Length/Rating: 1309 words, PG
Summary: This is a follow-up (or inspired-by) fic to I Wish
LABYRINTH is trademark and copyright Jim Henson Productions, Sony Pictures, and probably a few other folks. All rights reserved. No copyright infringement is intended nor implied.
“I wish the goblins would take me away.”
If she’d been anyone else the words would have faded into the twilight unremarked. There are rules to the Labyrinth older than time itself and that wasn’t how the story was meant to go.
But she wasn’t anyone else… she hadn’t been in quite some time.
Every year her world grew smaller, tighter, and she was tired of pretending.
So this time when the barn owl lands on the branch outside her window –as it has for years, unnaturally white and still against the stars– this time she opens the sash.
In a flurry of feathers and ozone, crumbling castles and peaches, he’s standing in the shadows of her old bedroom. It feels right in all the wrong ways, as if he’d always been meant to be there shepherding her dreams.
Only it isn’t her bedroom anymore. She grew up so very long ago, flew out into the world in search of something she couldn’t quite name. Racing against a stilled clock that would always be waiting a heartbeat past the thirteenth chime.
She came home because there was nowhere else to land, but even after a month of living in it, it’s still just an empty room. Full of dusty memories and might-have-beens.
And a mirror.
“You aren’t a child,” Jareth chides when the silence has gone on seven breaths too long. He’s exactly as she remembers him and that somehow makes it worse. “What were you expecting me to do?”
“If you won’t take me, then take it back. I can’t stand this anymore!” She hadn’t meant to cry, but this had been her last hope. Sinking into a seat on the bed she looks down at her hands that always seem to be reaching for something. “It’s always there, always wanting— If not for this, then I don’t know what it’s waiting for!”
“Oh, Sarah. You are so very very young.” The Goblin King steps out of the shadows and into the moonlight where she looks up to see him smile, sharp and vicious. “Stories have power in the Underground, even if you don’t mean them to, and you were very specific.”
“You have no power over me,” she whispers, because those words are seared into her memory now, no matter how hard she’s tried to forget.
With a laugh a crystal ball spins into being, dancing across his fingers as he moves closer. “Try again.”
Inside the ball a child tells a story about evil stepmothers to a baby.
“..But what no one knew is that the king of the goblins had fallen in love with the girl, and he had given her certain powers…“
“I didn’t say that in the Labyrinth,” she objected, “and I never said what they were!”
“…My will is as strong as yours, and my kingdom as great…“
With a crack the crystal ball is crushed into shards that fall to dust in the moonlight.
“You said it three times in a row at the end.” Jareth snarled. “‘My kingdom is as great’. Did you think no one was listening?”
“I just wanted Toby back! I didn’t want a kingdom!”
“You didn’t get a kingdom. Do you think the Labyrinth is just a kingdom? Some arbitrary lines drawn on a map that ebbs and flows along the tides of history?” Shadows loom large across the walls. “There is nothing out there as great as what I rule.”
The world wavers for a moment and she’s abruptly reminded of how ancient and fiercely inhuman he truly is. She cowers back against the headboard, too terrified to flee.
But it passes and he pulls the shadows back to settle like hunting dogs at his feet
“You can’t have a kingdom as great,” he repeated softly, “but you have to, because that’s how your story goes.”
The churning, driving, need that’s haunted her for all these years finally has a name– and on its heels the realization it will never go away.
“There has to be a way–“
“I offered you one. Multiple times.” The ball is back and dancing, filled with images of all the things that never were.
She’s mesmerized for a moment caught up in the memories of what she’d thought she’d wanted. They’re shallow and vain and just the right flavor of cotton candy dreams a sixteen-year-old would cherish.
“Of course, it would have killed you eventually had you accepted then.” The ball danced and the people in the ballroom aged away into dust. “Humans don’t last long in the Underground.”
“You were supposed to love me!” She desperately pounces on the one thing that hadn’t come true. As if tugging that one thread would unravel the spell.
“Didn’t I?” The ball pauses. “Think Sarah.”
She already has. She’s spent years thinking about him, his kingdom, and all the things that didn’t make sense if he hadn’t… and all the things that didn’t make sense if he had.
“All’s fair in love and war,” he offers in an offhanded apology. “You never specified what kind of love, leaving the story– flexible.”
“Then can’t I just say I don’t have a kingdom?”
He raises an eyebrow. “Would you give Toby back?”
“You won because of three things. One,” he tosses the ball up into the air, “will. Two,” a second ball joins the juggle, “kingdom. Three,” another ball, “power.”
She watches as he juggles them without looking, the crystals showing nothing and everything.
“Take away any of them–” a ball explodes into powder and the others quickly follow suit. “So no, you can’t wish away your kingdom.”
“I don’t have a–“
“You haven’t been listening.”
“I have! You love me, but you don’t love me. I have a kingdom, but I can’t have a kingdom. The only thing that hasn’t changed is you have no power over me!”
She’s furious beyond words and he’s smugly arrogant, waiting for her to follow things to some obvious solution. But there isn’t one.
Her story demands they be equals in kingdom, and will, and power–
As great a kingdom.
As strong a will.
But all it says about power is that he has none over her.
She’d always taken that to mean she was his equal. She had no power over him, after all. But now, watching that smirk, she wonders if she was wrong.
“You offered me a dream once that would have killed me.” She looks deep into mismatched eyes and feels the want seeping into her bones. “Would it kill me now?”
He smiles, slow and deadly. “No.”
“Because now your will is as strong as mine and my will is what shapes the Labyrinth. It’s what keeps it from shattering apart into a thousand dissonant nightmares. And the echo of that power from your first wish is what sped your steps to the point I had to cheat to keep things interesting.”
“So I could just wish for a new kingdom,” she said. “Only without the goblins or the Labyrinth.”
“No, the kingdom is the clay and my will the shaper. There’s only one slab of clay to be had and it’s spoken for.”
“So it’s your kingdom or none at all.”
“Which I’ve offered to share several times.”
Her eyes narrowed. “No power over me.”
“Except for that.” He glides forwards again, shadows lapping at his heels. “Love me, fear me, command me, obey me– it’s all power one way or another. When the Sarah-that-was said it, it meant I couldn’t stop you from leaving, couldn’t harm you or Toby. So I didn’t.”
He pauses, close enough that her breath catches. “So what does it mean when you say it to me now?”
It was her story.
She took a steadying breath and closed her eyes.
“Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered…”