Disclaimer: See first chapter
A/N: And now, the conclusion. Beware. There be fluff ahead (despite my best efforts to avoid it). A gazillion thanks to UndergroundDaydreams for helping me polish this story. And many, many thanks to those of you who read, reviewed and/or favorited thus far. This has been a fun ride!
Sarah should have been happy. She should have been prancing about the house in glee, but instead she was sitting in front of her easel, staring at the blank page before her, and had been for the last six hours.
The rest of the visit from her family hadn't been much worse after she had emerged from the kitchen. Predictably, Karen had continued to gush about Sarah getting married—the woman had been worried that Sarah might never settle down. Jareth worked Robert over with his charm and wit, and by the end of the visit Sarah's father had softened toward the Goblin King. Sarah shouldn't have been surprised—every mortal seemed to cave to Jareth's Erik-charisma eventually.
The most unsettling part of the ordeal, though, had been Toby's random outbursts, directed toward Jareth. He said things like "Do you juggle? You look like someone who could juggle big glass balls" and "Did you used to have longer hair?" and "I bet you like kicking things. Maybe chickens." With every comment, Jareth would glance at Sarah with an expression that seemed to say, See how magnificent I am that your baby brother would remember and recognize me, even when I'm without all of my majesty and splendor? Sarah, in turn, would give him a sickly smile that meant Do you really think I want him to remember the night you almost turned him into a goblin? Karen had, of course, misinterpreted the silent exchanges and declared that the pair must be madly in love.
After the goodbyes—which included Robert's grudging "Erik seems like a stable man"—Sarah had rounded on Jareth, ready to commit murder of a magical person, or at least assault in the first degree. Jareth had already returned to his wild-haired, tight-pants-and-knee-high-boots-wearing, riding-crop-wielding glory, and was, as always, smirking at her.
"As much as the thought of you unleashing your fury upon my person causes me to quiver with anticipation," he had said, "I fear that I am called away at the moment." He kissed his gloved fingers and held them out toward her. "Please save those thoughts for my return, precious—particularly the salacious ones that crossed your mind in the kitchen."
He had disappeared in a cloud of glitter before she could yell, "Coward!"
That had been a week ago, and she had seen neither hide nor hair of him since—nor the goblins. The house had been serene, clean, and Sarah hadn't needed to purchase a new toaster or rewire her entertainment system in days. She had forgotten what it was like to come out of her room in the morning, sip a cup of coffee in her bathrobe, and not have an impossibly handsome, seductive man making off-handed remarks of a scandalous nature.
If Sarah was being honest with herself, she missed Jareth and the goblins. A lot.
She wondered how that had happened, how she had come to prefer the chaos that Jareth had introduced into her life. Just months ago, she had been happy (mostly) as a semi-reclusive artist who had borderline OCD tendencies when it came to housekeeping. She had been content (somewhat) before "Erik Turner" showed up on her doorstep, turning her life upside-down with goblins and generous helpings of sexual tension.
I have turned the world upside-down, and I have done it all for you.
A chill went down her spine, and she set down the pencil she'd been holding. She didn't like the direction that her thoughts were going. It was a direction that they'd been going a lot lately, especially since the mysterious absence of her roommate. No, it was best not to let her mind wander, or else she'd be forced to admit that she was falling in…
She pressed her hands to her temples, trying to stay the errant thoughts. How could she even consider a serious relationship with a man who was at best a trickster, if not a completely villainous, and one who transformed wished away children into grubby little goblins? He was arrogant, stubborn, conceited, preening, bossy, unrelenting, clever, witty, handsome, exciting, sexy…
Damn her mind that was now following the path her body went down months ago! She ignored the twinge in the leftish side of her chest that seemed to say, "Hello! Heart here. Just saying I'm on the same page as Mind and Body."
That's it! Sarah stood up and left her studio. She had to get Jareth out of her head.
An hour later, Sarah sat with a cup of chamomile tea in her hands, watching an episode of her favorite sitcom. She didn't look up when a shower of glitter announced the sudden arrival of the formerly truant Goblin King, not wanting to show him how much she'd been affected by his absence.
"I will never understand your predilection for that contraption," he said, close enough to her that she could feel the heat of his body through her pajamas. "What is your fascination with these characters in particular? The angst between Rick and Rochelle is rather contrived and quite bothersome."
"Ross and Rachel," she corrected, though by now she guessed his flubbing of names—any name—was intentional. He liked getting a rise out of people, including her—especially her. "Where have you been?"
"My, my, is it possible that you missed me, Sarah?" She glanced at him, catching his pleased grin. "I thought you might have reveled in my absence. After all, that's what you said you wanted. Had a change of heart, then?"
For a moment, she considered denying that she missed him, but she was so relieved that he'd returned, she didn't have it in her to return the jab. She leaned into him, instead—now confident that initiating contact did not mean an permanent invitation—and smiled when he draped his arm across her shoulders without comment. Damn, he smelled so good. "You've been gone for a week."
"Has it been that long? Time is different here." Jareth inched his body closer so that she was lying against his chest. This is home, every part of her seemed to say, you belong here. "If you must know, I had a sudden rush of runners in my Labyrinth. The paperwork afterward was quite tedious. I would have delegated, but you know how goblins are."
Sarah chuckled, thinking of the little minions that had stolen her socks, taken apart her appliances, and held chicken races in her living room. "Are they… Were they children once?" she asked.
"Only my favorite goblins." He held a gloved finger to her lips when she balked. "Do not judge that which you do not understand, Sarah. Never forget that things are not always what they seem."
"Like you," she said, looking up at him.
"Yes." He grinned. "Like me, indeed."
"What are you?" She'd asked the question before, though in the past, she'd add her own sarcastic suggestion: What are you, a glam-rocker wannabe?
He narrowed his eyes. "Still thinking that you might rid yourself of me? I'd have thought you'd given up on that futile endeavor by now."
Sarah sighed. While he was away, her head had cleared enough for her to remember what he'd said in the kitchen. She was fairly certain that she needed only the right words to evict him and his goblin groupies, probably something along the lines of "I wish you would get out of my house and back to the Underground, right now," but she couldn't bring herself to say it. After being without him for a week, she realized she didn't want to kick him out—at least not yet.
Jareth held something toward her, and she stared down at a bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream—her favorite.
"What's this?" she asked.
"A peace offering," he said with a shrug. "I'd rather avoid the sound beating you promised me before—unless it's in the bedroom. I might be more amenable in that case."
She raised a brow. "Are you apologizing for that nightmare of a family visit?"
Jareth laughed. "Tell me that you didn't enjoy seeing your brother again. I apologize for nothing."
She sat up. "You apologize for nothing? Nothing? Tra la la?" She gave him her best Jareth imitation, smirk and all.
He played with a lock of her hair. "You have no idea how alluring it is when you mimic me. How I wish you'd let me show you just how much." She shivered at the implication in his voice. "To answer your question, I have nothing to apologize for."
Sarah crossed her arms. "Not even stealing Toby?"
"You wished him away."
"How about making me run the Labyrinth?"
"Rules are rules."
"You're not going to apologize for taking three hours off the clock or sending the cleaners after me?"
"As you recall, you told me that the Labyrinth was 'a piece of cake.' I merely increased the level of difficulty to match your capabilities."
"And drugging me with a peach?"
"Ah, but if I hadn't, neither of us would have experienced that lovely dance."
"I was fifteen."
"Hence the reason you didn't have a more explicit dream."
Sarah felt her cheeks burn. "How about sending the goblin army after me?"
Jareth waved his hand. "Were the fools truly a match for you, Sarah?"
"What about tricking me into letting you into my home?"
He smirked. "Do you expect me to apologize for something that worked in my favor? Everything I've done, I'd do again."
"Even the snake throwing?"
"To see that expression on your face once more? Of course."
Sarah rolled her eyes. "You are such a rascal."
"To the core." He held up the ice cream. "I believe you are supposed consume this before it melts."
"It's…safe?" Sarah gave the bowl a wary look. She was having plenty enough explicit dreams without any help from Jareth, thank you very much. Although their relationship was evolving, she wouldn't put it past the unrepentant ruler to take advantage of her, if given a chance.
"You're so distrustful, my love." He laughed. "It's perfectly innocuous, other than copious amounts of sugar."
She reached for the spoon and took a hesitant bite, closing her eyes and moaning at the minty, chocolaty goodness of it. How long had it been since she'd had some? She glanced up at Jareth as she went for second bite, and paused at his expression. She'd seen desire in his eyes before, but it was always controlled, like it was a weapon in his arsenal for seduction rather than an impulse. The look in his eyes now was wholly different—wild, animalistic, hungry—and she knew with acute certainty that if he hadn't been bound by her no-touch rule, he would take her right there on the couch. It was frightening and arousing.
As if possessed by some naughtier version of herself, Sarah brought another spoonful of ice cream to her lips. She took a slower bite, moaned louder and finished by licking the spoon languidly. She watched Jareth's eyes roll back and his lips part with a ragged breath. He was suddenly over her, managing to avoid making contact, but close enough that she could feel his rapid heartbeat rather than hear it. He brought his lips almost to her neck, ready to pounce should she invite him. Sarah's mouth went dry.
"How you taunt me, you cruel thing." He pulled back to meet her eyes, the overwhelming want still written on his face. "I will have you, Sarah—all of you. Forever."
He vanished, leaving behind the ice cream, glitter, and a gasping Sarah.
Sarah woke to the sounds of a blender on the fritz, chickens clucking, and Jareth singing. She smiled. The house had been too quiet last week, and everything felt right again. Was this what it was like on an average day at his castle? She was tempted to ask him to take her there, just for the day—maybe see some old friends. Knowing Jareth, though, he'd find a way to keep her there for much longer than that. Not that it would be such a hardship, the little voice in her head said. She didn't argue.
Sarah threw on her robe and not-pink fuzzy slippers, imagining what the throne room would look like full of goblins and chickens. When she stepped out of her room, she had to dodge a hen scampering down the hall.
"Sorry, Lady!" a goblin yelled as he chased after the bird.
Sarah chuckled. Yes, her house felt like a home again.
"Ah, precious. Sleep well?" Jareth asked when she crossed the living room. "Dream of me?"
"Wouldn't you like to know?" she said to cover the heat that rose to her cheeks. She poured herself some coffee, trying hard not to remember the dream she'd had the night before. It had involved Jareth and her and ice cream, and it had been messy. Tongues played a prominent role. No, it was best not to think of that right now.
Sarah turned to head back to her room and nearly bumped into Jareth. He leaned against the counter, arms crossed, lips curled into a leer. "Yes, I would very much like to know what you dreamt of."
Naughty Sarah chose that moment to rear her mischievous head. "Well, if you must know," she said, mimicking his accent, "it was quite delicious."
He raised a brow. "Do tell."
Rational Sarah flashed the "danger" sign—teasing Jareth was risky—but Naughty Sarah argued that he ought to have a taste of his own medicine for once. Rational Sarah agreed that it might be nice to get him back, but worried about the repercussions. Naughty Sarah said, To hell with the repercussions! Let's have some fun!
"There was a lot of…" she paused, stepping closer to him, "…licking."
"Licking?" he replied in a voice that was suddenly throaty.
"Hm-mm." She closed the distance between them, almost touching him. "Licking all over." She saw his Adam's apple bob as he swallowed. "Honestly, your stamina was incredible."
He flashed a feral grin. "You have no idea how incredible."
"I can only imagine." She leaned forward and whispered against his ear, "Brian seemed to enjoy your…talents…so very much." Bad, Sarah. Bad, bad, Sarah. She pulled back to see his reaction.
Jareth stiffened, his grin turned into a snarl. "Brian!" he snapped through his pointed teeth. "You dreamt of myself and that imbecile…licking?" He looked like he caught a whiff of the Bog of Eternal Stench.
"You did want to know," she said, walking away, trying to contain her laughter.
"Brian!" Jareth yelled after her.
Sarah succumbed to a full guffaw after she closed her door. She could hear Jareth shouting, and by the squeals of delight from his raggedy subjects, she was sure that he was engaging in his second favorite pastime: goblin kicking. What had come over her? Whatever it was, it was worth it. Sarah hadn't laughed this hard since…when? She'd forgotten how exhilarating it was to take Jareth on and win.
After her laughter was spent, Sarah plopped on her bed and looked at the bouquet of honeysuckles on her nightstand. It was the same arrangement that Jareth had left in her studio more than a week ago. She had moved the flowers to her bedroom after he'd been gone a few days, and she realized now that she'd done it to remind herself that the past four months had been real and not some chaotic dream.
She touched the petals and wondered if she was on the brink of losing her head, maybe her heart, to the recalcitrant man. He seemed so positive that deep down she desired him, but she still didn't know for sure. She sighed, deciding not to fret over it for now. Sunlight and fresh air would do her a world of good.
Twenty minutes later, she emerged from her room wearing a summer dress and sandals. She ducked into her studio to snag a sketchpad and some pencils. Jareth didn't pester her when she passed him in the living room. He was draped over the couch, covering his eyes with a gloved hand and muttering under his breath. Sarah thought she heard him say, "I'd rather kiss Hogwart than lay a finger on Brian," but it might have been her imagination.
She wrestled her keys from a little goblin who grumbled about her stealing his pretty trinkets. Feeling pity for the creature, she offered him a piece of gum. He stared at it for a minute, then popped the entire thing into his mouth—wrapper and all. He gave her a crooked-tooth grin before scurrying off after a chicken that passed by. Sarah shook her head and laughed.
When she opened the door, Jareth spoke up. "And just where are we off to?" he asked, looking at her over the arm of the couch. "Not another meeting with an 'author'?"
Sarah came close to telling him that she was going on a second date with Brian, just to see how he'd react, but decided against it. She was only mildly cruel, after all. "I'm going to do some sketching at the park." She hesitated then asked, "Do you want to come?"
If she hadn't been looking at him, she might have missed the flash of surprise that crossed his face before he schooled his expression back to his typical smirk. "Of course."
Something new fluttered in her chest when he joined her at the door, changing into his Erik persona. He held his arm out to her. "Lead the way."
She took his proffered arm and smiled. "Let's go."
"What are you drawing?" Jareth propped himself up on his elbow and tried to peek over Sarah's sketch tablet. They were sharing a blanket on the grass, Jareth lying with his body nearly molded around hers as she sat. The sky was overcast and the temperature mild for late summer.
"Oh, you know," she said, pulling the tablet back so he couldn't see, "just something inspired by my dream last night." She laughed at the horror on his face as he snatched it from her.
He narrowed his eyes when he looked at her work. It was a sketch of the goblin she'd given gum to earlier. "I can't say that I'm fond of your sense of humor." He handed the tablet back to her. "You captured Ograth's likeness perfectly."
Sarah glanced at him. "You know his name?"
Jareth raised a brow. "Of course I do. What kind of ruler would I be if I didn't know my subjects?"
Sarah set her sketchpad down and hugged her knees. Jareth's comment made her realize how little she knew him. When she was a teenager, he had been nothing more than a villain who had refused to give her brother back without a fight. And when he first moved into her house, he'd been a trickster, seducer and downright irritating in his stubbornness. She'd always assumed him to be selfish and cruel, especially the way he treated the goblins, but the simple creatures seemed to adore their king.
"Such a thoughtful expression, Sarah," Jareth said. "What are you pondering in that beautiful head of yours?"
Sarah shrugged. "I don't know. Do you know all of them—the goblins, I mean?"
Jareth rolled on his back. "Some more than most, but yes, I know all who reside in my kingdom." He grinned. "Even the chickens."
She laughed. "What is it with goblins and chickens?"
"I'm afraid that was entirely my fault." Jareth sighed. "Keeping goblins entertained can be troublesome. I introduced the first chicken races, and things went downhill from there."
"Why are you their king?" Sarah asked. "You're nothing like them."
"Aren't I?" Jareth smirked. "It is true that I am far more intelligent, and strikingly handsome. But think, precious. Am I truly ill-suited to rule over a race of mischief-makers?"
"I guess not," she said, chuckling.
They fell silent, and Jareth closed his eyes. Sarah studied his beautiful face, feeling a surge of something—guilt, maybe—as she realized that she had never given him the benefit of the doubt. Granted, he hadn't inspired her to with his various tricks, but she'd never tried to know him, to understand why he behaved the way he did.
"Why me?" she asked without thinking.
He opened one eye. "Why you what?"
Sarah bit her lip. Did she want to know the answer to her question? Did she want to discover this was all a game to him with her as the prize. Was Jareth capable of real love?
"Do get on with it," he said with mild irritation. "I was trying to take a nap."
And there's the Jareth I know. She barked a laugh in spite of the nerves making her stomach do gymnastics. She took a deep breath and plunged ahead. "Why am I the girl that the Goblin King fell in love with?"
He closed his eyes. "You do know how to ask the easy questions, Sarah," he said with a snort. He paused then added, "I haven't been completely honest with you."
She tensed. "About what?"
He sat up and brought his eyes to hers. "I told you once that you were no match for me." His expression turned rueful. "In all my years, I have never met my equal, until I found you."
She wasn't sure what to make of that. "So, any girl who beat your Labyrinth would have won your heart." The thought bought a pang to her chest.
Jareth pursed his lips. "Sarah, use that clever head of yours. Is that how the story is written? That the Goblin King falls in love with the girl after she defeats him?"
It only took her a moment to recall the words of the little red book. He was right, the narrative told of the king's love before the heroine wished away her brother. "But I was a child," she whispered.
"Indeed," he said. "A child who I knew would grow to become a beautiful and formidable woman—my match in every way."
Thunder boomed as if to punctuate his statement, and Sarah shivered. "It's going to rain," she said, overwhelmed by his confession.
After several long heartbeats, Jareth leaned forward. "Kiss me, Sarah." His lips hovered over hers. "Just a harmless little kiss."
Her breath caught, and her body flushed. She wanted to grant his request, but… "I'm afraid," she said. "I'm afraid that if I kiss you, I won't be able to stop."
Amusement flashed in his eyes. "Then don't stop. Kiss me until the world falls down."
But I'll be there for you, as the world falls down.
A dam broke inside of her, and all the emotions she'd been trying to ignore crashed over her. Memories flashed in her mind in rapid succession. She remembered how he sang to her in the ballroom, confessing his devotion. She saw the fear in his eyes when he pleaded with her to stay with him in the Underground, and the pain when she rejected him. He had given her an experience that had shaped the woman she had become.
And when life had become tedious, but before she knew she had been missing something, he had appeared again. He gave her magic, made everything so rich, so full of color that she knew she could never go back to her previous existence.
"I love you," she blurted out, surprising herself.
He gave her an indifferent shrug. "I know."
She threw back her head and laughed. He was so frustratingly arrogant, and yet she wouldn't change him. Her laughter turned into a sharp hiss when he pulled her to him and planted his lips on her jaw. "But…" She swallowed; her mouth went dry as he moved to the hollow of her neck. "I didn't say the words."
"Oh, but you did," he said between kisses. "You said the most powerful words of all."
All argument fled from her when he captured her lips with his, showing her just how much better Jareth kissed than Erik. Holy smokes, he must have been holding back before! When she ran her fingers through his hair, he groaned against her mouth and pulled her down on top of him.
She felt something large against her thigh and gasped. "Oh!" She looked down at him with widened eyes.
He smirked. "Surprised, beloved? You did mention my pants twice on your little list."
"Yes, but…" Sarah gulped.
Lightening cracked across the darkened sky and rain began pouring down, drenching Sarah. Jareth, on the other hand, stayed dry. She sat up and pushed her wet hair back. "No fair."
"I rather like this look for you," he said, his eyes south of her face.
Sarah blushed and crossed her arms. "Cad!"
He grinned. "Always." He gathered her into his arms. "Shall we go home?"
"Yes." She started to stand, but Jareth tightened his grip.
She blinked and they were sitting on an ornate four-poster bed that was definitely not in her house. The air smelled of exotic spices and magic, and she knew they were in his chambers in the Underground. Before she could protest, he kissed her again, chasing sense from her—until a chicken clucked. In unison, they turned to see three hens nesting in Jareth's bed. His face twisted with outrage.
Sarah fell off the bed, laughing.
Tracy came home to find the message light blinking on her answering machine. After setting down her keys, she pushed play, sure it was a telemarketer. She was pleased to hear Sarah's voice after the beep.
"Hey Tracy. Listen, so I was kind of a you-know-what about the whole blind date thing. Um, so—" She cut off with a sharp hiss. "Stop it! I'm trying to leave Tracy a message!"
A deep voice murmured in the background, "By all means, continue. You're not distracting me."
"Anyway," Sarah continued in a breathy voice, "I'm sorry, Tracy. You were right. Jar—Erik is perfect for… Oh my god! I can't think straight when you do that, let alone talk!"
"You're taking too long, precious. I grow impatient."
The rest of Sarah's message came out in a tumble of words. "We'regettingmarriedI'llsendyouaninvitationsoonbye!"
The answering machine beeped to indicate the end of the recording.
Tracy shook her head and laughed. "You owe me, big brother."
A/N: And that's all she wrote. ("She" being me, of course.) For any reader that said, "Who the heck are Ross & Rachel?"—they are characters from the extremely popular 90's sitcom, Friends.
I hope that met your expectations, and you didn't get a cavity from the fluff! I'd love to hear your thoughts. Reviews are better than double-fudge brownies. No joke.