Blood Ties and DNA Don't Lie
Sarah sat watching her crystal in her lap while the goblins were enlisted to pick up the paper from the floor while Jareth lounged with his snow globe and Cyril sipped tea from his mug. "Jareth?" Sarah looked up at her betrothed and he smiled.
"Can this show me my father? My real father?" she asked and Jareth nodded.
"If you want to know who the man is, aye, just ask it to show you." Jareth came to squat beside her as she steeled her resolve to solve a mystery.
"Please, show me my real father." She asked quietly and Toby's image faded to be replaced by a handsome man who appeared to be sculpting clay at a work bench. He was tall, lanky with a shock of red hair and sage green eyes, Sarah's eyes. Suddenly Jareth was laughing.
"What's funny?" She asked and he grinned.
"Ask Cyril to take a look." Was all Jareth could muster and Cyril stood, peered over her shoulder and promptly collapsed unceremoniously upon his arse on the floor.
"I'll be hornswaggled!" He muttered and Sarah glared at them both.
"Well, who is he?" She asked and Cyril smiled.
"That would be my son, Atherton, Granddaughter. I always thought you had eyes like my good wife. It seems they are indeed hers, since she also gave them to our son too." Cyril said reaching up to cup Sarah's cheek.
"Granddaughter? Really?" She asked almost giddy with shock.
"So it would seem." Jareth said grinning and then conjuring a crystal. "Atherton, your King wishes your presence. Do be a good chap and come post haste. Be prepared for a rather large surprise." Jareth said winking into the crystal before it vanished.
"Does he know where to come?" Sarah asked and Jareth smiled.
"Atherton and I are good friends Sarah. He'll know just to accept the crystal; it will bring him to me wherever I am." Jareth said returning to his chair.
"Wait, if my father is Sidhe why am I not?" Sarah asked and Jareth smiled at her.
"Simply because your mother was above ground her entire pregnancy and you have been raised in a world bereft of any decent magic love. Once you are underground for any decent length of time you'll feel your sidhe blood. You may even inherit some magic of your own in time." Jareth said and Cyril nodded.
"We are however lesser sidhe my dear, our powers are limited in comparison to his majesty's. For instance your father and I cannot conjure crystals or reorder time. But we do have a power that the king does not, we are not bound by the ancient magic so traveling between the under and above ground is easier for us. We do not have to wait for a summons." Cyril said and Jareth nodded.
"True, but then again you also do not have enough power to alter human affairs so the magic does not bind you." Jareth finished as a man who was indeed just a younger version of Cyril appeared in the living room covered in clay dust.
"What is the matter Sire? You called?" Atherton asked and Jareth grinned.
"I did my friend. Please be seated and try not to get dust on my furniture." Jareth teased and Atherton looked apologetic.
"You caught me in the middle of a project. I am rather dusty. Hello Papa." He laughed and greeted his father as he sat down.
"I have rather unexpected and big news for you. Cyril catch him if he faints." Jareth said, almost wickedly gleeful in his demeanor.
"Why would I faint? What are you hiding Jareth?" Atherton asked him dubiously and Jareth gestured to Sarah who was white knuckled with nervousness as she clutched her globe in her lap.
"Do you see this ravishing creature? I'd like to introduce you to my betrothed, Sarah. I would also like to introduce you to your daughter, Sarah." Jareth purred and Atherton swayed for a moment, but did not faint. He only looked at Sarah as if Jareth had just told him he was now the owner of the entire universe.
"My… daughter? Truly?" He asked, almost speechless and afraid this was all some horrible joke.
"Aye son. Her mother was Linda Williams. Do you remember her?" Cyril asked and Atherton just nodded, tears forming in his eyes as he walked over to kneel beside Sarah. He took her hands in his and looked deeply into her eyes.
"I remember. It was just a few weeks, I hadn't known she was married and when I did find out, honor made me sever the relationship. I didn't know, I never knew. You, you have my eyes." Atherton spoke softly, overwhelmed.
Sarah returned his gaze, her own eyes misting over. "I know. I only found out Robert Williams was not my father a few months ago myself, I hate to spring this on you, I don't expect anything, I just, I just wanted to know who my real father was." Sarah began to ramble and Atherton just reached up and tucked her hair behind her ears.
"Sarah, my beautiful girl. How could I be anything but overjoyed to know I have a child of my own? I only wish I had known long ago, how much I have missed. I have lived so close to you all this time and may have passed my own flesh on the street a dozen times or more. I pray you will let me be the father I should have been from the start my sweet girl." He said tears falling now. Sarah could only nod and she tentatively reached out to hug her father. He cried in earnest as he clutched her tightly.
Cyril, rather teary himself touched Atherton's shoulder. "A word in private a moment my son. Things you should know while you get cleaned up and stop making our Sarah dusty with your clay." Cyril said leading Atherton out of the room. Jareth handed Sarah a tissue to dry her eyes while they waited.
While Atherton changed into some of his father's clothes, Cyril told him about Sarah's life and especially the most recent shunning and abuse from the Williams'.
"I'll render him with my bloody sword! How dare they leave my child to die!" Atherton was furious and Cyril just laid a hand to his arm.
"Calm my son. You have your mother's temper. Right now Sarah is dealing with emotional woes we have only begun to mend. She will need us all right now; she is still under the age of majority in this world. We will have to take legal steps to lay claim to her officially else the Williams' can force authorities to fetch her back to them while they are her legal guardians. We have just a week to get legal matters in order and prove you are her father. Not to mention His Majesty wishes to wed her upon the New Year." Cyril said and Atherton choked.
"He bloody will not! Not in a week he won't. Not until my daughter is eighteen and not a minute before. I've lived aboveground for years; I know how things work up here. King or no, he will wait until my daughter has reached her majority." Atherton said storming back out of the room to face down his friend. They may have been of an age and been childhood friends, but even friendship came after being a father.
Jareth quirked an eyebrow as Atherton came storming back into the room. "Listen here you Libertine! My daughter will not be married one second before she is past her majority! This is not the dark ages anymore and even getting married at eighteen is scandalous enough! I'll not have her scandalized and that is final! You can bog me for all I care, friend, or no, she is my daughter!" Atherton growled and Jareth just raised his eyebrows.
"Finished barking at me?" Jareth asked as Sarah just sat there her jaw hanging in the vicinity of her chest.
"Not by a long shot. You had better tell me you have kept your hands to yourself too or so help me I'll cut off parts of you that you'd rather like to keep intact, I can still best you in a swordfight!" Atherton grumbled and Jareth held up his hands.
"She is wholly pure and untouched Papa. I am not so lecherous. She will remain a maiden until we are wed. I would not have her scandalized either damn you! I love her!" Jareth growled right back and Atherton visibly calmed.
"Good. But I remain firm on this Jareth. Not until her coming of age, which I am sure, is not long in coming." Atherton said turning to Sarah.
"When is your birthday love?" Atherton asked kneeling beside her.
"June the 23rd right after sundown so my mother said." She said and Atherton grinned.
"A midsummer's eve babe, a magic babe born on the eve of the solstice, when witches gather and the veils between worlds are thin. It is auspicious indeed. A fine day for a wedding too, I will condone a wedding no earlier young lady." Atherton said and Sarah smiled at him then looked over his shoulder at Jareth who was glaring daggers into his friend's back.
"I will not win this battle I suppose. The father's will supersedes even the King's when it comes to a daughter's betrothal. Damn it." Jareth grumbled and Sarah chuckled.
"It's not that long Jareth." Sarah said and Jareth frowned.
"It will seem an eternity actually. I will survive, unhappily chaste but such is the unfairness of life." Jareth said but did wink at Sarah to show he wasn't too terribly upset, at least not with her.
"You will live Jareth." Atherton said just as he noticed the bandages on Sarah's feet.
"Oh dear, what happened?" He asked concerned and Sarah paled.
"Frostbite, she's healing, she'll be fine. Miriam has seen to her." Jareth said, with a look that Atherton knew well. He'd get the details later when Sarah was no longer present. He knew to drop the subject from Jareth's look alone.
Atherton spied the globe sitting beside Jareth and laughed. "Where did you get that?" He asked and Jareth smiled glad of the change of subject.
"Your lovely daughter gave it to me for twelfth night." Jareth said and Atherton laughed.
"Well it is you and I was thinking of you when I sculpted it. Turn it over and look at the bottom." Atherton said and Jareth barked once in mirth. The both read "Master of the Labyrinth – Atherton Studios."
"I should have known I knew no mortal hand had done this. It was too bloody accurate." Jareth said and Atherton grinned.
"Who was it who dropped dead mice on me while I slept as children? Be glad BB guns had not been invented yet or else you'd have lost a few tail feathers." Atherton said and Jareth grinned.
"But you screamed so delightfully." Jareth replied and Sarah laughed.
"You were children together?" She asked and they both nodded and began to tell her tales of their misspent youths. By lunchtime her sides were aching with merriment.
"Oh, I cannot take anymore. You were both devils!" She said and Cyril wholeheartedly agreed.
"His mother and I earned every gray hair." He said and Atherton laughed.
"How is mum?" He asked and Cyril leveled a glare at him.
"Feisty as ever, angry that you hardly ever call on her and you know she refuses to come aboveground. The lack of magic makes her quite ill. You need to visit her boy." Cyril laid on the guilt thick and Atherton looked repentant.
"I know. I will, she'll adore Sarah. She never thought to be a grandmother as much as I never thought I'd ever be a father. Not found a wife myself yet and not for lack of looking for the right girl. But alas, not fallen in love yet, I thought I had actually with your mother. It was affection most assuredly, but when I found out she was already wed, and that I wasn't too terribly upset about it, I knew I was mistaken." Atherton sighed.
"How did you meet my mother?" Sarah asked curious.
"At a Shakespeare festival in the park, just a few miles from here, I was selling my pottery in the artist's market and she was acting as Perdita in 'A Winter's Tale'. It was September and the weather was rather nasty, cold, wet, and windy. I remember watching her valiantly try to act as if her hair was not flying into her face and her skirts weren't in permanent danger of flying up around her ears. I met her as she came off the stage with a cup of cocoa to warm her up and some consolations on the bad timing of an early winter. She was beautiful you look just like her." Atherton began, remembering another place and time.
"She was receptive to my outrageous flirting with her and for the next three weeks I was very happy. That was until Robert showed up at my shop and informed me that his wife would no longer be seeing me. I had no idea and I would have never taken up the affair had I known she was already wed. I am a knight and a man of honor. That was and is still a shame to me. However, I cannot help but also be overjoyed. Sarah, children are so rare and so precious to our kind. I never hoped to have a child of my own and I just cannot find it within me to be sorry that you are mine. Honor be damned." Atherton said and Sarah smiled and leaned over to hug his shoulders.
"It makes me happy too. I think my fath… Mr. Williams, always suspected and it just took him this long to agree to a paternity test at Karen's urging. My mother left us when I was ten and other than child support checks we never heard from her again. She died last year." Sarah said and Atherton nodded.
"I read that in the newspaper about her passing. I have so many regrets knowing what you have gone through. I hope to make amends. Starting with getting your birth certificate changed for starters and getting legal custody of you, I am not letting you set foot back in that house after what they have done." Atherton said, fighting the urge to track down Robert and put his fist into his face.
"Secondly, while I do not contest the betrothal, I also do not want to give temptation. Sarah will live with me Jareth and do not blow up at me; you know this is proper for a young lady. It will keep tongue- wagglers silent, in both the above and underground. She will not live with you here unmarried. My shop and my home are just a block from her High School it is convenient for her. You may come and call upon her all you wish, but she is sleeping under my roof." Atherton said and Jareth pinched the bridge of his nose. He knew Atherton was right, but damn the man for his unwanted moral direction.
"Alright, you win, again Atherton. I will however send some goblins to watch over her at all times for protection and your father and I will be calling upon her… frequently." Jareth said and Atherton nodded.
"She can go out only when her homework is finished. Do not wreck her grades. How are your grades dear?" Atherton asked and Sarah suddenly felt like a ping pong ball.
"I get straight A's. I never really had much of what you would call a social life." Sarah said and Atherton nodded.
"She keeps her A's Jareth, without your meddling or reordering time or you will be relegated to Friday night and Saturday's." Atherton said and Jareth growled.
"Now wait just a minute here! I will be there every evening at least to dine with her. I will not be denied her company. It's like severing a limb conceding this much to you, have a bloody heart man!" Jareth said and Atherton sighed.
"We'll work out the details. Now however it is lunchtime and I can hear your stomach rumbling from hunger. Jareth if you would be so kind as to feed her?" Atherton said just as if summoned Agnes came in rolling a cart in covered in a feast.
"Dinner you lot! I brought it in here instead of the dining room since the miss can't walk yet." Agnes began setting out the food on every available surface. Jareth had to practically wrestle Atherton for the privilege of fixing Sarah a plate.
Sarah just rolled her eyes. Her fiancé and father would drive her crazy before the day was out, she was as sure of that as she was sure her feet hurt and that she loved them both for being so dear and for proving they loved her. She had never dared hope that someone would love her, now she was surrounded by people who did truly love her. She felt high as a kite and happy and accepted for the first time in her life.
Both Jareth and Atherton agreed that Sarah would stay with Jareth until she was given the all clear to walk. However, Atherton would also be an extended guest until his daughter was free to leave with him. One extra chaperone added to the mix and if she had thought Cyril overprotective, her father made her grandfather look positively progressive and liberal.
That was until Cyril's letter back to his wife, informing her she was a grandmother was received. Dinner was being served when an adamant knock came to the door. There in all her glory was the Lady Egberta Didymus. She was stunning and elegant and made even Jareth look like a ploughboy next to her regal distinguished beauty. She was a grand woman, tall, refined and for a woman as old as she was, looked divine. She rushed into the room as soon as the doors opened, her skirts trailing behind her in a rush of silks and satins. She was waving Cyril's letter in her hand and her eyes looked positively demented with barely suppressed joy. "Is this true? Tell me true husband!" She exclaimed and Cyril smiled and gestured toward Sarah.
"Aye my love. It is. Meet your granddaughter Sarah. Sarah, this is your Grandmother Egberta." Cyril said and Egberta squealed and came rushing over to where Sarah sat in her Chaise, bumping her son out of her way with her hip in the process. Sarah loved her immediately.
"Sarah! Oh finally I'm a grandmother. Boy!" Egberta turned to scowl at her son.
"Yes Mama?" Atherton asked, picking himself up off the floor.
"I'll expect an explanation from you later on how this came about, however, now is not the time. Go fetch Sarah and I tea and we'll have a chat. Shoo, now all of you, its woman's talk." Egberta commanded and even Jareth, dumbfounded at the invasion of his home complied.
"Now pet, first, you call me grandmama please. Second, Cyril told me most of your woes already in his last letter to me, so no need to go over past history poppet." Egberta grinned as she pinched Sarah's cheeks.
"Oh I could eat you up. Such a pretty thing, you have my eyes." Egberta noted, turning Sarah's chin with her hand to inspect her. "And my nose." She added with a wink.
Sarah just smiled from where she sat getting the once over from her Grandmother.
"I cannot stay long sweetness; the above ground will make me ill if I stay much longer than a few days. There is such a sad lack of magic here, but even so, I could not stay away, not all of Jareth's goblins could have kept me from meeting my beloved granddaughter. I despaired of ever having another lass in the family, now I have you. Oh dear me we have some catching up to do." Egberta was a whirlwind of chaos as Atherton came in with a tea tray and was summarily dismissed again from the parlor. Egberta poured tea as she settled down in a chair to face Sarah.
"Now then, since time is short, I will not beat around the bush my girl. I don't know how many times we'll be together before this rush wedding. Seven months is no time to plan a royal wedding at all! Goodness me! So we'll get right down to brass tacks. Things you should know and those louts will fail to tell you, being men." Egberta began and Sarah's brain derailed.
"Oh, if this is about, you know, the wedding night, I sort of, well… I kind of know what happens in theory." Sarah began blushing ripe as a strawberry.
"In theory love perhaps, and you're scared aren't you?" Egbert asked and Sarah truthfully nodded.
"Don't be honey. It's a wonderful thing and Jareth is not going to hurt you, well not more than a few minutes of discomfort really. It passes quickly. But that is only partly what I came to tell you. The Sidhe courts, both Seelie and UnSeelie will want to attend your bonding ceremony. They can be vipers, you hold your head up high and proud. We are Didymus' and we come from a long line of noble and honorable Sidhe. It matters not your mother was moral, and it matters not you were raised mortal. Jareth loves you, you will be his Queen, and they will show you respect. Do not let them mock you, you do not have to put up with it, show them you are proud my dear. We Didymus' never back down from a good fight when we are in the right." Egberta said with a wink and Sarah laughed. She knew all too well from her Grandfather, even if he had been posing as a fox at the time.
"And dear, no matter what anyone says, know this for certain, because I have known Jareth since he was a babe in arms. He has never, not once in his entire life, given his seed to any woman. Being a bastard himself, he swore as a child and kept to his vow, he would never create a bastard of his own. He may have had intimacy with other women, but never where he would have been compromised and sired a babe. There are women who would like to ensnare a king in such a manner and many who have tried and failed. You will have enemies of those women Sarah. They will be the worst of the rumor mongers and the vilest towards you. Jareth is very, very powerful. He is an entity on equal status with the High King of the Seelie Court and the High King of the UnSeelie. He is both and neither and stands as Arbitrator between the two. He has been overly sought as a husband and always he has waited for love. He loves you, never forget that, no matter what anyone says or does Sarah." Egberta said and Sarah looked shell shocked.
"He's waited all this time? Truly?" She asked and Egberta smiled.
"Not in the same sense as you have dear. He is no stranger to what happens on a wedding night dearest. He has had liaisons before and he, if reputation is accurate, is very well versed in how to please a woman. He has just never given his seed… within a lover. Do you understand?"
Sarah nodded, still rather embarrassed by the whole conversation she hadn't expected to have and on Christmas no less.
"Good. Like I said, he's a man and isn't likely to divulge that bit of useful knowledge on you. They have their pride, useless as it is really. But this knowledge will save misunderstandings later. There are women who are going to brag they bedded your husband first. They may have played with him a time or two, but what he gives to you will go beyond what they ever shared with him. He saved that for the one who holds his heart." Egberta said patting Sarah's cheek.
"Now then, I do hope you will let me help you plan your wedding dear. I'm so very excited and happy. It would honor me greatly if I could help." Egberta said and Sarah was misty all over again. She'd lost count the number of times her eyes had leaked today.
"I'd love it. Thank you so much. Everything is happening so fast. I feel dizzy." Sarah said and Egberta leaned over and kissed her cheek.
"Aye love, I can understand. Jareth never does anything without causing major chaos in his wake. Be prepared for a lifetime of surprises and the unexpected." Egberta teased and Sarah smiled.
"I love surprises almost as much as I love him."
"Good, because you'll need to dearheart." Egberta cackled gaily and they simply chatted for a few minutes before Jareth barged back into the parlor.
"Chat time is finished. My parlor, my house, and I cannot believe I let you run me out of them you devious old shrew." Jareth harped but still leaned over to kiss Egberta's cheek.
"I love you too brat." Egberta simpered and Jareth bowed and returned to his chair followed by the rest of Sarah's suddenly expanded family.
Her real family, and the more she looked the more she could see herself in them all. She had her grandmother's and father's eyes and nose, she had Cyril's long fingers, she was tall like them too. Blood ties were evident. She had a family at last.
It was very late in the evening before everyone retired to bed and Jareth had to give a rather chaste goodnight kiss to his bride after he laid her in bed, under the watchful eye of all three of her guardians. Egberta insisting on sleeping with Sarah should she need anything in the night.
Jareth went to bed decidedly put out.
The next few days were ordered chaos. Atherton was on the phone calling lawyers to petition an acknowledgment of paternity, requesting emergency paternity testing and a court injunction for temporary legal custody on the basis of neglect and abuse. Jareth had gone to Sarah's frigid house, there was ice hanging from the banister, he took pictures. He then raided Robert's desk and found the test results that proved he was not the biological father and made magical copies for Atherton's lawyer.
It was difficult and took some financial greasing of wheels to get the wheels of justice moving quickly between Christmas and the New Year, but by New Year's eve, and a visit to a hospital for a blood test, Atherton was declared with 99.99999% certainty he was the biological father, the evidence of abuse was filed, the pictures of a frozen house, the electric company confirming it was Robert who had called to shut off service until January 5th, and a sympathetic judge later and a court ordered temporary guardianship had been established. The court would serve Robert papers and a hearing before the judge on January 17th would establish Atherton's status as legal father and from there Sarah's birth certificate could be legally changed. It was a mess of red tape, but Sarah at least was safe from having to return to the Williams' home.
She was torn, she would miss Toby abominably, however, Jareth's assurances that Toby would seek her out of his own accord gave her peace of heart at least.
Sarah also discovered her new father was quite independently wealthy and dabbled in art just for the fun of it. He'd been living in the aboveground for many years and the stock market had been exceedingly kind to him, seeing as his talents were foreseeing and he played the market like Vivaldi played a violin.
"You cheat." Sarah scolded and he laughed.
"No my dear girl, I take advantage of my assets. I can see what's going to prosper and thus I prosper." He said with a wink. Sarah grumbled.
"You cheat." Jareth grinned but saluted him just the same.
Atherton grinned. "It never hurts to be comfortable financially when I wish to play in dirt. Clay and paint are expensive." Atherton replied as he leaned back in a chair and stretched.
"Very true." Jareth winked as he sat at the table to look over Atherton's growing stack of legal papers.
"So this is all set then?" He asked and Atherton nodded.
"As far as we can go until a court hearing yes, once we get the court ruling, we can legally change her name at school and on her birth certificate. She's a Didymus and she'll have our name damn it." Atherton said and Sarah smiled.
"That will cause a stir." Sarah said and Jareth laughed.
"That and the rock on your finger will poppet no doubt." Egberta said coming into the kitchen looking rather pale.
"Are you alright grandmama?" Sarah asked and Egberta beamed, she'd never get tired of hearing that name.
"Just drained love, I'll make the New Year celebration, but after that I must go home. I'll be fine then." She said patting Sarah's hair as she sat gracefully in a chair. Her silvery white hair neatly pinned up in a loose bun. Even first thing in the morning she looked elegant and gracious.
"How are your feet this morning love?" She asked in return and Sarah smiled.
"Much better, they only are tender now and Miriam says I can walk on them a little today. Just to get from one room to another before I should sit again, Jareth is still under orders to carry me up stairs for one more day." Sarah said and Jareth took her hand and kissed it.
"Never a chore love, you weigh naught." He said and Sarah melted into her shoes. He was such a romantic, egotistical, pigheaded joy.
"Once she can climb stairs, she goes home with me you realize." Atherton said and Jareth frowned. Wondering if he could bribe Miriam to say Sarah needed ten more days of being carried around.
"No bribing Miriam either Jareth." Atherton warned and Jareth pouted in his chair rather dramatically.
"I'm not going to be far Jareth. You can see me every day." Sarah tried to appease.
"See you, but no touching, no kissing, no decent wooing, just dinner. You be happy about it." Jareth continued to pout and Sarah leaned over and kissed his cheek.
"But I love you." He seemed to cheer just as dramatically.
"Keep saying that precious, I'll need constant reminders." He said and Sarah chuckled.
"Of course." She said moving to sit in his lap at the table. "I love you, I will always love you, and it's only a few more months."
"I know." Jareth sighed; he only hoped to make it without snapping from frustration until then.
(to be continued…)
And here Yva J. you thought I'd marry her off at 17… oh ye of little faith… heh heh *tease* Plot twist ahoy!
Sorry for the delay, Thanksgiving is behind us, family and friends have gone home, I got some much needed SLEEP, and now we're back to ficcing.
Hope you enjoyed the curve ball, this chapter was really just establishing family, we can move on a little bit more rapidly here for a time, unless you really care about Sarah's chemistry homework. We're gonna hit highlight of her final few months of High School and such, but day to day routine would make this boring and unnecessarily LONG….
More as soon as I can,
Thank you all for your reviews, I'm so very honored and thankful.