Author: Kat Lee
Dedicated To: My beloved Drew (I love you, my King; happy anniversary!!!!!)
Warning(s): Future Fic
Word Count: 3,167
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to their rightful owners, not the author, and are used without permission.
She shouldn't be here, she thinks, wrapping her arms around her cold frame. This isn't her kind of a scene, but then, what is her scene? All she's done for years now besides school and auditioning for parts she never gets is stay in her room, locked away from society with her books and relics of the past and, she thinks, casting a furtive glance around the auditorium, toys that anyone else here would tease her over still having.
But she can't give them away. She's tried. She's tried to give them or box them up for future children she admits only to herself will probably never exist. She's even tried giving them to her brother, but the only one she's ever successfully passed on is a single teddy bear that she gave him after the adventure no one believes. She tried talking about what she experienced as a young teenager to her father and brother when he grew older, but neither believed her. They thought she was an excellent story teller and that she should go into writing rather than acting, but they never once considered that all she told them might be real.
Maybe it wasn't, Sarah thinks, casting another look around the packed gymnasium. Maybe none of it was real. After all, if Goblins existed, wouldn't they have been found after all this time? And Fairies, too, for that matter, and the Dwarfs who hunt them. Then there was the talking dog Knight and his steed, who looked exactly like the sheep dog she'd had at the time. Instead of being poisoned by a peach, she must have simply eaten a bad meal sometime that day, and the dream that still felt so real after all these years must have been the effect. She was lucky she hadn't ended up in the hospital.
She was lucky she hadn't been hospitalized, but not because of food poisoning. As many times as she's tried to convince herself otherwise, she still believes that what she experienced was no dream. It felt too real. The fear and terror, the bubbling Bog of Eternal Stench underneath her tennis shoes, the Dwarf's hesitancy to believe her offer of friendship, the gentle monster's fur . . . It all felt so real, including, and perhaps even especially, him.
It's no wonder she can't date any guy more than once. None of them can compare to her dream lover. She's never seen another man as handsome or found anyone else who can aggravate her with such graceful ease. She's never again felt the way she felt when he held her in his strong arms and they danced so closely together. She tells herself every day that it was just a dream, but every night, she dreams of him again -- and it never feels as real or as wonderful as that first encounter did.
Sarah swallows hard, her entire body tingling with the memories of her dreams and her surely-not-a dream. How can something feel so real and yet be so absolutely, utterly ridiculous and impossible? She's researched Goblins and the other creatures of the Labyrinth -- the only places she does frequent besides college and her own home are the local libraries --, but she's never found anything indicating any truth to the myths. She's even considered going into the field of archaeology not to dig for dinosaur bones but to dig for the Underground with the pretense of searching for fossils.
She's wasting her time here, Sarah thinks, her breath huffing out in one, quick blow. She should be at home studying or at a library doing more research. There are far more important things she could be doing than standing in a shadowy corner, watching people dance and having no inclination whatsoever to actually interact with them. She had only come because a girl she'd thought of as a friend had invited her, but she'd been dancing all night long and hadn't even greeted Sarah.
The world continues without Sarah. It always has, and she knows it always will. She doesn't belong to this place, not to this dance or to this "institution" or even to this world. That's why she's always felt out of place, even as a young child long before her mother left to pursue her own dreams. She doesn't belong here. She turns to leave, but a flash of glitter catches her eye and turns her slowly back around to face the dance once more.
There's a lean, costumed man stepping out of the midst of the swirling dancers. Sarah's heartbeat quickens watching him. He smiles underneath his mask. For the first time in a long time, she finds herself unwilling to look away from another human being. Perhaps because he reminds her of some one else, but that can't be. Dream or no dream, it's been years since she last saw the King of the Goblins. He wouldn't just suddenly appear in the midst of college students at a Halloween dance.
But the man doesn't walk like any ordinary student. His stride is bold and powerful and makes Sarah swallow hard just watching him. He's dressed in black leather from head to toe except for the mask that hides his face. It's the bright red face of a twisted creature, but it's not like the Fieries. Some kind of Demon? Sarah guesses as he closes in on her.
He doesn't bow as he reaches her, but then, no one does that any more. It's one of many old customs that have fallen away as time has passed and women have become equals with men. He does, however, smile beneath his mask and stretch an open hand out toward her. "May I have this dance?" he asks. There's something familiar about his voice, but then not familiar at all as he cracks a smile and adds, "You seem as out of place here as I am."
She laughs not because she finds his statement humorous but because of the nerves tingling inside of her. She answers his broad smile with a nervous, trembling one of her own. "You don't often come to these things, either?" she asks. She doesn't know him -- she hasn't spoken more than two words to most of the guys who go to this college --, but somehow, she finds that hard to believe.
His smile broadens, and again her heartbeat races. "I seldom have reason to attend a dance, but I am glad I came tonight. Shall we?" Sarah doesn't remember placing her hand in his, but there it is as he tugs on her lightly and leads her out to the dance floor.
At first, she's nervous, moving awkwardly, but as his arms go around her and she lets him lead, she soon forgets all about the other dancers. The entire gymnasium seems to melt away as they swirl together. She could just as well be dancing to the music of the stars on a lush hilltop as whirling to a modern beat around a bunch of people with whom she has so very little in common. Time seems to stop, but she never hears the music stop. They just keep dancing, and for the first time, Sarah forgets.
She forgets about her dreams. She forgets that she doesn't belong here. She forgets that the world would eat her alive if they knew of her beliefs in things they all feel certain do not exist. She forgets even that she must hide and all the beliefs she holds that no one else shares. She forgets that this man is a stranger. He doesn't feel like one. They move together as though they've known each other their whole lives, and she could easily spend the rest of her life right here in his arms whose embrace feels so natural and so completely right.
The slamming of the gym doors startles Sarah back to reality, not that she's been dreaming. She's merely been lost in him and the sensations of being with him. The gym has gone dark. The music has stopped playing, but she hears laughter that sounds as though it comes from far away. Sarah looks around them, but she can see nothing in the darkness. Somehow, though, she knows that her classmates all left long ago.
She should back away from this man, but she doesn't want to. She doesn't want him to stop holding her, to stop touching her. The mere thought of no longer having their bodies touch seems an unbearable loss. But she holds her chin defiant as she tries to catch sight of his true eyes beyond his mask. "Who are you?" she demands, and she knows the sure and sly smile that spreads slowly across his face as well as she knows the feel of her own heartbeat quickening again.
This man is dangerous. He's powerful. And yet, he's all she's dreamed about for years. The slight touch of his elegant fingers on her dark hair makes her tingle from the top of her head through the ends of her toes. He tucks a strand of her hair behind her ear and lets his hand linger there, the pads of his fingers lightly touching the top of her ear. "I am who you want me to be," he says with a smile, and though he whispers, his words echo in the still gymnasium. "I always have been, Sarah."
"Jareth?" she breathes his name, fearing this all to be a dream.
His grin widens; her intent eyes catch a hint of fangs beneath his top lip. "Milady."
She knows it can not be, but yet, she can not stop herself from asking breathlessly, "Have you come to take me away finally? Are we to go back to your kingdom?"
"Ah, Sarah." Jareth sighs and finally steps away. Sarah feels a physical ache inside of her from the absence of his body pressing closely against her own. He lifts his mask from his handsome face, causing her breath to catch again and her heart to pounding even harder and faster with the greatest desire she's ever felt. The mask disappears into the darkness, but he remains.
She can hear things moving in the shadows, but she's no longer afraid of them. She was never truly afraid of them for herself. She had only feared for Toby. She doesn't spin to face the creatures that are not supposed to exist as their laughter increases in the darkness. She only stares straight ahead at their King. She swallows hard, thinking how badly she's wanted him to be her King as well for oh so long now.
"Don't you understand yet, my dear?" Jareth asks, looking at her. His head is cocked slightly, and the expression on his face and in his eyes makes it very easy to see why he change into an owl at will. "I gave you everything I had. I offered you my entire world. You denied me."
"I was young!" she cries, unable and perhaps even unwilling to stop the truth from exploding out of her mouth at long last. "I was too young and too stupid!"
Jareth chuckles deep inside his throat as his sensual lips twist into a half-smirk. "You were," he agrees, "but I am allowed to give the offer only once a century to one girl." He doesn't tell her that she is always that girl, only in a different body every hundred years.
"Then why did you come here tonight," she asks, "if you do not wish me to return with you?"
"I would like nothing better," he answers truthfully, and Sarah's simultaneously stilled and excited by the earnesty she hears in his deep, regal voice. "But I can not bring you back."
"It is against the rules, dear Sarah."
"The rules?!" she almost spits. "You're the King of the Goblins! You make your own rules! You're seriously going to tell me you can not bring me into a kingdom you rule?"
He sighs again, and suddenly, he looks so very old though still exquisitely handsome. "It is the truth, believe it or not," he adds. "We all must abide by the rules we are given in life. If only you had come willingly to me at the time I was able to offer my world to you -- "
"You may have offered me your world," she retaliates hotly, "but you threatened to take Toby and make him into a Goblin!"
"All part of the rules."
"No, it can't be! You're too powerful to have to . . . to have to do anything you don't want to do!"
"Ah, if only that was true!" He shakes his head, then raises his eyes to meet hers again. "But if that was true, Sarah, do you not think I would have kept you there, regardless of rather or not you were willing? I was able to bring you there because you asked me to. The same is said for your brother. You asked me to take him; I did. You asked me to be frightening in my control of you and the baby, and I was terrifying. You asked me to fall in love with you, and I fell."
"I fell too," she whispers, at long last acknowledging the feelings she's kept bottled up inside of her all these years. "It can't be over! You wouldn't be here if it was!"
"No," he admits, and suddenly she hears a clock chiming. "It is not. It will never be over, but I have played the cards I play. The rest . . . " He raises a hand, and suddenly, he's back directly in front of her, his hand cupping her cheek. She can't even breathe as he gazes directly into her eyes this time. " . . . is up to you, dear Sarah."
He leans forward. She leans eagerly toward him, but he seems to tower over her. He presses a gentle kiss to her forehead, and then, with a great swoosh of air that flutters her dress, he's gone. Sarah gasps aloud in pain. She calls after him. She runs from the gymnasium, still calling his name. She bursts out into the still, dark night, but nothing responds as she screams his name in vain.
He is gone again, and he's left her shivering once more from head to toe. Yet, at long last, Sarah does have one answer: He is not a dream. He is a majestic, powerful, and undeniably handsome being. He is the very essence of which dreams are made. But he is very, very real.
Tears spill down her cheeks as she holds her memories close. After all these years of trying to forget, she never wants to forget again. She wants to remember every trace of his body, every time he's touched her, even the briefest of brushings, every syllable from his imperial, elegant tongue, every shiver he's ever given her . . . She wants to remember it all, but more than that, she wants to live it all again.
She screams his name to the stars. She hears an animal leave a tree and whirls around just in time to see a white owl taking flight. She runs after him, screaming his name again and again. Lights switch on as she runs through blocks of houses. She knows she'll never be able to show her face in this town again without hearing whispers about her crazed midnight run, but she doesn't care. All she cares about is that he does exist and she wants to be with him oh so badly!
She chases him through the night. The owl keeps winging just slightly ahead of her. Every light in the neighborhood is on by the time she turns onto her own block. He's perched on top of her mailbox. She runs after him, but just before she can reach him, he disappears again. Laughter snickers in nearby bushes, but he's gone.
She screams his name again and again, but he doesn't show. The laughter stops. Neighbors stand on their porches. Some holler at her to shut up while others merely cast disdainful glowers on the poor girl whose insanity they've secretly been aware of for years. "Sarah," her stepmother calls from the porch, "do be quiet and come inside. You're making a scene."
Sarah glowers at her from a face full of tears. "You never understand!"
"Yes, yes, I know. I never understand, but come inside."
Sarah hesitates, spinning around and around in desperate search of any sign of anyone from her dreams. Even the wind is calm now. She hears a popping sound and turns around once again. Her mailbox is open, but there's no sign of the Goblin who sprang it open. She puts her hand inside and pulls out a single, long envelope.
In the calm darkness and amongst the mutterings of people finally going back to bed, Sarah tears open the envelope and reads her first acceptance letter. It doesn't mention for which role she auditioned, only that she has been accepted and they look forward to meeting her. Slowly, with hands still trembling, she refolds the letter. Her stepmother looks at her, clearly disgusted, and marches back inside, turning out the light so that no one will have to see her stepdaughter.
But Sarah's not afraid of the darkness. She hasn't been for years. She stands at the mailbox for another moment, remembering Jareth's final words to her, "The rest is up to you, dear Sarah." She has to make the next move, she now understands. He is real. The Underground and the world he offered to share with her are real. But she has to find him.
She looks up at the Halloween moon, hanging as brightly in the sky as though he had placed it there himself for them to waltz beneath. "I will find you, Jareth," she swears by the light of the moon before marching back into her house and a life she never wanted. She's going to find the life she wants. She's going to find the love of which she's dreamed for years. She's going to find her rightful place at the side of her one, true King. She's going to find him. "I promise."
Sarah closes the door to her house behind her, and all the lights go out on her street. Whispers through the trees become laughter as creatures from ancient fairy tales dance out into the open on Halloween night. Goblins, Fairies, Dwarfs, and stranger creatures still made of flame red feathers dance in the silver moonlight, and watching over them all, a King sitting alone sighs. Sarah will find them, but by Gods, it's taking too damn long!
But as he senses her fall asleep and he sneaks into her dreams, Jareth whispers, taking his future Queen once more into his arms. "Happy Halloween, Sarah."
"Happy Halloween," she returns, "my King." They both smile, and for once, she's happy again.