Continuing Tales

The Debt

A Labyrinth Story
by Corrie McDermott

Part 10 of 24

<< Previous     Home     Next >>
The Debt


The ride back to the stables felt entirely too short to Sarah. Both she and Jareth seemed to enjoy feeling the wind rush through their hair. Soon they were back at the stone stable. Jareth dismounted his horse with a grace she could only wish to someday possess. He offered her a hand down from Velvet and took the mare's reins into his hand.

"Wait here." He commanded in a soft tone. She watched as he led both horses into the barn and as the doors magically shut behind him. She was nervous and excited at the same time. He had given her another precious gift. He had shared with her the unicorns that took refuge from the devious hunters that craved their magic.

She grew impatient as she stood outside. It was a beautiful night as the moon cast it's blue light on everything and the stars burned brightly. She felt a warm tingling sensation embrace her and she looked down to see that her riding clothes had been replaced by a pale blue sleeveless dress. It was plain and simple, but comfortable and cool. The doors of the stable creaked open and Jareth stood at the entrance. He had not changed but had removed his cape and his wild and unruly hair looked neater.

He gestured for her to enter and she did so. They walked through the barn to the courtyard on the north side. Sarah gasped at what she saw. Within the small garden courtyard was a small table, covered with a cranberry cloth. In its center were two candles. Other candles were scattered around the courtyard, giving an intimate and very romantic setting. Different dishes of food were arranged in front of two place settings. Jareth guided her to the table and pulled out a chair for her. She was too stunned by what lay before her to resist him and she sat, still gazing wildly around her. Jareth grinned as he watched her and made his way to his own seat. The stable courtyard had always been a very wonderful place. It was filled with exotic plants, a fountain and was carefully tended to. When she wasn't spending time with Velvet or helping Riley with the other horses she sometimes spent time here. It was place to escape from reality.

Neither of them spoke, but Jareth began to lift the lids off of some of the dishes. Sarah finally tore her eyes away from her environment and let them fall upon Jareth when she heard the clatter and clink of dishes. He was busy filling his plate with food and did not notice her staring at him. His face was bathed in the gentle golden light of the candles that flickered on the table. The sight of him nearly took her breath away. She quickly placed her gaze elsewhere and began to fill her own plate. *I'm an adult, I can handle this and I can handle him. * she told herself. She realized that she still didn't know him. He was a mystery and that attracted her even more to him. She loved mysteries and challenges and she believed he would be an interesting one.

They ate in relative silence until she afforded to look at him and caught him grinning at her. "What?" she asked innocently.

The grin widened and his mismatched eyes sparkled. She wasn't sure if it was due to the candles or his sudden amusement with her.

"Do I have food on my face or something?" She reached for her napkin and dabbed her mouth. This made him grin even more.

"No. You are very beautiful when you're caught off guard. Then again you are beautiful all the time. Even when you are angry." His tone was soft.

She hated herself for blushing furiously at his comment. "What is this all about Jareth?"

"Hmm?" he asked innocently.

"You know what I mean. The dinner setting, our ride earlier. You ignored me for a week and suddenly you're nice to me and treating me to a dinner."

"I merely wish to correct a terrible wrong I have done." He said this with no regret in his voice, but his usual arrogance.

"Oh?" she inquired.

"I realize the way I brought you here was not exactly proper. I should have explained the debt to you long ago, before I took the child, but it slipped my mind as it always does."

"Slipped your mind? Oh how convenient for you." There was a touch of sarcasm.

"Would you have wished the child away if you knew of the debt you would owe me for taking him?"

"I..I don't know. I was a child Jareth. Children do stupid ,impulsive things. I would not have understood what it meant, I'm not sure I understand this debt even now. You can't expect someone to love you, especially... especially if they don't know you." She felt embarrassed and she didn't want to say too much. He still didn't know of her eavesdropping and he would no doubt be furious if he knew that she knew his feelings for her. He seemed a private person by nature.

"Then perhaps I shall allow you to get to know me better. I'm much more then I project to be."

"I'm sure, most people are."

"And you Sarah, are you more then you project to be? Would you allow me the same benefit of getting to know you?"

"Why..why do you want to know me?"

"Why do you want to know me?"

"Because I'm stuck here. I can't go home. I don't have many friends here. I'm alone. I want to know someone."

"Even if that someone is me? A person you hate?"

She tossed her napkin on the table. "I don't hate you Jareth."

"Ah but you claimed you did, and with a passion."

"I was angry, I didn't mean it. Just like I didn't mean to wish Toby away. It was a mistake, I'm human and I make them. Don't you?"

"I'm not human, I'm Fae, but I suppose I can make improper judgements."

"How big of you to admit that."

"You are not alone here. I thought you would have noticed that by now."

"Oh and who's here for me hang out with? I can't exactly have a great conversation with a goblin can I?"

He didn't laugh but his eyes were full of amusement at her words. "You and my stable master are friendly, Metta would talk to you if you wished."

"That's not enough. Riley is too busy to hang out with me and I think he's afraid to spend time with me, no thanks to you. And Metta, she's so na

"I am here." He offered. "While I may not pose as the friend you desire, I'm here none the less." He shifted in his seat and Sarah wasn't sure if he was uncomfortable with his position in the chair or with what they were discussing.

"I find myself willing to extend my generosity to you once again. And I propose a deal." She gazed at him warily. She didn't like deals but she would hear him out. She nodded for him to continue. "Within 3 months we will spend time getting to know each other, as friends. Nothing more, nothing less. Unless we both agree upon the situation. That way no one will be taken advantage of. Should something more develop between us it must be agreed upon mutually. If less becomes between us that too must be mutual. If at the end of 3 months you can truthfully say that you harbor no feelings for me. If you can admit that you don't love me and never will, I will send you home." She opened her mouth to speak but he continued. "You will need time to make your decision. Should you decide you do have feelings for me, you will stay here with me forever. If you decide you don't, you will return home and you will never be able to return to the underground."

"That isn't very fair. What if I go home and then realize that I do need you." She watched one brow arch up and quickly added. "That's completely hypothetical, not to get your hopes up."

"You should know by now that life is not fair, and it may never be fair. Even if you were to realize you had feelings for me, you could not return. I would not answer you." He sat back in his chair pulling his napkin off his lap and letting it crumple into a heap on the table. "I realize that the end result will be a big decision, for whatever you decide will have a great impact on your life."

She sat quietly for a moment contemplating. "What if I don't agree to the deal?"

"Then you stay here regardless and will be forced to love me by way of the debt. I know this sounds harsh, but it was the original agreement that you stay here permanently. I would prefer you chose to stay on your own will and that if you were to love me that too would be of your own choosing. I don't like to keep prisoners." He rose from the table and walked to stand in the moonlight. It cast its eerie glow upon him, making his skin look pale and alien and his hair white.

"You don't have to keep prisoners. You can just let me go right now." She got to her feet and stood about 5 feet from him.

"I would rather die then let you go." He admitted softly.

"Why?" she let out in desperation. She had heard him say that to Aiden. "What is so important about me? I'm a no body. I'm an average woman who is barely holding my own financially. I've got as much talent as everyone else so I'm not good enough to find the right job. My father is so busy taking care of Karen and Toby that he has no time for me. My mother left me when I was a child to pursue her acting career. I don't have a boyfriend. There is nothing special about me." There were tears in her eyes as she realized how empty and awful her life had become.

'You're so very wrong, Sarah." He was facing her now with some kind of sadness in his eyes. She expected him to say more but he just stood and looked at her. "You believe in things that no one else does and you pursue something until you get it."

"Obviously that's not true. I don't have the job I want, my family still doesn't give a damn about me and I'm still alone. I've achieved nothing for my efforts." She crossed her arms over her chest and closed her eyes blocking out tears that threatened to fall. "A big fat nothing."

"Yet you wish to still go home."

"Because it's my home. Everything dear and familiar to me is aboveground."

"For now, but things change."

She realized that he was right. She was so busy trying to believe that he was evil and that the underground was such a horrible place that she didn't look at the terrible things that were part of her own world. And she didn't acknowledge the good qualities of the Underground. She stepped forward. "I agree to your deal. We'll get to know each other and if I don't' feel anything for you or this place then I'll take my chances and go back where I came from." She extended her hand to him and he gently took it within his own gloved one.

"Agreed." He turned her hand and placed a gentle kiss on the palm. She shivered at the contact. His lips were soft and gentle upon her skin. He released her hand and smiled at her. "You can accompany me for breakfast if you wish in the morning so that we may get properly acquainted."

"Jareth we have 3 months." She reminded him, trying to take her mind off what he had done to her hand and how the hell she was going to deal with her emotions the next few months.

"And I intend in every way, shape or form to persuade you to stay with me at the end of that time. Within the boundaries of truth of course. I will be showing who I am truthfully and I expect the same from you. No lies or deceptions from either of us."

'Fine. I can live with that."

"Good." He bowed gracefully before her. "You have already won my heart, and before I'm through I will have yours." He rose, his eyes full of arrogance and something unfamiliar and then he was gone. Along with the intimate setting he had provided for them. She stood alone in the empty courtyard feeling very lost and confused. How was she going to keep her emotions in check when the smallest things he did to her made her weak in the knees? With a deep sigh she made her way back to the castle for a very long and sleepless night.

The Debt

A Labyrinth Story
by Corrie McDermott

Part 10 of 24

<< Previous     Home     Next >>