Some promises, of course, are made to be broken.
They've made his castle their home together, and it is a home after all this time, in all the ways that count. Still, when it's dark out, the stone walls etched from the shadows themselves, it retains an aura of its old mystery. In the dark, she's never quite able to forget that she will always, in part, be a stranger here, even as queen. This is his world that he has chosen to share with her. She can never go back to the solitary, relatively simple life she once knew.
It isn't the first time she's woken in the night to find the pillows cold and empty beside her, lying alone in the bed they share. Sliding out from the covers, she ties a robe around her waist to ward her body against the chilled night air. Sleeping in the nude is his habit – one she has by now picked up from him, and happily – but he has taken on other, less appealing habits, these days. By daylight, he makes his promises, and she loves him enough to almost believe he means them. Perhaps he's even foolish enough to believe a little of them himself, before he strays. His smile still has the ability to enchant her, his lips still as soft as they've always been when he reassures her, sealing those promises with a kiss. By the time night comes around, he's always ready to break them.
She knows exactly where to find him whenever he's abandoned her, creeping only a short way along the darkened stone hallway. It's always the same, no matter how often he begs her forgiveness, and swears it'll never happen again. Her king is weakened by his desires, but then, so is she. Though she knows he lies, she takes his false promises and his kisses because of the love she's always had for him. She has no doubt that he loves her, but now, after all the time just the two of them have spent together, there is another.
There's a light coming from beneath the cracked open door of just one room, the faint sound of hushed, secret words. She tiptoes closer, already knowing what she will find.
“Beautiful, beautiful girl.”
She pauses in the corridor just outside the room, listening carefully. All too soon, she feels the tears pricking at her eyes as she recognises softly-spoken words, so very similar to the ones he spoke to her so long ago.
“ … and if you ever need me, you've only to wish it, and I'll always come. Always.” There's real love in his voice, and she knows deep in her heart that he's already far beyond smitten. “Call on me whenever you like, and I'm yours forever. Oh, my precious girl.”
She brushes softly into the room, seeing only his bare back and the white silk that covers his legs. Though she's quiet as a mouse, somehow he hears her. She sees it in the way he tilts his head, the way the muscles bunch and tense in his back. Knowing he's been caught once more, he turns to face her with a small, guilty smile.
“Just as precious as her mother,” he finishes quietly.
Sarah tries to frown, but it's impossible to be truly mad at him, with their daughter cradled so gently, so perfectly in his arms. “She's never going to start sleeping through the nights if you keep sneaking in to hold her,” she says, her voice pitched low from the doorway.
“She's sleeping now,” he points out, smiling down at his precious bundle. “She's so warm.”
“And you should be sleeping too, while she gives us the chance.”
Still, she can't help but approach the pair of them, her growing smile a little wobbly at the edges as she fights those easy tears. She always laughed a little at the weeping heroines in the romance books she's read, but now it seems she's become one of them, reduced to breathless, helpless and happy sobs at the mere sound of her beloved's voice. It has to be the lingering hormones from her pregnancy. There's no way on earth her husband, the fairy godfather who once was, has managed to weave his way so effortlessly, so completely into her heart.
“It's good to see you this way,” she admits, a little hoarsely, and it is. She could never bear to return to that time before they truly found one another – before the time their love took the shape of the daughter she loves just as much as she loves him. “Something I always wanted, but was too afraid to ever wish for outright. Maybe we never would have had this, if things had happened differently back then.”
He laughs softly, and bends to kiss her lips, his hand ever mindful of the babe's small head. “It's all in the past now, sweet one, so I wouldn't worry too much about it. Besides, some wishes grant themselves,” he says.
She smiles. “I think I understand that now. You always said I would.”
Jareth's lips twitch, and he heaves a world-weary sigh. “And even now, you've yet to admit that I am always right in everything.”
Rolling her eyes, she gives his shoulder an affectionate squeeze. “Except the way of sneaking off, stealing babies in the night.”
He pouts, drawing their little girl a little tighter against his chest to make a point. “I don't steal. I merely … borrow for a while.”
She cocks an eyebrow, mimicking her self-assured king without knowing it. “And if she wakes up and starts crying again?”
He returns that lifted eyebrow with a little smirk. “Nothing a little dance and a song won't solve.”
“You are not going to get her all excited around the goblins again, not at bedtime.”
Jareth only smiles. “If you insist, love.”
“I do. I think I'm going to have to remove the temptation. Orlaith knows to let her sleep when she needs it, and you know how much her Aunt Molly has been just begging for the chance to babysit Aboveground …”
Her husband does his best to look contrite. “Yes, well I don't think that's necessary quite yet. She's awfully young to be separated from us, especially to be in a different realm from us, don't you think? I don't think she should sleep away from the castle. I don't think she's anywhere near ready.”
“You mean you're not ready.” She laughs softly, and runs a finger over their daughter's soft cheek. “You're just lucky I'm not ready to let her go either. But if you keep leaving our bed empty, then my threats won't stay empty much longer.” Trying her best to look intimidating, she narrows her eyes at him, but she can feel a small smile curving her lips, and knows her effort is most likely a failure. Still, she's winning, as she always does.
Vanquished once more, the pouting Goblin King gives a soft sigh of defeat. “All right, all right. Just remember, you held her for nine months, love. I've barely had her for a quarter of that, yet.”
Her smile widens as she relents, and she leans in, kissing first the warm cheek of her tiny baby, and then her big one. “Five more minutes with her, and then you come back to bed. No excuses.”
He smiles at her again, and it's the one she treasures more than life itself. “You have my word.”
“Mmm?” He already has to tear his gaze away from the baby again. “Yes, precious?”
“If I find you in here again tomorrow night, I promise you'll be in some seriously deep word-I-can't-say-in-front-of-our-daughter.”
His smile widens. “I'll have you know, I'm rather fond of being deep in your word-we-can't-say-in-front-of-our-daughter.”
She rolls her eyes. “You know exactly what I mean, and if you ever want to be reacquainted with that other word-we-can't-say, you'll knock that smirk off right now.”
“Duly noted, love.” He bites his lip, but already his smile starts to creep around the edge of his teeth. Both of them know there's no real threat there.
She chuckles softly as she turns to leave, but can't resist a little peek back at them when she reaches the doorway. Jareth is lost once more, crooning words of love, the devoted and doting father almost to a fault. Someone in this household is going to have to learn to be firm, or else the little princess is going to have them all wrapped around her tiny pink finger before she can even talk. Later, she knows Jareth will make his apologies, kissing her, swearing not to sneak off again, and she knows she'll believe him … until the next time, at least. She blows a kiss to the pair of them before she goes.
She is as indulgent of her king as he is obedient to his queen, still smiling to herself as she slips off her robe and slides back into bed. She doesn't have to count the minutes to know that he's made it back to their room in the nick of time, slipping silently into their bed and stretching his body along hers to warm her back. She can feel him – all of him – and knows he, too, has shed his clothing once more. Skin to skin, they lie, as they always do, his solid warmth at her back once more. His arm curls around her from behind, spooning her the same way as he always has, his soft hair draping across her arm. His fingers trace small circles on her soft belly, reverent in their care.
“I wonder when it'll come time to think about making another,” he murmurs, and she can feel him grin against her bare shoulder.
“Mmm. I thought we were supposed to be catching up on our sleep.”
The Goblin King doesn't seem in the least bit tired as he pulls her body more firmly back against his own. “There'll be plenty of time for that later – when all our children are grown, and weary enough of us to have built their own castles, and I have my queen all to myself again.” The warm lips at her shoulder press a kiss there, then another, closer to the nape of her neck, thrilling her the way it always has.
“And exactly how many children are we planning, Jareth? These are my stretch marks we're talking about; my giant ankles and aching back; my pigging out on peaches and-” She grimaces, hardly able to think back on her cravings without her stomach churning. “Melted cheese.”
“I always brought them to you, didn't I?”
She snorts. “Yeah, with that frowny little judgemental face.”
“Minimal judgement,” he corrects her, squeezing her tighter. His voice drops lower, teasing at her neck as his hands rise to cup her breasts. “I hardly dared anything more.”
“Only 'cause you knew I'd sit on you.”
“Mmm. I think I'd rather welcome that. You know I like it when you're in charge, love.”
Laughing to herself, she starts to lean back into his touch, letting his hands and mouth warm her in the most wonderful way. “Give it a few years and see how you like having two women in charge. That girl is going to walk all over you, and you're going to let her.”
He sighs in a way that's meant to sound rueful. She knows he doesn't mean it a bit. “Most likely.”
“Try 'definitely'. You're the poutiest man I know, and she's half of me – and you've seen me at my most stubborn.”
Another low sigh, this one ending in a little nip to her neck that leaves her trembling. “Perhaps, but I've also seen you at your weakest and most wanting, trembling at my hand … and at my mouth. Of course, if you've already forgotten just how much fun we had last time …”
“Maybe … maybe trying again isn't such a bad idea …” she murmurs, hearing a little of that weakness already beginning to seep into her voice. She knows they never will deny one another.
He only chuckles, his words warming her ear once more. “We have all the time in the word, my sweet Sarah – all the time to do anything and everything we want together. Whatever we both so wish.”
There's a warmth in her belly and a flood of joy in her heart as she turns in his arms to face him – the man who has loved her and won her heart a thousand times over. Seeing the longing in his eyes, tonight and always, she finally knows just what her wish is.