Categories > Movies > Labyrinth > 3,564 Clappers Later

Trial and Error

by shadowlurker13 0 reviews

Outings to the library and the art museum, followed by disastrous metamorphosis.

Category: Labyrinth - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Romance - Published: 2017-07-20 - 10328 words - Complete

Chapter 9 - Trial and Error

(This chapter is dedicated to a friend who once told me late at night at a masquerade that an owl is not supposed to be a sex symbol. Ha.)

It was no secret that Jareth was experimenting like mad, trying not to act too worried yet trying to find a way out of his predicament. Fast. And when he wasn’t wracking his brain for answers he was working hard to keep himself occupied just to keep from worrying into the ground. Sarah had woken up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom once and had found him with the light on in the living room knitting. Knitting. (“One of the lesser-known pastimes of the goblin world, usually fatal,” he had said, explaining that he was using a miniature of the double-barbed needle, the real thing being as big as a spear and more often than not used as one in the end - the errand required team effort and goblins had no patience. He point-blank refused to comment on what he had been making - it was emerald green, though.) So, really, it was no surprise to Sarah to see him late one afternoon standing in the middle of the living room with his eyes clenched shut in concentration and his right hand extended above him as if willing heaven to drop him a care package. She simply walked past him to the computer and tried to be quiet as she opened her briefcase and took out her flash drive, sitting down at the terminal. She nearly jumped out of her skin when he suddenly screamed “YES!” and she whipped around to see: he was staring up wide-eyed at the prize in his right hand - a walking stick! He lowered his up-stretched arm and hugged the object to his chest, eyes closed, panting in exhaustion and relief. Sarah got up quickly and walked over, excited.

“What is it?”

“Get back!”

She jumped at his sudden command.

“You can look but don’t touch; it will kill any but its owner, it is far too powerful for you.”

She automatically leaped back. “What the hell is that thing?!”

He quirked a smile, looking at it, turning it over in his hands.

“A present from an old friend. An external power source. I had hoped I would never have need of it. I’ve been trying to retrieve it for days; I was about to give up.” He thought for a moment then took the cane in his left hand, vertical to the floor, and made a fist with his right hand next to it; an identical cane appeared in it and he held it out to Sarah. “Take it, it’s alright; this one’s only an illusion. You can handle it safely.”

She cautiously walked back over and took it from him, quickly getting a safe distance away again. It was surprisingly sturdy and had a good heft to it as if it were really meant to be used as a walking stick as well. It was carved out of some kind of dark hardwood with a rounded, silver handle and was embossed with tiny silver sigils in a straight, vertical line all the way down to the bottom. She ran her fingers over them and to her surprise they began to glow. She dropped it in a moment of panic and watched it smash into nothing on the floor.

“What were those?” she asked, feeling a bit sheepish for having accidentally broken the spell just because she had been caught off-guard.

“Celtic runes. They spell out an old human poem, actually - sort of an inside joke, he thought it was apropos. Touching them like that activates the magic. Yours probably wouldn’t have done anything but you did the right thing anyway,” he reassured her. “Sometimes these are accidentally triggered sympathetically.”

“…what’s the poem or can’t I know?”

The runes on the real staff began to glow, humming. Jareth had to will it silent.

“Not here. Saying it in the presence of the staff will activate it also.” He thought for a moment. “Is there a reputable library around here?”

“Denver Public - do you want to go there?”

“If you want to know what it says.” He closed his eyes for a moment and the walking stick vanished. “I just stashed it in the outer wall of your apartment building. None can get to it but I,” he smiled confidently.

“They’d better not,” she said warily, grabbing her purse.

“Anyone who’s crazy enough to dig through brick and mortar three stories up for no reason deserves everything they get.”

Sarah gritted her teeth; there were some times that it just wasn’t worth arguing with him.

The traffic was relatively light; within minutes she had driven them there and they were standing outside of the building. He pointed down the street with a surprised look on his face.

“Who’s castle is that?”

Sarah looked in the direction of his query and gave a short laugh. “It’s the Denver Art Museum. It does look like a castle though, doesn’t it? Want to go there afterwards?”

He knit his brows in concern. “What about your report?”

“Oh, it can wait,” she said with a wistful little smile. What I would’ve given for a guy with a thing for castles when I was younger.

They had only gotten through the two sets of front doors when Jareth suddenly winced, gritting his teeth and throwing his hands over his ears. Sarah gasped, immediately concerned.

“What is it?”

“Just open the damn door and let me back out!”

Worried, Sarah hurried him out of the building with the security guard at the desk suspiciously looking on. Once they were back outside Jareth did a full body shiver, shaking his head clear of the noise and pacing. Sarah was looking a bit lost.

“Okay, what just happened back there?”

“I can’t believe you couldn’t hear that; it was piercing!”

“…hear what?”

He turned to face her. “Is there any reason that there would be an extra frequency in that building?”

Sarah thought about it for a moment and it suddenly dawned on her. “Good grief, you can actually hear the radio frequency they use to keep people from stealing the books?!”

“That’s what that infernal noise is?” He sighed. “All right, are there any unreputable libraries in the area?”

Sarah laughed. “I wouldn’t call it an ‘unreputable library’ but the Arcadia Library is just down the street on the college campus. Want to try that one?”

“Fine, but you are going in first to inquire whether or not they have the frequency.”

Traffic getting into the college, however, was heavy - most of the students were leaving for the day - but Sarah finally managed to find a parking place in the South lot. The Arcadia Campus was fairly small, walkable in comparison to more prestigious colleges and yet it housed no less than three colleges itself. Sarah noted that Jareth chose to walk on the far sidewalk rather than walk directly by St. Elizabeth’s cathedral in spite of the fact that he had to keep waiting for traffic so he could cross to the library-side. She crossed over to him once they were past the parking lot.

“Don’t like Christianity?”

He made no comment. They quietly made their way through the student body to the library. Even in his earth attire Jareth was getting more than a few looks from the female populace.

Oh brother, that’s just what his ego needs, Sarah thought as they walked up the stairs to the building.

The doors opened automatically and Jareth noticeably hesitated with a look of mild apprehension. “I believe I shall wait here.”

“Try not to talk to anyone.”

“Are we concerned or jealous?” he teased.

“…I don’t have to answer that.”

“Ah, it’s both then. See you in a bit,” he smiled, sitting down on one of the cement benches across from a large planter overflowing with flowers, facing the windows of the entrance.

Sarah turned around and walked into the building, looking up, trying not to clench her hands into fists. Sometimes she just wanted to strangle him. He had a way of getting under her skin that was unmatched even by her little brother. She was trying to deny the fact but he really was bugging her because he liked her.

He’s probably at the maturity level of some of the boys that go here, she thought, watching a kid in tight jeans slung so low his boxers were exposed teasing his girlfriend by poking her in ticklish spots, her slapping him off as they headed out of the building. Some boys just never grow up, she smirked wryly, shaking her head. She walked up to the reference desk. “Excuse me, but does this library use the radio frequencying system that Denver Public uses to keep track of its books?”

“I wish,” the elderly man at the desk sighed. “You’d think with three schools funding us we’d be able to make more regular updates. We just finished the new Learning Center though; it’s toward the back by the periodicals if you want to check it out.”

“Alright, thank you.”

“Not a problem.”

Sarah walked back to the front when she saw out the windows that some geek girl from the Medieval Club in a brown-and-white peasant dress had engaged Jareth in conversation. She could hear her as she came through the door; she was absolutely gushing.

“I feel like such an idiot for saying this and I’m sure you must get it all the time but you really do look almost exactly like David Bowie when he was about thirty! Have you seen any of his concerts or films?”

“Well, I’ve heard quite a bit about Labyrinth but I’ve only read the book; it’s an excellent story, though,” Jareth smiled, thoroughly enjoying the pretense.

“Oh cool, that’s been my all-time favorite movie ever since I was a little kid! You have to see it!”

“I shall.”

Sarah interrupted them. “Ja-Jeremy,” she remembered his alias just in time.

Jareth elegantly stood back up. “Well, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you, Mariah. I hope you enjoy the rest of your day. Study hard!” he teased over his shoulder, walking to the front door with Sarah. All the girl could do was nod dumbly for a moment, eyes wide and dreamy. She suddenly found her voice.

“…yeah, you have good day, too!” She flushed furiously and ran down the steps toward the Arts building with a huge smile on her face. Sarah just rolled her eyes and looked at him with a wry smile.

“You enjoy the attention and you know it.”

“What is it to you if I do?” he countered playfully, knowing that as much as she denied it it did bother her. “You know, you could take acting classes here. Apparently it is not unheard of for adults to enroll at Metropolitan State; she asked me if I was as student.”

“And when would I fit this in with my job?”

“It was just an idea,” he said quietly. They walked over to the guest terminals.

“This works a lot like the internet search engines you’re used to. Just type what you know in the boxes.”

To her surprise he highlighted the author field and keyed in Yeats. A series of books popped up and he scanned them, locating the correct one, one on Celtic folklore.

“What are all these letters and numbers listed after the title?”

“That’s the code for where it is in the library. There are probably hundreds of thousands of books here so they use it to try to keep everything organized.”

He narrowed his eyes, scrutinizing it for a moment. “Interesting.” He closed out the screen.

Sarah blinked. “Don’t you need to write it down?” The address had been rather complicated and full of digits.

“I remember it,” he smiled smugly.

Turning around, trying to ascertain which way to go, he suddenly decided and dashed fluidly up the main staircase with catlike ease. Sarah almost had to run to keep up with him. The gleam of the hunt was in his eye as he made his way down the row of bookshelves right in front of the termination of the staircase before darting between two of them. Careful not to touch the metal shelves, he walked briskly down the aisle, suddenly stopped about two-thirds of the way down, scanned the shelf to the right and plucked a dusty tome from the top rack. Thumbing through the volume as if he already knew it well, he found his quarry and handed the book to Sarah. And flinched.

Damn, it can track me this far?! I might have to work with it a bit more when we get back home. He suddenly stopped at his quaint train of thought: he felt at home with her, bed-on-the-floor and all. No time for this, he tersely reminded himself. “Read it quickly to yourself - don’t even whisper it under your breath - and put it back as if it’s nothing.”

He sidled past her and began to leisurely make his way back over to the staircase, taking note of some of the other authors they had: he would have to come back at a later date. The small courtyard out the window looked charming; there were no doubt lilacs in the spring. Nothing like the crazy, sprawling statuary gardens he had, he thought with an almost wistful smirk, shaking his head. He hoped everything was still in one piece or at least in salvageable condition: without constant pruning it was virtually impossible to navigate the hedge maze. He tried not to think of idiots getting trapped and lost as he waited for Sarah.

There was no question of which poem he had been referring to - the lettering was glowing. They must’ve accidentally triggered that staff anyway. Sarah quickly scanned the first stanza of the refrain and immediately smiled in understanding:

Come away, oh human child,
To the forests and the wild,
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping
Than you can understand.

She snapped the book shut and put it back on the shelf, the sobering meaning suddenly sinking in. It was the siren call of faery; the song of the abductor. No matter whether the children were freely given or not, the fact remained: he was taking them. Taking them from the face of the earth, never to return. It seemed to add back some of his sinister mystique that she had almost begun to forget about. He was being so nice to her that it was easy to forget who and what he really was and the thought was almost unnerving. He was so good at slipping through her defenses that at times the process was enjoyable.

No, don’t overdo it, Sarah thought, walking over to where he was waiting, you are starting to like him. It was fatally stupid. It was completely hopeless, but she couldn’t deny her slowly growing attraction toward him. It was all the little things, she suddenly realized; how he cared about her and for her, how he tried to make her feel happy and special, how her heart raced sometimes when he smiled at her unexpectedly. Not to even acknowledge the fact that he seemed to like hitting on her on occasion. He must be suffering from female withdrawal, she thought wryly. She wasn’t about to call it a crush but if this insanity kept up…

He turned and smiled at her and as if on cue Sarah’s heart started doing double-time.

“Shall we?”


Jareth casually took in the buildings around him as they drove back over to the museum. The contrast in structural styles was quite eclectic - from Roman imitation to that new, sleek, technological look - and it gave the general impression of a collector with a set of completely unrelated objects. Not that it wasn’t interesting but it seemed a bit tacky somehow having them all bunched together like that. The outer façade of the museum was reminiscent of a medieval fortress on one side and a skyscraper tied in knot on the other. The roof jutted out at an impossible angle and ended in an elongated, sideways pyramid. How odd, he smirked. There were a couple of large abstract sculptures out on the lawn but he paid them little mind as they entered the building.

Walking up to the ticket counter, Sarah managed to lie to the lady behind it that both she and Jareth were Colorado citizens (he’d made a fake ID, too) - it made the tickets a couple dollars cheaper but it was still pretty expensive. When Jareth saw the amount ring up on the register he mentally winced: he didn’t like the amount of money she was spending just to keep him entertained. As the lady handed Sarah the tickets and they started walking toward the main floor temporary exhibit, Jareth hooked her elbow with his hand. She looked back.

“I’m paying for dinner, then,” his look a bit concerned.

“I’m in no position to argue with you on that one,” she smirked.

The traveling exhibition on the first floor was old, Depression-era southern quilts; blocks, zigzags, starbursts and just about any other shape and fabric imaginable, all extremely colorful.

“I sense an obsession with pattern going on here,” he quietly remarked with a hint of sarcasm after they’d seen about fifteen of them. In spite of how abstract the ‘art’ was, Jareth found that the sheer enormity of the pieces created a personal reaction to each one. The fields of color had at effect all their own, inviting the imagination to create what wasn’t there at times. They rounded a corner and Sarah saw one that suddenly unaccountably reminded her of a night sky of purple with a building off in the distance.

“What does that one look like to you?” she pointed.

“Oh no, not again,” he groaned, “I thought we were here to escape that nonsense.”

“I’m serious, this is pretty neat. Just try,” she encouraged him. He squinted at it for a moment.

“A river. With a bridge. Right there in the middle, you can see the water sparkling,” he pointed.

“…I didn’t see that, but you’re right, too!”

“Why, what did you see?” he said, amused at her sudden interest.

“Night and buildings. Up there.”

“Ah, I see it now. So this is abstract art, eh? Anything goes?”

“No wrong answers,” Sarah nodded. “Even no reaction isn’t a bad reaction.”

“So the other galleries were a success after all?”

“I guess so,” Sarah laughed.

Jareth looked at his museum map as they exited the room. “Can we look at their European collection next?”


“It’s six flights up, though. Would that I could teleport us there instead of having to climb them.”

“One step ahead of you,” Sarah said, hitting the up button for the elevators. Momentarily the door to the right one opened. Jareth looked at the interior of the small box with slight trepidation - the entire inside was metal. “It’s alright, come on,” she said, holding the open button down so the doors wouldn’t accidentally touch him. Gingerly avoiding the edges of the doorway, Jareth strode inside and stood in the very middle without touching anything. Here’s hoping this one doesn’t jolt, Sarah thought as she pushed the button for the sixth floor and the door closed. “This whole thing’s going to go up in a minute, so hang on.”

“To what?!”

“Just prepare to keep your balance.”

He nodded and spread his stance slightly. There was a mild jump at the beginning but thankfully it was a smooth ride the rest of the way up. Momentarily the doors opened again and they stepped out into the sixth floor foyer.

“Clever little device,” Jareth said quietly, looking over his shoulder at the elevator with mild admiration.

“We’re all glad you approve,” Sarah teased him.

He just looked at her and shook his head with a smirk. “You, my dear, are getting away with saying far too much to a monarch. You’d better watch your tongue; it might run away with you one of these days.”

“You ask for it.”

“As do you.”

“…are you here to banter with me or are you here to look?”

“All depends on what you’re looking at,” he smiled.

She blinked in surprise. “You’re incorrigible!”

“Perhaps we’d better move on before one of us gets the upper hand,” he teased.

To Sarah’s growing curiosity he overtly avoided all the walls with Catholic figures - paintings and sculptures of saints and Madonnas - and headed straight for the large ornately sculpted headstone of an ancient Roman sarcophagus. It depicted a reclining man and woman with a few small cherubs playing at the foot and head of the cot along with a few even smaller animals. The inscription was carved along the bottom in Latin characters almost an inch big. The piece had clearly seen better days - the man’s head was missing and the woman’s had been reaffixed somehow, the seam in the neck was visible. There were other signs of wear but, really, it was in surprisingly good shape considering how old it was. It had probably been exposed to the elements at one point in time. Jareth’s gaze wandered over the entirety, taking in every detail, and he sighed.

“Now this brings back memories. I hadn’t seen this one but it used to be quite common practice for a senator and his wife to pose for a tombstone like this. The scroll he is holding indicates his trade as well as his status. It’s a pity they let the Empire go to hell the way they did. And to think it was something as simple as lead in the water supply.”

To say the Sarah was stunned at this casual topic was putting it mildly; she was still trying to process what he’d been saying. Jareth looked over and had noticed her shock; he seemed to be awaiting her response. She finally found her voice.

“Memories?” she whispered, afraid that someone else might overhear this absolutely insane conversation. “You remember the Roman Empire?!”

He met her eyes with an odd little smile. “Are you aware that they invaded the British Isles? I did some traveling after that just to see what they were all about.”

“Well, yeah, it was something we had to learn in school,” she blurted, “but…but that means that you……….are…………...” she wordlessly shook her head, eyes wide.

“Older than dirt, yes,” he finished her sentence flatly with a sardonic little smile. She just blinked in surprise at his open admission. “Well, I’d rather say it myself than hear whatever charming little axiom you were about to come up with,” he countered slyly, entering the research room. There were ancient Egyptian artifacts up along the ceiling above the bookcases and he was studying them as he continued. “You mentioned something to the effect that I am in midlife once and you are correct - I am in the middle of my years. If all goes well, I could easily live another millennia-and-a-half, only showing signs of aging during the last fifty years. What do you think?” he turned back to her, studying her face with the same casual intensity, though he was noticeably uneasy. “Now that you know how old I truly am?”

Sarah’s mind was racing as she broke his eye contact to stare at the polished wood floor across the room. He’s watched entire civilizations go by! He’s probably had a hundred lovers at least! At the rate we’re destroying the earth he could outlive the entire planet! Why in in all the great and glorious cosmos was he ever interested in me?!

Suddenly a warm hand gently clasped hers and she looked back. His expression still seemed a bit tentative but there was reassurance in his eyes. A little wisp of a hopeful smile.

“I don’t know what to think,” Sarah sighed, openly sagging a bit, slowly shaking her head. “It’ll definitely take getting used to.”

He nodded quietly at her reaction, closing his eyes; there had been a good reason he hadn’t wanted to tell her. She would never view him quite the same way ever again. He had to admit her train of thought made a lot of sense. It would seem strange that he would be interested in a being with so short a lifespan.

Small life, big potential. Certainly he had seen a great deal more than she had but age had nothing to do with natural intelligence, wit, charm, and heart. And Sarah had them all. In spades. But he shouldn’t say that. Not right now. He reluctantly released her hand. “If it’s any consolation at all, if you aged at the rate I do, your current physical maturity level would place you around 1,800 years old. A mere century or two isn’t that bad of a discrepancy, really.”

Sarah smirked. They began to make a circuit of the portraiture in the next room. “You know, humans do just the opposite of what you just did there - everybody wants to be younger.”

“Quite understandable for your species. How is it done?”

“It’s where you count ‘dog years’ and then compare them with your own age and your age suddenly doesn’t look so bad,” Sarah rolled her eyes.

“Ah, so by your logic we should be doing this the other way around,” he tapped his chin with his pointer finger, staring at the ceiling for a moment, “ ….which makes me…..40? Does that sound more acceptable?”

“I guess so but you’re really stretching it, J.”

“So, really, you’d rather I were older? Now that’s interesting,” he teased her.

“I’d rather not talk about it anymore. Like I said, it’s weird.”

“As you like it.”

“Oh god, you lived through Shakespeare, too, didn’t you?”

“The subject is changing,” he said forcefully. He began to quietly gossip with her about some of the more famous figures in the portraits - he was at least aware of quite a few of them - as if it were yesterday’s tabloid. The conversation was baffling but he at least seemed to be loosening up a bit. With the question of his age finally off of his back, he seemed more comfortable being himself. The furniture room received the same casual glance that the sculptures outside had - all except two pieces, an elaborate chair and a glided armoire, that were scrutinized from tip to base - he no doubt planned to reproduce them later from the way he was talking. They spent as much time as they could in the European section but Sarah knew they only had an hour before the museum closed for the day so she had to rush him through quite a number of sections. He just laughed at the small hallway on the second floor completely devoted to modern chairs (“Who in their right mind would even want to sit in that?”) so she knew she could skip the ‘new’ art section and he wouldn’t miss it at all. That left the Asian, Native (North, Central and South) American, African, and South Pacific. All of these sections were overflowing with religious items - totems, talismans, masks, idols - and to her complete bewilderment unreligious Jareth was not only ‘feeling’ them but making signs of acknowledgement towards most of them as if there was actually an entity present! The South Pacific work was completely new to him - his eyes were lit up like a little kid in a candy shop the whole time and it was all she could do to drag him out, having to remind him again and again that they didn’t have much time if he wanted to see the rest.

“If I were at full power, time would not be a problem,” he finally replied testily.

“Yes. I know,” she sarcastically countered, getting tired of fighting him. “But you’re not. Come on, there’s one last thing I wanted to show you.”

They went back down to the second floor again and this time crossed the bridge into the modern art building. The sides of the bridge were completely glass so one could see out into the city and the bustling street below. The scene was strangely panoramic and Jareth was taking it in as quickly as possible because soon they were in the other building. There was an absolutely huge empty sitting area full of chairs and couches with a coffee kiosk at the end. A small children’s area was near the windows to the far left and a couple of little kids were over there, playing on a big, plastic turtle as if they were riding it, telling it to go faster and giggling while their mother read a book. Sarah caught Jareth’s gaze lingering over them with a strange, watchful care as they passed through the sitting area. Even this distant in regard, it was just too close for comfort for Sarah’s memories. She was surprised when she felt him take her hand seemingly out-of-the-blue and looked at him.

“Children represent hope,” he said quietly. “I have developed a fondness for them.”

Sarah swallowed and slowly nodded, trying to accept what he had just said and knowing that it would take a lot longer than a few minutes. Thankfully they got to the large doors at the other side of the room and Sarah opened one of them for him. This was it, the moment she had been waiting for and she couldn’t wait to see his reaction.

“Here we go,” she casually announced but her manner told him that she was just dying to show him whatever was in this room. He strode through the portal and into a gigantic hallway almost completely taken up by an open, atrium-style ‘circular’ staircase with large landings. Only it was trapezoidal. It was all painted a cold white except for the floor which was unreflective black tile. There were no windows except for a couple of small skylights. Jareth’s eyes went wide as he looked up and he gasped - the entire corridor was deliberately made to look close and crooked; everything appeared to be at odd angles! The entire staircase was leaning, jutting and receding in at least four or five different directions at once….no, it was only a trick!. The carefully positioned lighting amplified the effect. There were no linear planes except for the floor and even that looked tilted to the left the illusion was so strong, so complete. The sight of it was enough to cause vertigo - in a human, that is. Sarah was leaning against the wall banister for support, gripping the angled edge, looking out. She turned to him and smiled broadly. So this is what the Staircase Chamber had been like for her when she first saw it! Curious, Jareth capped his power for a moment and let the surroundings make him furiously dizzy. World beat music was being pumped through the hallway at a very respectable level - just enough to add ambiance. And the deliberate directions of the speakers and the resulting acoustics made it even more bewildering. The only thing that broke up that expanse of white walls and under-staircase were sparsely spaced shiny metal circles about six inches in diameter, each flashing a series of numbers in LED blue. It looked impossible. It was beautiful. Jareth reassumed his natural sense of balance and offered her his arm in a gentlemanly fashion.

“Shall we take a walk?”

Sarah forced herself to stand back up straight and took his arm, grateful for the support. She was fine on the landing as long as she didn’t look up. Or down. Or anywhere except straight ahead. Most of the time. They passed through a videogame being projected on the floor - one had to pop bubbles of all things so that a work of art that was in the museum would show up on the projector screen, it worked like a jigsaw puzzle. One little boy was busily chasing the bubbles around laughing while his big sister watched him from one of the velvet-black beanbags along the wall, looking supremely bored. Jareth deliberately walked over one of the far ones and the picture was complete - it was a temporary installment from the Louis the XV collection on one of the lower levels, a painting of a little girl hanging onto the seat of a chair for her portrait.

Soon enough they were at the edge of the staircase that led to the next landing. Even though the stairs themselves were not twisted, everything around them was, including the right wall-guard, which bit into them at a strange angle to make the entire right side of the staircase end in up-sloping triangles, like water lapping away sand. Sarah almost fell just looking at it but steeled her nerves and her balance and carefully began to ascend, one hand holding his arm, the other gripping the railing for dear life. Jareth noticed her white knuckles and almost laughed; oh the trials of the human inner ear. They were half-way up and about to go around the corner - which wasn’t straight, of course - when Sarah suddenly came to a halt.

“Oh man, I thought I could do it but I can’t, I’m too dizzy.”

“Yes you can. Close your eyes.”

“But I’ll fall!”

“No you won’t,” he smiled, clasping her hand to the crook of his arm with his free hand. Sarah took a deep breath and closed her eyes.

“These convoluted planes are only an artistic illusion, Sarah. Feel where the gravity is truly pulling you, feel down,” he quietly prompted her. Sarah felt herself regaining her sense of balance.

“Do you feel it now?”


“Then go ahead and open your eyes.”

She did so and, to her surprise, she wasn’t as dizzy as she had been. They quickly took the rest of the flight. There was a small, black modern-looking squared leather couch on the landing and Sarah fell into it. Jareth realized that they were looking at the interior of that spike of a spire he had seen on the outside of the building.

“Well, that was fun but I think I’ll take the elevator down. You can walk the rest of it if you like but I’m through. I‘ll meet you outside of the gift shop.”

He nodded; that had been a lot more than she had anticipated doing. Sarah went to get back up, hesitated, then did it with her eyes closed - the view even from here was just too much to handle. He looked concerned.

“Will you be all right?”

She waved him off. “I’m fine. Go on, explore,” she teased, smiling.

He regarded her for a moment with play disapproval. “You speak as if I were a child,” he whined.

“You’re not helping your case,” she laughed. “I’ll see you downstairs.”

Within moments the elevator had swallowed her up, leaving him alone on the landing. He looked out into the hall - he decided it was mostly the lighting because even the staircase looked odd from here. But still. He knew why she had brought him here. It reminded her of his home. Home. The longing hit him suddenly like a ton of bricks. He had only been stuck in the human world for about twenty years but it felt a lot longer than that because he didn’t have the power to go back. Not even enough power to see if everything was still as he left it. As it should be. The Labyrinth was more full of twists and turns than a human brain; it had it’s own strange beauty, both in the logic and the chaos because they were balanced. He didn’t like thinking of it but he had disturbed that balance by losing to Sarah all those years ago. He had potentially damaged………

No, this will work. This will work and all will be well. Damn it, it has to be! he thought desperately. He strode quickly around the landing, taking the next flight almost without thinking about it. The Staircase Chamber used to be where he would go to think because he often paced and, well, there was plenty of room for that. His mind was racing. What all had he done? What was left untried? Did his need to get back supersede her safety? How far was he willing to go? As far as necessary, he thought darkly, although he knew it wasn’t true anymore. He cared very much about Sarah and he didn’t want to see her get hurt, much less hurt her himself. But he knew he had to make sacrifices for this, how could she escape the situation without doing so herself? He looked out from the top landing into the sprawling mess of hallway and people below and silently swore right then and there that he would get back to his world. Or die trying.


Sarah felt like such an idiot: why had she taken him through that hall? It was painfully obvious that it would remind him of home, a subject that was currently an open wound. He had been moody all through dinner at the museum (which was no easy feat - dinner had been superb and the crème brule was fabulous) as well as on the ride back. She felt like kicking herself in the butt as they got out of her car and began walking toward her apartment building. Suddenly Sarah felt a light tap to her derriere from what felt like the toe of a boot and she whipped around to see Jareth two paces behind her with the supremely innocent expression of ‘who, me?’

“Oh yeah, right, like I’m going to buy that. I don’t know why I even bother feeling sorry for you, honestly.”

“I thought I was doing you a favor; I wasn’t sure if your leg would reach back that far,” he bit back a smile but it came through his eyes anyway. She turned back around with an annoyed little smile, shaking her head. It wasn’t just her - he was worse than a teenager. Once she let him in he walked right up to a certain section of the wall by the window and put his hand to it, closing his eyes.

That must be where the staff is, she thought, putting her purse and the books she’d checked out from the library on the coffee table. He was quickly pacing the floor, staring at it as his Underground clothing came back - it was the tight burgundy vested suit she’d seen him wear in the Staircase Room, an ensemble, she assumed (correctly), that he only wore when he meant business. The sleeves were much better fitted than his usually preferred attire, indicating that real, physical work was at hand. He was going to test something tonight but what she could only begin to speculate. He looked concerned as the wheels in his head turned - this did not bode well. “What is it?” she finally asked. He didn’t even bother to stop or look at her.

“I can’t afford to put it off any longer. I must try it. Tonight.”

“Try what?”

He stopped and gave her a dangerous, rakish grin. “Metamorphosis.”

Sarah’s jaw dropped. “Are you sure you have enough power?”

A pained expression overtook his features - she knew that the answer was no but he was so desperate that he was going to try anyway.

“Then here,” she held out her left hand to him, bracing herself for the onslaught that would wrack her body when he took it.

He immediately realized what she intended to do and stiffly shook his head. “No. I will not compromise your person any further than absolutely necessary.”


He put up a hand to stop her. “I understand the risk involved and I undertake it willingly. I must keep trying, Sarah. With the external power source I might be able to pull it off. As of yet I am not aware of it’s true capabilities since I’ve never been in need of it but I must find out now so I can better estimate how much left I must take from you. I intend for you to have enough left at the end of this ordeal to be able to do a little magic yourself - in all seriousness it’s the least I can do. But there’s only one way to find out.” He wasn’t about to tell her that incorrect transformation was one of the few things that could kill a Sidhe, the main cause for his worry. But it had come to this. There was no way around it. “If I can successfully perform tonight I should require only about two weeks more of your time.”

“And if you can’t? Answer me, J.”

He looked away, strangely casual, but she noticed him nervously figiting with a glove.

“I knew it! You could get hurt really badly and then what would we do?! I sure as hell can’t take you to the hospital! Here,” she extended her left hand again, “just take the energy! I won’t let you turn me down; it’s for your own good!”

He sadly regarded her as he walked towards her. He took her outstretched hand in both of his and bowed over it, lightly kissing the back. He looked up at her.

“Do you have a writing implement that I could borrow?”

Sarah raggedly sighed, her eyes pleading him not to go through with this. He simply stood up straight, his face suddenly passive, unmovable, releasing her hand and turning, pacing away from her. Sarah walked over to the computer and opened her briefcase. After some searching she managed to dig out a cheap mechanical pencil that was all plastic and handed it to him. Turning it over in his hands, studying it, he walked over to the dining room table and proceeded to clear everything off of it onto the floor. Pushing back the chairs so they were braced against the wall, he stood at the foot of the table and placed the pencil before him - his back was to Sarah.

“Stand back - this could be dangerous,” he warned her, waving her behind him. She didn’t have to think twice before getting to the far side of the room; if Jareth thought something was dangerous it was almost assuredly deadly. But…

“Aren’t you going to use the staff?”

“I am. The proximity alone should suffice for use, now be silent; I must concentrate for this.”

Jareth closed his eyes. Sarah couldn’t see much from where she was standing but she saw that he must’ve positioned his hands over the object. For a moment nothing happened but suddenly the air around him ripple like heat and before her eyes the pencil became a large, heavy book! Jareth was panting from the exertion but he was smiling when he turned to look at her and gestured for her to come over. Amazed, Sarah walked to the table and with his silent permission hefted the large tome, flipping through it. The script was a language she had never seen.

“I don’t understand,” she said at length. “You could do this with a flower, what’s the difference?”

“I just transcribed that book from my complete life’s memories,” he stated matter-of-factly and Sarah’s jaw dropped as she gaped at the size of it. “English is not my first language, I’m just comfortably fluent in it from speaking it for so long. This took far more power than the trick I showed you but you are right; it works along the same principle. Now for something a bit more substantial.”

He took leisurely steps toward the air mattress. She noticed that he was eying it.

“What’s that one going to be, Cinderella’s coach?” she asked incredulously.

He smirked at her train of thought. “No. While I am severely indebted to you for your generous hospitality, I fear that my back has not been as grateful as it should be.”

“Oh, forgive me for not having a huge mattress fit for a king lying around in my teensy apartment,” her voice dripped with sarcasm.

He simply ignored the remark and began to concentrate again, this time keeping his eyes open. Sarah realized what he was doing and took a couple of steps back as her air mattress and the throw she had given him got larger and larger, changing shape and color until it was a heavy four-poster bed with crimson damask drapes and a thick black velvet comforter. Considering his lavish taste, Sarah was surprised that it was only a full size bed.

“Well, your living room wouldn’t exactly accommodate anything larger. This will suffice.”

Oh brother, Sarah rolled her eyes as he sat on the edge, testing the softness, then stretched out in the middle, basking in the luxury in obvious pleasure and relief. After a few seconds he sat up Indian style and sighed.

“Now for me.” He got back up off of the bed. “Now I realize that this is probably going to be a bit scary for you but I need very much for you to stay put just in case anything should go amiss with my transformation. This is no glamour, Sarah; I really am changing my physical properties. The only thing that does not change is my mind - I will be completely present mentally no matter what I look like, but I won’t be able to speak in my totem form. When I am ready to morph back into my power form I will land on the center of the bed and hoot three times in quick succession as a signal. Ready?”

Sarah looked fearful, both for her and for him, and gulped but forced herself to nod yes. He smiled sadly at her concern and trepidation, walking toward her, pausing to stroke her cheek.

“It’ll be alright, love,” he said quietly before stepping back again. He took a deep breath and stretched his arms high in a ‘V’, looking up intensely. Please let this work, he silently prayed to whoever might be listening as his limbs began to shrink and shift. His arms grew flight feathers and his hands disappeared altogether as his clothing began to melt away into scarves of the same color. He seemed to be collapsing into himself and Sarah almost couldn’t bear to watch as his face took on the owl’s features; it was horrible. Within seconds it was over, however, and a barn owl with mismatched eyes flew out from beneath the scarves, absorbing them back into it’s wings before it circled the room once and landed on the footboard of the bed. It was eerie seeing him like that but she reminded herself that it was still him. Would he be able to understand her?

“Are you okay? Did it work?”

The owl bobbed its head and cocked it completely sideways, blinking its dark, round eyes. Sarah laughed in surprise - he was so silly! In spite of his small body his wingspan was comparatively huge and as if to drive the point home, the owl spread his wings wide and hooted, showing off his impressive plumage. Sarah had an idea - he still didn’t look that heavy, he was mostly fluff.

“Would you be able to sit on my arm?”

The owl bobbed again and flew right at her! Sarah had to fight the instinct to protect her face or move (the sight of a wild bird flying swiftly toward her was one she was not used to) but she held her ground and her right arm out in front of her for a perch. He managed to land and inclined his head slightly in greeting for a moment. Sarah carefully walked over to the couch with him on her arm and sat down. It was so surreal. She could tell that he was trying to be careful not to puncture her arm with his talons; they were razor sharp but his grip was extremely light. Jareth looked about, testing his new range of motion and his adjusted panoramic depth perception: so far, everything was as it should be. He looked back at her and made a small, quiet noise in his throat. His eyes seemed even more penetrating than usual in a different shape, it was like he was looking right through her. His feathers looked so soft.

I wonder… Sarah soon gave into the temptation to stroke his head, seeing if he would allow it.

It was a common enough human instinct to want to touch an animal but Jareth had not anticipated that Sarah would want to pet him in his totem form and the sensation of her hand gently caressing his feathers was marvelous. He closed his eyes, hooting softly, and turned his face to nuzzle the cup of her hand, giving it a feather-light nibble as she drew it away down his back.

Well, he certainly likes this, she thought as she continued to pet him, smiling. The reality of the situation seemed strange and distant; it felt oddly natural. Happy, soft little owl, he’s so cute, she thought absently as she ran her fingers over his downy front.

Out of the blue it suddenly dawned on her that she had absolutely no idea what this was like for him and she was immediately petrified that he might be getting the wrong idea. Without any warning he flew back over to the bed he had just created, startling her. He could obviously still read her mind and didn’t want to make her uncomfortable. He had a quizzical little expression on his face and almost seemed to shrug his shoulders before turning and walking awkwardly to the center of the bed - Sarah noticed that he was pigeon-toed! He turned to face her and hooted three times in quick succession as he said he would. He started getting larger and larger and his legs reappeared in white pants as he had been in their final confrontation and his torso was starting to take a more human shape, his eyes were no longer round, when suddenly there was a gust of wind from out of nowhere so strong that if Sarah had been standing it would’ve knocked her right off her feet. It still shoved her back into the couch - hard - and knocked a few figurines from the bookshelf to the floor, effectively destroying them.

She stared at him with open horror: the transformation had stopped dead midway! His owl’s face remained only it was huge, proportional to his body. His wings were now the size of human arms and even had joints to correspond but he had no hands and his torso was still covered in feathers. The open panic in his eyes was human enough and he called out loudly in shock - quickly covering his beak with his wings: he still had the owl’s vocal chords! He couldn’t speak! Sarah nearly screamed herself at the sight of him but fought down the shock as she shakily got up and made her way slowly over to the bed. He looked like a monster that should’ve been in Greek mythology. She managed to find her own voice, even though it still broke on her.

“Are you hurt?”

It was a good question. Still a bit dazed, Jareth assessed his body inside and out. His current condition was terrifying and he could well understand her fear but everything still seemed to be in working order for the moment. He firmly shook his head no.

“Oh thank God,” she sobbed, almost collapsing onto the bed as she went to sit down beside him. “No, no time to be emotional, time to think,” she said aloud. “Any ideas?”

He automatically went to speak but all that came out was a hoot. He dejectedly looked away. Sarah sighed and bravely put a hand on his shoulder. His feathers were larger now but every bit as delicate.

“We’ll get you back to normal, I promise.”

Her hand felt so good right there…it was then that the idea hit him. It was going to be so hard to communicate with her but he knew he had to try! He hooted softly to get her attention and gestured pointedly to indicate her with the ends of both wings.

I guess those are his fingers, god this is sick. “I?”

He shook his head yes enthusiastically. It suddenly dawned on her and she gasped.

“You have an idea!”

He nodded again.

She could barely contain her excitement and relief and launched forward, hugging him. He made an odd noise in his throat and it was then that she realized that all of his bones were still hollow!

“Oh, I’m sorry! Did I hurt you?” she quickly released him.

He shook his head no and regarded her with a playfully accusing look.

How you manage to do that with only eyes… “Okay, I?”

He gestured down once.

“I go downstairs?”

He shook his head no as his wings waved ‘no way’ and he repeated the gesture, this time right up to the covers.

“I sit here?”

He nodded.

She sat beside him, feeling a bit jittery. “Okay, then what?”

He made a very big gesture of turning his ‘arms’ ‘palm-side’ up so she would mimic him.

“…oh, like this?”

He nodded and made a placatory, reassuring gesture with both wings that looked like ‘stay still.’ She felt the bed shift as he knelt right behind her.

“Okay, Jareth, what are you doing?” she asked a little nervously.

Before she could totally process what was going on, she saw his right wing come up until it was hovering right over her exposed forearm. He reached down and began to lightly, deliberately, slowly stroke the sensitive flesh of her inner arm with the very tips of his flight feathers, tracing big, lazy ovals and figure-eights from her wrist almost to her elbow and back, over and over. His touch was nothing short of electric; she had never felt anything like it in her entire life. Just that small touch alone was making her heart race and she could feel herself flushing. All of her attention was involuntarily focused in on it, every sense heightened. It was blissful torture as Sarah felt heat sweep through her body and she fought to remain upright. She was suddenly acutely aware of his body heat right behind her and all she wanted to do was to lean into the sorcerer who was invoking this deep desire within her. As he saw her surrendering to the sensation he began on the other arm with his left wing, dragging the right wingtip up higher, slowly brushing past the sensitive skin beside her elbow up the remainder of her arm. He seemed to know just the right amount of pressure to exert. Sarah raggedly inhaled as he continued higher; it was like her shirt sleeve wasn’t even there. He leaned in close to her ear and hooted soft and deep in his register, sending her head reeling. He was openly and unabashedly turning her on!

There has to be some PETA law against this, she suddenly thought, probably a good 20 years in jail awaiting the maniac who gets seduced by a barn owl. That didn’t stop her body from reacting to it, though. Of all the days to braid her hair back. She closed her eyes as sensation washed over her, around her, through her as he moved in closer, dragging his feathers teasingly about her collarbone. She sighed heavily, her neck going limp, responding by following his touch as if it were magnetic as he brushed up the right side of her neck, following the very edge of the curve of her ear before dipping down and around her shoulder again. She unconsciously reached back to him and to her surprise his body felt a great deal more solid, just a light covering of down over thick muscle and bone. She unashamedly ran her fingers through his light coat and she heard him softly groan in response. A human sound!

Well, we certainly haven’t tried this before, she reflected with a guilty inner smile. At least it’s working. She allowed him to continue touching her arms and neck, hopelessly lost in sweet aching until she felt his wingtips change to fingertips and even then she almost didn’t want to stop him. He appeared to have superhuman self-control, never getting carried away, never speeding up. She opened her eyes and saw that his hands were indeed his hands once again and turned to look at him - he was back to normal, dressed in white. His expression was at once hypnotically open and knowing as he took in the look in her eyes, his left hand continuing on its course caressing her beneath her chin past the edge of her throat and back again with the whole side of his relaxed index finger. Her breath automatically quickened as her heart did a flutter and her lips parted involuntarily.

It would be so easy to capture her sweet, full mouth, he mused, she is already alive with desire…no, I can’t take advantage of her. Not like this. “Thank you,” he whispered.

Sarah finally remembered herself and brushed his hand aside, suddenly flustered.

“Okay, that’s enough, you’re back to normal now,” she caught her breath, looking away, trying to compose herself.

“Not quite,” he sighed looking up - Sarah looked back in time to see him pluck a large, downy feather from his bangs, wincing, then bringing it down to eye level, idly twirling the end between his fingers. It was nearly three inches long and about two thick. He quirked a lip smile and offered it to her. “For protection. You just saved my life back there. I might someday repay my debt.”

Even sarcastic, cocky, and self-assured, Sarah was certain glad to have him back in one piece. She took it, running it between two fingers, feeling the softness. She suddenly thought of how much he had been willing to risk - his life in fact - rather than cause her any more pain and she met his eyes. Jareth couldn’t read her emotions; they were too jumbled and for once he felt it not his place. Sadness, anger, relief, wonder, longing? On impulse she hugged him, taking him completely by surprise. Her embrace had been as fast as it had been unexpected and after the initial shock wore off he tentatively returned it.

“Don’t ever scare me like that again,” Sarah scolded him, but it wasn’t anger that prompted her words. That much he knew. At some level, she cared about him. Her actually being actively concerned for his well-being was more than Jareth had almost come to hope for. At length she released him and got up. He still sat there, watching her. “Are you going to be all right? Do you need anything else?”

“I shall be fine, but I must rest. I know it’s early yet but I’m turning in.”

Sarah nodded; he needed to regain his strength and learn to be careful in spending it. “Would it bother you if some lights were still on? I’ll try to be quiet.”

“No - that’s what these are for,” he said, leaning back to pull a tasseled cord: with a flourish, the drapes closed. Sarah smiled wryly, shaking her head; at least one of them would be sleeping well tonight. She began to walk away.

“Goodnight, Jareth.”

“Goodnight - Sarah, wait! I almost forgot something,” he said, drawing one panel partially aside near the headboard. “Come here.”

Sarah walked over, uneasy. “What is it?”

“Hold still for a moment.”

He got on his knees so they were eye level, placing his fingertips on her temples. Sarah felt a light tingling sensation for a moment and then he pulled away.

“What did you just do? Shouldn’t you be careful not to overexert yourself?”

“You like remembering difficult things for posterity’s sake and character and I can respect that, but I won’t have you having nightmares about what’s happened here tonight. You will never dream of this,” he said serenely. Sarah’s lips parted in surprise. He smiled. “Goodnight, love.” And with that he closed the curtain.

Sarah just stood there in shock for a moment. It was going to be a very long night
Sign up to rate and review this story