The Lady and the Knight
Sarah sat under a golden tree, listening patiently as the little red fox on her shoulder chattered away at her in Japanese. She did not actually understand Japanese, so the listening was rather more like vacant nodding. She was almost certain that the fox in question could speak and understand English perfectly well, but after nearly three weeks in her company, Sarah had yet to trick her into slipping up and revealing that fact. Sarah had bought a phrase book, but she kept catching the fox giggling every time she pulled it out. It had been an interesting few weeks.
The little red fox looked up at the leaves fluttering above her head, a little matchstick case dangling from a chain at her throat. Her tail curled affectionately around Sarah's neck like a collar. It twitched occasionally to the beat of goblin music.
The music had been going for nearly an hour now; danceable, and just slightly disturbing. As Sarah couldn't see more than a handful of goblins actually holding any kind of instrument, she had a sneaky suspicion that Jareth was responsible.
She hadn't seen him yet, though, and that was odd...It left her feeling a bit forlorn and slightly agitated. Didn't he want to see her? Sarah frowned, pushing the thought firmly aside.
She and the fox watched a small goblin wrestling with a large blue electric guitar with the sort of bewildered amusement that often came with an unusual life. The guitar, distressed, was emitting wailing sounds that were clashing with the slightly eerie music that for all Sarah knew was seeping out of the walls. The electric cord of the guitar was trailing listlessly on the ground, tripping up dancers, but the guitar still managed to play. Sarah didn't even see any amplifiers about. Beside him a smaller goblin was swinging a cowbell energetically. With a small shudder, she saw a goblin in a helmet by the wall bringing out a pair of bagpipes.
"I think it might be time to get going," Sarah said with an anticipatory chill. The goblin, thankfully, seemed to be having some trouble deciding which tube to blow into. The fox leaped down off her shoulder in a fluid movement, and went up to the pale trunk of Marcus' tree. She extended one paw and touched it, then looked back pleadingly at Sarah with bright black eyes. Even without a common language or Marib hanging around to translate, Sarah picked up on the request loud and clear.
"You want up?" she said sweetly. The fox somehow managed to frown at her in a dignified manner. Lacking eyebrows and lips, it was a fairly impressive feat. Sarah stood and picked her up, ignoring the scowl, cooing over her. "Does the sweet little fox want up?" She asked in honey tones. Does the sweet little fox want to curse at me in a language I can understand? The fox declined to take the bait, but allowed Sarah to lift her up into a relatively low hanging branch. The sleeves of Sarah's white kimono fell back as she reached up, revealing the pale green undersleeves. The fox disappeared into golden leaves with a flash of ruddy fur. Sarah could swear she shook her little paw at her before she went.
Sarah dusted her hands off and felt a warm hand on the back of her neck. A warm leather-gloved hand. Her mouth curled up into a knowing smile as she felt someone leaning close.
"Tell me something, Sarah," said a voice in her ear. "Can you dance in that lovely costume?"
Sarah tugged on the fabric of her kimono and silently extended a foot past the hem as she turned to face him. Instead of the traditional wooden sandals, which would have been nearly impossible for her to walk in, much less dance, she wore little black slippers with straps. She had her mouth open to say something witty and probably suggestive (it had been weeks since she'd...erm...seen him), and left it open, startled.
"Can you dance with a child?" she managed, because he had one.
Jareth gave her one of his sharp smiles, looking quite wild and pleased with himself. The baby he held in the crook of one arm grinned at Sarah delightedly, clapping her little hands. Her hair was brilliantly orange, and she was wearing a little fluffy pink dress.
"Of course I can," Jareth said, lifting the baby up to eye level. "But you've already had a dance, haven't you?" he asked the child sweetly, and she squealed in delight, laughing and kicking her little legs. Jareth had laughter and sunlight in his eyes, and Sarah felt her conscience roar to life with a twang of heartstrings.
She reached out with a finger, and the babe obligingly wrapped her little hand around it, squeezing tightly. Sarah bit her lip, looking at the tiny, perfect fingers. She tried not to think of Toby. She'd just been back for a visit to her father's house, not long ago...
"Where did you-" she stopped herself, and scowled. "Who did you get her from?"
Jareth gave her a cool, appraising look, scooping the child close. The motion broke the grip the little girl had on Sarah.
"I can't see how that matters," he replied, glancing down as a goblin approached with reaching hands. Jareth passed the little girl off to the goblin nonchalantly. "She's mine now."
Sarah watched with a frown as the goblin danced about with her, twirling the babe around the courtyard in time to the slightly disturbing music. Jareth followed her gaze, and the music was suddenly brighter, almost jaunty. The baby laughed as the goblin tossed her into the air.
Jareth was abruptly much closer to her. He laughed softly into her ear. She'd forgotten how wonderful he smelled. Sweet and fresh; like something impossibly tasty, if she was willing to be honest with herself. Sarah felt a gentle tugging at the back of her head, and glanced back to see Jareth smoothly sliding the sticks out of her hair. Her hair spilled down the back of her neck and Jareth caught it in one hand, bringing it close to his face and inhaling deeply the scent of her. From the look on his face Sarah could guess that she wasn't the only one who was...remembering. It had, after all, been a lot longer for him than it had been for her.
Sarah took a step back, reaching up to sweep her hair back over her shoulder, out of his grasp. Jareth narrowed his eyes, a little.
"Where are her parents?" Sarah demanded, trying very hard to ignore the baby's squeals of delight as her new companions played with her. The baby, at least, seemed quite happy to be here.
She knew she wasn't being fair. There were rules that had to be followed. Rules for dealing with magical creatures, and rules for magical creatures dealing with ordinary people. Marib couldn't say what he was unless his master allowed it. You got three wishes, not four. Vampires needed to be invited in. Sleeping Beauty awoke with a kiss, and you never, ever went off the path in a dark forest no matter what.
Jareth was still the Goblin King, even though he was no longer a prisoner of the land he ruled over. He didn't take children unless the right words were said. Once the words were said, he couldn't just give them back. Children had to be won back. Those were the rules of this place.
She knew she wasn't being fair, but she couldn't just...she'd been on the other side of it, and the memory of how that had felt made her want to force him to at least feel bad about what he was doing. Wasn't that the right thing to do? Looking at the expression on Jareth's face, Sarah suddenly wasn't so sure.
"Tell me," he said sharply, annoyed, "does she look unhappy? Mistreated?" He gestured at the baby without looking at her, as if too confident to bother. Sarah looked. The baby was ecstatic, giggling and squirming in the adoring arms of her new playmates. There was something endearingly mischievous about her face, as if she'd had a bit of goblin in her even before being wished away. Sarah tore her eyes away from the baby to look at the goblins surrounding her.
The fellow with the electric guitar was strutting around proudly, pelvis first, leaving a wake of tripped and stumbling dancers behind him. Marib had two or three of the small ones on his shoulders. As they were mostly piles of fluff it was hard to tell exactly how many from a distance. The fellow with the bagpipes had two of his fellows crowded around, all trying to blow into the instrument at once.
The goblins were deplorably adorable. It certainly wouldn't be a bad life for the little girl...
"No, she looks happy," Sarah said quietly, somewhat cowed. She pressed her lips into a thin line as Jareth's eyes flashed in triumph.
"Now that we've gotten that little bit of idiocy out of the way," He said with a wicked smile, leaning close as if to kiss her. Sarah jerked her head back.
"But her parents," she insisted stubbornly. Jareth sighed and rested his head on Sarah's shoulder for a moment as if he needed to gather his strength. Sarah flushed furiously.
"Please," she said, lowering her voice. Her tone was suddenly softer, more private. Jareth stilled at the sound. Then he lifted his head, just far enough to press his lips to the corner of her mouth. Her heart melted into a warm little quivering ball in her chest. When he brought up a crystal between them, she was barely able to command enough brain function to look into it.
Reflected inside it was an image of a redheaded woman arguing with a slightly mischievous looking man in a suit. After a few moments of this, a blond woman came in and started yelling at both of them. Sarah couldn't hear what they were saying, but from what she saw, she would guess that the blond was the man's wife, and she wasn't very happy.
"Oh, dear," Sarah said, her eyes widening. The blond woman had just slapped her husband in the face. The redhead was edging for the door.
"They don't even remember they ever had a baby," Jareth said quietly. The redhead looked at the man for a moment before she left. She seemed young and rather angry.
They certainly looked like they had more than enough troubles on their own.
Jareth saw the look on her face, and made the crystal vanish with an elegant flick of his fingers. Then he put a finger beneath her chin and lifted her face to look at him.
"Is my Lady satisfied?" he asked, not without some humor. Sarah tilted her head and lifted one side of her mouth in a half smile.
"Dance?" she offered, not answering him. She supposed she was as satisfied as she was going to get.
Jareth's eyes brightened, and he pulled her smoothly out onto the dance floor. The setting sun illuminated the tree over their heads, seeming to set the golden leaves alight with orange fire. The light caught Jareth as it slipped closer to the horizon, making him glow and sparkle. He looked like an angel. She didn't know if he'd done it for effect, but he was dressed in shades of gold, and the fire kissed him too, making him seem far too beautiful to touch.
Sarah reached up and let a few pale strands of hair fall though her fingers, transfixed by what she was seeing. He looked very pleased with her reaction, and Sarah lost any doubt that he'd planned this. He'd probably timed his entrance to get the best out of the light.
Jareth saw the sudden, good-natured suspicion in her eyes, and smiled like a creature that could never be tamed.
The music swelled all around them, above and below them, and Sarah looked down with a start to see that they were dancing a good seven feet above the ground, on thin air. The golden leaves of Marcus' tree sparked just above their heads, and when she looked out at Jareth's labyrinth, she could see the sunset had cast all of it with ruby light. Like the whole of his world had been touched by fire, just for a moment. A few curious fairies flitted close, and they, too, sparkled in the dying light.
"I wanted you to see this," Jareth breathed, "after being away so long." He turned her carefully in his arms as they floated in mid air, so she was nestled close to him. Below them, the cheerful cries of goblins floated up with the music. Jareth started singing quietly in her ear.
He hadn't sounded reproachful in the least when he'd spoken to her. It was as if, to him, it did not matter where she went, so long as she came back again.
But still...She wouldn't be gone so long next time. She didn't much like it, and from the strength of Jareth's grip on her, she could imagine he didn't care for it either. Sarah had missed him. It was good to be back home.
Sarah shivered slightly, pleased. Staying with Jareth was much less about where her feet were than where her heart was. She'd worried that the long absence might have been too hard on him, but it certainly seemed like he'd been keeping himself busy.
She was distracted, for a moment, by a delighted squeal of laughter from the baby girl below them. Sarah glanced down and saw one of the goblins had set her on his shoulders and was running across the courtyard with her.
"Tell me," Jareth said softly into her ear, "How long were you going to stay with me?"
Heart, not feet.
Sarah looked up at the golden, beautiful thing that held her. Then out at the fire kissed landscape spread out in front of them. Faintly, from below, Sarah heard the mangled sound of bagpipes. The question was coy, and slightly arrogant- Jareth had stacked the deck in his favor. She rested her head back against Jareth's chest with a sigh.
"Forever," Sarah said, and smiled.
Edit:7/25/10- "In Dreams" for your prologue pleasure, "The Villain and the King" for those of the sequel persuasion.
(sniffling)"Happy ending," Skeep said, blowing his nose loudly.
(patting him on the back) And there's more to come, you'll see. A few one shots.
(Tiny Jareth gives me the eye)
(nervously) With smut! Well...at least a bit.
- the story with what Marcus is planning for Toby might get told later...if I ever feel like making a sequel to this.
Lixxle- definitely not Marcus's tree. Every time smut happens on Marcus' tree, an angel gets her wings, a fairy dies, and Jesus kills a kitten. It's a special tree, and not in a mentally challenged way. Though I suppose trees aren't actually all that bright. It's relatively intelligent, as far as trees go. What was I talking about?
deh6799- Marib didn't really kill anything. He just made it so the labyrinth was never alive in the first place. It is still a perfectly ordinary magical structure, that will change and befuddle runners far into the future, but it is no longer alive, and while Jareth is still the Goblin King, he is now free and no longer trapped without choices in his own kingdom. He's not a slave anymore (beams).
FaeriesMidwife- gosh, my very own stalker!
Thanks to all my reviewers for all your encouragement (you guys are the ones who kept me going on this fic), Kore-of-Myth for being my kick-ass Beta, and Lixxle for...general awesomeness. Awards will be passed out after drinks and a show.
(passing Skeep and Jareth colorful drinks garnished with many umbrellas, and settling us all firmly in front of the couch)