A/N: So I finally watched Labyrinth for the first time recently. Throughout the whole thing I kept thinking "It's not great..." But then I kept thinking about it (especially Jareth. Of course). And found myself browsing through fifty-four pages of Laby fanfiction. And watching the movie again. And then this came out.
I like the fanfiction here, I'm not sure if I like my contribution to it, and I still haven't figured out if I love the movie. Oh well. This will probably be the only Laby story I write―probably. There are quite a few more pages of fanfics to browse if I decide to watch the movie again...
Disclaimer here I am just a puppet Jim Henson controls about to break into song... wait that's not right.
Forever (Not Long at All)
The first time she wished after returning from his Labyrinth used the same words of invocation―almost: "I wish the goblins would come take you away, right now―for an hour."
"An hour?" Jareth repeated, appearing behind her. She was seated at a desk with her head slumped forward to rest against the edge. "Really, Sarah, you give the babe you so fought for back to a child stealer, willingly?"
She looked exhausted when she finally raised her head and glowered at him―her eyes resembled sunken pits. "I know, I'm insane, but I'm never going to get back to my right mind to regret this if I don't get a chance to breathe without interruption from my beloved little brat." She gave him a false smile that was almost venomous and jabbed at an assortment of papers on the desk in front of her. "He's got a cold, there's no one else I can call, and I have to get this essay finished before class in the morning. It's worth twenty-five percent of my grade. So, yes, if I could please just have an hour here before going through the Labyrinth again to get him..."
She looked at him again and Jareth recognized her temper resulted from an acute lack of sleep. A potentially hazardous state, but he was disinclined to find fault in anything with this result.
"Thus is explained your need," he mused, weaving a dream globe around one hand absently, "But not your lack of concern. 'Give me my brother back, you monster―'?"
She glared at him, but it was half-hearted at best. Then she glanced at the playpen the baby was already gone from―as if he'd give her a chance to change her mind―and apparently decided to simply be honest. "He never goes to sleep anymore unless I sing to him. I'm pretty sure that's not a common result of going through a traumatic experience." She glanced back to him, dryly, and Jareth realized she wasn't playing by hero and villain anymore―the baby, of all things, had changed her perception of him, even if the new role she was attempting to cast him in was Goblin King the babysitter.
He smiled, appreciating the wary expression that immediately flickered through her weariness, and released the dream bubble to waft over to her until it vanished right in front of her face. "That balance is one-sided," he decided, and enjoyed the surprise and unwilling gratitude she tried to mask when he continued: "In thirteen hours you'll find yourself at the Labyrinth again―"
"And have thirteen hours to get through it," she demanded, distrusting―what's said is said, so now, more careful of her words, she tried to bind him with his.
That's Underground... He agreed.
He glanced in on her thirteen hours free occasionally via globes, as was his right since it was bartered time, even if she didn't know it. She slept, first, as soon as he left, and then she wrote on her paper and went to school and returned home and slept again. He grinned when she woke in front of the Labyrinth, grumbled, and shouted to know how much time she'd inadvertently wasted. When no answer came she swore under her breath and set off for the entrance at a ground-eating jog, bypassing all the friends she could have reunited with and making for the castle with single-minded determination.
By the time she reached it her temper had cooled, her face tired again. Jareth kindly refrained from setting the goblin army on her in the city this time, but was still taken somewhat by surprise at the lack of hostility she directed at him as she climbed the last steps into the throne room, after spotting the baby asleep on a blanket in the circle sunken into the middle of the floor.
With a flick of a globe Jareth created a second chair next to his. She took it, without comment, and leaned back and closed her eyes with a brief sigh, then left herself that way.
"Can I ask you something?" she asked after a moment without moving, while Jareth lazily studied the shape of her face in some repose―it was the first time they'd inhabited the same space without her jabbing accusations or spitting bravado.
Jareth inclined his head, which she couldn't see, and she went on anyway: "You're not... mad that I won."
More a statement than a question, but not quite either with the note of uncertainty in her voice. Jareth rolled a globe between his fingers holding fragments of speech and dreams unseen, and gave her an answer true in return: "You climbed the Escher stairs." Her eyes opened and frowned, puzzled. "As I did, Sarah."
The frown remained. "I had to, to get to Toby―" She shrugged self-deprecatingly. "And it's not like I could figure out how to navigate them. He kept getting farther and farther away from me."
He leaned back and chuckled, letting the globe wink into fairydust, replacing it with a peach. "Hungry?"
She stared at him, eyes narrowing in calculation. "I knew that was from you. Hoggle was scared about it."
"But you ate it anyway?"
She looked away, suddenly uncomfortable under his gaze, and the anger and accusation that had flared in all their encounters during her first run returned. "You think I'm stupid? Six tiny little pomegranate seeds and Persephone was bound to Hades for six months of every year―I told Hoggle to go share it with everybody else, and he got scared, insisted the peach was for me―"
Jareth almost laughed, recognizing the weakness revealed, but scorn won out. "And so you ate it, less concerned for yourself than for your friend."
"Well you seem to be more a tyrant than a king to your poor subjects, the way you threatened him just because he chose to help me―"
"A prince is a prince even if it's of stench, after the princess kisses the frog―"
She jumped from her seat, for a moment so outraged she could only sputter. "Did―you punished Hoggle for my actions? You―that―"
"'That's not fair'?" Jareth drawled, enjoying her fury, knowing that phrase would only pique her further.
"You―" She glared. "If you ever lash out at anybody but me because of me again I'll... I'll wish a hundred slobbering dogs onto you and your cats and chickens here!" She marched to the middle of the room and swept the baby into her arms, ignoring his startled cry as the movement woke him.
"You have no power over me!" And she was gone.
The next time she wished was much the same: she again looked a little older as she stood before him―Jareth, ageless, therefore noticed all the minute changes that time wrought in mortals for all he paid little attention to time's passing. "Same deal as last time?" she asked, not even glancing to the side as the baby vanished with the goblins' arrival.
Jareth swept them back Underground along the wake of his magic they'd followed with a glance around and commented, "I'm beginning to feel these wishes cheapened by such an attitude."
She rolled her eyes. "Please. Thank you. I'd really like to be able to spend a night doing nothing but whatever I want to for once―and I don't care if that sounds bratty. I'm very―" she looked like she'd swallowed something sour for a second, then pronounced, "grateful."
Jareth smirked. "Wherever are the child's parents, Sarah?"
Her expression flashed to real sullenness, not a whit lessened from the first time she'd summoned him. "On a weekend getaway." Again, whispered her mind, pushing at her tongue but blocked by the restraint she'd learned only after entering his Labyrinth. Of course. Why not. He nudged, and resentment bit: "I'm sixteen, I haven't thrown a tantrum at them in months, and I'm always available since I live here. Perfect situation for them."
"And so you respond by wishing him away to goblins―"
"I get him back," she pointed out, half-heartedly.
"But you're making a habit of it. And the first time you're just a little late..."
She glared, and he was almost surprised by the sudden fierceness of it. "I will never let you keep Toby," she ground out. "Why do you have to be such a―"
"Now, now, precious. I only grant your wish." He drew on his owlskin and departed while she spluttered, making a lazy flip outside her window before vanishing into the trees.
She ignored him at first when she reached the throne room, deftly stepping through the crowd of goblins he hadn't bothered to keep out since the baby was awake. At the edge of the baby's pit she sat down, reached for him and spent several minutes doing nothing but murmuring nonsense, waving his little arms and bouncing him in her lap. The baby seemed to like it. Jareth was bored, for all that he did much the same things with Toby to entertain him.
"Thanks for playing with him, you guys," she said to the goblins as she rose, balancing the baby on one hip. They clamored their pleasure at the recognition and made typical nuisances of themselves, which both she and Jareth ignored as she turned to face him.
"Enjoyed your time with the rock-caller and others?" he inquired, willing to be cordial when it was most likely to confound her.
"Yes." She aimed an irresolute scowl, then said, "You know I visit with them all the time―I just don't come here."
"They still have the strength to reach through your mirror?" He eyed her, flicked a globe into being and flicked it out again, and straightened from his idle sprawl on his throne. "Come here, Sarah."
Her back stiffened, expression turning wary. "What for?"
He flicked a globe into her face, and when she blinked they were standing on the stairs Escher modeled, the throne room gone from around them. "You walked in here the same as I did―letting go of what should have been an ingrained belief in gravity to do so."
"I had to," she repeated, holding tighter to the baby. "I was almost out of time; I had to save Toby. I just focused on him and the time and―panicked on purpose, I guess, so I couldn't concentrate even on knowing I should be falling." Then she shrugged, movement somewhat hampered by the weight on her hip. "And after a few minutes it was like how could gravity matter anyway since I couldn't tell what was supposed to be up or down anymore."
"Ah, but Sarah―" He walked over stone's edge, underneath her, coming up on her other side. "Gravity is a law, not a belief―it can't be dismissed because of mere inconvenience."
She frowned, uncomprehending. "On Earth maybe―"
He flicked another globe at her; she flinched and then glared, and was distracted by the mirror that had appeared in front of her―exactly like the one in her room, showing her room in its reflection. "Take yourself home, Sarah."
She glared still, suspicious as ever, before setting her chin and stepping up to it. She pushed Toby through the glass, and watched him land and fall on his rear on top of her vanity, too surprised to immediately react to his change in location.
Jareth laughed. "You remind me of the babe―"
"The babe with the power of voodoo."
For a moment she just scowled, trying to figure it out―and then she straightened and smirked at him. "Good―then I don't have to worry about my friends not visiting just because you get into a snit."
Jareth sneered, and she added just to taunt, "And you still don't have any―"
He sent her through the mirror before she could finish, and dispelled it before she could retaliate.
"Do you never playact any longer?" he inquired when the third time still saw no recurrence of histrionics or grand gestures, only If I have to spend another hour here right now I'm going to do something crazy, and apparently of course she wouldn't leave her brother behind.
"No, I guess not," she shrugged, seeming genuinely uncaring. "Partly your fault. No way would I risk getting up and saying those lines in front of an audience after you showed up the first time. And there aren't any other decent female roles in that play, so I just skipped it."
"Fantasy turned real, so you turn away from your dreams?" He swirled a globe as illustration, and she made a face at the incongruity in his words and shook her head, then shrugged again, shifting her position to cross her legs underneath her.
"My mother's an actress―she was always signing me up for lessons and dramas when I was little, so it was just normal to keep doing it even after the divorce. Especially since it irritates Karen," she added candidly. "But then I skipped that one and realized I really didn't care, so why bother? I've always known I haven't got the talent to become a star. You're a better performer than me, I think, the way you pulled off those last lines."
The accuracy of her perception pleased him, as her strength of will then had surprised him. Not many girl runners were able to resist his seduction even as young as she, the lure of their own curiosity and imagination too strong.
"Yet you still call them lines."
"Force of habit, then, if that bruised your mighty ego, O King." She rolled her eyes, and stared off into space.
Jareth looked at the globe and an image of an impassioned girl sweeping over grass in a silk-flower crown and white skirt arrayed over jeans, declaiming. "So none of it appealed?"
"Well... I've always liked the set designs," she admitted. "Sometimes the lighting and the special effects, if there are any. It takes more than just the actors to turn a makebelieve world real for the audience, you know? People aren't the same without places."
Jareth smiled, and let the globe fade.
"Kind of weird, how close the story was to the real thing?" she asked, glancing sideways at him.
"Each runner affects the Labyrinth's shape, and Escher wasn't the only one affected by it," he explained. "Nor is that playbook the only means to find your way here." Of those that remembered, most couldn't seem to resist sowing more temptation for more children Above to find.
"Huh." After a moment she mused, "Maybe I should switch to that. Backdrops... I've never taken any art lessons. Maybe costume design."
"Likely to still annoy Karen," Jareth pointed out, and she grinned, life sparking that had never appeared in that form in front of him before.
"There's a good argument. I'm a teenager, I can reinvent myself every year―and be as big a pain in the butt to them as they are to me."
"That thing you mentioned about a baby with power―did you mean it? Mean Toby?" she asked him, almost idly, after accepting a peach with a sweet smile and then tossing it into a knot of goblins opposite where Toby was playing with a call of "Ale inside!"
"For a normal mortal, it would be too soon to tell," he responded, choosing his words as a bit of revenge for her trick. She'd learned too well how to manipulate his creatures. "But as he's been spending time here..."
She sat up with a start, eyes wide and indignant. "You mean he's been changing because of you?"
"If you would just give him up, he might grow up able to do more than you can imagine," he cajoled.
After a moment she settled back with a huff. "No. I'm always going to come for Toby when I wish him away. Nothing you say will ever change my mind."
"But why, precious?" He spun another peach into existence, just to see her exasperated scowl. "You don't like the babe, nor want him. If you did," he reasoned inexorably, "you'd never have risked wishing him away a second time, much less a third or fourth."
She sighed, slouched, and stared out a window at hazy orange sky. "I take him back because he's mine," she said quietly, toneless―for all she no longer postured still unconsciously regulating presence and delivery. "And I wish him away because he's mine―because he's been mine since Karen started getting tired of the whole baby thing about a month after she got home from the hospital and shoving as much of his care as possible off on me, and I never wanted it and sometimes I hate him and hate her because I shouldn't have to be a mother, I'm only sixteen..." Her voice cracked. She sucked in a deep breath, still staring out the window, knees drawn up under her chin and arms wrapped around them. "I come for him," she said, quieter and tightly controlled as if she were afraid she might break, "because if I didn't after I'm stupid enough to wish him away, nobody else would."
One of the goblins in a gaggle playing with a shield larger than they were shouted as a squabble broke out. Sarah and Jareth both looked over―he noticed that apparently they'd been polishing it, for the metal was actually shiny―and then the goblins who had been playing with Toby let out cries of dismay. She and her brother were gone.
At some point wishing turned into calling:
―Toby's teething again, do you know anything better than this gel chewtoy thing―
―I want to show him the Fireys, why isn't the way backwards the same as coming in―
―I know you're there, Goblin King―
But still he allowed her incursions. With fewer bargains made between them Jareth rarely viewed her through his globes. Mirrors were as effective for him as for his subjects, and it didn't occur to him that she might need watching in some of the times she was away from her room. Time for him would never run out and though mortal she was still always young, so he paid little attention to the spans between their exchanges, confident there would always be another.
Since he rarely interacted with his goblins so personally as she seemed to, neither did he pay much attention when they ceased disappearing sporadically on visits to her. Happy or sad they were much the same―
And then Sarah crumpled into his throne room amid astonished din and pushed herself up, waving away the horde that scampered round her, until Jareth rose from his seat and banished them with a sharp wave.
"What did you―"
"Food," she demanded, and when he created a platter fell on it with ravenous focus.
Jareth resumed his seat and watched her pack away bite after bite as if she hadn't eaten in months, taking in the rest of her disheveled appearance and uncharacteristic acceptance of his creation, until she'd consumed a volume that surely would have satisfied a horse. Then he said, "What trouble have you made for yourself now, my precious?"
"Wasn't my fault," she said distinctly without pausing or slowing down. "Stupid tricky trolls refusing to admit they kidnap―"
Jareth sat up again, eyes narrowing. "Trolls?"
"Stupid portal bridges and they call those demands tolls..."
"Sarah." She looked up at him, irritably, but went still under the force of his attention. "How did you manage to give yourself into the power of the troll kingdom?"
She started eating again. "I was just practicing," she muttered, distinctly less clearly than before.
"And how you managed to escape here?"
Her expression turned mulish. "I've been able to come and go here for months, Hoggle and the others showed me how."
He rose and paced to her, deliberately, reining in wonder at her accomplishment and anger at her obvious carelessness, not even knowing what consequences she courted. "Sarah. How much magic have you been aping without any guide, any checks, any protection?"
She scowled, but he was implacable―she looked down, and resentfully, ungracefully, plunked a globe into his hand. He spun it up into the air and shattered it. The scent of honey filled the room.
"Just simple stuff, see," she defended herself.
"The extent you've managed."
She glared at him for a second, then produced another globe―he unfurled its contents in his mind rather than taking himself inside it and studied the creation dispassionately. Sight, static, melded with simple sound―the image of the carousel music box looked real enough, for all the mismatch of its stillness while the notes played. It floated in ether, devoid of surroundings.
"That's the best I've done so far," Sarah said, still eating, though slower paced. "I still can't figure anything out of how you can turn into an owl."
"And you won't, either," Jareth growled, dissolving her second globe with a thought. "Foolish thing. Do you still believe magic is nothing but wishes and fairness and the right words can render you invulnerable to it? After attracting trolls?"
"Well so far except for you I've yet to see any indication that magic can come with enough smarts to make it a real danger," she retorted. "I was careless, I admit, but now I know better. And would you stop going on about fairness―I never say it anymore, even when it's true. You think I haven't figured out after living this long that the world isn't fair? That doesn't mean people can't be―if they'd choose to."
Jareth took a deep breath and pinched his eyes shut, needing more effort than he'd expected to control his desire to dump her down an oubliette just to keep her safe from herself (and relieve his temper). "No more magic on your own."
Alarm flashed through her eyes. "You can't stop me learning―"
"On your own, precious. If you must insist on playing with goblin power then you will do so here, in the goblin realm, where your fumbling experiments won't produce a beacon to every hungry power lurking Above."
For a second she just looked at him, then shut her mouth. "Well okay then."
She looked down at the mostly empty platter with a vaguely surprised air, then cleared her throat. "Um. Yes. Thank you." She pushed herself to her feet with a sigh. "Any idea how long I was gone?"
"Guess I'll find out from the missing persons report then. With any luck maybe it's still summer vacation."
As she turned to go Jareth pulled her into his arms, feeling her stiffen in surprise, and let out a slow breath into her hair. "So much you still take for granted."
"I said I was sorry," she said, muffled, into his chest. "...Right? I am. I guess."
When he still didn't release her (though she made no movement of her own) she said in a small voice, "I have to go check on Toby," then hesitated. "I'm going to be more careful from now on, I swear, but... if anything like this ever does happen again, make sure Toby's all right? Please?"
If it ever did he would probably use that request as an excuse to bring the babe Underground just to ensure she'd have to come back after it―if he didn't start Bogging every ugly little scavenger that sucked off magic in the Above until he tracked her down and dragged her back himself.
Nothing ever hurts again... She'd do better if she learned fear, really, but...
"Very well," he said, and sent her home―and just because she hadn't asked, reordered time as she went to the date remembered in her mind.
Just like her first time in the Labyrinth, there as soon as she was gone.
―They're supposed to be mushrooms for a fairy ring, thank you, I haven't finished yet―
"Sarah," Jareth said through her mirror with deceptive pleasantness, twirling a globe that would summon the Bog of Eternal Stench as soon as he chose an appropriate target, "you do know not to truly annoy me, don't you, precious?"
She glanced over to him with aggravating unconcern, not even sitting up from her bed where she lay sprawled with some book. "I take it you think I've done something to annoy you, then?"
"As amusing as it is that my goblins have developed the habit of scurrying to you when they think I'm not looking to hide from my displeasure..." He glared, with genuine ire, for the first time at her. "I will pickle that little scab and seal him in a transparent suit of armor filled with Bog to be a lesson to the others as soon as he creeps back."
"He told me about it. I think it was an honest mistake," Sarah returned calmly. "You should know better than I do that most of them haven't got any more sense than kittens. If you didn't make threats like that maybe they wouldn't have to take cover here until your temper cools―tyrant."
"Do not make me come over there myself," Jareth warned her.
"You won't find him. I don't keep them in my room unless they're only here to visit―and I'm not going to tell you where I put him." She raised her book again and pretended absorption in it.
Jareth stalked into the room behind her. "Sarah," he purred, almost a growl.
She glanced at him, then sighed and pushed herself up enough to gesture toward the mirror. "Fine. See for yourself."
He looked, and saw his wayward subject huddled shivering in a wide-eyed little ball in the middle of what looked like a bizarrely civilized nightmare.
"Mechanized butchery?" he asked, intrigued, leaning closer.
"A meat packing plant," she corrected from the bed. "I told him that was the best hiding place I could find for him considering what he'd done. Just for a day or two. With the things they seem to like it shouldn't be really scarring, just upset his tummy for a while."
Still watching, Jareth began to smile. "You are a precious thing." He ignored her resigned grumble would you stop calling me that. "Three days, and I may let him get away without even hanging off a banner rod."
If his goblins weren't so genuinely naive he would never let their belief that he could have such a short memory for their blunders persist. It was about the extent of their cleverness to run to Sarah to escape his wrath, knowing he never punished her. He was pleased by the evidence that she was subtly reinforcing his displeasure in them, but mostly soothed despite his ire because her proprietary assumption of his creatures, and their adoration of her, so perfectly complemented his fear-inducing rule.
"Go away now. And don't develop a habit of dropping over here or they'll have no place left to go, and I'll probably get Ludo to level your city again just to stop you smirking," she ordered, ignorant of his contemplations.
Jareth grinned. Just as I can be so cruel...
―Did you teach him that word, I know he didn't hear it from me―
"Why so troubled, precious?" Jareth frowned, taking in the ball of her sitting in front of the mirror, chin locking knees and arms holding herself together. She looked up at him with vague surprise, then unfolded herself with a sigh.
"Nothing, really―just being moody. What do you want?"
"It's nothing, really." She was equally unconvinced, but he was gracious enough to continue. "Merely time you retrieve Toby."
"Oh. Right." Once she made it to the castle, sitting in silence for a moment just staring at the baby she held in her lap, she reciprocated: "You know how they say people make the same mistakes over again, like marrying people who are just like their ex? I know my dad and Karen are doing okay, really, but―whenever they get into a disagreement I can't help but start thinking... if they did split up, of course I'd go with my dad except that would leave Toby with nobody. Karen wouldn't want me even if I asked, I'd be miserable with her, but at least then Toby would still have me... and even if they make it to my age of majority no court would ever see any reason to give him to me instead of her..."
Why do people have children they don't want? she kept unvoiced, because neither of them needed to hear the lack of answer.
"You aren't a mother," Jareth murmured, understanding, and she formed a tired bitter smile. "Why not just stay here, when you know you would be happier? You and the babe?"
"I'm no wishaway." She gave him a glare that was no less potent for having become impersonal. "Even if someone did―"
"You'd rescue yourself, of course," he finished, tolerant to disguise his exasperation. Such inexplicable stubbornness, still undiminished...
"That's right." She stood up with a soft grunt as she settled her growing brother's weight. "See you later."
"Sarah," he said patiently, and she stopped and half-turned back, "you don't have to be a wishaway. You needn't ever go back. Your only friends are here."
The puzzlement on her face was strange to him. "Yeah, but I have school. And getting a job, college, figuring out what to do with my life..."
It occurred to him for the first time that she simply didn't see the Underground as the fantasy he'd expected her to, an escape separate from her mundane existence Above. She'd accepted the magic, moved back and forth between worlds, and yet to her both were the same reality―which might make the one inextricable from the other, even though one was surely better.
And if that were the case, how could she ever comprehend the true potential open to her by belonging to the Labyrinth? How could she be satisfied to persist in such a half-life of her own choosing...
―Have you seen Sir Didymus? I think he just took Merlin back with him instead of Ambrosius―
"Don't give any to Toby, no matter how much he asks," Sarah cautioned the goblins. Jareth watched, amused, as she weaved through their clusters toward him dispensing more plastic-wrapped squares to grubby hands that waved as she passed.
"Dare I ask what you're giving them?"
"Fudge," she smiled as she settled beside him. "Containing alcohol. I figured there isn't much that would make a better treat for them."
"Especially since you won't have to deal with the results," he drawled. "Was this conceived only to torment me, or merely on whim?"
"Well, first I only thought how much Ludo would probably like a collection of gemstone pebbles I noticed, carnelian and agate and so forth―then I started thinking about what everybody else might like, and I decided for my birthday I'd come and bring gifts."
Birthdays were inconsequential to the denizens of the Labyrinth, as time wasn't restrained to years and seasons and age was rarely even an afterthought. "This is a tradition for birthdays?" he inquired, politely curious, and teased when the last chocolate was snatched from her hand and vanished into a greedy maw, "You found nothing to repay some of the generosity of your host?"
"No, it's traditional that I get presents, but as it's my birthday I can celebrate as I choose," she replied, flicking a globe at him that popped an inch in front of his nose with nothing more than a faint glimmer of fairydust. He didn't even blink, and she didn't show any sign of disappointment in her failure to evoke a reaction. "And no, you're the only one who has proved completely unshoppable for. Sorry." She eyed him speculatively. "You're also the only one I might like a gift from..."
He smirked lasciviously. "Then I'll name my own gift in return." She raised her eyebrows. "A kiss, fair maiden."
For a moment she only looked blank; then she shrugged, leaned forward, and planted her lips on his cheek before pulling back without the slightest loss of composure. Jareth was tempted to send her down the path of the Cleaners, and yet... could she really be still so young, even mortal?
But her expression as she resettled in her chair was lighter than it often was, half-smiling with anticipation, so he set contemplations of revenge aside to indulge her for a moment. "And what would you wish now?"
"Toby kept chattering on about 'jump magic' again last time we got home―I want to hear that whole song."
Jareth smiled. "Realize, that song is for Toby; you've already heard what was intended for you..."
The look she gave him she couldn't possibly understand the power of, given how casually she'd fulfilled his own request a moment ago. "I want to hear you sing more."
What kind of magic spell to use―a snap of his fingers and flare of music galvanized all the goblins present and they responded with chocolate-hyped enthusiasm, while Toby crowed in glee. This song meant frolic, to which he intended not even Sarah to be immune, and she looked ready to let herself be drawn in. And he was the only creature present of suitable stature for her to focus on when she danced...
"I saw my baby..."
―Well I promised him he could come along on the next field trip and we're only going for the day, just pretend you don't notice him missing and he'll scrub when he gets back―
"Hey. Do me a favor?" she asked through her mirror, jaw set and eyes snapping―an expression that immediately warned him she was about to do something she could easily regret. "Pop over here outside the front door and ring the bell―maybe wearing jeans or something. Now?"
Jareth considered, then did so. Footsteps pounded inside the house and Sarah flung the door open and pulled him in by one arm, smiling widely with teeth while two adults leaned in from separate doorways. "Jareth." She stretched herself up on tiptoe, twined her arms around his neck and mashed her lips onto his. Jareth turned the action into a real kiss that gave him the satisfaction of seeing her forget her purpose for a moment―then she pulled away, recomposing herself with remarkable speed, and took hold of his arm again. "We're going to my room," she announced to the dumbfounded adults, leading him up the stairs. "You won't hear him leave."
"I sense frustration in that little play," Jareth remarked, amused, as she closed her door.
She snorted. "I swear, if I have to hear My friend so-and-so has a nice boy your age one more time... and I know, I probably just made it worse now but I could scream. Thanks. What outrageous price are you going to ask even though you agreed when I called it a favor?"
He smirked, choosing the bed to drape himself across, in no hurry to leave. It barely fit him. "I find it curious, precious; after so long, this is the first time you've said my name?"
She flushed. "Well, you've still never actually told me―I didn't want to get Hoggle in trouble again considering you seem to like picking on him for the most absurd little things."
"Ah, that ridiculous Hogwart gave you it without my permission―" He sat up, eyes gleaming.
"You better not punish him―"
"Or on comes a horde of dogs?" He laughed at her.
She glared, then set her jaw and leaned closer. "Or... I'll never kiss you again." She threw a globe into his face; he allowed himself to be drawn into the dream and found it the same ballroom he'd sent after she ate the peach―Sarah, there, in her silverspun gown, moving through the crowd toward him with that look on her face―
It was a good reproduction, but too exact. She wasn't really there too. Smirking, Jareth dispelled the bubble―and found himself in his castle rather than her bedroom, standing alone.
For a second surprise warred with annoyance. He conjured a globe and looked through it at her. She stuck out her tongue at him, smug.
Jareth smiled maliciously and dissolved it with a snap. "Oh Hoggle..."
―What do you think, wouldn't a potion involving fresh newts' eyes be more likely to induce nausea than instant infatuation?―
She shifted in her chair, giving him better access to play with the ends of her hair, which he took advantage of though anticipating the request sure to be forthcoming. "Would you torment boys I went out with?"
His fingers stilled briefly as he considered. "You've never shown any interest in any."
She didn't hurl, or even mutter, accusations that he must stalk her to make such a claim, so he didn't have to retort that it couldn't be more obvious since she didn't throw herself at him. She only went on, "Well if you would, I'm not going to do that to them―" He felt a smirk curl the corners of his mouth. That was much like accepting his claim. "―In which case that leaves you. Prom night's coming up―this big dance at school."
"And you want to attend?" Her choice of opening was inclining him to be giving. He might actually agree to act as her escort, even though she knew he could create a ball surely superior to anything Above...
"Not really, actually." She wriggled around until her face was full in front of his, with a look she had to be beginning to understand how to exploit. "The part about putting on a pretty dress and getting out of the house after dark for a few hours sounds fine. But what I really want is to learn how to fly."
He almost laughed at her manipulation, and the confidence behind the earnestness in her expression. "I'm afraid, precious thing, you haven't enough magic to manage that. However..." She made an impatient sound when he drew it out; he smirked, she glowered. "The more time you spend Underground, the longer you'll have to accumulate more power. Eventually, even, possibly to become like me."
Her eyes widened, then narrowed as she settled back and scowled in thought. "But you hardly ever go Above except to spook a runner."
"I have no other interest in it," he pointed out.
Her brow remained furrowed. "You mean I could always just... pop back and forth, and do what I want?"
He nodded. Words from him didn't seem necessary to convince her at the moment.
"And not grow old..."
He merely waited. That point usually spurred a return to purely mortal life after a few decades for the others in the past who'd found their way to the Labyrinth again, but he thought she stood to become more a match to his own temperament. Magic would be always be a part of her and time would never restrict her freedom to indulge in anything she chose, from activities to travel―in both worlds, if that was what she desired. Nothing had to be forever.
She hesitated, but showed no fear, or even real reluctance. "Toby's not old enough to not need me yet..."
Silkily, he pointed out, "You can always bring him too if the parents become unmanageable."
He waited, and this time she didn't protest, which he counted as a victory. She only nodded absently and mused, "I could commute from here to go to college, and after that..."
She looked at him. He smiled and drew her into her arms, which she made no objection to, only shifted to achieve a more comfortable position on his lap. "After that," he agreed, pleased she was finally beginning to understand, "everything."
―I want you to come see this, you'll enjoy it―
"You know how in stories, when a wish actually comes true you're supposed to discover that it's a lot more sweat and heartache and so forth than you imagined?" Sarah reflected.
"And thus you return home, newly satisfied with mundanity?" Jareth finished.
"Yeah." She turned the half-eaten peach in her hand, examining it leisurely before taking another bite, and smiled at him. "The Labyrinth was never like that."