A/N: Broke the 24 hrs rule with this one, but I need to get back into the swing of writing and this one liked me. I really am working on Do Over, promise.
Warning: This is a silly thing! LabyrinthxNaruto
Jareth raises an eyebrow at the youth with the sleeping child draped over his shoulder.
"But you want to run the maze."
"I cannot." The older boy doesn't seem to realize he is holding his brother so close it is obvious the last thing he wants to do is let go.
His eyes are dark as he runs a hand obsessively over the younger boy's hair. "He will be better off with you."
Jareth doesn't deny this. The truth is in the older boy's eyes. Calmly, he accepts the sleeping boy, watching as his brother makes sure to tuck a small purple dinosaur toy carefully in his brother's hand when it had been in danger of falling out.
"Goodbye, Sasuke," he whispers, his hand lingering over the little boy's forehead one last time. His eyes are full of emotion, and then they shutter and slowly bleed red.
Jareth leaves with the child tucked securely into his arms. Just this once he doesn't remove the wisher's memories. He has a feeling the boy will need them where he is going.
The boy sits up in bed with a gasp, hand instinctively reaching for the purple dinosaur toy. Jareth places his bookmark to mark the page and looks up.
"What is it?"
"I dreamed I had a brother. But…" He hesitates, eyes cloudy with sleep and confusion. "I don't have a brother."
"Why would anyone wish him away?"
Jareth frowns at his young charge. Sasuke has an unusual ability to go where he wants without being detected. It's already proven to be a talent specifically designed to cause Jareth unnecessary amounts of stress and worry.
Now Sasuke is peering over his shoulder at the newly wished-away child. The boy is around Sasuke's age, and as much the opposite of Sasuke in looks as it is possible to be.
"The wisher called him a monster."
Sasuke's eyes scrunch in concentration as he tries to see this connection. The other child is blond, with fair, pale skin. There is a pattern of strange, even scratches on the boy's cheeks that Jareth observes with narrowed eyes.
"He doesn't look like a monster."
The boy is sleeping now, but Jareth suspects that were he awake, his eyes would be bright blue. He has the complexion of an angel, and Jareth is inclined to agree with Sasuke.
Naruto is a monster, Jareth finds out later, but probably not for the same reasons for which he was wished away.
Personality-wise, Sasuke is the more angelic of the two, and Jareth has to give him credit. It is Sasuke's influence that keeps Naruto from getting completely out of control, but Jareth still spends a significant portion of every day running damage control around the castle and the Goblin City.
The two have an extreme talent for wreaking havoc. Jareth finds himself putting his knowledge of the most obscure areas of the Labyrinth to good use, usually just in time to pull Naruto and Sasuke out of some mischief by the collars of their shirts.
At first he worries, because some parts of the Labyrinth aren't nice, and he has no desire to see the two boys come to a rather grisly end. Then he searches in increasing agitation one suspiciously quiet day and finds them with the Fireys.
His first instinct is to swoop in and save them. The Fireys are overly enthusiastic and slightly homicidal even on the best of days. But something tells him to sit back and wait, and to his astonishment he realizes the Fireys are treating the two boys with something very like respect.
Jareth looks at them, though frankly he can't see it. Still, from that day on he leaves them alone. Apparently, they don't need as much of his protection as he thinks.
But he doesn't understand why. To him they are just children.
"I don't care who her father is," Sasuke says, the epitome of eight-year-old petulance etched in his voice and his pout. "She's annoying and she follows me around all the time and she giggles."
Jareth raises an eyebrow as his charge rants, always more amused than annoyed when Sasuke stops being overly serious and acts like his age.
"Naruto thinks I'm lucky she likes me but I bet Naruto wouldn't like it if she tried to talk to him all the time."
"Hm," Jareth says in agreement, an idea forming in his head. Then, when Sasuke frowns at him suspiciously, he smiles, very slowly. If anything, this makes Sasuke look even more worried. By now, he's come to recognize that expression on his adopted father's face, and to know it doesn't bode well.
"But is there anything you do like about her?"
Reluctantly, Sasuke gives this some thought, as if he's been assigned a particularly odious chore.
"She smells nice. And I guess… I guess her hair is pr—interesting."
Jareth hums. "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all," he says in agreement.
This doesn't appease Sasuke, but Sasuke wouldn't be such a good protégé if he could be fooled so easily.
It's interesting how different children are, Jareth thinks.
He likes to make the time to teach them magic at least once a week. He's the most qualified individual in his kingdom, after all, and he likes to watch their talents bloom.
Sasuke has a gift for illusions, for which Jareth is proud, but also for elemental magic. At first it seems he leans towards fire, but eventually Jareth realizes Sasuke has somewhat of a dual nature, for he also has influence over the weather. Not to mention that damnable talent for going where he wants without being noticed.
Naruto, who is too much to handle already, can sometimes be beside himself, quite literally. His knack for being in more than one place at once is a cause for constant headaches. He's also hyperactive as all hell, but that's probably a personality quirk more than a talent. At least Jareth hopes he'll grow out of it.
And he knows for a fact that Sasuke's pseudo-girlfriend has already gained a reputation as the most skilled healer in the Underground, and a talented diplomat. She is good at dispelling illusions, which gives Jareth no small amount of satisfaction, and has been rumored to be preternaturally strong, though the story that she threw a toy through a stone wall in her first display of juvenile temper may just be exaggeration.
There are others, of course. A girl who can see through solid objects, into the distance, and in so many color spectrums it's no wonder she's a shy, clumsy thing. A boy with a strange connection to magical pests, who might be the best gardener since Hoggle discovered he had no talent with his forefathers' forge and tools. Changelings, shape-shifters, those with elemental control, the ability to talk to animals, and who can see through lies.
Sasuke's eyes have never been any color except black, but Jareth still watches.
"What are you doing?"
The woman peering cautiously around the hedges yelps and spins around.
Sasuke has heard of the Challengers, but he's never actually seen one. The woman before him is panting, one hand held in shock to her heart. Her clothes are torn and there's a cut on her cheek. But overall what strikes him is her manner. She looks like a dangerous, cornered animal. He feels his hackles rise.
"Do you live here?" she asks. Then, before he can answer, "how do I get to the Goblin City?"
His eyes narrow. Sasuke is eight-years-old and has lived in the Goblin City for nearly two years. By now, he has almost as little sympathy for the Challengers who don't really care as Jareth does.
"I can tell you, but first prove to me why I should. Why do you want the child back?"
The woman's face screws up in a frown. It's obvious she's having trouble coming up with an answer. Finally, she seems to come up with something she thinks will satisfy him.
"She's my sister's baby. If I don't look after her, mom will cut me out of the inheritance. I don't know how to raise a kid! I'm not even married! But I can't leave her here, even if I don't want to raise her. What's that freak going to do with her? Eat her?"
Pausing, she takes a look at Sasuke. "I don't want her, but she's definitely better off with me than that… man-thing."
Sasuke is inclined to disagree. Jareth might be unconventional, but he cares about the children. And he certainly doesn't eat them.
He points one finger to the left. Her face lights up. "You can go that way, if you want. But," and here her eyes narrow in suspicion, "you have to want her. If you don't want her badly enough you'll never get there in time."
He ends in a glare. The woman doesn't even stop to thank him before she runs off in the direction he pointed. He's almost inclined to follow her, but Sasuke isn't cruel. And he knows Jareth will be watching her every step of the way.
Four months shy of his twelfth birthday Sasuke gets sick.
At first, it's nothing. He spends his days studying, and when that gets boring, putting what he's learned into use by taunting Naruto. Between his illusions and Naruto's doppelgangers, hide-and-seek in the Goblin City is more akin to turf warfare than a simple children's game.
There are friends to be visited, places to explore, and lazy spring days perfect for doing absolutely nothing. He sees Jareth maybe twice a day. Once at breakfast, and once at dinner, though he eats just as often with Naruto and his adopted father as he does at home.
They have complete freedom, since even they've learned it's a bad idea to steal all the chickens from the goblins—that particular prank had demolished half the city and forced them to actually hide in the Bog of Eternal Stench for days to avoid Jareth's wrath. Thankfully, the denizens of the Labyrinth have a shorter memory than Jareth, and the goblins had quickly calmed after the missing chickens had been located.
But then the dizzy spells start. Very soon, Sasuke is seeing things that aren't there, things that neither he nor Jareth have a hand in.
When Sasuke can't get out of bed, it is as if the Labyrinth has fallen under a shroud. Naruto can now be found in only one place—hovering anxiously by his best friend's bed. Jareth doesn't have the heart to shoo him out, but the quiet in the Goblin City is nearly unbearable. All the other Orphans feel it too. Abandoned children who were given a second chance, they are a close-knit group and all worried about their ailing friend.
Jareth can't do anything. He's never had a hand for healing magic, and the local healers in his kingdom wave their hands, say their spells, administer their hand-made medicine, and shake their heads in shame and frustration when Sasuke continues to writhe in his sleep.
"It's like he's trapped in a nightmare," they say. But the truth is that he's dying.
Desperate, Jareth calls out the best, and she comes, already twelve when Sasuke isn't expected to live to see his own twelfth birthday.
She goes through the same steps as the others, but after she's finished she raises her hands over Sasukes's unconscious body and they glow green. Jareth feels his breath catch in his chest. This, he has never seen before, and he starts to hope, where before he'd only given himself to despair.
After only a few minutes, Sakura draws back and looks at him, her expression frank.
"I can't dispel this. It's like his body is rejecting something, but it's not an allergic reaction; it's not poison. I've reduced the fever and the pressure on his brain. I've given him a chance. Now he has to fight."
She turns away, brushing Sasuke's bangs away from his sweaty brow. There is real emotion in her eyes, and Jareth is reminded again of what's at stake.
There is a little over a month until Sasuke's birthday, and he still remains asleep, beset by fever-induced nightmares. Jareth makes a visit to the Aboveground.
He finds the young man sitting beneath a tree, a look of intense agony locked upon his face. The boy he first met has become a young man, but through trials-by-blood, and the strain is worn into the early wrinkles beneath his eyes and the tense set of his mouth.
"Today, I'm seventeen," he says to Jareth without opening his eyes. Jareth wonders if he even could, noticing the fat droplets of blood that leak from beneath his closed eyelids.
"He doesn't need the eyes."
It's not a question that requires an answer, but Jareth gives one anyway.
And the boy smiles, making his face bright again and full of youth. The expression doesn't fade, even as the puddle of blood he's sitting in grows, soaking into the ground and his clothes.
Jareth feels something stir in his chest, and reaches forward to remove the tarnished, scratched band of metal tied to the boy's forehead. It melts in his fist until it is nothing but glitter. With his other, he touches the necklace around the boy's neck. The chain unhooks and snakes downwards; Jareth catches it nimbly.
Then he blows the glitter in his hand at the still form and the body, the blood, all traces disappear in the glow until the only thing that remains in a tree in full, riotous bloom. Jareth smirks without humor at his handiwork.
He can still touch the world Above if he so chooses, if he finds a cause he considers worthy.
Jareth sits in Sasuke's bedroom with a book open on his lap, his thoughts a million miles away. The setting is familiar, but the feeling is different. If Sasuke doesn't wake up now, Jareth thinks, he never will.
There is a rustle from the bed, and Jareth's book falls.
Sasuke opens his eyes and looks straight at Jareth.
"Why didn't he wish himself away, too?"
In a matter of steps, Jareth has swept across the room and enfolded Sasuke in his arms. The boy needs a bath, and is probably hungry as all hell. His greasy hair sticks slightly to Jareth's cheek, but he doesn't care.
Pulling away, a crystal dutifully appears in Jareth's hand. He pushes it towards an unresisting Sasuke, and when the crystal reaches him it pops like a bubble, a simple necklace falling onto the bedcovers.
"I wish I knew."
Sasuke curls a hand in the chain.
For weeks afterwards, Sasuke is quiet, bordering on uncommunicative. Even Naruto has trouble getting him to crack a smile.
He does not ask Jareth any more questions he doesn't have the answers to, and begins to wear the necklace every day—eventually stops even taking it off. Jareth gives him time. Most of the Orphans never find out about their past lives, and for good reason. But it's Sasuke's knowledge now, and he has to come to terms with it on his own.
One good thing does come, however, when Jareth notices Sasuke making an effort not to ignore the sweet, pink-haired girl who saved his life.
It starts innocuously enough, with Sasuke offering his thanks and a crystal—Jareth has always been amused that Sasuke's crystals tended to be more oblong and rose-colored than his—that transforms into a little pink tulip. Jareth hadn't thought his protégé that much of a quick study, and finds himself impressed.
After that, Sasuke exchanges words whenever they meet. As Jareth expected, the boy quickly realizes that in three years Sakura's matured greatly. She has a self-confidence born from competence and responsibilities, and Jareth can clearly see the shy happiness on both of their faces.
While Sasuke introduces her to his friends, Jareth plots. Anybody who ever accused him of being nosy wouldn't be wrong, but can he help it being able to eavesdrop and spy whenever he wants has given him certain… inclinations? Matchmaker is not usually one of them, but he knows a good thing when he sees it.
For her thirteenth birthday, Sakura receives a small bouquet of pink and yellow tulips.
For her fourteenth, there are red chrysanthemums and a little bird, made of black, obsidian glass.
On her fifteenth, she gets a mass of pink lilies, and a set of matching hairclips, made in silver and lacquered black with details picked out in pink and white stones.
Three days before her sixteenth birthday, Sakura paces in front of Naruto, a stormy frown on her faces as she rants.
"Flowers? Flowers? I am so fucking sick of flowers!"
Naruto winces and looks around. Sakura only uses language like that around her friends. At court and in front of her parents she's allowed to have a temper—they found out early trying to prevent her from having one was far, far more dangerous—but she is a lady and language like that isn't acceptable anywhere but in private.
"What is that beefhead of a best friend of yours even thinking?"
To be honest, Naruto has never understood what his "beefhead" of a best friend is thinking. Obviously, he's got the right idea with Sakura. She pretty and smart and she smells nice, Naruto thinks wistfully. He'd get her flowers too, if he thought he had any chance with her, and if he still thought of her as more than a best friend.
"Hey," he prods, "what's wrong with the flowers, Sakura? Don't girls like flowers? Buttface Sasuke doesn't get any other girls flowers. You know what he's like."
Instantly, Sakura's face falls and she looks contrite. "I know," she sighs, "but I want more than flowers!"
"He gets you jewelry too," Naruto points out in confusion. "Do you want books instead?"
Sakura just frowns in confusion. "You sound like Ino, and she's my best friend too."
This makes no sense to Naruto. He waits for Sakura to elaborate.
"Ino said that obviously he thinks I'm special, or he wouldn't get me such nice gifts." Naruto nods, still not following along. "But gifts are so… impersonal."
Catching sight of Naruto's face, she realizes her other best friend also has no idea what she's trying to put into words.
"Naruto," she whispers, blushing, "I want to hold his hand."
"Sakura," Naruto says, equally serious, "don't you guys already do that? I mean," he scratches his head in embarrassment, "not that I notice or anything it's not any of my business."
Helplessly, Sakura flounders. She can't be the only one with these desires, right? She expected Ino to understand, but then she can't even say what she means.
Surely it's not wrong to want more than flowers from Sasuke? Not when he holds her hand sometimes when they're alone, and smiles at her in that way that makes her stomach flip and their faces are so close Sakura just wishes he'd—
Her face heats up even thinking about it.
The evening of Sakura's sixteenth birthday, there is a grand party, as befitting the Seelie princess.
Sasuke presents her with a large bouquet of Bird-of-Paradise flowers, which she promptly throws back in his face.
"No!" She shouts and the entire ballroom is silent, all eyes watching the drama unfold.
Her mother, without missing a beat, reaches for the nearest server and tosses her drink back in one swallow. Only her husband's calm grip on her arm prevents her from double fisting.
"I don't want any more flowers!"
There is a brief, deadly silence. In the quiet, Sasuke makes a misstep and offers her the small wrapped parcel in his other hand.
With a jerk of her arm, Sakura slaps the box from his fingers. It goes clattering across the floor, but nobody pays it any attention. This is because in a few, sharp steps Sakura has marched forward, seized Sasuke's collar, and pulled him down into a kiss. The surprised boy's eyes are as big as dinner plates. The rest of the partygoers are equally entranced.
Tsunade nudges her husband with an elbow, and he gives up the fight, letting her sneak another glass from the server too dumbstruck to realize his monarch is chugging alcohol right next to him.
Finally, Sakura pulls away from her childhood sweetheart.
"Understand?" she growls.
Very slowly, Sasuke nods, reaching a hand up to his lips in shock. He blushes, and almost instantly becomes aware that he's just been kissed by a princess at her sweet-sixteen birthday party in full view of her parents, his parent, the parents of all their closest friends, and just about anyone else of any importance in the whole of the Underground.
Preempting him, Sakura turns to the assembled guests.
"Honored friends," she says, in a voice as-pretty-as-you-please. "Would you kindly excuse us?"
She dips a lovely curtsy, grabs Sasuke's arm in a vice grip, and all but drags him from the room.
In their wake, noise in the ballroom raises to fever pitch.
Jareth, the monarchs of the two courts, and various other denizens of the Underground gather around the punch bowl.
"And here I thought Jareth would win" the Unseelie King comments, rubbing at his chin thoughtfully.
"That girl will be the death of me," Tsunade says, sniffing at the punch bowl to see if it's significantly alcoholic for her tastes.
Jiraiya shudders theatrically. "I'm glad Dan got to you first. I'd hate to see what kind of hellion we would have raised together." He winks lasciviously at Tsunade, who only rolls her eyes towards her husband in a fond manner.
"Honestly," Jareth frowns, "I thought I'd win too. However did you do it?"
Naruto's adopted father gives a secret smile. "Jareth," Iruka says, "let's just say that you're not the only one with ways of gathering information."
The others concede with only mild grumbling, and Iruka collects his winnings.
Sasuke is only present for the first hour of his birthday party. After that, he and Sakura mysteriously vanish.
Jareth doesn't bother looking for them, with magical means or otherwise. He knows Sasuke can't be found when he doesn't want to be.
"That girl," Ino tuts with a shake of her head. "Really!"
"Maaaaaan," Naruto whines. "He didn't even stay for his cake or his presents! What's so good it's better than cake?"
Ino only looks at him, her eyebrows arched way into her hairline. She sidles over to a dark-haired girl with pale, almost clear eyes.
"Well?" She teases her. "What is better than cake?"
The veins in the girl's face bulge for a few seconds, and then recede back under her skin, leaving her face a bright red. "U-u-um. H-how would I know?"
Naruto frowns at her. "Huh? Wha'd you see?"
"What, indeed." Ino laughs conspiratorially, throwing an arm around the other girl's shoulders, who can only smile wistfully at Naruto, refusing to meet his eyes.
Somewhere else, Sasuke sits with his arm around Sakura, their fingers entwined as they watch the Labyrinth's fireflies flicker with the stars in the sky.
This would be embarrassing, he thinks, if someone else were to see.
He lets go of her to gently grasp her chin in one hand and tilt it upwards so he can kiss her. They part slowly, neither wanting to separate.
"Better than flowers?"
"What do you think?"
Before he can answer, she's dragged him down for another kiss, this one not as chaste as the previous. When they part, both are a little short of breath.
"You're a bully," he says without any real heat.
"Oh, you like it." Sakura bumps his shoulder teasingly.
A little while later, Sasuke finally admits: "Maybe."
The Labyrinth fireflies are making little hearts in the sky. Sasuke pulls her into his lap, ignoring her squawk of surprise, so he can wrap his arms around her and rest his chin on the top of her head.
"A little young for you, isn't she?"
The image slowly fades from Jareth's crystal. Vanishing the thing entirely would be an admission of guilt, but it doesn't seem to matter when he meets the smirk of his protégé from across his throne room.
Sasuke used to be banished to his room when the Labyrinth ran Challenges, but it's been a long time since Jareth actually had the authority to enforce that particular rule. As usual, Sasuke has gone where he wants with Jareth being none the wiser.
Jareth wonders how much of this Challenge Sasuke has seen. The smirk tells him it's probably more than he's comfortable with.
"You can always try again. Time moves a lot differently Above. Before you know it she won't be a girl anymore."
Part of Jareth balks at being given relationship advice by his adopted son, who even a few years ago would blush and get angry at any of the teasing hints Jareth liked to drop about him and his little girlfriend.
"I don't know what you're talking about."
Sasuke shrugs and offers the shy, slim smile Jareth so rarely sees nowadays. When his charge evolved into such a frustrating, quietly confident young man, Jareth has no idea.
"You like her. It's not a bad thing."
Now would be the perfect time to cleverly change the subject. Jareth doesn't bother. Sasuke would see through it in a minute.
Instead, a crystal obligingly reforms at his fingertips. In its depths, a girl, almost a woman, is hugging an embarrassed Hoggle and talking excitedly with Sir Didymus. Her smile is blinding, even distorted by the crystal's depths.
"Hm," Jareth says.
Sasuke's eyes never turn red. Jareth stops watching.