Hello! I just realized I haven't said anything to anyone who has reviewed any of my stories. Sorry! Well, I was trying to get on with the plot here, so forgive the fact that they're sort of plunging in unrealistically. I blame it on the Pirate Movie (If you haven't seen it, don't. You'll be sucked in and never seen again.) and midterm week. Blech. Well, have fun reading, and don't sue me cuz I own nothing.
Sarah was bathing her daughter when Jareth entered her room again. He paused in the doorway of the bathroom, a small smile on his face as he watched her. Leaning against the doorway, silent as a feline, he heard the new mother's laugh as the little baby kicked her feet and sent water splashing over the edge of the porcelain basin.
"Silly," Sarah said. She pulled the infant's body out of the water and gently wrapped her in a warm, soft cloth. Jareth watched with an aching heart as she rested the baby against her shoulder, wrapped gentle arms around her. She crooned nonsense words to the little infant, days old, rocking the baby gently. Jareth knew there was nothing to fear ever again in regards to Sarah and her baby. She had not wanted to love the child, but faced with the overwhelming sweetness of a newborn she'd really had no other option.
"Lively little thing," Jareth said quietly, his voice lilting and amused. Sarah didn't even jump, though he'd been hoping to startle her a little bit with his sudden appearance. She turned around to find his eyes inches from hers.
"I can tell when you're here, you know," she said, a small smile playing at the corners of her mouth.
"Can you now?" Jareth chuckled. "What gave me away?"
She shrugged. "I just…know."
He smirked. "Do you mind?"
"You tell me, since you claim to know me so well," Sarah shot back. Jareth merely laughed and reached around her to touch the baby, tickle its soft stomach, before he disappeared.
The abrupt exchange threw Sarah into confusion once again. The infamous Goblin King, terror of her childhood, had now both given back a child without fighting for her, and now was being kind to her. Sarah shook her head. She didn't think she'd ever understand that man.
Jareth paced his throne room, wondering what next he could do to convince her of his intentions. He couldn't be blatant—that just wasn't his way of doing things. But…she didn't seem to be getting it. He sighed. What else could he do? He had kissed her, wasn't that blatant enough? Apparently not. Well, then. Maybe he could be a little more blatant, though it irked him to do so. It just wasn't his way.
But he wanted Sarah. He wanted her so badly that he knew he would do nearly anything to have her, to keep her here with him for eternity. If she wanted blatant, she'd get blatant.
The gentle sound of pipes and drums lulled the red-bearded man on the throne into a semblance of complacency. Not one of the pixies hovering around the well-lit hall doubted the terror he could cause if he so chose. They feared him, their ruler. He didn't play games.
The grand hall was lit with torches that burned brightly without smoking, evidence of magic. But there was even more powerful magic holding this place together. It seeped in from the earth surrounding the entire palace, tainted so with years of faerie contact. The entire hall reeked of magic, even the creatures wandering around within the room.
The walls were hung with tapestries, most of warm reds and bright emeralds. This was meant to disguise the fact—and did so rather well—that the walls were made of earth and the entire hall itself was dug out of the ground.
What gave it away was the pale feathery roots lining the high ceiling and curling around the king's ivory throne. Carved with hideous faces and beautiful flowers, the throne was both terror and wonder to behold. The wall behind the king held no tapestry, but a painting of surpassing beauty, in which a likeness of the king bore an unconscious human maiden away, presumably toward his lair. She was ethereal for a human, with pale skin, blood-red lips, and hair the color of ripe corn. The king in the painting seemed to regard her as spoils from some waged battle. She probably was.
The words were not a question, and the king on the throne turned around slowly to regard the woman standing below the dais. She was pale, but there her resemblance to the innocent creature in the painting ended. This was a faerie woman, capable of vast damage and cruelty.
Her hair was white, not like the silver of old people's hair, but completely devoid of coloring. Sometimes, if she so pleased, it could seem to absorb tiny amounts of the color around it, but that was very seldom. Today she was dressed in violent crimson, a color that should have been soaked up by her hair. It was not.
Her eyes were dark pools, colder than water rushing over crystal or ice. There was something about water in her movement and very glance as well. It wasn't transience at all, but rather a kind of permanent beauty so perfect that it seemed too delicate to last.
"What is it?" he asked. Even in the king's tone, though his words were not formal, there was no question that he felt a certain fear of this creature. She was not one to be taken lightly.
"I want another child," she said calmly.
The king devoutly wished he had not handfasted himself to one such as her. Her beauty had called to him that Beltane so many, many years ago. It had sang in his blood, and the warrior wished for another conquest. He had leaped the fires with her, so delicate-seeming and yet so strong. Bruising strong, she was. She had not chosen to leave, and he had not the will to turn her out, though he knew she would land on her feet wherever she went. She had her own palace under some other hill, it was certain, but for the past six hundred years—a mere eyeblink of their time—she had chosen to remain with him. He had a sinking feeling that he amused her.
Now she was asking for another child.
"You have a stableful of them," he said, using the colloquial term. "What do you want another for?"
She pouted, the gesture actually appearing as a threat on her delicate face. "I will turn it into a faerie for you, if you wish. Another minion."
The king narrowed his eyes. "I have no wish to be mixed up in your child-stealing. Remember when you took the Giant Queen's infant? There was war, Lady. I will not mix my kingdom up in this anymore."
She stamped her pretty foot. "It is only a human babe I wish to take," she cajoled. "Come, we used to do it all the time. They had to invent ways to keep us out. Don't you remember?"
"A human?" The king looked skeptical. For the first time, he contemplated the threads of gray that ran through his beard. "What do you want with another human babe?"
She smiled cruelly, and her teeth glinted. If she weren't faerie, the king would have sworn she was one of the Shadow Walkers. "Revenge," she said simply, the word conveying all it needed to.
"Ah." The king's countenance cleared and he waved his hand dismissively. "Take what you wish, then, Lady. But humans only. I will not be caught up in another war within the Fae."
"Of course," she said, waving away his warning. "Humans only, my lord." With that she stepped quietly away, her actions almost demure. The old king watched her, trepidation filling his heart as it had since she entered his life.
Weeks passed, and the infant turned a month old. She could see clearly, and reach for things, though she remained very tiny.
One morning Sarah was sitting on her divan out on her balcony, holding her baby and trying to eat breakfast at the same time. Jareth appeared, as he so often did these days, and deftly took the child from her arms.
"Let me help you with that, love," he said. The words were thrown out casually, and Sarah took no more notice of them than she had the first million times he had called her that. He seldom followed up on his words, and there was no sign that the casual physical contact they had with each other was anything but accidental or friendly.
Though Sarah was having a hard time convincing her body of that. It reacted whenever he was near, sending tendrils of heat through her veins and making her pulse race faster than it ought. Even now as he settled himself on the divan with her, she felt the blood begin to pound. No, she told it. Jareth doesn't mean anything like that.
Of course, he did.
Today he drew her to him and she rested against his chest, her back to his front, as she bit into a section of orange and felt the juice explode into her mouth. Jareth savored the sensation of touch, one arm cradling the infant and the other resting—casually—at Sarah's waist. It was something that could conceivably be considered friendly, if the friends were very close.
"Sarah," he said, his breath tickling the soft hair tucked behind her ear, "this little one is a month old now."
"Yes," she agreed, craning her head back to look at him. Jareth looked funny upside down. His chin seemed abnormally large.
"Don't you think she should have a name by now?"
Sarah sighed. "I know. She seems like a part of me, though. So much so that I sometimes forget that she should have a name, a separate identity. You don't name part of your soul."
Her last words seemed strange to Jareth, foreign. "For Fae," he said, voicing his thoughts, "names are sacred things, tied to our magic, our being."
"Is that why you can hear me if I call your name?"
"Partially," he allowed. "Certainly when anybody else does it."
Sarah froze. Here it was, the dangerous thing that made her different from the "everybody else" Jareth spoke lightly of. She didn't know if she wanted to face this, especially so early in the day, but…. After a month of wondering and waiting, she had to know. She turned around slowly, craning her neck, and stared into the goblin king's mismatched eyes. "Why am I so different?" she asked, her voice little more than a whisper.
Jareth's eyes darkened, and with a swift movement of his arm he had placed the child back in her cradle and used the now-free hand to cup Sarah's face in his palm. "Because you are Sarah," he said quietly, "and I am Jareth."
It was the simplest answer he could give her, not knowing that such things were better said with the tiny, frightening "I love you" words. She looked confused at what he had said, her eyebrows drawing together, and with a curse Jareth tried the one thing he hadn't done yet. He leaned down and kissed her.
The last time he had kissed her, a playful nearly-chaste touch of his lips against hers, was nothing like this. She both smelled and tasted of the half-eaten orange that lay forgotten on her breakfast tray, a citrus taste that burned and mixed with the scent of her milk and of her soft, soft skin. Her mouth was softer than rose petals, softer than the brush of hair against his cheek, and now that they were locked in such intimate contact, he could feel how she wanted him, how his little tricks of speech and seemingly-innocent touches through the past month had affected her.
She certainly hid it well, he thought smugly, but she is mine now.
But she was trembling in his grip, and so he gently eased away and stared into her foggy eyes. Softly blue and hazy, they peered up at him through the mantle of her dark hair. "What—" she started to say, but the look on the goblin king's face took her words away.
"Sarah, you belong here," he said. "With me."
She shook her head in confusion. "But—but I am—" She stopped, rubbed her eyes, and tried again. "I am not…whole…Jareth. I love it here in the Labyrinth. But—" She cast her eyes down to the cradle.
"Love, I want you," he said, becoming slightly frustrated at her apparent lack of understanding. "Both of you. You are everything to me, and she is as sweet a babe as one could ever hope to find. You belong here, and I don't care about anything else."
She looked skeptically up at him, and he sighed, turning her in his arms so that she could face him without craning her neck like that. "Sarah, what happened to jade you so badly?" he asked. "Not all people are here to hurt you. Precious girl, I could never hurt you. What will it take for you to trust me?" He looked at her, really looked, and she felt his eyes staring straight to her soul. Sarah shuddered at the terrible, wonderful threat in his gaze. Mismatched, both ice and fire but nothing safely warm lay within those eyes.
"You are a woman grown now, Sarah. I grow weary of constantly being a mask, of hiding myself to keep your childish illusions alive." His eyes burned as he leaned closer to her. "I love you, Sarah. You have the strength within you to become immortal. Beautiful girl." Jareth reached out and traced one finger down her shiny waterfall of hair as it flowed past her shoulder. "Please. Trust me."
He saw the war going on within her eyes, knew that whatever decision she made here and now would last for eternity. It was too soon, too soon to ask this of her even after her month living within his castle. But he couldn't wait any longer. It took all his willpower not to cast a spell of simple coercion, but he knew he couldn't. This had to be Sarah's decision alone.
She burst into tears.
Strangely enough, Jareth didn't think this was the end of the game. He reached out and touched her warm shoulder. Sarah stepped forward, into his arms, and she clasped her hands at his back, holding him.
"Dear one," Jareth whispered, and he enveloped her in his strong, warm embrace. She cried into his shoulder, her arms holding him tightly.
"But…" she whimpered. "Can I damn my baby to the Underground?"
Jareth pulled away just far enough to look into her eyes, a little wounded that she thought a life here would be a life damned. "Can you damn her to a life up there?" he asked, cocking his head to the side and indicating upwards.
A flicker of surprise flitted across her face and she nearly smiled, but then she frowned again. "But…"
"Hush now. I want that child to remain human, and to be raised by both of us." He touched his lips to hers, kissed her nose and forehead and the little space between her eyebrows. "Please, Sarah. Will you not stay?"
"But what's in it for you?" Sarah demanded. "I don't mean to sound unkind, but you don't do anything without some gain to yourself."
"Few people do, child," Jareth murmured. "I want you because I love you, no other reason. And I want the child because she is a part of you." He looked at her, really looked at her in the damned infuriating way he had, where his eyes seemed to burn away all her defenses. "I will make her my heir, Sarah, if you let me. No harm shall come to either of you."
She leaned against him, weary of the argument, tears still flowing. "I do love you, Jareth," she said quietly. "I have since I met you the last time, when I faced you. Since the ballroom…" Her voice trailed off, and one of his hands snaked around her waist, rested possessively against her stomach.
"Do you trust me?" he asked.
There was a long silence before she answered. "I trust you, Goblin King."
Jareth's arm tightened, and he added his other one. Sarah didn't seem to mind. "Then I would ask of you a boon, Sarah."
"What?" she asked warily, refusing to agree to anything until she knew what it was.
"Tell me. Tell me what happened."