He didn't care.
That was nonsense; he did. He cared deeply. But for the sake of his sanity, it was paramount that Jareth pretended he was fine. Just fine and dandy, in fact.
Certainly not heartbroken. And definitely not pining.
Soon the pretending became second nature. He stopped doubting himself; his mask of confidence slipped back on as though it had never left.
And with that mask, a stream of thoughts. Thoughts designed to alleviate him from any and all of that niggling self-doubt.
It was all her fault. Not his. She'd wished the brat away, and he'd taken him as asked. She'd called his Labyrinth a piece of cake - he'd made it harder, and still she moaned.
She'd wanted a fantasy; a romance. And Jareth had, quite easily, given Sarah that as well. He'd told himself then and there that it was part of the game - one more challenge to keep her distracted.
Except Jareth had fallen hard. Seeing this feisty, mouthy little girl in such finery - seeing her become such a radiant woman before his eyes.
Any reservations he'd felt before melted in that moment. She was fit to be his Queen. Fit to rule with him— damn it, he'd even started naming their children while they danced, utterly spellbound.
And then she had to go and ruin it...
Jareth took no blame in that. Even if he was the idiot to put a clock in the peach dream. He'd been cocky enough to think his presence alone would be enough to distract her.
Well, perhaps the enchanted goblin dancers had been a bit of a bad idea too...
Jareth threw the hand mirror he was glaring into out of the window, ignoring the startled cry of the goblin it must've hit. He wasn't old... These were... What was the wretched phrase Hoggle had used... Laughter lines..?
Jareth had given the dwarf a condescending smirk, remarking that, "You must do a great deal of laughing when I'm not around."
Hoggle hissed back that Jareth's crows feet were looking "especially noticeable today, your Highness", and ran for the hills while the King stood there in awe.
No one had talked back to him before Sarah. They all cowered or obeyed without a second thought.
In the next few years, the castle fell into ruin, most of the goblins now too busy to clean up after themselves (not that they ever did much cleaning before). They had lives to live, and parties to attend. When the first few had disobeyed Jareth and gotten away with it, the rest followed suit.
And it became a slippery slope after that. Books piled up. Important letters went unsent, or unopened. Jareth didn't bother wearing makeup anymore - he never had guests, and he never left the house. He pulled a moth eaten cape around himself, too lazy to enchant the permanently open windows from letting in the draft.
He had been fine before her, and he'd be fine after her.
Sarah opened the drawer to her vanity. It had been years since her adventure in the labyrinth, and once she'd gotten home, away went any reminders of childhood. Well... Maybe not all of them. Her shelves were still teeming with bears, and fantasy books. But tucked away from view were some of the things that reminded her of the labyrinth.
Mainly of Jareth...
Sarah picked out the music box, her eyes travelling over the little dancer in her meringue dress. She closed her eyes and within seconds Sarah was back in his arms again.
But he was a liar. Sarah growled, throwing the music box back into the drawer.
He said he'd be there for her - as the world fell down. But that had happened already - was happening right now. For here she sat, lost and lonely, and where was Jareth?
Probably spending time right now with a 'real' woman. Sarah thought back, with a pang of jealousy, recalling the women he'd been surround by in that bubble. Beautiful, curvaceous, made up woman, filling their dresses in ways Sarah had yet to manage. Their red lips whispering in his ear, no doubt of practices she was a still too inexperienced to understand.
Sarah stared at her reflection in the vanity, and held up her lipstick. She painted her lips, trying in earnest to glean some semblance of sophistication. But even at twenty, she was no 'woman'. Still she felt like a girl, ignorant of the finer things in life. Uneducated in the subtle secret ways of adulthood.
Everyone around her fell into place like they knew some kind of trick; some way to make everything easy. Sarah felt wronged. Insulted. Why was it that even the stupidest people seemed to know what they were doing? Why did she have to find everything so hard?
It wasn't fair.
Sarah threw the lipstick at the mirror, satisfied when it bounced off loudly, leaving a red mark. She rubbed the rest off her face with the back of her hand.
"Just a little girl..." She glowered back at herself, green eyes rimmed red with tears. But was she..?
No, she could not have been. Even when she had been but a girl, Sarah had made the King of the Goblins cower in fear. She'd put him in his place, and she had championed his labyrinth, not with a duel, nor even a real fight - but her words.
And Jareth, scrote that he was, didn't even call..!
Sarah suddenly felt cheated again. Surely he had feelings for her; that was what she told herself at night, when she pictured his face. When bare hands slipped beneath the sheets, and Sarah imagined gloves.
He had to care. Otherwise...
Sarah didn't want to think about otherwise.
Jareth summoned one of his crystals. He did so at least once a month, curious of just how Sarah was doing. More often than not, driving himself mad over how happy she seemed without him.
As it happened, he never caught her sobbing. Every time he spied Sarah, she was spending time with her family, or friends. The crystal balls usually got thrown unceremoniously through his open window whenever he so much as heard Hoggle's voice.
And just what did that little runt have that he didn't?! Sarah had kissed him. Sarah had hugged him..! And Jareth, decked out in all his finery, and best jewels, who had serenaded her with promises of love - who had danced the night away with Sarah - he didn't get so much as a look in, let alone a peck on the cheek!
"Bastard..." Jareth hissed, watching Hoggle and the rest of Sarah's friends as they played scrabble. "Next time I see him, he goes in the Bog..." Jareth continued watching, heart aching at the sight of his Sarah.
Taller now, maybe even as tall as him. Her hair was still long, but fashioned with a centre parting. Jareth hummed to himself that he preferred the side-parting. He watched Sarah's brow furrow, clearly conflicted about something.
"Um..." She began, looking nervous. "Guys, just a quick question..." Her friends all stopped what they were doing, looking up from the game board. "What do I do if... I have feelings for a guy?"
"Depends who it is..?" Hoggle leaned in, the picture of nosiness. Jareth leaned in as well.
"No one you know..." Sarah had barely uttered the words before said crystal ball was launched though Jareth's window, hitting a low flying Spüe*.
Sarah had lied - she couldn't admit to her friends that she might have, sort of, alright had definitely fallen for the Goblin King.
Now that she really thought about it, he hadn't been much of a threat. In hindsight it was rather similar to the pile of clothes in the back of your closet - in the dark, they fashioned themselves into a looming figure, two buttons becoming eyes if you looked long and hard enough.
But when the bedroom light turned on, all that you saw were a pair of jeans, and a crumpled shirt and socks.
Jareth had seemed so daunting back then. He'd seemed so very powerful, and in control. But through adult eyes, Sarah saw the truth. He was a showman, someone who relied on cheap parlour tricks, posing no real danger whatsoever.
If he had any real power to begin with, why had he not used it? More importantly if she was wrong, and he did have such power - why hadn't he used it..?
Sarah's mind automatically snatched at the first thought that ran through it.
Love was why. He cared, and so he'd toyed with her. Yes, that was why...
Sarah was back in front of her vanity again, overthinking. But if Jareth loved her, he surely would have come back. Sarah had held her breath on the night of her eighteenth birthday, waiting for the clock to strike midnight - for him to whisk her away now that she was of legal age. Yet he didn't come. And over two years later, still he did not appear.
Unless he thought he was being noble. Love her, but let her go. Another plausible if idiotic idea.
The only thing Sarah knew for certain was that only Jareth could answer these questions.
The trip back Underground was simple enough. Sarah had called on the goblins, and a sparse collection of them had indeed turned up.
Sarah was sure there had been many more of the little beasts all those years ago. And Jareth had turned up then, too... She tried to ignore the way her heart sank in his absence.
"Take me to the castle." Sarah addressed one of the goblins, drawing herself up to her full height. "Now."
The goblins had (surprisingly) obeyed, and Sarah found herself in Jareth's home. The creatures looked up at her expectantly, as if waiting for further orders.
"Um..." She watched them lean in, eyes agog. "Take the day off..?" Sarah jumped when they all rejoiced, and scampered out of the front door. "Weird..."
The castle was a confusing place. Obviously Sarah would have to navigate the Escher room again in order to get anywhere, for aside from the cluttered throne room, no other rooms seemed to exist.
Sarah took her time investigating. She realised after a while that if you went through a horizontal door, it would lead to a vertical one. Every left turn took you right, and every up staircase took you down. Sarah spied a rather sumptuous looking doorway that stood out from the rest. Jareth's chambers, she surmised.
After a few wrong turns (and a lot of unladylike language) Sarah was standing by that doorway.
She was about to take a step forward when her blood ran cold - for what if he didn't ever want to see her again..? What if barging into his castle, and then his private rooms, was the final straw?
Then again, she'd never find out anything if she left now. And she'd come too far just to leave with her tail between her legs. There was no other option than to enter.
Sarah steeled herself, crossing the doorway. She half expected it to throw her out somewhere else; perhaps at the start of the labyrinth, or as a shortcut straight to the Bog.
Except the room she had entered was a new one to Sarah; not one she'd seen on her travels, and by the looks of things, belonging to the King of this realm.
She ran her fingers over a nearby set of silk drapes, the burgundy material coming apart in her hands like a cobweb. Sarah startled, realising that all the finery and grandeur in the room was threadbare at best - and at worst, on the verge of disintegrating.
She wondered how much time had passed Underground, and how long six years was here. The goblins had come for her. Jareth was nowhere to be seen.
Sarah sank to the floor, overwhelmed with an even worse worry.
What if he was dead..?
Jareth wasn't dead. He was bathing in the next room over.
"Idiot..." He muttered to no one in particular - and certainly not about himself! No, he wasn't an idiot. He was a gorgeous, fine figure of a man that Sarah would have been lucky to get her hands on.
He wasn't dwelling on this at all - and he certainly wasn't obsessing.
Jareth was fine, and over it, thank you very much.
Totally over it.
"Vixen..." He growled, sinking under the water. Just when he thought he was getting his life back on track, that niggling little worm of self doubt crawled into his ear, whispering not so sweet nothings...
'You're an old, ugly thing' it would say.
'What can you offer a young, pretty girl like her?' Jareth could feel the water boiling around him in his rage.
'You don't even have power over her - she won't want someone weak... That's all you'll ever be. Pathetic and weak...'
Jareth slowly crawled out of the bath, his posture slumped and dejected. His eyes found the mirror, and he let his gaze sweep over himself.
Before Sarah, he had assumed that his body was godlike - certainly enough to have the women swooning. It had never been unsightly, but now? After years of ignoring plates of food, and being too stubborn to learn to cook for himself, Jareth was getting a trifle thin.
Alright, a trifle was perhaps being generous. Jareth was frail, and very obviously underfed.
His pale skin no longer glowed, but was drab and peaky. His eyes were sunken, and rimmed with dark circles. His usually brilliant hair was now brittle, and lacking of any shine or lustre.
He was a state.
Jareth tore his eyes away from the mirror, having tortured himself enough. He enchanted a pair of tights, and a featherlight blouse around himself. He enchanted them a bit tighter when he realised just how loose they had become.
Jareth sighed, leaving the bathroom. When he entered his chambers, his steps faltered, mismatched eyes wide.
Sarah spun around when she heard footsteps, her eyes locking with his.
"Jareth..." She took a shy step forward. Jareth looked... Sarah was suddenly reminded of the curtains, terrified that a single touch might cause the man to vanish in a cloud of dust. "I..." She stepped closer, watching how he shrank back. "I'm... Sorry." She whispered.
"Sorry?" Jareth looked confused. "Whatever for?" He chided himself for appearing so weak in this moment. His bedraggled appearance could've been ignored had he displayed the usual presence and menace he was known for.
But he couldn't quite muster the strength.
"Everything." Sarah reached out with a hand. She watched Jareth's eyes follow the movement, reassuring herself when he didn't object. Her hand was on his arm. "You never came back." She mumbled.
"You never asked me to." Jareth spoke quietly.
"And if I had..?" Sarah watched Jareth pull away, her hand hovering stupidly in midair for a moment before it fell to her side. "Would you have come—?"
"Of course I would have." He snarled, clutching his arms. It was cold; always so cold. "But you did not." Jareth was already scuttling away from her, heading for the Escher room. In moments he'd added more armour to himself, his usual cape wrapped around his shoulders. Had Jareth known it was peppered with moth holes, he certainly wouldn't have bothered. Sarah skipped to catch up, but already he was upside down, and about three staircases away.
"Jareth..!" Sarah scrambled to catch up, forgetting the directions she needed to take in her panic. "Jareth, please..!" She sagged with relief when finally he stopped, stood horizontally one platform away.
"Sarah." He tried to smirk cruelly, but his heart wasn't in it. "My Sarah..." But of course that wasn't true either. She was not his - had never been, and would never be. "Whatever it is you've come here for, please just spit it out. I'm a very busy man." He lied, standing in his usual aloof manner.
"And you can't even guess what it is I've come for?" Sarah was glaring up at him, thick eyebrows knitted together.
"I couldn't even begin to fathom..." Jareth grumped, fussing with his cape. He'd noticed the holes, and was now plucking angrily at them. "But perhaps we should ask your... boyfriend..." He hissed the last word scathingly, hating how it made him sound - as though he cared. As though he were jealous! He was perfection; there was nothing to be jealous of.
"What are you talking about?" Sarah looked genuinely confused, which angered Jareth even more. Had she already thrown that poor man aside too? Was there no end to her cruel ways?! "—Jareth?" The fae collected himself, forcing his eyes to lock with hers. Still she looked none the wiser.
"Oh, it's no one you know, Hedgewart..." Jareth imitated her voice shrilly, any hope of not coming across as a petulant child fully thrown out of the window with six dozen or so crystal balls. "So who?" His pasty visage was turning quickly pink. "Who?!" He was on his toes, glowering. His expression became even more incandescent when Sarah erupted in a fit of laughter.
"Oh God..." She couldn't help it - Jareth, bony King of the Goblins, shrouded in white silks and satins, looking like an overgrown barn owl, screeching "HOO!" at the top of his lungs - it would make anyone laugh. "Jareth, I was trying not to rock the boat—"
"Boat..?!" He narrowed his eyes. He saw no boat.
"With Hoggle..?" Sarah wiped away a tear, suppressing a guffaw at the owl thing when it resurfaced again in her mind. "I came here for you, you stupid man."
"What?" Jareth's shoulders dropped, and he stood there dumbly as Sarah made her way over, skipping quickly across staircases. He startled when one of her hands took his, looking down at it. "For me?" His voice was quiet.
"For you." Sarah pulled him closer, and Jareth realised she was a little taller than him - well, she would not have been had Jareth been wearing his usual platform boots.
"For me..." Jareth repeated, turning rosier still. "Just me..?" He then chanced.
"And not Hog-brain." The fae interjected snippily.
"And not Hoggle..." Sarah was smirking, her hands grabbing his arms as her face nudged closer. "Just you." Her breath ghosted over his lips, and Jareth felt himself leaning in. "Only. You." The Goblin King succumbed happily, letting Sarah devour his mouth in kiss after hungry kiss.