The Way Forward
She was lying on grass, cold and extremely wet. She looked up and saw...a tower. Had she just fallen to the bottom? But no, if she'd fallen from the Castle's Tower, she would be dead and she would not have woken up lying in the grass. Jareth had...thrown something at her. She remembered thick clouds and fast winds...she looked up at the tower again. It was...familiar. Her head hurt, her whole body was tired. Had she been here before? Suddenly the wind whistled low and long and it came back to her.
Sarah sat up quickly at sucked in a breath, clutching her pounding head, "No...no, no, no, no, no..." She looked up at the tower once more and tried to stop her body's shaking from fatigue and the bitter cold. She was back...on the Tor, at Glastonbury, in the Aboveground.
"Jareth, you unbelievable bastard," she muttered before passing out once more.
Then Sarah dreamed. She dreamed that the hands of one of her guards were reaching for her, trying to get her out of the cell, or on the floor, or against the wall. There were three more behind him and they leered at her. She shied away and cried out, and somehow this kept them away. But then the dreamed changed and the monstrous guards became tall, lean men in starkly white robes, but with shadowed faces that somehow seemed more frightening than anything she had ever seen. They seized her and tried to put her in another cell, a darker place. She struggled desperately but her arm fell hard against something and pain lanced through it. Then somehow, the ground seemed to open up under her feet and she was held, suspended in the air by the force of the while robed men. Sarah violently shook herself free and dove into the abyss beneath her, welcoming the blackness, the absence of fear and pain.
"Sarah..." She frowned at the familiar voice she could not place. She stirred under the heavy blankets, but as she moved her right arm she felt something protruding from it...a plastic tube. Her left arm felt too heavy.
"Oh, God," she moaned...a hospital. It was starting.
"Sarah...Sarah, darling, it's Daddy, sweetheart. I'm here." She placed the familiar voice and fervently wished that she hadn't. This was going to happen too fast for her liking.
Sarah blinked open her eyes and stared at the considerably aged face of her father, "Dad, what are you doing here? What...?" She broke off the second question quickly. Her voice was dry and crackling and she realized she would get the answers anyway.
He grasped her left hand tightly. Sarah noted the arm was in a cast and vaguely wondered when that had happened. Her father's voice was also strange, as though he was trying not to cry. She tried not to notice it as he answered her, "I took the first flight out. They've had to keep you sedated for a little while, honey. They said that when they found you, you wouldn't let anyone touch you. They said that you...weren't in your right mind, that you screamed something about a queen and your mother at them and struggled all the way into the ambulance. You sprained your wrist. They said..." it was his turn to cease abruptly.
It was quite a dramatic way to venture back into modern society. She tried to remember the episode, but her mind was still filled with the frightening dream she'd had. Sarah sat back, looking away stiffly as her father fought to keep his control. This all must have been very difficult for him. "How long has it been?" Her voice sounded hollow now, but still dry. He hadn't offered her anything to drink yet.
He clasped her hand tighter, as if she would disappear again if he didn't. She felt a stab of guilt at being so petty. But then wondered why she should feel guilty. He finally answered the question, "It's been about a year since you went missing."
Sarah closed her eyes. A year...she'd only been with Jareth for four days. A year in the clutches of her, she hadn't even had the time to see her friends again...Hoggle, Ludo, Didymus. It was her fault. They'd been taken from her twice now and she knew she would never go back. A tear rolled down her cheek, now she would never see them, and she still had to find him.
Her father was still speaking, and Sarah quickly wiped the tear away before he could notice, "Karen and I have been frantic. We came here at least two or three times and no one could tell us anything. Your mother was convinced it was some sort of kidnapping to do with ransom or some such nonsense, but no one ever received a letter." Sarah snorted and her father gave her a tired look. Her mother wasn't nearly famous enough or rich enough for that to have been the case.
"Sarah, honey," he paused, and she stared at him. She couldn't believe he was going to ask her so soon. He looked at her in an uncomfortably earnest manner, but still did not notice her obvious reluctance to talk. "What happened to you? Where have you been?"
Sarah pried her bandaged hand from his grasp and looked at the window. The blinds were down. She couldn't see out of it, but she would not look her father in the face as she lied to him, "I...don't...re—"
Just then a petite looking young woman stepped uncertainly into the room, a shocked and concerned look on her face as she saw Sarah in the bed. She recovered quickly and the door closed firmly behind her. Sarah felt a twinge of familiarity as she stared at the newcomer. She was one of those women who could be described as perfectly small. She could not have been more than a few inches over five feet, but her body was beautifully proportioned, complete with slim but generous curves in all the right places. A youthful face and reddish-brown hair cut in a pixie style in addition to her small stature made her seem even more child-like. But the wit and wisdom in her deep brown eyes made one think twice about her age.
Her father broke the extended silence, "Ms. Daniels, I believe the instructions for visitors were 'family only'"
And Sarah realized, feeling immeasurably awful for having forgotten her roommate, her best friend, "Oh, Ruby!" This time she couldn't stop the tears and Ruby swiftly crossed the room to envelop Sarah in an embrace of pure solace, with no need for questions or answers.
After a few minutes of heavy sobbing, Ruby leaned back a little and brushed the damp hair from Sarah's tear-stained face. Her voice was softly coaxing, "Hey, Sarah-doll, feel a little better now, do we?" Sarah frowned at the nickname, and then remembered that Ruby had called her that ever since she'd forced the poor Brit into watching Guys and Dolls with her a few weeks after they'd met. She'd never become friends with anyone as fast as she had with Ruby.
Sarah nodded slightly and smiled through her tears, though she wished she could just turn off the water-works altogether. She felt so...childish, and God knew she'd cried enough all over Jareth in the past few days.
Her father coughed loudly from where he'd been sitting the entire time. A vastly annoyed look passed over Ruby's features and Sarah put a hand on her arm. During the time they had lived together, Sarah's roommate had been extremely vocal on the topic of Sarah's parents. And while one could say that Sarah had made a great leap away from selfishness and toward maturity after her experiences in the Labyrinth the first time, said person could not repeat that same statement about Sarah's parents.
It had been quite a letdown when Sarah realized that even though she grew up, her father and step-mother were already grown and would not easily see their own faults. Soon she had stopped trying to get them to lighten up on her babysitting, not that she really minded anymore. But soon after that they had stopped pretending she would be allowed to go out if they wanted to also.
"Sarah, I talked to your doctor shortly before you came around." Her father looked at her in a strangely business like manner; Sarah thought maybe Ruby's silent comfort had shamed him slightly. But if that was the case, he didn't really bear it well, "You are scheduled to be released tomorrow or whenever you're ready, as long as you see a doctor regularly about strengthening your diet. I booked us a flight for the day after tomorrow."
Ruby tensed as Sarah tried to wrap her mind around going...home, "You what? Why would you do that?" She really had trouble comprehending the idea. Her father's house hadn't really been home since they'd fought about her choice in career. Sometimes she didn't even visit for the holidays, when Toby would come to visit her.
He continued as if there was no problem, "Well, of course you will be coming home. Sarah, honey, you've just been through a very traumatizing experience—
"You don't know what I've been through."
He ignored her hissed interjection and forged on, as if he was speaking to her at the age of five instead of twenty-five, "And I can only assume that you'll want to be home for your recovery."
"Well, then you'd be wrong."
He looked at her like those men must have looked at her, like she was crazy, "Sarah—
She crossed her tube and cast laden arms and sat up straighter as she interrupted him again, "I'm staying here. I'm not going to be doing anything to 'recover' at home that I couldn't do just as well here. Besides, I don't want to lose my scholarships." Sarah put an blatant emphasis on the 'S'. He had refused to help her pay for grad school; she had been forced to work two jobs in her first year before she'd been granted enough scholarship money to put all of her time into her research.
"Sweetheart, I hardly think this is the time to be worrying about your studies. You should come home, where Karen and Toby and I can take care of you." He exuded a horrible amount of patronizing concern.
"Leave Toby out of your plans, Dad. You just want to make sure I don't go missing again and put you through all the trouble of trying to find me." He stared at her as if she'd slapped him across the face. Sarah knew she'd just crossed a line, and the accusation was a little unreasonable, but she told herself she was justified. She couldn't believe he was springing all this on her not even twenty minutes after she'd woken up. Ruby put a hand on her shoulder as she continued as calmly as possible, trying to channel her mature and rational adult side, and not her angst-y, paranoid teenager side that had somehow surfaced in the past few minutes, "Well, don't worry. I think I'm fine for now. So I don't need you to take care of me. I am a twenty-five year old woman. And I...Am...Staying...Here."
He shook his head at her, so certain he knew what was right, "Sarah, you don't even know where you're going to live."
At that Ruby broke in from her position next to Sarah on the small bed, "Actually, one of the reasons I came by was to tell you, Sarah-doll, that surprisingly enough, your room at my place is still open. Ready and waiting for you to occupy it once more." She threw Sarah an only slightly triumphant smile.
Sarah's father made an impatient huffing noise and stood up from his chair. He spoke stiffly as he gathered up his coat, "Well, since I'm apparently not needed here, I suppose I'll be going. No reason to wait another day. I've paid the bill for the damages..."
He shot an uncomfortable glance at her, still fumbling with his coat, "While you were...not yourself...you caused...ahm...extensive damage to the inside of an ambulance. Equipment was...damaged beyond repair. I've taken care of it."
She reached out and caught his hand as he turned to leave and Ruby moved against the wall and out of the way as Sarah pulled him closer to her, speaking guiltily at his distant manner. She shouldn't have been so antagonistic, "You didn't have to do that."
He looked down at her and smiled for the first time since she'd woken and a little warmth returned to his voice, "My Sarah, always so independent. It's already done. And it wasn't a terrible amount. You don't need to worry, it's not that important."
Sarah tightened her hold on his hand. She didn't want him to leave yet, "It is to me. I'll pay you back."
"With what? It's hard to believe you received any paychecks this past year, sweetheart." His voice was soft, but she still winced. What was she going to live on? He smiled again; this time a little more sadly. He moved his hand to her hair, "Just let me do this, Sarah. If you won't come home, just take some help from us, okay? I'll send you a check in a few days, just a little something till you get back on your feet."
Sarah nodded silently, but spoke again before her father could turn back towards the door, "Dad, it's not that I don't appreciate everything that you guys want to do for me. I...ah...I just need to stay here." Sarah felt herself begin to babble, but couldn't really stop, the desire to express her reasoning became overwhelming. She was probably once more on the verge of hysterics, "I got myself in to this...I-I can do this...i-if I stay here then it will be okay...if I stay here a-as long as it takes..."
She stopped when her father pulled her into a tight hug, "Shhh, sweetheart, you do what you need to. I'm not mad, okay?"
She closed her eyes and hugged him back, "Okay, Daddy."
A few minutes later he had gone and Ruby had placed herself back on the bed next to Sarah. She told the increasingly fatigued patient amusing stories about the recent public and private escapades of some of their mutual friends and even some of the University intrigues. How the girl had found certain things out, Sarah would never know, nor would she ask, having realized long ago that that would spoil Ruby's mystique. Ruby knew almost everything worth knowing about everyone they knew...period.
But the thing that Sarah appreciated most was that she didn't ask questions. All Sarah had to do was listen and laugh when appropriate. She figured she was getting to be so tired that that was all she was good for at the moment anyway.
As Ruby was finishing up an anecdote about one of their fellow grad students and the head of the English department's dog, a man of rather large stature in a white coat knocked and then came immediately into the room. Both women turned and he grinned at them in an over-friendly way, "Evenin' ladies. I'm Dr. Redding. Around here they call me Big Red. I've been treating you for the last couple days, Ms. Williams."
All of Sarah's exhaustion instantly vanished and she felt her body tense as she groaned inwardly, soon her irrational fears would betray her...how embarrassing. She found her voice after a moment, "Er...hello." She saw Ruby's eyes flash at her hesitant tone.
He smiled again and moved to the end of her bed for her chart. He wrote a few things down and walked around the bed to the monitors on Sarah's left, right next to her. Sarah felt her anxiety rising with each second he was there, each step he took closer to her.
She seized Ruby's hand in a vice-like grip and her friend stifled a gasp. He looked up at the noise and an expression of confusion passed over his features. Sarah felt really bad; he was young and had probably never treated anyone like her before. Ruby spoke up after a moment, "Is there anything else you need to do, Doctor?"
He pulled out a needle, "We need to draw a little blood for a few more tests. I thought I'd save the nurse the trouble."
Sarah's free hand began shaking when he said the word 'blood'. She quickly buried it in her lap.
Ruby spoke again, looking pointedly at him then at the scars and bruises on Sarah's visible arm, "Why don't you let one of the nurses take care of it. I think it would save everyone a lot of...ah...trouble."
His eyes flicked to Sarah and he turned pale. She wondered how he hadn't thought about the psychological implications of her injuries and sighed heavily at the fact that she had been the one to corrupt this small still innocent part of him. He spoke slowly and quietly, backing away from her like she was a spooked animal, "Oh, er, um, yes. I...apologize. I'll...ah...get Maggie to come in a few minutes." He swiftly exited the room and shut the door behind him with a soft click.
Sarah heard Ruby murmur as she let go of her friend's hand, "Poor puppy, right out of Med school too, probably."
Sarah glared wearily at her friend, "Oh, shut up, I already feel bad enough about scaring him."
Ruby put her arms around Sarah, pulling an almost palpable sense of comfort about her. She spoke in a lightly joking, but subtly reassuring manner, "Sarah-doll, I don't think scared is the right word. And it's not your fault the puppy was a newbie. Besides, he would have learned eventually and he should have known already."
They both sat silent for a few moments and finally Ruby spoke, "You know I won't push you, Sarah. But I'm also going to make sure that you know I'll listen if you want to tell me anything."
Sarah looked down, guilt-ridden once again. "I can't," her voice was barely above a whisper.
Ruby gently lifted Sarah's face and looked squarely at her, conviction in her eyes and expression, "You can, doll. You're just not ready yet."
Sarah didn't know how to respond. She couldn't tell Ruby that it wasn't a matter of being ready. She couldn't tell her that no one would believe what she had been through...except for Jareth...if...when she found him. The fact that Sarah was utterly alone in this slowly sank into her mind and stayed there.
They...her dad, Ruby...would want her to tell someone about it, they would tell her to go see a therapist, a trauma specialist or something. Sarah knew there was no way she could do that. She couldn't even begin to try to lie to a therapist. They could see through that kind of thing. And she probably wouldn't be able to lie convincingly to a child about what had happened to her. There would be nothing to talk about. If she tried to talk about part of it, she wouldn't be able to separate her...torture from the other fantastic events that she had been through. Ultimately she would reveal something that she shouldn't have and they would have her committed or something. Then she would never find Jareth.
Ruby put a hand to her cheek and spoke softly, "When you're ready, doll. Don't worry about it until then, okay?"
There was silence again for a few moments. Sarah was forced to cover up a yawn and was feeling horribly rude, but extremely tired as another knock came at the door and an elderly woman stepped into the room.
Her voice held the comforting warmth of a grandmother or favorite aunt and Sarah assumed this was Maggie. She spoke regretfully to Ruby first, "I'm terribly sorry, dear, but visiting hours are over now. But we can have you back as early as you like tomorrow."
Ruby smiled warmly and thanked her before turning to Sarah and thrusting a small piece of paper at her, "I'm at this number in an inn in the town. Call it if you need anything."
Sarah looked at the number dubiously, "Honestly, Ruby, what would I need that couldn't wait till tomorrow?"
The tone of Ruby's voice left no alternative, "Anything. All right?"
"Yes. All right." Sarah put the paper next to the phone.
"I'll see you tomorrow." And after a quick hug she left the room.
Maggie moved about the room for a few minutes, checking over the things the puppy had done earlier. Then she took a surprisingly small amount of Sarah's blood, keeping her touch light and gentle. She patted Sarah's hand before leaving, "You've got a good friend there, dear. And your dad's not too bad either, eh? I didn't know you could get here from the states as fast as he did. And I don't even know how the young lady found out you was here, but she did. Must have dropped everything too, today's a Thursday. Whatever she's missing, she's missed two days of it already." She paused and patted Sarah's hand again, "Good for you. You'll get along fine, I think."
Sarah smiled, feeling incredibly comforted by the woman's words, "Thanks."
Maggie walked to the door and smiled again, "Goodnight, dear." The door closed behind her and the room was silent.
Sarah was really tired, but she felt her mind wandering nonetheless. Out of all the people she had ever known in the Aboveground, the two that meant the most to her had come. She had seen them and been with them. And while everything was not perfect with her father, he had at least not gone away angry.
But these reflections inevitably turned her mind to the one other person she wanted...no, needed to see, the one person she couldn't have because she had no idea where to find him. Sarah felt incredibly alone. He was the only one she could tell, the only one who would ever understand. Except, at that moment, wherever he was, he didn't understand. And even if she found him, it dawned on her that she didn't even know if he could.
Sarah felt the familiar burning wetness of her tears rolling down her cheeks. She turned her face into the pillow in an attempt to quiet her sobs. All the while she tried to keep the name inside of her, to keep it within until she found him, until he came to claim it.
Sarah's mind and body eventually gave in to exhaustion and she slept without dreams. At the dawn, she could not remember if she had ultimately yielded his name.
Not so very far away, a man dreamed. He dreamed of a forest and filtered sunlight and a green dress and eyes that danced. He dreamed of a room lit by moonlight and silvery sheets, of those same dancing eyes and a drowsily smiling mouth to match. A mouth formed of lightly blushing lips, drowned in starlight as they spoke to him, "Come away from the window..." The soft voice faded before she could finish.
But then the dream changed, she was in another, smaller bed and she turned from him and wept his name. He knew that she did this but he could no longer hear her, he did not know the name.
A/N: This is the first chapter of the epilogue. There will be three. I'm really excited. And, not that I didn't enjoy writing the rest of this little old fic of mine, but this is what I have been waiting to write, ever since I came up with the idea in the first place. And good things are in the future too. However, because it has taken me what seems like a really long time to get this chap up, don't expect one in the really near future. This is what my entire story comes down to, and it's what I'm really passionate about. I'll be putting my absolute best out there for this, so by no means will it be quick. But I know for a fact that it will be worth the wait.
Thanks to everybody who reviewed the final chapter of TWB. I will be replying in my LJ, but maybe not til tomorrow, as I have Japanese homework that I have not finished (or started, really) yet. But the replies will be up! Don't worry. Also...look forward to another tidbit in a few days or so...just for fun ;).
And please, please review this. It is my baby. XD