"I'm not sure what you want me to do about it," Robert said in response. "It isn't hurting anything."
"When you start having to clean up half-eaten mice in the yard perhaps you'll think differently."
He breathed deeply. It was a tradeoff to living rurally as they did. Wild creatures such as the owl that had been troubling his wife recently were par for the course. Robert knew that.
"When that starts I'll reexamine my stance."
"If it gets in the house. Hurts Toby in any way."
"It's not going to get in the house, Irene. We have screens on all of the windows. And I doubt very likely there's anything in here that would appeal to it anyway."
She turned to look at him from where she stood by the kitchen sink. She was frightened of the owl, but he didn't understand why. It certainly wasn't the first creature to pass through their yard and he doubted it would be the last. He supposed it was odd that the owl seemed to choose their house on a fairly regular basis to stop and rest.
"I'm going to go check on Sarah," he said, knowing there was little he could say to ease his wife's mind. She'd have to come to terms with the creature on her own.
"She hardly touched her dinner," Irene said softly.
"You don't think I noticed that? She's been different for a while now. I know she's not sleeping well, but I haven't heard any noise coming from her room so I just want to be sure she's all right."
"Have you gotten any calls from school?"
"No, and I'm sure I would if her schoolwork was suffering. I'd like to hope that perhaps she discovered one of her fantasies was just that and will come around soon enough, infatuated with something new."
It was an aspect of Sarah he didn't quite understand. She wasn't grounded in reality as he was, parts of her mother he imagined. The parts that he'd loved - and hated - the most. Sarah lived with her head in the clouds, always dreaming about something.
Robert made his way up the stairs, stopping only briefly to check on a still-sleeping Toby. He drew the blanket up around his infant son. Really, he was getting to be more toddler than infant. The night was warm, but not that warm to let him go without a blanket. That taken care of, he made his way to his daughter's room.
He wasn't sure when parenting turned so trying and difficult. Used to be she was like Toby, there were easy fixes to whatever ailed her. Nothing her daddy couldn't fix. Now, that wasn't the case. More often than not he hadn't a clue as to what troubled her let alone how he could rectify the issue. She didn't get the type of boo-boos he could kiss and make better any longer. She mightn't realize it, but he'd move heaven and earth itself for her if he could. One day she would and hopefully then she'd confide in her father.
Until then he continued to let her know he cared in as best a way as he could. He knew Irene and Toby were an adjustment. Certainly, she didn't have many - if any - classmates that had a sibling as young as Toby with none in between. He supposed, like with most things, he could have handled his relationship with Irene better when it came to Sarah, but it was impossible to keep everyone happy no matter how hard he tried.
Sarah saw him as pestering and invading her space, but that, too, one day would change and she'd realize it was love and concern that had him checking on her. Nothing more. He hoped, too, her opinion of Irene would soften and she would learn to accept his second wife, perhaps even love her as Robert did.
What was more, he trusted Sarah. There were times, like Irene, he wished she'd do something - anything - to violate that trust. Being late from time to time didn't do it. She was scatterbrained, head stuck in the clouds and grew forgetful of time and responsibilities, nothing more. Of course, he heard other fathers talk of their daughters Sarah's age and he thanked God that to this point he had escaped having to deal with boys and all that went with them.
He knew of one girl in Sarah's school who'd been sent away earlier this year. Pregnant. No one said it outright, of course, but the implication was there. Yes, there were so many things he was thankful he wasn't dealing with.
And yet, he didn't like the mood Sarah was in. A boy might be just the thing to bring her out of whatever mood she'd been in lately.
He knocked lightly on her door, only to get no response. He opened the door unsure if she was even in there. She did that, left the house without telling them not realizing they worried.
"That owl again," he whispered as he saw the owl troubling Irene perched on a tree branch outside his daughter's window. If Robert didn't know better he'd swear the owl was watching over her while she slept. And sleeping she was. Soundly.
Robert bent over his daughter, drawing a blanket around her much as he had done with Toby moments ago. He kissed her cheek, smiling a little as she shifted toward him in response. He remembered bedtime rituals from her childhood. One story was never enough. She ate up anything he read to her, infatuated even then with the worlds in those books.
"Good night, Sarah," he whispered, glancing once more at the owl.
He had to admit it was a little disconcerting having the owl so close to their house. He wondered if it was indicative of a mouse problem, but knew Irene would have made him aware of such a thing immediately. He closed the door behind him after one final glance at his daughter's sleeping form on her bed. No books were nearby, which meant she'd fallen asleep of her own accord tonight with no aid from something to help her settle in.
Jareth watched the human male talk to and touch his Sarah. He tolerated it as much as even in this form he rebelled at seeing another place a hand on his Sarah. And she was his. She might have found a way around it once before but he was not one to give up. Most especially on her. His woman. His mate.
He'd long ago given up hope of such a thing applying to him. He was destined to rule his kingdom alone with no one by his side to aid him. Guide him. Love him. And there were times over the years he knew a feminine touch would go a long way.
He'd tried. Sarah wasn't the first to attempt to solve the labyrinth. Some had gotten quite close, though none but her had solved it. She, of course, had gained help. Friends. Not all wishers were female, but those that were he'd hoped to find someone suitable enough to be queen to his king.
Never before had he found someone worthy. Always they'd disappointed him in some way. Whiny. Too shy. Subservient. Willing to accept losing far too easily. Inability to see him as real.
There was only one exception. And, therefore, only one he wanted to take.
She probably thought he made the offer he had to her to everyone. That she was one of several he'd teased with such a resolution.
Only one had been deserving of such an offer. No matter the roadblock he put up in an attempt to stop her she always found a way around it. She was a formidable opponent. Equal to him in a way no other had come close to before.
He didn't believe in such things as love, though the idea of such an emotion wasn't offensive to him. He just had seen little evidence of it truly existing. He'd lived alone far too long for such notions, but there was no doubt that something in her spoke to him. Dare he think it?
Her species had long ago stopped believing in such things. One woman for every man, a speaking and meshing of not just hearts and minds but souls. The soul was ever important if two were to complete the life of one another. He'd considered such things a fantasy until meeting her. He'd known almost instantly she was that which he'd spent a lifetime searching for.
And she'd denied him! Left him! Refused all that he offered! His heart. His kingdom.
The owl's chest puffed out as his agitation grew at the very idea of someone rejecting him. Of her rejecting him.
All right, perhaps he could have phrased things differently. Humans found the idea of slavery abhorrent. It wasn't as he'd intended it, though. Being a slave to his desires, his heart, and his mind wouldn't be a hardship. So he thought. He was not wrong! If only she'd asked him to clarify what he'd meant instead of taking his words literally as humans so often did.
He'd had plenty of time to rehash those cursed few moments, wondering, plotting what he would do and say differently when he got another chance. And he knew full well he'd get another chance. Now that he knew Sarah Williams existed he would not let her out of his sight for overlong.
She seemed open to his visits as well. More than once she'd seen him and more than once she'd left her window open as if expecting a visit from him. He never got overly close when she was awake. It was too soon. She had a life to lead before he could come for her. As much as her innocence appealed to him in a base way he knew that she had to know what else was out there before choosing him.
The human male kissed her. Jareth felt this form falter instinctively at the sight of another kissing her. He forced the form to hold, remaining silent against his better judgment. It would not do for her father to realize the owl he seemed concerned with was more than met the eye.
And then he was gone, leaving his Sarah alone and sleeping contentedly. The father seemed pleased to see her in such a state. If only he knew that it was the owl's proximity to Sarah that allowed her this sleep.
Ever since the Labyrinth she'd slept fitfully. Jareth knew why, but was aware that she was not. Nor was she ready for that information. It would frighten her so to realize that the distance she forced on them was causing her distress. And so, knowing her kind needed sleep, he kept guard over her, watching from the tree outside her window while she slept. He ensured no foul thoughts plagued her so that she would dream only pleasant thoughts, though he'd discovered what she viewed as pleasant was quite different from his vantage point.
And if he at the same time planted his likeness in her dreams, encouraged her to trust him and need him. Well, there was no harm in that as he already starred in her dreams frequently.
Convinced the father was gone for the night, he dismounted from the tree and flew the short distance to her window. The window was closed but not latched. He'd found that to be the case more than once on the cooler nights. It was almost as if she was inviting him to come closer.
He'd one day talk to her about removing the mesh protective barrier that prevented him from gaining full entry to her room, but for now he was content to sit perched on her sill, watching. Craving.
She'd fallen asleep in her clothes tonight so his view of her was not as pleasing as it usually was. While her nightclothes did not reveal overmuch they left less to the imagination.
He knew when the seed he'd planted for tonight's dream had begun to take fruit. He saw the smile on her lips, beckoning him as she hugged her pillow, calling his name in an ever-so-faint voice that told him she was still asleep.
Of course, if he had his way, she'd be calling his name for entirely different reasons. Her dreams were tame, those of an innocent unfamiliar with what came after masked dances and stolen midnight kisses. She had no life experience to do more than fill in the blanks with that which she'd read and heard tell of by others.
That didn't stop him from trying to make her dreams more vivid, more revealing. An attempt to make her want more than the dream version of him.
He would love the opportunity to show her what came next. All of it. As slowly or quickly as she craved. He wanted to touch her. To feel her skin, run his fingers through her hair, to discover which parts of her were most sensitive. And which parts of her made her moan for more.
He still felt the burn in his hands from holding her all too briefly while they danced. If he'd needed further proof that she was meant to be his that was it. No one's touch had been his undoing before. He could still feel how her heartbeat picked up speed, began to race as he guided her along the dance floor. Had she not fled, he very well could have remained dancing with her for eternity.
He'd thought then, in that moment, that perhaps she'd realized who she was, who she was meant to be. He'd thought wrong. Or liked to think the timing was just off, because he was seldom wrong. She would one day come to the realization of the fact that no human could give her what she needed and wanted. Only Jareth could.
So, he settled for her dreams, knowing somewhere in them, she was letting him guide her along the dance floor. That she was letting him lean in to kiss her lips, naturally the color of the finest rubies. That she was leaning toward him, all of that skin the dress left bare and exposed beckoning him to touch. And who was he to resist such an invitation?
A fingertip grazed her collarbone, ever so gently. And then her shoulder, tracing along the edge of her dress, dipping temptingly lower. He could feel the swell of her breast, her heart raced even more now as he skimmed the pale flesh there. Her chest rose as she took a deep breath and he skimmed his fingers up along her throat, to her neck, finding her ear as his thumb brushed along her pulse point.
Aching for her, even in this form, he could picture her body's response to his touch. Wanting, needing more from him but unsure of how to ask for it. He'd see to it she didn't need to ask, needn't even beg. Unless she wished to. And he knew he could make her beg easily enough.
Her neck, bared to him tauntingly so. He kissed her, groaning at the feel of her pulse point racing much as her heart was. He was doing that to her. And likewise she was to him as well. Never had he imagined a mere slip of a girl could be his undoing. Obviously, his mind had not dared to conjure up someone even remotely similar to Sarah.
"Sarah," he mused, overlapping her softly spoken "Jareth" from the darkness of her bedroom.
He knew what she wanted. She wanted him to lose this form and join her. Not yet. Tempting as it was, he knew she'd wake up afraid. He'd waited this long for her and had nothing but time on his hands. He would wait until she was ready for him in more than her sleep state.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com