Muck

or Jareth and Sarah's Smelly Little Problem

A Collaboration Between

Marti Owlsten

&

Danika Lareyna

Chapter Seven

Guaranteed to Blow Your Mind

"Oh, Jareth," she sobbed, "You've been bitten!"

He pulled his arm away and clapped his hand once more over the wound and then winced, clearly regretting the action. Pain, stress and an uncomfortable dizziness, the origins of which he did not want to contemplate, made the Goblin King slightly snappish. "There's no need to make a fuss," he growled. "I'll be just fine."

Sarah, clearly incapable of letting the subject drop, had slipped into the first stages of full-blown panic. Her wide eyes began darting frantically around the corridor in which they had found themselves, her hands clutching at his arm above the wound. "We need a doctor, or a first aid kit, or… do you think it's too late to suck out the poison…?"

Jareth allowed the girl to continue blathering uselessly as he closed his eyes, drew in a deep breath and exhaled slowly. After a moment, the dizziness receded and his shaking quieted. He was about to open his eyes again when he heard a prolonged tearing sound and there was a pressure on his injured arm.

Glancing down he saw two trembling hands, clumsily attempting to wrap a strip of pale blue material around the punctured skin. The exact same pale blue, he noted, as Sarah's shirt. Indeed, a strip of material had been raggedly torn away around the hem of her blouse, revealing a band of creamy skin and a very cute, if Jareth did say so himself, bellybutton. Elevating his gaze further, he met Sarah's eyes, laden with guilt and tears.

"I don't know what else to do, Jareth," she said, her voice sounding much less whiny to him than it might have, "I just don't know what else to do."

Jareth was rather horrified to find that his first impulse was to gently brush the tears from her cheeks and comfort her. Instead, he got a firm grip on himself and rolled his eyes exaggeratedly. "Sarah," he growled, "Will you stop blubbering? Look, I don't need your help." He quickly unwrapped her carefully wound cloth and used it to rub away some of the blood. Holding up his arm to her, he said, "See? All better."

She stared, wide-eyed, at the unblemished stretch of skin. Hesitantly, she reached out and brushed it with one finger. Only then convinced that the puncture wounds had vanished, she exclaimed, "But how?"

"I'm Fae," he said, simply, "Or didn't you notice the glowing blood?"

Sarah held up the finger with which she had touched him. There was a tiny bit of drying blood on her nail and she examined it carefully. It was faintly glowing. "Weird," she murmured.

He snorted, "As if non-glowing blood is perfectly normal." He glanced up and down the corridor and then decided to risk a tiny trickle of magic to close up the hole in his sleeve. Blood stains, of course, were much more difficult to get out (as any good housewife will tell you), so he resigned himself to leaving them be for the moment. "Anyway," he huffed, "There was no reason for you to get yourself into a tizzy."

She glowered at him for a long moment, trying and failing to come up with a witty retort. Finally, she dashed the last of the tears from her eyes with a sleeve and growled, "I was only worried about you. Men." She paused, her eyebrows bunching, "…or whatever."

Jareth stood, waiting until Sarah moved her legs and then kicking the trap door closed with one foot. She stayed on the ground, scooting back to rest her head against one of the dark gray brick walls of the hallway. She was still a bit pale and he could hear her pulse just now slowing. He stared at the strip of blue cloth in his gloved hand and then tucked it carefully into an interdimensional pocket. Quietly, he said, "Thank you. For trying to help."

Her head snapped up and she stared at him with such blatant incredulity and he could not help but turn his eyes to the sky and say, "Women." Then, just for cheek, he added, "…or whatever."

They glowered at each other for a long moment, but Sarah's resolve failed first and her lips quirked, a giggle escaping. As if that had released them, they both began laughing in truth. The extreme tension they had been under releasing in an uncontrollable burst. Sarah clutched her stomach and kicked her legs; Jareth bent over, supporting himself with a hand on his knee. They were both aware that, to a rational outsider, they must look like a couple of loons.

It was a good five minutes before they were able to collect themselves.

"So now what?" Sarah asked, finding that she had another batch of tears to wipe away with her sleeve. Jareth had his back to her and was examining the opposite wall. The squeaky-clean hallway reminded her of the initial corridor they had found themselves in, upon entering the Maze. The only difference, and slightly ominous one at that, was that it extended into an arch over their head with only tiny, round portals of light spaced evenly along the top of the roof. The little windows did not allow much light in and it was by far the most intimidating place she had found herself, in the otherwise bright and colorful Maze.

"Well I would certainly suggest avoiding any more Naughty-holes," Jareth said, his voice light. Too light. A trickle of suspicion wound its way down Sarah's spine.

"Agreed," she said, carefully.

"Of course," the Goblin King continued blithely, turning to face her, "At the moment we have far worse things to worry about."

The trickle suddenly switched into Niagara Falls mode. "What do you mean?" she asked, glancing once more up and down the seemingly deserted hall.

Jareth sobered, mismatched blue eyes meeting anxious green. "I told you that the Naughty-holes are the Maze equivalent of my Oubliettes, correct?"

Niagara Falls was very cold, Sarah noted. Slowly, she nodded.

He leaned forward, his voice dropping to a menacing growl, "And do you recall what happened after you left my Oubliette?"

Sarah frowned and screwed up her face in concentration. "Let's see... Um... Hoggle said some mean things... and then there were the False Alarms... and... uh..."

The Goblin King pinched the bridge of his nose, "It was a week ago, Sarah. Is it really that difficult to remember?"

Sarah frowned, "Cut me some slack- I was under a lot of stress!" Suddenly, it hit her. "...then you came and took some of my time away, you big jerk!" she exclaimed, furiously.

Jareth grinned, "Ah, yes. Good times. But the point is, after the Oubliette, you met up with me. All such traps are rigged so that, in the unlikely event that someone actually gets out, the ruler of the land immediately knows about it."

"Then Queen Julie-"

"That's Janill," a melodious voice calmly stated from behind her. Sarah lurched forward and would have fallen on her face had Jareth not quickly stepped over to catch her. She could be forgiven for her reaction, considering that she had been fairly certain that 'behind her' only included the wall against which she had been leaning.

She turned in Jareth's arms just in time to see the wall, which had seemed a simple stone structure, begin to writhe. Both of them froze, Sarah in terror and Jareth with a resigned expression on his pale face. The wall swirled menacingly for a moment, bubbles coming to the surface and bursting as if the very stone were coming to a rolling boil. As they watched, the bubbles increased, seeming to take up the entire wall, and shifting from dark gray to every color of the rainbow- most in shades of pastel.

From the center of the mass of bubbles stepped a female. After the other sights of the Maze, Sarah discovered that she had come to picture the Munchkin Queen as a sort of Glinda figure, from the Wizard of Oz. She discovered that she was overwhelmingly wrong in that expectation.

For one thing, Glinda had not looked as if she could bench-press Dorothy, Toto and probably the Tin Man, too.

She wore a pale pink, glittering body leotard with darker pink leggings. A dark purple half-shirt was tied closed just under her breasts and displayed arms that somehow managed to be both feminine and intimidatingly well-muscled. To complete the outfit, she had a pair of dark purple leg warmers and a matching sweat band across her forehead. The first thing that popped into Sarah's mind was that the Munchkin Queen looked an awful lot like Olivia Newton-John from the 'Let's Get Physical' music video, on steroids.

Of course, unlike Olivia Newton-John, Queen Janill's skin was a rich cinnamon color. Her hair was thick, black and perfectly wavy, pulled into a high ponytail above the purple sweatband. Her eyes glittered as she took the pair in, one dark as midnight, the other a lighter amber.

She was, all things considered, quite a woman. Sarah blushed, feeling inadequate and wondering if she could crawl back into the Naughty-hole… unfortunately, she could no longer find the top of the trap door.

"Well, well," the Queen exclaimed, her voice low and musical. "What are you doing here, Gobbers?"

Sarah could not help herself, she blinked and exclaimed, "Gobbers?"

She had made the mistake of meeting Janill's eyes. The Munchkin Queen gave her a patronizing smile. "Why yes," she said, "Didn't he tell you? That was my old pet name for him." She leaned forward a bit, showing off more cleavage than any leotard had right to. In a conspiratorial stage-whisper, she said, "He called me Munchy."

Through a massive force of will, Sarah managed not to make a face at these horrific nicknames. Jareth did not bother to restrain himself and groaned, "Janill, I hated those back… then and I hate them now. Please refrain."

Janill straightened, her dark, mismatched eyes cold. "'Back then' he says," she sneered, "As if it were nothing. As if it weren't the most beautiful time of either of our immortal lives." She focused on Jareth, "And now here you are again, and dragging your little human hussy around with you, no less."

Sarah could feel Jareth tense to speak behind her, but exclaimed over whatever it was he intended to say, "I am not his hussy!"

The Queen's gaze roamed slowly from the top of Sarah's head, down to her Converse sneakers and back, hovering pointedly at her bared midriff, where Jareth's hands still rested after having caught her from her near fall. Sarah's face quickly flooded with color and she squirmed until he released her. She stepped a little away from him, but could not seem to make her throat work so she settled for glaring at the floor, deeply embarrassed.

"Leave her be," Jareth growled, drawing Janill's attention back to him. "You know why I brought her. She's more hindrance than anything else, anyway." Sarah choked, nearly quivering with anger now, but held her tongue.

Janill shot one more sideways glance at the mortal girl before returning her full attention to the Goblin King. She took a slow step towards him, her hips swaying. "It's good to see you again, Gobbers," she drawled. "But I do believe I told you I would kill you if I ever caught you in my realm."

Jareth winced at the name, but decided that he would have to choose his battles. "You know why I'm here," he said. "I'm sure your little spies have informed you of my predicament. Nothing I do can drive the persistent little buggers away."

She smiled, "Ah, yes. My fairies. They are rather effective. However, you are wrong. For some reason they won't go within a mile of your castle lately. And I cannot seem to get it out of them what the problem is." She gave Jareth a steamy look through her eyelashes, "Illuminate me."

Sarah thought she might gag, and it had nothing to do with the Bog of Eternal Stench, this time.

Jareth, who was well adept at steamy looks of his own, ignored her expression and simply answered the question. "There was an… accident. I find myself in need of a vial of the Soap."

She arched her brows incredulously, "You expect me to give you some of my Soap of Infinite Cleansing?"

A shadow fell across Jareth's features. Through his teeth, he growled, "Please?"

The Munchkin Queen fell back a step, laughing. Sarah was slightly comforted in that her laugh was nowhere near as seductive and throaty as her speaking voice. More along the lines of, 'high and screechy'. Between fits of hilarity, she managed to gasp, "And why would I give you one of my precious unguents?"

Out of the corner of her eye, Sarah noticed Jareth trembling, his hands clenched so tightly into fists she was a little surprised his gloves didn't burst. Amazing what a common enemy does to people, Sarah thought, even as she hesitantly reached over to lay a hand on his arm. He shot her a quick, surprised look, but seemed to calm down- a little.

"I don't suppose you would just do it for old times sake?" he sighed.

Janill calmed herself and smiled at him. Her teeth, Sarah noted, were sickeningly straight and white. "After what you did to me? I'd rather remove every inch of your skin with a rusty grapefruit spoon and then make you dance for me as your innards fell around your feet."

"Charming, as always," Jareth replied. "Fine. What is your price?"

She batted her eyelashes at him- she actually batted her eyelashes at him! Sarah's nose wrinkled. This conversation was getting more surreal and uncomfortable by the second. "I think you know my price, Gobsy-Wobsy," Janill purred.

Sarah shot a glance at Jareth and was rather gratified to see that he looked rather green at Janill's suggestion. Not that it was any of her business. Or she cared.

Of course not.

"You know very well that that will not happen," Jareth said, his pose stiff and his eyes gazing somewhere over the Munchkin Queen's head. His expression was completely emotionless.

Janill tensed, her face flushing with anger. "Oh no?" she said. Slowly, she took three steps down the hall, away from them. She brought up her hands, a perfect, silvery rose forming at her fingertips. She twirled the stem between her fingers as she spoke, "Well you know the rules of the Temple of Enchanted Unguents. You're welcome to one vial of whatever you find there… provided you can get in." Her full lips stretched in a slightly manic smile as her eyes darted one more time to Sarah. "Good luck with that," she sneered.

Before Sarah could respond, the Munchkin Queen spun and threw the glimmering rose down the corridor, where it quickly disappeared into the darkness. Janill soon followed suit.

Jareth and Sarah exchanged a worried glance and then an ominous, rhythmic clicking sound came to her ears. Sarah took a hesitant step back, "What is that? Is that a… bomb?"

The Goblin King didn't seem to hear her. He stared down the hall, eyes wider than she had ever seen them. "Oh no," he whispered, his voice low and terror-filled, "It's the Cleaners."

"Now wait just a minute here," Sarah exclaimed, but was unable to finish her sentence as Jareth grabbed her wrist and began hauling her the other way down the corridor.

"Run!" he shouted, and Sarah was obliged to obey.

"Jareth!" Sarah squawked, pumping her legs furiously to keep from having her arm ripped from its socket, if nothing else. "Wait, is this like the Cleaners from the Labyrinth?"

"Of course not," he called, without slowing. "Where do you get these foolish ideas, Sarah?"

The clicking was growing steadily louder and Sarah risked a glance behind her. "Oh you have got to be kidding me," she exclaimed.

Behind them, and approaching quickly, were a trio of women in scandalously short black dresses with white aprons and matching caps in their hair. The clicking came from their extraordinarily high-heels. In their hands were various cleaning instruments.

"Are you honestly telling me," Sarah panted, "That you're terrified of the maid brigade?!"

"Those are no ordinary housekeepers, Sarah. Just look at them!"

She couldn't argue with him there. Not with their extremely shapely legs, teeny-tiny waists and massive… talents. They looked as if they had just gotten done scrubbing down the Playboy Mansion. Somehow, Sarah did not think that was what Jareth meant.

"I thought you said you just had an alliance with her!" Sarah shouted, wondering just how far this hallway ran.

Jareth's steps faltered slightly and he almost fell but managed to catch himself. "We… did."

"I had rather assumed you meant a political alliance, not a romantic one!"

He did not answer for a good ten paces. At last, he said, "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Oh, of course Gobbers," Sarah said, putting as much sarcasm into her near-breathless statement as possible. "I'm sure Winston Churchill was always making eyes at FDR, too."

Before Jareth could reply, something smooth and wooden tangled itself in Sarah's legs and she went sprawling to the ground, nearly dragging him down with her. Feeling bruised and scraped all down the front of her body, Sarah looked up to see one of the Cleaners picking up the mop with which she had been tripped. Jareth, realizing that they would never outrun their enemies now, crouched warily over the girl, a crystal in hand.

The three Cleaners began circling them. The one with the mop spun it in front of her like a staff, the whistle of it's movement echoing down the long corridor. Another Cleaner carried two spray bottles, angled in her hands like pistols in the hands of a villain on a bad action movie. The third carried a sponge that occasionally dribbled a stream of liquid that sizzled and hissed as it hit the stone floor, leaving little pockmarks where it fell.

The Cleaner with the mop lunged and Jareth focused his attention on her. This proved to be a mistake as the one with the spray bottle darted forward and he took a face-full of whatever solution she carried. As both Cleaners simultaneously backed off, Jareth staggered and collapsed, half atop Sarah.

It had all happened so fast, Sarah had barely had time to react. "Jareth?" she cried, pulling herself out from under him. "Wake up!" His skin, normally just pale, was completely colorless.

"Don't worry," one of the Cleaners said, her perfect rosebud lips twisting into a smile. "It'll wear off in about ten minutes. Not before we clean his face right off of his head, though."

Sarah's hand whipped out to grab the crystal that had dropped from Jareth's fingers as he fell. Protectively, she pulled his head and shoulders into her lap and glowered at their attackers. "Leave us alone!" she shouted, hoping she sounded at least a little threatening.

The Cleaner with the spray bottles laughed, "Just leave him, little mortal. We'll deal with you later. But this one is particularly unclean."

In response, Sarah threw the crystal at the Cleaner's head. To her surprise, it exploded in a flash as it struck the buxom woman's forehead and she staggered back, one of her bottles dropping from her hand. Unfortunately, she quickly recovered and this left Sarah weaponless. She could probably lunge for the fallen bottle before they got to her, but that would mean leaving Jareth.

She buried her hands in the thick, white material of his shirt and shook him. "Jareth," she gasped, "I can't do this by myself." All three Cleaners, as if on cue, took a step towards the pair, drawing in the circle. "You have to wake up," Sarah whimpered. "You have to help me." One more step and they were towering over her, staring down at her with blank eyes, wicked smirks on their red lips.

Sarah threw back her head and screamed, "Help me!!"

Her cry echoed down the corridor, reverberating off the walls. Jareth did not move. The Cleaners chuckled. The one she hit with the crystal, a slight bruise on her forehead, leaned down, holding her remaining bottle directly in front of Sarah's eyes. "Say good night, Princess."

Sarah closed her eyes and held her breath, unsure if that would help, and braced herself, trembling. Long seconds passed and the expected attack did not come. So tense was she that it took her a moment to realize that the trembling was not coming from her body alone. The very stones under her seemed to be rumbling. Certain that she was being duped; Sarah risked peeking open one eye.

The Cleaners still loomed over her, but their attention was elsewhere. They gazed frantically around, clearly trying to figure out why the hallway was shaking, more violently by the moment.

Suddenly, the roof above them lifted away. Sarah screamed and threw herself over Jareth, covering her head with her arms. Stray stones, the size of grapefruits, showered down around her, but she did not think any hit either of them. The Cleaners staggered back a few steps, hoisting their weapons uncertainly.

Sarah raised her head, her short hair filthy with dust and tiny stones. She glanced up at the mysterious hole in the ceiling in time to see a mammoth, blue, clawed hand reach through. She attempted to scream again, but choked on more dust in the air. She wanted to dart away, but couldn't abandon the still unconscious Goblin King.

The gigantic, tri-clawed hand fished around a bit and then, with surprising gentleness, scooped both Jareth and Sarah up and lifted them easily out of the corridor, leaving the baffled Cleaners behind.

Sarah was completely disoriented, the brightness of the sun blinding her and the dust of the ruined ceiling filling her nose and ears. She clung to Jareth, utterly incapable of comprehending what new horror had them in its clutches- literally.

When at last the dust cleared and Sarah's eyes adjusted, Sarah found herself perched on a rippling wave of blue scales, punctuated at lengths by spikes of wiry, blue hair, nearly as long as her leg, that stood straight up. Great wings spread out to either side of her, and a long neck, the blue scales interrupted only by a stretch of thick, red cloth, stretched to the front. They were, she realized with a jolt, on the back of a dragon.

And the dragon was flying high above the Maze. Sarah yelped, wrapping one arm around a thick tuft of hair and getting a better hold on Jareth with the other.

Uncertain what to do, she called, "You… What are you doing with us?"

"Well y'asked for help, didn' ya?" the dragon replied, without looking at her. Its voice was surprisingly light, though a little raspy.

"Oh…" she said, feeling wholly lost. "Thank you."

The dragon's body rippled, causing Sarah to clutch tighter to the hairy tuft. It took her a moment to realize that it was chuckling. "My pleasure. Always willin' to lend a hand."

Something tickled Sarah's memory and, hesitantly, she asked, "Do I know you?"

It chuckled again, nearly dislodging Jareth. Sarah frantically heaved him back into her lap. "I should hope so," the dragon replied, "We only met last week!"

Sarah gasped, "You're… You're…"

"Tha's right." The dragon turned his head to look at her and Sarah immediately recognized those large, round eyes, even in a completely different face. It gave her a wink.

"But you said you were just a worm!" she exclaimed.

"Nah, I said I was just a wyrm. But tha's close enough."

xXx

Author's Note:

See now, this is the scheme. As soon as you're completely convinced that we're dead and that this story will never get finished, that's when we update. See, if you had less faith in us, you'd get more chapters. This is all your fault, in the end.

On a different note, we still do not own Wizard of Oz, nor do we own Olivia Newton-John. Or Shakira, who wasn't mentioned in this story but who Queen Janill sounds exactly like, for some reason I cannot fathom.

Marti's turn. Go bug her.

-Danika

PS- The title is from Killer Queen, by Queen, which, incidentally, we also do not own.