Someone was there. She knew it the moment she stepped inside her flat, her room. In the three years since that night, in the three years since they had started coming to her, she had learned to feel when they were near. Someone ... other ... was here, in her home.
She paused in the doorway to her room, watching the darkness carefully. It didn't ... feel threatening, whatever it was. Whoever. And they did like to play tricks, sometimes. Even her friends. It was their natures.
"Hoggle?" she called, hesitantly, feet shifting carefully on the threshold. She'd learned a few rules since the first time, remembered a few others. There were rules for the creatures of magic, same as everyone else. If that is how it is done, then that is how you must do it.
Kind of a pity, then, that most of the ones she knew were the ones who didn't care all that much for rules.
There was no answer to her call. Hoggle always answered. It was his own strange version of courtesy. Not being polite, but being punctual with his rudeness. Which she supposed was polite in its own way ... But not now. Nothing moved in the darkness ...
Wait. Darkness? She had left the blinds open. It was a full moon outside, or near enough. As huge and round and white as it had been the first time, three years ago ...
She stopped. Smiled, the half smile of challenge and fear that she had worn that night, those thirteen hours. She smiled, and stepped into the room, walked forward until she could see the window, and the figure sitting in front of it, legs drawn up and head tipped curiously to the side, shadowed but unmistakable.
"Jareth," she said, and it was not a question. And before her, the Goblin King smiled.
"Sarah," he answered, in that otherworldly and vaguely contemptuous voice. "I've been waiting for you."
Well. That did it. That certainly did it. The fear took a nosedive, the familiar annoyance bristling up through her, the power she remembered from their final meeting. She looked him straight in the eye, and smiled, her own fierce and contemptuous smile. "Jareth," she said, sweetly. "Get out."
He looked at her for a moment, those mismatched eyes meeting hers, alien and frankly admiring, and the secretive smile was back on his lips. "Oh, I don't think so," he murmured, standing fluidly, moving towards her with the confident swagger of a man -fey- sure of his victory. "Don't be too hasty, Sarah. You haven't heard what I have to offer you."
She tilted her head back, met his eyes again, ignoring the advantage of his height, her back up and challenge buzzing inside her. She had forgotten the power of this, the power of facing your fear. "You have nothing to offer me, Goblin King," she said, clear and cold. "You have no power over me."
He flinched a little, the memory of those words, and the power they potentially held, awakening some vestige of caution in him. But the Goblin King had lived a long time without fear, or reason to fear, and confidence was the core of him. His hand moved, fluid and dramatic, and there it was. Glimmering in the moonlight between them, cradled in his gloved hand. A crystal.
"I can offer you dreams," he said, and there was a predatory gleam to his eyes. "Dreams are so precious to you, Sarah, aren't they. And dreams are mine to give."
She shook her head, thinking of the labyrinth, and the courage that had never been magic, but her own, always and forever. "No, they're not," she said, softly. "My dreams are my own, Jareth, not yours. You can't make my dreams come true." And she turned away, intent on ending this, on leaving him behind at last.
"You're wrong," he said, behind her, before she had moved two steps, and she stopped. Because there was something different in his voice. Something quiet. Something ... real. "I can make your dreams come true, Sarah. Only I." She turned back, raw contempt in her expression, but he went on, those eyes fixed on hers, compelling and powerful. "Your dreams are my dreams, Sarah. Your dreams are fey, magic, wild. Not this cold reality you think is the true." He stepped back towards her, close, almost close enough to touch, his presence wild and tangible, wrapping itself around her. She stiffened, staring belligerently up at him, and he smiled. Deep and rich and proud, tilting his head as he reached up with his free hand to touch her face, ever so gently.
"I can live, within you," he sang, the words whispering around her, wrapping her close, and she started in fear as she felt something stir within her, something leap within her chest, beneath her heart. And she saw behind him the sunlit hill of the labyrinth, and the gardens where Hoggle worked, and the Swamp Didymus patrolled, and Ludo's home among the rocks, and the Palace, where she had faced what terrified her ...
"You see, Sarah," he whispered, close to her, his breath feathering over her cheek, his eyes gently holding hers. "You are so much more than this world. Inside you, you have magic, and dreams, and the courage to walk inside them. Inside, you are more than human. You are fey. Wild and fierce and magical. You are more than human, Sarah. You are beautiful beyond words, beyond dreams." He stepped closer, behind her, his mouth curving close to her ear, his whisper low and seductive. "I can give it back, Sarah. I can give you worlds within dreams. Make it true again. Not real. Not like this place. But true. Truth is more than reality, Sarah. Truth is dreams, and the courage of your heart. I can give you that. I am the Goblin King, and your dreams are mine to give. Let me, Sarah. My queen. Let me give them to you."
She closed her eyes against him, against the familiar faces she saw beyond him, in the crystal, in her own heart. She knew it was true. This, he could give. He had given it to her before. But why? And at what cost?
"You ..." she started, pulling her voice out from the well of raw longing within her. "You have ... no power ..."
He wheeled away, the crystal dropping towards the floor, vanishing into thin air with the force of his rage. She almost cried out after it, after her friends, and the world where she had found herself.
"Stop!" he snarled, snapped. "Sarah ... please. This is not a game. There is no price, no prize. I gave you once before, all that you asked for. All I want now ... is to give you what you haven't. I have no power over you, save what you give me. I know that. Now will you please stop saying that!" And she did. She stopped, turning to him in shock and surprise.
Because when had the Goblin King ever said please?
She frowned, suddenly not just looking at him, at the glamour he presented so easily, but seeing him. Not the Goblin King, but Jareth, the brat prince who had fallen in love with her. Because he had, hadn't he? He had given her certain powers ...
Everything I've done, I've done for you.
"Alright," she said, suddenly, watching him closely as he blinked, as those fierce, mismatched eyes shuttered in surprise. "Suppose I said yes. Suppose I gave you the chance to prove to me that you can deliver what you offer." He watched her warily as she stepped up close, smiling into his eyes, her own alive with the kind of mischief he recognised, the kind of mischief he saw in the mirror. "Suppose I gave you that chance. What would you offer me in return?"
He frowned, challenge snapping back into his own stare, effectively hiding the flash of hope that lay behind them, the flash of fear. "And why," he asked, dangerously, "should I offer you anything beyond what I already have? I offer you your dreams, all that is fey within you. What more could you want?"
She smiled, a dangerous little smile all her own, and reached up to lay a daring finger on his lips. "I want," she said, clearly and laughingly, "the answer to one question. The whole, true answer. That's all."
He frowned, but it had been three years, and the moon was full, and she wondered if maybe, just maybe, this was his last chance. Because if it was, he seemed intent to seize it. "And in return?" he asked, slowly, wrapping those clever, dexterous fingers around her wrist. She smiled innocently.
"Three nights," she answered, because this was, after all, a fairy tale. "Three nights in which to ... persuade me. Three nights of dreams, oh Goblin King, and all I ask is one tiny ... insignificant ... answer." She was so close to him, so near that she could feel the faint tremor run through him, see the flash of heat and fear and raw challenge in his eyes. He blinked, drew a shuddering breath, his fingers almost painful around her arm. But not quite. He would not hurt her.
"Ask," he growled, rough and compelling despite the seeming surrender, the arrogance and power never more obvious inside him. She grinned, leaned close, just long enough to press her lips to his for the briefest, shortest of seconds.
"Tell me," she murmured, huskily. "What power, Jareth ... do I hold over you?"
He snapped, eyes flashing in anger, stepping back so rapidly she almost fell as he left her, and she blinked, swallowing hard against the pure fury in his face, in his eyes. But she stood her ground. She had faced her Labyrinth. It was past time for him to face his, or get out of her life for good.
Sarah did not love cowards. Hoggle had learned that, and proved himself more. Could this arrogant fey do less?
Jareth stared at her, thunderous, terrified and powerful, the Goblin King in all his majesty, and she stared back, just Sarah, just herself, with all the power and courage he had given her. When he raised his hand, she did not flinch. And he did not strike. Instead ... he looked at her, with pain, with fear. With hope.
The crystal in his hand flew upwards, tumbling shimmering through the air, catching the moonlight and refracting it in a dazzle of magic, and something deeper. Sarah raised her hand to cover her face, and heard the powerful beat of wings, the slam of her window, the cry of a fey spirit in anguish and hope. She cried out after him, suddenly desperate, afraid her ploy, her request, had cost her everything she had suddenly hoped to gain. She cried out, wondering if this was what he had felt, if this was what had lurked behind the inexorable chime of a clock as worlds collided.
She cried out, but he was gone. And in his place, lying forlorn on her floor ... no crystal. Nothing bright and glimmering. As the dazzle cleared from her eyes, as she dropped to her knees to touch it, to reach out ... she saw it, and understood. Gently, ever so gently, she picked it up, cradled it desperately in shaking hands. His answer.
A heart. Black and glistening, hard as granite, old as magic. His heart, a heart of stone, that warmed to her touch.
Behind her, unseen, Hoggle crouched in the shadows by the wardrobe, looking at the woman kneeling in the moonlight, at the thing she held in her hands, and the owl flying in desperate, drunken circles above the moon. He looked at them, at the Goblin King and his love, and shook his shaggy head in exasperation.
"Well why didn't you say so!"