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3,564 Clappers Later


Underdog by shadowlurker13

Chapter 3 - Underdog

After a quick trip to Suzy's and what turned out to be Jareth's first fast-food experience (it earned a mixed review: tastes good but in bad taste), Sarah drove them both back to her place.

"I'm afraid my apartment is kind of small - I don't even have a guest room. I'll dig out the air mattress for you; you'll have to sleep in the living room."

"Very well. Do what you think will be necessary," he said, pretending to look around as if seeing the place for the first time. She certainly doesn't need to be thinking of me as a stalker.

"Well, I couldn't exactly imagine you happily scrunched up on the couch every night for however long this is going to take," Sarah stated a bit sarcastically, pointedly looking at him. Maybe it won't be so bad not being alone for a little while she reflected in light of how the place had given her the creeps right before she went out tonight...wait... "Can you, by any chance, see people in those crystal balls you make? I mean, not to immediately incriminate you or anything but I was feeling very closely watched when I got home today after work and there was nobody here and all the blinds were closed...were you here?!"

And the cat's out of the bag already. "I don't know what came over me, it was terribly inconsiderate towards you and it was a very bad thing to do, can you ever possibly forgive me?"

Sarah turned back to face him, ready to give him the tongue-lashing of his life when she saw his face: it was such a ridiculous half-caricature of guilt that she started laughing right then and there in spite of herself. "Your 'penitent sinner' needs work."

"Sorry love, no previous experience," he drawled with a guilty smile.

"Oh man, tell me about it."

His entire face lit up starting with his eyes and he looked as if he were about to burst at the seams.

"No, wait - on second thought don't tell me; I don't think I want to know," Sarah waved him off as she walked away toward the hall closet.

"Pity, there was that case of three duchesses-"

"I said I didn't want to know!" she called back from inside the closet on her hands and knees, pushing past a myriad of things, looking for the mattress box and pump.

"Fine, be a spoil-sport," he teased. "Would you mind terribly if I changed back into my regular attire? Current aboveground fashion, in my personal opinion, is neither flattering nor comfortable."

At last she'd found the equipment and dragged it to the fore of the closet so she could at least get her knees off the hard, wooden floor. "What you normally wear, from what little I saw, is considered pretty risqué in most aboveground circles. At least parts of it."

"Oh really?" he deeply drawled in a suggestive tone into her right ear - he had teleported right behind her; he was so close that Sarah could feel the radiant warmth from his body on her back, his breath on her neck sending treacherous flutters down her spine, really scarily driving home the point that she had only been barely fifteen when she had last seen him and she had, thankfully due to her youth, not really been fully aware of...him. Sarah managed to maintain her composure, forcing herself to stand up vertically with the stuff without leaning back at all for support, walking around his still-kneeling form as he looked up at her a bit amused at how she'd handled the situation. He had changed into a white underground tunic - nearly open to the waist - and gray breeches with the signature black leather boots and gloves, hair and eyes back to their crazy selves.

"I think it's past time to set some ground rules. This might not be much but it is my domain and I'll have you remember you're only here because I'm allowing it."

"Absolutely," he crisply replied as he got up and followed her back into the living room. She unrolled the air mattress on an open area of the floor between the living room and the dining area - it was only twin size but it would do - and plugged in the electric pump to start filling it.

"Rule #1 - personal space. Respect it or you're going to be spending a lot of nights sleeping in the hall outside my front door. Don't come into a closed room if I'm in there, especially if it's the bathroom - at least have the courtesy to knock and ask if it's all right. It's okay to help yourself to the kitchen if you get hungry, just don't eat me out of house and home - my financial resources aren't limitless. If you notice I'm running low on something write it down," she pointed to a notepad and pen over by the phone. "I should've thought of this before but is there anything that you can't consume...I mean...just because of what you are?"

"Thankfully my constitution will tolerate salt even in large quantities, but I can't touch too much iron; I don't suppose you own real silverware?"

"Nope, that stuff's way too expensive and hard to maintain but I see what you mean; I'll have to get you plastic utensils." And change every doorknob in the house, oh man... "Any metal you see in this place - heck in this entire world - is most likely going to have some amount of iron in it so, for your own sake, be cautious. I'll come up with something to deal with what of it you might come in contact with in here where it can't be avoided." The bed was all pumped up; she removed the nozzle and screwed it closed, turning off the pump and fitting the sheets on, finishing with a green fleece throw from the couch with a light leaf pattern on it.

She likes green; I'll have to remember that. "Is that all, your majesty?" he teased.

"That's most of it," she smiled. "Don't go snooping through my drawers or spying on me anymore and I'm sure we'll be fine."

I look forward to breaking down those little barriers. And you'll let me, Sarah. You'll want me to.

"Well, it's getting awfully late and I have to go to work in the morning. Keep what hours you like but try to be quiet when I'm sleeping; I wake up easy."

"Are you tired, Sarah?"

"Jareth, I am exhausted! I've been up since five this morning, I just spent a twelve-hour day in the lab, and it's almost eleven - I'm turning in."



"Just humor me, Sarah - this is easier when the player is tired."

"Jareth I'm in no mood for a game, I need sleep!"

"And you'll get it, I promise. This won't take long. Consider it as your first test in trusting me. Do you mind if I move a bit of furniture out of the way?"

Darn pushy, there'll be no arguing the point I see, his mind's made up. "Put it back the way you found it," she said wearily.

Jareth proceeded to push the coffee table back to the couch and the recliner to the wall, making a decent amount of free space in the room. "This is a very simple and a very old game, Sarah: you fall, I catch you."

"Oh, I hate that game. We used to have to play it when I took theater back in high school - half the time nobody was actually ready to support your weight and they'd drop you anyway. Besides, don't you have to have at least half-a-dozen people to play this?"

"You forget I can teleport."

Sarah sighed. "Fine, let's just get this over with. You'd better not drop me; this floor is pretty unforgiving."

"I won't. That's the whole point. You have to trust me," he said with a smug little smile.

Sarah rolled her eyes as she walked to the center of the room. This is crazy.

"Take off your shoes."

"Oh right; I forgot."

"You forget?"

"Not when it's important," she quickly countered, knowing full well what he was alluding to.

"It's all right, Sarah; just relax. Think what a long day it's been and how tired you are. This won't even take five minutes."

Sarah stood in the middle of the room and closed her eyes. Falling. How hard can it be? And he's darn fast from the looks of it. Here's hoping he's strong... "...I can't do it!"

"Of course you can! You're Sarah Williams, you can do anything!"

"Oh yeah, right," she laughed, her eyes still closed.

"Do you have any idea how many hundreds of people have tried to get through that maze? You can do anything you set your mind to, Sarah, I am sure of it."

Before she knew it his hands were expertly kneading her shoulders, tight and sore from sitting still too long typing. She knew she should slap him off but it just felt so good, she was melting into his touch as his dexterous fingers worked on down from the base of her neck to her shoulder blades and back up again.

Too good, oh god... Sarah felt her neck go limp, her muscles giving way in the wake of the sensation, her aching back screaming at him to go lower, knowing he wouldn't since he was attempting half-assedly to make a good impression at the moment. When she started to involuntarily lean back into him Jareth knew that, in spite of how enjoyable it was having her like this - literally melting in his hands - the reaction that he had been working towards had arrived and he knew what he had to do: without any warning he disappeared, dropping her. Sarah screamed in surprise, falling backwards - only to be caught by rock-solid hands three feet from the floor. Panting in relief, she caught her breath and did the next logical thing.

"Okay, that was not nice!"

"But I thought you were enjoying the massage," he teased, "and it did get you to fall. Now that I've proven that I can catch you, will you try it again?"

"Like I trust you now!"

"Please?" His face genuinely echoed the word.

Sarah sighed. Just do it and he'll stop bugging you. This time she folded her arms across her chest mummy-style and deliberately fell forward, her brain firing all kinds of warning signals that she'd only break her nose if she was lucky - caught, only four feet this time, same solid grip. Who would've thought that someone so lithe would be so strong? Maybe it has to do with his being...whatever he is - what is he? "Just out of sheer curiosity, what are you anyway?"

"I don't believe inquiries into one's genus are normally accepted topics of polite conversation."

The suddenly embarrassed look on Sarah's face as she stood back up made him laugh.

"Just for you, love," he smiled and continued in tone of feigned grandeur, as if even he were tiring of the title: "Leannan Sidhe, one of the oldest trooping clans of the old-order Celtic Fae."

I suppose the real faux pas here would be asking him how old he is.

"Yes it would; you certainly wouldn't like the answer. I think I'm holding together quite nicely in spite of it, thank you very much."

"You can read my mind?!"

"Of course! Almost any of my kind with half a brain can do that."

Was he listening in earlier? Best not to think about it; he's definitely paying attention now.

"Don't worry, it's not an ongoing thing - only when I feel like it. And it has to be close-range."

"That's reassuring."

"Shall we resume?" Sarah eyed him a bit warily. "I'll finish that massage when this is over if you like. If you trust me that much, to invade your 'personal space' again." There was a bit of a dare in his voice, in his eyes, like 'come on, look who you're afraid of.'

Sarah fell.


And again.

And again.

And each time Jareth caught her lower and lower to the floor from absolutely impossible positions, above her, below her, watching her relax more and more, knowing that, at this moment, she trusted him - implicitly - with her life. Perhaps she didn't even see it that way. Perhaps she just hadn't thought of it. But that was exactly what she was doing.

Oh Sarah, if you had any idea what this means to me...and it's already starting to work... He could feel the recesses of his old power beginning to spark back to life, resuming tentative currents through his body. Time to show her just what she'd done. Sarah fell one more time but this time there were no lithe hands to stop her fall - she simply floated to the ground as if she were underwater. It was the most wondrous, rapturous feeling in the world, to just be able to float like that in midair. When she opened her eyes she saw Jareth standing a couple of feet away with his right arm still outstretched to her, hand open, the way it must've been to guide her final descent just now. He knelt down beside her, smiling, and gave her a hand up.

"I literally couldn't have done that without your cooperation and your willingness to tentatively put your trust in me. It directly involved exercising power over you. I can feel my own power starting to come back already," he said, stretching his hands and wrists, "thank you."

"That was some of my power?"

"Just a little."

The idea of giving him power suddenly made her very nervous. How could she be absolutely certain that once he was restored he wouldn't just turn against her? What was to stop him from tricking her out of all of it?

Seeing worry suddenly cloud her features, Jareth decided on a more conventional approach.

"Sarah, what's troubling you?"

"Can't you just look?"

"I thought it might be more polite to ask. What's wrong, love?"

She uneasily looked up at him. "...are you angry with me?"

Jareth calmly looked into her worried eyes and let out a long breath, relieved it was only that, shaking his head. "Not anymore. Not for a long time."

"It's just that-"

"You think that when I've got my strength back I might seek revenge?" He winced suddenly when he realized that he'd just openly read her mind again. "Sorry, it's an old habit. Where I'm from you can't trust anybody." He sighed. "I don't want to be your enemy, Sarah, I really don't. Look, I know this is unspeakably awkward, but..." He quietly regarded her for a moment. "Get some rest; we can talk more in the morning."

He walked right past her and started to pull the furniture back where it had been, carefully lining up the pieces to the last millimeter with his owl-sight. Sarah was stunned at such an open confession from someone who seemed to pride himself on appearing impenetrable, but he was right, it was getting late - she'd just said so herself - and she was in no shape for a lengthy discourse.

"Believe me or no - it's your choice - but I promise I have never tried to actively hurt you." Sarah thought back - no real harm had come to her in spite of her trials and travails in the labyrinth. Not even the army - it seemed like they had almost been shooting to miss. And the fireys couldn't be accounted for, they were clearly insane. And the ball...

"So you actually believe in the recreational use of mind-altering substances, then?" she asked incredulously.

"Only when administered by a responsible party - which was me," he splayed his fingers over his heart, pointedly looking at her, "and that was hardly addictive." He sat down in the middle of the couch and put his arms over the back, resting one ankle on the opposite knee.

Sheesh, she took a deep breath, alrighty, then.

"Do I still get that massage?" she asked timidly.

"I thought you might've changed your mind the way you were going on-"

"Let me go get changed," she neatly side-stepped the question and simply walked out of the room.

That got a raised eyebrow.

Did she actually decide to believe me? Will she regret this later? Oh, who gives a damn, she wants me to touch her again!

Several minutes passed before she emerged again from the bathroom, her hair down at long last, crimped a bit from the braid. She was wearing yet another of the same formless shirts humans seemed to adore and long baggy drawstring pants to go with it, both light blue.

It's just as well, Jareth thought. The less tempting, the better. "Are you ready for sleep then?"


"Then I would strongly suggest that we do this in your bedroom."

She shot him a questioning look. It was a bit annoying having to constantly counter her distrust.

"By the time I'm through you're going to be so relaxed I seriously doubt you'll be able to move, let alone walk."

"All right..." She sounded half-committal but she did walk into the room with him close on her heels.

"Sit up on the bed facing away from me or lie on your front, it won't make much difference." Please don't sit up, I'll be more tempted to kiss your neck...

Sarah looked at him a bit defiantly and, deliberately keeping their eyes locked, lay down.

...um... "Unless you actually want me straddling you, love, you're going to have to move to the edge of the bed."

Sarah blushed profusely. "Whoops," she nervously laughed, "right."

Someday, Fortuna, please! I'll happily lose my next war in exchange!

Sarah crawled to the extreme right side of the bed all the way to the edge and lay back down, resting her cheek on her hands, looking away. Jareth drew her long, thick brown hair to the side almost with reverence and began to carefully massage her stiffened upper back with slowly deliberate, thick strokes, working over the shoulder blades thoroughly before perusing lower. It would've been easier - and far more enjoyable - if she didn't have on the loose top garment but one can't have everything - right away.

At some point Sarah's mind stopped registering that that rapturous feeling in her back was being caused by the hands of her former arch-nemesis and was aware of it as fields of delicious, hypnotically repetitive sensation only. He began to slowly work each individual vertebrae out with his thumbs and when he got to about the middle of her back she involuntarily let escape a small sound of pleasure; it took all of Jareth's willpower not to respond in any way or even miss a beat. Perhaps he did linger a bit too long at the small of her back but what the hell? She almost seemed not to notice - or care.

It would be impossible to describe what Sarah was feeling; it was like he was just willing her muscles to relax, feeling muscles she didn't even know she had just release their iron grip like that. She never wanted it to end, it was nothing short of heavenly. He rippled his hands back up her shoulder muscles and the surrounding tissues, his rhythm lulling. She was half-asleep by the time he quietly intoned in the lower part of his register

"Put your arms down to your sides, Sarah." She slowly obeyed, proof positive that he was doing an admirable job. His steady, gentle grip undulated over her shoulders and around the base of her neck to venture slightly lower down her front. He knew what he was doing would be protested violently if he didn't quickly explain himself. "I promise I won't go any lower than this, Sarah, but I noticed that you carry a heavy square bag with you at times on your left shoulder and.....ah, yes, you do have a knot there," he stated, satisfied at being correct as tension Sarah hadn't even noticed just blessedly melted away under his ministrations. As he finished by massaging both of her arms one at a time, spending a healthy amount of time gently working out the wrists and each finger, Sarah was drifting in and out of a light sleep. He had begun to softly hum but what it was she couldn't quite make out.

...so strangely familiar...

At last the delicate proceedings came to a close. He had just finished her right hand when she became vaguely aware that he had gently grasped it and was touching his lips to her fingertips. "Goodnight, Sarah."


He bent to look at her - her eyes were closed and there was a wisp of a smile left on her face.

A good night, indeed, he thought with a little smile of his own as he quietly shut the door as best he could without touching the handle on his way out, extinguishing the lights with his newly-acquired powers - her allowing him to do what he had just done had lent them a bit more definition. Going over to his own little makeshift cot, he lay down without bothering to undress and curled up in the soft blanket she'd given him, savoring the feel of a real bed after having gone so long without one. In moments he was asleep.

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