Categories > Movies > Labyrinth > 3,564 Clappers Later

Ballroom Revisited, part 2

by shadowlurker13 0 reviews

In which we finally go out dancing at previously mentioned bohemian eatery... with second thoughts...

Category: Labyrinth - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Romance - Published: 2017-07-20 - 3615 words - Complete

Chapter 17 - Ballroom Revisited, part 2

The entrees had come minutes ago but Sarah was still fidgeting with her fork so much that Jareth actually reached across the small table and gently but firmly grabbed her hand; she had been looking rather absent.

“Unless you’ve developed the ability to remotely digest via osmosis, you still need to actually put the food in your mouth, chew, and swallow, dear,” he stated wryly, letting go of her and returning to his own dinner of local venison and organic seasonal produce. They were at the Gemini Café, fueling up for the rigorous exercise that was to come later that evening; they could hear that the band was already warming up upstairs.

Sarah commenced her own dinner of garlic linguini, pausing just before the first bite to say, “I just can’t shake the feeling that that this is a date.”

“Would it bother you terribly if it was?”

She met his eyes. That had definitely been a flirt but, as usual, he had too many emotions to read them clearly.

“I don’t know actually,” she surrendered a smile, taking a drink.

“Interesting that you think of that this late in the game. And what, pray tell, does that make all the other meals we’ve shared and places we’ve gone together?” He wasn’t looking at her and his tone was conversationally pleasant and laid back but she could swear she could feel his attention.

“It’s …just that dinner and dancing is more stereotypical and-”

“Then don’t think about it.” He met her eyes again. “Just enjoy.”

The other conversations in the restaurant got loud as usual and soon their lack of verbal interaction didn’t feel as awkward merely due to the noise level. They kept taking turns glancing at each other, though - often together - and Sarah couldn’t keep her heart from involuntarily leaping at the puckish sparkle of delight in his eyes.

Jareth had had no trouble at all reading Sarah simply from her behavior. She had been at war with herself all evening and she was beginning to lose. Sarah, Sarah, you still think you can hide from me when your own body gives you away? Why fight so hard to deny what is obvious? Not for long, child - yes you still are in a way. Not for long. Actually, a part of him understood perfectly well why she was resisting: no matter how much time they spent together, no matter how comfortable they got, he was still an alien creature to her and it was something she was having a hard time dealing with when it came to these types of emotions. Still, it was invigorating watching her react to the slightest look, the slightest gesture, hyperaware of him in a way no woman had been in over a millennia.

The knowledge of his growing power over her this way was a little heady but he rationalized that some of their interactions were good practice for her; he was desensitizing her to her fear of relationships. The worrying bit was that after everything they had done to try to tip the scale in his favor, he still didn’t have enough power. He had yet to hear back from Morgan after their brief, choppy communication. Maybe the Court had decided to let him fend for himself as an exile. It wasn’t the first time that the thought had occurred to him but he was beginning to suspect it was the case in truth, at which point his sister couldn’t persuade them to act otherwise. Or contact him. Which meant he was on his own to figure this out. If all went well this evening, however, he had a small extra plan, something new to try. He would have to wait and see how things went.

Sarah was starting to feel a little ridiculous by the time the whole-grain-crust rhubarb strawberry pie slice arrived. They unceremoniously split and devoured it and Jareth paid the waitress in real cash at Sarah’s insistence; it had been a fairly expensive meal but the Gem was cash or check only in an extreme effort not to waste paper.

In retrospect a couple of days after-the-fact, Sarah belatedly realized that she couldn’t properly remember going up the stairs to get to the dance floor. It had to have been the way he was looking back at her over his shoulder; his gaze had shut out the entire world. In reality, Jareth was terrified that she was going to panic and chicken out at the last minute and had taken the small liberty of lightly enchanting her and leading her up the staircase, releasing her once they were safely in the midst of the commotion of the upper room.

The band was roaring, the floor was packed and the old proprietress of the Gem was up there with them, cutting a rug in her Birkenstocks. Sarah jumped a little as if suddenly waking when she shouldn’t have been asleep at all and Jareth let her take in the room and regain her bearings for a moment before leading her out to the floor. Her heart was pounding in her throat and she felt the slightest twinge of stage fright as she put her left hand on his shoulder and her right in his upturned gloveless hand that had been temporarily magicked clean of those exotic blue markings. His right hand was held gently but firmly at her waist. This was it.

They started conservatively with some of the easier steps first but before very long they were both getting into it, taking cues from the crowd, overemphasizing their movements and doing spins and even a couple small leaps. All of Sarah’s apprehension had disappeared; she was genuinely having a good time and couldn’t seem to stop smiling. Of course, part of her reaction was amusement because Jareth was finally loosening up and relaxing a little with the dance moves. Casual was simply something Jareth did not seem to do under any circumstances; even at his most informal moments he always seemed hyper-self-aware almost as if he were constantly performing. Sarah was seeing him being truly in the moment for the first time and some of what he was doing was downright silly; she simply couldn’t get over the change in his demeanor.

For Jareth’s part, he had simply succumbed to the sheer giddiness of the room and was figuring out what to do by merely reading the other dancer’s minds. Whatever this was, it seemed to be doing the trick; his power was just flowing back at a nice steady pace and his dance partner gratefully seemed not to even notice what was happening to her. After about three numbers Sarah pulled him over to the mini bar for some badly needed refreshment. Her face was flushed but she was practically glowing as she sipped her lemon seltzer, watching the other eclectic pairs still on the floor. They actually didn’t stand out too badly here.

And even if we did I wouldn’t care, Sarah thought suddenly, glancing at her own eclectic dance partner with a new feeling of unabashed boldness. She knew by the look in his eyes that he saw it and Sarah could’ve sworn the room was suddenly ten degrees hotter just from that deep knowing wolfish smile of his as he led her back out to the floor.

The next couple of hours were wild and saw them both laughing more than once. Sarah was glad they’d been practicing because they wound up using every last move they’d ever attempted, let alone got good at, and things didn’t always go as planned under pressure - sometimes with hilariously bad results - but at least no one was getting injured. Miraculously, the over-the-shoulder flying stunt actually worked on the first try and even got a little applause. Jareth was a force of nature with a rakish grin and mad dance moves. He never seemed to tire now, although he was careful to let his partner take breaks when she needed to, which was becoming more often by the end of the second hour.

Sarah couldn’t understand it. She was in excellent shape physically and in good overall health and she was keeping hydrated It wasn’t too hot. Why on earth was she tiring so easily all-of-a-sudden? And then it dawned on her. The power. She was losing her power fast enough to physically weaken her temporarily. The memory of Jareth sprawled half-dead on the floor came over her like a bucket of ice water.

Of course he can go forever now; he probably just got most of it back. She looked over at him - they were along the wall again. He was obviously in very high spirits but she now noted that he was observing her very carefully, very closely; now that she understood she could see it. The plan had been a shining success but she couldn’t afford to physically overextend herself, especially when she didn’t understand the recovery process for a human. Leaning into his ear, she had to shout to be heard over the music.

“I think we’re going to have to leave soon!”

Jareth simply nodded assent, offering her his arm, positively beaming with pride for her. She had given what she could. It was time for his surprise; he could sustain her for this. As they walked through the middle of the dance floor all the lights suddenly flowed into red and the disco ball in the ceiling ground to a halt. And so did all the people surrounding them! The band was silent. In fact, it was so quiet that their breathing sounded loud. At first Sarah was too dumbfounded to say anything. And then Jareth turned around and smiled at her, taking her left hand and placing it on his shoulder again, grasping her right and holding her body low, bending his knees.

“Jareth, what on earth are you-”

She was cut short by a sudden warm tingling that ran from where he was holding her side all through her to the extremities and suddenly she wasn’t tired.

He leaned in and purred in her ear, “Just one more dance, love.”

The sensation made Sarah’s knees go weak but Jareth supported her for the briefest of moments. They were both in proper tango position now. Music immediately began to pound out of the sound system, an odd string quartet with a synthesized percussion track that almost beat like a heart. They had only tried this a couple times at her apartment and even with the come-hither in place it had never gone well; it had proven hard for Sarah to keep track of the seven-beat timing of the dance, the rhythm was just too awkward for her. As they began to move together around the frozen dancers, she realized that he had chosen a piece that was four-count and was modifying the dance accordingly so it would be easier for her to follow. Three ‘Jaws’-like grates of cello ushered in the melody - a female singer with a bizarre story of a song. Jareth pulled her for a quick one-leg slide in time to sliding strings, only to switch to the straight march for two measures, a brief dip, and back to the normal dance pattern.

Sarah’s heart and brain were working overtime. It was his touch, the way he was holding her, how mind-stoppingly close they were physically, constantly walking in-between each other’s legs like that. She was glad the lighting was already red because she could also feel that her face was flushed. He sent her for a quick spin and when he pulled her back in she saw him pluck a black fedora out of nowhere and place it on his head fittingly askew before taking her other hand again and the effect definitely hit mark. They weren’t looking at each other often as per the rules of the dance but when they did she could plainly see the fire in his eyes. She had the sudden feeling of being back in that other ballroom, not as a victim and a little girl but as a guest and a full-grown woman who had caught the eye and subsequent attention of the king. The feeling was heady and intensifying as he began using some of the people around them as props to momentarily lean against or push off of. To him, no one in this entire room mattered but her.

The string arrangement turned sensuous and he turned her around so they were both facing the same way with him behind her. His right hand snaked over her waist as he brought her other arm to his mouth and kissed the sensitive point on her elbow. She made an almost inaudible little sound and leaned back into him involuntarily, her breathing a little shaky. He crooned the lyric, “We’re all old souls,” into her left ear, making her eyes close momentarily before turning her back around, holding her head lightly against his shoulder. It was an oddly tender and protective gesture as they continued to dance and Sarah found that indeed she felt safe with this strange, complicated, sexy man who was holding her like he’d been practicing for this moment his entire life.

Jareth knew that even if it meant never accomplishing his ends, he would gladly sabotage himself repeatedly just to have this wondrous point-in-time over and over again if it were possible. It was a dangerous idea but that’s where his mind was as he brought them back to where they had started on the dance floor just in time for the last grates of the song. Sarah watched in dumb shock as he quickly straightened, stepped back, and, closing his eyes, made a small slow revolving motion with his pointer fingers. And, with a sound like a record player cranking up, the room slowly came back up to normal speed! People were dancing around them as if nothing had happened. The band played on. And suddenly Jareth looked worn out, but he was smiling at her in triumph as they descended the stairs back to the restaurant. Sarah had an inking she knew what she had just experienced and went to ask him but he stopped her, glancing at the crowd.

“Later, once we’re in the car. Actually, if you give me your keys I can have it ready to go for you once you’ve finished doing what you need to here.” His gloves discreetly reappeared in his hands and he manually put them on. Sarah raised an eyebrow.

“You feel comfortable starting my car?”

“Of course; I’ve watched you do it dozens of times.”

Sarah still felt a little odd handing him the keys. “Just make sure to lock up once you’re inside so nobody can just hop in and steal it. I’ll be right out.”

He simply nodded with a little lip smile and was out the door. Sarah let out a breath she hadn’t even realized she was holding and went to the restroom. Afterwards, she was checking how she looked in the mirror before she left and realized that in spite of how much fun it had been - at times downright exhilarating - the night had made their relationship that much more awkward. Maybe the effect had been cumulative and she was only noticing it just now but Sarah knew that last dance, while carefully choreographed, had been no performance for either of them. That was real, and the prospect made her rather uneasy. Sure, there had been other signs but hardly anything so blatant (making out while drugged didn’t count, her mind rationalized). They were going to have to come to terms with this and soon before it got too out-of-hand.

Sarah left the building, past the murals and the smokers, walking to her car, desperately trying to get her thoughts in order before having to face him. As promised, her vehicle was already running and, to her profound relief, Jareth was in the passenger seat and not playing with any of the controls. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust him; he was just too curious for his own good and sometimes having to leave him alone like that felt rather like leaving a small child who’s going to tinker with everything the moment your back is turned. Sarah took a deep breath to steady her nerves as she opened the driver-side door and got inside. Jareth looked like he was about to burst at the seams with news.

“Sarah, I just did a manual power-level check on myself. It’s jumped all the way up to three-quarters capacity in a single night! Passing grade, as you would say,” he laughed a little. “The odds still aren’t terribly stellar but I can technically begin to attempt to transport now!” This wasn’t exactly what Sarah had anticipated hearing but it was still unmitigated good news.

“Well, that’s… great!”

“It would be a little more heartening if I’d heard back from Morgan by now but, still, it’s definitely headed in the right direction.” He suddenly looked concerned. “How are you holding up, by-the-way? I’ve been trying to go easy with this because I don’t know how much your body can take at one time and that was quite a drain tonight. I took the liberty of giving you a temporary energy boost from my own reserve to try to mitigate the effects but it won’t last more than an hour or so.”

“Well, I’m feeling pretty much okay right now but I was just about dead on my feet right before you did that.”

He nodded grimly. “You’d better just rest tomorrow. Oh, yes, your question! You wanted to know what happened back there.” The proverbial cat who ate the canary couldn’t have possibly looked more smug. “You tell me.”

“I’ve never seen anything like that! Everything just ground to a standstill in there. Did you just freeze everybody?”

The smile got bigger. He responded in a whisper. “I stopped time.”

Sarah’s jaw could’ve hit the floor.

“Don’t be so surprised, love. I have to be able to do it to perform my duties as Goblin King. I altered time twice when we first met. And, as of tonight, I can do it once again.”

Sarah felt terrible for what she was about to say and wondered if she should put it off but, in truth, she was scared that she wouldn’t be able to screw up the courage again.

“Jareth, I feel like I’m about to stick my foot in my mouth and just ruin everything but this just keeps getting weirder and I can’t stand not knowing anymore, the back-and-forth smoke-and-mirrors is just driving me crazy! Jareth…what are we? I mean, what kind of relationship is this really?” There, she’d said it. Even if she’d just totally blown it at least he finally knew how she felt. Confused.

The sudden turn of the conversation had been rather unexpected but Jareth knew from her tone and her demeanor that this question had been long in coming and he should’ve anticipated it a little sooner. He had never meant for things to get so convoluted between them, it had just sort of happened and he knew she deserved a straight answer. He calmly met her eyes and held them.

“It can be whatever you want, Sarah,” he said quietly. He released her and her gaze instantly reverted to her lap. “I cannot deny that I find you rather attractive on quite a number of levels and I’m sorry if I’ve made you unduly uncomfortable. But I think you’ve already known that for some time,” he smiled. “I will refrain from commenting on your more obvious reactions and feelings toward me but I do sense great hesitancy and qualms about this and both are quite reasonable under the circumstances, especially since I can’t even guarantee I’m going to be here this time next week.” He reached across the cabin and caught her chin, gently turning her to face him. “If I have gone too far, all you’ve ever had to do is tell me to stop. But I don’t believe I have. Nevertheless, I will respect your wishes in this and consider the matter closed unless you choose to ever bring up the issue again for reconsideration. Is this acceptable, Sarah?”

“…yes. Thank you,” she said quietly. He nodded with a little smile, letting go of her and buckling himself in. Sarah almost collapsed in relief. He had called her out but had left the matter entirely in her hands. And he hadn’t said a single thing that she hadn’t expected. She had been right. But now what?

“Good, now get me home so I can change out of this ridiculously stiff shirt!” he genuinely laughed. “How anyone finds starched cotton comfortable is beyond me!”

Sarah just rolled her eyes and shook her head with a half-smile, pulled out of the parking lot and onto the street. No matter how either of them felt, certain things were obviously never going to change.


(the song is “Coraline” by Rasputina - go find a copy!)
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