Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
A/N: I am SO in love with David Bowie. And the Labyrinth rules my dreams as of late. This story has a vague sense of Beauty and the Beast about it, with some other dramas to fill in the plot. And lots of angst about Sarah and Jareth loving each other. I haven't written like this in years, with so much intense energy - I have sat at my computer for hours and hours writing. But I am going to Korea for two weeks in a few days so I probably won't be able to update until I get back. But hold on! I am in love with this story and won't let it go.
Mira El'Maven was not a warm woman, nor was she particularly forgiving. Her expectations afforded little room for mistakes, her displeasure greatly feared by any with common sense. Those who knew her in a personal capacity might protest that she could stand to be at least a little softer around the edges. Especially towards her own children, with whom her relationship could be described as lukewarm at best. Whenever these insinuations were cautiously made Mira would scoff. Her reign as Queen of the Fae Domain had not lasted over three centuries because she was loving.
"I will not allow discord to ensue for lack of an objective ruler," she'd mumbled to herself that very morning. Such a litany often calmed her in moments of particular frustration. It gave her something to hold onto whilst following up ripples of unease throughout her Domain. She should have known that feeling the need to utter such a phrase foreshadowed a problem yet to present itself. Her stabs of discontentment were often a sign of prescience, such power having been distributed among the Fae at random during The Birth of All Things, in the very beginning.
She was not only fierce in nature but in appearance. Tall and thin like most of her kind the strength lay in her eyes, glittering and burning like diamonds on fire. Her striking black and gold facial markings covered her face like the upper half of a mask, contrasting with her near white complexion. She had a tight, pointed expression, made all the more austere for her frosty hair pulled severely into a bun. No, such a visage was not made to portray kindness. With an impatient sniff Mira waited for the Elvish messenger in front of her to reorganise the reports he'd dropped in his eagerness to serve. The irony was not lost on her as she glared at him through heavy lidded eyes. She said nothing. Silence was often the best way to get a point across.
"Forgive me, your Majesty," he stammered, licking his lips and giving the papers a final shake as he straightened. She labelled him as inept at best and doubted he would last the rest of the day, with a servant personality such as that.
"In the hope that you have at last gained proper control of your limbs, I ask again: what reports have you of the Goblin Realm?" Mira said coldly.
The Elf cleared his throat. "Ma'am, I have word that the Labyrinth has been solved again."
"Oh?" Her mouth twitched in irritation. Occasionally a runner would succeed in defeating the Goblin King. It was not a common occurrence, perhaps happening every few decades, but during these times Mira made it a point to call upon the King and be sure that he was not slipping in his ruling of the Goblin Realm. Control was not to be taken for granted with such vile creatures, and Mira would make no excuses for a lack of leadership. "I wondered when my patience would be tested today. Go on."
The Elf's voice shook in his attempt to relay the report accurately. "It is written that yesterday, the twentieth day of the sixteenth month of the year, at 3 minutes to thirteen hundred hours, in the castle of the Goblin King, one human female did complete the Labyrinth and survive her encounter with the King and his entrapments. The sibling was forfeited to her and she has since returned to the Above with him." His pride in reiterating the story dissipated at the look on his Queen's face.
"One human female," she repeated, carefully blank. "What age?"
He checked his paper. "Fifteen years old, Ma'am."
Her fingers dug into the arms of her elaborate throne. "Fifteen years. An important amount of time to a girl on the verge of womanhood…yet nothing to us. A mere heartbeat. A blink. If we blink again, she may be seventy and dying." Mira tapped her fingers against the cold marble of her seat. "Send for the Goblin King," she commanded. "I wish for him to explain to me himself how a filly such as this has defeated his great and powerful Labyrinth."
The boy bowed. "As you wish, Ma'am." He made to leave but she stopped him with a hand in the air.
"And as for you, young Elf, if you wish to remain in my service longer than a day see that you do not drop another paper for the rest of your life."
Shamefaced, the servant nodded and disappeared. Left alone again, Mira pinched the bridge of her nose, eyes shut tight. So this was the problem yet to present itself? She hoped this could be explained away. A simple misunderstanding. A pure fluke. She would have to wait to hear from the King himself before she could lay it to rest.
Jareth was a seething mess of denied dreams and abject humiliation. He was a king with a broken crown, a hurting heart. Crossing one leg over the other, he leaned into the cool glass of the bay window where he sat, brooding. Below him, the castle grounds stretched out in a rippling field of shadows and moonlight. He turned his gaze upwards, to the bright lights winking in and out of existence.
"I move the stars for no one," he whispered to himself. How could she have said no? She'd asked for this, had begged for the child to be taken, had recounted endless times her desire for a Goblin King who loved her. He'd offered it all, down to every last detail. Being master of the Labyrinth was a role he'd beared for more than two centuries. He hadn't expected to play the part so convincingly as to actually adore her. Oh, but Fate help him, how he did. He'd watched her many times in the park playing out the story from that cursed book, a poor imitation of his real life's work. With every telling her words, though never the right words, had peaked his interest. How he'd begun to hope for the day she might say things correctly, wish him to her. He'd grown painfully curious to see how a fine young thing like her would flourish in his Labyrinth.
He should never have hoped for such a time. For the cursed creature had infuriated him, mystified him, defeated him…and though it went against all rules and logic, he'd loved her for it. Did love her, still. Even now that she was gone, even now that she was out there in her own world rejoicing in her freedom and caring for that little brother she'd loathed so much. He clenched his fists in his lap, shaking with emotion. Where was his reward for granting her wishes? What did the Goblin King get for betraying his own kind and loving Sarah Williams? He got a knock on the door. He got a summons. He was rewarded with infinite sadness and a sudden fear because he was about to face the Queen of the Fae. And though it would have to be done, he did not like lying to his mother.
It took too long for her son to respond to the summons. Mira glanced at the clock on the opposite wall, wondering what was keeping him. The thin line of her mouth turned down in an irritated manner. This sort of noncompliance had never been a problem when her husband had still been alive. Oh true, he'd turned out to be a fool of a man, far too soft to run the Domain effectively…but he'd had a way with his subjects and his children that had always procured their unwavering cooperation. Just as well he's dead, she thought bitterly. It would break his heart anew to see the impetuous creature his son has become.
Finally, when she was beginning to think he was doing this just for mere dramatic effect, the Goblin King appeared at the entrance to the throne room. He dismissed the messenger who had brought him and approached her in his usual manner: like a wildcat that was making an effort to appear tame. Today she found the attitude especially irksome, considering the reason for his summons. When he reached the foot of the throne he gave a small bow and kissed her hand, as propriety dictated. At least he offered her that pitiful act of subservience. When he stood erect once more, her eyes widened momentarily. She'd forgotten how much his appearance reflected her own. She dealt more often with his sister, who was the spitting image of the late Fae King.
"Mother," her son intoned drily. "It has been too long."
"Jareth," Mira replied curtly. "What happened today?"
His mouth twitched in a frown, she noted, before forcing a smile. "Always straight to business, aren't we, mother of mine?"
"I have little choice when my messengers inform me of failure from the realms of my own offspring. What would you have me do? Ask you about your plans for the upcoming Harvest Festival when I know you have lost to yet another human?"
"You say that as if it happens often," Jareth countered. "My last incident was over five decades ago, was it not? And as I told you then, it was pure accident that I lost –"
"Enough." Mira straightened in her chair, pinning him with a gaze hot enough to brand skin. "Tell me why you were bested by a fifteen year old child, Jareth."
Something in his eyes darkened. "She is not a child," he hissed, before raising his voice. "She was more than I was expecting, that is all, mother."
"That is all? No. That is not enough. Jareth, the safety of the Borderlands depends on your absolute power over the goblin hordes. Your absolute power. If they so much as catch a whiff of hesitation, of weakness, the state will be overrun."
Jareth seemed to be forcing himself to remain calm. She could see it in his carefully slouched posture, his relaxed hands that clenched from time to time. And his eyes. There was something he was not telling her. "I control the goblins," he said in a forcefully calm voice. "Me. The Goblin King. You need not fear any rebellion as long as I remain on my throne."
"Ah. Your throne." She nodded. "And have I not been generous, my son? Granting you a kingdom though you are only, by rights, a prince? And what's more, bestowing upon you a realm that was intended for your sister, no less? I gave you that throne, Jareth. I will not hesitate to take it away should you start to show signs of weakness."
At the mention of his sister, Jareth's jaw tightened but he smiled nonetheless, inclining his head. "You know that I am most grateful for your generosity, mother. Please, be reassured that I rule my kingdom with nothing less than absolute precision. The girl survived only through a series of small fortunes and bested me only with the greatest of luck."
"And what of the Dwarf, the Fox Dog and the Rock Friend? The pitiful team that helped her through the Labyrinth? Your subjects?"
His smile faltered. Clearly, he hadn't expected her to know about them. "They have been punished accordingly," he said, suitably meek for once. "To the extent that no one will dare help a runner henceforth for fear of the same punishment."
Mira considered her son, who was little over three centuries old, who had so much to learn. She had probably loved him once upon a time, when she was new to motherhood and distracted by emotion. That had been so long ago, before she was named Queen and before duty had become the cornerstone of her existence. She knew the man before her to be a reflection of herself: cold and calculating, withholding so much from so many. Which was to say, really, that she barely knew him at all.
"Son, is there nothing you wish to tell me?" she asked, giving him a final chance.
He met her carefully blank face with his own, equally unreadable. "No, mother. Nothing at all."
"Very well. Go."
He bowed again, just short of true submission, and vanished.
Later, as Mira perused the report Lacan had brought her on the event, she frowned. Something deeply wrong had happened here. She felt it like an invisible string tugging at the web of the Fae's world. A rule had been broken. She read the report several times.
Sarah Williams…she intended to investigate that name thoroughly.