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I Wish You Would

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The Labyrinth.

Sarah knows the book by heart. Girl makes wish. Girl meets Goblin King and is dragged into the perils of his realm. Girl overcomes all odds to defeat said king, and leaves his labyrinth and wicked memory behind. The girl learns her lesson, never to make idle wishes again.

All of it has come true for her – all except that last part.

Maybe those last couple of parts, actually.

No matter how hard she tries, she just can't seem to rid herself of his memory, nor that silly urge to wish for something more out of life.

The Goblin King sent her into his labyrinth when she was still just fifteen – a hastily-spoken wish gone terribly wrong. She played his game, beat him, and moved on with her life. It taught her a valuable lesson not to take her family for granted, no matter how annoying they got at times, but it never taught her to stop wishing. That little lesson was brought home only three months later, when her birthday rolled around.

Sweet sixteen – a little older, maybe just a little wiser, and there had been presents, snacks, music; everyone dancing.

The cake.

The real start of it all.

-

It's a small party, but it's conspicuously absent of boys, and there are enough people surrounding her to make her feel lonely of the fact – and not for the first time. Still, she goes along with the fun and games she and her friends are just a little too old for, mostly for her parents' sake. She's grown up a little, but not enough for her to repress a squeal of joy when her father carries out an edible fairytale castle in miniature, its tall white towers delicately crafted and dusted with powdered sugar. Breaking up all that whiteness are sixteen dark blue roses that sparkle with some kind of confectioner's glitter.

It's a beautiful thing – a precious thing, she finds herself thinking – and it reminds her again that a little magic in her life might not be entirely unwelcome. Particularly not when its bearer comes in the guise of a gorgeous and ageless rock god, with his wild hair and sinfully tight pants.

A Bon Jovi poster has sneaked its way into her room since the release of Slippery When Wet, and sometimes she finds herself staring into the eyes of the big-haired blond singer as she listens to him wail about giving love a bad name; playing her part while he plays his game. He's handsome enough – definitely crush-worthy – but it's not quite the right face. He doesn't have the same debonair smile as the one she dreams of. There's something about a 'first kiss goodbye' in that song she loves, and it makes her all the more envious that she has not yet experienced her own.

Sweet sixteen, indeed, and never been kissed as she sits before her sugar-coated castle. Irene is urging her to make a wish quickly, before the wax starts to melt over the towers. It's enough to draw her out of her reverie, but she can't resist one last look at the sparkly blue roses before she blows out the candles. They're almost the same shade as his collar was, when they danced in his ballroom all those months ago, as close as any boyfriend and girlfriend, and her most private yearning is, 'I wish he'd kissed me.'

Before bed that night, she's brushing her hair in front of her vanity, when there comes a tap-tapping at her balcony window. She's only moderately surprised to see it's a large white owl demanding entry. She lets the creature in before her parents can hear the noise. The Goblin King wastes no time in admitting himself, changing into his human form before her widening eyes. He smiles down at her, tall and handsome as ever, and finally, after these last lonely weeks, it's the right smile.

Her first real instinct is fear, but not of him. She glances back towards her bedroom door, as though her family are listening outside. “I can't have boys in my room,” she says by instinct, although it's laughable, given she barely knows how to even speak to the strange creatures. “My dad will freak.”

Jareth only laughs. “I have no intention of meeting your father while I'm here, Sarah. There are some paths even a king fears to tread.”

She has to giggle a little at that, the thought of the high and mighty king of the goblins with all his powers, actually cowering before someone even more intimidating: the over-protective father of a teenage girl. “Why are you here?” Her face quickly sobers. “Toby-”

The Goblin King smiles and spreads his hands – an offering of peace. “I have no interest in your brother, pet; only the young woman who wished for me.”

A thousand butterflies start up their frantic flapping in her stomach. “Then, you're here to …?”

His smile widens as he steps closer, sending her pulse sky-rocketing in the process. Her eyelids flutter closed by instinct, her lips parting slightly, and she can feel his warmth; smell magic and maleness as he leans in. His lips are hot and wonderfully soft against her left cheek. Her breath hitches with anticipation, but is released in a sigh when she realises he's pulled back. Her eyes open, and at once she's full of protests.

“That's not what I meant … you can …I want you to …”

He gives a little shake of his head. “Far be it from me to interfere in your experiences, love. You're still young; take in your own world for a while, before you come running back into mine.” The rejection hurts, too naïve a girl as she is for such a man, but he soothes it some when he tilts her chin up towards him with just a finger, and looks at her like she's the only girl in the world to him. “I may hold no power over you, but in our brief time together you've managed to make yourself quite dear to me, and I would deny you nothing,” he tells her.

“If you ever have need of me again, you only have to wish it, and I'll come.”

“Does … does that mean you can read my thoughts?”

He chuckles. “Only if you wish them, and think of me while you do.”

She can't help but pout. “But you won't-”

“Do anything that compromises what should be your normal experiences, no. You're still very young, after all, precious girl.” He gives a little quirk of his eyebrow that embarrasses and thrills her when he adds: “Give it time – not quite now, but perhaps, someday. You never know, when you're older.”

Fighting a dizzy little smile, she forces an eyeroll. “I wish I understood why, when I'm older.”

He laughs, and it's rich to her ears. “Granted. I expect I'll see you around, pet. Happy birthday,” he says, and disappears.

-

It's hard to change any long-ingrained speech pattern, and sometimes, she just forgets; it's not always a joy when he appears, like some handsome yet forbidding genie, after all. The wishes can't simply be unwished, and she can't just wish him away until they're fulfilled – a fact she discovers to her chagrin after a heated argument causes her to wish Irene to drop dead. The resulting chat with the unamused Goblin King lasts almost an hour, hushed whispers in her bedroom, where she finally admits wishing death upon her stepmother was just a figure of speech, and a foolish one at that.

He's good at gauging that – what constitutes a 'real' wish and what doesn't; what counts as a harmless wishful thought that he can grant, and what would stray too far into meddling in her mortal life. When she's panicked over a history test, studying until well after the sun rises, she wishes, tearfully, for more time to prepare.

He obliges, appearing at once, and he puts the world outside of her bedroom on hold, staying with her long enough to convince her she needs sleep more than she needs any more frenzied cramming of facts. She's doubtful as she climbs between the bed covers, only ten minutes before her alarm is set for, but exhaustion takes her almost at once. When her alarm does go off, he's nowhere to be seen, but she finds she's somehow managed a full night's sleep after all, refreshed and ready to go. She aces the test.

She doesn't need to wish as often, not while she's in love, but when her first boyfriend – a quiet boy named David – dumps her after only three months together, it's perhaps inevitable. In her heartbreak, she sobs desperate wishes into her pillow: that the boy who crushed her love in his clumsy fist be turned into a goblin; that he be dropped head-first into the Bog of Eternal Stench; that the Goblin King at least come to comfort her, if not take his place in her heart. Jareth remains conspicuously absent the next few weeks, leaving her to mend her hurts alone, as all weeping teenage girls must do.

David goes on to break plenty more hearts in his time, and gets punched in the eye one day for his troubles, but hearing it doesn't give Sarah as much glee as it once would have; life has moved on, and so has she. Long before then, she finds a handwritten note on her dresser one day, when school is much better and she's smiling again. It reads:

Sarah - Goblins are hideous enough creatures as is, without further diluting the gene pool. The Bog is nothing of the stench that teenage boys wear so well. The Goblin King has a kingdom to run; would love to put affairs of state on hold for ice cream and slumber parties, but unfortunately, I cannot, and therefore send my regrets. Best – J.

It makes her laugh – a lot – and it's just what she's in need of. She keeps the note in an old shoebox for many years, along with other similar notes he sends her, and the more romantic scribblings of future boyfriends.

He appears for long enough to comfort her when her dog, Merlin, dies, showing her happier times in one of his crystals.

He's always been good at that – knowing what she needs.

-

Those needs change as she grows old enough to discover sex. She tries not to call upon him often, mindful that the man she jokingly calls her fairy godfather might have his own life to lead, but the night she loses her virginity, at nineteen, she can't help it. She makes her wish in the mirror of her boyfriend Rob's bathroom. She's full of love, and nerves, and excitement, and she confides it all quietly amidst the bathroom's pale blue tiles – tiles that, if she squints, almost remind her of his eyes.

“I love him – I want him – but shouldn't it be you? I sorta wish it was you … but I guess it can't be you, right?”

There's no answer, and eventually she goes to her teenage lover. It hurts that first time, more than it feels good, but it gets better. Meanwhile, Rob is gentle as he can be, and kisses her through the pain, and she feels loved.

-

Just over two years later, twenty-one, and in the arms and bed of another man, the sex is much better. Her lover is far older than she is – than all her past boyfriends combined almost, she thinks, with a bitter, guilty chuckle – and probably not that good for her. He is hot, though, long blond hair and chiselled cheekbones, and he sings in a band she's gotten friendly with, drinking and flirting long after their shows have ended. It becomes somewhat of a regular thing, their late night chats, and though she wishes for common sense without really meaning it, of course, it leads to something more.

It's not the first time they've fucked, but it's the first time she's realised Jay's personality isn't anywhere near as appealing as his looks are. There's an obnoxious confidence in his grin as he stares up at her from between her thighs, and her orgasm is a lot longer in coming that night, despite her put on moans. She's feeling bitter, hateful thoughts of any other men flashing through her head as she struggles to climax: old crushes, celebrities - anything to get her off.

There's a flash of heat when her mind dredges up the Goblin King, in his open-throated shirt and tight leggings, and she seizes on it at once. She starts to move her hips a little more readily, then, imagining just how big his cock would be when it's freed of its confines – when he's fully erect. When she looks down again, Jay has thankfully gotten back to work, burying his smug mouth against her pussy, his blond hair brushing her bare thighs. It's almost the right shade, she thinks, arching into his hot tongue.

She bites her lip. Jareth can't read her thoughts unless she wishes, but she can't help but wonder how he'd react to seeing her this way. The thought is distracting and delicious, causing her body not to shut down, but to open up far more than she should be comfortable with. I wish I wasn't thinking about you, she thinks, as her orgasm draws close, and there's a rich ripple of familiar male laughter inside her head, and it sends her over the edge at once.

-

By twenty-eight, she's an editor, relatively successful, but determinedly single – something her colleagues can't help pointing out every once in a while. It doesn't bother her too much, not when she's buried in work, but it's hard to be entirely ignorant when a lot of the manuscripts she pours over are romance. The overly-elaborate gestures and weddings and babies don't bother her so much as the lack of someone just to be there for her; kisses and sex and hugs – just someone to laugh with and bounce her thoughts and ideas off. Someone to be with.

She speaks to Jareth often, though she remains guilty and mindful that he has a kingdom to run, and he's probably the closest thing she has to a male companion. He is a male companion, despite the supernatural aspect and centuries-old age difference, after all. He doesn't seem to mind that last as much, now she's matured, at least. She isn't a needy teenager any more, and she's careful to mind her words and her thoughts more, these days. There are no wishes made while she's buried in pages of someone else's love life.

There's an awful lot of flirting in their encounters, though, and it makes her more than a little uncomfortable when she really stops to think about it. She doesn't ask a lot of the questions that arise in her mind, for fear of the answers. He's on relatively intimate terms with her life – business and personal – through their talks, but as a result, she knows little of his own, beyond the fact that he's knowledgeable, and witty enough to send her into peals of laughter at times, and he hasn't yet grown bored enough to stop answering her calls.

One night, she wishes him before her, and he arrives, a little drunk, and freer than she's ever seen him. He's a breath of fresh air after the shitty day she's had. He puts his arms around her and urges her to dance, though this time there's no music to be heard. He stumbles only a little, and it's clear he knows how to move, his hips twisting with easy grace, giving a little extra bump and grind now and then just to make her giggle. It's refreshing – a memory that will never fail to make her smile, even years later, flushing to remember just how good he looks when he's dancing. By the time they collapse on her couch together, far into the early hours, she has forgotten entirely what she had even wished for in the first place.

She's almost willing to call him a friend, after all these years – enough so, even, to joke once that he knows her better than a boyfriend, though the subject makes her awkward enough to change it immediately after.

If there's a Goblin Queen, he doesn't mention her at all.

He doesn't change in appearance; doesn't give away anything to suggest that any time has passed at all since her teenage crush first blossomed. Though she's still young enough to be grateful for her looks and body, she sometimes wonders if her handsome king will be so receptive when she's grown old enough to be ashamed of her ageing figure. For now, she tries only to appreciate the attention he gives her.

These days, he's far more willing to be risqué in their talks. He's a natural flirt, and it's fun, and an ego massage if nothing else – though she often worries it is something else. To her, at least. The girl who has made so many wishes still finds herself longing for something more. As much as she'd like to, she has never dared to wish for something so simple as mere time spent with him.

If he has any such wishes of his own, only he is privy to them. Her wishes are all that bring them together.

For now, the generous and accommodating Goblin King continues to grant her whatever it is she asks for.

She knows grown women shouldn't wish.

It isn't healthy for her to wish.

Despite her best intentions, she continues to wish.

One day, not too far from now, she can't help but feel she's going to wish for much more than she bargained for.

 

Chapter Text

The play turns out to be pretty dull, and the after party isn't much better.

She doesn't get to go to shows very often. She's gotten herself all dressed up, expecting to brush shoulders with some of the city's most influential names in the arts, but she's disappointed to find she doesn't recognise a single one. The way Molly spoke about it, she made it sound exciting, glamorous, almost like a movie premiere, rather than what it really is – one of the first few fumbling attempts of a struggling playwright trying to cut her teeth in the business. A damp squib, rather than any real fireworks. It's mean to think so – the kid is Molly's niece, after all, and she seems like a nice girl – but it's hard to stay patient with the evening dragging the way it is.

Her colleague meant well, though, and she should be grateful to have been invited in the first place, but she's just waiting until the right time comes to make her excuses to leave. Molly's normally fun to talk to – a stunning woman in her late fifties who seems too vivacious to ever retire, wild as a teenager in her exploits – but she's spent most of the evening getting drunk on awful free wine, and draping herself over the current boy-toy of the month. Sarah can't even remember the poor guy's name, offering polite, almost sympathetic smiles over token sips at her own drink.

Despite all the stories she's heard about the older woman's energetic love life, (and isn't that sad in itself, with her own all but non-existent?) she can't help thinking this guy is far too young for Molly. She quickly chastises herself, pushing away any trappings of jealousy. The two of them seem happy enough, and it's really none of her business. Besides, she has no room to talk, given the age of one of her past conquests, not to mention the seemingly-ageless one that keeps getting away.

She wonders, as she often does, what her 'fairy godfather' is up to tonight. No doubt, Jareth's evening is going far better than her own is, but, of course, he's a king. He's bound to have a far more exciting social calendar, if his fully-packed ballroom was anything to go by. Oh, but thinking of that ballroom sets the old memories flowing, and she can't torture herself that way again. He certainly won't be daydreaming about the past. She doesn't know what time it is in his realm – if time is even linear there, the way he plays with it – but she's sure, by this point, he's found something fascinating to pass the time with. Something, if not someone

That thought calls for a bigger gulp of the horrible wine, and she feels as bitter as it tastes.

She resolves to do better – to do her best to make the most of tonight, nodding and frowning earnestly as Molly continues to deliver a rant about 'the business'. When she tunes back in to the other woman's actual words, she finds she's no longer sure whether the business she means is publishing or plays. Molly doesn't seem to mind – she goes on regardless, fuelled by the booze.

Suddenly, the other woman stops mid-speech, grimacing in distaste as she stares into the distance. Sarah follows her gaze, and sees a tallish man in a dark grey suit, standing in the function room's wide doorway. He's handsome enough, with swept back reddish-brown hair and a square jaw, but there's something greasy about him all the same. As Sarah looks on, she sees him give the rest of the guests the once-over, sneering openly enough to show a white flash of teeth.

“Oh, god, watch out for him, honey,” Molly says, in a loud stage whisper.

Sarah eyes the guy, unimpressed. “Why? What's his problem?”

“He's your problem, if he finds out you're here alone,” Molly corrects her, her wine-stained tongue lolling out in a pretence at gagging. “I had no idea he'd even bother to turn up tonight. Guess he's looking for fresh meat.” She stops to grimace again, and to take another sip of wine. “That's Richard Dunham – he's pretty hot shit in the critic circles, but trust me, he's a nasty little shit. Has a misandry complex a mile wide, yet thinks all women owe him something. You know the type – overly handsy, He-Man wannabe; won't take no for an answer, unless you're practically wearing another guy.” She giggles, giving the boy-toy's tie a little tug. “Which I guess I am.”

“He'll be getting a definite no from me,” Sarah says, but she feels uneasy all the same, as Richard's eyes finally fall upon her.

She's seen enough nature documentaries in her time to know that predatory look when she sees it, and it makes her squirm in her seat to feel it creeping slowly over her body, sending her flesh creeping right along with it. She looks away, but it's too late – she's caught his interest. It's like he's picked out her single status amongst the couples at her table as her weakness. Before she knows it, he's swooping down on their table; on her.

There's a token greeting and a winning smile for the other couples at the table, but then she's in his sights. “And who's this lovely creature? I don't think we've met – I'd remember someone like you, amidst all these other plebs,” he says, in a way that suggests he's not really joking. As he shakes her hand, he graces her with a smile and a wink – an actual, honest-to-god wink from a total stranger. “Richard Dunham. Though you've probably already heard of me. And you are?”

“Sarah Williams. You haven't heard of me,” she says, her tone dry. She releases his hand as quickly as she's able to.

He laughs, seemingly immune to her distaste. Of course he is – he's a parasite. They don't bother to seek the host's favour, before moving in to claim what it is they want. “No, but I think I'd like to. Can I get you a drink, Sarah Williams?” The smile isn't dying, and he isn't going away.

She raises her half-empty glass, which she's now determined will remain half-empty until he vacates the premises entirely. “I'm good, thanks.”

He chuckles. “Oh, don't tell me you're drinking the free swill they serve you.” He's found a topic of conversation, now, and he's sliding easily into the painfully-empty seat beside her.

She tries not to look at him too much. “I guess I must have a taste for the lower things in life. You're probably at the wrong table.”

Smiling, undeterred, he refuses to take the brush-off. “Then it's a good thing I'm here. You need a man to teach you the finer things.”

Ten minutes. Ten goddamn minutes later – she's been counting – though it could have easily been an hour, and he's still talking. It's dull as dishwater, a combination of facts that are supposed to impress her (they don't), and a grasping and grossly obvious attempt to get in her pants (he won't). Within his first few sentences, he managed to throw in a clumsy enquiry about her boyfriend, and ever since, she's been kicking herself for admitting she's single. She makes it clear she isn't looking, but it does nothing to dull that greedy little sheen in his eyes.

Despite his apparent interest in her, he hardly lets her get a word in edgeways. She's trapped – pinned down by a barrage of endless talk, just the way he wants her. When he finally starts to run out of words, she can feel his eyes slithering down her cleavage instead. She's wearing one of her favourite dresses, cut low in a sweetheart neckline but long on the leg, in a deep green that brings out her eyes. Now, she's going to have to burn it.

“Well, you certainly know a lot about wine,” she says, crossing her arms over her chest and attempting to sound as bored as possible. Somehow, it's surprisingly easy to do. “But-”

Predictably, he takes that as a compliment. “I do, but now I'd love to know some more about you, in return for my little lesson. You owe me, but first, I'll go get us that drink – a decent drink,” he says, without asking her, and stands up to make his way to the bar. Before he goes, he gives her another vile wink.

The moment he's gone, Sarah whirls on Molly. “This is a nightmare. You need to get your friend there to back off and get his head out of my tits, before I strangle him.”

Molly just chuckles, and gives her the sympathetic smile of the moderately drunk. “Trust me, he's no friend of mine – I just have to kiss his ass for Gracie's sake. I told you, hon, he just won't listen. You're stuck with him tonight, unless you can grow a baby or a boyfriend in the next three minutes.”

“I said I wasn't interested! How much clearer could I be?”

“That just makes you a challenge. I'm sorry you've been landed with such a shit, I really am, but I'm telling you, you're not getting away unless he knows you're otherwise attached. Admitting you were here alone was the worst thing you could have ever done.” Molly takes another drink, then waggles her eyebrows in a knowing manner. “Maybe it's time to start looking – and fast.”

When Richard comes back, she sits through another ten or so hours of talk, wandering eyes, and unrequited flirting, before deciding she's finally had enough.

“I have to make a call,” she cuts in, and, boy, does she. God, Buddha, Satan – anything to get her away from here.

Her persistent suitor gives her a slick smile, already reaching into his jacket pocket. “I got you. You can use my cell, if you-”

She's on her feet before he can continue. “I'm germ-phobic,” she says, unapologetic and none too quietly. “If I used your phone, I'd never stop washing my hands.” She's walking quickly out of there before he can think to question the bacteria on the average payphone.

In the deserted corridor, the phone attached to the wall seems to mock her, and just for a minute, she considers just calling a cab and heading home. She can't, though, as much as it pains her. It would be rude to just abandon Molly without saying a word, however drunk she gets – particularly as the other woman went to the trouble of inviting her. Likewise, she knows she won't get away easily if she goes back to make her excuses, not with Richard still hanging over her shoulder. He might even insist on escorting her outside, cutting her off from the pack to try and score a number or worse, and then things might get ugly.

She has no qualms about shutting down rude assholes in any given scenario, but tonight is no regular circumstance. Despite the show's desperate need for a re-write, she'd hate for a worse than necessary review to taint it, just because she put the main critic in a shitty mood. The jackass has already ruined her night – damned if he's going to ruin Molly's niece's blossoming career, as well.

What would Jareth do in this situation? The question sounds loudly in her head now, as it frequently does. She pulls a face. The Goblin King would waste no time in putting the creep in his place, but with tact? She doesn't think it likely. He would quickly see such a man was beneath him, as so many men are, and not care enough to rein in his scorn. If only she could get away with such things, she thinks, picturing herself laying into the guy just like her unflappable king would; maybe even making him cry.

She grins. It's a grim thought – especially when she imagines Molly's horrified face – but satisfying, though she comes back to reality soon enough. No, she doesn't have the liberty to do such a thing. She's only a woman, after all, and it's clear the creep has no respect for anything a woman has to offer, beyond what lies underneath her dress.

He refuses to accept the fact that any woman would dare to be uninterested in him, bowing only to the claim of another, stronger man over his potential prey. It's an attitude that's so prehistoric, she can almost picture his knuckles dragging in the dirt, but she's not about to waste her breath in trying to change such a stubborn asshole – particularly one she intends never to suffer the company of ever again.

Giving the payphone one last, longing glance, she heaves an angry sigh. She's stuck out here until she thinks of something to get the guy off her back. How much easier this thing would be if she'd just brought a date. She snorts out air, glad that there's no one around to hear. That's laughable. The only man she's even remotely close to right now is-

Oh, no.

She's made frivolous wishes before, and there's no guarantee he'd even deign to answer this one, but she can't bother him for such an embarrassing situation – can she? She can't go begging for his help because she's too pathetically lonely to have a real boyfriend, or even a good male human friend to pretend to be one, at least. Besides, she can just imagine the attention he'd draw here, with his wild hair, and a sense of fashion that, in this realm, would be called eccentric, at best, and downright crazy, at worst. No.

Other options, then, but what? Short of a guilty, sneaking exit, or outright murder, she's considerably low on options right now. She's a grown, powerful woman, for god's sake – she shouldn't be cowering in the hallway like this, and she curses the asshole who's driven her to it. She has to dissuade him somehow.

Molly's words echo in her head – that she'll only be left alone if she's already attached – and she all but moans, “I wish I was attached.”

With another sigh, she lifts her left hand to run it through her hair, but finds her arm strangely heavy. Frowning, she glances at her wrist. There's a thick golden cuff covering it, but it can't be any normal gold, given the way the light sends shimmering rainbows of colour radiating from it. There's a thin chain leading from it that most definitely wasn't there a moment ago, but that's the least of her troubles right now. There's another wide cuff at the end of that chain, she sees.

The cuff is attached to another hand.

With her blood turning to ice in her veins, all at once, she feels her body go very, very still. Her eyes make a slow journey from that hand – long-fingered and ethereally pale – up past a wrist that's dripping with lace, to an arm that's covered by a puffed white sleeve. Familiar golden strands of hair lay across this new apparition's shoulders, but it's only when she brings herself to meet a set of icy-pale mismatched blue eyes that she allows herself to believe that this is really happening.

“Well, Sarah,” the Goblin King says, lifting their joined wrists with a smile. “Your wish – and a most interesting one, at that – is my command.”

She feels her face fall.

Maybe Satan would have been a better bet, after all.

 

Chapter Text

Wrist. Chain. Goblin King.

Goblin King. Chain. Wrist.

The words just aren't connecting in her brain as effectively as she is now connected to him. That wish – that godforsaken wish, with such a foolish choice of words. She might have known he'd take them literally. She's bound to the Goblin King for at least the foreseeable future, and it's only a matter of time before someone discovers them. She pulls at the chain, then searches the cuff that binds her for some catch, or lock she can pick. She finds none. Finally, she stares daggers into his smirking face.

“Take it off,” she says. “Take it off right now.”

His eyes make a hot sweep of her body, and it's plain there's admiration there. “Your dress? Hmm, certainly a lovely thought, and one not at all inappropriate for some of my kingdom's most deplorable parties, but if my understanding of your realm's customs is correct-”

She rattles the chain in his face. “Cute. Cuffs. Off. Now.

“Now that I can't do, pet.”

“Are you crazy? You need to go, before someone sees you. Now. Yesterday. You need to leave.”

He gives her an indulgent little shake of his head. “Sarah, you know quite well that won't happen - not while an unanswered wish remains. And here I thought you'd learned to guard your words after all this time. I must say, I'm most intrigued as to how you're going to handle this little mess. I might have to stick around to enjoy the ride.” He shoots their wrists a pointed glance, still grinning. “Not that I have any real choice in the matter.”

“You think this is funny?” She most certainly doesn't. “You think this is really what I wanted? What I-”

“Wished for?” he says, his tone dry. “A resounding 'yes', in fact.”

“But … I didn't mean … I didn't want-”

“I think it's quite obvious you did, love, otherwise I wouldn't be here, and you wouldn't be scowling at me in that delightful way of yours,” he points out. “Though I must admit, given our last pleasant encounters, it's been a while since I've really seen you scowl …”

“You're about to see a whole lot more scowling if you don't get this chain off, believe me.”

“Do forgive me if I don't quite quake in my boots before you, sweet Sarah. You're rather adorable when you're annoyed.”

As she stares on at him, lost for words, he starts to laugh. “Oh, this is far too lovely for words. This is precious,” he chuckles. “How long has it been? Twelve, perhaps thirteen years I have given you all that you've wished for, and asked for nothing in return, and now, it seems my dividends have come all at once.” He gives the chain a little tug, his smile widening as she herself is brought closer with it. “Finally, a little taste of power, and I can just imagine how sweet it will be.”

My wish; my power,” she says, all but growling.

“Perhaps so, but that doesn't mean I can't have a little fun of my own in the meantime.” His smile, at least, seems genuine – and why shouldn't it be? He has every reason to enjoy himself, and he loves teasing her, when he can. “You gave no time-scale on your wish, silly Sarah, and so it will only come to an end once the terms are satisfied – when whatever secret wish in your heart has been granted.”

She squints her eyes shut. “I'm wishing really hard right now for you to just go home.”

He laughs softly. “Still haven't gotten tired of that one, I see. You know it doesn't work like that.”

“I wish-” She bites down on that one quickly, just in case. “I want to know just how it does work! You've ignored my wishes in the past, when you've deemed them unworthy for whatever reason, so you're obviously not bound to me …” There's a quiet jingle of metal between them to remind her that's no longer the case, and she cups her forehead in her free hand. “Ugh. What I mean is, you don't have to grant my wishes – you only choose to. Why this one?”

“I once said I would deny you nothing, shy of what should be your normal experiences-”

This is normal?” she hisses, rattling their chains again.

“Oh, Sarah, you mean to tell me there's not a soul in your realm who would normally use handcuffs for their own pleasure? Come, now, surely you're not that naïve.”

Handcuffs. Pleasure. Oh, sweet Christ. Breathe, Sarah. Okay, so there's a man attached to your wrist – a handsome, infuriating man – but letting him rile you won't get him off your wrist. She inhales deeply; lets the air out slowly. “Okay, I get it – 'attached'. Poor choice of words. Very. Can we just chalk this one up to me feeling incredibly frustrated right now? Which, by the way, this isn't helping any.”

Jareth only goes on smiling his little smile. “I'm not here to teach you a lesson, love – simply to provide what you asked for. You wanted attachment, well …”

“Look – I'm sorry. I should have been more careful with what I said.” Be nice. Kid gloves, make him feel appreciated. “It was great of you to show up and all, to try and help me like you always do, but if you could maybe just get rid of the cuffs for the rest of your stay-”

“'What's said is said', Sarah. You know quite well how it works. You wished – I delivered. These little wishes of yours are just as binding to me as they are to you.” Another jingle of their chain. “Though it's never before been quite such a literal bond. Don't you at least find it amusing?”

So much for being nice. “No, not when it feels like you're just out to get me. You didn't have to cuff me this way. You didn't have to answer the wish.”

“And you didn't have to wish in the first place. See how it works?” All she can see right now is the sickly-sweetness of his smile. He's mocking her, but – goddamn him – he's right. This is her fault, but that shouldn't mean he gets to enjoy it quite so much.

“All right, so we're stuck together for now, at least,” she says, with a sigh. “We need to get out of here before anyone sees us- … fuck!”

One of Jareth's immaculately-shaped eyebrows slides up a notch. “Beg pardon?”

“No … not … oh, no, Molly.” The words tangle on her tongue in her rush to explain. “I'm here with a friend – that's why I couldn't just leave in the first place – and now you've just made it a thousand times more difficult to sneak back in to say goodbye to her.”

“And we're 'sneaking' because …?”

She tells him everything – everything except the crippling loneliness, and longing for a man a lot like him, at least – ending with her silly little wish out here in the hallway. She tries her best to ignore the way his face hardens when she mentions Richard's eyes' habit of dipping down the front of her dress.

“A tiresome sounding evening indeed,” he says, at last. “Yes, I can see now why you wanted the pretence of a partner to ward off such a persistent little worm – though you only had to ask. I would have been happy to oblige.”

That makes her want to blush like a teenager, and she's quick to move on. “Hindsight. Right. Noted. But it was a stupid idea in the first place. No offence, but you stick out like a sore thumb here. There's no way you could pass for a normal human – never mind normal boyfriend material.”

He laughs as though she's said the funniest thing in the world. “Sarah, sweetness, you're too much. Forgive me,” he says, when he finally calms. “Only, you've seen the extent of my powers – seen me with wings, even – and now you question such a minor change of my feathers. I could transform at will when I was barely out of my swaddling clothes. I'm sorry – I shouldn't laugh, but rest assured, I've learned to wear the costumes of your realm quite well in all my years.”

She can feel her shoulders stiffening; her face reddening. How easy he always finds it to laugh at her, naïve as she is. Sometimes, though she knows he doesn't mean to, he still makes her feel like a kid in comparison. When you're as old as him, though, she guesses it must be inevitable. Still, she has to try and claw some ground back. She lets her eyes sweep over his outfit – the flowing shirt cuffs, the high boots and tight leggings – with disdain. “Uh-huh. Your sense of fashion would fit right in. During the Renaissance, maybe.”

He tuts. “A trifle too modern for the Renaissance, don't you think? You really should know your own history better, pet. Regardless, I give you my word that I can easily pass for just another mortal guest – fashion and all – if it's truly necessary.”

“Oh, it's necessary.” They've somehow remained undisturbed all this time, but she knows she's only one guest searching for the bathroom away from being discovered, standing here handcuffed to a real-life pantomime villain. It's hard to fold her arms with the required amount of bored resignation, given their short chain, but somehow she manages. “Okay, impress me,” she tells him.

As always, the Goblin King is happy to oblige.

He tosses back his hair, which at once begins to shimmer with some strange inner light, and then, with a dramatic flourish – no doubt for her benefit – he waves his free hand over his face. Meeting her gaze and holding it, he presses that same hand to the base of his throat and takes his time in running it down his chest and flat belly, a slow line all the way down until it cups his crotch.

His clothes melt and shift with his palm as it passes, but she's hardly paying attention to the magic, intent as she is on deciding whether or not he just gave himself a little squeeze through his leggings, also for her benefit. When she tears her gaze away from that impish hand as it finally drops away, she takes his appearance in from head to toe.

His beautiful blond hair is still stunning as it frames his high cheekbones, but it's now much shorter, cut just above his chin and pushed back from his forehead in what looks to be a carefully 'careless' manner. His eyes are their same curious blue, their dark pupils their usual mismatched size, but the markings above them are gone, the lower lids meticulously lined with just enough kohl to add some smoulder to his stare – not, she thinks, that he needs it.

He's wearing a relatively conservative white button-down shirt, but he's been careful to leave it wide open at the throat, and the black dress pants that cover his legs are sinfully tight, hugging his thighs and what lies in-between with the intimate caress of a lover. It takes her eyes a hell of a long time to move past those pants and onto the shoes – black Cuban-heeled boots, a little lower than his usual offerings, meaning that in her stilettos, the two of them are almost the same height.

With his new clothes and cocksure swagger to carry him, he'd probably fit in well with the brooding artsy types flitting around the free buffet, but all she can think right then is, 'Take me. Take me, you gorgeous bastard, you.' She graces her suddenly-dry throat with a hard swallow.

“I take it I meet with your approval, then?” he asks, and she's never been so glad he can't actually read her thoughts, even if he can read the longing in her stare.

“You'll do,” she replies, cool and clipped.

“Hmm, but 'do' what, exactly? This is your wish after all, and though I have no qualms about being seen to be chained to your lovely self …”

Shit. The cuffs. Her mind pulls free of her increasingly inappropriate thoughts. “A jacket,” she says, with sudden inspiration. “Can you whip up a suit jacket to go around me, like I got cold and you let me borrow it or something? That way, we can hide our wrists with it.”

“My, I am playing the gentleman tonight, aren't I?” he says, smiling.

Before she can reply, there's the soft kiss of satin against her shoulders – the lining of the man's suit jacket that's now wrapped around her. Without needing to be asked, Jareth steps closer, so that they're almost hip to hip, and he tucks both of their hands into the jacket's inner pocket. She laces her fingers with his, almost without thinking.

“Cosy,” he says, squeezing her hand. He gives her shoulder a little nudge with his own, and when he winks at her, it sends her poor heart fluttering like the lovestruck teen she once was. They stand there for several long seconds, holding hands and not doing a whole lot else. “Well, ready when you are, love,” he prompts, but ready for what, exactly, she's no longer quite sure.

Together - for what other choice is there? - they make their way back into the party.

 

Chapter Text

The party is starting to empty out a little, the crowd at the bar noticeably thinner, but there's still a handful of revellers making an effort at dancing. As Sarah crosses the large function room, Jareth in tow, the music they're moving to blends seamlessly into the opening chords of one she's heard often on the radio lately. It's the one where the female artist's husky voice is singing something about genies and wishes. It's hardly an accurate portrayal of her own situation – she's not the one stuck in a bottle, bound by another's wishes, after all – but she can't help but think it's an apt soundtrack, given her current predicament.

Maybe a little too apt.

She shoots a sharp glance back over her shoulder. Jareth meets her gaze, eyes wide with his innocence, or feigned innocence, at least. She all but marches him the rest of the way to Molly's table.

With little surprise, she sees that the other couples who were sitting with them have already moved on, probably making their excuses to get away from the dull party in general, and Richard in particular. The man himself is conspicuously absent, too, but she feels wary all the same, half-expecting him to pounce at her from one of the neighbouring tables. Molly remains in her seat though, still half-draped over her younger lover. Sarah sidles back over to their table, as innocently as she can to say her goodbyes.

Molly glances up with a little wave and a smile. “I thought you left already.”

“Nope, still here. Where's Richard?” she asks, as anxious and creeped out as ever.

The other woman grins. “He decided to go looking for you. You just missed him.”

“Oh, thank Christ.”

Molly no longer seems to be listening though, her eyes slowly giving Sarah's new partner the once over. “And who is this?” she asks, voice and eyebrows both on the rise. It's obvious she approves of what she sees.

She feels Jareth about to step forward to make his introduction, and gives a quick but vicious shrug, pulling his arm backwards again, denying him. “This is Jar … ed. Jared. Old friend,” she admits. “We just … we just ran into each other.”

Molly's grin grows wider at once. “Uh-huh. I bet. How do you two crazy kids know each other?”

Well, it all started when he appeared in my bedroom …

Every possible response deserts her – every single word in the entire goddamn English language abandons her, and she's left stammering for what feels like an eternity. She feels Jareth's hand press against the small of her back. Maybe it's an attempt to comfort her, maybe just a reminder of his presence to set her heart racing faster, her nerves frazzling to a crisp. If it's the latter, it's working. He seems content to let her fumble for a response, maybe looking to teach her a lesson, too. How has she learned nothing from all these years of mistakes?

“He was … my professor at college,” she says, her tone light and positively inspired. “He taught me. It was a long time ago.” She shrugs. “We stayed friends.”

“Oh, really?” Molly shoots her a brief look of disapproval, before turning her attention back to Jareth. “She's been holding out on me – she never even told me she was seeing anyone, let alone a professor. Do you still teach, Jared? What's your subject?”

“Oh, I've taught her all sorts of things, over the years,” Jareth says from over her shoulder, before she can object to the other woman's assumption. It sends his breath ghosting along her neck, and she's ashamed to find herself shivering with the sensation of it. He moves a little closer, and she's about to warn him back, but then he murmurs softly in her ear. “Don't look now, love, but I think your little friend is on his way over.”

She doesn't dare turn to look. “Oh, just kill me now,” she moans.

“We've talked about this – particularly while I've been 'teaching' you – mind your words. Now, how do you want to do this? Say the word, and I can inflict him with the most delightful rash in the most delicate of places.”

That almost makes her laugh. “Tempting, but no. Can you just ward him off, play the alpha male for a while?”

He chuckles softly against her ear. “You know me so well.”

Without even a second glance at the approaching shitstorm, Jareth seats himself in the nearest chair, and immediately pulls her down with him. She lands in the warmth of his lap with a small gasp, their joined hands still clasped together, and her free hand goes to the nape of his neck by instinct. She stares at him in wonder as he brings his face close enough to kiss her.

Surprisingly, he's polite enough to ignore her widening eyes, that sudden look of hope. Instead of kisses, he uses his free hand to wrap a lock of her hair around his fingers, simultaneously giving the impression of deepest affection, and hiding both of their faces as he speaks.

“He's almost here – do try and look happy to see me, love.”

Despite her now-pounding heart, she manages a crooked smile, and then a dark shadow is looming over them both. She knows the other man is taking in the scene – the distinctly male jacket around her shoulders, not to mention the man whose lap she's currently draped across – and her smile widens.

“Richard Dunham,” he spits, by way of introduction. “And you are?” he demands of her new-found friend.

“Busy, at the moment,” is Jareth's mild reply. He doesn't even bother to look up at Richard. As she predicted, the Goblin King knows the other man is beneath his interest.

Sarah spares at least a quick glance upwards, and sees Richard eyeing the pair of them with the small and shiny eyes of a weasel. “Is this guy bothering you, Sarah?” he asks her.

“Not half as much as she'd like me to be,” Jareth answers for her, smiling all the while as he toys with her hair. “We're old friends, you see, Sarah and I. We didn't think I'd be able to make it tonight, me being so busy and all, but in the end I just had to come for her. Didn't I, love?”

The closeness of his lips is making her dizzy, and she can only smile and nod.

When their unwelcome company continues to linger, the Goblin King at last graces him with a cool stare, without caring to release the lock of her hair he's holding. “Something else we can help you with?” His eyes return to hers at once, as though he doesn't care for whatever the other man's answer will be.

“N-no. I mean, I just thought … I thought …”

“If you wouldn't mind 'thinking' somewhere else, then – we're a little occupied here, if you'll forgive us.”

That, finally, is enough to get rid of him. He isn't happy, shooting the two of them a hard glare over his shoulder as he walks away, and Sarah's convinced she hears the word 'tease' amongst his muttering.

“Charming fellow,” Jareth says. “Can't imagine why he's here alone.”

Molly starts to laugh the minute the man in question is out of earshot. “Oh, that was perfect! You need to hold on to this one, Sarah – he's a keeper.”

Jareth, damn him to hell and back, smirks. “Yes, Sarah. I think you'll need to stay very close to me indeed.”

Somehow, some way, the Goblin King manages to keep up a polite conversation. Molly is keen to know everything she can about her new friend, and to his credit, Jareth answers all her questions with ease, glossing over everything of a supernatural nature without batting an eyelid. It's the first time Sarah has seen him in company with anyone other than goblins, and he's more knowledgeable about current mortal events than she would have ever thought him capable of, not to mention more of a gentleman than she realised. He's positively charming, and if he hadn't already won her over all those years ago, she's positive her heart would be melting right now.

The fact that she's still sitting in his lap, his free hand now firm on her hip, is the only detractor from his chivalrous behaviour. That hand is doing more to her than he could possibly imagine. It's no wonder she's letting him do all the talking right now, distracted as she is. How the hell did her evening turn into this?

More importantly, why does hearing the Goblin King talk about computers, of all things, turn her on?

She glances around the room, telling herself to behave, and regrets it at once. She spies Richard standing over by the bar, and it's clear he's doing his best to spy on her. He's eyeing her the way a hungry dog eyes a freshly cut piece of steak, and it makes her cringe. Clearly, he hasn't given up hope, no doubt waiting for Jareth to go to the bathroom or something so he can weasel his way over and convince her to leave with him instead. Sitting on another man's lap apparently isn't enough – she's going to have to be more direct.

“Kiss me,” she hisses, when there's finally a lull in conversation.

For the first time in years, it's obvious she's managed to surprise him. He turns his attention back to her at once and raises his eyebrows, smiling only a little. “Come again, love? I don't think-”

“Oh, you heard me just fine. He's still over there staring at us, and I want him to stop. Please, just kiss me.”

She doesn't have to ask him again.

He tilts his face up to her, capturing her mouth with his own, and she's not too distracted by their captive audience to appreciate it fully – it's enough to drive everything else away. She's waited years for this kiss – thirteen of them, in fact – and it doesn't disappoint. His lips feel softer, fuller than she's always imagined them to be, and she's apparently shameless enough to moan against them. She can't help but tug a little at the lower one with her teeth, light and teasing, before her own lips part to accept his tongue. He kisses with as much confidence as he speaks, thorough and unhurried as he stakes his claim on her for all to see, and her only clear thought during that time is 'Dear god, yes'.

When he finally releases her, she can feel the goofiness of her grin, but damned if she can do a single thing to change it.

“I think he's stopped looking now.”

She blinks down at him. “Who?”

“Your admirer, love.”

“Oh.” As far as she's concerned, the creep can watch all he wants, as long as they get to carry on doing this. Unable to stop herself, she's already leaning in for another, and Jareth looks extremely willing.

“ … wow.” The sound of Molly's voice is ice-water on the heat of that kiss, and she pulls away from Jareth's mouth, shocked and a little ashamed – not to mention more than a little excited, now. She looks to the other woman, guilt rising in her throat, but Molly is grinning wildly. “You definitely need to hold onto him,” she says again. “Don't let Richard stop you – hell, don't let me stop you. You kids go home and do what you gotta do. I've got Alex here to keep me company.”

Alex. It should be nice to finally put a name to the boy-toy's handsome face, but Sarah's jumbled mind hardly registers it. She's too caught up in what's happened – what's still happening – and exactly what Molly assumes will be happening later. Her lips are still throbbing with that kiss. “We … we were just …”

“Leaving,” Jareth finishes for her, helpful as ever. He slides her off his lap and onto her feet with easy grace. When he's established that her knees will hold her after all, he stands beside her, his arm still neatly tucked inside the jacket with hers. “It's been lovely to meet you, but we haven't seen each other in such a long time … you know how it is.”

“It sure has, and I sure do.” Molly gives Alex's knee a not-so-subtle squeeze under the table, and gives Sarah a lift of her eyebrows. “I'll see you at work, honey. We'll talk,” she says, pointedly, before gracing Jareth with a charming little smile. “You take care of her.”

“I intend to do just that. Come along, love,” he says, and then he's gently leading her away from the table, towards the blessed relief of escape.

Somehow, that irks her. He's the one who's come along to wreck her evening, and somehow she's just allowing him to take control. No, she can't let that happen, no matter how many knots her stomach is currently in with just that one kiss. She has to show at least some control. With new determination, she quickens her pace, marching ahead of him so that she's in the lead as they walk towards the doors. She comes to an abrupt stop when she realises he's stopped walking, almost yanking their bound wrists out from their hiding place in the process.

“Wait.”

She stops in her tracks, looking back at him with a combination of dismay and disbelief. He's far too calm for the situation, and it's only pissing her off more. “What?

“You're still angry,” he observes, then smiles a little. “Would it help at all if I offered to kiss you again?”

Yes. Oh, god, yes.No!” she makes herself hiss. “How would that possibly help anything right now?”

He shrugs. “It'd help me. Besides, you seemed to approve of the last.”

The man is unbelievable. She gives a firm tug on his wrist. “Come on!”

“Wait.”

“What now?” she all but growls.

He gives a nod towards the bar. “We haven't said goodbye to your friend.”

Following his gaze, she spots that Richard is still there, nursing his wounds and a glass of what looks like whiskey. He's alternating between sips of his drink, and open glaring. “You can't be serious.”

A small smile spreads over Jareth's face. “I most certainly am, and this will only take a moment. Come on.”

With his larger strides, she has no choice but to go trotting back with him. As they approach, Richard greets them with a hard stare, before letting his eyes drop back to his glass, as if the pair of them are no longer of any concern to him. When they stand before him, Jareth doesn't immediately speak up, and, feeling annoyed, Sarah wades in to fill the silence.

“Well, I guess we're leaving.”

Richard still doesn't care to meet her gaze. “Uh-huh. Right.”

After all the unwanted attention, he says this in a way that makes her feel beneath him, and it puts her on the attack at once. She opens her mouth to finally give the guy a piece of her mind, but the hand holding her own gives her a little warning squeeze, and she remains silent.

“I was unspeakably rude earlier,” Jareth says, and the genuine warmth in his words causes both Richard and Sarah to peer at him in confusion. “I do hope you'll forgive me. No hard feelings, eh?” he says, and holds out his hand.

“Uh … sure,” Richard replies, but there's a curl of distaste to his mouth as he reluctantly takes the Goblin King's proffered hand.

“Good, good.” Jareth gives a wide grin, seemingly oblivious to the other man's obvious dislike of him.

When Richard is too quick to release his hand, Jareth takes it in his stride, still smiling, and quick as a snake as he lets his hand slip around to the back of the other man's collar instead. Before Richard can protest, Jareth is leaning in close, too close, and Sarah can hear him muttering something into his ear, though she can't tell exactly what it is. All she knows is that when Jareth finally lets him go, the formerly crass and confident Richard Dunham is wide-eyed with what seems to be fear.

Those eyes meet hers. “Yes. Sorry,” he says, and licks at his lips. “Tonight was … um …”

“It was 'um' indeed,” Jareth says, grinning as though the other man has graced them with the height of his wit. “Well, we'd best be off. A pleasure.”

As he leads her away, smiling faintly and walking at a quite leisurely pace, she's full of questions he doesn't bother to answer. He heads directly for the exit, and as he does, Sarah hears for the first time the music they're leaving behind. It's Madonna, declaring she's going to take a chance on a beautiful stranger; how looking into his eyes brings her world tumbling down.

Her own eyes all but roll back into her head.

This man is no stranger, but a 'devil in disguise'?

You bet.

 

Chapter Text

Given the supernatural turn her life has taken these past thirteen or so years, she can safely say that sharing a cab with the Goblin King is not the strangest experience she's had to endure. If anything, Jareth is more 'normal' than she's ever seen him, and the epitome of courtesy. He gets into a good-natured debate with the driver over where in the city is best to find decent Japanese food, and then leaves the guy a generous tip he's conjured from who knows where. It is a surreal experience, though, as he deftly manoeuvres them both from the car, escorting her as politely as any date might.

The chain that binds them means he won't stop at walking her to her door, though.

They take the short stroll up the stairs to her apartment together, as if he has all the right in the world to be there. As she fishes in her purse for her keys, it occurs to her that he's never actually entered through her front door before – always the window, or else seeming to appear from the air itself. This will be a new experience for them both.

“I don't understand why you wouldn't let me just will us here,” he says, the moment the door closes behind them. She can't help but notice just how familiar with her apartment he's gotten, ever the gentleman as he slides the jacket off her shoulders and hangs it in the hallway closet like she'll actually wear it again.

“We went through this while we were waiting for the cab – no magic, at least while you're in my world. If I'm stuck with this wish for the duration, I'm taking no chances on you making it worse,” she says, grateful to hear how firm she sounds.

He sighs. “As you command, love, though it's hardly practical,” he has the audacity to say, in his carefully chosen clothes and eyeliner. “Have you any idea on what you want to do for the immediate future?” She hasn't, and when it shows in her face, he takes them on a decisive march through to her tiny living room, leaving her no choice but to follow. There, he collapses onto her couch, dragging her down with him. “Well then, I suggest we at least get comfortable.”

He pulls her feet onto his lap, and slips first one, and then the other high heel from them. The pleasure such freedom brings is too great for her to protest, and she actually gives a little sigh as he starts to massage the life back into each toe. His thumbs press into the ball of first her left foot, and then the right, and oh, he knows what he's doing.

Who would have thought the Goblin King knew how to rub feet? He's amazing – a goddamn expert at this – soothing away all the built-up tension, but at the same time causing an entirely different sort of tension to build inside her. He's good enough to make her melt in his hands; good enough to almost make her forget everything but his magic fingers as they curl around her ankles and start to rub higher. He's actually started to massage her left calf, before she finds herself in real danger of moaning for him.

Knowing she'll kick herself for this later, she bats his busy hands away and reclaims her feet, tucking them safely beneath her.

He only sighs, bending to wrench off his own boots, before settling back to look at her. “You look lovely tonight, by the way.”

That almost makes her smile, and she forces a frown instead. Distracted, she sees he isn't wearing socks – doesn't know if socks are even a thing in his realm – and the sight of his bare feet, pale and graceful as any dancers', is a strangely erotic one. She quickly looks away. “You too, I guess. You pass for mortal, at least.”

“And, evidently, will continue to do so until your wish is ended.”

That causes her to stop and think outside of her own predicament for a minute. “Does it bother you that much to look like a human?”

He shrugs. “The look itself, no. It's just the bother of it – the enchantment is a costume in itself, you see, like a tie you have to put up with the nuisance of, until such time as you can remove it. Tiresome, but tolerable.”

Oh, good, and now she's starting to feel sorry for him. She heaves her own sigh. “Take it off, then. Be yourself. We should both be comfortable, right? But only in here,” she hastens to add. “Outside, you'd be a walking glitter-bomb, just waiting to go off.”

He gives a low chuckle. “You say the sweetest things.”

There's no little burlesque show for her benefit, this time. He just sweeps a hand through the air in front of him, and then he simply is the Jareth she's always known, wild hair and wild eye-markings and all. His flowing shirt means there's a little more of his chest on show, now, but his leggings aren't really much worse than those almost indecent pants he had on. It's somewhat satisfying to see that his feet remain bare. He smirks when he sees her looking.

She forces herself to focus on the task at hand – freeing herself from the Goblin King, rather than letting herself get snared further by his charms.

They go over her wish – her exact words – analysing each one, at her insistence, until every option is exhausted. They try holding hands again, try looking into each other's eyes, but it only makes her blush – positively humiliates her – and she breaks away almost at once. They can go no further down that unsafe path of emotional attachment.

She's thinking 'attached', thinking string, velcro, glue – anything human-made that might be used to bind them instead, and that will be much easier to remove, should their magical shackles crumble away. She's on her feet and urging him towards the door, towards a craft store, before she remembers it's a Saturday night, and everything will be closed. They dig an old scarf out of her closet anyway, and tying it tightly over the top of the cuffs makes no difference, nor does tying their free wrists together as well. Clearly, the only attachment they're getting is from those godforsaken golden cuffs.

Attached. She drags him to the bookcase and pulls out her well-thumbed dictionary. Attached. She ponders the word until it loses all meaning, and then sends the book crashing into the opposite wall.

“Temper, temper,” Jareth chides her.

“Oh, cram it.”

“All right,” he replies at once. “What and where, exactly? I'm afraid you'll have to be more specific, given the predicament your last choice of words has gotten us into.”

She sulks in silence for at least half an hour after that.

After a while, denied of the use of any more of his magic, he politely asks her for a drink. The two of them shuffle into her apartment's cramped little kitchen, in pursuit of glasses and red wine. She pops the cork quickly, resisting the urge to have something much stronger. As Jareth fills their glasses, Sarah can only imagine her stepmother's horror at how rude she's being, not even bothering to offer her guest refreshments, and then dragging him to fetch his own drink, and she can't help chuckling. She refuses to tell him what's so funny.

They share the full bottle out between the two of them, the same way they share her couch. The wine warms her belly going down, but not as much as seeing the way the burgundy liquid stains Jareth's lips just a little bit darker does. She keeps shooting little glances at his mouth as he drinks, remembering the heat of their earlier kiss. It's a mid-range wine, nothing special – they aren't celebrating, after all – but she thinks it might taste like ambrosia, coming from that mouth, kissing it from those remarkably soft lips.

If they're going to be stuck together much longer, she's going to need to find a better distraction.

They drink mostly in silence, after Jareth's attempts at starting polite conversation fall flat, and she herself is too agitated to try. She puts on a little relaxing music, but it only seems to mock their situation, and she switches it off soon after. Normally, she would be thrilled to be curled up on her couch with him this way, but there's only anger – at him, and at herself – and a growing sense of embarrassment and gloom. He has an entire kingdom to run, but she's trapping him here, drinking her crappy wine and staring at her living room's crappy four walls. It's already late and getting later, and what hope she had of them being free before bedtime is rapidly starting to dwindle.

Jareth's voice brings her out of one despairing reverie, and immediately sends her crashing down into the next. “Would you be greatly offended if I said I needed to piss, love? It's been a good couple of hours, now, and the drink hasn't helped.”

She sets down her own glass and pushes it away at once, though it's almost empty by now. There's a flare of heat in her cheeks, and she knows she's turning the same shade as the last dregs of wine. “Do you have to be so crude?” she asks, glaring at him.

He puts his empty glass down beside hers. “I thought we were past such things. Very well – I need to use the facilities, if you'd be so kind as to cooperate.”

Oh, no. Oh, no, no, no, no no no nonono- “You mean come with you?”

He grins, giving their binds a little shake. “Well, I can't very well detach my hand, and I certainly can't detach it, now can I? Just be thankful I'm left-handed.”

Oh, god, he means the hand he uses to hold his- “Can't you hold… um … can't you just wait? Magically, or something?” She feels a small clench in her own bladder, followed immediately by her face falling in dismay. “Oh, I … I don't think I can, actually.”

He chuckles a little. “A shared predicament, then. Are you going to be all right? I know you're fortunate enough to be right-handed, but-”

“I think even if I was left-handed, I could manage to be ambidextrous for the time being, thank you,” she snaps quickly back, cheeks burning hot.

“Fair play, wouldn't want to have you struggling, is all.” He winks at her, and unfolds himself with deceptive speed from the couch, dragging her onto her feet with him. “I promise I'll be a complete gentleman, and give you as much privacy as I can.” It's humiliating enough, but then he adds: “I'd ask you not to sneak a peek as well – it can be a little shy when it's not hard, you see, and I wouldn't want you to get the wrong idea.”

That little thought leaves her mouth opening and closing like a fish, but it only widens his smirk. “Ladies first? No? Very well then.” He hums to himself as he sets off to the bathroom without waiting further for a reply, slinging her arm over his shoulder and gently tugging her, still spluttering for a response, along with him.

“I wish you could use your own fucking bathroom!” she finally manages.

“You know it doesn't work that way,” he singsongs back, and even without seeing his face, she just knows he's still grinning.

 

-

 

“This is ridiculous.” She's huddled beneath the shower, swiping at the shampoo that's trying to run into her eyes with the one hand she dares use. Her other arm is stretched rigid, pushed out past the shower's spray.

“I have no idea what you mean, love.” He's standing beside the tub, bundled behind the shower curtain, his arm yanked back to give her as much space as possible. His back is to her bathtub – she's checked this at least a hundred times, in her embarrassed state – and the scarf she insisted he wear is still knotted firmly over his face, covering his eyes.

“Do not give me shit right now – just don't.” It's a rushed, uncomfortable shower, but it's better than none at all. Still, when she shuts the water off and accepts the towel he blindly offers over his shoulder, she can't help but think they're forgetting something. By the time she's towelled herself off – one-handed, of course – it hits her. “Oh. No. Clothes.”

“You're telling me, sweetness.” Her dress and bra are still tangled around their joined wrists, after all, half-soaked from the shower's spray, as is most of his shirt.

“Maybe … maybe it's time for more magic.”

“Oh, good.” His tone is drier than the rough towel. “Any preferences?”

She takes a second to imagine the least revealing night-shirt she owns – an oversized Cure tee she's had for years that's almost long enough to cover her knees entirely. “There's an old t-shirt in the top drawer of my dresser. Can you manage that?”

“Certainly. And underwear?” He pauses for a moment. “I realise that's a rather intimate question, but unless you'd prefer me to choose … or go without entirely-”

“Third drawer. Black bra, black panties,” she grumbles.

“A wise choice.”

He snatches off his improvised blindfold with a flourish, and turns to face her before she's even registered that she's wearing the clothes she asked for. A little whimper escapes her as he helps her to step out of the bathtub. Her towel, along with her sodden dress and bra, are gone, and later she'll find them neatly tucked into the laundry hamper. At least he's a tidy menace. It takes her a moment to realise that, rather than practical and plain, the lingerie she's wearing is one of her nicer sets – a push-up bra and thong panties, both in sensual black lace.

“You just had to go for the sexy panties, didn't you?” she barks.

When he meets her eyes, he's smirking. “You gave me no other preference than colour, love. As always, I only did as you wished by conjuring you some underwear – no need to get them twisted.”

At that point, she can think of a hundred things she'd rather do with her panties – shoving them in his smug mouth, for one. Somehow, she knows he'd only enjoy it. She's about to lay into him for his nerve, when a huge yawn escapes her, and she covers her mouth instead. Great. She's been putting off talking about bedtime for far too long, and even with the fun of their shower arrangement, it's obvious both of them are getting a little drowsy now.

“Do you have …” Anyone to get home to, she wants to ask. “ … anything you need to go back to your kingdom for first – to take care of, since you're stuck here for the night?”

He smiles lazily, stifling his own yawn. “Kingdom can run itself for the time being. Long term, we might need to arrange something, but right now, my only concern is arranging myself into a nice warm bed. I take it you have no problem putting up a poor traveller for the night, particularly once here solely at his lady's wish, and so very far from home?”

She's glowering at him, and no, it isn't helping anything, but she can't help it. “My bed's big enough, if that's what you mean,” she finally concedes.

“I think it is more practical to share, given the circumstances.” He grins. “Lead the way.”

The two of them troop into her bedroom, and her double bed looks both smaller and larger than it normally does – a suggestion of just how closely they'll be snuggled in it, yet at the the same time dominating the entire room with its presence, the punchline to some awful joke.

“Do you have a particular side in mind – a position, even?” There's far too much humour in his voice, and she shoots him a hard sidelong stare. He seems not to notice. “Myself, I have no problem with being on my back, but if you'd prefer to spoon …”

She lifts their chain to dangle deliberately between them, turning so that she's glaring into his face. “This is so going around your throat while you sleep.”

“Breath play as well as handcuffs, hmm? My, you have become quite the adventuress since our last bit of pillow talk.”

“Pillow talk?” she chokes out.

“Oh, it was quite some time ago, now – you might not recall. I believe you had another delightful gentleman's mouth between your legs, and you made such a-”

The memory floods her with its clarity – of being spread wide, Jay's lips and tongue attacking her wet cunt, and wishing, oh, god, wishing- “I … I didn't know any better back then!”

“Oh, good, you do remember. Although, if you'll recall, you were twenty-one, and rather … experienced. Quite old enough to know what you wanted, by then,” he points out, with a rather knowing grin.

She groans, because he's right. He's always right, and he knows exactly how much she wants – wanted – him. “You manage not to mention that for seven goddamn years, and you decide to bring it up now?” There's some deeper longing she can only call humiliation as she eyes the chain again. “Okay, it's going around my neck instead.”

He tuts softly. “Don't be embarrassed, precious. It's not entirely unheard of for good friends to fantasise about one another, particularly after all these years.”

Before her flustered mind can think to ask if she sometimes plays a part in his fantasies, he waves a hand, and every single one of her internal organs all but cease to function when she thinks he's magicked himself naked before her. Her brain warns her not to immediately look down, but her eyes are moving too fast for it to catch up. They rake downwards, but not too quickly to ignore the tight muscles of his bare chest and stomach, and she's both disappointed and relieved to see he's wearing a pair of white silk pajama pants. They flow loosely around his calves, almost like harem pants, but where they hang from his bare hips, the material is pulled much tighter.

Her relief is dampened somewhat – not to mention her panties – when she sees just how thin and clinging silk can be, revealing more than even the tightest of his leggings ever have. If she looks closely – and she does – she can almost see the colour of the bare skin that lies beneath the fabric. She can feel her cheeks burning when she realises that the Goblin King does not, in bed at least, bother with such silly things as underwear. Embarrassment allows her only a brief, longing look at him, but even in that short stare she sees that his earlier comment about shyness was completely unnecessary. If there is a Goblin Queen, she's a very lucky lady indeed.

This is what you wear normally?” she all but cries, gesturing at his legs while she stares resolutely into his face.

“Only when it's cold, or modesty calls. Otherwise …”

He lets the words hang between them, until she's blushing at the mere thought of his normal bedtime attire – or lack thereof. She finally knows something intimate about his life, and it couldn't have come at a worse possible time. Whilst her mind is reeling, her eyes turn traitor again, edging downwards for another look. She quickly diverts her gaze from those pants, but it's hard to avoid his bare chest, too. She thinks she hears herself whimper again when she forces herself to look back at his face, trying to ignore his ever-present smirk. After a moment, she notices something different about him. His hair lies damp against his shoulders, and there are small droplets of water still dotting his skin.

“Wait … you showered?” she demands, the irritation boiling back.

“Well, I thought it gentlemanly, seeing as you have.”

“And you couldn't have just done that for me? You couldn't have …” she trails off in disbelief, waving a hand in an attempt at a vaguely magical gesture.

“Could have, love, if you'd only allowed magic … and bothered to ask.”

She sighs, resigned to him. “You are the worst person in the world.”

He smiles, seeming not to mind in the least. “Then it's a good thing we come from entirely different worlds, isn't it? Now, shall we go to bed?”

“Just so long as you don't get any ideas.”

Jareth only laughs, and it's surprising just how disappointing that is.

They move around under the covers until they find a position that's relatively comfortable to sleep in, and means her cheeks won't catch fire from having to actually look at him all night. She's on her right side with her back to him, his right arm tucked between her neck and right shoulder, her left arm crossed over her breasts. The effect is almost that of being spooned after all, if it wasn't for his stubborn refusal to move in any closer. It only drives home just how little he wants to be here, despite his teasing, and she can't help airing a little of her annoyance.

“I realise this isn't ideal, but do you have to act so repulsed by me? I'm not going to bite you if you scooch in a little.”

That makes him shuffle closer – but only a little. “Sarah, under normal circumstances, nothing would thrill me more than sharing a bed with you, but as it's against your will, I find the idea less than appealing. However, since the idea of my indifference also seems to distress you, allow me to say just this – I am a man, after all, and you are very attractive, which is why I'm extending you the courtesy of such space.”

Her heart starts to dance wildly in her chest, and she has to fight to keep her voice steady. “You … you think I'm attractive?”

“Of course – any red-blooded fae man would find you so. If you were any other woman, and if this had occurred any other way, I'd have you on your back before you could blink, coming so hard you'd forget your own name.” He laughs gently against her ear, and, god, it makes her shiver. “I'd make certain you remembered mine, though.”

The words 'any other woman' – any other woman – echo loudly in her head, and she scrunches her eyes shut as if it might drive them away. “Goodnight, Jareth,” she mutters.

“Hmm. Sleep well, love.”

Tucked up with him, she hardly thinks it's possible, but after a while of lying awake and getting absolutely no attention from him, she finds her eyelids drooping all the same.

 

Chapter Text

She wakes early, and feeling surprisingly well-rested, given the events of the evening before. There's the vaguest recollection of some pompous asshole creeping on her, followed by coming home and drinking just a little too much wine – an unpleasant enough memory to wake to, but its quelled some by the soft covers surrounding her. She's wrapped up so very warmly, safely cloaked in a rich heat her bed has never offered before, and savouring the sensation. She arches in pleasure, all but purring as she rolls her shoulders, enjoying the comforting warm air upon the nape of her neck – the gentle ebb and flow of what she finally realises is breathing.

The realisation that she isn't alone hits her with all the grace and subtlety of a Mack Truck.

“Ohwhatthejesusfuckingchrist.” The words leave her mouth with the rapid machine-gun burst of an auctioneer, and she only barely restrains her body from tumbling right out of her bed. It would only bring him tumbling down on top of me, she thinks wildly, and then the memory's back – the recollection of what pale and beautiful stranger now shares her pillows. She's grateful that he cannot see her face.

There's a deep grunt from behind her, a tug on their joined wrists to keep her stable. “And a good morning to you, too, love,” her companion grumbles.

It's Jareth, it's only Jareth, and the new thought that Jareth is only anything, let alone sharing her bed, is far more than her poor brain can handle. The fact that it's 'only' the Goblin King whose body has been curled around her own in the night should bring her no comfort whatsoever. This can't be happening. If wishes were horses, then this beggar would ride hers right the fuck out of this nightmare scenario at once. She moans softly, turning her face into her pillow with the wish that it might have mercy enough to smother her.

Of course, awful, positively evil wishes are what got her into this mess in the first place.

Why?” she eventually cries into the pillow's plump and resolutely unforgiving softness. “Why 'attached'? Why not 'dating', or 'good friends', or 'screwing'?”

Jareth gives a small groan. “Give me five minutes to wake up before the screwing, at least.”

She ignores him – or at least tries to, with the little burst of heat that causes. “Why, if you had to answer it, did you have to take it so literally? Couldn't you have just shown up and played the boyfriend card long enough for him to leave me alone?”

“This conversation isn't going away any time soon, is it?” He sighs as she chooses to punch the pillow, rather than him. “I'll take that as a 'no'. I only adhere to what you ask of me, precious. I've as little control over what you will of me as you apparently seem to have over your words. Now, can we give it half an hour first, and then tear my head off? I was having the loveliest dream.”

She feels him shift to get more comfortable, and then feels something else entirely, pressing solidly against the base of her back. It must have been a very lovely dream indeed. Despite his comment about needing to wake up first, it appears there's a certain part of his anatomy that has no such troubles. Her t-shirt has ridden up a little, and where they've snuggled closer in the night, there's only the thinnest of layers separating their bodies. She can feel the hard length of him, the minute throbbing of his cock, nestled at the very cleft of her ass. In her brief outrage, she barely registered the firm pressure, but now she has felt it, the heat of her anger changes into something else entirely.

Clearly, he's still too sleepy to have noticed such a … well, such a large problem, but now it seems she's wide awake, and practically raring to go. It's embarrassing, and yet so goddamn erotic at the same time. She thinks of wishes and horses again, and then her filthy mind is full of thoughts of bucking, and rearing, and riding-

“Um … Jareth?” She hears her voice crack on the last syllable of his name; hears her own pounding heart as it threatens to break free of her chest.

“ … shit.”

She feels his weight shift behind her as he moves back as much as their position allows; the slightest brush of his knuckles against the small of her back, telling her he's palmed the head to keep it from grinding on her. Oh, god, he's holding his cock right behind her, and even though the reason is one of relative innocence, all at once her body is raring to see it. She has to fight not to turn around and jump him at once.

She should not be in bed, contemplating early morning kisses, and – let's be honest – at the very least, an enthusiastic handjob for the powerful and oh-so-plentiful king of the goblins. It's … undignified. After her prissy whining over their bathroom troubles the night before, could she really now dare to sully his most royal person in such a crude manner?

Oh, god, in a heartbeat, if he would only ask.

Jareth gives a small cough. “I am terribly sorry, love.”

She isn't. She can't answer, her cheeks and dry throat on fire. After what feels like an eternity of lying there, thinking about things she most certainly should not be thinking about, he speaks up again.

“Ah, Sarah?”

“Yes?” she answers, a little too quickly.

“ …I'm afraid it isn't going down.”

She lets out the breath she's been holding in a far too audible burst. “What do you want me to do about it?” she snaps.

“You can stop pushing back against my hand, for a start.”

Her eyes widen like those of a startled deer, and she finds herself glad all over that, if nothing else, he can't see her guilt. She takes a moment to assess her own body, and sure enough, her ass is pressed back firmly against the hand that's guarding his erection, her hips rolling seemingly of their own accord, just enough for them both to feel it. She stills at once.

“I can … probably explain that,” she tells him, feeling her cheeks blaze with yet more heat. “Probably.”

“Hmm. I'm all ears.”

“Oh, I guess that was an ear shoved up against my ass, then?” she hisses.

“Well, if you keep on rubbing back against it like that, I'm quite willing to listen to anything.” He shifts his hand then, and suddenly there's nothing between them but those oh-so-thin layers of their clothes.

“Oh, god,” she moans.

He gives a soft chuckle. “Horny, are we? It's nothing to be ashamed of, love. As you can tell, I'm right here in the same boat with you.”

Hearing that, as hot as she is right now, only makes her want to jump overboard. She swallows hard. “This whole 'sleeping together' thing was probably a bad idea.”

“On the contrary. I think this could work out quite well for the both of us, if you're willing.” The covers shift slightly, and then his free hand is resting lightly upon her hip - a tempting question. “You are willing, aren't you, pet?”

By some miracle, she finds she's still capable of speech. “Willing to do what exactly?” she asks.

She can hear the smile in his voice. “Whatever you feel comfortable with, love. Just a little fun between good friends – something to take the edge off for both of us.”

“Are you serious?” If he's joking now, she doesn't think she can stand it. She can't help pushing her hip just a little more firmly against the palm of his hand.

“Very. Unless the idea offends you, in which case-”

“No! No, I mean, I'm not offended,” she tells him.

“That's a promising start.”

He moves a little closer, and then the heat of him is pressing solidly against her ass again. She can hardly breathe. She feels the covers lift a little, and knows he's looking down between them, watching the way her body moulds to him. Her t-shirt has already ridden up a little more with their movements, and knowing there's only a tiny thong and a thin covering of silk between their bodies makes any rational thought difficult – knowing he's actually watching her ass as it welcomes his stiff cock makes it all but impossible. It only gets worse when she hears him growl.

“Good gods.”

She has to agree, sending up a quick prayer to whatever forces have made this happen. The thought – the feel – of him thrust up against her this way is turning her on more than she ever dreamed possible. This can't be happening – the man she's wanted for so long can't be here in her bed, making her feel this way, arousing her this way. Somehow, she knows the heat of him is too real to be a dream. “Your wife is going to kill us both,” she blurts out. Oh, Christ, where did that come from?

She can feel the rumble of his laughter against her back. “Only as much as your husband would, but seeing as we're talking of entirely imaginary characters, I'm certain the consequences won't be too dire.” He grinds more firmly into the cleft of her ass, no question that he's rutting against her, now, thrusting his cock in slow, rhythmic strokes. “Unless it excites you to think of the added danger, of course, then I'd be happy to role-play,” he adds, making her insides melt.

A soft moan escapes her as she starts to move with him. She has her answer now – no Goblin Queen to come between them – but it only raises more questions. Why, then, has he never made a move like this before? Why has it taken them sharing a bed to bring them to this? Is she just 'any other woman' to him right now – someone warm and willing to ease his frustrations? If that's the case, this is so very wrong. It's only going to break her heart to have him go back to his joking attempts at flirting after this, but damned if she can bring herself to stop. She's wanted him for such a long time, and now that she has him, even for a short time, there's no way she can turn him down.

“What do you want me to do, Sarah?” he inquires, against her hair. Oh, the way he breathes her name while he's turned on. “I'm here – I'm always here, if you need me. All you have to do is ask.”

“I want you to touch me.” The words tumble from her lips before she can stop them.

Where?” he presses, and the hardness of him pushes all the more firmly against her.

“Anywhere – everywhere,” she tells him, before doubt and worry can change her mind. It's the heat of the moment, and she's already burning. “Make me come,” she whispers.

“Gladly.”

She hears a moist sucking sound, and realises he's already wetting his fingers for her, before his hand curls around her hip again. He needn't have bothered – she's already soaked for him, a fact he notices the moment those long fingers dip inside her panties. His hips continue to move, grinding against her eager body as he starts to explore. She can't help but cry out his name as he touches her for the first time.

“Oh, Sarah.” His groan is almost as loud as hers as he begins to stroke her. “This is what you've had waiting for me, hmm? Sopping wet, and hot enough to burn. You need this badly, don't you, love? I can't bear to leave a woman unfulfilled.”

He tugs at her t-shirt, dragging the collar aside just enough for him to plant a hot kiss at the crook between her neck and shoulder. His mouth against her bare skin is enough to make her gasp, her hips bucking sharply for him. He moans into her neck, clutching at her as she grinds her ass back against him. His fingers play along her slick folds, rubbing and teasing, and when they press against her entrance, she accepts him easily. He curls two fingers inside her, all the way up to the knuckle, and she clenches around him, squeezing him in her heat. She thinks the strangled groan he utters against her shoulder just might be the sexiest sound in the world.

They soon find a rhythm together, rocking and writhing in her bed, fingering and thrusting. His fingers press deep, his thumb resting against her throbbing clit, giving her just the right pressure. His breath is warm, his lips only a whisper away from her neck, but when he runs his tongue along her bare skin, it's what finally undoes her. She buries her face in the pillow again as she comes, but the only thing suffocating her now is an almost unbearably powerful pleasure that reduces her body to helpless shivers. Through that bliss, she's vaguely aware of the way her inner muscles clamp down on him, pulsing around his fingers. In the end, she thinks that's what sends him over the edge too, a deep warmth spreading over silk and flesh as he shudders against her.

After a time, his hand slips out from her panties, curling around her stomach instead. They lie that way for a while as they recover together, and she can feel his wetness against her ass, the heavy breathing against her hair; the way his heart pounds against her back with as much force as her own hammers within her chest. The air smells of sex, and they haven't even gotten undressed. It wasn't sex, though a part of her wishes it had been. It was just a little fun between friends, like he said – fun that, if anything, has made their friendship even better. She hopes.

There are so many questions that need answering – the most pressing of which being if just any woman would have made him react the same way – but Jareth gives such a satisfied sigh against her neck, and the weight of his arm is so soothing as it lies across her hip, that in the end, she cannot ask them. The warmth against her back increases as he moves in even closer, thrilling her when he presses another soft kiss to the nape of her neck.

“Good morning,” he says again, and she can hear his smile.

She can't help but smile with him. How many times has she wished she could hear those words from him – a wish so secret she's never dared to make it? A warm wave of the deepest contentment steals over her, and she realises that her eyelids are drifting closed again. “We … we're gonna have to talk about this, aren't we?” she asks, with lazy reluctance.

“Mmm. Eventually. And figure out some way around your objection to magic, so we can manage a decent shower this time.”

“Together?”

Mmm. Don't tempt me.”

She stifles a yawn. “But not now?”

“Plenty of time for it later. It's still very early, and it's not like I'm going anywhere any time soon.”

Snuggling back into his warmth, she knows he's right.

 

Chapter Text

It's much later in the morning when they wake again, and it's amazing what a little freshening up can do to ruin the day, particularly when she has to let him handle everything. Neither of them bring up the topic of what happened in her bed, and she can't decide if she's disappointed or relieved by the fact. She doesn't have the luxury of much contemplation, not while she's in company, and with no sign of being left alone any time soon. The grumbling of both their stomachs puts any question of meaningful discussion on hold for the time being.

They eat breakfast mostly in silence, and, in his case at least, shirtless. He refuses to put on anything to lessen the distraction, and she's too embarrassed to ask. The sight of his smooth chest and long hair lying over his bare shoulders makes for a most interesting sight over her cereal and coffee. She wills herself not to get too caught up in his allure, but it's proving more difficult than she could have ever imagined. The small golden length of their chain lies between them – a strange accessory to her tiny kitchen's table – but it's what he holds in his free hand that her eyes keep returning to.

He's eating a slice of what both of their realms call 'fairy bread', and though the treat he's conjured looks more natural, somehow, than the pre-sliced loaf that lies on her kitchen counter, the butter and rainbow-coloured sprinkles topping it look the same. She has no idea how his stomach can tolerate such sweetness so early in the day. Then again, only a few minutes ago she had no idea goblin kings even ate such things to begin with. Most of the fae folk like their sweet things, he informs her, with a slow, deliberate glance down at her body.

He makes no further comment as he munches on his breakfast, and she's blushing as she stares quickly down at her cereal again, all but ready to drown herself in the milk. Clearly, he's thinking about what just occurred between them too, but damned if she's going to be the first one to say it aloud. How much easier things were back in those good old days before – only yesterday, before that first kiss that had damned them even occurred. The sexual tension whenever he flirted with her was always enough to make her hope and dream, but now that she's finally experienced just a little of what he's got to offer …

She can't let herself finish that thought, taking a larger sip of coffee than usual and almost choking when the hot liquid burns her tongue. She gives a low moan, and worries he'll think it's because of him, but Jareth's attention seems to lay with his breakfast once more, a small smile on his lips as he devours the sweet bread.

She wonders, if they're going to be stuck together much longer, if he'd like to try Lucky Charms, or if leprechauns would be reaching too far. For all she knows, his kingdom could be at war with them. She has a moment to consider that, his goblins and the cutesy fairies and leprechauns she saw in picture books as a kid, all fighting some tiny and epic war, maybe with the Keebler Elves leading the vanguard. As ridiculous a picture as it is, since her journey into the labyrinth, she knows nothing is impossible. She's shared her life with the surreal since she was a teenager, and now, god help her, she's sharing her bed with it, too. Her coffee cup does nothing to hide her snort of laughter.

After the food, she gives explicit instructions to make sure she's washed and dressed appropriately, blushing all the while as she watches his smug face show he's only growing more pleased with himself. She can still hardly look him in the eye, not when she thinks of what happened between them, but he appears to have no such troubles. She envies him his self-assurance, but envies the tight leggings he wills himself into even more as they hug his every curve. He's a distraction in himself, and she spends most of the afternoon forcing herself to stare at the wall, rather than him as they sit side by side on her couch again. If they're not going to talk about what urge came over them both that morning, then they at least need to talk about a way out of this mess, so that it won't happen again.

“Do you have any ideas? Any ideas at all?” She's not really holding out much hope at this point, but when she finally glances at him, there's a moment where Jareth's face brightens, and she actually dares to believe.

“We could go back to bed,” he suggests, lips and eyebrows curving upward simultaneously.

She groans and pulls one of the couch cushions over her face. “It's great to know you're taking this seriously. I'm supposed to be at work tomorrow – don't you think it's going to look a little strange if you're tagging along with me?” She moans again, and kicks at the floor. “I'm going to have to take a sick day.”

“Is that really such a bad thing? You do seem rather stressed. You look like you could use a break from all of this.”

She scoffs her derision, but she thinks it loses some of its effect, muffled as it is by the cushion. “How is taking a break going to free us? Besides, it's not like we can actually go anywhere while we're cuffed together.” A warm hand falls upon her knee, and though she knows it's supposed to be comforting her, the casual intimacy of his touch only makes her more tense.

“Sarah, I can take us anywhere. Say the word, and we can end up in the most beautiful, most remote part of my realm where the only person who'll see you will be me.”

Oh, and that just makes her body draw more taut. Exotic, romantic vacation time with the Goblin King; what fun they'll have, just the two of them, together in the middle of nowhere. What fun they'll get up to, with no one else around to see them. “We're not going anywhere until we've figured this out,” she tells him, relieved to hear her voice carries a steadiness her mind is far from feeling.

She hears him sigh. “If you insist, pet.” He releases her knee, leaving her only with frustration.

There's a rustle of paper, and a gentle pull on their chain. When she shoves the cushion aside, she sees that he's arranged himself in front of the coffee table, and he's in the process of writing a letter, the parchment before him soon filling up with his large, looping scrawl. She doesn't quite dare question the magic he's used to conjure everything, seeing the dark blue candle and small metal stamp waiting beside it – what must be his royal seal.

She's reaching panic stations over an office job, while he's calmly preparing instructions for whoever runs things in his kingdom whilst the king himself remains in absence. For all she knows, his whole realm could hang in the balance, and she finally feels something other than anger and self-pity unfurl in her chest.

Empathy and Jareth should not even exist in the same train of thought, and yet here she is, turning to him and offering a small, guilty smile. “We can go there if you need to,” she says softly. “I don't want to be the reason your whole kingdom is put on hold.”

“It isn't.”

He folds the finished letter in half, doing his best to cope mostly one-handed, with only a minimal tug on their chain when the need calls. He mutters something under his breath, and it sets the candle alight in a sudden and brilliant plume of flame, the wax beginning to melt almost at once. He tips the candle over the parchment, holding it there long enough for the deep blue wax to pool, so that he can press his seal into it. He does all this with such precision that Sarah wonders just how many times he's done this before, sending off letters to carry out his will while he's waylaid by some minor inconvenience or other.

“Oh,” she says.

He makes everything disappear with a wave of his arm, but by then she's already staring down at the floor, deep in guilt.

“There – done,” he says, and his voice is noticeably lighter. The hand that's chained to her own comes to rest reassuringly on her knee again. “No harm.”

She stares down at that hand, imagining she can feel its heat sinking into her skin through the worn denim of her jeans. She has to fight down the desire to cover it with her own, to fall into his arms, his kiss. If they're chained together much longer, she can only imagine just how much harm it will do to her psyche. That gets her talking quickly enough, looking for freedom before she embarrasses herself, and soon they're deep in discussion again. They cover the same avenues they've already explored, getting nowhere and clearly starting to tire him out, but she's persistent. Eventually, she makes the suggestion of 'borrowing' a little of his magic to try and break the enchantment herself.

“You'll hardly allow for my magic, and yet you want to try your entirely inexperienced hand at it?” His pale blue stare is incredulous.

“It can't make things any worse than you already have.” She knows that isn't true – doesn't know the first thing about how to control a spell herself – but there's something about seeing his doubt that makes her stubborn enough to want to try.

“Absolutely not. I forbid it.”

“Oh, so you'll refuse that request then. Good to know you're still capable.”

“Only as it's completely ridiculous.”

She rattles their physical chain just as firmly as he's rattled hers, though she's starting to get sick of the sound herself by now. “And this isn't ridiculous?”

“A simple attachment spell – that, once again, you requested, love, I find I cannot stress that enough – does not possess the potential to accidentally injure you or myself, tear some hole in the fabric of this world, destroy my kingdom … would you like for me to continue?”

“No, you're just willing for it to destroy my life, I get it. You must have some guide to magic, though … a … a book of spells, or something.”

He smiles at that. “'Double, double, toil and trouble'?” He's mocking her again, but gently – though knowing that doesn't do a damned thing to help. “I understand your frustration, pet, I do, but it isn't that simple. There are forces at play here that would take far too long to explain. Though my kind are born with the ability, it takes centuries to even begin to learn how to control such power. If a few rhyming words were all it took to cast a spell, and bring about the exact desired result every time without fail, then every one of my goblins would long since have managed to turn themselves into turnips.” He pauses a moment to consider that. “Though the smell in that part of the castle would probably be far more pleasant.”

“So you trust me about as much as a goblin then, is that it?”

Jareth rolls his eyes. “I do wish you would lose this delightful habit you have of finding insults in every word I utter.”

She glowers at him. “You want insults? Curse words? I think I can manage a few even you haven't heard before.”

“Oh, I sincerely doubt that.” He reclines in his seat, giving a small one-armed stretch and a lazy grin, before murmuring something guttural that sounds halfway between a mumble and a croak.

“What was that?” she asks.

“A certain word in a certain language that hasn't been spoken in your realm for … oh, maybe fourteen centuries.”

Leave it to him to take any chance to show off. She gives an angry little huff. “And what does this 'certain word' mean?”

He stifles a yawn with the back of his free hand, before resting both arms awkwardly behind his head, pulling her a little closer in the process. “I'll give you a hint: I was stroking yours this morning.”

The sound of the cushion hitting his face is a lot more satisfying than the rattling of their chain.

 

-

 

When they finally go to bed, she's in the same position as the night before, dressed in the same oversized t-shirt. Only her underwear differs – she selected the plain black cotton herself, not wanting to give him any excuses. The magical menace who shares her covers is wearing fresh silks and nothing more – a good enough excuse in himself. She isn't sure if all fae are such sexual creatures, but she's certain the Goblin King must put them all to shame. Tonight, he makes no effort to keep his distance from her – it would be silly, after all, given this morning's little encounter.

He isn't quite spooning her, but she can feel the heat radiating from his bare chest, he's that close. She has a moment to wonder if he feels quite as awkward about this arrangement as she does, and then he speaks up, and he's positively cheerful.

“Goodnight, Sarah, love.” His voice takes on that lower, teasing register she's grown so used to. “And, if our imaginary 'husband' and 'wife' don't discover us shacked up together this way, a good morning, too, I imagine, given the last one.”

Sarah can only hope. She lies awake in the dark after that, listening to his breathing as it slows and deepens, whilst her own grows more rapid and shallow. How can he possibly sleep when he's put her mind into such turmoil? She can only imagine the new shame and delights the next morning might hold. Oh, and now she can't stop imagining them, remembering the heat of his mouth against her neck, the press of his hand, and the delicious feeling of his fingers inside her …

Unable to help herself, she gives a low moan, and then jumps slightly as a hand snakes around her hip, those long fingers splaying across her stomach.

“Go to sleep, precious,” he tells her lightly, as though he hasn't been awake and listening out for her the whole time.

“Go to hell, darling,” she grumbles back.

He chuckles softly. “You're sounding more like a wife already.”

Her eyes widen in the dark, but eventually the soothing warmth of his body lulls them closed again.

 

Chapter Text

Her eyes roll back in her head. It's a position she's never thought to try before, but the response it's getting is definitely the desired one. She stares up at her bedroom ceiling, her chained hand clenching the sheets tightly, her head hanging backwards off the edge of the bed. She voices another low groan, pulling the phone a little closer to her mouth so she's heard.

“I think it's just a head-cold,” she lies, the angle of her head putting pressure on her sinuses and adding a layer of truth to her words. “I'm just so stuffed up I can't think straight. Plus, I don't want to come in and infect everyone.”

That does the trick. Her boss hates getting sick with a passion. Sarah sighs and sniffles her way through the rest of their conversation, promising to come in and pick up some stuff to work from home with if the infection drags on much longer. Given the way the man who's plaguing her is stretched out so leisurely across her bed, with no sign of leaving, she can't help but think it's going to be a long 'illness'.

When she hangs up the phone, shifting into a position that's easier on her neck, she sees that her companion has already gotten himself comfortable enough for the both of them.

“Good. Now that's settled …” Jareth lets the words hang between them, and she thinks his smile grows just a tad wider when he sees how it makes her blush.

Predictably, they woke to another 'large' problem that morning – one she was loathe to ignore, feeling the heat of him pressed up against her, but still somehow managed to stave off long enough to call work. Now, she realises that it hasn't gone away. His free hand is buried beneath the covers, and she has the sneaking suspicion that has a lot to do with it. From the gentle rise and fall of the comforter, there's no question of what he's doing under there.

She feels a hot little thrill at the thought of him touching himself just enough to keep his level of interest up, so to speak. Inwardly, she's all but dancing with excitement, but she tries to frown at him, instead of just succumbing at once. A little token resistance is definitely called for, especially if she doesn't want to seem too eager, right?

Oh, but it's so hard to resist when every square inch of his chest and flat stomach are on show – something she's positive he intended, pale and perfect and goddamn infuriating as he is. Her hungry eyes take in the small pink tips of his nipples, raking down over his smooth chest with pure lust. Her gaze trails down over his belly, pausing to dip into the cup of his navel, and then following the thin trail of hair leading down from it, darkening as it disappears beneath the bedsheets. Under them, she knows there's only a thin scrap of silk to cover him – to cover the hardness that she knows is just waiting for her.

“Enjoying the view, precious?” Her eyes snap back to his face quickly enough to catch his knowing grin, seeing the way he gives her own half of the covers a suggestive leer. “A pity you're not granting me the same.”

Being caught staring only puts her on the defensive. “You wish.”

His smile widens. “I'm quite certain my wishes would take us to far sweeter scenarios, pet, but we're still dealing with the fallout from yours, now aren't we?”

“As if I don't feel bad enough about it.”

He gives a little tug on their chain, and it's strangely almost like flirting. “Then why not let me make you feel good?”

Woah, Sarah. Down, girl. They say you should never look a gift horse in the mouth, but she can't help asking: “Why are you so … receptive, all of a sudden? You've never shown any real interest in me before.” The words sound pathetic and needy the moment they emerge, and she's desperate to take them back, particularly when he stops stroking himself.

“My apologies. I never meant to push you, love. Consider the offer withdrawn.”

She starts back-pedalling at once. “No, it's not that I don't want to – I do want to – it's just …” A sigh escapes her. “This probably isn't a good idea.”

Jareth cocks an eyebrow. “Give me one reason why.”

Damned if she can think of a single one. She looks at him – looks at the way his hand is resting motionless beneath the covers, knowing just what it's hiding as she quickly looks away – and can't think of a single reason not to take advantage of the situation, and damn whatever consequences might come later. Still, she hesitates, and when she doesn't answer, he takes it for reluctance.

“We don't have to do anything if you don't want to, pet.”

“I told you, it isn't that I don't want to,” she mutters. God, she wants to.

Jareth nods. “Even so. The decision, as always, is entirely in your hands. I told you once I would be your slave, Sarah – I hope you haven't forgotten that. Your every wish is my command.”

Oh, and how can she possibly think straight when he says things like that? She covers her face with her free hand. “Right now, I just wish you'd shut up.”

At once, there's silence in the room … all except for the soft shift of the covers. When she uncovers her face, she sees that his hand has started up a slow, cautious rhythm again, keeping his desire burning just in case. They're both turned on, and it isn't going away – he isn't going away – so why not just give in? After all, she knows by now just how sweet a surrender it would be. A strangled groan escapes her throat, and, without looking at him, she lets her own hand dip beneath the covers too.

Shame and desire bathe her heated skin in equal parts as her fingers brush the front of her panties, giving in to that lust she feels, giving herself only a taste of what her body needs. Even through the material, she can feel just how wet she is. Her cheeks continue to flame as she rubs herself through her panties, and she absolutely won't look at him as it starts to feel good. Soon, she needs more, and when her fingers slip inside her underwear, she knows he can hear the moist sounds of her arousal. She whimpers softly, staring resolutely up at the ceiling as she starts to stroke herself in earnest.

There are no words between them, silence as she requested, but she sees out of the corner of her eye that his hand is moving faster now, some unspoken agreement between them that it's okay to give in to the urge. Her breathing grows laboured, her hips starting to move to meet her hand, arching and starting to pant a little, needing more.

Somewhere along the line, she forgets to keep on looking up at the ceiling, finding his eyes instead, finding that he's already looking back at her. He's been watching her all along, and the knowledge makes her cold and oh, so very hot all over. They don't say a word, but somehow they've traded places, his fingers buried inside her wet heat again, her own hand wrapped solidly around his cock. He's huge, and so fucking hard as he throbs against her palm, setting her pulsing in kind around his long fingers, but still she needs more. She has to see him – all of him.

He doesn't speak when she finally pulls back the covers to expose him, but he does moan as, after only a moment of admiring him, she bends to take him inside her mouth. Her lips and tongue draw more hot, sensual sounds from him, licking and sucking, but still she needs more from him. His throaty cry of pleasure as he comes is pure music, sounding loud and lustful in her ears, the taste of him warm on her tongue as she takes all he has to offer. It's finally enough, and she's all but shaking with her own pleasure, just knowing that she alone is responsible for the ecstasy she sees in his mismatched eyes.

Still, he gives her more. He's still breathing hard from his climax when he urges her onto her back, the release he's found doing nothing to detract from his hunger as he peels her panties away and presses his mouth against her dripping wet pussy. His hot tongue reduces her to helpless shivers at once, moaning loud curses, his name, high-pitched inarticulate cries of sheer bliss. She's at the very edge when he gives a low groan against her slick flesh, his voice ragged with lust, his lips brushing over her sensitive skin as he speaks.

“Come for me, love. Come all over my face.”

When he pushes against her again, nose and lips and chin, her body is helpless but to obey. His voice brings her to the most powerful orgasm she can ever remember having, and it reduces her to shuddering sobs, her hips arching up off the bed so violently that he has to hold her down as he goes on licking her all the way through it.

Later, blushing, she will think that most of her apartment building must have learned the Goblin King's name that morning.

For now, the two of them only want to rest. Spent and wet, they turn so that she's lying on her side again, and there's no hesitation as he spoons her properly this time, both of them still bare below the waist. She can't help but think just how well their bodies fit together, warm and sated as they are, memorising how satisfying the feel of him against her really is. He strokes her hair as the morning sunlight filters through her bedroom curtains, soothing her, a gentleman, even if he isn't a boyfriend. He's certainly something, though – a whole lot of something – and she grins, remembering the filthy words that had sent her over the edge.

“I thought I wished for you to shut up,” she scolds him, biting back the mad urge to giggle.

She feels his low laughter against her back more than she hears it, and damn the man if he doesn't lean in to chastise her too, his teeth nipping lightly at her shoulder through her t-shirt. “I can't always obey you, Sarah, love, otherwise you'd become far too complacent. There's a certain satisfaction in keeping you on your toes … or at least making them curl.”

“I seem to remember I wasn't the only one whose toes were curling, Jareth.”

“Mmm. Perhaps you weren't. I suggest you close that lovely mouth and go back to sleep, or we might have to do it again to check.”

That makes her grin outright, cuddling back more firmly against him. “We're never going to break free of this thing if we keep sleeping in 'til almost noon.”

He presses a lazy little kiss against the lock of her hair he's been toying with, before letting it lie against her cheek once more. “Heartbroken. Truly, utterly devastated by the fact,” he proclaims, as his arm slips around her waist instead. “Need to sleep the pain away.”

She snorts. “You're so full of shit.”

Do shut up, pet, or I promise you'll be full of my tongue again – and I always keep my promises.”

The warmth of his body curls around her, leaving her with little room, nor desire to protest. The prospect of being licked into submission once more makes for some very interesting dreams indeed.

 

Chapter Text

“Sarah.”

Jareth's low, rich voice draws her slowly back to reality, but still she clings onto the last remnants of sleep and those most wonderful dreams, embracing that solid, comforting warmth only he's capable of emitting.

Sarah.”

Her name comes again, louder, and then there's a warm hand sliding up beneath her t-shirt, doing its best to rouse her. Light fingernails scratch at the sensitive plane of her bare stomach, sensuous and ticklish, sending small but sure ripples of pleasure through her tender flesh. She moans softly, shivering with his caress and stretching her body just enough to urge his fingers lower. She's smiling before her eyes have even fully opened, wondering what pleasures he has in store for her this time.

“Jareth,” she replies at last, arching back against him, seeking the hardness that she craves, only to find that this time, it isn't there.

“Oh, good, you are awake.” The hand upon her belly withdraws, taking her lazy smile along with it. “We'd best get up, love. It's getting towards midday, and you said you wanted to find a way out of this mess.”

“I did, didn't I?” She can hardly keep the disappointment from her voice, but there's no way she can tell him any different now. She pushes back the covers, and it lets the coldness into her heart again.

They clean up, dress, and eat a subdued brunch that she finds she can't muster much of an appetite for.

It hurts more than she could have anticipated to find that they're back into that routine again – the one where she feels like she's nothing more than a burden on him. Outside of her bed, outside of the heat of their lust, the man chained to her seems as aloof and unattainable as the king she first met, driving her to a madness she can't express, trapped and tangled with him as she remains. He's touched her more intimately than anyone has in months, brought her to ecstatic new heights with his skilled hands and clever mouth, but she's painfully aware of the fact that he hasn't even tried to kiss her on the mouth – not outside of that little show they put on for Richard's benefit. She's craving romance more than anything, but all the Goblin King seems to crave is what lies between her thighs; satisfaction – a diversion, until they're free of one another once more.

As foolish as it may be, she can't help feeling she should mean more to him after all these years – must be more than just a casual fling to him, given all the time he's dedicated to making her happy. The man who's sharing her apartment now seems hardly the same as the one she's come to know; he's indifferent to their closeness – distant, almost, apart from when he's flirting with her, tempting her, seducing her.

It's only in that time that comes after the fun, when she's lying smiling and satisfied in his arms, that she gets a glimpse of the man she's grown to care for so deeply. That man has been with her nearly half her life, guiding her, comforting her through the bad times, smiling his small, irritating, endearing smirk through the good. When that man nuzzles at her neck and pets her hair, it grants every private wish she's never dared give voice to at once. If only she could manage to keep his interest – his affection – outside of the bedroom. Sadly, whatever small hope she has of actual love between them is fading almost as quickly as the hopes of them ever being free from each other.

“Is everything all right, love?” her ever-present companion asks, breaking into her thoughts, the term of affection not quite breaking her heart. “Only, you seem quieter than usual.”

“I'm fine,” she insists. “Just trying to think of an escape … and it's hard to think when I'm stuck with someone always at my side, always interrupting.” She regrets the harshness of it as soon as it leaves her mouth, and thinks unhappily about taking it back.

Jareth remains apparently unphased by her words. “By all means, pet, think away.” With a twist of his fingers, he conjures a black silk sleep mask, and slips it over his eyes. “No more interruptions. Just call me if you need me.”

As she watches, he settles back on the couch that has become their base of operations, apparently prepared to rest the afternoon away while she struggles with her own thoughts. There's a stab of anger at him for being so blasé about all this, and a colder, deeper pang that says, You have no idea how much I need you.

Eventually, she grows tired of her own mind's endless doubt and despair, and she makes a renewed effort to think of a way out of this whole mess. Alarmed at how she's almost out of ideas already, she finally rouses him to ask a favour. If he's been sleeping at all under that mask, he regains his wits quickly enough when she gives his shoulder a hesitant tap, granting her request with a nod. He conjures a small tub of Vaseline without even asking what it's for, without even removing his mask, so she's at least spared the suggestive spark in his eyes. There's no hiding the smirk on his lips, though, and she has to fight the wild urge to kiss it away. At least with the Vaseline, her intentions are innocent.

Despite her best efforts, the greasy goop she slathers across her wrist brings her no closer to being able to slip free from her golden cuff. As much as she strains, and huffs and groans her disappointment, she can't say she's surprised. There's apparently no escaping it – no way out of this self-inflicted hell she's stuck in. Despair rears its head again, alongside the cabin fever brought on by being cooped up within the same four walls of her apartment all this time. Before it can take full hold, setting off the tears that have been threatening all afternoon, she asks the Goblin King if he'd like to go for a walk.

For someone who's supposedly been resting, Jareth is surprisingly agreeable to the idea. He makes himself presentable for the mortal world once more, as delectable as he is distressing to her willpower in dark, tightly-tailored jeans and a pale grey cashmere sweater. Almost as worrying is the long black peacoat he wills himself into, the masculine twin to her own cream one; the dark to her light. She tries not to dwell on that too much as they head outdoors, making certain first that their long sleeves cover their binds. Their short chain doesn't allow for much distance between them, and so he takes her hand in his, his fingers entwined with her own as they walk side by side.

She tries not to dwell on that too much either.

Without really knowing where they're heading, she takes him on a wooded path through the park nearby, his long strides slowing to accommodate her own shorter steps as fallen leaves crunch beneath their feet. It's lovely here, and pretty quiet given the time of day, and the two of them even manage to find something harmless to talk about. He tells her it's approaching Winter right now in his realm, too, the towns and fields of his kingdom soon to be dusted white with snow and frost, and it's refreshing for him to see a little colour before it comes. The yellows and oranges and reds of the leaves here are pretty, but she can only imagine just how the stones and trees of his labyrinth will look, how they'll sparkle, their icy coating reflecting the Underground's strange orange sky.

They're passed by a single jogger, and see only one other couple in the park, who are holding hands themselves and walking a tiny puppy between them. The couple are talking between themselves, and the man seems entirely lost in his lover's words and eyes, but the woman finds time to shoot Sarah the shared smile of the young and in love. The smile Sarah gives in return feels false the moment it touches her mouth. She and Jareth don't speak much after that, that small peaceful pleasure between them broken once more.

The late afternoon sunshine and cool Fall breeze go a little way toward soothing her frazzled nerves, but she can't relax, not with her jumbled thoughts tumbling about her muddled head. Between worrying about being caught playing hooky from work, and the hypocrisy of Jareth holding her hand with things so strained between them, she asks to head back home soon after.

Curled up on her couch again, she finds she has even less to say to him, and hardly any appetite for the pizza they've ordered. Even the novelty of finding out what the Goblin King's favourite toppings are wears off after a while. She picks listlessly at the meal, plucking olives out of the hot cheese, and tucking them into her mouth without much relish. As they eat in silence, they're both clearly aware of the tension between them, but damned if she's going to be the one who speaks first.

Finally, it's Jareth who gives in, abandoning the last of his food and snatching up a paper napkin to wipe his hands clean. “I'm sorry to see I've brought you down so much, love,” he says, in a soft voice. He sounds genuinely sad, and it's even more of a burden on her heart.

“It isn't you,” she tells him, though both of them know that isn't really true. “It's just … I feel like we're never going to be free, no matter what we do.”

“I'm afraid I can't help you with that, Sarah. It's your wish, after all, and until you figure it out …”

She takes her time replying, her restless hands starting to tear her used napkin into small, even strips as she ponders. “What if I never figure it out?” she asks him, nervous of what his reply will be. “What if we're stuck this way for weeks, months, or even – oh, god – even years?”

“I hardly think it'll come to that – you're an intelligent woman, and I've every confidence you'll figure it out eventually. And even if for whatever reason you don't, I can think of worse ways to while away a year or two.” At her sharp look, he nods his head to show he's actually being sincere. “I've been visiting you for thirteen or so years now, and I've never once complained.”

She rolls her eyes, crumpling the paper strips she's made into a ball. “Yeah, but they've only been short visits.” Way too short. “You've never had to actually live with me.”

He laughs gently. “Nor you with me. I can imagine even my appeal might wear off, after a time.” He looks at her for a long while, and he's smiling throughout it. “If it's any reassurance at all, love, I can't think of anyone I'd rather be stuck with.”

She smiles back, but finds, in the new shyness that causes, she can't quite meet his eyes. “You mean that?”

“Of course.” The simplicity with which he says it makes her heart flutter, her smile widening as she finally brings herself to look at him again. His grin grows alongside hers as he adds: “Besides, I'm sure we can find some interesting ways to pass the time.”

Though his hands are clean, he manages to find something to lick off the tip of one finger, his eyes fixed on hers all the while as his tongue slowly and suggestively traces the digit. He's still watching for her reaction as he slides his finger into his mouth, his cheeks hollowing as he starts to suck.

“Stop that right now,” she warns him, trying to frown and failing.

He releases the finger with a grin. “Stop what exactly, precious? I'm afraid you'll have to be more specific, and go into explicit, vulgar detail.”

They're back on that topic again, and it's at least safer than her own self-doubt. Even though a part of her wonders just how long it'll take for a gorgeous and mysterious fae to get bored of fooling around with the same human, she has to laugh. Flirting is what the two of them have always done best, and it's obvious he's trying to draw her out of the funk she's gotten herself into. “We can't spend the whole time in bed, Jareth,” she tells him.

He smirks. “Who said anything about bed? There are other places, and lots of them.”

“You're the worst.”

To his credit, the Goblin King does his best to look suitably wounded. “I most certainly am not. At least you didn't seem to think so when you experienced me this morning. Alas, how quickly I seem to have fallen in your esteem. Give your blushing pilgrim another chance, fair maiden, and I'll take great pleasure in convincing you again.”

She snorts her scorn at that last. “You're no blushing pilgrim, any more than I'm still a maiden.”

“Maybe not, but we'd have a lot more fun if you humoured me. You'll find I'm rather good at role-play, if the need calls, pet.”

She chuckles, affecting a swooning, mock-Shakespearian accent of her own. “And what, pray tell, would happen to your great kingdom, good sir? The entire realm will surely wonder why their noble king should waste his time in trying to part an unworthy mortal woman's thighs.”

Jareth grins. “I think my citizens have their own sex lives to care about more than mine, but I do like where we're headed – between your lovely thighs.”

“Keep dreaming, Goblin King,” she laughs, falling back into her regular voice. “You're seriously willing to step back and let anarchy reign, all for some fun?” she asks. “I don't buy that. Your kingdom would go to hell without you there to rule it.”

“Then I guess you'd just have to come back and rule it with me.” There's a long beat of silence where Sarah's heart starts to hammer wildly, before he adds: “Either that, or we focus on your career, and every day becomes 'take Jareth to work day' for you. Equal opportunities, and all that.”

She laughs far too quickly, and too loudly at that, wincing in the crushing silence that follows. She's terrified that, for a split second, he must have seen the naked hope in her eyes, the rest of his joke falling flat as he tried to spare her feelings. The consideration only makes it worse, and he doesn't even have the decency to disappear for a while so she can bury her face in her hands and moan.

Or,” he continues, his voice a little strained in the silence, “we can pass the time another way, and not bother working at all. The offer still stands – let me spend tonight making up for this morning's apparently dreadful performance.” A trace of his teasing grin emerges, and it coaxes a small smile of her own as he goes on. “If I'm as awful as you say, and if you were faking, I'd love to know just how loudly you'll scream for the real thing, not to mention how good you'll taste. Did I mention just how lovely you taste, precious?”

She shakes her head, fighting her blushes. “You didn't, and you won't – not tonight, anyway. I have to figure out a way to bring some work home tomorrow, and I'll need to do my thinking on a full night's sleep.”

That bit of awkwardness now behind them, Jareth makes a show of rolling his eyes, giving her a look of disappointment she knows isn't entirely put on. “Spoilsport.”

“Sore loser,” she shoots back.

“Such a cruel mistress.”

“Such a persistent ass.”

“Cold, vile temptress,” he replies, his strange eyes narrowing.

“Smug, arrogant king, who's in danger of being overthrown if he carries on,” she tells him, and revels in his darkening glare as she turns away.

She thinks she's won that little argument, grinning and feeling her chest swell fit to burst with satisfaction as she starts to gather up boxes and napkins. Then, he slides in closer behind her on the couch, pushing her hair aside, his chest firmly pressed to her back, his lips moist and hot against her left earlobe as he whispers: “Impudent, treasonous little cocktease, who's in serious danger of being fucked senseless.”

There's no response in the world to that, not with her insides melting and puddling between her ankles.

When her heart has slowed a little, they finally go to bed, and she still hasn't thought of a suitable comeback.

When her smug, arrogant king moves in to spoon her, after wishing her a far too pleasant 'goodnight', she can practically feel his self-satisfied smirk against her hair.

 

Chapter Text

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?”

“Not really.”

“Wonderful.”

“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.

Tra-la-la.

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?”

“No, but-”

“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?”

“Sure.”

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.”

 

Chapter Text

When Molly leaves her office, Sarah finds herself somehow in a much better mood; the fugue state of the day before couldn't seem any further away. She has enough work to keep her busy, finished manuscripts just waiting for her to dive right on into them, but she files them away at the back of her mind for now, in favour of her handsome and so far mostly unappreciated companion. After all, what kind of host would she be if she went right on trying to ignore him?

They've been cooped up and pretty miserable, spending most of their time trying not to bug the other or to free themselves, and she thinks it's time to have a little fun. Molly's right (for the time being, she refuses to consider the possibility that Jareth might have been right as well) – she needs to lighten up a little. She needs to learn to just go with the flow, to take the magic.

Her conversation with Molly still fresh in her mind, though a little uncertain at first, she asks the Goblin King to use a little more of his magic to get them out of the building unseen. She doesn't want him to take them home, she clarifies, but to get breakfast and some more coffee, seeing as his last effort went to waste. She's nervous he'll laugh at her – he's only a will and a nod away from making more, she knows – but Jareth agrees with barely a lift of his eyebrows, questioning only where she wants to go exactly.

The coffee house she chooses is one of a dying breed: a mom and pop place that's a little off the beaten track, away from the worst of the noise of traffic and those early morning hordes searching for their daily fix of caffeine. They find a seat at the back, away from the windows, sitting opposite one another at a cramped but spotlessly-clean little booth. It's made a little awkward by their chain, and the ever-present coat that conceals it looks a little odd as it takes up almost half of their tiny table, but hardly anyone seems to pay the two of them any mind.

As she's beginning to realise, she's been wasting her time in keeping her unexpected house guest hidden away. Jareth has this odd sort of charm about him, a chameleon-like ability to adapt and blend comfortably into any given environment, the oblivious people around him accepting him easily enough as one of their own. Somehow, she doesn't think it's entirely to do with magic; he's managed to charm her just as effortlessly years ago, even after she swore he had no power over her.

She remembers the confidence that carried him through his first little chat with Molly, the Goblin King at home even in a room filled with complete strangers. It reminds her of a certain costumed ball she was pulled into many years ago; of drinking and dancing, the guests a pleasant contrast to the goblin-fueled chaos that seemed to rule over the rest of his kingdom. Such adult social occasions call for grace and sophistication – something she herself was sorely lacking in as a teenager – and Jareth seemed to blend right in even then, saying little, but standing out all the same, the sheer magnetism that clings to him making him the centre of attention, commanding the room.

He's always in control, and she thinks, for the first time, she's beginning to realise exactly why he's a king. It's an oddly awe-inspiring thought to have, sitting down to order a simple breakfast, surrounded by simple mortals who have no idea who walks amongst them. She starts to worry if she should have taken him somewhere more sophisticated, but when Jareth starts to browse a menu, she knows there's no need. Though he has his many flaws, she doesn't think elitism is one of them.

The only person who truly stares at the pair of them is a chubby little baby, not yet old enough to have been weaned off his mother's breast. As said mother sips her coffee and chats to a friend, the little boy's blue eyes are as wide as saucers, never once losing sight of the enchanting fae before him as he settles back in his seat. It makes Sarah a tad nervous when Jareth finally notices the boy, but then the Goblin King actually grins, looking a little boyish himself, his eyes lighting up at once. Immediately, the baby reacts in kind, cooing and giggling at some private joke between them. He kicks his tiny legs and rocks forward as Jareth gives an exaggerated pout, and then pokes out his tongue and wiggles his fingers.

The little guy finally settles back in his carrier, sucking at his fist and gurgling contentedly to himself, and only then does Jareth return his attention to her. He's still smiling, and Sarah can't help but smile back.

“You know, I've never asked you what you did with Toby all that time you had him. I'm starting to think he was in better hands with you than he ever was with me,” she tells him.

Jareth laughs heartily at that, but is saved from replying when a waitress comes to take their order. Their talks flows a lot easier than it has the last couple of days – trivial things, nothing of any real consequence – and it's so refreshing after nothing but accusations and worrying all this time. She finds she's smiling a lot more, laughing a lot more, particularly when their drinks and food arrive, and the Goblin King has to work out how best to attack the mass of waffles, strawberries and whipped cream he's ordered, given he'll be doing it mostly one-handed.

While he tries to figure it out, she finds herself looking at him more than her granola and yoghurt, wanting him, but also really appreciating him for the first time since she first wished him here. This is what she's wanted for so long, to just have him here without any real reason, and she's been too wrapped up in trying to get rid of him to enjoy it. A pity it's taken thirteen years and an unbreakable chain to get them this far. She wants to laugh at that, but doesn't want to disturb him, now that he's finally winning the battle versus his breakfast. She smiles at him over the rim of her coffee cup, her head full of romance, and when her stomach starts to give the same familiar little flutter she's always felt around him, she lets it go right on fluttering.

They finish at their leisure, lingering over a second cup of pretty decent coffee, and she insists on paying since she promised him breakfast. Then, the afternoon is theirs. It's almost worrying how well they seem to have gotten used to hiding their chain between them, walking hand in hand in the pale afternoon sunlight as if it's the most natural thing in the world. To her enormous relief, Jareth says not a damn word about her sudden change in attitude. He really is just going along with the flow of things, for once following her lead as takes him on what could almost – but probably isn't, and definitely shouldn't – be considered a date.

Their stroll eventually leads them in front of a movie theatre, and when Jareth pauses to look at what's playing, so does she.

“You get around to watching many movies Underground?” she asks, joking but genuinely curious.

“Only when I have cause to venture up here for any extended period of time, and that doesn't occur too often – apart from my visits with you, of course.”

“I guess not. What's the last thing you saw?”

He has to consider for a moment. “It was some horror story about a hotel, I believe. There was talk of some kind of 'shine', and a quite disturbed man doing a lot of running around with an axe.”

“You mean- … really?” she asks, incredulous. “That came out almost twenty years ago!”

Jareth shrugs. “Been a while, I suppose. The concept of your movies interests me, but it's so rare I get the time to indulge. I think prior to that, the last one I watched was 'Casablanca'.”

Her mouth actually drops open. “You have got to be kidding me. We so need to further your education,” she says, with a grin that quickly falters. “Uh … that is … if you're up for it?”

The Goblin King tips her a wink. “You'll find I'm up for anything, pet.”

It's enough to make her blush, but she finds it's somehow an enjoyable blush, biting down on the urge to smile.

There's some sort of artsy-looking drama starting soon, which has the potential to be sophisticated and give them something meaningful to discuss – something to think about. She actually considers it for a moment, before she remembers she isn't supposed to be thinking today; she's supposed to just feel, letting things play out as they will. She watches the way Jareth's eyes pass over the title, in favour of what looks to be some kind of lowbrow gross-out sex comedy, and that makes the decision for her.

“Come on,” she says, tugging on his hand. “I got us into this whole mess – the least I can do is repay you with your first movie in two decades.”

They pass a couple of hours in the dark, Jareth's booted feet kicked up on the seat in front of them as the movie plays out. There are only a few other patrons in the theatre with them, and she thinks the Goblin King's rich laughter rings out loudest of them all as he watches the antics on-screen. He seems to be enjoying himself, but she finds she can't give the movie her full attention. He's the perfect gentleman, keeping his hands to himself even in the darkness of the theatre, but he keeps distracting her all the same; his eyes abandon the movie and flick over to her whenever anything even remotely suggestive happens on-screen … not that she minds. Even this late in the year, the A/C in the building is turned up high, but she finds herself feeling very, very warm, all the same.

By the time they make it back to her apartment, she's practically beaming.

 

-

 

In true 'just letting things play out' spirit, when Jareth offers to cook them both dinner, she accepts without hesitation. There's something strangely intimate about the way he explores her kitchen cupboards, finding utensils, dried pasta, canned tomatoes and herbs, and then throwing together a simple pomodoro as she looks on and smiles. He won't tell her exactly when he's picked up the knack of mortal cooking, and she decides not to badger him, letting him have this one little secret – she has enough of her own. While the chain means she can't exactly sit and relax and be pampered, it's nice to have someone taking the initiative for once; she can't even remember the last time someone outside her family has cooked for her.

For the first time in the past couple of days, she feels genuinely hungry, her mouth starting to water at the smells wafting up from the stove. The mood in her kitchen is light and informal, a bottle of wine already open on the counter-top between them, the radio playing classic rock in the background. The Goblin King makes no comment on her choice of drink, nor music, but he accepts his own glass of wine willingly enough, and as he stirs first bubbling pasta and then sauce, she's certain she sees his ass shaking a little to the opening riff of 'Mama Kin' – not, of course, that she's really looking. She grins to herself as she plucks the spoon from his hand, lifting it to her lips to have a taste.

Then, Jefferson Airplane's 'Somebody to Love' comes on, and she goes completely still.

Oh, god. Not now – not with him.

Jareth notices at once – how could he not, with her standing there like a statue, her heart beating out of control? “Is everything all right, precious?” he asks, sounding genuinely concerned.

“Yes … yes, I'm fine,” she somehow manages, though she's anything but.

Grace Slick's husky voice fills her kitchen, and all at once her mind is full, not with red, but with thoughts of heated kisses and near-frantic heavy petting. She's twenty-one again, and as horny as a teenager, parked in a dark little corner with a bad old boyfriend doing his best to make her feel good as Jefferson Airplane blares on the stereo system. The drums thud in her ears, setting off a similar throbbing beat low down in her belly and between her thighs, and suddenly she can feel herself getting wet, her nipples starting to stiffen beneath her blouse.

Jareth suddenly seems far too close, far too solid and masculine, and his scent is even more tempting than the food. She pulls back as far as their chain allows, put it's nowhere near far enough. She's in the kitchen, and no, she can't stand the sudden heat that fills her face and eager body, but there's no escaping it. He's staring at her, no doubt curious, but how can she tell him – how can she possibly explain that she's suddenly horny as hell? Her appetites are running far deeper than food can possibly satisfy, wanting him, wanting nothing more than for him to throw her over her kitchen table.

She can almost feel the throw pillows and grimy shag carpet of that long-ago night in the back of Jay's camper van against her back, the music pounding through her veins as loudly as it did back then. It's a song that always makes her think of fucking and too much vodka; she remembers her panties twisted around one ankle, her legs spread wide with a man between them, his kisses hot and hard, tasting of a desperate need, booze and cigarette smoke, his hard cock filling her in hurried thrusts.

A low moan escapes her, the spoon she's holding slipping through her numb fingers to hit the floor, splattering deep red sauce like a bomb. She comes back to herself with a jump and a low, hissing curse, staring at the mess for a moment before snatching up a cloth to mop it up. She sinks to her knees to clean, and to distract herself from the sudden need she feels, but of course their chain drags Jareth down with her. Their eyes meet, and she can only imagine how she must look, on her hands and knees, wild and all but ready to let him have her, right now, right here on her kitchen floor.

She sees his eyes as they widen with the knowledge, his nostrils flaring, perhaps at his own pleasure, or perhaps having caught the sudden and heady scent of her arousal. It's somewhat satisfying to see his adam's apple rise and fall as he swallows.

“I think we need to turn the heat down a bit, love,” he tells her, and how quick she is to agree.

When they climb to their feet, the pan filled with sauce is bubbling away madly, just shy of being out of control. She sees that the Goblin King's fingers are a little unsteady as they twist the dial, lowering the flame. He stirs things that don't really need stirring, and doesn't look at her for a long time after that, but she's glad of it; the heat in her own body needs longer to cool. He backs off a ways after that himself, and doesn't say much as he finishes up the dish, but the silence between them is far from uncomfortable, charged with anticipation.

That small distance between them remains all throughout dinner, sexual tension simmering away in her belly and making the food even better. Jareth is a surprisingly good cook, it seems, but she can't help thinking about other things he's good at too – things that seem to dance behind her eyelids with every blink, and that keep her smiling all through the meal. When she dares to meet his eyes across the table, she sees her companion isn't entirely oblivious to her reaction.

“Glad you're enjoying it, pet,” he says, smiling himself as he pushes his plate aside. “But I do hope you've saved room for a little dessert.”

 

-

 

He has her moaning within minutes, her eyes rolling back in her head with pure, unadulterated pleasure. “Oh my god.”

Jareth only smiles at her, his mouth as full and tempting as ever. It's just a shame her own is too busy right now to meet it and properly show her gratitude.

“I didn't even think it was possible for it to be this good. How do you do it?”

“Not me,” he corrects her, with a smirk. “My chef. As gifted as I am, even I can't claim such expertise as my own. The man's truly one of a kind.”

So is the dessert. By all appearances, it's just a simple chocolate fudge cake, but this is fae food, and the second it enters her mouth, she's lost to utter bliss. The cake is light and fluffy, and it starts to melt the moment it touches her tongue, the layer of fudge surrounding it smooth and creamy, more luxurious than anything she's ever tasted. The Goblin King has promised her there's no magic involved, and she's known him long enough to trust him on such delicate matters after their last incident with enchanted food, but it's an otherworldly experience all the same, putting any human dish to shame.

She moans again, already moving in for the next forkful. “You should knight him; make him a lord, or something.”

Jareth laughs. “Believe me, it has crossed my mind.”

They share a single slice between them – the cake is far too rich for anything more than that – but Jareth eats no more than a couple of bites, before sitting back to let her finish the rest. She has a moment to feel a little guilty, greedy even, but his easy smile is meant to reassure her. He won't stop smiling at her, watching her, and she starts to feel a little shy as she toys with the last of the cake before spearing it with her fork.

“What? You're giving me a complex here,” she tells him, before taking a bite.

He licks his lips, his eyes darkening with a look she knows all too well. “Forgive me, precious. It seems I've forgotten just how erotic it is to watch a woman eat.”

Her last mouthful sticks in her throat, and she almost chokes on that deliciousness, spoiling entirely whatever raunchy image he has of her right then. She swallows hard; breathes hard. “So, uh,” she fumbles, “how about another glass of that wine?”

Jareth settles down a little after that, but barely. They retire to the living room, to the couch, and though their conversation is relatively innocent once more, his body and hands are not. To start with, he's sitting far too close for her to hope to function properly, and he isn't shy about the way he places his hand on her thigh – casual, but way too high above her knee to be called friendly. The eyes that catch her own are bold and absolutely unwavering, just daring her to do something about it. Her stomach is fluttering too wildly to even consider trying anything of the same, and as that hand starts to stroke her leg, gently kneading her flesh through her skirt, she's surprised she's even able to keep up her end of their conversation.

His fingers are warm and so very welcome, his low voice richer and far more tempting than any chocolate cake as it washes over her, pleasuring her, lulling her. It's annoying, because what he's saying is actually interesting – a long-awaited glimpse into his homeland, his life – and here she is, too busy lusting after him to pay any real attention. She wonders, if he knew, if he would be offended by the fact, but decides he's probably too laid back to care. He has, after all, been pretty distracted himself these past few days, with just one perverse thing on his mind.

Sure enough, less than two hours later, barely after 10pm, he turns his face away and gives what she's almost certain is a completely fake yawn.

“Well, love, it's getting late,” he says. “If you're feeling tired too, why don't we see about taking you to bed?”

She mentally checks her body, and finds she's all but shaking, and not in the least bit tired.

She agrees at once.

 

Chapter Text

They keep up that pretence of actually settling down to sleep for long enough that she starts to worry. If he was serious, if he meant what he said earlier, there's a good chance they're actually going to have sex tonight, and she thinks the anticipation might just actually be killing her. In her mind, she's nineteen again – a virgin, whispering hopeless wishes for the man she wants to want her, too. She may be more experienced now, but that same tightness in her chest, that empty, vulnerable feeling just won't go away; if he lets her hopes down this time, she doesn't know how she's ever going to recover.

They're in her bed in the dark, wearing far more nightclothes than they should be, a fresh t-shirt for her, and cool white silk to keep her from feeling the heat of his body, even if he did move in closer. The amount of distance he's left between them is almost painful, as is the uncertainty he's left her with. When she wakes up in the mornings to find him already hard and ready for her, there's no question of what he wants, but this … this is different. A certain amount of – dare she think it? – actual seduction seems to be required here, and after so long without so much as even a date, she's fresh out of the stuff.

For far too long, Jareth doesn't say a word. Then, when her heartbeat has finally reached fever-pitch, he gives a loud sigh.

“You know, it's quite unseemly for a king to have to make all of the moves, all of the time, love.”

She smiles in the darkness, stifling the immediate urge to turn and throw her arms around him. “I didn't want to presume anything, Your Highness. I'm sorry. ”

“If you truly want to earn my forgiveness, I have plenty of suggestions on how to start.”

Any guidance would be welcome right about now. She shuffles back a little, not quite enough to touch him, but it's a start – a slow one, her eager body can't help but remind her. Get to the point, her libido all but howls. It's silly to actually feel shy after what's already happened between them – she's sucked his cock, for christsake – but she can feel the heat creeping over her face and neck all the same, blushing in the dark like a schoolgirl with a crush. God, she wants him, but she needs to know whether these sordid encounters are just ones of convenience, or of actual longing – whether he wakes up wanting her, or just the nearest available source of pleasure. With a deep, steadying breath, she decides to just bite the bullet.

“Jareth?”

“Yes, precious?”

She screws her eyes shut, and the words just flow out of her mouth like venom from a wound. “When you joked about 'fucking me senseless'-”

“What on earth gave you the impression I was joking? Regardless, go on.”

She swallows hard. Focus, Sarah. “Why now?”

Jareth clucks his tongue. “Don't tell me you want me to wait until morning again.”

“That's not what I meant. I mean, is this a recent thing, or …?”

“What, wanting to fuck you senseless, you mean? Not really, no. I can safely say I've had the urge a while.”

Oh. Oh, my. The blunt admission of it threatens to steal her breath, but she makes herself go on. “Why not years ago, then, if this is what you wanted – to … to fuck me?”

There's a long silence in which she doesn't quite dare to breathe, and then: “It's only now that we're bound together that your interest seems to have been roused. Before this, I was under the impression I wouldn't be welcomed into your bed. You only ever showed interest in me once, love – and even that was only a fleeting thought, years ago … a passing fantasy while you were with a … shall we say, less than suitable man. Tempting, yes, but hardly appropriate for me to intervene. You did wish to stop imagining me, after all.”

He's talking about that night with Jay again, she realises; how that whole messy period of her life seems to be coming back to haunt her recently. She can only hope the Goblin King hasn't noticed her apparent fixation with wild-haired blonds. Still, it hurts to think Jareth has either forgotten, or chosen to ignore her true call to him – the night long before, when she was ready to lose her virginity; the night when she had been ready to give him everything. She forces herself to skirt around that subject, unwilling to let herself get upset over that long-ago night, when this one holds much sweeter possibilities.

“You've known I've always … had a crush on you,” she admits. “I would've lo- … really liked this to have happened sooner.” Whatever 'this' is. “I just never really thought you'd want to.” There's a warmth spreading over her whole body with the realisation that, if nothing else, he's at least lusted after her for some time. “So, back then, when I was fantasising with Jay-”

He grunts softly. “I would have replaced him in a heartbeat, if you had so wished.”

A shiver ripples through her, and she can't help it in the slightest. “Why didn't you say something? Tell me what I was missing out on?”

Whether it's because of the way her voice is trembling with her need, or purely out of his own desire, she doesn't know, but Jareth finally reaches out and starts to stroke her hip. His fingers send electricity through her veins as he starts to inch up her t-shirt. “It wasn't my place to put my own desires into your head, Sarah. It never has been. Your wishes have always come from you, and you alone. As I told you before, I've always found you attractive, love, and with any other woman – one who hadn't bested me and turned me down – this would have been far simpler.”

His tone is serious, but it grows lighter and flirtatious as he leans in and brings his mouth to her ear. “Now, are you going to keep me wanting you until morning again, or do I get to touch you right now? I know you're wet enough for it.”

Oh, how that makes her blush, grateful he can't see it. She wants to dwell on the bombshell that he's just dropped on her, demand to know just how long he's wanted to touch her - her - without saying a word, but the heat of his mouth is so delightfully distracting. “You're usually such a gentleman until morning.”

“Mmm. Perhaps, but fair warning: I have absolutely no intention of continuing to be gentlemanly this evening. In fact, if it's just the same to you, I intend to be downright obscene.”

That word, spoken in his voice seems to reverberate directly between her thighs, sending her eyes rolling wildly in the dark. She has to bite down on her tongue for a moment before she dares to speak. “Now who's being presumptuous?”

He laughs. “I'd hardly class it as 'presumptuous', with your earlier behaviour. Do I even have to ask what that little look you threw me in the kitchen was all about?”

Shit. Her breath catches in her throat, far too loudly in the dark. “I don't know what you mean.”

“Oh, I think you do, precious. In fact, I know you do. You were on your knees, all but begging me to have my way with you.”

She can't help but stiffen, hoping that he can't feel the tension through the bed. “Take my word for it – I'll never beg you for anything, Goblin King.”

Jareth tuts softly. “So very formal, Miss Williams. And here I thought we were on better terms with one another … much better terms, given how well you've responded to me so far.”

He moves in a little closer, and there's no question of just how well he's starting to respond, too, the heat and weight of him apparent even through their clothes. His breath warms the nape of her neck as he leans in, giving her shoulder a little nip through her t-shirt. The hand at her hip is barely skimming her flesh, but sends her pulse racing all the same. His words are so very hot against her ear.

“Admit it – you've been lying there, wondering, waiting, wanting for me to touch you, haven't you, love? Wondering just when my hands are going to slip around your delicious body in the dark. Or are you finding yourself craving more than just my fingers to make you sigh and moan?”

“Maybe it's my mouth you find yourself in need of again,” those sinful lips brush her earlobe to say. “Is that what you want, my naughty little Sarah; to be on your back, your legs spread wide, with my tongue thrust inside you? I wonder how many times I could bring you to orgasm that way, all wet and writhing against my face, until you begged me to stop … and I can make you beg me, love, and all without laying a single finger between your lovely thighs.”

She doesn't doubt it – despite her bravado, she's close to begging already, the sound of her laboured breathing painfully loud in the dark. Between his words, and the growing, throbbing length of him pressed flush against her ass, she can't possibly endure this much longer; it's torture, but still he goes on.

“Sarah.” Her name alone sends hot little prickles along the nape of her neck, and her belly flip-flops just waiting for what he'll say next. “You're not trying to use my voice as a sex aid, now are you, love? You're not getting all hot and bothered in the dark, pressing your thighs together to stave off that craving, that need for all the wicked little things I want to do to you … are you?”

“Maybe even my lips and tongue aren't enough to satisfy you tonight,” he muses. “I can feel you trembling, Sarah. Could it be there's more you want from me?” When she doesn't reply, can't possibly form words, he goes on heedless. “Don't worry, I know just what you want – what you need. You need to have my cock inside you, don't you, pet?”

His words tease more of her wetness to pool between her thighs, and she can't stay still any longer. She presses her legs together as he said, as tightly as she possibly can, but it does nothing to soothe the ache between them; only he can tend to that, and she loves and hates him for knowing it.

“The chain adds to the excitement, doesn't it, Sarah? Trapped with me … bound to me, and utterly powerless to resist. You are a wicked woman, aren't you? Wishing for this … for us to be together this way. Do you know what my wish would be, love?” His rich voice washes over her, sending every nerve-ending firing, her skin alive with wild sparks of pleasure. “I wish to feel you as you come for me … around me. I want to feel just how hot and wet your delectable little cunt is as it squeezes around my cock. I want to be buried in you … deep in you …”

She hears a low moan against her neck, feels the vibrations running through her skin, and knows she isn't the only one such filthy words are affecting. “Enough games. Tell me what you want to do, love. We can do anything you want, just tell me. Now.”

“Jareth.” Her own voice is little more than a whisper. “Jareth, please, I need you to fuck me.”

“Mmm … with pleasure. I thought you'd never ask.”

Look who's talking. It's what she's been waiting what feels like a lifetime for, needing him to need her the same way she's always desired him, and she's a little afraid of just how hard her heart is beating in her excitement. He slides a hand around her waist, and she almost thinks he'll take her just like this, but then he's urging her to turn to him, urging her to face him. Oh, god help her, she does, rolling her body towards him, turning under their chained arms like any dancer, ready to meet him in the most heated, primal dance of all.

There's a soft murmur – more of his magic – and then light flares around them, too soft to be her bedroom's single harsh bulb, but bright enough to leave her staring into his eyes, seeing the dark longing in his stare. That's the need she's craved all these years, no doubt of it now with those eyes only inches away from her own, but there's no time to revel in it as he closes the distance between them.

His hands move to claim her hips, and then to her utter surprise, she finds his mouth pressed against her own. He's kissing her, or trying to at least; shock freezes her in place, and after several seconds of getting no response, Jareth pulls back. “Too much?” he asks.

“No,” she manages, heart and lips on fire. “Surprised me, is all. You've never-”

“After that one little show we put on, you've never seemed to want to look me in the eye long enough to try again. I thought I'd finally take the chance.” His lips brush hers as he speaks, his voice lowering. “Can I try again?”

“God, yes.”

This time, he succeeds. She kisses him back with a passion, relishing in the heat, the hunger of his mouth against her own. It starts off slow and sensual, a teasing of tongues and the lightest graze of teeth against the swell of her lower lip, but quickly grows in intensity. Jareth pulls her leg over his hip, and there's no question of how much he wants her too, not with the solid shape of his cock pressed flush against her inner thigh. They rock together that way a while, savouring the sensation as their tongues twine together, but soon it's clear that both of them need more.

He doesn't cover her body with his own, but rolls her on top of him instead, and she straddles his hips without hesitation. The heat of his erection is palpable even through the thin layers of their clothing, and she rubs herself against it at once, thrilled to have him so very close, thrilled to realise that she alone is responsible for the way he moans. She has a king at her mercy, beneath her, clenched between her thighs, and the naked lust in his eyes makes her movements feel all the more powerful as she strokes him with her own heat.

She's waited far too long for this, to feel him like this, and she's elated and almost dizzy with her excitement, but she takes her real pleasure in driving him wild. She grinds more firmly on him, letting the full length of him stroke along her lace-covered slit until he's groaning aloud and bucking under her. She knows he's reached the edge of his control when he reaches between them, quick to free himself, before turning his attention to her. He's impatient; he doesn't just tug her underwear aside as she expects, but actually tears them open at the crotch, baring her at once. She gives a heated moan at the sound, her body shocked into more wetness that's now free to bathe his cock. It's too much, feeling the heat of his bare skin so very close, and with one fluid movement, she takes him in her hand, raises up, and guides him deep inside her.

Fuck.” There's a giddy little thrill in hearing the word forced from his lips, just from having her wet heat wrapped around him, an even deeper satisfaction in the way his head simply slams back against the pillows as his body arches beneath her, into her. “So tight.”

She has to agree, revelling in the way her body grips him, just how well he fills her. She moans deep within her throat, and lets her hands trail briefly along his flat stomach up to his chest. Between the two of them, they manage to tug her t-shirt up over her head, so that it lies bunched between her shoulder-blades. She sees the hunger in his eyes when he yanks down her bra to free her breasts, and, feeling wicked, she squeezes him hard inside her. He gives a low growl and bites his lip, and then his eyes are boring into her own again, blazing hot with lust.

Fuck. Me,” he demands, but she's already way ahead of him as her own body screams for friction.

Her hips rise and fall, her body sliding like silk along his thick shaft, and then taking him to the hilt again. His hips move to greet her, thrusting hard as she rides him, duelling for dominance. She has him flat on his back, pinned between her thighs, but he's far from passive, bucking upwards to fill her deeply, repaying her hunger tenfold.

With a hard tug on their chain, he pulls her body down to him, both their hands twining on the pillows above his head as he uses this new position to turn his mouth onto her breasts. His lips tighten around her left nipple, laving it with the hot tip of his tongue as his hips keep up their hard rhythm, driving himself deep inside her. Before he relinquishes her breast, he grazes it with his teeth, sending a bolt of electricity directly to her throbbing clit. A moan escapes her, but he's already pulling her lips to his, silencing her, tongue-fucking her willing mouth with the same demanding rhythm as down below.

Rocking atop him, taking him hard and deep, she can feel her orgasm building, her body drawing taut, ready to give to him, ready to surrender to that pleasure as it swells out of control inside her. She breaks their kiss, gasping, moaning, and presses her forehead to his. She's close, so very close, the intense anticipation forcing her eyes to squeeze shut. Then, she feels his hand at her cheek, urging them open.

“Look at me, love,” he pants. “I want you to look at me when you come.”

Eyes locked, bodies rising and falling in union, he takes her over the edge, those icy-blue eyes burning into her own as her orgasm washes over her. She rides him through it, giving him everything, taking in the delectable sight of him reaching his own climax beneath her. His lips part as he moans her name, giving one last hard thrust upward as he shoots deep inside her. She can feel him throbbing even through the pleasurable contractions in her own body, crying out with him as they come together, their bodies fused in matching, magnetic lust.

Oh, what they've been missing all these years.

Jareth throws his head back against the pillows, breathing hard and laughing softly. “Good gods. Good gods. Oh, Sarah … I never thought …well, fuck.”

Then he's grinning, running his free hand up along the length of her spine and back again, all the way down to cup her ass. His other hand tangles in her hair, bringing her own hand up with it, and as he kisses her, she brushes stray golden strands back from his forehead, feeling the heat radiating from his skin. When she eventually – reluctantly – makes to climb off of him, he urges her to sit back in place.

“Oh, no, pet, by all means stay right where you are.” He urges her down for a brief kiss, continuing with a string of them along her jawline, before confiding to her right ear. “Now I'm inside you, I find myself very, very reluctant to leave,” he murmurs, before reclaiming her lips.

As she returns his kiss, deliciously slow, hedonistic this time, she can only hope he means it.

She eventually pulls back from his gratifying mouth and bends her head to the hollow of his throat, tasting the faint salt of his sweat that's pooled there, feeling the soft throbbing of his pulse against her lips. She feels almost drunk on pleasure, having him here like this, beneath her, inside her, touching her and welcoming her touch. A soft sigh escapes her as he urges her to relax atop him, his free hand at the small of her back, the other cradling the nape of her neck, drawing her head down against his shoulder.

He gives a low murmur against her hair. “Mmm. Doesn't it feel good to be rid of all that tension you were carrying?”

She nods, not trusting herself to speak, content for now just to press her face against the crook of his neck, breathing him in. His fingers feel like heaven as they stroke through her hair. The hand at her lower back traces one of the dimples there, making her shiver, and Jareth hums low in his throat.

“Another sweet spot? You've been holding out on me, love.”

“A girl's got to have some secrets.”

“Hmm. In that case, I'll enjoy trying to draw every last one out of you,” he says, running a fingertip from one side of her back to the other.

She can't help smiling against his neck. Her heart is still racing inside her chest, a happiness that she just can't contain swelling up beside it. She starts to laugh, and hears Jareth sigh.

“Oh, what's this? Outright laughter at my performance now?” he teases. “How disappointing. You do realise this means I'm going to have to try again …and again … and again.” He punctuates this last by giving her ass a firm squeeze.

“I'm just …” Utterly fulfilled. Ecstatic. Hopelessly, helplessly in love. “ … happy.”

“I should hope so. I trust I've managed to rid you of that bitter disappointment and positively fearsome anger you experienced when you first found yourself chained to me?”

Laughing, she runs a hand over his chest, tracing a lazy circle around one nipple. “Completely, but that was the best sex I've had in a long time, so I'm liable to say just about anything right now.”

“My lady doth say the sweetest things.”

“Your lady is a little overwhelmed right now,” she confesses, unable to hold back her grin at being his lady, even though it's just a figure of speech. “These last couple of days have just been- …. I mean, the sex – god, the sex – not to mention the … heh, other stuff. You just … you manage to charm just about everyone you meet, you sweep in like some romantic hero to save me from that slimy asshole at the party…” She trails off for a minute, then finally dares to ask. “Jareth?”

“Hmm?”

“What exactly did you say to that Richard guy? He looked terrified.”

At first, she doesn't think he'll answer, but after a brief pause he speaks up. “I simply advised him that if he continues to prey on young women in that manner, he should be aware of my habit of devouring silly, pretty little boys just like him for breakfast.”

She goes very still, but then the audacity of it causes her to howl laughter. When her giggles start to taper off, she pictures the look of abject terror on Richard's face, now that she knows the exact cause, and it sets fresh delight rippling through her belly, laughing harder than ever. Oh, but then the other man is driven from her thoughts entirely, when the vibrations from her laughter cause her lover to stir to life deep inside her, his cock throbbing anew.

“Already?” she gasps.

Always,” he replies, already reaching up to kiss her.

Their mouths meet, but it's less urgent this time, slower and more sensual. Despite the growing hardness of him inside her, he makes no effort to start moving just yet, perhaps wanting to draw that delicious seduction out even longer. She undulates a little, stirring him inside her, thinking of sex and Jareth, Jareth and sex; Jareth and other pale, toned, writhing bodies, and sex. It's a decidedly hot thought, working her up just as much as that gentle friction is doing, and in the end she just has to ask.

“Do you really … you know … with guys too?”

He gives her a lazy grin. “Not any more, but at one point in the seventies, yes.” Before she can question further, he clarifies. “I mean the seventies, love, not the nineteen-seventies – ancient world, and all that. Everyone was doing it. I tried it, but my personal preference has always been … mmm … an irresistible pull towards women. Quite irresistible, I find.”

He urges her up to a sitting position again, lifting up off the pillows with her so that she's seated in his lap. He starts to nuzzle at her right breast, one arm bracing the small of her back as he gives her a couple of slow, testing thrusts. “I trust you don't have a problem with it, as our good friend Richard seemed to.”

She shakes her head, gently starting to move with him. “Of course not. People should get to love whoever they want to love.” It's hard to meet his gaze with her own love wanting to break free of her chest, and so she quickly goes on. “Sleep with whoever they want to sleep with, I mean. Oh ... oh, god.”

“Mmm. Quite. And if it so happens I have no intention whatsoever of sleeping at all tonight?”

If her smile stretches any wider, she's certain it would touch her ears. “I could go for that.”

He pauses to nip at her lower lip, his next words little more than a growl as his free hand slips down between their bodies to tease at her swollen clit. “You can go for me as many times as you like, love.”

They manage to devour each other again, long before any thoughts of morning or anything else can emerge. Only when she's sated and pleasantly sore does he relent, spooning her once more as she drifts off to sleep in his arms.

 

Chapter Text

When she blinks herself awake, she becomes aware of two things: it's morning, and the familiar warmth that she's become accustomed to, pressed flush against her back, is missing. Her face tightens at once, her eyes fixed firmly on the normalcy that is her bedside table, unseeing. Is he really gone? She needs to know, but she's afraid to turn around to find out, to make it real. There's tension in her belly, heavier and more hopeless than any longing he's roused in her these past few days – a dread that's too thick to swallow down.

A low jingling noise is perhaps the sweetest sound she's ever heard, the gentle tug on her still-bound wrist more comforting than any words can express.

She turns quickly enough to startle them both, meeting a pair of wide, mismatched blue eyes and exquisitely arched eyebrows. The Goblin King is lying on his back, still deliciously bare – still here – glancing at her like she's some new and exotic creature. He graces her with a small smile before turning back to what's currently occupying him. There's a scroll clutched in his free hand, and several more – lots more, actually – spread out on the sheets around him, alongside folded parchments, some torn open, some yet to be touched. He's clearly been busy while she's been sleeping, but dammit, he's here, he hasn't left her after their late night tryst, he's-

He's still stuck on the end of her wrist – a willing prisoner, perhaps, if she keeps him entertained, but a prisoner nonetheless.

“You're still here,” she mumbles.

Jareth snorts. “Don't sound too happy to see me, love,” he says, without looking up.

“But it- … we're …” She trails off, then rattles their joined wrists, for whatever good it does.

“Still attached? Yes, I had noticed.” There's a brief quirk of his lips, but it's gone as quickly as it appears.

“Is … is everything okay?” she asks him, knowing it isn't – not really.

“Of course, precious. Why shouldn't it be?”

A polite enough lie; the answer is obvious, but she's too ashamed to speak it. She bites her lip, stopping herself from replying. There isn't really anything she can say, nothing useful, anyway. They've been as physically intimate as they can possibly be, unless there's some exotic fae way of sex he isn't telling her about, and though her body's greatest wish has been more than granted, it's obvious now that there's more at stake here. They need to talk about what it is she wants, probe further into what attachment really means after all the years they've known each other, but the thought of trying to express any of her jumbled emotions still makes her feel ill.

Thankfully, Jareth doesn't seem to be angry or upset at her over his imprisonment, simply busy. He's still poring over his letters, apparently forgetting or not caring that she hasn't answered. She knows she should leave him be, but deep down, there's a part of her that does want to talk. After what they shared last night, she needs something more from him, and she isn't going to get it by staying silent.

She thinks back on all the times they've been in each other's company in the past, how easily the conversation flowed between them during the wishes she made. She always wanted for him to stay, for their talks to be longer, harbouring a hundred different things she wanted but didn't quite dare to ask him. Ironic, then, that now she has him here indefinitely, she's struggling to give voice to a single syllable.

“You're … really in demand,” she says, kicking herself the moment the words emerge. Of course he's in demand – he's a king.

“It's a rather busy time of year,” is Jareth's mild answer. “There are certain … expectations of me.”

She raises her eyebrows. “And these are all expectations you can meet while you're stuck here with me?”

Jareth allows himself a small smile. “Not traditionally, no, but … well, needs must, and all that.”

Oh, great. She shifts, even more uncomfortable. “What is it you're supposed to be doing? If you weren't here, I mean.”

“Sarah, you needn't trouble yourself with-”

“What, your duties? The fact that you're somehow expected to run a kingdom from a one bedroom apartment? Tell me.”

The Goblin King sighs. “Some minor complications may have developed during my brief absence, but really, it's nothing that can't-”

Jareth.”

Fine.” He gives a detached little wave of his arm. “Apparently, my goblins are revolting.” Sighing again: “Even more so than usual. They've taken a much greater advantage of my absence than I anticipated, and my castellan is less … shall we say, well-equipped than I am in dealing with their shenanigans. He writes to ask that I do something, before he's entirely overrun,” he says, tapping one of the parchments.

There's a little twist of panic in her stomach, having already seen for herself what his goblins are capable of. Still, she feels a small smile curve her lips, injecting a little hope into her words. “It can't be too bad yet, right? Just the one little letter.”

Jareth starts to rub his temple with his free hand, as if it pains him. He nods, and out of nothing, an avalanche of similar scrolls comes tumbling to the bed covers. “From the past couple of days,” he announces.

“Oh.”

“Indeed.” With a small wave and a jingle of their chain, the scrolls disappear again, each vanishing in a puff of blue glitter. Still massaging his temple, he gestures at the rest of the messages with his chained hand. “Correspondence from friends and acquaintances, last minute requests from guests, some tedious business about some minor border disputes in the south, nonsense about catering, a rather insistent noise complaint – which is impressive, given the distance of the neighbouring castle. I haven't quite worked out whether that's the goblins' fault or not yet – plus a lot of other senseless quacking.” As he points at them, each scroll vanishes in an identical burst of glitter – gone, she knows, but not forgotten.

She gives him a small, helpless smile. “Sounds like a hell of a mess.”

Jareth laughs softly, then stretches in the early morning sun. “Perhaps now you'll appreciate my need for certain … distractions.” He seems to really notice her for the first time that morning, his eyes beginning to gleam as he turns his body towards her. After pressing brief kisses to her mouth and cheek, he bends his head to her shoulder, mouthing warmly at the crook of her neck. “Hello,” he greets her, his free hand moving to cup her breast through its confines, “and a very good morning to you, too,” he says, grinning as her nipple peaks to attention for him.

It would be so easy to just let lust take them over again – her ruined underwear now lies discarded on her bedroom floor, in testament to that – and she finds herself glad he hasn't shredded the rest of her nightwear too, lest she be entirely powerless to resist him right now. He's already urging her to lie back, kissing at her neck, but she pulls away to look him in the eye. “Letters,” she says. “Goblins. Kingdom. Responsibilities.”

He groans as if the words cause him physical pain, and buries his head between her thinly-covered breasts. Smiling now, she threads her fingers into his hair, cradling him to her for just a moment before trying to urge him away. “You're not going to find a solution in there,” she tells him.

“Mmmph. I might, if you'd only let me conduct a thorough search.” His words are delightfully muffled, his hot mouth managing to do a surprising amount of damage to her willpower through her woefully inadequate t-shirt.

“Off. Now.”

He groans his reluctance, but eventually complies – though not without pouting. “You really are a wicked temptress.”

“Maybe later, when we've taken care of business.”

“Hmm. All the more reason to get on with it, I suppose. I'll grant Gaelan permission to meet with us at his earliest convenience.” He summons the necessary implements, scrawling a brief response, folding it over, and sealing it with hot wax so dexterously that she doesn't have to worry for her sheets. When it, too, vanishes into the aether, he turns to her once more, lifting an eyebrow. “Before he replies, I don't suppose we could-”

She folds her arms as best she can with the chain and gives him a small scowl. “You suppose correctly.”

This time, his sigh sounds like it's been dragged up all the way from his feet, positively world-weary. “I do so hate always being right.”

 

-

 

At Gaelan's request, they meet on what Sarah supposes must be neutral ground. They appear to be far away from the castle, emerging in the spacious, sunlit clearing of what seems to be a thick forest. They're surrounded by beautiful trees, their trunks a pale silver, their large leaves turned a deep, luscious orange. Whatever strange fruit hangs heavy from their branches seems to glisten like jewels, stunning amethysts and winking rubies. It's her first time in his realm in well over a decade, her first glimpse of the wondrous world outside of his labyrinth, and she's so fascinated that it takes her a moment to realise they're not alone.

“Your Highness, welcome.”

The high, clear voice makes her jump, but the sight of the man to whom it belongs surprises her. 'Castellan' brings to mind an image of a stuffy, old, possibly bearded man, wrapped in long robes and reams of musty parchment – a learned man, wizened by his long years of loyal service. No doubt Jareth's castellan is already far older than she herself is – truly, nothing in this realm is as is seems, ageless and impossibly handsome king included – but he's so far from what she expected, she can't help but grin. She only stops herself from giggling out loud by telling herself how unspeakably rude it would be.

Gaelan looks like he's only just stepped into his twenties, a shock of thick, reddish hair topping an impossibly youthful, impossibly worried face. In place of old-fashioned robes, he wears a white shirt and modest dark leggings, paired with a fern-green cravat and matching waistcoat – smart, but harried-looking as he rushes toward them. He gives Sarah only the most cursory of nods, looking for all the world like a nervous intern on his first day at the office, before he turns his attention to Jareth. “Sire, I'm so glad you could come. I'm s-”

“Do you mean to tell me, given this ridiculous place of meeting, that I've been ousted from my own castle?” the Goblin King demands.

Gaelan's face works for a moment, caught between horror and shame. “Wh- … well, of course I tried … they're just so … I couldn't quite deal … that is to say, yes.” The squeak on the last word turns it into a question, and then the poor man is full of apologies and explanations, which Jareth quickly dismisses.

“Yes, well, I'm not exactly well-suited to deal with much of the kingdom's business myself at present,” he confesses. He raises their joined wrists, and Gaelan's eyes widen as he sees their chain. “Of course, you will speak of this to no one, and I, in my generosity, will in return rid you of your current … predicament.”

Gaelan is quick to agree. “Yes, Sire, thank you, Sire. I'm sorry to have called on you for such a thing, but-” He falls silent a moment, still eyeing their chain. “Sire, does this mean you won't be attending the festivities for Mabon?”

Sarah can't help noticing the way Jareth's eyes flit towards her for just a second before answering.

“That,” he says, “remains to be seen. I will be in touch.”

“But, Sire-”

“No more for now,” Jareth tells him. “As you can see, I'm not equipped to remain here for long, at present. I will attend to those blasted goblins presently, and you,” he says, waving an arm and sending scroll after scroll of correspondence tumbling into and out of Gaelan's grasping arms, “will attend to these.” While the poor man goes scrambling after the few he's dropped, Jareth heaves a deep sigh, and pinches the bridge of his nose with his free hand. “After all this is through, remind me I owe you a drink. Until then, please don't disappoint me.”

To his credit, despite looking like he's just swallowed a firey head-first, Gaelan manages a nod, threatening to send his precariously balanced load toppling anew. “I won't, Sire.”

“I'm counting on you, Gaelan.”

Jareth slips his arm around her waist once more, and as the world starts to shift around them, she hears him whisper against her hair. “Now for the fun part.”

 

Chapter Text

Blinking against the sudden change of scenery, she sees they're standing before the great double doors of Jareth's castle. She remembers the brute strength it took all those years ago to push them open, but now they swing back with just a gentle wave of Jareth's hand. To enter the castle, they have to step over a small collection of milk bottles that have congregated on the steps. From the sour smell wafting up from them, some of the bottles have been basking there in the sun since the Goblin King made his initial disappearance.

“Can't be trusted with a single blasted thing,” Jareth mutters under his breath.

“At least that proves they're a little dim. If they're this forgetful, they can't be smart enough to get up to any real trouble, right?”

So, so wrong.

They've barely set foot upon the corridor before a startled chicken goes charging past the two of them, closely followed by a skinny grey goblin, who's yelling at the top of his lungs. He's bare-chested, his shirt wrapped turban-style around his head, a tankard of what looks suspiciously like ale overflowing as he shakes his fist. Neither chicken nor chicken hunter seem to notice them, not caring that they've left a scowling Jareth in their wake.

It's only when the goblin is far past them – thankfully, away from the Goblin King's wrath – that the smell truly hits them. Inside, the castle absolutely reeks of booze, thick and yeasty and sickly-sweet. From the potency, she feels like she could get drunk off the fumes alone. She becomes aware of Jareth mumbling to himself as he leads her further into the castle. Coming from above them, presumably from the throne room, there's the sound of one hell of a party going on, and there's no doubt of exactly what substance is fuelling the festivities.

“They've gotten into the cellars. The little shits have gotten into the cellars. I warned Gaelan never to let those keys-” Jareth presses his lips together, closing his eyes for a moment to gather himself before going on. “Come,” he says, “I want to see what the exact damage is before I deal with the culprits.”

Damage is the operative word.

A short walk through the castle leads them to a decimated kitchen, no doubt the poor chef having had to abandon ship as well, in face of the goblins' wrath. There's food plastered to every available surface, with some sort of ominous yellow goop dripping from one corner of the ceiling to patter on the stone tiles below. Beyond the kitchen, the pantries have been ransacked, empty save for broken jars, cracked eggs, and a snow dusting of flour. Jareth's boots make heavy prints in the white powder as he leads her through it.

Sure enough, the cellar has been accessed, though through no use of a key, presumably to Gaelan's good fortune. The door lies in splintered bits, a dented helmet still stuck deep into the wood by its twin horns. The goblins have used one of their own as a living battering ram, but judging from the mess that lies beyond the broken door, he won't be the only one soon nursing a headache. Cask after cask lies shattered and empty, too many to possibly count. From the looks of it, the wilful creatures have drank the castle dry of every last drop of ale.

From the looks of their king, they're going to suffer far worse than a hangover for it. A few choking, guttural sounds escape from between Jareth's lips, before they purse together into a tight white line. Sarah doesn't need to understand ancient languages to know the meaning isn't pretty.

“Well,” he says, clipped and strangely quiet. “Let's see if my throne room is still standing.”

From her brief journey through his castle all those years ago, she can remember it wasn't exactly the tidiest place. A king can be forgiven a little mess, given he plays host daily to an army of ill-mannered, near-feral creatures. Today though, that 'little mess' would be better described as 'outright chaos'.

The throne room is filled to capacity. Laughing, belching goblins are everywhere, reclining on cushions, balustrades, steps, window ledges. Some are still eating and drinking, some howling an ear-piercing attempt at song, others apparently too stuffed or drunk to do either. On the far side of the room, some of the goblins appear to be in the midst of some wild, flailing dance around a makeshift fire-pit, arms and legs flopping everywhere. The stone floor beneath their feet has all but vanished beneath a layer of spilled food and drink, guano and chicken feathers, with dozens of the birds pecking their way amongst the sea of rowdy goblins.

Amidst the pandemonium, Sarah is certain she sees a goat.

At her side, she can feel Jareth's growing tension as he surveys the awful scene before him. He's drawn so tightly that his entire body seems to be trembling, a storm brewing in his mismatched eyes as they finally fall upon the throne itself … and its new occupant.

Sprawled across the Goblin King's rightful seat, his feet kicked up in a mockery of his king's carefree pose, is a tiny, fluffy-headed imposter, a crowd of minions gathered on the throne's steps to await his command. Sarah feels her mouth grow slack. Her eyes are torn between the fake king and the real; the one who's lapping up the attention, and the one who's so far gone unnoticed – a ticking time-bomb that's all but ready to detonate. A little gasp escapes her when she sees that not only has the bold goblin stolen the throne itself, he seems to have borrowed a couple of Jareth's most personal belongings, too.

The new Goblin-King finally leaps to his feet, hunching on the throne's edge like a tiny gargoyle, one of Jareth's trademark flowing shirts billowing around his scrawny chest like a sail. He lifts a clenched fist and waves a riding crop wildly in the air, sending a handful of chickens scattering from the immediate vicinity, clucking their disapproval. “Bow, I say, bow. Don't you know how beautiful and important and funny I am?” he cries, in a high-pitched tone that has Sarah biting back a grin at once. It's like listening to Jareth on helium, the little goblin squeaking his demands and displeasure at his pretend subjects, all of whom fall to their knees before him.

The cocky goblin grins at the sight, his greenish lips somehow managing to form an eerily familiar smirk, despite the yellow fangs that protrude from it. He pauses a moment to toss back his hair – strangely full of volume, and far too silky-looking for a goblin – and then pokes the crop towards the snivelling masses who worship at his feet. “Laugh,” he commands them. “Laugh.”

On cue, the other goblins start up a jibbering, howling chorus of laughter, in salute to their phony king.

A giddy hiccup of laughter escapes from her too, and Sarah clasps her free hand over her mouth before more can join it. “Oh,” she murmurs, her voice muffled by her fingers and the mirth that's choking her. “Oh, he's good.”

“He's Bog-fodder,” the true and entirely unamused Goblin King corrects her. He raises his voice, then, addressing his so far blissfully ignorant subjects. “So, you're a king, are you?” he demands, and his familiar voice is enough to freeze the room at once. Every single pair of eyes turns towards their rightful king, horrified gasps hissing through the air, half-full tankards of ale falling from loosened fingers to adorn the already filthy floor.

Even piss-drunk, it's clear the trembling goblins know they've gone too far this time.

The dancing comes to a screeching halt, the fire is put out at once, the songs are no more; in the new silence, the goat gives a single baleful bleat, and is shushed by dozens of panicked mouths.

Upon the throne, the new king has clearly decided it's time to abdicate. The riding crop goes clattering to the floor, the goblin's green face paling to the colour of sour milk as he wrestles to take off Jareth's borrowed shirt.

“I asked you a question,” Jareth reminds him, his tone soft. “Are you or are you not a king?”

It's a question the shivering goblin knows the answer to at once, though he struggles to say it. “No, I'm n -n-n- …”

“Not?” Jareth cocks an eyebrow. “That's where you're wrong, my dear fellow. I hereby decree you to be King of the Land of Stench for the next mo- … wait, is that my product you've used on that festering pit of filth you call hair?”

The reluctant king runs a nervous hand through his luxurious locks. “There … there were so many bottles, Sire. I … I didn't think you'd mind …”

Jareth's eyes narrow. “Well, then we'd better make that two months as king. Farewell, Your Highness.”

“Sire, please, have mercy! Not the Bog, not the-”

With no more than a wave of his hand, the true Goblin King sends the wailing imposter packing, leaving only a soiled white shirt on the throne in his place. The castle doesn't smell too sweet right now, but Sarah imagines it must be heaven, compared to the foolish goblin's new home.

“And what in the seventh circle of hell is this?” Jareth demands, striding into their midst and dragging Sarah right along for the ride, squawking chickens and shrinking goblins be damned. “Have you completely taken leave of your senses? Mabon is in less than a fortnight, the guests will be arriving here in less than a week, and you've turned my castle – my castle – into some hellish nightmarescape. Did you really think you'd get away with it? Do you think I have the time, nay, the tolerance to let this go unpunished? I can hardly believe all the ale in the kingdom could make you so stupid.”

He changes tactics so quickly that it leaves even Sarah blinking in confusion. “Who's still thirsty?” he asks, silky and sweet. When no one answers, he smiles. It isn't a pleasant smile. “No one? No one at all? Come now, don't be shy. Anyone who still has a thirst after all that ale simply must have it quenched. Speak up, and I'll make certain you have a belly full.” When one or two goblins start to tentatively raise their hands, the smile disappears. “A belly full of Bog water,” Jareth snaps.

The unfortunate ale aficionados are gone before Sarah can blink. At least the newly-crowned king will have company.

“The only reason every last worthless one of you isn't stewing in the Bog right this instant is because I've yet to decide which I like better: for you to be dropped in head-first, or for you to be dipped in slowly from the feet upward, forced to watch as every last miserable inch of you is swallowed up by the muck. Any preferences amongst yourselves? No? Shall I do all the choosing then? Such a delight.”

He takes the steps to the throne in twos, bringing Sarah rushing along with him. Standing before a sea of snivelling subjects, she should feel a little awkward, but the goblins don't seem to have even noticed her. Every last head is turned towards the raging king, every pair of eyes wide, every mouth hanging open as Jareth continues his tirade.

“You may not enjoy listening to Gaelan's orders, but you will listen to me. You will heed every last word that falls from that man's mouth from now until I return, is that clear? Am I clear?” There's an immediate chorus of 'yes, Sire's from around him, but he's not yet placated. “If he tells you to lap up that mess in the kitchens with your tongues, I want your stinking mouths open and ready with not a single word of complaint. If he tells you to buff his boots with your eyebrows, I want a line of you at his feet on your hands and knees, ready to do the task before he has even finished speaking. You will follow every order, and you will do it swiftly and well, or you will answer to me upon my return. And trust me, thanks to my … companion … today, you've caught me on a good day.”

Apparently deciding he hasn't terrified them enough, Jareth sweeps the room with a cold glare before raising his and her joined wrists. The goblins gape up at the golden chain, with something that looks halfway between wonder and deepest dismay. “And if any of you even think of disobeying again," Jareth goes on, "you will find yourself my prisoner, spending every waking moment by my side, under my watchful eye, under my absolute control, knowing that I'll be just waiting for you to slip up in some way. Just … like … her.”

A chorus of horror-stricken cries goes up all around the room.

“That's the girl-who-ate-the-peach!”

“He's got her! It's taken years, but he's got her!”

“She's his prisoner?”

“I thought she won. Didn't she say the words?”

No one wins!”

“Only the king wins!”

“But I thought he lost-”

“Hush, you idiot, he'll Bog us all!”

“Is he gonna Bog her too?”

Shut up!”

Jareth sneers down at them all as he proudly displays his new 'captive', every inch the brash, arrogant king that he was to her all those years ago.

Oh, you smug son of a bitch.

In her realm, she's nothing more than a lowly mortal, but here … here, she was, and always will be a champion, and there's no way in hell she's letting him forget it. Fire burns in her chest, red-hot and wild, and she's suddenly determined that the cocky Goblin King won't get to defeat her – not then, not now, not ever.

Before Jareth can blink, she grabs him by the collar and kisses him, full on the mouth, right there where everyone can see. She takes full control, and the kiss is warm and sensuous, catching him entirely by surprise as she nibbles at his lower lip, before slipping her tongue into his mouth. He lowers their chained wrists at once, in the confusion. Still, she kisses him, waiting until he starts to respond, the tip of his tongue just touching hers, and then she pulls back. When she does, she sees his eyes have already begun to glaze over with pleasure. She knows that dark fog of lust when she sees it, but he doesn't let her see it for long. He's quick to turn back to his cowering subjects, clearly fighting to keep his control.

“Ahem. As I was saying. Of all the idiotic, despicable things you've done over the years, this is by far-”

She pulls his mouth back to hers and kisses him again, dragging her tongue over the full line of his lower lip this time. It feels incredible, teasing him this way, power and desire surging through her veins as once more she pulls back to leave him wanting.

This time, when she releases him, it takes his eyes a little longer to leave hers. When he addresses the goblins again, his voice has lost some of its surety.

“Yes, well. I've half a mind to-”

When she kisses him a third time, he surrenders completely, eyes fluttering closed as he kisses her back with abandon. The moan he gives against her lips is victorious music to her ears.

As the kiss deepens, she lets her hands move into his hair, stroking, soothing, voicing her own soft moans into his mouth as his strong hands slip around her body. The battle for control, the unruly goblins are forgotten completely, at least, until their captive audience starts a running commentary.

“Girl-who-ate-the-peach is winning again!”

“I told you she won!”

“Maybe he's her prisoner.”

“Maybe they're getting ready to play that game he sometimes plays with himself.”

“The bedroom game? Ugh, I don't want to be chained to him if he's gonna do that to us!”

“ … I do.”

Shut up!”

Dragged back to reality, the two lovers pull apart – but only a little.

A quick downward flick of her eyes tells her he's already starting to get hard – a problem he can't hope to hide in those leggings. Grinning, she brings her mouth to his ear for one last shot. “You were saying something about 'absolute control', Your Highness?”

“Out.” The word leaves Jareth's lips in a hot little whisper, rather than the vicious snarl he probably intended, and he frowns when the goblins don't immediately rush to obey. He raises his voice. “Out, now. You can start by setting the kitchen to rights, and then await Gaelan's further instruction. Any miserable creature who's still standing in this room in five seconds will be Bogged, and then Bogged again before they can even blink.” The threat of the Bog gets them moving quickly enough, Jareth's eyes flicking briefly after them, before returning to her. “And shut that infernal door on your way out,” he calls.

The moment the door is closed, he takes her face in his hands, kissing her hard enough to leave her lips tingling, her senses reeling. “Oh, you wicked, wonderful woman. Gods, I want you.” His words are hot against her mouth, his hands insistent as they rediscover her curves.

“I know.” She's burning to have him, but the pungent smell of the throne room is somewhat … off-putting. “I want you too, but … well, can't we go somewhere else?”

“Hm?” He tears his eyes away from her lips, as if noticing the state of the room for the very first time. “Oh, yes. Of course. We really shouldn't dwell here, but I suppose an hour or two couldn't hurt, safely confined in my bedchamber.”

With a wicked grin, Jareth draws her nearer. The world pitches and shifts, and then the two of them are standing in the middle of a grand bedroom, dominated by an enormous open fireplace and an exquisite four poster bed. She doesn't have time for such silly luxuries as taking in the scenery though, not when the Goblin King's mouth is so hot and wet and urgent, kissing her deeply, before trailing sinful fire all over her neck. From the wild way he's suckling at her delicate flesh, she knows he's going to leave a mark, and the thought of being branded by him gets her even wetter.

She leans into those ravishing kisses, head tipped back in absolute pleasure as he grips her by the ass, drawing her body in close. His stiff cock grinds against her moist core with every step as he walks her backwards towards the bed, the hard line of him just as urgent as his mouth. His hands slide up her back, edging up the hem of her shirt, and as he suckles at her throat, he releases a high-pitched, gleeful giggle.

Her mouth twists upward in surprise – it's so unlike any sound he's made before – and she pulls back … only to see he's just as bemused as she is.

“That … wasn't me,” he tells her.

She blinks at him. “Or me.”

Then the other sounds emerge.

At first, only one voice is distinguishable, excited squeaks and high, reedy cooing sounds. Then, beneath it, she hears low, guttural grunts, strangely rhythmic in their occurrence. It takes her a moment to realise both sets of sounds are coming from the massive bed, a moment longer to turn and see that the bedsheets appear to be moving. There's a small lump in the middle of the bed – a wriggling lump. A writhing lump.

“No. No.” Jareth is adamant as he releases her, in utter denial as he reaches past her to pull back the covers.

“Jareth, I don't think you should-”

It's far too late for thought.

The sight of a bare, greyish-green, hairy little goblin ass as it rises and falls in rhythm is enough to make them both recoil in utter, mind-numbing horror. The grunts, the squeaks, the thrusts seem to go on for what feels like an eternity, but is most likely only a couple of seconds, before the pair of horny goblins realise they've been caught. Before Sarah can shield her poor eyes, she catches sight of two pale, greenish blurs as they leap from the Goblin King's defiled bed, shrieking apologies and snatching up scattered bits of clothing as they go.

For a moment, the king himself stands perfectly still, his face etched with a strange blankness, the calm before the coming storm.

Then, the thunder strikes.

Jareth's voice booms loud enough to rock the very foundations of the castle. “My own bed. My own bed. MY OWN BED. You … youYOU …”

When she peeks between her fingers, she sees Jareth is almost purple with his rage, his mouth opening and closing in the ominous silence, his hands clenching into fists. There's a moment to see the look of pure, unadulterated horror on both goblins' faces, before they wink out of existence in a flash of orange light. For a moment, there's only the sound of Jareth's ragged breathing.

“You sent them to the Bog?” she finally dares to ask.

“The Cave,” he corrects her.

Something in his face tells her she never wants to find out what lies in the Cave.

“Of all the lowest, repulsive, wretched, insolent-”

He turns to look at her then, and at first appears thrown by what he sees; she's trembling, she knows, her eyes filled with tears. He actually tries to comfort her, before he realises she's actually shaking from holding back her laughter. The black cloud that steals over his gaze is enough to finally set her off, tears of mirth pouring down her cheeks as the joyful horror of the last few minutes escapes her in great, gasping whoops.

“I'm overjoyed you find this all so amusing, love.”

“Oh, I'm so- … I'm so sor- … I'm sorr- … eeeheehee …” She gulps, laugh-coughs, and tries again. “At least … at least you're not … not the only one here who … who-ooo … always wants to fuc- … to fuhhhuhu …” Giving up entirely, she doubles over, clutching at her aching belly as Jareth looks on in disdain. His disapproval only makes her laugh harder.

When she finally gets a hold of herself, choking down the odd little hiccups of laughter that come, she finds him staring at his tainted bed, wide-eyed with what's probably some sort of low-grade trauma. Feeling sorry for him, and relaxed into casual intimacy, she doesn't give it much thought when her arms encircle his waist, her body moulding to his hip. He turns in her embrace, and she kisses him soundly on the mouth, hoping to soothe the awful sight away for the both of them.

It takes him a minute to respond, but soon enough his hands are gripping her ass again, the solid length of him against her inner thigh quickly regaining its proud stature as their kiss grows more heated. When she draws back just enough to look at him, it's clear he wants to frown at her, but seems to be having real difficulty in doing so.

“I'm sorry,” she says, with a smile. “You can have the sheets changed, and in the meantime, there's always my bed.”

Jareth nods, perhaps not trusting himself to speak as he leans in to kiss her again. He gives a strange little sweep of his hand before he takes them to her bedroom, and it's only later – much later – that she realises what it means.

Exhausted after almost an hour of frantic, furious sex, she lies sated in the contented Goblin King's arms as he checks his messages once more. There's only a single scroll this time, signed by Gaelan. It thanks His Highness in dealing so promptly with the goblin issue, and though he's quick to reassure that no lasting damage has been done to the castle itself, he regretfully informs His Highness that in the chaos, someone appears to have set his bed on fire.

 

Chapter Text

There's something to be said about being kissed awake in the morning.

There's even more to be said about being rolled onto a warm, firm chest, then being kissed awake in the morning.

She's barely opened her eyes, and already soft lips are in the act of worshipping her cheeks, her chin, brushing across her jawline. He's smiling, his eyes are intent on hers, and when she finally gains enough sense to return his smile, he leans up to take her mouth. She can't help the sleepy grin that steals over her lips as she gives in, nor the heat that's quick to bloom inside her as she responds.

Jareth is polite enough to pull back for a brief “Good morning, love,” before his mouth is on hers again. His hands make an even more brief acquaintance with her hips, before moving further south to give their introductions elsewhere. He squeezes her, rocks her so that she can feel the hard length of him, pressed hot and heavy between their bodies, seeking out her moist core as it grinds against her. From the pale light in the room, dawn is only a thin whisper past, but evidently someone is up and all too eager to greet the day.

Sarah has a moment's gleeful hope that she might be just the thing to permanently cure him of his morning grumps, before she shoves the idea aside. No future, she tells herself, and then, because that hurts too much, no thoughts about the future. That's a little better, and thankfully enough for her to focus her energy on the succulent specimen of manhood beneath her.

She wriggles atop him until he's at just the right angle, causing them both to groan as he strokes along her wet heat to nudge at her clit. She pulls back from their kiss to gasp a little, and Jareth promptly turns his attention to her exposed neck, suckling and nibbling until she's moaning openly, grinding her hips down into his. He encourages her with a soft moan and a little smack to her ass. Insatiable. The man is an incredible fuck, and he's absolutely insatiable. She thinks that if she looked up the word in her battered dictionary, there would simply be a picture of him there – no doubt caught in the act of trying to slip his throbbing cock into something. She can only be grateful that something is currently her.

There's a moment where she wonders if all the pleasure of the past few days has made her start to lose her mind, but then Jareth is tugging at her earlobe with his teeth, and it's far too difficult to go on wondering.

It's a long, slow fuck that morning, with the real heat and speed only building right at the end when their need becomes too much. In the meantime, it gives her a long while to study him as he lies beneath her, memorising the little gasps and groans he gives, the way his lips twist in pleasure, his eyes bright as he watches her riding him. There's a deep satisfaction in those eyes, and for the first time in a long time, there's no awkwardness as she stares deep in to them.

There's a strange sort of purity here, an acceptance that washes through her alongside the growing warmth as her orgasm approaches. If this is all she can have, if this is all he can ever offer her – pleasure, and the desire to please – can she let it be enough? Does she really need love, when she can have him instead? She starts to move a little faster, aware of that feeling of perfection as he strokes her, fills her, aware of the way his blue eyes remain fixed on hers, even when her breasts bounce freely from their exertions. Breathing hard, arching into her, his hands clenched around her hips as they move together, he finally speaks again.

“You're so beautiful when you're about to come, love. So beautiful when you're coming for me.”

His words move something within her, and her head tips back in surrender, crying out to the ceiling as her climax tears through her. He holds on a moment longer, no doubt watching her ecstasy just before he finds his own release deep inside her. He feels so right, buried deep inside her. It's enough, she thinks, enough for now, because that sense of 'now' is all she can allow herself to have. Now, they come down together, bodies heaving in unison, and he cradles her to his chest as their breathing starts to even out.

There's a lot to be said for being kissed back to sleep, too, the feeling of warm lips against her hair, their bodies still joined as she dozes off again in the circle of his arms.

 

-

 

The time passes quickly, but well. Through some miracle – not to mention Molly's tireless and downright impressive efforts at covering her ass at the office – she manages to get enough work done from home for her continuing absence not to be questioned too hard. In her apartment, the comfort of their daily routine is surprising, given the ever-present chain. In the afternoons, Jareth occupies himself quietly with replying to his many messages, quills and parchments sharing desk space with her computer as she presses on with her own tasks.

She makes no more wishes for freedom, not while she's busy, buried as ever in the pages of someone else's love life. Somehow, she tuts and eye-rolls her way through a disappointing attempt at romance. In the manuscript, the handsome heartthrob is stinking rich, but his approach is as forceful and clumsy as Richard's was, his pawing attempts at sex making up for his lack of finesse with outright speed. Still, the heroine inevitably falls for the flashy car and the yacht and the fancy wedding, and Sarah chokes down bile long enough to remind herself she's getting paid for this. Meanwhile, her own little foray into domestic bliss seems to go on better than ever.

It's hard to remain tense and worried around someone who seems to know her almost as well as she knows herself, their conversations relaxed once more, dragging up silly memories from their shared past. Of course, it's impossible to forget entirely that her foolish wish is what's keeping him here, but Jareth genuinely doesn't seem to care. He kisses her thoroughly and often, as if he'll never tire of her mouth, doing it just for the sake of kissing her these days, and with no pretence at hiding his longing.

His morning magical assistance lessens somewhat, when the two of them discover that good old mortal bathing routines are much more fun when there's two people involved. He takes great care in soaping up her breasts and stroking beneath the damp curls between her legs, until her breathless cries ring loud and lustful off the tiles. He has a delightful habit of bringing her to a quick climax before having her, hard and soaking wet against the shower wall, where he'll prolong his own pleasure until she's ready to come for him again. She can't help noticing he takes even greater care in massaging her scalp as he washes her hair, urging her head back to relax against his chest as he takes care of her.

They share the cooking, and she's keen to show him her own skills aren't lacking. She treats him one evening, enjoying the way his hands bestow casual little touches to her shoulders and hips as she whips together a rich dessert that's sure to please his sweet tooth. She loves the way his lips purse around a mouthful of the peach cream pie she's made, loves the way his eyes drift closed in pleasure. Even better is the way those eyes widen again as she kneels before him, adding to his bliss by taking him inside her mouth as he eats.

They feed off one another, their time together warm and nourishing for the soul, peaceful and undeniably good. Still, as with all good things, she knows it must come to an end.

There's a little niggle sometimes when she sees just how many letters he has to deal with – a constant reminder that there's something big happening in his realm right now. She finally gains the courage to ask about it when they're tangled in her bed one night together, his essence still damp on her thighs.

“Is Gaelan handling all the planning okay?”

“I should think so, pet, now that the castle's set to rights again, and those miserable little worms are returned to the Goblin City. It'll be much easier for him to deal with a castle full of welcome guests, than that ungrateful rabble.”

She runs a finger down the middle of his chest, as if drawing a path for her own thoughts. “Shouldn't you be there? I mean, you're their king. They'll expect you to greet them.”

Jareth's voice is a soothing rumble against her hair. “Yes, but what's expected of me and what I choose to do are two entirely different things.”

“That's just it – you're not choosing. You're only here because of me.”

He kisses her forehead. “I do wish you wouldn't start this again. Things are … the way they are.”

“Yes, because of me.” She lifts her head, looking up at him and speaking before he can start to soothe her again. “Be honest with me – this thing you've been planning, it's some big event, isn't it? Not something a king would normally miss out on. You should be there.”

After only a brief hesitation, he grants her a nod. “Mabon is the autumnal equinox, love. It's one of the biggest gatherings of the year. Feasting, dancing, giving thanks for the blessings bestowed upon us.” He gives the gentlest of sighs, and she can hear the longing in it. “The night itself, I host one of the biggest balls of the year. It's a wonderful celebration. At any other time, it's something I'd love to be able to show to you.”

“Why not now? You said you weren't ashamed to be seen chained to me.”

He gives a small lift of his mouth. “Perhaps not, in casual circumstances, but it's hardly proper to parade you before my guests as some sort of slave I've chosen to drag along.”

She raises up on her elbow, staring down at him, searching his face. “You're ashamed to have me there, aren't you? A silly little mortal girl in front of all your subjects, just like back then.”

Jareth rolls his eyes. “Sarah, if you'll recall, back then I had no qualms about dancing with you before anyone who would look upon us. No, there are things at play here that you don't understand. Perhaps if our sexual union had broken the chain-”

“Which it still hasn't,” she grumbles.

“No, though we could experiment further, if you like," he says, beginning to smirk. "A different time of day, a different position …” His grin grows positively lewd. “A different entrance, perhaps.”

A little flutter passes through her stomach, her cheeks aflame with embarrassment and a surprising amount of lust. She turns away onto her side before he can see it. “Oh, yeah, that'd just be the perfect fairytale ending,” she snaps.

His arm slides around her from behind, drawing her body close. “I'm only teasing, love.” He presses a kiss to her hair, and another to the nape of her neck, making her skin prickle with heat. “Although,” he continues, his voice taking on a lower register, “I wouldn't put it past some of your storybook heroines. Witches and wicked stepmothers locking them away in towers, hopelessly repressed and denied any pleasures of the flesh for all those years …”

He starts to apply a little of that pleasure himself now, stroking along her bare stomach, hip and thigh as he goes on. “So very, desperately lonely, with just their dreams of rescue and their busy little fingers for company. They're all alone, and just getting more desperate, panting … wetter … waiting for the brave, virile hero to finally whisk them away from it all … and when he does, when all that delicious sexual frustration gets to come out to play … to go wild …” His lips tickle her earlobe, and his warm whisper is sin itself. “Well, I can imagine they'd love it up the arse.”

She can't help the little groan that leaves her mouth. “You're awful.

Jareth chuckles. “Oh, you love me.”

She shifts back to look at him a lot quicker than she intends. “Why did you say that?”

His eyebrows lift a little, his eyes unreadable. “Just a joke, Sarah,” he says, quieter now, before he risks a small smile. “No more mocking the damsels in distress – I get it.”

Clearly, he doesn't get it, but she can't very well tell him that. His casual, throwaway mention of love clutters up her already messy head, and it takes her a moment to even remember to return his smile. If he notices something wrong, he gives no sign. He's waiting for her to respond, and she tries to think of something light-hearted to improve the mood, but then her heart gives a sudden lurch, and she shoots him an incredulous stare. “Is the only reason you're in bed with me at every available opportunity just an escape attempt? Is trying to break the chain the only reason you … we …?”

He raises an eyebrow. “Well, not the only reason. It's been mutually pleasurable, after all, but it doesn't hurt to try it.”

It's impossible for him to realise just how much that does hurt her. It's just sex – she's been telling herself it's just sex for days, now, but for him to just come right out and say it seems unthinkable. “You're unbelievable,” she whispers, dropping her gaze to his chest, unable to go on looking into those eyes she's come to need so much.

“Come now, you can't tell me the same thought hadn't crossed your mind. Attached … sex … you would have tried anything to get rid of me. You were quite vocal about wanting me gone, at least at first.” He runs a knuckle under her chin, tilting her head up towards him again as he smiles, soothing the blow. “It's been a lot of fun for both of us, love, hasn't it? You can't deny that.”

Perhaps it has, but she knows deep down, sex or no, she's already as attached as these things can go. It's great, but it isn't enough. It isn't enough. Oh, god. Deep breaths, Sarah. In. Out. In again. Oh, fuck him for being this way. Out again. Great. Fun. Fun is all he wants. She can do fun. “So why not have a little extra fun by going to the ball?” she asks.

“Sarah, I already told you-”

She fixes her eyes firmly on his, giving away nothing. “We've known each other for years. It's stupid for us to be embarrassed when it means missing one of the biggest events of the year. We're friends, aren't we? Give me one good reason why we can't just go and have a lovely evening together.”

They look at one another for a long time, but it's he who drops his gaze first. “I can't. I can't give you a reason.”

She takes his defeat with a small smile. “Then let's just do it. Two friends, stuck together indefinitely, just looking for a good time.”

When Jareth finally meets her eyes again, he returns her smile, but it's still a little uncertain. “All right, you win. You've got yourself an invite. We will … we'll have a good time. As friends. I'll speak to Gaelan in the morning, make the proper arrangements.” His smile grows more confident, widening as his gaze moves lower, taking in the darkened peaks of her nipples in the cool air. He traces one with a light fingertip, causing her breath to catch in her throat. His eyes flicker with heat as he hears it, his finger quick to repeat the motion. “And … in the meantime, would you be opposed to having a different sort of 'good time' right now?”

In spite of all her reservations, the warning bells that tell her she's only making things worse, she most certainly wouldn't.

 

Chapter Text

Mabon is drawing nearer by the day, days that are filled with work and pleasure in equal amounts, nights filled with nothing but Jareth. The plans are all in place, all but the one thing she's been dreading. It's the age old problem: she has a closet full of clothes, and not a damned thing to wear. What item of clothing does she own that could possibly be deemed worthy of one of the Underground's biggest celebrations of the year? She can only imagine the Goblin King's face if she tried to drag him around the mall to find something.

It's a foolish thing to fret about, given everything else she has to worry about right now, but one that her brain can't seem to leave alone. As the time ticks down, bright red exclamation marks start to flash in her mind, keeping her awake even longer than Jareth's amorous attentions usually do. As much as she hates herself for thinking it, she's desperate not to shame him in any way, but too afraid to do anything about it. With less than half a week to go, the idea of dragging a dismayed Goblin King past a food court full of screaming kids starts to look more and more appealing.

Thankfully, ever proud of his own appearance as he is, Jareth brings up the subject himself one morning. He runs his fingers through her hair, his bare chest rising and falling gently beneath her splayed hand.

“Have you thought about what you'll wear for the Mabon festivities yet? Not that I'm in any rush to get you dressed, mind.”

She presses her head against his shoulder to hide her grin. “I … uh … was kind of hoping you'd help me there. I don't exactly know what's appropriate for this kind of thing.”

His voice carries a trace of amusement. “You'd trust me to dress you?”

She lifts her head long enough to give him a wry smile. “You did the last time I was at one of your parties. Not that I had a choice then.”

He gives a soft snort of laughter. “True. Well, let's start there then. I seem to remember lots of jewels, lots of silver, lots of sleeve …”

She groans. “Please tell me your realm isn't eternally stuck in the eighties, and please tell me you aren't going to use one of my trinket boxes for inspiration this time.”

Jareth chuckles, giving one of her breasts a little squeeze. “Cheeky little minx. No, not quite, love. Although, seeing as we'll be in public, I'd be rather concerned about using any of your adult-self's selection of toys to draw inspiration from, particularly that noisy little thing you keep in your bottom drawer.”

Her mouth drops open. “When did you-? Oh, you son of a-”

“-former king and queen,” he finishes for her, “and as royalty, I'll make certain you're dressed to my standards.” When she rolls her eyes and pouts a little, he leans in to nip at her earlobe. “Leave it with me, I'll have something tailored. Still silver, I think. Silver suits you, and you deserve to look positively gorgeous – not that you aren't already.”

She rolls her eyes again, but can't help a secret little smile at the compliment, her face now safely buried against his shoulder again to hide it. “Are you sure there's time to make me something? Only three days left …”

“Trust me, precious.”

For a wonder, she does.

A goblin arrives that same afternoon to take her measurements, appearing in her kitchen suddenly enough to upset her fruit bowl and make her almost choke on the sandwich she's eating. Jareth claps her on the back whilst simultaneously managing to chide the creature for his intrusion. To both Sarah's and the goblin's mutual relief, his words lack the venom of their last unfortunate meeting.

This goblin is a shifty-looking thing though, eyeing the remains of their lunch until Jareth is forced to clear his throat to bring the creature back to the task at hand, and lingering long enough on Sarah's bust measurements for the Goblin King to outright growl. The creature disappears quickly enough after that, apparently having decided he has what he needs after all. Later, Sarah is positive that her fruit bowl is an apple or two lighter.

“The joys of home,” Jareth sighs. “Dealing with their like on a regular basis.”

She smiles at him. “I'm sure at least the parties are worth it. I'm really looking forward to seeing what it's like … particularly since I actually agreed to attend this one, and I'm not on a time limit.”

“You're never going to let me live that damned peach thing down, are you?”

“Not until you make it up to me with another dance.” A part of her can't help but hope that the magic she felt on that long ago night will be present at this ball as well.

 

-

 

Mabon rolls around quickly enough, and Jareth begins the day of worship and feasting by busying his mouth between her thighs. He's good at this, far better than he has any right to be, and as usual the connection between them, the euphoric high he sends her to leaves her dazed and breathless. When he's finally finished with her, he rests his cheek on her trembling thigh, smiling up at her as she slowly comes down. She runs her fingers through his thick hair, still panting and revelling in the moment.

“Oh, god,” she gasps, her own smile stretching her lips. “You're so … I can't believe … love you.” The moment the words leave her mouth, her heart drops like a stone into her stomach. She stares down at him with something akin to horror, but Jareth only goes on smiling his little smile.

“What was that, pet?” he asks softly, stroking gentle fingers across her belly. “You're rather incoherent when you've just come.”

“I … I said I love you doing that.”

“Good. Then I'll just have to keep on doing it.” His smile widens just a fraction before he presses one last kiss to her mound.

With her heart still hammering in her chest, she urges him onto his back, quick to busy her own mouth before it can get her into any more trouble.

With nothing to do but prepare for the party, they while away most of the day in bed, lazing around, touching, teasing, tasting one another. It's probably the laziest day she's spent in a long time, but he manages to make her feel like a goddess throughout it. By the time evening rolls around, she's almost reluctant to share him with a room full of guests, but at the same time bursting with excitement at the thought of dancing with him again.

“Close your eyes, love,” he tells her.

She rolls them instead. “Haven't you given me enough surprises already?”

“No. Close them.”

Only the softest sigh escapes her as she obeys. Magic seems to flash behind her eyelids, a gentle warmth flooding her skin. “Done?” she asks, unable to keep a smile from her lips.

“Almost. Just one more thing.” He leaves her waiting a few seconds longer before covering her mouth with his own. It's a brief but tender kiss, causing her smile to positively bloom as he pulls back. “Okay. Now.”

Her eyes flutter open, and then widen at the sight before her. Jareth is immaculate in an elegant midnight-blue frock coat and silk cravat, pinned by his royal crest. Teamed with matching boots, leggings, and a crisp white shirt, he looks every inch the handsome, dignified gentleman, like he's just stepped out of a period romance, rather than an eighties music video. When he shifts under her close inspection, she sees that the frock coat seems to glisten with its own light; it isn't quite glitter, but the subtle shimmering effect suits his personality perfectly.

He wears a simple black domino mask on his face, but there's no mistaking the mismatched blue eyes that stare out from beneath it. Right now, those eyes are fixed on her. He's almost enough to take her breath away for a moment. As much as she wants to see those eyes gazing at her and only her in a roomful of people, a part of her wants to see them hooded with lust as his body moves above her, wearing nothing but that mask.

She nods her approval, cracking a grin, and he seems to preen at the attention he's getting. “Not bad,” she allows. “Very fancy. Very regal.”

Jareth gives a comical roll of his eyes. “Naturally. Never mind me though; look.” He places a hand upon her bare – bare? – shoulder, steps behind her, and turns her to face herself in her bedroom mirror.

This time, her breath actually does catch in her throat.

He promised her a silver dress, and the strapless, ankle-length gown that now drapes her body is the shade of palest moonbeams. It catches the light with the subtle glow of silk, but the material doesn't have the same heavy hang, lighter than air as it kisses at her every curve. Her hair has been left down, pulled back from her face in loose curls, her dark locks pinned back with glistening starbursts of what look to be diamonds. As she turns her head, she sees there are tiny flowers woven into her curls too, pale and delicate, their sweet perfume catching her nose.

A silver half-mask covers the upper part of her face, a delicate floral scroll-work pattern etched on it in grey, small clusters of diamonds embellishing the corner of each eye. The jewels also dot her ears and adorn her décolletage on a thin gold chain, subtle yet elegant. On her right wrist is a heavy golden cuff to match the one that already encircles her left, instantly turning the thing that binds them into a thing of beauty, what appears to be simply part of her jewellery. Clearly, Jareth has thought of everything, but Sarah never thought she could look this way. For a woman who never really dresses up to go to this

Jareth steals her thoughts, and a brief kiss, pressed against her left shoulder. “You're stunning,” he says. “Absolutely stunning.”

She smiles at the stranger in the mirror, and the woman before her smiles back. “I look … I never even thought I could …” A nervous laugh escapes her. “It's amazing what a little magic can do.”

His voice is soft against the crook of her neck, his hands slipping around her body from behind to caress her stomach. “My magic could never make you more than you already are, precious. It simply brings out the beauty that's already there. You look perfect because you are perfect. If I had my way …”

She meets his eyes in the mirror, and the longing she sees in them is so powerful that it makes her insides actually ache. She shivers in his warm embrace, and then in a blink that look is gone, replaced by a rakish grin.

“If I had my way, lovely as your dress is, I'd have you out of it in a heartbeat. You look positively edible, love, and you know just how much I enjoy eating you …”

She laughs and rolls her eyes, leaning back to enjoy the heat of his body. “I think you've had more than enough of me today already.”

“Oh, I'll never have enough of you.” He gives a low growl against her neck, gracing her tingling flesh with one last kiss before he releases her. “Alas, I promised you a ball, and now I fear I'll have to take you there and share the sight of this deliciously dressed body with everyone else. I suppose I'll manage to keep my hands off it for a while.”

His words are such a direct echo of her own thoughts that she has to bite back a giggle. “Wouldn't want you to be late for your big entrance. I know you probably have it choreographed and everything.”

“I suggest you stay that impudent tongue before it gets you in real trouble, pet.” He manages to sneak in a firm grope of her ass, immediately setting the precedent for just how long he can manage to keep his hands off her this evening. “Now, I suggest you keep your arm linked with mine throughout the evening, that should camouflage our binds a little. We might get a few curious stares, but give it a couple of hours and most of my guests will be too drunk to see the chain even if we dangle it under their noses.”

She raises her eyebrows. “Why, Your Highness,” she says, beginning to smirk. “I thought it didn't bother you who saw us chained together. Could it be that the great Goblin King is embarrassed?”

Jareth cocks his head, chin up so that he's staring down the hard ridge of his nose at her. “Perish the thought, precious. I was only thinking of your level of comfort. There are certain … associations that come with a lovely young woman, such as yourself, being seen to be chained to a man of my stature. Of course, if you have no qualms about being seen to be either my slave, or my concubine-”

“Okay, so what do we do?” She's far too quick to speak; her voice emerges high-pitched and reedy.

The wicked Goblin King grins. “Shy after all, I see. Very well, love. As I said, just keep your arm linked with mine. After all, it would be much more in your favour to be seen as an honoured guest I'm escorting, rather than-”

Her arm is through his in an instant, her fingers pressing into the crook of his elbow. “I get the picture. Let's go. Now.”

Her companion gives a low chuckle. “A pity. You clearly have the obedience of a concubine, not to mention certain other … benefits.”

Before she can even manage to stutter a response, there's a shimmer of light around them, and when she can finally open her eyes against the brightness, they've left the familiar confines of her room behind.

 

Chapter Text

They arrive into a sea of colour, deep oranges and sumptuous reds, rich browns and glistening golds. So far, they seem to be the only guests. The air is quiet, pregnant with the expectation of what is to come. Sarah's first thought is that they've come into some lush forest as they did on her last visit here; everything around them seems to be full of life.

The ground beneath their feet is covered in a fragrant blanket of golden leaves and flower petals. Thick ivy and hanging vines climb around them, heavy with an assortment of tantilising fruits and gorgeous flowers; curling branches reach above their heads to form delicate arches, hung with glittering baubles and carefully tied ribbons. A multitude of coloured lights twinkle and dance amongst the branches and leaves, what may very well be tiny living creatures adding their own spark and spirit to the festivities. Even the air smells sweet and fresh and new. It's only when she catches the odd glimpse of whitewashed stone through the dense flora that she realises they must be inside a corridor of Jareth's castle. It's a total transformation. Gaelan has truly outdone himself in preparing all this.

She takes it all in for just a moment, eyes wide, lips parted, cheeks aglow with pleasure. When she looks to Jareth she sees he's watching the wonder unfurl in her face, rather than the scenery around them. There's something curious within his mismatched eyes. It takes her a moment longer to read it for what it is: anticipation. He's waiting for the light that must surely be in her eyes to be put into words. She squeezes his arm a little tighter and smiles.

“It's beautiful. Thank you. Thank you so much for sharing tonight with me,” she says. The pleased grin he gives in return is all the answer she needs.

There's a bronze-coloured curtain of thinly plaited vines directly before them, decked with dozens of small flowers. With a sweep of his arm, Jareth draws it aside. Immediately, music and merry laughter flood the senses, as though held back until now by some enchantment. They emerge into a grand ballroom, and Sarah sees hundreds of masked and beautifully dressed guests already dancing and revelling beneath the golden light cast down from the ornate chandeliers that hang above. Many of them start to turn at the sight of their king, murmurs of pleasure rippling through the crowd. Intentional or no, it looks like the Goblin King has gotten to make his grand entrance after all. Sarah's belly tightens at the sight of so many strangers and strange creatures, but Jareth is there by her side, squeezing her arm right back, smiling out from beneath his dark mask.

“You're going to shine amongst them, love. I know it. Will you come with me, celebrate with me?”

Sarah gives him a small smile. “Lead the way.”

It feels a little strange, but on the whole good to be on his arm as he leads them on a slow cycle around the room, making introductions and polite conversation. It's clearly been a long time since some of the guests have seen their king, and they're eager to greet him and his companion for the night. Jareth introduces her by name, and gives no further explanation as to her status nor presence here, but by mere association with the king, she hears herself called 'Lady Sarah' so many times that she finally gives up on correcting them. She finds herself kissed on both cheeks more times than she can count, marvelled over and made much of by the elite of the Goblin King's realm. Names and faces all blur into one, no matter how hard she tries to remember them. There's too many for her to keep track of, and yet more to come.

She sees happiness and well-meaning staring out at her from dozens of pairs of eyes, the broad smiles underneath the varied masks telling her that these well-wishers are genuine in their enthusiasm. However, she can't help but notice that some of them seem to step back from the pair of them too quickly after greeting their king, as though unsettled by, or at the very least unsure of her presence. She isn't given time to dwell on it though, as more introductions are made, more smiling guests clasp her free hand and kiss her cheeks, and Jareth slips easily into his role as host. A little schmoozing seems to be needed; the king hasn't been seen in his realm for days, and it seems everyone wants a piece of him.

He's charming and witty, and makes her feel completely at ease even with so many strangers, drawing her into every conversation, rather than leaving her on the sidelines. He's respectful of her too, hands always in their proper place, with none of the groping they get up to in the privacy of their own company. The arm linked with hers is nothing but gentlemanly, yet he still manages to make her smile with the occasional touch with his free hand, light and affectionate, brushing a stray hair away from her face; a light caress of her shoulder when he introduces her to a particularly good friend.

He leans in close now and then to murmur in her ear, warnings on how not to let an ageing faun draw her into a debate over human beliefs and religions – she'll never hear the end of it, Jareth insists; he passes on bits of gossip about some of the more interesting guests.

A comment about two raven-haired identical twins standing in the far corner – each wearing his own emerald-green mask – leaves Sarah's mouth hanging open in shock. Apparently, for the last couple of centuries, the two brothers have been playing at tricking a beautiful wood nymph they both love, each taking it in turn to pretend at being the other, that they might spend a night in her arms under the guise of a single name.

Jareth laughs at her shock, leaning in even closer to divulge the rest of the tale: the crafty young nymph wanted both men for herself from the beginning, pitting the brothers against one another so that she might have the best of both worlds. The brothers believe she loves only one of them, and give her that single name each time, but the nymph finds her pleasure in loving them both. It's no longer clear exactly who's tricking who, but the three of them seem contented enough to go on fucking one another indefinitely, and so no one interferes in their affair.

When Sarah asks, only half-jokingly, if everyone here has such an adventurous sex life, Jareth gives her a grin. “They do now,” he says, with a wink.

He hasn't so much as kissed her hand in over an hour, and yet her body remains warm all over for him, just by being in his presence. She's practically purring as he continues to show her off to the other guests. With her head full of half-remembered names and titles, it takes her a while to place exactly how she's feeling, why Jareth's treatment of her pleases her quite so much.

A queen, Sarah. He's acting as if you're his goddamn queen.

If Jareth notices her slight stumble during that moment of sudden revelation, he doesn't say a word.

In a rare moment of respite from the other guests, he guides her towards a long table, laden with all sorts of different fae food and drink; she hadn't even realised it, but her stomach is starting to growl. If Gaelan has outdone himself on planning this celebration, the castle's chef has positively laid heaven on a platter before the guests. Jareth encourages her to try a little of everything, smiling as she gives soft little sighs of pleasure around each delicious mouthful she tries.

He joins her in sampling a bite here and there off the various dishes and trays, but he seems more intent in watching her enjoy herself. It's a most inopportune time to remember his comment about finding eroticism in the sight of a woman eating, but the thought wedges itself in her mind and refuses to budge. From the sly grin he wears, he's thinking it too. He lifts a morsel of something between his fingers, and brings it to her lips, miming for her to part them. She accepts with an embarrassed little eye-roll, allowing him to slide the hors d'oeuvre into her mouth. Feeling a little wicked, she's sure to brush her lips over his thumb as she takes his offering.

She starts to chew, and a multitude of flavours explode onto her tongue: pastry and some sort of savoury cream, alongside at least a half dozen different rich vegetables, the likes of which she's never tasted before. Her eyes roll again, this time in bliss. Her pleasure must be written on her face, as Jareth grins at her before sucking the thumb her lips touched briefly into his own mouth. While her belly is still fluttering from the sight, he slips a fluted silver goblet into her free hand.

“For the toast,” he explains. “I suggest you go easy after the token mouthful. Far be it from me to tell you what you can and can't drink, love, but it's a lot stronger than any champagne you're used to.”

She only nods, still trying to accept the beauty of the room and of him, the beauty of this whole night. She toys with the thin stem of her goblet, giving her idle hand something to do, and can't repress her smile when Jareth slips easily behind her, drawing their linked arms lightly up her back in the process. It gives her the delicious sensation of being trapped but not really, held at the Goblin King's mercy. He uses the pretence of reaching for a goblet for himself to lean his body into hers, reaching his free arm in an achingly slow gesture around her hips towards the table. His hand lingers over the pre-poured selection of drinks, and the point of his chin pushes against her bare shoulder, his lips nuzzling briefly into the tender line of her neck. He inhales deeply, and she feels him smile against her.

“You really are beautiful, you know that? There's not a man in this room who doesn't envy me right now. Gods, I'd like to show them just what they're missing.”

She manages to hold back the goofiest of giggles, but only with a terrific amount of willpower. “What happened to keeping your hands off me?”

“I think I'm doing a splendid job.” Before her, Jareth splays his hand and turns it palm side up, a one-armed shrug. True enough, that hand hasn't actually touched her, and continues not to as he finally chooses a goblet. Still, she isn't fooled by this show of innocence. He draws his arm back, goblet and fingers only a hair's breadth away from her body. For just a moment, his lips move closer to her earlobe. “However, I never said a thing about my mouth.” He plants a tiny kiss directly beneath her ear, and it leaves her burning.

She shudders, and curses herself, knowing he'll feel it. An involuntary, “Huhmm,” escapes her.

“Eloquent as well as beautiful, I see.” Jareth retreats to a more gentlemanly distance, the picture of propriety once more as he escorts her on his arm. He tilts his goblet towards her, and graces her with a wicked grin. “Come, pet. I think it's past time I gave the gathered masses their little speech so they can start getting pissed.”

Even without the benefit of a raised step or platform to perform the toasts from, Jareth commands the room with his deep, rich voice. Every eye is upon them, and after a brief moment of panic, Sarah finds herself watching the Goblin King along with the rest of the guests, a private smile made entirely public before their audience. She finds she doesn't mind a bit. Jareth greets everyone, lords and ladies, various magical creatures alike, as if they're old friends, making light of his brief absence while giving no excuse nor explanation for it.

There are chuckles throughout the crowd when he begins the yearly offering of thanks by thanking Gaelan wholeheartedly for keeping the castle standing in his stead. The red-haired castellan steps forward to give a dutiful little bow, looking splendid in scarlet and gold, a nervous smile winking on and off beneath his chequered pantalone mask. Sarah grins at him outright, and is delighted to see that smile grow a shade brighter before he slips back into the crowd to hide. The man deserves praise for all he's done tonight.

More thanks are given. Sarah doesn't understand all of the references, but Jareth speaks plainly and passionately about his realm, and it's obvious the year has been a prosperous one. His sonorous tones soothe and ground her, and she finds her gaze wandering over the crowd, taking in all there is to see. There's no sign of Gaelan – no doubt the man has retreated into safe anonymity now that his work is done – but she spots two familiar faces in the form of the troublemaking twins Jareth pointed out earlier. Sarah has to bite back a grin when she sees a willowy-looking brunette standing, smiling between the two men, both brothers' eyes now locked on her rather than their king. Who exactly is fooling who? She leaves them to their complicated affair as she goes on people watching.

Through the throngs of guests, a sea of different wigs and masks, there's one who continues to draw Sarah's attention back to her. For a start, she seems to be the only guest – besides the two enamoured twins, of course – who doesn't seem to be watching her king. No, the woman's eyes seem reserved solely for her. They make eye contract more than once, Sarah growing more and more uncomfortable each time, with how long their gaze holds. She is always the first to break it.

It isn't that the woman looks ominous. A mysterious little smile seems to have taken permanent residence upon the pink mouth beneath her copper-coloured domino, warming what would otherwise be a simply striking pixie-like face into unearthly beauty. She's tall and lithe, with skin so pale it seems almost to glow with silver light. Her hair is a sheet of golden silk, shot through with strands of warm copper, to match the form-fitting gown she wears. She stands out a mile, even amongst the array of stunning fae beauty around her. Sarah can't help looking back at her now and then, and is slightly worried to see the woman still staring right back at her, still smiling, refusing even to blink under her gaze.

Cheers and applause erupt around them as Jareth finishes his speech and makes the ceremonial toast, but Sarah hardly tastes her small sip of champagne. Though the mysterious woman continues to smile at her, quite warmly in fact, Sarah can't help her growing unease. The feeling only grows stronger when the crowd finally disperses, and Jareth turns to her with a smile, some joking quip already on his lips. His smile dies when he follows her gaze and sees just who she's looking at. He stiffens almost imperceptibly, but Sarah feels the motion all the way through their joined arms, clutching tight within her chest. Clearly the mysterious woman and the Goblin King are already acquainted.

He recovers quickly, a careful mask of mild boredom swift to replace the clear shock in his eyes and the tightness of his mouth. “Come on,” he says, in a low voice. “I'm afraid there are lots of other guests I must speak with, lest I be called a dreadful host.”

It doesn't take her long to see that Jareth is deliberately avoiding any sort of meeting with one guest in particular.

Whenever the woman raises her head to be seen through the crowd, Jareth turns them slightly in a different direction, shaking hands and accepting kisses, making yet more polite small talk. Sarah hardly pays attention to him. Her eyes are trained on only the golden-haired woman, picking her out through the scores of smiling guests, and panicking when she finally loses track of her in the crowd. She turns to Jareth, almost ready to say something about the mysterious woman, but then she senses an undeniable presence behind them, feels warm eyes moving along the back of her neck. Before she can move, a pale, long-fingered hand closes around Jareth's shoulder.

It's alarming to feel just how hard her heart is pounding as the two of them turn together to face the woman – more so as, for the first time that evening, Jareth actually releases his tight hold on her arm.

“Orlaith.” His voice gives away nothing.

“Jareth, dear. At last.”

The woman is even more beautiful close up. Her eyes are the same deep, polished copper as the thin streaks in her hair, her smile positively enchanting as it flashes for the receptive Goblin King. Sarah looks between them, the man and the woman, so much and so little to read from just one stare. Of course he has history, any man has history, but the woman standing directly in his present is clearly not quite so ancient history as he's lead her to believe. Not his queen, but what, then? The three of them spend a long moment of silence in each other's company, but it's plain to Sarah that, in the golden-haired woman's eyes, she might as well not be there at all.

“Well, what's the matter with you?” the woman asks in a silky tone. “Come here, you awful thing.” There's a scent of oranges and cinnamon as the woman leans in closer, and Sarah can feel the exact moment her heart rips in two: the moment Orlaith brings her lips to Jareth's cheek in a warm, welcoming kiss.

Who's fooling who, indeed?

Chapter Text

The kiss is mercifully brief, but that means little to Sarah's shattered dreams. By the time Jareth draws back from it – quicker than the other woman seems willing to, she notices – Sarah can hear the blood pounding in her ears, the rest of their conversation seeming to come from far away.

“I was under the distinct impression you would not be here,” Jareth says, each word a sliver of ice.

“I could say the same for you. 'Unavoidably detained', 'much too busy to attend' … you made it quite clear you had no intention of being here tonight.” Orlaith cocks an exquisitely groomed eyebrow. “It's a good thing I know you better than you know yourself, wicked man, to realise you were lying. Now I see it was all a ruse to get out of seeing me. If I didn't know any better, I'd say you positively relished all our time spent apart. I'm hurt, Jareth.” The teasing smirk on the golden woman's features, so similar to that of the Goblin King, says she's anything but.

Jareth isn't smiling. “Yes, well, it's good to see you,” he mutters.

Orlaith's smile brightens. “Is it? You've been avoiding me all evening. Not like you to be shy, darling. Any particular reason you wouldn't want to come say hello to your nearest, dearest friend?” She tilts her head towards Sarah in a not-so-subtle hint.

Jareth ignores it. “I have many other guests to take up my time, Orlaith.”

“Not ones who you've so cruelly denied a long overdue meeting. Honestly, Jareth, making me wait to see you with the rest of the unworthy huddled masses, running in every direction but mine tonight. I've missed you, you silly thing. Whatever happened to our dinner plans? The outing last week? You missed the rest of the celebrations.”

“I told you, I was detained elsewhere. I trust you received my letters.”

Orlaith makes a show of rolling her eyes. “Every one of them, dear, but you were so secretive in your reasons.” Those striking eyes flick over to Sarah's for the first time, her electric smile never seeming to fade a watt. “I can only guess what the cause of your detainment was. Something – or, rather, someone – you neglected to mention to me. At all.”

Jareth chooses to remain silent, leaving Sarah to stand awkwardly beside him and giving the other woman ample opportunity to take in … who, exactly? Her rival? Is that what Sarah has become? Oh, but how could she even dream of competing? Even in all of her borrowed finery, Sarah feels frumpy and foolish as the elegant woman's gaze sweeps over her entire body, turning her beautiful silver dress to rags with just those gleaming copper eyes. What made her feel actually beautiful in the safety of her own apartment now seems to be a cause of amusement to the glamorous fae woman before her; Orlaith seems to actually be holding in the urge to laugh.

“Whatever have you got the poor dear wearing, Jareth?” she scolds. “It's hardly … appropriate for this evening. Surely, you must know that.”

Beside Sarah, Jareth stiffens, a subtle tightening of their chain. “I hardly think it's your place to question it.”

“It's always my place to question your mistakes, Jareth. You make so many of them.” The smiling woman turns back to Sarah again. “Forgive me, my dear, I'm being rude. I'm … surprised, is all, to see you here tonight. You look lovely, of course. Absolutely perfect … in spite of the circumstances.”

Somehow, Sarah manages to fix a perfectly warm, perfectly false smile on her face. “Thank you. So … so do you.” The word feel like chunks of ice as they fall clumsily from her lips.

“Courteous as well.” Orlaith turns her beaming smile back on Jareth, now. “A delight to hear. She is a lovely little thing, isn't she? Now I can rather understand why you've kept me waiting so long.”

“Orlaith, this isn't-”

“Oh, hush, dear. I know exactly what this is. I have been watching the pair of you tonight, you know. Anyone would think … well, how could they not? Now, if your lovely … guest … doesn't mind, I think it's high time I whisked you away to have ourselves a little chat, about exactly what is and what isn't appropriate.” Her hand closes with easy familiarity around Jareth's elbow. “Don't worry, dear, I'll have His Highness back to you in just a few minutes.” Her eyes are only on the Goblin King now; she has no room for Sarah in them, hasn't even cared to ask for her name.

Jareth pulls back. “I can't.”

Orlaith's smile actually widens. “Oh, nonsense, silly man. She can spare you for just a little while,” she all but purrs. She starts to tug on his arm then, and when Jareth resists, that's when her eyes fall on the slim chain keeping the Goblin King bound. She gives a little squeak of surprise, and it seems to pierce the room, several pairs of eyes turning to find the source. Jareth gives a low grunt, perhaps of anger at the discovery, perhaps dismay, but Sarah only focuses on the other woman. Orlaith seems to have lost a little of her initial confidence, and Sarah immediately feels a bitter little stab of glee.

See? You can't just take him away from me … at least not yet. The thought is petty, but god, it's satisfying.

“Oh. Oh, my.”

Orlaith looks positively wounded, Jareth seems to be the most uncomfortable she's ever seen him, pale and tightly drawn, and Sarah … Sarah just wants to sink right through the floor, and crawl into the darkest oubliette she can find. She can feel herself blushing at the shame of it all. Around them, it seems everyone is listening.

“The two of you are-”

“Chained together? Yes, we had noticed,” Jareth snaps.

“Then, this isn't-?”

“No,” he growls. “It most certainly is not.”

“Oh.” Her face seems to fall even further. “Oh, but I thought that … well, it's been far too long to have … oh, Jareth, you can't seriously still-”

“Orlaith,” Jareth seems to draw himself taller as he overrides her, in full, daunting Goblin King form now. “As lovely as it's been to see you, dear, perhaps it's time you reacquainted yourself with some of the other guests. We will discuss this at length later – much later.”

The golden-haired woman nods. “Yes … Sire. My apologies,” She seems chastened, but there's still a small smile on her lips as she turns to Sarah again. “I'm … I'm sure we'll see each other again soon.” The uncertainty in her eyes gives her away, and she seems to realise it too. “Well, I certainly hope we do, at least. It was lovely to meet you, Sarah.”

Sarah raises her eyebrows at that, but before she can reply, Jareth turns on his heel and stalks away, leaving her no choice but to follow. He doesn't bother to take her arm again, and their chain clinks between them as he leads her to the opposite side of the room. Orlaith watches them go, as do a lot of the other guests.

“Who … who was that?” Sarah manages to croak, once they're a safe distance away.

“A friend.” It's clear he's not going to give her any more than that.

“A friend,” she echoes.

“Yes, Sarah, a friend.”

He seems too annoyed to bother explaining himself. If she were feeling stronger, less helpless with her sadness, Sarah knows she would demand answers, demand to know exactly what the most stunning woman in the room means to him. Her shoulders slump when she realises she hasn't the right. What claim, after all, does she have on the Goblin King? He isn't hers. If he's anyone's, it's the woman he's apparently abandoned all of his plans with these past couple of weeks … though not by choice. The shock of the other woman is too great for Sarah to even start to contemplate how much Jareth has lied to her. Her overtaxed mind can only focus on the here, the immediate.

“She … she said my name. She knew my name,” she blurts.

Jareth sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose with his free hand. “You bested my labyrinth, Sarah – not an easy feat. You'll find there isn't a soul here who doesn't know who you truly are, despite their pretences. I should have trusted my own judgement and kept us both away tonight. Yet, here we are, at your request, and the evening is far from over.”

Her stomach twists and pitches, easy tears pricking at the back of her eyes; as far as she's concerned, the night is over. She doesn't want to linger here. The magic of the night is soured for good. “We can go. If … if there's nothing else you have to say to your guests, we can just leave. Now.”

Jareth's lips twist into a cool smile. “Nonsense. I promised you a dance tonight, didn't I? Far be it from me to deny you anything.” His tone is harder than she's ever heard it, at least directed at her.

“Jareth, please-”

“No, Sarah, please.” He extends his chained hand and graces her with a little bow, his smile fixed firmly in place. “Do me the honour.”

“I … I …”

“Everyone's watching us now, pet, waiting to see us. Let's not deny them, either.”

With nowhere to go but deeper into this whole mess, Sarah clasps her trembling fingers around his. Jareth takes the lead at once, guiding her back through a crowd that parts before him until they're standing in the middle of the room. A wide, empty circle forms around them as Jareth draws her into a fitting stance; none of the guests seem willing to join them, nor come any closer to watch. This dance is only for the two of them.

His free hand finds the small of her back, but with none of the easy familiarity she's grown used to. He seems hesitant to touch her, his fingers rigid and unyielding, a touch borne of necessity, rather than any real desire to be nearer to her. She finds his shoulder with care, and can feel the jump of muscle even through his suit coat as she lays her hand upon it. She wants to squeeze him, give and seek out some reassurance, at least, but she doesn't quite dare. This isn't the Jareth she's come to know, not at all.

He's tense, stiffer than she's ever felt him, drawn tight enough to suggest he might easily snap under her hands. He isn't the only one. The tide of the entire room has turned in just the last few minutes, the gathered guests staring at them, not with delight, but with something closer to despair. The music that plays for them is light enough that Sarah can hardly hear it above the beating of her heart. This can't be happening. Everyone is watching, seeing them, as though for the first time, gossip surging around them in hushed whispers and wide-eyed glances.

She winces beneath their stares. Gone is the elegant queen she fooled herself into thinking she was. She's no more than that nervous, bumbling teenage girl she once was, stumbling through her steps as she tries to keep up with the king, surrounded now, not by merry laughter, but cold judgement. Even Jareth is lost to her, staring somewhere above her head, unseeing, uncaring as he sweeps her through the ballroom at a slow waltz. He isn't here, but she has to try to reach out to him, has to connect somehow.

“Jareth,” she whispers, casting an uneasy glance back over her shoulder.

He finally takes notice, snapping up the room and all its spectators at a glare. “Oh, damn the world and everything in it,” he growls, letting go of her hand for only a moment to sweep his arm in a brisk circuit around both their heads.

Sarah blinks. Blurring the staring guests around them is a shimmering, translucent barrier of some sort. It gleams blue and green and gold, twinkling and glowing, ever changing as Jareth continues to move them in their dance. She turns her head, and sees the barrier surrounds them completely, stretching up overhead to cocoon the pair of them. She can still hear the soft strains of music, but realises the murmurs of the guests, the curious whispers are all gone. She's safe from the crowd, safe with him.

“It's magic, Sarah. They can see us, but they can't hear us. They don't deserve to hear us. I never meant for this to happen, love. Never meant for this at all. Just … just dance with me. Forget them. Forget all of them.”

So many words clamour to leave her mouth, but somehow her mind picks out the most important one. “Won't … won't Orlaith mind this?”

He gives her no audible response, but his posture seems to soften some. The hand at her back loses its rigid hold and draws her nearer, pulling her into the warmth of his body. It soothes her some, calming some of her frantic thoughts with just his presence. He's finally in the room with her, in her embrace and in her thoughts, and she in his. There's a spark of that long ago magic between them. He draws her closer than he ever did during their first dance, the swells of her breasts pressing flush against his chest, but the look in his eyes is almost the same, that haunted, hungry look that now darkens into something more.

He implored her with those pale blue eyes back then, promised her a future of Valentine's evenings and devotion, begged her to stay, stay in this dream with him. Those eyes implore her now, but for something she cannot quite place, held captive by his curious stare. He's asking something of her, whether it be forgiveness or perhaps for her to turn a blind eye to whatever the other woman is, maybe even an understanding that she just can't give. All she can do is stare back at him, memorising this, the feel of being in his arms again, dancing the same old steps now as they've danced around each other all these years.

It only takes her a couple more turns in his embrace before she realises that she isn't still that girl from long ago. That girl was too young to understand, too naïve to know what love and pain truly feel like. The dance goes on. Neither of them seems willing to let the other go.

He sang to her once, and he does so now, holding her closer as he gives her a long-hidden piece of his heart. His low, rich voice curls around her ears, her senses, filling her with love and longing, a desperate certainty that drops the pit out from her stomach and sends more tears to sting her widening eyes. In his song, in his gaze, her hopes crest and fall deeply, cleaving her chest. His song takes and gives everything.

In your eyes,

Is all I'll ever be.

The fool, the man,

Who gave you everything.

 

So many years of hoping,

And hoping gave me wings.

We'll never be,

We'll never be,

Apart.

 

Through my eyes,

I wonder what you see.

Your hopes, your smiles;

The ones they wake in me.

 

Through all your years of wanting,

I tried to give you wings.

We'll never be,

We'll never be,

Apart.

 

A different set of stars,

The chance to follow free.

Another time, another place,

Another you and me.

 

And all we might have wished for,

All we might have dreamed,

Will never be,

Will never be …

His voice fades into nothing, but she knows his words will linger in her head, in her heart for eternity, heavy and haunting, delicate and damning. Whatever he wants, whatever both of them want, it isn't happening. It can never happen, should never have been allowed to come this far in the first place. Oh, what a fool she was for coming here, for daring to dream, daring to wish all these long years. Wishes are for children. Wishes aren't for grown women, bathed in jewels and silks and her own despairing tears. The hand at his shoulder clings to him helplessly. She wishes it wouldn't hurt this goddamn much, but knows he can never grant that wish.

They're still inside their gleaming haven, but it no longer feels so safe. She's too numb to sob, but her tears slide down her cheeks in a hot, steady stream. The hand at her back comes up to cup her face, Jareth's thumb brushing away what he can even as she continues to cry. She can't hold his gaze any more, turning her head to rest against his shoulder. His arm comes around her waist, holding her to him, letting her tears soak into his suit coat. He says nothing more; there's nothing left for either of them to say.

Through her bleary eyes, Sarah spots Orlaith, still resplendent amidst the crowd, though she's removed her mask. The other woman has had a front row seat to this strange encounter, and when Sarah looks close, she can see the glisten of tears in her eyes as well. Orlaith's head is shaking slowly from side to side, pain written in the way she's clasping both her hands to her mouth.

Her stomach lurches, and Sarah wants to be sick. She pulls back from Jareth's embrace with a moan. “Stop it. Can't you stop all of this? We're only hurting each other, hurting everyone. This is wrong.”

His chest is heaving to match her own, his eyes dark, wide and staring, but as always, he does as she asks. The wall of magic around them shimmers blue one last time and fades, and with its disappearance, the murmurs of the crowd come crashing back over them. Sarah winces. She can't look at them. She can't even guess who they hate more, their deceitful king, or the woman who dared to be foolish enough to think she could ever steal him away.

Orlaith is the first to step forward, her pale face still beautiful, even twisted in despair. “Jareth. Oh, Jareth, darling, this can't go on. This can't go on any longer, dear. Tell her, Jareth. You have to tell her. You have to-”

Sarah hears the woman say no more, as Jareth's magic steals them both away.

 

-

 

The familiar sight of her living room is both welcome and horrible – they're away from the celebrations, away from the staring crowd and Jareth's weeping lover, but they're here, stuck together with no way out. No hope. Jareth slumps onto her couch, defeated, but she remains standing. The long silence between them is deafening as Sarah wipes her tears away.

“Tell me what, Jareth?” she asks, at last. “What was so important for her to beg you to tell me?” Her own voice sounds cold and alien.

“Nothing. Everything. It doesn't matter.”

He seems distracted once more, irritated, and like talking is the last thing he wants to do. There's not a trace of that previous warmth in his expression now, and it's an effort for her to keep her own outward veneer from cracking. The only thing keeping her from crying again right now is telling herself that this is all happening to someone else; she can't be in this much pain if it's another Sarah who's had her heart torn open.

With a flick of his wrist, there's an opened bottle in his hand. From the look on his face, it's something strong. Jareth goes to take a swig, but she's quicker. She snatches the bottle from him and upends it into her waiting mouth. The liquid burns like nothing else as it goes down her throat, but that burn has promise. It's a burn that says it'll help her to forget. She takes another generous gulp, and then a third, before Jareth pulls the bottle away from her.

“Enough, Sarah. Any more and I'll have to drag you into bed.”

She gives a harsh bray of laughter as he sets the bottle aside. “Isn't that what's been happening all along?”

Jareth settles for just burying his face in both hands. He scrubs at his cheeks and eyelids with long, pale fingers, and Sarah feels an odd smile curving her lips as her chained hand is dragged along for the ride. It's so absurd she has to laugh again; it's either laugh or cry, and she's done enough of the latter already. She lets him have his moment of despair while she has her own mercifully brief burst of hysterics.

When Jareth looks back at her, his eyes are clear, and there's a reluctant smile tugging at his mouth. “What a mess, love. What a mess this all is.”

“I know.”

That smile widens just a fraction. “Do you? I wonder.” He drops his gaze to his feet without waiting for a reply. His elbows rest on his knees, and he seems contented to sit that way a while, head hung, looking at anything but her.

She can't bear another long silence. “Jareth?” she says, hating the timidity of it.

“What is it?”

“I'm sorry. I'm sorry for this whole mess: the wish, you being here … I'm sorry for ruining everything.”

“You haven't-” he begins, his tone sharp, but as he turns his head up to look at her again, his face softens some. He exhales deeply, his chained hand rising to clasp hers. “You haven't, love. It isn't your fault.”

Of course, it is her fault, but his words are kind and meant to soothe, and the solid warmth of his fingers against hers keeps her from falling apart completely. She clings to him with some gratitude, squeezing her eyes shut until the fresh burning behind them goes away. When she opens them again, she takes a good long look around, she sees what a ridiculous sight the humble human furnishings of her living room make next to his regal attire. He doesn't belong here, just as there's clearly no place for her in his world. Only the chain keeps them together. She feels another sudden lurch of pain in her gut as he starts to speak, to explain, to justify this whole thing somehow.

“Sarah, our conversations, our friendship has come to mean so much to me over the years, and I-”

“Don't. Please don't.”

There are a hundred questions she wants to ask him, and she can tell he has much he wants to say to her, keeping her hand locked in his, stroking the backs of her knuckles with his thumb as a storm of emotion brews behind his pale eyes. Then, without a word, he stands, bends his head to hers, and kisses her, letting go of her hand only to drag her into his arms.

It's wrong; he has a fiancé, a girlfriend, a lover – whatever the other woman is, it's plain she's gotten to him first. It's so wrong, but the heat of his mouth, the strength of his arms around her are the only things right in her world right now. She's too late, she's missed her chance by not telling him her feelings years ago, but in his arms, time stands still. She kisses him back, and when those kisses grow hotter, wilder, airing some of both their frustrations, she lets him take her to bed.

They don't speak, don't bother with the light as they stumble into her darkened bedroom, strangers once more in the cold night, living only off one another's heat. She strains her eyes in the dark, tries to imagine something more than unrequited longing and careful, calculating precision as he sets loose her hair from its pins. He leaves the flowers where they are, their perfume surrounding her as her curls fall heavy around her shoulders.

He falls on her just as heavily, urging her down onto her bed, and she goes willingly for him. He kisses her deeply, entangling his fingers in her hair as he cups her head, holding her to him as if he intends never to let her go. She squeezes her eyes shut against the notion, against him, the man who has sent her soaring and falling so very far, but has never freed himself enough to fall alongside her. She tries to shut out that man, that kiss, but he forces his way into her senses, coaxing her near frantic response, her tears, her everything as his body rests atop hers, willing their clothes away so they can be joined. They're simply man and woman in the dark, drawn to one another and powerless to resist it. The chain still binds them, holds them close, but she knows she cannot ever escape him, even without it. He's a part of her, always has been, always will be, sinking inside her to fill her body like no other ever could, possessing every last secret part of her.

She prays for speed, for disengaged heat and satisfying, blissfully anonymous hardness. She can't make herself wish for it to be over, but she knows that the longer it goes on, the more passionate they allow it to become – the more she allows herself to go on hoping – the worse it will be after. She prays for that cold, uncaring sex without meaning it, but yet again he seems to anticipate her needs, giving her what it is that her heart truly longs for. He makes slow, tender love to her in the dark, in the place they've come to know one another, come together after so long.

She can sense his face above her in the darkness; can remember every flash of his eyes, every line, every twist of his mouth and lift of his brows as he takes his pleasure from her, inside her. She feels her own need rise to meet his, desire winning out over despair, love and lust making one last triumphant surge against the emptiness. It's something, rather than the nothing her emotions have become, and she needs it badly, needs him now more than ever. She sighs her pleasure as his warm, throbbing cock fills her deeply, gives him her moans as his soft mouth covers hers.

Her body burns for him, but when he takes her hands in his and guides them up to rest on either side of her head, she truly starts to cry out for him. His fingers twine with her own, gripping her, holding her, keeping that connection between them as he leans down to her, thrusting deep as he brushes her lips with his. They're together here, together now, and no matter what happens, that feeling of now can never be taken away. She'll always have this, even if she can't have him. Always, always inside her, always here and now, deep and thick and hers. His thrusts grow harder, the rise and fall of her hips more desperate as they move together, giving herself to him completely, taking all he can give.

“Want you,” he moans as he fills her, taking them both towards the edge. “Want you so much. So much, Sarah. Always wanted you.” Wanting isn't enough, but it has to be. It's all he'll ever be able to give to her, yet still she gives him everything she has.

She comes for him, hard, and the sharp buck of her hips, the powerful contractions of her body draw out his own release. His fingers squeeze tight around hers as they cry out together, locked in lust and the act of love, that moment of purest bliss. His warm breath covers her lips as he gives her one last kiss, but the heat is gone almost as soon as they untangle their panting, sated bodies. Her hair is plastered to her neck, sweat trickling between her breasts, but it's so fucking cold in her bed that night. She shudders in the darkness, turning onto her side without a word, but before the tears can come, Jareth turns with her.

His body moulds to hers between the sheets, and from the way his arm locks around her waist, drawing her as close to him as possible, she thinks it's as much to take comfort as to give it. His breathing slows as they come down together, his chest settles into a regular rhythm against her back, and he feels so warm, staving off that horrible coldness that rises anew in her chest. He doesn't speak, doesn't offer any hollow words of comfort, but he kisses the top of her head, and when the fitful rest she finds causes her to wake in the night, he kisses her hair and soothes her back into a merciful, dreamless sleep.

 

Chapter Text

When she comes back to herself, the first thing she becomes aware of is his breathing. She can feel the steady rise and fall of his chest against her back, the warmth of his breath as it stirs her hair. It's slow, regular, but she knows the sound of his soft snores from all the time they've spent together, and she can tell he isn't sleeping right now. He's awake, may have been for some time, just waiting for her, as he always seems to. She can't bring herself to turn around, can't bring herself to speak, and so she just goes on breathing – even though just that simple task pains her, deep down – feigning sleep, wishing for sleep, delaying the inevitable.

She should know by now there's no fooling the king of dreams and wishes.

Jareth knows she's awake – probably noticed the second her breathing changed – but he chooses to let their silence go on. Without a word, he starts to unravel the now-wilting flowers from the night before from her hair, bypassing magic in favour of using careful, graceful fingers for the task. She gets the feeling he's doing it just to touch her, bring them closer with such an intimate caress, and it's unbearable. She can't take any more of his kindness, any more of the things that make her hate him any less than she knows she should.

Resigned to him, she rolls onto her back, giving him no choice but to draw back from her, so he'll abandon those small, soft, painful touches to her hair, in favour of shifting their chained arms to a more natural position. He does draw back, but only a little. He remains on his side, his warm body pressed against her hip. It takes her a full minute of staring up at the ceiling before she feels strong enough to try meeting his eyes. The concern written there absolutely crucifies her. He does want her, there's no doubt of it, but he can't – he won't – have her. It's a definite enough answer, a definite enough end to her hopes, and yet life goes on – the wish goes on, because despite how much he's hurt her, she knows she'll never stop wanting to be attached to him.

“We should get up,” she says, lying perfectly still.

“We should.”

“We can't keep using sex to put off talking, put off doing something about this. It isn't fair on either of us.”

“It isn't.”

Her eyes drift down to his mouth. “You can't keep just kissing me to make it all go away.”

“No,” he agrees, already moving in to give her that kiss.

It's sweet and terrible, hopeless and hopelessly good, and she can't bring herself to hate him enough to slap him when he finally pulls back. Her body wants to give in, and she closes her eyes, letting herself succumb to the comfort and heat of his lips pressed against her skin. She's going to let him. Oh, god, she's going to let them both just carry on like this, chained together forever, never speaking, only surrendering to that pleasure that both of them need. She threads her fingers into his soft hair, throwing her head back as he mouths at her neck, soothing and familiar, exciting and too addictive to ever give up. His tongue finds the sensitive spot just at the hollow of her throat, and it's only when her sigh of pleasure emerges sounding more like a sob, the clench of pleasure she feels low down in her belly reverberating through her heart as well, that she gets a hold of herself.

She opens her eyes at last.

Jareth leans down and brings his mouth to her bare breast, pulling at the nipple with soft, warm lips, but his eyes remain on her face. There's more than lust in his gaze, more than she can stand. She's too vulnerable to take him right now, laid bare before him in every way possible. She turns her head away, guarding the hurt she knows must show in her eyes, and he relinquishes his touch at once.

“Please,” she whispers.

“Please?” he prompts.

“Please, could you just … get us washed, dressed? Magically, I mean.” She can't bear the intimacy of a shared shower that day.

He nods, his face a carefully neutral mask. “All right.”

Out of bed, safely clothed, she wants to scream at him, demand he tell her why he doesn't want her. She needs to know why, after all these years of wanting and loving him for god's sake, she's only good enough for a little fun, but little more besides. She wants to know why he lied about being unattached – if it was just to assure his place in her bed, or if he truly didn't think it mattered, just because he technically isn't married. She isn't quite sure which answer could possibly hurt her the most. She doesn't dare to ask.

Both of them decline breakfast in favour of a sudden flare of brilliance from her. With a smile of grim determination, she asks him to conjure a handsaw, with the wild vision of somehow managing to cut them loose when all else has failed. He does as she asks with no protest – he never can deny her – and the saw he magicks looks sharp enough for the task, though the look on his face says he isn't convinced she won't use it on his arm.

The blade is thin but firm in her hand, and she ignores his doubtful look as they sit on either side of her kitchen table, the golden chain pulled taut between them. One way or another, they're getting out of this mess today. He can go back to his golden-haired goddess, and she … well, she can go back to never daring to wish again. She brings the saw down on the chain, biting silver teeth against gleaming, unyielding gold.

Ten minutes later, her short, sure strokes have been replaced by sheer speed and stubbornness, her forehead dotted with sweat from her efforts. The saw makes an awful high tinny sound as it grates back and forth over the chain, but as far as she can see, it's yet to make a dent in the smooth metal. She's breathing hard now, determined to ignore the obvious, but she can't help the breathless little gasp of anger that escapes her. It's that small, despairing sound that makes Jareth finally speak up.

“Sarah, a saw isn't going to break the enchantment surrounding the wish. You know that as well as I.”

If anything, his outright dismissal of her efforts only makes her go at the chain even harder. “Maybe an enchanted saw might,” she mumbles. “If this one breaks, we can try that next.”

“Don't you think I would have suggested that already, if I had any belief whatsoever that it might work?”

She grits her teeth as she goes on sawing. The blade wobbles a little with the force she puts into it. “If you'll forgive me for saying so, Your Highness, I no longer have any confidence in what you might or might not do. Now shut up and keep the chain pulled tight.”

“Sarah, I'm telling you this won't work. I think we need to calm down and talk about this.”

“No. No more talking. I'm done talking. The only thing we 'need' to do is try harder to get ourselves out of this mess. Then you can go back to your life, and I can go back to mine. Talking isn't going to make that happen, and neither is fucking each other senseless every day instead of actually trying to get loose.”

At any other time, he'd take her words and twist them into something even more suggestive, but now he remains silent. Perhaps her seriousness has finally rubbed off on him, or even the great Goblin King is afraid of the determined fire that's in her eyes right now. Regardless, she's glad of the quiet as she goes back to her work, the blade wobbling even harder as she puts her weight into every push of the saw. There, that's a scratch on the metal, isn't it? It's just a matter of willpower. Her strokes are near manic now with the force of her desperation, but she can't stop now, can't stop until they're out of this mess for good.

“You know this isn't going to work, love, and keeping this up even longer isn't going to help matters. Please-”

Shut up! Just shut up,” she hisses.

“Sarah, this is madness. It's dangerous. You need to slow down.”

“I can't slow down. Don't you see? We need to get out … need to get this … this fucking thing off-

The saw slips. It's only a brief skim as the blade skips off its intended path, but it sends an immediate flare of heat along the back of her hand. She gasps at the sudden pain, frozen in place for what seems like an eternity as a red line of blood blossoms along her skin.

“Shit. Give it here, let me look at it.” Jareth plucks the saw from her slackening fingers and wills it away with a grimace, before taking her injured hand in his. He seems to be concerned, but she can hardly register the emotion – everything is numb. “It isn't too deep,” she hears him say. “Easy enough to heal. Hold still for me, precious.”

Magic – his magic – takes hold of her entire hand, cool and healing, soothing away the pain and knitting the ragged edges of the wound together until only the finest of pink lines remains. She knows even that thin line will heal fully in a couple of days, leaving her hand clear and unblemished once more. She's okay, he's made her okay again, the perfect veneer to cover up the fact that, inside, she's crumbling to pieces right in front of him. She goes on looking at that small mark on her otherwise smooth skin, the golden cuff just above it that just seems to mock her.

How much more would it hurt, really, if she actually tried to take her hand off? Would the power of the wish finally let her go then, or would that evil cuff simply tighten around the stump of her wrist, keeping her bound until she simply bled to death – and maybe not even then? She has a sneaking suspicion that even if the Goblin King was crazy enough to let her try, she wouldn't like the result.

“Sarah? Sarah, I think you might be in shock, love. Can you hear me? You've gone very pale.”

She can hear him, all right: more of his concern, more of that nicer side of him that she just can't bear. She turns her eyes on his again, and she wants it to be with as much hate and loathing as she can possibly muster, but it's so hard to look intimidating when he's still holding her hand in his, when her tears have come and there's not a damn thing she can do to stop them.

“I know you can't grant a wish within a wish, but know this, Jareth: right now, I wish I'd never even met you. I wish you'd never brought me into your world, and I wish to god I never had to lay eyes on you again.”

She won't give him the satisfaction of acknowledging that it was her wish to send Toby away that brought them together in the first place. For once, he chooses not to lay blame either. There's hurt in his expression, and she feels a vicious surge of gladness that she's the one who's put it there. It lasts only a moment, before her world crumples once more. She doesn't want to hurt him. In spite of how much she's hurting right now, she still loves him, and it kills her to see him in any pain, knowing that it's her fault, that it's all her fault. The first of her tears hits the kitchen table, and his hands squeeze hers tightly enough to set her heart clenching again.

“I can't do this any more. I can't be here with you,” she says, standing quickly enough to send her chair tumbling to the floor.

She turns and walks out of the kitchen, and instead of pulling on their chain to stop her, Jareth comes along with her. The man doesn't even have the decency to let her fall apart in peace. She starts to unlock her front door, gets a perfectly clear, perfectly ridiculous image – stomping down the street, crying all the while, dragging Jareth behind her like a disobedient puppy – and lets her hand drop away from the doorknob. She turns back to face him, King Jareth the Constant and Inevitable.

“Sarah, this isn't helping either.” He reaches out to wipe her tears away, but she shrugs him off.

“Neither is listening to you.”

He gives a haughty little raise of his eyebrows that, in spite of her tears, sends her blood boiling. “Well, seeing as we remain chained together, it's not like you have much of a choice.”

She flicks her eyes away from him, unwilling to go on looking at an expression that manages to somehow be both caring enough to provoke more tears, and smug enough to induce rage. The door to the hallway closet is in her sights, and she pushes past him to get to it. “No, but I can choose not to look at you,” she says, yanking the door open abruptly enough to set the coats and jackets inside swinging. She pushes her way into them in a rattling of hangers.

“Sarah,” he says, from directly behind her, “what are you doing? This isn't going to solve-”

All the satisfaction in the world is made hers at once, just from slamming the door in the Goblin King's face.

The effect is spoiled somewhat when their chain catches, leaving a stubborn half an inch between door and frame. True to her word not to look at him, she edges as far away from the door as she can, pressing her back against the wall, angling herself so that she doesn't have to see him through that gap. It lets in only a sliver of light, but the darkness of the closet is soothing, even if the voice from outside it is anything but.

“Good gods, Sarah, come out of there at once. This is foolish.”

She doesn't bother to reply. It's cramped and awkward in there, but she manages to sink down to sit on the floor, giving him no choice but to sink down with her. There, as alone as she'll ever get, she pulls her knees up to her chest. In the hallway, she can hear him saying something more, his words softer, crooning almost. It's a voice that's designed to soothe, but she won't let it.

She starts to sob instead, reaching up blindly in the dark and pulling one of the hanging jackets down around her like a blanket. The realisation that it's the same man's jacket he conjured for her at the party only makes her sob harder, her tears soaking into the fabric. She curls her free arm around jacket and knees both, hugging herself and hating herself, knowing he can hear every wet sniffle, every pitiful display of human emotion that the heartless bastard just can't understand. She's better than this, better than him, stronger even at fifteen when she first bested the fickle fae king, but such thoughts mean little when her heart won't stop breaking over him.

“Sarah, don't cry, love. Please don't cry.” His voice is pitched low and just riddled with care, and she can't block it out, can't deny that a part of him must care for her, even when he's brought her to this. The nerve of him, trying to comfort her when he's all but pulled her heart to pieces. Even now, he won't have the decency to just stop giving a shit and let her hate him outright. “You've barely stopped bleeding. If you're going to do this, at least put your hand out here so I can make sure you're all right.”

With a growl, she yanks the door back just enough to thrust her arm through the gap. She extends her middle finger at the end of it. “How's that?”

“Very mature, precious,” he murmurs. “Now, hold still.” He takes her hand in both of his again and turns it gently back and forth. “Okay,” he says at last. “You're all right.”

Sarah manages to squeeze out a few more tears as he places a soft kiss against the tip of her outstretched finger. She snatches her arm back at once and slams the door shut again. “You have no right, dammit,” she whispers. “No right.” That one tiny kiss is the only one he's truly ever stolen from her, and it leaves her defences in tatters.

“I know, I know, love. I'm sorry.” He lets blissful silence reign for a minute or two, and then he's back, invading her thoughts, reminding her of his presence. “There are a lot of things you don't understand, things I … things I'm not at liberty to explain, but I want to, love, I really do. I know it's no excuse, but …” His tone hardens, impatience tingeing his words. “Look, I'm not doing this through a closed door. Come out of there, and we'll face each other like adults.” When she ignores him, he changes tactics again, soft and soothing once more. This time, it only serves to piss her off. “I'm sorry. We never should have attended the celebrations. It only complicated things. I never meant …”

“What, exactly, didn't you mean to do, Jareth?” she asks, scrubbing at her damp cheeks with her free hand. “Hurt me? Humiliate me? Make me think-” She stops herself there, letting her head thump back against the wall as she clenches her teeth against the traitorous words that long to betray her.

He doesn't reply right away, and she knows that he's choosing his words carefully. It's another way they differ: she blurts out whatever's on her mind – minus the whole 'love' thing – where he's cool and calculating, selecting only what parts of the truth serve his purposes. Why else would he neglect to mention the other woman? No, Sarah, you're the other woman. You're the one who's ruining a relationship. Don't let yourself forget that. She makes herself pay attention to what he's saying.

“-never meant for anyone's feelings to get dragged into this, but can you blame me? You wanted me – we wanted each other – after all this time. You show no interest in me in nearly a decade, and-”

The pulsing anger behind her eyeballs all but detonates. “Interest? I've had a crush on you since I was sixteen, you jerk. You knew that, and-”

“Hmm, and what kind of man would I have been if I'd taken advantage of that 'crush'? What kind of man would I have been if I stole your innocence away, on what was just a teenage whim of yours? You needed your own life, love, and you have it now – I wouldn't have stolen that chance from you for the world. Aside from the odd occasion, you always seemed so happy-”

“I acted happy so you didn't think I was a pathetic mess! Why do you think I haven't even been on a date in over three goddamn years?” It's all coming out, her mouth open and talking and damning, and there's nothing she can do to prevent it. They're dangerously close now to the humiliating love she's guarded close all this time, but she just can't hold on to it any longer.

“You're an independent woman, and it never seemed to- …Sarah, can we have this conversation where I'm not having to address your closet door?”

“No! The closet door doesn't have your stupid face on it!”

“That's rather childish, isn't it?” he asks, damn him.

She honks bitter laughter, sounding how she imagines an angry, crying goose would. “Yep, childish little Sarah, just waiting to grow up enough for you to finally notice her. Christ, I feel like a sulky teenager again. Thanks.”

“I've always noticed you.”

“Bullshit. Why would you notice me, with the sort of people you have at home?”

“The people at …?”

Her,” she says, venom dripping from the word. “The blonde. Orlaith. The one who was determined to insult me.”

“Insult you? I don't know what you-”

“Oh, spare me the excuses, Jareth. She was practically offended by everything about me, even what I was wearing, for god's sake, and you still haven't told me what I did to bother her so much. Care to shed some light on that?”

“I can hardly speak for what you women-folk deem worthy or unworthy in terms of dress,” he scoffs. “How am I supposed to know?”

“Jareth.” Her voice is pure ice. “You're the most preening, primped up man I know. Don't try to play dumb when it comes to fashion. That is the last lie you get to tell me today.”

“And it's also the last time I try to talk to you through this infernal door,” he grinds out.

She can't help but laugh. He's somehow daring to be angry at her, after all he's done. Even the tightest of his leggings don't do justice to the massive set of balls the man has on him. “Does that mean you're going to just shut up and give up? Because you're not talking to me any other way right now. I'm not letting you see me like this, I'm a crying goddamn mess.”

“Don't remind me. I never wanted to upset you. I want to hold you, comfort you, but you won't even let me do that.” She hears him sigh heavily.

There's a stubborn weight in her chest that just won't budge, an answer she needs, even if the added weight of knowing will all but crush her. She decides to just go with it – she's already humiliated herself enough, what's a little bit more? “There's obviously something going on here,” she hears herself say, “but you still haven't told me what it is. Something you didn't want me to find out – you made that pretty obvious last night. Maybe if you can answer a few questions, I'll come out.” She has no intention of actually coming out.

“Sarah, I hardly think bartering over complicated bits of information is-”

“Appropriate?” She gives a bitter little laugh. “Your choice, Jareth. You want me to come out, so here's your ultimatum: you finally give me some straight answers, or I stay in here indefinitely. It's not like I've got some place better to be.”

There's a long moment of silence, and then what she thinks might be a growl. “Ask your questions.”

“Okay. Good.” She swallows down her tears and narrows her eyes at the door. “What exactly did you hope to get out of granting this wish?”

“It's your wish, love, it's not my place to-”

“Spare me the bullshit, Jareth. I know how 'generous' you can be, but it's not like you've gotten nothing from this little arrangement, now is it? You've gotten a whole lot of 'something' every day.”

“If you're referring to our mutual pleasure-”

“Of course that's what I'm referring to. It's not like you've stayed here just for the joy of my company. I'll ask again: what did you want from all of this?”

“I wanted to give you what you asked for, you stubborn, infuriating woman,” he hisses, “as I have always done.”

“Yeah, and you certainly took a long enough time in claiming your reward,” she says. “Thirteen years of nothing, years of 'always wanting me', but you had to wait for me to come begging you first, didn't you?”

That line of questioning will get her nowhere – as much as she hates to admit it, he's done so much for her over the years, brought so much light into her life. Can she really blame him for finally forgetting himself, forgetting his kingly obligations for a few nights of pleasure, making her dare to believe-?

Yes. Yes, yes, yes, yesyesyes-

“Okay. Next question, and call me an idiot for asking, but what exactly do I mean to you?”

“Sarah, I-” He exhales, loud and long. “Sarah …”

“Nope,” she says, letting that last sharp plosive cut the air between them. “'Sarah' isn't an acceptable emotion, Jareth. Try again.”

“Your friendship has meant a great deal to me through the years,” he eventually offers.

“Yeah, that's what you said last night. Does my friendship mean so much that it broke your heart to lie to me, or-”

“I speak the truth: your friendship- … you mean a lot to me.”

She shakes her head and smiles a bitter little smile. “And Orlaith?”

He sounds almost confused when he replies. “You're treading the wrong path, Sarah, I assure you, but yes, Orlaith also means a great deal to me. I wouldn't have the two of you dislike each other for the world.”

“Dislike? The woman couldn't stand me. Not that I could blame her. It can't have been easy for her to see us together.” When Jareth doesn't reply, she pushes a little harder. “Must be hard to see someone you care so much about dancing with someone else.”

“I can assure you, Orlaith was delighted with you. If I'm honest, she's been desperate to meet you for some time now.”

That gives her pause. “You've mentioned me to her?”

“Orlaith is the only one I've spoken of you to. She's the only one I can speak to about most things.”

“And … and she doesn't mind you talking about me?”

There's a long pause. “She … disagrees with my methods.”

Sarah snorts. “'Methods'. You have some nerve.”

He goes on as if she hasn't spoken. “She can be quite … opinionated when she wants to be – and trust me, she wants it often. She's quite like you, actually, in a lot of ways.” He continues as if he hasn't a clue of how badly that wounds her. “She believes I'm wasting my time, living in an unnecessarily difficult past rather than moving forwards. Even considering my most bullheaded, most stubborn of advisers, she's the one person who makes her disapproval ring forth the loudest. I was expected to have … have made certain … developments before the turn of the millennium. I'm rather behind, with just a few months left to go.”

She snorts loudly, her throat thick with tears. Attractive, Sarah. Oh, who gives a shit any more?You're behind? How do you think I feel? Try 'new millennium, thirty in less than two years, and still hanging out with your childhood boogeyman'.”

“Really, Sarah, I can hardly be called a-”

“Missing the point, Jareth,” she snaps. She squeezes her eyes shut, getting a firmer hold of the anger that just wants to crawl out. “So … so she wants you to move on from this past of yours?”

“In short, yes.”

“I figured as much.” She tips her head back against the wall, eyes opening again, and this time she doesn't bother trying to stem the tears that trickle down her cheeks. “She seemed pretty eager to get you away from me. At least I understand, at last.” She holds back a sniffle, at least an audible one – this is pitiful enough as it is.

“You really don't understand, love. Not a bit. You have no idea, none at all.”

“I think I can understand a woman scorned, Jareth. She wants you to stop playing genie to an ungrateful brat who hasn't stopped wishing for crap in over a decade.” She shakes her head, a wan smile curving her mouth. “Shame she hated the dress you gave me too. I thought it was gorgeous, but I guess I don't know a lot of things when it comes to your realm, do I? I must've looked pretty stupid to her.”

“Orlaith is not the issue, Sarah, please understand that. We're close, yes, but-”

“Yeah, you seemed it. You made two women cry last night, Jareth. I hope that's a record for you.” He doesn't answer – hopefully, he's too ashamed to – and so she pushes on. She wants to stop, she doesn't want to hurt like this any more, but she has to know. “What did she want you to tell me? What is it you've been hiding from me … from us?”

“I can't tell you that,” he says at once. “Trust me, precious, I want to, but-”

“How can I trust you? How can I trust you when you're keeping secrets from me?”

He sounds almost desperate now, his voice low and urgent against the door. “I've given you all you asked for, but I can't give you this. Not now. Not until your wish is over. If it … if anything happens, it has to be you. I can't …”

She bites back a sob, feeling the hysteria wanting to rise again, hearing it in her voice. “I can't take this wish any more – I can't take feeling like this any more. I hate myself for ever making it. If I hadn't, things wouldn't be like this between us. We'd just be normal, and … Oh, god, this is all my fault, and I'm too stupid to wish us out of it, can't you see that? I can't have what I want, can't ever have that wish, and … and …”

There's a soft thunk – what she thinks might be the Goblin King's head against the door. He sighs loudly enough for her to hear his resignation. “It was supposed to be blue,” he says at last.

The words register in her ears, the oddity of them halting her tears. The words don't make any sense. “I … what?”

“The dress. The dress you wore. In an ideal world – the one Orlaith no doubt conjured up in her head – it should have been blue.”

The statement is so disjointed from anything she's expected that for a moment, she just goes on staring at the door. “Blue? How … how does that …? I don't understand you.”

“Sarah, if you trust me, even just a little, then please let me say this to your face. I've asked for nothing from you all these years, love. Please … please give me this.”

Slowly, she opens the door and shuffles around to look out at him. Jareth is sitting beside her, looking right at her. One arm is folded across his raised knees – even their posture is the same, she notices – but the other, the one that holds them bound reaches out through the doorway to her. Something deep in his pale, mismatched eyes makes her take the hand he offers.

“The first time we danced, when I meant for nothing more than to distract you, to trick you into staying all those years ago … do you remember what I wore at the ball? The colour?”

How could she ever forget? “Blue. You wore a blue suit,” she says. There's a funny little tickle in the pit of her stomach, and she can't quite say why. It gets a little harder to breathe.

“And last night? The suit I wore?”

She gives him a long look. “Blue.” Her voice is little more than a whisper now. “Blue again.”

Jareth nods, the fingers that hold her own tightening. “Blue,” he echoes. “It's a well-known custom at formal gatherings – has been for centuries, passed down through generations of my family. Blue … blue is traditionally worn by members of the royal family, or an intended-” His eyes drop, but find hers again quickly, his fingers squeezing tight again, as if to draw strength from her hand. “For as long as my realm can remember, it's always been worn by the king and … and his queen.”

 

Chapter Text

Never before has the Goblin King looked quite so weary. She has absolutely no words to give him, no thoughts that can escape past the jumbled mess in her head, and so he goes on. “She was the only one at the ball who knew who knew what you truly- … who you were supposed to be. The dress should have been blue.”

Her throat clicks as if finally unlocked, her words all but creaking out. “You're not making any sense.”

A small smile plays over his mouth. “No, I'm not, am I? This is difficult for me, love – for both of us, I know. Orlaith had … every reason to think I was to declare my intentions before the court that night. In her own odd little way, I suppose she thought she was helping. If a formal announcement were to be made regarding my queen-” He stops short, eyes widening, perhaps seeing the pain flare in her own.

His queen.

Oh, god, he's said it at last.

His queen?

So many lies.

Orlaith is-

No.

Orlaith thinks-

No.

The most stunning woman at his ball, possibly the most stunning woman in his kingdom is actually jealous of her? She's somehow convinced herself that despite whatever she and Jareth have – Orlaith also means a great deal to me, he whispers in her head – that a mere mortal girl is some kind of threat to her position? That Jareth would ever choose her over his intended queen? That she could ever hope to compete-?

She can't help herself; she starts to laugh, low and tuneless. “That's ridiculous. You never asked- … neither of us has even shown any inclination toward-”

Jareth is quick to nod. “I know. I know that, love, but as I said, Orlaith is nothing if not stubborn. I made no mention of whom I was staying with during my time Aboveground, but the moment she saw you, she jumped to conclusions – rather embarrassing ones, as it turned out, for both of us.”

“And she wanted you to tell me right away, to put me straight that nothing was ever …” She's equally helpless to stop the shiver that runs through her. She pulls her makeshift jacket-blanket a little tighter around herself – an awkward task, when she has to do it one-handed.

His eyes drop to that much cried on jacket. She has a moment to feel embarrassed – apparently, her humiliation quota for the day isn't exhausted after all – and then with a wave of his hand, she feels the material change, grow heavier, its warmth curling around her shoulders as well as her front. When she glances down at herself, she finds she's wrapped up in one of his dark capes – no denying the magic and masculine energy that's purely his as it surrounds her. Still holding her hand in his, he goes on to summon a glass of water out of the air, urging it into her free hand, urging her to drink, seemingly unconscious of what he's done.

His first thought, the immediate need to give her warmth and comfort, led him to conjure not a blanket, not one of her coats, but something of his own to give to her. She decides there and then that no matter what happens next, she's keeping this cape for good. Her hand trembles a little, spilling water over her lips as well as into her mouth. She can only manage a single sip before she sets the glass aside. She burrows herself deeper into the cape's soothing warmth – into the unmistakable scent and being of him.

“Why didn't you just tell me sooner?” she asks. It hurts – god, does it hurt – but she needs to know. “Why did you lie? About … about Orlaith? You said she means a lot to you, so I just don't understand how you could-”

The hand around her own squeezes tighter. “Sarah. Please, love, for one moment, please just stop jumping to conclusions. This is a delicate enough situation as is, and I'm trying-”

That earns him a glare and an end to the hand holding. “It's your fault things are so 'delicate'. I know I fucked up everything with the wish – big time – but we could have worked it out. If you had problems you needed to deal with in your kingdom – with her – then we could have dealt with them, instead of spending all that time in bed-”

His face hardens. It's almost imperceptible, but she notices, and it drives home just how well she's gotten to know him over the years – how very intimate the past couple of terrible, wonderful weeks have been for them. His words are clipped, defensive, and she knows he's trying to hide behind all his careful barriers again, but still he asks: “Do you regret our time together?”

“No. You know I don't, I couldn't ever regret- …but … oh, god, Jareth, if you'd have just talked to me, told me you were supposed to be getting married-”

“This is exactly what I mean about you jumping to conclusions. Think about it, precious – think hard. I've been entirely at your mercy here, Sarah. I could have been sent back in the blink of an eye, whenever your wish was fulfilled. Can you blame me for trying to take whatever I could in that time? What are a few missed meetings, or a handful of minor disputes in my realm, compared to holding you, filling you?”

It's times like this where he almost lets her dare to hope, and it makes her want to kick and scream that it's just not fair. She snaps at him instead. “What am I supposed to think, Jareth? Okay, so you didn't lie to me directly about not already being married, but if the intent was there and you were as good as married anyway-”

“Oh, for pity's sake, Sarah, you haven't given me the chance to explain-”

“- and now we're having an argument in a goddamn closet-”

“You opened the blasted thing to begin with, I never told you to-”

“You never told me anything that-”

Jareth rolls his eyes up to the heavens. “Mother of Gaia, you're impossible.” Shifting quickly onto his knees, he snatches her into his arms, cloak and all, pulling her so that she's kneeling with him, and presses a hard kiss against her mouth. It silences her, as he knew it would, but she's still upset when he finally pulls back. She opens her mouth to speak, but he presses his fingertips to her lips. “Listen to me. Listen to me,” he says, when she starts to protest. “We've known each other for over a decade, love – I'm not going to weasel my way out of things now. Please, just let me speak.”

Against all her better judgement, she settles back on her heels and waits, silent and expectant.

“Thank you.” He nods, and then cocks his head to one side. “I don't know quite where to start. Orlaith, I suppose, since that's made you the most upset. I should explain, the two of us have been practically bound together since birth-”

“Betrothed?” The word leaves her lips in a tight squeak before she can stop it, but she can see from the way Jareth recoils, almost as if struck, that it isn't true.

“Good gods, no. As cradle mates,” he corrects her, seeming almost to shudder at the thought. “Had we been betrothed, I would have merrily abdicated my throne long ago.” He stops and grins – actually grins – as if he has no idea just how badly it makes her want to shake him to go on, to explain, dammit. “I love her dearly, I do, but I think we'd have torn each other asunder – and probably the kingdom too – if we'd ever been foolish enough to try and rule together. Gods give her true husband infinite patience.”

“She's-” She croaks, tries again. “She's already married?”

“Yes, but even if she wasn't, there would be nothing between us. That's what I've been trying to explain – you have it wrong, love. Despite our arguments and our differences, she's been my closest friend for centuries – like a sister to me since before we both could walk. She's seen me grow from snivelling brat to snivelling king, dragging every one of my wishful thoughts and cursed secrets from me over the years. Like I said, she has your damned tenacity, and I think that's half of what I find endearing about her, despite how domineering she can be at times. She knows everything about me – including all my years spent with you. Every time I left to attend your wishes, every time I returned once they were granted.” He eyes her for a long moment, before clarifying. “She's a friend, Sarah, as I told you – a dearly loved one, yes, but nothing more. I've been honest with you about that all along, pet.”

This is … new. Her would-be rival isn't what she expected, and now she feels almost guilty for her judgement. That brief anger she managed to find, that strength seems to melt again, more tears pricking at her eyelids. That one piece of what should be good news just leaves her weak and exhausted, wanting nothing more than to get off this whole roller-coaster of emotions before it makes her sick. “Oh,” she whispers.

“Oh,” he agrees, more softly, that careful edge creeping over his words. “I can't tell you everything just now, but I can tell you that, love. I'm not attached to her, nor anyone else in my world for that matter. That's all I can say, Sarah. Anything else is up to you.” His eyes are so intent on her face now that it almost makes her heart stop.

An echo from long ago comes into her head then: say your right words. Everything hinges on one thing now, and she can feel her heart pounding a little harder, a little faster against her ribs as she finally starts to realise just what that thing is. This is her wish, and he would deny her nothing, if only she knew how to ask.

“Why would Orlaith have reason to think that, Jareth?” she asks, her voice soft and wondering. “Why would she think I'd agree to be your queen?”

He looks at her. He simply goes on looking at her, pain and hope and something etched in pale, unyielding blue … and she doesn't need to know any more. She doesn't need to wait for his answer, his permission, his blessing for her to go on wanting him the way she does, because her need for him is there no matter what, and only growing the longer she stares back at him.

She swallows hard, and finally takes the plunge. “Jareth … whatever I am to you, whatever any of this has meant … I love you. I've loved you for so long it hurts, and even though I've told myself to stop, I can't, because you'll always be a part of me, always granting that wish just to go on being with you – always with you.”

His eyes finally close. At the same time, there's an almighty crack, and she looks down just in time to see the cuff at her wrist fall away. It hits the ground at the same time as the one that held the Goblin King bound does, the golden chain that's kept them prisoner all this time dropping away from both their wrists with ease. The sight is almost laughable – a few honest words able to do what days and nights of struggle and worry have not – but she doesn't have time to go on looking at it for long.

Jareth takes her face in both of his hands – his freed hands – and she looks up just as he leans down to kiss her. It's so soft, so tender that she can't help but respond, shoving aside the shocking thought that he's only doing it because he's so happy he's finally free. He draws back before she does, and the strange light when he opens his eyes confuses her at first; it takes a moment to understand that the great Goblin King is actually fighting back something so fragile as tears.

“Sarah,” he murmurs, as though marvelling at her name. “Sarah.”

Her own tears are back, but she smiles through them. “Looks like it finally worked, huh? Unattached at last.”

Jareth's smile only grows. “No, love. Never. Never again.” He makes as though to wrap his arms around her, but decides better of it, holding her eyes with his, his palms stroking each side of her face as he speaks. “Sarah, I have wanted you,” he says, “I have loved you, since that night when you were nineteen, and so very beautiful, and you asked me so sweetly to make love to you for the first time. I loved you before, my fierce Champion, but that was the night you truly tore through my defences, when I at last felt myself fall for you – when I fell in love with you.” He goes on, cupping her cheeks, his eyes locked with hers. “I have always wanted you, love,” he says again, and she believes every word.

Love. It's the sweetest word, and she's heard it so many times before from him – terms of endearment that should have been telling, but brought her only torment, never knowing – never daring to hope – that her own feelings might one day be returned. Her breath hitches in her throat, her lips parting in pleasure. “You … you remembered,” she breathes, then: “Why didn't you say something?” she almost moans. “Why didn't you come to me that night?”

“Both of us know it wasn't the right time. I couldn't have lived with myself if you came to regret what would have been the sweetest night of my long life. You may have wanted me at one time, but you needed your own chance at life – your own chance at love, without my meddling. You could have found a good man – the right man. Someone who wasn't me. I left you to discover what it was you truly wanted. Sarah, I can move time, and I can move the stars, and many of my kind would use those powers to coerce, to seduce in the worst possible way. I could never have done that to you. I never wanted my magic, my hold over you to bring us together. I wanted you to come to me of your own accord. All along, I wanted you.”

It feels like her whole being is lifting towards the ceiling, her chest filling with light and air and hope for the first time in so long. “I've never stopped wanting you. I just … I had no idea you felt the same way.”

“Of course I want you – of course I love you – how could I ever do anything less? Always have. Always will. I knew this wish would be our last chance at happiness, however it ended. It meant I was finally given the chance, the freedom to be with you … to touch you, lay with you after so many years of wanting. It made me weak, that chance, and I had to take it. I told myself, fool that I was, that if I could never be anything more than a physical attraction to you, I would never let our time together be anything more to me, unless you said the words outright. I would seduce you, yes, if you allowed me, but I would never let myself love you, lest my feelings sway your decision in any way.”

His small smile warms her, through and through. “I should have known you could never do any less than possess me completely. You truly are my everything, Sarah. Falling in love with you was the easiest thing I ever did – pretending that love was any less so, near impossible.”

So many nights of passion, of lying in the other's arms, both of them secretly wanting, wishing for something that was in their grasp all along. “How long would you have just sat by and let us go on that way?” she asks, her fingers pressing into his back as if they'll never let him go. She never intends to.

His smile wavers for a moment. “'My wish; my power', remember, love? It's true – this has always been about discovering what you wanted, after all these years. Not me. I hoped, of course, and sometimes I dared have my suspicions, but ultimately it was up to you. You had to decide, love. Only you. I knew one of two things would happen. I hoped – I prayed – you'd come to me, that true attachment – love – is what you'd want, but there was always that other option, another choice I could never have taken from you.”

He brushes a lock of hair away from her face and then cups her cheek as he goes on. “Like any of your wishes, it could very well have ended another way. Remember the wish for your stepmother, all those years ago?” He waits for her nod; she gives it, blushing as she remembers willing Irene dead, all because of some heat of the moment tantrum. “It was deemed granted because you no longer wanted the thing you wished for. You could have been rid of me the same way. At any time, if you decided in your heart that you didn't need me – didn't want me any more, or have any wish for us to be together – the chain would have loosened, and I would have had my answer at last. I would have known to finally let you go.”

“So if I hadn't figured it out, or if I decided it was best to just let go of you …”

“I would remain, as ever, here for you when you needed me. Every wish, every call, every part of your life that you would allow me into. When I first fell in love with you, I told myself that would always be enough – so long as I could make you happy.”

He's too blurry for her to see now, and a huge, shuddering sob escapes her as she swipes at her eyes. “You know it's probably not healthy to cry this much in one day, right?”

Finally, she sees another smile. “At least now I can do this.”

Despite the fact, maybe because of the fact that she's a snivelling wreck, he cups her face in both his hands, drawing his thumbs across her damp cheeks. His lips cover her own for only a moment, before moving across her face as he kisses away the tracks of her tears. Her eyelids flutter closed as he kisses the very corners, causing more hot tears to escape, and she gives a watery little laugh. “If you're waiting for me to stop, you're gonna be waiting a while.”

His smile means the world to her – both of their worlds, more than she could ever begin to imagine. “I'll always wait,” he says.

There's so much warmth inside her, she feels like she could burst. “And if all this crying makes me too breathless to even think about kissing you back like you deserve?”

He gives a roll of his eyes and a crooked grin as he taps her on the nose, a brief spark of magic leaving her sinuses feeling clear. “Demanding wench,” he mutters, before kissing her again.

By the time he sets her free, she's grinning too. “Hey, I didn't make a wish.”

“You don't have to – not any more. My Sarah.” Her name on his lips is like a blessing. He speaks it again, more urgently, this time. “Sarah, I spent so long a part of your life, always longing to make you happy, but no matter how hard I tried to deny it, I soon realised just how much I wanted to be a part of that happiness. Instead of being the one smiling from the sidelines, I wanted to be right there with you … the one making your eyes shine – just like they are right now. I wanted to be the one to give you everything. Tell me what you want – what you said a few minutes ago. You've only to ask, love, and it's yours.”

There's hesitation, but only long enough for her to edge closer to him, feeling the heat and life and longing in him, warm against her chest – within her arms at last. She smiles as she meets his eyes – eyes that live only in her, and she in them – and embraces that needful fire within them. “I want you – all of you. I want you to hold me, kiss me, be inside me, stay with me. I want you to love me, Jareth – just as much as I've always loved you.”

His arms come around her back, crushing her to him as they kneel together, half in her closet and half out, open and honest and whole at last. “I do, love. I do. I've wanted nothing more than to go on doing just that, always.” His hands are free to slide up and down her back, stroking and soothing, his breath warm against her hair. “Orlaith was right,” he says, softly, close by her ear. “The timing was all wrong, but gods, if I could have-”

She draws back from him just enough to look into his face. “If you're asking what I think you're asking, then please just ask it.”

He casts a doubtful look around her hallway, at the coats that hang behind her. “It's hardly special or romantic for you. It isn't enough – nowhere near enough. I would give you flowers, music, brightly burning stars, a world bathed in moonlight. I would give you everything – would give my queen everything she-”

She shakes her head. “You can. We can have all that later. This is simple – better. My apartment is where you first ever started to flirt with me, and where we finally came together for something more. I don't need a big scene, I just need you with me … always … if … if that's what you want.”

Jareth cocks an eyebrow that should be disdainful, if only his smile hadn't returned in full force, bright and brilliant. “Sarah Williams, did you really just beat me to a clumsy attempt at a proposal?”

“I guess so.” She grins back at him, goofier than ever, but god, she's flying. “You're smug and irritating enough when you lose to me – the labyrinth proved that. I can only imagine what you'd be like if I start letting you win any time soon.”

“And … this smug, irritating man … you'd take him into your life for good? As your king, as your husband, your lifetime companion? You'd rule with him, love him always?” His voice grows soft. “You'd let him learn you and love you more each day, give him hope and passion and life and … and children?”

The tears are back, but she blinks them clear; he's too beautiful to miss. “Only if he'll have me.”

“He'll have you, love. He's always wanted you – always.”

“You're sure you won't get sick of having me around?”

“I promise.” He kisses her again, more softly this time, and then rolls his eyes. “After all, I've already put up with you for thirteen years – what's another thirteen?” He grins, and starts to nuzzle at her neck before she can complain. “Another thirty?” he continues in a murmur, moving his kisses up to her ear where he knows they make her melt. “Another thirteen hundred? I've got you for a near eternity now, love, and I have every intention of making it count.”

She gives something halfway between a laugh and a moan, threading her fingers into his soft hair. “That long, hmm? Maybe I should reconsider,” she teases him. Then, Jareth actually presses his tongue inside her ear, something she knows is meant to both pleasure and punish her, and she whimpers, all but ready to give in. “Ahh … maybe … maybe not,” she admits at last.

“Finally seeing sense,” he whispers, pausing to kiss her cheek on his way back to her lips.

With the heat of him, the press of his body against hers, she's sure she would agree to anything he said at that point. The Goblin King says nothing though, intent on her mouth as he is. His hands slip down her body to cup her ass, her legs slipping further apart as he draws her nearer, and she goes willingly, moving into his heat. As she does, her knee catches something on the floor. She pulls back to glance down to the floorboards at their forgotten golden binds, denying him her mouth for the moment, and chuckling when he groans his disappointment.

“Those blasted things have had all of your attention for the better part of a month – I was hoping you'd have a little more time for me now we're free of them.”

“I'm just wondering why they haven't just … you know, vanished into fairy dust, or something.”

Jareth cocks an eyebrow at that, and leans down to pick the cuffs up, stopping to brush a kiss against her shoulder on the way. He lets the chain dangle over one finger, and gives her a suggestive smirk. “Well, you never know when they'll come in handy again, should you need restraining for any reason.”

She laughs, folding her arms around his neck as his own encircle her waist. “'Any reason'?”

“Oh, every reason,” he says against her mouth. “Every excuse I can find to have you shackled to our bed, helpless to resist me while I put my mouth to good use.”

She puts his mouth to one of its better uses right then, silencing his teases with another hard kiss that burns leisurely between them. She possesses his mouth the way she's always longed to, deep and slow, her lips coaxing his, her body moulded against his as her fingernails rake over his scalp. Finally, she hears the sound of the cuffs hitting the floor, forgotten once more so his hands can move freely over her back. She has to break away to giggle, but he soon captures her mouth again, his kiss harder and more insistent, and she can't laugh any more, not while his hands and wicked tongue are making her moan. She's still full of questions, needing affirmations after years of doubt and heartache, but it's so much more important to have the heat of his mouth pressed to hers.

They eventually break apart, and she finds herself utterly dazed from his kisses, and from all that's happened between them. A drunken little smile curves her mouth. “Where were we?” she asks.

He smiles back. “I believe, rather foolishly, this all began because you were bemoaning your terrible fate: of being faced with a new millennium, the dreadful age of thirty – really, Sarah, you've barely lived – and the constant presence of your childhood 'boogeyman'. I'd be offended, love, really I would, but I'd much rather save my breath to go on kissing you.” He moves to reclaim her mouth, but some pinprick of curiosity actually makes it though her blissful haze. Jareth moans when she pulls back. “Oh, fine, talk all you want, but I get to go on kissing, at least.”

She laughs as he mouths at her neck, a small moan escaping her. “Hmm … what's the big deal with the millennium anyway? Do you have to marry before then or lose all your powers or something?” That actually makes her pull away from him completely, eyes wide. “Oh, god, you don't, do you? We'll need to start planning a wedding right away-”

“Now that I approve of – the sooner the better, really – but no, I'm in no danger, precious.”

She cocks her head to one side as she considers, mimicking one of his long-ingrained habits without thought. Her fingers press idle paths through his thick hair. “Then why the big hurry? You made it sound like there was a lot of pressure on you to act before then.”

He draws in a soft sigh, his ardour cooled a little for the time being as he leans in to kiss her softly on the forehead. “There was pressure, love – just not for marriage, per se.”

“Then what-?”

“Once every thousand years, a fae king may ask a gift of the High King of the Underground.” His mouth quirks a little at the corners. “A wish of his own, if you will. This wish is treated with utmost respect and honour, and it's very rare the High King will refuse whatever he's asked. Orlaith … Orlaith suggested I make use of my request, concerning my predicament with you.”

She blinks up at him. “She wanted to make me fall in love with you?”

Jareth shakes his head. “She knows by now I would never have forced such a thing from you. No, she saw how I suffered and, if the time came and you had still not come to me of your own accord, she bade me to ask for something impossible … something I could not ever have brought myself to ask of him.” He looks at her for a long time, as if struggling with the mere thought of it, and this time she simply waits until he's ready to go on.

“She wanted me to ask to have my memories of you erased, to be able to forget you for good, and put an end to my pain. She swore to me she would take my place, bind herself to your will and grant you every wish you ever made in life – as I always wanted – but leave me without that constant longing, the ache every time I had to leave you. You would have everything you ever dreamed, you would have been happy, even if I remained blissfully unaware of you … but I never could have brought myself to do it. No matter how much pain it brought, even if I had to watch you fall in love with another, I never could have made myself forget you … and Orlaith knew it.”

He shakes his head again. “She thought herself doomed to having to watch me go on suffering indefinitely, but to see you in my realm again, on my arm, no less-”

She swipes away more of those goddamn tears, but they just keep on coming. “She thought you'd finally found happiness. She thought all that pain was finally over for you. God, she must hate me.”

Jareth cups her cheek. “She loves you because I love you. She knows how deeply you're in my heart – she knows just how much you mean to me.”

She manages a watery little smile. “I'm surprised she hasn't sent you a hundred messages to ask what's going on by now.”

Jareth raises a hand, and behind her she hears an avalanche of scrolls hitting the floor. “You could be right,” he says, with a grin.

“You'd better reply to at least one of them before she thinks I've ripped your heart to shreds.”

“Why not tell her in person? She deserves to be as happy as I.”

Sarah ducks her head. “I'm kinda nervous about seeing her again.”

He lifts her face and gives her that smile that, if she wasn't already head over heels in love with him, would send her tumbling in a heartbeat. “Trust me, love. Trust me.”

She does.

His arms slip around her waist, and there's more rippling warmth beneath the circle of his cape, the swirl of a dress about her ankles, and she thinks it's blue – the colour of royalty, of promise and of him. She gets the vaguest sense that he's swathed in blue as well, but everything is changing so fast, mist and magic swirling before her eyes, and so she closes them and simply feels him – him and his magic, letting it take her over at last.

 

Chapter Text

The throne room they emerge into isn't quite as congested as it was during their last visit – thank god for small blessings – but it's still more crowded than Sarah could have anticipated. They arrive at the edge of a crowd of a dozen different lords and ladies – what she assumes must be the Goblin King's court. They're unnoticed for the moment, but from the sound of it they're the cause of a relatively tempestuous debate. Gaelan is standing at the foot of the Goblin King's throne, red-faced and staring down an equally red-faced Orlaith. It appears, at least when wild packs of goblins aren't involved, that the timid castellan can hold his own.

“-trying to tell you, it is not our place to interfere. His Highness entrusted me in his absence, and-”

“His Highness – if you are still somehow unaware after last night's travesty – is not in the best frame of mind at present. The man has been heartsick for years, and he needs our help. Someone needs to track him down and put an end to this. You should have let me go after him last night – we've waited far too long already, and I'm not about to stand by any longer and wait for things to get worse. Honestly, I can't believe you told no one of the chain you saw-”

“It wasn't my business – just as it isn't yours – and if I command you to do nothing but stand by, then that's what you'll do. Need I remind you, you're not the one running things, Orlaith-”

The woman in question tosses back her hair, and takes a firm step into the scowling castellan's personal space. “At times, Gaelan, I don't think you are, either – at least not with any sense, or to anyone's benefit.”

Instead of backing off, Gaelan leans in so that the pair of them are almost nose to nose. The Goblin King is quick to step forward before things can escalate further. The crowd parts at the sound of his voice.

“I leave the castle for one night, and the two of you almost come to blows?” Jareth tuts and shakes his head. “Gaelan, for a civil servant, that's hardly very civil, now is it?”

Orlaith turns to face them in a whirl of golden hair. “Jareth? Jareth, dear heart, whatever is going on? You disappear again, you haven't answered a single message, and we've been up all night worried sick. Are you all r-?” Her eyes flicker towards Sarah, widen, and immediately find those of her king again. “She's …?”

Gaelan's mouth hangs open, but he's quick to recover – and quick to blush at the reprimand. “M-my apologies, Sire.”

Jareth nods to both of them, leading Sarah carefully by the arm as they approach the throne. “And as for you, Orlaith, I appreciate your concern, but I'd thank you not to make such private matters so public – particularly before my queen was ready to become such.”

“Queen?”

The murmurs start up at once, the men and women they stand before taking in the sight of their lightly smirking king and the woman beside him. Sarah takes a moment to blush. She's surrounded by a sea of faces: some shocked, some smiling; all of them gawping openly at her. The tense atmosphere in the room seems to melt away at once. As she suspected, she's swathed in blue – the implication clear as she stands beside the king, decked out in all his royal regalia. That king now lifts her hand to his lips, and presses a soft kiss against the backs of her knuckles. He keeps that hand held tight within his own as he turns to address the room, his rich voice heard by all.

“As some of you-” Jareth shakes his head and begins again. “As all of you know, some years ago, there came a girl into my labyrinth – a girl who, in spite of all the trials and everything I had to throw at her, managed to best your king. That girl stands before you today – a woman grown; a woman who, as some of you may have guessed, has captured my interest and my heart as no other ever has. A woman who, long ago, I decided was worthy of being my wife.” He gives her a sidelong look, and smiles as he corrects himself. “Who at last decided I was worthy of her.”

Orlaith looks back and forth between the two of them, her own smile slowly growing wider and wider. “But … at the celebration … I thought for certain that- … oh, I have no idea what's happening, but she's really …?”

Jareth waves a hand, both deterring and dismissive. “A misunderstanding; a spell gone awry – everything is settled now. It matters not.” His eyes gleam with pride. “She said yes. The woman I love said yes.”

Hearing those words from him causes Sarah's heart to pound just that little bit faster. She feels her smile spreading, warm and wide – feels her mouth opening to return the sentiment. Before she can speak, Orlaith shrieks and all but launches herself at the bemused Goblin King. Jareth stumbles backwards with the force of her embrace, grinning himself now, but his arms barely close around the woman's slender back before she's pulling away again. Sarah has no time to react before Orlaith seizes both of her hands and draws her closer, pressing kisses to both her cheeks.

“Darling … oh, darling one.” Though tears are brimming in her strange copper eyes, she truly is radiant when she smiles, giving Sarah absolutely no choice but to smile back. “At last, at long last. Gods and all the heavens, at long last. I'm so happy for you, dear – so happy for you both.” She gives a soft, hiccuping sob. “I knew you loved him too. I just knew it. He would've let you go your whole life without the two of you ever confessing it – some silly, noble idea of not meddling in your life. As if a simple truth spell would not have done it! You've had his heart for an age, and the stubborn fool wouldn't have the good sense to even tell you.”

Sarah grins, though her own tears aren't far away. “He's had mine as well. I never told him; I never knew. So many years.”

The other woman laughs. “I knew it – you're as stubborn as one another. Well, he needs someone to butt heads with – bring him down a notch when he sorely needs it. He never said a damned word about just who he was staying with all this time. he knows he would have never heard the end of it, had he dared come home without you. Oh, dear … to see you here at long last – to see that love in person, his smile, just to have you on his arm … and for him to do it without his proper intent declared for all his court to see? Foolish, foolish man.” Orlaith shakes her head.

“I had to beg him to let me attend the ball in the first place,” Sarah finds herself saying.

“I'll bet you did.” Orlaith spares the Goblin King a brief eyeroll. “He knows he would never have heard the end of it if he dared bring you here without coming clean – putting you both out of your misery at last. He thought he'd try to sneak it past me instead – as if I'd be so blind or foolish. He never was any good at playing hide and seek. Honestly, there was one occasion where he actually cried-”

Jareth clears his throat rather deliberately. “Yes, well when the pair of you have quite finished defaming my character before my court …”

“My apologies, Sire.” Orlaith's tight-lipped smirk says she's anything but. She gives Sarah's hands one last firm squeeze before letting her go, eyes moving back to Jareth's. “We'll need to start planning at once, of course. You haven't given us much notice, dear, but if we send the summons out immediately, I'm sure we can have all the right names in place for you to make all of the formal announcements before sundown. Of course, that gives me no time at all to warn the poor thing about all of your bad habits; share some of your embarrassing stories … ” Her eyes continue to flit back and forth between the two of them, her smile blooming wider.

Sarah feels an arm slip around her waist, Jareth drawing her closer as if he fears he'll lose her. “I had rather hoped to make the official announcements … ah … tomorrow. There's much Sarah and I still have to discuss – matters that must be taken care of.”

The happy tears are gone now, and Orlaith is just as smug as the Goblin King can be when she smirks. “Matters that might, by chance, be dealt with only inside your bedchamber, Jareth? By all means, enlighten us as to exactly what these important matters are.”

Soft laughter echoes around them. When Sarah glances up at her lover – her king – she sees he's actually blushing.

“This is treason, I tell you,” Jareth hisses.

“So have me imprisoned, Sire,” Orlaith shoots back.

“Don't tempt me. It's been a long while since the oubliettes have seen any action, and I'll have you know-”

It's satisfying to see how easily her future husband can be tamed, just with the gentlest of caresses along the small of his back. Jareth glances down at her, his smile already resurfacing, and Sarah can't help but smile back. She thinks it's that shared smile – of love – that makes Orlaith have mercy on them. The teases stop, and in the new silence, Sarah is positive that she's going to be kissed – right here, right before the entire court to see.

Before they can do anything more than lean in a little closer, Gaelan gives a small cough. “Does this … does this mean you'll be staying at the castle again, Sire?”

Jareth gives a soft sigh, his lips only an inch away from Sarah's own before he draws back. “For a time.” He goes on before the other man can relax fully. “However, there'll be the honeymoon to think of. A month, I expect, or perhaps two. Four at the very most, I imagine, dependant on where we find ourselves. I trust the castle will be safe in your hands during that time.” His lips lift as the castellan starts to grow pale. “Gaelan, I'm joking.”

“Mother of Gaia, you're sending me into an early grave, is what you're doing,” Gaelan mutters, before he remembers himself with a jolt. “Sire.”

Sarah lays a hand on the smirking Goblin King's arm. “Leave the poor man alone. He deserves a vacation of his own after all he's done.” Maybe somewhere Aboveground – somewhere he can meet someone. Someone who – boyfriend of the month permitting – might be willing to bring him out of himself a little more. Someone with a thing for younger-looking men. She chuckles at the idea of Molly dating someone a couple of centuries older, for a change. She returns Gaelan's grateful smile as she makes her own little schemes, thinking like a queen already.

“What are you plotting behind that wicked grin, love?” Jareth asks her.

She feels her smile bloom wider as she turns to him, this king, the man who will soon become her husband. “Just a way for everyone to be happy. Everyone deserves a little magic in their lives – a little something they can wish for.”

“And are you, Sarah? Are you happy, or have you more wishes to ask of me?”

“Just one.”

She leans in close to whisper in his ear, and feels his warm breath in her hair as he chuckles.

“Now that I'll be more than happy to grant.”

Meanwhile, the chatter of the court goes on around them.

“Of course, we have suspected for some time …”

“ … the benefits of a human bride are endless. Why, the usual protective wards around the nursery won't be necessary until at least your child's fifth year …”

“With your blessing, Your Highness, the ceremony can be arranged before the year is out. The day itself can commence the Yuletide celebrations, and if-”

“Does the good lady have any musical requests for the dancing? We will do our utmost to accommodate, but-”

Sarah looks at Jareth. It's clear he's trying to hold on to a sense of decorum before her, and before his assembled court. His head is held high as he stands before them, but there's a small smile on his lips, a little spring in his heels that means he can't stand completely still. Tentative at first, she edges closer and lets her hand reach out for his. At once, his fingers close around hers. His eyes dart towards her, seeming to glance briefly at her, before he does a sort of double-take and turns to her fully.

“Oh, to hell with it,” he mutters, before drawing her into a long, deep kiss.

She can't help but giggle against his mouth, but the sounds turns to a moan as his tongue pushes between her lips. In any normal setting – any human setting – the small crowd gathered before them would cough politely and turn their gaze away. Here, they only watch as the Goblin King finally displays the long held back hunger for his intended bride – their soon-to-be queen. It's a little disconcerting at first, that new and unexpected tolerance, but his mouth is bliss, and her love for him allows her to bear the small embarrassment. When the two of them finally tear away, she feels hot all over, and knows it's no longer just from embarrassment. She manages a lop-sided grin in the vague direction of the assembled court.

“Would his Highness like to continue this discussion at a later time – a less urgent time?” Gaelan asks.

“Yes,” Jareth answers, a little short of breath. “Yes, I rather think he would.” He raises an eyebrow and a smirk as he turns to Orlaith. “See to it none of them disturb us, hmm? I can't tell you how detrimental it will be to the kingdom if I have to spend my first evening back here discussing chamber music and china patterns instead of extending my intended bride a good, long … ah … welcome.”

The golden-haired woman titters softly and rolls her eyes. “You have such a way with words, Jareth.”

“I know. In the end, my wonderful way with words is most likely what won me my lovely bride.”

“Your lovely bride is standing right here, you know,” Sarah growls, though she's smiling.

Jareth leans in for another kiss. “Not for long, my love.”

There's the sensation of being lifted by magic, but she thinks, in all her happiness, she might have simply floated into his bedchamber of her own accord. Jareth returns her helpless smile and kisses her as he lays her down on a thick fur rug by the open fireplace. The softness of it against her back is the perfect contrast for the hardness and heat of his body as he lowers himself down atop her. He kisses her again as she tries to get her head around this thing that's grown between them – the sudden seduction and the love that's finally blossomed after so many years. His mouth is too distracting for her to think for long, and soon she can do nothing but return his kisses. Their bodies twine together, lips and tongues, parted thighs and reaching hands. For a time, they breathe as one.

There's little need for foreplay this time – not with so many years of longing saved up for one another – and he wills both of their clothes away with magic, eager to claim her. She doesn't mind, not when his weight feels so right between her thighs – not when she's clutching at his bare shoulders and all but begging for him to make love to her. She moans her frustration when he rolls off of her, but the fire in his eyes silences her complaints.

“Come here,” he says, bared and beautiful as he lies cushioned in the soft furs beside her. “Come on top of me, precious – that's how you first had me. I need to be inside you – always need to be a part of you.”

Rising up onto her knees, she brushes a pale lock of his hair away from his forehead. “You already are,” she says, kissing him softly on the mouth.

“Mmm,” he agrees, letting his palms slip down her body. One presses itself to the small of her back, urging her on. “But I'd be even more a part of you if you sit on my cock, love.”

She grins against his lips. “When you ask as nicely as that, how can I resist?”

She's still smiling as she kneels up again, swinging one leg over his narrow hips. He's more than ready for her to take him right now, but she straddles him low down enough on his thighs, so that only her mound brushes the underside of his cock. He tries to thrust up against her – into her – but she denies him that contact, leaning in to nip just once at his mouth. When he cranes his neck to try for a deeper kiss, she pulls back.

With a desperate little grunt, Jareth takes hold of her hips, urging her to shift up just a fraction – to impale herself on him – but she ignores him for the time being. Instead, she eases herself down so that she's lying on top of him, letting the stiff peaks of her nipples just graze his bare chest. This way, she can feel the solid length of his cock, nestled hot and hard against her belly, and yet he cannot feel just how ready for this she is too. From the feel of him, he's almost as wet as she is, dripping with desire and straining for release. She decides to tease him a little longer – after all, they've waited so many years to be together so perfectly like this. It's only right that she savour their new engagement.

“Are you sure we should be doing this?” she asks, sure to grind more firmly against him. “Maybe we should wait until we're married.”

Jareth groans in dismay, thrusting his hips up towards her in desperation. “You never had any problems with sex before marriage the many other times I've had you.”

She smirks, feeling the slow leak of him wet her belly a little more. “Ah, but that was before things got serious. Maybe it'd be best if we waited until after the wedding.”

From the look on his face, he can't decide between desire and despair. “Is that … is that really what you want, love?”

She shifts her body against his, giving him just enough stimulation to tease. “I haven't decided yet. I mean, I want you and all – you haven't felt how wet you've gotten me, just from kissing.” That makes her lover almost whine in his frustration, and she has to bite back a grin. “But … maybe waiting would be best. You said, long ago, if I ever asked for anything, you'd never deny me … that you'd give me whatever I wanted. Now that we're engaged- … oh!”

It appears the Goblin King isn't above a little shameless manipulation himself, one hand sneaking between their bodies to caress her swollen and neglected clit. After only a few short strokes, she knows his fingers must be covered in her honey.

“Oh … how could you?” she asks, before giving a sound that's halfway between a laugh and a moan. She shudders atop him, writhing between the hard cock that's pressed against her and the wicked fingers that slip just a little lower to press into her.

Jareth is practically purring with his new-found satisfaction. “Quite easily, my succulent little Sarah, with just how soaked you are. Why, I'll bet I could have you coming, just like this, in only a matter of minutes. Of course, if you still want to stop …”

“Oh, god …”

“I believe 'king' will suffice, love, but I'm honoured nonetheless.”

Her moans grow louder, her movements more frantic – she can't help it. “You're the worst, but fuck, you're good at this.”

“As are you, my wicked little seductress. Might I suggest a truce?”

“Truce.” She's quick to agree, adjusting her position so that she can kiss him and have him grind against her at the same time. Her moans are swallowed up by his eager mouth, the full length of his cock now bathed in her wetness. He rubs so satisfyingly along her slick folds that it grows harder to speak between their kisses. “I think … mmm … I think I know what I want now.”

“Oh, I'll give you just what you want, Sarah,” is his heated reply, his voice strained as he lifts his hips to encourage her. “Anything – everything.”

“Well, right now I want you just like this.” Her gasp of pleasure is as loud as his as she positions him at her entrance. Their eyes meet, full of joy and lust.

“You've got me – now have me, love.”

Granting them both mercy at last, she slides down around his cock, taking him all the way inside her. The full length of him slides into her easily, wet as she is, filling her, completing her at last. Instantly, his hands clench at her ass, and he buries his face against her neck, letting out a choked little moan. “Gods have mercy,” he says as she squeezes down on him, gripping him in her wet heat. “Need you to fuck me, love. Need you to move.”

She smiles down at him as she gives him just what he needs – he's too hard and hot to resist for long – rocking atop him and driving him deeper and deeper. Her first orgasm is sudden and unexpected, white sparks that flash, blinding behind her eyelids; a full-bodied shiver of pleasure that leaves her trembling atop him. He slows his thrusts to watch her throughout it, savouring the fluttering heat and tight, tight grip of her body as she comes hard for him.

She's almost embarrassed at losing control so abruptly, so unexpectedly, but the satisfaction, the hunger she sees on his face readies her for yet more of that bliss he brings her. The second is even better, coming to the sound of his wild, uninhibited moans. He drags her hips down onto him as his cock throbs inside her, fucking her deeply, filling her in hot, heavy bursts as she pulses around him. Her name leaves his lips as he comes inside her, along with deep, groaning sounds of pleasure, whispered endearments and contented, nonsense sounds of release.

After, while he's still inside her, while his eyes are still shining with the glow of orgasm, she smiles down at him, filled with love – full of him. They exchange soft kisses and vows of love – words that bind them together long before they will even think of starting on plans for the wedding. There's much for them to discuss, but for now they're content just to be together, savouring the warm glow of love that's come to be between them; savouring the joy of that love finally being returned.

After a nameless amount of time, she climbs off him and lies down facing him on the rug. He stretches out beside her, before planting a small kiss to her temple. Shifting with the slow, lazy movements of someone who's well and truly satisfied, he drapes an arm around her shoulders, moving his body in close to hers and cocooning her in his warmth. When he can bear to tear his eyes away from hers, he glances across the room and grins. “I knew we were forgetting something.”

When she follows his gaze, she sees the large, empty space where his tainted bed used to be. She can't help laughing. “And I thought making love in front of the fireplace was supposed to be romantic.”

“Well, it was one of the reasons.” He gives a soft sigh. “I do need to pick out a new bed at some point, though. As much as I love having you right here-” He traces the swell of her right breast with his free hand, to show her just how much he likes it. “It's hardly proper to expect my queen to share my bed, if I don't even have one. Blasted goblins.” The pout he gives is so pathetic, she can't help but grin.

“Now you're just looking for sympathy – I'm sure they've paid the price and then some, wherever you sent them. Besides, if it makes you feel any better, you can share my bed in the meantime.”

“Now that I'm amenable to – downright enthusiastic about, if I'm honest.”

They share another kiss – deeper, more heated than the last. It's clear, after only a brief respite, and if the heat in his stare is anything to go by, that her insatiable king is ready for round two. Oh, to be fucked like this – as often as this – forever. The thought makes her grin. She scoots in a little closer to him, encouraging his touch.

“As queen, shouldn't I get at least some say in which bed you choose? I am going to be shackled to it, after all – powerless to resist, you said.”

Jareth smirks. “Well, in that case, you'd best help me pick out a new rug to make you powerless upon as well … not to mention floors, walls; every flat surface in this castle that I can find to have you on.”

That earns him a little nip to his lower lip. “What about the goblins?”

Jareth considers this for a moment, before dipping his head to nibble at her neck. “Those too, I suppose, if they stand still for long enough – and if you don't mind a scaly surface, and an audience.”

That earns his ass a light smack, her arm quick to snake around his body as she grimaces. “Ugh! Jareth!”

He smirks again, this time against her shoulder. “Sarah.”

Jareth.”

“Oh, Sarah …”

The hands that skim down across her ribs, combined with the low moan against her neck, are almost enough to undo her resolve, but she pushes on. “You know that's not – oh, hands off that, that isn't fair – that's not what I meant.”

“You say that so often – you say other words far too often, when instead you should be moaning my name in that delicious way you have. Besides, when have I ever been known to be fair, love?”

“Never,” she admits. “But the goblins you Bogged, and … uh … Caved … shouldn't you bring them back?”

His forehead nudges her breast, his grumpy little groan stifled against pillowy softness. “You're far too lenient, but if it gains me access to your … affections … then very well. You know I'm likely to agree to anything while I have you naked. It doesn't bode well for the kingdom.”

She has to laugh – the thought of the powerful king she's always known reduced to a horny teenager by just a hint of breast. “Just think of the power I'll wield.”

“I'd rather think of how much more interesting court gatherings will be if you attend them nude.”

“And here I thought you actually loved me.”

“I do – I just have some incredibly lewd ulterior motives.”

She chuckles and shakes her head, lightly dragging her nails across his stomach. “And are there any more of these ulterior motives for seducing me?”

Jareth considers for a moment. “Oh, just the usual really. Wanting to sample more of your delightful body, predominantly,” he says, markedly casual, turning his head upward ever so slightly to gauge her reaction. “Then, of course, there's celebrating the fact that you've been foolish enough to finally return my love – thereby making that ghastly business of being chained to you, serving as your personal sex slave entirely worthwhile. Hmm … what else? Ah, yes: trying to convince you to stay here with me indefinitely; worshipping you and the very ground you walk on the way I always will; filling every last inch of your … senses; thrusting myself even deeper into your heart …”

He cracks a smile, unable, as always, not to finish on a despicably lewd note. “ … while simultaneously – and rather effectively, I think, given your moans – thrusting harder and deeper into your lovely, tight, soaking wet-”

“I hate you.”

“Pft. Lies. All lies.”

“No, I genuinely, really hate you. Really,” she manages to deadpan. “Seriously, take me back. What the hell was I thinking, wanting to be with you always? Someone, save me.”

Both his arms come around her now, squeezing her tightly. “Too late. What's said is said, and all that. Mine forever. Sorry about that.”

“Oh, great. Do I need to choose someone to run a labyrinth or some crazy shit like that to save me from you?”

“No labyrinth. Only sex, more sex, and, eventually, sleep.”

“For me, or for the person who's saving me? Because that might affect who I choose.”

Jareth gives the most delicious growl before he rolls her on top of him again. “I'm far too hard, and you're far too nonchalant for someone who's about to be fucked quite, quite senseless, you know.”

She can't help grinning, even as she gives a dramatic sigh. “Ugh, again?”

“Shut up and kiss me, love.”

“But, Your Highness, I can't – you didn't wish for it.”

“Fine. I wish you would shut up long enough to kiss me, you enchanting, endearing, exhausting little-”

He doesn't get to finish his wish; he doesn't have to.

It's a given she'll stay with him that night, and then next, after the formal announcement has been made. The pair of them manage to sneak off together while the celebrations are still in full swing – though Sarah can't help but think a smirking Orlaith might have something to do with the sudden distraction when a handful of rowdy goblins crash the party. Still, when Jareth wishes ever so sweetly for her to come back to be with him the next night, and the next, she can't help but agree. It amuses her to find that even without the chain, even in a different bed, their sleeping positions remain the same: she on her right side, he pressed in close behind her, curled around her body.

His next wish comes less than a month later. It involves a ring, and an amulet that is the twin of the Goblin King's own. She grants it with a resounding 'yes', but there's no breaking the spell, the new enchantment they're both helplessly under.

Both of them understand that some wishes can take a lifetime of love – a lifetime of one another – to truly be granted.

 

Chapter Text

The Goblin King cuts a grave figure as he stands before the great throne, his back pulled stiff and straight with the proper level of decorum. Never has he been more aware of the absence of his queen at his side. The great hall seems to echo with his every breath, cold and judgemental, and he dares not shuffle his feet as his frayed nerves so long to. To do so would be undignified, and he will not lower himself before the High King. He holds himself still until Oberon nods to receive him, and only then does he step forward to give his bow and give greeting. With the proper esteem paid, Jareth makes his solemn request in a low, clear voice. The High King listens in silence, until he is done.

“You are quite certain this is the favour you ask of me, Jareth? You know that, even in all my power, I cannot reverse the call of death. This is still what you ask of your king?”

Jareth sinks to one knee and bows his head in a show of fealty and deepest respect. “It is, Sire.”

“Very well. It is done.” The High King extends a pale hand, and from it drifts a crystal of gleaming gold. He nods his head when the Goblin King accepts his offering. “Go now to this mortal woman, and give her this token. It shall be as you ask.”

Jareth bows his head once more, before he rises to his feet. “Thank you, my king.”

Before he journeys Aboveground, he first returns to his castle. He knows he cannot do this last part alone.

It has been a cold winter, both Above and Underground, but the house he finds himself in is warm and welcoming. The air smells of sugar and cinnamon and there's soft music in the air, all the gaieties of Yule still decking the room. The house's owner has yet to remove them, dwelling on tinsel and holly, and the joy of the season, before she embraces the new year and new century – the turn of a new millennium.

He follows the sound of humming, his companion at his side as he walks into the deeper warmth of a wide open kitchen. Molly turns at the sound of footsteps, surprise turning to happiness when she gets a look at her visitors.

“Sarah! How have you been, hon? What, you finally get so tired of fantasy life you have to slum it with us regular folks again? I guess I should be honoured.”

Sarah steps into the other woman's embrace with a grin. “We saw you on Christmas Eve – don't you try that guilt-tripping bullshit on me.”

“You'll have to forgive an old woman. Must be the senility talking.”

“You're not old, and I think that's the rum talking, not senility. It feels like I'm still sleeping off all those daiquiris you served.”

Jareth and Molly snort at the same time. “Lightweight.”

Sarah rolls her eyes, ignoring her darling husband in favour of more tempting prospects. “Not if you keep baking like this.” She snatches a cookie, still warm, off an overflowing tray. Taking a huge bite, she gives a long moan of appreciation that makes Jareth twitch beside her. “I married the wrong person. These are incredible.”

The older woman cocks an eyebrow that rivals the Goblin King's own. “From the looks of those pants, I'd say your husband's packing something a whole lot more exciting than cookies.”

That rouses Jareth's smirk. “Observant and ravishing as ever, Molly dear.”

“Only for you, you big royal stud, you,” Molly shoots back.

The pair embrace, chuckling. Before anything else can be said, the Goblin King steps back and leans in to his new bride, pressing a chaste kiss to her lips. Quite by coincidence, he manages to steal the last bite of cookie that's in the process of sliding between those lips. He smiles as he chews, leaving Sarah to growl at him. She turns back to Molly to complain.

“He steals my innocence, and then he steals every goddamn dessert I manage to get my hands on. I don't know what love is any more.”

“It means he doesn't get any other dessert later on tonight,” Molly says, still grinning.

“Evil harpies, the pair of you.” Jareth plucks another cookie from the tray and withdraws to a safe distance, letting the two of them have their moment.

“Ain't it the truth? So, to what do I owe the pleasure? Surely, you're not missing work and me that much?”

Sarah smiles and shakes her head. It's a little bit of a sad smile, a little shy even, but there's hope there as well. “Actually, we brought you a gift – a late Christmas present, if you want to look at it that way … and if you want it.”

Molly's eyebrows shoot up. “Well, aren't I the lucky one? Am I to assume this is a gift of the magical variety? Don't tell me King Hotpants there has a certain handsome henchman he's willing to hand over.” Her grin widens, but then her expression grows sombre. “What is it, hon? What do you want to give me?”

Sarah takes a step forward, drawing the gleaming golden orb out from the safety of her pocket. Molly's eyes are drawn to it at once. “It's a kind of magic even more powerful than Jareth's,” Sarah explains. “A once in a lifetime thing – something that can bend time, even decades past.”

Molly's eyes shift from the crystal to Jareth, to Sarah, and then back to the crystal again. She isn't smiling now, but there's a soft, curious light in her eyes. “Time?” she asks, her voice thick and heavy.

Sarah nods, and can feel tears are brimming in her own eyes now. “Time and magic,” she confirms. “I can't give him back to you – I'm so sorry – but you can make things right before … before.”

There's no question of what or who she's talking about. Molly's eyes haven't left the crystal. She takes a tentative step forward, then pauses. “What if …” she clears her throat and tries again. “What if he hates me for what I did?”

Sarah lays her hand on the other woman's shoulder, and feels the slight tremble there. “He could never hate you – not when you've spent your whole life loving him.” She raises the crystal in her palm. “Do you want it?” she asks, and Jareth hears those echoed words from long ago, now in her voice. “Will you take the magic?”

The hand that comes to grasp the crystal is shaking. The eyes that meet Sarah's own are already a little damp, but they're certain. “Yes,” Molly says, as the world dissolves around her.

 

-

 

When Molly blinks, she finds herself somewhere old and familiar. It's not something out of a fairytale, not one of their romantic hotspots – just the back end of a grocery store. It's the place she used to meet Tom whenever he finished his shift – though with her bus always running late, he was usually the one waiting for her. It's just the same as she remembered: drying puddles gathered in the cracks in the uneven paving beneath her feet; the faint sound of traffic carrying over from the main highway; the slightly cloying smell of fermenting fruit wafting up from the dumpsters. All that's missing is …

Yes, sure enough, there he is. He's sitting on a grimy step, finishing the last of his soda, before he pitches the bottle into the nearest dumpster. It's been years, so many years, but he hasn't changed a bit. He looks exactly the same as he did when she last saw him: same brown hair and brown eyes; the same jutting chin – no model, but always gorgeous to her. It's only when he really smiles that his features bump from 'average' to 'stunning', at least in her eyes. It makes her knees a little weak to approach him.

He isn't smiling now, but his eyebrows lift in surprise when she walks over. He gives her a polite nod. “Help you, ma'am? My shift's over, but if you go around the front of the store, we're still open for another …” He checks his watch, and then does the slowest double-take she's ever seen. His eyes widen as he stares up at her for the longest time. “Ma'am?” he says at last, then: “Molly?”

She's about to answer in the affirmative, then, with a quick glance down, she realises that this odd little time warp hasn't made her any younger. Though he's managed to recognise her face, lines and wrinkles and all, her nineteen-year-old beau is staring up at a middle-aged lady – and that's being generous. Suddenly horrified, shamed, she turns to leave. Tom stands up at once.

“Wait, don't go. Lady … is it … are you … Mol? Is that really you?” He's confused, but the strange hope in his voice makes her turn back at once. She can't deny him this.

“It's really me, babe,” she says, just about managing a smile to soften the blow – what must seem crazy as hell to him.

He scrutinises her for so long, she thinks he's about to tell her how full of shit she is, but in the end he just nods his head. “It is you. But … but how? You're …”

“Old?” she snorts. “Yeah, don't I know it.”

Here,” he corrects her. “Same time and everything. I thought I'd never see you again when you broke things off.” He frowns. “I … I don't know what's happening. You said-”

She reaches out and takes his hand, and oh, it makes her weep to feel him again after so long. “I said a lot of things,” she says now, swallowing down tears, “and I'm so, so sorry for all of them.”

“Hey, hey now, don't cry. You know I hate it when you bum out on me.”

Tom, bless his heart, actually takes her in his arms, and god, it feels so good to be held. He even smells the same as she remembers: a little of the freshly-baked bread from the grocery; a little of Old Spice; a little something that's just him. He holds her just as tightly as he did the last time they were together.

“Is … is this real?” he whispers.

She starts to shake her head, nods, then gives up. “I have no idea, babe. No idea.”

The arms around her waist tighten. “I'm … I'm really not going to see you again, am I?”

She can't help it – she sobs against his shoulder. “No … no, Tom. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry, baby.”

“Shh. Shh, I'm here. I'm here.”

He goes on holding her, goes on making everything better, and she clings to him for so long she thinks she'll never be able to let him go again. For just that one, precious moment, all is right in the world. She whispers things to him – declarations of a love that will never die, even though they'll never be together; secrets that only he will ever know. He rubs her back the way he always used to, presses soft kisses to her hair, and tells her just how much he's going to miss her.

Eventually, he has to ask. “Do you ever get your castle … you know, where you're from? As big as the one I wanna build you?”

She thinks of the trip she made into the Underground for the wedding – thinks of the grand home of the friends who have made this whole thing possible. “Not exactly, but I get to sleep in one once, just like a real princess, and it's beautiful. It's beautiful, babe.”

“Then that's good enough for me.” He pulls back and looks into her eyes, and then he smiles – that real smile that turns him from just a grocery boy into her real fairytale prince. “And Mol? You're beautiful too. Still so beautiful.”

She laughs through her tears. “So are you, babe. So are you.”

They share the sweetest kiss she's ever known – so warm and good, fresh and yet so familiar, her homecoming and her goodbye – and then the world is awash with golden light.

She blinks, and then she's back in her own kitchen. Her arms are empty once more, but there's a new fullness in her chest that's golden in its warmth. She finds Sarah with her watery eyes, and sees that the younger woman is sobbing too.

The two women embrace, tears flowing freely down both their cheeks. “Magic?” Sarah whispers.

“Magic,” Molly affirms, hugging her all the tighter.

Soft laughter fills the warm kitchen as the first drifts of cold sleet begin to fall outside.

 

-

 

They've barely made it back to the castle before the Goblin King finds his arms full of his new wife – not that he's complaining. Though he will never admit it aloud, the concept of lost love – what could have been – has affected him too. As he pulls her against his chest, it's a little alarming to realise just how much he needs the reassurance. Her cheeks are still reddened and damp with her tears, and as he turns his mouth to hers, he takes his time in touching each one, stroking and soothing her. She needs this now more than ever, it's clear, and he will always need her.

“Take me to bed,” she begs him. “Please … please, just love me.”

He does.

He starts to undress her in haste, and when it becomes clear that even that is not enough, he simply frees himself and thrusts inside her. He sheaths himself to the hilt, watching her eyes, holding himself over her as she cries out her pleasure. Now that they are joined as one, she calms somewhat, and urges him down to join her. Jareth lets his weight sink down atop her as they kiss, his fingers tangling in her hair, just as hers find his. He gives her his mouth; his body; his everything.

They get lost for a while, but they're lost together. When he finally begins to move, it's slow and deep and sweet, and he knows that when his release comes, when pleasure takes him over, it will be captured in her eyes. She's so beautiful, and she's his. The world stops spinning for those long moments spent in one another's arms, both of them finding solace in the other's heat, the matched movements of their bodies.

After, as they lie staring into one another, he can see everything – her worries; the fear he once demanded, yet never truly wanted of her.

“What is it?” he asks her.

“I'm afraid,” she admits. “I read so many love stories, edit so many neat, tacked-on happy endings. I know in real life they're never the same. No matter how much you love someone, it's hard to say if the ending you wish for will ever really come true.”

In his long life, he has made many vows, but this is perhaps the easiest – the most sure he has ever been. “With you, love – always with you – it will. I promise you, now and forever, it will.”

With a smile, she wraps her arms tightly around him, and he can feel her wishing with all of her soul – with every fibre of her being – that he will turn out to be right.

Chapter Text

 

Some promises, of course, are made to be broken.

They've made his castle their home together, and it is a home after all this time, in all the ways that count. Still, when it's dark out, the stone walls etched from the shadows themselves, it retains an aura of its old mystery. In the dark, she's never quite able to forget that she will always, in part, be a stranger here, even as queen. This is his world that he has chosen to share with her. She can never go back to the solitary, relatively simple life she once knew.

It isn't the first time she's woken in the night to find the pillows cold and empty beside her, lying alone in the bed they share. Sliding out from the covers, she ties a robe around her waist to ward her body against the chilled night air. Sleeping in the nude is his habit – one she has by now picked up from him, and happily – but he has taken on other, less appealing habits, these days. By daylight, he makes his promises, and she loves him enough to almost believe he means them. Perhaps he's even foolish enough to believe a little of them himself, before he strays. His smile still has the ability to enchant her, his lips still as soft as they've always been when he reassures her, sealing those promises with a kiss. By the time night comes around, he's always ready to break them.

She knows exactly where to find him whenever he's abandoned her, creeping only a short way along the darkened stone hallway. It's always the same, no matter how often he begs her forgiveness, and swears it'll never happen again. Her king is weakened by his desires, but then, so is she. Though she knows he lies, she takes his false promises and his kisses because of the love she's always had for him. She has no doubt that he loves her, but now, after all the time just the two of them have spent together, there is another.

There's a light coming from beneath the cracked open door of just one room, the faint sound of hushed, secret words. She tiptoes closer, already knowing what she will find.

“Beautiful, beautiful girl.”

She pauses in the corridor just outside the room, listening carefully. All too soon, she feels the tears pricking at her eyes as she recognises softly-spoken words, so very similar to the ones he spoke to her so long ago.

“ … and if you ever need me, you've only to wish it, and I'll always come. Always.” There's real love in his voice, and she knows deep in her heart that he's already far beyond smitten. “Call on me whenever you like, and I'm yours forever. Oh, my precious girl.”

She brushes softly into the room, seeing only his bare back and the white silk that covers his legs. Though she's quiet as a mouse, somehow he hears her. She sees it in the way he tilts his head, the way the muscles bunch and tense in his back. Knowing he's been caught once more, he turns to face her with a small, guilty smile.

“Just as precious as her mother,” he finishes quietly.

Sarah tries to frown, but it's impossible to be truly mad at him, with their daughter cradled so gently, so perfectly in his arms. “She's never going to start sleeping through the nights if you keep sneaking in to hold her,” she says, her voice pitched low from the doorway.

“She's sleeping now,” he points out, smiling down at his precious bundle. “She's so warm.”

“And you should be sleeping too, while she gives us the chance.”

Still, she can't help but approach the pair of them, her growing smile a little wobbly at the edges as she fights those easy tears. She always laughed a little at the weeping heroines in the romance books she's read, but now it seems she's become one of them, reduced to breathless, helpless and happy sobs at the mere sound of her beloved's voice. It has to be the lingering hormones from her pregnancy. There's no way on earth her husband, the fairy godfather who once was, has managed to weave his way so effortlessly, so completely into her heart.

“It's good to see you this way,” she admits, a little hoarsely, and it is. She could never bear to return to that time before they truly found one another – before the time their love took the shape of the daughter she loves just as much as she loves him. “Something I always wanted, but was too afraid to ever wish for outright. Maybe we never would have had this, if things had happened differently back then.”

He laughs softly, and bends to kiss her lips, his hand ever mindful of the babe's small head. “It's all in the past now, sweet one, so I wouldn't worry too much about it. Besides, some wishes grant themselves,” he says.

She smiles. “I think I understand that now. You always said I would.”

Jareth's lips twitch, and he heaves a world-weary sigh. “And even now, you've yet to admit that I am always right in everything.”

Rolling her eyes, she gives his shoulder an affectionate squeeze. “Except the way of sneaking off, stealing babies in the night.”

He pouts, drawing their little girl a little tighter against his chest to make a point. “I don't steal. I merely … borrow for a while.”

She cocks an eyebrow, mimicking her self-assured king without knowing it. “And if she wakes up and starts crying again?”

He returns that lifted eyebrow with a little smirk. “Nothing a little dance and a song won't solve.”

“You are not going to get her all excited around the goblins again, not at bedtime.”

Jareth only smiles. “If you insist, love.”

“I do. I think I'm going to have to remove the temptation. Orlaith knows to let her sleep when she needs it, and you know how much her Aunt Molly has been just begging for the chance to babysit Aboveground …”

Her husband does his best to look contrite. “Yes, well I don't think that's necessary quite yet. She's awfully young to be separated from us, especially to be in a different realm from us, don't you think? I don't think she should sleep away from the castle. I don't think she's anywhere near ready.”

“You mean you're not ready.” She laughs softly, and runs a finger over their daughter's soft cheek. “You're just lucky I'm not ready to let her go either. But if you keep leaving our bed empty, then my threats won't stay empty much longer.” Trying her best to look intimidating, she narrows her eyes at him, but she can feel a small smile curving her lips, and knows her effort is most likely a failure. Still, she's winning, as she always does.

Vanquished once more, the pouting Goblin King gives a soft sigh of defeat. “All right, all right. Just remember, you held her for nine months, love. I've barely had her for a quarter of that, yet.”

Her smile widens as she relents, and she leans in, kissing first the warm cheek of her tiny baby, and then her big one. “Five more minutes with her, and then you come back to bed. No excuses.”

He smiles at her again, and it's the one she treasures more than life itself. “You have my word.”

“And Jareth?”

“Mmm?” He already has to tear his gaze away from the baby again. “Yes, precious?”

“If I find you in here again tomorrow night, I promise you'll be in some seriously deep word-I-can't-say-in-front-of-our-daughter.”

His smile widens. “I'll have you know, I'm rather fond of being deep in your word-we-can't-say-in-front-of-our-daughter.”

She rolls her eyes. “You know exactly what I mean, and if you ever want to be reacquainted with that other word-we-can't-say, you'll knock that smirk off right now.”

“Duly noted, love.” He bites his lip, but already his smile starts to creep around the edge of his teeth. Both of them know there's no real threat there.

She chuckles softly as she turns to leave, but can't resist a little peek back at them when she reaches the doorway. Jareth is lost once more, crooning words of love, the devoted and doting father almost to a fault. Someone in this household is going to have to learn to be firm, or else the little princess is going to have them all wrapped around her tiny pink finger before she can even talk. Later, she knows Jareth will make his apologies, kissing her, swearing not to sneak off again, and she knows she'll believe him … until the next time, at least. She blows a kiss to the pair of them before she goes.

She is as indulgent of her king as he is obedient to his queen, still smiling to herself as she slips off her robe and slides back into bed. She doesn't have to count the minutes to know that he's made it back to their room in the nick of time, slipping silently into their bed and stretching his body along hers to warm her back. She can feel him – all of him – and knows he, too, has shed his clothing once more. Skin to skin, they lie, as they always do, his solid warmth at her back once more. His arm curls around her from behind, spooning her the same way as he always has, his soft hair draping across her arm. His fingers trace small circles on her soft belly, reverent in their care.

“I wonder when it'll come time to think about making another,” he murmurs, and she can feel him grin against her bare shoulder.

“Mmm. I thought we were supposed to be catching up on our sleep.”

The Goblin King doesn't seem in the least bit tired as he pulls her body more firmly back against his own. “There'll be plenty of time for that later – when all our children are grown, and weary enough of us to have built their own castles, and I have my queen all to myself again.” The warm lips at her shoulder press a kiss there, then another, closer to the nape of her neck, thrilling her the way it always has.

“And exactly how many children are we planning, Jareth? These are my stretch marks we're talking about; my giant ankles and aching back; my pigging out on peaches and-” She grimaces, hardly able to think back on her cravings without her stomach churning. “Melted cheese.”

“I always brought them to you, didn't I?”

She snorts. “Yeah, with that frowny little judgemental face.”

“Minimal judgement,” he corrects her, squeezing her tighter. His voice drops lower, teasing at her neck as his hands rise to cup her breasts. “I hardly dared anything more.”

“Only 'cause you knew I'd sit on you.”

“Mmm. I think I'd rather welcome that. You know I like it when you're in charge, love.”

Laughing to herself, she starts to lean back into his touch, letting his hands and mouth warm her in the most wonderful way. “Give it a few years and see how you like having two women in charge. That girl is going to walk all over you, and you're going to let her.”

He sighs in a way that's meant to sound rueful. She knows he doesn't mean it a bit. “Most likely.”

“Try 'definitely'. You're the poutiest man I know, and she's half of me – and you've seen me at my most stubborn.”

Another low sigh, this one ending in a little nip to her neck that leaves her trembling. “Perhaps, but I've also seen you at your weakest and most wanting, trembling at my hand … and at my mouth. Of course, if you've already forgotten just how much fun we had last time …”

“Maybe … maybe trying again isn't such a bad idea …” she murmurs, hearing a little of that weakness already beginning to seep into her voice. She knows they never will deny one another.

He only chuckles, his words warming her ear once more. “We have all the time in the word, my sweet Sarah – all the time to do anything and everything we want together. Whatever we both so wish.”

There's a warmth in her belly and a flood of joy in her heart as she turns in his arms to face him – the man who has loved her and won her heart a thousand times over. Seeing the longing in his eyes, tonight and always, she finally knows just what her wish is.