Inspired by a picture by Saniika on Deviantart of the same name.
Jareth stared unblinking through the frosted window at her. She was adorable, pouting petulantly in the corner in her little red dress. Through the haze the cold created he saw her wipe a chubby fist across her cheek, dashing away tears too little for him to see from so far away. He smiled as he looked down at the object in his hand. Red and white swirls twisted around each other in a sugary promise to any who happened upon it. He flicked his hand and it disappeared, waiting for him to call it forth again, along with the main reason he had for appearing to her so soon.
With one last look at his objective- how perfect she looked framed in that window- he closed his eyes and materialized in the room opposite the seven-year-old Sarah, waiting patiently until she pulled her beautiful eyes away from her shiny black shoes. Whatever he had been expecting as her reaction (he was ready to spend quite a few minutes in a sound-proofed room convincing her she was safe should she start screaming) it was not what happened. He had a strange feeling that in the future she would continue to surprise him.
Instead of screaming or crying or running she simply looked him over, curiosity burning in her eyes.
"Why are your pants so funny lookin'?" She asked quietly, quirking an eyebrow, mimicking so perfectly the haughty king himself. In that one moment, Jareth knew he could never let this enchanting creature slip away from him. He would do whatever it took to keep her near him, but with that emerged the truth that he would have to be patient and let her grow a bit older before he tried to take her away. Mortal were so wrapped up in their silly legalities regarding age.
Jareth looked down at his own outfit, a miniature version of what he wore just a few moments ago tailored to fit the small body he was now inhabiting. The tight purple breeches he wore were accented vibrantly by the red sash tied about his waist. Though he lamented that there was significantly less for his seven-year-old self to exhibit, he placated himself with the fact that it was a temporary adjustment and was all part of his plan. Still, he thought, what part of his outfit was amusing?
Sarah blinked once as she watched the strange blond boy stare at his own clothes and realized that he must be a bit slow. With a light smile she drew away the remaining tears on her face and pointed to the offending pants. "Why are they so tight?" She asked slowly. Jareth glanced at her and saw the smile directed at him. Quickly ducking his head back down again he berated himself for allowing a child, however lovely to embarrass him.
Regarding her from behind his protective curtain of white-blond hair he mumbled, "Because they do not impede my movements." He watched for her reaction, fearing above all else that she would laugh. She did not. Instead she cocked her head to the side, looking for all the world to be the picture of innocent confusion. He had to restrain himself from simply picking her up and whisking her away on the spot, age be damned. With a calming breath he lifted his chin and faced her, smirking as he rethought his answer.
"They're purple. I like purple," he said simply. Understanding flashed in her eyes and she nodded shrewdly, as if that was the most sensible thing he could have said. He smirked once again as she tugged at her dress, fidgeting with the folds of red satin. "I like your dress. It's… very pretty." The word was so far inadequate it made his teeth ache with the other words he wanted to give her. Charming, entrancing, captivating. All of these might have sufficed.
"I hate this stupid dress," She grumbled endearingly, glaring at the garment in question as she tugged a handful of satin away from herself. "My mom made me wear it so my aunt wouldn't tell her she's a failure as a positive female role model." The way she sighed the last bit made it clear that she'd heard that speech time and again and was quite sick of it. Jareth smirked and took a few steps forward, pleased when she made no move to back away.
"Why were you crying?" He asked, though of course he already knew. He had been watching her for longer then she would ever know and had seen what happened from his snowy perch outside the window. Sarah, caught up in a raucous game of Peter Pan with her cousins swung her makeshift sword a bit too enthusiastically and knocked over an expensive vase, effectively smashing it to bits on the flagstone. Her mother had turned a strange shade of purple when Sarah's aunt had fainted at the sight and practically dragged her daughter to her room. Sarah for her part had managed to appear amply repentant until her mother declared that she would have no more candy until she apologized to her aunt and was to stay in her room until dinner. Then, apparently not pleased with the punishment as it stood, she took away all of Sarah's new gifts, leaving her without even a small picture book to read. Until that time Sarah had been calm but when her mother began stacking her small collection of prized stories, her fairy tales with their gilt, dog-eared pages, she began to cry. This child though seemed to have an abundant capacity to surprise the Goblin King. Unlike other children when they were upset, she remained completely silent as her mother gathered all her beloved fantasies and left the room, closing and locking the door behind her.
Instead of shrieking and raging and beating her clenched fists against the floor, she shuffled into the corner and stood silently, letting the tears flow unabated down her cheeks. And that was how Jareth found her.
But instead of telling him all of this she blushed and looked at her shoes said, "I'm being punished for breaking my aunt's vase… It was an accident. Besides, it was ugly." Jareth ducked his head briefly to school his face before closing the distance, stopping a few short feet away from her. This close he could see how her tear reddened eyes seemed even marvelously green than usual.
"No matter. I have brought you a gift," He said smoothly, bowing slightly as he raised his hand to his sash. She looked up at him and he hesitated. The flush on her cheeks was lovely and as he glanced at her parted lips he formed a delicious new way to give her what he had brought, and to perhaps take something memorable away with him. Resuming his bow he plucked at the air and heard her slight intake of breath as the candy cane popped into existence between his forefinger and thumb, presented perfectly before her. He watched from under his shaggy hair as she wonderingly reached out to touch the garish red and white confection, relishing the intense uncertainty in her gaze.
"Do you want it?" He asked silkily and she nodded. When her fingertips were within a hairsbreadth of grazing the tip he pulled it back, rolling it between his fingers in a teasing show. "Then you shall have it, but I require something of you in return." Her eyes remained trained on the candy as he spoke but snapped to his face immediately after.
After a moment's hesitation she spoke, "What do you want?"
Clever girl, he thought, a pang of something akin to pride flowed through him at her wary inquiry. Obviously she knew he was no average mortal and thusly it would be unwise to agree thoughtlessly to whatever he said, he could see in the intelligent light in her eyes that she would politely decline if she didn't like the terms, no matter how much she might begrudge the idea.
"I ask for only this, a kiss." Her eyes widened as she flattened herself against the wall at her back, inching away from him. He could see that she was so close to rebuffing his offer, and he knew he would give her his gift anyway. But for some reason, now that he'd thought of asking for it, he had the acute desire to kiss her. He kept a firm grip on his expression, keeping the mask of haughty indifference in place as he stepped away.
"But, if you do not want my gift, then I shall take it with me." This snared her attention and the struggle of what she wanted and what she knew to be good sense played plainly across her face. He paused to adjust his gloves before sighing and turning slowly to face the window, watching her face from the corner of his eye.
"Wait!" He spun to look at her once more, noting the way her arm was outstretched toward him like he would disappear and never have been real if she could not touch him once. He strode closer again until she was forced to look up at him. She did, for a moment before tucking her chin against her chest and studiously gazing at the floor. When she spoke again it was so quiet he wasn't sure at first if she had said words. "You can have a kiss."
The powerful triumph that flooded through him was disconcerting for having won so small a concession. With one gloved hand he reached up and tilted her face upward with one finger. She complied, squeezing her eyes tight shut and twisting one small fist around the hem of his jacket. The look on her face melted something inside him that he hadn't known existed before meeting her. He smiled down at her slightly puckered mouth and decided that he would save the charming notion of feeling those lips against his for another time, instead tilting her face to one side and leaning down to press his lips against her cheek. It was softer then he could even have imagined and he lingered just a bit longer to breathe in her intoxicating scent, a mix of buttermilk and something unidentifiable but so pleasant he wanted to wrap himself up in it like a warm blanket.
Sarah blushed as the blonde boy pressed something cool and flat into one of her hands and something thin and round into the other. With something that sounded like a sigh he turned to speak into her ear, "Until next time, my dear."
When her eyes fluttered open he was gone, leaving her feeling the place his lips had touched her skin as a spot of fire as she looked at what he had given her. In her hand was the promised candy cane, plastic wrapper shining up at her in a promise of sweet, sticky goodness. But there, in her other hand was something she had not expected. A small, red leather bound book with gilt pages and gold lettering stamped across the cover. The Labyrinth. There was no author's name. She turned it over and checked the back, flipped it open and the title page bore the same two words.
She shrugged and ambled over to the cushioned window seat, settling herself with her the book as she plucked at the plastic wrapping of the candy cane. A flutter of white caught her eye out the window and she glanced up in time to see a large white barn owl flapping away over the moon tipped trees.
To this day she couldn't be sure, but she thought maybe she heard a sharp, somehow exultant trill as it faded into the distance.