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The Taste of Magic

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Sarah stared.

There was something oddly familiar about his attire, and it took her longer than she'd have liked to realize why.

He was dressed nearly identical to the way he'd been so long ago, when she'd dreamed up a dance with him. He wore no mask this time, but his hair and his makeup were carbon copies of his look during that fateful dream. And though there were no guests around them like that long ago distant memory, she instantly recognized the room she'd once danced with Jareth in, years ago.

"My, my, how quiet you are now," Jareth observed as he came to a stop in front of her. "Is it maturity or surprise that silences you?"

Whether it was his voice, lyrical and enchanting as it had ever been, or his words themselves that shook her out of her stupor, Sarah didn't know and didn't want to look into too closely. "What are you doing here, Jareth? I don't have a baby this time for you to steal."

Jareth raised a brow. "I never stole the baby, Sarah. You asked that the child be taken. I took him."

The words seemed to echo in Sarah's head as the memories she'd so long suppressed came flooding back into her head.

Everything! Everything that you wanted, I have done. You asked that the child be taken. I took him. You cowered before me; I was frightening. I have reordered time. I have turned the world upside down, and I have done it all for you. I am exhausted from living up to your expectations of me! Isn't that generous?

The room seemed to spin around her.

I've brought you a gift. It's a crystal, nothing more. But if you turn it this way and look into it, it will show you your dreams. But this is not an ordinary gift for an ordinary girl who takes care of a screaming baby.

Sarah couldn't breathe.

Tell me, Sarah. What do you think of my labyrinth?

Why couldn't she stop them? Why couldn't she escape the labyrinth? After all, hadn't she done it once? Why had he come back to her after all this time?

Everything I've done, I've done for you. I move the stars for no one.

Sarah couldn't see the Jareth in front of her; all she could see was the memory of the past, of that fateful moment when she'd told him he had no power over her.

I ask for so little. Just love me, fear me, do as I say, and I will be your slave.

"But you have no power over me!" she shouted, barely resisting the urge to cover her ears as though it would somehow help her drown out the memories.

Unlike her memory, this Jareth before her didn't visibly react to her words. "What's said is said," he answered simply.

Sarah shivered as he echoed the words of her memories.

"But you aren't real." The words fell from her lips before she could stop them.

Jareth sighed heavily. "Once you thought too little about the world around you. Now it seems that you think too much, Sarah." He held out a hand. "Dance with me, Sarah. Isn't that what you wished for?"

Sarah started. "How do you know that?"

Jareth didn't pull his hand away. "I am the Goblin King, the dream-giver, Sarah. How could I offer up a dream if I don't know it?"

"Why?" She wouldn't let herself look at his proffered hand. Instead, she met his eyes with the same determination she had brimming within her all those years ago. "Why today, Jareth? Why this, and why now?"

"Dance with me, Sarah," he cajoled. "Let me give you a taste of the magic you've forgotten, and I'll answer your questions."

When Sarah didn't answer, didn't even know how to answer him, Jareth sighed again and took matters into his own hands. He pulled her into his arms and with a gentle hand on her waist and the other softly clasping her hand, he began to lead her around the dance floor.

At first, it felt wonderful. Jareth was warm against her, and he acted chivalrously, unlike the boys she knew. He made no movements to grope her, uttered no suggestions in her ears. He simply danced with her, his own eyes closed, as though dancing with her was his favorite thing to do.

Sarah closed her eyes and leaned against him, content to let him lead. He was so warm, so caring, and she wondered if this had been his fantasy as much as it had been hers...

Jareth leaned down to kiss her, and Sarah was jolted out of the moment.

"No." The words left Sarah's lips unwillingly, but she didn't take them back. "No, Jareth. This isn't magic; this isn't even real."

She jerked herself out of his arms, noting the stunned look on his face.

"Take me back." She paused as he took a step towards her. "No," she continued, holding up a hand to stop him. "Don't bother. I know the way out, the way back to reality."

As she had before, Sarah looked around, and this time she found a small stool sitting in the corner of the room.

She picked it up, and smashed her way out of the dream.

.

Sarah found herself in the middle of an empty building. There was no magician, there were no guests, and if it weren't for the bag in her hands, she never would have believed any of it had happened.

Perhaps her therapist had been right. Perhaps Sarah needed to be on medication, because evidently she'd been lost in a delusion.

She walked out of the room without realizing she still clutched the bag, and drove home, reminding herself the entire way that there was no such thing as magic.

And she promised herself she'd call her therapist first thing Monday morning.

.

Leon didn't return to work on Monday, but Sarah didn't notice until Sharon commented about it.

Sarah felt guilty; though she'd clearly had a delusion Friday night, Sarah still wasn't sure if Leon really had sent her magic tickets or not. If he had sent her tickets for the show and she'd had a delusion elsewhere, then he'd probably thought she'd blown him off.

But then Sarah shrugged it off. She wasn't interested in Leon, and likely the ticket had simply been part of her delusion.

So, she turned her eye back to work, and tried not to dread her appointment with her therapist tomorrow morning. Dr. Kelley had insisted on seeing her immediately when she'd told his assistant of the detail of her delusion, and Sarah didn't like the feeling of his urgency.

She wasn't going to harm anyone. All Sarah needed was medication, and she'd be fine.

.

Jareth threw his crystal against the opposite wall as he slumped down against the wall behind him.

Why had she rejected his gift?

He knew it was her dream; she'd wanted it so badly it had nearly manifested itself the moment he'd touched the desire within her.

She'd rejected her dream. She'd rejected him.

He laughed without humor. He'd tried to do everything right this time. He'd offered her pretty gifts, taken her on a romantic date, told her of his feelings for her, and still, Sarah denied herself and him. Everything he'd done for her yet again hadn't been enough.

I move the stars for no one.

The words taunted him, because as he'd recently discovered, no one seemed to mean Sarah.

When had he become so lovesick?

Perhaps it had taken him nearly too long to realize it, but he could feel the love blooming within his breast. He didn't just want to give Sarah her dreams.

He wanted to be her dream.

But what else could he do when Sarah had thrown him away again?

.

Sarah stood in front of her mirror Tuesday evening, gripping the bottle of pills.

Just one pill and her problems would be over. Dr. Kelley had promised her delusions would slowly begin to fade almost immediately, and she could begin to live a normal life.

"Is that what I want?" she asked herself, unable to fathom why she hesitated. "A normal life?"

There was nothing waiting for her here, and as sad as it was to realize it, the only time she'd ever felt special was with Jareth in her dreams. They might have only been a delusion, but oh, they'd once been magnificent. She'd had friends, real friends, people who cared about her.

She shifted her feet to try and shake off her guilt. Irene, Toby, and her father all cared about her.

But they had their own lives, and that was the difference. Sarah was alive, but she wasn't living.

Could the pills change that?

"Sarah."

She shrieked as she turned to find Jareth standing before her, but this Jareth wasn't the Jareth wasn't the Jareth she knew. He wore eyeliner, but no other makeup, and his hair had been carefully combed out of its wild style. He wore a simple black tunic and trousers, neither of which had any of the usual flare he sported.

"What's wrong?" she asked, absently setting the pills on the counter behind her. She knew instantly that something was wrong. She just didn't know what.

"Is," he hesitated for only a moment, "is this really what you want, Sarah?" He waved a hand to the pills behind her.

He seemed to take her surprise as agreement, because he nodded. "I can take it away, Sarah," he whispered, but he wouldn't meet her eyes. "I can take all of the memories away. You could lead a normal life without that drug."

"You can do that?" she blurted.

It was the wrong reply. His expression froze, and he laughed hollowly.

"Of course I can, Sarah. I'm the Goblin King, the king of dreams. It's a minor thing, really, to steal away your memories."

She fell back against the counter. "R-right now?"

He nodded, once. "Just say the words, Sarah, and I will take them all away."

Suddenly, it was too much, and it was only Jareth's strong arms that kept her from falling over. "This is all I have left to give you," he whispered in her ear as he pulled her into her arms and lifted her. "If my love wasn't enough, I can save you from it."

He carried her towards her bed as she faded, barely hanging onto her consciousness. As he moved to settle her down on her bed, Sarah finally lost the battle and blacked out.

.

Jareth's touch was gentle as he tucked Sarah into her bed.

"I'm a weak man when it comes to you, Sarah." His words were barely audible as he turned away before he gave into the desire to kiss her. "If you don't give up your memories of me now, I'm not sure I could let you go."

He left a crystal for her on her nightstand. All she had to do was bring it to her breast and it would be done.

With a heavy heart, he magicked himself home, but not before he took one last look at the mortal that had stolen his jaded heart.

.

When Sarah awoke, she found herself in bed, staring at the crystal on her nightstand.

Jareth's crystal, she knew immediately. She walked closer to it, and heard his voice when her fingers touched it.

Hold this to your breast, Sarah, and you'll be free of me and the Labyrinth forever.

She stared at it.

Was this what she wanted? To give up her dreams and live a normal life?

What would have happened if she'd let him kiss her? What would have happened if she'd agreed to stay, all of those years ago?

Jareth no longer felt like a delusion, and she found that, after last night, she couldn't easily dismiss him. Or, rather, she didn't want to.

She had two choices before her. She could take Jareth's gift and use it to live a normal life, but she was no longer sure she'd have a happy one. Or, she could smash the crystal and keep her memories and dreams.

Either way, she'd have to accept that Jareth's gift was magic, that this was more than a deteriorating mental condition or coping mechanism from her childhood. Somehow, that was easier now that Jareth had agreed to let her go.

I don't fit in at work. My family loves me, but I don't fit in there, either. Could I belong with Jareth?

Sarah lifted the crystal, and smashed it against the ground.

.

She found herself standing in the room with the staircases.

"You are crueler than you realize," Jareth's voice came from behind her. "Or is this an elaborate ploy of yours? What more can I give you, Sarah?"

The last was more of an angry demand than a question, but Sarah answered him anyway.

"Do you love me, Jareth?" she asked, turning to face him.

She wasn't surprised to see him dressed identically to that final moment when she'd told him he had no power over her.

He stiffened, but as though the words were torn from his lips, he said, "Yes, I do. Is that what you wanted? To know you still have power over me while I have none over you? Well, there you have it. The mighty Sarah has won again, and bested the great goblin king, her archnemesis."

She shook her head, but his words made her heart soar. "That's not why I'm here, Jareth."

"Why are you here, Sarah?" His cold eyes met hers. "You broke my crystal, your only way out. Wasn't it everything you wanted?"

"I think," she licked her lips as she tried to answer him honestly, "that I have never been a good judge of what I wanted."

Jareth snorted.

"But I think you are the same," she added, ignoring his sardonic look. "You only realized you wanted me to stay when you knew I was going to go, all those years ago."

Jareth pressed his lips together. "Does it matter?"

"I want to stay with you," she blurted. "I realize the original offer's not still open, of course, but even if I'm not your queen, I want to stay here with you. I think," she took a deep breath, "that maybe that's what I wanted all along."

Jareth stared at her, but he didn't reply.

"I don't want a normal life," she continued desperately. "Please, Jareth, I don't care what I do, but don't send me back to that monotony. Maybe you're right, maybe I've never been an ordinary girl, but Jareth—"

Jareth cut her off. "You would stay with me, even if I made you a scullery maid?"

She swallowed as she realised that maybe he was no longer available. "A-are you already married?"

He shook his head. "Sarah—"

"I would," she said quickly, afraid of what he might say. "If that's all I can have for now, I'd be your maid. I just want you, Jareth. No the goblin king, just you."

She felt lighter, happier, to finally say the words she'd repressed for so long. For years she'd ignored her feelings, her dreams, her desires, and for years she'd tried to find satisfaction in her world, to no avail.

"You're sure?" he asked, taking a step forward. When she nodded, he pulled her into his arms. "Then stay. Stay with me, Sarah, as my wife and queen. This Labyrinth and I were made for you."

He gently lifted her chin with one hand to bestow the gentlest of kisses upon her lips, stopping anything she might have said.

"I told you once that a life without wishes and dreams isn't a life at all." He smiled down at her as she realized that Jareth was Leon, and struggled to process that. "But a life without your love isn't worth living at all."

"You!" She stopped her scolding as his words sank in. "Stop talking and kiss me, Jareth, before I remember to scold you for that trick."

Jareth laughed, and for the first time, she heard him laugh freely and happily. "As my queen commands."

He bent down and kissed her again. This kiss was deeper, alive with the wild taste of him and his magic.

As Sarah kissed him back, she'd never felt happier, or more loved.

"Love me, Jareth," she whispered against his lips. "Love me forever. Even if I'm a scullery maid or a queen, never stop loving me."

"I never stopped," he breathed against her. "Now be quiet before you ruin the mood."

And Sarah, despite herself, laughed.