Disclaimer: I am not Jim Henson, George Lucas, David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly, or any one of the wonderful people who had something to do with the filming the movie Labyrinth. I also make no money from fanfics. I guess that makes us even.
Moping About the House
Sarah came crashing through the front door, late as usual. And as usual, she had a perfectly good excuse that her stepmother did not want to hear. "I can explain!" she breathed frantically.
Tapping her foot in the kitchen was her stepmother. "I was afraid you weren't going to make it, Sarah," groused the blonde woman. "Which would have been very inconsiderate, especially after the discussion we had last night."
Last night? Sarah wracked her brain. Last night was the Labyrinth and Toby, and a commanding King who slipped in and out of sight like the dreams he was made of… In what way, does she have anything to do with that?
Then, remembering the argument, she nodded to show her understanding. Before her parents had left for the evening, she had fought with the pretentious blonde woman, and the hurtful words exchanged had been what upset her in the first place. Of course. How could she have forgotten?
To be fair, her stepmother had every right to be angry. She was late. It was kindness, in a way, that the elder woman still gave Sarah the benefit of the doubt, and that she still seemed upset when her wayward stepchild failed to live up to expectations. Usually Sarah was hours late, instead of minutes. If her past actions had created a pattern of pre-determined frustration in her stepmother, then it was no one's fault but her own.
Nodding again, Sarah smiled weakly and swallowed down her excuse. Today, as the saying went, was the first day of the rest of her life. And after her time in the Labyrinth, she was not going to take life for granted; she was going to make it count. First, Sarah would make amends with Toby. Then, she would repair the relationship with her father and stepmother. Next came school – she would pull her grades up without fail! She would never look back. No moping was allowed. After her incredible quest in the Labyrinth, she had been given a precious opportunity to party with her friends one final time. One last dance, before she had to put the trappings and toys of her childhood away. Yes, Hoggle had said she could call on him, whenever he was needed… yet, she knew this was not the lesson she needed to take away from her adventure. If there was one thing she had learned, it was that she had to grow up! Her childishness hurt others and herself.
Although, she really did have a good excuse for being late today. She had been so tired after running the Labyrinth, both emotionally and physically – and then there had been the party with Hoggle, Sir Didymus, Ludo and the others… By the time she had finished her tearful goodbyes, cleaned the room, and readied for bed, she estimated she had been awake for nearly thirty-six hours straight. Not all that time had been spent in one world, and not all the time had been accounted for on her desk clock, but the experience had been continuous for her. She felt drained, just thinking about it. Twelve hours of sleep might have restored her, fourteen would have been better, so naturally she had gotten only two. School didn't wait for her timetable to rearrange itself.
As the Goblin King had so aptly pointed out, life wasn't fair.
Dragging herself out of bed that morning, she had wearily scrubbed the shadows from her eyes and plodded to school, only to receive a tardy slip. Due to her aforementioned habitual lateness, this meant that she had been forced to serve detention after school, thereby making her late to babysit Toby again.
Would telling her stepmother about a tardy slip really make things better? No, no. Best to stay silent.
The blonde rattled her keys to check their location and quickly strode to the door with a manila folder full of papers. Yanking it open, she muttered something about lateness and gave Sarah a dark look. Sarah sighed heavily. Hopefully, the woman would be on time for the courtroom hearing. Her father and stepmother were both lawyers, and both were constantly busy. Neither had an outlandish salary, yet the family paid its bills on time and lived in a nice, big house in suburbia with a private lawn.
A nice, big house that her stepmother garishly decorated in disgusting flower prints…
As she heard her stepmother drive away, Sarah rolled her eyes at the drab brown wallpaper in the kitchen. It was covered in white and orange flowers. Even the wall hangings sported flower prints. But the pictures were not colorful, lovely, enticing watercolors. No, they were clinical, sterile depictions of various plant types. These wall hangings looked like a botanical study, an Audubon collection of prints - ugly and unromantic.
Was it any wonder that she had wanted to escape this place for so long?
With a wry smile, Sarah marched upstairs to check on Toby, before she started her homework. And then... it would be time to dust off the cardboard boxes in the attic and pack away her childhood belongings. A sharp pang pierced her chest, when she wondered what her room would look like, without her dreams inside it anymore.
Later that night, she finally finished her self-appointed task and collapsed backward onto her bed. The springs creaked as wearily as her joints did, and she laid a hand over her eyes. How long had she been awake? This would make about forty-eight hours of work, with only two hours of rest in the middle. She was so tired!
Falling asleep almost instantly, she hoped not to wake up in the middle of the night. Her room looked different now, without the majority of her toys and belongings, and Sarah knew her semi-conscious mind would be frightened of the place. So… no midnight snacks, or bathroom breaks were allowed. If she could sleep straight through the night, then on the morrow, everything would be all right. Tomorrow she could go to the mall, buy the poster of a famous movie star, and nail it up in place of her shelves of teddy-bears. Tomorrow she would buy new clothes to replace the costumes she had hastily thrown away today. Tomorrow she would become the normal teenage girl that her stepmother always wanted.
The last thought made her shudder, until she forcibly reminded herself it was her wish too. This was what the Labryinth had taught her – Grow up! Family comes first! Worldly possessions can weigh you down if you take on too many of them. It was decided, then. She would set the toys aside for Toby, once he was old enough.
In her mind's eye, she saw the window of her room and realized she could see herself. Through the window, she was partying with her friends, and Sir Didymus was just pulling out the Scrabble board. And sitting on a branch beside the glass was a snowy-colored barn owl, eyes trained on her form, as she played with the goblins. His goblins. The owl blinked slowly, once, then ruffled his feathers and took flight, soaring toward the moon.
Sarah… There was no mistaking that voice, irritated and patient, maddening and soothing at the same time. Yet he sounded sad to her ears now. Everything in moderation, Sarah. Even courage, even joy and despair – or did my Labyrinth teach you nothing?
With a gasp, Sarah sat up in bed. It was morning already, and sunlight streamed into the room, illuminating her clock. Time to get up for school. Luckily, she was still dressed, although she was shivering from the cold, having forgotten to crawl beneath the covers last night.
It had only been a dream. Still, she couldn't help glancing at the branch where the barn owl had rested. Had he truly been there, helplessly watching, as she celebrated her successful victory over the Goblin King? She had never thought of him at all, never suspected that the owl might circle back to her tree after leaving by the front door. Why should he? They were enemies, and she had beaten him, fair and square. There was no cause for remorse like she had seen in the barn owl's gaze. Hatred maybe, but sadness? It had all been an act, to trick her, to make her stay and surrender Toby. He never actually cared; his final few words had proven that. 'Fear me, love me, do as I say, and I shall be your slave,' what kind of a proposal was that? Bleh!
Shaking her head to clear the cobwebs from her mind, she stumbled into the bathroom and brushed her teeth, determined to avoid thinking about the Goblin King. It was over. She had made her decision, and she would stick to it. Starting today, she would focus on the future.
Jareth was depressed. He didn't want to admit it to himself, of course, so he kicked a large number of goblins in the head and stomped his boots on the sandstone floor a great deal, attempting to delay the inevitable self-doubt and questioning. But in truth, he was not himself. He had not been his usual self, since he had first seen… her. A cousin had invited him to a mortal theater play, and he had beheld a brunette beauty on stage. Sarah's mother, an actress of minor repute at the time, had been the lead in that play, and after the show he had followed his cousin to a ridiculous, human party at her house. There had been tasteless alcohol and tasteless loud music, and he had sequestered himself in the backyard, seeking relief from the clamor and stuffiness indoors.
He had not been hiding. Avoiding a noisy party merely had been his way of demonstrating his superiority over the humans. Frolicking in the Aboveground had never been his idea of fun. He much preferred puzzles, gardens, and crystals. Bossing people around and outwitting them made him feel powerful and smart, so he loved his job. Growing flowers and cutting the hedges in his Labyrinth was relaxing. And amusing himself with the occasional fae courtesan who threw herself across his path in hopes of gaining favor clearly satisfied his needs. What else was there? Honestly, he had been perfectly happy with his lot in life, before he saw her.
The moon had come out, and by its light, he had seen the form of a tiny human girl. Bathed in the soft glow of moonlight, she had seemed unearthly, huddled beneath a withering tree, her green eyes as black as pitch in the darkness. Before he knew it, he was kneeling by her side. Mama told me to stay in bed, she whispered guilelessly, But I wanted to see the Halloween costumes. Now I can't go back upstairs, or she'll see me.
And despite what the stories said, Jareth actually liked children. He was good with them too – he had to be, lest his castle fill to the brim with screaming, crying tiny tots every day. The Labyrinth's magic transformed a mortal,if one stayed too long in the Underground, but for the brief remainder of that babe's mortal life, the child wanted for nothing.
Pff, there's an easy solution to that, the Goblin King had said, taking the little girl's hand. We jump! On the count of three, they had leapt straight up in the air, and to girl's delight and confusion, they had not fallen back to earth. Landing gently on the roof, he had carried her down to her bedroom window and tucked her into bed.
Will you come back? she had asked hopefully, plaintively. At the time, he had not understood her desperation. A little slip of a girl, mostly ignored by her selfish, glamorous mother who took an acting career more seriously than her family. A child passed back and forth between her parents until her father remarried, gifting her with yet another self-serving mother, full of vanity and pride, who wanted her even less than the first. Later, a teenager with low self-esteem and unanswered demands, who threw herself headfirst into every activity she did, even when the world gave her a lukewarm reception.
I may only come one night a year, he had promised, but I will return.
Perhaps it was his fault that Sarah had become such a flighty creature. He had never made good on his promise to return one Halloween in his real form, but watching her as an owl, he had grown rather found of the cheeky little brunette. She did not have the worst of families, but it was a far cry from his regal upbringing in the Underground. As he grew to understand her loneliness, he had started sending her small gifts. Flowers, that sprouted for her in winter. Toys, that reflected the faces and facets of his Labyrinth. Even a few goblins had contributed – which was how a grotesque blue 'Goblin King' figurine had ended up on her vanity one year. He still vowed to annihilate whoever had sent that hideous impersonation.
Yet Sarah had cherished it, and a small seed had planted itself in his mind. If she were to be wished away to the Labyrinth… no one in her family would rescue her. They wouldn't believe in the words they spoke – they would never even remember it had happened. And Sarah would be happy in his care, like a daughter he had never had. He would see that the Labyrinth did not transform her into a goblin, but rather a nymph or fae. It wouldn't be hard. No one in the Underground would have to know.
Modifying a volume of the Labyrinth's history from his personal library, he had sent it Above. It had been a nicely laid trap, but for one crucial element. When the child had found the red, leather-bound book on her chair, she had smiled happily and searched for her father. Her father was the only one who did kind things for her, so she assumed that he had bought the book. But he was out of town on business. With a slight frown, little Sarah had asked her stepmother to read the bedtime story next, instead of her father, the one who normally did such things. Her stepmother had virulently refused, pushing the ten-year old up the stairs, insisting that a girl her age should not have bedtime stories anymore.
And that had been the end of Jareth's plan. Sarah had read the book alone, with a flashlight under her covers. Silently. Without speaking the words the goblins needed to hear to take someone away. How ironic – he had tried to twist kindness to suit his needs, but ultimately it was cruelty which had prevented him from stealing the girl away from her parents.
Even more ironic – as the years passed, the book had become her favorite. She had acted out the passages like a play, imitating her flamboyant, biological mother. Unfortunately for Jareth, she always had concentrated on the story's end, gladly pretending to be a brave heroine, and she never had bothered to read the opening aloud.
Wondering exactly when his interest in the girl had switched from mild to obsessive, Jareth leaned on the back of his throne and stared into the depths of an empty crystal. Had it been when he first conceived of a plan to whisk her away to his domain? Or had it been when the stepmother gave birth to a child of her own, and he had realized there was another way to bring Sarah to his kingdom, a risky but viable alternative?
He had been running out of time. Sarah was fourteen when Toby was born, and the King knew that once she attained maturity, he would have no hope of reaching her from the Underground. It was rare for an adult to believe in the supernatural to the extent necessary for passage between worlds. The only reason Sarah adhered to her childhood fantasies was because Jareth's gifts allowed her to. Forced her to, in fact. He had veritably showered her possessions with magic, praying that the tiniest bit would stay with her, so she would see the unseen for just a little while longer.
And his plan had worked. One night, she had read Toby an angry fairy tale and had spoken the magic words from his red, leather-bound book. With just enough magic and faith left in her blood, the Labyrinth had allowed her to enter rather than forget the child outright.
But his plan had failed too. Sarah had clung to the premise of the book so strongly that she had left the Labyrinth behind, and she had never seen past the illusion to the truth of the maze. The land fit itself to the expectations of its user, evolving in an endless stream of magic and power. By assuming that the maze (and the King) would act a certain way, it was so.
He had tried to explain, to no avail. Everything you wanted, I have done… I'm exhausted from living up to your expectations! Perhaps he was simply bad with words. It was distinctly possible, considering the company he kept. Why couldn't the rotten children have higher intelligence levels, when they were transformed into Goblins?
Now in a fit of temper, he shattered the crystal on the other side of the throne room. He would never have written those bloody lines into the stupid fairy tale, if he thought they were going to be used against him! He had planned for the book to be used against her, by one of her careless parents. The remainder of the story was merely a transcript from his library, a relic from when a medieval lady had once defeated the maze. It shouldn't have made a difference – only the conviction behind the words mattered, and he knew without a doubt, he knew, that Sarah had wanted to stay. She hadn't meant what she said. Her words – you have no power over me? – they had shocked her, even as she spoke them.
Yet it had been enough for the Labyrinth to send her away. The words had instilled skepticism, a fissure in the wall of her faith, and she had lost the requisite belief in magic to stand in the Underground. She was too old. He had to give up.
But he couldn't. Not after hearing her tearful plea to Hoggle – I need you! Not after feeling her warmth as they danced in the ballroom, her cheek only a breath away from his own and her body pliant in his arms. Not after seeing her yearning, as he offered her dreams in the shape of a crystal and she gazed into his eyes instead, as though she might find her hopes there.
When had his feelings for her changed? At first, she had been intriguing. Then, he had wanted to protect her from the harsher realities of life, even going so far as to consider her a pet daughter. But as she had challenged his maze, his feelings toward her had been… not at all parental.
What did it mean? That he was a bad conversationalist? Possibly. That she was a fool not to accept his offer? Certainly! At the very least, however, it was clear that he didn't understand Sarah as well as he had once thought. If he could not figure out what she truly desired and thereby entice her back into the Underground, before her belief in magic disappeared completely, then he would lose. He wasn't sure what he would lose, precisely, but he hated losing, and so he would not.
Sarah would return to the Underground. And this time, she would stay forever.