Eric Raymond displayed a little of his own temperament in Riot's beach house. He tossed the magazine across the room. It hit the wall just between Minx and Techrat. He flinched; she remained defiantly calm, despite the fact that she knew she was the guilty one.

"Hey, cool off," Riot snapped, glancing up at Eric over his paper. "She's not in jail yet. We have a performance tonight, I want her conscious."

"Her? Do you really think I'm worried about her? What about me? What about you?"

Rapture shrugged from the couch. "She didn't tell them who was responsible."

"Oh, use your head." Eric leaned down to her face. "Who do you think the trail leads back to? And before you start pointing to me, let me remind you who owns half the company," he said, pointing to Riot, whose understanding of the situation was growing with each word Eric said.

The door slammed open and Pizzazz and Stormer walked in, Pizzazz smiling a Mona Lisa smile of mystery. "Hello gang," she cried, her voice oozing cheer.

"You were not invited," Riot said flatly.

Stormer gave him an apologetic look, but Pizzazz ignored him, and walked straight over to Minx. "I could just kiss you."

"I'd rather you didn't," the blonde replied disdainfully.

She laughed.

"Have you finally lost your mind?" Eric asked her.

"What are you so happy about?" demanded Rapture.

"This was all your idea anyway," Riot said. "You could go to jail, Pizzazz."

"Oh, no, I don't think so." She put a hand on Stormer's shoulder. The pretty girl with the blue hair looked strangely guilty. "Little Stormer gave me a brilliant idea." Pizzazz's beaming smile turned almost wolfish. "No one is going to jail. None of *us* are, anyway."

"What are you up to?" asked Eric.

Pizzazz looked at Minx and Techrat. "You remember, of course, when Jerrica Benton called you up and asked you to find out more about Jareth Trevale."

They returned confused expressions.

"Oh, you know. She said she didn't care how you did it, or how much money it cost. She was rather insistent. And, of course, she threatened to expose your relationship to the public if you didn't cooperate. It was a terrible situation to place you in, but what could you do?"

Minx began to nod, and Techrat finally smiled a little. "Yeah, now that you mention it," he said. "We really had no choice."

"I just wanted to protect my private life," Minx added.

Eric positively beamed at Pizzazz. "That's my girl."

*****

Jerrica Benton led the Starlight girls who had wanted to come into the Underground Music building. The receptionist, a pretty young lady with short, spikey dark hair, smiled in greeting. "His Majest--I mean, Mr. Trevale 'as been expecting you," she said. "Jus' take the lift up to three, first door on the right."

Jerrica thanked the woman and led the girls into the elevator, and they began the ride up the third floor. Cindy's cousin, Sarah, was almost jittery with excitement.

"I had no idea you were such a fan," said Jerrica.

"Oh, yeah," Sarah said quietly. "You could almost say I know him."

Cindy gave her a swift punch to the arm, and Sarah silenced, but she kept shifting her weight and nibbling her nails nervously.

Jerrica shrugged. Obviously some secret joke was passing through the girls, and she let it go. The elevator lurched to a stop and the doors slid open, letting them out into a corridor. Jerrica took the first door on the right, as told.

It was a recording studio, small and dimly lit. They had walked into the booth, where the engineers were laughing together.

"Oh!" cried one at seeing the group walk in. "Sorry. We're just finishing up here."

"Yeah, Jareth's going to record one more song, and then we're done. Ya mind waitin' a bit?"

"No, that's fine," Jerrica replied with a smile.

Jareth began to sing into the microphone, never having noticed them.

I played the villain
The best that I could.
Now I want to be the hero,
I want to be good.

'Cause the villain never gets the girl
No matter how hard he tries.
He tells her she's his whole world
But she thinks he's telling lies.

I played the villain
The best that I could.
Now I want to be the hero,
I want to be good.

'Cause the hero always, from the start,
Knows just what he has to do.
He tells her what's in his heart,
And she knows it to be true.

I played the villain
The best that I could.
Now I want to be the hero,
I want to be good.

Now I want to be the hero,
I want to be the hero,
Want to be the hero,
The hero ... for you.

To be the hero for you.



The girls clapped and cheered wildly as the song ended, and Jareth looked up into the booth and nodded to them once, courteously. But Sarah didn’t move. She couldn’t. Tears stung her eyes. For the first time, she was seeing him without his minions and his magic, and she couldn’t stop the flood of anger rising in her. This was the man who’d put her through so much, tangled her mind and twisted her heart…and she hated him. It was him. She was certain. And Cindy only had to look at her once to be sure.

"He didn't recognize you," she whispered in Sarah’s ear.

"He will," she said, brushing absently at the tears. They quickly faded, and Sarah steeled herself for meeting Jareth face to face once more.

The engineers though, had already recognized her. One was frantically trying to signal Jareth and failing miserably. The other was close to passing out from sheer terror. Once upon a time, Ludo had made a rock drop onto him, crushing him flat as a pancake. It had been a rather disturbing incident, one he hadn’t quite recovered from.

The girls and Jerrica walked around into the studio. "Hello, Jareth," she said.

"So nice to see you Jerrica. And so nice to meet some of your girls."

"I'm going to faint," sighed Marcy quietly, and Ashley nodded.

"Let me see now. Laura, right?" he asked the girl. She shrugged shyly. "I understand you're something of a musician," he said.

"Yeah," she said, in her soft, angelic voice. "I play a little guitar."

"Someday you might record for Underground, then."

"Oh, no," Jerrica broke in. "This one's all mine."

They laughed. "And Ashley," Jareth went on. "Marcy. Cindy. And..." He froze, gazing at the tall beautiful girl with long dark hair and stormy hazel eyes. He’d never expected to see her again, though he’d wondered about her, wondered if she’d heard his songs, if she’d remembered. And now here she was, cool and composed and triumphant, her eyes still full of dreams.

She smiled. "What's the matter, Jareth?" Sarah said. "Don't you remember me?"

"Sarah," he said finally, the name rushing out of him as if he’d been punched.

"You already know each other?" asked Jerrica, raising an eyebrow.

"I told you," Sarah said, "I'm his biggest fan."

Cindy couldn't contain herself. "Sarah, it was real?"

"It was real. Oh, boy, was it ever."

"Sarah," Jareth said again. He took a step forward, forgetting himself in his shock. The move wasn’t threatening; it was as if he was trying to reach out to her, to touch her and confirm her reality. Sarah took a defensive step back.

"Don’t touch me," she hissed.

"What are you doing here?"

"I should ask the same of you."

"What’s going on?" demanded Jerrica.

Both Sarah and Jareth took a breath, about to explain, or try to…but neither got a word out.

"Ms. Jerrica Benton?"

She turned at the sound of her name, they all did. There were two policemen standing in the doorway of the studio.

"That's me," she said.

"We'd like to ask you a few questions, if you don't mind."

A blonde woman pushed between them, Minx. "Yes, that's her. She's the one who put me up to it."

 

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