Continuing Tales

What You Wish For

A Labyrinth Story
by KnifeEdge

Part 10 of 14

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What You Wish For

The walk to the theater was just as cold as the walk to her apartment, but this time she had a sweater and a coat, along with her frustrated hormones and smoldering fury to warm her. She kept her hands deep in her pockets, and her face half buried in the scarf she’d tossed on just before she went out the door, and muttered a stream of colorful invectives against capricious faeries and men in general into it. He strolled beside her, not seeming to mind the cold, and turning his face a little into the biting wind and smiling. He looked, she thought, content.

Which made her nervous.

The two blocks went by quickly, and she found herself unlocking the front door to the theater sooner than she’d expected. From the front it was a long, low building, with the theater rising behind it, and a marquee that was currently blank, waiting to advertise their January show as soon as everyone was back from their holidays. The lobby was cold and dark, and smelled faintly of concessions, paint, and sawdust. She gestured him in, then locked the door behind them and unwound her scarf.

This, even more than her apartment, was home, and for the first time since getting dressed for Caitlyn’s party, Sarah felt herself begin to really relax. She knew this building inside and out, and in many ways it reminded her of herself: a little shabby, a little romantic, a little unwanted, a little off the beaten path, but full of magic, creativity, laughter, love, and possibilities. She'd taken this job, so far away from school and home, because she'd fallen in love with the building. It called to her in ways those big Broadway stages never could.

“You own this?” Jareth asked, and his voice was low and reverent, and for that she could have kissed him entirely of her own volition.

“No,” she said. “I’m just one of the managers.” The lobby carpet was a little faded in places, but still comfortable, and her booted feet made no sound at all as she walked. “This is the lobby,” she said. “It’s next on the list of things to be refurbished. Hopefully we’ll have the money in next year’s budget.”

“What would you change?” he asked, running a gloved hand over the pedestal in the middle of the room, which held an urn full of fading silk flowers. She smiled and looked around.

“Real flowers, for one,” she said. “Better lighting, new carpet. Maybe redo the ticket counter and make it look more art deco and less ‘That 70’s Show.’ Definitely redo the bathrooms and concession area.” On the far western wall was a set of double doors, which she unlocked. He followed her into an open room with pretty burgundy carpet and cream and gold papered walls. “This is the meeting room. We rent it out for special occasions. Through here,” she opened another set of double doors and led him into a reception area, “are the offices. This is Louisa’s desk. She’s our secretary and handles the phone reservations. The other offices are Kip’s and Patty’s, they’re the ones who own the place.” He peered in curiously, but didn’t enter, for which she was relieved.

She opened another door. “This office is mine, but I share it with the technical director.” It was a small, cramped room, with two desks and two older model computers, and with a new laser printer stuck in the corner. Several bookshelves crammed with scripts took up most of the available wall space. She shut the door before he could go in and touch everything in there, too.

Ignoring his closeness, Sarah led him out into the meeting room to a small door tucked in the far corner. It was barely wide enough to admit one, and led to a tiny, mercifully short, hallway with a hidden bathroom nooked into the corner. The door at the opposite end opened on a small music room, with tiered levels, and a worn looking piano on the floor opposite. Student desks, no doubt donated from some high school that had long since graduated to newer models, were piled in the corner, and folding chairs were clustered on the tiered risers at one end as if their occupants had just gotten up and left. Which they probably had, she thought.

“We use this room for musical rehearsals,” she said, leaving him to his own devices for a moment she began folding up the chairs and leaning them against the wall. He watched for a minute, then to her surprise, began to help. They worked in silence for a few minutes, putting away the chairs. She glanced at him and found him glancing at her. He smiled a little, just a slight tilt to the corner of his lips, and, not knowing how to handle the strange emotion that caused, she turned away and led him back though the tiny hall, across the meeting room, and back to the lobby.

The eastern wall also had a set of double doors, which she unlocked with a separate key. “This is the art gallery,” she said, descending the set of three steps from the lobby level to the main gallery level. There was a wheelchair ramp that ran along the wall, and he followed that, studying the artwork hanging along it one by one. Sarah paused in the middle of the room, next to a cast bronze sculpture and watched him.

He was so otherworldly, she thought. So incongruous to the gritty realist work beside him. He studied every piece like an expert, his gloved hands behind his back, his head tilted a little as he strolled from piece to piece. He circled the room until he came to another small door, tucked into a corner near another set of bathrooms, then turned to her and waited patiently.

“The studio,” she said, and unlocked it for him. This room was even colder than the rest of the building, due mainly to the concrete floors and the large plate glass windows that ringed it. The tables were long and built from a pale golden wood, scarred over the years and coated in a fine layer of clay dust. Easels leaned in a pile against the wall, and two squat kilns occupied a small room in the far corner. Shelves with drying white clay pots took up the opposite wall.

He was eyeing the tables speculatively when she turned back to him. Not sure she wanted to know what he was thinking, she sighed, “Let’s go look at the stage.”

“As you wish,” he said teasingly, and gestured for her to lead.

She relocked the gallery doors after him, and then went to the tiny box office and opened the split door with yet another key. This was the part she didn’t like, so she figured it would be best to get it over with quickly, so she could get to the part that she did. The box office was cramped, and stuffed with boxes of playbills, a phone, and a small, empty cash register. Another door opened out of the back of it, and the room inside was blacker than the Goblin King’s wardrobe. She groped for a moment, her heart starting to pound with the usual panic, before he came up behind her, reached out a hand and unerringly found the pull cord for the bare lightbulb over her head.

“Thank you,” she said, trying to keep her voice steady, and stepped into the tiny space that was crammed with boxes containing lighting gels and sound paraphernalia. A set of steep wooden stairs dominated the closet sized room, and she ascended these with him on her heels, painfully aware of his closeness. There was a door at the top, with no landing, and he crowded her against it, trapping her there, while she fumbled in the shadows for the right key. His gloved fingers brushed her hair away from the side of her throat and she felt the heat of his lips against the skin there.

"I can feel your pulse," he said, his voice rough and low, "Why so skittish in close spaces, Sarah? I don't recall you panicking when you landed in my oubliette." His tongue lapped the skin beneath her ear, and she almost dropped the keys. "Shhh..." he whispered, but it did nothing to soothe the racing beat of her heart.

"Well," she said, faintly, "being trapped in a tunnel with a hundred sharp blades whirling toward you and no way out tends to do things to a person. I had nightmares about that moment for a long time."

He nuzzled the soft place where her throat met her shoulder. "The door opened, didn't it?"

"Yes," she said, trying another key. His hands were on her hips, beginning to skim upwards, edging up under her sweater. The key clicked in the lock. "Just in time," she said, pushing the door open and stepping out of his embrace. She would have sworn that he laughed softly.

There was a switch just inside, which she flipped gratefully, illuminating a long room that was crowded from end to end with costumes and shoes and hats. “Costume closet,” she sneezed. This room was always dusty.

A threadbare carpet muffled the sound of their feet on the wooden floor, and they passed eighteenth century costumes and plastic wrapped wedding gowns as she led him through the tiny space. She tried to breathe deep. Usually the cramped spaces in this part of the building made her claustrophobia kick into overdrive, but his presence was distracting enough that she wasn't having time to panic, and for that, she was perversely grateful. There was a tiny wooden door in the wall, which she opened easily into another narrow room that was painted entirely black.

Two long windows took up the far wall. Set beneath them were equally long tables covered in the technical equipment required to run the lights and sound for the theater. A couple of comfortable stools were stashed underneath. Otherwise the room was empty.

“Light and sound booth,” she explained. He edged past her and peered out of the windows and into the theater proper. She listened and heard the telltale hum of the lighting system. Mike must have left it on. She flicked a couple of switches on the terminal nearby and watched as little lights blinked on the board.

“Humans,” Jareth said, watching her seat herself at the board with amusement. “So inventive. Imagine what your race would have done had you been more inclined toward magic. What does this machine do?”

Sarah smiled. “Magic,” she said, and pushed the master slider to full.

The stage came to life.

She hit the preset test button and watched the computer cycle through the cues for the last show, lamps turning on, dimming, lighting up in combinations that made the stage almost dance with color. When it reached the end she punched up the preset for her favorite cue.

Blues bathed the upstage area in a moonlight glow, while two lights with patterned gobo covers gave the illusion of leaves. A gold-gelled lamp cast a downlight center stage, waiting for a performer to fill it. The downstage area was dark, and the black draped wings of the curtains almost disappeared into the shadows.

Jareth watched it all curiously. “Such a pity,” he murmured. She smiled up at him, and then surprised herself by reaching out and taking his gloved hand in hers.

“Come on,” she said. She led him hurriedly out of the booth, which she didn’t bother to lock, through the costume closet and back into the gel room. She opened a hidden door, which led into the main part of the theater, behind the seats, then towed him down the aisle and up onto the stage. She let go of his hand and hit the mark below the downspot, turning her face up into its glow and taking a deep breath.

“You love this place,” he said, from the shadows.

“Yes,” she said, and spread out her arms. “It’s full of magic.”

“Technical tricks and cheap costumes aren’t precisely magic,” he said.

“Anything can be magic,” she said, believing it with all her heart, “when viewed in the right light.” He was very quiet, and when she looked in his direction the shadows kept her from reading his expression. “Come on, there’s still a little bit left of your tour,” she said.

What You Wish For

A Labyrinth Story
by KnifeEdge

Part 10 of 14

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