The cold winter air pressed itself against the glass, and Sarah's breath misted in tiny circles as she leant against the windowsill, staring out at the night. She sighed, and the fog her breath created obscured her view of the bright stars. Shivering, despite the warmth of the room, she drew the curtains against the darkness and turned back to the child who sat staring at her in anticipation. Sarah could barely see her amongst the mounds of pillows and quilts, but her little bright eyes sparkled in the light from the fire that burned in the grate.

"Then what happened?"

Sarah laughed at her eagerness. "Then, when I turned around, they were all in my room! And we danced, and had fun, and had a big party!" She walked over to the large bed and pulled the covers up to the girl's chin. "And now, my sweet little Kate, it is time for you to go to sleep." Sitting on the edge of the bed, she leaned towards the child and kissed her forehead, smoothing her dark chocolate hair back from her face. The girl smiled up at her then leaned back against the cushions.

"I love that story. Tell it to me again."

Sarah laughed once more. "I've already told it to you twice tonight. Now, sleep!" She tucked the covers in around Kate and switched off the lamp that stood on the table next to the bed. The light from the fire bathed the room in a comforting, flickering orange glow. Sarah slid off of the bed and walked towards the fireplace, holding her chilled hands out to the warmth. The wavering light cast weird, dancing shadows over the walls.

"Auntie Sarah?"

"What, Kate?" Sarah turned to look at her, but the girl was hidden under the quilts, invisible to sight.

"Did you ever see Hoggle, Ludo or Sir Didymus again?"

Kate's quiet, disembodied voice floated to her through the warm, dark air. Sarah shivered again. Grabbing a high-backed chair, she pulled it closer to the fire, and sank gratefully into its' plush depths.

"No, Kate, I didn't." Sadness tinged Sarah's voice. She stared into the flames, and felt the familiar tears prickling behind her eyes, but swallowed them back. The dull ache tightened in her chest.


A bitter response rose to her lips, but Sarah bit it back. The child doesn't know, she told herself. She sighed out aloud. "I just never had time, sweet."


Sarah smiled sadly. "Well, Your Great-Grandfather, my dad, got very sick just after I got back, and I had to help more around the house. Then, before I realized, your Grandfather, my brother, had children, and I was busy helping to look after your Dad. And then, it was you!" She laughed quietly. "Not that I mind looking after you, Kate! But I just never found the time. And now..." Sarah paused and lifted her hand to smooth the hair away from her face. She looked at her hand, at the aged skin, the raised veins. Her voice was soft with regret. "Now, I'm just too old to play anymore. I don't even think they would recognize me." She tried to laugh again, but it almost came out as a sob. "After all this time, they wouldn't even remember me."

Sarah almost jumped out of her skin as she felt a small hand grasp her own. She looked down at Kate in surprise. "You are supposed to be in bed, Missy." Sarah scolded softly. Kate held out her arms, and Sarah leaned over and gathered her up on to her lap. Flinging her arms about Sarah's neck, Kate buried her face in Sarah's shoulder.

"Don't cry, Auntie."

Sarah stared into the fire as she hugged the tiny body close. The ache eased slightly. "I'm not crying, little one." She squeezed the girl tight, and then released her so she could look in her face. "Now, back into bed."

Kate pouted, her bottom lip quivering. Sarah smothered a smile. "But, Aunt Sarah, I want to sit with you. Please?" Sarah couldn't resist the beautiful big green eyes, so similar to her own, that looked at her imploringly. She smiled and nodded. Kate snuggled back into Sarah's arms.

"Is that why you never called for the Goblin King either?"

Sarah started in surprise, and leaned back to look at Kate. "What?"

"Is it because you think he has forgotten about you?"

Sarah shook her head; confused at the turn the conversation had taken. "Why would I want to call the Goblin King again?"

Kate giggled, the sound muffled against Sarah's neck. "Because he liked you!"

"Kate, honey, I don't know where you got that idea from, but you are wrong." Part of Sarah's mind, the part that was still a dreamer, cried out in protest, but the practical side of her pushed it back into the recesses of her subconscious. She snorted, inelegantly. "The Goblin King didn't like me. He just wanted to take Toby. I couldn't let him do that."

Kate shrugged, a careless, childish gesture. "But when you tell me the story, it sounds like he really likes you." She sighed dramatically. "I don't know why you didn't kiss him!"

Sarah stared at her grandniece in amazement. "You are only 8!" She exclaimed, "What do you know about kissing?"

Kate giggled again. "I know lots!" She wrapped her arms around Sarah's neck again and planted a huge smacking kiss on her cheek. "See?"

Sarah laughed. "You do indeed! I'm sorry I doubted you!" She hugged the girl tightly. "But if I had kissed the Goblin King, I would have had to stay with him, and then I wouldn't have been able to help look after you." She pressed a kiss to Kate's soft cheek. "And I wouldn't have wanted to miss that for the world!"

"But I'm big now! You don't have to look after me any more!" Kate wiggled in Sarah's lap, excitedly. "You can call him now!"

Again, the dreamer in Sarah rose up. Her heart leapt in her chest. Then the ache, the remembrance of the reality that was her life, came flooding back, and she smiled sadly at the child. "No, honey. Even if he does remember me, I'm too old now. I would rather that he remember me as who I was." She shrugged, and then added teasingly, "besides, to bring the goblins here, I would have to wish you away, and I don't want to do that!"

Kate giggled and poked out her tongue. "I know that you wouldn't wish me away, Auntie."

Sarah giggled back. "No way! The goblins would never stand a chance!" She arranged Kate in her lap so that the child was more comfortably settled against her. "Besides that, I love you, little one."

"I love you too, Auntie Sarah." Kate watched the flames in the fire as they crackled and danced. Moments stretched as they sat, curled in each other's arms.

"Did you ever wish that you had stayed?"

Kate's question roused Sarah; the sway of the flames had hypnotized her into a trance. "Sometimes..." Her voice was soft, and almost sounded as if it came from far away. It was the voice of the dreamer. "Sometimes, I wish I could go back..."

The darkness swallowed her answer, and the space beyond the circle of firelight seemed to be waiting, expectantly.

The steady rise and fall of Sarah's chest alerted Kate to the fact that her Great-aunt had fallen asleep. Careful not to wake her, the child turned in her arms so that she could look at Sarah's face.

In sleep, the lines on Sarah's face softened. Kate pushed the wisps of grey hair gently away from her face, but she didn't stir. The child sighed.

"I love you, Auntie, but you are so silly." She put her hand on Sarah's cheek. "I wish the Goblin King would come and take you away, right now."

The temperature dropped suddenly, and Kate shivered. Carefully, she slipped out of Sarah's lap and stood in front of the fireplace.

A shadow, darker than the surrounding night, detached itself from the blackness and walked towards where the child was stood. Dressed in black breeches, black boots and a red velvet jacket, his blonde hair reflecting gold in the firelight, he seemed to have stepped from the pages of a fairytale.

The Goblin King was not quite as scary as I thought he would be, Kate thought to herself, as she looked him up and down.

Jareth smiled wolfishly at the girl in the uncertain light, and tilted his head to one side. "Hello, Kate." He stepped towards her, and then suddenly stopped as he glanced at the figure sleeping in the chair. Kate watched as shock and doubt raced across his face, stripping away his haughty mask and revealing something more vulnerable underneath.


He took the last steps towards the chair and sank to his knees next to it. Raising his hand to cup her cheek, he stared at her incredulously. Sarah muttered in her sleep and turned her face into his palm, but didn't wake.

Jareth turned towards Kate, a mixture of disbelief and confusion warring in his mismatched eyes. "What has happened?" he asked her urgently.

Kate shrugged with the nonchalance of the young. "She just got old." She walked to the other side of the chair, across from Jareth, and picked up Sarah's lax hand in her own small one. "She's my aunt. But I think she needs to go back to the Labyrinth with you."

Jareth smiled at the child. "You, Kate, are wiser than most." He turned back to look at Sarah, and stroked her grey hair softly. "I would have given you everything," he murmured to her. "I would have given you your dreams. I would have changed the whole world." He flicked his wrist and produced a perfect crystal. "I would have re-ordered time." He removed his hand, and the crystal hung suspended in midair for a moment before floating above Sarah's prone form. It shattered noiselessly, and the glittery shards covered Sarah, sinking into her skin. Before Kate's eyes, Sarah began to age in reverse, getting younger and younger until she was little more than a teenager. Her long hair was a deep chocolate brown again, her skin was unlined and unblemished. Jareth's eyes shone in the firelight.


Sarah's eyelids fluttered, then opened. "Jareth?" She whispered. Her eyes closed again, and she smiled. "I dreamed that you came back for me..." Her hand reached out and touched Jareth's face hesitantly. "Are you really here?"

Jareth stood in one fluid movement, then bent and slid his arms under Sarah's legs and around her shoulders and lifted her. She clung to his neck as she felt herself being lifted.

As soon as Jareth had her tightly in his arms, he turned to Kate, who was watching the tableau wide-eyed.

"Once, Sarah gave up her dreams for her family. It is time her family gave her up for her dreams. You wished her away, Kate. Do you plan on going through the Labyrinth to get her back?"

Kate shook her head, solemnly. Jareth smiled at her. "Good, because I am not letting her go a second time. I would not have let you make it." He turned towards the window, his cloak flowing out behind her, but he stopped when he felt Kate's hand tug on his sleeve.

"Wait a minute. I want to say goodbye."

Jareth smiled and bent down towards her so that she could see Sarah. Sarah's eyes fluttered open again, and she smiled at the child.

"Kate, I knew I had told you that story too much."

The girl smiled at the gentle teasing, but her bottom lip quavered, and her green eyes swam with unshed tears. Sarah reached out and stroked her hair with a gentle hand.

"Don't cry, little sweet. Because of you, I am going back to the Labyrinth. That's where I always wanted to be."

Kate nodded her head, and the tears spilled over, rolling down her cheeks. Sarah looked at Jareth with pleading eyes, and Jareth nodded, setting her onto her feet. Sarah gathered Kate into her arms and held the sobbing girl tightly. When her crying had subsided, Sarah pulled back and tipped the child's face back to look into her eyes, wiping her tears away with the pads of her thumbs.

"I love you, Kate. Don't ever forget that."

Kate kissed Sarah. "I love you too, Aunt Sarah."

Jareth touched Sarah on the shoulder, causing her to turn slightly. The Goblin King smiled at Kate, and produced a crystal.

"For you, Kate. It is a crystal, nothing more. But if you turn it this way," he rolled it in his palm, and images flooded the sphere, "it will show you your dreams. It is the least I can give you." He passed it to the girl, who hesitated slightly, but took it after her Great-Aunt nodded her approval. She cupped it between her palms, and its' glow lit up her face.

Sarah cupped Kate's cheek in her hand once more, then stood and held out her hand to Jareth. Together, they turned back towards the window. With a shower of sparks, they disappeared.

Kate smiled, clutching the crystal to her chest, and climbed back into the chair by the fire. Staring into the flames, she began to dream.