I'm sorry, I KNOW I promised that the next thing I posted would be the next chapter of V.E. ...but I just realized that today is the one-year anniversary of the day I opened my account, and I had to celebrate.
'Forget about it, Jareth. I'm not coming this year. I have plans.'
'It's raining out, Sarah. Your plans are cancelled.'
'They are not! Who says you can't have a picnic in the rain?' Sarah insisted, but at that moment the phone rang. Jareth smirked knowingly and Sarah cringed a little, turning her back on him to pick it up.
'Hi, Sarah, this is Violet. Obviously we're not having our picnic today, so—'
'It's pouring rain. I already talked to Veronica and Jay, and they think we should re-schedule for next week. And maybe we could have a lunch picnic instead of a dinner picnic, I don't want to get eaten by mosquitoes. What do you think?'
'I think we should have it today!'
'In the rain? You're crazy, Sarah. Anyway, I'll call the others, and I'll see you tomorrow, m'kay?'
'Fine,' Sarah sighed. She held the phone to her ear for a moment after Violet hung up, listening to the buzzing from the other end, before finally putting it down. She didn't turn to face Jareth as she said, 'I'm still not coming.'
'It's our anniversary, Sarah,' he said, and she could hear the pout in his voice. 'The least you can do it have dinner with me.'
'It's the anniversary of the day you kidnapped my brother and I rejected you! That hardly seems like something worth celebrating.'
'But it's tradition, Precious,' he drawled. 'Now come along, my dear.' He held out a gloved hand, and Sarah sighed as she reached out and took it.
Every year she insisted that she wouldn't go. And every year he won.
When they rematerialized Underground they were in an enormous banquet hall. There was a long table with a royal blue tablecloth, hundreds of candles in silver candelabras and a gentle lull of music with no discernable source. The table, though long enough to seat dozens of people, was only set for two. Sarah took a step towards it, and tripped on the floor-length skirt she was suddenly wearing. Jareth caught her before she could fall, using it as an excuse to hold her close before setting her back on her feet.
'You changed my clothes,' she complained. 'I hate it when you do that.'
That was a blatant lie. Sarah loved the medieval gowns he magicked her into at every opportunity, but she would never let him know that.
'You're a princess, Sarah. You shouldn't wear such hard men's clothes. And besides,' he added, 'I have better fashion sense than you.'
'Only in your dreams, Jareth,' she muttered, trying very hard not to glance at his indecently tight pants, and failing miserably. 'And I'm not a princess. The fact that you've deluded yourself into thinking I'm your fiancée does not mean that—'
'Let's save the bickering for after dinner, shall we?' he interrupted smoothly, stepping forward to pull her chair out for her to sit. Sarah rolled her eyes, lifted her skirt to avoid tripping again and sat down, and Jareth lowered himself into the seat beside her, at the head of the table.
'Last time you told me you'd let Hoggle, Ludo and Didymus eat with us this year.'
'I said I'd think about it. And I did. But really, Sarah, this is the only time we get to spend a nice, peaceful, romantic evening together...why would I ruin it?' He rang a little silver bell, and servants immediately entered with trays of food.
'This is so ridiculous,' Sarah sighed. 'You do know I have a boyfriend, right?'
'He doesn't count.'
'Because I know for a fact that you've never so much as held his hand.'
'How could you possibly know that?'
Jareth just smiled.
The evening dragged on. It was certainly one of the worst nights of Sarah's life. Okay, so the food was delicious, the dining hall was beautiful, she was dressed in a gorgeous medieval gown and tended to by servants, her "date" was intelligent and funny and kind...but it was still one of the worst nights of her life. No doubt about that. Later on, when she was alone, she would think back and try to find some way in which it wasn't perfect.
'Well, thanks for dinner,' Sarah said, starting to wish that the dress was looser around the stomach as she finished her bowl of peach cobbler. 'Now I'm getting a little tired, so I'll just be heading home.'
'Alright,' he agreed, and she looked up in surprise (and maybe a teensy bit of disappointment). Standing up, he offered her a hand and pulled her to her feet. 'Let me have at least one dance first, though,' he added with a smile, her hand still trapped in his, and Sarah's breath caught in her throat.
He had never asked her to dance before. He never let her leave right after dinner, but he always just sat and talked with her, or showed her around his castle and the surrounding countryside.
'I'm tired, Jareth.'
'But dancing will not exhaust you, Precious. It will exhilarate you.'
'You forget, I'm not a faerie,' she told him, trying to step away. 'Physical exercise does tire me out. And don't call me that.' Unfortunately, her hand was still trapped in his, so she couldn't go far. He stepped closer, his gloved fingers brushing the throbbing pulse at her wrist.
'Look, dude, no means no,' she told him, but with his free hand he placed two fingers beneath her chin and forced her face up. He was a lot taller than her, but still their faces were only inches apart, and her eyes automatically locked on his. Sarah had always found it hard to look into his beautiful, mysterious, impossibly ancient eyes, and even harder to look away when she did. When their eyes met, she found it difficult to think, difficult to move, difficult to argue. With a flick of his hand the long table and chairs disappeared, leaving an open dance floor in their place. Still holding her gaze with his, he pulled her into his arms. She blindly followed his lead as he led her into a spin and then began to turn counter-clockwise in an unfamiliar dance, and the music lifted softly around them, finally loud enough for her to recognise the song as Greensleeves, one of the oldest love songs in history.
'See?' Jareth asked softly, finally releasing her from the enchantment of his eyes. 'Is this so bad?'
'I guess not,' Sarah sighed, and then had to stop talking as he spun her away before puling her gently back. 'It's just,' she went on when she had regained enough breath to be able to speak, 'that I...I don't think it's fair to lead you on.'
That wasn't true; it wasn't just that.
'You aren't leading me on. It's just a matter of time before you realize that you're in love with me.'
'Wrong. It's just a matter of time before you realize that you're an arrogant, delusional stalker.'
Jareth thought about that for a moment, and then pulled her closer.
'Well,' he said, 'one way or the other, at least I get to dance with you. And at least you get to dance with me.'
True say, Sarah thought even as she rolled her eyes. There was no way on Earth or Faerie that she would ever fall for him...but it was kind of nice to dance with him. She had always liked feeling like a lady, after all.
'If you think about it for even a moment, Love,' he said softly, his breath stirring her hair and sending involuntary shivers down her spine, 'you will come to see that you have no reason to resist me. I have never hurt you, and I never will. Everything I do, I do for you. The life I offer is everything that you want...and you are all that I want. You can only struggle with fate for so long.'
'Maybe I believe that people make their own destiny.'
'In that case,' Jareth answered, and their legs intertwined for a single, tantalizing moment before he dipped her deeply back, 'what do you see in our future, Sarah?'
Sarah's breath came heavily and her head spun as she stared up at him. What did she see in her future? Did she see a tedious human job in a dying world, a short youth that would be snuffed out by old age before it even really began, a lonely life without a partner? Or did she see an endless life of beauty and laughter in a world alive with magic, side by side with a man who professed to love her?
'You don't have to answer now, Precious,' Jareth murmured, his lips a hair's breadth from her own, 'but...think about it.' She felt his cool breath slide across her tingling, aching lips and her eyes slid closed of their own accord, and then Jareth almost...almost...kissed her.
But then he pulled her back up, and she dizzily put a hand on his shoulder to steady herself. She blinked up at him for a moment, completely confused. She was sure that he'd been about to kiss her, and for whatever unknowable reason, she was going to let him. After all, she was twenty-one years old, and still hadn't had her first kiss. It was about time, wasn't it?
'You're tired,' Jareth said as the last chords of music faded around them. 'I'll take you home.'
'Oh. Okay,' she said dumbly, still a little lost. He pulled her close, and the next thing she knew she was back in her living room. Jareth held her to him for a moment longer before stepping away.
'Goodnight, Jareth,' Sarah answered, and then, before she could stop herself, a treacherous part of her asked, 'That's it? No kiss?' Cringing internally, she mentally pummelled the part of her heart that had asked that question. What was wrong with her?
Cocking his head, Jareth watched her for a long moment before smiling softly.
'No, Sarah,' he said. 'Not tonight. It's enough, for now, for me, that we got this far. Sleep well, Love.'
'Um, you too,' she muttered, still red with embarrassment.
'Oh, and one more thing,' he added, flicking his fingers. 'Happy anniversary, Sarah,' he told her, pressing a blue rose into her hand.
Thank you so much to everyone who's supported my writing over this last year. Whether you've reviewed, favourited or just read my work, or if this is the first of my stories you've read...I really appreciate it, and I really hope you enjoy my little bits of madness.