Written for Merfilly in Not Prime Time 2013. Thanks to barbayat and Gemais for beta reading.
Hoggle spent the week after Sarah's defeat of the Goblin King hiding. Jareth had promised to dip him in the Bog of Eternal Stench if he helped Sarah, and Hoggle could see no reason why Jareth would not keep his word.
Of course, hiding from the Goblin King wasn't exactly easy. He could see any part of the Labyrinth, could speak to any one of its denizens. He'd never had any trouble finding Hoggle before.
And yet, nothing happened. Hoggle scurried from one place to another, returning only briefly to his home (He saw no point in being outright stupid. Of course, the King would look there), only resting when he visited Sarah in the human world. Sleeping in the human world wouldn't restore him the way sleeping in the Labyrinth would, but it was better than no sleep at all. He just hoped Jareth couldn't find him when he was with Sarah.
Sarah was having her own issues with sleep. "Hoggle," she said, "it's a funny thing. When I lie down to sleep, I'm suddenly in the Labyrinth. My father hasn't noticed me being gone, but there are leaves in my hair every morning, and my feet are always dirty."
Best to reassure her. "The Labyrinth likes you," Hoggle told her. He grinned at her. "You're not missing your rest, right? And you're always here when you need to be?" This sounded like benevolent magic to Hoggle. "If I was you, I'd start wearing shoes to bed."
Sarah laughed, but Hoggle could tell that she was troubled. "What if I meet him again?" She ran her fingers through her hair and looked away.
"You beat him once. You can do it again." I hope. He's not one to take a challenge lightly.
"But-" She shook her head and tugged on her hair. "That had rules. I knew the words I had to say."
Hoggle scratched his ear. "That's tough. What did you say to him?"
She looked down at her hands then looked up and out the window. "That we were equals. That he has no power over me."
Hoggle felt a stab of envy. "What I wouldn't give for that," he mumbled. He blinked and straightened. "That's it then," he said more clearly. "If it was true then, it's true now. He has no power over you."
"That doesn't make the Labyrinth safe." Sarah frowned. "I'm always somewhere new. I've tried wandering, but I don't get anywhere. I've tried sitting in one place, but I mostly can't seem to stay still. It's like I need to keep moving."
Hoggle nodded. He patted her hand. "The Labyrinth is singing to you. If you stop and listen, like as not, you'll hear it. Not that I ever have. I've just heard about people hearing it." He drew his eyebrows together as he considered. "Maybe if you look for someone you know? Having a goal in the Labyrinth can help."
Sarah smiled. "So I look for you or Ludo or Sir Didymus? I can do that."
"You've a knack for making friends. There must be other people you can search for." Hoggle wasn't sure that Sarah looking for him would be a good thing.
"I never seem to see the same person twice," Sarah said. "It's like with places. And there must be a lot of goblins unhappy with me. The goblin city wasn't doing so well after we got through it."
"They'll forgive you." Hoggle wasn't so sure they'd forgive him. Ludo and Sir Didymus weren't properly goblins, but Hoggle, as a dwarf, was close enough kin to be seen as a traitor. Something else to keep me from sleeping easy.
"I'd better do my homework."
Hoggle recognized a change of subject when he heard one and didn't argue. Instead, he settled into a corner of Sarah's room and had a nap.
Later, back in the Labyrinth, when Hoggle judged it was night in Sarah's world, he searched for her. The Labyrinth might not intend anything bad, but it's still dangerous around here. He stood at a crossroads, one path leading up, another down and still a third sideways. He tried to feel what was at the end of each path. Sometimes, the Labyrinth would answer a question like that.
He was about to choose the sideways path when he felt reality ripple behind him. He turned. I should just have run.
Jareth stood there, brushing cobwebs from his sleeves. "Higgle," he said mildly, "I've been looking for you."
Hoggle swallowed hard. Is it a good sign that he's got my name wrong? He was clear enough about it when it suited him. "Your majesty." He bowed.
"There's a human girl in the Labyrinth."
What can I say to that? Hoggle shrugged. "That happens sometimes."
"This one is no painter or musician, no changeling returning home." Jareth sounded almost bored. "And the Labyrinth hasn't eaten her yet."
"If she was a changeling, she wouldn't be a human." What possessed me to say that? He'll kill me. Hoggle couldn't summon the terror the King had once inspired in him. Mostly, he felt tired.
The Goblin King's laughter was short and sharp. "A point, Haggle." He took two steps to stand in front of a partly collapsed wall. He turned and sat on a stone, pulling one leg up to his chest. "You know this girl." His eyes were hard upon Hoggle. "She's seeking something."
"She's not seeking anything," Hoggle protested. Oh, I didn't just do that. I'm for it now. "She just keeps finding herself here. She doesn't mean to."
"Just because she doesn't know what she's seeking, doesn't mean she's not seeking." Jareth twisted his hand in the air, and a glass sphere appeared on his fingertips. He gazed at it as if it were the most fascinating thing he'd ever seen. "I would like to know what she's seeking. Or what's seeking her. The sooner she's out of the Labyrinth, the better."
"I'll not spy on her." Hoggle set his jaw. "I've done her harm enough already."
"Hoggle." Jareth's eyes caught Hoggle's. "I've not forgotten a thing you've done. I've merely delayed the reckoning. Every road but this one leads to the Bog of Eternal Stench." He waved his hand, the sphere rolling up and down his fingers. "It's not spying. It's keeping me apprised of events. I'd rather not waste my time watching the girl."
Hoggle swallowed hard. I'd look for Sarah anyway. But who knows what he'll do with what I tell him? He lost the child to her. He can't be happy about it. "No harm will come to her?"
Jareth's hand went still. He shrugged. "The Labyrinth is a dangerous place. It's full of traps, not all of them obvious. I won't set them in her path, but I won't remove them either. Sufficient?"
Hoggle nodded grudgingly. I'll tell Sarah the truth. "I suppose I can keep an eye on her."
"Here." Jareth tossed his sphere to Hoggle.
Hoggle caught it without thinking. His immediate impulse was to throw it as far away as possible. No. That would offend him. He looked at it closely. It had turned into a bracelet with lots of dangling beads. "What's this?" He held it up, letting light play over the beads.
"While you wear it-" Jareth stood and stretched. "-you'll always be able to find the girl. It won't always take you on the safest path toward her. That part's up to you. You'll just know where she is."
"Thank you." Hoggle examined the Goblin King's words, trying to find the trap. He worried that he couldn't spot it. He put the bracelet on. Immediately, he felt a pull to his right. She's not close, but she's not too far, either. He closed his eyes for a moment, and an image of a courtyard surrounded by carefully trimmed bushes came into his mind. "I'd best be going." If you'll let me go.
Jareth waved a dismissive hand. "Come to me when she goes."
Hoggle didn't bother trying not to look like he was fleeing. He left the Goblin King behind rapidly as he tried to find the best path to where Sarah was. He didn't know all of the twists of the Labyrinth, but he thought he knew enough to find her. Before she runs herself into trouble.
He had to descend into the tunnels and, for a time, went away from where the bracelet insisted Sarah was. He knew that trying to go straight there would take longer. He traveled a corridor full of false alarms and tried not to think of what dangers Sarah might be facing. She didn't seem to be traveling, and he worried that she'd encountered something that wouldn't let her move on.
When he finally found her, she was in a courtyard that was surrounded by bushes. Each of the paths leading from the courtyard had stairs, either up or down. Sarah sat crosslegged with her back to a bush. She seemed to be having a conversation with a small bird.
"Sarah!" Hoggle called.
"Hoggle!" Sarah sprang to her feet. The bird squawked and rose into the air, circling above Sarah's head.
Hoggle accepted Sarah's hug. "I was worried about you," he said.
"Well," she replied, "when I found myself here, in a place that doesn't seem dangerous, I decided to stay put. Some parts of the Labyrinth aren't nearly so nice."
Hoggle looked around. The flagstones were even and gray. Birds like the one Sarah had been talking to came and went from the bushes on the other side of the courtyard. We've probably scared them off from here. "You'll never find out what the Labyrinth wants if you stay put." But I'm glad you did. Finding you would have been hard otherwise.
Sarah pushed back her hair. "I suppose not. I mean, do we know that the Labyrinth wants something? It's so weird talking about the place like it's alive."
Hoggle bristled a little. "Alive? Of course it's alive! It has to be. You didn't think that all of this just happened, did you?"
She blinked. "I never really thought about it. I suppose I assumed that the Goblin King did it all."
"Him?" Hoggle snorted. "He can get the Labyrinth to do things, but he doesn't spend his time on that. The Labyrinth is too big for one person to make all the decisions."
"Oh." Sarah looked around. They couldn't see much of the Labyrinth from where they stood, but Hoggle suspected she was remembering how large, how sprawling, it looked from a distance.
"I've got something to tell you." Hoggle wasn't about to keep secrets this time. It would be harder for Jareth to use him to trick Sarah if Sarah knew to be cautious.
"Yes?" Sarah was looking at the birds. "They're poets, you know."
"Sarah." Hoggle wanted her full attention.
"Yes?" She glanced at him. Catching his expression, she frowned and kept her eyes on him. "You sound so serious."
Hoggle fingered his new bracelet. "It is serious. Serious business, that's what it is. See this bracelet?" He lifted his wrist to show it off.
"That's very pretty."
Hoggle snorted. "Pretty is as pretty does. It's useful. That's what matters." Seeing her opening her mouth to speak, he rushed to continue talking. "The Goblin King, himself, gave it to me. He wants me to watch you while you're in the Labyrinth and to report back to him. The bracelet lets me find you, sort of."
"Sort of?" Sarah looked intrigued rather than angry.
Hoggle took that as a good sign. "It tells me more or less how far away you are and in what direction. If I close my eyes, I can get an impression of what's around you."
Sarah smiled. "I'd like to have company when I'm here."
"You won't mind that I'm spying on you?"
She shook her head. "It's not like anything I do is a secret."
That won't always be true. Hoggle wasn't sure why he thought that, but he was certain it was true. There'll be something you don't want Jareth to know. Sooner or later. He offered her his hand. "Best get to walking."