Disclaimer: The labyrinth characters do not belong to me, this piece of fiction is written purely for fun, not profit.

This story is only intended for mature readers. It contains adult language, violence, use of alcohol, and somewhat graphic descriptions of sexual scenarios. You've been warned!

Most Prized Possession

By: Jester

Chapter 1: The Wronged Monarch

The immense throne room was deathly quiet. At first glance one might assume that the room was empty, as the wall sconces and candelabras had been extinguished many hours ago. The only source of illumination was the silvery moonlight that streamed in through the solitary window. The revelry of scores of inebriated goblins had long since ceased and there was not a slobbering laugh or malicious snicker to be heard. The room however, was not empty.

If one waited long enough for their eyes to adjust to the darkness, they might make out a lone figure seated at the far end of the deserted room perched on a solitary throne, with its crescent shaped back fashioned from wood and adorned with rich fabric. In truth, it was a very lucky thing that not another soul was present in that room, for the lone figure was the Goblin King, and at the moment he was brooding over his situation.

Jareth, King of the Goblins slumped lazily in his seat. He rested his troubled chin on his fist as he restlessly tapped the end of a riding crop against his booted foot. His pallid face wore a tormented expression and his mismatched eyes seemed to stare through the dark void that was his throne room.

It happened six years ago. It was ancient history, yet he still avoided retiring to his chambers until he was completely exhausted, so that he wouldn't be bothered with dreams of what could have been.

The cause of his turmoil, as ridiculous as it would seem, was a mortal human girl that had been little more than a child the night she turned his world upside down.

In order to understand his predicament, one would have to know a few things about this melancholy sovereign. For one, he alone had absolute rule over his kingdom, which over the years had caused him to become rather spoilt and very used to getting his own way. Secondly, as keeper of the labyrinth and wielder of a very formidable magic, he considered himself invincible when it came to contests of will and intellect, so one could imagine that he would be a very sore loser, especially when it was a young mortal that had bested him at a game of his own design.

Jareth had had plenty of time to stew in his defeat, and now he had come to several conclusions as to how he had been beaten. His first mistake was that he had underestimated Sarah Williams. Where countless other mortals would have happily accepted their dreams for the small price of losing an annoying sibling, Sarah had been adamant about getting her baby brother back, even if it meant sacrificing her own dreams to do so.

The second, and perhaps more serious mistake on his part, was that he allowed the girl to get to him. It wasn't completely surprising, considering that the girl was quite lovely, even in her extreme youth. Then there was her tenacity and refusal to be swayed, which only made her all the more appealing.

What disturbed Jareth above everything else, was that he completely blew it during their final confrontation. He was certain he would have won if it hadn't been for one thing; he didn't want to let the girl go, and that had been his undoing. It was only at the end, after it was too late, that he realized that he had done the unthinkable, and had actually become infatuated with the mortal. Her indifference and rejection was a fatal blow to his pride, had eaten away at him for the past six years.

As she started to recite the magic words, he had tried to tell her that it didn't have to end that way, but he hadn't given his suit enough thought, and of course, after his trickery with the peach that made her forget everything (almost), she naturally assumed that everything he said was simply another attempt to stall her. Thus, she said the words, despite his pleas for her to stop. It never even occurred to her that the offer might be legitimate. Apparently she didn't care enough to question his motives. He should have sent the babe back sooner, maybe then she would have listened, maybe then she would have understood.

She cruelly finished the incantation, thus banishing him from her. Not only had she wounded his pride by besting him, but she had simultaneously cast him into a state of misery. His loneliness, which until then had gone unrecognized in a state of ignorant bliss, was now consuming him. There was only one solution to the debacle he now found himself in, and the plan had already started to form within the storm of his turbulent thoughts.

He would get her back.

He would have his revenge, and in the end she would belong to him. He would lure her back to the underground, since he could not just barge back into her world without cause. And when he did, she would get what was coming to her.

You reap what you sow.

She would learn what it felt like to be rejected and humiliated, and only when she begged for mercy, having tasted the bitterness of ultimate defeat, would he be able to bring himself to forgive her.

The bitter monarch produced a crystal, balancing it on his gloved fingertips. What he saw made his mouth twist into a sinister grin. It looked like his scheme was about to be set into motion even sooner than he thought.

Chapter 2: A Slip of the Tongue

Sarah Williams filled her hands with the icy water from the faucet and rinsed her sun-bronzed face. She looked up to meet her own bright hazel green eyes in the small dorm bathroom mirror that hung on the blue tiled wall just over the tiny sink. Her silky dark hair hung past her shoulders, still damp on the ends. She was wearing a faded gray tank top that had the word "Hartford" embossed in dark gray block letters across her chest.

Her makeshift pajamas also consisted of navy blue mesh soccer shorts. Her long legs were tan and she had stopped bothering with slippers a long time ago. As she applied her whitening toothpaste to her toothbrush, she heard her roommate's melodious voice coming from the adjacent bedroom they shared, "Hey Sarah can I borrow one of your books?"

Without a second thought Sarah replied, "Sure, just grab one off my book shelf."

Kayla's blue eyes scanned the shelf of paperbacks when one book in particular caught her eye. It was a small, red leather-bound book, and the flash of the gleaming gold letters captured her attention. The title was simply stated in bold letters.

The Labyrinth.

No author, and no fancy images were printed upon the cover.

There was a momentary silence as Sarah began brushing her teeth, then the familiar voice asked, "What's this Labyrinth book about?" Sarah's motions ceased instantly. She froze, trying to ignore the cold dread that crept up her spine. It was ridiculous, the whole thing had happened almost six years ago. If it even happened. Despite the Underground's seeming realness, she often wondered if it had all been some elaborate dream concocted by her overactive imagination. She had to let go of her suspicions and stop living in the past.

Sarah took a shaky breath and replied, "Nothing...just an old fairy tale..."

Kayla responded, "A fairy tale? Cool. Mind if I read it for a bit before I go to bed?"

Sarah tried to suppress the jitters that were plaguing her insides as she spit into the sink. She wiped her mouth and face with her towel and walked into their room determined to not let what was most likely a vivid fantasy control her life. "Suit yourself...just do me a favor and DON'T read it out loud."

Never hurts to be prudent, she mused to herself.

Kayla flipped through the book, noticing to her dismay there were no pictures on the inside either, "Why not?"

Sarah grabbed her latest copy of Cosmopolitan and flopped down on her own bed and replied rather testily, "Because I'm tired of hearing that stupid story, that's why."

Kayla shook her head and mused, "You're in a mood lately...What are you on the rag or something?"

Sarah turned on her side, opening the issue to the agony column, "No, I'm just stressed over these stupid midterms."

Kayla sighed, "Yeah, tell me about it. I'm not even going to bother studying for Organic Chem. I'm gonna fail anyway, so why waste a perfectly good weekend studying?"

Sarah didn't say anything and just nodded. Kayla shook her head without even glancing at Sarah, "I don't know why you read that trash. They just keep rehashing the same articles over and over...How to drive a man crazy...How to turn him on...Male sex secrets...same shit, different issue."

Sarah ignored her criticism and murmured absently, "I like reading the agony columns. People are such freaks, makes me feel...normal." Kayla just shook her head and began reading the small red leather bound book.

Less than a half hour later Sarah was half asleep as Kayla was engrossed in the young heroine's first encounter with the Goblin King. Kayla didn't even take her eyes off the book as she mused aloud. "Sar, this book's not bad. Sort of funny though, the way they describe the princess, she sounds sort of like you." Sarah nodded in her slumber and murmured something unintelligible.

Kayla read on, and after a few minutes she gave a low whistle and giggled, "Hey, the Goblin king sounds mighty fine."

Sarah stirred at the comment and sleepily demanded, "What?"

Kayla laughed, "The goblin king...he sounds hot."

Sarah was suddenly fully awake, but she wasn't alert or fast enough to stop what came next.

Kayla turned her head towards Sarah and said jokingly, "Mmmmm...I wish the Goblin King would come and take me away right now."

It was as if Kayla had spoken the words in slow motion, but there was absolutely nothing Sarah could do to stop them.

Immediately the lights in the room blinked out and Sarah heard the ominous low rumbling of thunder nearby. In a sheer moment of panic Sarah tried to scramble to her feet and get to Kayla. In her haste, she tripped over Kayla's free weights and went sprawling onto the floor with a resounding, "Owwww...ommpf!" Sarah's body screamed in pain and protest as she forced herself on her hands and knees.

As she brushed the dark strands of hair out of her face, lightening flashed illuminating Kayla's now empty bed.

Sarah felt her strength leave her, and it was replaced by cold raw fear. Her eyes had already glazed over with stinging tears as she frantically searched Kayla's side of the room through the darkness.

Her voice broke as she forced the word out in a choked whisper past her trembling lips, "...Kayla?" Sarah suddenly felt the distinct sensation of being watched as all the tiny hairs on the back of her neck stood to attention. Sarah clung to false hope as she turned her eyes slightly to her right praying she would see Kayla's bare feet complete with her silver painted toenails.

Instead her eyes fell on a pair of black leather boots braced shoulder's width apart. Her mind reeled in panic protesting the sight before her very eyes, "No! no no no no no, this isn't happening!"

But it was.

Chapter 3: Object of Dreams and Nightmares

Sarah frantically rose onto her knees, sitting back on her heels as her eyes trailed slowly and reluctantly up his imposing frame. The black leather boots went to his knees. Upward her eyes drifted, over dark gray breeches that left little to the imagination. Her gaze darted higher still, over a mahogany leather waistcoat, cinched low, exposing a pristine white poet's shirt. His shirt was slightly open at the throat, revealing the amulet that hung in place against his alabaster chest.

His arms were crossed menacingly, his hands covered by black leather gauntlets. It was the termination of her gaze's journey that was the most agonizing. His mouth was fixed in the very arrogant smirk that had tormented her dreams, and his cold mismatched eyes hadn't changed at all...they were the very same ones that had haunted her for the past six years.

He was exactly as she remembered him. The same wild unruly platinum hair, that same haughty expression, however as familiar as he was, his realness, his proximity, his magic scent like winter air just before it snows, seemed twice as devastating now that she was no longer a child, because she knew that this time, there was no chance that her imagination had simply run away with her.

And just as Sarah was thinking that the situation could not get any more precarious, his voice cut through the darkness. The sultry sound of it caressed her ears, as he drawled, "Hello Sarah."

Sarah closed her eyes against the surge of dread caused by the sound of his voice and swallowed, searching herself for even the smallest bit of strength as she struggled to regain her composure. Slowly she opened her eyes, fixing them on the object of all her dreams and nightmares, and demanded in the firmest voice she could manage, "Where's Kayla?"

The Goblin King grinned at her as he came out of his casually arrogant stance to stalk closer. Sarah swiftly got to her feet, choosing to ignore the pain that shot through her knees from her earlier fall. His smile was clearly predatory as he replied, "Really Sarah, I would have thought you'd have learned by now."

Sarah winced at his words, "She's in the castle isn't she?"

Jareth looked over the mortal standing before him and it didn't escape her attention that his eyes lingered on her chest before dropping to her exposed legs. His eyes made their way back up to her face as he remarked, "How very astute of you."

Sarah clenched her fists together as she raggedly breathed in a voice that broke, "Is she to become a goblin?"

Jareth lowered his head in contemplation, as he began to walk around her in a circle. His eyes were fixed on her as he smirked, "No. Your friend is an adult, capable of making her own decisions, and I do not transform adults into goblins."

Sarah held her breath as she demanded, "What will become of her then?"

Jareth seemed to consider her question and quipped, "To be honest I haven't quite decided..." His eyes held hers as he added, "...but I can promise you that it won't be pleasant. What shall I do with your precious...Kayla, was it?"

Stinging tears blurred her vision as she begged, "Please...let her go. She didn't mean what she said!"

Jareth tilted his head to the side in a mock gesture of regret as he replied, "I can't do that Sarah. She wished herself away to me...she spoke the words, it doesn't matter if she meant them or not. What's said is said. Your friend is not some helpless child..." His gaze drifted over her form again as he added, "and neither are you."

Sarah wasn't even listening at this point, all her thought was bent on finding a way to make Jareth bring Kayla back.

And there was only one way that she knew of.

The labyrinth.

Sarah raised her chin and tried to sound determined as she replied, "Alright...I'll play your game. I did it before, I'll do it again."

Jareth held up his gloved hand, "Ah determined and brave Sarah...I'm afraid things have changed this time. Your friend wished herself away. You cannot save her by solving

the labyrinth. In fact, this has nothing to do with you. I suggest that you forget her."

Sarah could do nothing to stop the stream of hot tears that flowed freely down her cheeks. This was all her fault. If she hadn't let Kayla read that book. Hell, she should have burned the damn thing the day she got back from the underground, but something prevented her from doing so.

No, this DID have something to do with her, she was sure of it. Jareth was bitter that she had bested him. He had to be. Somehow, someway, this had been orchestrated by him, she would stake her life on it. He wanted something. The fact that he was here now was proof of that.

Sarah blinked and resolved to do whatever it took to get Kayla back safely. She took a deep breath and countered, "She is my best friend. I can't forget her. So tell me...if not the labyrinth, then what must I do to get her back?"

Jareth considered her question and pulled a crystal out of thin air, "You could take this. Then you will have no trouble forgetting your friend." A slight smile graced his face as he added silkily, "...and you'll have your dreams."

Sarah turned her face away as if the very sight of the orb repulsed her, "Not a chance. I turned down your gift before and I have no problem doing it again. I want Kayla back, safe and sound. Now...What. Must. I. Do?"

The crystal burst into thin air as he disappeared with it. He reappeared directly behind her and brought his mouth close to her ear as he chided, "Such formality. You really do like to get right down to business. Well, seeing that I am feeling generous, and once upon a time you proved to be a worthy opponent, perhaps we could bend the rules a bit and negotiate."

Sarah shuddered as his warm breath drifted across the side of her neck. With him standing so close she couldn't think clearly. Fighting the urge to shiver she quickly took a step away from him and stammered "Fine...we negotiate...but I have to know that she's alright."

Jareth's eyes locked with hers as he slid into her view again, "Very well."

Suddenly Sarah and Jareth were standing in the throne room of the castle beyond the Goblin City. Sarah glanced about frantically and saw that Kayla was kneeling in the center of the room in the indented center of the stone floor. Her wrists were secured together behind her back with crude rope and goblins of all shapes and sizes were swarming all around her.

Kayla looked up to see Sarah on the other side of the room and her voice rang out in panic, "Sar, What's going on? What are these things?"

Sarah wiped at her eyes and tried to run to her friend, but a strong hand caught her by the arm and held her back. Sarah tried to make her voice sound calm as she yelled back, "It's alright Kayla. I'm going to get you out of here. They're just goblins. Stay still and they won't hurt you."

Jareth pulled Sarah back and impatiently began, "There you've seen her...Now..." He waved his hand and all activity in the room ceased as all the inhabitants of the room disappeared. Only herself and Jareth remained, "Let's get down to negotiations shall we?"

Sarah glanced about in confusion, "Where'd she go?" Jareth was growing annoyed, "She's in the oubliette...I assure you she's perfectly safe."

Sarah was still confused as she added, "And the goblins?" Sarah looked up to find that Jareth lounging on his throne. "They are a distraction when it comes to negotiations, so I've sent them elsewhere. Now, let's discuss how you can get your friend back."

Chapter 4: Negotiations

Sarah crossed her arms over her chest as she suddenly became aware of her lack of appropriate attire. She was still dressed in her scant makeshift pajamas. This place gave her the creeps and she wanted this over with as quickly as possible, "Fine...just tell me, what must I do?"

Jareth pursed his lips as he absently tapped his crop against his thigh and began, "The way I see it is...Your friend belongs to me. You want her released. If I am to release what's rightfully mine, I must be offered something in return."

The whole situation was already making Sarah very uncomfortable and very nervous. What does he want? She really had no idea, and the endless possibilities left her blood running cold. She swallowed, her throat felt terribly dry. There was only one way to find out. Apprehensively she asked, "Well, what could I offer you, that you would want?"

He turned his attention away from the crop that he was tapping against his leg as his eyes locked with hers. She felt his gaze take in her form, seemingly scrutinizing her body. Sarah's mind reeled under the implications. She dared not even think about the endless possibilities of what he might request. When he looked back up his eyes were dark with some unspoken emotion. Against her will, she felt herself start to tremble.

He thought a moment before he began, "You realize that upon my whim, countless horrors await you friend...and this time no magic words are going to save her. I will have possession over her for eternity."

Sarah knees nearly buckled at this and she cried rather desperately, "What must I do?" Jareth appraised her state of distress.

Her fear was real enough. His usual haughty yet amused mask gave way to an expression that was very serious and very cold as he suggested, "You could take her place. If you were to give yourself over to me, I could send Kayla home." Sarah struggled to not faint or bolt, for at that moment she wasn't sure which she was more likely to do.

He stood up as she sunk to her knees in despair, standing was now too great an effort. He gazed down upon her as he continued, "I might even make it rather easy on you."

Sarah looked up at the Goblin King standing before her and was truly afraid as she realized that no matter what he demanded of her, she would have to agree. She had to because she cared for Kayla with all her heart. Kayla had done what her father, her mother, her step mother, even Toby never could...she had understood Sarah completely, and loved her unconditionally as only a best friend could.

Sarah swallowed her tears and looked up at Jareth. Fate could certainly be cruel. Jareth saw that he had her attention and he elaborated, "If you agree to pledge your life to me for one year, I will release her. But you will be held to your promise...and you'd belong to me completely during your stay. This means that you'll be bound to obey me and you must accept me as your sovereign and remain here, under my rule."

Sarah's mind seemed to being going in a billion directions at once. One year, versus eternity, that part didn't sound too unfair, but it was the belonging to and obeying Jareth part that scared her out of her wits, but still what could she do? She decided she had to at least milk as much information out of him as she could before she agreed to any of his terms. She had to at least be sure what she was getting herself into.

She swallowed and asked in a wavering voice, "What exactly do you mean I'll be bound to obey you?" Jareth smirked and raised his brow, he knew she'd demand more of an explanation, "What I mean is that the powers of the underground will bind you to me, so it will be impossible for you leave or escape and if you refuse to obey my command, our agreement is null and void...The powers of the labyrinth will reverse our deal...you go back home and Kayla stays under my control forever."

Sarah visibly paled at the news, Jareth couldn't help but smile as he added, "It's only one year Sarah. If you simply remain here with me, and do as you are told, you will be free to return home after the year is up, and as I am feeling particularly generous, I give you my word that I shall reorder time, so it would be as if no time had passed at all aboveground while you were here."

Sarah considered his proposal and quickly countered, "How do I know that you'll hold up your end of the bargain? What guarantee do I have that you'd send me home at all?"

Jareth pursed his lips for a moment before he replied, "A deal is a deal Sarah. If we agree, then the conditions are set and the rules must be obeyed...that is how things work here...I expect you should understand that as well as anyone." Sarah eyed him suspiciously and he added, "Think Sarah. Can you honestly say that I ever went back on my word?" Sarah thought for a moment and found to her dismay that he was right. He may have been a crafty opponent, but he had never actually lied to her.

Sarah lowered her head, what could she do? It was only one year of her life and no matter how miserable Jareth made her life while she was here, she'd still be free to leave in the end. In truth it was a small price to pay to save her best friend from an eternity of imprisionment. Sarah clenched her jaw in defeat.

Jareth saw her internal struggle and smiled, knowing that he had already won. Sarah looked up into his face, she could find no evidence that he wasn't being truthful, but this was the Goblin king, and she trusted him about as far as she could throw him, which wasn't very far. Still what choice did she have? Sarah shuddered at the thought of allowing him control over her, but she was trapped. There was no other way.

She met his eyes and replied so that he could just barely hear her, "Fine. Done." The rich sound of his laughter was more than she could stomach. She closed her eyes and silently prayed that he wouldn't prove to be villain that she dreaded he could be. After he'd had a good laugh, he drawled, "Ah Sarah, I always knew you could be reasonable."

Jareth then produced a crystal and held it out to show her. Kayla was sleeping peacefully in her own bed. Sarah eyed him suspiciously and said, "How do I know that's not just some illusion?" The crystal burst and Jareth held out a gloved hand, "If you insist on being such a skeptic, then here, see with your own eyes."

Sarah tentatively placed her hand in his. He pulled her to her feet and wrapped his other hand about her waist pulling her against him as they disappeared. She barely had time to let out a startled cry before they reappeared in her dorm room. Just as he promised, Kayla was there sleeping peacefully on her bed. Jareth still held Sarah about the waist as he whispered, "Satisfied?"

Sarah nodded, afraid to speak for fear that she'd break down again. It broke her heart to know that this was the last time she'd see Kayla for a whole year, not to mention her family. Jareth was almost moved by the misery that was reflected in her pretty face...almost.

He lowered his mouth closer to Sarah's ear and softly whispered, "Then it's back to my kingdom we go then." Sarah took one last longing look at her friend as she and Jareth started to fade. She clung to the Goblin King out of fear and weakness as she breathed, "Goodbye Kayla, I'll see you in a year." With that Sarah's world dissolved into darkness.

Chapter 5: Harsh Reality.

When Sarah came to she was lying on her side. The first thing she realized was that Jareth was no longer holding her. Next, she realized that her surroundings smelled musty and she was laying in something prickly. Her eyes snapped open and she struggled to get up. It was a dank dim place, lit only by scarce candlelight. She glanced around and found herself in a small cell complete with rusty bars to keep her in. The filthy floor was covered in straw, which was not pleasant on her bare feet.

To her relief she discovered that she was at least alone in the cell, but she still had no idea where she was. She noticed a tiny slit window high in the stone of the wall. If she stood on her tip-toes she could just barely see out. I looked to be the goblin city. She concluded that she had to be somewhere in the bowels of the castle, the dungeons, no doubt.

How fitting.

She certainly wasn't expecting her time here to be a party, in fact she was fairly certain that Jareth planned on making the next year of her life as miserable as possible. Considering the alternatives, being alone in a dungeon cell wasn't the worst thing that could happen to her.

She could have woken up in Jareth's bed. She shook her head banishing the thought as quickly as it came, but with it other possibilities occurred to her. What was to stop the Goblin king from dragging her into his bed, if he so chose, even if just to demonstrate his power over her. She knew he was a rat, but would he sink that low? In truth she knew almost nothing about him, perhaps that was what intimidated her most...that as her adversary he remained a mystery. Though it was intimidating, she couldn't deny that it held a certain amount of allure as well.

From day one Jareth had both excited and terrified her. Although she'd never admit it to his face, he did seem to embody all that she found enticing, physically at least...but he was so cold. Terrifyingly manipulative and confident, and she assumed that he was most likely possessive as well.

There was no doubt in her mind that Jareth harbored much resentment towards her for besting his labyrinth. In fact, she was pretty sure this whole situation was some plot of revenge that he had concocted. She supposed she couldn't really expect otherwise from him, but it didn't exactly please her that she would be stuck in this drafty rat-trap for a year just because the almighty Goblin King was a sore loser.

Sarah dusted herself off and as she did she was reminded that she was wearing what she normally wore to bed. She felt a chill seep into her bones, as the dungeon was drafty and damp. She rubbed her arms with her hands as she hugged herself for warmth. She stepped close to the bars, peering out to see the rest of the dungeon. She noticed many other cells, but they were all empty. The place was lit by sconces on the walls except for the corner to the left of her cell.

And that's when she saw him.

Jareth stood in the corner just on the other side of the bars on the edge of her cell. He was leaning against the wall with one foot propped up against the wall behind him. His arms were crossed over his chest and a predatory smile graced his lips as he watched her startled reaction from the shadows. She had nearly jumped out of her skin when she noticed him.

She covered her mouth as she caught her breath, "You really shouldn't sneak up on people like that...you nearly gave me a heart attack." He merely smiled as he pushed off the wall and strode up to the bars. Sarah dropped her eyes to the filthy floor as she thought that he must be just bursting with joy to see her locked in this tiny cell, freezing, and barely clothed.

Jareth grasped the bar with one hand as he rested his chin on a cross bar. He looked down at her and asked, "So what do you think of your new home?" Sarah felt the urge to cry again but why give the pompous ass the satisfaction? She finally shrugged and replied, "I guess this is about what I had expected...still...I suppose it could be much worse."

Jareth smiled, seemly satisfied with her answer, "I'm glad you think so. But I assure you...these accommodations are only temporary."

Sarah scowled, "Is that a good thing or a bad thing?"

Jareth smirked as he overtly let his eyes wander over her body, "I'm not sure, but you'll be able to make up your own mind soon enough." With that he turned away from her to leave.

With a surge of anger Sarah spat, "Well try not to make it too long, It's damn freezing down here."

Jareth stopped at her caustic remark just long enough to glance over his shoulder at her and reply, "Yes, so I've noticed."

Before Sarah could fire another comment back, Jareth simply walked away. And with a snap of his fingers a blanket appeared about a very shaken and angry girl's shoulders.

Sarah had no idea how long she had been sleeping when the two goblin guards appeared at the door of her cell. The large ring of oversized keys clanked loudly and the rusty hinges of the door groaned, jolting the sleeping girl into awareness. The larger of the two goblins was dressed in full body armor and he none too gently prodded her with the blunt end of his spear as he announced, "On your feet there girly, his majesty wants a word with you."

Sarah groggily managed to climb to her hands and knees before she slowly got up and stretched. Her back and shoulders ached from sleeping on such an uncomfortable surface and her knees were sore from her previous fall in her dorm room. At least Jareth had provided her with a blanket so that she wouldn't freeze but she guessed that had only been so that she wouldn't die of pneumonia.

"Can't annoy someone when they are dead", she thought begrudgingly.

Once she was standing, the guards quickly grabbed her hands and tied her wrists together behind her back with crude rope. Sarah glanced over her shoulder at the short stocky goblins and demanded in an annoyed tone, "Is that really necessary?" The goblin just grunted irritably and gave her a hard shove, her cue to start walking.

The goblins led her down a dark and narrow stone passage and then dragged her up a huge spiraling stone staircase. Just when Sarah was sure she would collapse from exhaustion, they shoved her out into a wide hall with vast high ceilings. To her left she recognized the large ornately carved oak doors. She was fairly certain she was about to be brought into the throne room.

Her captors pushed her forward and one of them tapped on the door with the butt of his spear. The doors swung open and Sarah was forced inside. Sarah struggled slightly as the goblins grasped her upper arms tightly and forced her forward. Sarah's limp hair hung in her flushed face as the goblins brought her before their king.

Scores of goblins were running about, engaged in all sorts of disturbing displays of mischief. Directly in front of her in the middle of it all, sat Jareth on his throne, like the calm in the middle of a storm. As they neared him, the goblins tightened their grip, forcing her closer to the throne. Sarah twisted her shoulders violently and snapped, "I'm going, I'm going...Get your filthy little hands off me!" During the commotion Sarah had also managed to flash an angry glare at the Goblin King.

Jareth couldn't help but be amused by her show of defiance. So the hot-tempered side of her personality had prevailed over all these years. The goblins lost their grip on her but only for a moment as more goblin guards quickly rushed forth to help subdue her.

Many pairs of rough little hands forced her to her knees as she heard a goblin voice hiss, "On yer knees before his majesty, if yer know whats good for ya." Sarah continued to try and shrug them off but the sheer number of them overpowered her, and she was finally forced to kneel before Jareth.

Jareth rose, noticing that Sarah's face was flushed and she was breathing heavily as a result of her struggles. Her expression was fierce and he had to admit that she was rather beautiful when she was angry. As Jareth stood at his full height the goblins fell silent as he stated, "Leave us."

A burly goblin stammered in protest, "B...But your majesty..." Jareth grew irritated, and barked, "Out, all of you! Now!" Terrified goblins flew in all directions and in less than a second the room was empty. For a moment Jareth said nothing as he regarded the girl who was now kneeling before him.

Sarah was tempted to rise out of sheer disrespect, but her knees hurt, and her neck and shoulders were also sore, so she decided it was wiser to conserve her energy and stay put. She silently stared at his boots. They were by far much less intimidating than his face.

After a moment of silence she grew uneasy. Why wasn't he getting on with it? Then an idea struck Sarah. He enjoyed making her uncomfortable, and he was biding his time so he could watch her squirm. That would be just like him to draw out her uncomfortable misery for as long as possible before he would reveal whatever miserable plan he had in store for her.

The thought of such nerve infuriated her. Well she wouldn't give him the satisfaction of knowing that she was intimidated. Bravely, she glanced up at him. She would have loved nothing more than to smack that arrogant smirk right off his face. Finally, no longer able to endure his silence and scrutiny, she spat, "I realize that I beat you last time, but come on! Are the ropes really necessary?"

Chapter 6: The First Display of Devotion

In truth, the coarse ropes were rather tight and they had begun to chafe the delicate skin of her wrists. Sarah risked another glance at him, only to find that the bastard had the nerve to look amused. He ginned wolfishly at her and drawled, "I might remove your restraints...IF you show me that you intend to respect my authority."

Sarah felt her eyes widen at his audacity, in spite of herself. She shook her head and hissed, "And exactly what gesture of respect am I expected to exhibit?" Jareth seemed to ponder the matter a moment before his mouth curved into a triumphant smirk. He slowly lowered himself onto his throne and drawled, "Come here."

Sarah tried to ignore the panicked voice in her head that warned for her to stay put. Endless possibilities of what he would demand of her flooded her mind.

It took all of her nerve to make her knees move as she shuffled closer to him. Jareth seemed pleased that she had chosen to obey. He let his eyes roam over her body as she knelt before him, her worried eyes cast to the floor. He took in the sight of her firm breasts. It was obvious that the girl wore nothing underneath the scant top. He dropped his eyes to her bared legs noticing for the second time that her thighs were well toned.

His appraisal did not go unnoticed by Sarah and she struggled not to let her trepidation show. Instead, she met his intense gaze with a fierce one of her own. Jareth smirked arrogantly and his voice dripped with confidence as he ordered, "Now...kiss my boots."

Sarah's expression changed from angry to dumb-founded in an instant. Her eyes widened as she protested, "Excuse me? You can't be serious?!"

Jareth leaned forward slightly, grinning viciously as he replied, "Oh, I assure you, I am quite serious." Still she made no move to obey so he added, "Do you wish for me to remove your restraints or not?"

Sarah sighed and the sound held a tone of disgust. Jareth warned, "Surly, such a task is trivial compared to an eternity of enslavement for your precious friend."

Sarah narrowed her eyes and snapped, "Fine!" She quickly ducked her head down, her lips just barely grazing the top of his left boot as she kneeled back up again.

Jareth was enjoying the petty torment far too much to let her get off that easy. He chided condescendingly, "Ah - Uh..." Sarah sighed and shot him a very annoyed look as he grinned and insisted, "Sarah, that is a pathetic show of devotion. Now d performing any task I deem fit o it again, like you MEAN it."

Her shoulders were really beginning to ache so she chose to humor him, even though he was a royal pain in the ass, so long as it would get her damn hands free. Without another word of protest or sigh of annoyance, she lowered her head, more reverently this time, as she firmly pressed her lips to the leather of one boot before bowing to the other also gracing it with a tender kiss.

As Jareth watched her something burned in eyes as his breath caught in his throat. He had no idea that so subtle of an act of submission would affect him so. He just barely managed to regain his composure, slipping back on that cold mask of indifference as she rose back up to a kneeling position.

He immediately noticed that her cheeks were hot with either embarrassment or anger. Jareth rose from his throne, pulling a tiny dagger from his belt as he cut the ropes from her wrists. Sarah quickly rubbed her wrists and rolled her shoulders in relief as he resumed his position on the throne.

He indicated a chair that had materialized behind her, "You may sit." Sarah was tempted to stay on the floor just to piss him off but her desire to sit comfortably won that dispute. Once she was seated, Jareth began, "I have decided that while you are in my castle you will act as my personal assistant. You duties will include acting as my personal scribe as well as attending my personal needs."

Sarah felt the blood drain from her face at the mention of personal needs. What the hell did that mean? To her that sounded like it could be anything from doing his laundry and preparing his food to bathing him. She pushed the that idea right out of head as she stammered, "Your...personal needs?"

Jareth smiled coldly, "Yes. Running errands, tending to my clothing, arranging meals, serving as my escort when it is required of you...in a nutshell performing any task that I ask you to do."

The words any task echoed in her mind, and it took a great deal of effort to keep her state of alarm hidden.

Jareth didn't seem to notice that she was barely listening as he continued, "I'll have the goblins take you to your quarters, so that you may rest and bathe if you wish, then you may join me for dinner and we'll get started with your training."

Sarah's head perked up when she heard "rest and bathe" but she cringed at the thought of sharing a meal with him...and training? He made it sound as if she was his new pet, and that irked her something awful.

Interrupting him, she jeered, "And what if I don't feel like eating with you?"

Jareth considered her bold query and replied, "Well, you can take your supper in the bog then."

Sarah dropped her eyes. On second thought having dinner with him didn't sound so bad. She felt him staring at her so she reluctantly raised her head, "No...I'll pass. I...I'll come to dinner."

Jareth smiled victoriously before she chanced a stolen glance at him and quietly protested, "...but I have nothing to wear. These are the clothes I sleep in. I...I'm not even wearing shoes."

Jareth overtly looked her up and down, grinning as he mused, "Yes, I'm aware of that."

Sarah narrowed her eyes at him and remarked coldly, "Oh I see...you find it funny. Well I'm not laughing. It's drafty in here, and my feet are freezing."

His mismatched eyes met hers as he flatly stated, "I will have some appropriate attire brought to your room."

Chapter 7: Settling In

Jareth snapped his fingers and a small goblin rushed into the room. The tiny creature bowed low at the King's feet as he ordered, "Crag, escort Sarah to her room." The little goblin puffed his chest out with importance before he bowed again and replied, "Right away, your majesty." Sarah got up as the goblin gestured for her to follow him. Once they had left, Jareth went to see about clothes for Sarah and the dinner that would be prepared.

As Sarah followed Crag out into the great hall she began to breathe easier. Just facing the Goblin King again was difficult enough, having to speak with him and answer to him was exhausting. The whole situation made her extremely nervous and kept her on edge. He just exuded the sort of casual confidence that left her feeling weak and exposed.

What arrogance to make her kiss his boots, and how pathetic was she, that she had actually done it? Her face flushed for a moment as the adrenaline rush from her encounter with him finally started to subside.

He absolutely infuriated her, but strangely enough he fascinated her as well. She felt a sort of nervous excitement whenever he was near, leaving her insides in knots. Every time she looked at him she couldn't help but be moved by how strangely beautiful he was, which was so distracting when he made her so angry that she had to keep her defenses up.

God those eyes, she thought to herself...

She shivered, wondering how on earth she was going to survive through dinner.

So far, nothing completely horrendous had befallen her, aside from the humiliation of having to kiss his boots, but no harm had actually come to her, which made her even more wary.

He was planning to take his revenge on her, of that she was certain, she just didn't know exactly when the nightmare that would be his wrath, would begin.

Sarah followed Crag up what seemed like an endless winding staircase. She wasn't sure if he was allowed to talk to her or not, but since Jareth was nowhere in sight she thought she might as well try. "So your name is Crag?"

He glanced sideways at her, "Yeah...that's right." She smiled sweetly, "I'm Sarah."

He nodded his head and squawked, "I know who y'are lady. You're the girly who solved the labyrinth and beat 'is Majesty..." He suddenly looked about as if he expected to be reprimanded before he quietly added, "But we're not 'sposed to talk about that." Sarah nodded in understanding as he added in a whisper, "None of us 'sposed to talk about it. Makes King Jareth frightfully mad."

Sarah looked down at the small goblin as she replied, "I bet it does. Tell me is Jar...er the King in a bad mood often?"

Crag lead her along a dimly lit corridor as he replied, "Yessir, the King's been on a short fuse for a long time now. Hmmm, 'bout since you won 'is game, but ah, he's been a 'lil better since you came back..."

Crag suddenly stopped as if he'd said too much. Motioning to the door in front of them he remarked, "Ahh 'ere we are. Dis is your room girly..."

Sarah opened the door and peeked in. The room was lit by several wall sconces, and there was a candlestick that was left burning on the lone dresser.

The room was small and austere, having only the barest necessities. There was an unadorned bed on a very plain wooden frame, and a single dresser also made of wood. There was a small wood burning fireplace and a simple dressing screen, and next to it was a small vanity. In one corner of the room there was an ancient looking claw-footed tub that had already been filled with steaming water. Behind it was a wooden stand that held a bowl and pitcher next to a small door, which Sarah guessed had to be the water closet. The room was so unpretentious that she was surprised that Jareth would even have such a room in his castle.

What she found the most intriguing was the large ornately carved door on the other side of the room that seemed terribly out of place in comparison to the modest style of the rest of the room. Sarah quickly walked over to it and asked Crag, "What's in here?"

Crag quickly replied, "His majesty's private chamber."

The blood completely drained from Sarah's face as she nervously inquired, "What?! What does he need a door to my room for?!?"

Sarah plopped herself on the bed, feeling as though she was about to have a panic attack. Crag nervously explained, "Well, you are to be his majesty's personal assistant...so you need to be nearby."

Sarah held up her hand, "Nevermind...I don't want to know any more."

Crag clamped his beak-like mouth shut and headed out to the hall as he mumbled, "I leave you 'ere, I'll come for you when it's eatin' time."

Sarah flopped back on the bed and called, "Thanks Crag..." After he was gone she added in a whisper, "...for leading me to my doom." The mattress of her bed was crude, seemingly stuffed with feathers, but it was comfortable at least, and although the plumbing left much to be desired, things could have been a lot worse. As modest as the room was, it retained a cozy quality. Maybe staying here wouldn't be so terrible. At the very least she was getting out of her midterms.

Then she reminded herself that Jareth's bedroom was connected to hers by means of a single door, which appeared to have no lock on her side.

Great, just great.

She paced nervously for a while, stopping every time she thought she heard something. Eventually she wore herself out and decided stressing over it wasn't going to help any, so she resolved that she would just have take up the matter with Jareth and find out exactly what he expected of her.

Sarah eyed the tub, thinking that nothing would be better than a nice hot bath, and the water in the tub did look pretty hot. Sarah was torn between her desire to feel the hot cleansing water against her skin and her fear of Jareth storming in. While she would be absolutely horrified if he the aforementioned Goblin King did make an unexpected appearance, she was drawn by the promise of the hot water alleviating her sore limbs.

In the end, her need to feel clean and rejuvenated won out over her fear. She dragged the dressing screen between the door to Jareth's room and her bathtub...just in case. A few moments later Sarah had discarded her clothing on the floor and was washing herself with a form of liquid soap that she had found in a small glass bottle by the tub. As she lathered the stuff on her skin she realized that it smelled like fruit...peaches actually. She shook her head and fumed, the arrogant bastard certainly did enjoy his petty torments.

The tub was quite deep so she reasoned that even if his royal highness decided to show up uninvited, she wouldn't really be all that exposed. She just made quite sure to keep the surface of the water covered with foam.

Meanwhile, in the throne room, Jareth gazed into a perfectly round, flawless crystal orb. As the image of Sarah reclining in her bath came into focus, a slow deliberate grin formed on the monarch's face. The lovely girl's skin was flushed from the heat of the water and her rich dark hair tumbled over her creamy shoulders.

He could scarcely contain his jubilation that he finally had Sarah in his grasp. At long last revenge would be his. The best part was that he had an entire year to toy with her, and his mind was just brimming with ways to humble and humiliate her. As the crystal vanished, he had already made up his mind that he would not wait a moment longer to start tormenting her. He rose from his throne and vanished.

As much as Sarah was enjoying her bath she was hesitant to linger for much longer in the water. She had no idea when Crag was planning to come back for her, and she wanted to be clothed when he arrived. And where the hell were the clothes Jareth said he would provide? Sarah brushed her hair away from her face and sunk down into the water, totally submerging herself.

When she resurfaced she smoothed her drenched hair back away from her face and blinked the water out of her eyes. That's when she heard the sound of something clinking against the stone floor. She looked over the rim of the tub to see a crystal roll out from under the bed. Her eyes widened in fear as the small round object stopped at the edge of the tub. It could mean only one thing. Jareth.

She frantically made an attempt to sink low in the water and cover herself as the Goblin King materialized in a dramatic shower of glitter. She gaped at him, horrified by his sudden and unwelcome appearance. She could tell by his casual stance and his satisfied smirk that he had purposefully chosen to appear at such an inopportune time. Sarah thought to herself, lotta good that dressing screen did...what the hell did he even bother giving me one for?

His eyes raked over her form as a slow sinister smile spread across his face. The fact that he had the gall to stand there gawking, while looking so smug, kindled an angry flame deep within her. Her fierce green eyes challenged his as she spat, "Do you mind?!? I'm taking a bath!"

His mocking grin did not fade as he countered, "Yes...so you are." Sarah was overcome with debilitating nervousness at his intrusion, but she could not appear shaken. That's what the bastard wants.

Luckily she was a good actress, and she caustically replied, "So what, are you above knocking before you just barge in on someone?"

He chose to ignore her remark as he draped some clothing over her bed and drawled, "I was generous enough to personally bring you some suitable attire. You could at least pretend to be grateful."

Sarah watched with fury as he turned, letting his eyes stray back to the tub again. She sunk lower in the water with her arms crossed over her chest, trying to avoid his inquisitive gaze as she fired back, "Fine I'm grateful, now leave."

Jareth tilted his head to the side, admiring the furious and dripping wet girl that dared speak to him in such defiance. He strode closer, his boots sounding on the stone floor. As he reached the side of the tub he bent down resting a gloved hand against the rim as he leaned over her.

Sarah had never been more terrified in her life. His face hovered dangerously close to hers. She held her breath. She had no idea what he intended to do. His expression and posture oozed casual confidence as he softly replied, "I think you have much to learn Sarah. This is my castle, and as I am King, I will go where I please and do whatever I like. The sooner you accept this, the easier it will be for you."

His eyes lowered to her full pink lips, they had slightly parted in startled surprise. Sarah wracked her brain for some comeback, some cruel insult, but none came, and all she could do was dumbly stare up at him in surprise, praying that he wasn't about to do what she thought he might.

Very slowly, the Goblin King lowered his mouth, his lips only inches from hers. Sarah felt her breath catch in her throat as she stared up into his ethereally beautiful face. His haunting mismatched eyes locked with hers as he breathed, "For now you belong to me Sarah. You'd do well to remember that."

Sarah froze at the terrible realization that some traitorous part of her was longing for him to try and kiss her. It was a sickening feeling, her body at such odds with her head. How was he so adept at making her into such a tangled mess of emotions? Nervousness, anger, fear, and elation seemed to be twisting her guts, and the resulting effect left her weak and disoriented.

Jareth sensed her turmoil and then it happened. He moved his mouth ever so slowly so that his lips were poised right above hers just as his intense eyes locked with hers. To his amazement the girl did not turn away. He was so temped to grind his mouth into hers, but he was determined not to be too impulsive this time. Instead he slowly lowered his lips to hers, stopping so that there was only a hairs breadth between them.

Sarah felt his warm breath drift over her lips. Her mind reeled in panic just as her body begged for the contact. All good sense and reason ordered that she turn her head in defiance, but, unable to act, she remained frozen on the spot.

Sarah closed her eyes as she felt the slightest stirring of air, sure that his lips were about to press against hers. Just that brief moment of anticipation shook her to her core, a jolt of something so powerful that it had caused her heart to suddenly thunder in her ears. Frozen, she waited for it, waited until she truly wanted it.

But the sensation of his lips against hers never came.

It was only a hint, a whisper and a suggestion of a kiss, but with no actual physical contact. Nevertheless, it left Sarah shaken with the possibilities of what a real kiss from him could be. The feeling was torture. She was left in the limbo of disappointment and she hated herself for actually having hoped for it. How could she want to kiss someone whom she loathed so much?

And then as fast as it had happened, it was over. Jareth had suddenly pulled back, his smug smile pitching her back into a fury as he sensually taunted in a voice full of wicked promise, "I shall see you at dinner Sarah."

Before she could even look surprised, the Goblin King disappeared.

Chapter 8: A Royal Pain

Sarah's mind reeled in rebellion and confusion, What in the hell was that about?

As she thought on what had just happened, the reality of the situation hit her like a ton of bricks. He had come precisely when she would be the most vulnerable, just to bait her and leave her feeling very shaken and humiliated, and...longing for the kiss that was left so unfinished.

Damn him. And damn her.

The near kiss had been a test, she was almost sure of it. It was his way of seeing what he could get away with...and damn it, she had let him get away with it. Christ, if he had let his mouth linger so near hers for even another moment...she didn't even want to entertain the possibilities, but she had to. The sickening feeling of dread settled in the pit of her stomach as she admitted to herself that she had wanted him to kiss her...and what was worse was that she still wanted it.

She lacked the courage to make the move, however she also lacked the strength to turn her face away from him. No doubt his majesty managed to see right through her, he must have, otherwise why else would he have drawn back with that triumphant smirk plastered on his face. No matter how deep down she tried to bury those unsettling feelings, he knew that some part of her desired him, even if the rest of her protested whole-heartedly.

Sarah let her head fall into her hands as she realized the danger of the precarious situation in which she found herself. Sarah knew that Jareth was convinced that part of her wanted him, and being the egotistical, arrogant, cruel and manipulative bastard that he was, she could only expect that he would find a plethora of ways to torture her with this newfound jewel of information.

Damn it. I am in so much trouble.

He had already begun. What better way to start tormenting his self-deprivating little captive than to offer his alluring mouth in a hint of a kiss, before unexpectedly withdrawing, just to leave her pining for him. Her face burned with humiliation and anger.

Well, she may have already made a dangerous error...but she'd be damned before she'd make another. She leapt out of the tub and started to dry off as she reminded herself that Jareth was cruel. He was a deceitful, conniving, heartless King and even if all his physical charms were intensified a hundred fold, she would not let herself forget that he was her nemesis.

No, Jareth would not find her so weak next time. Now that she had an idea what he was up to, she planned to make the next year as unpleasant for him as possible. She would give him a run for his money.

Sarah smiled at the prospect of making him so miserable that he would have no choice but to send her home early. She surveyed the clothes on the bed as she angrily muttered to herself, "Alright you jerk-off, you wanna play? I'll play your pathetic game...and I'll win."

Not long after Jareth had left her stewing, Crag had come to fetch her for dinner. She held her head high as she followed him down the stone passages of the castle. Thanks to Jareth, she was now dressed in a white peasant-style blouse that exposed her shoulders and had sleeves that billowed out at the wrists. A brown leather waist cincher came just to the bottom of her bust and the hunter green full skirt moved gracefully as she walked. To Sarah, the outfit was reminiscent of something a gypsy peasant might wear, but she found the clothing flattering to her figure. Jareth may have been a manipulative and pretentious bastard, but his taste in clothing wasn't bad.

She wore black leather heeled boots that stopped mid calf, also courtesy of the Goblin King. They gave her step a foreboding sound as she walked purposefully towards the dining room. Since she had been unable to blow-dry her hair, her dark locks were wavy and untamed as they fell about her shoulders.

Crag had scarcely recognized the girl when he came to fetch her, she seemed dramatically taller and her face, which had previously seemed drawn and apprehensive, now seemed sharp and stern. Crag refrained from making conversation because he didn't wish to make himself a target for her scorn. Her perceptive gaze took in their surroundings but all the while her eyes seemed to be calculating.

As they came to the doors of the dining room, Crag stopped and stated, "His majesty is expectin' you Sarah, so you can go right in. I'll be seein' you later." With that the small goblin high-tailed it out of there.

Sarah swallowed as she reminded herself that even though Jareth was excellent at being manipulative, she could give new meaning to the word bitch. With renewed courage, and her head held high, Sarah stormed into the dining room.

For a split second Sarah was distracted by the magnificence of the room. The table was immense and there were elaborate gilded candelabras by the walls that cast a magical golden glow. At one end of the table there was a gaping fireplace in the shape of a great goblin's open mouth. Jareth was leaning casually against the mantle, which resembled the upper lip of the snarling goblin face that surrounded the fireplace.

When Sarah's eyes settled on that arrogant expression, she was reminded of the task at hand. Before Jareth moved to speak he casually perused the girl standing before him. The attire he had chosen certainly suited her. The hunter shade of the skirt complimented her fierce feral green eyes and the sight of her dark hair spilling over her creamy shoulders made his breath catch in his throat. The neckline of the dress was low and the corset-like waist cincher only made her lovely endowments and feminine curves all the more exaggerated and appealing. Jareth forced his eyes upward, before he became completely spellbound by the charms of her young body.

His mouth formed the slightest hint of an amused smirk as he stated, "I was beginning to think I wouldn't have the pleasure of your company." He pulled out a chair for her as she replied hotly, "Oh, I wouldn't dream of missing this."

He furrowed his brow in puzzlement as he replied, "So you take pleasure in joining me for dinner then?" Sarah bit her lower lip thoughtfully for a second as she appeared to consider his question before she purred in a saccharine tone, "Jareth, I take about as much pleasure in spending any amount of time with you..."

She paused to hold up and contemplate a sharp serrated knife from her place setting, "As you might take on the point of this knife if I were to plunge it into..."

Interupting her he tsked, "Uh-ah, careful Sarah, you are bound to behave as my subject, and threats to my person may be regarded as treason."

She paused and narrowed her eyes at him, "Very well, you know what I'm getting at and how I feel about being here. However, since I would like to know exactly what it is you plan to do with me, while I'm stuck on this little vacation in hell, I felt it pertinent to come."

Her jibe only made him grin wider as he remarked, "How fortunate I am that you are so curious. Well...I don't wish to keep you in suspense..."

Sarah snorted rudely as he continued, "So as I was explaining earlier I plan to train you to be my personal assistant."

Sarah rolled her eyes and snickered, "Don't you mean...personal slave?"

Jareth was the very picture of noble innocence, as he replied, "Of course not. I have hundreds of goblin servants...what in blazes would I want another one for? No Sarah. You are capable of so much more. For one, you shall serve as my scribe. Goblins cannot read or write, and it will be a great relief to have some assistance with the documentation that must be generated in order to run this kingdom. You will also attend me personally...goblins are clumsy creatures, and are no where near competent enough for such a task."

Sarah froze at the ambiguity of this but he went on, "I may on occasion also have some special requests for you. From time to time the castle has some rather distinguished visitors, usually for diplomatic and judiciary purposes, and it would be an advantage to have a page at such times instead of a bumbling horde of goblins. Then...there are the periodic balls and masquerades that as Ruler of the Goblin Kingdom, I am expected to attend, and it would make things much simpler if I had a reliable escort."

Sarah crossed her arms and scoffed sarcastically at this, "So aside from being at your beck and call, I am a dating service as well...wonderful."

Jareth didn't miss her bitter sarcasm as he rebuked, "If it's not to your liking, I'd be happy to send you home..." He smiled as he added, "I'm sure your friend Kayla would make a suitable replacement."

Sarah winced and replied, "No of course not..." She gritted her teeth and ground out, "I'll be cooperative...I'll do what you ask."

He flashed her a mock delighted smile before he replied, "Good, because there are some other tasks that goblins simply cannot do that you would be able to accomplish most easily."

Without hesitation she demanded, "Like what?"

Jareth replied, "Well, handling the fine flatware and crystal without smashing it to pieces for one...I can't tell you how many priceless pieces have been shattered thanks to some careless goblin."

Just then three large goblins emerged from the kitchens and began to haphazardly slam platters of food down, just barely keeping the contents from spilling all over the table and the floor. Sarah had to catch her own water goblet in the chaos. Jareth crossed his arms over his chest as he muttered, "I rest my case..."

Sarah glanced down at the exquisite flatware. It appeared that he had a good point. Still she wasn't about to let her guard down, and the fact that he had mentioned that she would attend him personally made her skin crawl.

Jareth offered her a platter of some sort of game bird noticing that she appeared to be considering all that he was saying. Sarah helped herself to a small portion as he stated, "No doubt you must have some questions..."

Sarah glanced up at him and replied sarcastically, "Yeah, just a few."

Jareth made a gesture with his hand and insisted, "By all means, ask away."

Sarah swallowed a small bite of food and cautiously began, "Ok...well what exactly does attending you personally mean?"

His eyes met hers and they were full of heat as he smirked and asked in an amused yet sultry manner, "What do YOU think it means?"

Sarah felt as though she had been burned. She felt her cheeks grow hot as she averted her eyes from his suggestive expression. She was uncomfortable about breaching the subject, but as embarrassing as it was, she felt it imperative to make her boundaries clear.

She took a deep breath and countered angrily, "If you expect that I will obediently perform favors like some trained harlot, I'm afraid you are sorely mistaken. I realize that I made an agreement with you, and I am bound to remain here and obey you...but I draw the line at being used, so if at any point you intend to bring me into your bed, you should know that it will only happen by excessive force."

Jareth frowned at his plate before he glanced at her and replied solemnly, "Do you think me that much of a villain Sarah?"

Sarah gave him a hard look as she replied, "To be honest I don't know how much of a villain I think you are. You are unsurpassed when it comes to antagonizing me, and I'm quite certain that ultimately it was your goal all along to get me here. I can't say that I think you have good intentions, and until you prove otherwise, you won't have so much as a shred of my trust."

His feral grin widened as he admonished, "There's no need to be so formal Sarah, at least not while we are alone. You may address me by my name, however when we are in the company of my subjects or ambassadors you should address me as your majesty. "

It didn't escape Sarah's attention that he had artfully changed the subject, but she wasn't about to let him off the hook so easily.

Sarah raised her chin, challenging him with those sparkling green eyes of hers as she taunted, "Alright then...Jareth, would you care to elaborate then, what you do expect from a personal attendant?"

His smirk was one of genuine amusement and he drawled, "You'd be expected to bring me my meals when I am too busy to take them in here. You'll also be in charge of my wardrobe. Goblins are incompetent when it comes to sewing buttons back on and things of that nature. Let's see...My boots are always in need of a good polishing, and then there is the occasional odd errand that I might send you on, when it is something of too great importance to send a goblin."

Sarah nearly winced at the thought of shining his boots for him, but at least he didn't mention anything suggestive. Still, maybe he would get some sick pleasure out of ordering her around. The fact that she had bested him must have done a horrible blow to his pride, and maybe this was his way of saving face.

She frowned, as she doubted it would be so simple. She boldly looked him in the eye and ventured, "Why are you doing this Jareth?"

He seemed slightly caught off guard by her question as he replied, "Beg your pardon?"

She added, "I mean, if this is your idea of payback...it seems a little unnecessary."

Jareth furrowed his brow and remarked, "I'm not sure I follow."

Sarah bit her lip and began bravely, "Look, I can accept that you're probably pretty pissed about what happened the last time I was here. But, I still don't think you understand that I HAD to do whatever was necessary to save Toby. You told me that you were being generous because you took Toby when I asked, but you know damn well that I never meant to really wish him away. You may never understand this, but there is nothing I wouldn't have given up to get Toby back...and the same goes for Kayla. If you are really out for revenge because I did what I had to do, you might as well just tell me what misery you have in store for me so we can just get it over with. I may have been a child back then and I may still be foolish, but I'm not so dumb as to not realize that you must have had some ulterior motive when Kayla wished herself away, otherwise why would I even be here? So please let's just cut to the chase...what is it that you want from me?"

Jareth's face had suddenly become devoid of all emotion as he coldly replied, "You really want to know what I want? Very well, I shall tell you brave Sarah. Respect. Obedience. Gratitude. You may call it what you like...and maybe I'll always be your villian, but don't delude yourself. I gave you exactly what you wanted, an adventure from your painfully dull life...I gave you the fairy tale, and it just so happens that like all fairy tales worth telling, there has to be a villain."

Sarah swallowed at the intensity of his sharp words. She hated to admit it, but he was right. As much as the adventure had tested her, and at times terrified her, she wouldn't have traded it for the world. The friendships she had forged along the way were real and in addition to winning her baby brother back she had come out of it with something additional and unexpected. The belief that she could achieve anything, and the knowledge that she didn't need to be offered a shiny crystal to be able to reach her dreams, she could do that all on her own. And anyway you look at it, whether he had been cruel or not to bring it upon her... It was a precious gift.

Sarah couldn't bring herself to look him in the face, for fear that he'd see her one regret...that as wonderful as her fairy tale and her journey of self-discovery was there was one flaw. There was no charming prince to offer her true love or a happily ever after. Instead she had to face her villain, the infamous King of Goblins. He could not have been farther than a chivalrous prince, he was cruel, manipulative, and selfish. But what really killed her was the terrible secret that she had become infatuated with him anyway. Life was just not fair.

Sarah stared at her plate. There could be no happy ending, not for her. Not this time. It was time to stop pretending, time to grow up and face the consequences. Nodding slightly she murmured with resolve, "Fine. Then you shall have your respect, obedience and gratitude, and then we will be even, and you will stop invading my life."

Jareth stared at her dumbstruck. This couldn't be the same girl that fought her way to the castle beyond the goblin city. Was that a tinge of regret in her voice. Jareth decided that he had to be imagining it. Finally Sarah, still staring at her plate, quietly asked, "May I be excused...I'm really rather tired."

Jareth rose from the table slightly unsettled as he simply replied, "Certainly...You will begin to assume your duties tomorrow."

Sarah was barely aware of her surroundings as she miraculously made it back to her room. When she entered there was a candle burning by her bed and a simple white linen chemise was laid out on her bed for her to sleep in. Sarah's thoughts swirled about her head like a cyclone, but she was far too tired to dwell on them now.

She still refused to trust Jareth, but his declared expectations did make a great deal of sense. Sarah wasn't a huge fan of manual labor and she was more than a little intimidated about the prospect of Jareth ordering her around, but she couldn't shake the feeling that things could have been a whole lot worse.

She had always assumed that Jareth would hate her after all that had happened, but oddly enough she wasn't getting that vibe. Sure she was getting the feeling that he wanted to dominate the hell out of her, but it didn't feel like hatred. And there was something else, something he was holding back, but she couldn't quite put her finger on it.

Sarah chose to think no more on the matter as she wriggled out of her clothing and draped her new garments over a high backed wooden chair. She tugged the chemise over her head and snuggled into her bed. As she blew out the candle she was reminded that this was to be her home for the next year. As she thought of the dorm room where she was supposed to be sleeping with her best friend and the fact that her only company for the next year would be a cold manipulative king and a pack of unruly goblins, loneliness overcame her and she quietly wept in the darkness until she exhausted herself and fell deeply into sleep.

Chapter 9: The Daily Grind

Sarah was tossed from slumber as someone shook her shoulder. The girl buried herself further under the warm blankets and murmured, "Don't wanna go to class Kayla...lemme sleep another half hour." Jareth smiled at her reluctance to get out of bed as he lowered his mouth to her ear and drawled, "I'm not Kayla, and I'm afraid it's not a class that awaits you."

Sarah's eyes snapped open. She knew that voice. Startled, she sat up and flattened herself against the headboard, carefully clutching the blankets to her chest to shield herself from his predatory gaze. She had a look of pure shock and fear on her face, as she was harshly jolted out of dreams and back into reality.

Jareth smirked playfully and settled on the edge of her bed. Sarah stared at him wide eyed as she stammered, "Wha...what are you doing here?" His gaze traveled over the length of the blanket curiously, before returning to her face as he replied, "I've come to wake you. There is much to be done."

Sarah took a deep breath, so this was how things were to be. Sarah regarded him as she quipped, "Well I guess you wouldn't be you, if you knocked before barging into my room."

Jareth nonchalantly replied, "You'd best get used to it Sarah. I'm being lenient, as it is your first day. From now on it will be you who will report to me first thing in the morning."

Sarah crossed her arms over her chest and retorted incredulously, "Oh really?"

Jareth's eyes settled on hers as he replied sternly, "Yes...really. Next time a few of my goblins will see to it that you are out of bed at the appropriate time. You should be grateful that I've decided to fetch you this morning, as goblins are not very discreet nor merciful when it comes to getting one out of bed."

Jareth grinned sadistically as he gripped the blankets and yanked them off of her and sneered, "Now get dressed and meet me in my chambers."

Sarah swallowed anxiously as his eyes skimmed over the thin chemise. His mouth curved into the slightest hint of a devilish smile as he disappeared in a flourish of glitter.

Sarah let out a deep shaky breath before got out of bed and paid the water closet a much needed visit.

She had just come back into her room when there was an insistent knock at her door. Sarah shook her head and mumbled, "What now?" as she padded over to the door. She opened the heavy wooden door to see Crag and another goblin standing outside. The other goblin had an armful of folded garments and Crag was carrying a basket with some bread and fruit and what looked like a wineskin. The other goblin didn't so much as wait for Sarah to invite them in, as he rushed past her and tossed the clothes on her bed with a huff of exhaustion.

Crag simply nodded, "Morning Sarah, we brought you some more clothes...oh and here's some breakfast for ya." Sarah smiled politely and replied, "Thanks Crag." She quickly noticed that there were several outfits that they had brought her, from a simple yet elegant dress, to more blouses and skirts, to what looked like a coarse jumper with a white apron and a kerchief.

Crag set the basket of food on her bureau as he replied, "I'd hurry and get dressed if I were you...King's been rather impatient this morning."

Sarah considered his comment and muttered under her breath, "So I've noticed..." She then looked at the goblin and asked, "Do you have any idea what he has in store for me today."

Crag smiled as the other goblin was unsuccessfully stifling his raucous laughter. Finally Crag taunted in his nasal toned voice "I might have an idea...but I'm not supposed to tell ya."

Sarah demanded in a disappointed tone, "Why not?"

Crag gave the other goblin a sharp look as he stammered, "King's orders...but if I were you, I'd plan on getting dirty."

Sarah sighed heavily as the two goblins burst into maniacal laughter just before they disappeared down the hall. Sarah decided against taking a bath if she was going to be getting filthy. Instead, she quickly freshened up using the pitcher and basin and dressed in the simple coarse tan jumper with the apron before she smoothed her hair back under the kerchief.

When she was fully dressed she knocked on Jareth's door, although she was temped to just storm in, as he had done to her. Strangely, the door simply opened of its own accord and she peered into the room. His bedchamber was immense and it was rather dimly lit, and to her relief Jareth was nowhere to be found. Perhaps he had just left her a note with some instructions.

The first thing she noticed was the huge four-poster bed. It was carved out of a very dark rich wood. The bed was a virtual sea of black and wine colored satin linens and throw pillows. The headboard was a magnificent work of art in itself. There were three-dimensional carvings that seamed to reach out from the very wood...figures depicting various goblin-like creatures.

There was a gaping black marble fireplace and carved into the very stone of the floor was a large basin of a bath and it was teeming with steaming water. Sarah also noticed the great balcony. The heavy maroon velvet drapes were pulled back, slightly rustling in the morning breeze, so Sarah could see the labyrinth extending out for miles.

Sarah let her eyes take in the splendor of his extravagant chamber. She noticed a giant gilded mirror that extended from the floor to the ceiling was positioned across from the magnificent bed. She scoffed at the sight. It didn't surprise her that he would be vain, considering the giant ego he toted around with him. Sarah took a step closer to the bed and without really thinking about it she let her fingertips drift over the silky fabric.

To her surprise, Jareth suddenly materialized right behind her, his warm breath fell on her neck as he purred, "I see you've made yourself at home." Sarah jumped and she pulled her hand back as though she had been burned. She whirled to face him and her eyes flashed angrily as she snapped, "Must you sneak up on me all the time? This place is creepy enough without you stalking about like that."

Jareth smiled in seeming satisfaction as he drew back away from her and took in her appearance. She was dressed for hard work. Apparently Crag had let his plans slip, at least partially. He pursed his lips and began, "I'm glad that you finally decided to show up...There are some pressing matters I need you to take care of." Sarah couldn't help but feel uneasy as her eyes drifted back to the steaming bathing basin. Her mind frantically noted, "This had better not involve him and that bath!!!!"

Jareth noticed that her attention was focused on his bathtub and he remarked, "Ah so you've noticed the bath. Nice isn't it? There are heated rocks beneath that always keep the water hot and the water is constantly replenished by a magic font."

Sarah shook her head as if to clear it, and forced herself to look at him, "Great...whatever. Would you mind explaining what I'm supposed to do?"

Jareth smiled and replied, "Ah yes...Well it seems I have a chore for you. It's rather simple really...just a bit of manual labor." Sarah, secretly relieved that he hadn't mentioned anything about bathing, wondered what he might possibly ask of her instead. Sarcastically she remarked, "Let me guess...you want me to sweep out all the chimneys in the castle, or no wait...you want me to dredge the bog of eternal stench perhaps?"

Jareth chuckled and replied, "No, as entertaining as it might be to watch you do such chores, what I have in mind isn't quite so tedious."

Sarah crossed her arms and replied, "Why don't you enlighten me then."

Jareth replied, "Very well, you will tidy up the throne room."

Sarah remembered with horror at how messy that place was with all the goblins and live chickens running around. The word pig-sty came to mind. She shrugged and said in a voice that dripped with disdain, "Oh, is that all?"

Jareth gestured for her to follow and soon she found herself standing in the entrance to the great throne room. She scanned the room with obvious displeasure.

This place wasn't a pig-sty...it was much, much worse. It was definitely far more trashed than she had remembered, and she found herself gaping, "What the hell happened in here?"

Jareth crossed his arms also surveying the room with distaste as he replied, "I'm afraid the Goblins were reveling in here all night." Sarah looked on in horror to see a few goblins still passed out by an empty ale barrel. There were empty pewter casks and flagons littering the floor. Ale had been spilled just about everywhere, and chicken feathers seemed to coat just about everything.

Jareth shot her an irritated look as he remarked, "They tend to get a little carried away when it comes to their night-time celebrations."

Sarah's brow shot up in surprise as she replied, "You're not kidding. This place is...TRASHED! It looks like a frat house after finals."

She followed him into the room as he glanced about in disgust. He sighed deeply and paused to swat an apple core off the seat of his throne as he said in a voice that was a little too cool and measured, "I can no longer allow this to become a regular occurrence."

Sarah continued to gawk in surprise, as she muttered absently, "No, not unless you plan on starting up an underground chapter of alcoholics anonymous."

Jareth shot her a stern look as he indicated a pile of cleaning supplies in the corner, "Leave the goblins to me. I shall deal with them accordingly. Just do whatever you can to make this place resemble a functional throne room again. Now if you'll excuse me, there are few goblins that must be drop kicked into the bog."

Sarah watched as he disappeared, leaving glitter raining down on the floor. Sarah sighed and eyed the glitter as she reached for the broom and sighed, "Thanks for adding to the mess Jareth."

Sarah had swept half of the floor when she remembered the inebriated goblins passed out by the ale barrels. She set the broom down and approached the pile of empty ale kegs. She shook one goblin and hissed, "Hey you guys...you'd better wake up and get out of here before Jareth comes back." At the mere mention of his name the first goblin groaned and climbed to his feet, seemingly in a hurry to make himself scarce. Sarah managed to pull the other two to their feet.

They seemed rather disoriented and as one of them tried to speak he pitched forward and puked on the floor right in front of her. Upon seeing what he had done, the goblin immediately cowered as though he expected Sarah to punish him. Sarah gave a deep sigh before she helped the goblin back up, "You ok?" The goblin looked a bit green as he weakly replied, "I'll be fine...ugh too much ale."

Sarah nodded, "Yeah no kidding, maybe you should cool it next time...and drink a little water before you pass out." The goblin gave her a surprised but weak toothy grin as though her mercy and good advice were a rare find. She couldn't help it, she was after all, a college student, and she had done her fair share of over indulging on occasion. She asked the other goblin to point her to the kitchen as she grabbed an empty bucket.

A few hours later Jareth was seated in his study. He gazed into a crystal and was pleasantly surprised that his throne room was looking cleaner than it ever had before. He couldn't help but smile as he watched the young girl on all fours, scrubbing the floor with a brush as he whispered, "Well done Sarah."

Chapter 10: A Pleasant Surprise

Sarah dumped the last bucket of soapy water into the floor drain and as she stood, fire coursed through her back and arms. She rolled her shoulders as she tossed the cleaning supplies into the broom closet. She turned, wincing, as she did her best to stretch out her sore limbs.

Then she noticed Jareth watching her from the doorway to the throne room. Sarah said nothing as he approached apparently taking in her handiwork. When he stood a few paces from her he admitted, "Well, I must say, you've more than exceeded my expectations."

Sarah was at a loss for words. She had half expected him to saunter in and point out places she'd missed, but to her surprise he did no such thing. Jareth smiled slyly at her shocked expression and he further surprised her by saying, "Come you must be hungry, join me for lunch." It wasn't a question, nor did it seem like an order. A genuine invitation for her to join him? Sarah suddenly felt as though she were on another planet. Why did he suddenly seem so civil? She followed tentatively, casting a wary glance at him.

As she walked with him, he noticed the smudges of dirt on her face and arms and grinned. Even when covered in dirt, she was still be rather lovely to look at.

Sarah noticed as they passed the dining room and she asked, "Where are we going?"

Without so much as glancing in her direction, Jareth sanswered, "I've arranged for us to eat outside. The weather is pleasant and I thought you might enjoy some fresh air."

As Sarah followed she couldn't help looking forward to it. Being outside would be a nice change. Still she couldn't shake the suspicion that he was up to something. What did he have to gain by being so accommodating? She resolved not to let herself get too comfortable with his politeness.

Later in the garden...

Sarah leaned back on her elbows and closed her eyes reveling in the feeling of the warm sun on her face. She sighed and breathed deeply of the perfumed air. There were many familiar as well as exotic flowers blooming in the castle courtyard giving the air a sweet floral scent.

When they arrived Sarah had found much to her surprise that Jareth had arranged a picnic lunch. There was a blanket already spread on the ground and a platter of sandwiches, fruit, and a cask of wine awaited them.

Now why on earth would he go to all this trouble?

She found it hard to believe he was just pleased that she had managed to turn the throne room into a somewhat clean and inhabitable place. And the fact that he was acting so pleasantly unnerved her, she was certain that he must have something up his sleeve. It was almost as if he was going out of his way to impress her, and the fact that he had yet to make a single smug comment left her feeling uneasy. As Sarah basked in the sun she cautiously ventured, "So, what's the big occasion?"

Jareth grinned as he furrowed his brow. "Occasion? I'm not sure I follow?" Sarah didn't bother to move from her reclining position as she gestured to the picnic lunch they had eaten as she accused, "Why all this? Why are you suddenly being so civil?"

Jareth's tone held a hint of amusement as he replied, "I just thought you might like to have lunch outdoors and that you might appreciate some friendly conversation."

Her eyes widened and she held her hand up to shield them from the bright sunlight as she retorted, "Friendly is hardly the word that comes to mind when I think of any past conversation we've ever had."

Jareth shook his head as mused, "True, but in the past we were adversaries. Things are different now Sarah. Defiance will get you nowhere, as there is no challenge this time around. There's no reason that we cannot enjoy each other's company."

Sarah snorted and countered, "You aren't actually proposing that we could be friends?" The Goblin King crossed his arms as he casually leaned against the tree, his expression was one of genuine amusement, as he drawled, "Stranger things have and often do happen in a place like this, so it's not entirely impossible."

Sarah looked away suddenly and snapped, "I have enough friends, I don't need another, especially one as treacherous as you." Jareth's cruel eyes settled on her as he fired back, "Really? Are you certain you want to be so quick to refuse my company? I don't see your loyal band of followers lining up to welcome you back?"

Sarah narrowed her eyes at him and accused, "What did you do to them?"

It only infuriated her more that he had the gall to act surprised as he replied, "Me? I've done nothing to them. I assure you they are living out their lives just as they always have."

Sarah raised her chin defiantly as she spat, "You didn't punish them for helping me?"

Jareth straightened as he stepped away from the tree, "No. Although I did make it clear that they'd better reconsider before trying something like that again, as what they did could have been construed as treason. Hoggle's gardening duties were increased for a short period of time, as he did disobey my orders, but Didymus and Ludo I cannot blame. They merely got swept up in the adventure of your crusade."

Sarah looked at him and replied, "Do they know I'm here?" The goblin king shrugged, "It's a fair assumption that they've heard. News does tend to travel fast around here."

Sarah quickly replied, "Well, can I see them?"

Jareth regarded her for a moment before he replied, "That entirely depends on whether they want to see you. As I understand it, you were the one who stopped calling on them."

Sarah swallowed as guilt filled the pit of her stomach. She had stopped calling them. Sarah had, to a degree, grown up, and life had a way of keeping her moving. Over the years her adventure in the labyrinth had become a increasingly distant memory, granted it was a cherished memory, but one that came with baggage. Though she wasn't entirely sure if the whole adventure had been an elaborate dream or if it had indeed been real, the fear of accidentally invoking the Goblin King had kept her from dwelling too much on the experience and was also the reason she hadn't continually tried calling on her friends.

Sarah turned her face away from him, fighting the urge to tell him that he was cruel and it wasn't fair, but then again life wasn't fair, and she was just as cruel for blowing off her friends because she was the one who was afraid.

To her surprise, Jareth finally added, "I shall send word to your friends, that you have returned and convey that they are free to visit you at the castle if they so wish."

Sarah kept her eyes closed and merely nodded her thanks.

She hoped that her friends would still want to see her after she had been unreachable for so long. At the very least she felt she owed them an apology. It wouldn't do any good to get upset, she would just have to wait and remain hopeful that they would visit her. As the sun warmed her upturned face Sarah thought fondly of her long missed friends.

Jareth watched her turn her face to the sun, and he was reminded of the radiant spirit that she possessed. She had the body of a woman, but her face gave away her youth, her innocence. Her natural beauty was breathtaking, even with her dirty face and that dingy kerchief restraining her dark lustrous hair. Her glittering green eyes were the most expressive he'd ever seen, and quite intense for a human. The ferocity within those eyes was mirrored so perfectly by her spirit. He was astounded how she could be so serene, and thoughtful one moment and so passionately defiant the next. In truth he found everything about Sarah Williams utterly fascinating.

Jareth quickly caught himself and glanced away. Letting himself get caught up and affected by her charms was no way to go about exacting his revenge. There had already been times when he felt his cool resolve starting to slip and his soul weakening due to her mere presence. It was easy to antagonize and intimidate her, but he couldn't keep falling back into that routine, if his plan was to work.

He would have to eventually win her trust and her affection. He already sensed that she was attracted to him, or curious at the very least. Still, he was rather impulsive by nature and it was a challenge for him to remain so focused and restrained, especially when she was so tenacious and willful. He took comfort in the fact that so far everything was proceeding more or less as he had planned. He reminded himself that all he need do was elicit feelings of love in her, and when she was finally begging for mercy and for his love in return...it would be time to set things right.

Sarah opened her eyes and noticed that Jareth was staring at her. To her dismay, she realized that she was holding her breath and that her heart had begun to pound a little faster.

He took a sip of his wine as he observed, "You enjoy being outdoors..."

Sarah nodded as she shifted a bit uncomfortably, "Yeah, I do." As she moved to sit up straight her shoulders flared in pain and she grimaced.

Jareth noticed her discomfort and remarked, "You're in pain."

She shook her head as if to protest, but he cut her off, "You are favoring your right shoulder."

Sarah ducked her head and countered, "It's just a little sore...I probably strained it when I was washing the floor."

She suddenly noticed that Jareth had stood up and before she could argue further, he had seated himself on the grass directly behind her.

She stiffened at his swift intrusion, but before she could react he smoothly whispered, "I can relieve the tension...allow me" With that, his gloved hands closed over her shoulders. There hadn't been time to refuse before he touched her. The feel of his hands, even gloved made her head swim and she went rigid with fear. And then came the velvety caress of his voice at the back of her neck, "Relax...This won't hurt."

It wasn't pain that Sarah feared, it was the possibility that she might enjoy his touch, and that was something she was not ready to deal with. Sarah tensed even further, locking her shoulders as she protested, "You don't have to do this...really."

Jareth's mouth was dangerously close to her ear as he soothed in a whisper, "Shhh...just relax...it will only take a moment." Sarah nearly melted just at having his mouth so close to her skin. As his hands started to expertly knead her shoulders she felt the tension run off her, like water off the curve of her back.

The sensation of his hands massaging her shoulders was nothing short of erotic and she felt wicked for allowing herself to yield to the pleasure of it. Jareth smirked as her neck went slack. She was no longer fighting the sensation, and she was playing right into his hands.

As he continued his ministrations Sarah felt like she could just die from the exquisite feeling. This was no ordinary massage...there had to be magic involved, for simply a touch to feel so amazing, was simply not natural.

Jareth held his breath, concentrating on what he was doing with his hands, trying to establish what she found most satisfying. And then it happened...She seemed to melt, leaning back against him. Her head fell back, her eyes were closed and Jareth saw her swallow, her expression was one of quiet and suppressed ecstasy. He deftly continued to massage her back allowing his hands to drop lower, his thumbs kneading the flesh around her shoulder blades. Sarah bit her lower lip as her brow knitted in response to the pleasurable sensation.

Jareth wished her skin hadn't been covered by the rough fabric of her jumper and craved to touch her without his gloves. He wanted to know what her skin would feel like against his. Just thinking about was nearly enough to drive him mad, but he would endure the wait. Soon enough, she would be begging for his touch.

Sarah felt Jareth's hands venture to her lower back, the pressure of his expert fingers further tormenting and delighting her at the same time. For a split second she imagined his bare hands against her exposed skin and to her absolute horror a soft moan of pleasure escaped her lips. She froze in terror, but it didn't deter him in the slightest. On the contrary, it only encouraged him to continue more forcefully, and Sarah was completely helpless to the euphoria he was causing.

As his hands worked their way back up to grasp her shoulders Sarah couldn't help but notice that his skill was practiced. There was no doubt about it, he was very good with his hands. This shouldn't have been all that surprising considering the guy could juggle three crystals in one hand. It was however, a shocking surprise when Sarah realized at that moment, quite to her horror, that she was starting to feel aroused. There was no denying that there was something highly erotic and stirring about the way he was touching her. The realization shook her and she railed against it, her hands abruptly reaching back to push his hands off her shoulders as she breathlessly protested urgently, "That's enough..." Struggling to regain her composure, she looked away and swallowed, adding abruptly, "You can stop now. It's much better, thanks."

Jareth could not contain his self-satisfied smirk as he replied, "My pleasure." The suggestiveness of the remark was not lost on her and there was a moment of awkward silence before she managed to compose herself and change the subject, "So what's my next arduous task?"

Jareth seemed to consider her question carefully before he replied, "Well that entirely depends?"

Sarah eyed him warily, and swallowed in silent dread before she replied, "On what?"

Jareth put his hand to his mouth as if he was considering something and asked, "Tell me, do you like horses?"

Sarah's eyes lit up with relief and delight, "Yes, how'd you know?"

He smirked slightly as he cocked his head to the side admitting, "I know many things about you Sarah." Sarah crossed her arms over her chest regarding him coolly before he added, "Come with me. I think you'll rather enjoy this."

Sarah said nothing, but followed Jareth out of the courtyard. He led her to the stables located behind the castle. The stables were open and airy and there were only a few stalls. As she followed him towards the back of the barn she nearly gasped at what she saw.

An alicorn, blacker than the midnight sky, came galloping toward them over the rolling green hills of the pasture. The stallion came to a sliding halt as it neared the fence and trumpeted joyously upon seeing his master. Sarah stared in amazement at the breathtaking stallion. His jet-black coat shined in the afternoon sun as he tossed his head and reared. His long mane reached the slope of his shoulder and his crystal blue eyes seemed to shine with profound intelligence. The single horn was dazzling silver as were the beast's hooves.

Sarah watched with genuine interest as Jareth fondly patted the stallion's neck. The excited animal responded by rubbing his head affectionately against Jareth's torso.

Sarah stared wide-eyed as she asked, "Is that your horse?"

Jareth pulled a sugar cube out of his pocket and offered it to the stallion before he replied, "Yes and no, He is mine, as much as he is anyone's but he is an Alicorn, not a horse. His name is Tempest." Sarah regarded the impatient stallion, who was now pawing the ground trying to get Jareth's attention. Sarah shrugged, "Well the name suits him..."

Jareth mused, "Yes, well he's always been rather turbulent, that's why I chose him for my mount." Jareth smiled at the stallion and added rather matter-of-factly, "I'm the only one who can ride him."

Sarah crossed her arms over her chest and retorted, "Is that so?" Jareth flashed her an arrogant smirk and drawled, "Don't believe me?" Sarah sighed and countered, "Not really." Jareth raised his brow and taunted, "I suppose you think you could stay on his back?" Sarah glanced at the horse. She had never actually rode a stallion before and had never even seen an alicorn, but she had over a decade of riding lessons under her belt, and she had managed to endure a whole show season with the worst bitch of a mare and a brat of a pony named Sassy, so she anticipated that Tempest couldn't really be all that much worse.

She tore her eyes from the stallion and her challenging glare settled on Jareth as she simply stated, "Perhaps." Jareth gave the stallion another sugar cube before he looked down at her and mused, "We shall see. As much as I'd love to see you get tossed onto your lovely behind, I think you'd better work with Tempest before you try. As you can see, he is no mere horse, and although that horn may appear decorative, I assure you that if he got it into his head, he could quite easily run you through with it, and effectively trample you in the process. You are a stranger to him and Tempest does not trust strangers. If you wish to ride him, he'll have to get used to you." Jareth turned to glance at the defiant girl as he asked, "Would you like to work with him?"

Sarah answered without so much as a second thought, "Yes." Jareth nodded and replied, "Very well then. You can start by cleaning his stall and feeding him". Sarah watched in a daze as Jareth showed her around the stable. After he had pointed out all the necessities he added, "The goblin grooms will see to Tempest each morning, but you may clean his stall in the evening and feed him, and once you are able to touch him you may start grooming him. Then we'll see about you riding him."

Sarah could barely contain her exuberance as she grabbed the pitchfork. She had always loved horses. To be able to spend time each day with one as incredible as Tempest, well that would make her days seem a bit more bearable, and it would be a large comfort.

As far as Jareth's motives, she was pretty sure that he was doing this because he didn't think she would succeed, and it was obvious that he couldn't pass up an opportunity to see her fall on her ass. Still, no matter what his motives were, she would enjoy this new task regardless.

Jareth left Sarah to tend to Tempest's stall and Sarah contentedly cleaned it thoroughly before she refilled the water buckets, put some grain in his trough, and tossed some hay into the manger. When she was finished, three goblins brought the stallion in. He was not tethered. The stallion merely galloped from the pasture and into his stall when the goblins opened the gate. Sarah was sure to stay back. She watched with great interest as Tempest started devouring his grain. She had done such a thorough job and spent so much time admiring the stallion, that it was already dark when she left the stable.

When she entered the great hall of the castle a goblin came to fetch her and told her that Jareth was taking his meal in the dining room and he wished to see her. Sarah strode into the dining room and Jareth barely looked up from his meal as he asked, "You've finished tending the stables?"

Sarah nodded as she realized that Jareth was nearly finished with his meal. He instructed, "The goblins have saved some dinner for you. Unfortunately, I cannot stay and chat with you...I have some matters that need to be taken care of. You may take your dinner to your room or stay in here if you wish. Chances are I will be too busy to speak with you later, so I'll tell you now. The goblins will see to it that you are up at the appropriate time each morning, and as soon as you are dressed you will report to me for your daily tasks. This will begin tomorrow. Is that clear?"

Sarah crossed her arms and suppressed the urge to tell him that he may be waiting a while, but instead she thought of Kayla and reminded herself that he had been partially generous by giving her a task that she enjoyed. Quietly she replied, "Crystal." She didn't miss his haughty smirk as he drawled, "Excellent...I shall see you tomorrow then Sarah." As soon as he disappeared Sarah shook her head angrily. Why was it that no one could push her buttons the way he could?

Chapter 11: In the King's Chamber

Sarah had taken her supper in her room and spent the evening reading quietly after a much-needed bath. She was rather exhausted from her full day and she fell asleep, book in hand, at a relatively early hour.

Sarah was jarred from sleep as she felt multiple beings pounce on her bed. She opened her sleepy eyes to see four small goblins jumping on her bed and jeering some ridiculous childish rhyme. "Up, Up, and out of bed, if ye don't get up da King'll have yer head!" They proceeded to jump on the bed and annoy her until finally, not able to take any more, she leapt out of bed and stormed into the water closet.

When she emerged, all but one goblin had left, and he had proceeded to start the fire in the fireplace and her bathtub was already filled with piping hot water. She regarded the small goblin and demanded in an irritated tone, "Will I be getting dirty again today?" The goblin merely looked up at her with huge round brown eyes and shook his head, "Me no think so...but you better hurry and git dressed...you gotta rouse his majesty outta bed."

Sarah's eyes were wide as saucers as she demanded, "What did you just say?" The goblin looked at her innocently and replied, "You gotta git his majesty up and goin'. You are his 'tendant now." For a moment Sarah thought she was still asleep, having some bizarre nightmare. But no, the floor was cold on her bare feel and the goblin in front of her was way too real.

She weakly repeated incredulously, "I have to get him up?" The goblin nodded his head of matted hair before he exploded in a fit of chortling laughter. Before Sarah could say another word, the goblin ran out of the room and took off down the hallway.

Sarah swallowed as she considered her options. Jareth had made it very clear that he was expecting her first thing in the morning, so if she didn't do as she was told, she had a feeling that Jareth would not be very forgiving. He could even do something to Kayla, and she knew that it wouldn't be beyond him. It looked as though she had no choice.

Sarah sighed heavily as she stripped off her chemise and stepped into the tub. She drew out her bath as long as possible as she was whole-heartedly dreading going into that room. She dressed in a full skirt, a red one this time, and a white peasant blouse similar to the one she had worn to dinner on her first evening in the castle.

She donned her boots and combed out her hair. When she was finished, she paced anxiously in front of the door to Jareth's room. Just like before, the door opened slowly on its own. With her heart nearly in her throat, she crept quietly into the dark room. Upon her entry, two wall sconces blazed to life, illuminating the room just enough so that she could see.

Her eyes nervously settled on the massive bed and she saw him. Sarah stealthily made her way closer to the bed as she looked upon the sleeping Goblin King. As she neared the side of the bed she could just make him out clearly in the orange firelight. The crimson and black coverlet was thrown back slightly, only covering him from the waist down.

Sarah's breath caught in her throat as she saw that he appeared to be unclothed, from the waist up at least. In his quiet state of repose he was an exquisite sight. His platinum hair was wild and unruly and his fair face was serene and peaceful as he slept. Her eyes trailed over his serene aristocratic features and across his pale chest. Only his crescent shaped amulet obscured her view of his chiseled marble-like torso. He was of thin build but his chest and arms were lightly muscled, making him lithe and graceful. From where she was standing she could not make out any hair on his chest, and she wasn't about to get any closer, as approaching the goblin King even in slumber was about as reckless an act as sneaking up on a napping lion.

Her eyes trailed as far as his lean abdomen where the rest of his body disappeared under the twisted sheets. Her eyes darted back up to his face as her cheeks began to feel warm and her heartbeat seemed to thrum in her ears. She held her breath for fear the subtle noise of her breathing would wake him and he would catch her admiring him. His face was so beautiful that she was almost tempted to let her fingers drift across his jaw line...almost.

Sarah caught herself at that point and chastised herself for even thinking such a thing. He was the one making her life hell, after all. She resolved that she had better just wake him, and get this nightmare over with. Somehow she had the feeling that he wouldn't be very pleasant first thing in the morning.

Sarah softly cleared her throat, which had suddenly gone very dry, before she whispered, "Jareth..." Nothing.

She tried again, "Jareth...wake up."

This time he stirred slightly before he rolled onto his side facing her. He still showed no sign of being conscious. Sarah sighed. It looked like she was going to have to be slightly more persistent.

She tentatively reached out and gently shook his shoulder. The feeling of his skin under the palm of her hand sent a jolt of excitement through her and she quickly withdrew her hand as he began to stir.

Suddenly his mismatched eyes were looking into hers and she felt her breath catch in her throat as she whispered dazedly, "...they...they told me to wake you."

He inhaled deeply as his eyes focused on her. He glanced past her at the gothic looking timepiece on the mantle and remarked, "Yes...and I see you took your time."

Sarah opened her mouth as if she were going to argue but he cut her off, "I expect that you will be more punctual next time." Sarah was about to launch a protest but he turned toward the other side of the bed and flung the covers off himself as he rose out of bed. Sarah let out a startled yelp as she quickly averted her eyes from the flash of pale skin and whipped around to face the opposite direction.

Apparently he didn't wear clothing to bed and he wasn't the least bit modest about it either. Thankfully, due to the dim lighting and her quick reaction time, she hadn't really gotten en eyeful, but she was no less embarrassed. Her cheeks suddenly felt so hot that that she felt as though her face was on fire. She heard him wade into his bath and she kept her eyes fixed nervously on the door as she stammered, "I...I'll just go...wait in my room."

Jareth could see the side of her face and it was deeply flushed. A slow smile spread across his face. Her reaction to his state of undress was precisely what he had expected. He found her shyness and apprehension rather charming. As she started for the door he held up his hand and ordered, "Wait...stay." He watched her freeze before he declared, "Each morning your first task will be to wake me and help me dress and until you are dismissed, you will remain and do precisely what I ask."

Sarah swallowed and winced at his words. She could barely keep herself composed when he was halfway across the room and fully dressed. How on earth would she be able to keep it together while dressing him!?! Just yesterday she had started to convince herself that maybe things wouldn't be so bad. Oh how wrong she was!

She stood there frozen on the spot as a heavy dread crept over her. Jareth's voice cut through the room, only adding to her distress. "Turn around Sarah."

Sarah swallowed again, and her throat felt so dry. The very air felt warm and suffocating as she slowly turned to face certain doom. When she finally faced him she saw that he was already reclining in his bath. Only his head and shoulders were above the surface of the water. Sarah crossed her arms to conceal the fact that she was trembling. She sagged in relief that he was under the water as she glanced toward the ceiling and mentally thanked providence for small favors.

When her eyes finally settled upon his he remarked, "That's better. Now, over on that stand there is a pitcher. Get me some water." Sarah felt her legs moving in spite of her paralyzing fear. She picked up the water glass with shaky fingers and poured him some water before she set the goblet down by his bath and moved to stand as far away as possible.

While he continued to bathe, he continued to bark orders at her. He instructed her to fetch his clothes from the wardrobe and lay them out on the bed. Once she had managed that, he had her polish his boots. Sarah managed to get through the task by reminding herself that Kayla was safe. She was thankful that he kept her busy with small tasks that would require her attention, so at least she could avoid looking at him while he was in his bath.

Just as she finished with the boots he asked her to fetch him a towel. She found one and set it by the bath before she moved away in haste with her eyes glued to the floor. When she heard the water slosh as he started to rise out of the bath she whirled away from him facing the door once again. She heard him leave the bath and pad to the other side of the bed where his clothes were laid out.

He was only a couple of feet behind her and the knowledge that he was completely undressed was more than she could handle. She made a sudden dash for the doorhandle as she nervously stammered in a gush, "Ok then...I'll just wait in my..."

He cut her off mid-sentence, "I'm not finished with you yet. You forget yourself...I haven't dismissed you. I think it would be a shame if your friend had to take your place simply because you have a hard time respecting my authority."

Sarah froze, barely refraining from answering his threat with some colorful four-letter words. She exhaled through her gritted teeth and her body seemed to sag with the tension. She heard him pulling on some article of clothing just before he softly ordered, "Come here." Sarah turned slowly, careful to keep her eyes cast to the floor.

To her relief she could tell that he had put his breeches on by himself as she stared at his feet. Jareth remarked, "That's better...now fetch my boots." Sarah got his boots from the foot of the bed and set them next to his feet. When she straightened she noticed that he had put on his white poet's shirt but it hung open in the front.

She tried to avoid glancing at the pale flesh of his chest but she caught herself too late and when she looked up, his eyes settled knowingly on her. He merely regarded her for a moment before he gestured to the shirt-front and coolly ordered, "The buttons...fasten them." Sarah didn't trust herself to speak as she silently stepped forward.

She flashed him a glare that spoke volumes before she caught the bottom of his shirt with shaky hands. She kept her eyes cast down as she slowly fastened the shirt, starting at the bottom and working her way up, doing her best to keep her hands from shaking.

Jareth watched as her slender fingers carefully fastened each button. She was mindful to keep the fabric pulled away from his body in order to avoid touching him. When she got about three buttons from his throat he waved her hands away and tucked the bottom of his shirt into his breeches.

Sarah was about to pull back to a safe distance when his eyes suddenly locked with hers as he pulled on his black leather gloves and commanded, "Now crouch down and help with my boots." Sarah sighed feavily as she positioned each boot in front of him. He stepped into the boots by himself, but he placed his hand on her shoulder to steady himself.

Sarah's breath caught in her throat as she felt the cool leather of his gloved hand rest on her exposed shoulder. She was reminded of how he had expertly massaged her shoulders just the day before. She swiftly pushed those traitorous thoughts out of her mind as the Goblin King straightened.

Sarah took a step back unable to keep from stealing a glance at him. He was every bit the imposing King that he had always been. Jareth didn't miss her appraisal and he smirked arrogantly as he demanded, "So...do I look forbidding enough?" Sarah was quick to collect herself. She crossed her arms defiantly as she rolled her eyes and snorted, "Yeah, whatever...Are we done here?"

He countered, "Ah, are you so eager to start your tasks? Or is it that you fear being alone with me?" Mustering her bravado Sarah turned away from him, towards the door and scoffed, "Please. You don't frighten me."

Without warning he advanced. Catching up to her, he dropped his mouth to her ear and purred, "I beg to differ..." He brushed her dark hair behind her shoulder and breathed against her skin, his lips hovering dangerously close to the side of her mouth, "I think you are terrified..."

Debilitating nervous excitement coursed through her, but she resisted it and jerked her face away from him. The Goblin King drew back as he added, "Be that as it may, you'll become accustomed to my presence in time...I assure you of that."

Sarah decided then and there that she had had enough of baiting the Goblin King for one day. She remained quiet and reserved as he escorted her to his study. He demonstrated how to use a quill and ink well, before he had her start copying some documents onto various pieces of parchment. Once she proved capable of fulfilling what he expected of her, he left her on her own.

Sarah was content to work alone in the study. After the disaster in Jareth's chamber it was a relief to be rid of his highness for a while. It was well past mid-day when Sarah glanced up at the wall clock from the documents that littered the immense desk. She had just started to feel hopeful that maybe Jareth wouldn't bother her for the rest of the day, when he suddenly materialized in his signature shower of glitter.

Sarah shot him an annoyed look before she returned her gaze to the document she was copying and muttered, "Don't you ever get tired of that entrance?" Jareth ignored her jeer and picked up a pile of documents from the desk. He glanced them over and coolly replied, "You've managed to get through more of this than I anticipated. Have you been working non-stop since I left you in here this morning?"

Sarah didn't bother to look up as she replied, "Yep."

Jareth set the papers back down and observed, "You haven't eaten anything?"

Sarah re-dipped her quill in the ink and replied apathetically, "Nope."

Jareth gestured to the document she was currently working on, "You may finish that last copy and accompany me to..."

Sarah's quill stopped moving as she was reminded of his attentions the last time she had lunch with him in the garden. She cut him off and protested, "No that's Ok...I've seen the garden, thanks..."

His eyes captured hers as she glanced up at him. The all knowing smile playing dangerously over his lips as he countered, "I was about to suggest that I would escort you to the dining room so that you might have a proper meal, but as you seem content to remain on your own, I shall arrange for the goblins to bring you something. When you are finished you may use the rest of your afternoon to tend to Tempest"

As he started to back away from the desk he didn't miss the surprised look on her face as she looked down and replied lamely, "Oh. Ok. Thanks."

The Goblin King bid her a good afternoon before he turned to leave. When he reached the doorway he glanced back over his shoulder, raising a delicately arched eyebrow as he called back, "Oh and Sarah?"

She looked up from her papers, "Yeah?"

His lips curled into a satisfied smirk as he replied, "You have ink on your face...right there." He tapped a gloved finger against his cheek before he gave her one last devastating grin and disappeared into thin air.

Chapter 12: The Page Boy

It had been three weeks since her stay in the Goblin Kingdom had begun and Sarah was beginning to adjust to the routine of attending the Goblin King. Her intimate morning sessions with him were the most trying, but she survived by keeping her eyes lowered, and by busying herself and her mind with his small chores. Strangely enough, polishing his boots actually became a blessing. It was waking him and helping him dress that caused Sarah the most anxiety. Jareth's antagonizing, yet playful banter never ceased and he only grew bolder with time.

Sarah's days were mostly spent in Jareth's study where she had become quite the prodigy scribe. Jareth had even encouraged her to write up original drafts, as her handwriting was sublime, and far more legible than his. Sometimes in the afternoon Jareth would send Sarah to the castle library where she would organize the volumes and tidy the shelves. Sarah enjoyed such afternoons, as Jareth tended to leave her to her own devices, and she often found interesting books to read during the quiet evenings she spent alone in her room.

The highlight of the day was always dusk, when she would go to the stables to clean Tempest's stall and feed him. She would linger as the stallion ate his dinner, sometimes reclining on a bail of hay just outside his stall as she read from one of her books. She kept herself in plain sight of the stallion, often talking in a soothing voice so that he might get used to her. Sometimes she would even read aloud from her book. Sarah was so captivated by the black stallion that she failed to notice the snowy white owl that often eves dropped and kept a watchful eye on her from the dense branches of the tree outside.

The stallion had finally turned towards the sound of her voice after he had finished his grain. Sarah slowly got up and cautiously approached him. To her delight he didn't flee. He stood perfectly still, staring at her with those crystalline blue eyes. Sarah calmly extended her upturned palm and the curious alicorn sniffed her hand. Sarah reached into the pocket of her skirts and withdrew a sugar cube. She held the cube in the center of her hand offered it to the stallion. To her amazement, Tempest ate it right out of her hand without the slightest apprehension.

Sarah was very content as she left the stables that night. She would try grooming Tempest within a few days and if all went well she would be riding him in no time. She was tempted to inform his highness of her progress, but she thought better of it. She decided to wait until she had the beast's complete trust before she began gloating.

A few days later Sarah was once again copying documents in the study when she realized that aside from her brief morning encounters, she hadn't seen very much of the mighty Goblin King in the past several days. As much as she was glad to have a break from his incessant smug remarks, she couldn't continue to deny that she was starting to feel rather lonely.

She missed goofing off with Kayla and just chatting with her other friends. She hoped that her friends from the underground would come and visit her soon, but she knew that if they didn't she'd only have herself to blame. She didn't dare take up the matter with Jareth, as she was in no mood to stomach his cruel but accurate assessment of the situation.

As much as she hated to admit it, there were times when she needed to have someone to talk with, even if the only someone around was Jareth. She couldn't understand why, despite her attempts to despise him, some small part of her always seemed relieved whenever he walked into the room. Granted a much bigger part of her always felt apprehension and nervousness...and at times even rage. As the feather of the quill brushed against her cheek she reasoned that perhaps negative attention was better than no attention at all.

Sarah looked up from the parchment just as Jareth strode into the study. She mentally mused, Speak of the devil..." She tensed, readying herself for the verbal skirmish that would probably ensue.

As the Goblin King walked into the room, his mismatched eyes settled on the girl, noting that her fingers were stained blue from the ink. A small smirk graced his face before it gave way to his more Kingly expressionless mask. He stopped in front of the desk as he announced, "You may forget those documents for now. It seems I have a more pressing task for you."

Sarah put the quill down, slightly irritated at the interruption. Just when she was really getting on a role, he had to come in and interrupt.

She looked up at him and replied irritably, "Well hello to you too." She gave an exhausted sigh as she noticed he didn't look amused. Frowning back she added, "Just what is more pressing than these invitations that you yourself told me you needed finished by the end of the day?" He suppressed a smug grin as he replied, "I'll finish those later, there is something else I need you to do. Walk with me, I'll explain on the way." Sarah rolled up the parchments and set them aside as she rose from the desk and moved to follow him out of the room. She hurried to keep up with him as he walked briskly down the castle halls.

He threw a sidelong glance at her before he began, "It looks as though we are about to have some distinguished guests. I've just been informed that Lord Taibaar, one of the Fae ambassadors from the North, will be joining us for dinner along with his daughter, Desdemonna."

Sarah listened nonchalantly as he went on, "It appears that the Northern Fae would like to establish trade with the merchants in the goblin city, so they're sending Taibarr to establish friendly rapport." Sarah snorted as she dryly corrected, "You mean they are sending him to kiss your ass."

Jareth grinned and replied, "Well that's a colorful way of putting it, but yes he intends to win my approval, so to speak."

Sarah nodded. These politics weren't so tough to figure out. She then asked, "So what do you think he'll offer in exchange for their admittance into the Goblin City?" A thought suddenly struck her and she cried, "Wait...let me guess...he's going to try and pawn off his daughter on you?"

She could tell by the smug look on his face that had correctly hit the bulls-eye. She couldn't suppress her look of disgust as she huffed, "Ugh, how typical."

Jareth grinned seductively as he teased, "What's the matter Sarah? Would that make you jealous?"

A shiver ran down her spine as she feigned disgust and sarcastically snorted, "Oh yeah...that's it. Keep dreaming Jareth." Sarah stopped, suddenly uneasy as she realized that they were at the doors to Jareth's bedchamber. She furrowed her brow and asked warily, "How exactly do I fit into this?"

Jareth opened the door and gestured for her to enter. Sarah walked into the room and stood by the fireplace, trying to control the nervous dread that seemed to fill her whenever she entered his bedchambers. She watched him as he approached and stood before her, a little closer than she would like, as the great doors closed on their own.

Sarah swallowed nervously as he began to explain, "I think it may be beneficial to dazzle the ambassador a bit. I think it will strengthen his impression of the kingdom if he were to see that the castle was a working court, and not a great ale hall for out of control goblins."

Jareth paused and regarded her seriously for a moment before he added, "As you already know from firsthand experience, my goblin army is hardly a formidable force. The labyrinth and my own magic is really the only true protection that this kingdom has. Therefore, if I am to let an outsider in, It would be foolish to let him uncover the kingdom's weaknesses."

Sarah's eyes widened at the implications of his words and she exclaimed, "You don't fear invasion do you!?"

Jareth calmly shook his head, "No, I don't think the Northern Fae are that foolish. I think it is truly trade that they seek. You see, the kingdoms to the West and South are all on very good terms with the Goblin Kingdom and trade between these regions was established a long time ago. It is just the distant Northern Kingdom that has not yet begun to trade with the rest of us. However, I don't think it would be wise to let them think this Kingdom is any less impressive and functional than their own. As devoted as my subjects are, they would make the wrong impression, so having them in attendance of our guests would undoubtedly prove to be a disaster. No, I think, during this occasion I shall send them out into the labyrinth while our guests are present, and have you act as my page boy instead."

Sarah eyed him suspiciously, "Your page boy?"

Jareth raised an eyebrow, "Yes, it makes a much more powerful impression when an underground kingdom has a human youth or two on the staff, and a page boy...that would just be...the perfect amount of extravagance I'm going for."

Sarah sighed, "Well that's a great idea Jareth, but there's just a couple of problems, first, I know nothing about being a page and secondly, In case you haven't noticed, I'm NOT a BOY."

Jareth was hardly able to suppress his smug grin and that was really starting to worry her. Once he was finally able to control his amusement he replied, "Yes, well, they don't know that do they?"

Sarah watched in horror as Jareth reached into the armoire and produced the most hideous outfit she had ever seen. Dangling in his grasp were bright purple breeches that were hardly more than tights, a royal blue doublet over a white poet's shirt and the most god-awful hat she had ever seen. The velvet monstrosity was a bright plum color and had giant floppy feathers hanging off it, also bright shade of purple and blue.

Sarah took a step back, shaking her head furiously, "No."

Jareth pretended to look disappointed as he reminded, "Come now Sarah, you know you have to indulge me in this."

She shook her head adamantly, "No way. Jareth, I have cleaned, brought you meals, shined your boots, and copied documents until my fingers turned blue. I won't do it...this...THIS, is where I draw the line. I'm not some stupid puppet that you can just play with as you please. Forget it. Find someone else to play dress up with."

Jareth simply cocked his head to the side and warned, "Sarah..."

Sarah crossed her arms defiantly over her chest and shook her head adamantly, "There is no way in HELL, I'm going to wear that. No, forget it. Even if I liked the outfit, I'm not about to let you parade me around like a political pawn." Sarah sighed, feeling like she was pulling at straws but she added, "Besides, to have me pose as a pageboy?!? It's rather indecent and inappropriate, don't you think?"

Jareth shook his head and the tone of his voice became more authoritative as he replied, "I think it's perfectly appropriate, and let me remind you that you are bound to obey my commands...so either you can cooperate and partake in this willingly or I can force you...and I assure you that the latter holds a far more humiliating scenario."

Sarah narrowed her eyes as him in what was quite possibly her most deadly glare. In response Jareth threw up his hands and shrugged, "Very well, we'll do this the hard way, or..." His lips curved into a sinister grin as he silkily finished, "I could arrange for your friend to assist me unstead. You know...she may make an even better page-boy then you." For effect he balanced a perfect shining crystal on his fingertips and it didn't escape Sarah's attention that she could see a distorted reflection of Kayla within the sphere. Wickedly he drawled, "Shall I talk her into it? I can be very persuasive you know."

Sarah was absolutely seething at this point. Her hands clenched into fists at her sides as she stormed closer to him and hissed, "Don't you dare!!!"

As Jareth regarded her he noticed the pent up rage apparent in her flashing green eyes. She was so incredibly enticing when she was angry. Jareth smiled smugly as he demanded, "Will you cooperate then?"

Sarah could tell by the look on his face that he was not going to budge on this one. He was just way too proud of his idea. It looked as though she had no choice but to become the Goblin King's new page-boy.

Damn.

After Jareth had given Sarah her new attire she returned to her room with instructions that she was to prepare for the arrival as their guests. Sarah laid the hideous garments out on her bed before she wasted much time pacing and fuming over her situation.

Later, without warning, Jareth materialized in her chamber and he saw to his dismay that Sarah had only just finished scrubbing the blue ink off her hands and was presently clipping her fingernails short. Sarah ignored his dramatic entrance, concentrating on drying her now clean and short finger-nailed hands. Jareth leaned against the fireplace as he watched her cross the room.

As her eyes drifted over the horrendous garments that were laid out on her bed she muttered, "How do I let myself get talked into things like this?" Jareth was already growing impatient as he barked and motioned to her dressing screen, "You don't have time to analyze your predicament, they'll be arriving soon...now put them on."

Sarah groaned and grabbed the purple breeches and the white poet's shirt before disappearing behind the screen leaving Jareth to make himself comfortable on her bed. It was only a matter of moments before Sarah blurted from behind the screen, "Ah Houston...we have a problem here." Jareth impatiently but undauntedly replied, "What problem?"

Sarah stormed out from behind the screen, and nearly froze at the sight of him lounging on her bed. Tearing her eyes away she recovered quickly and smoothed the white shirt over her bust, which was nearly popping out of the thin button down poet's shirt, "Only this."

Jareth grinned wolfishly as he leered at her, noticing that she wore nothing under the thin and oh so delightfully tight shirt.

Oblivious to his appreciation of her form she harped, "What the hell did you pick this shirt for?...or did you just neglect to notice that I have BREASTS? I can't believe that you think we are going to pull this off. This shirt is...well it's obscene, is what it is."

It took a lot of self-control for Jareth not to burst out laughing. She was rather dramatic and could be quite humorous at times.

Jareth shook his head and replied, "You over-react Sarah, I have an idea." With that he ventured into his chamber for a moment before he reappeared with what looked like a large white linen bandage. He paused for a moment taking in the sight of her in the tight shirt for the second time. Tilting his head to the side he remarked in a sultry tone, "And just to clarify...I'd have to be blind not to notice." Sarah flushed, keeping her eyes on the bandage as she uneasily changed the subject, "What's that for?"

Jareth simply indicated for her to sit in front of him on the bed. Apprehensively she sat on the edge of the bed and he ordered, "Now remove the shirt so we can wrap this tightly about your chest."

Sarah had only heard as far as the remove your shirt part before she snapped, "Are you INSANE? I'm not going to just take my shirt off in front of you."

In one swift motion Jareth turned her shoulders, so she faced away from him as he instructed, "Then face this way...There I can't see anything, I'll hold this end in place here..." he touched her lightly on the small of her back and finished, "...while you wrap it tightly around yourself."

With a heavy sigh, Sarah angrily started fumbling with the buttons as she muttered, "Fine, but if you sneak a peak or even try to cop a feel, I will sooo sabotage this whole thing."

Jareth merely smirked as Sarah finally shrugged the shirt off her shoulders. As Jareth watched the thin material slip from her creamy shoulders to reveal the flawless flesh of her un-obscured back his breath caught in his throat. Sarah swallowed nervously as goose bumps rose on her skin. The air was shockingly cool on her bared breasts and her awareness of her exposed flesh seemed frighteningly intensified. The fact that Jareth was seated directly behind her didn't help matters.

Jareth gently placed the end of the bandage against the small of her back as he held out the rolled end in front of her. Sarah took it and started to wrap it tightly about her chest. Jareth felt his pulse quicken as his gaze darted over her bare skin and watched the motion of her shoulder blades as she moved to manipulate the cloth. Her fair skin was flawless, and it looked so incredibly soft and smooth.

As she handed the other end back to him for another pass he couldn't help but let his gloved fingertips graze the skin of her side. How he wished he could see her face to read her reaction, and how he longed to see her breasts with his own eyes, for he knew that in reality they would only be more beautiful than anything he could imagine in his mind's eye. How desperately he wanted to remove his gloves and learn what her silky skin felt like under his fingertips. He swiftly reigned in his self control as he was suddenly painfully aware of his state of arousal. This would simply not do. He would have to be patient. His plan demanded it. As he struggled with his desire, he reminded himself that it would be only a matter of time.

Sarah held her breath as she felt Jareth's gloved fingertips graze her skin. She hated the fact that even so slight a touch made her heart race. She reached back to grab the material from him and quickly wrapped it over her breasts a second time. When she handed it back to him again she made sure to hold it out far enough so that his fingers wouldn't brush up against her again.

Jareth took the gauzy fabric and while securing the other end he gave it a sharp tug. Sarah winced as he stated, "In order for this to work, it must be very tight." Sarah frowned as they swiftly finished the wrapping job. Sarah nearly jumped out of her skin as Jareth slid the open poet shirt over her shoulders and breathed a little too close to her neck for comfort, "How does it feel?"

Sarah hastily fumbled with the buttons and sighed, "Tight...and uncomfortable." She finished buttoning the shirt and stood facing him. He nodded his head in approval at her now seemingly flat-chested state and replied, "Now, go put on the rest."

With a huff Sarah disappeared behind the screen. In a matter of minutes she re-emerged wearing the tight purple breeches and the blue doublet fastened over the poet's shirt. The doublet was just low enough to conceal the feminine curves of her waist and hips and her chest looked as flat as any man's. The white sleeves of the shirt billowed out perfectly at her wrists and the attire fit her perfectly. Jareth took in the sight and smirked, "Now for the hat. Here tie your hair back with this ribbon." Sarah threw her hair back into a tight ponytail as Jareth instructed, "Just keep your hair under the hat and our guests will be none the wiser."

Sarah went into Jareth's chamber to stand in front of his full-length mirror. As she positioned the hat on her head, and stepped into her knee high black boots, Jareth sauntered into the room to take a look at his new page-boy. Sarah looked at her reflection with horror. The worst part by far, was the hat. The oversized feathers bobbed and dangled in front of her face. The damn thing was just so huge and...purple.

She turned to Jareth with a look of complete disdain on her face. Jareth stood back and regarded her for a moment before an amused smile graced his face and he declared, "Yes, that will do nicely."

Sarah whirled on him and ground out, "Are you kidding!?! I look like a medieval pimp...make that a very GAY medieval pimp."

Jareth protested, "Nonsense! You look the perfect part of a pageboy."

Sarah crossed her arms defiantly as she muttered something under her breath and then demanded, "What about my face? You don't think they'll notice that I am a GIRL?!?"

Jareth shook his head and replied, "I doubt it. It is common for young pages to have delicate features."

Sarah shook her head, determined to convince him that this ridiculous idea was never going to work, "And my voice...Surly you don't think they'll just overlook that too?"

Jareth slowly circled her as he admitted, "Your voice IS a dead give away. That's why I'm going to tell them that you are mute. That will also negate the possibility of you blurting out something entirely inappropriate."

Sarah studied her reflection as she made one last ditch effort to make him reconsider, "I don't know, something is still not right..."

Chapter 13: The Power of the Potato

Jareth looked her up and down before he admitted, "You're right, something is...missing. Come with me." Sarah was silently hoping that he had changed his mind as she followed him down the castle halls. When they entered the great kitchen she watched in bewilderment as he started rummaging through a store barrel. Sarah tried to see past him as she asked, "What are you looking for?"

Jareth suddenly turned and held up a small potato as he smugly announced, "This." Sarah gave him a blank look as she asked, "A Potato? What the hell is THAT for?" Without another word Jareth had strode up dangerously close to her. Sarah let out a startled cry as he grabbed the waistband of her breeches and pulled it forward and dropped the potato down the front of her pants.

He let the waistband go, producing a satisfying snap before he flashed her a satisfied smirk. Sarah stared at him in absolute shock. When her brain started working again, her first thought was that he obviously hadn't changed his mind. Shock was replaced by annoyance as she shook her head and snapped, "Very funny." She looked down at her make-shift "package" and added, "But I don't think so."

She quickly pulled out the potato and lobbed it at him. To her dismay he caught it. Sarah leaned over the barrel and started digging through it as Jareth replied, "Just what do you think YOU are doing?" Sarah pulled out a much larger potato and shot back, "If I have to go through with this ridiculous stunt...then I want a bigger one."

Jareth chuckled before he let out an exasperated sigh, "Why am I not surprised?"

Sarah ignored him as she positioned the new spud in her drawers and bragged, "Now that's more like it."

Jareth just shook his head as he steered her out of the kitchen remarking, "Enough of this nonsense, our guests will be arriving any minute."

Sarah followed him towards the throne room as she muttered under her breath, "You're just envious because mine is bigger..."

Jareth stopped dead in his tracks.

Sarah swallowed hard, she hadn't meant for him to hear that. Apparently Fae had better hearing than humans.

Without so much as turning to look at her he challenged, "Would you care to see for yourself just how wrong you are?" He looked over his shoulder, letting his predatory gaze settle on her as his feral smile taunted, "Perhaps you'd enjoy being proven wrong in this particular instance?"

Sarah did her best not to appear as shaken as she weakly managed, "No...really, that's not necessary."

He resumed his stride and Sarah followed in silence feeling that she'd had enough adrenaline rushes for one day.

A little while later Sarah stood at Jareth's side in the throne room as their guests made their way through the great hall. Jareth gave the hem of Sarah's doublet a sharp tug, as he advised, "Remember...not a word." She nodded as he added, "And Sarah..."

She looked up at him, "Yeah?"

His mouth had the slightest hint of an amused smirk as he replied, "Mind that your potato doesn't slip. Now go open the doors for our guests."

Sarah did her best to refrain from laughing at the sheer ridiculousness of the situation. As she reached for the great oak doors a surreal feeling overcame her, she simply could not believe that this was happening. She was dressed as a boy, posing as a page in the castle beyond the Goblin City and for the next year of her life she was at Jareth's mercy.

She should not be laughing. Yet she nearly was.

She mentally chastised herself for finding the situation amusing, after all she was quite sure that Jareth was doing this to humiliate her, his political reasons were merely icing on the cake. Sarah took a deep breath before she opened the great oak door. She bowed humbly as an older man with silver hair and shocking blue eyes entered booming, "Ah King Jareth. How wonderful to finally meet you in person."

Jareth lowered his head in greeting before he welcomed the ambassador and his daughter to the castle. When Sarah finally looked up, she met the deep blue curious eyes of a striking female Fae.

The girl was elegantly outfitted in a pale blue gown with a dropped waist, and Sarah couldn't help but notice that the woman's ample breasts were nearly spilling out of the bodice. To Sarah's surprise the Fae woman looked as though she was about the same age as herself.

The Fae's intense blue eyes darted over the pageboy inquisitively, before she followed her father into the throne room and bowed low in front of Jareth.

Jareth smirked as he realized that he would savor this chance to torment Sarah. He would watch in delight as Sarah would surely squirm in her jealousy when he lavished his affections on this unsuspecting young Fae right in front of her.

Sarah quickly shut the door and resumed her position at Jareth's side just as the old man was saying, "Jareth allow me to present my daughter, Desdemonna." Jareth took the lady's hand and dramatically placed a kiss on the back of it.

Sarah kept her eyes lowered, suddenly realizing the reason Jareth wanted her here. So, he would ooze all over this girl in an attempt to what? Make her jealous? Sarah fumed as she resolved that she wouldn't give him the satisfaction of seeing her appearing so much as even mildly interested. Jareth's polite tone nearly made her gag as he gushed, "Ah the lovely Desdemonna."

Out of his peripheral vision Jareth noticed that Sarah hadn't so much as even looked at the girl. He smirked as he decided to put his new page on the spot just a little, "Tell me, Sargonne,..." and he looked right at Sarah as he said this, "...Have you ever seen such a lovely young lady?"

Sarah narrowed her eyes at Jareth before she lowered them again and shook her head slightly. Jareth quickly added, "You must excuse my page, Sargonne. He is entirely devoted, but the poor lad does not speak."

Oddly, the young Fae was seemingly moved by this. She took a step towards Sarah and extended her hand. Jareth was rather surprised, as noblewomen didn't often pay much mind to pages. So, he watched with great interest as Sarah hesitantly took the young lady's offered hand and placed a shy but humble kiss on the back of it.

Jareth did not miss the sly smile that formed on the young Fae's lips. "How interesting" he mused to himself, "Strange and unexpected, but interesting."

As they all walked to the dining room, Desdemonna smiled sympathetically at Sarah who was trying to keep her expression neutral while she was wrestling with the urge to slug the Goblin King.

It wasn't long before Jareth was sharing a meal with Lord Taibaar and his daughter, while Sarah stood obediently at her post behind Jareth, occasionally moving to refill their wine glasses. The conversation was typical and rather unexciting. Jareth conversed with the old man and occasionally threw a few compliments at the obviously bored daughter.

All the while, Sarah stood by, sickened by the idea that the old goat was practically begging for Jareth to take his daughter as his wife. He shamelessly brought up her extensive dowry several times and kept pointing out her good qualities, all the while he kept reminding Jareth how much his people would benefit from establishing trade with the inhabitants of the Goblin City.

Even as he was engaged in conversation, Jareth noticed Desdemonna's gaze kept straying to settle on Sarah. Sarah however, was completely oblivious to the girl's seeming fascination with her. Jareth also noticed that the girl hadn't been quite as receptive to his compliments and attention as he had expected. She seemed rather distant, as if her thoughts were entirely someplace else. By the end of the main course Jareth had noticed the increased frequency at which Desdemonna let her eyes wander over his supposed pageboy.

Utterly curious, Jareth watched as the girl drained her wine glass. As expected, Sarah quickly moved to refill it. As she poured the wine, the young Fae glanced over her shoulder to regard Sarah with wide eyes. When their eyes met the young lady blushed and offered the pageboy a secretive coy smile. Sarah was rather surprised that the young lady would even notice her, while Jareth was doing his damnedest to make a lasting impression, but perhaps the young lady was just inquisitive by nature.

Jareth was rather surprised at what he had just witnessed. Things were not at all going the way he had planned. He had assumed that his flirtatious behavior with the young Fae would fill Sarah with jealousy, however his assumption that Desdemonna would be more than receptive to his attention was proving to be false. It looked as though the young Fae was much more interested in dallying with his "pageboy". Despite the fact that Jareth usually despised it when things didn't go his way, he was rather intrigued by the alternative result.

Sarah tore her eyes away from the girl's questioning gaze just in time to notice that she had nearly overflowed her wine glass. Sarah quickly straightened the decanter and hurried back to her post risking a quick glance at Jareth to see if he had noticed her clumsiness. To her dismay, the arrogant monarch was looking right at her and she could only assume that he had seen her near spill. She winced at the thought of him chiding her later for being careless.

At Jareth's subtle signal Sarah brought out their dessert and served it. As she set the plate down in front of the Desdemonna she tried to ignore another one of Jareth's flirtatious compliments meant for the young Fae.

When Sarah finally served Jareth his dessert it took all her self-control to not smash the dish into his face. Lucky for her she was rather adept at concealing her emotions. There was no way she was going to give that bastard the satisfaction of knowing that she was bothered by his seeming interest in the Young Fae woman.

Sarah clenched her teeth at the sheer discomfort of her situation as she started to walk back to post behind Jareth, when she heard his voice at her back, "Sargonne, why don't you sit by me here at the table, seeing that there are no more courses to be brought out."

Sarah wanted nothing more than to tell him to go to hell and storm out of the room, but she knew that if she did, she would pay for it dearly later. Not to mention, that would be admitting defeat, and only further increase Jareth's already overblown ego. Instead, she silently took a seat beside Jareth, across from Desdemonna.

Jareth watched as the young Fae woman seemed to be pondering the cherry covered confection in front of her. When she finally looked up again Jareth commented, "I hope we are not boring you, Lady Desdemonna, with all this talk of trade?"

The young woman snapped to attention and quickly replied, "Oh no your majesty, you see it's just that my father has instructed me that I should not speak unless I am spoken to."

Jareth flashed her a dazzling smile and replied in a saccharine tone, "Of course my dear."

Sarah fought the impulse to make a gagging noise as her eyes bored into the table linen. She reasoned that if she could manage to keep her head down she might make it through the rest of the meal without losing it. After a few more moments of uninteresting conversation, Sarah felt as though she were being watched, and she looked up to see that Desdemonna's bright eyes were fixed on her again. Sarah glanced to her left, noting that Jareth and the old man were again engrossed in conversation. The young Fae also turned her head as if noticing the very same thing.

Sarah tried to listen to the dull conversation but out of the corner of her eye she saw Desdemonna's eyes lock on her face again as she picked up a cherry by its stem. Sarah couldn't shake the feeling that the Desdemonna was trying to get her attention.

Out of sheer curiosity Sarah made eye contact with the Fae and that's when it happened. Desdemonna held up the cherry and in a most deliberate manner she began to savor it seductively as her eyes locked with Sarah's. Sarah would have had to be intensely stupid to miss implications of the gesture as the girl closed her red lips over the cherry, her eyes blazing with silent invitation.

To say she was stunned was an understatement, but Sarah's dumb stupor was short lived as she felt a hand come to rest on her upper thigh.

For one horrified moment Sarah thought it to be Jareth's hand, but a quick glance confirmed that both his hands were placed above the table, leaving only one possibility.

Sarah's eyes hesitantly met Desdemonna's as the girl flashed her a sultry suggestive smile right before her hand gave Sarah's thigh a rough squeeze.

Jareth saw Sarah jump in alarm before he noticed the young Fae innocently straighten her posture. It didn't take much thought to determine what had just happened. Apparently, the girl had made some sort of advance on Sarah. Although it slightly irked him that his plan to flaunt this girls affections to kindle Sarah's jealousy had fallen apart, he couldn't help but be wildly curious about the resulting scenario.

Sarah's seemingly startled reaction told him that she was uncomfortable with the situation. Perhaps there was a better way to torment Sarah. Jareth swiftly rose to his feet to detract attention from Sarah's startled reaction. He gave Sarah a pointed look before he announced, "Lord Taibaar, Perhaps you'd like to join me in my study for some brandy? We have matters that are best left to be discussed in private."

The old man's eyes nervously drifted to his daughter as Jareth added, "Sargonne is capable of keeping your lovely daughter amused. Sargonne, escort the lady to the game room and wait on her." Jareth quickly lead the old man away, but he looked back at Sarah over his shoulder to catch her unspoken, but obvious look of displeasure.

Desdemonna, on the other hand, could scarcely contain her elation at the prospect of being let alone with "Sargonne". Sarah quietly sighed and led the girl to the game room, as one might proceed to their own execution.

Chapter 14: Kiss and Tell

Sarah humbly opened the door as Desdemonna pretended to be enthralled by the extensive game room. The girl walked purposefully to a plush bench and immediately took a seat as she coaxed, "It's alright Sargonne...Come here and sit beside me." Sarah approached apprehensively and sat awkwardly beside the girl looking everywhere else but into her calculating blue eyes.

Desdemonna sighed and began, "You know, father brought me here because he intends to offer me to the King in return for his consent for our people to establish trade within the Goblin city..."

Sarah's eyes dropped to her lap where her hands instinctively clenched into fists. She had no idea why, but the very thought of this girl sharing a bed with Jareth made her blood boil and left her with a weak debilitating sick feeling in the pit of her stomach.

The girl continued, "...But, may I tell you something in absolute confidence?"

Sarah nodded her head slowly as the girl continued, "I don't want to be hand-fasted to his majesty."

Sarah tried desperately not to smile. Maybe some good would come of this ridiculous situation after all.

Sarah listened intently as the girl added, "If I tell you something you swear you'll keep it from King Jareth?"

Sarah nodded furiously as the girl giggled, "Good...I shall share my secret with you then." Sarah listened on the edge of her seat as the girl confessed, "I couldn't possibly forge a union with King Jareth you see, not now...because I am completely taken with you, Sargonne."

For a second Sarah thought she must have heard the girl incorrectly. Desdemonna deciphered her shocked expression and grasping Sarah's hand she added, "Sargonne, you are positively the sweetest thing I have ever seen." She shifted closer to Sarah and breathed, "Are all humans as adorable as you?"

Sarah was quite literally speechless. Her stupor cost her dearly, as at that precise moment, the young Fae pounced.

In the next instant Sarah found herself trapped in the lady's embrace and without warning the girl's lips possessively claimed her own. Sarah panicked and cried, "Hrmmphhh" against the Fae's mouth as she struggled to free herself from the girl's iron embrace.

Desdemonna pulled back and swiftly caught Sarah by the wrists as she cooed, "Shhh...don't be frightened...I know you think we mustn't, but it's alright, I only wish to please you, and I swear the King need never know."

With that, the doors to the room slammed closed, willed by the Fae girl's magic. Sarah realized to her horror that she was quite literally trapped in the room with this girl.

Sarah froze, Her body went rigid as her eyes frantically darted about, looking for some escape as the girl started to place soft enticing kisses on her neck. Had the situation been a little different (like had it been a man) Sarah might have enjoyed such affections, but this was an absolute nightmare. Jareth was sure to be furious, since he had no doubt decided that this girl would have affections for HIM.

In defeat Sarah closed her eyes. Oh where was that damned Goblin King when you needed him? She silently resolved that if she made it out of this alive she would surely kill him.

Desdemonna proceeded to pull Sarah back down on the plush bench and covered her face and neck with kisses. For a second Sarah was thankful that at least the girl's kisses were innocent...maybe her virtue would demand that she cease before she got carried away.

Desdemonna suddenly pulled back and regarded Sarah with smoldering eyes.

Sarah mused, ...or perhaps not.

Suddenly the Fae whispered, "Why Sargonne, you are so tense...you're not afraid of me are you." Sarah stared at the girl wide eyed as she slowly nodded her head.

The Fae laughed coyly before she breathed, "How positively charming..."

Before Sarah could blink Desdemonna had captured her mouth in a searing kiss. Sarah kept her lips firmly sealed even as the girl's tongue darted out to test the seam of her lips. Sarah was horrified as the girl's hands trailed frantically over her doublet.

This was not good. Sarah panicked, jumping to her feet just as the young Fae lunged.

Their mouth's collided violently as the girl reached down and boldly cupped Sarah between the legs. Sarah gave a startled cry against the girl's mouth.

Meanwhile the voice in her head screamed, This is it. I'm so dead.

The girl was sure to suddenly realize that she'd been had. Sarah had a feeling that the girl and her father would be none too pleased at the given situation. Sarah screwed her eyes shut and waited for all hell to break loose. Any minute now.

To Sarah's complete astonishment the girl withdrew her hand and pulled back as she moaned, "Ooohhh...You are already so hard..."

Sarah could only stare down between herself and the girl in bewilderment as the young lady implored her, "...Please take me somewhere...I will surly die if you don't take me this instant."

Sarah was thunderstruck, apparently potatoes could be very powerful things.

The girl nipped at Sarah's earlobe and begged, "Please...make love to me Sargonne."

And then, all of a sudden, the door flew open and Sarah looked up in surpise to see the Goblin King standing in the doorway.

Never in all her life would Sarah have ever guessed she'd be so relieved to see someone, especially being since that someone was Jareth.

Jareth's eyes drifted from the young Fae woman to Sarah. Their posture, as well as their surprised expressions, clearly indicated that he had just interrupted something.

The stricken look on Sarah's face was positively priceless, but what affected him even more was the way she positively seemed to melt in relief when she looked up to see him standing there. He smirked knowingly. He couldn't wait to hear Sarah recount for him all that had happened.

Jareth put his gracious expression back on as he politely but casually announced, "Lady Desdemonna, your father is ready to leave and he is looking for you."

The young Fae's cheeks were aflame as she hurriedly replied, "Oh, why thank you your majesty..." Rushing into the hall, she turned only to cast one last longing look at the Goblin King's pageboy. The girl was reunited with her father by the castle's main entrance and in a matter of minutes they had begun their journey home while Sarah and Jareth returned to his private chambers to discuss what had transpired.

Sarah stormed into Jareth's room and flung the dreadful hat onto his great bed with a huff of disgust as her tirade began, "Ugh! I cannot believe you made me go through with this...And leaving me ALONE with that girl! Why would you do such a thing!?!"

Jareth stared at Sarah, noticing the smudged lipstick kiss marks that were all over her face and neck. Jareth was the picture of innocence as he replied, "Whatever do you mean? I think you made quite an impression."

Sarah tore open the doublet in a fury as she stormed closer to him, shrugging it off onto the floor as she raged, "An IMPRESSION!?! You apparently have no idea of the IMPRESSION I made."

Jareth flashed her an amused smile as he demanded, "I'm sure you are about to tell me. What exactly happened in there?"

Sarah stared at him incredulously as she growled, "What happened?!? She attacked me...that's what happened!!!"

Jareth pretended to be appalled, "No? She didn't!"

Sarah annunciated each word to drive her point home, "Yeah. She. Did. After she nearly kissed my face off."

Jareth simply couldn't resist toying with her, "She kissed you?"

Sarah crossed her arms angrily and spat, "Yeah she laid quite a few good ones on me."

Jareth raised his brow as he asked for clarification, "laid a few good ones? I'm afraid I'm unfamiliar with that expression."

Sarah spoke slowly and clearly so he was sure to understand as she ground out, "Are you familiar with making out, or sucking face?! Well let me lay it out for you...she nearly stuck her tongue down my throat."

Jareth quipped condescendingly, "She kissed you passionately then?"

Sarah ignored the fact that his question had been merely rhetorical and groaned, "Arghhhh, YES! How could you leave me alone with her? Especially after her little public seduction scene with the cherries..."

Jareth replied nonchalantly as he poured himself a glass of brandy, "Cherries? What are you talking about?"

Sarah gave him a pointed look as she accused, "Surly, you were aware that she groped me under the table?"

Jareth smirked mildly as he shrugged, "So the girl fancied you...so what? You did a great service to the kingdom and to me...and for the price of what? A kiss. I see nothing to get upset about."

Sarah looked at him in astonishment, "You don't get it do you? Jareth, that girl was about two seconds from ripping my clothes off!!"

Jareth shook his head, "Nonsense, you are over-reacting..." He smiled and mused, "although that would have made an interesting sight."

Sarah ignored the comment and fumed, "Over reacting?!? Oh I beg to differ your HIGHNESS...she was PRIMED...and quite ready to shag me senseless!"

Jareth gave her a condescending look as he took a sip of his brandy, "How do you know that?"

Sarah lowered her voice to an urgent whisper and hissed, "Because she grabbed my POTATO!!!!!!!!"

Jareth nearly spit out his drink as he choked, "She did?"

Sarah nodded flashing him a glare that shot daggers as the Goblin King burst into genuine laughter. This only aggravated Sarah further.

She caustically added, "...and just as you walked in, she was begging me to make love to her...Can you imagine?!?!"

Jareth cocked his head to the side and smiled wolfishly, "Actually no...but it would be fascinating to watch you try."

Sarah narrowed her eyes at him in disgust before she replied vehemently, "I'm glad that you find this so amusing, because I don't!" Jareth set his drink down on the mantle and approached her as she turned her back on him and stormed towards the door to her chamber.

Jareth used his magic to appear in front of her and quickly slid in front of the door to block her escape. He found their heated banter rather exciting, and he wasn't about to let her leave, not when things had just begun to get interesting. He decided that he would push his feisty "page-boy" just a little farther.

As his eyes locked with hers, Sarah backed away trying to put more distance between herself and the Goblin King. His mouth was set in a predatory smirk as he found her actions so wonderfully predictable. For every step backward she took, Jareth advanced a step. Eventually the back of her legs came in contact with something solid. She swallowed as she realized that he had successfully backed her up against the edge of the bed. In that single moment the nervous anticipation flooded her as she realized that he was standing much too close for comfort.

His captivating mismatched eyes darted over her upturned face before his gaze lowered to her lips and he whispered huskily, "I do find it amusing." He lowered his face so that his mouth hovered just above hers as he breathed, "I find you exceptionally amusing..." His gaze was full of heat as he regarded her for a moment before he drawled, "...but then you've always amused me."

Sarah could smell the brandy that lingered on his warm breath, and she couldn't stop herself from wondering if she would be able to taste the sweet liquor on his lips if he were to kiss her. As soon as the thought crossed her mind she gave herself a hard mental slap. In no way should she be having such traitorous and dangerous thoughts.

It was with sheer excitement and panic that she realized that she might just find out, as at the same moment he seemed to ponder her lips as well. Despite the barrage of warnings going through her head, Sarah found that she couldn't look away. Her previous fury, the nervous excitement he roused in her, it was all so overwhelming. Her pulse quickened, thrumming in her ears, as adrenaline coursed through her veins, enhancing the sweet torment of her apprehension. The mingling of her passions, rage, fear, longing and wild curiosity was nothing short of a blessed sort of agony.

What was it about this cruel man that captivated her? How was it that his penetrating gaze alone could wreak such havoc on her senses. She was suddenly intensely conscious of his closeness. She could practically feel the warmth of his body through her clothes as he towered over her. If he had stood any closer they would have been touching. She was also acutely aware of the very smell of him. The sweet enticing scent of the liquor on his breath mixed with something clean yet masculine that she recognized as the scent that was distinctly his. Her heightened senses, along with his sweet heady scent caused a strange euphoria that left her feeling dazed.

Jareth had moved hastily, he wasn't about to let her flee, not while there was so much that could be said to give him the last word. Perhaps it was the mind dulling effects of the brandy that had caused him to act so impulsively. As he blocked the door and advanced on her, arguing with her was suddenly no longer the first thing on his mind. It didn't go unnoticed by him that she was right at the edge of his bed. He gazed into her intense hazel eyes for a sign of weakness. If he were to kiss her right now would she yield? He couldn't be sure. As he had whispered to her and lowered his lips closer to hers he noticed that her eyes had darted to his mouth and her chest was heaving in shallow startled breaths. What a tempting sight she made. Perhaps he should just try...it would be so easy to...

Suddenly a loud rap sounded on the door to Jareth's room. Sarah jumped at the sound. Jareth reluctantly tore his eyes from Sarah's face and glanced at the door as demanded in an irritated tone, "Yes, what is it?" A nervous goblin on the other side of the door squeaked, "There are some visitors in the great hall your majesty." Jareth glanced at Sarah once more before he stepped back and strode towards the door. As Jareth reached for the door she heard him loudly mutter, "This better be important." Sarah used the opportunity to slip into her room.

Jareth opened the door and looked down on a small kitchen goblin. The creature was still wearing his food-stained apron from preparing the earlier meal, and was quite covered in flour. The small goblin was obviously not accustomed to dealing directly with the king, as he looked up at his monarch with sheer terror. The small creature quaked in fear as he stuttered, "Your highness, three subjects have come to the castle...they...they are looking for the girl."

Jareth looked down his nose at the small goblin and demanded, "They wish to see Sarah?" The goblin nodded frantically, "They were very persistent Sire, I told them that they should come back tomorrow but one of them struck me with his club and said that they weren't leaving until they spoke with either the girl or with you." Jareth quickly replied, "Who are the three?"

The Goblin scratched his head as though he were thinking very hard and replied, "One was the dwarf...the gardener. There was also a large orange monster and a small but ferocious knight. I...I think he is the one who is posted in the bog." Jareth nodded knowingly and replied, "Very well, admit them into the throne room and have them wait. I'll deal with them." The goblin bowed and stammered "Ye...yes sire.", before he hurried away.

Chapter 15: The Past Revisited

Sarah shut the door that connected their rooms behind her and slumped against it, releasing a shuddering sigh. That was close. Way too close. When she could breathe again she straightened and pulled the potato out of her pants and tossed it aside. It was nice to get rid of the awkward thing. It had started to make her itch and she was tired of having to re-adjust the waistband when the sheer weight of the spud had caused her breeches to slide steadily down her hips.

She pulled the bottom of the shirt out of her breeches and started to unfasten the buttons. Once she had managed to undo all the buttons she shrugged the shirt off her shoulders and discarded it on the bed before she went to work removing the linen cloth that was wrapped tightly about her chest. When the gauzy linen fabric at last fell in a heap on the floor she sighed in relief as she rubbed her sore breasts. Jareth had pulled the damn thing so tight that it left marks on her skin.

Without the slightest hint of warning the door to Jareth's chamber flung open and The Goblin King stormed in, "Sarah, your friends have..."

Sarah let out a startled cry as he burst in, and with her hands firmly clasped over her breasts she instinctively turned away from him.

Jareth's words died mid sentence as he noticed that Sarah was quite naked from the waist up, with only her hands shielding herself from his eyes. As she scurried to get behind the dressing screen, a predatory smirk formed on the Goblin King's face. He hadn't intended to catch Sarah in such an exposed state, but he couldn't deny that he was quite pleasantly surprised. Especially since her small hands could do little to hide such lovely ample breasts.

From behind the dressing screen Sarah growled, "God, can't you ever knock?!?"

With a gesture Jareth closed the door behind him and replied rather unapologetically, "It wasn't my intention to startle you..." His expression turned to intrigue as he arched an eye-brow and demanded silkily, "...But just what were you doing in here?"

Sarah poked her head out from behind the screen and he could tell that she was livid. Her hands went impatiently to her hips and her eyes flashed angrily as she spat, "I was removing the linen cloth that you wrapped so tightly, that it was cutting off my circulation...Not that it's any of your damn business what I do in the privacy of this room."

As an afterthought she quipped, "Now I know this is a lot to ask of someone who doesn't even have the decency to KNOCK before he barges into a lady's room...but do you think you could hand me that top, and get the hell out of here, so I can change in peace?!?"

Unaffected, Jareth picked up the garments from the bed and handed them to her as he replied mildly, "There's no need to be so hostile Sarah, I just came to tell you that your friends are here in the castle and they wish to see you."

Sarah pulled her Hartford tank top over her head as she replied, "My friends?"

Jareth nodded, adding, "Yes, Sir Didymus, Higgle, and that large beast whose name escapes me."

Sarah irritable corrected, "You mean Hoggle, and Ludo."

Jareth nodded and nonchalantly replied, "They are in the throne room if you wish to see them."

Sarah emerged from behind the dressing screen with the white poet's shirt buttoned over her tank top as she sneered, "Of course I want to see them."

As Sarah turned to storm out the room he stopped her, "And Sarah..."

She merely turned her head to acknowledge him.

He gave her a pointed look and admonished, "You forget who you are talking to...I'd watch my tone if I were you. I assure you I can think of far worse things than a little dalliance with our distinguished guest."

She considered his words and after clamping her mouth shut she ground out, "Point taken." With that she left him standing in her room.

The halls were dark and empty as she jogged to the throne room. She burst through the large doors to find Hoggle, Ludo, and Didymus pacing with worried looks on their faces. They all looked up at once as Sarah ran to them crying, "Hoggle, Ludo, Didymus! I'm so relieved you're all here."

Hoggle caught Sarah in a tight embrace as she stooped to his height. The dwarf cried, "Sarah!" Next, it was Ludo who gathered Sarah into a crushing hug as he bellowed, "Sawah...Sawah Baaaaack!" She laughed joyously as she hugged him, "Yes, Ludo I'm back." As She reached for Didymus she felt the stinging in her eyes as her vision turned blurry with unshed tears as she cried, "I'm so glad to see all of you." The small fox hugged her and then drew back and enquired, "My lady, are you alright?"

Sarah nodded hastily but the urge to break down in sobs was nearly overwhelming. She did her best to compose herself as she stepped into the indented center of the floor and perched on the stone step. Her friends settled themselves beside her as Hoggle began, "Sarah, we'd have come sooner, but we only just found out that you were here...we thought that you might need us."

Sarah's eyes brimmed with tears as she breathed, "I...I do need you."

The dwarf was rather moved by her sadness and solemnly asked, "Then why didn't you call us sooner?"

Sarah blinked back her tears and explained, "I'm so sorry that I never called. I just...we'll I guess I just got caught up in my life aboveground. I missed you all so much...it was just that the very idea of summoning you scared me...because of..."

Hoggle didn't need to hear the rest to know what she was getting at and he finished, "...Jareth."

Sarah nodded frantically as she glanced around to make sure his majesty was no where in sight, "Yes, I was afraid that if I thought too much of this place, of all of you...that somehow I might...well...invite more trouble."

Hoggle patted her knee affectionately, "There, there, missy...we understand, don't we?"

Didymus nodded as Ludo bellowed, "Sawah scared."

Sir Didymus placed a supportive paw on Sarah's hand as he soothed, "Fear not fair maiden, for we are with thee now, and all is but water under a bridge. We are so relieved to see thee well. When we had learned that you were back in the underground and living under the rule of his majesty we came as fast as we could."

Hoggle suddenly glanced about and hissed, "It only took us so long because the goblins were bein' so tight lipped about you bein' here. No doubt Jareth didn't want us knowing you were back. Good thing for us they aren't so good about keepin' their big mouths' shut." His eyes grew full of concern as he lowered his voice. "Are you really alright? Because if that rat is mistreating you, we'll bust you out of here right now."

Sarah shook her head, "No, I'm ok, besides I don't think that would do any good."

Hoggle whispered back, "Why not? We've beaten his army before, we could do it again."

Sarah urgently protested, "No Hoggle. That won't work. Even if I were to run far away from the castle, I'd still be forced to return one way or another."

Didymus was quick to ask, "But why my lady?"

Hoggle piped up and chimed in, "wha...whaddya mean?"

Sarah glanced at the floor and sheepishly admitted, "I...I made a deal with him."

Hoggle's eyes widened as he cried in dibelief, "A deal? With Jareth?"

Sarah nodded and Hoggle let his head fall into his hands as he muttered melodramatically, "Oh no."

Sarah added, "I have to stay here under his control for a year...I...I am bound to stay."

Hoggle looked up at Sarah in bewilderment, "But why would you ever agree to such a thing?"

Sarah sighed and looked at her friends with a determined expression, "I had to. My friend unintentionally wished herself away to Jareth, and the only way to get him to release her was for me to take her place. Jareth said he was being generous by only making me remain for a year."

Hoggle snorted at the mention of "generous" as Sir Didymus demanded to no one in particular, "Why would his majesty want to keep you here?"

Sarah couldn't quite meet their eyes as she sighed, "Probably to drive me crazy. I think this is his twisted idea of getting even with me for solving his labyrinth. While I'm here, I'm under his control and if I don't obey him he'll reverse our bargain and keep my friend forever. I can not, and will not let that happen, so I have no choice but to do what he asks."

Didymus looked at her with sympathy and respect as he declared, "That's very brave and noble of you my lady. But I still don't understand what his majesty wants with you."

Hoggle cut in and his tone was bitter, "Well I do...got a damn good idea."

Sarah's eyes widened and darted to the dwarf as she stammered, "You do?"

Hoggle nodded, "He's sore about losin'. There ain't nobody more possessive than Jareth. It's obvious...he wants you for himself."

Sarah glanced around again frantically as she whispered, "Me?! What do you mean? Wants me for what?"

Hoggle leaned closer as he put his hand on her shoulders so that his words wouldn't be overheard, "He lost his head over you last time you were here...in all my days I ain't never seen anyone get his attention the way you did. Remember when I found you in the forest and you kissed me?"

Sarah nodded and replied, "Yeah, that was just before we ended up in the bog, wasn't it?"

Hoggle nodded and growled, "Well, That was no accident. That was Jareth. He threatened that if you ever kissed me, he'd turn me into the prince of the land of stench. He didn't like us bein' friends. Like I said, Jareth's possessive, and selfish as anything. He wants you all to himself. You're the prize he couldn't win the last time around. When you won, somethin' happened to 'im. He's been a brooding menace ever since. Now don't go misunderstanding me...Jareth's always had quite a temper, but since you went home, his mood just plain stinks."

Hoggle looked around and added in an urgent whisper, "Sarah...I don't like this, you'd better be careful...I'm sure that rat has somethin' up his sleeve."

Sarah quickly reassured the dwarf, "Don't worry about me, I won't be trusting Jareth anytime soon, especially not after tonight."

Hoggle demanded, "Why? What's he gone and done now?" Sarah shrugged, "Oh, the usual, just making me miserable and ordering me around."

Didymus piped up, "The King hath given you duties?"

Sarah couldn't help but snidely reply, "Yep...you guys are looking at the Goblin King's new personal attendant...scribe...groom...oh and as of tonight I'm also the mute page boy."

They looked at her in confusion as she explained, "Basically I polish his boots, attend to his wardrobe, draft documents, see to his alicorn, and tonight he had the gall to dress me as a page boy and have me wait on his guests so that the northern ambassador wouldn't get privy to the fact that the whole kingdom consists of a bunch of out of control goblins."

Didymus seemed to be at a loss as he squeaked, "My lady is page-boy?"

Sarah nodded, "fraid so."

Hoggle looked at his friend gravely, "Are you terribly unhappy Sarah? Maybe we could find a way to get you home?"

Sarah thought a moment, "No Hoggle. I don't think it's possible. Besides, even if it were, I wouldn't want to risk getting you guys into any more trouble. This is between Jareth and I. I've made my bed, and now I have to lie in it. When I really think about it, honestly, things could be much worse. I'm not terribly unhappy...I mean yeah Jareth makes me want to scream on a daily basis, but It's just for one year and there are a few perks."

Didymus replied, "Perks my lady?"

Sarah shook her head, "Yeah. For one it's kind of nice to be back here. I guess I really did miss this place. I get to spend time with Tempest, Jareth's alicorn, who is the most incredible stallion I have ever seen. I might even get to ride him if things continue to go well. Oh, and tonight I had the pleasure of sabotaging a prospective marriage for his highness."

Hoggle gave her a blank look and she added rather smugly, "It seems that the ambassador's daughter, whose hand was supposed to be offered to Jareth, was rather distracted by myself. Apparently she finds young effeminate pages more appealing then your standard Goblin King."

Hoggle and Sir Didymus looked at each other before they exploded in laughter as Ludo bellowed, "Sawah paaaage!"

Sarah suddenly looked serious as she continued, "The best part is that now I can see you all from time to time."

Hoggle stopped laughing and replied, "If Jareth allows it. I'm actually surprised that he let us even see you tonight after..."

Suddenly they heard the sound of boots on the stone floor, and to their surprise Jareth strode out of the darkness. He regarded each of them with smug expression before he interrupted, "...after all three of you of betrayed me to help Sarah defeat my army? I'll have you know that in other Kingdoms you'd pay for such an act of treason with your lives."

Both Hoggle and Sir Didymus got to their feet and stammered, "Your majesty!"

Ludo simply lowered his head as Jareth added, "I have been more than generous with you three. Not only were your punishments lenient, I've now allowed you precious time with your long lost heroine."

Sarah watched warily as the Goblin King approached. She had had no idea how long he had been hiding in the shadows. She nervously wondered at how much of their conversation he had overheard.

Jareth proceeded to circle them as he added, "I hope you had a nice visit. Before you all depart, I think it best that I emphasize that any attempts to smuggle Sarah out of here or send her home will be futile. If you are foolish enough to try anyway, you should be aware that I won't be so forgiving this time."

Jareth smiled and leaned forward, leering at his subjects, "Is that perfectly clear?"

The three nodded as Hoggle and Didymus sighed, "Yes, Your majesty."

Sarah boldly stepped forward and decided to try out her powers of persuasion.

Jareth's gaze settled on Sarah as she stepped between him and his subjects. He could only assume she was about to defiantly accuse him of being unfair.

Sarah recalled that she was not permitted to use his name when they were in the company of others, so she bit her lip hesitantly before she implored, "Your Majesty?"

Jareth's heart nearly stopped when he heard the formal title fall from her lips. The words, uttered in her voice, sounded strange, yet deliciously pleasing. Jareth regarded her for a moment before he replied, "Yes, what is it Sarah?"

She lowered her eyes in a gesture of submission as she bit her lip and spoke softly, "I've asked them not to interfere. They are aware of our agreement. I wanted to ask...would it be alright if they visit me from time to time?"

Jareth could scarcely believe his ears. Was she actually asking his permission? He was so flabbergasted by her sudden humility that it took him a moment to find his voice. If his plan was to succeed he really only had but one option. Calmly he replied, "Of course Sarah."

Then the king regarded each of his subjects sharply and added, "As long as you all remain on your best behavior, you may visit Sarah in the castle anytime you wish."

They all stuttered in seeming disbelief, "Thank you, your majesty."

Jareth sternly finished, "It's late. You should all return home. Sarah, I believe you have a previous engagement with a certain alicorn?"

Sarah nodded quickly and stammered, "Yes, I really should go, I haven't fed him yet."

Jareth's eyes followed her as she backed away from him but his voice halted her, "The goblins have already seen to his supper and his stall, but you may go and spend some time with him."

Sarah kept her eyes on the floor as she replied softly, "I'd like that." With that she turned to her friends and embraced them one by one, "Thank you so much for coming to see me." They all wished her goodnight before they headed home.

Once they had all left the room Sarah walked past Jareth without a word, but when she reached the door something made her look back.

He was still just standing there, silently watching her leave. Her eyes met his for the briefest moment as she softly said, "Jareth?" For once his expression didn't seem arrogant or mocking as he replied, "Yes, Sarah?"

The smallest smile warmed her face as she replied, "Thanks." Jareth nodded in acceptance as he replied, "Your welcome. Goodnight." Sarah felt an odd sort of quiet come over her as she replied, "Goodnight."

For Sarah the cool night air was a blessing as she made her way to the stables. It had been such an odd evening, and there was much for her to sort through. First and foremost on her mind, was what had taken place in Jareth's chamber after her charade as Sargonne.

She felt quite certain that, had the interruption not taken place, the Goblin King would have kissed her. It wasn't the first time either. With a blush she remembered how he had materialized in her room while she had been bathing. It was with much concern that she realized that the feelings of nervousness and excitement he elicited in her were steadily growing more intense. As much as she knew it was wiser to bury her feelings, she knew that she'd have to sort them out sooner or later.

And so it was with much dread that she summoned the image of the goblin king in her mind. What was it that she felt? Attraction? That much was blatantly obvious. Of course she was attracted to him, and as she thought on it, she realized that she always had been attracted to him to some degree. How could she not be, when she found him so hauntingly beautiful?

But was it merely attraction or did she feel something more substantial? Heat crept over her cheeks at the thought of kissing him and the thought of, well anything more than kissing, sent a tremor of longing through her body.

Drawing in a shaky breath she silently conceded "Ok, so I'm lusting..." Curbing her drifting thoughts she assured herself, "But only a little."

The far scarier question was did she feel anything more than attraction? It was a hard question to answer when she wasn't really sure if she even liked him. But did she hate him?

Well that was somewhat of a yes and no answer. There were certainly times when she downright loathed him, but then there were other times when he wasn't so bad. Her mind wandered, "...Like when he asked me to join him for lunch and he rubbed my shoulders." Sarah quickly pushed the thought from her mind. It was dangerous territory to dwell on the feelings that that massage had evoked.

Sarah had to admit to herself that there were definitely moments where she felt as though she did like him. Once tonight, when he agreed to let her friends visit without so much as a second thought. However there were also parts of Jareth's personality that made her regard him with a healthy amount of caution. The fact that he seemed to get pleasure out of making her uncomfortable was a valid concern, as was the belief that that her being here at all was the result of some deliberate scheme orchestrated by Jareth himself.

As much as she tried to remain focused on his ill qualities her thoughts kept straying to the way he made her feel. No matter how much she tried to write off all the nervous excitement as cold hard fear, deep down she knew better. Even in the midst of her rage tonight, once he had nearly kissed her, all hell had broken loose in her body. He infuriated her, but at the same time he awakened her. She had come to both dread and crave the moment that she would see him next.

Over the past several days she had found herself wondering about a kiss that never happened, and worse still was the horrifying fact that she had actually gone so far as to wonder what he might be like in bed. Sarah had been attracted to men before, and had even gone so far as to lose her virginity, but the few sexual experiences she had had were disappointing at best. Of all the men Sarah had been attracted to, none had ever affected her like a certain Goblin King. A shiver ran through her body as she conceded that as much as she wished it weren't so, she did feel something for the Goblin King, and if it was simply an attraction, it had to be the strongest attraction she had ever had.

With a sigh Sarah entered the barn. She lit the lantern hanging just inside the doorway and sat quietly on the bail of hay outside of Tempest's stall. The stallion snorted in response to her arrival and poked his out to investigate.

Sarah greeted him softly, "Hiya Boy. Don't mind me, I've just come to sit with you." Upon seeing that it was only Sarah, Tempest went back to munching on his hay and Sarah found the sound rather comforting.

As she sat in the dim lantern light listening to the stallion, she reflected on what Hoggle had said. "I think he lost 'is head over you last time you were here...in all my days I never saw anyone get his attention like you did."

Sarah puzzled over the dwarf's words. Had she really gotten Jareth's attention during her brief trek through the labyrinth?

As Sarah examined her present situation she couldn't help but wonder. If Jareth had been strictly angry over the fact that she'd won, why wouldn't he have punished her outright and severely? If he hated her, then why would he want to keep her close for a year? Suppose he had "lost his head over her" or had become infatuated with her in some way, wouldn't the resulting ploy to keep her as his attendant for the next year make more sense?

Her thoughts wandered back to the strange dream that she had after she had bitten into Jareth's enchanted peach. Although her memories of the bizarre masquerade were rather hazy, she did recall that the intensity of the Goblin King's gaze had left her feeling weak and breathless, and there was a seeming mutual attraction as they briefly danced. After she had come to, Sarah had dismissed those silly notions, as she was sure it was just part of Jareth's strategy to make her forget, so that ultimately he would win.

Her thoughts then turned to their final confrontation. When she had started to recite the lines, Jareth again tried to distract her. She remembered how afraid she felt at that moment, terrified that she would blow it and lose her brother forever. She knew then that she had very little time left, and she plunged ahead, ignoring Jareth's interruptions. She had to, after all he had been only trying to stall her. Hadn't he?

Her mind raced, trying to remember what it was he had said to her exactly. It had all happened very fast and she had been bent on blocking out his words at the time, so summoning the memory was difficult. She recalled that he had offered her a crystal containing her dreams. Luckily she wasn't so foolish to let that distract her. She remembered that she had never even looked at the crystal, she had kept her eyes focused on him during those last vital moments. She thought very hard, and suddenly his last words echoed in her mind, "Just let me rule you and you can have everything that you want. Just fear me, love me, do as I say and I will be your slave." Yes, that was what he had said. Perhaps it was being here again that jogged her memory.

At the time she had paid little attention to what he was actually saying, she had been driven solely by the need to finish the words and save Toby. Now, it seemed those words had more meaning. Things were indeed quite different this time. He did have power over her. Now he WAS ruling her and she DID fear him, and she had little choice in the matter.

Perhaps those words had been more than an attempt to stall her. If they were sincere, she couldn't help but wonder about the rest...did he indeed expect her to love him? And...God forbid...What if she did...would the rest come true too? Would she be able to have anything she wanted, and would he become her slave? Somehow she doubted it, but she couldn't help but wonder at the possibility. What if at the time he had meant those words? And she had rejected him. The idea made her breath catch in her throat.

What if the spurned Goblin King had brooded over his loss and had been biding his time, just waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike back. She hated to admit it, but this whole situation looked like it very well could've been the "perfect opportunity." If he had indeed felt slighted by her causing his banishment from her life, then that would explain the lack of swift retribution, as it would make more sense to draw out her punishment, and so the saying goes, "Don't get angry...get even."

What if it were his intention to enchant her into becoming infatuated with him, so she might feel the same sting of longing? The idea terrified her, as did the prospect that in addition to toying with her heart, he may also intend to seduce her, and use her body for his own pleasure. This hypothesis also explained his seeming lack of downright hatred, and the constant suggestive banter he used to lure and bait her.

The weight of such thoughts was burdensome and Sarah was already exhausted. She didn't have the strength to think any more on the matter. Her conclusion was that she had already carelessly let her life become intimately entwined with that of the Goblin King. With each passing day she found herself becoming more and more ensnared, and if she wasn't careful she might find herself stripped of more than just a year's worth of freedom. With a heavy sigh Sarah rose from the bail of hay she was reclining on. She recognized that she was on potentially dangerous ground. Come morning, she would have to be more careful. She offered Tempest a sugar cube and a friendly pat on the neck before she trudged back to the castle. She needed to forget about the Goblin King and get some sleep.

Chapter 16: Heat Wave

The next day was extraordinarily hot. It was late spring in the underground and although some warm weather was to be expected, this particular heat wave was uncharacteristically hot for the time of year. The morning wasn't too unpleasant, but as noon approached the castle began to get uncomfortably warm and humid.

Jareth had already finished the documents that remained from the day before, during the previous evening while Sarah was visiting the stables. With no documents left to draft or copy, Sarah found herself reorganizing the fictional volumes in the castle library. She was particularly grateful that aside from getting Jareth out of bed, she hadn't seen the slightest trace of glitter from his highness today.

She was still uneasy about all that had taken place the day before and her awareness of her growing attraction towards him, only made her more on edge. What worried her the most however, was the fact that she may well be dealing with spurned Goblin King, one that might well be particularly interested in stealing her heart, as well as her dignity. Once she added her attraction towards him into the equation, the result was bound to be disastrous. In light of the possibility, she resolved to be extremely cautious and guarded around him, and aside from the strain that caused, she was left feeling much nervous discomfort.

Although copying documents would have been less labor intensive, she actually preferred working in the library for several reasons. First, the castle library fortunately had several large windows that allowed in an occasional breeze to interrupt the stagnant humid air that seemed to settle throughout the castle. Secondly, Jareth was less likely to show up and bother her while she was in the library, as most days he was kept busy in either his private study or in the throne room.

Sarah reflected that she would be extremely thankful to get through the day without a chance encounter with the Goblin King, for it was certain that if they crossed paths today in this ruthless heat, something would unavoidably ensue. From just the scant amount of time she saw him that morning, she could tell that he was in no mood to be trifled with today, and Sarah was feeling irritable due to the heat and her self-induced anxiety.

She was tense with pent up energy, making her feel like a caged animal. She needed to stay out of his way today. She was in no way ready for another argument. Things were always so tricky when they argued. It was too easy for her emotions to get out of hand, and she always became dangerously careless when her passion took over.

She just didn't possess the confidence and the control that he did, so whenever their exchanges became heated, she would begin to feel as through she were treading on the edge of a great precipice, and one false step would send her careening into oblivion. After last night's examination of her feelings and the possible peril of her situation, she felt even more compelled to keep herself in check, and the easiest way to avoid a precarious situation was to avoid Jareth all together.

Now if only she could do something about this merciless heat! She had already propped open the doors to library to allow the air to circulate but it did little to alleviate the uncomfortably moist, hot air that had begun to accumulate as it neared mid-day. Sarah went back to her stack of books and grabbed the next three volumes that were to go on the topmost shelf of the bookcase she was currently reorganizing. As she reached up to shove the books in place, several nearby books toppled over, nearly missing her head as they all slammed to the floor.

The avalanche of books sapped her last shred of patience and she cried in frustration, "Ohhh! Shit!" With a huff, she stooped to gather the fallen books. As she crouched and started to pick them up, her eyes fell on a pair of black-gloved hands that had also started to gather the fallen books. She was momentarily startled, and her eyes darted up to meet those of a very amused Goblin King.

He was crouched down beside her, and as he handed the books back to her, his lips twisted into a devastating grin. She noticed that his light gray breeches made him look even more lithe and graceful as he rose out of his crouch to stand at his full height. As Sarah straightened, she noticed he was also wearing the ever-present pristine white poet's shirt, which as always, was slightly open at the top and was tucked neatly into his breeches. His outfit was completed by a brown leather vest, which hung loosely on his slender frame. Sarah averted her eyes from his form, quickly turning away to thrust the books back onto the shelf as she mumbled, "Thanks."

As she turned away from him, Jareth took advantage of the opportunity to admire her figure. She was dressed in slightly finer garments than her usual scribe's attire. As she stretched to reach the shelf, the Goblin King's eyes trailed hungrily over the front of her white peasant blouse, his gaze lingering on the swell of her bust. She was wearing the brown leather waist cincher, which enhanced her curves in the most sublime fashion. She wore a full red skirt today, and the outfit contrasted nicely with her thick dark hair, which due to the excessive heat, she had chosen to confine with pins. The blouse was worn slightly off the shoulder and Jareth was delighted at the opportunity to once again feast his eyes on such smooth skin.

Sarah was trying to calm her frazzled nerves at his unexpected appearance, when his cultured voice broke her train of thought, "My pleasure. Have you been slaving away in here all morning in this blazing heat?"

She turned to face him, suddenly unsure of her own voice, and merely nodded before she clasped her hands behind her back, as she realized that they were trembling slightly. Jareth regarded her for a moment before he inclined his head and admitted, "It's far too hot for this kind of work. Why don't you spend the rest of the day outdoors?"

Sarah could scarcely believe her ears, was he suggesting that she take the rest of the day off? In her disbelief Sarah blinked uncertainly at him as she repeated, "...Outdoors?" The Goblin King smirked and replied, "You can reorganize this section another day. Why not take your lunch and perhaps a book outside and enjoy the weather?"

That actually sounded like a pretty damn good idea to her and she hastily replied, "I'd like that." Jareth seeming rather proud of his suggestion added, "The gardens are quite pleasant this time of year...and of course you may venture out as far as the Goblin City."

Sarah felt as though she were in a haze, it hadn't even occurred to her that she might go exploring in the Goblin City, and the garden would be a delightful place to relax and do a little reading. She shook herself out of her reverie as he added with a feral grin, "Of course you may want to walk through the labyrinth, but I wouldn't advise wandering around alone. I was planning on venturing outside as myself, so if you wish to take a walk, I wouldn't mind accompanying you."

Well, now he had her full attention. What was the point of going outside to relax if he was going to be there? She could do without the added anxiety that his presence caused. Sarah glanced about uncomfortably before she hurriedly replied, "That's really not necessary...I'd rather just read in the garden or perhaps spend some time with Tempest."

Something about her answer piqued his interest and he stepped closer, his eyes questioning hers as he replied, "Oh? Well perhaps another time then?"

Sarah nodded hastily as she nervously wrung her hands behind her back. She offered him a forced smile as she backed away muttering, "I ah...I'll just go see about lunch..."

Jareth arched an eyebrow as his question halted her, "Sarah, are you alright?"

She nodded, "Yeah, I'm fine. Why?"

He stepped closer to her, regarding her with an amused expression, as he drawled, "Nothing. For one moment, I thought that you were trying to run away from me."

Sarah's eyes fell to the floor. Why did it suddenly seem like it had gotten much hotter in the library? She struggled to find her voice and a shred of composure as she weakly replied, "Not at all...you just..."

His handsome smirk was devastatingly predatory as he interrupted, "I what Sarah? Make you nervous?"

It was impossible to tear her eyes away from his mouth as she stammered unconvincingly, "No you just...surprised me...that's all."

As her eyes finally lifted to meet his, she realized she was drowning. She needed to get the hell out of this hot library and away from him before she did something stupid. Correction, before she did something else stupid. His lips twisted into a knowing grin as he replied, "Ah. I see. Well, don't let me keep you. Go and enjoy your lunch." He crossed his arms over his chest and watched her hurry away with a smug expression playing over his face.

Sarah hurried down the castle halls with her arms crossed over her chest to stop her hands from trembling. As she strode down the hall she whispered, "Shit! Shit, shit, shit!" She reached the kitchen she mentally chastised herself, "Oh that was real swift Sarah! Could you have been anymore obvious? Why didn't you just announce that whenever he's near you, you just fall to pieces? Oh wait...You just fucking did! Good job dip shit!"

She came into the kitchen to find to her relief that their were no goblins about. She dropped her forehead so it came to rest on the preparation table as she sighed, "I am in so much trouble."

A little while later Sarah strolled into the castle garden with a thick book in one hand and kerchief full of fruit in the other. She walked around the perimeter of the garden occasionally stopping to examine an unknown variety of flower. As she passed a bush laden with large peach colored roses she couldn't resist inhaling their sweet and heady scent.

Jareth was in a particularly good mood as he left the library. Something had changed in Sarah, he was sure of it. It was almost as if she had been going out of her way to avoid an argument with him. It also hadn't escaped his attention that she had been quite nervous, anxious even.

He had come to expect her trepidation when he stood close to her, when he invaded her personal space, but this time it was different. He had shown up in the library unexpectedly, that much was true, but in his opinion he hadn't overstepped her usual boundaries. No, it was as though she tensed the moment she noticed that he was there, as if his very presence made her uneasy.

Jareth leaned out over the balcony of his bedchamber. As his dual colored eyes turned to the horizon, he wondered, Had Sarah begun to realize the attraction that lie between them? It would certainly explain her sudden anxiety and her attempt to distance herself. He recalled the she had seemed rather distant and lost in her thoughts as she helped him dress that very morning.

As he gazed down into the garden he noticed Sarah meandering through the rose bushes. As he watched her lower her face to one of the blossoms to inhale its sweet scent he breathed, "Ah Sarah, so determined to keep your distance...But I'm afraid you've already given yourself away...Resist if you must...but like the struggling fly caught in the web, you only bind yourself tighter." With that Jareth transformed into a white barn owl and swooped down in the direction of the garden.

Sarah wandered through the garden in part to find a comfortable place to read. The other reason being that she wanted to make sure that Jareth was nowhere in sight. She found a breezy spot in the shade of a squat apple tree and to her satisfaction, there was no sign of certain goblin King.

As the white owl landed on a low branch of the willow tree in the garden, it spotted the dark haired girl standing at the base of a nearby apple tree. Upon careful inspection Jareth noticed that from this angle Sarah wouldn't be able to spot him through the dense foliage of the willow even if he were to assume his true form.

When it came to keeping tabs on Sarah, he usually resorted to the less risky method of using his crystals to see her, but on this occasion he felt compelled to watch her with his own eyes, in his Fae form. So with as much discretion as he could manage, Jareth shifted back, and being careful not to disturb any small branches, he settled into a comfortable position in the willow tree to watch Sarah.

As Sarah glanced up at the apple tree, she noticed a thick low branch that would be a perfect place to sit and read. With a bright smile she hastily removed her black leather boots and stockings. She tied the kerchief of fruit to her waist cincher and with the book set firmly between her teeth she scaled the broad trunk in her bare feet. There were several knobs bulging out that made perfect hand holds, and in a matter of moments she had settled on the wide branch with her back comfortably nestled against the trunk.

It was almost as if this tree were just meant to be the perfect perch. She wondered if Jareth himself had ever sat here. No sooner had the thought crossed her mind did she shake her head and scolded herself for even thinking about him. She had come out here to forget about him, not to dwell on the feelings he invoked, nor to consider the intricacies of his life.

With a sigh Sarah pulled the kerchief from her waist. As a cool breeze drifted under the tree's canopy Sarah reached one hand back to free her hair from the pins that kept it restrained. Once she had managed to remove all the pins she shook her head and her hair fell freely about her shoulders. She ran her hands through the silky strands a few times just to smooth out the wild locks. It felt good to let her hair down, as it felt nice to be free of those uncomfortable boots.

Taking another cursory glance around, Sarah hitched her skirt up a bit before she let her left leg dangle freely from the branch. She settled with her other leg stretched out along the branch she was sitting on. She let her leg swing slightly back and forth carelessly as she examined the fruit she had placed in her kerchief. Two plump strawberries, a perfect golden banana, and fat pear that was perfectly ripe. Sarah set the kerchief of fruit on her right thigh as she opened the bound blue book to the first page and began reading.

She didn't have the luxury of free time on her own very often, and there was no way she was going to take it for granted. To her relief the garden was empty of goblins and, more importantly, Jareth was nowhere to be found. All that could be heard was the occasional twittering of sparrows that darted about overhead and the buzz of busy insects. It was moments like these that made Sarah forget her worries, and suddenly all seemed right with the world again.

The young woman would certainly stand corrected if she had been aware of the mismatched pair of eyes that watched from the cover of the nearby willow. Jareth watched with interest and genuine curiosity as the girl had removed her boots and stocking scaled the apple tree's trunk with the greatest of ease. His breath had caught in his throat as she freed her dark hair and it spilled about her creamy pale shoulders. Then he watched, captivated as she raised her skirts to let her bare leg hang from the branch in the lazy afternoon breeze.

Jareth had never been one to be plagued by guilt, nor did he feel held to some strict code of virtue by some invisible higher power. As the high ruler of his domain, he had always done exactly as he had pleased, and took whatever pleasures he saw fit. This was not to say that Jareth was a bad King, for despite the cold exterior, he did truly care for his subjects and though he ruled with a firm hand, it was only because the nature of his subjects demanded stern leadership.

So it was no wonder that the Goblin King was suddenly confused by the strange and sudden tug of his conscience. For the first time ever, he felt slightly wicked for indulging in the desire to watch Sarah, when she was so unaware of his presence. He didn't understand why he felt this way, as he had watched her reflection in his crystals unbeknownst to her countless times without the slightest protest from his conscience.

Perhaps it was the fact that for the first time he was watching her directly with his own eyes? No that was unlikely, he thought. He was also surprised to find that the sensation wasn't entirely unpleasant, in fact it only seemed to make the excitement of indulging in the act that much more acute and potent. Guilty or not, Jareth couldn't bring himself to take his eyes off the girl.

As Sarah progressed into her reading she found to her surprise that the book was a love story. It appeared to be a work of fiction but it also had a mythological flavor to it. She half wondered what such a book would be doing in the castle library, but then the sheer number of volumes would suggest that it would be entirely possible to find just about any sort of book in such a vast collection. The story was eloquently written and she found herself being drawn in by the substance and depth of passion between the lifelike main characters. It was only when Sarah's stomach rumbled slightly that she turned her attention back to her lunch.

She picked up a plump strawberry between her two fingers as she read on. She brought the red berry to her mouth and paused as something dawned on her. She suddenly knew why she had become so easily engrossed in the story...the would be lovers bore a distinct resemblance to herself and Jareth. Even the nature of their relationship was mirrored by her relationship with the powerful Goblin King. As she read the next scene, which described in great detail, the passion of the lovers' first kiss, she felt a rather shocking flutter in her stomach, as she couldn't help but imagine sharing such a kiss with Jareth.

Sarah paused in her reading for a moment and pondered the ripe fruit in front of her. It was probably not a good idea to be imagining things like kissing the Goblin King, but she was all alone, and it was just a story. What harm had ever come from simply reading a book? Well, a particular red leather bound book came to mind, but that was different, and besides she wasn't reading THIS STORY aloud.

Rather proud of her mental argument, Sarah smirked deviously at the plump berry that she held before her face. She was so curious to know what it would feel like to kiss him...just once. She slowly slid the tip of the strawberry past her lips before she sunk her teeth into the fruit, causing red tinted juice to run down her fingers. She quickly and deftly maneuvered her fingers to prevent the liquid from dripping onto her clothes, as she ran the tip of her tongue along her own skin, so not a single drop of the sweet juice would be wasted.

The Goblin King was utterly engrossed in the scene that played out before him. It was a sweet agony, witnessing the way Sarah had savored the plump berry. Just the sight of the fruit against her ripe full lips was enough to send him into a state of arousal, but when she ran her pink little tongue over her own fingers, only to conclude by bringing the weeping half devoured berry back to her impatient lips to suckle its sweetness...Well that had nearly sent him over the edge. Oh, to feel that mouth against his own, devouring him with the same hunger. By the Undergound! He could almost taste the berry's lingering sweetness on her lips, just by merely thinking about it. He was granted the blessed torture a second time as Sarah continued to devour another strawberry in much the same fashion.

Jareth quietly shifted, very aware of his painful state of arousal. He nearly released a sigh of relief when Sarah suddenly gathered up her book and satchel of fruit and climbed down from the apple tree.

He froze as she wandered closer to his hiding place. She chose a spot in the sun where the grass was a bit high. Jareth could not have hoped for a better view, he only hoped that his close proximity did not give him away. He held his breath as Sarah gathered up her skirts, lifting them high about her thighs as she knelt in the soft grass. After a cursory glance around, she dropped the little sack of fruit beside her and stretched.

Jareth watched, spellbound as she moved to lie on her stomach. Jareth inched forward stealthily as he realized from his vantage point he was looking straight down the front of her blouse. The neckline of the garment was low and hung off her shoulders, and with her body pressed so intimately to the ground, her breasts were nearly spilling out of the top.

Sarah held the book up in front of her, propping up her hands by resting her elbows in the fragrant grass. She continued her reading in this more comfortable position, occasionally twirling a bit of her dark hair around her finger as she plunged back into the story.

In Sarah's book, the story had progressed to the point where passion could no longer be restrained by the main characters. Although she tried to refrain from doing it, she couldn't help but fantasize that it were Jareth and herself engaging in such acts of passion. She was wildly curious to know what his touch would feel like, for instance would he be gentle or rough? Would he possess the slow and deliberate hands of a skilled and patient lover, or would he be fierce and passionate, and make love with a sense of urgency? The prospect of either, only further fuelled her growing interest and sent a tremor of heat coursing through her body.

She knew so little about him, and although she knew it was completely reckless to be having such thoughts, she was powerless to stop her mind's insatiable curiosity. She was also aware that her present train of thinking was only driving her restlessness into full blown arousal.

Jareth watched longingly, savoring each lazy movement that she made. He noticed that Sarah did not like to remain still. Her inquisitive fingers were constantly moving, either toying with a lock of her hair or the long blades of grass as she continued to read. He was fascinated at the way she would suddenly bite her lower lip as if deeply contemplating what was on the page. Suddenly, she bent her legs up behind her and Jareth relished the opportunity to study her pretty calves. She hooked one foot about her other ankle and proceeded to trail her delicate toes along her other leg, causing her legs to sway slightly.

The erotic content of her book was becoming extremely heated, which was only adding fuel to the fire. She needed a distraction to stop the flow of reckless and passionate thoughts she was having about the Goblin King. It was then she remembered the fruit.

Jareth watched as Sarah looked up from her reading. She seemed to stare off into space as she bit at her lower lip, shifting uneasily as she twisted a lock of hair between her fingers. He wondered, was she normally this restless? Or was something particular plaguing her mind?

She suddenly turned her attention back to her satchel of fruit as if she had abruptly she abandoned whatever thoughts she had just been having. As Jareth realized she was reaching for the fruit again, he silently hoped it wasn't more strawberries, he wasn't sure if he could handle another display like that without losing his self-control.

She picked up a fruit. It was yellow. Most certainly not a strawberry. It was a...banana. Jareth swallowed, realizing that the limits of his self-restraint were about to be tested.

Sarah peeled back the skin from her banana, so that four neat strips of the golden skin hung off the middle portion of the fruit. The sugary fragrance reminded Sarah that these were undoubtedly her favorite fruit. Once upon a time she had actually preferred peaches, but since her last trip to the underground, she no longer had a taste for them.

Jareth watched helplessly as Sarah took the tip of the elongated fruit into her mouth. The sight of her blushing lips closing over the end of the banana caused a jolt of desire to tear through his loins. Now it wasn't just the though of Sarah's mouth against his that enhanced his desire, but the knowledge of what that sweet mouth of hers could do to other parts of his anatomy. His state of arousal had gone from slightly uncomfortable to downright urgent in the sheer moment it had taken Sarah to put the elongated fruit into her mouth.

It was then that Jareth noticed that his gloved hands were gripping the branch he was stretched out on, very, very tightly. He knew what would happen if he lingered any longer.

He would storm out of his hiding spot, which alone would probably be enough to startle Sarah senseless. It would only be a moment before he would reach her. No doubt she would rise up to kneel defensively when she saw him approach, and then he would swiftly drop to his knees before her and kiss her thoroughly and senseless, just like he'd been dying to from the moment she had summoned him with her careless plea. If she responded like he suspected she would, he would take great pleasure in forcing her onto her back and claiming her right there in the garden. There was only one thing that was stopping him from doing exactly that.

His plan.

He knew that if Sarah was ever to love him, she'd have to come to trust him first. The idea of seducing Sarah right here and now was awfully tempting, but somehow he doubted that taking advantage of her was the best way to earn her trust. In fact, he suspected that even if she were to give into the temptation of the gratuitous pleasures he could offer, he had a feeling she would be rather furious once the encounter was over. No, he couldn't afford to jeopardize the progress he was making for such basal gratification...there would be plenty of time for that later. Although the Goblin King had made up his mind, it wasn't so easy to make his body obey. He looked longingly at Sarah one more time before he clenched his jaw shut and shifted back into his owl form as noiselessly as possible.

Sarah had just moved to take another bite of her banana when she noticed something large and white moving in the nearby willow tree. She suddenly was overcome by the horrible sensation of being watched, and she nervously clamored to her feet. She took a few tentative steps toward the willow before she heard the frantic beating of wings.

She looked up to see a large white bird flying away in haste. The bird was already a fair distance away, so she couldn't be certain, but it looked like it might have been a white owl. Sarah stared dumbly at the now empty sky that was beginning to grow more orange by the moment. She couldn't shake the feeling that someone or something had been watching, and it was very curious that a large white bird had taken off at precisely the same moment. Could it have been the Goblin King? It was certainly possible, but why would he be watching her?

Suddenly something dawned on her. The very same day she had wished Toby away she had seen the white owl earlier when she was rehearsing the lines from the labyrinth in the park. Now that she thought about it, the owl had looked quite similar to the one that had flown through her parent's bedroom window right before Jareth appeared...the same owl that he had transformed into when she had finished the last line during their confrontation.

So...he probably had been watching, way back then and quite possibly just now. The very thought of him secretly watching her sent a barrage of goose bumps crawling over her skin. In Sarah's mind there was only a few reasons why you would watch someone secretly...either you didn't trust them, (which didn't make a whole lot of sense in this situation, since Jareth knew she was simply going out to read and enjoy the weather) or because you are infatuated, or you are a stalker by nature.

The idea of Jareth being a bit of a stalker wasn't all that surprising since he was quite devious and seemed to have quite a flair for playing the villain. But was he really infatuated or obsessed with her? That would indicate that his feelings were quite strong. Oh God, what if it was true, just like in the story? What if he actually loved her? What if he truly did, and she rejected him. Sarah suddenly felt nauseas. She simply could not stomach the implications.

Sarah tied up the remaining fruit and put her stockings and boots back on before she headed out of the garden towards the stables, the only place that gave her some piece of mind. Once she had reached the stable, it was easier to forget the worries that clouded her troubled mind. She cleaned Tempest's stall until it was totally immaculate, and then she gave him his supper.

Chapter 17: Sleepless Nights

The Stallion practically inhaled his grain before he proceeded to munch contentedly on his hay. Sarah spoke to him calmly and softly as she unlatched the door and slipped slowly into his stall.

Three Goblin grooms stood at the ready in case the stallion turned aggressive and she needed their assistance. Tempest sniffed the air as she entered, but other then that he didn't seem at all bothered by her intrusion. Sarah inched closer slowly and spoke very calmly, "Hey Boy, I've got something for you." She held out her hand and Tempest turned his head and regarded her with his wide blue eyes before he lowered his muzzle to her hand and took the offered sugar cube.

Sarah gave him an affectionate pat on the neck before she slowly slid her hand down the length of his neck to his shoulder. He didn't shy from her touch so she continued to slide her palm over his withers and back, running her hand down his side all the way to his belly. From there she ran her palm up over his flank, and still the stallion did not shy. She whispered to the watching goblin groom to get her a brush. There in the twilight on that wretchedly warm day, Sarah managed to groom Jareth's alicorn for the first time.

It was well into the evening when Sarah returned to the castle that night. She managed to sneak through the castle corridors to the kitchen without a chance mishap with his highness. She spoke to the Goblin in the kitchen who informed her that the King had retired early this evening and he had instructed them to keep some dinner warm for her.

Sarah was rather relieved at the news, and decided to take her crock of stew and her bread to the study to see if there were any new documents waiting. Perhaps if she started on them tonight that would leave less work for her to do the next day, and she could go back to her tidying of the library, where she would be less likely to be hounded by Jareth.

She made her way to the study and found that it looked as though it had been empty all day. There was but one document that needed to be copied, so Sarah set her half finished novel on the desk and went to work, stopping occasionally to eat. She finished her task easy enough and brought her dishes back down to the kitchen, forgetting that she had left the blue bound love story atop the desk.

She decided to spend the rest of her evening mending her clothes. She had already managed to tear one of her skirts and some of her garments had gotten quite filthy and would greatly benefit from a good washing. As she scrubbed her clothes in the wash bucket that the goblins had been kind enough to let her take, she vowed that she would never take the free washers and dryers in her dorm for granted ever again. She was definitely going to try to get some sleep after she finished.

The heat from the day had accumulated in the castle, making Sarah's chamber uncomfortably hot and stuffy. The unforgiving sun had disappeared over the treetops long ago and the moon had begun its silent vigil over the labyrinth. Sarah could see the pale white orb through her small window that she left open, but the scant amount of breeze did little to alleviate the suffocating atmosphere.

She had gone to bed over an hour ago but she was still wide awake. She shifted restlessly under her covers, tossing and turning, while praying that the merciful oblivion of sleep would claim her, but she wasn't so lucky. It was no use, the combination of the brutal humidity and the turbulent thoughts that plagued her mind, kept her from getting any rest. In a fit of frustration she wrestled with her blankets, finally throwing them aside. Even her thin linen nightdress caused her discomfort, she felt as though her whole body was being restrained by the twisted garment.

With a huff of disgust she jumped out of bed and straightened the damned thing. She was obviously not going to get to sleep anytime soon, so she figured she might as well get up. She lit the candle at her bedside and filled her basin with cold water. After she had bathed her face and neck with the blessedly cool water she glanced at the door to her chamber. She might as well go for a walk.

Then as if by instinct her eyes drifted to the door to Jareth's bedchamber. It was late. Most likely the Goblin King was already sleeping, and that was fine with her. She would enjoy her little jaunt more knowing that there was no chance of him creeping up behind her in one of those wretchedly dark corridors. As much as the castle was a strange yet intriguing place by day, it could be quite eerie at night, especially once the Goblins had all turned in and the main sconces had been extinguished.

An impulse struck Sarah and she acted on it. She crept over to her window, and standing on her tiptoes she craned her neck to look out. She could just barely see the Goblin King's balcony and to her relief not the slightest hint of light was coming from his chamber. Good, he was most definitely asleep then.

Seeing that she was already uncomfortably warm, she decided to forgo putting on her robe as she snuck out of her room into the very dark hall. She wandered the halls aimlessly for a little while. She knew her way around quite well now and had no trouble navigating her way through the labyrinthine corridors, even with only the light of her candle to guide her.

Out of curiosity she crept down towards the throne room. She wondered if the goblins had been reveling in there even after the firm reprimand from their sovereign. She shook her head as she stepped over the two sleeping guards, one snoring loudly as he reclined against the back of the other. "Lot of good they do..." She thought to herself as she slipped through the great wooden doors. The throne room was dim, but not totally dark. It showed no signs of having seen a large celebration, save for the two seemingly intoxicated Goblins that stood in the middle of the room arguing.

Sarah was very quiet as she crept into the room and the goblins didn't even notice her lurking there in the shadows. As she stealthily approached she overheard a bit of their conversation.

"...I say, that's where you're wrong mate...I'd bet you me best cask of ale that he does fancy her...why else would she be back ere?"

She couldn't hear the other goblin's response, as his back was to her, but she heard the first reply, "Well, I s'pose that coulda been 'is li'l game plan ter begin with but...Nawwww. You've seen the way he's been actin', Heck I thought fer sure he'd banish us all to the bog fer a week, but no sirree...just pots and pans...and that's nothin' in this place. No, I say he's sweet on her..."

The other goblin interrupted but Sarah could only make out that he had asked the other some indecipherable question and was now chortling with laughter. The second goblin broke into raucous laughter as well before he sniggered, "Well, can't say I blame 'im...Yous seen 'er...easy on the eyes, sweet thing...she is."

The other goblin again mentioned something that she couldn't make out, but the reply was clear, "Aye, human for sure...mortal as they come...but heck...I'd fancy 'er over any snooty Fae lass any day...icy pack of wolves that lot is...and don't he know it."

Suddenly the Goblin stopped jabbering and hissed, "Uh...you just hear somethin'?" Both Goblins quickly hid their flagons of ale behind their backs as they finally spotted the figure standing in the shadows. Sarah had been listening long enough, and it was pretty obvious that it was her they were referring to.

Apparently they also suspected that Jareth might be infatuated with her, however it seemed that even they weren't sure of his motives. She had always assumed that goblins were stupid creatures. Apparently they were far more observant and intelligent than she had given them credit for, although the fact that they hadn't picked up on her eavesdropping was a minor strike against them.

Sarah strode forward and they undoubtedly heard her footsteps. The first Goblin swallowed with dread as he muttered, "Oh...Dang..." But then she stepped into the light and they saw it was her, and not the Goblin King that had intruded on their conversation.

They both seemed to sag in relief as one breathed, "Oh. It's just...you...For a second I thought you might be his majesty..."

Sarah shook her head, smiling at their relief, before she offered, "No, It's just me. I think the King is already asleep." The smaller and undoubtedly dumber of the two, withdrew his flagon from behind his back and took a much needed draught of ale. The other just looked uncertainly from his companion to Sarah before he stammered, "Uh...you're not going to...tell his majesty...are you?"

Sarah gestured to the sloshing flagon that he was unsuccessfully trying to hide behind his back as she replied, "What? That you guys are drinking in here?"

Both the goblins nodded furiously and the dumber one demanded, "...er...or anything about what you just mighta heard?"

Sarah looked from one to the other. They were actually trembling. It might have been fun to toy with them but Sarah felt bad enough for startling them so she admitted, "No, Don't worry, I won't. Your secret is safe with me."

The larger Goblin elbowed the smaller one, smiling smugly as he hissed, "See. I told ya she was alright."

Sarah smiled at the comment. Perhaps being friendly with Jareth's subjects would have its advantages. She hadn't really thought about it, but she might stand to gain a lot of inside knowledge by becoming friendly with them. There were a vast number of them and they were in essence the eyes and ears of the castle.

The smaller goblin elbowed the other and muttered, "But...but she's the King's tendant...isn't she 'sposed to report to 'im and keep 'im informed?"

Sarah crossed her arms and regarded the goblin, a sly smile forming on her lips as she replied, "I suppose you do have a point...but in this case, I don't see how such information really concerns your King, so I suppose I might just look the other way."

The goblin seemed rather impressed as he ventured, "But...you're not afraid that he'll dump you in the b...b..bog...fer not bein' truthful?!?"

Sarah shrugged, an amused grin tugged at the corners at her mouth, "Not really."

The second Goblin smacked the other on his arm and growled, "Course she ain't afraid, you twit...Don't you remember who dis is? She done already stood up to 'is majesty, and beat 'is labyrinth...an 'ere she is, live and well."

The smaller goblin looked at her in awe, looking her up in down in wonder as if really just realizing for the first time that this was the very same Sarah who had beat the Goblin King and demanded her brother back.

Sarah walked down the dark winding corridor smiling smugly to herself. The Goblins weren't such bad creatures after all. As she walked past the door to the study, she stopped as something occurred to her. Had she left her book in there? She thought back to earlier that evening. Come to think of it she didn't recall having it in her hand when she had retired to her room. She must have left it on the desk.

She had better go and get it. The last thing she wanted was for Jareth to catch wind of what she'd been reading. If he found the book and discovered its content, he would torment her over it for sure.

Sarah turned around purposefully and approached the door. It was slightly ajar and she noticed that soft orange light spilled out onto the darkened hall floor. Perhaps someone had left a candle burning. The opening wasn't wide enough for her to look in, so she pushed it open slowly. To her dismay the ancient door groaned on its hinges, causing an awful creak. Startled, she glanced into the room, surprised to see Jareth lounging in the great arm chair by the fire. As if his mere presence wasn't enough, the monarch had already looked up to see her lurking in the doorway.

She'd been caught. Damn.

Sarah first noticed the casual manner in which he was draped over the chair. One booted foot rested on the floor, the other leg thrown haphazardly over the arm of the chair. She could not prevent her curious eyes from straying up his body, from his high black boots, up to his thighs covered by skin-tight grey breeches. As if that wasn't unnerving enough, his billowy poet's shirt hung open to his waist. He hadn't bothered to fasten the buttons this evening, probably due to the heat. His face wasn't any less unsettling. His mismatched eyes sparkled with surprised amusement and that ever-present mocking smirk had already appeared on his face. Why did he have to be so damn alluring? There was nothing she could do, as her heart started to pound. Damn him.

Sarah froze as he drawled, "Sarah what brings you to this side of the castle...?" He briefly perused her body, noticing she was wearing nothing but a thin chemise. His eyes settled on her face as he added with smirk, '...in the middle of the night?" She frantically struggled to gather her wits about her and stammered, "Oh...I ah...didn't know you were in here. I just couldn't..."

As she spoke she had already begun to retreat back into the hall but she stopped as he interjected, "...sleep?"

She swallowed the lump in her throat as she hesitantly nodded and turned back, scanning the large desk as she replied, "Actually, I...was...just...looking for a book. I had it earlier and I think I might have left it in here."

His eyes danced with amusement and he pursed his lips as if in thought before he held up the blue bound book that had been resting in his lap, "Wouldn't be this book would it?"

Sarah gaped at the book in his gloved hand. That was it all right.

Crap.

The words seemed to catch in her throat as she stammered, "Ah...yeah. That's it."

Jareth glanced at the book, pondering it before he remarked, "I couldn't sleep either. I came here hoping to find something to occupy my time...and there it was, just like magic." His eyes raked over her form with careful scrutiny as he finished, "It was fortunate that you left it. I rather enjoyed it. It was after all, amusing...wouldn't you say?"

Sarah simply stared in dumbfounded shock. He had read it already?!? Surely he was referring to the content and he was mocking her. Oh God, that meant he must have noticed the similarities between the lovers and themselves. Sarah wished she had the ability to disappear. If she had been uncomfortable before, she was downright miserable now.

His eyes locked with hers as he placed an elegant gloved finger to his lips in contemplation. His voice was dangerously enticing as he demanded, "Tell me, did you enjoy it?"

Sarah felt her ears grow hot as she made a noble effort to throw him off the subject, "I...I don't know...I haven't finished it."

Jareth tilted his head to the side as his eyes continued to bore into hers, "You're better than halfway, I saw where you folded the page. Surely you have some opinion?"

Sarah broke their eye contact, finding it easier to stare into the fire as she babbled, "It's alright...a pleasant way to spend the afternoon at any rate."

Jareth closed the book raising an eyebrow as he mused, "Yes, and a rather exhausting way to spend an evening as well..." He paused, his eyes locking with hers as he added "...and yet I still have no desire to sleep." He held the book out to her as if daring her to come closer and take it from him.

She cautiously took a step forward. It did not escape her attention that his eyes dropped to roam over her form again as she stepped closer to the fire. She tentatively reached out to take the book from him, when he suddenly smirked and pulled it out of her reach. Her eyes met his in defiance as he finished silkily, "...Of course, you may prefer to retire to your room to read, but since we both seem to be plagued by the same restlessness...perhaps you'd care to join me in a game?"

She furrowed her brow and stammered, "A game? With you?" He nodded, his eyes still fixed on her face as his lips twisted into that devious smirk she knew all too well. He was challenging her, daring her to try and match wits with him.

She took the bait. "What sort of game?"

The grin only widened as he drawled, "My my, You have become suspicious over the years. What happened to your sense of adventure?"

She gave him a weary look as she replied, "Well, forgive me for my reluctance...but I've played one of your games with you before, and I'm not in hurry to do it again."

He gave her a pointed look and asked, "Why not?"

Her eyes flashed angrily as she replied, "I know how you play, and fair is not the word that comes to mind."

His eyes held hers as he countered "Oh really?"

Her tone verified that she was becoming annoyed as she finished, "Yes, really."

Her irritation only seemed to encourage him and he seriously ventured, "Come now Sarah, can you honestly say that I ever went back on my word?"

She looked at the floor and admitted, "No...but...with you calling the shots, something bad always happens."

He pretended to look offended as he remarked, "What do you mean...I resent that..."

She rolled her eyes, not at all falling for his feigned innocence as she scoffed, "Oh please, you know exactly what I'm getting at. You manipulated time to give you the advantage, that was just before you sent some huge grinding machine to chase me down. Let's see what else. I mysteriously wound up in the bog of stench. Ummm...huge mechanical monsters, goblin soldiers. Is that enough for you? And oh wait...drugged fruit too. Aside from the magical amnesia, your stupid peach also gave me a hell of a headache. I hardly would call all that playing fair."

He sat back in the chair and quipped "Oh Sarah, must you be so dramatic? You know you were never in any real danger."

She crossed her arms and retorted, "Oh really? Well that's news to me...and what about this time...let's not forget that it was you who manipulated me into staying here by THREATENING MY FRIEND!"

His eyes were fixed on her as he evenly replied, "Can you honestly say you've been so miserable since you came back?"

She looked him right in the eye and retorted, "At times...yes."

He lounged back in his chair confidently. God, he looked every inch like a King, an awfully enticing one to boot. He contemplated her for a moment before he drawled, "It doesn't have to be that way."

She stared at him and retorted, "Oh no? Then why IS it that way?"

He calmly replied, "I'll tell you why...your defiance."

Sarah bristled at the remark and spat back, "Oh I see...it's somehow MY fault that that you can't help making me miserable."

Jareth laughed and the sound was rich, it seemed to caress her ears, "Ah Sarah...You are far more adept at making yourself miserable than I am."

The sound of his laughter only angered her more. She did not appreciate being made fun of, and the fact that it was him doing the laughing, only made it that much more unbearable.

She crossed her arms and spat, "And what's that supposed to mean?"

He smiled as if he were privy to some valuable piece of confidential information and asked, "Tell me...has anything truly terrible befallen you since we made our little...agreement?"

She glared at him and snapped, "I don't know. Does being forced to be dressed as a page boy and being molested by a Fae noblewoman count?"

Jareth shook his head, "There...you see. Self imposed misery."

She stared at him incredulously and sputtered, "Self imposed?!? How is it self imposed? Unless I'm delusional, it was you who dressed me in those hideous clothes and practically shoved me into that woman's arms."

Jareth nodded, "Maybe so, but YOU are the one who decided the situation had to be unpleasant."

Now she regarded him with disbelief as she demanded, "What are you talking about?"

Jareth folded his hands in his lap. It was obvious he was walking a fine line with her. One wrong word might cause her storm out angrily, but he simply couldn't resist pushing her, it was far too much fun. He smirked and began, "Tell me truthfully, did you not find the girl beautiful?"

Sarah gaped at him, "What does THAT have to do with anything?"

Jareth tilted his head to the side thoughtfully, "Just answer the question. Did you or did you not find her attractive?"

Sarah threw up her hands, "Fine, I guess you could call her...attractive."

He regarded her and coolly replied, "That's not what I asked. Did YOU find her attractive?"

Sarah exhaled in frustration and admitted, "Ugh...yeah...I guess."

Jareth smiled, revealing his fine pointed teeth as he mused, "Now we are getting somewhere. Now...honestly...was it not flattering that she desired you?"

Sarah shrugged, still having no idea where he was going with this, "I suppose it was flattering."

Jareth placed a gloved finger to his lips as he contemplated the girl before him, "Now let me get this straight. You found the girl attractive...and you were flattered by her feelings...yet it was unpleasant for you?"

Sarah nodded, "Yes. Precisely."

Jareth ventured further, "Why? Were her affections not agreeable? What's the matter were her kisses not sweet? Not imploring enough for you?"

Sarah shook her head in frustrated bewilderment, "I cannot BELIEVE we are even having this conversation!"

Jareth tried again, "Be honest Sarah...Wouldn't it have been possible to just lie back and enjoy her attention?"

Sarah threw up her hands as she replied, "Not for me!"

He smiled ruthlessly like a predator about to make a kill, "Why not? Are you incapable of experiencing pleasure?"

Her eyes widened at his audacity as she snapped "NO!"

His bold smile remained as he demanded, "Then why wasn't it possible?"

Sarah huffed, "Alright...fine. Maybe it would have been...but not with her...maybe if it had been..."

Luckily she stopped herself in the nick of time before she had said "Someone else." That would have been disastrous, given the Goblin King's present knack for interrogation.

A smug smile formed on his face.

Well...Shit.

It looked as though she had already given away to much, for it seemed that he already knew what she had been about to say. His eyes wandered over her as he coaxed, "If it had been...what?"

Sarah shook her head and replied forcefully, "No. We are done with this conversation...think what you want...my discomfort may be somewhat self-induced but YOU don't make it easy, in fact you have made a career out of messing up my life."

The expression on his face was smug as he drawled, "I already told you it doesn't have to be that way." God, that look on his face made her want to smack him, very hard. She barely contained herself as she accused, "Oh really? Why do you always have to antagonize me then?" The fact that he remained so calm while she was getting so riled up, only made her hate him more.

His tone was self assured and cold as ice as he replied, "I told you why...your defiance."

Sarah was aware that she was starting to raise her voice but she didn't care, "My defiance? How?"

He looked rather amused by her loss of control and he admitted with a grin, "You...provoke me."

Sarah realized she was on thin ice, it would be very bad idea to let her emotions get any further out of control, so she converted her anger to burning sarcasm, "SO what's THAT supposed to mean?"

He stood up and circled her as if she were some helpless piece of prey. His voice was cool, and calculated as he carefully replied, "I told you before, I can be cruel but I can also be generous. You'll find I can be quite civil...that is if you can refrain from being obstinate for a single moment."

She turned, keeping her eyes trained on him as he circled, never once trusting her back to him. She exhaustedly demanded, "Civil? You?"

He was now circling closer as he explained in an almost patronizing yet teasing manner, "Yes, All I'm asking is to engage me in a game. I only intended to propose a means for us to pass some time...but if you aren't interested..."

His movements were making her dizzy and she didn't like the idea of him standing so close. Hadn't he ever heard of personal space?

She closed her eyes and shook her head as she ordered, "Stop it, you are making me dizzy! What sort of game?"

With a knowing smirk Jareth settled back into his chair and enquired, "Do you play chess?" With a flick of his wrist an elaborate chess board appeared on a table before him. Sarah arched an eyebrow. She was rather fond of chess and she wasn't half-bad either, but she hesitated as she considered how a playing with him may vastly change her idea of the game.

Sarah eyed the board and questioned, "Normal chess?"

He nodded, "Yes, a simple game of strategy."

She cocked her head to the side as she regarded him warily and quipped, "Not...If I make a bad move I land in the oubliette or the bog...version of chess?"

He shot her a weary expression, her mistrust was really starting to grate on his nerves, "Sarah..."

She was relentless and chided, "If I play, that means no tricks, no monsters...and absolutely no cheating. And...we don't leave this room."

His eyes met hers with resolve, "Very well."

It was however, too much to hope for that she would be satisfied enough to just shut up and play. Of course she had more questions. "So we just play for fun right? No stakes?"

He gave a weary sigh and replied, "Sarah what fun would that be?"

A knowing smile played on her face as she mused, "Of course. With you I really ought to know better. Fine, what are the stakes?"

He smiled. Perhaps she wanted to make this interesting after all.

Chapter 18: Winning; Is it Black and White?

She noticed that his eyes momentarily roamed her body before he replied, "The stakes are...negotiable." Sarah swallowed. Why did that sound like an invitation? She took a moment to be sure her voice wouldn't waver before she demanded, "Alright...what do I get if I win?"

His eyes met hers they were full of heat and amusement as he drawled, "What do you want?"

Sarah swallowed hard. How did he make everything so suggestive? Lord have mercy, it was so distracting, the way he looked lounging there with his shirt open to his waist, and the breeches...well she wasn't even going there. Then there was the damn predatory smirk on his face and the way the fire literally danced in his eyes. She tried to resist the barrage of naughty thoughts, but damn him...he made her think it.

She struggled to keep her expression neutral as her mind echoed, I'd settle for you right now you arrogant ass. There was no way in hell she was about to voice that request, so instead she replied quite seriously, "To be released."

"You wish to be sent home if you win?" She nodded and he promptly replied "Those are high stakes..." She frowned as he continued, "But if you insist...I'll agree to that...BUT...If I win, you have to stay here in the castle...forever."

Sarah had half expected as much and snorted, "I don't think so."

Jareth tilted his head to the side and probed, "Why? Afraid you might lose?"

She shook her head and countered, "No, there's just no way I'm agreeing to that...I'm not that stupid."

Jareth met her eyes and asked seriously, "What would you settle for then?"

She ignored his question, seemingly lost in her own thoughts as she mused aloud, "Why would you want me to stay here anyway?"

He shrugged as if bored, "Does it really matter?"

She kept her face neutral as she countered, "It might...why?"

He seemed to carefully consider the question before he leaned forward and drawled, "Tell you what...if you win, I might tell you."

Sarah stared at him and remarked, "You are really annoying...you do know that don't you?"

He simply smiled as she shook her head and added, "We need terms we can both agree on...there must be something. Oh! How about this? If I win, I get to see Kayla and spend time with her...and not for less than a full day, and I want to be able to get some of my stuff and bring it here."

Jareth carefully considered her request, "You want some time with your friend...and to fetch some of your belongings?" She nodded and he replied, "Very well...but that is two requests, if I win then you owe me TWO favors."

Her eyes locked with his as she demanded, "What kind of favors?"

He regarded her will cool consideration and replied, "I haven't quite decided."

She raised her brow and shrugged, "Well, I'm not playing unless I know what they are."

A faint smirk touched his lips as he quipped, "Why...don't trust me?"

She looked him over and retorted, "To be honest? No, not at all."

He looked down at the board and persuaded, "Come now Sarah, what are you so afraid of? You're already bound to stay here and obey me. How is promising to honor a couple of favors any different?"

She cocked her head to the side and remarked, "Maybe it's not, but then again maybe it is. Either way I'm sure I'll regret agreeing to something so vague."

He replied a little defensively, "How do you know that?"

She shrugged and informed him with finality, "I have to at least now the nature of these...favors before I agree to play."

He merely smiled and asked, "Why?"

God, it was like dealing with a child, she thought angrily.

Her eyes narrowed, settling on his face and she snapped, "I don't like your evasiveness, that's why. You might ask anything of me. They could be...inappropriate."

His gaze fell on her face, his amusement was evident as he casually replied, "Inappropriate? Sarah, you belong to me for the next year what could I possibly request that would be inappropriate?"

She looked away, for the heat in his gaze was unnerving and she quietly admitted, "I can think of plenty."

His voice turned silky but still retained that cool arrogance, "Really? I'm intrigued. What do these inappropriate requests involve?"

Sarah kept her eyes on the fire as she clenched her jaw. She could simply not look at him as she replied purposefully, "For starters...anything that involves being dragged or tricked into your bed."

She might not have been looking at him, but she could sense his smug smirk as he replied, "Ah Sarah...you amuse me. Are you still so afraid that I'm going to steal your virtue?"

Something about the way he said it, the tone of confidence perhaps, struck her and it was just enough to let the familiar anger flare within her. She turned towards him, recklessly advancing on him as she spat, "No not really, seeing that I already lost my virtue...I just don't like being used...in any manner."

He watched her bold advance with surprise, and for one moment something unrecognizable flickered in his eyes. Was it disappointment, anger perhaps? She wasn't sure, for it was quickly replaced with that damned cool indifferent mask as he softly countered, "Is that so? How can you be so sure that I would wish to use you?"

She regained control of her temper and evenly replied, "I'm not, but I'm not about to take that risk."

His eyes took the liberty of wandering over her body again and he couldn't resist baiting her just a little more. His voice was soft, dangerously seductive as he drawled, "Sarah, what makes you think that I can't lure you into my bed at any time I choose?"

She froze as she seemed to consider the idea, but she was quick to regain her nerve and replied, "I haven't found myself there yet, and you don't strike me as someone with a lot of patience."

He smirked, "You raise a good point, but then again, perhaps I might prefer to have such companions come to my bed willingly..."

Sarah looked at the ground trying not to let her voice waver as she answered, "Jareth, I'm not about to even pretend that I have the first clue about what goes on in that head of yours. All I know is one thing...I don't know what to make of any of this...and the smartest thing I can do for the time being is to avoid getting myself into any situations that could make my time here any more unpleasant than it already is."

Boldly she raised her eyes to meet his and he smoothly replied, "How can you be so sure that such a situation would be objectionable? On the contrary you might find yourself quite pleasantly surprised. Wouldn't it be wiser to at least find out what you might be missing?"

She winced as if the very words stung and she spat in retaliation, "How did we end up even talking about this? I think you've taken this conversation far enough, so you can stop wasting your breath...I'm not a foolish little girl any more and like I said...I've already lost my virtue...so I'm well aware of what I'd be missing."

He tsked, "Such hostility...I detect some hard feelings. Could it be that some past lover left you so unsatisfied?"

Her eyes flashed with anger and she hissed, "That's quite enough...this has NOTHING to do with us playing chess...you have gotten us so far off topic..."

He smiled and held up his hands in a gesture of peace to keep her from storming out as he coaxed, "You are quite right...I became...distracted...now, where were we?"

"Your requests. If you win...what are they?"

He seemed to consider the question before he explained, "Very well. If you insist I shall tell you. Some important guests will be in attendance at a ball hosted by my kingdom. You will willingly be my escort." Sarah stared unblinking as he elaborated, "You will dress accordingly, as I see fit, and you will be every bit the civil, well mannered lady that I know you can be."

Sarah pondered the idea. Of course he could have just politely asked her to be his escort for the evening, but this was the Goblin King after all, so the fact that he would more or less demand she be his well mannered date wasn't all that surprising.

She looked at him quizzically, "Your...escort? To a...ball?" He nodded and she continued, "Does that mean I have to dance with you?"

He smirked, "It IS a ball...that's the idea...people do usually tend to dance with their escort."

She frowned, "Well, that could be a bit of a problem."

He looked at her and quipped, "Why? Is expecting you to be well mannered for a few hours too much to ask?"

She fidgeted and snapped, "No. It's just that...I ...don't dance."

He regarded her with a stern expression as he demanded, "Can't or won't?"

She admitted, "I won't...because I can't. I don't know how."

He smirked smugly and mused, "Well that makes the second request that much easier doesn't it? Before the ball you will learn."

She snorted in disbelief, "Oh, Right. And who's going to teach me...your Underground Goblin ballet troop?"

He regarded her coolly and finished with certainty, "No. I shall teach you."

She scoffed, "Yeah right. Like you've got the patience for that."

He protested, "I'm sure I can manage it quite easily."

She shrugged, "Well good luck to you...I have no rhythm..." She seemed to reconsider a moment before she added, "Not that it matters...since you aren't going to win anyway."

He grinned, "Does that mean you're finally agreeing to play?"

She shrugged and sighed, "Why not...let's play."

He smiled, the points of his teeth barely visible behind his thin lips as he indicated her side of the board, "I believe white goes first." She surveyed the board for a moment before she asked, "What happens if it's a draw?"

Jareth thought and replied, "Well, in that unlikely event, I suppose we both win and we both shall be held to fulfill each others requests."

Before long they were both engrossed in the game. Sarah surveyed the board carefully contemplating the position of each of her white pieces in correlation with Jareth's black pieces. So far they had each only lost a pawn, and as far as she could tell neither had an advantage over the other, as of yet. She took her time considering her next move. It was important to develop her defense strategy before Jareth began to go on the offensive. She had to be sure that her next few moves were flawless.

Jareth watched her careful scrutiny of the board and remarked, "I see that you prefer to take your time before you go on the offensive."

She was hardly listening as she was trying to decide where to place her knight. She absently murmured, "Mmm-hmm."

Jareth looked at her over the board and asked, "Can I ask you a question?"

Again she was hardly listening to him as she replied, "...yeah."

He gestured to her careful maneuvering, "You seem to prefer a rigid, premeditated attack strategy...Why are you so reluctant to follow your instincts?"

The last thing she needed was him trying to give her his almighty advice. Her eyes darted up to meet his as she protested, "Jareth, I'm trying to think..."

There was an amused smirk on his face as he remarked, "I can see that...I was merely curious."

Sarah finally moved her knight with certainty and admitted, "Following my instincts usually gets me into trouble...I don't like being impulsive during conflict."

He couldn't suppress a throaty chuckle as he replied, "Oh really? You seem rather impulsive when you are brazenly defying ME...so I'm afraid I don't follow you ..."

He didn't hesitate making his next move and she chose to ignore the first part of his statement. After a good calming deep breath she explained, "Well, if you want a reason...I'll give you an example...I was being impulsive when I wished Toby away.

He was quiet for a moment before he replied, "That was one incident...and you took responsibility for your actions. No harm came to him and you got him back safe and sound."

She chanced a glance at him and continued, "Yeah well...I must not have learned my lesson, because on occasion I still can't help being impulsive..."

He smiled, knowing full well that it was their heated exchanges that she was referring to. He contemplated her and quietly mused, "Is that really so bad?"

She looked at the board finding her next move as she answered, "Well yeah...it's caused me to wind up doing some pretty stupid things."

He seemed oddly distant as he absently replied, "Everyone makes mistakes Sarah."

Her eyes were glued to the board as she admitted, "Yeah well, sometimes mistakes can't be taken back, and people get hurt."

He looked at her, genuinely curious about what she was getting at. He boldly ventured, "Sound as though you are speaking from experience...I may be mistaken but are you talking about some romantic attachment?"

She stole a glance at him before she quickly looked away, shrugging as she stated, "I don't have any romantic attachments." He didn't miss the fact that she wasn't looking at him and he further probed, "Are you sure?"

This time she met his gaze and her rising temper was evident in her voice as she demanded, "What's that supposed to mean...?"

He was disturbingly calm as he replied, "Surely you've had them in the past at least...you were the one who admitted that you lost your virtue."

Her tone was absent as she ruthlessly reaffirmed, "Yes I did."

He expectantly probed, "So...?"

She looked at him incredulously as she retorted "So...what?"

Jareth could sense her growing discomfort, but he was way too curious to stop now, "What happened?"

She seemed at a loss for words as she finally stammered, "I..,ah...don't know if I should talk about this...with you."

He acted as though his question were innocent and the most natural thing in the world as he pushed, "Why not?"

She looked at the board finding it easier to think when she wasn't looking into that penetrating gaze, "It's sort of personal...and well...painful."

She heard rather than saw his smug amusement when he coolly enquired, "Why was your delicate little heart broken?"

She became defensive instead of cautious and blurted, "Hardly...It's not like I loved them or anything..."

Jareth wasn't sure what he had been expecting, but it wasn't what she'd said. He failed miserably at keeping the surprise from his voice as he retorted, "Them?1? I don't understand."

Sarah looked at the fire, realizing that her carelessness had gotten her into a yet another precarious conversation, and she quietly asked, "Are you sure you want to?"

It was his turn to go on the defensive as he asked, "Why wouldn't I?"

Sarah sounded distant as she mused, "I have no idea..."

He softly replied, "Sarah, obviously you don't have to tell me anything if you don't wish to. But I can't deny that you have piqued my curiousity and...you brought it up."

He was right, she had brought up the subject, but that didn't mean that she had to tell him a damn thing. But still...she was curious to see how he would react to the truth. If he did harbor feelings toward her...Well there was only one way to find out. She decided she had nothing to lose. A little embarrassment was a small price to pay if his reaction would bring her closer to finding out the truth.

She hesitated for only a moment before she decided to go for broke. "Let's just say that the independence and casual attitudes I encountered at school made my poor impulsive decisions that much easier..." She noticed he was looking intently at her now, as if hanging on her every word...oh yes...he was definitely interested in what she had to say.

She looked at the fire as she continued, "On occasion I indulged in drinking and found the mind numbing effects addicting. It made being social a whole lot easier. It made me bolder and I was fascinated by the idea that my male peers were suddenly finding me desirable...and so...I got...curious."

She stole a glance at his face. His expression was unreadable but then when he spoke she detected a change in his voice as he asked, "Sarah what are you getting at?"

She could have been mistaken but it almost sounded as though he had been holding his breath...perhaps that was something after all. She felt compelled to continue to forge ahead, "I'm saying, I allowed myself to be used...I was curious. I sort of wanted it to happen...just not necessarily with the guy it happened with and not in that particular way."

She looked up at him and was startled to see something that resembled disappointment in his eyes...but it was fleeting and he quickly collected himself.

She continued and her tone was laced with a tinge of regret, "Everyone hopes that their first time will be some miraculous experience, but more than not, it's a let down...that's what I've been told anyway."

His voice was soft and for once not arrogant or smug as he mused, "I was under the impression that you humans regard intimacy as something to be cherished, something not unlike magic." She was quick to contradict him, "There was nothing magical about it...not for me...not in the two minutes that it lasted."

He seemed to have steeled himself, and his casual arrogance was back in full force, "Perhaps not...but perhaps your lover was unadept." She muttered under her breath, "Yeah...unadept and ill-equipped..."

"What was that?" She looked up feigning innocence as she was reminded that his hearing was exceptionally good. She ignored her slip and replied, "Nothing. It was not at all the earth shattering experience I was anticipating...but then again I didn't have any feelings for him and wasn't even attracted to him, so why should it have been?"

He regarded her carefully and began, "Let me get this straight...you were intimate with someone whom you had no feelings for? Someone you didn't even find attractive?"

Her eyes did not leave his face as she added, "Pretty pathetic huh...hey and what's worse is that I let it happen more than once."

She watched in bewilderment as his demeanor changed instantly, there was a sense of urgency in his voice and if he would have been any less guarded she might have sworn he was angry. She noticed that he clenched his jaw before he demanded, "How many Sarah?"

Her attempt had not been in vain, and she grew rather elated at the realization. She suppressed the urge to grin, again feigning innocence, baiting him as she remarked, "How many what?"

He heatedly demanded "How many lovers...How many times?"

Sarah did her best not to look smug. Now THIS was an interesting development, he nearly sounded jealous. She looked up at him and replied hotly, "How many lovers have YOU had?"

She nearly smacked herself as soon as she said it. What the hell was she doing? Flirting with him? If it wasn't so dangerous, she would have almost sworn that it was fun.

His tone had a definite warning to it as he fired back, "Stop trying to change the subject..."

She gave him her best wide eyed innocent look and protested, "I'm not..." Yep, she was definitely flirting, she had to be out of her mind.

He didn't seem to fully catch on as he was rather abrupt with her and by the gods he was nearly shouting, "Sarah, you started this, we are talking about you...now how many lovers have you had?!?"

She could hardly believe she was going through with this, but the elation was intoxicating and she replied nonchalantly, "I guess that depends on how you define a lover. If you are strictly referring to sex, than the answer is one. But if you mean other types of intimacy, then that would be three."

His tone was harsh as he demanded, "Three more or three total? And what do you mean...other types of intimacy?"

She fired back, "Three total. I only slept with one, and the others...I just...fooled around with."

His tone was now a bit softer as he asked, "Fooled around with? How do you mean...like kissing?"

She looked away sheepishly, "Well...sorta."

His eyes were locked on her face as he stated resolutely, "You've lost me...There's only one way you kiss someone Sarah, either you do or you don't, now what in blazes are you talking about?!?"

Oh God he was going to make her say it. Nothing like discussing the intricacies of sex with the Goblin King. "I uh...went down on them."

He stammered, "Went down on? What? ...Oh." He may not have been down with the lingo, but he was smart enough to figure it out.

Her face was scarlet as she turned to look at the fire. Jareth went silent for a moment as if coming to terms with what she had just told him. He looked at her face, the way she blushed. Remarkable, that she still blushed like such an innocent. Anger flared within him, not really at her, but at the situation. He had waited too long and now she had already learned what it meant to lose her innocence in the arms of another.

The very thought of some foolish young idiot pawing at Sarah made his blood simmer. It was lucky for her, and for her foolish lover that he had not been watching at the time, as he was fairly certain the mortal world would be short one more young fool...make that three young fools, he thought ruefully. Still, she admitted that she felt nothing for these young men, and that was something. In a way that should have delighted him, but it didn't, rather it bothered him that she had let herself be so used.

Perhaps he was the foolish one for having believed that the last time, despite his failure, he had still managed to capture some part of her imagination that would leave her wondering. Well maybe she did wonder, but apparently not enough to wait. It was ridiculous to think that she had been pining for him all this time, but no matter...she would soon enough. He had already read her signs, and most of them were loud and clear. She was attracted to him and it was to the point that it made her vastly uncomfortable.

By this time Sarah had regained some of her composure and she breathed deeply admitting, "They were mistakes...all of them..."

Jareth still felt outrage at the injustice of it, and he failed to keep his mouth shut, "Sarah...Why? You...you let them use you!"

Suddenly, without warning her eyes boldly met his and her look was fierce as she resolved, "Yes, I did. But at the same time I was using them to satisfy my own curiosity and the answer I found happened to be a let down. So now you see why I'm not about to make the same mistake again, especially not after the last time."

She noticed that his face had paled considerably and his tone was icy as he demanded, "The last time? Why did someone hurt you?"

She shook her head, "No, he was a friend of mine and I hurt him. What's worse is that he actually cared for me and I...didn't return those feelings. I used him. I acted out of curiosity thinking that things might be different, since I knew he cared, but they weren't. Not only did I lose my self-respect, I lost a friend too."

Jareth listened intently as she went on, "It would have turned out to be a very bad year, but then I met Kayla and things have been better since then. She's been a true friend."

Jareth was truly curious and he asked, "Is that why you were so willing to take her place?"

Sarah nodded, "She's my best friend Jareth, I couldn't let anything happen to her."

He noted the sadness in her eyes and ventured, "She's been a positive influence in your life then?" Sarah nodded smiling a little, "Yeah, she has. I think she's the only person who has ever actually understood me, I mean really understood me. She's not false and she doesn't play games. With Kayla, what you see is what you get. She...she is exactly what she seems. She's thoughtful and not at all judgmental."

He quietly regarded her for a moment and she could not decipher his expression, which reminded her how much Jareth contrasted with Kayla. He was impossibly unreadable, and she was beginning to find out that at times he was not at all what he seemed. With Kayla things were simple, and tension was never an issue. Jareth was the opposite. Everything about him seemed complex and between them, there was always tension of some kind. She wondered what he was thinking, perhaps he was considering the same thing, but she'd never really know.

She watched as he resumed his concentration on the game at hand. He pondered only a moment before he made a fairly aggressive move with his rook.

Sarah looked at him as he made the move with finality and she boldly asked, "So why are you so interested?"

He calmly replied, "I was merely curious as to why you would trade a year of your life away for the sake of another."

She glanced at the board before she retorted, "That's not what I meant...I mean you seem rather curious about my love life."

He perused the board as he coolly remarked, "Love was hardly a part of anything you just described."

Sarah scoffed, "You know what I mean. Why are you so interested in my past?"

He glanced at her, smirking slightly as he commented, "I believe it's your move."

She didn't miss the fact that he was trying to change the subject. She began to consider her options for her next move as she mused, "Fine, don't answer if you don't want to...I'm just a little surprised by your interest...I mean it's none of your concern..."

His eyes darted up to meet hers and the look in them made her shiver as he harshly interrupted, "Sarah, you ARE my concern...You always have been and you always will be."

Sarah froze, her mouth hung slightly open in startled surprise as she stared at him dumbstruck.

Whoa, what the Hell was going on here?

His fierceness made her think that it might be a good time to change the subject, but his audacity rekindled that little flame of anger and before she could stop herself, she spat back defiantly, "And how exactly, am I your concern?"

His eyes locked with hers as he sneered, "For the next year, you are quite entirely my concern as you belong wholly to me, and as for your past and the future...you made yourself my concern the night you summoned my Goblins."

Her mind wandered back to that night and all that she had said and done. Her own words echoed in her mind, "...The King of the Goblins had fallen in love with the girl and he had given her certain powers."

The blood drained from her face as her mind reeled, "He can't be referring to that... could he?" She pushed the idea from her mind as the mere implication made her stomach flutter. The conversation had begun to turn treacherous and she came to the realization that she was in no way ready to handle the truth, regardless of the answer. It seemed like a good time to back down.

He was still staring at her waiting for her next outburst of defiance. She hesitated, finally turning her attention to the game as she mumbled, "Let's just drop it."

He stood up and walked over to the mantle as he remarked, "A very wise idea...I could use a drink. Would you care for some wine?"

She looked over to see him pouring brown liquor from a snifter into his glass. She forgot about her move for a moment as she mused, "That's not wine...is it?"

Jareth raised the glass and remarked, "No, it's brandy." He sipped the liquid and added, "But it's hardly customary to offer brandy to a lady...so I thought I'd do the civil thing and offer you wine instead."

Sarah looked at the chessboard realizing that Jareth's attack position was better then she had originally thought. She turned back to him and simply stated, "I'll take the brandy..."

He arched a delicate eyebrow and smirked dangerously as he purred, "So you'd prefer to be unlady-like..." The suggestiveness of his comment was plainly obvious and Sarah mentally berated herself for finding him enticing as he said it. That damned seductiveness was always a part of him.

She glanced again at the board seeing an opportunity that she had previously missed. Maybe she could beat him after all. She merely smiled and warned, "That's nothing. Have a seat your majesty, and I'll show you how un-lady like I can be."

He was still smirking as he sat and offered the glass of brandy to her, "This will add some fire to your veins..." and then he added under his breath, "Not that you need any more..."

She looked over her glass at him as she took a generous sip. He might have been beautiful and she might not have been able to stop herself from desiring him, but she wasn't going to just sit back and let him win.

Jareth noticed the way Sarah let her eyes stray over his body. It might not have been the first time she had done it, but it was the first time she had done it without trying to hide it. Her eyes met his as she nursed her drink and what he saw made him shiver in anticipation. There was the slightest hint of a demure smirk as the glass touched her lips.

She was teasing him.

She set her drink down with purpose, a seductive smile forming on her delicate face, as she picked up her knight and slammed it down into its new position.

Only then did he bother to look at the board. He struggled to keep his expression neutral as he noticed his error. She had managed to put his Queen in jeopardy, if he didn't move it, she would take it with no risk to herself, but by moving the Queen he left his rook unprotected.

She again offered him that flirtatious smile and taunted, "Move it, or lose it..."

He had no choice but to move his Queen and he sacrificed his rook in doing so.

Sarah took the black rook, a smug smile playing on her lips as she gladly gave up her pawn. Jareth ruefully took a draught of his brandy as he resolved not to underestimate her again. He had already done it once and it had cost him dearly.

Sarah undoubtedly had the upper hand for a good part of the game. It had been utterly priceless to take piece after piece from Jareth, but she was not without error as well. She had matched Jareth in her brandy consumption, as it was much easier to drink with him then talk with him, and that had its drawbacks. They had polished off three generous glasses each by the time she started to feel the effects.

Just as Jareth expected, the liquor affected her judgment and her defenses suffered as a result, however so did his, though perhaps not quite as much. Eventually the Goblin King caught up with her, and before long Sarah found herself staring at a chessboard devoid of all pieces save one black king and one white king.

Sarah squinted at the board with disbelief as she remarked a bit drunkenly, "Wha...what the?"

Jareth grinned at her and replied, "A draw. We both win. You should be pleased."

Sarah raised her brow and sarcastically remarked, "Oh...I'm just thrilled! Can't you tell? I'm friggin' ecstatic." Batting the pieces off the board, she downed the rest of her drink and muttered under her breath, "How the hell did that happen...I sooo had you by the balls..."

Jareth looked up as if he had heard her. She had again forgotten how good his hearing was. Oops.

He shook his head, smirking as he replied, "Pardon?"

Sarah lowered her eyes and sheepishly muttered, "Never mind..." She started to rise from her seat, adding in a drunkenly yet condescending tone, "Well, yep it's a draw alright...and you didn't even have to cheat." She hiccoughed and added "...How about that."

He simply stared and smirked, thoroughly amused by the effect the drink had on her. He was feeling rather pleasant as well, but he wasn't sure if it was from the brandy or from the lovely view her nightgown provided as she stood up in front of the fire.

She leaned forward over the table and slurred, "Well, Jareth it's been fun...but I really ought to get to bed..."

He looked at her intently before his eyes dropped. Apparently she was oblivious to the view she was offering him, he could almost see right down...

Suddenly, she straightened as she noticed he was not looking at her face. His gaze lingered south of her neckline even as he got to his feet.

Deciding to ignore his blatant appraisal, she stammered, "Right...well...see you tomorrow..."

He grinned and replied, "Are you sure you can make it back to your room by yourself?"

Sarah may have been drunk, but she wasn't so wasted that she didn't see right through that one. She hiccoughed softly and retorted, "Yes...I'll be fine...thanks." She turned abruptly, starting for the door, but unfortunately the floor seemed to be moving slightly, at least to her it appeared to, and she nearly lost her balance.

Jareth expected her to stumble, and was at her side before she even knew what was going on. Without so much as a word he scooped her up, lifting her into his arms, with one arm under her knees and the other supporting her shoulders. He immediately started walking, carrying her.

Struggling, she protested vociferously, "Wha...what are you doing? Jareth! Put me down!"

His strides were long and before she knew it he was taking her down the long darkened corridor.

She struggled harder, and his voice interrupted the perfect darkness. She stilled, losing herself in the velvety sound of it, "Just relax Sarah. I won't have you getting lost in the castle at night or falling down the stairs." She remained still long enough to notice that his face was close to hers and she could feel his warm breath on her cheek as he spoke. She felt the cool leather of his glove on her skin where he supported her under her knees. She glanced down and realized that her nightgown only came to about her knee and it did not come between his hand and her skin.

Oh dear.

She swallowed as the realization sent a tremor of nervous excitement through her. She looked up, barely making out his face in the darkness and asked in a shaky voice that hardly sounded like her own, "Where are you taking me?" He looked down at her and her heart began to pound as she realized his lips were mere inches from hers.

Softly he replied in a voice richer than velvet, "To your chamber."

Chapter 19: Hormones, Roommates, and a Wager

Although his words sent a barrage of alarm bells off in her head, she didn't struggle. She had never been this close to him before, and even though she knew she should be wary, she couldn't help but be intrigued. She felt the movement of his thighs as he strode down the hall. She couldn't see him clearly since they were in the dark but she was very aware of his warmth and again she caught his magic scent like some unidentified exotic spice mingling with the scent of brandy. It was intoxicating and for a brief moment she let herself drown in it. She was surprised that he was able to carry her so effortlessly as he was so slender and lithe, but perhaps his magic lent him strength, or maybe she had just underestimated him.

Sarah shook herself out of her thoughts and realized he had reached the door to her bedroom. With a mere thought the door swung open on its hinges and he carried her inside. With a burst of smoke and flame the sconces and candles in her room blazed to life as he walked purposefully towards her bed. His smell was all about her and her skin tingled everywhere his body touched hers. As he lowered her onto the bed, she swore her heart was pounding so hard he would hear it.

Oh God...what's he going to do?!?

She swallowed nervously, looking up at him and her eyes widened in apprehension. As he placed her on the center of the bed, his startling mismatched gaze lowered to meet hers. Sarah's insides seemed to lurch.

Jareth looked down at the pretty young mortal. She hadn't said a word, but she hadn't bolted or protested either. She just sat there staring up at him with those wide eyes, her knees drawn carefully towards her chest. It occurred to him how innocent she looked like that, with her face flushed with embarrassment, and her pretty little mouth slightly parted in startled surprise. Her posture and her expression may have made her look very young, but her body was that of a woman.

His eyes drifted over the thin night-shirt. It was apparent that she wore nothing under it, for he could make out the shape of her full young breasts, with their taut peaks straining against the linen fabric of the garment. He tore his eyes from them, letting his gaze drift over her bare legs before they returned to her face.

Sarah felt as though she were frozen to the bed. His face was so close, and in the firelight he was so striking, that it made every inch of her want to kiss him. Every neuron in her brain knew that kissing him was not a smart idea...quite deadly and suicidal really. But the longing did not come from a rational place. She was dying to know what his lips would feel like on hers. She made the mistake of imagining it. The mere thought sent a stab of desire through her belly.

Oh God...just do it already...I don't care anymore...

It seemed an eternity that their gazes were locked. What Jareth saw there nearly made him lose his self-control. There was desire in the way she looked at him. Oh yes, he could sense it. Her pretty green eyes had nearly gone black as she looked up at him and there was the strained expression of barely contained longing on her face.

Jareth might have had a bit more brandy than what he would have deemed wise, but he was still in full control of his faculties. As he watched Sarah leaning back slightly on her bed, he was aware that her choice of bedclothes would be incredibly easy to remove. He noted that her inquisitive gaze currently lingered on his mouth. He was also very aware that just looking at her was making him aroused. He only had to make his move, lean down and kiss her, for he was quite sure the rest would quickly escalate from there.

As much as his blood hammered away for her, he wondered, should he wait? He was torn. Should he or shouldn't he? If he walked away her trust in him could only improve, and no doubt, making her simmer in her lust would only prove beneficial when he finally did take her. Prolonging it would only make it that much more powerful, wouldn't it? Plus there was the question of her sobriety. He wasn't an expert on gauging levels of intoxication, but even he could see she was more than a little drunk. Still, she seemed lucid enough to know what she was doing and he was sure she would be so worth the trouble. She was startlingly passionate. Hell, if she possessed half the passion in bed that she possessed while arguing with him... He shivered, Best not to think of that now.

He had nearly convinced himself to just throw caution to the wind and kiss her, but then he thought of what she had confided to him. He didn't want her to view this as another impulsive mistake. He had to keep his wits about him. The plan was to make her fall in love with him, not just seduce her, though he couldn't deny he was really looking forward to that part.

No. He would proceed with his plan. She would fall hard, and when she landed she would know what it meant to be at the mercy of another, after having his way with her first, of course. Yes. He would wait until he had her fully within his grasp. Only then would she truly belong to him. Not just for the year either, no, after having a taste of what his love could offer, she would pine away for him, and only him, for the rest of her mortal life. That would be justice.

Though he had decided to refrain from kissing her it was much harder to make his body obey, as it had it's own ideas about what it would like to do to her. What he was about to do took a great deal of self-discipline.

He took one last look at her, for he wanted to remember how she looked up at him from her bed. He straightened, offering her one last seductive smirk before he purred, "Goodnight Sarah."

She watched him back away with a mixture of despair, relief, and confusion. Her body seemed to protest his retreat, knowing full well it had been cruelly denied the heavenly sensations that she somehow knew his kiss would provide. She was smart enough to know that the repercussions of such a kiss were something she'd rather not deal with, but it didn't change the fact that she wanted it regardless.

Nearly an hour after Jareth's abrupt departure she tossed and turned in her bed, still wanting it. When he had left her alone in her room, she had flopped on her back in utter frustration. Had she not been afraid he might hear, she would have screamed into her pillow, or better still, thrown something very breakable at the door to his room. He was driving her mad, and she swore that he was doing it on purpose.

For one very depraved moment she wondered if she should just throw herself at him and get it over with, maybe then she might be able to think clearly. Sexual frustration was such a bitch. Like she really needed this right now. Being trapped here with her former nemesis was bad enough, but the fact that she was having naughty thoughts about him well that was...utterly fucked up.

She smoothed her hands over her body to straighten out her nightgown. As her own hand brushed over her breast she hesitated. She could just put an end to that annoying ache on her own. She wasn't one to often indulge herself, however none of her past partners had really ever given her anything to get all hot and bothered about. Jareth, however, was different. Right now she was very hot and extremely bothered.

She tried to rationalize satisfying herself by admitting that it would put her out of her misery (temporarily anyway) and there would be no consequences, but then she remembered under whose roof she was staying, and there was no contest really. There was no way she could do "that" knowing he was in the next room, or anywhere in the general vicinity, for that matter. She had no idea what the extent of his magic was, but very idea that he might find out about it was reason enough not to do it. Not to mention that there was always the possibility that he may come back, unlikely, however, still a possibility.

With a very exhausted and defeated sigh, Sarah forced her hands under the pillows where she firmly reminded herself they would remain for the rest of the night. She should not have had so much brandy, for she was sure that it was like pouring gasoline on the fire. Plus she was warm again, and why was her nightgown practically choking her?!?

Her last thought before she drifted into a fitful slumber was that she could not wait to go home and retrieve some of her own clothes. Her own tees and boxers to sleep in, her own jeans, and mercifully sneakers, for those boots were killing her.

Before Jareth retired to his bed, he instructed his Goblins to let Sarah sleep in the next morning. He knew she was bound to be exhausted from their late night, if not wholly ill, from the amount of brandy she had consumed. There was no harm in letting her sleep, as there were no documents left to be drafted, and the library could be tidied at any time.

The Goblin King woke later than usual and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast by himself. After he had finished his morning meal he shifted into his owl form and soared over the expanse of land that was his labyrinth. When he returned from his flight it was nearly mid day and he discovered that Sarah had yet to emerge from her room.

Perhaps she had become ill from drinking too much. In any case he decided it would be wise to check on her.

Jareth materialized in her bed chamber as noiselessly as possible. The curtains were still tightly drawn, keeping out nearly all the sun's rays. This was of little concern to him, however, as his vision was exceptional in the dark. As he neared the bed, he could see the heap of tangled blankets at the foot of the bed that Sarah had tossed aside during the night. He heard the even rhythmic sound of her breathing, which confirmed that she was still fast asleep.

As he rounded the bed, what he saw came as a bit of a surprise. There she lay, on her stomach, wearing...hardly anything at all. Only a pair of black cotton underwear to be exact.

Her head was turned away from him. Her dark hair spilling over the pillow was a sharp contrast to the bare expanse of flesh that filled his inquisitive gaze. Her linen nightshirt lay discarded in a rumpled heap on the floor beside her bed. In her slumber she had thrown back all her bed linens. He relished the opportunity to take in her sleeping form.

It was rather funny, the way she was positioned. One knee was drawn up, her bottom raised slightly. He raised his brow as he studied her shapely derriere. Her strange undergarments mystified him. They were unlike anything he had ever seen, however he guessed their design was more practical compared to the rather involved undergarments that Fae noblewomen wore. These would certainly enhance one's freedom of movement, that much was obvious.

He stilled as she shifted, drawing her bent leg up a little higher, and she murmured something incoherent. She was still asleep. Probably dreaming, he mused. Watching her restless movements, he wondered what she was dreaming of.

He let his eyes drift up her bare back. Her skin looked so soft, he was tempted to remove his glove and stroke her back, but he refrained. As his eyes traveled further up her body, he noticed that she had moved her arm so that he was now looking at the side of her breast. He was struck by the urge to run his hands up her sides to cup that soft flesh.

He stood rigidly, his hands forming tight fists at his sides as if he scarcely trusted them. He stood like that for a moment, half praying that she might roll onto her back so that he might get a good look at those gorgeous breasts, half hoping that she would wake and tell him to get out, but to his dismay she did neither. He was just about to leave when he decided that he had better wake her. It was well past noon and he should at least encourage her to eat something, even if she was feeling ill. True, she was bound to be angry, but then again she was so lovely when she was angry it was well near worth it. Besides if he didn't wake her, then his Goblins eventually would, so in essence he was doing her a favor.

He guessed that she would probably be mortified but probably no more mortified than if she were to wake having three unblinking Goblins staring at her. His mouth formed a sinister smirk as he imagined her horror. None of his Goblins had ever seen an unclothed mortal before (that he knew of), and they would no doubt be annoyingly curious. No it was much better this way.

He gave her body one last appreciative glance before he settled on the edge of the bed. He lowered his gloved hand to her shoulder and gently shook her. "Sarah...It is time to wake." She turned her head towards him, her eyes still shut in sleep as she murmured, "Five more minutes...it's freezing Kayla...close the window." Jareth merely smiled as her hand strayed over the bed, looking for the absent blankets.

He suppressed a chuckle and shook her again. She turned her head away as consciousness intruded on her slumber like an unwelcome guest. She was still unaware of her whereabouts and merely groaned in response to the throbbing ache in her head.

Even though she was momentarily unaware of where she was, she recognized the pain for what it was and grumbled, "Ohh...never drinking again...Kayla, I hope you have some Tylenol."

She reluctantly opened her eyes as she lifted herself onto her hands.

"Sorry love...wrong again."

She froze as the cool voice registered as one she should not be hearing. Then she realized her state of undress.

She frantically glanced over her shoulder to see exactly what she was afraid she might see, the Goblin King sitting there smiling smugly at her predicament. She yelped in surprise, halting her movements, as she had been about to afford him, unintentionally, a very good look at her breasts.

Her first choice would have been to grab the sheet and cover herself, but unfortunately the covers were way down at the foot of the bed. They might as well have been in Siberia as she couldn't get her hands on them without turning around. That was out of the question. Instead she scooted to a kneeling position, crossing her arms over her chest as she mentally cursed the unpredictable climate of this God forsaken place. As hot as it had been during the night, the room was now nearly as cold as Siberia.

Once she was confident that her hands were strategically placed, she pivoted slightly glaring at him as she hotly demanded, "What are YOU doing here?"

He pretended to be unaffected by her state of undress as he drawled coolly, "Waking you, of course."

She noticed her nightgown on the floor and she recalled taking it off in the night, as the brandy had made her even more uncomfortably warm. Ahh, the brandy. Well that certainly explained the hangover, but it did not explain what the hell he was doing in her room.

She narrowed her eyes menacingly as she sarcastically replied, "Thank you, master of the obvious...but WHY are YOU here waking me?"

He cocked his head to the side as he arrogantly replied, "It is past noon. I've been kind enough to keep the Goblins from pestering you, as I thought you might require some added sleep. You might want to try and show just a small amount of gratitude."

That pushed her over the edge.

Her eyes blazed with anger as she snapped, "Gratitude!?! In case you haven't noticed I am practically NAKED Jareth!!!!"

Her outrage only succeeded in delighting him further and he brazenly lowered his eyes to where her hands clasped her breasts before he remarked silkily, "Yes, you are, aren't you? Believe me Sarah, I noticed."

It might have been the heat with which he said it, or perhaps it was his audacity, whatever it was made Sarah's whole body flush pink. Thoroughly unsettled, she sprang from the bed, stooping to collect her nightshirt before she hurriedly disappeared behind her dressing screen. She felt slightly braver once she was out from under that scathing gaze and she fumed from behind the screen, "Apparently the idea of privacy is foreign to you...as you are ALWAYS barging in on me at the most inappropriate times."

Jareth stood, placing his hands on his hips as he looked at the ceiling and sighed, "Sarah, my only intention was to wake you...How was I to know that you like to sleep without your clothes..."

She fired back from behind the screen, "For your information, I don't usually sleep without clothes. I was hot and I was barely conscious when I took them off...and YOU ought to know better since you seem to be the authority on sleeping naked!!!" Oops she hadn't intended to get so carried away. Well now he certainly would know that she had noticed his lack of clothing when he emerged from bed...not that she had ever allowed herself to get a good look at him.

She was rather glad she couldn't see his face at the moment. She sighed and broke the strained silence by asking, "Well now that I'm wide awake, with a beauty of a hangover...what is it that you want? Surly, you have some arduous task for me today."

Jareth stalked over to the dressing screen and she could hear the sound of his boots against the stone floor while she was struggling to pull on her clothing. He stopped by the edge of the screen with his back to her, crossing his arms over his chest as he coolly replied, "Yes, well, I'd like for you to see to it that the goblins are bathed today."

He wasn't facing her, so she couldn't see the amused smile on his face as she exploded, "WHAT!!!! There's no way in hell I can do that. There are scores of them and I'm sure they are not just going to do it willingly...I'd have to physically force them."

Jareth was barely able to stifle his laughter as he ground out, "You're strong willed. I'm sure you could manage it."

Sarah interrupted again, "I'm not THAT strong willed and...they're bound to fight. They'll probably bite and scratch and stuff."

Jareth added nonchalantly, "Probably."

Sarah remarked, "Mmmm great, Goblins biting, God knows what I could catch from that..." She emerged from the screen just as Jareth could no longer contain his laughter.

Her mouth hung open and her eyes widened as she realized that he was totally screwing with her. She stiffened and cried, "Jareth!!!"

Jareth finally managed to compose himself and he was nearly out of breath when he chuckled, "Oh Sarah, you honestly thought I was serious. It's impossible to bathe a Goblin. I wouldn't even attempt it...you truly amuse me."

Sarah couldn't help but lower her guard, it was quite a change to see him laugh so effortlessly. She shook her head and replied, "How was I to know that? I'm not what you would call an authority on goblins you know. I didn't even believe they existed until I met you." Jareth finally seemed to get himself under control and he began to slowly circle her.

Sarah felt the uneasiness begin to seep in again as his eyes focused on her. With an impatient glance away she asked, "So what is that you want...really?"

He stopped his pacing and regarded her. She noticed that he was holding a riding crop in his hands and he tapped it against his leather clad palm as he explained, "In truth, I thought we might pay a little visit to your domicile. You have some belongings to collect, have you not?"

She was nearly breathless with excitement as she prodded, "You mean you will take me there...right now?"

His mouth twisted into a satisfied smirk as he drawled, "Well, a deal is a deal. I see no point in delaying, however, you'd better eat something first. Transversing the barrier between worlds can be draining and your health is already compromised."

She shot him a quizzical look and he supplied, "You're dehydrated."

She nodded, suddenly remembering her headache. She shrugged and admitted, "Oh, just a hangover. I think I over did it on the brandy last night, but I'll be fine after I eat and drink something."

He nodded noticing the sudden spring in her step and he finished, "I don't doubt it. Go to the galley, I'm sure the kitchen goblins can find you something to eat, and once you have readied yourself, come find me in my study."

A little over an hour later Sarah was feeling her old self again as she walked into the study to fetch Jareth. He looked up from a pile of maps as she strode in. He noticed she was wearing the same clothes that she had been wearing the night she had taken Kayla's place. Jareth folded the maps and rose, he was tempted to comment on her attire but he held his tongue.

Sarah hesitated in the doorway to make sure she wasn't disturbing him. Jareth took a step towards her and asked, "Are you ready to fetch your belongings?"

Sarah nodded and he added, "Do you still wish to have some time with your friend?"

Again Sarah nodded and he elaborated, "Well, I suppose now is as good a time as any. I am not anticipating any guests so you may be granted the company of your friend for the remainder of the day, but come tomorrow morning she must return."

Sarah looked up at him uncertainly and ventured, "You mean...she can come here?"

Jareth shrugged and admitted, "Better that she come here, where I can keep and eye on you both." He smirked and added, "I won't have you trying to run off." Sarah seemed to briefly consider the idea and he added, "I know what you are thinking, Go ahead and try it. I promise you won't get very far, a deal is a deal and you are bound to me Sarah no matter where we are. If you try to run, I shall catch you, and if you hide I will find you..."

Sarah crossed her arms over her chest as she expelled an exhausted breath and wearily replied, "Who said anything about running?"

He simply smirked and countered, "I wouldn't put it past you."

She shrugged and replied, "Let's just go already. You've made your point. I agreed...remember?"

Jareth nodded once and extended his gloved hand to her, "Very well then...shall we?"

Sarah took a tentative step towards him and hesitantly placed her hand in his. As his fingers curled tightly around her hand he flashed her a satisfied smirk before he pulled her closer. His other arm encircled her waist tightly and the last sensation she felt was his warm words uttered in her ear, "Hold tight."

Sarah closed her eyes against the feeling of being violently pulled in several directions at once. The feeling didn't last long but it was very unsettling and she was pretty sure that if it continued for much longer she would be sick. With a sudden lurch the feeling instantly stopped and she opened her eyes to find herself standing in her dorm room.

Everything was exactly the way she had left it and Kayla was snoozing soundly on her bed. It was all as if she had never left. Suddenly realizing that the Goblin King still held her about her waist, she pulled out of his grasp and stepped closer to her napping roommate, staring as if in disbelief. She glanced back at Jareth who was looking about her room with mild curiosity and whispered, "Can...can she see us?"

Jareth strode away seemingly interested in the objects that littered her desk as he replied, "If we wake her she will."

Sarah neared the edge of Kayla's bed and whispered, "Kayla, wake up, it's me Sarah."

Kayla blinked her eyes and stirred, stretching as she yawned "Hey Sar, did I doze off...?"

Kayla stopped mid yawn as she noticed the stranger that appeared behind Sarah. He was an attractive older man and he was dressed very oddly and his eyes appeared to be two different colors. Kayla suddenly sat up as if very wide awake. She seriously hoped that this character was just one of Sarah's eccentric theatre buddies.

Kayla looked uncertainly at Sarah and stammered, "Uh...Sarah...Who's your friend?"

Sarah suddenly seemed rather flustered as she looked over her shoulder at her blonde companion. When she turned back to her roommate Kayla didn't miss the faint blush that graced her cheeks as she stammered, "Oh, uh...Kayla, this is Jareth."

Kayla took in her friend's uneasy state and put two and two together. Sarah had finally brought a man home, and by the looks of him he was probably just what she needed. She always knew Sarah had a soft spot for those eccentric actor types. Kayla flashed Sarah a secretive smile, but Sarah hurriedly jabbered on, not wanting her friend to get the wrong idea, "Kayla, I have something to tell you...um, you may find this hard to believe but..."

Kayla leaned forward, pushing herself off the bed, as she gushed in a low hiss so only Sarah could hear, "You could have told me you were seeing someone. I would have taken off for the weekend. Just give me a sec...I'll clear out and the room is all yours..."

Sarah shook her head and grabbed Kayla's arm in protest, "NO!! I mean...that's not necessary..." and then she added in a hushed tone, "It's not like that." Sarah noticed that Jareth suddenly stalked a bit closer. Apparently he was becoming very interested in their exchange.

Sarah took a deep breath and explained, "See Kay, Jareth is...the Goblin King. He's from this place called the underground. I...I'm sort of staying with him for a while in his...uh...kingdom. I just came to get some of my things and, well, if it's OK with you, I'd like you to come with us, but just for the night..."

Kayla looked at Sarah with a dumb expression before her jaw dropped and she stammered, "Ohh-Kay...what?"

Sarah shot Jareth a helpless look as she settled on the edge of the bed. Kayla was now openly staring at Jareth, fully taking in his very strange attire as she babbled, "Ok, I know I just woke up and I haven't had my coffee, or even a cigarette for that matter, but it just sounded to me like you just said that Jareth is a Goblin King. And you are staying in his...kingdom. Am I missing something here?"

Sarah shook her head and lamely replied, "No. You just summed it up in a nutshell...exactly. Hard to believe, I know, but I swear..."

Kayla suddenly looked at the two of them sternly, as if she didn't appreciate ridiculous jokes at such an early hour. Kayla sighed and warned, "Ok, Sarah, look I know you take your drama club stuff pretty seriously...and I'm sure you thought it would be just a scream to drag Prince whatever his name is in here to get a rise out of me, but seriously... I just woke up. I have the shittiest organic chem. exam to study for, and I have a hankerin' for some nicotine that's more hard pressed than Anna Nicole Smith in a tube top, so please...spare me the practical jokes. I assure you my weekend is going to be shitty enough as it is."

Sarah sighed, "I knew you wouldn't believe me..." She turned to Jareth and pleaded, "Can't you do something to show her?"

Jareth thought a moment and replied, "If you insist." With that, he pulled a crystal from thin air and made it dance over his fingertips before he deliberately hurled it at Sarah.

She held up her hands in an attempt to stop the orb, but it was futile. The crystal burst like a bubble showering Sarah with it's glittery magic. For a second Sarah had convinced herself that nothing at all had happened, but then she saw the slack jawed stare with which Kayla looked at her. A look of wide-eyed horror contorted her usually sarcastic expression as she weakly managed, "whoa...tha...that's just not right."

Sarah looked up and caught a glimpse of her reflection in her full length mirror just as she heard the Goblin King begin to chuckle. She could not believe her eyes. She had become...a Goblin! She still possessed long dark hair and her eyes were undoubtedly the same, but she was smaller, and God help her, greener! She was dressed from head to toe in crude goblin armor. Her face was merely a comical whisper of her former self and her pointed beaklike mouth was simply preposterous. Sarah glared at Jareth, who had totally lost it, and was now laughing uncontrollably.

Sarah snapped, "Jareth!!! Change me back..." She winced at the unfamiliar squawking voice that had come from her, but she managed to add with urgency, "...Right now!!"

Jareth finally managed to compose himself and with a wave of his hand Sarah was her old self again. She ran her hands over her body, just to make sure everything was where it should be.

Kayla gaped at Jareth and gushed, "Oh my God Sarah, you weren't kidding." Sarah pulled a large duffel bag out from under her bed and started ransacking her drawers, confirming, "No, I certainly was not."

Jareth watched with mild interest as Sarah started to pack her things. She simply ignored him and pushed past him whenever he got in her way. Kayla stared blankly at Sarah and asked, "So what happens now?"

Sarah stuffed several pairs of jeans in her bag and replied matter-of-factly, "I'll finish packing my stuff...then it's back to the Underground."

In a matter of minutes the trio was transported back to Jareth's castle. Kayla regarded Jareth warily, after what she had just seen him do, but knowing he was the Goblin King didn't change the fact that he was very attractive. She couldn't wait to have a second alone with Sarah, to get the full scoop. Kayla knew her roommate, she knew her tastes, and knew there was no way that Sarah could've spent a full three weeks with this guy without some juicy story to spill.

Once they arrived at the castle. Jareth promptly excused himself and informed Sarah that he would return for them later. He could only assume that Sarah had much she wanted to discuss with her friend, and after turning her into a goblin, he guessed she wasn't going to be very receptive to his company for the time being.

Sarah led Kayla onto a dusty dirt path that lead away from the castle. She figured she had much to explain to her friend, and she might as well get some fresh air at the same time. As soon as Kayla was sure they were out of earshot from the castle she hissed, "Sarah, you mind telling me just what the HELL is going on?!?"

Sarah walked a little farther ahead and once she felt she had put enough distance between herself and the castle she looked about and began, "I know this all seems really crazy..."

Kayla laughed, "Ha!...yeah it's crazy. The weirdest guy I've ever seen in all my life just transformed you into...er, something and then POOF! Here we are. What the hell is this place? There's no way we're still in Connecticut."

Sarah herded Kayla towards the nearby stone wall and replied, "You'd better sit down while I explain...this is gonna take a while." Kayla sighed deeply sitting on the wall as Sarah began. "See, when I was fifteen, I used to babysit Toby, a lot...all the time actually. Well this one afternoon, I was at the park, rehearsing the lines from that book, 'the Labryrinth' when suddenly I realized I was late to baby sit. It started raining as I ran home, and by the time I got there, I was thoroughly soaked and pissed that I'd have to spend another Friday night babysitting. Well as soon as I got in the door Karen started on me. You know that when I was younger I didn't get along with her very well...when she started bitching at me, that was the last straw."

Kayla looked at her and interrupted, "Sarah, what does this have to do with anything?"

Sarah began to pace as she promised, "Hold on, I'm getting there. So, there I was babysitting. Toby was still just a baby then, and he started crying, and he just wouldn't stop. I was so mad already...I started telling him about the Goblins, I was trying to scare him into being quiet..."

Kayla gave her a look and Sarah admitted, "Horrible, I know, but I was angry, stupid and fifteen...So on an impulsive whim I said the words, and inadvertently summoned the goblins to take him away."

Kayla furrowed her brow, "What words?"

Sarah sighed, "It's not important. What is important is that it worked and the Goblins took him...there." Sarah motioned towards the castle that they were staring at.

Stunned, Kayla replied, "Holy shit! Stuff like that actually works?!? Well forget about me ever trying that bloody Mary shit then. Hey...wait a minute! How come you never told me about any of this before?"

Sarah shot her an exasperated look and replied, "Would you have believed me?"

Kayla, shook her head and admitted, "Good point...ok so what happened next?"

Sarah continued, "Well Toby vanished, Goblins were running all over the room and then Jareth made his grand entrance."

Kayla stared at her and she elaborated, "He flew in the window, as an owl, and then transformed into himself, right in front of me."

Kayla's eyes widened as Sarah went on, "As you can imagine...I was pretty freaked out. I knew right away who he was, and I immediately started pleading for Toby's return. He toyed with me for a while. He told me to forget about Toby and he tried to give me a crystal...he said it would show me my dreams. I ignored it and was insistent that I had to have Toby back. Finally he told me that if I wanted Toby, I'd have to make it to the castle at the center of the Labyrinth."

Kayla stammered, "The...Labyrinth?"

Sarah nodded, "Yeah..." she pulled Kayla to her feet and dragged her to the edge of the hill where she turned Kayla's head so she was looking through a small opening in the tall hedges.

Kayla gasped as she looked out over the vast labyrinth, "Ho-ly shit! You're right...that's one huge fucking maze."

Sarah nodded, "Yes it is. I found my way in and I had 13 hours to make it through. Jareth told me that if I didn't make it, Toby would become one of them...forever."

Kayla gaped, "Thirteen hours! To get through that?!? You're shitting me right?"

Sarah shook her head, "Nope...Serious. And you've met Toby, so what happened is no surprise. I made it, in time...just barely."

Kayla looked at Sarah with newfound respect for a second before her brow knitted in confusion and she asked, "Ok, but that was like five or six years ago...what are we doing here now?"

Sarah looked at Kayla and replied, "We're here now because three weeks ago I let you borrow my Labyrinth book, and even though you were only joking, you managed to wish yourself away to the Goblin King."

Kayla shook her head, "Three weeks? What? But Sarah I just saw that book tonight for the first time."

Sarah started to pace again as she explained, "Yeah, I know, Jareth has the power to reorder time. For you it's as if no time has elapsed, but for me it's been three weeks that I've been here."

Kayla gasped, "What? Why? I thought you just said I wished myself away?"

Sarah took a deep breath and explained, "You did. But I was able to convince Jareth to let me take your place."

Kayla's voice broke as she cried, "What?!? Why?!?"

Sarah leaned against the stone-wall and admitted, "I was worried. I didn't know what he would do with you...and you would've had to stay here forever."

Kayla's face paled and she demanded, "What? Are you saying that now YOU have to stay here forever because of ME?"

Sarah quickly shook her head, "No. I bargained with him. I think it was me he wanted all along anyway, so I...made a deal with him. I only have to stay for one year and when I return home, everything will be as it was, just as if no time elapsed while I was away. It won't be so bad. It'll be as if I never really left."

Kayla interrupted, "But not for you Sarah! You'll have to be here for a whole year! This is crazy! There must be something we can do. Let me talk to Jareth, this is my fault, maybe I can convince him to let you go."

Sarah sighed, "That won't do any good. It's too late. I've already made my bargain with him...and a deal is a deal. Besides, it's NOT your fault. I should have burned that book after it happened the first time. It's me this has to do with. I think getting me here was his plan all along. I think it's his way of settling the score. Everything will be alright, I promise. Worrying about it isn't going to help."

Kayla could tell by the look on Sarah's face that she was trying to be brave, but she knew Sarah, and no amount of bravado would cover the fact that Sarah was more than a little worried. Her heart went out to her friend. She was truly touched by Sarah's selflessness. She had always known that she was a very strong willed person. She knew she should be worried for her friend, but somehow she knew Sarah would be just fine. She had after all conquered this place once before.

Kayla laughed nervously and teased, "Well, at least you are getting out of midterms, for the time being."

Sarah smiled at her friend and admitted, "Well, that's one way of looking at it."

Kayla suddenly looked thoughtful as she thought out loud, "I don't get it Sarah, exactly what does Jareth want with you?"

Sarah sighed, "I wish I knew. He's not exactly the most up front person. I've come up with a few ideas, but I don't really know for sure."

Kayla optimistically replied, "Maybe if we put our heads together we can come up with something. You've dealt with him before...what happened between the two of you the last time you were here?"

Sarah rolled her eyes and sighed, "Plenty. He didn't exactly make my quest very easy."

Kayla nodded, "No, I'd expect not. But tell me...how do you mean? What did he do?"

Sarah took to pacing again and began, "Well aside from stealing time away from me and causing numerous distractions...nothing."

Kayla nodded, "So he did try to stop you...or at least he did his best to slow you down and deter you."

Sarah nodded and replied, "That's right. If I solved the labyrinth that meant that he would lose, and Jareth isn't exactly the gracious loser type."

Kayla shrugged, "Ok, so he's proud, and seeing that you did win, probably means he is or was sore about it. He very well may be holding a grudge. What else...What were these distractions he caused?"

Sarah crossed her arms over her chest and replied, "Well, first he set this grinding machine after me. I barely escaped becoming mince-meat."

Kayla considered this and replied, "Yeah, but you did escape. My guess is that if he really wanted to hurt you at any time, he could have. Maybe he was trying to intimidate and challenge you."

Sarah sighed, "Yeah, that sounds like Jareth."

Kayla stood up, encouraged by their productive thinking and asked, "What else?"

Sarah looked away as she recalled, "He gave one of my companions a peach to give to me. I took it, not knowing it came from him. I had no idea that it was tainted."

Kayla turned to Sarah, "Tainted?"

Sarah replied, "Like drugged...but with magic."

Kayla narrowed her eyes and asked, "Why would he do that?"

Sarah shrugged, "To make me waste time and make me forget what I was looking for."

Kayla noticed that Sarah sounded rather distant as though her thoughts were somewhere else, and she asked her friend, "You avoided that trap too though, right?"

Sarah shook her head, "No, I bit into the peach."

Kayla threw her hands up and cried, "Sarah, come on! You mean to tell me that you were practically living a fairy tale and you were dumb enough to bite into a piece of fruit. Hello...Snow White and the apple! Persephone and the Pomegranate!"

Sarah winced, "Yeah, I know. I wasn't thinking of that at the time, and I was hungry. Like I said, I didn't know that it was from Jareth."

Kayla just shook her head and replied, "Alright Snow White, so what happened after you ate the peach?"

Sarah took a deep breath and continued, "Well that's when things started to get...weird." Kayla listened with interest as Sarah explained, "I felt really strange, like everything was dancing, and this funny sort of music started playing in my head. The next thing I knew I was at this bizarre masquerade. I was the only one who was not wearing a mask and I was dressed in a ball gown. People were all around me dancing and flirting with each other, but they were all wearing these strange masks...like Goblins. Anyway, I was looking around trying to figure out where I was, and then I noticed that someone was staring right at me. He took his mask off and I realized it was him."

Kayla cut in, "Who? Jareth?"

Sarah nodded, "Yeah. It was so strange, the way he was looking at me, like he could see right through me or something."

Kayla suddenly looked amused and prodded, "Ooh...kinky...go on."

Sarah sighed and continued, "I just stared back, like a moron, and then suddenly, he disappeared into the crowd. I kept looking for him...like I was compelled to find him."

Kayla shrugged, "Can't blame you there. He IS quite a piece of eye candy."

Sarah chided, "Kayla!"

She looked about innocently and retorted, "What? He is." Sarah gave her a condescending look and Kayla accused, "Do you deny it?!?"

Sarah opened her mouth but nothing came out, and Kayla smugly replied, "Thought so. Now please, you're giving me goosebumps...do continue."

Sarah shook her head in defeat and went on, "I kept getting glimpses of him, then just as fast, I would lose him again. Then I just stumbled upon him. He was surrounded by masked women, but he was just sort of...staring right at me. He looked incredible and...magical. I must have been gawking at him like a head case, but he didn't break eye contact."

Kayla had started to bounce up and down impatiently as she goaded, "And...what? You jumped his bones right? Tell me you jumped his..."

Sarah shook her head, "Ugh, no Kayla. I...just danced with him."

Kayla stared at Sarah and probed, "OK, you danced...then what."

Sarah whirled away and cried, "Then...nothing. I was getting dizzy. All these weird faces were staring at me, closing in...I felt really...hot and uncomfortable, so I ran until I found a way out. It was an illusion. It had to be, especially since I can't dance. When I landed, I couldn't remember what I was looking for, but then I found the book and it jogged my memory, and I took off to save Toby."

When Sarah turned back around Kayla looked thoroughly bothered and she demanded incredulously, "What! No kiss even?!?"

Sarah paced back and forth furiously and sputtered, "Kayla, I think you are missing the point."

Kayla was quick to assure her, "No I don't think so...but go on. I'm intrigued...what else happened?"

Sarah thought a moment and began, "Well, the next time I faced him was the last. I had only a few minutes left so I just did what I thought I had to..."

Kayla looked shocked and gasped, "You seduced him?!?"

Sarah's shoulders sagged and she replied, "What is it with you...NO, of course I didn't!"

Kayla threw up her hands and bit out, "OK, so what DID you do?"

Sarah explained, "I recited the last lines from the book. The ones the heroine used when she faced the Goblin King. I didn't even know if it would work, but it was all I could think of. I started to say them, but then something odd happened."

Kayla piped up, "What?"

Sarah went on, "Well I was staring down Jareth, saying the lines, when suddenly he interrupted me. He told me to stop. There was a sense of urgency in his voice. He's usually very cool and confident, he wasn't then. It was weird, he almost sounded...desperate. He offered me the crystal again, he said he would give me my dreams and..." Sarah licked her lips, glancing around as if she feared being heard.

Kayla hated being kept in suspense and cried, "And?!?"

Lowering her voice Sarah went on, "He said that he had been generous. I asked for Toby to be taken and he took him...blah blah blah, Then he said something like, 'Let me rule you and you can have everything that you want' and right before I said the last line I think he said 'Love me, fear me, do as I say and I will be your slave.'"

Kayla was breathless as she blurted, "Whoa...What did you say?"

Sarah swallowed with some difficulty and admitted, "I finished the line. I said 'You have no power over me'. He threw the crystal into the air and when it came down he had transformed back into an owl. Then he was gone and I found myself home. Toby was upstairs fast asleep, as if the whole thing had just been a dream. That...that was the last time I saw Jareth before you summoned him."

Kayla didn't know quite what to make of all of it and she just stammered, "Holy shit." She looked to Sarah who had turned away. She approached her friend carefully and ventured, "So...when you saw him again he must have been really pissed."

Sarah turned to face her friend and sarcastically bit out, "Well he didn't give me a hug and a warm welcome, that's for sure."

Kayla winced, unable to help feeling like this was all her fault, "Well, did he...I mean...he didn't rough you up or anything did he?"

Sarah shook her head and admitted, " What do you mean, like hit me? No, that's not his style. He did make it clear that I am to obey him, since I 'belong' to him for the next year, and whenever I start to push his buttons he artfully mentions that he could send me home and take you instead."

Kayla gaped, "He does?"

Sarah nodded, "I think this is his way of getting me back for beating him, but somehow it doesn't quite make sense...I mean he's been less than pleasant at times but other than making me do chores, he hasn't really punished me. Maybe he just gets some sick pleasure out of ordering me around."

Kayla arched her eyebrow and asked, "What does he make you do?"

Sarah sighed and was slightly embarrassed to admit, "He made me kiss his boots once, and he's made me pretend to be his page boy, but mostly he just gives me chores to do. As annoying as his requests have been though...he hasn't been outwardly hostile towards me. In truth it sort of worries me a little. I have no idea what the hell he is thinking."

Kayla mused, "Well you did give him the big shoot down."

Sarah snapped, "What do you mean?"

Kayla explained, "Well in his own twisted way, he could have been offering you his heart when he was all (she did her best Jareth impression, complete with the British accent) "fear me, love me, do as I say...and I will be your slave" Kayla batted her eyes for effect as she continued, "And you were all like (excessive eye batting with snotty female tone of voice) "You have no power over me...talk to the hand GK, cause the face ain't listenin'..."

Sarah shook her head and protested, "He was just stalling me, so I'd run out of time."

Kayla considered this and replied, "Mmm it's possible, but what if he wasn't? What if he meant what he said, and you gave the almighty Goblin King the ole brush off."

Sarah swallowed and admitted, "Well, to be honest...the idea has crossed my mind."

Kayla was suddenly flittering around Sarah as she exclaimed, "What if he really had a thing for you and all this time he's been obsessing over you. Ooh, or what if he's in love with you, and plans to keep you forever. He might have been plotting to get you back this whole time, and now that you are within reach, it probably drives him insane. Maybe he's just waiting for the right moment to pounce. He could even be watching you right now. Oh, I so bet he does watch you. Do you think he watches you in the shower? At the very least he's probably seen you undressed. He might have even wacked..."

Sarah put her hands over her ears and shouted, "Alright Kayla! I GET the idea!" She then covered her head in her hands and moaned, "I was afraid of this. You don't really think he is infatuated with me do you?"

Kayla smiled, "Oh I dunno, I was just messin' with ya. But, from everything you said, I'd venture that is he is at least a little taken with you."

Sarah straightened and replied, "Actually, that reminds me, I overheard some of his Goblins talking last night. They were saying the same thing. I'm starting to worry, what if I misconstrued what he said. What if he was sincere? Oh God...what if it's just like the story says, and he is in love with me?"

Kayla scoffed, "Jeez Sarah, you say that like it's a bad thing."

Sarah stared up into her friend's face and replied, "It is a bad thing...a very, very, BAD THING."

Kayla cocked her head to the side as if scrutinizing her and asked, "Why?"

Sarah sighed heavily, "Because, it's Jareth. He's deceptive, and manipulative and powerful...and Hello, King of the Goblins remember?"

Kayla's lips curved into a wry smile and she taunted, "You're scared. It's a bad thing to you because you are scared, not of him, scared that you could possibly like someone like him."

Sarah shook her head, stomping her foot as she snapped, "What are you HIGH Kayla? Let's just pretend for one second that the guy is NOT my arch nemesis..."

Kayla waved her hand, "No, let's not. SO WHAT if he IS your arch nemesis. Has he ever really hurt you? I already know the answer. No he hasn't. But let me ask you this, you consider him the villain, but is he...really? Can you honestly say he is a BAD guy?"

Sarah crossed her arms defensively and affirmed, "Well, He's no prince charming if that's what you mean."

Kayla snorted and bit out, "Well, Who the hell wants some goody two shoes prince charming anyway? Cinderella can keep that shit. Sarah, answer me this...Is he evil? Like Sauron, or Voldemort, or Emperor Palpatine evil?"

Sarah shrugged, "I...I don't think so. Kayla how is this even relevant?"

Kayla smiled and stalked around Sarah as she demanded, "Answer me this then...Are you attracted to him?"

Sarah stammered, "nnn...No. Why would you ask that?"

Kayla rolled her eyes, "You are such a bad liar."

Sarah sighed and glanced around before she lowered her voice, "Fine. Maybe...alright? But you said it yourself, he's very attractive...and I'm not dead you know."

Kayla nodded, "Fair enough, I'll give you that. But you're more than just attracted to him."

Sarah crossed her arms defensively and barked, "What are you talking about?"

Kayla smiled and replied, "You like him. You're way to defensive about this, not to. Now I'm wondering how far this little crush goes. Do you think about him...often?"

Sarah let out a deep breath and protested, "I really don't see how..."

Kayla bounced with excitement, "Oh! You do, don't you?!?"

Sarah was really getting tired of bottling everything. With a weary sigh she replied, "Kayla...I...I...What does it matter anyway? I don't know what his intentions are, I don't even know if he feels anything for me, or if he's just out to get me back."

Kayla crossed her arms over her chest and assured her, "Well Sar, it's real simple. We find out."

Sarah widened her eyes and replied, "Just how do you propose we do that?"

Kayla held up her hand, "Please Sarah, I'm all about reading the signals. Once his majesty puts in an appearance, I'll be able to tell you in like five minutes."

Sarah shook her head, "Oh, I don't know Kayla, he's very tricky, and let's not forget that he's Fae, not human."

Kayla interrupted, "What?"

Sarah repeated "Fae."

Kayla responded, "What the hell is Fae?!?"

Sarah sighed and explained, "It's a race, like elves, or dwarves. He's not human. He's probably immortal and we already know he possesses powerful magic."

Kayla waved her hand and protested, "Doesn't matter...magic, no magic, short, tall, pointy ears, no ears, point is, he's a guy. Right?"

Sarah shrugged, "I suppose."

Kayla seemed annoyed by her friend's lack of faith and she insisted, "Well, he's got a dick right?"

Sarah's cheeks went crimson as she cried, "Kayla!"

Kayla shrugged, "What? If he's got a dick then he's a guy, and therefore very simple to figure out, but oh shit...wait a sec..."

Sarah glanced about frantically and asked, "What?"

Kayla suddenly seemed thoughtful and elaborated, "Well, if he's not human his anatomy could be...different. Like what his Fae plug isn't compatible to your standard human outlet."

Sarah's face was bright red again as she glanced about hoping to God that Jareth wasn't about to make an appearance. Kayla was still wrapped up in her monologue, "Whoa, like it could be a whole different size or shape. Jeez Sar, what if he's hung like an elephant?"

Sarah sighed, she hated to admit it but Kayla did have a point, Jareth wasn't human, but still those breeches didn't hide much. Before Sarah even realized what she was saying she blurted, "I doubt it Kayla, I mean his pants..."

Sarah clamped her mouth shut before she finished and to her astonishment Kayla kept going, apparently the enigma of Jareth's anatomy was very interesting to her. "No really Sarah, he probably is differently equipped. I mean at the very least, he's probably not circumsized."

Sarah was beginning to get antsy, Kayla was talking very loudly and she could have sworn she had just caught a whiff of Jareth's telltale magic smell. In desperation Sarah yelled, "Kayla!!!!"

Kayla smiled smugly and patted Sarah on her shoulder as she cooed, "Tell you what though...I'm willing to bet you five, no make that ten bucks that you find out before the year is up..."

Sarah shook her head as she noticed glitter drifting on the breeze, and she didn't have to turn around to know that the Goblin King was standing right behind them as Kayla smugly taunted, "Oh yeah, ten bucks."

Even though she knew he was there, Sarah nearly jumped out of her skin as his voice broke the silence, "Sarah. Kayla. I'm not interrupting am I?"

Chapter 20: All About the Benjamins

Both Sarah and Kayla turned slowly to see the Goblin King standing imperiously behind them, an arrogant smirk forming on his pallid face. Sarah's heart raced as her mind frantically wondered how much he had heard. No doubt, he overheard their wager, but hopefully he had just missed what they were wagering about.

Sarah glanced nervously at Kayla who was blatantly gawking in disbelief at the Goblin King. Great, Sarah thought as she elbowed her friend and mentally stewed, Could it be anymore obvious that we were just talking about him?

Kayla collected herself and pretended to act glad that he had joined them just as Sarah cleared her throat and stammered, "Ah, no...not at all. We were just...catching up with one another." Kayla nodded to confirm what Sarah had said and she noticed that the Goblin King's posture was that of a very proud self-assured individual. Now that she had effectively woken up, she couldn't help quickly looking him over. Sarah had been saying something about his pants...

Oh.

Kayla nearly flushed the same shade as Sarah as she noticed that his breeches really didn't leave much to the imagination. Kayla tore her eyes away as she reminded herself that there was an overabundance of packages for her to inspect back at school and that this particular one was out of bounds, and well within Sarah's playing field. Sarah wanted to know how this curious monarch felt about her, and when it came to men, Kayla was a master of gathering intelligence. She had a job to do.

Kayla smiled sweetly as she looked up at the Goblin King and replied, "Why don't you join us. We were just having a little fun, weren't we Sarah?"

Sarah nodded uneasily as she watched her roommate actually attempting to flirt with the Goblin King, "Uh...yeah." Sarah glanced warily at Kayla and wondered what the hell she was up to.

Jareth returned a polite but cool smile and suggested, "I've arranged for dinner to be served, perhaps you both would care to join me in the dining room."

Sarah hesitated, but before she could come up with a reasonable excuse Kayla blurted, "Sure we will, won't we Sar?"

Sarah rolled her eyes, it looked as though she had little choice. She just hoped Kayla knew what she was doing.

A little while later all three of them entered the opulent dining room of the castle. It did not go unnoticed by Kayla that Jareth had chosen to sit directly across from Sarah. Kayla was seated to Sarah's immediate right. Two very nervous Goblins were presently scurrying to set the table and Kayla watched them with curiosity.

Sarah was rather used to being in the company of goblins by now, so she only kept her eyes on the goblins to keep her from staring at the Goblin King.

Jareth noticed Kayla's curious inspection of his goblins and enquired, "I take it Sarah has already explained to you who I am?" Kayla looked at him and smiled secretively, "Oh yeah. She told me all about you."

Amusement registered on his haughty face as he smugly replied, "I see. Tell me, how much of a monster would she have you believe that I am?"

Sarah stared at her plate and flinched inwardly. Why did he always have to be so difficult? Apparently the fact that she had a guest made absolutely no difference to him, he was determined to test her patience at every turn. Well, at least now she had Kayla to back her up, no doubt this was about to get interesting.

Kayla smiled politely as if considering the notion before she retorted, "Well, no more than what you probably deserve. You don't give Sarah enough credit you know, she is nothing, if not fair."

Jareth resisted the urge to smile as the memory of Sarah's previous frequent protests echoed through his mind, "that's not fair." Instead, he pondered the forward girl that now addressed him. No wonder she and Sarah were companions, as they appeared to both be made out of the same brazen metal. He wondered if this little chit possessed a scorching inferno of a temper too.

Jareth smiled, and it was a somewhat sinister expression as it showed the tiny points of his teeth. His reply was half sneer - half amusement, "Is that so?" His haughty gaze momentarily darted to Sarah before he added, "Enlighten me then, since you speak for Sarah and you are her living companion...What is Sarah like, really?"

Kayla smiled and coyly replied, "I guess I should tell you since you are going to be stuck with her for the next year." Sarah looked up, suddenly horrified by the idea of Kayla telling Jareth anything about her.

Jareth poured the wine and drawled, "Yes, you're quite right."

Kayla smirked at him over her wine glass and grabbed a bit of bread as she began, "Well, Sarah isn't much of a morning person, but...you've probably already figured that out."

Jareth gave Sarah a sideways glance and mused, "Hmm, yes."

Kayla smiled around a mouthful of bread before she swallowed and went on, "Aside from her occasional moods, she can be a lot of fun. The operative word being, 'can'"

Sarah inwardly braced herself as Jareth arched an eyebrow and asked, "How do you mean?"

Kayla bit her lip and replied, "Well, she's great company at a party for example. She not afraid to get a little liberal with the cocktails and she can't dance for shit, but it's funny as hell watching her try, specially after she's had a few drinks."

Jareth grinned at this, having Sarah as his escort to the upcoming ball was going to be interesting to say the very least.

Sarah rolled her eyes dramatically as she drained her wine glass. Just whose side was Kayla on? Did she really have to sit here and listen to this? What the HELL was she doing? This was her best friend after all, she was supposed to be backing her up, not getting all chummy with Jareth.

Kayla was indeed well aware of Sarah's discomfort, but she chose to ignore it as she continued, "And the best part is with Sarah around, there's no shortage of male attention...IF you know what I mean."

Kayla pretended not to notice as Sarah nearly choked on her wine. Instead, it was Jareth's reaction she was waiting for, and it came just as she suspected. Jareth had been grinning, but her last statement wiped the smug smile right off his face. But, he was quick. In the next instant his disturbed expression became a mask of unfathomable indifference. Kayla wasn't retreating though, not just yet.

She artfully bit her lip as if thinking before she continued, "You see, Sarah is one of those beautiful girls who is unaware or her worth. She is not phony nor is she egotistical. And well, the guys at school just LOVE that."

Kayla noticed that Jareth still wasn't smiling, but neither was he displaying any readable emotion. Looked as though it would take just one extra push.

Kayla dismissed Sarah's look that promised a slow painful death and added, "Course...you might think with that being the case, that I'd be spending many nights on the common room couch...but no, Sarah is a very good and considerate roommate like that."

Kayla glanced up to see the flash of relief in Jareth's eyes and she knew it was time to go in for the kill. She chose her next words carefully, "Actually, I only remember one night that Sarah didn't come home. I think that was the time she stayed out all night with her friend Ben. Right Sar? He's a real nice guy, I bet he showed her a REAL good time. He seemed to care a lot about her..."

And there it was. Kayla clearly saw the tension building in the Goblin King's frame, and my, he was holding his wine stem rather tightly. With a sense of satisfaction Kayla finished, "Honestly though, I don't know what happened to Ben, he stopped coming around after that. Sarah must've broken his heart."

Sarah slammed her fork down in embarrassment and ground out, "Alright, Kayla, let's not bore Jareth to death."

Jareth was quick to protest and ground out, "Nonsense..."

Kayla held up her hand and interrupted, "No, she's right. It's not really relevant. Let's change the subject. I'm curious about this place and...about you Jareth."

Sarah nearly dropped her forkful of peas as Jareth drawled slowly, "Really? Curious about what?"

Kayla swallowed. Sarah was right, there was something unnerving in that gaze of his. She took a badly needed sip of wine and politely replied, "Well, lots of things. For instance, I was wondering, Is there a Goblin...Queen?"

Sarah had been about to drink her wine, but she quickly put it back down for fear she would spill it all over herself. Jareth arched an eyebrow and his voice was full of mischief, as he replied, "No. There would be if it were up to the Northern Kingdoms, but as it is up to me...no, there is not."

Kayla coyly replied, "How come? You're a good looking guy."

Sarah gaped at her friend in disbelief and suppressed the childish urge to gag.

Jareth grinned wickedly, looking from one girl to the other. He would enjoy taking this chance to unnerve Sarah a bit. He silkily replied, "Why? Did you have someone in mind?" His eyes settled on Kayla as he finished, "Yourself perhaps?"

Kayla nearly lost her concentration at his directness, but she was no amateur when it came down to cat and mouse games. She met the Goblin King's gaze head on and replied definitively, "No, I didn't mean me. That...wouldn't work."

Jareth sized up the female who bravely returned his gaze and had just flat out denied him. Her and Sarah must have been destined to be friends, they both seemed to live and breathe defiance. Still, he found the conversation extremely amusing, and the fact that it was making Sarah obviously uncomfortable was simply an added bonus that was nearly too good to be true. With a feral smile he purred, "Why not?" He loved the fact that this literally made Sarah squirm in her chair.

Kayla sipped her wine coolly and admitted, "Because, you aren't my type."

Jareth's grin only grew wider as he mercilessly taunted, "And WHY aren't I?"

Sarah, unable to stomach the conversation for a moment longer blurted, rather rudely, "Read her lips Jareth. Not. Her. Type."

Jareth now turned to regard Sarah, his amusement danced in his eyes like fire as he retorted, "Ah. Well, You are her companion. I suppose you ought to know her best. Tell me...What is her type then?"

Sarah, feeling quite pushed to the end of her rope and dangerously bold at this particular moment, leaned forward and leered at him as she flatly admitted, "Strong. QUIET. And BLACK."

Jareth watched as she annunciated the words with certainty. He smiled at her anger, which only pissed her off more, so she added with a snort, "Fair-skinned, arrogant, and opinionated Goblin Kings need not apply."

Kayla bit back a surprised laugh, but failed as it erupted in an unladylike snort before she broke into uncontrollable laughter. She had never seen Sarah bristle like that. Hoo-boy, did he know how to push her buttons.

Sarah crossed her arms defensively as Kayla recovered, catching her breath as she panted, "Oh. Good one Sar. She's right though, she knows me well. Actually, If you ask me...I'd say you and Sarah are more suited for each other. Christ, you already sound like a married couple..."

In the petrified instant that Sarah realized where the conversation was headed she made a rash decision.

Before Kayla could say another word Sarah had leapt to her feet, and her voice was laced with a deadly tone of warning, "That's enough, Kay! I really don't think Jareth needs or cares about our opinion on this particular subject."

Upon seeing Sarah's reaction, Jareth's lips twisted into a cruel smile. Watching her growing discomfort had been more pleasing than drop kicking the most disobedient goblin into the heart of the bog of eternal stench.

Sarah noticed the pleased expression on the Goblin King's face but was in no mood to jest, and seeing that there was no way she could stomach eating any more, she rose and gave Kayla's arm a squeeze as she addressed Jareth. "Well, I'm done here. Thanks for dinner, Kayla and I will just be retiring to my room." Her voice turned to a low hiss as she turned to glare at her friend, "We have lots to discuss. Don't we Kayla?"

Jareth didn't miss the threatening look Sarah shot at her friend. He nodded unaffectedly as Sarah practically dragged Kayla out of the dining room by her arm. When they reached the doorway he distinctly heard Kayla squeal, "Owwww. What'd ya do that for?!?"

Sarah slammed her bedroom door closed and snapped, "Would you mind telling me just what the HELL you were doing back there?!?"

Kayla plopped down on Sarah's bed and rolled her eyes, "Will you relax already? I'm just doing what you asked me to do."

Sarah crossed her arms and barked, "Really? I don't recall asking you to flirt with him, nor do I remember telling you to embarrass the crap out of me."

Kayla stared at the ceiling in annoyance and scoffed, "Sarah, do you want to know how he feels or not?"

Sarah dropped her eyes and huffed, "Yeah, but, Jesus Kayla!"

Kayla held up her hand and interrupted, "But...nothing. Trust me. I know what I'm doing and I almost know everything I need to."

Sarah shot Kayla a doubtful glance and goaded, "Then how 'bout sharing, because I have no idea what that charade was all about down there. And c'mon, what's with all the flirting?"

Kayla grinned knowingly and cooed, "Aww, relax babe. That wasn't flirting. That was strategic gathering of intelligence, pure brilliance if I do say so."

Sarah widened her eyes, she couldn't wait to hear this nutty piece of rationale.

Kayla smirked and explained, "I was playing to his ego. If he views the situation as confrontational, we aren't going to get anywhere. I played the gushing little groupie so that he would think he had the upper hand and wouldn't perceive me as a threat. It was the surest way to get him to let his guard down. Remember, that's one proud King we're dealing with. I wasn't really flirting though, like you said, he's so not my type, and besides, I would never pursue my best friend's game."

Sarah crossed her arms and spat, "He's not my game."

Kayla snorted, "Coulda fooled me. Come off it Sarah! I'm not that stupid! I can plainly see that there is something going on with you two. Christ, the chemistry in there was more suffocating than the smell of weed at a Grateful Dead concert."

Sarah tried to protest, "But..."

Kayla stopped her with a glare as she finished, "Save it Sarah. I've seen enough to know that he has a serious thing for you and I can plainly see that you are terrified by the fact that you want him."

Sarah sighed as she crossed her arms and sheepishly muttered, "I..."

Kayla held up a hand, stopping her, "Sar, I know you. You're my roomie, my best friend. I can read you like a book. I can tell when something is eating at you and this clearly is."

Sarah flinched and began to pace nervously. Kayla's eyes followed Sarah's rushed movements and she observed, "Look at you! You're a wreck. Now seriously, cut the bullshit and tell me the truth."

Sarah dropped onto the bed as she sighed wearily, and replied in a hushed whisper, "I can't...not here..."

Kayla immediately retorted, "Why not?"

Sarah lowered her voice further and hissed, "He might be watching or listening...and the fact that you have the biggest mouth this side of the galaxy is not helping us."

Kayla nodded, "You know I can't help it. Alright. Where can we go then?"

Sarah bit her lip and admitted, "I...I don't know. He uses crystals to see things..."

Kayla considered this and replied, "Fine, then we go somewhere where we can keep him in plain sight. That way, if he starts with the crystal thing, we'll know." Sarah stared at Kayla as if she completely lost her mind. Undaunted, Kayla asked, "Where did he go? I mean where do you think he is right now?"

Sarah shrugged, "I don't know...the library maybe?"

Kayla grabbed Sarah by the hand and pulled her to her feet, "Is there a window that we can see into the library from the outside?"

Sarah nodded, "Yeah, actually there's a very large window in the library and it's not too high up, we can probably see inside from the gardens."

Kayla dragged Sarah from the room as she barked, "Right. Lead the way."

To Sarah's dismay, Kayla was absolutely right. From the darkened garden they could see right into the library, and sure enough, Jareth was there, pouring over a pile of parchments.

Kayla crouched behind a rosebush and remarked, "He's up there all right. No way he's in earshot, but from here we can plainly see him." She giggled, "I feel so...James Bond. He doesn't even know we are out here! Hee-hee, well, start spillin' girlfriend."

Sarah drew a deep breath, "Fine. What do you want to know?"

Kayla shot Sarah an annoyed look and hissed, "Everything. Just tell me the truth." Kayla noticed how Sarah's eyes were drawn to the distant figure in the window and she quickly added, "You really have feelings for him don't you?"

Sarah lowered her eyes and swallowed her pride. It was no use trying to hide it any longer, not from Kayla. She knew her too well. Sarah winced as she glanced at her friend and shamefully admitted, "I...uh...think I might."

Kayla gave Sarah a condescending look and Sarah finally hissed, "Alright. Fine. Yes. I do...but what does it matter if he only wants revenge?"

Kayla held up a hand and warned, "Alright, one thing at a time...don't get your panties in a bunch. First...what do you feel? Are you just like lusting here or are we talking major crush? Or god forbid, are we entering full-blown four letter "L" word territory?"

Sarah pulled Kayla down to the ground so they were both kneeling behind the rosebush, facing each other as she whispered, "I...don't really know. I've tried to tell myself that it's just an attraction, but it seems more complicated than that. I can't get over the compulsion to hate him...I'm supposed to hate him. He is the villain here right?"

Kayla looked pointedly at Sarah and asked, "I don't know, is he?'

Sarah swallowed and admitted, "At first...yeah, that's exactly what I considered him, but now, sometimes I think I'm starting to like him. Sometimes he can be so charming...but then he does something to remind me how cruel he can be...and at times I can barely refrain from slugging him, but then whenever he comes near me I can barely keep myself together. Aaarghhhh!!! I'm so confused!"

Kayla watched as Sarah's cautious exterior fell away. She was clearly shaken by what was happening to her. She was usually so brave and strong, that Kayla found her sudden display of vulnerability upsetting. Kayla placed a supportive hand on Sarah's shoulder and gently asked, "Sarah, has anything happened since you came back here?"

Sarah was obviously aggravated by her weakness as she blinked back the tears, commanding them that they had better not dare fall. She inhaled sharply, raggedly, as she demanded, "Like what?"

Kayla shot a cautious glance at the window and ventured, "Well, has he kissed you...or tried to?"

Sarah froze and stammered, "Well...he almost did, but it didn't actually happen."

Kayla stiffened and asked, "Well, what DID actually happen?"

Sarah began, "Well, right after I got here, I was in my room, er...taking a bath and he sort of just appeared."

Kayla's eyes widened at the seemingly scandalous scenario but Sarah quickly reassured her, "He didn't see anything, and I was being insolent, as I was rightly pissed that he had barged in. Well, that didn't go over so well, and he came closer. He said something threatening and leaned over me. I was afraid he was going to kiss me, but he stopped at the last second. I think he was like testing me. I must've failed, since I uh...didn't turn away. "

Kayla looked thoughtful and replied, "Anything else happen?"

Sarah nodded, "Well yeah, one night we were arguing in his room. I was pissed because he made me dress up as his page boy and then his little tart couldn't keep her hands off me..."

Kayla shook her head, "WHAT?!?"

Sarah flushed and replied, "Kind of a long story, not important really. The point IS...he was making light of the situation, which only made me angrier, so I started fighting with him. He kept advancing, and next thing I knew, I was backed up against his bed. He told me that I amused him. I should have just smacked him and walked away, but...I didn't. I couldn't bring myself to leave. I guess maybe deep down I wanted him to kiss me. For one moment I was sure he was going to, and then we were disturbed. I took the interruption as an opportunity to bail."

Kayla nodded slowly, "Anything else?"

Sarah nodded and choked out, "Last night. We were playing chess...and talking. Actually, we talked alot. Eventually he broke out the brandy and I figured it might take the edge off. We drank until the game was over and when I got up, I stumbled. So he carried me to my room."

Kayla reiterated in surprise, "He carried you to your room?!?"

Sarah nodded and looked away as she finished, "Yeah. He put me down on the bed. I must have been pretty buzzed. I couldn't help noticing how amazing he looked in the firelight. And God Kay, he smelled so nice. I knew I was being stupid, I should have told him to leave, but I didn't. I just sat there staring at him. I was both terrified and elated that he might kiss me, that it might even go beyond a kiss. I knew it was a foolish thing to want, but at the same time I almost didn't care. God, I wanted him so bad. I've never wanted anyone like that...and to be honest it scared the hell out of me."

Kayla nodded and finished for her, "...because you don't know if you can trust him. You don't know what it is he wants, or what he truly feels."

Sarah nodded and wondered how Kayla could understand her so perfectly. She shuddered as a cool breeze whipped around them and tried to reign in her growing despair at the hopelessness of her situation.

Kayla slowly tipped Sarah face up and asked gently, "Sarah, I know you're not a virgin, that you've been with other guys, but are you saying that you never wanted any of them the way you wanted Jareth?"

Sarah sniffed, the added burden of her past only making the bleakness of her situation more poignant. She bit out, "Kayla, I told you that I regretted hooking up with those guys..."

Kayla whispered incredulously, "You weren't even attracted to any of them...were you?"

Sarah shook her head, "No. Not even Ben."

Kayla gave Sarah a knowing smile and slyly remarked, "Sarah, are you telling me that a guy has never really rocked your world?"

Sarah couldn't help but laugh through her misery at her friend's unique way of putting things. "No, not as of yet."

Kayla replied, "Ok, I know what happened with Ben and Jeff, but what about Kyle, I though that you two..." Sarah shook her head and corrected, "I slept with him, yes...but it was my first time and it was a total disaster."

Kayla looked surprised, "Really, so he didn't make you..."

Sarah shook her head, "Not even close."

Kayla looked at her and replied, "But you have had one, on your own at least?"

Sarah sighed, "Yeah, I'm not that defective."

Kayla smiled and teased, "Nothin' wrong with being self-sufficient. In any case, we're getting off the subject here. Where were we? Jareth. Right." Kayla glanced up at the window and added, "Do you want to know what I think?"

Sarah nodded, "You know I do."

Kayla grinned and replied, "Well, I think it's perfectly obvious."

Sarah furrowed her brow, "What is?"

Kayla's smirk was sinister as she whispered, "Well, he wants a piece of you, no doubt about that, but I think there's more to it. I think he does have feelings for you...genuine ones."

Sarah looked at her friend with disbelief and stuttered, "H...How do you know?"

Kayla elaborated, "The signs are obvious. First off, he can barely take his eyes off you. Do you know how many times I noticed him checking you out at dinner? Lots. Then there's the whole almost kissing you thing, and conveniently showing up while you are in the bath...Hello, obvious. But it goes deeper than that. If he just wanted to get you in bed, why would he have stopped night? He's a clever bastard, I'll give him that. I don't doubt that he has been testing you, and not once have you refused his advances. I'm guessing he already knows you are attracted to him."

Sarah considered this and replied, "But if he knows then why hasn't he acted?"

Kayla replied, "That's the question, and I think I know why. He wants more than just sex. I think he's waiting to be sure you feel something for him in return. He likes you Sarah, and I think his feelings run deep. Did you see the look on his face when I mentioned Ben? Wiped the smile right off his face, that did. I think...and I can't be a hundred percent on this, but I'm pretty confident that he started having feelings for you the last time you were here. And he's had a long time to stew in those feelings. I think you must have dealt his ego a serious blow when you kicked his ass last time. If there's one thing a guy can't stomach, it's being beaten by a girl."

Kayla paused for a moment before she went on, "But what you told me about what he said, right before you defeated him...that he could have just been trying to stall you, well I suppose he could have, but my instincts tell me different. I think he may have more than half meant what he said, even if he didn't fully realize it at the time. I think you being back here is no accident. In fact, I think he was counting on you not being able to toss that book, and he probably knew it was only a matter of time before you or someone else in your life said those words again."

Kayla smiled then and continued, "He also knows that you are selfless. You risked your dreams to save Toby, so why wouldn't you trade your freedom to save a friend? Now I'm not saying that you burning him last time won't have its repercussions. Maybe he was plotting to seduce you and hurt you for what you did to him, but from the sounds of it, I'd wager he didn't know you very well, and I think, that the more he does get to know you, the more he will like you. God knows, he may already be in love with you, but whether revenge is his motive or not...He won't go through with it. I already detect a bit of a soft spot, otherwise he could have already seduced you and hurt you."

Sarah absorbed every word and thought on Kayla's appraisal of the situation. After a moment she swallowed and replied, "I admit, what you're saying is making a lot of sense." Kayla shrugged and nodded as Sarah added, "So, if that IS what is going on...What am I supposed to do about it?"

Kayla met Sarah's gaze and asked, "Why not take advantage of the situation? You can be cautious and still explore your feelings. See what develops. You're a smart girl Sarah, and if you are observant, I see no reason that you won't be able to decipher his true intentions. He may be Fae Sar, but he's still a guy, and I'd wager under all that cold glittery exterior he has a heart too."

Sarah swallowed and replied, "But what if I end up really falling for him? Don't you think that could be more than a little dangerous?"

Kayla smiled sadly and admitted, "Sarah, falling in love is always risky, no matter who it's with. But think on this...what's worse? Falling in love and getting hurt, or never knowing what love is, because you were too afraid to fall in the first place?"

Sarah looked at the ground for a long time. When she finally looked up at her friend, she smiled and replied, "You know, I should be committed for taking love life advice from a Chemistry major."

Kayla cooed, "Does that mean you are going to consider what I said?"

Sarah sighed and nodded, "Fraid so."

Kayla looked at her friend with genuine concern and asked, "Do you think you are going to be OK here?"

Sarah shrugged, "Well, it's very different from home, and from school, but I'll manage." Sarah's expression became slightly sad and she added, "I'll miss you though. I...I just wish we had more time. Tomorrow is going to come so fast."

Kayla looked touched, "Awww, you're gonna miss me? Really?"

Sarah nodded, "Course I will. I love having you around. Why do you think I stay to hang out on the weekends so often? It's not the parties Kay, and the caf food isn't that good...It's because we have so much fun together."

Kayla sighed, "Yeah, it stinks that I have to go back so soon, this place is kinda neat, in a freaky sorta way, and I really do wish I could help you through this."

Sarah nodded, "You and me both. It's makes it so much easier, being able to talk about things. It would be nice to have your opinion from time to time, to be able to get advice that I trust. I am so not looking forward to this ball either..."

Kayla furrowed her brow, "Ball?'

Sarah sighed suddenly realizing there was still so much she hadn't explained, "Yeah, when Jareth and I were playing chess last night we weren't just playing for fun. I wagered that if I won I get to see you and get some of my stuff. His terms were that I'd have to escort him to a ball that's going to happen here. Well, it was a draw, so now we both have to honor each others terms. What am I going to do? I can't dance, I'll make a total fool of myself."

Kayla looked surprised, "That's for sure...wait...he expects you to dance?"

Sarah nodded, "Yeah. He claims he's going to teach me and that I'll learn before the time comes, but I don't think he knows what he's getting into."

Kayla laughed, "Apparently not...But hey, he made the deal, so it's his problem now. What kind of dancing is it anyway?"

Sarah shrugged, "Well if that crazy peach induced masquerade hallucination meant anything, then it's probably going to be like waltzing. You know, kind of slow, kind of formal."

Kayla smirked wickedly "Uh-oh. Slow dancing with Jareth in formal attire, I don't know if you'll be able to last."

Sarah jumped as Kayla poked her in the side and stammered, "What do you mean?"

Kayla elaborated, "Well, that kind of dancing involves lots of touching and intimacy. Think you can handle Jareth showing you those kind of moves?"

Sarah huffed, "Well, I'd better, since it's not like I have a choice."

Kayla grinned and mused, "You know what I think?"

Sarah rolled her eyes, "What?"

Kayla giggled and purred in response, "I think he's going to have to give you lots and lots of practice before the ball and I think you are definitely going to wind up owing me ten bucks."

Sarah shook her head and sarcastically replied, "Thanks for the vote of confidence...ugh...this is going to be bad."

Kayla smirked and replied, "Well, I can teach you the basics of the waltz if you think it'll help, maybe it'll give you a little head start."

Sarah shrugged, "Couldn't hurt. I might feel a little easier going into this if I at least knew what to expect. Can you really teach me?"

Kayla nodded, "I can try. I had to take lessons for my cousin's wedding last summer..." Kayla suddenly trailed off as she stared into the library window.

Sarah strained to see in, "What is it?"

Kayla replied, "Jareth just sort of disappeared. I can't see him anymore."

Sarah waved her hand and insisted, "Doesn't really matter now, just don't talk about him and we have nothing to worry about."

Kayla circled the rosebush and asked, "So do you want me to show you right here?"

Sarah looked around noticing that the moon was casting enough light so that they could clearly watch their footing, "Might as well. My room is sort of cramped for dancing."

Kayla stepped closer and began, "Alright, well the first thing you have to learn is the proper stance. Jareth will probably lead so, I'll be the guy. You just be...you."

Sarah scoffed, "OK."

Kayla positioned Sarah's shoulders and explained, "Ok, stand up straight. Feet a little wider apart. Good. Now put this hand on my shoulder...right here. Now his arm goes under yours, just like this, and his hand will go...here."

Sarah stiffened as she looked down and remarked, "Um Kayla, your hand is like, right near my boob...are you sure this is right?"

Kayla smugly reassured her, "Yup. This is how I was taught. Hand goes there, and this is why...feel that?"

Sarah nodded as Kayla applied gentle pressure causing Sarah to step back and with a slight nudge Sarah could tell she was supposed to step forward.

Kayla explained, "The guy puts his hand here to help lead you, so that the slightest nudge will tell you whether you are supposed to step forward or back."

Sarah nodded, "Ok, I see, but why does it have to go right here, I thought it usually went on the waist."

Kayla smiled, "You're really worried about this aren't you?"

Sarah sighed, "I just don't get why..."

Kayla shook her head and cut her off, "Hey, this is how they taught me. I'm sure some people have slightly different styles, maybe Jareth will do it a little differently...you won't know until you try it with him."

Kayla suddenly laughed as mischief sparkled in her eyes, "What's the matter you likin' my hand there?"

Sarah snorted, "It's not YOUR hands I'm worried about."

Kayla informed her, "Well I got news for you babe...you're gonna have a lot more than his hands to be worried about, especially if he has a pair of formal breeches. I have a feeling he's going to be a much closer dancer than me, especially when it's you he's going to be dancing with."

Sarah groaned and Kayla suddenly turned her, quickly lowering her into a low dip. Kayla couldn't help laughing at Sarah's startled expression as she chuckled, "At least that'll put me closer to my ten bucks."

Suddenly, a crisp British accent broke through their laughter, "Just WHAT are you two doing?" Kayla froze, still holding Sarah in the incriminatingly romantic low dip position.

An inverted and rather mocking Goblin king stepped into Sarah's line of sight. Kayla expertly pulled Sarah up and coolly admitted, "Oh you know, nothing much...Just showing Sarah a few of my moves."

Jareth took a step forward and that signature arrogant smirk formed on his face as he began, "I can see that. You know, intimate dancing such as that, at least here in the underground, is normally reserved for partners of the OPPOSITE sex."

Kayla shrugged, not much liking his arrogant tone, as she retorted, "Well, Sarah and I are trend setters, what can I say?"

Sarah elbowed her and replied, "Aboveground we're not bound to such traditional boundaries...in any case, we were just fooling around."

Jareth regarded the girls as he crossed his arms and drawled, "Fooling around? Yes, well, you certainly have a knack for that Sarah, as you never cease to amuse."

His grin turned wicked as he mused, "Come to think of it...there's an old proverb we have in the underground, 'Only a true fool can ensnare the wisest and coldest of the fairer sex.'" His smile then turned mocking as he purred,

"...So it is no wonder you are so popular with the ladies down here."

Sarah felt the heat rush to her cheeks at his jest. The familiar fire of anger gathered to be thrown as a scorching come-back from the tip of her tongue, but as he winked and flashed her that sultry smile, her belligerent protest died in her throat.

This type of arguing was treacherous as it only seemed to get her needlessly excited and it only intensified the already present sexual tension. Sarah wrestled with her anger and forced it back down. She would keep her mouth shut if only for now. She had little time left with her friend and she wasn't about to waste it by arguing with Jareth.

Sarah tolerated the remark, but it was an effort to keep her expression civil as she ground out, "So it seems. Well, It is getting rather late, Kayla and I should retire."

Jareth was rather taken aback by her reluctance to argue and it took him a moment to respond, "Shall I have some goblins make up a room for Kayla?"

Sarah shook her head, "That's not necessary. You don't mind crashing in my room do you Kayla?"

Kayla smirked and replied, "Long as I don't have to sleep on a cold stone floor." Sarah looked at her friend before she intentionally answered, "I think the bed is big enough for the both of us, don't you?"

It took all of Kayla's willpower not to laugh as Sarah's eyes briefly darted to Jareth. Apparently, she wanted to keep him guessing.

Kayla didn't trust herself to speak, so she merely nodded as Sarah turned to Jareth and said, "G'night Jareth." With that, she turned on her heel and started back toward the castle at such a pace that Kayla had to nearly run to keep up with her.

As they reached the castle Kayla could no longer keep quiet, and she asked in a mock-serious voice, "So does this mean that you want to snuggle?"

Sarah bit her lip to stifle her laughter and Kayla added, "Ok, I'll sleep with you, but there better be spooning." As soon as the door closed, leaving them inside the castle Sarah snorted and burst into a fit of hysterics with Kayla soon joining her.

Once Kayla was able to breathe again she remarked, "You know...I bet he's real pissed you didn't include him in our little slumber party."

Sarah started for her room as she arched an eyebrow and replied, "Oh well, he'll just have to get used to it. Serves him right for picking on me...I don't care if he does think I'm gay."

Kayla furrowed her brow and replied, "He doesn't think you're gay! He just enjoys making you squirm."

Sarah replied defensively, "I wasn't squirming."

Kayla rolled her eyes, "Right. I have a newsflash for you...You were sooo squirming."

Sarah shook her head, "Nuh-uh."

Kayla then burst into mock coughing fit, which incidentally sounded a lot like, "cough, ten bucks, cough."

In actuality their evening did end up being a lot like a slumber party. They talked until the late hours of the night, and there was at least one pillow fight when Kayla tried to bring up the topic of Jareth's anatomy again. Sarah had slugged Kayla right in the face with her pillow as she reminded Kayla that they weren't supposed to be talking about "him" like that. Especially, not while he was in the next room.

Sarah managed to keep Kayla in line by telling her the details of what life had been like since she came to live at the castle. She told her all about her duties as Jareth's scribe and as Tempest's new caretaker. She also told Kayla a great deal about her friends who had helped her through the labyrinth on her first trip to the underground.

It was in the wee hours of the morning that Sarah, with her judgment being slightly affected by her exhaustion, told Kayla all about her experience as Jareth's page-boy and about their conversation during their chess match the previous night.

Kayla was rather intrigued by Sarah's tales of pagedom and found Sarah's version of the encounter with the infamous Desdemonna very hilarious. In retelling the story Sarah also couldn't help finding it rather comical as well. She recounted everything for Kayla, right down to the part where Desdemonna had boldly grabbed her by her unsuspecting potato.

Upon thinking about the situation Sarah actually began to feel a little bad. Though the girl had seemed a bit of a tarty little strumpet, Sarah felt slightly guilty for misleading her.

Kayla assured her she did nothing wrong, especially since at no point did she even speak to the girl. In Kayla's opinion, Jareth was responsible, not her. Finally Kayla laughed and mused, "My God Sar, sounds like she had it pretty bad for you...you know you'd better..."

Suddenly Kayla stopped and Sarah prodded her, "No, what? I'd better what?"

Kayla thought a moment and replied, "Well, I was just thinking...it sounds as though she took a real liking to you and that would be forbidden for her wouldn't it?"

Sarah shrugged, "Yeah, probably."

Kayla went on, "Well, if she really is that into you, you know she might, ya know...try and see you again."

Sarah laughed, "Oh yeah right, what's she going to do? Knock on the front door and ask Jareth if I can come out to play?"

Kayla arched an eyebrow, "No, but she might storm the castle and try to see you again in secret."

Sarah shook her head before she suddenly paused. Was that even possible? No, not with the labyrinth surrounding the castle and all the goblins crawling around this place. She was pretty certain that Jareth would be aware of it if someone tried to infiltrate his domain, nevertheless she made a mental note to ask Jareth about this. It was probably a good idea to also make certain that Desdemonna would not be receiving an invitation to the upcoming ball, since if she were to figure out the truth, she would probably be less than pleased, and Sarah did not want an angry Fae woman out to get her, no matter how harmless she may seem. Having Jareth to deal with was already more than she could handle.

It wasn't long after their conversation that Sarah and Kayla dozed off on Sarah's bed. Before totally zonking out, Sarah woke Kayla and offered her a nightshirt to sleep in. After changing in haste and snuggling down into the soft covers of the bed, both girls drifted into a peaceful and dreamless sleep.

Chapter 21: Tempest's Secret

It was early the next morning that Jareth sat on his throne, a shiny crystal orb held before his dual colored eyes. Within the fragile bauble two girls slept peacefully, curled up next to each other in a sea of twisted blankets. A smile formed on his pale face as he considered that it might not be much longer before Sarah might lay such in his bed.

The defiant girl continued to antagonize him, however despite her attempts to confuse him, he could plainly see that the two girls, peacefully sleeping in the depths of the crystal, were companions...sworn friends and nothing more. Being the curious Fae that he was, he had continually checked on them during the course of the night and nothing of a romantic nature had passed between them. Not that he doubted for one moment that the raven-haired girl already had some manor of feelings for him. He would just have to be patient. It was only a matter of time, for even her friend could clearly see that there was something between them.

Sarah was the first to wake, and begrudgingly she roused her friend. Their preparation for the day was reminiscent of their morning routine as roommates, but there was something solemn in it, as Sarah wouldn't be able to do this again for nearly a whole year.

It seemed like no time before the Goblin King appeared in Sarah's chamber and announced that it was time for Kayla to return home. Humoring Sarah's protests that she needed to be sure that Kayla was returned safely, the Goblin King transported all three of them back to Sarah's dorm room.

Sarah held it together, up until the last moment where she embraced her roommate and best friend to say goodbye. Kayla hugged Sarah tightly and whispered in her ear to be strong and that everything would work out for the best.

Sarah was close to tears but Kayla artfully made her laugh by whispering, "And when you come home you'd better have my ten bucks."

Sarah, laughing through her tears pulled back and protested, "Nuh-uh, not happening."

The Goblin King stood by silently as the two friends said their good-byes. Sarah was sure to compose herself before she turned to face him. Sarah noticed Kayla's sly wink as Jareth pulled her close for the transportation spell. Sarah shook her head as she disappeared with Jareth, wondering what might change by the end of the year.

For Sarah, time would progress normally, but Jareth's spell ensured that when she returned aboveground, it would be as if no time had passed. She wondered if Kayla would remember their day spent in the underground, or if it would be as if none of it had ever happened. She would ask Jareth about this eventually, but for now she needed to forget about home, for it would only make her miss it all the more.

For the next several days Sarah honored her daily vigil of tending to Jareth's mount. One afternoon she meticulously cleaned his stall as usual, and as she went out to fill his water bucket from the well she noticed the stallion seemed more impatient than usual. For he had already heard her approach and he stood pawing at the gate to his pasture.

As Sarah pulled up the bucket she called, "Easy boy, I'll bring you in soon enough, just let me get your supper ready." As if in direct response to her words Tempest trumpeted and with a snort he continued to mercilessly paw the ground. Sarah smiled, he seemed so intelligent at times, like he truly understood whatever she said. She sighed, and supposed that in his own way he had just told her to hurry up.

As she lugged the water bucket into the stables she did not notice the snowy owl that dove from the nearby gnarled tree. The white bird landed gracefully on the paddock fence. A moment later the stallion turned to regard this strange visitor. Intelligent crystalline blue eyes met the wide brown eyes of the snowy barn owl. The owl blinked unaffectedly as the stallion sniffed the air near him. Tempest nickered softly as he recognized his master, even in his altered form.

Sarah dumped Tempest's grain into his trough and made sure that his hay manger was full. She still wanted to groom him, but she decided there was no harm in letting him eat first. She could just curl up on the nearby hay bails and read from her book. She loved afternoons like this. It was sunny, but not too warm. As she headed outside the gentle breeze ruffled her skirts and the wind was like a welcome cool caress on her face.

The owl took off as it heard the girl's approach, choosing to watch from a distance from atop the same gnarled tree. He sat in silent vigil as the girl, led the stallion from the paddock, whispering soft lulling promises of the supper that was about to come. The owl kept his watch as the girl left the stallion to his meal and lounged atop the hay bails to read. Still he watched, when the alicorn, having finished his meal poked his head out of his stall and snorted as if to get the girl's attention.

Sarah put aside her book and offered him a lump of sugar before she brought him out of his stall to groom him. Several goblin grooms were there in attendance but they sat off to the side, playing with marbles on the dirt floor, as the girl was more than capable of grooming the mount by herself. However they remained close by, just in case the girl needed them to fetch something.

Sarah didn't mind their company. They were generally quiet, for goblins, and they were always nothing but polite and obedient towards her. Sarah guessed that these were among the most reliable and well trained of Jareth's subjects. It wasn't a surprise really, judging from the way the Goblin King seemed to prize the stallion. She doubted he would ever let anyone but the most capable grooms care for him. She paused mid stroke, letting the curry comb rest on Tempest's flank as she thought, "...but he let me care for him."

She swallowed at the implications of the realization. Perhaps he did trust her after all. She pushed the thought from her mind as she resumed her grooming. She was tired of thinking about Jareth. She had done enough of that over the past few days and she wanted to enjoy herself right now, not bind herself up un knots wondering about Jareth's thoughts and feelings. This was the time of day where she was quite content to forget that the Goblin King existed.

As she put down the curry comb and went to work with the body brush, Tempest gave an excited nicker. Sarah looked up to see Jareth lounging casually against the doorframe.

Just wonderful.

Despite her annoyance at seeing him, her eyes still managed to disobediently wander over his lithe form. He was dressed rather simply today. Smoky blue breeches and a cream colored poet's shirt accented by a simple black vest. He was wearing his knee-length black field boots. In his left hand he held a riding crop, which he was presently tapping carelessly against his ankle. In his right hand he was holding a shiny red apple.

He placed his crop on the nearby pile of hay as he stepped forward, absently rubbing the ripe fruit against his sleeve to polish it. His mismatched eyes settled on Sarah as he remarked, "Well Sarah...I see you've begun to groom Tempest."

The stallion whinnied impatiently as Jareth approached. Sarah smoothed a hand over his long black mane to quiet him as she replied, "That's right, I started just the other day."

Jareth pulled a small dagger from his belt and nonchalantly started to cut the apple in half as he remarked, "It appears that you have begun to earn his trust."

Sarah nodded as she continued to run her fingers through the black silky strands of Tempest's mane. Somehow it was strangely comforting to be near the alicorn, almost making Jareth's close proximity bearable.

Jareth stepped even closer and fed half the apple to Tempest. He affectionately stroked the stallion's neck before he leveled his mismatched gaze at Sarah and enquired, "Tell me, do you think you are ready enough to ride him?"

Sarah ran her hand down the length of Tempest's neck on the other side, appreciating the feel of his warm smooth coat. The small action lent her strength and she returned Jareth's gaze as she countered, "I don't see why not."

She didn't turn away as a slow grin crept over his expression. With haughty amusement he addressed the grooms, "Fetch the tack. Sarah would like to ride." He turned and gestured for Sarah to follow him out of the stable as the grooms started to dash about busily preparing bridles and saddles.

Sarah followed Jareth into the red twilight, where he continued to cut the remaining half of the apple into two quarters. He extended a piece to Sarah in offering. She glanced at the apple in his gloved hand and warily and remarked, "Do you honestly think I'd willingly accept that from you, after the last time?"

Jareth tilted his head to the side and smirked as he taunted, "Still so reluctant to trust me? Here, perhaps this will alleviate your fears." Without further ado he brought the other apple slice to his lips and bit into it. He smiled as he again held the other piece out to her. Sarah asked herself what she had to lose as she tentatively took it from him.

In an attempt to persuade him that she no longer feared him she brought the fruit to her lips and her eyes held his as she bit into it. Jareth ate the last bit of his piece and as he finished he remarked, "You see, perfectly safe."

Sarah merely rolled her eyes and was vaguely aware of the fact that he was taking the opportunity to look her over. She looked away as she silently munched on the rest of her apple slice. At the same time Jareth moved to hover by the stable door to check on the grooms progress.

They had brought out several bridles and saddles, two of which were sidesaddles and they wanted to know which one Sarah would prefer. He chose the bridle and told them to start with that, as he would ask Sarah which saddle she would prefer.

He retrieved his crop and strode over to the fence where Sarah was waiting and watching the sun set. As he neared her he enquired, "Is there any particular style in which you prefer to ride?"

Sarah turned to regard him and without hesitation she answered, "Huntseat." Upon seeing his puzzled expression, she reasoned that her answer probably didn't make any sense to him. He replied, "I'm afraid I am unfamiliar with that style, but we do keep a few ladies saddles on hand for visitors, perhaps you might prefer one of those?"

Sarah furrowed her brow and replied, "Ladies saddles?" Jareth nodded, "Yes, women here tend to ride with their legs on one side."

Without even giving her answer much thought she replied incredulously, "Side saddle?" The Goblin King nodded and she snorted, "Yeah right Jareth..." Then she froze as she saw that he was totally serious.

He coolly remarked with an air of amusement, "Are you saying that you do not ride side-saddle?" Sarah swallowed as she began, "Uh...no. No, I don't."

Jareth looked a little taken aback as he quipped, "How DO you ride then?"

Sarah shrugged, "I already told you, huntseat."

Jareth quickly tried again, "Describe it, how would you normally sit?"

Sarah countered, "Astride, same way you probably do. The correct position is slightly forward."

Jareth raised his brow and repeated, "Astride and forward?"

Sarah explained, "Yeah, you sit forward so you are in a good position to go over fences." It was obvious that she had totally taken him by surprise.

He replied evenly, "I see. I'm very curious to see this riding style." With that he suddenly turned and called into the stable, "Flak, put my saddle on Tempest."

With a hurried nod the Goblin called back, "Wish to ride him first then your majesty?"

Jareth shook his head and answered, "No, it's for Sarah. You'll have to shorten the stirrups."

The goblin sputtered, "Bbb...but you majesty..."

Jareth waved his hand and ordered, "Just do it."

Sarah couldn't help feeling rather smug. This was going to certainly shock the hell out of him. She had been taking riding lessons since she was in middle school and she had grown skilled enough to compete in local competitions all through high school. Sarah had always truly loved riding and upon starting college she promptly joined the university's equestrian team. She had been instructed in both Western and Huntseat equitation, but she chose to compete in Hunter classes as jumping was one of her favorite sports.

Jareth turned back to her, a slow predatory grin formed on his face as his eyes fell to her skirt. He strode forward and lifted the hem of her skirt slightly with the tip of his riding crop as he drawled, "You know...I'm very curious as to how you plan to ride in this."

Sarah suddenly looked down, only now remembering her attire. She quickly stepped back away from the crop, causing her skirt to fall back down as she stammered, "Oh...I...I...forgot. I have a pair of breeches...I...I'll just go change."

Jareth's grin only grew as she backed away. He watched her run up to the castle in great haste as he murmured to himself, "Well, this ought to be interesting at the very least."

A few moments later, Sarah came running down the hill from the castle, just as the grooms were bringing Tempest out. She was now outfitted in her purple pageboy breeches and field boots along with a white peasant blouse. Without the long doublet the breeches revealed all the shapely contours of her thighs and buttocks.

Upon seeing her, the Goblin King smirked...This was going to be very interesting indeed.

The grooms lowered the stirrups for her as Jareth positioned the reins over the stallion's head. Sarah went to Tempest's left side and ran her hand along his neck and shoulder to reassure him that she was there. "Need a boost?" Jareth asked, suddenly invading her space with a sly smirk.

Sarah shook her head and assured him, "I can do it myself." Jareth held the reins close to the bit just to steady Tempest as Sarah placed her foot in the nearest stirrup. He watched with interest as Sarah bounced on her grounded foot before she pulled herself up and swung her leg over the stallion's back with ease. Jareth watched the alicorn for any outward signs of a fight, but to his surprise the stallion seemed to have no objection to letting Sarah sit on his back.

Sarah positioned her feet in the stirrups as she took up the reins and asked Jareth, "Do you have any last minute advice?"

Jareth nodded, "If he's going to try and throw you he'll probably try as soon as I let go, but if you stay on past the first few minutes, don't pull on his mouth, if you let him have his head, he will be far more agreeable."

Sarah nodded, "OK. You can let go."

Jareth replied, "Are you certain?"

Sarah tried to ignore the fact that her palms were sweating and her heart was beating faster. Now was the time to remain as calm as possible. She breathed deeply once, twice, and replied, "Yes...I'm ready. Let go."

Jareth met her eyes and nodded, "Alright, I'll be close by, watching."

Sarah continued to breathe deeply as Jareth released the reins and stepped back. Tempest snorted loudly, but he didn't bolt or buck. He merely stood still, and Sarah used the opportunity to speak calmly to him, "It's alright boy...it's only me. Let's just stand still for a minute."

To both her and Jareth's amazement. Tempest did exactly as she requested. He stood still, not even attempting to raise a hoof. After a moment Sarah let out a breath of relief and ventured, "Shall we try a little walking?"

Tempest nickered as if he understood, and as she inhaled to lighten her body, he started forward at a brisk walk. Sarah was careful to keep him on a loose rein as she walked him in a large circle. He was obeying beautifully so she reversed direction and continued to walk him.

As Jareth watched her control the stallion effortlessly he let out a breath he didn't realize he had been holding. The alicorn was not fighting her in the least, which meant he trusted her and accepted her as a rider, a feat no one other than himself had managed.

Sarah brought Tempest to a controlled trot just as the tension left the Goblin King's frame. Knowing that Sarah was now out of danger, he could concentrate on her skills.

He watched with interest as she moved along with the stallion's gait. Just as Tempest's outside front leg moved forward, so did she, her bottom rising slightly from the saddle. She was right, the style was a very forward and alert sort of riding, and he found it rather fascinating.

As she changed direction her movements changed as well, her timing and her position, all carefully readjusted. Jareth had never seen a woman ride like this, and just when he was sure the sight could not get any more fascinating, she asked Tempest for a canter. It was much slower and controlled than a full out gallop and her movements were far more natural and graceful then most of the riders he had ever seen.

His eyes were drawn to the rhythmic movement of her hips, which were synchronized and matched by the movements of the stallion. Never before had he seen a sight so aesthetically pleasing as Sarah riding the powerful alicorn, with it's silver horn gleaming in the afternoon sun and her raven hair flying unrestrained behind her.

She exercised such control over the stallion and her own body that it was astounding. It was then, he noticed, that she was smiling. And it was not a forced or strained smile, it was genuine, a smile that could only have been born of true happiness. She brought the stallion up the field, turned him and then started galloping down the length of it.

She rode hard, past Jareth and for a moment he seemed lost in the moment. The alicorn's silver hooves pounded hard on the soft ground sending bits of soil and grass flying. He noticed the deep deliberate movements of Sarah's lower body while her hands and upper body remained remarkably still. The only sound was the thundering of hooves upon the ground and the stallions panting breaths.

At that moment, he was reminded why he was so drawn to her. She was so determined, all iron will and fierce beauty. How could he...how could anyone not want to possess that? Her defiance and independence was a dazzling thing, like some priceless untouchable jewel. Yet, untouchable or not, he wouldn't be content until she belonged heart, body and soul to him.

As she neared the paddock fence, Jareth suddenly realized that Tempest wasn't slowing down. In a moment of panic he started forward, but then he noticed that Sarah was in fact driving the stallion onward. Surly she didn't mean to...? No she couldn't. That fence was taller than two goblins in height.

The Goblin King watched in pure astonishment as Sarah leaned forward, slightly out of the saddle as Tempest took the jump. The stallion cleared the fence with nearly a foot to spare. Sarah repositioned herself as Tempest landed. She slowed him to a trot before she turned him in a wide circle and started heading back towards a purely amazed and grinning Goblin King.

As they approached, a flock of scavenger birds were startled and driven out of the nearby underbrush. Sarah, having been momentarily distracted by the handsome grin on Jareth's face, didn't notice the flurry of activity until it was too late.

Tempest was startled by the shrill cry of the birds and their sudden frenzied flight. In a wave of terror the alicorn shied, raising his head in alarm as he jumped to one side. Sarah's brief moment of carelessness cost her, for it was in the same instant that she lost her balance and toppled over to the right.

Jareth realized the danger at precisely the same moment as Sarah, and still being a good ten yards away, there was nothing he could do to prevent her fall. Sarah gave a startled yelp right before she hit the ground like a ton of bricks. As she landed rather hard on her bottom she let out a resounding, "Ooomphh".

She screwed her eyes shut against the momentary consuming pain and the biting barrage of "I told you so's" that would certainly drop from the Goblin King's lips...at any second...any moment now.

Sarah kept her eyes shut tight as she waited for the unbearable pain in her ass to subside. The impact had quite effectively knocked the very air from her lungs. She wanted to scream and cry in frustration. She had done perfectly, up until the last second, and it was only due to her lack of attention to her surroundings, that she had fallen. She had been caught off guard and the result was a nasty spill. She cursed herself for being too damn cocky and overzealous. She couldn't believe her shitty luck.

As soon as Jareth saw the alicorn spook, he knew Sarah was going to fall. She had been doing so splendidly that the lingering chance of peril did not even occur to him until it was too late. What did occur to him came as a bit of a surprise. It was not smug satisfaction at her failure to stay on that he felt, rather the urgent worry that she might be hurt. The horrible feeling was unpleasant, seeming to twist his very insides. He did not much like it...in fact he hated it. Before he realized what he was doing, he had started forward, running to the place where Sarah had landed in the dirt.

Sarah sat up and opened her eyes just as the Goblin King reached her. She fought to steady her breathing as she steeled herself for what would no doubt be a chastising and smug lecture from his highness. She expected no less than for him to rub this in her face in the most degrading fashion. But what he actually did was something she did not expect.

The King of the Goblins rushed to her side, crouching down, and for the second she took in his approach she saw grave concern evident on his face.

He was all business as his eyes darted over her in their cursory inspection for any obvious injury. To his relief she was sitting upright, alert and breathing. Sarah detected a note of worry in his voice as he stiffly demanded, "Are you hurt?"

That was a good question. Sarah winced slightly as she moved to stand. Her bottom was smarting, but the initial pain had subsided somewhat. Nothing seemed to be broken, and her arms, legs, back and head were perfectly fine. It was just her ass that was, for the moment, a little worse for wear.

Standing and brushing off the dirt, she replied rather abruptly, "I'm fine."

She looked around in haste, spotting the stallion, who was contentedly munching grass a few feet away. As she turned her back on Jareth she expected the gloating to begin, but it never happened.

Jareth was uncharacteristically quiet as he followed her over to Tempest. She fetched him by the reins, throwing them over his head as she positioned herself to mount up.

Jareth stood at the stallion's side with his hands placed imperiously on his hips as he barked, "What are you doing?"

Sarah retorted, "What does it look like? I'm getting back on."

Jareth gave her a disapproving look as he prodded, "Are you sure you're all right?"

Sarah swung herself into the saddle, careful not to wince as her bottom made contact. She leveled a defiant look at Jareth and replied, "I'm fine." From up in the saddle with that determined look on her face, she suddenly seemed a lot less fragile.

The Goblin King cocked his head to one side and quipped, "You never admit defeat, do you?" Sarah looked down at him, the faintest smile tugging at the corner of her mouth, as she admitted, "No. That was nothing. In the ten years I've been riding I've had much worse spills than that."

Jareth regarded her, a trace of amusement evident in his expression as he remarked, "I don't doubt it...But you have nothing more to prove."

Sarah arched her eyebrow suspiciously as she replied, "Oh, don't I?" The Goblin King shook his head and admitted, "No. You fell...that much is true, but you weren't thrown. I think it's rather obvious that Tempest has accepted you as his rider."

Sarah regarded him with surprise as she taunted, "Is this your way of actually admitting you were wrong?"

Jareth smirked, for he couldn't resist as he quickly replied, "The stallion spooked, it's that simple. If he didn't want you on his back, you wouldn't be sitting there right now. I can assure you of that. As for my being wrong, I'll say this...I admit I underestimated you, but I was not wrong, for it is entirely true that up until today not a single person besides myself has been able to ride that alicorn."

Sarah was unable to prevent herself from grinning widely as she walked Tempest away from him and around the edge of the paddock. When she finally finished her ride she dismounted and walked Tempest to cool him down.

While she was cooling him out, a goblin herald came to notify Jareth that there were several messages that had just come to the castle that required the King's immediate attention. Jareth would have preferred to hang about and badger Sarah for a while longer but he also took his responsibilities rather seriously. So without further ceremony he bid Sarah a good afternoon and left her in possession of his mount.

As Sarah stood in the center of the stables, un-tacking Tempest, she had the strangest feeling, as if someone were poking around in her very thoughts. As if on instinct she glanced about warily, but not a soul lingered. The goblin grooms had all left for the Goblin city already, to take their evening meal.

She craned her neck, her eyes searching even the darkest shadows of the stable, but ultimately all they met were the wide blue eyes of the stallion. Sarah shook her head as if to clear it of the peculiar feeling before she muttered, "I must be losing it..."

Suddenly a wise laughing voice sounded in her head, "I wouldn't necessarily say that." Sarah whirled around, but still there was no one in the barn but the alicorn. As she turned back around, the stallion's gaze seemed to regard her quizzically.

She stared at the animal in startled surprise, and feeling more than a little silly, she addressed him, "Are...Are you talking to me?"

The voice answered in her head, and it even sounded appropriately equine, "Well, talking may not be the right word...but sure as my coat is black we are communicating."

Sarah was aghast as she stammered, "How long have you...I mean how come you've waited till now..."

The stallion bowed his head and finished, "To speak up?" Sarah nodded and continued to stare at the alicorn as if she could not believe what was taking place. The stallion looked her in the eye and continued, "Well, we've only just begun to get acquainted. I had to find out for myself whether you were trustworthy."

Sarah swallowed and replied cautiously, "And am I...trustworthy?"

Tempest nickered softly and replied, "Wouldn't have taken that jump for you if I didn't think so."

Sarah was reminded of her spill and ventured, "Well, if you trust me, then why did you let me fall?"

Tempest lowered his head in shame as he replied, "Oh, sorry bout that. I wasn't really paying much attention, and those birds nearly gave me a heart attack, I hate those birds you know...always flitting around my head and stealing my grain. I didn't mean for that to happen to you lass, I hope you're not angry."

Sarah replied, "Oh no, I'm not angry. I was...just a little embarrassed..."

Tempest laughed, "Nuthin' to worry your head over, no one but the King ever rides me, so you need not be concerned with impressing the likes of myself."

Sarah smiled, "That's not what I meant. I was talking about the King. No doubt he got quite a kick out of my little spill..."

Sarah suddenly stopped herself as she realized that she had better watch what she said, the last thing she needed was for Tempest to be relaying information to Jareth. She bit her lip as she remembered the feeling like someone had been rifling around in her thoughts. "Um...I was wondering...I can hear you in my head...are you able to..."

Tempest finished, "Read your thoughts?"

Sarah nodded as the stallion explained, "To an extent. For example, I can sense what troubles that pretty little head of yours. But I can also extract any thoughts you want to send to me...which means the two of us, in essence, can carry out entire conversations without making a sound. Go on, try it. Ask me something in your head?"

Sarah thought a moment and mentally asked, "Do you communicate with Jareth this way?"

Tempest nickered softly and replied, "By the underground no. Jareth is Fae, making his head much more impervious than yours, however if I really wanted to, I could establish basic communication with him."

Sarah replied, "Do you?"

Tempest answered, "No, I've never connected with Jareth this way, I thought about it, but it's really not necessary. We have an understanding that does not require words, and that's fine with me. He isn't aware of my ability to communicate and I wish to keep it that way..."

Tempest chuckled and it sounded rather like a whinny as he went on, "...as he does have a fondness for hearing himself talk. No, I think I'll leave the pleasure of conversing with his majesty to you and his goblins. I have enough problems dealing with these dreaded black flies and those confounded birds."

Sarah laughed aloud and sighed, "I think we are going to get along beautifully."

Tempest snorted and huffed, "I take it his majesty gets under your skin then..."

Sarah mused, "You have no idea."

Tempest replied fondly, "Oh, but I do...I can sense how much he clouds your thoughts. You'd have everyone believe that he only annoys you, but I can sense the truth in your mind. You long for him don't you? His presence unnerves you, yet you are drawn to him all the same."

Sarah's expression suddenly went cold and gravely serious, "How...how can you know that?"

Tempest gently offered, "I told you. I can sense your thoughts...your feelings. I don't understand. You long for his attention, but then you dread receiving it. If to be with him is what you want...then why do you try to avoid him?"

Sarah sighed. She really had no idea where to begin so she just replied as honestly as possible, "I don't know...I guess that aside from fearing what might happen, I don't know what he really feels. How can I not fight my feelings, when he's supposed to be my enemy."

Tempest softly replied, "Your enemy? I don't know anything about that. If you ask me, I'd say that he fancies you. He indulges you, gives you food, shelter, lets you care for me, and when you fell he ran to your side. That does not sound like an enemy to me."

Sarah swallowed fretfully as she admitted, "No, it does not."

Tempest sensed the turmoil their conversation was causing and he gently offered, "Don't worry your pretty little head over it. You're secret is safe with me lass, and we don't have to talk about it. I'm your mount and you, my rider. You've earned my trust, now I will set about earning yours. You just keep bringing me those lumps of sugar and brushing me nicely like you do, and all will be right as rain between us."

Sarah smiled, stroking tempest's neck as tears welled up in her eyes. It felt wonderful to know that she had a true friend here, a friend that she could really talk to.

Sarah headed back up to the castle not long after her enlightening conversation with the alicorn. She went to her chamber to change out of the now filthy breeches. As she removed her clothing, she realized she had a rather nasty welted bruise on her buttock. She donned a clean skirt and blouse and left the room fastening her waist cincher, her intention to venture into the castle kitchen to fetch some dinner and some ice for her bruised bottom.

Once she entered the kitchen she found a goblin, who was nice enough to produce a plate of game foul and potatoes for her. He offered to find her a chair so she could eat at the prep table, but she assured him that she'd rather stand, and told him that she would be eternally grateful if he could find some ice for her.

She had worked up quite an appetite so she ate in haste as the goblin disappeared to fetch her ice. He returned swiftly enough and upon handing her bowl of ice he asked if he could get her anything else. Sarah shook her head and politely dismissed the helpful goblin. She did not notice that in the goblin's haste to leave the kitchens he nearly ran headlong into his King who had just appeared in the doorway.

After having finished her dinner Sarah pushed her plate away and opened her napkin to fill it with chunks of ice. As she carefully raised her skirt to press the bundle of ice against her bruised buttock she was completely unaware of the Goblin King who stood silent in the doorway, a look of total amusement growing on his otherwise haughty aristocratic face.

At first she hissed in discomfort at the sensation of the freezing bundle against her hot stinging skin, but she diligently held the pack in place and soon enough the stinging throbbing sensation gave way to blessed numbness. Sarah held her skirt up and out of the way as she leaned forward over the table and sighed in relief, "Ooohhhhhh...that feels soooo nice."

Jareth tilted his head to the side, unable to prevent himself from admiring the view as he drawled aloud, "I don't doubt it, as that is quite a nasty bruise."

Sarah yelped and jumped, nearly dropping her sack of ice as she whirled to see the Goblin King standing in the doorway wearing a positively wicked grin.

She promptly dropped the hem of her skirt and tossed the bag of ice on the table as she snapped, "Jesus! You scared me! Don't you ever get tired of sneaking up on me like that?"

The Goblin King merely shrugged and shook his head. He seemed to ponder her for a moment as he produced a crystal and made it dance over his fingertips. His voice was diplomatic albeit bored as he began, "You know, I could make that bothersome injury heal instantaneously, if you'd be so helpful as to just show me it once more..."

Sarah leveled her gaze at him and scoffed, "I don't think so. I'm more than fine with letting it heal the old fashioned way."

He tsked, "No need to be defensive, I was merely offering my help."

Sarah shot him a "you're not fooling anyone" glance as she barked, "Well, I don't need any help. It's just a bruise and I know how to handle it...so thanks, but no thanks."

Jareth smirked and indicated her satchel of ice as he drawled, "Then by all means, don't let me stop you."

Sarah chanced a glance at him and wished she hadn't, for the heat and amusement in his eyes was unmistakable. Her stomach nearly lurched at the realization that he was actually attempting to flirt with her.

She quickly looked away as she snatched her bag of ice and maneuvered it under her skirts without exposing anything higher than her lower leg. She focused on the table as she sighed, "Did you come here just to bug me, or did you actually want something?"

Jareth smiled, his eyes hungrily devouring her as he admitted, "Well, I thought you might like to know, I've just received word from Lord Taibaar. It appears that he and his party will be joining us at the upcoming ball."

Sarah looked up in alarm and quipped, "Let me guess, his little tart of a daughter is coming too, and I'll have to spend the night pretending to be your mute little pageboy again."

Jareth smiled for a moment and replied, "No, that won't be necessary. Lady Desdemonna is not coming. I made it clear to Lord Taibaar that my admittance of his people into the Goblin City is not dependant upon my marriage to his daughter."

Without thinking Sarah stammered, "It's not?"

Jareth laughed at her assumption and chastised, "Of course not. I will meet with the ambassador and a few of their other leaders. If I deem them trustworthy and their wares useful, then they will be granted admittance to the city. The girl is trivial. I have no use for her, I just humored the old man to get him in the door, so to speak."

Sarah raised her brow and sarcastically bit out, "Oh, how very noble of you. What consideration you must have for her feelings."

Jareth gave her a disapproving look and challenged, "If I remember correctly, you weren't exactly sympathetic to Lady Desdemonna's plight that evening."

Sarah's tone was scathing as she fired back, "Maybe not, but then again, I was just following orders. Lets keep in mind that it was YOU who orchestrated that whole scenario...NOT me."

Jareth shook his head, realizing Sarah had yet again managed to change the subject. Slightly irritated, he remarked, "We're getting off the subject. That's not important. The point is that the Fae of the Northern Kingdom WILL be attending this ball, and as relations with them have not yet been established it is imperative that they come to respect my position and authority and view the power of this kingdom as equal to theirs."

Sarah furrowed her brow and remarked, "...And how exactly is that my problem?"

Jareth crossed his arms menacingly over his chest as he stepped closer and drawled, "It IS your problem, as YOU will be MY escort. I expect nothing but complete obedience."

Sarah raised her brow and wondered how the hell she had gotten herself into this.

Jareth, undeterred by her slack-jawed stare, went on, "Your behavior WILL be perfect, your respect and adoration totally believable..."

Sarah closed her mouth with an audible snap, as she had to stop herself from having a complete and total outburst. This just kept getting better and better...and the clincher was that he was still rambling.

"Lord Taibaar must believe that this kingdom rivals his own in extravagance. I will not allow his people to decipher any weaknesses. You Sarah, will be proof against that. If they believe that I am courting a human from the Above-world, the very one that solved the Labyrinth, they would have no doubts about my authority or my powers of persuasion."

His eyes fell on her as he continued, now stalking slowly around her, "And they SHALL believe it. You will hang on my every word if you have to..."

Hang on his every word? She was temped to hang him from a tree at the moment, but before she could protest he went on his voice becoming less threatening and more wistful, "And you will be perfect. The others, all those noblewomen, princesses and alike, will not be able to hold a candle to you."

Sarah's heart seemed to leap into her throat. Was he actually complimenting her? And there was something about the look in his eyes, as he suddenly looked her over. It was haunted, haunted and hungry.

He advanced closer, his voice growing softer and infinitely more seductive as he added, "I'm having a dress made for you. Something worthy of your beauty..."

Sarah couldn't bear any more. She was either going to have to kill him or kiss him, and at the moment she had no idea which she was more likely to do.

As he finished, he lowered his face dangerously close to hers. She was aware that she was trembling and her heart seemed to be pounding in her ears at the possibility that he was about to kiss her, and she would have been the biggest liar if she said she wasn't thinking of grabbing him by the front of his white poet's shirt and laying such a kiss on him.

Fortunately, she did still have one brain cell working and it was firing its warning signal as if there were no tomorrow. The message managed to just barely get through the hazy euphoria caused by being so close to him.

The voice in her head warned, "Don't you dare kiss him, or let him kiss you! Kissing leads to sex, and sex might lead to love, and if you kiss him you are totally FUCKED with a capital F!"

It was as if a large bucket of ice water had just come down over her head, and in that second of painful awareness, she stopped his advance by placing her hands on his chest and pushing him back. She nearly regretted it as soon as she did it, as she was instantly aware of the warmth of him from under the soft fabric of his shirt.

She was astonished to hear her own voice, and amazingly it sounded much more forceful than she would have expected, "Whoa, whoa, whoa...hang on! Are you saying that aside from being your escort, I have to act like I'm in love with you?"

Jareth stepped back, quickly regaining his composure, "That is exactly what I'm saying."

Sarah thought a moment and replied, "But that makes no sense. Lord Taibaar is going to be there and he already knows me as your page boy. Don't you think that might be a bit of a problem?"

Jareth smirked and answered, "Not really."

She stammered incredulously, "Not really? How is that NOT REALLY a problem? I haven't run into very many sexual reassignment surgeons down here, so I'd say that me going from guy to girl is going to be a pretty big problem for the Northern ambassador."

Jareth chuckled and drawled, "There is a simple solution Sarah. It is a masked ball. The ambassador need not even see your face. However, if by some chance he does catch a glimpse of you and notice a certain resemblance to my page boy, we simply inform him that Sargonne is your twin brother, and that I acquired the two of you when you wished yourselves away to me."

Sarah shook her head and groaned, "I should have known that you'd come up with some insane plot. You do know how crazy that sounds right?"

Jareth smirked and nodded, "Of course, but I haven't any doubt that we shall pull it off beautifully. As I see it, only one obstacle stands in our way."

Sarah quipped, "And that is?"

Jareth offered, "Your inability to dance, but that will be remedied soon enough. I shall begin to teach you tomorrow..." He smirked, eyeing her bottom as he finished, "...that is, if you aren't in too much pain."

Sarah sighed wearily and assured him, "Oh, it'll be painful alright. This whole thing is going to be one big pain in the ass..." Grinning, she finished, "But if you think you can teach me, good luck, because this is going to be a much bigger pain in your ass than mine."

Jareth smirked and retorted rather confidently, "I don't think so."

Sarah laughed to herself and muttered, "Oh just wait 'til tomorrow and see then...you might be needing this." With that, she dropped the sack of ice onto the table.

Jareth chuckled at her jest and he left the room shaking his head as he muttered, "Ah Sarah you never fail to amuse."

Chapter 22: May I Have this Dance?

Sarah, having gotten herself to bed rather early the night before, woke up in a rather pleasant mood. Her bottom was not nearly as painful as it had been only the day before, and the fact that she had a new friend with whom she could share her secrets, only made her outlook even brighter.

It was early morning when the Goblins came to rouse her, finding that she was already awake and dressed in rather peculiar clothing. Sarah, needing a break from uncomfortable boots and waist cinchers, had dressed herself in her favorite pair of jeans and a black stretchy top, which had been among the clothes she had fetched from her dorm.

Her Levis were a little worse for wear, faded with a hole starting in one knee, but they were the most comfortable pair of jeans she owned. She had tossed her boots under her bed, and nearly cried out in relief when she slipped on her old worn sneakers. Feeling rejuvenated by her old familiar clothes, she resolved that she would finish her task or reorganizing the library.

It was a lovely day, and a pleasant breeze wafted through certain regions of the castle. As she entered the library, with its airy feel and open windows, she couldn't shake the feeling that something good was bound to happen on such a beautiful day.

Later that same morning, Jareth happened to be strolling down the corridor on the way to his study, when he heard what sounded like, peculiar music coming from the library. His curiosity got the better of him, and he strayed from his course, taking instead, the passage to his right that led to the castle library.

The large oak doors were slightly ajar and the music seemed to grow louder, the closer he ventured. Intrigued, he reached out and pushed the door open a little wider. Just as he had suspected, Sarah was inside, seemingly busying herself with the reorganization of the castle volumes. She had succeeded in removing all the books from the shelf opposite the doorway and she was now diligently dusting off the shelves with a polishing cloth.

The source of the noise, as far as he could tell, was a black rectangular box that sat upon the window's edge. The strange music produced by the mysterious box was unlike anything he had ever heard before. It was rather loud, with a frenzied, almost chaotic melody that was accompanied by very aggressive drums and vocals.

Sarah did not notice the curious monarch, who stood aghast in the doorway. She had been busy polishing the shelves with her back to him.

Jareth simply listened for a moment, it was so unlike anything he had ever heard that he wasn't sure if he abhorred it or if he liked it. One thing was true enough, he found it fascinating.

As strange as the music was to him, Sarah was apparently very familiar with it, as she mouthed the lyrics in time with the unmistakably male vocalist.

Jareth folded his arms across his chest, an amused smirk growing on his face. His eyes lazily drifted over the girl who was now bobbing along and strutting carelessly to the music, happily oblivious to his intrusion. Her movements were somewhat rigid and jerky, but it didn't stop her from enthusiastically indulging in a sort of self-absorbed dance.

Apparently Kayla had been right, Sarah was going to need help if she was going to be expected to dance at the ball without embarrassing herself...and him for that matter. He watched her with curiosity, covering his mouth with an elegantly gloved hand to stifle a chuckle that would have surely alerted her to his presence. Not wanting to call attention to himself just yet, he collected himself, letting his eyes drift over her form.

Her shirt was some short-sleeved aboveground concoction. It was solid black and the fabric was quite elastic, as even from a distance, Jareth could see that the material was stretched tightly across her bust. She was wearing those atrocious denim trousers that Abovegrounders seemed to love so much. Jeans, he believed they were called.

He had seen her in similar slacks several years before when she had solved the labyrinth. Still, as he tilted his head to the side to appraise her behind, he conceded that these were far more fetching on her, in a grossly informal sort of way. Maybe it was the way they hugged her hips, or that their tightness nicely accentuated her shapely thighs. He didn't really know, nor did he care, he just knew he liked what he saw.

Her shirt ended right where her trousers, er jeans...or whatever they were...had begun, causing her mid-drift to become exposed when she stretched to reach the higher shelves of the bookcase. The outfit was accented by a narrow black leather belt with many blunted silver studs on it.

Finally Jareth glanced down, noticing the worn sneakers. He shook his head, reminding himself that humans though skilled in science and technology, hadn't the first clue about tasteful attire. Still, as hopeless as the outfit was, it held a certain amount of charm on her. Oddly it suited her, as one is suited to their own skin. It was a pleasant surprise to see that finally she seemed to be somewhat at home here. That meant that he was one step closer to achieving victory.

Eventually the Goblin King strode further into the room and loudly cleared his throat.

Sarah glanced over her shoulder in surprise, and upon seeing the Goblin King leaning against the doorframe with his arms crossed over his chest, she quickly reached over and turned the volume down on her boombox to a sub-deafening level before she turned to face him.

Jareth smirked as he began, "I see you've taken over my library. Just what are you doing in here?"

Sarah motioned to the pile of books on the floor and explained in a slightly chastising tone, "Well, I've reordered this entire section uh...alphabetically by author's name, and now I'm just cleaning off the shelves, as they were particularly filthy."

Jareth sighed and leveled his gaze at her before he arrogantly replied, "Sarah, I am responsible for a kingdom full of goblins. I am quite familiar with filth, in all of its diverse and reprehensible forms, so please...forgive me if a little dust isn't my main concern."

Sarah placed one hand defiantly on her hip, swinging the dust cloth in the other as she retorted, "Well, it does concern me, since I like to read in here, so if you won't have it taken care of, then I will."

Jareth grinned wolfishly and goaded, "Well, it wasn't so much the details of your cleaning I was after, as it was this racket I was curious about."

He gestured to her stereo and she replied, a little less defensively, "Oh...this?"

Jareth nodded and she explained, "It's just my radio. I like to listen to music while I'm working. It helps to pass the time."

Jareth stalked closer letting his fingertips skim along the top of the stereo, as he replied silkily, "I see. How does it work?"

Sarah shrugged, "Simple." She popped open the top and pointed to the disc inside, "It reads recorded music...on these. I have a whole collection...in here." She flipped open her CD album, which was lying next to the radio, to show Jareth the variety of discs inside.

Jareth grinned and remarked, "Ah. Tell me, what manner of music is this?" as he indicated the music that began to play from the CD again.

Sarah replied, "Oh, that's hard rock."

Jareth considered the throaty male voice that permeated the room. The song had a certain sexual quality to it, making him slightly suspicious. Jareth slid a little closer to her and replied, "Hard rock hmm? Are you familiar with the performer of this hard rock? Is he, say a...friend of yours?"

Sarah looked at him as though he couldn't be serious before she laughed, "Uh, no...I mean I am familiar with the music because they are a famous band, but I don't like know them or anything. They're just a rock band I like."

Jareth seemed intrigued and he continued, "So hard rock is what you call this because..."

Sarah nodded, "Because it is hard and...edgy. There is soft rock too, but I don't usually listen to that unless I'm trying to go to sleep. I have some pop. Pop pretty much encompasses everything that's popular. Oh, and I have some rap, which has a heavy base and the lyrics rhyme and are spoken very fast. I also have some electronica, or techno, it's all computer generated..."

Blankly, he replied, "Computer generated?"

Sarah shrugged, "Never mind, it's not really important...but if you want you can use this sometime and listen. I could show you, if you want."

Jareth smiled winningly and replied, "I'd like that."

She smiled back, for she couldn't really help it, the bastard could be charming when he wanted to.

Jareth suddenly seemed to remember himself and began, "Perhaps some evening when we both have some free time, which that reminds me...I believe I owe you a dance do I not?"

Sarah blushed slightly, against her will, and stammered, "Oh. Uh, yeah..."

Jareth smirked and replied, "Excellent. I will have some free time this afternoon. How much time do you need to finish this?" and he gestured to the stack of books on the floor.

Sarah swallowed the nervousness that crept over her at the prospect of dancing with him before she stammered, "Well, I uh, am almost finished. I just have to put the books back...say in like a half hour?"

Jareth arched a delicate eyebrow and smirked, "Perfect. I'll arrange lunch for us before we begin. When you are finished, meet me in the dining room." With that the Goblin King offered her a dashing grin as he turned and strode out of the room, utterly amazed that for once their conversation hadn't turned into an argument, but then, it was still early in the day.

Time seemed to fly by for Sarah in the library and the next thing she knew she was strolling down the corridor on her way to meet Jareth for lunch.

When she arrived in the dining room, he was already waiting for her, and so was their lunch. Jareth made polite conversation, the popular topic being Sarah's music collection.

She had a feeling that the Goblin King loved music, and his interest in her music collection only supported the idea. All too soon lunch was over and Jareth rose, seemingly eager to begin her instruction. Somehow she had a feeling that as much as she dreaded this, he was looking forward to it.

With a smirk Jareth suggested, "Let's begin in the ballroom. I've seen to it that we won't be disturbed."

Hesitantly, Sarah rose from the table and followed Jareth to the ballroom. The room was spacious and open, but unlike the room in Sarah's peach induced dream, there were no sparkling or opulent decorations, and instead of soft white lighting and mountains of pillows, the room was mostly wide-open space with bleak grey stone walls and dusty flagstone floors.

To Sarah this room looked as though it had not seen any use in quite some time.

Jareth noticed her appraisal of the room and remarked, "It may look bare and unimpressive at the moment, but I assure you, this room will be quite transformed by the eve of the ball. Still...it's the most obvious and suitable place for you to learn."

Sarah was busy staring up at the immense cathedral ceiling, noticing that it was adorned with flying buttresses. She was so lost in her appraisal, that she didn't notice that Jareth had stepped closer, and was now standing directly behind her, causing her to start as he added in a silky whisper, "Now, perhaps it might be best to jump right in and see what you know..."

Sarah turned, regarding him with wide eyes as a crystal appeared in the palm of his hand. He juggled it skillfully before it came to balance on the tip of his fingers. His mouth formed a teasing smirk as he added, "A little music would do nicely, don't you think?"

Sarah nodded in mesmerized silence as the transparent orb began to spin of its own accord atop his fingertips. He made a subtle gesture with his other hand and the crystal floated up, hovering in mid air while its magic caused a haunting yet strangely familiar melody to fill the room.

The Goblin King's gaze was set on Sarah as he stepped purposefully towards her and drawled seductively, "May I have this dance?" The sound of his voice and the sight of him coming forward to claim her as his partner caused heart to leap into her throat.

For the first time that afternoon Sarah finally allowed herself to really take in his appearance. He was dressed as usual, in tight breeches, however, today they were black, and instead of the frequently present white poet's shirt he wore a crimson tunic accented by an intricately crafted dark leather doublet. Black leather gauntlets covered his hands and wrists, and as usual he was wearing shiny black field boots. He didn't look terribly formal, but he did look unmistakably Fae and was every inch the imposing Goblin King of legend, who had dominated her dreams and nightmares alike for the past several years.

Sarah swallowed. The time had come, she was going to have to touch him. There was no way around that now. She seized what was left of her courage just as Jareth slipped his right hand about her waist. She tentatively placed her left hand upon his shoulder.

She raised her other arm just as he caught her hand in his, his slender fingers closing around hers.

Sarah exhaled breathlessly, slightly relieved at the realization that his other hand was safely clasped about her waist and was no where near her breast, but it was only a small blessing as he was still touching her, and that in itself was enough to accelerate her heart rate.

She desperately tried to ignore the incapacitating nervousness that washed over her. How she hated those damned evil butterflies in her stomach. Why oh why was he the only one capable of doing this to her poor insides? If he made her any more nervous, she might have to throw up all over the floor.

Sarah wrenched her mind back to the task at hand and tried to drown out everything else. He was standing so close that she found it incredibly difficult to look at his face, especially since making one false move would result in being in that dangerously vulnerable "about to kiss" position.

She looked at the floor. Hell, what was she thinking? They were slow dancing, meaning they were going to be stuck in that damn position the entire time.

She tried to listen as he briefly explained the steps, but all she could really hear was her own pounding heart. Finally, Jareth started to move, advancing toward her and Sarah did the logical thing and stepped back. He praised her for correctly interpreting his cue as he started to move her through the rest of the steps.

She did her best to try and follow his lead but she felt intensely awkward, like she was constantly trying not to trip over her own two feet. Her instinctive response was to look down to make sure her feet were behaving, and besides, anything was less nerve wracking than looking into those extraordinary mismatched eyes of his.

As he lead her through the pattern he called out the steps for her, "One...two...twirl left...twirl right..." It was a fairly fast paced dance, and she had a peculiar feeling of déjà vu, as it was similar to the way he had danced with her in her dream. They were swiftly beginning to cover a lot of ground as the pace became faster, and Sarah had to keep watching her feet to keep from tripping.

At this point Jareth had noticed that Sarah's attention was increasingly focused on the ground. In one fluid movement he moved his hand from her waist, lifting her chin so that their eyes met. His dual colored eyes held hers as he silkily commanded, "Never look at the floor. Always look at me."

Sarah swallowed, her mouth suddenly going dry as she was forced to keep her gaze locked on his ethereal face. For a moment she thought she saw the faintest of smiles grace his lips before he lead her into the next dizzying series of turns.

Without being able to look at her feet, Sarah felt wildly out of control, and part of it was probably due to the fact that she kept getting lost in those haunting eyes that held hers captive.

Her steps started to become increasingly delayed, as she had to keep reminding herself what she was supposed to be doing. Her increasing nervousness caused tension to settle throughout her frame. As her originally innocent study of his features started to turn to longing, daydreaming sort of appraisal, she fought to keep her wits about her.

She was suddenly hyper-aware of the light touch of his hand on her waist and the way her hand felt in his. She had also noticed that his body was now significantly closer to hers than it had been when they had first begun.

Her discipline faltered for a second as she wondered what it would feel like if she were to "accidentally" press her body against his. The resulting stab of desire jolted her and she realized with alarm the peril of the situation.

With a renewed resolve to be more guarded, she concentrated on putting a little more distance between herself and Jareth. A moment later, she was so preoccupied with trying not to touch him any more than she had to, that she had managed to miss his cue. Stepping forward, when she should have stepped back, resulting in her stepping right onto Jareth's foot as she clumsily bumped into him.

She felt the heat rush to her cheeks. It had been accidental, but she felt her face grow hotter at the thought that she had just been fantasizing about such a misstep

Jareth halted and grunted in dismay as Sarah sprang back. Her nervousness was now not in vain, as her mortification was complete. Lamely she stammered, "Oh...Sorry..."

Jareth couldn't help smirking at her discomfort as he began, "I do believe I know what the problem is."

Sarah rolled her eyes and sarcastically muttered under her breath, "Yeah, I have two left feet..."

Jareth ignored the remark and added, "Let's just concentrate on one thing at a time, shall we? Your biggest obstacle, as I see it, is that you are unsure of yourself."

Sarah crossed her arms and scoffed sarcastically, "Oh really...what on earth gave you that idea?"

Jareth disregarded the fact that her question was purely rhetorical and offered, "You are not trusting me, and it is causing a veritable plethora of complications. You keep looking at your feet. You're pre-occupied with the steps, when you should be relying on me to lead you. You need to let yourself relax, your frame is entirely rigid with tension."

Sarah's discomfort quickly turned to annoyance, and she accused without really thinking, "I am rigid with tension because YOU make me tense!"

The Goblin King leered back with an amused smirk, "Yes, well, lets just deal with that right now, shall we?"

He circled her, casually regarding her with heat and mischief in his eyes. She had no idea what he was playing at but she held her breath as if expecting the worst. She could see the situation elevating to something relatively precarious in a short amount of time. Matching wits with him was like swimming with the sharks and at the moment she felt about as safe as an appetizing baby seal, especially with the way he was looking at her.

His eyes roamed her form as he admitted, "If we are to pull this off you must learn to relax and to trust me."

Sarah thought, "Fat chance." But she was curious at what he had in mind. Could she possibly learn to trust him, and more importantly, did she want to? Truly, she was getting rather tired of the way her insides knotted whenever he was around. Was there a way to relax, yet still be cautious? She couldn't help but wonder. She tried to imagine what he could possibly propose, but nothing came to mind.

The Goblin king halted, looking thoughtful for a moment. His face lit up with a smug grin before he drawled in a lilting tone, "Close your eyes."

Sarah gave him a wary look and demanded, "Why?"

He sighed with impatience and reasserted, "Just...close your eyes."

She let out a deep breath and protested, "Jareth, I don't see how closing my eyes will change anything..."

Jareth released a ragged breath and countered with impatience, "Must you be so defiant in everything? For pity's sake, just close your eyes."

She searched his face as she considered it.

His voice became softer, tired yet gentle, as he implored her, "Sarah...humor me...just this once."

Something in her yielded, for she couldn't resist, not when he spoke to her like that. She sighed, closing her eyes as she breathed, "Fine..."

She heard the sound of his boots on the stone floor as he came to stand just behind her. His voice was soft as he drawled, a little condescendingly, "Now was that really so difficult?"

Sarah said nothing as she held her breath and waited for him to do whatever it was he was about to do.

When he spoke again, his voice came from just behind her, his breath whispering against her cheek as he coaxed, "I want you to focus solely on the music. Empty your head of all thoughts until there is only darkness."

Sarah tried to do this, without much success, as he was standing so close. But his voice came again, murmuring, soft as velvet, and it lingered on her skin, "So much tension. It does nothing but restrict your body and cloud your mind. Simply let it fall away."

Sarah attempted to drown out everything but the music, as she fought to keep her breath from hitching in her throat and her heart from hammering away.

This time his voice was but a seductive whisper, and she didn't need to open her eyes to know that his mouth was just behind her ear. "I want to help you, but I can't...not unless you trust me. Can you do that Sarah? Can you trust me for just a little while?"

Two sides battled within her for dominance. One side, preached caution, the other yearned to let go of the past. The side advocating caution warned that as an unpredictable adversary, he was not to be trusted, but the other side reminded her that though he was good at getting on her nerves, he was not the villain she once thought him.

The truth was that he hadn't let any harm befall her since she returned. He could have left her to rot in the dungeons, but no, he had provided her with a comfortable room, food, and clothing. True, he was benefiting by her presence, but he had grown lenient in his expectations over the past few days. He had entrusted his alicorn to her care...and when she fell, he ran to her side. Kayla saw the good in him, maybe she should at least open her eyes to the possibility that he was starting to seem more friend than foe.

She couldn't deny that she felt something and wanted to explore it, and if those feelings already existed, then wasn't the harm already done? Whatever happened from this point onward, there was no erasing the feelings she already harbored. She was intensely attracted to him, and despite her attempts to despise him, she had come to like him. His ability to infuriate her only seemed an inseparable component of his charm.

Nemesis or not, she longed for him, every inch of him, from that arrogant smirk of his, along with his sultry words, right down to the blessed agony his attention caused. His soothing words, even now, only seemed to pull her further along the path of no return. Arrghh, why did he have to be soooo... just sooo?...Arrrghhhh! She had already started to fall. What was the sense in glancing back now?

Breathless words tumbled in a rush from her lips, "Y...yes...I can do that."

Had Sarah been looking, she would have seen him close his eyes against some emotion that seemed to bleed through his usual mask of indifference. When the Goblin King opened his eyes, a grateful smile of relief graced his fair face. It was now time to progress into the second stage of his plan.

Very slowly, a pair of leather encased hands slipped over Sarah's wrists and slid down to cover the back of her own trembling hands. The simple gesture was harmless in and of itself, but the implications of even such a simple intimate gesture, no matter how innocent, from his highness, was enough to send her reeling.

Slender fingers, with the promise of warmth just beneath their leather exterior, slid down, becoming interlaced with her own. Her stubborn breath hitched in her throat again, and it seemed for a good long moment, that she couldn't breathe at all.

His voice came as a ragged whisper in her ear, "You're trembling. Do I frighten you so much?"

Sarah was thankful that her eyes had already been closed, as she was sure she would have just closed them. She tried to answer, but her throat had gone extremely dry, she barely managed the words in a breathless rush, "N...No...I..."

Jareth lowered his mouth even closer to her ear, taking the opportunity to breathe in her sweet scent. Everything about her was intoxicating and he couldn't help himself. His hands released hers and traveled slowly but steadily up her arms to close over her tense shoulders, just as he gently whispered, "Shhhh...just relax..."

As his hands traveled up her arms, goose-bumps rose all over her flesh, and she experienced that peculiar trance-like sensation, which could only be likened to a giddy sort of euphoria that she sometimes felt when she had had too much to drink.

Just when she thought the torture couldn't get any worse, his strong yet gentle hands began to knead the tight muscles of her shoulders. He had done this once before, and though it seemed like a distant memory, Sarah could sharply remember how incredible his hands had felt then, but this time it was heart stopping.

Maybe it was because her longing was so much more acute now, or maybe it was because of the way he had just spoken to her, or perhaps it was the knowledge that he was standing so close behind her, and that all she would have to do is lean back and she would be lost.

His slender fingers elegantly massaged the tension from her shoulders with such perfect pressure and precision that she had to bite her lip to keep from crying out at the exquisite feeling.

She was melting. She didn't have the willpower to even attempt to stop him. It was hard enough, just trying not to drool.

In all her life, Sarah could not, for the life of her, think of one thing in her past that had ever felt this good, however she could think of plenty of things that might feel even better. Her cheeks flushed crimson at the thought, and she tried desperately not to think too hard on any of those things. It was increasingly difficult though with what the Goblin King's hands were already doing to her body.

Suddenly Jareth diverted his attentions to include her shoulder blades and the back of her neck. Sarah couldn't help letting her neck go slack, as what he was doing was pure sensual art.

She heard his throaty chuckle as he purred, "You see...I don't have to be the villain you make me out to be."

He paused noticing the heat in her cheeks and the way her brow knitted in pleasure. Oh yes, she certainly did like this. If he wasn't already aroused, the sight of her then would have done it. He wondered how long it would be before she would give in. He hoped not too long, as his own self-control was beginning to falter. He had wanted her for a long time now. Mild curiosity had eventually turned into fascination, and by the time she had beaten his labyrinth fascination had become obsession, to the point that in the long days since her rampage through his world, there was little else he could think about.

In fact, the only thing that seemed to keep him going was the belief that one day, she would again fall into his grasp and this time he wouldn't fail in possessing her entirely. Now that his goal was so close to becoming reality, he was growing weary with waiting.

His mismatched eyes darted to her lips and then downward to her pale throat as he huskily whispered, "Do you realize how lovely you are when you blush?"

Sarah screwed her eyes shut tighter as his ministrations caused wave after wave of pleasure to thrash her. She winced at the breathlessness of her own voice as she replied, "No."

He leaned in closer, his lips grazing her ear as he purred, "The only thing prettier is you...when you are angry...maybe that's why I can't resist making you furious so often."

The shock of his mouth on her ear, and the heat of his words drifting over her skin made her knees go weak.

Without even thinking she replied thickly, "Often doesn't even cover it..."

His fingers splayed out to cover her collarbone as he admitted, "Maybe so, but your willful taunts are so hard to resist...and you are so engaging when you are being obstinate."

Sarah swallowed, realizing that she was only encouraging him. His hands moved over her shoulders again, carefully brushing her hair away from her neck.

His mouth lowered to where her neck met her shoulder, his lips mere centimeters from her throat as he whispered against her skin, "but then again, there's a lot more than your defiance that I can't seem to resist...so much more." His hands roughly squeezed her shoulders and Sarah liquified in response to the exquisite sensation his touch seemed to wring from her body.

Sarah froze at the acute recognition of her arousal. Dear God, he's making me wet.

A dark and guilty pleasure came with the feeling, making her head swim with euphoria. Why does being bad have to feel so damn good?

There was something wildly erotic in his touch and even his words and tone were laced with infinite sexual innuendo. His every word and action seemed a most intricate seduction in and of itself. Somewhere in the furthest recesses of her mind a voice warned that she shouldn't be letting this happen. She knew the voice had a point, but at this particular moment in time, she quite honestly didn't give a shit. Whatever it was he was doing, felt much too good to stop.

Jareth knew he had already succeeded in driving the tension from Sarah's body, but watching her yield and soften under his touch was simply driving him mad. He had to stop before he lost all restraint completely. It was a breakthrough that Sarah had placed her trust in him, even if only briefly, and she hadn't recoiled from his touch...quite the opposite in fact. He wasn't about to botch this by going too far, no matter how badly his body wanted to.

Abruptly, he turned Sarah, a little roughly, to face him, his intention to resume their dance, before he did something totally rash and hot headed, like kissing her.

Sarah felt herself being spun around and she opened her eyes to find herself face to face with the Goblin King. As their eyes locked, Sarah recognized the look in his eyes...for it was the same emotion that was written clearly across her own face. It was pure unadulterated and overwhelming desire, the dizzying kind that made your face flush and your chest heave with shallow breaths.

Jareth had just noticed how her captivating eyes had gone nearly black due to the extreme dilation of her pupils. He recalled reading once that the human eye, which normally dilates to let in more light, often also dilates when the human sees something that it finds visually stimulating, something...that it wants.

As if of their own volition, her hands slid up the front of his doublet. His first impression was that she was doing it to keep him at bay, but as he looked down at her upturned face, he saw the startled wonder written there. Tentatively, she leaned in, and he realized that she wanted the connection just as badly as he did. He reasoned that he had indulged her in everything thus far, what was the harm in granting her one kiss?

He lowered his mouth to hers, halting merely a breath away from her lips and murmured, "I'm curious...What was it you were so afraid of?"

With one last shuddering sigh, she breathed, "This..." and she pressed her lips against his.

She was incredibly gentle, her petal-soft full lips, just brushing against his with a grace that only a chaste goddess could manage. The purity of it shook the Goblin King like nothing else ever could have. It was as if her soul was whispering to him, "Here is my heart, please be gentle..." He answered by parting his lips as he tenderly returned her kiss with the utmost care.

Sarah was astonished at how gentle he was. This was not the way she had expected her villain to kiss her, it was, in fact, far sweeter than anything she could have imagined.

His thin lips brushed softly but imploringly against hers, gently coaxing her not to run away. As if she could. The feelings evoked by even so simple a kiss from him rattled her to her core.

Sarah had kissed several guys before and not a single time had it ever been like this...hell this kiss wasn't even in the same solar system, never mind the same ball-park.

A warm tingly contented feeling washed over her and the fuzzy musing came to her, Mmmm so sweet...like cinnamon or vanilla. There was something achingly familiar in his kiss, soothing and warm, which made her little bolder. She opened her mouth slightly as her arms went about his shoulders.

Jareth felt her arms tighten about his shoulders as she opened her mouth under his. That was all the encouragement he required. He wound his arms about her waist, crushing her against him as he started to kiss her with fervor.

Sarah was drowning. He was now kissing her with a passion that she full well knew was restrained. The very idea that he was holding back, excited her like nothing ever had. It may have been a reckless thing to wish for, but she suddenly wanted to feel the brunt of that passion, in fact she needed it. She knew how badly she wanted him and she desperately wanted to know if what he felt could rival it. So, she did the only thing that she could think of that might produce the response she was looking for in the given situation...she artfully slipped him the tongue.

Jareth felt Sarah's kiss deepen and when he felt her warm velvety tongue slip past his lips, to explore his mouth, it was as though the last shred of sanity had been torn from his mind. All that was left was raw need, a longing so desperate that for one troubled moment he couldn't contain it.

Sarah heard him groan against her mouth in response to her kiss before his arms tightened about her, his kiss suddenly becoming fierce and possessive. The power of that kiss struck her like lightning, sending shockwaves through her that started to awaken her body in alarming ways. It was so intense it bordered on frightening...but the kind of fright that leaves you breathlessly exhilarated, and positively begging for more.

If he could do this to her with just a kiss she was terrified to think of what making love to him might be like. She wondered if she'd even be able to handle such intense feelings. Well, the growing ache in her body told her quite forcefully that it wouldn't mind finding out.

Such thoughts only led her to kiss him back feverishly, which only fed the fire that was now blazing out of control. And what a vicious circle it quickly became. Before long, she and the mighty Goblin King were shamelessly making out in the center of ballroom, totally oblivious to the world around them.

Sarah wasn't sure how, but Jareth's hold on her kept tightening until she was suddenly aware that she was plastered against his lithe frame, and that's when it dawned on her just what it was that was relentlessly poking her. There was nothing like a persistent hard-on, to suddenly make you take notice and assess the reality of a situation. Unfortunately, Sarah's body was more than fine with the reality of the situation, as it had already enthusiastically responded to the discovery by flooding her nether-regions with liquid fire.

Sarah wasn't stupid, she knew where this was heading. The kiss had begun innocently enough, but with all the pent up frustration between the two of them, things had escalated rather quickly with very little warning. She knew full well that if she didn't make him stop right now, the situation was bound to get out of control, and based on the way her body was responding, she wasn't sure if she'd be able to stop it, if it went any further. Regardless, of how hot and bothered she was, or of how incredibly hot he was, she conceded that this was happening way too fast, and she wasn't to wind up on her back in the Goblin King's bed...not today anyway.

It took every ounce of will that Sarah had to make herself push him off and wrench her mouth from his. His arms were still about her and he immediately started to pull her back in for another kiss. She turned her face away to get some desperately needed air, as she stammered, completely out of breath, "We have to stop...we can't...I mean...I...shouldn't have done that..."

Jareth had barely heard what she was saying. All he knew was that her hot yielding mouth was suddenly gone, her soft warm body had stepped back as she pushed him off. The sudden withdrawal of her affections was jarring and his lips and his body railed against it. Her kiss had been such heaven, and now that he had tasted it, anything less was torture. The feel of her mouth on his, her body against his, and her arms around his neck, made her passion for him real. And now it had stopped and once again nothing was certain. He absolutely hated it.

He caught her by the shoulders before she could put any more distance between herself and him. His eyes caught and held hers as he sighed, trying to catch his breath as he began, "Sarah..."

Before he could utter another word, a tiny goblin came stumbling in, wild eyed and very out of breath. His seemed to sag in relief at the sight of his king as he wheezed, "Y...Your Majesty...Thank the Labyrinth that I found you...thh...there's something...y...you better come see...quick...to the Goblin City..."

Jareth immediately turned away from Sarah towards the offending sound. There was a definite edge of warning in his voice as he seethed, "I thought I told you that I wasn't to be disturbed this afternoon. Can't you see that I am busy in here..."

The Goblin cowered slightly and stammered, "Ssssooo...soooo...sorry your highness...bb...but it's very...important..."

Jareth crouched down and muttered, "By the underground it better bloody well be, Bludge, or you'll be swimming laps in the bog! Now WHAT is it?"

The goblin nodded furiously and gushed, "Come...see...in the city...I will show you...the others are all afraid."

Sarah wasn't sure what she should do, but she found herself following the goblin as he kept tugging at the king's sleeve to drag him along. She had no idea what this was about, but judging by the goblin's rattled state, it must have been something dreadful.

Jareth, however, remained skeptical as he muttered "If someone has let loose another sack of harpies in the marketplace, I'm going to be very disappointed. I don't have the time to keep dealing with this sort of nonsense."

Bludge shook his head adamantly, "No, sire...not this time...this is much, much worse."

Chapter 23: The Sleeping Threat Awakens

Jareth and Sarah followed the anxious little goblin as he scampered beyond the castle gates and headed for the Goblin City. As they approached the main square, Sarah could see a large crowd of goblins gathered around a crude wooden cart that was parked on the rugged cobblestone street.

Many of the Goblin onlookers covered their mouths, muttering in horror as they looked on in visible distress. As Jareth neared the crowd, the goblins became aware of his presence and the crowd parted to let their sovereign through.

Sarah cautiously followed at a distance, making sure that she wouldn't be in the way. As she was engulfed by the crowd, she heard goblin voices whisper, "His majesty has come." and "Surely he'll know what to do."

Sarah continued to follow Jareth until they emerged from the innermost layer of the mob. Upon seeing what lay in the cart The Goblin King stopped short, halting so suddenly, that Sarah nearly bumped into him. Sarah stretched onto her toes to peer over his shoulder, for she knew that whatever lay in the cart had caused Jareth to stop short. She heard his displeased sigh and noticed the way his shoulders sagged in response to the sight.

As soon as Sarah laid her eyes on the source of the commotion, she wished she hadn't. In the cart lay a dead Alicorn. It was much smaller than Tempest, but even she could tell it was the same manner of creature. The silver horn and hooves were unmistakable.

Its possessed a lovely dapple gray coat, flawless in it's lustrous softness, except at the throat, where the spilled blood had soiled the fur. Even standing several feet away, the cause of death was obvious. Someone or something had sacrificed the animal on purpose. The poor creature's throat has been cut with one clean, deliberate stroke.

Sarah looked on, struck by how magnificent the creature must have been in life, as its luminous silver mane and forelock were ruffled by a gentle breeze. Sarah then noticed that its eyes were closed, not in slumber, but in that final rest that only comes with death. She shivered at the contrast between this lifeless animal's eyes and Tempest's extraordinarily bright eyes. This one would never open its eyes again. The knowledge that this creature's life had been wasted, weighed heavily on Sarah. She suddenly turned her face away as if she could no longer bear the heart-wrenching sight.

Jareth had yet to utter a single word. He just stared down at the creature with some cold unreadable expression on his pale angular face. After a moment of disconcerting silence, he looked up, noticing that all his goblins had were awaiting his rationalization of the profane act, they were relying on him to tell them that this didn't mean what they most feared.

The Goblin King straightened and there was an air of confident authority about him as he addressed the mob, "I understand your alarm, but there is no cause for panic. What I need now is your cooperation...tell me, who came by this animal?"

Six goblins shuffled forward and the one in front stammered, "Us, your majesty. We...we were heading out to the fields beyond the boundary of the labyrinth to bring back the cart full of barley that we harvested only yesterday and we just found her...slain in the field. She...she was left in the cart. We couldn't just leave her there...sssoo...we brought her back with us."

Jareth nodded and coolly replied, "I see. In the barley fields you say?" All six goblins nodded and he pressed further, "How far beyond the north gate was the cart left?"

The leader spoke again, "Not terribly far. A few leagues...right by the edge of the great Northern forest."

Jareth interrogated, "Did you see anyone, or anything that would suggest who might have been there before you?" The Goblin shook his head solemnly and answered, "No your majesty. We saw no one, and no sign of anyone neither. No tracks, no scents, nothing, not a whisper nor a trace of anything. The field was empty and dead quiet."

Jareth was thoughtful for a moment as he considered what they had told him. Of course he would go and inspect the area for himself, as there were certainly things his subjects most likely overlooked. In that moment of silence he became aware of the growing whispers of his subjects.

The paranoid fear of a thing once thought ancient history and utterly extinct had been rekindled with one unfortunate discovery. Though his initial thoughts strayed to the very same cause, he concluded that there had to be another explanation, for the return of what they feared was next to impossible.

The Goblin King raised his chin and announced with finality. "There is no reason to be alarmed. There are numerous possibilities that could account for this beast's death. Have no doubt, I will find the perpetrators of this act and they will be dealt with accordingly. In the meantime, I want guards posted at every point of entry into the labyrinth, and guards are to patrol the city and the main passages of the labyrinth for as long as I deem neccessary."

The present members of the Goblin Army straightened and scurried about hastily to get into formation as their King finished, "Any intruders or suspicious persons are to be subdued and brought directly to me, is that perfectly clear?"

The Goblin guards clumsily fell into line as they bellowed, "Yes, Your majesty." Jareth nodded in satisfaction and barked, "Now...disperse and return to your homes, save the guard, you will assemble and report to your leaders."

Once the crowd had begun to disperse Jareth gestured for three of his guards to come forward. They approached and bowed reverently, "Your Majesty?"

Jareth regarded them with solemn seriousness as he ordered, "Take the carcass to the edge of the Fiery forest where the ground is soft, and give it a proper burial...and do not pass by the stables. I don't want my mount unnecessarily distressed by this."

The nearest goblin genuflected and hissed, "Yes, your highness."

Without so much as another word Jareth turned and headed back towards the castle, while the goblins scampered off in the opposite direction. As they departed, Sarah heard one of them nervously whisper, "But...he didn't say anything about the..." The other interrupted with a low hiss, "Shhhhh! He didn't have to you nit wit! The act speaks for itself."

Utterly confused by all that she had just seen and heard, Sarah hurried after the Goblin King. She had hoped he might explain some of this as they walked, but he was silent and deep in thought all the way back to castle. Though Sarah wanted to know what was going on it she found it impossible to break the heavy silence that fell between them.

Jareth got as far as his throne room before he heard Sarah's lilting voice behind him demand, "Jareth, What was all that about?"

He stopped, turning his head halfway to glance over his shoulder as he slowly replied, "I don't know." Then with an air of authority he added, "I shall be in my library for the remainder of the afternoon, see to it that I am not disturbed."

With that he strode out of the throne room and Sarah could only stare at him in dumb puzzlement as she wondered what in the hell was going on. She had come to expect a certain amount of cool indifference from him, but the cold calm countenance of the Goblin King that just left was a little too far removed and it unnerved her. She was almost certain that he was hiding something and she was pretty sure that under that cool façade, the sight of that dead Alicorn had shaken the Goblin King. She swallowed. For something to unnerve him, it must be very grave indeed. A cold shiver ran down her frame as she wondered, What could it mean?

Sarah had long since finished her laundry and tidied her quarters. She decided against tending to Tempest since Jareth had made it clear that he didn't want his steed upset. She reasoned that although she had no intention of telling Tempest about the dead Alicorn, he might be able to sense her thoughts on the matter and she didn't want to risk upsetting him.

The thought of lying to him was just as unsettling and she would rather avoid seeing him for a few days, than lie to him, or upset him unnecessarily. In the end she sent for one of the grooms and told him to tend to Tempest, explaining that she was not feeling up to it at the moment.

It was getting on into the evening and the kitchen goblins informed her that Jareth had yet to take a meal, which could mean only one thing, he was still holed up in the library.

Sarah paced the castle corridor occasionally stopping to ponder the orange light that seeped out from under the heavy oak library doors. He was still in there, and Sarah was torn between leaving him alone like he had instructed, and intruding so she might get a few answers under the guise of bringing him some soup for dinner. He had specified that he didn't want to be disturbed, but she had never been one to do what she was told. So why start now?

With a deep breath she worked up her nerve and walked purposefully to the door, bowl of soup in hand. Tentatively she eased the door open, wincing as the door groaned loudly on its hinges. She poked her head in just as Jareth looked up from his reading. He was seated in the large armchair by the blazing hearth. One leg was draped casually over the arm of the chair and a monstrous ancient looking volume lay open in his lap.

His voice sounded tired as he demanded, "What is it Sarah?"

Apprehensively she stepped into the room as she rushed to explain, "You've ahhh...been in here for a long time and the kitchen staff said you haven't eaten so I thought you might want some soup."

He answered in a tired voice, "Ah." before he slammed the ungodly book closed, producing a large cloud of dust. He stretched with the laziness of a bored predator as he noticed that darkness had replaced the daylight just outside the castle windows.

Sarah stood impatiently holding the soup and boldly ventured, "So...do you want this soup or not?"

His eyes met hers and the lack of emotion unnerved her as he vacantly answered, "You may leave it on the desk."

She was rather irritated by his indifferent dismissal. She didn't appreciate being treated like a servant by him, especially after what had happened earlier that afternoon. He had some nerve treating her like that, and she disliked it immensely.

She set the soup on the desk before she turned and replied with disdain, "Fine. I'll leave it there. I...I...won't disturb you further..." With that, she forced her mouth shut as she turned on her heel and began to storm out. She knew she was about to lose her cool and she was in haste to get out of his sight before she did something stupid, like smacking him.

His tired sigh stopped her as he sternly admonished, "There is no need to be curt. You...are not disturbing me."

It was then Sarah's eyes fell on the symbol branded into the thick leather binding of the giant volume. A simple likeness of a skull flanked by a thin crescent, which could only be a depiction of the moon. The skull held a bony finger to its skeletal mouth in an obvious gesture of secrecy. Looming in the background of the crest were the figures of what looked to be a human woman and an Alicorn, both blindfolded and engulfed in flame.

It was a grim depiction and Sarah wondered what such a symbol meant to the Goblin King, and what such a book could tell him about the death of the Alicorn.

Sarah raised her eyes to meet his, as at that moment he was staring intently at her. She inclined her head, narrowing her eyes a little as she challenged, "Why should I stay, if you only intend to keep me in the dark?"

Jareth frowned as he began, "Sarah, even if I did have an explanation, which I don't, telling you may not be wise."

Anger pricked at Sarah as she snapped, "And why not?"

Jareth simply stated rather matter-of-factly, "You are human, your home is aboveground and if you intend to return there once the year is out, it would be smart not to meddle in underground affairs. It would be foolish for you to become involved in this...foolish and dangerous."

That wasn't quite the explanation she was looking for, and Sarah silently fumed, "Foolish and Dangerous!?! Who the hell does he think he's kidding, I'm living in a castle teeming with Goblins, being ordered around by the object of my childhood nightmares. When has this whole situation not been foolish or dangerous?"

She was about to say something derisive when a thought struck her. Was he actually trying to protect her? Was he just trying to throw her off the subject, or was he genuinely concerned? She reconsidered being belligerent and went for the more calm, level-headed approach, "Well, I'm stuck here living in your kingdom for a good part of the year, and I've already seen the poor Alicorn...I'd call that pretty involved."

Jareth was quiet a moment, as if he was debating what he should tell her.

Sarah was quick to add, "Look, I just want to know what the hell is going on around here, obviously there's a great deal I don't know about. You must have some idea or a theory at least. Can't you tell me anything?"

Jareth sounded quite serious as he replied, "Sarah, I don't expect you to understand. I may have a theory, but it's just too premature to draw any conclusions. All that I know for certain, and all that you need know is that an Alicorn has been slain only a few leagues from my kingdom, and the perpetrators remain un-captured. It would do for the whole kingdom, you included, to be very cautious. So until this problem is solved, you are not to leave the castle unescorted, is that understood?"

Sarah swallowed at his stern demeanor, obviously he was gravely concerned, and that affected her deeply. If the threat was serious enough to make someone as self-assured as Jareth worried, then it must be a dread thing indeed.

She nodded and ventured out of sheer curiosity, "When you do catch those who did this, what will happen to them?"

Jareth settled behind the desk where his soup awaited him and explained, "Killing an Alicorn is a very serious offense in the Underground. Such an act is punishable by death...so when the perpetrators are caught and found guilty of the crime, they will be executed."

Sarah thought on this and replied, "Well if the consequences are so severe why would anyone do it?"

Jareth swallowed a spoonful of soup before he answered, "Well, there are several reasons. First, the blood of an Alicorn is very potent. It has many magical uses. The animal itself is the very symbol of strength and power. To vanquish one is a considerable testament of one's lack of weakness and vulnerability. These animals are also highly intelligent, and as their numbers are dwindling, it is considered a serious crime indeed to slay one."

Sarah was thoughtful as she continued, "Well someone must have felt it worth the risk to kill one. You say the blood holds great power? The throat was slit...meaning that the blood would have drained out. Maybe they were after the blood. Just what kind of power does the blood have?"

Jareth stiffened as he halted with his spoon poised in midair, "Sarah, we are finished discussing this...the responsibility is mine, and I will handle it."

Sarah couldn't understand why he was being so obtuse and she protested, "But...what about that book, surely it must tell you something..."

Jareth took a sobering breath and warned, "There is no proof that the Alicorn found today has anything to do with the contents of that book. It is my place to handle this problem...not yours." His voice was stern as he further admonished, "...And what is in that book does not concern you, so you best keep your nose out of it." He leveled a warning gaze at her and finished, "It's written in the ancient Fae language, so you wouldn't be able to decipher it if you tried."

Sarah sighed in frustration, apparently pressing the matter was not going to get her anywhere, so she decided to drop it. Still, the fact that he had the nerve to be so cold after what had transpired in the ball room irked her something fierce. Her gaze strayed to the fire as she replied with a degree of bitterness, "Fine...I'll leave you to it. I'll try and stay out of your way."

Just as she turned to walk out, Jareth got to his feet and coldly demanded, "Is there a problem Sarah?"

She froze, turning slowly as she lied, "No. No problem."

He regarded her with icy precision as he continued, "Then, I would suggest that you adopt a less hostile tone. You forget yourself...it would do to remember just who you are talking to."

Sarah's insides seemed to knot as he rebuked her. He was very good at making her feel terribly small, just as good as he was at pissing her off. A sickening feeling crept over her as she realized that the intimacy they had briefly experienced earlier was long forgotten and his soothing demeanor was now a distant memory. His lack of compassion caused a horrible sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. How could he run so hot and cold? Then she remembered. He was the Goblin King, that's why...and she firmly reminded herself that she wouldn't forget it again.

Her flashing green eyes rose to meet his, her hands balling into tight fists at her sides. Despite her anger, her outer expression remained as emotionally devoid as his, as she hastily nodded and turned to leave. She may have looked guarded and unaffected on the outside, but inside a storm of volatile emotions was brewing.

Upon returning to her room, Sarah went to bed feeling wholly terrible. It had been a taxing day. First she had dropped her guard, lost her senses, and had done the unthinkable. She had kissed him. It had been lovely while it lasted, but reality invaded, as it always did, and now she was left feeling conflicted, unsure, and very confused.

Unfortunately, she had only herself to blame, which only made things that much more unbearable. Then there had been the unpleasant business of the murdered Alicorn, which left her feeling only further unsettled. The discovery of the beast caused a heavy sort of fear to settle over the kingdom, a fear so distinct that even Jareth seemed affected by it.

To make matters even worse, she had broken her ritual visitation with Tempest. Only yesterday had they started to forge a real friendship, and now Sarah had to stay away, out of fear that Tempest would sense her thoughts about the discovery of the Alicorn. Not to mention, there was this whole business with Jareth. No doubt Tempest would also sense her turmoil over what had happened today, and talking about that, was the last thing she could stomach at this point.

She hoped Tempest wouldn't be angry that she hadn't visited him. Hopefully he would understand when she went back, since she would have to face him eventually. She knew it wouldn't be long before Jareth noticed that she wasn't spending time with Tempest and that might seem suspicious. She couldn't afford for the Goblin King to find out about the connection between her and Tempest. She could visit him in few days, hopefully by then, this whole mess would make a little more sense.

Sarah eventually drifted off into a very restless superficial sleep. In the morning when the goblins came to rouse her, she felt even less rested than she had the night before.

She took her time as she bathed and dressed, her every movement was heavy with dread as she was expected to wake and assist the King this morning. With an iron resolve she forced herself through the door to his chamber. It was her duty, and she would manage it, just like she had everything else.

Jareth was not eager to wake, despite the fact that he was in great haste. He seemed to be in a rather sour mood, and lucky for Sarah, his haste kept him from badgering her. He simply focused on the tasks at hand in a very distant sort of manner, with little more than a stray word. But Sarah noticed his expression was that of a constant frown. Either he was deep in his thoughts, or he was quite frustrated. He looked as though he hadn't got much sleep either, and Sarah wondered if it had something to do with her, or if it was due to the fact that the Alicorn poachers were still at large. Quite possibly it was a combination of both.

In a desperate attempt to restore some normalcy between them, Sarah asked if something was bothering him. Jareth simply informed her that he had much to do in preparation for the ball, and he still had much to look into regarding the circumstances surrounding the Alicorn's death. As soon as he was dressed, he promptly excused himself.

Once again left to her own devices, Sarah contemplated venturing into the Goblin city, thinking that she might learn something from the goblins. Unfortunately, that idea was squashed when she realized that she couldn't leave the castle. All the doors seemed to be locked from the outside, effectively trapping her within the castle.

She reasoned that Jareth must have used magic to seal all the doors to keep her from leaving. He had mentioned that he didn't want her going anywhere alone and it was a fair assumption that by this point he knew her mind, and was determined to keep her from poking around unescorted. Reluctantly, Sarah went to the library. There was no sign of Jareth, so she resumed her reorganization of the stacks.

It was late afternoon when Sarah felt a stir in the air just behind her and she turned to find Jareth leaning casually against a nearby bookcase. She merely regarded him with indifference as he observed, "In here all day...and not once did you venture into that book. I must say, I'm impressed. Perhaps it is possible for you to obey after all."

Sarah suppressed the urge to roll her eyes and nonchalantly replied, "Yeah well, you said it yourself...no point in snooping, so I decided to do something useful with my time by finishing up in here, since mysteriously, I was unable to leave the castle."

Jareth pushed off the bookcase and smugly replied, "I sealed off the castle, for your own good of course. I can't have you wandering around unescorted. It could be dangerous."

Sarah nodded curtly, "Ah. I see. How chivalrous of you to just lock me in. You know, I couldn't even go out to the stables..."

Jareth shrugged and replied, "Tempest will manage without you for the next few days. The grooms are looking after him. Besides, in two nights the ball will commence and I will require your cooperation. You can resume your groom duties and riding after the ball. Until then, there is absolutely no reason for you to leave the castle."

Sarah swallowed, it was obvious the subject was not open to discussion, but at least it gave her and excuse for keeping her distance from Tempest. Still, she did not like the idea of being confined at his whim, and she most definitely detested the fact that he could be so smug about it.

Her eyes darted to his face as she boldly challenged, "So, basically, what you're saying is that I am a prisoner..."

His mouth formed a cruel smile as he closed the distance between them. He looked down at her, offering a predatory smirk as he drawled, "It amazes me how ungrateful you can be. Believe me Sarah...if I wanted to make you my prisoner...you'd know. There's much more to misery than stone walls."

Sarah tensed at his words and his eyes darted over her frame, noticing the change in her posture. Her breath seemed to catch in her throat as she stammered, "is...is that a threat?"

Jareth's mismatched eyes settled on hers as he coolly remarked, "For the time being, you are merely my guest. You should consider yourself lucky. You should be grateful, for I don't have to be so generous. Keep testing me Sarah, and I'll show you what it means to be a prisoner here. So to answer your question...no, it's not a threat, it is a promise."

Sarah abruptly turned away from him as a chill settled into her bones. He was not joking. In fact, the seriousness of his remark startled her. It was obvious that he was quickly tiring of her incessant defiance and her quickness to argue.

Though it was a challenge, Sarah resolved to play it safe, and she held her tongue. Jareth was silent for a moment, as if he were just waiting for her next outburst of defiance. When none came, he tilted his head to the side and added, "I knew you could be reasonable. Now, our guests arrive tomorrow and we have some instruction to finish have we not?"

Sarah nodded despite the fact that dancing with him was the last thing she felt like doing just now.

Sarah's final dancing lesson was anything but a piece of cake. As they were ultimately out of time, Jareth was hard pressed to make sure that the movements were coming naturally as possible. During the rigorous lesson, Jareth kept his interaction with her methodical and impersonal, as it was the only way that he was able to get through the session without losing his temper.

Sarah quickly found that he was an extremely demanding teacher and he settled for nothing short of perfection. Long before her lesson was over, her legs ached and she was thoroughly exhausted. She could scarcely wait for him to dismiss her, but he was relentless in his determination to make an accomplished dance partner out of her.

When at long last he was finally satisfied, Sarah couldn't remember feeling more relieved. As he released her he conceded, "You've done well. I believe you are ready...now get some rest, we will certainly have a late night tomorrow."

Sarah tried to catch her breath, as she turned away, not quite sure what she should say. She eventually managed, "Er, thanks. Um...well...goodnight."

He watched her retreat and softly replied, "Goodnight Sarah."

Chapter 24: The King's Escort

Sarah trudged up to her tiny room feeling quite anxious. Since Jareth's earlier warning, he hadn't been outwardly cruel, but his demeanor was cold and business-like. The fact that they had kissed only days ago had apparently changed nothing between them. They hadn't even spoken of it, and there was absolutely no sign that it might happen again.

In truth she didn't know how to feel about it. On one hand, she might have been spared from making a big mistake, but at the same time she couldn't rid herself of the sinking disappointment that plagued her these last few nights. She fell into a fitful sleep as she exhausted herself with so many questions that seemed no closer to an answer than they had been when she first arrived in the underground.

Sarah awoke very late the next morning. Her window had been opened and sunshine spilled onto her pillow. She could hear the distant chirping of birds as the magic smell of the labyrinth wafted through her chamber. She groggily sat up, wondering why the goblins hadn't come to rouse her. For one startled moment she hoped they hadn't forgotten. If Jareth had overslept too, there would surely be hell to pay.

Her worries were abandoned as she noticed the breakfast tray sitting on her vanity, meaning that the goblins had already come, and for whatever reason, they had been instructed to let her sleep.

In her nightshirt and bare feet, she padded over to the tray and lifted the ornate silver cover. There was a plate brimming with mixed fruit and some very tempting looking sweet cakes. Beside the small pitcher of milk she noticed a neatly folded piece of parchment. Overcome with curiosity she snatched up the paper and opened it. Elegantly written in large scrawling black letters was the message...

Sarah,

I trust you slept well, I hope you will be well rested for tonight's festivities. Some last minute arrangements will prevent me from putting in an appearance until just before the ball, however I will come to collect you before our guests arrive. You will find your gown behind your dressing screen, and the goblins will see to anything you might require. You have until sunset to prepare.

Until tonight,

-J

Sarah had barely finished reading the message when she made a mad dash to find what lie behind her dressing screen. The gown was fitted on a dressing stand and was covered with a large sheet of glittery material. Unable to contain her wild curiosity, she threw back the fabric covering her dress, and gasped.

In a word, the gown was gorgeous. It was comprised of a gathered full skirt and an exquisite embroidered corset of a bodice. The entire dress was crafted from a shimmering gold fabric, the likes of which Sarah had never before seen. With shaky fingers she tentatively examined the material of one fine sheer sleeve. Magic must have been a involved in the crafting of such a dress, for it was too magnificent to have been made by conventional means.

The massive sparkling skirts, paired with the elegantly simple corset and sheer sleeves were a winning combination. Never before had she seen a more beautiful gown. Even the gown she had been wearing in her peach induced fantasy during her first trip through the labyrinth couldn't hold a candle to this one. The pale innocence of that previous gown had been replaced with a more refined and wholly adult concoction that would no doubt win her much attention if it looked even a fraction as enticing on her as it did on the dressing stand.

With a deep breath Sarah reasoned that there was only one way to find out. Sarah removed her clothing and reverently slipped into the dress. She fastened the corset as best she could, discovering that she would definitely need assistance dressing for the ball, since she could not get the bodice as tightly laced as it should be. Still, she only wanted to see how it fit, and more importantly, how it looked.

She slipped her feet into the delicate matching slippers and carefully gathered up the skirt as she shuffled before her mirror. She stared at her reflection with wide eyes. Jareth could be a bastard, but he had impeccable taste. The gown was breathtaking. The hue of the gold fabric brought out the warm hazel of her eyes and complimented her dark brown locks beautifully.

The fit of the dress was just as flawless as the striking design. Her eyes dropped to her reflection's chest. She had always been naturally well endowed in the bust area, but the corset...well, she had heard that they did miracles for the female form, but not until this very moment was she a firm believer. Regardless, of the anxiety she harbored about the upcoming ball, she couldn't help but be excited at the prospect of wearing so beautiful a dress.

Sarah carefully arranged the gown back in its proper place on the stand. She dressed in her own clothes and returned to her vanity to peruse her waiting breakfast. No sooner had she finished eating, did she hear the sound of footsteps racing down the hall towards her chamber door. It was sort of a scuffling sound and she knew right away that it couldn't be Jareth.

She opened her door and peered out to notice a very out of breath dwarf running at full speed towards her. Sarah called out to him, overjoyed to see a friendly face, "Hoggle!"

The short dwarf stopped before her, couching down as he fought to catch his breath as she hurriedly embraced him, "Sa...Sarah, your...you're alright?!?"

Sarah led him into her room as she remarked, "Of course I'm all right. What are you talking about?"

Hoggle glanced wildly around the room finding that they were indeed alone before he explained, "I...heard about the Alicorn, and I...just wanted to make sure you were all right."

Sarah gave him a peculiar look and assured him, "I'm fine."

Hoggle nodded hastily and replied, "Right. Well, I just wanted to make sure...can't be too careful."

Sarah was quick to ask, "Hoggle, what would make you think I wasn't OK?"

The dwarf muttered, "I told ya, I just heard about the beast's death and I just wanted to make sure everything was all right here."

Sarah considered his answer and immediately thought back to Jareth's warning about not leaving the castle unescorted. Her brow furrowed as she rested one hand on her hip and prodded, "What would a dead Alicorn have to do with me?"

Hoggle remained silent, though his mouth hung open and his eyes rolled about suspiciously. Sarah tried again, a little more firmly, "Hoggle? What's going on?"

The dwarf finally stammered, "You...you know about the Alicorn then?"

Sarah nodded, "Of course I do. I was with Jareth when the Goblins came to fetch him. I saw it for myself."

Hoggle's eyes widened as he breathed, "You were with him? Wha...what did he say about it?"

Sarah sighed and admitted, "Not very much. He doesn't seem to want to talk about it. I'm not sure, but I think he's more disturbed by it then he's letting on."

Hoggle nodded slowly and ventured, "Did...did he say anything about the..." He lowered his voice to a hushed whisper and finished, "...Shadow Horde?"

Sarah knitted her brow and mused, "Shadow horde? No, he didn't say anything about that...not to me anyway...not that he's saying much of anything to me lately."

Hoggle looked slightly more at ease before he suddenly became concerned again and demanded, "Why? Something happen?"

Sarah let out a deep breath and huffed, "Yeah...I mean no, I mean, he's just doing what he's best at...making me crazy."

Hoggle nodded and cautiously began, "But, he didn't mention who he suspects?"

Sarah shook her head, "No, I tried to talk to him about it but he was being difficult. He said he didn't want me to get involved and that it wasn't my concern...he was very persistent about it too."

Hoggle's eyes widened, "He was, was he? Well, I guess he'd best handle it anyways. Might be dangerous...maybe you better do as he says."

Sarah crossed her arms and muttered, "Not like I have much of a choice." She seemed lost in thought for a moment before she ventured, "Hoggle what IS the Shadow Horde?"

Hoggle shook his head wildly as he backed away and protested, "I...better not say. Jareth might get angry and I don't want him takin' it out on you missy."

Sarah shrugged, "I can handle myself. He doesn't scare me. C'mon tell me."

Hoggle was adamant, "No Sarah. I probably shouldn't even be here. I just wanted to be sure you're alright. Leave it to Jareth. I better go...but Sarah...call if you need me."

Sarah nodded, a little disappointed that Hoggle wouldn't tell her, but she reasoned that if he was keeping it from her it was probably for a good reason. She said her goodbyes and urged him to visit her again soon.

Sarah spent the afternoon reading before she began to prepare for the masquerade ball. She had plenty of time to get ready so she reasoned that a nice hot bath might ease her mind and relax her. After a leisurely bath she dried off and with the help of a female goblin servant she got dressed in her ball-gown. The energetic little attendant was even resourceful enough to procure some cosmetics for her as well.

Sarah was just applying the finishing touches to her makeup when the blazing orange light of the setting sun crept across her tower room in the Goblin Castle. As she took one last appreciative look at the picture she presented, she could scarcely believe it was herself that stared back at her. The brilliant orange light that penetrated her otherwise somber chamber gave everything a fantastic surreal look.

She barely had time to take it all in, when, as if on cue, a gentle draft stirred behind her. Cool air engulfed her, gently ruffling her dress as the image of the Goblin King appeared in the mirror just behind her own reflection.

Sarah didn't have to glance over her shoulder to know that he was really there right behind her, she knew just by the magic aromatic scent that was uniquely his.

His sharp mismatched gaze hungrily wandered over her reflection and it occurred to her that he had the eyes of a practiced hunter, piercing and fierce. They seemingly missed nothing. At that moment she doubted that even a falcon could possess the kind of sight that he probably did.

As Jareth took in the vision of the dark haired girl before him, he felt as though he had to remind himself to keep breathing. He knew the gown would be perfect, but now as he looked on her, he realized that his imagination could never have done her appearance justice. She looked absolutely stunning.

The side tresses of her rich dark hair had been pulled back and were held with a gold clasp at the back of her head in a naturally simple, yet elegant fashion. The rays of the setting sun bathed her face in light and reflected in her dark auburn hair causing the blazing fiery red highlights that mesmerized him. Her green eyes, flecked with brown and gold, sparkled in the reflected sunlight. Her features, from her delicate nose to her petal soft mouth looked even more captivating in the natural light.

The fine porcelain skin from her cheeks, down to the ivory flesh of her décolleté was glowing with a pearlescent luminescence. The bodice of the dress, a corset of shimmering gold fabric, gracefully flaunted the charms of her young body. Her lovely full breasts could scarcely be contained by the garment, as they were pushed upward and together, making for the most tantalizing display of cleavage that the Goblin King had ever seen. The corset terminated at her slender waist where the massive gold skirts seemed to dare the onlooker to imagine the feminine curves that were concealed beneath.

The sheer glistening sleeves were off the shoulder and terminated at points on her delicate hands. The rich gold of the gown was truly meant for Sarah as it glittered in stark contrast to her fair skin and dark hair. In the instant that he drank in the sight of her it seemed the storm of bothersome thoughts that clouded his mind were lifted. Tonight she would be on his arm. Tonight she would be his.

Sarah's full red lips parted in surprise as she took in the reflection of the Goblin King looming behind her. His formal attire seemed the product of a combination of whimsical fantasy meets dark and wicked nightmare. Over a pristine and gauzy tunic of the purest white, he wore a jewel encrusted silver doublet that sparkled with every type of silvery stone. His breeches were black as were his shiny black boots.

The most breathtaking component of the outfit however, was the midnight black cloak, which was adorned with hundreds of tiny glittering jewels that twinkled just like stars in the night sky. The ominous high collar of the cloak added to his sinister appearance. What was most fascinating though was that his imposing stature rivaled the ethereal beauty that graced his fair face.

Sarah's breath hitched in her throat as she unsuccessfully tried not to stare. The wheels of her mind seemed to grind to a halt as she struggled to think of something intelligent to say. Another moment passed by as she continued to gawk in disbelief, at that point she would have settled for any thought of something to say, anything would be better than retaining that look of dumb astonishment. Before she could say anything though, Jareth had pulled a crystal from thin air, balancing it before her eyes as he offered it to her.

Sarah's eyes darted to the orb with a mixture of curiosity and caution as she stammered, "What is it?"

His mouth twisted into that arrogant smirk that she both loved and loathed as he drawled, "For you...take it." As if commanded by his very words, the crystal burst in a shower of glitter and in it's place was a golden half-mask with seven points meant to mimic the rays of the sun.

She tentatively lifted the mask in her hands and shot him an inquisitive look. He grinned and mused, "You can't attend a masquerade without a mask now can you?"

Sarah's eyes met his as she breathed, "This is mine?" He merely nodded as she demanded, "Where's yours?"

With a teasing smile he pulled another crystal out of thin air and with a puff of glitter he was left holding a black half mask adorned with a silver crescent that curved about one half of the mask.

Sarah glanced at his mask before she remarked, "Is this your way of joking about the fact that we are about as different as day and night."

Jareth smirked knowingly and offered, "Once, we were adversaries. opposing...forces. I thought you might find it appropriate."

Sarah could scarcely stifle the small smile that crept across her face when suddenly he stepped closer. His arm ventured around her front and she glanced down to see what he offered this time.

There in his black leather glove he held a perfect golden rose, which he now presented in an obvious offering gesture. Sarah swallowed as her eyes fell on the extraordinary flower. Just the thought of him doing something so traditionally romantic made her insides weak with nervous excitement. She wished she could have stepped outside herself and given herself a good hard smack for being so affected by the gesture, but unfortunately she was of the female persuasion and he, damn him, looked as though he had just stepped right out of her dreams...her innermost secret dreams that verged on sensual, if not wholly naughty.

Sarah shook herself out of her thoughts and stammered nervously, "Wha...what's this for?" His crisp accented voice seemed to caress her ear as he answered, "It's for you. I am your escort. What would our guests think if I didn't present you with a flower to compliment your fairness?"

Sarah lamely replied with a rather breathless "Oh." As he added in a silky whisper, "Though, truth be told...I had a hell of a time hunting for a flower worthy of you, as you are truly radiant."

Sarah's head swam as her knees started to go weak. She swallowed in euphoric apprehension, praying that he would stop talking to her like that, as it made her entirely lose her senses. In a panicked attempt to stop his seductive words she blurted, "Oh...Uh thanks. You look...really nice too."

His mouth formed a predatory grin as she turned to face him. He took another step towards her and her and she felt her pulse quicken.

His sensuality was positively suffocating and before she could even attempt to dwell in the hazy euphoria, she had to purge her mind of the question that had been eating away at her. She needed to know more about the threat that, like a switch, had caused him to turn so cold. She fumbled, haphazardly changing the subject, "I...was wondering...if I could ask you a question?"

He tilted his head, his smile was of pure amusement as he answered, "Certainly."

Sarah's eyes strayed from his as she weakly ventured, "Um...What is the Shadow Horde?"

Jareth's expression changed instantly, changing back into a cold unfeeling mask as he demanded, "Where pray tell, did you hear that expression?"

Sarah knew he wasn't pleased, and she had no desire to get Hoggle into trouble, but she suspected that he would know if she lied and she had a feeling that she might get her friend into worse trouble if she didn't come clean. She cautiously began, "Well, Hoggle sort of...mentioned it."

She paused and angrily muttered, "That blasted dwarf..." He quickly started to pull a crystal out of thin air as he sneered, "He simply cannot keep from meddling where he shouldn't. Well this time I shall teach him a lesson he won't soon forget..."

Sarah grasped his sleeve and desperately cried, "No! Please...don't!"

Jareth's mismatched eyes darted to her face as the words tumbled from her lips, "He...didn't know. You see, he thought I already knew. Once he learned that you hadn't told me of the Shadow Horde he refused to tell me any more...please...don't punish him!"

Jareth noticed the manner in which she still clutched his arm. He frowned, but seemed a little less perturbed as he prompted, "Very well...go on."

Sarah explained, "When I asked him what it was he wouldn't tell me. He asked me if at any time you had said anything about it. When I said no, he seemed relieved, and he told me to forget about it." Her eyes pleaded with him as she finished, "Now, I know that if you don't want to tell me you won't, and I'll have to live with that, but I'm asking you, not in defiance but because nothing has been the same since the Alicorn... I feel I'll go out of my mind if things don't start to make sense...please...can't you tell me anything?"

Jareth sighed and was quiet for a long moment. Finally he looked at her and something in his cold expression softened a fraction as he replied evenly, "The shadow horde was a sect of the ruling class of the Fae, a brotherhood forged in secret, a faction of the Seelie court with its own politics and it's own idea's about the boundaries of Fae magic."

Sarah listened intently as Jareth went on, "At one time they held the majority of the elders, but they became consumed by their greed and ambition. They indulged in abhorrent practices, and like a delusional plague they contaminated my race. They were a blight on the face of the underground, and eventually those who opposed them revolted. The struggle lasted for decades, but eventually the Horde was dispersed and as it's last members died out it went extinct. In it's day the horde was so feared that its evil acts became legendary. Even today the mere whisper of it is enough to stir a whole kingdom into a panic."

Sarah furrowed her brow and reasoned, "So...that's what Hoggle and the Goblins are afraid of?"

Jareth nodded and replied, "Yes. Among its long list of reprehensible acts, the Horde frequently engaged in the slaughter of Alicorns, and in the height of it's power it nearly drove the Alicorn herds to extinction. You have to understand, Goblins are simple creatures, and they have a tendency to be over dramatic...so when the slain alicorn was found, they automatically assumed the worst."

Sarah nodded, "Oh. So they were afraid that the horde had returned...but that..."

Jareth finished with a nod, "Is quite impossible and utterly ridiculous. Still...something did slay that Alicorn, so I thought it pertinent to be cautious."

Sarah thought for a moment and nervously ventured, "So is that why you didn't want me to leave..."

Jareth finished, "The castle? Yes. I don't know what killed that Alicorn, and until I do I'm not taking any chances. The goblins are armed and they have the labyrinth to protect them, but you are vulnerable outside the castle walls."

Sarah considered his concern and remarked, "What makes you think that I might be in any danger?"

Jareth leveled a stern gaze at her and argued with a sigh, "Sarah, its getting late. Our guests are arriving. This can wait until after the festivities."

Sarah nodded, a little intimidated by the fact that it was time to attend the ball with him. She swallowed and conceded, "Fine...what happens now?"

Jareth circled her slowly, a smile creeping across his face as he stopped in front of her. With a feral grin he caught her hand in his own and purred, "We attend the masquerade and pretend that we are having a wonderful time. Do you think you can handle that?"

Sarah arched an eyebrow as she stammered, "Uh, sure...no problem. Piece of cake."

He flashed her an amused grin before he pursed his lips and drawled, "Our guests must believe that we are...involved. Remember, your affection must appear genuine."

Sarah nodded absently as she ignored the voice in her head that scoffed, "Oh...don't worry...it'll be genuine all right..." She was just violently stuffing that annoying little voice into a very dark mental box, when Jareth lowered his head and raised the back of her hand to his lips. As he placed a tender kiss on the back of her hand he glanced up at her, and as he raised one fine arched eyebrow the heat in his gaze was unmistakable. His mouth curved into a seductive smile as he drawled, "We best start the evening off right then..." Sarah's heart stuttered in her chest at the sight of him looking up at her like that.

Sarah could hear wistful music and playful chatter as soon as they began to descend the immense stone staircase that wound through the center of the castle. As they rounded the last corner Sarah feasted her eyes on the grandest party she had ever seen. The bare room that she had come to know as the ballroom, had been completely transformed.

Warm orange firelight blazed in every corner. Elaborate sconces and great gothic style candelabras adorned the room, throwing enough light to dimly illuminate but retain enough darkness to allow for a certain amount of mystery.

The room was alive with movement. A sea of myriad masked revelers twirled in oblivious pleasure. There would be no shortage of guests at this masquerade. That was plain. The huge open floor was swarming with swaying bodies. All about the perimeter of the room were great tables piled high with lush fruits, sweet meats, and just about every type of delicacy one could think of.

The once bare walls were now tastefully draped in rich crimson and black fabrics. Ornate gargoyles and mad grinning goblin-like faces peered from every nook and cranny of the lofty walls, some perched up high among the flying buttresses, seemingly part of the immense cathedral ceiling.

As Sarah glanced up in wonder she found that the darkly decorated ballroom reminded her of a twisted sort of church. Having attended parochial school for a good part of her life, Sarah had set foot in many grand cathedrals and churches and being here made her think of them.

The whole room had a somewhat shadowy and sinister feel to it, though it was also alluring with it's rich dark beauty. It thrummed with life and the sights and sounds of the revelers was inviting and hypnotic. Sarah was scarcely in the room and she already felt the pull to become lost in the rhythmic sea of party-goers.

One more step and they would be in plain sight of the mob. Jareth caught her nervous gaze and shot her a confident roguish grin as he offered his arm. Sarah made sure that her mask was straight before she tentatively slipped her arm through his. Right before he began to descend, he whispered in a final reassurance, "Relax. You look stunning. Just keep your head up, and remember to smile.

Follow my lead and everything will be fine."

It was as if everyone had suddenly noticed the King of the Goblins at the same time. All activity simultaneously ceased as every voice fell silent and all eyes turned to the grand staircase. Many of them had never before seen the Goblin King, but there was little doubt of the monarch's identity as he made his way down the ebony staircase. It was a mixture of the way he carried himself and the way his appearance just seemed to mesh with the sinister style of the castle, as if he was a very part of it.

Though the upper half of his face was masked by the visage of the moon. His silvery platinum hair, his lithe frame, his fair alabaster skin, and his formal royal attire all confirmed that he was an important member of the Fae aristocracy. Once every pair of eyes had appraised the Goblin King they immediately proceeded to peruse the striking figure on his arm.

It was uncommon to see such dark hair in the underground and the assembly buzzed with curiosity. The crowd was captivated by the strange brunette beauty on the King's arm. Though the hazel eyes that peered out from behind the bronze mask were apprehensive, and her steps uncertain, she seemed to radiate a charming warmth that was seldom found in Fae society. No visage could have been more appropriate for the girl than that of the sun, for she was wholly radiant in her golden gown. Her bronzed sun kissed skin was exotic and refreshing to a race that only knew faces of pale complexion. At that moment there was much speculation about the race of the King's escort, since she certainly didn't look Fae.

Before Sarah even had a chance to take in the massive assembly of guests, Jareth had begun to address them. He welcomed them all to his Kingdom and after a few welcoming words he encouraged them all to dine and dance. As suddenly as the silence had begun, it ended. Haunting music filled the room and the guests resumed their various states of reverie.

Jareth escorted Sarah down into the midst of the crowd and as they walked across the dance floor, the crowd parted for them, eagerly accepting the Goblin King and his mysterious partner into the dance. With breath taking formality Jareth made a gracious gesture and requested in a sultry voice, "May I have the pleasure of the first dance?"

Sarah felt her pulse quicken as she answered under her breath, "You ask as if I had a choice."

Jareth placed one hand on her waist as he caught her other hand in his. He pulled her rather close and his voice came as a warm rush in her ear, so that the intruding crowd would not overhear, "You may not have a choice, but that doesn't mean this has to be unpleasant."

Sarah nearly gasped in surprise as he led her forcefully into the dance. It was a much faster paced dance than the one she had initially learned and as she glanced about frantically, she noticed all the male partners were leading their female counterparts with a startling degree of aggressively commanding movements.

She quickly caught her breath and started to get the feel of the movements. It wasn't difficult, as Jareth was doing an impeccable job of leading her, but his close proximity and the sexually reminiscent nature of the dance made it difficult to concentrate and relax. She did however, manage to recover and once she was reasonably comfortable she hissed back, "You're right. This doesn't have to be unpleasant...if you can keep from baiting me."

He chuckled warmly, his very breath teasing her skin as he silkily replied, "Tell you what...If you can keep from provoking me, I'll try and refrain from antagonizing you. All you need be concerned with, is doing what I ask of you."

Heat crept across her skin as she ventured, "Why should I trust you..."

She sensed his predacious smile as he playfully retorted, "Why not?"

Sarah swallowed and admitted a little apprehensively, "Well, you haven't exactly been very up front with me. I've seen your devious side...and...I hardly know you...I...I don't know what your motives are."

He turned his head slightly as he whispered into her hair, "All you need know is that I am a man of my word."

Her voice dropped an octave as she answered breathlessly, "How can I be certain of anything when I barely know you..."

He murmured, "The solution is simple...Get to know me Sarah..."

She couldn't deny the prospect was intensely tempting as there was so much she was curious about. She took a sobering breath and replied, "Alright. If, like you say, you are a man of your word, then be straight with me...what am I doing here?"

He answered, "Surely, you jest. You know full well that you opted to be here. You struck our deal...one year of your life for Kayla's freedom."

She cautiously ventured, "Yes, but if you think I believe that Kayla's wish was an accident or a mere coincidence you'd have to think me a total dunce. I wasn't born yesterday Jareth, I KNOW this wasn't some unfortunate accident. Let's just stop pretending. You wanted me here...Why? What is it that you want with me?"

Jareth considered her question carefully and conceded that a degree of honesty was necessary if his plans were to be successfully completed. His only concern was whether she was ready to handle such honesty. Her lingering mistrust made him think perhaps not, yet the kiss she had initiated only days earlier presented a strong argument that she might be more than ready. Jareth was confident when it came to taking risks with such high yield, so he made the conscious choice to chance it.

His arm tightened possessively about her waist as his breath came hot against her ear, "I thought that would be fairly obvious by now. You fascinate me Sarah..."

His breathless confession and his sudden tight hold on her was overwhelmingly exhilarating and the wave left her temporarily disoriented.

Jareth relentlessly went in for the kill, his lips brushing against the pulse of her neck before he breathed against her skin, "I admit...this infatuation is most assuredly inopportune, but I never have been very good with self-denial..."

Sarah was drowning, the more he spoke, the more she was inundated by the implications of what he was saying.

He was admitting that he wanted her. The revelation was staggering, and her heart lurched in her chest. It was by a sheer miracle that she managed to continue dancing with him, as he was professing all this. Somehow she knew that if she stopped moving, she would be even more vulnerable.

Unfortunately, his torment didn't stop there. His mouth descended upon her throat, branding her neck with a single smoldering kiss before he raised his head to meet her eyes. He was still wearing his mask, as was she, but his eyes burned into hers with a ferocity that made her shudder.

He lowered his mouth, so that it hovered a hairs breadth over hers as he breathed, "You maintain that we are adversaries...that you are the victim...yet your kiss the other day suggested otherwise..."

His mouth formed a deliciously seductive smirk as he finished, "Since then, I've had some pressing matters to tend to but I admit...I've been unable to think of little else."

She returned his intense gaze, desperately wanting to kiss him again, but she managed to refrain, as she realized with trepidation that he was seducing her...quite effectively.

Suddenly the dance came to an end as the mesmerizing music faded.

Jareth paused, the inevitable kiss was left suspended, implied, but not carried out. The music died and he was satisfied by the emotion that washed over her face. Even with the mask covering the upper portion of her face, he could see the heat that flushed her cheeks, and the desire that sparked in her dark eyes.

She didn't say anything in response to his admission, but she didn't have to. He could plainly see that her resolve was crumbling. He felt assured that his possession of her was only a matter of time, however it wouldn't do to forget himself in this room full of dignitaries from the various Fae kingdoms. Whether his plan would be brought to completion this night or not, one thing was certain...tonight was bound to be interesting.

Another heartrending melody began, and Jareth offered Sarah a satisfied smirk as he led her toward the perimeter of the room. Pleasure would play a large part in the evening's festivities, but the Goblin King had business to attend to as well. He took her by the hand and instructed, "Come with me, the Northern Ambassador and his party are here...diplomacy is in order."

Sarah followed suite and asked, "And what am I supposed to do when we go over there?"

Jareth glanced over his shoulder and smugly replied, "Simply play your part. Be the charming and adoring escort of your King."

Sarah shook her head and snorted, "Oh is that all..." Then she added a rather sarcastically, "Shall I bow and scrape...maybe kiss your boots..."

His glance held a warning but his grin gave away his amusement as he muttered teasingly, "Tempting...but Perhaps later."

She hesitated a moment and quickly reassured herself that he was certainly joking.

The room was very crowded and Sarah clung to Jareth's hand for fear of being swallowed up by the crowd. She glanced to and fro as they made their way through the claustrophobic crowd. Many of the passers-by stopped to stare at Jareth and one or two even gave Sarah a cursory glance as if to satisfy their curiosity to see the King's escort up close.

However, as they progressed further towards the edge of the room Sarah couldn't shake the feeling that she was being watched. She noticed a rather large group of men to her left and she simply glanced over as she passed by, and that's when she saw him.

In the midst of the predominantly male group, he was watching her pass by from behind the visage of a raven's face. He was about the same height as Jareth but strangely, he had shockingly dark, shortly coiffed hair.

How strange, she thought. Besides herself, he was the only individual in the room with dark hair. She wondered if maybe, he too was from aboveground. At first she assumed he was just staring at the Goblin King like all the rest, but no...his gaze was directed specifically on her. His eyes followed her unrelentingly as she moved with Jareth through the crowd. Slightly unnerved, she looked away, and resumed following Jareth.

When they finally reached the far side of the grand room, a man with graying hair and electric blue eyes watched their approach with a warm smile. Even with his silver half mask in place, Sarah recognized the older gentleman immediately.

He was the ambassador from the North, and Desdemonna's father.

With a slight bow he graciously began, "Ah, your Majesty. How wonderful it is to see you once again."

Jareth acknowledged the older man with a polite nod and replied, "Lord Taibaar, how very fortunate that you could make it to the festivities."

Taibaar's cool blue eyes drifted to settle on Sarah and he remarked, "And who is this...ravishing young lady?"

Jareth smiled in amusement as Sarah's cheeks flushed in embarrassment. He cleared his throat and drawled, "Lord Taibaar, allow me to introduce...the lady Sarah."

Taibaar stared at the woman before him as Jareth went on, "She has come to us from the Aboveground, for a bit of a visit."

The old man's blue eyes widened as he breathed, "Not THE Sarah? The human girl who solved the labyrinth?"

Jareth grinned, showing his pointed canine teeth as he smugly replied, "The very same."

Sarah smiled awkwardly as she ducked her head in a manner of a bow. The Northern ambassador caught her hand in his and humbly replied, "You must forgive my surprise lady, for your story is infamous. I had never imagined that I might

have the chance to meet you in person. It is an honor to make your acquaintance Lady Sarah." With that he bowed his head, placing a respectful kiss on the back of her hand. It struck her that no matter how nice the gesture, it just wasn't the same as when Jareth had done it. The mere thought of it made her stomach flutter. With that thought in mind she unconsciously glanced up at the Goblin King, who was smirking knowingly at her.

As Jareth watched the unnerved girl glance up at him, he could scarcely contain his satisfaction. With every step, every moment, Sarah was inching further and further into his grasp. She was doing just as he asked. He could practically see the submission reflected in her sparkling sage eyes. Things were going beautifully.

Lord Taibaar finally straightened and ventured, "If I may...what brings you back to the Underground my lady?"

Sarah hesitated for half a moment before Jareth quickly supplied, "Sarah and I have...resolved our differences. She wished to see the Labyrinth again, so I accommodated her wish and have made her a guest in my kingdom."

It took all of Sarah's willpower not to roll her eyes and snort rudely, for his explanation could not have been any further from the truth. She had to admit that at least he was a convincing liar.

Lord Taibaar smirked at Sarah as he conceded, "I see."

Jareth promptly responded by arching an eyebrow as he addressed Sarah in a most civil and mellifluent tone, "My dear, would you mind obtaining some wine for us...there is a matter I wish to discuss with Lord Taibaar."

Sarah raised her brow in open dismay at his uncharacteristically diplomatic tone, knowing full well that the expression was concealed by her mask. Finally she nodded, giving Jareth a shrewd look before she offered a departing smile to the ambassador. Obviously Jareth was about to have a conversation that he didn't want her to overhear. She was dying to know just what he was up to.

With little choice but to go off and fetch them some wine, she descended back into the oscillating crowd. Straining to see over the top of the mass, she managed to spot a table on the far side of the room boasting ostentatious looking golden goblets, which certainly had to contain the wine Jareth was talking about.

As she traversed the dense crowd, this time devoid of her more infamous escort, she noticed that several male guests glanced appreciatively in her direction. Sarah's first thought was that she was imagining it, but as she ventured deeper into the mass of revelers, it became much more apparent. They were actually, unabashedly checking her out.

Interestingly though, not one of them dared to approach her. Apparently, Jareth's wrath was notorious, not only among the goblins and creatures of his labyrinth, but among his peers as well.

For half a moment she considered calling one of the gentleman on his lecherous looks by approaching him, just to get a rise out of the Goblin King, since it would only serve him right, but somehow she doubted that Jareth would see the humor in it. Not to mention that such a bold and public display of defiance would come with a heavy price, much heavier than what she was willing to chance. Still, if she hadn't retained that intrinsic fear of the Goblin King she might have just gone through with it.

Sarah finally reached the table where the full goblets of wine awaited when she again experienced the peculiar sensation of being watched. Naturally, she first turned to glance in the direction where she had left Jareth, but no, he was still engrossed in conversation with the ambassador. She slowly started to turn her attention back to the goblets when she caught sight of the man in the raven mask with the dark hair.

He was standing off by himself, much closer to her current position, and as her gaze fell on him, their eyes met. Somewhat unsettled, she quickly looked away. She hurriedly grabbed two glasses of wine, and very cautiously looked out of the corner of her eye to see if he was still watching. To her surprise he was suddenly gone. "That's weird." She thought to herself, as she hastily turned to head back to the other side of the room. As she quickly turned and started forward, she nearly collided with someone entirely dressed in black leather...someone wearing a raven mask.

Wine sloshed over the top of the goblets but fortunately she didn't spill any on herself or the stranger. He looked down at her with a mixture of mild interest and amusement before he softly spoke, "Forgive me, my intention was not to startle you."

Now that he was right before her eyes, she had a much better opportunity to size up the intruder. He was dressed entirely in smooth black leather. His hair was jet black where hers was a rich dark brown. Though the raven mask concealed much of his face she could immediately discern that his eyes were striking. They were a turbulent mixture of stormy blue and silver.

He was graced with a sensual mouth, marred only by a thin scar that ran vertically over his upper lip. Oddly though, the scar didn't take away from his looks and only increased his mystique. Another peculiar fact was that though his appearance was a bit dark and even melancholy, there was no sinister tone in his voice. If anything, he was quite soft-spoken, giving his voice a silken pious quality. Strangely, her first thought was that he had the same reverent and serene presence one might expect to find in a priest.

Sarah quickly caught her breath and assured him, "Oh. You didn't startle me...I just didn't see you there." He was quick to help her steady her wine glasses as she set them back on the table. With a smile he handed her a napkin to dry the wine from her hands.

He glanced over to where Jareth and Lord Taibaar were still talking and remarked, "You are the escort of the Goblin King are you not?"

Sarah nodded and gushed, "Um...yes. I'm Sarah...I'm sorry you are...?"

His gentle eyes held hers as he offered, "I am Nyx. It is a great pleasure to meet you Sarah..." He bowed his head devoutly, and gently lifting her hand in his own he placed a meek kiss on the back of her hand.

Ignoring the fact that her cheeks had grown hot, she politely replied with a smile, "Pleasure to meet you Nyx."

He returned a peaceable smile and ventured, "Might I escort you back to his Majesty?"

She was at a momentary loss for words, as she had no idea what the proper etiquette was in such a situation. With a shrug she conceded, "Sure." He offered to carry the wine goblets as he began to lead her back through the oppressive crowd.

Halfway across the dance floor he turned to inquire, "I'm curious...from which Kingdom did you venture here from?"

Sarah stammered, "Oh, no kingdom...I come from Aboveground."

Nyx halted in his tracks looking her over with interest, "It is you then...YOU are the human girl that solved the labyrinth!"

Sarah nodded and awkwardly admitted, "Yeah. That's me."

A puzzled look clouded his face as he demanded, "Forgive me, but I've heard the stories. Why would you come back to the Underground only to stay as a guest in the Goblin City?"

Sarah dodged the question as best she could, "Well that's...a bit of a long story...perhaps you might ask the Goblin King..."

Meanwhile in another corner of the ballroom...

When he had seen that Sarah was out of earshot, Jareth asked, "Lord Taibarr, tell me...what news from the North?"

The older man smiled and replied, "Not much in the way of news your majesty. From what I understand though...there has been much commotion right here in the Goblin Kingdom."

Jareth cautiously ventured, "What commotion are you referring to exactly?"

Lord Taibarr simply answered, "Why, the Alicorn of course. I heard that one was found slain at the border of your kingdom."

Jareth replied with casual indifference, "Ah...yes. The Alicorn."

Lord Taibaar continued undauntedly, "I wonder...have you had a problem with bloodwraiths before?"

The King raised his brow at the ambassador's question and repeated, "Bloodwraiths?"

Taibarr nodded, "Yes, they've been a nuisance to us in the past, but recently we've been driving them from our lands. I hear that another Alicorn was found dead further west and that a lone bloodwraith was captured not far from the site."

Jareth nodded as he listened. Now that was an idea that made perfect sense. Bloodwraiths though rare, still existed in the underground, preying upon whatever bloodsource they came across. The more magic in the blood stream, the more sustenance it offered to a bloodwraith. Without blood to sustain it, a bloodwraith would perish.

The gaunt monstrocities possessed a single sharp talon on each appendage, which they used to slash at the throats of their victims before they feasted on the resulting blood flow. They weren't pleasant creatures by any means, but they could effectively be dealt with by means of magic. The news relieved Jareth greatly, as there was a world of difference between a few bloodwraiths and the resurgence of the Shadow Horde.

Finally Jareth replied, "Ah yes, well...I suspect the wraiths will be found and dealt with promptly."

Taibaar smiled and ventured, "Now...if I might change the subject to a much more pleasant topic of conversation... Sarah."

Jareth leveled a gaze at the ambassador and asked, "What about her?"

Taibaar smiled wolfishly and ventured, "How ever did you manage to get her back here?"

Jareth chuckled warmly and replied, "Ah. I can be persuasive when the need arises. As I said before, Sarah and I have reconciled...and now you'll find her entirely devoted to me."

The old man smiled brightly and mused, "You are courting her then..." he chuckled and added, "I never would have thought it possible, though I admit if anyone could successfully woo a human away from that wretchedly advanced culture, it would have to be you Jareth."

The Goblin King laughed genuinely at the compliment and Taibaar went on, "She is a lovely specimen too. Tell me...do you intend to make her queen?"

Jareth smirked, his eyes wandering in the general direction Sarah had gone as he replied, "Only time will tell."

Lord Taibaar chattered on in delight, but for the moment Jareth was not listening. He had spotted Sarah, and watched as a young male aristocrat approached her. He was dressed in black and was presently saying something to her...what, he couldn't tell. But, as he took her hand and kissed it he knew one thing...he didn't like it.

He unconsciously took a step towards them just as the young man started to lead Sarah back through the crowd towards him. Taibaar suddenly looked over too and remarked, "Oh. I see Nyx has met your Sarah."

With the mention of the young the man's name and upon seeing his dark hair, things suddenly became clear in the Goblin King's mind. Nyx was one of the most influential, and youngest members of the Northern Fae aristocracy. He was notorious for his mild mannered charm and his persuasive intellect. He was said to be the favorite candidate for the Northern empire as the current emperor had grown ill and frail, and had no offspring to relinquish his title to.

Nyx also happened to be Taibaar's step-son. Taibaar's late wife was said to have taken a human lover long before they had married. The brief union had produced Nyx who was the only known living half-blood in the Underground. Surprisingly, Nyx's exotic parentage didn't affect his popularity. The Fae, though proud, had come to embrace diversity in all its myriad and even odd forms. Nyx was also Desdemonna's slightly older step-brother. Her mother, Taibaar's first wife, had died giving birth to Desdemonna.

At last Nyx and Sarah reached Jareth and Taibaar. Nyx promptly bowed his head in respect and delicately addressed the Goblin King, "Your Majesty, It is an honor and a privilege to finally make your acquaintance."

Jareth regarded the newcomer cautiously and coolly replied, "Likewise. Nyx I presume?"

The young man straightened, consciously keeping his gaze lowered as he softly answered, "Yes, Your majesty. I see you and my father are already well acquainted. I happened upon your escort, and I thought I'd see her back safely to your side."

Jareth's gaze drifted to Sarah as he distantly replied, "I thank you. I hear you are becoming quite the diplomat in the North."

Nyx dismissively replied, "Yes, well I am learning the ways of politics, however I am but a humble novice in your company, your majesty."

Sarah could already sense the tension. Obviously Jareth had seen them talking and wasn't pleased. She decided she had better intervene before things got messy. With a forced polite smile, she thrust a wine goblet in Jareth's direction and interrupted, "Your wine..."

His eyes narrowed, settling on her face as she finished in a honeyed tone, "...Your majesty." That was enough to get his attention. His mouth formed a satisfied smirk as he took the wine out of her hand and promptly placed it on the table behind him. Having his fill of diplomatic relations for the time being, Jareth was relieved to hear a much slower melody fill the ballroom. Dismissively he replied, "I look forward to discussing politics with the both of you...but for the moment...I believe I owe my escort a dance."

Sarah pulse began to pound in her ears as he swiftly caught her by the hand and pulled her onto the dance floor.

They were promptly swallowed up by the crowd, once again alone in an ocean of anonymous macabre faces. Jareth pulled Sarah roughly to him as he started to lead her into the dance. The dance, being far slower, was similar to the one Sarah had practiced, and once again she tried to grow accustomed to Jareth's close proximity. She swallowed with anxiety at the prospect of finishing their previous conversation, so she opted to set a fresh topic for discussion. She licked her lips and asserted, "You didn't have to be so curt with him. That was rather rude."

Jareth merely raised a fine eyebrow as he admitted playfully, "Maybe so, but that is one of the advantages of being a King. You can...for the most part, say and do whatever you please."

Sarah didn't miss the flirtatious nature of the remark and before she could stop herself she coyly replied, "And do you always do whatever you please?"

His eyes locked with hers as she twirled her gracefully and smirked, "Whenever it suits me."

She shrugged elegantly and softly replied, "No wonder you are so used to getting your own way."

He contemplated her words for a moment before he breathed close to her ear, "Perhaps...but I don't always get my own way."

She boldly replied with sarcasm, "Oh really?"

He nodded, and his hot mouth tasted the side of her neck.

The smile vanished from her face as he purred against her skin, just loud enough for her to hear, "If things had gone my way you would have never left the underground. If I had my way now...we'd be in my bed at this very moment."

Sarah tensed as if she had just been doused with cold water as she finally realized just how dangerous this game was that she was playing.

He wanted her sexually. It was something that she had wondered about and had recently suspected. It had many times been implied, but never so blatantly admitted.

She wasn't sure what frightened her more, the fact that he had just so brazenly made it known, or the fact that she had been secretly and apprehensively yearning for the same thing for years, though she would never in a million years be so quick to admit it.

Though the prospect of sleeping with him dangled before her eyes like a very tempting sweet fruit, she was not so naïve to think it would all go down like some wonderful fairy tale. Jareth was not a chivalrous prince. He was the cold and quite often cruel King of the Goblins. He was sadistic enough to enjoy the game he was forced to play as ruler over the Goblins.

She didn't even want to think of how many poor unfortunates, who unlike her, had failed to transverse the labyrinth in time. It nearly sickened her that despite all these shortcomings, she still found herself drawn to him. For every sinister trait, there seemed a multitude of enticing qualities.

Where he was cruel he was also capable of being generous. Where he was cold he could also be concerned, and where he was arrogant, he could also be charming. Though she tried to convince herself that there was no hope, her heart clung to the idea that underneath it all, there was the possibility that he was just misunderstood.

Sarah closed her eyes against the maelstrom of uncertain emotions that threatened to overtake her. Her mouth had gone dry and breathing had become entirely difficult. It took a moment to compose herself as she gathered what remained of her will. If she had ever needed a level head on her shoulders, she needed one right now.

Her subconscious warned with startling conviction, that she could and should resist the urge to just give in. That it would be perilous and premature to submit to his whim at this point. She let out a shuddering breath before she opened her eyes and answered in an imploring tone, "Jareth...don't..."

He suddenly pulled back. He hadn't expected the admission to elicit her surrender, however he thought it might be advantageous to let her mull over the idea for the remainder of the evening. His hope had been to simply ignite the fire, then he could leave her to simmer in her desire for a while. She would have to reach her breaking point eventually. However, when he pulled back and saw the weight of conflict behind her eyes, he knew she was near the end of her rope. What struck him even more was that she was plainly wrestling with more than just lustful desire, the longing reflected in her eyes had to be attributed to a more complex emotion than mere sexual frustration.

His mouth twisted into a wicked grin as the music faded and he teased, "So you see...I am not the wholly overindulged villain you once thought."

Sarah was thankful for the jest as she regained her composure and conceded, "Well maybe villain is a little strong, but at the very least you've meant big trouble for me."

He smugly remarked, "Trouble? I suppose trouble is compliment enough...I can live with that."

As the music died away he tugged her from the dance floor and offered, "How about some wine?" Sarah nodded, a little out of breath, as she followed him to the outer edge of the room. He handed her a brimming goblet of sweet wine, which she began to drain rather quickly.

He smirked at her over the rim of his goblet before he lowered his own drink and teased, "You have quite a taste for mind altering drinks, don't you?"

Sarah shrugged innocently and replied, "Just thirsty."

Suddenly Jareth looked down in puzzlement as he felt a sharp tug on his breeches. He set down his goblet as he murmured, "What in the Underground...?"

He pulled back a bit of the linen tablecloth to see a small goblin hunched under the table.

The goblin blinked in surprise and flashed a nervous toothy grin.

Jareth quickly let go of the cloth as he straightened, pinching the bridge of his nose between his elegant gloved fingers as if he were either warding off a terrible headache or an imminent outburst of rage, as he muttered angrily to himself, "Blast it all...what is it now?!?"

Sarah looked down, trying to discern what was under the table as she inquired, "What's wrong?"

Jareth took a sobering breath as he met her eyes and artfully inched back the table-cloth with his boot, so she could have a look at the goblin who was now hesitantly waving with trepidation.

Sarah's eyes widened as she remarked under her breath, "Uh-oh."

Jareth quickly scanned the room and hissed, "Cover me...will you?" Sarah turned her back to him, inching in front of him as she kept an eye out to make sure that no one was looking, or worse, approaching.

Jareth crouched behind her, thankful for her voluminous skirts as he pulled back the tablecloth and roughly grabbed the Goblin by the front of his dingy tunic. The trembling goblin found himself nose to nose with the irate Goblin King who demanded in deadly serious voice, "WHAT...IS...IT?"

The goblin quaked as he stammered in a rather high-pitched voice, "Sire...There is young lady at the gate."

Jareth leered at the goblin and hissed, "What young lady?" The goblin stuttered, "The lady Ddddd...Dessssss...demonnna...Your highness."

The King's brow rose in curiosity as he prodded with scorn, "She wishes to see me...does she?"

The goblin shook his head frantically and gushed, "Nnnn...No...she wishes to see your ppppage boy...I tried to tell her that we didn't have a page boy...bbbbut she wouldn't..."

Jareth dragged the goblin closer and growled slowly so that his pea-sized brain was sure to understand, "Let her into the throne room. Tell her to wait there. Do NOT let a single soul see you or her...is that understood?!?"

The Goblin squeaked in fright, "Yes Sire."

Jareth released the goblin with a hard shove, who after stumbling backwards, scurried away in a panic.

When Sarah saw that Jareth was standing at his full height she turned and hissed, "What was that all about?"

Jareth took a rather heavy drought from his wine goblet and mused, "It looks as though I'm going to need your assistance."

Sarah gave him a curious look and replied, "With what?"

His eyes settled on her face as he declared, "The lady Desdemonna is here...and she desires a word with my page."