"Be careful what you wish for. There's always a catch."
Laurie Halse Anderson
Sarah couldn't believe her own temerity but she zipped up her tent with a steady hand nonetheless. For a moment she thought she could make out his outline through the nylon, silhouetted by the fire she most certainly should have put out before going to bed. What would Smokey say?
And then he was gone.
As though he'd never been there at all.
She waited but nothing more happened.
She lay down on her sleeping bag and chewed her lip. When she pressed a palm to her forehead she could feel the residual heat in her tight skin. Mild sunstroke maybe. She did have a headache. Easy to get when you're more focused on your charges than on your own well-being. She took a swig from a water bottle – nauseatingly warm from being in the tent all day.
Distantly she could hear the measured drone of the highway overlaid by the haunting call of a loon on the lake. Closer still was the unmistakable buzz of a mosquito. All together they formed the orchestra of a regular old camp. Nothing more. Sarah swatted at her face and promised herself to wear a hat tomorrow.
Somewhere near a cabin door banged shut - probably a trip to the kybo. It was the last sound that fully registered before sheer exhaustion claimed her for the night.
Of course she might have slept more fitfully had she'd known what dark thoughts the Goblin King harboured.
Jareth had watched her walk away, hips swaying in those ridiculously short cut-offs after seemingly (and incomprehensibly!) denying him once again, and suddenly all he could think about was bending her over one of the wooden benches and fucking the ever-living defiance out of her. Not exactly the greeting he'd been intending to offer but he'd underestimated how her ability to get under his skin had not dulled with time.
But rules were rules, even when they were his. All the more irritatingly so when they were his in fact.
He could hardly force her to run for them. It was just so unexpected. A call in the night after so long. And he'd felt it. Felt it in his very bones. She'd meant the wish. She'd said the words.
And then she didn't want to play.
It wasn't fair.
Because he couldn't even stay. He felt the magic tugging him away even as he was still contemplating blowing her ridiculously flimsy sleeping quarters down like the big bad wolf in a children's story.
When he could resist no more he found himself back in the throne room.
He was on the verge of thoroughly drowning himself in goblin ale when he heard the politely cleared throat.
That's right. He was not alone.
Thirty odd faces – some decidedly grubby looking – were peering at him expectantly. They were certainly a motely crew, all of them dressed in what looked like various forms of sleepwear. One was still holding a long stick with a charred bit of white goo precariously attached to the end.
It detached itself with a wet plop and landed on the stone floor. The boy looked down and his freckled-nose wrinkled in what Jareth recognized was the pre-cursor to a sniffle.
Eyeing each of them in turn he decided that though they were likely more trouble than a baby, they looked harmless enough.
Words he would soon regret…
He turned his back on them and strode towards his throne. If he was going to lick his wounds it was going to be in style at least.
The Goblin King stopped short, one of his arched brows began twitching in disbelief. His seat, well worn from a century of artfully languid lounging, was absolutely writhing with caterpillars.
…Regret sooner than not, he realized.
Sarah awoke feeling simultaneously refreshed and stiff in that way that comes only from sleeping outdoors in tent. The sun was already beating hotly through the nylon, making the whole interior feel more like a greenhouse. She kicked off her sleeping bag, sat up and stretched, and retrieved her toiletry bag after running a hand through her unwashed and tangled hair.
Glancing down she realized she'd fallen asleep in her clothes – now rumpled and more than a little sweaty. She felt well-rested but with hazy memories of a ludicrous dream still tugging at her conscious.
When she poked her head out of the tent flap to get some cooler air she squinted and realized the entire lower field was rather quiet. The bright sun was high enough that she likewise recognized she'd clearly slept through wake-up call. The old cook, a fixture of the camp since its inception, was an absolute stickler for protocols. Late comers didn't get fed. They did get dishes. And they most assuredly got publicly shamed, regardless of age.
Swearing under her breath she slipped on flip-flops and hightailed to it the dining hall without bothering to change. God willing they'd fixed the coffee machine and something hot, caffeinated, and mostly drinkable was waiting for her.
She opened the door slowly, trying hard to be discreet, and then dropped her entire kit with a bang. Her toothbrush rolled across the floor.
The other leaders looked up, mugs paused midway to mouths.
So they'd fixed the coffee machine.
But lost all of the kids.
Not too much sun. Not a dream.
The long wooden tables and benches were empty save for the handful leaders. Not one looked surprised by that fact however. Sarah ignored their curious stares and pressed her face against the far window. The beach was empty; the lake clear as glass. All the canoes were banked on shore. The archery range was still clothed in morning shadow but entirely empty. The high ropes swayed lightly in the breeze, weighed down only by the occasional bird. The tall Canadian flag snapped in the wind, next to the large emergency bell.
The bell you were supposed to ring in the event of an emergency. Like a missing child. Or thirty of them.
"Hey Sarah, coffee's hot. Get some before Ernie notices you're late."
Sarah turned, the blood already rushing to her ears. "The kids…"
Chris blinked back at her. "What kids?"
Someone else pressed a cup of coffee into her hand. The chipped mug read, "Be Prepared" and featured a formal picture of Lord Baden Powell.
"Looks like someone had a rough sleep." Chris patted the bench beside him.
Sarah felt her legs begin to shake so she sank down, her eyes wide and unseeing.
At that moment, Ernie pushed through the galley style doors with a cart laden with steaming food and his trademark perpetual scowl. Scrambled eggs, toast, fat greasy sausages, a pot of beans, and bowls of cut fruit. Without preamble he began tossing the food onto the tables just as he'd done for the last 50 years and in defiance of biology, probably would for 50 years more. It was enough to feed an army. Or at least thirty kids with the appetite of one. He finished, did a head count as though eight adults was all he expected, nodded gruffly, and retreated into his kitchen.
"Dig in before it's all gone," Dave advised. Sarah stared at him incredulously when she realized he was serious.
"The kids!" Her voice sounded a touch hysterical even to her own ears.
A few of the leaders looked up, exchanged glances and went back to eating. Chris, always in a good mood, started laughing. "Biological clock ticking or something? What kids?"
"The kids who should be here? The ones we should be leading?" She motioned towards the walls which were covered in 75 years worth of camp photos. In all of them there were smiling kids in uniform.
Chris squinted at a few. "A yep. So?"
"Where are they now?"
"Well some of them are probably dead by now, Sarah, but that's a bit dark for breakfast chatter don't you think?"
"No, I mean don't you think it's strange we are here, at a camp for kids, dressed in leaders uniforms and we have no kids?" Sarah studied his face, hoping to catch a flicker of remembrance. For his brow to furrow in confusion.
Instead he choked on a piece of egg mid laugh. The morsel flew free and skidded to a halt in front of her. Incriminatingly so she thought.
"Ergh… argh," he coughed. "Good one, Williams."
Sarah pointed at all the food. "Don't you think kids should be here though?"
"Why would we want kids here? They ruin everything. Much more peaceful without them." Chris cheers'd the leader behind him when Sarah left him hanging.
She looked at each adult in turn – all of them looking well-rested and carefree and certainly not panicked in the least by the lack of Cubs.
"Relax." She felt a hand hit her shoulder. "You look tense," Camille offered brightly. "Camp is about relaxing. Try it sometime."
Sarah mulled the alien word over in her head. She'd been putting in 50 hour weeks on-top of the volunteer hours. Her only vacation for the foreseeable future was eaten up by the entire Scout trip.
An insidious voice in the back of her head suggested she could at least enjoy one day kid-free before she had to call foul and beseech the king to return the brats. Ultimately it was the right thing to do. Blah, blah, blah.
Sarah took a sip of coffee. Bitter, acrid, over-cooked, slight taste of gym socks…
And somehow perfect.
The other leaders began to file out after scraping off their dishes. They'd all originally had a full day's itinerary planned but with no Cubs the adults seemed in no particular hurry to go anywhere.
A slow smile formed as she tore into a lukewarm sausage.
Maybe, just maybe, neither was she.
She could feel her velvet glove begin to weep at the sight of his swollen staff. His magnificent muscles – a twelve pack at least - rippled as he stroked the length of his iron-hard tumescence between his golden thighs.
Anastasia could feel her nipples clap for joy beneath her see-through shift at beholding such a prime display of virile masculinity. Her violet eyes widened even as her pulsing core begged to be seeded by such a stud.
"My darling, lift up your skirts for I have a fearsome hunger to feast on your delectable whisker biscuit," Lord Chad Blake III declared, his molten member already bouncing bouncily in anticipation...
"Take them back."
Sarah looked up in surprise, hastily covering the worn paperback in her hands and squinting into the late afternoon sun as she pulled off her headphones.
The Goblin King, looking far less impressive and much more worn, was standing beside her on the old wooden dock.
She'd been stretched out on her stomach, sun-tanning. The lake was calm and deserted. It was peaceful enough to read the old dog-eared bodice ripper she'd found tucked into a couch in the staff lounge. She was about to hop up defensively when she remembered she'd undone her bikini top. With no one to see, no dress code to uphold, and the floating dock to herself, she'd taken advantage of the privacy.
"You absolutely should be."
Sarah could hear the latent rage, with just a touch of desperation, laced into every over-enunciated word.
She'd been planning to call on him. To work something out to get the kids back. It was her fault after all and she'd had no doubt he would make her pay dearly. But something about his tone made her pause.
He wanted her to take them back.
Which meant the power might actually lie with her.
"I don't know what you're talking about." She popped the headphones back onto her ears. Alanis Morissette's You Oughta Know resumed blaring.
She could see his boots pacing, rocking the dock slightly. Then the earphones were unceremoniously yanked from her ears.
"You know exactly what I mean. You wished away monsters. Those aren't children. They are vile, savage, uncouth beasts and you will take them back. Now."
Sarah blew her gum, careful not to lean up so far as to give him a view of anything. Both she and Jareth watched the pink bubble expand before popping so loudly it seemed to echo across the lake. "No."
A delicious thrill, much more heady than the laughable smut she'd been reading, coursed her through her at the expression that crossed the king's face. It really should have terrified her. He looked murderous, incredulous, powerful.
And entirely at her mercy.
"Sarah…" he paused as he seemed to finally take in just how little clothing she was wearing. She saw his jaw tick as his eyes swept the length of her. "Be reasonable. Surely you see the impulsiveness of your actions. Surely you don't want to deprive mothers and fathers of their children."
"I believe you said, what was it? Oh yes. They are 'vile, savage, uncouth beasts'. Surely," she affected his strange accent, "I've done them a favour." She cracked her book back open and waved her hand. "If you don't mind, you're in my sun."
"'Lance of love'. What exactly are you reading?"
Sarah snapped her book shut again. "I'm sorry, don't you have some monsters to deal with? And I don't mean the goblins."
Jareth's eyes narrowed dangerously at the unmistakable note of dismissal in her voice. "This isn't over, Sarah. Not by far. You play a dangerous game, little girl."
The water rippled as he disappeared, the floating dock resettling without his weight. Sarah laughed into her crooked arm, both to release the tension and because she'd just refused, for the second time, to take back the kids she'd so foolishly wished away. He was not wrong. She was playing with fire, no doubt. But somehow it felt delicious to make him wait. She certainly didn't feel as guilty as she should about giving herself a mini-vacation.
The kids were fine. Probably.
It was nothing he couldn't handle. He was the Goblin King after all. And it had been less than twenty-four hours.
She stretched and put her earphones back in. You tell him, Alanis.
It was an hour later, when she went to swim back to shore that she realized he'd taken her bikini top.
It was about the same time reality came crashing in. "Toby!"
"Sire!" A frazzled goblin skidded to a halt before Jareth. "The mortals!" The creature was wheezing, clearly having fast enough that he was out of breath.
"Yes? What of them?" It had been one thing after another since they'd arrived. If they weren't demanding food, they were needing bathroom breaks. They'd already terrorized most of the kitchen goblins into calling a strike. They'd tied knots into everything they could fine, including the hairier goblins. And no matter where he went there seemed to be caterpillars. Everywhere. He was certainly in no hurry to hear what the little terrors had done now. Not when he was vacillating between fantasies of murdering Sarah and tasting all that sun-kissed skin, which smelled so enticingly like coconut.
Perhaps he'd do both.
"The children, sire!" The goblin panted. "They've taken control of the bog."
The Goblin King frowned and then snorted indifferently. "They can't possible smell worse than they already do. And it will serve her right." He was already envisioning what he'd demand to get that particular odour out.
"But, sire, you don't understand! They're dismantling the dam!"
AN: The next fic to be updated is Tanglewood. Scouts' honour.
There is some suspension of disbelief needed in this fic, but I figure we all love a movie about puppets and David Bowie's crotch – we are pretty flexible.
Credit needs to go to some LFFL discussions and bad genital euphemisms lists for the travesty of the bodice ripper blurb I wrote. But! But! I have been determined to incorporate my favourite – Whisker Biscuit – into a fic. And I did it, bitch.
Fun fact. It's legal to be topless in Ontario, Canada. Fun(ner) fact. Alanis Morissette is from my city.
Hope you are still enjoying whatever the hell this is!