Thursday descended into dusk in shades of gold and indigo, accented with a pale moon. Sarah cleared the dishes – out of leftovers and unwilling to get takeout again, she’d been forced to cook – with a sense of serenity. Dinner, though emphatically mediocre on an empirical basis, had been considerably improved by Jo’s conversation. She’d found a guide to spiders of the Northwest at the school library and, with Jareth still in bed from the iron-sickness, waxed eloquent at Sarah about it.
Three days later, Jo broke the plumbing. That wasn’t the start of the incident, either, though at first Sarah thought it was. Why else would she have been greeted at the door by a suspiciously helpful seven-year-old who, upon her discovery of an equally suspicious closed door to an empty restroom, insisted her invisible friend was in the bath? Jo’s last invisible friend had departed two years past.
(This is a snippet from a multi-chapter but shorter-than-Strangers Labyrinth fic I will work on upon finishing Strangers.)
A familiar quiet knock on his door recalled Adrinn from the vast sunlit spaces in his mind to, for the briefest of moments, entirely the wrong present; “Come in,” he called, and greeted the pale figure that slipped inside with a smile from twelve thousand years ago. Whatever openness had been in Jareth’s face froze hard. Adrinn kicked himself.
“Did you sleep all right?”
“Well enough.” His teeth flashed in a quick, sharp smile. “Gwydion desired to speak with me.”
“And?” Dear gods, it would be easy, too easy, to slip into old patterns; or at least the start of them, as they had never been patterns one person could make alone. It would work as well as diving into a frozen-over lake.
“They’re still prevaricating, the infuriating ninnies.” The Goblin King paced sharply to the window. The narrow frame might have been made to hold him; the high mountain sunlight haloed him and all but shone through his fine fair skin. Adrinn wondered if he did this on purpose. It seemed a thing he might do, taunting his old lover with the beauty Adrinn had rejected. It would have angered him if it did not hurt so badly.
“What do you plan to do?”
“If they haven’t reached some semblance of accord by next week, I’ll set the Cleaners on them.” Click, click, click went his boots on the flagstones as he paced, a staccato punctuation to pent-up frustration.
“Now, then. That’s a bit harsh.”
For that, he received a vicious flash of grin.
“Fine, then.” Back at the window, Jareth leaned against the sill, facing away from him. Adrinn could not quite read his voice, save to know, from experience, that he did not speak entirely in earnest. “I’ll suspend them over the Bog. For a week. By their foreskins.”
He stifled a laugh into his sleeve.
“I doubt they’ll hold.”
“The Seelie lords?” Was Jareth also holding back amusement?
“They will if their owners are desperately clinging to overhanging branches to keep from placing their entire weight upon their tragically undersized willies,” said Jareth dryly, casting a glance over his shoulder. Adrinn made the mistake of meeting his eye and had all of half a second to ponder the inevitability of snorting in laughter in front of your still startlingly attractive ex before he found himself snickering too hard to think coherently.
Jareth leaned his head back and laughed without bitterness or irony, showing the sharp secret tips of white teeth. The sun shone on him and very nearly through him; he shone ivory and gold, transcendent for half a second as he had been, now and then, when they were lovers. For a moment, everything was all right.
Laughter faded, of course. Adrinn sighed, watching Jareth pace again, gloved hands folded behind his back.
“I thought you hated me.”
Jareth whirled on one heel, his face open and almost pleading, startled.
“Never.” A sad smile tugged the corners of his lips and eyes. “Hatred is a waste of energy.”
“And vanishing in puffs of glitter isn’t?”
“That,” said Jareth with a smirk, all sorrow banished, “is a satisfying waste of energy.” He grinned toothily at Adrinn over steepled hands, drumming his fingertips together in a staccato rhythm.
Adrinn remembered those hands, eons ago, slim and fair but incredibly strong, with their terrible black talons and long skilled fingers; fingers that he had most recently seen three days ago, flayed to the bone by a steel-stringed guitar. They should have still been bandaged but, of course, Jareth had gone back to his usual leather gloves. He would have to ask about that, but for now something else pressed.
“How are your hands?”
“Much better.” He offered a tense smile, whirling smartly at the door to pace back to the window. Adrinn caught him gently by the elbow and covered one gloved hand with his own.
“Let me see,” he told him gently, firmly, when Jareth tried to tug away; then, remembering that he spoke to a man who wore a trio of beads carved by a sadistic captor from his own bone, “I won’t hurt you, Thistle.”
Bitter hilarity flared in the Goblin King’s face. He wrenched his hand sharply away and stalked to the window.
“I will speak with the healer.” He turned back toward Adrinn; his face had become a mask again, inscrutable as an owl’s. His clipped voice betrayed no warmth. “Thank you, Adrinn.”
Tonight’s update on the Clingy Jareth Thing.
Progress on last night’s sketch: I actually made some, albeit far too slowly.
Dammit Jareth why you gotta have all your limbs.
Whilst in Astoria, Cat and I decreed it was necessary to make David Bowie cupcakes (I made the cakes, he made the frosting, we both decorated). We are by no means professionals but we had fun. Every one is some form of reference to something David Bowie, except the Frank Zappa facial hair, which is just there to confuse and terrify. So, yes, Bowiecakes, enjoy!
The Zappastache was also partly for Carrie because she loves Zappa and I am the sort of guy who sends his girlfriend a picture of a bizarrely decorated baked good with the caption “I drew Frank Zappa’s moustache on a cake because I love you.”
She appreciated this.
Nothing happened. Sarah stood in the dim room, squinting grumpily into the mirror at the myriad of lanterns and fireflies, amulets and keys, bats and bottlecaps and bird skulls, gleaming from the corners of her eyes and the nook beside nightstand. Then a pair of flames squinted back at her and something huge shifted in her brain, hinging on the fact that her room contained no lanterns or fireflies, far less any of the rest.