Continuing Tales

Twists of Fate

A Crossovers Story
by Stormlight

Part 11 of 14

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Twists of Fate

Sarah was, at that moment, in the Escher Room. As was Wreath and Jacob...and Jareth. A very furious Jareth. Sarah had no idea how they'd all gotten here. One moment she'd been sitting at the window, drinking in the dark beauty of the Labyrinth in the setting sun, and in the next they had all ended up *here*!

And, judging by the stormy and slightly stunned expression on the Goblin King's face, she got the feeling that he hadn't had anything to do with it...

"What in blazes is going on?" Wreath cried. "Where are we?!"

"This is the Escher Room," Sarah replied darkly. "This is where Jareth and I confronted each other."

"This room's enough to make a girl go mad!" Wreath protested. "Jareth, why are we all here?"

"How the bloody hell should I know?" he snapped. "This wasn't *my* idea! That...that woman sent us all here, and I can't seem to get out again!"

"What woman?" Wreath asked in surprise.

"The Golden Lady who'd warned Jacob of the WolfBane. She's not of this world. She's of the next realm, beyond both our worlds. I don't know what she's doing here, but she's been interfering the whole time! I finally confronted her as she was leading Vincent to the castle, and she spouted off some nonsense about guiding Fate and Destiny to the end of this journey." He missed the startled looks Wreath and Sarah shot each other at those words, nearly echoing Wreath's words earlier. It was too much of a coincidence to be only that, and Wreath's knowing look told Sarah so. She frowned and looked away, still not certain as what she was going to do.

Jareth began to pace, hands clenched behind his back and booted feet clicking on the floor. He paced up a wall and down a ceiling and through a stairway and over a door...

"Jareth! For the love of the Saints will you quit doing that?!" Wreath finally snapped. "You're making my head spin what with that pacing!"

He paused and shot her a wolfish grin. "Sorry," he replied, not sounding in the least bit repentant. He sighed and sat down on a ledge. "This is absurd!" he grumbled. "This is *my* kingdom, and yet I've been...upstarted by that pale ghost of a woman who thinks it's her job to mess with Fate! What does she think she's doing, anyway?!"

"So now you know what it feels like," Sarah said coldly from behind him. He turned to face her, clearly offended.

"I beg your pardon," he huffed. "Just what are you talking about?"

She bit her lip, then cautiously took a seat on the same ledge that he was resting on, not too close, however. Wreath grinned slyly and took Jacob's hand, coaxing him away to do a little exploring. "His Majesty's about to get his tail burned, and we don't want to be too close to the flames," she explained to the child in a teasing voice as she led him through a doorway. Sarah glared at her friend briefly before turning her back on her and staring out into the abyss of the room.

"What, exactly were you trying to say?" Jareth questioned again, his voice commanding.

She shot him an irritated glance. "There, you see? That's what I mean! You always go out of your way to intimidate people, and to make them feel helpless in your presence. You've certainly tried your best to do that with me," she complained. "And now, when the tables are turned and *you're* the one who's being bullied into submission by a strange woman, you can't take a single drop of your own medicine! You're the biggest hypocrite I've ever met in my life!"

Now Jareth *was* offended. "How dare you speak to me in such a manner!" he snapped. "I am the Goblin King, and I demand that you show me the respect..."

"Or you'll do what?" Sarah snapped. "Throw a temper tantrum? Kick your feet? What? Go ahead and act like a six year old for all I care! But don't you go trying to bully me into submission, because it isn't going to work anymore! I've feared you for the past eight years, wondering what you might be planning, what sort of revenge you might have in store for me. But now that I'm here, I'm not afraid of you anymore! You can scream and yell and threaten until you're blue in the face, but I know now that without me...without *anyone*'re *nothing*. Nothing but a dream, a fairy tale that can be forgotten as soon as the book's closed."

She stood and stared down at him. "I pity you, Jareth," she finished softly. "What kind of life have you led that has made you into who you are today? What friends do you have? Do you have any? You only have your goblins. It isn't any wonder, really, that you are the way you are. You don't know how to be anything else."

He stared up at her, his face expressionless, and yet she could see that her words had cut him deeply, for those mismatched eyes of his were stricken, and all the emotions he refused to let slip behind that stolid mask swirled madly in them. For just the barest of a moment, a look of pure, intense pain crossed over his beautiful face, pain and longing so deep that Sarah felt her throat tighten with sadness for him. But then he drew himself up haughtily, and the mask was fully in place once again. "I need no one," he bit out, his voice seething with anger.

She shook her head. "That's a lie," she replied quietly. "Everyone needs someone. Even you." Then, gathering all her courage, she hesitantly reached out and, for the first time, she dared to gently touch the Goblin King's face with a slightly shaking hand. He flinched back as though he'd been burned, staring at her in shock. Never had she touched him before, except eight years ago during the enchanted ball, and the moment when her fear after the battle with the WolfBane had led her to cling to him, but she had been under the influence of enchantment and fear at those times...This was the first time she had knowingly and willingly touched him, her hand resting cool and soft against his lean cheek for the barest of moments, before she withdrew and rose to her feet, leaving him to stare after her in wonder.

* * * * *

Sarah leaned against a wall and took a deep, steadying breath, trying to still her pounding heart. She could not quite believe that she was still standing there, not after the way she had dared to speak to Jareth! Still, she knew that he'd needed a good taking down for quite some time now, and she guessed she was probably the only one brave enough...or was it stupid enough? do it. But she had touched him! She gripped the hand that had rested on his cheek, still remembering the feel of warm, silky skin beneath her own. What had possessed her? she wondered. She certainly hadn't *meant* to touch him! But he'd looked so...vulnerable! Just like when he was facing the WolfBane. She'd wanted to comfort him, despite the fact that he was supposed to be the enemy.

"I am so messed up it is not even funny," she muttered.

"I'd say you're probably the sanest person here," Wreath retorted from behind her. "Besides Jacob and myself, that is." She gave her a cheeky grin and sat down on a step. "So, I saw what happened. What happens now?" she asked.

"What do you mean, 'what happens now'?" Sarah retorted. "Vincent comes, we win the game, and we all go home again."

Wreath stared at her incredulously. "Do you mean to tell me that you *still* haven't figured anything out yet?" she huffed. "If you leave that man again, it'll break his heart, not to mention your own! Don't you see, Fate's been guiding us, just like I said, and it obviously wants you to be here, with Jareth! You're his equal, you know. Nobody else would've dared to speak to him like that and still be alive! He knows it, and he knows he's lonely, and you are the one who can end that loneliness, as well as your own!"

"Just leave me alone," Sarah mumbled, sliding down to sit on the floor and rest her forehead against her knees. "It's too much to work out all at once. I mean, what if I did stay? What about my family? I may not have seen any of them for a few years, but I think they'd be slightly worried about me suddenly vanishing from the face of the earth...literally!"

"Daft!" Wreath exclaimed. "You think Jareth would keep you down here and never speak to them again? He's powerful enough, he could send you back anytime you wanted, and he could go with you. Nobody need know who he is. As for that so- called life of yours, would you really miss it all that much? You never cared much for it in the first place, if I recall."

Sarah bit her lip. "Well, that's true, but..."

She was suddenly interrupted by a loud rumble as the ground began to shake under her feet. "What in blazes is that?" she gasped, leaping up and gripping the wall for support.

"Jacob!" Wreath gasped, and sprinted away to find him, though how she would ever find him in this maze of stairways was beyond Sarah. She remembered how hard it was to reach Toby the last time...

She saw the child then, looking around in wide-eyed terror on a ledge below her. "Jacob, don't move!" she called. "Stay there! I'm coming to get you, okay? Just hang on!" She lowered herself over the edge and dropped onto the one below, where the child stood. She gripped his hand. "Come on, we have to find Jareth and Wreath. Something's going on," she told him. "Hold tight, okay?"

He nodded and gripped her hand with all his might as she led him through the room, calling for Jareth and Wreath. Another shudder shook the room, and she gasped and crouched close to the floor so she wouldn't topple off, pulling Jacob down with her. He whimpered, and she soothed him. "Jareth! What are you doing?" she yelled. "Are you trying to get us killed?!"

"I'm doing nothing," he replied suddenly from behind them. "Something is disturbing the balance of the room. It's not of my doing. Come. Get further back from the ledge. Can't have anyone falling off." He led them to a relatively secure area and made them sit close to the floor.

"What's happening?" she demanded.

"I wish I knew," Jareth replied tightly. "*She's* causing this. I'm sure of it." He raised a hand to summon a crystal. One began to form slowly in his palm, as though it were struggling to pull itself together. Jareth frowned as a look of concern passed over his face, and concentrated harder, and the crystal formed fully in his hand. The surface glowed, and within it formed an image. He couldn't stop the gasp that escaped his lips at the scene he witnessed inside. It was his throne room, only his throne room had never looked like this before...

"Wreath!" Sarah suddenly gasped, looking around in horror. "What happened to Wreath? She isn't here!"

"That's because she's here," Jareth replied tightly, and the crystal grew slightly so that Sarah could see it as well. Her gasp of shock echoed throughout the now-silent Escher Room as someone else suddenly appeared in the scene. Jareth gave a startled curse. "It's her!" he snapped. "That Lady! I knew that she was behind this!"

"That's no ordinary Lady," Sarah replied in a whisper, her face going pale. "I think...I think that woman is...Catherine!"

* * * * *

Vincent had made it into the castle with little mishap. Too little, and he was extremely suspicious about what was going to happen next. A strong feeling of danger permeated the air, and his hackles were raised and all senses on red alert. He padded silently through the castle, wondering where all the goblins had gone. He had not seen one of them, but for the Fierys. He was beginning to wonder if there even were any. But no, he could catch glimpses of shadowy figures darting in the shadows, silently watching him, but for the hiss of a laugh every now and again.

He took a stairway that led up, listening for any movement. The only thing he heard was his own deep breathing. It was far, far more eerie than Sarah had ever explained to him...and yet he could not shake her serious warning from his mind.

**Nothing is as it seems...**

Suddenly, he felt a presence. A very strong presence, and it seemed to fill the castle with its strength. He stopped dead in his tracks, testing the air with his senses. It seemed to be the strongest directly ahead of him, but it was hard to be sure, as the natural magic in this strange land interfered somewhat with his telepathic abilities. But he definitely got the feeling that something was happening ahead of him...He growled softly and took off again, sprinting the stairs at a quick pace.

A wave of intense heat met him as he ascended the last step, and he brought himself to a halt with barely enough time to keep from leaping head-long into a raging inferno that blazed below him. He gasped for breath and stumbled back, shielding his face from the scorching heat, feeling the fur on his hands and face singing from it. He hated fire. The cat in him feared it, and reacted instinctively to the threat of it. His hackles raised and his lips pulled back in a snarl.

"What is this?" he hissed. "A test?"

"A final test," another voice replied. A soft, whispering voice that sounded hauntingly familiar to him. But he could not place it at the moment, the fire distracting him.

"Who are you?" he roared. "Show yourself to me!"

"You must first transcend this test of will. Look into the inferno. There awaits your trial. Pass, and all will be brought to light. If you fail, all will be lost..."

Vincent shielded his eyes and gazed long and hard through the waves of heat that rose from the fires below. There...he could make out two columns of stone, rising out of the inferno. They were narrow, and unsteady, and bits and pieces crumbled away from the base. He drew closer for a better look, and then cried out in horror at what he saw. Chained to one of the columns was Wreath! She lay there, unconscious, as the trembling rock slowly crumbled beneath her. He started forward, but suddenly a figure on the second column caught his attention. He gazed through slitted eyes, attempting to see who it might be...

He froze in complete shock.

It was Catherine. *His* Catherine! She was alive, and was chained on that rock in the same manner as Wreath. He *knew* it was her! He could smell the scent of her, like wildflowers and sunlight, over the choking fumes of sulfur and burnt rock. She lay there, pale and beautiful as he remembered even with her face smudged with soot and her clothes torn...

"Catherine," he whispered harshly, starting forward. He had to save her! The column was collapsing beneath her, and soon she would tumble into the fire and be lost to him all over again...He could not allow that to happen! He couldn't lose her again! He would die if that happened! Her eyes locked onto his, though she said not a word.

He stepped toward the second column, but then he heard someone whisper his name, and he turned to face Wreath. She had woken up and her expression quickly turned from one of confusion to one of horror as she realized where she was. "Vincent!" she cried. "Help me!"

He stared at her, stricken, uncertain what to do. He looked back to Catherine again, and Wreath followed his gaze. Her face paled when she saw the woman chained to the rock. The rock suddenly jerked under her, and she shrieked. "Vincent, hurry!" she cried. "The rock is crumbling!"

Still Vincent hesitated, torn. He turned desperate eyes to Catherine again, and she met them, her own filled with sadness. "You must choose, Vincent," she told him, speaking quietly, and yet he heard every word. "You can't save us both. You must choose between us. Your past...or your future. You can only save one of us. You must follow your heart, my love. That is the only way to know..."

The ground beneath her shifted, and he took a step toward her, then stopped, looking to Wreath. She was staring at him with an expression of hopelessness in her eyes. "How can I choose!" he roared, looking to Catherine again. "How am I to choose between you both?" He fell to his knees, his head bowed despairingly. When he raised it again to look back to Wreath, he saw that she had slipped back into unconsciousness.

She looked so...helpless. He had never seen her so helpless before. That decided him. His heart was torn, but he knew that he could not leave his Wreath to die. She meant too much to him, and he had never realized just how much until that moment. If he let her go, he would never forgive himself. He had choose. His past...or his future. He knew what he had to do.

It was with some regret, and much resignation, that he turned his eyes to Catherine, one last time. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "But I know what I must do. I can't let Wreath die."

She gazed at him quietly. There was something...otherworldly about her gaze, he suddenly realized. Her eyes were serene, peaceful, almost ancient in a wisdom that had not been there before. "Who are you?" he whispered. She smiled. That same, beautiful smile he remembered so well, only now it was even more lovely. Everything about her was too beautiful, too perfect, to be real. No mortal was this perfect. "You are not alive," he whispered in realization.

Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, everything changed. The fiery pit was gone, and they stood in a room that was only a room, with a large, ornately carved stone chair at one end. Wreath rested on the floor. Vincent gave a startled exclamation as he looked back to Catherine, who now stood before him, clothed in a flowing white gown.

"No, Vincent. I'm not alive as you think of life," she told him softly. "I've watched you these past six years as you mourned for my loss. It was a terrible thing to have happened, but I cannot regret that it did happen. Neither must you. And you must let the past go. There is one who loves you, who can make you as happy as I did in life. She's loved you far longer than I did, long before our paths ever crossed." She reached up and traced a hand along his face, and he gripped it in his own as tears filled his eyes. "I miss you," he whispered.

"I know. But I'll always be where I can watch over you," she replied. "You've done a fine job of raising our son. He will grow up to be just like his father, I can tell." She smiled. "But he is only a little boy, and every little boy needs a mother. I can't be what he needs anymore, and although that saddens me, I feel better in knowing that Wreath loves Jacob as though he were her own, and she would gladly become his mother in truth, should you ask her."

Vincent looked to Wreath, who still lay on the floor, then moved to gather her into his arms. He looked at Catherine again. "If I love another, what of my love for you?"

She laughed. "Oh, Vincent! You will always love me, and we'll be together again. You'll never stop loving me. But you have so much love inside you, and you've been alone for so long! Wreath could end that loneliness. She's special, Vincent. She's known and loved you her whole life. Even when I came, she never stopped loving you, and she let you go because of that love, though I know it hurt her. If you let her go now, will you ever forgive yourself?"

Vincent gazed down at Wreath and smiled. "I don't suppose I will," he replied. He looked up again. "Thank you, Catherine. You've helped me. I think I may finally be able to move on. I will not forget you."

Catherine smiled and nodded, a benediction and a blessing. "I believe my work here is done," she told him, as she began to fade. "I must go now. But I'll be watching over you." She faded away entirely, and Vincent watched her leave, feeling sadness at her passing. He knew that this was the last time he would see her in this mortal life. But she was right. The past was laid to rest, and he held the future in his arms...once she decided to wake up...

He smiled with wry amusement as he studied the sleeping woman. He'd never really noticed before how lovely she was. She had a beauty all her own, fresh and natural. He did not share with her the bond he and Catherine had shared, but in ways he felt they had something stronger. A friendship that had lasted for as long as Wreath had been alive. To think, all this time she had loved him, and he had been too blind to see. He felt regret at the pain he must have caused her, but he had the rest of their lives to make up for it. He smiled and held her closer as he went in search for the Goblin King.

Twists of Fate

A Crossovers Story
by Stormlight

Part 11 of 14

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