Sarah collapsed on
her bed with a loud sigh. It had been such a long, long tiring day. Dull, as
well. Everyday was the same thing...she had classes, followed by work, and a
baby brother to care for when she got home. Well, he wasn't really much of a
baby anymore, but he still certainly was a handful. In the six years since his
visit to the Underground, Toby had grown into a rambunctious child that
delighted in tormenting his sister in any way possible.
Sarah groaned. "And I thought he was a pain when he was an infant," she muttered to herself. Just this evening, he had ransacked her room...AGAIN...stolen her makeup to write on the living rooms walls, eaten a whole gallon of ice cream before Sarah had realized where he was...
Things had only gotten worse when her father and stepmother had returned home. Their relationship was slowly falling apart and, as with many divorce situations, the parents often inadvertently took out their wrath on their children. Sarah's father had berated her for leaving her brother alone long enough to cause such chaos and when she protested that she had only been caught up in studying for an upcoming exam, he glared at her blackly, remarking that most people would put family before some community college course. At the same time, Toby had been wailing in the other room as his mother reprimanded him for marking up her walls, threatening to spank him if he didn't behave himself better.
Finally, Sarah had found herself alone with Toby, trying to get the hysterical boy to quiet down for sleep. In shared pain, she had tried to comfort her brother, whispering soothing words, but the confused child had struck out at her with his small fists, tearing at her hair while he screamed and cried. At last, exhausted by his fit, Toby had fallen into a sound sleep.
As she wiped the tears gently from his face, Sarah recalled all that she had gone through for her brother. No matter how whiny and troublesome her was, she still felt that affection for him. She had risked her life for him!
Sometimes though...when the day had been particulary tiring or her parents words had bit unusually deep...Sarah found herself awake at night, remembering the Labyrinth. All it seemed to be was a wonderful dream anymore. She wasn't a brave heroine, facing down an evil Goblin King to save her baby brother...she was just, as Jareth himself had once said, 'a girl who looks after a crying baby.'
Her thoughts turned to the mysterious Goblin King. What had ever become of him after she defeated him? Sarah had no clue. When she had asked her friends from the Labyrinth, they had only shrugged in confusion, not understanding why Sarah would care to know. They said no one had seen him since that night, that there was a rumor that he had been trapped in her world, in the form a snowy white owl, until the day came that she would release him.
"Release him?" Sarah mumbled into her pillow. "No way I would ever do that. He'd probably come after Toby again." Then she sighed enviously, remembering Jareth's feral grin and the challenge that marked his every movement.
"Though sometimes, I really wish I was more like that bastard. I could really use some help right about now."
With a tired yawn, Sarah burrowed deeper into her covers, too spent to worry anymore about kings or brothers or any of her life's many problems.
Outside of Sarah's window, a pure white owl took flight. Its intelligent eyes were clouded with grief as it flew into the night. It wished so greatly to be able to aid the girl in some way. True, it had no real magic while trapped in this animal form, but surely there must be something, anything, it could do!
With a screech filled with remorse, the bird arched through the air as if aiming directly at the full moon. Only one thought occupied its mind: the wish to take Sarah's burden!
A bolt of lightning split the cloudless sky, cutting the image of the moon, and the owl plummeted from the air.
Sarah woke from her dreams into a nightmare. She was falling! Falling through a horrible cold darkness, the wind rushing past her at a fearful rate. She flailed about herself in terror and felt her arms respond strangely. Her eyes didn't work right; she couldn't see, and yet in some way she could see too well. Sounds of the night assailed her and Sarah realized she was literally falling from the sky.
She stretched out her arms blindly through the darkness, seeking something to slow her descent. She felt something resist and realized her arms...no, her wings! She had wings! Astonished, Sarah felt herself gliding across the wind currents, her feathered wings allowing her to coast gently towards the ground, slowing her deadly plummet. She still hit the ground too fast though and rolled head over heels (claws, she noted to herself absently) through soft grass.
Righting herself dizzily, Sarah cried out in confusion. Her voice was an awkward shriek, which only served to increase her disorientation. Had there been any light, or had it not been in the midst of the night, someone may have noticed the strange bird stumbling drunkenly across the lawn. As it was, there was no one outside to see, and the poor creature finally collapsed underneath a shrub, blissfully unconscious.
Jareth, on the other hand, woke from one nightmare to another.
"I should have known it was too good to be true," he said wistfully, staring at his reflection in the mirror. A reflection that looked remarkably NOT like him and very much like a certain brunette that often occupied his thoughts.
He'd awoken to the feel of soft sheets against his skin and the warmth of sunlight on his face. He'd stretched...something that is inconceivably hard to do as an owl, and opened eyes that saw with human sight for the first time in years. He sat, realizing he was undoubtably human. An instant later followed the thought that, human he may be, but himself he most certainly was NOT.
Jareth, King of the Goblins, had been many things in his long lifetime. Unfortunately, female was not one of them.
He had rushed quickly to the mirror and nearly fallen over in shock when he saw Sarah's frantic face staring back at him. Now he sat in her vanity chair, staring still. He found it rather...enjoyable. It LOOKED like he was staring directly into Sarah's eyes, and she stared directly back, her eyes showing the same emotion in them as his. He could smile, and she would smile back. It was the most marvelous thing. Jareth drank in the sight, her eyes, her lips...his eyes drifted lower. Sarah had fallen asleep fully clothed, but she would of course change her clothes in the morning...there was just no help for it.
A pounding on the door interrupted Jareth's thoughts and he pulled his hands from the buttons of 'his' blouse as if burned. In the mirror, Sarah's face blushed a deep crimson. "What is it?" he called, startled to hear Sarah's voice issue from himself.
"I'm leaving now. You'd better hurry or Toby will miss his bus," a male voice called. As Jareth struggled to figure out the appropriate way to act, a loud crash echoed through the house, followed by a young child's scream.
"Toby!" Jareth hissed, throwing open the door. He nearly ran into Sarah's father, still standing outside the door, as he was AGAIN caught off guard by Sarah's voice speaking his words. Recovering himself, he demanded, "what's going on?" The man ignored him, hurrying down the hall to Toby's room.
Inside, it was easy to see what had happened. Toby was curled into a corner, crying. Before him, bright vials of expensive makeup littered the floor. A few feet away lay millions of shard of shattered glass where something had been thrown through a window. Sarah's stepmother stood on the other side of the room, her face purple with anger. Jareth perceived instantly that she had, in her rage, thrown something with the intention of hitting Toby. Luckily, her terrible aim sent it hurtling into the window instead, scaring the boy but not harming him.
While Sarah's father hurried to calm his wife, Jareth stepped forward without a word and scooped the sobbing child into his arms. Then he walked quite calmly down the stairs and out the front door, never once looking back.
A few hours later found the two sitting on a bench in the park. A much happier Toby happily clutched the ice cream cone Jareth had bought for him. It had taken the Goblin-King-turned-mortal-girl a long time to figure out just how to get that ice cream. He'd discovered quickly that, while his mind was trapped in Sarah's body, none of his magic had followed. Thus, he had resorted to his sleight-of-hand tricks, amusing passersby until he had finally earned enough spare change to buy Toby an ice cream cone.
The boy was enchanted. He had never seen his sister juggle crystals like that! He beamed happily, the troubles of the morning already forgotten in his mind. Jareth smiled back, feeling rather proud of himself. He had worked hard to make a child happy, and it felt surprisingly good.
Strange movement caught his attention and his eyes widened as he spied a white owl nearly hidden in the nearby shrubbery. "So," he said, gently lifting the bird from the ground, "chance may have switched our bodies, but it can only be fate that leads us to meet again...Sarah."
Shivering, the bird blinked up at him with shadowed eyes. Then he sensed understanding flicker through them as Sarah realized also what had happened to them. The owl cooed softly, pleadingly.
"No, I can't release you. Or even put us back properly. YOU have no magic, Sarah, and thus neither do I in this body. And I could never work magic from the owl form." He paused. "However..."
The owl flapped its wings imperiously, urging him to continue. A sardonic grin creased Sarah's features. "I suppose if you were to release me from the curse that binds me in owl form..." A loud shriek of protest interrupted him. "Well what have you got to lose?" He retorted, angrily. "I didn't mean to steal your body anymore than you meant to be trapped as an owl. Anymore than I would imagine you intended for ME to be trapped all these years."
Jareth's voice grew soft. "Or are you truly still afraid for your brother?" The owl jumped, looking guilty. "Look at him then! Look what I have done for him. I have taken him out of that horrible house and I will take him away from this WORLD if I can." He stroked the owl's head gently. "I would take you too, Sarah. Would you come to the Underground with me? I ask nothing of you, just stay beside me and give me a chance to earn your love..."
He fell silent, feeling that he had revealed far too much of himself to someone who was still, for all purposes, his enemy.
The world spun, and suddenly he was himself again. Really, truly himself. Sarah stood before him, a slight smile on her face. She glanced down at her brother who, oblivious to the magical goings-on around him, was cheerfully making a mountain from his melting ice cream. With a small relieved sigh, Jareth smoothed his hands over his shirt, relishing the feel of his own body and, more importantly, his magic once again. Somehow, Sarah releasing him from his curse had also sent their minds back to their proper bodies.
"So Sarah...what's your answer?" A hint of the old battle between them surfaced in the mocking curl of his lips, but Sarah's next words wiped it from his face in confused delight.
"You know," Sarah said, tilting her head to one side with a small smirk of her own, "maybe YOU didn't intend for this...but I did wish for you." She reached out and took her hand in her own.
"I accept your offer."