Lessons Learned

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The Goblin King instructs his son, Prince Jareth, on several subjects while introducing him to the mortal realm; he does not see the appeal of the lowly creatures-intractable and foolish-until...

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"What are they?" Jareth asked in disgust, staring down contemptuously at the moving images in the sphere his father held in his open palm. The faint wind ruffled his spiked blonde bangs slightly and they caught the moonlight reaching down into the clearing.

A rustling of treetops sounded as his father laughed. "They are mortals." He closed his fist on the crystal, which disappeared, and shifted slightly. His red robes, dark as shadowed blood in the faint lighting, glimmered ever so slightly with rising magic.

Jareth looked up at his father's sharply defined face with a questioning look, sweeping over him but mentioning that fact. "They crawl around in the earth like worms," he said, referring to the creatures of the other world.

A glimpse of canines as the smile grew wider. "Yes, they behave like animals, and are surely as important insects-no more so. But these particular mortals are playing a game. Most walk upright, as do we."

Jareth rose to his full height and lifted his chin, sniffing slightly. In his dark clothing, he blended in with the night, his light hair and pale skin but another sparking gem, bound to the earth as the stars were to the sky.

The magic continued to grow on his father's skin, sparking in his hair and about his clothing.

"You are departing...to another plane?" the son asked curiously. "You never teleport locally."

"You will accompany me," came the response.

Jareth blinked, raising his head to look the being in his eyes, for his father was taller than him, although Jareth had been at his adult height ever since the first moment he'd opened his eyes. "We go off-world?"

"We travel to our sister-world," his father confirmed. "It is time you learned your duties, Goblin Prince. For when I tire of this land, it will be yours." He waved a hand, enclosing them in a shimmering bubble not unlike the crystals he used to view. "You will see that even the mortals called humans have their use."

A flash of light quicker than the blinking of a man's eye, and they were gone.

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"A strange land," Jareth remarked, gazing around at the stone castles in the distance, the greenery around them. He frowned at a small purple flower at his feet and nudged it with the toe of his boot. "Their rock is gray and dead. And their trees..." He trailed off, moving to follow his father as he strode towards a tan path that cut through the field.

"They cannot compare to our illustrious silverwood," his father agreed. "But the variety in their world is something rare."

"Mmm," came the disbelieving hum behind him.

The Goblin King smiled. "Take note of your surroundings. And if you see anything you like...you may return with it."

"What should I wish to take?" Jareth asked dismissively.

The King cast a spell around them, murmuring under his breath, and when they stepped out among the humans no one looked twice at them.

Jareth eyed the men in their clanking metal armor, the ladies passing in groups in bright cloth with hair swept up in elaborate waves, the children and animals and poor in torn clothing running amuck around them unless caught and disciplined.

"I see nothing I want."

"We shall see."

They passed several wooden stalls filled with food and finery without comment. As they moved further into the town the booths became larger and better protected from the element. The crowds increased, the women flocking to all of them in turn, manservants trailing after them.

"Jewelry for your lovely ladies?" asked one man as they passed, offering a gold brooch in one hand and a crystal necklace in another. The hard-faced armed guards he employed stood on either wide of his booth, speaking silently of his success by their mere presence. But Jareth scoffed.

"Such men as yourselves surely have the paltry sum I ask for, for these beauties," the man cajoled them, naming his price.

"For such inferior goods?" Jareth mocked. "I would be thought less of to take such items home; you should pay me to relieve you of them."

The merchant's face darkened with rage, but he smiled tightly. "I see; you are without funds, then," he said in false cheer, deliberately misunderstanding. "I shall not waste my efforts on your unfortunate, poverty-stricken, worthless selves."

Jareth, having passed him, turned on his heel angrily and stepped back the way he'd come.

The King's hand wrapped around his upper arm, effectively holding him back. "Do not be so easy a target."

The hateful expression on his son's face melted away into cool disdain once more. He nodded shortly, and his father let go.

"Your first lesson," the King said, continuing on. "Do not ever allow yourself to be manipulated by an inferior creature."

They took nothing home that night.

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"Once more, then?" the King asked with a razor-sharp smile. He tilted his head, studying his son, who was pointedly ignoring him, focusing on the parchment before him.

Jareth, seated at his desk, scribbled a note with his quill. When his father did not depart, he raised his eyes to him without otherwise moving.

"I cannot refuse my king, now, is that not right?" he replied sourly. He dropped the quill. "Though your company is not what I seek just now."

"Your charm is unending," his father answered. "Any servant who spoke to me thus would be disciplined."

Jareth closed his eyes, opened them to find himself once again in the world of man.

"The last two times we where here, things were much the same as the first," his father mused, making the familiar gesture of a spell. "And yet, these ladies bare their lovely ankles with such ease."

Jareth glanced around, noting the brightly patterned dresses, snug about the waste, flaring out at the hips and reaching only to the calves of the women moving up and down the streets.

"Have you been keeping up with your studies?" his father asked solicitously, as though he was concerned with nothing more than his son's progress in learning about his sister-race.

"Yes," he said shortly. "Those ridiculous hats..."

"Excellent!" his father clapped once to emphasis his cheer, and Jareth looked aside at him as though he'd burst into song in the middle of court.

"Are you wearing a fedora?" he asked in disbelief.

"Come, son," came the reply. "We've had a long day at work, time to kick back with a good ol' soda at the local fountain!"

And he strode off cheerily down the sidewalk, arms bent at the elbows in a power-walk motion. Men automatically moved aside for him, nodding politely. Women smiled brightly, eyes following him in his dapper suit, noting his confidence. His father merely smiled, winked a time or two, and went on, stopping for no one.

Jareth fought down the scowl and went after him, staying several feet behind.

He followed his father into a soda shop and slid into the booth, sitting opposite of him.

"I got you a drink already," the King said brightly.

"Why are you doing this to me?"

"Can I get you boys something more?"

They both looked aside at the well-curved young waitress whose fitted apron drew attention to her hips.

Jareth jerked his gaze upwards, and her smile widened.

"Two burgers, please. And may I say, you're looking mighty pretty there, Miss..." his father pretended to peer at her nametag, "Betsy. Awfully fine," he added, looking her over and flashing a secretive smile, as though they'd shared a joke no one else knew about.

She raised a brow, still smiling. "Well, aren't you the charmer," she cooed. She jotted down their order on a notepad. "Two burgers and fries."

"We did not request 'fries,'" Jareth pointed out with a grumble. His eyes searched out his father's form for sparks of magic and found none.

"Fries are on me," she said coyly, looking back at his father before turning away.

Jareth did not speak to his father the entire time it took for the cook to complete their order, ignoring his attempts at conversation as well as the noise and music around them as more people entered the diner. He gritted his teeth as music swelled from the jukebox.

When he saw that the waitress left their plates as well as a napkin with her number, he crumpled his own, snarling. "Enough! You think to sully yourself with a human woman!" he growled in a low voice.

His father merely laughed softly. "I have no intentions of doing so." He lifted his burger, still watching his son's face and seeing his confusion. "Their food is of lesser quality than ours. Their woman are well enough, but lacking the fine sensual skill of our own. And yet not a single being here would think me less than pleased with everything around me."

Jareth went still, letting go of the napkin and leaning back in his seat. He nodded slowly, regaining his calm. Bitterness lingered in his tense jaw.

"Yes," the King said. "Your latest lesson: hide what you truly feel. Make the worlds see what you want them to. Use your words, your tone, your body, to get them to come to you."

He took another bite of the burger, swallowed. "You must learn to pretend."

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Jareth sighed, rubbed at his forehead with his fingers. He stood on a small balcony, big enough only to fit one person, taking in a bit of fresh air. Behind him was a large rounded room, darkened save for the fireplace in one corner.

He paused in his motions and looked up, noting something unseen. "Hello, Father."

"Son," came the reply.

He turned, and his eyes widened slightly.

"You do not wear your robe of office," he said evenly.

"I have worn it for centuries," his father agreed. "So much so it seems a part of me."

"...Yes."

"Then, I suppose, I shall in a way, always be with you, then?" the former King said pleasantly. He pointed at the lounging couch to Jareth's right.

He followed the motion to see the dark red robe folded neatly upon it. "I do not care for the color," he said flatly.

A white flash of teeth as his father laughed. "You will no doubt be more comfortable dragging that out only for court. You have always cloaked yourself in shadows." When Jareth did not reply, his humor faded.

"You knew this day would come."

"What care have I for time in a place such as this?" Jareth snapped, incensed. He glared at the taller being, then abruptly turned his back, resting his arms on the rail as an outward sign of calm he did not possess.

"Jareth," his father called more gently, not fooled. "Perhaps this seems abrupt to you. Truly, time has no meaning here."

"You saddle me with your responsibilities with no care for my own plans," Jareth ranted, ignoring the invitation to discuss his feelings. "You think the time right for me to take upon myself your title? Or do you just tire playing the diplomat?"

"I tire," Oberon agreed softly, and Jareth's frame tensed. "I have played the fool-king, guiding my people with an iron hand under a silken glove for far longer than you have been alive. I long for your mother."

Jareth's lips formed the word soundlessly, still turned away.

"She cannot leave her world, but I can mine. One day you too shall pass this burden on to your son, and we shall be reunited in the Lands of Light. Perhaps then you shall release this burden of shadow you have taken upon yourself."

"I have taken nothing upon myself," he denied.

"Indeed you have. Jareth," he reached out, placed a hand on his son's shoulder, "you have nothing to prove. You are my only heir. They will answer to you."

He let go. "I know you well. You are a master of denial. I do not hold this against you. But son," he said, "if there is something you truly want, you must not lie to yourself. Do not deny yourself."

"A final lesson?" Jareth asked coldly. He swallowed hard as his father spoke again, his voice quieting as it faded.

"We are always learning..."

Jareth stayed at the balcony a long while, standing in the moonlight, apart from the citizens in the town a ways off, apart from the goblin denizens meandering around the castle grounds. As always, he stood alone.

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His upper lip curled slightly in a faint sneer of distaste as he moved around the bench containing the inebriated, slobbering human, so drunken he couldn't even rise from his prone position beside a park bench.

"Mortals," he muttered in disgust. "Cannot hold their liquor."

Dawn's light was in full bloom in the sky, and as he glanced up at his, his expression smoothed slightly. "No sky as lovely as that of another world," he murmured to himself.

"My time here is done, this required time of observation complete," he spoke quietly, though his father was no longer there to hear. It was habit, then, that made him speak his thoughts aloud on these occasions; he was accustomed to a partner's presence while world-walking.

"And still I have seen nothing in all this land that I desire..."

He cut across the grass towards the woods that would cloak his abrupt departure. Lifting his eyes to seek out the location, he froze at the sight of a mortal girl resting on folded legs in the spot he had arrived in.

A white dress pooled around her form, a perfect contrast to her dark hair. Delicate fingers touched the gilded flowers that shined unnaturally because of the residual magic lingering in the area.

"How can she see the shine?" he whispered, astonished.

She raised her head with a thoughtful expression on her young face, her eyes a clear green, like the foliage he'd been so surprised by the first day he'd arrived on earth. Light seemed drawn to her, and suddenly he knew what his father had meant when he'd said of Jareth's mother, "She glowed with life."

She smiled to herself, until someone began to call.

"Sarah!" came a man's voice.

She jumped up, the dress dropping about her pale skin like it was dancing around her, revealing briefly perfectly formed legs. She began to run towards the man and slowed suddenly, looking back.

She did not find him, for his shape-shifted form resting on a nearby tree. Curious, she looked about her before turning away again.

"Do not deny yourself..." his father's words echoed in his mind.

"I will not," he vowed. "Not this time."

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END

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A/N: I had written this some time ago, and never posted it b/c I couldn't think of a title. I re-found it looking for something else, finally just picked a name, and figured might as well put it up. The scene where he first sees Sarah seems a little cliche to me now, and I don't intend to explain any further his fascination with her (or her age at the time) but it still seems to stand as a suitable first impression on an otherwise unimpressed Goblin King Jareth. Sarah IS different, and that catches his attention-how so and why are explored more both by myself and others in other fics.

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P.S. Hope I didn't make Jareth seem too emotional about his dad leaving-he is younger here, and he does have feelings, he's just not very good at showing them. Aside from the fact that he will now be alone, he is taking on a great deal of responsibility, and that would have an effect on one, I'd think.