Continuing Tales

The Way Back

A Labyrinth Story
by atsuibelulah

Part 15 of 24

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The Way Back

Jareth stood atop the rise overlooking the Labyrinth where he had first come with Sarah and breathed deep. The moonlight flowed through wispy clouds to illuminate the land in a milky glow. The turns and passages of the Labyrinth were eerily quiet; he knew the spirit's concern. They were in this together, inextricably tied. The cool air of his realm filled and calmed him. He needed to think rationally about what had happened in the library.

When Sarah asked him that question a well-oiled gear in his mind had abruptly shattered. For all the years of his reluctant service there had never been any doubt in him that the Shadow Court had been his only option, that there had been no where else to go.

No one had ever challenged that fact. Aidan and Nadia had never been in a position to do so. They barely knew more than Sarah about the whole matter and Jareth liked it that way. Now he wondered if his secretive tendencies had betrayed him. Or had the Queen fabricated his reserved nature along with that unquestioning belief that he had no choice? What else had she changed within him? Had she altered any other memories? Was he truly exiled?

No. As soon as Jareth thought of that possibility he knew the truth. Even the Queen could not have placed such detail in those memories. But...his mind was grasping for something...something was wrong about his exile...something he had forgotten. It was such a long time ago...he could not remember.

Defeat sunk into his bones, how could he regain what he had lost? With the power of the Labyrinth at her disposal the Queen was virtually invincible. It was the Labyrinth that had tipped the balance between the Dark and Light and it was he who had enabled that disparity. She could never have done it without him. Bitterness and hatred for the Queen and for himself rose within him. "Oh, Mother of Light, help me," he entreated, knowing he did not deserve it.

Suddenly, Jareth felt the Labyrinth reach a fine tendril of power towards him and the tumultuous emotions rapidly mounting again in the library surrounded him. The spirit of the maze showed him Aidan's finely honed anger, Nadia's barely voiced concern, and Sarah's powerfully masked uncertainty. Jareth sighed and pulled himself together, not wanting to deal with any of it at that moment, yet knowing he had to return before things got out of hand.

Sarah tried to scramble backwards on the floor as the man advanced on her, but he was too fast and his hand shot out, grabbing her wrist painfully at the scars. She was pulled to her knees before him as she gasped, revealing her pain and mounting terror. Sarah forcibly pushed away thoughts of the Queen's dungeons and clamped her mouth shut; she would not cower before anyone again, ever. She raised her chin and leveled determined eyes at the golden man.

She knew him at once as Nadia's brother and wondered at this sudden display of violence towards her. She had perceived no hints that the brother would not be as kind and obliging as Nadia had been.

"What have you done?" His voice was anger-laced and low. Oh, Sarah thought, he thinks I've harmed Jareth. An eerie calm had settled around her, a sense that she could deal with anything thrown at her. Sarah had no idea where this feeling had come from, but she would use it to her advantage as long as possible.

She stilled the quaver in her voice and spoke softly, never moving her eyes from his, "Kindly remove your hand, Lord Aidan." The title was a gamble, but she knew Jareth must call them something; lord and lady were what immediately came to her mind. At her calm demeanor, Aidan paused but, to Sarah's dismay, she began to involuntarily tremble and then shudder at his sudden and unwanted contact. His eyes widened, but he resolutely held onto his anger as he released her and she fell to the floor at his feet.

Sarah tried to recover herself as quickly as she could, backing up and using the sofa to push herself to her feet. She was still shaking, she wasn't able to control it but she kept her face a calm mask. Aidan kept his eyes on her and he spoke again, this time even lower, "What have you done, girl?"

The woman bristled at this insult and moved to stand on her own, facing his resentment coolly, "I asked him a question."

Nadia's worried voice came from the doorway, "Aidan, I don't think..."

He continued as if he had not heard her, "You are spying for her." The accusation cut deep into Sarah, her gut roiled at the thought. "You will damn us all."

She gave him a hard look and retorted, "The Shadow Queen needs no spies, my Lord." But her thoughts turned back to the terrible conversation of only minutes before, her gaze seeming distant, "It is Jareth who is under her power," her voice became soft, Sarah didn't know if he would hear it, "She holds them both."

To Sarah's surprise his fury turned piercing cold and his voice grew intense and harsh. His stance became lower and more menacing as he snapped, "You speak of things you do not know, girl. You do not know what she has done."

She felt her own anger rising at his simultaneously threatening and dismissive attitude, and shot him another hard look, challenging his claim. Don't I? She thought furiously, but regained her uncannily calm demeanor, "I don't think even Jareth knows all that she has done to him."

Immediately after she spoke an insistent wind blew through the demolished window as a majestic tawny owl alighted on the sill. Sarah caught her breath. She had never been this close to him in his other form, he was...breathtaking. The owl's dark piercing gaze was unwavering on Aidan and the golden man took a step away from her, a look of barely hidden fear and something else that Sarah could not identify settled on his face.

Jareth transformed in a swirl of ivory feathers and crystalline glitter and stood for a moment. No one spoke, and his face was a mask of indifference. The king idly tossed a crystal behind him and the window was repaired, reminding Sarah of the reverse photography often used for magic in old TV shows and movies. She felt a smile surface despite the silence of the room, who knew it would really look like that?

Her smile disappeared when Jareth stepped further into the room, not saying a word, passing by Aidan without even an acknowledgement. But as he passed her, Jareth gave Sarah's hand the slightest of brushes with his own and she saw the pain and the weariness behind his eyes. Her heart rose and fell at the same time and then she felt all the force of Aidan's resentment.

As Jareth stepped through the doorway, Sarah recognized the expression on Aidan's face as the pain of jealousy and long devotion. She felt her features soften as she stepped towards him, speaking quietly, "I'm sorry. And, for what it's worth, I least a little." Without waiting for any answer or even a reaction from him, Sarah turned away, touching Nadia softly on the shoulder in understanding, and following Jareth into the corridor.

She found him standing a short distance from the library, before the great bronze doors of the ballroom, much like she had on only the previous night. His eyes moved over every inch of the massive etching and as she approached, she wanted to ask him about the two sides of the aisle, about the light over them both, what did it mean, why it was in the Labyrinth. Instead, Sarah remained silent, waiting for him to speak.

She came up to him slowly and slipped her arm through his, looking up to his face with concern in her eyes. He transferred his distant gaze to her, grasping her hand with his own. He then did something totally unexpected. Sliding his other hand behind her neck and into her hair, he closed the distance between them, meeting her slightly open lips with his own. It was, by Sarah's limited experience, an expert kiss, lingering and sweet.

When they parted, Sarah found herself slightly dizzy, leaving her eyes closed, she murmured, not realizing the irony until after she had spoken, "Everything's dancing."

Sarah heard his soft chuckle, still weighed down by pain and worry, "Come on, love. It's time we were both asleep." She noted, with some hidden relief, that he had not said "in bed", and wondered how she would react when...she paused in her thoughts...if they got to that point as they began walking down the corridor, side by side, arm in arm.

"You know," he said casually, the weariness still evident in his voice, "I could just transport us there."

She thought for a moment, but shook her head, smiling "Let's just take it step by step."

Jareth felt numb. His thoughts could not escape her. How much of the Shadow Queen was in him? How much did she change? How much did she control? His movements felt stilted and slow, but Sarah stayed with him the whole way.

Step by step, Jareth thought. He knew what the next step was, he just didn't know if he could do it. Could he open up that much? Could he allow himself to let Sarah in? Well, he mused, if I can't tell Sarah, then I can tell no one.

They had reached the door to Sarah's chamber. She had moved to stand between him and the door, an intent, appraising expression on her lovely face. He didn't know what she was thinking and could not rouse enough energy to wonder. Without thought, he rested his arms on her waist and closed his eyes, just for a moment.

He opened them again when he felt her hand on his cheek then his forehead, brushing his hair aside. Her eyes were like the hedgerows the night he had found her, indiscernible green and brown, he became lost in them.

She had not moved her hand as she spoke, "Well, you'd best come in, then."

That roused him enough for comment, albeit not a very articulate one, "In?"

"Yes, in." She was the epitome of patience, and had it been any other time he would have been irked. Her voice softened noticeably, "I won't leave you alone tonight, Jareth. I'm worried about you."

Something about her invitation struck Jareth as wrong. He hadn't furnished the room for her so he could use it. Why bother at all if he was just going to barge in there anyway? He tried to voice his reasoning but could only come up with, "Sarah, I...don't..."

"We could go to your chamber if you'd prefer," she offered. He shook his head vehemently and nearly lost his balance, she gripped his shoulder and pushed the door open. He was inside before he could protest any further. "I don't think you could make it that far anyway, you were falling asleep on the sofa, and that was at least an hour ago." She deposited him on the edge of the bed and as he tried to voice his objection she placed her hands on either side of his face, looking deeply into his eyes she spoke low and resolute, "I am not leaving you alone. Sometimes, Jareth, you need to be taken care of as much as I do."

Finally beaten, mostly because he couldn't remember his original argument, he laid back in mute acceptance and was only dimly aware that she was removing his boots. He became slightly more alert once she had pulled his feet onto the mattress and climbed in next to him. Jareth turned his body towards her and moved his hand to caress her dark locks, spilling languidly across her cheek. She moved her hand drowsily over his, smiling faintly.

He didn't know if she was asleep as he whispered, "I love you, Sarah." But he thought he saw her smile deepen as he let his exhaustion and his dreams take him.

The Way Back

A Labyrinth Story
by atsuibelulah

Part 15 of 24

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