AUTHOR NOTE: Oh thank you ever so much for all the reviews! And many many thanks for not objecting to the excessive crotch references or the flagrant misuse of a fruit platter in the previous chapters. Now, here's 'The Date: Part III—Once More with Buffing!' (btw there were big hints about the origins of the buffing in the last few paragraphs of the Bonus Chapter. Never say that I didn't warn you…).
DISCLAIMER: I do not own the Labyrinth. I am, however, a firm believer in buffing.
Chapter 12: It's only forever…and your time starts now.
In the courtyard of the castle beyond the Goblin City, a large frypan-waving, torch-wielding mob was gathering. For the most part, they were having a wondrous time— they were enjoying the novelty of waving frypans, and the danger of wielding torches in close proximity to others, and the overall jollity of chanting. However, there had already been a few casualties; four goblins had been knocked unconscious by the enthusiastic pan-waving of their peers, and two others were now missing eyebrows after a close-encounter with one of the torches. The fact that most of the mob members had been drinking ale just prior to their trip to the castle meant that the overall mood was quite celebratory. On the downside, it also meant that the mob was quite flammable.
In the throne room, the goblins clustered around the tower window, watching and cheering as the mob waved their pots and pans in the air.
"BUFF-ING! BUFF-ING! BUFF-ING!" the mob chanted.
"It's kind of catchy, isn't it?" remarked Squibble.
"Maybe," said Skeep thoughtfully. He waved his fork in the air. "BUFF-ING, BUFF-ING!" he chanted. He stopped abruptly. "Catchy," he said, nodding his head in agreement.
Unbeknownst to the distracted goblins, their King and their Lady had materialized directly behind them. To say that their King was displeased was a severe understatement.
"What the devil is going on!" yelled Jareth.
The goblins jumped and turned around abruptly.
"Hi King! Hi Lady!" said Skeep happily.
Squeak cleared his throat. "Your Majesty. It appears as though a crowd has gathered because of the Royal Decree you issued earlier."
Jareth thought for a moment. "From my recollection, the Royal Decree did not involve attacking my castle with kitchen cutlery; it involved a one-way trip to my new swamp for anyone who ruined my evening," he said with cold malice. "Are you suggesting that the entire population has developed a sudden desire to sample the delights of the swamp? If so, I am more than happy to oblige them."
The goblins started to shuffle around nervously. "Ahh, about the Royal Decree…," began Squeak.
Jareth narrowed his eyes. "What did you imbeciles do this time?"
"We were a little excited…about the swamp…," began Squibble.
"It's hard to remember things when you are excited," interrupted the goblin with the blue tusks.
"Very hard," Squibble agreed.
"And it is also easy to mishear things when you are excited, so the message may have become a little mixed up…" said Ignor.
"Very mixed up," Squibble agreed.
"How mixed up?" Jareth asked between clenched teeth.
"What started as a decree about the King threatening to throw us in the swamp…," began Ignor.
"…apparently ended up as a decree about the King promising to buff everyone's frypans for free," finished Squeak.
"BUFFING?!" Jareth said incredulously. "Buffing, buffing tra la la is the cause of the predicament? You imbeciles!"
Jareth could not trust himself to speak any further. He was very much aware of the fact that it was only a glass of champagne, a midair dance, and a series of scorching apple-flavored kisses that was stopping him from bogging and/or swamping every one of his subjects. Jareth pinched the bridge of his nose, sighed, and then walked slowly to the window. He leaned over the edge, and looked down at the chanting, pot-waving populous below.
"Well, I guess that explains why they keep chanting "buffing"," he said as nonchalantly as he possibly could.
"Catchy," said Skeep, waving his fork in time to the chants.
Jareth felt a touch on his hand. Looking down, he noticed that Sarah had placed her hand over his and had entwined their fingers together. Meeting her gaze, Jareth noticed that her eyes were shining with laughter.
"This is not funny," he said sternly.
"Oh I think you'll find that it is," she said merrily, looking out at the crowd. Sarah leaned forward a little and suddenly started waving. "It's Hoggle!" she said happily.
"Well that's improved my evening immeasurably," said Jareth sarcastically.
The dwarf, holding two pans, happily waved back at Sarah. He then scowled at Jareth, muttering under his breath. Jareth smirked in return and, quite irrationally, felt somewhat better.
"What shall we do, your Majesty?" asked Squeak.
Jareth sighed. "Well, I could order them home, but I fear that they will revolt if I deprived them of their buffing," he said dryly.
Squeak nodded. "They are very serious about their buffing."
Sarah looked down at the frypan-waving mob. "Can't you just…?" she said, waving her hand in a vaguely magical-looking gesture.
Jareth looked at her hand gesture. "What? Kill them?" he asked, perplexed.
"No!" said Sarah, aghast. "You know, use magic," she said, making the magic gesture again.
He looked at her, amused. "So that hand gesture is supposed to denote the use of magic?"
Sarah nodded, making it again.
"Hmm, it looks more like a gesture for strangulation," he said dryly.
Sarah gave him an indignant look. "No it doesn't! It looks very magical."
He looked at the gesture critically. "Try flicking your wrist a little more. See?" he said, demonstrating a graceful magical gesture rich in wrist-flick.
Sarah tried it again, with greater wrist-flick. "Better," he said critically. "We'll have to work on it."
Sarah smiled, flicking away. "So couldn't you just use magic to buff their frypans?" she asked curiously.
Jareth pursed his lips. "Possibly, seeing that killing them is out of the question," he said dryly. He looked over at the crowd and made some quick calculations. He grimaced. "But given the events of the day, using magic to buff every single pot will exhaust me." He bent his head and placed his lips to her ear. "And I can think of far better ways to expend my energy this evening," he purred.
Sarah inhaled sharply as his teeth grazed her earlobe. "But isn't that what Kings do? Make sacrifices for their kingdom?" she asked teasingly.
"Not this King. Not tonight," he said emphatically.
Sarah swallowed and felt her heart race. She swallowed again. "If buffing each pot would exhaust you, then could you perhaps make something that could buff the pots for you?"
Jareth thought about that for a moment. "Clever girl," he said approvingly, letting his lips rest against her hair for a moment. He then turned to Squeak. "Bring me an empty ale barrel," he commanded.
"Yes Majesty," said Squeak.
The goblins scattered and brought Jareth a barrel. Conjuring a crystal, he dropped it inside. The crystal spun around and around, coating the sides of the barrel with glitter, and becoming smaller and smaller until it disappeared.
"Now, give me a pan," ordered Jareth.
A small goblin handed him a crusty, diseased-looking, frypan. Jareth dipped it into the barrel, held it inside for a few seconds, and then removed it. It was now sparkling clean.
"Oooooooooooooooh!" the goblins crooned in awe.
"What's it called?" asked Squibble, reverently touching the barrel.
Jareth shrugged elegantly. "The 'Barrel of Constant Buffing', I suppose."
"YEAHHY BARREL!" yelled Skeep, waving his fork in the air.
"Would you care to make an announcement to your subjects about the barrel, your Majesty? They're all very excited about the buffing," asked Squeak.
Jareth snorted. "Let's make this quick. Follow me with the barrel," he commanded. He raised Sarah's hand. "I'll be back shortly," he said, brushing his lips to her inner wrist.
"Have fun," she said impishly.
He threw her a rueful look and left the room, the goblins following him with the Barrel of Constant Buffing.
Watching Jareth leave, Sarah noticed a blue fold-up chair near the window. "That looks a little out of place," she said, pointing to the chair.
The goblins nodded. "It was for the wrestlers," said Squibble.
"Did you guys like the wrestlers?" she asked.
The goblins nodded enthusiastically. "Oh yes!"
"They taught us this," said Beep. He picked up the coach's folding chair and, with a deft swing, hit Squibble in the back of the knees, dropping him to the ground.
"And this," said Skeep, taking his fork and stabbing Beep in the vicinity of his kidneys.
"AH! My kidneys," yelled Beep, dropping to the floor.
"Oh no!" groaned Sarah, as she watched Squibble and Beep rolling around the floor in agony, Skeep standing over them triumphantly with his fork.
"Good job fellows," said Jareth from the doorway.
Sarah gave him a pointed look. "You shouldn't be encouraging this!"
Jareth shrugged and moved toward her. "But Sarah, they have been practicing; it's rare for them to practice anything that isn't ale or chicken-related. You have to reward such diligence."
Sarah shook her head. "But you are their King; it's your duty to stop your subjects from attacking each other," she said, trying to reason with him.
Jareth sighed and crossed his arms. "Sarah, as a King, it's my duty to stop my subjects from attacking me. What they do to each other is typically of less concern, particularly when you rule over a population that is near indestructible."
Seeing Sarah's skeptical expression, Jareth sighed. "Fine," he said begrudgingly. He walked over to Beep and Squibble, who were still rolling around the floor. "You have my permission to get your revenge," he said to them regally. He looked around at his clean throne room. "Just try not to get blood on the floor."
The goblins stopped rolling. "Thanks King!" they said happily.
Sarah watched in horrified fascination as Squibble sat up and bit Beep in the shin. Beep then reached up and poked Skeep somewhere in the vicinity of his spleen.
"Pointy!" wailed Skeep, dropping to the floor, clutching his spleen.
All three goblins then diligently rolled around the floor in agony.
Sarah shook her head and turned to Jareth. "That wasn't exactly what I had in mind," she said wearily.
Jareth shrugged elegantly. "In my experience, the goblins are happy just as long as everyone is injured."
Sarah looked down at the throne room floor; all three goblins were wailing in pain, legs flailing in the air, Skeep's stilettos occasionally injuring innocent bystanders who were crowding around to watch the spectacle. Despite their wails, the injured goblins looked…pleased. She sighed. Perhaps there was more to ruling the Goblin Kingdom than she had initially thought. She caught Jareth's gaze and noticed that he was looking at her smugly. She decided not to inform him that he may have a point.
At that moment, Squeak came running into the throne room. "Ahh, Majesty?"
Jareth sighed and looked toward him. "Yes Squeak?"
"Ahh…we need your assistance."
Jareth sighed again. "It has only been moments since I fixed the last catastrophe. Surely you need longer than that to make my life a misery?" he asked in a rather pleasantly menacing manner.
"Usually that would be the case, your Majesty. However, the goblin with the frypan hat put his frypan in the barrel…."
Jareth looked at Squeak blankly. "And why is that a problem?" he asked blandly.
Squeak cleared his throat. "He was still wearing it at the time."
"Of course he was," said Jareth, pinching the bridge of his nose. He looked up at the clock. "And let me guess—he still has leprosy?"
Squeak nodded. "That's right. We were wondering if you could put him back together, your Majesty. He's just in the next room….well, most of him is."
"I expect that he is feeling a little under the weather," Jareth said dryly.
Squeak nodded. "Though, on the upside, his hat has been buffed to perfection."
"There is the proverbial silver lining," Jareth remarked sardonically, looking over at Sarah. She returned his gaze sympathetically.
"You go right ahead," she said, briefly touching his arm. "I'll wait here."
Jareth shot her a grateful look and followed Squeak out the door. Sarah could hear Jareth yelling at the frypan goblin from the next room. "You imbecile! Obviously contracting leprosy didn't increase your intellect."
The goblins walked across the throne room and stood around Sarah. "Are you having a good time, Lady?" asked the goblin with the blue horns.
Sarah nodded. "A very good time," she said smiling.
They all looked relieved.
"Do you know what would make it better?" asked Squibble.
Sarah shook her head.
"Ale," said the goblin with blue tusks, holding up a tankard.
"Oh no," said Sarah shaking her head more forcefully. "No ale for me."
"But Lady," said Squibble, "you gave us so many delicious things. Cookies …"
"And ice cream…"
"And chocolate cake…"
"And potted plants…"
"So we want you to try something that we love. Won't you try some?" asked the blue-horned goblin.
"PLEASE!" pleaded Squibble.
"Just a sip," said Ignor.
"Tasty," said Skeep patting his small stomach.
"And then we will sing! The Rosalinda song, or the one about the man and his tractor," said Squibble.
"But we have to sing softly, or the King will bog us," warned the blue-horned goblin.
"Or swamp us," said Beep.
"No swamp Lady!" Skeep said warningly, his little fork ready.
"No, the King wouldn't bog or swamp you," Ignor assured Sarah.
"Pretty," said Skeep, patting her dress dreamily.
"PLEASE!?" said Squibble, offering her a tankard.
Sarah looked down at several sets of pleading eyes and sighed. "Ok," she said in resignation. "Just a sip," she warned.
"YEAHHY!" the goblins cheered.
Sarah took the tankard from Squibble and brought it to her lips. "Cheers," she said dubiously and sipped. And grimaced. It tasted as though someone had boiled a soiled running shoe in turpentine. As soon as she swallowed, Sarah felt a wet, warm heat rush over her face—almost as if she had been slapped around the head with a large fish. Then she started to feel dizzy.
"Everything's dancing," Sarah said dreamily.
Jareth entered the room and his jaw dropped. He saw his Sarah holding a tankard of ale and swaying drunkenly back and forth, much to the joy of the surrounding goblins. He literally felt his heart stop.
"Oh lord no!" he moaned, running over to Sarah, manically tossing and kicking any goblin in his path. "Everyone out NOW before I use you to road-test the swamp," he yelled harshly.
The goblins fled, dragging their tossed and kicked brethren out with them.
Jareth grabbed Sarah's shoulders and shook her gently. "Sarah, listen to me carefully; can you see me?" he asked, peering intently into her green eyes.
"I can see time," Sarah said in awe, wiggling her fingers in front of her face.
"Here, drink this," he said urgently, conjuring a goblet of water.
Sarah ignored the glass and transferred her gaze to the Goblin King. "You're pretty," she sighed, touching his cheek.
"Yes, yes I know," he said impatiently. "Now drink," he urged, bringing the goblet to her lips.
Sarah giggled as she drank the water. She looked up at him again and gasped. "Did you know that your eyes aren't the same color?" she asked in awe.
Jareth sighed. "I have noted it on occasion."
"Are my eyes the same color?" she asked, opening her eyes as wide as possible so that he could see them.
Jareth's lips quirked. "I believe so."
Sarah nodded, trying to look thoughtful. She then looked up at him again and giggled.
"You're pretty," she said dreamily, touching his cheek.
Jareth couldn't help smirking. "We don't seem to be making much progress, do we precious thing?" he said ruefully. "Come, let's get you some fresh air."
In a heartbeat, they were standing in the King's formal garden, which was conspicuously missing one large stone fountain.
"Now," he whispered in her ear. "Take a couple of deep breaths and all should be well."
Sarah nodded agreeably. With remarkable poise, she stood up straight, squared her shoulders, took a deep breath…and promptly passed out. Deftly, Jareth caught her as she fell to the ground, and carried her to a large stone bench that was surrounded by hedges. He sat down and carefully arranged Sarah on his lap, smoothing her skirt over her knees. After checking to ensure that she was merely sleeping, he stroked her cheek and sighed ruefully.
"Needless to say, this is not how I thought tonight would turn out," he said wryly. He gently brushed her long dark hair away from her face. "You have no idea what I had to do today just to get you here this evening—baby-sit wrestlers, bog fountains, create swamps, decorate ballrooms, coax fruit to ripen…the list goes on." He sighed wearily. "And then all of my best efforts are undone by one sip of ale." He snorted. "Tomorrow I'm replacing that stuff with fabric softener." He paused. "I doubt they'll tell the difference."
To Jareth's delight, Sarah snuggled closer to his chest and sighed. Jareth ran his fingers idly through her hair.
"Although you would probably scoff, I was actually hoping for a little more conversation this evening before you fell asleep in my arms," he said wistfully. "I do so enjoy our conversations."
Sarah only sighed against his chest.
Jareth looked around the garden and saw the large fountain-shaped hole. He grimaced. "I rather miss my fountain. What do you think, my love—should we get another one?"
Sarah murmured something incoherent.
"Was that a yes or a no?" he asked her solicitously. He pretended to give the matter a great deal of thought. "Would you prefer a statue instead?"
Sarah murmured sleepily.
Jareth nodded solemnly at her response. "You make a convincing argument. Statue it is then. What kind of statue would you like? Perhaps one commemorating our reunion? You, of course, would be immortalized dressed in your bathrobe, armed with your skillet. And I," he paused, realizing that such a statue would probably have to have Rosalinda perched on his head, mid-attack. He shuddered. "Perhaps not. What would you like a statue of?"
Again Sarah mumbled something incoherent and snuggled further into the soft velvet of his jacket.
Jareth bent his head closer to her. "Forgive me, love, but I didn't quite catch that. It sounded a little like 'yak'," he said smiling. He waited but Sarah did not say anything more. He shrugged. "If a yak is what you want, then a yak you shall have. Anything you want, my love," he said, brushing his lips against her forehead.
Jareth sat back on the bench and looked up at the starlit sky. The moon had started to rise, full and silver, giving the garden a silver sheen. A group of fairies flew toward the King and his Lady from a nearby hedge, lured by the vision of Sarah in her red gown. They hovered around her, stretching out their tiny hands to touch the pale moonlit skin of Sarah's cheek.
Jareth looked at them coolly. "Bite her and I'll bite you back," he warned pleasantly, smiling his pointy canine smile.
The fairies backed away fearfully. When they were safely out of reach, they gave him saucy pointy little smiles of their own, and flew off giggling. Jareth laughed and looked down at Sarah again, and sighed in contentment. It went without saying that this was not an ideal situation for the Goblin King; after all, Sarah was not even conscious. But from Jareth's perspective, she was here, in his arms, and that was a definite improvement on the day before when she was not… and the day before that…and all the days prior to this one in his long, long life. He settled back on the stone bench, content to wait.
The first thing that Sarah noticed was that her cheek was pressed against the softest pillow she had ever felt. Really, it was like velvet and it smelt divine and …strangely enough…it appeared to be breathing. Odd. Slowly, Sarah opened her eyelids and found herself looking up into the concerned mismatched gaze of the Goblin King.
"Sleeping Beauty awakes, I see," he said drolly and smiled that half smile she liked so much.
She smiled back. She felt warm and safe and exceedingly happy, even though her brain felt oddly gelatinous.
"Is this a dream?" she asked him sleepily.
He smiled in delight. "We both know that this scene is a little too innocent for one of my dreams," he said wickedly. "And although I am very fond of that gown you are wearing, after seeing the delightful contents of your pink lingerie bag, I probably would have dressed you in something tasseled."
Sarah rolled her eyes, though her inner voice awoke from her fake coma to perform a jolly little I told you so dance. Sarah ignored the voice and looked around the garden.
"What happened? How did I get here?" she asked, confused.
"You, my love, are the latest victim of goblin ale," Jareth said wryly.
Sarah groaned, remembering. "I only had a sip! Wow that ale is potent." She shook her head to clear it. "It was so weird—I dreamt I was tossing a chicken. And I enjoyed it!" she said, bemused.
Jareth laughed. "There's an art to it. I'll teach you, if you so desire."
"Thanks, but I think I'll pass," she said laughing. She sat up a little. "Where are we?" she asked, yawning.
"My formal garden."
Sarah looked around. "Didn't you say that the wished-away goat was living here?"
"Not anymore—he's now living out his days as a pro-wrestling mascot."
Sarah raised her eyebrow. Jareth merely shrugged. "I know—none of us saw that coming," he said dryly.
Sarah looked around and saw the large hole in the centre of the garden. "Is that where the fountain used to be?" she asked.
Jareth sighed a long suffering sigh and conjured a crystal. Sarah peered into it and noticed the fountain sitting jauntily in the middle of the bog.
"It definitely brightens up the bog," she laughed, noticing Jareth's pained look. "How did you get the fountain in there? Magic?" she asked curiously.
"The wrestlers threw it in," he admitted.
"The wrestlers?" she said in surprise.
Jareth nodded. "Actually they were surprisingly helpful. The goblins really took a shine to them. I myself became almost fond of them, particularly Weasel."
Sarah laughed. Jareth bent his head and brushed his lips gently against hers. "I am glad you're awake," he said teasingly. "It makes having a conversation with you so much easier."
"I'm sure," she said ruefully. She was about to kiss him back when something in the crystal caught her attention. "Is there a carriage in the bog?" she asked incredulously.
"The things I do for you," he muttered, and deftly tossed the crystal into the air where it promptly disappeared.
Sarah rested her cheek against his shoulder and trailed her fingers languidly along the exposed skin of his chest and neck.
Jareth closed his eyes and purred low in his throat. "As lovely as the garden is, I think it's time that we return to our dinner. There are still too many apples left on that platter for my liking," he said, running his gloved finger over her bottom lip.
Sarah tried not to look too eager. "If you wish," she said as nonchalantly as possible.
Jareth looked at her knowingly. "Oh I do wish," he said in a low whisper.
He bent to kiss her but stopped suddenly, tilting his head as if he was listening to something. Sarah felt a shy tap on her shoulder and she turned. A long leafy vine had unfurled itself from the hedge behind her and had curled around her shoulder.
Sarah looked up at Jareth in alarm, but he was smiling. "Nothing to worry about, my love. It's just a present."
Sarah looked back at the vine and her eyes widened in surprise as a small silver flower appeared, blooming before her very eyes. Its petals were gossamer thin, like dragonfly wings, and in its centre was a small faceted crystal that glowed like a star. Sarah reached out and gently touched the petals with the tip of her finger. She gasped in dismay when the petals disintegrated, falling to the floor like ash. But the crystal centre remained and fell, glowing, into her palm.
"Oh Jareth, it's beautiful! Thank you!" she said, stroking the small shining stone.
He laughed softly. "I can't take the credit—it's a gift from the Labyrinth itself." He snorted. "It seems that you are universally adored here. The Labyrinth loves you, my imbecilic subjects love you, I lo-…" He stopped abruptly.
Sarah felt Jareth's body tense around hers. Her own body tightened as she waited for him to say something more. She noticed that the breeze that had been moving through the garden stopped, as if it too were holding its breath, waiting.
Say something! Her inner voice urged. Or better yet, pounce. I'll get the music…
Sarah ignored the inner voice and took a deep breath. "Well…," she said slowly, "I love the Labyrinth, and I love your imbecilic subjects, and I lo-…" she paused, teasingly.
She felt the tension slowly ebb from Jareth's body, and felt him exhale, slowly, as if he had been holding his breath for a very long time. Released, the breeze moved through the garden again, caressing the leaves of the hedge. Gently, Jareth took Sarah's hand and brushed his lips against the skin of her inner wrist. The look in his eyes made her heart lurch almost painfully.
"Teasing minx," he said darkly.
"You started it," she answered cheerfully.
He laughed and touched the starlit stone in her hand; briefly, it glowed brighter in her cupped palm. When it faded, she noticed that the stone was now set in a ring with an intricate silver band. Jareth took her left hand in his and attempted to put the ring on her second finger.
"Hmm, it doesn't seem to fit," he said mock sadness. "Such a pity."
Sarah looked at him incredulously. "Well then try again—I have nine other fingers!"
He laughed and slipped it onto her third finger where it refused to go over her knuckle.
"Not this one either," he said in dismay, though there was merriment in his eyes.
Sarah gave him a hard look. "Keep trying," she said imperiously.
He gave her a pointy smile and tried her fourth finger. The ring fit perfectly. "There, all is well," he said in satisfaction. "And here I was worried that there may be something lamentably wrong with your fingers," he said slyly, moving her hand back and forth so that the star ring caught the light.
Sarah punched him in the arm. "How could you say that? You go and do something amazingly romantic and then…"
He interrupted her by kissing her joyously, and Sarah suddenly forgot why it was imperative that she continue to hit him, especially since his kiss seemed to be saying far more than his words; it spoke quite eloquently about forever, and happily-ever-afters, and copious amounts of adult-type touching performed in various intriguing forms. When Jareth had determined that Sarah was far too limp with pleasure to raise her hand against him again, he broke the kiss and gave her a haughty look. "I can not believe that you had the audacity to hit me. That, as you well know, is an act of treason, and this time you shall be punished." He bent close to her ear. "I have a dungeon, you know," he whispered silkily.
"I'm sure you do, you pervert," she muttered.
He laughed softly against her ear and gently tugged on her earlobe with his teeth. Sarah began to tip her head back to give him better access, when her attention was suddenly caught by a rustling in the bushes before them. Jareth looked up, alert.
"What is that noise?" Sarah whispered. Looking over at the bush, she gasped—there were two pairs of red eyes coming toward them.
"What the hell?" said Jareth. He stared and then groaned. "You have got to be joking…"
From the bushes emerged Rosalinda, five time chicken-toss champion, riding Waffle, the freezer alligator.
"Good lord, they've joined forces," said Jareth incredulously.
Rosalinda muttered a triumphant squawk that sounded suspiciously like "Charge!". Or it could have been "Kill!". Regardless, the freezer alligator picked up its pace.
"Hold onto me," Jareth said to Sarah, gathering her close. Sarah wrapped her arms around his shoulders and shook her head. "I can't believe you are being stalked by a chicken…who is riding an alligator," she said, suppressing a laugh.
"I'd actually approve of her thirst for vengeance if it wasn't directed at me," he said dryly. He looked over at Rosalinda. "This isn't over, feather duster," he said grimly. Then he and Sarah simply disappeared from the garden, Rosalinda shaking her claw after them.
Jareth and Sarah appeared in the throne room to a scene of such exotic chaos that Jareth didn't know whether to cringe in horror or sit back in admiration. The flower-strewn, apple-scented room that he had so admired this afternoon was no more; in its place was a scene so drenched in noise and bedlam that it took a while to even determine just exactly what was going on. The room was bursting with goblins and other members of the kingdom who had originally come for the free buffing, but had stayed on for the impromptu buffing festival had sprung up in the throne room. In one corner of the room, a goblin was sitting on the rafters and pouring ale in the waiting mouths of about fourteen goblins who were lying on the throne room floor below. In another corner, someone had located a string of sausages and a heated tug-o-war contest was taking place between the goblins and the dwarves. Having run out of pans to buff, the goblins were now throwing anything handy into the barrel, just to see what would happen. Skeep, clutching his newly-buffed rubber duck, pulled a sparkling fork from the barrel.
"Shiny!" he said happily, experimentally waving it at kidney-height.
But what froze Jareth in his tracks was the sight of the blue-tusked goblin being strapped to a large barrel lid. "Good lord no!" he said in horror.
Sarah looked at the row of tiles on the wall curiously. "Is that…?"
"WHEEL OF FORTUNE!" the goblins chorused.
"That's it, we're leaving," he said, pulling Sarah into his arms and transporting them out of the room.
As soon as Jareth and Sarah materialized into the ballroom, Jareth took one look around and thought longingly of becoming a pro-wrestler. He pinched the bridge of his nose.
"Why is it always chickens?" he asked in mild horror.
Sarah took one look at the scene before her and started laughing. Chickens were floating around the room in a sort of elegant, aerial poultry ballet. Delicately they spiraled, clucking contentedly as they swooped to catch the pieces of fruit that floated around the room along side them. Sarah doubled over with laughter as two ambitious chickens somersaulted in unison toward a pineapple.
Jareth ducked automatically as the pineapple sailed toward him and pinched the bridge of his nose. I'm cursed, he thought wearily.
Sighing, he gathered the still-laughing Sarah into his arms. "Let's try this again, shall we?" he said dryly.
"By all means," Sarah gasped, tears in her eyes.
When they appeared in Jareth's bedchamber, Sarah was still laughing. She looked up at him and tried to contain herself.
"I'm sorry," she gasped. "It was just that the…chickens…and the pineapple…and…it's been a long day…sorry…" she gasped as she doubled over again and shook with laughter.
Jareth wanted to laugh. He enjoyed laughing and the fact that Sarah laughed without having to be ordered to do so was still an exquisite novelty. But today had been too much. There had been too many obstacles and too many defeats. And there was still too much at stake. Sarah had accepted his ring, but did she understand what it meant? He cursed himself for not making things clearer when there had been the opportunity—when the setting had been starlit, and romantic, and free of freezer alligators, and homicidal chickens, and buffing-crazed citizens.
This would probably be a good time to reorder time, his inner voice suggested helpfully. Or to put on the bordello jumpsuit. The voice looked at Sarah, who was now leaning against the window ledge and laughing joyously. Or perhaps a combination of both.
Jareth's shoulders slumped. The situation was so completely beyond redemption that he doubted that even his bordello jumpsuit could save it. He would have to reorder time, perhaps back to the ballroom and the apples. Focusing, he started to gather in his magic…
Don't do it! said a voice.
Jareth blinked. So did his inner voice. Who the hell is that? his inner voice asked.
The new voice spoke up. If you love her, as you claim to, then why are you trying to trick her into staying with you?
Jareth's inner voice looked puzzled. That isn't your conscience, is it? the inner voice asked Jareth disdainfully. I could have sworn that we took care of that limp-wristed cretin long ago.
"Obviously not well enough," Jareth said darkly.
Jareth's conscience ignored the inner voice and addressed Jareth directly. If you love her, how could you condemn her to stay in a place that you yourself wish to escape? The voice said beseechingly.
The conscience noticed Jareth's hesitation and pressed on. After all, would a woman like Sarah stay in the Goblin Kingdom willingly? Even for yo—
The conscience's voice was cut off abruptly as a bag was thrown over its head. The conscience struggled until Jareth's inner voice elegantly beat it into unconsciousness with a fold-up chair. The inner voice then briskly dusted off its hands. Well, that's enough of that drivel. I'll go dispose of the body, you continue here. The inner voice threw Jareth's conscience over his shoulder. Seeing Jareth's hesitation, the inner voice paused. Come on, old boy! You have time to reorder, a bordello jumpsuit to put on, and a queen to seduce. Let's get to it, shall we? the inner voice said briskly, and walked off to find a deep dark oubliette. And some piranhas.
Jareth looked over at Sarah, standing in the moonlight, laughing.
If you love her, how could you condemn her to stay in a place that you yourself wish to escape?
The words replayed themselves in his mind. His conscience was clever—he'd give it that; it was the one thing that anyone could have said that would have made Jareth hesitate. Sarah— with her red gown, and flashing green eyes, and fierce courage, and indomitable spirit—did not belong here, just as he did not belong here. As his queen, she would be forced to stay here at his side and endure the trials and the tedium of the Goblin Kingdom. And who better than he knew the toll that would take on her heart and soul?
After all, would a woman like Sarah stay in the Goblin Kingdom willingly?
She might, he thought desperately. She seems to love the Labyrinth, and those imbecilic goblins, and that moronic dwarf. Though, he thought darkly, she had better not love that moronic dwarf too much or Hogwart would find himself head-first in the swamp and…
He swore viciously, knowing what he had to do…even though everything in his body and heart and soul would fight him the whole way. Truly, he had to be cursed…
Jareth's inner voice came back from disposing of the ill-fated conscience and looked at Jareth in mild horror. You're going to let her go, aren't you? his inner voice said incredulously.
"Yes," Jareth thought tersely.
What the devil are you thinking?! the voice yelled. I leave you alone for one minute and look what you do! The voice snorted. This is what comes from dressing as the romantic hero. This would never have happened if you had worn villainous leather, the voice said peevishly. You would have had her in your chambers within the first five minutes if you had worn leather…
Jareth took a deep breath and let his habitual indifferent mask slip over his features. "I believe it is time to take you home, Sarah," he said coolly.
His words penetrated Sarah's laughing fit and she suddenly stopped. She took a couple of deep breaths to calm herself down. "What did you say, Jareth?" she asked, wiping the tears from her eyes.
He clenched his jaw. "I'm taking you home."
Sarah's heart began to pound, but she tried to keep her face neutral. "Do you want me to leave?" she asked softly.
"It would be for the best," he said indifferently, adjusting his glove and not meeting her gaze.
Sarah's mouth went dry. She licked her bottom lip and noticed that his gaze flicked to her mouth, his eyes darkening. It gave her courage. She stuck out her chin. "Best for whom?" she asked curiously. She walked across the room until she was standing before him.
"Go Sarah," he said harshly. "Go home before it is too late."
Sarah ignored his tone and looked into his eyes—they were haunted. The sight made her inordinately pleased.
"You've been spending too much time with the false alarms, Jareth," she said mischievously.
She placed her hand very deliberately on the bare skin of his chest. He growled low in his throat but did not move her hand. She took that as another good sign.
"And Ludo too, if that growling is anything to go by," she said slyly.
She placed her other hand on his cheek. He made a move as if to brush it away, but he seemed unable to do so, instead covering her hand with his own.
"Given the chaos you witnessed tonight, you should take this opportunity to run away as fast as possible, while you still can," he said, his tone cold despite the fact that his hand had enclosed hers. "Lord knows I'd run off to Nantucket if I had the chance, even with the threat of certain death via escaped circus lion."
Sarah smirked. "Oh yes," she said cheerfully, "there have been hardships unnumbered on this date: I got stalked by a chicken and a freezer alligator; I suffered a coma thanks to goblin ale; and I was almost exposed to goblin Wheel of Fortune. But," she said, stroking his cheek. "I got to witness the first Goblin Kingdom Frypan Buffing Festival …"
"Truly, one of the great wonders of our world," Jareth said dryly.
"And a chicken ballet," she added.
Jareth snorted. "Which is about as close to a cultural event as the Goblin Kingdom is capable of providing," he said sardonically.
"And a king hand-fed me grapes, and peaches, and apples. You can't feed a girl apples and then let her go, Jareth," she said softly, tracing his bottom lip with her finger. She felt him shudder. She looked at him solemnly. "How could you ask me if I wanted to go home? Do you want me to leave?"
"Damn it Sarah, I'm trying to be noble!" he said hoarsely.
"I think I prefer it when you are villainous," she said impishly, reaching up to brush her lips against his.
He closed his eyes at her touch. "You don't know what I am offering. That pretty ring on your finger will bind you to me, and this Kingdom, forever. Which, despite what I may have told you on earlier occasions, is a bloody long time in the Goblin Kingdom," he said in exasperation. "Forever is long, and lonely, and soul-destroying."
She tilted her head and looked at him. "But you'll be with me, won't you? How could forever be lonely if I'm with you?"
Jareth opened his eyes and looked down at her. She smiled slyly up at him. "No doubt it will be irritating and annoying and frustrating. But it won't be lonely," she said wryly.
Jareth blinked at that and Sarah knew she had him. "And I really don't think forever will be all that long because we are in the Goblin Kingdom," she continued, stroking his cheek. "We'll be too busy teaching Skeep to read properly, and collecting wished-away goats and wrestlers, and you'll teach me to toss chickens, and we'll plant an apple tree in that big hole in your garden when the fountain used to be," she said persuasively.
Jareth looked down at her and sighed. He looked defeated and yet strangely hopeful. He was a king, after all—he was only capable of so much self-denial. Sarah was oddly touched that he had even made the effort. She watched his newly-developed chivalrous side start to crumble and decided to help matters along.
"Give me your hands," she said briskly.
Jareth raised his eyebrows at the command, but he was sufficiently intrigued to hold out his hands regardless.
Sarah began to briskly remove his gloves.
He tilted his head. "What are you doing, my Sarah?" he asked curiously.
"Well, if you aren't going to seduce me, then I may as well seduce you," she said gaily as she took off his gloves and handed them back to him.
That's my girl! said Sarah's inner voice, and then went back to faking a coma.
Jareth looked at Sarah in surprise. "How delightful," he said, bemused. Without looking back, he threw his gloves out of the window.
Sarah tapped her chin thoughtfully. "Now, I'm trying to remember how you seduced me during our shared dream the other night. Ah yes," she said thoughtfully. "I think you began by circling me whilst giving me several seductive looks." She put her hands on hips and, in her most imperious Goblin King manner, began to circle him.
Jareth threw back his head and laughed.
"Do you mind?" Sarah said in a mock stern voice. "Seduction is a serious business."
"My apologies," Jareth said, and repressed his smile. He watched Sarah's gaze travel over his body, lingering on his long legs and the exposed skin of his bare chest. He felt his heart begin to pound. "And what would you like me to do as you seduce me?" he inquired, his voice a little huskier than usual. "Act coy and a touch eager, perhaps?"
Sarah pretended to consider the matter and then nodded. "That sounds acceptable," she said imperiously, continuing to stalk him. She tried not to smile as Jareth attempted to arrange his facial features into an appropriate expression…and failed.
"You're not looking particularly coy," she said disapprovingly.
In fact, he looked rather wild, and dangerous, and quite hungry, and it made her shiver, and wonder for just a moment if it was sensible to be circling a known predator in his own lair. Then she remembered the taste of red apples and decided that being sensible in the presence of Jareth in his starlit bedchamber was bound to be a highly over-rated experience.
Jareth's eyes glittered. "You'll have to forgive me—acting coy it is not something that comes naturally. Perhaps I should just focus on looking eager?"
Sarah inclined her head regally. "I guess that would be acceptable."
He inclined his head just as regally in response and smiled his wolfish smile. She looked up at him and decided that eagerness was quite becoming on the Goblin King.
Sarah circled him once more and then stood before him. She pretended to ponder the situation. "After the circling, I believe you took my hand," she said thoughtfully.
"I believe I did," he said caressingly.
She took his naked hand and brought his palm to her lips, just as he had done to her in their dream. She kissed it slowly, and then placed his palm at the back of her neck, lightly running her fingers down his arm, and then moving to his shoulder, pulling him closer. His mismatched eyes glittered in the dim room.
"And then," she said a little huskily, "I believe you took my other hand."
His naked fingers caressed the back of her neck and she almost lost her balance at the pure pleasure of feeling his skin against hers. "I believe I did," he said softly.
She took his other hand and brought his palm to her lips. She closed her eyes and touched the tip of her tongue to the smooth skin of his palm, just as he had done to her in the dream. She felt his fingers tremble. Smiling up at him softly, she took his palm and placed it over her heart, and held it there. Jareth felt her heart racing against his palm and he closed his eyes, savoring her response. Sarah moved her hand from over his and he splayed his fingers across her chest, just as she had once done to him. He let his thumb caress the soft curve and she moaned softly. He inhaled sharply at the sound, and then trailed his hand across her collarbone, tracing the long line of her throat, until his hands were linked at the back of her neck.
"And then what, my Sarah?" he said huskily, his fingers caressing the back of her neck, and sliding under the heavy mass of her hair.
Sarah shuddered and tried to focus. She swallowed. "Then you carried me to bed."
Jareth raised an eyebrow. "This should be interesting," he said, a glint of amusement entering his passion-dark gaze.
Sarah smiled wickedly. "I could carry you over my shoulder like a sack of potatoes, but I don't think that's very seductive."
Jareth tapped his chin thoughtfully. "Let's see," he said, and gracefully flung Sarah over his shoulder.
"Jareth!" Sarah laughed. "I'm supposed to be seducing you!"
Jareth ignored her. "Hmm, I see what you mean by this lift; it's a little barbaric, isn't it? Though…" he said, slowly running his hand down the back of her thighs, "it does have its advantages," he purred silkily, leisurely caressing the back of her knees.
Jareth felt Sarah inhale sharply at his touch and he smiled. "Though you are right—it's not particularly seductive," he said teasingly.
Jareth carefully lowered Sarah back onto the ground; however, Sarah's knees, still tingling madly from his caresses, promptly buckled. He caught her easily and picked her up, laughing in delight.
"Really Sarah, I'm not even wearing my leather gloves. Perhaps your knees are somewhat defective…?" he asked, his tone tinged with false pity.
Sarah groaned. "My knees were fine until you came along!"
Jareths laughed softly and brushed his lips against hers. "Given the non-seductive nature of the shoulder lift, and the apparent weakness of your knees in my presence, might I offer my services in transporting us to my bed?" he asked with easy charm.
Sarah inclined her head regally. "Thank you, your Majesty. It would be much appreciated."
Jareth began walking to the bed but stopped abruptly.
"Damn those imbeciles!" he cursed.
"What is it?" she asked, a little dazed.
Jareth looked disgusted. "They are outside the door."
"Who?" she asked, confused. "Rosalinda and Waffle?"
Before he could answer, Sarah heard them, too.
"Can you hear anything?" asked a goblin who sounded suspiciously like Squibble.
"Has he asked her yet?"
"But can you hear anything?"
"No you shut-up!"
"Maybe we should sing for them—singing is romantic."
"No you shut-up!"
Sarah looked at Jareth and smiled conspiratorially. "I don't want them bursting in like the last time. Could you…?" she said making her magic gesture.
The door disappeared. "Done," he said with satisfaction.
Unfortunately, although the door had disappeared, the goblins had not.
"Hey, where did the door go?"
"There was a door here, wasn't there?"
"Just like magic, really."
"We should tell the King that his door has gone."
"KING! DOOR GONE! KIIIIINNGGGG!"
Sarah stifled a giggle and Jareth sighed. With a determined step he quickly walked across the room and gently laid Sarah down onto his bed. For a brief moment, he simply allowed himself to glory in the vision of her—her red gown stark against the midnight-blue covers, her hair fanned across his pillows, her skin glowing in the candlelight. He felt like dancing around the room in triumph…
"KING! DOOOOOOR GONE!"
…or stabbing Skeep with his own fork in frustration.
"Ahh, could you…?" Sarah asked, gesturing again.
Jareth bent his head and tasted the skin at the hollow of her throat.
"KING! DOOO—" Skeep's voice was abruptly cut off.
"Done," Jareth purred and promptly went back to kissing her throat.
Sarah arched beneath him. "You didn't bog them, did you?" she asked huskily.
"Oubliette," he said distractedly as he fanned her hair out along the cushions, arranging it so that it mirrored the many visions that he had conjured of her over the years.
"Shh, I'm trying to seduce you," he said sternly.
Her lips quirked. "I'm supposed to be seducing you," she said just as sternly as he let his lips trail along her collarbone.
"We'll take it in turns," he said huskily, licking her pulse at the base of her throat.
"But…?" she said hoarsely.
And her arguments were lost as he began to kiss her in a manner that promised pleasures untold and delights unnumbered, spanning all the days from now to forever.
"KING! DOOOOOOR GONE!" Skeep yelled.
The goblins suddenly realized that they were no longer in the castle, and took a good look around.
"Are we in an oubliette?" asked Beep.
"Looks like it," said the blue-horned goblin.
"Yes but it's the one with the window," noticed Squibble.
"Luxurious," said Skeep.
Ignor went over to the floor and pulled up a door. Fitting it into the wall, he opened it up and found not an exit but…
"ALE!" yelled the goblins happily.
"The King must be in a good mood," said Squibble in awe.
"Let's sing!" said the goblin with the blue horns.
And they did. The Rosalinda song—all fifteen verses, including verse twelve—repeated five times. But the strange thing was, that even after five repeats of the Rosalinda song, the stars were still in exactly the same place in the sky.
"That's a bit odd, isn't it?" asked the frypan goblin, looking out of the window.
"Strange," said Skeep.
"Bet the King's been reordering time again," said Ignor.
"Why would he do that?" asked Squibble.
"Romantic," said Skeep, approvingly.
"Hmm, seems like he's reordered a lot of time," noted the goblin with the blue horns.
"Very romantic," said Skeep, patting his rubber duck.
In the bedchamber of the Goblin King there is darkness. And silence. On the vast bed, the midnight blue covers of silk and stars are twisted around two moonlit lovers. Even in sleep, his arm surrounds her possessively; his lips graze her forehead, his bare hand against her lower back, molding her to him. But the possessiveness is not his alone; her long leg is thrown over his, anchoring him to her body, her cheek is resting against his heart, her fingers entwined in his silver-spun hair. Their fingertips meet on a crystal that lies beside them, glowing with a shared dream. If you were to look inside this crystal, you would see the couple waltzing across the sky, their feathered cloaks billowing in the breeze, as he whispers something in her ear which makes her laugh and catch his lips in a kiss—a kiss that prevents them from noticing the goblins falling, Rosalinda-style, around them, and the chickens performing synchronized somersaults just to their left. Which, let's face it, is probably for the best—there is nothing less romantic than aerial goblins and synchronized poultry…
AUTHOR'S NOTE #2. Stay tuned, there's a bit more to come…just a little more. And an epilogue. I still like the word 'epilogue'.
Sarah and Jareth's inner voices sit in the pillow pit of the ballroom, holding a crystal that shows Sarah and Jareth as they sleep…
"It's about time!" Sarah's inner voice says in exasperation. "I can't believe that it took them so long to get together! How many chapters is this—twelve?"
Jareth's inner voice nods regally."Indeed. If it were up to me, this would have been a one shot," he says sardonically.
Sarah's inner voice snorts. "If it were up to me, it would have been a 'one-line'. Something like…'Sarah walks over to Jareth and says: "It's been a while, Goblin King. Jump me!".'
"Indeed," says Jareth's inner voice approvingly. He gives Sarah's inner voice a sly seductive glance. With a wave of his hand, he is wearing a leather bordello jumpsuit.
"Come over here, precious thing," he says, silkily, "I have something to show you."
"Oooh," says Sarah's inner voice in delight. "Is it a crystal?"
Jareth's inner voice just laughs wickedly and reaches for an apple…and a pineapple.
(Look, don't ask me what the pineapple is for. Frankly, given how deviant those two are, I don't even want to know…)