Title: Monsters in the Closet
Genre: Drama / General
Summary: Toby's nightmares and Sarah's fear are more similar than she has yet to realize. ONESHOT. SxJ sentiments.
AN: Sarah/Jareth if you squint… or just look in its general direction. Also, all tense changes are intentional.
Sometimes she lies awake, listening intently to the silence and she wonders why the stillness sounds so deafening. Sometimes she feels like she is waiting, and sometimes she feels like something else is doing the waiting.
And sometimes she feels like she's moving on.
But tonight she had left her apartment to visit her family, and she kept telling herself that it was definitely not because of the silence.
However the moment when six-year-old Toby's footsteps traveled the floor to wake up their parents with not-so-silent pleas, Sarah Williams couldn't help but breathe out a sigh of relief. She couldn't deny that the break in the quiet was welcoming.
From beyond her opened door, she could hear Toby cry out to his mother, her step-mother who was no-longer the wicked witch she had so long ago imagined her to be.
"There are monsters in my closet…! Make them go away, please," his panicked whispers begged as the sounds of Irene's awakening and half-hearted grumbles were birthed. After a few dream-drugged protests, Sarah could hear in the blackness the two slowly pass her room to enter Toby's, a few doors away.
A soft smile lazily traced her lips while exhaustion finally combined with promised sleep in her limbs. For some reason, sometimes Sarah felt that the silence kept her up with its incessant thundering nothings, but tonight it would seem things would be different.
That was, until she heard Irene's response.
"There's nothing in your closet, sweetie. Monsters don't exist; go back to bed."
Before she could think twice about it, Sarah was pulling back her old covers and trying to steady her drowsy body on two feet.
"But, mommy, I know they're there! They're just hiding until you're gone…"
Sarah blinked in the darkness around her, trying to discern where the edge of her bed met with the blackness of the night, and steadily made her way to the light of her little brother's bedroom.
"Honey, listen to me. There's no such thing as monsters. They can't hurt you," Irene's weary voice begged for reason in the child.
The young woman slowly tried to adjust her vision to the lit bedroom, carefully registering the two figures by the closet against the backdrop of Transformers décor. One figure, considerably larger than the other, was kneeling in front of her son with a gentle but persuasive hand on his shoulder. The other figure was simply shaking his head while clutching a much-loved Lancelot the Bear to his chest.
The sudden normality of the picture almost made her smile.
"I got this, mum," she called out after a moment, always careful on how to address the woman. While the woman would never be her mother, there was no denying that she took care of her better than her actual mother had. Linda wasn't completely neglectful, but she certainly hadn't been there for her as much as Irene had. Even after the way Sarah had treated her for so long, before that fateful day, Irene had always been caring for her. So while Sarah could never bring her loyal heart to address her as Mother or Mom, she found that Mum had been a nice loophole in her own inner workings.
The elder woman swiftly shot up at the sound of her voice, obviously startled before her countenance melted into sympathy.
"I'm sorry we woke you up."
"No, it's okay, I was already up," she casually replied, changing her gaze to Toby's scared form to avoid Irene's questioning expression.
"Monsters, huh?" she quipped to him, raising an eyebrow in exaggeration.
The boy mutely nodded, and his eyes were gradually finding their way back to the small closed doors beside them. Irene sighed tiredly, though not from frustration, and softly smiled back at her.
"This isn't the first time, and it probably won't be the last."
The young woman nodded, her black hair falling into her face ever-so slightly by the action, "Then no harm done if I get a try, right?"
The older woman laughed slightly, still sounding proper somehow despite her moon and stars pajamas, "Okay then. I suppose I'll see you two in the morning."
"Good night, mum."
Neither of them moved until their mother shuffled out of the room with footsteps that belayed a greater weight than a simple child's runaway imagination. Briefly, Sarah wondered if Irene was concerned about Toby in the same way she had been with her before Sarah had almost literally matured overnight. She wondered if Irene thought fantasy was a contagious disease with a dangerous cure—then she couldn't help but wonder if she would be right.
"Sarah," Toby whined after his mother was gone from sight and sound in a way that screamed without screaming that he was tired of being the source of disbelief.
To that, she understood perfectly.
"Toby," she mimicked, watching his face for the smile she knew he would crack in spite of the hour. Strangely, it never came.
"Toby," she tried again, this time in all seriousness. For a moment she went through what she wanted to say carefully in her head, and Toby waited patiently but doubtingly. Sarah's hesitation before saying anything was something everyone was used to now, and it was always appreciated in retrospect. After a while, it became clear that Sarah always chose her right words and meant what she said.
It was a nice change of pace in the world.
"They only have power over you because you think they do," were her careful words, but her eyes were downcast, seeing something beyond the carpet plush.
This, however, was not what Toby was expecting to hear.
"The monsters in your closet. You are the one giving them power over you," she repeated, this time lifting her eyes a bit to look her brother in the eyes. Of course she knew that, despite what her stomach flip-flopped and her heart hoped for, there were no goblins in his closet. She would have felt the magic – the taste of peach against her lips that tingled with something more than ordinary life, that echoed with the magical something that lingered in the air that she knew her skin would never forget – she would have felt something.
But in the end, it was okay. It was okay that his demons were ordinary, that his ghosts and monsters weren't martyrs for a forgotten fantasy
"I'm giving them… power?" he questioned as his eyes hid behind his confused brow.
"Even though you're scared, Toby, you shouldn't back down. They can only hurt you if they think they can."
She didn't notice her eyes had drifted away from her brother to his window, didn't notice that her thoughts had fled to a stormy night where the windows had blown open and swept her away. She tried not to notice the way her heart clenched as she thought about mismatched eyes and cynical yet playful smirks that frightened her still to this day.
It frightened her to think of how much she missed it all.
"But they're bigger than me! They're stronger-!"
"Maybe, but your will is just as strong," she told him while she forcibly tore her eyes away from the owl-less window.
"Sarah," Toby whispered, almost guiltily as he looked at and slowly away from his closet. "The monsters… aren't in my closet."
"Where are they?"
He paused and clutched his bear tighter, "In my dreams."
Look at what I am offering you—your dreams.
"That just means that you're stronger," she said after a long moment of chasing away words that meant nothing in the face of the feelings that came along with them, "It's your dreams, so it's your rules."
Toby looked away from her in favor for a wistful look towards his bed.
She knew that wistful look as if she was looking at her reflection.
"Unless," she knelt beside him, trying hard to ignore the silence around them, "Unless, Toby, you want them to have power over you."
The blonde child clutched Lancelot, her first of many gifts to him, with both arms now, and his voice sounded weak and confused, "I. I don't know, Sarah."
And suddenly, there was only her, Toby, and silence.
"I don't know, Sarah," Toby confessed again, this time his limbs started shaking with the truth of it, "I'm scared, they scare me, but… but—"
Don't defy me! You're no match for me, Sarah.
Your eyes can be so cruel… just as I can be so cruel.
She wanted him to keep talking, for herself to speak, anything to keep that horrible quiet, the awful absence, at bay. The emptiness of waiting—waiting to hear a storm, a chorus of giggling, careless wishes. Or even a simple hoot of the owl that took flight on the night air and watched dreams play out in the stars.
The stillness was always so much on her that she was constantly terrified of her own power—his given power to her. Power of wishes, power over him, she always feared her lips would betray her and break the silence with a forced and careless wish to be taken away.
…Everything I've done—
"But you're afraid of leaving them behind too, aren't you?"
Toby half-nodded his head and looked up to her, seeing her with obvious curiosity.
"You're afraid of losing them, because—"
…I've done it all for you.
"Because they haven't hurt us yet, Sarah. You love them too," his blue mismatched eyes looked up at her, a spark of something shimmering behind memories that he'll never remember but feelings he still felt in spite of that.
And his truth shook her so deeply, she felt both broken and healed so quickly that she couldn't tell the difference.
Her eyes drifted closed as she tried to digest his words, and part of her expected to hear at least a soft pitter patter of rain begin, if not the brewing of a storm. But as always, there was nothing.
But, she realized as her jade eyes reopened and her hand came to brush her younger brother's cheek, it didn't scare her as much anymore. It was still terrifying, and yet, she felt that she would sleep well tonight.
"Toby, they won't hurt us—not ever," she smiled in order to keep herself from crying, "Let's go to bed, 'kay, munchkin?"
The blonde child smiled unsurely, looking a lot like she felt, and hugged her before wiggling himself onto his bed. Sarah got back onto her feet and walked to the edge of his doorway, hand hovering over his light switch; and suddenly, she felt five years younger.
"Goodnight, Sarah," his voice echoed behind her after he finished tucking himself in, "Sweet dreams too."
She stayed rooted by his door, hating how something so simple as turning off the light felt like a fork in the road. Finally, however, she turned to face her brother and smiled, a full whole-hearted smile, and without directly voicing it, thanked him, "You too, Tobes."
And she left his room, turning off the switch but leaving his door open for the hallway light to flicker in in its stead.
Sometimes she lies awake, listening intently to the silence and she wonders why the stillness sounds so deafening. Sometimes she feels like she is waiting, and sometimes she feels like someone else is doing the waiting.
And sometimes she feels like they should be done waiting.
But tonight she slept without the rain, without her brother's dreaming whimpers, and dreamt of a world beyond her own where peaches tasted of promises and promises lived behind caustic smiles but gentle dances.
Tonight, she remembers and waits in his silence.
- Fin -
AN: Toby has mismatched eyes, what? Yeah, okay, so I don't know, but I like the idea of it – a lot. I think I'll call him Jareth. He's got my eyes. …I just like the idea of it, and it's in all of my fics (or it will be, once I write some more of 'em =P). And isn't Irene's name actually Karen? Actually, somewhat recently her name officially became Irene, but for so long, fanfictioners had been without a name, so they made one up-Karen. So now, it's just a toss of the coin which one to use, and I like tails.
Any other questions, I'll be happy to either answer or fix, since this story was written on two separate nights and only proofread in one VERY early morning… Since it seems that I'm cursed that the late hours give me the most inspiration. So usually it's a "write or sleep" situation. Point is, there are probably mistakes, so don't be surprised if I redo this at a later date ;D
Happy tidings to you all, and thanks for your support!