Author's Note: This is a
drabble I wrote upon request for Rikkitsune,
during a meme going around
on Livejournal. She asked for a piece with Jareth and Sarah that
happened around Christmas/Yuletide. It is a little on the rough
side, but it's rare that I write anything so short and compact so I
wanted to post it here.
Summary: Jareth lures Sarah into the woods the night before Christmas for a long awaited confrontation and perhaps... a gift.
Under the Mistletoe
It was a game they'd played since she was fourteen. He was always just out of reach, appearing briefly in a crowd only to vanish when she drew near. Sometimes Sarah would catch a glimpse of him in a store window, that haughty lift of the chin and silver-gold fall of hair over his shoulders. No one was ever there when she turned around, but she knew it was him-- those eyes were unmistakable.
She never told anyone who she was looking for. Sometimes she didn't know herself.
Closing the front door quietly behind her, Sarah ran down the snow-covered steps and across the deserted street into the woods, her sneakers kicking up a dark trail on the path. There it was, a flicker of white wings, just ahead, always ahead...
She was eighteen now, and too old to be chasing after ghosts. But the night before Christmas found her shivering in the woods, running to see if this time she could catch him. She never expected to because she never had... So it when she came to the clearing where a lone tree stood and found him waiting for her, Sarah stumbled in surprise.
Quick as ever, he was there to catch her before she fell, his arm slipping around her waist as easily if he did it every single day of their lives. It seemed to her that he held on just a fraction of a moment longer than necessary, and the thought made her flush. Behind them was an old oak tree, gnarled branches casting crooked shadows across the snow. When he let her go, he melted back into the blackness, nearly invisible.
"Why are you here?" she demanded of him.
The Goblin King raised an eyebrow. "I could easily ask you the same. After all, I'm not the one pursuing strange men through the forest at night."
Sarah resisted the urge to hit him. "You wanted me to chase you."
"I flew. You didn't have to follow."
It was true, she couldn't deny it. The hour was late, and Toby had long since gone to bed. She'd left Karen and her father wrapping presents in the study and slipped out the front door to follow the white shadow that flitted past her bedroom window.
She wrapped her arms around herself. "Tell me what you want and let me go back to the house. I'm freezing."
"You caught me, on tonight of all nights," he said with an unreadable glance upward. "It is for you to tell me what you shall have of me."
The tree branches were bare, save for a thin mantle of snow that outlined each bough. But nestled on the branch directly above them was a drift of leathery green leaves and berries, a waxen, luminous white. At first, Sarah wasn't sure what it was, because she'd only ever seen it in store displays and florist shops during the holidays.
She looked back at the Goblin King, who stood with the moonlight in his hair. With his face in shadow, she couldn't see his eyes but she could feel their gaze intent upon her. He can't mean...
Before she could say anything, his cloak was wrapped around her and they stood face to face. A firm hand on her shoulder kept Sarah from moving away.
She tensed warily. "What are you doing?"
"You are cold, are you not?" He seemed to think nothing of being so near.
Sarah had to admit she was. She'd left the house without her jacket and the chill winter air stung her exposed skin. His cloak enveloped them both, strangely heavy across her shoulders. Awkwardly, she braced her hands against him. The silk of his shirt was warm beneath her fingers, and she could feel the rise and fall of his chest. Sarah wondered what she would feel if she explored further... if his heartbeat was steady and unchanging, or fast as her own. Did she dare?
He examined her in turn, tilting his head with the slightest of smiles as if he could read her thoughts.
She did not dare.
When he spoke, his voice was so low she could barely hear him. "Do you know what happens under the mistletoe, Sarah?"
She could not breathe. "Yes."
He drew her closer, until she could feel the mist of his breath upon her cheek. Though they stood with the snow falling about them, she did not feel the cold. The wind tugged free a strand of her hair, and he brushed it back. His bare hand was warm against the side of her neck, and when he'd finished, he left it there, his thumb tracing idly along her jaw.
"And does the idea please you?"
She would not say yes or no, but he did not expect her to. She forced herself to take a calming breath, ignoring the teasing note that entered his voice. He smelled like the woods, of pine needles and damp earth, the promise of spring.
If he had not been holding her up, she might have fallen. The silence grew until she felt desperate enough to want to end it, saying the first thing that came to her mind.
"Are you going to... kiss me?"
"That is a modern tradition," said the Goblin King mockingly, "Not of the ancients' making."
Sarah didn't know whether her knees were suddenly weak with disappointment or relief. She hoped that it was too dark for him to see her blushing.
"The mistletoe was held sacred to the old ones, with the power to heal and protect. It is tradition," said the Goblin King, reaching up to pluck a single berry, "For two enemies to lay down their arms and call a truce when they meet beneath the mistletoe."
He held up the mistletoe berry between thumb and forefinger briefly before casting it away, then wrapped the cloak more tightly around her.
Enemies, she thought with mild surprise. Yes, she supposed that's what they were to one another.
"For one night only."
Far away, the town clock struck midnight, twelve slow chimes that echoed through the wood. Sarah held her breath, as if waiting for the thirteenth, but it never came. Snowflakes gathered on him, caught like stars in the pale net of his hair. He seemed to be waiting for her to speak, and when she did not, his hands dropped from her shoulders.
"Your family will miss you," he said quietly, releasing her with a gentle push. "You should go to them."
Sarah shuddered as she left the shelter of his arms, for the cold air was sharp as a knife's edge tonight.
"Will I see you again?"
He laughed so softly, the sound was nearly lost in the wind. "If you can catch me."
Sarah looked over her shoulder. Through the trees, she could barely see the porchlights on her house, a warm gold that beckoned her back. That was where she belonged. Not here... and not with him.
One last look, where she memorized as many details as she could, storing them away to think upon later. She caught him once. She could catch him again. Keeping her gaze fixed upon him until the last possible moment, she turned to leave. Her footprints had left behind sodden marks in the snow, and she retraced them with heavy steps.
Jareth had followed her a few paces down the path, catching the tail of her scarf and winding around his wrist. The Goblin King smiled, his eyes blazing even in the shadows. Already the wind was whipping the ends of his cloak, spinning the starlight to hide his vanishing.
He leaned swiftly in, and the kiss he left upon her cheek burned like a brand.
Author's Note: Unfortunately, there is no more to this story, this is all I've got and there are no plans at the moment for expanding it-- but I'll keep it in mind for future projects. Meanwhile, if you did like it, I hope you'll give my other fanfics a shot, particularly The End of Days, which is a much longer, more detailed J/S story.