Categories > Movies > Labyrinth > 3,564 Clappers Later

Wise Owl

by shadowlurker13 0 reviews

overwork, nuisance illness, discovery

Category: Labyrinth - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Romance - Published: 2017-07-20 - 8307 words - Complete

Chapter 6 - Wise Owl

And so things went for the next week. Sarah was slowly getting used to the idea of coming home to somebody, but what a houseguest! It was hard to keep track of his likes from day to day. He would be completely enthralled with one diversion or field of study, only to toss it away abruptly for something completely different the next day and so on. She knew he was growing restless being cooped up in her apartment all day but he was deliberately limiting his outside contact on purpose; the less people who knew he was even there, the better. Especially after that close call in that gallery - it was too close for comfort that there were people walking freely in Sarah’s world who still held the power to see who he really was past his disguises. Natural psychic phenomena was one thing but he had incorrectly presumed that trained spiritualism would’ve been crushed underfoot by the march of man’s technology. It was simply not worth the risk.

The caged angel indeed, she thought a bit sadly as she stepped out of her car and closed the door. Wonder what he’s been up to today. As she entered the main hall of her apartment building and climbed the two huge flights of stairs that led to hers, Sarah noticed that somebody was cranking Latin dance music - and it was emanating from behind her door. The moment she reached the landing it suddenly stopped and a breath later Jareth was at the door - he’d duct taped the daylights out of the inside knob just so he could let her in himself. He was greeted with an expression of regretful inquiry. “Do I even want to know what’s going on in there?”

“I’m exploring different kinds of music.” His fingers were crossed behind his back; it wasn’t the whole truth. He had been practicing Latin ballroom dancing in secret for almost a week now - he’d first seen it on a T.V. show and had done thorough internet research to start learning the moves. He wanted to surprise her and take her out sometime. In the meantime she’d come home early today - he hadn’t been expecting her for at least another hour. She’ll get the full truth soon, I promise! he mentally screamed as the wrath of the High Court dangled precariously over his head for a moment before withdrawing.

“Whatever, it doesn’t really matter; just try not to blast out the block next time, okay?” she laughed. “I do have neighbors right on the other side of these walls, floor and ceiling.”

“Of course,” he said promptly with a slight incline of the head, closing and locking the door behind her. “I shall strive to be more considerate in the future. How was your day, love?” It was a trite question by now and she rarely paid attention to it anymore, but he never tired of the novelty; her coming home to him every night.

“Crazy busy and it isn’t even over yet. I have to finish compiling data for the report I’m scheduled to give to the car company tomorrow.” Jareth casually watched her put her stuff down on the dining room table and get a spritzer out of the fridge before opening her briefcase up onto the table, picking out bits of this file and that.

“For the solar energy panels you speak of that you have been tirelessly testing day and night, correct?”

“…yeah,” she smiled. It was refreshing that someone actually cared about what she was doing outside of the few friends she had at work. “If we can pump enough reserve into the back batteries while the front ones are charging from the panels on the hood, there’s a chance that this’ll actually work!”

“Glad to hear it!”

“…so actually, if you don’t mind, I’d like to stay in tonight and try to finish this.”

“By all means, Sarah, slave away! I shall simply have to find other ways to amuse myself this evening.”

Sarah turned and looked at him with incredulous hauteur. “I amuse you?”

Danger! Danger! “You make a charming conversational companion; I have grown accustomed to none. I mean you no insult. If you have something better to do than baby-sit me, go right ahead.”

She warily backed down. And suddenly got a mischievous smile.

“And don’t even think that!”

“I mean, that would be the most humiliating thing of all time, now wouldn’t it?” she mused at the ceiling with a large smile, “Getting wished away to your own subjects?” she glanced at him on the last word.

“Didn’t you say you had something to do?” he replied with level sarcasm.

“You just can’t take a joke to save your life, you know that?”

“I suppose there’s something to that observation.”

“Anyways, what sayest thou I order a pizza for dinner and you can watch movies while I work on the computer?”

“I haven’t the vaguest idea what this ‘pizza’ is, but it sounds like a definite plan of action,” he quirked a smile.


No matter how careful you are, it happens anyway. Just when you least expect it, when it’s most inconvenient…

Jareth vaguely woke up the next morning at precisely 2:41 a.m. to the sound of retching.

That’s does it, he thought, still half-asleep, no more keggers allowed in the castle proper. He rolled over - straight onto the hard, wood floor. Bed on the floor… SARAH! If it was the backlash of siphoning off her power too fast he would never forgive himself. Quick as thought he was presentable and at the bathroom door; there was light streaming out from beneath it, she must be in there. He knocked tentatively. “Sarah?” There was just a sigh for a response. I mustn’t break down the door, I mustn’t break down the door… “Sarah, are you all right in there? Is it all right if I open the door?”

“I don’t want you to see me like this.” Her voice sounded like she’d been crying. It was supreme torture, being shut out, having absolutely no bloody clue as to what was wrong other than something not being right. She didn’t feel right; that much he could tell, he was close enough to do a basic read of her energy. Moments of tense silence passed before he heard her retch again. He closed his eyes and leaned on the closed door, waiting for her to respond. He heard her catching her breath as the toilet flushed. Finally… “Jareth?…are you still there?” She sounded unsure and spent.


“Could you get me a glass of water?” He didn’t even bother to argue over the unsaid ‘please’; he raced to the kitchen and got her some tap. Cold water would be the last thing she’d want if she’d just been ill. He knocked on the door primly this time.

“Room service for Miss Williams.” The half-joke had been more for his benefit than hers. She opened the door just enough to get her hand through and grab the glass before quickly closing it again. There were sounds of washing up for a while and finally she spoke again.

“Well I guess you can come on in now but there isn’t much worth seeing.”

He cautiously opened the door - she was sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall by the bathtub across from the toilet, legs bent up so she fit. Her hair was hastily tied back with a rubber band and there were signs that she’d been sweating as well as crying. She looked up at him, tired. Jareth let out the breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding as he slid down the wall to sit alongside her.

Sarah wanely smiled at him. “You’re so lucky you can’t get sick, you know that? It’s disgusting.”

“I’m sorry if-”

“Nah,” she shook her head and waved off the apology. Brief silence.

“What is it that ails you, do you know?”

“Everybody at work’s been coming down with the same bug - stomach virus. This kind only lasts 24 hours but it’s real fun living through.”

Sudden concern flooded his eyes.

“Oh, I’ll be fine; I’m just bitching to bitch,” she said lazily.

He read her mental context; she was obviously in no condition for civil conversation. Getting something off one’s chest only rougher, I get it, he thought with a quiet smirk. So this is the grown-up version of the steely maiden. They simply sat in silence for a few minutes. Finally he spoke again. “Are you feeling any better now?”

“Yeah,” she nodded, “I think that was the worst of it. But still…” She rubbed one of her eyes with the palm of her hand and yawned. “And of all days!”

“Do you feel up to sitting somewhere else?”

“What, the bathroom floor’s not good enough for you?” At his confused expression she laughed. “It was a joke, oh I give up.”

“I’m sorry, I just don’t seem to be wired like you are.”


Oh she’ll be fine - the old fire’s still intact there, he thought with a smirk. Actually… He turned to face her, playfully devious intent brimming in his eyes, his growing smile.

“Oh what?”

Without another word he simply scooped her up in his arms - one beneath her knees, the other supporting her back - and proceeded to turn and walk out of the bathroom with her, magically extinguishing the light as he left.


His voice was casually innocent. “What?”

“Put me down!” she laughed.

“I will,” he stated matter-of-factly. “On the couch.”

She rolled her eyes. There was just no trusting this one. You and your ‘save the damsel in distress’ routine, sheesh.

It did not escape Sarah’s notice that he was wearing yet another of his scandalously open underground shirts: her left hand had accidentally made contact with his bare, smooth chest for a moment in the dark, his taloned pendant cold against his warm skin, and she was suddenly thankful that it was pitch black because she knew she was blushing like mad. She quickly re-maneuvered her arms so they lightly hung about his neck; that was a little bit safer.

Jareth, of course, hadn’t missed a beat of what had just occurred but wasn’t about to let on, either; she deserved at least the illusion of privacy at times, he was beginning to realize that it was a basic human psychological need. He managed to get around the coffee table with her and carefully set her down, sitting to her right in turn.

She just shook her head with half a smile. “I never really know what to make of you.”

“There is, by your standards, an old human phrase: the best time to make up your mind about someone… is never.” That last word sounded like a flirt, just thrown out there to see what would happen. Nothing.

“Why did you turn off the light?”

“I didn’t need it,” he said simply. “My totem form lends me near-perfect night vision. Unless you’re afraid of the dark…”

“No,” she shot back. “It just struck me as a little bit weird.”

“It is easier to relax in the dark,” he stretched his arms. “It also seems easier for you to relax when you don’t have to see me.” That last one almost hurt, it undermined her growing tolerance of him, but she grudgingly had to admit that he was right. “So…now what happens? I must confess sickness in general is a bit foreign to me…”

“Hopefully I can get back to sleep without having to throw up again. But just in case…” She felt beneath the coffee table and dragged a lined waste basket over to the couch.


Silence. And it wasn’t golden. Part of Sarah’s brain had been playing devil’s advocate lately when it came to Jareth. I mean, sure he was dangerous as hell when he put his mind to it, but she could just feel that there was so much more hiding behind that tough, cold mask he tended to show the world; he couldn’t stay in character around her, it kept slipping, even taking her by surprise at times. And she was trying to write it off as the fever she no doubt had, but the urge to hear him sing again…to request it was to officially seal her doom. But what if it wasn’t? Perhaps the same rules didn’t apply in extenuating circumstances - this certainly was one. It had haunted her, that impossible siren voice she had been forced to ignore when she ran her course; if she had ever really stopped to listen, all would’ve been lost. It nearly worked in the ballroom. But now there was no wager, no one’s life at stake…alright, that was a lie, but it would just amount to being her own stupid fault and nothing beyond that. It was still risky though; it might give him the wrong impression. She’d better not.

Jareth couldn’t take much more of her inner turmoil and broke the ice. “Most of the tunes I know are not safe for mortal ears, dear Sarah.”

“You were listening in?! Oh, who am I kidding, you always listen in! Haven’t you ever heard of personal privacy?”

He was simply silent but she could feel him watching her with reserved interest. It was at times like this that it was most noticeable that he wasn’t human and it felt very strange.

She forced herself to go on in spite of it. “Not safe. How?”

“Oh, yes, I could sing you asleep in a hurry. The problem is, of course, that you would never awake again.”

Sarah’s eyes went wide as she gulped hard. “Oh.” So much for that.

“It just means that I will have to compose some new ones.” His tone was friendly and warm again and she was suddenly acutely embarrassed.

“You really don’t have to, it’s okay, I didn’t know-”

He simply pressed one finger to her lips to silence her awkward apology. “Shh, I want to.”

She didn’t have to see him to hear his feral smile as he took his slender hand away. It was strangely flattering that someone like that wanted to go through the trouble of writing music for her, making her forget her momentary fear.

“In the meantime, if you would be willing to settle for a compromise… do you still like stories?” He knew he had her.

She laughed a little, feeling like a little kid. “Sure, go for it. What did you have in mind?”

He moved in close beside her. He liked being physically close to her, sometimes seemingly for no reason at all, and it was still weird when he got close but at least he had a record of not doing anything beyond it so far and he was really casual about it. Maybe it was just a Sidhe thing; she wasn’t entirely sure. It almost of reminded her of how birds cluster on an electrical wire. To her surprise, he began softly speaking in her ear in a language that sounded like Gaelic. She interrupted his cadence.

“What is that, Irish? Welsh?”

He smiled. “Older, dear. My native tongue. Technically speaking, it’s a dialectal bastardization of a few ancient languages; sounds nice now doesn’t it?”

Sarah laughed at his deliberate self-deprecation, loosening up a bit at his sudden, casual frankness. He continued.

“I believe it once had a name but it has been lost to the sands of time; very few of us speak it fluently now. Mastering it was part of the royal education and this was one of the pieces we all had to memorize. It is an old tone poem, comparable to your Virgil I suppose. It is an epic story full of gods and devils, wars and miracles, love and betrayal and maidens who don’t want to be rescued,” he lightly jabbed. “The point being, Sarah, if you cannot understand one word of what I am saying, your ear will simply catch the tone qualities and inflections of my voice. Music evolved from speech so it naturally follows that speech with its meaning completely stripped away will be perceived by the brain as a kind of music. Make sense?”

Sarah nodded affirmatively and Jareth took up the verse again. For all she knew he could’ve been talking about someone getting hacked to pieces but for the life of her she couldn’t have torn herself away from that beautiful, lyrical voice if her life had depended on it. He was making it past her usually high defenses with unspeakable ease. And he wasn’t boasting all that much, either; his voice really was musical in its own right, - a rich, heady baritone, mellow and crisp in turns. Jareth was deliberately keeping his tone low and gentle but it was far from monotonous. Every word seemed to charm her ears, stroking her senses, begging her to come nearer the speaker. The strange, delicious syllables ran down her spine in warm chills and other sensations from his silver tongue like a heavy drug, weakening her resistance to him. Tentatively, afraid to break the precious spell of sound he was weaving about her, through her to her core, Jareth reached across himself with his right hand and gently stroked her hair, still speaking of the fall of some distant empire and fires that ravaged an ancient countryside as if he were making love. To his surprise and relief, she didn’t freeze or recoil from his touch - she leaned into it, in fact, audibly inhaling at the contact, eyes rolling back as they closed in pleasure. Emboldened, he continued the slow, gentle strokes as his dulcet voice continued to exercise its own insistent power until she gave into the temptation to lean on him. He lulled her into feeling perfectly safe and deliriously happy to the point that she didn’t even think to care by the time he drew his other arm around her and she found herself nestled close. She could hear his deep voice resonating from within his body now, adding weight to the already hypnotic sound.

It would’ve been so easy for Jareth to take those last few steps: to add magical meaning between and behind the words uttered, melting away any resistance; to delicately trace her face until she involuntarily followed his every touch; to will her lips to come to his at long last, drowning her in mindless pleasure. But no. Such a thing, while immediately gratifying, would be a bold-faced betrayal of any shred of confidence she had put in him thus far. He knew that somewhere his little sister was losing quite a bit of money on an old bet - that he would never place another’s will and well-being above his own. Sarah was turning his world on end and he knew this was only the beginning. And so he continued on as best he could, suppressing his own desires, trying to think only of offering her what solace he could under the circumstances. It was, relatively-speaking, a paltry attempt but what else could he do for her? He didn’t even have enough power to heal himself of an injury at present. Even a sleep spell had to be ruled out in case she had to wake up again to further purge her body of the disease. He noted that her breathing and heartbeat had slowed and become very methodical - she was asleep. At last, he stopped. Now what to do with you…

He debated simply laying her down on the couch for fear of waking her again but in the end he decided to try to carry her back to her room. Slowly, carefully, he caught her back up into his arms, cradling her like an overgrown child, and quietly crossed the hallway to her bedroom at the far end on the right - thankfully, the door was standing wide open. The covers and sheets were all a mess, shoved down and back as if she had violently kicked them off in her sleep. He noticed that she was shivering in spite of the fact that her skin was hot to the touch and the room was adequately warm as well.

She must have a slight fever, he thought as he lay her down and carefully pulled the blankets up to her shoulders. At least that’s one thing I can help. He bent over, one hand on either side of her pillow, and placed a chaste kiss on her forehead; immediately she stopped shaking as her temperature returned to normal. He stood back up and watched her sleep for a few moments, reassuring himself that everything was all right before turning to go. Wait…She had an infernal clock on the headboard of her bed that buzzed an alarm at 5:00A.M. on the dot every morning that she had to go to work; it had awoken him on several occasions. He wasn’t sure of how to shut if off properly - she had never shown him - so he reached down to the outlet and unplugged it from the wall, content to see the face go dark as it lost power. He knew he would hear about that plenty later on but she needed her rest. One day’s absence wouldn’t kill her. He walked to the door and turned to look at her one last time before heading back to bed himself. Perhaps this day would hold new possibilities. He would just have to wait and see.


10:27 a.m.
Sarah groggily turned over and suddenly squinted from the light prying through the blinds. LIGHT! The thought startled her awake and she turned in confusion and panic to her alarm clock - the face was dead. Shit! she thought as she raced to the bathroom, still feeling like she’d just been run over by a train. The events of the morning came back crystal clear but she found that she couldn’t remember anything past the couch…he must’ve carried me back to my room …and turned off my alarm the only way he knew how, Jareth! She still felt awful but she knew she was in serious trouble for not calling in earlier, especially with her presentation and all scheduled this morning. She had to get her notes to Irina. At least she should be able to make sense of this mess, I’d better call her. When Sarah emerged from the bathroom, Jareth was lounging in the hall, arms crossed with a look of light concern.

“Did you sleep all right?”

“Once I got to sleep, yes, thank you, but did you have to turn off my alarm? Do you have any inkling of how much hot water I’m in right now for not being there?! We were scheduled to meet with Nikola Motors this morning to talk about the progression of experiments that I’ve been doing with a coworker!”

“I don’t care if there is an invading army knocking at your door, you are staying here today, you are still ill. Contact your superior; I am certain he will understand.”

“How dare you order me around in my own house! You have no right…to…” Her rant stopped short. He was simply taking her fury, standing his ground, but there was something in his eyes, a self-assured hauteur in his tone of voice on that last comment that made her pause. She squinted her eyes, scrutinizing him for a moment before walking right past him to the phone on the end table in the living room: she was starting to get the feel for when he was up to something. She dialed the main number to the complex and got the secretary’s usual, generic cheery greeting.

“Hello, you have reached the Green Energy Laboratories of America. Do you know the extension number that you need?”


“One moment please.”

A part of Vivaldi’s ‘The Four Seasons’ played in the background for a few moments before she was picked back up again.

“Hello, this is Jason Anderson in the main suite, what can I do for you?”

“Hi, this is Sarah Williams from the research department and I know I’m really late but I have to call in sick today. I’m sorry I wasn’t there for the meeting-”

“Look, Williams, you didn’t miss a thing. These bastards must think they have enough money to do whatever they damn well please. Can you believe we’ve been waiting for them for three hours now and they just called right before you did to say they’d be here at eleven?! …you know what, never mind them, stay home, take care of yourself, I don’t think you’re even scheduled to present today.”

“I’m not?”

Jareth smiled.

“Let me double-check my planner here…nope, I’ve got Irina down for your team. Come back when you’re feeling better, okay?”

“…absolutely. Thank you, sir. …Goodbye.”

Sarah slowly put down the receiver, floored, and turned around uneasily to face Jareth who was still standing behind her: He’d switched into his preferred ‘earth attire’ - a hunter green cotton dress shirt tucked into tight blue jeans sans the metal grommets today, his distinctive marks already gone, hair back. The suspicious, amused smile that was starting to grow on her face said it all.

“You’re welcome,” was his playfully sarcastic reply, an arch smile playing on his lips. “Now, to locate your coworker-”


“Yes, her…I don’t even know what she looks like so we’re going to have to do this together - your power, my knowledge of how to use it. It will require us forming a temporary link-”

“You’re awfully sure of yourself there, that I’ll just go along with whatever you want.”

“I am doing this for you.”

“You’re doing it for us,” she stated flatly.

He quirked a lip smile and shrugged, slightly nodding in defeat.. “True enough, but still…”

“…oh fine, what do we have to do for this little escapade of yours?”

“You are right-hand dominant, correct?”

“mm-hm,” she nodded.

“Then your left hand - your strength one - goes here,” he said as he took it gently in both of his hands and pressed it fervently to his heart, his eyes never leaving her. She had never deliberately touched him before - he always managed to act upon her - and while she felt awkward, it was admittedly not unpleasant; she could tell that the torso hidden beneath the soft, cotton shirt was perfectly sculpted in spite of his slender figure. She lightly blushed and he pretended not to notice, secretly pleased that she found him physically attractive. “I am right-hand dominant also, so my right hand - the magic sensitive one - goes here,” he said a bit deeper, letting his fingertips come to rest on her temple, stroking away the hair in the process.

At once Sarah felt a distinct tingling sensation at both points and assumed, correctly, that it was the connection. She noted that at the same moment Jareth had sharply inhaled, his eyes closed and his head tilted slightly back, the smallest of smiles forming at the corner of his lightly opened mouth: a look of quiet ecstasy. It was barely perceptible to her but he seemed to just be drowning in it, soaking it in as if he had been dying of thirst from its absence. He lowered his head straight again and opened his eyes - their expression at once sated and knowing, the effect strangely intoxicating. She swallowed, trying to mentally shake the feeling.

“Notice anything different?”

“I can sort of feel it where we’re touching - is that right?”

“Yes, very good,” he purred, “that is precisely what was supposed to happen. Now, you’re going to have to keep your arm right where it is so tell me immediately if you start feeling fatigued from holding it up - I’ll figure out a way to re-maneuver us. With your right hand, do as I do,” and with that he brought up his free hand in the gesture he used to conjure his crystals. Sarah mimicked him, incredulous of what it looked like she was about to do. “Comfortable?”


“All right. I’m going to support this arm so you can better concentrate. I will talk you through this but you will be making your first scrying crystal. Considering that you currently have the bulk of my old reserve at your disposal, this should be considerably easy.” He held her right arm so it wasn’t just stuck in midair. Her left one was already beginning to tire a bit but she did her best to ignore it, shifting slightly. “Ready?”


“It is often easiest for a beginner if you close your eyes.”

She did as she was bade. His voice went soft and deep.

“Envision your friend, Sarah……..remember her face………leave out no detail…………she is perfectly held in your memory…………now will her to come to you………”


Jareth quickly wracked his brain for an apt metaphor. “It’s just like fishing - you have her, now bring her in. She cannot resist you………..she has no power……..”

“I can’t!”

“You must. Just let it happen, Sarah…… are unable to stop it, love….”

That last little suggestion was all it took: Sarah’s eyes shot open with shock and surprise as the remote contact was made. To her amazement there was a crystal perched perfectly on her fingertips and inside was Irina’s face! Her short, bright auburn hair practically glowed.

“Very good,” Jareth crooned, “I am not lying when I say you are still in control here. Push away a bit so I can see what she’s wearing.”

It took a bit of effort to stay focused but she just managed to do it. Any more though…

“Fine, I have all the information I need. And now for the coup-de-gras. I’m going to stop supporting this arm, Sarah; be prepared to hold it up on your own, dear.”

Jareth let go of her and made a pass of his hand over the still-glowing crystal. Sarah watched as Irina suddenly got an expression of ‘oops!’ and started quickly walking down the corridor.

“Alright, Mr. Magic, just what did you do right there?”

“First we must break the contacts. On the count of three, then, and be prepared to quickly drop that crystal as well. Ready?”

She nodded.


They pulled away from each other simultaneously and Sarah dropped the crystal like a hot potato - it shattered in midair like a glass bomb before turning to glitter and disintegrating into the floor. She gave a small cry of surprise - it was a miracle that neither of them were hit.

“That would’ve happened in your hand if you had kept hanging onto it without me to guide you. You have the power, but not the training and practice to safely wield it on your own. Yet,” he ended with a smile and a touch of pride.

“I’m going to repeat my question; just what did you do to her?!”

“I made it so she thinks she forgot something in her car; I intend to intercept her outside with your notes.”

“Wait, wait a minute,” Sarah put up her hands, “you can’t just go popping in over there - the entire complex is rigged with security cameras; somebody would see you! If anyone stops you and asks how you got there, you took the bus. Just get in and get out-”

“Yes, Mother,” he teased her, “I’ll be fine, but I have to get going. What shall I give her?”

Sarah walked over to the coffee table and opened her briefcase. She dug out a stuffed manila envelope and handed it to him. “Now that’s just loose, make sure you don’t lose any of it.” He gave it a cursory flip-through and nodded. “Be careful.” Before she could move he dove in and pecked her on the cheek.

“Be right back, love.” And stepping back, he vanished, almost so fast he didn’t see her blush.

……oh he didn’t just do that……oh god, he did; I am in so much trouble…


Luckily for Jareth, the RTD 125 bus had just pulled into the circle at the GELA visitor center: he materialized walking down and out the back steps. There were multiple parking lots to his chagrin - he hoped he wasn’t too late. Jareth tentatively felt out where
Irina was by her personal energy and began to trace her the way a compass points North.


The feeling of inexplicable, nagging doubt was as strong as it was sudden in spite of the fact that the cause was strangely vague. What did I forget? Irina thought. This is crazy! I am sure I had everything when I left the house and I didn’t rearrange anything while I was in the car…oh, better make sure; there is time enough. Maybe her doubts were justifiable. After all, she had been running late this morning - she’d slept straight through the alarm (which she never did; she was usually a pretty light sleeper) and ended up having to throw herself together in under ten minutes. Fortunately for her, when she arrived at work she was informed that the Nikola Motors meeting had been unaccountably pushed back so there was no harm done. But Sarah still wasn’t there. It wasn’t like her to be late - ever. Irina was out the door heading for the lower lot (all the good spots had already been taken by the time she’d gotten there) when her cell phone rang: it was Sarah.

“Sarah, hey! I was seriously starting to get worried about you! Are you all right? Where are you?”

sigh home, sick.”

“Not you, too!”

“Sucks, I know. Anyway, um, do you see a tall, thin guy with long, blonde hair anywhere in the vicinity wandering around like he doesn‘t know the place?”

“…yes, why?”

“Oh good,” Sarah breathed in relief, “he’s actually where he’s supposed to be! See if you can flag him down - he’s delivering my notes for me so you can make the presentation in my place.”

“You on speaking terms with a man who’s interest in you isn’t purely scientific?”

“Don’t read too much into it; he’s an acquaintance of sorts. I’ll talk to you later, okay? Bye!” Sarah hung up.

That was abrupt, Irina thought suspiciously, putting her phone back in her purse, almost like she didn’t want to talk to me about him. That doesn’t mean I cannot interrogate him myself, though, she smiled and waved at him. The handsome stranger saw her and smiled in recognition, quickly crossing the last few lanes between them.

“You are Irina Tereshkova, correct?”

“Yes.” It was strange - he had a crisp, British accent but from his choice of vocabulary it was like modern English wasn’t his first language, either, and she immediately empathized with him.

“I am Jeremy Xavier,” he extended his hand and shook hers warmly, his eyes never leaving her. Just because I’m bound to the truth to one individual doesn’t mean that I can’t cover my tracks elsewhere. “I believe I have something for you,” he stated simply as he handed her the folder that had been stashed under his left arm. She perused the pages carefully as if to make sure nothing was missing. She got to the end and seemed satisfied with the contents - and that odd, nagging doubt had just dissipated on its own.

Strange. Oh well…

“And with that I am afraid I must be on my way, I am running a close schedule also.” To Irina’s surprise he nodded in her direction, eyes closed in the lightest suggestion of a bow, and turned to go and she had the sudden gut instinct that this was someone she could trust implicitly. She had to say something while she had the chance!


He stopped.

“One question before you leave. How did you get Sarah to talk to you?”

Her tone was pressing and urgent for someone who had literally just met him and it intrigued him. He turned back around, amused interest in his eyes, his characteristic arch smile threatening to spill through his charade.

“I sang at her balcony - how else?” he teased. That wasn’t entirely a lie; there were once many balconies in the Great Maze Hallway at the center of his castle and he had been singing to her as she frantically ran all over them after her little brother.

Irina rolled her eyes. “No, really, how did you make it all the way through her social barricade so easily?” Irina had held up her hands temporarily in gesture as she talked, fingers spread about a foot in front of her face as if to fend him off. Sudden concern flooded his features and he scrutinized her for a moment.

“Is it really that rare that Sarah speaks to a man?”

“Well, it just so happens that she seems to be notorious for being extremely cagey around perfectly good guys. I gave up trying to set her up or even just introducing her to my friends of the male persuasion years ago - she refuses to date.” She shook her head and looked away. When she spoke again, she sounded confidential. “I think she had a really bad experience a long time ago and she’s never gotten through it, like it made a permanent imprint on her psyche.” She looked back to him. “I’ve not been the first to try to talk to her about it but she refuses this also. You ask her,” she nodded her head, her eyes pleading, “maybe she will be willing to talk to you, yes?”

Ye gods, I had no idea, he thought dejectedly, I should’ve anticipated this and dug a bit further into her subconscious. No matter, the damage is already done and clearly extensive. The least I can do is try to clean it up, try to win her faith back in humanity if not in me. His expression was at once serious and consoling. “I promise I shall try when the time is right.”

“Good,” Irina smiled. “If you ever find out who the bastard is and want help beating him up, you let me know,” she accentuated each word with a finger shake, her eyebrows knit in play-scolding, “this is important, alright?”

Jareth surrendered a laughed smile that turned wryly playful. “May I depart now?”


“Farewell, Irina Tereshkova!” He saluted stiffly, turned and marched away. Irina laughed and was well-aware that she was blushing by now as she watched him go.

Strange he may be but he has a good heart. And if Sarah’s too much of a nutcase to figure that out, I’m taking him!


Spirited thing, that one, Jareth thought with a smirk as he left the complex in the direction of the nearby ditch. No wonder Sarah likes her. The next bus wouldn’t be coming for quite some time if the schedule he had obtained on the last one in passing was correct: he would simply have to find another place to wink out.

Liza Gulch wasn’t much to look at if one liked pristine landscape but it was the largest waterway in the area, completely overgrown with elm, cottonwood and scrub oak in the wilder sections. It looked as if the water had once flown much more freely through it than it did now from the growth tracks and the odd dead trees but there was still just enough water to keep the rest alive. Jareth trod through long buffalo grass, bleached dry at the beginning of the summer, showing casual difference to the trees and their dryads in passing; some of the larger ones had preceded the nearby civilization by at least one good earth-century. He reflected on what Irina had just told him about Sarah and how considerate and …yes, generous Sarah was being with one who had no doubt scared her more than half to death in the past. So much so that she had a hard time getting close to the opposite sex at all. He had been initially relieved to find her unattached upon his arrival but the thought of her being completely alone was a surprisingly distasteful one.

Oh come now, all that can’t be totally my fault. He sighed. No, just enough of it; she was already having antisocial tendencies and I gave her the final push into the corner. Oh there’s so much that needs to be undone. Perhaps I will be breaking down her barriers to our mutual benefit; I must try.

Once he estimated that he was out of range of the cameras, he found a small clearing surrounded by a few large trees. Carefully making his way partly down the steep face of the ditch and nodding in acknowledgement of the living cover he was taking advantage of, he disappeared and teleported back into Sarah’s living room, finding her sitting on the couch with a patchwork quilt over her legs. A mug of some kind of herbal tea and crackers she had been tentatively consuming at irregular intervals were on the coffee table - and it gave him an idea.

Sarah jumped at his reappearance, eyes wide in surprise. When she realized it was just Jareth she exhaled in relief, one hand still held to her pounding heart. He reflected that he would have to be more careful of her - popping in and out just wasn’t done in the mortal world.

“I am sorry I frightened you, Sarah; I’ll use the door next time.”

His immediate apology, while reassuring, seemed a bit out of character for one so used to doing things his way regardless of others, but she knew it was honest: he had to be.

“…thank you. How did it go?”

“I think it went rather well,” he stated, walking over to the couch and sitting a respectable distance from her. “You should probably be aware that I introduced myself as Jeremy Xavier. Jareth Ravensong simply isn’t a human name - it’s a dead giveaway.”

Sarah nodded; the precaution made sense. She suddenly smirked. “Mr. X, Y, and Z.”


She turned her attentions back to the television set. Jareth couldn’t quite make out what was so entertaining about a screaming session and knit his brows.

“What is this that you’re watching, Sarah?”

“A talk show.”

“It looks like an interrogation. And not a very civil one at that.”

Sarah sighed. “You want to see what else is on?” She grudgingly handed him the remote, showing him which buttons to press, hoping against hope that he wouldn’t give into what seemed to be a universal male impulse: channel surfing. He only flipped a couple of stations when he stopped on PBS. Sesame Street was on and Count von Count and the Countess were giving the number of the day at a dinner party at the castle in a musical sequence. Sheep and chickens were waltzing in the background. Jareth had never seen anything like it; it was so strange and yet, he had to admit, entertaining and possibly even educational. Sarah watched his amazed fascination with suppressed amusement.

“Are all those puppets?” he pointed at the screen, not even meeting her eyes.

“Yep. This is Sesame Street - it’s a show designed to teach preschoolers their letters and numbers among other things. It’s been around for ages - I watched this when I was a little kid.”

“Is it just that castle and those vampires?”

“Oh no, most of it takes place on a made-up street in New York City - hence the title. There are so many characters I can’t even keep track of them anymore.”

The sequence ended and he turned to her and smiled.

“Did you have a favorite character when you were small?”

“Kermit the Frog,” she said matter-of-factly.

“Kermit the Frog?” He sounded bemused. “What is he like, your Kermit?” he pressed, leaning in slightly with a conspiratorily teasing lip smile and a playful frown as if she had just mentioned another man. Sarah laughed, suddenly self-conscious, trying to hide from his gaze - this was ridiculous! When she cautiously met his eyes again, the expression hadn’t changed one bit. He made her feel like she was thirteen again; how could he just do that?! Dammit he was gorgeous, and all his attention - albeit in play - was on her.

“He was a news reporter - a journalist,” she said finally. “Covered fairy tale stories as they ‘happened.’”

He finally turned away from her, nodding as if it were the most logical thing on earth.

“Shows you how old-school I am - I don’t think he’s even on it anymore. Crossover character from the Muppets.”

Jareth was about to ask what the Muppets were but thought better of it; that was enough interrogation for right now. He turned his attention back to the program.

“I think my subjects might actually get something out of this. I’ll have to look into fixing up a projector in the Square.”

Sarah could just see it - all those little goblins crowding in to watch Sesame Street in the morning. It was just too novel. He handed the remote back and got up, stretching his arms.

“Have you had anything to eat yet?”

“Sort of.”

He simply nodded and walked into the kitchen. “Sarah, do you have any garlic?”

“Bottom drawer in the fridge, why?”

“You’ll see,” he smiled. He opened the fridge and dug it out of the crisper.

She watched him separate two cloves and peel them, putting the rest back. When she saw him get her one-sided cheese grater out of the cupboard she audibly winced, sucking breath through her teeth.

“Are you sure-”

“It is all right, Sarah; I just have to be careful.”

A leather glove reappeared on his right hand and he proceeded to grate both of them with quick, practiced strokes befitting a professional chef.

I guess practice really does pay off if you have forever, she thought with a touch of rueful admiration.

He transferred it to a small glass bowl - she’d shown him the dishes he could safely microwave - and added a bit of water and lemon juice from the fridge and a rather large amount of a few different ground herbs and a bit of olive oil from the pantry. The mixture was so aromatic that Sarah could smell it from the living room. He mixed it together with one of the heavy-duty plastic spoons she’d bought him and stuck it in the microwave and set the timer for five minutes on the high setting before coming back to sit down.

“Is that your lunch?” she asked incredulously.

“No, it’s for you.”

“What is it?”

“A precaution. Your immune system is already compromised. You don’t want to get any more sick than you already are, do you?”

“Well, no…”

“Well, all right then!” He looked playfully annoyed and rolled his eyes, looking away. “…suspicious girl,” he muttered under his breath with a growing smile.

“Hey! In case you haven’t noticed, I’m almost middle-aged! And I think I have a right to be slightly suspicious of you: the last time you fed me something it was drugged!”

“Thirty-seven is extreme youth for one of my kind, so forgive me but I still think of you as a girl. And “all’s fair in love and war” - isn’t that the human phrase?”

“Said the man who taught me that life isn’t fair.”

His eyes suddenly brightened, pleasantly surprised. “You remembered that!”

“It was one of the only real things I got out of the whole trip,” she answered simply. Jareth smiled and allowed himself to relax, putting his feet up on the coffee table and leaning back into the sofa, arms crossed behind his head. The eye and hand marks reemerged as he stopped concentrating on them.

“Well, I’m glad to hear that you weren’t completely ignoring me.”

Sarah, still watching him, opened her mouth and promptly closed it again. Okay, there are so many things I shouldn’t say right now…

Jareth met her eyes momentarily, catching the suggestive drift of her thoughts before she turned back to resignedly stare at the television set, trying in vain to ignore his presence. A knowingly wicked, teasing smile spread freely across his face as he casually observed her inner struggle.

Just let it lie for now, old boy. Let her stew.
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