It's great to be back! I'd forgotten how much I missed writing fanfiction. I love all the well wishes and encouragement. It warms my heart to know y'all still enjoy my work and I'll keeping writing as long as y'all keeping loving it! J
Great gobs of goblin innards! Jareth's entire frame collapsed in on itself upon the horrid realization that he and Tobias sat within a purgatory of Jareth's making not due to his reflected magic, nor any lack in his powers of deduction or puzzle-solving. No. This crystal prison contained them solely based on the power of Jareth's fear and, well, arrogance, if he were truly honest with himself.
The kernel of fear bloomed from a need to control—he was a king after all! Any complete loss of it spelled certain doom for royalty, and he been raised, nay, bred, to grasp control like one of his goblins strangling the free-range chickens that littered his castle, never quite killing them, yet never releasing them.
The Labyrinth was a repository of ancient magic, a source with roots deeply connected to all the realms and dimensions. Fae, being natural immortal, spent a great portion of their lives gathering power like a child collected toys. Therefore throughout the years, many challengers flirted with ideas of deposing him, but Goblin Kings held immense power secondary to the High King, and more than a few skeletons lie scattered about—in rather uncomfortable positions—deep within his oubliettes. Hence his duality of fear and unchecked arrogance after centuries of powerful, far-reaching magical reign, could one blame him?
Yet, here, in this place not meant for Fae, he felt an entirely new form of morality being imposed upon him. To gain entrance, this place required him to be … mortal. Or at least think and feel as a mortal.
Covering his eyes with a hand, he felt an emotion wholly unknown to him. Shame. He'd became adept at hiding through misdirection and double-speak to flourish in his world, but this place not only had no use for these things, it actively shunned them.
All this Jareth understood as he sat quietly in the meadow and turned inward seeking that elusive treasure of self-forgiveness. There was much to forgive. Where to start?
Toby watched Jareth pulled himself into a tighter and tighter ball. He didn't speak and hid his face under his gloved hand. Wanting to help him, Toby laid a hand on his forearm, but Jareth didn't seem to notice. So there he sat, one hand on Jareth's arm, as he listened to the crushing silence of the bright, empty meadow.
His stomach growled and twisted. He hadn't eaten in days. And he was really thirsty. And he really had to pee, but was afraid of leaving Jareth alone and wasn't sure if peeing in this strange place was allowed. What if he offended someone and they never got to Sarah? So he squeezed his legs together as tight as he could and kept holding it.
Time past but without a watch Toby didn't know how long since everything second felt the same as the last here. No air moved. It wasn't hot or cold, just warm. It never got darker or cloudy. The flowers never grew or died unless he plucked them. Jareth only moved when he breathed, and that wasn't that much.
He took a deep breath, and then exhaled slowly and rested his chin in his palm. Nothing changed. A memory of his mom floated in his mind. It was before she was injured and lying dead-like in bed at that hospital place he hated. He'd been whining about wanting something stupid, he didn't even remember what now, and kept bugging her to get it. They been in the kitchen and she'd been making dinner…
"Moooom," he 'd said again, "why can't I have it nooooow?"
She'd stopped stirring the pot on the stove, spoon in hand, and faced him after his epic whine. "Tobias Williams," she'd said, arms hanging at her sides and an expression he'd never forget.
His eyes had zoomed to the wooden spoon that she held like a paddle, tomato sauce oozing down its neck, and he'd took a small step back.
"I've had enough. I've told you'll get it after dinner and not a moment sooner."
"Toby," she leaned down, tomato sauce dripping to the floor in a large splat. "It's about time you learned to be more patient. You can't have everything you want when you want it. You're old enough to understand that."
He'd groaned, shoving his lower lip out. "I have to wait?"
With her free hand, she'd cupped his chin gently. He'd expected her to be rough given her tone of voice so far, but her next words had been spoken very calmly, "Toby, patience is a virtue."
"Virtue?" He'd parroted, blinking to avoid holding her intense gaze.
"It means to be good."
"Oh." Gradually, he tucked his lower lip back to its normal position. Maybe she hadn't noticed. Mom wanted him to wait, which sounded awful. "I have to be good."
"Yes." She'd released his chin and stood.
He'd made a dramatic show of sighing. "FINE. I'll be good." He'd eye-rolled and stomped off, but left her alone until Dad got home.
They'd never discussed what happened, and he hadn't thought of it until now, but Mom's voice bounced around in his head harder than ever, making his heart hurt again. He missed her so much. While he didn't like thinking about her being mad at him, he'd rather remember her with the tomato-sauce-dripping spoon in her hand as if she might smack him than sort of dead with all those creepy, beeping machines next to her. He'd sit patiently with a smile and let her yell at him for the rest of his life if it meant he could undo that.
So he was good. He sat with Jareth and he waited.
Something changed. Uncertain what called his attention to the alteration; nevertheless, Jareth hesitantly dropped his hand from his face to find Tobias staring at him with as much intensity his nine-year-old body contained.
"Do you feel that?"
"A shift in," head tilted, he closed his eyes for a moment, "temperature, perhaps?"
Tobias' lips curled in a hopeful smile, his breathing sped up, and he sat up straight. "Is it working?"
"I dare say my journey of internal angst had better be improving this untenable situation."
Tobias blinked once, then twice. "So … you feel better?"
A dry laugh escaped him. "Better?" Then he fell silent and glanced around. Damnation. Arrogance and bluster cloaked him as frost dusted gloomy winter forests. Forgive himself? He might as well cease being Fae.
"Jareth, look!" Tobias tugged on his sleeve, pointing at the horizon.
Jareth followed Tobias' direction but saw nothing of consequence in the unaltered field and shining sky. "I see naught."
"You don't see the shimmering?" Tobias stood up and spun in place.
"No," Jareth stood next to him, "I see nothing."
"But it's everywhere!"
Squinting hard to see whatever Tobias spoke of, Jareth craned his head left and right but still saw no shimmering. "Where, Tobias?"
"You don't see her?" He pointed at something, practically quivering, excitement flowing from him like water from a spout.
"Her?" Jareth strained, pouring every bit of strength and magic he possessed to see what Tobias spoke of, but still nothing appeared to him. Keeping his voice even he asked, "Is it Sarah?"
Tobias ran toward whatever he saw, then looked back at Jareth. "I don't think so, but she's walking this way."
Rushing to Tobias' side, his hand twitched with the urge to conjure a crystal. Whomever this invisible stranger might be, he wavered between defending them against her and hope that she arrived to end their limbo. Of course, it would help immensely if he could see this person.
"Hello!" Tobias waved. "I'm Toby Williams. Do you know my sister, Sarah?"
Standing next to Tobias, Jareth laid a hand on his shoulder and drew himself to his full height. All appearances of doubt and insecurity vanished, to be buried and forgotten. "Who is our visitor, Tobias?"
"Her name is Raphaela." With wide eyes brimming with hope, he looked up at him. "She says she knows Sarah."
Cocking one brow, Jareth pouring magic into his sight to peel back Raphaela's mask, revealing … meadow and silver sky. He gritted his teeth and clenched his free hand, frustrated beyond measure. This place was as devious a puzzle as he'd ever designed. "Oh, she does, does she?"
Tobias' face focused on whatever Raphaela did or said, then gripped his pants and tugged with childish enthusiasm. "She knows where she is!"
"Well then, why doesn't she reveal herself to both of us and show us the way?"
"She says she can't," he said with a frown.
"She says she'll take me, but she can't take you."
He blinked and his voice flattened. "What?"
"She says you're not ready."
Jareth's heart pounded so hard he coughed into his fist to disguise his hitched breath. "I see."
Tobias looked back and forth between the invisible Raphaela and him, his indecision evident on his face. "Then I guess I should wait."
Jareth, however, couldn't allow his friend to continue a minute later than necessary, no matter what his desires. If Tobias had an opportunity to find Sarah, even without him, he needed to take it. Perhaps he would succeed.
"No, Tobias." He knelt in front of him. "If she can take you to Sarah, then you must go with her."
Tobias leaned into Jareth's chest, throwing his arms around him. "I don't want to leave you."
"I don't want you to leave, but this is for the best."
"But why?" he said with an edge of a whine.
Jareth glanced where he assumed Raphaela stood before looking Tobias squarely in the eyes. "One of us must save Sarah, and it seems it will be you as I am unable to be what Sarah requires."
"That's not true. She needs you."
"No," he shook his head, his light-weight hair fluffing, "she doesn't. Not like she needs you."
"But," Tobias gulped, "we about me?"
"You're strong and brave," he squeezed his arms, "braver than me. You can do this."
Taking a deep breath, Tobias glanced over his shoulder at Raphaela, then back at Jareth. "What will happen to you?"
"Don't worry about me. I'll figure things out and see you soon."
"Find you sister and save her." Jareth pulled him into a tight hug, then releasing him abruptly, he stood up. "Now go."
Lips quivering, Tobias took the hand of someone Jareth couldn't see. "I'm ready."
Watching Tobias walk away with the invisible Raphaela tore at Jareth's heart, but he refused to create a scene if this Raphaela told the truth. No matter what, he was the Goblin King, and if he was to remain here he would do so with dignity.
Tobias spared a gaze backwards with longing so wistful it tempted Jareth to call him back. No. He must remain strong so one of them could reach Sarah. Chin held high, he kept his face impassive as Tobias began to shimmer and fade. Next to him and outline of a woman shimmered as well—Raphaela?
Good. That reassured him and gave him a strange sort of peace. Knowing Tobias would complete their journey filled Jareth with contentment. His fate was irrelevant. Only Sarah and Tobias mattered. Tobias deserved it more than anyone, more than him, and knowing lifted the last bit of heaviness from Jareth.
Everything shimmered and Raphaela's outline solidified into a real woman with short red hair wearing a flowing gown. Stopping, she turned and smiled at Jareth and beckoned him to join Tobias.
"But, I thought…"
Rippling filled his mind and a woman's laughter chimed in his ear. "For you Goblin King, we'll accept self-sacrifice."
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