Continuing Tales

Return to the Labyrinth

A Labyrinth Story
by ArtemisFallen

Part 23 of 24

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Leverage: A Christmas Tale

"Oh, no," Sarah whispered in terror as the statue began to fall away from her. She grabbed Jareth's cold, hard wrist with her other hand, ignoring the pain which flared through her shoulder and neck as she strained to keep the statue in place. "Please, don't fall!"

Sarah struggled with the figure's descent, fighting valiantly to keep it securely rooted. However, she wasn't nearly strong enough the contend with the force of gravity and the weight of the heavy stone. With Jareth's hand still firmly grasped around her own, Sarah's efforts to keep the statue upright quickly turned into a struggle to free herself as the stone figure began to drag her off balance. A simple tug to the wrist wrenched Sarah off her feet and she found herself toppling with Jareth to the ground.

An earth shattering crack resounded thunderously within the great throne room, causing Sarah's ears to ring shrilly in response to the deafening sound. The statue fractured into several pieces, scattering and crumbling beneath her as she landed roughly on top of them, his stone grip finally relinquishing its hold. A blinding pain shot throughout her entire body as she lay atop the ruined remains of the Goblin King.

Sarah braced herself, sharp pieces of rubble and stone digging into her palms while her stunned mind scrambled to comprehend the event which had just occurred. Confusion and dismay clouded her senses as she reached out a dazed, shaking hand to touch the remains of her Goblin King who had been reduced to nothing more than jagged and broken stone.

Sarah began to panic, her breaths coming out in short, quavering gasps, on the precipice of hysterics which threatened to unleash at any moment. She swallowed hard as the shock which had caused her confusion began to dissipate, replaced by a harrowing clarity.

"No, no, no," she chanted, as full comprehension finally seized her in its uncaring grasp. "What've I done?" She wailed, her fingers trembling over the strewn rubble. "Oh, God, what have I done?"

She began to shake uncontrollably, careening off the stone pieces quickly. She slid back, away from the rocks, bringing her knees to her chest and pitching herself back and forth violently. "This can't be happening. This can't be happening!"

Convulsions of sorrow rippled through Sarah as she hugged her legs tightly, her eyes inexplicably drawn back to the pile of stone.

Immediately, her gaze fell upon a singular piece of stone which had been miraculously preserved. She stared unbelieving at the perfectly intact eyes, nose and mouth of the Goblin King. The last moment of his life, a torturous mixture of pain, sorrow and love, forever etched upon his face. Without thought, Sarah lurched over the rubble and retrieved intact image, pulling it back with her as she resumed her hunched over position.

She cradled the rock, gazing into the stone slate eyes which still beheld her as if she was the most precious thing in the world. Once again, Sarah was seized by uncontrollable hysterics and she clutched the piece of effigy to herself tightly. A high pitched wail rose from her chest. She didn't realize it was coming from her until it tore loose from her throat, followed by torrential tears and a pitiful whine of loss and regret.

"No," she trembled, breaking into a new fit of sobs as she chanted her mantra. "No, oh, no, oh, no, oh, no. Jareth, please no."

This is your fault, her mind sneered darkly. Are you happy? You caused this!

Sarah shook her head rapidly, rocking herself harder, the sobs wrenching violently from her throat.

"I didn't mean for this to happen," she whimpered. "I didn't want this. Not this."

"Sarah?" A concerned, gravely voice called. Sarah looked up, barely able to discern the giant orange object which loomed before her through her tear filled eyes.

"Ludo!" Sarah wailed, unable to compose herself.

"Sarah!?" Ludo yelped in shock and fear, hurrying over to her and quickly gathering her up in his strong, comforting arms. She buried her face into his thick fur and began to bawl loudly as his hands stroked her back reassuringly.

"It', Ludo!" She hyperventilated against him. "It's all my...fault!"

Ludo cuddled Sarah to him, humming in concern, ineffectively attempting to calm her. "Sarah sad," he observed morosely. He continued to stroke her back and hair, failing to console her hysterics. She burrowed herself deeper into his warm, sympathetic embrace, wishing she could simply disappear.

"Sarah no sad!" Ludo announced brightly, gently tugging Sarah back so he could see her face. "Ludo fix!"

Sarah gripped the stone piece of Jareth tightly, shaking her head forlornly, unable to look up into the eyes of her gentle friend. "No, Ludo, you can't fix this. No one can."

"Oh," Ludo mumbled dejectedly. He looked over to the pile of rubble then back to Sarah. "Goblin King gone?"

Sarah's face contorted once again with anguish as a fresh batch of tears spilled from her eyes and rained down her cheeks. "Yes, Ludo. He's gone."

"Oh, Sarah!" Titania's voice floated down to her, stricken with agony and grief. "I truly mourn with you."

Titania came swiftly down the stairs, wrapping her arms securely around Sarah as she collapsed to the floor beside her. Sarah sobbed into Titania's shoulder, unable to take comfort in the soothing strokes of Titania's hand through her hair and the gentle murmurs of her voice.

"Oh, love," Batson sighed from Titania's other shoulder. "I feel jus' awful for you!"

"Milady?" Sir Didymus asked, appearing through the portal with Hoggle.

"Wha-what's happened?" Hoggle shouted worriedly, his eyes surveying the broken stone. "What's wrong?"

Sarah tried to explain, but was unable to push the words past the lump that had formed in her throat. Sir Didymus and Hoggle crept down the stairs, joining Sarah and the others. They did their best to comfort their anguished friend.

"What happened?" Hoggle asked once again.

"It appears the Gorgon Queen has been slain," Titania whispered softly.

"Is this she?" Sir Didymus inquired, gesturing to the pile of rock.

"No," Sarah moaned. "That's Jareth."

"Jareth?" Hoggle gasped, staring bewilderedly at the rubble. "Cor! It can't be!"

"I am afraid it is so," Titania sighed, continuing to stroke Sarah's hair sweetly.

Sarah's friends stood in confounded silence, looking to one another with powerless despair. No one knew what to do.

Sir Didymus was the first to speak. He removed his hat, bowing respectfully to the debris. "A king has fallen and we grieve his loss. May Underground remember this great king for all his goods and may he live on in our hearts."
"And in our dreams," Batson added grimly.

"And each day we continue on," Hoggle murmured softly.

"Until we meet once again amidst the stars," Titania finished.

The sentiment ripped at Sarah, causing her to melt into a pile of quivering wails. Sir Didymus placed a gentle paw on her arm, commiserating her grief.

"I-I never thought he'd be gone," Hoggle stammered. He looked over to Sarah, shaking his head. "I'm so sorry."

Sarah whimpered, her throat burning. "I doubted him!" She rasped, raising her red, swollen eyes to the Fairy Queen.

"Shh," Titania soothed, wiping the tears from Sarah's cheeks.

"You told me not to," Sarah babbled, sniffling. "But I did and it was enough to keep his powers from returning! That was Euryale's plan all along and I stupidly played right into her trap." Sarah sucked in a several ragged breaths.

"You could never have known her intent," Titania whispered, endeavoring to comfort Sarah. "None of us could have ever guessed the depths of her treachery."

"I should've known," Sarah sobbed. "I should've trusted him. Now he's gone and this is all I have left." Sarah revealed the broken stone face of Jareth to Titania.

Tears of sympathy glistened in Titania's eyes as she looked at Sarah. "I am so sorry, dear one."

"Milady," Sir Didymus muttered, stroking her arm, unable to convey his condolences. Hoggle laid his head against Sarah's shoulder, rubbing her back gently.

Ludo shuffled uncomfortably, looking to Sarah and to the rocks. He sighed heavily and then began to hum softly. It was a deep, mournful moan which rose into the most heart wrenching howl of loss any of them had ever heard. The cry which emanated from him was enough to shatter what little remained of Sarah's decimated heart.

"What're you doing?" Sarah asked, turning her aching eyes to the wailing beast.

Ludo continued to bay his melancholic song as a gentle tremor surged through the floor of the throne room. Slowly, the broken remnants of stone began to shift and form a pile. Sarah gawked in dumbfounded horror as she watched the fragments of Jareth gradually fit together like pieces to a puzzle, fused by some unforeseen magic.

The stone piece Sarah held tumbled from her grasp, rolling to the nearly formed statue and taking its rightful place, merging seamlessly with the rest of the stone. Before her very eyes, the statue of Jareth reformed, its arm once again extended to her in a final moment of love and desperation. An eternal reminder of her final betrayal.

"Ludo!" Sarah screamed, flinging herself at the beast, grasping fistfuls of his fur. "Why?!" She wailed. "Why did you do that?!"

"Sarah sad! Ludo fix!" He answered quickly, bewildered by her reaction. "Ludo wrong?"

"I can't… I can't…" Sarah sobbed, collapsing in devastation against the great beast. She knew that he'd only meant to help by reforming the statue, but it had only worsened her already overpowering guilt.

"Ludo sorry," the big beast lamented, stroking Sarah's back. "Want to help," he mumbled apologetically.

She shook her head, sniffling ."No, Ludo, I'm sorry. I know you did what you thought was best." Sarah forced herself to her feet, unwillingly turning to face the stone image of Jareth. She knew she needed to face him, she owed him that. After all, it was she who had done this to him. Sarah appraised the statue, a new wave of grief and guilt crashing over her. She reached out, gently stroking his cold wrist, feeling the hard grain of stone beneath her fingertips. Remorse and regret picked and tore at her very soul.

"Sarah," Titania murmured gently, gingerly touching her arm. "Come away. This is not good for you."

"You can fix him, right?" Sarah asked suddenly, desperately turning to Titania. She squeezed the Fairy Queen's arms, clinging to her as if she were dangling off the edge of a cliff. "You know everything. You have to know how to break the curse!"

Titania averted her eyes, unable to take the heart-rending, desolate plea on Sarah's face. She shook her head slowly and Sarah felt the weight of the small glimmer of hope come crashing down on her with a force of a thousand broken dreams.

"I am so sorry," Titania whispered remorsefully. "I have not the knowledge nor the skill to break such a curse." She closed her eyes and Sarah saw her lip tremble. "Some are magicks which cannot be broken."

A cold hollowness began to seep through Sarah and she nodded numbly. In her heart of hearts, she had known that the curse could not be lifted. She had known, but she had dared to hope even when she couldn't deny the truth. More than anything, Sarah had known that she wasn't prepared to accept the fact that Jareth was gone because of her.

To hope is hopeless in the end, Sarah thought coldly.

"It's my fault," Sarah murmured again. "I did this to him."

"It's not your fault!" Hoggle retorted sternly. "You did the best you could. No one else coulda done better."

"You don't understand," Sarah argued, turning back to Jareth. "I doubted him. He risked everything for me and I doubted him." She trailed off, once again lost in the stoney gaze of what was once the great and glorious Goblin King.

"I know it hurts, milady, but you must know that you saved us all," Sir Didymus comforted.

"We'd never be rid of those nasties if not for you!" Batson chimed in helpfully.

"Sarah save Ludo," Ludo remarked, shuffling over to Sarah and cradling her from behind.

Sarah hung limply in his arms, incapable of taking solace in their condolences.

"I know what you're trying to do," she acknowledged softly. "I know you're trying to make me feel better and you want to be here for me, but I-I-" her voice cracked and a fresh onslaught of tears stung at her dry and tired eyes.

"I need to be alone for a little bit," she whimpered, striving to reclaim her voice. "I need to be able to say goodbye. I owe him that."

"Sarah, I don't think-" Hoggle objected only to be silenced by Titania.

"Of course," the Fairy Queen said supportively. "We understand. Everyone, please come with me and give Sarah the chance to say her farewells."

Hoggle sighed in frustration, clearly unhappy about taking orders from a fairy. However, like the others, he begrudgingly complied.

"We're here for you, milady," Sir Didymus called softly as they trudged up the stairs to the portal. "You needn't look far for friends."

"We care about you, Sarah," Hoggle added. "We're here when you're ready."

"Sarah friend," Ludo appended as he followed Titania.

"They're right, ya know," Batson concurred from the Fairy Queen's shoulder. "We'll not go far. You jus' say the word."

"Thank you," Sarah whispered, looking to each one of them. "For everything."

"We'll be just outside the castle doors," Titania interjected, throwing Sarah a sympathetic glance. "Remember, you are not alone."

Sarah nodded, unable to speak once more as her voice was yet again stolen by her raging emotions. She watched as her friends made their way up the stairs and disappeared through the portal, leaving Sarah alone in the immense throne room with the statue of Jareth.

She stood silently for a moment, bleakly aware of how quiet the throne room had become. It reminded her of a crypt.

A fitting analogy given Jareth's fate, Sarah thought darkly. She breathed in sharply, the tone of her inner voice cutting deeply at her already taxed psyche.

She turned away from the stairs, her gaze beholding Jareth in his new form. Even as a statue, the Goblin King was beautiful. Sarah stepped over to the figure, lacing her hands cautiously around it and placing her head against its hard chest. It was an embrace she knew he could never return, but she felt compelled to hold him in her arms one last time.

"I am nothing but a foolish soul mourning for something I could've had." Sarah closed her eyes, wishing she could hear his heartbeat. "I couldn't let go of my pride even though I wanted to. I wanted to love you so badly, but I was afraid of getting hurt. And now look at me. It's too late to save you and I'm still hurt." She shuddered, the acidity of self loathing scorching her from the inside out. "You forgave me all those years ago for denying your love and now there's no going back. I can't undo what's been done. I failed you and I have to live with that for the rest of my life." She pulled away from Jareth, despising herself for wanting what she could no longer have. She thought back upon all the loves she'd experienced throughout her life and all the heartache she had endured at the end of each relationship when they had left her.

She scoffed scornfully. "I'm no better than them."

She turned her back to the statue, sinking to the floor and gently reclining her head against Jareth's leg. She played with the frayed strings of her cardigan sleeve.

"I didn't understand what you were offering me that day when you asked me to love you. You see, I was a child, but you didn't understand that. I guess age had no meaning to you since the Fae live such long lives. To you, I was simply the object of your unrequited love. And to me, you were the villain every good story had to have." A solitary tear slid down Sarah's cheek. "So, in my complacency, I misjudged you." An image of the Goblin King offering her his crystal ball flashed through her memories. Sarah remembered how he had looked upon her, his entire being entreating her for some shred of affection. Guilt and regret gnawed at Sarah as she longed to see the fiery charm which had once glistened so brightly within the depths of the Goblin King's eyes.

"When I returned to my world, I convinced myself that you were nothing more than dream. I convinced myself that it was all just a wonderful, thrilling adventure that began to fade from my memory as the years passed." Sarah abandoned the tattered threads of her cardigan and pulled Jareth's pendant off from around her neck. She gazed at it mournfully, her thumb lightly stroking the symbol.

"You see, we tend to forget our dreams, even the ones we create for ourselves." Sarah's voice broke and she fought vainly against the tears which once again rose up to her tired eyes, blurring her vision. "All these years, I have yearned for a love that would rival those of the story books. I have fought so hard for it…" Sarah trailed off, squeezing the pendant tightly in her hand. She forced herself to stand, turning her tear burned face to Jareth. She scoffed lightly. "It would seem irony is not without a sense of humor. I've been searching endlessly for such a love and all this time it lay scorned and brokenhearted here."

She reached out and cupped the cold, hard cheek of the Goblin King. The gesture only deepened her sadness causing her to grimace as her fingers caressed frozen, pitted stone instead of smooth satin skin. "You told me once that you move the stars for no one, but you lied," Sarah whispered. "You turned your world upside down for me. You rearranged time. You offered me my dreams and in turn, I spited you. What a cruel creature I was." Sarah bit her lip miserably. "And still am. If only I had the power to rearrange time, I would go back and save you."

"I can't forgive myself for this. No matter what I do, no matter how much time passes, I will never be able to forgive myself for doubting you." A sob wrenched through Sarah's throat as memories of Jareth mercilessly danced through her mind. She closed her eyes and leaned into the statue, her warm forehead pressing against unyielding stone. Tears she could no longer feel pelted the floor at her feet, resounding pitifully throughout the massive chamber.

"You were not perfect, far from it. You were cruel and you were selfish, but so was I. You were...flawed, but in the most beautiful way. Your flaws were what made you so beautiful. There will never be anyone for the rest of my life," Sarah whispered, knowing that the words were not merely uttered as a farewell to Jareth, but as a solemn vow. "I should've known your love was true. I could feel it, you know? I just didn't trust it like I should've. I never felt like I belonged in my world. I always felt something...someone calling for me." She scoffed ruefully. "I always had one foot in reality and one foot in fantasy."

She pulled back, gazing into the Goblin King's chiseled features. "It was always you. I've betrayed you twice and still you loved me. You sacrificed yourself for me. How could I ever be worthy of such adoration? How could I ever hope to find that kind of love again? It seems only fitting now that while your heart sits as cold as stone, mine aches with a wound that will never heal."

"I should've allowed myself to love you as you deserved to be loved. I should've said this a long time ago and to say it now is too late, but I'm going to say it anyway. I have to. I need to." Her mouth slid across the stone set features of the statue until she found his rough and pitted lips. She set her mouth firmly against the stone, giving it a soft, unsatisfying kiss. "I love you, Jareth."

Sarah allowed the sad kiss to linger, knowing it would be the last one she would ever share with him. She pulled away, the despondent melancholy seeping from her very core. She realized she still held the pendant tightly in her hand.

She clutched it to her chest over her heart, holding it tightly.

"I should've given you this a long time ago," she whispered, using the pendant to symbolize her heart. She lifted the pendant from her chest and carefully looped the chain over Jareth's head. She straightened the medallion meticulously against his chest.

"I was wrong, so very wrong," she breathed softly, looking once more into the unflinching eyes of the statue. "And for that I am truly sorry. Goodbye...Jareth."

With no small amount of effort, Sarah turned from the statue and forced herself to walk away, fighting the urge to peek over her shoulder to gaze upon the Goblin King one last time. She made her way to the steps and walked through the portal, navigating the castle in an oblivious blur, lost in a haze of her own self pity and disdain. Before she knew it, she had stumbled upon the doors leading out into the Goblin City. Lively music and jovial cheers floated in through the decimated entrance of the castle which was still littered with small piles of rubble. It sounded as if a festival was taking place outside.

Sarah hesitantly peered through the entryway and saw the army of goblins, the Fireys, and her friends taking part in the merriment. The Fireys were singing their wild songs, dancing in a chaotic whirl of limb throwing frenzy. Sarah cringed as she saw the Fireys also juggled what appeared to be several dismembered pieces of Chimera.

The goblins were drinking heartily, having liberated several barrels of mead from their hiding places throughout the Goblin City. They danced and cackled with the Fireys while the other goblins tended a fire pit with what appeared to be a Chimera suspended on a makeshift spit roasting over the open flame.

Batson sat with his wife and several other large worms as they all reminisced over the triumphant battle. Sarah could hear Batson proclaim that it had been an epic battle and they would no longer be referred to as 'just worms' after this. Prell seemed as infatuated as ever with Hoggle, who cradled a large tankard of mead as Prell cradled him. Sarah's eyes scanned the crowd and she saw Titania with Ludo. The Fairy Queen had fashioned a comb out of the remaining thistle which she used to brush through Ludo's matted fur. He moaned and purred contentedly with every stroke and Titania smiled sweetly, enjoying the gentle beast's reaction. Sir Didymus was surrounded by a large group of goblins, including Toot and Grub, who sat enraptured as he regaled them with stories of his valor. Sir Didymus swiped wildly with his sword and barked loudly, no doubt embellishing the tale. They applauded him, demanding more stories while Ambrosius yawned and stretched comfortably by Sir Didymus' side.

Sarah watched all this from the dark entrance of the castle doorway, unable to take pleasure in the merriment and not wanting to spoil it for the others. Unlike her, they had a reason to celebrate. The Chimera had been slain and the Labyrinth had been liberated from Euryale's wretched grasp. They had every right to be happy and enjoy themselves. Sarah was sure the goblins were unaware as to the fate of their Goblin King. She couldn't bring herself to announce it to them and ruin their jocularity, nor could she bring herself to join in on the festivities. She'd lost too much and more than anything, she just wanted to be alone.

Sarah slunk back into the darkness of the castle before anyone could see her and retreated back to the stairs in dim hopes of finding a bedchamber. She wove through several hallways and corridors before she came to a room. Without understanding how, she knew the room had belonged to Jareth, these were his bedchambers. Sarah opened the heavy door and was greeted by a deep, cool darkness. She shut the door quickly, effectively enveloping herself in blackness. The only source of light came from a thin ray of weak sunlight which fought to penetrate through the gap of the heavy drapes which had been drawn across the window. Sarah used the narrow beam of light to guide her to the bed. She sank down heavily on the satin covers, pulling her legs up against her stomach in an embryonic position. She grabbed one of the many pillows which surrounded her and clung to it tightly. She could smell the lingering remnants of his skin against the linen and Sarah once again found herself crying.

An overwhelming grief settled in on her and Sarah no longer fought against it. She allowed it to wash over her in waves, sobbing inconsolably into the softness of the pillow until she was utterly exhausted. She wanted nothing more than to get away from herself. She wanted to forget everything that had transpired, if only for a second, and be given a moment of peace.

"I wanna go home," she moaned to herself, hugging the pillow tighter. "I wish I could forget all this and go home."

Sarah shivered against the chill in the air, wrapping the blankets around herself tightly as the excruciating folly of her request taunted her. There was no going home any longer. There was no forgetting. She would always be burdened by the knowledge of her betrayal.

Sarah realized that the last time she'd slept in a proper bed, she'd cried herself to sleep wishing for a love like that of the Goblin King's. The irony of the situation didn't elude her as she slowly drifted into weary sleep.

"What I wouldn't give…" she mumbled sleepily. "What I wouldn't give..."

Strong sunlight pierced the veil of Sarah's heavy eyelids and she groaned in protest, yanking the pillow over her face to block out the incessant and unwelcome light.

I wish I could just sleep forever, Sarah thought, her brain fuzzy from her slumber and emotional fatigue. Sleep with him forever. Both of us facing the abyss together.

A shrill ringing shook her from her melancholic thoughts, causing her to bolt upright in bed. She blinked in surprise, her eyes scanning the room.

"What?!" She gasped, seeing a desk with a black roll away chair and a bureau with a television on it. The shrill ringing came again and Sarah's addled mind finally discerned it was the sound of the phone on the nightstand.

I'm back, her mind screamed, rampant with confusion. How? How did I get back?

Sarah grabbed for the phone, forgetting momentarily how to answer it.

"Who-Uh-um-Hi? Hello?" She sputtered.

"Miss Williams?" A pleasant female voice asked on the other end.

"Uh-yeah?" Sarah floundered, still unable to comprehend what was going on.

"I apologize, did I wake you?" The woman asked with scripted concern.

"No," Sarah mumbled, finally coming to terms with her initial shock. "No, I was awake."

"Oh, good!" The woman said cheerfully. "I'm calling to check in with you and see if you were planning to stay with us another evening as check out time is in fifteen minutes."

Sarah blinked, her mouth hanging open dumbly. She was still trying to figure out how she'd gotten back and this woman wanted to know if she was staying or leaving the hotel?

"No, I'll-uh-I'm checking out today," Sarah mumbled.

"Alrighty, then!" The woman replied in a syrupy, chipper tone. "I'll let the maids know they can turn down your room. Thank you, Miss Williams. You have a nice day now."

"Thanks," Sarah mumbled, dropping the phone onto its cradle distractedly. She gazed at her hand, her brow furrowing with deep consternation. It was no longer bandaged. Sarah brought her hands up to her face, inspecting them. She gawked at the smooth, uninjured skin which had magically appeared over her once raw and chafed palms.

She quickly felt her shoulder, her fingers gingerly probing the muscle as she steeled herself against the pain that would be sure to follow. Her fingers touched smooth, uninjured skin and the area was devoid of pain. Sarah breathed out sharply, rolling up her shirt and inspecting her stomach. The wounds from the deadly flower garden had vanished as well. Sarah dropped her shirt, her eyes focusing on the sleeve of her cardigan. What had once been reduced to thin, frail strips of ripped and tattered fabric was once again intact and whole. Sarah brushed her fingers against the material questioningly.

It was as if her adventure had never happened.

"It can't be," Sarah muttered in disbelief. She crawled to the edge of the bed and peered over the side. Her backpack lay on the floor with her items scattered where she'd dumped them out in her fit of frustration. A disconcerting feeling of dread crept its way up her spine as she began to doubt herself.

"No," Sarah said, shaking her head. "It wasn't a dream. It couldn't have been just a dream!"

Or was it? Her mind asked retrospectively. Sarah pulled herself up, sitting on the edge of the bed in stunned silence. She wove her fingers frantically through her hair as she strove to make sense of it all. Had it all actually been just a dream? Could she have really dreamed of something like that in such vivid detail?

Slowly, Sarah sank off the bed and to her knees. She gradually began to gather her discarded belongings, shoving them haphazardly into the backpack as her mind spun with recent events.

"How could it have been just a dream? It had to be real." She muttered, grabbing a pair of balled up socks. "It felt so real. He felt so real."

There has to be a way to prove it happened, she thought.

The book! Her mind nearly screamed. Sarah stood up quickly, tossing her backpack on the bed amid the tangled quilt and sheets.

"Where's the book?" She pondered aloud, a fluttering excitement rising in her stomach.

Sarah dove onto the bed, her hands recklessly sifting through the covers in search of the text. Her fingertips cracked the the corner of the book which was tucked securely under a pillow. Sarah grabbed it violently.

The book will tell me! Her mind proclaimed in a near crazed frenzy.
Sarah flopped to the edge of the bed, her thumb already placed between the cover of the book and the front page, ready to flip it open and prove to herself that it hadn't been a dream. She was just seconds away from knowing without a doubt that her adventure in the Labyrinth had really happened, that she had indeed fought her way through the maze once again in an attempt to rescue the Labyrinth from Euryale's tyranny and save the Goblin King.

Sarah hesitated, gripped by sudden indecision.

"If it was real, then I betrayed him," Sarah whispered to herself, looking down at the red cover of the book. "If it was real, that means Jareth is dead."

Guilt began to billow once again deep inside Sarah. Part of her wanted to deny the possibility of such an adventure. She wanted to be able to give into her blissful ignorance and convince herself that none of the events had really transpired. There was a part of her that desperately wanted to believe it was nothing more than a manifestation concocted by her broken heart and lonely imagination. For if she were to believe that, then she wouldn't have to face what she had done. She wouldn't have to live with the knowledge that she had betrayed the Goblin King and scorned his love yet again.

She slipped her thumb out from under the cover, trailing her fingers over the depressed lettering on the face of the book.

"If it wasn't real, then I wouldn't have to bear this guilt," Sarah reasoned with herself, realizing she was in denial. She placed her palm on the cover of the book, at war with herself. She knew that it was only a matter of time before she opened the book and read it, but part of her desperately wanted to cling to the illusion that her adventure had been nothing more than a dream and she had not ruined her chance at love.

Sarah looked down at the book and sighed. So many things had happened and changed for her in one night, dream or not. Her sadness and love for Jareth still remained with unprecedented clarity, bitter and painful. Perhaps it was too soon to relive them again. Perhaps she should give herself some time before she knew the truth.

No matter how much she wanted to wallow in denial, Sarah couldn't lie to herself. She already knew the truth. Deep inside, she knew it hadn't been a dream because dreams were fleeting things. They were strong enough to linger, leaving cavernous wounds inside one's soul. Only life, both brutal and beautiful in all its glory, could leave such permanent scars.

"Say your magic words," Sarah whispered hollowly as she opened the book. She knew there had never been any magic words. It had always been her, she was the key which opened the door. Although, she still wished for the magic words which would take her back and make her whole again.

Tears threatened her vision as she once again felt a longing so deep that it stained her very essence. She gripped the book tightly, overwhelmed by guilt and sorrow as she read the single line which boldly graced the first page. These same words, which had given her some small measure of comfort only days before, threatened to shatter what little remained of herself.

"I wish the Goblin King would take me away," she choked, her voice constricted with sorrow. "Right now."

She had known the truth, but seeing it penned to paper only reopened the endless well of woe and torment she now found herself plunging into. She threw the book into her bag and zipped it closed, wiping her eyes roughly with her fingers. She gazed at the bedside clock and saw it was nearly time to go.

She stood up and sniffled, unsure of what to do next or where to go. She was broken and feared she had forever lost the only thing that ever had the chance of making her whole again. She strode to the door, yanking it open forcefully and nearly colliding with the figure who stood just outside the doorway. Her eyes widened with shock and disbelief as she gazed at the person who blocked her path.

Jareth stood, beautiful and dark, the very essence of delightful wickedness itself. He was dressed in a dark maroon poet shirt with a black leather vest. His dark leather pants matched the vest, intricately stitched and drawn closed with leather laces. The vest itself hung open, the leather laces dangling against his exposed chest, revealing his rapidly diminishing wounds and the crescent pendant.

Sarah drank in the sight of him, her mind swept up in a fury of bewilderment and awe.

Jareth's eyes danced over Sarah, mischievous pleasure rampant within their multicolored depths.

"You know," he said casually, a wicked grin playfully crossing over his lips, making him appear even more sinisterly handsome. "You could have asked that a long time ago."

Return to the Labyrinth

A Labyrinth Story
by ArtemisFallen

Part 23 of 24

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