good I can be."

The suggestiveness of his insinuation was not lost on her, and it brought the heat back to her cheeks as she swallowed at his suggestion. In a hitching breath she stammered, "That's really not necessary...I...I wasn't implying...that...I mean...I don't really I really can't compare..."

Her protest fell on deaf ears as he merely flashed her a dangerous smirk and interjected, "Perhaps the music is a bit too reserved...maybe you'd prefer something more stimulating?" He leaned in and whispered into her hair, "Perchance something more akin to your aboveground tastes?"

She was suddenly acutely aware of the fact that he had pulled her so close that she could feel his thighs moving against hers, and his warm breath drifting over her ear. His arm was tightly holding her waist, and his other hand opened, only to close again and clasp her hand more securely, interlacing his fingers with her own.

She closed her eyes in attempt to suppress the barrage of erotic sensations, to find that it only heightened each and every one. His dark velvety voice interrupted her thoughts as he whispered, "Think of a song...any piece of music that pleases you...something that stirs you..."

She frantically struggled to keep her mind blank, afraid of what he might try to demonstrate. But like any situation where you try to refrain from thinking of something, undoubtedly your brain rebels and offers some thought, which always seems to be the very thought that fills you with dread.

To her dismay, for a split second she faltered, and she imagined the type of song one might hear in a modern Aboveground dance club. A lilting but pulsing kind of music that often results in the slow but deliberate kind of dancing that prompts even complete strangers to go home with one another.

As soon as the thought came, she banished it, but it was too late. To her horror, a very real version of the music she envisioned suddenly filled the room and it was even more compelling than she imagined it.

Her eyes flew open in shock. He was staring intently at her, with a thoughtful expression as he discerned the strange new music. The crowd around them took to the new music immediately, emphatically dancing in a self absorbed hedonistic manner that wasn't much different than what Sarah herself had witnessed countless times in aboveground bars and clubs.

Jareth's attention was drawn to a nearby couple, who seemed entirely oblivious to his watchful eyes. They moved rhythmically against one another, hands and mouths liberally exploring, as they became consumed with their own brazen display of lust.

A Jareth witnessed this, his lips curved into a self-assured smirk. Her choice could not have been more perfect. This was almost going to be too easy.

For Sarah it was an effort to keep from gaping with an open mouth. Having seen enough of the type of behavior the music elicited, Jareth turned back to Sarah, and he seemed full of purpose. She was in serious trouble.

His eyes met hers and the heat in his gaze was unequivocal. Not a trace of a smile graced his face. His expression was intense, his sights set resolutely on her.

Her heart felt as though it were slamming against her ribcage as her breath caught in her throat in anticipation. She knew that look. She was so dead.

His eyes never left her face as arms encircled her waist, drawing her nearer, in the most natural and deliberate manner. Dizzy euphoria washed over her as she tentatively wrapped her arms about his shoulders.

Very slowly he started to move with her, the trancelike music mimicking her dazed state, as his lithe body moved gracefully against hers, warm and solid. The combination of the evocative music, and his close proximity was overwhelming.

His scent was reminiscent of sweet exotic spices mixed something that reminded her of winter and magic. She breathed deeply, committing the scent to eternal memory, as it was sweeter than anything she had ever known.

His eyes darted to her lips, once, twice, before capturing her warm gaze again. She was amazed at how serene and inviting he could be when he wanted to be. A faint smile of satisfied contentment touched his lips as she moved in unison with him.

The tempo of the music increased and she relaxed her body against him. Her heart fluttered wildly in her chest as his hands splayed out, moving gently and persuasively up the length of her back. Her eyes raked hungrily over his face, and she found him so beautiful that it was heart wrenching.

Their dance continued and her pulse hammered away. His appeal was devastating. Longing assaulted her in a way she had never known, as her subconscious warned that such a feeling could never last. A sinking dread filled her as she reminded herself that his role in her life was not permanent.

In less than a year's time she would have fulfilled her end of their bargain and she would go home. A new anguish touched her heart as she realized that once this was all over she would probably never see him again. Reason told her that she should be relieved to rid herself of the Goblin King once and for all, but that was not at all how she felt. Instead she felt uncomfortable misery at the thought.

How had things become so confused? If he was her adversary, than why was she so drawn to him, and why did the thought of going home suddenly fill her with so much dread? The idea that she had feelings for him was nothing new, but it was time she fully examined the depth of those feelings instead of shoving them aside. Impatiently she pulled her drifting thoughts together and the terrifying realization washed over her with fearful clarity. In the past she had known it had been a risk. A distant possibility...but now she felt it with absolute certainty. She was in love with him.

The thought froze in her brain. It was preposterous. It was insane. It was suicide. But the admission was dredged from a place beyond logic and reason. She could deny it all she wanted, but it wouldn't change anything. She was desperately, and hopelessly in love with the Goblin King.

His silky whisper came hot against her ear and it startled her out of her thoughts, "How's this? An improvement, don't you think?"

Not trusting herself to speak, she merely nodded. Her knees felt week and she clung to him for fear of losing her balance. He found her response encouraging, and his hands made their way up her body to cradle her face. Her eyes met his for a brief moment, like sparkling pools of jade liquid, and for the first time they were soft rather that fierce. To his astonishment they held no defiance or malice, but rather a sort of pleading sadness. Moved by the emotion in them, he lowered his lips to hers and kissed her tenderly, in a light and teasing manner.

For Sarah, it was maddening to feel his mouth on hers like that, with so much pent up longing and promise that it shattered her resolve. She wanted to just give in so much. It would have been such a relief to throw caution to the wind and let him drag her to his bed, even if it meant leaving right now in the midst of the ball.

It wasn't decency or pride that was stopping her, not this time. The only thing she clung to was the notion that no matter how wonderful the moment would be, sooner or later they would have to come up for air. Morning would come, and there would be consequences.

The one that weighed the heaviest on her was, What if he didn't love her? What if, for him, this was just a temporary infatuation? What if he tired of her after she gave him what he wanted? He was, at times, so much like a spoiled child that she knew this could be a very real possibility. Or even worse, what if this was all some sick game of his, to settle the score and have his revenge? Was she willing to place her heart in his hands? This was Jareth, afterall.

If she went through with this, and allowed their actions to be taken to completion, things would be different. Would she be able to handle making love to him, knowing full well that things could so easily fall apart? What if she failed to hide her true feelings in the heat of the moment?

Would she be able to accept one night of passion, enjoy it, and then walk away with her heart in one piece? She didn't even have to give it a second thought. She already knew the answer. No, she wouldn't. She was already in too deep. If she took that final step she knew she would not come out unscathed. Whether he knew it or not, it seemed that in the end, the Goblin King did have a great deal of power over her because she already loved him.

Jareth moved to deepen the kiss and for a moment Sarah melted into him. Torn between ecstasy and agony she barely managed to stifle a sob as her hands suddenly slid down over his chest to push him off.

She fought hard to keep her tears at bay and clenched her jaw to kill the sob in her throat as she finally managed to tear her mouth from his. Her hands were still braced against his chest to keep him away as she struggled to take in some air.

She finally caught her breath enough to speak, and to her dismay her voice shook as badly as her insides, and her words came out in a choked whisper, "Please...stop."

For a moment he seemed taken aback, then his eyes clouded with some dark emotion making his expression grim as he implored her, "Sarah..."

She quickly turned her back on him, afraid she would lose her composure. She took a few deep breaths before she began in a shaky, desperate voice, "I'm asking you nicely...please...if there's a shred of decency within you...please...don't do that again."

He spoke from behind her and to her amazement he didn't sound angry. His voice was soft, almost coaxing as he replied, "Do mean kiss you?"

She nodded her head sharply in affirmation as the aboveground music died away and something softer and more formal began. He stepped close behind her, his breath was warm on her cheek and his voice soothing as he offered, "Very well, I won't kiss you again."

He gently turned her around to face him, quickly guiding into a more proper slow dance. She finally chanced a look at him. His mouth curved into a playful smirk as he finished silkily, "...Unless you ask me to of course."

That managed to elicit a small smile from her as she shook her head. She had to admire his persistence, even though it drove her insane.

She shyly avoided his eyes and he noticed that her face was still deeply flushed. He ventured with a hint of amusement, "Shall we change the subject?"

She smiled sarcastically and emphatically replied, "Please do." He hesitated a moment before he began, "Alright, tell me truly...What is your impression of the masquerade?"

Thankful for safe conversation she quickly answered without even thinking, "Well, it's kind of sinister, and a little dark, but overall I think it's better than..." She caught herself as the knowing expression formed on his face. She stole at glance at him, hesitated a moment before she smiled wistfully and cautiously ventured, "I always wondered about that...when Hoggle gave me that peach, that masquerade...was it real?"

His smile was teasing, "What do you think?"

She thoughtfully replied, "Honestly, I don't know. I mean, it seemed real. But at first everything was so fuzzy, and after it was over I couldn't remember how I ended up in the junk-yard. Was it real?"

He regarded her with calm curiosity, "Do you really want to know?"

She nodded, "Yes."

Tilting his head to the side, he answered, "Very well then. It was a dream, but not merely an illusion..."

Her brow furrowed in bewilderment as she ventured, "I saw you. We danced. Was that just some trick or were you really there?"

He smirked and replied, "Yes, I was a manner of speaking."

She gave him a blank look, "I don't understand."

He tried to explain, "Nor should you. Magic often doesn't work in ways that we can understand. It was a dream, but a dream we both experienced."

She shook her head slowly, "You're losing me."

He tried a different approach, "It was a dream, one of your dreams, one of your desires, and I granted it. At any given time, a person has many dreams, all their hopes and desires. At that particular time I chose one of your dreams to fulfill. You longed to be part of the fairy tale. A princess, who only longed to dance with her prince at the ball. It was your dream, I simply made it a reality, if only for a little while."

She smirked shrewdly and remarked, "Long enough to slow me down. A diversion...I get it."

He simply replied, "Well, that was the idea."

She looked thoughtful for a moment before she inquired, "Ok, but why that one? I mean of all the dreams I must have had at that particular time, why did you choose that one as the distraction?"

He smiled noncommittally and replied, "It seemed a befitting way to distract you, and there was the added bonus of the spell...that when you wanted out, your memory would be compromised."

Sarcastically she jeered, "Oh how thoughtful of you..."

He was quick to remark, "I never told you it would be easy, in fact I tried to dissuade you from the very beginning."

She supplied, "By offering my dreams..."

There was a touch of harshness in his tone as he affirmed, "Yes I did...several times. But you refused."

She nodded, "Yes, I did."

He regarded her with a curious expression and countered, "That's one thing that made me curious about you Sarah. Why did you refuse? You see of all the others that ever tried, they may have refused initially, but in the end they always opt for their dreams. Some out of weakness, others out of greed...but not you...Why?"

She quickly retorted, "Are you kidding? You say that as if I even had a choice."

He harshly answered, "I did give you a choice."

She stared at him as though she were just only seeing him now for the first time, "Oh my God. You didn't get it did you? You still don't get it. Jareth, for me that wasn't a choice. I could never have chosen to abandon Toby. He might have been an inconvenience at times, and even a pain in the butt, but he's my brother and I love him. I'd die before I'd let anything happen to him. I would go through hell to save him, just as I would Kayla."

For the first time ever Jareth looked completely lost and he protested forcefully, "But I could have made your dreams come true. How could you just give up on your dreams?"

Something in the way he said it struck her and she replied gently, "I didn't give up on my dreams. I just rejected the offer of them being handed to me at the cost of Toby and Kayla's lives."

He looked as though the notion was beyond him, "But, Why? Why would you do that?"

She sighed, "Because I love them. That's what you do when you love someone, Jareth, you make sacrifices for them."

The bewildered expression on his face made it clear that the notion was completely foreign to him, and from what she knew of him, it wasn't all that surprising. From what she could tell, he seemed to lead a pretty solitary existence, and his title basically put him in a position to do just about anything he wanted.

When she truly thought about it, such an existence seemed both a blessing and curse. True, his power and station put the world literally at his fingertips, but at the same time, it seemed a terribly lonely way to exist, with nothing but Goblins and visiting dignitaries for company. Looking at it in such a way suddenly put things a bit more in perspective for her.

No wonder he often acted like a spoiled child, for how could he ever learn to be anything other than that, with no one else around for company but goblins, who were in essence, beastly creatures that thought and acted much like children. And Jareth, being the head brat of the playground, was never forced to share, or make sacrifices, or was never denied anything for that matter. It all seemed to click in her head. No wonder he was such a sore loser. At that moment she actually felt a little sorry for him.

A little gentler she elaborated, "Look Jareth, I never truly gave up on my dreams. I just realized that I didn't need you, or anyone else to make them a reality. If there's one thing I learned, it's that dreams are not static things. They are constantly evolving. My dreams may have grown and changed over the years, but they are still my dreams. I know that with hard work and persistence, I can work towards the things I want, and I won't have to rely on anyone but myself, and I won't have to worry about giving up on those I love just to achieve my dreams by magic." Sincerely she added, "Not that I didn't appreciate the offer...I just couldn't accept it."

He regarded her silently for a long while, as if he was grappling to understand all that she said. Finally in a very tired voice he admitted, "You know, you have to be the most stubborn person, I have ever come across."

She smirked coyly and replied, "I wouldn't have it any other way. I could use some more wine...whaddya say?"

Shortly thereafter, Jareth and Sarah had settled on a cozy dark cushion at the far end of the room, sipping wine in companionable silence. Jareth watched with interest as Sarah took a long draught of her wine, noting the way she seemed to savor its sweetness by running the tip of her tongue over her lips. "I wonder..." He lulled in a smooth tone, "What are your dreams...right at this very moment?"

She swallowed another sip of wine and replied, "You're asking me? I thought you were the authority on my dreams?"

He noticed that a slight smile punctuated her jest and he drawled, "Well, of course, all I have to do is look at them for myself..." His mouth curved into a sinister smirk as he produced a perfect crystal in his hand. He held it up for her to see as he finished, "...however I thought I might give you the option of telling me in your own words, since you have proven to be rather pleasant company this evening."

She didn't miss the innuendo, but she decided that she'd rather tell him, than have him poking around in her private stash of hopes and desires, especially since there had to be several mortifying jewels involving himself that he might find in there.

She shrugged, taking another sip of her wine before she offered, "Ok then. Presently, I am working towards my college degree, and after that I will probably go for a graduate degree." She slowed down realizing she was going heavy on the aboveground lingo and tried again, "I ah...want to finish my schooling, so that I will be more successful at my um...occupational duties."

He smirked, "Occupational duties?"

She expanded, "Yeah, you know work, my job, so that I can earn a living."

He raised an eyebrow, "Ah I see...and what does this occupation involve? Acting out dramas perhaps?"

She smiled, knowing that it was her childhood dream of being a famous actress, like her mother, that he was referring to. She honestly answered, "Perhaps, but that's not my main drive. I've been studying literature and I think I should try my hand at writing."

He seemed very interested and replied, "What manner of literature?"

She shrugged, "Classic literature and Mythology mostly. Shakespeare is my all-time favorite author."

His face lit up with recognition, "Shakespeare?"

She nodded, "Yes, are you familiar with him?"

His smirk was devastating as he set down his wine and caught her hand in his. Deliberately, he brought her hand to his mouth and earnestly began, "If I profane with my unworthiest hand this holy shrine, the gentle fine is this: My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand to smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss." With that, he gently kissed the back of her hand, leaving her gaping in surprise.

When she found her voice she stammered, "Tha...that's from Romeo and Juliet! You do know Shakespeare!" He nodded, smiling that smug smile of his. She was rather impressed with his knowledge of the playwright, but at the same time she wondered if he had ever solicited other women in such a manner.

His next question shook her from her thoughts, "Do you intend to write plays then?"

She nodded, "I'd like to, but recently I've been studying sonnets."

He raised a finely arched eyebrow, "Shakespeare's sonnets?"

She nodded emphatically and replied, "Yeah, I just had to study a bunch of them in my last class. I've memorized lots of them."

He took another sip of his wine, pausing to smile over the rim of the glass. When he had taken his fill he drawled, "Tell me then, do you have a favorite?"

She nodded without a second thought, and he promptly demanded, "Well...let's hear it."

She thought for a moment and remembered the first line, "Oh, from what pow'r hast thou this pow'rful might, With insufficiency my heart to sway?"

Effortlessly from there on the lines continued to flow in her even lilting voice, with the correct emphasis in all the right places, "To make me give the lie to my true sight, And swear that brightness doth not grace the day? Whence hast thou this becoming of things ill, that in the very refuse of thy deeds There is such strength and warranties of skill That in my mind thy worst all best exceeds?"

As she went on it suddenly occurred to her why this particular sonnet appealed to her. The author's suit perfectly mimicked her wonder at her feelings for Jareth. Her voice wavered with emotion and apprehension as she finished the last few lines, "Who taught thee how to make me love thee more, The more I hear and see just cause of hate? Oh though I love what others do abhor, With others thou shouldst not abhor my state: If thy unworthiness raised love in me, More worthy I to be beloved of thee."

The smile slowly faded from Jareth's face as he took in each line. By the end of the sonnet he was staring at her in that intense manner again. He knew the sonnet well and knew it's meaning. But what his mind was raging to know was; Did she mean the words as she spoke them to him.

If it was her favorite, it had to mean something to her personally, and whom could this particular sonnet remind her of, if not him? Of course he couldn't be absolutely certain, but his instincts were telling him that she was speaking the words to him and the emotion that bled through her voice suggested that she was meaning every single word.

His eyes bore into hers and he noticed that despite her struggle to keep her cool exterior, she was shaken. He was tempted to be frank and extract the truth about her exact feelings for him, but he was aware that he had already pushed her significantly. He didn't want to ruin his progress by being too impulsive. Perhaps some illuminating honesty on his end might alleviate some of her apprehension to confide in him. Yes, a hinted confession of his own could only cajole her closer to the honest admission of her feelings. And he knew just how to do it.

Desperate to break the heavy silence she suddenly insisted, "What about you? Do you have a favorite?"

He offered her a coaxing smile and nodded, "Care to hear it?"

She nodded emphatically as he smiled, knowing full well that his delivery would be every bit as compelling as hers, because he would be able to recite the entire sonnet and mean every last word, as if they had only ever been intended for her.

His intense gaze locked with hers as he began, "So are you to my thoughts as food to life, Or as sweet seasoned showers are to the ground." He noted that at the very first line, her breath seemed to catch in her throat as heat crept back into her cheeks.

With renewed purpose he relentlessly continued, "And for the peace of you I hold such strife As 'twixt a miser and his wealth is found: Now proud as an enjoyer, and anon Doubting the filching age will steal his treasure; Now counting best to be with you alone, Then bettered that the world may see my pleasure;"

She seemed to be holding her breath now and her eyes remained fixed with his, her expression betraying the fact that she was becoming more rapt with each word. He pressed on, determined to make a powerful end, "Sometime all full with feasting on your sight, And by and by clean starved for a look, Possessing or pursuing no delight, save what is had or must from you be took. Thus do I pine and surfeit day by day, Or gluttoning on all, or all away."

She was still as stone as he finished, not breathing, and unable to break the profound, heavy eye-contact that lingered between them. Her stomach fluttered wildly as he leaned closer in obvious invitation.

Her head swam at the implication of his recited sonnet. Perhaps his feelings ran deeper than she originally assumed. Her heart surged with the desire to know the raw truth. Her eyes drifted over his enchanting face to settle on his lips. His kisses had warned her of the depth of his longing, perhaps just one more...

Involuntarily she licked her dry lips and met his eyes, which were blazing as his steady gaze bore into her in silent expectation. Her body betrayed her commitment to remain in place, and she made the slightest movement towards him. It was the subtlest gesture but he noticed. Her resolve was slipping. He knew the next time they kissed, there would be no stopping. He could see it plainly in her eyes.

His eyes raked over her face, seemingly urging her to continue, imploring her not to stop. He heard her exhale raggedly right before a nearby voice interrupted.

"Your Majesty, the hour grows late. I just wanted to extend my thanks for the invitation and offer my farewell."

Both Sarah and Jareth looked up, startled to see Lord Taibarr smiling down at them. Jareth quickly rose, barely managing to stifle the string of Goblin obscenities that were welling up inside him. With a very forced gracious smile he quickly supplied, "My pleasure Lord Taibarr, so glad you could make it."

Taibarr turned to Sarah as she rushed to stand up. Her face was a precious scarlet, as he addressed them, "The pleasure has been all mine your majesty. It has been an honor to make your aquaintence, my lady." Sarah smiled, bowing humbly as he posed his last statement to Jareth, "I hope to meet again soon, your request of course." Jareth smiled nodding, "Certainly. I will send word. Have a safe journey home." Taibarr bowed as he backed away, making his exit.

To Jareth's dismay, the ambassador's exit prompted a rush of leaving guests that all wished to bid the Goblin King farewell. To his great disappointment he realized that the moment had been lost. Whatever had been about to happen with Sarah had been suspended. He would just have to wait. Things were progressing nicely, Sarah would come around.

Unfortunately for him, the fact remained that he had been too eager, and his need would have to remain unfulfilled. His impatience would cause him much suffering to be sure. He hated waiting. It was going to be a long agonizing night. He needed something to take the edge off. Thankfully, the sweet wine was in never-ending supply and Jareth sipped it continuously as he socialized with his departing guests.

As the multitude of guests continued to pour out of the Goblin Castle, Sarah felt as though she were wound tighter than a spring. There had been many startling developments and she was about at the end of her rope. She had come very close to giving into her feelings several times tonight. She wasn't sure if she had the strength to endure one more close call. To make matters worse, a seeming endless stream of guests continued to file on by, wishing her and Jareth well. The only thing that made the awkward situation bearable was the mind-numbing wine that never seemed to run out.

It was well past midnight when the last guest filed out the great hall, finally leaving Sarah and Jareth alone. Sarah placed her empty goblet down, surprised to see six other empty goblets that she and Jareth had managed to polish off during the course of the evening. Lying close by were their long forgotten silver and gold celestial masks. Not entirely sure how much wine she had actually had, Sarah did notice that at the moment she was feeling rather relaxed, especially considering that she suddenly found herself alone with Jareth.

Jareth's posture was also rather casual as he turned to her and drawled, "Thank the powers...I thought they'd never all leave."

She smirked, realizing that he too had been uncomfortable. The room seemed much bigger now that it was empty and her eyes skimmed over the remnants of the grand party. Distantly she remarked, "Wow. Look at this place...this is going to take a long time to clean up, you know."

He waved his hand dismissively, "We shall deal with it later..." He strode up to her and finished dryly, " I think it's about time we called it a night."

Sarah nodded, "Yeah, I should probably turn in."

He stepped closer, offering his arm as he supplied, "Shall we retire then?" Not entirely sure what he meant, she hesitated and he added, "Come, I'll escort you to your room."

She nodded and cautiously took his arm. They walked together in comfortable silence until they rounded the corner into the hall where their separate chambers were located.

Sarah chanced a glance at Jareth, who simply smirked in a pleasantly playful manner. Probably the wine, she thought, as she slowly ventured, "I...just wanted to say...that I um...had a nice time tonight."

He grinned in amusement, "Are you actually admitting that you enjoyed my company?"

She rolled her eyes and replied, "Yeah I am...though it's probably a mistake to over-inflate that huge ego of yours any further. Your head might explode, or float away."

He laughed freely and the sound was rich and genuine. When he caught his breath they had reached her door. He stopped, holding her hand, as he faced her, "You truly amuse me Sarah. I enjoyed your company as well. I appreciate your compliance in this whole affair, and I thank you for not being obstinate."

Was she actually hearing this? Was he actually thanking her? That wine must have gone to his head. She prayed that he would hurry up and leave her alone, before his good-looks and newfound earnest charm made her do something rash, like grabbing him by his shirt and shoving him into her bed.

She smiled in spite of herself, as the idea sent shivers down her spine. Noticing that he had yet to let go of her hand, she rested her back against her door casually as she affably replied, "No problem...Umm...Goodnight."

Jareth released her hand, enjoying one last long appreciative glance before he suddenly stepped forward and dropped a quick kiss, not quite centered, on her mouth. He retreated quickly, and before she could raise a word of protest he flashed her a teasing, wholly disarming grin finishing in a devastatingly sultry tone, "Goodnight, love"

With that, he backed away, quickly disappearing into the recesses of his chamber. Sarah dashed into her own room, falling back against her door as fast as she closed it. His tender goodnight had literally left her weak in the knees. It was just like him to leave her all hot and bothered like that. Figures, she thought ruefully, as she realized that sleep was not going to come easy.

Most Prized Possession

A Labyrinth Story
by Jester3

Part 27 of 42

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