A/N: Hello, my lovelies! I was worrying for a while that the entire story was just building up to me writing that lemon-limey thing you got last time, but some semblance of plot is returning, never fear. At least, I think it is. This is shorter, but it's all I had. My, there is a lot of smut here, isn't there?
The skirt was exactly like she liked them. It was full, a positive mountain of cloth spilling out onto the floor, with taffeta blues and greens and yellows bunching up and flowing down and cinching and spreading and knotting and curling all in one big masterpiece below the waist. The top was of more modern cloth, everything but the wide collar clinging to her like a second skin.
This second part was all Jareth's fault: the courts liked their attendees in clothes big and garish enough to poke out your eye, which, naturally, had Sarah-the-Princess squealing for joy and calling the still-despised dressmaker to draw up designs right away, but the original big-skirt-stiff-torso-large-collar design had Jareth sniffing in disapproval. It was only fair, he'd whine – "Oh, pardon me, explain," – if he was wearing pants tight enough to make her blush by just sitting next to him, that he should have the same pleasure.
Enter dear-God-I hope-it's-not-too-cold-in-there cloth. There had been much debate about sewing padding into the shirt, logic eventually overruled by Jareth's hands making a fair point in a dimly-lit room.
That wasn't the worst of it, though. Since the only chairs in the room were thrones, and since thrones were reserved for royalty only, and since she and Jareth weren't actually married yet (conversations had gone that way, idle discussions about good places to do it had turned into talks about possible honeymoons), she would have to stand. The whole time. In high heels, as they were the usual footwear for the attendees (even the males). If she ever ruled the world, she would have words with whoever came up with some of these status quos.
But, brushing all the bad stuff aside and returning to the original point, the dress was pretty.
Trying not to feel too much like a five-year-old, Sarah gathered up her skirts and twirled, enjoying her time barefoot while she could. The twirl became a spin and the spin became a dance, and soon she was all-out boogeying by herself in front of a mirror wearing a ballgown and no bra. Behind her reflection, the door opened, and the Goblin King stepped in, a remark already on his lips as he came over. Before he could, Sarah attached her lips to his, her braless torso melding against his and her fingers finding that one spot below his ears that made him just a little more excited when she rubbed it.
With a wave of his hand, the door shut behind him, a large amount of the candles snuffed out, and the carpet beneath her feet became a lot fluffier, all the better when Jareth lowered her onto it and began lifting her skirt, his mouth finding her underwear and nibbling exactly –
Knock, knock KNOCK!
Sarah gave him the evil eye as he reluctantly came out from under her skirt and scowled at the door. "There was someone out there, wasn't there?"
"Maybe," he said, crossing his arms.
"And they saw me molest you, didn't they?"
"It wasn't – ?"
"Sarah, Jareth, would you kindly stop humping and get your butts out here?" Toby's voice was like a bucket of ice cold water.
"Ooh, I am going to get you for that!" Sarah glared at the king, shoving her feet into the shoes that awaited her.
"Me? I would think your brother was the one at fault here!"
"You don't initiate sex when the girl's little brother is right outside!" she hissed, snapping her fingers. Two small braids started at her temple and continued to the back of her head, where a clip appeared (having previously been on the nightstand) and tightened over the ends, leaving the rest to flow down her back, the magic combing through any tangles.
"I thought the line was drawn at 'in the room'?" Jareth said with a confused expression. His jacket buttoned itself as the last of the candles puffed out and the doors opened, a testy Toby waiting for them with crossed arms.
The Williams family was not happy with the idea of a trial. The whole thing sounded far too seventeen-hundreds for their liking and they demanded to be there to see it. Unfortunately, with Sarah and Sir Didymus already taking up space, there was only room for one more. Toby wasn't a choice she was too happy with – he had no magic, though his sight for the hidden world had improved immensely, and perhaps stood out too much in his twenty-first-century black suit, even though it had been carefully embroidered to show a bird of some sort (a phoenix or a golden swan, she couldn't tell) on the back.
But he wasn't her father, who had big shoulders and big hands, and was too quiet to be comfortable in a courtroom, but too awkward to just be sitting back and watching it all happen, and he wasn't Karen, who hovered and asked questions whenever there was a lull in the conversation. Jareth recommended they find him an iron ring – the three humans had been very alarmed when Sarah hissed and dropped it as she'd been passing it to Toby, peering carefully at the red welt that had appeared on her hand – and maybe something else on his person, under his coat. Sarah didn't know what it was, but she assumed he had another weapon.
"Sarah, so glad you could make it!" Terry said, rushing towards her and embracing her with one arm, the other tugging a woman who looked to be of Asian descent behind him, "This is Auge!"
"You brought a date?" Sarah said, raising an eyebrow, but still giving the woman a big smile and trying not to stare as the woman's breasts nearly popped out of her not-too-supportive halter when she leaned in to shake hands. "It's nice to meet you."
"You, too," the woman replied, eyeing Jareth's hair with interest. "You're in for a long sit. You've got Nen."
"So you work with the courts?" the fae king asked.
She tossed her short bangs in a way that might've been a negative nod, "Only translation. This wasn't really on my map, but Terry gave me a call and had some questions about the court functions and we caught up over a few dinners."
"Well, I guess we'll see you in-between sessions," Sarah said with a smile, taking Jareth's offered hand and allowing him to lead her into the courtroom.
The room had no windows, but many, many small, dinner plate-sized light fixtures that changed indiscriminately between actually being part of the ceiling and having been installed. The ceiling itself was a kind of mottled green-blue, and, where there was space, small bumps or warps could be seen, giving it a watery effect. Small baskets made of the same material as the walls would extend off of it, forming little cases for glass bulbs or, for some of them, just light. Lamps were stuck everywhere they could fit. Despite all the arrangements, the light seemed to evaporate by the time it traveled down to the floor, and the whole room gave off the feel of a decently- but not well-lit kitchen.
A throne (amounting to a chair a little fancier than the others in the room) had been provided for Jareth, and he delicately sat himself down to wait while Sarah, and an excited Didymus stood nearby, looking around at the various groups of people filing in. The jury was certainly a diverse population, having more than twelve different species in it that Sarah could see. In the area behind them – cruelly empty of seating of any sort – she saw Tasha, Angie and Isaac come in, Toby following them, each in a slightly flashier example of a business-casual get-up. She wished she could put on a pencil skirt and some flats right now; the heels and the dress – even though she absolutely lurved it – were killing her already. She gave each a small wave.
A few more minutes passed, during which Sigmund entered, giving her the coldest glare she'd ever had the displeasure of receiving, and the door behind the stand opened. Judge Angh Nen was the size of a small killer whale, and moved like one, too. His bulk swayed as he wobbled over speedily to the stand ("All rise for Judge Nen."), his wig bouncing, his disproportionately small feet making quick tapping noises on the stone floor. The headdress was a monstrosity, piling high on top of his head and looking ready to fall apart into the handkerchief it really was. His face was more easily forgettable, Sarah decided, though it wasn't too flattering to him, either. His eyes sank deep into his head, in stark contrast to his nose, which flared almost as much as his wig did. Baby-like hands pushed his glasses back into place from where they'd crawled down his umbrella-shaped nose in his excitement.
Sarah soon realized that Auge was right. Nen was just about the least efficient and most unpleasant judge she'd ever heard of. He enjoyed looking over his nose at everyone who spoke, drawling out his statements and questions until she was ready to beat her head against Jareth's seat – but she dare not! Nen had already reprimanded Sigmund's lawyer – an elderly woman with powder-blue hair and lovely lipstick the color of pomegranate – for bad posture, and the woman had to be twice his age. She didn't want herself to be reprimanded for any 'unladylike conduct' in the damn misogynist's courtroom. Most terrifyingly, it seemed that he was leaning heavily onto the side of Sigmund after hearing their piece about him not 'saying the right words'.
Finally, the trial came to a close, with neither side getting what they wanted – money stayed with researchers, Witchblade stayed on Sarah.
Sarah stilled, straightening back up to watch Sigmund weave out from behind their table and come to stand in front of the judge, looking every bit as put-together as he had at the Yule Ball.
The self-important Nen shifted into attention, "Yes?"
"If I might propose a compromise?" Sigmund said. Sarah watched as Jareth's grip, having just loosened on his riding crop, tightened until the leather of his gloves creaked. "We understand that the Goblin King is unwilling to let the Labyrinth's Lady out of his domain. However, the Witchblade is a dangerous artifact, and I'm sure you agree that having on in the hands of a ruler, any ruler, is a chance that we should not be willing to take.
"Our research aims to find a way to control the power of the Witchblade, a part of which is getting it off of the unfortunate woman who it has claimed, and then destroying it. We believe the magic and technology it carries can be put to good use defending worlds. Therefore, we ask that we be allowed to enter the Goblin King's domain and conduct our research on the Witchblade and its carrier on his territory, on his time, under his supervision. The Underground's residents will, of course, be rewarded handsomely."
Sarah gaped, eyeing Judge Nen as he leaned back leisurely and contemplated everything (literally everything, he soaked in every damn syllable and took his sweet time) her ex-employer had just said.
On the one hand, she thought, she had no desire to spend time with the man who, quite clearly, believed she'd purposefully stolen from him and treated her accordingly. On the other…
The journey to Harena was dangerous, unsettling, uncomfortable, and had resulted in losing a year with their families, several important thousands of dollars in rent for their apartment, and the medical bills taking care of Isaac's head injury and the dietician costs to get the three adults back to a healthy weight. They were each promised ten million dollars, and came away with less than nothing. Slowly, hoping her not-picturesque movement wasn't noticed by Nen, she turned to face the four faces she'd gotten close to in the last four (technically five) years.
Only Terry was watching her with this if-you-do-I'm-sorry-you-had-to look. She gave him a reassuring smile and turned back to the proceedings in front of her. Too fast, it seemed, or she'd been looking behind her too long, because Nen was looking at her with a highly sour expression.
"And you, Goblin King? What do you say to this?" the judge turned to Jareth, who in turn turned to her, brows furrowed in worry.
She repeated the smile she'd given Terry, reinforcing it with a thumbs up (Suck on that, Nen!) and turned to Sigmund and the judge, giving a less nice but much more ladylike smile. Jareth gave a dismissive toss of the head, curdling Nen's blood further with his flippancy, "I have no qualms with it. Assuming, of course, that we'll be able to revise the agreement should the situation change?"
Before Nen could begin his cycle of chewing every thought over, Sigmund nodded, shaggy bangs jumping with the motion, "Of course."
Angry pink cheeks trembling with irritation at being ignored, Nen pounded the gavel down onto the sounding block, seeming to forget that he was supposed to dismiss and thank the jury, "Court adjourned!" he wheezed, and stood, taking his time with his exit and making them stand as he crawled over to the door.
For a moment, she watched Sigmund and Jareth share an exasperated glance – 'Look at these crazy court people, can you believe we have to deal with guys like this?' – and then it was gone. The scientist was picking up his white overcoat and Jareth's hand was low on her back, guiding her out of the room.