Disclaimer: I do not own Labyrinth and don't make any money off it.
Summary: Fae love a good game, and Jareth is no exception. He might have lost the last one, but this time, victory seems assured and the prize is within his grasp. There is no way he can fail! Right? J/S
Chapter 1 –Ordinary Boys and Girls
Jareth, Goblin King and Lord of the Labyrinth, was bored. He might have been bored silly if he hadn't been a bit silly already. As it was, he was sprawled across his rather uncomfortable bone throne staring at the ceiling where one of his Goblins had gotten hung by the back of his vest on an ornate brass candelabrum. The events leading up to his hanging would have been passably amusing if Jareth hadn't already had hundreds of years of Goblin antics to numb him. However, he did feel a tiny bit sorry for the chicken.
The throne room hummed with activity. A ragged circle of Goblins sat in one corner playing a game of cards. Jareth had no idea what game they were playing; only that it somehow involved shoving folded cards up one's nose. Several Goblins had both nostrils stoppered, and one had managed to fit three cards into one nostril, all unfolded.
And his peers wondered why he never used the chess set he had received for one of his birthdays.
Jareth snorted. Even if the chess pieces hadn't found their ways into a Goblin's nose, there was no one in Labyrinth with whom he'd like to play.
The Goblin on the candelabra had stopped struggling an hour ago and was now simply hanging limply as he snored in slumber. His body swung slightly when a particularly healthy draft blew through the throne room, fluttering the tufts of wiry hair that grew from his large misshapen ears. Jareth sighed heavily. Now, he would have a crick in his neck from the awkward angle in which it was bent. He didn't move, however. Not even when the draft circled the throne room, stirring up dust, straw, feathers and a scent distressingly similar to that of a dead skunk.
"Jareth," the wind reproached when it had finally settled next to the throne and assumed the form of a tall, lean man with impossibly long hair so black that it shone blue in the candlelight. Moving only his eyeballs, Jareth fixed the man with a bored, mismatched stare. "Moping again?"
"I do not mope," Jareth corrected him in an imperious tone. He would have thought that Draconus had figured that out by now. No one who could move stars, reorder time, or turn worlds upside down would have the indignity to mope.
"Could have fooled me," Draconus said as he rested a forearm against the edge of the throne and leaned against it. His tight red leather jacket creaked as he moved, and the fringe on his single epaulette danced merrily.
"You are a fool," Jareth said, frowning at him. He would have to revamp his wardrobe again. If Draconus were imitating his style of dress, then the rest of the Underground must already be sporting tight pants and glitter. At least ordering new clothes would give him something to do.
Draconus continued as if he had never spoken. "If you aren't moping, then perhaps you'd like to have a bit of sport."
"Yes, because it turned out so smashingly last time," Jareth muttered, absently flicking his wrist to conjure a crystal orb, then flicking it again to banish it. "Let's have a bit of sport," Draconus had said when he'd caught Jareth watching her in his owl form. Technically, he had croaked it, because Draconus had been a sleek black raven. It had seemed like a good idea at the time, but he had ended up with a smashed ballroom, traumatized guests, a throne room full to brimming with injured Goblin soldiers, and wounded pride. He had lost both the baby and the girl, and Draconus had won an entire month of Goblin labor. He wouldn't even go into the state of his heart.
Draconus clucked his tongue, then pushed Jareth's legs off the throne, seating himself on the newly vacated edge. "Jareth, Jareth. What do you do when you fall off the horse?" Jareth briefly considered kicking him, but instead slumped into his throne the right way around, refusing to answer. "You get back on!" Draconus exclaimed as if he were revealing some glorious pearl of wisdom. Scowling, Jareth conjured another crystal and rolled it across his knuckles.
"Or," Draconus said with a sigh, "you could play with your balls."
Clenching his teeth, Jareth tossed the orb into the air, where it popped out of existence with a twinkle of light. He rose from his throne and stood haughtily facing Draconus, King Under the Mountain. Propping his gloved fists on his hips, he glared down his aristocratic nose at the Fae still seated on the edge of his throne. "I'm a busy man, Draconus, and you are irritating. Say what you came to say, then leave."
Smiling a sharp-toothed smile, Draconus rubbed his clean-shaven chin. "How was she able to do it, do you suppose?" he asked, his golden eyes glittering like two doubloons.
"She had help," he snapped; help that had marinated in the Bog of Eternal Stench after an impromptu victory party on her bed. He hadn't been invited. Had he, there would have been a lot less jumping on the bed, but much more mattress abuse. Jareth's frown deepened as Draconus' smile stretched into a wicked grin.
"And without that help, she never would have made it to the castle to reject you?" Draconus' eyes were positively burning now.
"She wouldn't have stumbled upon my castle to reclaim her brother."
"Of course," Draconus said as he lifted his hands palm up in a pacifying gesture. Jareth didn't trust him for an instant. "And if placed in a similar position, you could defeat her with ease."
"Of course," Jareth snapped, tired of this conversation and ready to toss Draconus into the hedge maze onto his tights-clad ass.
"Would you like to wager on that?"
The question hung in the air for a moment like one of his crystal balls, mesmerizing, full of promise, but undoubtedly dangerous. Jareth knew that he shouldn't like to wager on that. Bets with Draconus rarely ended well for anyone but Draconus. Unfortunately for Jareth, the Fae blood that compelled Draconus to instigate bizarre and spectacular wagers was the same blood that urged Jareth to accept gambles that never paid out. He loved a good game. He also had a lingering fondness (Goblin Kings did not suffer from broken hearts) that could not be eradicated with any amount of musical performance, Goblin tossing, claiming of wished-away children, or twirling of crystal balls.
For the endlessly long, yet indefinably brief amount of time since she had left Labyrinth, he'd wanted to follow her back to the mortal realm to see if she might reconsider his offer, or better yet, trick her into returning to the Underground. The former sounded too much like begging to his taste, and he hadn't quite gotten around to the latter – it was difficult to come up with something suitably devious when one was attempting to force order down the very throat of chaos.
"What are the terms?" he asked, despite his good sense telling him to suggest Draconus take a flying leap into a flatulent bog.
"In thirteen days, you must run her labyrinth and capture her heart. Succeed, and I will bring her to the Underground. She'll be yours."
Jareth tried to approach this wager logically; he really did. He knew that making a bet with Draconus was a Bad Idea. He knew that Draconus, alone among the Fae, could relocate a mortal that hadn't explicitly wished it (it had something to do with his magic being deeply rooted into the bowels in the earth, but Jareth had never asked for clarification). Once in the Underground, Jareth could work the magic that would change a mortal to a permanent resident. He also knew that Sarah couldn't have much of a labyrinth – it took vast amounts of enchanted real estate that simply wasn't available in the mortal realm. "How would it be determined that I had 'captured her heart?'" he asked carefully. That was the tricky part and was also the most vague element of the challenge.
"Three kisses, freely given." Draconus pulled a thin gold chain from a pocket in his jacket. At the lowest point of the loop, three faceted round gems, a ruby, a sapphire and a diamond, twinkled brightly in the torchlight. It wasn't particularly pretty; Draconus had a mountain of treasure, but no taste. "With each kiss, a gem will vanish. When the chain is empty…" He kissed the tips of his fingers and then splayed them out, releasing a shimmering puff of glitter. Extending the chain, he leaned forward so that Jareth would simply have to raise his hand to grasp it.
Eying the necklace as if it were stung with dung instead of gems, Jareth asked, "And if I lose?"
Draconus shrugged idly, as if it were of no consequence. "Nothing you can't afford. I'm thinking that it is time to get an heir and prepare for retirement. I'll choose the mortal, and you will make it one of us."
Tapping a finger against his chin, Jareth repeated, "Three kisses." For one as irresistible as himself, three kisses should be nothing. The girl would have grown into a woman by now, and would no longer be able to hide behind innocence and naiveté.
'And he wants one of the wished-away babies,' Jareth mused. As he had plenty of Goblins, Draconus was welcome to them. Young Goblins were always such a nuisance, anyway; putting everything in their mouths, peeing in the throne room instead of in the garden fountain. This bet would be a piece of cake, as some would say. Just the same, there seemed to be something he was forgetting, something critical to spending blissful eternity with the mortal woman who had stolen his heart.
'Kissing Sarah,' he mused. That was Good. 'Draconus brings her to the Underground.' Also Good. 'She stays forever.' He just couldn't find the Bad.
His finger stilled its tapping. It was far too easy. He should turn around and walk away. Tensing his muscles, he moved to do just that. Instead, he found the chain dangling from his fingertips and Draconus fading out of sight, grinning like a Goblin.
"Oh, and Jareth," Draconus whispered as his wind form flowed over the throne and down the steps, "those gems will know if her heart is in it. And no magic in front of the humans."
Cursing colorfully, Jareth flung the necklace after the retreating breeze, only to have it spin in the air and hurtle back towards him, wrapping around his neck.
There was a very big difference between kisses "freely given" and actually heartfelt.
Sarah, B list actress and the current lead for a children's fantasy film that was sure to do abysmally at the box office, remembered with fondness the days she had been able to appreciate boredom. The nights she had read novels into the wee hours of the morning instead of memorizing scripts. The hours spent altering costumes with needle and thread instead of sitting for fittings. The long afternoons whiled away running through the park with her dog as she played pretend instead of sitting on a stationary bike burning off the calories she had consumed that day. The lazy mornings spent sitting on the patio of the corner coffee shop while Toby complained about his homework instead of being perched on an uncomfortable chair in an over-priced café listening to the her director pitch his next project while leering down her blouse.
Sarah suppressed a sigh and nodded at what seemed an appropriate moment as she tuned out the prattle of Phil, her current director.
"Let him take you to dinner," her agent, Margot (Sarah would bet good money that her driver's license read "Margaret"), had said. "It's good for business; you know he's got another film in the works. And wear that blue blouse that barely hides your tits."
Sarah had allowed Phil to take her to dinner. She had worn the blue blouse, ensuring that Phil's eyes hadn't crept above her sternum. She had even allowed him to order for her. She refused, however, to listen to him. She'd heard it all before, and it had ceased to excite her after the first few times hearing it.
This was not how she had pictured her life when she had decided to move to California to pursue her dreams. Hollywood had seemed as magical a place as Labyrinth, its denizens as multifaceted and colorful as the creatures that she had met on her journey to the Castle Beyond the Goblin City. She would make loyal friends and face dangers head-on, finally reaching the innermost sanctum of the Hollywood elite and become one of the shining stars of the silver screen! Or primetime television. Either one.
The reality had been several years of scraping cash by waiting tables and working as a stand-in for a well-known actress to finance the days she had to take off to make auditions. Her big break had finally come when the first choice for a decent role in a made-for-television movie had overdosed, leaving the part to Sarah. She now had a reputable agent, several credits to her name, and a tiny apartment in a neighborhood in which she felt somewhat safe to walk after dark. By Hollywood standards, she was doing all right – at least she didn't have to wait tables anymore.
Phil suddenly laughed, a contrived sound that grated on her nerves, but obligingly, she laughed with him. Waving over the waitress, who eyed her with obvious envy, he ordered them another round of drinks.
"So tell me about Sarah Williams. What winds her clock?" Phil drawled and leaned forward, meeting her eyes for one of the first times that night. He was what many would consider handsome: dark eyes rimmed with coal-black lashes, strategically tousled dark hair streaked with golden highlights, and a fashionably almost-scruffy five o'clock shadow. Lean and toned, his clothes were casual yet obviously expensive, and fit him as if they had been tailored to his body.
Fixing him with a deep green-eyed stare from behind thick dark lashes, Sarah smiled a smile that wrapped superficial men such as Phil around her pinky. "A key," she purred.
Phil blinked at her, cocking his head, and his eyes beginning to glaze over. "A key?"
"A small golden key," she confirmed. Absently, his hands drifted to the pockets of his artfully ripped jeans, and she said, "You won't find it in there."
She almost felt sorry for the man when his eyebrows pinched in confusion. Truth be told, very few men could pull that golden key from their pockets. There was something about having danced in the arms of the Goblin King in a whip of meringue that had spoiled Sarah to ordinary men. Her last boyfriend had transformed into a cat every new moon. When she had discovered his little furry problem, she had taken it in stride. It wasn't until he had begun to leave hairballs in the bed that she had had an issue. The vomit in her new Italian leather pumps had been the last straw, and she had tossed his away-from-home sandbox out her second story window, along with his toothbrush and collection of CDs.
Sometimes, she wondered what would have happened if she'd taken the Fae up on his last offer. Since that day, she had learned that all things were negotiable, and she probably could have made out much better if she had put some effort into it. His Majesty certainly wouldn't have puked in her shoes.
Phil had recovered quickly from his befuddlement by launching into an in-depth analysis of the scenes they were to film the next day. Stifling a yawn behind her hand, Sarah tried to blink the glaze from her eyes. She was not excited about tomorrow's scenes any more than she was excited about the rest of the movie. Most of her costars were Muppets, for fuck's sake. Muppets. Not even mocap or CGI. The only reason she had signed on was because she had bills to pay.
That it had much in common with a certain impossible event from her teens didn't concern her as much as it might have other people. Strange things happened to Sarah with regular frequency, even if one didn't count the boyfriends. In fact, if she had a stretch of several weeks where she didn't have an eerily prophetic dream, her neighbor's dog didn't enthusiastically greet her in what sounded like English (to her ears alone), or she didn't manage to open the car (in which she had just locked her keys) with determination and a curse, she began to worry. That the magic in her life was connected to said event she didn't doubt; Labyrinth had left a mark on her soul as surely as had its King. However, that did not mean that she was particularly enthusiastic about playing a woman with more boobs than brains running a maze while being taunted by various creatures made out of latex and terry cloth. If this was the kind of thing that kids watched these days, then she wasn't all that surprised by the low average test scores of American youth.
"And just wait until you meet your new co-star. He's a Brit who has done more singing than acting, but I don't think that will be a problem."
Phil's comment reached her through her introspection, and she focused her gaze on his face. "New co-star? What happened to Erik?" she asked.
Phil shrugged and took a sip of his martini. "His agent called last night and said that he had gone to Tibet to 'find himself.' Thank god we hadn't started shooting his scenes yet."
Sarah frowned, tapping a short, manicured nail against the stem of her martini glass. "Erik didn't seem the type," she said finally, her tone carefully disinterested to belie the sudden apprehension that had settled in the pit of her stomach like a bad burrito. She had learned to trust these kinds of feelings from hard-learned lessons, but she had no idea how the changing of a co-star could be so ominous.
Shrugging again, Phil finished his martini in one gulp and then leaned forward, a leer twisting his well-formed lips. "I have his latest demo. Would you like to come back to my place and have a listen?"
'Ah, so finally the shoe drops,' Sarah thought as she stifled a sigh. Though she had been expecting it, the inevitable pass was always such a nuisance. Letting the magic that had become in integral part of her being rise to the surface of her skin, she met his gaze directly and smiled. Phil smiled back, a glassy glaze forming over his eyes.
"What is his name?" she asked, her voice acquiring an almost inaudible tone that resonated in the crystal of their glasses. Before she had learned this trick (and it had been quite by accident, saving her a three hundred dollar speeding ticket), she had had to make excuses to bow out of such a rendezvous; more than once, it had cost her a boost to her career. Phil didn't stand a chance; she would simply dazzle him into distraction. She was not playing fair, but she had learned that that life was often unfair. It was a pity that she couldn't dazzle her way into more promising roles.
"His name?" Phil asked, his face blank with the force of her entrancement.
"My new co-star," she prompted patiently. Men's brains often dribbled out of their ears when they fell under her spell.
"Oh." Phil blinked dazedly several times as he visibly tried to fish the name from his memory. "I can't quite remember. It's on the tip of my tongue…" his eyes glazed over as his thoughts turned inward. Finally, he shrugged. "…Jacob or Garth or… something. How odd; I always remember a name."
Frowning, Sarah downed her martini in one long gulp. The unease twisted in her stomach despite the alcohol cushion with which she was attempting to line it. Did this mean that the film was doomed to run over budget or that a piece of rigging would fall on her head? Maybe her apartment was burning down? Or perhaps she had simply forgotten to pay her DSL bill, and she would come home to a computer that wouldn't connect to the Internet? Sometimes she hated these intrusions of magic into her life; they should come with a user's guide at the very least. Whatever the cause of her portentous indigestion, she couldn't stand to stay in the restaurant. Her couch sang a siren song to her (assuming it wasn't smoldering in the ruins of her apartment), and she was fairly sure that she had the remnants of a carton of mint chocolate chip ice cream in her freezer.
Smiling a smile that would leave poor Phil dazzled stupid for the next five minutes, she excused herself from the table. He grinned dopily up at her, giving her a wave as she threaded through the tables. He wouldn't miss her for too long if the looks their waitress had been shooting him was any indication.
'And here she comes,' Sarah thought as she ducked into the restaurant lobby and watched as the waitress set two fresh martinis in front of Phil. Within moments, the waitress had taken Sarah's vacated seat and was sipping her drink. Rolling her eyes, Sarah wished the young woman luck and hoped that she wouldn't have to learn about the unfairness of life the hard way.
A/N: This fic is a gift for my sister – Merry Christmas, sister dear! Hope you like it!
Many thanks to my beta Leanansidhe1228, not only for the corrections and suggestions, but for the title of the fic, as well.
Cookies for the reader who can spot the Zoolander reference. :)
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