Though the peaceful silence was a welcome change from the nasty bickering, after a few minutes, Sarah began to feel uncomfortable. It just didn't seem right to be sitting on her bed with the Goblin King, not at odds for once.
"So," she ventured, "you've been outside my window for two years?"
He shrugged. "Where else did I have to go?"
"But I wasn't... boring?"
Sarah snorted. "You're right about not being used to women. You were supposed to lie there."
"And you were supposed to let me finish. You were occasionally boring, yes, but the rest of the time, you more than made up for it." A mischievous smile played on his features.
For her part, Sarah could only blush, thinking of all of the times she had forgotten to close the shades while dressing, or the times she had put on loud music and danced wildly around the room in her underwear. "Um..." she managed, "...I, um..."
"I quite enjoyed watching you while you slept, actually."
She got the feeling that her face at that moment must have been priceless. "Sleeping?" she choked. Her tone of voice conveyed her meaning more clearly than any words ever could have.
He laughed, a deep, rich sound. "Well, of course, I enjoyed those other times too. A man would have to be both cold-blooded and dead to not relish the view outside your window. But," he sighed, "when you sleep, you're so peaceful. The moonlight shines on your face, and all of your worries and cares are hidden away. Most of the time, you just lie there and breathe quietly and deeply, but sometimes, you toss and turn. You kick the covers away from you, and I'm reminded of just how much is going on inside that pretty head of yours. It's really quite enthralling."
If she had been red before, by now she was a deep crimson; her face felt like it was about to burst into flame. She drew her knees up towards her chest in a protective gesture. "Well, ah, thank you, I suppose? That was certainly, er, poetic."
"I've had a good deal of time to think about it."
"You shouldn't be thinking about my sleeping habits."
The corner of his mouth turned upwards slightly. "I also paid a good deal of attention to the times when you were awake, if that helps at all. You're really an exquisite dancer."
Sarah groaned and buried her burning face in her knees. "Go to hell," she mumbled.
"You've said that already," Jareth tsked. "In any case, you clearly are no more used to men than I am to women. I am not an expert, but I believe that the correct response would have been 'thank you.'"
"Why are you doing this?" she asked, raising her head, but not able to meet his eyes.
"Is it revenge for beating you and making you spend two years as an owl? Or is it the loss of the Labyrinth you're angriest about?"
"What are you blathering on about?"
"Because if it's one of those, I'm sorry, all right? I didn't mean to make any of that happen, and I feel bad about it, so there's no need to come in here and do this to me!"
"Sarah!" he exclaimed. "Good god, girl, make sense!"
She managed to look at him now, a proud tilt to her chin. "You don't understand?"
"How could I? Your logic would confound a rock."
"I can't believe you don't understand!"
"I can't believe that you won't explain." He tilted an eyebrow, raising her ire even further.
"This is ridiculous. Why am I even doing this?" Sarah jumped to her feet and started to pace back and forth. "Why are you even here?"
He attempted to follow her jerky movements with his eyes, but groaned a moment later. "You're giving me a headache."
"Yeah? Well, good!" She glared at him with her hands on her hips, but did stop walking back and forth.
Jareth groaned. "I am at my wits end. I'm tired, I'm homeless, and I don't even know how long you're going to let me keep my human form, so will you please at least have the decency to stop glowering and tell me what you're prattling on about?"
"You, you idiot! I'm 'prattling on' about you!" When he just sat there calmly and gazed at her expectantly, she pressed her lips together irritably. "I guess I shouldn't be surprised. You tried the same thing in the Labyrinth, after all, and—"
He held up a hand. "'Make sense' are the key words here. I know it's difficult, but do try."
Sarah sat down in her desk chair, crossed her legs, and folded her arms. It was simple enough to say the word, but not so simple to keep from blushing again. "Seduction. That's what it is. You dragged me into that bubble and tried to seduce me into forgetting about Toby. You tried again, right before I beat you. And now, you're doing the same thing again, but I don't know what it is you want this time. If I'm stuck keeping you in here until the storm stops, the least you could do is to stop messing with my mind." She looked at him defiantly.
For a short moment, he was stunned into silence, but it was over all too soon. As she watched in angry disbelief, he started laughing. When it seemed as though he was about to catch his breath, the laughter momentarily subsided, but then he started cackling again. He laughed so hard that tears welled up in his strange eyes and he fell over backwards on the bed and lay there, gasping for breath.
"Stop it!" Sarah sputtered, now truly enraged. "Stop it right now!"
Jareth wiped his streaming eyes, still snorting quietly to himself. "God, I do love you, Sarah," he said affectionately. Then he started laughing again.
Sarah froze. Had she just heard what she thought she had? Though she didn't want to admit it, there was nothing else it could have been. The words had been clear as a bell. She bit her lip, not having the slightest clue as to how to react to that. If she took it seriously, he would no doubt mock her mercilessly, and if she reacted to it as a joke, which, she thought was the much more likely possibility, she ran the risk of offending him.
Finally, seeing that he was still laughing and that she had to say something, she asked angrily, "And just what is so funny?"
Jareth seemed to fight for control and the incessant laughter quieted. "Trying to seduce you?" he said, his voice still quite amused.
"Yes!" she exclaimed.
"I wouldn't say I was trying, exactly. I'd say I was succeeding admirably." He sniggered to himself, but managed to keep a straight face for the most part.
"You were not!"
"'I don't know what it is you want this time'?" he quoted. "Well, the same thing I wanted last time, quite frankly, though I wasn't entirely sure until you straddled my legs and took my boots off."
"You—" Sarah's eyes widened almost comically. "You were unconscious!"
"For the most part, yes." Jareth smiled toothily.
She let out a wordless cry of anger and lunged from her chair. Once she was on her feet, however, she paused, not quite sure of what to do; should she beat him mercilessly or just order him out of her room? Or, a small voice inside her head whispered, should she oblige him?
The choice was taken away from her when Jareth grabbed her hand and smiled up at her appealingly. "Temper, temper, Sarah, dear."
"I'm not your dear!" she almost shouted.
"Aren't you?" As he continued, she fumed silently. "You see, you don't have much choice in that particular matter. I may not be your dear, though I wouldn't bet my life on that, but you certainly are mine, and the more you protest, the cuter I find it."
"So what do you want? You say it was the same thing you wanted last time, which was to steal my baby brother. Do you really want the little screaming whiny brat that badly? He's right across the hall, and he's going through Terrible Twos, so you're quite welcome to him." She pulled her hand out of his coldly.
Jareth sighed. "And we're back to the baby brother again. Sarah, he couldn't be further from my mind." He grabbed her hand again, and wouldn't let it go this time, no matter how she pulled. "Yes, I stole the baby. Because you wished it. You."
"If you had really cared about me, as you claim," she shot back, "you would have returned him when I asked it of you two minutes later."
"What?" he asked in mock surprise. "And deprive me of the chance of getting to know you? Never!" Seeing that her face wasn't softening at all, he sighed and dropped the charade. "Whether you believe it or not, Sarah, what I offered you was real. I wasn't going to turn the baby into a goblin – I had far too many of those to deal with as it was. If you had agreed to what I asked, I would have given him right back to you to deal with as you saw fit. Whether you chose to return him to his parents or to raise him as my heir, I would have agreed without a moment's hesitation."
"Why should I believe you?" she whispered. "You're the King of Lies."
"No, that's Satan. I'm just the former Goblin King."
"Jareth..." Sarah said. "I'd like to believe you, but—"
The rest of her words were cut off as he pulled her down to him and kissed her firmly on the lips.
When the kiss ended, and she dazedly pulled away, the first words out of his mouth were, "Do you believe me now?"
"I...I..." Sarah blinked, trying to reorder her jumbled thoughts. It felt as though her brain were shrouded in a heavy fog, but it wasn't a bad feeling. "...I don't know. I'm...confused."
He stood up, towering above her. Being suddenly reminded of how much larger than she he was, and how much stronger, even in his weakened state, she shrank back slightly.
This time, though, his grip was gentle: his hands barely grazed her shoulders as he leaned down and kissed her again. Of course, this did nothing to help clear the fog in her head, but deep inside her heart, she admitted to herself that it wasn't entirely unwelcome. Still fighting, though, her hands clenched into fists by her side.
"I've spent two years," he said quietly, his breath a gentle breeze against her cheek, "standing outside, staring in, and wishing that you had accepted me. I decided that losing everything was worth it if there was the slightest chance that you would have me. You were the first thing I'd ever seen that I felt was more interesting and more fun than what I had been doing. So instead of trying to find ways to regain the Labyrinth, I sat on that damned branch. When you stopped seeing me there, I thought that I might die."
"But why?" Sarah cried. "Why...?"
Jareth smiled, but it was a different smile than his arrogant sneers. "Isn't it obvious, you silly girl?"
That final smile did it. She had lost. She'd fought it, she'd tried to ignore her attraction to him, even to the point of pushing memories entirely from her head, but it was too late now. He had won, and she thought that deep down, she had always known that he would.
When he leaned down to her this time, she kissed back, flinging her arms around him with the restrained desire of two years of waiting. His arms circled her back more slowly, but they held her tightly.
Suddenly, Sarah pulled back and looked at him intently.
"What?" he whispered. "What is it?" It was clear that he was expecting her to say that she'd changed her mind, that she wanted him to leave.
Instead, Sarah smiled. "It was you," she said, eyes aglow with discovery. "That's why I saw your eyes this afternoon. It was you."
"What was me?"
"What I was looking for all along, only I... I didn't know it."
This time, the kiss didn't end.
It was later, much later, though neither could have said accurately how long it had been. The only thing Sarah knew was that for the first time, she felt complete. She laughed happily.
Lying by her side, Jareth grumbled, "Keep it down, woman. I'm trying to sleep."
Unwilling to let his sleepy mutterings sour her good mood, she rested a hand on his flat stomach and said, "And to think, I was trying to replace you with math."
Though he fought to keep the dour expression on his face, he lost and wound up grinning widely. "I would hope I'm at least slightly more entertaining than calculus."
"Oh, much," she said enthusiastically and planted a kiss on his forehead. "Jareth," she said, as she dropped her weary head to lie pillowed on his chest, "why me? Why did you pick me?"
Though she couldn't see it, she could almost sense the put-upon look that he shot at the ceiling. "Does the why of it matter? I told you already, some things just are."
"But I want to know!"
"You're not going to let me get any sleep, are you?"
"Not as such, no."
He laughed under his breath. "Fine, fine. I don't think it can be said that I picked you, exactly, though."
"Well, I certainly didn't pick you, and there had to be some sort of picking going on."
"At first, I saw you as a momentary amusement. Watching idiots try to pick their way through the Labyrinth grew tiresome. I decided that at least you were somewhat attractive, so despite the fact that I was expecting to watch you fail, watching you was not much of a chore. It wasn't until you told those hands to let you fall and landed in the Oubliette that I began to take any real notice. Any ordinary nitwit would have asked to go up, but you had already grasped the nature of the Labyrinth. Just because up is up and down is down doesn't mean that down is necessarily the wrong way."
"What would have happened if I'd asked to go up?" she asked drowsily.
"The door through which you had walked would have closed behind you and in front of you would have been the entrance to the Labyrinth. You would have had to start all over again, so you see, even though I sent Hoggle to take you back to the beginning anyhow, you made the right choice. That was unusual and most interesting."
"So you liked me because I chose down?"
"I wouldn't phrase it like that. I didn't even realize that I thought of you as possibly something more than an amusement until Hoggle showed so much concern on your behalf."
"I realized that I was jealous," he said, sounding embarrassed. "That scared me, and I decided that I should do whatever was necessary to get rid of you. I couldn't have anyone coming in and destroying my carefully constructed chaos of a life, could I?"
"Well, I didn't get rid of you, did I?"
"You certainly tried, didn't you?"
She could hear the smile in his voice when he replied. "As soon as I saw you inside the bubble I'd constructed to distract you, I knew that I couldn't destroy you. All I could do was hope to delay you enough so that the clock would strike thirteen and both you and your baby brother would be mine."
"So that's why you sent your armies out?"
"Of course. Once I saw you in that ridiculous dress, getting you out of the way was no longer an option."
She raised her head. "I beg your pardon?"
Jareth started laughing soundlessly. "Oh, god... those sleeves... the puffiness... oh, it was too much..." He gestured helplessly.
Sarah glared down at him. "I liked that dress."
"Are you insane? You could have swept the floor and directed traffic at the same time with that... thing."
She crossed her arms and pouted. "You're a jerk."
"Of course I am. Tell me honestly, would you think much of me at all if I were any other way?"
"...I guess not," she admitted. "You are who you are, Jareth."
He made a noise of agreement. "However, I wasn't truly mesmerized by you until you rejected me that last time. Then I knew that I had to have you, one way or another."
"You mean, when I defeated you?"
"You like saying that, don't you? Yes, then. You were so strong and confident, and yet, so uncertain. I felt as though I had just missed saying the right words to make you mine."
"And then you spent the next two years stalking me in the form of an owl?"
Jareth chuckled. "More or less."
"And what of you, Sarah? You make me analyze my feelings for you. I think I ought to ask the same in return."
She laughed. "That shouldn't take too long. I hated you."
"But I was also fascinated by you. You were so...so..."
"Handsome?" he supplied. "Charming? Wonderful? Everything you could want in a man?"
"...Not quite," Sarah said. "'Flamboyant' is more the word I was looking for." At his frown, she laughed. "But, yes, you were good-looking... kind of like a wild animal. You were dangerous, and I wanted that."
"Wild animal? Am I supposed to be flattered?" he said mockingly.
She shrugged, growing used to his affectionate mockery. "As you wish. Jareth..." she said, suddenly serious. "I have a question."
"What will happen now?"
"Well, I would hope that we would go to sleep. I'm quite tired."
"No, I mean...now. Not right now, but now. You don't belong in this world, and even if you could reclaim the Labyrinth, I wouldn't belong there. So what now?"
"I confess," he said, the smile fading from his face, "I was rather hoping you would come with me. Not immediately, of course, but once I do get the Labyrinth back."
"I have a life here, Jareth. How could I be happy in a world of goblins? It wouldn't work." Sarah shook her head. "It's not that I don't...don't... care about you, but I just don't see how...it could work."
He sighed. "Listen, Sarah, all I ask is that you not make any decisions yet. The storm has stopped and when day comes, I'll leave. I'll only come back when I am King again. I ask only that you not make your decision till then."
He grinned tiredly. "Very well. I also ask that you not let any other men touch you or even look at you in a way I would deem inappropriate. For their protection, of course," he added, "because otherwise, I would have to dispose of them immediately."
"How kind," she said dryly, but she couldn't help but feel good at the knowledge of his protectiveness.
"Do you agree to wait till then?"
Not yet ready to answer, she reached out and touched the medallion on his chest. "What is this?" she asked, idly tracing the silver circle inside the warped golden triangle. "You've always worn it... What does it mean?"
"You didn't answer my question," he said sternly.
"Just... give me a few minutes, all right?"
He nodded in grudging assent. "The medallion is just...symbolic, really. It represents me, and I think that it quite suits me."
"It certainly is dramatic."
He reached a hand up and drew the medallion over and off his head. "You have it, then."
"What?" Sarah gasped. "What do you mean? You can't give it to me!"
"Why on earth not?" Jareth rejoined calmly. "It's a piece of gold and silver, nothing more, and if it would remind you of me while I'm gone, I would gladly part with it. Take it, Sarah. I give it freely."
Hesitantly, she reached out and the medallion changed hands. It was heavier than she expected.
"What should I do with it?" she asked shyly.
"Whatever you wish, of course."
"I'll..." she glanced around, her gaze finally alighting on a decorative box her real mother had sent her years and years ago. Until now, it had been sitting unused on her desk. "I'll keep it safe in that box," she decided, climbing over him and out of bed, ignoring his "oof"s.
Gently, she placed the medallion in the soft, cushioned depths of the box, arranging the chain neatly, and closed the box, locking it with its elegant silver key, which she placed on the desk next to the box.
"Answer my question now?"
Sarah turned back to Jareth to find him sitting up, watching her closely. "I..." He blinked, and in that moment, she saw the emotion under the surface that he was striving to cover up. Fear. At the knowledge that this proud, arrogant man was afraid that he might lose her, what was left of her defenses melted. "Of course I'll wait!" she cried, flinging herself back into his open arms.
Neither of them got any more sleep that night.
Of course, day came, as day always does. Never before, though, had Sarah viewed the sun peeking over the snow-covered horizon with such trepidation. Jareth, however, accepted it with a stoicism she had not known he possessed. Though she didn't want to let him, he sat up and pulled his clothing and boots on, and clasped his cape with a flourish.
Sarah stood up and looked at him wordlessly.
"Don't worry," he said confidently. "I'll come back."
"Look at you!" she cried. "You look like a single strong wind could break you in half! How can you expect to find a way back to the Labyrinth like this."
He looked at her. "Sarah, your words did this to me. Your words can undo it."
Despair filled her. "You have so much faith in me. I don't understand it. I'm not even totally sure that you're real!" Jareth looked alarmed. "I mean, I believe in you, of course, but... why do I have such control over you? It doesn't make sense. No one can have so much control over another real being. It just doesn't make sense."
He sighed, though his head was still held high. "That's not something I can make you believe or mistrust with a kiss, Sarah. Whether I exist or not is a truth you will have to find for yourself. But," he added, with only a hint of a grin, "if you ever need to know for sure, you can just look in the box and see if my medallion is still there. That would straighten your mind out pretty quickly, I'd say."
Tears came to her eyes. "How can you be so light-hearted about all of this? I only just found you, and now you're going to leave and I might never see you again!"
"Keep faith," he said quietly. "Keep faith, Sarah."
Jareth ran a hand along her cheek right before she flung herself into his arms.
Pressing her cheek against his chest and listening to the beat of his heart, Sarah closed her eyes and whispered quietly, "You have power over me. You do."
When she pulled back to look at him one last time, her eyes widened in shock. She was looking at the old Jareth, the one she had known and battled two years before. He was once again the strong, magnetic, alive man she had defeated, and he was looking down at her with a delighted grin on his face.
"You did it, Sarah!" Ecstatically, he twirled her around. "I told you that you could do it!"
"I did it..." she whispered, his infectious smile catching. "My words..."
"Now, please, dear," he said with mock sternness, "don't go and do something stupid like saying the words that got me into this mess to begin with."
"Not for the world!" she cried. "I swear it!"
He leaned down and kissed her one last time. "It's time, Sarah. Say the words."
"Will I really ever see you again?"
"Don't doubt it." He turned around and flung open the window, letting in a blast of wintry air. "Say the words."
"I wish..." she choked, hanging her head, but sniffled once and continued. "I wish that you were back where you belong."
A whisper of "...that's my girl," reached her ears, but by the time she looked back up, hoping for one last glimpse of him, Jareth was gone and an owl was soaring away into the rising sun.
With him gone, the color seemed to be gone from her room. Slowly, mechanically, she closed the window and latched it. She turned around, trying to decide what she should do now.
Sleep seemed the best option, but she just couldn't close her eyes. She tossed and turned, her nervous gaze continuously returning to the box. Within that box lay the only proof that this night had ever really happened. Within that box was either a golden medallion...or nothing.
Sarah exhaled nervously and hopped up from the bed, walking over to the box and running her hands over it. This was the only way she'd ever know if Jareth was real or not, if her hopes could ever come true or if they were doomed from the start.
Slowly, she reached down and picked up the key. She turned it over and over in her hands, relishing its cool, solid feel. She looked at the key. Then she looked at the box. Then the key again. Then the box again.
Suddenly, her mind was made up. With an impish grin, she unlocked her bedroom door, strode down the corridor, into the bathroom, and flushed the key down the toilet.
Sarah nodded, satisfied. She walked back to her room and relocked the door. Opening her bottommost desk drawer, she set the box safely, securely in there.
With that, she returned to her still-warm bed, where she fell asleep quickly and easy with a smile on her face, dreaming that a white owl was watching over her from outside the window.
A/N: Thanks for reading, everyone! I hope you enjoyed it (though I'm sure that it's a bit shorter than some of you would like). Not to worry, there very well might be a sequel to this... In fact, I'm pretty sure there will be, as soon as A) school lets up a tad, B) I've done a bit more and hopefully finished one or two of my other FF.Net stories, and C) I've worked a bit on my original story... I feel guilty having strayed from it for so long to write fan fiction!