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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: 4636

Prologue

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five



Nita hadn't seen anything. Nothing had come at her, nothing had talked to her, nothing in the entire city appeared to be alive except for her. She thought she might have preferred it when it had been her mother -- Nita had had Pralaya, even if she couldn't trust him for What was in him, and she'd had... she'd at least had something. Like this, Nita was just trudging through dirty, stagnant, cold water, towards the center of the city that might not qualify as the center of the Labyrinth.

Especially since the city and the canyon kept switching places. Nita would make a turn in the canyon and be in Central Park, but a Central Park that hadn't been this bad even on Ordeal. Then she'd make a turn on a side street and be back in the canyon waiting for the krakens. The longer she walked, taking the turns that should lead her the right way, center-wards, the more she wanted something, anything else alive to talk to...

She turned another corner, back into a street, and leaning against one of the lampposts was a tall, lovely, red-haired young man in... dark slacks and a T-shirt?

Nita stopped dead. There shouldn't be another person here, if what she remembered from the book was more than just a story -- which, obviously, it was. It was the Labyrinth and the King and the runner, not... not that One. Nita knew that face, that lean body, sharp-edged and coldly beautiful as it was, even in casual clothes. Her fists clenched. This was better than wandering.

"Such a look," It said idly, watching her hands tighten.

"Fairest and Fallen," Nita said coolly, glad now that there was nothing else around. She didn't have to worry about Its tricks now -- except that this was still the Labyrinth, and they didn't know how wizardry worked here. Did It? "Greetings, and defiance."

"Greetings," It said, voice still just as easy and idle. "Though there's no particular reason to be defying Me at the moment..."

Nita looked angrily at It. "There's always reason."

"I suppose you would think so, wouldn't you?" It said, looking right back at her, watching her with an odd level of patience, for It.

Nita flushed, and her voice was snappish when she challenged It. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"That after all of the run-ins you and I have had, you would rather think there's always reason -- and not be without it. But you can talk and walk at the same time, and that would probably be wise, right now."

"I'd want to talk to you why?" Nita replied, trying for a calm tone. She didn't turn away from It -- no wizard who wanted to be a live wizard turned her back on It -- but she did start walking again. It wasn't dignified, but she was moving.

"I could always leave again..." It drawled, "but given how loud you were being..."

Nita stopped to stare at It. "What?"

" 'someone, anyone to talk to'..."

"I didn't mean you!" Nita snapped.

"No?" Its head tipped to the side as It walked along beside her, not attempting to lead her or dropping back far enough to follow.

"Why are you even here? I thought you weren't involved in this... " Nita settled on, "place," because she couldn't think of anything that summed up the frustration of the Labyrinth.

"I'm not. Normally. But Ordeals are My business... and you're helping her. So."

"It's not my Ordeal," Nita said, and smirked at It. "I got through mine just fine." Except for everything Nita had lost, and all of the things she'd learned about herself she hadn't wanted to know.

"Did I say it was?" It asked, cocking one brow at her slightly. "Hm... fine might overstate it a bit, I think?"

"I won. You -- " Nita thought about the look on Its face when she'd read, all that pride and that loneliness, and she'd known It could be better than this, she'd known It could be something amazing. Wonderful. She'd been sure of that. She still was, even after everything. The Hesper was proof of that. " -- lost. Close enough."

"I certainly lost a possession or two," It agreed, a certain angry darkness in Its voice.

"How is the Eldest, by the way?" Nita said, and smiled, because she couldn't think of anything that made her blood hum with exhilaration the way fighting the Lone Power did. Even if the only way she could do it now was like this, with nothing but her words and her wits.

"Why, you canny little..." It glared at her, darkly, but mostly without the menace she had felt from some of those looks. "No," It said, as if It had realized something. "Not you, your partner. That was all the scent of noon-steel, very little of your witch-wood."

It had been Kit's idea. Nita -- Ed, by the end of it -- had paid the price for the blank-check power request that had pulled it off, but it had been Kit's spell. "He does good work, wouldn't you say?"

"For some values of the term. And I will give him what credit a piece of spellcraft like that deserves. It was well done."

Nita couldn't have a better partner than Kit. She -- the first time they'd met, Kit's spell had been missing an element. Nita sometimes thought that he'd been right, and it had been her after all. Or she'd been missing one, and it had been him. She was stronger with him than she could be on her own, and the times this One had gotten to her most had been the times Kit wasn't there.

Which was why it worried Nita a little that she was glad he wasn't here now.

It walked along beside her in the quiet of the still city-canyon for a while, before it spoke again. "The Labyrinth is outdoing itself for you..."

Nita didn't glance at It, or raise an eyebrow, or react in any way. Nita kept walking. She didn't want to engage with It. She didn't want it there, walking at her shoulder like It had nothing better to do with Its time.

She wasn't sure just how long she had been continuing to walk -- it felt like fifteen minutes, maybe ten, but this was the Labyrinth. It might've been thirty seconds, or an hour. -- before she couldn't take Its casual silence anymore. "If this isn't my Ordeal, why are you still here talking to me?" It wasn't that she wished It on Sarah, and she definitely didn't wish it on Kit. She just didn't want It being pleasant at her.

"Because she's occupied at the moment," It said with a slight shrug of one shoulder. Such a human motion, she realized, strange for a Power that could be anything It desired...

She glanced at It, wondering just what was "occupying" Sarah with worry. "I'm not?"

"You're just walking," It pointed out. "And you were asking for company."

"I did not," Nita said again, growling, "mean You."

"You say that like I would particularly care..."

Nita sneered, looking over and up at it with irritation. "You're just bored enough to come talk to me anyway?"

It chuckled, the low, light noise mainly devoid of the malice she was used to. "Yes. My siblings, in Their infinite wisdom," Its voice was as much a sneer on that as hers had been a moment before, "orchestrated this Ordeal so that I have little to do."

"So it is just the Goblin King she's fighting," Nita said softly.

"And herself..."

Nita snorted under her breath. "That's the hard part."

"And will be, for the foreseeable future," It agreed.

Nita didn't answer it this time, continuing to trudge through the flooded city. It, Nita noticed, appeared to be perfectly dry. It was, indeed, dry, and It also didn't seem to be in any hurry to leave. She kept walking, biting her lip to keep from wincing when her feet started protesting walking in wet socks and wet shoes. She was going to get blisters from this, Nita just knew it, and that probably meant she'd been walking for too long.

***

Kit had long since learned how to run and keep his eyes wide open and aware of what was going on around him. He hadn't had much of a choice, between being small, Hispanic, and smart enough to skip grades more than once. The trait stood him in good stead as he bolted through the streets of this false New York, because he noticed something as he ran -- a very particular warp up in the plate-glass walls that shimmered, curved, every time he took a corner. He didn't stop, but he thought very hard about that shimmer, the warp in his vision. //I already knew this wasn't real, but... what's that? Why are the -- Illusion. It's an illusion.// The realization struck him hard. He'd already known this wasn't the real city. Seeing that the skyscrapers weren't even real at all, his brain just thought they were because this place was playing tricks on him, Kit stopped in the middle of the street. If he knew this was an illusion, could he make it stop? Show the reality underneath it?

He planted his feet square on on the cracked, broken pavement and closed his eyes. //That's not real. None of this is real,// he told himself silently in the Speech, repeating it in English for good measure, then went on. //None of what's in front of me right now is real, and I am not going to be fooled by this place any more. That city is not real. I don't know what the real is under it, other than another piece of maze, but I am not going to let this place keep me trapped in my nightmares.//

Kit was a wizard. That meant he was fairly used to feeling the world bend in around him, listening. He was used to persuading the world that what he thought was true was real with nothing but his ability with words and his will. Kit was not used to feeling the world bend in and around him and twist, warping painfully as all of it seemed to scream with pain at once.

He'd had the Universe throw worse things at him than the splitting headache that twisting was giving him, by a lot. But it definitely hurt, and the rocks and the steel and the glass screamed as if in agony in his ears, even through the music playing in the earphones. It all wailed in negation as he tried to bend it to his will, and wondering doubt struck him for long moments. Was he really doing right, trying to do this?

He slitted his eyes open, looking at what his will had already wrought, and decided that the headache was worth it if he could just finish convincing the false-landscape in front of him to be gone. He knew it was an illusion, knew even the screaming in his ears was just this damned maze fighting him... He let his eyes fall shut once more, and told himself again, //That is not real.//

Nothing he was looking at, Kit told himself, was really there. It was a trick, something meant to slow him down and scare him. It was all just a trick, and he wasn't going to be fooled. He'd faced worse things than nightmares. Much worse, more often than most people would have ever believed. This wasn't going to beat him. He clenched his jaw, focusing everything he had on banishing that screaming, the false city that was trying to trap him. It whimpered away into stillness, finally. He took more breaths, just to be sure that it had stopped, and opened his eyes.

He might have preferred the city, actually. Because this place really didn't play fair. He could see just the edges, high above him, of the city he was trying to banish. He could also -- and this was the problem -- half-see low stone walls at the level of his eyes, and between the two, the shapes of treetops wrote themselves in airy open patterns.

Three different things in front of him, and Kit had no idea which one was real. He really. Really. Hated this place. Trying to navigate things he could only half-see was going to take forever. But he wasn't going to let it trap him back into that nightmare-city if he could stop it. From the feel of it around him, he could.

Not real, Kit kept telling himself, and started walking again.

***

Sarah could see the junk heaps surrounding the goblin city in the distance, and now she did start running. How much time did she have? How much time did Aaron have? If only she hadn't stopped to talk to Twid, or help the Fiery, or if she'd -- but Sarah couldn't have not gotten Twid's berries or helped the Fiery get loose. It wasn't in her nature.

Sarah just hoped she hadn't trapped Aaron by her actions.

She ran faster.

It was going to put something in her way. Sarah knew the Labyrinth's tricks, and just because she was keeping her eyes on the city so it couldn't run didn't mean she was home free. She had to not trip, for one thing, if she wanted to still have a city to run towards.

***

Her feet really, really hurt, enough that even with It right next to her Nita hadn't been able to hold back a hiss of pain on her last few steps, and given the canyon... Nita didn't want to think about what might happen if she started bleeding into the water. Even just the little bit of blood from burst blisters might be able to call... something.

It paused beside her, turning a... she didn't want to call that look curious, but it seemed the most accurate term... gaze in her direction.

Nita glanced away from It, looking around for somewhere she could stop. For a minute, that was all, just for a -- ha! This building, at least, had big enough steps that some weren't flooded. For the moment. Nita splashed towards it, biting the inside of her lip to muffle the noise of pain.

It followed her, settling -- still irritatingly, perfectly dry, but Nita supposed it wasn't in keeping with the Lone Power's dignity to squelch through dirty seawater like Nita was doing -- on one of the rails a couple of feet away.

Nita continued to ignore It, pulling two band-aids out of her pocket and holding them in her mouth. Then she tried not to think of how stupid she had to look, taking off her shoes and socks and bandaging her heels before putting her bare feet back in the water. Nita shuddered. It felt almost slimy on her skin, not the clear motion of normal water.

It came back to Its feet without so much as a ripple in the water, and... waited. Nita glared at It briefly before she picked a direction at random and went back to walking.

She was getting closer to the center of the city, but every time she noticed something... almost fuzzy, almost unreal, about it from the corner of her eye It moved, or accidentally-probably-on-purpose splashed water in her direction, and Nita lost whatever she'd been thinking in a glare. When she looked again, the city was solid, and Nita dismissed the flickers as the Labyrinth trying to play tricks.

"What did you mean, the Labyrinth was outdoing itself for me?"

"You saw what it looked like before... typically, it sticks with versions of that. Pale red stone maze and all of its other portions. This," It waved a hand, "is more than it would usually do. Hm. Because you're a wizard, very possibly. It has more to work from with someone like you."

"It's only as bad as what you bring with you," Nita said quietly, and laughed under her breath at how Dair would probably snort and say Star Wars had done it better.

"Indeed," It agreed, striding along beside her.

What was Sarah's looking like, now that Nita and Kit weren't there? What was Kit's looking like? That nightmare on the Moon, where he'd lost Ponch? The blank, dull, stagnant beauty of Alaalu? The Hesper's world before It had been able to finish incarnating? Maybe Kit's was like hers, a combination of nightmares. That awful, twisted New York combined with the hive, maybe. She didn't want him to be caught in that again. Not in any of it. But how she was going to get out of this and find him, when she had very little idea of how to get even herself out of her own maze...

The most Nita knew to do was keep going towards the center, even though the canyon kept twisting her away. Backtracking cost her time, and... and how much time had she lost? How little time did she have left?

It turned Its head, looking sideways at something... something she couldn't see at all, even when she twisted her head to as close to the same angle as she could.

She didn't think It would give her an honest answer, but she could at least try, and the lie It told might be able to help her. It really was getting a lot out of ambiguity, these days. More than she had ever expected. "What are you looking at?"

"Elsewhere," It replied, not in the slightest willing to tell her that her frustrating partner was not so far away -- if One looked at things in the right manner, at least.

Nita stopped in the middle of the street, eying It, then looked back where It had. If It could see elsewhere, why couldn't she? This was the Labyrinth, after all, and it built itself off of her. If her will was strong enough, maybe she could -- make it show her what It saw, make it show itself as it really was? Why hadn't she considered that before?

It knew that stubborn, determined look on her face entirely too well by now, and had It been inclined to human gestures of frustration, It would have sighed loudly. Or possibly stomped a foot. It was going to do no such thing.

Nita wasn't moving until she saw what It had. "Come on," she said in the Speech. "I know you aren't real. I know, and I have seen worse things than you, now show me what you really are." She didn't have time to go looking for the Labyrinth's kernel -- the piece of it that held the master codes for this entire realm, that if you held you could change the very structure of the reality around you... If she'd started at the beginning, maybe she could have pulled off finding it, but not now. She had no way of enforcing what she wanted except her will -- but Nita's will was very, very formidable.

The Labyrinth fought her, of course, bucking her wishes, but Nita felt an unexpected tiredness underneath its defense. It was unaccustomed to having its temporary inhabitants attempting to force their will upon it, but it was still very un-inclined to cooperate just because she told it to. The city flickered around her, water levels rising and dropping as it fought back.

Nita had fought the One leaning against the only unmoving wall in the street, and she had won. One maze was not going to beat her, not even this one, and she found herself laughing as she fought it. She'd enjoyed the war against the Fomori, a little to her horror, and she was enjoying this, too. It was so much simpler to deal with the Labyrinth like this, when she knew what the right side was, so much easier to just turn her will against it and make it do what she wanted, stop being this trap built out of her own mind.

Beside her, the Lone One smiled as It watched that fierce pleasure spread across her face, heard the rising clarion of her laughter as she struggled against the Labyrinth's will.

Nita barely noticed that It had moved slightly closer. She certainly didn't notice the look on Its face. She was busy with her fight here. The Labyrinth was old, and stubborn, and it had its own ideas as to how it was supposed to be run. "No," Nita said quietly, the Speech's syllables making the water around her feet drain away. "Not this time. Not like this. Show me."

The Labyrinth shuddered, and with a rush of shattering glass the city shattered around her, falling in sharp-edged, paper thin crystalline pieces. The smile on the Lone One's face became a little more -- harder, sharper, more edged with something unnameable -- as she laughed again with the fierce pleasure of her victory.

Still laughing as it broke, Nita threw her arms up and lowered her head, protecting her face from the glass -- if she'd stopped focusing, even for long enough to make a shield, she knew the city would have reformed. Nita would heal. She wasn't going to let a little pain stop her from beating this thing, not when she was so close.

When she lowered her bleeding arms and lifted her head to see, shaking the glass out of her hair, her mouth fell open. Her first thought came out of her mouth inanely, "I didn't think Sugarloaf was connected to the Labyrinth."

It... laughed. Standing there beside her, looking at the glass shards in her arms, the blood beginning to course down from the cuts, and the stricken awe and confusion in her face, It laughed at her words. "Does this seem like Timeheart to you?" It asked.

Nita glared at It, looking down to start picking shards of glass out of her skin. Now that It mentioned it, the light wasn't right for Timeheart, shining brilliance that seemed to come from a crystalline moon on the horizon. But there was that edge to the world, the clarity you never got in a world caught in time. "This is the real Labyrinth?"

"... as close to real as anything is in this place, I suppose. It looks as it does when no one that doesn't belong here is here," It nodded.

"I guess this explains the king. Jareth, I think Sarah said."

It cocked Its head to the side a little, allowing a mild curiosity to leak into Its voice. "How so?"

Her reply was absent, almost all of her attention caught by the Labyrinth as she turned in a slow circle, staring at the glittering, lacy stone walls around them. "He's beautiful. In a sharp kind of way, like you. He reminded me of the Amadaun."

"That is part of why he exists," It said, watching her turn with that fascinated, enthralled expression on her face, wondering if the enchantment would take on her. This was part of the Labyrinth's lure, after all. That it could be what you desired, as much as what you feared, if that was the better way to trap you...

Nita sighed, looking away from the shining beauty the Labyrinth had turned into. Bleeding, in jeans and a t-shirt, carrying ratty sneakers and dripping socks and her old backpack, she felt as dingy and shopworn as she had staring at the Amadaun in all his glory. "The Amadaun was dangerous. So's he."

"Of course. What use would he be if he wasn't?" It asked, then decided to go back to something she'd said earlier. "Like me?"

Nita blinked at It, then went red as she remembered what she'd said while she was distracted. Jareth was beautiful, like the Amadaun, and like the Lone One. It was too beautiful to be real, sometimes, all clean, sharp lines cutting through the world. She had seen It hurt. She had seen It screaming. She had made It hurt. It was hard to remember that, later, when she was looking at It again, all cool poise and serene danger.

Nita had always known It was beautiful. Everyone knew It was beautiful.

It smiled as It watched her color, the long, slow lazy smile of a cat watching something that pleased it, and was content, for the moment, to wait for her to speak again. Over her shoulder, It saw the boy still moving, still caught in his own version for the moment, and ignored what It had seen in order to watch her. There were still droplets of bright blood falling from her arms to the Labyrinth's stone floor, coursing down the skin of her arms. Traces of pain were written all across her body, in the corners of her eyes and her full mouth, the way she stood... but she was too lost in what she was seeing, and thinking, to pay full attention to the pain. Beautiful that way, all focus and intent even with the color rising in her cheeks...

"Like you," she said steadily, refusing to back down or take back her words in the face of Its gaze. That was a dangerous precedent for a wizard. "Beautiful like you."

It just looked at her for long moments, letting her steady regard and the admission settle under Its skin, and then Its smile widened. "Well. Honesty in all things, my lady wizard? My thanks, I suppose."

Nita went redder, but she wouldn't look away. "You wouldn't be nearly as good at what you do if you weren't."

She couldn't quite tell what the expression was on Its face for a moment or two, then It nodded, expression clearing into amused pleasure again. "True."

Nita eyed it curiously, wondering. Had that been a trace of sullenness to the curve of Its mouth? She didn't have time to try and figure out Its motivations -- how much time had she wasted just gawking?

It looked right back at her. "Rare that someone admits it -- in more than my title, at least."

... Nita would be much happier when she stopped blushing for It. "Peach called you the Beautiful One. Fred said you were beautiful before you Fell, and kept it after." She was not going to repeat the rest of what Fred had said, not with It still staring at her.

"My brother," It said idly, watching her cheeks color in fascination, "is somewhat biased, if in a strange fashion."

"Sister," Nita said automatically, her recollection of the indignant shock in Ronan's voice when Nita had used female pronouns for the One's Champion making her smile.

"Micheal, Athene, 'Peach', Thor, yes," It agreed with her, fairly casually.

But then, It was a Power -- it had been as comfortable being Esemeli and her very feminine beauty as it was now, lounging against a pillar and decidedly male. The Powers went through names and genders like Nita went through clothes. They might favor one particular color or style over another, but it was all external.

Over her shoulder, It saw the boy again, and... Its eyes sharpened, as the boy seemed to see them. If the way he had picked up into a dead run was any sign, at least.

Nita's eyes narrowed at the suddenly focused gleam of Its eyes, turning to see what had caught Its attention. She relaxed into a grin, breaking out into a run. "Kit!"

With a long, sharp look, It vanished.

***



on to Chapter Seven

Date: 2009-01-25 04:02 am (UTC)
sharpest_asp: Nate Ford sitting on a bench, Sophie Devereaux resting against his lap (Default)
From: [personal profile] sharpest_asp
Intriguing.

Date: 2009-01-25 10:44 pm (UTC)
ilyena_sylph: picture of Labyrinth!faerie with 'careful, i bite' as text (Default)
From: [personal profile] ilyena_sylph
+grins+ thanks much, honey. +hugs+

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