Unlock This Door!
Summary: An alternate ending with a dubiously amiable twist - is it worth the risk with Faerie? You never really know…
(Once again, I don’t own Labyrinth or characters thereof. If I did, my life would be a heck of a lot easier financially right now;)
Sarah’s heart was pounding in her throat along with the burning iron taste in the back of it as she and her comrades-in-arms made their way across the square and up the stairs to the infamous castle of the Goblin King; she had just made it all the way through that crazy course and by some miracle they had just defeated the army. This was it! The yeti and the dwarf pushed against the immense, solid copper doors…
…and nothing happened. Ludo put his shoulder to the left one and really heaved - nothing again! Sarah had started to panic, but then she heard the musical, mocking laughter coming from the upper tower. She glanced up, enraged: Jareth was there looking annoyingly smug, leaning over the open, glassless window ledge, arms crossed, calmly gazing down at them.
“You didn’t really think it would be _that_ easy, did you?”
Within the next second all of her companions vanished in the blink of an eye. Sarah gasped, wide-eyed.
“What did you do with them?!”
He shrugged nonchalantly. “I put them somewhere where they won’t be in the way for the time being. This contest was only supposed to be between you and me, Sarah; you had no right to recruit help, especially subjects of mine. I’ve half a mind to just ignore the remaining rules of contract and keep the babe in retribution,” he eyed the fingertips of his right glove idly.
“Why you - you can’t!”
“Because it-” she began, then sighed, closing her eyes. It wasn’t fair but that was life. It was his game; he could play it however he darn well pleased. Now that she thought about it, there was no guarantee that he would ever allow her to go home, either. The thought was chilling but she steeled her nerves. “So, what might make you change your mind?” she yelled up defiantly, hands on her hips.
He cocked his head slightly. “What, no childish retort? That is surprising from you.” He looked deviously thoughtful for a moment and the expression made Sarah internally squirm. “Make me a counter-offer.”
She blinked. “Excuse me?”
“You heard. And I’d advise you to hurry - you only have a few precious minutes left.”
Sarah’s mind raced furiously. What on earth could he possibly want of her?! The implications made her head reel.
“What do you really want, Jareth? I don’t have time for a guessing game.”
He smiled a little. “You’ll have to come up here first.”
“And I don’t suppose you’ll open the doors to let me do that.”
“Nope. That would ruin the fun.”
“Well, in case you haven’t noticed, I’m not carrying any climbing equipment; I can’t possibly scale this wall unaided and you’re not exactly Rapunzel!”
“You’re not exactly Prince Charming,” he answered levelly. “I suppose we’ll have to make due.”
To Sarah’s surprise, the end of a strong rope dropped in front of her nose. Taking a deep breath, she grabbed it and gave it a hard yank - it seemed decently anchored. White-knuckled, she began to climb straight up beside the unrelentingly smooth, tan stone face of the fortress. She had never been good at the rope in gym and her arm muscles burned from the exertion, not to mention her legs, which were already exhausted. She had to stop once to catch her breath but wouldn’t allow herself a second rest - Toby was at stake here and somehow she would do whatever she had to to save him. It felt like it took forever but at last she gained the ledge; once over, she collapsed on the stone floor, panting.
She turned her head and glanced up - the Goblin King towered above her, arms crossed, scrutinizing her with his signature dark amusement. Sarah managed to crawl to her knees and, painfully, stood to face him.
“All right, I’m here. Where’s Toby?”
“Not so fast - you overlook why I let you in at all.”
Sarah gave a clipped huff. “Well?”
Jareth’s eyes met hers and she found that she wasn’t terribly comfortable with the expression they held. He reached out and stroked her cheek delicately with the backs of his fingertips, his gaze drifting lower down her torso. His current train of thought took very little imagination to decipher.
“No way in hell.”
He stopped smiling. “Wrong answer,” he stated coldly and, turning, began to pace out of the room. It was only then that Sarah noticed the bed – this was his room! She caught his arm. He stopped.
“Jareth…” She paused, desperately wracking her brain, and belatedly noticed that he was holding his breath. “I guess I don’t understand what you really want of me, or even why, but…I’m not ready for that. Not from anyone.”
She felt him untense in her grasp and suddenly let go of his arm. He slowly turned back around, his expression intense but unreadable.
Sarah nearly had to sit down; his attention and presence suddenly felt overwhelming. “You have scores of subjects, but…”
“…is there anyone here that you would actually call a friend? Someone you could really talk to?”
He laughed then; it was not a nice sound.
“You think you can gentle me into being kind as you did with those simple fools below,” he uttered poisonously, slowly advance on her, backing her up to the ledge. “Even were I to accept so shallow an offer, you would find me capricious and demanding.”
“And difficult to understand sometimes, because you’re not human.”
His eyebrows raised slightly in surprise at her clear perception.
“Yes,” he stated simply after a moment, taking a couple paces away to her left. Sarah remembered to breathe and followed him.
“And clearly you don’t understand me, not fully anyway.” She heard him scoff without turning. “It just isn’t a rational place to do much of anything, let alone have a fight.”
That made him stop. Sarah held her ground this time as he turned back again with an odd look of mild amusement.
“My, my, how fast the child has grown. And what worldly experience could you have possibly had to lead you to such grand thoughts?”
Sarah couldn’t hold his gaze any longer and had to look away.
“I had to watch my parents’ marriage fall apart, okay? The last few screaming matches right before the divorce, they weren’t even listening to each other. I mean, I know my mom had met someone else, but if my dad had even tried to understand her before…” She just shook her head, closing her eyes against the treacherous tears…and felt a gloved finger and thumb gently grasp her chin and lift her face back up. She opened her eyes, a little surprised, and found he was searching them with his own unearthly ones, the amusement gone.
“You are in earnest.”
“Yes,” she swallowed, her throat suddenly dry. He registered the stress reaction and smirked a little.
“I warned you it won’t be easy.”
“Few things worth doing are.”
He shook his head. “You do not comprehend what you ask. My other offer still stands,” he let go of her and produced to crystal.
“You told me to make you a counter-offer; I just did,” she crossed her arms. “You know I can’t possibly accept yours; my stepmother would kill me if I came home empty-handed.”
His hand holding the crystal lowered a bit. “Ah yes, human mortality is quite the nuisance, isn’t it?” he sighed. Sarah honestly couldn’t tell whether he thought she had meant that literally or if that had just been a very dry quip. His expression turned serious again. “That can’t be a hollow promise, Sarah. You actually have to mean it. You are exchanging proffered friendship to me for your brother’s freedom.”
For a moment Sarah faltered. This was insane! This guy was dangerous, dangerous enough that she almost had misgivings about the entire course of action. But, as a few times before, her intuition was prompting her otherwise. Nothing was as it seemed here, and, somehow, she just knew that the king of this place was simply bored out of his mind and most likely quietly unraveling from intellectual isolation. Having to live in this situation would be enough to make most anybody more than a little crazy at times. It was a risk, but a risk worth taking. She took a deep breath.
Time seemed to stand still as she awaited the verdict. And it came as a mischievous, dangerous little lip smile, eyes sparkling.
In the next moment they were both plunged into darkness as she heard the clock chiming thirteen. When the bells finally stopped tolling, her eyes readjusted and she saw that she was standing in her parents’ bedroom, the lights still out; Jareth was beside her with a sleeping Toby in his arms. He handed him to her without a word and she gently tucked the baby back into his crib. As he shifted in his sleep, she saw that he was grasping a very small hand-sewn doll that looked somewhat like a goblin; its little felt teeth grinned in a goofy smile. Her warning glance at Jareth was met with a shrug.
“It’s called a gift - they’re going to miss him. Now, we don’t have much time - where is your book?”
“In my room.”
“Get it quickly.”
Sarah ran to her bedroom with the Goblin King close on her heels, closing the door behind them just as her parents came in downstairs. She could hear her father call up.
“Sarah, we’re back! Are you home?”
She glanced at Jareth, panicked, and he calmly nodded.
“Yes, I’m just up in my room. Toby’s sleeping.”
“All right. Well, goodnight.”
Silence. Sarah visibly sagged, exhaling in relief. Jareth just looked amused at her predicament.
“I suppose I shouldn’t call on you in person in your current living situation,” he said quietly, smirking.
“That would be appreciated,” Sarah whispered.
“Right here,” she handed it to him. He opened it to the title page - the inside had been meticulously kept clean in spite of the heavy wear on the cover.
“Get a writing implement and draw a diagonal line across this page, centered through the words.”
Sarah was slightly taken aback. “But this is my favorite…” she trailed off, looking at the carpet suddenly, embarrassed at what she had just admitted. Jareth laughed quietly but it wasn’t as harsh as before.
“This is no ordinary defacing, Sarah. It is necessary.”
Sarah got a pen from her vanity and, cringing, drew the required line from left top to right bottom. The king took both from her and drew a second line intersecting the first, making an X on the page.
“There. That sigil is the Rune of Exchange and signifies the standard goodwill agreement of Good Neighbors, tantamount to an honorable truce. Placing it here leaves the way open to you. If the contract is ever infringed upon it will be on your side, not mine; we take these things seriously,” he stated, forming a crystal. “To use this, concentrate on me and you will be transported instantly. To return, think of home. I will expect you to call upon me often; your offer implied spending time in my company.”
Sarah took a breath and accepted the crystal, feeling the cool, smooth weight in her hands. The king noted her hesitation.
“Why did you do it?” He didn’t have to say what.
She eyed the crystal. “It was about the only thing I could think of that might be of any value to you,” she said simply. “I mean, you’ve got magic and you’re a king, for crying out loud. You probably already have everything you could possibly ever want or need.” She looked up. “Don’t you?”
His response was a quiet laugh and a soft, jaded little smile.
“Hardly, but I’ll take what I’m offered. I’m holding you to this, Sarah.”
He was too proud to admit it openly but she could clearly read the unpracticed gratitude in his eyes. It was awkward. A moment later, he vanished without a word.
For better or worse, Sarah had just unlocked the door.