Rated T; not mine.
Shards of a Dream
"Jareth," Sarah murmured. It was somehow quiet, after the noise of the High King's reception –
"What?" Sylvie turned, her plucked eyebrows raised. "What did you say?"
Sarah felt a wave of vertigo. Her knees wobbled, as she looked up and saw the Goblin King, coldly beautiful, gliding down the stairs at the end of the huge hall. Last in line, the place of power, and walking down the steps now – right now, she realized, as he fixed the crowd with a haughty stare.
"Oh –" Sarah said.
"What is it?" Diana was pulling at her sleeve.
"Up there," Sarah gestured, feebly. She didn't need to pretend to feel faint; her head was swimming. "There's something – something's not right ..."
Gwen had turned to listen, and Sylvie was talking to her urgently, pointing. The blonde looked, and then gasped, "Oh bloody hell – quick, everyone," she grabbed Sarah's arm, "get her out of here."
"But what is it?" Diana asked, and, "She's new, from Above," Gwen replied, terse. "They say he can smell 'em." To Diana's unheard question, she hissed, "The Goblin King, idiot, he's here – get her out."
"Quick – the side room!" "Yeah –" "Watch the dress, watch the dress," and before Sarah knew it, her friends had closed ranks and bundled her out of the main hall. A door slammed shut, and she was deposited on a divan.
"Ouf," chirped Sylvie, "that was close."
"Too close." Gwen leaned against the door. "How the bloody hell does he come to be here, anyway? Da says he never gets invited."
"Who?" Sarah croaked, and, "Well, if my aunt is right, then the story goes –" Diana began, and Sarah could tune her out.
She bit her lip, and regretted it immediately, because it was – sore? Sarah blinked. Her lips felt chapped, and cracked in places; her legs felt like rubber, and – and there was a nasty burn on her right hand.
She stared at her reflection, in the mirror opposite the divan. At least her dress was laced again – But why would it have been unlaced?
Someone knocked on the door.
Her friends wheeled, and faced it, Gwen jumping away as though she had been scalded. "Who is it?"
"Could I have a word?" came a familiar voice –
– and that voice was all she needed, for the memories to come flooding back. Sarah stared into the mirror. Her hand hurt because he cast a spell on me, or tried to; her lips were chapped because I kissed him, again and again, and her legs felt weak because I stayed standing up, while he was – oh – her face burned. Standing up, or trying to, until he coiled the fingers of one hand into her upper leg, on one side and urged her to edge it up further, whispering, and then he placed a shoulder beneath her thigh and held her until she balanced and did it to the other and oh my god. Her back felt as though something had rubbed it raw. The pillar had, she thought, and what was he saying now, because something told her it might be important.
Gwen had arranged the other two in front of the divan, and stood between them. She was replying in a monotone to the Goblin King's low and honeyed words. Sarah saw Sylvie's hands, knotted behind her back, and trembling. There was something said about the ball, and the dancing; they each turned him down flat without him even asking, which made Sarah press back a giggle that was half hysteria. But then he said, "Before I take my leave, I believe one of you dropped something."
"A glove. Your Majesty is too kind." Gwen didn't pretend to sound anything but hostile. "But, so sorry, I don't think it belongs to anyone here –"
"Truly?" It sounded as though he was grinning; Sarah peeked in the mirror, which reflected almost all of the room – and yes, he was. The Goblin King looked distorted, in the glass – but the overall effect on her was as though someone had gripped her insides in a red-hot fist, and squeezed. Sarah closed her eyes, and pressed her legs together, tightly. "You see – and pardon me for being, ah, indelicate, Lady …?"
"Bronwen, of Forest Green." The rustle of a curtsy. "And these are my companions, Achren and Morwen, of Longsword Keep." More rustling cloth, and, "There now. Was that so difficult? How do you do," Jareth murmured, politely. "Lady Bronwen, to be frank, this glove's scent matches someone's in this room – someone who might just be behind you, as you can see – right – there?" He indicated the mirror with his chin.
"Ah, yes." Gwen stepped away, and fixed Sarah with an urgent stare. "This is, uh, Lady –"
Sarah blinked at her, and flailed, mentally, until she came up with, "Lady Krystal-Lee. Of, um, the Metropolitan Museum of Art – Park."
"Indeed." Jareth's mouth twitched. "Are you newly arrived Underground, my lady Christallë?"
"That's really none of your business," Diana snapped.
"Ah. And your family are all well, lady – brothers, sisters?"
Gwen cut in. "She doesn't have any."
"Hm." Jareth glanced back and forth at the others, who refused to look at him, and then he shrugged, and bowed. "Lady Christallë, I believe this belongs to you."
He held out the grey silk glove – his own. Sarah stared at it, heavily. Her scent. She blushed, and sweat began to bead on her forehead. Jareth saw it – she saw his eyes glitter, and then his tongue darted out over his upper lip, and good, because she wasn't the only person hot and bothered in the room.
Then she saw her friends; the fear on their faces – and Gwen making a minute motion with her head, side-to-side: No.
"I've never seen that glove before." She set her jaw, and looked away from him. "You have the wrong person."
"Oh, I think I very much have the right person … my lady …" and with his husky voice, she remembered his words whispering hot over her flesh as he licked her – god –
Sarah swallowed, and glanced around. Nobody else was looking at the Goblin King, or at her, for that matter – so she glared up at him. Bite me, she mouthed, but I have, he mouthed back, and tapped his upper thigh.
And, that explained the sore spot there. Shit. She shoo-ed him away, with a flicking gesture; his eyes flared. "You will not accept this small favor, Lady Christallë, as a welcome to the Underground?"
"No, she won't," Sylvie said, suddenly, in a firm voice.
Jareth paused. Out of the corner of her eye, Sarah saw him looking round the group of her friends. As though he were taking their measure …
"No," she agreed, clearing her throat. "Thank you, but I have sufficient favors already."
She carefully smoothed down her dress, and folded her hands, avoiding his gaze. But there was no way of avoiding the quiet sound of the feathers of his cape; rustling as he drew it close. Something tickled – Sarah bit her lip, and darted a glance down – and saw that a small white feather had fallen onto her bodice. Shit – she glared up at him again, shook her head fiercely, and blew the feather away with one quick breath.
Jareth watched it waft to the floor, his face impassive. Then he looked at her, and drew something out of the glove in his hand.
A ribbon – silvery … Sarah stifled a yelp. It was one of her silver laces. He had kept it, the thieving, cheating –
– and the memory uncoiled in her mind, slowly, as slowly as he had drawn her down on top of him, because she had been shaking – quivering, unable to stand even when he had eased her back down, and her bare feet had just started to slip on the floor because of the same sweat that was stinging her eyes and plastering her hair to her shoulders and back, and her throat was sore from crying out … and he had looked up at her, and smiled, slowly, and had drawn her down, down to the floor, and had caged her in his arms …
And then he had feathered a kiss over her cheekbone, and whispered in her ear: "Give me your favor, precious thing …"
Sarah stared at the Goblin King, mute. He was threading the silver lace between his bare fingers –
"Give me your favor, precious thing …"
– and his eyes … the expression kindling in his eyes made her shiver, and look back down again.
She saw the feather blur and vanish with a snap of white-hot fire.
A long moment passed – almost like a spell of silence, stretching …
But then Jareth spoke again, his voice quiet. "Then I will bid you farewell. And I might say to all of you, though, that Lady Christallë has an excellent taste …"
Sarah felt her face flush, and could hear his grin, as he finished: "In friends."
Oh, I am going to murder him for that, she thought, furiously, next week on Wednesday. Her heart pounded. Oh my god, next Wednesday – that's only ten days away.
She hardly heard the Goblin King leave; it was only a bit later, though, that Gwen hurried back with a jar. "The bastard, trying to slip you a favor, and you not a day Underground! Wait til my Da hears about it. And you wouldn't believe what he said to me, leaving," she fumed. "That someone had tried to hook you with a binding spell, and you obviously didn't know it. Here," and she drew out the stopper, and smeared a dollop of cream onto Sarah's right hand. "Does that hurt?"
It did – a strange sting – and Sarah said so. "Son of a bitch, that's a powerful glamour," Gwen breathed. "I can't see a thing. Sarah," and her voice was urgent, "did you eat or drink anything since you came here? Did you take anything, from anyone?"
"No." Sarah was only half listening; it was great, to watch the burn bubble and heal in real time. She carefully avoided thinking about the silver lace … ("Give me your favor, precious thing …")
Sylvie and Diana were defending themselves from Gwen's charges of negligence; Sarah let them fight it out for another moment, and then said, "Guys, whatever happened – it's OK now." She wiggled her fingers. "Nothing hurts anymore." The burn was completely gone.
"But we were just –"
"Looking out for me, I know. That's what friends are for." Even as she spoke, in a cheerful voice, something in Sarah's heart twisted. For all her bravado, she suddenly felt as though she might cry. He had just been here, but only just before that he had had her moaning, gasping, crying out his name … Sarah shuddered. It had all turned out all right, though, hadn't it? Wednesday, she thought. I have until next Wednesday night – I'll figure out something, to get him off my back –
Her mind promptly supplied her with an image of the Goblin King on her back. Sarah sucked in a breath. "Come on." She got up from the divan, and strode to the door. "I want to see the rest of this party." Anything for a distraction.
"Great – let's go," Diana bounced up off her chair, and Sylvie flitted behind her. Gwen closed the jar of ointment, set it down by the divan, and followed, frowning.
"Listen, Sarah," she began.
"It's all right – come on," Sarah coaxed. "Out we go." She urged her friends ahead of her. "I'll keep an eye out."
In more ways than one, she thought – because she would walk out that door, and if Jareth looked for her again, he would see her in the place of power. I'll protect them.
She squared her shoulders, and followed her friends into the ballroom dazzling in marble and gold, with the dancers in velvet and gossamer whirling round. A place of illusion and pretense, of fever dreams and sleepless fantasies. A sip from a bad glass, or a glance in a worse – the smallest favor taken unawares –
and body or soul could be lost …
Last in line, Sarah held her head high, and tried not to look around too obviously – but … there.
There he was. The Goblin King glided through the ballroom, cutting a swathe through courtiers fine and fey, who retreated as gracefully as they could. To Sarah's eye, their bows and curtsies were the only things that made them more than gorgeous mice scurrying to hide from a bird of prey.
Sarah watched could hardly hear Gwen's voice. "I'm really sorry, Sarah – I should have told you –"
"It's fine, Gwen – it doesn't even hurt anymore." She flicked her fingers in and out – easier than speaking, because her tongue felt thick in her mouth. Sarah felt herself sweating; the room was too warm. "It wasn't your fault."
If Gwen replied, Sarah did not notice.
"Not your fault," she whispered, to herself as much as to her friend. For was it somehow a fault – to crave, to want, to be in thrall to the whisper of a voice and the brush of feathered cloak? …
He has your favor, and she shivered at the thought. What does that mean – what if –
She had been warned. And she had still introduced him to her friends. And the story was set, from that point on … the memories splintered in her mind, like flashes of fire.
"Give me your favor," he had said, as he pressed a kiss into her hair, and gripped her upper arms, helping her slide further up on his body, so he could find her mouth and kiss her – and it was almost too much, after everything, and she could only make wordless sounds of want into his mouth …
"You kissed me," he murmured, then caught her mouth again, "You let me kiss you," again, and "Give me your favor –" Then he broke away, breathing heavily, "Give it to me."
"Say 'please'," and shit, she was falling asleep.
A hiss, his breath hot on her lips, and then, "Please."
"Was that so difficul'?" Sarah must have been asleep, for she was able to find one of her silver laces with the precision that comes with dreams … She pressed the lace into his hand, and kissed him back. "There."
Jareth made a strange sound – almost a rasping purr – and held her tightly. "And perhaps on Odin's day next, I may give you my favor?"
"Tonight, when we return?"
"Dream on, Goblin King."
"My love …"
Sarah took a deep, shuddering breath, and opened her eyes.
Her friends had warned her, and had told her the stories: A sip from a bad glass, or a glance in a worse – the smallest favor taken unawares – and body or soul could be lost …
They had never told her a story of someone who lost both.
But, then, she had never asked.
All the more reason to ask Jareth, next Wednesday.
Sheer disbelief rattled through her mind. Everything's turning up Sarah, and she bit her lip. How's that favor working out for you, Goblin King?
And of course she felt the air around her turn chilly, and of course her gaze snagged on the feather cloak, some distance away. As though she could ever see anything else, now …
Was he staring back at her?
Even with the crowd of dancers between them, and the heat from the packed bodies – or was it magic? – shimmering in her vision, Sarah could swear that she saw a smile on his face. As if he would whisper an answer, if she would have one. Quite well, precious thing, or Much as it will for you, precious thing, or Why don't you dance with me again, and find out for yourself?
"Goblin King, Goblin King," she growled. "You don't scare me."
Besides, a dark voice whispered to her: He's yours, yours ... yours, body and soul …
"Mine," Sarah said, swallowing hard as her skin prickled - at what? At the idea of burying her face in the soft down and sleek pinions of that cloak ... of wrapping herself in his lace and velvet, pressed against the sharp points and angles of his bones .... Entwined by magic, caught by his kiss, forever? ...
Who knows? ...
But she did know that her friends were safe. He could do nothing to touch them, because she had paid for it already … And she was safe, for now, because she knew her own power. And just for a night, in that place of illusion and pretense, of fever dreams and sleepless fantasies, even if he whispered Sarah or precious thing … or my love, for all the worlds to know … Sarah could pretend that his voice was one of hundreds, that no one had ever knelt to the Goblin Queen, and that no one ever would again.