Sarah knows the book by heart. Girl makes wish. Girl meets Goblin King and is dragged into the perils of his realm. Girl overcomes all odds to defeat said king, and leaves his labyrinth and wicked memory behind. The girl learns her lesson, never to make idle wishes again.
All of it has come true for her – all except that last part.
Maybe those last couple of parts, actually.
No matter how hard she tries, she just can't seem to rid herself of his memory, nor that silly urge to wish for something more out of life.
The Goblin King sent her into his labyrinth when she was still just fifteen – a hastily-spoken wish gone terribly wrong. She played his game, beat him, and moved on with her life. It taught her a valuable lesson not to take her family for granted, no matter how annoying they got at times, but it never taught her to stop wishing. That little lesson was brought home only three months later, when her birthday rolled around.
Sweet sixteen – a little older, maybe just a little wiser, and there had been presents, snacks, music; everyone dancing.
The real start of it all.
It's a small party, but it's conspicuously absent of boys, and there are enough people surrounding her to make her feel lonely of the fact – and not for the first time. Still, she goes along with the fun and games she and her friends are just a little too old for, mostly for her parents' sake. She's grown up a little, but not enough for her to repress a squeal of joy when her father carries out an edible fairytale castle in miniature, its tall white towers delicately crafted and dusted with powdered sugar. Breaking up all that whiteness are sixteen dark blue roses that sparkle with some kind of confectioner's glitter.
It's a beautiful thing – a precious thing, she finds herself thinking – and it reminds her again that a little magic in her life might not be entirely unwelcome. Particularly not when its bearer comes in the guise of a gorgeous and ageless rock god, with his wild hair and sinfully tight pants.
A Bon Jovi poster has sneaked its way into her room since the release of Slippery When Wet, and sometimes she finds herself staring into the eyes of the big-haired blond singer as she listens to him wail about giving love a bad name; playing her part while he plays his game. He's handsome enough – definitely crush-worthy – but it's not quite the right face. He doesn't have the same debonair smile as the one she dreams of. There's something about a 'first kiss goodbye' in that song she loves, and it makes her all the more envious that she has not yet experienced her own.
Sweet sixteen, indeed, and never been kissed as she sits before her sugar-coated castle. Irene is urging her to make a wish quickly, before the wax starts to melt over the towers. It's enough to draw her out of her reverie, but she can't resist one last look at the sparkly blue roses before she blows out the candles. They're almost the same shade as his collar was, when they danced in his ballroom all those months ago, as close as any boyfriend and girlfriend, and her most private yearning is, 'I wish he'd kissed me.'
Before bed that night, she's brushing her hair in front of her vanity, when there comes a tap-tapping at her balcony window. She's only moderately surprised to see it's a large white owl demanding entry. She lets the creature in before her parents can hear the noise. The Goblin King wastes no time in admitting himself, changing into his human form before her widening eyes. He smiles down at her, tall and handsome as ever, and finally, after these last lonely weeks, it's the right smile.
Her first real instinct is fear, but not of him. She glances back towards her bedroom door, as though her family are listening outside. “I can't have boys in my room,” she says by instinct, although it's laughable, given she barely knows how to even speak to the strange creatures. “My dad will freak.”
Jareth only laughs. “I have no intention of meeting your father while I'm here, Sarah. There are some paths even a king fears to tread.”
She has to giggle a little at that, the thought of the high and mighty king of the goblins with all his powers, actually cowering before someone even more intimidating: the over-protective father of a teenage girl. “Why are you here?” Her face quickly sobers. “Toby-”
The Goblin King smiles and spreads his hands – an offering of peace. “I have no interest in your brother, pet; only the young woman who wished for me.”
A thousand butterflies start up their frantic flapping in her stomach. “Then, you're here to …?”
His smile widens as he steps closer, sending her pulse sky-rocketing in the process. Her eyelids flutter closed by instinct, her lips parting slightly, and she can feel his warmth; smell magic and maleness as he leans in. His lips are hot and wonderfully soft against her left cheek. Her breath hitches with anticipation, but is released in a sigh when she realises he's pulled back. Her eyes open, and at once she's full of protests.
“That's not what I meant … you can …I want you to …”
He gives a little shake of his head. “Far be it from me to interfere in your experiences, love. You're still young; take in your own world for a while, before you come running back into mine.” The rejection hurts, too naïve a girl as she is for such a man, but he soothes it some when he tilts her chin up towards him with just a finger, and looks at her like she's the only girl in the world to him. “I may hold no power over you, but in our brief time together you've managed to make yourself quite dear to me, and I would deny you nothing,” he tells her.
“If you ever have need of me again, you only have to wish it, and I'll come.”
“Does … does that mean you can read my thoughts?”
He chuckles. “Only if you wish them, and think of me while you do.”
She can't help but pout. “But you won't-”
“Do anything that compromises what should be your normal experiences, no. You're still very young, after all, precious girl.” He gives a little quirk of his eyebrow that embarrasses and thrills her when he adds: “Give it time – not quite now, but perhaps, someday. You never know, when you're older.”
Fighting a dizzy little smile, she forces an eyeroll. “I wish I understood why, when I'm older.”
He laughs, and it's rich to her ears. “Granted. I expect I'll see you around, pet. Happy birthday,” he says, and disappears.
It's hard to change any long-ingrained speech pattern, and sometimes, she just forgets; it's not always a joy when he appears, like some handsome yet forbidding genie, after all. The wishes can't simply be unwished, and she can't just wish him away until they're fulfilled – a fact she discovers to her chagrin after a heated argument causes her to wish Irene to drop dead. The resulting chat with the unamused Goblin King lasts almost an hour, hushed whispers in her bedroom, where she finally admits wishing death upon her stepmother was just a figure of speech, and a foolish one at that.
He's good at gauging that – what constitutes a 'real' wish and what doesn't; what counts as a harmless wishful thought that he can grant, and what would stray too far into meddling in her mortal life. When she's panicked over a history test, studying until well after the sun rises, she wishes, tearfully, for more time to prepare.
He obliges, appearing at once, and he puts the world outside of her bedroom on hold, staying with her long enough to convince her she needs sleep more than she needs any more frenzied cramming of facts. She's doubtful as she climbs between the bed covers, only ten minutes before her alarm is set for, but exhaustion takes her almost at once. When her alarm does go off, he's nowhere to be seen, but she finds she's somehow managed a full night's sleep after all, refreshed and ready to go. She aces the test.
She doesn't need to wish as often, not while she's in love, but when her first boyfriend – a quiet boy named David – dumps her after only three months together, it's perhaps inevitable. In her heartbreak, she sobs desperate wishes into her pillow: that the boy who crushed her love in his clumsy fist be turned into a goblin; that he be dropped head-first into the Bog of Eternal Stench; that the Goblin King at least come to comfort her, if not take his place in her heart. Jareth remains conspicuously absent the next few weeks, leaving her to mend her hurts alone, as all weeping teenage girls must do.
David goes on to break plenty more hearts in his time, and gets punched in the eye one day for his troubles, but hearing it doesn't give Sarah as much glee as it once would have; life has moved on, and so has she. Long before then, she finds a handwritten note on her dresser one day, when school is much better and she's smiling again. It reads:
Sarah - Goblins are hideous enough creatures as is, without further diluting the gene pool. The Bog is nothing of the stench that teenage boys wear so well. The Goblin King has a kingdom to run; would love to put affairs of state on hold for ice cream and slumber parties, but unfortunately, I cannot, and therefore send my regrets. Best – J.
It makes her laugh – a lot – and it's just what she's in need of. She keeps the note in an old shoebox for many years, along with other similar notes he sends her, and the more romantic scribblings of future boyfriends.
He appears for long enough to comfort her when her dog, Merlin, dies, showing her happier times in one of his crystals.
He's always been good at that – knowing what she needs.
Those needs change as she grows old enough to discover sex. She tries not to call upon him often, mindful that the man she jokingly calls her fairy godfather might have his own life to lead, but the night she loses her virginity, at nineteen, she can't help it. She makes her wish in the mirror of her boyfriend Rob's bathroom. She's full of love, and nerves, and excitement, and she confides it all quietly amidst the bathroom's pale blue tiles – tiles that, if she squints, almost remind her of his eyes.
“I love him – I want him – but shouldn't it be you? I sorta wish it was you … but I guess it can't be you, right?”
There's no answer, and eventually she goes to her teenage lover. It hurts that first time, more than it feels good, but it gets better. Meanwhile, Rob is gentle as he can be, and kisses her through the pain, and she feels loved.
Just over two years later, twenty-one, and in the arms and bed of another man, the sex is much better. Her lover is far older than she is – than all her past boyfriends combined almost, she thinks, with a bitter, guilty chuckle – and probably not that good for her. He is hot, though, long blond hair and chiselled cheekbones, and he sings in a band she's gotten friendly with, drinking and flirting long after their shows have ended. It becomes somewhat of a regular thing, their late night chats, and though she wishes for common sense without really meaning it, of course, it leads to something more.
It's not the first time they've fucked, but it's the first time she's realised Jay's personality isn't anywhere near as appealing as his looks are. There's an obnoxious confidence in his grin as he stares up at her from between her thighs, and her orgasm is a lot longer in coming that night, despite her put on moans. She's feeling bitter, hateful thoughts of any other men flashing through her head as she struggles to climax: old crushes, celebrities - anything to get her off.
There's a flash of heat when her mind dredges up the Goblin King, in his open-throated shirt and tight leggings, and she seizes on it at once. She starts to move her hips a little more readily, then, imagining just how big his cock would be when it's freed of its confines – when he's fully erect. When she looks down again, Jay has thankfully gotten back to work, burying his smug mouth against her pussy, his blond hair brushing her bare thighs. It's almost the right shade, she thinks, arching into his hot tongue.
She bites her lip. Jareth can't read her thoughts unless she wishes, but she can't help but wonder how he'd react to seeing her this way. The thought is distracting and delicious, causing her body not to shut down, but to open up far more than she should be comfortable with. I wish I wasn't thinking about you, she thinks, as her orgasm draws close, and there's a rich ripple of familiar male laughter inside her head, and it sends her over the edge at once.
By twenty-eight, she's an editor, relatively successful, but determinedly single – something her colleagues can't help pointing out every once in a while. It doesn't bother her too much, not when she's buried in work, but it's hard to be entirely ignorant when a lot of the manuscripts she pours over are romance. The overly-elaborate gestures and weddings and babies don't bother her so much as the lack of someone just to be there for her; kisses and sex and hugs – just someone to laugh with and bounce her thoughts and ideas off. Someone to be with.
She speaks to Jareth often, though she remains guilty and mindful that he has a kingdom to run, and he's probably the closest thing she has to a male companion. He is a male companion, despite the supernatural aspect and centuries-old age difference, after all. He doesn't seem to mind that last as much, now she's matured, at least. She isn't a needy teenager any more, and she's careful to mind her words and her thoughts more, these days. There are no wishes made while she's buried in pages of someone else's love life.
There's an awful lot of flirting in their encounters, though, and it makes her more than a little uncomfortable when she really stops to think about it. She doesn't ask a lot of the questions that arise in her mind, for fear of the answers. He's on relatively intimate terms with her life – business and personal – through their talks, but as a result, she knows little of his own, beyond the fact that he's knowledgeable, and witty enough to send her into peals of laughter at times, and he hasn't yet grown bored enough to stop answering her calls.
One night, she wishes him before her, and he arrives, a little drunk, and freer than she's ever seen him. He's a breath of fresh air after the shitty day she's had. He puts his arms around her and urges her to dance, though this time there's no music to be heard. He stumbles only a little, and it's clear he knows how to move, his hips twisting with easy grace, giving a little extra bump and grind now and then just to make her giggle. It's refreshing – a memory that will never fail to make her smile, even years later, flushing to remember just how good he looks when he's dancing. By the time they collapse on her couch together, far into the early hours, she has forgotten entirely what she had even wished for in the first place.
She's almost willing to call him a friend, after all these years – enough so, even, to joke once that he knows her better than a boyfriend, though the subject makes her awkward enough to change it immediately after.
If there's a Goblin Queen, he doesn't mention her at all.
He doesn't change in appearance; doesn't give away anything to suggest that any time has passed at all since her teenage crush first blossomed. Though she's still young enough to be grateful for her looks and body, she sometimes wonders if her handsome king will be so receptive when she's grown old enough to be ashamed of her ageing figure. For now, she tries only to appreciate the attention he gives her.
These days, he's far more willing to be risqué in their talks. He's a natural flirt, and it's fun, and an ego massage if nothing else – though she often worries it is something else. To her, at least. The girl who has made so many wishes still finds herself longing for something more. As much as she'd like to, she has never dared to wish for something so simple as mere time spent with him.
If he has any such wishes of his own, only he is privy to them. Her wishes are all that bring them together.
For now, the generous and accommodating Goblin King continues to grant her whatever it is she asks for.
She knows grown women shouldn't wish.
It isn't healthy for her to wish.
Despite her best intentions, she continues to wish.
One day, not too far from now, she can't help but feel she's going to wish for much more than she bargained for.