Gritting her teeth and deliberately ignoring the crying toddler in the next room, the teenaged girl glanced at the clock. Her parents wouldn't return home from their dinner party for another hour. The girl finished applying her makeup and leaned forward to carefully examine her face in the mirror. With the tip of a finger, she smoothed her lip-gloss, and then nodded to herself in satisfaction.
Everything was right on schedule.
She looked around her cluttered bedroom, oblivious to the television and stereo, her gaze flicking past the piles of shoes and discarded clothing to focus on the stack of papers resting beside her computer.
Rising, she crossed to the desk and lightly ran her fingers over the printed stories. So many different genres and so many different writing styles, but this time, it was going to be her story. Soon, she would have everything she ever wanted and more. Her parents would have to get someone else to be their unpaid babysitter. They could find someone else to nag about spending too much time on the phone or not keeping their room clean, because she wouldn't be here any longer. She was going to be in a magical place, living like a queen. In time, she planned to actually be a queen. And why not? She was fifteen -- just like Sarah had been -- but she was prettier than Sarah, and smarter, too. She certainly wasn't going to make the same stupid mistakes that Sarah had made. She wasn't going to throw away this chance. Not just to save a squalling brat.
She huffed out an exasperated breath as her sister's wails grew louder. "Oh, will you just shut up?" she yelled. "You aren't even supposed to be here. I overheard Mom and Dad talking. They called you a "surprise," but we both know what they really meant is that you were an accident.
"Things were fine until you came along. Now, it's "the baby" this and "the baby" that. They barely remember that I even exist, and I'm sick of it. And I'm sick of you."
The girl mentally reviewed what she would say, going over her planned conversation one last time. Now, all that was left was for her to say the words. An icy shiver of apprehension trickled down her spine, and she shook her head, giving a self-conscious laugh. There was no need to be nervous; she'd planned this down to the last detail. Everything was going to be perfect.
She turned to face her bedroom window and said loudly, "I wish the goblins would come and take you away right now."
Unconsciously, she held her breath as she waited. When the moments ticked by with no change, she exhaled slowly, frowning.
This will work, she thought. It has to.
She tried again. "I wish the goblins would come and--"
"You needn't repeat yourself," a silken voice said from behind her. "We did hear you the first time."
With a gasp, she whirled around and her mouth dropped open. He was here! She was only dimly aware that her sister's cries had gone silent.
Greedily, she took in his appearance. While she'd known that an actor had played Jareth in the movie, she'd always thought that the two men would look exactly the same, but they didn't.
They were both lithe and elegant, but this man's face was sharper, his eyes colder, and his mouth curved into a cruel smile. The wild hairstyle of the movie was replaced by sleek blond hair that fell to his shoulders. As in the movie, his eyes appeared to be different colors, but the delicate owlish markings were no cosmetic effect and they stood out starkly against his pale skin.
This man was the real Jareth.
At that understanding, some of her confidence bled away.
Those mismatched eyes regarded her curiously. "I presume that you want some sort of trinket in exchange for the child?"
He lifted his hand and a shimmering crystal formed on his gloved fingertips. "Pretty, isn't it? If you look into it, it will show you your dreams. Do you want it?"
At that, she fell back onto her rehearsed exchange. "That's not what I want."
One elegant eyebrow raised and the crystal vanished from his hand. "Oh? And just what is it that you want? I've done as you asked. The child is gone."
"I want to make a deal with you."
His eyes narrowed slightly and he tilted his head. "A deal?"
She nodded. "I want to go in her place. I want to go to the Underground with you."
"You offer yourself in exchange for the child?" His tone was blatantly disbelieving.
"Yes," she answered and then struggled to explain, her words tumbling over each other as she spoke rapidly. "When I first saw the movie, I wanted to believe in you. But when I started reading the stories, that's when I knew that you were real." She pointed to the pile of papers on the desk.
Jareth looked at the stack of papers. "Oh, yes, the stories. They do serve their purpose."
"Their purpose?" she echoed in surprise. "You mean that you know about them?"
"Of course I know about them. I... encourage them." He smiled, showing a hint of sharp white teeth. "Humans are very easy to influence. A murmured suggestion as they fall asleep, a landscape shown in a dream, stories told in the dead of night..."
Suddenly, she remembered the references in various authors' notes and the comments in on-line journals, and her mouth dropped open. "You mean you really do talk to them? I thought that was just their way of trying to be funny."
Jareth smirked and picked up a printed story, holding it aloft. "I speak to this author in her dreams." He tossed the sheaf of papers aside and selected another story. "I stand behind this one as she writes and I whisper into her ear." Again the papers were dropped onto the desk with a dismissive gesture and another batch selected. "This one becomes distracted during her university classes and her mind wanders, but she always pays attention to me."
He allowed the sheets of paper to slip through his fingers and flutter to the floor. "I talk to each one of them, in some fashion. Over the years, belief in me began to wane, rejected as superstition and ignorance, but these people are rekindling that belief. As I said, they serve their purpose."
One gloved finger tapped his lips as he regarded her. Finally, he said, "It's customary that I offer you an opportunity to win your freedom. I am bound by certain... rules." He made a gesture and one wall of her bedroom faded away. The Labyrinth stretched out before her.
She shook her head. "No, I told you -- I don't want to try to win my freedom. I want to go to the Underground with you."
He smiled faintly and something flickered in his eyes - not surprise, but something...
"You forfeit the Labyrinth?" he asked.
"And you understand that I will be your king?"
"Oh, yes." Her tone was eager.
"Are you quite certain that you want to agree?"
Again, that expression was in his eyes, almost as if he was...
"I'm positive," she answered firmly.
"Then I accept." He glanced around her room and shook his head. "Just once, I'd like to find one of you with a neat, tidy room." He turned back to her. "As you obviously cannot clean, I suspect it's pointless to ask if you can cook?"
"Cook?" The girl was suddenly confused. What was he talking about?
Jareth regarded her steadily. "You'll be assigned duties to perform. It would be beneficial if they were something you could actually do."
"Duties?" She was horrified. "But... But I thought..." Taking a deep breath, she reached out and lightly rested one hand on Jareth's chest. Her voice lowered to a suggestive whisper. "I thought that you and I would--"
Her voice ended in a pained gasp as Jareth abruptly seized her fingers tightly with his gloved hand.
"Never touch me," he ground out. "That's the first lesson you need to learn."
Confused, she stared at him in shock and he released her.
At some silent signal from their king, goblins crept from their hiding places in the room. These creatures weren't cute little muppets; in fact, they bore only the barest resemblance to the goblins in the movie. These things had long fangs and vicious claws, and their piggish eyes were filled with stupidity and greed.
Horrified, the girl stumbled back several steps, but the goblins surrounded her completely, forcing her to a standstill. She fought back a scream as they pressed closer, and their dirty hands reached out to stroke the soft fabric of her clothing with covetous intent.
Jareth casually leaned against the computer desk, his arms crossed over his chest, watching with an impassive expression.
"What's going on?" she cried.
"We're merely approaching the end of the story." Jareth smiled faintly. "I rarely mention this to the writers. A deliberate oversight on my part, I'm afraid, but then they wouldn't find this ending as palatable as the fantasies I weave for them."
"This ending? What do you mean?" Her tone became frantic.
Jareth's smile turned predatory and his voice slid over her like satin. "Why, my dear child, where do you think that goblins come from?"
He gestured and the scream finally burst from her throat as the goblins seized her firmly. She struggled wildly, but there were too many of them, and they were far too strong; they held her in place with ease.
Jareth lifted his hand and a crystal formed there. With an almost casual gesture, he threw it at her, and it burst just as it touched her forehead.
There was a moment of awful, searing pain, and then her limbs felt as if they were being stretched. But when they snapped back into place, they felt too short and too awkward and her joints were too loose. Her hands wouldn't work properly, and everything was wrong and... when had Jareth grown to be so tall?
Her head wobbled on her shoulders, suddenly too big for her body, but she turned to look into the mirror across the room. She started to shriek when she saw what she had become, but the only sound that came from her mouth was a terrible, chittering sound.
Jareth looked down at her and smirked. "You must have a new name to suit your new status." His eyes narrowed in thought for a moment and then he smiled. "You shall be called Avarice."
His voice took on an oddly formal tone. "Avarice, you're no longer human; you are now a goblin." He gestured and the other goblins once again grabbed her by the arms. "You wished to go to the Underground, and so you shall."
He leaned down and looked directly into her eyes. "But never let it be said that I fail to honor my bargains."
At that, the girl heard the sharp sound of her little sister's wails filling the bedroom once again and then the last of her humanity faded from her mind and she knew no more.
Jareth strode into his bedchamber, clothing melting from his body with every step. By the time he reached his bed, he was naked. He slipped into the warm bed and slid his arm around his wife's waist.
"Mmm," Sarah murmured sleepily. "You weren't gone very long."
Jareth brushed her hair away from her neck and placed a light kiss underneath her ear. "No, not long. It was a minor irritation; I've dealt with it."
Sarah twisted in his arms to face him. "Don't tell me that another girl wanted to come to the Underground?"
One elegant eyebrow lifted as sly amusement danced in his eyes. "Then I shan't tell you."
Sarah snorted softly and rolled her eyes, but in a moment, her smile faded and her expression softened. "I know this is very difficult for you."
He made a self-effacing gesture. "It makes you happy." He nipped at her earlobe in an effort to distract her, but she persisted.
"No, don't dismiss this, Jareth. I know that you've made a huge sacrifice for me, but I am glad that you promised not to bring them here. Their heads are so full of that silly movie that they don't really understand what they're asking."
Jareth smiled tenderly at her. "Sarah, on our wedding day I promised you that I would never bring another human into the Underground." He pressed a light kiss onto her lips. "And I always keep my promises."
Author's Note: This is the result of an off-hand remark made to KL Morgan regarding Labyrinth and Mary Sues. I'm not certain this is quite what she expected, though. I'll stress that this is not directed at any particular author, although a couple of Labyrinth fanfic authors are fondly and obliquely referenced. ;)