[Royal Sonesta Hotel, Caitlin's Suite, French Quarter, New Orleans]
Sarah pressed her back against the hotel door as it closed, swallowing faintly as she remembered the heated look Jareth gave her just as he vanished from sight, feeling irrationally guilty for causing him anger and a what appeared to be a small measure of hurt. Still, she knew she had every right to be annoyed with him, he'd promised to keep Niall away and only ended up allowing the other Fae to see Caitlin at her weakest. Fist fighting? Really, Jareth?
Shaking her head with a sigh, figuring she'd have some ego soothing to do later, she turned and looked over at her friend who had stumbled onto the bed and curled on her side, facing away from the door. She could hear Caitlin sobbing faintly, her hair a riot of wild red curls around her face and her shoulders slightly shaking as she did her best to muffle the sounds. Immediately, the guilt she felt at causing Jareth or Niall any discomfort faded at seeing the state of her friend.
Sarah pushed herself away from the door and wandered over to where Caitlin was sprawled, sitting on the edge of the bed and reaching out, resting a hand on Caitlin's shoulder. She kept her tone soft. "They're gone. Talk to me. How're you doing?"
Caitlin said nothing for several seconds, wiping at her cheeks. Finally, she sighed, her voice sounding slightly hoarse from her runaway emotions and excessive alcohol. "Pissed off, confused, feeling stupid."
Sarah frowned and opened her mouth to say something when Caitlin continued on.
"This whole afternoon has been one big disaster. The worst part? I'm sure Niall thinks I'm overreacting. I didn't expect a proposal or even a 'hey, let's date!' declaration after yesterday but…to humiliate me like that, in front of that woman, in front of you, in front of Jareth…I want to chop off his balls right now, it makes me so damn angry. I felt like such a damned fool, walking in and hearing that and he didn't bring it up once, not once when she'd been over an hour earlier, eating lunch with us. Or to tell me he can't date mortals. Like, I wouldn't have even gone there if I'd known that – for this very reason. Shit's suddenly all awkward and I hate it. It pisses me off he's even managed to affect me this much. I'm normally not like this, I just…" She trailed off, shaking her head.
"Cait, you have every right to be angry, I would be." Sarah frowned, leaning over to make sure Caitlin understood she did not judge her in the least for her behavior. In all actuality, this was a fairly tame explosive moment for her best friend, who she'd seen cut men down to half their size for less. To see Caitlin this upset told Sarah how much she'd started to like Niall despite it all.
Caitlin said nothing but she could tell the tension was leaving her frame. When Sarah leaned over and peered at Caitlin's profile, she could see a ghost of a smile as she rubbed her nose. "Thanks, hooker."
Sarah smiled faintly, tugging Caitlin around to face her. Her best friend rolled onto her back and scowled at Sarah's grin, her makeup smudged and running underneath her eyes. Sarah did her best to lighten her mood, tapping a finger to her chin before offering a smirk. "Men can be idiots. I'll hold him down and you can punch him in the nutsack if you want. It's not like he didn't have it coming."
Caitlin grinned faintly and laughed, the sound weak but still giving Sarah a small measure of hope that she was recovering. She wiped at her eyes and shook her head, sighing again and sitting up slowly, bringing her knees to her chest as she looked across the room and out the window.
"Do you love him?" She asked suddenly about Jareth, not looking back towards Sarah. The question startled her but she answered honestly.
"Yes," She replied steadily.
"Then why haven't you told him?"
"I honestly didn't know how, not at first. After talking to Bemb – that woman…." She hesitated to use Bembe's name, knowing Caitlin didn't hold anything against the witch, the anger directed more towards Niall who'd failed to be honest about their relationship and the complications of becoming involved with him, but still decided to not use her name. "…she sort of helped me realize there's no reason to hold back. You only live once and all that."
"When are you going to tell him?"
"Tonight, I think. After the parade. You're still going, aren't you?" Sarah replied, studying Caitlin.
"I dunno, feeling pretty miserable here. I might watch from the balcony, my spirit's not in it tonight."
Sarah frowned faintly but heard a soft exhale from her friend, the sound loaded with bottled up emotion. "Cait?"
Caitlin glanced back at her, this time tears once more swimming in her eyes. "So, if you tell him tonight and if he tells you that he loves you too, you're going to vanish off to fairy land and leave me up here, aren't you?"
Sarah hesitated, frowning, wondering if this is what had Caitlin upset more than Niall. "Cait, you're my best friend. If I wasn't allowed to see you, then I'm not sure I would go. I've got Toby, the kids, my family…you. I can't just give that up, no matter how much I love someone. If he loves me like I hope he does, he won't make me choose."
Caitlin turned towards her and hugged Sarah tightly, startling her. She returned the hug and grinned faintly, lightly teasing her friend. "Alcohol, crying, hugging – who are you and what have you done with Cait?"
Caitlin laughed and shoved her away, rolling her eyes. "She's back in New York, never having known magical fairy men existed in some alternate reality, one of which has plans on my bestie. Fuck boys, rich assholes, rough bar crowds? That I can handle. This? This is making my head want to explode."
"I love you, Cait. You know that, right?"
Caitlin smiled faintly, still not looking at her. "I love you too, hooker."
They both laughed but the sound of a knock on the door interrupted them. Caitlin tensed, anger flashing brightly in her eyes as she snatched the covers of the bed up and over her rumpled clothes. Sarah rose and moved to the door, opening it, wary she'd find more Fae men demanding entry.
She was surprised to see Bembe standing there, a kind smile on her face, her eyes slightly sad. "May I come in?"
Sarah looked back over her shoulder, knowing Caitlin had heard her. Caitlin blinked, wiping at her tear-streaked face and nodding, motioning for Sarah to let her inside. Sarah stepped away from the door and let the woman enter.
"Can I get you a chair?" She asked her. The older woman smiled and nodded and Sarah helped her settle into a chair that she pulled closer to the bed at Bembe's insistence.
The woman looked between the two of them and again Sarah felt that small tingle, this time without touch. Bembe smiled steadily at Sarah for a moment before looking back at Caitlin. Caitlin shifted nervously under her gaze, but unlike Sarah, it looked mostly to be from nerves.
"What?" Caitlin finally asked, when Bembe said nothing for several seconds.
"I've done you a disservice, I see." Bembe started, raising a hand when Caitlin opened her mouth to object. "Let me finish, child."
Reaching into her purse that sat on her knees, Bembe held up a small powdered substance in a packet. "Before we continue, I suggest we do something about your mental state. This conversation is best had while you have your wits about you. Sarah, dear, can you fetch your friend a cup of water?"
Sarah nodded and stood, moving to the bathroom, when Caitlin narrowed her eyes at the old woman. "What the hell is that?"
"A cure for your inebriated state, dear. Now be a good girl and drink up," Bembe replied in a stern tone, taking the cup that Sarah returned with and dropping the contents into the glass, the water instantly turning a faint aquamarine color. Sarah blinked, biting the inside of her cheek to hide a grin at Bembe's authoritative tone, passing the glass to Caitlin and simply watching in amusement as she settled beside her on the large hotel bed.
Caitlin scowled but, feeling challenged by the older woman, tossed back the contents without a second thought. She briefly coughed, grimacing, then blinked and sat up straight. "Holy shit."
Bembe simply stared at the woman with a small smile, her eyes twinkling in amusement.
"Man, I need my money back. Not a whiff of a buzz, what a waste of cash," Caitlin started, then stopped at Bembe's stern stare. "Sorry…." She let her eyes wander around the room, sheepishly shrugging a shoulder. Finally, she looked back at the woman. "So, what're you here for? Want to give me lessons on telling a Fae prince to fuck off?"
Bembe laughed, the sound low and throaty, shaking her head. "Hardly. If he is anything like he was when I knew him, he won't give up so easily in any event. No, I am here to offer an apology and give some clarity to what I had told Sarah."
Caitlin sat up straighter, surprise on her face. Sarah also found herself intrigued, studying Bembe curiously. The woman smiled and settled back in her chair, setting aside her purse.
"I am a mortal witch, if that is not as obvious to you as it was to your friend. Niall might not have fully explained how Sarah and Jareth became reunited." Bembe watched as Caitlin flicked a questioning gaze at Sarah then glanced back towards her. Sarah remained wisely quiet, allowing Bembe to control the conversation.
"I thought not. I was hired to assist in the weaving of a selective cloaking spell. The mask your friend wore bore that spell. It allowed her and Jareth to find each other again and cast aside old resentments for one night. As I'm sure he's told you, they have a past. Niall originally planned this trip of his to simply see his friend gain favor with a woman he'd secretly been harboring feelings about for a very long time." Bembe gave Sarah a knowing smile, glancing back at Caitlin after just a brief glimpse, missing Sarah's stillness and forced swallow.
He thought about me after all that time? Like I did? Sarah swayed briefly, overwhelmed at the surge of happiness that filled her. Soon, however, Bembe's words drug Sarah back into the conversation.
"In any event, it worked. I was also hired to make this…" She reached into her pocket, withdrawing a vial with a bluish substance. "It was meant for Sarah, but I think you might find better use out of it than her." She leaned forward and handed the vial to Caitlin, who took it and studied it.
"That is a memory erasing spell. You will remember nothing of the past few days, should you choose to use it. Be wise in its application, as it's very difficult to unweave the spell." Caitlin almost dropped it like it would scald her, eventually setting it aside and blinking in surprise, struggling to accept what the woman told her but eventually seemed to come to grips with what she was being told, looking back over at Bembe.
"Now we got witches. I've seen everything. Um, thank you?"
Bembe laughed. "You've hardly seen everything, girl. But yes, the world as you know it is much bigger than you think."
Both Sarah and Caitlin listened to her words with a sense of awe and intimidation. Before Sarah could ask her anything further, Bembe moved on.
"Now, I suppose I owe you an explanation. One I should have given you earlier, despite Niall not letting you out of sight. I think he feared what I'd say, but as the saying goes - the cat is now out of the bag - so we might as well address the situation." Bembe smiled, looking between the two. "You must understand the Fae are not human, no matter how much they appear to be. Their world is different than ours and so is their governing system, cultural rules and mating bonds."
Sarah and Caitlin blinked at the use of 'mating bonds' and Bembe chuckled once more. "Yes, mating bonds, you heard correctly. Most of their marriage contracts involve a hint of magic. Mostly to source out potential treachery, but some for love. Once bound, it cannot be broken unless by death. It's unnecessarily cruel to bind someone in a mating bond unless you are fully committed, either politically or emotionally."
"How do you know this?" Sarah asked, frowning, wondering how much credit to give to Bembe's words.
Bembe smiled, her eyes glittering. "Niall showed me and I visited the Underground several times where I had a chance to study their magic. A little research, a little thievery, a little meddling. Do you really want to know all the details?"
Um, maybe not.
Bembe laughed at Sarah's expression and continued. "I met Niall at a very unusual time in my life. My parents had just died, my sister had been killed in a riot, and my stubbornness and zest for opposing those who would simply judge me for the color of my skin had put me in some dangerous places. Niall has always been fascinated by humans and it was there we were drawn towards one another. That is why I can understand his attraction to you, Caitlin."
Caitlin stubbornly refused to say something but Sarah bit back a smile as she saw the faintest tell-tale signs of a blush creeping over her fair skin. Bembe simply grinned, daring her friend to deny it. When silence met her stare, she continued, amusement dancing in her eyes as Caitlin's silence simply reaffirmed her statement.
"Yes, I know a thing or two about being a fiery spirit. At least I did, once. We fought long and hard for equal rights in this country, even more so in the South. I'm a colored woman and a witch, I've fought those battles and won most of them. If I had chosen Niall, he would be bound to a mortal woman, a witch no less, and I'd have been forced to enter into a society that once more ostracized me."
She leaned back and smiled sadly. "Fae, for all their accomplishments, are relatively archaic on some concepts. For one, there is no divorce, no equality of opinion, no appeal to a ruling. I had already fought too long and too hard to earn my right amongst others in this world to cast myself back into another where I'd have to do it yet again. I would also have made things harder for Niall. He is in a unique position. He leads with his heart, unlike most, and he's next in succession. He can do marvelous things and I did not want him facing immediate opposition by being bound to a mortal woman. He could have forced our marriage on the court, yes, but it would have hurt his position or even entirely jeopardized his ascension. Because the Fae do not choose mates lightly, I couldn't willfully commit to being his wife if my heart was not completely in it. Especially Niall, who so easily leads with his heart. Do you understand, child?"
Caitlin began to nod after a few moments, chewing on her lower lip. She finally glanced at Bembe. "So, the vial…is for me to decide what I'm going to do."
Bembe nodded and struggled to rise, Sarah quickly standing and assisting her. "Yes, child. However…I would suggest giving it some thought after you speak with him. Let him have his own voice in all this."
Caitlin nodded again, studying Bembe closely for a few moments. Finally, she smiled. "Thanks for coming by. You didn't have to, but you did. I misjudged you."
"I misjudged you as well, child." Bembe replied, moving towards the door. "Sarah, walk me to the elevator? Let's allow your friend to rest."
Sarah glanced back at Caitlin who nodded and leaned back on the bed again. "Go ahead. I'm not going anywhere. You know where to find me. I'll be here or hanging out on the balcony. Count me out of tonight's shenanigans."
"Alright, I'll come check on you before I head out. I imagine Niall will be with Jareth when they return. Do you want me to send him up to talk?"
Caitlin sighed and nodded, rubbing at her eye and sliding down back in the bed, looking exhausted. "Yes, please. I need to…we need to…talk and clear the air. Just let me get some sleep first."
Sarah held out her hand for the older woman to take and helped escort Bembe out of Caitlin's suite. As they moved closer to the elevator, Bembe turned to her. "I think you should come by sometime, to my shop, after you and Jareth are officially bonded."
Sarah flushed, feeling her face heat. "You're saying this like it's a sure thing."
Bembe laughed. "After tonight, you'll be lucky if you don't end up already mated. I could sense that boy's feelings for you a mile away. As it seems you've made your mind up to tell him how you feel, you shouldn't worry about him not accepting."
Sarah couldn't help the smile that spread across her face but changed the subject. "So, come by your shop? You mean because of earlier?"
Bembe nodded. "Yes, that. If you're truly venturing into the Underground and all that it entails, I want you properly prepared. I'd like to try a few tests of sorts, if you don't mind. Consider it an effort to make up for my earlier mistakes with your friend. Besides, I like you. You'll do well, tempering Jareth if what Niall says about him is true. You can help him make sure Niall succeeds, he will have a hard road ahead of him, no matter what happens the next few days."
Sarah stilled, a look of surprise flittering across her face. "Thank you, Bembe. I mean that."
The old woman nodded and moved into the elevator once the doors opened. She smiled at Sarah and pressed the down button. "Good luck this evening."
Sarah smiled, thanking her, and headed back to her hotel room to get ready for the upcoming parade.
I have just the thing in mind to wear.
[A Private Residence, French Quarter, New Orleans]
Jareth was pacing the halls of Niall's home, staring at the clock and gritting his teeth. Why the FUCK is time crawling so slowly? I only have so much time left. What if she doesn't want to see me again? What if she's getting cold feet about us? What if…
Turning sharply, he slammed his fist into the wall, grunting faintly at the impact. He could still remember Sarah's angry gaze and instantly tensed, looking backing over at Niall with a narrowed gaze who sat at the couch in the living room by the fire, quietly nursing a drink of brandy. He'd been eerily subdued since returning from the hotel.
Niall turned at the noise, looking over his shoulder and rolling his eyes briefly, all fight in him suddenly gone when Caitlin had harshly told him to leave her alone and Sarah had dismissed them. "Jareth, quit wearing out my floors and walls. Come, sit. Have a drink. The hours will not pass any faster. I've already forbidden you to alter them and even if you wanted to, you wouldn't risk Sarah's ire."
Jareth frowned at the softened tone of Niall's voice, pulling his hand back and jerking his vest back into place, still feeling helplessly frustrated about what occurred earlier. Still, he followed Niall's request and moved to the wet bar, pouring himself a solid amount of whiskey and falling into a chair across from the couch.
Rubbing at his eyes, he sighed and swallowed the liquor down quickly.
"I'm sorry, Jareth." Niall's tone reached Jareth's ears and he looked back, studying his friend. Niall wasn't looking at him, his profile turned towards the fire, but Jareth still noted the faint traces of their blows from earlier. He grimaced, not impressed with his own ability to control Niall's temper, but when it came to anger Niall was always the rash one. If Niall had wanted to go to Caitlin, there was little doubt Jareth would have been able to hold him back much longer.
"Why?" Jareth asked, curious to the apology. He'd made his own mess, breaking his promise to Sarah. He shifted in his chair, still uneasy about the look of anger in her eyes from earlier and hating being idle when he wanted nothing more than to launch himself towards the door and demand Sarah see him so he could show her what she would miss if she left him. Fuck, get control of yourself. You're a damned King.
"I should have told Caitlin before I took her. She knew I what I was but not what it all entailed. I didn't think, I just…wanted her and I didn't think. When Bembe arrived, I panicked. I didn't expect Bembe to tell Sarah about our past or for Caitlin to overhear it. I didn't think about what I was going to do with Caitlin in two days' time, what I was going to tell her, how I was going to explain myself…I didn't do a lot of things. This mess has made it hard on your time with Sarah. I know how fragile you are when it concerns her."
Jareth tensed but Niall looked back at him with an amused gaze, sympathy in his eyes. "I know you're nervous that she's rethinking being with you. People get angry from time to time but she'll forgive you. I'm finding myself struggling with the same thing. Funny, that."
Jareth frowned and studied Niall, frankly surprised at his obsession with Caitlin. "You love this woman?"
Niall sighed, bringing his glass to his lips. "I don't know. I just know that once, I thought I loved a mortal, and that choice was taken away from me before I could even decide myself what I wanted to do. Now, again, I've found myself in the same situation and can't help but think - this time I won't let go so easily. Not this time. Not with her."
Jareth blinked, his eyebrows rising in surprise. He didn't think they'd grown fond of one another so quickly but then realized he'd been so focused on Sarah, he hadn't spent much time watching his friend's changing behaviors. He knew Niall fancied the woman, lusted for her, but cared about her? That was new.
"You could still claim her, you know." Jareth suggested. "I would back you. You have allies. We could make it work."
"Bembe is right, though. It'll be a difficult battle to get the courts to approve the match. And an even more difficult one to keep me in power." Niall responded, his tone still soft, almost hollow.
Jareth snorted. "Niall, if you're supposed to change things, why adhere to a ruleset that won't allow you to pick your mate of choice? She's a seer, you said so yourself. That could work as a reasoning for the match. Your children would have her skillset and your heritage."
Niall looked over at Jareth, startled. "What are you suggesting?"
Jareth shrugged faintly. "Use her abilities as a bartering tool during the courtship hearings. Surely they'll consider it a benefit to add to the bloodline and approve it."
Niall grinned faintly at Jareth's tactics but finally sighed. "This is all assuming Caitlin will forgive me. You do not understand this woman's temper."
Jareth laughed. "I might more than you might think." When Niall looked at him with a confused stare, he grinned and elaborated. "When we were in the cellar picking wine, she threated to make me a eunuch if I hurt Sarah."
Niall blinked, then started to laugh. "That sounds like her."
Still, Jareth was struggling to see the attraction. He grinned subtly, curious. "What is it about Caitlin that you like?"
Niall's deadpan stare had Jareth throwing his head back with a laugh.
[Royal Sonesta, Sarah's Suite, French Quarter, New Orleans]
Sarah admired herself in the mirror, a pleased look on her face. Smoothing her hands over one of Caitlin's dresses, she turned slightly and made that she was still modestly covered as best she could be, considering the cut of the dress. It was a beautiful sequin dress in a bronzed gold, shimmering like mermaid scales in the light. The underlining of the dress was made of a thin gauzy mesh material that allowed the sequins to wrap around her breasts and waist but leave her stomach and the center of her chest startlingly bare. The backing was low and the angle of the skirt was sharp, riding high up on one thigh. Eat your heart out, Jareth.
She grinned faintly and checked her makeup, remembering her talk with Bembe. Giving her hair one last comb through and slipping on two-inch gold sandals, she grabbed her key and tucked it in a hidden pocket in her skirt and stepped outside.
Knocking gently and peeking in on Caitlin, seeing her friend fast asleep, she snuck back out into the hallway and rolled her shoulders nervously, her courage briefly wavering. Can I do this?
Glancing at the wall clock in the hallway and biting on her lower lip, Sarah made a quick decision to grab her credit card and head to the bar Spirits across the street from the hotel. Making her way towards the elevators, she ignored the curious stares of other hotel guests, determined to gather some courage before Jareth appeared, even if it happened to be the liquid variety.
[Bourbon Street, French Quarter, New Orleans, One Hour before the Mardi Gras Parade]
"Where are they?" Niall asked worriedly, looking around the street that had already started to crowd with parade observers taking positions. Jareth and Niall were glamoured to look like average men but still got the occasional odd stare, appearing out of place despite magic dulling their appearances.
Jareth frowned, glancing around with a steady gaze as he studied the crowd next to Niall. "I don't see them. Perhaps Caitlin is still in her suite?"
Niall cast him a worried glance. Jareth smiled faintly his way. "Go to her, it's the only way you'll know."
Niall glanced around. "And Sarah?"
Jareth shrugged. "I'll wait. Go."
Niall nodded, already started towards the hotel doors. Jareth watched as his form vanished inside the lobby and eventually turned, growing agitated as he looked around the crowded street once more. Sarah – where are you? He forced himself to ignore his rising panic.
After a few minutes, he began to pace up and down the hotel entrance, forcing himself to remain calm. Suddenly, he saw it. Freezing, shifting his gaze across the street as he caught a glimmer of a dress and a flash of dark brunette hair in the bar across the street, he finally saw her.
Time seemed to stand still has he stared hungrily, lust flooding his senses as he saw the dress she wore, his eyes sliding over her figure, admiring her curves in the daring dress. Almost as quickly as his lust spiked so did his possessiveness, seeing the admiring glances she was gathering her way. Sarah appeared oblivious, smiling and leaning over the bar and calling out an order to the bartender while a small group of men circled around her, sharing grins with one another. A soft growl escaped his lips when he saw one of the men come up behind her from where she'd been standing, leaning in and murmuring something in her ear. She turned, startled, and the man flashed her a grin once more. His growl shifted into a full-blown snarl when the unknown man's fingertips skirted along her back, every instinct in him flooding with the urge to kill the fool who dared touch her.
I'm going to rip your throat out. She is MINE.
Seeing red, he immediately launched himself across the street, cutting through the crowd in his wake.
[Royal Sonesta Hotel, Caitlin's Suite, French Quarter, New Orleans]
Caitlin had woken about thirty minutes prior, doing her best to pull herself together, taking a quick shower and dressing in a rather subdued outfit of an oversized sleep shirt and shorts to watch the parade from her balcony when she heard the soft knock at her door.
Swallowing, knowing who she'd see on the other side, she slowly walked towards it and steeled herself, opening the door. Still, she was wholly unprepared for the sight he painted, standing there in her doorway, tired lines etching the corners of his eyes and his lips drawn tight.
Niall raised his gaze and stared at her, saying nothing for several seconds. She found herself relaxing by the nervous darts of his eyes as he looked over her form, noting the effort she'd put in to clean herself up.
"I…" He tried and trailed off, struggling to find words to say.
Caitlin bit her lower lip, instantly feeling her eyes flood with tears again at hearing the broken tone of his voice. She inwardly swore, trying to regain her composure when his gaze shifted and studied her face, noticing her tears. He let out a strangled noise and she launched herself at him just as he grabbed for her, pushing through the door and slamming it closed, grabbing her against his frame and dragging her towards the bed.
"I'm so sorry," he whispered fiercely against her mouth, her shirt already half off in the process as he pressed her into the mattress, laying hot kisses along her throat.
"Shut up," she hissed, reaching for his belt and unfastening it while he leaned over her, his fingers trailing along her neck to lightly tease at her breasts. He groaned as she slipped her fingers inside his pants and gently teased him to life.
"Caitlin, we should…" He hoarsely tried to start again but she wasn't hearing any of it, leaning back and tugging her shirt off. Niall's gaze zeroed in on the outline of her nipples through her black lace bra and he groaned again, immediately bringing his mouth against the fabric to tease both into aching points.
Caitlin moaned, arching under him and closing her eyes, feeling his hands make quick work of her shorts and panties. She heard the rustle of fabric as he freed himself and then, parting her legs at his gentle touch, felt his warm hardness press against her, thrusting home.
She melted against his rough thrusts, rolling her head back as he groaned atop her and tugged her wrists up against the headboard, holding them in place with one hand while the other reached between them and teasing her clit with the other.
"Cait, look at me…" He groaned sharply, making her eyes open and meet his. She moaned as his heated gaze steadily met hers while he thrust and teased her, dragging her closer to climax. She felt her channel flutter against him and knew she was seconds away with his skilled actions.
"Niall…" She panted, arching up. He groaned again, picking up his pace, feeling the subtle tightening slickness of her channel clamping down on his cock by the way his facial expression drifted towards rapture.
"Let go, Cait…Gods, Cait…now…let go now…now!"
Suddenly, he stiffened and stilled, barking out the last of his words with a rough tone, flooding her insides with heat and then she was tumbling, falling over the precipice herself with the help of his teasing fingers and the expression of ecstasy on his face, sobbing his name.
He fell atop her, panting, and she cradled him to her. His mouth found hers and they spent several minutes simply swallowing the past few hour's hurt exploring each other.
"Bembe came by earlier…" Caitlin started while Niall traced the curve of her hips with his fingertips, pressed against her back on her bed. They'd spent the last few minutes undressing one another and gently fondling, relishing each other's touches. He stilled briefly but when he didn't say anything, she continued, staring out at the open balcony doors, hearing the crowd beginning to gain momentum by the shouts and whistles that started to wander into the room from the outside. "She explained a little more of what happened…between you two."
"Did she?" Niall asked, trailing his mouth along her shoulder. She smiled faintly and shivered and he reached forward, grabbing one of her breasts and gently testing how it fit in his hands. "What did she say?"
"That she left you, that she wasn't ready for the fairy world and that you have a hard journey ahead of you. That the courts of your world don't care for mortals, especially as…queens." Caitlin whispered, swallowing as she tried to ignore her rising arousal. His hand stilled and after a moment he turned her towards him.
Caitlin's eyes met his and she once more spoke quickly before he could add anything. "I'm not expecting that, by the way. That's ridiculous, we've only known each other a few days. I know you've got obligations at home. If you need to end this, I'll…I'll understand." She forced a ghost of a smile on her lips. Even if it hurts like hell, I'll understand.
Niall frowned sharply, his eyes sparking as he stared at her, anger making his cheekbones stand out in stark relief against his golden coloring. "May I speak now?" His tone was flinty, telling her she'd hit a nerve. Surprised, she nodded.
"Bembe was very special to me. What we shared was beautiful. I thought I loved her and in some ways, I still do to a degree. But I am not in love with her. When Bembe chose to end our romance, it was her own choice, not mine. For a long time, I was very angry. She took my choice away from me and the worst part is she was not entirely wrong. It would be a hard battle to allow a mortal queen, but that should be a choice I'm allowed to decide together with whomever I choose to love."
Caitlin nodded, combing a hand through his hair, suddenly feeling a twinge of sympathy for how he must have felt when Bembe ended things. He reached for her hand and turned his face, kissing her wrist softly. Eventually, his gaze met hers again. "I'd like to see where this is going. I do not want to end it after you fly home. I can visit you there, in New York. Don't cut me out, Caitlin. Please."
Caitlin's heart fluttered painfully in her chest at his words but she forced a frown, tipping her head to the side. "But what about your position? Won't that hurt you?"
Niall shook his head. "Not until I formally claim my intention to name you as queen consort. For now, they just see you as a dalliance. If I chose to claim you, there would be hearings of your eligibility. We're not quite there, love, but…I want to explore the possibility."
Caitlin was both swarmed with happiness at his words but also struggling to understand the last part of what he said. When it finally registered what would happen if they became serious, she tried to wrap her head around the concept of a panel of judges determining if she was suitable girlfriend or wife material. What...in the actual fuck….
Caitlin's eyes widened as her anger rose. "Are you kidding me? You have to explain my worthiness to a bunch of Fae prudes?"
Niall grinned at her sudden spark of anger. "Yes, essentially."
Caitlin almost launched herself out of bed with an offended snort, prepared to launch into a tirade about asshole fairy snobs but he drug her back against him. "Quiet, you little hellion. We're not there yet. If we end up there – fuck the courts. They're not going to tell me who I can care about. For now, let me see you, let me please you." He purred softly in her ear, thrusting against her backside. "Let me fuck you..."
Caitlin stilled and softened, moaning faintly and he took the cue, dragging her over to face him and find her mouth with his.
[Spirits on Bourbon Bar, French Quarter, New Orleans]
Sarah swallowed her annoyance at the man that once more leaned forward and drunkenly asked for her number. Gritting her teeth, she turned to tell him for the last time she wasn't interest when she heard it. I just want a goddamn drink!
A hiss of anger had her snapping her gaze towards the open doors of the bar, just in time to see Jareth wrap his fingers around the throat of the man who'd pressed his hand against her back and attempted to suavely flirt with her again.
Sarah screamed for him to stop but it was too late. He flung the man with strength far beyond that of a human, the man's body slamming into the far wall as he whirled, shoving himself towards the other crowd of men she hadn't previously noticed. His friends?
"Jareth!" Sarah yelled, appalled, as he forcefully subdued them when they launched themselves at him in defense of their friend, his fingers roughly snagging their collars, causing a few of them to let out surprised chocking noises.
"She is mine…" He snarled, sending them sprawling as he shoved them back. She staggered back as he whirled, his angry gaze on her, jerking her to him and dragging her out of the bar. She struggled, incensed at his sudden anger directed at her, meaning to yell at him that none of this was her fault and if he'd only stop overreacting, she could explain –
She didn't have time, feeling his magic ripple around them as he suddenly transported them. She stumbled, glancing around, finding herself appearing in a strange vacant courtyard in a residential part of the quarter, opening her mouth to ask where they were when he jerked her to him, violently claiming her mouth with his own, his teeth sharply tugging open her mouth.
She swayed and he took immediate advantage, shoving her back against the wall with enough force, she felt the sting of brick scrape along her shoulder blades.
"You're mine, Sarah. Mine, you understand?" He rasped, grinding his erection against her, knowing he was being too rough but suddenly not caring. He was enraged, still reliving the moments of that man touching her, fueled by an irrational need to claim her and impress on her that she was his and always would be. You can't leave, not now. You're mine, tell me you're mine.
"Answer me," he growled, shoving her skirt up her legs and subduing her wriggling form with magic. He felt her frame tense with shock as she moaned softly and canted her head back against the brick wall he had her pinned to. He tugged her hips forward, tearing the flimsy fabric that barred his access, shoving his fingers roughly up inside her, feeling her slick arousal coat his fingers with an arrogant smirk.
"You're soaked, precious. Answer me, Sarah,and maybe I'll put my cock where my fingers are and fuck you hard, right here, in this 'd like that, wouldn't you? You'd like me to pound into you so hard you can't tell where you end and I begin? Doesn't that sound nice, precious? Answer me…" He felt her squeezing around his fingers when he mentioned how he'd shove himself inside her and he forced her head back roughly with his free hand, tugging on her jaw and opening the soft recesses of her mouth with the forceful tug of his mouth and tongue. Tell me you want it. Tell me you want me. Tell me you're mine.
"Yes, Jareth! I'm yours," she sobbed faintly, trying to move, making the magic holding her back vibrate against his senses. He shuddered, finding the spongy flesh buried deep inside her channel, pressing firmly and rolling his fingers in sharp circles. She screamed again and shuddered, bucking with the little amount of freedom she had against the magical restraints. He felt her squeeze again around his fingers as she drew closer to orgasm and he jerked his hand from her and ripped open his pants, using her own readiness to coat his cock, pressing himself against her opening but not fully pressing inside, not yet.
"Tell me you want me. Tell me you love me," He panted, his voice hoarse as he ground against her in small circles, the tip of his cock teasing against the folds of her sex, seeking entry but not willing to shove inside, not until he heard the words he wanted to hear.
"I want you, Jareth. I love you.." She moaned brokenly, her voice suddenly filled a combination of emotional and lust, trembling with the heaviness of her admission.
Jareth stiffened, his entire frame rocking with relief and a deep stab of lust, his cock throbbing with the urge to spill inside her, his mouth pausing before letting out a low pained groan and biting down against her lower lip. Sarah cried out but the noise was drowned out against his own as he gripped her hips with tense fingers and suddenly bucked, shoving his cock inside her in a pounding rythym, his body riding the euphoria of her admission of her love.
He could feel her coming around him almost instantly but he wasn't willing to let go just yet. He tensed, twisting his fingers as his magic swelled. He knew he shouldn't, not without warning her, but he was past rational thought.
Suddenly, his magic sparked to life, detonating between the two of them in the act of their rough coupling as the mating bond sealed around them, searing his senses. He suddenly sensed her connection to him, able to feel her surprise, her acceptance, her rush of love, her instantaneous second climax, and then he was tumbling himself towards bliss, pouring himself into her.
Sarah sagged against Jareth, her head aching with the surge of magic that assaulted her senses. She felt drunk with the ferocity of her release, feeling Jareth briefly struggle to hold himself upright.
With a wave of his hand, they were in her hotel room, stumbling into bed.
Everything felt different, seemed different. The air glowed faintly, as did Jareth, despite his glamour. She touched his face in awe and watched it melt away, revealing how he'd always appeared to her in her dreams.
Tears flooded her eyes as she felt his love hovering against her senses. She couldn't quite make out his thoughts, only catching fleeting emotions when she concentrated, but they were enough to humble her into silence.
"Sarah," he started, cupping her chin and kissing her in soft measured movements. "My Sarah, my champion, my lover, my queen, my mate, my love…"
She sobbed faintly against his lips and he turned her, drowning her tears with renewed efforts of his love.
[Stanley's Restaurant, Jackson Square, French Quarter, New Orleans, Two Days After Mardi Gras]
"When's your flight take off?" Sarah asked Caitlin, who'd chosen to stay an extra few days. Caitlin checked her phone and groaned. "Three hours, we probably better go soon."
Niall curled his arm around her. "I've never ridden in a plane before. What's it like?"
Sarah and Caitlin exchanged amused glances. "You'll see," they replied in unison, grinning at Niall's questioning glance. He simply shrugged and grinned, looking eager to the experience.
"When's your next council meeting?" Caitlin asked him, tugging her sunglasses off from where they rested against her head and settling them back over her eyes.
"Three days, love. Don't worry, I'll make it work." Niall responded, leaning forward and kissing her cheek. "I want to see where you live. You sure I can't convince you to let me teleport us there?"
"I paid for these tickets, bud. And besides, let you miss out on your first plane ride? Not on your life." Caitlin grinned, knowing as Sarah did that most likely Niall would hate it. What he didn't know wouldn't kill him, right?
Niall missed the perverse gleam in Caitlin's eye, simply content to be in her good graces again. "Then the plane we shall take."
Jareth bit his lower lip in an effort to hide back a grin, casually resting a hand around Sarah's hips. She smiled briefly back at him as Caitlin leaned forward and reached to settle the bill. Niall snatched the check before she managed to, however, and gave her a teasing grin as he laid a few bills out to cover the cost of breakfast. Caitlin rolled her eyes but gave him a small smile before looking back at Sarah and Jareth who sat across from them.
"So, everything went through at work? They approved your sabbatical?" Caitlin inquired.
Sarah nodded, smiling over at Jareth. "Yes, they gave me six months unpaid time off. It'll be enough to settle everything at the apartment, work on finding a schedule that'll accommodate both the Underground and my Aboveground commitments and for Jareth to secure an identity here."
"I have to say, Goblin King, straddling both the Underground and Aboveground for Sarah? Very impressive." Caitlin smiled over at Jareth who simply shrugged a shoulder.
"It will make Sarah happy. It's worth the struggle. As long as we're sleeping in the same bed each night, I don't care where it's located." His hand squeezed her hip and she shivered at feeling the vague tease of lust and adoration that skated up her spine. Me either, Jareth.
Caitlin sighed as the bill was settled, rising out of her chair with Niall. "Well, we better be off. We've got to contend with TSA security, unlike a certain lucky couple. Come give me a hug, both of you. Don't forget, drinks at my place next Saturday. Deal?"
"Deal," Both Sarah and Jareth responded, rising to come around to the other side of the table, each giving Caitlin a firm hug.
"Take care of her, Goblin King. Remember my warning…" Caitlin smiled as she embraced Jareth, flashing him a toothy warning glare.
"Treat Sarah right, 'else my balls become dog food. I remember," he laughed and hugged her back, shaking his head and pulling back.
Sarah leaned in and gave Niall a quick squeeze, pressing her mouth against his ear to whisper to him. "I'm rooting for you guys. Caitlin really likes you. See you soon."
Niall returned the hug and smiled, whispering back in her ear before pulling back. "I expect an invitation to both weddings. I know you two are officially bonded in the courts, but humor a friend. I went to so much trouble, after all."
Sarah blushed, having not yet discussed that with Jareth but nodded. Jareth and Caitlin raised a questioning eyebrow at them but they remained quiet, simply flashing them a smile.
Caitlin chuckled and tugged Niall out the door, waving as they left.
Jareth turned and pulled her to him, giving her a small kiss before moving with her towards the door. He tipped his head back, closing his eyes a moment. "We should visit here again. Next year, maybe?"
Sarah smiled against his side as he tugged her into the park at the center of the square. "I'd like that." She frowned, looking around. "Where are we going? Aren't we heading back to the Underground?"
Jareth stilled under a tree, turning and dropping to one knee. Sarah stilled, her eyes going wide.
"This isn't custom for Fae, so please let me know if I muck this up." He drew a small velvet box out of his pocket, holding it up and opening it. Inside, rested a large emerald ring with flanking diamond accent stones. "Sarah Williams, Champion of the Labyrinth and my Queen Consort in the eyes of the Underground Courts, would you do me the honor of marring me according to Aboveground custom? Be my wife?"
"Yes!" She launched herself at him, knocking him over into the grass. He laughed as he fell over and she straddled him, kissing him soundly, not caring who saw.
She sat back as he plucked the ring from the box and slid it on her finger. She smiled and kissed him again, a faint shift in the breeze mingling with his magic as they teleported away, startling a few passerbys at their sudden disappearance.