Continuing Tales


A Labyrinth Story
by Jack Hawksmoor

Part 3 of 8

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He stepped away from the wall and began to walk around her, making her turn her head so she could keep him in sight. He stopped on his own, as if he'd only been searching for the correct light to view her in.

"Oh, Sarah," he sighed, shaking his head just slightly. He folded his arms over his chest, leaning elegantly against her kitchen counter. "My kingdom has been destroyed, by those creatures and others like them. They have always been there, and I have always kept them at bay." He smiled in a thin, extremely disturbing fashion. "One of my duties of office, as it were."

Sarah shifted from one foot to the other, feeling jumpy in her own skin.

"Always," she repeated. "Always is a long time. What changed?"

Jareth lowered his head, and looked at her. He said nothing, but he kept staring at her, until Sarah's unease blossomed into a dull panic.

"Tell me," he said in a conversational tone of voice. "In all your tales, all your fairy stories," he nodded at the brightly gleaming silver painting over her door, "When the villain has been vanquished, does he go on to continue his wicked ways? Does he prosper and live a long and fruitful life?"

Sarah's eyes were wide. Jareth dropped his arms to his sides, his hands curled into tight fists.

"Does he?" Jareth demanded, a crack in his composure showing a bright hot anger bubbling just under the surface.

"No," Sarah said, very quietly. She took a step toward him. Villain suddenly seemed a rather...harsh term for what he'd been to her. "You said you'd only done what I wanted," she murmured. Jareth stiffened, his eyes flicking up to meet hers, and for a crazy moment she thought she saw...

No. That would be...that would be ridiculous.

"I played my part, Sarah, and now I am reaping the rewards," He turned away from her, so she couldn't see his face any more. "I am not the power I once was." He sounded very tired all of a sudden.

"You're saying it's my fault," Sarah said, with a cold little shiver down her spine. Jareth looked at her sharply.

"Oh, no," he said firmly, almost with relish. "This has happened entirely because of me." For the first time, Sarah got the impression that a good portion of that anger festering under the surface was directed at himself.

She stood there in her kitchen, breathing rapidly for a moment.

"Can you," she said faintly, thinking fast, "Can you show me...anything that would prove..." she hesitated.

That you're not a liar, she finished in her head. Jareth paused, seeming to weigh her words, and then his lips curved up into a little smile. It was not a friendly expression.

"Come with me," he said, and stepped around her, snagging her hand. Startled, Sarah allowed him to lead her down the hall toward her bedroom. She stopped at the door. Jareth simply continued inside without her.

He grabbed the glass of water she'd left on her bedside table the night before and approached the mural of the labyrinth she had taken such care in painting. He cocked his head like a bird, and dipped his fingers in the water. Then, in quick, sweeping strokes, he started to mark strange symbols on her wall, dipping his fingers in the glass when they got dry. The water showed in darker streaks on the mural.

Curious, Sarah stepped inside, approaching him cautiously as he worked.

"What are you doing?" she asked him tentatively. Jareth stopped, taking a breath. He turned his head, though he didn't quite look at her.

"What you wanted," he replied, and made two more long streaks on her wall. "As ever."

Sarah shot him a startled look.

He stepped back from his labors with a little satisfied sound and raised his hand, palm outstretched toward the mural. Sarah drew closer, until she was standing beside him, her eyes flicking from his hand to her wall. Something was going on, something that was making her skin prickle and her nose itch. A ripple of distortion passed over the picture of the labyrinth, like a hand trailing over the surface of a shallow pond. Sarah caught her breath.

"What is it?" she murmured softly, eyes wide.

The picture, as if answering her, came to an echo of life; The painted trees shifted in an imagined breeze, like an artfully done cartoon playing out in front of her. It was only a moment, a brief flash, like a memory whose colors were still bright. Then the sky went dark. Shadows crept out over the land. The plants withered, and terrible beasts wheeled screeching across the sky.

"What is," Jareth said, his voice thick. The wall went completely black.

Sarah jumped, and half reached out, as if she could somehow make the picture better again.

"No!" Jareth grabbed her as if she'd been trying to wander out into traffic or something, pulling her sharply back away from the wall. She looked up at him with wide, uncomprehending eyes. He made a sharp, frustrated sound and turned back, tossing the remainder of the water in the glass at the terrible black emptiness that had been her mural.

Sarah saw with a detached kind of horror that the darkness had started to creep up over her ceiling. It was spreading with black, reaching tendrils as if it was trying to devour her room. When the water hit the wall it boiled instantly with an almost angry sound, steaming. The evaporated cloud of water ate at the darkness, leaving a bare patch of wall behind, and Jareth started to try and drag her from the room.

"Wait, what-" Sarah protested, digging her heels in like a recalcitrant cat. Jareth turned, grabbing her firmly by the shoulders.

"We need to go. Now." His eyes were wide and he spoke fast. Sarah hesitated for a breath and nodded, relaxing a fraction. Jareth slid his hands down her arms and pulled her toward the door using both hands. Curious and unnerved, Sarah started to turn to look behind her, but Jareth clamped down swiftly on her fingers.

"Don't," he warned, deadly serious. "Don't look back."

The words trailed down her spine with ice cold fingers. Sarah fixed her eyes on Jareth's and did not let them stray a millimeter. She knew too much about fairy stories. 'Don't look back' were words with dire consequences, in those kinds of stories. Sarah did not fancy the idea of being turned to stone, or struck blind, or any other of a hundred terrible things she could think of as the unfortunate result of ignoring those words.

She kept her eyes locked with Jareth's, and tried not to let her hands shake. He kicked at something, and she heard a thump behind her, but didn't look.

Sarah must have known before, that Jareth had eyes that were two different colors. However, like his smell, it was something that she must have made herself forget. Suddenly finding herself staring intently into them, it was something that surprised her anew. Fascinated, she stepped closer. They were lovely.

Jareth got a strange look on his face, in those lovely eyes, as she watched him. Almost...pained.

"Sarah," he sighed, smoothing his thumbs over the back of her hands. They were in the hall, she realized with a start. Her bedroom door was shut. She didn't remember going out into the hall.

She looked back at her door for a long moment, thinking of the darkness within. Sarah's eyes were stinging, and she blinked them hard. Hoggle, and brave Sir Didymus, dead...

If they're lucky...

"This is my fault, isn't it?" Sarah said, turning to Jareth, tilting her head. The angle let a tear slip free to trail back into her hairline. Jareth lifted his head sharply, anger warring with something much softer, fighting for expression on his face.

"Oh, no," he said, and for a moment the anger won out. "No...this is my fault," Jareth stroked her cheek, staring at her for a long moment. Then his voice gentled, shocking her terribly.

"This is all my fault," he sighed, and leaned forward, and kissed her.

The affect was something like grabbing onto a live wire. Sarah stiffened, inhaling a sharp breath through her nose. His lips parted against hers, just slightly, and good god, the way he smelled was nothing...nothing compared to the way he tasted. Sarah made a slightly strangled sound and opened her mouth, not thinking at all. Not wanting to think at all.

She was only certain that she wanted another helping of that, please.

Jareth hesitated for a fraction of a second and then he crushed her to him, his tongue in her mouth, half lifting her right off her feet. Sarah fisted her hands in his hair, all that beautiful hair...He was kissing her like she was all he'd ever wanted and she didn't know what to do with that. She didn't know how she could take it, it was so raw. It felt wonderful, and terrifying, like trying to catch a storm in her bare hands. So she grabbed him and just held on tight. He groaned into her mouth, turning and pushing her up against the door to her linen closet.

Crazy...this was...absolutely...

Something was making a racket, pounding at her front door, and she might have wondered about that but Jareth pressed up against her roughly and her mind was suddenly on other things. She could tell just exactly how pleased he was to be kissing her, and she abruptly felt a tingly flush to all the right places. His hands were sliding up the back of her top. The leather was soft and warm against her skin, and she really ought to stop him now...he really ought to stop her now...She spread her fingers underneath the loose collar of his shirt, finding the skin beneath smooth and unblemished and pleasing to the touch. His shirt was a bit damp and clammy, so she pushed it aside, not sure why that struck her as something important, something she should notice...

He slid his tongue along hers and the taste of him was just too good. The heavy, sweet scent of summer evenings. Pinwheels and lace, wine and candy. Dreams. Sarah suddenly wondered distractedly whether she had anything they could use...god, she didn't do this, she didn't think she had anything...maybe a stray condom, in her nightstand...

Damn! She thought sharply. There were freaking monsters in the bedroom. Figured.

Then Jareth pushed against her with his hips, and the sensation was so much more concentrated, so much more intense than she was prepared for, she actually felt her heart clench up and skip a beat.

He froze, and tore his mouth from hers. It actually felt like something tearing, and Sarah heard herself making a soft, inarticulate sound of protest. But Jareth had turned to look toward her front door, and Sarah realized somewhat belatedly that something was once again trying to break in. There was a bright glow and a burning smell coming from her living room, in addition to the dull sounds of appendages beating on wood.

She heard another window break, and cursed, pushing herself out of Jareth's embrace. They both ran for the living room, stepping over the mess she had left lying on the floor in front of the hall closet. Sarah paused at the threshold, hissing out a breath between her teeth.

Every ward she had was lit up like a Christmas tree. Her door was shuddering in the frame. There was glass all over the floor, and one of her curtains was on fire, as was the serpentine appendage that was edging inside around it.

Jareth had left the wrought iron in the kitchen, she realized with a pang, and started to run for it. Jareth snagged her before she got two steps, pulling her back.

"What-" Sarah began with a frown.

"I can handle this," Jareth said with cool determination. Sarah lifted her eyebrows in exasperation and spread her hands as if to say 'what the hell are you waiting for'. Jareth gave her a sharp, bare smile and took a step away from her, tilting his head back and shutting his eyes.

For a moment, there was nothing. Then, her nose started to itch. A second later, Jareth exploded.

Sarah flinched back as a bubble of flame burst out from him, searing her retinas. It passed through her with a wicked jolt and spread out, licking and crackling over her walls and ceiling. A hot wind followed it, whipping her hair back. After a moment the flame seemed to soak into the drywall, glowing in a strange, swirling pattern before disappearing entirely. Sarah blinked up at the ceiling, and then looked sharply to her front door. She could still hear something beating at it, trying to get in, but the sound was muffled, as if it came from very far away.

Her curtain was still smoldering, but the...tentacle...had vanished, and all her wards began to fade from white-hot heat, cooling down through orange and red. The whole place was probably going to stink of brimstone for weeks.

Jareth was standing in the middle of it as if frozen in place.

"Wow," Sarah said, impressed. Then Jareth took a single, stumbling step back and Sarah's eyes went wide. She dove forward just in time to catch him as he fell.


A Labyrinth Story
by Jack Hawksmoor

Part 3 of 8

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