Okay, I know everyones's going to be scratching their heads and wondering why I'm writing a new fic without first updating my old ones. Never fear! I ve been working on the update for Dare To Heir (it's been forever since I've updated that story) and to While She Slept!
Thankfully, I have a fabulous beta who is a wiz with grammar and puncuation, and a real darling ta boot! Thanks, sweet Bree!
"Blast, that damn child!"
The reigning king of the Goblin Kingdom threw himself into the confines of his throne in a petulant manner. He really was quite attractive, mused the equally attractive woman who was trying with great difficulty not to smile at his own childishness.
Jareth, dear competitive Jareth, wasn't used to being on the losing side. Truth be told, the only side he was ever really on was his own. Team player wasn't a concept in her little princeling's vocabulary.
"I would have given her everything if she had chosen wisely."
"By wisely, I am assuming you mean if she had chosen you?" Moira asked, noting her son's extreme consternation. "You would have had her choose between you and her family?"
Then, she stated with quiet wisdom. "Ties of the family are the tightest and she is a child after all. More than likely she didn't even understand what you were offering her."
"Therefore, there was only ever one choice." She paused, and then asked thoughtfully, "Would you have chosen her over us if the positions were reversed knowing full well all of the ramifications? I think it highly unfair of you to expect a child – a mortal child at that – to understand exactly what you were willing to give."
"Now you sound like her. Forever whining unfair this, unfair that… blah, blah, blah."
"You are well rid of her then, are you not?" His mother asked in an amused manner. "Who wants a whining, bad tempered child about?"
"That is not the point!" Jareth argued, swinging his boot-clad leg back and forth in agitation.
Taking a grape from the platter offered to her from one of the goblins, she asked, "What is the point, my son?"
Jareth scowled, "It is the ungratefulness that I cannot abide!" Throwing his hands in the air in exasperation, he moved with great elegance to sit straight up in his throne, before continuing, "If that were not bad enough, to add insult to injury, she went ahead and gave that toad Haggle a kiss! A kiss," he reiterated forcefully, sounding shocked and outraged.
"Hoggle," his mother corrected quietly, biting down softly on another grape. "These are quite tasty."
"Like them, do you?" Jareth asked absently. "Tika grows them on the fartherest reaches of the kingdom."
Raising her finely arched brows, and with delicate aplomb, she popped another one between her lips. "She is to be commended on her skills."
"The last time Jasper was in residence, he attempted to filch her from me." He continued with a satisfied smirk, "and failed miserably."
Moira sighed. Would those two never get along?
"It distresses your father greatly that his two sons cannot seem to manage to put their differences aside."
Jareth snorted. "Not likely in this lifetime, dear mother of mine." Curiously, he asked, "How can you bear to champion him? He is nothing to you, and his shrew of a mother has treated you with nothing but contempt since the day father set you aside in her favor."
Moira quickly turned away, effectively hiding her expression. "Thank-you, Deeval," she said graciously and with real warmth to the goblin who had offered her a tiny bowl and towel with which to wet and clean her fingers. "How are the younglings?"
Grinning widely and showing off a set of jagged teeth that would have induced quaking fear in others, he replied in a respectful manner, "They be doing well, my Lady."
"She be doing well too. I tell her you ask."
"Please do." Moira requested with a smile.
Jareth's lips twitched slightly as he watched his subject take his mother's hand and bow over it in an awkward manner. She bestowed a dazzling smile on him at his courtly gesture. It was quite astonishing the depths of their devotion to Moira.
Astonishing but hardly surprising considering she treated each of every one of the denizens of his city with a kindness and understanding that was rarely accorded to them by many of the Fae.
Following her lead, Jareth changed the subject. "You have charmed them all."
Moira grinned, an expression that Jareth did not see often enough. "Perhaps if you used a bit more of your charm – which I know that you possess in droves – they would like you too.'
He laughed shortly. "Mother, it is not necessary for them to like me, only serve me."
"Still," she pressed, "it might benefit you to do more than kick them around in anger. Why don't you praise them when they please you," she suggested. "It would go a long way to promoting good relations."
Jareth rolled his eyes. "I would not be an effective ruler if I befriended them. They need a firm hand. Without it they would run amok, and believe me Mother, you wouldn't want that to happen."
"But, is there a need to be so cruel?"
Jareth's face set itself into hard, implacable lines. "I am who I am, Mother," he whispered in a tight voice. "Nothing can change the blood which courses through my veins."
"No," she agreed, her eyes as dull as the tone of her voice. "Your father's blood is impeccable."
Sneering, Jareth refuted that comment by saying, "Royal blood he might possess, but he does not have much else to recommend him. It is not your blood that I regret!"
"He does what he must do, Jareth." His mother answered, once more in defense of her louse of a former husband.
"Let us leave this topic," Jareth replied. "For on it we will never agree."
Moira nodded in agreement, because it was the truth. Jareth would never forgive his father for what was done to her, and Roarke would never condescend to admit he had wronged her in any way. Thus, an impasse between father and son.
Reseating himself, he waved his hand gracefully through the air and asked, "To what do I owe this impromptu visit? Although unplanned, it is always a pleasure to see you, of course," He added hurriedly. He did not want her to think that she was an unwelcome element in his home.
"Of course," she mimicked teasingly, and then asked, "Does there need to be a momentous occasion for a mother to visit her only son?"
"No," he smiled that crooked, beguiling smile that had brought so many Fae women to their knees. "Though, generally you prefer to wait for the warmer months to visit, and so I am naturally curious."
Her lashes, the same dark brown as her eyes, fluttered down effectively screening her gaze. "If you must know, I felt a tremor." A large one. "And, decided to investigate."
Leaning his chin on his gloved fist, Jareth coolly replied, "And now you know the reason for it."
"Yes." She agreed hesitantly before adding, "It's difficult to believe that a mortal child could have that much of an effect. Usually, it is marginal at best."
"Usually the runners walk away as losers, and there you have your answer."
"The effects of winning are a definite advantage, of this there is no doubt," Moira stated, in acknowledgment of Jareth's reasoning. "But, a jarring of this magnitude would have more than winning the game on her side." And we both know it.
"I did sense a certain amount of inherent power from the child," Jareth mused slowly while stroking his chin thoughtfully. "If you were to add that to what she gained by overcoming the Labyrinth – well," he paused. "Is it any wonder that a substantial ripple occurred?"
Substantial? Moira could not understand why her son was refusing to look at the obvious. It was clear, even to her, that something momentous had happened after the young girl had managed to beat the Labyrinth. The shock waves had reverberated throughout the Underground. Even she, with her minimal amount of magic, had felt it.
"Others will come, Jareth," she warned him gently. "It is unavoidable."
"Yes." His answer was brief and bleak, and mirrored the expression on his face.
As if on cue, they were interrupted.
"Beggen' your Majesties parden."
Jareth focused his attention on the goblin standing in the doorway. 'Yes," he snapped, "what is it?"
"The High King is awaiten in the receiven room." He informed his king while nervously wringing his massive hands.
"How delightful," Jareth drawled sarcastically. "We will receive him here."
It did not escape Moira the reason as to why Jareth chose to have Roarke escorted to the throne room instead of going to greet him in the receiving room. It was a show of power. A silent reminder that while Roarke ruled at the highest level, he was now in Jareth's world and thus was nothing more than a 'guest' in his lands.
"Show him in, Boab."
Boab backed out of the room, nodding his head up and down the entire way.
Moira moved to stand beside her son and whispered, "Be respectful. He is still your father, and more importantly he is your High King."
The imposing figure of his father strode into the room, his mismatched eyes zeroing in on his son. As a child Jareth had been incredibly intimidated by the height and breadth of his father. The fact that his general demeanor had been less than inviting might have had something to do with his awe as well. Jareth was no longer a child and could now look his father squarely in the face with a matching pair of mismatched eyes.
"Jareth," his father greeted him before turning to the woman at his side.
"Moira," he greeted her as well, taking her hand and raising it to his lips briefly. "You are looking well."
Jareth's mother smiled and gently withdrew her hand before saying, "How kind you are."
"It is no kindness to remark on the beauty of a lovely woman," was his gallant reply.
Jareth snorted. "How does your other wife fare?"
Turning once more to his son, he offhandedly replied, "She does well." Cocking his head to the side, he added with studied civility, "Perhaps if you would grace us with your presence at High Court more often, you would discover the well-being of your family for yourself."
Moira felt Jareth's shoulder stiffen beneath her fingers, and squeezed it tightly in warning. For Jareth to respond negatively to his father's words would be catastrophic. She had lived with Roarke for years, and was well acquainted with the subtle tell-tale signs of genuine temper. It was ever so difficult to discern his true mood unless intimately familiar with them.
Jareth had, most certainly, come by his rather volatile temperament honestly. The apple did not fall far from the tree, so the saying goes. The difference between them was that Roarke disguised his superbly, while Jareth did not care enough to follow suit. Or rather, he did not care to follow in his father's footsteps in any way at all. Moira wished she could do more to bridge the breach, but Jareth must want to do so, and he'd made it more than clear, over the years, that it wasn't something he felt in dire need of fixing.
"Yes, well," Jareth drawled slowly, "I have more important things to do than to pander to the egos of those who frivolously dwell at Court."
Roarke calmly replied, "I do not doubt that the persistent stroking in which you give your own ego must be all too time consuming for much else. So much so, that it appears as if you neglect your own duties if the state of your palace and lack of good manners is anything to go by."
"Have you come here to simply rebuke me on the way in which I rule my kingdom?" was Jareth's next question.
Snapping his fingers Roarke conjured up a chair, more of a throne actually, which over- shadowed the magnificence of Jareth's own. The back was higher, the blood-red cushioned seat wider, while intricate symbols proclaiming Roarke's status graced the arms and sides. In contrast to Jareth's lounging form, which conveyed one of boredom, Roarke sat ram-rod straight, his whole demeanor one of royal dignity.
"You are well aware of why I have come." His father snapped back, his gaze hard and ruthless.
"On the contrary," Jareth lied with great aplomb. "Your reasoning quite eludes me."
"Does it indeed?" Roarke asked, his expression once more bland and unreadable. "The veritable earthquake which rocked the Underground escaped your notice then? I find that most difficult to believe."
Jareth raised his eyebrows, but said nothing to confirm, nor deny his father's words.
Roarke's narrowed eyes flashed with suppressed fury. One day, he vowed silently, you will bow down to me, and honor me as is my due!
A knot of tumultuous worry was settling anxiously in Moira's stomach. If Jareth continued to push his father, things could get ugly. They were too much alike, and neither would withdraw in an amicable way for fear of losing face. She decided to intervene in the best interest of all.
"Roarke," she ventured to say, "a young girl managed to beat the Labyrinth, and perhaps what you felt was the ire of the Labyrinth at having such an unusual event occur. It has been centuries since such a feat has been accomplished.
The High King zeroed in on the woman who had captured his fancy so long ago, and looked at her― really looked at her. The features of his face softened as his warm gaze met hers. He remembered their days together well. She had been young and untouched by the cares of the real world. Young enough to still play and sing with abandon with nary a thought of whether or not her charming actions were respectable for a female mortal on the brink of womanhood. She had enchanted him from the first.
Moira placed a hand on her abdomen. With just that one look from his strangely beautiful eyes, he still managed to set her heart aflutter. For her, love had not died when she had stepped down as his High Queen. It never would, she now realized in dismay. She'd been fooling her self all a long; of this she was now quite certain. Staying as far away from Roarke and the High Court as possible had been ideal for them all. It saved Roarke and his present queen from the embarrassment of the openly curious stares and the wildly speculating tongues.
For her, it had been a way of escaping the unimaginable pain of having lost the one thing that had mattered to her most: Roarke's affections. She had never given a hoot for her title as High Queen, and when she'd relinquished it, it had been a relief on multiple levels. It was a task, she was to find that not only did not suit her well, but brought with it the snide contempt of those who thought her unworthy to hold such a prestigious position. Only their fear and respect for their High King had protected her from overt nastiness, but it was there; oh, yes.
So, she'd eagerly taken advantage of Roarke's offer of a small estate tucked away in an enchanting, and private area of his kingdom. By doing so, she had thought that during her long absences from court, she had finally and firmly, set her feelings to rest. Now, here he was looking at her in the way that he used to, the way that had made her feel that she was as special to him as he was to her, it was as thrilling as it was frightening.
"You have cut your hair," Roarke commented in a whisper soft voice. Moira's hand immediately flew to the blunt ends of her shoulder length bob. "Why?"
Hot color splashed across her cheeks, and when she answered, it was obvious that his question and both flustered and confused her. "I… It's much easier to manage this way. I never could master all the intricate styles that were the fashion at Court."
"You have servants to assist to such details, do you not?" He knew that she did. When she had gone he had made sure that the best of his servants had accompanied her so as to make her life more comfortable.
Moira sucked her bottom lip between her teeth briefly before answering, "Yes, but I prefer to do things for myself."
Roarke smiled widely. "You always were an independent little thing." He stood and then beckoning with his hand, requested, "Come closer."
Jareth watched his mother walk with unhurried grace to where his father stood. This situation was not to his liking, and he would have voiced that opinion, but he was riveted by his father's unusual display of emotion. Toward Jareth he had always seemed more of an authority figure than a father figure, so this side of him was a novelty to Jareth indeed.
Roarke ran his fingers slowly through the silky strands. "Still so soft." As he followed the length of her tresses his fingers lightly brushed first her cheek and then her neck. Moira swallowed hard. "I prefer it long, but it does put me in mind of when we first met. It was even shorter than this, if I recall correctly."
Moira nodded, it was all she could manage under the circumstances.
"In fact," he mused, "it came to about here." This time he touched her fleetingly under her ear, and then drew his finger outward to encompass the sensitive skin under her jaw-line and chin.
Jumping to his feet, Jareth abruptly cut in, "Mother, you promised the young ones upon your next visit that you would continue the story of which they have all become so enamored."
Moira turned away from Roarke so swiftly that her hair fanned out into a dark arc causing the rich chestnut strands to emit a subtle fragrance of sweet peas and violets. Roarke inhaled it deeply, enjoying that fact that she still smelled of warm inviting meadows and of sparking crystal clear streams.
Moving toward her, Jareth took his mother gently by the arm and guided her to the entrance way. "Boab!" he roared.
The goblin raced to Jareth, skittering to a halt before asking between panting breaths, "Yes, majesty? How can I serve?"
"Gather the young ones, and tell them that my mother has agreed to read to them."
"Oh," Boab gasped in delight. It was truly wonderful the tales that the king's mother could tell. "The babes as well?"
"Yes, yes," Jareth, agreed in a distracted manner. "Them as well, but only the older ones, the younger are not able, at this point, to enjoy the stories, and will more than likely ruin the experience for the rest of you." Looking down at the goblin knowingly, Jareth added, "I take it you will be staying to listen as well?"
Looking sheepish, Boab asked in a humble manner, "Iffen it be okay with his majesty?"
Jareth heard his mother's low gurgle of laughter, and was hard pressed not to laugh himself. He was not normally patient nor did kind with his goblins but the hopeful yearning in Boab's face touch even his heart. "I do not mind." When Boab opened his mouth, Jareth hurriedly added, knowing exactly what his subject had planned on asking, "The others as well, if their duties have been completed!"
"Thank-you, majesty, thank-you!" Boab gushed in gratitude. "Come, Lady Moira… come," he entreated his master's mother while grabbing her hand and pulling her hurriedly away.
Jareth heard Boab peppering his mother with questions on the exploits of Barney Beagle. Jareth's thin lips twisted in amusement. It was clear that his subject was looking to have a slight advantage over the rest the goblins as to what would be occurring in the story next.
"They are like little children to your mother." Roarke's wry comment wiped all the amusement from Jareth's face. "She has always been partial to lost little ones, whether children or otherwise."
Jareth whipped around and rasped out angrily, "And you would know all about that, wouldn't you?"
"Silence, boy," Roarke ordered sternly. "You persist in allowing the past to adversely affect the present, and it is a state of affairs that must, no… will cease! To continue with this absurdness is undignified for one of my royal heritage."
"I will attempt to lay the past to rest if you promise me that you will not trifle with my mother's feelings."
"I do not know what you mean."
"I saw the way you looked at her just now," Jareth spat at him through gritted teeth. "I will not have you hurt her again! So, in return for my promise of civility, I require your assurance that you will leave my mother be!"
Roarke eyed his son thoughtfully. Jareth's offer was tempting, but not enough, not nearly enough. "I will accept your offer," Roarke began, and then paused, "if, in addition to your promised civility, you bring the girl who won over the Labyrinth back to the Underground."
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