Categories > Movies > Labyrinth > Unlock This Door

The Second Husband

by shadowlurker13 0 reviews

in which Sarah has to juggle two men in her life

Category: Labyrinth - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Fantasy - Published: 2017-08-09 - 4019 words - Complete

Chapter 4 – The Second Husband

When college got back in session the second half of her freshman year, Sarah Williams was a very different person: hardworking, serious, and notably mature and sober. She quickly brushed off the bad crowds she had acquired and when she started hearing new rumors, she simply let them circulate; it wasn’t like she could tell anyone the truth about what has happened back there. The most popular one seemed to be that she had nearly O.D.-ed on something and it had scared her straight – which was fine as far as she was concerned. It hardly mattered, she was only going to be there for another year-and-a-half; in all probability she’d never see any of these people ever again if she didn’t want to. She could make a clean break and start over.

Which was mostly what happened, but it didn’t fall out quite as she had planned, even though she’d saved her G.P.A. and her parents had subsequently agreed to foot her extraneous expenses going to a major acting university – if she was awarded a scholarship from one of them. There was just one little problem: Juilliard turned her down. As did New York University. And the Conservatory, and the Academy, and Hunter…

Soon after, she showed up in Jareth’s garden one day in tears, and had to tell him what had happened.

“A college isn’t everything,” he had calmly observed, letting her lean on him as they sat on one of the stone benches. “I imagine there are quite a number of artists out there with fantastic degrees who still have to teach their craft on the side just to make enough to survive on.”

“You don’t understand,” she sobbed, “I’m not good enough! I never had any backup plan – I don’t know what I’m going to do!”

“But you still enjoy acting, don’t you?” he put an arm around her shoulders.

“Well…yes,” she sniffled.

“Then act.”

“You make it sound like that’s so easy to just get up and do!”

“Is giving up easier?”

She was silent for a moment. “I still have to finish my degree,” she wiped her eyes dry, sitting forward, “my parents would never countenance me running away to be a starving bohemian. I’m not too keen on the ‘starving’ part myself,” she laughed a little bitterly.

He shrugged, getting up, stretching. “It’s your life; I can’t tell you how to live it.”

“Bullshit – you always have ideas for me; some of them have been pretty good, too.”

He looked back down at her with an arch little lip-smile. “You’re attempting to invoke the amiable counsel that’s often a part of human friendships.”

“If you feel the need to mentally jump through that many hoops to get there, then yes,” she laughed.

He looked far less amused as he walked a few paces away and studied some birch leaves; the bench was shaded by a young tree. “Such counsel often comes at a heavy price in my world, Sarah, and often the heavier should the agreement or payment turn bad and the other party…” He abruptly trailed off, and attempted to cover it by sitting back down. “I am merely unaccustomed to your casualness surrounding this. You just wanted to… fake this? That is what you say, right?”

“It’s just a conversation,” she sighed. Nothing more. “And I’m not bound to take any of your advice if I don’t want to; you could say totally ludicrous things to me and it wouldn’t matter.”

“Although you would prefer that we basically stay on subject,” he added drolly.

“That would help,” she replied with an equally dry quip.

He did smile then. “So, what we need to do is unearth another subject or activity you enjoy and could make a living at. That’s simple enough – you still like to read stories.”

“You can’t make a…” She paused in her judgment – and seriously gave it some thought. “That’s an English major, but I don’t have the patience to be a teacher and I’m not a writer, so I wouldn’t be a good editor, either. And I’m not interested in the sales side of it. Mostly I just enjoy the books I enjoy. I don’t think reading for pleasure is a high-paying job,” she jested.

The king thought for a moment. “How much are librarians paid anymore in your country? What kind of schooling do they need?”

Sarah could’ve been knocked over with a feather – she had never thought of that! The library? The director of her college’s admittedly seemed to have nothing but time to read the majority of his shift; he was reading every time she came into his office! She didn’t know the first thing about how to get a job like that, but it would be easy enough to find out. Jareth very well might’ve been onto something…

Library Science was the answer: her dad and her stepmother were overjoyed that Sarah was finally showing interest in a career path that could reliably monetarily support her – and once she had her degree she would still have the free-time to do a little acting on the side if she really wanted to. She transferred up to Syracuse University for the fall of her junior year and she commenced cramming in the necessary course credits that she didn’t already have - mostly boring things like management classes and cataloging - but she found some of the electives rather interesting, like educational storytelling and literacy programs; she had just started and she was already gravitating toward the masters in Youth Services. The sheer volume of work was stressful since most of the preliminary stuff was usually gotten out of the way in the first two years mixed into the ‘core’, and just staving off burnout from the inevitable oversaturation the first year there was a small miracle in itself. She’d had to take summer classes to get caught up, but by the time her senior year for her Bachelors’ degree rolled around, her schedule had mostly calmed back down. Sarah had made friends easily in her classes this time around – quiet, earnest, hard-working kids like her (or, rather, how she had become). She still wasn’t dating again yet, but to be perfectly honest she simply didn’t have the time; she had taken on one theatre elective the fall of her senior year, and she had gotten the part of Maria, Olivia’s serving woman in the semester’s production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night on top of everything else (she had certainly auditioned the part dry enough.) In spite of the hectic schedule and almost no downtime apart from the little she still squeezed in with Jareth almost nightly (and which she had also used to rehearse her lines – his majesty made an utterly ridiculous Sir Toby), she was actually happy for the most part. Things were finally going pretty smoothly all across the board.

Until she met Daniel. It was the final night of the play, and afterwards the actors had come down to mingle with the audience before dispersing to go to the cast party – which Sarah had had no intention of attending. He had been in the fifth row all evening, but she simply hadn’t seen him with the stage-lights in her face, blacking out the crowd. Under more normal lighting circumstances he did sort of stand out with that bright red hair of his – a right ‘carrot-top’ – wire-rim glasses, and… a laced-up poet’s shirt? That threw her initially until she saw that he was wearing regular dress slacks and shoes with it and was carrying a wool jacket besides, and she instantly smiled: he had deliberately dressed up a little to go see the Bard! She had to introduce herself. She was still working her way across the crowd when their eyed suddenly met (he must have felt her watching him)… and it felt exactly as if someone had just struck a spark in her burned-out heart with a flint – she hadn’t felt anything even remotely close to that in just over three years! Sarah pushed her way through to him, heedless of who else was getting nearly trampled in the process; he looked like the same realization had simultaneously hit him as well. It was awkward at first in a way that she hadn’t experienced since high school, with them both just standing there staring at each other for a breath – but nervous, self-conscious laughter broke the ice and he warmly introduced himself; once he’d learned that she wasn’t leaving with the others due to the inevitable drinking, he had offered to take her out for a coffee instead.

Their initial meeting turned into a surprisingly relaxed first date: he was a history major with an emphasis on medieval and Renaissance studies, which immediately peaked her interest; it turned out he knew more about Shakespeare than she did! They wound up talking for hours about a slew of different subjects that they were both into on different levels, of his semester abroad in Europe last year, visiting ruined villas, functional monasteries and cathedrals, sections of towns and cities that had barely changed physical in nearly 500 years. He took her fantasy-tinged interest in the subject matter tolerantly in the stride with reasonable good humor, joking that he would have to ‘convert’ her into liking the real thing on its own terms. That wasn’t to say that he didn’t like fiction – he turned out to be an avid reader, although he tended to like historically-set mysteries when it was just for entertainment’s sake (that immediately rang a bell – Jareth was currently devouring a fictional series on the Borgias!)

Jareth, she suddenly thought with a note of caution; if this actually went anywhere, he wasn’t going to like it, not one bit. She instantly derided herself for worrying – it was, as he was fond of saying, ‘her life’, and she had to live it. When it was time for them to leave (they were literally forced out by the manager they had stayed so late!), Daniel had been almost timid about asking her out a second time – so she asked him out instead. He only kissed her hand goodnight.

After some very careful consideration, Sarah decided to not even mention the event to Jareth the next time she saw him in spite of the fact that she had missed their regular meeting that night. It felt oddly like cheating on him, but she knew he would overreact as always – it wasn’t worth the drama if the relationship wasn’t serious.

But it quickly became so: they were meeting up for lunch almost every day and going out on weekends that neither of them had tests coming up (both of them were too mature to ‘study’ together, knowing perfectly well that no studying would actually occur.) After only a month, she had been invited over to his parents’ house for dinner. Unlike her previous liaisons, Daniel appeared to have a fairly conservative set of morals – he didn’t want to sleep with her unless they got married. He didn’t even attempt to kiss her on the mouth for two weeks. He was genuinely sweet-natured, considerate, kind. Christian – that part was new. Of course, he was concerned about her own lack of religion, but he hadn’t tried to force his belief-system on her; Sarah, for her part, was doing her best to keep an open mind, even if she wasn’t quite ready to accept Daniel’s worldview as universal truth. There was definitely more out there than met the eye – her experience with the Goblin King and his domain had pretty well knocked that one home. It was just as well that she couldn’t speak of Jareth to him, though – she knew that subject wouldn’t go over well in the other direction, either, so-to-speak. Daniel wasn’t adamantly adverse to her love of fantasy so long as that was ‘all it was’ – strictly for fun. She even got him in on the Harry Potter series when they first started coming out; he had insisted on reading the books with her, having heard the bad press about their occult aspects - and wound up liking the stories himself! Sarah loved to take him for long nature walks away from town, pointing out beautiful phenomena to him and describing it all as if they were in a fairytale; she goaded him into helping her mutually make up the story as they went along. It was trite, but each of them really did feel like the pieces that the other had been missing. After only six months, he popped the question in a verdant grove out in the woods that she loved here, and Sarah joyfully accepted. They were going to wait at least a year before getting married, however, to appease his parents, who liked her as a person, but were still a little unsure; he had yet to meet Sarah’s, who already liked him sight-unseen from her accounts. It would also give them both time to devote to their masters degrees, which were looming in the near future.

Sarah had been very carefully hiding all of this from Jareth for months – she still had plenty of other things to talk about with her classes and electives, not to even mention the months-long mandatory internship she would be taking at the local library in Syracuse starting in the fall, on top of her final social training to be a children’s librarian. In fact the only reason the topic came up ‘early’ at all was because she was rushed one night, getting home late from another date (Daniel’s strict principles seemed to have relaxed ever-so-slightly now that they were properly engaged), and she had forgotten to take off his ring.

“Sarah, is that what I think it is?”

She just had transported to the Goblin King, and he was in a part of his forest, ironically enough; he had zeroed in on the engagement ring immediately, and the tone of his gut reaction sounded rather like how Karen would’ve been back-in-the-day if Sarah had come home on a Saturday evening sporting a new prominent tattoo! It finally dawned on her that she was still wearing the thing.

“It is an engagement ring, if that was where you were going with that.”

“And when were you planning on enlightening me to this joyous news?” he oozed icily.

“Now, you see that attitude right there is exactly why I haven’t said a darn thing about this – that and we’re nowhere near close to getting married just yet!”

“Oh–ho? And what, pray tell, could cause such delay? A bad social match? Cold feet on the part of the groom, perhaps? Feeling the noose tightening about his-”


He looked positively dangerous; Sarah took a couple of deep breaths to get her temper back under control, forcibly reminding herself of what he was. As little as an angry outburst could cause these creatures to break their contracts, and she couldn’t afford for that to happen. Especially not now.

“Then will you have the decency to tell me what’s going on?” he civilly ground out from between his teeth.

Sarah sat down on the trunk of a nearby felled tree. “I didn’t fall in love to spite you, Jareth,” she shot back irritatedly, “I didn’t plan this; I just met him about six months ago on the final night of the play, and we…it was…” she slowly shook her head, the wonder and affection clear in her eyes.

“You made love, and it finally felt like it,” he finished a bit more calmly.

“No – I mean I do love him, but he won’t until the wedding; he’s a -”

But by Jareth’s sharp intake of air through his teeth, along with his closed eyes, Sarah got the feeling he knew exactly what she was talking about.

“And he’ll have you believing I’m the Devil before you know it.”

“No – Jareth, come here, please,” she motioned him over; he sat down beside her, still looking rather peeved with his arms crossed, resolutely staring at the forest floor. “I’m still going to be your friend and come to see you regularly here; this doesn’t mean I’m abandoning you. Nothing is going to change between us.”

His expression had softened a hair as she spoke, but what it softened into was jaded regret. “If you truly believe that, you have obviously never been married,” he answered wryly with a slight eye-roll. “Any husband will make demands of you that no one else ever has. Your time will no longer be your own to spend as you choose – how good are you at hiding things from him, Sarah? How often can you really keep slipping away from him unnoticed? And he will demand your other resources, too, in time – all of them, even your body. This one in particular will probably feel entitled to the last.”

“But that’s what marriage is – and that part’s supposed to be mutual.”

“It’s never an equal exchange, though.”

“No, it isn’t. Nobody’s perfect.”

There was silence for some time; it always struck Sarah as downright eerie how there weren’t even birds out here in these woods, just the sunlight dappling through the trees.

“And this man… loves you, in return?” he asked at length.


“And he treats you well when you’re with him?”

Sarah just smiled broadly.

“And you’re positive that this isn’t just an act?”

She shot him a warning glance – but he backed down with a quiet laugh and a wry half-smile.

“Does this winning youth have a name?”

“Daniel Elijah Stuart.”

“Of course he is,” the king muttered under his breath, looking up a moment. “A man so righteous miracles are performed on his behalf.”

“He’s not ‘holier-than-thou’ like that, Jareth; if he was, I wouldn’t be with him,” she fired back with a small smirk of her own. “He’s a good man; I’ve never been with anybody who’s really cared about me like this before. That I cared about…”

“And he’s all right with your decidedly ‘heathen’ interests with the wizards and dragons and unicorns and whatnot?”

“Oh, I’m working on him,” Sarah smiled teasingly.

“As, no doubt he’s ‘working on’ you,” Jareth replied flatly.

“Guess that’s mutual, too,” she laughed a little.

There was silence again, but it felt a lot calmer, more companionable, than the first one. Sarah looked over at Jareth and noticed that he looked a bit sad again, though, sort of distant.

“What is it?”

He immediately stifled the emotion. “Nothing – it’s just stupid.”

“Tell me.”

He turned and studied her face almost tenderly for the space of a few breaths before looking away again. “You were alone for so long… I just thought I had more time.”

Why did his stung reaction feel so terribly familiar to Sarah? …then it dawned on her. Oh, Jareth: it reminded her of how jealous she had been of Karen initially when her father remarried! She had hated the woman with a passion for years for taking away a lot of the time Sarah had been spending with her daddy! She scooted closer. “You still have time,” she reassured him, lightly rubbing his shoulders, “I told you we’re putting off the wedding until we have time to do more than blow kisses at each other as we dash by, we’re both going to be so busy until after graduation!” she laughed. “That’s almost three years local-time for you to get used to the idea. We don’t even know where we’re going to wind up moving, where he’s going to be working yet – he’s going to be a college medieval history professor.”

A look of recognition came into Jareth’s unnaturally bright eyes. “And now it all makes sense…”

“Am I really that predictable?” Sarah laughed.

Jareth just looked at her. “You can’t tell him a thing about me, about any of this.”

“I hadn’t planned on it.”

“And I’m not going to allow you to stint on your time here, either; visiting me still has to be a priority going forward,” he added a little more seriously.

“Jareth, Toby’s eleven-years-old-going-on-twelve,” she dryly quipped, “do you really want that moody little monster rampaging through your castle all the time? He’s worse than I was at that age!”

There was still hesitation in his eyes.

“Look, I get it. I’ve actually been here…well, probably not like you are, but sort of, when my stepmom horned in so fast after the divorce. I know you don’t believe me, but I think this is going to be okay – we’ll make it okay if we have to.” She sighed. “I guess I can’t expect you to be happy about this, but I’d at least appreciate it if you didn’t show up in a flash of lightening at the altar to forbid my vows.”

The Goblin King gave a dry laugh, standing back up. “Your love will no doubt see to protecting you from that possibility – I can’t so much as set foot inside a church; the old stories are right about that much at least.”

Sarah looked up at him. She had gotten so used to dealing with him as a person that it was only rarely that she had to think about the reality of this situation: she still didn’t know who or what he was. What was it he had said before about Death being his rival? She had been so horribly out of it at the time she could only barely remember bits and pieces of what he had said right before giving her that fruit; she’d had to wrack her brain hard and long just to even piece together that much! But there was no point in asking him directly – he would never tell. But that didn’t mean that he wouldn’t…


He gave a great sigh, as if anticipating the other question, but he didn’t look at her. “Yes, Sarah?” he said tiredly.

“Why are you so interested in me?”

He did look at her then! There were many possible answers dancing through his eyes, but the one he gave her was a surprise.

“Because you didn’t know, and you weren’t afraid of me. And you still aren’t.”


It felt like an eternity, but Daniel and Sarah finally graduated, and, to Sarah’s private consternation, the wedding was set for the 21st of June. Midsummer. Not that any of these people cared – for all the other schedules that had to be accommodated it was just a beautiful June wedding like any other. She knew he didn’t have power like this – at least she felt pretty certain - but Sarah couldn’t shake the feeling that Jareth had somehow orchestrated this. The ceremony was to take place in a cute little old church/wedding chapel that the families had jointly rented for the occasion.

On the afternoon of the event, Sarah had just gotten bundled out of the wedding limo and was headed up toward the chapel, desperately trying not to trip over her gigantic white satin skirts, when she felt the distinct sensation of someone’s eyes boring into the back of her head, and she turned around…

Across the quiet street in an old oak tree, there was a barn owl out in broad daylight, staring at her.

She hurried through the doors…
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