It was yet another typical day in the Underground, and the Goblin King was bored. Ever since Sarah had spurned Jareth's advances, nothing in either his own realm or the human world held the same joy for him as it once had, not singing, nor dancing, nor reshaping the Labyrinth into ever wilder feats of impossibility. Even seizing whichever of his subjects had most recently offended him in some minor way and catapulting the little bugger into the Bog of Eternal Stench failed to entertain him these days. Who would have suspected that could ever get old?
No one, that's who. And yet here he was, with plenty of potential projectiles still at his disposal but feeling so very, very bored.
Sometimes he sped up time for himself just so that he could be done with a given day that much sooner, or a week, or a month, simply for the relief of being able to put that particular span of existence behind him, even if the next one was going to be exactly like the one that came before it. He was tempted to skip whole years at a time, but the Labyrinth was like a pet dog; if left to its own devices for too long, it would start misbehaving to try to regain its master's attention. A misbehaving dog might destroy furniture or consume things that it should not. A misbehaving labyrinth did much the same but on a much, much larger scale. It would not do for the Goblin King to step back into the proper flow of time after a year away only to find that all of his goblins had been eaten in the meantime. A man could get a reputation for irresponsibility that way, or worse, a reputation for incompetence, so he forced himself to refrain.
Lacking the inspiration which fueled most of his usual antics, all Jareth seemed to do lately was sit around, brooding alone in his throne room in the castle beyond the goblin city. His single remaining hope for entertainment lay in the possibility that, at any moment, someone somewhere in the world might wish away a child to him in a fit of pique. Unfortunately, such a wish never came. No one seemed to know the proper words anymore, of if they did know, then they held so little belief that they never even bothered to use them. Sarah had been the first to try in a very long time, and so far she had also been the last.
It was perhaps just as well. Having tangled with the great Sarah Williams and lost, Jareth doubted he would ever be quite the same as he had been before, though he could not for the life of him figure out what exactly had changed. Sarah, on the other hand, continued on about her life as she ever had. Or at least so the Goblin King assumed.
He had long ago given up trying to observe Sarah from afar. The first few times that he had tried, she had always been attending to her schooling, which was too boring to watch because nothing ever happened and it never seemed to end. Just how many hours did children need to spend at such tasks in this day and age? No wonder they were losing their connection to the old ways and magics. Or she had been playing with Toby, which was too frustrating to watch, given how they both could have been his, queen and heir gained in a single night. Or she was spending time with other girls her age, which was too boring to watch because Sarah never mentioned him to any of them, not even once, and because most of the topics which they did discuss seemed to be phrased in a code incomprehensible to anyone who was not teenage girl. And then, perhaps sensing his surveillance, she had somehow learned how to block him through sheer force of will.
He knew that Sarah still thought about him, because love was the strangest and least biddable magic of them all. She may have rejected the hold he had tried to place over her, but she had never renounced her own power over him, and so the gravity of her regard pulled at him as a lodestone drew a compass needle whenever she turned her thoughts in his direction. He had no way of knowing what she was thinking about him, but given how he had treated her, he suspected that it often involved cursing his name. Had their positions been reversed, he certainly would have been cursing hers. As the situation stood, Jareth sometimes cursed her name simply because he lacked anything better to do, but it was always a fond sort of malediction which would only bring about a paper cut or a stubbed toe at worst, never anything close to a true calamity.
And even as he began to drift into daydreams of once more trading words of power face to face with the only person to have ever bested him, he felt her beginning to think about him. He sat bolt upright in his throne and then immediately forced himself back into a semblance of boneless sprawl he had previously been enjoying, glad that none of his subjects were around to witness their king jolting to attention like a dog hearing its master's voice. This in itself was not too rare of an occurrence, but then, only a few minutes later, she began to say The Words.
Even without the unmistakable jolt of Sarah's thoughts of him catching and dragging against his very being, he would have been able to hear a properly stated wish from a million miles away, and there was no way that he would ever not recognize the voice of the woman he loved. And who was he kidding? He really was her dog, at least metaphorically speaking, at her beck and call until the day one of them died. He wouldn't even mind it so much if only she would let him share her bed instead of banishing him to the doghouse.
But, why was she daring to give him a potential foothold back into her life now after so long spent refusing to openly acknowledge his existence? Had her memories of their conflict, now so long ago, faded until she thought it merely a dream and thus no longer felt the need to guard her tongue in such matters? Or had someone managed to anger her enough that she would consider deliberately wishing them away with full knowledge of the consequences? What poor fool was about to find his or herself somewhere entirely unexpected? It did not matter. Even now, she was pausing, probably biting her tongue and regretting the trouble she almost called upon herself. Jareth sighed at the thought of yet another 'could have been' which would never be.
"I wish," Sarah Williams said again, clearly, deliberately, and this time without hesitation, "that the Goblin King could see me now."
They were not words he would have ever expected to hear from her. Never in his life had Jareth been so happy to grant a wish. Even before he was consciously aware of summoning one, there was a magic crystal sphere in his hand, showing him his first view of Sarah in years, and when that small glimpse was not enough, a flick of his wrist flattened the crystal and stretched it into a perfect duplicate of the mirror into which Sarah was currently staring. It was a full length cheval glass, which she had not owned the last time that he had seen the inside of her bedroom, but Jareth had no time to notice changes in furniture due to being fully engrossed in drinking in the sight of all the changes in Sarah herself.
When last they met, she had been in the first blush of womanhood. Now, she was in full bloom, the added years of maturity only serving to make her more glorious. The confidence and poise which she had only feigned before now seemed to permeate her very being. And then there was the suit of armor. Like its wearer, it looked beautiful and possibly unbreakable. Joan of Arc and Catherine the Great both would have been lucky to have armor so fine, but nothing was visible to explain why Sarah of all people was wearing it.
"Sarah Williams," he said, half purr, half prayer, and entirely incredulous, as he reached one hand forward and rested it against the glass, "are you going to war?!?"
And she saw him, and she heard him, and best of all, she smiled.
"Maybe," she said. She then kissed her fingertips and laid her hand flat to the mirror, in perfect alignment with his. He could feel her warmth through the glass. "If I were," she continued, "would you join me and fight by my side?"
"Without hesitation," Jareth said, leaning forward. The veil between their two worlds was soap-bubble thin, but she had only wished that he could see her, nothing that would grant him physical access, so the barrier held firm.
"Without finding out who I'm fighting first? That's not very good foreign policy, Mr. Goblin King," Sarah chided, still smiling. Then she reached through the mirror as if it wasn't there, grabbed Jareth by the wrists and pulled him into her bedroom. "For your information, we will be entering into a contest of wills against a hoard of six and seven year olds who will have had far too much sugar by the end of the night. Whoever gets through the ordeal without throwing a screaming tantrum wins."
"I... wait, what?" Jareth had regained his physical balance without a single misstep, because he had centuries of practice going through portals, even if he was much more used to doing so on a voluntary basis than not. However his equanimity was proving to be somewhat more elusive. "What are you talking about? And what is all this?" He rapped a knuckle against one of her well-shaped pauldrons. The sound it made was not even remotely metallic.
"Like it?" she said, grinning even wider than before. "It got me an A+ on my Costume Design 301 midterm project." She stepped back, spread her arms, and spun in place to give him a complete view.
Jareth still had no idea what she was talking about, but she seemed quite proud of herself, so he suspected it was probably something worth being proud of.
As if sensing his continued confusion, Sarah dropped her arms and gave him a questioning look. "For being so fond of tricks and illusions, Jareth, I would have thought you'd be all about celebrating Halloween to the utmost extent."
"Is it Halloween already? I must have lost track of the time." Well, that certainly explained the thinness of the veil between worlds. However, it did not explain certain other things, such as why she wanted him here at all, not that he planned on objecting unless it was some particularly heinous planned affront to his dignity. He didn't quite phrase it like that when he said it aloud. "But none of this explains your suddenly regained interest in my person."
"I may have made the mistake of volunteering to take Toby and far too many of his school friends trick-or-treating, and I that thought maybe we could use it as an excuse to start over, just two people on a date, with a small army of children for chaperones."
"A date?" He couldn't possibly be hearing that correctly, could he?
"You know, a good, old fashioned getting-to-know-you-without-any-kidnapping-or-threats kind of a date."
"Yes, but why me? I won't be toyed with, Sarah."
"What can I say?" she said with a shrug. "After going toe to toe with the Goblin King, all the other guys I've met seem to lack a certain something, or a lot of different somethings in some of their cases, so I figured maybe we could give this another try. We've both had time to think about how we might have done things better the last time, and it's just one date. If you're nice, I might even share my peanut butter cups with you at the end of the night."
Jareth had had worse offers. "As my lady wishes," he said. "Who exactly are you dressed as, anyway?"
"And I suppose you want me to be your dragon?"
"Of course not," Sarah replied. "That's Toby's costume, and he'll never forgive you if you try to make a better dragon than he does."
"Of course not," Jareth echoed wryly. With a snap of his fingers, his clothes shifted into a suit of armor with a more masculine cut but otherwise identical style to Sarah's own. She made no comment on his choice of costumes. She did raise a questioning eyebrow, but after a moment of contemplation she smiled, placed her arm in the crook of his elbow, and led him downstairs to await the arrival of Toby's friends. And if she happened to sit far closer to him on the couch than was strictly necessary, well, he was not going to mention it if she wasn't.
This newfound friendliness was only guaranteed for one night, but if he behaved himself and played his cards right, maybe it could be the prelude to forever.