~courtesy of the Easter (plot) Bunny~
Stretching, Sarah placed the last brightly wrapped Easter egg on top of the bookshelf.
'Done,' she sighed, looking around the room. On the table there lay a map, with coded directions leading to the treasure (a chocolate chicken). Toby would be here soon. Smiling in satisfaction, she grabbed a book and went to sit down to wait.
Finally, Sarah looked over at the clock in irritation: Karen should have dropped her brother off an hour ago. She picked up the phone and dialled her parents' number.
'Hey Dad, what's happening with Toby?'
'What do you mean?' her father asked. 'Isn't he with you? Karen said you came and picked him up.'
'What? Sarah, what's going on?'
'Um, nothing. I meant, what's happening with Toby tonight? Shall he have supper with me?'
'You're both supposed to come over for Easter dinner, remember? Sarah, is everything alright?'
'Yup. Everything's peachy. See you later!'
Sarah hung up the phone before her father could protest, and stalked out of the kitchen back into the living room.
'Jareth!' she snapped. 'Come here. Right now.'
For a brief moment nothing happened, and then the lights flickered ominously and, with a crack like thunder and a burst of sparkles, the Goblin appeared before her in all his glory, his long dark cloak whipping behind him, his hair blowing in the wind.
Melodramatic as always.
'Sarah. You called?'
'Damn straight I called. What the hell are you doing with my brother?' she snapped. No time for niceties.
'Relax, Sarah. He's perfectly safe. He's in my Labyrinth.'
'He's in the Labyrinth?! You mean the one with the head-juggling fire monsters and spiky cleaners and random pits that lead to oubliettes? That Labyrinth? And you say he's safe?!'
'For goodness sake, Sarah, stop making such a fuss. You know perfectly well that I wouldn't have let you get hurt, and that he won't get hurt, either.'
'Toby is six years old. What is he doing in your Labyrinth? Did you kidnap him?'
'First of all, I wouldn't have to kidnap him. You know that he likes me, and would happily come to the Goblin City. And second of all, I just brought him down for the afternoon, to play. There's no better place for an Easter egg hunt than the Labyrinth.'
Sarah thought about that, keeping her glower in place but working on controlling her anger. Okay, so probably Toby would be fine, and it would be fun to search for eggs in the Labyrinth...
'You shouldn't have left him alone, even to answer my summons.'
'Of course he isn't alone. What kind of a guardian do you think I am? He's with Sir Didymus.'
'Oh. Well. Still, you could have asked me first.'
'You would have said no.'
'Of course I would have said no! You're not his guardian. I know he's really into this whole "Goblin Prince" idea you have, but he's a human boy, and it's going to stay that way.'
'I know that, Sarah,' Jareth told her soothingly. 'I just wanted him to have fun. The "Goblin Prince Thing" is just a game.'
'Right, and that's why you still call him "Jareth" when I'm not listening,' Sarah muttered, but then she sighed. 'Listen, Jareth, I trust you not to hurt him. But don't do this again, okay? It—it isn't fair for you to take him without telling me.'
'I want you to promise, Jareth. I know how seriously you take your promises. From now on, you always ask me. And...sometimes, if I think it's just playful fun, I might even say yes.'
He held her gaze for a long moment, and then said, 'All right, Sarah. I promise.'
'Thank you.' More relaxed, Sarah flopped down on the sofa and pulled an Easter egg from between the cushions; it didn't look like Toby was going to be searching for them. She slowly peeled the bright green wrapping away and popped it into her mouth.
'You are a terrible hostess, Sarah,' Jareth commented.
'You don't count as a guest, Jareth. But if you really want an Easter egg, there's one on the bookshelf.'
Jareth flicked his fingers and the egg flew to his hand. 'I am sorry that you went to all the trouble of preparing an egg hunt only to find out that your brother won't be coming,' he offered, sounding quite sincere.
'It's okay. An egg hunt for a six-year-old can't be too complicated, so it only took a few minutes. The main problem is that now I have nothing to do for the rest of the afternoon.'
'Well,' Jareth answered, 'the "quest" that Toby is completing will lead him to my throne room. You can come and wait with me, if you like.'
'I guess it would be nice to see Didymus, we haven't hung out in a while,' Sarah said, more to herself than to Jareth. 'Okay, sure. No hallucinogenic peaches this time, though.'
'Will you ever get over that?' Jareth asked reproachfully. 'It was one time. And we both know you loved that dress.'
Before she could answer he waved his hands, and she suddenly found herself in the middle of his throne room. He was already sprawled in his throne, dressed in a completely different outfit than he'd worn in her apartment, watching her. With another wave of his hand, an armchair appeared beside him, and she sat down.
'Thanks. And that's not true about the dress. White is so not my style.'
'Which is why you have an almost identical one hanging in your closet, I suppose.'
'What?! You've been going through my closet?' Sarah demanded, flushing pink with embarrassment. Okay, so maybe she did have a pouffy white dress, but she hadn't been thinking of the peach dream at all when she'd bought it.
'Of course not. Toby showed me. He wanted to use it as a ghost costume in a game we were playing, but I said no.'
Sarah muttered mutinously under her breath; she was going to have to keep a closer eye on her brother when he came over.
'You know, this place isn't very clean,' she eventually said, as she did every time she came here, gazing around the throne room. Goblins frolicked everywhere, chickens squawked and feathers flew, and it was dark and dingy. 'Not sure I want Toby playing here, it doesn't look very hygienic.'
'Don't be ridiculous, Sarah, he's a little boy. He likes this sort of thing. I designed this room especially as a nursery for him—it's perfectly safe, healthy and "hygienic", as you put it; goblins and animals are house trained, I assure you.'
'Why on Earth would you design a nursery for him? You've never told me that before.'
'I didn't plan to tell you, but I got tired of you complaining about the state of this place.'
Sarah was quiet for a long moment.
'Honestly, though, Jareth,' she finally said softly. 'Do you really want to make him Goblin Prince? Is that why you're doing this, and why you made a nursery? Do you really want him to be your heir?'
'It isn't a choice I get to make, Sarah,' Jareth sighed after a moment. 'The oracles name my heir; even if I completely ignored him, he would end up succeeding me, somehow. All I can do is try to prepare him for it.'
'And there's nothing I can do about it? Nothing anyone can do.'
'No, Sarah. I'm sorry.'
'Thank you for telling me the truth,' she said softly, staring unseeingly around the room. 'At last.'
'I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner, but you weren't ready to handle it.'
'No, I wasn't.' For a long time they didn't speak. Sarah looked over at the man beside her, trying to picture Toby in his place. Jareth, for all his sarcasm and arrogance, for all the fear and anger she had felt towards him...was a good person. She knew that. He was strong, and he cared about his subjects. He wasn't cruel. Instead of just taking Toby away, Jareth had made sure that Sarah would be able to keep seeing him, even if he came to live Underground. He had been kind to her, and taught her a lot about the world and about herself.
Toby could have a worse role model.
'Does he know?' she asked quietly, and Jareth shook his head.
'I haven't told him, but he will figure it out on his own, given time.'
'Does this mean that he's going to live for eternity?'
'It's only forever, Sarah,' Jareth replied. 'No long at all.'
'But what about me? I'll only live for a few decades. I'll age, and he'll stay young. His parents, and all of his friends, will die. How can he be happy?'
'Once Toby is king, he can invite anyone he wants to come and live Underground. I'm sure he would be glad to have you here.'
'I'm not sure that I want to live forever, though, Jareth,' Sarah sighed, and for a time they were quiet again.
'This is all in the future, though,' Jareth finally told her. 'There will be time enough to worry about it. For now, just have fun, and cross that bridge when you come to it.'
'Yeah,' Sarah answered, 'you're right. Thanks for being honest with me, Jareth.'
'It's a nice change, isn't it?' he laughed, turning to smile at her. 'You're welcome. Just don't expect it to happen again any time soon.'
Sarah laughed, allowing herself to relax, and sat back to wait for her brother.
'Happy Easter, Jareth,' she said, absent-mindedly petting a chicken.
Le gasp! No ship!
Happy Easter/Passover/whatever else you celebrate, everyone.
Thanks for reading :)