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The Champion with No Name

Chapter Text

 

 


 

"War does not determine who is right, only who is left." – Bertrand Russell


 

Six Years Prior…

He sat there, kneeling in the destroyed remnants of the west wing that had been inspired by one of the posters in her bedroom, for what seemed like hours. He'd crafted it meticulously, certain that it would be the final piece to the puzzle that was the willfully determined girl he had to beat and would secure his success.

He had been wrong.

The place was eerie and quiet – no goblins, no other denizens, friendly or otherwise, disturbed him. He didn't register the passage of time, only realizing the length in which he had remained there when his knees began to ache from where they were pressed to the stone floor underneath him.

Snarling, he shoved a hand forward and shattered another block of the stone wall in front of him, watching the sharp chunks of stone float away in the chaotic heap of unconstrained magic the room had been reduced to.

Willing a crystal into his palm, he stared as she returned to her room in accordance with the old rules formed by the Underground and the Labyrinth itself. Still, despite his anger, he found himself begrudgingly impressed. A mortal – a girl no less – had bested him at his own game and done it fairly.

Closing his eyes and tapping into his power, he felt the magic pull at his flesh and he was suddenly spreading his wings and flying, hovering above her home. Casting an eye downwards, he watched her parents return and idly heard their calls for her. She responded, then seemed quiet for a moment, only to hear his own subjects suddenly voice their presence.

Gliding down, he settled into the branches of the tree across from her room, watching what unfolded. Rancor flooded his senses briefly as he watched his subjects dance with her, enjoying in her ruin of him, but still he stood guard. He could sense the Labyrinth portal in her mirror and his talons briefly dug into the bark of the branch he held onto but he did nothing – simply continuing to stare.

For the oddest of reasons, one he couldn't press to explain if he tried, he closed his predatory eyes and willed a silent command on a whim to the occupants within the home. So quick it would be hard-pressed to notice without a trained eye, ice crystals formed on the window and then on the girl's skin and her guests, making them briefly pause in their festivities and shiver for a moment before the cold marks were gone.

She turned then, when the group had frozen for a moment, almost spotting him, but he'd since flown away, only seeing the small twist of her form before he had stretched his wings and released his hold on the branch outside her window.

He knew there would be consequences to the summation of tonight's events and he had to prepare.


 

The runner was failing.

He smiled briefly into the crystal he'd summoned between his fingers, twirling the loose stone before releasing it into the ether, studying the small child of two that sat in the center pit of his throne room. He felt the Labyrinth's power building as the frustrations of the mortal increased.

It wouldn't be long now.

Casting a hand upwards, he generated the summons to the fiefdoms who'd recently requested access to the lost child, willing them off to their suitable notaries.

Canting his head to the side, he looked down at the sight before him and relished his most recent upcoming victory, the bud of growing power at the mortal's impending loss almost ripe for the picking. The girl was small, dirty, and half-starved, clearly from a harsh area of the Aboveground. By the looks of the girl, he'd been surprised that the cousin had been determined to run for her. Still, given both their states, it wouldn't be long until the boy gave up.

The goblins had taken to her almost immediately, shoving little bits of food and drink in her mouth when she'd arrived screaming and hungry. They had coaxed her into submission and now she was grinning and playfully chewing on whatever the creatures found to feed her, obviously more than whatever had been sustaining her previously – a sign of how dire her previous circumstances had been by the willingness to eat whatever was offered.

His eyes shifted as he felt a cold presence appear in his throne room, glancing across the recesses of the space to find a smirking member of the peerage studying him with cold eyes. The room and the thrumming rustle of the goblin's activities suddenly ceased, sensing her alien presence in the room. The woman seemed unphased at the amount of yellow and red eyes staring at her in silence.

"Good morning, Neverin. What brings you to the Labyrinth?" He replied calmly, forcing any inflection out of his voice as he addressed the viscountess.

The woman smiled dispassionately, her blonde ethereal beauty in stark contrast to the crude creatures gracing the floor and walls of his throne room. She stepped forward, her red velvet skirts swishing quietly along the discarded litter that crunched under her heels, tilting her head and giving the child a brief glance before looking back at Jareth. If she was disgusted by the filth he purposefully let his creatures maintain in his throne room, it didn't show. That briefly disappointed him but also made his observation of her sharpen – she was here with a purpose if she was willing to soil her dress in an effort to talk to him.

"You have not answered your summons to Lucius. I am here as a reminder that they cannot be ignored much longer."

Jareth felt his insides tense but snorted faintly with a hint of disrespect. "I am not his jester, free to do his bidding as he wants on a whim. I have a runner, as you can see." He summoned a crystal and gestured at the boy struggling to make it past the stone pillars at the beginning of the Labyrinth.

Briefly, his thoughts betrayed him as he turned his gaze to watch the boy, thinking back to four months ago when she had been the runner in question. She had made it much further by the sixth hour. What a pity.

"I can tell," she replied calmly, looking back at him as the crystal vanished from his fingertips. "Still, you have not had runners the entire past fortnight since you received the summons. Explain."

Jareth sat up and stood, slowly descending the raised dais his throne rested on to peer down at the child. He felt a few of the missives he'd sent out return from the ether, raising a hand and reviewing the replies, ignoring the woman beside him for a moment.

Troll claim, gnome claim, sprite claim. Glancing over the girl's weakened form, he dismissed the first two and replied to the sprite notary that the girl would be released to their court at the succession of the run, sending his response back into the ether.

"I'm waiting," the woman smoothly interjected into the silence of the throne room at his side. Jareth glanced back at her and contemplated his choices, keeping his face schooled. He knew it would only been a matter of time before they'd come.

"The run shall be concluded in seven hours. I shall arrive shortly after," he replied.

The woman nodded and soon vanished from sight. He summoned his crop and stood there, staring at the spot she'd been in for several minutes. Slowly, the goblins shifted, nervously eyeing their monarch.

In a whirl too fast to catch to any but a fae, he turned sharply and shattered a casket of ale they'd been drinking with his free fist, the noise sudden and deafening. The child jumped, startled, and began crying loudly in fright.

"Call me when the boy gives up," he snarled, stalking out of the throne room, the goblins nodding and quickly moving out of his way.


 

He shifted effortlessly into the center of the crowded court room, dressed in silky dark tones indicating his station that best suited his silvery-blonde coloring, the rich brocade reflecting the glow from the lanterns scattered around the cavernous room. The court panel lounged in their seats ahead of him in a raised dais with stone chairs of impressive stature, the High King seated at the throne in the center. They hadn't appeared to be waiting long, dropping their casual conversation to stare at him with crisp intensity when he appeared.

Sweeping back his coattails, Jareth bowed in the presence of Lucius and ignored the peerage behind him who had pressed their heads together and begun to whisper the moment he had arrived. He had expected some turnout but the rumors of what had occurred must have become common knowledge with the size of the murmuring crowd at his back. Rising slowly, he heard the quick rap of a gavel, indicating his summons hearing was in progress.

A stillness descended in the marbled opulence of the court room and Jareth waited idly for the first question, schooling the impatience he felt out of his features.

"Your run was successful in adding ranks to the sprite kingdom?" Began the High King, casting a disdainful glance over Jareth's form. Jareth could feel a brush of mind magic tease his senses and he tightened his defenses, feeling the sensation fade with a slow gleam in his eyes as he shut down the probing magic. Did you think it would be that easy?

"Yes, Your Grace. The girl joined them within the hour," he replied with a slow smile, noting the flare of animosity that briefly entered Lucius' eyes as he answered, reaffirming Jareth's theory that the probe had been from him.

"Good, good," Lucius interjected, overriding the last bit of Jareth's words. "The sprite kingdom has had dwindling numbers. I assume she did not meet the requirements of the other two petitions?"

Jareth stared, forcing his smile to remain in place despite his annoyance rising. He'd expected the High King to be monitoring him, but not to that degree. "Indeed, Your Grace. She was too fragile to survive the transformation of the other two. Better to add to the sprite population than risk a loss to the Underground as a whole, wouldn't you agree?"

Lucius nodded, glancing down at some thick parchments in front of him, ignoring the soft retort of Jareth's words. "You've been the steward of the Labyrinth for the past four centuries, correct?"

Jareth nodded, confirming with words what the entire courtroom already knew. "Correct…"

"And have you ever lost to a contestant in all that time?" Lucius asked, looking up sharply, his eyes narrowing, daring Jareth to utter a word out of line.

Jareth hesitated, forcing another slow smile on his lips. "Once."

The crowd burst to life then, the rustle of fabric reaching Jareth's ears as he kept his gaze locked with Lucius' own, no doubt springing at the chance to gossip in the background. The older man smiled from his perch, showing a hint of sharp teeth. Jareth didn't rise to the bait, simply staring back without emotion. He had known this was coming.

"And yet, you failed to notify the court." Lucius stated with overt tones, watching Jareth curiously as he set the parchments down, gesturing to them. "The Underground sustained a considerable drain at the loss of this runner and yet you did not attempt to capture and return her to regain this magic?"

"I did not, Your Grace."

Outraged cries came from the peerage behind him but Jareth remained still, watching the gleam enter Lucius' eyes. He knew the man had wanted him dethroned for centuries and now he was giving him his chance. Still, he could tell he rankled the man by not rising to the bait of playing the outraged victim.

"And by failing to do so, you allowed the very essence of our world to lose a source of stability and denied the court their established right to summon the Nokmim. Why?"

Again, he hesitated, a flash of Sarah appearing in his mind's eye. Because she bested me. We are not Gods, despite our attempts to be one. She – a mortal girl of fifteen – bested me. Countless runners have lost to me over the centuries and she won. She deserves her spoils. Despite the thoughts running rampant through his head, he held Lucius' gaze and answered simply, the peerage behind him having gone eagerly quiet, awaiting his answer. "Because she won fairly, Your Grace."

Explosive shouts erupted behind him as the High King smirked. Jareth stared, refusing to reduce himself to seeking mercy, knowing he would garner none. He knew the others would react just as they had now but he was firm in allowing Sarah her victory. He hadn't played fair and still she had won – he'd not let them take that from her now. Besides, the die had been cast the moment he'd visited her in the throes of her victory at her mortal home. Briefly, Lucius raised a hand and Jareth once more heard the crash of the gavel and silence descended once more in the large room.

"This court cares nothing for the fairness of mortals, you know this. Tell us the mortal's name and all will be forgiven. No one can be perfect all the time, even Kings. Give us the mortal's name and you can carry on in your duties unimpeded…" He flashed Jareth a knowing smile and Jareth knew then that he'd discovered what he had done.

"No," he replied softly, his eyes flashing despite the subdued sound of his voice. Another riot of shouts echoed out from behind him but he ignored them again. Lucius smiled perversely, the gleam in the depths of his stare telling him he enjoyed seeing Jareth's reputation drown in the eyes of the court. Still, he held his ground, keeping his expression void of emotion.

"This troubles me, Jareth, and it appears that it troubles the court and peerage, too." A loud chorus of agreements rolled over the crowd in swift succession of his words. Lucius smiled briefly around the room but motioned for the crowd to quiet, returning his gaze back towards Jareth once the crowd had settled into silence once more. "The Labyrinth is a vital source of magic for us and you let a mere mortal escape our realm and now refuse to give this mortal's name. Yet, despite these concerning actions, I assume you still see yourself fit to rule over the Labyrinth and all the responsibilities there?"

"Of course, Your Grace. You will note we've yet to have another victor."

"But if we did? Would you find, in your arrogance, that your judgment should supersede that of this court and once more turn the victor back to the mortal realm without notifying this council?" Lucius replied smoothly, canting his head to the side.

Jareth kept wisely quiet but the harsh epithets coming from behind him indicated there would be a reckoning to be had. Still, he'd set his fate some four months prior and requesting clemency would do little for him now and he wouldn't give Lucius the pleasure. Lucius stared, the tightening of his mouth subtle but enough for Jareth to notice, then turned his gaze to the floor, watching as Neverin entered the court from a side door, dressed in an exquisite dress of fine blue silk.

Jareth glanced back over at the woman who'd appeared before him earlier, biting the inside of his cheek to hold back the snort that threatened to roll out of him. Neverin was a viscountess and a powerful magic user and he immediately knew her reasoning for appearing. She was also a favorite of Lucius' notorious carnal appetites, having held his undivided attention far longer than Jareth had originally thought she would. He glanced back up at the High King, feeling his predatory gaze turned towards him and Lucius smiled once more, the expression an exercise in irony.

"Neverin, dear, thank you for joining us on such short notice. Please, discover the name of this mortal the Goblin King insists on keeping from us." The woman smiled up at the High King and bowed, moving towards Jareth. He didn't bother protesting, settling into the chair that was summoned at his side, gently brushing his coattails back as he sat, watching the woman approach.

Lucius continued on in the background. "Let it be known that an outside source had to be summoned to grant the court the name of this mystery mortal. A secondary trial for the competence of the current Goblin King's continued hold on the throne of the Labyrinth will be held at a later date. It is a pity, had he not withheld her name, he would not be facing these trials. One must begin to suspect his motivations towards us, my fellow peers."

Jareth did snort then, knowing there would be no trial. He closed his eyes as Neverin approached, hearing the soft clink of her heels against the marble. Her fingers skated along his temples and suddenly he felt the sharp pull of her magic. She hadn't chosen to be gentle and he had expected nothing less, ready for the unblunted singe of her probe.

She jerked back, staring at him with a brief stunned expression and he had to catch himself from swaying at the immediate absence of the pain, which had almost been as jarring as the sudden impact of her magic. Still, he managed to hold her gaze briefly with a look of sardonic amusement. Color scalded the hollow of her cheeks, the only indication of her ire, and she turned her gaze back to Lucius, who watched them with interest from his perch.

"I can't see the name," she stated in a brittle tone. Lucius' expression slowly turned dark as the crowd behind him once more rippled with gossip, too leery of the king's rising anger to outright shout at this stage in the hearing.

"Summon a denizen of the Labyrinth, test them. Do it." He hissed, gripping the armrests of his throne as he glowered at Jareth.

Jareth smiled slowly back. Checkmate. You didn't think I would have realized that?

Neverin stepped away sharply from Jareth and waved a hand at her side. Suddenly, Hoggle appeared, looking startled and frightened. He cast Jareth an imploring gaze but Jareth ignored him. Despite his frustrations with the dwarf, he didn't want the creature hurt but there was nothing to be done now but watch. Hoggle turned in trepidation, suddenly catching sight of Neverin and the court panel. Realizing who he was in the presence of, he cowered on the marble floor and pulled his cap off his head. "Y-Your Grace….?"

"Silence, dwarf. Neverin, continue." Lucius commanded, ignoring Hoggle's pleading gaze. Neverin stepped towards the dwarf with a brief flicker of disdain but did as she was asked, gripping the temple of the aged dwarf between her smooth fingers and probing ruthlessly. Unlike Jareth, Hoggle let out a wrenched cry and jerked in Neverin's grasp but her hold was too strong to wrestle out of. Eventually, she stopped and Hoggle flung himself away from the woman, curling into a ball on the marble floor and letting out a series of pained moans. Lucius rolled his eyes at the sight of Hoggle and gestured at the dwarf with impatience and Neverin vanished him back to where she must have plucked him from the outskirts of the Labyrinth before she turned once more to the King.

Again, her agitation was briefly apparent, but she looked up at the King with a clean expression, her tone concise as she delivered her findings. "There is no memory of a recent run with a mortal victory there. He has suppressed it somehow. I was unable to negate the spell."

Lucius' expression turned thunderous as he jerked to a stand when he heard Neverin's words, a wave of outrage sweeping up from the crowd behind him in tandem with his rising anger. "You dare!"

Jareth simply flashed another sliver of a smile and shrugged a single shoulder, feeling the combined wrath of the peerage behind him as they demanded his crown and his blood for his actions.

Lucius stared venomously at Jareth, jerking his hand at the guards by the court panel to circle around the Goblin King. "Seize him! Restrain him!"

Jareth didn't protest again when four knights rushed up and restrained him with rough grips. He felt the cold shackles of magic suppressing cuffs lock around his wrists, watching Lucius all the while, finally allowing a glimmer of amusement to reflect in his eyes. He felt the chair dissolve underneath him and did not grunt when his knees painfully hit the cold marble floor beneath him, keeping his composure, which only seemed to agitate the High King more. Relishing his small victory, despite his losses, he leaned back on his heels, watching Lucius' rage suffuse his face with a small measure of delight.

"Jareth, King of the Goblins and custodian of the Labyrinth, you are forthwith stripped of your title and powers associated with the land. You will remain in custody while the measure of your crimes are discussed with the fellow peers of this court panel. In the interim, Viscountess Neverin will assume your title and all its responsibilities, effective immediately."

Jareth threw back his head and laughed, letting rancor color his voice. "Neverin? Well, it certainly helps your political aspirations if the new sovereign is your bedmate, does it not? How does Queen Maeve feel about your decision, oh high one?"

With that, Jareth felt a blow to his temple, making his head spin. Lucius had stood, shouting down at him, but he was no longer able to make out the words, a warm flow coating his eyes and eventually making his vision cloudy at best. When it reached his lips, he realized it was blood.

Flashing the crowd a bloody smile when it coated his teeth, he allowed himself to succumb to the edging blackness, losing consciousness.


 

Hours later, Jareth woke with cramped muscles and a searing headache, his arms twisted painfully beneath him where the magic suppressing cuffs still held him bound. Lifting his head, hissing at the sudden sharp pain that exploded behind his eyelids, he gingerly rolled onto his side and sat up, pressing his back against the nearest wall and letting his eyesight adjust to the darkened room.

It was an oubliette.

Fitting, he thought.

A rustle drew his gaze and he turned his eyes towards the noise, watching as Neverin made her appearance known. She kneeled down beside Jareth, still dressed in her silk finery from earlier that morning, reaching out to touch his temple with a concerned sound escaping her lips.

He was simply too tired to resist her touch, watching her as she smiled coldly while she fondled his wound with a light caress, looking amused at his expense. After a few moments, his head cleared. She had healed him.

"Why?" He asked, actually curious. He knew there was no love lost between them.

"I can't have my newest pet suffering unnecessarily. I will be a generous Goblin Queen, after all. You and I have work to do."

Jareth tensed, watching her impassively. He snorted after a moment, casting his eyes away from her. "You bluff."

"Do I?" Neverin responded sweetly. Jareth glanced back at her and she smiled again, making him inwardly suspicious. "Still, I'll give you time to contemplate the choices ahead of you. The court allowed me to merit out additional punishments on your crimes and I do so love to be creative. How does a few years in this dark hole sound, with barely enough food to feed your pathetic mortal-loving self? I think it sounds fair, don't you?"

Jareth grit his teeth as she faded from view, her laughter echoing off the walls. Still, he closed his eyes and thought of Sarah, a small smile playing at his lips, remembering some of the lyrics he'd sung her in the dreamscape. He was bitter, yes, but finally decided to embrace his fate after having cast the spell of forgetfulness around her those four months ago. I'll be there for you, as the world falls down…

But instead, it seemed to be as his did. The irony did not escape him as the meager lights in his cell blinked out, swallowing him in darkness.


 

Present Day – Vienna, Austria

The open market had been bustling for several hours, sellers and buyers bargaining amicably as the lone woman moved through the crowd, dissolving in the forgetful safety of large numbers. Tugging her hood lower, her dark scarf riding high on her face and her worn backpack pressing against her back, she pointed at a few overripe and half rotten fruit, negotiating a vendor down in German from his original price to a mere trade of a few loose shillings. Tucking the purchases in the large front pockets of her coat, she nodded her thanks and moved away from the stand.

Instantly, she felt a probe touch along her senses and picked up her pace, not so much to be noticeable but enough that she'd gain a few extra seconds if she was lucky. Moving quickly between carts and tents of various merchants, she reached into her pocket and found what she searched for, gripping the small knife firmly between her fingers.

When she walked briskly into the alley at the end of the market, she felt the movement behind her. Appearing oblivious, she let her gait slow briefly when the follower grabbed for her, using his momentum against him as she dropped and whirled, throwing him off balance and settling on top of him, pinning his arms and legs underneath her with her weight.

Before he could jerk his hands up to attack, she smoothly pressed the edge of her blade against his throat, relieved her brief element of surprise allowed her to gain the upper hand.

That was too close, Williams.

She could tell it was a man, or as close to a man as he could ever be, her eyes roaming over his face without expression.

"You smell ripe, mortal filth…" The fae hunter hissed, making her smile, referring to her magic. Roughly, she slammed the heel of her free hand down on his forehead and summoned the best of her rudimentary skills, making the man seize underneath her as she pilfered through his memories, not caring or having the knowledge yet to do it delicately.

Satisfied when she saw no images of her family or of a certain King, she jerked her hand back and stood. The fae struggled to overcome the effects of the spell and she used the opportunity to kick his jaw violently with the heel of her boot. He jerked against the blow, his lip exploding with blood all over his face, then sprawled out loosely in the alley, losing consciousness. Sarah reached down and went through his pockets, stealing what little currency she could find along with his coat, scarf and boots, tucking them into the backpack that graced her shoulders. By his appearance and the glamour still in place, he would appear as a simple mugging victim to any mundanes that happened upon him.

Murmuring something underneath her breath, she erased her presence from his mind and stood, moving again with a slow gait back the way she'd been heading, leaving the hunter to a rather confused and rude awakening. Better than what they show us, she thought with bitterness. Still, she wasn't ready to take a life, no matter how much sense it made. For now, she'd stick with leaving them with a gap in their memory and missing a few items.

After an hour's hike into the industrial section of the city, Sarah stilled, whistling out a distinctive noise. An abandoned warehouse in the distance briefly rippled and she stepped forward again, smiling and waving at the guards along the roof that hadn't been there mere seconds before.

"Ah, Sarah!" A baritone voice called from across the street, making her grin and roll her eyes as she tugged the hood of her jacket back and unwound the scarf from the lower half of her face.

"Hey, Jonas. Early bird got you up this morning? I'm shocked." She teased, reaching into one of her pockets and tossing him two apples. He kissed the skin of each fruit and offered her a gesture of thanks as he came up and fell alongside her as she headed towards the warehouse.

"Schatz, you've brought me breakfast and everything. I knew you liked me." He leaned in, quickly grabbing her cheek and pressing a quick kiss to her jaw before jerking back from Sarah's immediate swing, laughing faintly and taking a bite out of one apple, pocketing the other.

"You touch me like that again and you'll have no more breakfast…or hands." She warned him, keeping her tone light but making sure he understood the underlying strength to her threat. Jonas seemed unphased with the simple shrug he gave her.

"Eoin is asking for you. We had a new arrival today."

Sarah paused in her stride to the warehouse, surprise briefly flickering over her features. "When did they arrive?" She asked, frowning.

"About three hours ago, when you were out. Where did you run off to, by the way? Eoin wouldn't explain." Jonas watched her curiously, a blade of dark hair shifting over his forehead as he tilted his head, studying her with intense brown eyes.

Sarah deliberately left his question hanging in the air, turning away from him to head towards the warehouse again. She heard Jonas' faint sigh then smiled at his call. "Thanks for breakfast, Schatz!"

Wandering inside, nodding briefly to those she spotted, she climbed the rusted steps to the upper floors of the warehouse. The entirety of the building screamed neglect and disrepair, but to the trained eye one could see the improvements that were being done. Walls were being constructed on the first floor, as were showers and a small rudimentary kitchen. It had taken them several months to smuggle in the parts to allow for functional plumbing and electricity but the excitement of the others was tangible. They were finally making progress in this assembled sanctuary.

"Eoin?" Sarah called, shrugging off her backpack and tossing it onto a repaired chaise lounge by the entry to the upper sanctum of the warehouse. She tilted her head down the long hallway that ran parallel to the open deliberation room. Her eyes paused on the row of doors, spotting her own amongst the other leaders, seeing no turn of a handle in response to her call.

Frowning, she stilled when she heard a rustle of fabric across the room. Turning her gaze, she spotted a waifish boy with a dark complexion crawl out from a hiding spot behind a couch against the far wall. Smiling faintly, she reached into her pocket and plucked another apple from her coat.

"Good morning. What's your name? Are you hungry?"

The boy didn't answer so Sarah simply tossed him the apple. The boy jumped back and stared at her but eventually hunger seemed to win out and he snatched up the fruit, devouring it with the forced ravenous movements of someone who had skipped too many meals in their life.

Frowning again, this time out of concern, Sarah eased across the room, in the opposite direction of the boy, settling down in another couch to eat her own apple, the last she had left. Tugging her feet up on a small table beside the couch, she studied the odd group of people working below to bring life to the stove they'd managed to pull into the warehouse. She grinned, thinking of the day she looked forward to more delicate served food rather than the simple campfire fare she'd been forced to accept the past several months.

Eventually, she felt the couch dip at her side, knowing the boy had joined her. She didn't look his way, not wanting to frighten him, but handed him the rest of her half-eaten apple. He snatched it from her grip and she listened with a small pang of sympathy as the noise of his hurried devouring filled the silence of the room.

"Do you want more?" She asked, still watching the others struggle over the kitchen appliance.

"No," came a timid response at her side.

Sarah slowly shifted her gaze over to the boy, who watched her warily. She smiled faintly and they sat like that, silently observing each other for several minutes.

"What's your name?" She asked softly, keeping her tone barely above a whisper.

"James," the boy replied, fiddling with the hem of his shirt that had started to unravel. She noted the ghost of his protruding collar bones and inwardly winced.

"My name is Sarah. It's nice to meet you, James." She replied with a soft smile. The boy looked up, studying her for several minutes, and he eventually smiled back.

"You're going to protect me from the bad men?" He asked, his voice a feather soft plea on her ears. It took considerable power on her part not to embrace him, not overlooking the similarities between the boy in front of her and the brother she'd left behind years ago.

"Yes," She whispered. "I'll protect you from the bad men."

The boy nodded, fidgeting again and looking away. "They came for me when my mommy was shopping. I was just playing with them, the little glowing men that came out of the telly."

Sarah frowned, tipping her head to the side. Sylphs? What would they be doing with a boy of five? "And the bad men came then?"

"No, only when the glowing men told me that I wasn't allowed to play with them. When I asked why, they looked scared. That's when the bad men appeared."

Sarah swallowed but forced a smile to her face. So, the magic he has must be strong. Sarah reached out tentatively with her senses, feeling the brightness in the boy, confirming her suspicions. The hunters would have taken him immediately upon sensing him. Studying his malnourished form, she wondered how long he'd been running, remembering back when she had first started hers, years ago. Pulling herself from painful thoughts of her past, she forced her smile brighter as he stared at her with wounded eyes. "Well, no need to worry about the bad men here. This is our secret hiding spot. No one can find it but us."

The boy tentatively smiled back and relaxed on the couch. Sarah stood, tugging the afghan from the back of the couch and motioned for him to lay down. He did as she asked and she tucked the blanket around him, crouching down to kneel beside him. "Get some rest. See that room?" She pointed across the way and he nodded. "That's my room. If you get scared, just go in there. If I'm not in there, I will be soon. Okay?"

"Okay." She moved to stand and the boy reached out quickly, tugging on her hand. "Thank you for the apple, Miss Sarah. My mommy said it's polite to thank people."

Sarah swallowed the lump of emotion that once more formed in her throat, nodding with a smile at the boy. "Your mommy was right. Rest now. We'll talk again in a few hours."

The boy nodded and she stood, watching his eyes drift closed. Only once she was certain he was asleep did she move across the room towards her quarters.

Closing the door behind her and shrugging out of her coat and boots, she tiredly moved towards the bare mattress with a simple sheet tucked in the corner of the room. The room was mostly bare, a small sink and washing basin in the far corner, a shower still being installed in the other. Falling back on her makeshift bed, she reached into the pocket of her jeans and dug out a folded piece of paper.

Unfolding it gently with shaking hands, she stared at the picture printed on the paper that she'd snagged from an internet café two hours away from the sanctuary, doggedly determined to leave no trace between her visit and her newfound home. Running a hand over each of their faces, Sarah willed herself to make no noise as she sobbed quietly, studying the changing faces of her family that she hadn't seen in years. They looked relatively happy, despite the soft haunted look that never seemed to leave their eyes, and her own response was to shed silent tears while she memorized their smiles. I'm so sorry. Dad, Toby, Karen…forgive me.

Turning, tucking the paper into a journal that sat beside the bed amidst other printed images she'd collected over the years, Sarah leaned back and closed her eyes, doing her best to find solace in sleep.

 

Chapter Text

 

"The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it." - Albert Einstein


Six Years Prior…

"I'm telling you, something ain't right…" Hoggle began to argue to his companions for what felt like the thirtieth time that night, pacing by the small campfire that the fox had started at the outskirts of the bog. He scowled faintly as Sir Didymus waved a hand and resumed turning the makeshift spit that roasted their supper, dismissing his words yet again. It was growing dark and the sun was slipping below the horizon in the distance, dragging the forest into shadow. He nervously glanced around but his anxiety eased somewhat when he saw no other intruders in their little reunion – if it could even be called that. What do you call a reunion of friends when you can't remember how you met or why you're friends to begin with?

They'd met about an hour before, in the clearing just beyond the last line of trees, and most of the time since had been spent reacquainting themselves and trying to understand how they knew so much about one another yet not remembering when and how they had first met. The confused arguments that followed had gotten them nowhere and Hoggle was running out of patience.

When he had sent the missives earlier, he half thought he was simply going crazy and would be standing out in the dark woods alone for the rest of the night. Now, staring at the two others that had joined him, he found himself more concerned than before. Before, he'd simply been entertaining the notion that he was going crazy. Now, when his errant theories were slowly proving to be correct, it gave true merit to what he'd begun to suspect in the last two weeks and that was more frightening to him than the loss of his own mind. It was proving that whatever he managed to stumble across was very real – not a mere conspiracy like the fox implied – and most likely dangerous for all involved. Still, he had to know the truth, had to share what he had learned with someone, and these two seemed the likeliest choices. For reasons he couldn't explain, they were critical to uncovering whatever had happened.

However, the others weren't taking him seriously. He spent the first thirty minutes of their reunion trying to get them to join him at the campsite he selected – at a far enough distance from any of the common trails through the forest that their meeting would remain relatively undiscovered, in the event others were about – and they were dismissing his theories every time he started to explain what he had managed to piece together since Jareth had gone ominously missing. Why can't they see how serious this is?!

The fox that called himself Sir Didymus sniffed the air with his canine nose, grinning faintly over at the friendly giant that was named Ludo, a thin clawed finger pointing at the roasting quail on the spit. "Supper is just about ready, my friend. When is the last time you had a roasted quail? Why, it's been ages since…"

Hoggle practically vibrated with frustration at the fox's nonchalant attitude, his hands clenching into fists as he paused with a glower. He knew what he had managed to piece together was important – and they were talking about foodAt a time like this?! "Shut up about the damned quail and LISTEN T'ME!"

Sir Didymus and Ludo stared at him with a frown but fell quiet. Briefly, Hoggle felt shame at his outburst but knew the seriousness of the situation preceded any manners – they needed to just listen!

Eventually, Sir Didymus gestured for Hoggle to continue with a huff. "Fine, fine. Carry on about your conspiracies, my friend, and then we'll enjoy this succulent dinner. Do hurry, as I have a post to attend to."

Hoggle silently fumed, pinching the bridge of his nose for a moment to pray for patience, before looking back between the two. "Just…think about what I'm saying is all I'm asking. You came, didn't ya? You got my summons and came, met me in the clearing over yonder. I saw the looks on yer faces, you both recognized me - and I recognized you! How's that possible when we've never even met before now, eh?" Hoggle continued, watching as the fox and the giant – while frightening in appearance, was actually very gentle - shared a quiet glance.

"Hah! See?!" Hoggle excitedly pointed between the two of them, seeing the brief uneasiness shared between them. "I ain't never met ya, but yet I knew where to find ya! Don't you find that a little odd, eh?"

"The Labyrinth magic must be at work -" Sir Didymus tried to explain and Hoggle interrupted him with a rough snort, wrenching his red cap off his head and stomping it on the ground in frustration.

"You know it as well as I do that in this case that is not what happened here! Didn't you listen to what I first told you?" Hoggle shouted, running a hand through his hair as he began his pacing once more, needing to work off some of his nervous energy. "I TOLD you that I was summoned to a court – the High King's court – and that witch messed with my head! Rattled something loose, I gather, but not enough I can make out what it was."

Hoggle shuddered as he remembered the agonizingly long seconds that the fae woman had torn through his memories, glancing around again once more as he dropped his voice low and leaned forward, in the event they had unwelcome guests in the forest. Now that he knew something wasn't right, he wasn't willing to take chances of being overheard. "And that's when I realized the pixie spray issue – I'd noticed the oddness of the spray, but didn't connect it until after I got thrust into court. That's when I knew something wasn't right."

Sir Didymus frowned, glancing back at Ludo, before asking Hoggle in a delicate voice, still unsure of Hoggle's conviction that something foul was at play. "Pixie spray? Pray tell, what does pixies have to do with this summons, friend?"

Hoggle sighed, scrubbing a hand over his face as he kept his voice low. "I told you earlier but you weren't listening. Pay attention this time! This ain't a joke! Like I said, my duties include gardening and keeping the pixie population from overcrowding the gate entrance. I was tending to the pixies by the gate, like Jareth has always asked me to do, when I realized I was out of pixie spray."

Hoggle stared between them, seeing they were still unconvinced, and once more spoke his theories aloud, now that they were finally willing to listen to what he had to say. "I've been spraying those bloody pixies since the beginning of time, feels like. That spray lasts like clockwork. I only run out once a month, yet I only remembered two weeks having gone by and I was suddenly out of the stuff. That's when I first realized something was amiss. I shrugged it off, figuring it was a bad batch or something…then I got the summons. They were specifically looking for a runner, you see. A mortal runner who bested the Rat. I ain't never met a runner that bested Jareth, but they thought I had. See where I'm going with this?! Missing time, running outta pixie spray early, the summons where they probed in my damned head for a name I didn't have! Knowing where you two would be found yet I've never met you two before….something ain't right!"

Sir Didymus stilled, his nose quivering as he ran through the facts Hoggle presented to him. Ludo likewise appeared to be thinking.

"I have had an unusual number of bridge crossers this month," Sir Didymus began and Hoggle's eyebrows rose faintly as he listened, turning his head when he heard Ludo grumble.

"Ludo been fixing goblin houses. Ludo don't ever fix goblin houses," the gentle giant groused, pausing for a moment. "Ludo don't remember why he was fixing goblin houses, but he did it, since it seemed that what Ludo did."

"You see? What're we overlooking here? Why are we missing two weeks of time? Did…did something happen we were involved in and just can't remember? Why can't we remember?" Hoggle whispered, suddenly dropping his voice when a snap of a twig was heard nearby. His eyes went wide as he scrambled back, looking around sharply. Did 'they' already know he realized something was wrong? Who were 'they?' The high court? Someone else?

Quickly, the trio stood up and readied themselves, keeping quiet and stiffly waiting for whatever was planning on stumbling through the brush a few feet away. Hoggle noticed even Ludo seemed tense, now that they had truly listened to what he had to say and realized there was truth to it. Had someone followed them? Worriedly thinking through his steps from earlier, he jerked up and grabbed the fox who suddenly growled and sprung to action, determined to ferret out whomever was sneaking up on their campsite. Holding Sir Didymus back, Hoggle stared at the brush with anxiety until a few small goblins stumbled into the campsite, looking around with wide terrified eyes.

"Mikpik?" Hoggle started with confusion, noting one bright green goblin in particular, glancing back as Sir Didymus and Ludo shared a questioning gaze and relaxed, dropping their makeshift weapons. He gave them a confused shrug when they looked to him, glancing back at the small green goblin. "One of Jareth's 'pets.' Never leaves his blasted side, seems." Looking back at the goblin, he moved towards it, helping it to its feet. He'd never been sure if Mikpik was a boy or a girl and was too embarrassed to ask. The goblin looked terrified, as did its friends. "What's wrong? Why the hells are you all the way out here?"

"Hoggle!" The goblin cried, clutching at Hoggle's shirt lapels like a lifeline as it panted, trying to catch its breath. "About time I found you! I've been searching for hours! You weren't home! Finally, I was able to convince a sprite to speak with a cousin and they told us you'd headed into the forest by the bog hours ago…" Briefly, it paused in its tirade, glancing dubiously towards Sir Didymus and Ludo before whispering back at Hoggle, inching towards him, its friends joining it to scuttle behind Hoggle and quiver. "Who're they?"

"They're not important. Why'd you need to find me?" Hoggle asked impatiently, waving a hand in the direction of his friends. "Ain't you supposed to be waiting for His Majesty to return at the castle?"

"We were…then she arrived. I remember her, she came when Kingy was watching the last runner. She was in a red dress, with long blonde hair and crystal blue eyes. She said Jareth was no longer the King and she was our new master." Mikpik trembled then, squeezing its eyes shut, its voice dropping to a terrified whisper. "A few of the other goblins didn't believe her, demanded to see His Majesty…and…she killed them."

Hoggle paled. "What?"

"She..ate them! I mean, not really ate, but she grabbed them and pulled their very ghosts from their body and ate them! They stopped moving, totally dead! Dead, dead, dead! I don't remember much of what happened after that, too many started to run and hide, but I knew something was wrong when His Majesty didn't return. I remember you saying the other day you found out something, I was hoping you'd know what was going on."

Hoggle opened his mouth to reply when he heard a wolf howl in the distance, freezing him on the spot. Almost immediately, he forced himself into action, ignoring the secondary howls that followed. "Did you cover your tracks?" He barked softly down at the goblin, keeping his voice low.

The goblin clung to Hoggle, frantically shaking its head. "No! I just ran! I didn't look, I didn't pay attention, I just ran! I'm sorry!"

"Put out the blasted fire," Hoggle hissed at the fox, watching as Ludo removed the quail and stomped out the fire quickly. "Wrap the quail, the scent will drive the hounds to us if we're not careful. Come on, I know a place we can hide, maybe send more word out. From now on, nothing gets out of the circle of folk in front of you unless it's someone you trust with your life, ya hear?"

The other nodded and did as he asked as Hoggle, who'd never been known for his bravery, suddenly found himself easily able to take command, leading them where they needed to go. What have I gotten myself into? Where's all this coming from?

More importantly: Where is Jareth?


 

He roused from sleep at the sound of metal scraping against metal, squinting and thrusting a hand over his face with a hiss when a bright light blared suddenly near his face. Before he'd gained control of his senses, two guards grabbed him roughly from either side, twisting his hands behind his back and restraining him with magic suppressing cuffs around his wrists.

Dragging him roughly to his feet, they hoisted his weakened form into a quick standing position and shoved him through the open doorway of his cell, making his head swim as he tried to look around and recognize what area of the High Court dungeon they'd placed him in. To his dismay, he didn't recognize anything.

Roughly pushing on his shoulder, Jareth grunted and stumbled forward at the insistence of the guards. Without a single word uttered between the two jailers, they quietly led him down a series of corridors and into another darkened room – this one slightly cleaner, meagerly lit with a few dripping candlesticks encased in plain sconces on the stone walls, a plain wooden table and pair of opposing chairs in the center.

Shoving him into a seat, one of the guards secured his cuffed wrists to a center hole in the table and another bound his ankles to the legs of the chair he sat in. Too weak to resist, Jareth simply closed his eyes and rolled his head back until the guards were done, closing the door behind them as they left the room.

"Good evening, Jareth. How has solitary been treating you?" An amused feminine tone spoke suddenly, bringing Jareth's attention towards the chair across from him at the table. Blinking, he forced his gaze to focus and studied the elegant features of Neverin as she smiled faintly from the chair she now occupied, tipping her head to the side. She wore an exquisite dress in a pale forest green shade, her hair swept up in an immaculate braid, beautiful by all outward appearances but still leaving him feeling oddly cold. He hadn't cared for the brittle beauty of some of the fae women at court and Neverin was the epitome of that facet of High Court he despised. Still, he let his eyes roam over her, allowing her to mistake his inspection for interest, while he tried to conjure up what she wanted from him after leaving him to wither away in his cell from starvation for the past two fortnights. He tensed, seeing a crown on her head, the Labyrinth symbol etched into the gold arch resting on her brow, his rage suddenly all-consuming as he stared at what that symbol meant. Thief. You haven't earned that right, not until the trials are complete. The Labyrinth will never accept you.

He snorted when her smile widened as his eyes hovered on her crown, turning his gaze away with distaste and dismissal, feeling her eyes slowly travel over his form. She seemed to ignore his rebuttal of her beauty and the symbol she carried. You're no Queen. Imposter, pretender, charlatan. The Labyrinth is not fooled by the likes of you.

"Sufficiently well, I'd say, from the state of you." She smiled, continuing her conversation now that he'd finished staring at her, resting her hands on the table as she tapped a nail against the rough surface. "Have you had time to think about your actions in court? Has your answer changed? Are you willing to give me the name of the mortal champion now? Or shall I merit out worse punishments than simple starvation and secluded darkness?"

"That symbol is a lie," he replied, casting his glance back at her. "The Labyrinth hasn't accepted you, has it?"

Watching her face briefly darken as her smile faltered gave him a perverse sense of pleasure. He grinned, closing his eyes and rolling his head back. "I can smell the rejection on you. Hurts, doesn't it? Knowing you're not worthy?"

"Your answer? Has it changed?" She asked once more in that sweet-sounding voice, ignoring his barbed words. He laughed faintly, shaking his head.

"My choice remains the same, woman. Save your threats for someone who cares," Jareth replied in a bored tone. Her icy silence made him smile faintly, his eyes dragging back over towards her, knowing that whether or not it showed, his earlier insult had stung her pride. Despite not being able to access it, he could still feel the Labyrinth's magic underneath his skin. No matter what Lucius decreed or what crown his mistress wore, the magic of the Labyrinth was his – he had earned that right centuries ago. He briefly stilled as he saw amusement simmering in the depths of her gaze, but he shrugged it off. "What worse can you possibly do?"

Neverin flashed him yet another sweet smile, making Jareth still, studying her. She hadn't exploded with the typical affront most fae would have in her position and he began to suspect she had not yet reached her limits of what she was willing to do to him to get the mortal's name. "What a perfect question, Jareth. Indeed, what worse can I do?" Tapping her nails against the table, she leaned in and grinned. "Shall we find out?"

Jareth tensed, glaring, feeling the shiver of magic at his back as two forms materialized behind him, realizing too late that he had provoked her in the wrong way. Stiffening, he tried to jerk away, but soon after his initial struggle he felt the cold touch of a blade against his throat and immediately stilled, casting the woman a darkened glare as he laughed dryly, baring his teeth as the two unknown men held him down. "Too afraid to threaten me by yourself, are you? Must you send in your dogs to do the dirty work for you?"

Neverin stood, ignoring his barbed words, moving slowly across the room towards Jareth as the two fae males – he could tell they were men in the way they easily drug his chair back from the table and the low grunts they made when he tried fighting against them and failed – settling on his lap as she tipped her head to the side and smiled. "I was hoping that you'd seek this course of action, you see…" She started, holding out a casual hand as an opalescent blade was placed in her hand.

Jareth froze, horror at the realization for what he was seeing being handed to her suddenly resonating with him – was that an ebony blade? How…?

Neverin's eyes briefly met his as she smiled, nodding slowly and cradling the blade in her fingers with reverence. "Yes, this is what you think it is." She turned the blade slowly in her hands, resting the sharp edge against his throat. She leaned forward and nipped at his mouth and laughed faintly when he didn't struggle – knowing why he didn't. "I can see you're current on your mythology tomes. You know what can happen if this blade pricks your skin, so you don't protest. Clever, clever. I told Lucius you're too smart to let loose with a simple warning."

Jareth grit his teeth and fought down the revulsion he felt at her kiss, staring coldly at her as she leaned back. "What's the meaning of this, Neverin? Why threaten me with an ebony blade? I've already told you, I will not release the mortal's name. Does Lucius know you have such a weapon? Do these men understand what that is?"

Neverin tsked at him, pouting faintly as she rested a palm on his chest, her nails digging into the soiled brocade of his court jacket, long since ruined during the endless days of his confinement. "Why must you spoil all the fun with serious questions?"

Jareth didn't respond, suddenly realizing how little he truly knew about the woman pressed against him. He felt his gut twist in disquiet but forced himself not to move, not to show any outward concern. "And here I thought we were finally being honest with one another, Neverin…"

She sighed, shaking her head and closing her eyes with a faint smile. Her gaze lifted, meeting the men that studied her from behind him, her expression having since turned cold. "Hold him down."

Instantly, Jareth knew that things had taken a turn for the worst. He viciously fought, throwing her off him as he bucked roughly, but it was to no avail. He was weak from lack of nourishment and the guards and cuffs were too strong. Before long, they had beaten him severely, making his head pound and his vision swarm, tasting blood in the back of his throat as they held him securely while Neverin leaned in, using the blade to cut through his coat and the lapels of his shirt.

"No…" He grunted faintly, still struggling and trying to edge away from the blade, but he seized in pain as an armored knee slammed into the middle of his back, stifling his protest. Neverin giggled and pressed a finger to this throat, dragging it across his neck slowly.

"Now hold still, dear, I don't want to damage you any more than I need to," she offered sweetly, dragging the tip of the blade across the hollow of his throat where her finger had just been.

Jareth seized, shouting out a startled scream of pain – the magical blade's tip doing worse damage than a simple laceration – as Neverin carved a series of runes into his flesh, his face and chest held down by two pairs of strong hands. Jerking his chin back, they muffled his roars of pain as Neverin took her time etching what he knew was powerful compulsion magic along the base of his throat and collar bones. Regardless of the magic he held, the magic in the blade was stronger – darker – than what he had access to, and soon he found the ebb of the dark magic drowning out his resistance, making him compliant to the owner of the dagger.

When she was done, the guards didn't even have to fight him to drag him back to his cell. He was in agonizing pain, unable to offer any type of resistance, shivering painfully as they threw him down on the floor of his cell, his blood pooling on the floor and staining his shirt from the torturous lacerations across his neck and collar bones. Eventually, he heard the door clatter shut and he was blessedly alone – but not for long.

Neverin materialized and knelt beside him, cupping his cheek. He would have jerked away, but all his energy was spent in not screaming at the painful invasion of the magic into his blood and body. Neverin smiled, dragging her nails down his neck, making him bark sharply in pain as they scraped against the wounds she had inflicted. She shuddered as if from pleasure, bringing her hand to her mouth, tasting the tips of her fingernails that were coated in his blood. "Delicious. Fear has a certain taste to it, you know?"

She laughed softly as he shuddered and writhed on the floor, both in pain and rising suspicion that Neverin was far worse than a mere magic user in the High King's court. "Of course you know, you're the Goblin King aren't you? The mere uttering of your name in certain circles makes the most unusually strong men shudder and bend the knee. Does it please you when they fear you?"

Jareth grunted, trying to crawl away from her to gather some of his bearings, the compulsion magic making his head swim and his eyesight briefly waiver. "I do not do those things for pleasure, Neverin…" He hissed softly through the pain, trying to focus on her. "Does…Lucius know? About you and your true nature?"

Neverin sighed then, throwing her head back with a smile. "Finally, after all these centuries, someone has figured it out. I thought it would be Davean, then Lucius…but no – it was you. I always suspected you'd be the one, but now I know. Oh, Jareth, I've waited so long for someone to know the true me."

Jareth stilled, closing his eyes and grunting in disgust as she leaned over him, cradling his face like a lover. It was then that he knew – Immoral, Malevolent, Corrupt. Unseelie. Why did I not notice before now? The subtle changes at court? The changes in the King? And Davean? Did she…? Was that a factor in his death?

Briefly, his mind panicked. Sarah…

"Kiss me," she whispered softly, the sound a soft velvety whisper, making him gag as she pressed herself against him. No matter how vehemently he opposed the action, he found himself unable to resist, tipping his head up with no mere amount of pain as she leaned over him. She flashed him the briefest of smiles and kissed him, understanding in her eyes. He knew then the more he resisted the compulsion – the more pain he would feel. Still, it was against his nature not to fight – and he realized she wanted him to, she fed on his pain. Horrified, he felt his body respond and she purred, dragging her fingers over his soiled clothes to grip him gently. Briefly, he felt the tug of siphoning magic as he rose to eagerness in her hand – She is feeding off me.

"What's the worst I could do? Isn't that what you said?" She whispered as she straddled him, digging his unwanted stiffness out of his pants with her nails. Jareth closed his eyes, violently protesting what was happening on every level, but the magic coursing through his veins wouldn't allow him to disobey. He fought, his blood turning into anguishing liquid fire of suffering as he tried to resist and ultimately failed against the magic she'd carved into him, corrupting his ability to resist her. Disgusted, he clenched his teeth and tried to will himself elsewhere mentally, feeling her lifting her skirts.

"Look at me," she commanded sharply. Unable to resist, he opened his eyes and watched her slowly sink down on him. She grinned then, throwing her head back, and he did as she continued to compel him to do – fucking her with a body that he no longer controlled, looking for all intents and purposes, a man ravenous for the woman who rode him – and before long, he was spurting inside her as she moaned and convulsed on top of him.

He was completely sickened, feeling something inside him shut off.

Neverin simply smiled, seeing the light in Jareth's eyes fade as she once more started to ride him. "That's for the best, I think. Again."


 

"How did the interrogation go?" Lucius asked, leaning over to nip at Neverin's bodice that she began to slowly shimmy out of in his bed. She giggled faintly as he grasped her hips and ground himself against her, making her aware of his impatience and his arousal.

"Not as well as I had hoped," She sighed, tipping her head back as the older man ripped at her undergarments and then spent the next several minutes thrusting inside her, finding his own climax quickly. Neverin's fingers skated over his chest and she stood after he pulled away from her and leaned back, sated.

Standing, shrugging off the rest of her clothes, she moved across the room and quickly poured him a glass of mulled wine. Dipping a finger into the wine, her fingers briefly flickered red before she turned and moved back across the room, handing him the glass, looking to any observer the very essence of a satisfied lover.

The High King foolishly drank, sinking back into the bed as he stared over her nakedness, reaching down to jerk himself back to life. She crawled across the bed and straddled him, sinking down on him when he gripped her hips again and shoved her onto his erection, riding him until he was groaning underneath her in release once more.

"And the Labyrinth?" He asked after a minute, casting an arm over his face. Neverin smiled, continuing to straddle him, feeling him slowly flare back to life.

"Under control. There have been no runners yet," She replied, slowly riding him as he commanded.

"And the denziens? They are…taking to your command of the seat without a proper monach trial run? You are unable to tap into it's magic, not until then. You are handling them still?" He groaned between stints of her grinding down on him. She nodded, panting softly as she pleased the King between her thighs.

"Yes, they are weak minded and do not sense that I lack the magic of the Labyrinth, just as you suspected," She purred softly, driving him towards new heights, rolling her hips and smiling as he groaned loudly in ecstasy. "May I ask my King a favor?"

"Ask…and perhaps…I shall reward you…" Lucius groaned, straining under her. She smiled, continuing to pleasure him, leaning forward and nipping at his mouth.

"Allow a small sect of the Nokmim to serve the Labyrinth and its Queen. I will hunt down this mysterious mortal runner without the aid of Jareth and along the way, should I find any unused sources of magic aboveground, it will be at your immediate disposal…"

Lucius frowned from underneath her and she rode him harder, drowning out his protests with the grip of her body. His face twisted in pleasure and his head canted back, his eyes squeezing shut as his cock swelled inside her, dancing on the razor edge of release but not quite tumbling over the precipice – she wouldn't let him, not until she had what she needed. As she felt him near climax, she gently laid her fingers against his chest, the tips briefly pulsing red as she moaned softly, rolling her hips harder, feeling his cock surge inside her, but denying him what he sought. "Please."

Lucius groaned, fisting his hands in her hair as he forced her to move. Still, she kept him lingering at the precipice of his release, until she heard him utter the words she wanted to hear. "Petition granted."

Smiling, she roughly moved on top of him, feeling him shout and grip at her hips as he spurted inside her. Canting her head back, she smiled coldly up towards the ceiling, pleased with her success.


 

Present Day – Vienna, Austria

Sarah stretched, waking slowly and blinking at the soft glow of the sun rising through the windows above her head when she felt a soft bump against her side. Glancing down, she saw that James had come into her room and fell asleep beside her, wrapped up in her blanket like a safety net. Smiling, she gently eased herself away from the boy, allowing him to linger in sleep, and quickly dressed – throwing on her shoes and jacket from yesterday and running a quick comb through her tussled locks before throwing the dark strands up into a loose bun, heading out the door and closing it quietly behind her.

Across the hall, the deliberation room was in full swing, maps and people milling about, discussing various projects the sanctuary had underway in the command center of the abandoned warehouse. In the corner, a map of the city and the world stood out in stark relief against the dark paint of the wall, pins and various string linking up the tracked attacks that the group had begun to piece together over the last few months. She swallowed as she stared, seeing several pins marking New York on the map.

It worried her how many new pins were being added to the board every morning, as news poured in from the volunteers that reviewed news across the dark web in various safe internet café spots they'd established across the city recently. Still, she forced herself to focus on the positives they'd accomplished in the last few months – saving people like the small boy who slept in her room.

A few of the people raised their heads and greeted her with a smile. A small blonde female around her age slipped by her, handing her a cup of black coffee in the process – Nellie, I think her name was? Murmuring a quiet thanks, she glanced around the room, searching for the distinct face of Eoin in the crowd. Not finding him there, she moved back down the hallway towards his suite. He had the largest quarters at the end of the hall. She noticed the door to his room was still closed and so she rapped gently on the wooden barricade that shielded his room from the hall, hearing his familiar voice call out.

"Come in."

Slipping through the door, she cast a glance across the room, seeing Eoin working with a few other novices. He cast her a smile, the expression more of a grimace than an actual smile, but she'd since worked out what gestures meant what on the older man's savagely scarred face. "Ah, Sarah. Come in, come in. I'll be with you in a moment."

She nodded, slipping into a seat by one of the windows, busying herself by staring out across the empty field that stretched out behind the abandoned warehouse, studying the outline of the Alps that swept down into the Vienna Basin that the city was cradled in.

"I heard you ran into a hunter the other day."

Sarah glanced up, seeing Eoin staring down at her with a blank expression. Looking over her shoulder, she noticed they were alone, the other novices having slipped out while she'd been distracted. She shrugged, glancing back out the window. "I was careful. Who told you? I certainly didn't say anything to the guards or the other members of the sanctuary."

"I have my ways," was his cryptic reply.

She frowned, sipping at her coffee as she studied the scenery outside once more. She trusted Eoin, but didn't care for his reservations about letting her into his little world and secrets. If she was to do what he wanted – why wouldn't he let her in? What was she missing? Didn't he trust her, after all they had been through to build this place?

"I'm not angry, Sarah. I just wish you to be more careful. That could have ended badly and you know it," Eoin started again, resting a hand on her shoulder. Sarah grit her teeth and shrugged off his kind gesture, still slightly repulsed at being touched by one of the Nokmim, even if he was no longer one of them. She instantly felt regret as she watched his hand fall – but too often the older male fae reminded her of her time in New York all those years ago, when the hunters first came for her. As often as she tried to forget, she found she simply couldn't.

"Sorry," she hastily apologized, reaching out to squeeze his hand. Eoin merely shrugged and she dropped her hand, staring out the window with a sigh, scrubbing at her eyes furiously for a moment – willing herself not to cry as she stirred those memories up in the back of her mind – draining the remnants of her coffee and standing.

"I know you're not angry. I'm aware I took a risk, but I promise my spell work was solid. He won't know what happened," she started, looking up as she heard the small sound of disapproval from his lips as she tried to explain why she didn't kill the hunter, something Eoin disproved of. Still, he said nothing, simply staring at her with his odd iridescent eyes. She found herself once more studying the hideous scar that marred half his face – a scar he had earned fleeing the Underground a few years back.

Eoin smiled then, seemingly satisfied with what he saw in her face. "You know I only push this because if they connected you to this place…"

"They'd kill us all without a second glance, I know." Sarah finished for him, sighing. "I'm just not ready for that step, Eoin. I'm not a killer, ok?"

Eoin winced at that, looking past her and studying the mountain range himself, not yet ready to meet her gaze.

"I didn't mean it like that…" She once more tried to explain but he waved a hand to silence her.

"I know, Sarah. I know. I can't undo my past, no matter how much I would like to. You remind me every day that there are other ways to fight, to resist. I just need to remind myself of that on occasion, too." He turned slightly and gestured to the set of spiral stairs that led to the roof. "Shall we?"

Sarah nodded, setting aside her cup to follow him up the stairs. Once they reached the outdoors, she shivered and drew her jacket tighter around her frame. It was still the late months of winter and spring had not yet lifted the temperatures in the early morning, the frigid temperatures biting softly at her skin where her jacket didn't protect her.

Eoin moved across the roof, grabbing two wooden staves from a weapons rack, tossing her one. She snagged it as it steered towards her, stretching faintly and then steadying herself for attack. Eoin moved like a blur, but Sarah was long since used to the way he moved, able to pin him down within seconds.

"Good," he grinned, throwing her off him as he rolled to a stand. "Now let's see how you handle this…"

Suddenly, he conjured a crystal and tossed it at her. Sarah thought she was quick enough, but the magic sensed her movements and before long, it tagged her boot. Screaming, she fell to the ground, twitching as electricity made a riot of her nerves.

Eoin moved towards her, watching her struggle, brandishing his staff and swinging it down. Gritting her teeth against the pain, she forced herself to dodge the downward arch of the staff and shot her own weakly-formed crystal towards Eoin, attempting her best spell under the duress he'd forced on her.

Eoin easily dodged the crystal, stepping forward and grinning down at her. "Not bad, for a novice, but you still need to get faster than that."

"Who said I missed?" She hissed, grabbing his staff and jerking it up, ramming the butt of the staff into his chin. Eoin let out a startled grunt as Sarah forced her limbs to cooperate, shoving forward to knock him off his legs, sending him crashing backwards into the orb that rested behind him. He let out a startled cry of his own as the orb crunched underneath him, sending his limbs into a series of small spasms.

Sarah rolled back then, a smirk hovering at the edge of her lips, laying flat on the pavement, trying to calm her nerves and catch her breath. She heard Eoin recover quickly – through his training or his better management of magic, either could be at play – and he leaned over her with a small laugh, offering her a hand. Wincing as her body still protested any movement, she took it, and he drug her to a stand.

"You did good," he said after a few minutes of listening to her struggle to catch her breath. "Still, I fancy a few more rounds. Less intense this time, but you need to learn to defend yourself, should you find yourself even at half-strength."

Sarah nodded, but he'd already begun the attack, and before long she felt her head snap back against his rough punch and the sharp acrid smell of magic stung her senses, making her eyes water.

Groaning, she fell over and he tapped her side with his boot. "Again."

It was shaping up to be a long day.

Chapter Text

"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' " - Eleanor Roosevelt


Six Years Prior – Eastchester, New York

Sarah was terrified.

It had only been a month since she defeated the Goblin King and won Toby back and she had spent the entirety of those twenty-eight days on edge, barely able to sleep. Irene and Robert noticed the change in her after the second week, asking her if she was having trouble sleeping when they had noticed the dark circles under her eyes – which she denied and determinedly played the dutiful daughter to the hilt, simply applying more makeup in the morning to hide the truth that had begun to show in her face. The atmosphere in the house since then had never been so relaxed, so damned happy. Irene had taken to showing her how to cook and Sarah, still trying desperately to make amends for the foolish words that almost cost her everything, played along despite still feeling hollow inside.

I always did have a talent for acting, she thought morosely, while she watched Irene slowly warm to her in a way Sarah had always wanted her own mother to warm to her but never did. Too bad it came too late, born from a twisted sense of guilt Sarah couldn't shrug off no matter how hard she tried. That made the pleasant mood that had settled over the house to somehow feel stifling and revolting to her, just another way to remind her of what she had done.

Still, she knew she was being slightly possessive in the way she hovered over Toby when she was home from school or snuck cups of wretched tasting coffee into her bedroom, leaving the bedside lamp on at all hours of the night. She needed to be more careful if she was going to maintain her sanity. She knew – despite the denizens of the Labyrinth explaining to her that Jareth could demand no more from her, as she'd proven her will was as strong as his – that something was coming.

Her father had started to check on her when she began to struggle to stay awake at dinner and she'd finally done the unthinkable – beginning to use the lock he had installed over a week ago on her door when they had spontaneously rewarded her for her change in behavior. They had assumed, incorrectly, that she had simply given up her childish impulses and had begun to accept her step-mother and brother, but she knew the truth of her actions. You'll never be able to make up for what you did. You almost lost everything for being a selfish, spoiled child.

It didn't matter to her that she won. In the process, she had angered an immortal being and it was only a matter of time before he came back, seeking revenge.

During those weeks, when she did manage to succumb to slumber, her mind was filled with vivid dreams of wildly differing circumstances. They would leave her confused but convinced that something was looming on the horizon – she just didn't know what.

Some nights, he was cruel and abusive and resentful, spending hours torturing her or demoralizing her in the prison of her dreams, reminding her that he didn't adhere to human morality. She could remember his words, almost exactly, each time she awoke sobbing from the dream, the words angry and loud. Did you think you could best me, girl? I am a King!

In others, he was loving, romantic and erotic – evoking sensations in her she'd never experienced before. She wasn't naïve, she knew what she was feeling and hated the sense of shame that went with the newly acquired taste of desire, realizing she wanted him – wholly and completely. What exactly did that say about her?

She was fifteen so the sensation of desire was not totally foreign to her. She had noticed attractive boys in school and had felt the quickening of her breath, the achiness in her limbs that accompanied the interactions with a few that she found particularly attractive – but then there had been him. He was not a boy, not even a man, but she'd begun to feel the sharp double-edged blade of true desire since returning from his domain and dismally realized nothing could compare to what he could offer in the real world since. Suddenly, the boys of her school paled in comparison and she withdrew from their advances. She realized then she didn't want a man of flesh and blood but a being of fantasy that both attracted and repulsed her and she was disgusted with herself for it.

She wasn't sure what she hated more, the way he stared hungrily at her in those dreams or the way she must have stared back. A few times she'd woken up on the cusp of something she wasn't able to understand, trembling and straining and slick between her legs – What is happening to me? – when finally, she succumbed to the dreams completely and realized after that last dream that she'd never be normal again, no matter how much she strived to be.

It was a particularly sensory dream – he had coaxed her with honeyed words, begun fondling her between her legs with his fingers when she made no objections to his nearing proximity and the removal of her clothes, eventually his mouth finding its way to her naked breasts, drawing them into tight peaks with gentle nips, sucks and tender ministration – and she had woken up just as his body made hers sing, sobbing wildly at the spontaneous throbbing that bloomed between her legs, feeling the slow pulsing remnants of her first orgasm.

Then, it had happened.

It was the day of the annual field trip to New York City that Sarah's father had signed her up for. They were going by bus to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and had planned to end the day at an Off-Broadway play. Sarah woke early, showered and dried her hair, and had been staring at the contents of her closet, trying to decide what to wear – the weather forecast had said there would be rain, didn't it? - when a sharp noise drew her attention.

Frowning, hearing the noise as she slipped on a faded pair of jeans, comfortable ankle boots and a loose cotton sweater, Sarah's eyes traveled around the bedroom, trying to locate the sound. What on earth was that?

Suddenly, she saw it, and immediately wished she hadn't. She blinked, seeing a single crack down the center of her dresser mirror. Oh, god, please no. Not now. It's too soon!

Instantly, she was flooded with fear. She saw her reflection pale as she stepped forward slowly, peering curiously at the crack that had sprang up in the middle of her mirror as if by magic. Her eyes roamed wildly around the room for a moment and out the window – but there was no handsome Kings or owls staring at her from the recesses of the bedroom or the tree outside her window.

Reaching forward, her fingers almost grazing the crack, she sprung back with a yelp when suddenly another shattering sound echoed in the room and a thousand more cracks followed the initial one, splintering out from the center of the mirror like a mutated tree.

Her dresser vibrated faintly and Sarah staggered back, tripping over her own feet and stumbling to the floor just as the mirror shattered, sending shards flying about the room, accompanied by an ear-piercing howl that sounded alien and ageless from where the mirror once was, now only a black gaping void in its place. Screaming, she shielded her face and closed her eyes, terrified of what might happen next.

Suddenly, silence descended in the room just as abruptly as it started, almost hurting her ears at the sudden vacuum in the wake of the blaring noise of before – the only remaining sounds being the dull pounding pulse of her own hammering heartbeat and her ragged breathing.

Slowly, she opened her eyes again and sat up, her gaze unfocused. What the hell was that?

"Sarah? Sarah, is everything alright? What's going on?" A sudden knock came at her door and she heard her father on the other side, watching as the handle tried turning but the door didn't open, as she still had the lock latched. At first, she'd told herself that she used it to keep her father from spying on her restless nights but in truth she had used it ever since she'd begun to have the dreams, afraid that one day he might appear and while a lock might not have stopped him from going to her family, it helped ease her anxiety knowing there was some kind of barrier, even a miniscule one, between him and her family.

"I-I'm fine…" Sarah whirled, staring in both shock and dread as the dressing mirror was once again intact as if nothing had happened, her pale startled reflection staring back at her and mocking the creeping sensation that she was on the losing side of this odd otherworldly cold war between her and the mysterious King she had angered. Still, she continued the lie to her father in an overly sweet tone, forcing her nerves out of her voice. "T-Totally fine. Sorry if I startled you. I thought….I thought I saw a bug is all. Turns out it was a shoe string, silly me."

"You sure? That was one hell of a scream, kiddo."

Sarah forced herself to stand, not taking her eyes off the dresser mirror, when she reached for the handle and unlocked the latch. Turning, she coaxed a smile to her face and met her father's concerned look from the dark hallway when she opened the door, doing her best to appear embarrassed and amused. "Yeah, dad. Promise. I didn't wake anyone else up, did I?"

Robert stood there, staring at her for a few moments before letting his eyes drift around her bedroom. Gone were her toys, having discarded them over the past week by either donating them to the local shelter or giving them to Toby. In their place was blank walls or random posters she tacked up in an effort to appear as if she'd moved on from childish things. In reality, Sarah was trying to hide anything that reminded her of her time spent in the Labyrinth or in the mirrored version of her room in that grotesque junkyard outside the Goblin City. So far, it had helped a little, but only when she was awake.

Eventually, he smiled down at her and patted her gently on the top of her head. She was still short, having not quite grown to the dazzling heights of her actress mother or lawyer father, and he often liked to remind her of that by patting her hair like he did when she was a child. "No, they sleep like the dead after play dates. Irene had him out late at the park, both of them won't be up yet for a few hours. You sure you're ok, kiddo? You know you can tell me anything, right? It's not boys, is it?"

Sarah laughed freely at the sudden discomfort that registered across her father's face. "No, dad. It's not boys." She forced herself to maintain her smile, even as an image of Jareth flashed in her mind. I only wish my problems were as simple as boys.

Robert didn't even attempt to hide his look of relief, offering her a small smile as he withdrew and pulled on his suit coat for work, his briefcase dangling from his other arm as he worked his free one through one of the sleeves. "Ok…well, have fun in New York, alright? You call me the moment you're settled in the hotel. I really dislike they're keeping you guys overnight in that city, but your counsellor said the play is worth it. You're sure you don't want to do that actors club next summer? You used to love that stuff."

Sarah nodded, ignoring the sudden sharpness that registered in her chest as she remembered reciting that damned book last summer in the park – which had mysteriously vanished after she'd returned. The effort left a bitter taste in her mouth but she smiled on nonetheless. "I'm sure, dad. I don't have a taste for it anymore. It's time to grow up."

Robert frowned then, studying Sarah as he finished pulling on his coat. "Hey now, what's the rush? You do know you're still a kid, right?"

"I'll always be a kid to you, dad. You're my father." Sarah smiled, but didn't bother correcting his words, knowing he'd probably never understand. She pulled back and grabbed her backpack as she heard a honk from the street. Luckily, she'd spent part of her sleepless night packing for the trip and didn't have to spend extra time gathering her things and avoiding the concerned glances of her father. "That's my ride, gotta go."

She turned, ducking past him as she slung her backpack on her shoulders, waving to her father as she bolted down the stairs. "Don't worry, I'll call you!" She shouted, laughing softly at his frown as he watched her from the top of the stairs, turning and hurriedly darting out the door, making her way across the yard to the small charter bus waiting to take them on the road.

It was the last time she'd ever see her family again.


A Few Hours Later – 5 th  Avenue, New York City

"Ok, folks, look alive! We're arriving at the museum in twenty minutes. Feel free to take your backpacks but leave everything else on the bus! We will be leaving the museum at four o'clock so be sure to keep only those items you're comfortable carrying for the next few hours with you. We will be having lunch in the atrium at noon. Remember your food vouchers!"

Sarah struggled to wake from where she'd slouched deeply into the cushioned seats of the charter bus, hearing the shouted instructions from one of her teachers and travel counselors at the front of the bus. The seats were much more comfortable than the typical ones she used for school and at first, she was afraid to fall asleep but eventual exhaustion won out over her attempts to thwart it. For once, no dreams plagued her. Considering what had happened that morning, the sudden absence of them worried her more than relieved her.

Yawning, she stretched and ran a hand through her hair as she waited for the other kids to exit, dragging her backpack behind her and settling it on her shoulders. She'd packed simply, carrying only a change of clothes, some toiletries, a thermos of water and some money and didn't feel comfortable leaving it on the bus. Straightening it on her shoulders as she stood, she followed the crowd of kids into the huge lobby that resembled a mausoleum more than a museum and pinned the small green tack that was handed to her by one of the organizers to her sweater that pronounced her as a student visitor. She didn't know many of the accompanying students and so kept to herself, sneaking off to grab a pamphlet and looking over the brochure on which section she wanted to visit first.

The Greek wing appealed to her most, so that's where she steered herself towards, opening her backpack as asked so the security guards could review what she carried before allowing her to move on. Once past that minor delay, Sarah folded up the map she had snagged from the information desk and craned her head back, taking in the breathtaking sculptures before her.

"Wow," she murmured, tipping her head to the side as she stared, amazed at how real the marbled figures looked in the display units as she wandered room to room.

"Beautiful, isn't it?" A baritone voice said from beside her, startling Sarah from her study of the sculpture of a young Hercules.

"Um, yes," Sarah frowned, flickering her gaze as she tried – and failed – to study the man that had stepped around her and was making his way to the other side of the statue, trying not to make her actions too obvious. Tensing, she noticed he had long blonde hair that was tied against his neck with a leather cord and his clothes, while indistinguishable, were solid black. He was pale, almost anemic in appearance from the cool undertones in his skin, and she could see that he was thin, but she could tell little else. Immediately, her instincts raged at her to run for reasons she couldn't understand, but she scolded herself that she was being silly and remained in place.

"What makes this one so striking to you?" He asked her, moving in tandem with her when Sarah had tried to turn to catch a look of his face when she ignored her first compulsion to run. Amusement laced his tone, both frustrating her and frightening her all at once.

One thing was for sure, it wasn't Jareth. She'd have recognized him anywhere, regardless of if she was unable to see his face or not. His voice, the cadence in which he carried himself, were etched into her memory. Still, she paused, trying to study the man who'd engaged her and failing to snare him with a glance of his profile, his movements always keeping him just out of sight.

Despite him not being Jareth, he reminded her of him – which unnerved her. His question started her, and she paused in her movements to gaze back up at the statue of the young Hercules, remembering the tale of Hera and what she had done to make him seek out his twelve labors that would lead him to the legend he was destined to become.

"Because…." Sarah started, struggling to find words, her voice dropping as she whispered her appeal to the statue and the sadness she thought she saw in the carving's face. "Because he was able to make amends for his wrongdoings…to his first wife, his children, his family. He was finally free of that shame."

"What have you done that needs forgiving?" She heard him ask, feeling the man's voice suddenly behind her as he pulled her out of her contemplations. Her pulse roared, warning her that something was terribly wrong, but it was already too late as he closed the space between them – an action completed entirely too fast to be human – and Sarah knew she was in danger. Closing her eyes, biting her lower lip so hard she felt the metallic tang of blood on her tongue, she suppressed the whimper that wanted to crawl out of her throat as she felt the sharp press of a blade between her ribs just to the right of her spine. Her skin crawled as the man reached up and gently tugged her close with his free hand, resting his arm across her shoulders so she leaned back into him.

"Well?" He whispered, leaning forward to press his cheek to hers. She inhaled sharply, wincing as the blade pressed even tighter from where he had it snugly tucked against her sweater between her back and his chest, smelling the tell-tale signs of his foreignness. He smelled like wet earth and cut grass and mulled spices left out after a rainy evening, not a trace of human scent about him.

"Who…are you?" She asked, ignoring his question, internally grateful her voice sounded so even. She opened her eyes, frantically darting them around to see if anyone was near that she could call to. He seemed to sense her thoughts and dug the blade gently into the fabric of her sweater, making her still.

"Don't," he warned, and she immediately caved, complying in his demand that he not draw attention to them. When she slowly relaxed, she felt the muscles in his jaw draw his face into a smile. "Good girl."

"Who are you?" She asked, a little more sharply this time. She deserved to know that, didn't she?

He chuckled softly. "No one of importance." His hand reached up, idly stroking her hair and she finally released a low sob of disgust as his face turned to nuzzle her neck, tugging her close as his fingers snared in her hair and yanked her back against him. "You smell wonderful. Most of you mortals stink of disbelief and the bland mundaneness of your world. But you….what are you?"

She didn't answer, gritting her teeth and closing her eyes as he pressed the blade tighter against her ribs, his mouth dropping to inhale the scent of her skin. Idly, his hand traced her cheekbones, her mouth, the curve of her browbone, and she stiffened when he let out a faint groan of surprise. He reached up with the blade then, cutting off a locket of her hair.

Sarah didn't wait for another opportunity, jerking forward and harshly scraping the hard heel of her boot down his shin. The man grunted, his grip loosening from his surprise and she used the small window to stomp on his foot and spring forward, bolting across the gallery in a dead run, not daring to look back.

She didn't stop when she passed the security guards or the information booth or even the front entrance, continuing to blindly run until we lungs screamed and her feet ached. Sobbing, she finally sank down on her knees on a street she didn't recognize, in an area of town unfamiliar to her, trembling violently with the effort to suck in large gulps of air where she could.

"You…should not…have done that…." She heard from behind her, recognizing the voice. Screaming, she tried to scramble to her feet but was dragged back painfully by her hair. He'd moved too fast and she knew she was underpowered in comparison to his strength. She saw his hands as he raised the blade he had pinned to her ribs earlier, and she instinctively reached up to shield herself. It didn't matter, he was much too strong, but she jerked forward at the last minute, the fabric of her sweater tearing, and managed to make him miss his mark. The blade arched down and pierced her shoulder and screamed against the pain but struggled again, determined to win. I didn't survive those thirteen hours to die like this! Not like this!

"No! I will not let you do this!" She screamed, hearing the man laughed softly in response as she struggled hopelessly against him. He raised the knife again, and she noted her blood on the blade.

"You're a spirited little thing, I'll give you that girl," He hissed, preparing to bring down the blade once more. "Such a waste. Still, I don't need you functioning to bring you back…"

Sarah closed her eyes, tensing, suddenly furious – I paid for my sins! It's not FAIR! I WON! I WON AND THIS IS MY PRIZE?! – and then she was burning, fueled by vengeance for a crime she had already shed her pound of flesh for and then everything exploded.

The man jerked in surprise as he was tossed back, the sound deafening as it echoed off the walls of the alley he'd drug her into. Too shocked to register what had happened, Sarah closed her eyes against the onslaught of whatever had surfaced to rescue her. Briefly, Sarah lost consciousness as a blast of something part kinetic, part heat and emotional rage, swept over her. Almost as quickly, she snapped awake and sat up, not daring to see if the man was rising to finish the job.

Gasping, tears stinging her eyes, Sarah struggled to a stand and didn't look back, just putting one hurried foot in front of the other and slowly climbing into a steady run that took her away from her attacker. Her hands ached and she clutched them to her chest, afraid to look, knowing they'd be blistered or worse from the slickness she felt there. She was still bleeding from her shoulder but the wound hurt less now as her entire body began to ache with the torment of pushing herself forward, furthering the distance between her and the anonymous fae.

Finally, hours later, Sarah couldn't stand or move another few feet. Trembling violently, the shadows of an alley calling to her from where a streetlamp couldn't reach, as the sun had descended hours ago, Sarah stumbled into the covered sanctuary of a turned over dumpster, slumping to her side as her eyelids flickered shut.

Briefly, she heard a rustle and moved to jerk to a stand but didn't have the energy to. Several pairs of gentle hands felt around her and she sighed, letting out a soft sob. "Please…don't hurt me," she managed to croak. She was so thirsty.

"Rest, girl. You're in good hands," an elderly female voice whispered to her right, and Sarah felt a blanket of some kind cast over her shoulders. Briefly, the harsh scent of stale body odor hit her and she jerked, but too soon she fell into a troubled sleep, exhaustion winning out.


Underground, Six Years Prior, High Court Penitentiary, Solitary Confinement Division

The door to his cell creaked as it swung open and Jareth jolted awake, staring at the doorway with narrowed eyes. Eventually, Neverin entered the room with two flanking body guards on either side of her. As usual, she was dressed in a beautiful gown of silk in a simple off-white color that accented her cleavage and graceful shoulders, the edging of the gown laced with pearls of various shapes and sizes. The bodyguards were different this time, dressed in black and silent, almost lethally restless in appearance. His gut tensed as he realized he was staring at two of the legendary Nokmim. Momentarily, he was shocked. Lucius, what have you done?

"Oh good, you're awake." Neverin smiled, clapping her hands with delight, his eyes catching the gleam from the dim light in his cell of those long manicured nails he'd grown to despise, remembering how they felt digging into the wounds on his neck that had long since healed. "Come, come! Stand Jareth, you're to be my consort for tonight's festivities and I can't have you going like…that…"

Gritting his teeth, he complied, knowing he wouldn't be able to resist otherwise. Still, the flare of her magic embedded under his skin burned slightly as he balked at the idea of curbing to her demands, knowing that when he rid himself of the magic she'd carved into him – and he would – he would make no preambles about choking the very life out of that slender traitorous neck of hers. You perfidious little bitch, I am still King here. You're failing, I can taste the Labyrinth's rejection.

Despite Neverin's attempts to appear unflustered, he could sense the animosity of the buried Labyrinth magic underneath her hexes. It struggled and resisted as much as he did, making him grit his teeth tighter until his jaw ached at the hiss of burning conflicting magic beneath his skin. She'd attempted a few trials and failed. He knew when the Labyrinth was displeased as it was now, with the struggle it took to stand and look her in the eye.

Neverin stepped forward and ignored the narrowing of his eyes, gently reaching out and running a finger along his jaw. She smiled, tipping her head to the side, a hardness entering hers. "Oh, do try and look pleased, dear. After all, I'm letting you out of your cage. You'll be fed, dressed, trussed up as the King you still secretly know you are, even if you're on my leash. It'll be our little secret, won't it? I'd hate to see what happened to your filthy little creatures if you were to disobey me. I can see how much you want to."

Jareth tensed, glaring at her. "You'd kill innocents just to bring me to heel?"

"I'd kill legions if I was allowed, pet." She purred, stepping closer, snapping her fingers and dismissing the two Nokmim guards from behind her. Instantly, they dissolved from the room. She grinned faintly, her eyes flashing with promise he now knew she wasn't afraid to follow through on. "Now, like I said, we're to put on a good show tonight. Let the peerage see you, let them believe you've come to regret your past actions and fully relinquished your throne to me but offered your services in an attempt to make amends for hiding this mortal champion from us. It's not enough to ever warrant you the Goblin throne again, mind you, but what they don't know won't hurt them. After all, you're mine to command, and that makes me the Goblin Queen in the eyes of the court."

Jareth said nothing, watching her distastefully. She stilled, cupping his cheek, her nails once more digging into the soft skin of his jaw, her words sweet but her tone flinty, demanding obedience. "Do school that distaste I see out of your face and look pleasant at the ball, sweet. I've arranged a special service for you today. Remember Ophelia?" She tipped her head to the side as Jareth stilled, staring at her. "I demand you bring me her heart. Let's call it a test of sorts, yes?"

Jareth stared, his pulse slowing as shock registered against his senses. His face remained the same since she'd uttered the name of his first lover, stony and unflinching, but he knew what she was asking of him.

She wanted him to kill her.

"Why?" He finally asked as she moved to leave, the two Nokmim returning in a flash of magic and walking towards him, no doubt to see him to a bathing and fitting room under surveillance, where her marks on him would remain hidden.

Neverin stilled, glancing back at him. She smiled sweetly and sighed, letting out a soft chuckled response. "That is the question on everyone's mind when confronted by someone like me, isn't it? 'Why? Why do this, why do you enjoy this? What do you plan to gain?' All these silly questions."

She tipped her head curiously to the side as she studied him, ignoring the flanking guards on either side of him as she looked over his body, a small smile still tugging at her lips. "We're more alike than you're comfortable admitting, Jareth. Don't deny it, you know exactly what I'm talking about. You see, there's only a very small difference between you and me."

She laughed at the sound of disgust that came from him, pointing a manicured nail at him. "Some people, like you for instance, struggle not to be drawn into the darkness, even when it's in your very nature. But me?" She grinned faintly. "Ever since I was a little girl, I've always thought – why not just splash in and have a little fun?"

Jareth felt sick but simply stared as she grinned and blew him a kiss. "See you soon, lover. Come dressed to impress, hm?"

He felt the Nokmim's grip as they whisked him out of the oubliette, still shackled by the magic suppressing cuffs. Briefly, he let grief consume him, understanding now there was no bargaining with Neverin.


Aboveground, Six Years Prior, The Streets of New York

"Girl, wake up. Hey, girl. Wake up. You gotta let me take a look at those hands and that shoulder. Girl, wake up. Wake up!"

Sarah slowly opened her eyes, moaning faintly as she turned, blinking up at a pair of weathered faces stared down at her in concern. She rolled to her side and immediately let out a small cry of pain, clutching at the shoulder in question. "Where…am I?" She rasped. Her tongue felt like sandpaper.

A small metal cup was thrust in her face and it took her eyes a few moments to adjust, even her eyelids felt sticky and dry. Inside the cup was water. Instinct overrode her fear and she gingerly sat up and grasped the cup with both hands, hissing softly at the pain that shot up her hands with the action. Taking slow sips of the liquid under the instruction of the woman who'd woken her, Sarah watched warily as the man reached towards her to look at her shoulder, plucking at the crusted remnants of her sweater that had caked overnight with her blood.

She jerked back with a small scream, dropping the metal cup with a slight clang on the cement underneath her in her efforts to stave off his touches. "No, don't! Leave me alone! Go away!"

"Girl! Listen, girl, if he doesn't look at that shoulder it's going to get infected and then ain't nobody going to be able to help you. He's a medic, before the drugs got to him. But he's clean and he's better than what you got right now, which is a whole lot of nothing." The woman scolded, gripping her arms where Sarah struggled against her.

Something in the woman's tone broke her and she released the tension she'd been holding onto, leaning forward to sob against the woman's shoulder. Once more, the caustic smell of stale human body odor assaulted her nostrils but she was beyond caring at that point. She was alive, she'd survived when she hadn't expected to live through the night. He hadn't found her, the mysterious man from the Underground, and she broke down completely, falling limp as the woman's companion once more tried to tend to her wounds.

The man leaned forward and gently peeled back her sweater to inspect the wound, avoiding exposing her more than was necessary. He frowned, gently reaching into his pocket to withdraw a small antiseptic pouch and a bottle of superglue. Ripping open the small packet with his fingers and pressing it tightly against the wound, the man shared a stare with the woman as she held Sarah in place while she flinched against the sudden stinging pain.

"Ouch! Stop, it hurts!" She wailed, whimpering but slowly stopping her struggles when the stinging slowly subsided. The man paused in his ministrations long enough for Sarah to get her bearings and nod for him to continue, knowing he was only trying to help. As he worked, the woman snagged her attention and started talking again.

"Relax, girl. You're lucky the blade was clean, doesn't look to be festering. Let Norman seal it up and you'll be alright. No sudden movements, this ain't the hospital and it won't hold if you get to being too active. Hold still and let him work. What kinda trouble you in, girl? What's your name?"

"N-No names. If he finds you, he'll hurt you, too." She whispered, wincing as the man sealed the wound shut with the superglue. Eventually, he released her and she tested the hold of the glue. As long as she didn't wildly move her arm, it appeared to hold.

The woman frowned as Sarah scooted back and tugged her sweater back into place. "Th-thanks," she whispered, now really looking at the man for the first time. He smiled, showing a few missing places in his grin where teeth used to be, but he seemed relatively clean with a lean freckled face and shaggy auburn hair. He reached into a pocket and shoved a small card into her hands after he gently pried each one open, frowning as he inspected the burns but nodded after prodding a few sore spots and said that they simply needed time to heal and didn't appear to have broken skin that would risk infection.

"Take this," he whispered, tapping on the card and closing her fingers gently around it. "It's the name of a women's shelter. You're old enough, they'll take you in. Don't ask too many questions, either. They've got showers, hot food but mostly soup. If you're running from something and don't want the cops to know, they'll understand. Don't stay long, though, the uniforms tend to come around every few days, just in case."

"Thank you," she whispered, shrugging off the blanket and handing it to the woman. The woman shook her head, tugging it back into place. "You've got blood all over you, keep it. They'll ask too many questions, otherwise. Be safe, girl. Don't forget to look behind you as well as ahead of you. Keep your head down and you'll survive whatever it is you're running from."

"Promise?" Sarah murmured, her voice almost breaking.

The woman smiled faintly. "I did. If I can, so can you."

Standing, Sarah stood and wandered in the direction they pointed her towards.


Present Day – Vienna, Austria

"Alright, folks, eyes forward."

Sarah sat up straighter in her chair at the sound of Eoin's voice breaking up the low murmurs of conversation in the room, rolling her neck loosely on her shoulders as she tried to work the soreness out of her system from earlier that morning. Eoin had pummeled her hard, pushing her to the limits. She winced as the scrapes along her shoulder blades burned slightly from their earlier abuse.

She had managed to even the score before they had broken their practice session only a half hour earlier but she still wasn't pleased with her progress. She should have been able to control her magic better than she had. She could tell Eoin was doing his best to encourage her, but the tell-tale lines bracketing his mouth by the end of their exercise told her he was also concerned about her lack of magical control. Physically, she was strong and determined. Magically, she was unpredictable at best. Her touch was either lethal or dismally useless against the types of hunters coming after the group now.

She could still feel the small twinge of magic boiling under her fingertips but for some reason, couldn't seem to wield it properly. Frustrated, she clenched her hands into fists under the table, closing her eyes. If only I….

"Sarah, can you report on the latest charge we've managed to secure?" Eoin's voice interrupted her errant thoughts, bringing her gaze back to the table of gathered individuals. She spotted Jonas and a few others present that had been absent the past few days on reconnaissance missions around the city and countryside.

Clearing her throat, she nodded, moving towards the board with the various pins, grabbing a free one and pinning it alongside several others that had begun to crop up over the past few weeks. Pointing at her pin, she turned, feeling everyone's eyes on her.

"The boy, aged five, named James, was found here, in Langenzersdorf. There seems to be a pattern emerging in the disappearances. From what our resources tell us…" Her eyes trailed to Eoin who simply nodded and she let her eyes roam back over the mixture of humans and other occupants of the room, remembering what he'd told her earlier from his contacts Underground – several faces resembling the races of those that she met during her time spent in the Labyrinth – frowning as she continued. "The Underground magic continues to hold steadily, telling us they're not being converted to one of the races identified that can fuel the power of the elite there. So, where's it going?"

She looked around the room, hoping for suggestions from those who studied the map. When no one spoke, not even the Underground denizens that had managed to escape the very Underground itself, Sarah glanced to Eoin.

He sighed, scrubbing a hand over his face. "I don't know."

A low grumble settled over the crowd and he stood, inspecting the board. "But what we do know is where they'll attack next. See, there's a pattern here…and here. So it makes it most likely, they'll mass…here. In Gerasdorf." His eyes trailed over the board, tapping at an area nearby on the map, following the trail being left by the hunters in their wake, from what Sarah and the other trackers had been able to gleam from newspaper entries, mortuary bribes and gossip.

Turning, he looked at Jonas and a few other men who slowly stood, nodding. Eoin moved over to them, murmuring a few various orders to the group before they departed. The others in the room turned towards one another, continuing the meeting by discussing the state of the sanctuary as Sarah lingered off on the side, studying the map intently, feeling a sensation of dread suddenly claw at her insides.

The men quietly exited the room and Sarah frowned, drowning out the various rambles about food supplies, electricity siphoning and ward maintenance. Something about the map and the position of the pins over the last few months bothered her, but she was having trouble deciphering why. Feeling a hand on her shoulder, she jumped, looking back to find Eoin smiling faintly at her.

"What's got that head of yours spinning, caileag?"

Sarah shrugged her shoulders, unable to voice why she was suddenly concerned for Jonas and the others. "Would you let me scout with them?" She asked suddenly, looking back over at him. The answering frown made her scowl and open her mouth to voice her complaint but the silent look her gave her had the protests dying in her throat. You know why, little one. Your magic is unpredictable.

Sighing, Sarah looked back at the map. "Then go with them? I…don't know why, but I have a bad feeling about this one, Eoin. Please." She let her hand drift up and cup his gently where it rested on her shoulder.

He frowned, pulling back but nodding. "Very well. I will leave with them in the morning. I leave you in charge, caileag."

Sarah nodded, watching him leave. Eventually, she moved back to her room to check on James, who had since left her room, leaving only his jacket behind. A note pinned to her mirror told her one of the charges of the younger wards had come by and brought James down to socialize with the other children in the group. Smiling, she moved to where the shower was being installed, rolling up her sleeves, determined to get the plumbing working before nightfall.

 

Chapter Text

"Truth is – everybody is going to hurt you. You just gotta find the ones worth suffering for." – Bob Marley


Underground, Six Years Prior, High Court – Beltane Festival

The teasing burst of laughter at Jareth's back forced a smile he didn't feel to his lips as he turned the woman in his arms around the dance floor, keeping tempo with the orchestra in the distance, the instruments melding a ballad that was soft and light, easing the dancers on the marble floor into a slow serenade from the slightly faster pace the last dance had swung them into. Meant as a lover's dance, Jareth played the engaged suitor, tugging his partner closer as the music demanded.

The soft sounds of gossip and the chiming of wine flutes being picked off serving trays once soothed Jareth but now they only served as a reminder of estranged he was from the high court and their slow corruption. This is wrong. It's all wrong. How can they sit there, in their chairs, in their finery, sipping wine and trading sex instead of noticing the changes taking place under their very nose? Fools, the lot of them. All fools! You deserve to rot in your slovenly notice of what's really going on.

As much as he chastised them in his mind, he inwardly reflected on his own willful ignorance all these years. Briefly revisiting a flash of his youth in his mind and comparing it against what he saw now, he was horrified. The balls were always decadent but somehow had turned perverse, almost wicked.

In the distance, he could see wild couplings taking place in the shadowy corners of the opulent ballroom – a normal occurrence on the eve of May Day – but some appeared spontaneous and skirted on the edge of malapropos by the expressions of the women in the act. Others nearby simply laughed, clapping and urging on the aggressors in the deviant act, drenched in silk and jewels, adding to the already macabre scene.

Gritting his teeth and pulling Ophelia close, he stared at her in that familiar hungry fashion he was used to giving, back when he had a taste for such things. Lately, however, his lustful ambitions were dimmed and muted, controlled by Neverin's festering magic. Seeing acts in the corners of the room that he had all but been blind to, he felt bile rise in the back of his throat. Still, he couldn't resist Neverin's command and played the dutiful lapdog to the hilt. As if on cue, sensing his animosity at being required to act, a small burning sensation crept up his neck that almost pulled him into a dead stop. Skillfully, he pressed Ophelia close and let his head tip forward, nipping at her ear playfully to hide the brief tensing of pain that skirted up his spine.

Ophelia laughed nervously in his arms, both attracted to his boldness and shying away. The way she trembled against him, her hands clenching but her torso slowly evading his advances, normally would have Jareth detangling himself from his partner and finding more willing prey. This time, he urged her closer, his fingers biting down against her spine and yanking her close.

"Have you grown bored of me already, Ophelia?" He teased, a true smile tugging on his lips as he heard her breathless laugh and her resistance crumble, remembering how they once did this same dance long ago, gently leaning against him when he didn't press for further intimacy.

"I…I thought we were no longer…" She started, a small nervous giggle escaping from her mouth as he once again tugged her close but didn't demand too much, simply cradling her against him as they twirled idly to the music. "You hadn't shown interest in centuries. I thought you had other tastes in mind these days…"

"I've recently had a rekindled interest in the past," he silkily responded, briefly tipping her head back to meet his gaze. He let his eyes drop as he smiled slowly, tracing her lower lip with his finger. She was still beautiful, as most fae women were, dressed in a sweeping emerald gown that shone under the fairy lights that lit the dance floor. His dark navy suit jacket matched perfectly with hers in the glittering intensity of the fabric. "You object?"

"No, no…" Ophelia smiled, blushing, her grey eyes and pale blonde hair teasing his cheeks from where it bounced in even ringlets from her head. "I'm just surprised, is all." She briefly leaned forward and kissed him, leaving Jareth feeling a despondent coolness slide over his emotions as he aggressively returned the action, tugging her to him and slowly maneuvering her off the dance floor.

Briefly, he heard her laughter. As he tugged Ophelia into a private room off the main floor, he saw her laughing with the High King and his Justiciar. Briefly, their eyes met and a slow knowing gleam entered her eyes. Turning away, he led his mark down the hall and into a private room, silently begging her for forgiveness.


Aboveground, Six Years Prior, The Streets of New York

Sarah hunkered down on the last row of hard plastic seats aboard the A line subway train, closing her eyes and briefly giving into the weighted exhaustion tugging at her thin frame. She had barely eaten the past few weeks, too scared to linger at the homeless shelters she rotated through in the city for fear that either the police or the man that hunted her would appear. She had lost considerable weight but there was no avoiding it and if she willed the endless gnawing of her stomach out of her mind, she found she could train herself to ignore the sensation.

One thing she did know – there was no going home.

There were rumors amongst the people who had somehow become her people over the last few weeks about odd men – 'boogey men' the locals called them – that had begun hunting the shelters. Sometimes, they'd injure and disrupt the groups but most were left alone. However, occasionally a specific rumor would reach Sarah's ears about a pale blonde attacker disappearing with a person – someone they'd say that Sarah reminded them of – "You know, something sort of special about them. Kind of like you."

Every time she encountered a rumor like that, Sarah preferred to sleep on the A train or the streets rather than bunk down at a shelter, as that seemed to be the most common abduction places. No one heard follow up with the police because in the eyes of the masses, they were less than human – a burden on the city's already strained resources.

She had avoided the news, not even bothering to search for her name or her family's name in the papers or on the televisions she occasionally spotted in the coffee shops she'd slip into and purchase something just to use the restroom to clean up. If she did, she would break, and she knew if she wanted to live she had to keep her head down and focus on evading her attacker. Instinctually, she knew he wasn't done with her.

Most of those she now considered kindred spirits steered clear of her, as if they could sense her extrinsic nature amongst the seasoned crowd of vagabonds and destitutes. There were some who occasionally frightened her, but Sarah had learned quickly what sections of the city and what stations to avoid and, thankfully, her field and track lessons kept her out of reach for most troublesome encounters. Still, there had been several close attempts that had Sarah spending what little money she could find on pepper spray and a whistle she kept tied tightly to her wrist, unable to be easily cut off with a blade. While rape was ripe on the minds of various men, those she had encountered had lacked the cold precision to actually kill and maim and she had been able to use it to her advantage. So far, her plans had held up and she'd avoided what many young girls hadn't in the shelters she frequented.

Flickering her gaze warily towards the double doors of the subway as the train slowed while it approached the next stop, Sarah briefly forced her eyes to remain open and alert as others boarded and paid her no mind. Once the doors slid closed and she inspected the new occupants of her car, relief flooded her senses that none of the new passengers bore long blonde hair or the lupine gait that was etched in her memory from the museum.

Slowly, her eyes drifted shut again and she reached down, nervously tapping the loose change in her pocket that she managed to gather from panhandling for a few hours outside of a bagel and coffee store off the 23rd Street Station, slouching low and keeping the blanket the elderly woman had given her over a month ago wrapped tightly around her.

Tugging her ballcap low, she cradled the dirty backpack she'd been carrying since leaving the museum that day against her stomach, not bothering to meet the gaze of anyone who happened to look her way. She was relatively clean, having slipped earlier that day into the homeless shelter across from Penn Station to wash her belongings and shower, having learned the first few weeks on the streets that if she didn't want to attract attention, she had to keep her hygiene acceptable.

"You alone, miss? Mind if I take this seat?"

Sarah snapped awake at the sound of the unfamiliar voice in her ear, jerking into a sitting position and whirling, raising her hands to block herself against the friendly smile of the dark-haired young man sitting beside her. "Hello. I'm Jonas. What's your name?"

Sarah turned her face forward, gritting her teeth. "None of your business," she replied tersely, hoping he'd take the hint and leave her alone.

The young man, who appeared perhaps a few years older than her, shrugged a shoulder and appeared unphased. He reached into his crossbody bag, a modest leather pouch that was slung over a linen blazer and clean jeans, loafers donning his feet, and began to untie a bow that held a brown paper wrapping against what she determined must have been food, from the stains and smells wafting towards her nose.

Clenching her teeth, she sat up straighter, pressing herself more tightly against the wall of the car, trying to edge away from the man and ignore the sudden soft growl of her stomach. Slowly, she once more closed her eyes but didn't allow herself to nod back into the sleep she so desperately needed.

"Want some?"

Sarah once more opened her eyes and looked over at the smiling young man, her eyes drifting down to stare at one half of a pastrami sandwich on rye. She hesitated long enough that he nudged her with his elbow, nodding his head at the sandwich he held out in offering. "Come on, I can't eat it all myself. I mean, look at this thing. It's a beast! Help me out?"

Sarah's lips thinned and it was almost in her to retort that she didn't need his charity, but her stomach answered for her, moving her limbs without her consent. Slowly, her mind softened to the offered food, knowing she hadn't had a meal like this in a long time. Watching him warily, she took the sandwich and studied him as he ate the other half with barely-masked pleasure.

Lowering her gaze to study the sandwich, Sarah bit back the lump of emotion that churned in the base of her throat. His simple kindness had tears pricking at her eyes and so she forced the emotional implications of his gesture down and busied herself with eating. It took effort to not ravenously stuff the contents of the sandwich in her mouth as it had been so long since she'd eaten real food, and a few times she had to swallow several times to get the contents in her mouth down her throat.

"Here," he whispered, handing her a bottle of water. She took it, unscrewing the lid, taking a small sip of the liquid, just enough to help her ease the difficulty of swallowing but not enough to ingest too much, in the event he had tampered with the bottle.

"Thank you," she whispered after she finally finished her half of the sandwich. She felt almost sick, her stomach near bursting, not used to eating so much food at once after weeks of near starvation, but she offered him a faint smile and wiped her mouth with the napkin he handed to her.

The young man nodded, looking over her form as if taking note of her for the first time. She didn't feel affronted by the inspection, not picking up on any ulterior motives from the young man who appeared to simply be friendly to another homeless youth riding the subway in the early evening hours.

"You tried the Covenant House?" He murmured, keeping his voice low. She studied him a moment and understood how she must have appeared to him: Thin, pale and wane, hair tied up a little too hastily, clothing worn and stained but half-decent.

"Yes, but not tonight." She replied, turning away, unable to stare at the pity she saw slowly building in his eyes. She cursed softly under her breath, seeing him in the reflection of the windows as the subway whisked them down the dark tunnels underneath the city.

"Why? Something going on there?" He asked, frowning as he looked over her again. "Someone doing something they shouldn't be?"

"What, are you in school to be a therapist? No wait, let me guess – social studies?" She muttered, turning back to glare at him. "Why do you care? Got some extracurricular activity going on at college? Pick up a homeless girl, try and be her white knight? Too late for that."

She started to stand and shove past him when he gently closed a hand around her wrist. She jerked back and he eased away, raising his hands in surrender. There wasn't many on the train at that time and they paid them no mind, either worn out from the day and dozing or too drunk to notice the rising voices in the back.

"Don't touch me! Don't ever touch me!" She hissed, glaring, but failing to move when he saw the whistle. He smiled, pointing.

"Smart. Listen, sorry. I just…I just went through what you're going to for a stint a few years back when my mother lost her job is all. I have a soft spot for folks on the down and out. I know the stereotypes, the hungry nights, cramming in a sleep on the long running lines when the shelters overcrowd. I'm just trying to help."

Sarah faltered then, studying him. Common sense argued not to trust him, but something about his kind smile made her pause. Idly, she noticed his handsomeness, placing his pale skin and dark hair as European, possibly of Italian or Greek descent.

"Sarah," she offered, holding out her hand. He smiled and leaned forward, kissing her wrist.

"Thank you for trusting me with your name," he murmured, motioning to the seat beside him.

Slowly, she took it, looking at him warily for a few more minutes, then finally relaxing. Sighing, she tilted her head against the glass. They rode in silence for several minutes and he reached into his pocket, showing her a square piece of red paper. She raised a curious eyebrow and he grinned, deftly folding the square into a neat, organized shape and presented it to her.

Smiling, she took it and inspected his handiwork. He had crafted the paper into the shape of a rose. "It's beautiful. Thank you." Glancing back at him as she tucked it into her coat pocket, she studied him more closely. "How many stops are you on for?"

"As many as you need," he murmured, making her glance back over at him. She nodded, knowing what he was offering. Rest, I will watch over you.

After several minutes, she drifted off to sleep.


Underground, Six Years Prior, The Labyrinth

"What do you mean….gone?" Neverin asked, her voice a combination of ice and silk as she stared at the pair of flanking fae men kneeling at the base of the dais in the throne room of the Goblin Castle. She was dressed in a silk dress consisting of black lace and intricately knotted obsidian jewels, the fabric accentuating her lithe figure.

"They've managed to thwart our pursuit. We attempted to follow but they are being protected by Labyrinth magic when they're that deep in the maze's trenches. Perhaps…" The man to the left, who had been in discussion with Neverin, hesitated before continuing, keeping his head bowed. "Perhaps it is time for another attempt at the trials, my Queen. If we cannot cull the Labyrinth magic, they will continue to evade us."

Neverin fell silent, staring at the man with a murderous glare that he did not see, having enough sense to keep his head titled downwards in subservience. Titling her head, she let her gaze travel past the useless guardsmen beneath her throne and stared over the Labyrinth as the sun began to rise once more, pinning the stone walls of the distant maze with a glare mixed of frustration and fury as her nails briefly clicked against the stone slopes of the armrests under her hands. You are mine! Your king is my slave! He brought me the still beating heart of his first mistress in his palms and you still think to deny ME? I will decimate you before I allow you to slip from my fingers. Not after all that I have done.

Returning her attention to the matter at hand, she smiled down at the men kneeling in front of her who still waited for her reply. "Perhaps it is, sweet Cathal. Still, I need this matter settled. I cannot have rumors of the inability of my own Queensguard unable to control such simple things as goblins or foxes or stone trolls. I want them found. They must have help, how else are they evading you or the assistance I've provided? Padraig is one of the Nokmim's best and you're telling me even he is unable to locate a small horde of insignificants?"

Cathal once more hesitated, drawing out the gentle simmering of Neverin's rage under her porcelain skin. When he looked up at her, she smiled sweetly, raising her eyebrows as she waited for his answer. "Not without the magics of the Labyrinth contained, no my lady."

Neverin waved a hand, dismissing the significance of the claims. "Then you're looking in the wrong places. Don't focus on those hiding, focus on those you see. Mark my words, they are receiving help. The Labyrinth is not a hospitable mistress, especially for those seeking it as a refuge, and they must need a food source."

Cathal stared at Neverin until she grew impatient and rolled her eyes, annoyed she had to bluntly tell him their next course of action. "Instill martial law in the Goblin City, the Junkyard, and double the guards at the postings they hold in the Labyrinth. Remind them who is queen and if anyone offers resistance, kill them. In fact, I order you to select a candidate from each of the denizen populations about the Labyrinth and hang them in public, preferably with an audience. Leave their bodies to rot, for all I care. You need to send a very clear message to anyone who would aide these ruffians that we do not tolerate treason. Need I remind you of the early tales of the Labyrinth when it was uncontrolled? We do not want that, gentlemen. Do I make myself perfectly clear?"

"Yes, my Queen," both men hastily replied, bowing their heads. Neverin flicked a wrist and both the men instantly vanished from sight.

She sat there for several minutes, frowning and tapping her nails against the armrest of her throne as she processed the state of the Labyrinth, it's resistant and willful King, and her future plans. She still felt confident in achieving her end goal, but she still felt the odd sensation of anxiousness. It surprised her, for she rarely felt it. Feeling the air shift to her right, she canted her head in the direction of the arrival and broke into an exuberant smile, jumping up from her seat and throwing herself into the arms of the man who appeared.

Soundly kissing him, she laughed faintly as he grabbed tightly onto her hips and rolled his hips, hinting at his arousal that she felt instantly press against the soft flesh of her stomach. "Here, do it here," she whispered excitedly, moaning as he quickly tore himself free of his dark pants and shoved her skirts up, parting her thighs as he roughly tossed her atop the throne and thrust into her.

"Yes, gods yes! Yes! Oh, harder..." She hissed, tugging his shirt free and raking her nails across his back as he grunted and pounded into her from where he pressed her down against the dais, rutting with her against the Goblin King's seat of power.

"Oh, Eoin, my love….I've missed you…" She murmured, her body slowly eclipsing with his even as he bit down on her neck and drew blood, convulsing beneath him. She heard his satisfied groans of completion as she crested, leaning her head back and panting, a smile tugging at her mouth as he continued to suck on the wound he'd created.

"I've brought you a gift…" He said, drawing something out of his pocket and handing it to her once they'd satisfied themselves a few more times. She tipped her head forward, looking at the strip of hair with a puzzled expression.

"What's this? A souvenir of your latest?" She grinned, kissing him and tasting the residue of her blood on his teeth. "You've brought me another to consume? How thoughtful, dear."

He shook his head as he pulled himself from her, pressing her back up on the throne and slowly lowering her skirts. "No, but smell."

Raising an eyebrow in amusement, she brought the hair to her nose and closed her eyes, sniffing faintly. Instantly, her eyes snapped open as she glared. "Labyrinth magicNo, it's not possible…"

"Indeed, it is. I think that's a lock of your elusive Champion. She's most likely still in New York, hiding. She's a wee thing, attractive, but still human. Shall I kill her for you, love?" Eoin smirked, tugging her close for a quick kiss.

"Yes, please. But I want her alive first. I've got an inclination that my pet will find this development most interesting – and when have I ever been one to waste an opportunity like this?"

He grinned and bowed, disappearing from view. Neverin leaned back in her throne, idly curling the lock of sable hair around her fingers as she stared back out over the maze. "What kind of Labyrinth will you be when you're in thrall to a mad King?" She asked, grinning rapaciously as she tucked the strand of hair into her bosom and hopped off her throne, eager to merit out her latest discovery with a certain resistant monarch. You won't be one for long, Jareth.


Aboveground, Vienna Austria, Present Day

"Hello? You in here, Sarah?" Came a reply from behind Sarah as she let out a loud curse, dropping a much-needed screw when she was working on the finishing touches to her well-deserved shower.

"Fuck…"

Laughing, she heard Jonas lean down and grab the screw in question, leaning forward and helping her place it where it needed to go to mount the shower head into place. She smiled, offering him a heartfelt thanks, swallowing back a frown as she saw his dark briefs and long-sleeved shirt, remembering where he was heading in the morning.

"You've got to promise me something," She started as he leaned forward, testing the strength and temperature of the water and praising her for the job she'd managed to pull together. "This is very well done, Schatz. You must have been a plumber in a past life. Care to do my suite next?" He teased, ignoring her frown as she tried to voice the vague sense of unease teasing her senses about tomorrow's run.

"I'm serious, Jonas.." She said sharply when his expression turned amused while he continue to test the water pressure. "Something about these recent hunts concern me. I think…I'm worried they're a tr – "

"Hey, Schatz, listen – don't worry. The boys and I have this handled, it's a walk in the park. Eoin's been upping our training and you should see the way the we all move now, it's like the magic in us is…" He didn't get to finish his sentence as Sarah tugged him to her, kissing him soundly. I'm worried about you, Jonas. Don't go.

He groaned immediately, responding in kind by tugging her to him, capturing her lips hungrily with his. His head moved down, nipping at her neck, and she felt him lean a little too far into the shower, spraying her back with water. She gasped, laughing, and he pulled back with a grimace. "Shit, I'm sorry Sarah. Ruined the moment, huh? Why now? Why…after all this time?"

She swallowed, not wanting to tell him that she felt a real fear for tomorrow's scouting exercise. Something was wrong and no one was listening to her. She didn't reply, just tugged him forward, giving into that desire she only once allowed herself to embrace – years ago, back in his dormitory, preferring to lose her innocence to a fumbling youth than from an attacker, satisfied with the outcome of that action, despite her lack of emotion involved.

He once more groaned and quit talking after that, pulling back only to hastily tug off his clothes and help her with her own, tugging her to him and grinding his growing erection gently against her hips. He was much more experienced than the last time they'd been physical, shocking her by wrestling a sobbing climax from her with his mere hands before he hoisted her up against him and took her in long pronounced thrusts in the newly functional shower.

She held him close, pleased to find herself returning to a state of arousal and drawing close to another climax as he steadily teased her while he took her. She moaned and once more found herself surprised as he teased another climax from her just as he tensed and shuddered, reaching his own peak.

Afterwards, he asked to stay, and she let him, waking several more times during the night to him reaching for her, parting her legs and moaning softly as his fingers deftly worked alongside his thrusts, bringing more sweet releases alongside his own. She grinned faintly, pleased at the changes in him from years ago, whispering as much in his ear, knowing his ego would enjoy it. He laughed and used his mouth on her then until she'd sobbed at him to stop. Eventually, they slept.

Slowly waking the next day, she looked over towards the side of the mattress he'd been sleeping on and saw only rumpled sheets. Spotting a dark item on the pillow, she frowned and brushed her fingers across the object, realizing it was a piece of red paper shaped into a rose.

Chapter Text

"There is no better teacher than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time." – Malcolm X


Underground, 400 Years Prior, The Labyrinth Gates

"You can't be serious, Davean! This is madness!" Jareth laughed, shaking his head with incredulity as he looked around and realized where his friend had transported them. "Right now? You want to do this nowToday?"

"Why not?" Davean grinned, looking past Jareth's shoulder to stare at their destination. Jareth rolled his eyes at his friend's ego.

"Because we have astral theory in a few hours? You know how Master Aesif is when we are late to lessons. Last time I was late, my father wouldn't stop ranting about it for a week," Jareth grumbled, growing irritated as Davean appeared unphased, shrugging off Jareth's concern.

"Blame me then, they always go easy on you when you use me as an excuse." He offered, grinning at Jareth and practically bouncing on his heels. "Today's the day we do this. I can sense it. Come on!"

"That's not the point…" Jareth started, only to have his words fall on deaf ears as Davean started forward, gesturing at the crumbling grandiosity of the gates at the bottom of the sandy hills on which they had just transported to. The air at their back was rough and dry, hinting at the wasteland surrounding the maze. No one had been able to get anything to grow in the small expanse of land between the border of the Labyrinth and the Sprite Kindgom a few days ride south except at the very edge of the maze where sparse trees, some stretches of grass and a few ponds lay hidden against the harsh southern winds.

With little choice left, Jareth started to follow Davean down the hill, studying the monstrosity that reared up in this distance with hesitancy and disdain. He didn't hold the same obsession for the Labyrinth as his best friend did, always at a loss for whatever it was about this place that held Davean's interest after all these years. The maze was a crumbling behemoth, stretching across one of the last major ley lines between the Underground and the Aboveground and many theorized it held the boundaries between the two worlds at bay, the seat of the Labyrinth itself giving the sovereign of the maze untold powers.

Jareth thought it was a bunch of horseshit, personally.

Not Davean, though. Davean had always believed that there were untold powers to be had in the Labyrinth, if one could withstand the immense pressure of the trials. Again, there wasn't any proof of such trials, but then there wasn't much to be told about the Labyrinth in general – as no one who entered ever returned to tell tales, at least not that anyone remembered, not since the last custodian passed on and left the Underground with little to go on for how to bestow a new monarch other than explaining a series of trials had to be passed in order to secure a new master. No one knew where it came from, how it got there, and by most records, it was one of the few unexplained mysteries in the Underground. Some thought the goddess Danu crafted it, others said it was made by the Old Gods, even older than Danu. Either way, Jareth didn't want to have anything to do with it but made little progression over the years to steer Davean away from its allure.

As he moved to keep up with his friend's eager footsteps, Jareth cast his eyes over the Labyrinth and frowned. In the distance he could make out the center structures that rose above the maze, the buildings half overwrought with growth, the abandoned castle in the center long since losing two of its towers, tumbled to dust as the centuries passed without a proper custodian. The entire thing screamed of wrongness to Jareth and made him want to turn and leave. Still, he wouldn't budge as long as Davean was here. Once more he tried convincing his friend that he was on a fool's errand with dreams of conquering the long-dead Labyrinth. "No one has been in there since Maelfic went into the fade and that was well over three centuries ago. Who knows what it's like now? Besides, does that look anything like the stories we were fed as kids?"

Davean rolled his eyes and moved past Jareth, giving his friend a playful grin as he sauntered by and began to approach the Labyrinth gates despite Jareth's exasperated groan of annoyance. "Yes, it does. You know it, too. That's why you're so leery. I mean, look at it! Isn't it fascinating? Who built it? Why's it still standing? What's maintaining it now that Maelfic is gone? I mean, can't you feel that? The buzzing? There's something there and I'm determined to find out what it is. I'm doing those trials, Jareth. Can you imagine the looks of shock on their faces if I manage to win?"

Jareth frowned and opened his mouth to reply but Davean was out of hearing distance once more, having caught sight of the gates in full. He let out a whistle of appreciation and hurried up ahead, eagerly pointing it out to his friend. Wiping a hand over his face in frustration, he moved into a slow trot to keep up with Davean yet again.

"Look at these carvings! Can you imagine the skill needed to meld the stone like that?" Davean whispered once Jareth was within a few feet of him, staring at the gates with fascination. Jareth looked past Davean and studied the carvings, shuddering faintly with a frown.

Despite his friend's obvious enthusiasm and endless confidence that they would be able to master the Labyrinth, Jareth still found himself full of doubts and suspicions. Briefly, something pricked at the back of his mind and he took a step back, staring curiously at the gates once more. It took him a moment to register that suddenly, there was no other sounds in the air. Davean wasn't talking, the wind had ceased, the chattering birds and pyxies had stopped buzzing and chirping around him, leaving him unnerved.

Jareth…

Time seemed to still as Jareth stared at the gates, feeling his heart pound rapidly in his chest. As he stared, the gates rippled, the figures carved within the sturdy stone seeming to turn and grin, winking at him. It happened so slowly, he wasn't sure if he hallucinated it or if it was real, his fear taking flight in his blood, giving him the urge to bolt. He shuddered, trying to close his eyes, but he couldn't do anything but stare as the stone slowly swirled in front of him, the figures turning, beckoning him inside – Come inside, Jareth, we've been waiting…

"Ready?" Davean's hand clapping against his shoulder shook Jareth out of his brief reverie, making him jump as he turned his gaze back to his friend. Suddenly, Jareth could register the sound of the wind again and the familiar noise of the local wildlife was apparently once more.

"You really are jumpy today, aren't you?" Davean teased, sensing Jareth's unease as he once more looked back at the gate with disbelieving eyes, the carved figures once more returned to their immobile places. What the fuck?

Idly, the hairs on the back of his neck stood up as a sudden anxiousness flooded his senses. Deep down, his instincts screamed to leave – that somehow, all the rumors about the place were true. Frowning, he looked over at the eager grin on his friend's face, spurred by an inexplicable sensation that his friend shouldn't go into the maze.

"Davean…" He started in warning, only to hear his friend groan and roll his eyes, removing his hand and stalking forward to rap on the gates. Jareth quickly grabbed his fist before it could connect with the gate and whirled his friend around, his tone serious. "You know the rumors of this place, right? This not a game, Davean. You should take this kind of challenge more seriously. I've heard the trials are quite dangerous. Why worry about this old thing? You've certainly got nothing to prove…"

"If you're going to be a nag, you should've stayed in the stables." Davean growled suddenly, shoving Jareth away from him. Anger briefly flared and he reached to grab Davean again but his friend already had knocked on the gates. "Open up! We have come to face the Labyrinth trials!"

"Davean, no!" Jareth suddenly pleaded, grabbing at his friend to pull him back, but the gates swung open suddenly, the rough grind of gritty rock drowning out his voice. Both of the young fae took a few steps back, their eyes wide.

Enter.

"Did you hear that?" Davean whispered, staring wide-eyed at the open gates as the echoing whisper thundered between the two young men. Jareth's brow knit in concern as he looked over briefly at Davean.

"Yeah, I heard it. You didn't hear it earlier? Before you knocked?" He asked, surprise flickering across his features.

Davean looked over at him with a frown. "What? It…already talked to you?" He asked, frowning. Almost immediately, he shoved at Jareth furiously, nearing knocking him over. Jareth stared in surprise at the change in Davean as a dark expression instantly suffused his face, his hands clenched into fists. "You are not taking this from me, Jareth! This will be my victory! You don't even believe in the Labyrinth!"

Anger briefly flared inside him at Davean's sudden outburst and Jareth opened his mouth to retort his own caustic reply but Davean was already elbowing past him, marching into the Labyrinth. Jareth stared at the open gates for a moment before hurrying to catch up with his friend, the anger dissolving against the much larger emotion swelling in his chest - caution. Again, Jareth felt that prickling sensation and knew he couldn't let Davean enter on his own. There was something very odd about this place.

The gates closed ominously behind them, the noise echoing for several minutes against the dank walls of the maze surrounding him. He jerked at the noise and looked around, blinking in surprise at the immediate change in climate as the air suddenly condensed, forming a mist as he stared in both directions immediately available. Tentatively inhaling, he shivered at the sudden heaviness in the air as he gagged suddenly, the sour scent of mildew assaulting his senses. Seeing Davean marching off into the distance to the left, Jareth muttered a curse and hurried after his prideful friend.


It took several days for Davean to be willing to admit they'd made a mistake. They had been wandering the maze with no end in sight, tired and dispirited. Many passages were crumbled beyond repair, requiring them to retrace their steps back to a more stable section of the Labyrinth. No matter how hard they tried, they couldn't seem to inch closer to the castle in the distance. Even the uneasy prickling along Jareth's spine was gone, replaced with dry air and not a hint of vegetation or water as they climbed further into the Labyrinth's recesses. By the third day, Jareth miserably recalled how foolish they'd been to not come prepared with even a simple provision of supplies, so assured of their victory. His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth as he swallowed, trying to summon spit to ease the dryness there as they climbed a set of endless steps that encroached on a mountainous part of the Labyrinth.

Eventually, they ceased climbing and sat, huddled together, at a loss for what to do. After wasting half a day sitting, they eventually had tried summoning crystals, but whatever was changing the climate also seemed to affect their magic, their spells fading as quickly as they were cemented, the crystals collapsing into a spray of sand just as they formed. At some point, they tried returning to the entry to leave, but again – they couldn't seem to be able to find their way back. It was as if the Labyrinth was changing around them, unwilling to allow them escape.

The trials are testing us, Jareth suddenly realized, sobering against the realization that he'd been wrong to doubt this place's power. It's real. All of it – it's all real…

Frustrated, tired, hungry and frightened, Davean had finally stopped, bowing his head between his hands as he knelt against a loose bolder that had toppled at some point from one of the Labyrinth walls. "I should have listened to you. Why didn't I listen to you?! I'm sorry, Jareth. I…I don't know what to do. What are we going to do?!"

"Hey, listen, it's going to be alright. We'll make it out of this, yet. You'll beat this thing and shock them all, remember?" He frowned, eyeing Davean with concern. He remained the soberly pragmatic one, knowing hysteria would not help them at this stage in their search for the center of the Labyrinth or a way out. Still, he was concerned for Davean, who only seemed to descend further into panic the longer they traveled without an end in sight. Jareth looked around at their surroundings, fear briefly flickering in the back of his mind but forcing it down, determined to elicit a brave face for his friend. Davean caught the fleeting smile from Jareth but couldn't seem to muster the action in turn, worriedly looking around and wringing his hands nervously. Eventually, his jittery nerves seemed to sap enough of his energy that he sagged against the boulder, wrung out.

"I just need to think for a bit," he murmured softly, closing his eyes.

"Of course," Jareth replied, moving to sit beside his friend. He looked up at the ruined castle in the distance and stared at it in length, trying to come up with a course of action that would get them to the center of the Labyrinth but was unable to come up with one. He waited until he heard his friend's breathing eventually slow, telling him he had fallen asleep.

Sighing, he stood and moved around in the vicinity of the stone corridors near his friend, searching for anything of substance. An hour later, he returned empty-handed and angry. Briefly, a glimmer of something in one of the castle windows caught his eye and Jareth ground his teeth in anger as he pivoted, staring at the castle with disdain. "Fuck you and fuck this bloody maze," he whispered to whatever was there, tearing his gaze away and looking over at Davean. He was startled to see Davean's thinning features, not realizing how sickly his friend had become in the past few days. I've got to find water, at least.

A soft peal of laughter danced on the edge of Jareth's hearing and he turned sharply, trying to catch sight of where the noise was coming from. It dissipated as quickly as it formed and finally out of ideas, he settled down next to Davean and succumbed to sleep against the shelter of the boulder.


Wake up, Jareth.

Jareth jumped, startled awake at the voice. Blinking, he wiped at his eyes and sat up, looking around. The hell was that?

Almost instantly, he realized he was no longer sitting beside Davean. Instead, he was in the shallow pit of a vast cavern with a winding stone staircase leading towards a lit tunnel of freedom spawning out of the unforgiving rock to his right. How the fuck…?

Instantly on edge, he stood slowly and looked around. He didn't see any others in the cavern, friendly or otherwise, and saw no evidence that he had been accompanied by others or placed here against his will. Patting down his clothes, he noticed nothing had changed – there were no ligature marks on his wrists or ankles and his clothes remained unmolested. Frowning, he shook his head and moved towards the stairs, only to be hit with a blast of dizziness that made him stagger and retch, canting forward and reaching blindly for something to hold onto before he pitched forward and landed roughly on his stomach. It eased up after a moment, allowing him to glance around wildly at whatever could be causing the sensation and see nothing, only to have the dizzying sensation return with nauseating intensity. Better prepared the second time, Jareth forced down his reaction, breathing shallowly between clenched teeth as he stumbled to his knees, wiping at his eyes and edging once more towards the stairs. What the fuck is wrong with me?

For some reason, he sensed a ripple of amusement and satisfaction before it once more bore down on him, making him groan briefly but hold his composure. I'm not about to lose what little contents I have in my stomach to a stupid fainting spell. Piss off! Still, the sensation didn't ease, only continued to compound inside his skull, making Jareth elicit a faint groan. Closing his eyes, he tensed and roared out with his thoughts, suddenly angry at whatever was tormenting him at his expense. Whatever you are, back the hell off!

As if in response, the sudden suppressing sensation immediately lifted, leaving him momentarily light-headed. He almost sagged in relief, but forced himself to breathe evenly until the fogginess left his mind and he was once more able to move without complaint.

"Hello?" He hissed sharply, slowly finding his footing and standing up, glancing around. As before, nothing presented itself and nothing appeared to be there. Irritation and frustration clawing at him, he moved forward until he felt a swirl of water at his feet, looking down. He had stumbled into the middle of a shallow pool while he'd been inspecting the cave for intruders. Frowning, he tipped his head to the side and stared, wondering at the odd glowing light underneath the murky water.

Something caught his eye and he reached down, snagging it. Bringing it up to his face, he stared in confusion as he realized it was a pendant hanging from a leather cord, a sickle-shaped emblem carved into its center. It swayed from the leather cord, glinting faintly in the cave, and he realized suddenly the glowing was coming from the object.

Curious, he briefly reached up and ran a finger across the emblem. It pulsed momentarily, the soft glow brightening and then blinking out. He turned to throw it but as it once more dangled against his hand, a searing pain bolted up his arm. Jerking back with a howl of pain and dropping the pendant, his mind was instantly flooded with an onslaught of magic and voices. Unable to find his footing, this time the sensations in his head too much for even him to withstand, he pitched backwards and his head hit the stone floor underneath him with a sickening sound.

The pendant found its way around his neck and briefly pulsed once more before cooling and returning to silver against his chest. A low rumbling shook the cave but eventually stillness descended upon the Labyrinth as Jareth slipped into unconsciousness.

A few hours later, Jareth gasped awake, sucking air into his oxygen-starved lungs as he jerked into a sitting position when he came to, whirling around and once more finding himself still stuck at the bottom of the cavern, his clothing soaked from the hours spent laying in the shallow pool. The sudden movement made him gag, his head pounding dangerously, making him feel as if his skull would split in two. He winced, raising his hands and ran them over his face, searching for wounds. Lightly, he guided his hands and felt along the backside of his head, feeling the pain radiating from the base of his skull as he did so. As his fingers briefly waivered over the injury, pain exploded in a sharp agonizing whirl at the back of his eyes and he quickly drew his hands away, groaning softly.

For the merest second, Jareth remembered his comatose state. A wave of rioting senses blasted him, making him recoil from the memory. Whatever had caused him to black out was painful but he'd managed to survive it. Past that, it was too hard to focus on what had happened and he simply shut off his probing thoughts for when his head didn't pound with the gash present on the back of his head. Gritting his teeth, he slowly staggered to a stand and tried to make for the staircase once more, his boots thudding loudly with the added weight of water along the stone underneath him when he stumbled onto dry bedrock.

Briefly, he heard a cadence of soft whispers around him that only added to the agonizing roar inside his head. The whispers began to cackle and giggle, chirping incoherent words that ricocheted inside his skull, bouncing against his already sensitive hearing from the head wound. When he stumbled trying to take the first step on the staircase, he let out a howl of annoyance and whirled, glaring into the silence. "QUIET!"

Almost instantly, the whispers ceased. He stilled, his howl echoing and fading in the cavern as he sobered, wondering if he was going mad or the voices he was suddenly attuned to were real. Deciding to test his theory, he tentatively called out one more. Licking his dry lips, he tilted his head to the side as he muttered out a command. "Speak."

Kingy back! Yes, yes! You played the game and won!

We needs you, we've been waiting so long…

Alone, all alone, so bored, much work to do!

Wishes missed! Wishes must be answered! Wishes grant the Underground more boon!

Kingy here! Kingy answer summons! Kingy can return us!

Endless whispers began to collide into one another, the individual voices turning into a dull roar. Once more, it was becoming painful to hear and Jareth winced, slashing a hand in the air when the noise became too much to bear. Almost instantly, they stopped.

"One at a time," he gritted out, beginning to slowly climb again when he was sure he wouldn't slip, still too weak to go more than a few steps at a time before needing a small moment to catch his breath. "Who are you?"

Goblins!

Jareth paused, briefly surprised as he looked back over his shoulder at the cavern floor below. There hadn't been a goblin spotted in the Underground in ages and he saw none now, briefly entertaining the idea that he had gone mad. How long had it been again, since Davean and him had entered the Labyrinth? Three days? Five? More? "I thought all goblins were gone," he replied, starting once more to ascend the pit as he sobered around the thought that he was most likely talking to himself.

Not gone, asleep. King left, no new King, so fell asleep. When we wake, we return.

Jareth frowned, looking around, deciding he had truly lost it. Still, he continued to ask questions, simply out of entertainment. "Beings don't just vanish, sleep or no sleep. Besides, why are there no records of this? It's only been three centuries since your last master faded and he never left any notations of this at the behest of the scholars. Nor did they pick up on this from his readings. Explain."

Not all things are meant for those outside of the Labyrinth, Master. Kingy asked us to remove these memories as he faded, so we did. He said we needed to make a game, a good game, to find us a new Kingy, a worthy Kingy, one to be trusted with this knowledge. He said we needed a  Protector.

You played! You won! You answered the summons! You are the new Kingy now! You're here to Protect us, yes? If you ask it, we can restore any memory banished that you want. There are many.

Jareth blinked, shock flickering across his features. Suddenly, he had the crippling sensation that he was not mad after all. If this was true and these creatures and the magic in this place could alter cognitive functions at that massive of a scale…what was this place? The implications of that type of power residing in this place made Jareth still. In the wrong hands…

"Where are you?" He asked, curiously looking around. He felt a rippling around him and soon enough, the darkness around him shifted and shimmered, unveiling the various beasts he had only read about as a small child. He grinned faintly as they began to appear, stunned at what he was seeing, realizing the rumors of the Labyrinth were all true, turning faintly to look down from where he'd climbed several stories worth of stairs, only for his smile to fade into another expression of awe.

Along the pit, there were literal thousands of goblins. All of them stared at him with something akin to reverence that made him nervous. "You're…the Labyrinth. All of you. You're part of it. You said…you said you could restore memories."

In his mind's eye, he saw Davean's excited face. He couldn't wait to return to his friend and tell him about this discovery – he had been right all along. When he had doubted, Davean hadn't. Smiling, he casually called out a command. "Restore them to me. All of them."

As you wish, they responded. Slowly, they began to link hands and murmur something in goblin. Jareth frowned, trying to recall back to his youth and his studies to make out what they were saying.

The pressure Jareth felt before returned tenfold. Doubling over, letting out another howl of pain, Jareth instantly saw black and felt his legs fold underneath him, pitching him off the stairs and into the pit below.

He never felt himself hit the ground.

 


 

A few days later, Jareth found Davean. He had searched endlessly and it took several goblins following him to advise that all he had to do was command the Labyrinth to take him to his friend – and he then realized the extent of his new powers, instantly transporting to the section of Labyrinth they had been huddled together before he had found himself at the bottom of the cave that was situated beneath the castle.

Dropping to his knees, he stared in numb shock at the look of gentle acceptance on his friend's weakened face. He had faded peacefully by all appearances and when he asked why – doing his best to keep his voice steady but failing towards the end - the goblins sadly replied that because Davean had failed the initial trial, he would have most likely not survived, as there was no King to curb the effects of the loose magic in the Labyrinth at that time. It did little to assuage Jareth's guilt, however.

"I'm sorry you couldn't see it, Davean. Everything you said was true. All of it," he whispered, closing his friend's eyes and gently wrapping Davean's body. Bowing his head, he glanced back at the goblins, who looked nervously between his friend and their new sovereign.

"Kingy sad," one gently replied. Jareth nodded and tucked his friend's body close, summoning the large amount of power suddenly available to him and transported them away from the Labyrinth. Dreading his next actions, he willed himself where he knew he needed to go and reappeared in the high court's chambers, instantly hearing the dull roar of the high council's deliberations fade into stunned silence.

Opening his eyes as he heard chairs screech across the marble floor, he looked around the room and saw muted expressions of awe, shock, and horror.

"So, it's true…what the seers said is true…" he heard someone call from the back, unable to identify the voice.

Jareth stood slowly, setting down the remains of his friend, meeting the gaze of each of the high council members with a stoic expression. It appeared the rumors of the Labyrinth had reached them and as he tilted his head to look outside, he glanced down and stilled, surprised and suddenly noticing the change in his appearance. He was dressed in a suit of black armor, the crest that he had seen on the pendant at his center. A small howl of wind brought his head up sharply and he looked out the window, stunned to see snow-swept hills outside of the Underground capital of Annwn.

They had left for their trial run in early spring and the barren world outside startled him, as the Labyrinth was balmy and unencumbered by the outside world's sense of time. Once more, Jareth was overwhelmed at the power the Labyrinth held, if it was able to sway something as profound as the seasons. He found himself struggling to remember how much time had passed from when they had first entered the maze – I thought it was only a few days, a week at most. But months? Seasons?

At first, the goblins were eager to show him all that he could to and were able to guide him in restoring the Labyrinth to its former glory – something Jareth thought had happened quickly but he was beginning to wonder if it had. It seemed that the more the goblin horde linked their power to Jareth, the less intelligent they became. Eventually, they explained he would have to rely on the castle's library and the memories they'd gifted him with. He was still struggling to make sense of the memories that assaulted his dreams, something the horde told him would only come in time.

Turning, he looked back at the council and tried to bow his head, brought back to the somber reason he was there. He moved aside and opened his mouth to speak - only to hear a piercing wail come from High Queen Maeve as she stumbled forward as soon as she saw Davean's remains. He stood back as the woman shoved past him and knelt beside her son, clutching him to her chest, her pain evident as she sobbed at the realization that her child was dead.

He opened his mouth once more to usher an apology but a vicious roar stopped him cold. "You've killed my son! You – get out of my sight! King of the Labyrinth or not, you'll rue the day you convinced him to leave this place and set out with you to that blasted maze! You did this! You did this to take his inheritance, you miserable whelp! You will never be High King! Not as long as I sit on the throne!"

Jareth was shocked into silence, staring at High King Lucius as he flew into a rage, jerking forward after he tore his gaze away from his wife and son, wrapping his fingers around Jareth's throat. Jareth tensed and instinctually sought to protect himself, his newfound magic immediately responding. Suddenly, Lucius reared back sharply withdrew his hands with a hiss of pain. Panicked, he struggled to decide what to do to remedy the situation, drawing back at the look in the High King's eye.

"High King Lucius, I…" Jareth finally started, raising his hands in surrender, surprised at the flare of magic that seemed to have injured the High King. The High King stared, a brief wave of shock flickering over his features – as if he hadn't believed the rumors until just then – until they melted away to form a hardened glare of pure hatred at Jareth. A look of sadness washed over Jareth as he heard the instant murmurs fear and stunned surprise of the high council against his back. Lucius turned away for a moment, only to turn sharply when Jareth reached for his shoulder and backhand him, sending Jareth sprawling across the floor.

"Get out of my sight," Lucius growled. Jareth slowly stood, staring at the shocked faces of the high council, sadness in their eyes at the state of the high prince's body at their feet.

Unable to find anything further to say, Jareth vanished from sight and returned to the castle at the heart of the Labyrinth.


Aboveground, Six Years Prior, New York University, Campus Dorms

"You're going to get in trouble for sneaking me up here," Sarah whispered with a faint hint of laughter as Jonas grabbed her hand and sneaked her into his dorm room, avoiding other students in the hall by ducking into doorways and tugging her close as others passed by.

Grinning, he shoved her into his room once he reached it and quickly locked the door, tugging her further into the dormitory. "Nah, my roommate is rarely in here. He got some girlfriend in the city and stays there mostly. Tada!" He gestured around him, indicating the room in which he planned to have her stay in for the night.

"Jonas…" Sarah began, worry edging into her tone as she glanced around. Jonas moved her into a chair and shushed her into silence, leaning down and opening the door to the small miniature fridge his father had insisted on from his stories, tugging out a small box of leftover pizza. Hearing him talk about his family tugged at the hole in her chest from the absence of her own and she forced a smile on her lips as she listened, ignoring the rush of stinging guilt that washed over her as her thoughts drifted to them. I can't think like that, if they found out who I am and hurt them…

Not allowing herself to finish the thought, she took the offered box and heard her stomach rumble as she grabbed for one of the remaining pieces in the box. Settling on the bed after she cast off her backpack, she chewed dutifully on the leftovers until he seemed satisfied she was eating. She watched Jonas move towards the small kitchenette in search of glasses and thought over their friendship for the past few months.

"So I talked to one of the counselors today and they told me there's a good chance you could get in under a scholarship..." he started, only to stop as he saw her frown. Sighing, he dropped the subject and rummaged for drinks, an uncomfortable silence filling the air.

She still hadn't told him why she was on the run, why more often than not she slept on the A train or in the streets instead of the shelters, fearing a run in with the fae hunting her. The rumors were becoming more rampant now, making her nervous and ready to leave the city. Watching Jonas shuffle through his small kitchen made her heart squeeze, knowing he was the only lingering reason she stayed. Still, she had to tell him tonight that she was leaving. He was taking too much of a risk for her and she was being foolish and careless by exposing him to her world.

I am fooling no one. I am on borrowed time only. He will find me sooner rather than later. I can't have you hurt. I hope you can forgive me with time.

She didn't open her mouth and voice any of this, though. Not tonight, what she was determined to be their last night. She would leave him with good memories before she left. He hadn't waivered in his protection and Sarah worried that his friendship was blooming into something more for Jonas, more reason to encourage her to leave, but as she watched him make her a drink, she struggled under the burden of that decision. She briefly wished, despite her hatred of the term, that she could feel something for Jonas – but she couldn't. Every time she closed her eyes and slept, she saw him. She tried not to think about him during the day, animosity and bitterness tearing at her insides until nothing remained but unspent rage, but at night all that was stripped away and she was left with the disgusting realization that she still wanted him, despite it all.

Part of her refused to think the fae that had attacked her had anything to do with the Labyrinth. It was a small part of her, but it refused to be swayed. The fae that attacked her hadn't known her, hadn't recognized who she was. A large part of her mind screamed at her that she was being ignorant, that this was exactly the type of trickery a manipulator of dreams and magic would do to lure its prey in for the kill but still, that small portion of her remained stubbornly in denial. She realized she wanted to see his face when she accused him of ruining her life, wanting to be able to read into his eyes and see for herself what laid there. Until that day, she was torn with indecision about her feelings for the Goblin King.

"Here," Jonas whispered, dragging Sarah's thoughts away from her confused attraction to the fae King, a glass of iced cola in his hand. She looked up and smiled, taking the cup and sipping. The coldness of the drink tasted like heaven and she sighed faintly, already full from the large slice of pizza she had eaten.

Jonas sat beside her on the bed and studied her profile, setting the pizza box aside. She slowly looked his way and winced at the look he was giving her. She opened her mouth to warn him not to go there when he spoke.

"I think I'm falling in love with..." He started, only for Sarah to press her hand against his mouth. She shook her head sadly.

"Don't say that," she said sadly. He pulled away, curling his fingers around her wrist and gently pulling her hand down, curling his fingers in between hers and frowned.

"Why not?" He murmured, leaning forward, stopping only when he saw her tense and pull back. She sighed, closing her eyes briefly, then glanced at him, making sure the expression on her face was clear. From the tensing of Jonas as he stilled, staring, she was communicating her concerns clearly.

"Because you'll ruin this before it even starts," she sighed, explaining herself, watching as a mixture of sadness and embarrassment flickered across his features. She wanted to comfort him, but knew that would only give him mixed signals and refused to move. "I don't love you, Jonas. Not like that. I…can't."

Jonas flinched but nodded slowly, still steadily meeting her gaze. "I see. Is there someone else?" His tone belied his hurt but she admired the steadiness of his words.

"Kind of. I don't know. It's confusing." She admitted, turning away and sipping at her drink. "But it's not fair to you, you shouldn't get hung up on me. I should go…"

She sat aside her drink and rose, only for Jonas to grab ahold of her wrist and make her glance back at him. He seemed to wrestle with what to say, his gaze dropping momentarily, but he looked up again and his eyes glittered – this time with something else more easily recognizable – lust.

"I accept you don't love me. Still – don't go. Stay?" He murmured, tugging her back onto the bed. His switch from emotional attachment to simple sexual gratification made her uncomfortable at what this would mean for their friendship. She didn't want to end their friendship by breaking his heart.

"I don't want to ruin this," she whispered softly, cupping his cheeks, finally giving into the urge to soothe his stinging pride. "I need to go, before we do something we both regret."

"I won't regret it. Would you?" He insisted, pressing his head forward, his mouth inches from hers. "I want it to be with you. Have you…you know, been with someone before?"

Sarah shook her head, closing her eyes. "No. But shouldn't it be with someone you love?" She murmured, then winced at her choice of words, pulling back. "I mean, someone who loves you in return?" She amended, watching him with concern. He simply smiled.

"Who else would I lose it to but you? Stay?"

Sarah said nothing but didn't move to leave, either. She swallowed when he leaned forward, tentatively brushing his mouth against hers. Deciding that she'd rather open herself up to him versus an attacker, she didn't object when he pulled her close, his hands ghosting against her back, slipping in under the hem of her sweater.

The rest of the night, she gave in to Jonas' needs, ignoring the faint images of a fair-haired monarch that hovered at the edge of her thoughts.


Underground, Six Years Prior, The Labyrinth

Jareth stared at his hands, clenching them into fists as flashes of memory drifted past his thoughts. Gritting his teeth, he willed himself into silence, forcing the guttural screams of Ophelia out of his mind. The sounds of her death would haunt him forever. He had killed before, but not like that. For a mere moment, he gave into the endless sense of self-disgust that tugged at him ever since Beltane.

Briefly, he felt the rippling power of the Labyrinth press against the bonds of Neverin's magic while he wallowed in his own shortcomings and self-flagellation, making him stiffen in pain. It took all of his concentration to remain upright, sitting in the cot of his derelict cell at the bottom of his own castle, rotting away in the dark with nothing but his slipping sanity to keep him company.

The goblins hadn't warned him that by taking their magic, it became his own and was no longer theirs to control until he shared the magic with another or faded. Therefore, there was little he could do but refuse to give over the power Neverin sought. Still, she chipped away at the library and the caverns beneath the castle, trying to ferret out his secret about the Labyrinth trials. So far, she hadn't discovered what she needed and his shields held the hidden scripts from her eyes but still, she had him bound and therefore, to a degree, the Labyrinth itself. It took considerable effort not to feel the shame at what he had become under her thumb.

Suddenly, Sarah's profile flashed unwelcomed before his eyes. Anger once more tore at his senses and he growled softly, both hating and obsessing over the visage of her in his mind's eye. Before you, I could do almost anything. Before you, I could have broken free. Before you…

Sighing, his anger washed away as he remembered her spirit and the way in which she'd determinedly steered to victory in the Labyrinth and in some ways, his heart. He grimaced, remembering her innocence as he'd tried – and failed – to seduce her in the peach-induced dream he'd conjured up as a last resort. She was the first being to not look at him in contempt in centuries and he hadn't wanted to let that go. To her, he was a villain, but her eyes always held a sense of playful adversary instead of sheer loathing that he was used to seeing at , he wished he had never met her. Before you, I thought I was content being alone. You have ruined me.

Jareth banished her visage from his countenance again, subduing a small bark of laughter that threatened to bubble past his lips at the ironic turn of his thoughts. What does the Goblin King know of love?

He was better off alone, having never known that brief mercy that her look gave him. Look where it landed me, those fleeting glimpses of a face not judging me on my past but only on the challenge I presented with her brother, the idea of someone looking past my label – Goblin King, Kingslayer – and here I am, rotting in my own cell, in my own castle, under her rule.

Angrily shifting in his cot and throwing the half-rotted blanket he'd been given across the stone cell, he banished her from his thoughts, thinking on the court instead. He remembered each and every name they hurled at him – loathe to give him a seat at the council, only the voice of the houses swaying the high council to relinquish the vacant seat to Jareth. In his ascension, he opened a path to added power for the noble houses and arcane schools to access. It was something Lucius couldn't deny the Underground, despite his animosity. The past four centuries had not eased the bitterness in which he looked upon his son's death. Still, he hadn't noticed Neverin, no one had.

Finally, he decided to drop introspection all together, simply willing his subconscious into silence.

The creaking of his cell door brought Jareth back to the present, sensing Neverin before she appeared, the flare of her magic twisting his windpipe tightly. He grunted as he rose, willed by an invisible force, and then she appeared – walking through the door to her cell with her usual guards flanking both sides.

Dismissing them with a wave, she grinned faintly at seeing Jareth's glower once they were alone. "Good morning, pet. How are you today?"

"Why do you ask questions you already know the answer to?" He gruffly responded, forcing down the murderous rage that suffused him as he watched her practically preen under his glare. Her mockery of a crown still hung from her head, making him tremble with the effort to fight the magic binding him. Just wait until I am free, I will strangle you with that crown of lies…

"I know something you don't know," She teased, mimicking that Aboveground song that children often sung to taunt one another. Jareth stilled, studying her with narrowed eyes as she plucked something from her bosom. Deftly, she ran a small locket of chestnut hair under her nose and inhaled, closing her eyes with a smile.

Rage suffused him as he locked eyes with the locket of hair, jerking with shock as the scent wafted towards him, immediately conjuring up her face in his mind's eye. No…

The desolation he felt upon the realization that she had a piece of Sarah's hair startled him out of his shock. Feeling the agonizing flare of her magic and he exploded into action, prepared for the onslaught and pushing past the staggering roar of torment that clashed against his body, he crashed forward and wrapped his hands around Neverin's neck, watching her expression twist from malicious glee to startled surprise. He immediately felt the ramifications of her magic lancing into him but ignored it, twisting his grip tightly and squeezing, fueled by a cold explosion of fury.

"If you touch her, I will kill you! Where is she? WHERE IS SHE?" He roared, ignoring the sickening smell of burnt flesh that rose from his neck, determined to get an answer from her and see what she knew. Tell me I have not suffered all this for nothing! Tell me you didn't kill her!

Neverin staggered under his considerable strength and for a moment, Jareth felt a perverse pleasure watching her face redden as she struggled to breathe. Just a little longer…Sounds of guards exploded from the hallway as his victory was almost complete, trying to force his hands tighter around her throat as he watched Neverin's expression of surprise dissolve into traces of panic.

Just as his grip turned lethal, she jerked forward and he looked down at the bloom of pain in his gut. There, protruding from his gut, was the hilt of her ebony blade. Her ragged sucking of air alerted him that he had lost what tenuous leverage he had in his brief retaliation and already, the immediate blows from the guards behind him had him suddenly seeing stars as they landed a few critical blows to his head.

"Who is she?!" Neverin screamed, glaring down at him as she let the guards keep beating him. Rage transformed her beauty into something macabre as she gripped the ebony blade and twisted. Momentarily, he hoped for death. If he died, the Labyrinth would cast them out and once more sleep until another rose to the challenge he had laid in place not long after he had ascended himself. Go on, bitch. Do it, do it and see what happens, I dare you…

Jareth felt a grin tug at his lips, relief washing over him as he heard Neverin's words. She doesn't know…

"I'll never tell you," he rasped and she screamed again, tugging loose her ebony blade and bringing it to his throat, her eyes liquid pools of hatred.

"Do it," he hissed, thrusting his neck forward to where the edge of her blade nicked his skin. "Do it!" He roared.

She yanked back the knife and panted, glaring down at him, then tugged his shirt loose. He tensed and tried to fight, but it was too late, he had lost too much blood in the process. She started carving again, adding more runes to those already there. He roared in pain and the brief grip he had on the Labyrinth magic faded as Neverin's magic was layered on against his collar, subduing him once more.

"You're mine, Goblin King. Don't ever forget that," she hissed as he sagged under her claws, his eyes closing."And I am going to ferret out that bitch of yours and do the same to her. Just watch."

The last thing he felt was her mouth assaulting his own before he gave into the darkness.


Aboveground, Present Day - Vienna, Austria

For the first time in months, Sarah lounged and idly stroked the flower Jonas made her with a smile, tucking it against her journal before eventually rising and putting her newly functional shower to use. She felt better than she had in months and grinned, thinking back to the previous night. She still didn't love Jonas but she also hadn't thought of him in years either and realized how much she needed last night.

Stepping out of the shower and toweling her hair dry, she briefly glancing in the mirror and stared at the numerous marks across her shoulders and back, hastily tugging on a bra and shirt that hid the story of survival in her skin. She wasn't hideous but they still spoke of a violent past and she didn't like the questions, choosing to wear high collared shirts and long sleeves to avoid questions from both the refugees at the sanctuary and strangers on the streets, even in the balmy summer months. Shutting down thoughts of her past, she hurried up and pinned her hair off her shoulders, allowing it to air dry.

"Morning…or is it afternoon?" She asked Nellie as she slipped out of her room, seeing the girl sitting at one of the deliberation desks still in place from yesterday's meeting, heading for the coffee pot in the far corner. The girl grinned over at her as she logged what the scouters had found from the previous few days on one of their missions, giving Sarah a glance over before returning to her work.

"Someone had a good night, I can see." She laughed faintly at Sarah's brief glare, crossing her arms over her chest. "I saw Jonas leaving this morning. Relax, only I saw it. And it's afternoon, by the way…" she grinned. Sarah smiled faintly, not denying anything that Nellie hinted at but not confirming either, busying herself by pressing a finger to the coffee pot and letting out a soft sigh of annoyance, realizing the coffee had long since gone cold. Pouring the remaining coffee into a cup and setting it in a microwave, she canted her head and looked at the board she'd been studying the other day, once more finding that niggling sensation of unease creeping at her senses. Nellie chuckled once more and returned to her work and an amicable silence filled the air.

"When did the boys head out?" She asked, turning when the microwave beeped, telling her the coffee was reheated. She pulled it from the microwave and took a tentative sip, wincing and forcing it down as Nellie looked up from her cataloging and replied.

"About four hours ago, thereabouts. They should be converging on the target soon," she said, looking at her wrist watch.

Sarah nodded, frowning as she studied the map and sipped at the bitter contents of her cup. Slowly, something came to the forefront of her mind. It was brief, almost missed, but she suddenly stiffened, realizing what it was.

"Fuck," she whispered, her fingers going numb as her paper cup clattered to the floor, splattering her coffee all across the concrete floor.

"Hey, what the…you alright? Sarah?" Nellie yelped, jerking back in time to miss the wet mess that came dangerously close to ruining her pants. She looked at Sarah with a mixture of annoyance and confusion. Slowly, she watched as Sarah stumbled forward, lightly tapping a shaking finger to the pins on the board.

"Fuck," she whispered again, realizing where she'd seen the places and where that sense of unease came from. Randomly, her mind whirled back to the mind search she'd done to the hunter the day before last, realizing he had been there. Closing her eyes, she raised a hand to silence the girl who once more called out her name, trying to concentrate on the images she saw.

Attack, papers, attack, murder, plots, plans…

Her eyes snapped open as she caught the briefest glance of a battle plan. She felt the pit of her stomach harden into a tight knot of anxiety. They know. It's a trap. It's a fucking trap!

"They know we're coming," she whispered, staggering back. "Fuck, they know we're coming…"

"What?" Nellie asked, confused, glancing at the board and back at Sarah. "You're speaking nonsense."

Sarah whirled, giving Nellie a hard look and making the girl flinch. "Warn the guards to be on the lookout for intruders. Double the rotation, I need sharp eyes out there."

Nellie shook her head, confused and unmoving as her eyes wavered between Sarah and the map she pointed at, making Sarah snap. "The fucking guards, Nellie! It's a fucking trap! Make sure this place is on lockdown! MOVE!"

Nellie jerked in shock at Sarah's harsh words but they finally seemed to register with her as she paled and whirled, running down the hall.

Sarah was hurrying towards her room, throwing on her travel clothing as quickly as she could. Briefly, she belted on a few knives against the small of her back, in the sleeves of her jacket and in the thick socks of her ankle boots.

Grabbing her backpack, coat and scarf, she was already running out the door when she heard the sanctuary begin to scramble to attention.

Don't let me be too late…

 

Chapter Text

 

"It is in our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light." – Aristotle


Underground, Six Years Prior, The Labyrinth

Jareth woke up with a jolt in the dark, his eyes unfocused as he clenched his teeth in pain, clearly hearing the heated whisper in his head that came from across the veil even through the layers of Neverin's magic. Sitting up slowly and taking slow measured breathes, trembling from the inherent agony caused by the discordant magics clashing in his body, Jareth hissed softly as he tilted his head and listened once more, focusing on the words. He closed his eyes in grim acceptance that what he was hearing was a wish from the Aboveground.

You never shut up, you stupid bitch! You know what? I wish you were never born. Better yet, I wish the Goblin King would come and take you away RIGHT NOW!

The iron cell door creaked suddenly and he didn't bother opening his eyes to see who it was. She'd spent the last week "perfecting" her work in his skin and now she was able to sense even the slightest disturbance he felt if he allowed himself to give into the physical sensation. He still managed to thwart a lot of her attempts to sap the Labyrinth magic from him since the trials continued to evade her – or she failed them outright and yet managed to somehow survive them – but he was getting weaker as time went by.

If he could give her credit for anything, it was her seemingly limitless patience. And if he was honest, that was what worried him the most.

Too weak to protest, since he'd gone days without nourishment, he slowly rose from his cot, understanding he had no choice. Already, the Labyrinth magic retaliated that he hadn't immediately attended the summons and he staggered to his feet, grunting with the small effort. As he moved, the newly minted metal cuffs gracing his wrists clinking together when his hands shot forward to steady himself against the opposing wall.

Glancing down at the twin bracers, he felt a spark of his old rage rekindle and cast her a glare. She merely smiled as she had one of her guards thrust a torch into the cell and lit the sconces flanking the doors. Another gift from her majesty, courtesy of his attempt to strangle her over a fornight ago. After his near success, two of her personal Nokmim assignments had arrived in his cell, continuing the guard's brutal punishments for what felt like hours and fitting his wrists with the bracers. It was an added measure against his ability to summon magic, since he'd proven he was willing to override any amount of pain to attack her if properly provoked.

He stared blankly at Neverin as she moved towards him, looking over his form critically. She seemed almost pleased at how much weight he had dropped, brushing a hand across his chest as she clucked her tongue against the roof of her mouth. "Good morning, pet. You look rather fetching this morning, clothing and personal hygiene notwithstanding."

He made a disgusted noise in the back of his throat and her eyes sharply met his while her claws grabbed hold of his face, digging in painfully as she forced his gaze to meet hers. Once more, he was forced to watch another one of her serene smiles twist her face. "I've always preferred my pets…hungry. A touch of starvation, a touch of beating, some solitary…and you'd be surprised what the strongest men will do for a reprieve."

Jareth jerked his head back, feeling her nails claw marks into his cheeks. He glared at her as she held her smile but he noticed she didn't reach for him again. "Then again…you're not most men. All the sweeter, pet. All the sweeter."

She was dressed the part of a proper Goblin Queen in a form-fitting black gown with glittering obsidian spikes at her shoulders and frothy lace at the waist that appeared half-decayed by the loose design, her pale white skin visible underneath the fabric. He didn't miss the crown still gracing her head but had stopped rising to the bait she clearly wanted him to take. Instead, he dismissed her gaze and looked behind her at the pair of Nokmim that flanked the open cell door with boredom.

"Shall I have to demand it out of you or will you tell me what woke you so…urgently?" she remarked with amusement, watching his eyes snap back and bore into hers, almost glowing in animosity.

Her eyes met his and she smirked, bringing her hand up against her own neck and fondling the base of her throat. He tensed and she laughed, tipping her head slightly back while holding his gaze, stroking the areas across her shoulder blades while he remained silent, taunting him. She grinned and fully tossed her head back, closing her eyes and opening her mouth, clenching her hand around her neck as she let out a soft moan. He grimaced at the immediate flare of pain in his own throat. The pain was instantaneous and all consuming, making his knees slightly buckle. He heard her small bark of laughter as he bent over, gasping for breath, taking several minutes to regain his composure. Finally, he managed to grit out what she wanted. "There's been a summons."

She stepped forward and tipped her head towards his when he'd finally managed to stand up once again, brushing her mouth against his and smearing her lipshade along his mouth. Pulling back, she smiled viciously and wiped a thumb across his lips, noticing he didn't move or object. She nodded, seemingly pleased, when he didn't retaliate. "Good boy."

The brief spark of rage he had held onto during this banter flared to life. Fury consumed him and he almost – almost – attempted to test his bonds once more. His body shook with the effort to control himself and he noted with hostility the glimmer of arousal that entered Neverin's eyes while he visibly calmed his temper. Fleetingly, he wondered if this would be his life from now on – staring into the cruel cold eyes of a woman he detested, bowing and sniveling to her every command, a toy to the court and to her perverse needs, his body no longer his own. Sarah's words came into his head as he stared at her slow smile, her lips still painted perfectly in that dark blue-toned red, shining in the lamp light cast across her face.

You have no power over me, it taunted.

Briefly, he replaced the image of Neverin with Sarah and found himself perplexed that the tension in his stomach dissolved. Still, the image didn't hold and eventually, Neverin replaced her brief profile in his mind's eye. Sarah was cruel when she rejected him, but not perverse. He missed her.

Everything I've done, I've done for you.

"Now that your little show of defiance is done, we have business to attend to. Shall we?" Neverin purred, breaking Jareth's thoughts away from Sarah. He stiffened, baring his teeth in a grimace of a smile while Neverin simply smiled in return and once more looked over his form in a way that immediately filled Jareth's throat with bile. Leaning forward and caressing him, she looked amused during the slow process she took in magically outfitting him in dark leathers, a rotted cape and a boney mask adorned with feathers that rode low on his brow and obscured half his face at the right angle. His hands were no longer bare and the bracers from before were notably absent so he could summon portal magic, instead encased in dark leather with sharp claw-like appendages at the end of each fingertip. When he tilted his head in confusion, she pursed her lips in a playful pout and stepped back, admiring her handiwork. "I can't very well be the Goblin Queen if you outshine me, pet. Now, about that wisher…."

He stared at her, ignoring the dull calling that slowly built to a painful roar under his skin as the Labyrinth began to demand he answer the call. Now that the bracers were gone, he contemplated if he should strike. He was weak, but his chances of gaining another opportunity were slowly getting smaller as time went on. Neverin stepped forward, catching he way he stared at her throat, and he eventually raised his gaze to meet hers. Something in his eyes must have alerted her and she flashed him a toothy grin, her eyes pulsing red briefly, something he had yet to see. The shock he must have displayed in his face made her laugh.

Not yet. Be patient. Your time will come, he chanted internally to himself.

Relinquishing his chance, he took hold of her waist and tapped into the magic required to drag them across the veil and into the world of the Aboveground. Instantaneously, their surroundings blurred into a whirlwind of chaos. Grunting against the acrid taste the summons spell left in his mouth and panting faintly at the toll the portal took on his weakened state, he immediately released her as soon as their surroundings converged on the source of the call and stepped away, sagging against a wall to anchor his body from the dizziness he felt.

Blinking, he looked around and noticed the two youths that were shouting heatedly at one another from across the living room of a filthy trailer home. By the mortal's accents, they were somewhere in southern North America, most likely in some run-down town that teetered more towards poverty and crushed dreams than a place of aspirations. At their abrupt appearance, both of the mortals ceased their shouting and screamed at the sudden intrusion, stumbling to the ground in an effort to back up and put as much space between them and the strange intruders.

"Y-You're…." An overweight light-skinned boy with brown hair, most likely between twelve and fourteen, started, staring in confusion between the two. "I can't believe it. It actually worked!" Jareth was momentarily shocked at the boy's sudden vindictive giddiness but stared from the shadows of the room as Neverin stepped forward and the boy locked gazes with her in confused disgust. "Wait…you're a fucking woman? What shit is this?"

"Indeed, I am. I am the Goblin Queen and you…George…you called me." Neverin replied in a sharp tone, making the boy back up a few steps and flinch. His eyes darted to the girl in the room, who was whimpering and sitting on the floor behind an abused lounge chair, fear evident in her eyes. Neverin laughed faintly, nodding, and the boy opened his mouth to say something and backed up another step when her hand snaked out and grasped his, pulling him close.

The boy let out a soft cry of surprise and pain, clutching at his hand but stilling and warily staring as Neverin reached up and gently stroked a fingertip against the boy's cheek. Jareth watched, tensing again as he saw Neverin's fingers briefly pulse red, spreading a splash of dark magic across the boy's cheek that immediately dissolved into his skin as if it wasn't there – so quick, he had almost missed it.

What the hell is she?

Whatever magic she had managed to work had calmed the boy's calamitous attitude and he was immediately docile, staring at her with glassy-eyed adulation. Jareth could barely breathe for what he was witnessing, wondering why she was showing him this – and why it hadn't yet worked on him. As his mind scrambled to rationalize what he was witnessing, she continued toying with the boy.

"Now, let's discuss the terms of your…." Neverin started, then trailed off, glancing and gesturing back at the knees of the girl she could see protruding from behind the chair. The girl started to quietly sob from her hiding spot and the boy immediately replied, his eyes growing bloodshot as he continued to stare in slack-jawed obedience.

"Mandy, my bratty cousin," spat the boy with hatred, briefly looking reanimated to his former self as he broke his stare with Neverin to glare at the spot the girl had hidden from them in disgust. "You here to take her?" George once more looked back at Neverin and the empty hollowness in his eyes soon reappeared.

"Indeed, I am. Do you wish to challenge my claim on the girl? If you do, it will not be an easy task. If I take her, I will take all recollection of her with me. Which do you choose?" She tipped her head back, looking over George with a small smile, still having yet to release his wrist.

The boy simply continued to stare for several long seconds. The longer he stared, the paler he seemed to become, the skin around his eyes growing sallow. Slowly, he began to shake his head as a ghost of a cruel smile curved his lips. "No. You can have the little brat for all I care."

Jareth stared, shocked at the true venom in the boy's voice. Neverin seemed briefly surprised and let out a small peal of laughter.

"Oh, dear, I do like you…" She drawled, once more cupping the boy's cheek. Jareth stared, immobile, and Neverin eventually glanced back at him and gestured dismissively at the girl. "You may take the girl. I will join you shortly." Idly, she began to stroke George's cheek again with her nails and Jareth once more witnessed the sickening pulse of Neverin's magic against the mortal's skin. The boy sighed softly and smiled tiredly, leaning into her touch.

Jareth frowned, tensing, idly shoving the girl through a portal that he summoned and placing her in the pit of the throne room with his mind, determined to use what little power he had left to stop whatever he was witnessing. Briefly, when the girl joined the Labyrinth and was not immediately claimed by a kingdom that felt the mortal's presence cross the veil, he felt an abrupt rush of power as she immediately was converted to goblin, strengthening the Labyrinth even more as she became part of the horde.

Neverin turned sharply at Jareth's continued presence, her eyes flashing red in warning, and he suddenly knew whatever modicum of power he'd been granted wasn't enough. She reached up with her free hand and clenched her grip tightly into fist and he staggered under the combined chocking and burning sensation at his neck, barking out a cry of pain.

The boy never moved, caught up in Neverin's spell. When she turned back to the boy, satisfied that Jareth was unable to retaliate further, she smiled lovingly and gently stroked both of his cheeks with the pads of her thumbs, drawing his gaze to hers once more.

"George..such a lovely name," she started, stroking the tears that suddenly welled up and spilled past his lashes as he trembled against her grip, some life returning to his eyes. Jareth realized with disgust that she wanted his wits about him for a reason – she wanted to feel his hopelessness when she killed him. "Such a pity that you wished your cousin away. Do you want to know what will become of her?"

Once more he tried to rise and once more the burning sensation in his throat had him struggling to stand, simply writhing on the floor as he listened and watched out of the corner of his eye.

"She lives with you?" The boy said between gasps of tears, finally crying now and trying to tug loose from Neverin's grip. She smiled and shook her head, her nails digging into the boy's cheeks as he cast his gaze pleadingly towards Jareth.

Jareth struggled to stand but the pain was too much, making him double over as he tried to rise to his feet again. Frantically, he tried calling to his power to summon a crystal but each time, the magic popped like a soap bubble just as it was about to form.

"Wherever did you hear that? A fairytale?" Neverin hummed with a soft laugh, forcing the boy to look back at her. "I'm afraid not, dear George. You've been very naughty. Do you know what we do with naughty boys where we come from?"

The boy openly sobbed, shaking his head wildly in Neverin's grip. She smiled and leaned forward, whispering something in his ear that Jareth couldn't make out.

The boy started to scream and jerk against her but Neverin held him close, her hands pulsing a dark red against his cheeks as she tipped his head back and brought her mouth against his. Jareth stared in horror as the boy struggled then suddenly sagged, a faint pulse of glowing light lifting from his skin only to be lapped up by Neverin as she leaned over his limp form.

She released him without care, turning as the boy's body fell to the floor, wiping at her mouth and shuddering in pleasure. Her paleness was no longer quite as evident and she smiled, her skin a healthy flushed shade of pink. As Jareth stared, staggering under what he just witnessed, he tilted his head up as she shivered, tossing her head back and running her hands over her body, the magic at her fingertips crackling to life – pulsing a bright shade of red, no longer the dull muted color of burgundy as before. "Ohhh, oh that was lovely. Yes, I enjoyed that immensely."

She looked at Jareth, laughing at the look of horror on his face. "You poor, pitiful little thing. The look on your face!" She cast a hand over her mouth and cupped her stomach, giggling and pointing. "Oh, that is priceless! I've horrified and struck a semblance of fear into the Goblin King! Oh, this is good. That made my day, thank you."

Jareth slowly stood, staring at her with abhorrence, the rage always simmering at the back of his mind slowly being nurtured by what he just witnessed. "You're baobhan sith."

"Don't look so shocked, pet. What did you think I was, really? Now, now, wipe that look off your face. It's unbecoming." She grinned, licking her lips faintly as she looked back at her handiwork and rolling her eyes at Jareth's silent stare. "It's just a mere mortal, dearest. Who cares what happens to them?"

I do, you sick fuck. Jareth glared, watching as Neverin murmured something and the boy's body dissolved into the ether without a trace.

"Besides, I told you to leave, Jareth. Some don't have the stomach for my appetites. But, I suppose the truth binds us, in a way. Now, put your mind to rights and return to your cell immediately…or am I mistaken by that look in your eyes and you'd care to watch me take more?"

Closing his eyes, he immediately willed himself back into the cell, ignoring her bark of laughter that chased him into the rocky confines of his prison. The two now familiar Nokmim roughly shoved him into his cot and once more clamped the manacles back around his wrists to further bind his magic. Once they left, he rushed forward, suddenly sick and losing what contents he had in his stomach on the floor.


Aboveground, Six Years Prior, New York Metro A-Line Train System

"Jonas, I don't think…" Sarah started, only to be cut off by Jonas' fingers pressing against her mouth and forcing her jaw shut. She glared at him and peeled her lips back away from her teeth and surged forward, nipping at his fingers and making him yelp and withdraw his hand in mock horror.

"Hey!" He laughed, shaking his head, growing serious as her expression slowly turned sad. Almost immediately, the humor fled his face and his eyes grew flinty as his lips narrowed. "I'm not leaving, Sarah. Just tell me what's going on! You can trust me! I've proven that at least, haven't I?"

When Sarah shifted and looked out the window, she watched his reflection sigh and scrub a hand over his face. His jaw ticked as he clenched his teeth in anger.

He had caught up with her as she was trying to sneak out of his dormitory and had doggedly followed her to the subway station, a few times her efforts in trying to get him to leave her resulting in shouting matches. Eventually, they would end with him looking shattered and kissing her and Sarah shoving him back yet again in an effort to get away. Please, don't. Don't make me force myself to lose the only friend I have with harsh words.

She stared out the window, trying to contain her temper. He only seemed to grow more agitated, shifting in his seat as he reached forward to grab her shoulder and force her to look at him. Whirling, she glared at him with such force he briefly sat back in surprise.

"You don't understand, Jonas, I'm not telling you because I care about you. What I'm involved in…" She shook her head in exasperation, watching him roll his eyes. Immediately furious, she shoved him roughly away from her, catching his attention as he almost fell out of his seat, scowling over at her as he caught himself and sat upright once more. "This is serious, dammit! I can't tell you! It puts you at risk. I've already lingered too long and I need to leave. Okay? So stop, just fucking stop it!"

"Is this about last night? Listen, I shouldn't have pushed you, I'm sorry, I just…" Jonas started, grabbing her hands with his own and trying to get her to meet his gaze, his expression sad and slightly panicked, suddenly sobering under her words.

"It's not that, Jonas. I enjoyed it." He didn't seem convinced and she pressed forward, quieting the protests that looked to follow with a quick kiss despite her hesitation to hurt him further, knowing he loved her or at least thought he did. You don't want to love someone like me, Jonas. Find someone worthy. He immediately reciprocated, tugging her close, and she allowed him that small mercy for a few minutes despite the discomfort it caused her. Eventually, she pressed her forehead against his and pulled back, closing her eyes with a sigh. "It was better than I ever hoped my first time would be. I swear to you, it's not that. It's something else."

The train tracks squealed beneath them and she started to stand, gritting her teeth when Jonas rose with her. She turned back to him and shook her head, shoving on his shoulders to push him back into a sitting position. "I'm getting off on this station and I don't want you to follow me. Please, Jonas. Don't make this harder than it has to be."

"That's not fair," Jonas protested, a look of confusion flickering across his face as Sarah briefly broke out in a watery laugh. She looked away and watched as the lights of the next station came slowly into view in the distance.

"It never is," she muttered, ignoring Jonas' baffled look. As the train slowly jerked to a stop, Sarah moved forward, swinging her backpack on her shoulders, closing her eyes with a muttered curse as she heard Jonas shuffle to keep up with her and snag her hand.

"I said…" She turned sharply to tell him in curt terms to leave her alone when something in the distance on the station platform caught her eye.

Two tall blonde men, both leanly muscled with a barely contained feral look in their eyes, stared at her from the stairs where the train stopped and allowed passengers to board and disembark. They looked out of place, almost otherworldly, their features too perfect to be called handsome, almost leaning towards beautiful. Her eyes flickered over their clothing and her heartbeat roared in her ears as the pit of her stomach fell, making her sway briefly on her feet as the sudden sick urge to vomit burned in the back of her throat. Oh god…

"Fuck…" she whispered, staring. They seemed to notice her stare and stood up sharply from where they'd been leaning against the walls of the station, appearing to others as two simple pedestrians waiting for the next car to stop and allow them access. She was briefly baffled at the willingness of others to blatantly ignore the screaming otherness about the two men, staring with growing horror as they flashed her a pair of matching sharp-toothed smiles.

I'm too late. I'm too late! Jonas…

Jonas had sensed the change in Sarah, staring over her face in concern. He reached over, cupping a cheek, trying to will some life into her frozen form. Frowning, he looked over his shoulder and saw the two men starting forward to slowly stalk them.

"Who are they?" He murmured with concern, glancing back at Sarah who felt like her limbs had been frozen in ice. Suddenly, a jolt started in her heart at hearing Jonas' words. It wasn't just her at risk any longer.

"Run…" She whispered, pushing him to the other car doors that were open down the car line, not letting her gaze drift from the two men – no, not men...fae….

"RUN!" She screamed as they seemed to sense her decision, bolting for the door.

Snagging Jonas' hand in her own, she yanked him backwards with her and took off running as fast as she could, dragging Jonas out of his inquisitive stare and the squeak of his shoes keeping rapid pace with her own as they tore across the station towards the brightened exit sign in the distance.


Underground, Six Years Prior, High Court

Jareth stared from the small darkened corner of the High Court, his upper lip curling back in a brief snort of disbelief as Lucius took Neverin by the arm and pulled her towards the dais, presenting her the seat of the Labyrinth at the High Council panel gathered in front of the peerage.

"Ladies and gentlemen of the court, may I present to you…the new Goblin Queen." Lucius thundered over the dull roar of applause that accompanied Neverin's acceptance on the high council in place of Jareth's old seat. A gleam of cold satisfaction entered Lucius' eyes as he spotted Jareth in the corner of the room, dressed in high-collared dark silks. He didn't miss an opportunity to allow the blow to sink in, gesturing at Jareth in the corner to where the peerage turned and stared, some snickering at him from behind fans or strategically placed hands. "Let us not forget, our infamous traitor of the court. Jareth has, at the merciful gesture of his new sovereign, been bequeathed a position in her personal Queensguard in the Labyrinth, due to his experience with the denizens of that strange place. May we all hope to be as compassionate as she has shown to be since passing the trials."

The low murmurs around him while Jareth forced a slow smirk to his lips told him the court was appeased with the political play. In their mind, he was the untrustworthy, and with Neverin inducting him into her Queensguard, the court would be allowed to keep an eye on him and simultaneously mocking him of his fall from grace. Utter fools, the lot of you.

As Lucius and the high council stared, not removing their gaze, he pushed himself away from the pillar he'd been leaning on and slowly bowed forward, the movements just a little too flippant and exaggerated to be polite. He glanced up at Lucius as he pulled himself back and straightened his court clothes, not missing the flare of fury in Lucius' eyes.

Briefly, he saw Neverin reach out and trail her fingers across his hand, a tell-tale flash of red in their wake. He tensed but said nothing, the eyes of the court locked on his every expression, addressing the court as the silence continued, the crowd expecting their due. "I am most honored to be selected to be placed beside the proper Goblin Queen, Your Grace. Your generosity is also most appreciated."

Jareth forced himself not to spit the words, his eyes leaving Lucius and Neverin to look over at Queen Maeve to see how she was handling this. He studied her as she stared out the window, a saddened expression on her face. When she sensed his stare, she frowned and looked back his way and Jareth forced his expression to remain unchanged as he noted the sallowness under her eyes. When the peerage turned back to their king, he caught Neverin's gaze as she slowly smiled.

Only when her gaze was back on the King did he swallow nervously.


Underground, Six Years Prior, The Labyrinth

"Don't look so upset, pet. I assure you, I didn't do most of that damage," Neverin huskily laughed as Jareth struggled against the chains she used to tie him to the bed, tugging out of her court finery and dressing in a gauzy nightdress. He glared at her, grunting as he strained, making her laugh all the harder.

"You're draining her like you did that boy, you disgusting whore!" He spat, grunting as he rubbed the skin around his shackles raw. His stomach heaved as he watched her undress. "Put me back in my bloody cell if you've no use for me. I've had about enough of you that I can stomach for one night."

Neverin snickered and squeezed her hands gently, making him arch in pain. She used his brief distraction to climb atop him, running her hands over his chest. "Oh, no no no, my dearest. That look in her eyes you saw? You did most of that, breaking her poor, precious heart when she saw the dead husk of her only child that you delivered at her feet after he failed to pass the Labyrinth trials. Oh, how I wish I'd been there!"

She sighed, cupping him gently between her hands and making him buck violently in an effort to throw her off. She smirked and clamped her thighs down around his waist, her fingers glowing red as her magics brought him to life against her palm. She sighed as she tugged her gown up and sank down onto him. Jareth groaned in revulsion and squeezed his eyes shut. This time, at least she didn't force him to watch – experiencing it with his body was enough. "I'm merely easing her suffering, pushing her more quickly to the death she yearns for but doesn't have the courage to take."

"I…." She panted, riding him harder, moaning softly as she continued to talk, forcing Jareth to reciprocate despite his obvious disgust. "I must admit…all that pain…is so….ohhh….delicious…"

"You and me, joined, will be a force uncontrollable by anyone who would stand on our way. Oh, if you'd just submit to me willingly, Jareth…be my consort…the things...we could….accomplish…the things we could do! We could release HIM!" Her last words were a mere shriek as she convulsed atop him and Jareth grit his teeth as she drug her claws across his neck and forced his body to respond as he roared against the pain.

When she was done with him, she dumped him back in his cell without his clothes. Huddled in the cot with the rotten blanket his only cover against the elements in the dank cell, he finally fell into a deep sleep filled with nothing but a blessed void.


Eoin materialized back from court in time to catch the change of the guards at the throne room, nodding towards the replacements as he moved towards his office by the Queen's quarters to review the summaries on the search for the missing Labyrinth denizens and the search for the mortal girl from Above.

Briefly, he caught the note of two of his best reports that they had caught onto her scent near the university campus and he smirked, rising from his chair to take the note to Neverin. Perhaps when she finally has this blasted mortal, she will take my proposal serious. After all, one needs a proper consort that has a head for tactics as one rises in the court.

As he walked, he briefly thought back to their whirlwind courtship. She was beautiful and a passionate bed partner, more than he had hoped for since accepting the position with the new Goblin Queen and retiring from the active ranks of the Nokmim at Lucius' urging.

He was a little startled when he had discovered her secret, a true baobhan sith had managed to remain undiscovered in the presence of the court all these years, but her nature didn't bother someone as seasoned as he was. She had pleaded with him to hide her secret, swearing she only fed on those deserving death, and something in him caved to her admissions. He had been Nokmim since birth and had long since cast off the emotional ramifications of necessary actions in his training and his subsequent years in service, not accustomed to such feelings, but he had the sneaking suspicion he was beginning to love her in his own way.

Stilling as he heard noise from her quarters, Eoin took to his training and sank into the shadows as he tucked his head in the door. Stiffening at what he saw, he stared in mounting fury as he watched his woman ride a willing Jareth underneath her breathless form.

Fury kept him rooted, slowing the pounding of his heart as he watched her betray him with her body and mind, panting atop the bound male with obvious pleasure. You do this to me? Does my love mean so little to you?

Spotting the clip of hair he had taken off the mortal Neverin was so eagerly affixed with on a table by the door, he reached forward and grabbed it just as the two climaxed roughly in the bed. It took all of his strength to not burst into the room, demanding answers or blood from them both.

Bitterly turning a heel, he tucked the piece of hair into his pocket and summoned a crystal, transporting himself away as he walked down the hall and away from the scene in disgust.

If I am so easily tossed aside, perhaps I'll take something that means more to you than me, dearest. Misery does love company.


Aboveground, Present Day - Vienna, Austria

Walking as quickly as she could without drawing attention to herself, Sarah boarded the nearest bus and purchased fair towards Gerasdorf, tucking herself into a seat somewhere along the middle area of the bus. Tugging the hood of her jacket over her hair, she looked at the watch she had snagged on the way out and grimaced, tapping the face of the small clock nervously as she realized it would take her over an hour to get to the designation that the scouts were positioning around that morning.

Please don't let me be too late, please don't let me be too late…

Realizing she didn't have much else to pass the time but her own nervous thoughts, Sarah closed her eyes and willed herself into a calm state, trying to once more focus on the memories she had managed to swipe off the fae hunter she'd ran into previously.

The drone of the bus engine pulling away from the curb took off the edge of her anxiety and she eventually relaxed, the snippets of snuffed memories slowly resurfacing. As her thoughts turned inward, she burrowed her hands in the pockets of her coat and let her head rest against the windowsill, listening to the steady pace of her heart.

Slowly, the memories unfurled beneath her gentle coaxing in her mind's eye.

Jareth – thin, feral, lips pulled back from his mouth, displaying sharp teeth and shadowed eyes, dressed in an unusual mask that reminded her of the one he wore in the tunnels all those years ago…

A blonde woman in red – beautiful, eyes like liquid blue pools of a melting glacier, nails sharp and lacquered, raising a crown to her head – the symbol of the Labyrinth etched into the metal…

A mirror - darkened and dormant, placed in a shadowed room, a swirling black mass suddenly reaching out towards the woman in red that stands beside it, caressing the silver-plated reflection. It catches her wrist and –

Sarah jerked as a bump in the road startled her out of her thoughts, frowning and rolling her head on her shoulders at the sudden tension there. Grimacing at the heat of her magic being used, she wriggled her fingers in her coat pockets, trying to ease the sudden hot flash that coursed underneath her skin. Forcing herself back into a comfortable position and closing her eyes, Sarah once more searched for the thread she just had, tugging on the implanted memories in her psyche that she had stolen from the fae. Slowly, she found it, the images suddenly speeding up and splintering across her mind in the wake of her activated magic, making her brow knit in discomfort. Shit, Williams. Steady, steady…

She stiffened, biting down on her tongue to stifle a scream as the images suddenly poured forward, blotting out everything but the scenes in her mind.

The mirror – once again, it grabs the woman in red's wrist, binding her to the dark mass that billows out of the reflection. The woman tilts her head back, but it isn't a scream that comes forth, but a moan, and it's realized she's relishing the possession, the chaotic voice across the mirror portal calling to her – 'Release me, love, and you will have everything you want..'

A formal study, a diagram and maps much similar to those back at the sanctuary, grace a wall. The woman in red is there, angry, shoving papers across the study as she violently reacts to news of the officers in the room. She reaches forward, tapping some of the pins in the map, then smiles knowingly. 'Set a trap…'

The walls of the Labyrinth – panting, searching, tearing into the homes and villages of the denizens, tearing apart the small abodes, searching for missing inhabitants. Briefly, a wanted paper is thrust into the frightened face of a goblin and her friend's faces appear in the drawing. 'Where are they? Who is protecting them? Answer us!'

Gasping awake, Sarah briefly squinted, surprised at the sudden flare of pain behind her eyes and in her lap. Looking down, she let out a low moan of fear as she saw the singed remnants of her coat scorched black, withdrawing her hands shakily from the charred remnants of her coat pockets. They were glowing a faint white and she quickly tucked them into the charred remnants of her coat, not wanting to draw attention to herself.

Sweating, feeling the burning rise of magic spiraling out of control under her skin, she squeezed her eyes shut and tried to will herself back to a state of calm. Oh god, no, calm down, not now, can't happen now, not with so many around -

"Exit for Gerasdorf!" The bus driver called out, the bus screeching to a halt and dragging her back to the present. Panting, she looked down, seeing that her hands had returned to normal.

Trembling, she jerked to a stand and hurried off the bus, not looking behind her as she stalked towards the area of town she knew the others would be.

Chapter Text

 

"To have endured horrors, to have seen the worst and have your life made unrecognizable by it, to come out of all that honorable and brave – that is magical." – Ransom Riggs


 

Underground, Six Years Prior, The Labyrinth

"How many?" Hoggle struggled to ask, looking despondently over his shoulder as he hovered his hands against the small campfire's warmth in the center of the cavern. He was suddenly chilled to the bone, the fire barely thawing the icy tendrils of panic that clamped around his heart at the news that awaited him.

The small hiss and crackle of the fire was all that greeted him for several minutes as he tried and failed to resist studying the others surrounding him in the dim glow of the campsite in the dark cave they had taken sanctuary in, knowing the looks of shock and horror on their faces was mirrored in his own expression.

"Eighty-six," came the small plaintive reply from Mikpik behind him as Hoggle tensed in preparation for the answer but still found himself clamping a hand over his mouth to stifle the dismayed moan that escaped his throat. Closing his eyes, he swayed briefly as he thought over that number – eighty-six Labyrinth denizens; eighty-six friends, family, acquaintances – butchered because they had hidden away from the new Queen's rule in the bowls of the Labyrinth's subterranean system, somewhere the new Queen and her soldiers had yet to gather enough power to access.

They still had not been able to find Jareth. Whispers from court had started the last week that Jareth was in service to the new Queen as part of her Queensguard but Hoggle struggled to believe it. No matter how many scouts he sent out, they still hadn't found him. They were going to have to begin their search in more desperate, dangerous places which included the castle and that left Hoggle uneasy, as there had already been so much bloodshed. The Labyrinth and its inhabitants had already suffered greatly for their treason – and that was before this news.

Hoggle struggled to keep his composure as he thought of those who couldn't run and what they had suffered for their choices and actions. He wasn't from the Labyrinth, he wasn't born from Above and taken here on a tide of ill-spent wishes, but it had been his home all the same when Jareth offered him sanctuary from his homelands over two centuries ago and these were his people, regardless of how they felt about him. When Mikpik had shown him the wanted posters, he had refused to give in. He hated and feared what Jareth was becoming in his growing callousness over the centuries, but he felt he owed the fae something against this unwanted usurper. He knew it in his bones that this elusive Champion had something to do with what had occurred, some nefarious plot was underfoot - if he could just figure it out before it was too late. In the end, no matter how many times he had hated Jareth, this new Queen was much, much worse.

For all his threats, Jareth was no butcher.

He knew, and the others believed now too, that their hidden memories were significant and if they could find someone to access them, they could ferret out the name of this elusive Champion and perhaps he or she could help reverse the foreboding hold that the new Queen held over the Labyrinth.

One thing was for sure, if Neverin remained in power, it spelled dark tidings for both the Labyrinth and the Underground as a whole.

"I can tell that this news troubles you, Master Hoggle," came a gravelly reply to his right, turning Hoggle away from his thoughts. He smiled tiredly in the direction of the Wise Man, who sat on an overturned boulder, his gnarled hands trembling as they clutched tightly against a worn walking cane that was once a tree root, his curved spine hunching him forward and letting him huddle against the fire, his bedraggled cloak offering little refuge against the cold nights in their new home. Hoggle nodded, not bothering to hide his concern, watching as a deep frown marred the Wise Man's wrinkled face in the flickering firelight. Ever since they had run from their posts, his hat had been ominously silent, unnerving those who remembered how lively it had once been before Neverin rose to power.

"Did we make the right choice? Coming down here?" He asked, keeping his voice low to shield the younger refugees in the distance that huddled around another fire that was lit in the further recesses of the cave. "Or did I just let others suffer when it should have been me paying that price?"

Hoggle didn't wait for a reply, canting his head towards the younger crowd that sat together, spinning innocuous conversations with one another or dozing in furs and blankets after long scouting expeditions had left them exhausted and in need of sleep.

"Without you and the others," The Wise Man started, dragging Hoggle's gaze back to his own campfire and the company he kept, "We would have no hope, no chance of defeating this darkness that creeps into this place, trying to rob the Labyrinth and it's King of the power held here. Do not second guess yourself, Master Hoggle."

Hoggle glanced over at Ludo and Sir Didymus, who sat around the fire, both dubiously quiet as they ate at the remnants of their evening meal. Their food rations were running short but neither complained, focusing on the Wise Man's words. Sir Didymus' ears pitched forward as he nodded in agreement, tossing a bone that was mostly divested of its meat towards Ambrosius. "He is right, brother. We must continue in our mission to find this Champion. Only he or she can enlighten us to this current plight and set things right once more."

"They're payin' for our rebellion with their blood, Didymus," Hoggle whispered sadly, looking once more over his shoulder, his eyes pausing on one of the scouts, a young dryad that was buried under layers of physical exhaustion, sleeping under several layers of fur. "One of the ones just killed was Kissiae's mother. What am I supposed to tell her when she wakes?"

"The truth, Master Hoggle." The Wise Man replied in that overly kind voice, making Hoggle shove himself to his feet with a snarl. He turned, ready to stomp off towards his own sleeping pile, when Ludo's arm shot out and grabbed Hoggle's hand, forcing him to a stop.

"Hoggle not killer. Hoggle not do this. Queen did. Queen at fault," Ludo replied sternly, his golden eyes meeting Hoggle's. Hoggle sighed and nodded, tugging on his hand. Ludo seemed satisfied that Hoggle had accepted what he had told him and released the dwarf, letting him pitch himself towards his own furs.

"Tell everyone to gather around the standing stones at dawn. I will address the situation then." He said tiredly, ignoring the other's pitying looks as he carefully flopped down onto his straw-padded sleeping area, dragging a pile of furs over his face to hide his anguish.

Until then, just let me wash away my guilt with sleep. Please.


 

Undergound, Six Years Prior, High Council Session, Annwn

"I'm concerned, Your Grace, at the choice of successor to Jareth's position," Grand Master Killdaire began with a frown from across the large marble atlas table, his fingers idly shifting over the curled parchment doctrines at his elbow. His gaze flickered over towards Neverin's seat once he had Lucius' attention, that was still ominously empty as she had yet to arrive at court, making sure to keep his disdain at the High King's choice of replacement schooled out of his features. "Was the viscountess truly our only option?"

"What kind of concerns?" Lucius asked, studying him with narrowing eyes as he drew the gold-filigree edges of his cloak together, motioning to a servant to fill the goblets that lined the table with wine.

Killdaire forced a smile as the servant moved about the table, mulling over how to best approach his concern with the High King. He knew that Lucius was prone to falling 'in lust' with his latest paramour and Killdaire could hardly blame him as he spared a glance towards the High Queen's frosty and forlorn profile that stared out the open windows, completely cut off from the discussion and her husband at her side. He had yet to see the High Queen spare her mate even the kindest of expressions since Davean had faded and the distance between them only seemed to grow the longer Neverin enthralled the High King with her considerable charms. High Queen Maeve was still beautiful but carried a heaviness with her that seemed to age and wither her under close scrutiny. He had tried once in helping her fight the depression that seemed to envelop her after her son's passing but had been firmly rebuked.

All this because the boy was associated with the death of the High King's son and Lucius cannot comfort a distraught wife. Such a waste.

He forced a pleasant expression on his face as he met Lucius' stern stare, opening his hands in a gesture of placation once the servant was done pouring wine and left the room. "I am merely observing that the flow of magics to the Underground and therefore the Arcane Schools have lapsed as of late. It has not yet reached a level of concern, but she has yet to fulfill our needs as Jareth once did. I understand you and the new Goblin Queen made a pre-emptive decision on behalf of the high council that she would be the best replacement, but perhaps if we could be granted access to – "

"Don't ever mention that traitor's name in my presence again, Killdaire! Not if you value your life!" Lucius snarled, rising from his seat and bringing his fist down sharply against the marble table. The others of the high council looked as stunned as Killdaire did, staring at the High King with a mixture of surprise and shock at the vicious sincerity of Lucius' words that echoed throughout the chamber.

"Your Grace, I meant no offense, I merely…" Killdaire tried once more to reason with Lucius, astounded that he was ignoring his advice at investigating the sudden slowing of the Underground's magic reserves. Still, he could see he was losing ground when Lucius' fist once more crashed down onto the marble table top.

"ENOUGH!" Roared Lucius as he stared across the table at Killdaire, interrupting his protests. A pregnant pause filled the room in the wake of the High King's furious demand, making Killdaire frown as Lucius grabbed his goblet and swallowed down the offered wine in two mere gulps, turning viciously away from the high council gathered before him and stalking across the opulent room to the sideboard. Grabbing a decanter and casting aside the topper with his thumb to pour his glass full once more, Lucius visibly struggled to contain his temper as he swallowed two more glasses of wine.

Grand Master Killdaire spared a glance at the other high council members and met their gazes, seeing a mixture of concern, acceptance and obliviousness reflected back at him. Gritting his teeth against the largely laissez faire attitude of the council, Killdaire decided he would be the only voice of reason today in the tight-lipped glances swung his way and turned once more to address the High King when the doors to the room swung open, interrupting his attempt at a rebuttal.

Casting his eyes towards the interruption, Killdaire suppressed a groan as he spotted the viscountess enter from the hall, knowing he would not get any further with the High King today. Neverin smiled pleasantly at the silent stares that greeted her, her eyes resting briefly on him long enough to make Killdaire feel uneasy, before she dismissed him with her gaze and gave Lucius a bright smile filled with lust and adoration.

"Your Grace, please, let me get that for you. I do offer my most sincere apologies, I received a summoner recently. I was just about to send out missives to the kingdoms when the child is inevitably forfeited to us…but perhaps you would like to have first claim, Grand Master Killdaire?"

Killdaire shifted nervously in his seat, feeling the high council's gaze turn towards him, the silken tones of Neverin's latest victory making his fingers twitch underneath the long sleeves of his robe. He kept quiet as he watched as Lucius turned a bit too abruptly, letting the council know he'd already begun imbibing before the council session.

"Neverin, darling, welcome. Thank you, you're always so thoughtful. Bring the bottle," Lucius smiled, his eyes lingering over Neverin's glittering silver dress that displayed her lithe figure. He turned back to the council as Neverin came up to his side, gently removing his hand from his goblet and taking it in her own, finishing the pour of his wine. He gestured wildly between the two, giving Killdaire a goading smirk.

"Well? Will that suit you, Killdaire? You were saying?" Sneered Lucius as he slowly moved back to the council table and settling himself once more in his throne chair, narrowing his eyes at the Grand Master from across the table as Neverin approached with the King's refilled glass and the half-full decanter. He took the offered wine and motioned for Neverin to join him at the empty chair to his right. "Do stay, Neverin. It seems Killdaire had some objections to your new title."

Killdaire forced a subdued expression between the two as Neverin raised an eyebrow at the High King and turned to stare sweetly over at him. "Oh? I do apologize if I have somehow offended you, Grand Master Killdaire. I am always looking for advice. What concerns do you have about the Labyrinth or it's denizens? Anything I can help with?"

Killdaire felt the heat rise in his face but kept his expression schooled, offering a small half-smile in response when he heard no other council members move to side with him. Furious at their silence, he knew that he couldn't challenge the High King's decree without more evidence, as Neverin was still new to her crown.

Shaking his head slowly, Killdaire inwardly sighed as he gave into immediate withdrawal of his complaint. "No, Your Grace." He shifted his eyes to meet Neverin's amused smile, feeling as if his face would crack with the effort. "The addition to my sect would be most welcome, Your Majesty. Thank you."

"Good, good, enough of this. No more petty squabbles and frivolous inquiries for today. You are all free to go, I call this council session to a close. Except for you, Goblin Queen. I need a private word." Lucius clapped his hands together, the loud noise echoing in the marbled chambers. He smiled briefly at Neverin and waved dismissfully towards the others, including his wife. Queen Maeve barely made a sound as she slowly rose and left the room before Lucius had finished his sentence.

Grand Master Killdaire rose from his seat, bowing briefly to the High King as he made his way towards the doors with the others. Just as he left, he cast his head back towards the two, watching with a frown as the High King pulled a giggling Neverin into his lap, uncomfortable with the blatant favoritism Lucius showed his mistress and with the careless way he ruled the delicate politics of the Underground High Court lately.

This will not end well for any of us.

As he left the high council chambers, he summoned a crystal into his palm and murmured a quick command into the gemstone. "Get me Eoin. I don't care if he's busy or unavailable, find him. I have a job for him."


 

Underground, Six Years Prior, The Labyrinth

Mikpik squeezed his eyes shut as he pressed his small bony form into the small void he had located in the high rafters of the Goblin Castle, doing his best to ignore the moans and grunts that carried from the bed in the far-right corner of the King's quarters. He had noted with relief that the pair intertwined beneath the sheets was not Jareth and the new Goblin Queen, or so she liked to call herself. He had held out hope like Hoggle that if Jareth had in fact pledged himself to the new Goblin Queen it had not been of his own free will, but confirming that with the sight below him eased his nerves.

Forcing himself to take another look, Mikpik gripped tightly onto the loose sandstone lining the King's chambers and peered over the makeshift ledge the duct in the rafters allotted him. Squinting, fighting back the rising tease of bile in the back of his throat as the scent of sex and blood - Good gods, blood? Why? - drifted upwards from the bed, he barely muffled his gasp of surprise as he saw a flash of a familiar crown and chestnut hair glittering in the darkened room below. High King Lucius?

Not wanting to see more, he slipped back into the shadows of the small hollowed out gap between the castle walls and stealthily navigated the path he had used a few hours before, retracing his steps with precision in the gritty dust-filled hidden corridors he had discovered not long after he'd been transformed from his Aboveground home. He hadn't minded being a Goblin in all his years, remembering what it was like Aboveground - half-starving most of the time, being beaten by his master, or abused by rough men in the worst of ways. As a Goblin, he instilled some element of fear and had found a family of sorts in the various oddities and freaks that called the Labyrinth home. When he saw his friends die the day that witch who called herself a Queen rose to power, Mikpik knew he wouldn't be able to serve her. She frightened him but she also made him angry. Jareth was cruel but not sadistic, the worst sense of punishment meted out being a bogging.

As he scrounged between rooms, peering absently about as he observed what he assumed was Neverin's Queensguard yet not spotting Jareth among them, Mikpik thought back to that morning back in the caverns below ground. Idly, he sat between two ceiling rafters and memorized the guard rotation tacked up in an officer's quarters beneath him, remembering what Hoggle had said what the new Queensguard had done to the Labyrinth homesteads while in search for those who'd taken to the underground caverns. Finished with his scouting and having committed the map to memory, he moved back into the passages only his small frame could navigate and pushed himself to finish his mission before too many hours had passed.

Hoggle had told the resistance that morning what the new Goblin Queen had done and the rage that continued to burn steadily in his gut sustained him through the arduous process of navigating his way towards the bottom of the castle. He had done his best to comfort Kissiae but her tearful sobs still tore at his small heart as he clambered down between the stone masonry, looking for his next area to investigate. As he moved and let the memory of his distressed friend fade from his mind, only to have her desolate expression replaced with the faces of his dead friends, Mikpik vowed on their bones that they would be avenged.

Briefly, Mikpik stopped as he heard a soft flutter of wind at his back. Frowning, he tipped his head back into the small dark duct that pointed down, shivering against the inky blackness that awaited him the further down he went. Still, the wind continued to faintly tease his senses and he turned, following the draft.

Reaching forward, Mikpik let out a soft squeak of surprise as the stone walls suddenly turned slippery, the sour smell of mold assaulting his nose as he lost his grip, crashing down through the remaining gap in the stone masonry and hitting a solid flooring beneath him with a thud.

Wheezing and coughing, he slowly sat up and tried to place himself, casting an eye down the narrow cobbled corridor and the iron bars across from him. Swallowing, he realized he was now in the dungeons, a place he had never seen but only heard rumors of.

A rustle drew his attention to the cell in the far corner, making Mikpik hurriedly rise and dart back into the shadows. When the silence descended once more and no guards rang out warning calls, he crept back slowly towards the direction he had heard the rustle from.

Looking over his shoulder to be sure he was alone, he sank through the large iron bars, narrowing his eyes as he scanned the small dark cell. Briefly, he placed a hand over his sensitive nose, smelling the acrid smell of an unwashed body and the remnants of excrement in one corner.

"H-hello?" He whispered so quietly, he was afraid whatever was hiding in the corner hadn't heard him. Darting one last glance over his shoulder, he moved to step forward but let out a soft gasp of surprise as a large iron-like grip descended on him, yanking him against a large muscled form.

"Who are you and what're you doing here?" A low-edged warning growl drifted past his ears. Relief flooded through him, making Mikpik briefly sag against the rough vice-like grip he was held in.

"K-Kingy?" Mikpik began, only to stop mid-reply as Jareth shoved him away and spun him around, glaring down at the small goblin who cowered before him. Mikpik couldn't make out much, but what he did see made the pit of his stomach shrink and squeeze tightly in fear.

Jareth stared down at Mikpik with feral eyes, his lips curling back distastefully in a frightful expression that appeared half frown, half grimace, to the little goblin. His cheeks were sunken and half-dusted with filth, making his mouth and teeth almost appear too-large in his wane face, his sharp teeth flashing vampirically as he tried to place the small goblin at his feet. Mikpik trembled under the intensity of that black stare, his King almost unrecognizable from the arrogant beautiful fae that he knew to this caged wild creature he was now before him. Mikpik quickly fell to his knees, unable to meet Jareth's gaze any longer, hovering in trepidation as he waited for Jareth to place him.

"Mikpik…" Jareth muttered, casting an acute gaze towards the cobbled corridor that curved around the iron bars of his prison.

Briefly, Mikpik let his eyes flutter back towards Jareth, noting his thin wiry form beneath the half-rotted clothes he now wore. "I made sure I kept quiet, there's no guards. Master Hoggle…"

Jareth truly hissed then, turning his feral eyes back toward Mikpik with a snarl, making the goblin tremble and stop. With a curt gesture from the fae, Mikpik finally found his voice and continued, stuttering over a few words before he found enough courage to continue undeterred. Squeezing his eyes shut, he recanted their tale.

"M_M-M-Master H-H-H-Hoggle l-l-leads a r-r-r-r-resistance against the new Queen, K-Kingy. He said he figured out that he's missing memories...of a...Champion...and figures that if we find them, they can set you fr-"

"What?"

Jareth had gone deathly still, staring at Mikpik with the most intensity he had ever seen. Unable to help it, terrified of the fearsome gleam that had flared to life in Jareth's eyes, he scrambled back, hastily spitting out what Jareth demanded he finish.

"He said..he knew there was a Champion...but he can't remember. He can't remember but he wants to because maybe he or she can help u -!" Mikpik struggled to complete his sentence as Jareth shot forward, effortlessly clamping his hands around Mikpik's throat.

"Do NOT seek out the Champion. LEAVE HER BE. I have endured too much to have the likes of a dwarf and a pissant goblin single-handedly unravel the single thread of my sanity that I have left. DO NOT LOOK FOR HER, DO YOU UNDERSTAND?" Jareth's grip turned lethal and Mikpik struggled futilely against his grip, sobbing faintly as he tried to wriggle out of Jareth's grip, black spots dancing in his vision.

Kingy is mad, surely. Oh, what has the new Queen done to him?

Their tussle must have drawn the hearing of the guards, because before Mikpik knew what was happening, he was thrown across the cell and shoved through the iron bars, back into the shadows of the cobbled corridor just as two guards bounded down the hall.

The two fae sneered at Jareth once they came into view and one gestured at his comrade as he hurled insults at Jareth, his friend eagerly unlocking the iron gate. "The fuck you gettin' on about, you traitor? Stewing for a fight, are you? Thought we said KEEP QUIET! Your mistress not wear you down enough, you need us to help fill the gap, eh? Come on, Jeras, open the gate, I don't like the look on his face…"

Mikpik stared, horrified, as Jareth rose up to full height and flashed them a terrifying grin just as the other two men entered the cell. Almost unable to watch, Mikpik watched in admiration and appalment as Jareth fought viciously but in the end began to lose underneath their superior armor and weapons, eventually falling completely quiet under the dull wet thuds of their wooden clubs.

Unable to watch anymore and wiping tears from his eyes, Mikpik found the small crevice that had allowed him access and slowly crept back the way he had come.


 

Aboveground, Six Years Prior, The Streets of New York

Sarah shoved Jonas through a construction barrier, clamping a hand down over his mouth as she willed herself to be silent, staring into his frightened brown eyes as she heard the muttered curses behind the wall of plastic wrap of the two men who had nearly caught up to them seconds ago. Pressing a finger to her lips, she eased her head back to watch and listen warily from the shadows of the darkened alley with torn up pavement blocks beneath their boots. Tensing, she saw two shadowy figures across the alley from around the dumpster, their anger apparent in the rigid way they held themselves in the dim light cast from the street lamp above their heads.

"Shit, did you see where she went? She's just a fucking mortal, how could she have outrun us? I am not reporting back that we lost her. The Queen's been on a tear lately. You saw what she did to those villagers, Micah. I will not wind up like them!"

The shorter of the two men snorted, casting his partner an annoyed look. "Act your fucking age, soldier. You're embarrassing me. This is a mere girl, we'll find her. They're not far, there's no way could they have given us the slip that easily. Check the site, they're close."

The more nervous of the two nodded, slipping a sharp object between his fingers after he tore into his pants pocket. Sarah swallowed, her eyes catching the glittering tip of a dagger. Fear threatened to consume her but she willed herself once more to a state of calm detachment, ignoring the metal twang that one more filled the back of her throat as she looked back over at Jonas.

Motioning with her fingers, she held up two and then curved her wrist, indicating they had weapons. Moving her lips deliberately, she made his gaze meet her mouth as she forced the word 'QUIET' towards him. He nodded and she slowly dropped her grip from his mouth, motioning behind him for them to keep moving down the alley.

They had made it several steps and Sarah had just felt the tight ball of anxiety ease from her stomach when a whistling noise drew her attention quickly to the right. Seeing the bright arc of a blade sailing towards Jonas, Sarah quickly snatched up her backpack and used it to shove Jonas out of the way.

Letting out a faint cry of pain, Sarah winced as the blade struck her shoulder, tearing a deep gash across the top of her back as they fell down together onto the rough pavement. Looking over her shoulder, seeing the two fae in dark clothing barreling towards them, Sarah scrambled up and shoved Jonas back, screaming at him to leave.

"Go! Run!"

"I'm not leaving you!" He hollered back, scrambling for the dagger that had clattered to the pavement a few feet away. Grasping the handle and swinging back towards the two men, he noted with confusion the bright crimson splatter of blood. Realization quickly poured over his face as he looked back at her sharply. "Did they get you? Jesus, Sarah, run!"

Sarah winced as she tried to stand, the agonizing flare of pain in her back making her cry out and stagger back to her knees, watching in horror as the other fae drew a knife of his own, hurling himself forward, ready to land the kill.

A sudden flash of light left both Sarah and Jonas blinking and wincing. Almost as quickly as the flash, Sarah let out a faint scream of pain as she felt Jonas rush forward and grab ahold of her, tugging her roughly to her feet. "Come on!" He roared in her ear, dragging her out of the alley.

Panting, feeling herself break out in a slow sweat from the pain, Sarah quickly followed his barked command and forced her body to move, hearing the swings and grunts of a quick messy fight behind them. Just as they steered themselves towards the main street, the alley behind them fell silent.

Swallowing, feeling light-headed, Sarah turned her gaze as Jonas continued to drag her with him across the alley, watching as a lone dark-clothed figure step out of the foggy mists from the port hole near the sewer entrance.

"Come on!" Jonas yelled, dragging her attention back to her young man hastily trying to get them to safety. Still, something about the newest arrival made Sarah hesitate. She tugged on Jonas' tight grip, gritting her teeth against the lancing pain up her back with the effort, forcing Jonas to a stop.

"Fuck me, that guy just killed the others. Let's go. LET'S GO!"

"So that means he's on our side, right?" She offered with a soft pant, forcing herself to breathe through the pain. Squinting, she realized she'd lost him in the fog. Cursing, she shoved at Jonas and nearly tumbled back to her knees as the searing pain flared to life once more. She groaned heavily against the sudden light-headed sensation that gripped her, nearly making her faint from the intensity.

"Something like that," came the amused reply from behind her. Sarah stiffened, trying to turn, but a soothing hand held her in place. Closing her eyes, Sarah sagged under the relief even as she heard the muttered curses of Jonas and a sharp 'Hey!' before she once more almost passed out from the pain. Briefly, another flash of light seared her eyelids and suddenly - the pain was gone.

"What…" Sarah frowned, looking back over her shoulder at the blonde fae man who leaned against the alley wall, smirking down at her.

"Hello, Champion." He offered, helping her to her feet. Sarah was too rattled by his sudden camaraderie to protest his assistance, or the way his grip lingered on her shoulder.

"Who the fuck is THIS GUY?" Shouted Jonas, gesturing wildly at the fae that held Sarah. Sarah struggled to answer, too busy staring in slack-jawed awe as she moved her arm without pain.

"You...healed me." She stated, watching the blonde fae smile in amusement and ignore Jonas' barks of outrage. Just as Jonas was about to forcefully shove himself between the two of them, the blonde fae turned and held up his hand, effectively freezing Jonas mid-launch.

"Don't! Please…" Sarah immediately replied, pleading with the mystery fae to release Jonas. "He's a friend. He didn't mean any harm, he's just concerned."

"You should have not involved him in your problems then, Champion," the fae replied, frowning as he did what she asked and flicked his wrist, dissolving whatever invisible spell held Jonas hostage. Sarah stepped forward to brush a hand tentatively against his shoulder when Jonas shot out suddenly, slamming his fist into the mysterious fae's jaw.

"Jesus, Jonas, STOP!" Screamed Sarah, putting herself between the two. The fae righted himself and glared at Jonas but eventually smiled in rueful amusement.

"Why are you mad at me? These sickos are trying to kill you!" Jonas roared, glaring at Sarah. Turning on his heel and viciously clawing a hand through his hair, he glared back at the fae and pointed an accusing finger. "How do we know you're not like them?" He gestured back towards the alley and what was most likely the two dead bodies of the other two fae.

"You don't," offered the fae with amusement. Jonas stiffened then launched forward, only to stop mid-air once more. Sarah had backed away, deciding it best to let the two men come to blows, as she was fairly certain the fae's aim was not to murder them - at least not yet. To her surprise - and apparently the fae's, by his expression - Jonas began to slowly jerk back to life, struggling against whatever magic held him bound.

"Astounding," the fae remarked, flicking his wrist once more and watching in amazement as Jonas bounced against the pavement, stepping aside at the last moment to avoid any limbs Jonas attempted to punch his way. Sarah frowned, moving forward to intervene once more, when the fae continued. "You must be of Romani descent. But you, dearest Champion...you're something else altogether. Tsk, tsk. Whatever to do with you now?"

Sarah helped Jonas to his feet and turned to glare fire at the fae. The fae's gaze was oddly discerning but she held herself firm, giving no quarter. "You're not here to kill us or you'd have done that already. You're entirely too chatty for someone doing a snatch and grab, so that tells me you're here to help us. Why?"

The fae seemed amused and nodded, glancing over her form. Sarah felt herself being thoroughly inspected, gritting her teeth against the sensation that she was being measured up like a calf to the slaughter house.

"You're correct, Champion. Right now, I'm weighing my options. You seem like a long-term investment type. For now, you've little choice but to accept my help. So, what'll it be? Forced compliance or a willing partnership? Bear in mind, we shall not be staying here. We'll be going somewhere more...open to what I am. I can't hide you the way I need to in this city. They found you…" He pointed a single digit towards the end of the alley, making Sarah shudder before meeting his gaze once more. "...and so did I. More will come."

Sarah stared at him, frowning, catching his amused gaze. "On one condition."

The fae looked amused at her demand, raising a single brow. "And what is that, Champion?"

"You teach me to fight like you. To kill like you, if I have to."

That seemed to be the least expected answer the fae was expecting, sending him into a loud fit of laughter. Jonas stared, horrified, looking between the two as Sarah stubbornly glared at the fae until he finally forced himself back into some semblance of composure.

"My, my. The cat has claws. Deal," he grinned, stepping forward and offering his hand. "Your name, Champion?"

"You can't be serious…" Jonas started, dragging Sarah's gaze away from the fae. She frowned, giving the fae a knowing look before walking over towards Jonas, resting her hands on his shoulders. The fae simply crossed his arms and watched from afar, the ever-amused smile still in place on his face.

"Jonas, I need you to go back to your dormitory…" She started, shaking her head fiercely when Jonas immediately began to object, jerking away from her grip, betrayal glittering in his eyes.

She continued on, ignoring the sharp jab of pain that flared between her ribs at the look he gave her. "...I need you to go back to your life, get your degree, make some girl fall in love with you..and forget I ever existed."

"You can't mean that," he whispered hoarsely, looking back angrily at the fae. "Is this your big secret? You're some kind of...what? Black market MMA fighter? He called you a Champion. A Champion of what? And why's that dude got...the fuck was that? Magical powers?" He shook his head, running his hands once more through his head, anger building in his features as Sarah watched him with growing fear she would be unable to convince him to leave. "Leave you here? Alone? WITH HIM? Have you gone crazy?"

"Jonas, where I am going...there's no coming back. No friends from your past, no family, no nothing. A complete sever. I don't think you're ready for something like that…" Sarah tried, her voice giving away her exhaustion - exhaustion from fighting this endless nightmare, from trying to convince him to leave, from her own willpower to keep fighting against what kept appearing to be insurmountable odds. What am I even doing? Why am I doing it? What's the price? Is it even worth it?

"I'm going with you," Jonas started furiously, snapping Sarah back to the present. That glimmer of willpower and anger burned once more inside her, making her shove at him.

"No," She hissed, shaking her head rapidly. "I won't let you do that…"

"Not your decision, is it? It's his." Jonas replied back caustically, ignoring Sarah as he marched back to the fae, who had been quietly observing their bitter words. The blonde fae smiled and shrugged one shoulder.

"That's correct. What she said is true, however. Are you really ready for that kind of life?" The fae smoothly responded, watching as Sarah turned and moved towards them. Jonas wouldn't even look at her and she forced herself to ignore the hurt that rebuttal of her concern caused, simply nodding in reply to the fae.

The fae grinned. "Excellent. Shall we?" He held out his hand, watching them both with a knowing smirk.

Sighing, Sarah closed her eyes and let her hand grip his - and then the world fell black.

Chapter Text

 

"She made broken look beautiful and strong look invincible. She walked with the Universe on her shoulders and made it look like a pair of wings." ― Ariana Dancu


 

Aboveground, Six Years Prior, Salzburg, Austria

Sarah fought the vicious wave of vertigo that accompanied the transport spell the fae had cast, swaying and fighting back the urge to vomit, snatching her hand away from his the instant the world around them stopped spinning, the immediate change of their surroundings jarring her senses.

"Where…are we?" She managed to rasp out, struggling with the words but recovering quickly, swallowing with the effort. She was determined not to look weak in front of the fae - something told her on an instinctual level that the man brokered no mercy for weak creatures. She blinked slowly, feeling his predatory gaze on her, taking a deep steadying breath and looked around – surprised at her surroundings.

They had teleported to a vacant alleyway in a quiet European-style town, the city flanked from the south by an imposing sweep of large mountains in the nearby distance, some shielded by the rooftops of the commercial businesses that flanked the main cobbled street. A stylish iron streetlamp cast shadows over their features in the dim light of the upcoming dawn or dusk, Sarah couldn't tell which. It was cold but not uncomfortably so, at least at this hour. Still, she shivered from the sudden brisk wind that kicked up down the narrow space between the buildings, tucking her hands into her pockets as she tried to make out a few signs in the distance, not understanding the language.

Nearby, Jonas did not fare as well as Sarah had against the transport spell. He stumbled back, crashing to his knees and making a soft groaning sound, only to retch up the contents of his dinner a mere few seconds later. The fae cast Jonas a repulsed look before looking back at Sarah with a feral smile, gesturing around him. "Welcome, dearest Champion, to the seat of my kind's fabled origins. One of them, at least. This is Bavaria…or, as I believe you call it now, Austria. Now, come. We need to move and we don't have much time."

"What do you mean, not much time?" Sarah asked warily, still leery to trust this man but following a few paces behind when he had started to walk down the main street, briefly glancing over to make sure Jonas had followed. He was quiet, not meeting her gaze and wiping at his mouth, frowning as he glanced around him, a sobered expression settling over his features as he realized the signs of the shops weren't in English.

Dimly, Sarah let out a sigh of resignation and returned her focus on the fae man that walked with a naturally long gait, making her need to jog to keep up with him. He continued to talk as she hurried alongside him, glancing over at her out of the corner of his eye with a small smirk. "Your smell, Champion. It's very noticeable to my kind. Our transport spell is easy to untangle and in the event your pursuers have other contacts that might notice their absence and investigate, it's best we're not standing where we came in."

Sarah studied him again as he turned a corner at the end of the street and climbed up a series of stone steps, heading for higher ground. She climbed alongside him, still looking around, sadly thinking of how she would have liked to explore a town like this one day – but that was before the event. Now, she would be lucky if she managed to live to see her twentieth birthday. Sweeping away the brief overwhelming sensation of hopelessness at what seemed to be her inevitable demise, Sarah steeled her shoulders and determinedly kept pace with the fae, who had begun to walk faster, heading towards a residential section of the town.

Eventually, they stopped in front of a quaint stone cottage lining one of the residential streets and the fae ushered them inside. Sarah frowned, glancing around the entry way as they stepped through the door, noting the lack of personal effects as she tugged off her backpack from her shoulders. "What is this place?"

"A safe house. Don't worry, it's one of mine. No one else knows of its existence. Now, I need to attend to a few things before I move you again. There is some food in the kitchen. There are two mattresses upstairs. Get some rest, I will be back in a few hours."

"You're leaving?" Sarah asked sharply as the fae turned to go. She didn't like the idea of being transported across half the globe only to be left alone in an unfamiliar town with no warning. For all she knew, he was leaving her here to allow others to locate and kill them, her tone stating as much.

He glanced back at her and it was then Sarah noticed the faint iridescence of his eyes. She boldly lifted her chin, meeting his gaze steadily, despite the fearful pounding of her heart. If he was setting her up to die, she was determined to face that action with defiance. He seemed to admire the effort in which she appeared to be challenging in the way his eyes softened as he smirked, looking over her tense form and clenched fists. After several seconds passed, he stepped forward and Sarah instinctually backed up a few steps, making him laugh dryly. She was still nervous, no matter how much of a show she was outwardly able to put on and had suddenly let him know that – her cheeks flushing crimson with a combination of anger and embarrassment. Idly, she could hear Jonas turning and slowly climbing the stairs. She ignored the sudden bloom of betrayal in her gut as he left her to deal with the strange fae she now stared at warily.

"I've business to attend to. You are not my only priority, Champion. Still, I will offer you my word that nothing will befall you, and I rarely offer such things. Here, take this." Briefly, his fingers swirled in the air and he summoned a crystal and with a turn of his hand, it transformed into a key.

Idly, he stretched it out towards her, teasing her with the offer, a small feral smile tugging at his lips. "Do you want it?"

It's a crystal, nothing more. But if you turn it this way and look into it, it will show you your dreams.  Do you want it?

Those words and the memory they conjured up made her wince briefly and the fae tilted his head to the side, noticing the brief look of discomfort that flashed over her face. Sarah flexed her jaw and schooled her features back into cold indifference, snatching the key from his hand and tucking it in her jeans pocket, not taking her eyes off the fae. Realizing she had little choice, she simply nodded and waited for him to go, where she intended to lock the door behind him. He stared for several more seconds and then seemingly satisfied with what he saw, turned towards the door, only to pause as Sarah interrupted him.

"It's Sarah."

He looked back over at her and she shrugged. The fae offered her a ghost of a smile, amusement dancing in his eyes. "Eoin."

Bowing briefly towards her, he turned and left, closing the door behind him. Sliding forward, she twisted the key in the bolt and locked the door, slipping the key once more into her pants pocket, letting out a harsh exhale as she trembled, leaning against the entryway wall, giving into the brief panic that overwhelmed her once the fae was gone, sobbing faintly and holding her arms tightly around her waist. Eventually, the anxiety attack that consumed her passed and she stood tiredly, looking over at the stairs. Sarah struggled with the decision to confront Jonas or avoid him, wiping at the tears that had managed to escape during her short breakdown. In the end, she made her way towards the kitchens instead of the bedrooms upstairs, still too hurt to talk sensibly with Jonas.


 

 

Underground, Six Years Prior, Labyrinth

For the first time in weeks, Jareth woke to delicious smells wafting from an aromatic tray of food placed in front of him. Sitting up sharply, hissing with displeasure at being aroused from a troubled sleep, he hesitated at the benign gift that was laid so temptingly in front of him.

Frowning, he looked up to see one of the castle cooks smiling gently towards him and glancing nervously over her shoulder. He canted his head towards the cell door and raised an eyebrow, still seeing it locked. The cook nervously shrugged a shoulder and hastily explained in a strained whisper.

"Transport spell. Got some free magic from my mother's side. We're not originally from here so we still retain our own, you know. We must be quiet, Your Majesty. They're sleeping, me and the other ladies fed them a canteen of strong dwarven ale from the White Plume mountains so they should stay asleep, but one never knows how a man will react to such things…."

Jareth studied the nervous sprite in front of him for several seconds, noting the rapid beating of her heart and the nervous fidgeting in her slender frame. Her station clothes appeared worn and dirty, making him frown briefly as he pondered how the rest of the castle staff was faring under Neverin's rule.

Still, he found himself accepting this odd gift of kindness from the young woman he couldn't place, slowly leaning forward to stare at the small tray of plain porridge, salted pork and a small glass of milk. Dimly, he heard her shift and stare down the corridor before turning back and continuing to whisper as Jareth grabbed the bowl of porridge quietly and began to eat in slow measured bites. His stomach both heaved and relaxed at the best nourishment he had managed to ingest in week, making him shift uncomfortably as he listened to the cook continue to murmur conversationally.

"You remember Fandry? She was from the sprite kingdom? You offered her shelter about a century past? She's my ma. I'm Kendra."

Jareth nodded as his eyes once more scanned the sprite, slowly beginning to place her from the features she mirrored from her mother's heritage. Clearing his throat uncomfortably, as it had been some time since he had lost spoken to anyone, he hoarsely murmured around a spoonful of food. "How is your mother?" He asked gruffly.

The sprite visibly swallowed, her eyes flooding with unshed tears as she turned and gave him her back, most likely to regain composure as she kept an eye on the corridor and observed for eavesdroppers. Jareth frowned and sat the bowl aside after cleaning the contents, reaching for a sliver of the salted pork. "Something happened. Tell me."

Kendra shifted then, looking back at him and lowering her eyes to observe the state he was in. He felt her probing gaze and stiffened instinctually, knowing how he must have appeared. He was unclean and unshaven and extremely malnourished. Still, he let the strength of his internal fortitude shine through his eyes, letting the sprite know he could handle whatever she told him.

Kendra smiled weakly, nodding in acknowledgement of his silent request when she saw him straighten in the narrow cot he called a bed in this dungeon. Slowly, she turned her head to stare back down the vacant corridor, seemingly taking courage from not facing him to whisper her story. "She was killed a few weeks back, Your Majesty. Hoggle, Mikpik, and the others…"

She stilled, glancing back at him hastily for a moment to watch his reaction at mentioning Mikpik and he motioned for her to proceed, keeping his face schooled. The news of his reaction to Mikpik must have spread amongst the gossiping staff, since she seemed to visibly relax once more and continue after turning back to dutifully stare at the corridor and scout for anyone that might approach. Idly, he noted that the guards or Neverin had not visited him over this gossip so whatever had been said, they'd been keeping it to themselves. It made him briefly smile at their show of bravery before thrusting another sliver of salted pork into his mouth and chewing again slowly, waiting for her to continue.

"Hoggle and the others learned about the Champion that seems to have disappeared from record. He and the goblins also witnessed the new Queen's penchant for cruelty. They left their posts and are evading capture, they refuse to serve a Queen that tortures and kills her subjects. A lot of us wish to join but simply can't for various reasons, but their rebellion gives us hope that one day this nightmare will end…."

Jareth stilled once more, digesting this surprising bit of news as he continued to slowly eat her offering. He found himself smiling once more, the young sprite oblivious as she watched the corridor, thinking of Hoggle's recent ironic change, gaining the courage he so often lacked in the past. He wiped the grease from the salted pork on the threadbare pantaloons Neverin had him outfitted in once he was finished and took hold of the glass of milk, unable to help the quick greedy gulps as he swallowed the blessed cool liquid down. It had been a long time since he had anything to parch his throat and he was thankful for the cup.

Kendra continued, kindly ignoring his ravenous gulps of the liquid. "The Queen didn't like this and chose to make an example of anyone who sheltered them against capture and enacted a royal decree that required a sacrifice from each population of the Labyrinth until they were found. There's another scheduled in a month…." Her voice wavered as she struggled not to cry, trembling and dropping her head for a moment before straightening her spine, sniffing and wiping at her eyes and continuing on with a strength Jareth admired. Setting the glass aside, wary of what she was about to say next despite him having a dreadful feeling he knew what she was going to say, he sat up slowly and studied her struggling countenance. It still didn't make it any easier to hear what she said when her voice cracked as she uttered her next sentence, her head bowed. "My mother…was the initial sacrifice chosen out of the castle staff. She was hung over a fortnight ago and her head rests above the garden wall now, to serve as a warning to us all. I...can't look at it. I still hear her screams at night when I sleep."

Jareth exhaled sharply, feeling like he'd been stabbed once more in the gut. Briefly, the old wound from Neverin's ebony blade that had long since healed over ached with a phantom pain and he winced, bowing his head. The sprite looked back at him and tried to smile to let him know she understood his pain and when he eventually looked up, he noticed the irony of her smile struggling to remain in place with the fierceness in which she fought to contain control of her grief. Still, a few renegade tears slipped down her cheeks and she turned away sharply, slapping a hand over her mouth to muffle the few sobs that managed to escape her throat.

"I am so…very sorry…" He sighed, falling back into his cot, suddenly both mentally and physically fatigued. She hurried over and grabbed up the tray, murmuring a string of apologies for upsetting him. He waved a hand but didn't have the energy to look over at her. Leaning over the cot slightly, she studied him with a frown as she looked over the painful evidence of his starvation, still trembling with the effort to not make a sound, despite tears still carving wet tracks across her cheeks.

"What's done is done, Your Majesty. She would have gladly sacrificed her life to end Queen Neverin's reign, as would I," the sprite offered in an angry whisper, her tone strained as she forced her voice into a quiet whisper. Jareth looked back over at the young sprite, surprise distracting him from his weariness. "You have also sacrificed so much, that is clearly obvious. Don't give in now, Sire. We believe in you, all of us. We need you, Your Highness, if we're to rescue ourselves from this darkness."

"You don't wish for this mysterious Champion to rescue you?" Jareth couldn't help but bitterly ask, still not sure they'd taken his harsh threat seriously to leave Sarah be. Don't drag her into this hell, please…

"I believe in this Champion, but I also don't believe in wasting time, Sire. While I hope this mysterious person will one day help us, we shouldn't rely on others to rescue us…we should rescue ourselves."

Jareth stared at the wise jaded words from the young sprite but soon a rustle of keychains made them both sharply look towards the corridor his cell faced. He opened his mouth to tell her to leave, but when he turned, she and the tray were gone. He smiled faintly and slowly rose, ready to face whomever was coming.

 


 

Mikpik stared at the gathering of scouts, refugees and warriors huddled together around the standing stones centered in one of the deepest subterranean caverns of the Labyrinth, doing his best to gleam what he could of the conversation as Hoggle stood perched on the tallest monolith, staring over the sea of faces that stared up at him.

"His Majesty, per Mikpik's scouting expedition, is being held in the dungeons beneath the castle. The guard rotations and posts have changed, making it nigh impossible to free Jareth. Even if we could, from what I've been told, Jareth is in no state to challenge the current Queen…" Hoggle tiredly explained to the crowd, waving a hand in the air to silence protests that threatened to drown out his voice, trying to continue but failing as waves of frustration poured from the mob below.

Mikpik rose and joined Hoggle, showing him his support and to quiet the crowd that he struggled to contain. The crowd died down as Hoggle turned, seeing his approach, a startled but welcoming expression on his face as he nodded, moving aside to share his stage. Mikpik swallowed and stepped up beside Hoggle, looking over the angry and agitated faces of his fellow denizens.

"I know how you all must feel…especially those of you who have already lost so much…" He began, his eyes briefly resting on Kissiae who sat tensely to the side of the crowd, her expression shadowed and strained. She nodded tersely at Mikpik's silent acknowledgement of her suffering and the crowd seemed to subdue themselves momentarily with their fear and frustration, reminded of the tragedy that had recently hurt many of those gathered around them.

"The King stated he does not want this Champion pursued. From what I was able to gather, he has protected this mortal's name at quite the personal cost. For whatever his reasons, I think we should honor his request…."

A harsh wave of cries had Mikpik struggling to raise his voice over the dull roar and Hoggle stepped forward, placing his fingers between his lips and whistling sharply to silence the protests that drowned out Mikpik's words.

"Hey, all of you! Listen to us! Jareth is still King, despite whatever crown that witch wears. You know it, I know it…we all know it. Mikpik is telling you we can't find that Champion, that was Jareth's wish. We will honor that wish, we owe him that much. He knows these tunnels just as much as the lot of you and yet we haven't been stormed by Neverin's guards yet. That tells me he could have told the Queen during any of his torture sessions, yes, torture…" He paused, noting the look of horror and shock flickering over several faces in the crowd, slowly continuing as the voices all but died at this news.

"…and from what Mikpik told me, there has been a lot of them…and yet he didn't expose us. He is protecting each of you as fiercely as he is protecting this Champion. If he wishes this mortal left alone, then that's exactly what we will do - understood?" Hoggle's harsh litany and corresponding glare had the crowd once more sobering under the truth of his words, leaving only a few shifting restlessly.

"Now, that ain't to say we can't do something. You've lost family members, friends…and from what several of you have told me, Neverin gains power from her victims, from the deaths she deals. I say…no more."

The crowd had gone fully silent, staring intently at Hoggle as he continued, his anger and bitterness obvious as he looked over the crowd. "The runners don't make it home, I think we can all accept that. This new Queen kills her own subjects, a mortal won't stand a chance. We all know how fae treat mortals. I say…we don't give her the chance. The mortals have suffered long enough and I am not going to allow someone who dares rule the Labyrinth twist it into something it's not. This used to be a safe place for us, let's make it one again."

He hurried continued amidst the hoots and hollers of encouragement, pointing out at the crowd with a grin. "I need you to watch every portal to and from this place, looking for new arrivals, anything that seems out of the ordinary. I need a few brave souls to watch the castle for newly wished-away children. I need you to steal them, bring them here, so no one else has to suffer under this witch who dares call herself Queen. Let's see how this new Queen does when the courts notice there ain't no magic coming into their precious kingdoms. We will expose her and free Jareth in time, but this is what we can do now. What say you? Can we do this? Can we be the freaks, the cast offs, the mysterious denizens of the Labyrinth that we're made out to be?"

The thundering roar of approval from the crowd had Hoggle smiling over at Mikpik who grinned and nodded his assent.

"Let's hit that bitch right where it hurts!" Hoggle roared, grinning at the surge of Labyrinth denizens that had jumped to their feet, pumping their fists passionately into the air.


 

 

Underground, Six Years Prior, Thelemic Order Grounds

Grand Master Killdaire dismissed his assistant after giving him a few directives to undertake before tomorrow morning, smoothing a hand over his burgundy cloak as he walked along the impressive stone halls of the Thelemic School of Higher Magic. Glancing over his shoulder, he reached forward and pressed his hand to a carved panel over a doorway and murmured a small incantation, stepping through once a shimmer of magic cascaded over the entryway.

Instantly, the scenery changed to that of an ornate study, somewhere else on the grounds of the Order's considerable holdings. In the corner, stretched a long shadow, making Killdaire jump briefly before he scowled and tugged his robes tightly against his waist, moving to pour himself a drink to which the intruder had already helped himself to.

"You're late," hissed Killdaire, glaring over at Eoin who simply shrugged a shoulder with a lazy smile.

"I had other business," he stated vaguely, dismissing Killdaire's angry glare. "You asked for me?"

Killdaire stared over Eoin's form and frowned, uneasy at the former Nokmim's nonchalance and unreadable features. Still, he was the best at what Killdaire needed and, if the rumors were true, would most likely already have some of the information he needed.

"Yes," he nodded after a second, pouring himself a heavy amount of brandy from one of the half-filled decanters lining the bookshelf behind his desk. Swirling the liquid and taking a slow sip, he looked back at Eoin and soon joined him by the fire, settling into a chair opposite of the fae hunter.

"I'm under the impression you know of Neverin, new Mistress of the Labyrinth. Jareth is now in her employ," he murmured, watching the fae shift his gaze from the fire to his face, tensing at the brief feral animosity that was present in his expression. Eoin eventually calmed, nodding and sipping at his drink.

"Yes," he replied, lifting an eyebrow in question. "What of it?"

"She's ruining the High King," Killdaire muttered, ignoring the warning flare in Eoin's eyes. "Don't argue with me with that look, Eoin. I'm paying you to gather information, not for your opinion on the woman you bed."

Eoin bared his teeth sharply, clenching the crystal tumbler tightly in his grip, as he reacted to the slur Killdaire used in relation to Neverin. Eventually, he nodded, leaning back and sipping once more from the contents of his glass as he looked back at the fire that softly raged in the confines of the hearth. "What do you want to know?"

"I want to know where she comes from. I want to know what her maneuvers in court. I want to know the full capacity in which Jareth serves her and why. I want to know why the magics have slowed to the Underground as a whole. Can you do that for me? You might not like what you find, old friend, even if you do love her. I also want this done quietly, so make yourself scarce, even to her." He smiled, pleased when he saw Eoin tense, jerking his gaze back to him. So, the rumors are true….

"I will report back within the month," Eoin stated calmly, draining his glass and setting it aside, dropping a crystal to the floor and transporting away once it shattered. Leaning back, Killdaire studied the flames, wondering if he'd made the right decision. Either way, he needed more leverage against her if he was to challenge Neverin outright again in court.


 

 

Aboveground, Six Years Prior, Salzburg, Austria

Sarah woke up with a start, hearing a creak from one of the floorboards outside her closed bedroom door. Scrambling up quickly and edging herself towards the wall behind the door, her feet making little noise as her socks helped muffle any sound, she held her breath and waited.

Eventually, a knock came to her door and she heard Eoin's amused voice call out. "Good morning, Sarah. I can hear that pitter patter of your heart, you know. But I do commend the effort of concealment."

Scowling, Sarah stood back from the wall and watched as Eoin opened the door, an amused grin on his lean wolfish face. He motioned for her to follow and she slipped on her sweater and shoes, hurrying to catch up as she descended the stairs into the kitchen. Looking around, she noticed Jonas was absent.

"Where is Jonas?" She frowned, watching Eoin as he motioned to the table, taking a seat at his request. Eoin moved across the kitchen and grabbed a plate, dropping a large portion of food unceremoniously in front of her, gesturing for her to eat as he sat across from her and did the same with his own plate.

Sarah stared at the contents of her breakfast: Fluffy scrambled eggs, dry wheat toast, salted pork and porridge, giving him a questioning look. He rolled his eyes and pointed at her plate with a fork. "Eat. You wanted to train, didn't you? You need proper food to fuel what I am going to put you through."

Sarah grabbed her fork and mutely followed his instructions, forcing herself to eat despite the discomfort of choking down so much food. Still, she did as he asked, looking around once more when he'd looked over his plate and fallen into amicable silence and also consumed his breakfast.

"He's still sleeping," Eoin answered for her, looking up when Sarah focused her gaze once more back on him. "Besides, I offered to train you, not him. When he asks, I'll train him as well I suppose. Can't have two useless mortals running around that I have to save all the time, can I?"

Sarah stiffened at his soft insult, glaring at him as she chewed a mouthful of eggs. He smirked when she was about to retort something, making Sarah realize he had intended to get under her skin, raising a mocking finger towards her. "First lesson of the day...don't take the bait. I can read you like a novel, Champion. School those features."

Sarah fought her rising ire but did as he asked, smoothing her face into a distant cold mask. He grinned faintly and nodded, motioning to her breakfast. "Finish your food."

They ate the rest of their meal in solid silence.


 

 

"The first thing you must master, is breathing. Inhale when you draw back, exhale when you thrust outwards. Like this." Eoin demonstrated, inhaling sharply through his nose as he drew back his hand towards the center of his chest, making a loud grunt as he thrust his palm forward, the air whistling through his teeth as he exhaled. He thumped his chest and sat up straighter, watching Sarah with his hawk-like gaze. "Keep your torso strong, use your breathing to aide in your fight, not weaken you."

He gestured at her to try and Sarah closed her eyes, repeating his lesson several times. Eoin made no remark and she slowly opened her eyes, frowning, wondering if she was doing it correctly.

In a whirl, he thrust a fist forward and punched her hard in the gut, the sudden flare of pain making her gasp, unable to suck air into her lungs. She immediately doubled over, gagging against the pain. Eoin simply smirked and shook his head. "Always be ready. If you'd been practicing what I just showed you, you would still be standing."

Impatiently, he motioned for her to stand. "Come, now. Stand. Again."

Sarah slowly staggered to a standing position, wheezing faintly as she scowled at him. Closing her eyes, she did as he asked, and when he hit her the second time, it didn't hurt quite as bad, only briefly making her stumble. He smiled, nodding in approval, then motioned for her to continue.


 

Sarah nodded up at Eoin from where he stood at the top of the stairs, peering down at Sarah from where she laid on the floor of the entryway as he held a small weighted ball in his hands. "Are you ready to protect yourself?" He called out, watching as she nodded.

Jonas' door opened and Sarah shifted her gaze, sucking in her breath sharply and tensing her abdomen right before the ball made contact, wincing but giving a thumbs up to Eoin as she quickly recovered.

"Hey, you're awake.." Sarah began cheerfully, only to stare in wide-eyed horror as Eoin produced another ball and let it drop as she talked, not prepared when it slammed into her gut with a pronounced thud.

"What the…" Jonas blinked, wiping sleep from his eyes as he observed a laughing Eoin from the stair railing and a moaning Sarah from the first floor, where she had curled up in a fetal position, clutching her stomach.


 

 

"Again," Eoin frowned, watching Sarah wince as she once more kicked out with her left foot, snapping her shin against the hanging padded bag that hung from the rafters in the first floor study.

Shaking his head tersely, he moved forward impatiently and shoved her aside, kicking the bag fiercely with his forearms and shins, the bag creaking and trembling from the cord that anchored it to the ceiling under the onslaught. He looked back over at Sarah in irritation, motioning sharply towards the pad once again, his agitation apparent. "Like that, Sarah. Quit holding back. Harder."

Sarah was sore and irritated and hitting the pad like he asked hurt. She was covered in bruises of various kinds and breathing made her sides tender, so she suspected she had several sprained ribs underneath the riddle of purple and black marks on her torso from the past several weeks of sparring under Eoin's strict sessions. Gritting her teeth and forcing herself to swing once more, this time with her forearm, Sarah winced as it made connection with the pad, limping back a few steps as she tried to catch her breath. "I...can't. It hurts too much."

Eoin's angry glare made her stiffen, wiping sweat off her brow as she narrowed her eyes at him in exasperation. "What? Do you want me to break my damn arm or leg or something?"

Eoin lunged forward, his angry glare stopping only a few mere inches from her body. She blinked, shocked at how fast he moved, as the fae angrily hissed in her face. "Stop wasting my time, Champion. You were the girl that beat the Goblin King and you're telling me you can't punch a bag harder than that? Idiot girl…"

He snagged her forearm roughly and squeezed and Sarah cried out, reaching to jerk his hand away, but his grip was too strong. Boldly meeting his eyes with a fearless expression, she grunted as she jerked in his hold but was unable to break free. "You sadistic pig, let me go!"

"I am faster, stronger and more skilled than you," he admonished, ignoring her insult. "You will be lucky to survive any encounter with my kind, let alone a fae hunter. I am doing these exercises to prepare you for such an encounter, Sarah. They will not stop, they will not care if you're tired..or sore...or in a sourly mood. They will end your life just like that." He snapped his fingers in front of her face, making Sarah still and swallow.

He pointed back to the bag. "This exercise hurts, yes. It's meant to hurt. It should hurt. If it doesn't hurt, you're not doing it correctly. You've been conditioning your muscles and now you must condition your bones. This exercise is creating microfractures in your legs and arms...so when someone like me comes along, you will be able to successfully block my jabs and punches and survive them with limited injury."

Sarah stared, her gut growing heavy with despair. She wrenched out of his grasp, wincing at the pull in her injured torso, staring at him with a mixture of anger and resignation. "You've been holding back this whole time, haven't you?"

Eoin simply stared at her for several seconds and then finally shrugged a shoulder. "Yes."

"Do you think I am going to survive?" She asked, looking away and panting. He stood there silently for several minutes, making her close her eyes against what she knew his answer might be.

"I'm not sure. That is up to you. Now, are you going to keep talking, or are you going to hit the damn bag?"

She looked back over sharply at him, seeing the smirk pull at his lips. Gritting her teeth, she stalked forward and punched the bag repeatedly so hard that after a few minutes of this, she fell to the floor, swaying and almost losing consciousness under the pain.

Eoin simply nodded, a pleased expression on his face. "Good. Now we're getting somewhere…"


 

Underground, Six Years Prior, The Labyrinth

"Missing?" Neverin hissed softly, keeping her sharp smile intact as she stared fixedly at the incompetent guard in front of her. The fae shifted nervously under her heated stare, the noise of his boots and armor rustling in the otherwise silent and empty throne room. "Explain missing."

"We cannot locate the runner, Your Majesty. We've searched the entire Labyrinth, of what is available to us. It's simply as if the mortal vanished, my Queen." Stumbling to a knee, the guard bowed before her and hung his head, waiting for her reply.

Neverin looked past him, staring out the window of the throne room, her eyes flickering dangerously over the stone walls of the maze in the distance from the castle, thrumming her nails against the arm rests of the throne.

"You've searched for remnants of magic, I hope? Or have you been so incompetent that you didn't bother to check for such things?" She asked, looking down to watch the guard nod his head rapidly, keeping it fixated on the floor.

"Yes, Your Majesty. That was one of the first things we had our scouts conduct. No magic was used."

Sighing and lightly running a finger along the tip of her nose, she nodded, waving a hand dismissively to the guard. He jerked to a stand after briefly looking up and hurried out of the room. She positively burned with the unrequited need to kill the messenger who had delivered the news that her latest runner had vanished but knew she was growing short of guards and reasons for their extended absences.

"Whatever shall we do with you, dear?" Neverin whispered, looking back over at the maze with a smirk. "Do you really relish demoralizing your King as much as I do, is that it? Because I will, you know. I will take this act out on him."

Nothing replied in the stony silence that followed, making Neverin sigh once more, boredom creeping along her thoughts. Tapping her nails in frustration against the throne again, she tipped her head back and called out into the Ether. "Eoin, I need you, my love."

Impatiently, she waited for his arrival. After several seconds, she was aware that he was not going to respond to her summons. Rage flared once more in her gut and she trembled under the need to contain it, gripping the throne arms so strongly that her knuckles turned white.

Hissing between her teeth, she uttered the next name that she knew would be able to answer her summons without resistance. "Jareth, I have need of you. Come."

She smiled as she felt the familiar tug his magic made as it danced along her senses, pleased her spell work had continued to hold. His cold eyes bore into hers and she shivered, relishing the hatred she saw there. He tickled her in ways she hadn't felt in a millennia. Oh, love, if you only knew how old I truly was. You hate this face, this body, but the real me from so many eons ago, what would have looked like staring at me as I once was, hm?

Slipping out of her chair, she descended the steps of the dais that the throne rested against and walked a small circle around where he stood, tense, his eyes moving away from her to stare boredly at the wall. "Good evening, darling…" she couldn't resist cooing at him, watching the muscles in his back tense as she studied him, pausing behind him and crossing her arms idly in front of her.

Jareth turned, glowering over her form. She smoothed her hands over the pearlescent fabric of her dress, chuckling at the flare of pain that briefly entered his eyes. She had found the dress a few weeks prior, some fairytale-spun gossamer nightmare in his hidden study, and she wondered at its origin. From the bracketing marks around his mouth, it meant a great deal to him, and she purred in pleasure as she twirled, showing him how she'd destroyed its original form, molding it to her form.

Jareth struggled suddenly, but the new bracers he had clamped around his wrists forbid him to use magic against her, even if he could still freely use some of it to conduct her wishes. She smiled, tapping her nails suggestively against her lips as she wrinkled her nose in admonishment as he struggled, unable to resist chuckling as she closed her eyes and opened her magic, siphoning the overwhelming surge of bitter emotions that wafted off him like a tidal wave.

Briefly, she felt somewhat restored from the unabated need to kill from before, slowly opening her eyes as Jareth stilled, closing his own eyes in turn, seemingly clamping down on his response to her in the dress. Pouting faintly, she closed off her magical spell and clapped her hands happily to continue the conversation at hand.

"We have a bit of a problem, love. The runner from this morning? He is missing. I need you to find him. We can't have Grand Master Killdaire moaning and whining about his latest promised acquisition, can we? I know he's been rather needy lately, getting the last two children, but I cannot afford a mishap on this. Now, go, be a good boy and fetch for your mistress."

She waved her fingers dismissively at him as she climbed back atop her throne, in a more pleasant mood as she relished the feel of his bitter emotions still simmering underneath her skin.

Jareth stared darkly at her for several seconds but vanished from the room shortly after, allowing Neverin to close her eyes and finger the fine silk fabric of the mysterious dress underneath her fingertips while she waited for his return.

 

Chapter Text

"You can't go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending." - C.S. Lewis


Underground, Six Years Prior, The Labyrinth

Jareth's boots crunched the brittle debris underneath his feet as he softly landed at the outskirts of the junkyard, scanning the foggy horizon for any signs of life. Seeing nothing, he tilted his head and adjusted his gaze, studying the forest lining the edge of the junk heap in the distance. He stretched slowly, testing his bonds, finding that he could move freely without complaint. Shuddering and inhaling sharply, briefly euphoric with the small sliver of freedom the command from Neverin brought him, Jareth began to relax and stepped towards the treeline in the distance. The forest was as good as any place to start.

As usual, his mind wandered while he walked, remembering back to a few months prior, when the dwarf had given a certain mortal girl a peach - one that sent her into a sleep in the very forest he walked towards. Slowly, his mouth twisted downwards into a saddened frown as he thought back to that brief dance and what it had meant to him in the end. He hadn't realized it at first of course, only begrudgingly impressed at her ability to persevere out of the dreamscape despite her response to him. Now, he knew that it was more than admiration for the her spirit that brought out such a vicious response in him when he had seen Neverin with a clipping of her hair or wearing that dress. The realization still made him uneasy.

Snorting at his own stupidity - or madness, it mattered little which it was at this point - for attempting to label the type of the emotions she invoked in him, he picked up his pace, forcing down the memories. It wasn't real, you fool. Stop making it into something it's not.

Unable to help himself, he briefly looked over his shoulder, noting the glittering spires of his castle in the distance, gritting his teeth as he remembered why he was here, dropping the nostalgia and forcing himself back to the task at hand. As if on cue, the scars at his neck faintly sizzled and he grunted, grimacing and tugging at the collar of his tunic as he turned away from the shadowed structure dotting the horizon, wandering on.

Briefly, he glanced around, surprised at the stillness in the labyrinth. During his reign, the maze was constantly alive with various creatures. Now, it was somber, subdued and skittish - a certain uneasiness palatable to his senses. He half-expected Neverin to have demanded for her Queensguard to accompany him and when he saw none, he raised an eyebrow in surprise and closed his eyes, testing the limitations of his bonds. Once again, amused and a little wary, he found himself alone in the open with little of Neverin's magic interfering with his ability to access his own. Still, he didn't allow himself to savor the small taste of freedom she allowed, knowing full well she enjoyed playing with her prey. Clamping down his emotional response, he sought that now-familiar sense of detachment he had fastened onto over the past few months, finding comfort in feeling nothing.

In response to his delicate test, the magic in her bindings ebbed back from a constant keen ache to a dull throb he barely registered. Breathing steadily through his nose, he slowly let down his internal defenses and listened, allowing the magic of the labyrinth to gather in him, bracing himself for what he knew was coming.

The labyrinth magic roiled to life at the sudden absence, startling him as it crashed against his consciousness. He jerked faintly under the onslaught, his brows knitting in concentration to control his physical response to the mental stimulus. The labyrinth was brutal, harsh and whipcord strong as it lashed out, nearly bringing Jareth to his knees. Still, he allowed the magic its due, groaning faintly against the pain, eventually cajolling it into a shallow truce and righting himself after a brief internal struggle. The magic was angry and unforgiving in its bitter lashings, but he knew he needed the connection if he was to find the runner before nightfall. Neverin was not a patient woman and he didn't want her in the labyrinth. With little choice but to find the child as the dark magic compelled him to, he hoped once the link was formed that the slackened restraints in his bonds would allow him to circumvent the child's fate. His connection was faint, but it was enough, allowing him to expand his senses exponentially.

Closing his eyes and kneeling down, he tipped his head back as he softly inhaled the scents of the land around him, pilfering through the myriad of mossy decay and dry earthen tones until he found it - the unique acrid smell of a mortal seized with fear and adrenaline. It was faint, coming from the south, and fading fast.

Opening his eyes and standing, Jareth frowned as he turned his head towards the direction of the bog. Despite the scent dissipating quickly, the mortal's scent tipped him in that vicinity, surprising him. Understanding he had locked onto his prey, Neverin's summons jarred his muscles, making his frame briefly tremble as he bit down on the urge to immediately follow the scent, looking around slowly and opening his senses further, needing to feel a deeper connection to the maze to subdue the compulsion.

Briefly, the labyrinth balked under the demand and he grunted again in pain, knowing it didn't enjoy it's tethered leash any more than he did. Slowly, in small degrees, he eventually gained control again and eased into a slow walk towards the direction of the mortal. Tenuously, he mentally thanked the labyrinth and felt the tightening of its grip around his senses, letting him know that their truce was a long way from an alliance, but it understood the importance of what he was trying to achieve.

When he reached the forest, the wood was eerily silent for several seconds as if sensing his presence. Slowly, the small chirping of birds returned as did the thrum of insects and other innocuous life. Looking around, he allowed himself to feel the state of the labyrinth as he moved, scanning the forest for signs of change or damage. He was comforted to see the usual vivaciousness still present in the forest, even under Neverin's rule. Smiling as he ran his hands over the fronds of a particularly beautiful rhododendron that he passed by, he briefly felt the labyrinth tremble in sadness and forgiveness, stroking the edges of his mind with a balmy, cooling touch.

I know you're sorry, so am I. This is not what I envisioned for either of us when I protected her. You understand?

The slow humming of bees and insects made Jareth's tensing shoulders ease, relieved that it had not completely forsaken him. It gave him hope that he hadn't realized until that moment he desperately needed.

Emboldened, Jareth slowly reached out again with his mind and tethered his thoughts on the denizens of the labyrinth, listening for echoes of their feelings. It would not be much, but he could gather fleeting glimpses if he concentrated hard enough. Slowly, the labyrinth formed the connection he wanted and his head swam with the sensations of hurt, unrepentant rage and dissent as he walked quietly. Despite the Labyrinth denizens being fractured, ruled by a tyrant queen, its inhabitants remained strong, resilient. Once again, he found himself thinking of Sarah.

For my will is as strong as yours, and my kingdom as great…

A sudden rustle in the distance drew back his gaze towards the brush several yards ahead. Narrowing his eyes, he moved quickly towards the sound, shoving aside several layers of thick underbrush once he had properly approached the area with little discovery, groping for the source of the noise. Grinning faintly in triumph as his gloves snagged a collar, he yanked roughly and drug out the unsuspecting creature into the clearing behind him, only to blink and stare into the shocked aged eyes of a dwarf he never expected to see again.

"Hogwart?"

"Y-Yer Majesty!" Hoggle started, swallowing as he jerked to a stand, rubbing a hand over his coarse grey hair as he straightened his red skullcap, his eyes lowering over Jareth's form. A bleak look flickered over his face as he took in the state of Jareth's malnourished frame and sordid clothes. "Y-You're…"

Suddenly, the labyrinth magic swelled inside Jareth's head in warning, making him struggle to suppress a response, grimacing faintly. Hoggle slowly ran a trembling hand over his clothes and opened his mouth to say something further but he quickly fell silent when Jareth savagely slashed his hand in the air, telling him mutely to be quiet.

"Shh," Jareth hissed, watching Hoggle's eyes widen as he suddenly crouched down just as a chorus of wolf howls echoed in the distance, in the direction of the castle. Damnit, I thought I had more time than this…

Pleadingly, he reached out to the labyrinth to determine how far away their pursuers were. Its answer left him more anxious than he cared to admit. Not long at all…

Rage simmered in the back of his mind but he quickly clamped it down. The more he responded to her prompts, the faster they would locate them. "She can sense me, they are close. You have the runner?"

Hoggle stared, mouth slightly agape as he tried to form words and failed, speechless that Jareth would know about the runner. Impatient, aware of their limited time, Jareth looked over at him fiercely, his eyes glinting dangerously. "Answer me, Hoggle. Yes or no?"

Before Hoggle could reply, a small boyish voice whispered out from the edges of the brush. "Are you going to hurt me?"

Turning his head sharply towards the plaintive cry, Jareth knelt down and shoved past Hoggle to move a few more branches out of the way, spotting a blonde boy of maybe eight staring back at him with frightened blue eyes. His gut twisted in empathy as he paused, staring into a face that could have been what Toby would have become when he came of age, forcing a soft smile on his face as he looked over the boy for injury. Seeing none, he motioned for the boy to come out from under the brush and Hoggle nodded eagerly when the boy glanced his way. Jareth watched as the boy climbed out from the brush, ignoring the howling of the wolves drawing closer.

"No, I'm not going to hurt you," Jareth replied softly, looking over at Hoggle. "Normally, I would make you a goblin. Or an imp, or a sprite. But not today. What is your name, child?"

"Davy. Davy Jones. My little sister, Mary, is in the castle. But Hoggle says his friend is getting her for me. I didn't mean those words," the boy replied softly, hanging his head in shame.

Jareth winced, gently patting the boy's shoulder. "I know, but what's said is said. Now, you understand the power of thought and words. Be careful what you say from now on, boy. You never know who's listening."

"You're right," the boy sighed. "So I'm to become a goblin, then? That's not so bad, I guess. I always liked the monster stories, you know...about the ones under your bed. Do I get to pick which one I am?"

Jareth briefly smiled, shaking his head slowly as he swallowed the lump in his throat. There was no way he could witness another act of Neverin draining the innocent child. "I'm afraid not, not today. Now, go stand by the brush and let me talk to our friend here."

The boy nodded and moved away and Jareth felt the labyrinth briefly swarm in warning again as the snarls of the hounds drew closer in the distance. Closing his eyes, he willed a command to the maze. Give me more time! Please!

Slowly, the labyrinth's internal warning abated and the wolf howls suddenly seemed further away. He smiled briefly then glanced back at Hoggle. The aged dwarf looked at him curiously, sensing what Jareth had done.

"How'd you not know about the runner?" He asked, keeping his voice low, continuing on hastily when Jareth raised an eyebrow in question. "You didn't know his name. You always know their names. You're still King, aren't you? Don't you have to answer the summons?"

"She has worked a way to allow me to transport her on my behalf," he murmured vaguely, ignoring the worried look on Hoggle's face, glancing back at the boy. "I came because you're hiding him from her. He is younger than I expected. What were you planning to do with them?"

"Keep him and the girl away from her...and that's about as far as we got, Yer Majesty. Mikpik and a few others are getting his sister from the castle now. We know what she's doing, Jareth. We can't...we can't let her do that."

Again, Jareth was temporarily surprised speechless, studying the firm glint of determination in Hoggle's eyes. So, they know too. Good. Slowly, he nodded, rising and dusting off his knees as he contemplated what to do. Flickering his eyes between the two, he felt the steadily increasing agony of Neverin's magic as the hounds tried to locate him, the labyrinth's attempts at keeping them away slowly crumbling under the pervasive power of her dark magic.

Gritting his teeth, he summoned the last remnants of his will and his connection to the labyrinth, conjuring up two crystals. He held them out towards Hoggle, unable to hide the tremors in his hands as he waited impatiently for the dwarf to take the magical baubles. Doing his best to hold back Neverin's locating magic, he squeezed his eyes shut, stifling the pain, and spat out his instructions tersely, making sure the dwarf was listening. "One...is to open a portal in the tunnels, back...Aboveground. They can't...return home. But they'll live. Make sure someone...takes care of them. The second….is to move in the castle...undetected. She will...know your ploy..after today. Be...careful…"

"Yer Majesty, the price of this - " Hoggle started, frowning as he bit down on his lower lip and looked at the state Jareth appeared to be in, trembling violently to hold back Neverin's magic and freely use his own. Jareth opened his eyes and flashed Hoggle an impatient glare, thrusting the crystals at him.

"Take them," Jareth hissed, glaring at Hoggle. Mutely, Hoggle did as he asked, despite the reluctance present on his face. He looked down at them, then back over at Jareth with a frown. "How do I…"

"They will activate...when you return. The first will form a portal in the tunnels..where...she cannot see. The...second will...affect the camp inhabitants. Now...go…"

"But you -"

"Can't be saved. Not...now. Just...goGO!" Jareth roared, then doubled over in pain, squeezing his eyes shut against the flare of Neverin's magic. The hounds howled even closer now and any moment, he knew they'd find him. Hopefully the dwarf would take his instructions wisely and leave but he was in too much pain to roar at them to run.

He heard Hoggle's rough demands towards the boy and soon after, the rustle of the pair escaping into the woods. Muttering the last knowledgeable act he could do, he pleaded with the labyrinth to shield their scent, then sought relief in oblivion against the pain.


Slowly, Jareth's eyes flickered open. Briefly, all he felt was the torment of his physical state and groaned, squeezing his eyes shut. It was blinding and all-consuming, forcing him to control his breathing for several minutes until he had a firm enough grip on his response to slowly open his eyes once more. He had trouble focusing but realized he was in a dank, dark place, the rocked ceiling both familiar and not. Sighing, he tried to ease the tension out of his frame, familiar now by the smell of where he was once more.

My own dungeons. How familiar we have become, you and I.

Inhaling slowly, he tried to sit up, but the agony of the act made him groan and simply close his eyes once more, attempting to roll on his side until he realized he couldn't, he was bound to the uncomfortable bare wood underneath him.

"Welcome back, pet," Neverin's cool voice spoke to his right as a lamp light was suddenly thrust in his face out of the darkness. Hissing, he squinted and blinked, trying to gain focus on the voices but couldn't, his eyes watering as he struggled and failed to keep the blazing brightness from overwhelming his sight. Slowly, her beautiful face came into view as she leaned over him, but he could tell she was not pleased. As his eyes adjusted to the lamp light, he began to make out two men flanking her on either side of her. It was the two Nokmim, neither of which he had bothered to learn the names of, but he had begun to recognize them from his usual beatings and her visits in his cell.

Neverin sighed, her sharp elbows pressing into his breastbone, pinning him down to the table, making him grunt as she cupped his chin and shook her head in dismay. "Once more you had a simple job and once more you've disappointed me, Jareth."

He actually laughed hoarsely at that, licking his dry lips as he grinned. "Oh?"

A harsh punch against his left temple made him groan and struggle against his bonds, his eyesight once more faltering as he winced, trying to make sense of what she was saying through the loud richoted ringing in his ears. She briefly paused, then demanded something in a harsh tone, but he wasn't able to make out the words, his head still swimming.

"What?" He gritted, glaring at the moving shadows to his right, assuming they were the outlines of his captors. "Tell your guard dogs to stop rattling my brain around if you want sensible answers from me, Neverin."

"I said...where are they?" She asked, leaning over him once more, her eyes briefly pulsing red.

"Don't know," He replied smoothly. It wasn't a complete lie and he could tell she sensed that, fidgeting with the urge to do real damage by the brief look of unfiltered rage that flickered across her angelic appearance. Eventually, she seemed to control herself and pulled back, shoving away from him with a soft sound of annoyance. The noise made him chuckle and it was worth the stinging slam against his temple he expected in response.

"Do your usual, expect double the length, and no food for a week," She spat in disgust, the two Nokmim nodding and reaching forward to grab Jareth's weakened form. He was too spent to object and simply allowed their roughened hands to wrench him loose from his bonds.

Turning his head, he smiled and waggled his brows at her brittle glower from the corner of the room as the two Nokmim sat him up and began to drag him from the interrogation room and towards his familiar cell, their weapons rattling against their armored thighs. "More beatings? More starvation? How...original…"

"Gag him when you're done with it," She hissed, narrowing her eyes dangerously as he laughed while being dragged down the corridor, her face fading from view as they carried him away.

"I do hope it was worth it, Jareth…" Neverin's voice called out as he was tossed unceremoniously into his cell. Closing his eyes, he inhaled slowly, bracing himself mentally for the physical pain about to come as the two Nokmim shut the steel door and slid the lock closed, the loosening of their weapons making him stiffen.

I hope so, too…


Aboveground, Six Years Prior, Historic Mayflower Pub, London, England

Eoin sat in the shadowed corner of the historic pub, idly studying the tourists and locals alike, sipping casually at his ale. Spotting his contact slipping through the front door, he tipped the hood of his black coat back briefly to allow the fae to spot him, once more tugging it back into place once the fae steadily moved towards him in the crowded bar.

His eyes briefly looked behind the fae to make sure the man hadn't been followed. Satisfied he was alone when no others came through the doors, Eoin glanced back at his companion as the other fae sat across from him and gently laid a small wooden box in front of him. "Is this what I asked for?" He asked, tipping his head towards the unmarked container.

"Yes, all of it is there. Won't be cheap, though. The spells I had to work were...costly." The other replied, keeping his voice low as Eoin reached out and tugged the wooden box into the bench beside him, briefly opening and looking over the contents.

"Did you look at any of them to make sure the spell was successful? Have any help from others?"

"Everything's intact, I can vouch for the spellwork, even if I didn't take a peek at the goods inside, you did say you wanted them to be kept private. Since I didn't peek, can't guarantee its what you're looking for, but that's your loss, not mine. No, I didn't show anyone. You're paying me to keep my mouth shut and cast the spells, aren't you? Why, the coin going to be a concern?" The fae tersely replied, shifting in his seat. Eoin held up a steadying hand, calming the other fae into a stilled silence as he inspected the contents once more. Eoin nodded, satisfied at the fae's answers, and closed the box.

"Money is not a problem," he murmured, flashing the mortal waitress that approached a feral grin, making her immediately turn and head in the opposite direction, setting off her instinctual need to stay away from their table. The fae across from him noticed the exchange and glowered at him, reaching over and grabbing Eoin's ale rudely, taking a long sip.

"What the hell? I was thirsty, you know," he muttered, sipping at the drink. Slowly, he drained the glass and leaned back, belching as he thrust the empty mug rudely back in front of Eoin, glaring at the small flicker of amusement that glinted in Eoin's stare.

"I know," Eoin murmured with a knowing smile, making the man tense and blink, looking back at him. Quickly, his eyes flickered to the glass and his eyes flashed dangerously as he stiffened and tried to surge forward, but he suddenly seemed to struggle with the movement, slowly wheezing and trembling, stopping halfway in his attempt to snag Eoin by the throat.

"You...motherfu -" The fae tried to respond, but his words were drowned out in a slow gurgle that sprouted in place of speech, his face slowly turning a mottled shade of red. Eventually, he slumped, leaning roughly against the side of the tavern wall.

"Never trust another," he murmured softly at the mortal coil of the slumped fae in front of him, snorting faintly in harsh amusement. "Especially someone like me."

Eoin stood and grabbed the small wooden box, exiting towards the bathrooms. As he summoned a crystal and disappeared, he smiled as he heard the faint scream of the waitress that he had frightened off only moments before.


Aboveground, Six Years Prior, Salzberg, Austria

Sarah wiped at her sweaty brow, pausing in the middle of her set to catch her breath, panting faintly with a frown as she studied Jonas attempting his own training on the other side of the room. The awkward silence between them made her especially uncomfortable tonight, the only noises filling the void being the soft snaps of her forearms and shins slamming into the soft leather of the swinging bag or the sharp clacks of Jonas' attempts to spare with the wooden dummy.

He grit his teeth, letting out a faint hiss of frustration, as his wrist slipped during a misplaced jab, making him jerk his hand back and shake his wrist from the obvious sting the blow had caused. She watched as he once more attempted to start up the exercise, pounding out his movements in harsh agitated jabs against the wooden training dummy in the corner of the room, slightly out of alignment. The tensing of his shoulders told her he was aware she was staring, as the hard slaps against the leather bag she was using had ceased.

"What?" He called out tersely, not looking over at her as he briefly paused. When she said nothing, struggling with what to say, he grunted in annoyance and started again, his movements still off.

Sarah sighed, grabbing a towel and blotting her face, doing her best to stomp down her annoyance at his flippant attitude as she watched him. She was still angry at him for abandoning her with Eoin that first day they had arrived and for his rash decision to leave everything behind back in New York. She thought of her own family back home and couldn't understand how - if given the choice - Jonas was so easily able walk away without thinking of the consequences.

Both had briefly attempted conversation over the past few weeks but it always ended nearly as soon as it began, both of their emotions still too fresh. Eventually, exhausted at the effort of remaining mad at him, Sarah softened towards Jonas, but he still held up a hard internal wall whenever she tried to talk to him, making it nearly impossible for her to bridge the large gap that had formed between them. After a week of trying, she had simply given up. Now that he was training with her, the tense situation was becoming unbearable.

He had begun training with them two weeks ago when he realized he would not be allowed to do much else. Eoin was rarely home lately, on yet another of his mysterious missions, and Sarah found herself shocked that she was missing his company. At least she could carry on a conversation with him, despite the fae's innate coldness.

Staring at his tense profile, sighing faintly in preparation for the awkward conversation that would follow but unable to watch him continue the exercise wrong, she stepped forward and attempted to amicably show him how to correct his posture.

"Your form is wrong. Here, let me show you…" She started in a soft tone, freezing when he glared over at her. She stiffened against the harsh glint in his eyes but did her best to ignore it, smiling faintly and gesturing to the dummy behind him, showing him the correct movements with her arms. Jonas' eyes briefly flickered over her form but he didn't return the smile. When he turned and once more started the practice with the incorrect motion, Sarah felt her control snap, giving into the immediate response of anger.

"What?" She demanded, her hands on her hips, hoping just this once Jonas would turn towards her and respond agreeably.

Almost immediately, he stiffened and threw down his training gloves with a small curse, moving to march out of the training room and towards the stairs. Speechless, Sarah stared at the spot he had stood at moments before and suddenly saw red, lunging forward and shoving him roughly in the back before he exited the room, sending him sprawling with a loud clatter to the floor.

"What the hell, Sarah?" He snarled, jerking to a stand and whirling, his face red from exertion and anger.

"Excuse me? You're kidding, right? You were just going to walk away, again, rather than talk to me. I was just showing you how to do the exercise correctly! But instead of listening and having a nice conversation, you just planned to walk off. What was I supposed to do to get your attention, huh?"

Jonas simply glared, crossing his arms over his chest, his jaw ticking faintly as he turned away once more. Sarah ignored his indignant attitude, rattling on in sheer frustration as she shrugged off the towel draped around her neck in annoyance. She felt a sheen of tears prick her eyelashes and furiously batted them away, determined not to cry, despite the sting of his rebuffs.

"What is your fucking problem, Jonas? Huh? You realize this is the most you've said to me since we got here?" She shouted, angry that her voice broke in it's tirade as pain bloomed suddenly in her chest, making her feel isolated and alone and stupid for still being susceptible to such things. The tears she had determined wouldn't spill chose that moment to do so and Jonas's face wavered in front of her as he turned, catching sight of them tumbling down her cheeks.

She heard Jonas attempt to murmur something softly in apology but she held up a hand harshly and turned away, fighting back the sob that threatened to tear from her chest. I'm tired of being strong and alone and unsupported. Haven't you noticed how sad and frustrated this all makes me? Why did you agree to come with me, you idiot? Eventually, she controlled the wild emotions and let out a slow, shaky breath.

It wasn't just Jonas that bothered her - it was everything she'd been ignoring the past few weeks, so focused on absorbing what Eoin taught her. Will I survive? How is my family? Where is he? Is he hunting me? Am I marked for death? What's the point of all this again?

Slowly, she let her eyes meet his when she realized he hadn't left the room and had been murmuring her name softly for several seconds, trying to get her attention. Guilt and embarrassment hovered in the cloudiness of his gaze and she felt a soft sting of shame for being grateful that he felt like shit for making her cry. You should feel like shit, you asshole. I depended on you. I needed you and you weren't there for me.

When he moved to step forward, his arms coming up to gently grip her shoulders, she roughly shoved him off and wiped at her cheeks. She returned his stare angrily, gesturing wildly in defeat, an incredulous expression on her face. "You really hate me, huh? Well, too fucking bad. I told you not to come with me and did you listenNo! So...what...you're going to ignore me for the rest of your life? Face it, we're stuck here, so you and I are going to have to start talking to one another eventually...even if you hate me, if we want to survive."

"I don't hate you," Jonas replied in a subdued tone that broke her internal defenses, making her crumble underneath all the hurt and sadness she'd been feeling for weeks. Dropping her gaze, she turned away just as a new flood of tears spilled past her lashes, hating displaying so much weakness in front of him.

"Yeah, sure," she scoffed, a harsh watery laugh erupting from her throat as she leaned down and savagely ripped off her gloves, dropping them to the floor and crossing her arms over her body, determined to stifle the sobs that wanted to erupt from her throat. She stiffened when she felt his hands gently grip her shoulders, having not heard him approach, urging her to turn around.

Sighing, she closed her eyes and did what he asked, turning to face him. A soft dismayed sound came from him but she still couldn't meet his eyes, only opening them when he asked her to.

Confusion and shame reflected back in his eyes as he stared at her, studying her crumbling countenance. "I'm sorry," he began, raising a hand to silence her when she flashed him a warning glare and moved to step away and refute his apology.

"Really, I'm sorry. I've disappointed you, I see that now. I was so focused on my own problems, I never stopped to think about what all this was doing to you. It's just...you're so much like them sometimes. I forget you're human, too." Jonas seemed to struggle with the words, frowning as he looked over Sarah, then suddenly reached up and swiped his thumbs against her cheeks, wiping away her tears. She stiffened and backed away, not yet ready to forgive him or accept his gentle gestures.

"What's that supposed to mean?" She quipped bitterly, staring at him with narrowed eyes.

He sighed and ran a hand through his hair, grimacing at his choice of words. "I didn't mean it like that - ok, fine, yes I did. It's just..you remind me a lot of Eoin. Hard, unforgiving, always in control. Sometimes so damn...cold. You're like...superhuman or something. You clammed up on me and began obsessing over this stuff he's teaching you and I didn't know what to do to fix things between us. You're just so damn...intense, Sarah. But I'm sorry, okay? I'm sorry. Let's try and start over, okay?"

Sarah stared, slightly ashamed at enjoying his discomfort, but it at least relieved knowing she wasn't the only one with their emotions running haywire. Finally, she stiffly nodded. Jonas' shoulders sagged in relief and he smiled faintly.

"Can you show me what I was doing wrong?" He asked, gesturing back to the wooden dummy. She nodded and they both moved towards the station and Sarah showed him the proper actions through her movements.

"Like this, you see. You're putting too much emphasis on power. That comes in time. Focus on the movements. If you get those correct, the power will come with repetition…."


Eoin studied the exchange between the two mortals through the window from the street, the wooden box still tucked underneath his arm. Idly, he smiled, admiring the way in which Sarah taught the young man at her side to properly attack the training post in clear, concise movements. She had taken to the training with little complaint, determined to understand and absorb what he was teaching her and he was impressed in her ability to excel in anything he threw at her - through sheer willpower if nothing else. Each time he thought he found her breaking point, she surprised him and held her own in a steadfast, if slow, way.

He had thought the other mortal a waste of time and had originally planned to simply discard him once they were away from New York but Sarah's concern for him had Eoin hesitating to follow through. Allowing the male to join them had hastened Sarah's trust in him, something he knew he needed in order to achieve what he wanted, so he continued to tolerate the young man. He had high hopes with Sarah but still wondered about Jonas and his ability to survive what was coming.

Briefly, the cloaking spell that shielded them from all outsiders except his own personal magic shimmered and the two wavered in the distance like a mirage, dragging his focus back to the contents of the box in his hands.

Tapping the box in contemplation and moving towards the front door, he hesitated as he neared the entryway and on impulse, summoned a crystal and materialized in his upstairs study, deciding not to interrupt the small truce that had formed between the mortals. Moving towards his desk, he once more thought about the strange young woman downstairs, flicking on a lamp by the side of the table as he tugged out his chair and slowly settled into the seat.

Inexplicably, he had to admit he admired the spirit of the young woman. She was as formidable as any fae in her tenacity in which she approached a challenge. It was no wonder she'd managed to defeat Jareth when he considered the rumors that he was much more gentle to mortals than most fae. She was attractive, relentless, and above all else: empathetic. Shaking his head, surprised he had agreed to - much less followed through on - her request that he teach her survival skills, he found himself uncomfortable with the notion of eventually turning her over to the High Court, despite that being his eventual goal.

Why do I care what happens to this blasted mortal? In the end, she is insignificant. I should just turn her in and get it over with. Why am I doing this? Why am I postponing the inevitable?

Slowly, his mind wandered back to New York. Frowning, he contemplated what had happened the day he had found her at the museum and what had followed after. Closing his eyes, he did his best to filter through the events of that day, but when he centered his thoughts around their final mysterious confrontation in the streets - he found himself with nothing but a blank void staring back, just a clipping of her hair dusted with the scent of the labyrinth. Frustrated at why he couldn't remember how he had managed to lose her, Eoin grit his teeth in frustration and decided the courts could wait. He had to know why he couldn't remember and he knew if he was patient enough, Sarah would reveal why.

Muttering about the trouble of mortals, he reached for the box, flipping the lid of the container back and staring at the row of colored crystal orbs that glinted in the dim light of the lamp at his side. Plucking one from the velvet tray that held them in place, he closed his eyes and tugged on the magic resting inside the bauble, eager to see what the mage had managed to gather about his mysterious paramour. Please don't let it be scenes of those twohe thought bitterly, remembering the brief liaison he had witnessed between Jareth and Neverin. Slowly, the contents of the bauble flickered to life in his mind and he opened himself to the scene.

Almost immediately, he nearly dropped the crystal, his eyes snapping open as he sat up sharply. "Holy fuck…" he whispered, feeling a sickening numbness settle over his reeling senses as he contemplated what he had just seen.

Thrusting the orb back in the box and snatching up another, he grunted against the flare of magic as the spell played out the moment in time stored within, another dismayed groan bursting from his lips as he watched the actions in his mind's eye.

Slowly, he stared at the remaining crystals in the case, his pulse slowly roaring to life in his ears as all his other senses faded in the background, horrified and sickened at what he was witnessing. He trusted the source and felt no entangled tampering on the time orbs, knowing what he was witnessing was the unvarnished truth about his lover for the past few months.

Slowly, he settled the last orb he touched back in the box and ran his fingers along the next orb by its side, not bothering to remove it from the box as he closed his eyes and embraced what he already knew he would see.

"Sweet Danu, forgive me…" He murmured weakly, pulling the pads of his fingers back and touching the next and the next, until all the gruesome snippets sitting in front of him had exposed themselves in his head.

Hastily, he slammed the lid of the wooden box back into place as he jerked to a stand and made his way towards the decanter of brandy against the far wall. Steadying himself with a slow breath, he poured himself three fingers worth of liquor and knocked it back, rolling his shoulders to ease the tension that pinched at his spine as the alcohol burned through his esophagus and settled warmly in his stomach, distracting him from what he had just witnessed.

"You're a monster," he whispered, looking into a mirror mounted on the wall beside him and studying the reflection of his ashen complexion. No longer sure if he was referring to Neverin or himself, he grit his teeth and slammed his fist into the polished surface and turned away sharply as his face shattered into a million fragments, heading for the door.

"Sarah! Jonas! We're going out. Get dressed."

Chapter Text

 

"I think hell is something you carry around with you. Not somewhere you go." -Neil Gaiman


Aboveground, Six Years Prior,  Kehlsteinhaus,  Salzberg, Austria

Sarah frowned, looking about the dimly lit pub as Jonas, Eoin and she settled into a booth in the far corner of the establishment, watching Eoin motion for their waitress and easily order dinner for them in what she assumed was German. She hadn't wanted to come out but could tell Eoin wasn't taking no for an answer, simply overriding her objections with a crystal orb and some magic - dressing them and whisking them away from the room against their will to this restaurant in the middle of a frigid mountain pass in the dead of winter. Glancing out the window, she had to admire the stunning view of the mountains in the distance, but something had her on edge.

As the woman walked away, Sarah noted the tightness around his eyes and the stiff way he sat, making her brush past civil manners and demand to know what had him so tense.

"What happened? Job gone wrong?" She asked bluntly, watching as Eoin stilled and narrowed his eyes at her.

"Pardon?" He replied in a clipped tone, his eyes sparking dangerously in the way he glared at her. She stared right back, meeting his bold gaze with one of her own, ignoring Jonas' warning tugs on her sleeve. She'd had enough of his evasive crap to last the next two decades and wanted to know why they were here.

"You're tense. Something's wrong. What's up?" She asked again, tipping her head to the side. Beside her, Jonas had quieted, glancing at the fae curiously himself.

Eoin simply leaned forward and grinned, flashing a row of sharp white teeth as he thrummed his fingers against the tabletop, glancing over her form slowly. "Nothing's the matter. Can't I just want a night out?"

"With two useless mortals?" She responded sweetly, using his own nickname for them as she watched Eoin react. He stilled once more, staring at her with those odd eyes of his, and suddenly Sarah got the sensation that he was briefly shaken with shame as his face momentarily flickered towards guilt.

"Eat your food," He tersely replied when the waitress returned with their fares, settling their food and drinks in front of each of them. Sarah continued to stare as Eoin's gaze dropped from hers to his plate and he silently began to eat. Eventually, she looked down at her own food and begrudgingly started to eat, surprised that she liked what he had ordered.


"Where'd he go?" Jonas asked as he sipped on his second beer, looking over his shoulder. Sarah shrugged, still picking at her food, angry at Eoin's earlier rudeness that had been suddenly cut off when he'd excused himself from the table twenty minutes prior with no warning.

"Don't know, don't care," she stiffly replied, taking a sip of her pint and looking around. "Doesn't look to be closing time so no need to worry just yet, anyway. He'll either come or he won't. We'll figure it out, like we always have."

Jonas looked back at her and she turned her gaze to meet his, arching an eyebrow. He smiled faintly and nodded. She relaxed, glad to know he was back in her corner. They still had a lot of ground to recover but it was nice to see the kindness back in his eyes.

"So...since we're alone...want to share? You know...more about you? Since the cat's already sort of out of the bag and all," Jonas started, shifting to face her from his side of the booth.

Sarah frowned, not sure if she wanted to get into it now, but one extra glance about her and seeing no Eoin, she shrugged a shoulder and looked back at him. "Might as well, I guess." She sighed, leaning back and shoving her plate away, curling her fingers around the pint glass in her hand.

"A few months ago, I wished my baby brother away to the goblins. It was this stupid book my mother had gotten me when she was on one of her whirlwind trips with her new boyfriend. She had left my dad and I the previous year and my dad, being my dad, couldn't stand to live without a woman hovering around him. He also thought I needed a new mom, I guess, and that's when he met Karen, my step-mom. Not even a year later, my baby brother was born."

Jonas studied her as she talked and for some reason, rambling about her past with someone for the first time was surprisingly cathartic. She briefly paused, glancing at him out of the corner of her eye to see his reaction and he motioned her to continue, no judgement apparent in his face. She nodded, took a sip of her beer, and continued on.

"Like I said, my dad remarried and had a kid almost immediately and I was...well, not happy. I missed my mom and it felt like I was constantly the one at fault for not being comfortable with my entire life being turned upside down all because my parents couldn't keep their marriage together. My head was in the cloud back then, you know. Christ, it feels like years and it was only months ago…" She briefly chuckled and closed her eyes, shaking her head. "I've done a lot of growing up since then. Too much, my dad would say."

Briefly, she felt an overwhelming sadness sweep through her as she thought of the state her father must be in and she bowed her head, taking a moment to collect herself. Jonas, to his merit, didn't try and comfort her, perhaps knowing she wouldn't want it. I don't deserve that comfort.

"Anyway, I had this book. I...worshipped it. There was something about it, you know? It felt magical. Turns out, it was." She laughed harshly, wiping at her cheeks from where a few tears had fallen from her lashes.

She looked back at him an Jonas encouraged her to continue. "I'm listening," he murmured softly, sipping at his drink.

"It was about this place...called the Underground. In this place, there was a labyrinth and a Goblin King who…" She rolled her eyes before continuing, taking a sip of her ale, "...loved this girl with the baby. She wished her kid brother away to him, regretted it, then went about this magical quest to get him back."

Briefly, she looked around the bar once more, starting to notice the long absence in which Eoin had been gone. Frowning faintly, she eventually looked back at Jonas and continued. "It was a bad night, I was late getting back to watch my little brother so my dad could take Karen to this play that she had wanted to see and...I just thought...why not say the words? What harm could it do?"

"But he actually came," whispered Jonas, stilling. Sarah nodded, watching him swallow and sip more of his beer as he thought through the ramifications, staring at her. "And you...beat him. That's why he called you the Champion." His eyes widened as he looked at Sarah, an awestruck expression on his face. "You beat the Goblin King."

"And look what it got me," She bitterly replied, running a hand across her brow, ignoring his continued stare. "I was visiting New York and one of them came after me. Almost got me, too. I knew I couldn't go home, they would hurt my family. I couldn't live with myself if one of them…"

Her voice broke again and when he reached for her, she waved him off, giving him a brittle smile. "And now you know the whole horrible truth about me. Aren't you glad you didn't say the 'L' word now?"

"Sarah, you didn't do anything wrong. You didn't know what would happen when you said those words," Jonas started, frowning as he heard her harsh snort, reaching out to grab her hand and drag her attention back to him. "I'm serious, Sarah. You made a mistake and you made up for that mistake ten times over."

"What's said is said," she whispered at him, recanting the words from one of her most painful memories, offering him a sad smile. He simply frowned in confusion. "Thanks, though." She gently patted his wrist and tugged her hand out of his grip.

Jonas turned, noting the waitress approaching them and Sarah's gaze followed his own. She gave the waitress a puzzled look when the woman didn't move away, simply staring at them serenely for several seconds.

"Yes?" Sarah asked, a little rudely, but she had suddenly felt wary at the glassiness of the woman's eyes.

"Evening, you two," she smiled, tugging their plates and empty mugs onto her tray, murmuring in a whisper-soft voice, out of place and jarring in the boisterous pub. "Your friend cleared the tab at the bar, said he'd meet you back at your place."

"What?" Sarah asked, startled, feeling Jonas stiffen beside her as he tilted his head and looked outside.

"Oh, yeah, something about a test," the waitress replied in a bubbly overly-sweet tone, making the hairs on the back of her neck stand as the woman flashed them a bright wide-toothed grin. Something is very wrong, her consciousness screamed at her.

Suddenly, she leaned forward and grabbed the woman's shirt collar, hauling her up against her with a snarl, ignoring Jonas' sudden protests and the tug of his arm on her shoulder. "Explain."

"He said if you made it back alive, he'd consider continuing your lessons," the woman chirped, giving them both another large grin, completely unphased by the rough handling from Sarah. She stared, numb to the bone and stunned at the woman's words, feeling her fingers freeze as the waitress clumsily pulled back, straightening her clothes with a giggle.

Immediately, she blinked and slightly stumbled, a confused look suffusing her face. "Um, hi. What's going on? How'd I get here?"

Sarah tugged at Jonas' sleeves, looking around the bar sharply. "We need to leave, right now."

"Yeah," Jonas agreed, hastily tugging on his coat and joining Sarah in her beeline towards the door.


Kicking through the snow, Sarah hushed Jonas and made him stand guard while she scrounged through the unlocked cars in the darkened parking lot, pocketing anything useful she could find. Internally, she began berating herself, knowing she'd been foolish to trust the fae. It's one thing if you get yourself killed, you deserve it for pissing these things off all those months ago, but Jonas? What about him?

Grimly, she wound a rope around her waist that she found by the service entrance and tucked a tire iron she found in the back seat of an SUV inside her coat, hoping the tools would be serviceable if they found themselves in trouble. Briefly, she fought back the urge to cry. You ruin everything you touch, Williams.

Dropping the self-flagellation and tugging a scarf out of the dashboard of another car, winding it around the bottom half of her face after shredding it in half and offering the other end to Jonas, she counted her lucky stars when she found a crank-up radio and flashlight, shoving it inside her last free pocket.

"Sorry for this," she muttered to the mysterious car owners, tugging Jonas by the arm down the steep incline, towards the winding road that led back to the twinkling lights of the city in the dep valley below.

"Are we going to make it?" Jonas whispered, his voice trembling with both cold and fear. Sarah stared past him to the lights below before glancing back at him.

"Of course we are," she replied, not sure if she believed the strength in her words or not.


A few hours into their journey back to the city, Sarah realized they were being followed. She didn't alert Jonas, knowing he'd give away to their pursuers that she knew about them. Still, she felt her palms tingle like they did that day in the alley when she had blasted the fae with whatever dormant thing had been lying within her and knew, instinctively, that it was warning her they were being followed.

When the soft rush of falling snow behind them registered to her ears, she was sure of it. She felt Jonas tense but immediately clamped down on his fingers from where she gripped his hand. When his eyes met hers, she subtly shook her head and raised a finger to her lips.

Slowly, her eyes scanned their surroundings as they kept walking at the same pace as before. They were in a ravine, slowly climbing down the mountain range from behind them on a hiking trail that offered to save time in their travel back to town instead of the main road. To their left was a thicket of bushes covered in snow. To their right, a steep rocky ledge ending in shards of slippery ice.

She knew it was her they were after, Jonas was merely an afterthought - a casualty of the war between her survival and the fae's incessant need to take back their pride at having lost to her, a mortal girl.

"In a few minutes, I need you to run for the bushes," Sarah whispered at him, feeling him stiffen. She glared at him and gripped his arm tightly. "I mean it, don't give me that look. I've trained longer than you have. Here, take this. I want you to turn it on, max volume, and drop it as you run for cover. Promise me," she hissed, passing him the small radio, glancing out of the corner of her eye as she felt the shadows move closer. She sent up a silent prayer he wouldn't argue and felt a swell of relief when he simply took the radio without a word.

Tapping his glove softly in her hand, she murmured to three and then they sprung into action.

Jonas took off at a blinding speed to the left, cranking on the radio and dropping it into a snow drift as he lurked into a belly crawl, skidding across several feet of snow to disappear into the dark brush, hiding him in his light clothing from sight.

Sarah moved immediately to the right, hearing the faint catcalls behind her. A small buzzing noise neared her ear and she instinctually dropped, staring as a crystal ball flew past her and shattered against the rocky ledge in front of her, bursting with a bright flash of light. Fae hunters…

The loud thumping bass of a pop song in German blared across the still forested landscape, allowing Sarah to scramble for cover as two male fae in black garb moved quickly to where she was just standing, looking around in annoyance when they saw no sight of them.

"Where the fuck is that comin-" One fae started with a snarl, the command coming to a strangled halt as Sarah plowed out from behind a tree, loosening the rope she had about her and swinging the end that she had tied the tire iron onto against his torso. He jerked under the blow, the noise sharp and somewhat wet sounding as it connected with his chest, and before he could retaliate she had swung the loose ends of the rope around his chest and tugged - hard - sending him sprawling on the slippery ice underneath their feet.

Lashing out with her foot, she felt the soft snap of his nose when her boot landed firmly against his face. She didn't have time to check that she'd knocked him unconscious before the other had caught on to her plan, whirling to face her.

The other fae turned and launched himself at her, knocking her off her feet, the action making her struggle to tense and hold onto her breath. Luckily, she managed it just in time, groaning faintly as her backside connected with a rough slam to the icy ground beneath them, her ribs creaking under the onslaught. The fae was fast, much faster than Eoin, and she struggled in his grip, doing her best to defend herself from his savage blows, despite the agony of each of them reverberating up her arms each time one of his fists swung down and struck them, taking aim for her face. Still, she found herself holding her own under the barrage of blows, suddenly thankful to the training Eoin had forced her to endure the past several weeks.

To her right, she heard another shuffle of feet and tensed, glancing over and seeing Jonas approach. Briefly, the fae shifted his weight, keeping her pinned, and produced a small dagger, turning to take aim at Jonas.

Her eyes darting back to Jonas, knowing what she was about to witness, she suddenly screamed in rage and denial, determined to avoid his death on her conscience. "NO!"

Time seemed to slow as she shrieked and Sarah stiffened, feeling that same alien sensation from before - in the alley in New York - ripple over her and lash out. Closing her eyes and focusing her rage, she stared cruelly at the fae who had her pinned, watching as he turned as she suddenly started to glow, his face twisting into a mixture of surprise and fear. When he raised the dagger to her instead of Jonas, she suddenly let go of all that rage and everything exploded.


Blinking slowly, feeling the petal-soft kiss of snowdrift falling against her lashes, Sarah eventually came to, frowning and looking around. The stars in the sky blinked overhead and she realized she could see the sky through the bare branches overhead. Lifting her head, wincing at the burn of pain that skirted up her spine, she looked around and let out a soft moan of horror at the carnage around her.

Beside her, the two fae hunters were unconscious but seriously wounded, bleeding and burned profusely by the magic that she had unleashed. Slowly staggering to a stand, she looked around, sickened at the damage she had done to the the surrounding area.

"Jonas?" She whispered, whirling around, not catching sight of him in the debris. "Jonas?" She shrieked, a little louder, suppressing a small sob that threatened to escape her throat. "JONAS!"

"Here...I'm here…" came a muffled reply in the distance, near the bushes, all of which had been ripped from their perch by the roots. Stumbling over to the area, unable to hold back any more sobs, Sarah began to frantically dig at the spot she'd heard his voice. Eventually, she uncovered him, sagging faintly when he seemed only mildly injured, a gash above his forehead causing blood to flow down the side of his face.

"Oh god, Jonas, I thought I had killed you…" She sobbed, helping him stand when they slowly got most of the debris from the wreckage around them off him. He shook his head and blinked, looking around in shock at the scene, wincing when his eyes came in contact with the two fae.

"Jesus, Sarah...this...is…"

"Phenomenal," supplied a familiar baritone voice from behind him, making them both stiffen. Turning, Sarah spotted Eoin grinning as he leaned against the ruined trunk of what was once a tree, clapping faintly as he looked around the landscape with wide eyes.

"Do you realize what you managed to do? This..this is...amazing. You've been gifted magic. A lot of it, in fact. Almost as much as a fae," He murmured, staring at her with a sense of awe written in his features as he moved past them, drawing out a dagger from his boot and leaning down, cleanly slicing the throats of the two fae that had begun to struggle awake. Sarah shuddered and closed her eyes and Jonas turned his head away but Eoin continued on. "Everything makes so much sense now…"

"You...fucking...planned this…" Sarah spat, staring at Eoin with a mixture of disgust and rising anger, clenching her hands into tight fists. When he simply shrugged, she saw red and felt the strange heat beginning to rise underneath her skin.

"Oh, come now, Champion. Look where we are," Eoin murmured with amusement, glancing around. Sarah's eyes roamed around, and she gave him a confused stare.

"Untersberg, my dear. Surely you know about the Wild Hunt, given your rather clear connections with my kind. Where do you think those tales originated?" Eoin smiled, watching Sarah freeze. "In fact, we should probably go, given the penchant my kind has for this particular rock."

"I'm not going anywhere with you," Sarah seethed, stiffening and backing up as Eoin summoned a crystal and moved towards them. Eoin frowned, looking over Sarah's resistant form, sighing faintly.

"I had to make sure you could even stand a chance against the others," he finally replied in a sober tone, when she made no move to join him. "Where we're going, what we're going to have to do...takes a certain...tenacity. I needed to make sure you had that, when it counts."

"Are you fucking serious? You weren't sure I had the balls to what...kill people? Jesus, you're sick. All of you people are fucking sick! And why should I trust you, huh?" Sarah swore, her fury mounting as she stared. Jonas kept quiet, shifting on his feet behind her.

"Because…" Eoin seemed to struggle with words, dropping his head, then slowly rose his eyes to meet hers. She blinked, seeing the remorse and discomfort there. "You're right. My kind are monsters. I'm aware of this now. But the others...so many others….shouldn't suffer because of it. Help me fix it, Sarah."

Something in his words made her pause. Slowly, she began to laugh, shaking her head incredulously. "Are you serious? Help you fix it? I just want to live, dammit. I don't want to be your pet mortal, or messiah - or any of the above! I just want to be left alone so I can live my life in peace!"

Eoin said nothing, just staring at her with a strikingly sad expression. Sarah blinked, having never seen such a strong display of emotion on his face. "What...happened to you? Something happened. You look horrified."

"I am horrified," Eoin replied quietly, looking back at the fae. "I just...realized the consequences of my actions recently. I saw...things...I can't explain. I know, though, if I do nothing...it will get worse, much worse, for both of us. For all of us." He glanced back at her, his expression briefly unreadable before becoming remorseful and pleading once more, as if he was struggling to let her see what he was feeling."I feel nothing when it comes to killing them. Make no mistake, Sarah, I am not a good person - but you are. I need your help."

Tentatively, not really understanding the how or why she knew what actions to take, she slowly approached him then snagged his arm, sending a flare of heat up her fingers and into his arm. Eoin tensed, shock registering against his features, but she felt him relax and open himself to her. Staring into his eyes, Sarah felt the genuine remorse and realized he meant those words.

"Fine," she said softly, feeling her protests die in her throat. "But I'll be making a lot of the rules from here on out."

Eoin smiled briefly and Sarah stared, realizing it was the first time she had seen him actually mean it. "That's what I hoped you'd say."

Briefly, Sarah reached out to Jonas, and when they were all linked by the arm, Eoin summoned a crystal and tossed it to the ground. Together, they transported away.

In the distance, a crystal orb shattered at the feet of a shadowed figure, whisking the witness away from the scene.


Underground, Six Years Prior, Thelemic Order Grounds

Grand Master Killdaire stared at the contents of the parchment in front of him, disbelief apparent on his face. Shaking his head again, he read the letter once more in quick procession, already feeling the spell holding the scroll together beginning to dissolve. As his eyes hovered over the words, the parchment began to crumble into dust at his fingertips.

Discovered what you wanted, can't return. Dangerous. Do not challenge at court but be alert and stay safe. Will take time to plan next move. Need eyes at court. Will contact you when I can. Item will be discarded after reading, can't take any chances. Stay safe, old friend. - E

"What the bloody hell have you stumbled upon, Eoin?" Killdaire murmured softly, wiping his fingers against his robe as the paper disintegrated into nothing, floating away into the ether several seconds later.

Sighing faintly, he rose from his chair and moved towards the fireplace, contemplating the cryptic words. Finally, he moved to pour himself a drink.

"I hope you know what you're doing, old friend."


Underground, Four Years prior, The Labyrinth

"Hurry! This way!" Whispered Mikpik, tugging on the child's hand as they ran down the castle corridor, towards the exit. He shifted his pack of scouting gear gently on his back, hearing the roar of the guards barking orders at one another as they searched each room, tearing apart the bedding and rifling through the closets and bath chambers as they hunted for the girl.

"I'm scared," the small dark-haired girl of ten replied at his side, her voice trembling and close to tears. Mikpik stilled as they neared the guards, praying Jareth's spell held as they had nowhere else to run but out of the castle, requiring them to sneak openly past the guards.

"I know," he replied softly, glancing over at the girl. "We got your big sister back where my friends are. Now we just got to get you there, too. Now, see those guards?" He pointed ahead, watching as the girl shifted her gaze and nodded, her brown eyes wide.

"We have to be extra quiet when we sneak past them. They can't see us, but they can hear us. So we must be silent. Can you do that for me, Mildred?"

The little girl nodded, wiping at her face and squaring her shoulders. "I can be quiet, Mister Mikpik."

Mikpik smiled, nodding and tugging gently on her wrist. "Good, good. Come, now. Once we're past the guards, we still have to be quiet but not as quiet. Then we'll go see your sister, okay?"

"Okay," the girl whispered, swallowing as she studied the guards up ahead. Silently, they tiptoed past the guards and Mikpik let out a slow exhale, relieved to see Jareth's spell was still holding. It had worked the past two years, and runners had been scarce, but every time a new mortal was trapped in the castle, he feared the spell had been dissolved and he was risking being caught. The rumors had slowed, but he was still fearful that if he was caught, Neverin's torture sessions would be something he wouldn't be able to withstand.

Thank you, Your Majesty, he silently sent down towards the dungeons, knowing that was where Jareth was still held. He had barely been seen by anyone but the few castle staff members that had been able to sneak him small helpings of food the past few years and he worried what state the master was in.

Slipping through the door and out into the silent city beneath the castle, Mikpik kept to the shadows as he slipped past a small horde of half-starved goblins curled against one another in the center of the town square, wincing as he saw them attempting to keep warm by pressing their bodies together. The homes they had occupied in the distance were mere charred shambles now, having long since been destroyed in one of Neverin's vicious fits when yet another runner had been lost to the resistance.

One of the goblins caught sight of them and Mikpik froze, staring in fear as the creature turned, his eyes flickering between the girl and him. The spell that had kept them invisible had faded since they left the castle grounds and he waited, worried that the goblin might be one tired of the abuse and finally call for the guards.

They sat there, staring at one another silently for several seconds. Eventually, he tiredly motioned for them to move on, pressing a finger to his lips. Mikpik nodded in understanding at what the goblin communicated to him: I will protect you but do not trust others to do so. We have suffered too long.

Tugging on the girl's wrist, he moved on, tucking the pack against his back tightly as they silently slipped through a small hole that had formed in the wall separating the city from the junkyard. Once more, he skirted around the creatures that called this place home, wary to know who they could still trust after years of struggle. Looking around in mute horror, he was saddened to see the labyrinth slowly wilting underneath Neverin's rule. It was no longer a happy, mystical and slightly off-putting place. Now, it was frightening, giving life to a new harsh populace that had grown as harsh and cold as it's new mistress.

Sometimes, Mikpik wondered why Jareth didn't try and end his life. Then, we would just sleep and this nightmare would be over. Almost immediately, he chastised those thoughts. No, Jareth was right. What if Neverin really did manage to beat the trials then? What would become of us if she could truly control us? Shuddering, he dropped the introspection and looked back at the girl, who had bravely kept quiet, despite the frightening surroundings he had pulled her through.

"You okay, Mildred?" He whispered, once they were at the outskirts of the forest, glancing back at her worriedly.

She said nothing but shook slightly in his grip, her lower lip trembling as she looked back at him. "I want Annie," she whispered brokenly.

"We're almost there," he replied with a faint smile, not having the heart to tell her that she'd never see her parents or return home again, even if they managed to make it to the tunnels where her sister waited to return them Aboveground. Already, rumors had started in the major cities of unexplained attacks when a few of the rescued hadn't listened and returned home, only to be taken by the Nokmim.

Suddenly, howls arouse in the distance and Mikpik stiffened, his eyes going wide. Mildred quivered beside him, starting to softly cry. "What's that?"

"Hurry," he whispered hastily, starting to sprint, trying to pinpoint where they had made a mistake. Suddenly, he realized he had forgotten to shield their scents past the wall, the pack against his back thudding against his hip as he ran. It had been when he was contemplating the state of the labyrinth and he forced himself not to swear, running as fast as he could without tripping the girl he tugged along behind him.

Please, let us make it….

Out of the corner of his eye, he tensed, seeing a blur of black and blonde hair, skidding to a stop and throwing the girl behind him. Eventually, he lowered his arms when no attack came, blinking as he stared at the sight of the mysterious male fae that had suddenly begun to help them a year prior.

"You didn't shield your scent, you fool," the fae snarled, glaring down at them both.

"I know," Mikpik replied with dismay, glancing back towards the castle as the sound of the hounds drew closer. "I'm sorry. Can anything be done?"

"I've got it. But put on the blasted cloaks I gave you before you go any further, you dimwitted fool. I don't want to give them a road map back to the sanctuary. Hurry," he barked, tugging two daggers out of his boots and moving in the direction of the howls.

Hastily, Mikpik tugged the two cloaks out of his pack, draping one over the girl and then himself. Once he was certain they were secure, he briefly looked back at the profile of the fae that walked towards the sound of the approaching guards and wolves. Shuddering, he turned and tugged the girl towards the tunnels.


Eoin grit his teeth, irritation skirting up his senses as he heard the fading rustle of leaves behind him, telling him the girl and the goblin had once more taken off. Inhaling slowly, he grunted in approval, at least satisfied their scent was shielded and fading in the mossy damp undercurrents of the forest floor rot.

Looking around at his surroundings, he stealthily made his way behind a boulder and perched, waiting, hearing the growls and yips of the guards and their hounds approaching from the north. Gripping the hilt of his blades tightly, he waited, knowing soon they would pass by him and he would have to launch into an attack, as the dogs would soon find his scent.

The soft crunch of a boot nearby alerted him one of the guards was coming up quickly on his left. Dropping down softly to his feet and turning, he used his momentum to help shove his blade home, gripping the muzzle of the wolf and slicing outward, instantly silencing the animal. Before the man could yell to his companions, Eoin rolled and shoved upwards, sinking his blade into the base of the man's throat. Slowly, he lowered the man down to the ground, ignoring the soft gurgle of the man's dying gasps for breath.

Looking around, noting the others hadn't heard the fall of their companions or smelled the scent of their blood, Eoin turned and tucked himself behind the large trunk of a tree.

Suddenly, shouts filled the air as the wolves began to howl and give chase towards the spot he was just in, smelling the scent of death in the air. Smirking, jumping forward and hastily putting down two more guards and their dogs before they could react, he suddenly stumbled back when a blast of magical agony scoured his cheek.

Looking up sharply, he could make out Neverin's face in the foggy distance. She smiled, walking towards him, her lithe body wrapped in a tight lace dress of bright blood red, almost making the carnage around them appear like macabre artwork. She was still beautiful but he knew the rot underneath her facade and suppressed the heave that threatened to claw through him. How did I ever love you?

He stilled, shoving a blade through one of the guards that suddenly wriggled to life underneath him, ending the man's life as he stared at the red pulsing orbs where her glacier-blue eyes usually rested. Not bothering to hide his disgust, he ignored the sudden flash of a smile on her face when she knew he realized the full truth about her, throwing one of his daggers and killing a man at her side, twisting to throw another in her direction when he keeled over in sudden agony, his windpipe constricting, unable to breathe.

Summoning a crystal, he forced himself to control his reaction to the spell and crashed it against the forest floor, suddenly disappearing from sight.


Slowly, Neverin moved towards the sight of where Eoin once was, kneeling down and touching the soil. Rage surged within her but she curbed the urge to kill, hoping to trace the spell he used to leave the labyrinth. So this is what you've been doing, my love. You know all of what I am, too. I witnessed your face. She smiled faintly, internally pleased at this twist of events. She had sent parties to search for him for the past two years and now she knew why he had went rogue. When I kill you, all those delicious emotions will sustain me for quite a long time indeed, lover. I should thank you for that before I kill you...

Closing her eyes, her fingers briefly pulsing red, she grit her teeth as the labyrinth once more rejected her - slipping away from her invasive spells as she tried to grip on the lingering trace of Eoin's spell.

Snarling, she stood sharply, looking around at the ring of dead guards surrounding her. Two other sentries trotted up, having gone ahead to try and find the trail that the others had taken - as the denizens she had been unable to locate had once more slipped past her defenses and taken the runner and the wished away child - panting faintly as they caught their breath, then swore, staring at the butchery at their feet.

"Holy fuck," one whispered, looking around. "What the hell did this?"

"Did you find the trail or not?" Neverin asked coolly, glancing their way with narrowed eyes. The guards shifted on their feet, trading a trepid gaze before shaking their heads and looking back at her, wary of her reaction.

"No, they were able to shield their scent before we coul-" They were unable to finish their sentence as Neverin lashed out with her hand, sending a sharp blade of blood-red magic across their throats. The fae men staggered, clutching at their sudden fatal injuries, eyes wide and horrified. Eventually, they stumbled to their feet, gurgling and slowly drowning in their injuries. Neverin knelt down, closing her eyes and opening her magic, shuddering at the string of horror, fear, shock and denial that poured off the two men. Too fast for her liking, they stilled and faded before her eyes, making her sigh and sit back up, wiping the dirt from her skirts.

"I suppose I'll just have to seek other measures for the magical needs of this land," she replied sweetly, glancing around, wondering who might be listening. "You think I would let a few simple denizens ruin my eligibility to rule this place? You really don't know me, do you? Remember, you drove me to do this."

Picking up her skirts, she waved a hand, dissolving the carnage around her, the forest floor suddenly clean - wiping away the horrific events that had just happened, and walked back towards the castle alone.


Underground, Three Years Prior, High Council Session, Annwn

A dull echo of applause ricocheted off the marble walls of the council chambers, grating on Killdaire's nerves as he watched Neverin smile from her seat, flushed a faint pink as Lucius lingered at her side far longer than necessary. For his part, he smiled in return when her eyes glanced in his direction, nodding subtly to let her believe he approved of the stabilization in the Underground's magic reserves.

Dimly, he felt the pit of his gut harden, concerned with where the surplus of power was coming from. None of his usual scouts had found anything and he was too afraid to send them directly into the labyrinth to investigate, if the rumors of how nightmarish it had become were true. Still, he kept his mouth wisely shut as his friend had instructed him years ago, merely observing and absorbing what he could of the council session.

Eoin's letters were less frequent now but always filled with promise and once more, Killdaire hoped Eoin would soon reveal whatever plan he was trying to implement, knowing that things continued to spell doom upon the Underground as Neverin continued to gain control.

Queen Maeve rarely made public appearances these days, preferring to rest in solitude. Last year, she'd stumbled down some stairs during the last Beltane festival and hadn't bothered to return to public life since. Whenever Killdaire asked to visit, Lucius shut down the request with a glare, explaining his wife cherished her rest and if he wanted to remain on the council, he would keep his unusual interest in his wife to himself.

Sighing faintly under his breath as he rose when the council session ended and crushing a crystal at his feet, he tiredly fell into his seat in his private study, scrubbing a hand over his face.

"Hurry, Eoin. Things are getting bad here," he murmured, looking into the fire.


Aboveground, Present Day, Gerasdorf, Austria

Sarah stumbled across the cobbled streets of the town square, glancing about blearily in the bright afternoon sun as she tugged her scarf tightly about her lower face, hissing faintly as she squinted, catching sight of a street sign in the distance, following it to a more residential neighborhood nearby.

Suddenly, a searing image floated in the blackness of her mind's eye, making her almost stumble once more as she walked towards the road sign.

Feral eyes, one pupil slightly more dilated than the other, stood out in stark relief underneath a dark skull mask of stretched bone, a plume of blue feathers hiding the man's hair. Instinctually, she felt the connection, murmuring in the vision the sound of who she knew she was staring at. 'Jareth….'

Instantly, the vision was gone, and Sarah found herself slamming into a passerby who's coffee splattered all over the man's briefcase. Muttering an apology and shaking her head, she ignored his string of curses in German and moved forward once more, unnerved by the vision.

Picking up her pace, sobering as she remembered why she was here, she did her best to blend in easily with tourists and locals as she scanned the streets for anything out of place. Briefly, another flare of pain echoed behind her eyes and she stilled, sagging against a doorframe of a closed business, cursing softly under her breath as she steadied herself with a slow inhale, shaking loose the uneasy feeling using her magics had left her in.

Idiot, she internally groused as she waited for a few locals to move past her, lost in conversation amongst themselves, paying little attention as she slipped in closely from behind, watching the alleyway between buildings as she slipped closer to her designation.

Briefly, a warning flare signalled behind her eyes and she stopped, turning her head, the milling pedestrians slowly trailing ahead, losing her as she looked down a darkened alleyway, seeing nothing in the distance. Still, that tell-tale warning flared inside her head again and she winced, stepping into the cool shadows between a butcher's shop and a closed used bookstore, the sign telling passerbys the hours of the store, swinging slightly off-center whenever someone tried turning the knob.

Once again, the searing vision came back tenfold, making her stagger and then stoop down to avoid losing her footing. Sarah swallowed, groaning, rubbing her temples fiercely in an effort to stop the vision, but still it played out for her once more.

The masked fae steps forward, staring at her silently, tipping it's masked head to the side. Suddenly, it reaches out with an iron grip and drags her against him. Immediately, the mask is ripped off and the face that haunted her dreams for years stares back, a predatory gleam in his eyes. 'Sarah…. my  Sarah…'

"Fuck," Sarah whispered, straightening once the vision passed, rubbing her temples again to evaporate the sudden splitting headache that threatened to make her topple over. Gulping in slow measured breaths, eventually the nauseous sensation passed and she stared straight ahead, worriedly glancing behind her to make sure no one had followed. Eoin's stern warnings filled her head about the unpredictable nature of her magic but she ignored them, knowing that if she did nothing, all of the scouts would most likely be dead soon.

Quietly, she crept ahead, hearing the dull thuds of fists and feet pounding together against bodies and the pavement beneath, making her stiffen and sink against the far left wall. Peering around a dumpster, she saw the tossed bloodied bodies of several of her friends and cohorts at the sanctuary and tensed, flickering her eyes towards the far end of the alleyway where she saw two figures fighting roughly, one gaining ground and the other quickly losing it. No where did she spot Eoin or the others, only the two at the end of the alley that were clearly playing for keeps, intent on the other's death as the only achievable victory.

Focusing on the two locked in a bitter standoff, ignoring the bodies of those around her that had died quite viciously from the strong smell of blood noticeable to even her senses, Sarah's eyes widened as she realized it was Jonas fighting a masked Nokmim that had better skills, speed and magic ability than her friend.

Jonas groaned as he dodged the fae's latest blow but slipped and fell in a pool of blood. Glancing up sharply, doing his best to scramble back, the Nokmim sprung forward, loosening a dagger from his hip as he swooped down, planning to eviscerate Jonas on the spot.

Suddenly, Sarah surged forward, unable to bear witness, feeling the strong ebb of her magics returning, making her slightly dizzy. Incapable of masking her swift approach, she flinched as the Nokmim turned, catching sight of her, a large mask hovering over the upper half of his face, making her flinch.

Barreling forward, she managed to shove the Nokmim off his feet, sending him sprawling, but not with enough force to avoid the savage arc of the blades in his hand, letting out a faint shriek as the twin edges sliced through the thick coat, scouring deep cuts in her upper arms as he rolled, slowly righting himself, his mask still firmly in place. Briefly, Sarah felt a sense of deja vu, thinking the mask resembled her earlier visions. Ignoring the oddity of that, she wasted no time in lunging on the offensive, determined to take down the fae before he recovered from the shove that sent him sprawling.

"Sarah - no!" Jonas shouted as Sarah drew her own knife and belted forward, intent on shoving the knife through the Nokmim's chest. Jonas struggled as he watched her surge forward, horror written on his face as she moved to claim the advantage, clutching at his chest, obviously wounded in his struggle with the fae. The Nokmim rolled, dodging her attempt and keeping pace with her, but jerked at hearing her name.

Distracted by his sudden tensing at her name, she screamed as he once more turned and savagely swiped down with his blades, once more cutting deep tracks in her torso. Feeling her magic roiling to the surface, when he turned again and bore down on her, intent on burying the knife in her stomach, she jerked forward, grasping his wrists and startling him with her strength, then closing her eyes as she briefly glowed a bright white and let it pour out of her, the unleashed magic slamming into the fae in front of her.

A small explosion shook the alleyway, the faraway sound of several car alarms blaring in the distance blotting out most of the noise in the now-silent alleyway. Sarah coughed, struggling for breath, feeling the sticky-wetness of her clothing as her wounds bled freely, making her coat stick to her torso as she struggled to stand and found herself to weak to move.

A brief chorus of shouts was heard as Sarah tried to keep her eyes open, suddenly overwrought with fatigue, blackness hovering at the edge of her vision. She squinted, trying to turn, faintly calling out for to see if her friend had survived. "J-Jonas? Jonas...are you...okay? J-Jonas?"

"Hush," came a soft reply from above her, making her crane her neck back and blink. The Nokmim she had just fought knelt over her, his masked face tipping from side to side as he examined her wounds. She tried to scream, stiffening and shoving at his hands as he plucked at her jacket, waiting for the final blow to come - yet it never did.

"Let me go, you filthy hunter, don't touch me! Just...do it already! Fucking….bastard…." She weakly spat, feeling herself losing consciousness. Gently, the Nokmim stopped her jerks and shoves, murmuring soothing words and stroking her chin until her eyes finally fluttered back open, a confused look on her face.

She winced, seeing the charred remains of his shirt and upper torso, the wounds deep and blistering. Something seemed to sizzle like electricity at his neck then puttered out completely. The man holding her shuddered, rolling his head back and peeling off the mask.

The last thing she saw before giving into the black oblivion hovering at her senses was his mismatched eyes. She stiffened in shock, then fainted.

Chapter Text

 

"All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope." - Winston Churchill


Aboveground, Somewhere near Döbling, Austria

Panic laced Jareth's thoughts as he kicked through the door of a secluded cabin he had found on the edge of a frozen lake deep in the forested valleys that sloped upwards from the bustling suburban town miles downwind of him, the sound of splintering wood echoing faintly off the hills in the distance as he glanced down at the unconscious woman in his arms. She hadn't stopped bleeding but he had contained it, determined not to leave a trail, too afraid to hope yet that the numbness around his torso and neck meant that finally, after years of dwindling hope, the presence of Neverin's magic had been expelled from him. He hadn't tested it yet, to see if he could summon a crystal, a portal - anything - in the event that the use of his magic could be traced - if the impossible held true and Sarah had somehow freed him from his shackles.

How did she…? Why was she…? She called me...No,  STOP.  Focus on  her.  Hold on, Sarah. Hold on...please just  hold on

The inside of the cabin was dark, cold and musty. It hadn't been used in months, perhaps years. Settling Sarah as gently as he could on a dusty couch in the corner, he ignored the skirting flare of hysteria when she didn't move, didn't make a single sound. Still, he heard the slow steady breathes she still took and forced himself once more to focus. He turned and slammed the door shut, then looked around wildly, relief flooding through his thoughts when he spotted a bundle of stacked wood, kindling, matches and a well-used wood stove. Before he cleaned her, he needed light and heat or she would freeze to death in these chilled woods of ice and snow.

Hurriedly, he lit the wood stove and watched impatiently as it flared to life, the glow of the fire and the spread of heat too slow for his frenzied need to undress Sarah and look at the wounds he'd caused.

He caused. He closed his eyes, willing down the violent self-disgust for later when she was taken care of that splintered through him when he re-lived what actions he'd done earlier, under the new compulsion runes Neverin had etched into his skin. He'd heard that man's scream of her name - her name - and as he sliced through her torso and arms, he'd prayed, dreading and hoping all at once, that the name the anonymous man had shouted hadn't been his Sarah.

But it had - and when she'd unleashed whatever that blinding surge of power had been, he had stumbled and finally seen her face - the face that had haunted him for six long years. Please, hold on Sarah...please, don't go...not this way…

His internal mantra of pleading thoughts had him surging to his feet, crossing the large room hurriedly and ripping cabinet doors open from the rudimentary kitchen. He found paper towels, a bottle of diluted witch hazel, tea bags, dental floss, a small sewing kit for crafts, and mouthwash. Grimacing at the basic items, he gathered the supplies and hurried over to Sarah, dumping them on the small table in front of the couch, gently taking Sarah in his arms again and tugging her torso lightly so she leaned against him.

He gently unbuttoned the heavy buttons of her jacket, inhaling sharply and shuddering as her scent - something he thought he had forgotten and suddenly realizing he hadn't - filled his nostrils. Once more, willing down his response, he easily slid into that now familiar mask of cold detachment, needing the distance to help her and avoid making any mistakes when his thoughts and feelings were so chaotic and raw. Pulling the coat off her body, the immediate scent of her blood filled the cabin. It was fresh and his mask almost slipped when he realized the bleeding still hadn't stopped, something he had hoped would ease when he'd stopped moving her.

Tossing the jacket in the corner of the room, he reached down and tugged, pulling the tails of her shirt out of the lining of her pants. Grasping the lip of her collar, he shredded the garment, and then the undergarment beneath it, too fearful to move her and re-open the wounds on her torso and arms, knowing that she'd already lost so much blood.

Cradling her head against his chest, he stretched forward and slowly eased her onto her back on the couch, gently tucking a pillow under her head. He looked down, determined not to stare at her breasts, still feeling a sense of disgust roll through his icy exterior as his blood instantly heated even seeing the rose-colored peaks out of the corner of his vision.

Gritting his teeth, he leaned down, swallowing as he examined the twin wounds down her sides and across her upper arms. Wincing, he at least felt a small flicker of relief as the wounds seemed to be clean and smooth, not jagged or dirty. Still, he ripped fistfuls of the paper towel sheets off the roll and poured the mouthwash over them liberally, glancing up sharply at her face as he placed them against the wounds.

Instantly, Sarah seized, screaming and thrashing, her eyes blinking open as her head twisted and turned, trying to escape the sudden onslaught of hurt. He pressed his body weight down on her, trying to soothe her as he slowly peeled off each offending wad of tissue from each wound, grabbing the witch hazel and pouring it over each one in turn, soaking his shirt and the couch in the process. Watching, he sagged briefly when the red liquid pouring off the wounds slowly turned to a dark pink. The bleeding was slowing.

Delirious with pain, her stormy green eyes ricocheted wildly around the room as hoarse cries of agony kept tearing from her throat, briefly narrowing as they saw his face and a flicker of fear and despair echoed back at him, shattering that icy mask of indifference he'd slipped on.

"Please, Sarah, let me help you…" He croaked, watching as she opened her mouth to say something, but the action requiring too much energy from her damaged form, slumping back into unconsciousness as quickly as she'd woken from it.

He slowly pulled back from where he'd anchored her to the couch, his breathing a symphony of ragged pants against the small interior walls of the isolated cabin. Wiping a shaking hand across his brow, tucking his loose hair behind his ears, he once more slipped back into that clinical mask and set to work, grabbing the sewing kit and dental floss, slowly sealing the worst of the wounds.

She didn't stir once in the process.


Three days.

It had been three days since he'd patched her, washed her gently with faded and threadbare cloth towels from the bathroom that connected to the single bedroom in the cabin, and she hadn't woken. He stared at her sleeping form from the chair he'd propped up against the bed, having moved her when he deemed the wounds stable enough for her body to be moved to the bedroom, his chin resting on his clenched fists, ignoring the slow climbing hammer of his heartbeat.

She would wake up - she had to. He wouldn't be able to live with himself if she didn't.

Once more, he tugged the loose sheets draped across her shoulders and looked at her wounds. Once more, he ignored the pert breasts that rose and fell with each breath, studying the wounds on her arms and chest. They were healing, albeit slowly, and didn't show any signs of infection.

He was still too afraid to use magic, too afraid to leave her, having not showered or changed in the three days since he'd kicked down the door of the cabin in blind panic. Eventually, satisfied with his inspection of the wounds, he covered her again and leaned back, rubbing a hand over his face and letting out a soft sigh as he wearily rubbed his fingertips over the phantom strain tugging at his eyes, massaging the tension that hadn't left them since he'd taken her out of that alleyway.

He hissed, rubbing a hand over his chest, feeling the ripple of burned scarred flesh and fresh blisters. Giving Sarah one more glance, he grimaced and looked out the window, finally deciding he would scout out into the woods and test what he had the niggling sensation was true - his magic was back. The bonds linking him to Neverin were gone. His eyes flickered back to Sarah and he frowned, tipping his head to the side, at a loss for what she had done in that alleyway.

How did you do it, precious? How…?

Slowly, he pulled himself to a stand, ignoring the blunt haze of pain that pulled at the edges of his mind as he moved. He was used to pain, had lived through worse pain during his life, especially the last six years of it, and he would move, find a place away from the cabin and test his abilities, in the event it could be traced. He wouldn't risk them finding Sarah.

Tugging his leather leg straps off the floor, he tugged the clasps into place over his thighs and slid his daggers into place, moving towards the door. Glancing back at Sarah once more, deciding she wouldn't wake any time soon, he dipped his head down and exited out the front door after making sure enough logs were in the wood stove to keep the cabin warm in his absence.

Looking around, he headed in a different direction than the one he had taken to approach the cabin, searching for a secluded glen to test whether or not he was finally freed.


Aboveground, Gerasdorf, Austria

Eoin knelt down, murmuring a soft apology into the chill evening air at the number of dead around him while he surveyed the carnage left behind. Whatever had happened here, it had happened hours ago. The bodies were cool to the touch and beginning to stiffen and he slowly stood, closing his eyes briefly as he remembered back to what Sarah had said earlier. No one was left alive from those left here and several were missing, nothing being sent back to the sanctuary or the other units they had stationed around the city.

I have a bad feeling about this, Eoin...

"I should have listened to you," He murmured softly under his breath, nodding to the others who joined him in the alleyway, letting them begin to pack up the bodies for transport. Slowly, he looked to the end of the alleyway were two sylphs from the operation he had been leading across town, in their human disguises, were shielding the alleyway.

As the others worked, he looked about the alley, tense and uneasy, while the other scouts were going down other alleys, streets and shops, looking for survivors. He didn't have the stomach to think what it might mean if they found nothing - if it meant she had them.

The very thought of Neverin had him tensing, trembling with the sudden urge to kill. She'd known what he'd been doing, somehow, and had anticipated like a spider that felt a trembling on her web that he'd follow the crumbs she left, right into her trap, where her web of spies would seal them up and take them down.

Swearing softly under his breath, he ran a hand through his hair, the scar on his face tugging with the gesture, when a soft beeping from his pocket distracted him from his thoughts. Tugging the phone out tersely from his pocket, he pressed the green icon and tucked the cell against his ear.

"Yes?" He asked, scanning the alley and seeing one of his scoutmasters returning. By the grim look on his face, it didn't appear he had good news. He slowly began to walk towards the other man.

"S-Sir? This is...Nellie. From home base."

Eoin slowed, frowning, surprised to hear the trembling young woman's voice. "Is something amiss, Nellie?"

"We've been under lock down for an hour and...hadn't heard anything. So I was nervous and wanted to check in, Sir, see if we should still keep the guard rotation she set. Has Sarah checked in?"

Something cold and hard twisted in Eoin's gut as he clenched the phone hard and suddenly stopped in his slow stroll towards the scoutmaster. "What did you say?" He breathed, the tone deadly and making the girl on the other end of the line hesitate.

"Um...S-Sarah...Sir. She figured out that the job was a trap. She left..over an hour ago...to find Jonas."

Eoin looked around sharply, seeing the carnage that was Jonas' unit - yet there was no evidence of Jonas or Sarah amongst the slaughter all around him.

No...

"Keep the rotation. Double it. Let no one in, you understand?" He barked, then hung up the phone before she had a chance to reply. He moved swiftly towards his scoutmaster, dragging him away from the others, who had begun to notice his hasty movements.

"Report," he snapped, when the scoutmaster simply stared, his face an iron mask of cold, calculating indifference. The scoutmaster seemed to hesitate, but one lethal look from Eoin is all it took to have the man shuddering and stumbling through his findings.

"There was evidence of a fight - a big one. Locals muttered about a soft explosion, car alarms going off, but they dismissed it as construction or a car backfiring." Eoin stiffened while the man turned his gaze away from the sharpening of Eoin's eyes, looking around with sad eyes at the remnants of their people, his friends. "A man who works a block away remembers slamming into a young woman with dark hair. Some placed Jonas here. Neither...are here anymore, Eoin."

Eoin couldn't think above the roar in his ears. He ground down on his teeth, biting back the vicious need to swear, break something, do anything but give into the sudden fear that Neverin had found Sarah.

"I want every scout out, searching for a trail. If it leads back where I think it does...don't follow. Just report in." When the scout nodded and turned to cascade the order to his comrades, Eoin snagged his shoulder roughly and hauled him back to face him, a barely contained snarl on his lips, uncomfortable with how easy his role from years before slid back into place - that of a cold-masked killer. "Be smart. No heroics. Check in often, in the way we discussed. We can't afford another to slip into their grasp. Understood?"

"Yes, sir," the scoutmaster replied almost immediately, not even blinking at the change in Eoin, understanding passing between the two of how serious the situation was. Eoin nodded, dropping his grip, watching as the others got to work.

Mustering a crystal, he crashed it to the floor, knowing the others would keep the scene in check and do their jobs as he asked. Closing his eyes, he willed himself to that other place, to see whatever it was he could find out.

Wherever you are, Sarah, stay safe. Stay hidden. We need you.


Aboveground, Somewhere near Döbling, Austria

Jareth's knees crashed into the snow at his ankles, the soft packed powdery substance the only thing that dulled the noise. In his trembling hands, he held a crystal, staring at the sleeping form of the woman in the cottage. His lungs ached and he sucked in a sharp breath, realizing suddenly he had been holding his breath.

You did it. You actually did it, precious. You  freed  me.

Jareth shuddered, closing his eyes and dispersing the crystal, before he swayed and fell forward onto his hands, ragged trembling sucks of air tearing through his teeth as he tried to contain his joy at finally, after six years of torture and slavery, being free.

His fingers crept up past the burnt flesh at his torso and collar bones to the scars on his neck, his magic flaring to life, and he knew the dark magic was gone when he probed. Nothing stung, nothing barked back, and he let out satisfied hiss of pleasure when he clenched his fists and the air suddenly became static and then exploded out - the blinding flash of light making that feral part of him surge in pleasure.

Gone were his ragged dark clothes, the clothes of a nameless Nokmim, and his scars, reminders of that time spent in his dungeons and with her. In the place of that nameless slave he had been reduced to was what many at the high courts had feared for centuries. When he got back, he would be sure to remind them of why. He was still malnourished, but that would fade in time. Finally, he felt like himself, and enjoyed the ripple of Labyrinth magic that exploded out, surging at its newfound freedom and then curled around him, purring, satisfied it's King had returned.

Opening his eyes as a cold hard rage settled deep in his bones, he slowly stood and summoned a wave of heat to instantly melt the snow clinging to his armor into a billow of steam that was swept up by the wind.

I hope you know, he started, sending his thoughts out into the forest, his mismatched gaze lethal as it studied the tree line, waiting to see if any of Neverin's lackeys could trace his magic, almost hoping they'd find him. He bared his teeth, looking, waiting, patiently willing down the urge to eviscerate anything that stepped into those woods and had the gall to challenge him now. I hope you know...I'm coming for you. I'm going to rip your fucking throat out and feast on your screams.

As if in response, the very forest seemed to tremble. He bit back the urge to smile - and waited. Waited, for what felt like hours, before he felt it safe to return to the cabin. Every step back, he hoped, trembled with the wish that someone would try and get in his way, try and take him back. He was slightly unnerved at how much he knew, deep down, he'd enjoy killing anyone that tried.

Seeing the cabin in the distance, his thoughts dragged away from his vengeance to the woman in the cabin, still unconscious. Sobering, he stopped moving, standing as still as a statue as he studied the small window that gave a shadowed glimpse of the bedroom.

The full impact of having her with him hadn't quite sunk in and when it did, he almost fell to his knees again. Arousal, a deep aching satisfaction of feeling a hollowness in his chest fill that he hadn't realized had been missing, swept through him. Along with those savage emotions came the one he hated most - fear.

Fear that she still saw him as a villain. He remembered looking over her body, staring at those scars as he tried to ignore his response to her nakedness, and he knew her life hadn't been easy. Anger, self-pity and remorse, echoed back at him as he tilted his head to the side, frowning.

Why are you here? Why are you so...different? No, not different - magnified somehow. What happened, precious? Why didn't my protection spells work? What do they know about you?

Ironic, that he could face Neverin and all her torture, but the thought of seeing Sarah stare at him with apathy - or worse, pure unfiltered hatred - had a something in his guts shriveling and turning hard, cold, and painful.

Still, he was too much a coward to display any emotion until he knew how she reacted. Slipping into that mask he'd honed so well over the past several years, he slowly began his trek back to the cabin, and the woman inside that waited for him.


Everything was hazy, cloudy, and evasive. Her memories tore at her - shouts, screams of pain, a soft explosion, a mask with those eyes behind it, the soft whisper of a voice she wasn't sure she'd ever hear again, or would as he killed her for wronging him all those years ago - then nothingness. They didn't make sense, out of order and confusing, and she suddenly sagged under the concentration it would take to piece them together. Later, then.

Sarah struggled against the bindings holding her down, wincing at the faint hint of pain that surfaced in her muscles, but was surprised when there wasn't more. Suddenly, she realized the bindings weren't bindings at all - just blankets and sheets, tucked tightly around her to keep her in place on the bed, her fingertips trailing the cloth pulled snugly around her form. She tensed, realizing she wore no clothes.

Blinking, she slowly opened her eyes, tensing as she looked around the unfamiliar surroundings, hearing the noise of a shower running from behind a closed door on her right. Turning her head, she stilled, sinking into that mode of quick, quiet observation that Eoin had hammered into her.

A cabin. A quick glance outside after she swept the curtains away from the window told her it was secluded. A fast glance of the snow around them saw no trace of footprints - so they were alone. Her head quickly turned, staring at the closed door to her right, knowing someone was in there. Her eyes swept the room and she spotted nothing of anyone's she recognized, not from the sanctuary, so she knew the person in that other room wasn't one of hers.

Surging to a stand, she looked around for anything she could use as a weapon. Almost as quickly, she whirled and crouched down, narrowly missing the creak of the door swing open, knowing the person had picked up on the fact that she had woken up. She tensed, trembling with anger and fear, knowing suddenly that the person who was about to step through that door wasn't human. No one, not even her, had instincts that sharp - not unless you were fae.

Her eyes stared, burning with the urge to blink, as the person in the other room took their time in exiting. She didn't dare take her eyes away from the door, knowing from her training sessions with Eoin how fast they moved. One misstep and she could be dead within seconds. She backed up slowly, feeling her shoulders slam into the wall behind her, as the figure, wet and glistening from a shower, the movements demonstrating that barely-contained otherworldly feralness, stepped into the room, a towel draped over his hips and another being used to towel dry the wild silver-blonde hair that rested over his eyes.

Oh god…

When the towel pulled away from his head, Sarah stared, stiffening, as Jareth smirked cruelly back at her, his eyes flashing, daring her to do anything - try anything - while he slicked his hair back with a smooth sweep of his hand.

"Hello, precious. It's been a while."


Underground, Thelemic Order Grounds

Grandmaster Killdaire had just returned from another exhausting High Council meeting when a subdued knock at his door had him dragging his gaze away from the drink in his hand with a snarl. "What?"

"Sorry to disturb you, Grandmaster, but I have news to report."

He let his eyes slide towards the robed figure that slipped on silent feet into his hidden study, one of the few others besides Eoin and himself that had access. A quick cursory glance over the figure had him nodding, motioning for the newcomer to continue, while he silently nursed the contents of his cup. "Continue."

"Jareth has gone missing."

The glass in his hand cracked as he tensed, knocking it aside onto his desk, the scent of alcohol dribbling out of the holes in the glass wafting up to his nose. He dismissed the cup into the ether with a swipe of his hand. "What?"

The hooded cloak pulled back, revealing one of his younger protégés, with a penchant for stealth and gathering secrets, yet not quite with the skill Eoin possessed as a former Nokmim. The young fae woman with midnight hair and jet-black eyes studied him with a frown, allowing her emotions to show in the privacy of this secret room.

"Jareth is go -" She started again, stopping when he savagely cut a hand in the air.

"I heard what you said," he barked, cutting her off. "Is he dead? Does she possess the power of the Labyrinth?"

Sorcha shook her head, steadily meeting Killdaire's gaze. "No, she does not."

Relief swept through him and he sagged back in his seat, closing his eyes and rubbing a hand over his face. "Thank the gods…"

Suddenly, a parchment dropped from the ether onto his desk. He motioned Sorcha over to his side, immediately sensing who it was from with a frown. Tearing through the warding, he read hurriedly through the note with urgency, knowing they didn't have long before it dissolved.

Unexpected problem. I will be silent for a while. Do not move yet, she has too much power. If you can send in more eyes, do it. Stay vigilant, old friend. - E

Sorcha said nothing from his side as Killdaire watched the note dissolve into nothingness, mulling over his next choice. Slowly, he tilted his head towards her.

"Move into the Labyrinth. Be careful and trust no one. There is a rebellion there, from what Eoin has told me. Find them, offer any assistance needed. Report to me, in his format, as often as you can. Do not get caught, you know what would happen."

Sorcha nodded and moved towards the door, stilling as she looked over her shoulder. "And if I have a chance to take her down?"

Despite Eoin's warnings, Killdaire felt his body tense in anger as his eyes met hers. "Take it."

Sorcha nodded, exiting the room, as Killdaire moved to grab another cup.

 

Chapter Text

"When an uncovered passion sits dormant inside of you and then someone calls it out, all of a sudden that's all you can think about. It's like a wildfire being lit by a spark, and the aftermath is all-consuming." - Chip Gaines


 

Aboveground, Somewhere near Döbling, Austria

Sarah stared, not acknowledging his greeting, determined not to show fear as those mismatched eyes pinned her to the wall then slowly dropped, suddenly reminding her of her nudity. She stiffened briefly, almost raising her hands to shield herself, but...no. She would not allow him to rattle her.

He was taller than she remembered but still just as lethally beautiful as before. His limbs seemed a little too corded, his skin too pale, and his frame possessing more sharp angles than before, like he'd endured hardships she wouldn't have thought a fae of his power would have. Confusion briefly flickered in the back of her mind as her eyes raised back up to his face, inspecting the stone-cold expression he wore. He was like she remembered there, at least. Almost too pretty to be considered classically handsome, his face encased in that otherworldly allure no normal mortal man would ever be able to possess, and she dismally realized deep down that she still responded to him on an elemental level.

Don't go there. Focus, Sarah...Just calm down and think. You need to get away...

Jareth's clenched hand that held the loose towel that he had been using to dry his hair loosened, the towel falling to the floor. She noticed his immediate reaction to her nakedness as his body tightened, the towel at his hips suddenly becoming pinched and tight as the considerable length of him hardened against the cloth. Steeling her spine, Sarah stepped forward boldly, watching him with a flash of defiance in her eyes as his gaze tore from her body to her face - making her tip her chin up a notch as she inwardly flinched at the raw hunger she saw there - angry that she'd responded to his look and her inspection of him.

"Where the fuck are my clothes, Goblin King?" She hissed in a cold, calm voice, turning her hands into tight fists at her sides.

Jareth smirked, stepping forward himself, that predatory hunger never leaving his gaze as his eyes once more swept over her, then back to her face. "You were injured. I needed to remove them to heal you."

"All of them?" She bit back with a soft snarl, not moving when he stepped forward, closing the large gap between them to perhaps less than two feet. She had run for six years, even longer if she counted her time in the Labyrinth. She was done running. No more.

Jareth ran his tongue over his bottom lip as he smiled cruelly back at her, once more letting his gaze sweep over her body. "There was only one way to be sure…." His tone had dropped from a teasing banter to a soft velvet purr, stroking a fire in her core.

She did swallow then, feeling the barely suppressed arousal rippling underneath his cold expression in the way his muscles twitched as he noticed her throat bob silently, as if ready to spring. She stared, forcing her eyes to stay steady on his face, but felt her body responding as he returned her inspection, just like it had all those years ago during her dreams. She couldn't control it, the cold beauty of his face and body still as perfect as they had been in her dreams, taunting her with whispers of what could happen if she let him get just a little closer.

How would it feel if you just let him touch you? Just this once? No one would know…

Sarah immediately slammed down on those traitorous thoughts and the blast of need that surged through her again, gritting her teeth so hard they ached. Her hands trembled briefly at her sides as she calculated her next move.

You need to get out of here... right now.

Jareth's nostrils flared, as if he could sense her response, his eyes almost glowing as that predatory hunger in his eyes amplified. If she didn't say something soon, she had a sneaking suspicion where things would lead and that wasn't an option. Her gaze lowered, her mind struggling to form a plan, her eyes lingering on the hard length of him, and she forced herself to stop trembling but couldn't seem to close her eyes or drag them away.

"Stop...looking at me like that," he growled, the words barely rasping past his lips as he flattened his mouth into a tight line, as if holding back a snarl, his body coiling, primed to grab her. " I can smell you, Sarah. I know you want me, I know you'd give in. But you'd probably hate me after. When I do have you, it'll be because you want it..again and again."

She shuddered, her confidence crumbling as he studied her like a wolf stalking a lamb, a slow measured smile curling the edges of his mouth. Sarah skirted back a few steps, rubbing her hands over her arms, chilled but also excited at the implications of his words. Freezing, she rubbed her hands over her arms again, her fingertips not feeling that familiar ridged texture in places, her eyes dropping hastily to her own body. She stilled when she noticed the ravaged scars that had once ornamented her back, shoulders, torso and upper limbs were gone.

Jareth had turned away, picking up his towel as he struggled to get ahold of himself, his soft pants heavy and loud in the small room as he tossed the towel into the bathroom, missing the sudden flare of recognition in her face when she realized what he had done.

They're gone. He took them away. Why did he do that? He took them all away.

She softened her tense frame, confusion once more flickering in the back of her mind as she stared at his lupine grace while he moved back a few paces, then immediately thought better of it, refusing to let down her guard as the memories of the past six years of her life roared in the back of her mind once more.

It doesn't matter, he's just one of  them . Come on,  THINK.  You bested him once, just  THINK.  You can get yourself out of this just like before...

Sarah stepped sideways slowly, keeping her eyes on him, as she made a few calculated steps towards the door to the living room. Jareth tensed, canting his head towards her and reaching out for her, making her jerk back on instinct, determined to not let him touch her, a flash of memory making panic rise in the back of her throat, the bitter taste of fear singing her nostrils.

"No!" She screamed, swinging her left arm out suddenly and quickly, just like Eoin had taught her, the movement fast enough that she managed to hit home - punching him cleanly across the jaw, a brief look of startled surprise sweeping across his features as the blow landed and made his face snap back.

Letting out a loose sob, she didn't wait to see what he'd do as she swerved and surged for the door, hoping to put some distance between them. Briefly, she yanked her hands up to her chest, willing that spark to come to her that she always felt when her heart was pounding wildly in her chest with fear or anger or both - like it was now - but nothing came. Her mind raced back to the jumbled thoughts from earlier and she swore softly, realizing she must have depleted whatever she had available, switching back to the plan of putting as much distance between her and Jareth as she could.

"Sarah! Sarah, STOP! Relax! I'm not going to...SARAH!" Jareth roared, but she ignored him, launching herself at the door. Jareth slammed the door shut before she reached it without even moving, his magic reverberating through the house.

Her ragged pants filled the stillness in the room and she slumped, closing her eyes and whirling to face him so she had him by line of sight, pressing her back against the door and lowering into a defensive crouch. That fear she felt spike earlier was still there but slowly loosened its grip on her heartstrings, her senses slowly returning as she opened her eyes and stared at him.

"Sarah, calm down. I'm not going to do anything. Calm down. I know how this all must seem, but I promise you, we'll figure this out. However, I'm afraid I can't let you go right now," he replied, the tone a soft caress, meant to reassure her, but all it did was make her panic return tenfold.

Half-truths, all half-truths...the same as lies…that's what they do, then they attack and you're dead...like all those people we couldn't save... her mind taunted at her, reliving all the attacks over the years that she'd managed to survive before she had finally, after years of training, was able to avoid or endure without repercussions - even saving a few lives in the process, mostly in the past few months. Death and panic haunted her every hour, sometimes worse than others, and right now it was sitting right along her collarbones, whispering terrible things in her ear. Still, she refused to let him see her this weak, this frightened.

Get it together, Sarah! Come on! Stop sniveling and get your ass out of here!

She backed up several steps and watched him as she rose to her feet and crossed the room, edging herself along the wall by touch. She tore at the curtains once her fingers traced the edges of the window by the bed, keeping her eyes steady on him the entire time, unlocking the latch hurriedly then yanking on the window pane, the sheet of glass jerking upwards with a rattled squeal of rusty hinges and warped wood unused to the sudden pressure.

Jareth simply crossed his arms across his chest and leaned against the doorway leading to the bathroom, his eyes sweeping once more over her body. That hard-edged look of hunger never left his face but the edges of his gaze seemed to soften with amusement and unless she was mistaken - a trace of concern.

I don't want your fucking pity, Goblin King. Fuck you, she internally raged, as she jerked her hand forward to stick it out the window, bracing herself against the cold.

"You're not seriously going to try and step outside without a stitch of clothes on you, are you? Don't be daft, precious."

"Shut the hell up. I'm not your anything, Goblin King. Don't call me that," she snarled, watching him as she tried to swing her arm through, only to meet a hard wall of air. Her eyes widened slightly as Jareth's face twisted into a small feline smile. She slammed her arm again against the invisible barrier and barely suppressed her scream of frustration when she knew what that meant - she was trapped in here, with him.

"Like I said, I'm afraid I can't let you go just yet," he replied once more, his eyes slowly lingering over her body, settling on her breasts that had begun to peak in the cold. He pushed off from the wall and moved to come close to her - to close the window, touch her, grab her - she wasn't about to risk finding out.

"Take another step towards me and I'll break your fucking neck," she snarled again, backing up several steps, her eyes gleaming with the promise of unspent violence.

Briefly, something flickered in Jareth's eyes that she couldn't make out before that cold hard indifference settled again over his features. Raising his hand as he stared at her angrily, she jerked as the window behind her slammed shut with such ferocity the noise echoed in the small room, sending her pulse skyrocketing in her chest.

Another savage gesture had her and him fully clothed - her in a pair of sneakers, jeans and an oversized blue sweater, him in his typical fae regalia, if a bit subdued with tunic and trousers of muted charcoal and a snug vest painted in a dusky navy blue that outlined the slim steeled elegance of his fae form. Sarah watched him warily as he simply stared at her in stony silence for several moments, then turned and opened the door to the living area, leaving her standing speechless in the bedroom.

Slowly, she closed her eyes, subduing the panicked thoughts that raced through her head. It took considerably longer than she'd hoped, but she managed to calm herself, knowing from his actions, he at least was sparing her from physical harm. She was angry at her response to him, but seeing him after six long years had rattled her more than she realized.

When she finally felt calm enough to think rationally, she listened as he seemed to be rustling through the cabinets in the kitchen, then the faint hiss of a gas stove being brought to life, and the small sizzling sound of a pan being used to cook. Swiftly looking around the room, she lunged forward and used that valuable time to scour through all the drawers to the dresser and closet that were available to her. As she tore through the closet as quietly as she could, she heard a call from the kitchen.

"You might as well give it up, there's nothing useful in there. I already made sure of that."

Shoving back a fistful of clothes, Sarah grit her teeth and did her best to suppress the surge of rage that swept through her, emitting a low snarl of frustration. First fear, now anger, coursed through her, making her tremble with the magnitude of the emotion. She hated feeling helpless and out of control and was forcing herself to ignore the small measure of hysteria that was growing in the back of her mind, closing her eyes and centering herself for a moment.

Once she was no longer ready to implode, she stalked into the living room, latching onto that anger from before. Briefly, her eyes scanned the large living space and then she turned a cold eye and stared at his backside as he seemed to be cooking something on the stove, growing irate as he ignored her and continued to stir the contents in the pan with a spoon, a waft of something delicious hitting her nose.

"What the fuck are you doing? Why am I here? What do you want?" She exploded, when he didn't acknowledge her.

"What I want is some peace and quiet," He snarled back with such intensity, Sarah fell immediately silent as the angry command reverberated through the house. He turned, looking her over once more, then jabbed a finger at the small table for two by the window to the front door. "Sit and don't say a single word. Don't defy me, precious. Not right now. My tolerance of your antics only extends so far."

Sarah wanted to rage at him for once more hurling that nickname at her, but decided against it, remembering the harsh tone he'd just used. It was meant to frighten her and it worked, so she did as he asked, watching him as she slid into the seat closest to the door, never taking her eyes off him.

He said nothing, his face a mask of cold fury, as he cooked what appeared to be a pair of eggs and hash. Her stomach twisted in response, reminding her how hungry she was. She refused to acknowledge it, even as his eyes slid towards her, as if hearing that small rumble of her insides. Opening a cabinet and spooning equal amounts of both onto two plates, he grabbed two forks and walked over, dropping one of the plates in front of her so harshly, part of the food splattered across the table. Shoving a fork into her hand, he grunted at her and sat across from her, beginning to eat his own food.

She briefly watched him, strangely hurt by his harsh tone and rough movements. Still, she looked down at the food, saying nothing, ignoring the rumbling of her stomach as the delicious scents of the plate wafted up towards her nose. Years of training and instinct told her not to touch it, but hunger and desperation urged her to eat. Eventually, she raised her gaze to his when she noticed she'd lost track of the sounds of his fork scraping against his plate.

Jareth studied her and she felt her bones chill at the expression in his face. "Something wrong?" He asked, his brittle tone making goosebumps form on the flesh of her arms.

She notched her chin up again, flashing her eyes at him, saying nothing. I'm supposed to just TRUST YOU now? After all you've done to me?

Jareth stared, the side of his jaw ticking as his eyes clashed with hers, then jerked forward, stabbing a fork into her food and bringing it to his mouth, chewing angrily. Her eyes lowered once more to the food and that internal war raged again inside her, this time hunger winning. When she finally raised her fork and started to eat, he barked out a harsh laugh, nearly making her spill her food on the edge of her fork as she brought it up to her mouth.

"You honestly think I'd poison your food? Please. If I wanted you dead, Sarah, you would have been long before now."

Sarah said nothing in response, just eating her food in cold silence for several minutes, clinging to that kernel of rage inside her like a lifeline. Jareth seemed to release some tension from his shoulders after a few minutes of tense silence, his gaze dropping from hers as he returned to his food, and Sarah took that opportunity to study him in passing when he wasn't looking at her. If he knew of her studying, he said nothing, just staring at his plate and eating in silence. After a few minutes, he waved a hand and summoning two glasses with water for each of them, glancing up briefly to take a sip out of her own glass before using his own, raising an eyebrow in challenge. She frowned and took a sip of the water.

Why do I feel so damn guilty? For what...not immediately eating? He can't think I'd trust him? Is he actually...hurt? After everything I've fought through, he'd expect me to blindly accept a plate from a fae and eat?

"Whatever, I've met too many of you and seen too much shit to trust anything your kind does. So sue me for being skeptical," Sarah finally muttered, voicing her angry internal struggle aloud, turning her head to look out the window when he tensed and looked back at her sharply. It was already dusk, the forest around the cabin turning a darker shade of grey-black the closer the sun got to setting.

"You've encountered others of my kind?" He asked, his tone sharp, probing.

Surprise flickered through her but she didn't let it show, simply shrugging a shoulder, glancing back at him as she nibbled on bits of egg, cooked meat and cubed potatoes. "You saw my body. What do you think?" She replied dryly, meeting his gaze with a clash of her own. Still, her thoughts tumbled and crashed inside her, confusion rampant as she tried to think through the past six years of her life. Does he really not know? A dark part of her mind whispered back. Maybe he was too removed to care what happened to you, just sending all those lapdogs of his to do his dirty work. After all those mind probes, not even one registered him in them.

For some reason, that thought hurt and angered her worst of all. She gripped the fork in her hand so hard that the utensil trembled and she felt his heated gaze on her but refused to look his way, watching as more snow fell.

Flashes of her interaction with most fae - excluding Eoin - crashing through her mind, as she did so. Years of suffering, of watching people and places being ripped from her, the isolation and despair and fear of letting anyone in only for them to be ripped away in second exploded back to the forefront of her mind for the first time in years.

She wanted to rage at him, hit him until he felt an inkling of the hell her life had been for the past six years, but didn't - continuing to eat in silence. Her hatred for his kind suddenly flared back to life, like a bright ember in the back of her mind, and she refused to give into the niggling sensation that he might truly not have been behind all the attacks over the years. Just like a fae to evade the facts with half-truths. You might as well be able to lie. As her eyes focused on the storm outside, her stomach suddenly dropped as she studied the pace of the storm, knowing at the rate the snow was falling they'd be trapped within a few hours. "What time is it?" She suddenly asked, tensing for his response.

"Quarter past ten," he replied, as she felt his heated gaze slide from hers, probably to also follow her stare and look outside. "We're not leaving. Not for a while. So, you might as well get used to my company. Like it or not, we're staying. There's nothing around for miles. You would freeze to death in these conditions, especially at night."

"How convenient for you," She hissed, glaring back at him, dropping her fork to her plate with a clatter. "You could just transport us out of here...but you won't, will you?"

Jareth stared at her, his face one of cold indifference. Finally, a taunting smile replaced his blank expression. "No," he replied softly, smirking fully when Sarah shoved the plate away from her and launched out of her seat, stalking back to the bedroom.

When he rose up to call her back to the table, she snapped over her shoulder as she slammed the door shut in his face. "I'm taking a shower. At least give me that much privacy before you come storming in here."

She didn't bother looking back at him but the snarl that tore across the cabin had her trembling once the door separated them.


 

Underground, The Labyrinth Hidden Tunnels

Hoggle looked up just as Eoin shimmered into view, his large bushy eyebrows raising slowly in surprise.

"We ain't got no runners today…" He started, dropping his comment when Eoin held up a hand, looking slowly around the camp.

"I'm not here for a runner," Eoin murmured, his sharp iridescent gaze accessing those present. Hoggle noted his clothes and gear, tilting his head to the side out of curiosity but knowing better than to interrupt when the fae was searching for something. In the distance, Didymus and Ludo looked over at him and stared and he shook his head, letting them know it was okay to return to their duties. They nodded and turned back to the small group of new refugees, returning back to whatever they'd been discussing - most likely the layout of the tunnels beneath the labyrinth.

Hoggle idly watched Eoin out of the corner of his eye, returning to the parchments in front of him, reviewing the stores of food and other items the camp had to determine how long it would be before they needed another run for supplies. Jotting something down on a clean piece of parchment, he tore off what he wrote and passed it to Eoin when his hand extended suddenly, startling him with how he could predict the actions he was about to take. He would never get used to the intensity of the fae male, only one other fae able to outpace him in the creep factor. "Could use some more kindling…"

"I'll have some delivered shortly," he idly replied, turning to scan the other side of the cave. "Is this everyone?" He asked suddenly, looking over at Hoggle.

Hoggle nodded and watched as Eoin's jaw tightened as he did one more sweep of the cavern. When he didn't seem to find what he was looking for, he glanced back at Hoggle. "Where is the goblin scout?"

"Mikpik?" Hoggle asked, his brows raising once more. "He's out convalescing. Things have been a bit...tense...lately. Why?"

"I have an assignment for him. Give him this, when he returns." Eoin held up a hand and conjured a crystal, placing it in Hoggle's outstretched hand. "Have him report back to me the second he completes his mission. This is important, Hoggle."

"I understand, no need to explain. Everything's important these days." Hoggle patted the crystal, tucking it into the loose red pouch that hung from his belt. "When he's got your answers, you'll know as soon as we're able to send word."

Eoin nodded, summoning another crystal and disappearing. Hoggle stared in the spot he'd been standing for several minutes, feeling slightly unnerved at Eoin's intensity from earlier. Something was wrong, but the fae wasn't willing to share what it was just yet. Still, he knew he couldn't push the fae, not when he'd helped them so much over the years.

"What was that about, brother?" Didymus asked, making Hoggle look up from the parchments he'd once more started to resume reviewing. He shrugged, glancing back down at the papers in front of him.

"He's got an urgent job for Mikpik. When he's back, send him over."

"I shall alert the guards." Didymus replied, moving away and towards the entry to the caves, leaving Hoggle to his thoughts and his papers.

Scrubbing a hand over his face, he sighed, shaking off the innate fatigue that seemed to be a permanent part of his mood these days, then got back to work.


 

Aboveground, Somewhere near Döbling, Austria

Sarah stayed in the shower a lot longer than necessary, only leaving the confines of the tiled walls once the water turned cold. Stepping out and wiping a hand over the steamy mirror, she paused as she looked at the bathroom counter, noting a freshly folded towel and a loose sleeveless sleeping gown. She stiffened immediately at the 'gift' he'd left her, then decided to take it for what it was - simple clothing and nothing more. She refused to think it was an apology for dinner, or an olive branch being extended to soothe their earlier harsh words. She wasn't ready yet to accept that from him and wasn't sure if he had apologies that she'd be willing to believe them. Confusion and hurt threatened to shatter her again but this time, she refused to give into the seductive pull of those destructive thoughts, staring hard at her reflection in the mirror.

Calm down, don't do that. Calm down and think. One step at a time...

Using the towel to dry her hair and slipping on the night gown, she looked at herself in the mirror, frowning at the dark circles under her eyes. Sighing, scrubbing a hand over her face, she dug in the cabinets of the bathroom and found a tube of toothpaste, rubbing the contents over her teeth with her fingers, then rinsing her mouth out. Dabbing the wet ends of her hair, she finally turned and opened the door stepping out and stopping dead in the middle of the bedroom.

"What are you doing?" She blurted out, staring at him as he looked up from a book in his hands, laying on one side of the bed underneath the covers, his chest bare but the hints of sleeping pants teasing against his hips where the covers met his body.

"Waiting for you to get in bed," he replied calmly, returning to his book, turning a page, seemingly oblivious to the outrage plainly written on her face. She blinked, her mouth slightly falling open at the sheer audacity that he thought she would be willing to share a bed with him.

"I'm not sleeping there with you…" She glared, shaking her head, moving to head into the other room. Once more, like before, the door swung shut, this time without such ferocity, simply clicking closed. Still, she whirled, giving into the easy sensation of rage, her eyes like two green glaciers as she stared at him, her anger rising once more.

Jareth simply stared at her, that feral glow returning to his eyes. His tone was gentle, but deadly, as he motioned for her to join him on the empty side of the bed, her protests dying in her throat. "Like it or not, you're sleeping here. Don't fight me on this, Sarah. Don't," he warned sharply, his voice barely a growl. Eventually, he smiled, then motioned again to the bed and returned to the book in his grip. "Now get under the sheets, I'm freezing."

"If you so much as…" She started, her eyes flashing, Jareth's sudden interrupting growl so loud she suddenly found herself without voice as dropped his book, his gaze once more clashing angrily with hers.

"I won't, for Danu's sake. Get in the damned bed, Sarah."

Seeing no other option, his gaze telling her that if she argued or protested any further, he'd simply make her join him in the bed, she walked towards him, stiffly pulling back the covers, her eyes sweeping quickly over his form but not lingering anywhere to send the wrong impression. When he returned to his book, all but ignoring her, she slid quietly under the covers, angling herself away from him as she continued to towel dry her hair. Suddenly, she felt his fingers graze the back of her head and she jerked back, looking over at him warily, but suddenly realized her hair was dry.

He smirked as she blushed, dropping the towel to the floor. "Thanks," she muttered softly under her breath, tugging the sheets up all the way to her chin and sinking under the covers.

He sat his book aside and nodded, doing the same, but startling her as an iron arm banded around her waist and tugged her close. She yelped, then tensed and almost started to fight, until he calmly spoke into her ear. "Relax, precious. I just want your warmth like you need mine. It'll be cold tonight. Sleep."

She would have struggled against him, fought or said something, but suddenly she felt a wave of fatigue sweep over her, instantly making her tumble into the sweet nothingness of a dreamless sleep.


 

Jareth stared at the human woman in his arms, frowning as he listened to her tense breathing suddenly slow and relax, immediately responding to the sleep spell he cast. He hated to do it, but she wouldn't have found sleep easily, and even though he had healed her, he wanted her completely recovered before they made their next move.

Regardless of being freed from Neverin's magic, he was an outcast - a criminal of the Underground. His next actions would not be easy or come without consequences and the thought of Sarah being drug into it made his heart seize in his chest, leaving stark terror in its place. He didn't linger on why, wanting to avoid what he deep down already knew, simply using the moments to run his hands through her silken hair, committing her sleeping face to memory.

Briefly, as his hand trailed over her shoulder blades and down her back, smoothing her hair down her spine in loose curls, he remembered back to when he'd first undressed her and found the symphony of scars marring her beautiful skin.

Despite giving into the easily-fueled emotions of frustration and anger when she had protested so violently to his presence earlier, everything made sense. Her reactions spoke of fear, hysteria, and survival. He was surprised she hadn't lashed out more by the damage he'd seen to her form alone. He tensed, wondering if she'd suffered other, more deeply damaging pain, and the rage that rippled through him almost had him leveling the surrounding forest. Remembering her inspection, her response to him, settled that reaction just as soon as it started. No, at least it hadn't come to that. He sighed softly, closing his eyes as he continued to stroke her hair, the anger he felt at the courts and Neverin returning a thousand-fold.

Regardless of how, someone had found her and hurt her, repeatedly. She'd mentioned knowing several of his kind and he immediately sensed what all that entailed. She'd called him a hunter and that meant only one thing - Sarah knew of the Nokmim and what they were used for. He suddenly vibrated with unspent rage at being unable to tear those responsible to shreds for the fear, anger and despair he'd seen in her eyes all throughout the evening.

Growling softly under his breath, he cradled her close, perhaps a little too harshly, as she slowly stirred in his arms. He stilled, easing his grip as he cradled her close, inhaling her scent and burying his nose in her hair. His arousal bloomed as before, but not as violently, and he eventually calmed himself enough to slowly slide into sleep after he mentally checked the wards to the cabin once more.

I will never let you go again, precious. You're mine. I will kill them all for what they've done.

In the morning, he would get answers. He had to know, needed to know, what she'd been through. But holding her for the first time in years, he found himself easing into a kind of peaceful sleep he hadn't felt in years.


 

Aboveground, The Sanctuary, Vienna, Austria

Nellie looked up from her reports that she'd been going over with several people in the buzzing chaos from the aftermath of the felled operations near Gerasdorf, staring with concentration as she heard the faint sizzle and pop of a portal being cast. That had been part of her power, part of what drove her from home, and every time she heard the noise it filled her stomach with nausea. She forced it down as she watched the magic come alive in a way none of the others around her noticed or sensed.

Suddenly, the world seemed to glimmer and ripple in a single spot and Eoin stepped through, meeting her gaze. She swallowed, nervous to how he would react when he returned when she voiced the somber news.

"Status?" He asked in a clipped tone, moving towards the table with purpose. Those around her immediately dispersed, shifting to other tables that had been thrown up around the room, murmuring with each other as they pointed at and argued over various types of maps: Road maps of the town their mission had failed in and topographic maps of the surrounding areas, scoping the best possible areas those missing might have moved to, and how long it might have taken them to reach points of interest, given the terrain they were dealing with.

Nellie knew everyone was on edge. They didn't know the extent of their injuries or if they had access to any magic, given the state the alleyway was in. Thinking of the bodies brought back and the wails of their loved ones upon discovery of their death surged in the back of her mind. They were hunting for a needle in a very large haystack but so far, everyone had huddled and banded together, knowing how tenuous hope could be, determined not to let it be lost in this sanctuary they'd built over the past year.

"Nothing good, Sir. Still missing." Nellie replied softly, shaking her head, handing him a pile of reports from those in the field. Eoin took them from her and read through them quickly as she glanced around nervously, watching those in the sanctuary working furiously together to see what could be recovered - and what the extent of the damage was - from the failed mission.

"You were here with her earlier? Before she left?" Eoin asked, looking up at her and savagely tossing aside the stack of reports, the parchment crumbling into nothing. She jumped, looking back at the fae sharply, feeling his unnerving gaze on her. She trusted him wholly but his iridescent eyes always set her on edge.

"Yes, I was." She nodded, looking over at the map against the wall with the pins and motioning to it. "She looked at that oddly, after making herself a cup of the coffee dregs from that morning and froze. I don't know why, maybe something registered with her, then she ordered me to increase the rotation and said it was a trap, it had all been a trap. Then she was gone."

Eoin nodded, his gaze moving from her to the large map on the wall, frowning. Nellie heard her name called out from across the room but didn't move to reply, not until he motioned for her to go. As she turned, he gently gripped her elbow.

"Please alert me the moment you learn anything."

"Of course, Sir." Nellie smiled, watching as he moved towards his quarters at the end of the long hall. When she heard her name again, she turned and hurried over to where one of the scouts motioned for her to join them, grabbing a pen and paper as she did so.


 

Aboveground, Somewhere near Döbling, Austria

Sarah shifted slightly under the covers as the beginning of sunlight began to peek through the curtains, frowning at the warm weight pressed against her abdomen and back. Briefly, she felt something tense beside her, but sleep crept back up and dismissed the niggling sensation that something was foreign and wrong and she was lulled back into the depths of her dreams once more before she could register the thought.

Eventually, a few hours later, she finally woke slowly, her eyes opening as she blinked, taking in her surroundings. The bedroom was bright, the sun fully shining through the curtains at the windows, the storm having passed through the night, despite the cabin bedroom still feeling chilled with the cold that continued to stubbornly linger. Confused, she yawned softly and blinked, trying to make sense of the unfamiliar room she was in. Suddenly, she felt the warmth of another cradling her close, and she tensed, the past twenty-four hours slamming back into her mind as she glanced down, seeing the coiled arm around her midriff.

Jareth.

Tipping her head back, she stilled and swallowed as she stared into the sleeping face of the Goblin King. She hesitated to wake him, noting how sleep soothed away the harsh lines of his face, making him appear younger - handsome and warm. Gone was the cold edged stare, the half-smirk, and in its place was a smooth face without judgement or harsh criticism leaving it formed into an alien-like coldness.

She didn't know what to do, she was so conflicted, so she simply sat there, staring, silently willing herself to pick apart the inconsistencies over the past day. He hadn't attacked her, hadn't killed her when he had the chance. He'd hurt her in that alleyway, but the moment he recognized her after she unleashed that magical burst, he'd stopped, even tending to her wounds. He removed her from that alleyway, most likely saving her life in the process if other Nokmim had been heading that way.

She remembered the other fae hunter's memories, the amount of planning involved from her enemies to set a trap large enough to take them all down, should they give into the bait. Yesterday, when she talked about knowing about other fae, he seemed shocked and confused. What was he playing at? Could she really trust him, like his actions implied? Or was he simply setting her up for something worse?

The moments to herself didn't last long though, her movements rousing him from sleep, his eyes snapping open as he tensed, then looked sharply over at her. The ferocity there briefly had her trembling, but he relaxed after only a second, his hand opening wide that was anchored to her stomach, drawing soothing circular patterns into her gown, leaving goosebumps in their wake. She shivered but relaxed under the ministrations, simply watching him. Sarah didn't bother to shrink away, they had already slept the entire night side by side, studying his profile.

Turning to face him, not objecting when his arm tightened and kept her pressed to him, Sarah frowned and stared, at an utter loss for his role in what had become of her life over the last six years.

The silence in the room was taught, both waiting for the other to speak. Finally, unable to stand it any longer, Sarah broke the stillness with the question she'd always wanted to ask him, from that first day when things changed back at the Metropolitan Museum.

"Why did you send fae hunters after me? Did it bother you that bad that I won?" She whispered, trying to conceal the hurt but knowing she hadn't managed most of it, the sound of her voice strained even to her ears.

"What are you talking about?" Jareth asked, tipping his head to the side as he frowned, looking over her features like he was truly surprised at what she asked.

Sarah swallowed, lowering her gaze, then bringing it back up when the fingers of his free hand gently stroked underneath her chin, forcing her to raise her gaze back towards his. She hated the way her eyes suddenly burned with unshed tears, glaring at him as she knew they welled up, watching concern flicker across his face.

"Six years ago, about a month after I beat you, I was on a field trip with school. A fae hunter found me and attacked me. He would have killed me, but…." She shrugged, shaking her head, closing her eyes when his fingers released her jaw, brushing the tears off her cheeks. She pulled back, but didn't do so with a harsh jerk of her back, slowly beginning to feel like her world was falling apart as his confused expression echoed against her eyelids and he ceased touching her face.

"I managed to get out, escape into the streets. I was terrified to return home, because if they hurt Toby or my family…" Her voice broke then and a soft sob escaped her mouth, making her slowly pull back again, embarrassed to show weakness in front of him.

"Sarah, I…" Jareth murmured softly, his voice sounding concerned, even a little hesitant. His arm tightened around her before she could completely pull away, making her finally just tip her head away, determined to not let him see her cry more.

"I didn't do that. I didn't even know about that. When you won...I don't come from a nice place. There were consequences. Consequences they'd make you pay for. I took...steps...to make sure that never happened. I protected you, I protected your name, so you and Toby could live in peace. What do you mean, fae hunters found you?"

Sarah looked back at him, her eyes narrowed as she studied his face. He stared back at her, and she noticed for the first time that morning that he had forgotten to replace his mask of indifference from yesterday. True concern seemed to shine from his eyes and she moaned softly in dismay, shaking her head, pinching the bridge of her nose as she let out a soft sob of realization. He didn't do it. He didn't...but the past six years of my life...ruined...because of a stupid wish...I...

"You really don't know about the hunter? You didn't send them after me?" She whispered, shuddering, asking again to hear him speak aloud what she'd begun to realize. She thought hearing him say he was innocent would make her feel better, but it only led to more panic, more pain. Who was after her, then? How had they found her?

"Look at me, Sarah." Jareth commanded in a soft tone that brokered no arguments, his fingers once more gripping her chin. Sarah slowly opened her eyes and looked at him. "I came to your home that night, right after you won. I watched you, from the tree by your bedroom window, while you and my subjects danced and laughed and enjoyed yourselves after your victory. I knew, knew, that my people wouldn't leave you alone. They're...ruthless...when it comes to power. So, I cast a cloaking spell of forgetfulness on you and everyone in that room. No one, no one, save me, remembers you from your time in my labyrinth. No one. And don't think that didn't come with a heavy price. A price I willingly paid, for the past six years of my life, so you wouldn't endure what I knew was coming."

"Yeah, well, something did find me, didn't it? So you did it all for nothing. You should have just let them find me," Sarah snapped, suddenly angry at all she'd been through for the past six years, for what seemed like nothing. It was all for nothing… Despair edged into her thoughts and she couldn't hold back a faint sob, tucking her face away from his. "You should have just let them find me and kill me. Then it would be over, at least."

"Don't you ever say that," Jareth snarled, shifting suddenly, looming over her and pressing her into the mattress, his eyes flashing once more with that predatory intent they'd held yesterday. "The things they'd have done to you...I couldn't…."

Sarah's gaze snapped up and clashed with his, but she immediately grabbed onto her anger - a mistake - but the hurt was too raw to contemplate.

"I've been running for six years, Jareth. Six fucking years! Never knowing when was going to be my last day, when was going to be the day I didn't survive this attack, or that one. I've starved, I've ran, I've fought, I've done things...I can't even begin to explain. Don't act like you give a shit, not when this is all because of that stupid challenge…" Sarah stared at him, her eyes clashing just as furiously as his own despite the tears that welled once more, warring with his gaze as she jerked under him from where he stared at her, his lips once more thinning into a tight line as he held her in place. "Let me go, I'm done talking…"

"I will NOT," Jareth growled, the savageness of his voice shattering the tension in the room - in her - his eyes flashing as he flattened her under his heavier frame, demanding her gaze as he continued. "I suffered, too. I endured things you can't imagine, precious...I was tortured, raped, beaten - all to get your name out of me and I didn't say it once, not once!" Jareth roared, truly angry now. "Do not think I didn't pay a price when I cast that spell! I did it all for you! It was all for you!"

"What?" Sarah whispered, stilling, confusion and horror flickering over her face as she stared, watching him struggle once more for control, fully registering his words after a few silent seconds passed, the only noise filling the room being his ragged pants as he lowered his head, dragging his nose along her neck. She shuddered underneath him and he hissed sharply, tensing above her. "You were..tortured?"

"You have no idea what I've been through, what I endured, hoping that it was worth it, if you were safe. Now you tell me you…" He snarled, \his tense form vibrating with a cold rage that left her terrified as his hands started to roam over her sides. "I'm going to kill them. I'm going to kill them all for hurting you..."

Sarah didn't know what to say, only reaching up to slowly cup his cheek, hoping to soothe him. "Jareth, my god, I…" Tortured? They'd tortured him? Raped him? Beaten him? Just because I beat that stupid challenge? Jesus…

She didn't get to finish her words as his head snapped back and his eyes looked down at her. Sarah swallowed but stared back sadly and something shifted in his gaze, the tether on his control snapping. Panic surged in the back of her mind just as he lunged, but it was too late to react, his mouth crashing into hers, his lips, teeth and tongue hard and hot and desperate, demanding entry. Sarah stiffened, then moaned, her resistance immediately melting as his fingers fisted into her hair, holding her in place.

He growled softly, tipping his head to the side to deepen the kiss, making her arch faintly and gasp, his tongue sliding deeper when her legs splayed and he sunk between them, suddenly rolling his hips into hers. Warmth pooled in her core as she felt that hardness brush against her between their clothes and even though something in the back of her mind screamed at her to stop, to think about what she was doing, his fingers had already found the tips of her nightgown straps and tugged down, freeing her breasts.

His roughened palms grasped one of her breasts, making her moan again as he gently grasped it, tugging on her nipples until they stood up against his hand, stiff and sensitive and throbbing. His mouth pulled away from hers, dropping down so he could snag the other breast and run his tongue and the faint edge of his teeth against her other nipple, making her spasm slightly in his arms.

She couldn't think, couldn't feel past what he was doing. She arched up, craving his touch, pressing her breasts against his mouth. More...more...

"You have no idea how long I've wanted to…" He started, shuddering, as his tongue licked a slow descent down her torso, his fingers tugging the nightgown down roughly in the wake of his mouth. "Sarah."

She hadn't realized how low he'd gotten and that he'd removed her clothes with magic until coolness registered on her skin and his hands gripped her, splaying open her thighs and tilting her hips up, exposing her. She opened her eyes, trying to struggle into a sitting position, when his mouth found her folds and licked.

She moaned so loud, she wouldn't have been surprised if the windows rattled. He seemed to take pleasure in the sounds she made, groaning softly, nibbling and sucking, and when his tongue sunk inside her, she almost toppled over the edge. It wasn't until he shifted his weight and his fingers - first one, then another - breached her and began pumping in a slowly increasing rhythm, while his mouth found her clit and sucked hard that she shattered, letting out a faint scream as he held her hips in place while she rode out her climax, her body dissolving into nothing but a haze of pleasure.

She thought he'd stop there, but he didn't, only finally pulling away from her when she was half delirious, several peaks later, sobbing and clutching at his hair. "No more, please Jareth, I can't take it…"

He slowly kissed up her form, his eyes hungry and glazed over, still glowing with that ferocity from earlier. He smirked as he neared her face, then leaned in and kissed her, letting her taste herself on her tongue. She returned the kiss, but her limbs didn't want to cooperate, and he finally pulled back, tugging her now naked form against him, pulling the covers back into place.

She frowned, feeling the hard length of him pressing against her back through his pants, and when she moved slowly to turn his arm held firm as he leaned forward and nipped at her ear. "Sleep, Sarah."

"But - "

"Sleep," he softly demanded. "Later. For now, just sleep. Let me hold you."

It didn't take long for her to give into the urge, her eyes fluttering closed once more as she relaxed against him, utterly spent. It only registered as she slowly slipped into unconsciousness how right the sensation felt.

Chapter Text

"Your previous situation was the teacher. Your current situation is the test. Remember the lesson/s." — Lalah Delia

 


 

Aboveground, Outskirts of Gerasdorf, Austria

It was dangerously cold in the silent woods he had been steadily struggling through, snow and dirt and ice clinging to his skin and clothes. He shivered, not daring to summon the meager magic he knew he possessed to warm him or conjur a crystal, too nervous they would track it to him. He wasn't nearly as proficient as Sarah, and once more he found his fear rising in the back of his mind, forcing him to keep going.

Where are you, Sarah? Refusing to give into despair, he continued on, doing his best to cover his tracks as the snowstorm continued to rage around him. He clutched his side, the wounds he had long since sealed under ice and bandages, but he was getting weaker the longer he stayed out in the elements. Panic teased along his thoughts as he remembered the alleyway and what that monster had done to her before he had taken her and he had to find her, had to keep looking. I can't look Eoin in the face and tell him I lost her.

Suddenly, a snap of a branch and a swift crash of snow off to his right had him bolting, seeking any cover he could find. He heard it before he saw it, a small whistle near his left ear, internally cursing his sloppiness. He should have stopped miles ago, found shelter, then started again in the morning. Now, it was too late. He just had to hope he was faster than they were.

When the crystal shattered by his face, it sent him sprawling in the snow, rolling onto his side and clutching his head with a groan. Colors and sounds swirled inside his skull and he heard a faint bark of laughter before a hand shot out, jerking him to his knees by his collar.

"What do we have here?" Purred a deadly voice in his ear. "One of Eoin's little brats, seems like. You're a bit far from the city streets. Persistent little thing, aren't you? We'll see how long you last with her in your head."

Before he could reply, darkness swept over him as the blackout spell crashed around his senses. Idly, he heard the snapping of bones before he completely gave into the darkness, knowing it was his own - they'd broken his legs so he couldn't escape.

I've failed you, Sarah. I'm sorry.


 

Aboveground, Somewhere near Döbling, Austria

Sarah's eyes flickered open slowly as she woke up, frowning and rubbing a hand across her brow, feeling somewhat light-headed as she took in her surroundings. Suddenly, she froze, her eyes going wide as her head cleared, surging into a sitting position, remembering where she was again. Thankfully, she was alone.

The alleyway - the attack -  Jonas  - the cabin -  Jareth ...

Each and every thought collided in her mind, making her tense and shudder, sinking into the comfort of the sheets that surrounded her body once more. Her eyes scanned the room sharply, the bright unfiltered sunlight at her back making the tongue and groove styled walls of the bedroom gleam under the heavy shine of the golden varnish, as her hand slid across the bed to find the mattress and sheets cool to the touch. He had risen a while ago and left her to sleep. Inwardly, she was thankful for that. She felt much calmer today than yesterday - knowing the small tidbits of answers Jareth was able to provide her gave a small amount of closure on how her life had become such hell in the past six years, but that didn't mean she was ready to meet his gaze so readily the next day. If what he said was true and it wasn't his fault, then….what?

The door to the main living area was open and when she strained to hear, she sensed him once more in the kitchen, no doubt making another meal. Heat and embarrassment crept over her features as she remembered the previous night and how it had ended. He had kissed her and she hadn't offered a single protest, even going as far as moaning in response. When he had buried his head between her legs and tasted her, she had loved it. The way his mouth moved on her, the pleasure - Oh god, the pleasure…

If he demanded it again, she knew she would give in. Inwardly, she felt a small sliver of shame, but quickly steeled herself and shoved the feeling aside. So, you're attracted to him - so what? You need to get out of here. Keep your head in the game, Williams.

Her mind flickered once more back to the alleyway and she frowned, remembering what had happened between him, her and Jonas. She remembered the savagery in which he had attacked her, remembered unleashing that blast of power, and remembered an arc of power around his collarbones flaring in anger then sputtering out. What was that all about?

She groaned, scrubbing a hand over her face, not knowing how to answer that question and growing frustrated as her mind was unable to supply even a theory as to his actions. However, since arriving at the cabin, he had gone to considerable length to heal her. Those deeds alone made her relax, feeling comforted that the last two days had shed some light on at least one thing she'd always wondered might have been true - Jareth hadn't sent those hunters. His reaction yesterday was proof enough, he had gone practically nuclear when she suggested he didn't care about her life or freedom. It never felt right, accusing him of all this. When I left that first time, he seemed so devastated, almost lonely. But still….do I trust him? How much of my feelings towards absolving him have to do with my attraction to him? Angry that her thoughts only led to more questions, she quietly slammed her fist into a pillow, shucking off the unnecessary riddles in her head that wouldn't be solved any time soon.

Sighing and running a hand through her hair, Sarah sat up and tugged the sheets away from her body, shivering at the coolness that still permeated the cabin from the wintry conditions outside, despite the night gown offering some warmth. As she slowly padded across the room, she paused at the open door where she heard Jareth cooking, tensing and listening, straining to hear any other sounds beyond his own in the kitchen. Sensing nothing, her nerves getting the better of her before she could march into the other room and once more demand answers, she slipped past the doorway and ducked into the bathroom, quietly closing the door to freshen up.

As she combed her hair and washed her face, she tensed as she saw a set of clothes and a note appear on the lid of the toilet beside her, slightly mocking her as the parchment unrolled and a flowing script filled the blank page. Rolling her eyes, she snatched up the note and read it quickly as she surveyed the clothing he had once more gathered for her.

When you're ready, breakfast is in the kitchen. I promise this will be the only thing I eat this morning, even if last night was particularly satisfying. - J

"Prick," she muttered under her breath as she unpacked the pile of clothes present and wadded up the note, tossing it in the trash, but unable to control the faint smile that tugged at her lips. She blinked, letting out a true string of profanities as soon as she saw the red lacy undergarments he provided. Feeling her cheeks heat at the gauzy lace material that left nothing to the imagination, she sighed and slipped them on. Glancing back at herself in the mirror as she swept her hair up in a loose bun, she flushed again, feeling awkward and annoyed at wearing the red frothy undergarments, her skin clearly visible through the gossamer fabric.

"I'm going to fucking kill him. I'm going to kill him, nice and slow and painfully," she hissed faintly at his idea of amusement at her expense, snatching up the jeans provided and jerking them up and over her legs and hips in harsh, angry movements. Slipping on a pale green sweater once the zipper and button of her pants were in place, she willed herself to calm down, knowing he was intentionally baiting her, expecting her to storm out of the bathroom and instigate another fight, and she wasn't going to give him the satisfaction. Summoning a calming breath, Sarah let herself out of the bathroom and made her way into the living area, her bare feet making little noise.

Jareth looked up from where he sat at the small table by the window, his eyes slowly trailing over her clothed form, a pleased expression on his face. The annoyance and anger swelled within her again at the look on his face, but so did the memories of what occurred last night. Sarah swallowed as she moved towards him, thrusting down her reaction even as her core turned molten, remembering how his tongue felt nestled between her legs. From the hungry look on his face, he seemed to be remembering as well, a predatory gleam sharpening his jawline as he studied her breasts.

Clearing her throat and shifting slightly on her feet to dispel the taught moment, he quickly dropped the hungry look in his gaze and smiled faintly at her, gesturing to the seat across from him, silently asking for her to join him. Sarah did as he asked and even found herself amused at the flicker of surprise in his face when she murmured a small thanks while he poured her a cup of coffee from the percolator.

"Sleep well?" He asked between bites of food to break up the silence that descended between them once more as she began to eat, one side of his mouth kicking up as he stared at her, a silent challenge in his eyes.

Bastard, she inwardly seethed, nearly slamming her fork down on the table with a flare of rage at his taunt as his grin spread faintly, his eyes glinting dangerously once more, a teasing light entering his mismatched stare. If you're asking if I enjoyed last night, the answer is yes and you fucking know it.

"It could have been better," She replied pointedly with a flash of teeth, her eyes sparking with defiance, determined to bait him into submission, sipping at her cup of coffee as she returned his stare with a bored expression.

His instant bark of laughter made her cheeks heat, especially when he leaned forward and practically purred in a soft mockery of disappointment as his eyes lowered over her body in a telling fashion, one eyebrow arching slowly. "Is that so? How...unsatisfying. Perhaps tonight will be more up to your standards."

Sarah rolled her eyes and ignored the small burr of laughter that erupted again at her response as she tilted her head away from him and looked out the window, despite the noise shivering across her spine, making her press her knees together tightly. She frowned at seeing the large pile of snow on the forest floor surrounding the cabin. Inwardly, her determination slightly deflated, knowing that she was still well and truly stuck with the fae in front of her for the foreseeable next few days, until the sun and wind did its diligence and shifted the high drifts around the cabin to a more manageable size. "Are we in for more snow?"

Jareth smirked, but dropped the teasing banter, tipping his head to the side as he looked out the same window she did. "Yes," he replied, his eyes rising to look up into the tree line and the sky beyond. "Perhaps another foot or two tonight. Why in such a rush, precious?"

Sarah wasn't about to tell him why, but her mind scanned through the last few moments of her fight with him in the alleyway and she tensed, realizing she didn't know the fate of Jonas. Jareth hadn't mentioned him and she could have sworn he was still alive before she passed out. Oh god, Jonas… It took considerable effort to not allow the coffee cup in her grip to tremble.

Deciding to test his supposed loyalty to her and to get more answers on his supposed sordid past, she shifted the conversation to where she felt most comfortable.

"You said yesterday you suffered. That didn't look to be the case when you stabbed me in the alleyway the other day - repeatedly, I might add. Care to explain that?" She replied coolly, not answering his question but responding with one of her own, keeping her voice even as she looked back over at him.

Jareth seemed to sense what she was doing but simply shrugged a shoulder, leaning back in his seat as he sipped his coffee, studying her as a cold, detached expression shifted over his features. She had touched on something that bothered him, but he didn't seem to shy away from the question, only dragging up that mask he wore when faced with something uncomfortable, something she picked up on last night as well. "Dark magic had me bound to a specific person. I was their servant and acting out their wishes."

Sarah blinked, arching an eyebrow, not sure whether or not she could believe that, continuing to slowly eat at her food. "You...were controlled by someone else? How?" She asked, unable to keep the skepticism out of her voice.

Jareth leaned forward, lightning fast, and grabbed her wrist, half dragging her into his lap as he placed her hand against his collar bones, the fork dropping out of her hand and clattering to the floor. Before she could jerk back, his eyes closed and he seemed to concentrate and she felt it - a series of raised scars under her fingertips. Her eyes lowered as his hand dropped from her wrist, allowing her to explore along his neck. She sat there speechless for several seconds, then finally leaned forward with a frown, tugging the material of his shirt out of the way, sucking in a sharp breath as she stared at the scars and the remnants of burn marks that interrupted the ring of symbols. The burn marks made something flash in the back of her mind - her magic, detonating between the two of them, hitting him full force and burning him, the scent of his charred flesh filling her nostrils as he tore the mask off his face, the sputtering of those runes, like electricity suddenly being set free...

"What are they?" She whispered as the memory faded, raising her eyes, seeing his cold brutal gaze settled firmly on her face, telling her he had been studying her while she inspected the marks. His hands had lowered, anchoring around her waist, keeping her close, and she briefly wondered why she didn't object to his closeness.

"Runes. They were powered by a blade. I'm sure you can imagine how I obtained them." She winced, biting on her lower lip, as her eyes drifted down once more and she felt bile spike at the back of her throat.

"They carved them into you?" She whispered, struggling to say the words, the syllables coming out weak and brittle. He nodded and tipped his head back as she suddenly tugged his shirt out of the way, seeing the extent of the damage. She moaned faintly in dismay, seeing that it wasn't a single line of scars - it was several. "My god, they carved them over and over. Why?"

"Because I was able to overpower them sometimes. I almost killed the owner of the blade a few times. My only regret is I failed to finish the job before they managed to subdue me again."

His voice was cold, inhuman and savage as he explained why they had carved them into his skin repeatedly. The tone of his voice normally would have sent chills down her spine - it was the sound of a Nokmim's voice - but she found herself tugging his collar back into place with gentle, soft movements, raising her gaze to his.

"You'll finish the job, I promise. If you can't, then I sure as helI will." She made sure he saw how serious she was, horrified and enraged on his behalf. Jesus, how he's suffered...

Jareth stared at her, the iciness in his expression fading as he slowly began to smile, tipping his head to the side as the marks on his skin once more fading to nothing. "I've no doubt you mean that, precious. You've already proven you're quite the fighter."

Sarah looked at him in confusion as she let him trace a finger along her jawline, his thumb swiping at her lower lip as he grinned faintly, his teeth flashing. "That's why I'm here and I didn't finish the job the other day, in the alley. You somehow interrupted the spell. You freed me."

"I what?" She sputtered, not believing it for a minute, her face saying as much. She should have moved back to her seat after she was finished inspecting the marks, but she didn't. Jareth shrugged, staring at her intently, as if trying to decipher something behind her eyes, his hand dropping to join the other that held onto her hips, keeping her firmly in place.

"I don't know," he finally replied, shrugging faintly as disbelief once more crept into her eyes. "I really don't. How did you do it? That flare of magic? I've never seen a human do that."

"Excuse me? Mister 'I rule the Labyrinth and have oodles of magical powers' doesn't know? You're joking..." She blinked, confusion and outrage whispering through her veins as she blanked at him as he stared in fascination at her, realizing he was serious. She remembered Eoin's sense of shock when he also found out and sputtered in irritation.

"You're telling me two powerful fae can't figure this out? What in the fu - Ugh, never mind." She started, dropping what she was about to say when she felt Jareth jerk under her at the mention of other fae. She sighed, shaking off his frown and intense stare by rolling her eyes, shifting nervously in his lap, hastily explaining when her powers began surfacing. "I've had it since I came back," she shrugged. "I always felt it, since the moment I returned, but it didn't really do anything for a long time. I just felt...I don't know, different somehow. The first time things went all 'kersplodey' was in a street in New York, after I ran from the hunter. He-he...had caught up with me...and was about to…to..."

She shuddered violently, closing her eyes, and suddenly she felt Jareth tug her to him, her cheek colliding with his chest as his arms encircled her, his hands rubbing up and down her spine in a slow soothing motion. A soft growl vibrated in his chest and the noise somehow comforted her, so she continued as she relaxed against him, her fingers snaking into the belt loops of his pants when her arms linked around his waist. "He was about to kill me, I knew it somehow. I was...so fucking mad. I had won, god dammit. I had won and this motherfucker was just going to kill me, just like that and…"

Suddenly, she felt it - the heat and the energy, the sudden tidal surge under her skin. She jolted at the sensation, her body instantly on fire, her clothes stifling. She groaned and surged against Jareth, fumbling in a blind panic, desperate to put distance between them as the belt loops in her fingers disintegrated under the power of her magic flaring to life.

"Let me go! I'll hurt y - " She bucked in his lap, scrambling for words as she tugged at his arms and hands ruthlessly, trying to slink out of his grip as she remembered the white-hot rage she felt that day, at the unfairness of it all, and she tried scrambling back, a look of horror and shock on her face as his pants bore large scorch marks, hoping she didn't hurt him.

When he didn't let her go, she jerked harder under his grip, letting out a soft sob, knowing if he kept holding on she might truly hurt him, remembering those two fae in the woods all those years ago. "Let go! LET GO! You don't understand, I'll hurt you or worse! LET GO!"

No matter how much she fought, Jareth's grip didn't slip once as he held her tightly in his lap at arm's length, his eyes widening as his gaze lowered over her form, seeing the small glow under her skin.

She spasmed again, feeling the magic quickly spiral out of control. She started screaming. No, no no no no, no…

"Calm down, Sarah. Calm down!" He barked, holding her tightly. "You're not hurting me. Look, Sarah." Jareth's tone was sharp, demanding, breaking through her panic, making her still, panting faintly as she tried to calm the pounding of her heart.

Sarah's eyes lowered and she gasped as his own skin briefly glowed where he reached a hand up and laced his fingers with hers, returning to normal after his body seemed to accept the heat then neutralized it. She stilled completely, dumbfounded at what she was seeing, feeling him siphoning off the dangerous levels of power under her skin. She sagged at the relief he brought, once more slumping against him as she shivered at the coolness of his skin against hers. She almost relaxed, then she felt it - a small tug from him, reaching into her - and she stared, wide-eyed, as he pulled and pushed on that invisible string and she found herself returning the motion, feeling another wholly new odd sensation - her, reaching into him.

She blinked, feeling dizzy all of a sudden at the sheer ferocity of what she assumed to be Jareth's emotions. Rage, hunger, need, wanting, revenge, despair, resolve...so many she could barely process them all, her head reeling.

"Sarah," Jareth demanded, gripping her chin with his left hand and shaking her gently, dragging her attention back to him. Suddenly, that overwhelming sensation faded as the invisible string between them slackened once more and she blinked again, focusing her attention on his face. His eyes were bright mismatched discs in his pale face as he stared at her. She blinked, swearing in that moment she felt a predatorial overlay against his face - a flash of gold and yellow feathers, a long sharp beak and talons - and suddenly it was gone. She shuddered, closing her eyes as he shifted, leaning forward and sniffing at her neck. She stiffened but complied quietly, suddenly fatigued by the last several moments, feeling drained. He tensed, his fingers tightening at her sides as his mouth and nose dragged slowly across her jawline and neck.

"What the hell was that? Did you fee - " She started to ask when he began to pull back, her eyes wide, but stopped when Jareth shifted forward, his eyes still gleaming eerily, tugging her closer to him, his mouth hovering close to hers. She inwardly balked under the intensity of that stare, but determinedly met it with one of her own, and when he suddenly kissed her, she didn't object. It was soft, gentle, asking for permission. When he sensed her acceptance, almost instantly the kiss turned fast, desperate, a growl escaping his mouth as he shuddered, dragging her tighter against him, his hands fisting in her sweater that gathered around her hips.

His mouth was consuming her and she clung to him, her fingers clutching at his shoulders as he squeezed her tighter, tucking her against his chest. She felt him harden against her and she moaned, his tongue darting into her mouth to dance with hers. When his hands tightened against her hips, she softened under his touch instinctively and another soft growl escaped his mouth, his kisses escalating. He canted his hips upwards, grinding his erection gently against her bottom.

The feel of him throbbing insistently against her made her gasp. Slowly, her mind began to shriek, knowing that things were moments away from escalating, but she found it hard to listen to reason, his teeth and tongue drugging her common sense. He sat up sharply, his fingertips suddenly tracing down her hips and gripping her bottom, rocking her slowly against him. His hands felt like talons, branding her and ready to shred the pants she wore, his body thrumming under her as he growled louder now, his ragged breathing filling her ears as their mouths meshed together. Just as his hands tensed to tear fabric, the logical side of herself snapped to attention in the back of her head, dragging her out of the moment.

"Stop, we need to stop," Sarah pleaded, dragging her mouth away with some difficulty, her fingers tightening against his collar as he nipped at the hollow of her throat and snarled, bucking faintly under her from her sudden distance. She tipped her head back further as she tugged at his hair and pulled his mouth away from her throat, determined to meet his gaze, swallowing at the savage hunger she saw directed at her. "We need to stop, Jareth. Please."

Jareth's eyes gleamed so brightly they seemed to glow for a moment but he nodded, loosening his grip, and she stumbled out of his lap and settled back in her own chair, trying to catch her breath. He seemed to struggle as well, his erection and discomfort apparent, shifting slightly in his seat and letting out a huff of air, his hands gripping the edge of the table so hard his knuckles turned white and the wood groaned faintly at the pressure.

"Explain...to me...why I felt you in my head...just then..." She gasped, not daring to meet his gaze, keeping her eyes trained on the snow drifts outside. She knew if she looked at him, he would be on her, in her, and she needed more answers before that occurred.

"Later. For now, let's focus on the bigger problem," He replied in a hard tone, a calmness once more sweeping over his face, despite the roughness of his voice, from what she could see out of the corner of her eye. She wished she had that much control, still struggling with controlling her own body's response to the previous few minutes. "I am free from the dark magic but not from the notable bounty on my head. You are also on the run. How have you survived?"


 

Underground, The Castle Beyond the Goblin City, The Labyrinth

Mikpik squinted, rubbing his eyes tiredly from where he remained perched in the rafters, watching the commotion below with a sense of detached amusement. The guards were in full pandemonium over something that had occurred Aboveground but he hadn't gathered what just yet, the gathered group too busy yelling and thrusting blame at one another for him to glean any true facts. He briefly thought back to the crystal Eoin had left him with and rolled his eyes as the guards once more launched into another tirade between each other, growing bored at the same insults being hurled at each other once more across the large trestle table in the center of the deliberation room.

Suddenly, a cold breeze swept into the room and the guards flailed, clutching their throats, silence descending like a knife in the room. Mikpik shivered, shrinking into the shadows, knowing what that meant.

Turning his gaze to the archway into the hall, he stilled as she marched calmly into the room, wearing an obsidian dress - half angel, half demon - one side crusted with reflective black gems from wrist to ankle, the other half smooth satin, exposing her arms, legs, and cut so severely the slightest movement might make her spill from the garment. Her hair was swept up in an intricate design, the false crown on proud display against her brow.

"Good evening, gentlemen. No need to hedge around the truth, I felt it myself. Anyone care to explain how Jareth broke free of my bonds?"

Mikpik's eyes widened as he leaned forward, keeping close to the shadows but making sure he could hear every word, as the guards began to launch into the details of the previous day.

He's free. He's  FREE.  King is  FREE!


 

Aboveground, Somewhere near Döbling, Austria

Despite appearing in control, every instinct in Jareth's blood was aflame, gnashing and shredding at his humanoid senses as he stared, listening to Sarah talk while she filled the tense moments after he'd almost dragged her across the room and fucked her senseless on the couch, not trusting himself to make it to the bedroom. He dropped his grip on the table, thrusting his hands in his pockets as talons sprouted where his nails were, struggling to contain the feral barbarism that demanded he claim her, his brain still half predator, half fae. His nostrils flared as he smelled it on her, finally knowing what kind of magic she was harnessing, the scent mixing with her arousal, drowning him and almost cutting off his logical senses. The Labyrinth had marked her, claimed her as his, and he struggled to contain his response, his basic impulses demanding he complete the tentative bond between them.

Swallowing imperceptibly, he tentatively reached out with his senses to the maze in which he was bound, lashing out at the Labyrinth magic with a fury so explosive he only reacted once so viciously before - when Neverin had a clipping of Sarah's hair.

You bonded us as mates without my consent.

The Labyrinth magic purred in response, weathering the chaotic storm of his emotions with ease. He forced himself not to growl, knowing he'd only frighten her, as he panicked at the thought. I can't tell her, she has already had everything ripped from her. I cannot bind her to me or you. She has already suffered too much.

The Labyrinth magic slammed into him so viciously, he twitched faintly in his chair. Sarah paused in her discussion of her past and he dimly heard her ask if he was alright. He nodded, keeping his eyes trained on her, not tipping her off to his internal struggle. "Yes, precious. So, you were at the museum. No, back up, before that. You said the mirror in your room shattered, then repaired itself?"

His mind whirled as he inwardly snarled at the Labyrinth that simply shifted inside him, then slowly flared, reaching for her. Internally, he slammed down on the magic so hard it tensed and then curled around him once more. "That must have been when the High Court fettered out what had occurred. I put measures in the spell to protect you, if that happened."

Suddenly, rage exploded inside him again as he realized full circle what had happened six years ago. You marked her, you drained my power. The spell, the spell didn't completely work because I did not have access to my full potential. You enabled my entrapment.

The magic wisely settled, not hinting at its role in his suffering, but its lack of a response was enough for Jareth to snare it and squeeze it so roughly into submission, it trembled under his considerable bitterness, retreating so deep inside him, he barely felt its presence.

Sarah frowned, tipping her head to the side, drawing his attention back to her, so he elaborated, slowly calming as he gained control of his magic and his response to her. "I removed your name from everyone and everything you interacted with."

"Why?" She asked, wide-eyed and leaning forward. He inched back, keeping a cold hard expression on his face, inwardly wincing when she stopped. As much as he wanted to hold her, he didn't trust himself, knowing the urge to complete the mating bond was nearly impossible to resist.

"The Underground hierarchy…" He paused at the look of confusion on her face, clarifying before he continued, "the upper fae, control the dimension with magic. Magic that is gathered and harvested by all the creatures they oversee. When someone is brought to the Underground, especially via the Labyrinth, it adds to their source of power. You won, which is virtually unheard of. I allowed you to leave and to make matters worse, I refused to give them your name so they could…" His lips thinned into a flat line as he made sure she fully understood what her fate might have been six years ago. "...so they could drag you back there and either slaughter you or convert you against your will and drain your magic potential to serve their needs."

Sarah paled, shuddering. He sighed, not enjoying the look on her face but relieved she knew the seriousness of the situation. "In any event, I was stripped of my title, of my willpower, and someone else rose to power in my place that frightens even me. I must go back, set things right."

Sarah stared, frowning, having grown quiet. "You were saying, you met another fae?"

She looked up and smiled, nodding slowly. "Yes, I did. You would approve, he taught me a lot of things, how to fight, how to survive, how to use my magic, even if it hasn't completely stuck, that last one. We've even created a sanctuary of sorts, for...people like me. I take it there haven't been much wishes since you were...demoted?"

He shook his head. "No, not many at all. It's been several years since I've had a runner. Still, magic remains steady. I don't know how, but..."

Seeing the despair and pale expression on Sarah's face, he began to suspect, unable to contain the snarl that erupted past his lips. She jumped then but sat up sharply, meeting his gaze with a steely one of her own. My precious, precious champion. How fierce you are. 

He smiled wanely, returning to what she had just said, relief and gratitude flaring inside him as he studied her, listening to this mystery fae that had protected her. "I am in this man's debt. I should like to meet him. What is his name?"

"Eoin," Sarah replied, relaxing when he smiled, rising and reaching for the their plates to clear the table.

Every instinct was once more triggered upon hearing that name. He stood so quickly, his chair slammed into the wall behind him. "What...did you say?" He snarled, watching her eyes go wide and the plates slipped from her grip, shattering on the floor.


 

Underground, On the Border of the Labyrinth and the Wastelands

The young woman panted softly, tugging her hood back as she stared up at the imposing gates that led into the Labyrinth before her. She frowned, seeing the decay and rot clinging to the vines surrounding the door handles, almost wary to reach hold and knock. It had taken her weeks to get this far across the wastelands surrounding the Labyrinth and while it screamed of wrongness to simply knock and announce her arrival, Sorcha was running out of water and patience, Killdaire's command pressing her to desperate acts. If what he said was true, time was of the essence.

Staring at that gate, she wondered how much time they had left.

Things are worse than the Grand Master let on, it seems.

Raising a hand, she stepped forward, about to knock, when a large snarl had her whirling and crouching down, reaching behind her for the blade at her back.

Standing in front of her was a small cavalry of different creatures, weapons of various danger thrust in her direction. She swallowed, seeing several rock trolls, wood nymphs, and razor-toothed goblins. Slowly, an old dwarf shuffled forward, a dagger clenched in his hand.

"Who the hell are you?" He snapped, his eyes narrowing.

Chapter Text

 

"Lately, I've been waking up and putting on claws and fangs and calling it survival, not war. At least, that's what I've been telling myself: survival not war, survival not war, survival not war." — Peyton Scott


 

Aboveground, The Sanctuary, Vienna, Austria

A soft knock at the door to his bedchambers had Eoin instantly awake, jerking to a sitting position from where he had slept fully clothed above the sheets of the small cot in the corner of the room. He had finally succumbed to exhaustion a few hours earlier after having led several back-to-back debriefings on the search results from around Gerasdorf in the main deliberation room down the hall. He still felt like shit, but the knock had him immediately on his feet.

Wiping a hand over his face, he called out in a hoarse voice, sleep quickly fading as his training snapped into place. "Come in."

Nellie slipped in the door and knotted her hands in front of her as she looked over her shoulder and fidgeted, struggling with what to say. For whatever reason, the girl had never grown comfortable in his presence and normally he did his best to soothe her fears, but today he was short on patience. He gestured roughly, silently demanding she state why she woke him, only to hear a confrontation occuring down the hall. He picked up on a few muffled shouts from some of his best scouts and blinked in confusion. Nellie simply blushed and nodded, pointing behind her to drag his attention to the obvious problem down the hall. Narrowing his eyes, instantly alert, he moved towards the door. "What is it?"

"There's a visitor here, Sir, to see you. He says his name is Hoggle."

Eoin's eyebrows rose faintly in surprise at hearing that name. He frowned, marching past the mortal girl, ignoring her presence trailing behind him as he moved from his quarters and down the hall, towards the commotion in the deliberation room. The closer he got to the source of the confrontation occuring, the louder the barbed words became and easier to understand.

"Listen, dwarf, I don't care who the fuck you say you are, you're not getting through to see him no matter who you claim to be. I've never heard of you and - "

Eoin rounded the corner, watching one of his lead scouts scowl down at the impatient dwarf, animosity pouring off the two of them as they stood toe to toe, one scowling down and one glaring up. Amusement flickered in the back of his mind but he kept his expression neutral as he cleared his throat, dissipating the tension in the room.

"Relax, Sean, he's with me. He's been a contact in the Labyrinth for years. He's where we get some of the Underground refugees from."

Sean looked over his shoulder, spotting Eoin and quickly stepping back a few steps, briefly bowing his head, a flash of embarrassment creeping into his features before it cleared. "Eoin! Sorry to wake you." His eyes briefly looked over at Nellie, who quickly skirted past Eoin and the others and got back to work. "We didn't know…" The man started, but Eoin simply held up a hand and dispelled Sean's discomfort with a faint smile.

"It's my fault for not informing you. He usually stays on his side of the portal," He scowled at the dwarf when Hoggle all but snorted and rolled his eyes, stepping past the mortals to stroll over towards Eoin, but he continued on nonetheless, ignoring the dwarf's display of rude manners. "Please keep me in the loop on your progress and alert me at once if you find anything of importance."

Sean nodded, staring dubiously after the dwarf for a moment before turning, returning to his duties. Eoin cast another narrowed gaze at Hoggle, who looked bored and just as cranky as when he confronted Sean, staring boldly back at him. "What? Expect an apology or something? I'm not one of your sheep, Eoin. Arse kissin' isn't in my resume."

Eoin glared but Hoggle looked unphased, waiting for Eoin to lead him away. "Walk with me," Eoin finally stated when they were alone completely and everyone's attention was elsewhere. He turned and headed back to his quarters, expecting the dwarf to follow. Once Hoggle stepped into his suite, he slid the door shut and placed his palm against the door, sealing off the room with a ward.

"Explain to me how we've been workin' together for years and your cronies don't know who I am..." Hoggle began, his eyes narrowing as he crossed his arms over his chest, glaring up at Eoin.

Eoin ignored the barb and side-stepped the dwarf entirely, moving towards his wet bar with a tired sigh, in desperate need of a drink no matter how early the hour was. He looked over his shoulder as he reached for two glasses and a bottle of whiskey, holding them up for Hoggle's inspection. Hoggle's attitude immediately shifted to a more pleasant one, like he suspected it would - Hoggle's penchant for strong spirits one of the first things he'd discovered in the early days of their alliance.

Eoin smirked and poured them both a few fingers worth in each glass, then shrugged faintly at Hoggle's probing statement as he handed one of the crystal glasses over. Hoggle snorted at the silent reply to his words, rolling his eyes, but accepting the liquor with a look of subdued pleasure.

"What do you expect from the master of spies?" Eoin finally replied after he took the time to take a few sips of the burning liquid, enjoying the trail of fire that led from his lips to his gut. The dwarf snorted as Eoin shrugged, sinking into a seat by one of the windows. Hoggle said nothing but drank eagerly from his own glass and let out a soft sigh of pleasure.

"Been a long time since I tasted something this good, you know." He met Eoin's amused stare and rolled his eyes. "And no, I'm really not, considering this is you we're talkin' about, but I would have expected at least one of your leaders to know who I am. What would happen if you were suddenly out of the picture? Ever thought of that, hot stuff? I got folks back home that rely on you. You ever thought of what your absence might cause, eh?"

"I made precautions, should that ever occur." Eoin shrugged again, not concerned, despite the rising animosity in the dwarf's voice. Hoggle didn't seem to return the sentiment, staring stonily at the fae for several minutes before sighing and dropping the subject.

"So…" Hoggle started, pausing once more to sip at his drink, motioning for a refill as he tilted the glass back and polished off the last of the whiskey. Eoin rolled his eyes and reached for the bottle, pouring him another few fingers worth. The dwarf grinned and took another slow sip, making Eoin stare at him impatiently while he waited to hear what Hoggle had to say.

"So?" He motioned in irritation for the dwarf to continue with an exaggerated roll of his wrist, his iridescent eyes narrowing. "Care to explain your unexpected but oh-so-delightful appearance at my compound?" He barely kept the edge out of his voice, canting his eyes to stare out the window. The sun was reaching mid-day and he wanted another report on the searching expeditions very soon to see what his teams had come up with in regards to Sarah or Jonas.

"I'm getting to it, sheesh. Don't rush a man when he's enjoying his first real drink in six years. Besides, I'm showin' you how it feels when the shoe is on the other foot. Sucks when you don't have all the facts or control, huh? Next time, keep everyone in the loop, so I don't have one of your mortal hound dogs breathing down my neck until your little secretary can deem my business urgent enough to wake you." Hoggle gruffly replied, earning a growl from Eoin.

"You have five minutes, no more, no less. I do have a compound to run." Eoin replied sharply with a feral smile, pointing a slim pale finger towards the clock against the wall. Hoggle snorted but finally slowed in his greedy imbibing of his whiskey, setting his glass aside.

"Yeah, about that. Something amiss? Your boys and girls out there look half dead and the charts and rotations on the wall look to be serious business. Something I need to be concerned about?" Hoggle strolled across the room, snatching his drink up from the table, and hopped into an empty chair across from Eoin, raising an eyebrow as he noted for the first time how haggard Eoin appeared to be.

"Not at the moment, no. If I think it becomes one, you'll be informed." His tone was frigid and final.

Hoggle stared at him for several minutes, then simply shrugged a shoulder, as if used to this type of response from him and leery to push for more answers. Eoin relaxed, sipping on his own drink, waiting to hear the dwarf speak again.

"Anyways, back to business. Why I'm here...is because Mikpik returned for a few hours and filled us in on his latest scouting expedition to the castle. He had to go back, said something major was underway, but I figured it was too important to wait or send by parchment."

Eoin stilled, staring at Hoggle so sharply the dwarf seemed to shift uncomfortably under his stare. Slowly, he forced himself to smile despite the sensation that ice had suddenly taken root in his veins. Please don't tell me that she has a human captive with dark brown hair…

"The guards were particularly talkative today. They confirmed what we've suspected for years, that she's cultivating the magic reserves back home by abducting and forcing mortals and other creatures with magic potential that reside here against their will. Those that object too vocally or become resistant, she...eats."

Eoin let out a slow breath, one Hoggle couldn't detect, and sipped at his drink once more. Just as I suspected. It was the only way she could have maintained the magic demands of the High Court from what Killdaire claimed and kept the Labyrinth crown, with us stealing all her wishers and runners. His mind briefly flashed back to their sexual encounters and he suddenly bit down the urge to be sick, keeping his voice cool and his expression neutral as his mind also relived the memories wrapped up in the time orbs he kept safely tucked away. "Go on."

Hoggle sighed, tugging off the rep skullcap he always wore, rubbing a hand through the coarse grey hair that rose in wild tufts about his head. "We've saved less than she's taken, so I don't know whether or not to consider that a victory. I don't know how she's been doing it, where she takes them...Mikpik and the others would've seen it if it happened at the castle. Makes me sick, thinking about…" Hoggle shuddered and cleared his throat, shifting slightly in his seat.

"In any event, they picked up on what you've been doing up here, seems. Those kids and others you've rescued and brought here? She knew what you were doing, it being too close to how we operated back in the Labyrinth. So she ordered the guards and her little band of Nokmim bastards to lure you out into the open, hoping to take you down once and for all."

Eoin rubbed a hand across his brow, growing restless. He wanted something from Hoggle that he didn't already know, feeling a headache begin to settle in. How she had found where they were going to strike next, he had no idea.

"Continue…" He all but growled out the last statement, hearing the dwarf's heart lurch faintly in his chest before he continued. He commended the dwarf on his ability to appear outwardly calm and tried to contain his irritation.

"Not sure how you run things up here, seein' as you don't readily volunteer things, but it seems she figured if she attacked the right people in the right places, since she noticed you only abducted those in certain areas of the Aboveground, she knew your base had to be close. Hence the losses you've suffered."

Eoin stiffened, cursing softly under his breath at his own sloppiness. He had stopped surveying the expeditions, taking a more casual role as a trainer over the past few months, and it seemed that his negligence in not personally reviewing each new rescue mission had resulted in what he feared could occur: Neverin discovering his plans and beginning to close in on where he was hiding. It made him even more sick to think that somewhere Sarah and Jonas were suffering for his carelessness, having grown attached in his own way to the two mortals. His dismay must have shown because the dwarf's next words took him by surprise.

"How bad was it?" Hoggle murmured, dragging Eoin's attention away from his inner turmoil. He blinked and looked over at the dwarf and saw a sympathetic look in his eyes. Eoin sighed and drug a hand over his face.

"We lost perhaps twenty, but two of my best are still missing. We don't have much to go on, which is why I sent Mikpik in. I was concerned that she captured them. If she does…"

"Then the cat is out of the bag." Hoggle whistled, his eyes widening. "You going to move your people, just in case?"

"I can't, the portal only opens here and only Jareth can summon the power needed to keep a steady portal open in that blasted maze. The magic there is old and powerful and only responds to it's master, which isn't me, sad to say. I just hope the wards hold." He admitted, bitter and embarrassed at showing how truly exposed they stood to be if Neverin got ahold of either Jonas or Sarah - especially Sarah. He knew she had powers, not all of which he still understood, but he was beginning to suspect that they were tied to the Labyrinth and it's King, and if Neverin was able to get ahold of that much power…

He cast aside the thought before it could finish, rising to refill his glass after he drained it in one smooth motion, needing the movement to distract him from the turmoil in his mind.

"Jareth is missing, too. It seems he was part of the operation, his first foray back into the mortal world outside of wishers. She'd been using him as a Nokmim of sorts, locking him up when he wasn't to be used. He somehow broke the bonds of the magic keeping him under compulsion. We still don't have word of where he is, though. We haven't been cast out of the Labyrinth or forced to sleep, so wherever he is, he's alive and back in control."

Eoin stiffened, whirling around and staring at Hoggle with a gleam of interest. "What did you say?" He barely was able to breathe the words aloud, his own heart speeding up at the proclamation from the dwarf.

Hoggle grinned and raised his glass up, winking at the fae. "Jareth is free."

Eoin refilled his glass clumsily and brought a new bottle with him as he moved back to his seat, his mind reeling at the news. "Thank fuck for that," he finally managed to mutter, taking a large swallow of his whiskey. Dimly, he heard Hoggle laugh in the chair across from him.

It hit him suddenly, making him grin madly, his eyes growing distant as he realized what the absence of both Sarah and Jareth must have meant. The bastard has her, he suddenly concluded. He's protecting her, not yet ready to reveal themselves. Smart.

"Care to clue me in on whatever's rolling around in that head of yours?" Hoggle asked with amusement, refilling his own glass with the bottle Eoin had brought over. He didn't even care that the dwarf overpoured, draining the stock of his favorite whiskey.

Not yet, no. You don't remember her for a reason, he thought. He simply shrugged. "I'm just imaging how pissed she must be, having lost her favorite pet. I only wish I had been there to see it when she learned the news." It wasn't a complete lie. He hated her almost as much - if not more - than he once loved her. Watching her plans fall to pieces would have brought him immense pleasure.

Hoggle laughed again, for once a positively roguish glimmer entering his eyes. "Same here, old friend, same here. Mikpik told me she flew into a literal rage, killing a few of those bastard guards, not that I give a shit. Those fuckers killed some of our people, they deserved what they got."

Eoin smiled, sipping at his drink, his mind returning to focus on the unexpected twist of Jareth and Sarah both missing at the same time. He dared to hope Jonas was among them, too.

Do you love her? You must, considering the lengths in which you've suffered to protect her. Did you grant her the magic or did the maze do that when she beat your game?

He would never admit it aloud, but Jareth was one of the few fae in the Underground that frightened him. He commanded power unparalleled to anyone except perhaps Lucius or Neverin herself. He hoped, whenever the male revealed himself, his past actions for protecting Sarah would spare him from the fae's wrath. He knew that Jareth had seen him on occasion when he would visit Neverin in the Goblin Castle and did not look forward to that reunion. The irony in how he went from Neverin's lover to opposer and protector of the mortal Jareth obviously cherished did not go unnoticed.

Rubbing a hand across his brow, he sighed and sipped at his whiskey. Things could be worse, I suppose. Not where I want them, but far, far worse.

"On another note, your friend...Killdaire, I think his name is? I'm not positive, but I don't dabble with the Thelemic Order. We've got one of his, subdued down in the tunnels under guard. She crept through the Wastelands somehow and almost set off the Labyrinth's alert system that she was about to enter and get her attention. We detained her in the tunnels, away from Neverin's prying eyes, but we're not sure what to do with her."

Eoin paused once again in his musings to look over at the dwarf, his eyebrows raising in surprise. You've received my warnings not to engage, Killdaire. That was foolish. Thankfully for you, this dwarf caught onto your little ploy before it could get back to you. He sighed and made a quick decision. "Keep her there, don't tell her anything. I would like to talk to her personally before we decide if we can trust her. Killdaire is a supporter in the capital of Neverin's removal but we needed more evidence before we could challenge her and then...well, we know what she's capable of now. I'll warn him to not send anymore surprises your way. What's the girl's name?"

Hoggle nodded, seemingly having made the same decision, just wanting Eoin's approval. "Sorcha."

Eoin thought back and pictured a tall, thin, dark-haired fae in his mind that hovered around Killdaire's estate on the Order Grounds. He nodded, pleased at least that Killdaire had chosen one of his better spies, even if she wasn't close to his level of prestige. "I'll make an attempt to come this evening, after I've reviewed a few reports for my missing people. Please have Mikpik pass along anything he learns. Even the smallest thing could have importance."

"Can I state the obvious here?" Hoggle asked, his voice suddenly growing impatient. Eoin glanced back over at him with a frown. Hoggle gestured widely around the room, an annoyed look on his face that he even had to bring it up to begin with. "We've both lost people. Jareth is free and I'm still here, which means Neverin doesn't have the power of the Labyrinth. Why are we not taking her down?"

"Because she still has the support of the High King and the ruling class at large." He frowned, tipping his head to the side as he narrowed his eyes. "And, yes, she didn't succeed in getting hold of the Labyrinth power, but...the question I keep asking myself is...why?"

"Why?" Hoggle blinked, echoing back his question, arching an eyebrow with annoyance, not getting whatever Eoin was hinting at.

Eoin nodded, frowning and sipping at his drink. "Why go to all this trouble to hide herself, insinuate herself into our courts and our King's bed, only to lose now? Why did she need the power of the Labyrinth so badly to begin with?" He tapped a finger to his lips and sighed. "That's what's driving me crazy. All my trails are cold, too. I have no answers but I know something else is at play here. Neverin is old, powerful, and a hell of a lot smarter than we've giving her credit for. If she just wanted to kill people, she'd do that. She could probably take out half the High Court before anyone would take notice and summon an army. But instead, she went after the Labyrinth magic in secret. The Labyrinth is one of the few magics left in the Underground that's just as strong, if not stronger, than she is. Hell, it's so old that we can't even date it and what's even eerier is there's no mention of it in historic documents, not a single one. How is that even possible? What does that mean? Only Jareth knows it's true potential as it's steward and I get the sensation that even he doesn't fully understand it yet. So the question we should be asking ourselves is why does she need all that power?"

"Because she's a crazy, power hungry bitch?" Hoggle grumbled, sipping at his drink, but his anger seemed to be slowly replaced with trepidation with what Eoin was saying.

"I don't think that's it," Eoin replied softly, and by the concerned look in Hoggle's gaze, he was beginning to realize it, too. "This is precisely why I urged Killdaire not to move on her. Killdaire has a seat at the High Council and immediately knew she was a problem. He came to me with a job once and I took it and...learned what she was, what she truly was. It scared the absolute piss out of me." Eoin said, scrubbing a hand through his pale white locks. Perhaps it was the drink, perhaps it was how dire the situation had become, because he suddenly didn't care that Hoggle knew what he had been searching for these past six years.

"I have proof enough to expel her from the courts but I want to know why she's doing all this. What's her goal, her motive? With her where she is, at least I can keep an eye on her. If we remove her now, she'll ghost us, I'm sure of it. I need to be able to see what she's doing. I think...I think Neverin isn't the thing we have to fear most, and that scares me more than anything."

Silence permeated the room with Eoin's last statement. He smiled wanly, feeling a weight lifting from his shoulders, and took a sip of his drink.

"Fuck," was all Hoggle said in response after staring at the fae in growing horror for several minutes. "Fuck, fuck….FUCK."

Eoin smiled sadly. And there it is. Glad I am not the only one getting the bigger picture now.

"So what now?" Hoggle asked tiredly.

Eoin sighed. "We wait, we play the game, and we pray we can outwit her with whatever else she has planned next."

Hoggle nodded and rose, draining his glass and suddenly looking all his advanced years. He eyed the dregs of the bottle longingly and Eoin smiled, amused, and gestured to it, taking pity on the dwarf for all the information he unloaded on the male. He had done a remarkable job of keeping the resistance alive in the Labyrinth and in no small manner had helped Eoin in ways he would never know. "Take it. I will get another."

Hoggle grinned and snagged the bottle. "When you say it like that…." He snickered and cradled the booze to his chest, tipping his head in thanks. "Appreciate the supplies, by the way. I'll be back when I have more news."

Eoin nodded, watching the dwarf depart, just as Sean rounded the corner. The dwarf must have said something offensive because the man stiffened then glared and made a crude gesture towards the dwarf before walking into Eoin's suite. Eoin forced himself to stifle the small bit of laughter that wanted to burst out of his chest.

"Sir, you got a minute to cover the latest reports?"

Eoin nodded towards him, gesturing for Sean to join him where Hoggle was just seated. "Yes, come in. Let's begin."


 

Underground, The Castle Beyond the Goblin City, The Labyrinth

The sound of the door slamming shattered the silence of the bedroom that Neverin had claimed as her own since becoming the Goblin Queen in the eyes of the High Court. Snarling, she ripped the cheap metal ornament off her head that served as her crown and threw it across the room, drawing some satisfaction as she watched it shatter into a million fragments against the crude stone walls beside an oblong silver-etched mirror hanging from the rafters. It no longer served its purpose, only used as a tactic to crumble the Goblin King's pride.

She shook with the force of her fury, her fingers still dripping and red from where she had just killed a few of the guards in the room down the hall. Closing her eyes and relishing the sound of their screams once more in her head, she reached down and ripped the flimsy fabric of her bodice, blood smearing across her breasts as she shredded the gossamer fabric into thin filaments of wasted material that fluttered loosely around her hips. She blinked, looking down at the mess, bringing a hand up and inspecting the bloodied evidence of her earlier outburst.

Shuddering, she brought one finger to her lips and licked, the coppery tang of the guard's blood once more bringing back the memories of his death. It had been long, slow, and arduous and the way in which he died had satisfied that darkness inside her. Still, she wanted more - more than what the few guards could offer her, more than what her soul demanded from this world, briefly wondering if the sensation would ever go away or she'd simply drown under the sheer force of her need one day. Furiously, she whispered to herself as she moved from finger to finger, eagerly lapping up the blood from her latest kill. "I will paint this world red in my vengeance. I will burn it to ash and sunder it so deeply, no one will remember what it was like before me. I will…"

Snarling, she reached up as she caught her reflection, disgusted with the fae beauty staring back at her from the mirror, harshly dragging her nails through the perfect pale golden hair atop her head. "I hate your kind, I hate this face, I hate…"

Something is bothering you, my love.

Neverin turned, her eyes whirling around the room at the sound of that voice in her head. She paused in the destruction of her perfectly coiffed hair, her nails catching one of her cheeks and drawing a long sharp line across her jaw in the process, searching for that perfect voice when the room grew quiet. No….NO! Come back!

Blood welled, but she ignored it, afraid to even breathe. It had been so long since she heard his voice and she nearly wept, or as close to it that she could ever be capable of, as she listened in the painful quiet, ignoring the beating of her own heart.

Yes, my darling, it's me. The barrier is weak today, perhaps with the King Aboveground. Talk to me, I've missed you.

She whirled again, seeing the mirror that hung by her bedside, the one she used to watch herself take the Goblin King and use his body against him, swirl faintly with darkness along its edges. The silver-backed reflection rippled and she stumbled forward, lovingly drawing a nail across the surface, the sound screeching loudly in the stillness of the room. "Is it really you?" She whispered, her eyes briefly pulsing red, trying to decipher the magic at play.

Yes…

She saw it then, the truth of the words echoing in her head, knowing it really was him she was speaking to, her face growing gaunt, pale and wane in excitement as her eyes glowed even brighter than before. Her nails sharpened and she smiled, her mouth no longer beautiful but full of jagged white fangs. "I've missed you, too, so much…"

Ah, there you are, peaking out from that horrid skin you wear. An interesting choice for you, sweetling.

Neverin stared at the swirling silver darkness, her face contorting as the skin she wore twisted grotesquely, hinting at what her natural self appeared like underneath. She smiled, shuddering with pleasure at the painful cold bite of the glass as the mirror poured outward and caressed her body like a waterfall of liquid mercury, defying physics as it wrapped around her. She shuddered, a sob escaping her throat as she felt the shadow of him for the first time in eons. She smiled at his words as she closed her eyes, letting him caress her as cruelly as he liked. "It's horrific, isn't it? I've had this one for a few centuries. Fae have fickle tastes on what beauty means."

Even more reason to rid the world of them. Wherever did you find such a thing? Tell me. I always loved your stories.

Neverin groaned at the pain as the mirror rippled and formed into the shape of a silver-etched faceless male, unable to fully detach from the mirror that held it bound but able to touch her all the same. She leaned back as it finished the job she had started, tearing at her clothes, then dragging her up it's form and thrusting a cold, hard glass hand up into her sex, no doubt drawing blood in the process with the sharp edges that sliced at her skin. She didn't care, he was touching her for the first time in eons and it felt wonderful.

"She was a young lord's daughter, out gathering flowers... " She started, parting her legs when the mirror took the form of an excited male, replacing its hand with the cold hard presence of its arousal. It burned as it moved inside her and she relished every moment, feeling the body of the fae skin she wore suffering under it's ministrations. She would repair it later, with another guard's lifeforce. For now, she offered herself completely to the only male she ever submitted to, her mate. Trapped as he was, she still shuddered at the presence of his power, still strong even with the barrier of his prison dimension separating them, the darkness warming her even as it tried to destroy her. "She was so innocent, so deliciously naive, she cried when I took her soul and even more when I took her face."

The mirror form fucked her hard, making her groan with the only true pleasure she'd felt in centuries, the pleasure-pain exquisite and utterly perfect - death and rebirth, destruction and creation, all occuring at once, enough to drive others mad, but for her, it was everything. Only he understood her, only he balanced her, and when the fae High Kings of eons ago banished him - stole him from her - she knew she would not rest until the world burned for what they did.

"When I consumed her…" She hissed, beginning to scream from the shadowy sensation of that pleasure-pain she remembered so well from eons ago, "She actually popped like an overripe fruit in my mouth….it was...oh, if you'd only been there, my love…"

Her nails elongated further, turning black at the tips as the fae skin snapped under the pressure of her true nature wanting to be let free, the loud noises of her claws scratching through the surface of the nameless, faceless male that rode her. She climaxed just as the mirror male did, feeling the surge of dark power blanket her, spattering her as thoroughly as his seed would have if he could stand beside her now, if the barrier holding him prisoner wasn't between them.

Suddenly, the door opened and she snarled, launching herself in fury at whomever dare interrupt her in the first time she'd been able to speak to her mate in centuries. The guard didn't even have a chance to scream as she ripped his throat open and feasted on his warm blood, shuddering in revulsion as the fae skin she wore slowly repaired itself and molded it back to that perfect lovely face from before.

The memories of the fae played through her head as she swallowed his essence whole, her red eyes pulsing, then turning back to that perfect glacier blue.

"What do we have here?" She purred, tilting her head to the side and turning sharply, praying he was still there. He wasn't and she temporarily forgot her victory, stepping forward with a sob as she banged her hands against the glass of the mirror, now perfectly settled as before.

"No! NO!" She screamed, falling to her knees. "You can't leave! Not yet! Not yet!"

The mirror did nothing in response. She reached out with every ounce of her power, hoping to feel even the slightest flicker of his presence, but there was nothing. Pulling herself to her feet, her eyes reflecting back at her with unspent icy rage, she mulled over the guard's memories once more.

A human, a male, had been captured, and awaited her in the dungeon. Her eyes sharpened as she ran over his appearance from the guard's memories, recognizing trademarks from what her team had seen earlier. A slow smile curled at her lips as she realized what that meant. I have one of Eoin's pets….how….wonderful.

Taking one last look in the mirror, she recoiled briefly as she felt the Labyrinth magic shift in the room, crackling faintly in the air around her. She struggled to catch her breath for a moment, but used her own considerable power to ward off further attack. She knew when Jareth broke those bonds, there would be a price to pay. She just hadn't expected it to be so soon.

Quickly casting a robe over her nakedness and flicking her fingers towards the body of the dead guard, erasing him to dust that floated away like sand on the wind, she called out for another guard as she repaired the claw on her cheek and set about redoing her hair in the mirror.

"Y-Yes, My Lady?" The fae that appeared tentatively murmured as the door swung open, ducking his head to the room.

She paused in her repair of her hair to smile at the familiar face as she looked at the male fae that stared back at her, fear clouding his eyes. "Cathal, how wonderful. I haven't seen you about in a while. Your duties keeping you away from me?" She purred, inwardly enjoying his discomfort.

"Yes, My Lady. Business at the capital. You requested me?"

'I did." She nodded, returning to stare at her reflection as she worked on her hair. She pointed at a vase of hair pins across the room. "Bring that to me, would you? I tell you, this hair is a monster..."

Cathal swallowed but did as she asked, walking into the room and grabbing the vase of hair pins, bringing it and setting it beside her on the vanity near the mirror. She smiled, ignoring him for a moment as she worked, turning the knotted mass into the perfectly coiffed updo from before. "There, much better. Now, where were we…"

Cathal shifted nervously on his feet, looking around the room. She noted that no matter how uncomfortable he was in her presence, he was attracted to her, staring far too long at her breasts to be otherwise. She smiled, filing that tidbit away for later.

"Oh, yes. Please gather up all my belongings and staff loyal to me and return them to my estate in Annwen. Jareth broke free of his bonds, killing several of the guards, and has gone rogue. I fear for everyone's safety and would like them moved immediately. I'm aware there's a man from earlier in the dungeon as well? Move him to my estate grounds too, please. We have our own crypts there where he can be stored."

Cathal's eyes went wide, his face paling, as he listened to her practiced speech. She knew he would gobble up every word, having made a show of demonstrating his hostility towards her and all the guards that served her over the years. They feared her, but they were terrified of him, and it served her purpose well for the next phase of her plan. She was bitter that she would have to proceed without the Labyrinth magic at her disposal, but little could be done now to remedy that. Briefly, she raged at Jareth's ability to resist her, no matter how hard she rode him or tortured him. If she could have killed him to take his power, she would have. But she knew the risks if she did and at the time, it didn't seem wise. Now, she regretted that choice, but she would not be stopped now, not when she was so close to achieving her goal. In any event, she had the High King and the courts enough in her favor that if she played this right, it wouldn't matter in the end.

"That's...that's impossible! That's horrible! We need to warn the High King at once! If he returns and gains control of the Labyrinth, he…"

"Shhh," she purred again, rising and pressing a hand against Cathal's mouth. He swallowed, wary of her closeness, but she sensed his arousal underneath his fear. It clung to her mouth like the cloyingly-sweet taste of overripe fruit and almost made her gag. "I will warn him myself. That is where I am heading now. Hurry, make sure the others follow my orders."

"And the rest?" Cathal asked, hinting at the denizens of the Labyrinth and the other workers of the castle.

"Leave them," she responded with a silver of coldness, a ghost of a smile tugging at her lips. Let them suffer under his wrath or die of starvation before he gets the gall to try and return.

"Yes, My Lady." Cathal bowed and hurriedly left the room. Neverin looked over herself once more in the mirror, quickly discarding the robe and running her hands over her body, drawing a silver sleeveless gown dripping with raw jewels from dangling strings out of the air around her.

The Labyrinth magic roared once more, causing her to stumble as she slipped on her heels. She smiled prettily into the mirror, caressing the surface once more, before closing her eyes and willing it and herself out of the Labyrinth.

Good luck, you pathetic cretins. I hope your Master returns before you starve, only so I can watch as the High King's forces burn your maze to the ground when war is declared.


 

Up in the rafters, Mikpik sat in a puddle of his own piss, terrified and afraid to move. He whimpered, truly panic-stricken at all that he had just witnessed. She...is the end of all things if we don't stop her. What the hells was that thing? It was more frightening than anything I've ever felt.

Slowly, he crawled back towards the exit, resolved to try and share what he had discovered with Master Hoggle.


 

Underground, The Labyrinth Hidden Tunnels

Hoggle stepped through the portal, his whiskey bottle in hand, scrubbing a hand over his face as he felt the past six years of struggle crash through him all at once. He had survived the past six years just living day to day, existing insteading of thriving, surviving instead of living.

"Hope all this pain was worth it in the end," he muttered under his breath, moving to where his tent was amongst the other leaders of the resistance. He scowled as he spotted Sorcha talking animatedly with Didymus, Ludo and the Wiseman near the campfire where they debated the state of the tunnels and the next move against Neverin.

"What the hell is this?" He all but shouted as he stalked up to them, gesturing with outrage at where the spy of Grand Master Killdaire sat, sharing a cup of tea with his co-leaders. "Why is she out of her cuffs?"

Why does nobody listen to me? Eoin is going to kill me when he hears of this.

"Master Hoggle! Welcome back!" Didymus cried, shooting to his feet with a wince, a grin trying to tug into place, but the guilt on his face ruined the expression. "Well, you see, we began talking with the lady here and she told us.."

"I told him I have an arsenal of magic wielders, soldiers, supplies, and anything else you need to take back the Labyrinth. I know it would mean outright war, and Killdaire's contact advises against it, but we believe it's the best course of action. If we band together, perhaps the other members of the High Council and their territories will join us in support of moving to put Jareth back on the council and remove Neverin from power." Sorcha cut off the fox, slowly rising to her feet, raising an eyebrow in challenge at the dwarf.

Hoggle narrowed his eyes at her. "Pardon me if I'm a little skeptical, given you're just now volunteering this information. Why not say anything earlier?"

"Because your hospitality sucks? Because I wanted a look at your people and the state of your supposed resistance before I offered my leige's support? Should I go on?" She snapped back, her hands on her hips.

Hoggle rolled his eyes. "If you're fishing for an apology, going to give you the same answer I gave Eoin - ain't gonna happen. We've had it rough down here while the rest of you in the Underground played it safe and sat on your collective asses while we're paying for her rule in our blood. Got that, princess?"

Sorcha frowned and Didymus quickly moved to apologize for Hoggle's terse words to fill the sudden silence that descended in the cave, but she held up a hand to silence the fox. She simply stared at him and something seemed to soften in her eyes. "Understood. We deserved that, I suppose. The offer still stands, if you'll accept it."

Hoggle frowned, rubbing a hand across his brow. "I'm not making any decisions without Eoin present. He's supposed to be by later. I take it you'll be staying for that meeting?"

He slid a gaze towards Didymus, who looked sheepish. The woman simply smiled and nodded. "I've no intention of leaving. My master wanted to offer aide, so here I am until you decide you've no use for me."

Hoggle nodded, feeling fatigue roll over him like a cloud. "Very well. Help yourself to food, seeing that my co-leaders already made you tea…" Once more he scowled faintly at Didymus, more for not waiting to run it by him before unshackling her than truly being angry she was free to roam the tunnels. "I need sleep, bad. Been a hell of a day. If you'll excuse me…"

He started to move towards his tent when a commotion by the entrance made him groan once more and roll his eyes. "What now?"

"Hoggle! MASTER HOGGLE! Where is Master Hoggle? I need to speak to him AT ONCE! PLEASE, FIND HIM! Hurry!"

The terrified shrieks were coming from Mikpik and Hoggle blinked, instantly shrugging off his fatigue as he turned and sprinted towards the area the goblin was in. Mikpik began sobbing when he caught sight of Hoggle, seeing the others running towards him as well - Sorcha, Didymus, Ludo and the Wise Man trailing behind Hoggle.

"Mikpik? Calm down, what's wrong? I can't understand you when you're in hysterics, what -"

Mikpik didn't hear his soft words of reassurance and something twisted in Hoggle's gut, setting off an internal alarm in his head. Mikpik's eyes were wild as he launched himself at the dwarf, screaming into his face.

"She has him! She was talking to this...thing...from a place I will never forget...she has him! Oh gods, the things she will do to him, we have to warn them!"

Hoggle blinked, trying to make sense of the words, shaking his head slowly. "Has WHO?"

"Neverin! She has one of Eoin's scouts!"

Hoggle's eyes widened in horror. Oh, gods…

He whirled, shoving Mikpik off him, barking orders for one of the magic wielders to help Mikpik block out the worst of what he saw. He ran, as fast as his limbs could carry him, towards the portal in the back of the cave.

"Hoggle! Where are you going?" Didymus shouted, looking to Sorcha with a frown.

Hoggle jabbed a finger at Sorcha as he sprinted. "Go get your friends, right now. I've got to warn them!" The others blinked, then scrambled to action, as he dived through the mirror, hoping he wasn't too late to warn Eoin of Neverin's wrath.

If she found that place, no one would survive.

Chapter Text

"Having a soft heart in a cruel world is courage, not weakness." — Katherine Henson

 


 

Aboveground, Somewhere near Döbling, Austria

"I don't care about the Eoin you knew," Sarah interrupted Jareth's tirade, doing her best to keep her tone even, backing up a few steps after she heard about who Eoin was - or, to her, had been. She knew Eoin wasn't innocent, he had said as much about his past but had never given her any specifics, not that she had asked for them. She had encountered enough fae in her life thus far to have a general idea of how ruthless he once was. She was aware of his previous occupation as a Nokmim, but knew he regretted his actions, and had shown her over the past six years that he was trying to change, to be something better than what he once was. Given her own sordid history, that attempt at making up for the mistakes of his past called to something inside her, still having never forgiven herself for making that wish all those years ago.

The look of outrage on Jareth's face made her internally wince, but she kept her facial features clear, her voice strong, as she raised a hand like a peace offering when he surged towards her. "I'm not doubting what you say is true, but the Eoin I know has never given me reason to doubt his intentions. You can't fake that, Jareth."

"You're defending him?" He growled, stalking forward, catching her by the wrists. His grip was strong but not painful as he shook her, his rage apparent at her lack of concern for what he just told her about the fae she had come to trust over the years. Despite his anger, she knew it was more directed at hearing the company she had kept rather than her directly.

"No, I'm saying that we all have pasts, Jareth. Even you. Are you telling me you've never once done something you regretted? Something you were ashamed of? Something that, no matter how much you tried, you couldn't erase or make amends for?" She watched as he stilled, his rage cooling as he stared at her as his face shifted at her words, his eyes narrowing.

"Who are we talking about now, Sarah? Eoin or you?" He asked softly, tipping his head to the side. That hit a little too close to home for her, making her wince and shift uncomfortably under his gaze. Recognition seemed to flare behind his eyes and, unless she was mistaken, a little bit of remorse. She didn't look too hard to confirm, however, dragging her gaze away from his face.

She shrugged out of his grip and he released her as she looked to the floor, sighing at the shards of glass scattered across the tile. Kneeling to pick up the biggest ones, she quietly asked for a broom in the sudden silence that had descended between them, uncomfortable where the conversation had turned.

He stood there, glowering, but eventually moved and did as she asked, heading to a closet and pulling out a broom and dust pan. It briefly occurred to her as he handed her the items that he could easily magic the glass away but she was relieved he was allowing her this small measure of distraction while they talked. She knew that the conversation was far from over, waiting for the next question she knew was coming.

"What has he told you about his past? Did you even bother to ask?" He said bitterly from behind her, after a few terse seconds ticked by, while she took her time sweeping up the glass.

She shook her head. "No, but then again, I never asked." She looked over at him, seeing the stormy look on his face, then went back to cleaning. "So tell me," She said after a minute, sensing something dark and slightly anguished struggling to escape under his rough expression.

"He was her lover," Jareth started, gritting his teeth, as she worked. She felt the house briefly tremble, her eyes raising to look around the room, watching the pictures on the wall gently rattle from the hints at his power, contained for now but desperate to escape the leash he held on to. Glancing back over at him, she frowned. He held himself rigidly in control, but she could see the effort it cost him to remain that way.

"The woman who enslaved me...Neverin, the new Goblin Queen crowned in my stead after the courts stripped me of my title and the High King's mistress. He was her lover. He knew what she had done to me, or…" He frowned, turning his gaze away from her probing one and looking out the window. "...he heard the rumors, at least. Either way, he was aware of my...situation. And he did nothing. He supported that…"

Once more, the house trembled under his rage and the windows briefly flexed as she deposited the glass shards in the trash. As the windows rattled, she looked over at him, seeing him with his eyes closed, his face contorted in rage and his arms banded tightly around himself. Whatever he was remembering was brutal and cut deep. Hurrying over and cupping his shoulders, she tried to dig him out of whatever memory he was caught in.

"Jareth…" She spoke gently, shaking him softly.

He didn't respond, the rumble in the room growing louder. ".Jareth."

Speaking his name firmly seemed to settle him as he opened his eyes, glancing at her, the noise in the cabin suddenly ceasing. It unnerved her, the amount of power he held, but she knew instinctively he wouldn't harm her. He had proven that much to her over the past day. "When...did all this happen?" She asked gently.

"Six years, give or take a few months." His tone was clipped, cold, and remote - a protective measure. For her? For him? She didn't know.

She briefly thought back on her past with Eoin, tipping her head to the side. She didn't release his shoulders as she thought through her history with the former Nokmim, and felt his arms reach out and tug her close. He seemed to relax with her against him, but she was too distracted in her thoughts to respond as he nuzzled her shoulder with his cheek, inhaling her scent.

"And that's the last you saw of him?" She frowned, the timeline in her mind syncing up. He pulled back, nodding with a frown, watching as she processed this.

"I met him about five and a half years ago, in the summer...in New York. It was a few months after the attack at the museum. I had been living on the streets, and two Nokmim found me. I was sure I was toast…" She shuddered, reliving that moment when she had been running with Jonas, feeling despair that she hadn't been harsher in her demands he leave her, or ever having gotten to know him to begin with. "That's when we first met. He saved me from them and that's when our relationship started."

Jareth tensed underneath her grip on his shoulders and a snarl tore from him at her words, but she gave him an amused glare. "Not that kind of relationship, you moron. He offered me protection. I don't know why...still don't, not for the first few weeks we knew each other, at least. Pity, maybe? Curiosity? In any event, I went with him, but only if he promised to teach me."

"Teach you what, precious?" Jareth murmured, his hands resting on her hips.

She smiled faintly, looking him squarely in the eye. "How to fight. How to survive."

Jareth stilled, seemingly to process this as his eyes briefly flicked to her shoulders, where the scars that marred her skin had been. She knew what he was thinking and shrugged faintly. "Not all of the lessons stuck or worked. I'm human, as he liked to remind me every single day we trained. But I'm still here, and still mostly in one piece, thanks to him."

Jareth snarled again, his gaze jerking up to clash with her own, still furious at her seemingly blind acceptance of Eoin's dark past. She shrugged, refusing to apologize. "You said you stopped seeing him around the castle. Perhaps that's when he offered to help me. There was one night, after several weeks of training, that he asked me for help. I'd never seen him so disturbed." She frowned, tipping her head to the side again, as she recanted that memory from Untersberg. "He said something dark was coming, something awful, and he needed my help to fix it. Perhaps this dark thing he was talking about was the same woman you mentioned. Is she...that bad?"

She stilled, waiting for his answer. She wasn't sure she wanted to know it but for some reason, she had to.

"Worse," he murmured, confirming her fears, catching her gaze as she looked back at him. He seemed closed off, bitter, but he didn't push her away. He clearly didn't like her defending Eoin, but she had no illusions on who or what the former Nokmim was and had witnessed all the good he had done with the sanctuary over the years. She had her own regrets, her own past, so how could she not look past his?

"Just, promise me, precious...that you will be wary about him. I know you say you trust him, but fae don't change that easily. If you were hurt, I…" His voice was soft, trailing off before he could finish his sentence, the tone sounding broken and worried. Despite him not finishing his words, the thunderous expression on his face spoke volumes for what he might do if she was hurt. "Will you trust me?"

Will you trust me?

Simple words, but with heavy consequences. She stared at the man she'd both hated and obsessed over the past six years of her life, since returning from his Labyrinth. Swallowing, she weighed his words as he stared back, the air heavy with the importance of the moment. Should she trust him? Did she have reason not to? From what he had said, she didn't. But she had spent the last six years of her life wary and jaded towards most of his kind for a reason - it had kept her alive. By the iciness that settled around his eyes as the seconds passed that she didn't respond, she saw him ready to accept that she didn't want to, not yet, but then she heard herself speaking before she thought better of it.

"I trust you," she whispered. "I trust you, Jareth."

He stilled, his hands clenching at her hips, as the iciness around his expression thawed. He didn't smile, but she saw his features subtly soften and felt the stiff quiet fury in the air around them ease. She had trusted Eoin, so why not Jareth? She squeezed his shoulders, making sure she had his full attention as she leaned in. "I do, Jareth. I trust you."

How did give him a chance translate from 'dipping your toes in and testing the waters' to 'take a flying leap in the deep end of the pool?' Her mind taunted at her, but she took it in stride. It was true, all of it, and maybe other things she wasn't quite comfortable admitting yet.

"I'm glad to hear it," he murmured, his gaze dropping to her mouth.

His lips kicked up in that lupine grin she associated with him as he stared at her, and she felt her insides warm at the look he was giving her. She found herself tentatively smiling back, both annoyed at his arrogance and relieved that he seemed back to his normal self.

Thinking back to the woman she now had a name to associate with - Neverin, the infamous new Goblin Queen - she frowned, a little surprised she hadn't heard the name before. In the back of her mind, a blonde woman in red smiled cruelly back at her in the shadows of her memories. Was that her? What that the woman everyone feared? She recanted all the memories she had taken from other fae over the years and that face came back with several. She shuddered, having a suspicion this woman was who he was talking about.

"Who is Neverin?" She asked softly, glancing back at him as the memories faded. "Is she really the Goblin Queen? But how's that possible when you're….well….you."

Jareth tensed again, the heat in his eyes gone, his expression cold once more, but not towards her. The house shuddered, and she stroked his shoulders gently, hearing the faint groaning noises of the cabin settling once more. "She is, at least in the eyes of the court. Don't fret over her, precious. She is someone you will never meet."

She frowned, making sure to hold his gaze. " 'In the eyes of the court?' " She didn't understand what he meant.

"When I was stripped of my title in the eyes of the Underground elite, she was named in my place. Make no mistake, no matter what is said, I hold the Labyrinth's power. It's not something you can give or bestow on someone. It's...earned. She didn't earn it, so despite whatever title she thinks she has, the maze is mine. It answers only to me."

His tone was deadly, and she swallowed. Still, she had a feeling this woman was significant. "Regardless, she's got the title, right? She…."

Her mind replayed snippets from the last fae hunter she stole memories from, sucking in a sharp breath. She's the one who set the trap. Jareth stilled again, his hands tensing at her hips, knowing she had realized something, but she continued. "You said yourself, she's a bad person. Eoin must have known, too. Why else abandon his affair with her? What is it about her you…" She trailed off, realization dawning, as her expression shifted towards horrified awareness. "Oh, god. She did that to you, didn't she? Your neck, the torturing, the...raping…so she could control you...she...raped you..."

She almost gagged on the last words, watching his face harden, his eyes growing dark, as he tilted his head to the side and dropped his hands from her hips. He looked to be made of stone in that moment, refusing to look at her, to acknowledge what she had just said. On instinct, she felt for that odd tether between them, finding it in the space between worlds, gently tapping on it to feel what he wouldn't tell her.

He jerked under her grip and his head snapped back towards hers with a snarl as she moaned faintly, sagging against him, most likely feeling the connection she had made. She knew he was mad, able to feel his rage keenly for seeking answers to what he couldn't say aloud just yet, and she tried to reassure him she was sorry and held no judgement towards him, but the magnitude of emotions that swept over her had her humbled beyond words, unable to speak.

Oh, Jareth…

Despair, so heavy she was drowning in it, hit her. Rage, the kind that could burn worlds, shook through her. Disgust and revulsion, knowing that no matter how much it was unwanted, it had happened, speared through her. Fear, for her thinking him the villain but hoping she was free, afraid to give into what he knew he felt for her, what he recognized the moment she turned him away for her brother. Love, for what he had sacrificed for her...

A soft sob escaped her at that last snippet of emotion, making her eyes widen in shock, but before she could focus on it, she felt more wash over her with a crash, sweeping her away in their intensity.

Powerlessness, for what happened to him, for what happened to his kingdom and his charges, unable to stop it, just able to watch, as it went on for what seemed like forever. Vengeance, against those that had wronged him and those that had allowed it to happen; coating every thought, every action, until she thought she might suffocate from it if she was denied it.

My god, Jareth...I'm so sorry...what you went through, I...

Suddenly, the emotions were interrupted as the house shook once more with his outrage.

"How dare you!" She heard him roar dimly over the assault of those tidal waves of emotions, shoving her away, as tears spilled past her lids. She blinked, coming back to the moment, her eyes wide as she covered her mouth with a shaking hand.

"That is my pain to deal with, not yours!" He shouted, his eyes glowing with animosity. "Stay out of my fucking head!"

She felt that connection between them splinter and slacken and she watched as he turned away, panting raggedly, the house once more trembling with his effort to contain his magic. Suddenly, he slashed his hand out, punching his fist through the wall that separated the kitchen from the living room, shards of wood flying. She jumped, startled, looking at him as he did it again, then again - and again - no doubt spiraling into an endless downward cycle on those emotions she felt.

You were so alone, all those years, feeling those things, thinking I hated you, thinking you were trapped...

"Jareth, please stop…" She struggled to ask, her voice sounding strained to even her own ears. She looked around, feeling the cabin shudder, then wrapped her arms around his waist and squeezed her eyes shut, pressing her cheek to the tense wall of his back, not knowing what else to do. "Please, Jareth. The house can't take it. I'm….sorry...sorry...so very sorry…"

Slowly, he seemed to sag as she gripped him, panting faintly with the effort it took to control himself, but the cabin ceased to tremble and groan, quiet once more descending in the room. He shuddered, then turned, pulling her roughly to him, letting him kiss her brow and stroke his arms over her back and shoulders, down her hips, across the back of her thighs. She quietly cried for him, at what he had felt and what he had no doubt endured, since she left. It sobered her, making her realize how much he'd given up for her.

"I'm sorry too, precious. I…" He seemed to struggle with what to say. "I trust no one. Less than no one. I never trust, ever. But...I trust you. I know you didn't mean anything when you probed, I just…" He trailed off for a moment, sucking in a sharp breath, kissing the top of her head. "Let me deal with that, alright? Please? There are things even you don't need to see. Things that I can't even look at yet myself."

"I know," she whispered, remorseful for peeking into his thoughts, feeling like she had invaded his personal space. Still, she wanted him to know she was there for him, if he needed it. "You don't have to deal with it alone, Jareth, when so much of it is because of me." She whispered, another sob catching in her throat. She thought of her family, of Jonas, then of Jareth - all these lives destroyed because of her. "I ruin everything. Everything…"

"You do not," he murmured, reaching up and pressing a hand to her cheek. "This is not your fault, Sarah. You earned your victory."

She smiled faintly, his words reminding her of what Jonas had said when she recanted her history to him.

"I used to go down to an internet cafe, once or twice a year, just outside of Vienna, to...see them." She whispered softly, her voice cracking. He didn't ask who she meant, most likely already knowing who she referred to. "I'd download the pictures I could find off my dad's page, since he...ran that site for me. It's still there, all these years later. He never gave up looking for me…still updates it every month, even when the police tell him…."

Emotion clogged her voice and her eyes stung once more as despair and remorse washed through her, unable to finish what she was saying. She choked on a sob and he soothed her, sensing how raw and shattered she felt in that moment.

She reached out again, tugging on that tether, allowing him to see into her, showing him all her ugly vulnerabilities, since she'd taken his from him without permission. He stiffened, grunting in surprise, but held her close as she squeezed her eyes shut and let it pour over the connection.

I never got to say goodbye to them, never got to tell them how much I loved them. I deserved being attacked, for having the gall to wish my brother away. Who the fuck does that? What kind of sick, twisted person wishes their brother away to a horde of monsters? Another monster, Jareth,  another monster  does that. I deserve everything that's happened to me. I should have died in that museum, or the alleyway, or when you attacked me. I've hurt so many people, I've lost count. I can barely look at myself in the mirror some days.

"Sarah, precious...please don't do this to yourself," he murmured gently, cradling her close. She trembled, keeping the noises escaping from her throat soft as she quietly sobbed, tears pouring over her cheeks.

"Why not? It's true," she weakly whispered, despair in her voice. He growled, the sound a soft form of protest, as he stroked her hair.

"It is not true," he murmured back, the connection still strong between them. She felt it then, a small pulse back towards her, one filled with lust and adoration and lo -

She recoiled, backing up sharply and shoving away from him, the connection once more slackening, separating. No, don't feel that way about me, don't do that. I don't deserve that.

He leaned back against the wall, meeting her gaze with his steady one, an unvoiced tension between the two of them. He seemed to understand she wasn't ready to feel what he'd been trying to give her and just stared back, and she wondered if she made a mistake letting him inside her head.

Had she sent a sliver of that same emotion back at him, along with her issues of self-worth? Did he know how she felt about him? The dreams she had about him? The idea of it made her slightly sick. He said they'd talk about how they could sense each other's emotions later, but...what could he sense from her when they were connected like that?

Forcing her line of thoughts back to the situation at hand, she licked her lips to wipe away the sudden dryness, clearing her throat and wiping at her cheeks. "We have to go back."

He frowned, watching her. "Go back where?"

"Where I've been hiding. Where I've been staying. Where you attacked me." She replied, shifting on her feet and running a hand through her hair, emotionally exhausted. She turned, biting on the inside of her cheek, Jonas flashing in her mind's eye. She winced, feeling shame at forgetting him once more while dealing with the ramifications for what Jareth and she had shared. "When you attacked me...there was someone there with me. A man, about my age, that I stopped you from killing. His name is Jonas."

Jareth stilled, his eyes narrowing. "The gypsy." She nodded, and he shrugged a shoulder. "He was alive, I left him. He wasn't too severely injured from what I saw, and my concern was for you, not him."

Sarah swallowed, fearing that would be his answer. She swayed, the worry she felt for him almost making her lose her footing. "We have to go back, Jareth. We must find him. I saw the plans, what they wanted from us if they caught us...that...woman...led the trap. If he is captured…." She moaned softly, cupping a hand to her mouth, knowing what Neverin had done to Jareth, wondering if she'd do the same to Jonas.

Oh god, Jonas...

Suddenly, white hot fury seemed to glow in his eyes when she looked back at him. "Why the concern, precious? Is he someone important to you?"

She blinked, surprised at the spark of anger in his gaze as he stalked closer. She immediately frowned, not liking his attitude. "Yes, as a matter of fact, he is. He's been with me since nearly the beginning, like Eoin. He's practically the only family I have left now, so of course he's…"

"You fucked him, didn't you?" Jareth hissed, interrupting her, his face contorting in rage, as he prowled closer and yanked her up against him, lowering his face to her neck, sniffing once more at her collar bones. She blinked, speechless, as his hands roamed down her back, cupping her bottom, anchoring her to him. She could have sworn she felt the tell-tale signs of talons against her jeans. "You let him touch you. I can smell it…"

What the hell?

She didn't know what to say to this sudden change in him, feeling his body vibrate with unspent fury. She sputtered, annoyed at his sudden display of territorial male. Listen, buddy, no one wants or needs this shit right now, her mind snapped as she shoved at him, but he was too strong, only succeeding in slightly nudging him away from her. The snarl that tore from his throat had her tensing in anger.

"So fucking what?" She suddenly burst out, disbelief in her tone, angry at his outrage and her response to him as she continued to try and shove him off her. He didn't budge, his mouth dropping down as he roughly tugged her closer, making her stumble, gripping the soft expanse of flesh between her earlobe and shoulder with his teeth, the action sending a shiver through her. It pissed her off how much she liked it and she shoved harder at his chest in response. You son of a bitch, quit touching me! You can't touch me when you just acted like a jackass because someone beat you to the punch. This is ridiculous. You don't own me, Goblin King.

"You let him have what is mine," He growled, possessively cupping her against him. She balked at that statement, seeing red.

"Excuse me?" She all but shouted, furious. "Are you seriously giving me shit over who I sleep with? Are you telling me that before your enslavement, you were an innocent? You've never given into the urge with another woman before, not once?"

He stilled, another growl escaping his lips, but it fueled her anger even more. "Exactly. What a load of bullshit. Get off me, you asshole. Let me go!"

He did, and she stumbled back, her eyes clashing angrily with his as he stared back, his face dark, his eyes glowing. She saw claws extended from his hands and shuddered, once more feeling like her eyes were playing tricks on her as she saw a flash of feathers and golden predatory eyes briefly overlay his features. She continued on, ignoring the odd sensation.

"Listen bucko, I get to choose who I fuck and don't fuck and there's nothing you get to say about it." She spat, pointing a finger in his face. He shifted slightly, looking like a predator ready to pounce his prey, but she was too damn angry to care about the warning signs. To think I felt sorry for him, to think I almost admitted I might lov-

"Yes, okay? I fucked him. I fucked him and I liked it. You want to know why?" She yelled, growing angrier by the minute. "Because you weren't there. I was alone, constantly in dangerous places, and I didn't want my first time to be when some asshole decided to rape me. So I went for the first option available, which happened to be Jonas. Get over it, Goblin King, because I'm really not in the mood for your…"

She didn't get to finish her sentence as he lunged, slamming his mouth against her as he shoved her down on the couch, planting himself between her legs, grinding against her. She felt his erection, his hunger, and his talons as they shredded through her green sweater and jeans, but somehow left her skin unmarked. She bucked under him, moaning but still seething, shoving at him as he plundered her mouth with his teeth and tongue.

"You're mine, Sarah. Mine," he snarled, lifting his mouth from hers, thrusting his clothed erection against her core, only her red lacy undergarments and his breeches shielding him from taking her. His eyes lowered, staring at her breasts, and he growled, using his talons to pluck loose the thin gossamer fabric that held her breasts, watching them spring free once the lace raveled apart against his nails. His mouth lowered, latching into one of her breasts, and she groaned softly in response, wriggling underneath him.

"You...can't just...act like that...and expect to fuck me," she whispered angrily, moaning as his teeth tugged at her nipple, flooding her core with heat.

"I'm not going to fuck you, precious, but I sure as hell am going to taste you. Did you think of me when you fucked him?" He murmured darkly, teasing her breasts to aching points while his fingers skirted her sex, his talons shredding the thin lace away from her hips. He hissed faintly as he cupped her, not stroking her with his fingers, his talons too sharp and his grip too tight, but she flushed faintly as she felt her arousal eagerly coat his palm as he ground it against her. He groaned softly, his nostrils flaring, sucking on her breasts and her body spasmed again, coating his palm more.

"Did you?" He asked again against her breast, this time his tone sounding sharp, brutal.

"Yes," she whispered, whimpering as his palm roughly ground against her clit, sending tremors of need coursing through her. "I did. The whole time."

He shuddered visibly, biting down gently on her nipples as he purred softly at her response. "Good," he rasped, making her shiver. She would have been outraged if what he was doing to her body wasn't so distracting and delicious.

"Don't move," He ordered, turning his hand and nudging her nether lips apart with his fingers, his talons gently teasing, seeking entry. She closed her eyes, tipping her head back against the couch, as his mouth once more latched onto one of her breasts. She tensed slightly but did as he asked, groaning faintly as she felt him sink two of his fingers, talons and all, inside her.

"Now squeeze around me, gently," he purred against her breast. She did what he wanted and moaned. It was almost too good, the thick warmth of his fingers, the inherent danger of his talons, gently moving, but sharp and easily able to harm her, teasing the insides of her slickened channel, plunging deep. Slowly, almost so slow she didn't feel it at first, he began to pump them inside her.

"Don't move," he murmured again, pushing her legs further apart, his mouth letting go of her breast and lowering, taking her stiffened clit into his mouth. She moaned, trembling with the need to move, but did what he asked.

He took his time drawing her to the edge, as if punishing her for her earlier admission, and when she was close, he withdrew his hand and lapped at her opening with his tongue, his talons plucking at her clit, and she dissolved, shrieking incoherently from her prone position. Her world collapsed, and as he feasted on her, he slowly put it back together for her with his mouth.

"Fuck, Sarah," he groaned, sucking on her clit, nibbling at her sex, coating his face in her release, but seemingly reveling in it. "You're mine...mine...say it." He didn't stop licking, sucking, demanding she respond.

She nodded weakly, sagging against the couch, threading her fingers through his hair. "Jesus, yes. I'm yours, Jareth. I'm yours." For some reason, she felt the need to add the next part. "...and you're mine."

"Yes," he purred against her sex, cleaning her with his mouth, then pulling her off the couch and onto the floor next to him. She shuddered, her thoughts still foggy, but she trailed her fingers over his chest as he tugged her against him, down his hips, to settle on his erection. He groaned, bucking faintly, as she cupped him.

When she moved to unfasten his pants, he gripped her wrists. "Not yet," he murmured. She knew he meant sex and she nodded, kissing him gently, tasting herself.

"That's twice now for you, let me have a little fun too. I want to do to you what you did to me," she whispered, opening her eyes to meet his gaze. He seemed to hesitate for a minute, raw hunger so powerful chasing across his features, she almost stopped and pulled her hands away. Dimly, she felt that connection between them grow taut, then it slackened, almost fading to nothing.

Slowly, he nodded, stroking a thumb across her mouth. She opened her mouth, flicking her tongue across the pad of his thumb, then bit down gently. He growled, and she smiled.

She lowered her gaze, tugging the edge of his shirt up, inspecting the small stretch of golden hairs that snaked into the depths of his pants. Admiring the muscle tone, despite his obvious lean appearance, she leaned down and kissed his navel making him jerk softly. Unfastening his pants as she kissed him, she gently slipped her hand inside, feeling for him. She paused when her fingers found him, shocked at the sheer size of him. He growled, his hips bucking, and she leaned down, using both hands lower his pants and free him, her mouth trailing kisses lower. He groaned, enjoying the sensation of her tongue tasting the inherent saltiness of his skin, and when he sprung free in all his glory, she stared.

Sweet Jesus, he's…

Her mouth watered and she instantly leaned over him, gripping the shaft and licking the flat of her tongue across the head. He hissed, jerking under her, and she realized she could taste his excitement. He was tangy, almost sweet, with a salty undertone and she moaned, rubbing her tongue against the roof of her mouth and then taking more of him into her mouth. He barked out a choked noise, lifting her hair from her neck, and she knew he watched her take him as deep as she could. She sucked as she swallowed, hard, and began to move on him, doing with her mouth what she wanted to do with her body. The low groan that tore from his throat, the tremble of his hips where her hands gripped the base of his shaft and his balls, made her ache instantly, wanting him in her.

She reached up and found the hand not tangled in her hair, placing it against the back of her head, encouraging him to show her what he liked. He groaned again, his fingers flexing against the back of her skull, and slowly, he showed her what he wanted. She obliged and could immediately taste more of his excitement coating her tongue as she let him thrust into her mouth.

"Fuck, Sarah, I...won't last long…" He managed to grunt out, his hand lowering to cup her jaw as he thrust his hips gently upwards while she used her mouth on him, his thumb stroking her cheek. "Suck harder, Sarah…."

She did, and he jerked under her with a growl, his hips bucking faintly under her as his cock pulsing in her mouth, letting her know he approved. "Fuck, like that. Just a little faster...I…"

She sped up, tightening her lips and lashing the underside of him with her tongue, shuddering at how much taking him into her mouth turned her on. He let out a long, anguished groan, bucking under her, the taste of his excitement growing with each downward stroke, and then suddenly, he roared and stiffened and she took that moment to take him deep, using her hand to cup and tug on the rest of him - at the base of his shaft, on his balls, feeling them tighten and draw up, and then he was exploding in her mouth, forcing her to swallow.

"Sarah."

She felt the house shudder again as he climaxed, but she was too caught up in enjoying the sounds he made, the way his cock throbbed and spasmed against her tongue, to care about what his powers were doing to the cabin. She did this, she had him making those noises, and the power she held right then, knowing he was orgasming so hard because of her, that knowledge made her almost teeter over the edge herself.

He seemed to sense it, as she continued to milk each pulse of his climax from him, sinking his fingers into her from behind, pumping furiously and squeezing on her clit. She screamed around him as he groaned, feeling the last spasms leave his body as he spurted in her mouth, and she found another release herself, riding his fingers. After he was finished, and she found her relief, he gently pulled himself from her mouth and removed his fingers, tucking her against him, feeling the wet presence of his half-erect cock against her naked thigh.

His mouth once more found her temple and she shivered at the gentle kisses he pressed there. "When I do fuck you, Sarah, I'll be the last male to ever do so. You're mine."

His soft promise would have normally made her angry, but she was too weak from her own climaxes to protest. Despite not wanting to admit it out loud, part of her was even thrilled at the idea.

He lifted her then, cradling her close to his chest, as he shucked off the rest of his clothes with magic and moved with her to the shower.

"We're going?" She whispered, tucking her arms around his shoulders. He nodded, pulling her into the shower.

"We're going."

She sagged against him in relief, letting him wash her quietly under the warm running water.

Chapter Text

"If you have survived your world shattering, over and over again, and you are still here, a bit damaged a bit broken but still here – you should be proud of yourself. Because that is no small thing." — Nikita Gill


 

Underground, A Private Estate, Annwn, Capital of the Underground

He woke once more from troubled dreams with a soft jolt, Sarah's screams of pain driving him from his nightmares to the dark stillness of his stone cell. As the sounds of her sobs faded away to mere memories, he noticed the smell of his surroundings once more. The scent was nothing he could associate with an Aboveground odor, so he knew what that meant.

He was Underground.

It smelled faintly metallic in origin despite its strangeness, his senses unable to tell if it was remnants of a chemical used to light a torch or the natural scent of this stone hole he was confined to. Either way, it made him wary, unsure, and hesitant on what to do next, knowing so little about this world in which he found himself. Idly, his hands traced the area immediately around him and found nothing but craggy rock and sand beneath his fingers. That much, at least, was familiar.

He knew he was filthy, telling him he had been down here a while. How many times had he woken up now? He realized he had lost count, swearing softly under his breath. His clothes were stiff from stale sweat and he reeked of neglect, his skin itchy and clammy underneath his shirt. When he darted his tongue out, he tasted the coppery salt of his own blood from cuts on his lips and face. He could barely blink one eye but the pain was minimal underneath the swelling, and his hearing was oddly uneven, telling him one of his eardrums had either swelled or burst. He didn't dare think too long on the sensations past his hips, the liquid agony ready to flare eagerly back to the forefront of his mind if he moved too much, despite its constant lurking presence with each breath. He was hot to the touch and if he moved too sharply, his head swam with dizziness, all signs of a fever. He didn't dare focus on how horribly weak he was. If he moved too sharply or too far a distance, he no doubt would lose consciousness again.

"Hello?" He rasped, his lips and tongue dry, sticky and clumsy inside his mouth as he tried to form words, even those sounding garbled. He was both hopeful and worried that someone would answer back in the darkness.

Nothing replied.

He could only hear the sharp draft of cold air that wailed above his head, indicating an opening of some kind, perhaps a window or porthole to another level in this mysterious place. He couldn't see it, left in utter darkness, but the noise gave him some bearings in this lifeless place.

Little by little, he began to realize the overwhelming odds that he would not make it out of here alive.

He sighed, wiping a hand over his face, feeling a surge of grief so sharp, he almost thought he'd pass out once more. His back ached from laying on cold stone for days and his legs...he didn't think about his legs. His eyes stung, tears wanting to form but simply unable to, most likely due to his dangerous levels of dehydration, and he choked on his own misery.

Where are you Sarah? Did they capture you, too? Are you still alive? Or are you dead? If you are, I'll most likely be joining you soon. You always hated it when I tagged along after you in life, so why would death be any different for us?

That last line of thought had him almost laughing, but the noise ended up sounding more of a half-attempted sob as he groaned against the flare of pain in his legs. Still, his thoughts settled once more on Sarah and he wished for any sign she had made it out of Gerasdorf alive as he turned his head once more, utterly alone inside his cell. He had been sloppy and careless in his panic to find her and that's how he had allowed himself to get captured. He prayed Eoin had a contingency plan in the event one of them was captured, or for the strength to take the ultimate measure to protect the others against whatever he might say, if it came to that.

That is, if the infection didn't kill him first.

They had moved him twice and both times he had been in too much agony to pay attention to where they sent him, not that he would have been able to decipher much with crystal transport. It had been days since they'd left him here, in this nameless, faceless hole and he began to wonder again if he had simply been forgotten and left to die.

He had a lot of time to think while he waited for the end, with only darkness and silence for company.

I'm sorry, Sarah. I should have listened.

He thought of her, mostly. Things, that, when he was at the sanctuary, or training with her, or eating together over a meager meal, he wouldn't allow himself to linger on, despite it not dimming the truth of those emotions. He had nothing but time, so why not explore all the things he denied himself the courtesy of over the years?

He thought of her beautiful face, her confidence, her resilience, her eagerness to set things right for people like her. She had become a symbol for those around her, whether she realized it or not, either escaping capture from fae hunters or teaching refugees from the Underground that it was courageous, not cowardly, to demand hope and a better future, in even the smallest of acts, even if no one else bore witness but themselves in whatever feat they completed to cast off the demons of their past.

She did all this without recognition for what she was. Jonas remembered her story, about how she defeated the Goblin King, and he still found himself in awe that, at the mere age of fifteen, she had bested a fae King. Only Jonas and Eoin knew that she had been one of the first to escape the Underground's wrath and showed others - as an anonymous mysterious mortal girl - that they could fight back and thrive, if they only had the courage to grab ahold of it. That had always been what had grabbed his attention from the beginning - her indomitable will.

He had only a few moments in his life that he would claim as memorable and the fondest one for him had been that first night, on the A-line in the New York subway in the wee hours of the morning on a weeknight, when he had stepped on that train and spotted her.

He knew Sarah never could understand why he left everything behind to join her in Austria, so he never bothered to explain it. He just knew, in a way, that she was his lightning rod. He was unhappy, getting a degree in a field he cared little about, his mother barely able to see his face without remembering her own past that she considered a string of bad choices. He had gone to see her that day, remembering that she had been hesitant to open the door for him, her own son. A soft cry behind her told him her newest child, his brother, was awake and demanding a bottle. Just then, her new husband - the right choice - came into the hallway, spotting him. He demanded to know why he was there and she had hastily asked him to leave, explaining his next check would be in the mail shortly, and slammed the door in his face. Was it ever really a choice, then, when Sarah was about to leave him - to go back to that?

He had seen a kindred spirit in her, in that small slip of a girl - obviously half-starved and all sharp angles and brittle self-defense, sitting by herself with the world's burdens on her shoulders. He couldn't explain it if he tried, but he felt compelled to sit next to her, to tell her: I've been there. Everything will work out in the end.

He'd felt it that night, and the feeling had only deepened ever since. Even when she never wanted to hear it, he felt it. Even if you'd never let me say it aloud, I will say it now, in my head, for me. I love you, Sarah Ann Williams. I will always love you.

He thought of that last night they had together and how much it meant to him. Had she seen the flower? Did she know what it meant?

Her screams once more echoed in the back of his mind and he bit the inside of his cheek so hard, he tasted blood. He clenched his fists, closing his eyes, as he half-sobbed, half-moaned, driving out the noise from his head. She couldn't be dead, she couldn't.

"Don't be dead," he whispered in the darkness, forcing his despair at bay. "Don't be dead, Sarah. Please, don't be…"

The soft click of heels on pavement immediately drove him to silence, a hard knot of anxiety settling in his gut. He tipped his head to the side, towards the noise, too afraid he would lose the small tenuous grip he had on his senses under the flare of agony in his legs, knowing what would happen if he dared sit up.

Briefly, the noise stopped. Then, suddenly, the soft metallic squeal of his cell door opening made him tense and scoot back on instinct, the agony of his legs suddenly all consuming. He panted weakly, trying to drive off out the pain from his mind as he demanded his body focus on the soft noise of boots walking towards him.

"Hello?" He said sharply, tipping his head further to the side to try and make out anything in the darkness, as the noise stopped beside him. He was too afraid to reach out and confirm the presence at his side, despite being able to feel a pair of eyes on him.

Why don't they answer?

A flare of light in a wall sconce nearby had him hissing and shielding his eyes. Blinking quickly, he looked around wildly, then found himself staring dumbfounded into the face of an alluring blonde fae woman in a silken red cloak, the collar crusted with rubies, sending a shimmering reflection around the room.

"Hello," she whispered, her red lips almost appearing wet in the way they reflected the light of the sconce. He stared, at a loss for words, as he absorbed the sheer magnitude of her beauty. She was devastating, her hair curled and loosely plaited down her shoulders, the ends flirting around the waist of her generous cloak. She smiled faintly as he looked her over, still unable to conjure the proper thing to say, staring at her splendor. When she prompted him again, asking if he felt alright, her eyes lingering on his legs, he didn't dare reply, simply continuing to stare, as he looked past her and into the empty hall beyond.

"We're alone," she murmured gently, dragging his attention back to her. She shrugged a shoulder as she stepped closer and looked over his form once more. She frowned as a pale arm uncurled from beneath the curtain of her cloak, to gesture at the undoubtedly horrendous wounds on his lower extremities. "You're hurt. Please, let me…"

She moved forward, going down to her knees, no doubt intending to place her hands on his legs, when he jerked away and stared at her with animosity, biting back the urge to scream as agony flared to life once more with the movement, nearly blotting out all other sensations. It took him a dangerously long time to regain control of his senses, but he noticed she had frozen in her efforts, simply staring at him in slight dismay.

"Who - Who. Are. You." He gritted between his teeth, wheezing faintly and inwardly flinching at the sound of his weakened voice.

"A friend," She smiled softly, somehow putting his reservations at ease. Her eyes, so blue, seemed to pulse for a second, but when he blinked, the red glow he thought he saw had vanished. He blinked again, staring at her until she blushed, her eyes lowering, and he began to wonder if the whole thing had been a mere figment of his fevered imagination. I'm worse than I thought. Still, he didn't let her touch him, even when she attempted to again, harshly barking at her to stop.

She frowned, leaning back on her heels, curling her hands together in her lap, as she looked over him with what seemed to be a healthy dose of concern.

"I don't know you. I have no friends here. Who are you? Who do you work for?" He asked brusquely, studying the woman's face and her robe with detail. He didn't remember her, knowing he would remember someone with that distinctive of a face. Briefly, he felt guilt for admiring her comeliness, comparing her blonde fragile paleness against Sarah's fire-branded green eyes and dark hair. Ironically, despite the obvious otherworldly beauty about the woman, he found himself fonder of Sarah's uniqueness than this woman's clinical appeal.

"I work for myself," she replied, dragging his attention back to the woman in front of him. A brief look of annoyance crossed her face as she waited several seconds and he didn't reply, gesturing to his legs. "Don't you want me to spare you the pain? You'll die soon if I'm not allowed to heal you. Do you want that?"

"No, but…" He started to say, looking to the hall, wondering if she lied and actually worked for the two Nokmim that had shoved him in this hole. He was weak, not ready to die, not ready to give that final sacrifice, not until he knew if Sarah was safe, but wished he had the courage to ask her to kill him, in the event the others returned and demanded he tell him his secrets.

The woman didn't wait for a reply then, laying her hands on his legs and making him howl in pain as her nails plucked at the wounds - then it was suddenly gone, along with his fever. He blinked, shocked, his mouth snapping closed from where it had been contorted in a scream moments before, scrambling away quickly with his newfound freedom of movement, pressing his back against the far corners of the cell.

"You healed me," he stated, staring warily, as she smiled and nodded. She brought her hand to her mouth, her nails glimmering in the light of the torch, and he realized her fingers were drenched in blood - his blood.

"You sound surprised," she murmured, looking amused, glancing back at him as she tipped her hand back and forth, admiring the wet mess of her fingers. Briefly, he felt her eyes pulse again and this time, he realized it was real, not a figment of his fevered mind. All the internal warning signs he had ignored moments before flared back to life, and she grinned, slowly sucking on one of her fingers. He gagged against the sound of pleasure she made, and when she looked back at him, he saw a darkness there in her eyes that chased away any fear he had about his earlier company of shadows. Inside her was the very absence of light - of anything - just a yawning void staring back.

When she moved closer, he brought his hands up defensively and she chuckled softly.

"Are you going to hit me, Jonas?" She whispered, her eyes glowing as she eyed him hungrily - for food? For something else? He wasn't sure. He stilled at hearing his name on her lips and she grinned again, continuing to lick at her fingers as she stared at him, occasionally murmuring something under her breath that had the hairs on the nape of his neck rising.

"This little piggy feels pain, and this little piggy feels sadness and guilt, and this little piggy prays Sarah dearest is somewhere safe back home…"

She hissed, her eyes flaring brightly, as she paused in her ministrations and looked back his way. "Sarah….Sarah….that's her name, isn't it? The mortal Champion's? All these years, all this fuss, over such a simple name…"

Something about the slow smile that pulled at the woman's lips had his gut seizing in fear. Who was this woman?

"How do you know my name?" He asked sharply, trying to move back when she dropped the hand at her mouth crawled forward, realizing in rising panic that he couldn't. He blinked, then tried again, only to not move - not an inch. Inside his head, he started to scream, but outwardly he just stared, panting faintly. "What…?"

"Having problems, love?" She purred, grinning faintly, almost beside him. He rebelled on every level, struggling to move, to scream, to do anything, but found he simply couldn't. Only once he calmed, was he able to speak.

"Let me go," he tersely replied, trying to sound strong but his tone betraying him, rife with his fear.

"Why would I want to do that? When we have so much to talk about?" She was a mere few inches away from him now and she reached out, pressing a hand over his torso. He tried to back away, but still found him unable to control his own body. The more he internally struggled, the more amused she seemed to grow. When his panic was overwhelming him, his pants echoing raggedly in the stone cell around them, she laughed and he narrowed his gaze on her with a glare.

"Why can't I move?" He demanded, trying to struggle and still unable to.

"Because…" She whispered, tugging loose his shirt, only for Jonas to look down and stare in shock at the markings that covered his chest. "...I won't allow it. What do you think? Not my best work, admittedly, but the end result is the same. Such beautiful, complete compulsion. Too bad it doesn't work on your thoughts, but...give me time, dearest. You are only a human, after all. I'll figure it out soon enough, I'm sure."

He stared in horror at the raised crude scars marring his chest, each depicting some odd runic language he couldn't make out, not understanding how he hadn't noticed them before. Your legs, his mind taunted back. She kept your legs broken to distract you. You passed out so many times, she could have done them at any time.

She smiled at the look of shock and growing dread that flickered over his features. "Relax, pet. I won't harm you. Your heart is beating so frantically I'm surprised it hasn't burst yet. As delicious as your fear might be, I need you to last at least a little while longer."

His head whipped back towards her as she moved even closer, ghosting her hands over his bared skin, then lower. "I only need a few things from you. You will tell them to me, or I'll just rip them from your mind. Either way, I will get what I came for. What shape you're in when I'm finished, I leave up to you."

If we do nothing, it will get worse. Much worse, for  all  of us.

Eoin's words from that mountain top came crashing through his mind and he paled as he tried to connect this woman with that odd sense of urgency he'd always seen Eoin carry with him since that night.

"You're…" His eyes flickered back to her face and he watched as her eyes went from a beautiful dusting of sky blue to a dark, pulsing red. "You're the one Eoin's been worried about all these years. You're the one who sent the Nokmim."

She smiled then, flashing him a row of large serrated teeth. He wanted to recoil, but simply had to sit and watch her lean forward, teasing his mouth with her own, the faint sting of a cut reopening telling him she used them to inflict pain. She moaned, tipping her head to the side, and when he felt her warm tongue dart along his lips, he thought he would be sick.

"I am," she whispered, using her nails to slowly strip him of his clothes, bile rising in the back of his throat as he opened his mouth to scream, but a groan of his own only echoing back at her. She smiled, her eyes catching his, seemingly knowing he was repelled by her actions, but unable to voice it as she touched him.

"Tell me what I want to know," she sighed, casting off her red cloak, and beginning to use his body.

As the hours went by, to his never-ending shame, he found that he did have a breaking point. When he reached it, he answered each and every question she asked, if only to die a little more inside each time she promised to stop and yet didn't. He wanted to cry, to rage and beg his forgiveness to those he betrayed but found that he simply couldn't. At one point, towards the end, he asked that she kill him, when the questions stopped and she simply used him. She merely paused and laughed, the sound almost sweet.

"Kill you? Kill you? Oh, no, dearest. You love Jareth's mortal champion. The champion he suffered the past six years for. The one you tasted. Once, just once, I had a snippet of her hair - and do you know what he did to me? He nearly killed me. have a feeling, if provoked, when he learns what you took from him? Why, that'll be much more enjoyable to watch than anything could manage to do."

A fragment of an old memory rushed to the forefront of his mind.

Is there someone else, Sarah?

Kind of. I don't know. It's confusing.

He moaned softly, the pain he felt excruciating as he realized now, years later, what her answer had meant. Tears did form in his eyes then as he gagged under the sensation of the woman moving atop him, but before too long, he found himself feeling nothing, numbed and horrified at what he had done.

Sarah had told him, in her own way, for him to stay away. Her soft-spoken words the day Eoin had shown up dredged up from his memory.

Jonas, I need you to go back...go back to your life...and forget I ever existed.

He didn't listen and now, he had betrayed everything and everyone he'd ever loved. Eoin, the sanctuary, Sarah.

The Goblin King, that name alone that proved to be the one thing throughout the years that made Sarah uneasy, knew of him. Was she promised to him? As a concubine? An object? A sacrifice? As he stared at the woman atop him, remembered the faces of the Nokmim that had hunted him over the years, he shuddered at what was to come. No doubt he would make well on what the woman said and would kill him, and undoubtedly make Sarah watch. Sarah, his beautiful, kind Sarah, whose only fault was hating herself so much for making an absent-minded wish at the tender age of fifteen that she wouldn't allow anyone else to get close, no matter how much they wanted to.

I'm sorry, Sarah. I love you and I've betrayed you. I should have listened to you.

Jonas finally succumbed to that dark wall of indifference in his mind, sliding behind that last barrier of defense, the soft trail of laughter from the woman who still sat astride him fading into nothingness as he blotted out all awareness of what she was doing.


 

Underground, Thelemic Order Grounds, Killdaire's Private Study

Killdaire scrubbed a hand across his face, sinking slowly into his chair, recanting the latest missives he'd spent the past hour reviewing. He'd had no word from Eoin or Sorcha and despite the lack of news from the High Council or the King himself, he was uneasy with the seemingly calm air about the Capital.

Reaching for the bottle on his desk, he began to pour himself a liberal dose of liquor when the corner of his study shimmered, warning him someone was about to arrive.

Standing slowly, knowing the wards would only allow a certain select individuals through, he watched as his scout appeared and bowed, her robes trailing the floor. He scowled, tossing back the contents of his glass, as he looked her over with annoyance. "You're late. I thought I made it clear to report in. It's been days, Sorcha."

Sorcha kept her gaze trained on the floor and nodded subtly. "I apologize, Grandmaster. I was only recently able to move about freely. I made it to the gates when the resistance captured me. It took more time than I expected to secure their trust."

Her eyes raised to his as she tugged off the hood of her cloak, her black braids gleaming in the dimly lit study. The seriousness of her expression had him tensing, waiting to hear what she had to say next.

"We need whatever the order can spare without being noticed by the High Council. I suspect civil war is coming to the Labyrinth within the day."

Killdaire's eyes focused sharply on her face at that. He had expected it eventually, with Jareth freed, but the suddenness had him surprised. He had long suspected the Labyrinth was not Neverin's to command and when rumors of the denizens revolting reached his ears, he had hoped this day would come. "Indeed? So soon? Is this Jareth's doing?"

"No, only from the resistance, but I have a suspicion he will return soon, if anything to seek vengeance on Neverin. She had him under some kind of compulsion magic, but now that he is able to fully access the Labyrinth's magic and the chains cast off, he will be a notable ally in seeing that she is removed in the coming conflict. I recommend we are there with whatever he requires, when he makes his move, to be sure she is taken down."

Killdaire frowned, hating to go against the High Council and the King with so little support, but he knew he couldn't risk the chance. If Jareth won back the Labyrinth, he'd have a powerful ally in his debt. Hastily making a choice, he nodded, glancing back at her. "Very well. Your request of troops is granted but keep this contained to the Labyrinth and seek out those in the Alchemy division to ensure no one gets in or out from that maze until either she or her supporters are dead or subdued. No exceptions. If she dies, let it be by his hand, not ours. Make contact, offer our support, but do not engage her directly. It will make the aftermath of this much easier to handle for the order."

She bowed her head and he found himself finally relaxing, for the first time after six years, settling back in his chair and wiping a hand across his brow with a sigh. This is it, then. Chaos will be averted, for now, and order will be restored. At least temporarily. "Is there anything else?"

"Eoin and his people are at risk Aboveground," Sorcha replied. "They will be moved to the tunnels within the hour, at most."

That news made him pause, his eyebrows rising in concern, startled out of his internal thoughts. "What?"

"It seems that Neverin's resources grabbed one of his scouts with inside knowledge of his compound."

Her words had him freezing, his eyes going wide. Almost as quickly, he recovered, his expression shuttered as he stared at her. "How was this allowed to happen?"

She hesitated before answering, alerting Killdaire that the situation was worse than he initially feared. "Neverin has considerable power, from what I've gathered. She's not entirely fae, only masquerading as one, not from the descriptions that the Labyrinthians have been able to provide."

Not entirely fae? Killdaire froze at that, demanding to know more. As Sorcha described back to him what the resistance had told her, he paled. Just what...is she? "And Eoin?"

Sorcha shrugged. "As for what occurred there, I don't have enough detail to give you a firm opinion, only that she laid a trap for his group during one of their recent missions and while it didn't have the intended outcome she wanted, she was still able to secure a small victory by capturing one of his scouts. The scout is presumed alive and if either Neverin or a Nokmim has him, it's only a matter of time before their hold is located. Eoin's people are at risk, and that's why I suspect we will move quickly to take back the Labyrinth with the combined numbers. No doubt, if she loses her hold on the Labyrinth, she will be headed for the High Council to seek troops for war. Lucius would demand no less."

He stilled, thinking back over Eoin's missives over the years. They always spoke of caution and delicate procedure and he frowned, looking past Sorcha, to stare into the fire. What do you know that I don't, Eoin? This must be truly bad - something beyond imagination - if it's driven you this deep into secrecy.

Either way, things were escalating too quickly for his taste. If Neverin escaped and the Labyrinth's castle was seized from her, Lucius could very well go to war. The only security they had is if they could prove Neverin's duplicity. He hoped Eoin had managed that much over the years, sighing as he scrubbed a hand over his face. He had played from the shadows for so long, he was hesitant to throw his support openly behind the Goblin King, but he wondered if it was too late for caution. Still, he was hesitant to involve his people in a game he wasn't sure they could win.

He hadn't realized his lapse of silence could be seen as a dismissal and his eyes moved back to Sorcha as she turned to transport away. Before she could leave, Killdaire grabbed her elbow, dragging her attention back towards him. Suddenly, the fear of losing this game struck home for him. He tried desperately to remember all of Eoin's warnings, hoping something he had said over the years would shed some semblance of light on what he was dealing with, but he came up frustratingly blank with answers.

Catching her gaze, he barked out his next order, his tone rough. "No matter what, protect our people. There's something important here we're missing. I want no one taking unnecessary risks. Offer our support, but no one dies. If you have a sensation things are going south…pull back."

Sorcha stared at him incredulously. "And if Jareth notices our support wavering?" She replied sharply, frowning, her eyebrows raising in warning. "We could easily be next on his list for vengeance, Grandmaster."

"I'm aware of that," he snapped, frowning, dropping his hand as he glared dangerously at her. "Not until we talk to Eoin do we risk our people's lives, am I understood?"

"Yes, Grandmaster. Quite," Sorcha replied tightly, obeying his command despite her tone telling him she disapproved. He waved a hand, turning his face away from the harsh silent criticism he saw there, hearing her disappear with the faint shattering of a crystal.

Gathering his cloak, he summoned a crystal of his own and dropped it at his feet, determined to do some investigating of his own. It's time to call in some old favors. War is upon us.


 

Aboveground, Somewhere near Döbling, Austria

"Before we go…" Jareth called out, watching Sarah finish dressing in the reflection of the bathroom mirror from where he stood in the bedroom, his arms crossed over his armored chest, in full battle regalia, his eyes stilling on her face.

She turned and he stared hungrily, absorbing everything about her in that moment, as she finished combing her hair and piled it atop her head in a sensible topknot. The unfinished bond between them flared to life like a raw wound under his skin and he forced himself to look away, if only to regain his voice. The Labyrinth magic shimmered against his senses at his recognition of it and he kept his expression schooled as he gently admonished it as it tried to reach for her again.

Not yours.  Mine.

"You were saying?" Just hearing the sound of her voice had him instantly hard, hungry, and aching, as she wandered into the bedroom, coming up beside him and slipping her feet into a sensible pair of tennis shoes he had summoned for her. As she wrestled with her footgear, her scent once more set his senses aflame, and he grit his teeth to avoid reaching for her.

He closed his eyes, willing his desire back from a sharp urge to a dull ache, clearing his throat before trusting himself to speak. As he opened his eyes, he watched her turn and raise an eyebrow at him as she raised a hand in confusion. He smirked faintly at her obvious annoyance, knowing she was eager to return to the sanctuary and her friends. "Hello? You were saying? Earth to Jareth…"

Some things never change, he idly thought, watching her temper and that lovable spitfire will explode inside her before his eyes. He held out a hand as she stared but began to lose her footing trying to slip on a shoe, closing his gloved fingers around her own as she blushed and her eyes dropped, focused on finishing her task.

"If at any time, I decide I do not trust him or the situation, we're leaving." He growled softly as she worked, watching her head snap up, the soft exasperation from earlier schooling into hard resistance. "I won't risk you, not again."

Her lips thinned and she looked ready to bare her teeth at him and hiss a retort, but he had to make sure she understood how deadly serious he was.

He jerked his fingers that clasped her own, her mouth opening to let out a gasp instead of a tart reply as she stumbled into him, her face mere inches from his. His eyes flared brightly in warning as they dropped to her shoulders, hinting at the scars he'd removed, then met her gaze once more.

If they hurt you, I will tear this world apart in my fury. Don't push me, precious.

"Fine," she murmured, frowning, staring up at him, and he found himself once more having to resist the urge to bury his nose in her hair, her scent wafting towards him and setting his teeth on edge. "But one day, Goblin King, you're going to realize I am able to survive without you."

She jerked her hand out of his and shoved herself off him, setting him on edge again, missing her warm softness already. Everything I've done, I've done for you, you stupid girl. Why can't you see it?

"I'm ready." She announced, grabbing a small knife from the kitchen at her demand she be allowed to carry some type of weapon, slipping it into the pocket of her jeans. He frowned as he stared, seeing the shift in her face, finding himself surprised at the warrior appearance in her features.

"Then let's go," He murmured, stepping closer, if for nothing more than just to provoke her. His fingers gently curled around her elbow and he leaned down, grinning faintly, "Are you ready?"

He was about to summon a crystal, when her gaze snapped up again, clashing angrily with his own. Before he could continue, she grabbed ahold of him and molded herself tightly to his armored form. He hissed, his senses on full alert at her anger and arousal, when he found himself speechless for what she had thrust in his face.

Sarah smirked softly, a perfectly formed crystal in her palm. "Allow me."

Before he could show his surprise, she let it roll off her fingers and shatter against the floor, ripping them away from the cabin.


 

Aboveground, The Sanctuary, Vienna, Austria

When the whirling blackness dissipated, he did manage snarl that time, dragging her up against him again as she stepped away upon their appearance at the outskirts of a warehousing district, roughly fondling over hips and legs and chest, searching for traces of his magic. How?

He found none, blinking slowly, unable to keep his tone soft as he demanded harshly to understand what had happened. "Where did you learn such things, precious?"

She shoved him away and he immediately dropped his hands, still angry at not understanding what had just happened. "I told you, I'm not entirely helpless. You just caught me a little dry the other day, car explosions and burning fae assholes tend to do that to my reserves. I hoped I'd be able to form one this time. It's admittedly not as stable as I'd like, but…" She shrugged, smiling faintly at the look of tight displeasure on his face.

"Eoin's been teaching me," she replied sweetly, when he said nothing. She knew it would trigger him, and simply grinned and slipped out of reach when he snarled and reached for her.

I'm fucking sick of hearing about the great and powerful Eoin, his thoughts roared. You're mine, Sarah. Mine.

"Wipe that look of ownership off your face, Goblin King. Right now." She snapped back, making him bristle. "I choose, remember? I get to say who and what goes in my life, not you."

The air around them crackled and swirled, kicking up dirt and debris around them, as he stared, his chest heaving. He had to admire her spirit, as she stared firmly back, unflinching in her tenacity.

Something in her face softened, startling him, and the air eased. "Here we go again. Let's just...stop and start over, okay? If you'd stop being such a prick for five minutes, you might have realized I'd choose you if you let me. It's got to be my choice, though, Jareth. No matter what, it's my choice."

I'd choose you, if you'd let me.

He didn't have a thing to say to her heavy confession, swallowing thickly at the sudden tension in the air. His senses flared and the bond once more ached under his skin, as he stared at her, unable to trust himself to speak. She stepped forward and he cautiously went rigid, afraid to frighten her away. When she leaned forward and kissed him, he found his tension easing away. It was quick, chaste, but it left him humbled. It had been the first kiss completely given of her own accord, not as a hasty response to the mountainous depths of his desire.

When she pulled back and laced her fingers with his, bringing him back to the present, he couldn't resist reaching up and running a gloved hand over her mouth. He smiled faintly as she groaned and shuddered, closing her eyes a moment. When she opened them, she must have seen his odd stare and gave him a perplexed look. "What is it?"

"That's the first time you've kissed me on your own."

He watched as her face briefly flamed pink, biting down the urge to chuckle. She smiled faintly. "So it was." Her eyes flickered past him and settled on something in the distance, shattering the tender moment.

Dropping his hand, he turned and followed her line of sight, seeing the glimmering wards around a set of large warehouses in the distance. She relaxed, smiling quickly back at him, urging him along, and he followed, feeling the Labyrinth magic rippling out, shielding them both, while exploring the edges of the wards.

"It's still here," she breathed, the sound a soft sigh of relief. "I hope Jonas made it back."

He forced himself not to show any outward indication at the mention of the mortal man's name on her lips, despite the immediate swell of rage that flared under his skin at thinking of them together.

As they walked, the Labyrinth magic investigated, and almost immediately he felt the prickly fury of how weak the wards were, dissolving almost instantaneously when he gave the internal approval to test the mettle of this so-called sanctuary that Sarah had been calling home recently. Sarah stilled, a gasp bursting from her mouth as her fingers tightened around his, turning sharply and looking at him as he did his best to hide his disgust in the ease in which he breached them.

"Weak," he spat, tugging her along with him, taking the lead this time, as a faint siren was overheard in the distance. He was furious that this meager place had been what she had called home, briefly noting the terror at the sheer luck that she had avoided Neverin as long as she had. When I find that Nokmim, I'm going to kill him.

Shouts rang out up ahead and he watched with a clinical sense of detachment, as they swarmed the rooftops, taking note of their approach.

"Jareth…" Sarah softly warned, but he was already stepping forward, keeping her behind him, as he moved. Let them try, he scoffed. They should be grateful it was that found them first. I will point out their flaws without bloodshed. Stupid fools.

At the sound of gunfire, he roared in fury, at their stupidity for not noticing Sarah, at their preposterous attempt to take him down with mere mortal weapons, drawing her tightly to him. Keeping his temper mostly leashed, he raised a hand and yanked, sending several assailants flying through the air, their weapons hovering in mid-air above them as they seemed to twist and contort to useless hunks of hardware, dropping to the pavement below with a hiss of hot metal.

Soft groans and gasps of surprise came from each of the mortals and other magical creatures - another surprise - as they marched forward. Sarah had been oddly silent past her initial murmur of his name. He didn't glance back, but felt for her along the bond, sensations of awe and shock pulsing back at him. He smirked faintly before he paused outside the door to the warehouse, lining up all the guards who had shot at them in a tight row. He smiled tightly, letting them see a small measure of his considerable anger, then barked out a command when he saw them pale in unison.

"Take me to Eoin. Now."


 

Sarah stared at the two men in the small room who refused to take their eyes off one another, unnerved by the arctic silence in the air. She knew it would take very little to send either into a rage and despite all she had seen Eoin handle over the past six years, she feared he wouldn't survive a confrontation with Jareth.

For his part, Jareth looked as calm as she'd ever seen him, his expression the epitome of the Goblin King she'd encountered that initial night all those years ago, resplendent and otherworldly with frosty manners and cool sharp-edged words. His movements were slow and precise as he took the seat Eoin had offered him in his suite after the initial commotion when they entered the compound, one hand never leaving Sarah's hip as he gently drew her to his side. The odd softness of his emotions blanketing around her through that inexplicable bond that flared to life once more between them had her complying, settling in his lap as she ignored the harshness of his expression as he met Eoin's stare unflinchingly with his own.

"It seems I should be thanking you for keeping my Champion in relative good health all these years, despite your clear lack for anything even remotely adequate in wards or defense," Jareth started, his gloved fingers curling possessively around Sarah's waist, as his words hung coldly in the air around them. She absurdly seemed surprised that ice crystals didn't form on the windows as he stared, his mismatched gaze nothing but pure subdued arctic fury. "How unusually...sentimental...of you, Eoin. What sort of repayment are we talking about here? Power? Position? Or something more exotic? Considering your past lover, I might have to get creative."

Eoin stared at the display and Sarah turned her gaze over towards him, remembering what Jareth had said as his leather-bound fingers gently stroked the curve of her hip from where she perched atop the him.

Eoin's expression gave nothing away, despite his alertness as the former Nokmim noted the way she allowed Jareth to touch her, and she once more remembered the look of bitter cold rage on Jareth's face as he explained what Eoin had been to one of the darkest things to ever crawl out of the Underground. She couldn't help but wonder as she stared and he failed to show any indication of remorse, if she'd misplaced her trust in him all those years ago. Did I ever really know you? Or did I only see what you wanted me to see? Whose side are you on, Eoin? Mine or your own?

"How are you, Sarah? How is this working for you?" Eoin asked, ignoring Jareth's question, his odd iridescent eyes flickering to the hand at her waist, as if sensing her thoughts from moments before.

How dare you….

She bristled at what he was implying, her eyes narrowing as she stopped breathing, shame and fury wrestling for control on her face, and she felt Jareth's emotions gently soothe her. Still, she found herself glaring at Eoin as she kept herself outwardly calm. She remembered again how he'd kept things from her, even after agreeing they'd do things her way, if she was to help him in the way he had asked of her all those years ago at Untersberg. She had known he had kept things from her, but hearing how much he'd kept from her, made her see red and the bitter sharpness of her reply implied as much.

"I'm tired, is what I am. Of being lied to. Oh, wait, that's right, your kind can't lie. So, you - what? Think that omitting the truth is somehow less wrong?" She sneered, leaning forward, feeling Jareth's fingers stroke along her spine as her anger exploded, her tone turning furious, as she continued. "Do you know what it feels like, learning things about you, the one person in this world I trusted above anything and anyone else, when I realized what you've been doing still for years? Once more, you took it upon yourself to omit several important things about my situation to me, after you promised me you would do things my way. You didn't tell me about your personal involvement, either. After everything we've been through? You'd do that to me? Did you think so little of me?"

When he said nothing, she trembled under her fury, wanting to leap up from the table and slap him across his face. "Why did you never tell me about Neverin, Eoin?"

Eoin's eyes raised sharply back to hers and her heart stopped, feeling almost frozen, as she saw the truth there. No remorse, no recognition of his wrongdoings, just a cold expressionless stare reflecting back at her. This - this was the Eoin that Jareth knew. For the oddest reason, it made her almost give into the urge to cry, feeling tears prick at the corners of her eyes as a sharp ache sprang underneath her ribcage. She rubbed at her chest, looking at him accusingly, as she tried to soothe that sudden phantom source of hurt.

You knew - you knew about Jareth, about why I was hunted, about everything and you didn't tell me. So many years I thought…

Something shifted then in his face and he leaned forward, frowning, reaching out to grasp her hand. "Sarah…"

She recoiled so hard, she almost stumbled to the floor, only Jareth's grip keeping her from doing so. Not wanting to hear his pathetic attempts to make amends again, she surged to her feet and headed for the door to the deliberation room. She had to get out of here.

"Sarah, wait, I - "

"Don't." She hissed at him, eyes glittering, as she stared at Eoin with all the hurt and disgust she felt in that moment, his expression once more turning cold. I'm so fucking sick of trusting the wrong people.

She looked to Jareth, who simply stared at her, expressionless, but the softness of his emotions echoing down that tether between them had her understanding his game. He was being strong against Eoin, but he felt her pain and acknowledged it. Despite wanting to curl up against him and cry as she realized he had been right, she found herself understanding and forgiving him for the mask he wore. She sent as much down the tether and the gratitude she felt back gave her the strength to turn back once more and glare at Eoin.

"I'll be down the hall. Try not to piss him off," She spat at Eoin, before turning and walking to the door. "Because if he tries to kill you, I won't stop him."

She heard Eoin's sharp intake of air as she slammed the door shut behind her.


 

Out in the hallway, things were worse. Magic wielders glared at her as they worked in the corners of the room, long strings of glowing magic arcing between their fingertips as sweat gleamed off their brows, knitting the corrections Jareth had demanded of them as they stormed the room upon entry.

The scouts she had worked alongside for years mostly stared at her with a sense of awkward awe, but a few, namely Sean and his crew, glared at her in outright hostility for bringing another unknown fae into their midst and making a mockery of their forces earlier. She ignored them all and stalked to her room, slamming the door shut and settling heavily on the bare mattress, running her hands over her face.

She blinked, looking around the room, angry at Eoin once more, the setting another reminder of how she'd misplaced her trust again. She stood roughly and grabbed her faded backpack by the door and began shoving the few possessions she had into it: her journal, the few faded pictures of her family, some spare clothes and knives she'd kept over the years.

Something fell from her journal and she paused, frowning, leaning over and picking it up off the floor. The fingers that held the folder red paper began to tremble as she realized she hadn't once asked about Jonas.


 

"That could have gone better," Jareth commented in amusement, breaking the silence in the room as Eoin stared at the door Sarah had slammed shut only seconds before. "Now you know why I lost all those years ago to her. She is amazing, isn't she?"

He tensed, looking back at the Goblin King, feeling Jareth's amusement drop as darkness edged closer around the corners of the room. The faint creak of strained brick and wood beams reached his ears as Jareth brought his hands into his lap, his feral mismatched eyes never leaving his face as he leaned forward on his elbows and a savage expression rippled across his features. It didn't frighten him, not after he saw the look of devastation on Sarah's face. That was an altogether unfamiliar sensation for Eoin, and he found himself struggling to breathe as he thought through her words.

Come back, Sarah. I'm sorry. I was ashamed, so I didn't tell you. Please, come back.

The snarl that rippled from Jareth had him focusing once more on the Goblin King across from him. That fear of facing down the enraged fae returned, only because if he died, he'd never get a chance to set things right. Jareth smiled faintly, baring his teeth, his next words making Eoin go rigid with unease.

"Now that Sarah dearest has given me permission to all but eviscerate you, explain to me why I shouldn't. I saw the scars, Eoin. What happened to her?"

Once more, the room groaned under the considerable presence of his power. Eoin, for his part, refused to be cowed, even if his senses screamed at him in alarm. Tread lightly.

"Nokmim happened, Jareth. The High Council's motives haven't changed all that drastically since you lost your seat at court." He kept his tone even, devoid of any emotion, despite his eyes wandering back to the door Sarah had slammed as she stormed out of the room.

Please come back. Please let me explain.

Jareth's fist slamming against the small table between them, the metal disintegrating into small shards of sharp metal, snapped his attention back to the Goblin King once more. "Look at me, damn you. You call the state I found her in to be your attempts at protecting her?"

He hesitated for what to say, watching Jareth ripple faintly, the molecular seams of the Aboveground shuddering around him, as if unable to figure out how to remain calm around him. He'd never seen Jareth so close to losing control, and suddenly his suspicions he had realized before were confirmed. He inhaled slowly, closing his eyes, drawing on the lingering scent of Sarah and now the Goblin King in the room. He smiled wanly as the clues fell into place. The brutal snarl from Jareth made him choose his next words wisely.

"Why have you not completed the bond? You need to, if things go where I think they will. She needs your complete protection." He murmured, opening his eyes, seeing Jareth suddenly standing only a few feet from him, having not heard him move, his stance rigid, his eyes glowing and talons extended, a predatory flash of golden feathers and wings briefly clawing against Eoin's mind.

Despite all his years of training, Eoin flinched and stared, eyes going wide. "What manner of power is that?" He found himself whispering. "Does Sarah know?"

Whatever he said had Jareth withdrawing a few paces, the glow in his eyes dissipating briefly, narrowing with calculation. "Pardon?"

"Your power is unlike anything I've ever seen. I've often wondered why you let yourself be taken the way you did. I know what you suffered for her, Jareth. There's usually only a few reasons anyone of our kind would for a mortal. You're bonded with her, though not completely...not yet, at least. Why?" He forced his gaze steadily on Jareth as the fae snarled in warning again, the room shuddering and creaking, but he refused to move, knowing instinctively if he did, Jareth might kill him for knowing his weakness.

"You love her." Another snarl of a warning but he smiled on, looking back at the door, hoping she would walk through again. Perhaps he didn't care if Jareth killed him, feeling the edges of the room grow darker as he prattled on. "Not that I blame you. She is incredible, able to hold onto that power of hers the way she does, as a mortal. She's incredibly strong and always surprises me what she can handle, something that I realize now should have clued me in that sheltering her from certain things was a bad call. I've grown to care for her too, in my own way. You certainly chose better than I did with love." He let a flicker of sadness show on his face, feeling Jareth's magic ease. "I was ashamed of who I was. Why else do you think I've done what I have for her, kept things from her the way I did? When I first found her, she was half-starved, barely surviving. I didn't want to shatter her, Jareth."

He looked back at Jareth then, seeing the fae had slowly regained control of his rage, even if he still stared at him with barely contained contempt. "I figured out what Neverin was, truly was, years ago. I knew what Sarah was as well...your lovely, elusive, nameless Champion. I couldn't risk her getting ahold of Sarah, not with the power she controls, with what Neverin is capable of."

The room groaned again at the mention of Neverin, but Eoin continued on regardless. "I suspect Sarah gathered some of the Labyrinth's power, either through you or through her defeat of the maze, I'm not sure which. Neverin needs it for...something, and since she failed to wrestle the Labyrinth from you, Sarah would be the next logical choice. It still evades me what she needs it for, but it scares me. I never told her about Neverin, about you, because she's already lost so much. Regardless of how strong she seems, she's tragically empathetic and fragile in the oddest ways. She's lost friendships she's forged in this place, most of which have died under horrendous conditions by Nokmim and orders from Lucius. She's lost the ability to even allow her family to know she's alive, because if she did, we both know what could happen. That wound runs deeper than all the rest, and I think you know that. Surely you understand I did not want to cause her more pain?"

He waited, watching as Jareth stared, his placid expression giving no hint as to what he thought of his words. Slowly, the darkness around the edges of the room vanished, and the idle creaks and groans from Jareth's leashed power faded.

"Good luck explaining that to Sarah with the same reaction," he coolly replied a few moments later, settling back into his seat.

Eoin smiled faintly, feeling the tension draining from his insides. For some unknown reason, Jareth had decided to forgive him. When his eyes looked towards the door, he found himself cautiously optimistic Sarah might eventually, with time, forgive him as well.

He opened his mouth to say something when a chorus of shouts from the hallway drew his attention. Jareth was on his feet as quickly as he was, the darkness once more returning in the room with his flare of power.

As the doors slammed open, Eoin and Jareth both blinked in shock at the sight of a terrified Hoggle. Hoggle gaped briefly at Jareth, but turned to Eoin, his eyes wide.

"Neverin has one of your scouts."

Everything in Eoin froze at that moment, the fear he'd easily shrugged off moments before returning tenfold. Jonas...

Finally, he gathered his senses enough to begin barking an order at the scouts that poured into his room, when he felt it. "Get everyone to the portal, right now, and warn the others in the field that…"

A tremor, so violent everyone but Eoin and Jareth lost their footing, collided with the building, shattering windows and sending pipes bursting with wailing intensity, water spraying everywhere.

Jareth's lips thinned as he tensed, then slammed his fist down on the ground, stilling the building except for a subtle thumping being heard from the outside.

"It's too late. She's already here."

Chapter Text

 


 

"Light is meaningful only in relation to darkness. It is these mingled opposites which make our life pungent, intoxicating. We only exist in terms of this conflict, in the zone where black and white clash." – Louis Aragon


 

Aboveground, The Sanctuary, Vienna, Austria

She was staring at that rose when it hit. The earth beneath her feet trembled then gave out, violent tremors rippling up like frothy waves in its once sturdy surface. She didn't have a chance to even scream before chaos erupted and shattered the stillness that briefly clouded the tension in the air.

Glass shattered like tiny diamonds all around her, window frames rippled and exploded, and black bodies leapt into the newly opened cracks in the sanctuary's previous wards. She tensed as another tremor shook the building, holding her ground, listening as water pipes wailed then burst, spraying heavy cold arcs across the ceiling, floors, walls -

Breathe.

She closed her eyes, crouching low, as she felt the presence of the Nokmim barreling into her room from the broken windows that faced the outside. Still, she focused on that inner voice, keeping her nerves at bay, channeling her strength. Fists tightening, body readying, stance prepared, knees locked, fingers pressed tightly to the sheathes inside her boots -

Breathe, Sarah.

Counting the pulse of her heart, she turned, whirling, snapping her fingers tightly around the knives in her boots, then surging upwards just as others arched down, swords swinging, only to be in one place one moment, and another one entirely the next. She'd trained for this, for hours and hours, drilling Eoin's terse instructions on her movements so deep inside her head, they became one with her thoughts in moments like this, when she needed them most.

Breathe. In and out, just like that, Sarah. Yes -  good.  Now move -  go.

She moved so fast, she startled her attackers, feeling their surprise as they slipped slightly in their attack. It was a small window, but it was enough. She used the daggers as drag to slow her down once she was in the clear, dragging the blades briefly against the floor to offer her some traction to keep her momentum steady and only slow her when she needed it, using that brief window her explosion of movement caused to grip the blades tightly and sharply cut upwards as she went, slicing through bones and tendons as the Nokmim landed in her room, roars of pain and sprays of blood following -

Breathe…

A few more movements, a reset of her internal pace, listening to that chant inside her head that Eoin had taught her, and before long - both adversaries were down.

All of a sudden, the surreal few seconds before came crashing down around her with the shouts of pain from the two Nokmim that staggered and slammed into the opposite wall she'd just been crouched against. She almost winced against the sudden screams of the fae males and just as quickly set to silencing them permanently. Quickly, she conjured a crystal, then pivoted her wrist, turning the crystal into a jagged throwing pike, tossing it quickly to sever their vocal chords, ending their roars of pain as quickly as they started.

She didn't even have a chance to reflect on the fact that she'd finally done it - she'd finally killed for the first time...and felt absolutely nothing.

She kept moving, feeling the glass shards all around the room crunch underfoot - more were in the room. She rolled, narrowly missing an arrow and dagger alike, just as the building shook once more with an unearthly tremble, the wrenching noise of twisted metal and scorched brick reaching her nostrils. Something was tearing the place apart from the outside and the wards, despite Jareth's improvements, were slowly faltering.

"Sarah!"

She heard his roar down the hallway, beyond her closed door, but she couldn't reply, having just managed to evade the second attempt at her life, twisting to stare at the window as more Nokmim entered near where the first two had sprung in. She hissed, baring her teeth, bloodied daggers flashing, as they stormed her.

She smirked, her palms heating with that unnatural feel, just as the door rattled and then exploded into shards of wood and sawdust, feeling Jareth fill the room with all his murderous wrath upon spotting the two dead Nokmim. He snarled, fists clenching, as he took aim at the first pair that had followed their predecessors, smiling ferally as they choked and gagged, their heads twisting at an odd angle as the room rumbled and grew dark.

More Nokmim poured in the windows and she pivoted slightly, feeling Jareth's magic stab through the air, sprays of blood flying as the two Nokmim he'd ensnared finally met their bloody end. Not waiting for permission, she flicked her wrists up in a savage arc, feeling her palms heat, hissing slightly in pain and sending a lethal blast through the air, tearing the Nokmim that tried to enter the room into a bloodied, unrecognizable mess.

You come into MY HOUSE and attack MY PEOPLE? I will END YOU.

She was furious, vibrating with rage, and she felt the small dark purr of Jareth along the tether between them, knowing he echoed her sentiments. Despite the satisfaction of watching those Nokmim burn under her considerable power, she staggered under the force of blast, part of the wall caving in with the strength of what she'd used, feeling a pair of steel arms circle her around the waist.

She cast a quick glance over her shoulder and saw Jareth's savage grin and glowing, excited eyes. He'd seen what she had done and was not afraid - something she realized she'd been worried about up until now, but seeing his expression set that aside. She'd deal with the emotional ramifications of adding murderer to her list of faults later.

Suddenly, he leaned forward, as if to kiss her, bringing up his right arm and covering them with his cape as darkness cast over them. She blinked, her eyes dropping to stare at his mouth and she heard his growl of approval. Her gaze flicked up and she saw the look of hunger briefly flash across his face before - once more - she briefly felt the ripple of golden feathers; a predatory beak and sharp eyes overlay his face. He shuddered and she wrapped her arms around him, embracing what she saw, and she felt his other arm tighten around her.

Mine.  Beautiful, deadly thing. Precious thing.  All mine.

She heard his phantom voice dance along her spine, through the tether between them, and she jumped softly in surprise, shivering at the sudden shadow of arousal that skirted up her insides. She felt his arousal just as hers fluttered into awareness. Unable to resist, she clung tighter and inhaled his scent and tried her best to answer him.

Yours.

His entire frame jerked and she felt the surge of satisfaction that danced back at her. Just as suddenly, she felt a muffled explosion roil around them. She tensed, jolted back into the situation at hand, turning her head and watching in an odd perverse fascination as his power cloaked them but eviscerated anything and anyone else. Organic and inanimate objects alike suddenly became shards, fragments, and dust.

He grinned faintly as she shuddered - but not from fear. This was the male she'd just agreed that she had chosen him, and she was not afraid. She could sense his satisfaction and pleasure at that, staring at her for several minutes, his breathing turning ragged as his arousal sharpened the harsh planes of his face. She swallowed, stepping back, keeping her gaze level with his as he looked ready to pounce.

Later - this is not the time.

With the flick of his wrist, he was back to the cold, icy Goblin King. He nodded, giving her a thorough once-over, looking for injuries. As he dropped his arm, she blinked again at the sudden change in the room, seeing the wall rebuilt - this time without windows.

"Come," he demanded, grabbing her waist and dragging her through the doorway. Outside in the deliberation room and beyond, chaos ensued. She saw familiar faces and unfamiliar faces alike - most likely new recruits - as they ran from one end to another, shouting orders, frantically calling others towards the portal room that Sarah had seen but never entered. Jareth led her across the room, shouting orders, calling to the mages to hold the line - but it all turned to unintelligible gibberish when she turned and took sight of the far end of the warehouse from the windows of the deliberation room.

Blood and body parts decorated every square inch. They would be lucky, at their current pace, to save even half of the sanctuary's population. They'd had no warning, no alarm, no way to urge the helpless volunteers and assistants that used that section of the warehouse as living quarters to run -

She moaned low in pain, sagging against Jareth's grip, as she recognized several of the bodies present. Suddenly, a red misty haze filled the other side of cavernous building and she dimly made out the figure of a woman in a red cloak making her way steadily towards the upper section of the warehouse. She was beautiful and deadly, blonde hair matted in blood yet somehow still able to hold a curl. Her hands flashed, long nails dripping, and she grinned, catching Sarah's gaze. Sarah stared, feeling something odd overshadow her senses, the woman's eyes pulsing red as she stilled and pointed at her directly.

Everything in her froze, the sound of Jareth barking orders to men and women nearby turning dull, drowned out by the sudden intense presence of the mysterious woman's gaze. The figure seemed to drop her hand and laugh as she felt the shadowed outreach of a claw against her mind.

At last. We finally meet. I've heard a great deal about you - the mortal champion known as  Sarah Ann Williams.

The longer she stared, the less the rest of the warehouse seemed to exist, slowly fading, until nothing stood between her and the woman but shadows and mist. The woman closed her eyes and inhaled sharply, hissing as her head snapped forward.

You have something I want - and I'm going to enjoy tearing it out of you -  slowly .

She flicked her nails together and snarled, her red eyes pulsing. Slowly, she paused, seemingly thinking over something, before a small half smirk tugged on her full red lips.

Jonas says hello.

A flash of images entered her mind and Sarah staggered under the onslaught, moaning softly in pain, feeling Jareth bristle against her. Bloodied nails, a woman riding a man with visceral scars littering his chest, oddly reminiscent of the ones Jareth had around his neck - a flash of a pained face against the flicker of torch light - one she knew in intricate detail - his moans of pain, anguish, forgiveness, pleads for death -

Suddenly, they were gone as quickly as they started, and she blinked, hearing her name being shouted over the chaos around them as someone viciously shook her. She came back to herself in degrees, hearing the faint shriek of outrage from the woman as their odd connection snapped. She frowned, focusing on the noise of someone shouting her name - no, not someone, him - and willed her own hands - that had long since gone numb - to reach up and trace those that gripped either side of her face tightly. She blinked again, suddenly able to focus on a pair of mismatched eyes staring into her own. They were filled with anger and worry and love and she shuddered at the profoundness of those unspoken emotions. She tried to lick her lips and form words, but her lips trembled and tears welled in her eyes. "She...has Jonas…"

"I know," Jareth whispered, stroking her cheeks, keeping his eyes trained on her, even with their names being bellowed from several around them as others raced back and forth, guns firing, fists flying - but all that she dared to look at was him. "Look at me, Sarah. Look only at me…"

His voice was soft and gentle, his grip on her shoulders easing, as he held her face in his hands as if she was the most priceless thing he'd ever held. "Stay with me, Sarah."

She nodded, shuddering, feeling that odd detachment that tried to settle over her again suddenly lift. An echoing scream filled the warehouse but they both ignored it. He smiled softly, his gaze warming, glowing, that tether between them strengthening, tightening, pulling her closer. She felt it then - his love, his lust, his devotion - and she latched onto it like a lifeline. He tugged her close, keeping her head buried against his chest, as he began shouting once more, unable to make out the words, just seeking shelter in the feelings between them.

She hated the weakness she felt after the mental confrontation she'd had with that woman - no, Neverin. That was her name. Slowly, her fear bloomed into red-hot rage, remembering the images of Jonas flickering in her mind moments before. She stiffened, gently pushing on Jareth's chest as his arms tightened around her, sensing the change in her. She lifted her head as he gave her a questioning look and she nodded, letting him know she was once more centered, and he did something then that meant more to her than anything he'd previously done - he lifted his grip and let her go.

She steeled herself and turned, looking at the scouts in the room that looked lost and frightened, marching over to them, hearing Jareth still tersely instructing the mages on how to hold the wards to allow those still running for the portal room time to escape.

Wasting no time, she pointed and snapped her fingers, quickly grabbing their attention. Either their earlier display had been seen or they'd cast aside her previous status as an outcast, as they all promptly fell to attention despite the tension bracketing the lines in their faces. Pointing, she laid out a quick plan. "Gather anything and anyone that you can and head to the portal. Now. Sean, Nellie, Jack, David - stay with me. The sanctuary is lost, we need to go through the portal. Whatever we can't take with us, we need to rig to burn, right now."

They nodded, setting to work. Sean and Nellie began ripping maps off the walls - tossing the notebooks, maps, notes, scrying materials, anything they could find that could be used against them later - into large metal waste bins in the center of the room. She paused as she grabbed accelerants, handing them off to the others as she saw Hoggle down the hall, startled at seeing him there, frantically directing others with his hands towards the seldom-used portal room. Briefly, his eyes shifted to her, but before she could summon a smile, they were moving, unflinching, as he continued to urge mortal and Underground refugees alike to hurry and jump through the portal. She blinked, shocked at his dismissal, until the realization dawned, hearing Jareth's words back at the cabin replay in her head.

No one, save me, remembers you from your time in my Labyrinth.

She smiled sadly and then set back to work, looking over the railing, refusing to glance in the direction of Neverin's forces, remembering how easily she was able to seep inside her mind before, whistling and dragging people's attention her way. "Hurry! This way!"

Sean ran up beside her, thrusting something into her hand. She looked down, realizing what it was, then smiled, pocketing the remote trigger. If it came to that, at least they'd go out in a blaze of glory.

Two Nokmim heard her whistle and quickly tried to converge on her location, but her daggers and training took them down before they could get too close. Refugees ran, bounding up the stairs, and as the last still alive made their way up into the deliberation hall, only then did she let herself shift her gaze, looking about the rest of the warehouse, tensing to prepare herself for the carnage she knew she would inevitably see.

Bodies laid everywhere, expressions locked in various kinds of horror. They had died brutally and without warning, some painfully by the twisted heaps of their bodies and the wide-eyed glassy vacant looks in their eyes.

A soft giggle caught her attention and she steeled herself once more, feeling Jareth hovering close in that bond between them, tipping her head to look across the warehouse, studying the blonde woman who looked up at her with a smile. The expression in her eyes was ancient, cold, and bottomless. Sarah swallowed, her eyes going wide, as she watched Neverin bring something dangling loosely in her grip closer to her face - the size of the object hinting at the strength of the woman.

A soft sobbing noise made her realize with sickening clarity what the something was. It was James - the boy she'd helped the first day he'd joined them in the sanctuary - where she remembered, with painful detail, that she'd promised to protect him from the 'bad men.'

Nokmim surrounded her on either side, arrows poised to those that continued to try and fight them. The woman smiled, her eyes still focused solely on Sarah, as she opened her mouth wide, showing a hideous number of serrated teeth, and leaned in, gripping James' neck tightly, as the boy thrashed and screamed, frightened so bad he lost control of his bladder, urine soaking his pants and shoes, dribbling onto the floor in small streams.

Pure, unfiltered fury raged through Sarah as she thought of all the chaos, pain and destruction this woman had brought on those undeserving - today and for the past six years. How many had suffered to feed her quest for power? Hundreds? Thousands?

She snarled, fury blinding her. Not him. Not today. You won't win, I won't let you. You think you're the only one able to inflict fear? Bitch, hear me ROAR.

Without thinking, she was running, leaping off the balcony, carried by something she didn't fully understand - dimly hearing Jareth's jolt of surprise, then fear, then fury at her risk - but she didn't listen. Instead, she grasped onto that tether and yanked, swindling through him what she knew he had, feeling his shout of surprise as she wrestled and grabbed onto his power and wrenched it towards herself, channeling it, feeling her fingers burn as she screamed, white-hot pain lancing through her body - and she was speeding towards the woman holding the boy in her long-nailed grip, a healthy dose of surprise twisting the woman's features as she easily cast off the Nokmim with what appeared to be a simple shrug - sending them soaring across the warehouse - when she yanked James from her grip and, after making sure he was shoved behind her, lashed out with her fist with everything she had. She screamed, feeling her fingers catch fire, and suddenly everything went molten and exploded into a bright white light hotter than the sun.

Part of the warehouse caved in with the sudden spasm tearing through the earth. The ground beneath her fragmented and she watched the shock rippled across Neverin's face before she was ejected out of a window.

The boy was sobbing, his arms wrapped around her chest, when she stumbled, her feet meeting unlevel ground. She couldn't move, couldn't hear, couldn't breathe - but somehow, she found the willpower to put one foot in front of the other, moving slowly from a staggering walk to a limping trot, then a run, towards the stairs.

After that initial explosion, she heard the inhuman echoing scream of rage behind her. A whirl of magic, so strong it felt like shards of ice filleted her back, tore at her. She almost fell, but Jareth stepped forward, hauling her and the child up against him as he strained, sweat pouring off his face as he held her back with what wards he was able to manifest with the power she hadn't robbed him of.

"I'm sorry, I had to, I - "She started to explain, but he simply shoved her past him, roughly commanding over his shoulder as she met his gaze.

"Later. Get to the portal. I don't have much left and she will be here in moments. She's using some kind of new power, I've never seen this from her bef -"

He didn't even get to finish his sentence, another blast of power hitting his wards, Jareth's jaw tightening in surprise. He looked to his left, where the remaining mages kept working, but he barked for them to leave and head for the portal. They took off running and Jareth turned, thrusting two hands up, groaning faintly as he held her forces at bay.

She didn't dare watch the toll it was taking on Jareth to maintain the wards alone, simply turning and running with James cradled to her chest towards the room that held the portal door. She hurriedly shoved the mages forward that looked at her in concern, urging them through. She saw one of the elder mages pause then hold out her hands for James and Sarah knelt down, trying to wrestle out of the boy's grip. He simply clung tighter, screaming in protest.

"No! No, Miss Sarah, no! I don't wanna go with her! I wanna go with you!" He wailed, his little limbs like nylon cord around her neck. She held up a hand towards the mage and the woman nodded, nervously looking between her and the door, hearing Jareth's slow approach.

"Hey - James, right?" She whispered, feeling the boy nod. "It's going to be okay. I need you to go through this portal with her and I'll be along right after you, okay? Remember what I said, about protecting you from the bad men?"

"I remember," the boy whispered, his arms tightening, the fear in his trembling voice breaking her heart. "You saved me from the bad lady."

Sarah smiled. "Yes, I did. Now, be a good boy and go through that portal and I will be right there, okay?"

James sniffled, glancing back at the mage. She felt his arms loosen and gently urged him to step back a few paces. Suddenly, he surged forward and gave Sarah a crushing hug before turning and taking the hand of the mage, both darting through the portal.

She stumbled to a stand, turning, heading for the door to call to Jareth, when Eoin staggered into the room, bloodied and a crazed feral look in his eyes. She stiffened, the injuries in her back suddenly flaring to life as her adrenaline faded.

"What're you still doing here?" Sarah hissed, looking at Eoin with hesitation and wariness as he stared back at her, some unknown emotion glimmering in his eyes as he stopped dead at seeing her. Suddenly, he was moving towards her, thrusting a box into her grip.

"Hurry! I have mere seconds before I must collapse the portal!" Jareth roared from the hallway, steadily making his way towards them. She hesitated, turning, but Eoin's grip on her arm made her pause and turn, staring at him with a frown.

"I have so much to say that can't be said," Eoin murmured, almost too softly to be overheard the loud ricocheting noises being hammered against Jareth's shields. Sarah frowned, torn between continuing to listen and aiding Jareth. "It all came down to shame and wondering how much of myself I could trust to reveal to you. Most mortals…"

She stiffened at the start of one of his old insults, turning towards the hallway to call to Jareth, only for Eoin's grip to turn hard as he once more grabbed her attention and tapped the box in her hands. She pivoted, her eyes narrowing, as he motioned towards it. "Take this. Take it. You'll know what it's for later. Take it, Sarah. Please."

She stared at him as she grit her teeth and thrust the item in her backpack then cast it back over her shoulders, narrowing her gaze at him. "And that's supposed to make us even?"

"No, this is…" Eoin whispered, withdrawing something from his pocket. She stared, feeling the pit of her stomach shrink as her entire universe collapsed down to the small strand of dark hair, tied neatly in a ribbon, that peeked out from between his fingers.

Flashes of that day suddenly assaulted her, and she moaned, shaking her head slowly, beginning to tremble and take a few steps back. Eoin's face rippled with pain and guilt as he let his hand drop and she studied the emotions on his face, suddenly realizing what they meant.

She rubbed at that phantom pain that sprung up between her ribs again as she suddenly ached so horribly, she thought she'd die from it. She felt the dripping wetness of tears streaming down her face but couldn't sense them coming, not until her vision began to blur. It couldn't be. No. No!

"N-No….No, Eoin. Not y-you. P-Please tell me it wasn't y-you…"

"I'm so sorry, Sarah. It was me. It was always me." Eoin, for all his cold hard expressions and harsh tones, sounded utterly broken. The sound of his soft confession had her glancing up sharply at his face, her eyes widening despite the utter betrayal she felt in that moment.

Eoin - the infamous master of spies and stone cold former Nokmim - was crying. "I never told you because...how could I? I was your entry into this horrible world of ours, and I was determined, after I learned what she was, what you were, that I would undo my wrongs...starting with you. There's nothing I wouldn't do for you, Sarah. I care for you like a daughter, I…"

"Go now! NOW!" Jareth interrupted Eoin's apology as he barreled into the room, grabbing Sarah by the waist. She screamed, seeing Eoin easily stagger out of Jareth's grip, as he cast her a sad smile. Helpless, despite trying to reach for him, she finally had enough sense to thrust her hand into her pocket and throw the item Sean had given her, watching him catch it and smile sadly once more as the window between the worlds shattered like glass and she appeared, eyes murderously red. She wailed in rage and swept her arms out and he jerked, pain flaring across his face as he was falling to his knees - then he was gone as she was ripped from the Aboveground, nothing but a void staring back in his place.


 

Underground, Labyrinth Hidden Tunnels

"No! No, no, no, no! We can't leave him there! With her! No!"

Sarah sobbed, bucking roughly against Jareth despite the pain flaring in her back, but he simply crushed her to him as he staggered to her knees, holding her tight. She screamed, clenching her hands into fists, beating them against his chest when his grip didn't falter. She ignored his gentle soothing words, remembering the sad image of Eoin smiled just as that woman walked into the room, the very shadows of hell on her heels.

No matter what he'd done, he didn't deserve that. No one did. The more she remembered his kindness, his patience and determination in training her, his smiles and laughter as they dined together over the years - the pain she felt was agonizing. I can't do this. I can't keep watching people die. Let me go, let me go!

She squeezed her eyes shut and fought with renewed energy, feeling her hands heat, but Jareth quickly wrestled her grip into his own, negating her power as soon as she grasped onto it. She jerked her chin up, glaring at him, and he met her stony gaze with an equally merciless one, fighting her grab of his power through the tether between them. He was as immovable as stone and she raged, not caring about the hurt it caused - actually welcoming it, relishing it.

Eventually, she sagged against him, utterly spent, giving into the sharp double-edged sword of despair. She ignored the silence that had descended around the tunnels as others watched their power play, only dimly hearing Jareth's snarl to find themselves 'suddenly busy - or else.'

Quickly, the crowd dispersed, as Jareth sat there kneeling in the ground, cradling Sarah close.

She couldn't move, couldn't breathe - Eoin, Jonas, my family, so many others...all dead - not registering the motion when he lifted her in his arms and began walking away from the others.

Chapter Text

"We both have war inside us. Sometimes it keeps us alive, sometimes it threatens to destroy us." - Veronica Roth


 

Underground, Labyrinth Hidden Tunnels

"Sarah, look at me. Sarah...precious...look at me."

She glanced up at him as he carried her, his form wavering in front of her like a mirage from the amount of unshed tears swimming in her eyes. She blinked, feeling several spill past her lashes, until she could see him properly. He frowned, his expression dark, lips thinned and jaw tight, but his eyes were tinged with concern. She could hear the sound of her own breathing, recognizing the ragged inhale and exhale that marked the erratic pattern and the tinge of pain and despair that muffled out her windpipe. She hated the noise, finding it grating and humiliating, pressing her lips together tightly to try and hold it at bay but eventually failing, another soft sob escaping her lips. She grit her teeth in anger and despair, closing her eyes once more.

"W-What?" She whispered, her voice crackling, as she thought again of Eoin's sad smile, feeling more silent tears slide down her cheeks. Jareth's grip tightened on her and he once more shook her gently, demanding she look at him.

She opened her eyes and glared at him through her misery. Everything hurt, especially her heart, and she was about to shove herself angrily away from him to spit his concern back in his face, but the soft introspective look he held had her stopping before she could form the words. He seemed oblivious to her tumultuous mood, tipping his head up and nudging her to do the same.

Forgetting her misery if only for a moment's curiosity, grateful for the reprieve, she followed his gaze, stilling when she realized they were away from the others, in a part of the Labyrinth she'd never seen before. It looked old, forgotten, and lost in shadow. "Where is this?" She whispered, looking around, seeing a shallow pool and a set of stone stairs.

"The inner depths of the Labyrinth, where no one else but you and I have been in recent memory. Where...I was made King of this place."

She heard the soft-spoken reverence and dimly muted resignation in his voice - a combined blend of love and hate, acceptance and denial. She frowned, scanning their surroundings, clinging tighter to Jareth as he held her and descended the steps, towards the pool.

"Why….are you showing me this?" She whispered, feeling the hairs on the nape of her neck rise.

"You know why, Sarah."

She shivered. She did know, despite not wanting to quite inspect that reason now. Because he loves you and you accepted him, that's why.

She glanced back at him as they moved down into the bowels of this foreign place and suddenly, fear seized her. This place was ancient, the brittle coldness of its seclusion searing her senses. It hadn't been visited very often in its history, in the way the darkness of the place stared back with eager velvety awareness. She had the sneaking suspicion that her encounter with it was altogether something new and - for her - something frightening. She wasn't meant to be here, a mere mortal in the place of ancient creatures and supernatural entities and it scared her. She had the oddest sensation that this place was alive - and the worst of it was that it was excited to sense her. She could feel it, just under her skin, all around her, and she wanted to bolt from Jareth's arms and bound up the stairs but was too afraid to move out of his protective grasp.

She clung to him as the walls started to whisper, some in lazy droll words, others in hastily scrambled shouts, mere shadows of what they once were, all speaking at once until she couldn't understand a single voice. She winced, whimpering, pressing her head against his chest. His grip tightened on her as he moved.

"You hear them."

It wasn't a question, but she nodded in confirmation anyways. His tone sounded both resigned and angry and suddenly, a harsh growl ripped from him and the noise ceased. She blinked, looking up and around, then back at him, eyes wide. The fear she'd felt before still remained, but steadied, realizing the odd alieness in the air responded to his command. "What the hell was that?"

"The Labyrinth," he responded, stepping across the shallow pool, placing her down on the ground gently. She found her footing but tightened her grip on his shoulders when he moved to release her. She ignored the flare of possessive satisfaction that heated his eyes but his grip on her didn't ease, holding her close.

"Why can I hear it? Does it sound like that to you, too?" She whispered, keeping herself tightly against him, not daring to look anywhere else but his face. While the silence had remained, the sensation of hundreds of eyes on her had not. It made her skin prickle in terror. This place wanted something from her, she just didn't know what.

"I assume so. It is not a traditional magic here, but powerful. It…" Jareth hesitated, his jaw flexing sharply, as his eyes devoured her facial expression, his own growing taunt, haunted. "It has marked you, Sarah. When you beat the Labyrinth and bested me."

She frowned, confusion flickering over her face. Suddenly, realization dawned. My magic - my magic is from the Labyrinth. She shifted in his grip, trying to read the dark glimmer in his eyes and the unrecognizable emotion that flickered there - even the bond between them was silent. She frowned, leaning forward, trying to understand what he was implying. "Marked me how?"

"As mine." He murmured, his gaze turning heated, as his eyes lowered from her face to her mouth. His grip tightened again, his gloved hands flexing against her hips, and she felt the familiar pull of warmth begin to spread from her center. She swallowed and he sensed it, his nostrils flaring. She realized he could sense her arousal and hastily tried to subdue it, but failed.

"Your….?" She trailed off, eyebrows raising, wanting him to say it. His gaze flicked back to meet her eyes and his lips thinned into a cruel smile.

"Mate. Queen. Wife. Match. Which term do you prefer?"

She stilled, her limbs utterly immobile, as she digested his words, her eyes going unfocused as she reflected on their relationship. She knew she'd always felt something for him - in turn both disgusted and secretly reveling in that discovery - but to hear it aloud, that their connection was brought about by her successful maze run, had her freezing in shock. She frowned, trying to understand, when she suddenly realized something. She jerked her gaze back towards his, anger simmering there. He seemed to sense it and stiffened but met hers steadily.

"How long have you known?" She asked, keeping her voice even, despite the slowly building resentment growing underneath her calm demeanor. "Is that why you touched me? Because the Labyrinth told you to?"

"Since the cabin, the day after you woke." He replied, his tone icy, eyes glowing in fury at her second accusation. He sneered, tugging her close, his grip firm as he ground his hips into her. She gasped at the iron hardness she felt prodding her. "You think that has anything to do with a damned maze? I've wanted to fuck you since I saw you in that damned ball gown. I…"

He faltered, his jaw flexing, as he shuddered, his eyes growing golden - that flash of predatorial creature overlaying his face once more, his grip turning painful. She felt the bond then, almost searing hot in how strong it briefly pulsed between them, then it winked away to almost nothing when he groaned in pain and seemed to wrestle with himself.

Right then, she wasn't sure what she feared most - him or the Labyrinth.

She whimpered again and his grip eased, his eyes meeting hers again, and the odd feathered creature that briefly masked his features was gone once more, dissolved to show the male underneath, struggling to contain his lust. "It is...extremely hard to resist you. If I touch you, truly touch you, I will not be able to stop the process. You've told me time and again how much you value choice, so I chose to avoid telling you until now - until you told me you accepted me and you were mine. Did you think you could belong to me and continue to simply be Sarah Williams, Champion of the Labyrinth?"

She stared as he looked at her, swallowing. She finally shook her head, answering what she knew was true. No, I somehow always knew. From the moment I met you, I knew. I knew the instant you came into my parent's bedroom; my life would never be the same again.

"So, what now?" She whispered, her throat tight. She tensed, not sure if she was ready for whatever change was about to take place, when his features softened, surprising her. One of his hands reached up, tracing her cheek and bottom lip, tugging it down to reveal the small row of her bottom teeth. He smiled faintly, looking over her questioning expression.

"We wait," he murmured, dropping his hand, returning it to her hip. He closed his eyes, cupping her to him and dipping his head down, inhaling slowly. She could feel his frame tremble against her and he groaned again, the bond briefly flaring and then once more slackening, as he drug his mouth along her neck, tongue darting out and tasting her, making her moan. He shuddered again and she felt his grip turn tight, felt his erection throb briefly against her hips, but he remained relatively calm, considering. "I've waited this long, I can continue to wait. I want you to choose to join me as Goblin Queen….not because you feel you must, but because you want to. No Labyrinth is going to force a mate on me. You'll be with me because you want it, Sarah."

She almost opened her mouth and replied she did want him but could sense the wisdom behind his words. He didn't want her accepting the bond because she was emotionally shattered, having lost both Eoin and Jonas and the sanctuary in a matter of days. He didn't want her accepting the bond because she feared for her life or because she wanted him physically. He wanted her to accept their relationship, truly accept it, and only then would they complete the bond.

If she had any doubts she loved him before, they were gone now. She stilled, her heart hammering in her chest, making her shudder. When had that happened? Love him? I...She stared at him as he looked at her - arrogance, merciless tenacity, loneliness, vengeance, obsession, devotion, love - all displayed so easily in his eyes, despite the lack of expression on his face. She swallowed, finally owning up to that feeling inside her. Yes, I love him - I do.

"Jareth, I…" She started to tell him, reaching up to cup his cheek, feeling his form tense underneath the tender grip, wanting him to know how she felt - when something unforeseen snagged her viciously from behind and sent her flying. She screamed, terrified, as the voices roared back to life inside her head, making her clutch at her temples in an effort to shut them out as she was ripped from his arms and dragged across the cavernous room.

"YOU DARE DEFY ME?! Your KING!?" She heard Jareth roar, just as something wound itself around her neck, making her gag. It was choking her and she couldn't breathe - and it made the pounding noise infinitely worse inside her head. After that, all she could hear was the voices and the sound of her own screaming.

Dimly, as Jareth caught up to her, splashing through the shallow pool she'd landed in - how had that happened? - she realized what had choked her.

A pendant, bound on a braided leather cord - identical to Jareth's. Almost immediately, the roar of voices was so intense, she gave in to the edging blackness at the corners of her vision and sank into oblivion.


 

Aboveground, The Sanctuary, Vienna, Austria

Every movement was pain. It had been since he felt her pressed to his back and he pressed that button down on the device in his hand, achieving at least some level of satisfaction that he had destroyed their paper trails as he heard the dim explosions from the other room and the roars of pain that followed from her pets. Now, he was half-wishing he was dead.

His head swam, his vision was blurred, and every way he tried to move caused a roaring agony beneath his flesh. He groaned, trembling, annoyed and shocked at his response, knowing his training should leave him better equipped than most to deal with such things, surprised he couldn't simply switch off the sensation - when he heard her laugh.

He stilled completely, then forced his gaze to focus despite the pain, gritting his teeth, another low moan reverberating through him despite his attempt to keep quiet.

"Why?" He hissed, his lips peeling back from his mouth, teeth clenched.

"Why does it hurt? Why can't you focus? Why am I here? Why are you alive? Why should I care? Which 'why' do you mean, dearest Eoin?" She replied sweetly, her soft whispered reply hovering near his ear.

He could barely keep his head level and felt himself slowly slipping towards a dangerous unconsciousness. He fought it, but the edging blackness was winning, and he slumped, groaning again - when the sensation suddenly lifted, making his head spin at the abrupt change. He frowned, opening his eyes, blinking against the brightness of the outside pouring into the deliberation room from broken windows and toppled brick walls, finally settling on the source of that voice.

They were alone and she was sitting across from him, one leg crossed over the other, still the epitome of hollow vapid fae beauty. She smiled, wearing a simple silk robe, the color of blood, the collar glittering with crusted rubies about the collar. Her hair was intricately woven and her face was made up to highlight her extreme comeliness.

It made him sick, his stomach turning sour, as he stared.

"I've missed you these long years we've been apart," She started, pouting, one of her long nails fingering her collar. "What do you think of the robe? I think it's definitely me, wouldn't you say? Now that you know all that I am? Well, more than anyone else, not quite all yet - but enough to have an inkling of a taste for who I am."

Who I am? Confusion flickered in the back of his mind but he said nothing in response, letting his silence hang in the air as its own kind of answer.

His eyes flickered over her robe, to the parting that revealed long pale legs, dangerously close to exposing her. The buttons that kept the robe in place, along with the slash, also mirrored the glittering faceted neckline, reminding him of dripping blood. He made a sound of disgust and she laughed. He took the moment to look around, noting they were alone. The brief sounds of pain and screams from downstairs had his eyes focusing sharply back to her.

She shrugged a shoulder and looked amused. "I told them to go have fun. You remember those days as a Nokmim, don't you? Raping, pillaging, killing - having a grand old time of it in the process? Don't act like you don't, Eoin. Unlike Sarah dearest, I recognize a fellow monster when I see one. After all, we all possess a certain...recognizable trait, don't we?"

He kept his expression schooled but inwardly, he winced. She knows about Sarah. As he stared at the amused smile that tugged at her lips as she stared back, flashing him a set of teeth and pulsing red orbs for eyes before her features returned to normal, he inwardly sighed. Jonas...

He wasn't angry at the boy. Neverin was chaos incarnate and her appetite for pain knew no bounds. "Did he suffer?" He asked, tipping his head to the side as she inspected her nails with glee. Why was he so weak? What had she done?

"Not as much as I'd hoped," she replied, glancing back up at him with amusement. "He's not dead, though, if you're worried. I couldn't quite bring myself to kill him, not yet. Not with what he means to her. Consider him an insurance policy, if you will." She preened, smoothing her hands over the long panels of her robe, steadily meeting his gaze with her own, a chagrined expression on her face. "He will keep little old Sarah from attacking me, since he means so much to her, and he'll keep little old Jareth from attacking because he doesn't want to face her wrath, should he kill him. It's quite the little love triangle between those three, I think."

"You underestimate her," Eoin murmured, catching her gaze. "Sarah will do what's right, in the end. She is beginning to understand your role in the direction her life has taken. What she's witnessed here..." his chin thrust out, glancing about the room before meeting her eyes again. "What she's fought through, what she's seen, she will do what's right. She knows intimately about the extensive damage you've caused - not just Aboveground, but below."

He watched her still, her eyes narrowing. He pressed on, ignoring the crippling sensation of pain slowly churning under his skin again. He tensed, knowing she must have carved a mark on him somewhere, or had obtained a well of power in her search that he hadn't been able to trace. "Now, with Jareth freed and at her side, your plans are crumbling. You're getting sloppy, dearest. Before long, everything you've worked so hard for will fail."

He grit his teeth again, the sensation of agony briefly all consuming. Panting, slumping against the couch he was propped up against, his body slick with sweat as his iron will he was so appreciative of collapsed against her magic, he closed his eyes and ignored her hiss of anger.

"No thanks to you, your precious pitiful Champion, or that ungrateful Goblin King, I have managed to secure a filament of my previous power. So, I would watch my tongue if I were you, dearest, lest I decide to rip it out."

Her voice sounded far beyond human, beyond fae, beyond anything he'd ever heard before. He tried to focus, to understand what he was hearing, but his mind was slowly dissolving beneath the onslaught of pain so much so that the moment slipped through his fingers while he was busy holding himself together.

"I yield, then. I yield, Neverin. Stop this, stop…" The edge of blackness briefly swirled, almost drowning him - then it was gone once more and he sagged against the couch, gasping breath as she smiled and came over, straddling him. He grit his teeth but said nothing, biting his tongue as she tried to rouse him and failed. She raised an eyebrow, pouting, when he failed to rise eagerly to her closeness.

"You can resist me," she stated, surprise lacing her tone. She chuckled then, knowing he was still too weak to fight her, remaining perched atop him as she stroked his cheeks gently with her nails. "How disappointing."

"Get it over with," he whispered, staring up at her, watching her produce an ebony blade from a hidden pocket in her robe. Using the hilt of the curved blade, she smiled, stroking it along his chest. It was eerily warm.

"Don't you want to know?" She whispered, her eyes turning red once more, as she met his gaze, that hilt grinding down painfully against his sternum, close to his heart. She leaned in, nipping at his ear, pressing the blade close to his throat. "I always knew what you were searching for. Why didn't you just ask me?"

He shuddered, closing his eyes, inwardly struggling despite knowing it was for nothing. She had marked him somehow - and with her newfound power, he could tell where this was headed. Sighing, he closed his eyes and just waited.

"They took him from me, you see. Erebus...my beloved." She whispered, and he stilled completely, barely able to breathe. She continued, turning the blade in her hand, scraping the tender skin of his neck, as her nails lightly dragged against his sternum in place of the blade.

"You know the story, then?" She purred softly, her tone gentle, almost sad, buried under years of nurtured hatred and revenge.

"Yes," he whispered, the sound painful. His heartbeat roared to life and he remembered, a few years past, when he'd cornered an Aboveground philosopher and researcher, desperate to learn something about his foe.


 

"I don't know what to tell you, Mr. Whitestorm, but from what you've described, you're mentioning the tale of Erebus and his mate, Nyx. As you can see, here, it documents such a deity."

"Deity?" He frowned, tensing, giving the man a sharp stare. "What do you mean, deity?"

"Gods, primordial gods." The man noted, gesturing to the document. "Not much is mentioned here, but they're said to be born from Chaos itself. Erebus, the God of Darkness and Shadow, and Nyx, his sister and consort, the goddess of Night. They are...unfathomably old. Even the Greek Gods feared them."

Eoin stood there, running a hand through his hair in frustration, leaning over the documents that were so old, they had to be handled with special gloves to avoid contamination, their pages already dangerously thin and gossamer. He motioned for the man to turn the page and he did so, skimming the document. To the man, he most likely looked like a frustrated rich conspirator just inspecting the page, but he was able to read the ancient script easily. Still, it held nothing of use to him.

Deity? He snorted at that - surely not. Sighing, he paid the man handsomely and left.


 

"How the mighty have fallen," he murmured, taking the chance to risk her wrath, feeling the blade in her hand slide closer to his throat. She must have been incredibly weakened to only be able to do what he'd witnessed over the years. He swallowed, realizing why she wanted so much power. She hissed softly at his taunt, but didn't drag the blade along his throat, making him take a shallow breath as she paused. He sensed her sadness, her rage, and if not for the actions she had taken - he once might have pitied her. Now, he felt nothing.

"Am I supposed to feel sad for you?" He grunted, baring his teeth. "You've killed - gods, no telling how many. You're not even fae, are you? Why did you let me believe you were baobhan sith?"

"Because it suited my needs," she smiled faintly, stroking his cheek. "It was once mine, you know. All of this," her dagger briefly rose, twirling around the room, before coming to rest back over his heart. "And my home? It was the Labyrinth."

He stilled, his heart hammering again, as she sighed, her grip briefly loosening on the blade. If only he could move, could throw her off, perhaps he'd stand a chance to -

"Of course, we didn't call it that, but that's what it was - home. But then, eons ago, your people came." She spat, eyes flashing down at him, and he willed himself to stop moving, to meet her stare, until she was distracted again. "Together, they cast us out, drained us of our power, stole our home, locked away my mate in a place even can't reach - then had the audacity to call us monsters. You're more like us than you want to believe, you think to fool yourselves that you're somehow better, with your rules and your clothes and your charm, but underneath all those superficial trappings you're still monsters - just like me. At least I have the fortitude to admit my nature, you coward. Your people stole him from me - but not for much longer. When HE is out, I'll make sure to take extra care that everyone you've ever loved suffers perfectly until the end."

He saw it then, his moment, as her fingers loosened on the blade, and surged, struggling to a stand. Only after he'd moved, he felt it - it was wrong, too late, not the right time, and he stumbled. His eyes went wide as he stared into her cold fathomless red eyes and looked down, past those glimmering rows of serrated teeth, to watch the dagger in her hand shift, then puncture and sink deep into his chest, piercing his heart, causing unfathomable pain.

He opened his mouth to scream, but only blood welled up in his throat. She grinned again, then launched forward, mouth opening wide. He closed his eyes and embraced what he knew was coming, choosing to spend his last few seconds thinking of those who made his life meaningful.

He slipped into oblivion with thoughts of Sarah and Jonas smiling happily in his mind.


 

Underground, A Private Estate, Annwn, Capital of the Underground

He shivered, hunkered down in the corner of his cell, weak and barely able to move. The guards regularly beat him, barely feeding him enough to keep himself alive, as he waited.

Waited for what? He wondered, fingering the loose stones in the wall. The revelation of what happened to Sarah? The end of his life? The end of his sanity?

He heard the cell door creak open and jerked his head around, alarmed he hadn't heard the approaching footsteps. He gagged at seeing her, harshly recoiling when she came to stand beside him, his stomach heaving but only able to feel bile dribble past his lips.

She smiled faintly in the dark - his eyes had long since adjusted. His eyes whirled around the room, sensing no other visitors. "What - what do you want now?"

"I'm worried about your sanity, pet," she gently admonished, tapping her chin with one of her long nails, a frown tugging at her lips. "So, I decided to bring you a friend."

She sat a small burlap sac down and patted it with a grin. "You'll thank me later."

Rising, she watched as he cautiously slid forward, gripping the bag. He frowned at the odd heaviness of it, and before he stuck his hand inside, he smelled it as he loosened the drawstring.

Blood.

His mind froze, almost splintering, as he hastily tore away the sac, fear seizing him. Don't let it be her, please don't let it be her, not her - no, no, no, no, NO -

But it wasn't her. He stared, dropping the offending item, watching it roll across the stone cell floor with horror in his eyes. Staring back at him was what remained of his friend, his mentor, their leader, his eyes forever locked in agony in the head she'd brought him.

"Eoin…" He whispered, closing his eyes, burying his face in his hands - but then he gagged, feeling his friend's blood on his face. When he blinked, looking down, he couldn't help the screams that followed.

The woman in the red cloak simply smiled and laughed.

Chapter Text

"Real love is always chaotic. You lose control; you lose perspective. You lose the ability to protect yourself. The greater the love, the greater the chaos. Its a given and that's the secret." — Jonathan Carroll


Underground, The Labyrinth Hidden Tunnels

Sarah…

She blinked, jolting awake, shivering in the small shallow pool she must have passed out in. She looked around wildly, sensing nothing around her but endless mist and space. She felt cold, her neck hurt, her body ached, and she couldn't force her voice to her lips no matter how hard she tried.

Sarah…

The whisper of her name was louder this time and distinctive - it was Jareth calling to her. His voice sounded far away, panicked and urgent, and she tried to stand, to follow it. Frowning, she closed her eyes, trying to figure out where it was coming from.

Sarah, precious, answer me…

She opened her eyes, looking around, becoming frantic. She tried shouting, screaming, clutching at her throat - but nothing came out. Frustrated, she slammed her hand down on the ground, splashing water across her face, making her tremble at the flare of cold in her limbs. Finally, after several failed attempts, hearing Jareth's voice grow more distressed, she reached out another way, closing her eyes and searching for the bond between them.

Just as she sensed it, sensed him along it, she stumbled as something yanked, then his arms were around her, rocking her against him.

"Sarah, my Sarah, my precious thing, I've found you," He whispered, his grip tight, almost painful. She felt his talons, felt the skirting of feathers against her skin, and the crackle of his magic rumbling in the air around them. Opening her eyes, she looked up, seeing his mismatched gaze turn golden, his features elongate, then snap back into place, only to fade again, teetering on the edge of morphing him into something altogether inhuman - not fae, not human, something else entirely.

"Where are we?" She whispered, struggling a few times to find her voice, surprised that in his grip she could muster sound in this odd place. She didn't dare look away from him, sensing the misty nothingness shaping around them - odd things and settings shifting around their embrace, something not meant for mortal eyes. What she could sense out of the corner of her eye threatened to unravel her.

"In the dream plane," he murmured, frowning, his teeth elongating, looking dangerously lethal. He struggled again, growling, the sound almost monstrous, but the moving oddities in the corners of her vision cleared, backed off, and before too long it was only them and the mists again.

Her fingers flew to her neck, feeling a warm presence against her chest, and she frowned, looking down. She trembled as she stroked her fingertips across the pendant she found once more, feeling the stroking all the way on the inside of her head. She stiffened, suddenly angry, as she looked back up at him. "Did this fucking maze just force us to mate?"

"Seems like, precious," He replied, looking equally at risk for losing his grip on his temper. Once more, his face seemed to elongate, his teeth turn sharp, his body rippling - but she placed a hand on his chest and he calmed, opening his eyes. The fury there made her swallow, but she stood on tiptoe and pressed a kiss to his lips, making him turn rigid once more.

"I will tear this maze apart, you're -" He snarled against her mouth, his talons pricking her flesh as he gripped her close, breathing heavily. "You must accept, precious. Let me lend you my strength. It's killing you. If you die, I can't -"

"I accept," she whispered, interrupting his furious demands. He stilled, shuddering, and she felt his arousal pulse against her stomach, his hand reaching up, stroking her cheek, his talons catching in her hair.

"You're mine?" He rasped, his breathing growing labored once more. She nodded, feeling the snarl of satisfaction against her mouth, where she smiled and tipped her head back, letting him drag her against him and kiss along her neck, mindful of her skin with his sharpened teeth. "Mine, Sarah. My Sarah. Mine."

"As long as you're not demanding that 'love me, fear me, do as I say' shit constantly - yes, I'm yours. Take me." She whispered, feeling the bond between them grow heavy, strained, the sensation of it brightening, forging into something so impenetrable, it made her gasp. She heard his howl of surfeit before they stumbled, falling, falling -

She jolted awake, cradled in his arms, wet from the fall in the pool, back in the cavernous room with the stone steps, the pendant cool around her neck. She gasped at the flood of power pouring between them, feeling herself changing, but he was on her before she could take a moment to register the shift inside herself.

His mouth and tongue were merciless as they ground against her own, his hands ripping the clothing off her form, his own evaporating, as he lunged between her legs, hard and hot, plunging deep. She screamed, shuddering, gripping him tightly around the shoulders as he snarled, moving in demanding strokes.

He wasn't gentle, but then she didn't want gentle. He was rough, demanding, almost painfully so, as he took her, exacting climax after climax from her with unsparing teeth, mouth, hands, and body. His hunger was endless, she lost track of the amount of times she came, before he was finally losing control atop her, his form vibrating as he pounded into her in swift bruising strokes, his features exploding into a shimmer of man and animal, his grip painful, talons dragging wounds across her skin, as he exploded inside her. His roar shook the very foundations of the cavern they found themselves in.

The air around them roiled, darkness exploding, rocks shifting, water hissing as it evaporated to steam around them - and she moaned, keeping her legs splayed while he continued to thrust through his release, feeling each spurt drain him more than the last, until he sagged against her and the cavern once more went silent.

Only then, when he was replete, did he gently stroke her form, sending warm healing fissures along her skin. She shivered, and he moved to pull back, but she held him in place. She felt different then - stronger, faster, more agile, hungrier. She swallowed, trying to calm the rapid return of her arousal, and failing, hearing him groan and slowly begin to grow stiff once more.

"I was...rougher than intended." He murmured by way of apology, tipping his head up, still buried inside her, a frown marring his face. "I hurt you."

She could feel him and his power, inside her, in every pore, that bond strong - and she sensed his dismay at his lack of control. He feared she would recoil at that side of him and she opened herself, letting him feel that she accepted all sides of him.

He shuddered, bringing his mouth back over her own, then began to move again. She moaned, feeling that hardness return once more inside her, then he suddenly shifted, rolling her atop him, staring up at her. "Claim me, Sarah. Claim me like you want me."

"I want you," she whispered, closing her eyes and splaying her hands across his chest, sinking all the way down on him, hearing his soft groan beneath her. She smiled, canting her head back, squeezing her sheath tightly, relishing the feel of him buried insider her, then began to move. She took his hands, let him cup her breasts, trail his talons along her heart, then drove them both towards a mutual climax.

As she moaned, feeling her insides tremble, then melt, pulsing around him, she heard his long tortured groan and looked down, watching rapture transform his face. She stilled, holding him tight between her thighs, as she leaned down and stroked his face while he held her to him, feeling him pulse inside her.

This time, when he came, the room eased, only slightly shifting, and she felt a warmth around her. She smiled, kissing him, enjoying the ravenous licks of his mouth, then let him roll atop her when he hardened again, exploring her body as he continued driving them to new heights.


"How long have we been down here?" She murmured, shivering as his teeth and tongue nipped along her shoulders. He paused, reaching down and flicking a tongue along one hardened nipple, making her moan. He smirked faintly, then continued.

She shifted, narrowing her eyes, lightly trailing her fingers down his stomach and finding his rapidly hardening cock, making him pause and hiss as she gripped and pumped - once, twice, three times, each harder than the last. Two can play that game, smartass.

"How long?"

"I've stopped time, don't worry." He murmured around a shoulder, his hand once more cupping her breast. "Life your leg, pump me harder, I want to be in you again."

Her insides turned molten and she moaned, squeezing her fingers around his cock almost instinctually. He purred, pumping his hips slightly, forcing his cock through her tight-fisted grip, as his mouth moved to her breast. She whimpered as he sucked and nibbled, then tugged it with his teeth.

"Lift your leg, precious. Let me in."

God help her, she did. When he took his cock out of her grip, gently pressing her hand to his mouth to kiss her fingers then pressed them against the rock in front of her and went back to positioning himself, she groaned softly as he surged forward, quickly thrusting inside, all the way to the hilt.

"Gods, you're perfect. Perfect for me, precious. Squeeze down, drive me over the edge. I'm already close. I need to spill in you."

His frenzied words, his rough movements, his brisk stroking of her clit, had her shattering as she did what he asked. She heard his groan join her cries and he kept her there with him, rubbing her clit as he throbbed inside her, flooding her channel with a plume of heat, until her senses dissolved into nothing more than sparks of pure bliss.

"Mine."

She didn't argue, too lost in her own ecstasy to acknowledge his possessive snarl that tore through the cavern.


Several hours later - or was it days? - they began to prepare to return. Things seemed different to Sarah, including her own body, and Jareth explained she wasn't entirely human anymore, but even he didn't know the extent of what she was. That surprised her, and when she lifted her brows in question, he shrugged. "There's never been a mortal Goblin Queen. You are the first."

That made her pause as she followed Jareth's instruction for summoning clothing, something that again surprised her, how easily magic came to her now. She felt it now more than ever, a soft hum beneath her skin, always there, always ready - slightly warm and tingling. "That...sounds concerning."

"You are perfect in every way. Do you need another demonstration so soon, my love?" He murmured beside her, already dressed, leaning down to nibble at the shell of her ear. She blushed, gently pushing against his chest, catching a brief glimpse of the heated look in his eyes.

"You're insatiable," she laughed softly, shaking her head, putting the finishing touches on her wardrobe. Jareth warned her to appear formal when they returned to the others, to make sure to drive home her importance going forward.

No more hiding, precious. You are my Queen, my mate. Everyone will know your name now, he'd said, as he briefly stroked her spine while helping her summon the proper leather and molded metal armor.

"Only when it comes to you," he murmured, the heated look in his eyes turning soft and warm despite the savage sharp angles in his face. Slowly, his eyes slipped to take in her armored appearance, very similar to his own. "Simply beautiful. Stunning, gorgeous, and all mine."

"Yes, yes. We've been over this, Jareth. I'm yours and you're mine but we need to press on. We need to…" She trailed off, going silent, as she swallowed, thinking of all those back in the tunnels, waiting for strength and leadership. "So many are depending on us, Jareth. That scares me."

"It's new territory, love, it's nothing to be afraid of." He replied, tugging her against them, their breastplates making a soft grating noise as they clanged against one another. "You tore across that sanctuary and ripped that boy out of the arms of the worst creature I've ever encountered. No one in their right mind would accuse Sarah Williams of being a coward. Your beautiful in your cruelty - it was one of the first things I found endearing about you. All that indomitable will..."

She blinked at the heated look at entered his eyes again, taking his offered arm, as they slowly ascended the steps. She willed a few daggers into her free hand, sliding them into place as she moved with him, clearing her throat, shifting the subject back to the group that awaited their return. "So, what's the plan?"

"First, we take back the Labyrinth. Then, we burn anyone who still supports that woman to the ground until even ash doesn't remain."

The chilling way he talked about mass murder should have frightened her but remembering the faces of all the innocents they left behind or couldn't save as Neverin's forces stormed the sanctuary had her nodding. When she'd accepted him, mated with him, she knew she was casting off her last chance to live a normal life and see her family again but - given the stakes, she couldn't walk away. Her hands were coated in the blood of thousands, tied by fate to Jareth and Neverin alike. She would see the end of this, would go all the way, in whatever capacity he needed. She loved him, all of him, and she wanted him to know that despite the loss of her mortal life, her family and her past, she accepted him. When he looked her way, she smiled.

"Sounds like a plan. After you, Goblin King."

The icy cruel depths his gaze softened for a brief moment and he turned, leading the way back to the others.

Chapter Text

 

"Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will." - Mahatma Gandhi


 

Underground, Six Years Prior, The Junkyards Near the Goblin City

"I was looking…" The girl murmured, blinking slowly with a frown, hands reaching up limply to tug strands of loose hair away from her face as she turned, tripping over a few loose shards of garbage under her heels, mindful of where she was stepping. It was her stepping that had roused her from a deep sleep and caught the crone's eye.

"Eh? And where were you going, hm?" She shuffled closer, her eyes narrowing, gums growing wet with the promise of a new fresh dinner. It had been some time since she'd been visited, since someone had made it this far, and her fingers twitched, reaching for her tattered robes, around the various shards of debris stacked on her back - both for protection and curiosity, for that's what broken mortal dreams were to her, a curiosity - for that blade hidden within, something she'd held onto for years and years, beyond number.

"I was searching...for something…" The girl murmured, a ghost of a memory fleeting past her face, as she struggled to stand and move past her. She was a pretty thing, almost ripe, if shy a few years from adulthood still, but plump enough in the right areas that she wouldn't complain. A meal, even one just shy of perfection, wasn't one she would laugh at.

Not yet eager to give up her dinner, she trotted behind her, watching the girl as she struggled for that blade. Oh, where is it? It's got to be here someplace! Hastily, she added a small little riddle to confuse her, before the girl got too far, as her old bones did not cooperate as well as they once did. "You can't look for something if you don't know where you're going, can you?"

It did its trick, just as she intended, and she snarled softly, grin wide and macabre, as she neared. The girl stilled, frowning, her eyes growing distant and forlorn as she thought over her words, and she grinned again, showing a row of serrated teeth, fingers clutching, searching, hurried in their efforts to find that which she needed. The knife, the knife! Find the knife!

Thrusting a forgotten mortal trinket into the girl's face while she searched, she watched as the girl's eyes went wide in shock at seeing it. "Lancelot?" She murmured, taking the object, cradling it close to her chest.

Suddenly, she could sense it, just as her fingers grasped the blade - the smell of the Labyrinth magic around the girl. It had her hands stilling, her eyes suddenly sharp, as she studied the mortal girl in front of her. It was with a bitter sense of irony, that just as she had finally found the blade, she could no longer use it to carve up a much-wanted dinner. It grew heated under her tattered robes in warning and she inwardly sighed, dropping her fingers from its grasp as she pushed the girl along for the test she knew the girl must pass. Only then, after the Labyrinth had been satisfied, would she know if her dreams of dinner would be fulfilled. She almost snarled at the loss, it had been so long since she'd been able to extract something from a mortal that had done some misdeed - that was what she once did, wasn't it? She struggled to remember and eventually let the splintered memory pass so she could focus on the task at hand.

Onward, then, they moved - into that cocooned mirage inside the junkyard, while the girl struggled still, eyes wide, mind searching, and she once more grew excited that perhaps, this time, she'd finally get a taste of a full belly, until she uttered those words that ended the test.

"Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I fought my way here to the castle, beyond the Goblin City, to take back the child you have stolen…" The girl blinked, looking up and around. "It's...all junk."

Angry that the girl passed, bitter that she'd once more been swindled of a good meal, furious that she once more failed to be able to do what she'd been made to do, she grabbed the nearest item, bringing it in close. It was a music box, with a dark-haired girl in an opalescent gown, dancing to a hidden tune, thrusting it in her face. "Well, this isn't junk! Would you say this is junk, girl?"

The girl stared at the item so long, she felt her fingers draw close to the blade again. Just as it cooled while the girl stared at that trinket, she drew it up and stepped forward, eager to plunge it deep, when it turned iron hot and she screamed, the blade falling from her grasp. At the same time, the girl stiffened, screaming out what she knew she'd hear, what had made the blade singe her flesh in denial.

"Yes, it is!" She threw the trinket, shattering the dresser mirror and the fragile cocooned layer of magic the Labyrinth had conjured underneath, the trinket's rough slam popping the room like an unstable soap bubble, demolishing the mirage.

Just as the girl stood, elbowing past her, as the room crashed around her, the voices of others now able to be heard nearby - Sarah, they're calling her Sarah, aren't they? - the crone smiled and reached for the blade with a new sense of purpose.

She remembered. With those words, she remembered everything and knew what she had to do.

Clutching it close, whispering something indecipherable to the object, she watched it pulse, then scatter like sand, only to catch in the young girl's hair as she ran by. The crone smiled, cackling, then let the heap fall on her, closing her eyes as she willed that last piece of herself to the girl, then closed her eyes, allowing oblivion to consume her.


 

Underground, The Labyrinth Hidden Tunnels

Jareth glanced over at her as they returned, the rocks parting, letting them free of this hidden place, even to his subjects. She moved beside him, frame straight, eyes forward, and he couldn't help but glance over her body once more. He had just exhausted them both and yet, as he watched her walk alongside him as they returned, he found himself aching again.

Idly, he wondered if it would ever cease - the wanting, the possessive fury that strangled him each time he stared. Mine. Part of him never wanted it to end while the other part of him remained uneasy and on edge. If she would have let him, they would have stayed in that cave for centuries, with him half-buried in her until his body was once more able to take her, claim her as his, root himself in her so deeply that she'd never be able to leave, never be able to tell him no - not ever. It rankled him to admit that whether she knew it or not, she held all the power over him. She had to just say what she wanted and he would do it, regardless of the consequence.

Perhaps this is why my kind avoid love, he wondered, as they moved together, saying nothing. Love was a special kind of madness, at least the kind he felt for her. He lost himself in it, in the force of that need, afraid now that if she ever pulled away, she'd somehow unravel a part of him that he'd never be able to get back. The bond beneath their skin, apart from them and yet constantly there, just a sliver outside of either dimension, his or hers, existing somewhere else entirely - as tumultuous and calm as could be expected, given their odd need towards one another despite all the obvious complications - was the only thing that soothed him in this unfamiliar emotional territory he found himself in. By the emotions he could sense, it was the same for her - frightening in its unfamiliarity, exhilarating in its uniqueness.

Tugging her closer, feeling her steps falter only to fall alongside his own as they walked, her now closer to him, the bond warm and strong, he recognized that it was as much a part of him now as this maze was and he embraced it, sharp edges and all. He hadn't expected her acceptance, had fully come to terms that he might have to trick or force the bond, but when she had - he lost control, snapped, and ravaged her to the point of consumption in his madness to claim her before she changed her mind - and she simply laid herself more bare, letting him feast.

Just thinking of it, replaying that moment in his mind, his hunger for her returned so strongly, his cock physically ached. Gritting his teeth, he willed himself some semblance of control, reaching for that familiar mask of indifference as they returned to the others, who had barely noticed the time missing. Folding it, pocketing away those missed hours or days, he stepped forward with her, gathering their attention.

Stroking her hand that clenched his nervously, he turned, watching as the denizens that had long since called these tunnels home join them as they moved towards the standing stones, the very ones Hoggle and the others used to dispatch commands for slowly chipping away at Neverin's hold. He smiled, the action most likely still too savage from having that feral side of him satisfied when Sarah had bonded with him for it to come across as the tender gesture it was meant to be, noting that several gathered nearby tensed and swallowed, backing up a few paces.

He felt her fingers tense on his arm again and he looked briefly at her as her eyes roamed the tunnels, searching over each face, pausing for a few minutes to study one then move on. Precious? Is everything alright? He tilted his head slightly, catching her eye, her expression unreadable.

Not even half, Jareth. She whispered towards him down that bond they shared, her eyes looking away from his, almost shimmering with tears as her fingers once more tightened. We couldn't even save half.

He gently drew her closer, ignoring the murmurs as he stroked her cheek, bathing her in comforting balmy emotions. He didn't give a damn how it looked, how he appeared. It infuriated him that she had to suffer, despite everything, and he did his best to calm his words back, unable to erase all his fury, but tempering his words enough that she didn't flinch away. I know, precious. I'm sorry. They will pay dearly for what they've stolen from you. I'll make them pay, I swear it.

Again, she surprised him with her acceptance of his bloodlust and his need for vengeance. Soon, the High Court would truly learn what it meant to cross him - all bets were off since they'd hurt her. He dropped his hand, forcing his hunger down as her eyes met his and she subtly nodded, glancing back out at the gathered group. Staring only at her, calming his innate urge to drag her back below and take her yet again, he raised a hand and conjured a crystal, then splayed his hand wide, letting it pop like sand, coating all the occupants of the room.

Closing his eyes, he commanded the small grains to seek out those in the tunnels. Remember...remember everything...

Several screamed, some gasped, others shuddered, while others still simply blinked in confusion, feeling nothing, when those small facets of the crystal struck home. He smiled faintly, hearing her startled gasp, drawing her close and opening his eyes, studying her face - watching her eyes soften, feeling her mouth meet his, a soft warm exchange of emotion along the bond - then he pulled back, his body violently protesting the action, hearing the faint footsteps of a certain trio that came running forward, gasping for breath.

"S-Sarah?" Hoggle struggled to say, the dwarf's breathing labored, eyes wide, as his head tilted, catching the gaze of the dwarf, the fox, and the stone troll. They all eyed him with a mixture of disbelief, shock, and awe, as he unfolded himself from Sarah, urging her gently towards her friends.

She turned briefly towards him, her eyes simmering with unspent tears, making his heart tug painfully in his chest. He smiled softly, feeling her gratitude through the bond, the barely-there whisper of a thank you skirting along his senses, making his hunger for her tingle wildly back to the forefront of his mind, and he nodded, letting her get drug into conversation with her friends.

Murmurs amongst the crowd grew as he allowed them to embrace, his gaze turning towards the others, who stared at him expectantly. He gestured towards her, a pleased smirk briefly flashing across his face, as they all turned once more to the mysterious woman in front of them. No longer mortal, not quite, and yet not immortal, imbued with something altogether different, she shone like a true mystery to even the oddest creature in the room below.

"May I present Sarah Ann Williams, Champion..and Queen...of the Labyrinth." He spoke aloud, watching the crowd grow still in a hushed blanket of whispers. They stared, eyes wide, as they darted glances at Sarah, who had briefly paused in her discussions with her friends at hearing Jareth speak.

The way they simply stared, unmoving, in their cumulative inspection of her, both pleased and annoyed him. She is my Queen, you ingrates. Standing up taller, he hissed sharply and several took that moment to hastily do what he commanded next, catching the furious look in his eyes. "Kneel."

As one, the denizens dropped to their knees, eyes wide, as Sarah rose, her eyebrows shooting up in surprise. She looked over at Jareth as he smiled, only the softness in his eyes betraying his cold expression.

Precious, beautiful thing. His eyes lowered over her form, as he walked towards her, purposefully not saying anything, forcing the crowd to watch as he stepped up to her, tugging her against him. Cruel thing. He chuckled as she bristled, pressing a soft kiss to the tender skin below her ear, feeling her tremble against him. He closed his eyes, coveting her close, his arms curling around her hips. Sarah. My Sarah. Mine.

Yours, Jareth. She reached up, gently running a hand through his hair. He purred softly, tugging her closer. Forever. He grit his teeth, his cock flaring painfully to life, then she tugged out of his grip, leaving him standing there, her back to him in a casual dismissal, and demurely requested everyone stand.

He stared, expression furious, eyes soft, as she playfully looked back over at him. He smirked, knowing the crowd was in shock at the way he allowed her behavior, almost enjoyed it. When a few looked his way, he simply shrugged a shoulder.

A few of the males grinned, understanding the look. It made him suppress a chuckle while she motioned for everyone to return "as they were" and knelt down once more to catch up with her friends.

Whatever shall I do with you, precious? He teased at her before turning away, catching the eye of several leaders from Aboveground and tilted his head, indicating he wanted to discuss the state of the resistance in private. They nodded and moved towards the edge of the crowd that had started to gather around Sarah, following Jareth into the recesses of another cave.

I can think of a few things, she teased back, as he walked, losing sight of her. I'll have to demonstrate them later. Once more, his cock ached, throbbing painfully against his armor, making him growl softly before focusing on the task at hand.

Inwardly, he smiled at the small belt of laughter he heard from her side of the bond.


 

"Gods, Sarah, it's you! It's really you! I…" Hoggle paused in his tirade as he stared, blinking, shaking his head. "I spotted you several times when I went and visited Eoin, and I never thought..."

Hearing Eoin's name had that fresh wound in her heart once more aching, but she swallowed past the pain and smiled, the action slightly strained, but Hoggle didn't seem to notice. He suddenly ripped the red cap off his head and plowed into her, embracing her in a tight hug. The sob she struggled to contain burst past her lips and she clung to him, inhaling his familiar pungent scent, before motioning for the others to do the same.

Before long, they were a large pile on the sandy stone floor, laughing and embracing. Eventually, as if touching and hugging her was enough to cement the fact that she was actual flesh and blood, not some mere fantasy or faerie magic, they moved back, allowing others to come forward that remembered her. The door guards, all four of them, quickly greeted her and bowed, dragging their long shields with them as they moved. Next, was the worm, his missus, and the Wise Man. As he bowed, the hat suddenly came to life, blinking and screeching for all to hear.

"She's back! The Champion is back! She's Queen now! She's back! Back!"

Sarah looked around, nervous at all the sudden stares once more. "Yes, I'm back…" She chuckled, looking towards Hoggle as the Wise Man grinned then rambled past heavily on his cane, admonishing the hat as he went.

"What's going on?" She whispered.

"His hat ain't said a single thing the whole time we've been down here, not til now." He replied back, grinning once more. "It's damn good to have you back, Sarah. As a Queen now, no less." He looked smugly at her with that last sentence, making her blush.

As others moved forward to greet her, she paused as she heard something - faint, but there. It was a whisper, against the walls, against her breastbone, where the pendant briefly pulsed to life, then petered out, almost making her wonder if she imagined it. Frowning, she pulled away just enough as the others chattered around her to send out a call to Jareth.

Did you sense that?

A pause, then his familiar purr, heated and hungry, stroking along her insides. Yes. Later, once we're at the castle. I've something to show you there.

Briefly, the whispers grew louder, angrily, more dire, but a tug on her arm had them silenced, sequestered in the back of her mind, as she turned once more to the group, noticing several from the Aboveground sanctuary walking up, nervous to approach.

"Sarah, wow. You're...the girl that ate the peach?" Nellie whispered, eyes wide, as a few others stood behind her, surveying Sarah's impressive armor. Sarah stiffened, turning a faint shade of pink, almost too afraid to ask how Nellie knew of such a thing.

"I guess so," She finally responded, finding her voice, shrugging a shoulder as the others gaped, mouths hanging open, taking her in once more from head to toe.

"Whoa," was all Nellie said in response, her eyes wide. "That's so cool. I don't know how you did it, he scares me." At Sarah's confused look, Nellie blushed, her eyes lowering to the ground. "The Goblin King. Doesn't he scare you?"

"Once, maybe. But not anymore." She murmured, smiling faintly, stepping forward and embracing the girl. Nellie stiffened, then returned the hug, struggling to control her tears. "I'm so glad you made it. How many survived?"

"N-Not m-many," Nellie whispered back, the sound of her voice breaking, telling Sarah she struggled to contain her tears. "I t-think most of the s-scouts, the m-mages, but the healers...the others...not many." The sound of the girl's voice had her heart shattering and she struggled herself to remain compassionate but in control.

Nodding, she pulled back, smiling sadly, just as she saw the other area of the cavern shimmer. The girl tensed, sucking in a sharp breath, letting Sarah know she also sensed the arrival before the others.

There, across the way, was a black-haired fae woman with several others in similar wardrobes. The woman pointed into various caverns and several broke off, hurrying off down the tunnels she had directed them to, as she moved towards Sarah and the others, her eyes lowering to catch sight of Hoggle.

"Who's that?" Sarah asked sharply, gently pushing Nellie behind her, as the mage approached.

"Friends, 'least I think so. Showed up a few days ago, while Eoin was lookin' for you, and we held her down here until we knew what to do with her. She says she's here to help, but given our track record of people helpin' us, I'm still not sure how much I believe it." Hoggle muttered, glancing back at Sarah. "Might wanna get Jareth over for this. They're here to help us take back the Labyrinth."

"That's it? That's all they're offering?" She asked, tipping her head at the number of soldiers, her eyebrows rising in both confusion and anger.

Hoggle seemed to share her sentiments, his eyes narrowing as he realized what had shimmered into view appeared to be all the order was willing to offer. "Seems like."

Frowning, Sarah marched forward, feeling the others fall behind her. The black-haired fae turned her attention towards her, briefly pausing in her walk to study her, eyes widening slightly.

Jareth...Sarah reached out, searching for him along the bond. His response was quick, warm, sliding along her insides and sending her arousal into a fever pitch. Yes, precious?

We have company. Almost as quickly, his emotions turned hard, sharp, and cold. I'm coming.

Sarah smiled faintly at the woman as she neared, pausing to study her, just as Jareth shimmered into view beside her. If the woman was confused by her, she was outright terrified of him.

"Your Majesty," she hastily responded, dropping to one knee, eyes canting downward to study the ground. "Grandmaster Killdaire and the Thelemic Order heard of your recent...freedom...and thought to ensure you that you have our unwavering support in the upcoming raid on the castle."

"Unwavering support?" Jareth questioned coolly, the words so sharp they made the fae kneeling at their feet wince. "Pray tell, where was this unwavering support while I and my subjects suffered, hm?"

The black-haired fae said nothing, continuing to stare at the ground. Jareth snarled, the noise echoing off the cavern walls, stepping forward to command the woman look up at him - and Sarah used the moment to glance around, surprised at the bitter satisfaction she saw echoing back at them from the faces of all the denizens present. They enjoyed watching the woman cower, making her wonder what she'd missed since her absence.

"Did you know she killed them, little by little, over the years? Made them stare at the rotting corpses of their loved ones as they protected those too weak to survive her reign? Do you know what they did to her," his finger moved towards her, interrupting the horror that choked her at the realization of Jareth's words, her eyes going wide as the black-haired fae flinched once more and glanced her way, "just because she had the willpower and perseverance to beat one of us? Did you?"

Sarah was torn, horrified at what she heard had happened to the denizens during Neverin's reign but also concerned at the rising anger in Jareth, noting the way his gloves stretched at the tips, almost ripping at the seams. His talons were out and once more, for the briefest of moments, she saw that odd shift across his face.

"Not all, no, Your Majesty," the black-haired fae replied in a subdued tone, glancing down at the ground once she gave Sarah another cursory glance. She closed her eyes and sighed, her shoulders slumping. "But there were...rumors."

Jareth snarled again, this time the sound completely inhuman, making the crowd that had gathered flinch in unison, startled and shocked at the change in Jareth. The ground vibrated, and Sarah stepped forward, laying a hand gently on Jareth's shoulder, before he lost the tenuous grip he held on his powers. He turned, his eyes glowing, almost golden, and she stroked his cheeks, gently soothing him, watching as he slowly struggled for a sense of calm.

Taking this woman's head off will not solve all our problems, Jareth. She murmured to him along the bond, smiling faintly as he relaxed, despite the riot of emotions echoing back at her through the bond. She embraced them, blanketing her gentle ones around his savage ones, and eventually, he seemed in control enough to let go of all that pent-up rage. He tugged her to him and buried his nose in her hair, stroking his fingers along her back. She looked over at the black-haired fae, who briefly met her gaze, then quickly dropped it.

"What's your name?" She asked coolly, keeping with Jareth's earlier tone. The woman's gaze slowly rose to meet hers and she motioned for her to stand.

"Sorcha, Your...Majesty." She quickly added the title, noting the similarities in their armor. Jareth pulled back, still keeping his hands around her waist, narrowing his eyes at her as she prattled on. "I'm an understudy of Grandmaster Killdaire."

Sarah's blank stare and confused gesture had Sorcha briefly puzzled before she continued, looking back at Jareth, realizing he was going to offer little assistance as he stared coldly at her in turn.

"Grandmaster Killdaire is a member of the High Court council, the head of the Arcane Magics." Sorcha continued, focusing on Sarah once more. "He oversees the maturation of any who seek that calling, whatever form of magic that happens to be. Healer, elementalist, warlock, all come to his order to learn the higher secrets those paths contain, if they pass the initial tests to be worthy of the order."

"I see," Sarah murmured, her brows rising in surprise. She hadn't expected that answer, but it still had her curious on one question, glancing back towards Jareth and the others. "Why should we trust you?"

Sorcha blinked, eyes wide, as Sarah tipped her head to the side, waiting for an answer. The woman laughed faintly, looking around, seeing no one offering any assistance.

Jareth growled, eyes narrowing, as he studied the young understudy. "My mate asked you a question. Answer her."

Sorcha swallowed, tripping over her words to answer Sarah's question. "Because...standing here, even with so few in numbers, risks the wrath of the High King. Despite us being magicians in nature, we're not soldiers, not traditional ones. Killdaire's order could not survive an outright attack from the High King, if he chose to command of all territories that rally under his banner. It would destroy us, and countless lives with it. I'm aware of the Labyrinth's suffering, Your Majesties, but your kingdom is not the only that would suffer immeasurable loss of life should the High King choose to act against them." Sorcha replied, tipping her chin up as she stared at Jareth briefly with anger, then turned her gaze to Sarah. "My master has long worked with one of your own, Eoin, to see that Neverin was taken down, but given the nature of what's occurred over the past few days, I pushed my master to stop erring on the side of caution and offer our support. I'm aware it seems too little too late, but we're here, we're supportive, and we hope you'll accept what we can give at this time."

Sarah gently pushed out of Jareth's grasp, moving to stand by the woman, taking her by surprise. Like that time along the outstretch of a cold, winter-barren mountain, she grabbed Sorcha's hand and stared into her eyes. Not fully understanding why, or how, it worked - she simply trusted the magic to ferret out any hidden motives.

"What are you doi - " The woman gasped, her eyes widening, as she stared at Sarah. Sarah felt surprise, then fear, as she probed. She listened, deeply, as those whispers returned as before, telling her to accept, but not fully trust. Guard yourself, young Champion and Queen.

"Very well," She replied, dropping Sorcha's hand and moving back to Jareth's side, who's expression and emotions danced along her bond, asking without words what she had done. She simply requested he trust her and he went silent, shifting his gaze back to Sorcha as Sarah looked back over at her. "We accept your offer."

Sorcha sagged with relief, smiling, moving to introduce her squadron leaders, pausing at Sarah's next words.

"But Sorcha?" She whispered, watching the woman still, and she smiled. "If you betray us, you'll regret it. Very much so." The woman paled, then bobbed her head, her eyes lowering.

Turning, she tugged Jareth away, leaving Hoggle and the others to meet with Sorcha's troops.


 

Underground, A Private Estate, Annwn, Capital of the Underground

"Gods, it's wiley. I thought you said these things don't move much! Could have fooled me, Padraig!" Hissed an irate male voice, shoving a dark covered thing into a cell, shouting over the yowls and screeches of the foul-smelling creature.

"Just shut up and get it in the cell, you bastard. You whine worse than my mother," An older male responded, shoving the creature forward with the well-aimed thrust of a boot. The creature wailed as the boot connected with something soft, an audible crunch heard in the dark bowls of the crypt turned makeshift prison, and once it fell to the stone floor, the metal gate swung shut with a loud vibrating grate along loose stone.

"Good fucking riddance," spat one, both fae in dark attire moving down the hall, away from the cold masonry below.

He waited all of five minutes, counting in his head, before Jonas turned and whispered towards the other cell. "Hello? Are you alright? What's your name?"

A shift of something made him scamper back from the cell door, setting his teeth on edge, as a pair of glowing eyes in a craggy face met his own across the hall. "None of your business, boy. If you want to survive, learn to shut up. Go, back in the depths of your cell, and simply listen."

Her eyes twitched, looking to the entry to their prison. "Go now. Now."

He did as she asked, too afraid to do anything else, and curled up in a feeble ball, trembling, doing his best to remain utterly silent. He didn't think too hard on the fact that it was still nearby, despite the smell reminding him. His friend, long since having lost any recognizable features that marked him as Eoin, perched a few feet away, staring at him with milky ripe eyes, close to bursting. If he moved it, he was beaten. So, he simply ignored it the best he could, despite his mind occasionally asking it a question in the immeasurable silence between visits.

Why did you hide so much from us, Eoin? We could have helped, could have been better prepared for her if you'd just -

Right then, he heard it. The small echoing noise of high heels on stone. He shuddered, dropping his introspective talk with his headless friend, and did just what the creature had asked of him - he listened.


 

"Good evening, dear. Won't you come closer?"

The creature turned its head from where it sat in the corner of the crypt, golden eyes narrowing on the beautiful fae woman in front of her, casually leaning against the stone wall in a loose dress of gauzy sapphire blue silk, the traces of jeweled undergarments all that were keeping her from appearing indecent. Sitting near her, the woman's beauty only highlighted the lack of her own, two opposites of the same coin. It made her cackle, thinking how long ago the situation was reversed.

"Fine where I am, thank you." The crone huffed, wincing as she untied the stays to her packs, hearing them hit the floor with a chorus of bangs, plops and crunches "Why'd you hafta haul me all the way here, mother? Couldn't we have done this back in the Labyrinth?"

Neverin's eyes narrowed as she stared with no small measure of disgust at the creature her offspring had become. It made her cackle all the louder, settling with a wince on the stone floor beneath her, weary and dull, canting her head back against her packs of treasures. "You didn't get it back and the King is now free, ain't he? It kicked your sorry ass out, didn't it?" She spent a good few minutes cackling dryly over that, ignoring the glowering red-pulsating stare directed her way. "Ah, the bitterness I see on you is most unbecoming, mother."

Neverin barred her teeth - every single one, serrated and mangled in that beautiful face, and she simply cackled harder. She was old, tired, and unlike her mother, never quite willing to do the unthinkable to keep her beauty, quite eager for death. Time had its merits, but aging did not.

"How could you, Megaera? How could you side with those creatures, those fae insects, against your own mother, your own father, your very blood?" Neverin snarled, twisting her wrist, producing what she long thought lost. It made the crone still, eyeing the monstrosity her mother had become, as her blade flashed in Neverin's hand. There you are, you silly thing. I thought I lost you.

She simply shrugged a shoulder, cackling again in amusement. "You made me, mother. You gave me a purpose, once." Her golden eyes gleamed, one of the few things about her still ageless. "Seeker of oath breakers, remember? What did you think would happen when you betrayed your own oath - to us and the others of this realm? You had to be punished. At least father faced his crimes, unlike you."

Neverin screamed in rage, moving too fast for her to process, feeling the stifling presence of her body slamming hers into the stone floor beneath them, bone breaking under the weight of the other, her claws sinking into her throat, making Megaera gag, tasting the warm coppery hint of blood. She opened her eyes, watching her mother grasp that stolen blade of hers and raise it above her head, eyes no longer a beautiful shade of blue but instead a red pulsing glow of blood magic.

"My sisters? Brothers? Cousins?" She whispered, feeling Neverin bring the knife up against her throat.

"Consumed, just like you, precious daughter. All to free your father." Neverin whispered, sinking the blade deep, cutting off her vocal chords, her throat welling with blood, unable to scream. "If I could have scraped you out of my womb before you and your sisters were born, I would have."

She cackled, the sound drowning inside her lungs that struggled to move from the sheets of blood that flooded her insides, sinking into the abyss beyond the veil, feeling her mother's sharp teeth and stolen knife draining her dry.

She closed her eyes, accepting death, pleased her mother was still powerless, having not wrestled the magic of the Labyrinth from Jareth. It had taken ages for Maelfic to understand the importance of the Labyrinth, what it held at bay, what it gave to the steward over such a precious, powerful thing - not just the token offerings it garnered the fae magic pools through simple misbegotten wishes from misled and disenchanted mortals, but something far greater - the well of her father's power, bound to a maze and a sacrificial vessel race alike. Neverin knew what she needed it for, but still, even know, didn't understand what it was. Their plan had worked, and faded to myth, except for those who truly listened to what the maze had to say, and she smiled.

As she felt her mother drain her, she couldn't help but grin in defiance. You didn't get all of us, mother. Not all. One, it seems, lives on in spirit, in her. Sarah Williams will be your undoing.


 

Jonas sat there, terrified, eyes wide, as he listened to Neverin consume the creature - her daughter? - whole and alive. The sounds coming from that side of the cell made him want to vomit, until they slowly ceased, and he waited to see if she approached his cell.

Thankfully, she didn't, her heels echoing down the hall as she left him there, with his headless friend, and no doubt yet another corpse to keep him company.

He staggered to a stand and retched up what little lunch he had, curling up into a ball once he was finished. For the first time in his life, he wished he'd listened to Sarah all those years ago and hadn't joined her in tumbling down the rabbit hole.

It wasn't filled with adventure and quixotic creatures - that was a lie. They were all monsters and this was hell.

Chapter Text

"Don't wait. The time will never be just right. Start where you are, and work with the tools you have and better tools will be found as you go along." - Napoleon Hill


 

Wastelands, Outskirts of the Labyrinth Bordering the Sprite Kingdom, Underground

Centuries ago, things were simple.

The High Council served as a voice for its respective people and not for the whims of a tyrannical mood struck High King and melancholy Queen. The worst strife the races of the Underground faced was the occasional mortal wanderer and witch that could surpass their skill in a challenge, but in time even they lost belief and the troubles faced with their kind faded. Looking on the copse of trees in the distance, watching nature and time slowly return the ancient trees to the soil, Killdaire wondered if he too was outdated and misplaced in this new, dangerous world that the Underground had become seemingly overnight.

When did this all start? He thought with a sense of panic. When did things become so dire? How did we not notice the change? Even he hadn't noticed, not really, or maybe he had and just hadn't taken it too seriously, not until his scouts delivered the news of Eoin's sanctuary and his friend's fate. Now, it almost seemed too late and hope was scarce.

As he reflected, his mood worsened. Cut the shit, he chastised himself. You knew you knew and you did nothing.

It was true, all of it. He knew the signs, had seen the signs, but the High Council - and he - had grown too comfortable, too complicit, over the years, and he could only hope now that the others would be spurred to action like he was to still offer some semblance of hope at steering the course of current events away from the frightening future that hurtled towards them faster than he was comfortable admitting.

Sighing and running a hand through his blonde braids, Killdaire waited as patiently as he knew how, shifting nervously on his feet as he paced, his robes the only thing shielding him from the harsh sun overhead. He'd spent the latter part of the past day making friends with tavern workers, household staff, street peddlers and any other sort of riff raff that would help get the messages he needed sent to the right people.

Now, it was just a matter of faith that the messages had been placed in the proper hands and the words considered and taken for the serious threat that they were. He hoped they all came, soon, and he wasn't waiting atop this dusty hill in the midday sun for nothing. He pondered his choices with Sorcha and the troops he'd authorized, wondering if it was enough, wondering if it was a mistake, wondering if his allegiance with Eoin would finally be discovered and soon he'd be dead and buried and have no care for politics and prophetic concerns for a dark future. The thought made him laugh, the sound rusty and worn even to his own ears. Things must be bad if I dream of death these days.

Glancing up at the slow movement of the sun, Killdaire was too fearful to admit that he lacked conviction that they would take the missives seriously. Suddenly, rage consumed him and he stilled, willing himself to be calm. If this is what we've become, perhaps we deserve the fate awaiting us. Can't even show when the stakes are so high - is it a wonder why little is taken to heart from the High Council decrees lately? He dismissed the angry rhetoric inside his head, useless rage would serve no purpose here and he was methodical, if anything. It was best to save the energy to plan for an alternative course of action should they fail to show. He would not go down without a fight.

Regardless of the outcome, let it come soon please. I'm tired of waiting, he morosely thought, snorting faintly at the impatience he had towards the entire situation. If only we knew more, he lamented inside his head, casting another tired look towards the cropping of trees nearby, where those he'd attempted to fetter out should have met him by now. If we knew more, I'd feel more confident in our victory. Still, we used to battle when the odds were worse than this - have we grown so weak that we shy away from a challenge as important as this?

The longer he stood there, the darker his mood threatened to become again. Pacing once more, he scowled and kicked a long arc of golden sand across the dusty hillside below, growing impatient and more than a little desperate. They will come. They have to - don't they? Don't they care what's happening here? They'll come, if anything for survival...right?

The wind was the only thing that replied back, making him shiver despite the hot sun overhead, as if Danu herself lacked faith in their mission or had given up hope like his people had. With a grimace, he moved towards the trees once more, deciding to seek shelter.

"Grandmaster Killdaire."

He tensed, turning, keeping his robes close to his body, shifting to the side as he suddenly recognized the voice. A thin waifish creature stared back, her eyes steadily focused on his face despite their white sightless appearance, the bluish tint of her skin, large bald head, gossamer wings and long-appendaged limbs covered in a translucent fabric, layered enough to keep her from appearing indecent.

"You came after all," He smiled, unable to help the relief that poured over his expression, his eyes darting about. He frowned, looking back at her, watching the sprite smile, then settle on a large round boulder, spreading her robes and wings out to bask in the sun. "Where are the others, Umiko?"

"Not here," she replied, her voice trembling softly, reminiscent of the water lands she called home. "Too afraid, not worth the discord."

Killdaire flashed her a darkened expression. "Not worth the - you understand what's at stake, yes? You know what she's capable of! I've shared the reports I've received and I have an agent in the field right now, who's looking to attest how the magic pools have remained the same all these years, surely then, they will -"

"They not care," trilled the water sprite, giving Killdaire a softened pout, despite the tiredness he saw in her expression. "Other High Council members too afraid. What if we lose? What then? If she win, we must not appear to have supported Jareth, King of Goblins."

"If she wins, it won't matter who's on what side, she'll kill us all, Umiko." Killdaire warned softly, frowning as he finally wore himself out pacing with her words on the whereabouts of the other missing High Council members, suddenly without spirit, seeing only that Umiko from the Sprite Kingdom had heeded his request to discuss the growing concern of Neverin and her influence on the courts.

"I cannot be the only one who's aware, who's seen this. Eoin said…" He swallowed, meeting Umiko's unnerving stare, frowning faintly. "Eoin said whatever she was frightened the hell out of him - and now he's most likely dead. Surely that got their attention, yes?"

Umiko's wings fluttered as the water sprite jerked faintly, sitting up straight and tipping her head to the side with a frown. "Dead? In the fade? How you sure?"

"I believe so, yes," He murmured, turning his gaze away. He hadn't fully processed the death of his friend and struggled to explain. "I had a scout go Aboveground, seek out his sanctuary, when I failed to hear back after the news she'd captured one of his scouts. It was in ruins, hundreds were dead. There was enough of his blood to…" He shuddered, scrubbing a hand over his face. "Of course, I couldn't let my team investigate in full before those loyal to her showed and wiped the evidence and we had to abandon what we had found, but what I'd been shown...it was enough to convince me what Eoin said was true all these years. I'd always disliked her, but that was...something else, Umiko. I always hoped Eoin had the means to capture some evidence, at least, but now...with the Labyrinth sealed and the sanctuary gone, I…"

"Labyrinth is sealed?" Umiko asked, her tone sharp. He looked over and sighed, rolling his eyes.

"Yes, sealed. I commanded Sorcha to do it. Perhaps now it was the wrong choice, but.." He made a gesture with his hands, at a loss. "It seemed right at the time, until the victory of defeat of Jareth is decided, one way or another."

"No, good. Others afraid, but this help." Umiko stood and fluttered down next to him, touching his shoulder. "You come to me when Labyrinth unsealed. If Jareth King of Goblins wins Labyrinth back, I will convince others to not be afraid. He powerful ally. We must stand together, yes?"

"Yes, together." He smiled, suddenly sitting up, holding out a tentative hand, his palm glowing. "Your word?"

Umiko stared at his hand and the glow there - knowing as well as he did what it implied. The magic he'd pulled up was as old as the Underground, her word would be her bond, and agreement not broken without severe penalties. He understood what he was asking of her but he was desperate and he knew it showed. We don't have much time, Umiko. Accept the word bond.

She looked up at him and smiled sadly, laying her hand in his. They both winced as the bond kicked into place - sealing them to their agreement. "Agreed, Grandmaster. For both sakes, hope he wins."

He nodded, releasing her hand and watching her fade away on a soft moist breeze. Standing, he closed his eyes, willing himself to one last place to make one last plea before the battle of the Labyrinth started.


 

Labyrinth Hidden Tunnels, Underground

"The magic - it is done?"

"Yes, Mistress Sorcha. Just as Grandmaster asked." Replied one of the alchemists in white, bowing their head briefly. Sorcha merely nodded, dismissing them for now, explaining she would call on them when needed once the battle plans had been drawn up and finalized, while inwardly she felt her insides turn watery with panic.

Sorcha - if you betray us, you will regret it, very much so.

The woman's words replayed over and over in her head and she wondered if she'd made the greater mistake in adhering to her Grandmaster's command rather than the warning in Sarah's words. Regardless, there was no point in worrying now - for better or worse, their fates were sealed. The alchemists' magic bound the gates and the outside of the Labyrinth walls from the rest of the outside world, so as long as no one tried to pass the border, the magic would not be discovered, not until - hopefully - the Labyrinth was properly restored back to Jareth's reign. Still, remembering the small smile of the dark-haired female made Sorcha hesitate, even now. She didn't know anything about the woman but what she had seen scared her.

She was once human but anyone with even a subtle eye towards magic appraisal could sense the powerful reserves in the female, and that was before she'd realized that Jareth had finally, after centuries, claimed a mate and shared his own power. Closing her eyes and sending a prayer to Danu that what she'd done hadn't inadvertently sealed her fate, she moved back towards the main camp and got to work.

Hoggle was in his usual spot, pouring over regiment ledgers and supplies, looking haggard but strong. She smiled, having grown fond of the dwarf despite his roughened exterior, knowing he'd shouldered more than his share of burdens since running the Labyrinth resistance from the start. He glanced up, scowling, then went back to what he looked at, holding out a hand without preamble for what he wanted, making her smile as she dug into her robes and handed him over a parchment with her own troop specifications inscribed on the paper.

When Jareth and Sarah had left them, Hoggle had immediately replied with, "Don't bother interrupting me for a few minutes at least, I need to look over some things first. Come see me in thirty," then stalked off, no doubt to review what him and the Aboveground scouts had discussed before she had arrived.

Now, those scouts sat next to Hoggle, staring with narrowed eyes between the two of them, as if waiting for a show of wills. She raised an eyebrow, steadily meeting the gaze of a human male who called himself Sean, all but stating without words that she would not be his source of entertainment for the day. He seemed briefly sour but quickly wiped the expression off his face when Hoggle sat up, finished reading what the ledgers had to say about their strength in the upcoming battle.

Sorcha glanced back at the dwarf and waited for his verdict. "Well? Do we stand a chance or not?"

Hoggle's eyes lifted from the papers in front of him to settle on her. He smiled then, slow and sure, before nodding. "Aye, we do. It'll be a close call, as we don't know how much guards she has, but from what Mikpik and the others have told me, she herself is gone. His magic still holds in the castle and I was able to get them to take a quick peek once we had their nerves settled. When Jareth got rid of that binding magic, the Labyrinth all but kicked her sorry ass out." He let out a low huff of laughter at that. "Wish I could've seen that, let me tell you…"

Something in his expression looked strained but she could tell he was putting on a good act. He was worried about his goblin friend, but it wasn't the goblin that had her worried - it was what he'd mentioned earlier. Suddenly, her world seemed to crumble and she struggled to react normally, noting the human scout out of the corner of her eye start to talk about what he could provide and where, if given the proper layout. She used the opportunity to fall quiet and try and not let her panic take flight.

Not here? Not here? If not here, then where - Sorcha paled but quickly schooled her expression, her lips curling in a meek smile to something Sean said that sent a ripple of laughter amongst those gathered while her thoughts went wild. Oh Gods, no. She's at the Capital, and we're sealed in until we get the castle back. Shit. Shit. Shit, shit, shit, shit…

"So, your people will be here, and here, and...here." Hoggle was starting to explain, pointing to various areas on a crude map. Sorcha blinked, swallowing, forcing herself to look down at what he explained, nodding when he paused to ensure she understood her people's orders.

"Yes, I see. You want us protecting the ground troops at these intersections, since those are the cleanest paths to the castle and not known to the Nokmim. Very well, we can do this." She murmured, studying the points Hoggle outlined while still churning on the inside. Do they already know we fight for the Labyrinth? Has the High King declared war already? How many Nokmim are at the castle? Do we…

"You got that?"

Hoggle's voice snapped her attention back to the discussion at hand and she blinked again, turning a faint shade of pink as she looked between him and Eoin's former human scouts, realizing they were all studying her with various expressions of annoyance and amusement, having caught her seemingly daydreaming, too lost in her thoughts to pick up on the final pieces to the battle plan. She cleared her throat and did her best to look contrite, glaring briefly as Sean and the human scouts muttered something under their breath while she glanced towards Hoggle with embarrassment. "I'm sorry..could you repeat that?"

Hoggle scowled and sighed but nodded, tapping the map in front of him, his annoyance obvious. "Yeah, but pay attention. We only got so long to formalize a plan to Jareth before we march and the sooner the better."

"Indeed," She whispered, forcing herself to pay attention this time and squelch her inner turmoil.


 

"Precious?"

"Here. I'm...here." She murmured quietly, not trusting her voice, struggling to contain the well of grief that once more blazed to the forefront of her mind while she held the box in her hands that Eoin had given her, the last thing he'd ever give her, telling her when the time was right, she'd know what to do.

But I don't know what to do, Eoin, She struggled to think, her grief so strong she once more felt like she'd break in half if she focused on it too long. I don't know what to do. I need you to come here and show me what to do like you always do. But you can't…

"...you can't because you're dead, aren't you?" She whispered so softly, she almost didn't hear the words. Hearing Jareth draw closer, from where he'd briefly disappeared, she struggled to stifle a sob, hoping he wouldn't hear it. He had left her in a secluded tunnel away from the others with her belongings to converse with the human scouts left alive after their return to the Labyrinth, something she wasn't quite ready to do just yet and he had understood, and she'd found the box amongst the crushed paper photos and wrinkled origami roses in her pack. The worn edges of those items, even now, peeked out at her from the pack, oddly reminiscent of her mood.

Still, she knew he heard it when she felt his warm presence against her back, tugging her gently into his lap once more, his cape casting over her shoulders, cocooning her against his side. When he'd been rough and merciless earlier, seeing this gentleness in him broke her. No longer afraid to show weakness to him, she let him pet her hair as she clutched the box and sobbed freely, only stilling once she felt drained, empty and hollow, letting her tears dry against the warm curve of his neck.

"It hurts," she explained, rubbing her palm against her chest, feeling him nod and say nothing.

"I'll fill it for you, if you wish." He murmured after a long pause, just holding her, brushing his hand gently against her chest, over her own hand. She stilled, tipping her head back with a frown, wondering what he was trying to say. He smiled, the action almost too vicious to be accounted for the gentle expression it was, and he urged her to close her eyes. "Trust me, precious. I will make it go away."

She closed her eyes and sighed, relaxing in his grip. What the hell, it can't hurt much worse than it does right now. She gasped softly when she felt that tug on the bond, opened to him, and he flooded her head with moments she'd long forgotten during her run. She stilled, realizing what he was showing her, and she struggled again not to cry but for a different reason all together.

He's showing me how he fell in love with me, she thought, as the images played on between them. Before she realized it, she was adding her own, feeling his sharp inhale of breath, then the soft purr of approval.

"You see?" He murmured, a talon gently skirting her temple, as the images faded, leaving her feeling somehow whole again, despite the pain. She opened her eyes and stared into his as his hand pressed against her chest. "All gone."

She smiled faintly, then showed him what she had discovered, holding it up. "What are these, Jareth?" She pulled the box loose, opening it, showing him the various colored crystal orbs within.

Jareth slowly took the box from her, turning it slightly in the light from the main cave behind them. He closed his eyes, taking one of her hands and tugging it into his and somehow, he was able to show her what he did. She blinked, closing her eyes, opening herself to his magic and what he was doing. When the magic plucked at the orbs, she gasped - realizing what they were.

"They're…." She struggled to say, her eyes snapping open and meeting his. She'd only seen fleeting glimpses of what laid within, but it was enough to leave her humbled.

"Memories…" Jareth supplied with a smile, looking down at the orbs with renewed interest, turning them again in the light with one hand from where they rested in the box, his other still holding hers. He lifted his gaze again and met hers steadily, a surprised glimmer in his otherwise stoic face. "He found it, the proof we needed. It seems you were right, precious. Some can change, it seems."

Sarah smiled faintly despite the pain it caused, a faint image of Eoin skirting through her mind - one of laughter, of teasing, of family - looking down at the orbs in his hand. "If we look at them, will the magic fade? Is it safe to touch them?"

"Yes, it is safe. The magic will not fade, it is bound within the matrix of the crystal," he murmured, stroking her spine with his fingers. "It is meant to last and avoid tampering - marvelous work, really. It is quite durable and extremely costly to complete. When he did this, it must have cost him a great deal." Jareth's gaze moved back to hers as he gently tugged his hand from her grip, closing the lid, just as her fingers reached forward, desperate to touch one.

She glared at him and he smiled, kissing her fingertips even as she conceded and drew her hand back into her lap. "However," he cautioned, setting it back in her pack, gently pulling her close until her head rested on his shoulder, his fingers curling in her hair, "Perhaps we should wait to view them until after the castle is ours."

She bristled and he chuckled, kissing her temple again. "It's not that I doubt your strength, precious. I'd like you angry, however, not upset and scatter-minded, when we need to focus on the task at hand. I have a feeling those memories will bring you nothing but pain. I would prefer you hunt with a clear head, precious. Besides, like I said, I've a few things to share with you when we return. We'll do it together, yes?"

"Together," she agreed, staring at the box in the pack sitting on the floor, realizing the wisdom in his words. She smiled, suddenly, tilting her head back to marvel at him openly for several seconds, watching an amused expression flicker across his face as he arched an eyebrow. You should tell him, her mind prompted. Has the last six years taught you nothing? Take nothing for granted, not even time. Tell him.

"Cat got your tongue?" He quipped, gently stroking her jaw with his fingers. She chuckled, shaking her head, raising her hand to quietly cover his own. He stilled, frowning, staring at her intently. "What is it, precious?"

"I never told you I love you. For all that you suffered for me, for trying to protect me at such a heavy cost to yourself. I will never be able to repay that, but I can start with being honest with you. Too many have died before I had the chance to…" She swallowed, burying that grief, reminding herself to focus on the here and now, taking a slow breath and meeting his gaze with her own, opening the bond between them. “It helps to hear the words, or so I've heard." She stroked his cheek, watching him grow prenaturally still. "I love you, Jareth."

He stared at her with a hunger so consuming, she briefly struggled to breathe. His eyes flashed golden, the scent of ruffled feathers and fresh kill and cardamom flickering past her nose, and she could have sworn she heard the growl of something entirely animal fill the silence. She didn't care what he was - humanoid, fae, creature, he was hers and she loved all of it. The bond between them grew taut and strained, briefly drowning her in his flare of satisfaction and arousal. I'm here, Jareth. Take what you want from me. I offer it freely.

Suddenly, it calmed and he smiled, the first truly joyous expression she'd seen him wear, making her still and study how handsome it made him, seeing him truly happy, the shadows cast aside even if for just a moment. He growled suddenly, tipping her head further back to kiss her long enough to leave her breathless. When he pulled back, just as she was about to demand he not stop, he grinned and nipped at her jaw. "I love you, too."

She swallowed as his grin grew wider, knowing what game he was playing, but she was too aroused to care. You know I want you, she all but growled, don't you dare stop now.

Turning, she slammed into him, finding his mouth with hers. He hissed just as she groaned, their kisses turning ravenous, their bodies shifting closer, curling her fingers in his hair and raking her nails gently against his scalp, shivering at the soft growl that teased against her lips, feeling with a small spark of satisfaction that his talons were out again and so very close to shredding her clothing -

- until a small cough from the entrance of the tunnel had them tensing and pulling apart. She bit back a grin at the murderous look on Jareth's face as turned and scowled at the intruder, glancing over to see who it was.

Hoggle stood there, shifting uneasily on his feet, looking at everything but them. She had to suppress a laugh at the blush that creeped up his aged face.

"Er, we're - ah - ready to go over the plan, Your Majesties. Unless, of course, you two need a few minutes to, ah, well, er -"

"Come, come, Hoggle, quit losing your head over a few kisses. Had you come a few minutes later, however, then I'd have truly been angry." Jareth replied in a bored tone, making Hoggle turn the color of cooked beets then turn and take off back towards the main tunnel, grinning faintly when Sarah moaned faintly in embarrassment as she watched Hoggle all but sprint away, nibbling along her collar.

"Poor Hoggle," She finally laughed, shaking her head, letting out a faint pleased noise when his hands slid down her backside, cupping her ass gently. "He'll never get over seeing that."

"Poor Hoggle?" Jareth huffed against her ear, grinding himself against her, making her swallow a moan that wanted to tear past her lips. "Poor me, you mean. I've been hard since we left that place, precious. Thank the Gods for summoned armor, but so help me, when we settle in this evening, should anyone disrupt us, I cannot state with certainty they will survive the encounter." He growled, biting down gently on the soft expanse of skin between her earlobe and shoulder, making her shudder.

She half-laughed, half-moaned, but gently pushed on his chest and he slowly, with an audible growl, pulled away. His eyes practically glowed with frustration and she smirked, biting down on her tongue to curb the wide grin that threatened to spread over her face. "Good things come to those who wait, Goblin King."

"I sure as hell hope so," he replied, that time making her laugh in earnest at the sour expression to flicker across his face before moving towards the main tunnel with her arm tucked in his. Just before they reached the main tunnel, he whispered in her ear. "Remind me to show you how to do a warding later."

"Why?" She murmured, glancing back at him as they joined the others.

The look he gave her made her weak in the knees. "Because we'll wake the whole camp otherwise." He grinned, flashing her a measure of eyetooth, then almost immediately the icy exterior of the Goblin King was back as they neared the others.

She swallowed and moved with him towards the others, struggling to reign in her response, Jareth's voice chuckling back at her through that phantom bond, stroking her arousal where the others couldn't see. God give me strength to make it through this debrief without making a scene…

The look in Jareth's eyes told her it would be anything short of a miracle.

Chapter Text

 

"She wears strength and darkness equally well, the girl has always been half-goddess, half-hell." - Nikita Gill


 

Border between the Junkyard and the Goblin City, The Labyrinth

Screams, commands being shouted from various sides, and the whistle of blades thrummed through Sarah's skull as she dodged and parried her way towards the front of the line, climbing atop a pile of debris to survey the bloody scene before her and take aim at the weakest spot of their enemy.

There, her mind immediately found it, directly to the south, the Nokmim's forces notably thinner and less organized, there is where they'll bleed the most. She looked behind her, eyes flashing, catching sight of Sean and the other scouts that followed her. "This way, behind me, now! Move!" She hissed, keeping her tone low enough not to be heard great distances but loud enough the others could hear her above the clang and clash of magic explosions and melee combat a few yards away.

They nodded, readying their blades as Sarah turned and launched herself forward, bringing her daggers down with the fall from the perch they held, suspended above the others in the stockpile of trash near the border to the Goblin City. The Nokmim directly in her path didn't even see her coming, didn't scream, not even when her blades sank deep in the soft tissue of spine and neck alike and they hit the ground with barely a whisper of sound.

She kept moving, kept fighting, even as the others joined her, staring straight ahead, searching for the leader among them. Nokmim followed orders, that much she knew, so if she could locate the leader -


 

Shadows and mist, everywhere. Angry snarls, clashing daggers of bright opalescent wrath, striking together in the darkness, sending a spark of light in the otherwise velvet ebony that coated everything and everyone. Within that brief spark of light - Younger bodies fighting against older bodies, hordes of goblins and childlike fae following into battle, chaos everywhere, blood spraying - only when focused on, the sudden realization that the mist is blood, coating everything and everyone, war raging on, screams of the dying outweighing the cries of the living, until rivers of blood paint the night sky like glimmering rubies against the light of the moon.


 

"Sarah! Watch out!"

She jerked with a groan, her head pounding from the nauseatingly strong images being ripped away from her mind, torn from the vision at the sound of her name, barely avoiding the savage arc of a blade aimed at her skull as she swerved. Staggering back and focusing on the Nokmim that snarled and lunged at her, Sarah forced herself to focus, hissing faintly against the burning pain that bloomed as the hunter's blades skirted along her skin, drawing shallow wounds along her upper arms.

Staggering back again, willing down her unease at the second vision to leave her nearly blinded since the start of the battle, she forced herself to move as fast as she could, surprised at how quickly that ended up becoming, still used to this new body of hers. She could feel Jareth's power and her own pulsing under her skin, allowing her to make quick work with her blade skills at remedying the attack from the fae hunter, quickly and savagely cutting him down despite the wounds screaming at her from his earlier hit.

"You alright?" It was Sean who had warned her, nodding in his direction, only to still when she caught hint of something heading their way. She squinted, trying to focus, as Sean went back to focusing on the two Nokmim in front of them, subduing then ending the threat as the bodies fell with his well-aimed blades.

She turned, hearing keenly the hollow shrill sound of a volley of arrows piercing through the dusty battlefield, hurtling towards them. Her eyes went wide. Oh no...

"Down!" She screamed, taking cover under a pile of debris, as the others followed suit, scrambling to escape the impending objects aimed their way.

The arrows pierced the shards of debris she sheltered under, her eyes snapping up, studying how close they'd been to impaling her shoulder, hands and hips, their tips glinting darkly against the light shield she huddled under. She swallowed, forcing her breathing to calm, studying the barbs in the head - these arrows were meant to cause harm and not be easily removed. She cursed softly, hearing the agonized wails of a few of her scouts nearby, shoving out from under the debris and stilled, straining to listen to see if more followed after that initial wave.

Hearing nothing, she commanded the scouts push on and take down anything nearby and to clear a path to the castle walls. "Clear! Move on! Stick to the original plan! Move, move, move!"

She turned, focusing on the wounded, as the rest still capable of fighting rushed past, blades down and feet silent, following her order. Kneeling down, coaxing those she found to remain calm while she inspected the wounds of a few that stayed sheltered in the debris. What she'd seen in the debris that sheltered her was confirmed in the wounds she found - these scouts were down and not going anywhere anytime soon. She frowned and looked around for the sole medic that had followed them when she had separated from Jareth and the others, motioning him over once he was done inspecting of the injured. He had been an invaluable resource, a denizen member of the resistance under Hoggle, his brilliance for the healing arts shining past his rough goblin appearance since the battle had started the hour before.

"The heads have hunter's barbs, can you remove them?" She asked tersely as she stood, keeping her blades easily within reach and surveying the surrounding area, while the medic scrambled to look over the wounded.

He shook his head. "Not quickly, no, I noticed that as well. They chose their arrows well, sad to say. These are meant to slow us down and they did exactly that. The best I can do now is keep watch over them, make sure they stay hydrated and ensure the bleeding is under control until we can transport them to a safe location and I can remove the barbs carefully. Anything hasty will only further injure them or potentially cripple them for good."

Sarah nodded, her lips thinning, figuring as much. Fuck.

"I'll move you there," she pointed towards a natural indentation in the junkish landscape, hearing the medic's murmur of agreement. "I will return when I can. This," she closed her eyes, concentrated, gritting her teeth against the visions that threatened once more to consume her when she pulled on her link to the Labyrinth, swaying briefly after summoning a crystal and dropping it in his palm. "That will allow you to move them there and will cloak you. It doesn't buffer sound, so stay quiet, we cleared the area, but I can't guarantee the Nokmim won't sweep by again. Understand?"

"My Lady," the medic frowned, looking over her, seeing her blood-spattered armor and tired appearance. "Perhaps you should rest, too. You look -"

"I'll rest when the castle is ours," She snapped, narrowing her eyes. "Do you understand the order or not?"

The goblin medic frowned, nodding, quelling his further complaints. "Yes, Your Majesty. Good luck in the fights to come."

She nodded, moving away, hearing the faint pop of her magic being released as the medic activated the crystal, moving the injured and himself to the secluded area she'd specified. Gripping her daggers, seeing a platoon of Nokmim hunters rounding the corner up ahead, she bared her teeth and launched herself, smirking as she heard the sounds of their screams meeting her blades.

As they fought, she felt the Labyrinth magic roil under her skin again, making her grit her teeth. Not now. Later.

As the last fae hunter fell under her blades, she felt the Labyrinth blaze under her skin once more, making her wince and groan. Staggering to her knees, she barely made it to a sheltered cove of junkyard debris before another wave of visions hit her again, barely able to hear Jareth's hiss of concern down the bond. Precious? What's wrong? Answer me, Sarah. Sarah? Sarah?


 

Three females, huddled together, sharing a fire with two fae - childlike next to the warriors three, opalescent blades at their hips, dark eyes, white hair, magic etched into their tribal tattoos gracing their shoulders, their hands, their lips. The scene is dark, the moon overhead shimmering, fading in and out, blurring between two points, like two pictures struggling for control.

The fae stare, frowning, looking at a book gilded in gold and silver, as one of the warrior women thrusts her finger down, pointing at something. Behind them, a staircase, a convergence of rivers, and steep cliffs, almost like walls. The fae tremble, stilling and looking away with wild eyes, as a rumble of darkness spreads across the sky. The female warriors stand, dragging their blades from their hips, ready. They bark something at the others, the childlike fae flee like frightened beasts, only for two observers to remain, observing far away - a goblin, old and wizened, and an older fae than the ones before, jaded and expressionless. The fae frowns, looking to the sky, seeing the women readying themselves, then steps forward towards the fire, the goblin at its side.


 

A Few Hours Earlier, the Labyrinth Hidden Tunnels

"You...what?" Jareth roared, his face twisted into a mask of murderous wrath as he launched himself forward, wrapping a hand around the understudy's neck. The woman gagged, dropping to her knees, her fingers trying desperately to unclench Jareth's grip from her windpipe. She staggered again, a pitiful gurgling noise wheezing past her lips as she struggled to breathe and defend herself.

"Pl-Pl-ease..I...had...no choice…"

"You always have a choice! You always have a choice!" Jareth roared again, casting her away from the others, sending Sorcha sailing, making the others wince as she landed with a sickening sound against the wall of the secluded tunnel where Jareth and Sarah had met the troop leaders to discuss attack plans away from the others. "Yet your kind keep making the wrong choice! My patience and tolerance of your pathetic excuses is gone! This problem extends beyond your Thelemic Order and its Grandmaster, you little twat, it concerns us ALL! So help me, if you've cost the denizens here anymore pain, I will -"

Sarah stepped forward, feeling Jareth's magic swell, the tunnel beginning to quake and crumble under the force of his rage. Sorcha screamed and Sarah watched in surprise as blood bloomed under her robe, at her right shoulder, where a stalagmite shoved through her skin. Jareth snarled, stalking forward, coaxing it further towards him, his talons out, garish and monstrous against the soft tapered length of his hands and fingers, seemingly enjoying the pain he was causing, too caught up in his fury to note how he might appear to the others. While Sarah understood, perhaps even echoed, that anger, she knew if she didn't stop him, they'd frighten their only soldiers away.

Jareth, Sarah gently coaxed along the bond, meeting a brick wall. She frowned, trying again, hearing more shrieks of pain come from the young mage, the focus of his fury. Jareth...

Hoggle and the others swallowed, exchanging glances, taking a few tentative steps back but she applauded their efforts to remain standing and not run under the frightening display as he continued to torture and berate the young mage in front of him, the more he talked, the more his voice took on an animalistic undertone. "I should have known your so-called assistance was anything but. If you've cost me peace, I'll end you and that entire order…"

Laying a hand on his shoulder, she bristled at the immediate bark of anger that burned along her senses, his rage as close to out of control as she'd ever seen. She felt him wordlessly threaten her not to interrupt down the bond, not now, but she knew frightening the leaders would not bode well for them in the upcoming battle. Stop, Jareth. We need her, as weak as that allegiance might be. You're scaring the others.

When he didn't respond, just kept twisting that piece of rock further into the young mage's skin, she grew angry. She gripped his shoulder harder and did what she'd only done once before. It wasn't as successful, but it got his attention - she tugged down the bond, hard, stealing just enough of his magic away from him to stabilize the tremble in the tunnel and stop the progression of Sorcha's torture. He growled, dropping his hand, looking back over at her, eyes golden in warning, teeth elongated, the scent of cardamom strong against her nose.

She locked us in, Sarah. We may win back the castle only to have an army at our doorstep once complete - and you want to let her go?He hissed down the bond, the words so full of anger that they sounded distorted, monstrous. Still, she stared back, not flinching, meeting his gaze evenly with her own.

No, not let her go, but we need their support and her troops. Maiming her now doesn't instill a lot of loyalty. Think of another means of punishment, one that will keep her and her troops in line and within our goal of winning the castle and quickly, she replied back wryly. Terrifying them right before a battle will only make them hesitate when we need absolute allegiance if we're going to win this thing.

She felt his anger slowly ease, scaling back but still present as his eyes continued to clash with hers but shift back to that mismatched blue she knew so well. He held up hand, turning his wrist, extracting the rock with a spark of magic. Very well, precious. Only for you.

She didn't dare smile, but simply buffered his sharp-edged emotions with her soothing ones down their unspoken bond, easing his considerable wrath down in slow degrees towards a more rational sense of calm. Sorcha whimpered, clutching her shoulder, as the rock slowly withdrew, her lower lip trembling, afraid to meet his gaze. Sarah frowned, tipping her head to the side as she looked back at the female, wondering what Jareth would come up with as an alternative means of retribution for what she'd done.

"Look at us, Sorcha." She commanded. The young mage swallowed, looking up. "You understand why we're angry? You remember my warning?"

Sorcha nodded rapidly, too afraid to meet Jareth's gaze, only studying his chest when her gaze briefly cast his way, before meeting her eyes again. "Yes, yes I know. They had cast it before we talked, I'm so sorry. I should have said something earlier, but it was before I knew she was missing, before I knew…" She swallowed against the vicious growl that tore from Jareth, trembling and going quiet, before prattling on, pleading with Sarah. "I argued with Grandmaster, told him the cost and what it might do to our allegiance, but an order is…"

"They don't train you to think for yourself in the Thelemic Order?" Jareth growled again, his stance tense, coiled. Sarah's released her grip on his shoulder, lowering it to take his hand in hers as she watched Sorcha react, seeing the young fae flinch, her eyes moving back to the ground.

"Look at us, Sorcha," Sarah said again, her tone flinty. "Face your accusers." The young fae's head snapped back towards her, eyes wide, still clearly frightened but taking note of Sarah's words. She nodded when the fae's face didn't move away from hers. "Good, that's better. Now, summon your alchemists, the ones who cast this spell."

Sorcha trembled but nodded, closing her eyes, and just then Sarah felt them suddenly standing close, canting her head towards the plume of magic she felt brush against her cheek. The three alchemists in white robes looked between her, Jareth and Sorcha and by the expressions on their faces, had caught on that their spell work had been discovered.

"You three, I assume the magic is unbreakable?" Jareth barked, making them jump.

The tallest bowed his head, stepping forward, neither looking contrite or worried, simply emotionless, once the initial shock was over. "That is correct, Your Majesty."

Sarah clenched his hand as his fury scalded her senses down the bond, making him tentatively ease up. He pointed his free hand at Sorcha. "Bind her magic from doing harm to any denizen of the Labyrinth and all in the tunnels. Now."

The alchemist blinked, looking down at Sorcha, who nodded and sighed, closing her eyes. "Do what he says, Rafe."

"Did I stutter? Did the Thelemic Order suddenly grow inept during my imprisonment?" Snarled Jareth, stalking forward a few paces. "I said do it." Once more, the alchemist looked to Sorcha and Jareth's inhuman snarl gripped the mage's attention again, the man swallowing, his head snapping back towards Jareth. "Don't look at her, look at me. You're locked in here, with me, and you've just clusterfucked a very precarious situation. Don't defy me, or I will murder each and every one of you and we'll storm the castle with or without your Order's help. It's your choice, really. Now do it."

Sarah watched as the alchemist swallowed and did as Jareth commanded. When it was done, Sorcha slowly staggered to a stand, waving off any assistance from the alchemists nearby, flinching as Jareth turned towards her. Sarah squeezed his hand, sending a soft wordless caution down the bond, and his hand gently squeezed back, letting her know he was in control.

"You and your ilk, you're with me. We can't wait now, thanks to your marvelous deduction skills, so we storm the castle less prepared than I'd like, but you set that course for us. Whatever comes, whomever dies, it rests on your head." He turned, looking back at Hoggle and Sean, Sarah noting how they both tensed and stood more alert, meeting his gaze. Once more, her chest swelled with pride at how well they were handling themselves against Jareth's display of power.

"Hoggle, Sean - your scouts go with Sarah. Take extra care with her and follow her commands. Hoggle, have Mikpik and the others move ahead and infiltrate the castle. I want numbers and where they'd hiding before we're there. Sean, Sarah is leading you - if I hear that you or your kind are giving her pushback, when this is over, I'm coming after you next." The man paled but quickly explained he'd follow Sarah's orders. Jareth smiled, the action a feral flash of teeth. "Any questions?"

"None," They both replied in unison, glancing back at each other before looking their way once more. Despite being cautious and outright frightened of Jareth, Sarah could sense their eagerness to tackle the castle and win some semblance of peace amongst the group.

"Dismissed, then. We move out in ten. Go prepare your groups," he ordered. Sarah watched them leave, briefly hearing Jareth mutter something to Sorcha she couldn't hear and she looked back just as the mage and the alchemists at her side transported away from sight.

"And you, precious thing…" Jareth murmured, smirking and tugging her close, nibbling on her lower lip before pulling back and cupping her face. "Stay alive. I mean it. I've not come this far to lose you now."

She grinned, brushing a kiss against his cheek, hearing him chuckle. "Yes, sir."


 

Walls Outside the Goblin City, The Labyrinth

Sarah! Sarah, precious, answer me!  SARAH!

She jerked again, swearing faintly and gagging, turning quickly on her side and vomiting, groaning as the vision faded. Here, I'm here. She finally managed a reply against the roar in her head once she was able to draw a clean breath without the reflexive need to purge her stomach. I'm fine, stop shouting. She frowned at how weak she sounded even in the bond, hearing Jareth's growl echo back at her. She slowly sat up and looked around her, spotting no one, the sounds of battle distant.

You're not fine, precious. You're sick, I felt your retching like it was my own body doing it. I'm coming to you, stay where you are. His words were distorted, feral, indicating his concern, his control slowly dissolving under the brutal power he wielded. Do not move, precious. I mean it.

Sarah bristled, slowly standing, squinting as she looked about. I'll do no such thing. I'm not a child, stop treating me like one. Her eyes focused on the wall in the distance, testing her footing as she moved forward, more and more secure in her ability to handle herself. We're so close, Jareth, the Goblin City is right there and we're almost at the castle, just a little more and we'll-

STOP, SARAH, YOU'RE NOT YOURSELF. We're winning, Sarah, we're almost done here. The goblins in the city joined our fight, as did the castle staff and the others about the Labyrinth. We outnumber them, it's only a matter of time. STOP MOVING, PRECIOUS, I MEAN IT. Jareth's ire was like liquid fire along her insides, making her wince and stagger. As he raged, her eyesight grew faint, the Labyrinth magic roiling again. She groaned at the sensation, squeezing her eyes shut as she suddenly stiffened and screamed - seeing those three women again, standing in front of her, faces accusing, surging forward, barking at her to remember - she fell, gagging once more, unable to see in front of her.

You're making it worse, she whispered down the bond, hearing Jareth fall silent. It hurts, she finally admitted, struggling to raise a hand, to gather her bearings. She tensed, hearing the silence around her before she realized what it was, then the whistle of a blade swerving for her - aimed towards her neck. She rolled, trying to dodge, but she was still blind, plowing into an immobile heap of junk, the dagger striking home in her left shoulder, between the plating of her armor, the pain agonizing.

PRECIOUS?! Jareth was near, able to at least sense his magic, the slow rumble of the ground as his roar filled the air, followed by the screams of the Nokmim that had attacked her, then his comforting grip as he shook her.

Still, it felt so far away. The more she blinked, the less she could focus, until she couldn't even respond to his demands down their bond, the visions sensing her weakness and enveloping her in their bombarding images.


 

"You're awake."

Sarah blinked, sitting up sharply, finding herself in some dark indescribable place. She looked across the fire that roared between her and the one who had spoken, her eyebrows raising to stare into the face of one of the women from before, her expression aged, tired, somewhat amused. The longer she stared, she could have sworn it was her own face staring back. When she blinked, it once more became the woman from before, one of three, staring back, a grin spreading her lips, revealing a row of sharp teeth.

Sarah shivered, trying to look around, but the act made her head ache and she simply looked back at the woman across from her. "Where are we? Who are you?"

"I'm you, or part of you now. I'm trying to warn you, girl. She's not what she seems." The warrior spoke, pulling that odd opalescent dagger from her hip, turning it in the light of the fire. Sarah's eyes shifted, staring at the blade, feeling drawn towards it. The warrior hesitated, then held out the blade, and Sarah tentatively reached out and took it.

It popped in her hands, fading to mere starlight, soaking into her skin, making her glow against the fire. Sarah gasped, feeling the power, and the warrior grinned. "That's how you can read people with your magic. A little blessing from yours truly."

Sarah looked up, eyes wide. "Who…" She stopped, considered her words, the woman's gold eyes meeting her own, sensing she knew that it was all a matter of what was said - Jareth's warning from when she was still a child on the cusp of womanhood echoing back at her. "Who  were  you? Before you were me?"

The warrior cackled then shifted in front of her eyes, making Sarah still as she watched the warrior age, becoming stooped with old age, various makeshift treasures slowly accumulating on her back until she was a withered old crone, showing her useless material things.

Sarah gasped, realization dawning in her eyes. "You're  her . The lady I saw, right after the peach...but…" She frowned, struggling to make sense of what she was seeing, shaking her head slowly, finally phrasing her question the only way she could. "How? What were you?"

"That's a long story for another time, when you're more used to talking to me, to this place," the crone spoke, gesturing around her. Sarah looked but felt her head swim and the crone gently spoke soothing words until her head turned back towards her.

"Don't look fully, not yet, not without your mate. 'Tis pure chaos and darkness you stare into, it will drive your mind mad. You need his strength." She admonished, having drawn closer when Sarah had looked away, cradling Sarah's wrist in her hand.

"We don't have much time, so listen." The crone urged, Sarah falling quiet. "My name was Alecto, long ago. Now I have no name, like you did...once. You are me, in spirit. You carry my power now, young Queen. My mother and father were rulers, more ancient than all the stars in the night sky, born of a thing you and I could never see, never touch, never witness..."

Sarah's head began to pound as the crone spoke, the darkness edging closer as she hurried along. Sarah winced, daring not interrupt the crone, but her words became more and more hard to understand.

"Drawn to arrogance -"

"My purpose, to measure hubris before the gods -"

"But it was there's I took notice of. A single fae, a sacrificial race, and the right words, said at the right time, sealed -"

Sarah opened her mouth to tell the crone she could no longer make out her words, but before she could say anything, she was ripped from this place, towards another place all together, not even able to scream at the change.


 

Sarah bolted upright, gasping for breath, her eyes fluttering open. It was only as her eyes met Jareth's worried ones that she realized they were no longer outside the castle, in the junkyard near the Goblin city, instead in a room, sheltered in a canopied bed with dark sheets, her armor gone, a gossamer nightgown loosely pooling around her skin that was hot and clammy to the touch, indicating she had been suffering from a fever.

Jareth's presence in the bond flooded back towards her, making her tremble as he growled, a wounded inhuman sound, pulling her into his lap. He was still in his battle armor, spattered with blood, and he sullied her gown and face as he raised a trembling hand to her jaw, cupping her cheek and tipping her head towards his.

"Precious? Are you with me again?"

The tremor in his voice was small, almost undetectable, but she heard the fear in his words. She nodded, curling her arms around his waist, feeling his torso vibrate as he shuddered and held her close, his arms bands of unbreakable tension. She tried to not wince at his tight grip, despite feeling sore in her shoulder.

"Where are we?" She asked, her eyes roaming around the room, staying close in his tight embrace.

"My suite, now ours. They were warded, she couldn't break the ward, just like she couldn't break my hold on the Labyrinth. They're...only ours." He murmured, answering her unspoken question when she bristled, feeling the silk sheets beneath her. "It...didn't happen here."

"And the Labyrinth? The denizens? The spell sealing us in?" She whispered, stilling, waiting for the next set of news, slowly realizing she must have fallen from before, passed out before that odd vision that still played in her head, pulling back to meet his gaze.

"Ours, safe, gone," he replied tersely, his face haggard, looking down at her shoulder. She knew he picked up on the phantom pain she still felt, his expression growing cold. "You're still healing, I can get Sorcha…"

"You two have forgiven one another?" She asked, smiling faintly. His snarl made her chuckle weakly.

"She is...acceptable. She fought well, healed your worse wounds when that hunter stabbed you." He bit out, struggling to compliment the young mage who he'd led in battle, his eyes flashing golden, sparking more memory of her visions, making Sarah still.

Oh god, his eyes… they're like her eyes… Her heart thudded in her chest as she stared, remembering the woman-turned-crone and that eerily similar stare. He's like her, isn't he? Like that...what did she call herself? A god? She frowned, the memory fading as she struggled to focus on what the crone was trying to say as she was ripped from that last vision, the words garbled and hard to understand. A god of what? She stilled again, remembering the woman's words about a single fae, a sacrificial race, catching glimpses of the other visions during the battle - the older fae and the goblin - and suddenly, the Labyrinth magic poured around her, crackling to life, no longer painful but pleading, the whispers soft, a chorus chanting a single plea - listen, understand, protect.

"Jareth." She sat up, her tone sharp, gripping his chin. He stilled in his words, frowning and meeting her gaze. She sucked in a shuddering breath. "I think I know what the Labyrinth is. What Neverin is."

Jareth went deathly still, his eyes flashing golden once more as he stared, frowning. She glared at the look of worry and despair in his eyes. "Perhaps you've need of more sleep, precious. You lost a lot of blood and..."

I'm not going crazy, damn it! Listen to me!

"I know how this sounds but listen to me, Jareth! I know what the Labyrinth is, at least I think I do," she spoke quickly, quieting him as Jareth frowned once more, scrambling out of his grip, seeing her packs from earlier strewn about the room. She dropped to her knees, searching for the box Eoin gave her. "I think that what it's trying to tell me, with what's in these, will tell us what we need to know. Come here, let me show -"

Her fingers brushed against one in her haste and she blinked, the memory quickly playing, making her sway under the power of the snippet in time, seeing Jareth struggling against her, Neverin riding him cruelly, one of those daggers in her hand, held against his throat as she fucked him, a glimmer of cold glee in her eyes, the aim of the act not to achieve a sexual peak but to prove just that she could, that she controlled him completely, even his body, his hope, his resistance, wanting it to crumble beneath her. Jareth's roar of anger, of disgust, drowned out the woman's shrieks of orgasm, but she saw Jareth's body jerk, revulsion flirting with satiation as he climaxed against his will, his eyes closing, that blade close to his throat as the woman once more demanded he service her. Oh god…

She struggled not to gag, to not show a response to what was there, plucking that one from the box and shoving it in her skirts as she heard Jareth sigh and rise from the bed, coming towards her. She quickly touched the others, closing her eyes to play through the vile memories, wondering what others horrors awaited her that she was about to show Jareth.

The High King, being drained, subdued, turned into a shadow of his former self, his dark tendencies amplified, changing his rule, his court, the stability of the Underground…

Neverin killing mortals, eating them whole, absorbing their lifeforce, her skin glowing with renewed vigor, long nails crackling with power…

Neverin smiling from Jareth's throne as a few loyal Nokmim dragged a quivering mass of kidnapped humans in through the double doors she'd entered years ago, raising a manicured nail and transforming them against their will, their screams at the pain drowning against the twisting darkness of her magic - old, dark, dangerous - turning the victims from humans to mindless complicit creatures of the Underground…

Neverin caressing a gilded mirror, the shadow of a figure staring back from the other side, more than just a simple distorted reflection. She looked sad, enraged, alone, furious, as her hand gently pressed against the glass, the figure mimicking the same placating gesture...

Sarah trembled, struggling to say something against what she'd seen, holding out the box when Jareth knelt down beside her. He said nothing, taking what she offered, watching his expression grow cold and detached, his eyes turning flinty and golden, as his fingers slowly tapped each one. His talons slid out and he growled, then looked back at her, no longer fully fae, his rage giving power to that other side of him that was tied to the power of the Labyrinth.

"Give me the last, Sarah." He murmured, looking back at her as he closed the lid of the box and set it aside. She stiffened, frowning, but he bared his teeth in a gentle warning. "The last orb, Sarah. Give it to me."

She sighed, handing it to him, feeling him tense and snarl when the image played out. She watched his reaction to the orb flicker across his face, felt the emotional turmoil at his response to the images flare to life through the bond they shared, as he watched his own torment play out inside his head.

Oh, Jareth...

Slowly, he stood, saying nothing, the bond eerily quiet, vacant and emotionless, almost hollow, then he turned sharply, throwing the crystal with that memory embedded within as hard as he could, making her jump as it exploded against the far stone wall in a spark of magic and shattering gemstone.

"Jareth…" She called after him in concern, watching him turn away and head towards the door. "Please don't go, please, I'm so sorr -"

"Don't," He savagely snarled, not looking back, brushing past Sorcha and Hoggle that entered in a hurry, their eyes wide as they gave him a wide berth. He said nothing, just walking down the hall, out of sight. Sarah frowned, looking at the others, annoyed at their interruption as she slowly stood, wanting to follow but realizing suddenly she couldn't sense him, feeling the bond grow quiet from Jareth's end. Jareth...where…?

"Sarah! You're awake! We were so worried…" Hoggle exclaimed, rushing up to hug her from where she stood, staring at the door Jareth had stormed through, no doubt not wanting to face what he saw in that last crystal she'd tried and failed to shield him from. She frowned, looking down, smiling faintly at the Hoggle she remembered from before during her run, all those years ago.

"Yeah, I'm awake. Had one hell of a headache, I guess." She offered evasively with a sheepish grin, that odd power of hers whispering to keep what she'd seen safe, hidden. She glanced over at Sorcha as Hoggle pulled back, remembering himself, turning a faint shade of pink. She didn't miss the look of worry in the young fae's eyes as she winked at Hoggle, ignoring his grunt of embarrassment. "Something wrong?" She prompted, catching Sorcha's attention.

"It's Grandmaster Killdaire. He's not responding and neither are the other council members. This is bad news," she whispered, holding up a missive. Sarah frowned, taking it from her when Sorcha handed it to her.

Reading through the debriefing, she met the mage's worried gaze. "Has war been declared yet? Were your sources able to learn that as well?"

"Not yet, Your Majesty." Sorcha murmured, swallowing. "But soon, I'm sure, they will march…"

"Not so soon that we can't rest tonight and start on the Capital tomorrow," Sarah talked over her, looking back to Hoggle. "Fire up the kitchen stoves, clear the larders if you have to. I want everyone well fed, rested up, and wholly healed before tomorrow." He nodded as she handed back the note to Sorcha, catching her eyes before she turned towards the door, using the technique Jareth showed her to summon clothes. "Tomorrow we're going to war."

"Where are you going?" Hoggle asked, as she moved down the halls, struggling to keep up with her.

She sighed, looking back at them before moving on. "Going to get your King back. Rest up, tomorrow's going to be a busy day."

Before either of them could respond, she summoned a crystal and sent herself to the one place she figured he would be.


 

Annwn Palace, Residential Wing, Annwn, Capital of the Underground

The High King's castle fortress was eerily quiet, the guard rotation light, so it was rather easy for Killdaire to move across the residential wing of the palace and slip into the High Queen's chambers. He found her sitting at her vanity mirror, powdering her face and adorning the tight coiled braids of her hair with jewels, pausing to bow when her eyes shifted towards his reflection in the mirror.

"My Queen," he murmured, frowning as he watched her tip her head to the side, not responding to his greeting, her powder brush gently stroking along her neck. He blinked, opening his mouth to explain why he was here, hoping to urge her to join him back on that hilltop once Sorcha sent word of Jareth's victory over the Labyrinth, when his eyes focused on the garish marks she was attempting to cover up with cosmetics.

"Are those...teeth marks?" Killdaire suddenly whispered, a creeping sensation of wrongness skirting up his spine.

"Yes," She replied, looking back at her reflection, frowning at her attempts thus far to cover the marks. She grimaced, shrugging faintly, dropping the powder brush on her vanity tabletop before shifting in her seat, looking back over at him. "What are you doing here, Grandmaster? You know my husband forbid your visits, though I got the message. Very touching that you're so concerned for me - thank you."

Killdaire gaped, taking in her full appearance once the High Queen had turned and faced him. He had come here in desperation, hoping she would listen to his warnings about Neverin, about what it meant for the Underground as a whole if she continued to rise in power and High King Lucius continued to rule the way he did - but as he stared, he took full note of her emaciated form, the sallow undertones in her skin, the brittleness of her once beautiful hair, and the bite marks on her neck. Once more, the crawling creeping sense of wrongness slivered up his spine, wrapping around his throat and robbing him of his ability to speak as he stared in growing silence.

She's being drained, it dawned on him with horror, unable to shield the shock from his face. He watched Queen Maeve smile tiredly. She's dying. She… He stilled, his eyes going wide. She knows about her. She knows what's at stake...She -

"By the look on your face, my appearance is not what you were expecting, was it? What were you expecting, exactly?" Maeve whispered, interrupting his train of thoughts, slowly standing, her green eyes growing bright with anger.

Killdaire swallowed, backing up a few steps, watching the High Queen move towards him. "Your Grace, surely this is not what you wanted to accomplish, you know - about Neverin? About her goals? How? Why haven't you tried to stop her?"

Maeve simply smiled, the expression hollow and cold. It left Killdaire feeling the first stagger surge of real fear since this whole thing began. He'd hoped he would convince her to speak to the council, to help sway them to ignore any call to war that Lucius would be quick to demand once he realized Jareth was back in power - but seeing the hollowed-out woman before him, he knew he was too late. "Why, Maeve? Why did you let this happen? Don't you care for your people?"

"I only ever cared about one thing, Killdaire. My son." Maeve hissed, her eyes narrowing, as she stalked towards him. "I came to you once, remember? Asked you to help me? You knew how distraught I was, all those years ago. I pleaded with you, told you I'd give you anything - my body, power, anything. Don't think I never noticed how you looked at me." She sneered as he frowned, stepping close, not denying her accusation, the sound of her laughter flaring the shame he felt for desiring her all these years. "You refused me then, when I needed you the most. Did you think I'd help you now, after what you did?"

Killdaire swallowed, meeting her gaze, struggling to recover from her harsh tirade. "Maeve, you know that magic was - is - forbidden. He was gone, whatever I would have brought back would not have been your son…" He reached up, trying to stroke her cheek, frowning at her, his eyes turning sad, but she shoved him away, green eyes bright with anger and perhaps a touch of madness.

"Well, isn't this just adorable," drawled a voice from the doorway, making Killdaire pale as he stared at Maeve when he recognized who it was, her eyes focused on the intruder behind them. She didn't even appear surprised and his ribcage ached, wounded by some invisible weapon only she could wield. "The boy mage and his unrequited love, so that's the secret about you two. I figured as much but to see it confirmed, priceless. I always wondered what went on underneath those mage robes of yours, Grandmaster. Seems it was a stiffened prick for the Queen. How...utterly predictable." Killdaire closed his eyes, unable to focus on how easily he had fallen into the trap set before him. "I knew if I pushed the right buttons long enough, you'd come crawling back in your man skirts to see if she could sway the council. I do love being right."

"You're late. Is the plan still intact?" Maeve asked, her expression growing heated and flushed. Killdaire felt his heart squeeze painfully in his chest as he watched the woman he'd secretly loved for years twist into a shallow, vapid creature only after revenge. He hadn't thought of her like that, not really, not since she' accepted Lucius hand and he chose to devote his life to the arcane schools after that, too distraught to find another suitable mate, to his father's long-lasting regret.

Sweet Danu, Maeve. How did things go so wrong? He closed his eyes, struggling to remain calm, anguish tearing at his insides.

"Indeed, my Queen. Shall I rid you of this fool? So, I can continue and reunite you with your son, as promised?" Neverin whispered beside Killdaire, her long nails scraping gently against his cheek, making him flinch. Her laughter made his insides curdle but he refused to be baited.

"Yes, but don't kill him. Not yet. I want him to see what he wrought, it's partially his fault the state this sorry realm is in." Maeve spoke, her tone soft, turning weak as she groaned.

Killdaire opened his eyes, stiffening, watching as Neverin looked his way, biting down on Maeve's neck in front of him, lapping at the wound she caused. She grinned when he tried to surge forward, her fingers scraping against his cheek, holding him in place with a power he wouldn't have thought her capable of.

"Tsk, tsk, Grandmaster. Look but don't touch," She whispered, grinning and pulling back as Maeve swayed briefly, gripping Neverin around the shoulders. Neverin held her close, one arm gripping the High Queen around the waist, keeping her steady.

"You vile creature, what did you do?" He demanded, when he noticed Maeve seemed in a trance, almost unresponsive.

"Took another pull off her essence," Neverin responded sweetly, tilting her head once more to lick at the bleeding wound at Maeve's neck. He felt like he would be sick, but couldn't seem to look away, watching the woman grin faintly, her teeth sharp and coated in a sheen of blood. "She doesn't feel a thing, unlike most of my victims. I've given her that much, at least." At the look of horror on his face, Neverin laughed. "How else do you think I got on the council? Inducted into your little court? Got into your High King's bed? When you wouldn't help her, she went searching...and found me."

"You're killing her, that's not reuniting her with her long dead son," Snarled Killdaire, trying to once more surge forward, failing when he met the crackling scorched heat of Neverin's magic. "Just what the fuck are you? What do you want? Pure chaos, anarchy? Is that your aim?"

Neverin laughed, clutching Maeve close, as she let her facade fade, showing him a glimmer of her true nature. What Killdaire saw made him quiver, suddenly close to retching. She merely chuckled at his violent reaction. "You know nothing of what I'm capable of. She will be reunited with her son in the fade, but not if she takes her own life. Take it from someone who's seen that in action," She murmured, looking back at the Queen, stroking her cheek, a softened expression entering her eyes. "I know the pain of losing someone you really love and she helped me accomplish what I want."

Her eyes slanted back towards Killdaire, briefly pulsing red. "And the only thing she asked for in return? That I destroy you in the process." She grinned. "A woman after my own heart, as it were, seeing as that's exactly what I plan to do."

Killdaire simply stared, knowing he was outmatched against Neverin's power. The woman chuckled, then stroked Maeve's slender neck. "Now, you'll have to excuse me, I have a Queen to kill and blame on you and Jareth and a realm to destroy while you insects are too busy fighting each other to mind little old destructive me." She flicked her wrist, and he felt her magic take hold, snaking through his insides like fire, sending him soaring across the ether towards an unknown destination. "Go away, pest."

He screamed, trying to shout out an alert to the guards - something, anything - but he was gone, tugged across that boundary before he could utter a syllable, crashing to a cold stone floor in a blackened hole carved out of brick and mortar.

"Neverin! Neverin, you whore! Let me out! Let me out!" He roared, pounding on the cell door he found, hearing nothing.

Suddenly, there was a shuffle to the right in the darkness and he instantly stilled, listening.

"No need to shout, they won't come," a male voice murmured, making him frown.

"Who are you?" Killdaire hissed, backing up as the voice grew close, telling him they were in the same cell together.

"Jonas, Eoin's…." The man's voice grew silent, sad, before continuing on. "…his former scout. He's dead."

"I know," Killdaire murmured, tipping his head to the side. "How long have you been down here?"

"A while," the man responded.

"Yeah, well, not for much longer." Killdaire grunted, testing his magic. He grinned, watching it flare to life, giving them some light in the darkened cell, realizing Neverin forgot to bind it. He looked up, blinking at the haggard half-starved appearance of the mortal in front of him. He turned, inspecting the room with the glowing crystal in his hand, looking for weak spots. Seeing none, he sighed and turned towards the cell door. "We're getting the hell out of here. Come on, help me move this."

He closed his eyes, focusing on the cell door, as the man stepped close and waited for instruction.

 

Chapter Text

 

"I want to love you wildly. I don't want words, but inarticulate cries, meaningless, from the bottom of my most primitive being, that flow from my belly like honey. A piercing joy, that leaves me empty, conquered, silenced." - Anaïs Nin


 

The Labyrinth, Hidden Ballroom

When the transport spell dissipated, she opened her eyes and looked around the room. He had hidden away in a place she had not expected and each time she moved through the Labyrinth, only to not find him when she arrived where the spell sent her, her panic rose. Finally, on the cusp of hysteria, she thought of the one place that meant the most to her during her run - the ballroom - and sent herself there, if it even existed.

It did, and when she landed in the room she now found herself in, she was utterly speechless as she looked around.

It was dark and utterly destroyed, shards of broken glass scattered across the floor, cups and tables and chairs torn and broken into mere fragments of what they'd been. The candelabras left untouched were still layered with dripping candles and strings of pearls, but those that hadn't survived his wrath hung as testament to his previous fury that seemed to vibrate in the still tension of the air. As she moved, the sounds of her footsteps echoing off the walls as glass crunched underfoot, she ignored the long gashes in the white colonnades and the shredded pillows that dotted the small spiral staircase that led deeper into the dark trenches of the room.

A soft growl skirted up her spine as she stepped into the room, from the darkest corner of the room. She shuddered, recognizing that sound - the sound of a wounded animal fending off approach - but she kept her pace, moving towards the snarl that threatened violence if she moved too fast. Keeping her calm and stepping further into the room, she saw him, sitting in the corner, staring vacantly across the room, not meeting her eyes, still dressed in his blood-spattered battle armor, his eyes wild, hair askew, fingers and face elongated - the mask of a pure predator. Still, as he realized it was her, the growling stopped, and she moved forward only when he seemed to visibly relax, staring at an odd space behind her. When she finally stopped beside him, tentatively resting a hand on his shoulder and noticing his gaze still fixated on that same spot, she looked over, realizing why it held his attention.

It was the spot they had danced together, in that peach-dream mindscape he'd created to thwart her upcoming victory - and potentially so much more. She swallowed, remembering how very close she'd been to giving in to him in that moment. She idly wondered how different things would have been if she had.

"Jareth? I've been looking for you for hours. I've been worried. Won't you come back to the castle with me? We should clean you up…." She murmured, turning back to look down at him, his entire body immobile. She murmured his name again but he didn't look her way, his eyes fixated on that same spot, his expression unreadable, almost hollow.

She sighed, settling down beside him in the simple jeans and sweater she'd summoned in his suite of rooms back at the castle, drawing his hand into her lap, ignoring the sharp talons that scraped against the back of her wrist. His fingers briefly tightened around hers, but he said nothing - did nothing - just continuing to stare straight ahead at that one spot.

She let her eyes roam briefly, still finding new evidence of his fury, almost wishing he was still in the throes of rage instead of this hollow detached numbness she couldn't hope to breach. The silence in the room unnerved her and she was desperate to fill it, summoning the quickest thing could think of to say to shatter the stillness of the room.

"I always thought this was just a dream," she murmured, glancing sidelong at him, still unable to feel him in the bond, real fear starting to gnaw at her at his lack of further response to her presence. "But it seems it's a real place after all."

When he failed to respond, she forced her tears away, blinking and looking around the room. "It's beautiful, Jareth."

"I built it for myself after you...left," he finally murmured, his voice almost too quiet to hear. That confession made her chest ache, in that ragged spot he'd recently filled with bittersweet memories back in the tunnels, and she forced her reaction at bay as she kneaded her fingers tightly around his. His expression was still dark, focused on some internal wound she couldn't see or feel or touch - and she panicked - wondering how she could help him. His hand simply laid motionless in hers as he continued to stare off into the distance. Angry tears welled up in her eyes again at herself because she didn't know what to say, what to do, to make him talk to her. She remembered Jonas explaining how much she was like Eoin - too cold to comfort, too intense to truly be human, not since the run or visiting this place. Watching Jareth struggle frightened her on a level she wasn't comfortable admitting to.

Suddenly, she almost laughed bitterly - the sound threatening to burst from her chest in a savage, raw tone - when she realized she was more comfortable fighting, even killing, than helping him come to grips with what he felt after staring at the contents of that crystal. She was suddenly furious at herself and her inadequacy to comfort him like he had her. What should she say? What should she do?

There had been several times during her training with Eoin, as they met others - other mortals, other denizens of the Underground that escaped, only to turn out to be unlawful and devious in their own right - where it had almost happened to her. She remembered the fear, the frenzied fighting, the sense of helplessness that followed, but she was lucky that it had never went that far. Now, holding Jareth's hand, watching him take on that look some of the women and men she'd met over the years that she had helped shelter had, it broke her heart - and she didn't have a fuckling clue what to do to make it better.

Frightened that he said nothing further, she moved closer, brushing her knee up against his, opening her mouth to say something, when she felt it. It was a small crack, a sliver of what she felt before, but he slowly began to open his side of the bond and she stilled, letting love and relief flare from her side, a hoarse sob escaping her mouth before she could stop it. He was still there, still with her. She scrambled to let him know that she would never judge him, not ever, for what he'd gone through.

Let me in, Jareth. I swear, I'm not going anywhere, no matter what you tell me. I will never, ever,  ever  think less of you for what you tell me.

I know, he echoed back, barely audible. I just - it's difficult to put into words.

Another soft sob burst from her lips and she squeezed his hand, relief once more flooding her insides at hearing his voice down the bond. He still didn't look her way but it was progress, making her dizzy with solace as she tilted her body, resting her head on his shoulder, feeling his hand squeezing hers from where it lay resting in her lap. She closed her eyes, tentatively stroking down the bond, feeling his head finally tip and rest against her own as he returned the emotions with small snippets of his own, making her shudder as she felt his jagged emotions on the other side of the bond. Not daring to utter a word to destroy the small progress, she went utterly still - her heartbeat stuttering in her chest, desperate to hear him speak - when he finally broke the silence several minutes later.

"The first time it happened, I tried to fight, but I couldn't. It was her magic - it did something to me to where I couldn't do anything but what she wanted. She'd just carved me up and I was so weak and when she crawled on top of me and made my body put it in her…." He tensed, looking torn between rage and disgust, mouth twisting in revulsion, body vibrating with fury, before it dissipated with a whistle of air between his teeth and he continued, sober once more. "I eventually just stopped, hoping it would be over and I'd move on and survive. No one ever warns you about the shame and the self-disgust you feel after," he muttered. "It was...overpowering. I hated myself so fucking much for letting it happen, I was choking on it. I was the damned Goblin King - but it meant fuckall in the end, didn't it?" She struggled keep quiet, a mixture of white hot anger and grief flaring up at his words, wincing at the acerbity of his words.

"The next time, I fought - Gods, I fought. And it still happened," he bitterly replied, a harsh laugh escaping him, scraping along her sensitive nerves like a knife. "The only thing that changed was I got the shit kicked out of me in the process. I still couldn't do a damned thing, my body was no longer mine to control. I wanted to vomit - I did vomit a few times actually - and every time I came inside her, a small part of me died with the act." He murmured, his voice briefly turning hoarse.

"I wish I couldn't remember it, Sarah. I wish that I had the mental capacity at that time to just check out - flip a switch - ignore the feelings of how it felt. But I couldn't. I remember every second of every moment of every single time and I remember wanting to die." A low moan escaped her, hearing how damaged he was - something twisted so deeply inside him, she wondered if she could ever show him how it felt to feel right again - but before she could say something, he continued.

"She loved it when I fought - she knew how helpless I would feel, knowing I couldn't stop it, no matter what I did, no matter what I said or tried...and she must have enjoyed knowing I would feel that way because she...she laughed, Sarah. She fucking laughed - and then she'd do it again."

That time, she couldn't bear to hear anymore, turning and covering his mouth before he could keep talking. She cupped his cheek, trying to drag his face towards hers, but he wouldn't move - barely reacting to her touch - and she swore right then that she was going to rip the heart out of that woman for what she did to him. I'm so sorry - I can't even imagine...

She turned her head, staring at his profile, feeling tears slide down her cheeks as she watched him study that same spot with that blank expression still present on his face - but his mask was beginning to slowly crack as she felt the flare of pain from his side of the bond.

Finally, he looked her way, the blank expression briefly fading but not fully disappearing. "You know what got me through those times?"

She trembled, shaking her head, blinking back tears, his expression briefly thawing as his eyes softened the longer he stared at her. "It was you, Sarah. You got me through them." His eyes flashed gold - so bright she almost had to squint - before he looked back around the ballroom, no longer blinding her with his gaze. "I remembered you here, with me - looking at me like you…." He swallowed, the glow in his eyes fading, her heart pounding as she saw that detached expression once more take over. "Like you could have loved me, if things had been...different….between us."

She struggled with a reply, listening to him continue to talk. "Sometimes, I used to wonder if you were sort of insanity of mine that I developed while I was imprisoned. Why would you, an insignificant mortal girl, enthrall me? But you had, against all odds. It didn't matter that you defeated me, that you claimed I had no power over you. I wanted…" He hesitated, something flickering across his face she couldn't quite read, before he continued.

"There were days, Sarah, that I almost broke. Days I went without food, days I was forced to fuck her or any number of her friends or whomever she selected that day, like I was some thing….'" His lips peeled back from his face as his eyes glowed golden again before he grimaced, shutting them completely, before the expression faded. "Every day, she raped me in some way - body or mind - so much so that I'm surprised I can even want anyone at all now - but I do. I want you so much that it terrifies me." He went silent for a moment, his grip turning almost painful as he tugged her close, his form shuddering as he dipped his head down, inhaling her scent. "I want you so much it I can't think half the time."

"When I saw you - finally saw you - after years of being locked away, I...went a little mad. When I stabbed you, if you hadn't survived, I…" He swallowed, then laughed, the sound harsh in the silence of the destroyed ballroom. "I held onto you, here…" His fingers lightly tapped his chest piece, frowning faintly, "...so strongly that I worried I would frighten you. I should, because the things I plan to do when we're in Annwn, to those who wronged me, wronged you…"

She went still at the sound of his words growing hard, distorted and warped - the magnitude of his power straining against the male they were bound to. Briefly, his face elongated and his eyes shown even against his eyelids and she stared in wonder at how he maintained as much of himself after all he'd endured that he had. Eventually, he quieted, going utterly silent and she frowned, pulling back.

"Jareth," she whispered, reaching up and stroking his cheek. When he turned and looked at her, she swallowed at the savage grief there. "What happened to you was horrific. I...can't possibly imagine what that must have been like. To endure something like that and still be even a fraction of who you once were before...you're impossibly strong."

She felt him stiffen and she continued. "I meant what I said in the tunnels -Every. Single. Word. Nothing will change that - not Neverin, not your past, not anything. do love you." She stroked his cheek, tugging on his shoulder to draw him closer when he grimaced and moved to tug away. She noted the color returning to his face, the sharp angles of his face drawing tighter as he stared.

"I'm not the same male, Sarah. You don't understand, what I plan to do, when we head to Annwn, I'll…" Jareth rasped, his voice shifting, sounding half-animal, half-man once more. "I'm going to fucking destroy them. I'm going to make them beg me for forgiveness and they will receive none. I'm a monster, Sarah – I should let you go, but I can't. I…" He stopped talking, the rage distorting his features making him appear like a wild, caged thing.

It didn't matter. She didn't flinch, didn't turn away, just watched as he finally controlled his reaction, only to look at her with a brief sense of detachment once more. Sarah smiled, the action tentative, as she lowered her hand, once more clasping his own. "I'm not the same girl, either. That same girl might have been frightened of you now, but I'm not. That girl is gone, thanks to them. They destroyed her when they destroyed you. You're the same as me," she watched his eyes raise, staring at her, slowly turning that tell-tale sheen of gold the longer she held his gaze.

"I don't care if you're a monster, Jareth. I don't care," She whispered fiercely, watching his face shift, turning feral, hearing the sincerity of her words, his breathing growing ragged as he stared, that golden sheen spurring to life in his eyes. "If you're a monster, it's because they made you one. You're my monster, Jareth, and I don't care what you have to do. I'm not going anywhere."

She didn't have to look into his face to know his eyes were shining like bright golden coins in his face, teeth elongated, losing that battle to whatever primordial power roamed there. He growled, then lunged, dragging their clothes off in shreds, shattering them to dust with his fingers as his savage movements found what it sought, thrusting his hips between her legs, seating himself inside her fully in one brutal stroke. When his mouth crushed against hers, his intensity was desperate, starved - and he echoed the raw desire with each vicious thrust.

It was jarring, raw, barbaric - and had her screaming against his mouth as she came within moments - squeezing and bucking against him so tightly, she felt his brief roar, then hiss - then he ground his hips painfully against her own - spurting deep.

Mine, he growled, moving again, not finished, pushing deeper into her body as she wrapped her legs around his hips, goading him to take her harder, faster - ushering him into violently taking his pleasure if he needed to. She tensed, sensing a stream of images passing through his mind on his end of the bond as he moved, gripping her shoulders as he roared and pounded - harder and harder and harder still - Neverin riding him, other men and women touching his body, feeling the disgust and shame that accompanied each act —but when she gripped his jaw, demanded he look at her and only her —her sparkling, pleasure-heavy eyes— she sighed and held him close, watching all of that old pain burn away as his face contorted and he came at what he saw there, seizing tightly against her, spurting in her with a groan filled with so much longing and relief at release, her heart threatened to burst.

When he collapsed weakly, still hard, she straddled him, gently coaxing him to watch her - think of her and only her - and she gently settled his hard length inside her once more. He groaned, looking at her as she brought his hands to her mouth, feeding his arousal with slow precise movements with her hands and body, teeth and tongue, murmuring words of love down the bond.

I love you -

I love you, you can't ever leave, Sarah,  ever - not ever -

Never -

She sighed softly in pleasure, relaxing her hips, allowing his hands to roughly drop her own to grip her hips painfully, stilling her movements and pressing deep - feeling his body tense, his abdomen shudder and flex, then a groan tore from his throat as he went still - exaggerating the feel of the slow kicks of his cock as he spurt again. She knew why he held her still - somehow able to sense that desperate hysteria tinged with a mixture of madness and love in the bond that if he could place a child in her, she would be bound to him forever. The fear he felt of her leaving, her own submission and affirmation she wouldn't, drew another groan and climax from him, sending her over the edge as well.

Collapsing weakly against his chest, she sighed, wrapping her arms around his torso. Before they were too weak, he skirted a hand up her spine and she felt the shift just as sleep claimed them - silk sheets caressing her body along with his own. Once more, the visions chose to come - this time, Jareth joining her. She felt him twitch against her as sleep claimed them both and wanted to soothe him, but the creeping edge of sleep claimed her before she could.


 

The fae male stared at the three women, watching their daggers ready as the skies above bled with darkness a smattering of glittering stars. The tallest turned, thrusting a finger at the fae still standing, having not ran in fear like his brothers.

"You, observer. You are different. What is your name?" She asked.

The fae said nothing, the goblin at his side stepping forward. "He does not speak, he has no tongue. I speak for my Master."

The women looked at one another, curious. The one who had spoken smiled, ignoring the turning of the sky as she stared. "Then tell us his name, young slave."

"Not slave, subject. His name is Daedalus and he knows what you need."

The woman smiled, her blade flashing in the light. "Oh? And what do we need, little one?"

The goblin stared as the fae did, turning to look briefly at his Master. When the fae simply nodded, he turned back and addressed the woman, his tone solemn. "You need a cage."

Chapter Text

"A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history." - Mahatma Gandhi


 

Light no longer shone above, nor the glittering flares of stars, just an endless sea of black as far as the eye could see. The three women stood - watching, pacing, surveying - as the fae and his race of goblins worked tirelessly for three days straight.

Once more, the sky crackled, this time with inherent wrath. The one who had spoken to him the first time stepped forward, eyes flashing gold against her dark skin and light markings. "He draws close, Daedalus. Is it finished?"

The fae turned, his hands spread, as his flinty eyes met her own. Behind him, endless hordes of bodies worked tirelessly, pouring over the shaped landscape like a sea of ants. He nodded.

She smiled, looking towards her sisters. "Good," she said, the others stepping forward. "It's time to begin."

The fae watched as the women turned in a circle, a fire springing forth between them, in the path of dust and loose stone they turned across the ground. Murmuring something, linking hands, they closed their eyes, even as the storm above grew dark and tumultuous. Together, wrist bound to wrist, daggers gleaming in the darkness from their hips, they spoke a language even the fae could not comprehend. Suddenly, the flames flickered out and in its place amongst the embers gleamed a book of gold and silver, etched with red letters -  The Labyrinth.


 

Annwn, Capital of the Underground

A guttural cry of rage bounced off the white-washed marble hallways of the residential wing of the palace, sending a flurry of guards from their posts, barreling towards the source of the noise.

"No! No, Maeve, NO!"

Neverin sat in the corner on her knees, dress torn, eyes wide and full of shimmering tears, watching with a detached coldness beneath that exquisitely constructed facade as Lucius continued to scream, clutching at his wife. Maeve laid bare in his arms, her skirts hiked up, thighs smeared with blood, throat torn open, pale glassy eyes staring forward and focusing on something only the dead could see. She turned, issuing up a faint sob herself as their eyes moved towards her, noting her distraught face, her torn clothing - the epitome of a failed savior.

"The Queen was attacked - killed. I-I tried so hard, I…" She hiccupped, bringing a manicured hand across her face, smearing the rogue that painted her lips in a semblance of shock and confusion as she tore her gaze towards the High King, eyes widening in the perfect appearance of horror. "Sh-she…" She broke off the litany of attempted apology with a hoarse sob, closing her eyes and shielding her face with her hands - her shoulders shaking - but not with silent tears - with laughter.

Oh, Lucius...you are so pathetically susceptible to all my ploys. No wonder Maeve hated you and wanted to die. Hearing Lucius' roar of pain made the effort in which she stifled her choked laughter all that harder. If he had cared, he wouldn't have ignored her wasted frame, her lackluster appeal for life, or her secret wish to perish and join her dead son in the fade.

The guards said nothing, one coming forward, gently helping her up as he moved her out of the room, where Lucius continued to roar. She staggered, making sure to wobble properly, struggle to drag the shreds of her skirts along with her, as the guard ushered soft words of reassurance to her, bringing her out into the hall. As the doors to Maeve's quarters swung shut, the load roar of Lucius' screams were muted almost immediately, only muffled shouts carrying past the thick oak doors the guard pulled her away from.

She barely fought back the urge to smile, finding herself moved to another room, brushed over by healing mages, looking distraught while her chest swelled with joy and excitement.

She was so close to freeing him now. She could sense it.

Soon, my love. Very, very soon.


 

"Where is she? Where is Neverin? I don't care if she's upset, I want to see her! Now!"

Neverin opened her eyes, glancing across the room from where she laid across the bed, a healer beside her in a chair, observing her reaction to the various tinctures and soothing poultices they pressed against her forehead. The double doors leading to her rooms blew open, Lucius storming through them.

His fury had not abated, only grown worse, the dark clashing gaze of his eyes meeting her blue ones. She shifted her face into one of surprise and worry. "Lucius…?"

"Tell me what happened," he barked, his face turning a mottled shade of red, his robes still glistening with Maeve's blood. "I want to know who's responsible."

She tilted her gaze to the floor, swallowing, waiting for the moment his rage would boil over and he would demand it out of her. When he snarled, stepping closer, and she overhead the concerned voices of the various healers from the hallway step in and try and shield her, she almost smiled again.

It was time to act - and this part was critical in the role she played. She sighed, closing her eyes, as the arguments around her grew louder, more intense, finally sitting up slowly, waiting until the room quieted, knowing they were studying her.

When she opened her eyes, keeping that expression of fragile pain searing across her face, she only had eyes for Lucius, knowing he would be at his weakest, his most irrational, as he waited for her to speak.

"This morning, Jareth killed my entire guard and overthrew the Labyrinth castle. He is back and a very serious threat," she whispered, her pale eyes going glacial as she spoke, with enough substantial fear in her voice to trigger Lucius' long-standing hatred of the male that had inadvertently brought death to his family. "I came here, to warn you, but - you were in a council session…" She trailed off, swallowing, knowing this was true. He had been in a privy council all morning, reviewing the state of magics with some of Killdaire's understudies. "It was there I saw the Grandmaster. He and Jareth conspired…."

Lucius' roar of fury had everyone blanching, even Neverin - who secretly watched the eruption with a kernal of glee inside. So, you knew about them. I wondered if you did. No one is that irate unless you knew how the Grandmaster always felt. He turned, savagely running a hand across the table and shattering the contents across the floor.

Thrusting a trembling finger at one of the guards, the male's eyes wide, Lucius prowled forward. "Gather the emissaries for the other territories. I declare WAR on the Thelemic Order and the Labyrinth. Have our stewards send those decrees immediately. I expect an army at my doorstep by dawn! Do you understand?"

When the guard didn't immediately reply, only paling slightly in the face of Lucius' wrath, he stepped forward, grabbing the male by the collar. "Don't just stand there and look at me! Do it! Do it now!"

The guard nodded, jumping back once Lucius released him, turning to run for the door. "They killed my wife! My son! They will pay in their blood!"

The healers used the fleeing guard to back away from the riotous High King, watching warily as he turned, his eyes narrowed on Neverin. Briefly, they softened as she let loose a stifled sob - and when he barked for the others to leave them and came to her on the bed, she smiled when he looked away.

"At least I didn't lose you, Neverin." His arms crushed her to him and she smiled again - but he misinterpreted why.

"No," she replied with a whisper, "I'm still here."

Wrapping her arms around him, her blue eyes briefly pulsed red as she sighed, turning her mouth towards his as he tipped his head towards hers. He hesitated, almost sensing her power, so she backed off, taking small sips of his mouth, drawing on his essence, that long-buried payload of rage and anger, drawing it to the surface. When he stiffened against her, then groaned, giving further into the kiss, she smiled again, giving him what he wanted.


 

The chanting was loud, their voices harsh, as the book flew open and they read the words aloud. Daedalus and his goblins stood by at their insistence, in the event the cage they'd created failed to capture the wrathful retaliation of the monster and his mate they planned to capture.

One by one, the goblins turned, slowly moving throughout the maze structure as the fae commanded, repairing stone and metal and wood alike, while the trinity of women chanted louder still, the sky wailing in the odd-sounding tone of a male enraged.

Suddenly, two figures appeared, lured there by the words against their will. The women turned, dragging their weapons from their hips, and the fae stood by as they fought. Loud blasts rattled the earth, digging a trench so deep, the rivers flooded the basin they'd created while the fae and goblins had worked to create the structures required around it. The air grew calescent, turning the churning rivers to endless spouts of steam, revealing the stairs the women backed the two figures towards.

At the last moment - the rivers turned to ice - to glass - and the three women shoved forward as one, watching the two figures fall - tumbling down stairs and air alike - until they collided with that barrier and fell through, rippling through the ice like smoke and ash. A brief scream came from the female as the male reached and shoved - and a searing light forced the women and fae to shield their eyes.

"Now!" He heard them scream. "Do it now, Daedalus!"

He turned, commanding his subjects to thrust the last pillars of their construction into place. A roar was heard, followed by eerie silence and nothing else. The silence became a tomb as the women and the fae stood once more, the fury of that roar knocking them off their feet.

The skies cleared and the women congratulated him on his elaborate creation. Just as he turned to move away, one of the women snagged his arm. "Wait…"


 

"Lucius…"

The male beside her barely moved, one long arm draped across her waist. She barely suppressed the urge to scream into his ear and slit his throat as he turned, his hair wild, struggling to once more fall back into the temptation of sleep that skirted across his expression.

"Lucius…"

One eye opened and peered over at her and she did her best to smile. "I've been thinking."

He said nothing, merely stared, but she seized the attention she'd managed to muster from him. His skin was pale, his eyes almost vacant, and she briefly wondered if she'd stolen too much of his essence this time. As she watched, that arrogance and fury slowly returned and she smiled, relaxing. One last door to open, one last secret to find. Show me the way, High King.

"Jareth and Killdaire are powerful and at large. We need a means of protection I fear soldiers can't provide." She whispered, reaching out to stroke his cheek.

Killdaire frowned, his eyes suddenly growing crisp and lucid - the first time in a long time since she'd joined his bed. "What are you suggesting?"

"The vaults, Lucius. Show me the vaults. There must be something there I can use to protect us. I can't lose you, Lucius. I can't." She tempered her words sofly enough they appeared a plea, meant to convey desperation and affection.

He frowned again, pulling away, but she clung to him. "Please, Lucius. We must protect ourselves, our people. They're going to tear us apart." Or I will.

"But those magics have been forbidden for centuries, Neverin. If we invoke the wrong one…"

"Trust me, Lucius. Have I ever steered us wrong before?" She whispered, looking up at him with wide eyes.

He frowned and finally nodded, running a hand along her hair. "Very well. Come, let's go now, before the generals and others arrive and drag my attention away."

She kissed him, then stood, reaching for their clothes. Inwardly, she felt triumph. After all these years of waiting, it's finally come. You have no idea what I plan to do to you all once he's back with me.


 

A Private Estate, Annwn, Capital of the Underground

"Shh, be quiet. This way."

Killdaire crept forward, the reed-thin human man creeping alongside him at his heels. The man was clearly more than half-starved, almost skeletal-like in appearance, but he'd proven his tenacity when he helped subdue the few guards at the door to the crypt she had housed them in as a makeshift prison of sorts. Together, they had knocked the guards unconscious and had slowly crept towards the front of the estate, hoping soon they could make haste and leave - as something in the house forbid Killdaire to cast his spell.

Looking around, seeing the opulent rooms of his nemesis clearly vacated, not even hosting a skeleton crew of household staff, he motioned the man forward and sighed, leaning against the wall. "Coast is clear."

"Why's it so quiet?" the man - Jonas - whispered, looking around. "No one is here. Something's wrong."

Killdaire had to admire the perceptibility of the man as they stepped out of the hidden alcove, moving quickly and quietly toward the double doors at the end. "You're right, something is amiss, but it can't be anything -"

"Holy fuck! What is that?" Jonas' shout of surprise and insistent grab of his wrist tore Killdaire away from his thoughts. He grimaced at the man, steering his eyes towards him to chastise his loud cry, leery of attracting attention, when he noticed the sheer look of terror on the man's face. Turning, he looked in the direction that had Jonas' undivided attention, shuddering at what he saw.

Above, the skyline broiled in hues of gold and blue, an endless sea of thorns sprouting from raw fissures of ancient magic unused in the Underground for centuries. As the ground began to tremble, the thorns exploded across the sky, slicing down, thrusting deep into the walls of the castle beyond the wall of Lords houses and city streets ahead. Killdaire swallowed, eyes wide, as he watched a glass-like barrier gleam against the sun, once the thorns ceased expanding across the sky and the High Court Castle ahead, strangling the sight of the structure under its weight. As that settled, the magic moved, spurred towards the gates of the Capital itself, intent on further isolation.

"That….is a very bad sign," he finally supplied weakly. Glancing back at Jonas, he frowned, motioning him to follow. "Come on."

Together, they headed towards the gates.


 

The fae screamed as the woman's dagger slashed against his wrist, coating her blade in blood. Turning, she thrust the dagger towards her sisters, as the hordes of goblins heard their King's cry. Holding him close, she muttered a chant into his ear, just as the first row of creatures crested the horizon, intent on saving their King.

The other women plunged the dagger into the book, cleaving it in two, just as the book flared bright against the acceptance of the fae's blood. The knife clattered to the floor, one half of the book shattering to stardust, sinking into the blade. The other half warped, twisting and turning, forging something new, steered towards the fae.

Just as the woman released him, the goblins stopped, screaming and clutching at their heads. The fae did the same and the women came up, the pendant - bore from the same book that bound that dark god - stole around the fae's neck, making him gag.

"I'm sorry, but we can't risk him getting out," the woman who had betrayed him spoke, her golden eyes watching as the fae's turned the same shade as her own while he screamed, his features distorting - no longer wholly fae but not yet a monster, a blending of both. Turning, looking at her sisters, they moved towards the stairs, leaving the fae and his creatures writhing on the floor as the goblins cried out for their Master in pain.


 

The Labyrinth, King's Suite, The Castle Beyond the Goblin City

Sarah woke to Jareth's arms curled around her torso, his chest pressed against her back, legs intertwined with hers in the disheveled sheets that curled around their forms. From the look of the outside, the sun was threatening to rise but hadn't quite made itself known, just the beginning hints of dawn bleeding across the night sky.

Listening intently, she realized she heard no noise from the rest of the castle and smiled. Everyone was asleep, the Labyrinth was once more theirs and freed from Neverin's control and she had the male she loved at her side. His soft exhales at her back told her how deeply he slept, something she noted he most likely never did, not since he had been enslaved by the woman who'd almost destroyed him.

She found herself greedy, not yet ready to rise and prepare for the next phase of their plan - marching on the Capital, towards the woman and the King that had taken so much from them. If it wasn't for the threat of what Neverin could do, what she could unleash, Sarah would have been content to simply stay in the Labyrinth with Jareth and the other denizens, watching the Underground destroy itself from afar. Briefly, her mind flooded with the vivid dreams she had all throughout the night and she frowned, wondering how much was fact and how much was her wild imagination. Fingering the pendant around her neck, she decided to wait until her lover was awake to voice her concerns. She knew Jareth had seen them, felt them, his presence at her side apparent through the whole dream. She wondered how they could do that - share the same dream - but then, nothing had been normal with him in all the time she had known him.

Turning, keeping as still as possible as to not wake him, she stilled just as she saw his face, studying the smooth planes of his jaw and cheeks as he continued to sleep. The love she felt for him welled up rapidly in her chest, turning her heart into stardust in her breast. He was magnificent and he was hers.

Smiling faintly, she used the next few stolen moments to inspect him thoroughly and unabashedly, not sure when she would get the chance again. She was grateful for this small chance to see him without pain or fury twisting the sharp angles of his face into something predatory and wild. He almost seemed content, that twisted sharp trauma that she had seen the previous day washed away, and the sight of it took her breath away.

Hating to shatter the moment but unable to help herself, she leaned forward, brushing her lips against his own. He stirred them, tilting his head instinctively towards hers, then opened his eyes. She smiled, watching his mismatched blue gaze clear and then settle on her own. He returned the smile, reaching up and stroking a hand through her hair.

"Good morning," he murmured. "My queen."

"Good morning…" She grinned, leaning down and offering him another kiss. "My king," she whispered in his ear. The soft purr that rumbled from his chest made her shiver in pleasure.

He tugged her close, cupping her against his side as he turned, dragging out her kisses with his mouth. When his tongue slipped between her lips and teased her own, she moaned. Without words, he guided her to straddle him, keeping her flush against his chest, his mouth working against her own in slow, languorous movements.

Suddenly, her arousal flooded through her and she arched painfully against him, crushing herself tightly and not moving, unable to bear even a small stretch of skin not pressed against his own. His hands skated along her spine, settling against her hips, cupping the firm cheeks of her ass to hold her close and keep her there, echoing her sentiments.

Stay with me this time. I want to be as close to you as I can, his voice murmured along the bond as his kisses grew heavy, leaden with the blooming arousal between them. She groaned softly, tilting her head, feeling his chest constrict then his breathing grow tight as his cock spurred to swift readiness against the curve of her stomach.

She canted her hips, already feeling that warm ache deep inside her as his tongue teased her response to a fever pitch, catching his cock at just the right angle as she shuddered, pressing down quickly until his full length was buried inside her. He groaned, the sound a hoarse cry against her mouth, but otherwise he didn't move, letting her kisses and slow rocking take them on a lazy journey towards release.

Ride me, Sarah. Take me into you, just perfectly - there, like that, I can't move, I'll lose myself, he murmured down the body, another uneven groan tearing out of his mouth as he held himself still while she moved, cupping his jaw as she gasped and arched against him, her breasts beading to tight aching points where they rubbed against his chest.

She pulled back just as her channel fluttered, a sob of pleasure ripping from her chest, as she looked down at him, rocking her hips furiously. She was so close - the stillness of his body, the softness in his eyes, the way each punctuated grip and squeeze of her body against his own dragged a riot of responses from her nerves - and then she was cresting, holding his gaze as he watched her unravel.

The crash of her senses against her orgasm was bone-melting and agonizingly sweet, making her skin flush against the chilly air outside of their cocooned warmth as she cried out his name - over and over and over – chasing the shattering explosions beneath her skin. She ground down on him, circling her hips, greedy and selfish in her taking of his body as she rode out her climax. "God, Jareth, Oh yes, I - Oh God…"

"Keep going, precious," he rasped hoarsely underneath her, cradling her hips in the palms of his hands. "I'm…." He stilled, arching up softly at the last moment, a soft groan bursting past his lips, then he held her tightly while his face contorted, holding his breath as the first bursting pulses of his climax erupted.

She stared, watching his face unravel just as hers had, then heard his long groan - rattled loose from his chest as he kept her held there - feeling the pulsing bursts of warmth and the kick of his cock inside her as he struggled to breathe, to open his eyes and stare at her, as he poured himself within her, his hoarse cries sounding torn from the dark recesses of a part of himself only she had seen. She held him, cradled him in her thighs, whispering how much she needed him, wanted him – dragging his climax out like he had hers.

Eventually, he sagged, his grip becoming less painful, still throbbing but not as strong as before. "Sarah," he rasped, tugging her down against him, his hands brushing across her back, his face still torn between rapture and satiation as he continued to hover closer towards completion. "Sarah…"

Finally, he sighed, relaxing beneath her, his sex going still but still remaining hard – a testament of his unending hunger for her, despite his body no longer able to move - content to stay buried. She nestled closer, closing her eyes, pressing her face against his chest, silence descending once more in the room they shared. You're mine and you're perfect, she sighed down the bond, hearing his soft purr and sharp inhale of breath. She nuzzled her nose against his chest, mindful of the pendant there, and together they simply laid there for several minutes.

"Sarah? You saw them?" Eventually, his soft question roused her from the drowsiness that edged along her senses and she realized she'd briefly fallen asleep astride him. He cupped her cheek, urging her to not move, when she made an effort to pull back.

"You saw them too? The dreams?" He murmured again, tracing a finger along her temple. She tilted her head, watching him studying her. She nodded, her gaze darting down, staring at the pendant resting against his chest.

"Daedalus…" They both commented at the same time, dragging their gazes towards one another once more. Jareth's expression shifted, turning sharp once more, and Sarah briefly mourned the loss of that softness he had moments earlier.

"Come bathe with me. We need to get dressed, there's a place here you need to see," he commented, sitting up, tugging her with him. "There's something I've been meaning to show you and now it should make more sense, to both of us."


 

Annwn, Capital of the Underground

"Fuck, it's still coming. It's not working," Jonas grunted, sweat streaming off his brow as he did as Killdaire asked, angling the disc just right. Killdaire sighed, dropping his hands were the man had been helping ricochet his magics across the small portion of the walls that he had been trying - and failing - to slow the tangle of thorns that crept closer towards their defenses.

It a matter of moments, they would be stuck inside, unable to escape. And no one will be able to get in, either, he thought with encroaching panic, watching the thorns renew their efforts to thwart his magic, now that he had stopped feeding the spell.

"I've got to get others to come, to help," he admitted, ushering Jonas towards the small gap that was rapidly closing. "Come on, let's go, once I'm back at the Order grounds, I can…"

"No," Jonas replied, shaking his head, looking over his shoulder. Killdaire stared, his mouth agape, as the man backed up a few paces. "This is that woman's fault. The high fae monster that trapped me in that dungeon, isn't it? Its her doing this - right?"

Killdaire said nothing but the flare of anger in his eyes told Killdaire that the man had surmised the truth.

"Thought so," the man muttered darkly, then shoved Killdaire back, making him stumble, just as the thorns succeeded in growing over the small gap they'd staved off from the magic.

"Find a way to break this spell. I'm going to do reconnaissance, so when you come back, you know where to strike." He spoke hastily, as that glass shield like before swarmed down, threatening to fully cut them off from one another. "It's the only way. Tell Sarah I'm sorr -"

Before Jonas could finish, the barrier fell into place, and Killaire watched in horror as the twisted thorns grew too dense for him to see the man. Closing his eyes, he hastily struggled to cast a crystal, realizing he could now that he was beyond the barrier that had somehow negated the magic.

Crushing it in his fist, he whisked himself away - hoping the others would finally listen. If she had unleashed this magic that his forefathers had the capacity to lock up in a vault, never to be touched again - what else was she capable of?

 

Chapter Text

"What terrible magic; the day we find out who we really are." - Michael Lee


 

Annwn, Capital of the Underground

 

"Time to wake up, High King."

Lucius jolted awake when a searing pain exploded against his cheek and behind his eyelid, jerking his head back from the source with a startled groan. Blinking slowly and looking up with a wince, his vision blurry and his senses still reeling, he noted Neverin smirking down at him. Confused at the utter malice in her expression, it took him a few moments to realize he could see blood on her nails and tasted it in his mouth. Tracing the torn lining of his cheek, he grimaced faintly and watched as her smile grew. "At last, there you are. You're back." She gestured wide, dropping a wet kiss against his brow while he was still too addled to react.

Confused, he blinked again, not recognizing their whereabouts. His eyes focused on the darkened room but nothing immediately felt familiar and he briefly wondered what had happened, struggling to reconcile the change in the female before him. Feeling the fog beginning to lift from his mind, he struggled to stand and suddenly realized he couldn't. Glancing down sharply when his wrists encountered resistance, he noted thick binds chaining him to the antiquated ornate chair Neverin straddled him in. Grunting, he raised his angry gaze to meet hers, incredulous at his state, when he suddenly paused - noting for the first time that he was bound in front of a large silver mirror, the scent of stale damp air assaulting his nostrils. A tome of gold and silver glinted in the small light from the oil lamp she had set aside on the floor in his lover's hands, making him pause as he read the title.

"What is the meaning of this? Neverin? Where…? How did we…?" The echoes of his struggle bounced back at him in the silent darkness, telling him wherever she had bound him was large and cavernous. Tilting his head back, he stilled with sudden realization of their whereabouts when his eyes focused on the familiar shelves with organized rows of bygone relics and powerful artifacts stored here due to their danger and significance to the Underground's murky past. As his eyes tilted back towards her patiently waiting face, noting the tome in her hand, he frantically tried to conjure its importance but could come up with none. Still, by her expression and his state, he could feel the first prickle of unease ghosting up his spine that he waited for her to speak. Suddenly, she smiled, baring wolfish teeth in her otherwise angelic face and he tensed with fear at the conflicting halves clashing in her appearance - devil and angel, demon and saint. The longer he looked, the less he saw of the fae woman he knew and more of the lurking darkness that must have always been there. He sat, horrified, as her features continued to distort, making him swallow the bitter taste of bile in the back of his throat. "N-Neverin?"

As if sensing his fear, she sighed and tugged at his collar, bring his neck close to her mouth as she inhaled slowly. The sight of her teeth so close to his throat made him react before he could control his response and she laughed, trailing her tongue against his jugular. His groan of disgust in fear made her more excited and when he felt the first sharp jolt of her bite, he screamed. Her laughter drowned out his fear, but his mind whirled frantically when he suddenly remembered Maeve's throat. Oh gods...

"That's right…" She murmured, seemingly reading the horrified conclusion he was drawing, leaning back and wiping at her lips, glistening with his blood, still feeling it dribble against his collar, where she started stroking the tome briefly with a mixture of reverence, sadness and rage before glancing back up at him. "And this is the key to my freedom and restoring me to my rightful place with my mate at my side."

"Mate?" he croaked, eyes wide. She nodded, turning, looking briefly at the mirror, his eyes trailing hers in confusion. As he stared, he sensed shadows shifting in that mirror, but before he could summon a response, she turned back his way, staring at him again with amused malice.

"Sorry about being so rough, but I've waited so long for this day..." She tipped her head to the side, a mocking attempt at concern slipping into place as she studied the blank wariness on his face. "Don't remember how we got here? How I bound you? What led to this? Tsk," she murmured softly, cupping his cheek. He was too confused to struggle, simply staring in abject horror as she suddenly grinned and pressed close, her eyes turning that sickening shade of red. "Here, let me remind you."

Slamming her palm against his forehead, Lucius screamed at the sudden torment that tore through his mind, wrenching loose memories he had all but forgotten or hadn't noticed, his eyes squeezing shut as his body arched violently, his head filling with each and every one as they sprang forth.

...In one of his weaker moments, taunting his son about the Labyrinth and its lack of a ruler and if he wished to prove his worth he would take the challenge like a true High Prince of the realm...

...Neverin riding him, kissing him, her eyes flashing red, teeth descended, as she drags both his climax and his essence out of him…

...In the council sessions, seemingly drunk or provoked - or both - lashing out at his advisors, the shock and disgust apparent on their faces…

...Maeve watching from the doorway as Neverin rode him, drained him, turned him into what he became…

Lucius wrestled against her grip, trying to dislodge her hand and stop them, but she simply clenched harder, pressing close as her nails scored his scalp, hissing in his ear. "Now, now...the truth hurts sometimes. Be a big boy and open wide, I want to make sure you see everything. I haven't even made it to the good part, dearest. Don't you want to see?"

He would have screamed if he could then - the next images searing through his head making him both horrified and sickened - unable to do anything but stiffen in agony. She smiled, seemingly enjoying his response, as he struggled to contain the vomit that wanted to rise with the snippets of memory ricocheting inside his skull. They began swirling, one after another after another, into a hazy mirage of pain and suffering and anguish - call caused by his own hand.

No, no no no no - I didn't, no, I was manip -

"I know what you're thinking..." she hissed, interrupting his thoughts as he moaned raggedly, choking on a sob as images of his dead wife and son filled his mind towards the end, their dead expressions finally giving him enough energy to wrench free from her grasp, but Neverin pressed close, forcing him to confront her cruel expression of glee.

"You're thinking that it's somehow not your fault, that I made you do those things. Sorry to shatter your little illusion, dearest, but this manipulation only works if the repressed desire is there. That part was all you, I just amplified it. Don't like what you see?" She grinned, gripping his jaw tightly as she forced him to stare at her, hatred and revulsion gleaming in her eyes. "Don't blame me, blame yourself."

He closed his eyes then, hearing her laugh, as tears threatened to spill past his lids. He was angry, disgusted, and worst of all - ashamed. As if sensing his thoughts, she continued on in a dark whisper. "As I can see the light in your eyes fading, I'll give you this High King - you helped me in your downfall, so I'll spare you the wrath of the Underground when they find out what you've done and end your life as soon as I have what I want. Isn't that fair, dearest?"

He felt her grip ease and as loathe as he was to face her again, he nervously opened his eyes, watching as she turned towards the mirror and slid down onto the floor, gently dropping the book in front of her in the process.

"A piece of that river of glass from so long ago, lover," she whispered, her voice pained, as he watched her place a hand against the mirror's cool surface. "I held onto it for all these years. All this waiting...and you're so close now - we're so close now. I'm going to get you out of there, don't fret. Just a little longer, and we'll be back together once more."

She sighed and leaned forward, pressing her cheek against the glass, and Lucius watched in horror as something on the other side moved back.


 

The Castle Beyond the Goblin City, Private Library and Study, The Labyrinth

Sarah stared in awe as Jareth guided her through the doorway of a seemingly small room tucked away in the back hallways of the castle, watching it shift and transform into a wide open space with large shelf-lined walls hinting of an aged opulence she could barely begin to grasp. Books and journals of varying wear and thickness were neatly lined on every surface, some scattered on tables and chairs, all carrying a different penmanship, marking the trail of numerous catalogers that Sarah couldn't begin to pinpoint the origin to. One such journal was near the center desk in the room and Sarah's eyes caught Jareth's as she walked over and brushed her fingertips against the surface, noting the single gilded initial 'J' across the front.

Yours? She asked. He nodded. Only giving it a brief skim, she looked around again, overwhelmed at the amount of collections present. How did this place survive her?

They both knew which her she referred to. He replied as she studied the room. It was warded as well. She didn't have the patience to break the spell work on rooms she deemed of little priority.

She squinted, watching as several languages she couldn't understand suddenly became legible, raising an eyebrow at Jareth as she stepped forward, turning one around to face her, trailing her finger along the long-since faded ink of the unknown scribe who had written those words. "What is this place? Why can I read them all? Some aren't a language I even recognize."

"You are Queen, all these records are now yours, just as they are mine." She looked up, catching his expression - a mixture of pleasure, love, concern and trust easily seen despite the harsh lines of his face. She smiled, turning around and looking around the room. "What are they about?"

"The Labyrinth, mostly. You had the dreams; you're not the first. These are the thoughts of those that came before us and their attempts to translate them." She looked back at him in surprise as he gestured around. "All the journals of previous Kings, some rare Queens…" When he glanced back her way, he moved forward, brushing his hand across the journal that she noted was his, watching the initials change to 'J, King, SW, Queen Consort.'

"And now us," he finished on a murmur, watching her as she stared at that tome now bearing her initials next to his.

She placed her hand on his and smiled at him briefly before leaning down at the other journal she had just touched, noting the name Maelfic along the front. "And you think these will help interpret what we saw?" She asked, looking back his way. He nodded, watching her turn back and begin thumbing through Maelfic's entries. Her eyebrows raised at the seemingly endless date entries.

Yes, he was King for a very long time. I have been steward for four centuries, his words brushed against her mind, making her fingers pause as she thumbed through the journal, then began comparing it against his own.

So much of this is nonsense, she muttered, watching his reaction of the corner of her eye. His entries seem confused and lost. I'm not sure what we're supposed to get from these.

Mine aren't much better, precious. He gently chided, but leaned forward, thumbing through a few pages at her side, taping a few entries of note.

My eyes are nailed open and the voices won't stop. They haunt me, day and night, whittling at my bones.

A few spaces down, another entry, equally foreboding and seemingly strung of nonsense - We fancy ourselves immortal craftsmen of wonder. We are but children living in the accomplishments of truly astonishing forebears.

Frowning as she watched him thumb through the entries, she paused as she noted something in his own journal. This one was scrawled hastily and with sloppiness, as if written rapidly to put the words to paper before it was lost to the swirls of sleep - The Labyrinth is the best cage. What could it possibly house?

"You wrote this," she commented, sensing his nod. "When you just woke, from the appearance of it." She studied the date. "When?"

"Right after you beat the Labyrinth. Before then, I was unable to get a clear image in my dreams." She shivered, remembering that woman in the Labyrinth she encountered and the visions she had during the battle, brushing that aside for a moment when she felt Jareth's probing curiosity at her unease, pointing to one word specifically.

"A 'cage?' What…" She frowned, trailing off, her eyes focusing on a glimmer of memory from her sleep. She turned, staring at Jareth in shock, as the image of an older fae came into view in her mind's eye - face haggard, tongue torn out, eyes shifting from green to gold in agony - feeling Jareth's soothing grip on her spine as her emotions roiled on her end of the bond. When she refocused on his face, his expression was grim.

"You saw that?" She murmured, her voice raspy, struggling to form words at what she witnessed. He nodded.

"I've had some theories since your run, when the dreams began to have cohesion. At first, they were a jumbled mess of memories, not about what we saw, but of my predecessors. Mostly those of Maelfic," he tapped the journal they were thumbing through. "He was the last Goblin King before myself. When a new Goblin King absorbs the power here, from the goblins that store it when there is no King in power, it's a tangled mess. I can't even begin to tell you of the dreams that nearly drove me half-mad that first century. Some did go mad, from what I can tell when I sleep, when I sense their memories."

Sarah stilled, watching shadows stretch across his face, clouding his eyes. She wondered why she hadn't sensed any of those memories yet - of the previous Kings or his own. Whatever he had seen, however, haunted him. Reaching forward and cupping his cheek, she smiled when his gaze shifted back towards her, pulling away from whatever nameless memory he peered at. His eyes softened and he pressed a quick kiss to her temple before he took over the perusal of Maelfic's journal. Sarah looked down, seeing more random combinations of riddles and vague truths splashed across each page.

She is not what she seems, the eternal bride of the abyss. The swan is the mother of vultures.

Gods are very real. More than we know. Worst of all, they are patient.

With no Crown in the Hive the brood will thrive.

Keep it secret, keep it safe….above all else, it must be kept safe, or He will end us all.

He is me, I am Him - I'm bound to a monster, the joining deep within.

Growing dizzy staring at those words, she grimaced and closed the journal once Jareth finally reached the end. "Jesus, he was nutso." Jareth said nothing but she could sense his saddened agreement down the bond, curling a whisper of love and echoing consensus around her. "Do you think he figured it out? What all this was hiding all along?" She whispered, looking over at him.

Jareth frowned, shaking his head slowly. "Maybe bits and pieces but...no. Even I didn't, not really. It wasn't until you and I joined that it made any semblance of sense to me. I only caught parts before, not the coherent memories we've been seeing." He glanced back at her and she swallowed, her thoughts trailing back to what happened just the other day, remembering his panic, her insistence to keep fighting, and the harsh whispers turned pleas dancing along the Labyrinth magic as she got closer to the castle.

"The dreams...of that fae being bound here, that thing that fell through that glass wall that had been those rivers before…" She turned, looking onto that one entry Jareth himself had written down, finding that text she had read before, tapping it with her fingers and reading it aloud. " 'The Labyrinth is the best cage. What could it possibly house?' I...think I know what that means." In her mind's eye, she shared what she saw from the previous fae hunter she'd studied - Neverin against an old mirror, a shadowed figure moving from the other side, embracing her. She shuddered, glancing back to see how he was handling the image she sent him, the bond having gone quiet as soon as she replayed that memory.

Jareth simply stared, his lips thinning, saying nothing.

I think I know what she is, what that thing is - what this place is. She swallowed again, stepping forward slowly and brushing her fingers against his cheek, feeling his growing tension in the bond and against the flexing of his jaw beneath her fingers.

"It's not just some child's tale about wishes, is it? It's a cage for something far worse and you're tied to it." His eyes briefly pulsed gold and his facial features sharpened as she continued, rousing that power he had within him, as if sensing it's origin was finally to be spoken of for the first time in centuries. Hesitating, not quite ready to voice it, she instead shifted the conversation as she frowned, focusing suddenly on another memory that floated past her consciousness.

"Those women, in the dream," she murmured, turning, struggling to say what she had seen on the battlefield before he found her, her mind's eye drifting over those words she heard from before, when the crone was trying to warn her. "I met one of them once, I think."

Jareth stilled, going completely immobile. "What?"

Sarah nodded, frowning, closing her eyes and thrusting images in his head about what had occured in the Labyrinth all those years ago - then the visions she saw on the battlefield. She heard his hiss of shock before she continued on. "I think that's why when I touch people I just sort of know if they're going to be treacherous or not. It was her gift to me that day, or so she said. It sounded like she was warning me, then the visions started. The fae, the goblins, this place….the oath, the sacrifice...they stayed back, to make sure the secret stayed safe and he stayed put. I think…"

"...that they beguiled us to keep him bound and in place," Jareth finished for her. She opened her eyes, staring at him in surprise.

"Your eyes turn the color theirs were when you're angry or your magic is close to out of control," she whispered. "Does it frighten you...having the power of a God?"

The air seemed charged all of a sudden as Jareth stared back at her, the truth finally hanging like a discordant note in the otherwise calm air of the library. His eyes, as if on cue, shifted from blue to a searing golden and Sarah felt the soft stirrings of magic stroking her cheeks.

"No." He finally replied when she didn't shudder or pull away. It is who I am and a part of me now. Besides, this burden gave me you. She smiled briefly as he leaned forward, nuzzling his jaw against her ear.

Suddenly, he pulled back, his face once more dissolving into a harsh golden-eyed expression. "The other form, the one thrust away at the last moment - did you see it? In the dream?"

"Yes," she whispered. "I think it was her." Jareth's eyes met hers and when he said nothing in response, the grim expression confirming her thoughts, the truth of what - or who - Neverin truly was hung between them, making her reel backwards in shock.

"Jesus, and I thought we just had fae to worry about," she finally admitted aloud, the confession whooshing out of her, feeling suddenly exhausted. Jareth gripped her waist and drew her close, pressing gentle kisses along her brow as she continued, her tone weary. "But an angry goddess? Holy fuck."

Goddess or not, she's still going to burn for all that she did. Jareth snarled back along the bond, making her shiver at the sincerity of his words. You've already proven you can hurt her with the boy and together, she doesn't stand a chance, He continued, his words a distorted growl. I admit, I find it ironically satisfying that I'll get a chance to kill her with her own lost mate's powers. He tensed but her soothing strokes along his chest let him know she didn't object to his violent dark promise hovering between them in the bond. And we mustn't forget Lucius and anyone else who supported this madness. It started with them.

She glanced up, noting the hurt and resentment in his words as he spoke of Lucius - who Sarah had been enlightened earlier was the High King of the Underground and a long adversary of Jareth's. Leaning against him, she pondered how to phrase her next question, wondering at the source of that anger, stroking along his breastbone and the pendant that rested there. She smiled at the faint purr that escaped his lips but shattered the serenity of the moment with her next question.

"How did you become King, if you don't mind me asking?" She sensed his hesitation and opened her mouth to immediately withdraw her request but he quieted her hasty apology, brushing his knuckles along her jaw.

"It's alright, Sarah. I will never hide anything from you, no matter how ugly the truth might be. Shall I tell you or show you?" He held out his hand and she felt the swell of memories tug at from his side of the bond. Meeting his gaze, she took his hand and closed her eyes, letting the memories wash over her.

She sucked in a sharp breath as they dissipated, feeling Jareth's lingering pain at the unexpected loss of his friend and his outcast status from society as a result, opening her eyes to stare into his own, watching them briefly dim in shadowed hints of grief, then flare bright gold in fury. She reached forward, quickly pressing a harsh kiss to his mouth, letting him know she felt his pain and loved him all the same. It wasn't your fault what happened. Any of this, Jareth. None of it was your fault.

I know, he replied huskily down the bond, deepening the kiss. I used to struggle to believe it, but with you at my side, I find that I suddenly do.

She smiled against his mouth, feeling his tongue wanting to curl further along hers, but she pulled away when she heard a voice clear from the doorway. Blinking, she looked over, seeing Hoggle whistle as his eyes went wide, looking slowly around the room, then grinning when he saw Jareth's annoyed expression and how close they were pressed together near Maelfic's journal. "Haven't been here in a bit. Nice to see it still in one piece. Oh, sorry, am I interrupting again? I see I haven't lost my touch…"

"Yes, what is your reason again for being here, Hoggle?" Jareth muttered, his eyes briefly pulsing gold as they narrowed in his direction. Hoggle's amusement quickly faded. Sarah bit the inside of her cheek to keep her laughter at bay, feeling Jareth's warm balmy emotions brushing back at her, a clash of amusement and disgruntlement. That dwarf is the life-sized equivalency of a cock block if there ever was one.

That time she did laugh, shielding her face in Jareth's shoulder as he smirked, keeping her close. She heard Hoggle mutter something rudely back at Jareth, wisely keeping it at such a low decibel neither of them could make it out, before he gestured behind him. Sarah recovered enough at that point to turn, schooling her face into a serious expression, when the oddest creature fluttered in at Hoggle's heels. She seemed almost goblin-like in her size and odd coloring but contained a beauty not seen in goblin creatures, the pupils of her eyes ominously absent, but she wore a kind expression on her alien-like face.

"Greetings from Sprite Kingdom, King and Queen of Labyrinth. You officially at war with Underground."


 

Thelemic Order Grounds Killdaire's Private Study

 

Killdaire stared across the desk, watching the stunned and shocked faces of those before him as he summoned a crystal, spinning it wide - the image of the state of the Capital playing out for all of his guests to see. He gestured to it, narrowing his gaze at each of them in turn as he saw Sorcha slip quietly through the door. She paused, hovering against the back of the room, and he gave her the briefest of nods, watching her face pale as she saw what he was showing to the other members of the High Council - decrees of war in their hands.

"Believe me now?" He sneered darkly, thrusting a thumb at the tangled mess of thorns and old sorcery that continued to choke off the Capital and most likely other sources of ominous power within the High Court's vaults. "Why did no one tell me these types of things were stored there? Why do you think the Thelemic Order exists? On whose authority was I left out of this discussion?"

"Lucius insisted…" Began one, making Killdaire narrow his eyes at the large brown misshapen face of the troll that slowly met his gaze, contriteness in his expression. "We had orders, Killldaire. You can't fault…"

"Gods, shut up with the excuses. All I needed was to hear that fool's name," he muttered, rubbing a hand across his face, hearing their sharp gasps of surprise. He lifted his head, glaring at them and gesturing once more to the tangle of brambles cutting off the Capital and their expressions of disapproval slowly faded. "By all means, contradict me, tell me I'm wrong...but you see that? He allowed that to happen. You can't honestly think that he's still suitable to be High King, not after this."

His eyes briefly lowered, watching the chaos continue at the Capital. He could feel the tension in the air - knowing they thought the same as he did. What was she playing at? What was she DOING in there?

He motioned Sorcha forward when he had nothing useful to add, simply staring at the growing monstrosity in the crystal orb he had summoned, briefly noting out of the corner of his eye that the others noticed her approach. Only when they began whispering among themselves did he drag his gaze away from the display in the crystal, watching as the High Council members that represented the troll, ogre, dwarf, and elven populations gossiped softly. Somehow, that irritated him and he sat up sharply and barked out a harsh growl, ending their little tête-à-tête.

"At least you had the sense to come to me before bringing an army against the one male that might help fix this mess. Sorcha has just returned from there." He glanced back at her. "Report."

"I return from the Labyrinth to inform you all that Jareth has regained control of the Labyrinth and his powers. He has also obtained a mate in the missing Champion." At that news, Killdaire blinked, eyebrows raising. "She is a suitable match," Sorcha replied at the stunned looks from various members of the council. "She is not without power."

Another wave of surprised murmurs accompanied that surprise statement and Killdaire blinked yet again. A mortal with magic? No wonder you kept her hidden, old friend, he briefly reminisced sadly when thinking of Eoin. Sorcha waited for the moment to pass, then continued.

"Umiko is preparing them to meet us at the outskirts of the Capital. We should go soon, Grandmaster." She hesitated, looking at the others, when Killdaire motioned for her to continue. "They believe she's opening a portal."

Killdaire stilled, his eyes going wide. "A portal? A portal to where?"

Sorcha frowned. "I do not know, Grandmaster."

Killdaire swallowed, then glanced back at the others when they failed to rise, fury taking over any sense of diplomacy as his eyes briefly flickered to the barrier of thorns shielding the Capital - and her motives - continued to grow. "Well? What are you waiting for? Do as she says! Gather your armies and meet us at the Capitol!" He barked, slamming his fist down with a scowl. A few glared but had the sense not to say anything, understanding flickering in their eyes as they rose and began using transport spells, disappearing from view.

"All this will be for nothing if we can't get that barrier down," Killdaire warned, noticing Sorcha studying it.

She glanced back over with a small smile. "I think...we may have a solution for that as well."


 

The Castle Beyond the Goblin City, Private Library and Study, The Labyrinth

The blood drained from her face as Sarah watched the creature hold up a decree written by an emissary of the Capital, the scrawl of a signature from the High King along the bottom. Jareth leaned down, snatching the document out of the creature's wrist, then read it in detail. He growled, the sound completely inhuman, objects shifting around the room from the blunt plume of his rage flickering his considerable magic to life - then cast a crystal with a roll of his wrist, displaying the edge of the Labyrinth borders in its center.

Nothing stood there but stunted trees, sand, and half-dead grass.

"You don't worry. No soldiers come," the creature replied bravely, a smile transforming her face, as Jareth's gaze sliced towards her. "I am Umiko and Grandmaster Killdaire said to meet at the outskirts of Capital. He send very serious message, most urgent. I already sent his Understudy, Miss Sorcha, to tell him we come. We must hurry," She motioned for them to leave with her, Hoggle encouraged to follow. "Bring your fighters. War is brewing, but not where High King thinks."

Jareth and Sarah stayed perfectly still and Sarah could sense his rage and disbelief hovering just at the edge of his side of the bond - that now, suddenly the entirety of the Underground saw what he had known for years. Bitterness rolled off him in waves, snippets of those moments of endless agony shifting against the bond while he struggled to control his response, and she turned, frowning and stopping the creature from leaving, gently closing the door to the hallway. When the creature - She's a spite, Jareth growled at her, the words distorted, but decipherable - turned towards them once more, eyebrows raising in surprise, she stepped forward to speak for them both, worried Jareth's tether was already dangerously thin and giving him a chance to subdue that power she could feel pouring from him. She smiled as she kneeled down.

"Why should we trust you or care about your territories? You didn't come to our aide, so why should we come to yours? From the way I see it, we could stay here and let you fend for yourselves." She started, asking this mysterious creature the same words she had asked Sorcha when they first met. She is our priority, not your squabbles. They had to hunt Neverin, not some morally corrupt High King, not with what they knew now.

"Because she is there. You know who I speak of." Sarah watched, horrified, as the creature turned, summoning a crystal, the state of the Capital playing across the cool surface of the orb in vivid detail. Even Jareth bristled, another growl erupting from his throat, as he took in what he saw, the library briefly going dark. Umiko nodded, tapping at the crystal. "Grandmaster said there's something she's hiding in there. No idea what. A human scout helping do reconnaissance, so we can locate her."

Jonas? Her thoughts jolted, making her nearly stagger back. He's still alive? Her eyes focused on the thorns and she moaned low in pain. And he's in there? With her? Oh god…

Sensing Jareth behind her, she looked over at him. She's got to be doing what we think she is. She's trying to open the portal to free that creature. Why there? Why not here? Sarah asked in rapid panic-laced thoughts in Jareth's direction, her gaze noting how the creature's expression went sharp, picking up on her silent distress.

I still control its power and she is weak here, the Labyrinth rejected her attempts to control it. That magic making that barrier... He stepped forward, reaching up and surprising the creature by being able to take hold of her own magic, shifting the crystal as his eyes turned golden, studying the seemingly chaotic heap of magic-laced brambles. This magic is old, almost as old as the Labyrinth's.

Suddenly, he snarled, his lips peeling back from his teeth, displaying rows of sharpened teeth. The book, she has the book - the gold and silver one - or a close replication of it, like these...His fingers brushed against his pendant and he suddenly hissed, jerking his fingers away. She hesitated, then touched hers, a searing heat scalding her fingertips.

"What you sense?" Umiko asked, her eyes wide, as she noted Jareth and Sarah's reaction when they touched their pendants. "Why they burn you?"

Still, they ignored her, both tumbling through their shared dreams. But the book in the dream, it transformed into our pendants. How…

They created another, somehow. I don't know, Sarah. I wish I did. He grimly responded, glancing around. A lot still doesn't make sense but she's somehow doing it. I don't understand how she is able to, but...

Sarah did the same and she felt the pit of her stomach fall,shaking her head in shock. Even if they did make another book, why on earth would they move it? Why risk it?

Ignorance, stupidity, sheer negligence - take your pick...He muttered bitterly, dropping his grip from the creature's orb. Umiko frowned, too sharp-eyed and keenly intelligent by appearance to fail to notice their wariness but she said nothing, letting them converse down the bond. When the room slowly lightened again, Jareth's powers once more in control, she shifted her gaze to meet the sprite's gaze as Jareth rose and began barking orders at Hoggle to prepare the troops to move towards the Capital at once, dropping a few summoned orbs into his palms.

"Neverin isn't what she seems," Sarah explained to Umiko, her eyes briefly flickering towards Jareth. "And that's all we're comfortable sharing for now. But that?" She gestured to the barrier of thorns. "...is bad. But what she's doing inside of it is far, far worse."

Umiko turned her attention back to the thorns as Hoggle took off out the door, bellowing Mikpik and Sean's names as he went. She felt Jareth return to her side as Umiko frowned and looked back her way. "What you advise we do?"

At Sarah's hesitation, Umiko smiled once more. "You concerned about me. No worry, you can trust Umiko. I know what you are….Champion," Umiko stated, making Sarah still as she heard her previous title slip past the sprite's lips. She grinned when Sarah paused, ignoring the warning growl issuing from Jareth's lips. "I have known about you long time, Sarah Ann Williams of New York. Since that mountain."

"You were there that night?" She whispered, scarcely believing it, feeling Jareth's confusion. She briefly cast him a few images, watching him still as he absorbed them. "And you kept my name a secret? Were you a supporter of Eoin's?"

"No, not my place at the time. But I watched and waited. I knew he would come to you eventually." Her eyes trailed towards Jareth before briefly looking back her way. "Besides, Eoin had to train and prepare you. You not ready then, but you ready now."

Sarah went pale, swallowing, as Umiko came up and took Sarah's hand, letting her feel her sincerity. "I saw then what I see now when I watch you on that mountain top. Good heart, good soul, good mate for Jareth King of Goblins. Master Eoin believed in you, so I do, too. I see what he saw, Champion."

Umiko's gaze flickered towards Jareth once more. "Besides, not my secret to tell, was it?"

Sarah felt Jareth relax, unspoken emotions of varying shades of wariness and relief swirling from his side of the bond as Umiko dropped Sarah's hand.

"Your mate good woman and good fighter, King of Goblins. She not need any protection. She strong, she can handle you can't she?" Umkio stated, summoning a crystal and making her smile at hearing Jareth's rasp of laughter at her words. "Hurry now, things get worse." She dropped the crystal, shimmering out of view.

Suddenly, Jareth turned her, his lips crashing down on hers ravenously. She's right, you know, he growled along the bond, his tone a mixture of arousal and respect. How you turn my world, you precious thing...

She moaned, echoing his sentiments, slightly saddened as he pulled back long enough to send a crystal crashing to the floor, his mouth finding hers again just as the world went black.

Chapter Text

"The world is full of monsters with friendly faces and angels with scars." - Heather Brewer


 

Sanctioned Vaults of the High King Treasury, Annwn

In the darkened vaults, a whispered voice carried amongst the artifacts of the dead and the forgotten past. It was full of longing and eons of suppressed pain, but it was her story - their story.

Reaching out as she whispered those words her children uttered all those years ago, she watched with the faint stirrings of hope in her chest as the mirror reflection rippled and turned dark, no longer reflecting her face. She struggled to contain a sob, briefly tripping over the words of a language long since dead, as the darkness - suddenly wakened after a seemingly long slumber and aware - billowed towards the mirror, blotting out all light as a shape of a hand pressed against the glass.

Yes, her trembling lips shaped into the semblance of a smile as she continued to read. Come to me, my love. It's time to leave this prison...

Raising her own, dropping the guise of the one she'd stolen, she let her shimmering skin reach for his through the glass. My love…

A muted roar echoed through the glass, making her captive thrash in his bindings as the mirror began to ripple and shudder. She didn't care, she ignored it, letting out a faint huff of laughter at seeing her mate's familiar rage as she continued her chant in low hushed tones. Yes, love, come to me. Let us be free of these shackles and show them true wrath.

She grinned as two golden eyes suddenly blinked to life in the void staring back at her from the mirror. I'm here. Let me out.

She shuddered, stifling another sob at hearing his true voice for the first time in eons, gently stroking the face that appeared as she nodded, glancing down at the book resting on the floor. A few more verses, love.

She smiled as he began to slam against the barrier, the transparency of the glass thinning and growing weaker, watching with greedy eyes as the barrier to his prison waned closer towards destruction.


 

Outskirts of Annwn, Capital of the Underground

As Jareth dropped the teleportation spell, he could already sense the seductive pull of the chaotic magic in the distance. Somehow, as if sensing a kindred spirit, the thorns in the distance almost seemed to sing to him - a silent song of pleasure and pain, attraction and revulsion, stirring the well of power inside him with its continued lullaby. The more he listened, the more it invigorated that dark side of him he never fully gave into and he found himself briefly struggling to keep it contained - a soft snarl of warning bursting past his lips as Sarah pressed close, his talons and teeth already wickedly long.

I'm here and I'm not afraid, she whispered down the bond, startling him out of his inner turmoil. Use me to keep it at bay. I love you, monster and all. He was surprised she knew of his struggle but hastily latched onto that offer like a starving man in search of his next meal, jerking her close, their armor scraping together as he latched onto the suggestion. He briefly turned them away from the others, dragging his mouth and nose along her neck, hastily inhaling the scent of his mate, as his talons and teeth sharpened, roaming over the snippets of skin and the shape of her body pressed against his.

Mine, he snarled, feeling her soften against him as she sent a faint agreement down the bond. She moaned faintly when he pulled his cloak close, bucking faintly against her and biting down briefly on her neck - and while it wasn't enough to leave him fully satisfied - never enough - he found the beast within him calmed enough to allow rational thought and the ebb of the siren's call of the magic in the distance to fade. When he stopped, just keeping her pressed closed and looked down at her, opening his eyes, he saw her smile.

"I wish I could take you right now, but a few kisses will do," he murmured, making her laugh as she pulled away. Immediately, his body protested the action, but he conceded, allowing her to pull away, sliding his eyes over her form. Despite the teasing banter between the two of them, it had helped calm the beast within and she knew by the softness in her eyes. He purred at her, nipping one last time at her throat, before allowing her to step back out of reach. Thank you.

Of course, she replied, allowing him to once more focus and turn his attention back to the thorns in the distance. He felt her emotions quiet in the bond as she too seemed to turn and study the magic. What do you see?

He glanced back over at her briefly before his eyes scanned the horizon. It's old, like the magic within me. It calls to that side of me. It's dangerous, but nothing I can't handle.

You think you can take it down? She asked, her side of the bond going quiet once more. He tilted his head towards her, sensing her sudden absence, and saw a conflicted mixture of wariness and fear dancing in her eyes as she looked over the scene. I'm worried she…

Suddenly, she stiffened and reached a trembling hand out for his, just as he felt something inside him claw to awareness deep in his chest. He stilled, hissing, his teeth elongating as the pendant against his skin flared to painful awareness, the Labyrinth magic screaming and bursting to life - a thousand wailing voices all at once, pleading and sobbing - ricocheting inside his skull.

Kingy! Queen! Help us! Stop her - stop her  now!  She is  close!

"Go," Sarah croaked, her eyes wide as her hand fell away from his, staring at that structure of thorns between them and her. "She's…." Sarah winced as the voices wailed again between them, drowning out everything down the bond, including thought. "She's too close. Go."

Kingy! Help! Hurry! She is close!

She shoved at him as the voices died down once more from their shared bond with the maze. "Go!" She shouted, wincing and stumbling, glancing up at him with hardened eyes."Be the monster they fear you are."

Staring at her lovely face, so full of bristling determination, he did as she asked, opening himself up to that siren's call from before. He began to move, turning, feeling his form twist and reshape, and suddenly he was flying, arcing high in the sky as he sent one last word of warning before steering himself towards the thorns before fully embracing that side of himself once more. Don't prod me in the bond, love. I'm not quite sure what will answer.

He felt her agreement, her release of her side of the bond, and he closed his eyes as he neared the barrier, allowing that snarling monstrous side of him roar to life. He heard a faint whisper of her down the bond just as she backed away - I love you, Jareth. Make them pay. - and then she was gone, leaving him alone with that monster tethered within.

With her permission, he shifted further, opening his maw wide - and he unleashed it.


"What...the hell is that? What's he doing?" An unfamiliar voice murmured suddenly from her side as Sarah watched unflinchingly as Jareth shifted, giving into that darkness within, and roared to life in the sky, casting a shadow over half the army in the distance. She stared, still shocked at the depths of his power despite tasting hints of it since their mating, glancing over at the blonde fae that had come up beside her only once his assault on the thorns started, sending violent tremors through the ground beneath their feet.

"Finding us a way in," she murmured, studying the fae in more detail. The wails of the Labyrinth denizens that contained that power along with her and Jareth had gone suddenly quiet as soon as he had begun his attack on the magic barrier in the distance and she used that opportunity to note her new companion. She briefly looked over her shoulder, seeing Sorcha hovering nearby, taking that implication to heart as she shifted her gaze once more to the male beside her - Grandmaster Killdaire - if the understudy's presence was any indication. He was a few inches taller than herself, thin, not classically handsome but still oddly beautiful like most fae were, long blonde braids drifting past his shoulders, dressed in sweeping crisp robes of orange and red. "I assume you must be the Grandmaster I've heard of. Killdaire, is it?"

Killdaire turned towards her, struggling to form a smile as his eyes kept briefly returning to the shape Jareth had assumed, attacking the thorns in the distance. She kept quiet, forcing him to speak first, not hinting at what Jareth's powers were - because in all honesty, even she didn't fully know. He nodded at her question of his title and name after several seconds, holding out a hand to properly greet her, the long draping sleeves of his robe parting, revealing a pale slender hand decorated in various jewels.

"Indeed," he finally commented, his voice hoarse as he cleared it, finally smiling with some semblance of ease now that he simply focused on her, ignoring the presence of the monster in the distance. "Per my understudy, you are Sarah Williams, former Champion of the Labyrinth and now Queen and mate to Jareth." As her hand took his, she watched him briefly stiffen as he felt the brushings of that odd power she had when her fingers met his.

"Yes," was all she said, allowing that magic Alecto had given her to work, forcing herself not to smile despite the brief flicker of surprise and terror that flickered across the mage's face. To his credit, he didn't flinch as she let that gift of magic swell down their grip instinctively, inspecting and turning over the motives she could unravel and review in detail. She nodded faintly as she took back her hand, pleased at the sincerity that she could sense, despite his shadowed and tumultuous past. Briefly, her eyes met Sorcha's and the fae woman swallowed but glanced towards her Master unconcerned. She did smile then, figuring that Sorcha had told Killdaire to be honest in spite of their past and found herself respecting the elder as she pilfered through his motives, memories and past. "I see Sorcha told you of one of my talents. Good choice, being honest…"

She dropped his hand and nodded, glancing back towards Sorcha and then Killdaire himself, who stared at her slightly in awe. Finally, he seemed to recover. "Yes, well - it seemed this isn't the time to offer half-truths, as it were."

"Indeed," she murmured in response, watching as something in his gaze eased when he studied her expression and he gestured behind him, urging her to join him in walking towards the tent structure in the distance, doing their best to ignore Jareth's destruction behind them.

As they walked, her eyes scanned the landscape, noting several armies gathered, each with their own people and house colors. Killdaire sensed her curiosity and supplied what he could as they walked.

"Umiko's people," he motioned towards the small blue-skinned winged creatures in the distance in shimmering armor of silver and blue, "of the sprite Kingdom. Their water sprites are the most powerful, despite having kin that call to the other elements. They're the most skilled in hand-to-hand combat."

"Andrei's people," he gestured towards a hulkish army of trolls and other strong creatures, dressed in simple earthy colors. "His council seat speaks to the stone trolls, ogre and the remaining bands of kobolds. Strong armies skilled in close range combat, but slow."

"Marikoths people," Killdaire murmured, when Sarah's eyes flickered towards the elegant green-skinned creatures in the distance, almost as beautiful as the fae, with silver hair, iridescent violet eyes and slim dancer-like bodies. "Wood elves, mostly. Archers, fletchers, some skill at scouting and close range combat."

"Lastly, Brakdrug's people. I believe you have one in your own ranks," Killdaire commented, motioning to the ironclad army closest to the gates. Sarah paused, taking note of the dwarves in the distance, nodding briefly towards Killdaire as they walked, nearing the tent's entrance.

"I do," she commented. "Hoggle. I believe your understudy has met him. He was a close confident of Eoin as well." Her eyes flickered towards Sorcha, who trailed behind them in the distance. Killdaire nodded, his mouth tightening at the mention of his former friend and her former mentor, then motioned her forward, parting the tent's opening to allow her access inside.

The tent was dark against the bald sun overhead, making her briefly still to allow herself to adjust to the change. In front of her, taking up most of the space inside, was a large sprawling parchment, depicting the Capital in the distance. She allowed her eyes to focus, memorizing key points throughout the city - and honing in on the marks denoting the vaults, where a few murmurs she was able to pick up on noted that as the logical area Neverin was using the magic from. Staring at that spot, she stepped in further, resting her hands on the map as she came up beside the table, briefly noting the drop of discussion as she was noticed.

So that's where you're hiding, her thoughts raged. Not for much longer.

Glancing up once her eyes fully adjusted, she noted the others. Each turned, staring at her intently, and she met each gaze unflinchingly with her own, knowing that this initial sizing up mattered before they were to proceed.

The dwarf council member - Brakdrug, grey and battle-scarred, wearing a set of dented iron like a second skin, displaying his prowess on the battlefield - stared at her with a blank expression, but his eyes seemed to soften fractionally as she held his stare. Turning, she noted the female green-skinned elf, Marikoth, surprised to see an element of fear and wariness in her eyes. She softened her expression, briefly dipping her head, before moving on, watching the woman's shoulders relax. Umiko grinned at her, lounging against a chair from the side of the tent, and Sarah couldn't help but look amused as the water sprite cheerfully waved, making a few of the others still in surprise. From what Sarah could tell, they hadn't expected her to know anyone prior to this meeting. Lastly, her eyes focused on the hulking furry troll on the edges of the council members present, staring at her with brief animosity. She steeled herself, not moving an inch, until the troll himself huffed and shifted his gaze away.

Killdaire simply chuckled as Sarah relaxed, looking his way, motioning to her and towards the others as she noted out of the corner of her eye as Hoggle, Sean and Mikpik entered behind her. "Council members, meet Sarah Williams, Jareth's mate, and her next in command - Hoggle, leader of the denizen forces; Mikpik, leader of their scouts; and Sean, leader of the human additions."

She ignored the sudden whispers that bloomed in the tent as her eyes shifted over the others, briefly meeting Hoggle and Sean's gazes. They both looked wary and uncertain as they looked towards the others but she kept her expression strong until they nodded subtly back once their stares met hers. Remain strong, all of you. They got the message, hardening their expressions before stepping closer to her, falling behind her to show their allegiance.

Finally having enough of the gossip, she turned, stepping forward, silencing the others as she laid a hand down once more on the map in front of them as she introduced herself.

"Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Yes, the rumors are true…" She commented, meeting each of their faces as they shifted on their feet, barely able to suppress a flash of teeth as she met each stare with one of her own. "My name is Sarah Williams and I am the infamous Champion your High King tried so desperately to find. I was human, once, but perhaps not so much now." Idly, she summoned a crystal, watching the others still, their eyes going wide, before allowing it to crash to the floor, the release of the magic briefly guttering the candles in the tent - another wave of her hand bringing them back to life. She noted their hesitation and smiled briefly. They're afraid, she thought. Good - they should be.

She shrugged a shoulder, brushing off their wary stares, and continued on. "Let's cut the small talk and make one thing very clear - I am not here because I carry some bleeding heart for your people. You knew taking Jareth out and allowing her to take charge was wrong. You knew what your King and those Nokmim were doing was wrong - and you did nothing. You sat on your thrones, in your little meetings, and did nothing - and look where we are now. I can't guarantee the Labyrinth people will ever forgive you for that - not in a month, or a year, or a century from now, if ever. However, we will fight alongside you because the threat behind that wall of thorns affects us all. Make no mistake - if she wins, we ALL lose."

She watched the others take in her statement, narrowing her eyes as she watched a few of the delegates in front of her tip their heads towards one another, muttering some obscenity she could only briefly make out before her anger got the better of her. Memories poured from her past, reviving the faces of all those who had been lost - both in the Aboveground sanctuary and in the Labyrinth's own people. The nerve of these council members, to press their heads together and mumble about her - after all she had suffered, all Jareth's people had suffered, to listen to them stare at her, take in her human origins and somehow find it lesser than them - evoked a deep seated rage she didn't know possible. Slamming her fist down in anger, she watched with a brief gleam of satisfaction as several backed away, noting the scorch marks her magic had left across the table, turning some of the strategic chips to cinders.

"If you've got a problem with me, say it to my face." She growled, struggling to contain that spark of fury. None said anything and she smiled, the grin more of a macabre flash of teeth. "That's what I thought - all talk and little action. Seems to be the going theme amongst your kind when you bear any kind of title."

A few bristled but she withdrew her hand, calming herself. "This isn't the way to start things. I will admit, I'm bitter. I've seen first hand how the Underground handles things, so forgive me if I don't give a flying rat's ass if each and every one of you burn. For what you did to my mate, to me, to those people," she gestured towards Hoggle, feeling Mikpik peak from around his shoulder, sobering the delegates that had been muttering something under their breath moments before with her serious expression.

"To even those Aboveground. Did you know she kidnapped mortals against their will? Made them into your little puppets?" A few stunned expressions made her laugh harshly, wiping a hand against her brow, disgusted they either didn't outright know or - worse - knew and didn't care. "You've torn families and territories apart while you sat on your ass and watched that King of yours destroy your world. Only he," she gestured to Killdaire, watching him straighten his shoulders, "Had any scrap of common sense. Whatever your problems are with me, leave them at the door. We don't have time for your sanctimonious bullshit. We've got more important things to worry about like survival. Understood?"

"Indeed, Your Majesty," Killdaire commented, his voice sounding odd, interrupting the sudden still tension that descended with her last words. "We know she has the High King inside, along with your scout friend, and that she's summoning a portal. May I ask where this portal goes?"

"Nowhere good," she replied vaguely, studying the others as they watched her warily. "If she opens it, I'll tell you this - it won't end well, for any of us - Aboveground or below," she murmured back darkly, turning her gaze towards Killdaire, watching his expression briefly flicker in shock and panic. She nodded at his reaction, pleased he understood the threat for what it was, the others still quiet, though several paled at her words. "We need to be ready when he has that barrier down, and he will get it down," she turned back to the others, the roar of Jareth whittling down that magic in the distance briefly overheard in the tent, catching the look of fear in their eyes. "Neverin is his, by the way. None of you suffered like he did. Whatever it's worth, spread that amongst your peers before anyone decided to seek cheap glory on the battlefield. He needs that win. Understand?"

"Of course," Killdaire murmured for the others, watching them all nod in agreement, reminded of the wrathful thing Jareth had transformed into. She could sense their questions but was thankful their fear outweighed their curiosity.

She lifted her gaze, staring at them all as they stared back, Jareth's roar of fury echoing in the distance. She smirked at their collective swallows at the reminder of who she was bound to and gestured to the table. "I'm glad we're all in agreement. Now, familiarize me with the plan."


 

The thorns were crumbling. Each vicious blow, enough to strangle the continuous growth, sliced like butter from his sweeping reach. Roaring, feeling the magic splinter and fizzle into nothingness, made the monster in him shudder and revel in the added strength. Somehow, he was able to make the magic his as he subdued it.

Suddenly, he felt it - a distant plucking at his powers. Whirling, roaring again, he slammed into the thorns as another caged monster altogether paced close by, wanting in, wanting it back, making Jareth all that more eager to break inside and shred apart the female in the palace below, making him want -

Erebus.

The name rolled across the well of power, drowning out that dark side of him momentarily, as a darkness he hadn't sensed before answered back.

My name is Erebus and you have something of mine, Fae King.

Jareth roared, ripping the thorns asunder, as he plunged down towards the palace in the distance.

Not if I kill you and claim it first, he snarled back, hurling himself towards the source.


 

"Ready, steady, go!"

With the command hurled towards the Capital once the thorn barrier came crashing down, the archers took to their command and several dropped to one knee, pulling back their quivers, fingers twitching, ready to release the arrows as dark bodies swarmed past the barrier, the Nokmim running - some transporting, drawing their blades and sinking them into the necks of those unable to react in time - and as one, released them.

Killdaire watched the woman at his side as roars and shouts welled up, blurring into one mass of screaming fighters, on the battlefield below. She was an oddity, unlike any other human he had ever met, and briefly he could see why Jareth found her appealing. Her strength of will, her lack of fear, surprised him. He stared as her eyes hovered in the sky, staring at that monster her mate had become, barely able to suppress a shudder at the look of shimmering love in her eyes that swam with unshed tears.

She seemed to catch on to his revulsion of her love for that creature and turned towards him, her eyes glittering with sudden malice. He opened his mouth to hastily apologize but her words cut through his meager reply before he could voice it.

"You should thank him, thank me, for all this stupidity you reaped on your own damn heads. We wouldn't be in this situation if you'd done something about her before now," she snarled as she dragged two wicked looking short swords from the pommels at her hips. "I sense your disgust at what he is. That male just took down that barrier to save us. What are you doing except standing here, watching your people die for you? Well, I won't. I plan to fight."

Killdaire blinked, at a loss for how to address her words, knowing the hideous nature of their truth, then she was gone - shimmering out of view, leaving him standing with the other members of the High Council a few feet behind him that continued to observe the battle below.

The second whistle of arrows darkening the sky did little to slow the Nokmim that crashed through that small barrier of ranged warriors, their superior training and skill at stealth hastily making them change tactics, teleporting in behind enemy lines, lashing out with daggers and swords and spells alike, making Killdaire suddenly feel a burning sense of shame as he watched their people struggle to adjust to the abrupt change from the seasoned fighters from the Capital. She's right, he thought with disgust, turning to stare at the other council members alongside him.

"Come on!" He shouted at his peers, summoning a crystal and picking up the nearest staff. "We can't just stand here any longer! We need to act! Help your people!"

As his crystal shattered, he heard the others follow suit.


 

Sarah aimed her transport spell close to the gates, eyes flashing, swords wide, as she fell on quiet feet, swinging her blades savagely in an arc, cutting down the few Nokmim nearby who had noticed her entry. She felt others transport behind her, turning to direct a blow in that direction, halting for the briefest moment when she noted the faces of Labyrinth denizens and her fellow scouts from the Aboveground sanctuary. Hoggle and Sean met her eyes with respect and pride and she subtly nodded, launching herself back into battle as they roared and followed suit, gaining the attention of several hundred Nokmim a few yards away.

As those merciless fae launched themselves at their new front, Sarah shouted for the familiar goblin who had become an increasingly good asset at scouting ahead, no matter the risk. "Mikpik!"

"Yes, your Majesty?" He shouted, scurrying along beside her, small dagger in hand, snarling and stabbing the prone toes of Nokmim he could find, opening them up to the clean kills of the soldiers behind him.

"Scout ahead, look for a human man in the vaults. Dark hair, dark eyes, olive skin. He's one of mine. Go!" She ushered him forward, springing forward and cutting off the downward strike of a Nokmim who had spotted the small goblin and attempted to take him out. He nodded as Sarah turned, slamming her elbow into the male's face, then twisting the grip of her blade, dragging it across his throat. As the Nokmim fell, she dropped a crystal into his palm and he was off, using it to transport to the coordinates she had laid within the spell.

Overhead, Jareth's roar of fury continued and she felt his shadow at her back as he swooped low, plowing through hordes of fae hunters with large, glistening teeth. She paused for a moment, glancing up, a smile tugging at her lips as she watched him shred the legions of some of the worst creations of the Underground, turning and whistling, directing her blade towards the area of the Capital they needed to go. "Clear a line to the vaults. We don't have much time! Now!"


 

Tears swam in her eyes as the chant continued, watching as the glass ebbed and thinned, growing murky. She closed her eyes, reaching out, just beginning to feel the dusting of his fingertips brushing against hers.

Keep going, my love, he murmured to her, making her voice pick up speed as she whispered frantically. It's almost done. I can sense it. Hurry now, before the Fae King comes. He knows we're close.

Nodding, she spoke faster, watching as the book heated, beginning to cast an arc of sunlight from it's prenatural glow across the space, ignoring Lucius' continued screams.


 

Jonas stared from around the edge of a large statue, watching as Neverin chanted something softly, her eyes half-closed but unable to hide that sickly glow of red and gold that poured from behind her lids. Her nails elongated and had long since turned black, dragging against the glass, her skin beginning to shimmer with facets of light, something reminiscent of stars peeking through the fae skin she wore.

He stilled as he watched her chanting continue, the words tumbling from her mouth both excited and hastily spoken, as a mirage of something in the distance, beyond the mirror, rippled and drew close. His eyes went wide, ignoring the screams of the fae bound to the chair, as she reached up, caressing the reflection of the creature that growled from the other side. Oh my god, what the hell is THAT?

"Psst, hey you…" A small timid voice spoke to his side, making him whip around and stare in shock into the frightened face of a...goblin?

"Where the hell did you come from?" He whispered, looking back as Neverin's chanting continued, the book tumbling from her hands as she stood, reaching out again against the glass. Something shattered in him as he watched her hand caress the glass once more but this time it seemed to ripple. "Whatever she's summoning is almost out. Where is everyone?"

"Coming," the goblin murmured, looking over Jonas' shoulder as they stared. "They can follow my whereabouts. I'm one of the King's denizens."

The Goblin King is that close? Oh god...Jonas paled, backing away from the goblin, moving closer to the woman in the distance, remembering her words of what he had planned for him and Sarah. The goblin paused, a confused look shifting over his features at Jonas' sudden retreat, but suddenly fear seized him at something he noticed behind Jonas and he ducked behind a wall.

Jonas turned, narrowing his eyes at the woman - female fae, creature, whatever she was - reaching for the first item he found that could be considered a weapon, feeling her attention directed at whatever monster of darkness hovered at the edges of that mirror, and launched himself once he drew close enough.

This is for Sarah and all the pain you've caused her.


 

Where is it? He staggered, roaring, furious that the other creature kept tugging on the well of power that he'd earned - sacrificed and lost for, suffered for.

Briefly, he felt a ripple of laughter - a blanket of darkness edging closer, long serrated teeth snapping - close to claiming all that had been his, sworn to him in that cave that the creature had lost to over a millenia ago. He bristled, roaring in fury as he attacked again and again, desperation starting to tear at that feral side of him. Where was -

Suddenly, he smelled it - smelled her. The one thing in all his life that was his - wholly, beautifully, completely his - and he wanted it, now. Following that trail, he felt the other monster lose its tenuous grip, and he roared again, in triumph and fury.

Mine, he snarled - both at the female he hunted and the power he controlled - drawing closer to that beautiful creature that was his alone - his lodestone, his heaven, his sanctuary.

Sarah...


 

High King's Palace, Annwn, Near the Treasury Section of the Castle

They neared the vaults, fighting seemingly endless Nokmim, their bodies growing weary, reaction time slowing, as the denizens and scouts continued to battle on. As they edged closer to the rooms ahead, hearing the victory horns of several armies in the distance, knowing they were slowly taking back the districts of the Capital, Sarah scanned the horizon for Jareth.

She knew he said not to find her in the bond, but she had to - they were close. Closing her eyes, ducking behind a jut of marble in the hallway as the others continued to take down the resistance around them, she searched for him in that space between worlds, calling his name. Jareth…

Sarah...

A blast of something entirely inhuman roared back, making her stumble and fall at the the seige of magic and unbridled beastial instinct that slammed back at her. Unable to sense even a hint of her mate, she instead shifted her tactic to something else entirely.

Stepping forward in that hollow space between reality, she turned, staring into the golden eyes of the monster her mate had become. Pointing a finger at it, she gestured to herself, then slowly began to strip herself bare. She felt it - the creature's arousal, madness and devotion warring all at once, as it growled and stalked forward. She backed up as it drew close, flashing it a grin and then disappearing entirely, withdrawing to her side of the bond.

Opening her eyes and sensing it's roar and approach, she stood and noted the doors to the vault, launching herself towards it.

"Get everyone out of here, he's coming!" She shouted to Hoggle and Sean, noting the Nokmim also seemed to be transporting away, their troops already intimately familiar with Jareth's monster. "I don't want anyone unnecessarily hurt! He won't harm me! Go! Help the others take back the Capital!"

Not needing to be told twice, they turned and hurried out the door, just as the other side of the hallway shattered, revealing the long stretched shadow of her mate. He snarled, his nostrils flaring, catching her scent, and she smiled, beckoning him closer, drawing on that innate arousal to find and claim her to steer him where she needed while he was lost to the throes of that dark side of himself.

Come, my love, she taunted softly, snippets of their love making filling her mind, sending them down the savage side of the bond he dominated, keeping herself distant as she watched the monster's golden eyes heat as it caught them. Let's end this. Then I am all yours - each and every inch of me…

The monster roared and launched forward and she turned and ran towards the vaults ahead.


 

This time, when she reached for the mirror, she could feel his fingers close in around hers. The mirror shimmered, growing thinner and thinner still and as she sobbed in relief, in pleasure, as his hand gripped firm and she pulled, she began to feel hope that finally he would be back with her.

Yes, dearest. Just a little more...

Out of the corner of her eye, she caught a sudden movement, twisting and snarling, batting the flimsy blade away from the human that dared crawl out of his hole and attack her now. She laughed, watching his fear quickly eclipse past his bravado as his hands flew up to her razor-sharp grip, squeezing down as her other hand gripped and tugged on her mate's hand. So close! Nothing will stop me now! Nothing, you feeble-minded human!

The sudden sharp bloom of pain in her shoulder had her screaming, turning her eyes angrily towards the source. She saw Lucius pale, Jonas' own blade thrust in her shoulder, where the knife must have skittered into his lap, allowing him to free himself. She lunged, still keeping her grip on her mate and on the struggling human, knowing Lucius was still too weak from her last feeding - and felt a sense of satisfaction as her teeth met the soft flesh of his throat and she ripped, sending a warm spray of his life's blood across the room in a vicious arc.

Lucius clutched his throat, eyes wide in panic, as she spat out that wad of tissue she'd ripped from him, watching him fall to his knees, slowly fading before her eyes, drowning in his own blood. Die like the pathetic creature you are, High King. May you rot in hell for eternity.

Turning back to look at Jonas, clamping her grip down harder, she hissed and pressed close. "Now it's your turn," she promised, tugging on Erebus and opening her mouth, intent on doing the same to him.

Just as her teeth scraped against his trembling throat, the world exploded behind her.


 

Slamming past the double doors, ducking out of the way at the last moment as Jareth's monster roared and tumbled the archway to dust in his fury to claim her - she noticed several things all at once.

Neverin, no longer fae, something else entirely - a black glittering creature of pure wrath - eyes red and gold, teeth and talons elongated, clutching Jonas in her grip, her fangs ready to rip into his throat - and Lucius, sprawled dead across the floor, wide pools of his blood coating the floor. The worst, though, was the creature on the other side of that silver mirror, her eyes unable to comprehend fully what she was seeing, only recognizing the familiar golden glow she had seen too many times in Jareth's own eyes. She watched as it twisted, slamming over and over again against the mirror, its surface oddly reminiscent of the one from her dreams, watching in horror as it began to crack, one half of its arm already pushed past the barrier.

She felt more than saw Jareth move, feeling a brush of something fully alien sweep past her, shattering her sense of hearing as the roar that erupted from its maw briefly deafened her, its attention diverted from her to the immediate threat.

"Jonas! Jonas, move! Jareth - no!" She tried to scream, reaching a hand out for her friend, watching his eyes widen as he struggled to pull back from Neverin. Jareth was lost, wholly a monster, shattering the mirror and the creature that Neverin had become with his maw, tearing deep gashes across her chest and throat, shoving and splintering her into mere pieces - and then the mirror exploded, caving inwards in an arc of bright light.

It was too late - she was too late. She stared, watching in mounting panic as she tried to make her limbs work but failed to do so in time, half crawling towards the space as the monster Jareth had become roared in triumph as it sealed its victory over her and the monster on the other side. The only thing was - Jonas…

She watched as Neverin's grip never ceased, yanking him along with her ruined body through that collapsing portal, her red and gold eyes meeting Sarah's.

You...may have won - but at what...cost? She felt Neverin hiss along her thoughts - before the mirror shattered into a thousand fragments, breaking that small gap in the prison dimension she had fallen into - with her mate, with Sarah's friend.

"No! Jonas! JONAS!" Sarah leapt forward, no longer concerned with Jareth's beast, reaching blindly for those shards, scrambling to put them together again. She could see his face, watch his fists pound on the other side of the glass, pleading for her to get him out.

She ignored the pain and the blood as she tried - and failed - to reach for him, to open that barrier back just a fraction to get him out. Flashes of Eoin's last moments ricocheted inside her head, making her sob as she realized, with welling grief, she didn't have the power to open it.

Stumbling, crushing a few to her chest and ignoring the sharp pain in her palms, she turned towards the beast Jareth still inhabited, holding them up with trembling hands.

"Help me," she croaked, breaking and sobbing uncontrollably. "He's trapped in there with both of them. Help me get him out!"


 

When the other creature who tried taking that power from him was gone, he briefly almost gave into the urge to fully embrace the darkness. It was so tempting, singing in his veins to take, take, take but something held him back.

Turning, feeling something plucking dangerously at his inner being, scraping at his insides like a knife, he heard her before he saw her, watching her scramble across the floor, sobbing, her face shattered from that beautiful intensity and strength to one of fearful desperation. He tried to understand, to reach for her - she was his and he wanted her - but her sobs pulled at some foreign part of himself that he had almost forgotten.

Suddenly, it flooded back - his love, their love, their shared past - and he felt himself shift back to that side of himself she most responded to. With the shift came the realization of what had happened, making him struggle with what to say as he watched her despair bubble into full hysteria, the shards of t