He sat, one foot propped against a low table, and stared at his hands. Black leather clung to his fingers and palms, smooth and pristine. In truth, he hardly ever saw his own hands, only when he was alone with himself, and sometimes not even then. His gaze lifted to dart about the room, large and warm, burgundy carpets and tapestries and rich dark wood everywhere he looked. The Goblin King shifted in his seat and the dark brown leather of the couch sighed softly in response. It was the middle of the night, and though the fire roared cheerily in front of him, he shivered as the soft light bounced across his face and cast harsh shadows over his features.
Taking a deep breath, Jareth sat forward and lifted his glass, half filled with wine, and drained the last of it before sitting back again. He felt the familiar warmth spreading through him and closed his eyes while gentle numbness seeped through his limbs. Lifting a hand in front of his face, he stared at it for a long moment before slowly peeling the glove away and setting it next to him with great care. He marveled at the difference in feeling of the cloth to the open air as he slipped the other glove off and dropped it gingerly next to the first. His now bare hands rubbed together and then over his face, pausing as they pressed to his lips.
Lips, he thought to himself, that would never touch hers. The girl whose lips he might have allowed himself to touch.
His head fell back against the plush couch and he sighed. His was a lonely existence. It always had been, or, at least, he assumed it had. He couldn't quite remember how he had come to be the Goblin King, nor if he had ever been anything else. Things had been this way forever, for all he knew. His earliest memories were hazy at best, and he didn't bother trying too hard to remember. There was no point in it that he could see.
And, in all the time that he could remember, he had not touched another person.
Maybe at one time he had known what another person's skin felt like against his own, maybe he knew the warmth of a kiss. But, if he had, it was long forgotten.
Jareth wasn't quite sure what he was, perhaps at some point he had been human. He supposed that maybe he was a part of some other race that had long since left or died out, leaving only him behind, for there was no one else like him that he knew of. He often wished for a companion, maybe a woman who he might spend his time with, speak to, hold when he felt the emptiness of his life. The creatures in his kingdom were little more than animals, dirty things which annoyed and disgusted him. Oh, he would swing a booted foot to kick a goblin or pick one up to speak to it, but he wore his gloves constantly, just as he had for as long as he was aware of.
Then there were the humans. The ones who ran the Labyrinth, played the game that he was somehow bound to. He thought, not for the first time, that this was why he chose to wear the gloves in the first place. If it wasn't, it certainly was why he chose to keep them on now. They repulsed him. They weren't disgusting like the goblins, they just made him...uneasy. They were selfish and vile things that confused him to no end. They wished away their own offspring, the majority of them handing their children to the Goblin King without a twinge of regret. He couldn't understand why something so precious might hold such little value to them.
Jareth spent as much time as he could with the babes that were wished away, playing with them and singing songs to calm them. They were innocent and sweet, and he found that the time spent with another similar to himself in shape(though much smaller) helped him to cope with the complete lack of companionship he faced. He never took his gloves off, though. Innocent though they were, they would grow into the same foul things that had produced them, if they weren't eventually turned into more of his subjects. Besides that, he couldn't allow himself to get too attached. There was no way for him to keep them as they were, if the parents did not win them back, he was bound by the magic that held him to the Labyrinth to change them.
Inevitably, he would have to leave the child for a bit to check on and hinder the progress of the elder humans making their ways through his domain. This was not a task he especially relished. He had to come close to them, far too close for his liking, breath down their necks, being detachedly sensual and intimidating them. He found that over time, he grew rather fearful of these humans, afraid that they might touch him, taint him with their vulgarity.
But, of course, he had always been afraid. For as long as he could remember. So, naturally, he had perfected the ability to keep that fear in check, contain himself and show the cool arrogance that he needed in order to complete his tasks properly.
Over the years, several human women had tried to appeal to him, making suggestive comments and reaching for him, offering themselves in exchange for their win. Though he found some of them physically beautiful, their attempts only pushed Jareth further back, panicked him until he could barely look at them. On more than one occasion he found himself back in his chambers after such an encounter, retching or throwing things against a wall, sometimes sitting on the floor holding his shoulders and shaking violently with the horrible sordid feeling that crawled over his skin.
There had been many over time, and they all left something of themselves behind. They were seeped into the ground, staining the walls, poisoning the air. He could smell their immorality, he could feel it in the very texture of the trees and the stones of the Labyrinth. Jareth had become admittedly a bit paranoid over the years, but that didn't stop the feeling that they had contaminated his land, didn't stop the air from suffocating him and the dust from chafing his every nerve. Everything where they had once been was infected. The whole land was diseased in his eyes. He could not touch any of it.
And so he kept his gloves on. Only in the relative safety of his chamber would he dare to peel them off, his leather shields, his protection. Often enough he would feel that this was even too much to risk and would wear them as he slept. They were comfort to him, where he had very little of it left.
Then, one day, a young girl said the words to summon him. Sarah. He did as he was supposed to do, took the child and offered her a chance to retrieve him.
At first, he looked on her as he did the rest of them. She was human, after all, and to him they were all the same.
But, as he watched her, he began noting differences. The girl truly wanted the babe back, for one. Most made the journey out of guilt. And, though he could hardly explain it, she seemed...pure. She was almost old enough to be called a woman, but she had an innocence that he only saw in the very young. And, in spite of that, she was strong and determined, a definite person all her own. Somewhat naive, perhaps, but she was definitely different.
When he fist began to take notice of this, he was cautious, unsure of whether he could be deceiving himself. Being alive so long, alone, could make one desperate enough to fool themselves into seeing what they desired.
After careful observation and feeling her consciousness through the magic of his realm, Jareth found her to be as he had dared to hope. She fascinated him, and he knew then that he had to have her.
He tried to persuade her to stay, not really knowing how to do so, as he had never attempted such a thing that he could recall. He brought the girl into a dream with him, coming close to her as he could allow himself. Even as he reveled in the feeling of having her so near him, he still did not remove his gloves. He did not have her yet, and he was still somewhat wary of her humanity.
She escaped his dream bubble, and his interest only grew. Most of her kind would have never been able to find their ways out. She was clever, and her genuine concern for her brother broke through the spell of forgetting.
Jareth watched as she made it to his castle, and reached a frantic decision to offer her everything if only she would stay with him. He had never made such an offer before, and, looking back on it, he knew it was poorly worded. She would not have understood what he wished to give her, why he wanted, no, needed her to stay with him. In the end, he lost her to her own world, and retreated back to his, lonelier than ever.
So now the Goblin King sat, refilled wine glass in hand, numbing himself to the regret and the isolation that consumed him. Before she had come, he could adjust. He could cope with being alone. He was used to it.
But now. He sighed. Now that he knew she was out there, that such a person could exist...
Maybe, one day, she would return. Maybe.
He chided himself for the thought. Getting his hopes up was not a good idea. He would just have to get used to it again.
Jareth drank the last of his wine, feeling woozy and nerveless in his drunken stupor, and set down his glass. He pressed the back of his hand against his cheek before slowly pulling his gloves back on and stumbling to his bed. Yes, he would just have to get used to it again.
Ugh. Okay, so I've been writing a continuation of this, but I'm sort of stuck on it. I'm still planning on finishing and posting at some point, hopefully sooner than later, but as of right now I'm just glad I haven't made any promises.