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The Taste of Magic

Chapter Text

Sarah wasn't sixteen anymore.

Well, to be fair—there was a word she still cringed at—she wasn't a lot of things anymore. She wasn't a student, she wasn't naive, and if she'd once been a dreamer, well, you'd have never known it if you looked at her now.

She was an office worker, still, at age twenty-eight, despite a business degree. Business, mind you, but she had minored in drama. Her last bit of childish rebellion before adult life set in. Not that it mattered; she'd never been good enough to make a career out of it.

And she had been an office worker since she graduated six years ago. There wasn't much growth for a woman, not with the business world being what it was, not unless you lived and breathed the job, and were ruthless enough to eliminate your competition.

Sarah found herself lacking.

Which was why, yet again, she was in her boss's office, being lectured.

"Close the door, Sarah." Tom's words were heavy with disappointment as soon as Sarah stepped into his office. "You know why you're here, don't you."

Sarah nodded. "Yes, sir."

To think I'd once been offered to become queen. She wasn't sure if she wanted to laugh or cry. I can't even manage a filing cabinet, so how would I have ruled a whole country?

She reminded herself, as she'd done before, that thinking of him would get her nowhere.

"I'm sure this has been difficult for you." Tom's words were sympathetic, but his tone was anything but. "You lost your mother earlier this year, if I recall correctly."

Since Tom didn't like being interrupted, Sarah nodded again.

"And you took a little time off for the funeral," Tom added, and then held up a hand. "Not that, I'm compelled to remind you per our HR guidelines, there was anything wrong with taking time off to go to the funeral and sort out your mother's affairs, of course. But Sarah, it was right in the middle of tax season, and we really needed your help. A whole week was really more than necessary, don't you think?"

She didn't think so. She worked in Maryland, cold, dreary Maryland, but her mother had lived in sunny California. Frankly, she'd been astonished that she'd been able to sell or ship her mother's stuff in less than a week between the funeral, the travel time, and her stepmother's constant phone calls to "check if Sarah was alright."

But she held her tongue. Midas and Sons had been the only company to offer her a job, and she couldn't afford to lose it. She had rent to pay, a cat to feed, and bills that never seemed to disappear.

So, she apologized, but kept her answer short. Tom didn't like rambling women or crying women, or women who didn't know when to listen.

"You're having trouble at work lately, too." Tom sighed loudly. "Fortunately, Sharon has agreed to help you. Don't waste the opportunity."

Sharon was an old widow, probably the oldest employee in the company. But she was friendly, and constantly brought in food for her fellow workers, and she knew the job. If anyone could help Sarah out of her rut, it would be Sharon.

Wouldn't it?

Sarah tried to look suitably grateful, and pretended she didn't notice Tom leering at her breasts as he told her to find Sharon and get back to work.

.

Jareth sprawled on his throne, tossing a crystal up in the air before catching it, and then throwing it again.

Sarah was bored, and through their connection that had formed after she'd bested him, he was bored as well.

Sure, he could always go antagonize a dragon or something, but as the years Aboveground continued to pass, he'd slowly lost interest.

Why hadn't she called for him if she was so terribly bored?

He caught the crystal and gripped it tightly. The Sarah he'd known, the one he'd been so close to loving—and if it had crossed over into love, true love, he'd never noticed—would never have allowed herself to become awash with the boredom with humanity.

She'd given up her friends, given up her dreams, and given into monotony.

There had to be something he could do, even if he hadn't been summoned. But what?

He twirled the crystal in his hand absentmindedly as he thought.

Perhaps Sarah needed to remember what she'd given up. Perhaps if he brought her here, she'd give in.

But then he soured. Bringing Sarah to the Labyrinth hadn't worked the first time. He needed to try something else. Something to show Sarah what it was like to live with magic again.

He smirked. If bringing her here hadn't worked, then he'd bring the magic to her.

In the blink of an eye, he vanished from his castle.

.

Two weeks later, and thanks to Sharon's firm but kind guidance, Sarah wasn't the best at her job, but she no longer was the worst, either. Tom had even pulled her into his office that morning to congratulate her on keeping her job.

He'd also insinuated there were other ways to ensure she continued to grow with the company, but Sarah wasn't a fool. Tom was known for making passes at women and then, once satisfied, moving on without concern. She wasn't going to become his next throw-away.

Sarah had left his office feeling like she'd been covered in slime.

"He's a bit behind the times, you know." Sharon nodded at Tom's closed door as she set a piece of carrot cake down in front of Sarah. "But he'll soon have competition here at the office, mark my words. I saw the new boy they're hiring, and oh, let me tell you if I was even twenty years younger, I'd be tempted!"

Sarah laughed despite herself. "Thanks for the cake and for the help, Sharon."

"Oh don't thank me." Sharon brushed off her words with an idle wave. "We girls have to stick together. Now eat, dear, you're getting too thin as it is. And if my carrot cake can't better your mood, well, then I simply have to stop cooking."

Sharon ignored Sarah's thanks for the second time, and headed off to her own desk. As Sarah sorted the documents for mailing, she took sporadic bites of the cake, and just as Sharon had suggested, her earlier distaste had all but vanished.

.

The new boy Sharon had referred to appeared in the office that Friday, and Sarah had to admit she understood Sharon's temptation.

He was probably around Sarah's age, but it was hard to tell. He managed to pull off masculinity and femininity both without shame, in a way that didn't seem to scream gay. His eyes were lined with thin eyeliner, but no eyeshadow, and if he bronzed or wore blush, it was impossible to know for certain. His lips glossed a shiny hue that seemed to beg for a kiss, but she had the feeling that he did more of the kissing than begging.

And his blond hair, carefully slicked into a style that managed to be both conservative, but daring, rested against his shoulders. It was carefully tucked behind one ear to show off two small studded piercings.

In short: he looked more like a musician than an office worker, despite his white buttoned shirt, solid blue tie, and black dress slacks.

She blushed when their eyes met and he caught her ogling. Instead of saying anything, Sarah opted to look down at her work.

But the new worker apparently didn't intend to allow Sarah any retreat. A hand was thrust in front of her vision, and she followed it to see his smiling face.

"Hello, Sarah," he greeted her. His voice was a purr that seemed familiar, but Sarah couldn't place it. "I'm Leon, and I look forward to working with you."

Sarah took his hand and shook it. She didn't ask how he knew her name; she assumed Sharon or one of the others had told him. "It's nice to meet you, Leon."

She tried to pull her hand away, but Leon didn't let go.

He smirked at her, and suddenly, Sarah had the vision of sitting in a field of wildflowers in summer, despite the fact that it was winter in Maryland, and they were due for a blizzard in a few days. But she swore she could feel the sun on her skin—and a soft kiss on her lips.

She gaped, and his smirk widened as though he knew what she'd felt.

This time, when she pulled her hand away, Leon didn't stop her.

He simply took up the empty desk at the end of the row next to her, and got to work.

Chapter Text

The attitude towards snow in the north was very different from what Sarah was used to growing up. As a child, snow meant days off of school, and more often than not, if it snowed enough, even her father might be excused from work.

Her family—before the fighting and the divorce—would play board games and drink hot cocoa, and she got to enjoy the snow as much as she wanted. After her father had remarried, her stepmother insisted snowstorms were for s'mores and yes, cocoa and board games, but also meant to be spent together. Sarah didn't play alone in the snow, she played with Toby, or, surprisingly, her stepmother and her father. Somehow, Irene had managed again and again to coax Robert to play in the snow with them.

But it was the first winter after her parents' divorce that was the closest her childhood ever came to Sarah's adult life. Her mother was filming, so Sarah was left with her father, who didn't much care about the snow outside. There was no hot cocoa, no play, and absolutely no board games. There was just silence and boredom.

Midas and Sons didn't believe the inclement weather—which is what they referred to the snowstorm as—was bad enough to warrant closing the office for any length of time. If anyone wanted off, they'd simply have to use vacation time, and Sarah didn't have any left to use after her mother's funeral.

So Sarah had driven to work in her beat-up old Chevy through the gradually deepening snow, and prayed the vehicle didn't break down.

She couldn't afford the delay, let alone the repairs.

Luck, it seemed, was with her. She made it to work, and her desk, without complication.

Leon the rock star was already at work when she arrived, but it was a sight that she was quickly becoming used to. Despite his rock god appearance, Leon was surprisingly dedicated to his job.

He was equally dedicated to flirting with Sarah, but she ignored him as best she could. Her track record of men was so terrible it was laughable, and she didn't have the patience for another heartbreak in the making.

Leon, however, refused to give up.

"Dreary weather today, isn't it?" Leon smiled at her as she sat down, but it felt more like a smirk than a smile. "I've never been overly fond of the snow."

"I don't mind it." Sarah hoped he'd let the conversation die there.

But apparently she'd used her luck up for the day.

"I much prefer the sun myself. Like flowers a bit too much, I'm afraid. Especially wildflowers; they're always managing to grow so beautifully in the most surprising of places." He looked at her as he spoke.

Sarah stiffened as the memory returned to her.

Wildflowers blooming in a meadow, awash in color, and the smell of wet dew. And then, the soft, gentle press of an unassuming kiss—

Spring was her favorite time of year, but she hadn't realized until only recently, when she'd daydreamed at work. And it had to be a daydream, because what else could explain such a silly, childish fantasy?

But she smiled at him, as best she could, and told him she had work to do.

Leon dutifully fell quiet.

.

By lunch, there was already four inches of fresh snow on the ground, and it didn't look like the snowstorm was abating any time soon.

Tom left the office as soon as the clock struck twelve, but ordered them all to remain until 5pm, when the office closed for the day. Most of the other employees, however, immediately began packing up and leaving.

In the span of about five minutes, it was just Leon and Sarah left in the office. Sarah stayed because she didn't dare jeopardize her job, but she didn't know why Leon was worried. He'd received nothing but compliments since he'd arrived.

If Tom returned to check, and Sarah wasn't there, she could kiss her job goodbye. Or else she'd give Tom the opportunity he was looking for to sleep with him to keep from being fired.

She shivered at the thought. Tom wasn't unattractive in looks, but his personality was worse than a snake's.

Leon turned to Sarah the moment the office was empty. "Would you like to see something?"

Suspicious, because Sarah figured the "something" would probably lead to Leon's attempt to get her into bed with him, she asked, "Like what?"

He grinned then, a true grin that was boyish rather than laden with seduction, and she subconsciously relaxed. "Something magical, Sarah."

She laughed despite herself. "There's no such thing as magic."

The goblin king and his kingdom didn't count. It was nothing more than a bad dream—hadn't her therapist told her that countless times? Created by her need to belong and to be loved, unconditionally, after the trauma of her parents' nasty divorce, she'd created a place in her mind to retreat to when things were tough.

None of it had been real.

But Leon's grin widened. "Then there's no reason to hesitate, is there? Come, Sarah, let me show you something wonderful."

Sarah shook her head. "I still have work to do, Leon."

Leon sighed, but he didn't press the subject.

Sarah was grateful, because if he had, she might have given into temptation and said yes to the handsome man, only to wind up drowning in regret later.

.

Leon stayed in the office as long as Sarah, but he made no attempts to follow her when she left the office promptly at five.

Despite Sarah's worst fears, nothing had happened, and Tom hadn't come back.

She got into her car, inserted the key and then turned it, but the car wouldn't start. Desperate, she tried again and again, but her junker refused to roar to life.

She dropped her head to it the steering wheel and tried not to shiver in the cold car. She lived alone, her family hundred of miles away, and she had no way of calling for help on a payphone even if she had someone to help.

She could just see the headlines now. 'Office worker dies alone in car during snowstorm.'

She laughed humorously to herself. No matter how hard she worked, or what she did, she was destined to die alone.

A thumping of her window caused her to jolt, and she looked up to Leon looking down at her.

She reluctantly cranked down the window. "Yes?"

"Are you okay, Sarah?" Leon, surprisingly, looked rather concerned.

She shrugged. "I'm fine."

Leon looked at the car and then back at her. "Car troubles?"

Her shoulders slumped. "Apparently," she agreed reluctantly.

He glanced up at the sky. "Weather's too bad to call a taxi or a tow truck."

Sarah sighed; she'd already figured that out herself.

"Let me take you home, Sarah. My car's running, so it'll be nice and warm. I can't just leave you here to freeze." At her hesitation he added, "It's just a ride, Sarah. I won't do anything you don't wish for."

Wish. Hah, there was another word she wasn't fond of.

"I don't wish for anything these days," she told him, getting out of her car because there was no logic staying inside to freeze.

She thought she heard him say "I know," but then he was walking towards his car and holding open the passenger door for her, and she was too cold to care about anything she may or may not have heard.

.

True to his word, Leon drove straight to her apartment, stopping only at a fast-food joint—the only one open in the bad weather—to get them both something warm to eat. Despite Sarah's insistence, Leon paid without even an argument.

He didn't even try and park the vehicle. He simply stopped outside her building's front door, and waited.

She grabbed the garbage, both his and hers, to throw away as she headed up, and thanked him. As she put her hand on the car handle, he said her name.

Surprised, she turned to look at him, and for once, Leon looked very serious.

"A life without wishes and dreams isn't a life at all."

He didn't say anything else, and once she'd recovered her shock, she left.

But she thought about his words the rest of the night, and never fully shook them from her mind.

.

The snowstorm came and went, but as always, little changed at work.

Except with Leon. Instead of blatantly flirting with her, Leon now looked at her as though she was a puzzle he couldn't quite solve.

Sarah didn't know what to say to him, so she said nothing.

But as the days passed, she began to find little trinkets at her desk. A red rose, a new fountain pen adorned with engraved daisy flowers, a silvery pair of calla lily earrings, yellow tulip hair decorations, a jasmine-banded watch, and even a magnolia necklace graced her work desk.

Everything had something to do with flowers, and it felt like there was a message being conveyed to her that she simply wasn't grasping. None of them came with a note, and no one at the office seemed particularly interested in her reactions to the gifts. Even Leon seemed disinterested, so she was simply at a loss to figure out who was sending them.

But her gifts were all beautiful. She took each one home, careful not to cause any harm to these precious surprises, but she didn't wear or use any of them. She didn't dare. These items were for someone who still found beauty in the world, for someone who still was full of life and love.

Sarah didn't. She felt hollow inside.

When she didn't use her gifts, they suddenly changed. Instead of items decorated to resemble flowers, she received something far more practical: food.

At first, it was a box of chocolates, which she tried to share with Sharon. Sharon, however, refused to sample a "lovers' gift," so Sarah was left to eat them alone.

The box of chocolates was followed by a guava pastry, which was then followed by a light lunch of finger food. After that, she received an edible arrangement of candied fruits, and that was followed by a cheese and fruit plate. And on and on it went.

The food was delicious, all of it, but none of it came with a store label or a card. She still had no idea who was sending her stuff, but it didn't feel creepy.

Rather, for the first time, Sarah felt...cared for. If she didn't express a marked interest in something, the next item she received was totally different. Someone at the office was paying attention to her, and all it seemed they wanted as for her to be happy.

Whoever her mystery person was, she was grateful, and she was happier. Not happy, perhaps, not yet, but definitely happier.

And as the days turned into weeks, Sarah found herself humming from time to time. Winter was slowly giving way to spring, and Sarah felt herself coming back to life with the flowers.

But Sarah faltered when she received a ticket to see a magic show.

Chapter Text

Flowers, food, magic show.

Magic show, food, flowers.

No matter how Sarah tried to process it, it simply didn't compute. A secret admirer sending food? Relatively normal. An admirer sending floral themed gifts and knickknacks? Less normal, but not outside the scope and sphere of lover gifts.

But magic show tickets?

It wouldn't be odd if Sarah went to magic shows, but she didn't. She didn't even talk about magic. She couldn't even bring herself to read the Harry Potter book that was beginning to take the world by storm, because she could still remember what happened the last time she'd read a book about magic.

She didn't stop having dreams about the labyrinth until she was eighteen, and that was only after nearly a year of therapy that Irene had insisted on. Irene had finally convinced Robert that Sarah was having trouble coping with his divorce and subsequent marriage, and that she needed someone to talk to.

In the end, Irene hadn't been wrong, but it had been one more thing Sarah had resented Irene for at the time. After therapy, however, Sarah at least could accept that her parents were happy with the divorce, and she finally realized that Irene didn't hate her.

Irene simply hadn't known what to do with a teenaged stepdaughter at first, any more than Sarah had known what to do with a stepmother. And in the end, though Sarah still had to remind herself not to feel guilty about it, Irene had become family, a mentor to her, and more of a motherly figure than Sarah's own mother was fully capable of being.

But they both loved her, in their own way.

The ticket to the magic show, however, reminded her of everything she'd tried to forget. Adults didn't believe in fairytales or goblin kings or magic spells, after all. They were too boggled down by real world problems like taxes and budget and mortgages to believe that magic could fix everything.

So, she wouldn't go, and that was final.

.

But when the date of the magic show arrived, Sarah paced in her apartment restlessly, over and over again. She nearly tripped over her Ragdoll cat, Mogle, several times as she paced, until she finally had to pick him up and place him on the couch so she wouldn't trample him.

She wouldn't go, she'd already decided that.

Yet Sarah couldn't stop pacing. She tried going for a walk, but she ended up back home when she hadn't been able to put a destination in her mind. She tried cooking herself a nice lunch, but she couldn't taste it.

Finally, Sarah decided she'd go to the magic show that night, but only for a quick moment. She'd get in, eat the free meal that went with the ticket, and once she'd proven to herself that the magician's magic was nothing more than an elaborate parlor trick, she'd go home.

As she began searching for something nice to wear—her mind was treating it as a date though Sarah had no idea if her mystery admirer would show up or not—her phone rang, and she picked it up without answering because there was really only one person who'd call her on a Saturday afternoon.

"Hello, Irene."

"Sarah!" Irene sounded happy, as usual. "Toby, Sarah's on the phone!"

Toby, who was twelve now, replied with a disinterested, "Hello, Sarah."

Sarah tried not to take offense. She'd been pretty rotten as a teenager herself, and she'd even taken some of it out on him, so she supposed in a way, it was only fair.

She only winced a little at the word.

"Hey, Toby. How are you?" Sarah tried to keep it light so Toby wouldn't feel pressured. In all fairness—she winced again—Toby had been pretty withdrawn in general the last time she went home to visit, barely even talking to his parents, let alone Sarah.

Irene blamed the Gameboy for Toby's recent withdrawal.

"OK." Toby paused, and then blurted, "You didn't come home for Christmas."

"No," Sarah agreed, surprised. She hadn't come home the week before because Tom had only given them Christmas day off and it was too far of a drive to make it back to work. "I'm sorry, Toby. You liked your present though, right?"

"Yeah!" Toby suddenly sounded excited. "I thought the Gameboy Colors had sold out like months ago! Thank you, Sarah!"

Well, they had, but Sarah had no social life, so waiting in line the weekend after release for one hadn't been much trouble. "Well," she said lightly, "it was your only Christmas wish, wasn't it?"

"Yes, and you're the best sister ever." Toby sounded excited, but then he handed the phone back to Irene with a: "Here, Mom."

"Sorry, Sarah. That boy and his video game, I swear." Irene sounded fondly exasperated. "Your father and I both loved our gifts, too, Sarah. I hope you're putting ours to good use."

Sarah thumbed the hangers over to the dress Irene had sent as Irene spoke. "Oh, I'm wearing it tonight," Sarah said absently, staring at the dress. It was definitely a more mature style Irene preferred, and Sarah wasn't sure she could pull off the midnight blue color.

"Oh, Sarah, I'm so glad! Robert and I were just talking about how we hoped you'd bring a boy home soon. What's his name?"

Sarah froze. Irene assumed she was going on a date, which made sense, Sarah realized, because the dress was a halter dress that would show off a good bit of cleavage and most of Sarah's bare back. Panicked, she blurted, "Leon."

And then she wanted to smack herself. Why had she said Leon?

Probably because he was the only guy in recent memory to even flirt with her, she reminded herself.

"Oh, that's wonderful!" Irene clapped her hands together. "Where's he taking you?"

"Ah, a magic show."

Sarah must not have sounded appropriately excited, because Irene immediately tsked. "Now, Sarah, that's a perfectly romantic date. After all, what boy doesn't want to bring a little magic to his lover's life?"

Sarah stared down at the ticket on her dresser as Irene continued to talk about dating. A little magic to my life...?

She abruptly remembered Leon's parting words from several weeks back. A life without wishes and dreams isn't a life at all.

She gasped and suddenly realized her lie probably wasn't a lie at all. "Sorry, Irene, I have to get ready!" she blurted, and disconnected the call before her stepmother had a chance to reply.

Oh god, she was going on a date with Leon...to a magic show.

There was no way, she told herself firmly. No way she'd go at all.

.

Sarah stood outside the little building that had the address on her ticket.

She wore Irene's dress and a diamond bracelet, her holiday gift, and the little snowflake necklace that Irene's card noted Toby had picked out for her. She'd pulled up her hair in a fancy updo, had carefully put on her makeup, and wore a warm faux-fur wrap in light of the snowy weather. And for the first time, she'd picked up one of her gifts, and donned the lily earrings. She'd tucked the daisy fountain pen into her clutch, but the others she'd left behind as impractical for her current attire.

She felt hopelessly overdressed for a little magic show, but she hadn't been able to resist.

She wanted to feel beautiful in the way she hadn't since that beautiful little dream she'd had once, years ago, when she'd dreamt she'd danced with a goblin king.

Why this date was different, Sarah didn't know. She'd dated before—mostly in college, and they'd never ended well, but she'd dated. Leon—and she'd accepted in her head that it was Leon—wasn't really any different from the men she'd dated before. Was he?

Nervously she hovered in front of the single glass door that led into the building. It was made of smoky glass so she couldn't see inside, and she was a little later than she'd planned, so there wasn't a crowd to walk in with. In fact, no one was outside, and if Leon had indeed sent the tickets, he wasn't waiting outside in the snow and cold for her to show up.

Maybe he'd given up on her. The show had started two minutes ago, according to her ticket, so perhaps he'd assumed she wasn't coming.

Sarah took a deep breath and forced herself to grab the handle and pull the door open before she missed the show, or her nerves abandoned her and she fled. She stepped inside, but she didn't see anyone who appeared to be staff to hand her ticket to, and most of the seats were already full. The room itself was fairly simple; there was a large wooden stage at the rear center, and the seats were little benches. She didn't see any tables, so she wasn't sure how the food was served, but that wasn't important.

She simply wanted to sit down before anyone walked on stage and noticed her nervous hovering.

She found an empty seat in the dead center of the room and all but ran to sit into it, paying little attention to her neighbors. She didn't notice anyone offhand who looked like Leon, but the lights were dim. If he was here, she'd find him after the show and apologize for being late before she went home.

Yes, that sounded like a good plan.

As she tried to make herself comfortable, a masked man, draped in a large leather cloak and wearing all black, walked onto the stage and the crowd felt silent.

"Tonight," he said once he'd reached the center of the stage, "I am your magician, here to enchant and bespell you. No tricks, no secrets, just real and beautiful magic." As he spoke, he tossed a handful of glitter up, and as he breathed on it, it turned into tiny bursts of fireworks.

Sarah caught her breath as people around her clapped. No matter what he said, there had to be a logical explanation, but it looked so real.

"I am the masked magician," the man said, giving a short, courtly bow, and Sarah couldn't help but feel that he seemed familiar, somehow. But he was too far away to see ay features, even if he wasn't wearing a mask. "And tonight, my dear guests," was it her imagination, or did he seem to look right at her as he straightened? "I shall take you on an adventure the likes of which you've never seen."

He threw his cloak off of his shoulders in a grand flourish, and it seemed to float down to form a table in front of him, and people clapped again. He waved a hand in a careless gesture, and a vase of roses at on top of the cloak-table. The roses were all sorts of colors: red, pink, yellow, and even a single blue.

With a wide gesture and a wink Sarah barely made out, the roses were dispursed. Every woman received a floating rose in front of her, but the one that drifted towards Sarah wasn't pink or red, but the sole blue rose.

"Every woman here deserves a flower as beautiful as she is," the magician said as Sarah took the flower, and she couldn't help but feel that the words were meant for her alone.

"Now, onto the show!"

.

The magic show had continued well over an hour, and it seemed that each of the magician's tricks was trying to upstage the one before it. After the roses, the masked magician had made himself disappear, and then had reappeared with a handful of what he'd called "fairy bread" that he tossed into the crowd. They were individually wrapped so Sarah kept the one she caught, but she hadn't been hungry enough to eat it.

After the bread, the magician had called his assistant to the stage, a young boy, and placed him into a box. The magician had then cut into the box and split the boy in two, but when the magician put the box back together and opened the box back up, the boy was nowhere to be found. Instead, the box was full of little baskets of cheeses and sausages, which the boy appeared out of nowhere to serve the guests.

In fact, all of the tricks had resulted in gifts for the crowd, and Sarah realized the ticket must have cost an astronomical amount of money. Otherwise, the magician couldn't afford to keep giving things away. By the end of the show, Sarah ha also received a small basket for fruits that had been pulled from the magician's hat, a daisy flower crown that the magician had created out of a single scarf, and an little embroidered dragon-stitched bag, big enough to hold all the other items, that the magician had summoned from thin air. Sarah had immediately tucked her other 'gifts' inside the dragon bag.

Finally the magician semed to be winding down. He sent his assistant back off stage, and then with a wide smile, announced, "It's time for the last bit of magic. Would the lady who received the blue rose please step onto the stage?"

Sarah froze as she clutched her bag closer. She didn't want to go up on stage, and since her flower was hidden in her bag, he had no way of knowing it was her.

When no one moved, the masked magician stepped towards the very edge of his stage. "Sarah, if you would be so kind."

Sarah inhaled sharply, but the magician as looking right at her, so it didn't seem like she had much choice. Somehow the magician knew who she was, and she couldn't help but wonder if this whole thing had been orchestrated by Leon.

But for what purpose?

She reluctantly stood up, the bag still clutched in her hand, and made her way onto the stage. Now that she was closer, she could see the magician's blond hair, tied at the nape of his neck, and the color of his eyes, but it sparked no recognition.

Which meant the magician wasn't Leon, at least, not that she'd really thought it was. Leon was sitting somewhere in the crowd, if he was even there at all.

"Good girl," the magician said quietly, for her ears alone. "Please sit on this chair and close your eyes."

Sarah looked around the empty stage. The magician had redonned his cloak, so there was no furniture at all on stage. "What chair?"

The magician sighed. "Don't look with your eyes, Sarah. Look with your heart."

Sarah wanted to scoff, but held back out of politeness. "That's just a metaphor."

"Is it?" The magician raised a blond brow until it rose above his silvery mask.

Bemused, Sarah nodded.

The magician seemed disappointed, but he twirled his cloak to form a chair for her, and bade her again to sit and close her eyes.

Sarah sat, and closed them.

"Don't peak, Sarah," the magician cautioned her. "For my last bit of magic tonight, I'm going to fulfill one of your fantasies." She felt a wisp of cold air, and before she could tell him that she didn't have any, he said, "Open your eyes, Sarah."

When she opened her eyes, she wasn't in the room any longer, full of fellow people enjoying a magic show. She was in the middle of a grand ballroom, alone, but though she couldn't say the place looked familiar, she had the feeling she'd been there before.

And then she saw Jareth, the goblin king, walking towards her, dressed in glittery garb of gold and silver.

"Hello, Sarah."

Chapter Text

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.