Author's Note / Disclaimer: This is my first foray into Labyrinth fanfic, which surprises the hell out of me because I've been a frothing-at-the-mouth fan of it since it came out. Obviously, I don't own Sarah, Toby, Jareth (gutted about that, truly) or any of the inhabitants of the Labyrinth. I do, however, own something that looks very much like a Muppet-fur coat.
Prologue – I Wish…
"Do you know what you wish? / Are you certain what you wish is what you want?"
- Into The Woods (Stephen Sondheim)
"If you don't behave yourself, the goblins will come and take you away."
The baby stopped crying long enough to give his half-sister a puzzled look then resumed his wails. The girl leaned over the cot.
"I mean it. I'll make them do it. I'll call the King of the Goblins and he'll send his soldiers and they'll take you away and turn you into a goblin and it'll serve you right, cos you're…"
The little girl stopped abruptly, biting her lip. She gazed up at the woman in the doorway and tried to look innocent.
"Alice, what have I told you about frightening Michael with that goblin nonsense?"
Alice's look of contrition was genuine. "I didn't mean it," she mumbled.
The woman crossed to the cot and picked up the baby. "C'mon Mikey Monkey, your sister was only teasing." She jiggled him on her hip and the screams descended into sobs, then hiccups, then silence. "The goblins won't take you away, I won't let them," she murmured into his downy head. Glancing up, she noticed that Alice was staring at them. "Do you want to hold your brother?"
"HALF brother," Alice corrected. "No. He smells, and he's noisy. If he was my real brother, he wouldn't cry all the time. He'd be nice."
"All babies cry, Alice. You did, I did. Your daddy certainly did."
"He's not my real daddy," Alice said with earnest six-year-old logic, "so maybe Michael cries because of him."
"Maybe." The baby had calmed down enough now for the woman to place him gently back into his cot. She motioned the little girl out of the room. Downstairs, she placed two small cookies on a plate and poured a glass of milk for the child. It was well past time Alice went to bed but her parents had indulged her more than a little since Michael's arrival. Maybe too much.
"Alice, I know he's not your real daddy, but he loves you just as much," the woman began. "Just the same as I'm not your real auntie, but I love you. And I love Michael. There's room for you both." She was convinced that the girl's resentment came more from being replaced as the baby than any issue of 'real' or not, but it was best to address these things before… Before what? Before the goblins do take him away? Don't be ridiculous.
"Auntie Sarah?" A small hand was placed on her cheek. Alice was kneeling on the sofa, her slate-blue eyes serious. "You are my real auntie."
Sarah gathered the little girl into her lap, trying to shake herself out of the sudden melancholy. "Does that mean I get to do this?" She blew a raspberry on Alice's neck and the child squealed in joy. God, she loved this girl. Not even her own flesh and blood, just her brother's step-daughter but Sarah still felt as though Alice was hers. Never mind the goblins, she thought, I wish I could take you away right now. "Come on, trouble," she said, picking up the wriggling girl. "It's time for bed."
"Will you tell me a story about goblins?"
"I think there's been quite enough stories about goblins for one night. How about dragons?"
Two stories about dragons, and one about a fairy princess later, Sarah finally got to open her laptop. She was horribly behind on the latest deadline. This book just wasn't coming together at all. Maybe she should just chuck it all in and do something else. Like what? Become a full-time wife and mother? Not going to happen, remember? She sighed. She hadn't always felt this defeatist about life. There had been a time when she had been stubborn and determined, prepared to fight for what she valued. Maybe it was being on the wrong side of thirty-five.
"Ooh, late thirties. That's nearly forty," Toby had teased on her last birthday.
"How can you be a father and still be such a brat yourself?" Sarah had snapped back.
Toby's face had fallen briefly, then the customary grin returned. "Maybe it's just cos I've always got my big sister looking out for me," he said, hugging her. "C'mon Sarah, thirty-seven isn't old. Well, yeah, it's old but it's not really old."
"Anyway, you're only as old as the person you feel." Melissa Williams gave her husband an indulgent look.
"So that's why you got yourself a toyboy. Nothing to do with my charm and incredible good looks?" Toby tried to pout.
"Isn't that what you look for in a toyboy?" Sarah said.
She couldn't help but smile at them. Their father had been horrified when Toby started seeing a woman eight years his senior, and the fact that she had a three-year-old daughter had only made him more determined to steer his son away from her. Despite his playful nature, Toby was mature for his years and had never really seemed relaxed around girls his own age. Sarah had been so fiercely protective of her brother for so long, she was prepared to hate this woman, but she had loved Melissa and adored Alice from the start. It had been Sarah who coaxed their father round, first with tact then eventually resorting to pointing out that Toby's mother had managed to cope with a ten year age-gap and a thirteen-year-old stepdaughter.
"That's different," Robert Williams snorted. "Besides, he's hardly going to marry her, is he?"
Two weeks later, Toby proposed to Melissa. Sarah was best man at their wedding. "I know it's a bit weird, but you're my best friend," Toby had said. "I'd feel wrong with anyone else beside me."
It had also, conveniently, meant that Sarah hadn't had to bring a date to her brother's wedding. She slammed the lid on that thought before it got out of hand, and tried to concentrate on her work. Outside, there was a flash of lightning and a sudden rattle of rain against the windows. Shit. She hoped Toby and Melissa would be okay getting home. As if on cue, her mobile buzzed softly on the table.
"Hey, it's me," Toby said, his voice distorted. "Sorry … dump this on you … okay minding the kids … tomorrow morning?"
Sarah cupped the mobile close and put her hand over her other ear. "I can barely hear you. The kids are fine, both in bed. I don't mind staying as long as you need."
"… relief. You haven't … stories about…"
"…babies who get…" Suddenly, the interference cleared. "King of the Goblins." There was another rumble of thunder and Sarah jumped. "Alice loves those stories but she'll never get to sleep if her head's full of goblins."
"Don't worry, it was dragons and princesses. She's out like a light." Once again, it seemed that someone with a very Hammer Horror sense of style was listening to her. The house lights flickered for a moment. "Toby, it's wretched here. Stay at Dave and Jenny's tonight. We'll be fine."
"Thanks, I owe you. Kiss the monsters from me. Melissa says… hang on a minute."
"Sarah, you're an angel," came Melissa's voice. "If you do need to sell the kids to the goblins, get a good price for them, okay?"
Sarah laughed uneasily. "Okay."
Toby came back on the phone. "We've got … see you in … love you, big sis."
"You're breaking up again. I…" Sarah realised she was talking to a dead line. "Love you too, Toby," she said quietly.
The lights flickered again and Sarah unplugged her laptop from the mains. She'd work until the battery gave out, but she didn't want to risk a power surge wiping out her hard drive. The next flash of lightning was followed almost immediately by the thunder-crash. The storm must be right overhead. Upstairs, Michael began to wail again. Sarah heard Alice's door open and the little girl's voice saying something impatient to the baby. Sarah began to shut down her file. It wouldn't do for Alice to wander downstairs and see this particular piece of work. Toby and Melissa would have a fit.
"Shut UP, Michael!" Alice yelled shrilly.
"I'll be up in a moment," Sarah called.
She was closing the laptop when she heard Alice say, very calmly, "I wish the goblins would come and take you away. Right now."
"Alice, that's not…" Sarah began, and then another crack of thunder, impossibly loud, cut off her words. The house lights flickered again and then went out. Upstairs, Michael's frantic crying was cut off as abruptly as if someone had thrown a switch.
Sarah's blood ran cold. For a horrible moment, she was turned to stone, one hand still on the case of her computer. She tried to call the children and could only manage a hoarse croak. Her heart must be racing, but every beat seemed a lifetime apart from the next. It was coincidence, just coincidence. There were no such things as goblins, they were just stories, just a dream, just the imaginings of a teenage girl, just fantasies, just nonsense. It's not real, it's not real, it's not real, it's…
"Not real!" Sarah gasped, shattering her immobility. She sprang from the sofa and raced up the stairs, falling on the turn and cracking her knee painfully against the banister. "Alice? Alice!"
Nothing. The house was far too quiet, even the storm seemed muted. It was all horribly, horribly wrong.
"Alice!" Sarah flung herself into her niece's room, just to check, not postponing the inevitable, not at all. The little girl wasn't there, but she had gone to check on her brother, that was all, they were both in their parents' room now, stunned into silence by the violence of the weather. That was it, everything was fine, it was all fine. Sarah turned to run into the other bedroom, but her feet were suddenly leaden. The breath dragged in her lungs as she walked the thousand miles into the master bedroom.
The window gaped wide open, curtains streaming in the wind. The cot was empty. There was no sign of the children.