Continuing Tales

Tokens of Affection

A Labyrinth Story
by Shinku

Part 14 of 15

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Tokens of Affection

"I wanted you to hear this from me, first," Silas offered quietly, staring into the depths of his coffee as if it held the answers for what was troubling him. "I didn't want to take the chance of your parents sending you from the room when I start explaining what I've found, tonight."

"Sounds like bad news," Sarah commented idly, sipping the hot chocolate that had been ordered for her.

It had been nearly three weeks since Lacey had been taken into custody. Christmas had come and gone with the Williams family welcoming in a new guest in the form of Miranda Pierce for the holidays. It had been as trying an experience as it had been a cleansing one for Sarah as she learned how to let go of their damaging past.

Each new day revealed a new aspect of the other girl that she'd never known before. Like Miranda's passion for hand drawn art, or her fondness of baking. "I'd always wanted to have my own bakery," she'd confessed one day, and Sarah had surprised herself with her sudden desire to help make that dream a reality.

The reporter snorted. "You could say that. Do you have any preference about where I should start?"

However, if she was going to make those dreams a reality, Sarah needed to know what to plan for. Thankfully, her wily friend knew her quite well.

"Lacey," the teen answered decisively, keeping her gaze completely focused on her companion.

Silas took a deep breath, and sighed as he sat back in his chair, glancing out the small coffee shop's front window. "From the beginning then. Alright…" he took a sip of his drink and began to speak. "Sixteen years ago, Lacey Renee Jeanes was born after a particularly long and difficult delivery, which resulted in her mother being unable to bear any children after her. This is basically the point where it all starts."

Sarah raised a disbelieving eyebrow. "Don't you think that's a little far back?"

The reporter felt his lips twitch in response. "The love of a parent can be a powerful thing," he replied cryptically. "In fact, so powerful, that they became quite concerned when she first started going to school and it was noted that she wasn't interacting with the other children well."

"How so?" The teen asked shrewdly.

Silas shrugged. "The most prominent story that I heard of was when she was six. Some boy from her class broke his arm on the school playground right in front of her, where she was swinging, and unlike nearby kids that tried to help or just flat out panicked, she didn't even so much as twitch, let alone stop swinging to do anything. The lack of empathy completely terrified her teachers. It wasn't long after that she was taken to a psychologist for evaluation." The reporter sipped his coffee again, as he gauged her coming reaction. "Are you aware of what a sociopath is?"

"A person without conscience," Sarah recited dutifully, looking stunned. "You can't be serious. Lacey is a sociopath? How did no one notice that?"

Greyson shrugged. "That's where the parental love comes in. The shrink that initially diagnosis her suddenly has his credentials called into question shortly after informing the very unhappy parents. Long story short, this poor sap ends up getting his license revoked for "fraud" and now all the cases he's ever worked on can legally be called into question. Amusingly enough, a few months later, our little terror goes to a family approved shrink and checks out with a few minor mental disorders that can be managed with medication. Case closed. Only," and Silas grinned. "here's the kicker. She continues to have problems, and now it's getting worse. Rather than just doing her own thing and staying out of everyone's business, now it's like something has clicked into place, and she's trying to build her own kingdom."

Sarah shook her head. "I don't understand. How did she end up-"

"Completely psychotic?" The reporter finished. "Yeah, well, we're getting to that part. So, get this: whoever doesn't fall into her order of thinking, immediately is forced to, no questions asked."

"A friend of mine," the young teen commented, "told me that Lacey herself had said that she'd been transferred from a lot of different schools. She said that it was because of her parents' job."

"It's more the other way around," Silas corrected. "Her parents were constantly having to volunteer for transfers, so that they could start fresh when their little ball of sunshine got a little too unstable. I'm sure you've heard that the severity of your case was mirrored by seven other kids at your school. What I don't think you know, is that that's actually quite low for her." He paused for a minute, eyeing Sarah knowingly as he weighed his words. "I heard around that she had a helper here. A single helper."

Sarah inclined her head shortly, her eyes sharp. "There was a person she claimed friendship with."

"The first girl that was shot," Silas commented pointedly. "However, I hear that there was a unique set of circumstances involved with that. One that does not merit further investigation."

"No, it doesn't," The young woman agreed, her tone lighter, thankful.

"Sarah," Silas began, his tone serious. "You don't realize it, but you got an amazing blessing with that girl acting as her second."

"What do you mean?" Sarah asked.

"The other schools that Ms. Jeanes was enrolled in were all larger, city schools. When you compare the school you're in now with those, it's pretty small." The reporter stared at her frankly. "She was very adept at finding the most emotionally broken kids and turning them to her cause, especially when she offered them a chance to turn the tables on their own tormentors. Once she had them, she would form them into small groups that would act like enforcers for her." He shook his head. "There weren't a lot of kids for her to prey on in that way here. It left her in a unique situation that she was having trouble adapting too."

Sarah closed her eyes as she realized exactly how much Miranda Pierce had been used through this whole tragedy. "What happened to those other kids?" the young woman asked softly. "If Lacey just suddenly up and moved…?"

The reporter's expression was dark, and faintly haunting. "Some turned around, learned from the experience. Some got worse, and ended up in juvey or jail. And in one case…" There was a distinct pause, a wary hesitation. "There was one case were a few of the kids got together and just decided that they were tired of people always yanking their chain."

"You mean…" Sarah breathed.

"Suicide," Silas stated bluntly. "Four kids got together, and ended their lives when they realized exactly how badly they'd been manipulated." He stared hard into his coffee, wishing it was something stronger. "Unofficially speaking, how is the stray you've taken in?"

The young woman sighed, and ran a hand through her hair. "Better, I think. She's been with us for two weeks now, and she seems to be adjusting alright. She really likes Toby and Merlin. I think this is the first time she's ever experienced what an actual family is like." Sarah paused, the air around her seeming to hum with barely restrained energy. "I don't understand," she finally snapped. "If Lacey inspired this kind of loyalty, why didn't a parent, a teacher, or someone notice? Even if Karen didn't mention anything, she would have noticed eventually if I had come home waxing poetic about Lacey all the time."

Silas' lips twitched at the image. "You're looking at this whole thing like there was something really wrong for anyone to spot. To a parent's untrained eye, the Jeanes girl would seem quite normal, if a little self-centered. Never mind that trained professionals have trouble spotting people like… What were you kids calling her…? The Denim Devil?" He snickered.

"So, you're saying that no one noticed because Lacey was able to disappear into the metaphorical crowd?" She sounded incredulous.

The reporter grinned at her naivety. "A sociopath is more than just a person without conscience, kiddo, although that is the most widely accepted definition. What they actually are, is a unique kind of crazy that is mostly defined by their lack of ability to empathize with those around them. They just don't really feel anything that might instill in them a kind of moral compass, like guilt or remorse." He shrugged. "In fact, most of the people diagnosed with this kind of mental disorder don't experience emotions for prolonged periods of time, which leads them to be excellent mimics in the absence of actual feeling."

Sarah stared thoughtfully down at the tabletop. "What do you think set her off? I mean, even without experiencing emotion like a normal person, isn't tracking down a gun and running off to shoot a bunch of kids that pissed you off a little lacking in common sense?"

"Not really," Silas disagreed. "That kind of thinking just doesn't compute with them. They don't recognize the concept of common social mores, or even except the idea that they are in the wrong on something. As to what set her off…" He sighed. "Do you want my professional opinion or my personal one?"

"Personal." The young woman stated bluntly. She didn't need the kind of bullshit his professional opinion would entail.

"The original shrink," he stated just as directly. "Studies have been made, and proven that a sociopath that goes through traditional talk therapy only gets better at manipulating others. Even as a small child, she would have noticed that going to a shrink wasn't an everyday occurrence, and eventually figured out that he was a threat to her continued way of life. It wouldn't have taken her long to adapt."

Sarah worried her bottom lip as she processed all that Silas was trying to tell her. "What about her uncle, the Superintendent? How did he get involved in all of this?"

"He's the mother's older brother," the reporter returned gravely. "As a young boy he had been diagnosed with a unique type of cancer, and the resulting treatment had left him sterile. The parents gave him the role of the Jeanes girl's godfather. She was the closest thing he ever had to a daughter."

The teen sighed gustily as she shifted in her chair. "Figures we'd cycle back to 'parental love'," she sniped. "So, we've covered Lacey and her uncle. That solves that little nightmare. Now I have another for you. What do you know about a Patrick and Lilith Pierce?"

Silas winced. "Please, tell me you're not talking about the owners of Pierce and Fenton Trading. Those folks are jackals, sweetie. They have their fingers in more illegal venues than even you can begin to imagine. You don't want nothin' to do with them. If you've found something that might draw their attention to you, I suggest you get rid of it. Fast."

Sarah swirled the contents of her cup idly as a wry smile pulled at her lips. "No can do. The stray I took in is their daughter. The state currently has a warrant out for their arrest on negligence and abuse of a minor. I already guessed that they were pretty ruthless, given what I've been hearing and what my stray won't talk about. So, here's the question, how long do I have before I need to make her disappear?"

The reporter stared at her disbelievingly. "Don't take this the wrong way, kiddo, but there are some things that are just too hot to handle. If I were you, I'd help her out for a few weeks and send her on her way. Her parents aren't going to leave her be for long."

"How long, Silas," the young woman hissed lowly.

"You said they have abuse charges leveled against them? If that's the case, then they've probably gotten out of the country. I'd say you have until she turns eighteen. When she's a legal adult. At that point, she'll be old enough to manage her own life, and charges or not, the state won't be able to force her to stay where they can keep an eye on her if she doesn't want to stick around."

"And what if the state is trying to emancipate her?" Sarah offered slowly.

The reporter ran a hand through his hair and sighed. "You'll want to put a stop to it as fast as you can." He gave her a shrewd look. "Since I'm certain that you're not going to listen to sense, the best solution for her would be for your family to foster her until she comes of age. At that point, having her fall off the grid wouldn't be a bad idea. I take it this new boyfriend of yours will take care of that?"

The teen smiled coyly and sipped her drink. "Of course."

Silas snorted. "And Danny wonders why I call you a viper."

The teasing smile never left Sarah's lips as she raised an eyebrow and commented, "A viper? I always thought of myself as something a bit more mystical."

"You would." The reporter griped. "Well, now that we're done-"

"Not yet," Sarah interrupted quickly. "I have a little information that you might find worth your while."

The adult cocked his head to one side, a knowing and predatory grin sliding across his face. "What has she gotten herself into, now?"

"Identity theft, fraud, and probably more," Sarah commented. "I'm not exactly sure on all the details."

Silas looked stunned. "How much are we talking here? I mean, if it's just a couple thousand dollars…" And trailed off in utter disbelief as the teen held up six fingers.

The reporter didn't need clarification to know what she meant.

Six digits.

Linda Williams had stolen six digits worth of money, and if Sarah was telling him this, despite how much trouble it might get her mother in…

"She stole this from your family, didn't she?" Silas asked, gravely. "You're not just telling me about some random fling she screwed over, are you?"

Sarah shook her head. "It started a couple years ago, and no one really noticed until recently. She's been real careful with how much she spends and on what credit lines. The best that Karen was able to explain to me was that she'd used my Dad's social security number to tap into her old lines of credit that are currently under his name."

The reporter closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. "That's why your father was so keen on pushing the limits of what I could offer for an interview from your family, wasn't it?"

The teen waited for Silas to turn his eyes to her before nodding. "During the divorce, my Dad agreed to pay off the debts she accumulated during their marriage if, basically, she would leave us alone. Considering how many years it's been, the debts should have had a sizeable dent put in them, but they've steadily been getting larger instead." She sipped her drink again. "If you can find us some hard evidence, not only do you get the story from our side of things, but you get a great tie in for the story you're working on, now."

He looked intrigued. "A tie in? How exactly are these two events supposed to tie in?"

"I saw how tired and stressed out my Dad was, and decided to keep what Lacey was doing to myself so that I didn't add to that," she stated frankly.

Silas felt sick. "Oh Sarah, tell me you didn't, kiddo."

Sarah merely looked at him in faint apology, letting her silence speak for her.

The reporter leaned his full weight back against his seat and sighed, casting his gaze heavenward. He didn't speak for several minutes as he allowed the new information to settle in his mind.

The young woman respectfully remained silent.

"I'll see what I can find out about your mother, after I've covered everything here." He offered her a faint smile. "Can't let anything bad happen to my favorite informant, right sweetie? Besides, as soon as I get the info on your mother, I'll have to come back for another interview, right?"

Sarah's smile was positively radiant at the subtle promise for extra financial help. "You sure will."

Their conversation slowly eased into lighter topics after that until, after a short while, they said their goodbyes and Silas left.

The reporter wasn't even gone a minute before Jareth slid easily into his vacated seat.

"Well?" He asked softly, quickly checking her over.

She smiled. "I'm alright, just a little… relieved, I guess."

The fae cocked his head to one side in silent inquiry.

"Silas just confirmed that Lacey is done," Sarah informed him calmly. "She has too much leveled against her right now for her to wiggle out of." Something faintly sad slid across Sarah's face before she shook her head and continued. "Her life is effectively over. There won't be any second chances for her, again."

"That's good, isn't it?" Jareth pressed.

The teen sighed. "Yeah. It just feels like such a waste, you know? She could have done anything with her life, despite her problems, and now… nothing. Her life is effectively over. I just don't understand why she did what she did."

"We can't always understand why some things happen they way they do, Sarah." The fae commented softly, reaching and taking her hand. "Sometimes, all we can do is just live through it, and hope we are ready if there is ever a next time."

Sarah laced her fingers through his and sighed.

"What about your houseguest?" The Goblin King prompted. "Was he able to tell you anything about her situation?"

The young woman frowned slightly. "He described her parents as jackals, and told me that there were some things that were too hot to handle." She squeezed his hand. "He said that it wasn't likely that her parents would try anything until she was eighteen, but I'm a little concerned they might get a second party to do so for them. What do you think?"

Jareth smiled and squeezed her hand right back. "I think that you should leave those kind of worries to me. I'll guarantee that they won't come looking for her, at least not in this decade."

Sarah grinned, and pointedly continued, silently leaving him the task. "I did as you suggested and told him about my mother. He said that as soon as he's done here, he'll look into it." There was something faintly vindicated to her eyes as said, "I think he was rather upset with her. Normally, he cuts her a little slack in his articles and interviews, but I think he's going to eat her alive, now."

"Good," the fae stated firmly. "Perhaps she will learn a lesson this time."

The teen's grin mellowed into something faintly sad, but she nodded. "Do you know what time it is?"

"Almost time to meet your friends." He answered. "Are you ready?"

Sarah nodded again. "Yeah, lets go."

Keeping their hands tightly locked together, the Goblin King and his future Queen left the coffee shop and calmly made their way to, and down, a small side street. Once they were away from prying eyes, there was an unnoticed coiling of power, and just like that, they both disappeared.


"Where do you want this?" Sarah asked as she held up a particularly ugly vase for Miranda's inspection.

The other girl's lips twitched into a smile at the sight of it. "Donation." She stated. "I know it's pretty ugly, but it's actually an antique from another country. The art museum would really appreciate it."

Sarah raised her eyebrow in mild disbelief and shrugged. "If you say so."

Walking over to a box in the far corner, the young woman carefully set the vase down with a statue of some kind, as well as a few paintings. This pile was for things that would be given to the nearest Art Museum. The Pierces, she'd found out, had a certain affection for antique art. Sadly, all that they were finding was rather ugly.

"You know," Sarah commented, walking back over to Miranda. "if I didn't know that some of these things were honestly worth some money, I would think it was cruel to send them to the Art Museum."

The other girl laughed. "I always thought they were pretty bad, too. Mom and Dad, however, kept them around mostly for collateral. If they needed a loan of some kind, then they'd put a lean on these things, instead of something that was actually part of their business. It was actually kind of smart when you think about it."

The brunette frowned at the odd pile of 'art'. "So, these things could, technically, belong to a bank, right now?"

Miranda shook her head. "No. They haven't needed to take a loan out on those for years, and besides, I already checked when I was in the hospital. So far, everything in the house is clear." She frowned. "It's the house itself that's the problem."

Sarah nodded in understanding. They had only just recently found out that not only was the house likely to foreclose because Miranda wouldn't be able to keep up with the mortgage, but that there was also a sizable loan on the place. One that hadn't been paid on since her parents had took off.

Thankfully, the banks involved were sympathetic to Miranda's situation, and weren't moving to repossess the house as quickly as they normally would. This gave them all the time they needed to clear the place out, and sort out what they were going to donate, and what they were going to auction in a couple weeks.

Turning her attention back to the stuff that had been piled haphazardly all over the living room, Sarah heaved a resigned sigh, and quickly set to trying to put some order to the mess.

Because Miranda had been in no shape to move up and down a bunch of stairs, and the bedrooms hadn't been large enough to hold a bunch of boxes for the job, it had been decided that everything of importance would be brought downstairs to the living room, for sorting. It had been a good idea.

In theory.

Somewhere, in between the arrival of Nina and Kevin, and Sarah and Jareth, the space had gone from a well organized stocking room to an immeasurable dumping ground.

Even now, the only things they'd made any headway on was her parents' clothes. Those were sitting off to the side by the front door, boxed up and ready to go. Even the furniture had been set up to be moved and stored.

No, what was causing them the most trouble at the moment was the surprising number of knickknacks to be found all over the house. In fact, some of them, Jareth had told her quietly a few hours ago, he'd only been finding by virtue of the goblins, they had been so well hidden.

Sarah knew that these findings bothered Karen, and was thankful that the woman had been so careful not to make a big deal about it.

"Hey, Miranda," Sarah called out, hold up a box of VHS recordings. "What about-" And paused, swiftly turning her head to the front door as she lowered the box back to the floor.

Was that…?

Within moments, there was the sound of heavy footsteps overhead, and Sarah watched, amused, as Jareth came running down the stairs, taking them two and three at a time, before swiftly sprinting to front door and throwing it open.

Aidan stood in the doorway, his hand up as if poised to knock. He gave Jareth a dry look, as he lowed his hand back to his side. "You know," he commented to his King wryly, "it's a wonder anyone mistakes you as normal."

Jareth's answering grin was full of childish mischief. "My gain," he said airily, standing aside so Aidan could enter. "It took you long enough to get here."

The dark-haired fae glanced at his King in amusement. "I would have been here sooner had not your associates saw fit to hold a party in my garden." He shot Jareth a pointed look. "It has taken me this long to chase them out, so don't think for a moment that I'm going to be bullied into feeling guilty about being late."

Jareth huffed in annoyance as he shut the door. "I told them to stay out of your garden."

"Did you specify how long?" Aidan asked blandly.

The blonde winced.

"I thought not," the elder replied smugly. "So, what is it you need me to do?"

"We need you to take my place, so that we can get something to eat!" Sarah called from the living room.

"We do, do we?" Jareth asked, turning around and stepping more fully into the room, Aidan just behind him.

"We do." Sarah grinned, holding up a handful of bills as Karen darted into the dining room, presumably to catch one of the boxes the goblins seemed to be so endlessly fascinated with.

"Does your step-mother want anything in specific?" He asked, feeling a little guilty about the added work he was unconsciously giving her.

"Just something frozen we can bring back." She answered. "She said she wants to have a proper family meal in the house. Dad's going to come by in a couple hours, so we need to have everything ready by then."

The Goblin King nodded his understanding.

Sarah's step-mother was trying to give the Pierce girl a few happy memories to take with her when she moved on from this house. It was a startlingly thoughtful -and subtle- gift to give the rather quiet girl, all things considered.

"That sounds reasonable." He turned to Aidan. "Do you think you can manage to sort through a few things while we're gone, or do you require a simpler job?" He needled playfully.

The dark-haired fae rolled his eyes before turning his gaze to Sarah. "When you take him for his walk, be sure to let him run around a bit before you bring him back. There's no sense in inflicting all his excess energy on the rest of us."

Jareth made a sharp, disgusted sound as he smacked his friend on the arm in retaliation, Sarah and Miranda laughing freely at the expression on the fae's face.

"I'll keep that in mind." The young woman wheezed, shaking in helpless humor as she stored the money in one of the pockets of her jeans.

The Goblin King's expression darkened minutely at her words before, with a wicked grin, he quickly darted forward and mercilessly ran his fingers down her vulnerable sides.

Sarah shrieked in laughter at the sudden attack, and swiftly rushed away from him, zooming out of the living room and up the stairs with the vengeful fae hot on her heels.

Aidan looked up at the ceiling in blatant amusement as their horseplay caused the lights to shake in their fixtures. "I haven't had a chance to observe them in length," he directed to young woman that had been left behind with him. "Do they do this often?"

Miranda smiled softly as she turned to look up at him. "They've done it a few times... in... the..." And trailed off as the fae respectfully turned his gaze to her.

He had beautiful eyes.

They were a dark blue, like the deeper parts of the sea, with barely noticeable flecks of emerald green striking out from around the pupil.

For a brief, heart-stopping moment, Miranda Pierce completely forgot about everything but those eyes.

"Are you alright?" Aidan asked with some concern.

And just like that, Miranda blinked, and the world began to spin again. She blushed. "I'm sorry, I've had so much on my mind today I just forgot what I was going to say. Don't you just hate it when that happens?"

The dark-haired fae smiled, and carefully navigated his way through the organized mess, before taking a seat on the floor next to her. "All the time," he agreed easily. "Now, my dear, since our hosts have appeared to have run off, I do believe that introductions are in order." Gently, he reached out and took her hand, and thoughtfully brushed his lips over her knuckles. "You may call me Aidan. And yourself?"

She forgot how to breathe.

"Miranda…" The young woman offered automatically, her brain still trying to reboot its primary functions.

"You have a lovely name." He commented politely.

"Thank you," she muttered almost shyly as she took in a breath, barely keeping the squeak from her voice that wanted to slip out.

Aidan smiled gently at her as he released her hand, and motioned to the piles of stuff scattered around them. "Well then, now that we're introduced, if you can tell me what needs to be done, I'll see what I can do to help you while those two," he motioned to the second floor, "get their act together."

As if on cue, there was another shriek, a thump, and Sarah came all but flying down the stairs.

"Bye, Miranda! Bye, Aidan!" She hollered over her shoulder, pausing only long enough to throw open the front door and zip out of it. "We'll see you in a bit!"

Miranda blinked in mild incomprehension. "We?" She asked to herself.

Quietly, like a pursuing jungle cat, the Goblin King came stalking down the stairs with the distinct air of someone that was enjoying themselves far too much.

"Play nice, Jareth!" Aidan called after his friend.

The young fae casually waved over his shoulder as the front door clicked shut behind him, his gaze intent on the path Sarah had taken.

The old Master felt himself grin at the closed door.

Those two certainly made quite the pair.

Turning his attention back to the slightly bewildered young woman beside him, Aidan's grin mellowed into a knowing smile.

Over the last few weeks, Jareth had been telling him about the history, and the unique stance Sarah had taken up with, the teen sitting next to him, and he had to admit, she'd probably made a good choice. Even now, just sitting next to her, and watching her expression and body-language, the dark-haired fae could easily see the concern she had for her new, if tentative, friend.

Jareth was often hard to predict, even to the people that were familiar with him. Newcomers to his unique personality were often hard pressed to tell when he was serious or merely joking.

The way the girl eyed the door, and just barely hunched her shoulders, as if she was holding herself back, gave her away.

"She'll be fine," Aidan offered kindly. "He looks like trouble right now, but he'd move worlds for her if she asked it of him."

Miranda's gaze flickered over to him in surprise. "I… I hadn't meant to imply-"

The fae held up a pacifying hand. "I know you didn't. You might be surprised at the number of people that initially misjudge Jareth before they get a real chance to know him," he smiled sympathetically. "Even Sarah was caught off guard by him when she first met him."

The young woman briefly glanced back at the door as some of the quiet tension left her body. "I've seen them together a few times, but I haven't really gotten a chance to actually talk to him," she hesitated slightly, her next comment soft, and faintly sad. "I don't think he likes me too much."

Aidan's heart ached at the subtle emotion in her voice. "He just doesn't want to interfere in what Sarah is trying to achieve for both of you." He told her softly, hoping his next words were not too frank. "He's having a hard time letting Sarah have her way in this. In his experience, you don't try and rehabilitate an old enemy; you destroy them before they can cause you more trouble."

Miranda bit her lip, and offered honestly, "I don't want to cause anymore trouble. I've had enough of it. I don't want to be responsible for anyone else's pain… Never again."

The fae found himself smiling at the admission. It would seem that Jareth's Sarah had, indeed, done well in her chosen course of action. The young woman seated next to him was sincerely trying to make right her past misdeeds.

"Then I have no doubt that Jareth will come to forgive you as Sarah has. He just needs time to see what she does."

The young woman didn't say anything to him, merely smiled. However, he could easily see a quiet kind of relief at his comment, and a fragile, new hope beginning to take shape.

Yes, he decided, Sarah had chosen very well.


Jareth tracked his Champion to a small public garden located at the end of the street. It wasn't a very large area, only a little over an acre of land, but whoever was taking care of it, had chosen to shape it like a very small maze. However, instead of hedges to act as barriers, there many trellises and climbing roses in their stead.

The Goblin King felt his lips twitch in amusement.

Even with the winter months putting the foliage into a proper state of hibernation, the plants' wicked looking thorns remained behind, a keen deterrent against those that would cheat their way to the center.

He eyed the various paths around him with mischievous potential, catching sight of a small pond, nearly out of sight, down and around the left-most path.

He did so love a challenge.

"Clever, Sarah!" He called out to the garden around him. "Very clever, who have you gotten to help you this time?"

"A friend." Her voice came to him from all sides, and he felt himself grin in response.

"Is that so?" He called around himself as he took the right-most path. "You do seem to be getting quite a collection of those. I'm not sure I approve."

There wasn't a verbal response, but the very air seemed to hum with her smile. The path branched out again, and he didn't even hesitate in taking the right-most path, again.

"No witty comeback, Sarah?" He was again met with silence, and grinned a little wider. "Don't worry, Precious, I can work with that."

He immediately stopped his forward progress, and reached out across the small plot of land with his senses and magic, feeling about for the curious tongue of fire that was Sarah.

No one is here… Why don't you look over there… That seems promising…

Jareth turned his head to the source of the compulsion with high amusement.

A goblin.

She'd convinced one of his goblins to help her, again. "Oh, Sa-rah…" He sung to her playfully. "Did you know, that I know the flavor of all my subjects' magic? That not one of them isn't known to me?" The smile that had been so prominent in the air, faltered. "Oh yes, in fact, why don't you ask Kraw, I'm sure he can explain the mechanics to you."

There was a shift in the wind before, with a sharp jolt of intent, Jareth was just able to reach out and snatch his Champion as she tried to bolt past him out of a small nook just behind him.

She shrieked again in laughter as his fingers automatically found her sides and tickled ruthlessly.

"Who's walking who, Sarah?" He drawled mockingly in her ear.

She didn't answer him, too consumed in her effort to wiggle out of his grip between helpless giggles.

He let up after a couple minutes, satisfied that he'd made his point.

It took her a few moments to catch her breath, but as she did, she couldn't help twisting slightly in his hold to grin up at him.

Jareth felt a kind of release at the unconscious movement. While there was still a subtle, lingering stiffness to her, the fact that she was able to move the way she just did was only further proof that she was healing.

The nightmare, it would seem, was finally beginning to fade.

"Are you feeling alright?" He asked.

Sarah reached up, and tugged lightly at his hair. "I ache a little," she answered honestly, "but, otherwise, I'm fine. A bit late to be asking me, don't you think?" The young woman teased.

The Goblin King smiled as he loosened his hold enough for her to turn around in his grasp. Once she was facing him, he tightened his hold again, and brought her flush against him, resting his head atop hers.

"It's finally beginning to feel like it's over," he confided to her softly, referencing a comment that he'd made nearly a month ago. "Like it's alright to breathe again."

Sarah ran a comforting hand between his shoulder blades, gently trying to reassure him of her presence.

"Yes, it does, doesn't it?"

The fae hummed in agreement, just letting himself revel in the feeling of having her in his arms, whole and safe.

It was several minutes later that he commented almost playfully, "I caught what you did, you know."

Sarah continued to lean her weight against him, unconcerned. "Is that so?"

"Yes," he grinned into her hair. "and you had better not think for a moment that Aidan hasn't caught on either. The goblins aren't smart enough to think of a way around my orders without a little help, and they know better than to play in his garden en masse. So, I think it's time that you come clean with me on what you're planning, Precious."

The young woman pulled back a bit so that she could regard him fully. "I was thinking he could do for Miranda what he did for you."

"And that is?"

"Give her stability." She stated firmly. "Right now, Miranda isn't completely comfortable confiding in me. She has a lot she needs to work through, and considering that I'm one of those things, I'm not the best candidate for heart to hearts, just yet." Sarah shrugged lightly. "She needs someone that she can talk to without reservation, and I'm pretty sure that Aidan can give her the kind of advice that she'll be willing to listen to. She just needs a little time to get to know him."

"Thus, the letting loose of the goblins in his garden." Jareth commented, seeing the pattern her thoughts were taking. "While I see what you're trying to do, Precious, must you have chosen my friend to do it with?"

Sarah's gaze flickered to his chest, before looking up at him almost timidly. "Well, it's not like you don't have a surplus of people to talk to, now," she offered slowly. "I mean, you just got a couple new family members to get to know, and I'm here if you need me…"

The Goblin King's eyes lit with comprehension. "You think he will become lonely?"

The young woman shrugged. "I think it's possible. I mean, what exactly does he do all day besides tend to his garden, and help you when you need it? The way I see it, giving him another person to talk to couldn't hurt anything."

And if something more grew out of it… well… then he really wouldn't be lonely.

Jareth eyed her knowingly. "You're scheming a little further than 'friendship', Precious. Do give me some credit."

Sarah blushed.

"My only concern is whether or not it's a good idea to try and put those two together. I know you don't like hearing me say it, but how do you know that this sudden bit of goodwill on the girl's part will last? Why involve Aidan? Why not another?" He asked, pointedly.

His future Queen turned her gaze on him sharply. "Because he already worked one miracle with you, and I think he can work another one."

The Goblin King caught, and held, Sarah's gaze. "Explain."

Something in her expression looked faintly pained, and unsettled. "I don't think it's hit Miranda that she's essentially been let off the hook, yet. I'm worried that when she fully realizes that she doesn't have to answer for anything, that it's all been forgiven, that she's not going to forgive herself when the time comes."

"You think she's going to going to give up." Jareth stated.

Sarah bowed her head, and nodded.

He shook his head in denial. "I don't understand why you would think she would do that. You have been there for her for these last few weeks without reserve. You have been nothing but kind-" The fae started, only to be cut off.

"Have I? Have I really been so kind? Think about the life she came from, Jareth, how she has likely been raised. She knows she did something horrible to me, and I'm not punishing her for it. How long do you think she has before the shock of everything that's happened wears off and she realizes that she has essentially gotten off scot-free?" The teen briefly closed her eyes and took in a deep breath. "She's used to being punished for her mistakes. In this instance, I may end up hurting her worse by doing nothing."

The tension seemed to suddenly drain out of him at the conclusion of her words, and slowly he gazed at her with a kind of humbling respect.

Gently, he ran a gloved hand through her hair, before kissing her forehead adoringly. "I don't think there is another person in the world quite like you, Sarah Williams." He whispered to her softly. "Here we are, at the end of our adventure, when we should be celebrating, and still your heart goes out to those around you, trying to find a happy ending for everyone." He took in a breath, and let it out. "Aidan has always been a good judge of character; if he personally has no objections to spending time with the girl, then I will not interfere with that."

Sarah looked relieved.

"However," Jareth stated firmly, "I still want to know why you chose, Aidan. You've given me plenty of reasons to defend your choice, but haven't yet told me why."

She smiled at him then, the expression tender and loving, and he started at being the recipient of such unexpected devotion. "I'm a little surprised you haven't guessed," she remarked knowingly. "After all, I chose him because of you."

"Me?" He sounded so honestly lost with that single word that Sarah had to seriously fight back the urge to laugh.

"Aidan balanced you out when you needed it most, Jareth. You had the power to do so many terrible things to your old family. Can you really tell me that you didn't, at least in part, refrain from hurting them because you didn't want to disappoint, Aidan?"

The fae glanced away from her, his eyes pained. "You know I can't refute that."

"No," she agreed. "Which is why I thought to see if Aidan and Miranda can help each other."

Jareth turned back to her, confused. "I don't understand."

"From what you've shown me, it has always been just you and Aidan; there was never really anyone else in your lives before. But now, everything is different." She reached up and brushed a hand across the side of his face, willing him to see what she was seeing. "You have so many people in your life, now. Who does Aidan have, just for himself?"

"I… understand your reasoning, but why her?" He asked. "It just doesn't seem a sound choice for him."

"She isn't a sound choice for you," she corrected playfully. "Which is excellent, in my opinion, because I have every intention of being selfish, and keeping you to myself."

Jareth couldn't help the satisfied grin that slid across his face. "If you're trying to win me over with flattery," he quipped, "you should know that it's working. Keep going."

Sarah laughed, the sound light and free. "You're like the sun, Jareth. You're boundless energy, and life, and the wonder of everything that can happen in a day. Aidan, on the other hand, is like the moon. He's patience, and healing, and the peace that comes from having a safe place to rest. You've always helped, and balanced each other out. If one of you is unhappy, then the other is bound to be unhappy, too. All I'm doing is giving both him and Miranda an opportunity to take their own chance at happiness, like we have. The choice is completely up to them. Aidan seems to enjoy healing and teaching, and right now, Miranda needs someone that can look past her flaws and teach her about who she is, not who she was."

"You're thinking of my happiness." He realized, a kind of quiet awe coming into his expression. "This isn't just for Aidan or that girl; it's also for me."

His Champion smiled softly in his arms, pleased that he now understood.

Never, Jareth realized, as he traced her lips with the pad of his thumb, had he known exactly how much one person could truly be such a treasure. She had sought out a way to find Aidan and her new friend happiness, because she wanted him to be happy.

"If I am the sun, and Aidan is the moon," he asked reverently, "then who are you? What shape do you take in our sky?"

"I'm the stars, of course," she stated wisely. "So that I can watch over the moon, as he courts the earth, and I can embrace the sun when the day has reached its end."

The Goblin King laughed, even as his soon-to-be queen stepped out of his arms to rest her weight on the balls of her feet, a sure sign that he would be chasing her again before long. "I've said it before, and I'll say it again. You, my Sarah, are truly precious."

The young woman laughed, tickled at his declaration, even as she took a further step back and darted deeper into the maze, her fae quickly chasing after her.

Maybe it had first started when she made her wish. Maybe it was sooner, before she even really knew what romantic love was, but right here, right now, this was their beginning. This was how they were meant to be, each striving to be in the arms of the other, even when life tried to pull them apart.

"Too slow, Jareth!" She called tauntingly to him as she managed to evade a sudden grab for her waist.

As they disappeared around a corner, their laughter echoing in the air around them, neither noticed as the ground at the edge of one of the rose beds seemed to shift, and break, until a thin, deceptively weak looking vine began to quickly grow and unfurl, reaching up determinedly for the sun. Within minutes a bunch of puffy, globe-like purple flowers had perched themselves at the height of the greenery, proudly standing as a silent testament to all that knew them.


Immortal love.

Tokens of Affection

A Labyrinth Story
by Shinku

Part 14 of 15

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