Disclaimer: Sarah, Jareth, the Labyrinth, and its other characters are owned by the Jim Henson Company.
The Olive Branch
Chapter 3: Thanksgiving Day
by Dreamer In Silico
Three in the afternoon on Thanksgiving Day saw Sarah restlessly tossing aside her stack of case studies, unable to focus despite the quiet fall of icy rain against her window and the wonderfully fragrant pot of tea on the side table. She supposed she might as well get ready to go, since her focus had imploded and she had no real idea when the goblins would be coming to escort her to the castle.
Sarah was halfway through a near-scalding shower when she heard the telltale, chittering laughter coming from the kitchen. Cursing fluently, she resolved to have a little chat with Jareth about inappropriate timing.
Sighing, she bundled up tightly in a towel and called toward the kitchen, "I hear you out there – let's play a game!"
"…Game?" came a voice that sounded like Woobie's.
"Yup. The rules are easy – you all have to sit down now and stay put until I get out there. You win the game if you haven't moved the whole time, and if you win, I'll give you a candy-cube… and I have eyes all over my apartment like the King does in the Labyrinth, so I'll see it if you move!"
"CANDY CUBE GAME!" Widget was apparently rather pleased at the idea. Sarah hoped fervently that the game-bribe would keep them from destroying anything important in the next ten minutes while she got dressed.
Standing in front of her tightly-packed closet, she reached for one of her favorite pairs of jeans, but paused.
I should probably go a bit nicer for a dinner date…
… Oh, hell.
Is that what this is? She fervently wished that she had better insight into his motive for the invitation.
It feels like a peace offering, but everything I've ever thought I knew about him says otherwise. She laughed quietly to herself, pawing through outfits. And yet, things are not always what they seem in the Labyrinth. I don't think that quite made it through my skull when I was younger.
She emerged from the bedroom in short order, wearing a comfortable knee-length dress and striped tights that would never have flown in front of her professors. All things considered, Sarah was happy to be in law school, but she thought the whole damned family of professions needed to lighten up a bit. (It wasn't like they were having classes in courtrooms yet!)
Much to her astonished pleasure, Widget and Woobie were both seated on the floor, staring one another down for signs of cheating. Vix was not in evidence – it looked like only the two had come this afternoon.
"Woobie keeping close eye on Widg for lady-Sarah," Woobie announced sanctimoniously when Sarah appeared.
"Widget keeping eye on boggy-Woobie!" Widget retorted.
Sarah covered a smile and retrieved a pair of sugar cubes. "Thank you both for helping me out, and here are the prizes." The cubes were gone from her fingers a scant half-second after her hand opened.
"Lady-Sarah ready to go?" Woobie asked between crunching noises.
Well, this is it.
"Yes, I suppose I'm… as ready as I'll ever be!" Sarah answered with a laugh. "Let's go say hello to the Supreme High… Cat Herder, was it?" Both goblins looked at her with blank faces. "The King. Let's go say hello to Jareth."
"Rightright!" Widget crowed, jumping up. "We take you to him," he announced as he grabbed Sarah's wrist with one knobby-jointed hand.
"Oh, wait! Hang on a – " She stopped as Widget lifted his feet from the ground and hung from her arm. "Erm, no… wait for me a moment, please. I need to get something, first."
"Oh." He let go, allowing her to collect the pumpkin pie from its place in the refrigerator and put it into a cardboard box.
"Alright, I'm ready now."
Both goblins' faces lit up with glee as they each grabbed onto one of her knees. Sarah drew breath to ask how they expected her to walk like that, but her words were lost in a rush of air past her ears as her apartment and the mortal world itself disappeared in a flash.
Coherent vision was returned to her a moment later, and she found herself surrounded by rolling copper pots, pans, and other utensils, and with a goblin still clinging to each leg.
The blonde figure across the room whipped around at the clatter their entrance had made, and stared at her, agog.
Jareth, King of the Goblins, was wearing his customary dove-grey breeches and foppish white shirt… and a ruffled cotton apron that would have looked like it came from some "home cooking" magazine (come to think of it, hadn't Karen had one like that once?), had it not been ripped, singed, and splotched with stains of every color imaginable. Sarah stood, a frozen statue, while her brain tried to catch up to what her eyes were telling it.
Then Jareth broke the silence.
Sarah held her breath, trying desperately not to laugh.
Woobie squeaked in terror and tried to hide behind Sarah's leg. Widget did the same, but called out in a very tremulous voice, "Widget and Woobie bring lady-Sarah like Majesty ask. She here, now!"
"So you did… but do I not recall telling you NOT TO GO YET, and specifically giving the two of you a hand-clock to tell you when to bring her?
Woobie poked a hand out from his attempted hiding place, proffering the pocketwatch. The points of its hands were, in fact, pointing to five o'clock… but they were bent rather dramatically, as if forced into position with a set of pliers. Or goblin fingers.
Disgusted, Jareth snatched the watch and hurled it into a wall. "Out of my sight, the both of you, before I recant my misguided attempt at generous goodwill and whisk you into the Bog."
"Yes, your Kingness!" Woobie screeched and ran, Widget hot on his heels. Sarah was left standing in the middle of the scattered pots, without the slightest clue what to make of this situation.
Jareth's eyes fixed on her. "Well? What are you looking at? Is my hair askew? Did one of those thrice-bedamned chickens leave feathers stuck to my boots?"
"Um, your… apron… is, well…" Sarah choked out, nearly losing the battle with laughter.
"This is what your mortal culinary artists – what do you call them? Iron Chefs? – wear, is it not?" He arched one winged eyebrow.
Truly, Sarah thought, diplomacy is the better part of valor.
"Oh – yes, yes I suppose it is. I was just… surprised to see you using such a human… tool. And cooking."
"My subjects assured me that this garment came from a most esteemed and excellent source in your world, a culinarian widely renowned for some confectionary delicacy… 'Ricecrisspi Treats,' I believe it was."
The apron was definitely Karen's. And the rice crispy treats had been another poor choice in goblin bribery. Sarah could not quite contain the snort of laughter this time, but Jareth had busied himself with whisking the apron away and magically grooming his appearance, and thankfully did not seem to notice.
Turning back to her, he shook his head. "As for cooking, would you trust a human meal to a goblin kitchen staff?"
"Put that way, I expect I wouldn't," she replied. "I – "
She stopped speaking when the smell of smoke and a surge of flame from one of the large, brick ovens presented a strong case against trusting a human meal to a goblin monarch, either.
"Oh, bugger me with a bog sprite." Jareth had noticed it too. "That was supposed to be dessert." He let out a martyred sigh and conjured a crystal, which he tossed into the offending oven. The flames went out.
Sarah held up her boxed pie, the situation now officially so surreal that her nervousness had fled. "I can help with that, I think. I made a pumpkin pie for dessert; it's one of my favorite classic Thanksgiving dishes."
Jareth eyed the box curiously, walking over to lift the lid and take a long, appreciative breath. "It smells positively delectable. And I have been remiss as a host, it seems, since my subjects saw fit to… surprise me… on the timing. Welcome to the Underground, my dear."
Sarah was rather amazed when he swept her a courtly bow, but much less so when he ended it with a mocking flourish of lace-ringed wrists.
You can put a peacock in a pinafore, she mused, but the feathers still stick out everywhere.
Well, two could play at this game. She swept him an equally mocking curtsey, eyes upraised to his face. "I thank you for the invitation. I don't entirely think I want to know how you knew I'd be spending the holiday alone, though."
He chuckled, a velvet sound, and offered her his arm. "Then I'll be sure not to volunteer that information. Allow me to show you to the dining room – the regular kitchen staff can, at least, usually be trusted to convey the meal to the table."
Despite some trepidation seeded by Jareth's unidentified dessert mishap, a large and delicious-looking spread awaited them on a broad oak table in an airy tower dining room. Apparently goblin wait-staff could move when they needed to. Sarah suspected there had been many earlier threats of bogging involved in orchestrating this logistical miracle.
They took their seats across from one another and began to fill their plates. The food was… at first glance, it had looked like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting, the picture-perfect Thanksgiving Day spread. Upon closer inspection, it became apparent to Sarah that a few details of the recipes had been rather amusingly – but in most cases, tastily! – misunderstood. There were chopped green beans in the baked stuffing, and the ruby-red dish that Sarah had taken at first glance to be cranberry sauce turned out to be pomegranate seeds. The golden brown, crisp-skinned turkey was definitely a turkey, but instead of the traditional onion or apple, a well-roasted peach was stuffed inside.
THAT was deliberate, Sarah thought, slightly irritated. Still, the slightly caramelized peach juice gave the turkey a wonderful flavor. The only dish that truly missed the mark and landed in the realm of the Just Plain Odd was the bowl of "sweet potatoes," which turned out to be normal mashed russets mixed with honey.
They spoke of strangely normal things – well, as normal as light conversation with the King of the Goblins could get, Sarah supposed – and both studiously avoided discussion of their various sorties over the last several years. Jareth was intrigued at the idea that Sarah was going to a school devoted to arguing and exploiting loopholes in a complicated system of rules, which when he put it that way, left her mildly disgruntled. And of course, he thought it was an absolutely perfect track of study for her.
She had to admit, it was a fairly accurate synopsis of the legal profession.
The evening proceeded with astounding smoothness for some hours, and Sarah found herself relaxing in Jareth's presence. He was so much more pleasant when they weren't trading threats, bravado, or destructive pranks.
Finally, however, she could not hold back the question any longer. During a lull in the conversation after slices of pumpkin pie, she put down her fork and looked him directly in the eyes.
He studied her for a long moment, his lips quirked into a sardonic smile, and she had begun to wonder if he was just going to stare at her for the rest of the night when he spoke.
"Well, don't you get tired of trading goblin-powered stench bombs and havoc, occasionally? I thought to… shake things up a bit, perhaps."
Sarah laughed. "What a sensible answer – far too sensible. I almost believe you, but I somehow think there's more to it than that."
He gave a haughty sniff, but the smile remained. "What I said was perfectly true. However, since you wish me to elaborate…. Let us say that I seem rather perversely afflicted with the human malady of 'hope,' of late. You were lonely. I am… usually lonely. The time seemed ripe for a change." He paused, smirk fading, and held her gaze. "Would you not agree?"
Taken somewhat aback, Sarah was at a loss for words for several seconds. His answer had been considerably more candid than she would ever have expected from the infuriating royal creature, and it gave her a quiet thrill as she appreciated the implications.
She replied slowly, doing her best to keep her voice steady. "I would definitely agree on that account, Jareth." Her heart did a cartwheel as he reached across the table to take her hand in one of his. He seemed about to say something else, but he paused instead, closing his mouth and listening intently.
Muffled, indignant squeaks were emanating from the paneling.
"OW! My ear!"
Jareth turned his head slowly toward the panel, his eyes murderous.
"Did he kiss her yet?"
Sarah blushed crimson to the roots of her hair.
Jareth drew breath as if to yell, but let it out in a long, melodramatic sigh instead. "So much for being generous," he said mildly. The whispers terminated in one loud screech, then fell abruptly silent. "They can contemplate their actions from the remote luxury of the Bog of Eternal Stench."
Her skin still burning, Sarah managed a laugh. "For once, I don't think I could possibly argue that they didn't deserve that!"
"Oh, I assure you, dear lady, they always deserve it rather richly when I send them there. Do recall that you have only been hearing these great tales of tyranny and royal injustice from the little imps themselves all these years," he countered.
"…Fair enough," Sarah conceded wryly. "So… " she began, feeling like she needed to start working on disengaging. The goblins' last comment had her much more unbalanced than she would have liked. "Thank you again for the delicious dinner, and the company. It's getting late, and I really think – "
"Oh, Sarah, you are welcome, of course. Surely you will come again, sometime… often… yes?" His mismatched eyes twinkled as he smoothly cut her off.
"Um… I guess. I mean, yes – I'd love yo- I'd love that!"
She stood, a bit shakily, and he rose with her as she realized that he still held her hand in his own gloved one.
"Well, back to law school and a pile of class work for me, I guess. The evening was lovely," she said, not quite sure how to gracefully ask him to send her home.
"Yes, indeed it was." There was laughter in his voice; he was not going to make it easy for her.
She sighed. "Please send me back to my apartment, now, Jareth; I need to be able to get up and get some work done in the morning."
"Kiss me first, beautiful Sarah, and I will send you home," he said with a grin.
Sarah gulped, then grew indignant. "What? You promised to send me home when I asked – you didn't put any other conditions on it!"
Not that kissing him sounds like a bad idea at all, but it's the principle of the thing, damnit!
He chuckled, infuriatingly smug. "Ahh… not quite, I'm afraid. I promised that I would return you to your home at the hour of your choosing, which – given my power over the relative flow of time between our worlds, I can do regardless of how long you seem to stay here. So I think I will wait until I get that kiss that my poor subjects will miss out on seeing."
Oh, you smarmy ass. Sarah's knee-jerk response was anger, but she reined herself back to calm. She'd been sure there would be a catch to the whole arrangement, and as catches went, this one was positively tame.
Still, she gave him a death-glare that would have made her fifteen year old self proud.
Well, am I a would-be professional word-mincer, or not?
"I have your word on that, then? Directly after I kiss you, you'll send me back to my apartment?"
"Of course, my dear," he murmured.
She took a half-step forward, face tilted upward toward him. His grin widened.
Still holding his eyes, she slowly lifted his hand and tugged off his glove, letting it fall to the table beside them. Jareth's brow furrowed in surprise.
Before he could find time to protest, she turned his hand over and placed a kiss in the center of his palm, on skin like molten silk. To Sarah's immense gratification, he exhaled sharply at the touch of her lips, and could not make his irritation at her interpretation of his demand completely convincing when he spoke.
"Minx. Come here!"
Sarah allowed herself an impish grin. "Oh no, I don't think so. I kissed you, as you asked – you just failed to specify where."
He hissed, his eyes narrowing… but then he laughed. "I suppose I, too, will have to be a bit more careful with the wording of an agreement next time, hmm?" His voice dropping to a low purr, he bent near her ear and concluded, "I won't make the same mistake again, precious, I assure you."
Sarah chuckled and nodded, as the world began to blur around her. "I'm sure you won't, Goblin King. Until next time!"
She caught one last glimpse of his customary smirk before the chaos around her solidified into the welcoming – if mundane – walls of her home.
Well, THAT was a memorable Thanksgiving.
A/N: And thus concludes this Thanksgiving Special. If you enjoyed the story, keep an eye out for future holiday shorts; I'm not making any promises now, but I think I would like to revisit this storyline with a sequel or three. ;) I am also writing an on-going, much longer, and more serious Labyrinth story called Talespinner. It's my main project right now, so if you haven't seen it yet and need something a bit thicker to sink your literary teeth into, have a look!
On that note, I am very much looking forward to getting back to that story. This humor piece was a lot of fun, but it was hard to get the last chapter out. Jareth is tapping me on the shoulder and telling me to get my sorry ass back to Talespinner because the portrayal of him there is much more accurate, and The Olive Branch offends his glittery dignity. TS will be returning ASAP - I'm aiming to get a new chapter out sometime in the coming week.
Thanks for reading! ~Dreamer In Silico