January 8th. Sarah checked the date again, just to make sure, for the millionth time, that she hadn`t gotten it wrong. Nope, it was January 8th alright; Jareth's birthday.
Did she have the courage to do this? She had planned to, prepared herself for it, but could she actually bring herself to do it?
It's not a huge deal, she told herself stoutly. He's always been nice to me, and I've always been a bitch to him. This is just...a peace offering. He'll know that. He'll know it doesn't mean I'm going to let him spirit me away to God knows where for eternity. She sighed and flopped back down on her bed. This was complicated. She had never willingly gone to Jareth before.
Over the years since her adventure in the Labyrinth, though, they had developed a sort of...something. The word friendship wasn't accurate, but it was the closest one she could think of. He would randomly appear and talk to her, refuse to leave, remain in her life against her will, but he would also help her with homework even though she never requested it, would listen to her rant about her problems—because for some unknown reason she always opened up around him and ended up telling him everything—and would give her advice that was always sound. Whenever she was in a situation that he considered dangerous—out alone at night, etc.—he would either come himself or else send someone to protect her. And perhaps most importantly, he always tried to make sure she had fun.
On her last birthday, her 19th, she had failed an exam, been yelled at by her stepmother, argued with her father, made her brother cry and found out that her boyfriend—whom Jareth had warned her about repeatedly—was cheating on her. It had been a terrible day, and she had been all prepared to cry herself to sleep when Jareth had appeared and, somehow, made everything all right. He had sent his goblins to play with her and entertain her, and despite her foul mood she hadn't been able to keep from laughing. The party they had thrown in her room had lasted for hours, and somehow far more of them had been able to fit inside than she would have thought possible. Stars and fairy dust had sparkled across her room, everything had floated, and it had, all in all, been a fun and magical evening. Jareth had also brought her a gift: he had tossed her the crystal just as he was leaving, and she had caught it by reflex. There was no horror within, though, and the glassy orb had dissolved at her touch to leave in her hand a beautiful silver necklace, adorned with a shining pendant of a sickle moon. As she gazed at it she had thought she heard the words, very faintly, I'll place the moon within your heart…
…but she couldn't be sure.
So now it was Jareth's birthday, and she wanted to do something to show him that, even though she didn't want to leave behind her life to join him, she did appreciate what he had done for her that evening. She took a deep breath—this had to be done carefully.
"I…I wish…I wish I was with the Goblin King right now, but-that-when-I-clap-my-hands-I-will-be-transported-back-to-my-room.' She said that last part very quickly, wanting to be certain that it was included in the wish, as then gasped as the world began to fall around her.
When Sarah materialized again, she was somewhere that she hadn't seen in over four years: the Castle beyond the Goblin City. Jareth was sitting in his throne, looking more depressed than she had ever seen him, as his goblins tried vainly to cheer him up. When he looked up and saw her, though, a strange myriad of emotions passed swiftly across his face: surprise, shock, wonder, love, confusion and, finally, worry.
'Sarah!' he cried, leaping to his feet and striding towards her, goblins in toe. 'What's wrong? Are you hurt? What happened?' He grasped her shoulders and drew her protectively towards him, glancing around for danger. Sarah winced as she realized that he assumed that the only thing that would make her come to him would be mortal peril; she had ever given him reason to think otherwise.
'No, it's nothing like that,' she protested. 'Nothing happened, I'm fine. I just…I mean, I came because…' He released her and took a step back, still looking worried, and Sarah sighed; this had happened much differently in her imagination. 'I just wanted to wish you a happy birthday.' Once again, surprise and wonder flashed across his face, and then he smiled his beautiful smile, gazing softly down at her.
'You wanted to wish me a happy birthday?' he repeated, his face radiant with happiness, and Sarah couldn't help smiling in return.
'Yeah. You…you make my last birthday a happy one, so I wanted to try to return the favour, however I could. Happy birthday, Jareth.'
'Thank you, Precious,' he replied, still smiling. Sarah held his gaze for a moment, realizing again how very beautiful he was. Incomparable to any human, powerful, handsome, magical, kind…and he had chosen her. For whatever reason, he wanted her. She hurriedly looked away before she could get lost in his enchanting mismatched eyes.
'Yes, well...yeah. You're welcome.' There was a pause, and Sarah began to feel awkward. She was just about to say goodbye when Jareth cocked his head and spoke again.
'Sarah, I realize that I hardly have the right to ask anything of you, but...could I make a request?'
'Sure,' she replied cautiously, wondering what he would ask.
'Will you dance with me?' Jareth was watching her carefully, vainly trying to mask what was clearly a deep fear of rejection. Sarah glanced away, uncertain, at a loss for how to respond. She hadn't expected this.
'Just one dance,' he quickly added. 'I won't enchant you, and you can leave whenever you like.'
In that moment he seemed more vulnerable than she had ever seen him before. Since that fateful night in the Labyrinth four years ago, he had never asked anything of her, except that she tolerate his presence in her life. He had always offered, always given, his help and support and affection, and never asked a single thing in return.
One dance. Could it hurt? She glanced back at him, still uncertain. Just a dance. And he was kind, and she did like him, and she was, in spite of herself, attracted to him—she'd have to be made of stone not to be. Why not?
'Um...sure?' He smiled and offered her his hand, and, tentatively, she took it.
And, although she remained fully conscious, she was pulled into a dream. The goblins had disappeared, and they were alone in the throne room. He had his arms around her and the touch sent tingles up and down her spine as he twirled her more and more quickly through the air. Then, all of a sudden, they weren't inside anymore. The soft music followed them as they danced beneath the star-strewn sky, and although she still wore just jeans and a t-shirt, she felt as though she were dressed in a magnificent gown. Jareth pulled her close to him, clearly revelling in her presence, her touch, and she wanted to close her eyes to revel in his, but couldn't bring herself to cut off any of her senses.
Why was she here? It didn't matter. For this moment, just this moment, she could be a princess, she could have the life that she would have had if she had chosen differently four years ago. The sounds of nature—the wind in the trees, water lapping at the shore of a lake, animals softly calling to one another—added to the swell of the music, and Sarah's head spun with an overwhelming onslaught of sensation and emotion. She was dancing with Jareth. He was holding her in his arms, his eyes smiling down at hers, the whole world before them. There was no threat in his touch, nothing but joy and tenderness, and there was nothing but beauty in the world.
She was no fool; she knew why she had rejected him, rejected this, rejected her dreams, she knew what was waiting for her back home. But just for a moment, she could choose to forget it, choose to live as she truly wanted to, with the man who she truly...truly...
His hands closed gently around her waist and he lifted her into the air, spinning her around, her hair flying out behind her, and her thoughts were scattered in the wind of joy. He pulled her close again, but they were still spinning, and she realized with wonder that they floated about the silvery waters of the lake, turning gently, intertwined. She laid her head against his chest, and she could hear his heart, beating so fast, in perfect time with hers. Jareth. Why was she afraid of his love? Why was she afraid to give him hers?
Sarah couldn't say how long they stayed there in the sky, beneath the moon and stars, her life, at least for a moment, the epitome of wonder, of perfection. Only when the eastern horizon began to lighten did he pull back slightly, and she looked up into his eyes. He lifted a hand to gently touch her face, and she felt that his fingers were trembling. Sarah leaned unintentionally into his touch, drawing a shuddering breath, her eyes still locked with his. She didn't want this evening to end. It had to, though, and she knew that. She had a life to get back to, and couldn't spend forever dancing with him. Tonight meant...well, it meant something, although she wasn't certain what. She had to make sure, though, that he didn't take to mean more than it did.
'Jareth,' she said softly, and was amazed at how it felt to say his name. Jareth. She found herself wanting to repeat it again and again. 'Jareth,' she repeated, taking another tremulous breath, trying to remember what she was going to say. 'Jareth, tonight...' But before she could get any further she felt his fingers brush across her lips silencing her.
'It's all right, Sarah,' he told her gently. 'I know.' He smiled down at her, a smile so filled with sorrow and tenderness that she felt her heart might break. 'Whatever happened tonight,' he whispered, 'we can leave here. Here, between the stars.'
Sarah nodded, unspeakable sadness sweeping through her. Jareth drew her to his chest one last time, and when he pulled away they were back in his throne room. Outside, the stars were fading, the light of day chasing them away, and the music of the night was slowly dissolving into silence.
'Do you have a way to get back, or did you just decide to trust me?' Jareth asked her, drawing her eyes from the window.
'No, I have a way back,' she assured him. His face was all but impassive, but she still saw it fall slightly at her words, saw a stab of pain slash through it. 'Not,' she added quickly, 'not that I don't trust you. It's just that...'
'I understand,' he told her, clearly suppressing his sadness, and a moment later he smiled. 'Thank you, Sarah. Thank you so much for coming tonight. It was...the greatest gift I could have gotten.'
'I was glad to give it,' she answered quietly. The moment stretched on and on, time and space and forgotten choices held frozen between their eyes, between their hearts.
'I should go,' Sarah finally said, and he nodded.
'Farewell, Sarah,' he replied softly, 'my beloved Sarah.'
Slowly, she lifted her hands and clapped them softly together. Then, in the moment before she vanished, she leaned forward and brushed her lips against his cheek. But before he could respond, before she could move away, she disappeared, and he was left alone, treasuring the memory of the shadow of a caress.
Happy birthday David Bowie!