Continuing Tales

What You Wish For

A Labyrinth Story
by KnifeEdge

Part 9 of 14

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What You Wish For

“Sarah,” Jimmy said, when she opened the door. Then he paused and studied her kiss-bruised lips and mussed hair with amusement. “Ah, sorry to interrupt,” he said cheerfully, and clearly enjoying this immensely, “but Mike called. I told him you were back and he said you should swing by the theater and check out the new stage. He finished it up this afternoon.”

“I told him not to work on holidays,” she said, frowning.

“Yeah, but you know how he is. You have to pry him out of that place with a crowbar. And technically, this afternoon wasn’t a holiday. You have to nail him down to the letter,” They both laughed, Sarah thanked him, and closed the door. She pressed her forehead to the cool surface. Slowly, her hormones subsided to a petulant grumble. Her emotions, however, were roiling inside of her, making her painfully aware of how badly she wanted him.

It was confusing, and she wanted a minute to gain some perspective before facing him again.

When she’d wished Toby away, she’d been on the brink of womanhood, still immature in many ways, but her time in the Labyrinth had helped her grow up. Initially, she’d found the Goblin King to be villainously handsome, and a little scary; though he had seemed easy enough to defeat, in the beginning. But something had changed, after the peach. Some important shift had occurred, and he’d tried, instead of throwing obstacles in her path, to seduce her around to his side. At fourteen she’d barely understood that it was seduction, all she’d seen was an evil villain that must be vanquished, but who drew her to him with his wicked smile.

It wasn’t until later, with a few dating experiences under her belt that she’d begun to understand that no fumblings in a dark car, no whispered lines at a high school dance, no smooth pick up tricks in college, could ever begin to compare to him. Even if all she’d ever had was a single dance that might have just been a dream, and a proposal that was more than likely a desperate last ploy to steal her brother. It was only a mere taste of that fairy tale she'd always dreamed of. Still, it was enough of a taste that, at some point, she’d put those hollow relationships away, like her childhood toys, and if she did decide to try again, it was in the spirit of nostalgia: trying to recapture something she’d never really had.

Yet, here he was again, attempting once more to seduce her, in order to distract her from her goal. Only now she was old enough to recognize it and, more dangerously, to respond to it. Even though he made her furious, even though he scared her on some level she couldn't even begin to fathom, deep down, some part of her desperately wanted his desire for her to be real. She wanted to be Beauty to his Beast, and find the man inside, but she suspected that he was the sort of Beast who would never lose his wilder tendencies. Even though she’d grown up, and tried to swear off the fairy tales, some part of her wanted him to want her, and not just for tonight, but for forever—even if her forever, for him, wasn’t very long at all. After all, her life was a mere bat of an eyelash compared to four thousand years.

However, it seemed as if she did affect him, on some level at least. She knew, from acting, that passion is hard to fake. To an audience it might be convincing, but an actor always knows. And he wasn’t dissembling. He wanted her. Whether it was merely a fleeting response, brought on by too little contact with a female, or whether it was really her that mattered, she didn’t know.

Over and over again, however, she kept coming back to one question, and she was still angry enough at his manipulation of her to be able to ask it. She pushed herself firmly away from the door and made her way back down the hall to the living room, where she found him lounging in her armchair again, playing with something.

She came up to him and took it from him. He didn’t protest. It was a bookend carved in the shape of a gnarled old dwarf, with a worried expression.

“Hoggle,” she said, touching the carving with fondness. An odd expression flickered across Jareth’s face, but he didn’t say anything, only waited.

He wants me to ask about Hoggle, the thought came to her and she knew it was true. But that wasn’t what she wanted to know, right now. Let him have another wish, and she’d get another question, but she had to ask this one now, while she was still angry and on guard. She wouldn’t be manipulated this time, but she would have to word this one very, very carefully.

“When I ate your peach,” she said, turning the carving over in her hands, thoughtfully, “I had a dream, or what I thought was a dream. What was my dream about?” She glanced at him.

Something about his eyes said he was surprised, but his face was impassive.

He might not know, that little voice in the back of her mind said. Yes, but if he doesn’t, then I’ll know it wasn’t real. She ran her fingers over Hoggle’s lumpy nose, and waited.

He didn’t speak. Just got up from the chair and crossed to one of the windows overlooking the street. She saw the stillness of his back, the pale curve of one high cheekbone, the starlight glitter of his hair, and came around to stand at the second window, far enough away that he couldn’t touch her without moving, but close enough to study his profile.

Below, the traffic moved, and people scurried about their ordinary lives, going to parties or stumbling drunkenly home. A door down the street opened and a crowd of college students staggered out, singing.

“There was a ball,” he said, his voice matching the low growl of the traffic. “A masquerade full of men and women in grotesquely beautiful masks. The room was iridescent and white and felt as though it was floating. Candelabras draped in pearls dripped perfumed wax. The music was soft, light, at first, like it was playing in a music box.”

She felt a little dizzy again, listening.

“You wore a gown meant for a princess, all silver white and chastely beautiful. Your hair was swept high and sparkled with jewels. You were younger than everyone there, and there was a look in your eyes that said you knew it. You were searching for something, but the peach made you forget what that something was. Fans fluttered, and people moved and shifted and teased in ways you were only just beginning to understand. And I moved through them, hunting you, letting you think you were hunting me.”

His voice had been dispassionate, dry. Recounting the details of the dream she couldn’t forget as if it were a murder, and he was dispensing with the facts as quickly as he could and trying not to relive those moments. Now, though, it took on an indefinable quality that hinted at a curious mix of bitterness and bewilderment.

“I watched you move among them, like a dove, or a deer; prey lost among predators. But you never betrayed the fear I could smell on you. You pushed past them as if they were annoyances. Searching, always searching. The peach only made you forget what you were looking for, but that sense of urgency was still with you. I used your dreams to distract you.”

He turned then, but moved no closer, and she studied the way the light fell over the planes of his face and glittered in the dark pupil of his right eye.

“When I took you in my arms, to dance, it was to make you forget the child. When I sang it was to make you listen only to me. When I whirled you through the dancers it was to make you dizzy with dreams. To show you what I could offer you, if you would only do what you were supposed to do. But you never do what’s expected, do you?”

“No,” she said softly. “Not if I can help it.”

“The clock was a mistake,” he said, his voice dipping lower, until shivers were running over her skin and the fine hair on the back of her neck was taut with anticipation. “I was smugly secure of my success. After all, no woman had ever resisted before.”

Now it was her hackles rising, but she smoothed them down as best she could. Of course there’d been women he’d danced with before her. Of course there’d been other women who must have traveled the Labyrinth in search of their children. There was the book, wasn’t there? Still, it rankled.

“I should not have included it. When it reminded you of the time, you wrenched away, pushed through the crowd and ran. It was not the first time you had won a battle, but it was the first time you’d bruised my pride in the process. It was also the first time I saw you as a worthy adversary. You won my respect then, even if you didn’t know it. Even though I knew, when you woke, you would forget the child all over again, and were still doomed to failure.”

What he didn’t know, and she decided then and there that she wouldn’t tell him, ever, was that she hadn’t remembered Toby when the clock struck twelve at all. Lost in a dream, dressed like a princess, and in the arms of a prince, surrounded by the curious and unwelcome stares of beautiful courtiers, she’d thought she must be Cinderella. It was the only thing that had made sense at the time. When the clock had struck twelve, she’d remembered that she was supposed to leave the ball at midnight, or she’d turn back into a peasant before all of the beautiful people. That was what had motivated her to run, and when she’d found herself trapped with no way out, what had caused her to break the bubble to escape.

Only to wake up a peasant again, anyway, tossed aside like so much trash, in a land full of discarded things.

“The junk yard was another distraction, wasn’t it?” she asked.

“That, little girl,” he said, stepping closer, now, out of the light and into the shadow, which made him seem taller, and more seductively menacing, “is a second question, and not part of my answer. So allow me to decline it, and instead make my next wish.” His hand, once more gloved, slid around her waist and the other took the bookend from her and placed it on the windowsill, before capturing her other hand gently. In a smooth motion, he stepped and she went with him automatically, her feet eager to dance with him, even while her mind was already protesting. She put her free hand to his shoulder, intending to push him away, but he spun her quickly, so that she clutched at him instead.

There’s such a sad love, deep in your eyes,” he sang softly, and in her mind she could hear the tinkling notes of her old music box. It was enough to lull her for a moment, enough to make her follow his lead and listen to the soft whisper of their clothes in the quiet apartment, and the low melody he was humming against her ear. Enough for her to shove that annoying little voice to the back of her head where it grumbled that she was letting him seduce her into forgetting, again... but since she couldn’t remember right now what she was forgetting, she figured it didn’t make that much difference.

Under her hands he moved like a cat, muscles rippling subtly, the leather softer than any she’d ever felt. The gloved hand holding hers was warm and oddly protective. He moved, and she swayed with him, forgetting that she was wearing jeans and in her stocking feet, and dancing in a quiet, mostly dark apartment. He shifted her a little, when he spun her, so she was pressed against him, and his steps slowed, his voice a soft croon beside her ear, his breath brushing her skin a moment before he skimmed his lips over the corner of her jaw. Her heart began racing as he trailed soft kisses over her pulse, and then around the delicate shell of her ear. He paused to nip at her earlobe, humming the last bar of the song.

“Sarah,” he whispered.

“Mmmm?” the pudding in his arms said.

“I wish you would take me to your theater,” he said, then added with emphasis, “and give me a full tour.”

The pudding solidified.

“You,” she said, “are a despicable creature.”

He laughed darkly. “Only when I want to be,” he said, and nipped her earlobe again. “And at this moment, I really want to be.” She never saw it coming. One moment his mouth was pissing her off in her ear, and the next he’d claimed hers with it in a deep and punishing kiss that promised all manner of dark and sinful pleasures. This was the way she’d always imagined he would kiss, but she’d never imagined that her response to it would be so emphatic.

She wrapped her arms around his neck and kneaded the muscles there with her fingertips. Her body arched into his, as if trying to pull him down on top of her and she kissed him back with all the longing inside of her. All her life she’d wanted someone to want her like this, and to have it come from him was both a shock and a guilty pleasure, like suddenly discovering that chocolate made you thinner and gave you a better complexion. His sharp teeth teased her lips, his mouth stole her breath, and his hands clutched her to him tightly, as if he would pull her into his body and make her a permanent part of him.

She couldn’t breathe from the force of it, and when she finally pulled away it was to drag air into starving lungs. Yet he didn’t stop, and his mouth trailed fire down her throat until he reached the hollow at the base, and there he lapped with his tongue, as if she were water and he was the one dying of thirst. Through heavy lids she watched his spider silk hair as he began to kiss lower, but as his head ducked she saw a blue light glimmering in the darkness behind him.

Fuzzily, Sarah wondered what it was, but his hand had slid to the collar of her sweater, pushing it down so he could kiss the soft skin below her collarbone. The light blinked at her, and she shook her head a little to clear it. Oh, she thought, it’s just the clock on the stove. And then he cupped her breast in one gloved hand and her mind slipped away.

After all, she thought vaguely, it wasn’t like they were on a...

“OH!” She cried, and pushed him away so hard he actually stumbled back. His eyes were dark, but there was no frustration in them this time. Only approval, which was enough to confuse her momentarily. “You...” she said, panting a little and then trying to regain control of her voice. “You...”

“Despicable creature?” he said, chuckling a little. She growled at him and he laughed again at the kittenish sound. He’d been trying to make her forget she only had a half an hour to grant his wish. And the theater was just far enough away that he might have succeeded.

“I need shoes,” she muttered to herself. “You,” she said to him, “WILL stay in that chair until I’m ready, or I swear to god I will emasculate you with something sharper than your pants.” He laughed again, but subsided back into her armchair with regal grace while she went in search of her boots.

What You Wish For

A Labyrinth Story
by KnifeEdge

Part 9 of 14

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