Continuing Tales


A Labyrinth Story
by Jack Hawksmoor

Part 4 of 8

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It was difficult to hang on to him. He was so limp in her grasp that he was inclined to slip free and puddle on the floor. After some fumbling Sarah got a grip on him under his arms, and dragged him over to her couch. He spilled out of her hands onto the dark pillows and managed, somehow, to look artful and posed where he fell. His long blond hair fanned out around him and his limbs draped over the cushions, one hand dangling with casual ease over the edge. He looked like a painting, Sarah decided. With a suggestive name. 'Sins on the Sofa'. Or possibly even 'After the GHB'. People would walk by it and look thoughtful and impressed.

Sarah leaned down and patted his face, trying to bring him around. Jareth didn't even twitch. Apparently out cold. Sarah slid her hands up underneath him and tugged him into a better position on the couch. Her fingers came away bloody, and she winced in sympathy. She'd forgotten about the wound on his back, and now he was laying on it...

After a moment of internal debate, Sarah reached out and rolled him towards her onto his side, bracing his weight against her shoulder. Carefully, she tugged on the back of his shirt, drawing it up. A pale slice of bare flesh was exposed, and Sarah felt her heartbeat speed up a bit. She pulled the shirt higher and only saw more pale, perfect skin. Sarah frowned and checked his bloodstained shirt. The spot on his back that lay under the stain was, as far as she could tell, completely unblemished. She reached out and drew her fingers over his back. He was fine. It didn't make sense.

"Sarah?" came a muffled voice from boob level. Startled, Sarah pulled back a little, looking down. Jareth was looking rather bemused, gazing up at her, his face nestled firmly against her breasts. Sarah squeaked and jerked away from him, almost sending him tumbling to the floor.

"Madame," Jareth said roughly, pushing himself back into the cushions, "it would seem you have the advantage of me."

Sarah glared at him, blushing furiously. She could feel the heat radiating off her cheeks.

"I wasn't-"

"Weren't you?" Jareth cut her off smoothly.

Annoyed, Sarah went on the offensive.

"You said you wouldn't heal, but you have." Sarah gave him a frown. "Your back was bleeding, earlier, but I checked and there's nothing there, now."

Whatever Jareth had been expecting her to say, that wasn't it. He blinked at her a moment, looking startled. Then he reached down and tugged at his shirt, parting the bloodstained cloth to bare the skin beneath. His chest was smooth and unmarred. Looking honestly shocked, Jareth sat up on the couch, one hand reaching behind him in an awkward motion. His face gained the thoughtful intensity of a man with something stuck in his teeth, almost as if he was trying to focus on the wound in his back by discomfort alone. Impatiently, he whipped his shirt over his head and tried to twist around to catch a glimpse of the area in question out of the corner of his eye.

Sarah, suddenly presented with a half-naked Goblin King, stared unashamedly, waiting for her brain to re-boot.

"Sarah," Jareth said sharply, and Sarah jumped. From the look on his face, she was afraid he'd tried to get her attention more than once. "Do you have a mirror?"

"Yes," Sarah said quickly, jerking her thumb over her shoulder toward the door. Above the table where she usually set her keys was a mirror with a heavy carved frame. She very carefully did not watch his chest muscles flexing as he pushed himself up off the couch.

This was her not watching.

His back, now that she could see it clearly, was very obviously uninjured. He turned to examine himself in the glass, his face deadly serious. He poked at the healthy skin, and then let his arms drop, looking down at her hall table with a frown.

Jareth lifted his head and met her eyes in the mirror, and the expression on his face hit her like a punch to the gut.


He looked completely bowled over by it, as if he hadn't seen that particular emotion in a long time. It broke Sarah's heart seeing anyone so obviously used to misery. She came up behind him, her reflection concerned and sympathetic.

"You're...better?" she asked tentatively. Sarah lifted a hand and brushed the skin on his back. Jareth's reflection shut his eyes. When he did not speak, Sarah withdrew, uncertain. "How?" she prodded.

Jareth stepped back from her as if she was dangerous, and the quality of the movement tugged at her memory.

"It doesn't matter," he said. He was backing away from her, retreating, but his voice was smooth and velvety, urging her to believe him.

'Sarah, beware. I have been generous...'

"But then you can save them," Sarah said, her eyes lighting up. "Everyone in the labyrinth-"

"No-" Jareth cut in, looking sick.

'But I can be cruel...'

"You can re-order time!" Sarah insisted, almost stamping her foot in frustration.

"I can't-" Jareth half-snarled.

"But you're the Goblin King!" Sarah said furiously.

"I was defeated, Sarah," Jareth ground out, stepping close to her, getting in her face. Sarah glared at him and he stopped. Jareth straightened up, looking down his nose at her. His face smoothed out, went cold, as if he was taking hold of his temper with both hands. "I was defeated," he repeated more calmly. "In my world that means something." He stepped away again, tilting his head back a little, looking her over like he'd never seen her before. "And being bested by a young, beautiful, innocent girl?" His voice was matter-of-fact. Forced calm. "A hundred times worse."

Sarah watched him with wide eyes and a sinking stomach. If he was lying to her, then she was no judge of character. "You really can't help, can you?" she said in quiet dismay.

"If I had the power to save my kingdom, I'd use it," Jareth replied with starch, a sliver of his frustration breaking through.

Sarah let her eyes lose focus as she thought hard.

"You have no power over me," she said softly, absently, and Jareth flinched. Sarah turned to him sharply. "But what if you did?"

Jareth's eyes darted to hers.

"What?" he demanded, looking as though he was dreading the answer she might give. It was an odd reaction, but Sarah let it slide.

"What if you had power over me? That would help, right?" Sarah asked, searching his face. He had looked hopeful, for a moment, looking at his healed skin in the mirror. There had to be a way. Maybe being invited into her house had done it partly. They just had to figure out how to get it completely done.

The dread on Jareth's face got stronger, not weaker, but Sarah pressed on.

"So, if you need it, take it." Sarah made a giving gesture with her hands, and Jareth gritted his pointy teeth, his lips pulling back into a grimace.

"You don't know what you're saying," he said. There was a catch in his voice as he spoke that made her want to clear her throat.

"I know I'll be saving my friends," Sarah countered. "So, if I say, 'the Goblin King has all the power over me he needs', then you can save them."

Jareth stared at her for a second of horrified silence, as if she was one of his nightmares come to life.

"No," he breathed, and Sarah didn't think he was answering her.

"What is it?" she asked him with a cold ripple of unease. Why did he look so upset about this? What didn't she know? "You don't have the power to help, but you can take it-"

Jareth darted forward and covered her mouth with his hand, snatching her into a too-tight embrace. "Shh," he said, sounding as shaken as she felt. "You don't know," he added softly.

The only reason she didn't know was because Jareth wouldn't tell her anything, Sarah thought, a spark of anger finally catching. She started to squirm furiously in his grip, pushing at the hand he had clapped over her mouth. It was like shoving at a wall. Sarah made a frustrated, angry sound, but Jareth ignored it, as he ignored her completely futile attempts to push him away from her and maybe blacken his eye for good measure. Though, knowing him, it would only make him look rakish and adorable.

Instead, Jareth tightened his arm around her, and pressed a kiss to her forehead, just over her right eyebrow. The gesture was tender and completely confusing. Sarah went still and glared at him darkly until he finally relented and dropped his hand from her mouth.

"I don't understand you," Sarah said, wiping at her lips. "Why won't you tell me anything? You're the one who brought me into this," she said unhappily, and was startled at the expression that darted across his face for an instant.


Sarah sighed, mystified.

"Can't you see I need to help? Even if it's not my fault-"

"It isn't," Jareth said firmly. "It's mine."

Sarah stared at him for a breath or two. He'd said that before, but she'd gotten distracted before she could ask what he meant by it.

"What have you done?" Sarah asked softly, troubled. Given the way he'd been acting, she wasn't expecting a response, and was more or less musing out loud. In the hallway outside her bedroom he'd said this was his fault. Then, of course, he'd decided the best follow up to that would be to kiss her. Had he done something on account of her, maybe?

As soon as he escaped he came right to her, surely that had to mean something...

"What have you done?" Sarah breathed, poking at the problem, holding it in her hand and trying to look at it from different angles.

"I've destroyed my kingdom, committed treason, and betrayed every one of my responsibilities," Jareth said, startling her. He ticked the examples off on his fingers with a thin, humorless smile. Then he lifted his eyebrows and looked at her pointedly. "Nothing more," he added.

Sarah gaped at him. He couldn't have. He couldn't...

"You destroyed your kingdom," she said slowly, disbelief and outrage rising to the surface and threatening to break free.

"As good as," Jareth said simply, and the bleakness on his face made her ashamed for taking him literally. "My imprisonment was not entirely undeserved."

"For not being strong enough to fight them off?" Sarah asked sharply, more annoyed with herself than with him at the moment. Of course he would blame himself, he was the King.

Jareth stared at her for a long moment, until she started to feel a little bit uncomfortable.

"I saved someone," he murmured finally, as if speaking to himself.

Me. The thought was instantaneous and had no reasoning behind it. That didn't change the fact that Sarah was completely, irrationally certain she was right.

He saved me. The thought was weirdly pleasing.

"How?" Sarah asked quietly, utterly failing at sounding unaffected. One corner of Jareth's mouth curled up in a sharp mockery of a smile.

"Once upon a time," he said smoothly, folding his arms, and Sarah was surprised into laughing out loud. Jareth watched her, looking very pleased with himself, waiting until he could get a word in.

"There was a beautiful girl," he continued, "who was spoiled and selfish and wished away someone she loved."

Sarah 'tsked' broadly, enjoying herself despite everything.

"Shame on her," she said with a dry smile.

Jareth flashed sharp teeth.

"Oh, but this girl fought to regain the child she'd lost, from the wicked and terrible Goblin King," Jareth said, dropping his arms and taking a step towards her. Sarah mirrored him, moving closer until she was nearly touching him.

"Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered?" she prompted with a gleam in her eye.

"All the way to the castle beyond the Goblin City," Jareth agreed with a wry twist of his lips. He put a hand out on the table beside them, and it was almost as if Jareth wanted to embrace her but didn't dare. Sarah looked down and watched him as he rubbed his thumb absently over the wood. He leaned in close and whispered in her ear, making her jump. "But when the girl found the child he was out of her reach," Jareth said, his breath soft on the side of her face.

Sarah pulled back, startled, and her eyes darted up to meet his. She'd forgotten that.

"He was," Sarah murmured, remembering.

"The girl was very brave," Jareth said, the warmth in his voice making Sarah's eyes widen. "She jumped."

Jareth paused and Sarah found herself leaning forward in anticipation.

"And then?" she prompted, which really was silly, since she knew exactly what happened next...

"It was too far," Jareth said softly, and Sarah looked at him sharply.

"What?" she asked. She certainly didn't remember that. Well, sure, it had been a long drop, and if she'd landed she might've broke her neck but-

Jareth saw the sudden sober expression on her face and nodded.

"Yes," he said to her unspoken thought. "But the Goblin King saw her, and couldn't let that happen. The Goblin King stopped time itself to save her. It nearly tore his castle apart. He saved her, even though he knew that if he did, he might lose the child to her."

"Sounds risky," Sarah said, shaken. She thought of the moment her fall towards Toby had slowed, of the gentle way she'd been set down on her feet. When she'd turned to look around her the King had been there, watching her from the shadows.

He'd looked so tired, Sarah recalled with a little jolt. She hadn't ever really considered why that might be. At the time, Sarah had some sense that it might have something to do with her reaching the center of the Labyrinth, and never gave it a second thought. Not even when he'd claimed to be exhausted living up to her expectations. Sarah had been so sure that he wasn't telling her the whole truth. She just hadn't realized what that might have meant.

"Mmm," the Goblin King agreed, nodding his head. "He didn't care. He knew that if he was defeated he would be putting his kingdom at risk, but he didn't care about that, either." Jareth reached up and brushed a strand of hair out of Sarah's face, making her blink. "He wanted the chance to offer the girl her dreams one more time." Jareth's voice dropped to a whisper. "He wanted her to accept them. He was certain she would. He wanted that so badly."

Sarah realized her mouth was hanging open, and hastily shut it.

"I called Hoggle," she said after a long, pregnant pause. "I spoke to him and the others for ages afterwards. If you knew your kingdom would fall, why didn't you come?"

Jareth raised his eyebrows.

"I couldn't," he said, as if she was stupid for suggesting it. Sarah pulled a face. "'You have no power over me,'" Jareth reminded her.

Oh. Duh.

"But," Sarah said with a frown, "you're here"

Jareth smiled a slow, cold smile.

"I am not the Goblin King anymore. So I am not bound by the Goblin King's restrictions. There are no Goblins to rule over, so," He straightened and made a little flourish with his hands. A silent little 'ta-da, here I am'.

Sarah suddenly had to fight very hard not to snicker. It was ghoulish and strange, given that the goblins in question had probably died horrible deaths, but she couldn't help it. She pressed her lips tightly together for a moment, trying valiantly to straighten her face. When she finally looked up, expecting to see Jareth's disapproval, she got a surprise.

His face was much closer to hers than she was expecting, and his expression was a hell of a lot more admiring. He was looking at her as if the was some rare, priceless treasure. His hand came up, and he brushed his index finger just along the line of her chin. Sarah's eyes widened.

"So cruel," he said gently, approvingly. Jareth darted forward and kissed her before the words penetrated. A quick, electric press of his lips to hers. Sarah froze, realizing what he'd said, but he was already pulling away. Sarah was left with her wires quite thoroughly crossed, being both flushed and pleased and annoyed and indignant all at once.

She lifted her chin, indignant winning out over everything, and gave him a cold look.

"Not compared to some," she said. Jareth had no reaction to that, which was deeply unsatisfying, so Sarah folded her arms and tried something else.

"It was a pretty story," she admitted, tilting her head as if conceding a point. Jareth lifted an eyebrow, looking pleased and smug. "It's a shame the ending was so stupid," she added maliciously.

That got a reaction.

Jareth blinked. A smile flickered over his face, as patently unnatural as a fluorescent light stuttering to life.

"I'm sorry, I must be mistaken. I thought I heard you say you didn't like the ending you chose, but that can't be right." Jareth's voice was mocking and cold, and Sarah suddenly got the distinct feeling of being herded. He was trying to distract her, trying to be obnoxious and keep her off balance so she wouldn't figure something out.

She'd asked him what he'd done that was so terrible. She was trying to find out why he couldn't bear to let her help him. Jareth had said he'd saved her, but he didn't feel bad about it, that was fairly clear. The question was, what had he done that made him so ashamed?

After a moment of thought, Sarah took the high road.

"Don't you read your own stories?" Sarah asked, her voice pleasant and light. "You should have given me a ring before I left."

"What?" Jareth breathed. He froze, staring at her as if she'd just slapped him. No, his expression was much more intense than that. Jareth would probably get a lot of amusement out of Sarah trying to slap him.

Sarah gave him a half smile.

"To put on my pillow at midnight, so I could get back to the labyrinth. Then we could have avoided this whole mess." She was teasing him, but it took him a moment to catch on. His response wasn't quite what she expected. It was almost like he couldn't bear to look at her.

Sarah wondered briefly if it was actually impossible to be nice to the man.

"Though," Sarah added thoughtfully, almost to herself, "maybe a poisoned apple would be more like it."

Jareth winced.

"I don't have any rings, or apples. Or spindles, for that matter." Jareth said quietly, looking grim. He looked her right in the eye, as if steeling himself. "What I have is a knife, and a box."

Sarah was momentarily taken aback. His manner contrasted sharply with the idea that he'd decided to play along, and the disparity troubled her. But then her mind started whittling away at the clues almost despite her. She knew every fairy story pretty much backwards and forwards. It was hard to resist. Who was he? Who had a-

Knife. Box.

Lungs. Liver.

'...and bring them to her as proof that he has killed her. The huntsman took Snow White into the forest...'

It was only in the Disney version that they had changed it so the woodsman was sent after her heart. More dramatic, Sarah thought with a growing horror.

"You came right here," Sarah said faintly, feeling all of the color drain out of her face. "It wasn't a coincidence. As soon as you were free, you came right to me. "

'He raised his knife...'

"Why?" It was barely a word. More like a puff of breath, but Jareth heard her.

That look was back again on his face. That strange, terrible guilt that had so confused her. God help her, Sarah thought she knew why, now...

'What if you had power over me?...If you need it, take it...'

The memory of speaking those words poured down her spine like ice water. She took a single step back from him. Jareth saw, and lowered his head, just a little. Shadows darkened his face.

"You know," he said tightly.

Sarah turned and ran.


A Labyrinth Story
by Jack Hawksmoor

Part 4 of 8

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