Continuing Tales

Tokens of Affection

A Labyrinth Story
by Shinku

Part 13 of 15

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Tokens of Affection

Sarah glanced around the hospital warily as she made her way to the ICU.

Life in the sleepy little town she'd grown up in had quickly taken a turn for the worse when she'd returned home from Goblin's Nook.

Word had somehow spread about what Lacey had done, and within 24 hours every local reporter within a hundred mile stretch had all converged on her hometown like a flock of hungry vultures.

For Sarah, and many of the other children that had been involved in the whole affair, it had just become one nightmare after the other; trading in one tormentor for a larger group of less aggressive, yet more persistent ones.

Coming across the area she was looking for, the teen did another quick examination of the area around her before calmly making her way to the nurse's station.

"Excuse me," she asked politely, gaining the nurses attention. "I was hoping that I could visit Miranda Pierce? I was told that she woke up yesterday."

The woman at the desk looked relieved. "Yes, she did. Are you family?"

Sarah hesitated, before answering as honestly as she could, "Just a friend."

The nurse looked a bit crestfallen at the news, but nodded anyway. "You'll need to wash your hands over there," she said, motioning to a sink built into a tiny alcove, "before I can show you to her room. After that, visits are limited to fifteen minutes."

The teen nodded her head in understanding. "That's fine, I can't stay long as it is."

Offering a small smile, the woman once again pointed to the sink, and Sarah obediently made her way over to the small alcove and began to wash her hands.

As she applied the soap and carefully began scrubbing, she allowed her thoughts to wander over what had brought her here.

A couple of days ago, within a few hours of making it back home, Nina had turned up at her door with the news that Miranda was in the hospital, and the whole story as to why. It had been a horrifying tale that had left Sarah feeling cold and unsettled.

As often as she'd seen Miranda with Lacey, she couldn't fathom the reasons as to why the blonde would turn on her own friend.

As it was, Nina had also told her a few things that she probably shouldn't have.

"Listen, I know I shouldn't spread this around, but I really think you need to hear this. My mom was one of the nurses that was in the OR when Miranda was brought in and she said they found marks on her, Sarah. There were some scars, and some bruising. It's not consistent with something that you would just get on accident. They… well, they haven't been able to get a hold of Miranda's parents, despite the fact that people have said they've seen and spoken with them. It doesn't look good, Sarah. It looks like they…

Sarah closed her eyes and willed away the memory as the water ran over her hands.

It was hard for her to reconcile that Miranda was turning out to be as much of a victim in all of this as she was. Maybe even more so in the way that Lacey had used her and then just tried to get rid of her. However, even with that knowledge lingering in the back of her head, Sarah wanted to know why.

Why had Miranda hurt her?

Why had she helped Lacey chase her down like some animal?

Why had she always been less than human in her eyes?

It was those thoughts, chasing themselves through her mind, that had finally driven her to come to the hospital. She had to know, she had to understand, why.

Because for the life of her, she could not remember doing anything that might have driven Miranda to do what she did.

Sarah felt tears prick her eyes as she wondered if she really deserved getting held down while Lacey…

She yanked the paper towels out of their holder a little more viciously than she intended, but Sarah couldn't completely bring herself to care. It might be wrong of her to do this so soon after Miranda had just woken up from her own nightmare, but Sarah was tired of having to deal with the demons those two had left her.

It was going to end.

Walking back to the nurse's station, Sarah gave a faint smile to the woman behind the desk and waited.

Within a few moments the young woman was led to a room on the far right of the ward, just outside the view of the nurses. Following the older woman up to the threshold, the teen allowed her steps to slow and then come to a stop just before entering.

Her hands were shaking.

Even though she knew Miranda was too badly injured to hurt her, that it was an irrational thing to fear, she couldn't shake the notion that the other girl was just lying in wait to jump her, the second she stepped beyond that point.

In that moment, with her courage faltering, Sarah nearly allowed herself to turn around and flee.

She had watched the news, she'd seen the reel of Lacey getting cuffed and put into a police car for the last couple nights now. She knew she wasn't a threat anymore. But Miranda was still here, and so far, no one had mentioned her involvement with Lacey. It made Sarah wonder if Miranda had only ever helped Lacey torment her, and if so, why?

The nurse popped her head out. "You can come in now." She offered. "She's awake."

Nodding her head silently, Sarah steeled her nerves and stepped into the room.

Whatever she had been expecting to see when she finally got a good look at Miranda Pierce, the fragile looking thing staring back at her surely wasn't it.

"Alright," the nurse commented, quickly checking the various machines the girl was hooked up to, along with her IV. "Now remember, you both only have fifteen minutes, so you'll have to make them count, understand?"

Sarah nodded.

"Good, then I'll leave you two to it." And with those parting words, the nurse was gone.

The two girls eyed each other warily, Sarah feeling a bit awkward and alone, and Miranda looking just this side of horrified.

Seeing the visitor's chair in the far corner of the room, Sarah swiftly walked over and plopped herself down in it, grateful to have a wall at her back.

Once she felt a little more secure, she raised her hand and gave a shy wave. "Hi, Miranda."

Miranda's faintly horrified expression mellowed into something merely cautious, but still slightly friendly. "Hi, Sarah."

"Has anyone told you what's been going on while you were asleep?" Sarah asked after a short pause, deciding to take things a bit slow and see what the other girl was aware of.

"Not really," she said softly, carefully not taking in too sharp a breath. "They told me why I was brought in, what day it was, and that I'd been treated, but not really a whole lot else. They said they were waiting on my parents."

Sarah noticed that there was no real expression on her face when she mentioned her parents, and it made her wonder if was an effect of the drugs they likely had her on, or what Nina had mentioned.

"Yeah… well, is there anything you want to know specifically?"

There was distinct pause, a kind of wary hesitation that had Sarah just a little nervous about what Miranda would ask.

"What happened to Lacey?"

Sarah swallowed thickly. "She's in jail. They caught her late Sunday afternoon, and took her into custody later that evening."

There was a short, relieved sigh. "That's good."

Silence fell between the two girls like a void, neither knowing what to say to the other.

"Would you tell me what happened to you?" Sarah found herself asking unexpectedly.

Miranda's head jerked up sharply, and she found herself almost wishing she hadn't said anything.

"Why do you want to know?"

Something nasty and a bit resentful in Sarah had her snapping out, "Because Lacey shot Alicia Zane and Marcus Black before she came after me, and everyone keeps telling me that the whole thing started with you. I'd like to know what set her off!"

Miranda looked as if she'd been slapped. "I… I didn't… Oh God, I thought she'd just gone after me. Are they…?"

Sarah sighed, feeling a bit guilty at the honest shock on the other girls face. "Alicia should be somewhere in this ward with you, and Marcus has already been moved a few floors down to one of the normal recovery rooms. You don't have to worry, everyone that she got to is fine, including you."

Sarah found it a bit strange at how relieved Miranda looked at the news.

"What happened?" Sarah prompted again.

Miranda took in a slow, deep breath, and obediently began to relate events. "I'd heard, early Sunday morning, about what you had started, and had called Lacey to warn her. I thought she was going to skip town. That was what she always said she would do if word ever got out, but…" Miranda hesitated, and Sarah felt her resolve to see this thing through waver.

"You don't have to say anything if it's too soon," she offered. "I know it's not been that long for you, since all this happened."

Although the movement was cautiously slow, Miranda shook her head. "It doesn't matter… I… It's just over. It doesn't matter. Nothing I think about this matters anymore."

Sarah felt something inside herself instinctively snarl at the other girl's words. She was very familiar with that line of thinking, and the roads it could lead you down.

"What the hell kind of answer is that?" She snapped out sharply. There was something wrong about how her old enemy was reacting. Something deeper and unsettling. Sarah didn't like the conclusions she was coming to. "Listen, if you're not ready, you're not ready! I'll just keep coming back until you are."

Miranda's eyes widen at the words. "But… I… I owe you. I was being selfish, and if you're here then I-"

"Stop." Sarah commanded.

And the other girl fell silent.

"You seem to be under the impression that because I'm here and Lacey's not that I'm going to be replacing her for you and making all your decisions, but I'm not. I came here today hoping you could explain to me what I did to warrant you holding me down while you let her beat me, but it's obvious to me now that that was a mistake. I'm sorry I wasted both of our times."

Standing quickly, Sarah determinedly began to leave the room.

She wasn't completely sure what was wrong with Miranda, but she wasn't fool enough to let this girl try and put her in charge of her life.

Sarah could hear it in her tone of voice and see it in the slightest of gestures.

Miranda was looking for someone to lead her around by the hand, someone to think for her in the absence of…

… Who?


Her parents?

Sarah didn't know for sure, and to be honest, she really didn't want to know. What she did want to know, she obviously wasn't going to learn, so that was it. The end.

"Sarah!" Miranda wheezed after her, trying to sit up. "Sarah! Please, wait!"

Sarah glanced back at the commotion and her eyes widened when she realized the other girl's intention. Frowning, she quickly walked back over to the bed and pushed the other girl back down.

"Stop moving around. If the nurses catch you, they'll probably put you out."

Even as the she allowed herself to be pushed back down, Miranda desperately latched on to Sarah's arm.

"It wasn't your fault." She said hurriedly, with a kind of morbid understanding as she struggled to give Sarah her answer. "It wasn't anyone's fault, I just wanted a friend. They never liked anyone… No matter who I brought home, they never liked them. Lacey was the first one, and I didn't want to lose that… I… I'm sorry. I know it's not enough, but I'm so sorry."

There were tears coming down Miranda's face, honest and raw shows of emotion that softened Sarah's heart in their sincerity.

Sighing, Sarah gently laid her hand across Miranda's as she caught the other girl's gaze. "I know what it's like to want friends, but you had to have had more options then what you're thinking."

Miranda shook her head sharply. "They always found out, and it was always-" She cut herself off and closed her eyes, her breathing strained.

There was a slight pause as Sarah considered her options, before she asked, "If someone offered to give you a heads up, would you want it?"

The other teen looked faintly disoriented at the abrupt change in topic, but nodded. "Sure. Why?"

"Because a lot has happened within the last few days," Sarah began slowly, "and if you're going to weather it, you're going to need to know what's going on."

Something flashed across Miranda's face, something Sarah couldn't name, but when the other girl smiled at her, it carried a kind of awed gratitude that Sarah couldn't completely understand.

Somehow, Sarah couldn't quite shake the feeling that, in some way, she'd done something wonderful in this strange girl's eyes.

So, in the spirit of all those that didn't quite like to consider things they weren't ready for, Sarah swiftly began explaining the events of the passed few days, not noticing that when fifteen minutes had past, the nurse never returned to force her to leave.

It would be several weeks later before Sarah Williams would learn that she was the first person to visit Miranda Pierce since she'd been admitted to the hospital.


By the time Sarah made it back to the lobby waiting room that she'd left Jareth in, nearly forty-five minutes had elapsed. She was tired, emotionally shot, and, she felt, more than ready for a break. It was a pity that she knew she wouldn't be able to get it quite yet.

"I'm sorry it took me so long," she apologized quickly, once she'd come to stand before him. "The nurse didn't come back to get me when the time was up, and apparently no one has explained anything to Miranda yet."

The Goblin King cocked his head to one side as he took in her expression. "So you filled her in," he stated. "You seem rather conflicted about the whole thing. Are you alright?" He asked, rising to his feet.

Sarah sighed, rubbing a hand across her eyes as she pointedly evaded the question. "You want to go for a walk?"

The fae smiled at the teen proudly and politely held out his arm. "Of course."

Making their way out of the hospital, the young couple remained in companionable silence until they were a couple of blocks away. Once they were sure their new friends weren't following them, Sarah allowed herself to speak freely.

"I'm getting sick of those reporters. No one at the hospital needs the added stress of them popping up whenever they feel like it, let alone sneaking around like a bunch of scavengers."

Jareth patted her arm consolingly as they continued to the park near her house. "As much as I agree with you, Precious, that's not what you wanted to speak with me about."

Sarah wilted a bit at the prompt, but obediently answered his unasked question. "I just… I just don't know what to think about Miranda. She's so different without Lacey around that it's almost like I visited a completely different person today." She shook her head, as if in denial. "When I came here, I expected a fight. I expected her to find fault with me somewhere. You know, some reason for what she did…"

"But there wasn't one," the fae stated gently.

"Not one that I can completely comprehend."

Jareth frowned, "One that you can't comprehend, or one that you don't want to comprehend?"

Even through the protection of the clothes he was wearing, the Goblin King felt the sharp burst of anger that his words provoked in Sarah. She glanced up at him harshly, before quickly looking away.

"I want to hate her," she stated, brutally honest. "I want to be able to hold her accountable for everything she did, and everything I have to feel now that it's all over, but… damn it, I can't!"

Jareth watched her keenly as he let her freely release her frustration, careful to restrain his own feelings on the matter. He knew from personal experience that it was better to let these kinds of emotions run themselves out, rather than to try and repress them.

Sarah needed to vent, and he had no intention of hindering her.

"I feel like I've been cheated, like I'm not allowed to be angry about what she did anymore because she's supposedly in the same boat as everyone else, now," she seethed.

"And I take it you would not mind throwing her from the metaphorical boat, and watching her drown?" The fae asked with faint amusement.

"I'd hold her head under, myself," she snapped viciously. "It was never a picnic when Lacey caught up to me, but when Miranda was around, it was always worse. I think…" A shiver ran down her spine, and her anger seemed to give out. "I think Lacey enjoyed playing up to an audience, like it was all some kind of game to her. I don't know. Maybe you're right, and I just don't want to know. It's just… she just seemed so happy to see me after I started talking to her a bit. I just…"

Gently extracting his arm from her hold, Jareth promptly wrapped it around her shoulders, drawing her close to his side. "You wanted to be angry first," he stated. "You expected her to be displeased when she saw you, and you didn't know how to react without that animosity."

Sarah swallowed thickly and allowed herself to settle down in his hold. "No," she answered honestly. "I didn't know how to react, and still don't know how to react. What am I supposed to do with an enemy that might not really be an enemy at all?"

Jareth considered her question carefully as they crossed the street into her favorite park.

"I think," he said pensively, "that you need more information."

"What do you mean?"

"You're basing your perceptions on what you thought you knew of her. However, now that you're finding out that those facts aren't completely true, you're going to have to re-evaluate the problem."

"I'm going to have to see her again." Sarah clarified.

Jareth nodded and smiled. "You're going to have to see her again."

The teen sighed. "Couldn't I just send her a get well card?"

The Goblin King laughed. "You have to finish what you started, Precious. You can't just leave this half done."

"Like hell I can't." Sarah grumbled as they made their way past a young man seated on a bench. "I'm entitled-"

"Excuse me, Ms. Williams?" The young man asked abruptly, all but jumping from the bench and latching onto her wrist. "I was wondering if I could have a moment of your time…"

Sarah jerked away almost violently at the slicing pain that lanced down her arm, the sensation so deep that it stole away her breath before she could make a sound.

Glancing up, the teen saw the surprise that skittered across the reporter's face as he realized her lower arm was bandaged, moments before Jareth seized the other man's wrist in a vice-like grip.

The Goblin King's eyes were cold, and his tone spoke of barely restrained violence as the reporter looked up and realized exactly how dangerous the man in front of him was.

"Let go," the fae growled warningly.

Nervously, the reporter hesitated, torn between self-preservation and the potential loss of his story.

Unfortunately for him, Jareth was not so conflicted. Carefully, the Goblin King applied pressure to the man's wrist until he yelped and obligingly released his hold. The reporter barely had a moment to regret his actions before his feet were neatly swept out from under him and he was flat on his back, a booted foot pointedly placed just below his throat.

"If you have any questions, don't you think it would be wise to pose them to this young lady's parents first," the fae snarled, "considering that she is, in fact, still a minor?"

The young man made an odd, whimpering sound as he tried to speak through Jareth's ire. "I… I…"

The Goblin King looked disgusted as he removed his foot and took a step back. "Get out of here!" He snarled angrily, and the reporter hastily crawled backward until he could get to his feet. Once there, he seemed to regain some of his courage, and eyed the fae calculatingly.

"It's called 'Freedom of the Press', buddy," the young man sniped at the fae King, careful to keep a good six feet between them. "All I wanted to do was ask the girl here some questions. Just who do you think you are?"

The Goblin King visibly bristled at the comment, looking as if he was going to physically lay into the arrogant reporter, when Sarah spoke up.

"You'll have to forgive my friend," she said softly, ignoring her throbbing arm, and stepping forward. "We haven't had the best few days, and he's just edgy. Do you have a card you could give me?"

"Sarah," Jareth warned.

The teen turned slightly and smiled at the Goblin King, the expression outwardly calm and sweet.

The fae, however, felt a chill race down his spine as he caught sight of the look in her eyes. He knew that look. That was a bad look.

The reporter grinned triumphantly at Jareth as he retrieved the requested item and placed it into the girl's waiting hand.

"Yeah," he said, his tone flippant. "Sorry about your arm and all, I forgot that you reportedly have an injury there."

Sarah's face was dangerously neutral as she examined the card and commented, "I'm sure you did."

Silence fell between the small group, and Sarah's face slowly darkened the longer she stared at the card.

"Ah… Ms. Williams?" The reporter asked, beginning to get a niggling feeling that all was not well in this situation. "Is there a time I can schedule an interview?"

Sarah looked up sharply at the young man, her eyes hard and cruel. "You will not be receiving an interview from me." She stated decisively.

"But…!" The reporter tried to argue.

"I said, no!" Sarah snapped. "I'm well aware of who your publisher is, and the kind of crap you print. Or did you really think that my birth-mother wouldn't send me a long list of what tabloids and magazines to avoid along with instructions on how to deal with them?"

The young man shot her a dirty look. "The public has a right-"

"To mind their own damn business!" She snarled viciously. "If you think for one minute that I'm going to let you prey on this town after all the shit we just went through, you have another thought coming! Because I can guarantee you, right now, that by tomorrow morning, no one here is going to so much as look at you, let alone grant you the right to twist their words into the lies you people call news."

The reporter's expression grew furious as he took a belligerent step forward. "You little bitch! If you even try to pull that stunt, I'm going to make your life hell, do you understand me?"

"Actually," came a voice from just behind the enraged reporter, "I think she means to make your life hell, Larson. What do you think Danny?"

The young reporter's face completely fell as he briefly closed his eyes and turned around. "Greyson." He said resentfully, nodding at the slightly older reporter, before giving a short nod to the tall woman peeking at him through a camera lens. "Danielle."

"Larson." Greyson, greeted amusedly, as Danielle offered a mockingly friendly wave. "Having a rough day?"

Larson stared down at his shoes like a child that had just been caught in the act of doing something naughty.

"That bad, huh? Why don't you go ahead, pack your bags and head home, kid? We both know you're not going to be getting anything here now," the older reporter commented diplomatically.

There was a long, drawn out sigh and a, "whatever" before, without another word to anyone, he stalked off.

Jareth cocked his head to one side as he watched the man leave. "What an immature creature."

Sarah snorted. "He's hardly the worst of them. Isn't that right, Silas?" She commented pointedly at the new reporter and his camera girl. "Mind shutting that thing off, Danielle?"

It wasn't a request.

Silas grinned, as he motioned his partner to do as she was told. "Still as spirited as ever, I see. How you doin' kiddo?"

Sarah shot him a dry look. "Not as good as I thought, if you're here. I guess it would be too much to hope that my mother pulled a few strings and sent you here ahead of the other vultures?"

"Oh, we're ahead," the man confirmed, "but not by much and not by your mother. You might have 48 hours before this place becomes a madhouse and this whole mess hits the fan."

Sarah's eyes narrowed at the news, and her posture straightened.

Silas offered her a wry grin as he answered her silent challenge. "You know how it is, kid. Once the networks find something like this, they latch onto it fast."

"I know," she sighed dejectedly.

"Sarah?" Jareth asked, concerned. "What's going on?"

The young woman looked up at the Goblin King tiredly before running a hand through her hair, and beginning introductions.

"Jareth, meet Silas Greyson, and Danielle Holmes. They work for the main branch of ABC, covering the national news. If Silas is here, then we don't have long before the other major networks arrive."

"I thought the various news stations where already here?" The fae questioned.

"All the local branches are." Danielle spoke up. "However, whatever our local channel found must have been pretty good, because they used the company jet to get us out here. Do you think you can help us get a few exclusives while we're here?" She asked Sarah.

The teen stared at the woman with a mingled sense of agitation and resignation.

Honestly, all she'd wanted to do was go for a walk with Jareth and pretend that everything was alright for while. Was that really too much to ask?

Danielle and Silas stared at her hopefully.

Apparently so.

"What kind of contract are you authorized to offer?" Sarah asked with a sigh. If they weren't going to leave her alone about this, then she had every intention of using them to the benefit of whoever needed it. Which, considering the number of families that were being hounded by the local channels, was probably going to be very beneficial to Greyson as well.

"At this point," Silas answered eagerly, "anything. I won't lie to you kiddo, our network wants this story, and they want it bad. What do you think the prices are going to be?"

"Not as high as you might think," the young woman stated blandly. "Right now, everyone just wants to get your colleagues off our back, and maybe pay off a few bills. If you can manage that, then you can come talk to my father tonight about what you'll likely need to get ahead of the game. He knows just about everyone around here, so he's probably your best place to start if you want a hand."

The reporter's eyes were bright. "I'm pretty sure I can swing that. If the folks around here are willing to sign a contract giving the rights to any and all interviews to ABC, we should be able to dissuade any of the others from harassing people around here within a few days. What time should I come by?"

Sarah wanted to be selfish, to cling to her fading sense of normalcy and tell him never, but she knew that wouldn't be right. If anyone could help repair some of the damage Lacey had done, without involving magic, it was Silas.

The last time she'd met the reporter face to face had been a couple years previous, when she'd been staying with her mother for a few months. During that time, the woman had gotten herself involved in a nasty scandal, and it had only been because of Greyson's unique talent in bending a situation to his needs that her mother had been able get back into the public's good graces after her rather spectacular fall.

Maybe, if everything was done just right, they could head off the worst of this before it even got started.

"Seven tonight, after dinner. I'll talk to my parents ahead of time so that they know you're coming. Do you think you can manage that?" Sarah snarked playfully, allowing herself to relax a bit when she sensed the reassuring weight of Jareth's presence at her back.

Silas' expression became a touch mischievous as he saw the slight shift in movement over her shoulder, the reporter's eyes lighting with a knowing gleam, as he began to take stock of the situation. He'd initially thought that the young man with Sarah had been a friend of the family's that'd been helping to escort her around, but the way he was standing behind her said a whole different story.

Seeing the chance to confirm his theory, and possibly add a little something extra to his story, Silas swiftly darted forward and brushed his lips against the young woman's cheek in teasing appreciation, all the while eyeing Jareth shrewdly. "Thanks a bunch, kiddo."

The teen's eyes hardened as the reporter quickly took several steps back from her, his eyes foolishly remaining rooted to the disgruntled looking fae just behind her. "I'd give you a hug, sweetie, but I don't think your boyfriend there would appreciate that."

Sarah glared at the reporter in blatant challenge, well aware of the game he was now trying to play. "No, I don't think he would. Just like I don't think you want me to call NBC and offer them your exclusive, do you Silas?"

The young man's eyes immediately snapped back to Sarah, and he quickly held up his hands in a placating gesture, missing the look of vengeful amusement on the Goblin King's face as the reporter quickly back-pedaled.

"Now, now, Sarah. You know me, just having a bit of fun. There's no need for you to do anything hasty."

Sarah smiled spitefully, her eyes cruel, as she pointedly recited a phone number from memory, and watched as the reporter's face paled.

"Please, Sarah, sweetheart, that's not a funny joke." Silas pleaded softly.

"It's not a joke, Greyson," she said icily, "It's a promise. Just like I didn't tolerate any of that crap from that other guy, I'm not going to tolerate it from you. You know me, Silas." Sarah commented, mocking his earlier words. "I don't tolerate people trying to screw with me."

Understanding, followed by guilt, flickered across the reporter's face as he nodded. "I get it, Sarah. I'm sorry. You won't have to worry, sweetie, I'll behave. I'll follow my heart and not my head, sound fair?"

Sarah inclined her head neutrally, even as her eyes betrayed how much his stunt had affected her.

Silas was unsettled, as he realized exactly how much the current situation had affected the fiery teen. When he'd last seen her, she'd taken his ability to push any issue in stride, playing his games as if she'd been doing it her whole life. She'd never gone so far as to completely shut him down when she'd felt he'd pushed a bit too far. This wasn't right. Not by a long shot.

"I'm going to go and look into everything, Sarah. I promise, I'll be better prepared when I come over tonight, alright?"

Sarah nodded, and offered him a faint smile. "I look forward to what you find out."

The reporter's eyes widened faintly at the subtle prompt. So, she didn't know all the facts either. For someone with as famous a parent as she had, he knew from first hand experience that Sarah was always fairly aware of what could affect her or her family.

He didn't like what he was hearing.

Not at all.

"Got any leads you can offer me before tonight?" Silas asked, shrewdly.

"Try the Superintendent of my school. I'm told that he's a relative of the Jeanes family," Sarah stated frankly.

The reporter inclined his head in silent understanding, his mind already listing off the places he'd need to go to begin a proper investigation. "I'll be sure to do that, Sarah. See you tonight, alright sweetie?"

Sarah offered him another faint smile and a short nod, before she quickly took the Goblin King's hand, and led them both away from the duo of reporters.

Silas Greyson watched the young couple disappear around a bend with no small amount of concern.

Sarah Williams was his youngest, and no doubt his best informant when it came to keeping tabs on the life and whims of the high profile actress, Linda Williams. However, seeing the young teen so cautious of his, and no doubt any outsider's, motives really put him on edge.

"Hey, Danny?" The reporter asked, finally turning to the woman waiting patiently behind him. "If I give you some leads, could you look some stuff up for me at this place's local library?"

The tall lady shrugged. "Sure. Where you heading?"

Silas grinned, as he slipped a small notebook from his pocket and began writing down what he needed her to go find. "The police station, of course. I need to follow up on our little viper's suggestions."


Sarah was quiet for sometime as they made their way from the reporters. Her focus turned inward, as she tried to bring some measure of peace back into her heart.

Jareth, for his part, watched her closely as she unconsciously clung to his hand, a deep sense of inner turmoil passing through the protection of his glove as she held onto him.

"Sarah." The Goblin King called softly, not liking the upsetting emotions he was sensing from her. "Do you want to talk about it?"

The girl in question flinched slightly at his voice before turning and looking up at him thoughtfully. "Sorry," she said. "I didn't mean to ignore you."

Jareth frowned. "Something is upsetting you. Is it when that reporter tried to identify our relationship?"

Sarah sighed. "Partly. Silas is… well, he's a good man, but he's a reporter first, and your friend second, you know?

The Goblin King cocked his head to one side. "I'm aware of what it's like to deal with such people." There was a slight pause. "Could you tell me how you became acquainted with such a person?"

The teen's expression became faintly rueful at the topic. "My mother." She stated flatly. "I met Silas a little after I turned fourteen. Karen had just had Toby and I wasn't adjusting well to having an infant in the house. After a few nasty arguments, my Dad and Karen thought it would be a good idea to just give us all some space, so they sent me to live with my mother for the summer." Sarah briefly closed her eyes, and put a hand to her temple, as if to ward off a headache. "When my mother had originally left us, she'd left because of an actor she'd supposedly fell in-love with. In the end, it didn't last, and they split up after about two years. So, here I come, a few years later, just looking for a place that I can have a little peace, and maybe get to know my mother again, and it all hits the fan."

"How so?" The fae prompted.

"Exactly two weeks after I come to stay with her, she decides she'd going to hook up with Jeremy again - the actor she'd originally run off with. Well, the main problem with this, was that he'd quietly gotten married sometime after their split and my mother didn't know about it. So, one thing led to another, and somehow, not only did his wife find out, but just about every news agency in the continental US." Sarah looked slightly pained at the memory. "I was basically under house arrest during the first half of my stay. While my mother was alright with trying to brave her way through the throngs of reporters and paparazzi that had all taken up residence outside her building, she wasn't at all willing to take me with her. After a while I couldn't take it anymore, so I started finding ways to sneak out of my mother's condo after she'd gone to sleep." She smiled ruefully. "Looking back at that, now, it probably wasn't one of my brighter ideas."

"Why is that?" Jareth asked.

Sarah grinned. "Because my mother lived smack dab in the middle of New York city. You just don't screw around in a place like that, and me, being dumb, stupid, and just plain angry, I thought it was a good idea. I guess I must have had goblins looking after me then, too."

The Goblin King frowned. "While that is true, if you were in the City-That-Never-Sleeps, then it's very likely that my goblins wouldn't have been able to help you overtly, unless you'd gotten in trouble in an out-of-the-way place."

The teen tilted her head to the side in silent inquiry. "And why is that?"

"I'm sure you've noticed that the goblins only helped you so much when you were forced to run from that girl the other day." Jareth commented.

Sarah nodded.

"That's because, magically speaking, we have not yet found a way around modern technology. Take for instance the glamour I'm wearing. For all intents and purposes, I'm human, correct?"

"Yes," Sarah agreed.

"Now, what if I were to tell you that if you were to record me, as I am right now, with a camera and then watch the recording, you would see right through that glamour?"

The teen's eyes went wide at the implication. "You're telling me…" She trailed off.

"Our magic was made to fool other living creatures, specifically through the six senses, whereas cameras, on the other hand, are not living creatures. There is no mind for us to fool, or a will for us to ensnare. Only a soulless creation of metals and plastics, things that our magic is already incompatible with." Jareth concluded.

Sarah was absolutely speechless at the sheer implications. While she could hardly have been expected to guess, let alone know, of what this information could have meant to her two years ago, the fact that she'd recently forced Lacey to chase her into the middle of town, a place that she was now finding out had actually hindered how much the goblins could help her, made her feel sick.

She turned to Jareth in hurt confusion. "Why didn't you tell me this sooner? I could've… I would have…"

The Goblin King looked honestly heartbroken, as he brought them both to a stop and wrapped his arms around her.

"I miscalculated," he confessed, "just like the bracelet. I underestimated what that girl was willing to do, and how soon she was willing to do it." He shook his head, angry with himself. "I was a fool. I thought the information wouldn't hold any real value for you, so I didn't think it would be necessary to give you more information than you needed. I misjudged the situation horribly. I'm so sorry, Sarah." He apologized sincerely.

After a few moments, Sarah's arms gently came up to return his embrace. He sighed in quiet relief, grateful that she wasn't angry with him.

"You know," she commented lightly, "I think you and I need to have a sit down, and write up what the correct response for situations like this last one are. Otherwise, we're both going to be forgetting things left and right at the most inconvenient times." She needled fondly.

Jareth grinned at her roundabout forgiveness and swiftly bowed his head and brushed his lips over hers; the gesture was as much playfully teasing as it was an asking of permission.

A knowing smile tugged at Sarah's lips as she rose to her tip toes and brushed her lips challengingly back against his. You want to play? The very air around her seemed to crackle. I'll play.

The Goblin King's eyes flashed with excitement as he quickly adjusted his hold, laying one hand along the small of her back with the other cradling the base of her skull, as he once again laid his lips over hers, skillfully deepening the contact until Sarah made a distinctly feminine sound of satisfaction.

Jareth grinned against her lips, even as the hand on her neck gradually moved up to fist in her hair, the action starkly possessive. Mine. Some primal part of him claimed savagely, enamored by the sounds he could coax from her.

There was something beautiful and telling in the way they tasted one another. Sarah's inherent desire to challenge and learn, paired with her youthful naivety, sparked a kind of masculine pride inside Jareth as he instinctively taught her his ways.

"Yucky!" A small voice declared from behind them, and Sarah and Jareth jerked apart as if burned, looking to the source of the sound with wide eyes.

"I couldn't have said it better myself." Karen said dryly, as she balanced Toby on one hip, and a grocery bag on the other. "What do you think, Mr. Kingsley?"

Cathal was grinning widely at the young couple, his eyes mischievous and bright. "I think that if we are not careful, they may endeavor to make us grandparents before our time, Ms. Williams, myself double so, considering that it's my grandson aiding in this display."

The Goblin King and his Champion both turned bright red, looking like a couple of guilty teenagers caught necking in the back of the family car.

"So," Karen began knowingly. "is there any particular reason as to why you two decided to show each other your tonsils in public today, or was it just a special occasion?"

Jareth seemed to flounder for a response and Sarah, thinking quickly, blurted out, "Silas is here!"

When in doubt, blame it on someone else. Fast.

…Then hope you don't get called on it.

Karen raised a single eyebrow and shot her an 'I-Used-to-Pull-That-Same-Crap-When-I-Was-Your-Age-Nice-Try' look.

Sarah winced.

Still, it was a slight win as her step-mother frowned and asked, "Silas Greyson?"

The young woman nodded hopefully. "Yeah. That was what Jareth and I were originally talking about before… ah… yeah, how I'd first met him and all."

Karen hummed thoughtful, eyeing the couple knowingly. "I recall that story. Why don't you two come walk home with us and fill us in from where you left off."

The Goblin King made a subtle move to politely decline when Karen shot him a pointed look. "That is not a request."

A faintly sulky looked passed across Jareth face before he nodded his understanding.

Sarah consolingly laced her fingers with his as she filled the two adults in on what had already been covered, and they all began their walk to her home.

"I've been to New York city, myself," Cathal volunteered, "and I must confess that for all it's interesting facets, going out alone, at night, is hardly a well thought-out idea. Especially, when you consider what a lovely young lady you are. It is never a wise choice, child, to tempt fate, she's quite the gambler and likes to stack the odds."

The teen shrugged. "I'm not saying that what I did was right, just that I had my reasons. I was angry, disappointed, and more than a little-stir crazy, at that point. My mother made me a lot of empty promises that she'd never intended to keep and, at that time, I'd been more than willing to see a few of them fulfilled, with or without her."

"Still…" The older fae pressed.

"I learned from those mistakes, Mr. Kingsley." Sarah said firmly, ignoring her step-mother when Karen shot her a warning look for her tone. "I don't learn things the easy way, if you don't believe me, you can ask Jareth. He can probably tell you better than anyone."

Cathal briefly fell silent, quickly recognizing that this was not a lesson she was especially proud of.

"I understand," he said sincerely. "Please continue, dear."

Something about the teen's stance relaxed a bit at his honesty, and Sarah obligingly did as he asked.

"When I snuck out that first night, I wasn't sure if any of my mother's new stalkers would think to tail some unknown fourteen year old kid. So, I thought that it wouldn't be a bad idea to keep a low profile for a few nights, and decided to go to a library that I knew of that was open 24/7. It… was a mixed blessing…" She trailed off.

"How so?" Jareth prompted.

"I did get a few tails, just like this last one-" Sarah began to answer.

"What one?" Karen questioned suddenly, concerned.

The teen looked faintly disgusted. "One of the ones mom always told me to avoid," Sarah informed her, mindful not to mention any names with so many possible ears about.

The older woman looked mildly angry. "Are you and Jareth alright?"

Sarah grinned wickedly. "More than alright. Jareth literally knocked him on his butt. It was great!"

Karen's lips twitched up into a matching grin as she shot a glance at Jareth, who was pointedly looking away from everyone. "Did he now?"

The Goblin King, for his part, was torn between wanting to preen at Sarah's praise, and hoping no one wanted to scold him for going after the man. As far as he was concerned, the pain he'd briefly seen on Sarah's face when that idiot had roughly grabbed her arm had more than justified his actions.

Smiling at the fae's nervousness, the older woman affectionately steered the conversation back to the original topic as she shifted her young son slightly on her hip.

"It was at that library that you met, Silas, wasn't it?"

"Eventually," Sarah confirmed, easily catching on to what her step-mother was trying to do. "I actually met Danielle, first."

"The young woman that was with him?" Jareth asked, cautiously inserting himself back into the conversation.

Sarah nodded. "I hadn't known it at the time, but the tabloid papers have excellent resources. The moment I'd stepped out of my mother's building, their reporters had known exactly who I was and what I was likely to know and didn't hesitate in following me to that library." The teen sighed and ran an agitated hand through her hair. "I was looking through the shelves when they'd started approaching me one by one, asking what I knew about Linda Williams' latest scandal. Even when I'd lied and told them they had the wrong person, that I was someone else, they kept hounding me. Finally, after a while, I thought enough was enough and tried to make a run for it. That was when I literally ran into Danielle." Sarah's lips twitched into a smile. "I can tell you right now that that woman is solid."

"And quite tall." The Goblin King remarked with no small bit of amusement. "I take it she took care of your would be-pursuers?"

The young woman grinned. "Considering that Danielle is around six and half feet of 'quite tall', yeah, I'd say they were a little intimidated. After she'd managed to scare them off, she offered to let me sit with her and her friend for a while just to make sure they didn't come back. Her friend turned out to be Silas Greyson. One of ABC's top reporters." Her grin mellowed into a faintly wicked smile. "As soon as he caught sight of me, he called me by name and asked what I was doing out of the house so late. When I realized that not only was he another reporter, but that I wasn't even going to get to see a library without getting hassled, I may have reacted poorly."

"Poorly?" Cathal asked, amusement clear in his voice. "It sounds to me like you ended up putting this man in quite the spot."

Sarah looked smugly satisfied as she said airily, "I may or may not have thrown a book at his head, and burst into tears, thus temporarily turning his friend against him for a short while. Of course, that's all allegation and hearsay, obviously."

"Obviously." The old fae agreed dryly.

The teen grinned cheekily at him, before continuing. "In the end, we all ended up sitting down and just talking. Silas, as it turned out, was actually at that library trying to piece together what he already knew of the scandal and trying to look up some information on Jeremy, instead of my mother. When he heard my story, and I'd pointed out some good leads for him to look up on the man that had helped put my mother in that situation, he offered me a deal. If I could find a way out of my house, he or Danielle would take me sightseeing for a few hours in exchange for a few hints here and there when they hit a dead end. I willingly agreed so long as I had veto rights as far as their prying went. Even if I didn't like her, my mother was still my mother, and I had to respect that."

"It was shortly after that, that you were able to convince Linda into giving your new friend that exclusive, wasn't it?" Karen spoke up.

"Yeah," Sarah agreed, "but not before word got back to her that I was leaving the condo, and who with. The fallout from that was pretty nasty. She wouldn't talk to me for days after she found out, and made it so I couldn't leave the condo building without her express consent. I'd like to say she was just concerned about me, but she flat out told me she didn't trust me not to spread anything about her or Jeremy around, so that kind of killed that positive thought."

"Then how did you manage to convince your mother to do the exclusive?" Jareth asked curiously.

Sarah shrugged. "I mostly just let her hang herself. You see, when I was talking to Danielle and Silas, my hints were just that, hints. I never told them flat out, this is what happened, and this is what you'll need to prove it. All I told them was what topics would be good for them to look up, and they did the rest. Basically, Silas was letting me use him to absolve my mother's name and get some time out of the condo, and in doing so, I was helping him by steering him to where he needed to go to scoop his competition. Without me there to give him that edge over the others, the playing field was suddenly evened out again." The teens lips twitched into a smile of smug satisfaction. "Part of my argument with my mother had had to do with the fact that, by accident, I'd had better success at getting the reporters off her back than her own publicist, who'd told her just to ride it out. In the end, when she was contracted to star in a new movie, and her role began to get jeopardized by the reporters that were constantly trying to harass her, she finally had to listen to me and call Silas." Her smile turned a bit rueful. "Of course, by the time she finally got around to that, I was scheduled to return home, so it really didn't earn me too much."

"How much of New York were you able to see?" Cathal questioned. "You said that the deal was that they would take you to see the city if you helped them out. Did you get to see everything that you wanted to?"

"Sort of." Sarah hedged. "While I did see a few of the more common sights like, The Statue of Liberty and Time Square what I saw the most of were the places I probably shouldn't have been."

"Like where, exactly?" Cathal asked, quickly noting the slight frown that slid across her step-mother's lips. This was obviously a part of the story that she wasn't too thrilled with.

The young woman shrugged. "A few of the family owned bars, some pool halls, and couple places that I'm pretty sure were part of a black-market. Silas was pretty smart, he was always careful about where he and Danielle took me. I think he knew that I wouldn't be all that thrilled with the typical tourist thing, and wanted to make sure that I didn't find any reason to veto his questions."

"Smart," Jareth agreed, with faint amusement, "but not smart enough. If he'd taken a little more time to get to know you, he would have noticed that your desire for fairness would have prevented that."

Sarah shrugged. "Like I was going to correct him. Not when I was having more fun letting him believe what he wanted. Besides, it's better if Silas is more willing to take me seriously, than not. Reporter before friend, remember?"

Just as the Goblin King inclined his head in understanding and offered a thoughtful, "I recall.", the Williams' family home came into view.

Karen sighed in obvious relief at the sight of it. "Well, I don't know about everyone else, but I'm ready to start dinner. How soon can your wife come down, Mr. Kingsley?"

The older fae felt his lips twitch into a smile as he noted the casual way the woman pointedly neglected to ask if he wanted to join her family for the evening meal, so much as subtly demand his and his wife's attendance.

Sneaking a glance at his grandson and the young woman standing closely at his side, the Elder quickly cottoned on to the woman's scheme and turned his attention back to his host.

Clever thing.

"I think she should be able to make it down within the hour. Will that be sufficient?"

Karen smiled. "Perfect." Turning to Sarah, she grinned. "Could you get the door for me, dear? And Jareth, do you have any food allergies that I should be made aware of?"

"Ah… no…" The Goblin King trailed off, slightly unnerved by the feeling that he was getting set up.

"Wonderful!" She chirped, as she allowed Sarah to step around her and to the door. "Dinner should be ready in two hours. I hope you like pasta and salad."

Watching as the woman bustled inside with his Ancestor barely a few steps behind her, the younger fae could only stare into the house with a kind of detached horror as he realized exactly what the woman had managed to do.

Sarah, used to her step-mother's genius, could only cast an apologetic look at the Goblin King and offer a soft, "Sorry." for his trouble.

Heaving a long, drawn-out sigh as he trudged his way inside, Jareth resigned himself to the inevitable.

It would appear, that whether he wanted to or not, he was going to be having dinner with the Williams family that evening.

…Where he and their daughter could be properly chaperoned.

Oh goody.


"A circle brat, a circle," Cathal snapped. "How do you expect to create a proper portal if you can't make a circle?"

The Goblin Kind huffed angrily as he once again took the staff he had with him and tried to draw a 'proper' circle into the sand at their feet.

"It's not like I've ever been taught anything close to this." He replied sharply. "Everything taught in this day is about manipulating your own internal power in some way. Not what's around you, and never without a focus."

"Which is why it is so dire for you to know this." The older fae pointed out firmly. "If you're in a situation where you don't have the power to translocate or are, for whatever reason, unable to access your own magic, then this knowledge can save your life. I do not believe that I need to inform you as to why it would be a good idea for you to maintain your own well being, do I?"

Jareth looked up from his work to shoot his grandfather a dirty look, only to ruin his efforts again.

He cursed.

"Such language," Fionn admonished amusedly, as she walked into their training grounds. "There's no need for you to be vulgar, you'll get it eventually. And you," she commanded pointedly at Cathal. "Stop provoking him. We both know you have no room to talk about getting this right in a day."

The older fae shot his wife a dry look as the Goblin King grinned thankfully at her.

"Curmudgeon." Cathal sniped back.

The fae queen only smiled, before turning to her grandson. "Jareth dear, it's nearly time for you to accompany Sarah into town."

Managing to keep the majority of his attention focused on his task, the younger fae frowned. "Could I ask you something, ma'am?"

Fionn's smile gentled into something faintly amused and wholly adoring. Unlike Cathal, who Jareth rather firmly insisted on calling 'old man', the fae woman had been rather quick to notice that her young grandson tended to be rather nervous about where he stood with her. He had, rather adorably from her perspective, stuck to addressing her as 'ma'am', whenever spoken to.

Even now, as she inclined her head and bade him to ask his question, she couldn't help but wonder when, if ever, she would be able to convince him to call her, 'grandmother'.

"The other day, when I was accompanying Sarah from the hospital I gave her some advice regarding the girl she'd visited, and…" he paused, choosing his words carefully before continuing. "Despite what I have told her, I am unsure if I can follow those same principals."

"Could you tell me a little more of the situation?" Fionn asked gently.

Finishing his task, Jareth cocked his head slightly to the side as he observed his work before nodding to himself and then turning to face his grandmother. "The girl that Sarah is visiting is the one that helped the Jeanes girl to assault her in the past. Apparently, she was the first victim of the girl's shooting spree the other day." He paused, uncertain. "I advised Sarah to re-evaluate what she knew of the girl when she expressed her anger with the situation, however…"

"You're not ready to take your own advice." The Ancient offered kindly.

"No." Jareth agreed. "I'm not. Much like Sarah did, I want to see her pay for her misdeeds, regardless of circumstances." He closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath, exhaling slowly. "I was careful not to show her how I personally felt on the matter, but I'm not sure how well I'll be able to do that today."

"She wants you to come with her," Fionn guessed.

The younger fae nodded. "She had a hand in nearly taking Sarah from me. I am not as keen on forgiveness as Sarah is, and I know she will forgive her."

The fae queen smiled, her eyes bright as she nodded. "Your Sarah is a good balance for you. Where you have learned to war and fight, she has learned to protect and make peace. Perhaps your answer for dealing with the day lies not in what advice I can give you, but in the example of your future Queen. Follow her lead child, she is wiser than either of you know."

Jareth regarded his ancestor thoughtfully before inclining his head and offering her a shallow bow. "I will heed your words, Elder."

Taking a step back from his completed task, the Goblin King tossed his staff over to his grandfather, and grinned at him wickedly. "For your inspection, old man." He mocked knowingly, and with a abrupt coiling of power, suddenly disappeared.

"Inspection." The old king mimicked snidely. "Cheeky brat, who does he think he-" Cathal cut himself off abruptly as he came to stand before the younger fae's latest attempt, the muscles in his jaw tightening in silent frustration.

"What is it, dearest?" Fionn asked, quickly trotting to his side.

"See for yourself." He said, motioning to wayward Goblin King's work.

Peering down into the sand, the fae queen's lips slowly twitched into a sharp, honest grin before freely tipping her head back and laughing.

There, drawn carefully into the sand, was a perfect circle, the words, 'ha ha' mutinously scripted within its' borders.

Indeed, Fionn marveled through her mirth, he was their grandson.


It didn't take long for Jareth to collect Sarah from her home, and for them both to begin their journey to the hospital, a kind of tentative silence resting between them.

After a while, the Goblin King broke it by asking, "How do you want to do this?" Mentally taking note of the carefully-wrapped box in her arms, the items likely purpose reminding him sharply of his grandmother's earlier wisdom.

Where you have learned to war and fight, she has learned to protect and make peace.

How were they going to do this?

"I…" Sarah hesitated, nervous. "I was wondering if you'd be willing to wait for me just outside the room. I don't want to scare her by bringing in someone she doesn't know, but…"

"You don't want to be alone, either." Jareth finished for her.

Sarah looked up at him in blatant relief and nodded.

"I want to try." She confessed to him softly. "I want to make things right for both her, and myself. It's just… It's so hard, you know? Because, even now, I'm still so angry with her, still so afraid." Her eyes were on the box in her arms, her hands clutching the parcel so tightly he worried it would buckle under the stress. "I don't know how to make it stop."

Taking a quick glance around, the Goblin King tenderly brought his hand up and brushed his finger fingers across her cheek, his glove dissolving like a fine mist.

The turmoil he felt racing through her made his heart clench, and wish that he knew how to take this pain from her.

"It won't always be this way." He told her earnestly, recalling his own life experiences. "One day this pain will just be a memory, along with what made it. What you need to do right now…" And damn but it was hard for him to tell her this, especially when he didn't want to do it himself. "…is to try and look past what you're feeling now, and to focus on what you want to accomplish. If you go into that room, and try to confront her with these feeling at the forefront of your mind, you won't be able to help anyone, even yourself."

Almost unconsciously, Sarah leaned into his touch, the intensity of what she was feeling slowly ebbing at his words.

"Thank you." She whispered genuinely.

Running his hand sympathetically through her hair, he allowed his hand to briefly rest at the nape of her neck, before letting it drop to her waist to tuck her close to his side. They didn't say anything for the rest of the walk, content for the time being that the other was there with them.

All too soon, however, they were in the hospital, standing just outside Miranda's room. There were voices coming from just inside. One was obviously Miranda, but the other Sarah couldn't identify other than it was female. Could it be her mother?

Sarah briefly glanced back at Jareth, who shrugged. Peeking back into the room, she was quickly confronted by a small professional looking Indonesian woman as she made her way from the room, a brief case in hand. The tiny lady offered Sarah a small smile and a short nod before she made her way to the ward's exit.

A slight frown made its way across Sarah's face as she took in a deep breath and made her way to Miranda's bedside. The other girl was staring fixatedly on a pile of documents that had been left on her bedside table, her expression frightened.

"Who was that?" Sarah asked, as she walked around the bed and purposely set her box on top of the papers. Out of sight, was out of mind, after all, and the teen wasn't willing to let Miranda's thoughts linger over something that was so obviously upsetting her.

"That was my case worker." She said softly, her expression lightening some when she caught sight of Sarah. "She was going over my options with me."

"Options?" Sarah asked, as she took a seat on the edge of Miranda's bed, her posture faintly tense.

Miranda's smile was soft and sad. "My parents are gone, no one can find them. Since I have no other relatives to that can take me in, the state has assigned Ms. Jenkins to act as my temporary guardian while I'm here in the hospital. Come January, I'll be seventeen, so she's looking into what it would take to get me emancipated, so that I won't have to go into the system."

"Won't you be considered a legal adult, then? That's good, right? What's the problem?" Sarah asked.

"The problem is finding someone I can stay with now, while I finish recovering. With my parents gone, it won't be long before the house I'm living in slips into foreclosure. So, any nurse I could get to come to where I live won't be of much help to me for long." The young teen's breath hitched slightly, as if she were trying to hold back tears. "I'm not going to have anywhere to go pretty soon, and that's something I have to consider. Ms. Jenkins is doing her best to get me government support as fast as she can, but these kind of things take time, and it just might be longer than I have…"

"Sounds like you're having a really bad day." Sarah interrupted quickly. She didn't want Miranda to start crying with her current injury.

"Yeah," the other girl wheezed somberly. "you could say that."

Sarah glanced away from Miranda as the other young woman tried to collect herself, silently wondering how she was going to ask some of the things she wanted to ask.

"It's alright, Sarah." Miranda spoke up softly after a few minutes. "My day hasn't been so bad that you need to hold back." The unspoken sentiment of, I still owe you. hung poignantly in the air. "You've already told me that you have questions. What did you want to ask me?"

Sarah took a breath, hesitated for only a moment before quickly rushing out, "Was I the only one you helped Lacey…" And trailed off. She didn't know how to say it, didn't want to say it, to acknowledge what they'd done to her.

Guilt and regret settled upon the other girls face as she obediently answered what was asked of her. "You weren't the only one I would help her find. There were a lot of the others that Lacey went after. Most were quick to figure out that the best way to avoid her was to simply stay out of her sight until she thought of them again. You, however…" There was a slight pause, a wary hesitation. "You were different. You always fought her in some way. Everyone, even myself, eventually learned to just give in, to accept what she was doing and to wait for it to be over, but you always tried to do something, even if it was just to out run her. I… I think she hated you for that."

"So then…" Sarah tried to clarify.

Miranda looked morbidly determined as she answered, "You were the only one I would help her catch."

It was as if someone had dumped ice down Sarah's back. "Why?" She asked, her voice beginning to shake with emotion. "Why did you do that? Why didn't you just leave well enough alone?"

"Because she asked me." She stated softly, causing Sarah to fall silent. "I've never been allowed to have friends, Sarah. I know it's not easy for you to understand it, but I haven't. My parents have always taken those decisions out of my hands. What I ate, how I dressed, whether or not I could have friends were all things that needed their approval first on. They own one of the larger trading companies on the east coast, as their heir I was expected to live up to certain expectations, and if I didn't…" She unconsciously wrapped an arm around her middle. "Things could get pretty bad. Lacey was the first potential friend that I brought home that they approved of. She had good grades, good business sense, charisma… She was everything I wasn't." Miranda's gaze remained trained on her lap, before she looked up, eyes shining with suppressed tears. "They approved of her whole heartedly. She was my first friend. My friend!" A sob tore itself from Miranda's throat, and Sarah didn't allow herself to think as she quickly got up and carefully wrapped her arms around the other girl, Miranda's breaths coming in harsh, pained gasps as she fought to regulate her breathing.

Sarah closed her eyes and had to resist the urge to sigh, easily recalling her words to Jareth from earlier in the day.

I want to try. I want to make things right for both her, and myself.

Big words, she realized too late, because Miranda was something that she had never been, and could only just vaguely understand.

In all Sarah's life, despite even her own mother's negligent cruelty, she had never been broken like Miranda was. Lost, unquestionably, but never broken.

How was she supposed to fix this? How was she supposed to make this right for both of them?

Maybe, in a roundabout way, Jareth was right. If she honestly wanted to help Miranda, then she had to start with herself.

"I forgive you." Sarah whispered softly in the other girl's ear, gently tightening her hold as Miranda shuddered in her grasp, a sort of tension easing from her. "I don't blame you for what you did. I…" Sarah's throat tightened and she had to take a breath. "I wish you hadn't done it. Oh, God how I wish you hadn't done it, but… I don't want to hold these feelings against you anymore."


"Don't." Sarah cut her off quickly, loosening her hold and taking a step back. She didn't want Miranda to misunderstand what she was trying to do. "I know it sounds selfish, but I'm not doing this for you. I'm doing this so that I can find some measure of peace in all this." Tears slid down Sarah's cheeks and her voice was harsh with emotions as she continued, "I refuse to see you as my waking nightmare, to live my life in fear anymore. I won't let you or anyone else hold that kind of power over me again. You keep saying that you owe me. If that's the case, then we're going to pay up that dept, right now." Miranda was shaking her head, confusing and anxiety clear on her face. Sarah ignored her pushed forward. "I'm going to leave for a little bit and make a phone call, if all goes well, you should have a set place to stay by tonight."

The other girl could only stare in blatant incomprehension. "Sarah, what are you doing?"

"Making things right for both of us," Sarah stated firmly. "When you're ready to be released, you're either coming home with me, or you'll have a place setup for you to go. Either way, I'm going to help look after you until you're ready to stand up on your own two feet again."

Miranda looked completely stunned. "But-"

"No." The young woman commanded decisively. "No, 'buts', no arguments, this is what we're going to do, alright?"

Large brown eyes stared up at Sarah with a painfully hopeful and wary expression. "I… Alright, if that's what you want."

"It is." Sarah agreed with a sharp nod. Glancing to the bedside table, she quickly scooped up the box she'd left on it, and deposited it in Miranda's lap. "Here, you can open this while I'm gone."

The other teen blinked in mild surprise, staring at the obviously festive paper. "Um… Shouldn't I wait until the holidays?" She asked curiously.

Sarah offered Miranda a faint smile and shook her head. "It's an early Christmas present and a 'Get Well' gift. There are a lot of different things in there that you might need, so it would probably be best if you opened it now. I'll be back in a little bit, alright?"

Miranda softly ran her fingers over the gift with a kind of quiet awe. "Alright. Thank you, Sarah."

Lightly patting the other girl's knee, Sarah quickly turned and left the room.

She barely made it passed the threshold before Jareth swiftly reached out and gently pulled her into his arms, carefully guiding them out of Miranda's sight.

She was shaking again, she realized, as she wrapped her arms around her fae and buried her head in his chest. Even now, for all her intent to let the past reside in its time, her body was thrumming with the desire to flee from a now unnecessary fear.

"I think I'm going crazy." She confessed softly to him after a few minutes as her tremors began to subside.

The Goblin King smiled into her hair and whispered in return, "I take it this wasn't part of your initial plan?"

Sarah gave an odd huff of a laugh. "Not by a long shot, but I wasn't lying, this is something I want to do."

Jareth couldn't stop the smile that slid across his face as he kissed the top of her head.

Perhaps your answer for dealing with the day lies not in what advice I can give you, but in the example of your future Queen.

Perhaps, his grandmother was right. It was time that he learned to follow his future Queen's example. For now, he would let the past linger where it should. Away from their present and future.

"If this is what you want to do, then this is what we'll do." He agreed willingly.

Giving him a final, thankful squeeze, Sarah smiled earnestly at him and gently pulled away from his hold. "I think there were some payphones in the lobby. How about I make a quick call, and then we'll get something to eat?"

Smiling back at her Jareth gave a sharp nod of approval for her plans, and allowed Sarah to lead him out of the ICU.

Neither noticed Miranda Pierces' stunned expression as she stared at the contents of her now-opened gift.

Gently cradled in her hands, was a small, delicate looking bouquet of acacia blossoms carefully tied together with a milky white ribbon.

Unbidden, tears slipped down the teen's cheeks as she reverently ran her fingers over one of the pink petals. Silently marveling over the blossoms' elegant beauty.

Peering back into the box, the young woman amusedly took note of the carefully packed in supplies of soaps, bubble baths, nail polishes, and light scents. All the items a girl would require to properly pamper herself for a calming night.

Despite the tears, Miranda felt herself smile appreciatively at the items. She'd been longing for a bath since she'd first woken up in the hospital, but hadn't had the strength or the supplies to really ask for it.

Peering once again down at the fragile looking flowers in her hands, Miranda carefully lifted them up and placed them on her bedside table, making mental note to have one of the nurses bring her a cup of water for them soon. Turning back to the contents of her box, the teen carefully shifted and inspected the various gifts until she came across a thin, hard cover book pressed tightly against one side. Gently pulling it out, she read the title of the book with mild curiosity.

The Victorian Language of the Flowers

Curious, Miranda flipped through a few pages, and skimmed over the contents. It was setup much like a dictionary, with a flower listed to one side followed by its definition. The young woman glanced to the flowers on the beside table and then back to the book. Within seconds she was flipping to the 'A' section and scanning over the list until she found the acacia.

Her heart sank as much as it soared, torn at the realization of what kind of person she'd helped to torment.

Acacia - Friendship

Tokens of Affection

A Labyrinth Story
by Shinku

Part 13 of 15

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