A/N: Set in the Roommates/Girls Next Door 'verse. Sort of a mish-mosh between the two. Used "Ahiru" instead of "Duck" just because I think it's pretty. I'm cool with either, but I had to make a choice.
It was all a bit much. Fakir was sitting in a comfortable chair with a mug of tea that was slowly growing cold. Ahiru was perched on his knee, webbed feet tucked carefully under herself. And Sarah Williams, the mild-mannered student who sat two seats to the right of Fakir in British Literature 210 and had once lent him a pencil, was standing nose to nose with one royally bristled King of the Goblins.
Or at least, that's how Sarah's roommate Christine had introduced him in a quiet aside amid her gracefully blistering French about the glitter flying everywhere.
"Listen, your Nibs," Sarah was saying, arms ramrod straight down her sides, "they can't just go traipsing around, terrorizing wildlife. This isn't the Labyrinth."
"A fact I am well-aware of, precious, but pray, would you have me do about the little buggers?"
"I'm sorry," Christine whispered. "They get like this sometimes." The blonde music major, a year or two older than Fakir and Sarah, seemed unconcerned about the ongoing row. When a very audible, very visible poof of glitter appeared in the middle of the tiny living room, Sarah had cursed, Fakir had grabbed Ahiru, Ahiru had quacked in panic, and Christine had merely taken another sip of tea. It seemed like the only reason she noticed the fluffy-haired fae royalty was still there was the sheer amount of glitter emanating from said fae royalty and settling on every piece of furniture in the apartment.
"And it's not as though you discourage their heathen activity either, Sarah, so don't come calling the kettle black here."
"I only set them on people who deserve it, Jareth."
"Mmm, and none of those people ever seem to be handsome young men, now do they?"
"The hell, Jareth? He's just a guy from my Literature class and this isn't about him anyway. This is about Ahiru!"
Fakir jumped as suddenly the mess of glitter and armor and feathers that was the Goblin King was right before him, bending regally down to meet Ahiru's gaze. Fakir's arm clutched at the little duck, his other hand flexing, and Ahiru quacked in surprise. But Jareth just stared, eyes open in an unblinking gaze.
"Mmm," he said, the noise an eloquent response with all the layers of unexplained meaning he packed into it.
He had eyes like Drosselmeyer, Ahiru thought. They were narrow where Drosselmeyer's had been wide and they were sly where Drosselmeyer's had been wild, but the similarity was there, all secrets and tragedy and far, far too much knowledge. Ahiru's little heart beat faster, as if she were under the gaze of a predator. Then he blinked, more of an opening and closing of his eyelids than anything, and it was gone; his gaze still narrow, still sly, but more ordinary despite the mismatched pupils. It didn't feel as if he were staring into her soul anymore.
"That's a nasty bugger, isn't it?" he breathed, just loud enough for her and Fakir to hear. But apparently Sarah was not amused at having been abandoned in the middle of an argument and she dragged him away again. Ahiru had liked Sarah when she first met her, but now she was just the tiniest bit scary. The only that kept her from being a larger bit scary was that she was protecting Ahiru herself.
"-that she isn't a toy."
"Punting Skeep out the window isn't exactly going to discourage him, Sarah. Good form though, by the by. It was an impressive imprint on his backside that he insisted on showing off."
"That wasn't me. It was Fakir."
Ahiru felt Fakir tense as his name was mentioned and his arm tightened around her, but the Goblin King just quirked an eyebrow and smirked, not even looking over at them. Fakir and Sarah had been working on a presentation and Ahiru had been trying to politely ignore the cookie-shaped charcoal that Christine offered on a plate, when suddenly there had been screeching and tiny scaled hands and what looked like a tube of lipstick. She'd quacked in panic and maybe even a bit of pain and then everything was Fakir.
"She was terrified, Jareth!"
"That's what they're supposed to do! And they weren't even doing that correctly. They were having 'play time'. If anything, you've been coddling them. You don't feed the bears, Sarah, or else they get used to people."
"You're just jealous because they listen to me better."
"Which begs the question; why you are bothering to confront me with this at all, rather than going on your own righteous crusade to stamp out their evil?"
"Maybe I think you could show a little more concern for your fellow creatures."
The noise was apparently attracting a great deal of attention but little alarm. Multiple knocks came at the door, but the newcomers ambled in with the air of people coming into a sporting event. They greeted Christine warmly and she passed out more of the charred cookies until there was a veritable small crowd in the room. No one seemed all that fazed by the glitter, aside from one rather skinny pale fellow who complained darkly and blew his nose loudly as if to make a point.
Christine introduced Fakir and Ahiru as each new arrival appeared. Fakir hadn't realized so many of the college faculty had lived in this apartment complex. He recognized the music professor in his odd mask, as well as the rather formidable head of security. That particular gentleman was refusing to look directly at him. Fakir looked down at himself, at Ahiru, trying to decide if he'd done anything to offend or if he should just make a run for it, but he couldn't find anything. But the man - Javert, Christine had said - continued to pointedly avoid looking at the boy.
On the other hand, there was one fellow who was just a bit too friendly.
"Lo! A new face graces this setting," the man, with long blond hair and curiously pointed ears, said, kneeling at the arm of Fakir's chair. He smiled at Ahiru and inclined his head. "Hello, little one."
Ahiru nodded back, her blue eyes wide, but Fakir could feel her webbed feet shifting uncomfortably in the crook of his elbow. He needed to get them out of there.
"Give them some space, Legolas," Christine tutted, smoothly pushing the man away. He didn't seem offended, just moved to situate himself near a potted plant, watching the proceedings with wide eyes and the occasional "Lo!".
Christine had explained the argument much like a referee setting the ground rules, but as Fakir turned back to the still-ongoing row, it seemed to have changed subjects.
"Oh, bog off, Jareth. You and your damn bubbles."
And then, to everyone's apparent astonishment -
"As you wish, precious."
And the Goblin King was gone, leaving a veritable fog of glitter.
Sarah blinked, her cheeks flushed with anger, as if she couldn't believe he was gone. After a moment, she noticed everyone else.
"Oh, hi guys. This is -" She gestured at Fakir, who tried to melt into the seat cushion, but Christine interrupted.
"Already introduced them, Sar."
Sarah rubbed a hand down her face, dragging at her cheek and eyelid.
"Feathery git," she muttered. "I'm sorry, Fakir. I'll make sure he apologizes."
"No, please, don't trouble yourself." Fakir figured this was the most polite time to retreat. He stood, Ahiru securely tucked at his elbow. "I really need to go. Thank you Christine, for the, uh, cookies."
Christine beamed and fluttered her fingers in farewell. Fakir threaded his way through the gathering and out the door before Sarah could object or Christine could finish her cheerful goodbye. He didn't slow down until he was outside the apartment building and even then he walked as briskly as he could without feeling like he was running away.
Normally, Ahiru would have disapproved of Fakir's anti-social tendencies, but this time, she didn't argue. She had liked Sarah and Christine and normally she would have wanted to meet the interesting-looking people crushing into the apartment, but she could still feel those mismatched eyes cutting right into her long after they were out of sight of the building.
Sarah sighed and flopped onto the sofa, displacing a dusting of glitter.
"Poor guy, probably just scared him silly. Probably won't ever talk to me again if he's sane."
"Mmm, he was cute," Christine agreed. Before Sarah could object to any sort of insinuations, her roommate continued. "Y'know, Jareth would probably have been easier to deal with if you'd just asked him to set things straight rather than shouting at him."
Sarah just groaned and dragged another hand down her face.
"You okay, Inspector?" she asked finally. Javert was nursing a beer and looking very morally righteous.
"Miss Williams, you are aware that the duck the young man was holding was under an enchantment, yes?"
The Frenchman coughed and if Sarah hadn't still been blinking glitter out of her eyes, she would have sworn he was blushing.
"It's indecent," he muttered. "At least the damn cat still had fur."
"What are you talking about?" Sarah asked.
She might have imagined the blushing, but there was certainly a great deal of scandalized coughing as he explained.
"Bogdammit, and he's already gone." Sarah moaned. "Where's Jareth when I actually need him?"
Jareth wasn't much of one for generosity. The last time he'd been generous, his Labyrinth had been defeated, his castle half-destroyed and his subjects all gone rogue. But something about the duck had struck him as familiar. And Sarah had succeeded in picking at his conscience, even if he really had been in the right this time.
So he followed the boy and the duck home. He watched as they shared a meal of microwaved leftovers, watched a bad movie over ice cream, and fell asleep on the couch, the duck nestled under the boy's chin. They were so painfully normal except for the fact that she was a duck; the way they comforted one another, recovering from the crazies that filled a certain apartment building. The duck didn't have any bandages or splints, but she favored her left wing ever so slightly and in spite of himself, Jareth felt the tiniest bit guilty. Likely due to Sarah's constant haranguing, since he really had nothing to do with it. She was making him soft, he mused with the tiniest of smiles.
Fakir would have happily played hooky for once, to avoid seeing that Williams girl again if nothing else, but also to keep an eye on Ahiru. But she would have nothing of it. Never mind that she herself had never been on time for anything when she was a girl, she was determined that he be in class on time. Quacking and pulling at his still-scraggly sideburns, she forced him out of bed and through breakfast.
"All right, all right," he said when she was at last herding him out the door. He caught her under her flapping wings and lifted her up to eyelevel, green gaze meeting blue.
"Call me if anything happens, all right?" Duck bills and feet couldn't do much, but a few pecks could make a speed-dial call.
She pecked his nose gently. He smiled and stroked her head. Then he headed out to meet the day.
Fortunately, Literature was his third class of the day and so he'd been able to steel himself when he finally ran into Sarah. She approached him before class even started.
"Hey, Fakir, listen. I'm sorry again, about everything. I know that probably freaked you out."
He shrugged in a way that he hoped wasn't too cold. It really hadn't been her fault that those little... things had attacked Ahiru and she had been trying to help. And Ahiru had seemed to like her. He just...
"I understand," he said quietly. He didn't and she knew he didn't, but she didn't say anything about it.
"How's Ahiru? Is she all right?"
He was being cold. Ahiru would have glared at him and quacked disapprovingly. He took a deep breath.
"Hey-" they began simultaneously. They both hesitated, and then Sarah nodded at him to go ahead.
"How about you come and see her after class?" he asked before he could stop himself. "I think she liked you."
Sarah smiled, then seemed to consider something.
"Wait." She sobered a bit and leaned forward. "You're not trying to hit on me, are you?"
Fakir sized up the girl before him; dark hair, slender frame and a nose that looked like it had been dusted with a rose.
"Definitely not," he assured her. She smiled again.
"Then yeah. Meet you after class. I actually have something I want to talk to her about."
Ahiru felt him watching her before he actually appeared. Her heart began to beat quicker again, but she held herself still. The phone was too far across the room.
There was glitter when he did appear, but not nearly as much as there had been the day before. A breeze ruffled her feathers and the pages of the story – their story, her and Fakir's story - that had been spread out before her. She quacked a little in alarm as they fanned back and forth. She'd made Fakir leave, she'd made him go to school, but she hadn't really wanted him to go. Her wing hurt and she had half-hidden nightmares all night. But she couldn't be selfish. Now she wanted him there.
"I'm not going to hurt you," the voice said and then he was there, all wind-tossed hair and wide eyes. He looked like he was caught between a man and an owl. He smiled and blinked at her, but this time his face didn't change. He still looked like a bird, a raptor, like he could eat her.
"Fellow by the name of Drosselmeyer did that to you, didn't he?" he asked, gesturing with a hand that was part wing. She quacked in surprise.
"Yes, I know him. I thought this smelled familiar."
"A distant relative, I'm afraid. Great-great-great grandnephew once removed or something like that. Rather unpleasant ties to have to admit, but there it is."
She didn't reply. It wouldn't be a good idea to tell him that he looked like the storyteller's ghost, the way his cloak fluttered around him and his teeth were bared in a feral grin.
He was sizing her up again, his eyes boring holes through her feathers and straight into her bones.
"I've brought you a gift," he said finally, and with a strange twist of his hand there was a crystal rolling into his palm.
"Mmm, you don't have to take it. But seeing as how my subjects apparently failed to treat you entirely well and how I'm feeling just the slightest bit responsible for a blood relative's mistreatment as well, I thought this might be appropriate."
She was confused, which was fine. Jareth was being compulsive and so even he wasn't entirely sure how everything was going. But Sarah had wanted him to make amends. Now she would see just how generous he was…
The little duck quacked again. He smiled and extended the crystal.
"Why don't you take it and find out?"
Before opening his door, Fakir was wondering if he had any coffee left in the pot and hoping Ahiru would be happy he had brought Sarah. Maybe she would be proud of him for trying to reach out.
But as soon as he did open his door, Fakir had only exactly two thoughts.
First, the Goblin King was standing in his kitchen.
Second, wobbling rather unsteadily, was Ahiru, featherless, webless and very much a girl again.
The second thought overrode the first, and indeed everything else, for a white, roaring instant before two more thoughts broke through.
First, the Jareth had one hand resting on Ahiru's elbow and the other at the small of her back.
"Jareth, what. the. hell," Sarah ground out.
- Ahiru was naked.
At the sound of Sarah's flat outrage, Jareth looked up and his face changed from something resembling indulgence to something that was most certainly panic.
"Sarah, this-" Then his eyes narrowed. "Sarah?"
But he didn't have time for more because Fakir's first smashed into his nose.
"Get away from her. What the hell are you doing?"
But Fakir himself didn't have time for much more because suddenly there were two arms wrapped around him, pinning his arms to his sides, and a warm, still very nude body was clinging tightly to him.
"Ahiru, how-" He swallowed hard, feeling his face burn as he struggled to stare out into space. "Ahiru, please, put some clothes on."
But she didn't move, her face pressed into his shoulder.
"Moron," he pleaded desperately.
"Sarah, I-" Someone was shouting.
"Jareth! Clothes! Now!" Someone else was shouting too. Fakir barely registered the noise because Ahiru suddenly had cloth over her and there was glitter going up his nose but he didn't care because he could wrap his arms around her and hold her just as tightly as she was holding him.
The glitter tickled his nose, but it didn't matter because there were tears already tickling it.
If Jareth had been forced to pick his favorite expressions, Sarah's righteously angry face would have been in the top five. Her cheeks were flushed and she would stand all rigid, shoving her face right up to his. Very fetching.
"- and then I find you here with her and she's naked!"
"I might point out that it is very rich for you to be bringing that up when you were clearly coming home with that boy?"
"Because they'd been in a Story and I thought I could help!"
"Mmm, I did help. Only your consistently, perfectly atrocious timing is responsible for any misunderstanding here."
"I do not-"
He cut her off with a gloved finger over her lips. The astonished blush that was her response was just as alluring as the feel of her breath blowing out in surprise over his knuckles and down his palm.
"Perhaps we could continue this discussion elsewhere?"
She blinked at him in surprise, then she turned her head - pity, his finger sliding from her lips - to look over at Ahiru and Fakir. The boy and girl-who-had-been-a-duck-who-was-really-a-girl were standing with their arms still wrapped around each other, their heads both turned to look Sarah and Jareth. The boy was blushing furiously, but they were both smiling.
"Thank you, your majesty," Ahiru said, dipping into a curious little curtsey without letting go of Fakir.
"Please, don't mention it," Jareth replied, inclining his head regally. Sarah restrained her snort at his high and mighty act and instead turned her attention to Fakir and Ahiru.
"Are you two going to be all right?" she asked. "The Story-"
"They'll be fine," Jareth said. "The boy's a Weaver, aren't you?"
Fakir's jaw clenched, but he nodded.
"That'll teach you to put things off, won't it?" While the boy spluttered and Ahiru looked at him curiously, Sarah barely registered that Jareth's hand had taken hers until he tugged briefly at it. "Well, we'll just be going then."
And before she could object to his hand in hers, they had disappeared in one of those bogdamned clouds of glitter.
Fakir wasn't sure where to look. Ahiru still had her arms around him and so he tried looking down at her, but that just put her braid in his field of vision, and that trailed down her thin back and that led to her legs. Trying to pull his gaze upward didn't help much either. So he just sort of stared awkwardly at her ear.
"Fakir?" Her voice was just like he remembered, if a bit hoarse from disuse, and then there were her blue eyes. They were something he could look at, something he could get lost in.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
"I'm okay. Are you okay? You look kind of mad."
"Moron," he muttered, burying his face in her shoulder while she did the same.
"He really hit me!" Jareth exclaimed again, the whine becoming more and more apparent. Sarah fought the urge to both laugh and roll her eyes and instead just handed him another tissue. He pressed it to his nose as he tilted his head back to the ceiling, trying to stem a bloody nose.
"Well, I don't blame him. All he saw was her in the buff and you in your criminally tight pants."
"My what?" Even with tissues stuffed up his nose, he managed to grin wolfishly at her.
"I probably would have hit you too," she said, handing him a pain pill and a glass of water. "Really, you didn't even think to give her clothes? That's pervy, even for you, G.K."
"Well excuse me for being interrupted midway through a delicate transformation that I was doing out of the goodness of my heart and newfound concern for my fellow creatures."
He was expecting her to snort, a noise that in most other people was extremely unattractive but, like most things, made Sarah all the more fetching. He was surprised when she didn't. Instead, she pulled the tissue plugs from his nostrils and handed him another of the paper handkerchiefs.
"Thank you for that, Jareth. I mean, not that it has anything to do with me, but... They looked so happy."
She was sort of staring absently, a thoughtful smile tugging at the corners of her eyes. That is, until she noticed just how close Jareth had leaned in. Her eyes glazed a little.
"Mmm. What is it, precious?" He lifted a lazy finger to brush the tip of her chin. There was a moment of silence, as if the world were holding its breath. Then Sarah smiled.
"You're bleeding again," and she jammed another tissue up his nostril.
"Fakir?" Ahiru's voice was sleepy as she leaned her head on his shoulder. Their fingers were intertwined on her knee as they sat on the couch.
"What is it?"
"Nothing. I just like being able to say it."
"Moron," he said gently. They sat in silence for a long moment. They had said so much already, the quiet was still full of meaning.
She put her cheek against his collarbone, right where she used to fit as a duck.
"I love you," she said, her voice muffled against his shirt. He could feel the warmth of her blush even through the fabric and he knew his own cheeks were turning pink for what felt like the thousandth giddy time that day. But her fingers fit between his perfectly and her hair brushed his neck.
"I love you too."
A/N: Yeah, inspiration was all over the place. Labyrinth and Princess Tutu themselves. AsheRhyder's Roommates and Pika-la-Cynique's Girls Next Door (both on DeviantArt). Fakir saying "moron" is taken from Princess Tutu Abridged. Skeep the goblin belongs to Lixxle here on FF. net. Jareth using "precious" as a pet name has been done a million times (I actually used to hate it). Sort of took everything and let it melt in the microwave on high before whisking vigorously and baking at 350 degrees for twenty minutes. Hope it was tasty.