Author's Note: The Epilogue and Chapter 9 have been changed, to make the ending less rushed. Also, I thought a lot about what one reviewer said – this story is about working to make life come out right, instead of expecting things will be easy for you. In essence, this was a moral in the Henson movie Labyrinth too. So I thought Toby would be a nice counterpoint to show off Sarah's new maturity, and to show Jareth and Sarah have patched things up.
"A wish?" she echoed, staring at the crystal in his palm suspiciously, a sinking feeling gripping her chest. Not for the first time, she recalled the way he had held out a single crystal to her twice before, both times offering her dreams. The first time, his voice had been snide, the offer insincere. The second time, she had firmly convinced herself, was a trick.
Yet watching him now, in light of all the events that had happened since she won back Toby, she no longer felt so certain. What exactly had he been offering, then? The sparkling orb in his fist taunted her, critically assessing her flaws. Was he saying he could take her home, right this moment? Or was this some kind of test?
As the seconds ticked by, she hesitated, remembering his rather desperate expression in the room of stairs, when she first defeated the Labyrinth. If he had truly wanted her to stay with him, and she had ignored his feelings, assuming them to be a lie, then that must have hurt his feelings a great deal. This time though, she knew his offer was genuine.
Feeling her eyes grow misty, she put her hand on top of the crystal in his outstretched hand and tried to focus on the situation at hand. But it was impossible not to re-evaluate all her previous experiences through this new looking glass.
By taking her to the Hall of Dreams, the only agenda he could possibly have been serving was her own. It had been a kind gesture, to allow her a gift of her own making. Anything at all, whatever she asked for, it would have been hers. And doubting him, she had squandered her time there, choosing to ask for stupid, careless wishes instead. Later, when he had disappeared from the riverbank, she had doubted him again, assuming he had abandoned her, when in truth, he was searching for her at that very moment.
Jareth actually cared about her. It wasn't a mistake or a trap. Right now, for once, there really were no strings attached. He was just being nice, as staggering as that might seem. Sarah felt ashamed that she had not figured this out sooner. So, he really can be generous, her thoughts whispered.
Unable to form a coherent wish, Sarah sniveled a little bit. Of course, she had to make a wish. She couldn't deny him twice; it would be too rude. Cruel, even. Yet try as she might, nothing came to mind when she begged her mind for answers. In the end, what she really wanted from life was not something she could obtain from the inside of a crystal ball. Magic could only do so much.
Finally, with a wry smile, she decided what she would ask for first.
The crystal shimmered and expanded, becoming more opaque, and suddenly there was a heavy, woolen coat stretched over Jareth's hand. Its' outline was dim in the twilight, but the King of the Goblins could still grasp the fact that he was being mocked. "Oh for Heaven's sake," he grumbled, crushing the back of the fabric in his fist, "This one's purple. What is it with you and this excessively effeminate choice of colors?"
"Lavender and Lace," corrected Sarah. Then, serious again, she finished shyly, "I want to finish high school and watch Toby grow, but I also want to stay here and learn… how to use magic. You said a moment ago that not everything in life is difficult. Does that mean we can do both?"
"We?" inquired Jareth, still glaring at the coat, as though some sort of annoying, catchy theme song was emerging from the fabric and he wanted desperately to turn it off soon.
"Yes, because you owe me a visit Aboveground," she teased, "And you said that it is possible to travel there whenever you are summoned."
Considering this for a while, he seemed to come to a satisfactory resolution and dumped the lavender coat on her lap. "Hmm, I suppose." he complained perfunctorily. "But we really do have to work out a better arrangement. I am not the kind to appear whenever someone beckons me. I have duties too, you know."
"Of course," laughed Sarah, gracefully failing to mention that his job as a Goblin King basically consisted of doing precisely what he denied. "What arrangements?"
The look he gave her was so searching and pensive, it seemed almost ominous. "Wear this, and I may visit you whenever I like," said Jareth, holding out a tiny shape before her. The advent of a crystal in his hand rapidly formed a thin, silvery chain around his wrist, and she lifted the necklace from his arm in surprise. The pendant had a similar design to his own, but it was smaller and done in silver.
She touched the pattern softly, wondering what the significance of matching jewelry might be to an inhabitant of the Underground, if any. It didn't really matter whether the necklace had a special meaning or not – she already knew she was going to wear it. With pride, in fact. It was not often that a girl acquired a present from the King of the Goblins. Part of her imagined it meant something more, wistfully. If it did, would he say so?
Before she could slide the chain over her head, he interrupted her motion. "It will… nullify your previous… words to me."
And neither of them needed to ask which words those were. "Toby won't have to come back to the Labyrinth," she asked tentatively, her hands still arrested in midair, "Will he?"
He shook his head negatively, so she slipped the chain over head and tucked the pendant neatly inside her clothing. It felt cool against her skin, like an ending but also like a brand new beginning, and Sarah smiled.
Toby always knew that his Sister was magic.
In no way was she an ordinary sister. Toby had met those, at the houses of friends from kindergarten. In his opinion, ordinary sisters were just like grown-ups, only they worried about sillier things, like hair or too-much food, or whether anyone-would-just-listen to them. But Sarah wasn't like that at all. His Sister was special.
Often, she talked to her mirror, like someone was really there. Unlike other mirrors though, Sarah's would reply. Sitting in the hallway, he would listen to softly uttered conversations and puzzle over their meaning, with his arms wrapped tightly around his knees.
Sometimes, she looked at things he could not see, trailing their progress across the carpet or through the doors in the house. When Toby turned to follow the line of her gaze, there would be a flash of movement, like an animal darting past his feet, and then… nothing. It was very frustrating.
And once or twice, his Sister had gotten him out of trouble, by stopping a pie plate from crashing to the ground next to where he stood or by pulling a lost object out of thin air from behind her back. Each time it happened, Toby felt a renewed sense of awe. Without a doubt, he knew he would have landed in huge trouble with Mom for these accidents (especially that pie plate incident), but miraculously, Sarah had saved him from certain scolding.
An ordinary sister would have let a little brother get into trouble, or worse, she could have actively tried to frame him. He had seen it happen to his friends. Yet Sarah seemed perfectly content to allow him to make his own mistakes. After all, he made plenty of messes without anyone else's help.
She told the best stories, about dragons and bears and princes and mountains, and he knew she had all the answers that mattered. His Mom knew things like what he should wear to school, or when he should eat. But marshalling someone's day wasn't the same as stimulating the imagination, so it was Sarah that Toby turned to for fairytales or games.
Mom didn't like it when Sister talked like that, of course. But then, she never fully trusted Sarah, because once Sarah had Run Away for three days. Toby had been told that lying was bad, but running away from home was much worse. 'Running away' meant anything from leaving the house without permission to play in the yard, talking to strangers, or letting go of his Mom's hand in the supermarket.
To his four-year old mind, all of this seemed overly restrictive, and he wanted to do all the fun things that his big Sister had done. Still, even Sarah concurred in the judgment leveled against him. She would laugh and say he should listen to their mother, because running away really was a bad idea.
Then, later, when their mother couldn't overhear, she would wink and clarify the difference. She hadn't run away – she had been spirited away. And spiriting someone away, well, that was magic. It was there in most of the stories and movies too – a hero, transported to another world, must complete a quest before time runs out.
And if the abundance of weird events, books, and films that backed up Sarah's claim weren't enough confirmation, then there was always Jared, her friend.
Jared was fabulous too, although not quite as special as his Sister. Unlike him, Sarah was around every day, making room in her schedule for Toby to play with her. Besides, while he liked Jared, sometimes touching him made Toby uneasy. Part of him remembered a feeling of cold stone and smooth glass, and a glimpse of strange, scary looking creatures. Still though, Jared understood pranks and fun better than anyone else, so Toby had ranked him highly on his internal list of awesome people. The man just had this aura about him, and if pressed to say what it meant, all Toby could come up with was magic. Other people were normal, where Jared was not.
Mom and Dad didn't fully trust Jared either. One said the man was obviously too old, his hair was perpetually messy, and the other parent complained about Jared's temperamental habit of showing up inside their house without knocking. But Sarah said she would not have it any other way. Relationships, like people, were something you had to work with, and she said she hoped that her parents would come to accept her choices in time.
Toby took this to mean that he did not have to listen to his parents, about everything, all the time. Testing his limits, he caused far more mischief than Sarah had in her prime, leaving his parents at their wits' end. And after every spectacular disaster he caused, when his parents were through scolding him, his Sister would tuck him into bed and tell him his favorite story of all, about a girl, a baby, mischievous goblins and a giant maze.
"Sometimes I wonder," she would mutter with a mock frown, "If you weren't turned into a goblin, after all."
If the four-year old, tussle-haired blond had ever connected the dots, realizing that he was the baby in the story who was wished away, then perhaps he wouldn't have trusted her quite so much.
But then again, Toby understood impulsive behavior, if nothing else. His Sister always reminded him that the hi-jinks he got into today might not seem like such a good idea on the morrow, when Mom discovered what he had broken, lost, painted upon, or otherwise altered beyond all recognition. In any case, people changed, and Toby liked Sarah the way she was, not the way she had been.
The day she went away to college was the worst day in his young life. He refused to help her pack, threw eight tantrums, and stole all her socks twice, and yet she was still determined to go. Toby did not want to be alone, but even when he looked up at her with red-rimmed eyes full of tears, she had no better answer to give than, "I'll visit."
Eventually, Toby calmed down and he sat on Sarah's bed, watching the picture frames disappearing into her suitcase. With her son finally under control, Karen left the house, deciding to allow the half-siblings some time alone together. And as soon as his Mom was gone, the four-year old's faith was finally rewarded. Although it wasn't exactly answer he had wanted to hear, she faced him and held out a single, heavy, clear crystal.
"Hold this," she promised, "No matter where I am, I will hear whatever you have to say."
"Can I come see your new school?" he asked, with pleading eyes. He did not know exactly what a 'college' looked like, and Mom and Dad had never heard of this school either, but Sarah promised them it was prestigious. Still, she had been reluctant to allow Toby to visit, and their parents were no more excited about the idea. He had heard his Mom say, in a flustered tone, that the only reason Sarah wanted to attend this school instead of an ivy-league university was because of her boyfriend Jared. For that reason alone, Toby desired to visit.
Sarah tapped the crystal in his hands once more. "If you need to see me, all you have to do is ask. But you can't let Karen know, okay?"
At this, he nodded enthusiastically, holding up the crystal for inspection. Inside, there was a bit of sparkling light, and as he looked closer, he could see rough arches made of a sandy colored, nearly transparent rock, encrusted with other bright, glittering stones. It looked familiar, yet distant and hard to grasp. The arches were draped with colored banners of some kind, and there were torches lit all around the room, until he could barely tell which direction the light was coming from in the first place. After squinting as hard as he could, Toby decided this was a picture of Sarah's college, just before the image faded in the sunlight.
Looking up at his Sister excitedly, he gave her an impromptu hug and slid off the bed. "Will you tell me the story tonight," he chirped happily, "About the Goblins that got 'Cleaners' duty, again?"
With a weak laugh, Sarah promised that she would.
Toby had always known that his Sister was magic. But it was nice to have a solid piece of that reality, in his hand.