Falling in Love
One minute she was in the kitchen surrounded by the familiar scenery of her apartment, the linoleum chilly under her sock-clad feet as she prepared a late night cup of tea, and the next she was standing in a strange, stone-walled room facing a large desk behind which sat a rather startled looking Goblin King.
For a long moment they simply gazed at each other in shocked silence. The small part of Sarah's brain that was still capable of rational thought managed to process the fact that he hadn't changed in the slightest. Ten years had passed since their last encounter and the other-worldly beauty that had taunted her across her dreams for all those years was as unchanged as the ancient flagstones beneath her feet.
He stood slowly, eyes never wavering from her face.
She noted somewhat abstractly that he had been writing before her…appearance. The massive desk behind which he now stood was covered in papers, an inkwell containing a single feather quill standing within easy reach. He was dressed in casual dishabille, a loose crimson shirt open at the neck exposing the smooth column of his throat. One bare hand rested on the edge of the desk; elegant fingers spread as though he were keeping himself steady.
His voice was just as she remembered it, the smooth timbre washing over her like warm silk.
Forgotten, her favorite mug, the one festooned with multi-colored penguins, tumbled from her nerveless fingers and shattered loudly on the floor at her feet. With an effort she pulled her eyes away from his glacier gaze to stare blankly at the incongruously cheerful bits of ceramic that now decorated the gray stone.
She looked bemusedly at the shattered remnants. Toby had given her that mug for her birthday and despite the circumstances, the only thing she seemed to be able to process was how annoyed he was going to be when he found out she had broken it.
It was the unpleasant sensation of tepid earl grey tea seeping into her socks that finally got through to her, snapping her out of her reverie. The reality of the situation started to sink in at last; she wasn't dreaming, she was really here, really back in the castle beyond the Goblin City, really standing across the room from the Goblin King...and she was wearing her pajamas.
It was that last bit that did it. She could have borne just about anything else, but something about the ignominy of appearing in front of him in nothing more than pajama pants and a camisole was just too much. Ten years ago she had cowered before him, been timid and insecure in his presence. He wasn't going to do it to her again. This time she would be damned if he was going to have the upper hand.
Narrowed hazel eyes snapped back up to the ethereal visage in front of her. "You. Bloody. Bastard." She strode forward and slapped her hands down on the desk that separated them. "What the hell do you think you're doing?
His initial discomfiture smoothed over as if it had never been. Jareth merely raised a fair brow and cocked his head to the side. "I? Dear child, I have done nothing."
"Nothing? Nothing tra-la-la?" Sarah parroted sarcastically. "If you didn't do anything, then what the hell am I doing here?" She crossed her arms and glared at him across the expanse of the desk.
Jareth looked thoughtful, "I would very much like to know that myself."
Sarah gave an unladylike snort. "Right. Of course. Because you had nothing to do with it."
He gave her a quelling look. "I assure you, dear girl; I have nothing whatsoever to do with your presence here. Our last meeting left me with little desire to renew the acquaintance. It took years to clean up the mess you left behind on your previous visit."
"The mess I…," she trailed off incredulously. "You have got to be kidding me."
"The bridge across the bog had to be completely rebuilt as did half of the Goblin City, not to mention a fair bit of my castle. No one else has managed to do that much damage to my kingdom in a single day for over a thousand years. Truly, you are to be commended for such single-minded dedication." The look of arrogant superiority on his face made her want to kick him in the shin.
"That bridge was falling apart before I got here," Sarah replied irritably, "and as for the Goblin City may I remind you that you were attacking me? I just wanted to get my brother back and oh my god, am I really arguing with you about this?" She ran a hand through her hair and gave an exasperated sigh. "Fine, whatever; you're not happy to see me; I'm not happy to see you. Just send me home, okay?"
Jareth looked injured. "Are you not happy to see me?" Strolling casually around the protective buffer of the desk he stopped a few feet away, but somehow still managed to loom over her. It was everything she could do not to give ground and take a step back. He quirked a mocking smile. "I must say, it is positively…diverting to see you again."
Quelling the flutters that had taken up residency in her stomach, Sarah held her ground, chin high. "I'm not afraid of you."
"Yes, yes," he said, flipping a hand dismissively, "you made that quite clear during our last conversation." His manner showed nothing more than bored indifference, but behind his words, Sarah was sure she heard…approval? Good grief, could the man possibly be more enigmatic? He went on. "I am afraid, however, that you will be forced to endure the burden of my company for at least a little longer as I am not presently able to see you back to your own world."
The flutters redoubled their efforts. "What? Why not?"
The mocking smile was back. "Still unafraid, Sarah?" He asked his voice low and teasing as he moved by her, brushing unnecessarily close in passing.
She repressed a shiver, nerve endings singing where his sleeve had brushed her bare arm.
It annoyed her that she was so hyperaware of him, that he could affect her so strongly just by being in the same room. It annoyed her more that he knew it. He was such a smug bastard.
She turned to face him, the clever retort she was about to make dying on her lips as she realized with a sinking heart just where she was.
The library she had assumed they were in was actually a large, bookshelf-lined sitting-room. Just a few feet away from her was the arched pass-through into what was clearly Jareth's bedchamber. From her current vantage point she could see the ornate four-poster bed that dominated the far room. It was massive, the dark wood gleaming in the light of the fire. Rich red and gold tapestries draped across the intricately carved posts and pooled in silken waves onto the rug covered stone floors.
She had been inexplicably yanked from her apartment in the middle of the night and deposited smack in the middle of the Goblin King's bedroom. It hardly seemed fair.
Sarah wrapped her arms around herself, feeling suddenly awkward. "Why, Jareth?" she asked, his name feeling strange on her tongue. It startled her to realize she had never spoken it aloud before. "Why can't you take me home?"
Jareth had stopped at a sideboard with his back to her and was pouring a measure of ruby liquid into two small glasses. "Much as I relish the idea of being your own personal inter-world conveyance – there are rules and I am obliged to follow them. I cannot visit your world unsummoned." He handed her a glass, clinking his own against hers in a smirking toast then pausing to drain the contents in one long swallow. "Not even to return stray children who have lost their way."
"I'm not a child," Sarah said automatically, feeling like one as she clutched her glass with both hands to keep the crimson contents from sloshing over the sides.
Jareth's smile broadened into a grin. "No. You most assuredly are not." He gave her an appraising look that she was sure he did merely to irritate her.
She rolled her eyes and refused to rise to the bait. "I haven't 'lost my way' either. I was in my own home, minding my own business…"
"Getting ready for bed?"
She considered slapping him and settled for carrying on as if she hadn't heard him. "…making a cup of tea…"
"So I surmised," he interrupted again glancing at the shards of mug that littered the floor. "Penguins, is it? Very…colorful."
"I loved that mug, thank you very much. My brother gave it to me."
"Ah yes the baby brother!" he said expansively. "And how is young Toby? We did have such an enjoyable visit when last he was here."
"He's fine," Sarah said through her teeth, feeling her irritation ratchet up a notch. "As are my father, step-mother, dog, second-cousin and Aunt Polly. Now can we please get back to how I am going to get home?"
"Ready to leave so soon, Sarah?" His voice dropped an octave, curling seductively up her spine.
Resisting the urge to simply melt into a puddle on the floor and be done with it, she snapped, "Yes, like yesterday. I didn't ask to be here. I don't want to be here. I have to work tomorrow. I want to go home and go to bed."
With a deceptively innocent air, Jareth gestured casually to the adjacent room. "You are more than welcome to…"
"No!" Sarah squeaked, blushing. She buried her flaming cheeks in the glass she was still clutching like a lifeline. This maintaining the upper hand thing wasn't going quite as well as she would have liked.
The potent fumes rising from the wine tickled her nose and throat as she breathed them in. She briefly debated the wisdom of drinking while sparring with the Goblin King on his own turf before deciding that her nerves could use the boost. She tipped the glass back and drained it, surprised by the light, sweet flavor.
"Well, dear ch…Sarah," Jareth began, correcting himself with an indulgent smile. "You don't wish to take me up on my…hospitality and I am quite unable to take you home myself just now. What shall we do to pass the time?" He crossed his arms and leaned carelessly against the wall with a suggestive smirk on his face.
Sarah gave him a dirty look. "Whatever happened to 'little desire to renew the acquaintance, blah blah blah'? I would think you'd be dancing a jig at the prospect of getting rid of me."
"You misunderstand me, Sarah. I did nothing to bring about your presence here tonight, but do not think for a moment that I am displeased to see you again." His lips curled into the sardonic smile. "You are most amusing."
"You are most annoying," Sarah retorted sharply. Feigning more bravado than she actually possessed at this point, she dropped the heavy glass tumbler on the sideboard with a resounding crash and turned to leave. "If there is nothing you can do to get me home tonight then I'll just go and spend some time with my friends until you can. Let me know when someone calls 1-800-dial-a-goblin and I'll hitch a ride back." She sketched a little wave over her shoulder as she headed towards the door, vaguely aware that she was starting to feel a little muzzy-headed. Just as the thought crossed her mind that perhaps indulging in the wine wasn't such a good idea she heard a crunch and felt the sting of pain as one of the jagged shards of her mug bit deeply into the sole of her foot.
"Dammit!" she hissed, stumbling and landing rather inelegantly on her rear end.
"How very graceful of you, Sarah." She heard Jareth say through the pain and slowly escalating haze of wine, amusement obvious in his voice.
"Laugh all you want," Sarah snapped, as she pulled off her blood-soaked sock, "I'll just sit here and bleed to death on your floor, shall I?"
She blinked and he was there. His fair hair shielded his face as he knelt in front of her and swatted her hands impatiently out of the way. Handling her injured foot with gentle care he surveyed the damage with surprisingly warm hands.
"You aren't going to bleed to death, silly girl," he chided softly, looking up at her with mismatched eyes, "much as you might deserve to for behaving so childishly."
His proximity took her breath away. She finally opened her mouth to respond, but he had already moved away with a terse 'wait here'. She felt fuzzy-headed and absurd; her backside was getting cold on the stone floor and her foot was really starting to hurt. She closed her eyes and wished fervently to go home, sighing in disappointment when she opened them and found herself unmoved.
A few moments later he returned and settled at her feet with a small bottle of liquid and some bandages. To her utter shock he proceeded to carefully treat and bandage the wound in the bottom of her foot himself, all the while muttering silent imprecations under his breath. Finally he sat back and looked at her evenly. "I think it likely that you will live."
"Um…thank you?" Sarah said, bemusedly examining his handiwork. She blinked at the tidy white dressing for a moment, trying to decide if it were the wine that was making this all seem so very strange.
"Not at all," Jareth said, rising to his feet and smirking down at her, "you were getting blood all over my floor." He extended a hand to help her up. Without thinking she took it, startling at the feel of his warm fingers pressed against her own. Distracted as she stood, she thoughtlessly brought her weight down on her injured foot. With a yelp of pain she overbalanced and once again went crashing to the floor, this time bringing him down with her in a tangle of arms and legs.
As if this night hadn't been mortifying enough already, now she was flat on her back with an insufferable – and rather heavy – Goblin King laying across her chest.
"Ow," Sarah said with some feeling as she reached up to touch the tender spot on the back of her head.
"A sentiment I am in complete agreement with." Jareth's voice was pained, but also amused. It was also coming from about three inches away from her left ear. He raised up on one hand so he could see her face, but appeared to be in no great hurry to get up.
Sarah's heart thundered in her chest. He was so close she could see the tiny flecks in his oddly colored eyes. The reality of his warm weight across her body somehow seemed to make whole situation more dreamlike rather than less. Taking a steadying breath and willing away her discomfiture, she narrowed her gaze at him. "Do you mind?"
"Not at all," he said and with a quick smile he ducked his head and kissed her.
The shock of his lips on hers went through her like a bolt of lightening. She gasped against his mouth as he buried his free hand in her hair, deliberately tangling his fingers in the loose tendrils at the base of her neck. For just a moment she stiffened, intending to resist, meaning to resist – and then all pretense was gone and she was kissing him back, her lips parting under his gentle pressure. He deepened the kiss, touching her lips with the tip of his tongue. Warmth suffused her whole body as she responded in kind, her tongue meeting his tentatively at first and then boldly as he pulled her close. He tasted of wine and dark promises and she began to lose herself in his embrace, allowing him to mold her to him, fitting them together like pieces of a puzzle. He kissed her long and deep and then finally drew back leaving her breathless.
"Wh-what was that?" Sarah asked looking up at him with wide eyes and kiss-swollen lips.
"An opportunity," Jareth replied with a slow smile. "I would never have forgiven myself had I let it go past without taking advantage of it." He stood up and helped her carefully to her feet. "Tell me, Sarah," he began, his face serious, but eyes glinting with humor, "was it as you had dreamed it would be?"
"You are an egotistical ass," she said, giving him a narrow look, though her voice lacked heat.
"It's not egotistical if it's true, my dear." His lips curled into wicked smile.
Sarah scowled, barely resisting the childish urge to stick her tongue out at him. She deliberately extricated her hand from his grasp and moved away. It was hard to think with him so near. His mere presence was distracting; actual physical contact made her mind go completely blank. She hobbled clumsily to a nearby chair and lowered herself into it, propping her injured foot on the overstuffed damask ottoman. "I don't suppose you want to tell me why?"
"Why I kissed you?" At Sarah's pointed nod, he laughed – possibly the most genuine sound she had ever heard him make. "Dear girl, I would have thought that was self-evident." He placed his hands on the armrests of her chair, effectively trapping her between his arms. Leaning in close, his breath warm on her skin, his whispered softly in her ear, "I have wanted you since you first defied me." She started back from him, and he chuckled softly. Straightening, he turned away from her giving her some much needed breathing room. "You were nothing more than a child then, but so lovely and so willful, it was a joy to watch you." He turned to look at her again, meeting her eyes now with no hint of humor in their eternal depths. "And I wanted you more than I have ever wanted anything before or since."
Sarah started to speak, but could think of nothing to say. The idea that he thought of her, wanted her, hell remembered her, was hard to wrap her mind around. She blew out a shaky breath. Finally she managed, "So why now? Why are you telling me all of this now?"
"Because you are here now," he replied with an elegant shrug, "and I could not let you leave to visit those bothersome friends of yours without giving you a compelling reason to remain here in the castle…" he lowered his voice, "with me."
"You really didn't bring me here tonight, did you?" she asked.
"No," he replied, "I can take no credit for your presence here this evening." He gave her a wry smile, "Though the timing seems fortuitous. You humans do take an interminable amount of time to grow up."
"But, now that I am here…you want me to stay." She stood and walked carefully towards him, her heart pounding at the thought of what she was about to do. She stopped inches away from him and tilted her head back to look in his eyes. "Is that what you're telling me?"
"Yes," he said simply. His voice was calm, his face unreadable, but his eyes were bright and sparkling with intensity. He had the look of a man barely held in check.
She gave him an arch smile. "Can you run that 'compelling reason' to stay here by me one more time?"
Without a word he pulled her roughly into his arms and once again lowered his mouth to hers. Prepared this time, Sarah leaned into the kiss, matching his fervor with her own. Her body sang under his touch as he caressed her, his free hand tracing the delicate line of her jaw down the column of her throat and coming to rest on the curve of her shoulder. He broke their kiss to follow the path of his hand with his lips, tasting and teasing across the tender skin.
Finally he stepped back, a smug smile on his handsome face. "Well?"
"That was awfully compelling," Sarah agreed breathlessly, feeling slightly dazed. "Consider me compelled." She moved in for another kiss, but hesitated for a moment, a puzzled expression on her face. "Jareth…how do you suppose I ended up here tonight?"
"An excellent question, my dear," he replied as he reached for her. He cupped her face gently between his hands, lowering his until his lips barely skimmed hers. "And one I intend to find the answer to…first thing in the morning."
Voices echoed in the dark of the stairwell.
"Art thou certain that this was the best of ideas, friend Hoggle?"
Hoggle grunted as he hobbled up the stairs behind his more agile friend. "Well they weren't ever going to do it themselves. They been mooning over each other for near on a decade, but they're both too stubborn to do anything about it."
"Well – yes, but to use goblin magic thus…"
"You had a better idea?"
They reached the final landing. Hoggle sagged against the wall, wheezing as he tried to get his breath back. Sir Didymus, still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as ever, pressed his ear against the heavy door. "I hear nothing," he said after a moment. "Art thou sure…"
"Yes," Hoggle said with a determined nod. "I'm sure." He stared hard at the entrance to the King's private rooms and suddenly seemed less certain. "Still we should…"
"Yes, it is best we confirm," said Sir Didymus. "That is why we have ventured hither, to…to…"
"Confirm," Hoggle offered.
"Yes," said Sir Didymus. "Confirm that the magic has worked and that our fair Sarah has been called to the side of her true love. Yes, um…"
"Well we have to make sure she made it," Hoggle said, sounding as though he were trying to convince himself more than anything. "We can't close the door to her world until we're sure she's through."
The two friends turned their attention back to the massive doorway, fidgeting as the moments passed.
"Are you crazy?" Hoggle asked his friend with wide eyes. "Just mosey on up to Jareth's bedroom in the middle of the night and knock?
"Ah yes, I quite see thy point. Perhaps it would be best…"
"If he didn't know we had been here," finished Hoggle and then added, "ever".
Sir Didymus straightened, throwing his shoulders back and raising his chin in the air. "I shall take on this quest, friend Hoggle. I shall venture onward. I shall go undetected – be silent and stealthy as the wind. I shall…"
"Shall you go sometime tonight?" Hoggle interrupted grumpily.
"Ah, well…yes." Sir Didymus took a deep breath and slowly eased the heavy door opened. It creaked slightly on the ancient hinges and the friends cringed, frozen for a moment until they were sure that the silence inside had not been disturbed. When the opening was just large enough, Didymus slipped inside on padded feet, making hardly a sound as he disappeared around the corner.
Several minutes passed as Hoggle paced the landing, waiting for his friend to return. He started to worry as the time stretched on. Surely he would have returned by now if he had not been caught? Jareth would be furious if he discovered either their involvement in bringing Sarah back to the Labyrinth tonight or their presence in his private rooms. By the heavens, he wished Didymus would hurry up.
Finally the door swung open again and the diminutive figure of the little fox slipped out into the stairwell. The door snicked quietly shut and Didymus stood frozen and wide-eyed in the dim light.
"Well? Did it work?"
Didymus' eyebrows were so high they were lost in his fur. "Yes," he said his voice sounding strained and rather high-pitched. "It worked…quite well, friend Hoggle. Yes…it, um worked."
"So she's there? We can go back and close the opening now?"
Sir Didymus had already started back down the stairs. "Oh yes, she's there. They are both there…together."
"Well of course they're together…" Hoggle began and then trailed off, realization dawning on his craggy face. "Ohhhh," he said. "They're together."
With a quick glance back at the door, Hoggle grinned and then hurried down the stairs after his friend and out of sight.
A/N: This was written as part of the drabble exchange on the Labyfic Livejournal community for ungracious who had requested an 'accidental kiss'. This is perhaps not the best of my work, but I had fun writing it!