Continuing Tales

What You Wish For

A Labyrinth Story
by KnifeEdge

Part 13 of 14

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What You Wish For

“You were wrong,” she said, struck by a sudden inspiration, “about my favorite speech.”

“Excuse me?” he said, clearly startled.

“You said that the ‘give me the child’ monologue was my favorite. You were wrong.”

“You’re lying,” he said. “You practiced that speech for hours in the park.”

And that, she thought, is how you surprise an all powerful being: tell them they don't know everything.

She took the crystal from the scarf and held it up so he could see that it was dark. “That wasn’t my favorite monologue. You were wrong.”

“Then what was?” he demanded.

Once upon a time,” she began, quoting from the book, retelling it as it had been written, and not the way she’d told it to Toby on that dark stormy night over ten years before. It was her favorite passage, because it had been her favorite story, and nothing had been more romantic to her than the words ‘Once upon a time.’ “There was a beautiful young girl whose mother had died, and father had remarried a lovely but wicked woman. At first, she was kind to the girl, and treated her as a daughter. In time, however, the stepmother bore the man a son, and then she became cruel and vicious, forcing the girl to act as the boy’s nursemaid, and the young girl became practically a slave. But what nobody knew was that the King of the Goblins had fallen in love with the girl, and had given her certain powers...” Her voice trailed off, and Jareth, for the first time, looked stricken.

And then she knew.

She knew what it was that had been bothering her. He’d claimed as his prize that which she had taken from him, but he’d never specified what that something was. She’d assumed it was Toby, but that couldn’t be right. He’d taken Toby, and she’d rescued him, despite the fact that she’d given him away so freely. But if the story was true, the only thing she’d taken from him was something that he, too, had freely given. Her heart pounded in her chest.

If it was true...

“Did you?” she asked. “Did you love me and give me certain powers?”

“You assume a great deal,” he said, his face pale and angry.

“Answer the question, Jareth,” she said. He snarled and turned away, and for a long moment, she thought he wouldn’t answer, and then she wouldn’t know what to do. Somehow, she hadn’t expected to win so easily.

“I will answer your question, but first you must answer one for me,” he said, over his shoulder.

“That’s not part of the bargain,” she said. He turned and came back, reaching out and grasping her upper arms so that she was forced to look at him. Once more she could not read the expression on his face, but his eyes were searching hers, looking for something with a desperation she’d only seen once before, while standing on a barren bit of rock, with the world falling down around her. She wasn’t so sure that history wasn’t repeating itself.

“I am willing to risk losing our game for one answer,” he said seriously. “Are you willing to risk winning it for the same?”

“That makes no sense,” she said.

Lord, what fools these mortals be,” he said. “Answer me this: what would you have missed, Sarah, if you had answered me differently all those years ago?”

“A chance to grow up,” she said, thinking, “A chance to become who I became, on my own without you molding me into whatever you wanted. A chance to know the little brother I saved. A chance to make amends with my stepmother, to understand my mother, to forgive my father. A chance to do this,” she gestured at the theater, “A chance to discover what love is, and how many different forms it can take. A chance to discover what I wanted, even if it took me until now to do so.”

“If all of that is true then you know the answer to your question,” he said.

“I need to hear you say it,” she said, refusing to give an inch. He let go of her, and she could still feel the imprint of his fingers on her arms. She supposed, uncaring, that she would have ten perfect bruises there later.

“I loved you, not knowing what that meant,” he said, sounding defeated. “I gave you the ability to call on myself or my subjects for help out of a misplaced sense of amusement. I never expected you to need that ability. I expected to love you fleetingly, from afar. And someday, I thought, when you were grown and had forgotten the book you’d loved as a child, and your belief in magic had faded, those powers, too, would fade. But you surprised me. You wished away a child.”

She tried to remember to breathe.

“And those powers I’d given you, gave you something no other mortal has ever had who ran the Labyrinth to retrieve a child: my subjects helped you when you needed it. More than they should have. The dwarf was meant to betray you, the monster to cause you to run in the other direction, and Didymus, silly little Didymus, should have dumped you all back into the Bog. The Wise Man should have convinced you to go back to the start. The Fireys would have chased you until the time limit was up, except they chased you toward the dwarf, who came back for you. Every time I turned around those powers mocked me, twisted my Labyrinth until it was no longer mine to command, but yours.” His voice was bitter now, but he continued.

“In the end, you had won my respect, my admiration, and my love. I wanted you then, more than you could possibly imagine. No other mortal had ever even come close to besting me. No other woman had ever been my match. And I had personally handed you the tools to defeat me. You came alive, in my Labyrinth. Instead of loathing the creatures in it, you loved them. Instead of fearing me, you fought me. What wouldn’t I have given to possess someone like you?”

For that, she had no answer.

“You were so young, though. Still a child by your kind's measure, and even younger by mine. I offered you everything, hoping you would stay, but terrified you would, too. What would you lose, if I took you then? You had such potential. I was oddly relieved that you defeated me. I have waited for so long, hoping, wondering if all I had ever done was in vain. I cannot live only within your dreams, Sarah. When I felt your wish tonight, I had convinced myself you had forgotten me. I would have taken back that power you have over me, and my kingdom. But I find that you alone in this world are my match, you alone are worthy of them." He was quiet then, his eyes intent on hers.

Finally he said, defeated, "I have no wishes left.”

There was nothing left around them as they stood in the pool of light. The theater was forgotten, the world forgotten. He had come, once more, to beg for her. She marveled at it, that this beautiful, mercurial creature had let her go, hoping that she would come back. And she knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she wanted this feeling to last; this soaring, incredible, magical feeling that gave her heart wings. This was the inevitable moment that her entire life had been building toward. Everything she had done, everything she was, she was for him.

“Here we are,” she said. “Back at the beginning.”

“I would offer you your dreams,” he said. “But I know you would not accept them.”

“No,” she said, looking down at the crystal in her hand, and holding it out to him. “But I would offer you yours.”

He glanced at it, confused.

“I don’t need it any more,” she said. “I’m tired of this game.”

“Then neither of us wins?” he asked, incredulous.

“Does it really matter?” she asked. “After all,” she added, “it wasn’t about the game at all, was it?”

His eyes sparkled and he smiled then, a real smile, and it was like dawn breaking over the Labyrinth, beautiful, infinite, and wild. “Not entirely,” he said. He tilted his head to one side.

“There’s still the matter of my debt,” he said. She shrugged. Somehow, she wasn’t worried about that anymore.

“What do you want, Goblin King?” she asked. He stepped forward, and took off his glove, and placed his hand over the crystal where it rested in her palm. His fingers were warm, and her skin tingled.

“You,” he said simply, and removed his hand. Where before there had been a crystal, there was a now a ring. The band was gold, and the stone set in the middle of it was red. It looked very familiar, like something she’d owned once, long ago, and had given away for a bit of advice. “I want you, Sarah,” he said again, lifting the ring and sliding it onto her finger. “As my Queen.”

She didn’t say anything for a long moment. “This does mean, of course, that I’ll have to whisk you away Underground,” he said.

“Can I come back?” she asked. “To see my family? To work on my plays?”

“I can be cruel, Sarah,” he said. “But even I am not so cruel as to never allow you to come back.” His lips twisted wryly. “But you might have to convince me to be generous enough to allow you to see your stepmother.”

The ring on her finger lit up, a brilliant red. He looked embarrassed. “To keep us both honest.” His muttered explanation made her smile.

“I think I’ll manage,” she said. In fact, she thought, she had a few tricks up her sleeve that might go a long way toward convincing him to do what she wanted. She sobered, then, “But I’m mortal.” He smiled at her.

“There are,” he said, “ a few advantages to living in a place that time does not govern. Will forever be long enough for you?”

“That’s not very long at all,” she said, and pulled his mouth down to hers.

His lips claimed hers in a kiss that seared her all the way to her toes. He held her as though he would never release her again. She wasn’t sure she wanted him to. This, she thought through the haze of pleasure his lips were causing, this is what I wanted. She wrapped her arms around him. She could have sworn she heard fireworks.

“What the hell is that?” Jareth demanded, dragging his mouth away and staring up at the ceiling. Outside the theater, from the direction of the street, she heard a dull roar, and overhead the sound of massive explosions.

“Fireworks,” she said, smiling. “It’s New Year’s Eve.”

“Happy Birthday,” he said. “I’m afraid I forgot to bring you a gift.” She laughed and kissed him again.

“My mother used to say that whomever you spent New Year’s Eve with, you were destined to spend the rest of the New Year with,” she said. “So I’ve always been very careful about who I kissed at midnight.”

“Well,” Jareth smiled at her, his lips curling in a way that promised all kinds of things to look forward to. “That’ll be easy enough from now on, because I’m going to lock you in an oubliette with me every New Year, and your only choices will be me, or whatever Hogwart keeps in that storage closet.”

“Are we done talking now?” she asked, sliding her hands into his shirt again.

“Why?” he asked, confused.

“Because,” she said, her hands moving down to toy with the edge of his belt. “I have another game you might like to play.”

He growled and kissed her hard, and Sarah decided that loving him would be the greatest adventure she could ever wish for.

What You Wish For

A Labyrinth Story
by KnifeEdge

Part 13 of 14

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