"You can't live like this, missy." Hoggle said to her one day. Didymus nodded his agreement. Sarah frowned. The entire conversation seemed rehearsed. She looked to Ludo but the shaggy beast said nothing, staring happily out of the kitchen window. It was Thursday. They had tea and honey cakes.
Sarah put down her floral teacup (a sure sign that she was hovering in indecision), which she had purchased in a failed attempt at normality (much to Karen's delight) on the table, a little too hard, because some of the chamomile concoction splashed onto the wooden surface. Sarah ignored this.
"Oh? And how's that?" She asked irritably.
"Alone." Ludo's growl startled Sarah. She had thought him to be her only ally.
"I'm not alone! I have friends! Here and Underground."
Three pairs of eyes stared blankly at her. Her ire rose
"Oh, really! It's not my fault, is it? I can't possibly fit in! They're all either here or there…but I…I am forever in between! I cannot move either this way or that! What would you have me do, break the walls of limbo? They are no longer made of reflecting glass! And the chairs are all nailed to the floor.'
Her friends looked mournful now. They'd heard the story. In the Underground, gossip travels faster than light.
Rumor had it she'd told him she wanted him, and he'd claimed her as his own. It was like a brand, but Sarah knew that, as well.
She also knew the truth, and while neither of them had ever uttered anything of the sort, there were moments of understanding, of agreement.
When Sarah was perplexed she did stupid things. But buying an overpriced new handbag just wouldn't suffice. So she did something that was by far more idiotic than usual. She went camping. Karen watched in disbelief as the girl drove off down the street, and shook her head knowing she'd be back before two days passed, let alone a week.
Sarah danced in the moonlight, the moon catching in her hair, as she leaped and twirled.
His eyes followed the nuances and twists of her limbs, his heart beat the rhythm she seemed to be following.
She was there, just like he knew she would be, when he awoke suddenly in the middle of the night. The Dancers. Boulders tall and old, making the girl look like a marionette. They danced, too, around and around, though she did not see it. The Dancers had a notion to claim her. What a pity that shot had already been called.
If an outsider had been watching, to them the strange fact about the scene wouldn't be the girl dancing in the night without music, or the man watching from the shadows. It would be the fact that during the day she had two left feet and no balance. She twirled and the stones turned with her.
He walked closer and she did not even glace up, leaping in the air and he felt the stones wanting to catch her.
He sighed and moved to take her in his arms. Sarah struggled and protested. Her eyes were misty.
"What did you do that for?!"
"Would you have had me leave you there, to dance until you collapse in death?"
She shuddered, pressing against him. "No."
Later that night they sat outside her tent and the king pressed a conjured mug of hot chocolate into her hands. Sarah shivered under her blanket and accepted. If she had been herself she would have been touched by the thoughtfulness of his gesture and his unusually gentle eyes, though she would never admit it.
His eyes turned wary as she lifted the cup, and she chose that moment to glace up. Seeing the look in his eye she felt more of herself returning. The new awareness was not lost on the King.
A direct offering.
Sarah was inexplicably reminded of their meeting in the park on that day she had thanked him. There had been something in the air. Or perhaps in the blood.
Meeting his eyes and holding, Sarah gave back the same he had gifted her with. Lifting the cup fully to her lips, Sarah drank the rich, dark liquid. Eyes locked on the king's. She felt the warmth of the drink all the way to her stomach, felt the richness of flavor long after the mouthful was gone. His nostrils flared, though it was barely perceptible. Somehow she knew he had understood.
A bird flowing out of a tree noisily broke whatever was happening between them.
Sarah glanced over into the fire he had conjured along with the drink.
"What were those things?" Her voice was still shaken.
His expression darkened and she could see he was considering evading her question.
"Please." The simple word spoken softly, her eyes declaring trust in his words.
"The Dancers." He sighed at last. "The Fiddlers, or whatever other ridiculous names your kind give them. Though the Dancers is perhaps the most accurate."
Sarah snorted disbelief. "It cant be! We're not in Ireland or Scotland or anywhere near the old Celtic sites! They were people turned to stone by dark magic. They caught new mortals by binding…"
His laugh cut short her train of thought. She opened her mouth to protest his scorn.
"It is as I have told you, nonsense!" Jareth informed, "Turned to stone nothing. The Dancers are, as you might have heard, a gateway. One of several both of this kind and of others. No more sentient than my labyrinth. Through magic they 'dance' as you put it, pulsing with power. Those of magic know better than to linger among them. But mortals have neither the knowledge nor strength of spirit to withstand their spell."
Sarah stored this bit of information for later contemplation. Her hands clutched at the edger of her tartan blanket, the mug forgotten by her feet, as she pointed out the flaw in his argument,
"We're not in the old Celtic lands!"
"No. Did you really think that the Dancers are bound to one location only? They are a gateway, moving others and themselves. They are everywhere and nowhere. Where they are needed or wanted most."
Sarah nodded then.
"Why do you call them that, 'The Dancers' ? If it's a silly mortal name."
"It is simpler that way. We do not name them among my people. Names have power, dear Sarah, names are power."
She ignored the implied threat. It was such an old game, as far as Sarah was concerned.
Picking up the mug and blanket she moved around the fire, startling Jareth as she sat next to him, shivering still. He had expected her to at least be wary this night of wild magic.
"Then it seems that you have saved me yet again, even now that I am done playing the distressed princess."
Wild magic danced across his skin. In the dark forest under a half-shadowed moon her hand found his.
They sat on the new porch swing, that her dad (who huffed and muttered under his breath, taking care that Toby wouldn't hear what was said) and Toby (who giggled and drove his toy car under parts of the frame) had spent half the previous day trying to put together. Her back snugly against his chest, his arms around her. Sarah's parents were away for their anniversary, and her brother was sleeping at a friend's. She refused to acknowledge what the new closeness between them entailed, and she wouldn't have dreamt of speaking of it aloud.
"I never thought I'd say this, my dear, but your silences are even louder than your words."
She laughed, though she wasn't sure why. She buried her face in his shirt and laughed. And she could feel him laughing too.
Jareth reached out a long leg towards the floor and pushed back. The seat swung back once, then promptly collapsed in a heap of canopy, pillows, frame, girl and goblin king.
Jareth promptly began trying to untangle himself, and opened his mouth to blame Sarah, who had sworn that the suspect thing was, in fact, safe. He heard a giggle, and irately lifted the bit of flower-patterned canopy that covered Sarah's face. He stared at her for a moment, as she turned red trying not to laugh, then lost it and burst into a manic fit of giggles. Any intention to berate her was forgotten as he joined in her mirth.
"Good evening, Sarah." Said the disapproving voice of Miss Clarence, the across-the-street neighbor, as she stopped in their driveway to look over the Williams porch.
Sarah tried to choke out a pathetic greeting, but failed miserably and collapsed into further giggles.
Jareth later remarked that spending time with her was doing nothing for his royal pride and dignity. Sarah riposted that it was doing nothing for her reputation as Miss Clarence was the biggest gossip on their street. She tried very hard to sustain an affronted expression, and fight off the silly grin at the memory. Jareth was too busy doing the same to notice, though Sarah would have argued that his grin was far from silly, classifying it instead somewhere under 'sensual'.
It was the little touches, and familiar glances that sealed their fate, in the end. One day she walked carelessly into her bedroom, only to find herself in his.
Sarah frowned as she glanced around the elegant chamber to find him seated tensely at a large, rosewood desk in the corner, his unwavering focus over an official-looking piece of parchment. With a sigh Sarah moved closer, still he did not speak and her hands found his tense shoulders. In silence she began to knead the muscles, at length her hands strayed into his hair and across his sharp cheekbones.
They did not speak that night, for words did not seem enough. Their union was of darkness and light, though none could ever hope to be able to tell which was which.
"I would give up forever…" he began, but Sarah knew better. The Goblin King was generous and terrible in his generosity, though personally she was of the opinion that he had an unhealthy affliction for the literal. They had been friends and lovers long enough for Sarah to know the ins and outs of their strange relationship. To know him. And maybe even to know a little of herself.
"Keep it." She snapped, angry in turn at being put in this position "I…I could not bear to take more from you than I have taken already." She spoke, a cruel twist to her lips , not looking at him, choosing instead to let her gaze travel over the expanse of his kingdom. Though if she closed her eyes and opened them really quickly, Sarah could see the view from her own window.
Mistaking her expression, he continued, "Ah, yes. I have forgotten how you love to play the selfless heroine."
Sarah notched a smile his way, over her shoulder, this one edged with steel every bit as much as the last. Cruelty shone in her eyes. Her hair and teeth glinted at him ferociously.
He put an offer before her, one he was hard-pressed to ask and she to accept. In his usual manner he made it sound more like an order. Sarah was in the mood to take it with a pinch of salt. Rumors travel and her parents were pressing her about her 'young man', which was a term she found almost as ridiculous as 'boyfriend'. She knew that what he was aiming at was her eternity.
They both knew that their idyllic existence could not continue forever. One way or the other the world was due for another tilt. They separated, edgy and grave. No argument could hope to cheer them up. Sarah's friends were perplexed in the mirror that night. Hoggle still had trouble accepting Sarah's relationship with the capricious king.
The following day, Robert could be heard puffing furiously around in the garden. Sarah went to investigate, only to find Karen giving him commands as to where he was to dig a hole for her to plant her need peach tree. When she brightly read the label to Sarah, informing her that they were said to have a hypnotically sweet taste, the girl felt her lips thin.
"Now, now Sarah, no need to be such a skeptic, I know they always exaggerate but I'm sure they will be sweet enough. And even if they're not, the peaches will fit most delightfully in to the garden! Right, Robert?"
Sarah watched her father mutter his half-hearted agreement before fleeing into the house, with every intention to go out for a walk. A fast one. Accidentally dropping her lip-gloss behind the vanity, she bent to look for it only to discover her peach-flavored one.
Defiantly, Sarah put it on.
She would not call on him. It was a matter of pride. Then suddenly she didn't care anymore.
Then there was silence. And music in her head. Light, airy music as Sarah walked down the street ignoring the mortals rushing this way and that. She nodded a greeting to an old goblin through a shop window, who was busy moving the welcome rug to where it would do the most damage.
The creature nodded too and watched her go with pity. Word gets around.
Determination glinting in her eyes, Sarah came to a halt by the stream that started in the park and proceeded into the intricate rose garden Karen had always preferred to the wild untamed of the park. The paths were neat and the flower beds tended. Colorful rose bushes swayed in the light breeze. She considered the Dancers and wished. When she opened her eyes Sarah was still in the garden, but if she squinted she could see faint traces of a courtyard instead.
The stream was louder somehow. The wind warmer. The music, relentless. It was a whisper and a scream in her mind.
She wondered why she was there, and why he wasn't. Why she hadn't seen him in a week. Something inside urged her to choose. She could not be in the middle. Only she stream was in the middle, joining this world and that. And she could not be part of the stream.
It wasn't a matter of where you lived, she decided, it was a matter of where you belonged. What world was in your heart. And in what was an outrageous coup d'etat, her heart had been stolen from under her very nose.
So Sarah chose without a second thought because in reality she had chosen along time ago. A though crossed her mind. She was late somewhere. Again. She looked down and remembered. A formal party at the local theatre. Her narrow off-white silk gown shimmered faintly.
She considered her position once more.
Sarah nimbly unstrapped her watch and tossed in into the rushing waters if the river, closing her eyes to savor the satisfaction the action had left her with.
Then she stepped over, but gingerly because one had to know where one stood with magic and she didn't look back because she didn't need to. She would be back soon enough.
There were people. Masked, elaborate and wild, spider-webs in their hair, and gorgeous silks and lace. They stood here and there, flutes of drink clutched in gloved hands, wrists and fingers delicate. Here and there a crystal laugh would cut the night. She watched them and realized how close they all came to snapping the delicate crystal, cutting their long hands. But their hold never shifted, ever elegant.
"Not lost are you, pretty lady?" A loud voice roared at her good naturally. Sarah stopped, watching, as a man in an elegant mask covering the top half of his face and a drunken grin the lower moved towards her. He swayed unsteadily on his feet and waved his arms around in an attempt to keep his balance. It was the eyes that caught her. The intense gaze belied the effect of the drink, as they watched her steadily and knowingly.
She paused in thought for a moment. Then smiled.
"No. No, I'm not lost at all." Sharp eyes warmed a fraction, and he gave a loud, jovial laugh.
"Very Good! Very good! Here, have a drink, Lady."
At that he thrust a bejeweled goblet at her. Half full with spiced wine, it still splashed over the side and onto her hand, staining her sleeve.
Sarah accepted the cup, surprised at its weight. Suddenly she felt all eyes upon her, glittering behind the decadent, depraved masks. Uncomfortable. Wary. Not looking away from the man's flushed face and cool eyes, she lifted the cup to her lips and took a small sip.
Laughing again, hand on the small of her back, he pushed her along into the crowds. She nearly stumbled but regained her feet at the last possible second. They swirled around her, masking her dizzy. Colors and lace. Sharp teeth and sharper voices. Beautiful and jagged laughter, like broken blades gleaming in the moonlight.
Hers was the only face bare of a mask. She could still taste the sweet wine.
The though of fairy food might have been daunting, once, but she was already as caught between the two worlds as she could ever be. Perhaps that was what the strange man had been trying to show her. Or perhaps he was just a reveler, nothing more. Perhaps so was she.
The crowd swayed around her, and she with it, like a feather caught in the current of a stream. She caught sight of Hoggle for a moment, Didymus with him, chattering about something. The dwarf's eyes fixed on her, and widened, though she was too far away to determine whether the expression was one of horror or surprise. Following his friend's gaze the knight's face took on a similar expression. She fought to get closer, calling to them. Hoggle shook his head sadly once she was within hearing range.
"Why, Sarah?" She head him ask in a low voice.
"Because some things can't be helped." She whispered wistfully, and just like that her friends were gone and she was pushed along. Sarah cried their names again, but it did no more good then trying to fight her way back.
Somewhere the clock struck thirteen, but Sarah didn't hear it. She walked on, silk hem trailing on the dusty paths covered with fallen leaves and twigs. She felt eyes upon her, and whispers, as the masked lot turned to stare at her who should not have been there, and could be nowhere else. Closing her eyes, Sarah walked into the hedge maze, swaying slightly to music only she could hear, the cup in her hand forgotten.
The wind rustled in her hair and the tiny leaves of the hedge. Her delicate sandals clicked on the stone path.
She was alone and then she wasn't.
With names came both power and equality.
They eyed each other, like the adversaries they haven't been for years. Weighing measuring, tracing back.
"Its more haunting than I remember." Sarah offered, gesturing at their surroundings and the eerie strains of music reaching them even in the depths of the maze. He accepted what they both knew he would take as a compliment with a slight inclination of the head. Another thing Sarah learned, which was now as natural to her as speaking was watching him for even the slightest hint of how he felt.
A gasp, a giggle, a rustle of fabric and footsteps sounded not far away. Sarah grinned momentarily. Jareth's eyes thawed the fraction of an inch.
"It seems that once again we are where we began." He remarked conversationally with a slight gesture of the wrist.
"Yes." Sarah chuckled and turned to face him directly, automatically dropping into words and stance that she would never forget if she lived a thousand years, " Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here, to the castle beyond the Goblin city, to take back the child that you have stolen," a step towards her. He eyed her, flinty-eyed, "for my will is as strong as yours and my kingdom is as great…" the last two words were whispered, and her eyes were suddenly beseeching.
"Forgot your words again, my dear?" His voice dripped irony.
Then she stood on tiptoes and looked as far over the hedge maze as her height would allow. Here, the hedges were low, but still she could barely see over them.
"It's a nice kingdom. As far as kingdoms go." Her tone was conversational again. If she had a cup of tea she'd have offered him some.
"And how far do they go, pray?" his smile was sharp. She took care not to cut herself.
She turned and put her arms around his waist, one pale hand still clutching the goblet, her face buried in the shoulder of his shirt. Hidden meanings yet again.
"I imagine I don't know what you're talking about." Sarah murmured into the king's shirt.
"Imagine all you want, but the point stands. You know very well what I am referring to."
He didn't answer so she pulled back slightly to look at him, suddenly not so sure about her ability to read him.
Still eyeing him suspiciously, Sarah went on, "Maybe."
She let go and turned away.
"Maybe I don't have much of eternity to give, but, for what it's worth, I lay it on offer before you."
When she faced him again, his eyes were narrowed.
"This is not a game, nor a dream, my dear. You cannot take back your words, and I will not re-order time."
Head to the side, she countered, "This is a dream not a game. I will not go back on my word, this is one moment in time you need never re-order."
"You offer up your life?"
She laughed, her head tossed back.
"No more than you offer yours. I will not give up my family for they are not mine to give, and I don't even want to begin thinking about explaining why it is that I'm moving out somewhere without a phone line to live with a man who is king over Sidhe."
"I would imagine that such minute details will sort themselves out in time." Sarah laughed at the jest only she could have caught.
"I imagine they will."
She took a deep breath and felt ridiculous. To have come this far…
She lifted the cup dubiously, following on a strange instinct, and took a sip.
Theoretically she knew better than to play with fairies. In practice she never could resist.
"I love you."
He looked startled. She had never seen him wear that expression before. In softened the sharp edges.
"And I you, though I dare say you have known of my love for years." He edged around the words. Words were power.
She shook her head, not sure if the fairies were still playing by the rules.
His eyes flashed.
Sarah was never very good where decisive moments were concerned. But then, she didn't have anything to decide.
Sarah went for the one tactic sure to throw him- honesty.
"I didn't. Not in the way that you mean. I was a child then, and some things are just not of childhood."
"They were said directly, and your response was the attempted destruction of my world."
"That…was not my fault." Sarah declared.
"Then it was not you who spoke the words?"
She knew the rules better than she'd originally thought.
"It was. And it wasn't. I am not quite who I was then. Besides, destruction was never my intent."
"And what was it, exactly?"
"Victory." That, she knew he understood no matter the blood he attempted to draw with his mere gaze.
"At any cost. Selfish. Cruel." She laughed off the accusation.
"You forgot immoral. I dare say that's another characteristic we share."
He scoffed, "And what is it that you mean you have done, apart from the wishing away, and I would add subsequent rescue, of your brother?"
Now she was behind him before he realized she'd moved. Rising on her toes, she whispered in his ear, "It's less of what I have done and more what I plan to do."
And she stepped back with a self-satisfied grin. He laughed. Loud, rich.
Just as suddenly his laughter vanished and his lips were upon hers.
"Shall we return to the revelry?" He asked when their embrace was broken, holding out his arm.
"Not yet. The revelers make me edgy. Something in the way they look at me and their biting, knowing smiles."
They shared a knowing look of their own.
"I seem to recall you quoting something in regards to a tour of Faerieland?" Sarah murmured, eyes glinting with a teasing light. "What's said is said. I trust you intend to keep your word, dear heart?"
Jareth took her arm with a low chuckle, and began to lead her deeper into the maze.
Their silence spoke louder then their words could ever hope to.
a/n: The poem, as promised,
To the dowager Lady Chatterton, Castle Mahon
Thee, lady, I would lead through fairyland,
(where cold and doubting reasoners are exiled),
A land of dreams, with air-built castles piled;
The moonlight shefros there, in merry and
With the cluricaunes, should ready stand
To welcome thee- Imagination's child!
Till on thy ear would burst so sadly wild
The Banshee's shriek, who points with wither'd hand.
In the dim twilight should the phooka come,
Whose dusky form fades in the sunny light,
That opens clear, calm lakes upon
Thy sight, where blessed spirits dwell in endless bloom.
I know thee, Lady- thou wilt not deride
Such fairy scenes- then onwards with thy guide…
I though it was a very fitting poem, given the story, and Sarah and Jareth's characteristics. I wonder who Lady Chatterton was, to warrant such a Sarah-esque poem…