Vanity Not-Quite-Fair

She wasn't spying. Not exactly. It was just that he thought she was somewhere else when she was, in fact, hiding and watching him. But she wasn't spying. How could someone spy on her own lover in his quarters, after all?

Some nights ago, lying in a pleasant daze amid tangled sheets in her room, Sarah had suddenly realised that she had never seen her lover naked. He never shared the bed with her after lovemaking because apparently it "wasn't done" for the monarch to sleep with anyone other than a wife and neither of them was ready for that just yet. It was strange, she had mused. They always made love in darkness. At first, she had put it down to their amusement outlasting the candles, but she had been Jareth's lover for a while now and, although she knew every inch of his body by touch, she had yet to explore it properly with her eyes. A few idle days to explore the Castle had uncovered a maze of hidden passages and alcoves just fit for the purpose of, well, spying on people.

And so here she was, tucked into a space which seemed to have been designed more for a goblin of Hoggle's size rather than a long-legged young woman. And here was the Goblin King, tired from a long day of stalking around shouting at goblins, grimy and in severe need of a change of clothing before dinner. Perfect.

The coat went first, then the long boots, thrown idly into a corner. There was something oddly vulnerable and touching about any man unshod, and this went double for such an elegant character as the Goblin King. Gloves were quickly stripped off and abandoned inside-out upon the bed, then deft fingers unlaced the shirt, letting it hang casually loose. Sarah held her breath, recalling the feeling of cloth sliding away as her fingers ran across silk-smooth skin. The uncovered flesh was almost as pale as the fabric surrounding it, translucent, unearthly. It struck home again that Jareth may be human shaped but he was not human. He was something else entirely.

The Goblin King paused a moment, head cocked to one side as though he had all the while heard Sarah's breathing from behind the tapestry and was now wondering why the sound had stopped for that moment. Then he shrugged, resumed his nonchalant pacing and let the shirt fall in a crumpled heap behind him. The advantage of being a ruler was that one never had to pick up one's own dirty clothing. Sarah drank in the hollows above his collar bones and the refreshingly human-looking dent of his navel. As Jareth turned away from her again, stands of hair caught the evening sunlight, scattering gold across the sweep of his shoulder blades. Through the soft light and the haze of magic which always seemed to cling to the Goblin King, Sarah could almost imagine a shadow of wings. Her wicked angel. She smiled.

Another circuit of the room and another pause. Jareth stood uncaring of his bare feet on the chilly stone floor, almost still but for the idle tracing of one hand up and down his abdomen from the waistband of his trousers to the glittering crescent of the amulet about his neck. It was more than an ornament, Sarah knew. She had tried to remove it once in bed when it had caught uncomfortably between them, and had been told very firmly that it stayed on. Maybe it was magical, or maybe it was just a symbol of royalty. Either way, she had never seen Jareth without it. But now there were more urgent issues in her mind than the amulet. Sarah felt a moment of doubt. Up until this point, she could convince herself that she was merely admiring her lover's body but she felt she was about to cross the boundary between naughty and wrong. Surely she could just ask if the whole nudity thing was that much of an issue. Surely he wouldn't mind. He won't mind, Sarah told herself. The memory of touch yearned to be united with a proper picture. Her heart sped up.

Jareth raised his head to stare directly at the tapestry. His eyes seemed to meet Sarah's as though there was no cloth to obscure the view.

"Come out, Sarah," he said.

She could probably turn and wriggle down the cramped passageway, flee back to her room and deny all knowledge. Probably. She slid from the alcove, wincing at the cramp in her legs, and slunk from behind the tapestry.

"I'm sorry," she said. "I just wanted…"

"I know what you wanted," Jareth said, "but you would probably have got a lot more than you bargained for."

"Why?" Sarah said. "I know you're not exactly like other guys but I've… I mean you, well, if you were that different I'd have felt… er… It's hardly as if you've got a tail in there or anything…." She broke off suddenly at the look on his face. "You haven't. Have you?"

"Sarah, do you love me?"

"Of course I do, you know that. I gave up my whole life to be with you."

"And you don't regret that."

"Never."

"Very well." Jareth hooked his fingers around the chain of the amulet and drew it slowly over his head. Sarah's vision of the room twisted violently and she closed her eyes.

When she opened them again, Jareth was gone. In his place was a creature much like the ones which populated the castle and the city beyond it. Stumpy body, long pointed ears, large hairy feet. A goblin. No creature could be so far removed from the beauty and elegance of the Goblin King. But in its heavy hands it held the amulet and its mismatched eyes stared intently into hers.

"Jareth?" Sarah whispered.

"Yes," said the goblin. His voice was unchanged, and Sarah fought the urge to rub her eyes as though that could change the image before her.

"But… but you… but we…. You're a goblin."

"Really Sarah," said Jareth, every bit of the customary arrogance and impatience in his voice, "what did you expect the king of the goblins to be? A troll?"

"I don't know. I thought you were Fae or Fair Folk or something like that. Like an elf out of Lord of the…" She stopped, realising how foolish that was. "So why the pretence?"

"Because this world and yours are so interconnected. I realised long ago that the Goblin King needs to be a creature of fantasy, like you but unlike you. And goblin or not, I am still king here and a very powerful user of magic. So I shaped this amulet so that I could appear human." He smiled. "Or at least human-shaped, with a little added mystery. Then the goblins got used to it and it seemed simpler just to stay in that form. But sometimes it is nice just to be myself."

Sarah sat down heavily on the bed. "This is going to take some getting used to," she muttered. "I guess you're still you whatever, but I'd prefer… sorry to be shallow."

"You're human. It is to be expected." Jareth hoisted himself onto the bed beside her. His feet didn't quite reach the floor. After a long moment, Sarah reached across and took his hand.

"I suppose this is a good time to mention," she said, "that this is a push-up bra."


Author's Note: This story was written as a birthday ficlet for white raven who wanted to see Sarah watching Jareth undress. And I'm terribly afraid that I could just NOT resist doing what I did. (Sits back and waits to be beaten to death by rabid Jareth fanatics.)