Categories > Movies > Labyrinth > Unlock This Door

The First Kiss

by shadowlurker13 0 reviews

in which we get a little experimental... and it goes screwy.

Category: Labyrinth - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Fantasy - Published: 2017-08-09 - 6510 words - Complete

Chapter 3 – The First Kiss

The pattern of Sarah’s life seldom varied over the next four years: go to school, hang out with some of the theater kids, come home, put up with her family, do homework, go Underground to get grilled about everything that had been happening with her since the last time the Goblin King had seen her over Rummy, Hearts, and the occasional poker game (he was still teaching her the variants) – before doing it all over again the next day. Jareth had really gotten to know her backwards, forwards and upside-down by now, while outside of some very basic information Sarah still knew almost nothing about him in turn. And it wasn’t for lack of trying: she had begun to ply him with relatively abstract questions from personality tests at long intervals, hoping she could slip them in without him noticing. Of course, he’d figured it out almost immediately and always responded as obliquely as possible, coming up with even more obscure questions for her in turn until she finally just gave up. The real information she gradually started accumulating about him was nearly all incidental: Jareth was good at guarding himself, but the act wasn’t perfect, and it had obviously been a long time since he had had regular dealings with anyone else at all – there were odd, brief moments when he seemed to forget she was there. It kept her on her toes, trying to pay attention closely enough to catch the rare references that he would drop once in a blue moon before realizing that he had done so – she never learned the context of any of them, but she had started a list: ‘the P.R. Team’ (spoken with ominous contempt), ‘His Lordship’ (also contemptuous – he made these slips most often when he was irritated), and, possibly most intriguing, the times that she caught him muttering to himself about ‘guttering’. Guttering what? He refused to tell her, always quick to change the subject. It was something that actively concerned him, though, which automatically made it interesting.

The constant inquisition started grating on her nerves, however, and at length Sarah approached him about spending their time together in different ways – it was only then that she learned that he had deliberately tried to keep their visits strictly uniform out of concern of pressing his luck since she had been so wary of him at first! She had been terribly curious about his book collection almost since she started coming, and upon speaking of it again he seemed willing to share a great deal of it with her – with a caveat: that in return for her ferrying him fresh reading materials from Aboveground at regular intervals, he would read aloud from his own collection for her benefit at times during their visits, translating as he went, and she heartily agreed to the arrangement at once, knowing just how bored she would be without a library at her disposal. At first he allowed her to simply bring him whatever she thought might be of interest to him (yet another backhanded personality test on his part), but after a time he begged off the periodicals and classic fantasy literature in favor of realistic historical novels and noir crime series, the longer the better (she once brought him a single Lovecraft horror compendium out of curiosity just to see how he would react – he devoured the entire thing between only two visits and reported back that while it had been worth a few laughs, she didn’t need to bother getting him any more of these, handing it over.)

He certainly appeared to have nothing but time on his hands – what did he even do when she was away? No matter the time, day or night, he was always free for her whenever she showed up. Even more unsettling, she hadn’t so much as seen or heard another living creature for all the times she had been here, even in spite of the fact that she talked him into meeting her in other relatively protected locales within his Labyrinth, mostly on the other side of the castle, areas she hadn’t seen before: pristinely kept gardens, stonewalled dead-ends with shade trees and benches (the runners never made it this far – it was his personal playground and he had outfitted it accordingly), and cut-off stretches of forest that ran the distance between the outer and inner barriers. She capped this off with allowing him to transport her to other places once she was within his domain, but not outside of it, formally working it into the contract.

“That’s quite a lot of trust, Sarah – you’re certain it’s warranted, me being me and all?” he had teased her, finishing the simple document in the tower, handing her the quill to sign it.

“Oh, I feel like I know you well enough,” she easily teased him back, taking it and awkwardly scribbling her legal name under his beautiful medieval-looking calligraphy with the foreign writing implement.

“You don’t know me at all,” he said quietly, suddenly serious.

It had taken her a long time to start adjusting to his quicksilver moods, not to be thrown by them. “Then I should at least be able to count on your sense of honor, as per our original contract,” she replied carefully, placing the quill back in the ink-bottle beside it on the small table.

“Ah, now that is more reasonable,” he conceded, sounding himself once more. “Still…”

On the whole, by year three things between them were going rather well for the most part: they were still playing games and talking – he was less reticent about general subjects not immediately concerning himself – and every other visit he would read to her; they usually spent that time in his forest, resting under the trees.

What was beginning to make this a smidge uncomfortable was the fact that Sarah had one final belated growth spurt – and finished filling out. She was now only three inches shorter than he was, which she found privately amusing, but honestly she didn’t really know what average height was for faerie creatures. What was uncomfortable was the very obvious fact that he now found her more physically attractive than when she first arrived. This in itself was troubling on a rather unique level: Jareth, whatever he was, did indeed manifest as a biological male – but a biological male of a very different species. She could easily rationalize it away as a part of his loneliness (which he still hid rather stoically for the most part) – lonely for the female companionship of his own kind. He didn’t exactly do anything – he never so much as laid a finger on her inappropriately – but he certainly wasn’t blind, and she caught him covertly ogling her enough times to be on her guard. She became careful to dress more modestly around him to lessen the temptation – nothing that clung, nothing skin-tight. The subject itself, however, remained politely unspoken between them, and she was working hard to keep it that way.

Even more irritatingly, she wasn’t having any luck at non-platonic relationships herself. Sarah didn’t so much as go out on a single date in high school; she simply hadn’t been interested for a long time (‘oblivious’ had been closer to the truth, she now often reflected), and when she finally did decide that she was ready to give it a try in her senior year she was far too shy and awkward to even approach the guy who had peaked her fancy – one of the theater heartthrobs; it was someone she saw every single day and she didn’t even have the nerve to ask him for a dance at her prom. The embarrassing incident was burned into her memory: she had been wearing a long, lacy lavender dress with fake roses and full skirts that felt comparatively functional and sane in comparison to that hallucination of a ballgown with those endless yards of billowing, iridescent fabric. She had been steadily making her way across the gymnasium floor towards him – black tuxes were made for boys like that – but within five feet of him her heart just started pounding so badly that she felt like she would faint and she’d had to go sit back down and watch as another girl who hadn’t so much as said hello to him all year asked to slow-dance with him, and he accepted at once with that devastatingly handsome smile. He hadn’t even seen Sarah – his back had been turned.

She did finally start dating as a freshman in college, however; she was hoping to transfer to Juilliard, but her parents weren’t ready to pony up the money for her to even try to get in unless she got her core credits out of the way at a community college first. She had moved out, though – she had deliberately chosen a school that was far away upstate so that she could – and between a small scholarship and a part-time job shelving books at the college library, she was just making enough to sort of scrape by in a dinky studio apartment. But she loved the freedom, crappy eating choices and all. It wasn’t much, but it was hers.

Sarah met her first boyfriend John in English Composition 1 – they had been seated at the same table. It started out very innocently: getting to know each other while studying together and getting coffee before class. But after only a couple of weeks it was obvious that he was into her, and she actually found him attractive as well in spite of his lack of creativity (he was planning to go on to be a business major at Harvard), and they set up a first real date for the next Sunday evening; the college appeared to have a long-standing tradition of trying to kill the first-year students who weren’t just getting an associates degree with a hefty workload.

And, of course, she’d had to keep Jareth apprised of the situation just like she still did with everything else; in a weird, messed-up sort of way it was like dealing with a nosy, prying aunt. Except that this one got jealous, so much so that she felt the need to start censoring what she told him about John and her subsequent feelings for him – and, even odder, he let her omit the information (it probably didn’t help the situation any that John was another skinny, clean-shaven blue-eyed blonde, and he was certainly taller.) The reaction was genuinely weird – Jareth didn’t act possessive - he didn’t even make fun - but if she started going into any detail on this, his demeanor would suddenly turn very cold and distant, and it could take a rather concerted effort to thaw him back out, so-to-speak.

Which made her visit on Sunday night right after that first date feel like nearly as much of an impending catastrophe as the end of the date had been. She knew he would ask how it went – clinically cold but technically civil – and she’d have to tell him.

Extracting the crystal from the small fireproof safe that she hid it in under her bed, Sarah closed her eyes and instantly saw the all-too-familiar visage of the Goblin King behind them…

It was dusk in the tower. He’d been right; the time-differential was more like one earth day to 2.6 and etc several decimal places, making the time-of-day that she arrived cycle a bit, even when she came at the same times. Sarah hadn’t bothered to change out of her nice black-and-white dress and matching flats and her hair was still up – probably a stupid move, but she’d had something rather serious knawing at the back of her mind for an hour, ever since John had dropped her off.

“Sarah,” Jareth breathed into her left ear, making her heart jump a little (a muted effect compared to how badly he used to startle her), “you look positively ravishing,” he lightly took her right hand and slowly pirouetted her about, making her roll her eyes with a half-smile. “Although I know perfectly well that this little display isn’t for me,” his eyes lingered over her nyloned calves for a moment as he relinquished her fingertips. “A pity. How was it, then?”

It was hardly a warm reception, but neither was it terribly icy, either. Better, for him. Sarah glanced at his eyes for only a second before looking away again, moving toward the fire but not sitting down. “Oh, the first part was just dandy: dinner was nice, our reservation wasn’t too late, not too crowded or noisy at the restaurant – Italian, I know you were about to ask,” she shot a teasing look at him where he had seated himself at the table. “Everything was just great until…” She felt her cheeks flush as she resolutely stared at the flames.

“What did he do?” A hint of real danger had come into his voice.

She immediately looked back to him. “No, it’s nothing like that! He’s a good guy, really,” she was quick to defend him, finally sitting down across from him. “It was… me. I…” she uncomfortably looked down at her lap before closing her eyes. “I’ve never had to kiss anyone before. It was so humiliating,” she laughed a little in spite of herself. “He tried to be nice about it, but I could tell that…” She ventured a look up at Jareth again; his arms were folded, but his expression was more quizzical than irritated.

“You’re telling me he wasn’t impressed with your lack of skill?” he sounded amused. “Did you at least tell him that much? That you have no experience?”

“No! I felt stupid enough as it was! I didn’t want him thinking I was a total social pariah right off the bat!”

“Off the…”

“From the start,” she clarified for him.

“Ah. So you chose to let him think what he would instead of trusting him with such a simple, harmless truth. Interesting.”

“As if you’ve ever trusted me!”

“Sarah, that’s not what you’re really upset about,” he quietly reproved her. “And you would be surprised at the level of trust I have invested in you.”

His current expression, the look in his eyes – that however he assessed these things, that she had become valuable to him, possibly irreplaceable – made the dangerous idea that she had been toying with before she called on him tonight seem that much more perilous. She lined up her thoughts as best she could, but she couldn’t maintain the eye-contact.

“Jareth,” she began carefully, “I want to ask you something, but I want you to know beforehand that I’m not trying to insult you or ruin our… relationship.”

“It is somewhat gratifying to hear you finally call it that, albeit haltingly. Go on,” he acidly drawled.

“…do you know how to kiss?”

His eyebrows went up a bit at that. “I’m presuming you mean on the mouth.” He hesitated a beat himself, although he looked far less apprehensive and much more curious as to where this was going. “Yes, but I will freely admit that it has been a very long time since I have done so with anyone real and not a phantom of my own devising; they never respond the same way. Dare I ask why?”

Sarah took a deep breath, gathering her nerve. “Would you be willing to teach me?” she firmly asked, looking him squarely in the eye.

His bright eyes flashed wider for a split-second, but he looked terribly serious as he stood up and took a couple of paces away over to the shadow.

“I’m sorry, Jareth,” Sarah sighed, “I should’ve known better than to ask you that. Please forgive me, I’ll never say anything about it ever again.”

“I’m not angry with you, Sarah,” he said measuredly, “but you do not comprehend the fundamental risk involved in what you ask.”

She blushed again, but for a very different reason. “I can see how this would be unkind to you. I know you…” But she let it drop. This had been a really bad idea!

He slowly turned to look at he over his shoulder and the knowing heat in his lip-smile made her flush even deeper. “Like I said, I’m not insulted. But my… temptation, would be the least of your problems.”

“Alright, I have to know what you’re talking about here,” she stated much more matter-of-factly; he began to pace as he sometimes did when he was about to start discoursing on something.

“Very well, this is to be your official lesson on the inherent dangers of kissing a faerie creature,” he began to lecture, as she’d expected, with his hands clasped behind his back. “The collective phenomena involved have been termed ‘magic’ by humans in the past, but I can assure you that the effect as well as the cause are strictly physical. Being only tentatively corporal, I must exert a consistently high level of willpower and expend a significant amount of bioelectricity in the form of a photon field in order to remain manifest like this. You yourself utilize such a field, but it is a secondary electrical system in a physical body rather than the primary. If I engage in an act of pleasure, however fleeting, my will is automatically directed into the activity along with my field – and therefore my entire being. The human photon field is highly susceptible to strong sympathetic frequencies like this, to the point that if I so chose I could literally force my current thoughts and feelings onto you, as well as my own level of pleasure. This can induce a biological chain-reaction in certain individuals, releasing a veritable flood of pleasure chemicals into the body – far higher than what can be produced under any natural circumstances. The victims begin to crave those compounds, unable to find relief, to produce enough of their own by any means. There are humans who have literally died from physical and psychological withdrawal from copulating with one of us, even just the once. Granted, the reaction is far from universal – your species varies widely when it comes to rates of individual operating frequencies and attendant sensitivity. By comparison, having me kiss you is a significantly lower risk activity, but there’s still a risk, Sarah. This reactivity is incredibly difficult to gauge without inducing the reaction in the sensitive! Do you not know anyone else you could engage in such practice with?”

“Do you really think I’d be bringing this up to you if I did?” she nearly laughed in desperation – without thinking. “I – I mean,” she gave an exasperated huff. “A lot of girls will even mutually practice on their girlfriends early on in high school, but I never had anybody that I would have ever felt comfortable enough to horse around with like that!”

“And it did take you longer to physically mature,” Jareth mused aloud. He had stopped pacing. “You actually want to pleasure this boy?”

“I want to give this relationship a chance.”

“And you finally feel ready for this?” he ruefully teased, but not hard.

And that’s when Sarah belatedly remembered the end of their own contest, right before she had come up with what she now thought of as the Friendship Contract: Jareth had blatantly wanted her right then and there, regardless of any possible consequences! The thought hit her like a bucket of ice-water: that contract was, in all likelihood, the only reason he cared about her safety and well-being at all! It had been far too easy to forget, having been gentled into a companionable level of comfort and trust over these past few years! The implications were rather unsettling.

“At last she understands,” he whispered under his breath – deliberately loud enough for her to hear – and sat down at the foot of his bed. “Come here,” he patted the empty mattress right beside him, looking at her expectantly.

Sarah was definitely nervous now, getting up and crossing that small space, carefully seating herself as bidden, unable to look at him.

“I think I could actually give you what you ask,” he uttered quietly, “but it would only be this once, and not overly long at that – you had better pay attention and not just swoon away in my arms,” he warned. “I can attempt to depersonalize my reaction, to concentrate on the movements – the act itself – rather than the effects, but it won’t be easy,” his gloved right hand covered her left. “And I can guarantee you this will not be without some effect,” he huskily whispered, chuckling as her breathing automatically quickened a little. “Humans are too easy,” he shook his head jadedly, gently turning her face up to meet his eyes with his free hand. “This is your final sanity call for begging off and running straight home like a good little girl – once I begin, you literally won’t have the will to stop until I do. Is this what you really want, Sarah?”

Sarah was already lost: his proximity, his touch, were already overwhelming. It has to be that ‘will’ thing he was talking about, she reflected. For a moment she faltered…but then he stroked her hair with a predatory little smile, and hesitation itself fled her mind.

I can do this… “Yes,” she whispered – but confidently.

The king moved in closer, cupping the back of her head with his left hand as his right continued to dandle in her hair, removing the long clip that was holding it back, and Sarah found herself suddenly hungering for his lips – an entirely new sensation, foreign almost… and then it dawned on her – it was his! She was already experiencing his sensations – and he found her that enticing, quite a heady thought! His right arm snaked around her back.

“As you already can tell, I’m going to thoroughly enjoy this,” he purred teasingly, bending his head lower until their lips were almost touching - hers automatically parted, “but for your sake I will constrain this session to precisely three minutes, literally just long enough for you to begin to get the feel for active response and proper pressure.” He snickered quietly. “You need to relax your jaw better than that, dear,” he massaged the hinges with his thumb and middle finger. “Rookie mistake number one.” He regarded her one final moment; she was examining his eyes far too closely – the one place where what he truly was was most obvious. “Close your eyes and envision that boy; it will be easier,” he stroked her cheek.

She instantly obeyed him without thinking, and a split-second later she felt his lips gently graze her own and her mouth mimicked his without her even consciously trying! After only two more exploratory brushes, he suddenly dove in for the kill, opening her mouth wide, slow methodical motions, over and over and over…

There wasn’t a single thought in Sarah’s head – she had even forgotten where she was! All there was was sensation, blissful, glorious sensation that ran all the way down her back to the tips of her toes, and a gradually building physical desire that made her current actions simplicity itself. After about a minute of being languorously devoured alive like this, her body began to actively respond and she found herself clutching at the fabric of his loose open shirt, her palms exploring the smooth, firm muscles of his chest – there was a sudden unaccountable burst of pleasure out of nowhere, but she barely registered that he had forcibly removed her hands from his body, leaving them fitfully clutching at the coverlet of his bed for dear life instead.

She was certainly kissing back now in the rhythm he had set, and he responded with further ardor, introducing the tongue – she cried out against his mouth, but he had no mercy on her, holding her steady, continuing to kiss her senseless, pressing her tightly to him, nearly forgetting himself in the rising heat of the moment…

Just as suddenly as it had begun, he wrenched his mouth away from hers; she hiccupped a small sob at his abrupt, cruel absence and leaned in after him, eyes still closed as if she were dreaming-

But he grabbed her shoulders – hard – keeping her from reaching him…

And she opened her eyes in confusion, then shocked realization as she came to her senses! Sarah felt hot-nigh-feverish: her cheeks and chest were flushed, her heart was still pounding but starting to slow down again, she was panting, trying to catch her breath. And she was definitely hot ‘down under’, too, now, which made her blush all the more!

There,” the Goblin King announced, sounding satisfied. He studied her dilated green eyes as she recovered herself, sensuously licking his lips, savoring the last of her taste; she bodily trembled just watching him do that and nearly went for him again, but he forcibly held her off with a growing smile. “Ah-ah, I said three minutes only and three minutes have passed,” he tauntingly reprimanded her. “Anything further will put you in jeopardy – unless you plan on voluntarily spending the remainder of your life here as a mindless plaything for me. Not that the idea doesn’t have its high points…” he brazenly mused aloud. “But I think we both agree that you have more potential than that,” he conspiratorially winked at her.

Sarah was still having a heck of a time trying to sort out what she was thinking and feeling! Some of the conflicting information spontaneously resolved itself as he stood up and walked away to the window, however. True, he was handsome in an unconventional sort of way, but she certainly wasn’t drawn to Jareth, not like that! His attraction to her had affected her mind that strongly. She could well see now just how profoundly confusing the phenomena could be for someone who didn’t understand what was going on – the level of suggestion was hard enough to fend off when one knew! She considered Jareth then, how carefully he had kept this desire firmly in check up until just now, for her not to have felt it at all previously…

“Are you going to be alright?” she suddenly thought to ask him.

He scoffed a laugh as he looked back at her, surprised.

“I had no idea…” she slowly shook her head wonderingly, her eyes full of concern, standing up – but her knees were shaking so badly that she had to sit right back down!

He laughed at the sight, retrieving her crystal from the table where she’d left it, tossing it to her. “Go home already, try and get some rest – I doubt you’ll be sleeping, either,” he teased her. “That alone is almost gratifying enough for me; it’ll have to last,” he finished quietly. And suddenly grinned. “Kiss that boy even half as well as what you gave me and you’d better be prepared for far more than kissing – that’s the whole point of such an exercise: the surface skin of your mouth and the skin of your ‘private parts’, as you call them, are basically the same,” he drawled deviously.

Sarah could feel herself bodily flushing yet again as she willed herself back to her apartment, hot and bothered and possibly a little disturbed by who had caused it! A fast cold shower helped some (she wasn’t about to ‘gratify’ him with an account like that!), but, true to Jareth’s prediction, she barely slept a wink, the scene playing on endless loop in her brain until she just passed out and dreamt of an even steamier version of it until her alarm went off only an hour later! Monday was going to be one of those days…

Also, as Jareth predicted, her second date with John (which she was fairly certain he had agreed to out of pity and common human decency – they needed to remain on good terms for the sake of the class and their grades if nothing else) was… rather eventful, to put it mildly. To put it more bluntly, Sarah finally lost her virginity – she seemed nearly as surprised by her own 180-degree turnaround as John was, and the end of their first date was officially laughed off as a case of bad nerves. Of course it was physically uncomfortable at first, as she had heard about years prior, but their subsequent intimacy was wonderful.

And yet… there was something deeply unsatisfying about it for Sarah. The feeling simply didn’t make sense at all, and she eventually dismissed it as a case of reality disrupting the physically impossible fantasy.

At first. Sarah dated John steadily for three months before genuinely growing bored with him; it wasn’t his personality – they were still friends – but the physical side of the relationship had just tanked. He couldn’t arouse her anymore. And it was no longer ‘nerves.’

She proceeded to go through a rapid string of boyfriends, each relationship becoming more vapid than its predecessor, until she started blatantly hooking up with boys she barely even knew. And worse. But it wasn’t enough – it was never enough to satisfy. She couldn’t even pleasure herself. And no amount of failure stopped her from trying. She was quickly gaining a reputation on campus, as well as getting constant invites to frat parties. Her grades had begun to suffer. John started openly avoiding her after semester finals. Her stay-cation schedule for the winter break was already booked solid; she wasn’t going home.

Initially Jareth had been just a twinge jealous of John, but genuinely pleased that Sarah’s skills had improved to such a considerable degree and they appeared to be serving her well. He didn’t so much as bat an eye at her later escapades, either, assuming she was still just exploring, even roughly joking with her once that he would have to outdo her with his ‘phantoms’ once she left for the day.

He finally started worrying when she started losing weight. Quickly. And from the amount of makeup she was caking under her eyes, she obviously wasn’t sleeping well, either. He knew she’d been drinking at those parties, but it simply wasn’t like her to let herself go like this. When her complexion turned ashen practically overnight, there was no mistaking what was going on. He knew.

“Sarah, when was the last time that you ate anything?” he put to her directly as soon as she appeared. It was blizzarding something fierce out at campus, but it was a gentle autumn afternoon in the Labyrinth; he had been reading in his private gardens, but he had put his book aside on the stone bench, quickly standing upon seeing her.

She blinked, admittedly feeling a little bleary. “Yesterday morning, maybe? I just haven’t been hungry for a few days, it’s so weird.” But she certainly looked hungry – as a starving coyote – as her gaze almost involuntarily fixed onto his mouth, her feet drifting toward him as if they had a mind of their own.

He rapidly closed the distance between them with the fire of urgency in his eyes – but of a very different kind than the one that was burning Sarah from the inside out. “You must come with me this instant – there isn’t a moment to lose!” he imperiously commanded, roughly grabbing her arm and force-marching her down a series of verdant passageways, zigzagging all about; she practically had to run to keep up with him!

“Where are you taking me?” she asked breathlessly, unseemingly excited by this unexpected outburst from him – his current mood alone seemed closer to scratching that terrible, incurable itch of hers. If she could-

Sarah stumbled and fell with him still holding onto her; the king angrily hauled her to her feet and forced her to continue in spite of a scraped knee for another hundred yards before coming to a halt…

In front of a small plum tree orchard in an alcove? Were those plums? She couldn’t tell.

“Alright, alright,” she laughed tiredly, “I can take a hint, I’ll have dinner as soon as I get back-”

“No, you won’t,” he uttered darkly, stalking up to one of the trees near the center, plucking a medium-sized black fruit from a lower branch; its deep red juice looked like blood from where it was starting to leak at the stem-end. When he approached her with it, Sarah was suddenly instinctively afraid. “You must eat this. Now. It’s for your own good. I will accept the consequence of giving you this and letting you leave.”

“Wh-what is it?” she stammered, wide-eyed, nearly shying away as if it were a ferocious dog that would attack her.

“Medicine. In case you haven’t noticed, you’re practically knocking on my old rival’s front door. If you continue on as you have been, you’ll die in under a week! I should have never allowed myself to be tempted into kissing you.”

“But I…I…” Sarah was mortified – not at the thought of dying, strangely enough, but at the instant certainty that if she ate that deathly-looking fruit that she would never know pleasure again, not as she had known it in his sweet embrace, as she hoped to know it again. He could sustain her through an existence of unbelievable pleasure, he’d said so himself…

Jareth coldly deduced that she had just passed beyond reason – the beginning of the final stage – and immediately took matters into his own hands. Biting off a chunk of the fruit himself, chewing it thoroughly, he cast the rest away behind him on the ground and grabbed Sarah’s wrist before she could run from him, spinning her into his arms and kissing her full on the mouth. In spite of the immediate relief from her state of withdrawal, she involuntarily shuddered at the bitter-rich taste of the blood-red juice that adorned his lips, and tried to pull away-

And found that she couldn’t move a muscle – she was frozen in place! She felt her jaw open against her will and the bitter, soft flesh passed into her mouth – it tasted like she had always imagined poison had to – and she swallowed it as he released her lips, now as stained as his own. The world was losing color and brightness, everything was going dull, everything she could sense or feel…

Tears almost immediately streamed down her face – proof positive that the compounds were already working.

“Where is your crystal?” he asked her, over-enunciating; to Sarah even his voice sounded muffled now.

“…purse,” she managed weakly.

He rapidly dug it out and performed the transport himself, utilizing her memory of her studio apartment at close-range before she was any further gone. Carefully seating her on the side of her bed, he located a drinking glass and filled it with water from the tap, holding it to her lips; she drained it listlessly. He repeated this, then forced her to lie down dressed as she was, only removing her shoes before covering her with a blanket.

“You are going to be very ill,” he intoned gently, “but when you awaken you will be better. You must drink this when you arise,” he set the refilled glass on a nearby table, “and you must begin to eat regularly again also. Call upon me as soon as you are feeling well once more. Sleep now, Sarah. Rest.”

As her eyes slowly closed, she thought she saw him bend down and kiss her on the forehead, but she couldn’t feel it at all: she was completely numb.

Sarah slept fitfully for a long time, sweating and freezing at once, experiencing wild fever dreams that seemed to last for years inbetween a monstrous black unconsciousness that drifted and drifted…

And then her eyes simply popped open wide – and she gasped upon realizing where she was and why! Her lips felt terribly chapped, and they burned as if someone had rubbed lemon juice into them besides; the center of her forehead was irritated, too…

Jareth’s kisses! She rubbed a finger against her forehead and a dried black smudge came off. Groggily sitting up and crawling to the far end of the bed, she deliberately ignored the powerful subliminal compulsion to down the glass of water he left out for her and unsteadily trudged off to the bathroom: she wasn’t about to ingest anything until she’d brushed her teeth and scrubbed her lips and face very thoroughly to get rid of any remaining traces of that fruit! She felt burnt out inside - a charred hollow where her heart should’ve been - but it didn’t feel like ‘damage’, so-to-speak; it was like cauterization, emergency staunching of a very deep wound to save a life. And she was thinking clearly again.

Sarah had an even bigger shock when she got around to checking her answering machine and discovered, among other worried-sounding missed calls, that she had been fired from her part-time job for being a ‘no-call/no-show’ for two days in a row! She had been asleep for over 48 hours?! No wonder she was famished! She eventually did manage to beg the library director to rehire her, claiming that she’d been sick with the flu; it wasn’t terribly difficult to convince him – he admitted that she had been looking pretty rough leading up to her absence. Just listening to some of those other calls made her flush with shame and humiliation now; she humorlessly laughed at the thought – she’d had no idea what real humiliation was. She had been so naïve.

When she finally visited Jareth again, they were back in the tower. The sight of his bed only triggered a vague stirring in her, like someone stirring ashes. He had been standing by the bookshelf.

“Sarah,” he acknowledged her.

“Jareth… I…” she awkwardly studied the stones in the floor.

“I’m not going to be doing that a second time,” he stated quietly – he didn’t have to say what. “How are you feeling?”

“Sort of hollow. A little cold inside.”

He nodded. “It will improve, but it must take time to truly heal from this. Would you like for me to read for you today?”

She nodded, walking over and sitting on the side of the ornate bed as casually as if it were a sofa, moving the pillow out of the way. He took down a first edition of Keats poetry and commenced with ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’.
Sign up to rate and review this story