This was not the time for her to be falling asleep, not when she still has another two and a half chapters to get through, but despite Sarah Williams's famously strong determination and equally strong irritation at the music which currently throbbed through the wall like a giant angry heartbeat, her eyes were drifting closed. Again. Twenty two was far too young for her to call herself old. However, every year it became harder and harder to pull to pull all-nighters, even as doing so became more and more necessary thanks to the increasing workload and difficulty of her college courses. With a sigh, Sarah shook herself and tried to focus on the blurring words of textbook in front of her.
Then it happened.
One moment Sarah had been trying to study for her upcoming exam and failing to do so due to the noise of her roommate's weekly party which had, as always, taken over the rest of the apartment and would have taken over Sarah's bedroom as well if she had not locked the door. The next moment everything was quiet, a state of affairs she might have appreciated more if it had not been so sudden or so complete. Usually when the music cut out at a party like that, there would have been at least a few exclamations of protest, but there was only dead silence.
With some trepidation, Sarah pushed away from her desk and went to investigate. Everything was far too quiet. Even the voluminous ruffles of her dress failed to make any sound as she walked across the room, and that was especially wrong because Sarah had been wearing jeans and a tee-shirt all day, she was sure of it. Oh, okay, Sarah thought, this had to be a dream then. At least, it had better be a dream. Because if it wasn't a dream...
The door swung open before she could touch the doorknob. Sarah half expected to find a deserted apartment on the other side, but the party was still going. Or rather, a party was still going, but it looked nothing like the one Sarah had waded through a few hours earlier. The grungy college students in varying stages of drunkenness had been replaced by masked figures in lace and silk brocade, all soundlessly twirling in perfect step to some piece of unheard music, and as Sarah watched, her apartment's walls crumbled away to reveal a familiar huge mirrored ballroom. And that was the last straw.
"Jareth!" Sarah shouted, her voice loud in her own ears but disappearing into the silence without an echo, "I know you're here. Show yourself!" None of the dancers acknowledged that they had heard her with so much a glance in her direction, but the complex pattern of the couples weaving amongst each other shifted ever so slightly, first moving faster and closer together and then scattering apart to reveal the Goblin King just a few feet away from her and dressed in Gold brocade and trousers that somehow managed to look even more form fitting than the last time she had seen him.
"No need to sound so vexed, dear Sarah," he said. "I'm only giving you what you wished for."
"I didn't wish for anything."
"Oh, but you most certainly did. If you can't remember, well," and here he gave an elegant shrug which sent a ripple through the feathered collar of his cape, "it's hardly my fault that you did it while talking in your sleep."
"Talking in my sleep?" She wanted to deny it but knew she had no proof one way or the other, and Jareth had never been one to lie, so it was probably true. In her younger days, Sarah might have taken a step back in dismay at the thought. Now, she advanced towards him, saying, "What exactly did I wish for? And what is it going to cost me?"
"Yes, talking in your sleep, and quite adamantly too. I was going to say it was an endearing habit, but now here you are scowling so when all I wanted was to please you. You wound me, Sarah. Deeply." He put a hand over his heart as if covering an invisible injury, but his continuing smile belied the gesture. "You wished for some peace and quite so you could study for your upcoming academic ordeal." He pointed behind Sarah, and when she turned she saw the door to her bedroom had remained when the rest of her apartment had fallen away. "The rest of this," he idly swept a gloved finger in a circle to indicate all the dancers still swirling around as he and Sarah stood in the eye of their storm, "is because I refuse to craft a boring dream as a matter of principle. And as for the cost, there is none. In the past, you disliked my attempt at bargains, so I thought I might try again with a freely offered gesture of goodwill, no payment required, though I wouldn't say no to a kiss if you happened to offer one as a goodwill gesture of your own."
"I appreciate the thought, Jareth," Sarah said after considering both the Goblin King and his statement for a long moment. And she really did appreciate it, but... "But I really don't have time for this right now."
"Oh? Are you really forgetting both who you're talking to and the nature of dreams?" A familiar clock with thirteen hours marked on its face popped into existence. Its hour and minute hands were frozen in place, while its second hand kept running backwards, then forwards, then backwards again over the same short span. Jareth held out his hand to Sarah. When she reached out and took it into her own, he smiled and said, "Right now, you have all the time in the world."
"In that case, thank you." Sarah leaned forward, pressed a quick kiss to Jareth's lips, and then ran back towards her desk, leaving a bemused Goblin King in her wake.
He followed her into her room as the walls reassembled themselves, blocking out the sight of the still oblivious masked dancers beyond. "Mind if I join you?" he asked, lingering at the doorway.
Sarah smiled coyly and held up her textbook for Jareth to see the cover, saying, "That depends on what you know about architecture?"
"You've seen my Labyrinth, and my city, and my castle, my darling. What don't I know about architecture?"
"Yes, I've seen them, but those are probably cheating." There was laughter rather than accusation in her voice. "Do you know how to keep them from falling down without magic?"
"No, but maybe you could teach me, and teach yourself in the process." He sauntered over, took the book from her hands, paged through it, and then sprawled languidly onto her bed as if he had just chosen a new throne. Anyone else Sarah would have told to keep their feet off of her duvet, but this wasn't really happening, and Jareth's boots were, as always, pristine. "I hear it's the best way to learn, aside from personal experience."
"This isn't going to be one of those dreams where I forget everything that happens when I wake up, is it?"
"That will be entirely up to you, my dear," Jareth said. He patted an empty patch of blankets beside him.
"Okay," Sarah said as she went to sit next to him on the bed. "I need to cover everything in chapters six through eight..."
If time had not been standing still, it could have been said that they studied together long into the night. And if Sarah happened to give him more than a kiss for thanks afterward, well, that wasn't exactly a hardship, was it?