Author: Kat Lee
Fandoms: Labyrinth, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Once Upon A Time
Character/Pairing: Jareth/Sarah, Salem, and Rumplestiltskin/Belle
Challenge/Prompt: A to Z: O
Warning(s): SPOILERS FOR ONCE UPON A TIME SEASON 4!
Word Count: 2,200
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to their rightful owners, not the author, and are used without permission.
Silver moonlight shimmers on his elegant, white wings as he glides effortlessly through the night sky. The moon is full, and the air radiates with magic. The year is turning, and he feels it in his bones. Time always seems to stand still underground, and a punishment that is meant to last forever truly is forever, but up here, in the world above, Jareth knows time moves too swiftly.
He has many for whom he has come to care over the centuries, although they may not think of him, and he likes to check in on them. He's helped more than one ally without their knowledge, subtly shifting circumstances with his powerful hand without any one being the wiser. He knows there are many who think differently, but he takes care of those who are his. Surely, no one more truly belongs to another than those whose friendships have spanned numerous decades. His Goblins are plentiful, but true friends are special rarities indeed, meant to be cherished and protected, and it's been too long since last he actually looked in on them in the flesh.
His first stop is outside an old house that is home to several Witches. He swoops in and perches on top of a branch hanging just outside a teenaged girl's window. He certainly has to deal with far too many teenaged girls, and the thought of sending a new one through his labyrinth and having to play the little game that has been dealt him to help certain ones grow ruffles his feathers. But although he peers into the girl's bedroom window, it isn't she upon whom he looks.
His gaze, instead, is focused on a black cat sleeping peacefully on her bed. As he watches, the cat wakes, yawns, his little, pink tongue lolling out of his mouth, and stretches long and leisurely. His sharp claws knead the girl's sheets without thought. Then he stands, stretches again, and looks around him. Jareth thinks he's looking to see what he senses to be amiss, which would be his own presence, and is about to call to his old friend when the cat leaps.
Underneath the King's imperial gaze, the apparent housecat pounces on nothing more grand than a simple ball of yarn. He kicks and claws the ball in a frenzy of excitement. Jareth cocks his head to one side as he watches him play and finally shakes his head and fluffs his feathers when the once-great Salem Saberhagen rolls over onto his back and continues kicking the yarn ball. He hoots, disturbed at the sight.
Salem is far from being an ordinary housecat, despite his looks. He was once one of the greatest Sorcerers and Jareth's closest allies, but now . . . Now, it seems the curse the Witches' Council dealt him for trying to conquer the mortals' world has finally caught up with him. He looks like just an ordinary housecat, and he's certainly acting the part. But . . . But, Jareth muses, watching him play, he seems to be happy, truly joyful, and with no worries to plague his mind or his soul.
His friend does not need him, Jareth reflects, and so, with a single flap of his snow white wings, he leaves his perch and flies onward, never seeing the cat sit up a second time and look toward the window through which Jareth himself had just been gazing. He doesn't see the deep thoughts that shine in the feline's emerald green eyes or the way his tail strikes the bed. He doesn't know it was all just a game, a game to protect the Goblin King from getting further embroiled with the Wizard's own tyrannical fantasies.
Friends look out for friends, after all, and Salem has paid far too great a price to let any one else suffer because of him. He mews softly, sadly, and turns from the window. He'll never be just an ordinary cat, but he'll also never get his allies into any further trouble. That's the least he can do for those who followed him in his plans to conquer the world -- at least, it's the least he can do while still a cat. Now, on the other paw, should he ever regain his human body, he might just pay Jareth a visit himself.
But for the time being . . . Salem glances back over to his favorite yarn ball. Ripples run through the muscles of his furry shoulders where once he would have shrugged. He pounces on the ball again, tearing at it with claws and teeth. If he can't conquer the world, he can at least conquer one damn yarn ball.
Jareth's next stop is in a sleepy, little town hidden from the rest of the mortal realm. The man he seeks is not at his shop, and it takes Jareth a moment to sort through all the magical signals he picks up in this town to find the one identity he needs. Worry makes his beak draw downward for there's something different about Rumplestiltskin's signature.
He flies quickly toward it, his worry growing when he's led to a bigger house, a mansion even, than his old friend would have ever used for himself in the present time. Back when the world was full of magic, when Jareth had first met him, the Sorcerer was in possession of many, vast estates, a castle sitting on each one, but back then, he had enjoyed needless shows of power. Since coming to this century, however, Rumplestiltskin has always tried to keep a low profile.
But it isn't the house that truly worries Jareth. It's what he senses in his old friend -- or, rather, doesn't. The curtains are drawn, and he can't see clearly from his perch in the tree. He swoops closer in to the window and perches on the ledge just outside instead. Peering through the sheer curtains, he's able to make out the form of his dear friend, laying still and almost lifeless in the bed.
There's some one with him, holding tenderly to his hand. It takes Jareth a moment to make out the much younger woman, and when he does, he wants to smile for he recognizes the maid with whom Rumplestiltskin had first started falling in love all those decades ago when last Jareth had paid him a visit in his favorite castle. They'd talked about women and dined on fine, fire liquor all night long, and all night, Rumplestiltskin had denied the changes Jareth had already noted in him. He had denied his love for the girl who now wears a gold band that matches one Jareth sees winking on Rumplestiltskin's hand.
His beak curves in as close to a grin as he can manage in owl form. So the old Dark One had finally gotten married! But he's no longer the Dark One, Jareth reflects, his feathers shifting with his concern. In fact, he senses no power in him whatsoever. Jareth peers closer, inches nearer, his beak touching the pane of the window. Rumplestiltskin always has had trouble holding his magic rather than letting it control him. He is a man prone to wanting to show his strengths like a peacock strutting with his feathers in full array.
A decrease in his magic may not necessarily be an altogether bad thing, Jareth reflects, not for Rumplestiltskin, at least. His magic has caused him to take some rather dark paths with outcomes of which even the Goblin King, renowned throughout multiple realms for being cruel, can approve. It has also given his relationship with his maid quite a lot of trouble. But there is something more wrong.
From his perch on the window ledge, Jareth reaches out to his old friend. His mind probes his, going deeper, deeper until he finds Rumplestiltskin's consciousness. Slowly, cautiously, he lifts it toward the surface until Rumplestiltskin's eyes flutter open. The Sorcerer looks at the window and the form hiding just behind the curtain even as his wife screams her delight.
Jareth almost smiles again as he watches the maid throw herself upon Rumplestiltskin, hugging and kissing him. So the old Dark One is indeed powerless and married. Finally, he has a chance at happiness unmarred by too much power for any one human to wield, and despite everything, Rumple had originally been human when he'd taken on the curse. He might just get his happy ending with his maid, after all, Jareth reflects and flies away just a few seconds before Belle, at Rumple's persuasion, goes to the window and moves the curtain.
The light of the full moon shines into their bedroom, but there is no owl or King to be seen. Rumplestiltskin frowns, glowering at the window ledge. He could have sworn he'd seen a familiar form behind that curtain, but without his magic, he can scarcely prove anything.
"Oh, Rumple," Belle asks, "is it really that much of a big deal to you? Whoever it was is gone, and I'm here. You're here, and you're awake. We're together again."
"You're right, beloved," Rumplestiltskin assuages, gesturing for her to return to him. She does, and he proceeds to prove the one thing he still can with ease: how infinitely much he loves her, taking her into his arms and covering her with kisses. Magic, he knows, must no longer matter to him. The world, neither this one nor that one, still matters. Nothing does save his own True Love and the happy ending they're finally going to get together.
He'd had good intentions when he'd set out this eve. He had a list, albeit a short one, of his truest allies upon whom he'd intended to check in on, but after seeing just two of them, Jareth's heart is more troubled than when he first left his underground world and ventured above ground tonight. His mind and heart are filled with images of only one now, and she certainly is no friend.
But it is outside her bedroom window that he finds himself yet again. It is of her he finds himself thinking and dreaming once again. He recalls vividly what it felt like to hold her in his arms, to dance her around a ballroom entirely of his making, a fantasy of his creation, and to hold her close against him. He remembers how he felt to think he could make her every dream come true. His white feathers flutter as he remembers, too, with painful lucidity how it had felt when she'd turned from him, when she, like all the others before her, had chosen her own world and her baby brother over everything he'd been offering to her.
It wasn't that he wasn't accustomed to denial. The girls were supposed to choose their brothers over the treasures he offered them. They were supposed to "defeat" him, turning another page in the stories of their lives and choosing to grow more mature and older. He was cast as the villain, and he played it well.
But Sarah wasn't just another one of that endlessly long list of teenaged girls. Hers was not just a story he had to help her create. Hers was a story in which he was meant to possess a larger part. He really had fallen completely in love with her, and so it was that her words, her decision, truly cut into his heart while none of the ones who had come before, or after, her had mattered. Not a single one of them had turned his head, but Sarah still does.
He gazes upon her as she brushes her long, ebony hair, remembering what she had felt like in his arms. For the first time, he had dared to dream visions for himself. He had dared to have hope that perhaps he was meant to be more than a King. Perhaps he was meant to be a husband, to provide and care for one woman in all the realms. But she had dashed all of his hopes to bitter pieces when she had spoken the words she had had to to win her brother back to her side.
He can hear the brat crying now, and he can not but to help think of all the things they could have had together if only she had chosen him and the True Love he offered instead. She throws her brush at her closed door, yelling at her brother to shut up. Jareth blinks. Apparently, she is not as grown as he'd thought her when he'd last left her, but she still isn't his. She still isn't his, because she chooses not to be.
Flapping his wings, Jareth sails from the branch. Sarah sees movement outside her window, jumps to her feet, and rushes to look outside her bedroom window. Unlike Rumplestiltskin and Belle's window, hers is not covered by a curtain, and unlike Salem Saberhagen's, it is wide open. But still, the owl flies away, and only the full moon bears witness to the regal tear that rolls down a certain King's feathered face as he wings his way home and away from all he's ever dared dream.