Disclaimer: Labyrinth and all associated characters, places and situations belong to The Jim Henson Company. I do not claim to own anything but the original storyline and any original characters. I do own Smidge (I think he's a cousin of Lixxle's Skeep) and Colin, but you can have Colin. ;-)
Summary: Answer to a long-ago challenge: Sarah wakes up and sees Jareth, sitting on the edge of her bed, tapping his booted heel with his riding crop. "Oh, dear, I'm terribly sorry," he apologized with amusement. "Did I wake you?"
Author's Note: The mention of adult-type touching and a goblin wearing high-heeled women's shoes are both nods to Lixxle, an amazingly funny authoress. If you haven't read her stories, you're missing out.
"What's that?" Colin Waterford asked, his eyes narrowing in disbelief.
Sarah glanced over her shoulder just in time to see a small being dash around the corner of the movie theater. Mentally cursing Smidge, she turned back to Colin and smiled brightly. "What? I didn't see anything." she replied.
He frowned, craning his neck. "Are you sure? It ran away just as you turned to look. Maybe I should go check it out."
She shook her head. "It's probably just a stray cat, Colin," she protested, pulling on his arm. "Look, the movie's about to start and we don't even have our tickets yet. Let's go!"
"Thing is, Sar, that was no cat," he replied, looking grim. "It was bigger than a cat, it was walking on two legs, and it had fangs. I think it was wearing clothes…"
"Clothes, Colin?" she asked with feigned disbelief. Smidge wore clothes, but he definitely did not have fangs. Suppressing the urge to giggle, Sarah merely grinned and said, "You only had two beers with dinner, Colin. You sure are a lightweight!"
He rolled his eyes but smiled good-naturedly. Taking out his wallet, he handed her a twenty dollar bill. "I know what I saw, Sarah, and I'm going to check it out. Maybe it's someone's pet monkey, or something. Here. You get the tickets, and I'll be right back. I just… I need to see what that thing was."
Relenting, she took the money. "Fine. I'll buy the refreshments. Junior Mints?" She would have pressed the issue, but she knew that Smidge wasn't going to injure Colin. Hopefully he would be long gone and on his way home by now.
"Yeah, and a Coke. And a popcorn. We can share, if you want," he said, kissing her cheek.
"Should I get something for the monkey?" she called after him laughingly. She shook her head, watching as he walked toward the alleyway. Getting into the short line to purchase tickets, she cast a glance in the direction he'd gone. The couple ahead of her was arguing over which movie they were going to see. Sarah sighed, wishing she could convey to Smidge that he didn't have to follow her everywhere she went, but she knew if she brought it up that he would insist he was only "following GK's orders."
Smidge had arrived in her life three days after she completed the Labyrinth and won Toby back. He slept in her closet and ate table scraps along anything else Sarah gave him, including banana peels, week-old cake and stale bread. He was a garbage disposal. Sarah lived on her own now, which made things a lot easier. When she went to work, which is one place he agreed not to accompany her, he had the run of the apartment and enjoyed watching television. He called himself her "guard" but would never elaborate. It was clear, however, that the Goblin King had assigned Smidge to watch over Sarah. Grudgingly, she found it kind of sweet, and Smidge had grown on her.
Just as the bickering man and woman walked away from the window – each with a ticket to a different movie – Colin came running over to her. "I didn't find it," he said, looking disappointed.
"Well, whatever it was, it's long gone now," she said consolingly.
Sarah brushed her teeth while Smidge stood on the toilet seat watching her. Spitting into the sink, she glanced at him and narrowed her eyes. He had the grace to look sheepish, giving her a timid smile and ducking his head down, his chin resting on his chest.
She sighed. Even though he could be a real pain, the little goblin was adorable. "Smidge, what did you think you were doing tonight?"
He shrugged, offering a weak grin. "I no likey the Colin," he said simply, spreading his arms out in appeal. Wearing a too-large T-shirt adorned with the image of Chewbacca from Star Wars, he looked ridiculously cute and innocent. "He no good for the Sarah, no good at all."
"You say that about every guy I go out with, Smidge," she groused, knowing she couldn't truly be angry with him. "I get the feeling you'll never like anyone I go out with."
"What can Smidge say?" he asked, shrugging again. "I has my orders."
She rolled her eyes. "Yeah, about your orders," she said, knowing as she embarked on this conversation that it would do no good; it never did. "What, exactly, are they?"
"Guard the Sarah," he said readily, stranding taller and sticking out his chest in a display of bravery. Of course, the fact that he was standing on the toilet reduced the effectiveness of the pose.
"Why?" she prodded.
Smidge grinned hugely, every tooth in his mouth on display. "Acause," he replied, gesturing vaguely. "For protect you and make sure you is safe."
Resisting the urge to kiss him, which he found terribly embarrassing, she asked, "Is scaring off boyfriends part of your orders?"
He made a big show of looking up at the ceiling as if engaged in deep thought. "It be so long since I gots my orders," he offered apologetically, tugging on his T-shirt. Sarah had provided him with quite a wardrobe over the years, shopping in the toddler department to find small plain shirts and shorts. He had been with her for nine years now, and she was quite attached to him. "I forget, 'zactly. All I know is guard the Sarah."
Sarah sighed. "I figured as much," she said. "All right, time for bed."
Smidge scurried ahead of her, down the hall and into her bedroom. As she pulled down her blankets, he went into her closet, which served as his bedroom. "Nite, Q."
"Good night, Smidge," she replied, crawling into bed. Smidge had started calling her 'Q' after he'd been with her for a few months, but he wouldn't tell her why. He was very tight-lipped when he chose to be.
She closed her eyes. Why in the world, she wondered for the thousandth time, had Jareth decided that she needed to be watched over? She would have thought she would the last person he would want guarded, after she beat his labyrinth and turned down his very 'generous' offer. She had asked Smidge if he ever went Underground and reported things about her to his king, but he claimed to have only gone back a few times to visit the other goblins, and on those occasions hadn't even seen the king.
Wracking her brain was going to get her nowhere, but as usual, she now had the Goblin King on her mind. It was amazing how clear a picture of him she still had when she thought about him. She remembered everything, from his mysterious eyes to his wild hair and his scandalously tight pants. Now that she was older, she could better appreciate him, as well as what he had offered her. Not that he'd been serious. She wasn't stupid. What would someone like him want with someone like her?
Unfortunately, someone like her could easily want someone like him. Over the years, she had dreamed of him often, and those dreams had become increasingly mature in nature. Sometimes she relived her experience and heard his sarcastic comments all over again, his mocking laughter ringing in her ears. Usually, though, there was very little conversation and a lot of adult-type touching.
Swallowing hard, Sarah tried to block out the memory of last night's dream to no avail. Even Smidge's amusing snores and sporadic bouts of talking in his sleep couldn't distract her tonight. The dream kept replaying in her mind, over and over again, until she fell asleep and seamlessly slipped back into the very same dream.
Sarah woke up suddenly with a gasp. Her heart was pounding against her ribcage, her pulse racing through her veins. Breathing heavily, she glanced at the clock, surprised to see that it was only half past one. While in her dream she had just very satisfactorily finished enjoying the attentions of the Goblin King, right now she was hot, bothered and unfulfilled. She sighed loudly, wondering if she had screamed his name. It seemed as if she might have done so… She was relieved to hear Smidge's snoring from the closet; it would have been terribly embarrassing to have to try to explain to him why she had called out the Goblin King's name in her sleep. She could easily imagine the amusement dancing in the little goblin's eyes as he teased her. Besides, she wasn't even sure she was supposed to know the Goblin King's name; Hoggle had mentioned it once in passing, but she was always very careful not to speak it.
Sitting up, she threw off the covers in frustration, intending to get up for some water, but her arm connected with something solid. In the dim green glow from her digital alarm clock, she was able to see a shadowy form sitting on the edge of her bed. Shrieking, she tried to back away but only succeeded in falling on the floor.
"Oh, dear, I'm terribly sorry," an amused voice apologized. "Did I wake you?"
Scrambling to her feet awkwardly, she reached for the light switch on the wall with a trembling hand. "You're not really here," she said forcefully, taking in his attire: charcoal gray breeches and cloak, open-necked billowy white shirt, complemented by black gloves and boots. Trying to ignore the fact that he looked even better than she remembered, she said, "I'm still dreaming or… or nightmaring… or something!"
"Something like… hallucinogenic Junior Mints, perhaps?" he goaded her, smirking in amusement.
Shrugging, she said, "I don't know, but you have to leave. You can't be here. Why are you here, anyway? What do you want?"
He stared at her, tapping his riding crop against the heel of his boot. "I am here because you… called me," he replied casually, lingering over the word 'called', "and as to what I want…" He paused, looking her up and down with blatant admiration as she became aware of her black sleep shorts and matching tank top. He grinned and continued, "Well, I don't think you're ready to hear the answer to that." He tilted his head, and grinned wickedly at her. "Or, perhaps you are, given the nature of your dream."
Her first impulse was to grab a robe and cover herself up, but she decided against it. Sarah hated that she liked how his gaze made her feel. It was leering, true, but there was something else in his eyes. Something… Catching herself before she let her thoughts run away with her, she crossed her arms, glaring at him. She was trying to be angry but found that she really wasn't. Why was that? "Oh, why restrain yourself on my account?" she retorted sarcastically. "You're already here… why don't you just go ahead and…" Her brain was busy working as she spoke, going over his words and processing them. "Wait a minute! Why are you here? I did not call you!"
Continuing to rhythmically beat the riding crop against his boot, he gave her a sardonic grin. "I beg to differ," he said drolly. "Or rather, it was you who were begging, mere moments ago, as you panted my name... repeatedly."
Sarah felt her face heat up as the blood rushed to her cheeks. She remembered that. Oh, yes, she did. It had been the best dream yet; she had indeed panted his name repeatedly, just as he claimed. "I must have been begging you to get lost," she snapped, embarrassed. She wished a hole would open up from out of nowhere and swallow her.
"Hardly," he said with a dark chuckle. "You were begging me to—"
"Never mind!" she interrupted quickly, holding both of her hands up. "Never mind. Look, it's not calling you if I only say your name," she pointed out, desperate to change the subject. "And in a dream, no less!"
"Panted," Jareth corrected succinctly. "Panted my name three times, and then screamed it, and then panted it another three times."
Sarah groaned and covered her face with her hands, mortified. "But I didn't say I wished you were here," she mumbled, desperate to win this argument and retain at least a shred of dignity.
"You didn't have to," he replied, sounding quite pleased with the situation. "Your very manner of calling my name conveyed a great desire for me. That is all that is required for me to appear and do your… bidding."
"Oh, no," she said quickly, backing up a few steps. "No. No, you don't. Dreams don't count, Goblin King."
"It's Jareth, as you very well know," he replied smoothly, a knowing smile gracing his smug yet beautiful face. Setting his riding crop down at the foot of her bed, he added, "And dreams do, indeed, count. I am feeling generous, so if you like, I will grant you that dream."
She gaped at him, hardly believing her ears. First he was making fun of her, flaunting her humiliating moment in her face, and now he was trying to take advantage of her? "Are you out of your freaking mind?" she demanded hotly.
Standing abrupty, he strode over to her in a predatory fashion, effectively backing her against the bedroom wall. "I assure you I am in full control of my faculties," he whispered, resting one hand on either side of her shoulders, blocking any escape. He still held the riding crop in his right hand. "However, I am quite willing to assist you in losing control of yours," he teased suggestively.
Jareth's enjoyment of the situation was disconcerting, and Sarah didn't know what to make of it. How could she fight with someone who wouldn't fight back? "I didn't mean to call you," she said weakly, aware that he was slowly leaning closer to her, dipping his head toward hers. "Really, I didn't. I'm sorry to have bothered you, but—"
"It was no bother," he assured her calmly. "It is my pleasure to be at your beck and call, Sarah. I did, after all, offer to be your slave" Then he captured her lips with his, moving his mouth over hers with devastating skill. He slid his velvet tongue along her closed lips, seeking entry. To her horror, she felt her lips willingly… eagerly… part for him.
The hard planes of his body were intimately pressed up against her soft curves, and the smell of him was dizzying. If the fragrance industry could replicate that scent, somebody would make millions. His arms had moved from their position against the wall and had snaked around her waist, pulling her against him. Not bothering to fight him any longer she let him mold her body to his and felt herself responding to him eagerly.
Jareth had stopped kissing her and was brushing her hair away from her neck, his fingers trailing along her skin with gentle caresses. She became aware of two things at once. Opening her eyes, she saw that he was staring at her the way a starving man stares at a thick, juicy steak. She also realized that he had somehow removed his gloves. Somehow she knew that was significant…
He bent his head and touched his lips to her exposed neck, murmuring against her skin. She couldn't understand the words, but he was speaking them fervently in between kisses. The effect made her weak in the knees, a sensation she had mocked whenever she read it in romance novels. Now she understood, and would never scorn the phrase again. As though sensing her reaction, he pulled back to look at her.
"Sarah," he whispered, and closed his eyes. "Even now, it is you who wields power over me," he murmured, placing a kiss against her forehead. "Why do you dream of me, Sarah? Tell me honestly."
Taken aback, she grasped handfuls of his cloak and asked, "W-what do you mean? Just because I dreamed of you tonight doesn't mean that I do so on a regular basis."
"Oh, I see," he replied, sounding inexplicably defeated. "Well, perhaps you don't remember them, Sarah, but I happen to know that you dream of me nearly every night. I had foolishly dared to hope that…" He trailed off, backing slowly away from her.
Feeling an overwhelming sense of guilt and not knowing why, Sarah was about to rephrase herself when she became aware that they had an audience. Smidge stood just outside her closet door in his Chewie T-shirt and bright red sleep hat that trailed nearly to his feet. He was grinning at both of them and nearly shaking with glee.
"The Sarah and the Kingy," he said with barely contained excitement. "Kissin' and huggin'… Is good, is very good. Smidge is happy, happy, happy!" He danced around the room, mimicking a 'victory dance' he had seen on one of his favorite sitcoms.
"Well," Jareth said, looking down at his subject with something akin to fondness. "Hello there, Smidge."
Smidge stopped pumping his fist in the air and waved. "Hiya, Kingy! You's gonna take us home now, are you? I's done a good job guarding the Sarah, a real good job. Just ask the Q, she tells you." Grinning broadly and indulgently, he tilted his head to the side. "Ah, kiss the Sarah again," he prompted.
"Thank you for your input, Smidge," Jareth said stiffly. "But for the moment, if you do not mind…" He gestured toward the closet.
Smidge nodded eagerly. "Oh, yeah, sure," he said, bobbing his head up and down. "Okay, Kingy, don't forget to bring me with you, kay? Bye!" He disappeared into the closet and could be heard quietly singing 'Let's Dance!' Sarah knew from experience that he would be frolicking around the closet in her red dancing shoes.
Jareth shook his head. In an obvious attempt to lighten the mood and with much dignity he said, "I hope Smidge doesn't give you too much trouble. I insist upon you having a guard, however, so if you want me to arrange a trade—"
"No!" Sarah nearly shouted. "I mean… Please, leave Smidge here. I'm very fond of him."
Shaking his head again, Jareth moved toward the window and gazed out at the night. "Remarkable," he mused quietly, as though to himself.
"Excuse me?" Sarah said.
He turned toward her and gave her a stiff smile, smacking his riding crop against the palm of his left hand. "Nothing," he replied.
"Nothing? Nothing?" she quoted him. At his puzzled expression, she was unable to stop her own smile from forming. "Nothing, tra la la?"
"You mock me," he said accusingly, though there was no real anger in his tone.
She shrugged. "You mocked me first."
"Point," he conceded. "I find it remarkable that you have grown so fond of Smidge. Most people find goblins to be loathsome and annoying. You have an amazing gift of tolerance for the citizens of my world, but appear to despise their King."
Sarah frowned. "I… I don't. Despise you, I mean. I just –"
"Well, I suppose I had better be going," he said, looking about and walking over to where his gloves rested.
Jareth turned and raised his eyebrows inquisitively, waiting.
"Not that I mind anymore, and I won't give Smidge up even if you wanted me to," she said, "but… why exactly did you order him to guard me, and why does he chase away every man I ever go out with?"
Frowning, Jareth turned toward her. "How many men have there been?" he asked.
"I asked you first," she retorted.
He sighed. "I know the Aboveground can be a dangerous place," he said, turning toward the window again. "I wanted to ensure your safety and well-being. I did not give express orders about any suitors, but Smidge may have drawn his own conclusions there and assumed I would want him to discourage anyone from getting to close to you."
"And do you want that?" she asked.
He gave her a bland smile. "You owe me an answer first."
"Right," she said. She'd hoped that he had forgotten. "Um… It's not like I've kept track or anything, but there haven't been so many that I couldn't count them. I've gone out with probably… around ten guys, I guess. Some have lasted longer than others, because I've kept them secret from Smidge. Why does it matter to you?"
"Ten!" he exclaimed.
She put her hands on her hips. "Well, how many women have you gone out with?" she demanded, annoyed that he was acting as if ten was a huge number.
"I do not know," he replied haughtily. "But then I have been alive far longer than you, so there is no basis for comparison."
"Ah, yes," she said. "I remember how fond you are of those."
"Why should this matter to you?" he asked sarcastically.
"It doesn't," she replied, knowing she had said it too quickly. "So… do you still want Smidge to discourage potential suitors? I mean, that could put a crimp in the possibility of my ever marrying and having children."
He glared at her, seeming truly angry for the first time since arriving. "Yes, I do. All right? I may not have expressly ordered him to chase them off, but I certainly do not discourage it."
"Why?" she asked. "What possible difference can it make to you?"
Jareth rounded on her and took her firmly by the upper arms, walking toward her and forcing her backward, toward the wall once again. "Because I want you for myself, you infuriatingly dim-witted girl! You dream of me in the most intimate of ways, plaguing me nightly. In agony I have waited for you to vocalize your desires and call out my name and when you finally do, and I can appear before you, you continue to defy me. You confess a fondness for Smidge… Remarkable, as I said, because the only other person I have ever known to be fond of the little creatures is myself. And yet I have been a fool to think, for all these years, that maybe…"
Sarah waited for him to continue, her heart pounding so loudly she was sure he could hear it from across the room. He was standing with his back to her, his shoulders ramrod straight. The surrealism of the situation almost made her wonder if she was still dreaming. When it became apparent that he wasn't going to finish his thought, she moved toward him a few steps.
"Jareth," she said timidly. "Why does Smidge call me 'Q'?"
He half turned, and she stared at his profile. How could he be so mesmerizingly gorgeous? How could someone like him be enraptured by someone like her? She had to find out. His tirade had given her a wild sense of hope, which fluttered in the vicinity of her heart. It beat its wings against her ribcage, making her feel nearly dizzy with anticipation.
Jareth appeared not to have heard her, however. "No use," he murmured quietly.
"What did you say?" she asked.
"I said it is of no use," he repeated. "I am sorry to have misinterpreted your dreams and failed to live up to your expectations, yet again."
Before she could reply, he crossed the room in two long strides and gathered her into his arms. Pulling her close, he whispered, "Sleep, Sarah. Nevermore shall I trouble your dreams." He captured her lips in a searing kiss and she heard him groan with a strange combination of desire and despair. She wanted to put her arms around him and kiss him back, and tell him everything was going to be okay. However, her arms felt leaden, as did the rest of her. A heavy fatigue settled over her and she was only vaguely aware of being lifted into strong arms and laid gently on her bed.
Sarah woke up feeling groggy and disoriented. Frowning, she glanced around her room. Nothing seemed out of place, but it seemed as though there was something she ought to remember. Noises came from her closet and she knew that Smidge was up and around, probably deciding what to wear for the day. Smiling, she stretched and stood, ready for coffee, the paper, and a shower, in that order.
It was Saturday morning; she had a whole day to do whatever she wanted. The coffee had just finished brewing so she pulled down a mug, filled it, and poured in some cream. Carrying it with her to the living room, she sat down and ran a hand through her hair, still feeling like there was something she was forgetting.
Smidge padded into the room wearing denim coveralls and a white T-shirt underneath. "Smidge gets the paper," he said, running to the door. She watched as he scooted his stool over to unlock and pull the door open, then move the stool back to its place. "Smidge fast like greased lightning, no one sees." He grinned at her and disappeared.
Sarah laughed out loud. Sure, fast like greased lightning… That was why Colin had seen a 'monkey' wearing clothes last night. The thought of Colin made her feel guilty. Why? She frowned, and was still wondering about it when Smidge returned with the newspaper. He opened it and pulled out the comics, then handed her the rest.
"Loves Garfield," he said to himself. "Loooooves Garfield and Ziggy and Shoe and Peanuts!"
Sarah smiled. It had taken her two years to teach Smidge to read. He still struggled, but the comics were no problem for him. He settled himself in the chair by the window, enthralled by the morning's funnies.
Opening the paper, she skimmed local news and the entertainment section but her mind was elsewhere. She was certain that she was forgetting something important. Frowning, she sipped at her coffee, the paper abandoned on the couch beside her.
Smidge looked up to eye her curiously. "What wrong, Q?"
The nickname struck a nerve. "Why do you call me Q, Smidge?"
"Acause," he answered, going back to his comics with a giggle.
She narrowed her eyes at him. "I was going to make waffles for breakfast, but if you won't tell me why you call me Q, you're getting banana peels, and you can watch me eat waffles."
His eyes widened so much that they were nearly buggy. "Waffles? Smidge loves, Smidge needs, Smidge must have! Must! With butters and maple syrups! Must!" he cried, his voice rising to an ear-ringing pitch.
"So tell me what I want to know."
He sagged in defeat. "Okay, okay, the Sarah twists Smidge's little arm!" he wailed dramatically. "I's calls you Q acause it's for Queen," he explained. "We's learned the alphabet. Q for Queen. K for Kingy. See?"
Sarah's mouth ran dry and the memory of a kiss spirited over her lips. She hadn't kissed anyone recently, though she'd had a hell of a dream last night. Two dreams, actually. In the second one, Jareth had actually shown up in the middle of the night and… She shook her head to clear it.
"But I'm not a queen," she said softly.
He grinned at her, tilting his head and clasping his hands in appeal. "Waffles!"
"Yeah, you get waffles," she agreed, biting her lower lip in thought. "But you don't get syrup unless you tell me why you call me Q for Queen when I'm not a queen at all. Where did you get such an idea?"
"Long time ago," he said merrily, happy now that he knew he would get his favorite breakfast shortly. "You was still a wee girl. The Kingy was lookin' atcha in his magic ball and he says to us that he wantsa make you the queen. Why else you thinky Smidge guards you, huh?"
She stared at him. "He said that?"
"Oh, sure!" he replied with confidence. "I remembers. We can has waffles now?"
"Yeah, we can has waffles now," she relented with a smile. Getting up, she motioned for him to follow. "Come and help me mix the batter," she said, heading for the kitchen, her mind racing a mile a minute.
Sarah went through the entire day trying to figure out what it was she was forgetting. She picked up some groceries and her dry-cleaning while Smidge waited in the car, and dropped a package for Toby off at the post office. When she got home, she made tuna sandwiches for lunch, one of Smidge's favorites. Then she cleaned the entire apartment, collecting laundry as she went and throwing it into the basket on top of her dryer.
She went into her bedroom for the rest of the dirty laundry and decided to strip the bed and wash her sheets. Having not made it up that morning, she began to separate the comforter and blanket from the sheets, surprised when something fell off and hit the ground with a thump. Frowning, she dropped the comforter onto the floor and stared at the object in question.
"Smidge?" she called, thinking he might know where it had come from. He was in the living room watching the fantasy film marathon, and didn't answer. "Smidge, I need you for a minute."
"The Sebastian is in the attic! I waits for the commercial," he replied petulantly.
Sarah smiled and shook her head. He was a complete couch potato when the television was on. He could sit for hours without moving, barely blinking. At first he had been entertained by commercials, but now he found them annoying.
Cautiously, she moved over and bent down, picking up the fancy riding crop. She didn't own a riding crop; she had never even been on a horse! Where had this come from? Despite her confusion, she knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that this thing was tied to whatever she was trying to remember. Sitting down on her bed, she stared across the room at the wall by her door, knowing something strange was happening. It literally felt as if there was a hole or a gap in her memory; it was an unpleasant sensation.
She had only seen riding crops on television and in movies. How in the world had one ended up in her bedroom, let alone at the foot of her bed? She knew for a fact that it hadn't been there the night before. Absently she tapped it against her palm, surprised when a thrill shot up her arm. It felt almost like… magic.
The image of the Goblin King flashed in her mind for a split second and then disappeared. Though it was fleeting, it felt like a recent memory, not a distant one. The outfit he had been wearing in her dream was not one she had seen on her trip through the Underground. How odd…
"The Sarah needs Smidge?" he asked, sliding into the room in his socked feet. Skidding to a halt, he spread his arms wide and bowed. "I is here to serve."
"Yeah," she replied dryly. "During the commercial break."
He shrugged and gave her one of his toothy grins, his eyes squinting adorably. "Never-Ending Story," he replied by way of explanation. "Smidge loves the Falkor-beastie!"
Nodding, Sarah replied, "I see. Well, I'll keep this brief, so you can get back to it before the commercials end." Holding up the riding crop, she said, "Have you ever seen this before?"
His eyes widened so much that she could see white all the way around the irises. "Yep," he said, nodding emphatically.
"Where did it come from?" she prompted.
Smidge's brow creased as though he was confused. "From the Kingy," he replied, and it was obvious from his tone that this should not be news to her.
Overcome by a sudden sinking feeling, she said, "W-was he here?"
"Course he was," Smidge said, moving over to hop up onto her bed. Looking up at her in evident concern, he said softly, "The Sarah doesn't amember?"
"No," she whispered, sitting down on the edge of the bed, next to Smidge. "The Sarah is having a very hard time remember right now."
He placed a gentle hand to her forehead. "You no feel like fever. Kingy musta make you memory go bye-bye."
"Why would he do that?" she asked, a feeling of distress washing over her, though she couldn't understand why that might be. "What happened?"
"Kingy kiss the Sarah but look so sad. Smidge came out the closet to see, but the Kingy sent Smidge back to bed," he said, shaking his head sadly. "I go, but I eafs-dropped and heared the kingy and the Sarah fighting. I open the door enough to see the kingy kiss the Sarah one more time, and make you go sleepy. Then he put you nite-nite and went bye-bye." He sighed heavily with the burden of sharing the depressing tale.
Sarah stared at Smidge in disbelief even though she knew it must be true. He fudged the truth when it suited him but he wouldn't lie to her about this. The Goblin King had been here? He had kissed her? She stood up and started to pace the room, her stomach churning. It would be just like her to screw it up!
"Smidge can go back to movie?" he asked hopefully.
She nodded distractedly. "Yeah, go ahead," she said. "Thanks, Smidge."
"Okay," he replied, happy again, heading out of the room, shouting about the Nothing.
Once she was alone, Sarah sat back down, still holding the riding crop in her hands. It seemed to hum with energy, as though it were an intrinsic part of the Goblin King. Had he purposely left it or had he forgotten it in his haste to distance himself from her? If he'd forgotten it, had he not remembered it yet? Would he return for it? Did he think maybe she would call to him to come and retrieve it? Or had he left it so that she would always be reminded of him? But if that was what he wanted, why had he made her forget?
Her fingers absently stroked the riding crop, which seemed to be enjoying the attention. It was practically vibrating in her hands. She sighed, annoyed with herself. Closing her eyes, she forced herself to remember the events of last night. She had gone to bed with Jareth on her mind, and she had that same dream again, the one where he seduced her expertly. Then she had another dream… one where he actually showed up in her room, claiming that she had screamed and panted his name. In that dream, he had been tapping a riding crop against his boot, sitting on the edge of her bed.
"That was no dream!" she exclaimed aloud. He had really been there; she remembered now. Every detail was vivid in her mind, from how beautiful he still was to how it had felt when he pinned her against he wall and kissed her senseless. Her embarrassment had spurred her to deny her attraction to him, and that was what had caused their argument. She remembered his words. He had said, "I happen to know that you dream of me nearly every night. I had foolishly dared to hope that…"
He had foolishly dared to hope what? But even as she had the thought, she knew. He had hoped that she had come to her senses and realized what she had denied both of them years before. How could he still want her? Well, she thought, he certainly won't want me now. But the least she could do was apologize and give him back his property.
From the living room, Smidge was talking to the television, encouraging Sebastian not to give up, to keep fighting the Nothing. She smiled at his enthusiasm for a movie he'd seen a hundred times.
Sarah stood up, squeezing the riding crop tightly in her hands. Taking a deep breath, she said quickly, before she had time to lose her nerve, "I wish the Goblin King would come here, right now!" Her nerves were stretched thin as she waited with anticipation. How would he appear? In an explosion of glitter? As an owl, beating his wings against the glass? Or…
Or not at all? Moments ticked by and he didn't come. Sarah felt seriously deflated. Had he elected to forget her? Had he given up on her after all? She wouldn't blame him. After all, she had dreamed of him nearly every night for how many years? He had every reason to believe that showing up and seducing her was what she wanted. Once again he had attempted to live up to her expectations, and she had flung his efforts back in his face.
"Now what?" she asked the empty room.
"May I suggest –" The voice, speaking directly into her ear, startled her so badly that she screamed and scrambled across the room, spinning around so that her back was to the wall. Placing a hand against her heart, she desperately hoped she wasn't going to have coronary failure.
In a heartbeat, Smidge was in the room, his appearance drastically altered. She had never been in any true danger in all the years he had been guarding her, so she had never seen him like this. His eyes were blood-red; his coveralls were gone, replaced by black and silver armor. His baby-fine hair, usually hard to even see, stood in stiff black spikes atop his head. He entered the room growling ferociously, brandishing a medieval skull flail in one hand and an axe in the other.
Sarah stared at him, breathing heavily. Her initial reaction had been one of fright, but now her frazzled condition was due to nerves. Jareth stood there glaring at her in full Goblin King regalia, and he was frighteningly intimidating. She had to resist the urge to cower; she was not fifteen anymore. Her eyes moved away from him, with considerable effort, to reassure Smidge.
He had already ascertained that all was well, however, and was back in his coveralls, a fruit roll up clutched in his left hand and the remote control in his right. "False alarm, eh?" he asked, giving her a knowing grin as he inclined his head toward his king. "I go now."
And then she was alone with the Goblin King once again. She realized she was still holding a hand to her pounding heart, and dropped her arm. Taking a deep breath, she willed herself to meet his eyes. When she did, she saw that he was watching her with chilling detachment.
"What do you want?" he asked, his voice clipped and cold.
She recovered quickly and moved away from the wall, walking toward him. She summoned the courage to do what she had to do. "I called you because you forgot this..." Sarah ran the riding crop along the length of his arm and lightly smacked his hand with it when he attempted to take it from her. He shot her a baleful look, which she ignored. "No, you can't have it quite yet..." she purred. "I want to be sure you don't plan to tamper with my memories again. Besides, this is fun. I didn't see any horses when I was in your world… I wonder what you use this for?" she mused teasingly.
He moved toward her disdainfully, grabbing the riding crop. "I would have returned for it at a time when you were not here," he said haughtily. "You need not have troubled yourself to see me again by calling to me."
Reminding herself that his attitude was a defense mechanism and that she deserved everything he dished out, she said, "But Jareth, I wanted to see you."
Making a show of looking confused, he placed a gloved hand on his chin and tsk'd at her. "As you surmised, I placed a memory spell on you," he said slowly, coming toward her. She forced herself to stay still, allowing him to circle her like prey. "Indeed, I am most curious how it is that you remember my presence here last night despite the spell?"
She swallowed hard, steeling herself against the sensations coursing through her. His very closeness was making her jittery. "From the time I woke up, I could sense something missing... I knew I had forgotten something important, and it bothered me all day. When I found the riding crop, it caused me to see little flashes of you. I figured it had to be connected to whatever was bothering me, so I asked Smidge where it came from. After he told me what happened last night, I remembered everything."
"I shall have to cast the spell again, only stronger, obviously," he murmured, standing right in front of her. "I ought to have known it would take something more in order to be effective on you."
"I don't think so, Goblin King," she replied, allowing an edge to creep into her voice. "You had no right to do what you did. Aside from the initial awkwardness of your knowing my dreams in… intimate detail, I rather enjoyed our encounter. I realize I mucked things up a bit, but if you give me a chance, I'm sure I could make it up to you." Reaching out quickly, she took the riding crop from him and held it behind her back.
He narrowed his eyes at her. "Stop the games, Sarah," he replied sharply. "Every time you dream of me, no matter the nature of the dream, my thoughts are drawn to you. I cannot escape you unless you forget about me. Just as the last time, I am finding that pursuing you is not worth the cost to me."
"What do you mean?" she asked, moving closer to him.
Jareth stared directly at her. "I am not inclined to explain myself," he said stiffly.
"Do you feel inclined to kiss me again?" she asked coyly.
He smirked. "Not in the least."
She was feeling braver by the moment as Jareth was looking decidedly miserable despite the fact that he was obviously struggling to appear indifferent. "I want to know something. What did you mean last night when you said that you had 'foolishly dared to hope…' hope what, Jareth?"
"I have no desire to be rejected again, Sarah," he remarked somewhat fiercely. "So I suggest that you stop this game of questions and let me do what I must, setting each of us free of the other for good."
"What if I don't want to be free of you?" she asked, reaching out to lay a hand flat against his armored chest. Despite the fact that he wore battle gear, she could feel his heart beating furiously under her hand. "What if I want to fulfill what you hoped I would?"
"Tread with caution, Sarah," he warned darkly, taking her hand and removing it from where it lay. Letting it go, he said, "You do not know what you are offering."
"How will I ever know unless you tell me?" She looked into his eyes and glimpsed the battle within. "Take this off," she whispered, moving her hands back up to tug at his armor. "I want to touch you."
He growled at her words, his eyes going dark. But she could hear that he was having a difficult time breathing normally. "Foolish girl. You dare to toy with me?" he accused.
Stilling her hands with his own, he said, "I command that you cease your poor attempt at seduction and give up this charade."
She refused to let him put her off. Despite his display of annoyance, he was trembling. His tensed jaw told her he was fighting hard to maintain control. Emboldened, she replied, "It's no charade, Goblin King, I want you. You seemed to realize that last night from peeping at my dreams. And if it's such a poor attempt, then why are you trembling?"
Frowning fiercely, he retorted, "I do not tremble."
"I beg to differ," she said. Reaching out, she took one of his hands in hers, surprised when he didn't pull it away, though he continued to glower at her. Brazenly she yanked at his glove until it slid off, tossing it behind her. "I always wondered..." she murmured, stroking his fingers as if mesmerized. Jareth gasped. "You have beautiful hands," she told him, pretending she hadn't heard his reaction to what she was doing. Looking up at him innocently, she asked, "Is the rest of you this gorgeous undressed?"
He exhaled sharply and moved with shocking speed to wrap his arms around her like bands of steel. Suddenly Sarah noticed that his armor was completely gone, leaving his upper half clad only in an ivory silk shirt open at the neck. "You torment me, woman," he snarled at her. "Have you yet to learn to respect words and the power they have over others?"
"You're tormenting yourself by deliberately misunderstanding me," she replied calmly. Bringing her hands up, she cupped his face, marveling at how soft his skin was. "For years I've dreamed of you, afraid to call to you. That I did so in my sleep is testament to how badly I wanted to see you; don't you understand?"
He stood perfectly still as she rose on tiptoe to brush her lips against his. She felt his arms tighten about her waist and was struck by the incongruity of the picture they must present – he in his romantic medieval hero attire and she in her faded jeans, pink T-shirt and striped socks. Suddenly he was responding to her, kissing her with passion and desperation.
Breathing heavily, he whispered into her ear, "You wanted me, did you? Well you have me now; there will be no respite for you. I want you as well. Now that I have you, I will not let you go."
"Fine," she began, only to be interrupted.
"You will allow me to court you," he murmured, his breath hot against her lips. "We shall learn of one another. I shan't ask you to come Underground until and unless you desire it. All I ask is that I be allowed near you, to hold you and touch you, and that you may do the same. Say yes, Sarah. Say yes or I shall go mad."
She knew then that everything would work out. He had obviously been thinking about this for awhile. It warmed her heart that Jareth had expressed comprehension of her concerns before she even had time to think of them, let alone speak them out loud. He actually cared about what she wanted, somewhere inside that arrogant facade. "Yes, Jareth," she said huskily, his name muffled on her lips as he took possession of them again in a heated kiss.
"Ah, see?" Smidge said from the doorway, sounding smugly pleased with himself, as if he'd had something to do with how things had turned out. "Smidge knew the Sarah loved the Kingy. Smidge always knows."