Continuing Tales

The Way Back

A Labyrinth Story
by atsuibelulah

Part 23 of 24

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The Way Back

Sarah was still knelt beside Nadia as she watched Jareth, somewhat reluctantly, rise and cross the clearing. Aidan was dead, Nadia would stay in the Labyrinth with his remains, and she was returning to the Aboveground. The idea was almost alien to her. Go back to the Aboveground? Could she even call that world her home any longer? Did she belong there, after all that had happened to her, after all that had been done to her?

Jareth now stood before her. Sarah lifted her eyes to him, not bothering to disguise her fear. He would have seen through it anyway. An understanding expression softened his angular features as he extended a hand to pull her to her feet. She wanted to grasp it, to hang on for dear life, but her trepidation had paralyzed her. She stared at his proffered hand dumbly.

"Don't worry, Sarah. I will be with you." His voice was, if possible, softer than his face and she was overwhelmed once again with the feeling that she did not deserve him. Driven by the desire to prove to him and to herself that she was worthy of such love and support, she slowly but firmly placed her hand in his. Jareth pulled her easily to her feet and Nadia followed a moment later.

Sarah quickly embraced the golden woman. She thanked her in soft nearly incomprehensible murmurs for all of her kindness, only just realizing that they would probably never see each other again. "Thank you, for reminding me what it's like to have a friend. I thought...maybe I'd forgotten."

Nadia returned the embrace and Sarah's words fiercely, "It has been a pleasure and an honor to know you, Sarah." The golden woman placed her hands on either side of Sarah's face and stared directly into her eyes before speaking once more, only loud enough for the two of them to hear, "Remember, you are stronger than you think. I may not know everything that has happened to the two of you, but I know you faced what was behind an unknown door. You stood down Aidan in a temper. You endured despite her. You lived, Sarah. He will guide you through the darkness, but you will be the one to take the steps, of that I am sure."

Sarah had no idea how to respond to Nadia's unbridled faith in her and found herself nodding mutely as she reluctantly pulled away from her friend. She walked a few paces to the newly sprouted tree to give Jareth and Nadia some time to say goodbye.

Sarah fingered the supple amber branches marveling at the beauty of such a thing, created from the...spirit?...the energy?...of Aidan. It was small in comparison to the massive trees of the Labyrinth's forest, but its leaves shone with an amazing brilliance, almost a light of their own. It added a strange glow to the clearing and illuminated Sarah's view of the scene before her. It was the only moment in her time in the Labyrinth that she felt like an outsider. Sarah wanted to give them more space, but she could not tear her eyes away.

She watched her love bid farewell to his remaining vassal through the golden leaves of his recently departed. Jareth bent his head slightly to speak to her. She looked tired and smaller than before. Her usually immaculate dress was rumpled and torn. There were tears in her eyes and dirt streaks on her face as she nodded in answer and smiled up at him sadly.

Sarah reminded herself that Jareth had been father, brother, the only family that the twins had ever known. And he was leaving her. Why?

As the question crossed her mind fully, Jareth kissed Nadia's forehead gently and turned away from her, walking towards Sarah resolutely. Sarah's eyes met Nadia's once more and the golden woman smiled encouragingly and raised her hand in farewell before turning herself and walking into the House of the Wished.

Sarah lifted her hand slightly in return and as Jareth came up to her he captured it gently in his own and raised it to his lips. His mismatched eyes were sad, but calm. "Come, love, we need to stay ahead of her." She opened her mouth to say something but he silenced her as he pulled her close to him and spoke into her ear, "Wait just one minute, Sarah. I'm taking us to the Tower, it's from there we'll be able to escape."

"But...Jareth..." She knew she had to say something; things were happening now and soon she wouldn't be able to stop them at all. But he still wouldn't let her get the words out.

"Shhhh, love," he thought she was frightened of the magic, "Just relax, let me take you there." When in reality it was fear of the unknown, of where he would take her. She let him do it anyway. No one could ever say she didn't trust him.

Sarah felt his power, the true power of the Labyrinth, surround her. It was a strange feeling and strange that she could identify it as being engulfed in power so easily, but it couldn't be anything else. The world around her shimmered and faded away, it was extremely disorienting and Sarah shut her eyes.

When she opened them they were standing in a large circular stone room. A small amount of light leaked through a few narrow turrets along the curved wall. She heard the wind whistling and blowing through them and knew that they were extraordinarily high up. It was the Tower that Jareth had spoken of before. Her bare feet left small footprints on the dust-coated floor, another room that hadn't been used in ages. She looked down to the mosaic stones that made up the intricately patterned floor. A dark brown stain, tinted red, traveled its way through the grooves of the design from an oddly shaped mass in one corner. It was Jareth's blood. He had never bothered to clean it.

As soon as Sarah made sure she had her bearings, she wrenched herself from his arms, backing away a few steps. Jareth cocked his head at her new demeanor, obviously confused by her sudden strange behavior. "What is it, love?"

She didn't blame him for being confused. She'd gone along with him for her entire stay in the Labyrinth, this time around, but before it had made sense. This time he wasn't telling her enough, this time she needed to know everything, this time was the most important. "You're releasing the Labyrinth from her clutches, aren't you? That's why Nadia will be safe if she stays here...right?"

"Yes," he still looked puzzled, but seemed to be recovering quickly, "Listen, love, I'm sorry that we haven't had much time for explanation...but...there's a short window here. I won't have enough power to do this if she attacks us again."

"But you're planning on going with me to the Aboveground? To live your mortal life now?"

"Of course!" He seemed genuinely surprised that she had even asked.

Sarah shot him a harrowing look, even though his reasoning seemed obvious to him, it was not to her, "Why?"


"I'm not stupid, Jareth. I know what she wants. I saw those...things around that barrier you put up. I know why Aidan died. She went after me. If I go to where she can't follow...alone, you can stay here. I'll be where I belong, and you can be where you belong, with Nadia." She thought about how sad they had looked through the branches, "I-I don't want to be...a..."

"A what? What will you be if I leave this place with you?"

"...a...home-wreaker..." She said the term as if it caused her physical pain and looked away.

She refused to look at him as he began to unravel her reasoning, "That's not what you'd be and you know it, Sarah. You are not going to spin this around your own familial problems. The fragmentation of my pseudo-family is not what this is really about, but I have no idea why you're balking. You're going to have to enlighten me."

Sarah looked back and felt tears stinging her eyes. He was right, she didn't want to ruin his family, but with the death of Aidan it was already done. And the twins would not have resented her for taking him from them. She tried to pick up the pieces of her defense, "But you can't deny that you would be safer if you remained in the Labyrinth after I am gone. If she won't bother Nadia, then she won't bother you. It's me that she wants."

He shook his head, "Sarah, you don't understand. Yes, she wants you but there's more to it than that. You're only one part of what she wants..." he hesitated before cringing as he finally put it bluntly and her nerve quailed as she realized the pain she had inflicted in forcing him to say the words. "Initially, you were only entertainment for her, Sarah. And now, you are only a tool to her, a tool to be used to hurt me, to make me weak and easier to control. She dropped you here in the first place to see what I would do with you, to laugh at my pain and yours. She killed Aidan to hurt me, and she wants to hurt you to destroy me, or at least any part of me that would oppose her." There was real fear in his eyes, fear that she would be hurt, and fear that the Queen would get what she wanted.

Sarah was crying now. She didn't want to cry and she didn't want to continue the conversation, but she couldn't stop. She had known that she was not the only thing the Queen wanted. She had known there were too many holes in her half-formed proposal. But wasn't there another way? Couldn't they be together somewhereelse? "But the Labyrinth will be safe from her. You said Nadia would be safe...couldn't we be safe there too? Do we have t-to go back at all?"

He seemed impatient with her now, and she knew exactly why. She was balking. She was wasting time that they might not even have. His voice was short and clipped, and Sarah tried not to wince at every other word. "Nadia will be safe from her because she doesn't have any concern for Nadia. If I stay anywhere near the Labyrinth for the next fifty years I will have a war on my hands. Is that what you want, Sarah? Do you want to take back what you said about revenge? I told you I would kill her, it will take time and it will take innocent blood, but I can do it."

Now she was openly weeping, but they stood apart from each other, neither of them willing to bridge the gap she'd created. "Nnno, I-I don't want a w-war," she had to force the words from her mouth between sobs and gulps of breath. Sarah cast her eyes to the floor, focusing on the lines of ancient blood as she forced herself to say and to confront what she had not yet admitted, "But I don't want to go back there. I don't want to face the year that was taken from me. I don't want to face my family and friends. I don't want to answer their questions. I don't want their concern or their pity and that's all I will get if I go back there."

She looked up at him as the anger and frustration melted from his face. "Oh Sarah," his tone was softer than before, but still he did not move any closer to her, "What makes you think that this world will offer you anything better than the Aboveground, when here the only thing you or I have received from it is pain and anguish? It's true that the Labyrinth is my home now, and it may be yours too, but we can't stay here any longer. Isn't it better to flee to a place where you have family and friends that love and care for you than to be constantly looking over our shoulders in a world that could fall around our ears at any time?"

Sarah looked away again and didn't answer, she couldn't. He wouldn't have to face it. She knew the kind of things people would assume or imagine about her, and half of them would be true. She shivered; she had stopped crying but still said nothing.

Jareth continued, his voice strained, obviously not wanting the conversation to be any longer than it already was. His irritation was rising again, his impatience had not ebbed. Her silence did not help. He went for the deep cut. She didn't blame him, but it still hurt, "You do want to be with me, don't you?"

Two could play that game. If he wanted to hurt her with that line, she would be so wounded he wouldn't be able to stand it. She met his eyes and looked straight into them. She let her anger and hurt and fear gape at him, like an open laceration. She made her voice as full as she could of righteous indignation and unmasked suffering, "Of course I do!" He did look stricken for a moment, but it didn't last. Of course, she had known he would see through that too.

He shook his head viciously and crossed the room in two strides, an almost guttural "Enough!" tearing from his lips. He took her swiftly in his arms and spoke into her hair, "I am wise enough to know this will get us nowhere fast." He paused and spoke again, this time softer in a voice that demanded she listen...really listen, "I never wanted this world for you, Sarah, not even the Labyrinth. This world was never good enough for you. Your world holds so much more... light, more possibility. It's a place where dreams truly can be realized. My dream is to know you and to love you completely, to give you a home, to give you children...whatever is in my power to give. The only place that I can achieve this dream is in the Aboveground. Do you understand, love?"

She nodded silently and tilted her face to catch his slightly opened lips with her own. She lifted her hand to weave into his hair. Tears leaked from her tightly closed eyes and his fingers gently brushed them away. When they parted she spoke, the words coming low and haltingly, "I'm sorry. I...I understand...I want that too. I really do. I'm scared."

Jareth wrapped his arms tighter around her waist and she clung to him so hard her feet were almost off the ground. Sarah didn't want to talk anymore, she didn't want to argue. She didn't want to move from his arms, she didn't want to go back. But she knew what she didn't want wasn't going to change what was going to happen.

His voice came again from where it was buried in her hair, "I'm sorry, love. I should have realized how difficult going back will be for you. But I need you to stay strong for me...just a little bit longer. I can't do this without you, Sarah. I need you to find me. I need you to...remind me of...everything."

Sarah pulled out of their tight embrace and stared at him. She had forgotten that he wouldn't remember this world...any of it. The thought filled her with dread. How would she find him? What if he were...lost...along the way? And then another, more terrible thought struck her, "Y-you have to be the Aboveground..."

He broke her off immediately, knowing exactly what she was afraid of, "You remember I told you we can control where we end up? My Father made sure he was born at least ten years before Guinevere so that he could be sure to marry her. I can do the same, the Labyrinth will help me. And I am sure that he'll make sure I am not too far from where you are."

She finally smiled at him, although a little hesitantly, "Not ten years though?"

He grinned, "Maybe not that long."

Another though struck Sarah and she blurted out the question before she even thought to phrase it properly, "How long?"

He shrugged his shoulders and responded vaguely, "Oh, two or three years maybe. It won't really be up to me. It's the Labyrinth that will be guiding my spirit to you."

She shook her head, her anxiety rising already, "No. How long until we find each other. How long will we be apart?"

He sighed heavily and Sarah knew she wasn't going to enjoy his answer, "As long as it takes." He looked into her eyes steadily and she knew he saw her disquiet. He moved his hands to stroke her hair, cupping her face and cradling her fragile strength, "There is no doubt in my mind that we will find each other, my love. And I know that when I see you, somewhere inside of my soul, I will know who you are, even if I cannot remember your name."

Sarah felt slightly reassured and she forced another small smile. She felt like she was trying to prove to him she could be stronger than she had been, that she could finished it, that she would find him, that they would be together. She wasn't sure if she was entirely convincing.

But he smiled back at her, only a little sadly, and whispered, "I love you, Sarah," before he bent slightly to kiss her again.

It was another long and lingering kiss, his hands moved from her hair to her waist. It felt like one was holding something else, but the kiss was long and soon Sarah lost track of time and the rest of the world.

But somehow the world was pulled out from under her, or rather, sucked. Sarah felt herself being violently torn from Jareth's embrace as her body flew from the Tower. The immensely strong blast of air supported her at least ten feet from the outside of the circular room for only a few seconds. It was enough time to register that one of the narrow turrets had been somehow widened. It was also enough time to see Jareth fix her with a half-resigned, half-guilt-ridden stare before hurling a crystal directly at her. It hit her with little force and no pain.

And all she knew was the wind and the sky and a direction.

The Way Back

A Labyrinth Story
by atsuibelulah

Part 23 of 24

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