Disclaimer: I do not own Labyrinth, I am not making any money off of this, please don't sue me. I just like to play with Jareth.
A/N: I admit it. I'm a shameless review whore. Give it to me, baby!
A/N2: Title of the chapter comes from T.S. Eliot's "Journey of the Magi"; "I had seen birth and death, but had thought they were different".
Chapter One: Birth and Death
What's in a Name?
"You disappointed me, Hogbrain."
"Hoggle," the smaller creature muttered defensively. He did not, however, say it loud enough for the irate man to hear.
His companion wasn't a man, precisely, though the term served well enough for the casual observer. He was shaped as a man, which was generally enough. His too-blue eyes darkened fiercely beneath feathered brows.
Hoggle was a coward. The bulb-nosed, squashed face being had no problem admitting this. He had already angered the Goblin King with his betrayal; he did not want to enrage him further. And yet…
And yet he wanted, above all else, was to not be called Hogbrain. He remembered Hogbrain.
As Jareth bean the inevitable threats invoking the Bog of Eternal Stench, Hoggle permitted himself the dangerous luxury of letting his mind wander back to Hogbrain.
Hogbrain was the eldest son of the Hog clan, by far the ugliest and most stupid of them all. Their parents had been inordinately proud of him. Hogbrain was the tarnished jewel of their rusty, battered crown. Hoggle hated him. His inferiority was never quite so pointed as when he stood next to his eldest brother, and it pained him to see the shame in his parents' eyes when they looked at him.
Hogbrain was dead, of course, or Hoggle would never have had the fortune (was it really good fortune?) to come to the notice of the Goblin King. Hogbrain had been first to that exalted position. He had blissfully failed at nearly every task his liege and master had given him, providing endless hours of entertainment. When assigned to lead ungrateful wenches back to the beginning of the Labyrinth, though, he never failed. He had once come across a girl so stubborn that he'd finally had to bash her over the head and drag her by the hair back to the fates swarming with vicious, nasty faeries.
Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, depending on your view, Hogbrain had come off second best with a falling rock the size of a small house. The Labyrinth had ancient rules on life and death, and no intentional murders were permitted against the human girls drawn into the high stakes fame of the semi-sentient maze. Accidents, however, could be unavoidable, so long as they were truly mischance, thus the wench had died as well.
Their parents had grieved to be almost unseemly extent, liberally applying blame and injury to their remaining children for not being in the place of their eldest. Even their other favorite had received blows from that, and as the shame of the family, Hoggle had received far more than his share.
No, he did not want to be called Hogbrain.
Jareth's eyes narrowed to bare slits when he perceived his vassal's attention wavering. The slow, insistent tapping of his foot against the damp grey stone brought the creature's eyes traveling up the polished black leather knee boots, skimming quickly past the unambiguous bulge in the tan moleskin breeches, beyond the open white silk shirt to the scowling, sensual mouth. "You are beginning to frustrate me, Hogbreath."
"Hoggle," he ground out.
No, he didn't want to be called Hogbreath either.
Hogbreath had been the charmer, the success at the King's Court in the City. Their eldest had done the king's will; the second kept the king's temper. He had been clever, inappropriately intelligent, really. Still, he had gained their clan honor, so they had forgiven him the idiosyncrasy of his smarts. He had the knack for knowing what to say to keep the king's anger from spilling over.
He had also proven himself a surprising diplomat to other faerie courts. His insults, invariably leaning heavily towards bodily functions, were a prime example of his native charm, and yet he had schooled himself to learn to charms of other courts as well. He was blindingly offensive, but he managed to wrangle concessions that the king himself couldn't win of his fellow monarchs.
Hogbreath's successes had made him very popular with the females of the Goblin court. Unfortunately, his eyes and hungers began straying towards the ladies of other courts. The ladies were appalled, their husbands no less so. The lord of one groped and hysterical woman had decided that his pride was more significant than diplomatic immunity.
Jareth hadn't bothered to demand retribution.
He hadn't much cared.
So no, he had no wish to be called Hogbreath.
"Hoggle." He squirmed, thick fingers fidgeting under the cheap plastic bracelet around his wrist. Hoggart would have liked it. She had always been fond of such pretty, useless baubles.
He adored his baby sister, the only daughter of their clan. She was a stunning example of goblin beauty, her hair coarse and straggly, her nails thick and sharpened. Her prize blessing was the third eye blinking coyly from the center of his forehead. Everyone had adored Hoggart.
It was for her that Hoggle had begun hoarding jewels and trinkets, because she delighted in them so. Whenever he came home, he had some gift for her, and her walls and arms glittered with sparkling ornamentation. Hogbrain had been their parents' pride; Hoggart was their joy.
His beloved sister, however, had fallen victim to one of the wandering pestilences that strike a land from time to time. Her third eye had become infected, clouded over permanently, her hair and nails grown thin and weak. She had kept to her rooms after that, her great beauty forever ruined, and died not long after. He missed her still, the pouch of jewels heavy at his side.
No, he certainly didn't want to be confused for poor Hoggart.
"Do you truly no longer fear me?" Jareth mused aloud, empty crystal dancing between his long-fingered hands.
"Yes, your Majesty," he stammered. "I mean, n-no, your Majesty, yes, no, your Maj-"
"Silence!" Jareth thundered. He swept his feathery blond hair from his face, glowering down at the groveling creature. "I promise you, Hogwart-"
"Hoggle!" He bellowed suddenly. "Hoggle, damn you! Hoggle, Hoggle, Hoggle!"
Truly surprised for perhaps only the second time in his life, Jareth the Goblin King watched the lumpy goblin stump furiously away.
Hoggle didn't want to remember Hogwart.
"Now, to the assignment you'll be turning in." Professor Peables smiled as a flurry of murmurs and paper shuffling met his change of topic. "We're still working on character at this point. If you'll remember, your charge was to define a character by its relationship with others. Remember that this will help you when we eventually move into full pieces, with handy little things like plot development. Many of the most interesting stories are character driven plots, whose story is almost wholly dependant upon the way a certain set of characters interact.
"Now, you were all supposed to do this, you had an entire weekend to do it, and its requirements minimal. I don't want to hear any excuses. I will also not accept any late or handwritten work, so those of you scrambling to scratch something down can go ahead and give your hands a rest." He checked his watch: two minutes over. "All right, put your papers on the desk and get out of here."
The rotund professor watched his students scatter. He could see the handful of suck-ups clustering around the table he called a lecture desk, and he truly didn't want to get drawn into the void of intellectual creativity. "Miss Williams," he called. "Might I see you a moment?"
The young woman looked up from placing her notebook in the patchwork messenger bag, straight brown hair falling across her pale face. She straightened and brushed it back behind her, gray-green eyes silently questioning.
"Oh, good heavens, Miss Williams, how could you possibly be in trouble? Come along to my office." With this loud invitation, the brown-nosers reluctantly shuffled out the door, understanding that they wouldn't be able to steal his valuable time with inanities today.
"Was I just part of a rescue?" the young woman inquired quietly.
He grinned unrepentantly. "My dear Sarah, in quite possibly the entire university, you are one of the only students with whom I will willingly spend my time. Forgive me if I take advantage of that."
"Of course, sir." She smiled and shouldered her bag, politely waiting for him to gather the papers and folders together in his battered briefcase.
Arthur Peables rifled through the papers before closing his briefcase, pulling out one of them and skimming it as they began the short walk down the hall and up the stairs to his office. "What's in a name?" he read aloud. "Going into adaptations now?"
"I'll leave Shakespeare to the Lit majors, thank you." Sarah laughed softly, untangling her bag strap from part of her unbuttoned corduroy vest.
"Ah, Hoggle," he noted. "Another goblin story."
"I suppose so."
"You suppose? Wouldn't you know?"
"I'm still struggling with a definition of Hoggle," she admitted, grasping the tail as they started up the first stretch of stairs. "I can't decide of goblin should be defined as the small, ugly little creatures, or if it applies to the broader range of all Unseelie. As if any nightmare or bugaboo can be named a goblin."
Chortling, Arthur nearly skipped up the remaining steps. "Thank you for proving my point!"
"Your point, sir?"
"I have someone for you to meet," he explained. He stopped outside his office door, hand resting on the aluminum handle. "You'll forgive me, of course, but I confess to taking a great deal of pleasure in anticipating your expression."
Settling her weight onto one hip, Sarah raised one eyebrow. "You've been planning this."
"Does it really show?"
"To those who know you as anything other than a kid in a candy store."
The professor merely chuckled again and opened the door, motioning her to precede him into the tiny office.
She stopped cold in the doorway, staring at the apparition, it had to be, before her. A tall, thin man sat in one of the uncomfortable table wooden guest chairs, clearly at ease. Black boots rested casually on one corner of the battered desk, well tailored black slacks falling along long legs. His white dress shirt was untucked, the sleeves rolled up to his elbows and collar unbuttoned, and his plain black tie hung loosely. His features were both fine-boned and strong, almost hawk like in the fierce lines, with highly sculpted eyebrows. Dirty blond hair hung about his face in shaggy, feathered locks.
He looked like Jareth.
It had been five years since a petulant, self-impressed Sarah Williams had wished her infant half-brother to the goblins. She had thought, and if she were brutally honest with herself with herself still believed, that the subsequent adventures in the Underground had been real Years of belittlement and exasperations had finally convinced her to stop speaking of it as a real thing. It had also led her to give up the acting that her father and step-mother blamed for her 'attention seeking hallucinations'. However, it had held the unexpected benefit of developing her writing, as it had been perfectly permissible to speak of the Labyrinth in imaginary terms.
She had finally almost convinced herself that it had been just a dream. It consumed her mind, but it came out in dreams and stories, rather than her conversation. She was aware she was staring, but there before her, in Professor Peables' tiny office, was the face and form of the Goblin King, albeit it very, very different clothing.
Her pleasantly sadistic professor couldn't' have imagined a more entertaining reaction. He was, however, a trifle anxious at the severity with which the blood drained from her skin, how huge her eyes seemed against her delicate face. "Ah, good," he greeted the other man, clasping his hand warmly. "I'd hoped you'd be here."
"I don't think your student can say the same," he replied dryly.
"Sarah, may I introduce you to Professor Jareth FitzRoy. He teaches mythology and pre-Tudor British history. Jareth, this is Sarah Williams, the writer of those incredible goblin stories I shared with you."
Sarah, who up to this point had remained senseless with shock and confusion, was sufficiently roused at this to stare at her instructor with consternation. "Share with-"
"Oh, pshh," Arthur dismissed, flapping his hand airily. "It's the great purpose of every good writer. And you, my dear, are a very good writer. No," he continued, seating himself behind his desk and pointing her at the free chair. "I gave Jareth your work so that you two could begin talking about your goblins. You two seem to have very similar views and resources, and I have no doubt you'll have much to discuss.
"Too," he added, a mischievous gleam in his brown eyes, "I think you'll agree the coincidence in appearance is quite charming."
"Charming," Sarah agreed weakly, sinking down into the chair. She clutched her bag to her chest and tried desperately to straighten out her thoughts. She almost felt like her entire world had been thrust straight back into the Escher room. She grasped at the one thing she thought she could make sense of. "FitzRoy?" she asked. "Descendant of the bastard son of Henry VIII?"
Jareth chuckled wryly, his sensual, expressive mouth twisting in what might have been a smile, or a sneer. "Something like that. FitzRoy was actually the surname given to any bastard child of the British royal line, preceding Henry Tudor as well."
"I must say, though, it's quite well known of you. Not many are familiar with it."
She smiled slightly, the white linen sleeves of her poet's shirt draping over the laced cuffs. "Fitz was the Irish delineation of bastardy, Roy being the anglicized form of the French roi, meaning king. Henry Tudor gave the name to his bastard son, who later died of something akin to consumption."
Jareth merely nodded thoughtfully.
The silence was allowed to stew for nearly two minutes. Arthur snapped his briefcase open loudly, bringing a flinch from the girl and a sideways glance from his colleague. "Let's to lunch, shall we?" he suggested. "Sarah, you've a bit of a break, haven't you?"
"Yes, sir, nearly two hours."
The saturnine man shrugged elegantly. "I am free until tomorrow. By all means, let us do lunch."
Sarah said very little as they left Cooper Hall to walk towards the Marshall Center. The Center held more of a variety of food selections than Cooper, HMS, and the Library could claim, though they each boasted at least something. The two professors spoke lightly of various things, touching on paperwork and the hassles of the online academic system being down once again. It had to be as Professor Peables had said, just a coincidence. She was struck with the resurgence of memories though, as vivid in her imaginings as if she'd really lived them. Professor FitzRoy seemed neither young nor old, but rather, peculiarly ageless. Jareth, too, had had that bizarre sense of timelessness. Her thoughts refused to abide by logic and reason, flying thither and yon in shattered fragments of juggles crystals.
They separated briefly once within the building to avail themselves of the many selections the food court offered. Sarah ordered her customary soup and bagel from the tiny Einstein's in a robotic daze, scarcely able to return the pleasantries she usually exchanged so freely with the staff.
After waiting for her food to be prepared, she made her way to the seating area, crowded with students and filled with noise. A waving arm brought her attention to a corner pair of tables, and she obligingly sat down across from the two professors.
Arthur grinned, slathering mayonnaise and ketchup onto his chicken sandwich. "Look at you!" he exclaimed, pointing at their food. "You even eat alike."
Smiling thinly, Jareth speared a slice of cold ham in his salad, a small tray of sushi at his elbow. "If by that you mean 'healthy', Arthur, then certainly we provide a great contrast to you."
The slender girl snickered into her soup.
"I could have gotten pizza," the round little man retorted indignantly.
"Yes, because Chik-fil-a is ever so much healthier."
For the first time since walking into her professor's office, Sarah began to relax. Coincidence. It was all just unlucky coincidence. Though Jareth FitzRoy's manner was caustic and sharp, it was not the autocratic demands of an imperious, dangerous ruler. Perhaps it was simply his brand of humor.
He was British, after all.
Thus resolved to give no more weight to the insistent memories, Sarah took it upon herself to enter more freely into the conversation. It was stilted at first, as any such discussion between strangers must be, but it wasn't long before Arthur was able to tactfully withdraw, leaning back in his chair and watching the points fly.
The creative writing instructor didn't feel particularly qualified to engage in a debate in whether the Labyrinth from Sarah's mythical Underground had its foundations in Minoan labyrinths, pre-Roman hedge mazes, or crop circles, but he was certainly enjoying his observation of the pair that were qualified. On finding someone so knowledgeable and like minded on a subject so dear to her, the normally reserved Sarah became positively animated, her cheeks flushed and eyes sparkling becomingly. The spars centered on timing. Both Jareth and Sarah agreed that that Labyrinth was an archetypal representation of overwhelming obstacle. What they could not agree upon was which civilization had the earliest records of such a primordial image surfacing.
Checking his watch, Arthur Peables reluctantly gathered his trash together and stood. The other two abruptly ceased their conversation and looked up at him in startled confusion. "Unfortunately, I have a meeting with one of my graduate students," he admitted. "I shall have to leave you two to it. You've made an admirable start of it, though."
Jareth smiled wryly and shook the hand not occupied in clutching empty containers. "Give Laura my regards."
"Of course, of course. Sarah, I'll see you in class on Wednesday on Wednesday, if not before."
"Have a good day, sir."
The remaining pair watched him go in silence, the space between them plummeting back into awkwardness. Jareth was the first to break it, clearing his throat unnecessarily. "So, Miss Williams, tell me something of yourself. Are you native to Tampa?"
She blushed. "No, sir, and please, call me Sarah."
He smiled and gently touched the back of her hand with one elegant finger. "Very well, but only if you call me Jareth. I am, after all, not your professor."
She gave it a moment's thought and decided she'd try that another time, if there was such a time. "Yes, sir."
Seeing through it, the man merely continued to smile, leaning back comfortably in the plain plastic and metal chair. "If not from Tampa, then, where do you call home?"
"Nowhere," she thought, unable to suppress the resentful memory. On the surface, however, she merely folded her bagel wrapped into a precise square growing ever smaller and taller. "Outside of Haven, Connecticut," she answered. "One of my teachers recommended this as a good program. You, sir?"
"Oh, I come a little from here, a little from there," he told her with a smirk. "Whatever made you so interested in goblins and labyrinths? It's not the sort of thing most pretty young women write about."
His companion blushed again at the compliment. As she gathered her thoughts, having painfully learned to think before she spoke, he leaned forward against the table, scarcely able to conceal his burning interest in the question. "When I was younger," she said slowly, carefully crafting the rest of her response, "my mother gave me a script for a play called The Labyrinth. It was my favorite thing. I was constantly going to the park and reciting it, pretending to be the girl who traveled to the castle beyond the Goblin City. I suppose it was only natural that my curiosity and interest would grow from there."
Jareth steepled his fingers against his chin, his blue eyes glinting strangely. "That's everything?" he pressed.
"Yes," she lied, without a moment's hesitation.
His mouth creased in a small moue of disappointment, he sat back, drumming his fingers along the table. "I see."
For some unfathomable reason, she blushed again, ducking her head to hide it. "And you, sit?" she returned bravely. "What first got you into all this?"
"It's my heritage," he answered simply. "Goblins and bugaboos, faerie circles and changelings, sentient mazes within the mounds of the bean sidhe…it's all a part of my birthright. I made the decision as a very young child, while my nurse distracted me from my parents' entertainments with ancient stories, that I would learn all I could about it."
The flush on her cheeks only deepened at such an honest, meaningful reply, and she found herself quite without anything to say.
"I have made you uncomfortable," he observed ruefully
She shook her head automatically. "I'm not at my best with strangers," she explained sheepishly.
He stood and gathered their trash, shoving it into one of the overflowing trash cans. "Then let us depart for now, so that when we next meet, we'll no longer be strangers. Perhaps then, we may both be more at ease."
Sarah smiled in spite of herself, rising to her feet. "That sounds like a workable plan. It was a pleasure to meet you, sir."
"Jareth," she agreed helplessly, cheeks flaming.
"One last question," he added, taking her hand as if to shake it. "Why were you so affected when we were first introduced?"
She hesitated briefly. She certainly couldn't tell him that despite all logic and reason, she still secretly believed that the Goblin King and his Labyrinth were real. After a moment, she settled upon something that seemed safe enough. "I almost feel as if we've said hello before."
"So long as it was not goodbye." He smiled, gallantly kissing her hand.
Sarah shivered in the warmth of early autumn. Fear? Excitement? Perhaps both. Perhaps neither. She slowly pulled her hand from his, her heart deathly heavy in her throat even as it sent blood coursing violently through her veins.
It was a beginning.
So why did it feel like no more than a prelude to the ending?