Disclaimer: I don't own Labyrinth or any of the characters. Hell, I don't even own the movie.
AN: This was originally a oneshot written ages ago for subtilior as part of a fic exchange for the labyfic comm on LiveJournal. Torn down in a strange fit of passion two years ago, now cleaned up and reposted as a two-chapter fic in an even stranger fit.
A Cunning Plan
It wasn't perhaps a miracle, but it was definitely a sight.
The Goblin King's castle, which on a normal day towered above the labyrinth like a sour and foul bully, today looked like it'd been wrestled into submission and had its mouth wiped out with soap. Its stone walls had been scrubbed until they shone with colors other than their usual brown and gray. Layers of dust had been swept from floors that hadn't seen a broom in decades. Every rug had been taken outside and given a sound beating, and all the castle windows, newly free of their coatings of grease, had been thrown open to let in fresh air, the sun, and the smell of something other than badly boiled chicken.
Everything spoke of preparation for a tremendous something. Even the goblin guards were spit-polished (in most cases: literally) and attempting to stand in formation in the front hall.
Hoggle, entering the castle with some trepidation, wondered if he and his shoes, fresh from the dirt paths of the gardens, were welcome in this rehabilitated place. Cleanliness always made him nervous, but that all the current scouring and degreasing might have something to do with his business with Jareth made both him and his shoes more than a lot on edge. Nevertheless, he had been summoned, and however unsure his shoes might be of the still-damp-from-a-good-soaping carpets, they were more frightened of the King's anger.
They located Jareth on the second floor giving the once-over to a room so frilly it made his eggshell blue frock coat look dull. Every wall and even the mouldings at the ceiling were covered in pale pink paint. The tall windows were framed with pink silk. Everything—the dress-filled wardrobe in the corner with the delicate scrollwork legs, the vanity with the cherub-framed mirror and brightly colored bottles, the embroidered footstool under one of the windows—with the exception of the rug that covered most of the stone floor—it was a light cream color with multicolored flowers smattered across it—was unabashedly, most assuredly...pink.
Scuffling across the threshold, Hoggle had the disconcerting (and slightly horrifying) sensation of entering someone's mouth. His shoes timidly asked him if it was too late to run. As Jareth cut off his examination of the canopied bed in the center of the room—unsurprisingly, pink satin—to greet the new arrival, a seldom-used smile sat on his face. Hoggle's knees knocked together to see it and his shoes asked him, once again, if they could run.
Jareth's smile quickly faded. "How now," he said, frowning. "Why the ugly face?"
Hoggle put both hands to his cheeks and nose in alarm. They felt the same to him. "Beggin' your pardon, Your Majesty, but I always look like this."
The answer elicited a snort from Jareth. "Good one," he said. "Now, seeing how you've troubled yourself to come all this way," he paused to smooth a ruffle at his neck, "I suppose this is the part where I tell you why I've called you here."
Since he knew nothing about parts, Hoggle shuffled his feet and kept silent.
Jareth stared at Hoggle, stroking his chin. "I want your opinion. You're still friends with Sarah, are you not?"
A queasy, dreadful feeling that had nothing to do with the color of the room crawled through Hoggle's bowels. The scrubbed castle, Jareth's sudden interest in him, the confectionery of a room he was standing in... It didn't take a genius—or even a dummy—to figure out what was going on. It all made sense now.
They should've run when he'd had the chance, his shoes told him.
But it was too late for running; Hoggle was trapped. Clearly Jareth had a plan—a cunning one, judging by all the staring and chin-stroking—and if Hoggle made for it now, he'd surely be caught and Jareth would be even more unpleasant and/or wrathful. Everybody knew that cunning plans made by powerful men were Not To Be Thwarted. Especially if one of those powerful men happened to possess a long memory and was your boss.
"We're still friends," Hoggle reluctantly admitted. Above the chin-stroking fingers, the corners of Jareth's mouth bunched upward into an almost-smile. A good sign; Hoggle felt almost-relieved. Then he felt almost-guilty for feeling almost-relieved. He hoped Sarah never found out about this.
"Excellent! And do you see her often? Talk to her often?"
"I do," Hoggle answered, but hastily added, "She's a bit busier than she used to be though, now that she's moved to the giant apple. She's got a big job now, a fancy one with lots of responsibility. Ludo and Didymus and me, we just wait until she needs us. Which, uh...isn't very often...any more." He mumbled the last part into his collar, a little saddened by how much that was true.
Jareth nodded anyway, seemingly pleased by the first part at least. "What a fortunate girl our busy Miss Williams is. Any lonely girl in a big, new city would count herself lucky to have such loyal, understanding friends like you. Wouldn't you agree?"
Hoggle drew himself up and said proudly, "I would."
"Superb," Jareth said. The hand at his chin disappeared to join his other hand at the small of his back as he began to pace the area at the foot of the bed. "Now then, is it safe to assume that with this long history of friendship you've become well acquainted with her tastes?"
"I know what she likes well enough."
"Then tell me, how do you think Sarah would feel about"—Jareth spread his hands wide to encompass the gaudy room—"this?"
She'd hate it, absolutely despise it, want to paint it gray and hang up black and white photos all over, Hoggle knew, but if he told Jareth that—well, he might as well pick out his oubliette now. On the other hand, if he lied, without a doubt something unabashedly, most assuredly, pinkishly bad was going to happen to Sarah.
"Hrm. Well, you see..." Hoggle began.
Jareth stopped pacing. "Yes?"
Hoggle tried to shuffle his feet but his shoes, mad at him for not running when they had the chance, were too busy sulking. He ended up almost falling flat on his face. Flustered, he righted himself and stammered, "Um, well, Your Majesty ain't going to like it."
"There are many things I don't like," Jareth replied coolly. "Don't assume this is one of them. Now out with it—what would Sarah think?" The look on his face said he wasn't to be trifled with.
Hoggle silently said good-bye to Didymus and Ludo, then cleared his throat and blurted in one nervous exhale, "Beggin'YourMajesty'spardonbutSarahwouldn'tlikethisatall." The tips of his shoes were the last things he saw before he pinched his eyes shut and cowered. Traitors! he thought, then waited for the inevitable poof into eternal damnation.
Hoggle cracked an eye open—he immediately saw pink. Encouraged, he uncowered enough to repeat, "I said, 'Beggin'YourMajesty's—"
"I caught that," Jareth snapped. "But what did you mean by it?"
Was it suddenly hotter in the room? Hoggle wondered. He removed his hat, wiped his brow with it, then flapped it at the vanity overflowing with bottles and poufs, the wardrobe full of taffeta and tulle, and the monstrosity of a bed. "Well, Your Majesty, the ruffles, the powder, the dresses—and especially the pink—Sarah wouldn't like any of it."
Jareth's eyebrows raised. "None of it?"
"None of it."
"It seems I've got it all wrong then," Jareth murmured. There was a wistfulness in his face as he took in the room again; Hoggle noted the way Jareth's eyes particularly lingered on the dresses in the wardrobe.
It was a look and a moment Hoggle himself had experienced not so long ago. "She ain't a little girl any more, Your Majesty," he said softly.
The wistfulness instantly disappeared, so thoroughly replaced by Jareth's usual iciness that Hoggle almost wondered if he had seen it at all. "Of course, Miss Williams is an adult now," Jareth snapped. "This room needs to be redone, obviously, and this time, you, Hoggle, with your vast depths of unplumbed knowledge, will act as my advisor."
"Me, Your Majesty? Your advisor?" Hoggle was stunned.
Jareth arched an eyebrow. "I can think of no one better or so well-informed to be my expert on Sarah's tastes, can you? Or should I summon Sir Di—?"
"No, Your Highness! You want to know what Sarah likes," Hoggle jerked a thumb at his chest, "I'm your man. I know everything, or everything that's worth knowin'."
The eyebrow lowered. "Excellent. Now tell me."
Hoggle blinked. "Tell you what?"
Jareth blinked back. "What you know, of course. Unless you can't remember. In that case, I can call—"
"She likes her cat," Hoggle said hastily (which might've been a lie—he had never been good at on-the-spot thinking). "She likes sleeping in, rainy days, long walks, checking this thing she calls 'eeemail'. And 'traveling'. She's always talking about needing a 'vacation' and 'traveling'."
"Cats, sleeping in, rainy days, long walks, eeemail and traveling..." Jareth was pacing again. "What else?"
"Tea. She's awfully fond of the stuff. That, and books. She likes books."
"Yes," Jareth said, almost to himself. "I remember that last one. Anything else?"
Hoggle thought about mentioning Henry, Sarah's ex-boyfriend (she still liked him, didn't she?), but thought better of it. Jareth probably didn't want to know about that. "No, nuthin' else."
After that, the room fell silent. For a long while, there was only the soft crunch of Jareth's boots trampling wool flowers while he stewed and paced and made the appropriate alterations to his cunning plan—whatever they were. Hoggle, at a loss for what an advisor was supposed to do after he advised, wondered if Jareth would notice if he slipped from the room. Maybe there'd be time to get some groveling in before Sarah found out. As if dared, his shoes began inching toward the door.
"Hoggle!" Jareth had stopped pacing.
"Um, er, ah, yes?" Hoggle stuttered, tripping. "I weren't plannin' on going nowhere. Just now."
The seldom-used smile was back again, and this time, Hoggle merely cringed. "Of course you weren't," Jareth said. "And if my plan works, neither will Sarah."
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