“I could give you your dreams, you know.”
Jareth smiled and it was cruel, his eyes fey, his voice persuasive as sin, as he tempted his companion with what he desired most.
“I’m old enough to know better Your Majesty,” Arthur Kirkland replied calmly as he raised his teacup to his lips. But his eyes, green as spring leaves, or emeralds, had taken on an otherworldly quality in answer to the challenge. This creature and his race had been a part of him once, after all. He had been very young then, but Arthur had never forgotten. Once every century or so, he would see the Goblin King, and always he tempted him with promises and dreams, because that was in his nature. But he had learned, in the long time he had existed, “There are consequences I doubt I would enjoy. And actually receiving my wish does not mean I will be happy.”
Arthur had always been tempted, of course, and he had come so very close to accepting the Goblin King’s offer in times past, despite knowing the darkness behind it. If the Goblin King visited more often he likely could have worn him down. But it was far too dangerous to admit such a thing.
“Seducing another innocent, Jareth?” a low, melodious voice spoke.
The two men (or, two with the appearance of men) turned to see a slender young woman leaning against the fence, watching them with a serene expression.
This was not a scene Sarah had ever expected to stumble upon. She had never imagined the Goblin King sitting across from a thoroughly mundane looking man with large eyebrows and a sweater vest and having tea. But she knew better than to judge by appearance alone, and the fairies that flitted around, looking nothing like the pests Hoggle tried to keep out of gardens, was a clue. And this ‘ordinary’ young man felt old, ancient almost, and so very large. Like a glacier, almost, although without such freezing cold. There was magic there as well, but not like any she had felt before. It felt as though it were both an intrinsic part of him, and at the same time…not.
“Sarah,” said the Goblin King lowly. “You do take inordinate pleasure in preventing me from gaining that which I desire.” Despite his words, there was a thread of amusement in his tone.
She gave him an easy smile. “Believe what you will, I did come here for a reason. And I had no idea your goblins were so familiar with the transportation system.”
“Sarah?” the Englishman murmured, raising his eyebrows. “As in the Champion?”
“My subjects have been telling tales, I see.” Jareth glowered at the nearby fairies, who shuddered and dove for any nearby hiding places.
“You shouldn’t be so cruel to them,” Sarah said with little heat.
The blonde’s gaze sharpened. It had been so very long since he had last known a mortal who could See. Not even his fellow nations had the ability these days. But just to be sure…
“Come on in,” he said with a friendly smile, and subtly beckoned to one of his fairies to open the gate. “It would be terribly rude of me to let you linger outside my yard.” He watched her eyes track his small friend, and saw she was not in the least surprised when the gate unlatched.
“Thank you,” she said politely, and stepped inside. It was a beautiful yard; the grass looked almost like green velvet, and clusters of rosebushes sprawled along the edges.
“I’m Arthur Kirkland,” he said politely. “Pleasure to meet you.”
“Sarah Williams,” she replied. “It’s nice to meet you as well.”
“There was a reason you sought me out?” Jareth said.
“Ah, yes. Hoggle was rather frantic when he called me through a mirror. The Fieries accidentally found their way into the Goblin City, and are currently attempting to get the goblin population to join in a game of body-part hockey. How they managed to get past the patrols neither of us know.”
The Goblin King ran a gloved hand over his face and sighed. “Imbeciles,” he growled. “My city is going to be in ruins.” He stood abruptly, agitation in the stance of his body. Arthur stood as well, out of politeness.
“I do apologize for leaving early,” Jareth said to Arthur.
“That’s quite alright,” his companion replied, successfully hiding his relief. “I do understand the difficulty of running a country, or kingdom as it may be.”
“We must do this again some time,” the Fae said, and his smile showed more of his teeth than Arthur was comfortable with.
Before he could reply, a loud and somewhat obnoxious voice called from the front of his house. “England! Oi, Iggy, you here?!”
Arthur scowled and grumbled curses under his breath as a young man in glasses with blonde hair and blue eyes crashed into the yard. “Bloody hell, America!” he said irately, and chanced a glance at his guests. Miss Williams was no fool, he recognized ruefully. Already she was putting clues together. But it was the Goblin King’s expression that drew his attention, and caused him to forget his usual ire toward Alfred. Protective instinct flared up in him, and his eyes glittered strangely.
Alfred paused as three pairs of eyes turned to him. Normally he loved the attention, craved the spotlight, but right now something like fear held him frozen (but that was ridiculous, because he was a Hero, and he didn’t fear anything). There was a fey light in their eyes, even in Arthur’s, and for a moment he was terrified that the nation who had raised him would disappear before his eyes, even if he would never ever admit to such a thing because he was independent damn it, and…and….
The strange man that looked almost like some sort of glam rock star took a step toward him, and not even America was oblivious to the danger in that predatory smile. “You do have such big dreams,” he said, and suddenly there was a crystal ball in his hands. “I can give them to you, Alfred F. Jones.”
And then England moved deliberately, not quite between America and the Goblin King, but nearly. “He doesn’t believe in your kind or your subjects, and his dreams do not lend power to you and your kingdom. You would gain very little from making a bargain with him, if you manage to do so in the first place.” He met the Fae’s gaze, refusing to give in, and for a moment some of his old power from when he was young, centuries before America had existed, flooded his body.
Sarah moved as well, away from the two nations, forcing Jareth’s attention on her and off of the normally boisterous young man. “Your kingdom needs its King right now,” she said, and there was challenge in her as well. “As you remind me often, you do have responsibilities.”
His expression was neutral for a long moment. “You are a worthy opponent, my Sarah,” he said at last with the barest hint of a smirk. She knew his words meant, You are a worthy Queen, my precious.
Sarah didn’t respond to him either way, knowing without a doubt that words could carry great power. She knew that she would need to make a choice soon. Life could not continue on forever in a sort of golden age where she studied what she wished and encountered other dreams with the Goblin King watching over her. But that time was not yet, and despite knowing what her answer would be, she would put it off as long as she could.
In the next instant there was a rush of air, a flutter of wings. Alfred stumbled as the world began spinning around him. What was wrong with him? None of his cities were being attacked, and the economy wasn’t bad enough for him to be showing such severe symptoms. When he managed to shake off his vertigo, noticing for the first time that Arthur was steadying him, the strange man was gone and he saw only a white owl flying off into the afternoon sky.
“I apologize for him,” Sarah was saying. “When he is upset he becomes rather…” She trailed off, trying to think of the appropriate word.
“I know,” England says, absently motioning for her to sit in the Goblin King’s abandoned chair. “I have known him for quite some time.”
“Well I’ve never seen him. How come you never introduced me, Arthur?” Alfred pouts, already recovered, his naiveté in full force. But really, he would be more than relieved to never again see the stranger and his hypnotic offers.
“You bloody fool,” Arthur sighs, completely mundane once again, nothing more supernatural about him than his fairies and one of Sarah’s goblin friends. Not that America could see them anyway. There was a reason Arthur had not made more of an effort to prove to Arthur that his fairy friends were not some sort of delusion on his part. Ignorance was safer, even if the constant jibes were hurtful and annoying. If Alfred could See the supernatural, could pay attention to it, then it would pay attention to him. And that attention was rarely for the good of the person with Sight.
Sarah sat quietly and let them bicker, more interested in the type of fairies that fluttered around the Englishman. Her elbow rested on the table as a small winged creature in green alighted on her palm. “Hello,” she whispered, and smiled at the bell-like tones that were pleasing to the ear, even if she couldn’t understand the language.
Groul, her small goblin guide, growled lowly. He didn’t like the Lady paying attention to fairies. Baring his needle sharp teeth, he launched himself off Lady’s shoulder. “Groul!” she shouted, catching him with her free hand as the fairy shrieked and darted away to hide under Arthur’s hair, quaking with fright. “You do not attack for no reason,” she said sternly, scowling down at him before setting the sulking goblin on the grass as England attempted to calm down his fairy companion.
“Dude,” Alfred blurted in astonishment, having only been able to see her catch and yell at thin air. “You’re as crazy as he is.”
“Alfred, you git!” Arthur shouted. “How dare you say something so rude.”
“It’s all right,” Sarah said tranquilly. “I’ve been called worse things by crueler people.”
Alfred, to Arthur’s astonishment, looked unusually ashamed. Generally he was so forward and brash that he rarely even realized what he said could be insulting, much less became uncomfortable about it. “Sorry,” he mumbled, scratching the back of his head.
“Like I said, it’s not problem. But I really should be going, or I’ll be late for work.” She paused in the act of pushing in her chair. “Do you know an Albus Dumbledore?” she asked of Arthur.
He smiled. “I take tea with him sometimes. He is a wonderful conversationalist.”
“Which name does he know you by?”
The two nations tensed reflexively at the indication that someone who was not a nation or their boss knew what they were. “Just Arthur Kirkland,” England replied.
Sarah nodded to herself. “I thought so,” she murmured. “Poor man.” But really, it was better for Professor Dumbledore not to know these things. To know was to understand, and it would bring him more grief than joy. For someone so open-minded and understanding of dreams, his soul was bound firmly to reality. He bore too many responsibilities to succumb to the dreaming, and so he could never walk that thin line between waking and dreaming because he had already made his choice long ago. It was much too late for that decision to change and so he would remain ever on the periphery, a witness and sometimes helper, a friend and sometimes advisor, but never understanding what or why.
“Have a safe journey,” Arthur said politely.
“Thank you. It was nice meeting you two.” She turned and walked away, a goblin on her shoulder and stars in her eyes.
Arthur scowled to himself at his sentimental thoughts and turned to his companion.
“You know,” America said, “for one of mine she’s a little strange.”
“She’s not yours,” England snapped.
“Hey, just because she lives here doesn’t make her yours,” Alfred said with a frown.
“That’s not what I meant,” said his fellow nation. “She may have been yours once, but she doesn’t belong to any of us now.” He sighed. “There are so few dreamers and they pass so quickly, these last few centuries,” Arthur murmured as if to himself.
“Eh? What’s that old man? You’re not talking to your invisible friends, are you?” Alfred said with his usual large grin.
Arthur turned red. “Alfred, you wanker!”