The gardens were in bloom. Sarah found herself drawn there, nearly every day. Sometimes she fooled herself into thinking that it was because she was going to read the 4 million books Arroyan had given her on etiquette and decorum. Other times she'd stolen a snack from the kitchens and needed somewhere to eat it. And still other times, she was sure that the sunshine was calling to her, begging for her to come and sit below the willow's branches and let her thoughts take her where they would. The castle was cold and sterile, aside from her own quarters, but the grounds were lush and inviting. They called for meditation, lollygagging, deep thought, and any other occupation she could convincingly suggest.
This afternoon, she'd decided she was really going to read one of the books Arroyan had given her. She reclined in her usual place and propped the book open on the ground, flipping through the pages until she found her last stopping point. She was reading about the precise manner in which a queen should accept the gift of a dog from a man who was not related to her. Sarah was sure her eyes were about to fall out of her head from boredom, but she read the entire section and then sat back to reflect upon it, just as Arroyan had instructed her to do at their first lesson, after she'd met Jareth's father. She sat up, leaned her back against the trunk of the willow, and closed her eyes against the sunlight filtering through the branches.
If I were entertaining men at all, it wouldn't be privately. I'd be married. And no matter what he's done, Jareth doesn't need a skank on his hands with everything else he has to deal with, she reasoned, going through the argument by herself just as she might've with an actual instructor. Arroyan had duties of his own to attend to and had asked her if it would be all right if he left her to her own devices when it came to learning the material. She'd consented and often times, since then, could be found, anywhere at any point, pacing the room she was in, reasoning her way into and out of a discrepancy that had arisen in her mind. Most of the book she was currently reading was devoted to helping a queen hide her infidelities from the king. It was fairly grotesque, but Sarah read it anyway and had become uncannily good at spotting those women at court who employed its tactics, even though they were not, and never would be, queen. The book employed the idea of fawning over the king as much as was physically possible at any point in time when the two were together to ensure he thought that things were fine between them, and to always, always, conduct "personal matters of fulfillment" during the day, so as to leave the night open for more reassuring pastimes with the ol' ball and chain.
According to the book, however, things were perfectly fine between Jareth and Sarah, which was to say that they were both faithful to the agreement they'd made and each other. Since her confrontation with Arroyan a week ago, she and Jareth had had little time together and when they were alone, they had little to talk about. Her anger with the King had faded as the week had passed and she'd almost found herself looking forward to the meals when Jareth would appear a half an hour late and sit down next to her quietly as if he were right on time. On such occasions, they would discuss the state of the kingdom (what little she understood of it), her lessons, and the plans for the engagement party.
Her eyes snapped open and a feeling of cold dread trickled down the back of her throat as she dove forward, snagging the book in her hands, and stumbled to her feet, heading back to the castle at breakneck speed. The engagement party had been planned entirely by Arroyan, but she was well versed in her place in it and had been given strict instructions that she was to meet Jareth in his chambers at noon to go over the last minute things she needed to remember. The Underground, being slightly behind the Aboveground, was still without watches, except for pocket watches, which, as a woman, she wasn't allowed to carry and as she raced through the halls of the castle, she mentally prayed that Jareth was running late again.
After her run-in with Astonsius, the week before, Sarah had been escorted from the room by Arroyan, who told her in no uncertain terms that she was not allowed to ever engage a man of noble blood and station in that manner, ever again, until she was married to Jareth and had every right under the law to make him look like a fool. When she'd questioned it, Arroyan had responded that if she were to cause too great an upset in the Underground, she might well destroy it by another road than allowing it to rip itself in half. She was hardly satisfied by the cryptic response, but her conscience would not allow her to harm this land or, to her chagrin, Jareth, in any way. Reluctantly she'd agreed, and since then had been on her best behavior, but Jareth's behavior towards her had suggested that her display had left a more lasting mark than she'd originally believed. He refused to divulge the details of the situation, but she'd been watching herself carefully since then, hoping that she hadn't wrecked anything besides her chances of a peaceful life with the King.
She skidded to a stop outside the door to his rooms and pressed her hands to her knees as she doubled over to catch her breath. The gardens were clear across the castle and she'd run all the way there, which, if she was being honest, was something that even those scarily fast people from Kenya would've had trouble with. Much like the Labyrinth, the castle shifted when the force of the Underground sensed distress, so as to ease the burden the monarchs had to bear. When it sensed need, it would try and direct you to the place you needed to be, most. As she'd run, her mind going a mile a minute, Sarah had found herself first in the hallway leading out to the Labyrinth, and coincidentally to the Gateways, which mimicked her desire to escape the engagement and just go home. She'd also been thinking about the last chapter of the book she'd read, and had found herself in a hallway she'd never seen before that was lined with doorways, from behind which odd noises and groans issued. Next she'd thought of how badly she needed advice, and her next path had been to Armand's chambers. Finally, she'd stopped stock-still and thought of Jareth and the scene had changed to show his own hallway and she'd been able to continue on without further distraction.
Her breathing slowed gradually, and she straightened, lifting a hand to knock against his door, just as it swung open and Jareth looked out at her evenly. His gaze wandered a moment, to take in the sight of her, and then he stepped back solemnly.
"It's about time."
Pacing had become Jareth's new favorite pastime. It seemed to cover the entire range of emotions he'd succumbed to in the week following Sarah's meeting with his family. Though he, and indeed his father, had enjoyed her masterful display of power as she quashed Astonsius' trap, she'd done more damage than good. The Council, it seemed, had taken a keen interest in the new addition to the Kingdom, terms of which had been exchanged immediately following her arrival. It was customary for a mortal to be presented to the Council for a hearing that would determine whether or not they would be allowed to remain, but given the precedent, and the situation, the Council had waved that bit of formality in exchange for surveillance and reports of Sarah. It was those reports which worried him so much. Daeson had come and gone over the week to deliver the Council's messages and to tell Jareth of the doings of the Council in regards to Sarah. Though all the meetings with his childhood friend left him slightly worried about his future with Sarah, the last of them had been the most impacting.
"They know of her powers," Daeson had said quietly as they sat in Jareth's study, snifters of brandy discarded on the table. Neither one had much of an appetite for the drink, given the circumstance of the visit, but it was there to soothe their nerves, should the need arise. Jareth nodded quietly, not needing to speak just yet.
Sarah's powers. It was a topic he was discovering little by little. The first display had been at that disastrous dinner a week ago. The Underground had poured rain in concurrence with the hurt she'd felt and had blown fierce winds when she'd seethed in Astonsius' presence. The garden, which had become her sanctuary, was constantly blooming new and more vibrant flowers than Jareth had ever seen and the Underground's harvest was yielding crops as it never had before.
"She's both an incredible asset and a significant threat to the Underground," Daeson said firmly, calling Jareth back. "She overflowed the river by five feet because the two of you fought and the winds from her temper destroyed three grain silos, but her mere presence has not only rejuvenated the very earth, but provided anything and everything the Underground could possibly need. It's as if she's a very generous dictator who holds the Underground captive to her whims." Jareth quirked an eyebrow.
"And the Council finds fault with this?" Daeson sighed, clasping his hands as if the subject caused him physical pain, before looking up at Jareth again.
"The Council worries that if the two of you, who obviously both possess vast powers, are united in the bonds of marriage, that the Underground may come to great harm." Jareth stared at him coolly for a moment and then reached for the snifter of brandy, swallowing a large mouthful before glaring at his friend. The anger that had begun to simmer when Daeson had first broached the topic had risen to a full on eruption and it was merely his relationship with the younger man that kept him from lashing out. Nevertheless, his voice held the anger that his actions did not.
"I'm punished because I cannot find an appropriate queen. Once I find her, however, I'm to be punished again because she is too much the Queen she should be? Tell me, Daeson, does your precious Council never tire of trying to destroy the modicum of happiness I possess?" Jareth set down the snifter angrily and stood, pacing the study viciously.
"The Council doesn't wish to punish you, Jareth," he conceded pleadingly. "The elders are merely concerned that…" Jareth turned to look at him sharply, something in his eyes suggesting that he was very close to recanting his previous unwillingness to beat the tar out of the man. Daeson met his gaze and swallowed stiffly, but did not look away. "The two of you haven't exactly been spending time together, Your Highness. She reads in the gardens, or rides in the fields, or converses with your father while you attend to matters of state and run the Kingdom. It's not hard to guess the feelings between the two of you, and when they come to a head…well, given her abilities…therein lies the concern." Jareth sighed as the anger deflated once more and he turned to the window. The meaning behind Daeson's words was very thinly veiled and it resonated with him in a way he found difficult to ignore.
He too was worried of the outcome of their wedding night, but he hadn't thought this far ahead. With Sarah's new connection to the Underground, she might well provoke a volcanic eruption or possibly even level the Unlivay Mountains, depending on how she felt, entering the contract. He couldn't risk an attack on the Underground, accidental or not, but he also couldn't risk losing her. Not again. He pressed his hands against the window sill and stared out to the gardens, the cut of the glass curving the straight oak trees into hallucinogenic visions. He hated this part, hated the way it made him sound, and more importantly the way it made him feel, but he had no choice.
"What does the Council advise?" Jareth turned slowly from the window and stared at Daeson, whose features had changed drastically in the past five seconds. As Jareth watched, the younger of the two reached for the snifter of brandy and bolted the entirety of its contents before rising to his feet. His eyes did not meet Jareth's, but stared vacantly to the left of him, as if he was worried he might be turned to stone by Medusa. He looked like a soldier, his back ram rod straight, his shoulders squared to an almost vicious point.
"The Estrelian Council requests that the High King Jareth Redevia and his bride to be, Miss Sarah Williams, present themselves for inquisition and approval of their marriage, two weeks from their engagement."
In a record four seconds, Daeson donned his cloak, fastened the clasp, bowed to Jareth and fled the room like a puppy caught eating a shoe. Jareth stood still, his fists clenching and unclenching at his sides as he stared into the fire, doing his best to suppress the urge to hurl a snifter into the flames. The suppression didn't last long.
As the glass shattered against the bricks at the back of the fireplace, Jareth resumed pacing, furiously. He was a descendant of royalty! What decree gave the Council right to make him grovel before them like a peasant? They were a body of elders, who could no more run the Underground than they could control the weather, and he had to beg like a dog in order to receive their supposedly necessary blessing on his marriage. The news distressed him, and he sought no relief from it, much to Arroyan's displeasure.
Pacing had seen him through many a sleepless night and had solved situations that, due to his sleeplessness, he had previously considered hopeless. In the back of his mind, he was constantly thinking of Sarah and her powers and how and when he was to tell her that they were a concern of a body of elders who in no way influenced the country, but who's approval they needed to have in order to be married. The whole situation was extremely irritating and, added to the frustration that was going to fall on him in three hours time, he felt ready to smash porcelain objects, just to hear the crashing.
His eyes flashed to the clock on the small table beside his bed and then he sighed, tiredly. She was late and it fanned his anger into a roaring flame. The girl could be on time to a fitting, to meals, to play with the dogs in the kennels, even to a bath, but on the most important day of their lives, thus far, she was late.
"Calm yourself, Jareth," Arroyan's smooth voice commanded. The King's eyes flicked to the corner where his Advisor sat, feet propped on a coffee table, a book in his lap, his head leaned against his fist.
"Arroyan, if you intend to speak, at least offer something of use." Jareth's snappy retort instantly filled him with guilt, but it was soon consumed by righteous indignation on his part. He resumed his pacing and heard the exasperated sigh that Arroyan heaved, directly before the ancient tome snapped shut and was laid on the table.
"I'm sure that nothing I have to say will seem to be of use to you at this time, Highness, but do try to relax. She'll be here in time for the necessary preparations. No doubt she…got lost in her studies." As usual, Arroyan was the cool voice of logic in the midst of his rampaging, completely delusional mind. Jareth paused and considered Arroyan's words, nodded tersely, and paced a bit more.
Each second that passed seemed like an eternity and he longed for her presence, if only to assure himself that she hadn't run away again. She had a soothing aura about her that he would die to experience at this moment. He was in utter agony at his lack of control and at the fact that it was noon, the ceremony started at 3, and she wasn't here. Before he knew what he was doing, he had thrown his hands down and was striding to the door, hell bent on finding her and bringing her back here so they could just get through this day. Arroyan called out to him, no doubt hoping to keep him in check for just a little while longer, but he had no use for the idle reprimands of his Advisor. "Staying calm" and "understanding her concerns" were not on his top ten list of things to do right at the moment. He was currently bent on finding that brat and making sure that the afternoon went according to plan.
But she was there. Her cheeks flushed, her eyes bright, her fist raised as if to knock on the door he'd pulled away, she was there. He felt the shift and resisted the urge to pull her to him and breathe in whatever it was about her that calmed him so. His mask fell into place as he took her in and steeled himself against her, praying that Deos would give him the wisdom to control himself during the hours ahead and that she would understand and accept his proposals.
Sarah bristled at his terse greeting, but let it roll off her as she stepped inside the door. She was late. He had every right to be angry, especially today. As the door closed with a click, she turned to him, prepared to explain herself and apologize for being late until he could taste her remorse.
"Spare me the apologies, Sarah, now is not the time." His voice was weary, but his words were sharp and she repressed the desire to throw back a bitter retort as she the giant book in her hands down on a small table by the door.
"I didn't plan on apologizing," she lied skillfully. "I was studying in the gardens and I lost track of time." Her voice matched his in its lack of pretense or apology. Jareth stared at her without emotion and then looked up as Arroyan moved toward the pair of them, his book tucked under an arm. He paused a moment, to collect Sarah's book as well and then turned to look at the two of them. Sarah looked confrontational, but her eyes were confused and Jareth seemed resigned, but he had no doubt that in a few moments, when the task at hand was presented, they would both do their best to conceal the absolute horror they felt and oh, how he wished he could see the two mules' faces then.
"I leave you to prepare for the ceremony, your graces. May the blessings of Deos come to you now in this first time of trial and remain with you forever." The ancient blessing did nothing for Jareth, except perhaps to make him look even more uncomfortable than he had a moment ago. Sarah was, however, looking at him as if he'd just let slip a vital clue in whatever murder mystery she was hoping to solve. Her gaze shifted from Arroyan to Jareth for a moment, only to find the king staring ahead at the door, and then back, her confusion evident.
"Trial?" Her voice pleaded for explanation and Arroyan grinned, moving toward the door, his hand on the knob as he turned back to her for a moment.
"Jareth will explain everything, Sarah. Trust him." Within the next second, Arroyan had disappeared through the doorway, leaving the two alone, in startled silence. Sarah wasted no time.
"Trials?" She repeated, whirling on Jareth, her voice frightened. "What trials? What is he talking about?"
"Calm yourself," Jareth replied curtly, moving towards a table on which sat a clear crystal pitcher of water and glasses. He poured two glasses and handed one to her on his way to the couch that Arroyan had occupied moments before. He sat without instructing or inviting her to do the same and she watched as he sipped his water lazily, staring at the wall as he spoke.
"My great grandfather thought that it was not enough for a couple that intended to marry and inherit the throne to do so solely for reasons of state or for love. He was of the mind that their devotion to the kingdom must equal their devotion to each other, to ensure that the line he had begun would continue, unblemished." His eyes flicked to hers for a moment and then back to the wall. Sarah didn't move, her hands clasping the glass of water he'd given her, tightly. Jareth swallowed more of his water as if it were oxygen, before continuing.
"As the announcement of his engagement came, the King decreed that the monarch and his intended bride should prepare for the ceremony and ball in the sight of each other, with none but each other's aid, and in chastity. In this manner, they would demonstrate their love for one another and their attention to their duties in equal amounts. If the task could be completed, the two would be fit to wed. If not, a new bride would have to be chosen and the King would be subject to scrutiny."
Jareth fell silent and Sarah stared at him in shock. Her initial reaction was to put on her best ghetto imitation, say "Hell No" loudly and obnoxiously, throw her water in his face and storm out, but something held her back. She looked away from Jareth and stared down at her hands. She wasn't missing anything by not watching him. He seemed to be concentrating on being cold and rude. She stared at the water in her glass, watched as tiny bubbles rose along the sides and burst at the water line, her thoughts following the same general pattern.
They were supposed to be marrying out of love and duty, but as far as she could tell, duty was the only force driving this marriage.
Quit lying, a small voice chimed in from somewhere inside her. She was startled to be confronted by the voice, which had, since their fight, been silent. You've loved him since you laid eyes on him and it's only your oddly man-like pride that's kept you from telling him so. Suck it up and do what you have to.
She chanced a glance at him to find his eyes searching for hers, and looked back down, contemplating the whole scenario for a moment before the quiet voice screamed in realization. How, in good conscience, could Jareth enter into this contract if he didn't feel something for me? He's too much of a gentleman to ever betray me in that manner, never mind the Underground.
So, said the voice as if it were leading a small child to the obvious answer, he must…
Sarah's head lifted slowly and she surveyed the man before her, her heart beginning to pick up speed as his eyes met hers in faux laziness that barely concealed the feelings she had ignored all this time. Her gut reached across all her other senses and grabbed the wheel, steering her straight for a direct question as to what was going on inside his head.
Wait, wait, wait, said her logic, slapping her gut's hands away from the wheel and resuming their current course. No one's asking anything just yet. That's just what the 10th grader you were last time would do. Try to be a little subtler.
Sarah, under the pretense of drinking some of her water, swallowed stiffly and then licked her lips, catching one between her teeth as she stared past the glass and down to her toes, contemplating the words she would say.
"So if we have to marry for love and duty…how do you and I fit into this scene?" A moment passed and then she felt Jareth's eyes searching for hers and looked up slowly to find him staring at her like a deer in headlights, as if that were the last question he would have ever expected her to ask on a day like today. If she was being honest, it was kind of cute. She watched as the gears turned in his head and waited to see just how much of a man he really was.
Breathe, Jareth, his brain commanded. His lungs, which felt as if they'd been punched in, complied after a moment and he finally looked away from her, his brain processing the question she'd just asked.
There were two ways he could take what she'd inquired after, or so he liked to think. The first way, which was his own delusion that would, if he were lucky, keep him from having to enter a wholly uncomfortable place, told him that she wanted to know what she would have to do to fulfill that contract. But even as he tried to cling to that argument, the second pressed in on him.
No matter what way he looked at it, she wanted to know how he felt towards her. Part of him was relieved and wanted to get the uncomfortable part over and done with so they could get on with things, but the other part of him was much stronger. His pride would not allow him to be sympathetic and kind to someone who had stomped on his heart not once, but twice now, and was leaving herself a large doorway to do it a third time. Cruelty was his name to some tribes, and he was prepared to make her feel the same way he was, right now.
"The question is not how we fit in, Sarah, but are we suitably prepared to make such a heavy commitment?"
His eyes searched her face for some recognition of having fallen into her own trap. For a moment, it shimmered in her eyes, but as soon as it had come, it was gone again; a warmth and light had taken its place.
Her heart had begun hammering madly as soon as she'd realized his plan, but as she thought about it more and more, it didn't really seem so bad.
Well, I do love him, she reasoned. And sooner or later I'm going to have to tell him. And if I don't do it now, I may very well be setting myself up for a really big fall that will find me in a thousand years, or whatever. And, she continued, smiling to herself, he wouldn't be avoiding the question quite so much if he was really all prickles and thorns on the inside.
She set her glass down, slid her hands down her hips and into her pockets, and looked into his eyes openly, her heart beating quickly at the prospect of saying the words she'd kept inside her for six years, at long last.
"If you're asking me if I love you, the answer is yes." She relished the shocked look on his face and smiled honestly, shrugging her shoulders lightly at his look of incredulity. "I think I realized it about five minutes after I got home and found Toby safe in his bed. Not that I would have traded places for anything," she continued quickly at the slight rise in his eyebrows, "it was just that…you took the world I knew and showed it to me in a light that made me realize I was allowed to hope for wonderful things."
Jareth still looked like he'd opened his front door to find Ed McMahon there with an oversized check written out to him for a million dollars. It wasn't her intent to shock him into silence, but she wasn't quite finished.
"So when Arroyan showed up in my living room and told me you needed help, he barely had to ask me to come along. I mean, don't get me wrong, I was weirded out by the sight of him in my house, but…" she shrugged her shoulders lightly. "I knew I had to come." Her eyes met his again. "For both reasons."
His world had ground to a halt as the words left those perfectly shaped lips that had haunted him since she'd left. The answer is yes. She loved him. She loved him! Why didn't the world know? What was he still doing here? Shouldn't he be telling everyone he could find? Well, his heart would do that. It was about to beat right out of his chest, across the floor, and into the hallway, singing all the while. Was it just that she'd fulfilled his every dream or had the sun always been so bright and beautiful?
Slowly, his mind came back to his body and he stared at the creature before him who'd been obstinate and rude and cold and callus for years, only to march herself back into his kingdom, claim his heart for her own and then storm off with it again. Only, she wasn't going anywhere. She was standing across the room from him, which, if he was being honest, was far too far away. And she was waiting for an answer from him. Her words hadn't asked, but her eyes were pleading with him for the answer to her first question. And he was sure that if he let himself go, he would say yes to whatever she wanted. After all, she loved him. Another few moments passed before he unstuck his mouth and swallowed.
"Yes," he replied simply. No other words would do. She'd not asked outright and he wasn't about to venture too much more. He may be in love with her and she may love him, but he still had his pride and it was adamant that he was not to make a fool of himself. A tentative smile spread across her features and her eyes shone with a bright light that seemed to illuminate her entire body.
"Yes?" She barely squeaked the word out, but it was there. A doting smile matched hers as he crossed the distance between them and reached out to her carefully, as if she would break at any moment. He didn't think words were necessary any longer, and nodded simply, still smiling like a fool, his hand taking hers gently. Suddenly the innocent light in her eyes disappeared and she quirked an eyebrow.
"For how long?" She grinned like the Cheshire Cat and he found himself copying it as he leaned his forehead against hers, staring down into those chocolate brown eyes that drew him in like hypnosis and held him prisoner like a slave.
"You press your advantage," his voice was low and chiding, but his joy overrode what would have normally been a snarl. She smiled and flexed her fingers between his, grinning up at him still.
"You've known me how long and you're just catching on?" They both chuckled and he was overwhelmed with the desire to kiss her. Some part of his brain registered the contract they were supposed to be adhering to, but the part of him that was royal through and through countered that if Liam Redevia was in his place, he would scarce be able to deny himself. That in mind, and the logical part of his mind silenced, he moved closer, his arm snaking around her waist and pulling her to him gently.
She wanted him. Everything he was doing was right, but somehow, the timing was off. Her mind was screaming at her to make him stop and she did her best to claw her way through the fog that clouded her mind and turn her head away. She realized she'd been holding her breath and let it out quickly as Jareth pulled up short, two hundredths of a centimeter from her cheek. The exasperated sigh that left his lips caressed her cheek and moved the hair that hung around her face.
"That was close," she murmured, turning and glancing at him with a coy smile. It took a moment, but he smiled too after a bit and nodded, stepping back from her.
"Quite." His hand still held fast to hers and she glanced down at their entwined fingers smiling. The sooner they got this stupid formality over with, the better. She squeezed his hand a bit and brought his eyes to hers as she smiled.
"We only have to do this until the ball tonight, right?" He nodded, his face blank and she shrugged, tossing her head from side to side, lightly. "So, the sooner we get to the ball, the sooner you can kiss me."
Jareth seemed to be a little slow on the uptake, but finally he smiled widely and nodded. She reciprocated the gesture and then took her hand from his, noting that she felt slightly naked without him connected to her. She used one foot to remove the shoe from the other and then pulled her socks off by hand, tossing them on top of her shoes. Jareth had crossed the room to a small boudoir and had removed a complete navy suit that hung from a hanger, and a pair of boots. He walked them towards the bed and laid them down gently before walking back and pulling out a gown in the same color, along with a strappy pair of navy heels. Her jaw dropped as she took in the bit of the gown she could see with him moving so purposefully, but when she tried to get closer to it, to take a better look, she found Jareth's all encompassing person pressing her back, his hands on her shoulders.
"Why can't I-" she began as she pointed past him to the gown that now lay next to his suit on the bed.
"Because you're far too inquisitive and you'd spend too much time ogling the finery and not enough time preparing yourself. You need to bathe and style your hair before you dress." His eyes bored into hers and she finally met his gaze, pouting a bit. He grinned mercilessly and resisted the urge to kiss her.
"Well you have to shower too. So you go first and I'll get my ogling over with." She proposed evenly, crossing her arms over her chest and lifting her chin in defiance.
"On the contrary, Sarah, I was not the one who ran through the palace. I bathed this morning and I'm still feeling quite refreshed from it. You, on the other hand…" He ducked away from the playful swat she aimed at his shoulder and then placed his hands back on her shoulders, turning her towards a doorway off to her left. "We've little time to dally. Bathe and prepare yourself and when you're ready to dress, your gown will be laid out for you."
Sarah let herself be propelled towards the door and cast him one last glance before ducking inside the door and closing it behind her. She leaned against the door for a solid minute, her head still catching up with what had just happened, let out an excited and overjoyed squeak, and then got down to business.
Twenty minutes later, she stood in front of Jareth's large sink mirror, toweling her hair dry and applying product to it, to keep it slightly curly and unfrizzy for the evening. Once she was satisfied with the curls, she pinned them back loosely, so that a few could spill down onto her cheek if they felt the inclination.
Her next task was the undergarments Morticia and Wednesday had left for her. The traditional bloomers and corset lay on one table, beckoning her to follow tradition. The other table held a pair of white boyshorts and a corset with a built in, strapless bra. Immediately, she reached for the latter option and stepped into them easily, surveying herself in the mirror before picking up the large white towel she'd dried off with and wrapping it around herself.
"Its not that I don't like tradition," she told her reflection, as she tucked the ends of the towel in, securing it to her bosom. "It's just that if I have to wear a gown, I want to look good in it. And don't get me wrong, the ladies know how to dress around here. It's just…underwire was a genius invention that they should experience. Soon."
Jareth barely looked up from the book he was skimming when the bathroom door opened. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a light colored deer, wrapped in white gauze streaking towards the changing screen. There was a small scuffling sound and then a squeal of delight before rustling and zipping. Finally there came the rhythmic tick of high heels on his marble floors and within a moment, a slender finger tapped on his shoulder as Sarah cleared her throat. He stood and set his book aside before turning to survey her.
His jaw would've dropped if he hadn't had years of practice keeping it clenched closed. The woman he knew had vanished, and in her place stood a goddess. Her normally straight hair curled appealingly around her face, framing delicate features, her dark locks contrasting with the paleness of her skin.
The dress complimented her all too well. A white satin a-line gown fit her in all the right places and the navy trim that ran around the hem and cuff of the gown added a sparkling mystery to her eyes, the beading that trailed along all the edges reflecting the light with elegance and grace. As if she were a little girl, she stretched her arms out and twirled before him, one hand holing up the train of her skirt. Jareth smiled warmly as she reached her starting place and smiled at him.
"You look beautiful," he stated bluntly. She smiled, a hint of a blush creeping up into her cheeks.
"You clean up pretty well, yourself," she replied, gesturing to him. Jareth nodded and shrugged. Given the afternoon's developments, words didn't seem that important anymore.
As they stood, staring at each other, silence fell between them. Sarah's mind raced with all the reasons this could not possibly be real.
Things like this just didn't happen unless you were in a fairy tale.
She was not in a fairy tale. This was her life.
She'd just told a guy she'd been around for a little over a week that she loved him. Granted, she'd known him before then, but the prologue to this encounter had ended with her winning her brother back from the evil Goblin King. Hardly a promising start.
She was about to wake to the sound of KISS 95.7's 6 o'clock show, featuring the band Crossfade, live in the studio and within twenty minutes, she'd be out the door and on her way to work. That was how it would go. The dress would be a mirage, the love a fantasy, and the stellar palace and hunky guy that she was currently relishing would be a memory that she'd never share, simply out of embarrassment. And yet, somehow, this dream, if that's what it was, wasn't confusing. It wasn't fractured. It made complete sense. She stared at the blond haired bombshell across from her and unlike her dreams where she sort of felt cardiac activity, she really felt the cardiac activity, and she liked it.
"We've run out of time," Mr. Fantasy was saying. He pulled the suit jacket off of the back of his chair and slipped it on effortlessly, before adjusting the collar and smiling at her warmly. She smiled back, as was natural, and let him take her hand.
Even if it was a dream, it wasn't like she was being tortured.
So, I reworked this.
I felt that the last edition of this chapter was ... how should I put it ...
Suckalicious beyond the realm of human comprehension.
As a matter of fact, I'd been trying to work with my old ending for...what...a month now?
It wasn't working. It took rewriting this chapter to get things right.
So here's chapter seven. Chapter Eight is currently in the works, but looks promising.
Thanks for the patience!