BETA: dragonydreams. There was also someone, Annie, who read the beginning YEARS ago when I first started working on this. Any mistakes you see are mine and mine alone. They were both awesome in reading through this in its very beginning and end stages.
He woke with a start, an unusual thing for him because his subjects knew not to bother him when he was sleeping. He produced enough light to see by so he could look around his chamber and ensure that nothing was out of place. Content that was the case he settled back once again.
He was tempted to forgive whoever had committed the transgression against him. Perhaps it was a goblin outside not so tender-footed. Or clumsy, as goblins were wont to be at times, dropping something. Or engaging in some sort of foolery he didn’t know about.
All good theories, except that it hadn’t exactly been a sound that had woken him. It had been more of a feeling. Something down in the very core of his soul (if one believed he had one) had disturbed his slumber and brought him to an alert readiness. He was sure his name had been spoken, but perhaps that had been part of the dream he’d been woken from.
He knew better than to question that feeling, even if there weren’t others banging on his castle doors in an attempt to overthrow him every day.
“Binta,” he hollered.
If she wasn’t nearby the guards assigned duty outside his chambers would ensure she was there fast. Indeed, a few minutes later a very tired, glassy-eyed goblin rushed into his chambers, bowing and groveling.
“I’s sorry yer Majesty. I thought ye be sleepin’ fer the night.”
“I was,” he said, regarding her for any clue, any indication there was something amiss.
Her lower lip trembled as he stood from the bed.
“Is the castle all right?”
“The castle, me lord?”
She was staring at him as if she’d never seen him before. He reached for his smoking jacket, thinking that perhaps seeing him half naked was cause for her discomfort.
“Yes,” he said, gesturing to the window that overlooked things outside his chambers. “The place where we live. Your home.”
There went the lower lip again. Trembling. Her little goblin brow furrowed, seemingly confused by the question. So, perhaps it wasn’t his bare torso that was cause for her confusion. He’d never had to wake her up in the middle of the night before so he wondered if she wasn’t still half asleep. Or this scatterbrained when being woken up suddenly.
“Are we under attack?” he asked plainly.
“No, yer majesty.”
“Very well,” he said, dismissing her with a flick of his wrist.
He walked to the window he’d pointed to a moment ago, wanting to see that all was indeed well in his land. As well as could be anyway. Being King of the Goblins was not as glamorous as some kingdoms he knew of out there. Still, however, here he was King. Absolute authority.
He smiled at that thought. With barely a thought on it, a crystal formed in his hand showing him that all in his kingdom appeared well. No eminent threat seemed to be lurking in the shadows. No one set to challenge him.
There was one who had questioned his authority, fought against him, dared to tackle his Labyrinth, and not just complete it but best him in the process.
It was that thought; of his Sarah, his queen, that had him take a sharp breath. In a move in no way reflective of the authority he’d just prided himself on having, Jareth staggered from the window as her discomfort and terror rushed through him. The crystal dropped to the floor without the usual airiness when he released them.
It was her voice he’d heard calling his name. That was what had woken him.
He had no idea how he’d missed it, except for the simple fact that she’d never broadcast so loudly to him before. Always she kept herself closed off to him, at bay. It was most frustrating. Especially as he’d caught glimpses in her mind when it wasn’t so closed off that he did not like at all. Dreams that didn’t involve him or his kingdom. Her with other men, marriage and babies, a house, a car, a career.
Was his proposal not good enough? The thought of having his babies somehow offensive? Was being queen not a worthwhile endeavor? Didn’t all young girls dream about finding Prince Charming?
He thought so, but waved those thoughts away realizing he was losing focus of what was important.
Whether she wanted him to know it or not, Sarah needed him. It had to be serious or he wouldn’t be feeling her stress so acutely. She was far too good at keeping him out of her mind any other time.
A blink of an eye and he was dressed formally. He had no idea where he was setting off to this night, but he wanted no misunderstanding about who was in charge this time. He’d toyed with her the last time; let her slide more than once really.
Tonight would be different.
She was seeking him out, intentional or not. He would not let her dismiss him or cast him aside in favor of a mere human male who was not capable of offering her half of what he could.
An entire kingdom, he mused as he traveled to her house.
Her room was empty. No evidence of her whereabouts. Of course it was. She was away at some higher learning establishment. He’d scoffed at that when he had more books than she could fathom to peruse of her own accord. On whatever subjects interested her.
He returned to his kingdom, to the bowels of the Labyrinth knowing who he was looking for would be there.
“Hogland!” he bellowed, knowing her friend wouldn’t be too far away. He was always trying to stay out of Jareth’s way so he wouldn’t find out he’d seen Sarah recently. Jareth always knew, though. Goblins were not good at keeping secrets, particularly this one. It wasn’t as if Jareth didn’t like knowing the little goblin visited Sarah. Doing so kept the Labyrinth fresh in Sarah’s mind; and therefore, however indirectly, Jareth as well.
“Ah, yes, Sire.”
“Where is she?”
“I don’t have time for games tonight, Hogbog. She’s in trouble.”
He looked away, fidgeting with something in his pocket. Something Sarah had given him, no doubt.
“I will not ask again. The Bog of Eternal Stench will pale in comparison to what I come up with if you withhold information from me tonight.”
“Yer majesty’s sure she’s in trouble?”
His eyes widened at the question, giving Jareth pause. “You’d suffer worse than the Bog of Eternal Stench for her?”
“If ye were lying ta me just ta get ta er, hurt er somehow, I’d rather die,” he said, standing tall with his chest puffed out proudly. As tall as his lack of height would allow him to anyhow.
He stooped, lowering himself to the goblin’s level so he could look directly into his eyes. It was something Jareth rarely did, met his subjects eye to eye. He didn’t have to usually. This, though, needed to get done right.
“You want her to be your queen, don’t you?”
The goblin averted his gaze. He probably wasn’t sure if he wanted her as his queen, thinking perhaps that she would change and the friendship they’d forged would end. Sarah wasn’t like that, though. Jareth knew that and he hadn’t spent the time with her Hoggle had. She just wasn’t made that way.
“I am not lying, Hoggle. I fear your future queen is in danger. Where is she?”
“Oh, all right,” he said.
“What is this?”
They were on the lawn of a rather rundown looking old house.
“Where she lives now.”
“Hmm,” he said, bracing himself for feeling even stronger what she’d been relaying to him earlier this close to her. “She’s not here.”
“I don’t know where she goes, Sire.”
“No, I imagine you don’t,” he said. “You may go back now.”
“Sire? Ye’ll let me know…”
“I will let you know she’s all right.”
“How she managed to worm her way into your hardened heart I haven’t a clue, but I appreciate you’re fond of her.”
If he’d been human and fond of her, Jareth would feel quite differently about Hoggle’s friendship with Sarah he had no doubt.
“Oh and Hoggle,” he said.
“Whatever’s in your pocket that she gave you, I need it.”
“I don’t have nothin’.”
“I know you do, I’m not going to take it from you. I will need it to aid me in finding her.”
He handed over what appeared to be a bracelet that looked like little more than a bunch of different colored string woven together. Jareth squinted as he held it up to look at it. That was exactly what it was. How odd humans were to think such a thing constituted a gift.
“What is this?”
“She made it for me, called it a friendship bracelet,” Hoggle said, that proud tone back in his voice.
“Of course she did,” Jareth said with a shake of his head. “Good night then, Hoggle.”
With Hoggle gone, Jareth could avoid drawing too much attention using magic to find her. His powers in her world weren’t as strong and he wasn’t completely certain what his limitations would be, never having been in this situation. Never before had he felt the need to rescue one of his wishers from harm.
If this was her home, he looked again at the old house with distaste, she couldn’t be far. He took the form he was most comfortable with in her world.
Using the bracelet he was able to find her rather easily. He perched on a tree branch in front of the house, a rather impressive structure he thought. Certainly, a step up from the abode she chose to reside in. He watched for a minute or two, concentrating on her as he struggled to keep the bracelet Hoggle had given him earlier in his beak.
Yes, she was here, though he couldn’t sense her just then. The panic from earlier was no longer there. He should have been able to, being this close to her. It wasn’t that long ago that she’d woken him, regardless of which world’s time one wanted to go by.
Something was wrong, he could feel it.
If he was wrong?
Well, he supposed she’d hate him for a little while longer. A part of him hoped he was; that it was nothing more than an overreaction to something her overactive imagination created. He, better than most, knew how active her imagination was.
He needed to get into the house and could not be seen doing so. He swooped down from the tree he'd been perched on to the porch when he saw an opportunity to do just that arise. Someone was leaving and didn’t appear in the frame of mind to pay attention to the fact he’d just allowed an owl inside. All the better for Jareth.
He was overcome by a bad feeling as he crossed the home’s threshold. It was a home, too, not an apartment building or home divided into apartments as Sarah’s seemed to be. So, perhaps he wasn’t too far off in being concerned for her.
A few people sat in a living room, empty bottles and cans evident throughout the room not limited to tables or the floor. None looked to be very coherent; certainly, no one noticed the owl flying through the room. Most important, none were Sarah.
He flew to the kitchen, finding a lone person sitting at a table smoking something out of a long pipe. Alone. A quick check of the rest of the first floor resulted in no Sarah.
He made his way upstairs, the bad feeling grew worse. Perhaps in the smaller body of the owl it was just amplified. He’d never felt something like it to know for sure. Feelings like worry and concern while not completely foreign to him weren't emotions he experienced very often.
He found his way to a closed door. He heard sounds through it. All were male and that alarmed him even more. No other doors on the floor were closed, and no sound was coming from any other room. A quick check told him they were all unoccupied.
This had to be it.
He transformed to his human visage, dropping the friendship bracelet of Hoggle’s into his hand. He grabbed the doorknob with one hand, eyes closing at the image of her he received. He smoothed his fingers over the various colored string on Hoggle’s bracelet as he debated his options. Except he had no option other than going in there. She’d clearly been distraught earlier; it was that emotion which had brought him here. He picked up on her distress when he touched something she’d recently touched in the doorknob. She may have walked into the room, but he knew she hadn’t exactly been too certain as to whether she should.
He opened the door, surprised somewhat to find it unlocked. His first instinct upon seeing her bound to the bed in such a crude fashion was to kill each and every one of them. She, however, wouldn’t like that, and so he refrained.
“Hey man, you’ve obviously got the wrong room.”
"More like the wrong house," another said.
"Check out the clothes. This isn't a costume party," a third said.
“I think not,” he said simply, using his magic to freeze the four of them in place.
The first thing he noticed when he got to the bed was that she was unconscious. He was grateful for that to some extent. It meant he was free to dole out whatever punishment he saw fit and she’d never know.
He stood over her, reaching for her mind to assure her he was here and she was now safe. He was unable to do so, finding nothing. A blank slate. Even in an unconscious state he should have been able to touch, communicate with her in this fashion. It was how she’d gotten his attention all those years ago, her receptiveness to him. Her mind’s lack of response led him to believe she’d been drugged; it was the only thing he could come up with to explain his inability to connect with her. He’d encountered it before with a few wishers, none of whom had run his Labyrinth for that reason.
Focusing on the rest of her, the bruises caught his attention next. Fresh and numerous, placed all over her body, as if she fought hard before whatever drug they’d given her took effect. There were cuts on her face, a few more minor scrapes, and her lip was split and bloody. A nail was broken, blood at the tip of her finger. A glance at one of those frozen told him she’d gotten a few good shots in before they’d restrained her. Perhaps it was why they had.
“Sarah,” he whispered.
For once in his long lifetime, he was the one doing the wishing. Wishing he’d gotten there sooner. That he hadn’t kept himself so closed off to her to not even know where she was these days. How much time had been wasted having to go back and fetch Hoggle? Would he have gotten here before they’d touched her if he hadn’t had to do that?
He drew his cloak from around him and settled it over her naked form before working her free of the ropes that kept her hands and feet secured to the bed. Another time and place he would have taken the time to appreciate her in this way, but he barely noticed beyond the injuries she’d sustained.
She gave a soft whimper in protest as he picked her up from the bed without much effort. She was a slender thing. His cloak was far too big on her, but she would be grateful for that just now. Another sound of protest as he adjusted her in his arms. He didn’t want to think about the type of pain she’d be in when she came to.
“I’ve got you,” he whispered before using his magic to transport her once more to the Labyrinth and his home there. Her assailants he left frozen and would return to deal with them once he knew she was comfortable.
Once there, he wasn’t quite sure what to do with her. She would require medical attention and so once he’d laid her out as comfortably as he could on his bed he called once again that night for Binta.
She was awake this time and Jareth had to wonder if Hoggle had warned or prepared her.
“I am in need of our best healer.”
“Yes, Sire,” she said, eyes darting to his bed.
“Now,” he said with a shake of his head.
“Apologies, of course,” she said, backing out the door from which she’d come.
“And Binta,” he called out after her.
“Make it a female.”
She hesitated as if thinking over why he’d make that request but nodded her head. He knew she would do as instructed and find Sarah the best healer his kingdom had to offer.
He drew a chair so that he was next to the bed, finding it a bit off-putting seeing her like this. His image of her from the last time they’d seen one another was still fresh in his mind. She was so strong - both in character and will. She wouldn’t like him seeing her like this that was for certain. Once the healer arrived, he would tend to the business he’d left unfinished in her world.
He’d planned and plotted various scenarios in his head over the years of how he’d go about getting her into his bed. Never had this one entered his rather active imagination when it came to getting her to accept that her fate was here with him.
A knock at his outer door had him leave the side of the bed. It was, as expected, the healer. He allowed her to enter; watching closely as she brushed passed him intent on finding her patient. He remained by the door leading to the bedroom portion of his chambers as she perused Sarah’s injuries, knowing that she would hold it against him somehow if he was near her more than necessary when she was in this condition.
“It would seem so,” he said, taking a few steps closer to the bed.
“Would be helpful if I knew what drug,” she said.
“I will find out, but first,” he said. Just as he expected when using the tone of voice he did, she looked at him. “You must keep all you see and do here to yourself.”
“Of course, my lord.” She sounded rather put out at the implication she would do otherwise, but Jareth had to say it. To ensure she understood this wasn’t something to be gossiped about.
“I will return shortly with the name of the drug given her,” he said. He could be wrong about that, he supposed, but he didn’t think so. His experience led him to it being the only viable conclusion he could come up with. “No one but the healer is to go in or out until I’m back,” he said to the guards posted outside his door.
He changed into owl form, knowing the best way to deal with those who assaulted her and getting the answer he sought. Frozen and naked as he left them it would be easy to do, and he only needed one to tell him or, better yet, show him where the drugs were.
The window to the room was open as he’d left it to make his return easy. His claws and beak did the work he set out to do at a frenzied, animalistic pace. Normally, he could keep better control over the animal when in this form, but not tonight. The taste of blood only seemed to fuel the owl’s desire to see this to the end. Where Jareth had it in his head to injure, perhaps seriously maim, the owl wanted to taste the last drop of blood from each of his victims. He imagined the owl thought that these men had roughed up his mate. The owl was more than willing to defend her honor and show them who exactly they were messing with.
Cuts all along their bodies that looked exactly as they should coming from a wild and upset animal, including the manly parts they had used to harm her intimately. The owl was particularly ruthless there.
It didn’t matter to him – or the owl – if all or none actually penetrated her. That was clearly their intent and he would ensure they never had the luxury of enjoying that bit of pleasure again.
Jareth had seen a lot over the years and knew that the term eunuch had long ago been dropped from being commonplace. After tonight, these four men would know firsthand what those who suffered from that dilemma experienced personally. The owl performed the task with the satisfaction he imagined was common for someone who could not actually help the victim in this type of situation.
He left one untouched in that way, changing to his human visage and freeing him from the spell that kept him frozen in place. He allowed his informant a moment to catalog not only his injuries but those of his friends as well. He saw when he processed what had been done to them and had not, to this point, been done to him.
“I see you’re up to speed. The drugs given to the woman. Where are they?”
He let out a breath with a shake of his head. “I will give you one last chance to leave here tonight intact unlike your friends. The drugs.”
He eyed a dresser underneath the window Jareth had flown in through.
“Get them,” he instructed.
He did as told, handing Jareth a plastic baggie containing a few pills of varying size and color.
“I don’t know which ones she took,” he said, and Jareth believed him. It wouldn’t serve him to lie at this point.
“Can a doctor help them?”
He didn’t exactly look at his friends, but Jareth knew who and what he was asking after. He found it interesting that he didn’t ask what had happened to him and his friends; clearly a human did not cause the damage done to them.
“No,” he said simply.
With a wave of his hand, the young man was frozen in place once again. The spell on the first three wouldn’t last much longer. He was surprised it had lasted this long. He pocketed the baggie, hoping it would aid the healer in helping Sarah before leaving the house down the stairs and out the backdoor.
He had to ensure the house was empty of any others. If he harmed someone innocent it would be something more Sarah could hold against him. With a bit more concentration than it normally took in his land, Jareth created fire with his bare hands and directed it at the house. He had kept his promise to the fourth, but that didn’t mean he was going to make it easy for any of them to go through the rest of their lives.
Ensured the fire had taken, he returned to his kingdom and to Sarah. He had no doubt a nosy neighbor would call the authorities and the fire would be contained. If it wasn’t? Four less predators set loose on the world Sarah inhabited.
The healer was still at work when he returned. He was surprised truthfully that she was taking so long.
“You love her,” she said simply without looking up from the part of Sarah she was tending.
She turned then, regarding him before returning her attention to where it should be. On Sarah.
“I don’t need to be a mind reader to know that you were watching me, wondering what was taking so long.”
“And that was your way of an answer?”
“She belongs to my king. I would do no less than my best for her.”
He walked further into the room, placing the plastic bag into her capable hands.
“I could not get a more definitive answer than what she took was contained in this bag.”
“She’ll be all right.”
“Yes, Sire, physically anyway,” she said with a hint of sorrow in her voice.
“Will she wake soon?”
“That is up to her, I think. I’ve done everything I can for her.”
He focused his attention on Sarah then. Other than the cuts and scrapes being cleaned up so they were no longer bloody she looked the same as when he brought her here. He slid his hand to her hair, still long as it was when they first met, and smoothed down the bit of hair that was choosing to be unruly. He noticed that it was wet.
“I washed everything.”
“Thank you. That will be all,” he said as his way of dismissing her.
“If she needs anything when she wakes…”
“I will send for you.”
She left without another word. Jareth knew perhaps he’d been rude, but he couldn’t be bothered with such things right now. It certainly didn’t matter to him that one of his goblins thought that of him. Given the circumstances he thought he was rather deserving of such behavior.
What was a king to do in the middle of the night when the object of his affections was in his bed for reasons other than finally returning those affections?
Well, he hadn’t a clue. Watching her seemed morbid and a continuation of the violation she’d already been subjected to. He had no matters to tend to, none that could be dealt with at this time anyway.
So, he sat in the outer room. Paced some. Read some. Passed the time until he heard her murmur and went to her side, not wanting her to come to thinking she was alone, that she wasn’t alone and her assailants had brought her to a different location, or confused as to where she was.
It was only now he noticed the healer had managed to come up with a nightgown for her. Nothing Jareth would have dressed her in for certain, far too prim and proper for his taste. Given the circumstances, it was probably a very safe choice.
He made it so the room was illuminated ever so slightly, just enough for her to see by. She didn’t know the layout of the room by heart as he did.
Sarah came to slowly. She felt like she was swimming in quicksand, only with her mind instead of physically. She first became aware of how much her body ached. Then she realized she wasn’t in the frat house’s bedroom she remembered being in last. Had they taken her somewhere else? With that thought, she grew panicky. No one would know where to look for her if they’d taken her somewhere else.
Then she saw him standing next to the bed. Almost certain she was dreaming she reached for him. He looked close enough to touch, but surely was a figment of her imagination. Her subconscious’ way of telling her to wish herself away from here, knowing he would come for her.
He would come for her, too, she knew without a doubt. No matter how much time had passed or the fact she’d avoided every attempt he’d made to communicate with her after that night.
“Jareth,” she said, her hand grazing his. She realized then he was real, not a figment of her imagination.
“Were you expecting someone else?”
She shook her head, wincing at the pain that the movement caused. “I wasn’t expecting anyone.”
“I would have been there sooner if I had known.”
“How could you have?”
He shrugged, a simple thing that he made seem so elegant and graceful.
“Where am I?”
“My chambers,” he answered matter-of-factly.
She frowned a little, processing what he'd said. Her mind was still fuzzy and groggy so it took a little longer than it would have normally.
“That means your room. How did I get here?”
“I brought you here,” he replied.
“How did you know?”
“I do not know. Somehow you called out to me.”
“I didn’t.” She frowned, trying to remember.
The last thing she remembered with any certainty was asking Rudy where the bathroom was. She should have known he was up to something when he told her he’d show her. The frat house was bigger than the typical house, but not that big where she needed a guide to help her find a bathroom.
“I beg to differ. It was how I knew you were in trouble. Hoggle aided me in locating you.”
“Hoggle?” she said, glancing about the room hoping to catch a glimpse of her friend.
Jareth held something out to her, which she reached for. It was the bracelet she’d made for Hoggle a few weeks ago.
“I am sure it will mean more that he gets it back from you than from me.”
“I was too late.”
She shrugged, knowing the gesture was nowhere nearly as regal on her as on him.
“What are you doing?”
“Talking to you.”
“While I sleep, I mean.”
“A little of this and that. Reading.”
He scoffed, but he wasn’t upset with the question.
“This one does.”
“I just assumed you’d have someone to do it for you.”
“Are you volunteering?”
She shook her head in response, not sure what he’d expect as repayment for this favor he’d granted her. Rescuing her.
She pushed the covers back, determined to get her clothes and go back home. She had so much to do today. Assignments due next week that couldn’t be put off. She stood, probably too fast, or at least that’s what she told herself when the room spun around her. She fell back onto the bed, all of the sudden feeling warm and clammy.
What was going on?
“Did you have somewhere to be?”
“Bathroom,” she whispered.
“All you had to do is ask.”
“I can do it on my own.”
“Of course you can, but as you just demonstrated getting there may take some assistance.”
“Yeah,” she said, hating to admit he was right. If she couldn’t even stand from the bed without falling how did she expect to walk God knew where to the bathroom. “All right.”
“Allow me,” he said, moving close enough to offer her use of his arm.
“Don’t you have a servant or something who can take me?”
“I do, but you currently have my undivided attention, Sarah. And I think any servant would fear my wrath were something to happen to you in their care.”
“Okay,” she said, accepting his offered help. She needed it more than she thought. It wasn’t a long walk, but she was still lightheaded and unsteady on her feet as a result.
“This I can do on my own,” she said.
“But of course,” he said. “Should you need me just holler.”
“Okay,” she said.
She sat in there for a minute, collecting herself more than anything. It was the only place she could think of to get away from him. She was here. In his kingdom. No wishes. No Toby. No threats. No games. At least presumably. She steadied herself against the sink before leaning down to wash her hands and face. She felt dirty even though she knew logically she wasn’t. She doubted Jareth would let her take a shower just yet. So, she settled for sponging herself off with water and the rather luxurious washcloth next to the sink.
A short while later there was a knock on the door. She rolled her eyes because she knew who it was. She’d taken too long trying to collect not just her thoughts but herself. She couldn’t rely on him. She couldn’t stay here.
“Are you all right, Sarah?”
“Uh, yeah,” she said.
“Yes,” she said again, realizing her first answer hadn’t sounded overly convincing.
She couldn’t hide from him in here. She hated him seeing her like this. Worse than that, she hated feeling like this. Weak. Helpless.
She opened the door, expecting it all to be a dream. It wasn’t. She really was here again, and she hadn’t wished herself here this time.
She made it back to the bedroom without his help, though he stayed right next to her until she got back to the bed.
“I need to go home.”
“When you’re better, of course.”
“No, I have things to do. Homework.”
“This homework can wait.”
“No, it can’t. I’ll fail my classes.”
“Be reasonable. You need to heal.”
“So fine that a moment ago you couldn’t get out of bed without help.”
“I moved too quickly.”
“Or you’re not well yet.”
“I am the best judge of that.”
“Rest, Sarah, we’ll discuss everything when you’re feeling yourself again.”
“I’m okay. I can’t sit in bed all day, Jareth. People have happen to them what happened to me all of the time and they don’t wallow away in bed.”
“Those people are not you and, therefore, are not my concern. You are not okay. I ask you not to lie to me. I will know, so please don’t try. Are you hungry? Thirsty?”
She swallowed, definitely thirsty.
“Which?” The smirk that accompanied the question told her he hadn’t been expecting her to take him up on his offer.
“All right,” he said, drawing on a large rope hanging near him before leaving the room without another word.
She took the time to look around while he was gone. It was obviously his room. Opulent, grand, and luxurious; all to match the way he dressed and acted. Well, most of the time. All of the times she’d seen him anyway.
That made her wonder. What exactly did she know about him? She thought on that for a minute, realized she knew nothing about him. Yet, despite what had happened to her tonight she felt safe here. She knew he wouldn’t hurt her. Not like those guys had. Somehow it seemed … beneath him to force himself on her.
She sat up a little, drawing her knees to her chest. That was when she noticed the nightgown she was wearing was nothing she owned. Who had dressed her? Fingers toyed with her hair, which smelled different. So, someone had washed it. She hadn’t noticed in the bathroom, too focused on not losing her balance.
Had Jareth bathed and dressed her?
He didn’t seem the type to dote on someone, so she brushed the flippy feeling she got in her stomach at the thought of him doing something like that for her. He had servants and goblin subjects that probably did all sorts of things for him.
He returned with a tray. She arched an eyebrow at him bringing it to her himself.
“I assumed you wouldn’t want to be seen just yet.”
“Since when do you take my wishes into account?”
“I have always taken your wishes and desires into account, Sarah.”
“And twisted them around to suit your needs.”
“If that’s what you think. Drink your tea, so you can get some rest.”
She took a sip. It was hot and quite strong. A bit on the bitter side, too, so she put a spoonful of sugar in and stirred it before taking another sip.
“That was rude,” she said softly.
“I was rude?”
“No,” she said begrudgingly. “I was. You did a nice thing for me.”
“I would do anything for you, Sarah.”
She took another sip of the tea, wondering why she was so calm about seeing him again especially under these conditions. She’d run through scenarios in her head of what she’d do and say, where she’d be, who she’d be married to, and how she would react to seeing him again. None of those scenarios involved her being here again because he’d rescued her.
She swore when she left the Labyrinth that if she ever saw him again she’d hurt him somehow. Yet she had no desire to do anything to him. He genuinely seemed concerned and she was sure he was a master of manipulation when it came to his goblins, but his eyes betrayed the concern he was feeling for her right now.
Did she look that bad? Exactly what had he seen when he found her? She wished she could remember the rest of the night. Then again, she should perhaps be grateful she didn’t.
“Let me know if you need anything else,” he said, starting to the door. A door that she presumed led to a sitting area or something where he could read or whatever it was he was really doing. She found it difficult to see him doing something as commonplace as reading.
“You don’t have to go,” she said softly.
“You need to rest. My healer said you were in rather poor shape.”
“I can’t rest with you here?”
His eyes darkened then and she saw desire, but not in the way she saw it in Rudy or Dick’s eyes that night. While Jareth’s eyes looked predatory they weren’t cold or threatening. She’d never realized there was a difference. Now she knew and wished she didn’t. The Goblin King might want but he’d never take without her permission.
“I think the other room would be best.”
“Who dressed me?”
It was a logical question, but really a somewhat poor effort at preventing him from leaving just yet. When it got down to it, she didn’t want to be alone. Now that she was awake she wasn’t sure she wanted to be alone with her thoughts.
“I found you unclothed, covered you and brought you here.”
“Oh,” she said, feeling a blush spread across her face rapidly. He’d seen her naked!
“I assure you, I did nothing improper.”
“I didn’t think… I wasn’t accusing you.”
“Just to be clear.”
She set the teacup down and pushed away the luxurious bed covers.
“Where do you think you’re going now?” he asked as she stood from the bed.
“Just to the window.”
“I’m not going to break! I just want to be up, walk around for a minute. I’ll lie down again, I promise.”
“All right,” he said, joining her at the window apparently realizing she wasn’t going to faint or anything.
Her mouth lifted into a partial smile, picturing just what he might do if she did faint in front of him. The smile quickly disappeared, though. The feelings of guilt, anger, mistrust, and general pain that she was experiencing made it difficult for her to think on good or possibly funny things for too long.
At the moment she just felt numb. Like he was the only real thing about this whole ordeal. She knew that wasn’t true. She lifted an arm, glancing at it in the moonlight. Cuts and bruises, looking fresh despite the fact they’d obviously been tended to, were visible there. She ached everywhere. Parts of her she hadn’t even imagined could hurt did at the moment.
She said nothing, simply let her arm rest at her side again, returning her attention to the window and things outside. Things that weren’t her or in this room, and it seemed incredibly important to her right now that she have something other than herself to focus on.
She expected him to say something, anything. The idea that he might ridicule her, imply somehow that what happened was her fault entered her mind. He said nothing, and he stood close enough to her that he seemed to be letting her know that he did not think that. That he didn’t blame her, and she needed that right now.
“Did they?” he asked after a length silence. Both seemed content to stand there, looking out over his kingdom.
“I don’t think so,” she replied for lack of a more definitive answer. She didn’t feel any different there, and wouldn’t she if they’d raped her? She didn’t know for sure, never having done it before. All the more reason for her to think she’d know, that there would be pain or discomfort. Her body hurt all over, but that was one part of her that didn’t.
He let out a breath and she realized he’d really wanted to know. But why? She glanced at him, eyes narrowed and angry as she went over the possible reasons for his wanting to know something like that in her mind.
“Would that have spoiled your plans for me or something? You only want me if I’ve never been with someone else?”
“Why would you want to know that? Just because they didn’t tonight doesn’t mean I’ve never.”
He gave a little laugh. It wasn’t real loud, but he didn’t try to hide it either.
“I’m glad I can amuse you.”
“You don’t amuse me, not currently anyway. I simply asked to know what further healing or attention you might require. If they had, the possibility of a babe would of course exist.”
“Oh,” she said. “That one I think I would wish away and let you keep.”
“Understandable reaction for certain.”
He did something very un-Jareth-like then. He reached for her hair and touched it, fingers almost gentle as he ran them along the length of it. Instinctively, she moved to pull away, and she imagined that would be her instinct with anyone for a while now.
“I am not going to hurt you,” he said simply.
“I know,” she said.
“Do you, Sarah? Do you trust me?”
She opened her mouth to reply, but nothing would come out. Her eyes fell closed, very sleepy all of the sudden. That achy feeling everywhere on her body that was there just a few minutes ago? No longer bothering her so much.
“You drugged me?”
“Just so you’ll sleep longer.”
She tried but couldn’t fight back the tears at the idea he would do this to her. “After what they did to me, why would you drug me?”
“Because I knew you’d do exactly what you’re doing. Want to get up and move around, go back home and act as though nothing happened to you. You were drugged and unconscious, my pet, I have no idea for how long. Or how much they gave you.”
“I am not your pet,” she said, feeling dizzy and weak now.
“Of course not.”
His voice was coming from above her now and he was looking down at her. How was that possible? She realized then that he was carrying her. Had she fainted? No, she couldn’t have.
“I feel funny,” she said.
“You will feel better when you wake up.”
“Mm’kay,” she said, looking at the ceiling again. Back in bed. His bed.
“Rest, Sarah,” he prompted again.
“As you wish, my pet, I shall not stray far.”
“Not your pet.”
At least that’s what she thought she’d said. Her mouth felt funny so she wasn’t sure her words came out right. Hopefully, he knew what she was trying to say.
The next time she woke up she was back in her apartment. Alone. She looked around her for a moment, wondering if (hoping) she’d dreamt the whole thing.
The large bouquet of fresh flowers on her bedside table told her she hadn’t dreamt any of it. She didn't recognize some of the flowers, but they were all beautiful.
She stretched, realizing that the aches and pains weren’t as prominent as they had been when she last woke up. How long had she been out? Just what drug had he given her anyway?
She slid out of bed, almost hating to do so because it would mean leaving the flowers behind. She’d never gotten flowers before. Well, flowers like these. Sure she’d gotten corsages for dances in high school, but these were totally different and special. She realized as she took hold of the vase that she could put the flowers wherever she wanted. He’d left them by her bed so she’d see them and know she’d really seen him again.
That he’d saved her.
Taken care of her.
That he’d seen her at likely her lowest moment ever.
He still wanted her.
“I guess Goblin Kings aren’t easily swayed to changing their minds once decided upon something.”
She set the flowers on her kitchen table. It was where she’d see them best since her living room and kitchen were adjoining. Adjoining made it sound a lot larger than it was. Her apartment was the attic portion of an old house converted into apartments. So while it ran the length of the house and was in some ways bigger than the other apartments below, it was still rather small when you took into account the slant of the roof cutting into a lot of space.
It did have one nice thing, though. It was the reason she’d chosen the apartment in the first place. The living room slash kitchen had a huge bay window overlooking the street below. It let a lot of natural light into the apartment, which was great because the only other window in the apartment was a tiny thing in her bedroom that was too high up for her to see anything out of. She had a pole in her room that she could open and close the window with during the summer, but other than letting some fresh air (and boy did it get hot up there sometimes, hot air really did rise) into her room it didn't do a whole lot.
Next to the bay window was her desk. There were times she curled up onto the cushion and read there instead of at her desk. It wasn’t real comfortable for long spells of reading, but she liked doing it just the same.
A stop in the bathroom made her wish she didn’t have a mirror in there. Come to think of it, she only just now realized she hadn’t really had the chance to look at herself while in his care.
She scrutinized the damage to her face closely. It looked exactly like she felt. She’d been beaten up. Black and blue, one eye had a cut and was swollen, there was another cut above her cheek just below the eye, and her upper lip was split.
“That one’s going to take a while to heal,” she remarked, running over the wicked looking split with a fingertip. She hissed in response. It was tender. She looked down then and noticed a jar of something by the sink. There was a note underneath it.
“For aid in faster healing. Do not allow this to land in anyone else’s hands.”
She’d never seen his handwriting before but knew the note was from him and not the healer he’d spoken of having looked at her. Who else’s hands would she let it fall into? She wondered what was in it. If it offered faster healing just what she’d looked like right after the attack.
She drew her hair away from her face, turning from side to side to look at her profile. She looked all right, but didn’t understand what he could possibly see in her after this. The cut above her eye could very likely scar. So could the one right above her cheek.
She let out a sigh, realizing she would never know. She opened the jar and smelled it, wishing instantly she hadn’t. Her eyes began watering and she about gagged from the pungent scent coming from the jar.
“He expects me to use this?”
She dabbed her finger into it and applied a little dollop on her cheek. She would never be able to describe the feeling if asked, but she knew instantly it was working. It was more than the tingling of her skin right after she applied the little dollop, a second one to the cut above her eye soon followed. There, too, tingling, but it was more than that. Heat coursing through her face, focusing somehow on the spots she applied the cream to.
She hesitated in applying it to her lip. It smelled awful, surely it had to taste just as bad if not worse. She did it, though, perhaps it was vanity getting the best of her but if it helped her look normal sooner she’d probably drink the stuff.
“I don’t want to drink the stuff,” she added quickly, in the event a goblin was nearby, eavesdropping, hoping she’d make a wish.
She had some things to do on campus. They should have been done yesterday really. While the idea of remaining here for the rest of the day had its appeal she knew life had to go on.
“Sarah,” her sort of friend, Janet, said when she spotted her in the arts building hall. “You’re back.”
“I didn’t think you’d be back until the weekend.”
“What?” Sarah frowned at the question.
"It doesn't matter. You're here now so everything must be okay. I thought you were going to the Theta party last weekend.”
“I did for a while.”
“Oh, I guess I missed you. Did you leave early?”
“I, uh,” Sarah said, not sure what to say. She couldn’t remember much of anything from the night of the party. “Yeah, I guess.”
“Well, I tried to call you the next day, figured maybe you’d met someone at the party so I didn’t try too hard. Then Professor Brandish said on Monday you’d been called home for a family emergency.”
“Yeah,” she said, hoping Janet wouldn’t ask what had caused her to go home. She didn’t know the reason herself.
“Well, you missed it then.”
“All of the excitement over at the Theta house, silly.”
Sarah was curious, for sure, but she was more curious why Janet hadn’t asked her what had happened to her. She’d put some makeup on to try and cover up the bruises, but the cuts remained uncovered. She didn’t want them to get infected by getting makeup in them.
“Yes, it burnt down.”
That drew Sarah away from thoughts of her appearance. That flippy thing in her stomach was back and he wasn’t even around to cause it.
“The night of the party,” she said in a way that said Sarah should have known that. “That’s all anyone knows.”
“Was anyone hurt?”
“Yeah, that’s the weirdest thing. The police think a bird or something got into the house through an open window.”
“And started the fire?”
“Knocked something over, you know, an ashtray or something that someone hadn’t put their butt all the way out in.”
“Why do they think it was a bird?”
“Because Rudy, Jeff, Dick, and Brad were all, like attacked, by a bird.”
What had he done while she was lying on his bed unconscious?
“Janet, that sounds crazy. What bird is going to attack people? That sounds like something out of that Hitchcock movie we watched in Film class.”
“I know, right?” Janet said, linking her arm through Sarah’s and guided Sarah over to a bench. “Well, Mike Brandt, you know him, right?”
“Yeah,” she said.
The Thetas were the fraternity the more artsy guys pledged. The house was a small one compared to the other frat houses on campus, only a few guys lived there. It was really just an excuse to have parties every weekend. That was the reason Sarah was there that night. Normally, frat parties weren’t her thing, but she figured it would be fun.
“Well, he swears he saw a big white owl fly into the house as he was leaving.”
Sarah swallowed hard. That flippy feeling was there again because she knew without a doubt who, or what, it was who’d caused the fire.
“Yeah, crazy, right? Mike swears it, though. He says he didn’t think anything of it, thought he was in the middle of a bad trip, you know.”
“So, they think an owl flew into the Theta house, attacked the four guys who live there and then knocked something over that started a fire?”
“Yes,” Janet said after thinking it over for a minute. “I imagine they tried to fight it off, you know, swatted at it or tried to hit it with something. So it probably knocked something over trying to escape from whatever they were trying to do to it.”
“So, are they okay,” she asked. She didn’t care, not really, but she knew she had to ask. They were supposed to be her friends.
“No one knows. They’re still in the hospital for burns and smoke inhalation. And their wounds from the bird attack.”
I hope you got them good, Goblin King, to make me sit and listen to this story, having to ask about them as though I care. And pretending as though I haven’t a clue what really happened to them.
“Huh, go home for a few days and I miss a whole lot.”
“So, what are you doing here anyway?” Janet asked.
“I just had to pick up some fabric scraps from the costume shop for an assignment I’m working on. And then I’m going back home.”
“Oh. Well, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Yeah,” Sarah said as they stood from the bench.
Janet went the other direction as Sarah headed to the costume shop. She passed a display case filled with pictures and programs from past shows the school had done. That wasn’t what she was looking at today, though, as she normally did.
Today, she was looking to ensure she wasn’t insane. It wasn’t a mirror so her image wasn’t nearly as clear as it could have been, but just the same the cuts above her cheek, eye, and lip were there plain as day. Janet hadn’t said a thing about them, though, and if anyone would have asked about them, it was the gossip-spreading Janet. She’d probably been hanging out at the department on the whim that someone would come by today so she could tell them what she knew.
She picked up the samples she needed for her homework and headed back to her apartment. She took a little detour on the way, though, riding her bike past the Theta house. Her feet slipped from the pedals before she could even think about stopping.
She believed Janet, but the girl did have a tendency to exaggerate. Okay, Sarah did too at times, and that was how she recognized that trait in Janet. She hadn’t expected the house to be gone. Burnt to the ground, hardly anything left standing. Gone.
How had the four of them gotten out alive?
There were policemen and others walking through the remains, looking for something to show what started the fire most likely. Surely, no one but Janet was buying the wild bird starting a fire story. He was lucky they were the only four living there at the time. She knew last year there’d been six or seven living at the house, but they hadn’t invited anyone new to live there to replace the graduating seniors.
She saw something from the corner of her eye and glanced up at a nearby tree as a result. There! Her eyes widened in recognition. It wasn’t every day she saw an owl and as much as she might hate to admit it, he made a beautiful owl.
Just as he should, she mused.
What was he doing here? Was he waiting for her, knowing she’d come here at some point? Or was he here to see his handiwork? Despite the distance and the fact he was somewhat camouflaged in the tree, she knew he was watching her and not the policemen on the scene. Waiting for her reaction? To see if she was upset?
She should be mad, she imagined, that he did something so drastic and violent in her name. Or because of her. She would have been mad if they hadn’t attacked her. They were alive, Janet had said so, and she knew that was for her benefit not for his peace of mind. She wasn’t sure how she felt about that.
She gave a slight wave in his direction before pedaling off toward her apartment. She hoped the wave let him know she wasn’t mad. She still wasn’t sure how she felt about the whole thing. There were huge blocks of time she didn’t know what happened during, including her time with him. For all she knew, he wasn’t any better than the guys he’d attacked were.
She stored her bike in the garage in back of the house. There wasn’t enough room in it for anyone to store a car, but the bikes she and the other tenants used fit just fine. The rest of the space was occupied by boxes of stuff that belonged to her landlord.
After checking to be sure the door was closed and locked behind her, she made her way up the stairs that led to her attic apartment. There was a stairwell inside that she could use, but she preferred the outside stairs when it was nice out. As the stairs went directly to her apartment without having a landing at the second floor, she and her friends were the only one who used them. She’d come close more than once to falling head over heels during the winter when the warped wooden stairs had frozen over.
She wasn’t at all surprised to see him sitting on her couch. He was very still, sitting as if he hadn’t a care in the world or had been to her apartment every day. His hands were draped casually over either knee, looking not at all as if he’d just flown at a brisk pace to beat her here.
“What are you doing here?”
“And good afternoon to you, too.”
“Yeah, okay,” she said setting her keys on the table by the door and her backpack on the floor next to it.
He turned his head then. And, very spookily owl-like, it was the only part of him that seemed to move. He took her in. She’d say with most guys that he was checking her out, but she didn’t think any phrase that common could do justice to what he was doing. She knew, somehow, that every inch of her that was visible to him was cataloged and memorized.
“Why are you being rude?”
“I’m not! It’s not as if you stop by every day. Or ever. I haven’t seen you in years and the last time you wanted me to agree to be your slave. So, it’s a logical question.”
She heard him scoff, his gaze returning to a spot on the wall in front of him.
“I came to check on you,” he said simply. She knew, though there was nothing simple about it. If he could come and go from her world with ease he wouldn’t need the wishers to run his Labyrinth.
“What were you doing outside the house?” he asked.
“I, too, am curious.”
She took her spot in the bay window she was fond of, which happened to place her in almost direct eye contact with him. Unless he moved to a different spot on the couch, which she wouldn’t put past him.
“How you are faring,” he said.
“I am okay. I missed a few days of classes. A family emergency.”
“Ah yes, I thought it best to use your younger brother needing you as a reason to draw you away.”
Silence as they both regarded one another. How did he even know to do that? Excuse her from her classes? That was a thought for another time perhaps.
“Why’d you bring me back like that?” she asked.
“I thought it best you come to in familiar surroundings. The healing sleep I kept you in had done about as much as it could. The rest nature will have to do.”
“What is that stuff you gave me to put on my face?”
“It has medicinal purposes, but it is also a,” he paused for a moment. “Well, I added a bit of my magic to the ingredients so as long as you apply it no one will see the cuts.”
“Oh,” she said, not having thought of that. She just assumed Janet was so preoccupied with the frat house story that she didn’t take the opportunity to ask Sarah about her own obvious scrape with something bad.
“You do not have to use it, but I assure you that the healing process will be quicker.”
“No, no, thank you,” she said. “I just wondered. It smells awful.”
“I hadn’t noticed.”
“I only remember waking up once.”
“That is correct.”
“How is that possible? It’s Tuesday, that means I’ve been gone for three days.”
“I told you I kept you in a healing sleep.”
“For three days?”
“That was what your body required. Are you doubting me?”
“I don’t know anything about what you do to trust you.”
“Really, Sarah, my pet, do you honestly believe I’d take you away from a violent situation and take advantage of you while you recovered from it?”
“I am not your pet! You said you wanted me to be your slave!”
“A figure of speech, which if you knew me you’d realize was the case.”
He stood then and closed the distance between them. He placed a hand over hers and drew her to him. She went willingly, as much as she hated the fact she did.
“Besides, I can assure you, when I take advantage I will want you fully aware and receptive. And most certainly not immediately after others have harmed you.”
“Yes, when. The advantage-taking will be done by both parties, mutually consenting ones at that.”
What the hell was she supposed to say to that? She pushed away from him, returning to her comfortable spot. He returned to the couch, seeming to accept she’d had enough closeness for the moment.
“So, I just laid there and slept for days?”
“Essentially. The healer came and looked after your wounds, bathed you in oils and healing water.”
“The healer did?”
“I am not going to justify myself to you. If you’d had your way, you would have been back here the next day, going about your business as if nothing had happened.”
“People do it every day!”
“You are not people! You are my queen, you belong to me and my kingdom, and I could do nothing but ensure you were as completely healed as could be before returning you.”
And once again, she didn’t know what to say to that.
“Why didn’t you just tell me that’s what you were going to do?”
“Because you would have argued with me, exactly as you are doing now. You would have told me that you were fine, didn’t need additional healing, or the rejuvenation my healing sleep could offer you. This way there should be no question as to what happened to you or a possible connection of you to the fire.”
He was right. She would never have agreed to be in his care of her own free will. She would have wondered what he’d want in return. She was already wondering that, but since she hadn’t asked him for anything. He’d done everything of his own accord, so she didn’t think there was much he could ask for.
This was too weird. He was here, sitting in her apartment as if he had every right to be there and she wasn’t at all sure what to do with him. Did he eat and drink things from her world? Not that she had a lot to offer him. She noticed then that her apartment was much cleaner than when she'd left it for the party. Had he had some of his goblins do that? Clean her apartment? Even the dishes in the sink from the macaroni and cheese she'd made were gone. She knew for a fact she hadn't done those.
She really had no reason to be mad at him. Deep down, she knew he hadn’t done anything questionable with her. She just had to hear his reason for drugging her. She could argue with him, but it was rather pointless because he was right. If she’d shown up the day after the fire looking like she’d been beaten up suspicion might have been cast at her. Wild bird attack aside.
So, she had a choice to make. Tell him to leave, let him assume she was still upset with him. Or let him know she was no longer mad. The first choice would be the safer one, but as she watched him watching her for some indication as to what he should do she couldn’t do it.
“I don’t know that I ever thanked you for rescuing me.”
“You did, but it’s always nice to hear it expressed when you are in the proper frame of mind.”
“You’re the one who drugged me!”
“Not the first time. I just did it to ensure you rested. Healing of the type you were privy to takes rest to work properly. I’m sure the same is true of healing here in your world.”
“Yeah,” she said begrudgingly. She still bet he did it so that he wouldn’t have to be in this weird situation. “How did you get them out of the fire?”
“What? But Janet said they were all right.”
He almost killed them? She wasn’t sure how she felt about that. It was because of her, what they did to her that he reacted that way, but she wasn’t sure she wanted someone’s death on their hands.
“Oh, I doubt they’re all right, Sarah, but they survived. I started it in such a manner that I knew someone would see it before it reached the bedroom they were contained in.”
“Yes,” he said simply. “Like magic.”
“And the bird that attacked them?”
“Perhaps one got stuck in the room with them and grew frightened when the house got too hot. I have no idea, but birds can be rather violent when feeling trapped.”
“Right,” she said, not believing him in the least. He knew it, too. A slight lift of one side of his mouth hinted at a telling smirk.
“I noticed, thinking as you do that I harmed them, you’ve not thrown me out on my ear.”
“Why would I?”
“As you were thinking just now when you found out I hadn’t let them out of the house, they could have died. And despite the fact they attacked you rather viciously, you question how you’d feel if they’d died.”
“I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t.”
“Then perhaps it is a good thing one of us is not human.”
It was certainly swifter than the justice system. That was if the police would even listen to her. She’d had a few cups of beer at the party, so a cop would wave it off as her asking for it somehow.
“You can’t just go off and kill people.”
“I wouldn’t go off and kill people for anyone but you.”
“I didn’t ask you to.”
“And I didn’t kill them.”
Her good eye widened in sudden understanding. He hadn’t killed them because he knew she wouldn’t have been able to stomach the idea he’d taken lives because of her.
He stood again, the movement smooth and graceful, almost as if his body flowed without effort by his will alone. Perhaps it did. She didn’t know how goblin kings worked. Walking toward her, she shrunk back on the bay seat. The first time he’d walked toward her, it had happened so fast she hadn’t been able to react.
“Sarah, my pet,” he whispered, though he didn’t look upset by the fact she’d withdrawn from him. His fingertips grazed her damaged cheek ever so lightly. “I would never harm you. And I assure you those four boys will never harm anyone again.”
Damn it all if his touch didn’t feel good. That same warmth she felt earlier when she’d put the cream on was there, but this time it seemed to course through her entire body. It wasn’t just warm this time. It was soothingly hot. Instinctively, liking the feeling the warmth gave her she pressed her cheek into his fingertips. She gave a soft hiss at the pressure, but she wanted whatever it was he was offering her just then. Healing, but it was more than that.
“How can you be sure,” she said, eyes fluttering closed as his thumb grazed the spot over her eye ever so gently.
“The owl, I’m afraid, lost control at the idea of my queen being harmed.”
“What does that mean?”
He smirked, noticing most likely at the same time she did that she hadn’t balked at him calling her his queen.
“Do you really want to know?”
She didn’t, but a part of her did. “Are they going to come after me?”
“Why would they?”
“If they think I sent you.”
“Who would think that?”
“They’ll have to suspect,” she murmured. His thumb was at her lip now, caressing the split there. Why after what she’d just been through didn’t she fear him?
“And what exactly would they tell your authorities? That they were frozen in place and attacked by an owl before their home being set afire?”
“I guess it does sound rather farfetched.”
“One, I suppose could have something to say, but again, he’d have to bear witness to seeing an owl changing its form to a man.”
“Why did you show yourself to him?”
“To find out what drug had been given to you.”
“If you can heal me with your touch why did you need a healer?”
He frowned; even those mismatched eyes of his joined his mouth in the gesture. “I would not touch you in such a manner while you were unaware.”
“But you would be healing me.”
“I am unsure you would believe that or somehow think I set it up so that I’d have to rescue you.”
“I don’t think you’d set up my rape to get me to let you touch me.”
“No? Or one day at an inopportune time picture me touching you as the result of what they’d done to you?”
“What did you tell my professors?” She didn’t want to think about him touching her now or any other day. Not in the way he was suggesting anyway.
“That your parents were in a car accident, both hospitalized and you were needed to look after your younger brother until they were released.”
“Don’t you think they’ll check?”
He laughed then. “Ah, my pet, you underestimate me if you think I cannot manipulate such things. No one will uncover the truth.”
“I am not your pet. And I think you should go now,” she whispered.
She was too vulnerable. He’d literally been her Prince Charming racing to her rescue. Okay, so he was a king and not a prince and he came in the form of a white barn owl not on a white steed, but still. It was the stuff of fairy tales that little girls dreamed of. She couldn’t let her emotions from the past few days get the better of her. Or allow her to do or say something that she’d regret later.
It wasn’t the thought of him touching her that had her sending him away. It was the fact that she knew she’d like it. Very much. That frightened her beyond belief. She wasn’t ready for that. Two weeks ago maybe, but not now. Not after. She’d yet to experience a full day and she needed to do that, know she could do it on her own.
“As you wish,” he said with a hint of humor in his voice. They both knew where her wishes had gotten her once upon a time. She was ever so careful now.
But she didn’t wish it. Not really. She just knew she had to get through the next little while on her own. She wasn’t going to let something bad be the catalyst that gave him what he’d wanted long ago. He really wouldn’t want her that way either.
He dipped his head as he used a finger to tilt hers toward his. Her heart started racing at the idea of him kissing her. Five years ago she wasn’t ready to even think about what kissing him would be like. Now, though.
Except he didn’t. Kiss her lips anyway. A featherlike grazing of his lips across her forehead and then just like that he was gone. Her head still tilted upward in anticipation of a kiss that didn’t come.
“I’m so stupid,” she hissed at herself.
She had homework to do. She could do her laundry. Lots of things, but she ended up going to her room and falling asleep instead.
She didn’t sleep well or for very long. Dreams of that night constantly woke her up as event after event was revealed to her after Rudy led her upstairs to show her where the bathroom was. The stuff she hadn’t remembered, and really didn’t want to.
She did now. Until she’d succumbed to the drugs anyway. So, there were parts of that night she’d probably never remember or know about. Knowing what she did now was bad enough.
“Thank you,” she whispered into the darkness, clutching her pillow to herself as she huddled against the wall in her bed. She wasn’t the type to be afraid of the bogeyman or monsters under her bed. It was the fact that four people she knew, saw on a regular basis on campus and considered friends, had done those things to her that had her scared. The monsters under her bed and hiding in her closet had never hurt or scared her.
She knew now why he’d kept her sedated, allowing her body to heal so that when it was time for her mind to catch up she would be strong enough to deal with the sleeplessness that came with it. As much as it bothered her he did it without telling her he was going to, she knew why he’d done it. She wouldn’t have believed him if he’d told her this was going to happen. She’d woken up screaming more than once that night. Screams loud enough she couldn’t imagine why the neighbors beneath her weren’t pounding on her door or calling the cops to ensure she was all right.
Or maybe they were accustomed to her being so odd screaming out in the middle of the night didn’t faze them.
By the time she started to see the sun peek through the little window in her bedroom she was beyond tired. She wanted so badly to sleep longer, but she was afraid to shut her eyes. She didn’t want those images fresh in her mind when she woke up again.
She had to get up, though. She couldn’t miss any more classes. Fortunately, her department was small enough that her professors would be understanding and give her time to make up any work missed. She was also glad she didn’t have any out of class work intensive courses this semester, which would make it more time consuming to make work up.
She went through the motions of her day. If anyone noticed she wasn’t as talkative as she normally was, they probably attributed it to her family’s troubles back home. She’d put the jar of cream Jareth had given her into her backpack, not knowing how long it would take to wear off. From everything she could tell, no one knew she hadn’t left the party early as she told Janet she’d done the other day.
Of course, everyone was full of whispered gossip about Rudy, Jeff, Dick, and Brad and what exactly had happened to them that night. A rumor was starting to spread that maybe the animal attack and fire weren’t related at all, that maybe they’d gone out somewhere that night, got into trouble and that was where they’d run into the bird.
Sarah nodded and responded when she thought she was supposed to just to keep up the pretense of being normal. Feigning interest in the well-being of her four attackers was not fun and by the time she got home that evening she was exhausted. Not just from lack of sleep, but from going through the day knowing she had to be careful of anything she said.
She wasn’t hungry, but knew she should eat so fixed some toast and laid down on the couch to watch Fresh Prince and Blossom. Shows she didn’t follow rabidly, but watched from time to time whenever she was home. She woke much, much later. Johnny Carson was on, which meant she’d slept for hours without waking up that she could remember. That was a good start, except she hadn’t meant to fall asleep. She hoped sleeping tonight would go just as well.
The next month continued much the same way. She slept when she could, never very long or well, but enough in the evenings and at night so she wasn’t completely exhausted. Easter weekend, she went home as planned. Her father commented on how much weight she’d lost. She supposed she had, not being that hungry lately.
There, on Good Friday night, she took the red book she’d cherished as a teen off its shelf. She’d memorized it, acted it out, and lived it out. She wondered what reading it now, knowing what she did yet not having thought about it in years, would be like. So while her brother worked on homework in his room across the hall from Sarah’s she settled in to read the once very familiar story.
She hadn't touched it since that night other than to put it back on the bookshelf after she and Toby had gotten home and everything was over. She hoped, knowing what she did now, that the experience would be different than before. Somehow, though, the story was just as captivating for her as it had been then. It was different now because she had faces to go with the names of the characters. Personalities to match with some (not all) of the faces. One face and personality was dominant, no matter how hard she tried to stop it from being so.
Before that night they'd been imaginary creatures with faces that she had created for them in her mind. Now, though, she could only imagine their true faces not the ones she'd assigned them. (She always prided herself on a vivid and colorful imagination, but she'd done none of them justice, not even Jareth.)
The only one she saw anymore was Hoggle. The rest, well, they didn't seem to want to risk the Goblin King's wrath by visiting her once it was evident that she was moving on with her life without need of the book. Or them.
Reading it knowing that it was real, the strange characters and deadly Labyrinth weren't just someone's fictitious creation. Well, it made her understand her entrancement with it a bit more. She didn't understand magic or the things that Jareth could do, but she had no doubt that the book was enchanted somehow. For whatever reason, she, Sarah Williams, was supposed to get this book. Had he arranged it? Did he know it was going to be her? Or was it just by chance that she'd spotted it the day she did?
Some of the lines she remembered, some though it was like reading it for the first time all over again. She smiled a little as she read over the bit of dialogue she never could memorize, until she'd had to because Toby's life was hanging on the line. No doubt that was some sort of magical trickery on his part as well, keeping the solution to the puzzle from being accessible.
She realized reading it this time how lonely Jareth's life must be. He was surrounded by goblins and creatures. She'd had the book for quite a while before that night, having read it several times. How long had he waited for her to come so that he could make his offer? If she hadn't gotten so angry that night and wished Toby away would he have come for her on his own?
She had no desire to dress up and act out the book as she'd done so many times before that night. She did stay up all night reading as she'd done the very first time she picked it up. Whether she wanted to admit it or not, she and the Goblin King were somehow connected. Whether it was his doing or whatever power there was contained in the book, she'd been chosen for a reason. She wasn't sure how she knew that or what the significance of that realization was. He'd saved her from things happening to her that she didn't even want to think about. She doubted very likely he'd done that with any of his other wishers.
She closed it when she'd finished, hands skimming the red cover affectionately. The book would not get returned to its spot on her bookshelf this time. She wasn't that girl any longer, but the book still had power over her – just as the King written about in it did. She vowed when she got back to her apartment she would ask Hoggle how the others were. She hadn't in a long time, not wanting to admit that she missed them. They were her friends and she'd abandoned them when she no longer needed them in the same way.
She loved it just as much this time as the first time she'd picked it up. The one thing she was left wondering, though, was how on earth she hadn't known it was real? The feelings it evoked in her, the sense of belonging she felt while reading it. These things should have pointed to the fact it was not merely a fictional tale. Of course, she'd been fifteen (and younger) so she hoped she could be excused for being so naïve.
The end of her junior year came and went and she still didn’t call for him again, though she brought the book back with her after Easter. She didn’t go home over the summer, getting a job at a summer stock theatre in the Midwest. It wasn’t glamorous nor did it pay a lot, but it was away from New York for a while and that was good enough for her.
Her four assailants hadn’t returned to school. By the time they got released from the hospital they’d missed too much to catch up on. She couldn’t say she was disappointed. A part of her wondered why she didn’t say something to someone, but for some reason she believed the Goblin King when he told her they wouldn’t be able to harm anyone else in the same way. She’d overheard Jeff’s girlfriend telling someone just how much damage the feisty yet mysterious attacking bird had done. Needless to say, she wasn’t his girlfriend for much longer when she found out. The same thing happened to Brad and Dick. As wrong as it might have been she got some satisfaction in that. As far as she knew, Rudy didn’t have a girlfriend, but apparently he was the one the Goblin King had held back on that night.
She had a small cabin to herself for the summer, small was being kind. Her attic apartment had been bigger. Only the bathroom was separated from the rest of her living quarters. The schedule was an intense one as summer stock theatre tended to be. Lots of shows in a small window of time so spending time in here didn’t happen too often. She slept and showered. There was no phone or TV, so she read with her downtime. She had a mini fridge, hot plate, and coffee maker for quick meals if she woke up late and didn’t have time to go to the on-site restaurant for a real meal. She refused to eat anything but breakfast in her room, though. The sink wasn’t big enough to wash pots and pans in.
She’d never been away from New York so it was a new experience for her, meeting people who talked differently than she was accustomed. Her dad wasn’t a car ride away. While she grew up in a less crowded part of New York, up here there was a lot of nothing. Peace and quiet with a bright, star-filled sky that was clear due to no pollution or an abundance of lights blocking them from view.
She was in the tech shop one day; talking with the set director about a show she was in charge of the props for when she saw the white barn owl for the first time. Being in the woods, she shouldn’t have been so quick to jump to the conclusion that it was him. She knew, though, that it was.
The owl’s attention was focused solely on her for one.
She’d seen him in this form a few times after his visit to her apartment, but she’d never talked to him. She hadn’t encouraged him to visit. She certainly hadn’t told him where she was spending her summer.
“So, the windowsill will be right there then,” Tom said, pointing at the set plan he’d finalized with the director yesterday. “Just make sure whatever you put on it isn’t too heavy.”
“Right,” she said, knowing of course it wouldn’t be a real windowsill.
The director wanted something authentic and not made from Styrofoam there, though, and it was Sarah’s job to find something that fit the 1940s theme of the show. That meant she would get to spend tomorrow antiquing, and that was not a bad way to spend her day as far as she was concerned.
“No, thanks. I’ll probably be by tomorrow to help.”
“Great. If I’m not here, I’ll be in the theatre working on the lighting. I could use you for that, you’re not afraid of heights.”
“Not in the least,” she said. “See you then.”
The owl was gone when she left. She had no doubt it hadn’t gone far and was more than likely perched somewhere outside her door. She wondered what he could possibly want from her tonight. She was, for all intents and purposes, fine. She was still susceptible to the occasional nightmare that woke her up, but getting away from school had done wonders for her. The threat of seeing any one of them at any time had weighed heavy on her mind, because even though she’d never told a soul what they’d done they knew. They had to suspect she had something to do with what happened to them even if they couldn’t prove it. (As if she had a wild bird at her ready to attack them!)
The fact that she hadn’t let herself be alone with a guy since was something she’d have to move past on her own time. She would when the time and the guy was right. She just wasn’t sure how she’d know the guy was the right one, and that led to her saying no to every offer of a date since.
As expected, he was there by her cabin. Only he wasn’t in owl form. In a way she was glad to see him like this, which was crazy. Except that it made her feel less crazy about everything that had gone on the last semester of college.
“Are you nuts? Someone might see you.”
He chuckled softly and she had to admit when he wasn’t being nasty or laughing at her, he had a very nice laugh.
“You don’t think I’m practiced in the art of changing form discreetly, Sarah?”
“I, of course,” she stammered, realizing she had in fact called into question his ability to do that. “I didn’t mean. I just. This is a job, I don’t want to have to pack up and go home for something stupid.”
“I am not here to cause such a turn of events in your life.”
She noticed that he was dressed with some attempt at blending in. It was still early enough in the summer that the jeans he wore weren’t out of place. The shirt, though, if he was going to pop in and out of her life and be seen with her by anyone she’d have to work on that.
“Hey Sarah,” someone said as they passed by her cabin.
“Hi, Tony,” she said when she finally spotted him to know who it was. She was still learning everyone’s names, but Tony had the cabin two down from hers and had been helpful to her so far. Even better, he was gay so she didn’t have to worry that he wanted something in return from her.
This man, though, the King of Goblins, she wasn’t so sure what he wanted from her. Oh, he’d toyed with and teased her about being his queen, but surely he wasn’t serious. He didn’t really love her. Though at the moment, he was leaning toward her rather possessively and the look in his eyes. Well, she’d never had a guy get jealous because of her before, but she’d seen it and he had the look down pat.
“Why is it that everyone you know and talk to seems to be male?”
“Name one female you’ve become friends with since coming here.”
“Well, I haven’t had a lot of time,” she murmured. She hadn’t really had time to make any friends here yet.
“Yet you know Tony and Tom and who else by name?”
“Tom is the artistic director. He’s kind of my boss, so of course I know his name. And Tony is gay,” she hissed.
He arched an eyebrow at that.
“It means he doesn’t like women,” she clarified, in case he didn’t know the meaning of the word.
“I know what it means.”
“I already told you. He’s kind of like my boss.”
“But not really. Kind of implies he’s not really.”
“Oh my God, listen to you,” she said, realizing she’d raised her voice a bit too loudly as someone glanced in their direction. “You’re acting like I’ve done something wrong.”
“Done something wrong?”
“Not in the slightest.”
“Well, then, all right.”
She closed her eyes and counted to ten, something she did with Toby a lot even today when he was almost eight and no longer a toddler.
“All right what?”
“I forgive you.”
“You what?” she shrieked. “I have done absolutely nothing to be forgiven for.”
“Other than talk to other men who think you’re available.”
“I have not!”
“Name one person who knows about me.”
She stood there, her mouth agape. Know about him? She wasn’t even sure he was entirely real to this day. “No one!”
“And you’ve just made my point for me.”
She pointed her finger at him, poking him in the chest. A very solid chest she took a moment to realize. “You don’t even exist in this world. No one – and I mean no one – has ever even heard of my book. I've asked, believe me. What am I supposed to tell people?”
“That you are already spoken for. Betrothed to another.”
“No one talks like that.”
“Yeah, well, you don’t live here and they’d look at me as if I was a freak if I said something like that. Besides, I never agreed to be your queen.”
“Of course you have, Sarah. What the story doesn’t tell you is that in addition to the King loving the girl, she loves him in return.”
“It’s only a story.”
“Is it, my pet?”
“Stop calling me that!”
“As you wish.”
“No, I didn’t wish anything,” she said quickly and he chuckled. She realized, too late, that he was teasing her.
She regarded him then, head tilted slightly. He’d made an effort to blend in this time. His hair was still not at all like any human’s she’d ever seen, but the clothes and shoes. He still wore his medallion under his shirt, though, she noticed.
“Why are you here?”
“Perhaps I just wished to visit.”
“Do you have a wish-granter, Jareth?”
She’d never called him that before, but the cabins weren’t that far apart and she’d be damned if the people she had to work with all summer overheard her calling him Goblin King and thought she was crazy. These were people she hoped to get references from and perhaps placement next summer somewhere better than this.
“Only you, Sarah.”
She had no idea how to respond to that. She truly found it hard to believe. And yet, why was he here? He’d found out where she’d gone for the summer and sought her out. Would someone playing a game really do that?
She bit her lip lightly as she thought over her options. Clearly, standing outside of her cabin all night wasn’t one of them. If she told him to leave she believed he would. He had the last time she told him to. She hadn’t allowed herself to be alone with anyone but him since that night.
“Would you like to come in?”
She hoped he knew, understood, even remotely how huge of a step it was for her to ask that. The first time she’d been alone with him, he’d already been in her apartment so she didn’t have much choice. Tonight she did.
He had to actually, now that she thought about it, or he would have been waiting for her inside rather than outside as he’d done back at her apartment. Physically, she was healed and appeared whole. Of course, thanks to the cream he’d given her no one ever saw anything had happened to her. She knew she was far from better. More than once she’d had to go back to her apartment late at night alone and had been frightened of a little noise or shadow she saw. She’d never been like that before.
Then there were the few days a few weeks after that night that she freaked out because she was late. She’d gone to a church not too far from her apartment after she knew for a fact she wasn’t pregnant and lit a candle as her thanks.
He bowed. He actually bowed, she couldn’t believe it. It was everything a bow should be. Formal and grand and her stomach did that flippy thing it seemed to enjoy doing when he did something that softened her heart to him.
“After you,” he said and it took her a minute to stop staring. She forgot sometimes that he was a king. King of the Goblins perhaps, but someone accustomed to pomp and circumstance, things like bowing and groveling. She doubted he’d ever groveled and had been on the receiving end of more bows than the other way around, but still.
She opened the door and stepped inside; glancing around to make sure it wasn’t a complete disaster before letting him in.
“Worried you had something hiding under your bed?”
“No, more like worried you’ll realize I’m an insufferable slob.”
“I doubt that you are, merely in a hurry too much of the time. That is why I arranged for you to have help.”
"I noticed that," she said. Since that weekend her apartment was always clean. She knew he was responsible for it, but she had no idea who was doing it. "Thank you. It's not necessary."
"Let me worry about what is necessary, and you are welcome."
“I don’t really have any place to offer you to sit or anything.”
“What about the furnishings in your apartment?”
“They’re back home. I figured all I really needed was a bed and some place to put my clothes.”
“Efficient. Not many women would do that.”
“Pretty much every one of them here does that. Would you like to meet some?”
“No,” he said quickly and oddly she believed him.
She was certain there were far prettier, more mature, and now less damaged women out there. Yet here he was once again. The cream he'd given her had done wonders, the scarring was minimal. Most would perhaps not notice, but she did. A little line above her lip that until that night hadn't been there and another at her eyebrow.
“I have all that I require in you, Sarah, if only you would come to understand and accept that.”
She sat on the edge of her bed, watching as he perused her space. She saw him shake his head at the hot plate and coffee pot.
“And you live like this willingly?”
“Yes,” she said, trying not to get angry with him for being so … so kinglike. He glanced her way almost coyly with a smirk, as if knowing exactly what she just thought.
“You spend little time here then, yes?”
“Pretty much. Sleep with the occasional downtime, but usually I try to go for a swim or something. And, hey, I have a chair outside so I can sit out there as much as I want and pretend that it’s a deck off a much bigger cabin than this.”
She knew when he’d spotted her swimsuit. It was a new one she’d purchased for the summer. It was a one piece that didn’t show much. She had a two-piece at home in her dresser but she didn’t want to wear it this summer. She’d never been one to flaunt her figure exactly, but these days she wanted to cover up as much as she could.
He was apparently finished with his tour because just like that he was there, standing by her and her bed. She swallowed, knowing deep down she had nothing to be afraid of, but she couldn’t help it. He frightened her in a way no one else did. He knew things about her that she wasn’t sure she even knew yet. Things that went deep into her soul.
“May I sit?”
That made her feel incredibly small and paranoid. He wasn’t there to hurt her. Surely he would have chosen a more private spot if that was his intention. Anyone could walk in at any moment and with her windows open anyone would hear if she cried out. Not that they’d be able to stop him, she realized, but he wouldn’t risk that. If for no other reason than the fact he wouldn’t want to hurt her.
So why was she scared? Why did it terrify her to gesture for him to sit with her on the bed? She sure wished now she’d taken the time to find a spare chair or something from a garage sale.
“What do your goblins do when you’re away?”
“I probably don’t want to know. Time, as you know, is different, but they manage.”
“That’s good,” she said.
He chuckled. “You care that much about the wellbeing of my goblins?”
“Well, sure, I mean, the ones I met were nice. Well, most of them,” she said, realizing that hadn’t exactly been true.
“Ah yes, ensnaring my subjects just as you did me.”
“I did no such thing.”
“You did, Sarah, from the moment you touched the book.”
“I was,” she paused, mulling over in her head just how old she was when she first spotted the book. The cover had attracted her to begin with. To this day she couldn't explain why necessarily, but she knew when she'd spotted it sitting by itself on the shelves in the bookstore that she had to have it.
“Very young. Yes, I know. And believe me, I waited and waited until you were old enough.”
“I was fifteen!”
“I was a little off. Again, time in the Underground is different.”
“What do you do here?” he asked and she imagined he was purposely changing the subject.
“Well, a little of everything. I’m the director’s assistant. It’s a pretty big position. I could have gone to other, bigger summer stock theatres, but I chose this one knowing the experience I’d get would be well-rounded. So, I do whatever needs done. Tomorrow I’m going to town to some antique shops to try to find something to go on a shelf in the set for the next show. When I’ve finished that errand I’ll help the set designer with things. He mentioned working on lights, probably fixing some issues for the show we're running now. Sometimes the director changes blocking so we have to adjust the lights. Other times we realize certain parts of the stage are darker, or brighter, than they should be.”
“And you enjoy this?”
“I love it.”
“Then it obviously has merit.”
“Why do you say that?”
“You have a good head on your shoulders. Your imagination is vast and yet you’re grounded when it is necessary.”
“I think my step-mom and father would disagree with you.”
“They see what they want to see. The child they aren’t ready to admit has become a woman before their very eyes. That’s typical of parents from what I can tell of your world.”
“You get that from the wishers over the years?”
He chuckled with a shake of his head. “Perhaps. You look tired,” he said, pointedly changing the subject again.
“I guess I am. It’s been a long day.”
“It’s been a long few months. You haven’t been sleeping well at all.”
“How did you?” She didn’t finish the question, there was no need. Of course he knew.
“I am sorry that is the case. You need your rest.”
“I close my eyes and I see them doing things to me. Some of it is just my imagination running wild, I’m sure, because I don’t remember anything after I passed out. I can only hope my imagination is worse than what they really did.”
He shifted on her bed, wordlessly inviting her to take comfort in him. The one and only person who knew what happened to her and while he had been treating her kindly didn’t treat her as though she would break. She hesitated a moment before taking him up on the unspoken invitation.
Surprisingly, she settled easily against him, placing a hand over his heart. She both heard and felt it beat. The same as her father and mother’s hearts had sounded and felt when she was little. They were the only people she’d been up close and personal enough with to know that about them. And Toby.
Her eyes fluttered closed for a moment as she took in the fact that she was this close to him since being on the dance floor with him years ago. Her heart was beating at its normal rate (okay, a little accelerated perhaps but it wasn’t out of fear) and the urge to flee wasn’t there yet.
She took in the scent of him. She hadn’t noticed that night that there was anything different about his scent than any other guy, but she noticed now. Whether it was because he was Fae or just because he was him she wasn’t sure. She rather liked it, though.
She took a strange sort of comfort in that. That she didn’t want to run away, that she liked something about him. Not that she’d tell him that.
Her breath caught as he slid a hand over hers, tapping his fingers against it to the rhythm of his heartbeat. She found it soothing. As soothing as the sound of the wind rustling through the trees outside her cabin.
“Tell me about your kingdom.”
“You’ve experienced it.”
“Not the Labyrinth. Your kingdom. Your subjects.”
“I’m not sure what you wish to know.”
“I don’t wish to know anything, I’m just making conversation,” she said.
“My kingdom is vast. I have many subjects. Some I see frequently because they constantly have issues, some I couldn’t put a face to the name. Then again, they all look alike to me.”
“That’s not nice.”
He chuckled. “I’m their king, Sarah, not their friend. Believe me I’d probably enjoy meeting the ones that never have issues.”
“Why don’t you?”
“Why don’t you meet them?”
“If they don’t come to see me with an issue when would it happen?”
“You could go see them.”
He was quiet and she wondered if she’d insulted him somehow. Had she called into question his ability to rule or something? His hand didn’t pull away from hers, though.
“And you say you don’t have the makings of a queen.”
“Jareth,” she whispered.
“How easily you let formality lapse.”
“I called you that outside.”
“I knew why you did.”
“So, I can’t call you Jareth?”
“Ah, my pet, since you ask, you may call me whatever you wish.”
She smiled and suspected he knew she was despite an inability to see her. She didn’t argue with him this time. About his chosen endearment of pet or her wishing for things. He knew better.
“You could come see the play tomorrow night,” she said after a long moment of silence.
“The play we’re doing.”
“I’m not sure I would understand it enough to enjoy it.”
“Actually, you might enjoy this one it’s pretty funny. I imagine you have goblins arguing over who gets what when their father dies.”
“And where would you be?”
“Well, nowhere. I mean, I don’t have anywhere to be during the show. Unless a problem crops up, but it hasn’t yet.”
“Are you asking me to be there?”
“If you want to come.”
He lifted his hand away from hers and oddly she missed its warmth. He set it against the cheek not pressed comfortably against his chest. A fingertip slid along her jaw to her chin, prompting her without words to look at him. She lifted her head enough to do just that, remembering the last time he’d touched her like this. She’d thought he was going to kiss her, and while he had it wasn’t quite what she’d imagined.
“Are you ready for that?”
“My visiting you at your request, Sarah, will cross a path I was unsure you were ready to do.”
“It’s just a play.”
“On the contrary, my pet, it is everything. The shifting of things between us. For the first time since that night you made it through my Labyrinth, you are wishing for my physical presence in your life.”
“I’m not wishing. I’m asking you if you’d like to go to a show.”
“Well, yeah, I mean, I can sit with you, just don’t get upset if I get pulled away.”
“Make no mistake, if I show up tomorrow at your request it is an acceptance on your part of my presence in your life.”
“I accept your presence in my life.”
“In my world.”
“I have waited, Sarah. Years. You don’t want anyone else so why do you fight it?”
“I don’t want anyone else because everyone else scares me.”
“Proving my point. If I, a king, don’t scare you and others do shouldn’t that tell you that what I’m saying is true?”
“They haven’t always scared me.”
“And you’ve had relationships?”
“Well,” she paused hating that he very likely knew the honest answer so there was no point in lying. “Not really.”
“Because there was always something wrong with them,” she admitted.
One of the stars of her high school theatre asked her out. She said yes because he was cute and everything, but she’d never felt comfortable with him. So, when he’d told her he was going to Prom with someone else she wasn’t that upset. She’d ended up going with a friend and probably had a better time as a result. No expectations of hotel rooms after the dance or anything else.
A guy her freshman year she knew from Intro. To Business asked her out. They had a nice time when he took her to dinner, but she just felt nothing for him. There'd been a few others with the same result every time.
Something being wrong with them wasn't entirely accurate, but she didn't know how else to put it. She just didn't like anyone like that.
“You know, just because you don’t scare me, doesn’t mean I’m supposed to be your queen.”
“If you came to the Underground instead of making me come here you would see that you are indeed meant to be my queen.”
“I don’t make you do anything.”
“Quibble over the details as much as you wish to, the fact remains I come to you. I’ve been in your mind and your dreams, Sarah, I know what’s there.”
“That’s kind of creepy,” she said, running a finger along his shirtfront. She wondered what he'd show up wearing tomorrow.
“It is the truth. You’ve always known I was there.”
“Yes,” she admitted.
“I will come with you under one condition.”
“This ought to be good.”
“When your summer is over in this place, before you return to continue with your schooling you will come with me.”
“No protests, no trying to think of ways to avoid it.”
“All right,” she said softly.
“I said all right. I have to go home and see my dad first."
“That is an understandable need, I'm sure you have missed him. Then I will be here tomorrow night for your show.”
“Thanks,” she said, finding her eyes growing heavy.
“You realize, my pet, I will make it abundantly clear that you belong to me.”
“I don't belong to you, but I wouldn’t expect anything less from you.”
“Very well, as long as you understand that, go to sleep now.”
“Are you leaving?”
“Not just yet,” he said and she somehow knew she’d sleep better knowing he was there, even if only for a little while.
Her day had been pretty good so far. She’d found an antique vase to put on the set’s window shelf and a few other things that the director was deciding on. She was pretty sure he’d use them; Sarah had a knack for knowing what he liked somehow.
She was sitting in the lawn chair outside her cabin ready for her evening with Jareth and whatever it might bring. All she needed was the Goblin King so they could get on with the evening. The thought entered her mind that if she showed him a truly awful time he’d give up his pursuit of her, but she realized that he’d know. Just as he knew everything else. So she’d given up on that idea and decided, instead, to simply be excited at the idea of having a date.
“So, spill,” Tony said, taking a seat on the worn wooden step that led to her door.
“About the guy who was here last night.”
Sarah laughed a little, unable to stop from doing so. Of course Tony would find her Goblin King attractive.
“What would you like to know?”
“Where’s he from?”
“Not from around here,” Sarah said, answering as truthfully as she could.
“Are you asking if he’s my boyfriend or if he has one?”
“Well, I was asking the former, but if the latter is the more appropriate question then by all means.”
Sarah laughed again.
“Well?” Tony asked.
Sarah wasn’t sure how she knew he was there in her cabin when he hadn’t been a few minutes ago, but she knew instantly that the subject of her conversation with Tony was here. She realized what he was doing as well. His coming from inside her cabin would imply he’d spent the night.
“I’m afraid I’m already spoken for,” he said from the screen door. “Isn’t that right, Sarah?”
She stared, speechless. He looked… Oh God, he looked good enough to eat. It was like he’d conjured up exactly the right clothes for the night, which he probably had she realized. For the first time ever in front of Sarah, he’d tamed his hair. Not that she didn’t like it the other way. She did. If she wanted to be honest, she’d wanted to run her fingers through it more than once to find out what it felt like.
She swallowed, still not answering his question as he opened the door and walked to her. A hand draped over her shoulder possessively. Tony was clearly enjoying the view as much as Sarah. Seemingly that didn’t bother or faze Jareth, but then he barely paid Tony any attention.
“I, yeah,” she answered.
There was no use arguing. She had no idea why she was bothering anymore, really. As much as she wanted to deny it or try and prove otherwise, Sarah Williams was different. She was the girl that believed in goblins and was better friends with characters from a book who happened to be alive than she was any human being she’d ever met.
“Are you ready then?” he asked.
“Ready? I, yeah,” she said, slipping into her sandals. “I was waiting on you,” realizing she was embellishing on his portrait of having been there all night and day.
“That you were,” he said. “And I shall make it up to you later for keeping my lady waiting.”
“I’ll just bet you will.”
“As long as she remembers her own promises I will always fulfill mine.”
“That’s a loaded promise,” she quipped.
“Loaded with potential.”
“Potential let down.”
He chuckled, stepping gracefully in front of her chair to offer her his hand. She took it, standing.
“Night, Tony, see you tomorrow.”
“Yeah, Sarah, enjoy the show.”
“It’s not as if I have it memorized or anything.”
He showed up a couple more times over the summer. Not often, seemingly content that she’d adhere to their agreement. She’d teased him about Tony’s overtly checking him out every time he saw him as being the reason he stayed away. She knew, of course, that wasn’t the reason. She doubted he gave any thought to Tony or anyone else in her world.
Well, she was learning to do it like a normal person. There were some nights she had no choice but to do it, sheer exhaustion winning the battle over her unwillingness to succumb to the dreams Morpheus offered so many nights. Evidently, he was easing up, though, because she wasn’t waking up every night anymore. Even better, there were some mornings she couldn’t remember a single part of any dream all night long.
There were times she wondered if Jareth had somehow spun some magic in the cabin so that sleep wouldn’t be so difficult for her. The times he visited her they’d repeated his first night in her cabin. They’d talk and she’d fall asleep next to him. Always in the morning he was gone, a flower of some sort left on her pillow to let her know she hadn’t dreamt the whole thing up.
He never tried to kiss her; rarely touching her more than was necessary when they were close to one another. She’d question if he was in actuality attracted to her at all, except she saw in his eyes often that he was.
That meant that he was holding back. For her. She wasn’t sure how she felt about that. While she knew she wasn’t ready for anything heavy, a simple kiss would be nice. Just to know, settle her curiosity about what it would be like to do that.
Her time at the summer stock theatre had gone too quickly. She’d initially begun the summer hoping to gain experience and references so that she could go somewhere else next summer. Now, though, she was giving serious thought to coming back. True, it was in the middle of nowhere and there wasn’t a whole lot to do, but it wasn’t as if she had vast amounts of time off anyway. She’d managed to keep busy somehow. She collected names and addresses of those she wanted to keep in touch with. References aside, she’d made some friends this summer. It was nice to work with people who took their theatre seriously.
She spent a long weekend with her dad, step-mom, and Toby before returning to her apartment. Her landlord had been happy to renew her lease for the school year. She wasn't a partier and rarely lodged a problem with him. She did notice when she was walking up and down the wooden steps outside that he'd replaced the most warped steps. Hopefully that meant a safer winter this year.
Her things moved in she wasn't sure what to do next. She had no food in the house, but she'd promised Jareth she'd go to his kingdom after she was finished for the summer. She only had a few days before classes started again. Was there even a point in grocery shopping if she wasn't going to be here?
She briefly contemplated going back on her promise. What could he do if she did? Get mad at her? Perhaps then he'd finally leave her alone. Doubtful if he hadn't by now, but she supposed she wouldn't be human if the thought didn't cross her mind.
She could hear his voice saying her name in a scolding tone and couldn't help but laugh a little. She'd had a good time with him. He'd sat through the production of Daddy's Dying Who's Got the Will as if he was hanging on the word of every actor in the show.
Afterward he'd asked her what parts of the show she'd had her hands in most, but talked about the show as if he'd actually enjoyed himself. Maybe he had. It didn't matter, though, he'd sat through a play surrounded by more than one hundred humans and she knew he hadn't been entirely comfortable there. He'd done it for her, because it meant something to her.
With that realization she turned to go back into her bedroom to pack a bag.
"Just what does one bring with them to the Goblin City and the kingdom that surrounds it?"
Just like that she was no longer in her room but in his. Not the bedroom part of his … chambers he'd called it when she was here last.
"How did you know?"
"I waited until I knew you'd made up your mind definitively."
"And if I hadn't."
He shrugged; that graceful, regal gesture she noticed about him before.
"Then I guess you would be at your apartment unpacking."
"Not for this, no, Sarah. If your word means nothing then I suppose it's best I find that out now."
"And the fact I thought about it?"
"I knew you would think about it. The fact that you thought of your promise immediately upon returning speaks volumes."
"You didn't let me pack."
"Yes. I have nothing to wear."
"Oh, but of course you do," he said.
"I can't wear the same clothes I'm wearing now."
He scrunched his nose a little, regarding her outfit for the first time apparently. She was dressed to move her things back in and unpack.
"You are provided for, Sarah. Everything you need while here is at your fingertips."
"I didn't agree to stay in your room."
"Of course not, but as it was the room you're familiar with I thought it best we start here and I'll show you from here the lay of things."
"Oh," she said.
"So, I will show you to your quarters where you can bathe and change. When you're ready I will be your guide for as long as you desire it."
"All right," she said, taking his offered arm.
Her quarters as he called it was amazing. It wasn't quite as nice as his, but it was the stuff dreams were made of. She imagined he had access to her dreams and desires so knew exactly what to include in the room.
"I'll be in my chambers when you're ready."
"Sure," she said, still processing the incredible lavishness that was her room. She had no doubt either that it was her room and not just one he was letting her stay in.
Even the shower was exquisite. Oils and handmade soaps that smelled divine. A shampoo like nothing she'd ever seen before yet it was clearly designed exclusively for her because it smelled perfect. More oils and lotions at the vanity. More than she'd probably ever use in a lifetime, but she imagined he was waiting to see what she'd like.
She cried out softly when she opened the closet. There were a few formal dresses, but the rest while more casual were still beautiful. Not a pair of blue jeans in the wardrobe, though. Pants, yes, but no jeans. She'd have to ask him about that.
What did one wear when being shown around a kingdom personally by its king? She had no idea, running her fingertips along so many options for her to choose from.
She decided on a skirt and blouse, nothing formal but not casual. Walking around with him in pants seemed wrong even though he'd seen her in blue jeans and shorts more than once.
She regarded herself in a mirror, wondering what she was doing. For that matter, him as well. What were they doing? Nothing could come of this. Yet as she touched the top of the fine wooden vanity she had access to she wasn't so sure that was true anymore.
She didn’t want to think about that now, though. Not yet. She found her way back to his room and knocked on the door. It was open so she stepped inside, assuming it was open for her.
"Feel refreshed?" he asked.
"Yes, everything was perfect."
"As it should be."
"I like your choice in outfits."
"Thank you. I wasn't sure what to choose."
"You did well."
"There are no jeans."
"There are pants. I ensured that was the case."
"Yes, but no blue jeans."
"That is true."
"Will there ever be?"
"If you insist, of course, I can do nothing but grant you what you desire."
"I'm just comfortable in them."
"I do not understand this, but if you feel it is necessary then fine."
"You're entirely too agreeable."
"You're not a prisoner here, Sarah. My purpose in this visit is to entice you, so of course I will give you what you desire."
"It's not that important," she said finally.
He offered her his arm again, the gesture grand and regal. Somehow it seemed different than when he'd offered his arm to her earlier. She wasn't sure what to make of it, or whether her acceptance of his arm meant anything. It was just an arm, but it was an acceptance of not just his touch but her touching him in return.
She'd never remember everything he showed her. The important things like where she'd eat and the library she would, but the rest. There was so much. No trickery or manipulation to confuse her today. A ballroom, which she'd seen before. So many rooms. Did he really need them all? He was a king, she supposed he did.
Then they were on the grounds, heading away from the village she'd worked her way through to rescue Toby years ago. He led her to a clearing where a picture-perfect picnic was waiting for them.
"You don't really expect me to eat those, do you?" she asked, glancing at the peaches.
"Pick whichever one you choose and I'll take a bite for every bite you take."
"How do I know the poison just won't work on you?"
"I guess you don't. Do you really believe I'd poison you at this point, Sarah?"
She sighed, grabbing one of the peaches and taking a bite quickly before she could think too hard on it. Did she really think he would poison her now? She supposed not, but she still wasn't altogether sure she could trust him completely either.
"What do you do with all those rooms anyway?"
"Some I rarely ever set foot in. Some are for more formal occasions and visits. From other kingdoms, for instance. The formal dining room, of course, is for dinner parties with people on those occasions."
"Do they come often?"
"Occasionally, probably not as often as they could."
"Why not what?"
"Why not as often as they could?"
"My kingdom is not complete. Until it is they view me as playing king."
"But you are king."
"Of course I am. Without a queen and I have refused to take one regardless of who has been offered me over the years."
"Offered to you?"
"Yes. The goblins would be a good ally to have because there are so many of them."
"You've said no to them?"
"But of course, Sarah, I already have my queen."
"Did you tell them that?"
"Of course not. They wouldn't understand my waiting for you for so long a time. I've merely expressed my disinterest at taking a queen."
She finished the peach in silence, thinking over his words and what her being here meant. To him. To his kingdom. To potential allies who perhaps hadn't taken him seriously because they viewed him as eccentric for willingly going solo. A king should have a queen who would give him…
"Oh God," she said softly.
"Nothing, just thinking," she murmured.
"You don't have children."
"No, I haven't had the pleasure."
More silence as she glanced through the offerings available to them on this picnic. It was a feast fit for, well, a king. Or a queen it would seem since most of the items were things she was fond of or at least liked.
"I need to graduate."
"Yes, from college. School. I need to get my degree."
"Your degree will be of no use to you here, Sarah."
"I understand that, but we don’t really know this will work. I could come here and you could realize you've made a horrible mistake in thinking I was suitable for you, as your queen and otherwise."
"I could decide never seeing my family again is too much."
"More likely, but I would do my part to ensure you have no regrets, Sarah. Ever."
"I need to finish college to be sure at the very least I can survive, support myself if something happens and I need to go back."
"As the lady wishes."
"You're willing to give me that?"
"If I must, if those are the conditions you put on finally agreeing to become my queen."
"You realize I cannot visit as I did this summer."
"Don't sound so disappointed, Sarah. I cannot. It takes a lot of power, weakens my kingdom when I use so much of it."
"I didn't know."
"If getting to your world was easy."
"You wouldn't need the wishers," she said, realization dawning on her. She'd never stopped to think that he'd sacrificed everything, the well-being of his subjects and his kingdom to see her.
"I'm sorry, I didn't know."
"I didn't say anything. I enjoyed our visits, the trust you developed for me. That, to me, was worth any sacrifice. It was something I wouldn't get here I know because you'd be in my world. The outsider."
"It's only a couple of more years."
"I didn't say I could not ever come just not as frequently as I did during the summer. And you are welcome here anytime you want to be here. You get breaks from school, yes? That was what you were on during the summer, correct?"
"Yeah. We get a couple of weeks at Christmas and spring break, which is like a week. Then summer, which is a couple of months."
"Are you going to do the theatre you did last summer again this next summer?"
"I was planning on it."
"I don't have to," she admitted.
"You must do what you need to do, Sarah. I cannot stand in your way from accomplishing these things you deem important."
"Thank you," she said, taking hold of a handful of grapes. "So tell me what I'm seeing here," she said, gesturing to the land around them. "Is this all yours?"
"Of course," he said. "Everything you can see from here and even that which you cannot is part of our kingdom."
"Yes, it is vast. Some of it wild and untamed."
"Like you, you mean."
He chuckled. "I would argue that it's like you, but perhaps we both see one another in that way."
She was quiet then, listening as he told her about his world. He told her where it was safe to wander unaccompanied by him or a chaperone. He told her of the areas to avoid due to various dangers or issues. All in all, it was clear that he liked his kingdom even if being without a queen for so long had left him lonely.
It felt like hours they sat there together, snacking on the fruit and cheeses provided for them. The actual food that was probably supposed to make up a meal went mostly untouched, neither seemed in the mood to break the mood by taking the time to eat much.
"We must return now, Sarah," he said finally.
"Do we have to?"
"I'm afraid so. I'm not difficult to find, but it is late and your day started early."
"I suppose," she said.
He offered her his hand to help her up from the blanket they'd been sitting on for what was hours now. He didn't release her hand once she was standing, and she didn't drop his.
"Did you sleep well at your father's home?"
"I did," she said. She had very well now that she thought about it, and she honestly hadn't thought about it even while there waking up every morning feeling well rested.
"It pleases me to hear that is the case."
"Did you have something to do with that?"
"I may have had some of my subjects put a protective spell over your childhood home."
"Why did you do that?"
"I figured you would not want your father and young master Toby to hear evidence of the fact you are prone to nightmares."
"No, I wouldn't. My father would worry, more than he does when I'm miles away from him at school. Thank you."
"You are welcome. I would do anything to protect you, Sarah."
"I know that."
"Yes." She glanced back at the picnic. There was so much food left. What would happen to it? "Don't we have to clean up?"
"Nonsense. There are goblins to do that at every turn."
"You must get used to it, Sarah. Some things I can grant leeway on, your fondness for blue jeans being one of them. However, undermining my authority and allowing my subjects to believe they have free reign to do as they please is not one of them."
"I understand. I just, it'll take a while for me to get used to having someone else to clean up after me."
"Yes, but this is not a democracy as your United States is and you must when you come here understand that is the case. You have, what did you say, two years to grow used to the idea."
"I do. I will. I just wasn't thinking something as simple as a picnic. And you know I will continue to do some things for myself."
"I would expect no less."
"Just don't undermine your authority."
She dressed formally for dinner. Her seat was supposed to be at the opposite end of the table from his, but she was having none of that. He quirked an eyebrow at her when she brought her place setting to the spot next to his instead. She did wait until he'd nodded his head in acceptance of this change to actually sit there.
"I want to be able to talk to you rather than shout at you," she said by way of explanation.
"I suppose I should look into getting an even more informal dining table then?" he said in response.
The table wasn't nearly as long as the one in the formal dining room, but it was still larger than it needed to be for just the two of them.
The rest of the evening was quiet. She read while he did whatever kings did with their evenings, though she suspected he was making himself appear busier than he was in actuality for her sake.
Soon it was time for bed. She had no idea how long he intended on her staying here. Time moved differently here she knew, but she believed he'd get her back in time for school to start.
She lay in bed, thoughts whirling through her head like crazy. The day had been a nice one. Perfect, really, and she knew that had been for her benefit. He was trying to impress her, entice her to stay. He'd said so himself. He had no idea how tempting it was now that she was here and saw the kingdom through his eyes instead of her frightened eyes when she thought she'd never get Toby back.
Try explaining that one to her dad and step-mom.
She had no idea what time it was, only that the moon was shining brightly through the sheer drapes that covered her window. Was it the same moon as in her world? She had no idea, imagined it would not be, but wasn't really sure. Just the same, though, she took that as indication of it being late. Very late.
She threw back the luxurious bedding, walking the distance to her door. Opening it, she peered out into the hallway to be sure no one was there. Why it mattered she wasn't sure, but it did. She closed her door then, making her way to his room. The door was not open this time and she knocked, but did not wait for him to answer this time either.
This was either the bravest thing she'd ever done.
Or the stupidest.
She wasn't sure yet.
"Trouble sleeping," he queried from the darkness of the bedroom portion of his chambers.
"Kind of," she said, closing the distance to his bed. She remembered, vaguely, waking up in it. She remembered, too, that he'd taken care of her personally. He had goblins to do his bidding at every turn yet other than seeing to her injuries he hadn't allowed anyone near her. Much later she'd appreciated that, realizing she would have felt even more violated knowing dozens of goblins had seen her in that condition.
"You didn't come in here to think of that night, Sarah."
"No, I didn't," she whispered. She didn't bother asking him how he knew what she was thinking. He just knew as he knew so many things about her.
"Am I allowed to look upon you?"
"Sure," she said with a slight frown. He hadn't even looked at her until now? Suddenly, the room wasn't quite as dark as a second ago. It wasn't lit enough to read by or do much of anything really, but she could see him now. And he her, she imagined.
"Where did you get that?" he asked.
"It was in my closet," she said. She sounded defensive. "I assumed."
"I wanted you to come to me?"
"Well, yes. No, I mean, do I not look all right?"
"You look lovely, Sarah. It would seem my goblins have, what is your phrase for it, pulled a fast one on me. Because I assure you I would remember arranging for that to be made for you."
"That I don’t recall arranging for that?"
"No, that I look all right. I've never…" she shrugged. The nightgown was nothing risqué, but it was beautiful. The skirt fell to the floor. The satin was smooth against her skin. She'd never worn anything like it before. Heck, she'd never owned anything like it before.
"I know and you look more than all right, Sarah."
"I think we should thank whoever chose it for you."
"I was thinking," she said, stepping closer to the bed. What did he sleep in anyway? His clothes normally were almost sinful in how they shaped him and made him look.
"Yes," he said.
"When you visited me this summer."
"Yes," he prompted as if understanding this wasn't easy for her.
"You stayed with me. You were always gone in the morning."
"That is correct."
"Could I have one memory of waking up next to you?"
He smirked then. It wasn't a cruel or insulting smirk, amusement maybe at her inexperienced way of saying what she wanted.
"You want to wake up next to me?"
"Yes," she said.
"You are certain you're ready for that?"
"Waking up next to you? Yes, I'm sure. The part between now and then not so much with the certainty."
"Then why do it?"
"Because I want to."
He nodded his head, seeming to understand or at least he was trying to.
"Remind me," he said, drawing back his bedding so that she could join him. She was pleased to see he wore bottoms of some sort. Something silky she realized as she slid into the bed next to him.
"What?" she said, sounding breathless. Her heart was pounding. She'd never willingly slept in the same bed as a guy before. The times he'd stayed with her during the summer she hadn't intended on falling asleep and always she was above the covers, fully dressed when she had succumbed.
"To show you the way into my chambers from your room that does not require you going into the hallway."
"Our rooms connect."
He frowned. "Why wouldn't they?"
"Well, certainly. So visits such as these can be made without scrutiny."
"You mean you don't expect me to sleep with you?"
"I expect what you're willing to give me, Sarah. The rooms are designed for," he shrugged as she slid an arm over his chest. It was the boldest she'd been with him, touching him like this. "Shall I say a loveless union. One where such activities are an expectation so that children, heirs, will come about."
"Oh," she said.
"This is unusual to you."
"No, I mean, I guess. I remember reading historical books that have the husband and wife sleeping in separate rooms but I just never thought about it as something that really happened."
"So you expected to sleep in my chambers with me."
"Well, eventually, I did."
"And after tonight?"
"Let's just start with tonight, okay?"
He chuckled softly, placing a hand over hers. He tapped his fingers over the back of her hand lightly. She realized he was tapping to the beat of her heart this time and it skipped a beat at that thought.
"You probably think I gave in too easily," she murmured.
"You think this has been easy?" he quipped.
"Well, no, but when I was at my dad's house this past weekend. I packed things up. You know, stuff from when I was a kid. I won't be going back there for more than a week or two at a time anymore. As I was boxing stuff up, deciding what could get donated, what Toby could have, and what I wanted kept in the attic for me later on." She shrugged. "There was very little I wanted for me later on. A few things. Mementos."
"Yes. Trinkets Dad has given me over the years, even a couple his wife has given me. A couple things Toby made at school and gave to me."
"I realized, though, missing from my life was anything from anyone of any significance."
"You don't consider your father and brother significant?"
"Well, I do, but they're family. I mean, a boyfriend or even an ex-boyfriend. God, even a friend. I have friends, but I haven't had a best friend since…"
"You found the book."
"Yes," she admitted. "Your world became my world from the moment I saw it."
"As it was supposed to do. It recognized you as my queen."
"You asked me over the summer if I'd dated anyone and I got defensive because it bothered me you were right. At home this weekend, though, I realized I'd always been holding out. Every guy who has asked me out or shown interest in me. I compared them to you. Maybe not always consciously."
"I'm glad I measured up in your mind."
"You did. You frightened me immensely. I just wanted Toby back and you presented me with this…"
"Yes, this whole world that I thought was just a story."
"You didn't really."
"Well, no, but I had no firm proof it was real."
"You felt it, though."
"So why debate about whether to come here then?"
She sighed, leaning up a little to look at him. He hadn't returned the lighting back to the darkness from before so she could see him well enough.
"Because a part of me hated it."
"You! Everything. I've wasted my time. I mean, was I supposed to say yes to you back then?"
"I do not believe so. As has been proven, time moves differently. I mentioned once before, had I known your age and inexperience I probably wouldn't have come for Toby at all. I, however, was happy to at least finally get a glimpse of you."
"You'd seen me before."
"Not in this form I hadn't."
"No. An owl outside your window could be explained. A grown man not so much."
She laughed then. "True. My father would have had you arrested."
"So, I wasn't supposed to say yes? That's what you're saying. My efforts, everything I've done since that night. I mean, why did I do it if I was just going to end up here?"
"You needed to do it? As you've said you have a desire to finish your schooling so that you can be independent if required to be so. I cannot fault you for that need, though I don't understand it. I, of course, can and will take care of your every desire to the best of my ability. You are, however, not of my world nor am I of yours. So, I must learn to understand you just as you will do the same of me in return. You are not someone who's will is malleable. You won't do my bidding or kowtow to my every need, though I hope you will to some. Perhaps it wasn't just you who needed time, Sarah. You weren't just the first in a very long time to defeat my labyrinth. I had also never been told no before."
"So the nightgown really isn't from you?"
He chuckled. "Nay, my pet, I would not have been so brazen this soon."
"But you like me in it?"
"Yes, of course, that has already been established I thought. If I was too vague with my complimentary assurances, Sarah, it looks lovely on you. They choose well."
She slid a fingertip along his chest for a moment. She didn't really move her hand much, just touched him as she thought.
"Want to see if you like me not in it, too?"
"Sarah," he whispered.
"I make no promises, Goblin King."
"And I would never push or force you."
"Not with regard to that."
"I know," she said. "I would like to try, though."
"As my queen commands," he said and like that the nightgown was gone. His eyes betrayed the fact he liked her without the nightgown even better. She breathed easier at that, relieved somehow. It was a night of firsts it seemed, for she leaned up and kissed him. Their first ever kiss.
And it was the stuff dreams and wishes were made of.