There was no goblin king, and he didn't answer girls in suburbia who called on him, not even when they offered him sweet little babies to carry away; otherwise she wouldn't have, ever ever ever. She had wanted to believe, but you couldn't believe in things like that until he was standing in the balcony doorway offering you dreams in one hand and a nightmare in the other, and magic was suddenly real and terrible and nothing at all like playing games in the park.
"Why me?" she asked Hoggle the next day, sitting out under the big maple tree in her backyard, cuddling Toby fiercely on her lap. All the world was washed-clean and smelling like spring. "Why did he come to me?"
"You said the words," Hoggle said, evasively.
"People say dumb things like that all the time," Sarah said. "The goblins don't always come. Please, Hoggle, tell me. Is it the book? Is the book magic?" Is it me? she wanted to ask. Am I magic?
"Oh, Sarah," he said, his clumsy big head sagging.
Magic had rules: she understood that much. Jareth would never have given her a fighting chance to rescue Toby otherwise; or he would just have thrown her into a pit somewhere, when she was getting close.
"It's not much of a fighting chance," Hoggle said awkwardly, "if you give it to a girl who don't know any better about magic and thinks there's no such thing as goblins."
"He picked me because he thought it was going to be easy?" Sarah said, indignation bubbling up in her slow and hot.
"Well," Hoggle said.
"He thought I was going to just let him keep Toby!" Sarah said.
"I thought you would try and fail," Jareth said, and she whirled her head around to see him in the deepest shade leaning against the tree trunk and looking down at them, arms folded over his chest: he wore dark green, and bones and feathers dangled in his hair. Hoggle scrambled up to his feet with clenched fists. "Really, Hoggle."
"He can't hurt you," Hoggle said to Sarah. She was standing, too, without consciously planning to be; her arms were tight around Toby's squirming body.
"That's promising a bit much," Jareth said. He crossed the shade towards her; Sarah held her ground, even when he reached out to lift her chin, and his fingers stopped just short of touching her. She realized she could almost see through him, a suggestion of the branches behind him moving in the wind. She bet that if he came into the sunlight, he would barely be there at all.
"If you'd tried and failed, then he'd have your brother and you. But since he lost," Hoggle said pointedly, making Jareth's eyes narrow in annoyance, though they never left Sarah's, "he can't come after either of you, ever again."
"You have no power over me," Sarah quoted, looking up to meet Jareth's gaze.
"None but what you give me," Jareth said softly, raising the back of his hand as if to stroke along her cheek, without ever making contact.
"Do you still think I'm stupid?" Sarah said. "I think you should leave now," she added, hitching Toby closer, and felt a sudden sharp thrill of power as Jareth's hand dropped and he stepped back from her, his mouth sulky. He said nothing else, only looked at her, and then from one moment to the next he was gone, except for a beating of wings that rustled through the leaves overhead.
"And that's that," Sarah said, after a moment, and sat back down on the grass. "We showed him, huh, Toby? Not too bad for a dumb girl." She bounced him on her lap, and Toby giggled, not caring that she was holding him tight so her hands wouldn't shake.
"Sssst," Hoggle said anxiously, looking over his shoulder as he sat down slowly with her again. "Don't gloat."
"Why shouldn't I?" Sarah said, recklessly; she wasn't going to be afraid. "We beat the goblin king, Hoggle. I think that calls for a little gloating."
"It calls for thanking your lucky stars," Hoggle said. "They don't forget, the great ones. He'll be watching you now, always."
"He can watch from outside," Sarah said, and smiled down at Toby, imagining Jareth outside her window, peering in at her, batting at the glass. "I'm never letting him in again."