Continuing Tales


A Labyrinth Story
by Jack Hawksmoor

Part 6 of 8

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Sarah finished pulling the immediately perishable items out of her fridge and examined the spread she'd laid out on the counter with satisfaction. All things considered, Sarah figured normality was an act of optimism. Cleaning out the stuff that would go bad due to the power outage seemed to qualify.

"Anything look good?" she asked. Jareth lifted an eyebrow and gave her a look that brought to mind trashy romance novels. "To eat," she added hurriedly.

Jareth glanced over the offerings with obvious distaste. He picked up a carton of half-and-half and sniffed the contents. The gesture was so completely human that Sarah had to snicker.

"You want some coffee?" she asked with a smile, offering him an empty mug. Jareth took it, giving her a doubtful look. He filled it about two-thirds of the way with cream, then opened her box of coffee cake and pulled off a chunk with his bare fingers. Sarah watched, startled, as he tore the chunk of sweet bread into little bits and dropped them into his mug of cream.

Toby used to do something similar with milk and saltine crackers. When he was four.

"Okay, gross..." Sarah said. Jareth gave her a bemused look over the rim of his cup, and sipped noisily. Sarah made a face.

She busied herself for a moment, nibbling at some leftover potato salad. Sarah knew she was stalling. She even knew that they didn't have the time for it.

"Thought your way out of this yet?" Jareth asked with annoying perceptiveness. Sarah looked at her hands, listening to the not-as-muffled-as-it-used-to-be pounding on her door.

"Not yet," Sarah said uncomfortably.

"It's all right," Jareth said, lifting his spoon and fishing around in his mug for a bit of cream-sodden sweet bread. He ate it with apparent relish.


"This is very...pleasant," Jareth added with a sigh of contentment. "I haven't eaten like this in a long time."

Sarah gave him an odd look.

"Do you need to eat?"

Jareth looked amused. "Everything needs to eat," he said. "The only thing that varies is how often." He took a swallow of his cream, looking more relaxed than Sarah could ever remember seeing him. She nibbled thoughtfully on her lower lip. Jareth seemed to be in an answering-questions kind of mood, and Sarah decided to take advantage.

"You said that if you ran, they would catch you. But what if I could get you close? Really close?"

"To where?" Jareth asked.

"To the labyrinth," Sarah said, leaning forward on the counter. "I haven't got a key for it, but I could get you to a place nearby. If you could get there before they could stop you, and turn back time-"

"Sarah, I don't have the power," Jareth interrupted. He fixed her with a determined glare. "And I'm not going to take it from you."

Was Sarah out of her mind to go a bit warm and fuzzy over that?

"Are you so sure that's the only way?" she asked curiously. Jareth flicked his eyes up, startled. He stared at her for a long moment, as if he was looking for something in her eyes. Whatever it was, he didn't seem to find it.

"For me...yes," he said. He put an elbow on the counter and covered his mouth with his hand, looking thoughtful and rather morose. Sarah felt a pang, realizing she'd somehow managed to spoil his mood.

Just for a second, when he'd looked at her, Sarah could have sworn she'd seen that flicker of hope again. It sort of hurt to see it go out so fast.

"I'm not so sure," she said carefully. "Your wounds healed after I invited you in. There has to be something more to it." She waited expectantly, but Jareth said nothing. He kept his gaze averted, as if he needed to hide what he was feeling.

Sarah had a sudden thought, an idea that made her go cold and start to sweat.

"How much power do you have right now?" she asked, her heart suddenly beating very fast.

In response, he dropped his hand and rested it lightly over the paper towel that was still resting over his wound. It looked like the bleeding had slowed, but the paper towel was now stuck to his arm with clotting blood.

Sarah dropped her eyes with a pang of guilt. She examined her hands as if she'd never seen them before.

"You said you could turn their eyes..." she added weakly.

"To what end?" Jareth asked, sounding weary.

"Could you make me look like someone else?" Sarah asked.

"Sarah, I promise you, they won't see you if I don't want them to-" Jareth began, his voice going shockingly soft.

"Could you make me look like you?" Sarah interrupted. She lifted her eyes. Jareth looked like somebody had given him a good hard smack. "Could you make them think I'm you? You could get away-" Sarah added quickly.

"Absolutely not," Jareth snapped.

"Jareth, you asked me if I was thinking of a way out of this, so now I am. You said that it can't just be me saying that you have power over me. All right, so it doesn't work that way. If I'd said that you had no power over me before I'd run the labyrinth it wouldn't have worked, would it?" she asked.

"No," Jareth replied, as if he was startled that she would even ask. "You wouldn't have really believed it. You wouldn't have earned the right to believe it."

"All right," Sarah said, energized with the sudden certainty that they were getting to the meat of the problem. "So I have to do something more. Maybe, in the bad old days, the only way to fix it was to trick people, to take the power back from them."

"Kill them," Jareth corrected mildly. Sarah winced, but Jareth looked as calm and undisturbed as if she'd been inquiring about the weather. It threw her for a moment. How...not-sorry he was.

It struck her, all of a sudden, how unimaginably old he must be.

"Yes," she forced out. "But I'm trying to help. I don't need to be tricked. I want to give you your power back." Sarah folded her arms, as much to steady herself as anything else. "I just have to earn the right to do it."

Jareth raised his eyebrows.

"I don't seem to have any labyrinths in my pockets for you to run," he said, looking bemused.

Despite herself, Sarah had to choke back a laugh at that. "You have pockets, in those pants?" she asked.

Jareth gave her a wicked look. "Come find out.," he offered with a flash of his eyes.

Dangerous, Sarah thought. She wondered what would happen if she took him up on it. Probably a lot of groping. Then they could lose track of time and get horribly slaughtered when those monsters finally busted their way into her apartment.

That would probably cut down on the opportunity for future pocket-checking. Best hold off, Sarah decided.

"Jareth, look at it like this. I'm asking you to cast a spell on me, to save my friends. I'm trying to make a bargain with you for their lives." Sarah did not miss the way Jareth tensed at the word 'bargain'. She tilted her head a little, eyes wide. "I'm willing to suffer whatever consequences come with that. How much more power over me do you need?"

Would it be enough? God, she hoped so...She was sure no one had ever tried this before. After all, what kind of lunatic would ask the Goblin King to put a spell on them? Especially someone who'd actually solved his labyrinth. Total madness.

Jareth looked like a hungry man being offered poisoned food. Tempted and angry. Sarah continued, her voice much quieter.

"You only need enough power to turn the clock back." She shrugged. "It's worth a shot, right?" If he could fool those monsters into thinking she was Jareth, he could get away. When those things tried what ever they did to feed off him, they'd realize she wasn't Jareth. Maybe they would just leave her and run off after him. Maybe.

Jareth stared at her, his expression disturbed.

"You would do that?" he asked, practically pinning her to the wall with the intensity of his scrutiny.

Sarah gave him a look just to one side of total exasperation.

"Yes, you certainly would," Jareth sighed, sounding a bit chagrined. He turned away from her, but she caught his muttering.

"More courage than brains..." He shook his head, ignoring the stormy look Sarah tossed his way. "It's possible..."

"Then you'll try?" Sarah asked.

Jareth was silent for a moment. "Do you know what they'll do to you?" he asked softly.

"I'm asking for your help, Goblin King," Sarah said stoutly. "Do we have a bargain or not?"

He didn't correct her on her use of his title. He didn't exactly look happy either.

"...Yes," Jareth said finally. He darted forward and grabbed her hand, quick as a snake. "You'll regret this," he told her.

"We'll see," Sarah said. Jareth got a strange, rather unnerving look in his eye.

"Sooner than you think..." he said with something uncomfortably close to pity in his voice. He released her hand and leaned back. "You'll have to remove your clothes."

Sarah stared at him.

"Ha, ha," she said warily.

"I'm not joking, Sarah," he said, somehow making the word sound vaguely obscene. "If you want me to change how you look, I have to see what I'm working with."

Sarah narrowed her eyes at him. "That actually," she said slowly, "kind of makes sense."

Jareth smiled.

"Which makes me suspicious," Sarah muttered. Jareth's smile broadened alarmingly. "I am not getting naked in front of you," Sarah said, her stomach jumping like it was trying to get free and run howling from the room.

Jareth leaned on the counter with a kind of concentrated sensuality that made her think of a perfume commercial. 'Liquid Sex', by Chanel.

"It's a reasonable request," he said in a very reasonable tone of voice. "The more I see of you the easier this will be."

Sarah wasn't buying.

"For you, maybe," she said, bemused and somewhat admiring of his tenacity.

"Fine," Jareth said flatly. The change in his tone of voice drew her attention like a gunshot. "Take off as much clothing as you can bear to remove in my presence, then." He turned and walked away from her, lightly cradling his injured arm, as if some new hurt had reminded him of the older one.

Sarah gaped after him, realizing that somehow he'd managed to do it again.

It was beginning to become a pattern. Jareth would do something unreasonable and nearly impossible to accept, and Sarah would end up feeling like she ought to apologize for having a perfectly sane and understandable reaction to it.


Well, it wasn't fair.

Sarah sighed deeply, and started to squirm out of her shirt.

"All right," she muttered, her cheeks hot. She glanced up. "This had better not be a-"

Jareth turned to look at her, and Sarah stopped, shocked. She was hurting him, standing there topless. He could barely stand the sight of her, and it wasn't because he hated her. It was because he-

Jareth tore his eyes away, and Sarah realized she was covering her mouth with both of her hands, like a little girl.

"Can you do this?" she asked in a very small voice. He kept his back to her as he answered.

"I'll need more light," he replied casually, as if there was nothing wrong and she hadn't seen anything at all.

"There should be more candles in the bathroom," Sarah said calmly, playing along. She watched him silently turn and walk down her hall to get them. She stared at his retreating back, chewing nervously on her thumbnail, and wondered just what it was that she'd ever done to inspire that kind of painfully intense devotion.

Maybe...maybe that's just the way his kind of people were about things like that. She certainly couldn't recall any fairy stories about the magical wizard-king and the girl he only sort-of liked.

There was a particularity sharp thud from outside. Sarah frowned for a moment at the offending door. She didn't know how long this was going to take. Better to be prepared ahead of time. Sarah walked over to the table where she hid her old Queen tapes, crouched down, and retrieved a very heavy, very ornate ring of keys. The keys on the ring were of a variety of sizes and shapes. Some were hot, some were cold, and at least one was almost entirely invisible. Sarah set the keys on the tabletop. Then she put her hip against the wood and nudged the item of furniture along the wall.

Hidden behind it, set into the drywall was the faint outline of a door, about three feet tall. It was not immediately apparent whether it was a drawing or...something else. Sarah stepped back, hands on hips, satisfied. Then she glanced down at her jeans, and sighed.

She swallowed hard, unzipped them and kicked them off before she lost her nerve. That was just about as far as she could go. Sarah wasn't entirely above a little vanity and gave herself a quick once-over. Her panties and bra didn't match, but then she hadn't thought she was dressing for an audience. At least she wasn't wearing her Wonder Woman underoos.

Jareth looked up at her once as he was walking back. He froze mid-stride for just an instant, and then continued walking as if he was entirely unaffected by her. Sarah folded her arms across her chest, more for his sake than hers. She didn't like this...she didn't like being the cause of so much misery. Jareth busied himself lighting candles, barely glancing at the revealed door. After a few mintues he gestured her forward without looking at her.

Sarah inched forward with a definite lack of enthusiasm. When Jareth finally met her eyes and registered her expression he softened considerably.

"I won't hurt you," he soothed. The way he said it left no doubt that he was perfectly willing to hurt other people. "I won't ever hurt you." His voice was gentle and sweet, but that made it more disturbing, not less.

"Not me I'm worried about..." Sarah muttered unhappily. Of course, if those things outside did kill her, and Jareth did get his power back, they would probably live to regret it. "What do you need me to do?" she asked, louder.

Jareth eyed her, and she wondered if he'd caught her first sentence.

"Stand here," he said, and she obliged, moving closer to the light. She tensed as he moved way, way inside her personal space. Sarah caught a whiff of that scent again, and straightened to attention like she'd heard someone call her name.

Burning leaves and cherry lollipops and warm silk. Everything good, everything she'd ever wanted...It was overwhelming.

She felt a feathery brush across the bare skin of her shoulder and turned her head sharply to look. Jareth's face was right there, and she started. A pale strand of his hair had fallen forward and was resting lightly against her collarbone. It was the only part of him that was actually touching her.

He wasn't looking at her face, and ignored her reaction, frowning faintly in concentration. He was examining her skin as if it was a particularly difficult math problem. She watched him bring his hand up and run it down her arm without touching her, keeping a bare half inch of space between his skin and hers. She was startled to see that everywhere he nearly touched her, he left her skin sparkling faintly. As if he left a dusting of glitter behind him as he went.

"What are you doing?" Sarah asked, surprised to find that her voice was hushed, as if she was in church. She brushed at the glitter on her arm, and it came off on her hand.

"Learning you," he said softly, his voice intimate and close. Sarah broke out in goosebumps, and hoped he wouldn't notice. His fingers trailed lightly down her spine and she bit her lip, admitting to herself that she might have some trouble with this. When his hand curled over her hip and brushed gently over her belly, she had to clench her fists.

For a moment, he let his hand rest there, warm against her skin. At her back, she heard him take a deep breath. Then he was in motion again, his fingers skimming over her skin without really touching. He explored every inch of her left exposed, even lifting the weight of her hair to one side so he could brush his hand over the nape of her neck. He crouched down and tugged at her ankles so he could inspect the soles of her feet, turned her arms at the wrists so he could carefully look over the palms of her hands.

Sarah had no idea if any of this was necessary, but it sure as hell was an effective aphrodisiac.

Then he walked around her to get at her face and she froze, her libido howling in want. He looked obscenely beautiful in the soft light, serious and focused with concentration. When his hand came up to brush lightly over her cheek she shut her eyes. She felt his thumb going over her eyelid, tickling her eyelashes.

It felt like her heart was trying to struggle out of her chest. It felt awful. She was so turned on that she was almost angry. If Jareth didn't stop soon, she wasn't going to be responsible for what happened.

As if he heard her, Jareth's hand fell away.

She opened her eyes, and realized that she wasn't the only one breathing hard and feeling flustered. His eyes were huge and black with hunger. He looked half-wild, like he wasn't doing a very good job of behaving himself and no longer cared. Sarah suddenly wondered just how much examination he'd actually needed to do, and how much he'd lingered over just because he couldn't help himself.

"You enjoyed that." Sarah had meant it to be an accusation. She probably ought to sound outraged. The best she could manage was a bit breathy.

"Yes," Jareth hissed. He was clenching and unclenching his hands, as if he wanted nothing better than to grab her, throw her on the floor and have her right there.

Sarah was not a saint. She looked down.

Oh yes, Jareth had definitely been enjoying himself.

"Can you..." Sarah's eyes flicked up to his mouth, and she nearly lost her train of thought for a minute. "Can you make the illusion? Will it work?"

Jareth was watching her mouth as well. He started drifting closer as if he fully intended to get another taste of her.

"It should," he said roughly. He hesitated and lifted his eyes, looking surprised. "I don't want it to," he said honestly, a flash of annoyance mixing with a flicker of fear. "I want you safe." As if he couldn't believe that he could be so foolishly sentimental, and knew he could do nothing to stop himself. "It's too dangerous."

"It'll save my friends, I know it will." She looked up at him fiercely. "This will work, Jareth."

I'm going to save you.

Jareth was still drifting closer to her, as if she was drawing him in with her own personal gravity.

"How much time do we have?" Sarah asked faintly.

"Twenty minutes," Jareth replied without hesitation, as if he had a clock in his head. Who knew, maybe he did.

I'm going to die in twenty minutes, Sarah thought with a chill. She looked up into his dark eyes and thought for a moment about how massively unfair the whole situation was to both of them.

Didn't she deserve...didn't they both deserve...

Sarah pushed up on her toes, and kissed him.


A Labyrinth Story
by Jack Hawksmoor

Part 6 of 8

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