Categories > Movies > Labyrinth

Turn Back

by shadowlurker13 0 reviews

a wish that Jareth could intervene when it counts...

Category: Labyrinth - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Angst,Drama - Published: 2017-07-22 - 6566 words - Complete

Turn Back
By Shadowlurker13


Summary: A desperate plea to an unlikely source…

(Once again, I don’t own Jareth or the Labyrinth or anything and this is not a for-profit endeavor.)

Julia’s heart was pounding as she raced into the tiny, grungy bathroom with her little sister and quickly locked the door. She was hoping that her mom’s boyfriend wasn’t trashed enough to try to break down the door as she quickly whispered her wish under the drunken screaming.

“I wish the goblins would come and take you away right now.”

Within moments the electricity went out, her arms that had been holding two-year-old Grace were suddenly empty and she was face-to-face with the only person who could possibly make any difference. Jareth realized that he had materialized in an open shower stall so small there wasn’t even enough room to bend over and strode out right in front of the girl. She couldn’t have been older than about eight: lanky-skinny with deep olive skin and a shock of black hair that ran unevenly down her back. Bright shining dark brown eyes open wide. He took note of the din outside the room.

“I take it there isn’t time for the usual formalities,” he stated wryly with a cold smirk, producing the crystal. “Your dreams…” The girl watched him in wonder. They always did. Then a look of resignation came over her face and she shook her head.

“Dreams aren’t going to solve my problems. Can I run your labyrinth?” He started back, a bit surprised.

“But, why? Didn’t you want to be rid of your sister?”

“Not really. I just wanted to get her out of here for a while.” A violent slam came down on the door, making Julia jump. Her mother’s boyfriend had apparently found them.

“I know you’re in there, you worthless little bitch! Come out!”

She looked at Jareth like, ‘well?’ Without another word they both disappeared.


They appeared on a hill carpeted with dried grass. At the foot was the outer wall of the Labyrinth, stretching to infinity. The king of the goblins watched the girl take it all in, closing her eyes at the feel of a sudden gentle breeze on her face, smelling the scent of the air. It wasn’t the first time that he had been summoned to a bad household but it certainly caught him off-guard how grown-up this child seemed. She almost appeared to know what she was doing here. She turned to face him.

“If I fail, you’ll turn Grace into a goblin, right?”


She simply nodded. Not frightened, not distraught, just a matter-of-fact attitude that was beginning to get under Jareth’s skin. He took a step closer.

“Don’t you realize what’s going on? Don’t you realize who I am, what I’m capable of?” He bent a bit to look her in the eye. “Aren’t you afraid of me?”

She shrugged. “A little, I guess, but I’m used to it.” She started off down the hill toward the gate. “That’s where I get in, right?”

Dumbfounded, he nodded. “I cannot help you further.” And with that he quickly vanished. In his place was a floating clock with thirteen hours.

Julia sighed. “I didn’t think so.”


Jareth paced his throne room impatiently waiting for time to expire. The general fighting, drinking, and hijinks of his rabble only ever seemed to stop for intermittent naps. At present they were in their chaotic upswing again and the little girl in the room was currently chasing some of them around, giggling. He briefly reflected upon what an odd purpose he had - making faerie creatures out of human mortals - but it was the talent the Fates had given him and so he must use it. Perhaps this underdeveloped throng would magically evolve and be useful someday. Jareth wasn’t holding his breath.

He fell comfortably into his throne and draped one leg over the side. Producing a crystal he summoned the image of his current runner to see how hopelessly lost she was - only to find her meandering at random in the outer stone maze. She didn’t seem concerned with any sense of direction or urgency at all; she was merely admiring the architecture and having fun with the brief flights of stairs, racing down them. How odd, he thought, extinguishing the crystal, and sitting back.

Something felt wrong here. Was she trying to lose on purpose? She could’ve just stayed home with his present if that was the case. And she seemed to actually care about her sister. Or did she? Something was very wrong. She had inadvertently mentioned one tell-tale fact: she was accustomed to fear, so much so that it almost seemed normal to her. The point shouldn’t have bothered him so much but it did; it was an itch, a buzzing that wouldn’t leave him in peace. Ah well, he was due to harass her in about half-an-hour; he could grill her then, he mused. He tried to distract himself with the antics in the room and scooped up Grace as she ran by the throne again. On a whim he played horsey with her.


Without trying at all, Julia had stumbled upon the four guards that barred the doors out of the stone maze into the garden and the oubliette. With her quick wit and natural people skills she had almost instantly befriended them and they were all laughing and talking up a storm by the time Jareth dropped in to pester her. The guards saw him first - he had materialized behind Julia - and she was surprised to see them suddenly straighten up (as well as they could straighten in the ridiculous position they were in) and as one they saluted, silent. She turned around to face him. That seemingly permanent, aristocratic smirk played about his lips.

“Trying to wheedle your way past having to answer that infernal riddle, eh?”

“What riddle?”

Jareth blinked. “…you weren’t trying to get through?”

“No,” she said casually, crossing her arms. Jareth couldn’t take her cool apathy any more.

“Then what in blue blazes are you attempting to accomplish here?!” Julia started a bit, then realized that the outburst was only from frustrated confusion and relaxed again.

“I told you, we needed to get out of the house. This accomplishes that pretty well, don’t you think? Neither my mom or her boyfriend will be able to even find us for half a day!”

Jareth gave a mirthless little laugh. “Quite a way to run away from home.”

“I’ve tried. It didn’t work; the police didn’t believe me then. I doubt they’d believe me now.”

Jareth frowned. “And where is your father in all of this?”

Julia looked away. “He died of a cocaine overdose when I was six.” Her composure was shocking, the adaptive behavior of someone who has had to deal with a rough life for a very long time. Jareth examined her face in the better light and immediately realized his mistake: what he had taken for youth in the dark was in fact natural shortness; the girl was probably closer to ten and maybe a little malnourished. Still…

“Julia,” he said carefully, “you realize this isn’t a game. Your little sister is going to become one of us.”

“But will she be happy?” That garnered a quizzical expression.

“They appear to be on the whole.”

She nodded, looking down. “…okay.”

“If you’re conceding the game, that means I have to send you home.”

“No! You can’t!”

“Oh, can’t I?” he shot her cool hauteur back at her, folding his own arms. “Then what do you propose to do?” She thought for a couple seconds before coming to the obvious solution.

“Can I stay here, too?” Jareth raised an eyebrow.

“You’re too old to turn, you know. You’d be here as you are.”

“That’s okay, I can manage. I always have.”

The king of the goblins looked the girl up and down, circling her, sizing her up. She was a half-starved little waif but she had guts, determination and a brain. Always take something that’s free, he thought, even if you have to get rid of it later - which was probably sooner in this case. What could he possibly do with her? Still it was a legal, if unusual, request. He decided to test her seriousness. He stopped in front of her.

“If you’re really going to go through with this, you’d better kneel.” Julia quickly got down on her knees, carefully adjusting her weight with her toes so she could balance without too much pressure. The stone pavement hurt a little but she didn’t care. Jareth straightened to his full height and gazed down his nose at her. “Do you swear to respect and obey me for the rest of your days, pledging fealty to me alone, ready to serve me even at the cost of your own life if it should come to that? And since you are young I am going to make one point here infallibly clear: this means if I tell you to do something - anything - you have to do it without hesitation, question, or complaint. You act otherwise at your own peril; I show no favoritism among my subjects. And my every whim is law. Do what you’re told and you will have the protection of the Crown and the goblin army beside you. Are you truly prepared to swear your eternal allegiance to me?” There; he’d laid it all on the line, plain as day. Jareth felt he was relatively safe. This child had been raised and indoctrinated into the ridiculously lax human system of democracy. Surely she would never agree to all that!

Julia was torn. Part of her wanted to leave this freaky situation, go back home to her usual freaky situation, maybe try running away to a shelter. But there was Grace to consider: she’d have to leave her behind now. If her mom ever found out, she’d kill her. Life was always going to be a struggle back there, one she doubted she’d win. Even if she survived long enough to be emancipated in six years she’d still have to deal with her mom for the rest of her life. That habitual mode of thinking made her feel a little guilty. But it wasn’t her fault they were so much alike! It was why they didn’t get along, though, and her mother’s addictions didn’t help anything in that direction. Neither did her choice of adult playmates since the death of her husband; they had all been trouble in different ways but Brett got angry when he was drunk, which was a whole ‘nother ballgame.

On the other hand, she could stay. While the evils of absolute totalitarian monarchy had been drilled into her in public school, she couldn’t deny the appeal of knowing exactly what was expected of you and being treated accordingly. It sure beat being abused and neglected when she had done practically nothing to deserve it. She would be protected here, maybe even cared for. Even if she had to earn a living, that was okay she guessed. She was young and healthy and strong. Maybe she’d even get to see Grace sometimes. She swallowed and took a deep breath.

“I swear,” she said, looking up at the king.

Jareth was genuinely taken aback. If they had been alone he would’ve been able to deny such a catastrophe later but the guards had witnessed the whole thing and she had spoken her answer loudly enough that he was sure they had heard. Damn. Oh well; what was said had been said and could not be undone. Better make the best of it.

“You may rise.” Julia slowly stood, stretching her aching knees. He paced a moment before speaking again. “Now that you’re mine I have to decide what to do with you. I don’t particularly fancy taking you to the city unprepared - I can almost guarantee your presence would start a riot. They’re a bit…how to put it…nervous around human girls nowadays. I need time to think this out. Wait here until I return.” He began to walk away but Julia came after him.

“Your majesty?” He stopped and looked back.


“If it wouldn’t be too much trouble…sire…I haven’t had anything to eat since breakfast. I’m awfully hungry.”

Jareth sighed. There was no point in starving the little creature. He walked past her and came up to the left door in the wall. The guard gave a quick bow and shuffled aside so the king could open it. Julia watched him walk through the portal a few steps then stop and look back over his shoulder.

“Aren’t you coming?” She quickly followed him through and into the hedge maze. After a few twists and turns he suddenly came to a stop and seemed to check his bearings, deciding which was the right way. He pointed to his left. “Follow that passageway to its dead end. You will find a small grove of apple trees. Help yourself but stay put until I come and get you.”

“Thank you,” Julia said gravely, giving an awkward unpracticed curtsey. Then she took off in a run. Jareth just shook his head, watching her go. In certain ways she was a natural for this place. There was just one, glaring little problem.

An unturnable child, Jareth grimaced, walking away. Of all the rotten luck. A human man could provide labor. A human woman could be amusing. But an unturnable human child was simply a liability he could not afford. There were simply too many things that could happen to her here - she was too young to protect herself, too young to be fully prepared for the environment she had just chosen. She wouldn’t last a year. He couldn’t baby-sit her until she was an adult! He didn’t have the time by a long-shot and what would become of his fearsome reputation? One very simple solution almost instantly presented itself: legally she was his possession and, as such, he could sell her. He could sell her to the pixies; they would give quite a bit for a strong child. It was against his principles to do business with them, though. The ones they took themselves they stole without so much as an ‘I wish’ uttered. Jareth’s operation was a straightforward business, not a felony. And goodness knows what they used them for; the gossip that came from that sector was always a little sordid. No, that was out of the question. That only left sending her back to whatever her ‘home’ was. And if he did that he’d lose the baby, too. Painful experience had taught him that nothing would induce that girl to leave unless she got to take her sister with her. He shrugged, resigned. If he had to intimidate her alleged guardians into taking better care of her, so be it. It was better than what would become of his rule if she stayed. He suddenly realized that he hadn’t been exactly looking where he was going while he was thinking and, with a rueful little smirk, had to work to navigate his way back to her through his own maze.

The hedge path turned a few times but there were no intersecting routes and presently Julia stumbled upon the promised grove in a circular dead-end against the stone wall; it had to be close to where she had come out of, only just on the other side. The apple trees were in a small plot of bare dirt where some of the paving stones had been removed at one point but by the looks of things they were uncared for and simply left wild. There was fruit, however, and just ripe, although they were a little on the smallish side. Julia carefully climbed up into one of the knarly old trees, picked herself an apple, brushed it off on her shirt and quickly began to devour it. It wasn’t the best but it was edible and her aching stomach was grateful for the nourishment.

After she’d downed about three and wasn’t so distracted, she began to wonder what Jareth would want to do with her. He’d mentioned she’d cause panic in the city, although she couldn’t begin to imagine why. Maybe she’d have an outpost out here somewhere. It might be a little lonely but it wouldn’t be so bad if she had somebody to talk to like the guards she’d just left. Whatever it was, it was probably better than…

Jareth stalked around the corner and spotted her high-up in one of the back trees, looking over the wall. “I see we’ve made ourselves at home,” he said casually, pacing into the grove.

Julia was startled out of her reverie and, seeing who it was, quickly got out of the tree and managed another curtsey. He walked straight up to her.

“Before I make my final decision I have one question: why exactly did you choose to run away from home this time? What changed enough that you felt you couldn’t stay?” His cold, unearthly eyes bored into her, trying to tease out her secrets, fixing her where she stood. Julia swallowed and started to say something but the words died in her mouth and she looked awkwardly away. He stepped even closer, arms crossed. “Since this is the first time vassal obedience is required of you I will overlook your hesitation just this once and remind you that if I want information of you, you must answer and answer truthfully.”

Julia still couldn’t face him but she took a big breath and closed her eyes.

“…Brett attacked me.”

Jareth sighed. He had suspected this but he hadn’t known for certain.

“Tell me what happened,” he said gently.

Julia seemed that she wanted to run away from herself but when she looked at him again she could see that he was not going to back down. His gaze had changed to steadying and though she was uncomfortable talking about her family problems with this alien stranger she found her words again.

“I’d been at the library after school with a friend for a while. I’d left my mom a message on her cell phone telling her where I was so she wouldn’t worry, but when I got home she wasn’t there…and…” Julia’s breath was audibly faster and a little shaky, panicked just thinking about it. Jareth sat down on his heels and gently took her hands in his.

“And?” he quietly prompted, looking up at her.

“…he was there, sitting at the dining room table with a bottle of whiskey, drunk already. When he saw me, he was angry that I hadn’t come home. I tried to explain but he wasn’t listening, he was screaming at me,” she closed her eyes, “and he… picked me up by my arms and shook me and threw me against the wall, saying something stupid about maybe I’d learn my lesson.” She opened her eyes; there were tears in them. And then she smiled a cruel smile that actually surprised Jareth. “I picked myself up and kicked him as hard as I could in the groin. Then I ran and found Grace playing alone in another room and grabbed her and locked us inside the bathroom and I summoned you.”

It seemed like her moxie had just exhausted itself in the telling; she suddenly looked spent. Jareth’s brow was furrowed as he stood back up, releasing her hands.

“Show me where he injured you.” Julia looked a little uncomfortable but promptly obeyed, shoving up her sleeves as far as she could. Garish purple and green bruises in the shape of a man’s hand cruelly adorned her upper arms and wrists. She turned around and lifted the back of her shirt as far as she could and still be decent. More bruises, heavy on the right side. The sight made him pale with anger. He was a bit rough with his goblins but it was almost impossible to truly hurt them. This was different: callous, unthinking violence, totally uncalled-for. “All right, I’ve seen enough, you can pull your shirt back down.”

Julia gratefully complied, yanking the sleeves down as far as humanly possible. Jareth was pacing once again.

“To be frank, I have neither the time nor the resources at my disposal to properly support a human creature of your age, Julia. An adult human perhaps, but certainly not one yet in the growth phase. You would exhaust the few things here that you could eat in a matter of months. And while I have no doubt that you would do your best to be helpful, this is a very dangerous place for an unsupervised child. I cannot constantly watch over you to keep you safe. I’ve been keeping an eye on you just now, as I do all my runners. With that said, I have very little alternative but to exile you back to earth, at least until you come of age. I want to make it clear that this is not your fault. Your conduct has been flawless and I sincerely wish my other subjects were half as intelligent and willing to serve as you are. Faerie law restricts my travel to earth to retrieving the wished away and only business directly related to that.”

Julia was crestfallen. How could she have gotten this far and failed?! She was dead meat if she had to go back home, and without her sister no less - no doubt even her mother would have reported them missing to the police by now. There had to be some other way.

“Can’t you take me somewhere else, like a shelter or Social Services? Preferably in another state, please?”

“No, unfortunately I have to return you to the locale in which I found you; the rules are strict on that point.”

Julia hung her head, defeated. “So there’s no hope, then. I did this all for nothing.”

The king of the goblins was usually immune to such plaints; he had simply heard them too often. But as he had observed before, this was different. A wry smile formed on his lips as he thought of what he needed to do.

“Hardly that, hardly.”

Julia looked up at his mischievous tone of voice - and was shocked to see him holding Grace!

“I am not about to abandon one of my best subjects to a ruinous fate. I am personally escorting you both home. And it is going to be a proper home - well, by human standards at any rate.”

Julia reeled at the thought. But that meant he would have to deal with the adults in the house somehow. And why was…

“Aren’t you keeping-”

A pointed look and one raised brow quickly silenced the question. “Because I think she will be far more useful to me in her current condition. Time to go,” he said, hefting Grace against his hip with his left arm and holding out his free hand to Julia. She reached for him - and hesitated just before contact. Worry was clear in her face. “You doubt my power and authority?”

“N-no, of course not!”

“Then what are you afraid of?” A slow, conspiratorial grin overtook his face. Julia inhaled and took his gloved hand. A moment later they were gone.

They reappeared in Julia’s mother’s apartment in the living room and instantly Julia wished they were back in the Labyrinth: Nicki and Brett were having yet another fight, although oddly this one actually was because her mom was angry at Brett for seemingly losing both of her children. They hadn’t even noticed the extra bodies in the room and Julia turned to Jareth with a pleading look. He wasn’t even looking at her, he was coolly observing the screaming match, but he opened his free right arm and motioned with his hand - a gesture to come close - and she warily walked into his embrace as he folded his cloak about her, holding her snugly about the shoulders. His breastplate was sort of uncomfortable to be shoved against but at least she felt a little safer. He cleared his throat and addressed them.

“Lose something?”

The arguing pair both started at the new voice and turned to stare at the wild-looking stranger who had somehow gained access to the room. It was then that Nicki noticed Grace and Julia in his arms.

“Oh my god, my babies, you’ve found them, they’re alive!” she sobbed, “come to Momma!”

Julia made to go to her but Jareth held her firmly.

“Not yet,” he whispered to her. He addressed the room. “I don’t think so. Not until I deem your house a physically safe environment for them.” He shoved up Julia’s nearest sleeve and showed them the bruises. “As you can see, my hands aren’t this thick. Julia went to extreme measures to get some protection from this brute. He threw her against a wall.”

Brett, who was worse for drink than even when Julia saw him, was well within his rage point already and this was just the push he needed.

“I don’t know who you are, you fruity bastard, but you give my woman her kids back now!” he said, starting to stagger toward them and tried a swing at Jareth. Jareth simply picked him up by will alone and hurled him toward the front door with frightening speed - stopping short one inch from contact with the surface - and unceremoniously dumped him in a heap. There was a sudden smell of ozone in the apartment. Shaking, the man slowly stood up. The door swung open automatically. Jareth’s voice remained calm but there was fire in his eyes.

“If you ever cross this threshold again or so much as look at any of the females in this room on the street, I will personally have something done to you that is so hideous you will wish I had simply bashed your head in just there. Now get out.” Brett ran for it, stumbling over his own feet into the hall. The door closed and the lock quietly clicked. “Now then,” he sighed, his gaze swinging back to the mother, “we can get on to business.”

Nicki was stunned speechless and had to shakily sit down on the couch. “Can I have my children back now?” she finally asked.

“That is the point of contention here - your children. Technically, they’re no longer yours. I legally own them.”

“How…but that’s madness-”

He put up a hand to silence her. “I’m afraid this is rather serious. Julia wished away Grace to me and a mere two hours later pledged fealty herself. They really are mine.”

“…fealty? Who are you,” she asked cautiously, eying him a bit sideways. “I mean, that was a pretty impressive stunt back there, I think I’m open at this point.”

“I am Jareth, current King of the Goblins and Lord of the Labyrinth. I’ve been reduced in your society to a mere storybook character,” he smirked wryly.

She notably paled, remembering buying the book for Julia several years ago. She would never again take obscure fairytales quite so lightly.

“I…isn’t there any way to … if it’s…” she choked on the words, doing her best not to cry, “why are you here?”

“I told you there was a point of contention. I wouldn’t be here at all if it wasn’t for Julia. My kingdom is not designed to support human life, let alone at the stage of development that she is currently in. I do not have the physical means to properly care for her. Otherworld law forbids me coming and going from Earth at will unless it has to do with my duty of exchanging children. Grace wouldn’t be a problem at all; she’s young enough to turn.”

Nicki felt her throat go dry and had to fight down a sudden bout of hysteria.

“…turn what?” she whispered, terrified to hear the answer.

“Turn her into a goblin, of course. She’d make a fine one, don’t you think?” he said, giving the baby a little heft, making her smile.

The mother shrunk back in obvious horror and revulsion.

“There. Now that you know where I stand, I have a proposition for you. I will allow you to raise these two girls as their surrogate guardian until they are of age, at which point they will both have free will to return to my kingdom if they so wish, which is their legal right since they would be technically exiled for convenience, not treason. However, I am not about to simply drop them off, as easy as that might be. As their sovereign, it is my duty to make sure that they are going to be properly cared for in my absence, and…well,” he said, coolly taking in his surroundings and the frightened woman before him, “that might take a little work.”

“What are you suggesting?” she crossed her arms tersely, having an uneasy feeling of where this was going.

“Merely that, as far as I can tell, you’re probably not suitable for the job, but I have to try here first. It’s the law. Speaking of which,” he examined her at his ease, noting the needle marks in her arms, “it would be rather easy to put you behind bars if I so chose. Neglect, allowed abuse, and…illegal drugs, shall we say? That’s rather a hefty prison sentence in this country. Surely it would be easier to simply care for your children. If you feed them regularly, clothe and shelter them, and teach them how to survive in your world, I will consider your task adequately discharged.”

Nicki looked equally distraught at the accusation and at what she would have to go through to get them back. Jareth easily deduced her inner turmoil and was beginning to lose patience with her; she wasn’t worth his time.

“If you don’t make up your mind within the next ten seconds I’m taking Julia to the police station and I will ensure that they will believe her this time. And I’ll be taking Grace for my trouble.”

This was more than Julia could take.

“All you have to do is love us, Mom! Is that so hard?!” she choked out, trying not to cry.

Her time was almost up. They were beginning to fade when she snapped.

“NO! Wait, please!”

“You’ll stop abusing your body?”

“Yes,” she sobbed.

“And provide for your daughters?”


“And stop bringing violent buffoons into your home? I won’t be saving you again.” She sighed.


He set down Grace, who ran straight to her mommy and released Julia. She looked askance from him a moment and received it with a small, devious lip-smile. Several minutes passed in that desperate, shared embrace. At length, when the most intense emotions were over, Jareth spoke again.

“Your duties start immediately. I cannot speak for Grace, but Julia has not had a decent meal in over twelve hours.” Nicki nodded guiltily.

“Sweetie, there’s some leftover pizza in the fridge. You know what to do,” she said, suddenly looking rather tired.

“Yes, Mom.” She took little Grace by the hand and led her into the kitchenette, watching Jareth the whole time, sitting Grace in her chair and getting two big slices out. She proceeded to peel all the cheese off Grace’s portion and gave her all the pepperoni from hers, tearing the pepperonied slice into bite-size pieces for the baby, who ate it with messy gusto. The king of the goblins watched the proceeding a bit bemused.

“Grace is lactose intolerant,” the mother explained. “Julia takes such good care of her.”

“I believe that’s going to be your responsibility,” he answered gravely.

“I know, I’ve never been good at this,” she sighed. “They’ve never had a real life because I can’t deal with it.”

He shook his head. “You are disappointed at the world because it is not what you wish when the real trick is to see the world as it is and make the most of it. Even your daughter knows that,” he added gently. He didn’t have to say which one. Julia seemed to be openly enjoying her task, eating her own cheesy slice comically to make Grace laugh.

“I don’t even know how I’m going to take care of them if I have to be in rehab. Can’t I just ease up a bit on my own?”

“We both know that’s a lie; you cannot do this on your own. Give me everything you’ve been taking right now.” She hesitated and he raised an eyebrow at her passive defiance. She got up, defeated, and went for her stash in the bookcase.

“You realize I’ll be going through withdrawal in under two hours. I’ll be horribly sick,” she said as she handed the false book over. He opened it and it was about as he had expected, even a couple needles.

“Then I advise you to get help. Actually,” he said with one finger on his chin, eying the ceiling in thought, “for a price, I could help you.” With a wave of his hand, what he had been holding vanished and in its place was a crystal. Nicki’s jaw dropped involuntarily. When he spoke again, his voice was a silky whisper, his gaze tempting.

“You don’t have to suffer at all. Just take this and you will be in perfect health. No consequences for your actions, no time away.” Her hand seemed to drift toward it of its own volition. His smile deepened. She suddenly paused.

“What’s the price?”

“Grace, of course. This way the evening wouldn’t have been a complete waste of my time.” Her hand shot back to her side, glued to her hip.

“You’re despicable,” she hissed, staring at him with contempt.

“Speak for yourself,” he countered flatly, extinguishing the crystal. “At least my wards don’t suffer without just cause.” She looked a bit ashamed at this reproach. “You can’t claim I didn’t offer to help. You’re on your own, then. Julia, come here!” he called into the other room. She wiped off her face and hands and came running. “You realize that life isn’t going to be easy for a while, but it should get steadily better from here on out. Your mother will be quite ill for some time and will have to get professional assistance to recover. Now,” he addressed Nicki again, “where are the children to go? This is your first important decision on my watch; choose carefully.”

“Well, all my friends are messed up, too, and my own mother disowned me-”

“I think you’ll find she’ll take them in for the interim,” he interjected.

Julia noticed that sneaky smile was tugging at the corners of his mouth again. Without missing a beat she handed the phone to her mother and watched her make the call. As she was explaining their situation, Jareth quietly drew Julia aside.

“I sincerely wish I could keep you. You’ve proven in less than an hour that you’re the most intelligent subject I have,” he smiled ruefully. “But I can’t. Mind your mother - I trust she’ll be a more sufficient one soon, even if you have to help her to be one periodically. Oh, I almost forgot.” In the twinkling of an eye he produced two crystals. “Go on, take them; they won’t hurt you. One is yours and one belongs to your sister. They are transportation crystals and will become active when you each come of age as per the terms of your exile on earth. Do not be deceived, child: this is a one-way ticket back to the Labyrinth. I am not going to be ferrying you back and forth between the worlds. If you ever are in dire need of sanctuary, it is granted but permanent. I trust I will not to be seeing you in person again.”

The smooth, cool weights filled Julia’s hands and it suddenly struck her that he was leaving. Her mother hung up the phone, looking genuinely shocked.

“I can’t believe she just agreed to that! Pack your suitcase, honey! We’ve got to get going before I hit my low.”

Jareth simply nodded with a satisfied smirk. “I’ll be watching you all.”

And with that he was gone.

Julia blinked with dumb wonder at the space he had just occupied. She hadn’t even gotten to thank him or say goodbye. She didn’t have too much time to think about it, however, as she was herded into her room and forced to quickly shove everything she could possibly need into her one small suitcase and stuff the rest into her backpack. She hadn’t even met her grandmother - he had to have magically influenced the woman to not only look after them but drive twenty miles a day just get her to school and back!

Things went as Jareth had predicted: her mother had to stay in the rehabilitation center for five months and she was treated for clinical depression as well. In time, with help from the state, she landed a job with benefits and they moved to a better apartment complex, one where all their neighbors weren’t druggies abusing the welfare system. Grace entered preschool without a hitch the next year; she seemed to have no recollection of her trip Underground, which was just as well, Julia supposed. Her mother seemed to not remember the incident either, which was a lot stranger. The crystals were hidden in a box under Julia’s bed and sometimes late at night she would get them out and admire them, trying to convince herself it had been real, that someday they would be magic and she’d have to get a safer way to store them like a lock box.

Julia continued to do well in school. In fact, she only ever got in trouble a couple times because she wouldn’t stand for the national anthem at assemblies. After some disputes, both sides finally settled on a compromise: she stood with her hand over her heart, but her eyes were closed. She was silently pledging eternal allegiance to a very different kind of country altogether. And its king…

The End
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