Morning comes, and the Goblin King seems a little cranky because he, however, has not.
At her office building, it's early enough for the guy behind the security desk to do little more than grunt at her as she swipes her pass, let alone pay any real attention as her well-dressed companion pretends to do the same. The dark-grey suit she talked Jareth into is vastly toned down from his regular attire, but it's still a little showy, more formal outing than office wear. The same goes for the long black overcoat that remains draped over his arm, their guilty golden secret smuggled beneath it. The Goblin King is nothing if not impeccable, even before 7am, his hair slicked back neatly, his expression one of cool indifference as he takes in the crisp white-and-silver foyer of her workplace.
Their chain jingles softly as they cross over to the bank of elevators, but she can barely hear it over her companion's constant sighs and muttering. She's grateful for the lack of people as she ushers the glowering Goblin King into the leftmost elevator, where he poses and pouts. She walks him quickly down the hallway to her own office.
“I can see why most of your kind hate their jobs, if the hours are this unreasonable,” he grumbles, once they're safely inside.
“We're here before anyone else is,” she hisses back, shutting the door behind him and wishing for a lock. “If I'm going to keep up the pretence of working from home 'til this is over, I have to at least have some work to do.”
“I gathered that, love, but we could have been here all the sooner if you'd have just let me bring us; a cab was hardly necessary.”
“It was when you outright refused to just take the bus, like one of us peasants.”
“At least three of the passengers looked rather peaky, and even the driver was all but hacking up a lung; I've no desire to spend my time here doing the same just because of one of your wretched colds. Besides, I don't like the thought of you having to suffer through that awful journey every day either. If you want a car of your own, sweetness, you have only to ask, you know.”
“If I want a car of my own, I'll buy it myself,” she tells him.
“Regardless, any form of transport was unnecessary. I could have made whatever you require appear before us, and we never would have had to leave the warmth of your bed.” He lifts an eyebrow, casting an approving glance down at her pencil skirt and pantyhose. “You wouldn't have even needed to get dressed.”
“And risk someone seeing us just poof into existence, or my files poofing out of existence right in front of them?” She gives him the stink-eye, but sees his attention has already moved elsewhere.
He's eyeing her plush office chair like he has plans for it – plans that involve him nabbing it first and having her sit on his lap, no doubt. She swiftly claims it for herself, pulling her legs in beneath her computer desk before he can protest. Jareth says nothing, but wastes no time in taking up a generous corner of the desk to seat himself – the right side of the desk, meaning that she has to fold her chained left wrist across her chest to accommodate him.
Such pettiness must be his way of getting back at her for the earliness of this morning's outing, and her lack of interest in what he had to offer her when they woke, a certain part of him apparently immune to such petty things as time. She can forgive him a little petulance over being out of bed and dragged here, but he's a major distraction with his thighs now almost at eye level, spread deliberately, no doubt to tempt her. She stares with all the willpower she can muster at the computer screen, and nothing but the computer screen as the machine warms up. The awkwardness of their position means they're very close indeed.
“Remind me again what we're here for,” he says after a moment, apparently unwilling to be ignored.
Looking up at him right now would be dangerous; it's what he wants, and so she doesn't give him the satisfaction. “Checking e-mail, replying to the ones that can't wait, sending over some documents so I can work on them at home …”
“All fascinating stuff, love, I'm sure, but I could have easily taken care of it for you. Let me send us back to bed, and after … well, after … I'll get right on it, I promise. A little morning exercise will put you in an even better frame of mind for work.” When she only ignores him, he sighs. “Suit yourself. Coffee? I know you'll tut and curse at me using more magic, but I need something to wake me up properly, and if it isn't going to be you, then I believe it's the next best thing.”
She rolls her eyes, already clicking her way into her e-mail. “Fine, get some if you want. None for me.”
“Thank you.” A large, steaming mug appears between his pale hands, but for the moment he sets it aside on the desk. “Is there anything I can do to help, apart from sit here?”
“Sorry, Goblin King, but this isn't exactly your area of expertise. I bet you'd have tons of stuff for me to do back in your kingdom, like separating goblin fights, right?”
Jareth shrugs, and smiles. “Mostly they manage to separate themselves, but I'd make sure to find some things for you to take in hand.”
“Mmm-hmm, I just bet.” Even with her job staring her in the face, she's letting him distract her, and it's getting them nowhere – particularly not home again, before they're seen. “Now hush, and let me work.”
“Your wish is my command, precious.”
“Let's just be glad I didn't wish this time,” she mutters.
For the next few minutes, all seems to be well. Jareth may well be bored, but at least he's quiet. Getting lost in work e-mails, it's easy enough to forget he's even there, which turns out to be a huge mistake on her part. For all his complaining about tiredness, a bored Goblin King is a restless Goblin King, and a restless Goblin King means more of his tricks. She discovers this fact when, halfway through typing a kindly-worded rejection e-mail, she reaches for the mouse, only to find it's been replaced by a firm and far too tempting thigh. She squeezes him for at least a couple of seconds before her brain registers the difference.
“Hey-” she begins, tearing her eyes away from the computer screen, searching for the mouse and finding it gone completely. She glares up at him, finding he's edged a little closer, his legs spread just that little bit wider.
“Can't find something you need, pet? Try a little more to the right,” he says, smirking down at her.
Any further to the right, and her hand would be heading straight into crotch territory. She pulls back at once, feeling herself starting to blush. “Cut that out right now, and give me my mouse back,” she tells him. Sudden movement on the computer draws her eye, and when she glances back at what should be her half-finished e-mail, her breath actually stops in her throat.
Jareth is on her computer screen.
The Goblin King is posing like a model, reclining on what seem to be black satin sheets on her desktop background, both arms folded behind his head, his body stretched out to its fullest.
He's very, very naked.
“Howdidyou- … whatdidyou- … holyshitisthat-?” Her brain seems to be running on nothing but hormones, but somehow she manages to clamp her free hand over her eyes. “Off. Now,” she demands.
Jareth chuckles. “Come now, Sarah, don't tell me you're shy. It's nothing you haven't seen before.”
“Your dick is in my office, Jareth; your dick cannot be in my office! Get it out,” she demands.
“Those words could have more than one meaning, Sarah. Are you quite certain-?”
“I meant get it out of here!” she moans, jingling her chained hand in the vague direction of the computer.
“Hmm. Very well, pet.”
When she dares to uncover her eyes, the picture on her computer screen has at least changed, but it does nothing to solve the problem. Jareth is lying on his stomach now, still completely bare, and the heated look he's throwing back over his shoulder tells her he's well aware of every taut muscle on display, every luscious curve of his body meant to tempt her. She groans and clamps her hand over her face again, full of heat, full of completely indecent thoughts.
“Get your ass off my computer – literally – or I swear, the next wish I make will be to cover every last inch of you in ants. Biting ants.”
He tuts. “And deny yourself a little nibble at me?”
“Just get rid of the picture,” she hisses, through clenched teeth.
She hears him sigh. “As you wish.”
Wary this time, she slowly uncovers her eyes, and is thankful to find her computer is safe for work again, showing only the familiar and innocent sight of her e-mail client. The image of him, however, in all his pale and naked glory, has been forever stored in her brain, only a misclick away from being viewed again. Repeatedly. When she sees the way he's grinning down at her, she knows he knows exactly what she's thinking. She needs to focus on work, before things … develop.
“You're going to return my mouse right this second, and behave yourself, or so help me-”
“I've done nothing but help you, precious; you looked like you could use something more exciting to look at – and aren't you at least a little excited now?” He hums low down in his throat. “You really should lighten up some – it's only a bit of fun.”
The way he's sneering down at her is getting right under her skin. She pushes back from the desk and gains her feet, more than a little pleased to see the sudden movement jerks him off his pompous perch as well. She doesn't let him recover his balance before she lays into him.
“Look, you may be used to doing whatever you please around your castle, Goblin King,” she spits, “but this is my world, and if I'm stuck sharing it with you for a while, then you are going to have to learn to play by the rules.”
Jareth gives her something halfway between a pout and a smirk. “And what rules are those, love?”
“I haven't decided yet, apart from 'no nudity in the office', which is a big rule number one.”
“Can the second one be 'don't wake a sleeping king, unless it's of life-threatening importance, or otherwise at least interesting'?”
She tries to throw her hands up in despair, and it irks her even more when the one attached to him only makes it halfway. “Ugh, you're impossible! If it doesn't suit your twisted little agenda, you just don't care!”
Jareth's eyes grow dark. “And I suppose thirteen years of servitude and companionship prove that I 'don't care'? I'm only trying to lighten the mood, Sarah. You're being unreasonable.”
“I'm unreasonable?” She raises her bound wrist, with a pointed glance at their chain. She's about to go on, when a new voice from across the room freezes the words in her mouth.
“Well, I'd ask if you were feeling better, but I can see from the handcuffs and the man on them that there's no need.”
Sarah glances up in horror, and sees her office door is now standing open, and Molly is looking in at the two of them. From the look on her colleague's face and the way she's eyeing their set of handcuffs, she's practically purring to have found something so juicy going on. “Mol?” she manages at last. “W-what are you doing here so early?”
“Not having half as much fun as you kids, I'll bet.” The older woman walks into the room, grinning like the Cheshire Cat. “Alex is working late nights, and I get bored when there's nothing to do in the bedroom but sleep. I thought I'd come in early and get some work done, but then I heard voices.” Her grin widens. “My little Serious Sarah – I just knew you were holding out on me, getting some of the kinky stuff on the quiet. It's great to see you two getting along so well, although I have to tell you, it's polite to leave the cuffs in the bedroom, before coming into the office.”
“I can explain.” The words are out before Sarah realises that she can't. She casts a desperate look at Jareth – professor, he's supposed to be a professor – and begs him for a solution. He stares back, looking significantly calmer than she must right now, but he gives her nothing.
She should have stayed in that oubliette.
“We … had a little accident with them. They won't come off. I'm working from home until we figure a way out of them,” she says.
Molly laughs. “Well, hell, I'm all for you guys getting your wild thing on, but shouldn't you just suck it up and call a locksmith? I bet you won't be the first kinky couple they've had to free, and it's not like you're naked or anything.” She chuckles again. “Not now, at least.”
“It's … not that simple. These are special handcuffs. Jareth – Jared – is … I guess you could say he's an amateur magician.”
The Goblin King stiffens at once. “'Amateur'? I'll give you 'amateur'-”
“He's kinda sucky at it,” she goes on, quickly overriding His Royal Headache before he can make things any worse. “And he managed to mess up big-time while he was practising on me. The guy who taught him the trick is out of town until next weekend, so we're kinda stuck together until then. I couldn't exactly tell the boss any of that.”
Molly seems sceptical. “So no sex game then? Uh-huh. Sure. Well, why not get another magician to help you out? There's a guy who performs every other Saturday at that cabaret night I keep trying to drag you to. He's pretty good - I'm sure he'll know how to get you out of there. I can get you a number, if you give me a minute.”
The other woman turns to leave, and at once, Sarah knows she has to stop her. No one else can get dragged into this. “Molly, wait!”
In her haste to move, she manages to bump her hip on the edge of the desk, and Jareth's forgotten coffee mug comes crashing over, sending its steaming contents rushing over the edge of the desk in her direction. She gives a cry and winces for the impact, but the hot liquid stops in mid-air, just shy of scalding her legs. Wide-eyed, she looks at Jareth, and sees his hand raised towards the spillage, his own eyes wide and alert as he comes to her aid yet again.
“What the hell?” Molly sounds as fascinated as she does confused, staring at fat brown drops of coffee as they hang suspended in the air for several seconds, before they blink out of existence entirely. Molly blinks herself, turning her gaping expression on first Jareth, and then Sarah, looking for an explanation. “Did he just-? … What was that?”
“W-what was what?”
Molly's eyes narrow. “Don't bullshit me, hon. You saw that as well as I did. Now, how did it happen?”
Sarah meets Jareth's eyes with something between gratitude and horror. He's saved her from one horrible mess, only to throw her into what might be an even worse one. She's blessedly unhurt, unburned, but as a result, Molly is going to think she's crazy. How on earth is she supposed to lie away coffee that floats, and then disappears?
“Would one of you like to tell me what's really going on?” Molly presses.
Sarah licks her dry lips. “No,” she squeaks. “Not really.” She looks between Molly and the magical bane of her existence, and sees him give a small nod. She takes a deep breath. “You're not going to believe this, but I guess there's no choice. You see, Jareth – that's his … uh … real name – he does dabble in magic … actual magic …”
They talk for what feels like a long time, her office door safely closed and sealed by yet more magic to stop any further nightmares like this from occurring. Surprisingly, Molly seems to be taking it well, and Sarah finds herself glad that her colleague has always been a little 'out there' herself. It's easier to talk about magical labyrinths and goblins and the fae realm with someone who's not entirely shut off to the idea of the supernatural, fascinated with psychics and the possibility of ghosts as she is. When Molly asks for a further demonstration of his powers, Jareth says nothing, but wills a perfect pink rose into existence with just a flick of his wrist, and hands it to her with a winning smile.
Leave it to him to charm his way out of anything.
Eventually, when she's summed up her little trip into the labyrinth, the conversation turns more private – things that should be for girl-talk only. By some mercy, the amused Goblin King is willing to oblige. As Sarah lays things out for Molly from the very beginning, he resumes his perch on the edge of her desk, polite enough to look in the other direction. In his ears are small white earplugs of his own conjuring, and Sarah has no choice but to trust that they're effective. He's humming faintly under his breath as she speaks about old crushes and her decidedly odd teenage years – some tune she eventually recognises as 'You Give Love A Bad Name' – and it's almost like they've come full circle after all this time. It should grate on her nerves, the way he no doubt intends it to, but she has to admit, he has a great voice, low and sweet and perfectly pitched.
If only he wasn't so goddamn flawed, he would be perfect.
“So … let me get this straight,” Molly says at last. “You want him; he wants you. You have a handsome hunk sharing your apartment – sharing your bed – and you've already fooled around a little, but somehow this is a problem.” She shakes her head. “I don't know why you can't just relax, enjoy it, and just let things play out. You're too uptight, worrying about some wish when you could be letting him relax you.”
Great - though Molly doesn't know it, she's already siding with the blond-haired enemy. Sarah shakes her head, too. “I don't expect you to understand everything. It's a lot more complicated than just having fun - for me, anyway. Plus, even if he does feel the same way, even if he somehow stops driving me crazy, there's the whole 'different worlds, goblins and magic' side of things-”
“There isn't a whole lot of magic left in this world, honey,” Molly says, with a sigh. “Too many people killing each other over land and money and other pointless things. Poverty. Hunger. Disease. I don't know if they have any or all of those things where he comes from, but isn't it worth giving wherever that is a shot? You say he teases you, makes things difficult for you; hell, I bust your ass almost daily when you forget to attach the right document to your e-mails. How is he any different?”
She has a point. Sarah's still struggling for a reply when the other woman gives the answer for her. “Because you love him. There's this thing between the two of you – anyone can see that. Watching the two of you the other night, I might as well have been a million miles away, the way you kissed him. You know it; he knows it. He's just going along with it, but you're dragging your feet for some reason, finding excuses to be pissed off. Still my Serious Sarah, scared of a little change and excitement - scared he'll see just how much you care.” She smiles, cocking her head towards the man in question. “He's obviously into you, with the bad things you've been getting upto in bed, and what's a little love between friends? I've seen the way he looks at you.”
“That's … you don't know him like I do.”
“Have you been to this world of his again, outside of that … what, that obstacle course he put you through as a kid? Have you kissed him properly yet? Bitten the bullet and actually fucked him? God forbid, actually talked to him about how you're feeling?”
“Then you don't know him as well as you think you do, either.” Molly gives a sad little smile, looking between the two of them. “Did you know I was set to get married once? I was much younger than you, and we were very much in love.”
Sarah blinks at the sudden change in topic. “No, you never told me that.”
“I don't tell many people. Ruins my glamorous sugar-mama image.” Molly's smile grows wider, but it doesn't quite reach her eyes. “Between his classes, he worked at the grocery store for peanuts, and god only knows where he found enough cash for a ring. I loved him more than I could ever really appreciate at the time, and it broke my heart to tell him I had to call it off. I listened to my parents, you see. They said he was too broke to support me; we'd be broke all our lives, they said, and there was no way his wages would be enough to bring up a family on. Our marriage would have only meant disaster. He was too hurt to stay in touch after I told him that. Last I heard, he dropped out, and went off looking for work out of state.”
The older woman sighs. “I was in college myself then, waitressing part time and hoping for a better future. We would have practically starved on our wages, and yeah, if we'd moved in somewhere together, we would've struggled just to make ends meet, but we would have been together. I realise that now – we could have made it work, if I loved him enough … and I did. I was just too afraid of the future to let myself take that risk. We would've made it. I see that now – I see it all too well, some nights.”
“So why not track him down and try again? There are ways-”
Molly is already shaking her head. “He died over twenty years ago now, hon. Car crash. He might have gone the same way even if we'd been together – if we could have even afforded a car, that is – but I'll never know. I'll never get back that chance to be with him. How I loved that man.” This time, when she smiles, it does reach her eyes, setting the tears brimming there splashing down onto her cheeks. “He told me I was his princess once, and when we were richer, he'd build us our very own castle. Whenever he kissed me, it felt like I was in a fairytale of my own.”
Somehow, through her own brimming tears, Sarah finds the other woman's arm and clutches it tightly. “I'm so sorry.”
Molly only sighs. “Don't be, honey. I had my chance. Besides, he could barely hang a picture frame, how could he have ever built us a castle?” Her smile wavers a little as she swipes at her eyes. “Now I have my career, and my travels, and my boyfriends – and Alex really is a sweetheart. I get by well enough these days to only reminisce once in a blue moon about not being a boring old married woman by now. Can I give you a piece of advice, though?”
Molly's damp eyes hold her own with surprising force. “If he ever offers it to you, take the road less travelled. Take that risk; take the magic. Take it, and run.”