Chapter One: Be Careful What You Wish For
Sarah grabbed the railing of the bridge and tilted her head up towards the sky. "Do you think they'll start soon?" she asked, her eyes scanning the horizon.
Next to her stood Jennifer, her best friend from her college days, wearing a thick coat and a bright, pink scarf. She had wrapped a section of the scarf around her head to shield her ears from the bitter cold. It was Christmas evening, nine o'clock, on the Town Lake Bridge, which had been closed down for the fireworks. People clustered all along the bridge until they were nearly shoulder to shoulder. Sarah had been lucky, finding just enough room for her and Jennifer to stand next to each other. It was a perfect spot.
"Yeah, I mean, it's dark," Jennifer said, rubbing her hands together and putting them under her armpits to try and warm them up. "My god, it's freezing! If only I'd known…!"
Sarah rolled her eyes. "I told you it was going to be cold. I'm wearing fricking long johns."
"Long johns aren't sexy," Jennifer said with a sniff. "Plus, I don't think it's called 'long johns' for women, is it?"
Sarah blinked. "I don't know." Since the conversation was becoming ridiculous, she let it drop. Instead, she turned to look back over the Town Lake Bridge. The lake was manmade, simply canal water that had been relocated to this area and collected. However, it was very pretty, especially during this time of year; the city decorated the bridge with lights, which were now turned off to allow maximum viewing of the fireworks. The water looked inky black at nighttime and when Sarah looked down at it, she felt vertigo slice through her body until she had to look away.
She readjusted her own scarf around her neck. When she and Jennifer had decided to go to the Christmas fireworks event, she'd decided to bundle up for warmth. It was a surprisingly cold night, even if there was no breeze (a small blessing). She had worn a blue and white ski cap low over her ears, a matching scarf, matching gloves, and a long-sleeved shirt over a sweater over a thick Peabody coat, jeans, her long johns, and boots with faux fur lining. In fact, her body felt a little warm even if her nose was freezing cold.
Long johns aren't sexy, huh? She thought. Well, it's not like I'm going to be showing anyone my underwear. She glanced over at Jennifer and wondered why her friend cared. They were spending Christmas together because they had no one else to spend it with—not that Sarah minded Jennifer's company, but Christmas was meant to be spent with family. Or, at least, that's what Sarah had always been led to believe. Except this year it was just her, and when faced with the depressing notion of cooking a Christmas feast for one, she'd called Jennifer up and asked if they could spend the holiday together. Jennifer had just broken up with her boyfriend of five years and moved out of the apartment they'd shared and found a new place near the Town Lake Bridge. She hadn't wanted to spend Christmas alone, either, and suggested Sarah stay for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. "It'll be like a sleepover!" Jennifer had said. "We'll exchange gifts. I already have a tree. We'll cook a huge meal. It'll be great!" Sarah had been only too happy to agree. Jennifer had also found out about this event and suggested they go.
Sarah was glad she'd agreed. Although she didn't like crowds—and having people pressed close to her was making her nervous—she was excited to see the fireworks.
"This was a good idea," she said, glancing at Jennifer.
"I know, right? I haven't seen fireworks in ages. I usually miss the Fourth of July ones," Jennifer said. "The events section of the newspaper also said they're doing an 'encore' firework display on New Year's at midnight."
"Maybe we should go."
Sarah glanced towards Jennifer, wondering why her friend suddenly sounded preoccupied, and saw that Jennifer was looking behind her into the crowd. Sarah followed her friend's gaze. Some ways away, a vendor was pushing what looked like a hot dog stand through the crowd, carefully navigating from one space to the next. A young couple came up to him, smiling, and he stopped the cart. While he did sell hot dogs, he also poured something out of what looked like a giant thermos with a spigot at the bottom into two Styrofoam cups. By the amount of steam that came out of the cups, she knew that the beverage was hot—probably cocoa or coffee.
"Oh, something warm," Jennifer said, longingly. "I'm going to grab a cup. Do you want anything?"
Sarah watched Jennifer navigate through the crowd for a moment, then turned back to the railing. She leaned her hands on it and rested her chin on an arm, looking out over the pretty scenery. In the distance, she could make out the highway. Cars zipped back and forth along it, the glow of their headlights the only thing that could be seen.
Well, this year was nearly to a close and it had been both exciting and dreadfully boring. It was her first full year out of school; her twenty-fifth birthday had come and gone with only a whimper instead of a bang. In fact, she'd been working so much at her new job she'd almost forgotten to celebrate. The first sign of getting old, Sarah thought, amused, when you stop celebrating your birthday. She had always made sure to celebrate, so despite her high stress levels, the overtime, and the fact she'd had to get up early the next morning, she'd spent the night playing pool and drinking with friends. They'd even bought her a cake and had sung to her. She'd woken late and hung over; in the end, she'd called in sick.
Her boss hadn't been happy with that, but then the dried prune of a lady was never happy with Sarah.
I don't want to think about work right now, Sarah reminded herself. I took two weeks off, despite Prune Lady's protests, and I'm going to enjoy myself! I've earned this! I've worked hard all year; I've done 65 hour weeks. I've towed the line. I've done excellent work. I deserve to reward myself and enjoy myself. I mean, it's Christmas!
"Oh look!" a young woman next to her said, pointing up at the sky. "A shooting star!"
"I see it!" the boyfriend said, a dazzling smile on his face. "Make a wish, quick!"
Sarah looked at the couple. They were pressed against each other, intimacy and affection in their body language. The boyfriend had average looks, but a beautiful smile, and he had wrapped his arms around the young woman who was leaning back against him with a huge grin. Sarah felt a small tug of longing in her chest and sighed, looking up at the sky and seeing just the tail-end of the shooting star before it faded away. She didn't mind being single and she'd never minded being alone—she'd spent many hours of her childhood alone in a world of make-believe, after all—but every once in a while she felt such a sudden longing that it nearly took her breath away.
She didn't miss her ex-boyfriends; in fact, she rarely thought of them. However, she did miss the days of her childhood when she'd spent hours imagining magical quests and princes that needed rescuing—she was always the princess who could battle the villain and win. She missed believing in magic. She even missed…
The Labyrinth, Sarah thought, with longing, her eyes searching the night sky. The chilly night seemed to be holding its breath, waiting for magic to appear; this was the perfect place for goblins to skip and weave along the crowd, giggling mischievously. Or maybe there should be mermaids in the lake, looking up through the dark waters with mysterious smiles. Or a dragon should fly across the sky, blotting out stars.
It just seemed like a night for the fantastical to happen.
But it wouldn't. Sarah had come back from the Labyrinth all those years ago, at the age of fifteen, and when she'd given her teddy bear to Toby something inside her had changed. Despite Hoggle's words, she'd never been able to contact that strange world again and after so many years, she only had the memories of the Underground and even those were fuzzy and faded.
Oh, but I wish something fantastical and magical would happen, Sarah thought, sighing. And her lips formed the words, "I wish…" even as she thought it.
Someone bumped into her, bringing her back to the present. She glanced over her shoulder and met the sheepish gaze of a young man with a goatee. He smiled and said, "Sorry about that," then continued through the crowd. Sarah glanced at her watch. It was nearly ten o'clock. Where was Jennifer?
Sarah was contemplating leaving her spot, which would mean someone would take it, and going to find her friend when she saw a flash of green near the feet of the couple next to her and turned towards it, trying to identify what it was. However, she couldn't see anything. The young woman glanced at her, frowning, no doubt wondering why she was staring so intently at her feet and Sarah quickly looked away.
A moment later, she heard a chortling noise. It was high-pitched, as if it came from a child, yet it was unlike anything Sarah had ever heard a human utter before. It floated around her and she couldn't identify what direction the chortling noise came from. Goosebumps erupted along her arms, underneath all the layers of clothing.
"What a cold night," a familiar, accented voice said. "Strange night to suddenly decide to meet again."
Sarah froze, her gaze locked on the water below. There wasn't a single ripple and the lake looked like an expanse of black glass, reflecting the starlight, but Sarah didn't notice. Her mind was going a mile a minute, mostly from shock and fright, as that voice sparked memories long buried in her mind. The clipped, arrogant tone; the accent she'd always thought of as "fairytale British," something more out of movies than real life; the low, aggressively male cadence—it was all familiar.
Licking suddenly dry lips, Sarah slowly looked to her right. Before, there had been the couple there, but now they seemed to have moved away—or maybe they had never been there to begin with. Now, a lanky man stood, leaning forward with his arms resting on the railing. His face was in profile since he was looking out over the lake, but Sarah saw pale skin and golden blonde hair cut in a short, punk style that stuck up in unruly tufts, shorter in the back than the front. Tendrils of that blonde hair touched the man's chin, accentuating the curve of a stubborn jaw-line. He had a double breasted overcoat and what looked like black leather pants with biker boots. His hands were gloved, but he lacked a scarf or anything to protect his head from the chill.
He turned to Sarah and in the dim street lights she saw that his eyes were two different colors: one light, the other dark. He grinned at her, showing off perfect white teeth, the canines a little too pointy for comfort. It was a predatory grin, like a wolf that has just spied a rabbit and knows he won't go hungry this night. Sarah felt shivers run down her spine.
Her mind provided her with memories, things she'd oftentimes thought about over the past ten years. But, before they had been faded; now, with this familiar man standing before her, the memories suddenly became vivid—alive:
…Standing on the crest of a hill, overlooking a beautiful but horrific labyrinth that stretched out for as far as the eye could see. A beautiful man standing next to her, with the same golden hair, but it was longer and much more flamboyant in style. And standing next to him is a young girl with long black hair wearing simple jeans and a poet's shirt.
"It doesn't look that far," the young girl, the young Sarah, says.
"It's further than you think. Time is short. You have 13 hours in which to solve the Labyrinth or your baby brother becomes one of us…forever. Such a pity."
Sarah blinked, gasping as her memories clicked into place and she remembered a name to go with that beautiful, wild, predatory face. She gasped again, taking a step back, and said, "I know you! Jareth, the Goblin King!"
Jareth's grin grew wider, as if he was pleased Sarah had remembered his name. He gave a small nod in greeting, acknowledging both the name and their past.
"What are you doing here?" Sarah said.
Jareth sighed softly and his smile faded. He looked almost disappointed. "Don't you know, Sarah?" he asked. "Don't you know the saying—be careful what you wish for?"
Author's Notes: Hello my pretties! Well, I wanted to do a "Christmas-y" story and the more I thought of it, the more I knew I also wanted to make it a Labby fanfic with plenty of yummy Jareth goodness, with a touch of goblin madness, a dash of chicken insanity, a liberal sprinkling of mirth and humor, and finished off with generous amounts of adult-type touching. A recipe for some tasty treats, if I do say so myself!
So, here's the deal: the story takes place from Christmas Day to New Year's and following the same thread, I will try to complete this story in the same time line! This may mean I have to update nearly every day until the 1st of the new year. I am not sure if I'm a glutton for punishment or not. _ I'd like to get the next update up by the 26th, but as I'm currently visiting relatives for the holidays, I may not have the next installment ready until the end of this weekend.
I'm sorry for any mistakes in this chapter. I tried to polish it up as best I could, but I pounded this first chapter out quickly and, as I mentioned, I'm visiting relatives so my mind may be a bit...flighty.
Interesting Tidbit: The title (and idea) for this fanfic comes from a quote I read recently: Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind. ~Mary Ellen Chase
Interesting Tidbit #2: I own a pair of long johns (or thermal underwear) despite the fact I live in the desert. XD
Please review!!~ Consider it my Christmas gift. ;) Seriously, though, reviews really encourage me and help me out, they're like bread and butter to my starved inner writer. :D All comments/questions/suggestions are welcome, including any predictions you may have (even hopeful ones, like ditching Jennifer and going back to her place for some private time with the Goblin King).
The Fine Print: In regards to the Labyrinth and its characters, I own nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zippo. I wish I owned Jareth *cough*ahem*cough*. I only claim rights to my own original characters.