Disclaimer: The only thing I claim to own is the insane idea that formed this story. Everything else is borrowed… except the ottoman that Sarah trips over. No, wait… I borrowed that too. Damn.
Summary: Sarah chose loneliness over disappointment while her heart dreams of true love to find her. Jareth has a blonde moment and is mortally wounded, ending up at Sarah's doorstep. Can she save him? If so, can she save her dreamer's heart before it's too late?
A Dreamer's Heart
Sarah dabbed at the moister under one eye, sniffling as she closed the romance novel. "God, I love happy endings," she murmured to herself, grabbing a tissue to blow her nose. Rising from her chair, she placed the book on the shelf in the vacant slot next to all the other romance novels she had read, running her fingertips longingly along the colorful bindings along the shelf.
Sometime during her high school days Sarah had traded in her fanciful dreams of castles and princesses for alluring men with mystical eyes, lean muscled bodies, wind blown hair, and the ability to take the heroin's breath away with a single glance.
She was an avid subscriber to the top romance publishers, automatically receiving the latest release via special delivery. Having become addicted to this particular genre, she adeptly read an entire book within a single night, always yearning for the fateful meeting, the stubborn denial, the ever present yearning, and of course the happy ending.
She walked away from the bookshelf feeling a heavy weight upon her lonely heart, as she always did after reading a good story. Her own existence had never quite fulfilled her dreams, no matter what those dreams had been. Her acting career had fallen flat. Her attempt as a novelist failed miserably. Her two marriages had left her wanting and unhappy, leading to quick divorces.
She had gradually become more and more recluse over the years, not wanting to risk meeting someone for fear that he wouldn't be the one she longed for in her heart. Yet, she grew tired of being alone, having no one to share anything with. But that wasn't entirely true either. She had a few friends in the small town several miles from where she lived.
They were good people who, after she had lived in her rustic cabin house for a few years, had finally accepted her, and included her in everything. From weddings to funerals, birthdays and graduations, to the annual cook out where everyone brought something to eat, and if you left hungry it was nobody's fault but your own.
She smiled wistfully, glancing at her reflection in the mirror. She was thirty-seven years old now, and still got away with passing for twenty-eight. But that didn't soothe the burning in her heart, that feeling that 'Mr. Right' was out there somewhere looking for her, suffering the same yearning feeling that she constantly tried to ignore.
"So, what did you do, Sarah?" she asked her mirror self cynically. "You moved to an isolated area where nobody could find you. You locked yourself away with that stupid idea that 'if he was really looking for you, he'd find you, no matter what!'" She sighed sadly, glancing away from her reflection. "You've filled your heart with such high romantic notions that no mortal man could possible live up to your expectations."
She pushed away from her bureau with dramatic flare. "Well," she announced with optimism to an empty room, spinning with her arms wide. "That's what they make movies and books for!" she reassured herself, soothing her laden heart for the time being.
With a lightness to her step, she made her way down the hallway, through the living room, and finally entered the kitchen. With a happy tune whistling from her lips, she pulled out a frying pan to make herself a little snack before going to bed, and a BLT was what her palette desired, so a BLT it was going be.
She was flipping the bacon when she thought she heard a faint thumping noise coming from the outer back door. Frowning, she strained her hearing to listen closer, then shrugged at not hearing anything. Whistling once more, she thought she heard the sound again, and became quiet once more.
Lead by curiosity, she placed the frying pan on the back burner and cautiously stepped towards the enclosed porch with the outer back door. "Is someone there?" she asked, just loud enough to be heard from nearby. She heard shuffling noises in the dried leaves just on the other side of the thin framed screen door.
Without fear, Sarah squared her shoulders and quickened her pace towards the door. "Buster, is that you?" she called fondly with a smile on her lips, referring to her neighbor's hound dog that always got loose. "Did you smell the bacon, boy?" she asked pleasantly. She opened the half screened door expecting to see the brown and black dog wagging his tail, and looking up at her expectantly. But it wasn't a hound dog she found looking up at her as she opened her door.
Her pleasant smile fell from her face at the sight of frightful, yet familiar, little faces that stared up at her from the darkness outside. She gasped harshly and pulled her door closed quickly. "Shoo!" she yelled, able to see them through the screen in the top half of the thin wooden door. "Go on, git!" she added, flapping her hands in shooing motions.
"Lady help King?"
Sarah staggered backwards at the sound of a voice, of coherent words being spoken to her! She stumbled, tripping over her ottoman in front of her wooden chair. She reached out a hand to grab the arm, but ended up on her ass anyway. "Go away!" she yelled, her voice full of fear, and something else from deep within her mind that she had locked away long ago. She scurried backwards on her ass, hands, and feet to reach the solid back door of her house.
"Lady help King?"
"No! Go away!" she screamed, her voice full of terror as she scrambled to her feet to run through the doorway.
"King will die! Lady must help King!" a different voice pleaded.
"No!" she whimpered, slamming the inside door with a resounding bang. She slammed the bolt lock into place so hard that she pinched the palm of her hand, but didn't feel it as she sunk to the floor with her back securely against the solid door.
"This isn't happening," she murmured to herself. "They're just raccoons, yea, raccoons scrounging for bits." She almost had herself convinced until she heard the soft thumping on the outer door again.
"Lady help King," the first voice pleaded insistently. "King let Lady go home with baby."
"King is hurt," a second voice stated. "King will die if Lady not help."
"Go back where you came from!" she screamed hysterically. "Leave me alone!" She pulled her knees up to her chest, her heart pounded painfully against her ribs, her throat felt raw and dry, her face wet with tears as she hugged herself tightly.
"We have no magic left," the first voice told her. "Magic brought us to Lady."
"Why won't Lady help King?" the second voice asked, sounding desperate and confused. "King won't hurt Lady," the voice continued, sounding bereft. "King helped Lady to go home." There was a moment's pause. "Lady?"
"It's no good," the first voice stated remorsefully. "She don't care. She'll let him die."
Through her own fears, her own tears, Sarah heard the hopelessness in that voice. She actually 'felt' the grief that filled the air when they became quiet. She closed her eyes, breathing through her mouth to avoid sniffling, and knew what she had to do, what her conscience would make her do.
"Wait," she whispered, her voice barely breaking the silence. "Don't go. I'll help."
She rose to stand on leaden feet, noticing her cut for the first time as she unlocked the inner door. Ignoring the tinge of pain that she hadn't felt a moment before, she stepped out onto the porch, feeling her way along the wall as though blind, even though the light from the kitchen more than amply lit her way.
"Where is he?" she asked, despite the cold feeling of dread that filled her very soul. The five round faced goblins turned at the same time to face the darkness, one of them pointed with a small hand.
"King is over there." He pointed into the darkness, then looked back at Sarah with hopeful eyes. "Lady will help King?"
She nodded, feeling like a puppet on strings as she opened the half screened door. She stepped down the wooden steps, searching the night for the King these creatures spoke of. She was about to give up and run back inside when the glint of something shiny caught her eye as it reflected the light from the house.
As she moved closer she could make out the prone form lying on the ground amidst a pile of leaves. Reaching his side she took in his unconscious state; his armor still donned his upper body, though his black attire was ripped and shredded from his arms and legs, and all the blood that covered bite marks and lacerations within his flesh on his limbs.
"What happened to him?" Sarah whispered as fresh tears formed in her eyes at seeing such a majestic being lying so inert and defenseless.
"We don't know," the first goblin answered. "We got a summons for help, and found him like this. Magic brought us to Lady, not home."
"Help me get him inside," she stated, her voice stronger with resolve.
"We have no magic," the goblin insisted. "King is too big."
"Then we move him the old fashioned way." She stood up and positioned herself at his shoulders, placing her hands under his arms. "You two," she commanded firmly, pointedly looking at the two in question. "Take hold of his leg. You two, take hold of his other leg. And you," she directed at the last goblin. "You open the door for us to get inside."
"This isn't right," Sarah mused under her breath, gently removing his clothes and armor to tend his wounds. The first goblin stepped closer with curiosity at her words. "He has wounds 'under' his armor," she stated with confusion. "These are puncture wounds, bite marks, on his foot, yet his boots weren't even scratched." Her eyes lit with sudden realization, her mind bringing forth everything she could remember about the King of Goblins. "He was flying," she surmised with finality. "He was an owl when this happened!"
"Out!" she commanded the goblin, rising to her feet with purpose. The other goblins were already sleeping in the other room, exhausted both physically and magically from helping their King. "Go sleep with your brothers, I don't need you hovering over me."
"Dink defend the King!" the goblin stated, puffing out his chest defensively and raising his little axe.
"You defend the King from the other room. I'll try to save his life in here!" Sarah stated authoritatively, pointing out of her bedroom.
Dink glanced at his King with worried eyes, but stepped back out of the room to do the Lady's bidding. "Lady will help the King?" he asked heartfelt.
As soon as she closed the door, she proceeded to remove the rest of his clothes, thinking how ironic it was that this was almost exactly the same scenario from the book she had just finished reading. Only she knew by the look of his wounds that she didn't have time to feel shy or embarrassed about stripping him down to nothing.
Once his clothes, boots, and armor were piled haphazardly on the floor, she covered his mid-section with a soft, clean sheet, feeling a flush in her cheeks despite her resolve. The sheet did nothing to mask his attributes, any more than his tight leather pants had. Forcing herself to focus on the task at hand, she rushed to her private bathroom, and filled the sink with warm water. She grabbed clean towels, a first aide kit, and returned to her bed to dump everything in the center of the mattress near his waist. Taking a washcloth from the pile, she went to soak it in the sink filled with warm water, wrung it out, then returned to his side.
She carefully removed his medallion from around his neck and placed it on the nightstand next to her bed, then began her administrations by checking his head for signs of trauma. Despite two nasty bite marks on his limbs; one on his calf, the other on his foot, and a deep laceration on his back, she couldn't find what had caused him to be unconscious.
"He couldn't have lost that much blood, could he?" she questioned aloud. Going over to his pile of clothes, she checked them again, but didn't find enough blood to satisfy her question. "Goblin!" she called, not surprised when the leader was suddenly standing before her, having magically transported himself into the room.
"What would happen to him if he was attacked as an owl?" she asked with urgency.
"I don't know," he answered, darting his wide eyes around the room fretfully.
"Would he bleed a lot? Would he change back to… King," she pointed at Jareth's form on her bed for emphasis. "If he was injured as an owl?"
"I don't know," the goblin answered insistently, becoming upset with helplessness.
"It's okay," she told the creature in a calmer voice, realizing that she was upsetting the little creature even more. She nodded her head affirmatively. "I think that's what happened. Whatever attacked him had to be big, like a mountain lion or a wolf... or a hunting dog," she added under her breath. She looked at the goblin, empathy showing in her eyes for the first time. "He's still breathing, that's a good sign," she reassured him. "I'll finish tending his wounds, and then I'll call you to come back in. For now, you go rest with the others."
The goblin left without any complaints, obviously too upset to even speak at the sight of his King helpless and bleeding. Sarah returned to the side of her bed and began the diligent task of cleansing his wounds one at a time, bandaging the deeper ones after adding ointment.
Sarah had become lost in a timeless void as she gently tended to Jareth. Humming a nameless tune softly to herself, she leisurely wiped the dried blood from around his cleaned wounds, then proceeded to clean the rest of him as well. She gently caressed the mildly soaped cloth over his skin, admiring the subtle muscle tone of his lean form, the softness of his skin, the silkiness of his hair. Dreamily, she gave birth to romantic notions, allowing her fascination of him to become as real as he was.
Finally satisfied that she had been thorough with her administrations, she collected the remaining medical supplies from the bed and placed them on the nightstand. She tiredly strolled to the kitchen to retrieve a bowl, finding all five goblins curled up together in her chair in the den, fast asleep. Returning from the kitchen, she half filled the bowl with fresh warm water, and seated herself on a bent leg at the edge of her bed.
Dipping a small washrag into the warm water, she wrung it out tightly, and took a lock of his long hair to wipe the dried blood from it. She had expected to find glitter, or at least some sort of magical particles, in his hair and was oddly disappointed when it simply seemed… normal. Somehow she had remembered him being glittery, glowing, sparkling, and powerful. But he wasn't any of those things as he lay unconscious. She concluded that that must be why, that he was simply too wounded to be extraordinary.
She placed the cleaned lock of hair to the side, and reached for another. She couldn't believe this was real, that he had been real to begin with. Somewhere in the sands of time, she had convinced herself that it had just been a dream, and nothing more. He was beautiful, though, at least she remembered that part right.
She dipped the rag into the bowl, ignoring how the water turned pinkish when mixed with his dried blood. She caught sight of a very small scratch at the back of his neck under his hairline. She wiped the dried blood from the small cut, smiling wistfully as it healed right before her eyes. 'Seems he's extraordinary after all,' she thought, taking hold of the next lock of hair to wipe it clean.
It was early afternoon and the sun shone brightly through the open windows of Sarah's spacious bedroom. The goblins had returned home after resting and regaining their magic, though they returned often, and unexpectedly, to safeguard their King. They understood that the Goblin King could not be transported, and that Sarah was helping to the best of her ability.
Jareth had been in her house for almost three days. Sarah had managed to get him to drink small amounts of broth, if not some water, though he otherwise remained prone and unconscious. She diligently cleansed his wounds, amazed every time she checked a smaller scratch or cut only to find it completely healed. But the three deeper wounds still concerned her.
She had him positioned on his stomach with his head facing the windows. It was easier to cleanse his back, and she figured it would hurt less to not have any pressure on the frightful laceration. It ran diagonally half the length of his strong, subtly muscled back. Starting over his right shoulder, the obvious claw mark tapered off just shy of his ribs on the left side near his waist.
She softly hummed as she carefully removed the old bandages, using a warm, wet hand towel to soak the pieces of gauze that had become stuck to the seeping wound. She had already run out of sterile padding and gauze twice, and had shamelessly told the goblins to go find more, showing them what the box looked like. She never asked where they got the replacements they had returned with.
She often found herself smiling wistfully, thinking again and again, how the situation reminded her of a romance novel. Only to remind herself of how this entire situation was far from a fanciful romance. He was the Goblin King, a magical being powerful enough to change time itself, to see through to her very soul, and capable of being as cruel as he was captivatingly beautiful.
Despite the raw and jagged wound that she took great care with, Sarah couldn't help notice how perfect the rest of his back was. His muscles were subtle yet perfectly defined, his skin was so soft and smooth, that she couldn't resist caressing the unmarred skin with her fingertips while applying her administrations.
Jareth slowly became aware of white pain seemingly centered in his back, though his leg and foot gave him notice as well. Groggily, he came out of the depths of nothingness, immediately sensing sunlight surrounding him, and a gentle touch upon the unmarred flesh of his back. He frowned inwardly long before he dared to open his eyes. The last thing he remembered was hearing a low growl and then blinding pain as a sharp claw knocked him out of the tree he'd been perched in. He had never been so careless in his entire life as to not sense a predator lying so close to where he had landed.
But he hadn't been thinking clearly at the time, if he were to make any excuse, which he wouldn't. He had tried to lure another female to remain with him, though she hadn't even reached the goblin city, and offered to return her sister home if she willingly stayed with him. Jareth had been appalled at the language the young woman had thrown at him, not to mention the hurt of being rejected, yet again. He had kept the child, and sent the irate foul mouthed female on her way.
After tending to the babe, and making certain she was cared for by a willing couple, he had flown through the portal with no particular destination in mind. He couldn't understand why no female would accept him. He was handsome, a king, and he asked for so little in return. So, why? That's about where his thoughts had been when he had suddenly found himself airborne with a thick gash down his feathered back.
He winced physically, holding his breath against the white flashes of pain behind his eyes. He sensed that whomever had found him was trying to be gentle, but the wound was angry, and it would take a long while for it to heal completely, even after he regained his magic. That was the catalyst that made him open his eyes. His magic. He felt it coursing throughout his being, but it felt strained, and exhausted.
'Surely I hadn't been wounded that badly?' he wondered silently. Vague images of sharp teeth and deadly claws taking hold of him flashed in his mind, of flapping his wings while screeching in pain, while being drug back down to the ground. 'Perhaps I was.'
He blinked in quick succession, otherwise remaining as still as possible, and focused his vision to gaze upon his surroundings. Surroundings that were alien to him, and not his castle chambers as he had expected. 'Oh, bother,' he thought resigned, a sinking feeling of dread settling in his gut.
Sarah knew the moment he had gained consciousness, though he tried to remain still. The wound on his back was too much for him to not bear down and clench his jaw, hold his breath, and tense his muscles as she cleaned the gook out of it and re-bandage it with fresh ointment. She continued her administrations quietly, being extra gentle knowing that he could feel every touch now.
She almost wished he would just pass out again, but that wasn't fair either. He needed to eat, if nothing else, and he needed to meet his goblins, who worried adamantly on his behalf. She knew she had to break the silence when he suddenly tensed completely, his hand making a fist by his side.
"It's okay. You're safe," she told him in a calm voice, biting at her lip when he visibly jerked at hearing her voice. "Goblin!" she called, just loud enough that he would hear her, then sighed with relief when Dink immediately appeared next to her by the side of the bed.
"KING!" the goblin exclaimed excitedly, looking as though he would explode with joy as he jumped and jittered in place. "King is all better!"
"Not quite," Jareth replied, his voice groggy from non use. "Who tends my wounds?" he inquired weakly.
"Lady helped King!" Dink replied happily, still bouncing up and down, and looked up at Sarah with pure happiness.
"What, Lady?" he asked precisely, pronouncing each word separately, though he already knew of whom his subject spoke of. She would be the only one in the Aboveground that his magic, or any remnant of it, would take him to if he became injured beyond his own capacity.
"The Lady King let go home with baby," Dink replied, ceasing his physical bouncing while being confused that his king wouldn't already know that.
Jareth let his eyes slip closed with a resigned sigh, realizing that he had been injured so severely that he had most likely appeared at her feet. He wanted to pretend not remembering her, just to avoid a confrontation, but he was too weak to successfully deceive her, and he knew it.
"Let me rest," he commanded tiredly, his eyes remaining closed as he breathed deeply. Just before sleep overtook him, he heard her command Dink to leave the room in a hushed voice, then felt the gentlest touch at the side of his face.
"Welcome back, Goblin King," she whispered, caressing his temple and cheek, then smoothed his hair from his face. "I just hope you're not as cruel as I remember you."
"How long have I been here?" he asked quietly, letting her know that he was coherent as she tended his back once again. She seemed to have a regiment, cleansing his wounds at least twice daily, and checking the one on his back more often than that. It seemed to give her great concern more so than the other wounds, and by the feel of it, she should be concerned. It hurt like hell.
Sarah knew that he was awake, that he was just resting with his eyes closed, yet she jumped slightly at hearing his voice anyway. The deep timbre of it from him not speaking frequently sent a chill through her that ended up becoming a warm flush to her insides.
"Five days," she answered simply, and continued her administrations.
"I don't feel as hungry as I should," Jareth commented casually "How were you able to give me sustenance while I was unconscious?"
"I fed you chicken broth," she answered. "It was the only thing I could get you to swallow reflexively."
"You've been very attentive to my needs," he remarked simply, his voice starting to return to its normal timbre.
'You have no idea,' she thought inwardly, feeling embarrassed at the extent she had to tend to him while he was unconscious.
"Your touch is gentle, considering," he commented.
"Considering what?" she asked, almost holding her breath as her hand paused over the bandage she was applying to his wound.
"Considering the last time we met."
"That was a long time ago," she remarked dismissively, continuing with her task. "I doubt I would have been this gentle with you back then, though."
"No, I don't suppose you would have," he agreed, comforted with the thought that she was being so amicable. "I will repay your generosity when I'm healed," he informed her decisively.
She placed a small piece of first aide tape over the edge of the bandage, using her thumb to adhere it to his skin. A warmth seeped into her hand from the contact. Entranced, she slowly caressed his smooth skin with her thumb, her fingers trailing along his side. She was completely enthralled by the feel of muscle that subtly outlined his back.
Her touch awakened something within him that had lain dormant for most of his life. The desire to be wanted, needed, that had nothing to do with his power or title. He felt her desire to touch him, to explore every muscle, under her fingertips. He closed his eyes, reveling at the feeling of her touch, as her thumb made tiny circular patterns over certain areas of his back.
He moaned deeply in his throat, snapping her back to reality. She withdrew her hand from him immediately and gathered the supplies from the bed. "You should rest," she suggested in a soft tone, leaving his side to put the kit on the nightstand. "You're going to have a horde of goblins popping in here soon enough. They're very anxious to have your attention."
'Apparently, so are you,' he thought, a pleasantness entering his heart as he let sleep overtake him.