Author's Notes: This was done as part of a fic exchange on the LJ community 'labyfic'. The prompt was "Sarah grew very old and is dying. Jareth will come to her dying bed." I would like to thank saniika for this prompt. I've always wanted to write on this topic, but was never motivated enough to do it on my own.
My name is Toby Williams. I am eleven and a half years old, and yesterday my sister died.
It all began last spring when she got a bad cold. The doctors said it was nothing, but she never really got better. Mom said she was faking it, but I didn't think so. Sarah would have told me. She always told me everything.
Well, she did say she was fine, but she said it the way grown-ups always say things when they don't want to talk to talk about it.
He came to her dying bed. He always knew he would. It was what she wanted, after all. Only at the eleventh hour of her life (or was it the twelfth?) and no sooner. No, what need would the great Sarah Williams have for a defeated king?
Gods, illness had aged her. In the ten or so years since he had last been allowed to see her face, she had aged three times that, if not more. He wouldn't have recognized her at all except for her spirit, that unmistakable, indomitable sense of stubbornness. Was it Sarah calling him or the magic?
He wasn't sure he cared anymore.
Dad said I'm old enough to walk to school by myself this year. He said he's real proud of how responsible I am.
I bet he wouldn't say that anymore if he knew how much school I skipped to go to the hospital instead.
It's not my fault though. I wouldn't have gone so often if they went once in a while. Sarah slept a lot but the doctors said she still knew what was going on, so I bet she was happy that I came a lot. I bet she was glad she wasn't alone while she was dying.
I hope I'm not alone when I die.
He had waited to approach her until darkness fell in her room. He had always belonged to the darkness, just as Sarah belong to the light. He smiled bitterly at the tired clichés that defined him.
"Sarah," he whispered. "Where did it go wrong, Sarah?"
He had given her everything, and then she had taken the little he had left. With that much power, she should have been a goddess. She should have been immortal, yet here she was dying from the most commonplace sickness in her world. Why?
It made me sad to see Sarah lying there like that, the white hospital room with white sheets tucked up to her chin and the white hospital dress she always wore. It didn't seem right. She looked like a ghost already.
I tried to remember how Sarah looked before she got sick, but all I remember was how she got sad sometimes.
She always said, "Never do anything halfway." When she was happy, she was unstoppable, but when she was sad, no one could get through to her. Sometimes she would just sit at the window and stare at the moon for hours. Her lips would move like she was singing a song, but she never sang out loud and she never told me the words, no matter how many times I asked.
I wonder who she was singing to.
"I think, perhaps, it was my fault," he said quietly to her sleeping face. "You were so young, and you had so much potential." He paused. "The trouble with children is, they love stories about monsters," he bit the word off angrily, "but they don't really want them to be real."
"Was I too real for you, Sarah?" he asked in a low voice.
My sister always seemed like something magical to me. She could make up these great stories out of nothing, bad things never seemed to happen to her, and she was always smiling like she saw something funny that nobody else could see.
I asked her once what was so funny and she said, "The world, Tobes. Our world is so much more hilarious than it has any right to be." I didn't really understand her, but I always thought that nothing bad could touch her. Nothing bad ever did, until she got sick.
The last day I went to see Sarah, there was a new machine in her room. It beeped a lot, like the second hand on a clock, but the numbers on it didn't tell time. I think that's when I finally believed she was really dying.
"Why are you doing this?" He meant it to be an angry growl, but it came out thin and tight. "You should have used the magic Sarah. If you don't make wishes, the magic will start making them for you."
"And the magic doesn't understand your feelings. How can it?" He started at her silently for a moment. "I never did."
The last day, I was scared to leave. I don't know why. When the nurse came to make sure I had gone home, I hid in the bathroom. She didn't look very hard, just turned out the lights and left. I was going to sit by Sarah's bed the whole night, but something else happened instead.
When I opened the bathroom door a crack to peek out, there was a man standing at the end of the bed. Even with only the moon to light the room, he seemed to sparkle.
Jareth wished desperately that Sarah would awaken. He wished he could look into her eyes, those cruel eyes, one last time. Maybe they would hold his answers.
Maybe they would be empty.
It didn't matter. His wishes had long ago ceased to affect Sarah.
He lifted one of her pale, thin hands to his lips and whispered, "Everything I've done…" His voice caught in his throat and he was unable to finish.
I couldn't hear what he was saying to her. I don't think it really mattered. I think it was because he was saying it.
Sarah opened her eyes.
It had been over ten years since someone stared at him so defiantly. Jareth felt a thrill run through him as he met Sarah's eyes and he could have sworn he saw an answering electricity kindle in hers. She sighed deeply and looked like she might smile. Or maybe cry?
Her eyes closed again and she lay still. Jareth stared at her, frozen in place and useless, feeling the life ebb from her body. And there was absolutely nothing he could do to stop it.
I guess I got used to the machine beeping in the background. When it stopped all of the sudden and made a long flat noise, it sounded wrong. I wanted to go out and hit it to make it beep again, but I was afraid to move.
After a few seconds, the noise cut off. Somehow, that was even worse. All the little blinking lights in the room went out at once. The light peeking under the bottom of the door went out too. I heard someone outside yell that there was a power outage. I didn't know hospitals had power outages.
His legs felt weak and he collapsed beside the bed, his face pillowed against Sarah's hand. He inhaled deeply, remembering and rememorizing her scent, but the sterile odors of medication and death threatened to drown out all else.
"Why, Sarah?" he whispered. "Why didn't you say the words?"
I don't know what made me push open the door and creep closer to the bed. I was too scared to move but I still felt like I had to see what was happening. I guess Sarah would call that 'bravery', doing things even when you're scared.
The man was on one knee beside the bed. He wasn't trying to hold Sarah's hand or talk to her anymore. He just knelt there in the dark with his head bowed.
That's when I knew Sarah was dead.
At least, Jareth thought dimly, he would have his power back after all this time. The magic that he had given Sarah, the magic that she had taken…the magic that she had neglected and abandoned. At least he would have that again. No more skulking about, saving his power for necessities.
He waited expectantly for it to return to him. He had felt it leave Sarah's body, so why hadn't it instantly…?
I knew it a second before he did. I knew that he had given Sarah something special, or maybe she had taken it, and now that she was dead he thought he'd have it back.
Later, they found Sarah's will. It was only one line, but I already knew what it said.
Upon my departure, I, Sarah A. Williams, vow that Toby L. Williams shall have all that I possess.
He whirled around, keen eyes picking out the small boy who stood behind him in the darkness.
"You!" Jareth hissed. He laughed bitterly, stopping when he realized that he sounded slightly mad. It was a clever trick if she thought he was truly after the boy, but Jareth's interest in Toby had been merely by his association with Sarah.
But Toby had never made the same wishes that Sarah had. And Jareth would have his power back.
Jareth rose to his feet and advanced on the boy with single-minded intent.
I don't know what the strange man wanted. I wasn't really paying attention to him, even though he'd terrified me until then.
I kept staring at Sarah. I couldn't look away. It looked so unnatural, the way she was lying there without moving. Without breathing. I didn't want to see her lying dead like that. I didn't want my magical sister to be killed off by some stupid cold.
I didn't want it to be that way.
And so I wished it wasn't.
Jareth stopped in his tracks, his eyes darting wildly like a caged animal's. Perhaps he was going mad. He had heard…
He turned with agonizing slowness, torn between the need to believe and the terror of how disappointment would destroy him. For ten years, he had longed to hear that voice speak his name.
"Jareth, come here."
Sarah was sitting up in bed. The false years had fallen from her skin, leaving her looking like the lovely young woman he had always envisioned. She reached for him and he went to her willingly, cursing himself for his obedience at the same time as he rejoiced that she desired something of him that he could give.
She reached for him.
He touched her hand.
And it was real.
"What no one knew is that the king of the goblins had fallen in love with the girl, and he had given her certain powers."
I found the story later, so I think I know what happened now.
Sarah didn't want the powers, so she didn't use them. But you can't just ignore something that's a part of you, so they went bad somehow and made her sick. They made her mind sick, so she couldn't fix things even if she wanted to. Even when the king who loved her came to help her, she wouldn't listen to him.
I wonder if he's the one Sarah always sang to. She didn't want powers, but I wonder if she wanted something else. She sure looked happy to see the king. I wonder if she was happy that I wished her not dead.
Maybe I'll never know. Maybe I'll never see Sarah or the king ever again.
I guess I could wish for it.