Disclaimer: I don't own the series, the movie, or any of the characters. And I only own half of the plot.
A/N: First story for Cal Leandros, and it's a crossover. I apparently like to ease myself in.
Timeline: Set in between Nightlife and Moonshine. Cal hasn't hit his twentieth birthday yet, but he's getting close.
"I hate babysitting," Robin muttered petulantly.
Cal snorted. "Yeah? Well, then maybe you should stop answering the phone when Niko calls you."
The puck sighed dramatically. "I can't help it. His every wish is mine to grant."
Grey eyes widened mockingly. "Geez, Loman, why didn't you say so? He's been wanting the kitchen floor cleaned for ages."
Robin glared at the younger… man, for lack of a better term. "I believe it's you he wants to clean the floor. Anyway, as the babysitter, I'm not obligated to do anything more than sit on the baby." His green eyes gleamed. "The baby, in this instance, being you."
Cal rolled his eyes. "Whatever. I still don't know why he called you. I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself."
Robin eyed the bandaged arm, hanging in a sling across Cal's chest. "I think it may have something to do with you nearly losing an appendage the other night." The brothers had been carrying out one of their little jobs a few days ago, and had run into trouble. They'd gotten out alive, and had even gotten paid, but Cal's arm was bloody and rather useless at the moment. Niko had cleaned and wrapped it, and put it in a sling, giving Cal orders not to move it more than necessary.
It wasn't by far the first wound he'd received, nor was it the worst. But Niko was still hovering after the mess with Darkling, and all the blood his baby brother had lost obviously unnerved him. Well. As obviously as Niko could get anyway.
Hence, calling Goodfellow to come stay with Cal while Niko went to work at the dojo.
The "baby" sighed. "Yeah." Staring moodily at the muted television, he ignored Robin's exasperated snort. The puck wandered off to another room, seeking amusement by snooping around the Leandros' apartment.
Cal tilted his head to the side a little, keen ears easily tracking Rob's movements. A slow grin spread across his face.
Now I wonder…
Robin was seething. That little… punk! How Niko put up with this immature, brainless, impossible…
"Hey, Loman, what do you call-"
"I don't care! I don't want to know! Shut up, Caliban, before I have to explain to your brother why I killed you while he was gone!"
The teenager scoffed. "Hah! As if you could." He grinned gleefully. There truly was nothing more entertaining than properly annoying the crap out of someone. It was a talent, a carefully cultivated skill, and an art form all at once. And it beat watching daytime television any day.
Robin glared at him darkly. "Oh, I could, you childish little imp. You're an infant compared to me. I've fought more battles than you can possibly imagine."
Cal yawned. "Yeah, yeah, you're ancient. Whatever."
Gritting his teeth, the puck turned his back on the annoying little cretin and took a deep breath. Must not kill Niko's baby brother. That would be his mantra, he decided. Must not kill Niko's baby brother.
"I wonder if the Goblin King is still operating." he muttered under his breath. Cal either didn't hear him or wasn't paying attention, because he said nothing in response.
Well, nothing responding to that particular comment, anyway.
"Hey, Loman," Cal called from the living room, where he'd apparently re-affixed himself to the couch. "You know what I think? I think the reason you keep bringing up the age gap between us is because you're jealous of my flawless skin."
The puck's green eyes narrowed. Must not kill Niko's baby brother.
"Yeah," Cal continued obliviously. "You're getting kinda wrinkly, Goodfellow. Might need a face lift soon."
Oh, that was it! Turning on his heel, Robin strode towards the living room, mumbling as he went.
"I do wish the goblins would come and take you away, right now. I really, really do."
It wouldn't do anything, but it made him feel better.
"Unfortunately," he said as he entered the living room, "the Goblin King is rather… out… of…" He stopped. "Business."
The living room was empty, though a slight depression from Cal's sprawled body remained in the couch cushions.
Robin swallowed. "Caliban?"
A dark, rich chuckle echoed from behind him. "Caliban? What a name for a child!"
Throat clenching in horror, Robin turned around, his gaze fixed to the floor. Slowly, he raised his eyes, wincing as they traveled up leather boots and tight trousers, cringing when they reached the open-necked shirt from which an amulet peeked out, and finally giving up and looking the Goblin King full in his smirking, mismatched eyes, surrounded by fly-away blonde hair and highlighted pointedly by sharp teeth, gleaming in the dim lighting.
Finding his mouth incredibly dry all of a sudden, Robin cautiously swallowed again and said, "Well… he's not exactly a child. Your Majesty."
One sardonic eyebrow arched. "Oh? I thought you were babysitting."
He winced. "Well, technically, yes, but-"
"But nothing. The point is," the Goblin King smiled a predator's smile. "What now?"
Waving an impatient, gloved hand, the fae produced a crystal orb. "Your dreams," he said, presenting it to the puck like a butler with a silver platter.
Said puck was desperately running every legend he'd ever heard about the Goblin King through his mind. He'd never met the royal himself, but he'd certainly heard tell of the Goblin City and of its mercurial ruler.
"I thought," he swallowed again. "I thought you'd… retired." He cringed as he said it, aware that it sounded hopelessly idiotic when put like that.
Sure enough, the other eyebrow went up. "Oh you did, did you?" came the sarcastic, mocking reply. "So sorry to disappoint, Master Goodfellow, but I am still 'in business,' so to speak. After all," and now his voice grew hard, "there will always be unwanted children."
Ouch. That had hurt. He deserved it though. "Yeah, about that… Cal's not really one of those unwanted children, so could you maybe just… bring him back?"
"What's said is said," the Goblin King declared sternly. "And for goodness' sake, please don't tell me that you didn't mean it, that it was an accident, that it's not fair. Frankly, I don't care why you did it, and I got quite enough of all that the last time I took a babysitter's charge. What matters is what's done. You wished away the child, and now I am here to make you an offer."
Somewhat warily, Robin asked, "An offer?"
"Yes," the Goblin King said softly. "I'm here to offer you your dreams." He held out the crystal once more, enticingly, as though Robin were a skittish colt he could coax to his side with an apple. "All you've ever wanted," he whispered, words wrapping around the puck like a cloak. "All you've ever dreamed, anything you- why are you looking at me like that?" he asked sharply.
Robin was staring at him with a look of horror etched on his face. "Seriously? That's it? That's all you're offering?"
"You didn't let me finish," the fae said crossly. Robin was pacing now, ignoring him.
"I can't just let you have him!"
"And why not?" the Goblin King asked. "You wished him away easily enough."
"I didn't know it would do anything!" the puck wailed. "I thought you were retired!"
"Well, I'm not," came the reply. "So, your dreams-"
"Oh, hang the dreams! Do you realize what will happen to me if I leave Caliban with you? Dreams won't mean a thing, because I'll be dealing with the stuff of nightmares. His brother-"
"Ahem! If you had let me finish, instead of running around like a chicken who has just lost his head, you might not be having hysterics right now. It's doubtful, but possible."
The Goblin King sighed, obviously growing tired of the banter. "As I was saying, there is a second option. Instead of your dreams, you could choose to… retrieve the child."
"Re-trieve?" he asked, hardly believing it to be true. "What does that mean, exactly?"
The fae smirked. "It means just that. You have the option to get back your little… Caliban."
Suspiciously, Robin asked, "How?"
"Quite simple. You must solve the Labyrinth."
The Labyrinth. A veritable, living maze. Hedges and stone arches and rocks that came when called, all twisting and turning under the orange, forever-dusk sky of the Underground. And at the center of the Labyrinth…
The Goblin City and the Castle beyond it. The fortress of the Goblin King, master of the Labyrinth.
The puck drew a sharp breath. "Y-you and I both know," he paused, went on, "we both know that game is rigged. It's your kingdom. You make the rules, and when it seems like you might be losing, you cheat."
The King scowled suddenly. "I. Do not. Cheat. My rules are fair, and I abide by them. If you choose to run the Labyrinth, I give you my solemn vow that when you lose, you shall lose fair and square."
Robin glared at him. "Who says I'll lose?"
"Breeding. Kings are not defeated by automobile salesmen." He sniffed. "Have you made your choice then?"
Goodfellow hesitated for barely a second. What choice was there really? Run the Labyrinth, have a chance to get Cal back… or don't run the Labyrinth, take his dreams, and hope Niko wouldn't be able to track him down and dismember him.
"I choose the Labyrinth," he said, looking the Goblin King in the eye. "Let me run."
Pointed teeth bared in a smirk. "Excellent."
And then the New York apartment was fading away, replaced by a cliff side view of the Labyrinth, forever ensconced in its little valley under the orange sky. Robin turned around to face the creature standing behind him.
"You have thirteen hours," the fae announced without preamble. The puck scowled. Freakin' fae and their freakin' time rules.
"Fine," he said through gritted teeth. He turned back to the Labyrinth, saying over his shoulder. "Do I just walk in then, Goblin King? Right through the front gate? Goblin King? Goblin King?"
He wasn't surprised to find himself alone when he looked over his shoulder.
Robin spared a few precious seconds to glance towards the sky. "Niko is going to kill me," he groaned.
To say that Cal was not impressed with his surroundings would be a huge understatement. The grungy pillow pit in the middle of the stone floor (which he was sitting in), the high ceilings strung with all manner of strange things, the random black chickens which were leaving their feathers everywhere and eying him malevolently.
And then there were the goblins.
Odd, twisted little creatures which were probably terrifying to small children but looked too much like stuffed animals to Cal for them to scare him were crawling all over the room. They were in the rafters, around the throne-thing on a dais above the pit, ringing the pit itself and staring down at him with a mix of curiosity and entrancement in their eyes.
He tried baring his teeth at them, but instead of the usual reaction –terror, scrambling to get away- the goblins crowded closer, forcing him further into the pillows.
"Alright, you mangy scrabblers! That's enough! Make your mischief elsewhere."
Instantly, the creatures backed off. Cal looked up. And up and up, until he was eye to eye with what looked like a reject from a renaissance fair.
Now, contrary to what Goodfellow believed, Cal was a pretty smart cookie. By now, he'd-correctly- concluded that he'd been kidnapped. And rule number one of being kidnapped was fairly simple: if you can't beat the kidnappers, don't mouth off to 'em.
Unfortunately, the rules didn't cover being kidnapped by a guy wearing skin tight pants and enough glitter to furnish Disneyland. Even Niko would've snarked at this guy.
Ignoring the fact that Niko would never have been kidnapped in the first place, Cal said, "You know, tights are so three centuries ago. Miss the memo?"
The glittery freak crouched down next to the pit, mismatched eyes studying Cal carefully. "It speaks," he said coolly, disregarding the insult.
Cal raised an eyebrow. "Yeah. 'It' does. What's going on?" He struggled to his knees, not liking being so far below his kidnapper's eye line. "Why am I here? Who are you? Where is this place?"
Two glittery eyebrows rose. "So many questions. Where to start?" He tapped one gloved finger against his chin, lips quirking in a mocking smile. Cal glared at him. Abruptly, he stood, gesturing imperiously. "I dislike conversing in this manner. Up you come."
Slowly, Cal pushed himself up with his one good arm. Standing, he tried to get out of the pit, but with only one arm, it proved difficult. Impatiently, his kidnapper reached out, grasping his wrist and pulling him up and out of the pillow trap.
The… creature, Cal decided, turned around and stalked to the throne, throwing himself down on it and waving a hand at a slightly smaller chair that had been placed nearby. "Sit," he said.
Cal gave him an incredulous look. Sit? When he was out of the pit and had a clear shot to the door? No freakin' way. He didn't care that much about getting answers. He took off, bad arm clutched close to his chest to keep it from too much damage, eyes set on the door across the room.
And then one long, iron-hard arm wrapped itself around his waist, jerked his feet off of the floor, and hauled him back.
Cal kicked and flailed around with his good arm, yelling at the top of his lungs. His captor wasn't fazed. If anything, he sounded amused.
"I didn't expect that," he laughed. "It has been a long time since a guest has had the fortitude to try to escape." They reached the throne and the creature placed Cal on the chair next to it before sitting down himself.
"Promise not to run?" he asked teasingly. In answer, Cal lunged for the door.
He barely made it two feet before being caught again. This time, to his horror, his captor didn't bother with the chair. Instead, he simply pulled Cal onto the throne and into his lap.
"Stop squirming," he said sternly. "Perhaps you aren't so different from the others after all. Of course they were much younger and smaller, but the principle is the same. Children are children. If you act like a child, I shall treat you as one. For goodness' sake, be still!"
Breathless, arm throbbing, and completely furious, Cal was still.
"That's better," his captor said. "Now, for your questions. I shall start with your last one. This place is the Castle Beyond the Goblin City, in the center of the Labyrinth. I am the Goblin King, Master of the Labyrinth. You may call me Jareth. As for why you are here, you have that insipid puck to thank. He wished you away to me."
Cal's mouth dropped open. "What? Why?"
"I believe he was annoyed with you," came the implacable reply. "The why does not matter. What's said is said. You are here now."
"You can't keep me here! My brother-"
"Ah, yes, I believe the puck said something about a brother. Don't worry about your brother, little one. In thirteen hours, he won't even remember you existed."
Cal's eyes widened. Against his will, he felt himself starting to panic. He started breathing faster and faster. "Y-y-" he couldn't get the words out. Niko wouldn't remember him? Did Robin know this would happen? Why would he…
Jareth stared down at him with something akin to concern in his eyes. "Sleep," he said finally, stroking Cal's hair. "Sleep, little one."
He tried to fight, but the Goblin King's magic pulled him under and he slept.
Robin was getting frustrated. Not that he wasn't already frustrated, but now he was really starting to get ticked off.
First, he ran into an irritating little dwarf who offered to help him through the Labyrinth. Clearly, this was a ploy of the Goblin King's. The dwarf would probably just try to lead him back to the beginning. What was his name? Hogwash? Hobble? Whatever.
Then, after he refused the dwarf's help, he walked into a cloud of pixies, who then proceeded to bite his nose until he ran out of the garden and ended up on the path. Upon which he met the brownies, who tripped him up and turned him around, and now he was here, resting precariously in disembodied hands which were sticking out of the walls of the hole he'd fallen into and were asking him if he wanted to go up or down. What kind of question was that?
He chose down.
Niko cut his class short and rushed home. He wasn't sure why exactly, but he somehow knew what he'd find when he got there. Or rather, what he wouldn't find. And sure enough, Cal and Robin were gone.
Niko allowed himself about thirty seconds of terror before pulling out his phone and making calls. He refused to believe the worst. Perhaps Robin and Cal had gone out. They could be at a bar, or a Promise's, or even with Georgina- he stopped there. George. She'd be able to tell him. And she would tell him. For Cal, she'd look, and she'd tell him.
He dialed quickly, and wasn't at all surprised when George answered with, "Niko? What's wrong? You're anxious."
"It's Cal," was all he said. He could hear her gathering her things already.
"I'm leaving now," she said. "Don't worry, Niko, we'll find him."
He didn't ask how she knew. It was George. Of course she knew. He hung up. She would understand and would not be offended.
George arrived within ten minutes, and Niko let her in immediately. She looked around the room, eying the indent Cal had left on the couch and the presence of Goodfellow's scarf on the coffee table.
"Robin is here?" she asked.
"Not anymore," Niko answered. "He and Cal are both gone."
"Hmmm." Turning to him, she reached for his hand. "Look," she said, a little nervously. "I'm not an expert at this or anything, but I… I think I can do something."
"Well?" Niko asked, impatiently. She took a deep breath.
"I think I can send you –or a part of you, actually- to where Cal is. It'll be like an astral projection. You won't be able to do anything while you're there, but you'll be visible and audible. Maybe you can find out where he is and how to get him."
Instantly, he held out his hand to her. "Do it," he said.
Jareth frowned down at the child in his arms. He'd sent the boy to sleep when the wiry body began breathing erratically. He was apparently very attached to this brother of his.
Rising, the Goblin King strode to the pillow pit and stepped down into it. With a wave of his hand, the cushions arranged themselves into a cradle-mound, ready to receive his burden. Stooping, he placed the child on the pile. Immediately, the boy curled into himself, arms hugging his own chest, knees pulled up to his chin.
Straightening, Jareth studied the child. Older than most who were wished away, but not as old as some. And an unwanted child was an unwanted child. He scowled as his gaze alighted on the bandaged arm.
He became aware of another presence in the room just before the voice said, brimming with tightly controlled fury, "Who are you, and what have you done to my brother?"
He turned around. Facing him was a youth, not much older than the child behind him, with blond hair and flashing grey eyes. The same grey eyes as the one called Caliban.
"Ah, you'll be the older brother then," Jareth said, noting the insubstantial appearance of the other man. It was a projection. These were interesting brothers indeed, who kept company with a puck and were capable of astral projections.
Grey eyes narrowed. "I'm Niko. Who are you?"
Jareth sighed. "You two. Always with the questions." Angry silence. "Very well. I am Jareth, the Goblin King."
Recognition lit the other's eyes. "You've heard of me then," the Goblin King said.
Warily, Niko nodded. "Master of the Labyrinth, the enchanted hedge-maze. You take children who have been wished away…" his eyes narrowed impossibly more. "Unwanted children."
Jareth inclined his head. "As you say. When a child is wished away, I take them and offer the wisher's dreams in their place."
"You took Cal." It was not a question.
"The puck said the right words. I took the child."
"Cal's not a child," Niko said, even as his face hardened at the mention of Goodfellow.
"Isn't he?" Jareth asked softly. Niko was silent. The fae continued.
"In the puck's defense – and I honestly can hardly believe I am bothering- he didn't think I was still in operation, and your little brother was being… trying."
A wry smirk appeared on the man's tan face. "He's good at that."
Jareth smirked back. "Quite."
Niko stepped closer. "There was another part to the legend," he said slowly. "If the wisher chose to, he could run the Labyrinth, and retrieve the child who was wished away."
"This is true," Jareth said blandly. Niko met his eyes squarely.
"That's where Robin is," he said, not asking. "He's solving the Labyrinth to get Cal back."
"He's trying to, at least," Jareth shot back. "I'm sure he's already found that it's no easy task. I do not easily relinquish my children."
Niko glared at him. "Cal is not yours."
One eyebrow shot up. "No? He was wished away to me. I am the collector of unwanted children. For years I have gathered them, all species, all ages, all times. If the Labyrinth defeats the puck, Caliban shall fade from the memories of all who knew him, and stay forever with me."
Niko snarled. "Robin won't let that happen."
"He will try."
"And," Niko continued. "Cal is not unwanted. Robin made a mistake. He didn't mean for you to take Cal."
"What's said is said." The Goblin King studied him for a moment. "Would it be so bad?" he asked softly. "After all, he's safe here."
Niko's glare was scorching. "Safe? With you, his captor?"
Jareth moved aside, gesturing at the sleeping child behind him. "Does he look oppressed in any way?"
Niko moved closer, his face automatically softening as he gazed down at his younger brother. "No," he admitted softly. "He doesn't."
Jareth watched him for a minute before deciding to do something he hadn't done in nearly twenty years. Share one of the secrets of his power with an outsider.
"Look," he said, waving a hand, pulling Niko's attention from his brother. "I am the Master of the Labyrinth. But as such, I am bound by the same rules as the Runners. I am obligated to meet the expectations of those I interact with. The Labyrinth changes with every wish, and every whim of those travel its paths is mine to grant."
Niko nodded slowly. "It's only as bad as we make it," he said.
Jareth's lips twitched. "Precisely." He looked down at Cal. "I'm not used to dealing with this many different people during a wish, though. So many expectations. And all of them different."
"What do you mean?"
"Usually, the child wished away is too young to have any kind of expectations of me at all. And in most cases, there is only one person aware of the Wish. But here," he gestured again. "Here we have Master Goodfellow, Caliban, and yourself. The puck sees me as the villain, so the villain I shall play. Cal imagines me as a captor, so I hold him captive here. And you," he paused, meeting Niko's eyes in playful exasperation. "You wish me a caretaker, a keeper for your precious little brother. And this too, I shall be."
The blond was silent for a moment. "Thank you," he said finally. "I-I appreciate that." He stepped up to Jareth's side, right at the edge of the pillow pit, and looked down at Cal.
"He looks peaceful," he said softly. "He has nightmares so often, even sleeping is dangerous for him."
The Goblin King cocked his head. "I am the Master of Dreams. There are no nightmares here unless I will them." He waved a hand, and three crystals sprang into existence.
"Choose," he said to Niko. The other man leaned in, and the images in the crystals began. Him and Cal at a Christmas celebration, hovered over by a smiling, kind-looking Sophia. Cal as a baby, being held by a four-year-old Niko, while a beaming Sophia and a tan-skinned, blond-haired man looked on in the background. And then, more realistically, he and Cal, cuddled on a dirty couch reading a long-overdue library book; then, a little older, the two of them playing tag outside the trailer while Sophia saw customers inside; still older, after Cal was taken and returned, weapons training, sparring, tackling, tickling, and in spite of it all, Cal, laughing, laughing, laughing.
He chose that one.
Jareth smiled. "So be it."
The other two crystals disappeared, and the one with a laughing Cal running away from a grinning Niko floated down softly to gently break open on Cal's forehead. He smiled in his sleep and rolled over again.
Niko faced Jareth. "You'll take care of him." It wasn't a question.
The Goblin King inclined his head. "I always do." He scowled suddenly. "I don't like those who harm children," he said, with a dark look towards Cal's injured arm.
Niko caught the look. "We didn't do that," he said quietly. "Ask Cal about it yourself when he wakes up."
Jareth opened his mouth to answer, but Niko was gone.
The puck whirled around at Niko's quiet call of his name. "Oh my joss!" he yelped, going pale.
"Calm down," the other man soothed. "It's just an astral projection."
The look Robin shot him was impatient. "I know that. But…"
"You wished Cal away," Niko said, understanding his friend's distress.
"I didn't mean to!" the puck wailed. "But that stupid fae was listening, and Cal was- no, that's no excuse. No matter how annoying Cal can be, to have wished him away, I…" he stopped, having run out of words, and a little bit surprised that he was even still alive to be spouting them. (The fact that Niko was currently an astral projection and couldn't actually touch him didn't mean a thing. Robin was thoroughly convinced that if Niko really wanted to, he could find a way to kill him from Aboveground. With his mind.)
"Calm down," Niko ordered, voice calm and face composed. "You're going to solve this Labyrinth. I'll help you. I might even decide not to remove your extremities once this is over."
The puck gulped. He'd escaped the "helping" hands and that stupid oubliette, blundered his way through the forest filled with singing, orange lemur-creatures, was now getting turned around in stone passageways again. And now, to top it all off, he was going to be killed by a blond ninja with Overprotective Big Brother Syndrome.
Somehow, he was certain, this was all Cal's fault.
When Cal woke up (five hours into the thirteen), he was unceremoniously plucked from the pillow pit and dragged once more into the lap of the Goblin King. He sighed.
"This again? You know, you can trust me not to run. You don't have to… hold me like this."
The fae stared down at him, smirking. "I've discovered two things about you in our short time of acquaintanceship, Cal. One, not to trust you when you say things like, 'Trust me, I won't run.' Two, you listen much better when something is… holding your attention."
The teenager glowered. "Fine. You want me to listen? I'm listening. Talk."
Abruptly, Jareth's face sobered. "Your arm," he said, nodding to the appendage. "What happened to it?"
Confused, Cal followed his gaze. "My arm? What about it? It got hurt."
The Goblin King's eyes were darkly serious. "How?"
Cal raised an eyebrow. "Uh? Fighting with an overzealous werewolf? Why?"
"A werewolf," Jareth mused to himself. "I do desire to know what you and your brother have chosen as your occupation. You have the most interesting connections."
Cal eyed the fae bemusedly. "Ooookay. Whatever." He waved a hand. "Can I get down now? Unless," he added sarcastically, "you have more to talk about."
Distractedly, the King released his hold on Cal's waist, and the teenager wasted no time in sliding off of his lap. He stood somewhat awkwardly by the throne before Jareth noticed and smirked again.
"Go on," he said, making a shooing motion with his gloved hands. "I've already put spells in place to keep you in the Castle. You're free to explore. I'd hate for you to be bored during your stay."
Cal glared at him. "If you had spells to keep me from escaping, what the heck was up with the sitting on your lap thing?"
The smirk widened. "I told you. It encourages you to listen." He shooed again. "Now go. I'm rather busy. Find some way to entertain yourself."
Still sulking, Cal went.
"Having fun?" Jareth's mocking voice came from behind him.
Robin jumped. "Goblin King," he said nervously, turning around. Where was Niko when you needed him? Sure, it wasn't like George could keep up the astral projection indefinitely, but Robin sure could have used some ninja-big-brother right now. "Uh, sure. Sure. The Labyrinth is… um… a piece of cake!"
The fae's eyes darkened. "Is it now?" He stepped closer to Robin, who began to feel like he'd just said something he shouldn't have. "Sounds frightfully boring." He grinned, an expression the puck felt was more an excuse to show off his sharp teeth than to convey amusement. "Let's see if we can change that."
He conjured a crystal and let it fall to the stone floor of the tunnel. Instantly, a rumble was heard from the darkness.
"Enjoy," Jareth's chuckle faded away as he himself did, and Robin was left alone.
Well, not exactly alone.
"Explore," Cal grumbled to himself. "Entertain myself. I. Am. Not. A child!" He stopped briefly and stomped a foot as he said this, ignoring the voice in his head-that sounded suspiciously like Niko-telling him to quit whining.
Rolling his eyes, he spied a door to his right. Deciding that finding out more about where he was being held wouldn't be a bad idea, he pulled at the handle. It opened easily, and he stuck his head inside.
It was empty. Not just bare, completely, pitch black, there's-nothing-in-this-room empty.
Carefully, he closed that one.
Ooookayyy… so not going in there.
He continued walking down the hallway. For a long time, there were no doors, just an endless hall of stone. Just when he was beginning to think he'd have to go back to the throne room or risk being lost forever, the floor began to slope.
He started trotting, trying to keep up with the downhill track, but before long, his feet started slipping and soon enough, he was sliding down the hall on his butt.
"You're doing this on purpose," he said accusingly to the ceiling, crossing his arms and doing his best to remain upright as the slide took him further into the Castle. Oh my joss, was his next thought. I'm talking to a stone wall.
Abruptly, the slide/hallway/thingy dumped him into a large, open room.
Filled with goblins.
For a moment, Cal and the goblins just stared at each other-them in surprise at him dropping out of nowhere, him in surprise at the same thing.
Finally, Cal struggled cautiously to his knees. "Uh, hi," he said carefully, racking his brain for everything Niko had ever said in conjunction with goblins. (Contrary to what his brother believed-or, more accurately, allowed Cal to think he believed-Cal actually did listen when Niko talked. It was just that most of what was said was so boring he tuned it out, absorbing the information without paying attention to it. This, of course, meant that when he needed it, he had to sift through every conversation he'd ever had with Niko on the subject of mythology. Needless to say, there were a lot.)
The conversation about goblins, however, had been fairly recent, because Niko's nearly-psychic Spidey-senses had apparently started tingling, and he'd begun reading up on the little imps.
Usually harmless-that is, they only attack when provoked or ordered by whoever they see as their 'master.' When attacking, however, they're mostly nuisances-less dangerous, more annoying. Honestly, they're too small and uncoordinated to do much damage. And they're generally good-natured, so the chances of them attacking at all are highly doubtful.
Usually harmless was good, he decided. Much better than his usual encounters with the esoteric. Concluding that making contact was probably a good idea, before they decided he was the enemy, he tried again. "Hello. I'm Cal."
One of the goblins stepped forward. "You's the Wished Away," he said, with the air of one who knows of which he speaks.
"Uh, yeah," Cal said awkwardly. Beaming, the goblin scooted a little closer. Shyly, he/she/it reached out a hand and touched Cal's elbow gently, withdrawing quickly. "Wished Away's not talky-talkin's."
"They usually don't talk?"
The little head shook. "Nope. Too itty-bitty." Bright eyes twinkled. "You's a big'un."
Cal laughed awkwardly. "Yeah, I… there was a misunderstanding, I think."
The goblin shrugged. "Meh. You's here now." He-he, Cal decided-darted forward then, apparently losing his fear of Cal's size. Stroking Cal's elbow again, he said happily, "You's our Wished Away now."
And then he was surrounded, seated in a ring of ecstatic goblins. The first one scowled at them all, apparently deeming himself Cal's protector. "Hey! Backs off, y'alls! Callycal needs a breathe!" He glanced proudly at Cal. "Humans gotta have their Space. I learned that from the Lady."
"The Lady?" Cal asked, once the majority of the goblins had backed away a little. His goblin beamed at him again. "Yes. The Lady."
While Cal was still processing that, the goblin stuck a hand under his nose and waved it around. "Name's Gip."
Surprised, Cal shook. "Gip."
"Yup," the goblin said, popping the 'p.' "I's on reprieve."
There was an awkward silence between the two, while the rest of the goblins squabbled over who would get to introduce themselves to the Wished Away first. Or next, rather.
This lasted for only about a minute before Cal got bored.
"Sooo… tell me about the Labyrinth," he invited, settling in and making himself comfortable. Might as well. He obviously wasn't going anywhere.
The goblin's face brightened at the change in subject. "Oh! The Laby-birinth…"
As he listened, the beginnings of a plan began to take root in Cal's brain.
Well,well. Whattaya know. This might actually work.
After he escaped from the… things in the tunnels-cleaners, the talking caterpillar had called them-Niko had reappeared, looking cool and collected as always, and now sporting a katana slung across his back. When Robin pointed out that he couldn't use it-astral projection, not really there and all-Niko had raised one eyebrow and said, "Care to test that theory?"
And now the dwarf was back, and he was complaining that Robin wasn't allowed to have help, it wasn't how the Labyrinth worked, and when Robin asked him where that rule was earlier when Snoggle was offering to "help" him, the dwarf just scowled and tossed peach at him before wandering off into the forest.
He blinked. That was… unexpected.
Niko was eying the fruit like it was about to become a snake. "Don't eat it," he ordered.
Robin shot him a look of defiance. "Don't tell me what to do." He didn't eat the peach though.
Goblins were complicatedly simple little creatures. Surface-wise, there was nothing to them but grime and odd cross-dressing tendencies. Beneath that however…
They were rather dangerous, in a completely screwed up kind of way. In the wrong hands… Cal smirked. In his hands…
"Hey, hey, Gip, listen." The little goblin stopped talking to one of his fellows, who was wearing a hula skirt. (Cal didn't ask.)
He grinned. "How do you guys feel about playing a game?"
Immediately, he had all of their attention. "A game?" Gip asked eagerly.
Cal beamed at them, his smile large and predatory and oh-so-similar to a certain king's. "Yes. A game."
Niko was quickly becoming annoyed. Goodfellow was a true friend, and a stalwart companion. But this Labyrinth was impossible, and even the Trickster was undone by the Goblin King.
"Stupid hedge-maze," Robin muttered to himself, kicking at a rock, which promptly grew a foot and kicked him back.
While he was yelping and hopping around, Niko drew his katana and settled in to wait. As soon as Goodfellow's attention returned to him, he swung.
The puck's green eyes went wide and he froze as the blade passed harmlessly through his neck.
"Hey!" he cried. "What the heck was that?"
"An incentive," Niko said darkly. "There are only five hours left. You need to find out where you are in relation to the center of the Labyrinth, and you need to do it now, before I lose my patience."
Robin glared at him, rubbing at his throat. "Yeah? Well, how exactly do you suggest I do that, Mr. I-Know-Everything-'Cause-I'm-A-Ninja?"
"Climb a tree," Niko said calmly.
Robin stared at the blond, dumbfounded. "Well, yes of course. Why didn't I think of that? I'll just climb a huge, thorny tree in a strange forest filled with evil monkeys and weird fruit."
Wordlessly, Niko gestured towards the nearest thorny cradle of death. With a sigh, Robin jumped, caught one of its lowest branches, and pulled himself up.
"This was such a nice shirt, too," he grumbled.
"And by the way, Robin," Niko said from the ground. "I don't know everything because I'm a ninja."
"I know everything because I'm a big brother."
Robin didn't have a response to that.
Jareth's return to his Castle was… quiet. Which was odd, because if there was one thing about being the king of the goblins, it was that you were guaranteed, positively, to never, ever have any quiet.
Immediately, he was suspicious.
Twitching his cloak aside huffily, he prowled down the hallway.
Several goblins appeared from around a corner, stopped short when they saw him, and then ran off.
Jareth scowled. Something was up.
Robin wandered dreamily through a junkyard, staring at the remains of past lives and loves. The Junk Lady trailed behind him dutifully, following in his wake.
And then Niko reappeared.
"Robin!" he snapped. "Stop this. It's a distraction. Robin!"
The puck felt himself being sucked away from a hazy dreamlike state and into a smelly, somewhat harsher world. He gasped. The Junk Lady screeched and faded away.
Niko crossed his arms. "Move," he commanded.
The Bog of Eternal Stench was apparently guarded by a fox-creature that spoke in rhyme and rode a dog. Robin wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry.
Niko was impatiently prodding him in the back, and the little monster was waving a sword at him. "I challenge you," it said. "You cannot pass this way."
"Why not?" Robin asked. Niko snarled behind him.
The fox smirked. "I guard the Bog. The rules say, in order to cross, you must defeat me."
He glanced at Niko. "Well, that won't take too long. It's not exactly-ow!"
The little beast withdrew its rapier. "Fight or talk," it said casually. "It matters not to me. But the clock is ticking, and the child in the castle belongs to the king."
Robin's face hardened. "Alright then, pipsqueak." He drew a knife out of his pants pocket. "Let's finish this then."
Jareth entered his own throne room and stopped short.
"What in the Underground…"
Slumped on his throne, surrounded by his subjects, and contact juggling one of his crystals-and where did he even get the thing in the first place?-was none other than the Wished Away child, Caliban Leandros.
The little imp looked up at him and smirked. "Hi, Jareth."
He scowled. "What exactly do you think you are doing?" he demanded, striding forward and stretching out a hand.
Cal snapped his fingers. Instantly, a few goblins darted in between the fae and the throne. He stopped, staring at the boy in disbelief. "You…"
"Yup," he said, entirely too pleased with himself. "Who'd have thought, right? But it turns out that all these guys need is someone bossy enough to tell them what to do, and pretty enough to pull it off, and hey, presto! Suddenly, the tables have turned."
Quickly, Jareth pulled at the Labyrinth, which immediately shoved him back with a definite air of "The heck are you doing, I'm working. Stop being so clingy." Which reassured him immensely. The maze, at least, was still his to command. Sort of. Thing.
Cal was still smirking at him. The Goblin King cleared his thoughts and said, "You know, little one, goblins are fickle creatures, and their only true loyalty is to me, and to this Labyrinth. You cannot truly be their master."
The child gave a sharp laugh. "Oh, I don't want to rule them." His smile showed off bright white teeth which Jareth could easily imagine being pointed. "I'm just keeping myself entertained."
The fae glared. "Of all the childish… you mean all this is because you were bored?"
Cal shrugged. "More or less."
Fuming, Jareth stared at him. Hour thirteen, he reminded himself. It's hour thirteen. And you have the power here. He smiled.
"You know," he purred, relishing how Cal suddenly looked a bit disconcerted, "it's the thirteenth hour. In just a few minutes, time will have run out for your puckish friend. And no amount of goblins will save you then."
The child looked distinctly unimpressed for someone who had just been threatened by the Goblin King. "Is that so?" he purred right back, whisky and honey dipped voice floating across Jareth's ears. His pale, long-fingered hands slipped over and under and around the crystal. Jareth's eyes narrowed.
"Yes," he hissed. "It is."
Cal's smile became even more devious. "Somehow… I don't believe you." He brought his feet down then, straightening on Jareth's throne. "You see, I've been talking to Sarah."
The world stopped for a moment. Then-
"Sarah?" the Goblin King croaked. "You've been talking to…"
Nodding, grinning, Cal said, "Uh-huh. And you know what she told me?" He stood up slowly, and stepped down off the throne. Jareth watched him warily.
"She said, if I end up needing it…"
A commotion was heard three floors down. Cal met Jareth's eyes with a smile.
"That all I had to do to defeat you…"
Something crashed up the stone steps. Jareth flinched a little.
"Was say the right words," Cal finished, stepping right up to Jareth and cocking his head. The fae glared down at him.
"And what words would those be?" he asked snidely, even as the doors behind him burst open and a bedraggled Robin and an implacable astral projection of Niko came running in.
Cal raised an eyebrow. "You have no power over me," he said simply, as the clock behind him tolled thirteen times. Jareth scowled at him, annoyed.
The puck stopped short, a little nonplussed by the scores of goblins, the random black chickens, and the odd little standoff taking place in the center of the room.
"What's going on?" he demanded. Cal glanced at him.
"Well, howdy there, Loman," he said dryly. "So glad you could join us."
Jareth was just glaring at him.
"Uh… yeah," Robin said hesitantly, edging around the pillow pit and eyeing the Goblin King warily. "I… uh…"
Seeming to snap out of whatever trance he'd been in, Jareth rolled his eyes. "Oh, do stop blathering," he said scathingly. "I'm not going to eat you."
Cal grinned. "Too bad."
The look Robin shot him was only slightly venomous. "Watch yourself, Caliban. I might just leave you here." The threat was halfhearted at best, and was instantly shot down by the king himself.
"Oh, no you don't," he said, snarling. "I've had quite enough of the irritating little imp. You made it here, just in time, and so you have no excuse. Take the child, and get out of my Labyrinth."
Robin turned a grin in Cal's direction. "What did you do?" he asked. "Take over his castle?"
Cal and Jareth glanced at each other. Robin's mouth dropped open. Niko smirked quietly.
"Oh, shut up, Loman," Cal grumbled. Jareth glared. The puck swallowed.
"You… what… seriously?"
Cal sniffed. "I was bored."
"You were bored," the puck repeated. Jareth huffed.
"Yes, yes, we all understand. Cal was in need of entertainment, so he turned my goblins against me and gained mastery over the castle. It was very amusing and we all enjoyed it. Now, if you please," he turned on his heel and stalked over to his throne, "Get. Out."
Robin tugged at Cal's arm. "Perhaps we should do as he says," he suggested. Cal ignored him, stepping quickly over to the arm of the throne.
"Goblin King," he said quietly.
"What?" Jareth snarled. Silently, Cal placed the crystal he'd been juggling on the arm of the chair. For a moment, he thought Jareth would ignore it, but then a gloved hand swooped around and scooped it up. Playing with the little ball of magic, the fae said softly, "You're an odd child, little one."
Cal shrugged one shoulder. "I guess." He watched Jareth juggle the crystal before saying, "See you around?"
Jareth's head snapped up and he stared at Cal for a second, before his face relaxed into its customary smirk. "I sincerely hope not," he answered.
Cal just grinned at him before stepping down and away from the throne. Niko's ghostly form wavered and then faded, and Robin stepped up beside him. Jareth stood.
"By the way," he said, passing the crystal from hand to hand. "How exactly did you end up speaking with Sarah?"
The boy smirked. "Oh, that was easy. She gave Gip a cell phone and the phone number for the landline of her apartment. She said you guys are neighbors or something and not to worry, you aren't as bad as you think."
Jareth dropped the crystal at last, and as Robin and Cal faded from the Underground in a shower of glitter, the last thing they heard was the Goblin King's voice shouting, "GIP!"
A/N: I'm afraid that this is somewhat OOC. Cal doesn't sound much like Cal, mostly because he's not first person, so his inner monologue is considerably lessened. And Robin… well. He'd probably be hitting on Jareth rather than being afraid of him, and he'd probably not be such a spaz. But hey, canon, he's had his moments, so… handwave? Jareth is his GND-self, so he's automatically a bit of a fail, and I skipped the whole "Cal is part-Auphe" thing because I'm a bit of a fail. Sorry.
This story is the result of a discussion held on one of Pika-la-Cynique's GND comic pages. As some of you may know, that comic revolves mainly around characters from the movie "The Labyrinth," and "The Phantom of the Opera." (It's awesome, and you should read it.) Pika was, at the time, engaged in a large amount of crossovers, and AgentDusk13 (on that same site) and I were having a talk about what would happen if Cal Leandros and friends were to meet Jareth, the Goblin King. The discussion of how this would occur, what would happen next, and the inevitable chaos that would arise from such a meeting, eventually became the premise for this story.
No-Longer-A-Spoiler Disclaimer: Gip belongs to Pika-la-Cynique and is used with her permission. The mention of a cross-dressing goblin is due to Lixxle. Read her fics.