Whoo-hoo, it's Christmas time.
The earliest parts of this have been on my hard drive for more than two years. That is just ridiculous.
Thanks to all of you people leaving completely hyperbolic comments and encouraging/nagging me into getting this somewhere. I doubt it'll live up to your expectations after all this time, but hey. It's only going stale with me worrying at it.
Thanks, again, to Subtilior for being a wonderfully nitpicky and cheery beta. Also, to Lixxle, Mercuralis and Phuriedae for guilting me into promising that this would be updated by Christmas.
"You still have to bear with me for a little while yet."
His tone was quite conversational, but there was glint in his eyes that did nothing to reassure Sarah. She felt a very familiar edgy exasperation.
"Oh, what a pity. As if you had nothing to do with those goblins trying to delay me." She snorted. "Talk about déjà-vu…"
Jareth pursed his lips, tilting his head back to eye her appraisingly. "You know… I'm seeing distinct improvements on our last little confrontation." His tone was sardonic but his expression was completely approving.
Sarah was suddenly very hotly aware all over again of how one short, silky garment away from naked was so not the best state in which to match wits with the Goblin King. Besides, she could swear the damn thing was deliberately clinging to her. It'd be just like anything of his…
His gaze was long and obvious as he studied the amount of leg she was currently showing, and he grinned as he looked up. There was far too much awareness, and knowing, too much recent and potential sex in his mocking expression.
"So, are you implying you'd describe last night as "Through hardships unnumbered", Sarah?" he inquired in a slinky purr.
Jareth's voice on her name sounded like all the high points of the night in question smoothly rolled into two sensually overloaded syllables.
His weaponry of mass distraction was impressive. But Sarah was, if not immune, at least wise to his tactics.
"Don't even go there, Jareth, this is not about last night," she retorted sharply. "This is about right now and the bottom line being that you're still, always trying to trick me – you were hoping I'd oversleep or forget all about the time, and lose - but you've failed, again, and your nasty little plan of revenge or whatever game you were playing at behind all your …seductions… well, you have to give it up, all right?" She heard herself hesitate slightly, angry suspicion faltering, and tried to sound reasonable – not uncertain and suddenly, oddly, a little pained. "No hard feelings - do you think you have it in you to lose fair and square, and just end this here…?"
The motes of dust dancing in the sunlight froze.
"And were we to part on good terms and bid one another a friendly adieu, what then, Sarah? Fond memories?..."
Icy venom laced the arch enquiry and a warning flared along Sarah's nerves. There was very, very little by way of a teasing or tempting veneer to the old enemy sitting enthroned before her now.
Was this the guy I was … kissing, last night?...
Jareth's eyes were hard and narrow, and he spoke in a low, quiet voice. "I have no intention of ending this, Sarah mine. And as you so forcefully point out, our time is not up… and therefore my little game is not over."
He glanced carelessly over his shoulder at the clock again, and then his gaze was back on her, his eyes shadowed as he watched her from under his hair.
"Fifteen – no – thirteen minutes, I see. Isn't that just delightfully fitting." He gifted her with a thin smile. "I have a whole thirteen minutes yet, Sarah, before you can crow victory again."
Confused, and worried, and a little hurt, and having followed his cue to check the clock herself, Sarah was taken completely off guard when Jareth suddenly whipped out a hand towards her and caught her wrist, yanking her to him on the throne. She half-fell against him, hard, and instantly found herself pinioned by one lean arm around her waist, her free hand still caught in a tight grip. His hold on her was just a fraction less than bruising-painful, but it was above all frighteningly inescapable. Twisting against him instinctively, she froze when she felt his chin against her face and heard him speak in that same low and unnervingly dispassionate tone.
"Because, my pretty, vicious little thing, if I have failed to trick you…. it would be no hardship at all for me to simply hold you here, as the minutes slip by – struggle all you will, I am stronger than you – and perfectly willing to cheat, you may recall…" He punctuated that with a piano-trill of his fingers at her wrist that caused a tiny spark of the same sensation she'd felt when he'd 'glued' her to the door -- a highly effective reminder. Sarah tried to jerk away, but he was holding her too firmly for that, even without magic, and she had to quell a surge of pure animal panic at her entrapment. He moved; she felt his hair against her neck, close to her ear, and shivered.
"What could you do about that, hmm? Nothing but curse me as unfair and cruel, which I daresay I've survived this far…"
No – no – no…
"Let me go, Jareth, you - You have no power…" Sarah choked out, desperately.
"Here, in the center of my realm, where you came of your own free will?" Jareth's clipped words cut her off. "Oh, Sarah mine, I very much do."
His tone wasn't even gloating, but terrifyingly matter-of-fact. Sarah's heart was in her throat, loud and huge and hurting.
"If I were all the villain and the bastard you paint me…" he murmured. "I could bind you by magic or hold you by force, sweet, and watch your eyes widen and smell your fear grow as your precious time ticks away…. And then, ah well.. ." A very low, hot breath of laughter by her ear, tumbling down along her neck, clinging to her skin. His hands on her shifted, and when he went on his voice had also changed, warmer, tighter. Sarah felt a familiar, horribly unwanted response spread like wildfire over her skin. "Or maybe, maybe, rather than fear… Maybe I could hold you here against me, Sarah, and use all that I have learnt last night – those things we both remember – you do remember, don't you? because, oh, I do - the way I touched you, and the things that make you mewl… my Sarah…"
His breath was hot by the side of her face. His fingers were wandering now, insolent, unwelcome, but irresistible, and her body was wracked with an instinctive shudder.
"No…" she tried again.
"No? Liar." His tongue flicked at her ear and she shuddered again, uncontrollably. "Liar, liar, body on fire…"
The thin silken shirt was no defence at all against the touch of his leather gloves, and his teasing words worked their own burning, befuddling spell - and she knew with a fearful certainty that the absolute last thing to do here was try and struggle against him -
"How about that, my ever so strong-willed Sarah?" he went on in an insidious whisper. "Wouldn't that be an interesting little game… Do you think I have long enough to seduce you, right here, in spite of all your suspicions and struggling, until you have no mind for the time, and forget everything but my hands on you?
To have the minutes slip away, and you not care for your desperate desiring me– to have the clock strike, and you not hear it for your moans of pleasure - over the sound of your own voice begging me?"
Sarah was caught between ice cold fear and a slow growing heat of desire – of shame, and craving. Her body was responding – how could it not, trapped against him and played by his cruelly skilful caresses – while, almost drowned out by the hot blood thundering in her ears, her mind cried out in despair and betrayal. She had been a fool, a weak sentimental fool to ever trust him, and it had all been a lie, and he was going to win, utterly, and lay her to waste…
Her throat seemed to have closed up, saving her from his hearing her voice either her fear or her arousal, but she knew he could sense her every quickened, ragged breath, if not her very heartbeat, with his predator's senses. And his fingers, their butterfly, scalding touches at her throat, over her chest – she couldn't think, she had to think, outwit him, she, he, oh gods was that his mouth on her nape and ah…
"…Would that not be a fine revenge indeed?" Jareth whispered harshly.
He fell silent, then, and his hands stilled, and the fraught seconds seemed endless to the captive, quivering Sarah, her mouth dry and heart pounding, before he moved his lips back to her ear and spoke again.
"Tempting – very, very tempting," he uttered, low and intimate yet in a queerly dispassionate tone.
One heartbeat; and then, to Sarah's utter confusion and sudden relief, he lifted her off his lap to set her unceremoniously on her feet on front of him, and unhanded her to lean back on his throne.
"But here's the thing, Sarah - I'm not quite all that villainous and this isn't about revenge."
Whatever dangerous mood had come over him, it was gone without a trace. His face and tone were a familiar blend of mocking amusement and condescension, cool and contained and quite free of any burning darkness. "So instead of ravishing you on my throne - since I am so bloody generous, or else a fool and a glutton for verbal abuse – I suggest we attempt to re-evaluate our situation by daylight and in a civil manner." He raised a pointed eyebrow as Sarah, on wavering legs, goggled speechlessly at him.
"And my door wasn't locked. Now please bear that in mind – and stop being so damn shrill."
Sarah was shaky, in shock, relief and embarrassed fury. She narrowed her eyes at the slight curl of Jareth's lip that betrayed his smugness at her confusion – bastard – and for a moment she was violently tempted – very, very very tempted – and nearly frayed enough to just fly off the handle and shriek and pummel him…
Yet, however sorely provoked, she was past the age of temper tantrums.
And while she was extremely grateful those had been empty threats… or perhaps, rejected options… she couldn't repress a minute shiver – it had all been extremely unnerving, and Jareth's abrupt mood switch left her once more very uncertain of who or what the hell she was dealing with.
Hindbrain to Sarah: he's playing nice.
She swallowed, willed her face calm, and took a deep breath.
"Don't ever do anything like that again."
Her words echoed, quiet, furious and almost firm, in the golden sunlit throne room.
There was a moment of pure, perilous silence from the ivory-and-dark-leather king as she defied him once more. And then Jareth's lips crooked in a thin, sly smile of approval.
"Brava." He allowed, softly. Then his face took on a haughty, if ever so slightly petty, cast as he pointed an accusatory finger at her. "That was for the t-shirt."
Incredulous, Sarah had the strangest flash of five-year-old Toby righteously ordering her to wash her hands before dinner or no dessert. It took her a moment to get over her disbelief and retort:
"That was way out of order."
"Again with that ridiculous notion of yours that somewhere there's a rule book…" Jareth sniffed disdainfully. "Still," and he laced his hands together and stretched, before lazing back to slouch on the throne, grinning carelessly, "by my reckoning we're quits now. So, Sarah, what next?"
Sarah's mind, abruptly derailed from cursing at his infuriating smugness and generally still a little frazzled and adrenaline-high, cast around in confusion and drew a blank.
Jareth smiled, obviously enjoying himself and her blinking-at-incoming-headlights look enough to show some mercy. "Last night… You said we had to talk. I'm listening." As Sarah still struggled for words, he tipped his head to eye her provokingly.
"Or is it not so easy when you don't have some long-rehearsed line from that little red book of yours to trot out on cue?"
That helped. Jareth being snarky and provocative was familiar enough terrain for Sarah to get a grip on herself, even as she carefully realised there was, apparently, a non-confrontational outcome hesitantly wavering into view. That Jareth seemed to be prepared to actually engage in some sort of real dialogue was just going to have to outweigh her being aggravated by his needling.
"I guess not, Jareth. You've not stolen the baby, and though you're being as annoying as all hell you say you're not being the villain right now, and since you're not preternaturally molesting me I'll have to agree with that so… yeah, I guess I am a bit thrown," she admitted. "So. This isn't all about revenge, you say. So – so that's it - you got what you wanted, then?"
'…Wham, bam, thank you ma'am?', she didn't quite dare add out loud.
She wasn't entirely sure whether that idea made her feel relieved or… disappointed…
His eyes glinted - he'd smiled a little wider at her concession. "Didn't you? I thought we'd – eventually - established that the wanting was quite definitely mutual, sweetheart." He was provoking her again, with that heated, I-know-what-you-taste-like, still-hungry look. "It certainly felt that way last night..."
Sarah had already fought – and lost – that battle. She threw her hands up in exasperated resignation.
"Argh. Ok, fine, you want to hear me say it, don't you? Last night was amazing. You were amazing. Thank you?" she added acidly.
She was pretty certain Jareth's ego needed no reassurance on that count. A purebred Persian cat who'd pulled a successful heist on a dairy farm couldn't possibly have looked smugger than he did that morning.
But then Jareth changed his look to one affecting reproach. "Must you sound so very sour about it?"
Sarah frowned, though she tried to keep her tone neutral. "I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop, Jareth. And I'd feel a lot happier having this whole "was it good for you too" conversation safely back home, Above. You think we could do that? Tell you what, I'll be all generous too, and make you coffee."
Her almost-friendly suggestion didn't seem to appeal. "If you wish to keep track of your footwear, princess, perhaps you shouldn't go about chucking it at innocent wildlife," Jareth deadpanned. "And no, thank you."
Which was a shame, because Sarah would have been really grateful for a caffeine boost just about then, and there was something ridiculously charming about the mental image of the Goblin King in the student hall kitchen sipping out of her Disneyland mug. She sighed irritably. "Nothing about you is remotely innocent, Jareth, and that definitely applies to your behaviour this morning. Revenge or not, you are up to something," she countered levelly. "Play your hand already, Your Majesty, or just take me back. You gave your word on the ten hours thing…"
Jareth raised one gloved hand in objection. His eyes watched her very intently.
"No, Sarah – I said your stay here was extendable for as long as you liked," he corrected.
The memory rushed into Sarah's mind as she drew in a startled hiss of breath through her teeth.
"Oh, you double-crossing – well, I don't like, ok, so - "
"And I did give you my word," he interrupted flippantly, "and I shall repeat myself as you seem a bit slow-witted this morning – although I can't blame you, it's ridiculously early – that I would take you back when you so wished."
Sarah's thoughts were not slow. They were racing on an adrenaline-laced cocktail of worry and murderous rage.
"When I wished – what - this is another of your wishes-have-consequences tricks, isn't it? With another thirteen hours thrown in the bargain?!" Sarah exclaimed angrily. "You and your bloody loopholes and double-dealing – No, I'm not that slow, Jareth!"
Gods, she'd been an idiot – he and whatever his kind was were always expert at twisting bargains to their advantage…
"– No – No," she ground out, vehemently – refusing to panic, or to play along with this new game of his, or to sound shrill. "- The original ten hours aren't up, and I'm not making any more stupid wishes you can twist on me," she stated forcefully.
Jareth raised a mocking eyebrow, quite untroubled by her accusations and upset. "Oh, because you're regretting the one that landed you here so very, very much?"
Somehow, he made it sound both offended and leering. It took quite an effort on Sarah's behalf to remain civil.
"Not yet - but it's not fully played out, is it - I don't trust you past that tenth hour," she retorted.
"That's a lie, you obviously don't trust me now either," Jareth pointed out critically. He crossed his legs and leaned back to fix her with a quizzical, amused look.
"Sarah – my sweet, suspicious, sexy Sarah," he purred, emphasizing that last with another smirking, approving once-over, " - do tell me you're not genuinely half expecting me to shriek with demented laughter and claim your soul or toss you in an oubliette as soon as the clock strikes, sweetheart… are you?"
A very small part of Sarah's mind shrivelled up and died out of sheer mortification.
Jareth obviously read the answer on her reddening face. He looked highly entertained. "You actually were, weren't you? Drama queen," he snickered.
Sarah's fists clenched in frustration, though what she really wanted to do was throttle the grinning smug bastard.
"You wanted me to think you might – you were acting like you were going to rape me or suck my blood just back there on your throne…!" she countered exasperatedly -
- and the recollection made her shudder in spite of herself. She closed her eyes and drew a long, calming breath to master both her jittery nerves and her irritation,
before shooting him an icy look.
"Fine, point to you – but you know what would really help this conversation get anywhere, is if you would stop acting completely bi-polar, Jareth," she bit out with snippy politeness. "And that's 'Chicken Queen' to you, buster."
Jareth sniffed. "I'm sure you mean to say fascinating and thrillingly unpredictable," he preened, "Your Majesty."
"I mean slippery and aggravating and as twisted as your damn Labyrinth," she shot back. "You're up to something – I don't know what you're after this time, Goblin King, but – "
"It's Jareth, pet, you had it right last night – each of the many times," – and again with that filthy grin - "and why don't you just ask, nicely, instead of jumping to hasty conclusions and always assuming the very worst of my character?" he asked archly.
Sarah snorted. "Because for one thing you never give a straight answer - "
That seemed to amuse Jareth. "Some labyrinth master I'd be…"
"… and for another how am I supposed to believe anything you'd say?" she went on accusingly. "You've a very patchy record when it comes to honesty, your Majesty."
"Really?... " He shot her a rather hard look through narrowed eyes. Then he shrugged.
"Tell you what, Sarah. Why don't we assume that the same ten-hour compact that you set such great store by also binds me to speaking the truth. In which case you have a whole ten minutes in which you shall just have to try to believe what I tell you." He spoke in eminently reasonable, patient tone, backed up by the clock on the wall. As she glared suspiciously at him, he smirked impishly, and held up his hands.
"No tricks up my sleeves."
Sarah rolled her eyes, refusing to fall for that one and get caught out ogling his bare chest as the action of raising his arms and wriggling his fingers at her flexed the lean muscles on his torso and tightened the pale skin of his stomach, ever so faintly defining his abs below the glint of dark metal that was his pendant and…
"Aaaand I'm supposed to trust that coming from a guy who pulls snakes out of thin frikkin' air. Wonderful." She sighed. "I hardly have many options going here, do I? Fine, I'll try to believe you."
"Really. You do me great honour."
"I'd rather do something painful and permanently scarring," Sarah muttered between clenched teeth. "Alas. So. Goblin King Jareth." she went on, heavily. "You got me back in your kingdom and you bedded me, to the satisfaction of all concerned parties, and now – Now you say it's not about revenge, but you're definitely dancing away from any talk of taking me back according to the original schedule so exactly what the heck more do you want out of all this?"
Jareth met her expectant, suspicious glare with a supercilious look and a provoking silence for a few moments, then –
"I'm not sure that qualifies as asked nicely, but I'll accord your self-control some merit," he drawled sarcastically.
He paused, resting his head on one arm, gaze seeming absent-mindedly on the ceiling.
"I want … my shirt back," he stated lightly, "to begin with, although if I am indeed compelled to be entirely honest then it would be more accurate to say that I rather badly want to take my shirt off you. I'm vaguely considering breakfast, but am far more keen on the idea of simply picking you up and heading straight back to my room for another few hours…" He straightened to fix her with a stare that made Sarah's stomach backflip. "And I won't tell you every single thing I want once I get you back in my bed, because that list would go on for quite some time and probably make your lovely green eyes a trifle wide." He grinned briefly, a flash of sharp teeth, before his whole expression became very intent. "But quintessentially, Sarah, what I really, really want here is for this to be the last wearisome argument we have about you not trusting me, and the first of many mornings after many, many nights spent here together."
The careless intensity of Jareth's recital left Sarah reeling – but after a few stunned, warm seconds she caught on to his last words.
"Nuh-uh, Jareth, nope," she pointed an accusing finger at him, taking a step back. " – no matter how good it was last night, I'm not staying here - you're not abducting me to be your little plaything or …sex slave, or - whatever …"
Jareth flinched, or chuckled, it was hard to say. "Tch – you are still dreadfully careless with words, Sarah." He grinned, his eyes dark and his voice smoky-silken and provoking, and looking every half-nude tight-fitted inch the decadent, demonic rake. "Why must you phrase it in the worst possible way and therefore make it sound so very wicked and appealing…?"
…Aaaaand who's not playing the villain now?
"Appealing?! Jareth if you try to keep me here I swear I will make your life a living hell," Sarah vowed. "There is no way, no way, not for all your kinky leering and seducing and the silk sheets act that you are keeping me prisoner here."
Jareth gave her an intensely speculative look for a very disturbing moment longer than she deemed comfortable, then sighed and closed his eyes, acting careless and aloof once more.
"You're completely overreacting again, Sarah."
"Overreacting??" Sarah squawked. "You're talking about kidnapping me!"
He gave her a lopsided, teasing grin. "No, love, you're fantasizing out loud." He snickered at her death glare, and pre-empted her furious retort with a lazy gesture of his hand.
"Allow me to clarify, then. Naturally, I shall return you to your own life Above…" and Sarah scarcely had time to feel relieved at that before the dark sideways glance he shot her with made her insides go all hot-and-cold again, " … but I want this to be the first of many times I bring you here, for, perhaps an inevitable good old argument, but mainly and definitely for the very great pleasure and deep satisfaction of making intense, intoxicating, senseless love to you all night long and all over the castle. And I could do without you protesting and stubbornly resisting this each and every time, incidentally."
Sarah realized vaguely that she was probably looking a bit stupid, what with her mouth hanging open like that. Shutting it and dropping her eyes to the floor, she swallowed. She needed to weigh his words carefully, look for a catch…
Also, she needed a moment for the overheated gleeful wash of hormones to recede and let her think somewhat clearly.
She bit her lip. Besides a great relief that he really did mean to take her home, she felt a slight, wary irritation at the patronizing way he was outlining things – and a ridiculously teenage, girly giddiness : He wants to see me again!
Admittedly just to have sex, but…
- wait, what do you mean "just"?! her hormones flailed indignantly.
"… you do…?"
She hated how her voice had turned small and tremulous and wimpy, but that sneaky insecure-little-girl doubt had slipped out.
"Oh yes", Jareth replied quietly.
That voice, that low velvet voice sounding so very fervent caused things in Sarah's chest and stomach to twist in an alarmingly pleasant way.
She tried to stifle an irrepressible, stupid warm and mushy feeling — and her libidinous glee— as she looked back up at him.
"And… that's it?" she asked in as neutral a tone as she could.
"That's it," he confirmed coolly. "As you said last night, I'm not Prince Charming to hold out your fairytale happy ending, here. Besides," and now there was a familiar dark amusement colouring his critical tone. "I think it's clear that is hardly who or what you want, Sarah mine."
He'd gotten up, drew near her. His fingers curled in the fine fabric at her waist, she could feel their warmth; his voice, his nearness, his smile were all heat and hunger and wicked, biting fondness.
"Prince Charming couldn't handle you, pet."
But oh, he could, and oh, he had, and Sarah was taken off guard by the startlingly powerful rush of heat that suffused her chest and set her skin to humming in reaction to his proximity, the warmth and the scent of him, and she realized she wanted him to, wanted this ending, beginning, whatever, him, again, now, and later, and right there, and badly…
That's good, don't wanna be a princess, can I lick your chest?
- Oh, gods, Sarah, snap out it.
She blinked hard to shake herself out of her trance, glaring at his pendant. It was a distraction to be sure, resting as it did on said chest., but she knew that meeting his eyes would be far, far worse. She knew he'd see, sense, smell, whatever, exactly how strong an effect he was having on her, and if she saw that knowledge in his expression, hoo boy, they'd be on the floor doing it among the chicken feathers within minutes. Which was an increasing-by-the-second not-unattractive notion but for Pete's sake…
I really need to stop falling headfirst for that sexy villain act of his, this is ridiculous, wow he wants to make love with me all night along again, and did he just imply I was hot stuff? Cool - My, his skin is close and warm and smells good...
She stepped back, raised her chin and willed her body to behave.
"So – so, that's it - no fairytale happily ever in the castle – and instead I get, what, a sordid affair with the dastardly Goblin King?"
That did not sound half as disparaging as it should've, Sarah lamented to herself. Probably because she found herself smiling as she said it.
"Sordid, sexual, ruthless, passionate, vicious, antagonistic, delicious…" The way Jareth spoke the words practically made Sarah jealous of how he had casual sex with every syllable. " …Yess."
The Goblin King mirrored her smile back at her, only his gleamed sharper.
"Do you want it, Sarah, or shall I tilt it this way to cover my intent in pretty words and glitter?"
His voice was rough and taut and taunting and the challenge in it chilled and thrilled her to the core.
They matched hot unblinking stares silently for several long seconds. Pretty words and glitter, she'd scathingly called that first heart-breaking offer of his, and now, he was daring her to object…
"Yes…" she heard herself echo him - and Sarah was startled, if not entirely displeased, by how husky and warm her voice sounded. Jareth grinned, darkly triumphant and anticipatory, and started to step forward, and although Sarah felt her every cell react and strain towards him, she somehow managed to raise one hand, to place it lightly against his chest and keep him at arm's length. She briefly indulged in the sensory message from her fingertips, but kept her focus this time.
"Only, whoa, wait, let me get this straight" – because the devil was in the details and she suspected Jareth sometimes hung out with him there for drinks… – "You're proposing that we strike up some sort of … relationship, here… whereby I continue, Above, with my ordinary student life – except you pop up every now and again to whisk me off to the Castle for a repeat performance of last night – ok - and then, what, you'd poof me back home in time for first period?"
Put like that, it seemed pretty damn surreal – but Sarah could hardly hear her own incredulous words over a loud chorus of blissful and enthusiastic hallelujahs coming from a far less complicated part of her brain.
Wearing a small, enigmatic smile, Jareth melted away from under her fingers to stroll back to his throne, and resumed a decoratively draped pose.
"That seems to rather neatly if utterly inelegantly sum it up, yes…" He appeared thoughtful, then raised one finger. "Except for that part about repeat performances. Please credit me with more …creativity than that."
She almost blushed, but - "You mean I get to race the Fieries next time?" Sarah asked tartly.
Jareth grinned, unfazed. "Well, as of next time, pet, you ought to have no reason – nor inclination – to be sneaking out of my bed and wandering the Castle alone and undressed," he pointed out rather smugly and pervily.
Sarah's logical mind and her hormone-driven body had been having quite a few fall-outs of late over the matter of the Goblin King, but they unexpectedly found themselves agreeing that he made a good point there.
"Okay. Um. Ok, so I think I can more or less see what you have in mind for what happens between poofing me here and back home and I really haven't any objections to all that, but … do you think could you, say, give me any idea of the frequency of these planned abductions of yours?"
He tutted at her in mock reproach. "Sarah, Sarah… Quality, not quantity…"
"Says the guy who whined and bitched about losing three hours," she shot back.
"Oh, you started that trend."
Sarah sighed heavily and pinched the bridge of her nose in weary irritation. "Jareth, could you just answer the question please?"
The Goblin King's attention now seemed focused on smoothing out the leather over the back of his hands. "Hmm. Not really. By and large, when I am free to come to you," and he looked up at her, "– because believe it or not, I do have other claims on my time than watching a stubborn teenage girl trip her merrily destructive way through my Labyrinth, or attending to the sexual satisfaction of that same, slightly older girl, however enjoyable the latter may be…"
Sarah raised a cool eyebrow at his pervy smirk there; it was such a given...
He went on casually. "… I suppose I'll try to accommodate your own obligations should you have something terribly important planned – possibly. If I'm feeling generous. If I feel anything is more important than my desires for the evening, which isn't all that likely, really. But in an eggshell – when I can, and when I want." He smiled a sly, hungry fox's smile. "Which means you're going to need to think up some plausible excuse for frequently not sleeping in your own bed, sweetheart."
As Sarah blinked, he quirked a mocking eyebrow at her. "Does that sound acceptably… what was it now… honest and tangible?"
Now that he was giving her pause to think while graciously refraining from being all shirtless and lickable ten inches away from her, Sarah found her mind buzzing with all the implications.
I should be mortally offended, she thought vaguely. It's like I'd be his kept woman or something. Like I was his mistress meeting him at some skuzzy hotel. I should be demanding he respect me more than that. I should be ashamed and revolted at the suggestion of such a blatantly sex-based relationship.
Every virginal Barbara Cartland heroine she'd ever read of would blanch in shock and delicate horror.
… Yeah, right.
Because the idea of Jareth regularly showing up in her world in a dark swirl of glitter and arrogance with glint in his eye and a very clear plan for the evening ahead – well, her first reaction to the image was not to feel offended. Sarah could not deny that she definitely still wanted him, in a very primal and forceful way that didn't really care for propriety or finer sentiments. Hey, it was the twentieth century – well, where she came from, at least. Surely a girl who knew her own mind was allowed to have a little fun.
Um, make that lots of fun, her memories of last night corrected conscientiously. Seriously, girl. I mean, you do remember that one point when…
Um, do you mind?, Sarah's higher thought processes intervened. I'm in the middle of a fairly important think right now.
What is there to think about!? You dig him big-time, he wants more of you, it's not like you don't wind up dreaming about him almost every other night anyway, and also please notice he's still not wearing a shirt.
Stifling a groan of exasperation, Sarah could only hope Jareth hadn't caught any of that inner exchange.
OK, so she had no objections to seeing ( - doing! - ) Jareth again on a regular basis.
And she'd be quite the bitch to start complaining about his blunt proposition after she'd accused him of proffering only trickery and pretty lies…
Not that she didn't think Jareth could use honesty as just yet another trick. However, and white-hot sexual attraction aside, Sarah had to admit she also knew, deep down, in some stubborn, unreasonable way that there was more to all this. Logic, instinct, and an indefinable bittersweet fisted sensation in her chest all told her that the Goblin King wasn't merely looking out for a 'friends with benefits' type of arrangement.
Too much had nearly slipped last night, and too much was still unsaid yet very, very present in the air between them. He had painstakingly inched past her suspicions and defences, and coaxed and tricked and bullied and ultimately soothed her to bring about their current situation and make this suggestion. Whatever his elaborate strategy was ultimately aiming at, if he truthfully wasn't out for revenge, it couldn't possibly be just about getting some…
She couldn't help eyeing him, biting down on a smitten sigh. Nope. No way Jareth has no other options than me.
Which meant… well, which was, in a roundabout way… good, right? Scary-good, but also.. thrilling-good.
The question "Why?" was twitching and burning on the tip of her tongue, but she swallowed it down. The thought that he might answer her honestly made her too nervous.
He had waltzed her around a soap bubble once before. She wished she knew what all his nimble footwork was for this time.
"I …There's got to be a catch to this. What's the small print?" she asked bluntly.
Jareth gave her an odd look, and she somehow suspected he saw through her prevarications. "Wherever did you acquire such a nasty suspicious mind, love? You were far more trusting in your tender and obnoxious youth."
"The term you're looking for is 'gullible', or maybe 'too stupid to live', Jareth, and meeting you went a great way towards amending that. Also 'nothing is as it seems', a peach or two, and a thing Aboveground called auto insurance commercials." Sarah countered baldly.
"Sarah, I have several centuries more life experience to be jaded and drolly cynical about, so do spare me that angle," Jareth remarked coolly. "Now, are you really, so certain I'm up to some fiendishly dissimulated mischief, or are you, perchance, implying that my offer to you is so overwhelmingly marvellous and incommensurably generous that it seems too good to be true and that you simply cannot believe your luck nor find words to express your immense, humbled, ecstatic gratitude and appreciation and breathless desire for me?"
… Not that Jareth wasn't flirting with the truth and making it all hot and bothered, but there was no way she was going to further feed his stupendously huge and infuriating ego and let him get away with wording it like that.
"Are you are, perchance, you fat-headed git, implying that basically you'd like to ask me out? Because if that is the case, you're being just a little high-handed about it, Your Majesty," she pointed out.
"Yes," Jareth answered unconcernedly. "And?"
She narrowed her eyes at his air of careless arrogance, even though she realized he was acting this snooty just to provoke her.
"And I am not one of your subjects, Mister "oh I might be generous" and "when I feel like it" and "make it so" High and Mightiness," she retorted sweetly and sharply. "You sound like you are far too used to getting your royal way in everything."
Jareth brushed that one off, with a sigh and a mildly scornful look. "Really, Sarah. Do pick your battles," he chided dryly. "At the risk of tastelessly parroting myself, 'I ask for so little'. Consider: all I'm requesting is… some of your time, a smidgeon of your consideration, and your willing participation in any number of interesting and mutually enjoyable nocturnal activities. And perhaps a slight lessening in your general hostility and stroppiness, but I'll not hold my breath on that one." His face hardened slightly. "Which, Sarah, in all fairness, is hardly more than what you have already freely given to those very, very average boys with whom you have been – involved."
Oh great, that card again.
"Ok, point taken," Sarah answered testily, "– but you know what, Jareth, I would really appreciate if you stopped referring to my past experiences as if I were a complete idiot for dating within my own species."
Jareth's lips twitched ever so slightly. "Hmm. My apologies," he allowed, regally. "Although, that does remind me of one important and utterly non-negotiable aspect of all this that I failed to specify."
Sarah's spine instinctively stiffened. "What?"
"About those sorry male specimens of your species. They back. Off."
There was something tense and subtly dangerous to the way Jareth's lean body was now posed on his throne that belied the casual way in which he went on. "I'll admit there's nothing binding in the arrangement I'm suggesting, but, for their own safety, for as long as we are… seeing one another, you had better discourage any other would-be suitors, sweetheart. I have a very nasty territorial streak."
Sarah could believe it, given how she could all but see his feathers bristle in the way he was glaring at her now.
It still gave her very strange thrills to think of the Goblin King feeling possessive of her, that same falling-through-floor feeling that had hit her when he'd half admitted to feeling jealousy. Jareth's not-so-subtle threat went to add itself to Sarah's "scary-good" column – which was beginning to shape itself into a very unnerving idea indeed. Nevertheless…
"A, SO not your territory," she retorted heatedly, "and B, thank you for once again insulting me, Jareth – even if you are starting to look like the most arrogant, demanding, bad-tempered, impractical, aggravating boyfriend ever, I wouldn't go and cheat on you."
Wow. Did I really just call the Goblin King my boyfriend?
I must have really hit my head against the bedboard last night.
"Or do you really still think that just about anyone can just show up, pin me against the door to grope me a bit and I'll sleep with him?" she challenged angrily.
She disliked sounding so shrewish but the fact was, she still felt defensive on that point, after the flare-up over the condoms last night. And there was no quashing a small niggling fear, now, that she really shouldn't've put out on first date…if that was what this was becoming.
Jareth gave her a level look. "If you put up even half the fight you did last night, then I would have no fear anyone else could be bothered with all the trouble. But I suspect your particularly bitter and drawn-out resistance had more to do with who you were fighting against than anything else, did it not?" He paused meaningfully, then blinked and let out a short sigh. "Although, Sarah, I do not mean for you to take that as implying anything insulting to you. No, I do not think that of you, and I misspoke terribly last night."
He watched her very carefully, his face grave, before a familiar smirk reappeared. "As to our doorway negotiations, well… let's rather consider their satisfactory conclusion proof of my peerless skills of persuasion and irresistible sexual magnetism," he declared.
Sarah let that one pass. It was just not worth the aggro. "Naturally", she concurred dryly.
An odd expression flickered over Jareth's face, before he briefly inclined his head. "So, we are in agreement that I'm now the only one with the right and the skill to talk or otherwise trick you into bed."
That shot right over "kinda sweet" straight back to "annoying", and Sarah scowled.
"Are you sure I'm not superfluous here, Jareth? because you seem to be doing a fine job of making love to yourself!"
Jareth didn't rise to it, smiling faintly instead. "Believe it or not, it's not as satisfying. Are we agreed, Sarah?"
Again, Sarah could only roll her eyes. "Honestly. You twist my moral standards into a self-flattering confirmation of your own awesomeness. Never mind," she sighed. "Agreed, then - " and as Jareth's smile widened in vindication (and something else…?) she jabbed a warning finger at him "- and 'agreed' means just that, Jareth, this goes both ways. If you're the only guy I'm sleeping with, then you can damn well pay me the respect of trusting me on that and behave – no bogging or bullying or nightmare-stalking some guy just because he tries to chat me up, right? I mean…. Don't you dare be a psycho control freak boyfr… holy crap I can't believe I'm calling you my boyfriend. This is so far beyond surreal, I… Jareth, are you serious?!" Sarah blurted out a touch desperately
And even though he'd pulled the same trick on her just a few minutes ago and she ought to have been more wary, he took her hand in one swift, sudden movement. He held it almost carefully, this time, however, clasped in the warmth of his glove.
Caught in his eyes, trying very hard to read his thoughts, Sarah barely registered that she had moved forwards to sit beside him on the throne.
"Jareth, are you serious, or is this all just another game to you?
"I'm infrequently serious, Sarah, and of course it's a game; but that doesn't mean it isn't important."
No promises, but I think I've got most of the next part, and something of a proper resolution, beaten out into shape. Allow for lots of polishing-up time, though.
Go read 'Underside'!