Written at the request of Olfactory_Ventriloquism, because she wanted it, and because I've missed her ever so!
Not Just Skating Through
"And there's absolutely no way you..." Sarah sighed. "Yes, of course. No, I understand. Right, well... I'll do my best to arrange something." Sarah hung up the phone, then rounded on her bedroom door at the sound of a rather polite sort of knock.
She threw the door opened with a harshly growled, "What?"
Of course there was a Goblin King on the other side of the door: he was as inevitable as the tide, really, and far more reliable in his own sarcastic, bent, and twisted little way. "I suppose you'd better come in," Sarah said as ungraciously as she could manage. She was very, very glad to see him, if for no other reason than because he wasn't a fellow human being, as she hated those at the moment. However, it would never do to give him even the hint that he was welcome. It was bad for his ego.
When she said bad for his ego, Sarah meant expansive for his ego, which was the same thing, really, as she inevitably felt the urge to puncture the ego at once if it got out of hand. It was silly, really, but she couldn't seem to help herself.
Just as she couldn't seem to help herself collapsing against his chest and forcing herself not to wish it was a brick wall she could use to brain herself. "Why are you here?" she asked warily, cuddling into his insistently in spite of herself.
"Never mind that now," Jareth said in his most soothing tone, his hands smoothing through her hair near her scalp, comforting. "Whatever is the matter, my love?"
There was a part of her that preened under his words, that swooned into his touch, that loved right back. As usual, Sarah crushed it ruthlessly. She had little choice, for a lot of reasons that would be perfectly clear and sensible if the whole situation weren't a disaster. She didn't want to need him like this, she didn't, and so what if she couldn't remember why right now. It would come to her.
Sarah took a deep breath and pushed away from the Goblin King, drawing some of his strength in with the air she breathed that smelled so much of him and his magic. "Problem at the school," she admitted.
Jareth frowned. "Your school or Toby's?" he wondered.
Sarah sighed and gestured the king to her vanity chair, sitting down on her bed so she could look at him or not, as she chose. "Toby's technically," she said.
Jareth draped himself artfully across the chair. He was quite the most attractive decoration in her room, Sarah thought, but as usual, kept the thought to herself. "Do tell, Precious. Perhaps I can help?"
Sarah nodded, then shrugged, then nodded again, and lay back on the bed. Staring up at the ceiling, she relayed, "I have an exam in the morning. It's a final and I cannot not go. But Toby's school just called, and he's got an all day field trip tomorrow, something no one bothered to tell me about ahead of time."
"How would that have helped?" Jareth asked. He sounded innocently curious, but Sarah knew he was trying to comfort her with the knowledge that she couldn't have done anything differently.
She hated it when he was reasonable. "I could have had warning that I'd have a miserable Toby on my hands?" she demanded. "You know, after the disaster on his last field trip, they said they can't let him participate..."
"That's absurd!" Jareth exclaimed. He jumped up and Sarah hid a grin. It would take just a tiny push to get Jareth to glitter off and make these people utterly miserable for being difficult to Toby. "He was in no way at fault for succumbing to appendicitis at school! I should..."
"It worried them," Sarah tried to soothe, even though she really wanted to rage and storm right beside the King. "They're afraid he's still not fully well, and frightened for what the other children might see..."
"There will never be another repeat," Jareth insisted. "Toby knows to come to you or I if he is feeling unwell now, and not to wait for his parents to notice." Sarcastically, he added, "I hardly think one can have a relapse of the need to have a body part removed."
"I know this!" Sarah yelped, his sarcasm always setting her on edge for reasons that she really tried not to go into. "But they've put their feet down. Unless he's chaperoned, they're not letting him participate."
"It's outrageous," Jareth decided. "Next year, we're sending him elsewhere, to receive proper schooling with more reasonable people. Do you know, they let him..."
"Yes, Jareth, I was there." Sarah frowned and rolled over, tucking her pillow under her chin and peering at him over top of it. "Though I do wonder where you get this 'we' stuff."
"He's my responsibility as much as yours," the Goblin King exclaimed. Sarah honestly thought he sounded not just wounded but crushed by the implication that he wouldn't want to look after the boy.
"Which is technically not at all," Sarah pointed out accurately.
Jareth slumped in the chair. "True," he conceded. His mismatched eyes flashed. "But I do not like it."
"I know, I know," Sarah said. Then, she grinned, trying to cheer them both up. "You're just mad you're not allowed to Bog him."
"I don't have to Bog that child to make him smell bad," Jareth joked.
"Hey!" Sarah protested. "He bathes."
"He's a small boy," the Goblin King said nonchalantly. "He is fully capable of becoming dirtier than he started in the first five minutes following his ablutions." He grinned at Sarah, teeth flashing, eyes twinkling. "Don't worry, Precious, we do grow out of it."
"I dunno, your Majesty." She sniffed the air and crinkled her nose. He actually smelled like cloves and night air, but to Sarah it was far better to tease him.
Jareth pounced. Sarah squealed gleefully as the laughing Goblin King tried to get hold of her. She knew he'd haul her off to the Bog if he got her secure. He'd never drop her in, and he'd bring her back promptly, but he seemed to take a peculiar pleasure in her screaming and kicking futilely at him.
"Can I play?" came a small voice from Sarah's doorway.
Startled, the two broke apart. Sarah knew good and well that they looked like lovers in a clench to anyone old enough to know what that was, just as she knew that the assessment would only be wrong because she and the Goblin King were the most stubborn people in the world. Generally speaking, consenting adults took their clothes off before having wrestling matches.
She stood up and threw herself into her vanity chair, drawing all the attention she could to herself while the Goblin King restored his hair and clothes to their usual elegant perfection. "C'mon in, Toby," Sarah invited. "We were just being stupid."
"Speak for yourself, Precious," said Jareth, with as much dignity as he could muster with a sock in his face. "I was being ridiculous. I spend too much time around goblins to imagine I could manage stupid with any degree of success."
Sarah wished she had a rolled up newspaper to whack him with. When the not-requested item appeared in her hand, she did exactly as she'd planned, then hit him again for reading her mind. Then, she did the worst possible thing she could do to the Goblin King: she ignored him.
"How would you like to skip school tomorrow?" she asked Toby enthusiastically.
Toby's cheerful, thin little face fell. "I can't," he said apologetically. "We're going roller skating, and Mummy said I could have extra allowance for the snack bar, and Daddy said if I like it, he'll buy me some skates! I can't miss it." (He called his mother 'Mummy' because that was the word Jareth used. Sarah had even picked it up, going so far as to call Linda Williams 'Mum' once.)
"No," Sarah agreed, trying very hard to hide her distress, "no, you certainly can't. Well, I can be there by lunch time, that'll at least..."
"I shall accompany you, Toby," Jareth offered. "That way, you'll have an adult present who can be responsible for you..."
"Assuming you're an adult," Sarah muttered.
"Be nice, Precious," said Jareth, "or I won't give you what I brought you. I'll give it to Toby instead; I'm sure he'll appreciate it much better anyway."
"What is it?" Toby demanded excitedly.
Jareth leaned forward and whispered in the boy's ear. From the doubtful look the boy gave the King, Sarah knew that, whatever it was, she would either hate it and refuse it, or love it so much that she had to refuse it. Damn damn damn Jareth and his moral dilemmas.
"Can you even roller skate?" Sarah demanded, hands on her hips in order to glare most effectively.
"Of course I can roller skate!" Jareth exclaimed indignantly. "There's no sport Underground or Above that I cannot perform with expert skill. Whomever do you imagine you're questioning, my love, and must you wound me thus?"
"You've never even seen a roller skate," Sarah answered.
Jareth's eyes narrowed, and his glamour slipped, revealing the full faery extent of his new-milk pale, perfect, thirty-something face. "You will be very surprised indeed tomorrow, my Sarah."
Toby watched them, a gleeful little grin all over his friendly little face. He even had his hands up over his mouth to stifle his laughter. Sarah winked at him.
"And that will be enough from your highness as well," Jareth said, moving across the room at lightning speed to snatch Toby up and tickle him.
He was so very, very hard on Sarah's heart at times like this.
"All right," she said, as he started levitating the child and allowing him to perform ever more complicated zero gee maneuvers. "All right, let him down. We need to go talk to Karen."
"I know, Toby," Sarah interrupted, "but we need to make sure everything will be ok to the adults around you, too."
"Terribly dull, these 'adults'," Jareth mused, and dangled Toby upside down by his ankles. Hauling the squealing, squirming bundle of boy up into a more normal embrace, he joined Sarah and made sure his college-age-human glamour was back in place. (It wouldn't really matter, but the lack of it made Sarah worry that one day her parents would stop seeing what they expected and see Jareth as he really was instead, and all Underground would break loose.) Then, the three of them trooped downstairs.
"Karen, have you got a minute?" Sarah asked.
Her stepmother was just fastening on a string of pale pink pearls that shimmered softly in the white recessed lighting that had been installed in the living room just last week. As nearly as Sarah could remember, the pearls were new, too. Six years ago, just after Toby was born, she'd have resented, or even been jealous of Karen getting the pearls.
That was then, of course, before the Labyrinth, and real friends, and realizing that all the presents in the world couldn't change the fact that none of her collection of parents would spare any expense, provided they did not have to spare her the time. That was also before two words could get her a yard long strand of the same type of pearls, or anything else she might want as well.
The Goblin King had, after all, given her certain powers. Just because he had no power over her, it didn't mean her every wish was no longer granted. The only problem with that, as far as Sarah could see, was that he was still trying to grant the first one from time to time. Even if she knew why, she never let him win that one.
Still, that was another story. What was relevant at the moment was Toby. He was always what was relevant, actually, and Sarah didn't mind it in the least, since she didn't have to handle all this alone anymore.
"Yes, dear, what did you need?" asked Karen, all the elegance of a politicking lawyer's wife dripping from her every word. Then she noticed Jareth and Toby over by the grand staircase. "Hello, Jay, I didn't see you come in."
"One does enjoy being one of life's mysteries," Jareth replied. Something about Karen's nature always made His Imperial Majesty, Jareth, King of the Goblins, Lord of the Labyrinth, Emperor of the Southern Shadow Lands, et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseum, come sauntering out. Karen never got to see the fanciful, child-like, oversized imp who played with Sarah and Toby.
"You know him, Karen," Sarah said with a smile at Jareth that was all part of the routine, "he'd appear out of the woodwork if he thought I needed him."
"Yes, he's simply a knight in shining armor," Karen agreed, beaming at the Goblin King who acknowledged the compliment with a haughty, graceful half bow. "Now, Robert and I will have to leave in a few minutes. What can we do for you?"
"Toby's class field trip is tomorrow," Sarah said. "They're insisting he be chaperoned, due to the scare, last time."
"Yes, that was dreadful," Karen agreed with a vague nod.
Sarah wondered if Karen actually knew what last time was or not. "My finals start tomorrow, first thing, and I'll be in the exam all morning. I was hoping you'd send a note to allow Jareth to..."
Karen waved an artfully negligent hand. (Sarah would bet anything, seeing how familiar that gesture was, that Karen had been studying Sarah's mother, Linda's, public appearances to get that gesture just like that.) "Don't worry, we signed a form to that effect after that disaster before. Honestly, Jay, if you'd not been there, I've no idea what would have become of our Toby."
"In theory, one of the school personnel would have acquired a modicum of sense and made arrangements. However, I'm not entirely certain, and am therefore relieved I have your complicity in this."
"Oh, it's no trouble," Karen said. "Honestly, you've been a member of the family for years." She paused thoughtfully. "Do you know, I think you two might be married by common law in some states? You'd have to ask your father, of course, Sarah..."
"Ask me what?" asked Sarah's father from behind Jareth on the stairs.
Sarah jumped in to stop Jareth from acting on that smug and delighted beam he was wearing. Just because the parents thought she and Jareth were a couple didn't mean they actually were, no matter what Jareth openly (and Sarah secretly) wished. "It's been six years," she corrected calmly. "Almost six years. Toby's seven, it's been six years."
"How quickly the time has flown when we've been together, don't you think, Precious?" Jareth suggested, lowering Toby to the floor so he could indulge the rare opportunity to visit with his father and mother.
"Oh, that," said Robert. "Yes, well. Sarah, we were going to save this as a graduation present, but I think, since we're all here, yes, that would be ideal." He held his hand out for his wife and Karen went to his side, just as she did when they stood before voters and impressed them. Jareth, in return, came down to stand next to Sarah. "Karen and I have been thinking of having that third floor remodeled into an apartment for you. The balcony can easily be equipped with a separate stair so that you and Jareth can come and go as you need. I know how very fond of Toby you both are, and it's very important to Karen and I that you be able to spend time with him."
Sarah looked at Jareth who was, obviously only to her, overly amused by the whole conversation, in a disturbed and frustrated with reality sort of manner. "Lovely," Jareth started.
"Of course, I'll expect you to behave yourself under my roof, young man," Robert said quite sternly to Jareth.
Sarah felt herself going pale. Her trains of thought all crashed into one another. She couldn't think, could only stare.
Her father only proceeded to make it worse. "Obviously I'm exaggerating. I'd have to be mad not to know what young couples get up to these days. Just understand that I expect proposals and legal marriage proceedings at appropriate times."
Jareth smirked. "Actually, I proposed to dear Sarah the night we met. I've asked often since." He shook his head. "I've no idea what I'm doing wrong."
Feeling safe to do so with an audience, Sarah teased, "I'm holding out for a better offer."