AUTHOR'S NOTE: (Lixxle looks up at her calendar. 'April' looks at her accusingly) Let's just pretend, my fine fellows, that it's still Christmas, shall we? Ho, ho...uhm. Merry April, to one and all! (most particularly to my jolly beta Phuriedae!)

Chapter 6: With one hour till Christmas, my true love gave to me (diseased footwear and gagged fairies).

One hour till Christmas

The Goblin King was in a remarkably jolly mood—there was nothing like suspending a cretin wrapped in tinsel over the Bog to brighten a (devilishly nefarious) man's day. Though, that jolly mood was sorely tested when he entered the throne room.

"What the devil is that horrific stench?" he said, gagging. He quickly grabbed a corner of his cloak and placed it firmly over his nose and mouth.

The room smelt like rotten eggs that had been drenched in expired mayonnaise and left out in the sun—until someone had come along and thoughtfully covered the mess with a bucket of long-deceased fish and a couple of burning tires.

The goblins stopped what they were doing and dutifully sniffed the air around them.

Ignor shrugged. "'Fraid I don't smell anything, Your Majesty."

The other goblins nodded in agreement.

Jareth tried to press the cloak closer to his nose but realized it was a futile gesture— the room was permeated with a foul funk that no mere cloak could mask. He dropped the cloak in disgust. "I have just been to the Bog and yet that smells positively floral compared to the smell in this room. What. Did. You. Idiots. Do?"

The goblins merely stood there, puzzled. But by that point, the King had looked around the room and noticed something.

Several somethings, in fact.

And suddenly, the stench made sense.

"Tell me, my merry band of imbeciles—why are there socks hanging from the walls?"

There were, indeed, socks hanging from the walls. And from the ceiling. And there were even some nailed to the floor. Lots of socks in every size and every length and every one of them dirty. Filthy, in fact. So filthy that many of them were home to various forms of moulds, fungus, and wildlife.

The goblins surveyed their handiwork rather proudly.

"At Christmas, you put socks up on the wall," explained the goblin with the blue tusks.

Squibble nodded. "The book said so." He held up the picture of the Christmas scene.

Jareth noted that the picture did, indeed, feature what appeared to be socks hanging from a wall.

"Very well, that explains the socks. But what about the underwear?" He waved his riding crop at several pairs of goblin-sized underpants that had been nailed haphazardly onto the walls.

The frypan goblin shrugged. "Ran out of socks," he said, gesturing to his feet.

Jareth tilted his head and bent down a little to better survey his subjects' feet. He noted that there were a lot of naked ankles peeking out from under their trousers. "So it appears."

Squibble sighed deeply. "I miss my socks."

The frypan goblin shrugged. "I don't miss my underpants."

Ignor nodded. "It's kind of liberating."

"Commando!" Skeep cried happily, wriggling his hips so that his hula skirt moved wildly from side-to-side.

Jareth closed his eyes. "I curse you for that mental image, Skeep."

The goblins snickered.

The fumes were beginning to make Jareth woozy; he tried not to inhale as he stood up. "Take your diseased underthings off my walls. Or I'll set fire to them...when you are next wearing them."

The goblins quickly scrambled to remove the underpants from the wall.

"AND the socks. Remove it all and then sanitize the entire room. Repeatedly."

Ignor nodded. "Right away, Your Majesty." He and a group of group of goblins ran quickly from the throne room to get the apple-scented fabric softener.

Squibble looked at the Christmas picture. "But if there are no socks, then the Queen Lady won't have her perfect Christmas!"

Jareth knocked a pair of underpants off the wall with his crop. "Nor will she catch some form of flesh-eating disease from being near your underwear. In this instance, I am willing to forsake authenticity for health and safety." The King looked around the room. "Aside from trying to turn my throne room into the next Bog, what else have you accomplished while I've been gone?"

Squeak cleared his throat. "The Christmas Branch is complete."

Jareth swung around to look at the branch, now completely covered in chewed up pieces of tinsel, turnips, and gagged fairies who were making rude gestures at the King. Jareth gave them a pointy smile and looked directly below the branch. He frowned. "Are those supposed to be presents?" He pointed to three oddly-shaped, brightly-wrapped, objects beneath the branch.

"Yes!" Squibble said excitedly. "Tilk and I wrapped them ourselves." He tapped one of brightly-colored rolls of wrapping paper lying on the floor.

Jareth looked at the oddly-shaped gifts below the branch. "Tell me, did you actually go out and procure gifts or did you just wrap whatever was in the general vicinity?"

Tilk puffed up his chest proudly. "Whatever was in the general vicinity."

The King nodded. "I thought as much. I take it that these fine presents are actually two ale barrels and a chair?"

Squibble looked at the King in awe. "How did you know?"

Jareth rolled his eyes. "When I left the room fifteen minutes ago, there were two ale barrels and a chair beside the Christmas branch. When I returned, there were three badly-wrapped presents in the shape of two ale barrels and a chair beside the Christmas branch."

"Wow," said Tilk.

Squibble shook his head in admiration. "You're like a detective on that show the Queen Lady watches."

Jareth felt his ego preen a little at the compliment. "Really? Which one?"

"Charlie's Angels," supplied the frypan goblin

"The blonde angel wears peach lipgloss, too," Squibble noted.

Jareth pinched the bridge of his nose. The sound of screaming, however, quickly brought his focus back to the throne-room.

"King! King! Help, King! HEEEEELP!" Skeep gurgled.

Jareth turned quickly toward the commotion, only to watch in mild horror as Rosalinda tried to escape the throne room with a long, green piece of tinsel. Problem was that the other end of the tinsel was wrapped, boa-style, around Skeep's neck.

"Rosalinda...strangle...gahhhh, King! GAHHHHHH!" Skeep rasped as he tore at the tinsel around his throat, his little face turning a shade of purple that clashed terribly with his red tea-cosy hat.

"Oh no! Rosalinda is strangling Skeep!" yelled the goblin with the blue horns.

"Not again!" wailed Squibble.

There was a flash of light and a puff of glitter and Rosalinda found herself suddenly suspended in mid-air, her little chicken legs still running. She paused and looked down to see her glittery, green prize on the throne room floor. She looked up and saw a pair of mismatched eyes directly in front of her, positively shining with malicious glee.

The King leisurely circled the suspended Chicken-Toss Champion. "Well, well—what have we here? Is this glorified feather duster having trouble controlling her murderous urges?"

Rosalinda clucked in agreement. Then went for the King's jugular.

Jareth deftly moved out of the way. "What's that you're saying?" He cupped a hand over his ear as if to enhance his hearing. "You're volunteering to swim laps in the Swamp?"

Rosalinda clucked viciously.

"Tsk, tsk Rosalinda; I can assure you that my parents were married prior to my birth, so that insult isn't particularly accurate."

Rosalinda continued to cluck.

The King raised an eyebrow. "And although my mother had many hobbies, I doubt exotic dancing was one of them."

Rosalinda clucked louder and accompanied her tirade with a series of complex claw gestures.

The King merely tilted his head. "Although I am rather flexible, I doubt that I'd be able to put that particular appendage where you have suggested. But I will take it under advisement."

Rosalinda began to hiss.

Jareth sighed in mock disappointment. "Really Rosalinda—it appears that you are sadly lacking in Christmas spirit. Allow me to assist you in getting into the mood." With a quick flick of his wrist, the King sent Rosalinda soaring toward Squibble and Tilk.

Squibble lunged toward her. "I've got you, Rosalinda!" he cried, trying to break her fall with his body.

Unfortunately, Rosalinda landed head-first onto his armored breastplate. Woozily, she rose to her feet.

Jareth rolled his eyes. "Wrap the chicken," he ordered.

Squibble crushed the villainous chicken to his chest. "NOooooooo! Not Rosalinda!"

The King ignored him. "I suggest you do it while she still has a concussion; she'll be less wrap-able once she regains her urge to kill."

Tilk nodded. "Right!" He promptly extracted Rosalinda from Squibble's grip and began to cover the swaying chicken with shiny, green wrapping paper.

Squibble sighed. "Well, I hope I get you for Christmas, Rosalinda," he said, patting the paper-covered chicken. "Aghhhhh!" he yelled, looking down at his pecked finger.

"Be sure to cover the beak," Jareth said mildly.

Tilk dutifully wrapped Rosalinda's entire head up in paper. He then took a length of ribbon from the floor and carefully tied it around the wrapped chicken.

"Tighter," Skeep said vindictively.

Jareth stared down at Skeep, noting his bright red face. "Recovered?"

Skeep nodded fiercely. "Yes." He pulled his ultra-buffed fork from his hula skirt and began to stalk the wrapped chicken.

The King put a restraining hand on Skeep's thin, little shoulder. "If I were you, I'd wait until after Christmas dinner; there's sure to be a few of those large serving forks lying about."

Skeep's eyes widened. "Ok, King!" he said happily, putting away his fork. He carefully patted the King's leg. "Thank you." Noting the luxurious fabric of the King's breeches, he patted his leg again. "Pretty," he said dreamily.

Jareth glared down at the small goblin. "Skeep, if you continue to pat my leg as if it were a chihuahua there will be consequences."

Skeep quickly removed his hand away from the King's leg. "Ok, King!" he said happily, and walked away.

Jareth pinched the bridge of his nose—it was beginning to become a habit—and then abruptly looked up. "What is that hissing sound?" His eyes narrowed on the blue-horned goblin who was gleefully throwing eggs into a large metal trough. He quickly crossed the throne room and bent closer to the trough, though not too close; the contents were hissing and spitting vindictively. "What are you doing?"

"Making egghog," said the blue-horned goblin, stirring the mixture vigorously. "It's a Christmas drink that the Queen Lady likes."

Jareth raised one eyebrow. "Egg hog? Tell me that there isn't a pig swimming around in there."

The goblin shook his head. "Oh no, Majesty—there's only eggs."

"And ale!" yelled the frypan goblin, as he poured a full tankard into the mix and ran off to the barrel to get more.

The blue-horned goblin stirred in the ale. "And—." He stopped abruptly when he noticed that his metal spoon had melted away.

"…pure evil," Jareth finished.

The goblin looked down at the mixture, perplexed. "Maybe it needs more ale." He ran off to get another tankard.

"More likely an exorcism," Jareth said drolly and then began to laugh. He looked over his shoulder at the two small, black chickens who were the only ones in his vicinity.

"Well?" he said, hands on his hips. "Laugh."

One of the chickens clucked cautiously. The other chicken, who had been sipping from a puddle of ale, merely belched.

The King sighed. "I really don't know why I bother. I have a good mind to wrap you both." The first chicken carefully backed away until she was hidden behind a Christmas sack. The other gave an apologetic cluck and passed out.

Jareth rolled his eyes and began to tour the room. He nodded approvingly at the small group of goblins who were dousing the walls with fabric softener to lessen the sock stench, and narrowed his eyes at Tilk and Squibble as they began a futile campaign to wrap the freezer alligator. Finally, he paused in front of two goblins, one of whom was spray-painting the other white.

Jareth tapped one finger against his chin. "I'm not sure if I want to know, but I clearly have masochistic tendencies because I am going to ask anyway; why is it that you are painting Vetzel white?"

The goblin with the blue tusks ceased his spraying. "I'm turning him into a snowman."

Vetzel nodded in agreement, his long earlobes swinging with the motion.

"Of course," the King deadpanned. "However, why are you painting inside his mouth?"

"Authenticity," stated the goblin with the blue tusks.

The King shrugged. "Who am I to argue with the creative process? Carry on."

"Thanks Majesty!" said the blue tusked goblin. He turned back to Vetzel, frowning when he noticed that Vetzel's mouth was closed. "Open up!"

Vetzel dutifully opened his mouth. "It burns!" he yelled as the tusked goblin began spraying his gums.

The goblin with the blue tusks stopped. "In a good way or a bad way?"

Vetzel paused to consider the question. "In a good way, actually. Keep going!"

Jareth smirked at the two goblins and walked back toward his throne. He watched as Squeak carefully hung glittery ornaments from the throne's bone frame.

"Nice touch."

Squeak bowed his head. "Thank you, Your Majesty."

Jareth sat down on the throne, assuming his usual indolent pose. He idly tapped his crop against the ornaments attached to the frame. "Tell me, have they found Sarah's unicorn yet?"

Squeak shook his head. "Not yet, Your Majesty."

Jareth slapped his riding crop hard against the throne, sending the ornaments swinging. "What is taking them so damn long?"

Squeak cleared his throat, nervously. "Ahh, do keep in mind, Your Majesty, that we don't really have the right bait."

Jareth thought about that for a moment. "Hmm, I guess we are running a little low in virginal maidens. What are they using instead?"

At that moment, Skeep shuffled into the throne room in his dirty pink stilettos. Instead of his usual hula skirt, he was wearing a small, pink net skirt that was speckled with glitter and, oddly enough, a few pieces of bacon. One of his little hands was clutching what appeared to be a fire poker; the other was patting the rather garish platinum blonde wig perched precariously on his small, pointy head.

"Hi King!" he said, waving.

Jareth watched Skeep shuffle toward one of the corridors, his little blonde wig fluttering in his wake. "Squeak," he said quietly. "Please tell me that we aren't using Skeep in a tutu to attract the unicorn."

Squeak cleared his throat again. "Ahh, afraid so, Your Majesty."

Jareth pinched the bridge of his nose. "We're doomed."

Squeak nodded. "Possibly. Though, if the unicorn isn't attracted to Skeep per se, he should be lured by the bacon."

Jareth considered that for a moment and then nodded in approval. "At least there's a contingency plan." His eyes narrowed as he watched Skeep trip over a turnip and land face-down on the throne room floor, his little heels waving frantically in the air. "Aren't there dark creatures in the woods that may also be lured by the bacon?"

Squeak nodded gravely. "Probably, Sire. That's why he's carrying the poker."

Jareth blinked at that. Then shrugged. "Very well, carry on. And be sure to alert me once the unicorn has been located." He paused, watching Skeep rise unsteadily onto his heels, only to trip again on the turnip. "That is, if Skeep ever leaves the throne room."

Two goblins rushed to Skeep's rescue, only to be felled by the wretched turnip themselves. The King took one look at the writhing heap of goblins and sighed.

"Bog that turnip. I'll be in my chambers."

"Very well, Majesty," Squeak sighed.

It was with a profound sense of relief, and a good pinch of gleeful liberation, that Jareth found himself alone in his chambers. He allowed himself a moment to lean against the solid, oak door and simply soak in the silence. He took a deep breath, marvelling at the goblin-free scent of his chamber, and started to feel his sanity returning in small, bite-sized increments.

His beautiful moment, however, was ruined by the sound of his inner voice, tapping its foot impatiently.

All this basking in the ambience is all well and good, but there are precious few minutes to waste before this Christmas farce of yours is set to begin and you are dressed inappropriately. The voice paused. Well, more so than usual...

Jareth rolled his eyes and looked down at the Santa suit that was draped across the bed. Picking it up, he glanced at the label sticking out from the coat. "Polyester," he said, with sort of disgust most people used to describe the stench emanating from the Bog.

His inner voice snorted. It's a good thing that 'polyester' doesn't come from an animal; can you imagine how many would have sacrificed their lives for the fur trim alone?

"Given the girth of the man, they would have probably become extinct after making this suit." He rubbed the fabric between his thumb and forefinger and grimaced. "Well, here goes."

With a flick of his wrist, the King was suddenly wearing the suit, magically adjusted to fit his slender frame. He took one look at himself in the full-length mirror and then abruptly stepped back in horror. "Good lord, I look like a rancid tomato."

Quite, the voice said agreeably. That particular shade of red clashes with your...whole body, actually.

"Hmm, I agree. Let's see if we can take care of that, shall we?"

Jareth snapped his fingers. In an instant, the suit turned an exquisite shade of bright gold, liberally flecked with glitter.

And now you look like a Christmas ornament.

Jareth gave his inner voice an extremely dirty look. He took one last, lingering glace at all that gold glitter and then snapped his fingers again.

The inner voice eyed the King's shiny green ensemble sceptically. And now you look like a string-bean in drag.

Jareth raised an eyebrow at his reflection. "Transvestite produceis not exactly the look I was going for..."

Really? the voice said, dryly. With you, it's often difficult to tell...

Jareth manfully ignored the voice and snapped his fingers one last time. The suit turned red again, but this time it was the color of dried red rose petals and old, dark blood.

The voice nodded approvingly. Much better—seasonal yet sinister.

"Oddly enough, that is exactly the look that I was going for." Jareth plucked fitfully at the fabric that covered his torso. "Though the ensemble still needs something..."

With a few quick tugs, the Santa suit coat was pulled open, baring his chest to just above his navel.

And who would have thought that the 'something' would be nudity? the voice said dryly.

"As you are well aware, nudity is the finishing touch to most of my ensembles," Jareth said with a leer. "Besides, the nudity is necessary to draw attention away from the polyester."

The voice nodded solemnly. We must do all we can to detract from the polyester.

The King began to pace in front of the mirror, his amulet sparkling with seasonal cheer against the frost-pale skin of his chest. His joy at strutting was cut short when the polyester snagged on his boots. He grimaced. "Authenticity be damned; polyester isn't even fit to clothe Rosalinda."

With a wave of his hand, the polyester turned into butter-soft leather. Lots and lots of lovely, lovely leather.

Ahh, the voice said approvingly. A festive bordello jumpsuit.

Jareth leered at his reflection. "Ho, ho, ho," he said silkily.

The inner voice raised an eyebrow. I do hope that the real Santa doesn't use that tone of voice with children.

"One would wonder about his motivation..."

With a contented sigh, Jareth began to slink around the mirror, executing a turn with feline grace. He hummed contentedly as he noted the excellent view from behind, and his slink became more of a strut as he worked the bordello jumpsuit through its paces.

Before the preening session could become a full-blown song-and-dance tribute to the glorious qualities of red leather, the inner voice cleared its throat purposefully.

Although the gift of you in this particular suit should provide hours of pleasure...

"Days of pleasure," the King interrupted.

The inner voice rolled its eyes. Your modesty is overwhelming. Nevertheless, it gave the King an approving nod. As I was saying— although the gift of you in this particular suit shall invoke a rather favorable response in the Queen...

Jareth smirked.

...perhaps another type of gift is in also order, especially given Sarah's behavior of late...?

Jareth pretended to be vastly interested in his boots. "She is getting a unicorn." He bent down and brushed a non-existent scuff mark from his heel.

The inner voice raised its eyebrow. You know what you need to give her.

"No," he said flatly.

The voice merely glared at him meaningfully.

Jareth stood to his full height, his hands fisted at his sides. "No, and there is nothing you can do to change my mind."


Jareth's mind was suddenly filled with a vision of Hoggle decked-out in hot pink French lingerie and a come-hither smile.

"Curse you!" Jareth yelled. "Make it stop!"

Will you do it?

Jareth paused. The image of Hoggle began what could only be described as a 'bump and grind' dance routine. It was clumsy and terrifying and almost enough to crush Jareth's will to live and turn his libido into a desiccated husk. Teasingly, Hoggle began to lower one of his bra straps.

"Yes!" Jareth said desperately. "Just get rid of that bloody thing."

Hoggle blew him a kiss and then disappeared.

Jareth sighed in relief. "If you ever do something like that again..."

The voice raised a hand to stop his rant. It hurt me just as much as it hurt you.

"Well, that's a consolation." Jareth rubbed the heels of his hands against his eyes. "I believe I'll need to bleach my brain to rid it of that image."

I'm sure a glass of the egg-hog will do the job admirably.

The King snorted. "I have a feeling that egg-hog will be the equivalent of a liquid lobotomy." He looked up at his reflection once again. "You do know, of course, that she could use that gift to leave here. Forever."

The voice rolled its eyes. For a narcissistic, ego-maniacal despot, you are wretchedly insecure when it comes to Sarah. Aside from this past episode, it appears that she is rather happy in this ridiculous little kingdom of yours. What you need to understand is that to keep her here forever, all you need to do is show her a little trust...

The King's shoulder's slumped.

...and perhaps a little more crotch.

Jareth perked up immediately. "Right. The pants could be tighter..."

They can always be tighter, the voice agreed. Though he winced at Jareth's next transformation. Perhaps not that tight—that form of constriction is bound to have unfortunate ramifications...

Reluctantly, Jareth let the pants out a little.

The voice nodded approvingly. Better safe than sorry.

Jareth's perusal of his pants was interrupted by a sudden knock on the chamber door.

"KING! King, open door! KING! K-I-N-G!"

Jareth rolled his eyes. "Enter, Skeep!"

The door opened to reveal the small goblin. Jareth stepped back from the mirror, turned toward Skeep, and struck a pose. "Well?"

Skeep looked at the King's outfit up and down and then nodded in satisfaction. "Groiny," he said approvingly.

The King smirked. "I thought so myself."

He looked critically at Skeep's appearance. The little goblin was still gowned in his platinum wig and tutu, though both were a little worse for wear; the tutu was torn at the back and trailing tulle, and his little wig had been knocked askew. Yet, despite the grass stains on his knees and the odd bit of bacon still sticking to his skirt, Skeep seemed rather jolly.

"Hmm, let me guess; by your appearance, it seems that the unicorn put up a fight. Is that so?"

Skeep nodded happily. "Yep, King!"

"Though I am assuming that your presence in my chamber means that you caught him in the end?"

Skeep nodded again. "Yep, King!" He brandished his fire poker triumphantly. "KIDNEYS!"

Jareth stared dubiously at the poker. "If you have punctured Sarah's unicorn with that thing, I shall be seriously displeased."

Skeep shook his little head. "Unicorn ok, King. Not hole-y."

"Thank goodness for small mercies." Jareth glanced over at the clock suspended above the mirror. "Two minutes till Christmas. Come, come, Skeep—let's get this atrocity started."

The inner voice cleared its throat. I believe you still have a gift to prepare...

Jareth's shoulders stiffened for a moment, then abruptly slumped in defeat.

"Very well—but if she leaves, the blame will lie with you."

The voice snorted. Should she even attempt to leave, all you'd have to do is tighten those pants of yours and distract her into staying...

Jareth looked down at his trousers and nodded in agreement. "If all else fails, there is always the pants..."

"YEAAAHHYY pants!" Skeep cried happily, stomping to the door in his heels.

Yeahhhy pants, the inner voice echoed, dryly.