Epilogue

"O! she doth teach the torches to burn bright..."
Romeo and Juliet, Act I, scene V

In the broken hall of time and memory, Jareth sat alone beneath a crumbling stone arch.

The great clock was silent, a fine cobweb pattern of cracks covering the glass dial. The golden door at its base hung open, the insides a wreck of lifeless gears and springs; around it, shards of rock floated in timeless suspension high above the winding maze of the Labyrinth. This was a haunted place, a ghost of a dream-- during the day it did not exist. If he were to climb the steps at noon there was nothing but a flat rooftop, moss and weeds growing between the paving stones.

It was only at night that Jareth could find his way back, icy draughts caressing his face and hands as he ascended. It was only at night he could look upon the ruins, a reminder of all that had been and all that would never be.

Light flared in the darkness, a sphere as fragile as blown glass. The Goblin King cupped it in his bare hands, breathing life into it as one might coax a dying spark into flame. He waited.

Tendrils of magic coiled around him, glittering as though a galaxy of stars lay bound up in the swirling mist. There was little enough power left to him, that was true. But day by day it grew, and now it was sufficient for what he needed. The crystal grew warm under Jareth's touch, glowing like a captive moon. It hovered just above his outstretched fingertips, and the light within began to shift and shape itself...

All the other windows in the house were dark but one, a dim square of light softened by the sheer curtains. The oak tree outside had just begun to turn and a girl leaned upon the window frame, reaching out to pluck a single crimson leaf. It was autumn and the nights would soon grow cold, but on this night there were neither moon nor clouds, nothing to shroud the starry expanse of sky stretching above her.

Starlight, star bright, first star I see tonight. I wish...

The Goblin King held his breath at her audacity, but the girl didn't finish the sentence. She stood unmoving at the window for a long time. Jareth drew the crystal close, feeding out power the way a spider spun silk. She was a silhouette, a shadow. One stray breath and the vision might vanish.

The girl tilted her head as though she were listening to a song on the wind. She brought the oak leaf up to her cheek. It smelled of old paper with a bitter memory of woodsmoke, reminding her of someone she knew long ago. The bedside lamp illuminated her briefly, a face that had not yet lost its childish roundness, skin as pale as winter.

Jareth's hand closed hard upon the crystal in something like despair. Time passed more slowly in the Underground, and he did not have forever. It would seem a lifetime...

But the gleaming sphere did not shatter; he could not bear to look away.

She lifted a hand to the cool night air as though she were testing the wind. For just a moment the light caught her eyes, sparrow-brown and sun-gold, green as the moss growing on the north side of an oak. It was the promise of spring and summer to come.

The Goblin King had not meant to speak her name, not now or ever again-- but the word escaped him nonetheless, soft and hungry. Aboveground, the call of an owl pierced the night. The girl started from the window, the leaf forgotten, and then...

Jareth might've sworn she whispered to it, pressed it briefly against her lips before opening her hand and letting it flutter away into the darkness.

The crystal dimmed and the Goblin King tucked it into his sleeve as he stood, feeling the ache in every limb that came from hours of immobility. As he descended from the tower, the mist had already begun to dissipate and the first grey light of dawn streaked the eastern sky. Tonight, he promised himself. He would summon all the birds of air that were his to call, and he would send them to fetch a scarlet oak leaf, one that bore upon it a whispered message and the kiss of summer.

A cool breeze swept dew from the roof tiles and scattered them across the empty courtyard. Water droplets landed upon the back of his wrist, beading upon his skin; it tasted of cedar and stone, damp moss and clouds. The Goblin King closed his eyes. Once he'd had nothing but time, but now...

Only dreams and visions would fill his days. There would be many more nights spent gazing upon the ruins. Jareth slipped one hand inside his sleeve, pressing something cold and hard against his breast where it might be warmed a little by the contact.

He would wait.

The End


Author's Note: This is the last of four parts, and I do not currently have plans to continue. It was written for Wiccarowan, who decreed that it should not have any longterm Jareth/Sarah pining or angst. In that spirit, I've included less than two months' worth.

Comments/reviews welcome.