I do not own Jareth, Sarah, the Labyrinth, or any of the characters that reside there. They belong to the Jim Henson Company.
Dedicated to Phuriedae...the best beta ever. Thank you for all your encouragement, insight, and inspiration.
What You Wish For...
The trouble, Sarah thought, with having your birthday land on New Year's Eve, was that you were never entirely certain whether people were being honest with you. Inevitably, someone would throw a party, to which you would be invited. Provided that person was a friend or family member, it was almost a guarantee that at some point during the evening, an extremely overdone cake would be wheeled out of nowhere and people would start singing Happy Birthday.
Like now, for instance.
What she felt unsure of was whether people threw the party for her first, and New Years was the afterthought; or, more depressingly, they were having a big party anyway and had decided to kill two birds with the proverbial stone.
She rather suspected the latter.
This year, the party thrower was her friend Caitlyn—a blonde, stick-like, social butterfly that Sarah had met in her second year of college, during a stage movement class. Caitlyn wasn't really into theater, she'd whispered to Sarah when their professor had begun floating around the other end of the room. She was only taking stage movement to lose her duck-like way of walking—the result of being born without blades on her feet, Sarah discovered later, when she saw Caitlyn perform a perfect double axel and land gracefully on one skate clad foot.
Still, Sarah thought, she'd been a good friend, which was why she had flown across the country to be here for this shindig. When one of Sarah's friends asked for her support, she gave it. Loyalty was important to her. Even if it cost her a half a day stuck in airports and on planes.
Motive, Sarah had learned during her years of studying acting and directing and script analysis, was everything.
Caitlyn's motive tonight was to have a really big, really glitzy party to impress her (hopefully) soon-to-be-fiancé, Rick. She had really pulled out all the stops too, Sarah thought as she scanned the room for possible exits. The room might have started the evening as a banquet hall at an upscale Florida golfing resort, but it had been transformed by what seemed like miles of gold and white drapery, which masked the paintings of tweed clad golfers and turned the walls into gently billowing waves of glittering fabric. The chandeliers had been dimmed a bit, and realistic looking electric candelabras lent an old world air to the place.
It was the guests, however, who had really transformed the party into something else. Caitlyn had claimed that she'd gone with a masquerade ball theme as a nod to Sarah's love of theater. However, she'd pointedly ignored the fact that Sarah had an aversion to masks of any sort. Again, motivation: masks are sexy, and Caitlyn was really gunning for Rick's attention. Which definitely explained her friend's choice of costume, which was some odd combination of Swan Princess and Catholic School Girl. If Rick didn't propose by the end of the night, Sarah thought, he was a moron.
She smoothed her hands over her sapphire blue evening gown and hoped they wouldn't leave sweat stains.
All these masks made her twitchy. Ten years later and she still had the occasional flashback, although they'd gotten a little hazier with time. Always, though, masks made her twitchy, and peaches made her want to throw up. She hoped there weren't any peaches in that cake.
Not a dream, she had decided. She'd always lived half in and half out of a dream world, but she knew enough to know that not everything in the world can be explained. There needed to be some magic. She just happened to have taken it for granted that if magic really existed, it wouldn't harm her. How wrong she'd been.
She was more careful now. She avoided surprises. She phrased things carefully. She never broke mirrors, or walked under ladders, or said the name of the Scottish play in the theater. There was magic out there, and it didn't always play nice and fair. Fairies weren't sweet, and handsome princes weren't always charming.
But that didn't mean she'd stopped dreaming about them.
Even now, surrounded by beautiful masked people in glittering costumes, and she the undesired center of their attention—especially now—she caught herself scanning the crowd for a glimpse of blonde hair, or the glitter of a blue coat.
"...Happy Birthday to you!" A few drunken giggles trailed off afterward, and she thought she heard someone start the refrain about the monkey before someone else shut them up.
"Go on, Sarah, make a wish!" Caitlyn said. Sarah blinked. A wish?
Three feet of sugar and chocolate and candles stared back at her, waiting.
If there was one thing Sarah was more careful with than anything else, it was wishes. Never, never did she take a wish lightly. The phrase "Oh, I wish..." never left her lips. What she wouldn't have given to be able to not think about wishes the way everyone else did. But there was a ten and a half year old boy out there who was living proof that wishes could have unintended results.
She should have gotten past all this, she told herself. She was an adult now, and real or not, she was no longer the bratty dreamer who had wished away a helpless baby. But she couldn't let it go. The trouble was, there was no way to analyze it, really. Her thoughts twisted back in on themselves every time she tried. Was it a dream? Was it real? If it was a dream, how could she explain those missing hours? Or finding herself standing in her foyer with an owl sweeping above her head? Or the party that had happened afterwards in her room until her parents had come upstairs to investigate the noise and she'd been forced to usher everyone back through the mirror in a hurry?
And if it was real, how did she explain the end? The Escher room? The offer? He'd fought to keep her brother, but in the end he'd begged for her. It might have all been part of the game, a ploy to turn her dreamy and romantic head, to appeal to her selfishness. But some part of her still wondered if there'd been more than that. He'd seemed so...sincere. Probably more romantic adolescent nonsense, but how would she know for sure? She had no distance from it.
And here she was, ten years later, all grown up and terribly alone. Who could she tell? Who could she talk to? Every relationship she tried to have ended more quickly than it began. There was this great big maze in the way of everything, always whispering to her from her memories, always reminding her that things aren't always what they seem. That faces are nothing more than masks that can be removed to reveal goblins underneath. That...
"Sometime this YEAR, Sarah!" Someone shouted, and a host of people laughed. She blushed, and leaned forward. It wasn't like they really expected her to make a wish. Just pretend, she told herself. Act, like she used to on the stage before she realized she made a much better director. She smiled, took a deep breath, and...
I wish Jareth were here tonight. I wish I could talk to him. I wish I could ask him all those questions that I never had answered. I wish he would take off his mask. I wish...
Unbidden, the thoughts swirled through her mind, the last so softly whispered in the back of her heart that even she didn't hear what she wished. She exhaled sharply in surprise.
And blew out every candle on the cake at once.