Continuing Tales


A Labyrinth Story
by Jack Hawksmoor

Part 5 of 8

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"Sarah!" Jareth called after her, sounding weary and resigned and not dangerous at all.

Sarah ignored him and bolted for the kitchen. She heard him following behind her slowly, unhurried. She supposed he had a reason not to be alarmed at her retreat. Though the sound was muffled and far away, Sarah could still hear the faint sounds of monsters outside, trying to break in. She was trapped. It wasn't like she was going to run far.

However, when she snatched up the bar of wrought iron Jareth had left propped up against her kitchen cabinets, and brought it up with a rather violent look in her eye, Jareth finally showed some alarm. He stopped dead and put both his hands up, his eyes going wide.

"Sarah," he said slowly, with the controlled anxiety of a man trying to coax a small child off the roof. He reached out as if he actually expected her to give the weapon to him. "Don't-" Sarah feinted a swing at him and he scrambled back.

"You stay away from me," she snapped. Tough girl. Then she bit her lip. "You were going to kill me," she said, appalled. She didn't sound tough at all that time. She sounded sort of hurt, actually. Sarah had thought he'd...liked her. "All this time-"

"No-" Jareth said sharply, stiffening and dropping his hands a little.

"I let you kiss me!" Sarah hissed, furious and mortified. Then Jareth did something very, very stupid. He smirked.

Sarah narrowed her eyes, aimed for his head, and swung for the fences. Jareth was ridiculously quick however, and jerked back as the metal pole whistled through the air in front of his face. She brought it back in again from her left and Jareth snatched it right out of the air, the iron whacking solidly into his leather-gloved palm.

"I'm not going to kill you," Jareth growled. Sarah pulled hard, trying to wrench the bar from his grip, and the bare metal brushed over the ungloved skin on the outside of his wrist. There was a terrible smell, like searing meat, and Sarah watched in horror as the bar simply sloughed off a layer of his skin where it touched him, burning through it like acid.

Jareth hissed and staggered back from her, curling forward around the wound, his face white with pain. Some fragments of his skin stuck to the pole, disintegrating even as Sarah watched. Sarah made a sick choking sound and dropped it, almost retching.

Not silver bullets after all.

Jareth went down on one knee. Insanely, unconsciously, Sarah made a move to help him, reaching out with one hand. He looked up into her eyes.

Sarah nearly squirmed. It was ridiculous. He was the one who'd been planning to kill her. How had it happened that Jareth was the one who felt betrayed? His eyes flicked down to her outstretched hand, held almost level with his eyes.

"You're going to kill me," Jareth said slowly, as if he just needed to get things straight. Sarah blinked at him, not following him at all. She looked down at her own hand, empty of weapons and reaching to help. Jareth sat down on her floor hard, and laughed.

Sarah winced at the sound of it. It was raw and exhausted and just a hair to one side of a nervous breakdown. Sarah wasn't entirely sure which side.

"You're going to..." Jareth chuckled horribly, and shot to his knees, making Sarah jump. He spread his arms wide. "Go on then, Sarah. Wonderful, cruel Sarah. Do what I can't." He leaned toward her and turned his head slightly, as if offering his cheek for stroking. Or slapping. Sarah pulled her hand back, unnerved and thoroughly confused. She recognized a breakdown when she saw it, but she didn't understand why.

Sarah clenched her fists and paused, startled. She lifted both her hands up, close to her face. Her palms felt gritty. Tilting them in the dim light, she saw they were covered in little specks of iron, from when she'd squeezed the bar as she was swinging it. She looked down at him in guilty dismay. He'd seen the iron on her fingers. God, if she touched him now she'd probably melt his face off.

She clutched her hands to her chest and opened her mouth to explain, but Jareth beat her to it.

"I killed the others without a problem," Jareth said, shocking her silent. "Without a single doubt, because I knew, I knew what would happen if I failed in my duty." He wasn't looking at her. Sarah wasn't even sure he was talking to her. "The skies would darken and my kingdom would fall." He lifted his chin and met her eyes. His expression was very cold. "I fought and I lied, I charmed and I threatened, and I killed every last person who had ever solved my labyrinth, because it was my duty."

Sarah stared at him, something way down deep inside her howling in dismay. She wanted very badly to push this particular truth away.

"How..." she had a catch in her throat, and started over. "How many?" Jareth frowned at her. "People," Sarah snapped. "How many people have you killed?"

Jareth hesitated, and Sarah took a threatening step toward him. So help her, if he didn't answer she would melt his face off.

Jareth looked away from her, clenching his jaw.

"Eleven," he said roughly.

Jesus Christ, he's a serial killer, Sarah thought, stumbling back from him.

"The last was just over a century ago. I could do it to them, because it was necessary." Jareth's voice softened, drawing her eyes to his face. "But not to you," Whatever Jareth saw in her expression bothered him, and he scowled and looked away. "I knew that if I didn't it would be the end of me, and every single imbecilic goblin who called me King. Every day it was more obvious. The darkness crept over the land, and those wretched beasts roamed wild in the streets." Jareth was angry, and obviously half out of his mind, but Sarah was mesmerized by the story and didn't stop him. He leaned toward her.

"Every day, as more of my charges died I knew I could end it."

"By ending me," Sarah said, finding her voice.

"Yes," Jareth said, and sighed wearily. "But still, I couldn't." He got to his feet but didn't approach her. Sarah tried to ignore the steady pat-pat of blood from his wound falling onto the floor. "I was away for so long...I thought, perhaps now I could bear to do it. Perhaps now it would be different." He took a step towards her and said something extraordinary. "You were right, Sarah," he said, stunning her. He lifted his hand, making a fist, the leather of his gloves creaking slightly. "I could turn back time. If I had the power, I could undo it all. Save my kingdom. Save your friends."

Jareth took another step toward her.

"I came here with that end in mind. But when I saw you-" he reached out, slowly, tentatively, and took her hand, the leather warm against her skin. "It was the same," he said softly, lifting her hand by the wrist, turning her palm to rest against his cheek...

Sarah stiffened, jerking her hand back in fright as she realized what he was doing.

"No," she choked. Jareth stilled. He lifted an eyebrow.

"No?" he breathed softly. Sarah pressed her lips into a thin, hard line.


Silently, she shook her head. No.

Jareth leaned forward, bowing his head, and rested his forehead against hers. Sarah shut her eyes, sagging a bit, and tried not to think.

How many thousands were dead now, because of her? If she'd just given up her brother, none of this would have happened, Sarah thought uncomfortably. The part that shocked her was the firm realization half a second later that even if she'd known, she wouldn't have changed her decision. She'd have taken her brother, and let the goblins go hang.

Sure, Sarah would have tried to get her friends out, but...

Jareth was right. She was cruel. And she didn't have a hell of a lot of room to throw stones.

"This is," Sarah sighed softly, "the most insane evening I've ever had."

Jareth smirked and pulled away from her. He reached out, tugging gently on her wrists, coaxing her tightly clenched fists away from where she held them close to her chest. Sarah watched him warily as he uncurled her reluctant fingers and stroked them. His gloves were butter-soft. Jareth carefully pressed her hand in between both of his palms, first one hand, then the other.

When he moved to rest her hand on his chest she balked, struggling with him, but he was quick and strong and her hand ended up on his forearm anyway. Nothing much happened. Sarah flicked her eyes up, opening her mouth to question him.

Silently, Jareth held up a gloved hand and wiggled his fingers in a rather eye-catching way. If he'd had a crystal in that hand, it would have danced for him. Testing, Sarah lifted one of her own hands and rubbed her fingers together. If there were any particles of iron, she couldn't tell.

"Magic gloves?" she ventured, eying him with a faint smile. He inclined his head regally, absently stroking the fingers of her trapped hand. She watched him. He was gentle with her, like she was some precious, delicate thing.

This man was a murderer, Sarah thought. Though, she had to admit, after more than a hundred years, it seemed like some kind of statute of limitations or something would apply.

"Why not me?" Sarah asked quietly, eying the way he was holding her hand. "You said-" she stopped, distressed. "You killed all those people," she said unhappily. "Why not me?" Some part of her was dancing with anxiety as she asked, as if he might suddenly realize he had no good reason and dispatch her on the spot. A smaller, crazier part was thinking that he had kissed her, and maybe...

Jareth's mouth tightened, and he scrutinized her in an extremely intense way. It was a bit uncomfortable, not least because Jareth looked more than half pissed as he did it. He dropped her hand, narrowing his eyes a fraction.

"Don't be so stupid," he said angrily.

"What?" Sarah asked incredulously. He stepped back from her, pointing a finger in her face.

"I won't be toyed with," he growled, and turned his back on her.

Sarah gaped at him for a minute.

"Absolutely out of his mind," she muttered to herself, shaking her head and pushing aside a twinge of disappointment. Had to be it. She put a hand on her hip and breathed out through her nose, grabbing onto her temper and wrestling it to the ground.

She noticed, now that Jareth was sulking silently, that the muffled thumping from outside was getting less muffled.

"Those things outside are getting louder," Sarah said, and was proud that she didn't sound like she wanted to strangle him. Which was nice, because she did.

Jareth didn't respond for a moment, but she could see his jaw working.

"Time is catching up," he said, and she gave him full marks. He didn't sound like he wanted to strangle her, either. He was cradling his wounded arm, though, which made Sarah feel pretty bad about herself. She stepped over to her kitchen counter and ripped off a few paper towels from the roll.

She offered them to him. He glanced down at the wad of white doubtfully, and she pushed it at him in a little 'take it' gesture.

"How long do we have?" Sarah asked, as he pressed the towel to his wound with a wince.

"An hour, or so," Jareth replied. Sarah took a deep breath as her stomach sank. Not long at all.

"Can you do anything else?" Sarah asked, trying to sound tougher than she felt. Jareth kept his eyes on his arm.

"Not so soon," He said simply. "I can make sure," he continued, still not looking at her, "that you're all right, once they get in."

He glanced over at her front door, the silver words arching over it glittering faintly in the candlelight.

"You should wait by the door," he said thoughtfully. "I can turn their eyes so they don't see you for a moment or two. When they get inside you can sneak out behind them."

Sarah listened, the words he spoke somehow tugging at her heart like a physical thing.

"And just leave you here," Sarah said, feeling vaguely sick. Jareth looked up at her and smiled slightly.

"Concern for the villain?" he asked her. "You weren't so worried when you thought I was going to kill you."

Sarah glanced down at his arm. He was seeping blood through the paper towel. She felt bad about that, but should she? Maybe he hadn't been exactly a villain to her, but that didn't mean he wasn't a villain.

Why didn't he kill her?

No, Sarah thought abruptly, that wasn't what he'd said. Not didn't. Couldn't. The question was, why couldn't he kill her? When leaving her alive meant death and suffering for so many...

He was waiting for her to answer him, and the look on his face poked at her memory. He looked like he had in the room full of stairs, after she'd jumped to get to Toby. Exhausted...and achingly hopeful. He'd offered her dreams...

'He wanted her to accept them. He wanted that so badly.'

Good God, Sarah thought with a jolt. Sometimes she really was dense.

"I'm not leaving you here for those things," Sarah said quietly, her heart racing with her abrupt realization. She looked up at him with pale, determined eyes. "We'll figure out a way to fix this. I just need time to think."


A Labyrinth Story
by Jack Hawksmoor

Part 5 of 8

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