Continuing Tales

The Way Back

A Labyrinth Story
by atsuibelulah

Part 7 of 24

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The Way Back

Jareth was nearly to the edge of the veils when he felt that something was wrong. The Labyrinth reached a ghostly tendril of power to him through the mists and Jareth physically heard Sarah's scream. The cold panic that had seized him in her bedroom spiraled into a maelstrom of terror as he wrenched as much power as he could from the Labyrinth and propelled himself out of the veils in half the time it should have taken.

He should have considered the amount of power he was using but he could not stop. What was going on in the castle? Had the Queen returned for her? If that was the case the power no longer mattered, she would cast him out soon enough.

Jareth cast his awareness out into the realm, searching for Sarah's presence. He felt the spirit of the Labyrinth direct him to where the waves of Sarah's pain were emanating ballroom?

Oh, Darkness take me! Jareth swore in his mind. What had possessed Nadia to let Sarah in there, of all places?

The owl was hovering above the Labyrinth, so rather than transforming back to his normal form, then transporting himself to the room, he flew as fast as his wings would take him directly at the section of the castle he knew was the ballroom. Molding raw power into a shield, he dove at the closest of the windows he himself had barred after Sarah's victory.

Jareth collided with the widow in an explosion of glass and wood, dust and glitter. He transformed quickly, his black boots crunching on the debris riddled across his mess of a dance floor and had to wait precious seconds to discern Sarah's form behind all of the airborne dust.

Moonlight had poured into the ballroom when Jareth broke through the large window, illuminating the once dark space. As the dust settled he saw Sarah standing diagonally across the dance floor from him, her candle burning low and discarded on the floor. Her hands were clamped hard against her skull, her eyes were shut, probably against the flood of memories her presence, in this of all the rooms in the Goblin Castle, had inflicted.

Sarah's eyes snapped open, as if the flow had been staunched momentarily. Jareth froze as her gaze pierced through him. He had no idea what to do.

She had dimly heard his dramatic entrance through the haze of memories good and bad, distant and recent, which were forcing their way into her mind. The ballroom and the mirror had broken through the barrier she had tried and failed to forge in the presence of the Queen.

Sarah looked up into his mismatched eyes, hands clutching her skull. He was there, in her memories. His presence permeated them, she had physically known him for such a short time, but he was everywhere inside her thoughts. She was missing something...about him, something important. It felt like someone was driving an iron stake through her head as she tried to puzzle out the past. She had got Toby back. She had won. What else was she searching for? Glimpses of vast libraries and dark basement stacks flashed through her mind, interspersed with the hazy memories of the room she was standing in and the site of their final confrontation. Jareth stood, stalk still, across the dance floor from her, a fear in his eyes she had never seen before, Sarah was sure of it.

She searched his face again as echoes of their last meeting played in her mind,

I have done it all for you...

Just fear me, love me

I w...ill be your slave...

Sudden realization hit Sarah hard and fast, knocking the wind out of her. The pain came shortly after and she screamed again, falling to her knees. She felt the air rush from his direction and Jareth was next to her, hovering, still afraid to touch her, like she would break. He was crouching in the dust and dirt of the neglected floor as she lifted her eyes once again to his. Sarah remembered. She felt the forgotten emotions surge through her and around him. For all of the years after her quest for Toby had ended she had been searching for..., her voice returned with the reclamation of those years from the recesses of her battered mind, it came out slightly hoarse and whispery, ""

She saw Jareth's eyes close in a profound statement of defeated resignation that crushed any hope that had been beginning to rise in her from the eventual, if horribly indirect success of her search. She felt the tears from before, burning in her eyes, threatening to break through. Sarah would be damned if she showed him her grief, her childish disappointment. But she knew she was no longer strong enough to keep them in check, as she had done in his presence so long ago. He did not want her. She had come through hell for nothing.

Jareth could only hear the accusation in the first word Sarah had spoken to him. She might as well have said, Oh, it's you, you horrible thing. She hated him. He knew it. She had only returned for the friends he had taken from her. She would hate him even more when she found out about that.

He looked away and was about to stand up, certain that Sarah would want some time away from him, when his mind registered what the soft, sniffling sounds coming to his ears were. He turned his gaze back to her. She sat in a heap on the filthy dance floor, the simple but dazzling dress Nadia had given her pooled around her. Her arms were wrapped about her shoulders in the same self-protective gesture she had used when he found her. Jareth could tell she was trying desperately to stop the tears from coursing down her face.

She was looking down, the liquid silver drops falling into her lap. He could not stop himself as he slowly reached down to lift her chin, to see her face. His gloved hand barely touched her and she complied, raising her tear-stained face. Jareth thought she looked angelic, even in her sorrow.

Sarah lifted one of her delicately thin hands to his wrist, gripping it with what seemed to be all of her strength. Two vastly different thoughts entered Jareth's mind, almost at the same time. That the Queen could snap her in two if ever they met again, and that maybe he had been too quick to assume, too certain of his impending rejection. These two thoughts forced the same question out of Jareth's mouth before he could consider its wisdom. "Oh Sarah," his voice was heavy with the knowledge he already held and that which he feared to hold, "why...why return?"

Her eyes became unfocused, not seeing him or their surroundings, and Jareth knew Sarah was remembering.

Jareth's simple question led Sarah's mind on another tangent, only partially related to her answer.

It was in the dank catacombs of a church library in Glastonbury, during a break from her graduate classes at Bristol University, that she had found the spell, an incantation that would take her through the veils between the worlds, from Above to the Underground. For Sarah, there was no logical thought process, no rationalizations, and no night to sleep on it. This was what she had based her career, her life on. This was what she had been searching for since she had lost contact with Hoggle and Didymous and Ludo.

It had only been a few short, wonderful days that she had been able to see them after her journey through the Labyrinth. And as suddenly as they had entered, they exited her life. They had just stopped answering. She gave up calling after a month with no answer and began her search for another way.

At first she told herself it was a hobby, researching folklore, spending her weekends at the library and not with friends. She would still have a normal life, she would move on eventually. When she got to college and chose her major, English literature with an emphasis on medieval myth and legend, she realized it was more than that. Having so many questions for which she needed answers, Sarah came to a familiar conclusionSometimes the way forward is the way back.

That very night she went up to the summit of the Tor, the Glastonbury Tor where all the legends say the veils are thinnest. She spoke the ancient words, praying to all the Gods she had ever heard of that the script had been authentic.

The wind blew hard and Sarah pushed against it, refusing to be deterred. It was not until the low whistling of the air through the trees was transformed to malicious laughter did Sarah even think that someone or something else might have heard her call.

She did not know how long it had been when she came back to herself. Jareth was still looking at her, half expectantly, half almost dreading. Sarah had to force the words from her mouth, it had been a long time since she had last desired to speak, "I...needed to know," she paused not knowing if she was, or even wanted to get her point across. Sarah tried to move closer to him, squeezing his wrist with as much strength as she could muster, which was not much at all, "I had so many questions," she finished vaguely. She saw Jareth take control of his features, but could not tell to what conclusion he had come from her cryptic answer and she wanted to elaborate. She opened her mouth, but could not find the words.

Suddenly a wave of exhaustion came over her and she almost fell into him. Sarah felt his arms wrap automatically around her too narrow waist and pull her lithe body up onto his lap. She very nearly blushed at their closeness, but found she did not have the energy, "mm sorry..." she mumbled and dimly heard his answering chuckle. She wanted to say...or ask something else, something important, but she couldn't get her thoughts in order and he spoke as soon as she opened her mouth.

"Shhh, Sarah," his voice was deep and soothing, sending his warm breath into her ear, "Sleep now, love. We can talk about it tomorrow." She leaned against his shoulder and wrapped her arms around his neck, entwining her hands in his feathery hair without thought. The combination of his calming words and his strange, exotic scent, something like a mixture of warm down and cloves brought her to the verge of slumber. Better than Nyquil, she thought with a smile and tucked her head under his chin, falling promptly asleep.

The Way Back

A Labyrinth Story
by atsuibelulah

Part 7 of 24

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