Chapter Twenty One: All That You Can't Do On Your Own
There it was, then, there in sight: the end. It hovered like a butterfly over the tips of her fingers, brushed her with a newfound glory, taunted her senses and entrapped her mind, and then it was gone. The most elusive creature ever created, the end; for it never truly comes. No matter what happens, what words are spoken, there is always more to the story.
It took her some time to realize that they had won.
She was told it, over and over again, by Erik, by Ludo who had transformed back into a human for the occasion—
Not by Jareth, though. As the clock had been destroyed he had disappeared, utterly unwilling to admit defeat; no matter how hard they searched, he could not be found. His eyes seemed to hang in the sky far above, but the ceiling got in the way and she could only sense them there, not see them.
Tybalt the Head Goblin in Charge of Babysitting was more than happy to give custody of Toby back over to her. Sarah pulled him tight against her and hugged him hard, harder than she ever had done. Looking in his eyes as he laughed with delight at seeing her again, she wondered if he would even remember any of the time he had spent in the castle of the Goblin King.
Probably not, she knew.
She smiled back at him and jounced him on her hip— he squealed with glee and clapped his hands.
Temblor the Goblin Jailer handed Erik the keys of Christine's room, and then ran from the expression in his eyes. Erik unlocked the door, took a deep breath, and braced himself.
She had run away from him, after all.
He pushed the thought out of his mind and opened the door.
Sarah stood to one side, watching them as they embraced each other hard— a woman and the man she still called her angel, his cowl half off his head, a brilliant smile on both their faces— he pulled her up, picked her up off the ground, and buried his face in her shoulder, and she cried into his cloak.
Sarah simply watched, and bounced Toby absentmindedly.
She felt— she wasn't sure what, exactly. Certainly happy to see Erik and Christine as they were. It would take someone with no heart to not be happy for them, in the face of their joy and delight. But she also felt just a tiny bit sad— Erik hadn't so much as looked at her since the clock had gone down.
And after all they had shared—
Well. The adventure was over now, and there was nothing left to do— except go home.
She hugged Ludo fiercely, in both his forms, and thanked him for all he had done. He nodded slowly and gave her a careful embrace.
"Friend," he said.
She laughed and nodded, her eyes bright.
"That's right, Ludo."
His eyes were sad, but she turned away and looked at Toby.
"We won, Toby," she said.
He didn't contradict her.
"Are you ready to go home?"
He didn't say yes or no, but luckily it wasn't up to him.
She turned away slowly and began to walk back to the main door.
She had gone nearly all the way and stood just inside the threshold when she heard Erik call to her.
He took the baby carefully and passed him off to Christine, who took him off down the hall, bouncing him in her arms and chatting animatedly. Then he turned his eyes back to Sarah.
His face was flushed slightly, his eyes warm and sweet; his thin lips curved in a smile as he looked at her.
"Its been real," she said before he could say anything, and the smile turned into a laugh. He laughed so hard he nearly choked. "What? What did I say?"
"Your talent for understatement," he gasped in between chuckles, shaking his head, "never fails to amaze me."
She scoffed at him
"I have to go home now. My parents will be wondering where I am."
She turned back to him, but looked at the ground.
He tipped his head to the side, looking down at her.
"Don't you want to say goodbye?" he inquired gently.
The tears she'd been holding back now overflowed, and she stumbled forwards and clasped her arms around him.
"No!" she sobbed into his coat.
Erik laughed slightly, and put his arms around her. "Listen, child, do you even know how to get home? Its not a case of clicking your heels and wishing, you know—"
She got a hold on herself and let him go, dashing the tears from her eyes with her fingers.
"No," she sniffed, shaking her head.
"I will show you," he said. He took her by the hand and led her back into the castle, back past the wreckage of the clock on the floor, and to a large and ornately carved chest that proved, once he opened it, to hold hundreds of Jareth's crystals. Erik picked one out, turning it around in his long fingers, and tossed it to her.
"These," he said, "will take you wherever you want to go. You can take as many of them as you like, and come back here for a visit any time you wish."
She sniffed mightily and examined the crystal.
"Are you sure I can take some of them?"
He laughed again, spread his arms wide. "Who's going to stop you?"
She nodded, and looked up at him almost shyly.
"Are— are you going to take some as well?"
He sobered slightly.
"No," he said. "No, I do not want to have occasion to come back here again. Things that seem games to a young person are heartbreaks to an older one. I would not ever wish to return."
"And so," he said, "when you tell me goodbye you had better make it worth my while."
When she looked up, the gentle smile was back on his face again— it invited her and welcomed her and beckoned to her.
She set the crystal down on the pile and went to him.
He leaned down, and she pressed her lips to his forehead— starting in the middle, and a trail of kisses down to his temple, arms about his neck. He had his hands behind his back, bent down almost double, that smile on his face;she let him go and they smiled at each other.
"Time to go," she said, rejoicing in the feeling of being the one who made the decisions, the feel of choosing things of her own free will. There was a time and a place for everything, and now it was time to go home.
Erik stood, his arm around Christine, and watched as she and Toby, the chest of crystals with them, were enveloped and taken in by the crystal she held in her hand— they grew smaller and smaller, Sarah's smile and her eyes fixed on Erik's face, until they disappeared from view.
Then he heaved a sigh.
Bending to pick up a crystal to transport Christine and himself back to where they belonged, he took her arm and led her to the door. They stood on the steps and looked out over the Labyrinth below them, deceptively peaceful in the dawning light.
The Labyrinth knew its own, protected its own— its ruler would soon return, and things would go back to normal—
If they ever had been normal in the first place, that is.
Erik tossed the crystal up in the air and caught it.
"Well," he said to no one in particular, "that's that."
Soon the glimmer of the mask was all that remained of them, and even that faded from view, leaving the steps empty. The sun rose over the Labyrinth, and a new day began.
I would like to tell you that Erik and Christine remained true to each other ever after; that Sarah grew up into a worthy woman, changed for the better by her otherworldly experiences. But I can only tell you the story as I know it— everything thereafter was up to them. They made their choices, they made their decisions, they lived their lives.
And that's the truth.
A/N: Slightly hysterical thank yous to some awesome reviewers, most of whom I think followed me over here from the POTO section: Adison, Velf, LuvinLivnReadn, Musique et Amour, hikari-no-tsubasa, theScarlettWeasel, MollyTheWanderer, Rooklyn, Sandra, blondearianne, Circe Rose, wendela,
Renee17, Tango1, Padme Nijiri, Midnight Lady, Moonjava, Erianna Abyss, DarkPriestessofAssimbya, VictoriaTai, Trecebo, Starleena, DeannaM, and the dedicated thudderTwisted :) I'm glad you liked it. Or, at least, you told me you liked it, and if you didn't, then I'm glad you lied to me to protect my fragile ego. See you around!
Also thanks especially to Padme Nijiri and Musique et Amour, respectively, for pointing out some editing errors. Thanks guys!