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Title: Knew you at all
Summary: Sarah Williams wants to be a wizard.
Author's Notes: Crossover between the movie Labyrinth and Diane Duane's Young Wizards series. Co-written between [livejournal.com profile] katarik and [livejournal.com profile] ilyena_sylph.
Word count: 5082

Prologue

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three


As Sarah fell screaming, Kit snapped "Stop!" in the Speech at the rock, following it with a "Please?" a moment later, trying to coax it not to close up behind her.

The rock closed firmly, but there was a slightly apologetic sound to its click as it shut, leaving no trace of the trapdoor that had opened under Sarah.

"...how did we let it get her?" Kit asked, looking at Nita as his grip on her hand tightened. "We're supposed to be her backup."

"We forgot that this place isn't nice," Nita answered, looking furiously at the floor. "And it doesn't play fair."

Kit took the headphones out and knelt down without ever letting that grip loosen. "Okay," he said in the Speech quietly. "I know you had to close... but you're a door. You could open back up, couldn't you?"

The door's answer was hesitant. [Not supposed to... ]

"Why not?" he asked it quietly, petting along its edges gently.

[You're together. Three of you, all from outside. That is not the way.]

"What is the way, then?" Kit asked it, still petting the stone lightly. Everything liked to be appreciated, and to be treated well. He knew he wasn't going to like the answer, but it would be more than he had right now. Information always helped, one way or another -- and he sounded way too much like Dairine for his own comfort, right then. He shook that off to listen to the stone as it answered him.

[One person, one way. We split you up, run separately, face us alone. It is our way.]

"What's going to happen if we don't let you split us up?"

[We will make you.] The answer came with all the firm certainty of stone.

Kit swallowed, and looked up at Nita. "Don't suppose you heard the flagstone..."

Nita shook her head, a little worried at the look on Kit's face.

"It says they're going to make us split up."

The look Nita felt on her own face was familiar. It was the same sort of expression she'd worn when she had read from the Book, the kind of determination that drove roots through rock. "Good luck with that."

The rock under Kit's hand asked quietly, [Do you want to stay?]

"Here? Not a chance. Together? Yes. We're partners," Kit answered fiercely.

[We care not,] the rock told him, solid and firm as its substance. [Together is not the way.]

"It's our way," Kit replied flatly, squeezing Nita's hand.

[Warned you,] the rock said, and fell silent.

"... Thanks for the warning," Kit told it, stroking its edges one more time before getting up. "Neets? I think it's about to start being not-nice again."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah," Kit agreed, casting a rueful grin her way. "I'm missing wizardry."

"Me too," Nita nodded, agreeing with him completely on that topic. If she'd ever been tempted to walk on air again, it was right now. "Hey, switch hands, real careful. I'm starting to lose circulation in that one."

Kit let go of her hand. After he'd already grabbed the next one. He had no plans to fall screaming through a hole in the floor that hadn't been there the second before -- watching Sarah do it had been bad enough. He wasn't about to do that to Nita. -- or let this place steal her away from him with one of those tricks.

"Thanks," Nita told him as she worked her hand for a couple of minutes, bringing circulation back into it. "Okay. We don't know where we are, but we know the castle's in the center of this thing. That means... thattaway, right?"

"Best as I can tell," Kit agreed, then gave Nita a worried look. "You think she'll be okay solo?"

Nit bit her lip, then gave her partner an equally long look. "You got any good ideas on how to find her, Kit?"

He had to shake his head -- not that he liked the situation at all, but she was right. "Not if we don't trust this place not to eat wizardry. She'll probably be better off solo than we would be. She knows what she's getting into."

"Yeah. I mean. I know we need to get back to her, we're supposed to be her backup, but I can't think of any way to get to her. Here's hoping our paths cross as we get closer to the center?"

"Nothing else to do," Kit agreed, scowling thoughtfully at the floor.

Nita nodded, sent one of her own glares at the flagstone that had been a trap just waiting to spring, and started trying to get out of the wrong turn they'd taken. She resisted the urge to stomp on it as they went past -- that would be petty, and it wasn't all the stone's fault. She hoped Sarah would be all right -- so far, this Ordeal was more aggravating than theirs had been, but less dangerous. It might even stay that way.

***

She hadn't really known where to go when she landed in the grass. But left hadn't gotten her anywhere she'd wanted to be, so Sarah did something she hadn't done in years. She shut her eyes tight and started spinning around, holding out her arms, and when she was dizzy she stopped, staggering a little, and started walking the way her right arm had been pointing.

She hadn't, Sarah noticed as she walked, been here before. Some kind of meadow at the base of a tower -- were Kit and Nita still in there? But they hadn't been climbing a tower, she would have noticed that, surely. Sarah wouldn't put it past the Labyrinth to have dumped her at the other end of itself. Physics didn't work like that, but physics and the Labyrinth didn't have anything to do with each other. She'd learned that a long time ago.

Sarah had no idea how long she'd been walking, but at least she was finally out of the meadow. In a forest, this time, but she didn't think it was the Fiery's forest. Even though she was sure she could hear things moving around her, and her skin was prickling. Sarah didn't pause, but she lifted her head and said, clearly and in the Speech, "Anyone there?"

A chorus answered her, the quiet sussuration of leafrustle of [of course we're here] from the trees, a low rumble of quiet Speech from the earth below, and many piping cries of [I'm here!] from a multitude of small creatures in and around the trees.

Sarah grinned, amused almost despite herself. "Glad to hear you all." But it wasn't what she'd meant. It was strange to feel honestly threatened in the Labyrinth proper, not just the part of it where Jareth happened to be. Sarah had been frustrated by the Labyrinth before, and a little worried, even scared, but she couldn't see anything that was threatening her now. Which didn't mean she wasn't sure it was there. She was. She knew when something was lurking outside her vision, waiting.

There or not, whatever it was obviously didn't mean to show itself right then, so she moved on, listening to the trees talking to themselves. Something about the fall collages, and who was taking up too much of the sunlight, and when was the next rain going to fall, did anyone have a sense about that? The trees were distracting enough that she almost didn't see the shape of the small, female goblin struggling with a ragged pack much bigger than she was until she had almost fallen over the knee-high creature. Sarah ended up falling over herself in the rush to get backwards enough to avoid the little goblin, landing square on her rump again, looking at the little goblin. "Sorry!" she apologized hastily. "I'm so sorry!"

"You didn' step on me, biggun," the little female said, nearly toppling over as she craned her neck up to look in Sarah's eyes. She had short, deep brown fur, ragged, of course, and sharp fox-like features with big, liquid gold eyes. "Issa okie."

Sarah smiled at her. "Thanks." Nothing is as it seems in this place, her own advice re-echoing in her head, and Sarah wondered if she was taking this for granted. She got back to her feet, brushing her pants off again. "I'm glad you're okay."

"Biggun?" the little goblin asked, blinking up at her as she pointed well up over her head, sharp claws at her fingertips. "Can reach that?" The 'that' in question was apparently a clump of dark purple fruits, small as raspberries but hanging like grapes, dangling in a cluster from one of the nearby trees.

The answer, Sarah decided, was probably yes, but assuming that she was taking the presence of a threat for granted was just as much taking things for granted as assuming a goblin woman maybe as tall as her knee -- maybe -- wasn't a threat. Sometimes the Labyrinth gave her a headache. She pulled a glove out of her backpack, slipping it on before she reached for the berries.

The little goblin clapped approvingly, hopping up and down with glee. "Clever biggun not to touch! And yays, done earlies, I be!!"

Sarah smiled at her, carefully dipping to add the berries to her pack. "Glad I could help."

"Tankyu!" the goblin chirriped. "Back to city I goes," she chattered cheerfully as she reached back to flip the pack closed and start to trot down the faint trace of a pathway. "And 'times to get din, too! Oh, good day... good, good day... and a nice biggun, did you ever think to see that again, feet?"

Sarah smiled after her, listening to the chatter of the goblin woman fading, before she carefully removed the glove and stuck it inside-out in a ziplog bag. She took the granola bars out, first, and slipped then into her pockets. She was sure she didn't want to touch anything that those berries had touched, and -- and what had she wanted them for, exactly? And where had she said she was going... surely it couldn't be that easy. Surely.

She could still hear the little goblin's voice, faintly. Push was coming to shove, and Sarah had no idea whether to trust the faint pathway or keep wandering.

The problem with the Labyrinth, Sarah thought, was that you couldn't be sure when it was being itself and when it was being exactly what you expected it to be. Sarah knew all of the fairytale rules -- help something, and it would help you. But Sarah also knew about traps now, in ways she hadn't when she was fourteen. Sarah knew about ambushes, too. She knew about razor blades and poisoned needles in apples, and pits filled with spikes under the road you wanted to take.

The other thing she knew was that every offer had a time limit. And she didn't know how much of the thirteen hours remained.

Sarah started walking down the path. Her strides were much longer, so it wasn't really that much of a surprise when she caught up with the trotting goblin woman before very long had passed.

At the sound of a twig breaking under her foot, the goblin spun around, shaking a tiny fist at her even as she struggled for her balance and nearly fell over on the pack. "Whatchoo startle me fores, biggun?! You no makea me fall!"

//This goblin doesn't seem so bad,// Sarah told herself. //Funny, almost silly. Not so scary...// "I heard you say you were going to the city. I'm trying to get there, too. Would you mind if I walked with you?"

The goblin's sharp eyes narrowed. "Goblin city? Why biggun --- biggun runs the Labyrinth. Biggun... biggun is Sarah. Twid not gets in trouble with GoblinKing for youse... but youse helped." A considering look went across the goblin's sharp features, before she spoke again. "Not helping if not say nothing. If biggun wants to follow, biggun follows. Twid too small to run away from biggun..."

Sarah grinned at her, amused at the goblin-logic there. "Then I won't offer to carry your pack, and you can pretend you didn't notice me."

"Did youse hear something, feets?" Twid asked her feet, and went right back to jogging along -- at what made up a decent pace for a 'biggun'.

Sarah hid her laugh behind her hand and followed, not really bothering to keep an eye on landmarks. If the goblin woman was leading her wrong, landmarks wouldn't do her any good -- the Labyrinth would just switch them around when she tried to find her way back.

***

Nita glared at the skinny tunnel in front of them, completely unamused by its presence, and less amused that it was the only way out of their current area. "I couldn't have fit through that when I was ten. Give me a break."

Kit glared at the tunnel too, muttering under his breath -- very carefully not in the Speech -- that this was not funny, and it probably wasn't the right way anyway, and... "Nita? I'm going to try a spell, see if I can't get that rock to open out a little. I mean, I don't think I could get through there, either. Not easy, and there's no way we could keep hold of each other. So either we back-track, or..."

"Trust the Mason's Word to get this rock to open and not eat either of us halfway through?"

"Yeah, pretty much... though I was thinking about trying to just spell it open some more..."

Nita eyed it. "I'm not sure I trust it... " Then she glanced behind her, and her eyes sparked hot with the flare of her temper. "But I don't think we have another option. There wasn't a dead end the way we came five minutes ago, was there?"

Kit looked backwards, seeing the same closed stone walls she had, walls that barred off everything but this choice, and his lips tightened in a rush of temper just as high. "No. No, there wasn't. Okay. Here goes nothing..." he started working, laying out the verbal components of a spell to coax that tunnel to widen, laying down the reasons why it could have been before... or would be soon, and why couldn't it be already?

Nita waited, not willing to give this thing a chance to eat both of them. Kit had to do wizardry. Fine. Nita didn't, not yet.

The stone groaned, and complained, and called Kit some truly vile names, but it slowly, grudgingly, opened out as far as they could see. It was still a narrow tunnel, but they could scrape through it if they crabwalked. Nita was fine with crabwalking as long as she didn't let go of Kit's hand.

She whispered a few words, and a tiny ball of light sprang up above them, just enough to keep either of them from freaking out about the darkness. The first time she'd found and used this spell, things she wanted to say to Fred had kept flickering through her mind... that had mostly gone away a long time ago. She wasn't sure why the urge had struck now, when there was nothing to bring it to mind, but... she put that ache away

It was that light that let her see the tunnel narrowing on the space between the two of them. "Kit..."

"Yeah, Ni... oh. Oh, this is not funny."

"I think," Nita said tightly, watching the contracting rock as it squeezed closer around their hands, "that it passed not being funny a long time ago."

"Right there with you," Kit agreed, trying to push back closer to her despite the way the rock was pushing in.

The rock contracted faster. Nita got the distinct impression that it was enjoying the chance to move so freely, and she also got the impression that the only reason it hadn't already slammed shut was that it was giving them a chance to let go before it had to break their grip itself. //So nice of it,// she thought bitterly.

"Neets?"

"I think it's going to end up winning this round, el Niño."

"I'll find you," he told her, turning his head to look straight into her eyes. "We're partners."

"Not if I find you first," Nita said back, and she let go of his hand, shutting her eyes.

The wall shut between them with a sliding, triumphant laugh echoing in the grind of the stone. Once it was quiet, she opened her eyes again. In front of her, light slowly began to seep through a crack in the wall. "At least you are letting me out," Nita muttered to the rock under her breath, waiting until the crack widened enough for her to walk through. Then she paused, and in the moment it took for her to grasp the new landscape she started swearing in languages most humans wouldn't recognize. Not the Speech, but some of the bits of alien tongues she was picking up off Kit's cable and their work on errantry.

This wasn't fair. This was cheap, this was -- using her mother to play this game!



Nita made herself stand still, despite how much she wanted to turn and run. 'Things weren't always what they seemed', Sarah had said, and this wasn't that awful race for the kernel all over again. It was a flooded, sick-smelling terminal, full of the scent of stagnant salt water and rot, that was all this was, but it felt like her mother's inner world. Cold and damp and in pain.

She bit her lip harder, and dipped down to fold the legs of her jeans up before she put her foot down into the floodwaters, then the other, slogging down into it with every bit of her determination. The Mason's Word -- even the variant Kit had used -- hadn't fully worked, she wasn't about to try the walk on water spell. She would just deal with the soaked clothes. Nothing in this water was trying to bite her, at least. Yet, Nita qualified. This trip didn't have a Prayala, or What he'd carried around inside him. And this trip didn't have her mother's life on it -- that was already gone.

//If it's acting like New York, even just this much...// She had always been able to find her way in her own city. That gave her hope. Above her head were none of the murals, none of the beauty of Grand Central... there was only the suggestion of the multi-leveled concourse in the -- her head whipped around at a rustling slide, staring up above her at the long slide of dark, almost-glowing tail that disappeared into a crevasse. It looked almost like the Eldest's tail, and Nita went cold. No wizardry meant that she had no shield, and Nita had had nightmares for ages of not getting that shield up fast enough when she and Kit had met the Eldest's flame.

She didn't hear it again, and the water was still and unmoving other than the ripples she left behind as she kept walking.

Her Ordeal, and her mother... what else was this maze going to throw at her?

She knew Grand Central, and if this was somehow based on it... she picked up her pace, making for the stairs out -- and while she came out into light, it wasn't the city that sprawled around her.

"... Physics doesn't work like this," Nita said aloud, even though the words came out small and choked. The canyon she had traveled down for the Song couldn't exist in open air. It wasn't possible for the forces that had torn it open to act on the surface. But here it was anyway. The great, deep Gate of the Sea, the western border of Alfallone before the Twelvesong had been betrayed and it paid the price, could not be here. But she stood at the bottom of its slope, looking up at the immensity of the walls.

Nita shut her eyes. If this was the Gate of the Sea, fine. Nita could play that way. She had been the Silent Lord, the willing sacrifice to rescue the Sea from the Lone One's hold, Ed or no Ed, and it wasn't that hard to pull the Song back into her head. Even silently.

Nita opened her eyes and began walking.

***


Kit had never been so tempted to say quite so many utterly foul things in his life as he was as he stared at the wall that had separated him from his best friend. Not when the DVD player and the remote refused to talk to each other and both of them didn't want anything to do with the television. Not when his sister "accidentally" ordered a set of alien sex toys via the intergalactic cable he hadn't yet shut off and broke a dozen laws doing it. Not even when he'd had to nearly exhaust himself tearing the open gate to Mars Dairine had left open out of its moorings in the planetarium. But there wasn't anything he could do about it except get through this maze and get his partner back. Kit spent another ten seconds glaring at the wall, thinking the curses in his head, then turned around grimly.

He could do this. No. Not could. He was going to. He'd dealt with worse than this hunk of chatty rock and eye-blinking plants and nasty tricks, more than once. And nothing, especially said hunk of rock, was going to get between him and finding her.

He pushed his way out of the tunnel.... and his breath froze in his throat as he stared up at dark buildings with blank, malevolent glassy 'eyes', echoing dark steel-and-glass towering up over him -- //It can't be, I would have seen it from the hill!// The prayerful thought slammed through his brain even as that same dark sense of being watched settled in right between his shoulderblades and in the pit of his stomach. The fear froze him to stillness for long moments, just as it had that first time.

He didn't have Nita. He didn't have Fred. There wouldn't even be a Lotus in here -- because this wasn't the real city, Kit told himself. Looking more closely, he could see that. He could see that only the closest buildings even really seemed like it. This wasn't really that twisted copy of his city. Something was watching him -- someThing, maybe, even.

But this wasn't that awful Other New York ruled by the Dark Book and It. It wasn't. It was just... this place was using his nightmares, Kit realized. Oh, God, Nita.

There were things about Nita that Kit was just never going to get. His nightmares were bad enough, especially after Darryl, but Nita -- Kit had never fought the Lone One for his mother's life. It wasn't Kit who had been reading from the Book and looking up into the Lone One's face, changing Its name and Its reality. It wasn't Kit's sister who'd been lying so still Kit had thought she was dead on a red, glassy planet. It wasn't Kit who had been the Silent Lord, even though Kit had known that he wasn't going to just let Nita die. He couldn't break the Song and have millions of people die, but he could go with her.

Nita's nightmares were worse, and when he got hold of that smirking, bad eighties pop-star reject that needed some serious dental work...

Kit's face set. Something was going to bleed once he caught up with it -- or It -- and it wasn't going to be him. Or Nita. Or Sarah. But to be able to give the Goblin King the piece of his mind and Will he intended, he had to get through this -- he wanted, so badly, to be able to mock what he was standing in. He wanted to be able to call it false, and half-assed, and nothing but a bad copy... but still that aching sense of menace sat where he couldn't touch it, or do enough to force it away -- version of one of the worst days of his life. //All right, it's the City,// Kit told himself. //Let's head for City Center.//

Kit started walking, and he felt very small under the gaze of whatever was watching him. No Nita, no Fred, no Lotus, not much wizardry Kit would be willing to trust... but he'd made it through Its city when it was the real thing, and this was just a maze trying to scare him.

Kit felt very small, but pieces of the Labyrinth scooted away as he approached.

That salved his pride some, but 'pride goeth before a fall' and 'overconfidence will kill you' had both long since been drummed into his head. He'd just take what he could get, and get moving. At least he could run, here.

New York wasn't a maze. Couldn't be, at least not for him, but Kit didn't grin. He just ran faster, because if it wasn't a maze that just meant something else would get thrown in his way. And they were running short on time.

***

Jareth was very, very carefully not using anything of his to keep an eye on what Sarah -- or the pair of young wizards -- were doing in his Labyrinth. He didn't want to know where she was, or how she was doing. He didn't want to be tempted to interfere. And in any case, he had his hands more than slightly full with three of his subjects and Aaron. He was far too busy with his goblin babe to be watching... guests.

He could understand why Melissa had been so desperate to wish the child away, really. Children were work, and could be as much nightmare as dream, if they hadn't been dreamed of to begin with. Why Sarah had wanted him back so badly... that was the part that he couldn't understand. Why on earth one human baby that wasn't even hers, and wasn't wanted by his own mother, had mattered enough to her that she'd wept, when nothing he had done had ever made her cry the first time. Some of her tears had just made her more beautiful, in the times he had watched her wake with his name on her lips and fear in her eyes... but those tears had been like talons at his throat.

"What's so special about you?" Jareth murmured to the boy on his lap, lips close to the baby's ear. "What makes her care so much about you?"

He shook his head, bouncing the baby slowly on his knee as he tried, again, to understand her baffling mindset; why it had hurt her so much to have this stranger-child wished away. He didn't think she had ever even seen this boy before. It wasn't as though that brave, defiant little mother -- Melissa -- had been family of some sort.

Jareth hoped that he would not hear from Melissa again. Mothers who had wished away their children had, in the past, ended up wishing themselves away as well, from their families' reprisals if nothing else. Though she did still have a claim on him for the gift of her child -- well. They would see.

He barely noticed the goblins that were chasing a chicken in that corner, or the ones that were baiting each other into a game of who could chug the most ale -- old, familiar noises not worth paying any attention to in comparison to this prob --

His head came up as he felt the Labyrinth shift massively, multiple times in different areas, and the awareness of new landscapes within its boundaries caught him almost by surprise. "Well," Jareth said quietly. "It looks like our pair of new wizards has gotten themselves into trouble, hmm, goblin babe?"

Aaron gurgled up at him, clapping his small, pudgy hands, and Jareth rose to look out of one of the castle's many windows.

"Problems with heights, little wizards?" he asked the air, looking out at the new canyon cutting through what had been a perfectly lovely stone circle-maze, and the shimmering mirrors that were reflecting... quite the cityscape where part of it had fallen into disrepair, before. "What have you two been dreaming about, to bring that up... ?" He might just have to see if he could find out, at some point later. But that great canyon... he might see if the Labyrinth wanted to keep that. Oh, the bridges they could build over it, thin and frail...

Jareth smiled, the sort of edged, vicious smile that would make someone watching wonder how far they would have to run to avoid those teeth, and tucked Aaron closer in against his chest as he hummed to himself, looking out over his domain's new and fascinating features. That was the one mildly useful thing about having a wizard or two -- or even a truly strong potential -- inside it. They had the strength of will to create from their dreams their worst challenges.

He wondered what Sarah was making.

He was not looking. This was her Ordeal. She had to make it, or not, all on her own -- which reminded him that he needed to go and make sure that all three of her old friends were far, far away from her in other corners of the Labyrinth. He didn't trust the gatekeeper to stay away from her, even after Jareth had used small words to explain why he could not help her this time. And the Labyrinth's rocks had always had entirely too strong a relationship with that red-furred mammoth creature that was so very fond of her. If they got to talking, despite his warnings.... yes, he had things to do, to ensure that her success or failure was by her own strength or weakness. "Come along, Aaron. Let's go see some of her friends while we wait."

Six hours and thirteen minutes left, Jareth thought, and he wasn't sure if he hoped Sarah was close or hoped that she wasn't.

***


come along to Chapter Five

Date: 2009-01-21 12:27 am (UTC)
sharpest_asp: Nate Ford sitting on a bench, Sophie Devereaux resting against his lap (Default)
From: [personal profile] sharpest_asp
Very interesting. Like the little goblin.

Date: 2009-01-22 03:08 am (UTC)
ilyena_sylph: picture of Labyrinth!faerie with 'careful, i bite' as text (only forever)
From: [personal profile] ilyena_sylph
+GRINS+

She was meant to be a likeable critter.

Date: 2009-01-22 04:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] katarik.livejournal.com
Ilyena did a good job with Twid; she's meant to be likable.

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