1. The Bottle
Disclaimer: I own none of this, and I promise not to turn it into a dirty e-book and make money off of it.
Warning: This is rated M, for language, and lust, and love, and other indoor sports.
Sarah stood in front of her door. Someone was calling her.
"All right, all right," she muttered, unlocking the top lock, then the bottom, and then the middle, which always stuck, and needed wiggling. The phone kept ringing insistently, and Sarah, now inside, tried to simultaneously kick off her heels – God, her feet were killing her – put her handbag on the side table, and shut the door behind her. It didn't work, and she stumbled over her black pumps and the contents of her bag – her makeup, her half a dozen pens that she always carried around for some reason, and all the business cards she'd managed to collect tonight – scattered themselves across her narrow entranceway.
Still, the phone rang, more impatient than before.
A quick glance at the clock above the kitchen sink told her it was past 11pm, and Sarah was very, very tired, and her feet hurt, and she had a bottle of Rioja that was waiting for her, and all she wanted to do was curl up on the couch with a glass of wine and –
The phone rang again.
"Fucking CHRIST," Sarah snapped, crossing the last few remaining steps to her desk with more energy than she thought she had in her. She picked up the phone. "What!" she barked into the receiver. "What?"
"…Sarah?" The voice was tentative.
Shit, thought Sarah. "Karen? Is that you?"
"Everything all right?"
"Yes. Yes. I'm sorry, it's just… it's been a long day."
"I'm guessing you're just getting in," Karen said, "Since I've been calling every half hour since 7, and I'm just getting you now. If you'd only get a cell phone! Did you have another party?"
"Yeah," Sarah said, rubbing the sore instep of her foot against the back of her calf. "A restaurant launch. We've been working on this one for months. I'm glad it's over, but I'm exhausted."
"Oh. Well, I won't keep you. I just wanted to know… are you still coming tomorrow? You know, for your birthday?"
Shit, thought Sarah again. "Right. Right. Um, I'm not sure, Karen –"
"It won't be anything big, I know you're busy. I just thought, maybe a barbecue? It's supposed to be so nice out this weekend. It's finally spring, after all this bad weather. So much rain, even for April! Besides, we haven't seen you in months… You only turn 30 once, sweetheart," continued Karen, trying desperately not to sound desperate in that way she had, and not completely succeeding.
"I know." Sarah did know, and she preferred, actually, not to think about it, thanks all the same. She had been very successful at not thinking about it since her last birthday.
"And Toby's been asking when we'd see you." Karen paused, expectant. The guilt that had been slowly building in Sarah washed over her in full force.
"All right," she said, admitting defeat. Karen knew she would do anything for her little brother, a fact that she took advantage of only in extreme circumstances. Well… it had been months since she'd gone home. It might be fun. And it would be good to see Toby. "Okay. Barbecue. Birthday. Got it. What time?"
"I was thinking about 11, so we –"
"Noon," Sarah interjected. "At the earliest. I plan on at least eight hours sleep tonight, I haven't had more than five in weeks, it feels like."
"Noon's fine," Karen said, quickly. "It'll be so good to see you." She sounded so pleased. "And I haven't seen Jeff for ages," she continued.
Sarah was struck by another wave of guilt. "It'll be good to see you too," she said. And she meant it. She did. She rubbed her forehead wearily. "But, uh… no Jeff."
"Oh, Sarah," Karen sighed, crestfallen. "What happened? We really liked him."
"I did, too. Or, I thought I did. He… I'm too tired to get into it now."
"All right," Karen said, her tone implying that she'd get the rest of the story later. "Well. Has um… your mother…?"
"No. She hasn't called." Sarah kept her voice free of emotion, something that she had a lot of practice with when dealing with her mother. "But I don't really expect her to."
"Maybe tomorrow, then," Karen said, trying to sound cheerful. "Tomorrow. See you tomorrow. And hey – happy birthday. You'll be 30 in less than an hour." Sarah looked at the clock again. It was 11:15pm, now. "And I wish –"
"Karen!" Sarah cut in frantically, her old habits not dying at all, and still alive and well. "You know that I don't –"
"Oh, Sarah, really! Don't be so silly! You're almost 30 now, you can stop with all that stuff. I'm allowed to wish you a happy birthday, aren't I?"
"Well…" Sarah trailed off, lost in thought. She was almost 30. It had been years – 15, in fact. Fifteen years of no wishes. Fifteen years of catching her words before they spilled out of her mouth, afraid of something strange happening.
Afraid of nothing strange happening.
Fifteen years… and nothing.
(Nothing, nothing, tra la la?)
Surely a happy birthday couldn't hurt?
Fuck it, Sarah thought. She was almost 30, after all. "All right. Fine. Yes, wish me a happy birthday, please. Go ahead." Ridiculous, Sarah thought to herself. She was being ridiculous.
Karen laughed. "Finally! Okay! Sarah, I wish you a very, very happy birthday. I wish you the best birthday you have ever, ever had –"
Sarah laughed too, almost giddy in the feeling of disobeying one of her own rules, one of the Ten Commandments of Sarah Williams. Thou shalt always use your right words. "Thanks –"
But Karen wasn't finished. "I wish you an eternity of happiness." Sarah's heart, which had previously been fluttering pleasantly, was now in her throat, beating like a terrified bird. "I wish you everything you want in life, forever." She paused, and Sarah seized the chance to interrupt – "Okay! Okay. Enough wishes, now. Thanks."
"Sorry, I got so carried away. Such a silly superstition to have, you know? But you were such a strange girl when you were younger, always in your own little world…" Karen kept talking, but Sarah had stopped paying attention, scanning her apartment, straining to hear into the kitchen, stretching the phone cord as far as it went to peer around the doorframe into her bedroom. Nothing.
The terrified bird in her heart was calming down, fluttering gently. Nothing. Of course, nothing. She was being ridiculous. Nothing.
Just as she was afraid of.
"…and Toby's going to have his friends over, for his band practice, and then we'll do the barbecue. Sound good?"
Sarah shook her head quickly, and tried to figure out where she had left the conversation. "Right! Good. Tomorrow. Noon."
"See you tomorrow, sweetheart," Karen said, happily. "Toby will be so excited when I tell him. He's probably still awake now, I can see a light still on in the hall. God knows you father passed out hours ago…"
"Good night Karen," Sarah said, pointedly. "I'm going to bed now."
"Of course! Of course. Good night sweetie. See you tomorrow. Love you."
"Love you, too," Sarah said, and meant it. She hung up.
What she hadn't meant, however, was the part about going to bed. Sarah padded through her living room to her kitchen, carefully avoiding the heels, her handbag, and its contents, which were all still scattered by her door. She paused in the kitchen doorway. Still nothing.
"Ridiculous," she muttered, to herself, to the empty apartment. To the no one who had come.
She yanked the bottle down from the cabinet by the fridge, pulled two glasses from the drying rack, and picked her way back through the kitchen and the living room, collapsing on the sofa. It was only when she was done pouring her own glass that she realized she had taken two, out of habit, and there was no one left to pour for.
Jeff, you asshole, Sarah thought, staring at the empty glass. She practically threw her wine down her throat. It was good, and tasted of raspberries. She felt a childish sense of happiness in the fact that she was going to drink it on her own. They had bought it together three weeks ago, with the plan to drink it on her birthday. Asshole, she thought again, pouring a second glass, and raising it to the ceiling. Fuck him.
When that one was finished, Sarah felt much more relaxed, and a bit drunker than she had intended. She had had a few glasses of champagne at the launch that night, and no dinner, and she was just pleasantly drunk enough to not have to think too much about what she was doing. She pushed herself up and made her way to the closet in her bedroom, where she pulled out a big, empty shoebox that had once held a pair of boots. She brought it back into her living room, to the trio of dark wooden bookcases that lined the wall behind her sofa. She scanned the shelves one by one, running her finger along the tops of the spines, and pulling a few out. She paused in fiction, and biographies, but skipped over poetry entirely. She dropped his books into the shoebox, one by one. "Goodbye, Ayn Rand, you preachy, sanctimonious old bitch," Sarah said, as the last one fell in.
When she was done, she brought the box to her table, plopped it down, and glared at it. There was a Sharpie on the side of the table, and she used it to scrawl a note on lid. Looking at her messy chicken scratchings, she realized that she really was drunker than she thought. Fuck him, she thought, capping the Sharpie angrily. Fuck him, the fucker. She stumbled back to the sofa. There was still half the bottle left.
One more glass went down. Still good, Sarah thought, looking at the bottle pensively. Still tastes like raspberries. And I am going to finish this wine, because it is mine now, and I am alone, and no one is here to stop me, because Jeff is a fucker, and I am alone, and it's almost my birthday, and – she looked at the clock. It was 12:03.
It was her birthday. She was 30. She was alone, and she was drunk. She had no boyfriend. She was 30. Her job was exhausting, and she wanted to sleep for a month, but she had to be awake in less than nine hours to take a three hour drive to see her dad, and her stepmother, and her little brother, who would want to know what had happened to her boyfriend, who had been so nice. And there were just two glasses of wine left in the bottle. She poured herself one more, and stared at it. Thirty. There was not nearly enough wine, Sarah thought sadly, to deal with this shit. She wondered what else she had in her cabinet.
"Fuck," she muttered, angry now. "Fuck this! Fuck this shit, so hard, I am much too drunk right now to deal with it, it is my fucking birthday, and I'm here alone in my shitty apartment, and I'm going to have to drink this wine, by myself, alone, and –"
"Actually, precious, that's where you're wrong."
There were words, and she heard them, and they definitely hadn't come out of her mouth, because it was still open, mid-rant. She turned first her eyes, very slowly, and then the rest of her head, to the left, her mouth still half open and her arm out, dangerously sloshing what remained of the wine in her glass.
The Goblin King was sitting on her loveseat.
Sarah had always thought that when she saw the Goblin King again, he would come with a thunderstorm. There would be lightning, and the air would smell of magic, which in her memory was a combination of a log fire and something darker, and sweet. The lights would flash.
There was none of that. Her apartment was still the same. It still smelled slightly of lavender, and she could still hear her neighbor watching television upstairs. Everything was still the same. And yet, there he was. The Goblin King. Sitting on her loveseat.
"You," Sarah started. "You. You."
"Yes. Me. I'm glad you've established that. I'm me, and you're you." He leaned forward, putting his elbows on his knees. "And I think, judging by the way you're waving that glass around, and the obscenity-strewn tirade I just interrupted, that you're drunk." He gestured to the empty glass. "Expecting someone?"
"No," she said. Then, "Yes."
He cocked his head, and studied her. He smirked. "You are drunk, aren't you, Sarah?"
That fucking smirk. That was still the same, too. "You," she said again. His smirk grew a tiny bit wider. No! Focus, Williams! The fucking Goblin King is in your fucking apartment. Use your words!
"Fucking Karen," she said, instead. "Fuck it." She gestured to the empty wine glass. "Would you like the rest of the bottle?"
The smirk fell off the Goblin King's face, and slowly – slow enough for Sarah's heart to speed up for just a second – it was replaced by a real smile, an actual grin, and he laughed. "Yes," he said. "I would."
She poured the rest of the wine into the empty glass, and pushed it along the coffee table towards him. He took it, acknowledging his thanks with a tilt of his head. "Your birthday?" he asked. He raised his glass. "Many happy returns."
I am toasting with the Goblin King, thought Sarah, very calmly, and said, "Thanks." Her hand was steady as she raised her glass as well. They both took a sip.
The Goblin King made an appreciative noise, then put his glass back down and resumed gazing at her. He seemed to be searching her face for something, but Sarah couldn't say what. She waited. "You look different," he said, finally. "You've grown." His voice sounded odd. Was he… disappointed?
"Yeah, well… that tends to happen, when time passes," Sarah replied, still strangely calm. "You look…" She looked. "Exactly the same." She thought of the lack of thunder, the lack of magic, the lack of fear that she was feeling.
(I am exhausted from living up to your expectations of me.)
Was she not living up to his expectations, either?
"I thought…" he started, then tried again. "You're not screaming at me. Running away."
"No," agreed Sarah. "I'm not doing that."
"Not rushing to the protection of your baby brother, either."
At this, Sarah laughed. She stretched her legs out to rest her feet on the coffee table, crossed her arms behind her head, and stared up at the ceiling. "Toby? Well, let's see. He's almost six feet tall, he plays drums in a band with his friends, and he just made the junior varsity track team. And, like any 16-year-old, he's convinced he knows everything. He can even grow a sad little moustache." She laughed again. "Trust me, he can take care of himself, now."
She looked back at the Goblin King, but he wasn't laughing along with her. Something passed across his face. He looked…
"What did you say?" his voice sounded cold.
"Junior varsity track team?" Sarah ventured. "Sad little moustache?"
"How old is your… baby brother?"
"Sixteen," said Sarah. "Seventeen in September."
The Goblin King leapt up off her loveseat and began pacing around her tiny living room. He seemed angry, unhinged, and for the first time since she had seen him again, Sarah felt afraid.
"You're lying. It hasn't been – surely – " he stopped in front of her, staring down, and Sarah saw that she had been wrong before. He didn't look the same, not at all, not up close. He looked exhausted. He had dark circles under his eyes, and his face…
"He was a baby," the Goblin King said. He sounded like he was pleading, thought Sarah.
"Yes, he was," she agreed, slowly. "But that was years ago. Fifteen years. It's been a long time, Goblin King."
His eyes were haunted. He held her gaze for a moment, then broke it. He walked back to her loveseat and, sinking down, put his head in his hands. "Fifteen years," he said, his voice muffled. "So long."
Sarah knew that she could deal with an angry Goblin King. A seductive Goblin King, a flirty Goblin King, a demanding Goblin King. She could handle those.
But she had never seen a defeated Goblin King, which was what he looked like now, slumped on her loveseat. Even when she had beaten him, 15 years ago, he hadn't looked like this.
Several minutes passed in silence. Neither of them moved.
"I'm 30 today," Sarah ventured, finally, desperate to say something, anything. "Happy birthday to me."
He looked up when she spoke. "And celebrating alone," he said, evenly. "No husband? No… children… to wish you a happy birthday?"
She spread out her hands, palms up, and gestured out at her tiny apartment. "No. No room for anyone else in this place. There's just me."
The Goblin King settled back on her loveseat, returning to the imperious posture he had started the night out with. He stretched out his long legs, and, mimicking her, crossed them and rested them on the coffee table. He seemed more himself now, back to… back to whatever she thought of as normal, for him. He changed moods so quickly. She remembered that.
Sarah raised an eyebrow. He had his boots – black, and gleaming, stretching up to his knees – on her coffee table. "Hey! Don't think you can come into my home and put your shoes on my furniture. I just got this table for a really good deal on Craigslist, and I'll thank you not to get it dirty with your fancy-ass boots."
"Do you dislike my choice of clothing?" he asked. He stared at her. Sarah felt his eyes run along the length of her bare legs, pausing at the hemline of her little black dress that she had bought last year at H&M, lingering where the fabric clung to her hips, up to her neck, and down to the dip in the material at her breasts. She fought the urge to cross her arms and tuck her legs back underneath her. One look, and he could make her feel like an insecure teenager again.
"I like yours," he said. "You have grown. Fifteen years…" His voice had started out being flirty, but by the end, the shadow had crept back in.
"You called me now," he said, flatly. "Why?" His face held no expression.
"I… I didn't," said Sarah.
"Don't lie to me, Sarah," he said, his voice clipped, sharp. "Why else would I find myself here, in your home? You called on me. Why, after fifteen years, did you call my name? I have already offered you everything, and you rejected it. What more would you ask of me? What more would you have me do?"
"I didn't call you!" said Sarah, angrily. "I didn't! I've never said your – "
"Never?" whispered the Goblin King. "You've never?"
Sarah said nothing. The conversation had changed, somehow, and so had this game that they were playing, and she wasn't sure where it was going.
"You know my name. Say it."
Sarah said nothing, and couldn't bring herself to meet his eyes.
Sarah swallowed. "Jar-… Jareth," she stuttered out, finally, the syllables struggling, falling from her lips as if she'd never said them before. She hadn't lied. That was true.
She lifted her eyes to his. His face was still blank. "No," he said, his voice calm. "You are right. You've never called on me." He paused, and seemed to be considering something. "Why?"
Sarah shrugged. "I was… afraid." She didn't elaborate, and he didn't ask her to.
"For a while, I had thought that maybe… you had forgotten," he said, quietly. She suddenly wanted to touch him, to lay a reassuring hand on his arm, very badly.
"No," she said. "No. No matter how much I wanted to, or how many times I tried, I never could have forgotten you."
The Goblin King sighed. With sadness? Wistfulness? Resignation? Sarah couldn't tell, and the sound seemed to convey much more emotion than she could put into words.
They sat in silence for a few moments. "Karen…" began Sarah. "My stepmother. She wished, for me…"
"Yes?" asked the Goblin King, sounding only mildly curious.
"She wished me a happy birthday," Sarah said quickly, aware of how stupid it sounded, but the Goblin King only smiled.
He had a nice smile, she found herself thinking, even if his teeth were kind of weird, and slightly pointy, and she smiled back without realizing she was doing it.
"Well then," he said. "If she wished it for you, and brought me here, then you shall have it. What would you like for your birthday, Sarah?"
(This isn't a gift for an ordinary girl.)
"You shall have whatever you want. Whatever you… desire." His voice had gotten back the seductive, rolling purr it had had when he had been admiring her dress. She had always loved his voice, had remembered it, had often thought of it when –
Sarah, you need to go to bed, she told herself firmly. Or you will be hungover tomorrow. Go to bed.
"Right now, I would like to go to bed," she said out loud, standing up. She crossed the floor to the small closet by her doorway, and pulled a sheet and a pillow from the top shelf. The Goblin King was looking at her curiously.
"Why, Sarah… I never thought you were that kind of girl."
She dropped the pillow and the sheet onto the sofa, and pulled the blanket off the back of it. She thrust the blanket at the Goblin King, leaning over him and looking him in the eye. He had beautiful eyes, she thought, absently. She wondered, as she had many more times than she'd like to admit, what had happened to make his left eye the way it was, the pupil so large. She had thought they were different colors, at first, but then, when they had danced, when he was holding her, she had looked up at him and seen –
He smirked, and her memory shattered like glass. Stupid Sarah, she thought. Don't be such a fucking idiot. And he didn't even need the poisoned fruit this time. She studied the pleased look on his face, and thought, I have grown. I can play this game, too. She arranged her presumably dopey expression into something more appropriately come-hither. Fuck it.
"Oh, I'm that kind of girl, Goblin King." Her voice sounded low and seductive to her own ears, and she tried not to smirk herself as the grin fell off his face. She leant down further, and stroked his thigh gently. "I am definitely that kind of girl." She watched the muscles in his throat as he swallowed, slowly. He was looking at her now like she was a wild thing, and he was afraid to make any sudden moves. She could feel the effect of the wine on her, making her bolder, making her brave. She leant forward even more, close enough to whisper in his ear, letting her long, dark hair touch his shoulder and making sure he got a good glimpse down the neckline of her dress. "And right now… what I really want?" she breathed. One hand lingered on his thigh, stroking softly. With the other, she brushed the tips of her fingers along the line of his jaw. His skin was very warm.
"Yes?" said the Goblin King, his voice carefully controlled. She could hear him breathing heavily, evenly. "What is it you want, Sarah?"
She stood up. "What I really want, right now, is to go to bed. Alone. I'm too drunk to deal with all this right now. I'll talk to you in the morning." She pointed at the sofa. "You're on the couch."
She walked to her bedroom, went inside, and turned to look back. He was staring at her, still clutching the blanket. Sarah was pleased to see that he had an incredibly stupid expression on his face, and his mouth was hanging open slightly. Sarah – 2, Goblin King – 0, she thought triumphantly, but said only, "Goodnight, Jareth," as she shut the door.
A/N: Hello! This is my first fanfic, and I have to admit, I haven't seen this film in a long time. I hope I got it right, and did it justice. If not – I'm sorry. But this story made its way into my head, and wouldn't leave me alone until I let it out.
If you like this story so far, please let me know. And if you really like it, well, I have good news – I've finished it. It's seven chapters, and I'll try to post one each week. If you don't like this story so far, please let me know, too – but, be nice about it, would you?