Disclaimer: I do not own the 'Labyrinth', its characters or its main premise. I mean no evil intent with this story.
Story Type: Slash
Author's Note: I couldn't resist! This came to me and I just had to write it down. The characters may seem the same, but I swear there will be changes. You'll see once the story really gets going.
Author's Note 2: The same warnings still hold good for SLASH. By all means take a shot at reading it even if you don't like slash. I won't burst into tears if you flame me for it. It's sometimes nice to get pointless, petulant, usually stupid diatribes from people who make it their life's work to be intolerant. Either that or my story really sucks.
"You must come with me now," Jareth said urgently, "It is imperative. There is no time left."
"I- I can't. My parents…"
"Are dead," the Goblin King said firmly. For all his soft tones, he drew the line at coddling the boy. It was not a part of the deal. He had held to his promise to protect Toby Williams and he was fully prepared to see that through. Sitting in the dirt with him beside the tangled wreckage of what had been the family car was not a part of that promise.
"Dead?" The boy looked up and then looked down again fearfully, to the hand that he was clutching convulsively. "No… no, you have to help them. They're fine! They really are, and they'll get better. Just- just help me get them… out…" He tugged futilely on the arm and shoulder. His father's arm and shoulder.
Jareth wasn't quite heartless and he winced as he saw the arm twist in a way it shouldn't be able to, even in death. He stiffened and half-turned as the sound of a police siren made its way towards him. He turned back hurriedly and grabbed the child, hauling him away.
"Come with me now," he said again, "There is nothing for you here. I can take you away from this. You will have another life."
"But… my dad…"
"Is dead, as is your mother. Your sister died two years ago and I know that as well. Where will you live?" He shook him slightly, willing to scare him to influencing his decision. "Who will have you now?"
"I- I don't know. I don't know!"
"Come with me. I will take care of you." The hands gentled. The Goblin King could be very persuasive when he needed to be. "You will be cared for. I will show you things that will astonish you. You will see magic and wondrous things."
The child looked behind, tearing away from that hypnotic gaze.
Jareth stifled a groan of frustration. Didn't the stupid boy understand? His parents were dead. He would have been dead too if the Goblin King had not forcibly ripped him from the car before it skidded on the ice. But he could not take anyone unless they were sent, either by their own wishes or by another's. Someone had to wish and if Toby didn't hurry and make his, he would be cut off without any connection to him. He would have failed Sarah. His promise to her dying spirit…
"It is a choice you must make, Toby- now or never. Give me your answer."
"Who are you?"
"The Goblin King."
A gulp and the child tried to draw back only to be trapped by those strong hands. "Sarah told me not to talk to you. She said…"
"Sarah," Jareth interrupted, "Asked me to protect you."
"She died," Toby snapped. His eyes dropped to the icy road and he shivered. It was so cold and he'd left his jacket in the car. With his parents' bodies. He shivered again, this time in shock as his mind shied away from that vision. Twisted bodies, he could see the flash in his head, hear the crushing smash, his mother's cry and his father's shout. He could feel the dragging pull of something getting him out of there. "I hate her."
The Goblin King's face hardened. With anyone else in a less delicate situation he would have hit them for that. She'd never had the time of day for him, but he'd loved her. Desperately. He'd been the only one there as the sleeping pills took hold and he'd begged her to wish herself to his realm so he could heal her. He'd begged! On his knees with his eyes leaking tears! Instead she'd wished that he'd personally protect the little brat standing before him now.
"Your sister," he said quietly, "Loved you very much. And if you come away with me, I can keep my promise to her. I don't care whether you live or die, you annoying little rodent, but I will see her memory honoured."
Anger, furious anger snapping and crackling in every word and what else was a terrified nine year old to do? "I'll- I'll come with you. I swear. Just don't hurt me."
"Was that a yes, Toby?"
"Good!" The Goblin King whisked them away, spotting the far-away buzz of red and blue swirling lights as the police moved too close for comfort. He had just managed it in time.
They landed by the doors of his Castle and he allowed Toby to pull away, still bundled up in his warm clothes and fighting to hold back startled tears. His guards jumped to attention and the doors were swung open instantly. He walked up the stairs and then stopped at the top, turning around to impatiently beckon his charge to follow him.
"Stay close," he warned shortly, "I have no time to look for you if you get lost. My Castle can be dangerous."
He summoned up a goblin that was bigger and cleaner than the rest and muttered to it some gruff language. The thing bowed and ran away, calling out something in the same words. Jareth shook his head and rolled his eyes but didn't seem to find it very surprising.
Toby was stunned. His legs moved on their own and his hands clung to the only familiar thing in such an unfamiliar world- his clothing. He tangled his fingers nervously in the hem of his sweater, baking in it but too scared to take it off. He didn't scare easily but he wanted his parents and he couldn't quite understand why he was being told that he couldn't have them any more. Add to that, he didn't know where he was!
"Sir, I- I don't know where we are," he said softly, trying to keep up with those long-legged strides.
"I do," came the implacable answer. "This is the way to my throne room. It's on the first floor, just beyond the reception hall. The reception hall is a formal area. Here."
He threw up the first door they came to and Toby gasped. It was magnificent. The ceilings were not limitless but they were high enough that a small, exquisite chandelier graced the middle. There was no panelling, no paving; it was just stone. The only bright spot was a long crimson carpet rolling up the middle, up a short flight of three shallow steps and then to a throne. The throne itself was carved of stone, seeming to be a part of the floor with no joint to show it was a separate piece.
The Goblin King was justifiably proud of the handsomeness of his residence, but to a child it seemed frightening and just a little too cold. Toby wanted his home, with his cluttered room and the garish delights of his toys and his books. He wanted the graceful patterned couches that his mom had been so proud of and the few scattered pieces of good crystal and china.
Jareth clicked his tongue and threw his hands up in defeat. He shouldn't have expected a mortal to feel the power and magnificence in the room. He led the way to a door constructed just before the platform with his throne, built into the left wall so discreetly that no one saw it unless they looked.
"This," he said tersely, "Is my throne room."
"But…" Toby looked confused and he turned to look behind him. He pointed his finger to the enormous stone throne in the other room. "But your throne is there."
"You would not understand," Jareth sighed, "Do not question. Just know this is my throne room and that is my reception hall. Remember that."
"Okay. What- what will I do here?"
"You will sit there. And don't move! I will return shortly."
Jareth strode out as suddenly as he had come in. Thank God he didn't need to get his goblins drunk this time. The last time Toby had been in his informal throne room, Jareth had had to work so the entire kingdom was off balance for Sarah's benefit. He'd wanted so much to let her win.
But there was no point dwelling on that any more. Sarah had chosen to die. There was nothing he could do. It seemed the morbidly dramatic part of her that he had craved so much had finally driven her too far. That was all.
Now, with her parents' death, he had only one small part of her left and he would jealously guard Toby Williams from death if only to believe that some sliver of her lived in while the boy did. Which was exactly why he had called for the person he had.
Lady Pandora was old, perhaps, but still perfectly capable. She tended to ill-health, but that was only another reason that Jareth deemed her the perfect person to care for his charge. Toby could keep an eye on the woman for him. He left orders with his servants that a tray of food was to be taken to the small child in his throne room and that when Lady Pandora was to arrive he was to be called from his study instantly.
He retreated to his study with a thankful sigh and sat down.
The picture on his desk caught his eye- just as it did every time he entered the room- and he picked it up, running a gentle hand over its surface. A few stray grains of dusk lifted off onto his black gloves and he frowned, repeating the action again to clean the glass surface. A very Aboveground thing to have on his desk, perhaps, but he hadn't been able to resist: the picture on Sarah's vanity, of her at happy fifteen, smiling and laughing at whoever was taking the photograph. Now he guarded it jealously.
It was six hours later that a goblin tapped tentatively on the door for admittance.
"The Lady Pandora 'as arrived," the goblin said, bowing twice just to make sure Jareth got the respect he demanded.
The Goblin King got up and stalked out without a word. It was a short trip down the stairs to his drawing room, to the right of his reception hall, and he didn't take his time with the task. The sooner it was over the better.
The woman who turned around at his entrance was as blond as him and just as arrogant if the slant of her jaw was to be believed. She didn't look best pleased to be where she was.
"Jareth, why was I asked to present myself?" she asked sharply.
In reply, the Goblin King smiled and bowed, a short, ironic little gesture. "Mother," he said gracefully, "Can a son not enjoy a visit by his only living parent?"
"Not if the son is you. What is it you want of me?"
"Come now. Anyone might imagine my presence irksome."
She softened and smiled a little, taking the gentle rebuke in the conciliatory spirit they were meant in. "Very well, Jareth. But you do know I have guests this week. It was most irregular for me to leave them alone as I have done."
He flicked the concern away with a negligent hand. "It won't matter. Your son needed you on a matter of some importance."
"Yes, yes, but what matter?" she demanded. Lady Pandora looked her son over and narrowed her eyes. "You haven't done something I am not going to like, have you?"
"Have I ever?"
"Yes. Quite frequently."
"But all with good reason."
"A good reason is never always enough for a bad course of action. What is it you need this time?"
"I have a child in my care and I would like you to take charge of him."
She blinked. "Pardon?"
Jareth sighed and ran his hand through his hair. "A child, mother. Will you take him off my hands? Turn him into a pageboy or something. He is only nine. When he is too old, keep him as a companion. Make him a stableboy. I don't really care. Just make sure he is healthy and content."
"A child? Are you mad? Has this hermit-like existence finally driven you insane? I am not taking on a child simply because you ask me."
"Why ever not?" Jareth snapped in his usual bad temper.
"Because one son was quite enough trouble, thank you," his mother shot back. Her eyes dared him coldly to take this outrage any further. Of all the ridiculous things, she had never imagined that even Jareth would think of tossing his illegal offspring into her keeping! It really was the limit!
Jareth growled and paced up and down. Why did this not surprise him? One favour! It was not much and his mother would, of course, balk like a malicious mare at the jump. "He is a nine year old mortal boy, mother, not capable of doing that much damage. He will be dead in sixty years or so; sooner, hopefully. At least keep him until his twentieth year. After that I can send him somewhere else."
"Jareth, I am not taking your child!"
"But why not?"
"Because you can clean up your own messes and leave me out of this! I do not want to know. How can you? Your own son!"
The Goblin King stopped in astonishment, his dark brows rising almost to his hairline. He stared incredulously at the woman before him for a full minute before bursting out into fell-fledged laughter at her delusions. It took him a while to calm down. "It- it is not my son," he finally managed, "His parents were killed and I took him away from there. He had no one left to raise him, you see."
"Oh dear, how were his parents killed?"
"Their car crashed. I managed to save the child. Toby Williams is his name."
"Williams… Williams… where have I heard that name before?" Pandora knew very well where she had heard that name before. She knew it from the moment it left his lips. No other name was ever pronounced in that same reverential way. It angered her, that situation in her son's recent past. "What have you done, Jareth?"
"I have done nothing!" He threw his hands up in an innocent gesture, "Sarah made me promise to protect the child. I happened to be watching as I saw the car spin out of control. I got there barely in time to get him out of the car. The parents I could not save. So he is here, in my care. Well, under my protection, but preferably in the care of someone who has time for children."
"I do not have the time. This obsession is unhealthy and you have dragged it around for two years." She made to leave. "Excuse me, but I have guests waiting for me. I will have no part in this."
A hand touched her shoulder as she brushed past the younger man. "At least look at him first."
Defeat swept through her. She couldn't refuse that much. She knew that Jareth had no time or inclination to bring up children. The line of the Goblin Kings did not work in that manner as it was. He was under no obligation to have heirs. And she knew that she could not leave any defenceless young boy here in the cold Castle with not a friend to call his own.
"All right," she sighed, "Where is he?"
The Goblin King led her there, to find Toby curled up in the sunken pit in the throne room, his head on his folded sweater, asleep. Tears tracks had dried on his cheeks and the food was sitting untouched beside the pit on the floor.
Pandora's heart broke. The youngster looked forlorn. She knelt on the floor beside the cushioned area and gentled stroked the blond hair back. He was flushed and exhausted, his breath still hitching just a little as a child's does when he has cried himself to sleep. She stood up and turned around, making sure to remember to keep her voice quiet.
"For someone who is so clever," she spat, "You are an idiot! He has just lost his parents and suffered the worst shock imaginable and you let him stay here alone? At least leave him with one of your serving women!" She tsked in the end and gave up. This was Jareth and much though she loved her son she had realized a long time ago that he simply didn't understand other people.
"Fool," she continued quietly, fingers quietly unbuttoning the thick shirt, "Heartless fool. Here! Come here and pick him up."
"I can't understand what you're so upset about," Jareth hissed back, "I saved the boy!"
"And then let him boil in his clothes! See how flushed he is. He must have been exhausted to fall asleep like this."
Jareth hefted the boy up and stiffened as the small figure almost woke up. A warm cheek pressed against his shoulder and two arms were thrown around his neck. Toby went back to sleep with a slight whimper. The Goblin King just looked his distaste.
"Bring him out to my carriage," Lady Pandora ordered, pointing imperiously to the door, "You obviously cannot be trusted to look after a child. I could swear I've told you to be more mindful of others around you. But you never learn! This is it, Jareth. I don't want to hear from you for another six months while I try to help this poor child to adjust to the life you have pushed him into."
"He chose this life!"
"Rubbish! A child in shock will say anything if someone is breathing down his neck and frightening him. I've seen you do it."
"I have never been frightened to the point of making a decision I wanted no part of," Jareth growled. He tightened his hold and for all his mother's heaped accusations, he was very gentle at manoeuvring his way out to the carriage that waited at the entrance of his Castle, speaking and walking in such a way that his burden was not disturbed.
"That is true enough- you have always been too proud for your own good," Pandora replied bitterly, "Put him into the carriage, please."
Jareth obliged and then jumped back out, dusting off his hands as if the child had left residue on them. "Thank you, mother," he murmured, "If he does get too much, just let me know. I'll think of something to do with him."
"Like what?" she said scathingly. "You can do nothing to him here, my dear. You said it yourself- he came willingly. All those who do so cannot be touched by you. You have no power over him, and I'd thank you to remember that he is now under my protection. Step aside, please."
The Goblin King obliged and watched his mother drive away with annoyance but relief. At least the trouble would be worth it if he were not saddled with that brat.