A chance encounter reveals a startling truth, and Jareth realizes that every now and then, you get a second chance at a first impression.
He couldn't, on his own honor, interfere with her life.
The Goblin King was many things, but never, never a liar.
Sure, he played around with words, twisted and tortured them until they were devoted slaves that willingly served his purpose.
But he never out-right *lied*.
If he set rules that she had only to defeat him by realizing her own power-the truth of their little game-then he played by them. And she had learned well that line, at last; her heart had finally gotten its message through her thick skull. She spoke, and he had to give.
He had no power over her.
He had played with her emotions, sought to trick her, delay her, to bribe her, to make her want to stay. He was not accustomed to failure, but he had, seeing her innocence, chosen not to overwhelm her with physical appeal he had possessed since maturity so many, many generations ago. It would not be sporting to confuse her with sexuality when she was only just beginning to fall under the sway of the beguiling emotions that came with romantic love. He'd thought he'd have plenty of time for that later. He'd been wrong, and now he had banished himself to a life not directly entwined with hers.
He ruffled his feathers, puffing up slightly against the wind that blew past the tree he rested in, claws digging into the branches. The cold did not bother him, but the actions of a normal owl were second-nature now, for this was his favorite "shifted" form.
Technically, he wasn't interfering with her life right now. He was merely...observing.
Sarah was walking home from the bus stop, her bag hanging off one shoulder, her eyes downcast and dreamy as usual. He remembered that she used to stare at people, looking inward but seeming to invade their mental space, until rude remarks-which always startled her out of her thoughts-brought this to her attention, and she learned to keep her head lowered.
'Still such a child,' he thought, amused despite the pang that went through him. He ignored it, focusing on the thoughts saying he'd been right not to impose sensuality upon her those months ago. How many months had it been, until he could master his bitterness and decide to indulge in this silent, cruel and pointed reminder that he could be anywhere he chose-including outside her door, awaiting her next blunder? Time had no meaning in the land of his birth, and it was tricky to keep track of it here.
She blinked, her internal musing disrupted by something, and wriggled her shoulders, shifted her head side to side to ease tension. She glanced up, noticed him. A white owl in broad daylight was an unusual sight.
She frowned thoughtfully and altered her path, walking around the tree and in the street rather than under the branch that held him.
She looked back at him once, and adjusted her bag, walking just a little faster.
He would have smiled if he could..
"...No known cause for the fires, but they have spread out over private lands of several well-known citizens and approached the national parks...ash for miles..."
Sarah clicked off the television, sighing sadly. She shook her head and took her dishes to the sink. She raised her eyes to see an owl roosting on the tree in her yard and started slightly. She blinked, and it flew off leisurely. She looked down after several seconds to find her hand still outstretched towards the faucet, and turned on the cold water to rinse her plate of the remains of scrambled eggs.
He watched her meander down the sidewalk, seeming to have no set course or purpose. She crossed the streets on a whim, enjoying the sunlight and stopping in small stores lining the street when the heat became to much and she wiped at her brow. It was a lazy weekend day and she had waved good-bye to her friend earlier as they parted ways in the mall parking lot.
She paused in front of the library steps, hand on the strap of her purse, then bounced up. He perched on a statue by an uncovered window and watched her use a computer. She entered a search engine's web addressed and waited for it to load.
She typed in "labyrinth.".
Several pages of web links, with summaries made of random snatches of text off main pages displayed, and she chewed on her lower lip.
None seemed just right. She switched to images.
Mazes made of hedges, corn, and stone...famous and ancient, new and little-known. She switched back to the first set of results and tried a couple of links, reading and reading. She tried Ebay and Amazon, trying to find a particular book title. The memory was niggling at the back of her mind.
But since she didn't know what she was looking for exactly, she wasn't even sure if it wasn't staring her right in the face.
Flashes of the dreams she'd had lately passed through her mind. She paused, fingers poised over the keys, then typed "crystals." But that too failed her.
Her cell phone rang, jarringly loud in the relative silence, and she jumped in her seat before hastening to grab it out of her purse, glancing up apologetically at the faces turned her way.
"Hello?" she whispered.
"Hey, you're still coming tonight, right? I need the moral support," a feminine voice chirped in her ear. "Why are you whispering?"
"Yeah, Marina, I'll be there. I'm in the library. I have to go." She confirmed their plans and shut the cell phone, slipping it into her jean pocket. She took one last look at the words on the screen, shook her head, and x-ed out of the browser.
'They should see the feasts I have hosted,' he thought later, able to focus on his own thoughts despite the blaring tones and pulsing vibration of the so-called music only through years of practice at ignoring that which he did not like. 'They have no grasp of subtleties.' This party was tame, comparatively, and far less of a thrill, for the majority of the ladies present removed clothing items and pressed their hips into their male partners' with little prompting during their dancing. 'Wanton lust has a place-at the end of the game.' He sneered off offers made for his attention by the bold and the drunken, remaining away from the center of the throng inside the house this evening.
He resembled a young human with a shock of pale blonde-white hair and piercing blue eyes, the color of a blue diamond and slanted a little in an homage to the fictionalized images humans made of his race-he wanted to look exotic but not quite like his usual otherworldly self. His cheekbones were not as defined and his skin even paler, his ears ever so slightly flat so as to be, when seen at the right angle, not quite round. But he was of average height and of slight build, the body-type favored for what he had heard to be called an "emo boy," and his clothes clean and appropriately fitted but bearing no obvious "brand-names."
He held a cup of an unidentified alcoholic beverage, which, after a dubious sniff, he did not partake of as those around him did. He lifted it to let an inebriated young redhead amble by, nearly colliding with him before walking under his raised arm, giggling. A young man joined her, and they stumbled into an unused bedroom. He pressed against the wall he leaned on, revulsion rising not at the mindless revelry, but at the eagerness of the women to play victim by placing themselves at the mercy of the far-more sober males present. Did they not know how to be a challenge?
Why was Sarah even here? He lowered his arm again, searching until he spotted her, still on the end of the couch, with that boy's arm on the back of it. He plied her with drink, creeping closer and closer as he shifted about. His over-sized jeans and untied shoe-laces did not seem to hinder him, though perhaps he could not see her clearly, as he was constantly pushing his hair out of his eyes. Sarah, sitting stiff with her hands in her lap, gave him false, tight smiles and seemed to regret her presence here even more than his. When he leaned forward, placing a hand on her thigh, her eyes widened and she straightened further, hands clenching together. She was a horse ready to bolt, waiting only for the sting of the bee resting on her skin.
He crushed the cup, feeling the liquid slid over his fingers as it poured out of the burst plastic. Dropping it, he shoved his way through the crowd and put his hand on the boy's shoulder, forcibly turning him.
"Hey, man!" he said, annoyed, his longish maple-brown hair off of his face. Surely he'd have continued even more impressive dialogue, but Jareth, feeling merciful, merely put him to sleep where he sat with a tensing of his fingers that sent a wave of magic into the idiot boy. He slumped into the couch cushions.
"How'd you do that?" Sarah asked, curiousity, as always, overcoming her nerves.
"Vulcan pinch," he said, letting go.
"I thought that just temporarily paralyzed someone," she replied doubtfully, giving the teenager a quick once-over and popping to her feet. She smiled hesitantly. "I didn't think anyone else here would even have heard of that."
Yes, he rememebered her other secret obsession-he'd once thought he'd go mad hearing her recite the lines of that show along with the actors, again and again...
...and again. Why hadn't he smashed the crystal? What power did she possess to drive him to this masochism?
He smiled coolly. "You looked like you were having as much fun as I am."
She lifted her chin, lips parting, but for once she had no witty retort, eyes flicking over him uncertainly.
"I don't know why I'm here," he lied easily. He tilted his head in the direction of the door. "Walk out with me?"
She paused, looked back at the would-be suitor on the couch, and he fought down the aggravation rising. Surely she did not miss the jabbering of that moron? Was she concerned for him?
A passing girl bumped into her, and she swayed before stepping forward. "Sure. Just don't use that move on me, got it?" she said bravely, and he realized that however impressed she was with his heroic rescue of her from the boy's wandering hands, she still didn't know him.
"Live long and prosper," he replied solemnly, which won a shy smile. He lead the way, and soon they were strolling down the sidewalk towards the nearby park. He gestured up at the sky, which was cloudy with a smoky haze. The moon was the color of the ocean waves.
In the silent stillness of the night, when everyone else was at home and away from the rowdy party, she seemed more comfortable in her own skin. Her face had a pale glow under the white street lights.
He looked away as she turned her face to his.
She followed his gaze. "A blue moon," she murmured. "It's so sad that such a pretty thing comes from such a horrible event."
"So many things do."
She glanced aside at him, lowering her gaze to his hand, swinging next to hers as they walked, and quickly averted her eyes. His own supernatural eyes could see the blush on her cheeks as she step onto the rubbery black park floor, made to cushion to landing of small children, and made her way over to the swings. He took a seat on the one next to her.
"Why did you rescue me?" she asked solemly, swinging a little, automatically pumping her legs like a child. He remained still, following her motions with his eyes.
"I've been watching you," he answered. Before he continue, she looked back over her shoulder at him as she swung towards the sky, a white blur against a mostly cloudless backdrop, and let out a huffing laugh.
"That sounds like a stalker, you know," she returned with her usual smart-mouthed attitude.
He smiled. "You stand out."
She passed him, went behind him, moved forward again. "No, I don't." *Swoosh* "No one notices me. I always have my head in the clouds."
"That's why you stand out."
She dragged her feet on the ground, slowed to a stop and twisted in her seat to study him. She was fidgeting again in that way he associated with her fight-or-flight response.
He turned his head back towards the moon. "I love unique things. I love blue moons." He did, actually. His own land's moon was a periwinkle color.
She didn't run. "I do, too." She released her grip on the chains supporting her, ran her fingers over the links and let go. After a few quiet moments, she said, "Did you ever dream about the moon?"
What? His brows drew together. "Literally, or metaphorically?" Sarah, and her nonsense. She was a riddle, that was certain.
She went on as though he hadn't answered. "I dream about it all the time. It's spinning like a coin on a table. Then it turns into a bubble and flies away."
He didn't reply, watching her watching the moon, waiting until she spoke again.
"There's a man who has the moon in his hair. He's chasing me down a hallway that loops in on itself."
She spoke of the crystals and the labyrinth. He frowned, surprised she'd share that experience with another, even indirectly, and even incorrectly; he had never chased her, though he certainly had earth-moon-colored hair.
"Hair like yours," she mused. "I don't know why I never noticed you."
"What happens in your dreams?" he asked gently, steering the conversation back to her memories.
She shrugged, fingering the hem of her shirt, a dark undefined color in this light. "Sometimes he turns into the moon and flies away. Sometimes I fall into a pit." She frowned. "Someone's crying in it."
She looked at him. "Sorry. I'm weird, aren't I?"
He shrugged back. "So what?"
She smiled faintly. "I don't know why I dream about those things."
This startled him. "You don't?" Was she lying?
She shook her head. "I spent a lot of time reading fantasy novels the year my dad got re-married." She laughed briefly, a self-mocking sound. "Sometimes I'd go to talk to people who didn't really exist. Let's talk about something else," she said suddenly.
"What?" And it had just been getting interesting, listening to her willingly divulge her secret thoughts and dreams.
"Animals," she said, mistaking his confusion for a query about what their next subject should be. "What's your favorite one?"
"Owl," he replied automatically.
She looked pleased. "Me, too. There's this new owl nesting somewhere nearby my house. It keeps hanging around. It's really pretty," she went on. "I haven't gotten very close. I mean, I could have, but I didn't want to walk right under the tree. You never know with birds," sheadded.
He realized she spoke of the habit flying animals had of defecating without care of who or what was underneath them. She hadn't been thinking of him at all when she'd gone around that tree!
"I think its home got destroyed in the fires..."
Stunned, he listened to her ramble on, taking his silence for permission to speak freely and without interruption. All the while, he sorted through her words and actions, and came to the dismaying realization he'd never considered before:
She didn't remember the events of his Labyrinth as having actually happened.
'Of course,' he realized, dismayed. 'She was merely fifteen.' Still technically a child, though she'd been close to her sixteenth birthday. Only her strong will and intense focus on her experience had kept the memories around long enough to remain in her head at all as dreams. How had he forgotten that? Ah, yes. His own experience with mortals had been limited after the days when it was comman-place for a thirteen year-old to wed, for humans had had an even shorter life-span in those days. They were adults much sooner than today's teenagers were.
No one under sixteen who departed from his land retained their memories. It was a fail-safe built into the spell on his land, that he himself had put in place centuries ago. Sixteen was considered the age of accountability, and any adult who was admitted to the Labyrinth was usually under onus, obligated to do his will. Children were of far less use, and generally returned, having their memories wiped to prevent any sharing of knowledge of magical passages and spells. Adults with their more rigid habits of thought were rarely allowed to leave, and tended to go mad when they did, displaced in time or merely just unable to convince anyone else-including themselves-of the validity of their experiences.
In the days of the youth of mankind, when Fae still danced on the earth, humans often stumbled into their circles and found their gateways and imposed themselves on the People. Any dealings with humans had been cautious and guarded. Knowledge of his kind dwindled, and that was how they liked it.
The Goblin King, upon finding that reckless mortals wandering his land stirred up trouble, had kept only a few slaves. The rest he sent back, for as children they were not to be held accountable for their actions according to the law of his people. Even those who wished away another child forfeited their memories.
'She's lost to me!' Impotent rage coursed through him, and he clenched his hands into fists, the magic inherent in him sparking on his skin.
'Fool!' he berated himself. 'You placed yourself into this bind.' He should have waited those few extra weeks, but no, on fire with impatience, he had come to her right away, unthinkingly.
No one had captured his attention in a long time, not like Sarah had. And now he had nothing to tantalize her with, no memories with which to beguile her, to make her long for answers to his puzzling actions. Dreams would fade, and she would forget his face entirely. His jaw clenched, tense with words he didn't say.
Sarah, unaware of his turbulent emotions, was resting her head lightly against the chain on her left, shifting closer to him.
He stared at her, feeling that pang again, that he had never felt before her. It took him several seconds to see it for what it was:
She turned her head to him, her dark hair a curtain that moved to reveal her ivory skin for his viewing pleasure. She smiled at him.
"Do you mind if I say I like you?"
He blinked, barely recovering his cool persona. "No. Why should I?" After a few seconds he roused himself to play his part more suavely. "I like you." He returned her smile out of habit, for it wouldn't do, for his pride's sake, to earn her distrust a second time.
A second time...
"Do you live far from here?" she asked.
"Hmm?" he hummed at her, trying to re-capture his train of thought. Second time...second...chance?
She repeated herself, and he fabricated a story with hardly any effort, half of his mind mulling over the tantalizing wisp of a notion that was flitting about in his subconcious, touching the surface of his conscious mind.
"...Not very far at all," she was pointing out. "Do you want to meet up at school on Monday?"
Time stood still as he contemplated the option before him.
She liked him.
This persona was but a part of him, stripped of his defensive arrogance and the pride a king must bear. Quieter, yes, but everyone had many facets to their personality.
How much more of his would she like if she but gave him a chance?
He heard himself agreeing to her plans. Felt the deep satisfaction she was willingly pairing herself with him, the faintly smug smile on his face that crept over his lips as she looked at him so happily.
His ego was slightly miffed that she hadn't responded to him so well before, but then, she'd been ignorant of his true appeal. When her defenses were down, and he coaxed her gently, it took barely anything at all to attract her.
"You're so different," she murmured, reaching out her hand. He touched his fingertips to hers, laced his fingers through her own gently.
'In every way,' he agreed silently.
She was smiling at the sky now. "You know, it's pretty rare to see an actual blue moon. About as rare as finding a guy who doesn't have only one thing on his mind," she added playfully, raising her brows at him before shyly looking away.
He laughed, enjoying the movements of her lips. She squeezed his hand gently. "Once in a blue moon," he mused aloud.
"Yes," she whispered back.
Once in a blue moon did you get a second chance with a mortal.
"I know," Sarah said apologetically. She pressed the cell to her ear with her shoulder, rummaging through her dresser drawer for a moment, then slamming it shut with a disgusted sigh. "I totally abandoned you. I'm sorry. But it wasn't really my scene." She didn't add that she was surprised Marina had even noticed her absence. The girl had been positively giddy to be invited to Derek Hasley's party, and had consumed way too much beer. But Marina had shrugged off Sarah's concern and slipped away with a guy she'd never met before, leaving Sarah trapped with Josh. He'd been making her his personal challenge ever since the day she off-handedly ignored his habitual flirtation.
She smiled as she remembered Jared putting him to sleep in the middle of last week's party.
"...Sarah, are you listening?"
"Sorry," she replied automatically. She didn't bother telling Marina she thought her friend was being foolish trying to hang out with those over-sexed, booze-chugging idiots. Marina was her first friend in this school, and still her closest. Friends stick by friends even when they act like idiots, and help pick up the pieces afterwards.
"So where did you wander off to?" Marina asked just as Sarah saw the slip of white peeking out from under her bed. She bent down and yanked her nightgown out from under it.
"I met this great guy," she admitted. "He has the most beautiful eyes."
"Sarah, that's a line guys give girls to get them to hook up."
She laughed. "I know, but it's true." She scrunched up the nightgown in her hands. "You remember the Blue Morpho utterfly we saw at the House of Butterflies? His eyes are that color. They're amazing. And he can actually hold a decent conversation-and he doesn't mind how much I talk!" She pressed her hands, and perforce the garment, to her chest.
"Well, that's something," Marina allowed. "You do ramble on about the weirdest things. Conversations with you are never boring. I think you store up all your odd-ball thoughts all day long until you talk to me."
"He likes a lot of the same things I do," Sarah replied, unfazed by her friend's teasing. "He's so...smart, you know? He has a bigger vocabulary than most guys our age, that's for sure."
"So, what does he look like?"
Sarah sat down on the edge of her bed, sighing. "Really pale hair, pale skin. Blue eyes, of course. Taller than me, but not too tall. Not heavy, not too skinny. Kinda skinny. But he has this attitude, like you don't want to mess with him. He shut down Josh with one well-placed pinch to the nerves on his neck."
"I'm well aware of the much-discussed vulcan neck pinch," Marina said dryly. "Don't feel you have to explain it again. I can't believe you find the one guy in school who's as nerdy as you, but he's also totally hot," she complained. "'Cause I know you aren't seeing some ugly dude."
Sarah merely smiled, not taking her whining seriously. "He's really something," she said dreamily. "He's totally out of this world."
"He'd have to be, to be your perfect match."
A/N: I apologize if Jareth is ooc-he is pretending to be someone else. Also, I do not own Ebay or Amazon.
A/N edit: I'd forgotten I'd written this fic...I don't always post fics right away, so as to give myself time to think them over when I'm feeling uncertain about them. But after another couple of glances, I think this one is okay. Also, my virus-infected computer is dying, so I figured it was good enough to post before I lost it. Hope you all agree. Sorry for any typos.