Synopsis: Sarah's boyfriend's ill-conceived Halloween costume elicits an invitation from her former adversary, but what is Jareth really after? One-shot. Rated T - for language and suggestive material.
Standard disclaimer applies. :(
Many thanks to BreathOfNocte who beta-ed part of this for me! Check out her story Proper Etiquette - it's perfectly delightful. :)
This story is a response to the "Don't Do it. It's a Trap!" challenge posted by S.R Devaste (Labyrinth Fanfiction Audio). This is my first attempt at creative writing, so be gentle, kind readers. Constructive criticism is always appreciated.
She was putting the final touches on her costume - a little glitter on her cheekbones, a fluffing of a layered tulle skirt, a tug of striped stockings, a straightening of translucent wings – when she was interrupted by a familiar voice.
"Hello, precious," he growled from her bedroom doorway.
"Who let you in here," Sarah quipped as she applied a quick smear of lip gloss, turning from her reflection in her vanity mirror to smirk at the intruder. The smirk, only half-formed, was replaced instead by shock, as she startled, almost falling off her chair.
"Ah…Jessie? Got anybody else in here I should be worried about?" he asked, concern edging out the teasing lilt in his voice. "Are you ok, Sarah?"
"Oh, Brian, um…sorry. I must be a little jumpy today." She shrugged, attempting to collect herself, as she gathered the odds and ends that had fallen. "Who are you supposed to be, anyway?"
"You don't recognize me?" He grinned as he strutted over to her nightstand and picked up a slim, worn, red volume, letting it fall open to the page she'd read so many times she knew it by heart. He grinned at her over the top of the book.
"Just fear me, love me, do as I say…" Still grinning, though a little more sheepishly, he tossed it back down. "I'm the Goblin King! I thought you'd like it. You've had your nose in that book for as long as I've known you," he teased lightly.
Mostly recovered, she tilted her head to the side to study his costume. Blond, spiky punk-rocker wig, poet's shirt, black cape, boots, and gloves. "The tights are cute," she said, trying to suppress a smile.
"I thought if I went all out, I might get lucky." He winked at her before crossing the room to pull her out of her chair and into his arms. "I had help picking them out – about 6 or 7 little ballerina girls at the dance shop on Main."
Laughing, Sarah leaned into him for a leisurely, familiar kiss.
"Ugh, gag me," Jessie groaned, shuffling into the room. "Would you guys quit sucking face and hurry it up already? We've got a Halloween party to get to!"
Brian gave her one more quick peck before pulling away. "Dang, your roomie's pushy," he complained playfully.
"I've just got to grab a couple of things," Sarah acquiesced, "but I'll meet you in the living room in a minute, ok?"
"Well, I'm removing temptation. Fantasy man, let's roll," Jessie said, grabbing Brian's wrist and pulling him behind her and out of the room.
Alone, Sarah slumped back in front of her vanity. What the hell? That had been unexpected, though not entirely unwelcome. Brian was right - she had read that book over and over again since she was 15 and actually lived it. How many years had it been, and she hadn't been able to get that final confrontation off her mind?
She still talked to her friends, Hoggle, Ludo & Sir Didymus, regularly, but never asked about their King, although she was sorely tempted, and they never mentioned him, at least not in any detail. The memory of him haunted her and she hadn't been able to purge it from her system.
"SARAH!" Jessie bellowed from the living room, followed by Brian's head poking around the door frame.
"What's said is said, Sar – you said a minute, and your minute is up."
Sarah stood, grabbing her purse and a sweater, her eyes coming to rest on her boyfriend of the last year and a half. He looked a little ridiculous, but she had a fantastic imagination – she could just close her eyes, and imagine…
The party had been fun, but it was nice to get away from the crowd and get some fresh air. The moon was full, the park was empty, and it was just dark enough that she could smudge the lines of reality a bit and let her imagination play. She was dressed up as some kind of demented fairy anyways, so she might as well run with it.
She looked over at Brian – the spiky hair silhouetted in the moonlight. Reaching her favorite bench, he sat down, patting his lap. "I can offer you your dreams," he coaxed.
Sarah slid into his lap with a smile, letting her fingers wind into his wig, imagining soft, wispy strands of platinum, and dangerous mismatched eyes.
"Do you know my dreams, Goblin King?" she whispered. Her tongue snaked out to trace the contour of his ear. His arms wrapped around her and he jumped slightly as she bit down on the lobe, and then sucked it gently to ease the slight pain. "What are you offering me, your Majesty?" She sighed, shifting so that she straddled him.
"Sarah….," he groaned, but was abruptly cut off as Sarah suddenly fell unceremoniously to the ground.
"Hey!" Scrambling to her feet, she watched as whatever had snatched the sweater from around her waist bobbed and zigzagged across the park toward the woods. It couldn't be…
"What the fuck was that? Some kind of dog or something?" Brian began to follow. "I'll get it - be right back." He began to jog after it, afraid he was going to lose it in the trees.
"Hey, Brian, wait! Really, it's not important…"
Brian slowed, glancing back at her. "I'll just be a minute, and then we can pick up where we left off." He winked and waved, disappearing into the trees.
Shit. This did not bode well…
Sarah knew that he was there long, excruciating moments before he spoke. She felt him. The air was charged and it seemed as if every single nerve ending was standing at attention, shouting Jareth! The wind picked up and carried a new scent, his scent – something spicy and magical, and slightly wicked. Fear and excitement battled for dominance as she held her breath, waiting for something – anything – to happen.
"He lacks a certain flair, don't you think?" The words were carried on a breath, deep and low against her neck. She felt his warmth now, behind her, and the tickle of his hair against her cheek.
"I don't recall making any wishes," she exhaled, not completely able to mask the slight tremor in the words.
He chuckled, the sound creeping into her bones, making her knees weak. Damn. The reality of Jareth was a hundred times more potent than her memory of him. Was it like this before?
"Perhaps not in so many words. Moreover, who claimed I was here for you?" He took a step back and she lamented the loss of his heat. "Perchance, I was intrigued by the ridiculous mortal masquerading around in a poor imitation of the original."
Taking a deep breath to steel herself, she turned to face him. Big mistake, she thought, as she locked eyes with the Goblin King.
He was so much more than she remembered. He stood a few feet away from her now, illuminated in the darkness, the moonlight drawn to him, kissing and caressing his skin like a long estranged lover. His hair was wild, the wind tugging playfully at the pointed locks, and his mismatched eyes glinted darkly. He was dressed much like she remembered him from their encounter in the underground tunnels of the Labyrinth, a memory that always gave rise to thoughts of "what if." Although he looked very much the same, she had forgotten how overwhelming his presence could be. He radiated power, danger, and masculinity, all with an undercurrent of raw sexuality - a quality she had not fully wanted to acknowledge in their first meeting, but one that wrapped around her now, slithering over and through, making her body practically hum in response.
"What do you want?" she said simply, the unexpected calm in her voice giving her a little boost of confidence.
Jareth tilted his head and grinned. "I've brought you a gift."
Stupid grin, stupid head tilt – like you're all innocent and cute and puppyish…
"I know all about your gifts. Thanks, but I'll pass," she replied sharply.
He sighed, his smile fading. "I simply wish to extend an invitation."
"An invitation to what - an invitation to run your Labyrinth? Shine your shoes, maybe?" she spat, narrowing her eyes.
"A party, Sarah. Nothing more, "Jareth replied calmly. "Just a little soirée. It is Samhain in a few days, after all."
"Why?" she questioned warily. "Why me, why now?"
He smiled at her then, closing the distance between them in a few short steps. She had to tilt her head back to look him in the eye.
"Why settle for an imitation when you can have the real thing?" he whispered, his intense gaze unwavering.
She didn't trust him as far as she could throw him, but she wanted. She wanted magic and adventure. She wanted to feel alive again.
"I don't trust you," Sarah confided, taking a small step back.
"Smart girl." He flashed her a quick grin before turning serious once more. "But this is old ground, Sarah. 'You have no power over me', wasn't it? You defeated my labyrinth, and if I have no power over you, you have nothing to fear from me."
"What's the catch?" she asked, trying to discern the rules of the game she seemed to have wandered into unknowingly.
He sighed again, turning and taking a few steps away from her. "No catch, Sarah. We've established that I have no power over you. You can come and go as you please." He turned back to face her, his gaze seeking hers. "It's only a party, Sarah." He smiled.
It's only a party. She still didn't quite trust him, but curiosity was rapidly winning out. "Where and when?"
"All Hallow's Eve, here, sunset," he stated.
Sarah watched him for a moment, wondering about his motives. "I'll think about it," she finally conceded, wondering just how much she was going to regret doing so.
"We'd be most honored, Lady Sarah," he said softly with a slight bow.
She paused then, considering the new turn of events, feeling as though there were something rather important she was forgetting in her Jareth-induced haze. "Oh! Wait – Brian." She turned to scan the tree line. "Is he ok?"
"Just the goblins having a bit of fun. They'll lead him back safe and sound…eventually." He was behind her again and she could hear the amusement in his voice. "Two days, then. And Sarah", he said, reaching around her and producing a perfect crystal with a flick of his wrist. "Don't forget your invitation." Just as she noted his absence, the crystal burst in her palm, leaving an owl pendant on a silver chain in its place.
Brian wandered farther into the woods in pursuit of the wayward sweater that continued to bob a short distance ahead of him. He was getting tired of the chase, cold and irritated at the interruption of something that had promised to be a much more enjoyable end to the evening.
Silently cursing his luck and his stupid costume that kept snagging in the brush, he picked up the pace, determined to get this over with sooner rather than later.
Abruptly, the sweater stopped. A sleeve was poking out from a small bush, waving at him in the breeze. Brian inched forward, wary of the sudden change.
"Hey there, little guy…." he called out softly, holding out a hand as he approached the bush. "I'm not here to hurt you."
Grabbing hold of the sleeve, he pulled the sweater out slowly, uncovering two beady, yellow eyes staring back at him. "What the…"
His question hung unfinished as the air was suddenly filled with strange twittering, the bushes and trees around and above him rustling. Looking around in confusion, Brian took a few steps backward before tripping over a tree root that sent him sprawling to the ground. Almost as soon as they started, the sounds stopped.
"Get a grip, man," he berated himself, as he sat up and leaned back against the tree. "It's probably just some birds or something." Taking a deep breath, he looked back toward the bush. Two yellow eyes blinked back at him.
Leaning forward on his hands and knees, Brian crawled slowly toward the mysterious sweater-snatcher. "Hey, it's ok, you can come out…" he called again to the creature.
Apparently deciding that is was, indeed, "ok", a little head popped out of the bush. "You sing songs, too?" it asked.
"Holy shit!" Brian exclaimed, reeling backwards. "That is most definitely not a dog!" Scrambling to his feet, he grabbed the sweater out of the dirt, bolting back out the way he had come.
He cast a few furtive glances over his shoulder as he continued down the path, away from whatever that was. Nothing was following him and the woods were silent except for the soft hoot of an owl in a nearby tree. Brian took a breath to calm himself, slowing his pace.
Ok, there is no way that I just saw what I thought I saw, he thought. Shaking it off, he vowed silently to take it easy on the alcohol at any future parties as he neared the edge of the woods and made his way back out to Sarah.
"Hoggle, I need you."
Still trying to process all that had happened the previous night, Sarah studied the owl pendant while sitting at the vanity she'd had since she was twelve. The reflection had changed considerably - the vanity now in the apartment she shared with her friend Jessie, and the room reflected filled less with toys, but still betraying her continued obsession with fantasy. Her room was not the only thing that had changed, however; twenty-three now, a woman, Sarah had lost some of the roundness in her features. Though she still wore her hair relatively long, it was layered - edgier, she liked to think. As she pondered the changes from her fifteen-year-old self, her call was answered.
Hoggle appeared in the mirror, standing behind her between the bed and window. He seemed to be covered in something, and was fighting with whatever it was.
Sarah turned to face him, rolling over to him in her chair. "What'd you do? Fall into the hedge maze?" she queried, helping to pick off bits and pieces of shrubbery stuck to his clothing and tangled in his hair, while trying, and failing, to suppress a smile.
"No," he grumbled. "That big oaf knocked me into that bush I was trimmin' in the garden, thinkin' he was goin' to call the rocks and not paying no attention to where he was goin'."
Sarah smiled, thinking fondly of her friend Ludo, who often didn't realize how big he actually was, usually to Hoggle's detriment. "So, Ludo's helping in the gardens now?"
"Not really. Only we's getting ready for the big party, so we need all the extra help we can get – not that he's much help," he harrumphed, shaking off the last of the foliage and straightening his vest. "Didymus is helpin' with the guard."
"So, there is a party, then?" Sarah asked, trying to feign some kind of indifference.
Hoggle stopped fussing with his clothing, narrowing his eyes as he assessed her. "What're you askin' bout that for?"
Sarah took a moment to ponder the wisdom of confiding in Hoggle as he continued to study her, becoming more wary the longer she delayed answering. If not Hoggle, then who? She knew he would always have her best interests at heart.
"I received an invitation," she stated simply, her look of calm not betraying her squirming insides.
"What sort of invitation. From who?" he demanded, taking a few steps closer.
"From…" She hesitated, Hoggle narrowing his eyes even further so that they nearly disappeared under his bushy brows. "From…the King, that's who," she finished, not quite meeting his eyes.
"The Kin…." he started questioningly before realization dawned. "Jareth, you mean? What's he doin' here? What'd you start talkin' to 'im for?" he stammered, his voice rising.
"Would you mind keeping it down, Hoggle?" she pleaded, worried that Jessie might overhear. "It's not like I've been talking to him on a regular basis or anything. He just showed up. Last night. It's the first I've seen of him since….well, since a long time."
"Sarah, this ain't good. Jareth's a rat, always has been, always will be."
"Yeah, well, I didn't say he wasn't." She turned back to her vanity, head on her hand, gazing at her reflection. "Anyway, I haven't decided whether I'm going yet or not."
"Sarah," Hoggle hobbled over to her, putting his hand on her knee and looking up at her worriedly. "Don't do it, Sarah. It's a trap! He's up to no good. He can't be trusted."
Sarah looked down at her friend. "Hoggle, I know that he can't be trusted. I know that I shouldn't go, but somehow, I feel that I need to." Or want to, a small voice interjected. "It's only a few hours. I won't eat or drink anything. I've beaten him before, and there's nothing really at stake this time…"
"This ain't the Labyrinth, Sarah. The Labyrinth has rules that even Jareth can't break. This is another game entirely, and he's not the only one to worry 'bout. All kinds of Fae folk'll be there lookin' to cause trouble. It's like goin' in the lion's den with a string of meat round yer neck," Hoggle pleaded.
All of Hoggle's protests only seemed to reinforce her need to go – what that said about her, she wasn't entirely sure. She hated to worry her friend, but she felt she had played by the rules for far too long. Ever since her time in the Labyrinth she had been cautious, doing all the right things, keeping her toes on the right side of the line. Out of fear, she realized. She had defeated the Labyrinth and come out of it afraid, diminished. It's like she had left a part of herself there – her confidence, her sense of adventure, her feeling of immortality, all the blessings of youth and ignorance. She had defeated the Labyrinth, she had defeated him – surely she could handle a party?
"I'm going, Hoggle. I've decided. And you can help me or not, but I hope that'll you'll help me."
Sarah was taking long strides across the open field of the park, Hoggle hurrying to keep up a few steps behind her. It was Halloween, near sunset. Trick or Treating had already started, evidenced by the few ghosts, superheroes, and princesses she had passed on the short trek from her apartment.
"Sarah," Hoggle pleaded in a last ditch effort, "don't go. It'll only mean trouble. I don't like it one bit."
Sarah paused, turning to look at her friend, kneeling down to look him in the eye. "I know you're worried, Hoggle – don't be. I'm a big girl – I can handle this."
Over the last 24 hours, Sarah had scoured every book she had on the Fae, trying to prepare for any pitfalls she might face. Hoggle had answered her many questions, offering up information on various creatures that were expected to be in attendance. He even helped her with some etiquette, sharing with her the little he knew that kept him from getting on anyone's bad side.
"I appreciate all your help, Hoggle. I won't eat or drink anything, and I'll go home long before sunrise. I'll be ok," she tried to reassure him. She was a little worried about the music, which she had read some disturbing stories about, but hadn't she already been in a similar situation and escaped? She just had to stay aware and keep her guard up, especially around Jareth. She knew Hoggle was right, he couldn't be trusted. But, in spite of the marks against him, it wasn't the Goblin King she was really worried about.
The question is, can I trust myself? she thought.
Sarah stood up and looked around. She smoothed her dress, the same one she had worn to this park on numerous occasions as a girl. She had found it at the back of her closet and thought it rather appropriate. Her hair was down, but pulled back at the sides with jeweled, feathered clips. She fingered the feathered mask in her hand, a gesture that betrayed her slight anxiety as she surveyed the park.
"So….what now?" she wondered aloud, taking in the blatantly Jareth-less, party-free park before her. Perhaps…, she thought, reaching into the bag at her wrist, moving aside her bottle of water, keys, and wallet, her questing fingers found the object they sought – the pendant. She pulled it out and examined it, tracing the silver feathers with her thumb. His words flashed back to her: "…don't forget your invitation."
Donning her mask, she looked at the pendant in her hand and then around the park once more, steeling herself for what lay ahead. "I guess there's nothing for it, then" she pronounced on a sigh, fastening the chain around her throat. As soon as the clasp snapped closed, Sarah blinked out of sight.
Momentarily taken aback, Hoggle stared, stunned, at where Sarah had just been standing. He promptly followed, leaving in much the same way she had, though without the aid of an owl necklace or otherwise. His last comment carried on the wind, "Damn you, Jareth, and damn me, too."
Moments later, the empty space that had been Sarah and Hoggle was now occupied by her very flustered and out-of-breath boyfriend. "What the fuck is going on around here?" he panted, bent over, hands on knees, trying to catch his breath. "She was just here!"
Brian looked up, spotting the two swans that frequented the pond. "Either I'm losing it, or there's some strange shit going on around here," he confided aloud.
The swans didn't respond. "Strange shit" did not even begin to cover what they had witnessed over the last eight years, and, frankly, they wanted no part of it.
From Sarah's perspective, she hadn't gone anywhere, but rather, "anywhere" had come to her. John 9:25 came to mind, however inappropriate. Once I was blind, but now I see. The nuns would be disappointed to know that Catholic school had done nothing to drive out her fascination with all things pagan.
She stood in the same spot in the fading light of day, but instead of pretty, yet bland, cookie-cutter suburban park, she saw them - the denizens of the Underground. Several she recognized from her time in the Labyrinth and others from her obsession with the fantastical, but some were beyond her experience and imagination.
It seemed she had arrived on the castle grounds. Apparently traversing the Labyrinth would not be among the evening's festivities, thankfully. No party was worth going though that again! Ahead, there was some sort of hill-shaped cloth and wood structure erected in the gardens – perhaps a tribute to the fairy hills of old? – where the party seemed to be in full swing.
Sarah tentatively made her way toward the entrance, the music growing louder as she neared. As she reached the edge of the enclosure, a voice rang out above the din, "Lady Sarah Williams, Aboveground, Realm of the Mortals."
She started at the pervading voice, dismayed at suddenly being the center of attention; her intention of slipping in quietly and unobserved shot to hell. She hesitated for a moment, looking around at the curious faces, pausing when her eyes met his.
Jareth was lounging in a throne-like chair at the back of the room watching her. When their eyes met, he smiled, and gestured for her to mingle with a sweep of his hand. He didn't appear to have any immediate intent to rise from his languid, feline position on the throne to act as escort or otherwise dominate her evening. He continued to watch her as she made her way in amongst the revelers.
Though somewhat disconcerted by his unremitting attention, Sarah headed off to the right where there appeared to be a buffet set out, glad to have the opportunity to explore a bit on her own. She sent occasional glances his way as she walked along the buffet table, trailing her fingers along the edge, as she wondered about the odd offerings. Interspersed among the refreshments were breathtaking floral arrangements, species of flora nothing like anything she had ever seen Above.
"Lady Sarah," said a jovial voice to her side. She looked up from the flower she was examining, happy to have someone to talk to, as most seemed to keep an easy distance.
"Hello!" she beamed. "I appear to be at a disadvantage, as you know who I am, but I haven't had the pleasure."
"I'm not usually in the habit of risking life and limb to talk to a beautiful, yet unavailable, woman," he replied while filling his plate with an assortment of Underground delicacies.
"Risking life and limb," she queried, frowning.
"That's no ordinary pendant 'round your neck, love," he said, nodding at the silver owl resting on her chest. "It practically screams 'Hands off! Property of the Goblin King.'" He grinned, almost successfully disguising the nervous glance over her shoulder.
"Invitation, my ass," she huffed, examining the pendant. She looked back up at the stranger. "I'm not his 'property', or anyone else's, for that matter."
"Just the same," he replied with a shrug. "Actually, it's probably not a bad thing. Unsavory lot here that wouldn't think twice about snatching up a pretty, young mortal."
His tone had taken on a slightly lower register in this last revelation – something a bit unsettling. Another nervous glance over her shoulder, and he continued, "And that, I believe, is my cue to make a quick exit." He looked back at her and grinned.
"Lyre," he offered. "And it was nice to have met you, Lady Sarah." He took her hand, laying a light kiss on her fingers. "Charmed."
Releasing her hand and retrieving his plate, he walked across the room, sinking into a chair next to a red-haired girl who began fawning over him, running her fingers through his hair and whispering in his ear. He sought Sarah's gaze, his black eyes shining, and gave her a cocky, yet slightly sinister smile.
Oh my god, she's human! thought Sarah, mildly outraged.
"Yes," came a familiar voice close to her ear. She startled at the unexpected nearness, Jareth's unmistakable, intoxicating scent muddling her senses. "Did you think you were the only one?"
"But, she's human!" she declared aloud this time, turning to face him.
"She's here of her own volition, Sarah," Jareth replied dismissively. "Mortal women don't often require much in the way of convincing. You, on the other hand, have been uncommonly reluctant, though I can't imagine why."
Sarah narrowed her eyes at his flippant comment. "I have no idea – you are trust and assurance personified," she retorted, turning back to watch the couple. They were seriously making out at this point, both apparently lacking in anything resembling shame.
"Does she even realize what she's doing," Sarah pondered quietly, more to herself than Jareth.
"The thought of living amongst the Fae in a land of dreams isn't as repugnant to all women as it is to you," he said softly.
"Will she be trapped here?" she asked, Jareth's thinly-veiled allusion to the final moments of their last meeting lost on her.
"It's of little importance. She will stay, regardless. Lyre is quite popular with the ladies." He grinned absently as he refilled his goblet from a decanter of pale, peach colored liquid.
They were both eyeing the couple, whose antics were definitely heading toward a 'mature audiences only' rating, when Sarah abruptly stiffened and turned to face Jareth.
"Is this what you were hoping to get out of your invitation, 'cause there is no way I'm doing that with you," she asserted, the dawning realization of her precarious position tingeing her words and betraying her sudden nervousness.
Jareth turned to look at her then, his eyes boring into hers.
"No? Such a pity," he purred.
The words were warm cream gliding over her skin as his gaze held hers. He sipped slowly from the goblet, Sarah very much aware of her mouth suddenly gone dry. She watched as he swallowed, noting in dismay that it was as if the liquid slid down her own throat, spreading fire through her veins, turning her insides to mush. Her knees felt weak and she reached out a hand to the table to steady herself, not daring to break eye contact, lest she show any weakness.
He lowered the goblet, looking away from her to set it on the table. She instantly felt the loss of his gaze in the solidifying of her knees, however short lived. He locked eyes with her again and reached out his hand.
"Then perhaps a dance. I believe they're playing our song." It was practically a dare and she instantly bristled at the thought of backing down to him. The orchestra at the back of the room had indeed begun playing a disturbingly familiar melody.
His face was neutral as he stood fixed with his hand outstretched, waiting for her move. She had heard the challenge in his request and the music seemed to mock her. It was infuriating.
She narrowed her eyes at him as she placed her hand in his. Jareth smiled, his pointed teeth flashing, and she felt very much the proverbial prey. She reflexively stiffened her spine, preparing to do battle.
He chuckled, the aura surrounding them noticeably lightening as he turned to lead her onto the dance floor. Every eye was on them as the crowd parted to let them through.
The dance floor had cleared to make way for the King and the first dance of the evening. He effortlessly slid her into position, Sarah finding it remarkably easy to follow his lead as he twirled her around the floor. After their first pass, other dancers began to join in. It was eerily familiar, although rather than the cool colors of winter, warm shades of autumn adorned the room and costumes; and rather than the leering crowd in her strange hallucination before, the masked dancers were much too focused on their own partners to pay much attention to her.
"So, Sarah, how are you enjoying my party?" Jareth asked, breaking into her reverie.
"Uh, it's been….enlightening," Sarah answered, struggling to find a word adequate to describe the evening so far.
"How so?" he encouraged, casually toying with the curls of hair that trailed down her back, as they continued to glide smoothly through the dance.
She didn't want to answer that. There was a safe answer. She had only been at the party a short time and already her head was spinning with all of the "new" – new people, new creatures, new customs - all the trappings of the Underground she had missed on her first visit. And then there was the real answer – the one she couldn't ignore if she shoved it in an oubliette - Jareth, or, more to the point, her powerful, yet perplexing reaction to him.
Deciding to side-step the question, she answered with one of her own that had been niggling since they had stepped onto the floor, "It wasn't a dream was it, I mean, before?"
He appraised her a moment before answering. "Perhaps we share some of the same dreams, love," he suggested with an indolent smile.
Entertaining that thought was mortifying! She admittedly had dreams about the achingly beautiful, yet dangerous, Fae, many actually, and most of an adult-type nature. She blushed as a particular favorite came immediately to mind, and she tried to squash it, looking around at the other dancers.
"Don't call me that," Sarah replied quietly, avoiding his gaze.
"Don't call you what, love?" he purred.
"That," she said pointedly, her ire pricked at his mocking tone.
Jareth laughed musically, the sound tripping along with the notes of the song. It was altogether delicious and worrisome at the same time.
"Now, how did that go again?" He looked away as if trying to recollect. After a moment, his gaze returned, his eyes languidly caressing her face before he spoke. "'The King of the goblins had fallen in love with the girl,'" he evoked softly.
Oh, yes, she knew that line. A tiny, seemingly insignificant line, tossed somewhat haphazardly into the story, but the one that had preoccupied her thoughts over the last eight years.
"You have already called my honesty into question once this evening, Sarah. Would you prefer that I lie, love?" he taunted on a whisper, pulling her closer, his thumb tracing lazy spirals on the inside of her wrist.
Jareth's words trilled down her spine, his light caress eliciting chills, skipping and dancing over her skin. Clear and resonant in her memory, the words of the song came back to her – falling in love – and had he really just said…?
Suddenly remembering to breathe, her breath hitched and she stumbled, tripping over her own feet in her urgency to escape – escape him, this, whatever this was. His arms wrapped more tightly around her, catching her fall, then released when she resisted.
"Sorry," Sarah mumbled, not meeting his eye. "I guess I'm not much of a partner." She walked away from him, hastening toward the exit and fresh air. Removing her mask as she reached the garden, she dared a look back over her shoulder. He stood where she had left him, in the middle of the spinning dancers, his expression unreadable. She ended the moment, turning away to walk further into the garden.
Jareth smiled as she walked away.
What game is he playing at?
Sarah contemplated the myriad possibilities as she walked idly though the garden that hugged the massive stone walls of the castle. The hazy red-orange of sunset had given way to inky blackness inset with twinkling diamonds, a preponderance of stars clustered in unrecognizable constellations.
She gravitated toward a low, stone wall that ran out from the castle and along the edge of the garden, wondering if it was Ludo's handy work. Nearing the wall, she caught sight of movement out of the corner of her eye.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, as whatever it was shuffled from the nearby shadows into the torch lit clearing to gaze curiously at her. It was an odd, dumpy looking creature, similar to what she imagined a dragon might look like, but smaller, about her height, with a pot-belly and red eyes. It regarded her for a moment, before wiggling little ears, and lowering its head.
He reminded her of Merlin. "Well, aren't you sweet," Sarah crooned as she reached out a hand to touch his snout. With barely any time to register the change in the situation, a taloned hand latched onto her wrist, pulling roughly.
Mine. The word reverberated through her mind as she stared into glowing red eyes, all semblances to her childhood companion vanishing in an instant.
A loud yelp from the other side of the clearing broke through her momentary mental paralysis. Sarah wrenched herself free, as Hoggle bounded across the garden, inserting himself between Sarah and the dragon-creature.
"Get outta here, you!" he shouted, hopping back and forth as he waved the torch he had gripped in his hand. The creature huffed a few times, as if weighing the risk, curls of smoke coiling up before being carried away on the wind. Finally accepting defeat, it backed away, slinking into the shadows, relinquishing its prize.
"Best steer clear of that lot, missy," Hoggle warned gruffly as he turned to face her. "You alright, Sarah?"
"Yes, Hoggle. I'm fine," she reassured as she embraced him. "Thank you."
"Weren't nothin'," he said, embarrassment coloring his words. He still wasn't accustomed to all this "hugging" business that Sarah seemed so fond of.
"What was that, Hoggle?" she asked as they began to stroll alongside the stone wall. Hoggle paused to replace the torch in an empty brace before answering.
"All you need to know is that you don't want nothin' to do with them," he grumbled dismissively. "Like to keep pets, they do…"
Hoggle's explanation trailed off as he became aware that Sarah was no longer listening. She had wandered a few feet off to the right, pausing in front of a darkened archway.
"That's the throne room, isn't it?" Sarah asked suddenly, turning to look back at Hoggle.
"Ah, Sarah…you're not thinkin' of goin' in there, are you?"
"Well, maybe just a quick look," she replied distractedly, laying her hand on the cool stone of the archway as she peeked inside. "It's empty. And I was in such a hurry last time…" her voice fading as she took a few tentative steps inside.
She had spied the familiar arch of the throne from the garden, the doorway apparently some kind of side entrance. The stairway that she had raced up in the final minutes of her long ago adventure was directly across from her as she entered. The room was eerily silent, the torches burning outside supplying the only light. Shadows skittered across the walls.
"Well, I'll just keep watch out here, then," Hoggle relented from his self-appointed post in the garden, not daring to enter the throne room himself. "If you need me…"
"I'll call…" Sarah said absently, wandering further into the room.
Scant moments and a well-placed knee later found Hoggle struggling for freedom in a nearby bush for the second time in as many days. Jareth hummed a familiar tune, drowning out Hoggle's muffled cries for help, as he strolled leisurely toward his throne room and the object of his quest, a riding crop tapping in rhythm against his boot.
"You wound me, precious." Jareth's teasing voice rang out suddenly in the hush of the near empty room. The sound startled her and she turned to face its owner, her expression betraying her confusion at his words.
He reached out slowly, hooking the mask hanging loosely around her wrist on the end of a riding crop, holding it up between them in answer to the question in her eyes. Sarah's gaze rested on the feathered mask for a moment, before rising to meet his.
"Oh! No! I didn't mean…," she stammered, realization dawning. "I mean, it's certainly not ok to kill owls, or any birds, for that matter, for their feathers…" The words tumbled over themselves in her hurry to dispel the misunderstanding. Flustered, she turned away, meandering toward the back of the room. She glanced back at him over her shoulder as she trailed a hand along the arm of the throne.
"They're fake," she offered in final, quiet explanation, looking down and away from him.
Sarah hadn't heard him approach. One minute she was idly examining the curious throne while attempting to conceal her reddening cheeks and calm her nerves that had been doing cartwheels since he had entered the room; and the next he was behind her, his riding crop flat against her stomach, pinning her back against him.
"Kiss me and make it better, love?" he purred close to her ear.
Sarah jumped, turning to face him, and, abruptly realizing her mistake, tumbled back onto the throne. Gracing her with a predatory smile, Jareth placed a hand on either side of the cool, stone arch, his knee sliding between her legs as he leaned slowly over her.
Her thighs went up in flames at the intimate contact. "What are you doing?" she squeaked, inching backwards, though more on principle, for the scant space it afforded her.
He laughed lightly, his breath against her neck sending tremors down her spine that curled contently into a little ball of soft flutterings in the pit of her stomach.
"Merely trying to gain the attentions of a very beautiful woman," Jareth replied searching her eyes. "Is that so wrong, love?"
Oh, god…this is so not happening! Sarah moaned inwardly in denial, trying desperately to quell her body's traitorous response to the rapidly escalating situation.
Jareth reached out a hand to push a lock of hair behind her ear, the other draped over the arm of the throne, effectively blocking her escape. "You're intoxicating, Sarah," he whispered against her cheek, his nearness nearly her undoing.
"But I…I have a boyfriend," she mumbled ineffectually on a sigh, his fingers tracing a lazy path up the back of her neck before slipping through her hair. Her already racing heartbeat quickened as they continued their journey, trailing lightly over her collarbone; the tips of his hair danced tantalizingly over the exposed skin above her neckline as he watched their progress.
"Ah, yes." He paused in his delicate exploration to meet her eye. "Brian – gallant rescuer of stolen sweaters." He smirked, cocking an eyebrow.
"How much have you told him, Sarah?" he asked, the intensity in his gaze unnerving. He reached out a hand to caress her cheek.
"What would your boyfriend think, hmm? Of Sarah, guest of the Underground; Sarah, friend of dwarves and beasts; Sarah, Champion of the Labyrinth?" Each time he said her name brought a weakening of her resolve. She hadn't told Brian about her time in the Labyrinth. She hadn't told anybody. She didn't know if he would understand.
"Does he even know who you are, precious?" Jareth whispered, his lips brushing against her ear, his question echoing her sudden doubts.
"I…um….hmmmm…" Sarah's current protest died on her lips as his continued to trace a path down the side of her neck, leaving a trail of fire in their wake. Her eyes closed involuntarily as his hand wrapped around her throat, sliding up to cup her chin; a leather encased thumb caressed her lower lip.
"Just a kiss, Sarah. I ask for so little," he coaxed, his lips mere inches away.
The sweet scent of peaches carried to her on his breath. She inhaled, shakily, the fragrance and possibilities dizzying. Their breathing intertwined, all thoughts of protest dissolving under the heady dream of Jareth. A dream made reality if only she were to lean forward and just taste…
"Sarah!" Having finally freed himself from the shrubbery, Hoggle's desperate cry broke through the haze that had settled over the throne room.
Sarah was momentarily befuddled, and then the she remembered: goblins…an invitation…Hoggle's warnings…the party…Lyre…the human girl!…a dance…a dragon…the throne room…the events of the last two days flooded her reluctant memory.
…and she was about to kiss the Goblin King!
Silently rallying against the onslaught, Sarah took a fortifying breath to still her rioting thoughts. In a final moment of curiosity, she leaned in slightly, laying a hand on the exposed skin hidden in the open ruffles of his shirt, warm velvet courting her fingertips. She felt him stiffen almost imperceptibly at her voluntary touch.
Feeling the tension reach a breaking point, she relented to the inevitable conclusion and whispered softly against his lips, "You still have no power over me, Goblin King." She punctuated the words by ripping the pendant from around her throat and vanishing.
No longer having a throne underneath to support her weight, Sarah landed painfully on her rear in the soft grass of the park. She didn't know how much time had passed, but night had fallen, the park dark and quiet. She could see the moonlight rippling on the lake.
"Ouch," she pouted, as she got up awkwardly, dusting any dirt off the back of her dress, and then bending down to retrieve her purse that had fallen. The pendant glinted in the grass, catching her eye. She hesitated a moment before scooping it up, her fingers sliding across the silver feathers as she slipped it into her purse. She had a sinking feeling that this wasn't the last she'd seen of the Goblin King.
"Sarah!" A familiar voice shouted her name, and she turned to see Brian running toward her.
"I've been looking for you everywhere!" he admonished, folding her into his arms. He hugged her tightly, kissing her hair, before setting her away from him. "Where have you been? Are you alright?" he interrogated, concern etching his features.
"I'm fine, Brian, just a little tired," she said quietly. "It's been kind of a long night."
"Ok," he said, not missing her dodge. "I'll walk you home, then."
He leaned in to kiss her, Sarah turning her head away before his lips touched hers. Guilt, and something else that she wasn't prepared to deal with yet, weighing on her conscience. It was suffocating – she couldn't breathe if he kissed her. Instead, she wrapped an arm around his waist, pulling him along with her as she began to walk.
"Ok, Sarah," he relented with a sigh, putting his arm around her shoulders so that she was snug against his side as they walked. "Let's get you home."
Brian could see that she was visibly shaken, but by what, he didn't know. What he did know was that there was something she wasn't telling him. She had been distant since the night of the party and he had seen some strange shit over the last couple days. He would get some answers, but he could let it slide – for now.
"You still have no power over me, Goblin King." The whispered words hung heavy in the dead silence of the throne room.
"Oh, I think not, precious," Jareth drawled, not having moved from his leering position over the throne that Sarah had occupied seconds before. He could still feel her heat radiating from the cooling stone, the lingering tingle of her breath on his lips.
Changing tack, he abruptly righted himself, his thumb and fore-finger pinching the bridge of his nose. "Hogwart," he said aloud to the room at large.
"Hoggle," his wayward gardener croaked.
"You try my patience." Jareth sighed irritably, turning to stalk towards the cowering dwarf.
"If she had kissed you…," Hoggle began before being abruptly cut off.
"Yes. That was precisely the point. If she had kissed me, that pesky little problem of who has power over who would no longer exist. Yet, once again, our plucky heroine escapes the clutches of the villainous Goblin King with the help of her friends," he sneered, kneeling down to look Hoggle in the eye. "Why is it, exactly, that you continue to defy me?"
Jareth allowed Hoggle scant time to mutter something unintelligible, before cutting him off once more.
"No matter," he said, rising. "Perhaps a few days in the Bog of Eternal Stench will encourage your deference, hmm?" And with a flick of his wrist, Hoggle was gone before he could utter so much as a syllable in protest.
Alone now in the throne room, Jareth conjured crystal, gazing quietly at the image of Sarah walking away in the protective embrace of her boyfriend that filled the incandescent globe.
"Oh, no, precious," he intoned, a note of promise underlying his words. "This is far from over."
The line about thighs going up in flames - totally not mine. I ganked it from another of my favorite movies - can anybody guess which?
Thanks for reading! Please, leave a contribution in the little box. ;)
Update 5/3/10: Just wanted to thank all of you who have read and reviewed! I really appreciate those of you who took the time to comment. You were all so kind and generous, and I feel like I failed you, left you hanging. This is still just a one-shot, but I am trying to think up a way to continue it. So, maybe one day we'll find out what happens. As of right now, I have no clue. :/