If Recollecting Were Forgetting
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Rating: PG-13 (STRONG: potentially disturbing themes)
A/N: So, this is a large part of what would have been the first chapter of "If Recollecting Were Forgetting." (The one-shot I posted a while ago with that title was originally intended to be the prologue of a much larger story.)
I'm fairly certain I won't be continuing this-but I might. Who knows? I've long since stopped predicting where my muse will take me. ;)
This would have featured a darker Jareth. It was meant to be more "his" story than Sarah's, and therefore, he has the character evolution rather than her. Most of my stories feature Sarah as the one who has to come to terms with something, whether it be her own hidden love for Jareth in the romcoms or something deeper in the dramas. This, however, was meant to be a long road for Jareth.
Oh, Bowie acolytes might notice some blatant Bowie references. :) I always have fun sneaking them in-even in a drama.
And finally, apologies for rough spots and typos, etc. No beta, and honestly, if I had continued (or if I do continue) the story, this would not have been the final draft of this chapter. Just saying. (Oh, and fair warning: the chapter is incomplete.)
Specters of Yesteryear
Julian leaned against the wall, tipping his head back as he took a long drag from his cigarette. He ignored the chill winter air curling around his ears, seeping into the seams of his jacket. Beneath the stark exterior light, tiny snowflakes drifted down around him in lazy circles, dancing wildly when he blew out grey-white smoke.
Had it always been like this? Over the last ten years, weeks had bled together until seasons seemed to pass without his notice. Before that, there was nothing. Only snippets of strange memories as vaporous as his misty breath. He dismissed them as the wild imaginings of a man desperate for a past, no matter how ridiculous.
He took another pull on his cigarette and grimaced when he realized the tobacco had burned down to the filter. He flicked the butt into the wet slush building in the gutter. The vice would kill him eventually, if his other reckless habits didn't bring about his demise first. In some dark hollow of his mind, he heard a ragged, aged voice warning him to respect his mortality. A memory from another time, or the figment of his imagination? Real or not, he defied it, as he always did, and pulled out another cigarette.
The door next to him opened, rusty hinges creaking loudly in the quiet evening. Julian drew into the shadows, hoping whoever it was would pass without noticing him. He wasn't particularly in the mood for conversation tonight. In truth, he was never in the mood for much of anything. His indifference was only marred by the occasional hum of inexplicable anger—and a pang of nameless loss.
With a metallic bang, the door closed, and the light revealed his assistant, Amanda. She wore her usual all-black attire—"Goth" as she called her look. Her mother had visited once and showed Julian photographs of Amanda during her high school years. He thought it a pity Amanda felt compelled to dye her shining auburn hair a lack-luster black in rebellion against convention. Then again, hadn't he done nearly the same, himself? His hair hadn't always been the messy, chin-length deep brown that it was now. Or had that been a dream?
"There you are." Amanda faced him, hugging her body to ward off the cold.
Julian sighed, closing his eyes. "And I thought I hid so well," he said in a humorless tone.
"Ha, ha, Mr. Blaylock." She gave him a flat expression. "You know, I've wondered more than once if you brood even in your sleep."
The corner of his mouth twitched at the comment. Flinging his half-smoked cigarette into the gutter with the other butt, he straightened to his full height. He stepped up to Amanda, invading her personal space. She shrank from him as he murmured, "You could always find out." Without waiting for a response, he pulled open the door and walked inside.
After being outside for so long, the air in the storage room was almost sweltering. Julian slipped his jacket off and slung it over his shoulder. Amanda's heeled boots clacked against the linoleum behind him as the door slammed shut with a jarring echo. She would have dismissed his implied invitation by now. He hadn't truly been offering, and after working for him over the last year, Amanda had grown accustomed to his habit of keeping those around him off-balance.
Muffled bass thumped beyond the storage room. While most nightclubs catered to hip-hop connoisseurs, the La Faim DJ played techno and house music exclusively. The genres made Julian nostalgic for earlier days, back when New Age was topping the charts. He was rather fond of rock as well, but dance music attracted more customers. As he stepped inside the dark club, the pounding electronic beat wrapped around him like a familiar cloak.
"I put Marie Dumfry and her entourage in one of the VIP alcoves," Amanda said in a near yell next to him.
Julian handed her his coat without a word. He glanced at the dance floor with colorful lights lancing out with the music. Men and women gyrated, grinding against one another with the pumping song. A grin tugged the corners of his mouth at the scene. He never felt more at home than here among the maelstrom of wanton depravity.
Amanda led him past the two large men posted at the base of the lighted stairs. They both gave Julian a nod of deference when he passed.
As he and Amanda ascended, a pair of women stumbled down the staircase, drinks splashing with each step. One of them looked Julian over, then elbowed her friend.
"Later, ladies," Amanda said, reaching back to grab Julian's arm. "Mr. Blaylock has business."
"Oh, my god! Mr. Julian Blaylock?" asked the one who had given him that appraising look. "As in the owner of this fine establishment?" She purred the question as she turned to clamber up the steps after them. Her friend followed close behind.
"I am he," Julian replied. He cocked his head, letting his eyes meander over their shapely figures. They were young, nubile—exactly the sort of pretty things he liked to play with. Except…
"Later," Amanda said with exasperation. She pulled two white cards from inside her blouse and offered them to the women. "Here. Why don't you go wait at the bar. Drinks are on Mr. Blaylock." They took the cards, tossing Julian looks filled with promise before scrambling down the stairs.
He sighed, watching them descend. "Now you've gone and spoilt my fun."
Amanda narrowed her eyes at him. "Oh, please. If you stopped checking out their boobs long enough, you would have noticed they were both brunettes. Not your type."
"My savior," Julian muttered.
He had noticed, though. He noticed every brunette who crossed his path—especially those with pale skin and light eyes. Of all the disquieting inclinations he had, his consuming need to both wholly possess and crush them disturbed him most of all. He kept that hunger tightly lidded, suppressing it with nights spent in the arms of blondes, ginger-haired beauties, or women of exotic ethnicities—tall and dark-skinned was his current flavor.
The glass walls that separated the VIP area from the dance floor below muted the music enough for ease of conversation, and the alcoves they passed were filled with local celebrities and their groupies, chatting and laughing—among other borderline indecent activities.
Amanda pointed Julian toward one near the end. "Try not to insult your way out of this job." She glared at him before walking away.
"Only for you," he called to her back with a smirk.
When he stepped inside the niche, all heads turned to him, conversation stopping abruptly. Marie Dumfry—the latest chart-topping pop star—stood, pulling the short skirt of her black dress down. Her platinum blonde hair was reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe, but that was the only similarity to the late actress. Where Marilyn was curvy, Marie was petite and thin.
The singer held out her hand, and though she was composed, a hint of uncertainty flickered in her eyes. "Mr. Blaylock."
Julian stared at her hand for a breath before taking it. He was never quite comfortable shaking hands with others. The act felt oddly intimate. "Ms. Dumfry." He took a seat and gestured for her to do the same. "Shall we get to it?"
"Yes, of course." Settling back into her couch, she nodded toward one of her associates—a large Samoan man with tribal tattoos around his neck. He pulled a portable disc player and headphones out of his pocket and handed them to Julian.
"So, I want to do something different with my next album," Marie said with a nervous quaver beneath her words, "but my label isn't confident that my fans will come with me, you know? They want some assurance." When Julian made no reply, she tucked her hair behind her ear and went on, "I've heard you're the best in the business, and I need you to be my producer."
"And this?" Julian tapped the Discman.
"That's a demo of one of the songs I'd like to do—just to give you an idea of what I'm going for," Marie said.
Julian put on the headphones and played the cd. He leaned back, closing his eyes. The intro was simple: soft, haunting piano cords for a few measures. When Marie began singing, her tone was huskier, more vulnerable than he'd heard from her previous hits.
I have felt the end of summer
in the breath between your lips.
I tasted the dawn of winter
beneath your fingertips.
The lyrics slid over him, tugging at the darkness of his past. Julian smothered the swell of fractured memories and pressed his thoughts toward forming a clinical critique.
The melody was raw in the right way, but the accompaniment could use some tweaking to wrench more emotion from the song.
Words we say like nothing's changed
hang in the air between us.
And I can't breathe anymore,
No, I can't breathe anymore.
Her voice rose to a pain-filled crescendo but lacked proper instrumental backing.
No more promises, no more, my love.
We're gone like yesterday's whispers.
We're gone long before tonight.
Julian's fingers unconsciously moved at his sides along with the piano. The words pulled at him again, resurrecting faceless ache that was inextricably tied to his mysterious anger. He wanted to drown in each line, to sink further into oblivion until his body vibrated with the black desire hidden deep inside. He wanted to hunt and destroy, to take and—
He banished the unsettling hunger and redoubled his concentration as the second verse began.
He understood her label's hesitancy. This was vastly different than the variety of candy pop Marie had been offering before. However, the song showed that Marie was growing from singer to artist. In the right hands—his hands—she could go to the next level, from fleeting stardom to immortality.
When the last note faded, he opened his eyes. Marie had her hands clasped together beneath her chin as though praying for his approval. The others wore similar expressions of hope. He was tempted to tell her he wouldn't take the job, to watch that hope crumble in her eyes. Cruelty was another disturbing proclivity Julian had to suppress—at least, some of the time.
He rose from his seat. "Amanda will contact your—" he waved toward her group, "—people when we've booked the studio."
Marie leapt up with a squeal. "Thank you so much!" She grasped his hand and pumped it enthusiastically. "You won't regret it."
Julian gave her a half-smile. "No, but you might."
Marie blinked, then shook her head and laughed as though he were joking. He wasn't. He was an exacting producer, never settling for less than perfection. More than one artist had fired him. But those who stuck with him to the end always went platinum. In Marie's case, he might even get her to diamond.
He left Marie and her entourage to their celebrations and went to the niche he usually reserved for himself. It was the room furthest down the dim hallway, decorated with the same trendy furniture as the other alcoves. The only light came from the dance floor below, casting most of the room in dark shadows.
Julian stood at the window, his eyes searching the busy nightclub as Marie's song lingered in his mind. The haunting tune crept across his chest like a creeping vine, constricting him with overwhelming need. How long had it been since he last succumbed to its call? How much longer could he ignore it? Did he want to?
A/N: And that, my friends, is all she wrote so far. (And may be all she ever writes.) Thank you for reading, despite knowing my sadistic tendency to leave you hanging wretchedly with these deleted scenes. :) If you have a moment, I'd love to know what you thought of it!