A/N. Muses went on extended vacation. They sent a postcard though, so here is a somewhat filler-y chapter.
Disclaimer: Don't own them. Never have, never will, just borrowing the characters.
Maybes And Mistakes
Walking through the Goblin City freely was a strange feeling and Sarah half expected to be set upon at any moment, looking back over her shoulder for would-be goblin attackers or perhaps one rouge and irritated barn owl out on a revenge quest, but that may have just been her paranoia talking. Instead she thought she could hear the occasional awed whisper through an open window of 'Lady Sarah', but mostly she just listened to the ramblings of Alice and the Hatter, interjected with occasional questions of her own about what exactly a Jabberwocky was – asides a confusing piece of poetry she'd once studied – and how come the Bandersnatch was so feared when he was such a tame beast.
The latter had earned her a sigh and a shake of the head from Hoggle, while Alice had been delighted to know someone shared in her options of the creature.
All too soon though the castle gates loomed and Sarah's pace slowed until she came to a stop not four steps away from the great, towering wooden doors.
"Why are we stopping?" Alice asked, slowing down as well but stopping a step in front of Sarah, hovering with her hand stretched toward the doors. "Surely we should keep moving?"
Sarah didn't quite know why her feet had stopped, and didn't like the idea that her heart rate had definitely risen as they grew closer to their destination, and, by proxy, to the Goblin King.
"We're not," she replied stubbornly, forcing herself to put one foot in front of the other and her hands out in front of her to throw the doors open, the noise they made impressive as they hit the walls. Maybe she shouldn't have pushed quite so hard.
Behind her Tarrant apologised to the doors and Hoggle gave up asking the Bandersnatch to wait outside, dubious that the creature wouldn't just bite his head off, and so the entire party continued down the hall to the throne room, following Sarah who seemed to be stalking instead of merely walking, her shoes ringing out clearly against the stone.
"Are you sure she is alright?" Sarah heard Tarrant ask in a not all too quiet tone.
Hoggle's reply was muffled, but the response from the Hatter was vaguely agreeable.
The Labyrinth's Champion, however, had far more important things on her mind, like whether or not she was about to be turned into a toad. It was probably an exaggeration, and even she knew and understood that, but she couldn't help the more imaginative part of her mind running wild, after all she had beaten and humiliated a king and that was not something which could be forgotten so easily. She certainly hadn't forgotten it – any of it – and that was what worried her the most. She was not more than a few meters away from the doors which stood between little human her and someone who was apparently as mortal as she and had invaded more of her dreams over the years since she'd left than she would ever be willing to admit.
Sarah Williams was downright terrified, but not of the king, she was, she realised after she had one hand on the throne room door, terrified of herself. She was terrified of what she might say or do and, all rumours aside, of being completely crushed.
Jareth could hear the footsteps, he would have been surprised if anyone couldn't; his guests sounded at least as bad as the goblins, if not worse. He also decided that Lady Luck had to hate him today, honestly, truly, hate him and he wondered what he had done to invoke her anger.
At his feet two chickens fought over some scrap a goblin had dropped before he had ordered them all out of the room before more of them joined their fellow subject in flight lessons conducted from the throne room window. It was tempting to kick the clucking creatures, but the king resisted lest he bring down even worse luck. Luck, after all, did have a soft spot from the chickens, though it was anyone's guess as to why.
He knew – even before he saw her – that it was Sarah leading the rag-tag group into his throne room, and, judging by the racket she was not here for a peaceful reunion.
"You should knock first," Hoggle was saying, though no one was listening, and, rightfully, there were nerves in the dwarf's voice.
Tarrant too, had come to visit then, must have heard of the Red Queen's return and no doubt Mirana had sent Sarah along with him somehow. She did like to meddle the White Queen did, Jareth was really going to have to find her a less troublesome hobby, if nothing else then to allow him to get into his own trouble in peace.
"I'm here because Hoggle asked me to."
Inwardly Jareth flinched; Sarah had lost none of her haughty steel.
He really rather disliked that goblin earlier for reminding him just how he – unfortunately – felt about the girl because clearly she did not feel the same.
"And why," he began, keeping his voice cool and level, "Did Hoggle ask you to come?"
"He," Sarah raised her head, ever the defiant one. "He said that there was trouble and that I was needed."
The dwarf shrunk back, and Jareth, for the first time since their entrance noticed Alice, hand in hand with Tarrant who could not have looked happier about it, but also the Bandersnatch sitting contentedly behind Sarah, and wondered what it was with the woman and large, dangerous beasts.
"I was just passing on what I'd heard," Hoggle said from what he considered a safe and well fortified position. "What Didymus told me."
"Blasted fox, I'll ring his neck-"
"Leave Sir Didymus out of this, J-" Sarah stopped, breathed, "Goblin King."
"If my subjects are actively going behind my back then that is treason against the crown and they should be punished as such."
He had risen from his throne as he spoke, stalking down the steps, eyes fixed on the girl – now so much a woman – who defied and infuriated him at every turn, at every possibly opportunity, and cared not a whit for the consequences.
He saw something inside her snap, "And if you cannot care for them as you should then you are not fit to be king and deserve whatever fate has in store for you."
Then Sarah, Champion of the Labyrinth, turned and left through the nearest exist, the wooden door slamming loudly behind her, leaving everyone to watch the space she had just been stood in.
"Well, you old coot," Tarrant said finally, lightly and yet firmly, a peculiar amusement in his eyes. "You should probably go after her."
"Why ever should I do that, she has made her feelings perfectly clear."
"Because that was the door to the dungeons, unless you've redecorated or moved the tea rooms, which would be a bad choice of location for the tea rooms, far too damp and dark and-"
The realisation hit hard: he had imprisoned the crazy Red Queen and Sarah had just gone and stormed straight into her cell.
"That wasn't the word I was going for, but yes," Tarrant nodded, smiling widely, but Jareth was already gone, dignity as forgotten as the ring that that Sarah had dropped, the plastic piece of costume jewellery rolling to a halt by the Hatter's feet and he bent to pick it up, placing it in a pocket and began to search for more shortbread to share while they waited.
Jareth never heard Alice ask if they should go after him and help, or Tarrant's reply that they had already played their part for this act.