Author's Note: So...this is late. (So is the Mardi Gras one, which I still intend to write, by the way.) I'm sorry about that, but three holidays hit in as many days, and there's only so much I can do...especially while taking 18 hours this semester. (Yes, I'm that crazy. Shut up.) I'm sorry, but hopefully the amusement of it will entertain you enough to overlook the lateness of its publication? I hope?
In any case, the OC Amethyst does NOT belong to me; she is her own person in real life (and yes, I have known her as long as it says in the story). I don't approve of writing your friends into your stories in the vast majority of cases, but she a) was my source for how to celebrate this holiday b) unwittingly inspired the idea/plotline/events for this chapter as I was talking to her c) asked to be put in. Choice C is also a really crappy reason, but then, I'm a bit arrogant about the writing quality. (This chapter is also not my best work, and the end in particular is bad. It's too abrupt.) But that's enough from me—you can ask if you want to know more—so enjoy!
Disclaimer: I do not own Labyrinth or any other published work which I may quote or reference. This work is purely for the enjoyment of myself and others, not monetary gain.
CHINESE NEW YEAR
Sunday, February 14
"You have a boyfriend?!?" Amethyst squealed into the phone.
Sarah winced. Amethyst forgot all too often how shrill her voice became when she was excited—which was any time she thought there was a chance of juicy gossip.
"Is he cute? What's he like? How'd you meet? Tell me!"
"He is not my boyfriend, Ame," Sarah said sternly.
"Aaaaaaw..." Amethyst whined, then suddenly recovering. "So can I have him?!?"
Sarah spluttered. "No!"
"Why not? Are you jealous?"
Sarah was uncomfortably aware of how aware Jareth was of her discomfort, which just made her more uncomfortable.
Damn. I knew this would happen.
"No, Amethyst, but it wouldn't work. Trust me."
"What wouldn't work?" Jareth purred from behind her. Sarah had turned around, trying to hide her increasing fluster, and it hadn't worked.
Sarah jumped. "Don't do that!" she hissed at him, covering the mouthpiece of her cellphone. "And stop eavesdropping on our conversation! It's rude."
Jareth raised an eyebrow. "You said you would ask if we could join your friend's family in their celebrations," he pointed out. "We. I believe that I have an equal share in this conversation."
Sarah was about to reeducate him about his conversational rights when Amethyst squealed in her opposite ear, "Ooh! Was that him? He has a sexy voice—is he British? What's his accent?"
Even though Jareth was behind her—and now holding her against him possessively, his arms tight around her waist—Sarah knew he was smirking. He could radiate smirking-ness to anywhere within a one mile radius, she suspected. "Would you please drop it? His ego really doesn't need the help."
She felt Jareth smirk even more behind her and elbowed him quickly before he could say anything. "So—can we come over or not? And how do you celebrate Chinese New Year, since that was what he was originally curious about."
Amethyst—thank god she's so easily distracted, Sarah thought—happily answered. "Of course you can come! And usually you get together with your family—all of it: aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, everybody—and have a huge meal—well, you clean the house first and cook everything ahead of time, since you're not supposed to cook on New Year's itself—and all the parents and grandparents and so forth give red envelopes to the kids with money in them. They're called Hóng Bāo. Oh! And you're supposed to wear all new clothes, preferably in red 'cause it's a lucky color."
"So cleaning, cooking, family reunion, feasting, new clothes, and gifts. It sounds a lot like Christmas," Sarah observed, interested despite herself—and despite Jareth breathing down her neck.
"It kind of is!" Amethyst cheerfully agreed. "It's our big celebration for the year, and a time to be with family and all. You should come!"
"I agree, precious," Jareth purred in her other ear.
Sarah tried ineffectively to jerk away from him, asking her friend, "Are you sure your parents won't mind? I mean, it is a time for you to be with them."
"No, it's cool! Mom was asking how you were anyway! Why don't you come over for soon—around five? We can hang out a little bit before dinner! I've missed you, girl."
Sarah's expression twitched once, a sign of her frustration at not being able to thwart Jareth's manipulations. "Okay," she replied heavily. "We'll see you then."
* * *
"You could always let me help you," Jareth suggested innocently.
"We've already discussed this. NO."
Sarah was in a dressing room at the mall, trying on yet another new red outfit. Jareth had insisted that, since they were going to celebrate with her friend's family, they needed to act the part.
Which meant shopping...which Sarah detested.
Jareth had ever so kindly offered to magically change her clothes for her, as he had changed his own clothes, hence his (recurring) comment. Sarah, to his (equally recurring) disappointment, was justifiably distrustful of this offer, particularly in light of his new outfit.
She wasn't sure whether he'd chosen it in reaction to her friend's interest or to encourage her own, but he was now vertically sprawled against the wall outside the dressing rooms in his usual tight pants and open-necked shirt. These particular pants, however, were so dark red as to be nearly black and textured oddly. They reminded Sarah oddly of almost-dried blood, and she tried to comfort herself with the thought that on anyone except him, they would look ridiculous.
It was that one exception that was giving her the trouble.
The shirt was a vivid, scarlet silk, and open almost to his waist. With his pendant centered on his chest and wild, now red-tinted hair, Sarah conceded that he looked dashing, if rather like a strange, rock star peacock.
Damn him for making it work, she grumbled to herself, examining herself in the dressing room tri-mirror. She'd found red capris and white peasant blouse with red stitching, but it simply didn't work. She was slender, but tight pants were not nearly as flattering on her as they were on her date, and the blouse was too baggy.
"I said it wouldn't suit you."
Sarah snorted and turned to glare at Jareth. Since she couldn't quarrel with his judgment, having just decided the same herself, she challenged him on something else. "You're not supposed to be in here, Jareth," she snapped.
"Oh, I'm not?" he asked, credulous. "I'm terribly sorry."
Sarah noticed—after he had, she was sure—the heads of curious young women looking around the doors of their dressing stalls with fascinated looks.
Jareth smiled as though he knew she'd noticed their audience. "I just wanted to bring you something," he purred innocently—performing now, she knew. "I thought it would look lovely for tonight."
He could have been an angel with a crooked halo with his smile as he brought out his pick, and Sarah heard a quiet outbreak of giggles and murmurs of awed approval.
It was a dress in a beautiful silky scarlet that Sarah realized would exactly match his shirt. The top of the bodice was heart-shaped, curved to support her breasts and with medium wide straps spaced far apart on her shoulders. It had a high waist and a flowing skirt, though it would fall just above her knees.
"I found it by the windows, hidden behind the T-shirts," he announced, raising his voice slightly for the benefit of his admiring audience.
Sarah knew that was a complete fabrication; she had looked in that corner and seen nothing but more shirts—certainly nothing as elaborate and attention-seeking as this dress. It looked like something that should be advertised on a mannequin in the middle of the aisle, not hidden in a back corner.
"How clever of you for looking there," Sarah replied with slight irony.
Jareth simply smiled charmingly as a few of the girls excused themselves—Sarah would have bet that they were going to inspect that corner themselves. She caught the dress by its hanger and disappeared back into her own dressing stall, hearing Jareth settle himself to lean by the door.
"Are you going to just stand there?" Sarah asked testily, clothes rustling as she pulled off the peasant blouse.
"Why? Would you prefer that I come in and help you?" Jareth sounded mischievous and slightly hopeful.
"Hardly," she scorned. "But you're still not supposed to be in here."
"I'm happy to leave if someone objects," he announced airily. "Though I believe that you're the only one doing so, and I would like to see how you look in that dress."
"So basically, you're not going to leave until I show you." Sarah's voice was muffled as she pulled the dress over her head. Jareth's soft chuckle floated through the flimsy divider as she wrestled the hidden zipper up her back.
A moment later, Sarah opened the door and stepped out. Jareth gestured expansively toward the tri-mirror and padded along behind her as she stepped in front of it. "I knew it would suit you," he gloated as Sarah smoothed it over her stomach.
"That doesn't mean I'll get it," Sarah huffed. "I haven't looked at the price yet."
Jareth smirked and dipped a finger into the back of her dress, tugging up the tag. "Is twenty dollars reasonable enough? I believe you were prepared to spend twice that on the other outfit," he observed smugly.
Sarah scowled, but had to admit that she was only resisting the dress because he had picked it out—and had almost certainly spirited it into existence for his viewing pleasure. The dress fit her beautifully, and it was less revealing than she would have expected from him.
Probably so that I wouldn't balk at wearing it, she thought cynically, but conceded defeat. It was almost four, and they were supposed to meet Amethyst in an hour.
"Oh hush," she chided waspishly, escaping his clutches again to change back into her own clothes.
Jareth chuckled smugly to himself.
* * *
"Eee! You dressed up! And you're so pretty! Where'd you find it? Is it new?"
"Thank you, Jareth saw it, and yes. He insisted we 'respect your celebrations' and find new clothes," Sarah informed Amethyst, who had just spotted said male strolling lazily up the path to her front door.
"He—ooh..." Amethyst giggled and pulled off a complicated eyebrow waggle which Sarah chose to ignore. "And you're not dating?"
"Not yet, at least," Jareth drawled arrogantly. "Sarah won't let me. Miss Amethyst, I presume?" he confided with a wink.
Amethyst giggled and placed her hand in the one he offered, blushing as he bent to kiss it politely.
Sarah felt distinctly irritated as the two spoke past her as though she weren't there. Thankfully Amethyst's mother appeared in the hall behind her daughter and called them all inside.
"How are you? How is your mother?" she asked Sarah in a mild Chinese accent.
"I've been doing well," Sarah replied in relief, ignoring the man behind her and smiling gratefully at her friend's mother. "Karen's doing well. Toby keeps her busy—he's taken up soccer, and she helps out with the team a lot."
"You get along with her now?" Jareth asked, sounding surprised. "That's not what I remember."
"That was five years ago, Jareth. We've changed since then."
"You knew Sarah while she was in high school?" Mrs. Liu asked with interest.
"Briefly." Jareth smirked dangerously, trying to sneak his hands back to Sarah's hips, but she slipped away from him and into the living room. "We've just rediscovered each other." He was watching Sarah from the corner of his eye as she wandered farther away from him, Amethyst following her.
* * *
"So how'd you meet him?!?" Amethyst quizzed her friend.
"Do you remember years ago, when Toby was a baby, and Dad and Karen kept making me babysit him when they went out?" Sarah began.
Amethyst, who had been friends with her since middle school, nodded immediately.
"I was angry about it one day, and he heard me. I hadn't meant him to, but he did, and he stuck his nose in the matter. He's terribly arrogant," Sarah asserted, "and he dressed like that even back then. You wouldn't believe how flamboyant he can be."
"He's gay?" Amethyst wailed. Sarah felt she sounded far too distressed about that possibility for the short time she'd known him.
"I don't really know, but his clothes do make me wonder," she waffled before distracting her friend again, trying to edge her away from more sensitive subjects. "Do you need any help getting ready for supper? What are we eating?"
Amethyst had just begun to explain their meal, lifting lids from their containers to let her inspect their contents, when Jareth sidled into the kitchen. "There you are," he accused them. "You disappeared."
"You were getting pretentious, and I wanted to talk to my friend."
"Any conclusions?" he asked smugly, smirking slightly.
"She wants to know if you're gay," Sarah informed him with a straight face.
Jareth raised a confused eyebrow. "Remind me why you're friends with someone so obviously delusional?"
"Well, you didn't give me much choice," Sarah began airily.
Amethyst muffled a giggle. "And you do wear such strange clothes. Usually only gay guys dress so well! Or in something so tight. And revealing."
Sarah grinned cheerfully at him, perfectly content to let her friend abuse him.
"So you believe that I cannot be straight because none of the straight men you know are capable of dressing themselves?"
"Stereotypes exist because they have a bit of truth in them," Sarah continued airily, trying not to laugh. Amethyst was about to lose the battle.
"And yet they are often wrong," Jareth warned.
"Just like the one about women being weak-willed and giving into any guy that shows an interest in her?" Sarah suggested brightly.
Jareth looked surprised for a moment, but then smiled as though gratified by her connection. "Touché. Then shall I help you ladies prepare our meal?"
"It's already made!" Amethyst chirped. "It's tradition. But you can help set the table. Plates are in the cabinet by the fridge—we need six."
* * *
"Happy now that you've seen a Chinese New Year's celebration?" Sarah asked a few hours later as she drove them back to the park to drop Jareth off and let him return to the Underground.
"We do still have time for—" Jareth cut his own statement off with a vicious bout of swearing.
Sarah waited patiently for him to explain.
"Damn goblins and fireworks!" Jareth finished, and then disappeared in a storm of glitter.