*peeks out from behind doorway, lowers shades, takes a shifty look around*

Well...hiya guys. Ik ik ik, I've like disappeared from all my stories lately...and I'm reeeeaaaally really sorry, but I've just been very busy. I'm doing the best I can. So, as usual when I disappear for a long time, I come bearing 1-shots!

Judo will be canon pairing. I will prove it. AND JEANETTE WILL BACK ME!

ENJOY!

The Goblin King walked briskly through the hedge maze of his labyrinth, his boots clicking forebodingly against the flagstones with his determined stride, every inch radiating a dark force to be reckoned with. The vicious howls that vibrated through the air and stone granted on his ears, and the malevolent laughter that followed made him tense and want to grind his teeth together. After having to instruct a rally of goblins on how to extinguish a blazing fire and educate about why the flames hurt on one's tongue, he was hardly in the mood to contend with an ounce more of goblin idiocy. Even his shadow, stalking ahead of him, was as tall and imposing, pitch black and seething.

Clasping his hands behind his back, he turned a corner, underneath a rounded arch. His shadow menacingly overcast a small band of short goblins, slowly approaching them as he observed their activities. Hanging upside down from a nearby tree was a large beast, ragged and rust-colored fur, wailing and snarling with great fangs. Jareth suppressed a shudder at the sound. Armed with nipper sticks, the elite members of his Goblin Army laughed mercilessly and prodded the beast, barking insults.

Jareth folded his arms over his armored chest, tilting his head. None of the guards took notice of him, vexing him further. He could feel his magic tingling in his hands, at his fingertips, tasting metallic on the tip of his tongue. Was this what his guards did for pleasure in their free time? He had ordered no such torture, and the orange beast was not known to him as any transgressor, so surely the torment was not warranted. Most importantly, it was not warranted by him.

The creature cried louder, and it frayed the king's last nerves. He attempted to clear his throat, doing his best to remain calm, but he couldn't be heard over the loud commotion. With restrained violence, he stepped up and swiped the nipper stick right out of the hands of one of the goblins.

"Huh? What?" The goblin's head whipped back and forth, looking around helplessly. "Where'd it go?" Jareth waited impatiently until at last the goblin fully turned around to face him, tipping his head all the way back to take in Jareth's full, towering figure. Then he let out a shrilly, terrified scream, holding his hands up as if to protect himself.

The other guards gradually stopped to look, shocked gasps and squeals emanating from the band as they recognized their king at once. The beast's howling died down to faint moans. Jareth's icy, mismatched eyes flicked to each other guard before he continued to glare at the one now quivering before him. He couldn't stop his lips from pulling into a smile that was borderline a sneer. They knew precisely what they had been doing.

In one swift strike, Jareth knocked the bare end of the stick against the beak-like nose of the goblin's mask, hard enough to send the goblin's entire helmet spinning around. The goblin reeled and screamed, stumbling backwards before crawling to hide behind another guard. Hissing, Jareth threw the stick at the guards, who fumbled to catch it, as the nipper on the end mewled like a dying cat in displeasure.

"Get. Out." His command was mild on the surface, a raging blizzard of malice just underneath. "Now."

The goblins couldn't obey his order fast enough. The first one to turn and try to escape tripped over the already fallen guard, sprawling out on the stone. One after the other, they tumbled over themselves, nipper sticks and metal armor crashing. Some conveniently angled nippers got hold of a goblin limb, snarling, sharp teeth clinging and refusing to let go. The goblins screeched in pain, scrambling away and running into everything in the process. Jareth grinned until their complete departure. Only then did he turn to the dangling beast, who had completely silenced now, save for a whimper every now and then.

Regarding the beast with an apathetically raised brow, he reached up to pull his dark cloak closed around him. It stared back. There was some flicker of comprehension, but not much. Jareth wasn't sure the creature knew who he was. There was a lot of resign in the beast's dark eyes; Jareth was sure that wasn't the first time it had found itself in its current position. Otherwise expressionless, the beast's eyes told a long, sad story. It probably would have evoked pity from anyone else.

Jareth made a short gesture with his hand. The rope hanging the creature swiftly untied itself, and the hulking body fell to the ground as Jareth stepped neatly back. The thing grunted, laying still for a moment before struggling to get to its feet. The king watched the rather pathetic display silently, deciding by the creature's size, curled horns, and disproportionally long arms that it was a night troll. Of sorts.

The night troll finally staggered to its feet, yet made no move toward the king. They merely looked at each other, both questioning.

"Well," Jareth chirped. "You do seem more friend than foe... Yet I don't believe I've seen you before."

A non-threatening growl rumbled within the beast, his long ears swinging as he tilted his head to one side. "Friend?" he echoed.

Jareth's lips twisted in distaste at the voice. It was deep and guttural, and dull. He clearly sounded lacking intelligence, a thing Jareth despised. Not to mention the voice was as grating on his sensitive hearing as the previous wailing. "Yes," he said flatly. "Friend."

"What friend?" the creature pressed curiously.

Jareth blew out a noisy breath, shoulders sagging, already beyond exasperated. "Friend," he enunciated carefully. "What, you don't know what a 'friend' is?"

The beast shook its head, seeming intensely disheartened. "No."

Jareth blinked. The first feeling to hit him was confusion accompanied by something skin to guilt. Clearly, the monster was distressed by not knowing the meaning of the word, but why? It seemed the beast knew not much at all. It didn't even know who Jareth was.

That thought struck him.

This beast didn't know he was standing before the Goblin King, otherwise it probably wuoud have been cowering and trembling. If it thought he was a normal being, it would have fought back, easily being able to overcome him in brute strength. At least, it would have snapped back at the threatening ire in Jareth's tone. Yet the creature accepted his cruel tone without batting an eye, either oblivious to it or used to it. It was a gentle creature.

Jareth was unsure of how to reply. He had never known many gentle beings of his labyrinth. Of his world, even. Though there was also the lesser problem...that he himself was unsure of what exactly a 'friend' was. With a slow, calm breath, he flicked a pale strand of hair away from his face and narrowed his eyes at the night troll.

"A friend," he began steadily, weighing every word before using it and trying to sound confident, "is another being who...you are familiar with. Someone...something...who you may trust and...converse with easily, who is there to help and..." He trailed off with no small amount of frustration, his lips thinning into a hard line. It seemed all words had suddenly fled him, save for a few tasteless ones he kept to himself.

The beast attempted to follow, staring at the ground in contemplation, before bringing a hesitant gaze back to the king. "You...friend?"

Jareth leaned back, aghast, eyes widening before quickly narrowing. "What? No!" He hissed lowly through his teeth and crossed his arms. "Absolutely not."

"Why?"

Jareth arched an imperious brow. "Because...I am no one's friend. I am not interested in being anyone's friend. Nor am I in need of any friends of my own."

"Oh," said the beast, somewhat despondently. "But Ludo friend."

"Ludo," Jareth said, unimpressed. "I'm assuming that unappealing concurrence of two syllables would be your name." He tossed his head to the side, sending wayward strands of hair back in their place. "I am Jareth. A pleasure, I'm sure."

Ludo—as Jareth deigned to call it—grunted, and then smiled. At the king. No one smiled at him. He was the Goblin King! Yet Ludo's eyes sparkled with something akin to...fondness. Jareth tried not to look as uncomfortable as he felt, but he caught himself about cross his arms self-consciously. Instead he raised his chin and grasped his ragged cloak closed at his throat.

"Sure you're friend," Ludo gently yet stubbornly persisted. "Jareth helped Ludo."

Jareth looked at the beast evenly for a long moment, then allowed his expression to soften with faint humor, raising a challenging brow. Good point, he thought grudgingly. Perhaps the curious creature was a touch more clever than he assumed.

"I assure you," he retorted, "that I did nothing in generosity, save for not throttling those goblins. The fact that my interference happened to benefit you was coincidence and sheer luck only."

Ludo continued to grin uncomprehendingly, with an alarming amount of trust written across his countenance, making a sound like a purr. Anger sparked within Jareth once more, and his voice hardened and made another attempt.

"I did not help you. I am not your friend. I will never be your friend. I am the Goblin King." He sneered slightly, putting every ounce of haughtiness and contempt into his tone and manner, hoping—vainly, he predicted—to intimidate the beast. "Did you hear what I said? Do you understand that? I am your king. You will not ever consider me a friend." He practically spat the last word.

As he thought, Ludo wasn't driven away, but he understood. His ears lowered sadly, smile falling away. Before Jareth could let the satisfaction settle in, Ludo asked softly, bewildered, "Why don't kings have friends?"

Jareth sputtered. "B-because...they simply cannot!"

"Sure they can."

"Oh?" His hands curling tightly at his sides, he huffed irately. "And what would you know about kings? It is not logical for kings to have friends, when so-called friends can so easily betray, or personal information may be attained by enemies."

"Enemies?" Ludo questioned, a slight puzzlement shadowed over his face.

Snarling faintly, teeth clenched, the king turned sideways with a small flourish of his cloak, turning away his face. "The opposite of friends. That's what enemies are." Unless under the pretense of being a friend, he wanted to add, but then he would surely be there all night.

"But Jareth friend," Ludo claimed with a new fervor, his ears perking up as he shuffled forward a step. "Why have enemies?"

Jareth's brow furrowed, more in intrigue—reluctantly—than anger, and he glanced sideways at the beast. "I don't believe I understand your question. I have enemies, yes. Many of them. Many of them are my own family members. I can't be friends with everyone."

Ludo gazed skyward, raising a large hand to scratch at the base of his horn, as he seemed to ponder Jareth's words for a minute. He then said softly, "Ludo can."

Jareth snorted as he rolls his eyes to the side, shaking his head. He turned back to Ludo with a somewhat kind smile. "You would honestly like to believe that, wouldn't you? It is a pretty thought." With a silent sigh, he forfeited his anger. "Pity."

"Ludo has friends," he said firmly. "Rocks friends."

And that was where Jareth withdrew from the conversation. What in the name of Danu was he doing? He couldn't be taking this seriously.

"If rocks friends," Ludo bargained, "kings can be friends."

Jareth smirked, coughing softly on a chuckle. "I'm afraid, my fine fellow, that a rock is not quite the same as a king."

Ludo nodded. "Needed."

Jareth's lips twitched. "Excuse me?"

"Rocks needed," Ludo explained seriously. "Like Goblin King."

His chest rumbling deeply with a contemplative noise, tail swishing absently from side to side, Ludo staggered around Jareth, past him, and to the labyrinth's wall nearest them. Ludo stretched up on his toes, grunting with effort, reaching up to the top of the wall to wiggle a sizable rock off of it. Jareth cringed to see a piece of his labyrinth tampered with. Smiling in satisfaction, Ludo walked back to stand in front of Jareth, and ceremoniously handed him the brick. The king put his hands out reflexively to take it, and blew out a bit of breath at its considerable weight, his hands lowering with it. Raising an eyebrow, he stared at the curious beast, and then down at the rock.

"Like friend," Ludo concluded.

For a very long time—longer than it should have been, he later admitted—he gazed at the brick in his hands and tried to make the connection. But it was a simple rock! That was all. A rock from the wall of his labyrinth, one of millions in the formations of the stone maze—he himself could have easily picked any one of—

But there it was...

The rock was taken from the wall of his labyrinth. And, of course, were there no rocks, there would be no labyrinth. And, of course, the king was needed to build the labyrinth, also. Rocks are supposed to be as needed as a friend... Did Ludo mean to suggest that Jareth needed a friend as much as his labyrinth needed the rocks for which it's built by?

Ludo made that now familiar purring noise once more. He must have noticed the change in Jareth, the resign and the understanding. Jareth did feel defeated at this point, coming mostly from having sorely underestimating Ludo's cleverness.

Though Jareth wore a lazy smirk on his face, he confessed, "No one would want to be my friend anyhow."

Without the barest hint of hesitation, the reply came. "Ludo wants."

Despite everything, a twinge of warmth twisted through the king. He was still outraged at the beast's audacity, disgusted by its simplicity, exhausted by its groundless persistence—but, undoubtedly, there was an innocent charm that Ludo offered, and it was pleasant to him. He hadn't known true innocence in a very long time; it was something nearly forgotten.

For now, he allowed himself to merely appreciate the foreign quality absent in his life, as, with a flick of his fingers and a spark of elated magic, he burned an ancient rune of a unique and solid friendship into the labyrinth's removed stone.


So there. ^^ Judo fluff. Jareth earns a lesson in friendship.

NEXT UP: Judo smut :3 (just for you and Jareth, Kelly).

Reviews appreciated, thank you very much.