It was the first time Jareth had been a guest in years. Somewhere, between building his kingdom, reigning in forces that sought to usurp any pretense of control, and the search for his heart, he had lost the desire to visit other fae, even those who claimed to be his friends.
No, not claim. There were hints of true concern in Beiwe's expression, and while any idiot of a sidhe could feign the larger symptoms of caring, few were so dedicated to their fallacy as to show such miniscule signs. Jareth sighed, waiting for his gracious host to seat herself on the couch before following suit. Even now, as a true and willing guest, his mind wandered oft to the concerns that had absorbed him for so long.
"It is quite uncharacteristic for you to remain so silent." Beiwe leaned forward, looking away from Jareth to pour refreshment from a teapot that gave off an aura of impossibility. It, like everything Jareth had seen since his arrival, had been altered to suit his taste, as well as that of his host's. A tradition meant to put guests at ease; though Jareth hardly noticed.
He bent his head in deference. "My apologies. Many thoughts occupy my mind, and though your gracious company is always an excellent diversion, I do not find myself easily distracted from these subjects." Jareth took the teacup handed to him, hoping that she could not sense his shame.
"Is it Sarah again?"
Beiwe had been Jareth's friend for far longer than any other fae. The comrades of his childhood had left his side when this infatuation had begun, and the carrion birds that circled him now had arrived after his devastation. Only Beiwe had been there for the entirety of the incident, from the beginning to the end.
He had been only an adolescent by their standards, but something in Jareth's demeanor had charmed Beiwe. As an adult in her prime, it was unseemly to take such a vested interest in the follies of an untried youth. The things Jareth could do, however, the very magic he sought after intrigued Beiwe. In her estimation, this was a young man of incredible potential, seeking after power over the inherently chaotic. Other fae would coax tears from flowers and wax poetic in the moonlight, but Jareth would likely find himself in a place of true power. She could not help but befriend one such as that.
It was fashionable then, as it always had been and would always be, for young fae to visit the mortal world. Beiwe had done so a few times herself, for every mortal beguiled into their realm was a testament of their charisma and power. Like so many of his fellow fae, Jareth had gone into that place.
But, rather than seeing the lackluster and pale world that his peers saw, Jareth had found something else entirely.
"Am I so open a book to thee?" Jareth sipped from his tea, careful to keep his brows from knitting together. Creatures such as goblins might not notice his worry, but Beiwe certainly would. He did not desire another lecture, especially when one from her could fracture his resolve.
It seemed she knew that. "Have you not always been? Love does tend to drive one to distraction."
No world could seem anything but vibrant, if it held her in it. Compared to the fae, she was no beauty, but Jareth saw something else entirely in her. Beauty was of the flesh, but her attractiveness was entirely alien to him. She was kind to him, pleasant and shy in a way no sidhe could feign, and it had taken him mere moments to decide that he would create a domain, a place for them to live together, and he would request her hand in marriage.
Beiwe had feared for him upon his return. Asking for the land of his birthright so early could only be an ill omen, particularly coinciding with his frequent visits to that mortal girl. This was no simple beguilement.
It took effort to contain tears, even after this long. "So you do agree? It was love." So often, Jareth had been told that what he had felt was a fleeting infatuation. This validation was a novelty.
Beiwe considered her answer, concealing the pause with a sip of tea. "Yes. Fae may be maudlin by nature, but only love could drive one to do all that you have done." She said the words delicately, with all of the kindness in her tone that she could muster. It was not a pleasant truth, this madness that Jareth had succumbed to. "You do realize that she is gone?"
Her father had turned Jareth's offer of marriage down. The girl was infertile, of use for nothing but manual labor, and he had no intention of returning a bride price for a daughter he knew to be defective. Not to a man he knew, and definitely not to a stranger such as this.
There had been no choice but for Jareth to return, to build his power yet again, and do something far more drastic than merely ask for her hand. In his anger, he forgot the most basic principle of retreating to the world of the fae.
Time works differently between realms.
Beiwe's words cut into his heart anew, like that knife he had felt so long ago. "She is dead, yes." It was his fault. He had been courteous, asked for permission like a lowly mortal, when he should have saved her from a world that knew age and ravishment.
"Then tell me, what is the purpose behind what you do?At first, I thought you mad with grief, seeking to replace what you lost. Then I thought it a clever ploy for substituting changelings, that time-honored tradition. But it is neither, is it?
Jareth had to set his cup back in the saucer to conceal his shaking. "No."
When he did not elaborate, Beiwe pressed the issue. "Jealous women say that you seek a mortal queen. Although your words do suggest it, I do not think that is the case either."
With a sigh, Jareth hung his head. Hundreds of girls, each of them different, passed through his mind. Yes, they were similar. None of them had the same motives, but in the end, they all came to the same conclusion. "I give them what Sarah never had. I give them a choice." Jareth looked up at Beiwe, tears in his eyes. "I do it for them."
This time, it was different. Her name was Sarah. She looked just like his Sarah. He desired he by his side. His labyrinth helped her in ways it never should have, reacted to her like Jareth did himself. It could not be, this doppleganger. But… he needed this. He needed her.
The Labyrinth needed a queen.