Rating: G
Disclaimer: Labyrinth and all character within belong to Henson and Co. I'm just taking them on a harmless lil joyride. :-)
Notes: This standalone is a companion piece to Square One.
Feedback: Pretty pretty please! It's so important to me to know if you like this style/content. Thanks!




Sarah walked quietly down the steps, her hand seemingly glued to the freshly polished banister. Life just felt different today, she smiled secretively to herself. Of course, she suspected that anyone who had just spent the previous night solving the Labyrinth would feel the same way. She exhaled softly as she turned her attention back to the present. To the now. She twisted her lips curiously as her attention was pulled to the images lining the wall behind the staircase. Wide, chocolate eyes suddenly darted from picture to picture as they hung so innocuously upon the beige, papered wall.

Without thinking, she stopped before a small, creased picture of her sitting on her father's lap. After the divorce, she thought as she smiled at the child she once was. But before Karyn.

Lovingly, she raised a finger to the framed photograph, her heart seeming to clench tightly as she traced the image thoughtfully. Who would have ever thought things would change so much! so soon! She could still remember posing for this particular snapshot. It didn't seem so very important at the time but now... now that things were so different, this small little piece of paper seemed priceless.

Her eyes roamed to a nearby family portrait taken soon after Toby's birth. Black eyebrows knitted together curiously as she stepped closer to examine the pictue more carefully. Her father sat on a chair next to Karyn, who was holding the baby. Sarah stood defiantly off to the side, almost as if she were trying to prove something. She could still hear the photographer even now, asking her to stand over and between the adults. But she had refused, the anger flaring in her eyes as she thought them unreasonable and mean for asking her to change.

She shook her head suddenly as she continued her trip downstairs. Her slender, white hand caressed the globed end of the banister as she stood silently at the base of the stairs. After such a long night, Sarah was starving. And exhausted. Yet, a part of her was dying to forgo breakfast and go to the park by the stream. She wanted nothing more than to just sit and reflect on her night...to hurrily burn everything to memory before this, too, changes.

A loud sound erupted from the kitchen, accompanied by the grumbled cursing of her stepmother. Her lips tugged slyly at the corners as she stepped closer to see the cause of the ruckus.

Sarah grinned as she peered into the cluttered room, watching as Karyn fumbled with a long, wooden spoon. Pushing a ceramic bowl towards the centre of the counter, the older woman seemed completely oblivious to everything but the bowl and the small piece of paper before her.

"Okay, Julia," Karyn muttered as she suddenly held the paper up to the light. "You better not be leading me astray again or else I *swear* I'm returning every last one of your cookbooks to the store."

Barely stiffling a chuckle, Sarah continued watching as Karyn spilled countless spoonfuls of oil-drenched flour on her normally spotless blouse. Her thoughts suddenly flashed back to when her father first told her he was getting remarried. Even now, she found that she was grinding her teeth as she remembered her incredible anger. Things had been perfect before, Sarah snorted quietly, why did he need to bring her in to mess every thing up?

Karyn suddenly squealed, startling Sarah out of her reverie. She couldn't help but giggle at the look of utter delight on Karyn's flour-smudged face. At that moment, her heart swelled with affection for the woman.

The woman looked up, cocking her head queringly as she noticed her stepdaughter at the door. The delight had faded to a guarded reserve as she continued stirring.

The horrible clenching in her heart suddenly returned with a vengeance, making Sarah wince as powerful emotion after emotion struck at her. Life seemed so beautiful. But so fleeting. Sooner or later, even this would be gone. The thought hurt so much, leaving Sarah wanting nothing more in the world than a camera so she could take a picture. Before things changed.

"Good morning," Sarah smiled weakly as she threw herself in a nearby chair.

"Morning. Thanks for watching Toby last night. Did you sleep well?" Karyn asked, almost timidly as she continued stirring her concoction.

Sarah bit a sharp reply off just barely before it escaped her mouth.

"Quite well, thanks. Did you guys have fun?"

Karyn looked more than a little confused at the subdued response and just nodded. A moment of silence passed and suddenly, the blonde woman stopped her seemingly relentless stirring. Her mouth opened and closed several times, almost as if rebellious words were fighting to escape.

"You baking something, Karyn?" Sarah started civilly, her every nerve about to explode from the awkward discomfort.

Karyn nodded again as she picked up the ceramic bowl and began pouring its slightly lumpy contents into a pan.

"Lemme help," the girl offered quickly as she jumped from her chair so she could hold the creeping pan steady.

"Thank you, Sarah," Karyn whispered softly. "Yes, I'm baking. A cake, anyway. This is actually for you. It's a thank you for breaking your plans last night to watch Toby."

Sarah took a deep breath as she tried not to snap at the woman. After all, they both knew Sarah had no plans the night before. She closed her eyes for a moment, knowing her stepmother was attempting to be nice and wondering why she was having such a hard time responding in kind. Shaking her head, she decided to keep her silence a moment while she watched the woman carefully. Karyn was trying so hard, Sarah decided with a bit of surprise. The woman can be annoying as hell, but she's *trying*. Which, she grimaced as her conscience admitted harshly, was more than I could say.

"Karyn?"

"Yes, Sarah?" her stepmother replied as she carefully placed the ceramic bowl into the sink.

"I'll wash if you dry?" Sarah blurted, her mouth fumbling over the apology her heart suddenly wanted to give.

Both blonde eyebrows seemed to shoot up as she put the pan in the oven and set the timer. "Thank you, Sarah. That would really be a lot of help."

Quietly, they took their positions at the sink, lost in thought as they considered the other's actions and utterly bewildered when they began considering their own.

"Karyn?" Sarah started again as she slipped her hands into pink, rubbery gloves.

"Yes, Sarah?"

Sarah looked down and began to scour the ceramic bowl. "I was thinking..."

"About?" Karyn looked utterly bewildered as she held out her hand for the bowl.

The girl frowned as she suddenly turned to face Karyn.

"Sometimes," she started uncertainly, ignoring the unbreaking rush of water filling the stainless steel sink. "Sometimes, the way forward is the way back. Sometimes..." Sarah smiled helplessly as she turned back to the dishes. "... a person needs to look to their past in order to appreciate their future. It's really amazing how much a simple memory could mean years down the road."

She looked down, noticing with wry amusement that the ends of her hair had fallen into the sink and were currently drenched in oily suds. She frowned as she tried to give her thoughts form, not realising that Karyn had stopped drying the dishes in order to listen to her stepdaughter's softly spoken words.

"It's a funny thing. Change, I mean. You can spend your entire life just expecting things to be the way they've always been, complaining of how boring and inconsequential your life is. And how you just wish, for once, something exciting and cool would happen. But yet, the second things are different, you resent it. You fight it every step of the way. You wish for things just to return to normal, back when life was simpler. Was better. Was what you were used to.

"And yet, a part of you realises that things will never be the same again. They *can* never be the same. That smarter part of you also knows, with a little effort, things can be better. That situations, relationships, and even people can improve. That the bad things, the stuff that makes you cry even when you don't realise that's what is causing it, don't have to stay the same. And I guess, that is the real, best meaning of change."

Her voice faded, the echoes soon drowned out by the pouring water of the sink. With a suspicious tilt to her chin, Sarah handed a dripping plate to her stepmother, her head lowered as she set about cleaning the next plate. Karyn smiled softly as she slowly dried the object, her surprised blue eyes filled with joyful moisture.